Actions

Work Header

The Ones Worth Suffering For

Chapter Text

The sun was setting as Papyrus hurried home. It was not wise to be out and about at night after all! The stars started appearing in the east and it made the tall monster smile, thinking he should mention it to his brother when he got home. It was a perfect night for stargazing! Despite the many issues they had come across while living on the surface, Papyrus knew it was worth it for every small, genuine smile that crossed his dearest brother’s face when looking at the night sky.
He was most of the way through the park, by far the most dangerous part of the journey. With all the trees, it was lovely in the day time, but the night allowed for villains to be hiding anywhere! His concern about being attacked was what made him pause when he heard a noise. Where had it come from? He looked around, easily seeing in the gloom after years underground. The noise had stopped, though Papyrus was no less on his guard. It wouldn’t be the first time he had been attacked since the monsters had arrived on the surface and he had become more wary.

As he turned to keep moving, (he didn’t want to be out too late and worry poor Sans after all!), he heard the noise again, more distinctly, and it made his soul hurt.
Someone was crying nearby, deep heartbroken sobs, interrupted by occasional hiccups and soft murmurs. He hesitated, debating between leaving and going to the person. They could be hurt! But it could also be a very clever trap meant to lure him in! But what if that person needed help? But he couldn’t help anyone or be the ambassador anymore if he got hurt!

The crying had quieted, but deep in his soul he knew what he had to do. He texted Sans, just in case, and took off towards where he thought the noise had come from, near a bridge over the river cutting through the park.

Peering into the dim light, he spotted a figure swaying on the bridge, barely standing with the support of the railing. He became distinctly more alarmed when the person in question started climbing up onto the railing. They could fall and hurt themselves! Or worse. He was not blind to the world and while humans did not fall down as monsters did, the end result of such despair was much the same.

Hurrying forward, he called out “HELLO HUMAN!”

The person jerked, peering around, clearly confused when they spotted him. He waved enthusiastically and they looked about again, before gingerly waving back. An improvement! It used to be when he waved at people they screamed or ignored him. He kept moving forward and even in the low light he finally got a good look at the person still perched on the bridge railing.

She did… not look good, to say the least. Unfocused, teary brown eyes with dark circles under them, messy and tangled blonde hair, washed out skin with tear tracks down her cheeks, baggy clothing with a single bag set nearby. She was swaying slightly, no doubt an end result of the large bottle of alcohol in her hand. She seemed wary as he approached, but didn’t seem inclined to flee.

He needed to put her at ease, to get her to relax and talk and maybe move away from the railing a bit more. So, Papyrus put on his most award winning grin and began speaking quietly (for him) with her, casually, as he slowly moved closer.

“Hello again! I couldn’t help but notice you out here! It’s a lovely night isn’t it? Why, I may do a bit of star gazing with my brother later! Do you like star gazing? My brother loves it! We’re all very delighted to be seeing the sky still. Isn’t it great to wake up every day to such a beautiful sky?”

She blinked at him, reaching up to slowly rub at her face, before speaking in a raspy tone.

“I… like the moon? The moon is pretty. I don’t… always like the sky? When it’s gray and cloudy. I like the sun. And doing stuff. In the sun.”

Papyrus happily nodded along, continuing to try and coax her into talk more with him.

“How lovely! I am fond of the sun as well! It’s so bright and warm! Nothing like the Underground. I quite like all the activities you have to do on the surface as well. Oh, how rude of me! My name is Papyrus! What’s your name, human?”

She wobbled a bit more and he worried he may need to reach out and grab her to keep her from toppling over the railing. Why did the humans make the guard rails so short?? Not that the monsters could talk. He didn’t even think there WERE guardrails in most of the Underground. Fortunately, she just leaned on the railing, and slowly slid down, sitting on her hip, head resting on one of the pillars. He slowly sat down near her, with the human just in arms reach, just in case.

She blinked owlishly at him, finally losing her grip on the bottle, so it hit the ground and tipped over. She didn’t seem to notice. “Papyrus? That’s… that’s a nice name. I’m, hm, Aster… Aster Owens. I guess.” She frowned at the last part, looking down.

Sensing her unhappiness, Papyrus tried to move on. “Aster! It’s very good to meet you. So, you know I have a brother! His name is Sans, and he is terribly lazy. With an even worse sense of humor! And so messy. But I love him very much! Do you have any family? Or people you care about a lot?”

Aster hadn’t looked up, and in fact seemed to shrink into herself even more. This! Was not what he wanted?! And now she was crying again??!!

“Aster, what’s wrong?? You can tell me!” Papyrus was now beginning to panic, carefully scooting closer to the now actively sobbing human. Her words were now much higher pitched and slurred together and it was very hard to understand her through the sobbing. He gently reached out, patting her head. That was a thing humans did for comfort, yes?? Frisk always seemed to like it anyway!

“I’m so sorry, Aster, but I don’t understand what you’re saying! You are clearly very upset though and I-” He was abruptly cut off by the now shrieking woman and he jerked his hand away in alarm.

“I DON HAVE ANYONE!!! NO ONE!! ZERO! NO ONE CARESH ABOUT MEEE!!! I’M JUS A WASTE OF SPASHE!! THAS WHY I’M HERE!!”
Silence reigned at the end of her outburst, no noise but her panting and soft sniffles and sobs. Papyrus reached out again and started gently stroking the top of her head. He honestly didn’t know what to say. Surely she had to have someone! Everyone always had someone out there who really cared about them. Right?
She started speaking again, softer this time.

“I don’t… I don’t have any siblingsh. Mom left a long time ago. Dad hates me. I overshtayed at the only people I knowsh place. Don’t have any friendsh. No job. No home. No car. Jus…. nothing.”

Aster swiped at her face, trying to clear the tears away, and she just stared into his eye sockets, her brown ones dark and pained.
“I-I tried, you know. To… to be patient. Thingsh, they gotta work out, right? With hard work? Jus gotta keep trying? B-but, but they don’t. It jus gets worsh… I’m sho tired…. I can’t keep waitin an hopin thingsh will get better… ssooo I jus thought… that it wouldn’t hurt so much… that I would shtop hurtin people if I… jus wasn’t here. Anymore….”

A few more tears dripped from her eyes as she squeezed them shut, face pinched and frowning. Papyrus could feel tears welling in his own sockets. How painful it must be to feel so alone! Even when things were at their worst, he always had Sans to rely on. Her story felt like it hit uncomfortably close to someone else he knew…
He refocused and knew in his soul what he had to do. Moving faster than he had in the whole encounter, he pulled the human into a hug as firmly as he felt he could. She jolted, but went with it, going still against his ribcage as his arms were firm against her back.

“HUM-NO, ASTER! PLEASE, DO NOT CRY ANYMORE! WHATEVER HAS HAPPENED, EVEN IF YOU WERE ALONE, EVEN IF YOU HURT PEOPLE, KNOW THAT I BELIEVE IN YOU! THINGS WILL GET BETTER! YOU CAN GET BETTER! I WILL BE YOUR FRIEND! SO PLEASE, DON’T SAY SUCH SAD THINGS. I AM SO GLAD TO HAVE MET YOU! SO LET US BECOME EVEN BETTER FRIENDS AND ENJOY DOING LOTS OF THINGS IN THE SUN!”

She was so still, he was worried she had fainted for a moment. Then, trembling arms lifted up, cautiously wrapping around him.

“Do you mean it? We’re… we’re friends? You… you believe in me?”

Papyrus squeezed tighter, wanting to wrap this sad ball of human in care. “THE GREAT PAPYRUS NEVER LIES! AND I CANNOT WAIT TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU! WE’RE GOING TO DO AMAZING THINGS!”

Papyrus felt more warm tears fall into his sweater, and the small, soft arms crushed him back with no intent but the deepest affection.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you….”

Over and over again she whispered those words, and both refused to let each other go. Papyrus only felt her arms going slack around him as the moon was rising. Aster was breathing peacefully, asleep, pressed against his chest. He called his brother, who had started sending vaguely panicked messages, to let him know what was going on. Yes, he was fine. No, he didn’t need Sans or any of the others to come get him. Yes, he would be home soon, with a guest! Sans seemed unhappy about that last part, but Papyrus would not be denied!

Beaming down at the troubled human, Papyrus couldn’t help but feel pleased. Things were going to get better, he was certain of it. For her, for him, and for everyone else at the house. Yes, he was certain that adding another lost and lonely soul to their group would be just the catalyst needed to bring peace to the household.
Papyrus gently shook Aster awake, much to her apparent dismay. He coaxed her up, letting her lean heavily into him as he picked up her bag. Walking back up the path slowly, he sighed. It had been a very long and tiring day.

It was time to go home.

 

Light. So much light. It was bright. Why was it so bright?

You scrunched up your face, burying it deeper into the pillow, tugging the blankets up further over your shoulders.

Wait.

You jerked up, eyes burning at the sudden influx of light from the window. Blinking rapidly and feeling dazed, you pushed your hair out of your face, and carefully scanned the room. It was pretty bare, honestly. A bed, nightstand, small lamp, a dresser. Three doors, and a large bay window with foggy panes and no curtains. Peeling, faded wallpaper and damaged trim.

“This place could really use some TLC, honestly. Not like it takes long to fix most of this stuff. Could use new windows though.”

Great, talking out loud to yourself again.

You carefully stood from the bed, bare feet touching the cold wooden floor, shuddering at the feeling and trying to ignore the thudding pain of a headache behind your eyes. The bed was all right. One of those old style curly metal frames. All the furniture looked like it had been here awhile, but was really in decent shape all things considered. The wooden dresser and side table needed some refinishing, but as you opened and shut the drawers, they seemed to move just fine. It wasn’t a lot of furniture for such a large room. It felt like more was meant to be in here, but wasn’t.

Vague memories of the last night swam up in the back of your mind. Wandering around for hours, being ignored or ridiculed. Losing another chance at a job. The thought of one more night on the streets being too much. Using the last of the money to get the biggest, strongest bottle of booze you could get. Thinking getting smashed would make smashing your head into the riverbed less painful.

Then, a skeleton. Pap. Papy. Papaya? Papyrus? You shook your head, silently deciding on calling him Pap until you could figure out what his name was again. Finally unable to ignore the pounding headache and dry mouth, you started opening the doors, hoping your bag was behind one of them.
Door number one! A hallway. Nope, not willing to leave the room yet, even if this was Paps’ house.

Door number two! A closet. And the bag! Carefully picking it up, you could feel how off your balance was. There was a small wooden chair in here as well, piled with items. A note was placed on top of the tower of things, addressed to Aster Owens. You would come back to read it once you finished exploring.

Door number three! A bathroom! A pretty big one too. Standing sink, toilet, shower/tub combo. All of it looked fairly old. Carefully testing the taps, the only issue was that the water pressure was crap and it took a long time to heat up. If the rest of the room was any indication, the water heater was probably ancient, if not mostly shot altogether.

Well, a shower was a shower! And boy could you use one. Washing your hair in the sink really didn’t cut it, honestly. Setting the bag in the bathroom, you moved back to the closet to inspect the pile of things and the note.

The note was written in a large, distinctive font, one that you swore you had seen before. Unfolding the piece of paper, the note read:

DEAREST HUMAN FRIEND ASTER!
IF YOU ARE READING THIS, THEN YOU HAVE PASSED THE FIRST TEST! IT’S IMPORTANT TO BE WILLING TO EXPLORE ON YOUR OWN!
THIS PILE OF THINGS IS FOR YOU TO USE! I AM TOLD BY FRISK AND ASGORE’S CLONE THAT THESE ARE ALL THE THINGS AN ADULT HUMAN SHOULD NEED!
WHENEVER YOU ARE READY, COME FIND ME AND WE WILL TALK MORE AND I SHALL MAKE YOU DELICIOUS FRIENDSHIP SPAGHETTI! IF YOU CANNOT FIND ME, PLEASE FIND MY BROTHER SANS! I HAVE TOLD HIM TO HELP YOU JUST IN CASE OF THINGS. THAT MAY HAPPEN. POTENTIALLY. NOT THAT YOU HAVE ANY REASON TO BE CONCERNED FOR YOUR PHYSICAL SAFETY!
ANYWAY!
I HOPE YOU ARE FEELING MUCH BETTER AND I WILL SPEAK TO YOU SOON!
PAPYRUS
P.S. TRY NOT TO BE ALONE IN THE HOUSE FOR TOO LONG WITHOUT ME OR MY BROTHER NEAR YOU! JUST IN CASE!

You set down the note, feeling both deeply touched and vaguely concerned at the ominous wording. Papyrus (thank god he had signed the note so you didn’t embarrass yourself later) was a talking skeleton. Therefore, he must be one of the monsters!

Folding your arms, you stared down, brow furrowed and deep in thought. Was this a magic house then? could the house itself be a monster? Wasn’t there a movie about a monster house? Were there other monsters in the house who were dangerous?

With a snort, you scooped up the pile and moved back towards the bathroom. Dangerous monsters! As if. They had clearly demonstrated that, despite their magical prowess, and ability to absorb human souls, monsters were basically harmless. They were all so laid back and just wanted to enjoy their lives. You couldn’t imagine it. Dangerous monsters! What a joke! The hyper vigilance was clearly getting the best of you.

Shutting the door to the bathroom took a bit of work, as the frame seemed a bit warped, but you managed. At least you would know if someone was coming in!
Sorting through the items, there was everything from towels, hair products, razors, a hair dryer, pain killers (which you gladly took), body wash, a loofah, and a pair of basketball shorts, a tank top, and a zip up hoodie. Clearly meant to hold you over until you could do laundry. Looking at your current outfit, you grimaced at all the dirt on it. You would have to wash the sheets you slept in too. No doubt the dirt transferred from the clothes you had slept in, and even if the sheets were old looking, you didn’t want to make a mess for poor Papyrus. Not after he clearly went out of his way to accommodate you!

The water had been running a bit as you sorted through everything and you stepped into the now warm water with a sigh of absolute delight. The hair products were going to be very necessary to deal with the mess that your hair had become. Using the shampoo, conditioner, a comb, and a brush, you steadily worked away at the knots and mess.

A loofah scrub later, and you stepped out of the shower feeling better than you had in days. No fan the room meant a lot of steam though, and terrible for the drywall. You wondered if the duct system was up to the task of installing a fan in here.

Sitting on the bed in the borrowed clothes (having put on the one spare set of clean underwear and bra you had), the reality of the situation hit. You were in what amounted to a stranger’s home, who had given you alarming warnings about your safety here, with nothing but what was in your bag, and no way to contact anyone or pay for anything. This was… not optimal.

You stood and paced the room a bit, trying to stare out the old, fogged windows. It looked like a big yard out there, and it also looked in poor shape. Some TLC and weeding would fix it right up, honestly. Turning and facing the room again, you shut your eyes and took a deep breath in. And out. In. and Out. Following the breathing techniques you had learned at your former place of residence.

Moving carefully, with your balance still off, you gently eased into a yoga sun salutation. the familiar movements put your mind at ease and allowed your natural calm to return. Nothing intense, but once finished you certainly felt calmer and more centered. Things were going to be alright. Papyrus had clearly proven a good person, and you were certain his brother had to be as well. As for the warnings? Secondary concern. You were more than capable of dealing with whatever problems could arise. You had learned to protect yourself, and learned it well. You would be fine, no matter what.

The loud growl emanating from your stomach was what finally spurred you to action. Potentially scary house or not, you needed food, and that was beyond door number one. Padding softly on bare feet, you decided to leave your shoes here. No need to track dirt through the house. Opening the door, you stepped out, into the unknown.

Chapter Text

Mutt was tired.

That wasn’t uncommon, per se, but he certainly felt more tired than usual today. There had been another far too early morning brawl between his brother and Edge, which resulted in him and Red getting dragged out of bed and into it, before the Papyrus and Sans of this world stepped in to help break it up, one looking disappointed and the other annoyed. Of course the rumble and flung magic attacks resulted in further damage to the already worn looking house, and waking up the rest of the household.

Of course, Dusty and Axe just looked on in amusement, making vague bets on who would win in the fight, and Crooks stood by wringing his hands. Things finally got settled, but it meant everyone was in a bad mood.

The only bright spot in his day so far was the tidbit of information he had found on accident. Sans was mad at Papyrus (as much as Sans ever could get at Papyrus) because the lanky skeleton had brought someone into this place.

He refused to call it a home. It wasn’t one. Prison was more like it. Not even their version of the Underground had been this irritating and constraining.

He hadn’t heard much about what Papyrus had done. Just a bit when he was walking down the hall overlooking the front living room area and front door. He had used a quick shortcut to hide as Papyrus came up the stairs, to avoid dealing with any trouble. Leaning out slightly from his hiding spot, Mutt saw what looked like a head of hair and some boots as Papyrus carried a figure down the hall to the unused “guest room”. Not that they ever had any guests, or at least none that ever stayed very long.

Leaning on the same railing that overlooked the downstairs, he rested his chin in his hand, thinking. It had to be a human. The hair, the way Sans and Papyrus had argued about having the person here, and generally the way they felt. Monsters knew other monsters. When you’re made of magic, it’s easy to tell magic and feel it. This person did not feel like a monster. Thus, a human. But why was it here? Why would Papyrus, who knew better than anyone the kind of disaster zone the house was, bring a vulnerable human here?

Mutt jumped to attention immediately and shortcutted to a hiding spot as he heard the door down the hall open. Exhaustion shaken off temporarily, he watched intently as a head poked around the door, up and down the hall, before stepping out and shutting the door behind them.

Hiding behind a woefully dehydrated standing house plant, Mutt watched. He was pretty certain the person was female, though he’d have to ask later to make sure. She was moving slowly and quietly down the hall, constantly peering around and quirking her head. Cautious. Suspicious. Nervous. Smart, especially in this house. If he hadn’t heard the door, he probably wouldn’t have noticed her footsteps. She was good at sneaking.

The clothes she wore he was certain belonged to one or many of the skeletons living here. Papyrus probably got them for her. Grimacing, he took a quick shortcut behind her, so she wouldn’t see him hiding. He still wasn’t used to calling someone else by his name, and was still annoyed he couldn’t really use it in the house.

She was better than anticipated though. She whirled around quickly, left side of her body forward, crouching slightly, hands up. She had made her vulnerable torso less of a target and had taken a defensive stance quickly, eyes wary but clearly not willing to attack yet.

Mutt pulled out a hand from his coat pocket to give her a lazy wave. Had she heard his feet landing on the carpeted runner? Or just good instincts? Either way it was impressive.

“Hey, don’t think we’ve met, missy.”

She was quiet and seemed to relax some, standing back up at his lack of aggression. She hadn’t corrected him on his nickname for her either, so his assumption had been correct.

“Hi, no, I don’t think so. You, uh, look a lot like the person I AM familiar with, but I am pretty sure you’re not him.”

Mutt quirked a brow bone.

“Pretty sure, huh? Who knows, maybe I am him. Or maybe I can help you find him. Who ya lookin for?”

“... I mean, I guess you could be Papyrus. You look a lot like him. But I am certain he didn’t have, uh, like, fangs like that? And he definitely had a red scarf.”

Confirmed, this was definitely the human Papyrus had brought home. Still, why? Good reflexes or not, she wouldn’t survive long here.

“Well, not sure where that Papyrus is at.” a lie, Papyrus had been called to the embassy for an emergency. “You’re welcome to look around for him though. I won’t stop you.”

Her brows had furrowed, lips pursed. It was honestly kind of a funny look and one side of his mouth quirked up in a vague and mocking smile. She shifted awkwardly under his stare and coughed a bit.

“W-well, um, do you know where, uh, Sans is then? Papyrus said I should find him.”

Oh, did he now? What, Papyrus didn’t trust the rest of them around the little human? Mutt was wounded that Papyrus would think that of him, truly. An amusing idea fluttered to the surface of his thoughts and he nodded.

“Yeah, Sans is out in the backyard. Just go down the stairs, take a right towards the kitchen and out the door to the back porch. You’ll see him.”

Tension still lined the human’s shoulders, but she gave him a tentative smile as she backed away towards the stairs, still facing him.
“Thanks, uh, person? I guess I didn’t ask your name. I’m Aster.”

Mutt shoved his hand back in his pocket with a bit more aggression than necessary. What a loaded not quite question, and she didn’t even know it.

“I got a lot of names. You can just call me Mutt. See you around, Missy”

Ha, that scrunched face look again. Then her smile got just a tiny bit more genuine and she waved at him, before risking turning her back to him and hurrying down the stairs.

Mutt shortcutted his way downstairs, into the small library that still had a clear view into the backyard, settling in on a window ledge.

This was going to be hilarious.

 

You were suspicious. Mutt (seriously, what kind of name, nickname, whatever name is that?) had pointed you in a direction, hopefully towards this Sans person you were meant to find. The biggest problem? You had no idea what this “Sans” looked like. Papyrus had neglected to tell you that. And now seeing a skeleton that could have been Papyrus’ twin, you weren’t entirely certain Mutt was sending you to the correct person.

Sighing and wishing you had brought your shoes, you walked through the kitchen. It was… awful. Just terrible. How had scorch marks gotten on the ceiling? Was that mold growing in the grout? The stovetop was a monstrosity. Did no one clean here? God, the cabinets were awful.

Muttering softly, you stepped cautiously on the damaged tile floor.

“Seriously, what the fuck. There’s no way a lived in kitchen should look like this. Looks like a damn foreclosure before a flip. This needs a full gut job, I’m sure of it.”

Not that you would be the one doing it. That bit of melancholy crept into the back of your mind and you tried to shake it off. Things would work out. You just had to give it time. You had only been out for a few months, not long in the grand scheme of things.

You stopped in front of the extremely damaged back door. It looked like it had been kicked in more than a few times, and there were holes badly patched with what looked like plywood. Reaching out, you tugged the door open.

Or, attempted to. Sighing in frustration, you checked the frame. Warped, of course. Planting your feet, you grunted and tugged a few times before the door popped open, swinging in and throwing you onto your ass.

Ow.

You were going to have a bruise later you were sure. Standing with a wince, you finally made it outside onto the porch.

It was a gorgeous day. Bright blue sky, warm sun, fluffy clouds, and a biting wind. A perfect fall day! Despite the overgrown state of the yard that had you screaming internally, you breathed in deeply, pulling the sweater more tightly around yourself as the chill wind cut through the fabric, reveling in the day. Even with the biting wind and cold feet, it was refreshing and invigorating.

It was okay. Papyrus had granted you the chance to enjoy this day. The kind of day that was your favorite. To think, if he hadn’t been there, you never would have…

No. No more of that. Whatever else, you needed to pull yourself together. Things would get better. Things already had! You had a friend (kind of) and had gotten a place to stay (for a night). You just needed to find this Sans person and get some food, and the day would be looking up!

You were glad to be alive. You would never be able to thank Papyrus enough for what he had done for you. You hoped one day you could make him understand how very much this meant to you.

Carefully going down steps that had seen better days (the last thing you needed was to step on a nail in bare feet and get tetanus), you stepped onto large flat stones. Some kind of path? It was very mossy, which felt kind of nice on your chilled feet. You padded along, gradually hearing some kind of noise.

Walking carefully past some particularly tangled looking vines and bushes, you found what the noise was.

It was another skeleton. What a surprise. Though this one looked significantly different from the two you had interacted with so far. This one was much shorter, for one thing. He was wearing a tattered red scarf, that had been well repaired many times. He (did any of these skeletons even have genders??) was wearing a black tank top, and some gray sweatpants, along with red sneakers. He was clearly focused on what he was doing, which appeared to be hurtling wickedly sharp ended bones into varying targets with uncomfortable accuracy.

Was this Sans then? He had similar fashion sense to Papyrus at least, which could indicate a family relationship. And he was also a skeleton! Also a good sign. But, was this really Sans? Maybe you should ask him about stars. Hadn’t Papyrus mentioned his brother liking the night sky? It was hard to recall.

As you continued to ponder whether or not you should make the first move (mostly because this was awkward and you had no idea where to start) your peripheral senses started tingling. The steady thunking noises had stopped.

Looking up and around, the small skeleton was nowhere in sight. Damn it! Why did you dither like this? Now he was gone, and you were back at square one! Cursing softly, you peered around, stepping towards the training ground. Maybe you could see where he went?

One step. Two. Moving forward, still looking around. Your heart rate was picking up. Why? There was no danger here. Sure, those bone attacks had looked devastating. And very sharp. But, he was a monster! You hadn’t heard of any monster ever hurting a human. So why were you so on edge?

Things changed in an instant. The hair on the back of your neck stood up and a voice in the back of your head howled at you to move. Reacting, you hurled yourself forward into a roll and up into a crouch as a few jagged bones impaled the area you had just been standing in.

Looking back at the attacks, you paled. That could have killed you! Whipping around, you kept looking for where the bones had come from. Why would a monster attack you?? You hadn’t done anything!

That feeling on the back of your neck again. The screaming instinct to move. Move or die. You launched yourself into a dead sprint back towards the house, trying not to think about the fact that you had narrowly dodged another bone that was aimed right towards your calf. To maim? You didn’t know and weren’t going to wait to find out.

Using that vague chill down your neck and spine, you managed to narrowly avoid any other attacks, though you still felt a few scrapes and gouges on your limbs. Scratches would heal, and you could sew the damaged clothes back together (sorry for the rips, Papyrus), but you didn’t want to find out what a bone through the intestine felt like. Sacrificing limbs to stay alive was fine by you at this point.

The door was in sight! Mercifully, it looked like it had creaked open a bit. You hadn’t been able to shut it all the way properly when you stepped out. You had never been more grateful to such a fucked up door.

That feeling zapped up your spine, stronger this time. In a last ditch effort, you hurled yourself up onto the porch, sliding into the kitchen on your stomach, and kicked the door shut as hard as you could from the floor, which slammed with a resounding BANG, just in time for the thunking of numerous sharp points to pierce into the thick wood.

Panting, you scrambled up, trying to make sure the door stayed as tightly shut as possible, and ignoring the several needle sharp bone shards sticking THROUGH THE DOOR. Backing slowly away, as quietly as you could, you could hear slight footsteps creaking on the porch. The door handle creaked and turned, the door shaking a bit as the person on the other side tried to open it. Straining your ears, you thought you heard a soft and irritated huff.

The silence of it all left you completely unprepared for the sheer volume that erupted afterwards.

“HUMAN! I KNOW YOU ARE IN THERE! I DO NOT KNOW HOW YOU CAME TO BE HERE, BUT KNOW THAT YOUR ATTEMPT TO SNEAK UP ON ME FOR WHATEVER DASTARDLY PURPOSE HAS FAILED!”

You almost fell over, thankful the yelling was muffled by the door. You hadn’t meant to startle him? Or make him think you were trying to sneak up on him? Maybe you should try talking this out. It was clearly a misunderstanding. You tuned back into the other person’s ongoing rant.

“-AND JUST KNOW THAT WHEN I GET BACK INSIDE THAT HOUSE, I WILL MAKE SURE TO INTERROGATE YOU THOROUGHLY! YOU WILL REGRET THE DAY YOU STEPPED FOOT ONTO THE TERRITORY OF THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE SANS!”

Ooor maybe you wouldn’t talk to him. The details he was currently going into about his “interrogation” techniques were making you mildly sick.

Wait.

Sans?

This was the Sans that Papyrus had told you to find??

Maybe if you mentioned his name, this guy would calm down? And not try to peel your skin off and turn it into a new pair of gloves?

He seemed to have paused and was taking a breath, so you jumped in.

“Um, I’m sorry, but maybe there’s been some confusion? Papyrus told me to find Sans if he wasn’t here, and I was directed towards you? Am I mistaken? Are you not Sans?”

Silence.

“OF COURSE I’M SANS!! IS THAT STUPID MUTT GONE THEN?? HE KNOWS WE’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO GO OUT AND MINGLE, THE IDIOT!! IF HE’S LEFT WITHOUT TELLING ME, I AM BEATING HIM WITH HIS OWN FEMURS!!”

“Uuuh, what? Mutt? What does he have to do-”

“YOU STAY RIGHT THERE, HUMAN! I AM COMING IN AND I AM GOING TO DRAG EVERY LAST BIT OF INFORMATION ABOUT THIS OUT OF YOU!”

