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Three Skeletons Walk Into a Bar

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Red found comfort in many things: The lack of RESETs, his brother(who was, without a doubt, the coolest fucking monster alive, fuck you very much), his ratty leather jacket he still wore, even after wearing it for more than a couple of years Underground, his beloved mustard(stars, humans could make good mustard, holy shit), amongst a slew of other things.

However, there were some things he could never find comfort in as well: The shock he still got if his brother's beloved red scarf was laying around somewhere and not attached to his body, the feeling of dust on the tips of his claws(it usually wasn't even fucking monster dust, just the dust that accumulated in his room if he hadn't bothered to clean it in a long fucking while), the nightmares that still haunted him even after spending at least five years on the Surface, amongst other things that he couldn't be bothered to list.

Well... He could list one other thing that he never found comfort in.

Humans. Not just any humans, of course. Some humans he'd met since coming to the Surface had actually been pretty cool. Better than a bored kid with a homicidal streak, anyway. No, those humans were fine. It was the money-grabbing snobs he couldn't stand; the anti-monster protesters; the humans that scoffed and leered and mocked him like he was nothing more than a fucking bug they'd love to stomp on. Those humans always succeeded in making his marrow boil, his eyelights turning a sharp fiery red as he fought to keep from snarling in their faces. 

Which brought him to where he was now: in a hole-in-the-wall bar, nursing a glass of shitty liquor(seriously, it tasted like fucking razorblades, what the shit?), glaring from his booth in a dark corner with a deep frown on his face. And what was he glaring at? Whoop-de-doo, a fucking human. Who would've thought?

Red hadn't been here for fifteen fucking minutes yet and already the asshole(who looked drunk off his ass and also seemed to have the support of his two friends, how fucking dandy) had fired through continuous insults against his race like it was nothing, and no one was batting a fucking eye. Hell, for all Red was worth, he suspected that the other humans didn't want him around as much as the asshole and his friends, if the less-than-discreet glares were anything to go by.

"Why the fuck do we even tolerate these things, man? We should just... Just fuckin' send em back under Ebott or some shit, y'know?" The drunk asshole laughed with his asshole friends, knocking back a shot of possibly equally disgusting human liquor. "I bet they're like... Waiting to start another war or some shit with us, man. Just you--just you wait!" Another bout of drunken laughter ensued, and Red's teeth clicked together in agitation, the LOVE in his SOUL begging him to teach these assholes a lesson they'll never forget.

Instead, Red knocked back his own glass, his claws digging into the peeling leather of the booth under the table, no doubt leaving punctures in the seat.He turned away from the humans, instead settling his gaze on the empty glass, feeling his magic trying to absorb the burning human alcohol. Still tasted like rusted razorblades, but it still got him a bit tipsy, so he supposed he shouldn't complain.

His eyelights turned a bit less sharp once he tuned out what he dubbed the Asshole Table, figuring that if they weren't kicked out for the anti-monster tirade, they'd be kicked out for the growing volume and increasingly animated movements that Red noted with no small amount of satisfaction were beginning to irritate the nearby humans. He grinned, gold tooth flashing in the dim light.

He pushed the empty glass away from him, decidedly done with human alcohol, and dug through his jacket(thank fuck this thing had pockets on the inside), fishing out a bottle of mustard he'd managed to bribe off of Grillby--his Grillby, not any of the other Grillby's--, popped open the top, and started sipping on it, much to the disgust of nearby humans(he grinned at the Asshole Table's outbursts, eyelights flickering with gritty satisfaction).

He put the bottle down to wipe at his teeth as the bell at the front of the bar rang, signifying the entrance of another customer. His eyelights flicked upwards(a habit he'd learned was essential in the Underground that he was from, and he damn sure wasn't stopping it anytime soon, fuck you very much) before grabbing at his mustard bottle to chug some more before freezing, doing a double take.

"the shit?" he muttered, slowly placing the bottle of mustard down onto the table as he took in the newcomers appearance. It was a skeleton monster that looked suspiciously similar to Red, only with softer features, purple eyelights instead of red, and with a very promiscuous fashion sense, if his exposed ribs, spine, along with a suggestive peek of his pelvis were anything to go by. He didn't think an alternate version of himself would have no fucking decency! 

Red huffed, irritated at the fact that he'd be so close to an alternate version of himself. Sure, he was interested in the fact that there were alternate versions of him in the first place, even more interested in the fact that said alternates proved the multiverse theory, but now, faced with an actual fucking alternate version of himself? He didn't know what to think. Or do, for that matter. 

He sighed, rubbing his sockets with clawed hands before taking a swig out of his mustard bottle, daring to glance at the skeleton again, before choking on the damned condiment once he saw that his alternate was starting to make his way over in Red's direction. 

He tensed, instinct already kicking in as the skeleton approached, hazy eyelights and an infuriatingly relaxed smirk on his face as he sauntered over, hands casually placed in the pockets of his vest, fluffy blue fur giving him the appearance of someone who spent their time in nightclubs and strip clubs, not some tiny bar packed with only humans and no monsters--besides Red, anyway.