The stomping of boots accompanied his departure, probably heading around to the front door. You stared into the distance, blinking rapidly. Why did Sans bring Mutt into this? Clearly they knew each other. But how did Papyrus fit into this? Were they all siblings? But you swore Papyrus said he had ONE brother, not two.

As you steadied your breathing, one thing became clear. You definitely were NOT safe here until Papyrus was found and could explain everything. Maybe he hadn’t told anyone you were here? That could make anyone jumpy, suddenly having a stranger in your home.

Sighing heavily, and wincing at the newly noticed pain of cuts on your feet and limbs as the adrenaline died down, you limped towards the living room. You could just wait for Papyrus outside, damn it. He’d find you eventually if you stayed put somewhere noticeable, like the end of the driveway.

On your way the door, cringing at the thought of running into the loud Sans from outside (who you were now pretty sure was the same short skeleton you had seen), you froze. The chill that had saved your life outside was now back full force, stronger than it had ever been. You thought you were going to collapse under the weight of the sheer fear screaming through your brain.

You couldn’t even react at this point, so overwhelmed by whatever was nearby that was clearly a threat. Panting softly, you tried to get more oxygen to your stiff lungs, and slowly forced yourself to turn around. The movements felt awkward and agonizing. You didn’t want to look. You wanted to disappear. Anything to escape this overwhelming sense of foreboding.

It was just one person, short like the other skeleton. He was one too. The lower half of his face was visible from underneath his hood. No jagged teeth like Mutt, no cacophony like the Sans outside, no warmth like Papyrus. He felt… empty. Like a black hole. What you could see of his expression was blank. Despite not seeing his eyes, you were certain he was staring right at you. Through you. Dissecting you from the inside out with a cold, empty look.

Then, a wide, mad grin appeared on that face and a buzzing ignited in your bones. Only one thought kept repeating in your mind as this new skeleton stepped closer, slowly, deliberately.

You were going to die.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: Queen Anne’s Lace

You had never had a near death experience before. Never seen your life flashing before your eyes. Had never been in such immense danger. Even in this moment, as the Grim Reaper in a blue hoodie, Death incarnate with purple eyes, moved towards you, you didn’t see your memories.

Instead, you were so very present in the moment. Every second seemed stretched into an eternity. Time slowing as you took in everything around you in excruciating detail. The roaring of your own heart in your ears, feeling your eyes dilating in response to your panic, numbness creeping into your fingers, even the burning sensation behind your nose and eyes of tears trying to form. You still couldn’t breathe right, the pressure from him was too much, but you still managed a stumbling step away from the shuffling killer.

He was still grinning, that horrifying smile. You had seen serial killer documentaries. Those empty looks, empty words, hiding a horrible madness. Did the victims of such insanity all see the same sick smile on the faces of their killers before they were murdered? You wanted to look away, couldn’t stand seeing it, but felt entranced by it all the same. Like a rodent before a serpent. Like watching a natural disaster roll in. Inevitable. Unchangeable. Persistent.

The monster spoke

“heya. what’s a human like you doing here?”

It sounded so normal. So casual. But that underlying current of menace removed any doubt from your mind that this was just a casual conversation. Your mouth was so dry. When had that happened? You swallowed thickly, voice coming out in a soft rasp.

“I’m… just looking for… my friend. Or his brother.”

“oh yeah? what a shame you missed them. i’ll tell them you were here.”

You nodded, taking another jerky step back. You had to time this right. You couldn’t turn your back on him. The first opportunity and you would be dead, you just knew it, just like you knew he was a killer without so much as a few words exchanged between you two. You needed to be patient, wait for the exact right moment.

“Y-yeah, uh, I’ll just go… wait for him outside. H-he’ll be looking for me, you know?”

Strengthen your knees. Stop shaking. You had to be ready. It would be fast. Where was the closest cover?

“of course he will. i do wonder though…”

The moment stretched thin, too taught, ready to snap.

That mad grin got just a bit wider as a brilliant display of virulent violet tinged bones covered the ceiling.

“just how much of you they’ll be able to find.”

In a rare instance for you, the deep seated gift of humanity, the thing that truly separated humans from monsters, flared to life inside your soul in that moment.

DETERMINATION.

You refused to die here. Not when you had finally been given the second chance you had been waiting years for. You would not waste Papyrus’ efforts.

YOU REFUSED.

With every bit of energy you had, you threw yourself under the nearby coffee table, hearing the horrid thundering rain of bones all around you, hitting into the table, feeling the scrape against your back of the attacks that managed to pierce the ancient wood.

The second it stopped, you shoved out from under your cover. It wouldn’t hold against a second onslaught like that. You had to move, had to get outside, needed more room to maneuver and defend.

Even as you ran for the door, you felt that chill, that presence behind you. Spinning on one foot, and planting the other down heavily, you turned to face the attacker and launched the best punch you could straight at that grinning face.

And it hit, sending him flying back. Your brain caught up to your panic in that moment, horrified that you had killed a monster. Humans could kill them so easily. What had your intent in that hit even been?! How much damage had he taken? You couldn’t face Papyrus if you dusted a monster, even if it was in self defense!

But, no, he was standing, wobbling, and the laughing, that insane cackle, just got louder.

“hey, not bad hellcat! if you bothered having any killing intent, that might have actually done some decent damage.”

He… vanished?? Searching around frantically, you spun in a circle, desperately trying to catch sight of him. This was bad, so bad, no no no…

The chill, right at your neck. You threw an elbow backward and felt it connect with...something, followed by a small grunt of pain. A sharp stabbing on the side of your neck informed your fevered brain that some kind of blade or sharp point was there. Cutting your jugular? Really? Uncalled for.

Knocked forward by the new weight added to your upper back, you felt bony fingers thread into your hair, trying to pull your head back, exposing more of your throat to attack. Fortunately, your hands were still free.

Reaching back, you hooked your hands into the soft jacket, grabbing as tightly as you could, before hurling your body and arms forward, feeling hair being torn out of your head from that grip as you threw your would-be killer off your back and onto the floor with a SLAM.

Unfortunately, this placed the mad man between you and the front door again. He was laughing (more like wheezing) harder now, staggering up again. Why?? Wouldn’t he just stop?? You were also breathing hard, blood and sweat mixing together on your skin as you tried to plan your next step. At this point, trying to fling yourself out of one of the poorly maintained windows may be your best bet.

“nice trick, human. i wasn’t expecting that throw. i appreciate you putting this much effort into the fight. afterall, it’s more fun when the victims FIGHT BACK!”

Bracing, you sucked in a breath. You needed to get away. You shook, wishing that Papyrus would turn up again. Surely he’d be able to help diffuse the situation? Then again, you wouldn’t want him to get hurt by this guy. Did this nutjob live here? Or had he broken in to kill everyone?? Maybe you wouldn’t mind him going after that Sans outside, but not poor Papyrus!

Currently he seemed to be muttering to himself, or to his shoulder? He was distracted from you at any rate and you didn’t care what he was saying to himself. You backed away, towards the hallway next to the kitchen. Maybe you could lose him in the house somehow? At this point, you would take the guy outside over this one. At least the crazy outside had only been trying to injure you (maybe), not MURDER YOU.

Actually, now that you thought about it, this guy did look a lot like the skeleton you had seen outside. Same size, roughly, and this one was dressed way differently, but still. It was uncanny. Weird. But, Papyrus had the doppelganger (almost) in Mutt, so maybe it was just a thing for skeleton monsters to fall into two different types only?

Just a few more inches and you would be able to round the corner down the hallway. There had to be a place to hide, or a window or door to get out of. The front door idea had to be abandoned, sadly, and the kitchen door would take too long to get out of. Moving silently, trying not to break your assailant out of whatever trance he was in, you let out a sigh of relief as you made it.


That relief did not last long as you placed your foot on a particularly loud and squeaky floorboard. Staring down in horror, you whipped your head back up only to lock gazes with that empty purple eyed stare. The mad smile was gone, and you weren’t sure if this flat look was better or worse.

“where do you think you’re going, hellcat? we’re not done here. not until one of us is D E A D”

A jagged purple bone appeared in his hand and in a blink he was to you, arm raised, weapon targeted right towards your heart. You weren’t going to be able to dodge in time. You just hoped your rib cage would be enough to stop the magic bone from piercing you straight through.

You firmly believed that you were about to being a human shish kebab, right until the moment you were yanked up around your stomach into the air, away from the incoming attack, knocking the wind out of you with a startled wheeze.

“DUSTY, WHAT’S GOING ON HERE? I HEARD A RUCKUS AND, THINKING YOU ARE FIGHTING WITH SOMEONE AGAIN, I COME TO FIND YOU HAVE DESTROYED THE LIVING ROOM ONCE MORE, AND YOU ARE HURTING THIS POOR HUMAN! WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF?”

This sounded like Papyrus! The one you knew! You could even see a bit of red scarf by your head! You were saved! Someone really was looking out for you.

The killer, Dusty? (what is with these peoples’ nicknames?), had backed off, weapon vanished, scratching at his cheek? Jawbone? (what did one call the skeleton parts? Were they the same as human skeleton bits?) awkwardly. At any rate, he refused to make eye contact with the person you were sure was Papyrus, and just muttered something unintelligible, before turning and collapsing on the now shredded couch. If his stare wasn’t so empty, you might have thought he was pouting.

A great sigh heaved from behind you as you were pulled up further and now sitting in the crook of Papyrus’ arm. To keep from falling you grabbed onto his shoulder which is when you noticed how far off the floor you were. Was Papyrus this tall? He hadn’t been more than 5 or so inches taller than you, had he? The top of your head had come to his nasal cavity, you were sure. But this… was much taller. You snapped out of your contemplations to a very concerned voice.

“HUMAN? HUMAN, I UNDERSTAND YOU MAY BE VERY SHOCKED AT A TIME SUCH AS THIS AND I COMMEND YOU FOR YOUR ABILITY TO NOT BE DEAD AFTER A RUN IN WITH DUSTY, BUT I WOULD FEEL MUCH BETTER IF YOU WOULD PERHAPS SPEAK TO ME? COULD YOU TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED? I’M AFRAID DUSTY IS IN ONE OF HIS MOODS NOW AND I WON’T GET A THING OUT OF HIM.”

He really did sound like Papyrus, volume and all. And you felt like the red gloves were the same too. But, much more worn. With some odd stains that someone had clearly tried to get out of them. Same with the scarf.

Screwing your eyes shut, you took a deep breath in. Ten seconds. Then released, slowly. The pain from your two successive fights was back full force and you were tired all over again. Not to mention that the whole reason you had even left the damn room had been due to hunger, which was also back with a vengeance.

Finally, you looked up at your rescuer.

This. Was not the Papyrus you were looking for.

 

Crooks (he was not overly fond of the name, he was actually very sensitive about the appearance of his teeth, thank you) was very worried. This day had not started out well. He just wanted everyone to stop fighting, stop being at each others’ throats all the time. It was exhausting helping this world’s Papyrus try and keep order in the house. It kept adding undue problems for everyone. It was bad enough being stuck at the house all the time, they didn’t need to constantly be fighting as well.

He had expected another brawl between Dusty and either Edge or Black. Those two were the worst offenders for picking fights between each other and anyone else they felt like. The two were lucky that Dusty had that magic limiter on, or they would already be dead. Couldn’t they see his LV? Why would you want to pick a fight with someone like that?

The human currently settled on his left arm was giving him a thousand yard stare. She didn’t seem scared so much as… ah, what was the term? Short circuited? Out of it? Like she had already dealt with too much and was trying to process. Maybe she would feel better if he took her farther away from Dusty? But maybe she didn’t want to be moved.

Jostling his arm gently, she seemed to snap out of whatever headspace she was in, blinking rapidly.

“HUMAN? DO YOU NEED HELP? I AM HAPPY TO CALL YOU AN AMBULANCE. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO?”

Crooks really didn’t want to call an ambulance here. Then there would be questions and attention and all sorts of problems for everyone, especially the outside Papyrus. But, if he had done his rounds in the house like he meant to, then this wouldn’t have happened. How did a human even get in here? He would just have to handle the consequences of this until the other him got back.

She slowly shook her head.

“No, that’s okay. They’re just scratches and some bruises. Nothing emergency worthy. I’m more worried about the clothes. I’m not sure they’re salvageable and I had borrowed them.”

This was promising! She wasn’t screaming in panic! And was talking to him normally! And didn’t want to get authorities involved yet! He tried to give her his best grin, though he knew it wasn’t as charming as it once was.

“WELL, I AM SURE THE CLOTHES CAN BE REPLACED! NOT TO WORRY. CLOTHES ARE NOT NEARLY AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR WELL BEING! IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO FOR YOU TO HELP? WE SHOULD SIT AND TALK ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON, AS I AM AFRAID I DO NOT KNOW HOW YOU CAME TO BE HERE!”

The look in her brown eyes warmed as a small smile crept across her face, small wrinkles forming at the corners of her eyes. It reminded him of hot chocolate, warm and sweet and easy.

“I could use some food. I haven’t eaten much for the last few days. And maybe some band aids or something? I don’t want the cuts to get infected.”

Hungry?? Not on HIS watch!

Crooks adjusted the fragile human to keep a better grip on her as he strode towards the kitchen. Goodness, she was light! Definitely not eating enough. Dusty seemed to have left the living room for now, probably back up to his room. He would get a talking to later about his poor manners!

He noticed her cringe when they entered the kitchen. Admittedly, the number of, ah, chefs in the house had certainly done a number on it. And were those new holes in the back door? He would ask Sans later to help him fix it. They were both experts at keeping things working long past when they should.

Carefully, he set her in the least damaged chair. It still wobbled some, but really it was good! It even had all of its original legs! She sighed, looking worse for the wear, and folded her arms on the table, before setting her head on her arms.

He busied himself digging in the fridge, pulling out some leftovers. He needed to make his special friendship spaghetti for her at some point! He was almost 30% certain he could win her over with his charm and excellent cooking skills, especially with his first most special spaghetti recipe.

“SO! I AM NOT SURE WE HAVE BAND AIDS HERE. WE’RE MONSTERS AND TEND NOT TO NEED THEM. AND THE HUMAN AMBASSADOR DOESN’T COME HERE, SO NO NEED TO STOCK UP ON THEM. BUT MAYBE THIS WILL HELP!”

He set down the last Starfait in the house before her. Edge might throw a fit, but the human needed it more right now. She stared at it, eyes sparkling. Without taking her eyes off the drink, she pulled it close.

“Is this monster food? I haven’t had any before! You guys weren’t on the surface when I… uh, went away, and I didn’t have the money for it when I got back. It’s so pretty! What’s it called?”

He beamed. This was the reaction he was hoping for! The charming was working! Anyone could be bribed into good humor and friendship with good enough food!

“THAT IS A STARFAIT! IT’S FROM METTATON’S PERSONAL BRAND! THEY’RE ONE OF HIS BEST SELLERS! VERY FRUITY FLAVORED! GO ON AND TRY IT! I AM SURE YOU WILL ENJOY IT.”

She nodded and took a small sip. Her eyes widened, and took another bigger gulp, eyes closing happily and a small hum left her. He noticed the cuts healing up as well. She would be in tip top shape in no time! Finishing the food quickly, he brought her a hot plate of day old chicken alfredo. The amount of noodles on the surface was stunning! So many kinds! So many noodle dishes! If only he could get the others to try his work…

She smiled, thanked him softly for the food, and began eating. Even though she had said she hadn’t eaten much the last few days, she took her time with the dish, clearly appreciating it to the fullest. Feeling a glimmer of the old pride he used to have, he reveled in the fact that someone other than him and his brother was eating his food.

She finished, looking deeply satisfied, and downed the last of the Starfait. After pushing the cleared dishes away (not a scrap left, a human after his own soul!) she pushed up the sleeve of the torn jacket, admiring the now unblemished skin.

“Wow, it really does heal injuries! I had heard from other people on the street it did that, and Joe said he had half a cinnamon thing once that helped his ankle, but I wasn’t sure I believed it! Joe said a lot of things.”

Crooks took the dishes to the sink. He would deal with them later. For now, he thought it was time for some tea and a chat! How long had it been since he’d had a friend over for tea?

Well, of course Sans had tea with him some nights, but his brother had a hard time keeping up with the conversation. And Papyrus was fun to talk to, but he was always so busy. The Sans of this world and Dusty seemed uncomfortable around him, though would talk to him kindly sometimes. The others were not really the kind to sit and drink tea without an argument and subsequent fight breaking out.

Setting the tea cup of golden flower tea in front of his guest, he carefully sat in the largest chair while it creaked ominously. The usual tea additions were also on the table, honey, sugar, cream, lemon, the works! He needed to put his best foot forward!

He carefully observed how she made her tea while he added only lemon to his. It would be good to remember for future tea times how she liked her tea! Hopefully there were more tea times.

She sipped and made that nice humming noise again, looking refreshed and much more relaxed. Now would be the time to talk.

Clearing his non existent throat, Crooks dove in.

“SO! ARE YOU FEELING BETTER NOW?”

She smiled at him again, so sweetly.

“Yes, I really am. Thank you so much, honestly. I don’t know what would have happened if you didn’t intervene.”

“WELL, THAT’S EASY! YOU WOULD BE DEAD!”

She gave a nervous chuckle, sipping awkwardly at her tea. Ah, perhaps that had been a bit too blunt. Curses! He needed to tread more lightly with the human than with the others, that much should have been obvious.

“WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO TELL ME WHAT’S BEEN GOING ON? WE DON’T USUALLY HAVE GUESTS HERE. AND BY USUALLY, I MEAN NEVER. AS I AM SURE YOU HAVE NOTICED, IT ISN’T EXACTLY, AH, SAFE HERE? AND I DON’T MEAN TO BE RUDE, BUT WHO ARE YOU?”

She continued sipping her tea, seeming to think on his questions. With a sigh, she folded both of her hands around the cup, staring into its depths.

“I suppose I should start at the beginning then, now that I’ve found someone actually willing to listen and help me out besides Mutt.”

Mutt? Helping out? Crooks was already suspicious. That skeleton had a bit of a twisted sense of humor, worse than just the awful puns he and some of the others partook in.

He refocused on the human with a burning intensity. She put out her hand and he carefully took it, keeping his grip strength to a minimum.

“I’m Aster, and this is what I know is going on.”

Chapter Text

Sans rolled his neck, feeling a few pops. He’d been out in the workshop for a few hours now, and honestly just felt like beating his skull against the nearest wall. He’d been at this for almost a year now, trying to fix this, though it felt like a lot longer. He was grateful for the occasional help from some of the others, especially Red and Mutt, but still they got nowhere.

Sighing, he threw down the screwdriver he’d been using and collapsed into the desk chair, staring at the ceiling. He just wanted them gone. It was weird enough knowing that other parallel universes existed, but it was a whole other issue living with different versions of himself and his brother. Universes that his path could have walked down.

Guilt weighed on him heavily. He really should try and spend more time with Crooks. He was a good guy, despite the world he had come from. It just made him so uncomfortable to think about his own brother turning out that way, he couldn’t, heh, stomach looking at the oversized skeleton for too long. That joke was old, but a classic skeleton pun. Paps would hate it.

He smiled vaguely, before staring back at the machine and groaning. Scraping a hand down his face, he looked over as the door to the workshop creaked open, revealing Red, lacking his usual oversized coat. Red looked awful, and Sans probably didn’t look any better. At least his Papyrus was trying to keep the peace, rather than disturb it like Edge did.

Giving a lazy wave to his counterpart, Sans slouched down more into the chair.

“hey pal. got anything new for me?”

Red snorted, leaning over the blueprints on the desk, eye lights scanning them for the millionth time, hoping to find something, any kind of hint or clue.

“as if. we ain’t had anything new since th’ time we got it to light up that one screen four months ago. ‘m at a loss, just like you are. ‘s just nicer to hang out in here than th’ house.”

Sans grimaced. Had it really been that long since any progress had been made? The days really blurred together. The two sat in silence for a long time, occasionally rustling through the many papers scattered around. What was the point? He desperately wanted to give up on all of this and return to his other work, but the thought of continuing to have this many dangerous people around his brother for the rest of their lives was appalling. Only the thought of keeping his brother safe, and by extension protecting the rest of the world, kept him working day after day.

Red broke the silence next.

“didja hear anything weird awhile ago?”

Sans quirked a brow bone at the question.

“weird how? think i may have heard some noises, but i just figured it was some of the others fighting again.”

Red scratched at the scar on his face, frowning.

“yeah, makes sense. dunno, wasn’t nearby, but coulda sworn i heard a girl screaming. you may not have felt it out here, but there was also a big magic surge just a bit ago. felt it in my bones, heh.”

A small chuckle at the awful joke trickled away as something in the back of his brain bothered him. Sans frowned, thinking. Why did this sound important?

Slowly, realization dawned and his face fell. Cursing under his breath, he shortcutted back to the house immediately, leaving a confused Red behind him in his haste.

How could he have forgotten about the damn human Paps had brought home??

 

So far, Crooks (as he was apparently called) had been nothing but lovely. It was such a nice change from the last few interactions! Much more welcoming and very chatty. Currently he was touring you about the house, pointing out different rooms and making awkward attempts at hiding the worst of the house’s damage from you. He had insisted on said tour as he was “CERTAIN THAT PAPYRUS MEANT FOR YOU TO LIVE HERE, AND IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE HERE, YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND!”

The massive mountain of bones had declared that you needed to start the house tour from the top down, and had carted you up the stairs at a breakneck speed. Luckily you had never been prone to motion sickness, but you thought this time might be an exception as after the sprint you were feeling a bit green.

The attic was off limits as it was apparently Dusty’s domain. You were more than content to move the tour along quickly away from the scary closed door, swearing you heard shuffling from behind it. The upper floor branched out into a few hallways, one long one that had the stairs and opened into the main downstairs area. One direction down the hall led to bedrooms, the other direction to some kind of lounge room with a porch and lots of cool things, like gaming systems and a pool table, though the former were broken and the latter was missing pool cues.

The downstairs wasn’t much more than you had already seen. Main room, kitchen, laundry and mudroom off to the side,the back hallway leading to a large library room looking over the backyard, and the other branch taking you to some kind of sunroom or greenhouse. The basement was half finished, with a gym area in one section and storage in another. The unfinished area also had the main water heater and vent units, which were in about the state you had thought they would be. Really, they probably should have been replaced a few years back with all the warning lights that were on. No idea how the water heater hadn’t exploded through the roof yet.

The garage connected to the house via the laundry room and housed a few cars and motorcycles, as well as some tools and other outdoors things like snow shovels. Surprisingly, all the vehicles were perfectly maintained without so much as a scratch on them. Given the rest of the house and the things in it, you had been expecting some damage or rust. Crooks did make sure you didn’t touch any of the pretty machines, responding to inquiries with vaguely concerning statements like “I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO KEEP YOU SAFE IF THEY GOT SCRATCHED” or “REALLY, JUST FORGET THESE ARE HERE. IT’S BETTER THAT WAY.”

You had never been in such a large house in all your life. Even with the patches of broken drywall, busted doors, fogged and damaged windows, and the many other issues that clearly existed in the house, it was a nice place. With some TLC, a good contractor, and a ton of cash, you were certain this place would shine and be like those big, fun houses on the TV. There may even be room in the backyard for a pool! It was hard to tell with how overgrown it was though. You wish you knew where the property line was, it would help with configuring the yard.

You had both returned back to the main room, which now that you looked at it boasted a large stone fireplace that could use some work and a good flue cleaning. Overall, this place really could be cozy. But there was almost nothing in the way of decoration or personality at all. The furniture was second hand, much of it damaged in some way, and there were no signs of even basic house maintenance. It was concerning.

“So, uh, Crooks? Can I ask you something?”

“OF COURSE! I WILL ANSWER ALMOST ANYTHING!”

“Almost anything huh? Well, good to know you got limits. How long have you lived here?”

Crooks pondered a bit.

“I THINK, PERHAPS, A YEAR NOW?”

Now you were even more confused. A year and nothing to personalize the place?

“Well, uh, you must really like a minimalistic style with regards to decorating! How many people live here?”

“NINE OF US CURRENTLY RESIDE HERE! YOU WILL MAKE TEN! A LOVELY EVEN NUMBER! WHAT’S MINIMALISM?”

“Oh, minimalism is a decorating style that focuses on not having a lot of stuff in a space. A curated look, I think it’s called? I’m only passingly familiar with the trend. Wow, that’s a lot of folks here. And thanks for including me in the house tally, I guess? Are you all skeleton monsters?”

Crooks nodded emphatically.

“WELL, MINIMALISM ISN’T REALLY MY LOOK, I DON’T THINK, BUT THINGS BREAK HERE SO OFTEN, NOT MUCH POINT IN DECORATING! AND YES! WE ARE ALL, INDEED, SKELETON MONSTERS! I WOULD LOVE TO MEET MORE MONSTERS AND HUMANS, BUT THAT HASN’T WORKED OUT WELL.”

He looked so very sad in that moment, normally cheery face drooping, clearly yearning for something he hadn’t been getting and you couldn’t help but reach out to gently pat his arm. This seemed to perk him up and he gifted you with another bright smile. The teeth and jaw problems were growing on you, really. They were very him.

“AND OF COURSE I WOULD INCLUDE YOU! I KNOW YOU’RE GOING TO LIKE IT HERE, AND ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, NO ONE ELSE TAKES VERY LONG SHOWERING, SO YOU’LL HAVE PLENTY OF HOT WATER FOR YOUR HUMAN NEEDS! YOU DO HAVE FAR MORE THINGS TO CLEAN, AFTER ALL. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW YOU HUMANS DEAL WITH ALL THE SKIN AND HAIR AND THINGS.”

You winced at his volume, getting ready to ask about the whole “things breaking here a lot” and the “failed meetings with other people” business (though you had some guesses as to why things broke so much, at least), when the front door was kicked in quite dramatically, making you jump.

“SEE YOU INGRATE?? I TOLD YOU THERE WAS A HUMAN HERE! BUT NOO, THE GREAT AND STUPID EDGE JUST KNOWS EVERYTHING!”

“SHUT UP, YOU TINY IDIOT! IF YOU WERE EVEN HALFWAY DECENT AT DOING ANYTHING, MAYBE I WOULD ACTUALLY LISTEN TO YOU!”

You shrunk back, easily hiding behind the bulk that was Crooks. God, there were TWO of them now! To be fair, you had wondered where Sans had gone off to. It wasn’t THAT far of a walk from the door to the backyard to the front door. He easily could have gotten there in time to help Dusty murder you.

Okay, maybe it was good he got delayed.

Crooks had carefully angled his body to further hide you behind him, knowing that you had been attacked by one of these individuals already. You clung to the back of his shirt, grateful he was so big, and only just barely peeking around him to look at the newcomers.

“HELLO MY FRIENDS! EDGE, PLEASE STOP KICKING DOORS IN, IT ISN’T GOOD FOR THE HINGES. BLACK, DID YOU TWO GET INTO A FIGHT AGAIN?”

The Sans you met outside scoffed, crossing his arms and tapping his foot rapidly.

“IT WAS HARDLY A FIGHT! A SCUFFLE, PERHAPS A SPAR. IT’S NOT LIKE I EVEN NEED TO BOTHER TRYING HARD TO FIGHT THIS INCAPABLE CHILD.”

Ah, so the one who attacked you outside was called Black. Wait. Then why had Mutt sent you to him, and why had he introduced himself as Sans? Was this a monster thing? Was there more than one skeleton monster named Sans? Nicknames were common enough for humans, but something about all of this seemed off. You just couldn’t put your finger on it. Shaking your head, you tuned back into the ongoing drama.

Turning your eyes to the taller skeleton that had kicked in the door (which was awful, that poor door was bad enough without a boot flying into it). He, Edge?, honestly looked a lot like Mutt. Sharp teeth, tall, thin, red gloves and scarf… wait, scarf? How many skeletons in this house had red gloves and red scarves? And since he looked like Mutt, though more high energy than the slouching skeleton you’d met, he also looked like Papyrus. Just, maybe a spikier one?

You started out of your train of thought as the two who had just busted in the front door stopped bickering long enough to glare at you.