He stubbornly kept his eyes on his alternate's face, instead of the black crop top that barely covered his fucking ribs, holy shit, this fucker really did have no shame, and glanced over to the Asshole Table, whose occupants were still fucking going, stars be damned. His alternate followed his gaze before stopping at his booth, his smirk turning sharper.

He turned his gaze back to Red, who watched him warily as he stuck out a hand with a wink.

"hey, can i sit here? i don't wanna rattle your bones, but this place is pretty fucking packed." Red blinked, then shrugged tensely as he cautiously shook the hand offered to him, not quite trusting him. 

"no skin off my nose, pal," he said, tucking his chin into the yellowed fur lining his hood as he watched him sit down. Red took note how his alternate's bones didn't appear to have any scars, and thought he might be from a softer universe than his own. Well... Maybe not softer if his clothes were anything to go by, but it definitely wasn't a "Kill or Be Killed" place. Red felt his SOUL let out a pang of envy before he squashed it down with a huff.

"how drunk do you think they are?" Red glanced over to where his alternate was looking, then growled deep in his throat, sipping on his mustard.

"assholes are drunk off their fuckin' asses," he muttered, shrugging as purple eyelights turned curiously toward him. "been like that since i came in here, actually. haven't stopped since i sat the fuck down."

His alternate hummed in response, then smirked, gesturing towards Red to get his attention. 

"y'know, i think i might've forgotten my name," he started. His smirk became wider--on the verge of becoming a shit-eating grin--and he leaned forward, supporting himself on his elbow. "mind if i have yours?"

Red stilled for a second, then grinned, quirking his brow. "alright, that's an interestin' ice-breaker. name's Red, how 'bout you?"

"Lust," the skele--Lust-- replied, smiling. "so, what are you doing in here?" he gestured to the empty glass in the middle of the table. "last i checked, human alcohol didn't have a lot of magical properties that monsters could absorb."

Red's grin turned a bit sour as he shrugged, grimacing. "wanted to test it out n' shit," he said, pointing accusingly at the glass with a clawed phalange. "don't buy that shit. tastes like fuckin'... razorblades goin' down yer throat or some shit. not worth yer money."

"that bad? almost makes me wanna try it myself," Lust replied, raising a brow.

"fuck it, knock yerself out; just know i ain't gonna be the one to drive yer sorry ass home if ya get stupid and chug the shit," Red challenged with a laugh, his grin becoming more genuine. "seriously, though, don't fuckin' drink that shit. Grillby's is way fuckin' better. mine is, anyway."

"bet'cha mine is better," Lust challenged, smirking widely at Red's scoff.

"yeah? how so?"

"my Grillby is a strip club," Lust replied, winking as Red's sockets widened.

"i call bullshit," he laughed in disbelief. "no fuckin' way are ya tellin' the truth."

"it's true," Lust nodded, laughing along with Red. "sometimes i even perform." another wink was sent to Red, who froze in shock. Lust had to keep himself from laughing at his expression.

"that's, uh, definitely fuckin' interestin', sweetheart," Red stammered, a faint red(heh) flush coming onto his cheeks as he cleared his nonexistent throat. "uh, is that all ya do, or is it sorta like a hobby or some shit?"

Lust hummed, tapping his chin as he thought for a moment. "nah, just a side thing. i work at an animal hospital, actually," he looked up at Red with a smile that looked a bit sheepish before he shrugged. "apparently i'm pretty fucking good with animals. who'd've thought?"

Red nodded, his own grin giving way to a smile as Lust spoke. 

"yeah, i ain't so bad with animals myself, but i don't work with em. i'm a security guard over at a mall. not the best, but it pays the bills at least," he shrugged. "been lookin' into other jobs lately, but 'm not really sure what the hell kinda job i'd like, y'know?" he took a sip of mustard. "eh, whatever, 'm sure i'll find somethin'."

Lust smiled supportively. "yeah, can't be too hard to find a job around here," he agreed.

The scraping of metal chairs against the floor of the bar caught their attention, and both Red and Lust watched with satisfaction as the Asshole Table occupants began to stumble their way towards the door, laughing and jeering all the way. 

"I'd take advantage of-of being on the Surface if I were you, man," the main Asshole laughed as he leaned heavily on his friend. Lust wrinkled his nose--well, he would if he had one--as the stench of alcohol wafted through the air. "We might drive ya back under... underground, hah. Gonna laugh my fucking ass off if that happens!"

Lust sighed disappointedly, shaking his head as the humans began to exit. He turned back to Red, a shit-eating grin on his face with the intent to make him forget about the less-than-favorable humans. 

"knock knock."

Red raised a brow quizzically, tilting his head as he grinned. "who's there?" he asked.

"dishes."

Red scoffed. "really? everyone knows this one, sweetheart. everyone."

"finish the joke, asshole," Lust laughed, leaning back and pouting(even if he had to fight to keep that shit-eating grin off his face, which he knows he was failing miserably at, fuck off, he was having a good time). "please, Red?"

Red chuckled, his own grin becoming teasing. "gonna have ta beg, sweetheart," he replied, winking.

"kinky."

"fuck off!"