Edge crossed to the torn couch in a few great strides, reaching to grab you.

“COME HERE HUMAN! I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU GOT IN HERE, BUT AS HEAD OF SECURITY FOR THIS HOUSE I REFUSE TO HAVE YOU IN IT! YOU WILL TELL ME WHAT WEAKNESS YOU EXPLOITED TO GET IN HERE, AND THEN I AM THROWING YOU OUT!”

Before he could even lay a hand on you, Crooks had scooped you up again, standing and holding you over his head, where even the lanky Edge couldn’t reach you. Being this far off the ground and in such an unstable hold was very disconcerting as you tried not to flail around too much.

“EDGE, NO! THE PAPYRUS BROUGHT HER HERE, HE’S LETTING HER STAY! YOU CAN’T THROW HER OUT! BESIDES, I JUST GOT HER FIXED UP FROM HER RUN INS WITH BLACK AND DUSTY! I WON’T LET YOU UNDO ALL MY HARD WORK!”

In a look you assumed was a glare, Edge stomped his foot.

“THEN THAT SOFTY PAPYRUS CAN TALK TO ME ABOUT IT AND ASK TO INVITE HER IN HERE PROPERLY! GIVE THE HUMAN HERE!”

Crooks kept moving away, deftly dodging Edge’s attempts to take you out of his reach. You were definitely feeling sick again.

“AT LEAST WAIT UNTIL PAPYRUS GETS HOME! OR SANS COMES INSIDE! WE SHOULDN’T DO ANYTHING HASTY!”

Black was still near the door, giving Edge a smug smirk as he failed to grab you yet again.

“EDGE, DO YOU WANT HELP GETTING THE HUMAN FROM THE ACTUAL HEAD OF SECURITY FOR THE HOUSE? OR DO YOU WANT TO KEEP FLAILING AROUND LIKE A FOOL?”

This clearly struck a nerve in Edge, who let out an intimidating snarl as you began to feel that prickling feeling on the back of your neck again.

“AS IF I WOULD EVER ASK FOR HELP FROM YOU!”

Suddenly, the whole world was out of place and you felt a strange lurching in your chest. You barely had time to let out a startled gasp, before you were yanked in mid air out of Crooks’ hands and slammed into Edge’s grasp.

Trying not to vomit and feeling that chill still buzzing in the back of your head, you looked up into tiny pin pricks of red light, and a weirdly innocent looking victorious grin. The grip of arms around you tightened as Edge began marching towards the door, passing Black with a smirk.

“I TOLD YOU I COULD HANDLE IT!”

Black just waved him off, moving to the side and sitting casually in one of the chairs in the room.

“WE’LL SEE. I DON’T THINK THIS IS DONE YET.”

You felt that weirdness in your chest again, spreading out to the rest of your body, and were yanked backwards this time, back towards Crooks, forcing Edge to spin and face the huge skeleton once more as he tried to keep his grip on your torso. You hadn’t known Crooks for very long, but you felt like the look on his face in this moment was a dangerous and uncommon one. He looked absolutely blank, with a strange smile on his face, kind of like Dusty…

“E D G E. I SAID THE HUMAN WAS STAYING. HERE. WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THIS LIKE CIVILIZED MONSTERS. I AM GOING TO HAVE A FRIEND. DEAR ASTER AND I ARE GOING TO HAVE TEA TOGETHER AND TALK AND BE VERY. GOOD. FRIENDS. SO YOU ARE GOING TO LET HER GO, OR I AM GOING TO BE QUITE. UPSET.”

The chill increased even more in your back. You had gotten quite comfortable with Crooks, not questioning his looks or the story behind them. Who were you to judge someone’s appearance? Or past? But even Edge looked a bit uncomfortable at the gleam in Crooks’ eye, and you didn’t think you wanted to find out what happened when the hulking skeleton got upset. Black seemed ready to either fight or flee, and you weren’t sure which would be better for your long term health. Would he take you with him if he ran?

Unlikely.

Just as the tension hit a point where you couldn’t stand it anymore, you felt a bolt down your back again, as YET ANOTHER skeleton just appeared in the room! How many had you met now of the nine total??

The new skeleton looked deeply perturbed by the scene in front of him and frowned.

“anyone wanna tell me what’s going on here?”

 

When Sans shortcutted into the house, he aimed for the living room downstairs as most of the fights tended to wind up there. Why? No idea. Maybe it was all the open space. But it was a good place to start looking.

He was grossly unprepared for the strange tableau in front of him. It could almost be a renaissance painting. Black, trying to look casual in the chair but clearly ready for anything, Edge and Crooks staring each other down, Edge holding a human, THE human, around their waist and Crooks’ magic swirling around her soul as he tried to pull her away, with the poor girl hanging half suspended in midair, looking like some kind of weird tug of war rope, and she was starting to panic. He didn’t blame her.

At his statement, Edge immediately let go, leaving her at least somewhat in a standing position, if a few inches off the floor. Crooks carefully lowered the girl to the floor before letting his magic dissipate, leaving her standing on her own volition and swaying back and forth a bit, staring at him in alarm.

Edge had crossed his arms, looking away from the whole situation, while Black seemed to have settled down, intent on watching what was going on. Crooks was fiddling with his gloves, looking between Sans, the floor, and the girl. Sans didn’t know who was guilty of what, but he was going to get to the bottom of it.

Putting on his most disarming grin, he stepped closer, reaching a hand out to the human.

“heya. name’s sans. i guess you’ve figured out the skeleton part by now, huh?”

She blinked, eyes unfocused, before her manners seemed to kick in and she reached back to take his hand.

“Oh, hi, yes, I have noticed the, uh, makeup of the house so far. I’m-”

She jerked her hand back, startled. Buzzer in the hand, gets them every time.

“sorry about that, i just wanted to join in on the fun. didn’t mean to be a buzz kill.”

She gave him a funny look, before a smile finally appeared on her face and she giggled, collapsing onto the worse for wear couch.

“Oooh my gosh, that’s so bad! I didn’t think anyone did that prank anymore! And that pun!”

The tension seemed to ease in the room as she continued to chuckle, catching her breath as the set of Crook’s shoulders went down and both Edge and Black had sighed, probably annoyed he was “undermining their authority” again. Clearly things had been bad enough that none of the other three skeletons present cared about his bad jokes. Not a good sign.

“so, you’re aster, right? paps mentioned you when he brought you back here.”

She nodded, sitting back up. She looked nice with a smile, eyes crinkling at the corners, and exuding warmth. He hadn’t been sure about her last night (she didn’t make a good first impression being drunk and disheveled and human), but in this light, she seemed an okay person. Only time would tell.

“Are you Sans then? The actual one I was supposed to find? I’ve been having the worst luck in that department. Papyrus forgot to leave me a description of who to look for and it’s put me into some, ah, interesting situations?”

Nodding, Sans moved to wave her towards the library. He really needed to speak with her, privately, especially since she said it like THAT. Crooks was fine, but who else had she run into? The clothes were in bad shape, so obviously she’d been having a hell of a time.

“sure am, older brother to the coolest guy in the world. sorry to miss you earlier, how about we go have a quick chat?”

She had that vaguely afraid look on her face again. Had she run into someone who looked the most similar to him? Axe could be dealt with okay, both he and Crooks rarely had reasons to get violent since they had enough food, but Dusty? He was a problem. Still, she stood to follow him.

Before they could get too far into the hall, she stopped, twisting the tattered sweater in her hands nervously.

“Um, if it’s okay with you, could Crooks come? I would ask Papyrus to come if he could, but I haven’t been able to find him…”

She trailed off, looking like she was ready to be kicked for even daring to ask for something to make her more comfortable. Sans smiled easily, waving it off.

“sure, whatever you like. i wouldn’t mind hearing what crooks has to say either. two birds, one stick or something like that, right?”

Another giggle. “Something like that, yeah.”

She trotted back to the still fretting skeleton and took one of his big hands in hers, tugging him along behind her. Crooks was beaming and seemed perfectly content to follow the much smaller human in front of him. It was honestly a funny sight, seeing the big guy hunching down a bit so the girl could hold his hand comfortably down the hall. Sweet too. If she was this nice to Crooks, he wasn’t too worried about her behavior with his own brother. Sans was well aware of how much harsher people could be to the less than appealing looking skeleton versus his own brother.

Going into the library, Sans swore he got a whiff of one of Mutt’s damn dog treats again. Why the guy just HAD to smoke INSIDE the house was beyond him. At least Red was willing to stick to the porch for his smokes. Was this a younger sibling rebellion thing? He would add talking to Black about the smoking to his list. Only he could get Mutt to stop for maybe a week.

Sitting at the table, Sans motioned for the two to sit with him. This was one of the few nice places left in the house, honestly. For some reason, no one was willing to fight or do too much in the book depository. The antique wooden table and chairs, despite age and some scuffs, were mostly fine. Not the worst place to have a meeting, not that he could undo her first impressions of the place at this point.

Sighing, he leaned forward, trying to keep his relaxed air up. Sans was certain he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear.

Chapter Text

It really did make a difference having Crooks with you. He was just so sweet and supportive, and you could deal with him being a bit too cling.! When you had seen someone who looked identical to Dusty, you had panicked, thinking he was back to kill you all. 

 

But no, his eyes and demeanor were different, and Crooks was very reassuring about this new skeleton’s motives. But, were Sans and Dusty twins? They sure could pass for it. Did monsters even have twin kids? Was that a thing? But wasn’t Sans the brother to Papyrus? Ugh, this was too confusing.

 

After getting Sans caught up on everything that had gone on in the last two hours (had it really only been that long? You feel like you’ve aged years, not hours), he was silent, clearly unhappy. Shifting nervously, you found Crooks’ hand again, taking comfort in his presence and he happily obliged, giving your hand a very delicate squeeze.

 

You were pretty sure Sans wasn’t mad at you, but the silence was killing you. Maybe you HAD done something wrong. You had, grudgingly, admitted to punching and throwing Dusty into the ground, so maybe Sans was mad about a human hurting a monster? It would be reasonable for him to be upset about that, especially in a house literally filled with monsters. Your thoughts kept spiraling as the silence stretched on.

 

Finally, he sighed, hand pinching at the bridge between his eye sockets. “well, sorry about the rude introduction to the house. this really isn’t how paps wanted this to go. or me for that matter. i’m glad you didn’t call the cops, though you had every right to. crooks, thank you for stepping in and helping her out, you really came through for all of us.”

 

You relaxed. He seemed more angry with himself than anything else, and beside you Crooks was beaming at the praise, smile so wide his eye sockets were practically gone. Taking a deep breath, you let your panicked thoughts go for the moment and smiled too.

 

“Well, if I saw a stranger wearing my roommate’s clothes just wandering around, I probably wouldn’t react well either. They may have gone a bit overboard on their reactions, but it’s mostly understandable.”

 

Sans finally looked at you, and you saw the composed face he’d been wearing the whole time since he first appeared slip just a bit as he gave you a tired smile that didn’t reach his eyes. How long had it been since he’d had a good night of sleep? He looked, well, like you on a normal day. Absolutely exhausted with everyone and their shit.

 

“that’s nice of you to say, but pretty sure dusty didn’t have the protection of the household in mind when he went to town. i’ll speak with him later. besides, we got other things to talk about. i did want to wait til papyrus was home, but it might be better to get things done now rather than later, especially since i don’t know when he’ll be home.”

 

The look he gave you in that moment sent those chills down your spine again, in a similar but different way. You couldn’t help but think about everything you had done wrong in your life, feeling the weight of your mistakes bearing down on you, before the feeling subsided, leaving you tired and feeling upset, holding Crooks’ hand tighter. 

 

The squeeze was returned again and you caught him giving you the kindest smile. Fucked up teeth or not, his smile was growing on you, as was Crooks himself. You took a deep breath, returning Sans’ stare with an even look, trying to shake off the memories.

 

“What did you want to talk about?”

 

“to be fair, this was more paps’ idea than mine. you seem alright so far, but i can’t say i totally agree with his plan. but, guess we’ll see what you have to say about it.” Sans shifted, leaning back in his chair again, emotional walls firmly back in place.

 

“so, papyrus mentioned that you didn’t have anywhere to go, or anyone looking out for you. what’s that about?”

 

Looking down, you idly traced the wood grains in the table. A good sanding, restain, and sealant would make this table shine like new. How much should you say? There was so much, so many things gone wrong, so many people who left you behind. Keeping things vague was probably for the best right now anyway. Who would want to hear about the mistakes you made that drove everyone away?

 

“That’s right. I’ve never been great at making friends, and any I did have moved on at some point. I’m an only child, and I’m not close with my parents.” Good, you made it true, but didn’t mention anything alarming. You still couldn’t quite look at the (weirdly intimidating) skeleton across the table from you, though you could still feel the weight of his stare.

 

“i see. he also mentioned no job. you seem healthy and smart enough. why not?”

 

How long could you spend avoiding his stare? Forever would be nice.

 

“I have a GED, but a lot of places aren’t hiring right now, or they’re not giving enough hours or pay for me to live off of. And there’s a kind of stigma around having a GED, so sometimes people pass you over if you have that. They’re not supposed to, but it isn’t like I can prove that’s why they didn’t pick me”

 

At least you had GOTTEN the damn degree. It wasn’t the worst of your problems with being hireable, but it certainly didn’t help on top of everything else. You sighed. May as well get as much out as possible.

 

“I also don’t have a car. A lot of jobs don’t consider public transportation as a valid consistent mode of transportation, even though a lot of people use it. And I don’t have a lot of clothes, so I always look like crap at interviews. Bad first impression, you know? Job hunting can take months, or up to a year in some cases. I’ve been looking for eight months now, but nothing has come up.”

 

Sans was staring at you evenly and the pressure felt like it had lessened. You started relaxing more, trying to ease the tension out of your shoulders with some breathing exercises. You just had to stay calm, and explain, and things would work out. Right?

 

“all right, fair enough. i can’t say i know much about how you humans operate businesses and hiring practices, so i’ll take your word for it. Now…”

 

You gulped as he leaned forward again. Was one of his eyes flashing colors? It was subtle, you couldn’t tell for sure, but it was alarming nonetheless. You had never felt so off balance with a person, even stupid Dusty. At least he was straightforward about what he wanted, even if it was to murder you in cold blood. Did that phrase make sense to monsters? Did they have blood? You didn’t think so, and now was NOT the time to be distracted!

 

“what were you doing on that bridge last night? what happened?”

 

Your gut dropped, already feeling tears pooling in the back of your eyes. You didn’t want to talk about this, you didn’t want to think about it. It already felt like a long time ago and you didn’t want to go back to that dark place, even though you knew that all encompassing darkness came and went frequently, all your life. You idly tugged on a lock of hair, eyes darting around the room, needing some kind of distraction from the impending answer.

 

“I, uh, I really was just in, in a bad place. I was hungry, had no work, no car, no place to live, no family, and the few friends I had were far away or annoyed with me. I was, um, couch surfing for awhile there. Trying to avoid the streets, but overstayed my welcome. I was just…”

 

A few tears leaked out and you tried to brush them away quickly. You didn’t want to cry over this anymore. Sans had leaned back and may have looked uncomfortable, but what did you know about reading skeleton monster faces? You could barely feel Crooks’ hand holding yours, your ears were ringing, everything felt muffled and far away. Focus, you had to focus. What would happen to you if you upset Sans? Would Papyrus not be your friend anymore? Would you upset Crooks? Breath, you had to breathe, focus on your breathing, just like you had been taught.

 

“I was so scared and lonely and I tried, I really have been trying, but things just seem to keep getting worse and I didn’t know what to do, and I tried to get help, but everything was taking so long, and then Amber wouldn’t talk to me anymore and I had some things taken from me at the shelter, not everything, but enough, and I was so paranoid I could barely sleep, I don’t sleep well to begin with, and I kept hoping if I just waited a bit longer things would work out, but in the end I just couldn’t-”

 

You jerked as you were gently jostled, a bony hand smaller than Crooks’s carefully pulling your hand away from your arm where you had apparently been digging your nails in so hard they left bright red marks. You felt vaguely surprised you hadn’t broken skin, in a distant way. When had you pushed the sweater sleeve up to get at your arm? You couldn’t even feel the pain yet, but you probably would later. When had Sans moved? You weren’t sure, but he was very carefully holding your hand, while Crooks looked on the verge of tears holding the other and petting your head.

 

“i’m sorry. i shouldn’t have asked so soon after everything. should have known better, what could have happened if i set you off. i’m a nosy guy, but that’s no excuse for making you go through that again before you were ready. i believe you, you don’t have to say anymore.”

 

Nodding, you tried to bring yourself back into focus. Breathe in ten counts, hold, breathe out ten counts. Again. You focused on breathing, on feeling your heart rate decreasing, squeezing two hands, listening to a calm voice, and releasing. You were here. You were fine. You got past the worst. The physical contact was odd, you had never gotten much affection in your life, but it wasn’t bad. One more breath, one more squeeze, bones digging into the soft skin of your palm, and release. Back in the moment.

 

“...Sorry about that. I guess I got more upset than I thought I would. Thanks for talking me through it, that helped.”

 

Sans let go of your hand and stepped back, eyes softer than you had seen them so far, and maybe guilty.

 

“my own fault it happened. least i could do. besides, it isn’t the first anxiety attack i’ve dealt with.”

 

You were tugged backwards into a wall of ribcage and Crooks hugged you. You could have sworn you felt tear drops on your head. Apparently skeleton monsters could cry. Who knew? Absently patting his arms, you tried to smile.

 

“I’m okay big guy. Just bad memories. I’ll be fine.”

 

“BUT YOU FELT SO SAD AND SCARED! AND JUST KEPT TREMBLING! YOU FELT SO FAR AWAY! LIKE WHEN MY BROTHER HAS A BAD EPISODE! I DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE! WE’RE ALREADY FRIENDS AND SO YOU HAVE TO STAY!”

 

You winced slightly as Crooks tightened his grip and the bones of his arms dug in a bit too much. He really had been holding back in the strength department. You kept shushing him, patting his arms, ignoring the pain from his grip. Sans was talking on the phone with someone in low tones, before hanging up.

 

With Crooks’ death like hold on you, you could barely jump as you felt a jolt up your spine. You couldn’t really turn, but you felt a new presence near Crooks’ elbow.

 

“hey bro. time to let th’ nice human girl go now.”

 

He really sounded like Sans. Was this another weird skeleton twin thing? You could see a blue sweater and a bony hand. It had to be Sans, except something seemed wrong about the hand. You couldn’t place what, but it looked different. It kind of looked older or more worn? If only you could get a look at his face.

 

“NO! IF I LET GO ASTER MAY LEAVE! I HAVE TO CHERISH OUR TIME TOGETHER! WE’LL BE THE BEST OF FRIENDS AND STAY TOGETHER!”

 

“c’mon, your buddy isn’t gonna leave, at least not without saying goodbye. right?” 

 

You nodded, finally speaking up again.

 

“It’s going to be fine, you big softy. I won’t leave. I haven’t even seen Papyrus yet today, so I can’t leave. Who knows how long I’ll be here? Don’t worry. We’re friends, yeah? Even if I leave, I’ll come back.”

 

The grip tightened around you and you wheezed a bit. What did they feed him to make him this big and strong?!

 

“YOU PROMISE? YOU HAVE TO COME BACK IF YOU LEAVE! YOU CAN’T GO AWAY FOREVER!”

 

“I promise. I wouldn’t lie to you about this.”

 

Maybe about other things, but not this.

 

The grip loosened and pulled away, accompanied with a few small sniffles. Sans had been averting his eyes from the scene, watching from nearby, before stepping back in.

 

“look, let me talk to Aster for a little bit alone, okay? why don’t you go with your brother?”

 

“BUT ASTER MAY NEED ME! SHE ASKED ME TO COME AND STAY WITH HER!”

 

You finally turned and yes, indeed, the new skeleton could be a copy for Sans or Dusty. Same coat, same size, same slouch, almost the same grin. His hood was up though and you couldn’t see the top half of his head well. He did reach out, grabbing onto Crooks’ sweater, giving it a gentle tug.

 

“why don’t we go whip up a puzzle for her? it’s been awhile, we may be rusty. bet she’d love to try a real monster puzzle, yeah? we can keep it a surprise and come find her later.”

 

Crooks seemed to calm down and straighten out, his normal smile returning.

 

“YES… YES, THAT IS A SURPRISINGLY GOOD IDEA FROM YOU DEAR BROTHER! WE SHOULD BOTH MAKE HER PUZZLES! TWO PUZZLES IS BETTER THAN ONE!”

 

You smiled at him, nodding encouragingly. “Yeah, I would love to try a monster puzzle! You’re famous for them! I bet you make great puzzles! I can’t say as to how good I’ll be at them, but I’ll definitely try my best!”

 

The Not-Sans was facing you, and he seemed to be smiling genuinely at you, you thought. Hard to tell without seeing the eyes. Eye sockets? Eye lights? You had so many questions on how to address monster anatomy. Would it be rude to ask?

 

“you got it right, human. my bro is a top tier puzzle maker. i’ll make you a little something myself, as thanks for being so nice to him.”

 

“Oh, of course! Crooks has been really sweet, I’m happy to have met  him. I’m sorry for being rude and not asking, but what’s your name?”

 

You definitely noticed both of them flinch, but why? Had you accidentally insulted them? Was there some kind of monster rule you had broken? The Not Sans’ smile became a bit more strained and a hand crept up under the hood towards his eyes.

 

“people around here just call me axe. feel free to ‘axe’ me any questions”

 

It was such a lame pun, you couldn’t help but giggle a bit. It was so obvious, but you liked it anyway. Axe seemed more put at ease and his hand fell again as Crooks scoffed.

 

“ASTER LIKES PUZZLES, NOT PUNS! STOP ACTING UP WITH YOUR TERRIBLE HUMOR! COME ON, LET US GO BEFORE YOU DRIVE HER OFF WITH YOUR BAD JOKES!”

 

Even as Crooks had tucked Axe under his arm to walk off (hilarious AND adorable), he gave you a jaunty wave.

 

“don’t worry, bro, i don’t think she finds my jokes too axe-cessive yet”

 

With a groan, the pair left the room with promises to return and find you when their puzzles were done. You waved them off, feeling a new wave of exhaustion sweep over you. What a day. All  you wanted was to curl up and go to sleep again, but you really needed to finish talking with Sans.

 

Turning back to the table, Sans was laying on it, looking even more exhausted. You approached, and sat on the edge, your back to him. Silence reigned between you two, but it didn’t feel awkward at the moment. It simply was. He shifted, one arm going behind his head to pillow it from the wood. You sighed, leaning forward onto your knees and decided to extend the olive branch.

 

“Rough day?”

 

You heard a soft chuckle and a groan and you smiled a bit. He seemed to be warming up to you a bit.

 

“try nothing but rough days lately. you?”

 

Your own short, bitter laugh barked out into the room.

 

“Try a rough life. So it goes. We all got bruises.”

 

More silence, and then rustling and shifting. He sat next to you, short legs swinging off the edge as he mimicked your pose.

 

“pretty sure skeletons don’t get those.”

 

Snorting, you leaned back on your hands, head tilted towards the ceiling and closing your eyes.

 

“Metaphoric song lyric. We all go through shit and end up damaged. We all hurt and end up hurting others. Just the way it is.”

 

“hey, sounds real philosophical. you should write a paper, get in all the books.”

 

“As if. I’m not the school and studying type. Sorry to disappoint.”

 

More silence. It was nice after the chaos of the morning. And as much as you adored Crooks (and were slightly scared of him on occasion), he was really loud. You appreciated the more quiet voiced Sans at the moment.

 

“so, i was gonna talk about a lot more things, but i am nothing if not lazy, so i’ll lay things out real easy for you, and save the rest for another time.”

 

Rotating and crossing your legs, you sat on the table, leaning your chin on one hand, balanced on one knee, giving him your full attention, even as he stayed put.

 

“papyrus wanted you to stay here. we got the extra room and space for it. he kept saying that we needed to reach out to you and all work to help you through a tough time. that maybe all of us helping you will help us.”

 

Blinking, you thought back on everything that had happened and you couldn’t exactly picture Dusty or Edge or Black helping take care of you. Not that you needed taking care of! You had always taken care of yourself and everyone who mattered to you, for better or worse. But it was also a kind of sweet thought? It would be nice to have some people to rely on again. Who didn’t know everything and didn’t look at you THAT WAY.

 

“now, i wasn’t sure this was a good idea. you’ve met most of the guys, had some bad run ins, and even the decent ones here have some really bad days and cause serious problems and harm. most people aren’t up to the task of living with monsters in general, much less ones like this.”

 

You didn’t have anything to say to that. It was really intimidating being around not just all these monsters, but these very AGGRESSIVE monsters. You had never thought of monsters as dangerous before today, but your interactions had shown otherwise. If you were smart, you’d leave, try again at the shelter, put distance between you and the killer in the attic and the crazies in the living room.

 

“and, as much as i hate to admit it, i didn’t want a human here. sorry, nothing personal, but i got some concerns about you guys as a species. i didn’t want just anyone living here, where we’re the most vulnerable. i saw this asleep, dirty, drunk human and thought i was going to be kicking out someone just looking for their next fix, maybe looking for some stuff to steal.”

 

Twiddling your thumbs was the best option here. It seemed like Sans really just wanted to get this stuff out, and you would let him. It didn’t bother you, you really had been a mess. How was he to know that was your first alcohol in literal years?

 

However, your thumbs were stopped as Sans patted your hands, clearly looking for your attention. Reluctantly, you looked up, staring him right in the eyes, afraid of what you would see reflected there.

 

“you’re a good person, aster. you really are. you tried to avoid hurting anyone, even when your life was in danger. you worried about hitting the guy trying to stab you. you didn’t hurt crooks’ feelings and made him feel great. and most important to me, you trusted my brother and accepted him when you were at your weakest. you can’t begin to imagine the shit he goes through at the embassy.”

 

No one had ever talked so nicely about you. At least, not in a long time. You didn’t think of yourself as particularly good or nice. If you were, maybe your life would have gone much differently. But it felt so good that someone thought of you as a good person, when so few who knew the truth did. Would his judgement of you change if he knew? Of course it would, it always did. It felt good, but the words fell flat against you, making you feel worse.

 

“and then this shit faced human, in the middle of the night, takes the time to wave back to my brother. to talk to him, to feel happy to be his friend, and to hug him and trust him enough to let him take care of you. that is truly rare. so in light of this, i’ll give you a choice.”

 

You trembled, feeling on the brink of a change so large, so momentous, you could barely comprehend it.

 

“do you want to live here?”

 

It was everything you hoped for. A home. A place to stay. With at least a few people you thought you could get along with. Your own room.

 

“I… I can’t pay you anything. Yet, anyway. I’ll keep trying to find work.”

 

“that’s fine. we don’t need the money. if you can keep living with us, and keep the peace, that will be enough.”

 

You were so tired of crying, though it was nice to finally feel them coming from joy instead of sorrow or pain.

 

“You don’t know anything about me. I may not be who you and Papyrus and Crooks think I am.”

 

“we’ll cross that bridge when we burn it.”

 

You laughed, folding over on yourself as Sans looked at you with a genuine grin.

 

“That’s not how that goes at all!”

 

“oh yeah? you sure? you humans and your idioms.”

 

You sat back up, wiping the tears away for the last time today.

 

“I’m in. Hope you’re ready, because you’re all going to be stuck with me now.”

 

With a wink, Sans slid off the table, offering you a hand down as you both moved to the door.

 

“i wouldn’t have it any other way. we could use some consistency for once.”

Chapter Text

You followed Sans back to the living room. Vaguely, you wondered if you could fix the couch at all. The coffee table was a loss, those puncture holes had ruined it. Surprisingly, Black was still there, pacing, while Mutt lounged in the chair that Black must have vacated. You couldn’t tell if Black was talking to himself or Mutt, but it certainly seemed very involved.

 

“-MAKING ME LOOK LIKE AN ABSOLUTE FOOL! HAD I KNOWN ALL THE DETAILS, I COULD HAVE PREPARED INFINITELY BETTER AND MADE USE OF THE HUMAN AS A PAWN THROUGH OTHER MEANS! NOW LOOK AT WHAT YOU’VE-”

 

Mutt jerked his head up in a short nod and Black stopped immediately, pulling a crisp pin point turn to stare at you directly. Trying not to flinch at his scowl, you gave a small wave, hiding partly behind Sans, who was as nonchalant as ever.

 

“Uh, hi there, again, um, Sans? Black? And Mutt. I’m sorry, what should I call you? I’m still trying to get this all straightened out.”

 

The scowl just seemed to deepen as Black crossed his arms, foot tapping restlessly.

 

“BLACK IS FINE, HUMAN. I HAVE BEEN MEANING TO SPEAK WITH YOU. COME HERE.”

 

Sans frowned, one of the few looks of displeasure you had seen on his face since meeting him. 

 

“black, we’ve talked about this. you can’t just go ordering people around, much less our new housemate.”

 

Black looked ready to retort, but you stepped out from behind Sans and moved closer.

 

“Okay, Black it is then. I would appreciate it if you used my name then as well. I’m Aster. And like Sans said, please don’t order me around. Just ask. I’ll more than likely oblige if you’re nice about it, than when you’re rude.”

 

It was important to start setting your boundaries. These guys had already run all over you, which wasn’t great as far as a first impression went, but you would be DAMNED if you let them dictate your boundaries. As the counselor had said, setting up healthy boundaries was important to maintaining your mental health and wellness, and keeping toxic people out of your life. No one was going to talk to you like that again, not if you could help it.

 

Black looked ready to blow a gasket, sharp teeth grinding as his fists clenched and unclenched, arms folded tightly. He clearly wasn’t used to people standing up to his behaviours. This was going to be a long, rough road.

 

“ASTER, THEN. I WANTED TO SPEAK WITH YOU ABOUT THE… EVENT. EARLIER TODAY. THERE WAS SOME UNFORTUNATE MISCOMMUNICATION THAT LED TO OUR INTERACTION PLAYING OUT AS IT DID. I HOPE WE CAN MOVE PAST IT IN A TIMELY FASHION.”

 

You nodded agreeably, keeping your arms down and body relaxed. The last thing you needed was for him to get more aggressive. This position almost always worked to de-escalate the angry people you had dealt with before.

 

“Okay, then what happened? I really don’t appreciate being attacked out of nowhere when I haven’t done anything. You could have seriously hurt me.”

 

Black sighed, shooting a glare at Mutt, who was watching the ongoing tiff with amused detachment.

 

“FIRST, MY IDIOT BROTHER SENT YOU TO ME, WITHOUT INFORMING ME, WHEN HE CLEARLY KNEW YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SEE THE SANS WITH YOU NOW.”

 

You blinked, clearly taken aback. Here you had thought it had simply been an honest mistake. He’d done it on purpose. Looking to the tall skeleton for confirmation, he at least had the good grace to look vaguely uncomfortable, but said nothing.

 

“SECOND, I DO NOT EXPECT YOU TO UNDERSTAND, NOR DO I WANT YOU TO, BUT I COME FROM… I HAVE A VIOLENT PAST. IT HAS MADE ME REACT FIRST AND ASK QUESTIONS LATER WHEN I AM NOT EXPECTING SOMEONE.”

 

Thinking on this, you nodded. You could understand learned reactions. It could be hard to undo years of learned behaviors, especially bad ones that used to keep you alive. You were still working on that too.

 

“Okay, that’s fair. I did kind of sneak up on you, and should have called out instead of getting all up in my head.”

 

The set of Black’s shoulders seemed to ease up just a little bit, arms relaxing though he kept them crossed.

 

“I WAS NOT EXPECTING A HUMAN IN THE HOUSE, AND YOU WERE INDEED QUIET. BUT I HOLD MYSELF TO A HIGH STANDARD, AND I FAILED TO PROPERLY UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION. IN LIGHT OF THIS...DEVELOPMENT, I HAVE COME TO A SOLUTION.”

 

You quirked your head. “I mean, all I want is an apology and for it to not happen aga-”

 

With a sharp wave of his arm, Black cut off your words with a bold pose, pointing at you, and an equally as bold statement.

 

“HUMAN ASTER! I, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE BLACK, OWE YOU A FAVOR, UP TO AND INCLUDING PUTTING MY LIFE ON THE LINE AS I PUT YOURS AT RISK. ONCE USED, WE WILL BE EVEN! AND WE ARE NEVER SPEAKING OF THIS AGAIN!”

 

“Wait, really, that isn’t necessary! Did you say putting your life on the line?! An apology would-”

 

“FURTHERMORE! AS MY BABY BROTHER STARTED ALL OF THIS TROUBLE, HE WILL ALSO OWE YOU A FAVOR, SEPARATE FROM MINE!”

 

Your voice coincided with Mutt’s as you both protested.

 

“Really, this isn’t necessary-”

 

“why do i have to get dragged into this-”

 

Black glared at Mutt while Sans patted your arm to get your focus and some kind of order returned to the room.

 

Clearing his non-existent throat, Black put his fists on his hips staring you dead in the eye with a scowl.

 

“HUMAN ASTER. IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT THIS OCCURRED. IT IS NOT HOW I WOULD HAVE LIKED OUR FIRST MEETING TO GO. BUT I HOPE TO MOVE FORWARD AND LEAVE THIS NEGATIVE EXPERIENCE BEHIND US. NOW, I HAVE WORK TO ATTEND TO. GOOD DAY.”

 

With that, the whirlwind that was Black marched out of the room briskly, heading to the garage. You blinked, and stared back to where Mutt was lounging, no longer looking so relaxed with his own arms crossed and irritable. With a sigh, he pushed himself up to stand over you, glaring as if it was your fault this happened. You refused to back down and kept a neutral expression on your face as he stared. Honestly, you might be getting a bit too used to staring at skeletons, it wasn’t creeping you out nearly as much.

 

“well, you heard him. guess i owe you one. you did give me a good laugh at least.”

 

Your face scrunched in confusion. Laugh? Did he put you in the potential of harm for a joke? Who would do something like that?

 

Jerking at a sudden and small bit of pain, you reached up and rubbed your head. The bastard was grinning now, holding up his hand. He had flicked you in the forehead, the jerk! You scowled, ready to give him a piece of your mind when he stepped back with a wave.

 

“see you around, missy.”

 

And with a jarring zing up your neck, he was gone. Looking down at Sans, he grinned at you.

 

“good work buddy. that’s as close to apologizing as most people in this house get. and a favor each from those two isn’t anything to sneeze at. At least once they can go out and about again.”

 

Blinking, you turned away and stared into the middle distance. Your only response, that got a dry chuckle from Sans, was:

 

“What the hell is wrong with you people?”



 

Carefully watching his brother putter around the yard, setting up an X and O trap brought mixed feelings to Axe. On the one hand, he hadn’t seen his Papyrus this happy in months, not since the “incident”. On the other, Paps had a bad habit of hanging too much of his happiness and self worth on one other person, and Axe didn’t know enough about this new human to determine if she was going to be able to help his brother out or not. She had been nice so far, but would that remain true?

 

Staring listlessly, his restlessly roving eye fell on the piece of paper next to him. He had been working on putting together a word jumble for the human, if only because he had said he would make something and Paps would be disappointed in him if he didn’t. He had been going on and on about how this was just like old times, and wasn’t this fun, and if only things had worked out with their other dear human friend, who had left them long ago.

 

Hand twitching, he ground his teeth as his fingers scraped inside his dead socket, the pain of it grounding him to this damn reality. He wished Papyrus would stop talking about it, but he was so happy. Couldn’t take that away from him. As if being in this damn world wasn’t bad enough. It made him sick waking up here, in a timeline that could have been theirs. Where they were still whole. A time where he wouldn’t have had to- and Paps never would have-

 

The front door creaked open and he jerked his hand away from his eye, schooling a carefully neutral expression on his face. There was his copy, the better version of him, stepping out and speaking with the human. Axe caught Sans’ gaze for one moment, before the one that was whole looked away. Axe felt an unpleasant grin creep across his face, reveling in knowing how uncomfortable it made this world’s Sans to see how far he could potentially fall.

 

The human finally looked at him and obviously flinched, hand coming to cover her mouth, before she forced a calm look on her face. Ah, he had forgotten he had taken his hood down, so she could get a real look at him this time. A deep part of him burned angrily. He didn’t want her pitying looks or fake sympathy. Look at him like he wasn’t whole, like he was damaged goods. She was just like the rest. She would get nosy, ask questions, push and prod at him to open up, or that they understood and they would help and that he could trust them, but he couldn’t, none of them-

 

“What are you working on? Is that the puzzle you said you were making for me to try?”

 

Jerking, Axe refocused with a lot of effort, staring into the calm face on his level. When had she sat next to him on the porch? She seemed too relaxed after seeing what he really looked like.

 

“...yeah. word scramble.”

 

She smiled, looking down at the incomplete and illegible mess of scribbles.

 

“I was always terrible at word puzzles. How do you even figure out how to mess the words all up? And how do you find the right word it actually is? I just can’t wrap my head around it”

 

He grinned, hoping to scare her off a bit. “well, thing is, you really just have to take a c r a c k at it.”

 

Instead of look uncomfortable, she just huffed out a small laugh. “That was terrible. Is this what I have to look forward to living here? Bad puns? I dunno, maybe I’m getting A HEAD of myself.”

 

She shot him a wink and some overly zealous finger guns. Some part of him was still angry, but he just didn’t feel like taking it out on her anymore. Who could stay mad at someone who gave such a bad pun in return? She looked ridiculous. Axe gave a small snort, waving her off, and she smiled, attention drifting elsewhere.

 

Carefully, Axe picked up the paper, looking at it. It was garbage for a puzzle, really. He had put no effort into it. He had just been trying to make his Papyrus happy. His eye tracked over to where she was sitting, her gaze turned away from him as she called encouragement to Paps, about how she was excited to try his puzzle. 

 

Placing the paper down, he flipped it over and started again in earnest. If he concentrated as much as possible, he could probably make something decent for her still. He would just make sure all the words were uncomfortable ways humans could die. Theme puzzle. Axe wasn’t sure how she would respond to such a thing, but it would be funny to find out.

 

For once, Axe allowed himself to really relax, losing himself in designing a puzzle and listening to the delighted praises and advice his brother was giving the laughing human in the background, the sun warming his bones, wind rustling through the plants nearby, and no hunger gnawing at his soul. There were some perks to living in this world after all.



 

Papyrus was exhausted. It had been another long day at the embassy, starting with an emergency summons in regards to an upcoming law the human government were trying to push through blocking the use of magic in most situations. He had worked calling and meeting with humans and monsters all day, rallying allies along with Frisk in order to help towards blocking the bill. Human government was much more complicated than monster governance!

 

He couldn’t help it when his usual smile dropped, lost in thought. He just wanted humans to understand and to get along with monsters, that magic wasn’t something to be scared of. That HE wasn’t something to be scared of, despite his resemblance to a human skeleton. That was still a work in progress. He knew he shouldn’t look at the comments of videos or news articles talking about him or his brother, but he couldn’t help it. He NEEDED to know what people thought of him, and many of the comments were… rude.

 

More guilt piled on him as he thought of poor Aster, home alone! Well, not ALONE alone, but she would be so confused! He was a terrible friend for having to leave her before she woke up, and to be gone the whole day? Who would want to stay and be friends with him when he behaved like that? And it would be common, unfortunately. He was always being called away to put out different fires. It was a worthy and important job! He was protecting and advocating for all monsters! He was a hero!

 

It was very lonely being a hero. Undyne somewhat understood, being in charge of physically protecting monsters and working with the human police force, which was incredibly difficult. Human policing was also much more complicated than monster policing. But even she had won the respect of the police force through her abilities and force of will. Papyrus wasn’t sure any of these human politicians even liked him. They always said one thing to his face and did or said something else when he was away. It was exhausting.

 

And all the chaos at home didn’t help. Oh, the things he’d had to pull to cover up for all the other skeletons! That was why they were on house arrest now. They just had so much trouble trying to fit in. Edge and Black had hurt humans, Crooks had (somewhat accidentally) stalked some poor human, Dusty… well. The man was recovering, thankfully. Red and Mutt were less than helpful and spent time being as annoying as possible, and Axe just avoided almost everyone and refused to even try to get along. It was always tense, he could never relax, waiting for something else to happen he had to fix.

 

Papyrus blinked, not realizing he had already made it home and carefully parked his car in the garage next to the other vehicles. At least they had money. All monsters had become very wealthy on the surface, though kept their lives as simple as they had been underground. Without money to bribe the humans, the monsters would be MUCH worse off.

 

Sighing again, he unfolded from inside his super cool sports car. He hadn’t been able to go driving to enjoy the wind in his hair for months now. It was disappointing. Trying to shake off his gloom, he pasted a bright smile on his face. It wouldn’t do to worry everyone, much less Sans! His lazy brother had actually been working very hard for a long while now, and Papyrus desperately didn’t want to add more worry onto his overly stressed brother.

 

Opening the door into the mudroom, he heard voices from the kitchen. It sounded… odd. No one seemed to be arguing? It was a rare occurrence, but not impossible. And something smelled good. He hadn’t been able to eat dinner and only had a snack for lunch, so he was ready for some good food!

 

Striding across the house towards the kitchen, he took note of how much more damaged the living room appeared to be. He would need to order another new couch and coffee table. These ones HAD lasted a while, to be fair. Longer than the others. It was an improvement! But what had happened? Had there been another fight? Had Aster been hurt?

 

That last thought spurred him to run the last few feet to the kitchen, skidding to a stop in the doorway at the odd sight.

 

Far more skeletons than usual were sitting around the table. Normally, each of the sets of brothers ate separately, or with only one or two others. Crooks, Axe, Black, Mutt, and Sans were all sitting and having a fairly lively discussion on puzzles, while eating what appeared to be some kind of meat and potato dish?

 

In the middle of it all, there you were. Working diligently on what appeared to be a junior jumble while you ate, grumbling good naturedly at the others.

 

“Why did it have to be a word scramble? I’m terrible with words to begin with! And are these all just terrible ways for people to die? Defenestration? What even is that?”

 

Axe chuckled, shoveling his food down as quickly as possible. “means throwing someone out a window. and hey, dunno what you’re complaining about. junior jumble is a classic. i used to use it all the time in my traps.”

 

“BUT WE CAN ALL AGREE MY FANTASTICALLY DESIGNED X AND O PUZZLE WAS A WORK OF GENIUS! TO THINK I PUT TOGETHER SUCH A MASTERPIECE IN BUT A FEW HOURS!”

 

Black scoffed, eating daintily, and with more cheer than Papyrus had seen in him since he got here. “THAT SILLY THING WAS SOMETHING A BABY BONES COULD DO BLINDFOLDED! JUST WAIT, HUMAN, I WILL SHOW YOU A TRULY BRILLIANT PUZZLE!! ONE YOU COULDN’T SOLVE IN A HUNDRED YEARS!”

 

You laughed and continued scribbling, waving your fork at him. “Sure thing, tough guy! And call me Aster, not human! We went over this! And Crooks’ puzzle was really good! I’m glad he gave me some do overs, and an aerial view, otherwise I never would have made it!”

 

Crooks beamed, surreptitiously piling more of the mystery food onto your plate from his as you were distracted. “I’M GLAD YOU COULD APPRECIATE THE PUZZLE FULLY! BESIDES, YOU MISS THE POINT OF PUZZLES ENTIRELY BLACK! WHAT’S THE POINT OF A PUZZLE NO ONE CAN SOLVE? THE SOLVING IS PART OF THE FUN!”

 

Papyrus leaned in the doorway, amazed. This was better than he had ever dreamed of! He knew you had a certain charm about you, but to get this many of the skeletons to sit at one table, eat together, and not be fighting the whole time?? This was unprecedented!! Sure, Mutt was still looking suspicious, and no one had fully let their guard down (except for you), but this was a vast improvement. What kind of magic had you worked??

 

You finally looked up and smiled, waving at him.

 

“Papyrus! You’re finally back! Sans said you got called in for an emergency. Is everything okay?”

 

Blinking, Papyrus grinned, one hand planted on his chest.

 

“OF COURSE IT IS DEAR ASTER! NO PROBLEM IS TOO DIFFICULT FOR THE GREAT PAPYRUS TO SOLVE!”

 

She was definitely looking much better than last night. And much nicer to talk to now that she was coherent! He came closer as she stood to come greet him, taking notice of the slight shadow of irritation that crossed Crooks’ face. While Papyrus was glad his taller counterpart had taken a liking to Aster, he would need to keep an eye on things. Just in case.

 

He started when you wrapped your arms around his sweater clad torso, and his stress melted away, hugging you back fiercely.

 

“I’m glad you’re back. I wanted to talk to you, properly this time. But first!”

 

He watched you pull away and move through kitchen, as though you had always belonged in it, carefully scooping whatever concoction had been made for dinner on a plate and leaving it at one of the open seats. You waved him over hurriedly, smiling and excited. 

 

“Come on! Sans said you probably wouldn’t have had dinner, and I made enough for everyone, so come sit and have some! Everyone seems to have liked it so far! Let me know what you think. I did my best with what was around here, and I think it came out pretty well.”

 

Idly waving a hand around the room as you sat back down to resume the puzzle, you continued. “I mean, you have pretty well stocked cabinets, even if they are in the most awful state of repair I have ever seen. Do you know how old they are? They might be original. A lot of stuff in this place seems to be from when the house was built. Do you know much about it?”

 

Sitting, Papyrus eagerly scooped up the mixture and practically melted into his seat. Warm meat, soft vegetables, topped with fluffy mashed potatoes. It was warm and filling all the way down to his soul. 

 

“ASTER!! THIS IS!! AMAZING!!! WHAT DO YOU CALL THIS??”

 

Laughing, you kept scribbling, trying word combination after word combination.

 

“It’s just a shepherd's pie. It’s my grandmother’s recipe! I’m glad you like it, it’s one of the few I know by heart.”

 

Nodding excitedly, Papyrus returned to the delightful concoction. Would you show him how to make it sometime? After getting through half the plate, Papyrus finally tuned back into the conversation that Sans seemed to have stepped into.

 

“so, like i said, this was just big and cheap, so i went for it to house all of us. don’t know much else about it. i think i got some papers up in my room i can get for you. why the interest? can’t be that interesting.”

 

You had shoved your plate aside, offering your leftovers (more like fourths) back to Crooks who reluctantly accepted and devoured it swiftly, leaving nothing left on the plate. You had just worked out the third of the nine jumbled words, and would then need to find the answer to the written joke in the circled letters that were also jumbled. It was a simple puzzle, but quite good, especially given how hard it was for Axe to focus on things for a long time.

 

Sitting up straight, you folded your hands together, clearly thinking. Everyone at the table was watching intently, seemingly curious about what you had to say. Finally nodding to yourself, you sighed and locked eyes one at a time with everyone at the table as you spoke.

 

“As some of you know, Sans asked and I accepted an offer of living here, basically on the condition that I can handle living with everyone. That is very kind and I can’t thank him and Papyrus enough for the opportunity to have a roof over my head again. However, with no job, I can’t help but feel like I’m taking advantage of things.”

 

Papyrus spluttered. He’d had no idea you might feel that way!

 

“ASTER, THERE IS NO NEED! I DIDN’T WANT TO OFFER YOU A HOM- UH, PLACE TO STAY JUST TO GET MONEY FROM YOU! WE DON’T EVEN NEED IT!”

 

You smiled, holding up a hand, calm in the confusion swirling around you.

 

“I know you didn’t, but I have my pride too you know. I feel indebted to you as it is. So, instead of money that you don’t need, I would like to offer my services as a general handyman and go between for getting contractors in here and fixing up the place on the jobs too big for me to handle alone. You have a hard time getting people to come here and do work, yeah?”

 

Surprisingly, Mutt nodded, drumming his fingers on the table. “if we can even get someone out here, they usually leave at the door. course, dusty and some others being psychos scares plenty of them off too.”

 

Black elbowed his brother and glared at him. “DON’T ACT LIKE YOU AREN’T PART OF THE PROBLEM. YOU PURPOSEFULLY MOVED AND TOOK ONE HUMAN’S TOOLS TO MAKE HIM THINK THIS PLACE WAS HAUNTED.”

 

Scratching his cheek, Mutt grinned idly. “oh yeah, forgot about him. got a real nice cordless drill and drill bit set off of him he never came back for.”

 

Papyrus ruffled a bit. Why hadn’t he been informed about that? When did it happen? No wonder the local electricians never wanted to come help fix anything at a monster residence. He may have finally found the source of the odd rumor that all monster houses became haunted due to magic build up or some such nonsense. He would have a word with Mutt later about this. Sighing, he turned back to you, smiling as nicely as he could.

 

“DEAR FRIEND, YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THAT FOR US. BUT I UNDERSTAND! IF YOU THINK YOU CAN HANDLE IT, SANS AND I WILL WORK WITH YOU TO GET YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO WORK!”

 

You beamed, solving another word. Impaled. What was Axe trying to get at here??

 

“Sounds perfect. I’ll take stock of the problems starting tomorrow then, and work to figure out what I can handle and what supplies I’ll need, and what I’ll need to call people about for the bigger jobs. I can’t wait to get started! When I’m done, this place will be a real gem.”

 

Papyrus made a note to talk to you more about your day later, but right now he simply reveled in your plans for the future of the house, chatting on as some of the others started drifting away from the room now that dinner was done. This was more than he had hoped for. You were safe, happy, things already seemed slightly calmer in the house, and he would have help keeping up the place. 

 

Yes, his plan was going better than even he had ever dreamed of. But of course! He was the great Papyrus after all.

Chapter Text

Standing on the roof of the house, you smiled, wiping away some sweat with the towel around your neck. The sun was still very hot, even in the fall, but that was fine by you. Being able to move around and actually be doing something useful for the household that had been kind enough to take you in had been doing wonders for your mood.

 

It had been about a week since you had “moved in”, not that you had much to bring with you. Your bag was unpacked, the few shirts and things taking up one drawer of the old dresser stationed in your room. Papyrus had lamented over your lack of “COOL ROOM DECOR!” and have given you two of his favorite action figures. Crooks had followed suit, giving you a very homemade figurine of what you assumed was him made out of some weird material, grumbling about how he was planning on giving you one first. 

 

There had also been another word puzzle taped to your door during the night, this time a crossword you were still trying to sort out. You had also found a few books outside your door, one joke book, one book on theoretical physics, and one on personal safety. An odd collection, to be sure, and you weren’t sure who had given you what, but you were trying to work your way through them nonetheless, and it made your room look more lived in, which was nice.

 

Moving towards the edge of the roof you had the ladder leaned up against, you decided it was time to take a break for lunch. You had spent the first three days just cleaning up the house and taking stock of everything that needed doing to bring it up to par. And it was a LOT. Windows, doors, trim, creaking stairs, the water heater, the furnace, the roof, holes in the drywall, the plumbing, the electric, cabinets, tiling. That wasn’t even getting into the yard and landscaping that would be needed to fix things up. Or furniture. And getting the messes taken care of, removing broken items, was a job in and of itself. You were going to need one of those portable dumpsters to toss everything in at this rate.

 

Honestly, a job like this would require a full crew and no shortage of specialists to fix up properly, and would take a few months if not a year at least, especially if Sans wanted to move walls or reconfigure anything. You thought there could be a better open concept plan between the kitchen and living room if you removed some walls or did a half wall. Maybe a breakfast nook or bar seating? It would make for better lighting in the kitchen for sure. You would have to see if the walls were load bearing first though. And you were swamped with just getting the small things fixed right now.

 

Patching and repainting the drywall, tightening some pipes, rewiring a few outlets, all that was fine. Honestly, the roof had been the biggest concern, with signs of water damage all the way from the top floor (minus the attic, no way you were going in there) to the basement. You would have to check on the insulation next, it probably all needed replaced. But, the leak was easy to find, and you had been able to repair it quickly with the few supplies that Papyrus had been nice enough to take you to get from the hardware store. At least they already had some tools laying around you could use, so that was a bonus!

 

Reaching the edge of the roof, you looked down. Then left. Then right. And sighed deeply, a vague sense of irritation pinching your expression. The ladder was gone, and you were certain it was Edge again.

 

Meeting Red the day after your introduction to the house had been… interesting? He was perfectly friendly. He had found you working and his opening line was “hey, i know you’re busy and all, but do you think you could add me to your to-do list?”. Honestly, it had been hard not to just snort at how bad the line was, but it was easy enough to talk with him after that.

 

But he always seemed to be a bit too close. Did monsters have different concepts of personal space? Or was he trying to flirt with you? Or just make you uncomfortable? Or all three?? You couldn’t tell, but he was firmly in the “not trying to murder or maim you” camp, so as long as you were cautious, he was fine to deal with, sexual innuendos not withstanding. Besides, he did make some pretty funny black humor jokes, so he was all right in small doses. Edge, however, continued to be AN ABSOLUTE PAIN IN THE ASS.

 

Sure, you couldn’t PROVE it was him who took your tools. Maybe it was Mutt, he had done it to contractors in the past. But Mutt had given you the drill he’d spoken about at dinner to use, and mostly just poked or prodded at you to startle you when you were working on things. If not for your boots, you would’ve gotten a nasty injury dropping the hammer on your foot the last time he’d popped up to prod you in the back. So, he didn’t seem like the culprit.

 

You hadn’t seen Dusty again, though sometimes you thought you felt someone watching you, or a presence just outside your door, or hushed whispers from behind you that you couldn’t make out, especially at night. Shuddering, and moving to walk around the perimeter of the roof looking for a way down, you were glad he’d done nothing else. This was serious horror movie shit. He wasn’t likely to be doing the harassment either, based on him keeping his distance and being much more disposed to just killing you and being done with it.

 

Crooks and Axe were the friendliest, outside of Sans and Papyrus, so also unlikely to be causing you trouble. Crooks shadowed almost your every step, unless Axe distracted him so you could slip away. It was sweet how he always wanted to help, but it got awkward trying to explain why he couldn’t help or follow you some places. His constant desire to pick you up and carry you around was also getting a bit old, not to mention embarrassing. You would have to talk to him about it. Axe made jokes at you (thank you Sans for mentioning how much Axe liked jokes, you were certain that had won you his favor), and was actually fun to talk to when he was focused.

 

Papyrus was gone a lot, unsurprisingly. You always made sure to keep leftovers for him from whatever you made. Not that you had made much in the way of variety, nor were you exceptional at cooking, but everyone made a big deal out of it, saying how it was nice to have something so different from the usual. So, you kept making dinner every night, out of the recipes you could remember from your grandmother’s cookbook. It was chili tonight, currently cooking away in the crock pot you had managed to dig out of a particularly bad cabinet, and you were so ready for it! The weather got cold once the sun went down, and chili with some corn bread would be just the thing to stave off the chill.

 

Spotting a tree near the roof line, you started gauging the distance. It should be doable. Maybe you should let Black come boss you around and try to tell you what to do (as he had a penchant for, despite not knowing how to do half the things you were doing), if it would mean making it harder for Edge to mess with you. You knew it was him! You swear you had heard him cackling to himself yesterday when you ended up spending an hour trying to find the damn box of screws you needed, only to find them on top of the TV cabinet in the game room.

 

Was this because of how you’d ended up meeting him? He must have felt a bit silly, you supposed. Or was it because of something else? You would love to know but you could NEVER FIND HIM. How did someone so loud and brash hide so well from you? The house was big, but not THAT big! Maybe you should get Crooks to help you, considering how good he was at hunting you down whenever you wandered off. Maybe that skill applied to other monsters as well.

 

Breathing in deeply and stretching carefully, you prepared yourself. It was going to be a bit of a climb down once you reached the tree. Maybe trimming the tree branches away from the house could wait until you were done with the roof. Just in case.



Edge was practically glowing. This current scheme was sure to vex the human interloper and convince her to beg for his mercy! Sure, she had been a bit more stubborn about things than anticipated. He had been certain leaving that trip wire and sending her tumbling off the front porch would have been the last straw, but now was not the time to dwell on past failures! 

 

It had been easy to move and stash the ladder while she was using the nail gun. It was very loud, and he could be quiet when it suited his purposes. She would now be stuck on the roof, in the heat, and collapse! Maybe fall off the roof! He paused, brow furrowed. That last thought vaguely concerned him. If she got too injured, he would have to deal with a lot more problems, and it would make her even more resistant to giving in.

 

...maybe he would go check on her. Just to make sure she wasn’t injured! That’s all! It was important to cover all your bases, of course. He didn’t need Crooks and the others getting on him about his behavior. Surely she would see him and cry for help, which he would be very unwilling to give! Afterall, there was no amount of grovelling that would make up for the crime of TAKING HIS LAST STARFAIT!!! He had been saving it!  And she just?? Drank it?? This could not stand. But, he could be forgiving. Maybe if she cried a bit he would help her down.

 

Marching out the back door (now easier to open than ever) Edge stopped and listened. And listened. He was hearing a distinct lack of crying or dismay of any sort. Had she collapsed in the heat? Was she shriveling out on the roof?? Humans were made out of water, and didn’t water boil in heat like this??? Was she boiling alive?! Running off the porch and around to where he had hidden the ladder, Edge was trying not to panic. He hadn’t meant for things to go so far! It was just a bit of well deserved revenge! He couldn’t let her die over a Starfait! Then she’d never give in to his many intimidating charms!

 

Setting the ladder against the house, he prepared to climb up, trying to think how he would get her down safely. Blue magic may be the only way, but he knew Sans wouldn’t be happy about them using magic on the human. But he was strong and she seemed light. He could just toss her over his shoulder. But that wasn’t at all cool looking! But he couldn’t climb a ladder carrying a human in both arms! What could he do??

 

All of a sudden, there was a Whoosh! From the other side of the house and a small thump, coinciding with several curses that he knew his brother would approve of.

 

Moving quietly away from the ladder, Edge poked his head around the edge of the house, watching you stand up and dust yourself off, muttering angrily before stomping towards the door. Edge waited a few extra minutes, feeling very annoyed at the feeling of relief that swam through his bones knowing she was fine. But now, he had to know… HOW DID YOU ALWAYS FOIL HIS PLANS??

 

Questions remained to be answered, and he was going to get those answers!



Red was very much enjoying not doing anything in the kitchen. He had thought about getting some food out, but he just couldn’t bring himself to. Everything here was just too different and he still hadn’t gotten used to it, even after all these months. Not to mention he missed going out to this world’s Grillby’s, even if it wasn’t the same as the one he knew.

 

Sighing, he sat up, scratching at the scar on his face. He couldn’t fight, couldn’t go out to drink, couldn’t even go explore this world, and couldn’t go fuck someone. Honestly, what was the point of being on the surface of any world if he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do? At least the view of the night sky from the yard was decent, and he got along okay with most of the people here. And it was nice not having to be as on guard as he was in his own world. He definitely didn’t trust the people in this house, but he could work with the uneasy truce they all had, as long as Dusty was kept under lock and key.

 

Ugh, that had been a rude introduction to be sure. Everyone had almost gotten dusted before Sans had been able to get the magic limiter on the murder addict, forcing him to comply. He shivered, just remembering that overwhelming power, how he had almost lost Paps to a blaster. Red was no stranger to killing, but it always had a purpose. To protect himself or Edge, usually.  It’s why Dusty freaked him out so much. Dusty just wanted to kill, with no thought to anything else. He had heard that freak walking around the halls at night, muttering to himself, often hovering near the human’s room.

 

Leaning back to stare at the now much cleaner ceiling (he did not envy the human for having to clean off caked on Mexican and Italian food from up there, though it had been a nice view watching her work) he tapped his fingers idly on the table. Well, at least now he had something to do with himself other than work on the damn machine. He’d been put in charge of monitoring the human while in the house, just to make sure no one got the jump on her. 

 

Sure, he’d let Mutt and Edge have their fun, but stopping Dusty and the occasional completely out of it Axe had been his primary business. Axe usually stopped and shook it off when Red told him to stop hunting the human, wandering away with a mutter and looking awkward. Everyone knew Axe didn’t mean to do it, but old habits and all. He was just happy the human hadn’t noticed it yet. 

 

Dusty was another story. Red usually just had to shadow him, make sure the mad man was aware he was watching and ready to intervene. Dusty hadn’t started a fight yet, but Red knew it was only a matter of time. Dusty wanted the human and the human’s soul, and would stop at nothing to get that kind of power up.

 

He was suddenly jerked out of his depressing contemplations as the back door banged open. Red had seen Boss go out the door, and had taken up residence in the kitchen since he figured his darling little brother wouldn’t be back for awhile. Absolutely ready to make a short cut for it, Red relaxed as you walked in. Just the human, he could deal with that. Even when you were so obviously irritated, you paused and breathed, trying to smile at him calmly.

 

Red grinned. Finally, something amusing.

 

“hey, i can’t be-leaf this, yew are actually taking a break.”

 

A grimace crossed your face as you reached up to your hair, picking out a few stray bits of leaves. Sighing, you opened the fridge, pulling out a jug of chilled spider cider to pour out.  Red watched as you practically refreshed yourself completely after taking a long sip out of your cup. Your smile more genuine now, you leaned against the counter, continuing to drink.

 

“Yeah well, there is a tree-mendous amount of work that needs to get done here! And with all the trouble I’m having actually getting things done, I’m just not feeling that chipper”

 

Red chuckled, leaning onto his arms. Ah, this was the kind of thing he missed. Trying to do the same thing with other versions of him just wasn’t as fun as they could usually predict what the others were going to say, so it was refreshing hearing jokes from someone new.

 

“not bad, sweetheart. reading that joke book you got? you’re doing better than you were.”

 

“Yeah, it’s actually hard trying to think on my feet with them though! Comedy is harder than it looks.”

 

“comedy isn’t the only thing that’s harder than it looks”

 

“Pft! Stop it. I’m too tired to deal with you, I’ve already had a hell of a morning.”

 

“oh yeah? does the leaf crown have anything to do with that?”

 

“Well, actually-”

 

Red almost knocked himself and the chair over as his brother came thundering into the kitchen, kicking in the door and shouting as loud as he ever did, giving Red an almost immediate migraine, making him groan and tug his hood up to muffle the noise. Stars knew he loved his brother, but there were days when he just wanted to knock Paps out cold so he would shut up for once. And to think, he’d actually been feeling better talking with the human. The moment was ruined now.

 

“HUMAN!!! HOW DID YOU ESCAPE MY MOST CLEVER OF TRAPS?? EVERY TIME I THINK I HAVE YOU, YOU AVOID THE WORST OF MY EVIL DESIGNS!! I DEMAND AN EXPLANATION!!!”

 

Red leaned on one fist, curious to see how this was going to play out. He hadn’t been there for the initial meeting between you two, but his brother hadn’t shut up about getting his revenge on you for days. You looked perfectly placid and calm in the face of the shouting, carefully taking another sip of your cider. It was clearly pissing Edge off, which Red couldn’t say he didn’t find amusing as hell.

 

“One, there is no need to shout. Two, please stop kicking doors in. I just fixed that and now I’m going to have to repair it again. And three, since I didn’t get the chance to speak to you about it, I would prefer it if you called me by my name. I’m Aster, and I don’t like being addressed as “Human””. 

 

“THAT IS NOT EVEN WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RIGHT NOW!”

 

“I won’t have a further discussion with you if you refuse to call me by my name. I have no reason to give my time and attention to rude people who break the things I work hard to fix.”

 

Edge was left spluttering and flailing as the hum- Red mentally corrected himself, not wanting to piss her off in the future. There was stuff that needed fixed in his room, and upsetting the person who could handle it was not smart. Aster just puttered around, grabbing a legendary hero out of the cabinet and checking on the weird meat soup in the pot on the counter, completely ignoring Edge, which just upset the tall skeleton more. That soup sure smelled great though.

 

“ASTER!!! I AM SPEAKING TO YOU!! STOP YOUR CHILDISH ANTICS AT ONCE!!”

 

Turning with a cool smile on your face, Red felt a vague chill down his spine. Oh, his brother was definitely pushing your buttons. You hadn’t even gotten mad at Black for almost killing you, but Edge was sentences away from making you lose it, Red could tell. Man, that would be a sight to see!

 

“No, Edge, you were speaking AT me. I wasn’t part of that conversation at all. But thank you for finally calling me by my name. It’s important to me. Now, I still don’t feel like I need to answer your questions, because I don’t think you deserve my answers. I can’t believe you are standing there throwing a fit and have the gall to say I’m being childish.”

 

Edge let out an unintelligible screech of indignation, the piercing noise making Red grind his teeth together. If he wasn’t so invested in seeing how this played out, he would have left already.

 

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON’T DESERVE ANSWERS???”

 

“You have been a thorn in my side, constantly causing problems which have required some very creative solutions on my part, and I am quite upset about your behavior when I’ve done nothing to deserve it. So, in short terms, I’m mad at you and don’t want to tell you SHIT.”

 

“NOTHING WRONG?? NOTHING WRONG?? YOU TOOK MY LAST STARFAIT WITHOUT EVEN ASKING ME AND YOU SAY YOU DID NOTHING WRONG???

 

You looked absolutely flabbergasted, gaping at Edge like he’d grown another head.

 

“Are you telling me… that you tripped me, injured me, took my things, hid my tools, spilled paint on me and the floor, constantly re-break and damage the things I’ve fixed including now this door, and just half an hour ago LEFT ME ON THE ROOF WITH NO WAY TO GET DOWN EXCEPT A DAMN TREE, because of a DRINK?!”

 

Your voice had gone up in pitch, and you practically trembled in fury, eyes stormy, cheeks flushed with anger. Red watched you carefully, and snapped a few quick pictures while you were distracted. This was a pretty hot look for you, at least in his book. Maybe he’d show them to Mutt later, that kid appreciated the same things he did.

 

Edge finally seemed taken aback, sputtering and pointing fingers as he always did.

 

“DON’T PUT THIS ON ME! YOU’RE THE ONE WHO TOOK IT! I WAS SAVING IT SPECIAL! I’M NOT THE BAD GUY HERE! AND I WAS COMING TO GET YOU DOWN!”

 

“You could have just TALKED to me about it! I didn’t even know it was yours! Crooks gave it to me when I was hurt, so it wasn’t even me that took it! Did you know that? Have you gone and harassed that poor dear like you have gone after me? Or am I just SPECIAL??”

 

The absolute venom in your tone as you took Edge to task was something Red was going to revel in for a long time. Edge couldn’t outright try to fight or injure you, not unless he felt like bringing down the wrath of half the household on himself. He was stuck trying to trick you, trap you, or use his words, and none of those were working for the former guard captain.

 

Edge was fumbling, trying to maintain his stern demeanor, and failing.

 

“W-WELL, I, I DIDN’T TALK TO CROOKS, NO, BUT, THERE’S ALSO THE ISSUE OF YOU BEING HERE, AND NO ONE TALKED TO ME ABOUT IT, AND I DIDN’T MEAN FOR THE PAINT TO GET ON THE FLOOR-”

 

“Those aren’t apologies, and intent doesn’t matter. Besides, you don’t own the house! If Papyrus and Sans are fine with me staying, you need to let it go and move on!”

 

You sniffed, picking up your sandwich and a bottle of water, turning your back on the whole situation, literally.

 

“I’m sorry you lost out on your drink, and I would be happy to buy you a new one or two to make up for it, but I am very disappointed in your behavior and I am not talking to you anymore until you apologize and stop trying to mess with my work. Good bye.”

 

Edge was speechless, trying to fumble through more commanding statements as you swept out of the room. Pausing next to his chair, you graced Red with a smile and a pat on the shoulder, juggling your food and drink.

 

“It was nice to chat, let’s talk more later, okay? Dinner should be ready around six if you’re interested. See you later Red!”

 

“you got it sweetheart. i don’t want to miss out on whatever you’re making. see you then.”

 

And with that, you were gone, and Red could finally start laughing at the confused and enraged look on his brother’s face, which apparently finally snapped Edge out of his stupor.

 

“SHUT UP SANS! IT’S NOT FUNNY!! THAT HUMAN IS A MENACE!”

 

“hehehe, oh, she got you so good! it’s hilarious!”

 

“SHE DIDN’T GET ME ON ANYTHING! I WAS JUST FORMULATING MY COMEBACK AND SHE RETREATED, KNOWING I WAS GOING TO WIN THE ARGUMENT!!”

 

“sure, sure. heh. just make sure she doesn’t hear you calling her ‘the human’ again or she’ll really be mad!”

 

Edge shrieked, throwing his hands up and stomping back outside.

 

“I’M GOING TO TRAIN!! DON’T BOTHER ME!”

 

Red did notice with a vague sort of interest that instead of slamming the door as he usually would, Edge shut the door in a reasonable fashion, though the stomping of his boots could be heard as he went down the stairs.

 

Pushing back from the table, Red wandered off, flipping through the pictures on his phone. He wondered if dinner would be just as funny if he got you two at the table again. He needed to get Mutt in on things, that guy would get a kick out of it. Ah, things really were a lot more entertaining since you moved in. He’d have to thank this world’s Papyrus later.



Dusty crept through the house, as silently as ever. He really didn’t want to leave his room, but his dear brother kept saying he wanted to see the human again. The bobbing smile apparently liked the human, for whatever reason. Dusty just wanted to catch up to her and finish what was started.

 

‘She’s So Fun! So Clever, So Good! I Want to Keep the Human Around!’

 

Dusty slowly shook his head, pacing through darkened hallways.

 

“can’t. need the power she has. then i can stop the anomaly forever. everything will be better if i can just kill the human.”

 

Night was the only time he could even get close to her, with the red one always dogging his steps during the day. At night she was in her room, thinking she was safe. He stood outside, staring at the plain door. He just needed her to come out, just for a little. After their fight, he’d wanted nothing more than to kill her slowly, make her struggle for her life, taking out her hope of survival piece by piece.

 

But, maybe he was getting soft in this world, or sweet Papyrus whispering into his head was getting to him. He may as well just make it quick. He could do that. You’d be dead before you even knew he was there. Peaceful. Unlike the death he gave to Pa-

 

‘She’s Not There! Not In The Room!’

 

He paused, listening. The telltale sounds of her breathing, her heartbeat, the physicality that made her so easy to spot in the silence, was not where it usually was. No peaceful breaths of sleep, no racing heartbeat when she knew he was outside the door, just that flimsy piece of wood and a promise of safety from the weak ones keeping him at bay.

 

But now. 

 

Now you were loose in the house.

 

 And so was he.

Chapter Text

In the silence of the hallway, Dusty kept listening. Of course, Paps was telling him what he already knew. He had come to memorize the particular noises the human made, and only the human. It was easy to pinpoint the only creature in the house with a pulse and a penchant for breathing.

 

Really, he couldn’t believe his good fortune. Only a week of waiting and his opportunity had appeared! A mad grin he couldn’t see spread across his face, eyes flickering eerily in the dark as he moved silently towards the stairs.

 

No noise from the game room. No one in the living room as he looked down. Short cutting downstairs, he peered into the kitchen, still filled with the scents of your cooking. A share always ended up outside his door, not that he wanted it. He didn’t really need to eat much, and could go a long time in between eating by just feeding on his own magic. Besides, everything he ate tasted like dust anyway. So what was the point?

 

Papyrus bobbed happily, waving his hands and twirling in the air.

 

‘I Want Some! Feed Me Friend Food!’

 

“Not a friend. Don’t need food. Her food is probably bad anyways.”

 

Now Paps was pouting, before spinning and vanishing in a huff. Ah, he would have to apologize later. He knew how much his brother loved food and home cooked meals. Of course he would be upset at Dusty’s refusal to even try it, when Paps would give anything to be able to-

 

Clinking from down the hall. Eyes narrowed, he crept along. The library? Well, he’d have to try to avoid being too messy then. No blood on the books. Probably good his brother wasn’t here for this, it would upset him. Really, what did everyone see in the human? The only thing she was good for was a power source.

 

No need to shortcut into the room, the door was open. Easing in through the gap, keeping to the shadows, he let his eyes rove around the room, finally coming to a rest on you. Sitting in the window seat, idly stirring a cup of some kind of hot drink, staring out the window into the night.

 

He paused, watching. You were so vulnerable like this. Hair spilling down your shoulders, swallowed in a sweater and shorts. He could see the sewing jobs on both, they were the same ones he had nearly killed you in before. How fitting.

 

He froze there, just watching. You usually were never up this late. Why now? He hated the look on your face. It made him want to leave you alone. How stupid.

 

“So, are you going to come out, or are you happy lurking back there?”

 

You hadn’t taken your eyes off the view out the window, he knew that, he’d been watching. He had been perfectly silent. You shouldn’t know he was here. Stepping partially into a pool of moonlight, he continued to watch. He couldn’t take his eyes off of you.

 

“how did you know”

 

You shrugged, looking down at the cup, taking a sip, tapping fingers on the ceramic, a soothing, steady rhythm.

 

“Just had a feeling. I get those a lot around here.”

 

Silence. He was processing. There was more to this, he was sure, but couldn’t put his finger on it. Finally, you sighed, breaking the weird stillness, facing him fully, lounging in the window seat still, framed in moonlight.

 

“Did you come here to kill me?”

 

Should he answer or just do it? But he was curious now. If he just killed you, this couldn’t play out. And oh, he wanted to know more. He may be a killer, but his curiosity had never really died. He had plenty of time to kill you after a short conversation.

 

“yes.”

 

You smiled. It was soft and sad. He may not feel much anymore, but he could still recognize the emotions on the faces of others. It was useful in killing them.

 

“Thanks for the honesty I guess. Any way I can convince you to hold off on that idea?”

 

“no”

 

You laughed then, dark and low, looking back down into the swirling drink.

 

“I should have expected that, really. You don’t seem like the type to let things go. Instead, can I offer you a deal?”

 

Dusty quirked his head. This was new. Different. He supposed there were many human stories of people bargaining with Death. This was just a continuation of that trope, in a way. It wouldn’t hurt to hear you out at least.

 

You took his silence as a sign he was listening. Smiling again, and it was filled with so much pain. He could recognize it easily, having seen it on his own face. There was a reason he hated mirrors.

 

“I’ll gladly let you kill me. You seem pretty competent and could make it painless. Plus, you want my soul, right? I’d heard rumors that monsters could absorb human souls to become more powerful. And you need power, yeah?”

 

This… didn’t seem like a great deal for her? Wasn’t the point of this deal to get out of dying? He just couldn’t help but nod, curiosity eating away at him, wondering where you were going with this.

 

You set the cup to the side, tucking one knee up and resting your head on it. He couldn’t see your face well anymore, and he found it annoying for some reason.

 

“I don’t assume to know your background, or how you came to get this way. But you want my soul for more power and I would like to hope I can do something useful with myself at some point. Haven’t been doing great so far, and if I can be of use after I’m dead, well. That’s more than I’ve done so far in my life.”

 

What a sad way of thinking about things. He should know. He felt he had never done anything useful either. He had just the cycle go on and on, giving up, never bothering to step in to protect anyone until the last minute. Not even to protect Papyrus. He really was garbage. But he could make things right, if only he was strong enough to stop the anomaly. His eyes narrowed, lingering on your throat. It would be so easy to strangle you or slit an artery. Then he could break out of the damn magic limiter and really get some good done.

 

“Do you know how I came to be here? Where Papyrus found me? What I was doing?”

 

Starting back into this reality, he quickly refocused on those dark pits you called eyes. Thinking back, Dusty was sure he hadn’t bothered paying attention to those details. What did it matter where the human came from if he was just going to kill her in the end? Just another corpse.

 

“no”

 

“...I was trying to kill myself. It isn’t the first time either. And I can’t promise it will be the last.”

 

Dusty stared, then looked away. It was uncomfortable hearing this. He was no stranger to people killing themselves. Plenty of monsters had given up and fallen down in despair after his attempts to save them. Every once in awhile the anomaly had regained control over its body, killing itself to try and stop the demon within them. That always made some small part of him sad. Whatever part of him that still cared. Their body always seemed so small after. But still. The thought of just giving up, not fighting to live, bothered him to no end.

 

You still won’t look at him. You looked so fragile framed against the window, like the sky was pressing down on you, ready to crush you in an instant.

 

“It’s been a problem for a long time. It’s never going to go away. Sometimes it just isn’t as bad as others. I’ve been feeling pretty good this week compared to the start, but…”

 

He couldn’t tell if you were crying or not. Your voice was thick, but steady. Dusty moved forward instinctively, not realizing he had moved into arms reach of the human, into the moonlight, until he was already there.

 

Finally, you looked up him. It was the first time he had locked eyes with you since that day, and then there had been bright fear there. Now, he thought the darkness in your eyes was going to swallow him whole, even as there was a small smile on your face. You both kept watching, staring, silent, he didn’t know for how long.

 

“so, what’s the deal you want to make?”

 

The question rang in the dark tomb of the library, the connection between him and you staying steady. He had to watch carefully. Your eyes would give you away soon. This was just a game, a dangerous one. He’d have his answers, he’d kill you, and call it a night.

 

“The deal is simply this; I’ll let you kill me. You can take my soul. But only when I ask you to, and only if you’ll make it not hurt. I’m not into being tortured”

 

Dusty narrowed his eyes. This had to be a trick, a lie. No one would make a deal like this. But your eyes didn’t waver.

 

“how do i know you’ll keep the deal? you may never ask me to kill you. or i might leave and never get the chance.”

 

“Fair enough, those are valid concerns. How about I check in once a year? To see if it’s time yet? You can even give me a certain number of years if you like. And if you leave, if you’re never coming back, you can kill me before you go. All I ask is some time to put things in order if that’s the case. I don’t want to leave trouble behind me.”

 

Still, still that look in your eyes. You weren’t joking. He could tell. He could always tell. The eyes didn’t lie. He felt a small shudder through his bones, down to his very soul. How strange, how very, very strange. You wanted to live, for now, but planned for a painless death just in case. How interesting. Such a change.

 

“all right”

 

He held out a hand, waiting. He watched your dark eyes, flicking back and forth between his face and his hand, before slowly reaching out to take it. Dusty tried not to flinch. You were warm, so warm. Your hand was rough, with old marks of hard work, scraping lightly over the fine bones of his own hand.

 

Your smile seemed both brighter and your eyes darker as your grip tightened, and he returned the favor, jerkily shaking. He smiled back, and wondered if it looked different than usual as he leaned in, his face only an inch or two from yours, hands still tightly held together in between the two of you, eyes burning into yours intensely.

 

“it’s a deal.”



You groaned, sitting up in your bed. The sunrise was getting later into the day, but your body still woke up at the same time. Ah, built in habits. You couldn’t sleep in even if you wanted to. After the run in with Dusty a few nights ago, you hadn’t felt his eyes on you as much. Maybe it had been a risky move, but it had made sense at the time. You frowned, looking down. 

 

It was a good contingency plan. And sure, it did make for a gamble if Dusty ever decided he was leaving or to put a time limit on your new life. You had fought so hard against him to live, but now, after the nightmares and memories and pain, you wondered if you would have been better off letting him kill you to begin with. You were just going to make everyone here suffer in the end. You didn’t want to hurt people again. It’s all you ever did.

 

Well, no point in dwelling on it now. It would be better to simply live this new life to the fullest, for as long as possible. You knew Papyrus wouldn’t be happy if he heard about it, nor would Crooks, but still. It’s not like you were going to tell, and Dusty didn’t talk to anybody. It would be fine. Just a little secret to add on to the other secrets piling up. There would be a time to tell them. Eventually. Better now to just let things be and enjoy whatever time you had left.

 

Standing up, you groaned, feeling sore from all the work you had done yesterday, trying to shake off your gloom. You had started measuring the windows and taking counts. Sans had said you could just start replacing things and had given you the credit card to prove it, so you were trying to get a rough estimate from a few places for the window replacements. That had involved some awkward positions, and you refused to think about Red’s commentary on you measuring the living room and kitchen windows up on your toes.

 

Looking out into the yard from the window, you thought that it would be nice to have windows that weren’t foggy all the time or were badly insulated. Your room was starting to get way too cold at night. Speaking of insulation, you probably needed to check on the insulation in the roof. Tilting your head, tucking a few strands of hair behind your ear, you wondered if Dusty would mind you going into his space now that you had a deal. And you really did need to check on the attic, you had already put it off for two weeks. You would try to find him later.

 

Stretching, you moved to a clear patch of floor in the room and started moving into a few poses, following your breathing. Learning basic yoga had been a life saver for your back, honestly, and the breathing techniques were great for helping you keep calm and deal with the absolute mess that was your life, especially now that you had so many other chaotic beings to deal with.

 

Shaking your head, you quieted your thoughts, losing yourself in the movements, body gradually warming up as you moved, tension and ache melting away bit by bit. As the sun started creeping up over the horizon, bathing your room in light, you finished with a sigh, straightening up and moving to the bathroom. A quick wash and you would be ready for breakfast and another day of work! You just hoped Axe could keep Crooks busy today. You had a lot to get done and Crooks, bless him, slowed you down. 

 

With a sigh, you stepped into the shower letting the hot and cold water forcibly wake you up. The water heater was next on your list.



Mutt leaned on the railing as he watched you moving around the main floor, Crooks following in your wake and jabbering on at you. Couldn’t the big guy see you were working and didn’t want to talk? You dealt with it like a champ though, really. He would have snapped days ago at the treatment.

 

You kept measuring things, not the windows this time, and he wondered how many projects for improving the house you had in your head. He had to admit that the doors hadn’t worked so well since even before everyone had moved in. And he, very grudgingly, admitted to himself that he didn’t think you would have lasted so long in the house. It was going on three weeks now, and other than a few small incidents, you handled yourself admirably. Even Dusty seemed to have stopped stalking you for the moment, which NO ONE had expected. 

 

It was honestly impressive how you already had half the people living here, including some literal man eaters, wrapped around your finger. You were having some chummy dinners with at least four monsters every night, if not more. You still butted heads with Edge, though the pranking had died down after the roof incident, and were cordial with most everyone else, even him, despite his best efforts to irritate you. He couldn’t call it trust, but perhaps a truce, which is more than anyone else had managed.

 

He frowned watching you smile and pat Crooks’ arm, who then scooped you up to cart you off, AGAIN. Didn’t he notice the look on your face? You clearly didn’t like it, or at least were uncomfortable with it, but were too polite to stop him. How did you put up with that smothering presence? There was a reason he ditched away from his brother. Half the people in the house had no concept of needing alone time or personal space.

 

Mutt shifted a bit, short cutting downstairs to continue his reconnaissance. Yes, that is definitely what it was. He needed to know about you if he was going to guard against you, to protect himself and his brother. He knew Sans, HIS Sans, was trying to “become the human’s favorite” in order to manipulate you. It’s just how he worked. But, Mutt couldn’t tell right now who was manipulating who as you always deftly avoided any schemes that would pit you against any of the others in the house, without offending Black. Truly, a miracle. His brother was as prickly as a cactus and easily insulted.

 

Moving to the kitchen where you and Crooks had gone, he leaned in the doorway as you tended to whatever tonight’s concoction was, Crooks eagerly leaning over you as you explained what you were doing. He had to admit, he liked the change in pace on the food. You were honestly a decent cook. Tonight looked like some kind of pasta dish. Mutt was sure you were making it in order to balance out the fiasco that last night’s enchiladas had caused. Well, it isn’t like you had known about the ongoing food war in the house, you couldn’t be faulted for that.

 

Mutt wanted to go bother you. He got a kick out of watching you shudder and flinch and jump whenever he poked and prodded at you unexpectedly, especially if you dropped something. But just as he was getting ready to do just that, he saw that Crooks was looking at him. A chill shot up his spine at the blank stare and empty smile the huge skeleton sent his way. Mutt didn’t survive for so long by ignoring obvious warnings.

 

With a wave, he turned and left, thinking, still feeling the chill of that stare at his neck. Crooks was already starting to get out of hand and it needed to be dealt with. Otherwise, there would be a corpse to deal with. And he didn’t feel like losing his new favorite source of entertainment in the house.



Had to find the human. Had to find the human. He could smell her, she was here, where were you, he just needed one bite, he was so hungry, so so hungry, human-

 

Jerking awake, Axe was breathing heavily, panicking, bright red eyelight rolling around the room as his hands clawed against the couch he had been laying on. He panted, looking down, finding a throw blanket placed over him. The residual scent had to have been the human, he would know the smell of human anywhere and only one human came near him voluntarily.

 

Ah, her scent had been the catalyst for the nightmare. He was probably going to have one anyway, she just triggered it on accident. Standing shakily, he carefully folded the blanket and left it on the arm of the couch. He needed fresh air, had to get away from the sweet smell of human. He wasn’t hungry, he didn’t need to hunt the woman, but stars those old habits died hard.

 

Shuffling slowly, he made his way downstairs and into the backyard. There was a small copse of trees out there that he liked to go to. It reminded him of familiar territory when all he had was the unfamiliar. Breathing in deeply, he let the scents of dirt and wilderness fill him instead, clearing his head and his nose holes. Reaching up, he dug his hand into his empty socket, scraping at the bone inside, forcing himself to calm down through the pain.

 

Finally, as the last bits of the nightmare faded, he let his hand drop, staring blankly at the few stars he could see through the branches. It had been awhile since you had come to the house. How long? A month? Maybe. Days and weeks didn’t mean much to him, even when he did have a good memory.

 

Axe was… reasonably content. You made black jokes with him, and made plenty of great food for dinner, you were nice to his brother, Papyrus was always occupied with you, following you, holding you…

 

Sighing, he shoved his hands in his pockets. Paps was getting too attached again. It’s just like what happened last time, but worse since you lived here. He had already heard through the grapevine that his brother was getting aggressive and territorial about anyone approaching you. That was… less than optimal. If Paps got too possessive, things could get ugly really quick given that you were popular enough in the house.

 

Did you even know? The kind of danger you were in right now? He loved his brother, he loved him so much, but damn if Paps didn’t have issues. Of course, he would always take Paps’ side in anything. Always. But, he knew his brother would get upset if anything happened to the human. Papyrus was still blaming himself over that other incident.

 

Walking back towards the house, Axe decided he had to speak with you. You had to keep yourself safe and try to get some distance, to protect his brother. If things kept going like this, you were going to wind up chained up in his brother’s closet at best. If Paps became the reason you left or were hurt or killed, it would crush him. It had taken Axe months to pull his brother out of his funk the last time, and no one had even gotten hurt that time.

 

Opening the now silent back door, Axe was pleased to find you alone in the kitchen. It was rare for his brother not to be around you now, but he needed privacy to talk with you about this. You looked up from the pot you were stirring and smiled at him. It was nice you didn’t treat him any differently and could put up with him when he randomly zoned out. You were nice. The other woman hadn’t been. That’s why he would warn you, and hadn’t warned her.

 

“Hey Axe! I got a new one for you! I just remembered it earlier today!”

 

“oh yeah? hit me.”

 

“What’s the last thing going through a fly’s head as it hits the windshield of a car going 70 miles per hour?”

 

Taking a seat at the table, Axe thought, then shook his head.

 

“i dunno. what?”

 

You face him with a triumphant grin, a twinkle in your eyes.

 

“It’s butt.”

 

He snorted, then let out a chuckle.

 

“hey, not bad sweetmeat. i like that one. let’s see if i can keep it in my head, huh?”

 

You giggled, going back to the pot.

 

“I’m glad! I heard that one back in middle school. Dinner’s going to be done soon, maybe fifteen minutes? Could you let everyone know? I’ll set the table.”

 

Now. It had to be now. His hands kept twitching and tapping, he couldn’t look at you.

 

“uh, yeah, sure, i’ll do that in a minute. i gotta talk to you real quick though. and i gotta do it now.”

 

He could hear you stop moving, the stirring slowing. The silence was tense.

 

“...Is this about your brother?”

 

Ah, so you had noticed. It would be hard not to.

 

“...yeah.” 

 

Some clanking and then you were sitting across from him, he still couldn’t look you in the eyes. Would this help or hurt? Was he going to ruin whatever you had with Paps? Would this make everything worse? Would Paps hate him for doing this?

 

“Hey.”

 

Your voice was as warm as your hand as you reached out to gently place it on top of his jittery ones. He didn’t return the hold, but let his hands stop.

 

“You can tell me. I know he’s been, um, clingy? Is there anything I need to do to help him? He’s sweet, but getting to be a bit, ah, intense for me, and I’d like to talk to him about it, to try and make things work for everyone. Can you help me?”

 

If Axe had had a throat, he would have felt a lump in it. You were good. You were a good person. You shouldn’t have to deal with him, with most of the people in this house.

 

“...right. he’s got a bit of a problem with getting like that. i won’t go into detail, but he gets a bit too wrapped up in people. uses them to feel better. we’ve been through a lot and i can’t fault him, but it’s led to some issues.”

 

He turned one hand, carefully curling his chipped and damaged digits around yours. He hadn’t realized how many callouses you had as the gaps in his bones caught on them.

 

“i’ll try to talk to him, he listens sometimes. but, if things go badly, he’ll fixate more. and he could hurt you.”

 

A gentle squeeze. You were still listening and hadn’t run, you let him take his time. Stars he appreciated that.

 

“if things get real bad, i would appreciate it if you would remember him kindly. it isn’t his fault he’s like this. i know you have to protect yourself, i get it. but if you could stick with him, try to talk to him with me, it would mean a lot. to both of us. and if you have to run away from him, to be safe, i would prefer that. i’ll help you out even.”

 

He knew his grip was too tight, he could feel your hand flinch even as you returned the grip, but he couldn’t let go or he would drown in the pounding in his head.

 

“i just don’t want him to have another death on his conscience, especially not a death of one of the people he likes the most.”

 

Finally, he relaxed his grip. He hoped you wouldn’t bruise. He didn’t mean to, but your hand had been a lifeline he needed to have a death grip on.

 

“I understand. I’ll try to work with him as much as I can, as long as I think it’s safe. I don’t want him to have more guilt on his conscience either, even though I don’t know everything.”

 

Your other hand had taken his, squeezing firmly enough that Axe finally looked up into your soft eyes.

 

“I’ll protect him, and myself. Thank you for trying to protect us both too. You’re a good brother and a good friend.”

 

He needed to leave. He wasn’t going to cry in front of you. Absolutely not. Standing, he carefully pulled his hand away, not wanting his scarred bones to scrape your hands.

 

“it’s nothin. i’ll go get everyone. see you soon.”

 

He left before you could respond. He couldn’t bear to hear anymore kind words. He was doing this because he needed Paps, and Paps needed you. Nothing more. Nothing worth praise. He wasn’t a good person, not like you.

 

Never sweet like you.

 

Never.

Chapter Text

Wandering through the library, you admired all the beautiful books on display. You had never been a great reader, or great at school in general (unless PE and wood shop counted), but you admired people who were intellectuals. From the many conversations you’d had with all the various skeletons in the house, you had no doubt that they were all undoubtedly brilliant in their own unique ways. What was monster school like? What did they learn? You needed to add those to the ever growing list of questions you kept.

 

Looking out the window, you smiled as you watched Edge and Black spar with each other. They had been fighting less, according to Sans and Papyrus, but they still definitely had their spats. Edge was great with sheer power and variety of attacks, but Black was a better strategist and very fast. Quite the match up. It was amazing to watch the magic flying back and forth, brilliant shades of red. You should ask why they all had such different colors of magic, despite how similar they all were. Or, wait, would that be racist? Monsterist?

 

As you contemplated the best way to formulate yet another question to the crew you lived with, the now very familiar spark up your neck prompted you to look to your right and down, finding Sans lounging in the window seat. Giving a lazy wave and a grin, he went right in.

 

“knock knock”

 

“Who’s there?” you tried to smother a grin. This was typical for you two meeting up.

 

“an electrician. the doorbell’s not working.”

 

Groaning, you gently poked his shoulder, the grin on his face getting wider and more genuine at your reaction.

 

“That was terrible. How dare you. And is the doorbell actually broken or was that for the sake of the joke?”

 

Waving a hand idly, he let his eyes slide shut, apparently enjoying the sun coming in through the window.

 

“don’t lie, you loved it. And nah, doorbell’s fine, s’far as i know.”

 

A quick sigh of relief and you went back to watching Edge and Black. Honestly, they had WAY too much energy. It would be better if they could go for runs or something productive. Or work. Did any of the skeletons work? Well, obviously Papyrus did, but still. Shifting, your eyes flicked to Sans. Would it be okay to ask?

 

“go ahead. tell ol’ sans here what’s on your mind.”

 

Man, his ability to read you was so creepily uncanny. Was there more you were accidentally telegraphing? Did he actually know your secrets and was just waiting until the right time to bring them up?

 

No, stop that. No paranoid thoughts. He’s been great.

 

“Well, more a question really. Why can’t the others leave the house grounds? Seems it would be good for them, socializing, burning off energy, keep busy. Jus thought it was odd.”

 

He was so still, but then sat up, rolling his neck, hand scratching at his face, looking almost, well, sheepish?

 

“knew you’d ask about it eventually. now, ‘m not in the habit of spilling other peoples’ personal business, so if you want more details, you’ll have to go ask them or look into it yourself.”

 

Nodding, you took a seat next to him in the window. This would be interesting, you were sure. But would it answer questions, or lead to more? Probably the latter, really, knowing this house. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that was this place.

 

“so, long story short, most of the guys got into some trouble when they first started living here. it was really ugly. fights, injuries, some other less savory stuff. and not just those two living it up in the garden either. red, mutt, axe, dusty, crooks, all had run ins with human and monster law enforcement.”

 

Oh. Oh dear. That was a lot worse than you expected. Axe and Crooks too? You couldn’t imagine it. Axe was distractible and distant, but a laid back enough guy. Crooks was a giant sweetheart! It didn’t make sense! Red and Mutt were obnoxious as hell, but trouble with the law? Dusty you could definitely buy though. He had issues, with a capital I.

 

Sans sighed, head resting back on the wall. “anyway, all that trouble piled onto me and paps. mostly paps since he had to smooth everything over, pull strings, that sort of thing. since then, i banned them from leaving the house. they showed i couldn’t trust them out there, so they don’t get that privilege.”

 

Well. That made sense, really. But…

 

“So, how long have they been stuck in here?”

 

“...’bout nine months.”

 

That was… a really long time. To not go out or see people or do things. No wonder this place seemed so tense all the time. Sure, they had messed up, but didn’t people deserve second chances? To fix things, do things right the next time? Like you? But, Sans knew what he was doing. Best not to question things too much, just in case. What if he got mad at you questioning him? Kicked you out? You couldn’t risk it. Not yet, even with the bank account and money he had set you up with or helped you set up.

 

“I see. Thanks for telling me.”

 

He was quiet for a long time and you wondered if he had fallen asleep mid conversation. Wouldn’t be the first time.

 

“no problem.”

 

And he was gone. Looking out the window, large grey clouds shifted across the sky, blocking out the warmth of the sun. In the sudden chill, you shivered, looking around the room before hurrying out. Maybe some tea would make you feel less… disturbed.



Crooks shifted quietly on his feet, watching as you worked on pulling weeds from one of the raised garden beds. Trying to prep them for winter you had said. It had been delightful catching up with his dear brother this morning! Spending time with Sans was always a joy! But he had missed you. You with your soft smile and calm voice. You that never snapped at him or got annoyed with him. Hardworking, smart, a good cook. Really, you were just…

 

PERFECT.

 

He thought about approaching and interacting like he usually did, but he got such peace out of watching you from a distance, just going about your day. You work ethic was flawless and you interacted so well with everyone you met. He had been concerned about Dusty, and had been thinking about how to get rid of him, but even the worst killer in the house was now on good (for Dusty) terms with you. How could you be so amazing? You even made sure to take the time to have tea with him every afternoon! Just like he had always hoped for! He was so very lucky to be your friend. You were so, so much better than SHE had been…

 

Frowning, he carefully ran a hand over his damaged face. His teeth were improving on their own, thankfully, now that he was in a healthier situation. He had noticed them straightening out and shrinking back down a few months ago. It would still be some time before they fully returned to normal, but it wasn’t nearly as painful to eat as it once had been. You, of course, never mentioned them, never looked at him any different, never PITIED him, not like SHE had done. Really, how had he ever been so taken with a person who wasn’t even close to the perfection that was you? He was now glad for that restraining order forcing him to stay away from such a bland imitation. Clearly, he had been meant to wait for you! And he had almost missed it by focusing on the wrong person! How silly of him!

 

You sighed and wiped away the sweat from your brow. Even with the oncoming fall (oh, how he loved the changing seasons! He knew summer was your favorite.) it was still quite warm. Approaching you, he rearranged his face into the look you had come to expect. Endlessly cheerful, smiling him! And why wouldn’t he smile for you? You were one of the only reasons he had to smile! One of the only ways to take his mind off of everything awful, all the people he had failed, the blessings he got while everyone else was left behind to suffer.

 

“Crooks? Are you all right?”

 

Oh no, had he not been smiling?? Quick, smile now! He beamed at you as he drew himself up into a full dramatic pose, fist on his chest, that he knew you loved to giggle at. He wanted to hear you laugh more. He needed you to be happy.

 

“I, THE FANTASTIC ME, AM JUST FINE, DEAR ASTER! I WAS MERELY LOST IN THOUGHT AND THEN DAZED BY YOUR DELIGHTFUL PRESENCE! TRULY, YOU ARE WITHOUT PEER!”

 

You were still looking at him. He could see the concern in your eyes. How sweet! How kind! For you to worry so much about a monster like him! Why, there was no need to worry! He was quite strong, and very clever! He was next to unbeatable in this world! For a monster, anyway. He could protect you and himself and Sans from anyone at anytime!

 

And you needed so much protecting. 

 

Sans, his dear brother, of course, was fine! Crooks was overjoyed you got along, as his brother was rather withdrawn. Dusty was an issue, of course, but too strong at the moment even with the limiter for him to deal with alone. Perhaps Sans would help him remove the killer in the attic. Edge, obnoxious. He had put you in danger with the roof incident! Absolutely needed to be gone. Red was disgusting, as if Crooks didn’t hear the things he said to you. How dare he flirt with you. He needed to be removed ASAP. The other Papyrus, the him he should have been, well… he could stay. He had saved you after all. As long as he kept his distance, which was easy with how busy he was. Same with the Sans of this world. Busy, cordial, and distant. You would be lonely if he got rid of too many people, so they could stay. Mutt was an irritation, he had caused you to hurt yourself a few times. Definite removal. Black… hm. Undecided. You seemed to get along with him, but he was bossy, and had tried to sway you away from him. 

 

...Never mind, Black needed to go as well. No one could take you away. You had promised to stay. You PROMISED .

 

He was glad you had taken over chatting about your plans for the garden, turning away from him. He didn’t want you to see him right now. He knew he wasn’t controlling his face well. He didn’t want to scare you. He would make sure it looked like accidents. Or that they had simply left! He was quite good at copying handwriting. He would forge some notes for you from the ones he was taking away. It would ease your mind if you thought they had simply gone home, rather than just disappearing. Could he pick them off one by one? To make their disappearances look less suspicious than them all going at once? But then they would be on their guard and harder to kill if he went one or two at a time. Ah, so many decisions to make.

 

Feeling a tug on his sleeve, Crooks refocused, looking down at you with as bright a smile as he could manage with how dark his thoughts currently were. Plans could be made later. He would need some paper anyway and his room was a better place to think.

 

“YES DEAR ASTER? DO YOU NEED SOMETHING?”

 

“You just seem really out of it today. Do you want to go sit down? Have you had enough to drink and eat? If something is wrong, you can talk to me.”

 

Warmth flooded through his chest, all the way to the tips of his fingers and toes. How could anything be wrong when you were here? His dear friend. HIS dear, sweet, Aster. 

 

“I WAS SIMPLY ADMIRING THE BEAUTIFUL DAY AND YOUR LOVELINESS WITHIN IT! TRULY, I AM BLESSED TO HAVE A FRIEND WHO IS EVEN MORE WONDERFUL THAN THE SUNLIGHT WARMING MY BONES! WHY, I AM SO MOVED AND ENERGIZED, THAT I COULD GO RUNNING ALL DAY!”

 

You smiled at him, so nicely, chuckling. He loved how warm your laughter was. You patted his arm and then started moving towards the house.

 

“You are just too sweet! Flattery will definitely get you a bigger serving at dinner! And I’m just a human, so I definitely could NOT go running all day. I’m a bit thirsty, so why don’t we take our tea early and have some iced tea? I could use a rest before going back at it. It’s a jungle out here!”

 

Beaming, Crooks scooped you up, delighting in feeling how your frail, small body felt in his arms. So delicate. He would need to be careful with you. Yes, very gentle. He needed to make sure to keep everything as it should be. He couldn’t give you any reason to leave him.

 

“THAT SOUNDS LOVELY! LET US PARTAKE OF COLD TEA AND PERHAPS SOME SNACKS!”

 

Yes, as soon as those irritations were removed, and you were safe from them, safe with him and his brother, everything would be.

 

Just.

 

PERFECT.



Why was the timing so hard to get right? Honestly, you HAD to talk to Crooks. It couldn’t wait. You’d already put it off for more days than necessary. But you had no idea how to approach his obsessive, protective behaviors. He was trying so hard to be nice, you didn’t want to hurt him. But you barely had a minute alone, and even when you were alone you thought you saw him from a distance. Just. Just watching. With that LOOK on his face. It brought back bad memories.

 

Sighing, you tugged on your battered jacket, stuffing the money you got from Sans into your pocket. You just needed a few small things from the hardware store, and it was close by. A walk in some crisp air was just the thing to clear your mind. Heading out, you strolled down the driveway, letting your mind wander through several different topics. The guys coming to measure windows would be by next week. Had to see about getting some concrete for repairs. Maybe could talk to Crooks after dinner. Go for a walk or something peaceful. Would Sans want new siding? Maybe stay in the house for the talk though, just in case it got ugly. Needed to call about the furnace and water heater installations. Maybe try calling Amber to talk, apologize, fix things. Really should update the To Do list.

 

Leaving the house behind, you looked into the gray sky and breathed in deeply, exhaling out all your worries. Things would be all right. Things were already better than they had ever been, save for when you were much younger. You felt buzzing in your pocket. No one should be calling you. Only Sans and Papyrus had the number, and you warned them about how bad your phone was. But, maybe Paps was heading home early or something. Pulling out your battered, ancient brick of a phone, you squinted at the scratched up screen, trying to read the number.

 

An unfamiliar number.

 

Feeling a sick burning crawling up your throat, you tried to breath. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t that person. No one knew this number anymore, right? It was old as hell. You had to be out of his thoughts. It had been years. Shoving your phone back in your pocket, you walked faster towards the store. Entering the little shop was like going home, the familiar smells of a small town hardware store easing your panic immediately. The phone had stopped ringing, thankfully.

 

Grabbing a basket, you tried to walk off the remaining panic. Up and down the aisles, looking idly at the newest gadgets that were totally unnecessary, picking up the few items you needed. It was really nice. Maybe you would grab a soda. Sans wouldn’t mind, he’d been clear about you using the money he gave you however you wanted. It was nice to feel trusted again.

 

Your pace slowed as you walked by a small crafting section. It was mostly for wood crafting, but there were a few other things there as well. Hand trailing across the leather cord and metal charms, you had a flash of brilliance.

 

Crooks was always afraid to be apart, that you would just up and leave. Nothing you said could convince him otherwise. Would he feel better if he had a little present from you? You could make a basic friendship bracelet with a little charm. One for each of you. Wouldn’t he love that? Smiling to yourself, you busied yourself with choosing the perfect charm. A bone would be too on the nose after all.

 

Finally settling on your choice of matching charms, you headed to the check out. Once you made the bracelets, you would give it to him while trying to talk about his behaviors. A scolding with a gift. It was perfect. Everything was going to be perfect.



WHERE. WHERE WERE YOU.

 

Pacing nervously, Crooks kept checking the door and his phone. You hadn’t picked up any of his calls!!! In his panic, he couldn’t remember if he had programmed his number into your phone. He had just gotten the number from a quick glance off of Sans’ phone once when he was talking to you on speaker. You must not know it was him calling! Yes, you wouldn’t let him go to voicemail if you knew it was him and that he was worrying!

 

Why would you leave? And without telling him?? Didn’t you know how much he worried, how much he cared? You couldn’t just leave! What if you never came back? What if you were goING TO BE JUST LIKE-

 

The front door creaked open and there you were, whistling something off tune, without a care in the world. Shutting the door behind you, he saw you jump, hand over your heart when you spotted him. Why did you do that? Were you scared of him now? You couldn’t be scared of him, if you were scared then you would leave and you couldn’t leave, he woULDN’T LET YOU LEAVE.

 

“Geez, Crooks! You startled me! I wasn’t expecting anyone right at the door. Just glad I didn’t drop my bag!”

 

You were smiling. Holding a bag. You had gone shopping. Yes, just shopping. Shopping was fine. He followed along behind you silently, not really able to listen past the screaming in his head. You were talking. He should be listening and smiling and nodding. You had that look on your face again. You were worried.

 

“I’M SORRY, WHAT?”

 

“I asked if you were okay? You look really off and you just keep standing there quiet. Is there something on your mind? Are you upset? Did something happen?”

 

A forced smile, a vague hand wave, ending in gently patting your shoulder.

 

“UPSET? ME? I WOULD NEVER! I HAVE NEVER BEEN UPSET EVER! OF COURSE I WOULD BE FINE! IT’S NOT LIKE MY DEAREST FRIEND IN THE WORLD VANISHED FROM THE HOUSE WITHOUT TELLING ME OR LETTING ME KNOW WHERE SHE WAS GOING OR WHEN SHE WOULD BE BACK, OR IF SHE WOULD EVER BE BACK. IT’S NOT LIKE SHENEVERANSWEREDMYCALLSANDIWASSOWORRIEDANDWHATIFYOUWEREHURTORDEADYOUCAN’TLEAVEME-”

 

The small noise of pain brought him back to the present, where you were shrinking under his too firm grip on your shoulder, trying to pry his hand off, calling the stuPID NAME HE HATED IT HATED IT HATED IT.

 

Jerking away, eyes darting back and forth, panic screaming in his mind, Crooks smiled again. Just keep smiling. If he smiled, everything would be better, it would be okay.

 

“I-I AM SO SORRY, DEAR ASTER. YOU ARE RIGHT, I AM NOT FEELING WELL. PLEASE EXCUSE ME.”

 

“Crooks, hey, wait, just talk-”

 

But he ran. He couldn’t talk. Wouldn’t. If he talked it would all come out and it would be terrible and you would hate him forever and, and-

 

He didn’t realize he had started crying until he was face first in the unfamiliar pillows of his room, and he felt the fabric start to soak through.

 

Wheezing and trying not to panic, he curled into a ball, trembling.

 

It would be fine. Everything was going to be fine. It would all be perfect soon. One way or another. Just. Just perfect.



Right to center, left to center, right to center, left to center. Just a simple braid. Braid the charm into the weave or slide it on the whole thing? Probably slide it on, it would be simple and able to move with the wrist better.

 

A deep sigh left you as you sat, staring at the braid work in front of you. Things were really bad, worse than you had thought. Was poor Crooks still crying? Had you done something to hurt him? Why wouldn’t anyone in this damn house just, just TALK to you? You didn’t need everyone’s tragic backstories all at once or anything, but a LITTLE bit of communication would be helpful!

 

You jumped and yelped in pain as a hand came down on the shoulder that Crooks had grabbed too hard. It was just bruised, but it still hurt like hell.

 

“shit, you’re hurt?”

 

Turning your head, you found Mutt tugging your shirt collar away from your neck, able to see the edge of the bruise and giving a low hiss at the already dark color. Pulling his hand away, he started rummaging in his pockets. You went back to your braiding, trying to just enjoy the quiet. You didn’t want to talk about it. A dry smile quirked over your face. God, you were such a fucking hypocrite.

 

A bony hand appeared in front of your face, opening to reveal a small candy. Looking up, Mutt was looking away from you, but wouldn’t move his hand. Slowly, you reached up and took the candy from him, and opened the wrapper. It was sweet on your tongue, but dissolved quickly and the ache in your shoulder dimmed, then vanished.

 

The silence was awkward, you didn’t know how to begin to explain what was going on. Mutt was always distant anyway. Would he even care?

 

“Thanks. For the, uh, the monster candy? It helped.”

 

He was fumbling in his pockets again, pulling out a… dog treat? Before pulling out a lighter and sparking the edge of it. Is THAT what he was always smoking? Weird. He was already drawing in a breath, and letting the smoke curl its way out of all the holes in his head. It was really eerie, honestly, but enchanting in its own way. Very Halloween aesthetic. Did monsters celebrate Halloween? Not the time, focus.

 

Noticing you watching, he offered it to you. You had never gotten involved with drugs, despite what the court and rumors said, you weren’t sure if you wanted to change that now. But…

 

“just takes th’ edge off a little. doesn’t show up on human scans either.”

 

The tiniest smile crept along your face as you finally took the item and pulled in a good breath of the oddity. He really was observant, wasn’t he. As the smoke hissed out from between your teeth, you were surprised to already feel more relaxed. Magic really was amazing.

 

A few more puffs and you handed it back. Mutt settled the dog treat in his teeth, and shuffled awkwardly as you went back to braiding. You were almost done.

 

“look, s’not my business, but, uh, if you ever really need to get through to th’ big guy, you just need to call his name. his real name.”

 

Ah, so he was worried. You think. Was this worry? And for you, or something else? Maybe he just wanted the house fixed up. You looked up at him, trying to read that carefully blank face.

 

“But… I don’t know his name. I just call everyone those nicknames. Even you.”

 

Smoke swirling, you watched Mutt’s eyes droop a bit more, before he reached out and ruffled your hair. It was a shockingly gentle and affection gesture for him and your brain short circuited for a moment at the contact.

 

“you know it. you’ve been thinking it since day one. you’re not stupid. just stay alive. it would be boring without you.”

 

And he was gone. The lingering feeling of his hand on your head made you smile, the warm buzz of the dog treat lingering in your body. Tying off the bracelets into a sliding adjuster knot, you nodded firmly. You had plenty of people backing you up, even the ones you least expected. You could fix this. You would work things out with Crooks, and everything would be fine. Maybe not perfect, but good. And that was enough for you.

Chapter Text

The storm was big enough to rattle the old windows in the house. You mentally added “put more lights in here” to your to do list. Even with every light in the house on, only the kitchen and mudroom were well lit. Everywhere else was dim and shadowy, rooms shifting in the flickering lightning strikes.

 

You had decided to take today off with the weather. Sure, you could start working on stripping the god awful tile in the house out, but…

 

No, today was a day for another kind of effort. Updating the bathrooms could wait. Papyrus was gone, of course, but Sans, Mutt, and Red were all missing as well. Probably in that workshop that you were very explicitly asked to leave alone. 

 

Fair enough, everyone deserved their space. Dusty was being his usual self (did he actually like the attic that much, or did he just dislike everyone else that much?) Edge and Black were up in the game room, screeching at each other over what you think was a game of chess. Axe and Crooks were in the wind, however. You had looked all day for either one of them, but with no luck. Most likely in their rooms then.

 

Sighing, you carefully touched the matching bracelets in your pocket. Should you just go knock on his door? Maybe he would be more likely to open up in his own personal space, rather than out here somewhere? But… you really had to consider your safety. Going directly into that room with no escape plan would be less than ideal.

 

Checking the clock, you sighed. Crooks hadn’t even come down for your usual tea time the last two days, and now today. You sipped on the cooling drink, watching raindrops pitter-patter across the windows and drip down the roof line. Were any of the skeletons scared of storms after a lifetime without them underground? Or had they adjusted?

 

A chime rang out and you startled, fumbling for your phone in your sweater pocket. Checking it carefully, you smiled, flipping it open.

 

“Hey Papyrus! What’s up?”

 

His usual bright voice resounded through the tinny speakers, loud enough to make you pull the phone away from your ear.

 

“FRIEND ASTER! NOTHING MUCH IS UP, EXCEPT FOR MY GREAT EXCITEMENT!!”

 

“Oh yeah? What’s got you so fired up dude?”

 

“I HAVE RECEIVED TICKETS TO GO TO A SPECIAL ART EXHIBIT! I THOUGHT IT WOULD PERFECT FOR US TO GO TO!”

 

Shifting awkwardly in your seat, you shot a look behind you. Had you heard something moving? Probably just Red coming for a snack, the glutton. He had been really into the honey mustard seasoned snack mix you made the other day. “That’s real sweet of you, but I don’t know if I’m a big art person, you know…”

 

“NO NO, THIS IS PERFECT FOR YOU, I AM CERTAIN! IT WILL BE AN EXHIBIT OF NATURAL CRAFTS, SUCH AS WOOD AND METAL! YOU LIKE THOSE THINGS, YES??”

 

You smiled. This guy, he was really attentive. What a great friend.

 

“You know, that actually sounds great! Sure, I’m in. Maybe I can get some new ideas to make for the future, once I have the tools for working that stuff again.”

 

You could practically hear his aggressively cheerful nodding through the phone.

 

“YES! MOST PERFECT! I AM SO GLAD I WAS GIVEN THESE! WE HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO GO OUT AND DO MANY FRIEND THINGS SO FAR, AND I WISH TO REMEDY THAT!”

 

Chuckling, you stood, moving your cup to the sink, before going back to dump out the second cup of untouched, now cold, tea.

 

“Oh, Paps, you know I’m not worried about that! I’m just happy to see you when I can, I know you’re busy. Are you sure this won’t be too much for you? I’m fine waiting, honestly.”

 

“OF COURSE, THE GREAT PAPYRUS CAN FIT IN ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO HIS SCHEDULE! ESPECIALLY HIS DEAR FRIEND! WITH THE POWER OF FRIENDSHIP, I CAN DO ANYTHING! THAT’S WHAT UNDYNE SAYS!”

 

There it was again, the noise. You turned fully, eyes scanning into the dim living room and moving towards it. Was Mutt playing a joke on you again?

 

“Well, if you’re sure, then I trust you. Just don’t overwork yourself, okay? Let me know when the tickets are for and I’ll mark it on my calendar.”

 

“OF COURSE! I SHALL TELL YOU MORE WHEN I GET HOME! WE CAN GET DINNER BEFORE THE SHOW! ONE CANNOT ENJOY ART WHEN HUNGRY!”

 

You huffed out a laugh. This guy was too sweet, honestly. He and Crooks were really cut from the same cloth.

 

“All right, it’s a date then. I’ll let you get back to work now, I know you’re busy.”

 

“VERY GOOD FRIEND ASTER! I SHALL SEE YOU UPON MY RETURN! I’M VERY EXCITED TO SEE WHAT YOU PICKED TO MAKE FOR DINNER TODAY! BYE BYE!”

 

“Bye Paps, see you tonight!”

 

You hung up, shuffling the phone into your pocket again, feeling buoyed by the conversation, even in the gloominess of the day. Maybe you should go curl up in the library and read a book or something. Maybe there was something more your reading level, like a trashy romance novel or crime thriller.

 

Turning towards the library, you snagged a blanket off the couch to go curl up in. Honestly, those new windows couldn’t come soon enough. It was freezing in this place. In the quiet pattering of the rain, you suddenly felt… watched. 

 

Hunted. 

 

Afraid.

 

You stilled, head turning and looking. You hadn’t felt like this since the first day here. Your breaths were coming quick and shallow, panic rising up in your throat. Had Dusty finally decided he didn’t want to wait anymore? 

 

In the light of a particularly bright lightning flash, you spotted a figure across the room, huge, lurking in the shadows near the staircase. Only one person in the house was that tall. You wanted to put a smile on your face, but you could barely control the urge to run, much less fake smile.

 

“H-hey, Crooks. How long have you been there? I was waiting for you, for tea time.”

 

He didn’t answer, and the following crash of thunder would have hidden any response he made anyway. You thought you started seeing eerie orange wisps from your tall friend. His blank stare made you want to take a step back, the natural survival instinct of all animals kicking in. You stilled yourself, pushing back against the instinct to run. This was just Crooks! Your friend!

 

“C-” your voice froze, choked inside of you. Why were you so scared? Clearing your throat, you tried again.

 

“Crooks? Are you okay?” shuffling forward a few steps, as close as you dare, your heart beat faster and faster, adrenaline pumping as you neared that dark shadow. 

 

“WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH HIM?”

 

Stopping in place, you quirked your head, hugging the blanket closer to you for warmth and a source of comfort.

 

“What are you talking-”

 

He moved much faster than you thought he would. He had always made sure to just match your pace together when you walked together. This time, you couldn’t help stumbling back a few steps, your lizard brain screaming at you to get out of there.

 

“WHERE. ARE YOU GOING. WITH. HIM.

 

He loomed over you, blocking the few lights in the room from your view. You weren’t short by any means, pretty average in height really, but he absolutely dwarfed you.

 

“Do you mean, with Papyrus? We’re just going to see some art. We haven’t been able to spend much time together and-”

 

Yelping, you staggered forward as Crooks grabbed your wrist, pulling you closer to him, grip painfully tight.

 

“YOU CAN’T GO.”

 

Whimpering, you tugged fruitlessly on your wrist, feeling the small bones there grinding together.

 

“Crooks, hey-”

 

“WHY ARE YOU GOING WITH HIM? WE SHOULD GO ON A DATE, DON’T GO WITH HIM.”

 

Was. Was Crooks jealous? Frowning, you looked up at his face. “Look, it isn’t like, a REAL date, right? Just, like, two friends going out together! Yeah? It’s a date is just a figure of speech, it doesn’t MEAN that-”

 

His grip on your wrist tightened again, cutting you off as a pained gasp slipped through your lips. He could totally break your wrist, just like that. It didn’t even look like it would be hard for him to do. Just how strong were monsters? Or was it just him?

 

N O . YOU ARE STAYING WITH ME . ALWAYS. I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE AND WE’LL BE. SO. HAPPY .”

 

Crooks smiled down at you, but his eyes were empty of the warmth you were used to seeing there. God, why hadn’t you run when your instincts told you to? You had to get out of here, before Crooks did something he would regret, and to save your own skin. Clutching the blanket in one arm, you had an idea. But it would only work if the weather cooperated. You got ready, just in case.

 

“I KNOW YOU MIGHT BE A BIT UPSET WITH ME, DEAR ASTER, BUT I PROMISE I JUST WANT TO KEEP YOU SAFE! YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T LEAVE ME, AND EVEN THOUGH I HAVE THE UTMOST FAITH IN YOU, I’VE HAD SO MANY PEOPLE MAKE AND BREAK PROMISES TO ME. I JUST WANT TO GUARANTEE THINGS A BIT! SURELY YOU, MY DEAR ASTER OF ALL PEOPLE, CAN UNDERSTAND?”

 

You nodded along, trying to relax as much as possible, gripping the blanket tightly.

 

“Of course I understand. I know things are hard for you, and of course I want to help.”

 

He was beaming at you now, his grip on your wrist loosening. It was definitely going to bruise.

 

“OH, ASTER, I KNEW YOU WERE PERFECT, JUST PERFECT! I KNEW YOU WOULD FEEL THIS WAY! I’M SO HAPPY!”

 

Taking in a deep breath, you looked at him as calmly as you could, grip tightening on the blanket.

 

“I do understand. And that’s why I can’t let you do this. You would never forgive yourself, and as your friend, I won’t let it happen.”

 

Crooks looked at you, so confused, his grip loosening just a bit more, when suddenly another flash of lightning lit up the room, forcing him to squint in the blinding bolt. In that moment, you threw the blanket over his head, yanked your wrist back as hard as you could, sending him stumbling forward, as you darted away and ran towards the other side of the living room, towards the hall leading to the sun room. It would lead out into the yard, closest to the workshop. You HAD to get one of the others. Your life and Crooks’ sanity depended on it.

 

He couldn’t catch up to you. It would be game over. A cold sweat ran down your back as you ran. You tried not to cry and failed, tears sliding down your face. Could you help him? Please, to anyone or anything listening, all you wanted to do was help him.

 

Please.



Crooks felt hollow as he tore the blanket off his face, whipping around to spot your back fleeing down a hall. Why had you done this? Why had you run? He thought you understood! He thought you were going to stay, together, with him!

 

He hadn’t meant to get so angry, but hearing you talk to his stupid, perfect copy, going OUT on the town, going to DINNER together, going on a DATE. HE wanted to go out with you too, take you to dinner and see fun things! He didn’t want to be stuck in this stars damned place! 

 

Moving, a bit jerkily at first, then smoothing out as he ran, his thoughts narrowed, totally focused. If you wanted to flee, that was fine. He was excellent at hunting down humans after all. You couldn’t escape him. YOU WOULD NEVER ESCAPE HIM. 

 

NEVER LEAVE HIM. 

 

NEVER. 

 

HE WOULD KILL YOU FIRST.

 

With his much longer legs, and experience, he easily caught up with you as you entered the sun room. The glass panes of the walls and the sky lights in the ceiling ran with rain, dripping like tears off the edges of the roof, the mostly empty room lighting up with a few short bursts of lightning and rolling thunder rattled the space.

 

You hadn’t looked behind you, but he could tell you knew he was there. Smart, better not to look back when trying to escape. 

 

But not good enough.

 

His long arms, freakishly long, far longer than the perfect version of him, reached out, snagging your upper arm, whipping you around.

 

You were saying something, he could see your mouth moving, your hand struggling to release his grip, tears falling from those gentle eyes of yours. But it didn’t matter.

 

Yanking you back, he lifted you from the floor, crushing you in a fierce hug, wanting to press you so close that you would simply be a part of him, and never leave.

 

“WHY DID YOU RUN?? ASTER, WHY? I THOUGHT, I THOUGHT YOU UNDERSTOOD!”

 

His grip tightened, failing to notice your increased struggles and gasps as he slowly crushed your arms and ribcage.

 

“IS IT BECAUSE OF HOW I LOOK? HOW I AM? IS IT BECAUSE I’M NOT HIM?? IT ISN’T FAIR! HE’S WHO I’M SUPPOSED TO BE! IT’S NOT MY FAULT I’M LIKE THIS!”

 

The old pains, and the new, all ripped out of him as he pressed his face into your hair, grip pressing down on you more, his luminescent tears mingling with yours as they ran from his face onto yours.

 

“I DIDN’T-DIDN’T ASK FOR THAT HUMAN TO LEAVE! TO M-MAKE EVERYTHING TERRIBLE! EVERYONE LEAVES! EVEN IF THEY’RE STILL WITH ME PHYSICALLY, THEY’RE GONE ON THE INSIDE! THEY AREN’T THE SAME! I THOUGHT THEY WOULD COME BACK!”

 

He hated this, hated that things had ever gotten this far. If only that human hadn’t killed King Asgore, if only Undyne had never taken the throne, if only Sans had never been so hurt, if onLY HE HAD BEEN GOOD ENOUGH!

 

“PAPYRUS!”

 

He froze. Was Papyrus home? Oh dear, he wouldn’t be happy about this. Would he need to kill his counterpart today? He couldn’t let this get out, of course. Looking up and around though, he saw no skeleton but himself.

 

“P-papyrus…”

 

A hand much smaller and softer than his was gently, so softly touching his face. It was warm. Dazed, he looked down at his arms, finally taking stock of how much damage you had taken.

 

As he loosened his grip, you smiled, that same smile he had come to cherish. slightly twisted in pain, while your hand kept gently stroking his face.

 

“There you are. Come back to me Papyrus. Please.”

 

You were panting, your breath wheezing. What had he been doing? What was going on? Had, had he hurt you? Oh stars, oh no no no…

 

He set you down and pulled away, only to lurch in again to catch you as you swayed, almost falling onto the floor. Gently, he picked you up, as he usually did, and placed you on the bench, laying down. Your eyes were closed. Were you going to die? He swore he wasn’t going to kill another human as long as he was on the surface. And yet…

 

“I-I Am So Sorry, Aster. P-Please, Stay With Me! I, I Will Go Get Someone, They Will Be Able To Heal You! Just-Just Hang On, Okay?”

 

Cursing himself for his lost healing ability, he stood to run to the shed. Surely this world’s Sans or Red or someone could help? But before he could go even an inch, he felt a tug on his sleeve. Looking down, your hand had gripped his sweater sleeve so tightly, your knuckles were changing color.

 

“A-Aster, Please! I Must Go! I Will Return Soon, I Promise!”

 

But you, you just shook your head, eyes opening a slit and the smile returning to your face.

 

“Stay. Please. I’ll be okay. It’s not fatal.”

 

“YOU DON’T KNOW THAT! SOMETHING COULD BE VERY WRONG! I CAN’T LET YOU DIE HERE! I CAN’T BE THE REASON! THAT! THAT YOU!”

 

Gentle tugging brought him to his knees next to you, his hand going to grab yours clinging to his sleeve.

 

“It’s okay. Don’t cry, Papyrus. Please don’t cry. It’s all going to be okay.”

 

Choking, Papyrus sobbed, resting his head on your stomach, feeling the warmth and pulse of your life. Still, you stroked the top of his skull, muttering softly, reassuring, saying his name, his own dear name. He just cried and cried, letting out all the pain he had tried so hard to keep at bay, with you by his side.



You felt like your ribcage had gotten hit by a slab of concrete. If you didn’t have hairline fractures in your arms, it would be a miracle. You really, honestly thought this was going to be the end of you. Feeling the magical tears soaking into your shirt, you smiled tiredly. Thank god you had remembered what Mutt told you.

 

Still smoothing a hand over his skull, you focused on breathing, regaining your lost stamina. The first time you had called out his name, you hadn’t been sure. Was he really Papyrus? He hadn’t heard you then, lost in his own thoughts. But with how focused he was on Papyrus, on being like him or not, it clicked.

 

Of course he and Papyrus were similar. They were cut from the same cloth, literally. You didn’t understand how, but this was also Papyrus, the same Papyrus that had saved you on that bridge, but not him at the same time. It wasn’t until you had screamed yourself hoarse and he had responded to the name that you fully realized it was true.

 

There were so many ramifications to this. Did that make Axe the same as Sans? What had happened to make them so different? Where had they come from? Even twins wouldn’t be like this, this was something else.

 

But, your body hurt, and thinking too much was making your head hurt. This was a mystery for another day. Right now, it was time to solve the problem in front of you that was making your heart hurt, currently sniffling and rubbing his face on your sweater as his tears started to slow.

 

“Feel better? A good cry helps a lot.”

 

Papyrus looked up at you so sadly and nodded, rubbing at his face with his sleeve, trying not to snag the sweater fabric on his teeth. You patted his hand, pleased.

 

“I’m glad. Now, can I ask you something?”

 

He just nodded, miserably avoiding your eyes. You sighed, and coughed a bit. This was going to be hard, but it had to be done.

 

“Okay. I would like to talk about what just happened. What’s going on and has been going on. And how we can move forward to try and fix things. Can we do that?”

 

He was quiet. Apparently, he was better at silence than you had originally thought. He opened his mouth once, twice, then stopped. But you simply waited, running your thumb over the back of his bony hand, feeling the rough patches and cracks. The rain was letting up, no more lightning, the thumber a distant rumble, only soft tapping to be heard around you. Poor dear. What had he suffered through? And he was still so deeply kind, even if he didn’t think so. What a great guy, honestly.

 

Finally, he spoke.

 

“Do You Really Want To Fix Things With Me? I-I Did A Horrible, Awful Thing To You. I Hurt and Scared You. I Don’t Deserve It. I Never Did. Never Deserved You.”

 

While this was far more than a friendship bracelet and a conversation could fix, you had to try. Reaching into your pocket, you pulled the bracelets out, carefully looping one over Papyrus’s wrist, then the other on yours. He hadn’t looked up, but did finally take notice of his new accessory.

 

“What’s This?”

 

Holding up your own wrist, the bruised one, you smiled.

 

“Friendship bracelets. I made them for us. Just for you and me. So if we’re apart, you have something to know I’ll be back, and that I have a piece with me too. See? They match up!”

 

Tugging his hand close, you showed that side by side, the two halves formed to make a whole stylized sun, with wiggling rays coming from the swirled central circle.

 

He looked stunned, eyes darting from you, to the bracelets, and down to the floor. He was trembling, bones rattling. Had you done something wrong? Now you were starting to worry, a frown creasing your forehead.

 

“What’s wrong, Papyrus? Do, do you not like it? I can make something else if you want…”

 

He shook his head so quickly it blurred, making you concerned about his relationship with the laws of physics.

 

“NO! I LOVE IT! I LOVE IT SO MUCH! I’LL TREASURE THIS FOREVER! I JUST, Just Don’t Understand Why You Would Still Want To Give This To Me…”

 

Squeezing his hand, you looked up as the gray clouds roiled above you, slowly moving on.

 

“Because you’re my friend. That’s why.”

 

And so he sat next to you, hands held tightly together as you let the gentle rainstorm that now lingered wash away the nightmare that had just occurred, peace settling into the house once more like a blanket.

Chapter Text

You weren’t sure how long it had been since you had been laid down on the bench. You think you may have dozed off at some point, because even the gentle rains from before were gone, leaving a clear sky that was blooming with a brilliant sunset.

 

Papyrus was still leaning against you and the bench, holding your hand. He looked asleep as well. Rare for him, since he almost never needed sleep! Or so it appeared to you, anyway. Sighing, you braced yourself and struggled to sit up, wincing and biting back a groan. If there was no magic food in the house, you were in for a rough day tomorrow.

 

Your movement finally stirred Papyrus and he shifted, sitting up and letting your legs move off the bench and onto the floor. Blinking, he seemed to shake off sleep and stare at you, face reflecting many different emotions.

 

You leaned on your knees, bracing yourself for what was to come, before patting the open spot on the bench next to you. Now was the hard part.

 

“You ready to talk? Cus I am so ready to get some of this out in the open.”

 

He waited, then nodded, scooting himself up and onto the bench, hands tightly folded together, thumbs twiddling around and around as he stared at the ground, leg bouncing. Guess it was up to you to get things moving.

 

“So… Your name is Papyrus huh.”

 

He just nodded, shoulders hunching further.

 

“And… It’s not just a family name or something?”

 

A shaken head.

 

“You’re really another Papyrus? Like the Papyrus who brought me here?”

 

“YES. AND NO. IT IS… COMPLICATED. AND I AM NOT SURE HOW MUCH THE OTHERS WOULD WANT ME TO SAY.”

 

“Huh.” Complicated no doubt. This was WAY beyond your pay grade as a live in handyman/contractor. Well, you could wait for an explanation. It would come up eventually if you stayed here long enough.

 

“I-I AM, SO SORRY, ASTER. I NEVER-NEVER MEANT TO HURT YOU, AND I DID. I FAILED YOU, AND MYSELF.”

 

Scuffing your feet along the stone floor, you watched the swirling patterns of the stone.

 

“You did hurt me. You seemed really out of it, and have been out of control for awhile. Can you tell me why? Did I do something to hurt you? To make you lash out?”

 

“NO! But, Yes? I’m… Not Sure How To Explain…”

 

“Take your time. Sort your thoughts. I’m here to listen. You just need to trust me. Can you do that?”

 

“I… Yes, I Can. I Do. Trust, That Is. It’s Just, Very Hard. Um.”

 

Patting his knee, you simply sat and meditated, waiting for him. You could wait. You had always been good at it, letting people come to you in their own time. Ah, the sunset really was beautiful. Maybe you should just make something easy for dinner tonight. Did you have any salad? Some chicken? Maybe you could do something with that.

 

“When My Brother And I Were Underground, Things Got Very Bad. Because Of My Friend, A Human, Who Broke Their Promise To Come Back And Free Us All.”

 

Immediately, you were at attention. No one here had talked about their pasts to you. This was clearly important, and you were going to give it your all.

 

“I Do Not Know How Much Detail I Can Give, But It Was Very Violent And Dangerous Underground At That Time. And I Was Caught In The Midst Of It All Due To Another Friend. It Is Because Of This That Not Only Was I… Damaged… But, Sans Also Was Hurt. You Have Seen The Hole, Yes? It Was Because Of My Failure To Keep Him Safe, And My Failure To Help My Friend, That She… She Hurt Him. And Me.”

 

You nodded. Of course you had seen it. That first day… you had thought he was a real corpse. An injury like that would kill even a human, much less a monster. God, this was already painful without any details. A broken promise, deep wounds, a damaged world. You couldn’t imagine the kinds of scars they both had. Who was this Papyrus? Who was that Sans?

 

Clearing his non-existent throat, Papyrus continued.

 

“On A Usual Day, Sans and I Were Hunting For Food. Everyone Was Very Hungry, It Was Part Of The Bad That Happened, There Was A Famine. Anyway, There Was Some Stuff That Happened, And Then We Were Here, On The Surface. But, My Friends Were Not. Just Me and Sans. We, We Had Left Them Behind In That Dark Place.”

 

Oh no. He already blamed himself for what happened to him and Sans, and the Underground, but now, on top of that… Survivor’s Guilt? From getting out when others didn't? You were no expert, but it wasn’t exactly unheard of…

 

He pressed on, smile strained “SO! We Met With The Others Here And They Let Us Stay And I Promised I Would Never Hurt A Human Again, But, But I Seem To Have Problems… Not Getting Attached? I Scared One Human Here, Because I Maybe, Um, Followed Them A Bit? After I Got To Know Them, Of Course! We Met At The Park!”

 

Based on how he treated you, you would put good money on him stalking that lady. Oh dear. No wonder he was put on house arrest with all the others. You could see how a human woman would lose her mind finding Papyrus following them down the block, even if they were acquainted. Oh Papyrus.

 

“And, Well, I Just Always Worry That People Are Going To Leave And I Just… Don’t Want To Lose Anyone Else… And, I Am Sorry For Being So Clingy. And For Taking Your Phone Number Off Of The Not My Brother Sans’ Phone To Call You.”

 

Well, the phone mystery was solved now! Internally, you sighed in relief. Papyrus here could call you all day, that was fine, as long as HE never found you again. Poor Papyrus was gripping his own hands so tightly, as if when he let go he would just fly apart. Reaching out, you placed your hand on top of his.

 

“I know this is just the barest hint of everything you’re thinking and feeling and have experienced, but I have a better understanding now. Thank you for trusting me, and opening up to me a bit. And I forgive you. Though you shouldn’t have taken my number. If you had asked, I would have given it to you.”

 

He ducked his head, mumbling apologies.

 

“Is there anything else you want to tell me? Or do you want me to talk a bit?”

 

“Could You? Please?”

 

“Of course. Well, first things first, let’s set some boundaries. I’m really not a fan of being picked up and carried places. It’s just, it brings back bad memories. And I’m just not used to being touched so much. So, could we tone that down a bit? I understand you're just showing affection, and I’m not mad or anything, but I would like this to change. Is that okay?”

 

“OF COURSE! HAD I KNOWN, I WOULD HAVE STOPPED IMMEDIATELY! I DO NOT WANT MY FRIEND TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH ME!”

 

You smiled. He really was a good guy, underneath all the trauma and bad coping mechanisms.

 

“Good. Two, I really need personal space. I’ve been in situations where I was forced to be around a lot of people, all the time, with almost no privacy, and I really just need to have some space and time to myself. It was a bad time in my life, and still really fresh in my mind, so I need that sort of thing now. I don’t really want to go into too many details about it myself, ha.”

 

He was looking at you so earnestly, bobbing his skull up and down.

 

“YES! YES, I WILL GIVE YOU SPACE! IF, MAYBE I COULD TEXT YOU? FROM A DISTANCE?”

 

A giggle slipped out of your lips. God, he was too cute! Of course he would want to text you from the other room if he wasn’t right there. Well, baby steps. These were all baby steps. You could work with that. You should really talk to Sans about letting him go out to at least see a therapist. Were there monster therapists? Not the time for that.

 

“Sure, sure, you can text me. But, you have to know that I may not answer you right away, okay? I’m trying to keep busy working and saving up money. But I will always try to get back to you as soon as I can, okay?

 

He was frowning a bit, but nodded. You were certain he was going to try his best. And obviously, this wasn’t going to be the last time you needed to sit and talk with him about this sort of thing. Speaking of which.

 

“So, about the phone thing.I didn’t pick up because I hate getting phone calls from unknown numbers. I, ah, had some bad run ins with a certain person when I was younger, and they would always keep calling me from numbers I didn’t recognize. It was awful. I thought it was him when you were calling. It frightened me, that he was picking up where he left off. So, I’ll make sure to change the number in my phone to your name, okay? Or, well, your nickname? So I don’t worry about it when you call or text.”

 

Nodding, Papyrus gazed at you with a pained face. “I AM SO SORRY, AGAIN. I SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE THAT, EVEN IF YOU WEREN’T SCARED OF STRANGE PHONE NUMBERS. BUT I WILL DOUBLY MAKE SURE NOT TO DO IT EVER AGAIN!”

 

Looking down, he continued, muttering something, avoiding your gaze and fiddling with the bracelet you had given him.

 

“What? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

 

“I-I Said I Don’t Like The Nickname. The C One. I Hate It.”

 

No. No, no, no. Had you been calling him something insulting this whole time?? Had the others told you wrong? Why hadn’t he said anything!

 

“I’m so sorry! I had no idea you didn’t like it. You should have told me sooner, you’re not the only one who doesn’t want their friend to be uncomfortable…”

 

“IT IS  ALL RIGHT. I DIDN’T WANT TO MAKE A FUSS ABOUT IT, SINCE EVERYONE HAD ALREADY TAKEN TO CALLING ME IT. BUT, THEY BASED IT OFF OF, WELL, MY, My Teeth… And I Am Already Very Aware Of How Different I Look Because Of Them…”

 

Surging up, you were furious, and reached out to hold his face, making him look at you

 

“You mean, I have been calling you a name that hurts your feelings, but was also a name that was making fun of your injury?!”

 

You dragged him closer, desperately hugging his skull to your shoulder in a fierce hug. No wonder he was so upset! Why he would rarely refer to himself as that! The look on his face! Now you felt tears stinging your eyes as you held him. Even sitting, he had to hunch his back a bit for you to wrap your arms around his shoulders, but he cautiously returned the hug, his embracing arms as light as butterfly wings.

 

“I-I am so, SO sorry. I will NEVER call you that again. EVER! We, We’ll come up with something new! And I’ll make everyone else change it! You don’t EVER have to hear that awful name again! I, we, we can make it right, okay?”

 

You thought you felt a smile on your shoulder as you sniffled, trying to keep your tears back. As if you had the right to cry! This poor darling should be crying all the time, and yet he always had a smile! He was a good person, through and through.

 

“OKAY! AND I FORGIVE YOU! IT’S NOT LIKE YOU KNEW ANYWAY, SO HARDLY ANYTHING TO FORGIVE AT ALL! ON TO MORE IMPORTANT MATTERS! WHAT SHOULD MY NEW NICKNAME BE?”

 

Now, you were stumped. You lingered, just hugging him, ignoring the growing pain in your ribs. You should sit again, but didn’t want to let him go. You hummed, gently rubbing the giant’s back as he stayed leaning in to you.

 

“I’m not great at naming stuff… um, hm. You’re, like, tall, and nice. Oh, but maybe we should try to avoid a nickname about physical traits. Yes, we, should be done with that, what do you think?”

 

He nodded into your shoulder, arms gently squeezing you, then letting go. “I AGREE, I DO NOT WISH TO BE CALLED AFTER MY APPEARANCE ANYMORE.”

 

“Uh, all right… Hm. Champ? Sunshine? Sweets? B-Button? Okay, these are terrible, I’m at a loss.”

 

You pulled back, frowning. You had to think of a good name! Hmph, give it time, something will come to you…

 

He just smiled, the most genuine smile you think you had ever seen.

 

“I LIKE THE NAMES YOU’RE PICKING! THOUGH PERHAPS I WOULD NOT LIKE TO HEAR RED OR BLACK CALL ME THEM. AND I CAN TELL YOU’RE TRYING VERY HARD! DON’T WORRY, SOMETHING WILL COME TO US! WHAT ABOUT, UM, N-NOODLES? NO, WAIT, THAT’S BASED OFF MY BODY AGAIN, SHOOT.”

 

You both pondered and paced as the night got darker, constantly shooting out names, but none sounded quite right. Even with both your heads together, nothing was coming out. Honestly, it was so frustrating. Who knew coming up with a nickname would be so hard?

 

With a sigh, you patted his arm.

 

“Look, let’s stop for now, okay? Maybe we can get some better ideas after we eat. I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted and super hungry.”

 

Papyrus perked up and his face took on a pained look before standing. Why did he look at you like that?

 

“OF COURSE! NOTHING LIKE FOOD TO POWER THE BRAINSTORM! NOT THAT I HAVE A BRAIN TO STORM IN LIKE YOU. WHY DO YOU CALL IT A BRAINSTORM?”

 

The look was already gone. Hopefully it wasn’t anything too bad. You were too tired to deal with any more emotional drama today. You needed a bath and sleep after dinner for sure.

 

“Oh, well, I’m not sure. Maybe…”

 

You both shot suggestions as to where the meaning of brainstorm came from as you strolled  back into the house, past the fallen blanket, and into the warm glow of the kitchen.

 

And promptly into more chaos.



Sans dodged out of the way of a flying fork easily. He was used to fights like this breaking out at the table, but there hadn’t been one this bad in a month. Your food and presence was a gift, honestly. But that brought him back to the crux of the ongoing fight.

 

The only human of the household, and undisputed cooking champion (mostly undisputed, save for Edge and Black whining about their so called cooking prowess. No one took them too seriously, save for themselves.) was missing, and there was no dinner. It was already quite late, and everyone was hungry.

 

Black slammed his fists on the table, then immediately backed off as it wobbled dangerously. “I DEMAND WE ORGANIZE A SEARCH PARTY! IT CAN’T TAKE THAT LONG WITH ALL OF US WORKING TO FIND HER!”

 

Edge scoffed, pacing rapidly back and forth across the small kitchen. “HA! WE WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITH JUST THE TWO OF US SEARCHING! WE CAN’T POSSIBLY COUNT ON THESE LAZY OAFS TO HELP SUFFICIENTLY!”

 

Red was leaning back in his chair, nervously scratching at the scar on his face, grin looking more forced than usual. “heh, i mean, i could maybe put in some effort jus’ fer today. i’m always willin’ ta work a little more to get some good food.”

 

Mutt was leaning against the wall by the opening to the living room, watching, one foot bouncing up and down as he attempted to remain looking as detached as ever. Axe was in a similar state, but slumped in a chair at the table, eyes  dark as one hand curled and flexed inside his dead socket. Even Papyrus, trying to keep everyone calm and assured, looked strained and his voice kept pitching up a bit higher after every scolding he gave.

 

Honestly, he was getting ready to go look for you himself. You were never this late to making dinner, and there was the glaringly obvious elephant in the room. 

 

No one had seen Dusty or Crooks either.

 

Stars, what if you were already dead? He never should have let you stay here, it was barely safe for him here, much less a little human with no LV or EXP. Why was he such an idiot? If you were dead, it was all on him, he could never make that up.

 

Sans refocused from his self loathing after noticing things were too quiet. Looking up and over, he watched as you painfully shuffled into the room, holding your ribs, but with a bright smile on your face as you and Crooks carried on a lively conversation.

 

He sucked in a sharp breath as he took a good look at your HP and status. Asgore’s Beard, you had lost at least half your HP, if not more! What the hell had happened? For someone so injured, why did you look so pleased??

 

As Sans’ mind tried to catch up to the situation, the others had gone into action. Surprisingly, it was Edge who took the first initiative, marching over to you at the door to very carefully grab your shoulders, voice quaking.

 

“WHAT HAPPENED?? YOU LOOK STUPIDLY WORSE THAN USUAL! YOU COME IN HERE, ALL SMILES, WHEN YOU’RE HALF DEAD?? SIT DOWN, YOU IDIOT, YOU LOOK LIKE A WHIMSUN COULD KNOCK YOU OVER!”

 

Crooks stood by, fretfully fumbling with his hands as Edge, far more gently than Sans would have guessed him capable of, pushed you into an open chair, before stomping to the fridge and grabbing out a starfait and shoving it towards you.

 

“EAT IT! NOW!”

 

You looked at him, clearly surprised.

 

“But, you got mad the last time I ate your Starfait. Isn’t this the last one of your current batch?”

 

Stomping his foot, Edge’s loud voice spiked up a volume level higher, making Sans and everyone else in the room wince from the change in pitch and volume.

 

“I SAID TO EAT IT! AS IF I, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE EDGE, WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GET MORE OF THOSE! SO EAT THE STARS FORSAKEN THING! NOW!”

 

You were clearly exhausted behind your smile, and just shrugged, complying. The stress and magical levels in the room started to go down as they watched your HP steadily increase. Even with the Starfait, you still weren’t to full health though.

 

Smiling, with less pain though, you nodded to Edge.

 

“Thanks Edge, I appreciate it. That was really great of you, for sure. I feel better already.”

 

He humphed, stomping away, resuming his pacing, though much slower now, saying nothing back. Sans watched you take a deep breath in, still wincing, but much less than before. Well, at least you weren’t dead. Injured they could fix.

 

Red had scooted his chair closer to yours, eye lights flicking across your body quickly, assessing the damage points.

 

“hey, sweetheart, we was gettin’ real worried here. bein’ late, no food, an’ now turnin’ up hurt so bad? wanna tell us what happened?”

 

You pursed your lips, frowning. He could tell you didn’t want to talk about it, but why? To avoid getting in trouble? Getting someone else in trouble?

 

Stepping forward, Sans laid a hand softly on your shoulder, voice gentle.

 

“he’s right. we were all real worried. throw us a bone here, huh?”

 

Ignoring the groans from a few of the house members, Sans focused solely on the small laugh you barked out. He could practically feel you deflate under his hand, stress rolling off of you in waves. Sighing, you leaned forward, resting your chin on your hand, elbow on the table.

 

“Not much to say, really. Me and, uh, hm, shoot, we still haven’t come up with a new nickname yet.”

 

Suddenly, you perked up, angrily looking around the room, sending scathing glares to most of the monsters present, including him! Your voice was shaking, you were so upset with them. “Speaking of nicknames, you guys are such dicks! Why would you call him a nickname like that?? Honestly, did any of you even think about how he would feel about it? I’m so disappointed in the lot of you!” 

 

You turned, gifting a bright smile to a much more relaxed looking Axe, his hand no longer in his socket. “Except you Axe, I’m going to assume you didn’t have anything to do with your own brothers’ unfortunate nickname. By the way, got any ideas for a good one? We can’t think of one. And are you good with your name? We can change it if you want. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable!”

 

Axe shrugged, smiling lightly. “i’m good with mine, don’t really care. but ya can change it if ya want. i’ll think about it, get back to ya both if i get any ideas. you know i take my time, it’s how eye -roll” he exaggerated with his one good brilliant red eye light sweeping a perfect circle as you giggled.

 

Sitting back straight, you grunted, rubbing at your back a bit.  “Anyway! Me and Paps over there just had a good talk, worked some stuff out. Things are good. And we’re gonna keep working on stuff. So, sorry for worrying you all, but it’s all sorted for now.”

 

No one seemed very happy with that response, casting suspicious glances towards the skeleton formerly known as Crooks, new name in progress. But, you were smiling, and waved to the behemoth in the doorway, who shyly waved back. Sans easily caught the matching bracelets catching the light, and just sighed, pinching his nasal ridge. All’s well that ended well and all that, he guessed.

 

With a lazy grin, he whipped out his phone. Time to lighten the mood.

 

“so, i’m still dyin’ of hunger over here.”

 

Papyrus looked over, already offended. “SANS, DON’T YOU DARE.”

 

“just wastin’ away, nothin’ but skin and bones.”

 

You chuckled, poking at his arm as his brother groaned in the background. “You don’t even have skin! Who you trying to kid!”

 

“i’m just tryin’ to say, who wants to just order some pizza tonight?”

 

Mutt grinned, a newly lit dog treat in his teeth. “sure, i could go for a pizza that.”

 

Black glared at him, infuriated. “DON’T YOU DARE START! I AM TOO TIRED FOR THIS!”

 

Red shoved his hands in his pockets, grinning. “yeah, we should get some. i’m sure the pizza place kneads the dough.”

 

Edge stopped pacing long enough to stomp his foot, yelling. “DO NOT! DO NOT DO THIS, I SWEAR TO ASGORE I WILL END YOU MYSELF!”

 

As Sans dialed the only pizza place left in town who would deliver to this place, he relaxed, watching you laugh at the antics of the others, pulling the cause of your earlier pain to your side to sit and join in everything. He couldn’t remember the last time everyone had been in the same room, waiting for a meal together.

 

Shaking his head, he stepped into the living room to talk where it was a bit quieter. You were a miracle, honestly. What else could you do if he gave you long enough here?

 

He was cautiously optimistic about the future for once. Sans would just have to wait and see.

Chapter Text

You took a deep breath, fingers crossed. Today was the day! You had made sure to schedule all three of the potential window installers on a single day, to limit the issues. You had, in fact, told all of the skeletons to stay in the basement or the shed outside under pain of no more food from you, which had made most of them cooperative. Dusty was still in the attic, but had rolled his eyes at you when you begged him to stay out of sight when the other humans came. Pretty sure that meant he would. 

 

With Papyrus out of the house at work, you just had to hope everyone behaved themselves. You had even spent the previous few days neatening things up down there and putting in things they could entertain themselves with. With all that, the guys could definitely behave themselves and hide from the other humans for a day, right?

 

RIGHT??

 

Your prayers were interrupted by the ringing of the doorbell. Sucking in a deep breath and scanning around the living room for any of the boys prone to trouble making, you nodded and made your way to the door. Opening it with a smile, you ushered the older gentleman in. His inspection was quick, and thorough, as you led him through the house to measure and make a layout of the house. In the attic, your neck tingled a bit, but there was no sign of your favorite serial killer, and you were able to get in and out quickly, leaving a bag of snacks behind to continue bribing Dusty to stay away.You think the window guy raised an eyebrow or two at the odd assortment of items in the obviously lived in rooms, but he was smart enough not to ask. 

 

A small mercy. He came and went quickly, saying he would be in touch in a week with the estimate for the windows and labor for install, as well as a timeline. You saw him off with a cheerful smile, shutting the door and letting a small amount of stress leave you. Easy peasy. One down, two to go. At least next week for the water heater and furnace installation the guys could hide in their own rooms, which would make things much nicer. 

 

Grumbling to yourself, you couldn’t help but repeat your new mantra of  “it would be even better and easier if they could just leave the damn house!” But, that was an ongoing discussion you kept poking at with Sans. Ever since you had spoken with him about it the first time, the thought of all these guys stuck in here, day in and day out, tore at you. You understood what it was like to be trapped somewhere without being able to leave, and now not only had they left one prison behind, they had gotten stuck in another. It didn’t sit right with you, so you were slowly trying to work with Sans on a way to get them out and about a bit more. 

 

You groaned, digging through the kitchen. One day at a time, Aster. One day at a time. Sans had certainly seemed to be warming up to the idea, at least. You just had to give it a bit more time and effort, you were certain of it. Maybe another week or two, and you could take some of the calmer skeletons out. Maybe Red, or Mutt. Humming, you picked out some drinks. You would have to think on it a bit more. Cradling the pile of snacks that you had pre-made to keep the peace, you slipped downstairs to give them their treats. This next guy should be by soon, then one in the afternoon. You were definitely going to make something special for dinner, with how good they’d all been doing so far.

 

Walking in to the basement, you neatly dodged a thrown game piece, that was accompanied by a resounding screaming match.

 

“YOU CHEATED! YOU ABSOLUTE CHILD! HOW DARE YOU LIE AND SAY YOU PAID ME WHEN YOU DID NOT! YOU THINK YOU CAN TRICK ME?”

 

Black was gesticulating wildly at Edge, who had an absurdly adorable cocky look on his face. Edge leisurely waved his stack of paper money at Black, clearly provoking the smaller skeleton further into a rage.

 

“HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT? IS IT MY FAULT YOU CAN’T PLAY SUCH A SIMPLE GAME? OR THAT I AM TRULY AN EXPERT OF MONOPOLIZING THINGS? WHY, I BARELY NOTICED GIVING YOU THAT MONEY, IT DIDN’T DENT MY EARNINGS IN THE SLIGHTEST! WHAT REASON WOULD I HAVE TO CHEAT??”

 

Looking over to where the piece had gone, you gulped a bit, paling. It seemed to be the top hat from a game of monopoly, and it  was now lodged in the drywall so deeply that it may have dug into the beam behind. Good thing you moved, you didn’t want to know what that would have done to your soft human body.

 

Frowning, you glared at the culprit. Black looked away, coughing and flushing a bright red, immediately settling back down.

 

“AH, YES, HELLO, ASTER. WE WERE NOT EXPECTING TO SEE YOU SO SOON! THAT, THAT WAS AN ACCIDENT.”

 

“An accident.”

 

“YES! VERY ACCIDENTAL! IT SLIPPED!”

 

Setting the snacks down near the group, you glowered at him, before pasting an overly bright smile on your face and speaking in the most sickly sweet tone possible.

 

“Well! We all make mistakes. What’s important is fixing those mistakes! So I look forward to your help repairing the drywall and checking the wall stud for structural integrity tomorrow!”

 

Wilting under your intensely cheerful demeanor and his own weird sense of honor that you were blatantly exploiting, Black poked at one of the little houses on the board, muttering darkly to himself. Your smile got wider and showed more teeth, ominous intent rolling off of you.

 

“What was that?”

 

“I SAID FINE! YES, I WILL HELP FIX IT TOMORROW! HAPPY??”

 

A much more natural smile slipped onto your face as you chuckled, gently handing a bowl of jello shaped like little gems to the newly named Jupiter (name courtesy of Axe, now called Mars since Jupiter had insisted their names should match), who accepted it with a bright smile and many compliments. Jupiter was in a good mood since you weren’t personally doing the work and could text him back more frequently when he was down here with the others. 

 

Quickly, you handed a package of chisps to Mars, who was watching you intensely until you plopped some food in his hands. He relaxed, leaning back against the wall with a mumbled thanks, red pupil half lidded in contentment as he opened the bag and started inhaling it.

 

“Yes, I am very happy! Really, with how much you guys damage the walls around here, it’s about time you learned how to fix these things yourselves! I have other things to be doing than constantly repairing holes in the walls and fixing the doors you slam too hard. It’s tiring. Couldn’t you hold back a little when inside? Please?”

 

Just as it looked like Edge was going to start riling Black up again with mocking words about how he damaged the house, you stared at him.

 

“That goes for you too, tall and spiky. No more of this inside, or you’re fixing it yourself, with my careful and exacting supervision. Got it?”

 

Edge flushed red as well, fiddling with the small metal car piece. Both of them sighed at the same time, speaking in tandem

 

“I SUPPOSE I COULD TRY”

 

The two glared at each other, clearly gearing up to fight again when you burst out laughing.

 

“Honestly! You two are so alike! If I didn’t know you both have brothers that I had met, I would think you two were related!”

 

They both pulled faces, Edge going so far as to stick out a weird glowing tongue in his disgust. You hadn’t seen that before and you blinked, startled. These guys, what couldn’t they do? Guess it made sense for them to have tongues. How else would they know how stuff tasted?

 

Black had stood to go dig his piece out of the wall, complaining the whole time, as it crossed over with Edge’s own complaints.

 

“AS MUCH AS MY IDIOT OF A BABY BONES BROTHER IS A PAIN-”

 

“EVEN WITH THE MANY, MANY ISSUES MY BROTHER HAS-”

 

“HE’S BETTER THAN THAT GUY!”

 

You struggled to smother a laugh as you walked over to the old weight bench that Mutt had taken over to lounge on as Edge and Black glowered and bickered at each other. You shook a small container at him, which finally convinced him to slowly open one socket.

 

“Hey, made something new, just for you. Barbecue Pecans, let me know what you think!”

 

His other eye opened and he sat up, snagging the container from you quickly, and started going to town on the flavored nuts. Waiting a minute, you couldn’t help but grin as he wolfed them down.

 

“Good, then?”

 

Stopping, he finally looked at you, then shrugged.

 

“needs more barbecue sauce”

 

These guys, honestly, if you hadn’t seen him literally drinking from a bottle of barbecue sauce, you would think he was messing with you.

 

“All right, all right. I’ll try to add more next time. But then they don’t get that nice coating on them when I cook them.”

 

He shrugged again, continuing to eat.

 

“don’t care. would still taste good.”

 

You poked at the side of his skull, and he good naturedly let his head move back and forth as you pushed while he continued munching.

 

“I can’t tell if you’re the pickiest eater, or the least picky eater. At least Red and the others don’t complain if there isn’t enough of their favorite flavor on the things I make.”

 

Tilting the tupperware back, he shook it, getting even the last bits of dust, before handing it back to you with a final shrug. Shaking your head, you took it as he collapsed back down on the weight bench, content to go back to sleep. And you thought Mars and Jupiter were the gluttons here. Mutt put them all to shame with how fast he put those away!

 

Checking the time, you hurried back up the stairs. You still had to deliver snacks to the guys outside! Waving goodbye to the basement crew, you promised them they could come out for a good lunch and that special dinner later if they kept behaving. It was such a relief that most of these guys were so food motivated. Or at least motivated by YOUR food. Thanks Grandma!

 

Rushing to the kitchen, you grabbed a few more containers and ran them outside, leaving them at the door of the shed, knocking loudly to let them know the food was there. You left before any of them came to the door, since you knew they really didn’t want you anywhere near whatever was in there, and they were very focused. Fine by you! You had other things to worry about.

 

The next contractor went just as smoothly. He was a bit younger, far more into small talk which you obliged, constantly going on about his wife and three kids. Honestly it was adorable and put you in a good mood. He told you about the same as the first. Really, it was a matter of who would offer the best price. All three of the places you had called to set up estimates for had good reputations, and you had double checked into all of them. None of them had a history of monster discrimination either, which was a bonus.

 

Lunch was a rushed affair, getting everyone inside, serving up some quick sandwiches with sides like potato and macaroni salad (which was an exceptionally big hit with some of the skeletons). There were no complaints, other than everyone only having about an hour to get together, plate, eat, clean, and get back to their hiding spots. But, with the right motivation (AKA promises of a nice dessert to go with the nice dinner), they complied. It wouldn’t be for much longer anyway, and they would have most of the afternoon to roam around as they liked!

 

Unfortunately, your luck had always been a wild blend of fantastically good, and truly awful. This home stretch of an afternoon was one you would look back on and sigh about for years. On the flip side, this was a day that all the monsters of the house decided was one of the few days they were all in agreement on how to handle things.

 

It had started peacefully enough. Just as you finished cleaning up from lunch and had shooed Jupiter down the stairs with one final hug, the doorbell rang. Taking a deep breath, you calmed down from the lunch rush and moved to the door. Everything was good, it was fine. Just this one last hour and you were home free!

 

Opening the door, you smiled and welcomed in the final potential installer. He was by far the youngest of the three, which seemed odd since the photo on the website had shown another older guy. Quirking your head as you shook his hand, one of your eyebrows raised.

 

“So, you’re Josh White?”

 

The brunette smiled at you charmingly. 

 

“Joshua White Junior, to be exact. My dad couldn’t make it today, got a cold. Though, I can’t say I’m disappointed he called me in on my day off now.”

 

He could only be around your age, give or take a few years, and clearly built big and strong. With blue eyes and a good smile, you would put money on him being popular with the ladies. Was probably on the football team given his shoulder width. Overall, not a bad bit of eye candy. Too bad you were ABSOLUTELY NOT getting involved with anyone. Probably ever again. You seemed to have bad taste in guys anyway, given your past.

 

Your smile was smaller and cool, trying to stay professional.

 

“Well, I hope he feels better soon. Now, where would you like to start with the measurements? I’m sure you want to get this wrapped up so you can get on with your day.”

 

Finally he stepped in, letting you shut the door behind him as he surveyed the living room.

 

“Nice place here. You live here alone? It’s a lot of space for one lady!”

 

Red flags were waving boldly in your mind as you kept your manner as mild as possible. Just wait it out. He would leave eventually. Just tough it out for now.

 

“It is a lovely house. Really gonna shine when it’s fixed up. And I have several roommates, they just leave me in charge of housing projects since they don’t want to deal with it. Now, the window measurements?”

 

He nodded, setting his laptop bag down in the living room and taking out a laser measure before meandering to the kitchen, with you silently following and responding to Jupiter on the phone.

 

As he measured, he kept peppering you with questions, raising your irritation.

 

“How old are you?”

 

“What kind of stuff are you into?”

 

“Is that your natural hair color?”

 

With each invasive question, your patience wore down just a bit more. He was already taking far longer than the other two had, and still had that STUPID smile on his face. Did he think this was charming? Trying to flirt with a woman who he thought was home alone? He was on a job, damn it! Where was his professionalism? He was representing his father’s company even!

 

When you were FINALLY done with the first floor, it had already been 45 minutes. You were about ready to tear your hair out, and you knew that the guys were getting antsy. Jupiter said as much, and you had been required to make up several bad excuses about the pipes when there was too much noise from the basement. Sighing, you took a cleansing breath, breathing in and out to a count of ten. It’s fine. Just a bit more. And the windows on the second floor weren’t nearly as large or had nearly as many as on the first floor, so hopefully things would go faster now.

 

The questions continued, though you had kept your answers now to single or double word responses. He would have to get the hint with this, right? When you opened the door to your room to let him measure the one large window, the last room before finishing in the attic, he whistled.

 

“Damn, honey, this your room? You got almost nothing in here! How about you let me take you shopping sometime? I can get you real good deals on furniture, some art or whatever. I know a few guys at some of the shops in town.”

 

Resisting the urge to rub at your temples, you ground your teeth. Yes, you hadn’t had the time to make your room very homey yet, so what? You had been busy! Besides, what if you were kicked out? It could happen at any time. Who knew when the guys would get tired of you, or you brought problems to their door and they would want you gone? All your texts to Amber apologizing had gone unanswered, so you wouldn’t be surprised when it happened again with the skeletons.

 

“I’m good, thanks.”

 

He stepped closer, into your space, making you back up towards the open door behind you.

 

“Come on, don’t be like that! I’m just wanting to be friendly, you know? I think we could really get to know each other, see where things go…”

 

His hand was reaching out to snag one of yours and you pulled away just in time, turning out into the hallway.

 

“No thank you! I really have other things I need to get done, so if you aren’t going to finish up, then please leave! I’ll be happy to consider other options instead of your father’s company!”

 

You thought you heard him mumble something under his breath, but you heard his footsteps behind you anyway as you opened the door into the attic and moved up the stairs. Creaking open the door at the top of the stairs, you moved into the center of the room, trying to keep space between you and this jerk.

 

He finally seemed to be leaving you alone, and you quickly texted Jupiter back again, complaining about how unprofessional this guy was. You kept it vague though, not wanting a horde of angry monsters to appear upstairs and ruin all your planning. This was minor. He’d be gone soon and you would NOT be using the company he worked with. In fact, you would be filing a complaint. How many women had he done this too, who hadn’t had an army of magic wielding maniacs at their back? Best not to think about it, really.

 

He grumbled, saying he had finished up and then needed to go over some things on the laptop with you downstairs in order to start the estimate. You nodded, sharply, and gestured for him to go down first. You didn’t want him alone in the attic. There was just this feeling that wouldn’t be a great idea.

 

In the living room, you spoke about the type of window, the company they ordered from, how quickly you wanted the install done, and so one, while he typed away, shooting you glances that you DEFINITELY saw and didn’t like. You sighed, rolling your shoulders. Soon. So soon. Instead of thinking about this annoying guy, you thought about what he had said earlier. 

 

It’s true, your room was pretty bare. But, you’d already been here for over a month, right? And things only seemed to be getting better. Maybe you should think about making the space more your own, beyond just the few gifts and knick knacks the guys had given you. Frowning, you idly chewed on a fingernail. If only you could get your things from your dad’s place… But, he had been... unwelcoming... the last time you had been there. Should you try again? He’d had some more time to cool off. At the very least you wanted your tools and Grandma’s cookbook.

 

“So, you sure you’ve made up your mind not to go out with me sometime? I can be a lot of fun, I promise.”

 

You twitched, the last few threads of your patience threatening to snap as you were pulled from your thoughts by this garbage AGAIN.

 

“I believe I was very clear about it. Please drop the subject. It isn’t happening.”

 

As he leaned in towards you from the couch, you scooted your chair away. About ready to just let Dusty or Mars go to town on this guy, your mouth snapped shut and eyes widened as things in the room started… floating? Squinting, your lips quirked up as you saw the shine of different colors of magic on the lamps, blankets, and other odds and ends.

 

Josh hadn’t noticed yet, still trying to get to you, when suddenly the laptop in front of him soared quickly up to the ceiling.

 

Snapping his attention back, you watched and tried not to laugh at the pale look on his face.

 

“What, what the he-”

 

He suddenly shrieked as the whole couch, blended with bright colors of magic, lifted off the floor with him still on it! You couldn’t contain a laugh this time as he held onto the couch as if his life depended on it (which it might, couldn’t tell who was lifting what) while it hovered close to the ceiling line at least ten feet in the air.

 

“GET ME DOWN! GET ME DOWN NOW!”

 

Your own chair hovered just about a foot off the ground, bobbing lightly back and forth, setting your feet swinging idly. Looking around, you saw a few shining eye lights peeking around the now slightly cracked basement door, and a few bushes outside the windows rustled as you caught a glimpse of a few skulls ducking down. Honestly, you couldn’t even be mad at them at this point. It was too funny!

 

You shrugged at Josh, then gave the most frightening smile you could muster, deciding to go full drama on this.

 

“I told you I had roommates. See? They’re all coming back now. And it seems they don’t like you.”

 

He paled, whipping his head around frantically as the couch dropped back down suddenly, stopping three feet from the floor as the basement door slowly creaked its way open in full horror movie fashion, several sets of glittering eye lights shining in a suspiciously dark basement.

 

With a scream, he jumped the last few feet off the couch, stumbling away, leaving behind his laptop and running out the front door. The items in the room started gently dropping, and you thought you heard another scream of fear from Josh outside, then the gunning of an engine as he drove off.

 

Finally, your chair settled down into place and Jupiter poked his head out of the basement.

 

“FRIEND ASTER! WE HAVE AMENDED THE RUDE PERSON PROBLEM! CAN WE COME OUT NOW? AS MUCH AS I HAVE ENJOYED BONDING WITH MY BRETHREN, I AM QUITE BORED! THIS TOOK MUCH LONGER THAN EXPECTED!”

 

You just started laughing, curling up in the seat and holding your stomach.

 

“You guys! Haha! You’re too much! Did, did you see his face?! Hahaha! Was, was this Mutt’s idea?”

 

Casually sauntering out of the basement, Mutt nodded his head to you with a small, impish grin.

 

“i may have made some suggestions, but it was cro- uh, jupiter who let us know what was going on upstairs.”

 

Wiping away the tears of laughter, you stood up, shaking your head and closing the laptop. You would have to get it back to poor Josh somehow. You doubted he would be back to get it! Bet he regretted messing with you now!

 

You turned, smiling as you spotted Sans and Red giving small waves through the window, before disappearing. Slanting your gaze towards Mutt, you grinned wider.

 

“And how did you get those two in on it?”

 

Mutt shrugged, turning away with a cough.

 

“just made some calls, you know. we all like a good joke.”

 

“BESIDES!” Edge interjected at a higher volume than usual. “IT IS THE SEASON FOR SUCH HAUNTINGS, IS IT NOT? YES? IT IS SPOOKY SEASON FOR THE HUMANS?”

 

Desperately trying not to squeal at how oddly cute his manner of speaking was, you nodded.

 

“You’re right! It’s October! We should do something to celebrate Halloween!”

 

Immediately, the room was filled with options on what they wanted to do, and you decided to leave them to it. You could catch up with plans over dinner anyway. Pulling out ingredients, you felt a calm warmth in your chest.

 

Maybe someday, when you told the truth, you would finally feel like you fully belonged here. Then you would decorate your room. But for now, this was enough.