Lust hummed, then shook his head in reply, grin becoming smug. "i think i'd much rather fuck you instead."

Red laughed loudly at that, making Lust's grin turn proud as Red laughed until he had to wipe away tears from his sockets.

"holy fuckin' shit, that caught me off guard. you're good at this shit, y'know, real fuckin good."

Red leaned back, trying to catch his breath after that bout of laughter, little chuckles escaping him as Lust watched patiently, waiting for him to calm down. Finally, when Red was silent, Lust decided to have another go at knock-knock jokes. Well--any jokes, really. Especially bad ones. Those were the fucking best, besides dirty jokes. And puns. Speaking of puns... 

"hey, asshole, if i try to say a knock-knock joke, are ya gonna finish it, or are ya gonna leave me--" his eyelights flickered. "--bone dry?"

Red grinned, preparing to shoot Lust a clever(or crude, it depended) retort as he took a swig of mustard--

"ah, fuck," Red growled as nothing came out of the damned container, resulting in the clever retort dying on his nonexistent tongue and a glower to replace his grin. "this is my last fuckin' bottle, too. shit."

"empty?" Lust inquired with a raised brow and a lopsided smile that betrayed all amusement he was feeling. Red glared at him(even though they both knew it didn't have any real bite to it). A giggle escaped Lust.

"don't laugh at me, Lust, i'm fuckin' sufferin', my mustard's all dried up n' shit. my SOUL is sufferin', sweetheart, the lack o' mustard is dustin' me as we fuckin' speak," Red groaned, stuffing the empty bottle back into his jacket as he let his skull fall onto the wooden table with a hollow thunk, much to the amusement of Lust, who was fighting to keep his giggling under control.

"oh, yes, what a horrible tragedy that has befallen us; whatever shall you do?" Lust replied drily, rolling his eyelights with no shortage of amusement.

"guess i better mustard up the courage ta try and get some more offa my Grillby," Red said, raising his skull off of the table that was suspiciously sticky, what the fuck?, rubbing at his cheek with his claws to hopefully scrape off whatever the fuck was on the table, wrinkling his nasal ridge.

"thing is, though, is i'm pretty fuckin' sure that i might'a wiped out all o' his mustard, so..." he paused for a moment, then shrugged, sighing heavily with a wry smile. "guess human mustard is on the list, now. just wish it had at least somethin' monsters could absorb n' shit, y'know?"

Lust hummed in response, turning his head to the side to let his eyelights roam through the crowd, content to simply be in Red's presence for now. Both skeletons allowed the din of the bar to fill in the silence for a moment, with Lust watching the crowd(that appeared just the slightest bit more open now that the Asshole Table occupants were gone, how interesting) and Red watching Lust, feeling much more at ease with his alternate than he had been at the beginning of their interaction.

"hey, Red," Lust suddenly looked back at Red, a small smile on his face. "i might be barking up the wrong tree here, but i'd definitely like to hang out somewhere that isn't a shitty bar. think i can have your number?"

Red nodded(to the enthusiasm of Lust) and pulled out his phone, sliding it towards Lust after he unlocked it.

"jus' give it back when yer done, sweetheart," Red said, watching curiously as Lust tapped away on the device. "n' try not to look through my shit, yeah?"

"now you're just tempting me," Lust replied, shooting Red a wink and laughing as he rolled his eyelights in response. He slid the phone back towards Red, who caught it before it could fall in his lap, and laughed openly at the contact name.

"'Asshole's Sweetheart'?" Red questioned, quirking a brow at Lust. "creative."

"obviously," Lust scoffed, crossing his arms with a sharp smirk. "obvious enough to where you know who it is, low-effort enough to where i didn't need to use any brain cells to think that hard about it. a real winner if ya ask me."

"who the fuck said we had any brain cells in the first place?" Red grinned, tilting his head. "thought skeletons didn't need no fuckin' brain n' shit."

"Red. asshole. we're magic skeletons. fuck having a brain!" Lust flipped Red the bird, and both skeletons dissolved into loud laughter.

"y'know what? fuck yeah! fuck havin' a brain when we got bone attacks n' shit." Red laughed along with Lust, who was doubled over in laughter with a fist pressed to his teeth.

"yeah," he agreed, taking a deep breath before looking back up at Red, breathless chuckles escaping him. "you could say that anyone who crosses us is gonna get boned."

"Lust. sweetheart. that was fuckin' awful."

"you're laughing."

Red nodded, shaking his head and letting another bout of breathless chuckles escape him as he grinned at Lust. "laughin' at yer stupidity, not the fuckin' joke itself, sweetheart."

It was Lust's turn for theatrics at that.

He placed his hand on his ribs--where he thought the human heart might be--and with a mock-wounded expression on his face, began his tirade.

"i'm wounded, Red, truly. your cruelty is dusting me as we speak, my SOUL crumbling into pieces as i sit here and take your abuse," he let his skull fall onto the table with a groan, peering up at Red while he fought a grin. "tell my bro i love him for me, asshole."

Red grinned at the show Lust was putting on, then shook his head, placing his cheek in his hand while he supported the arm with his elbow. 

"nah, i'm good, sweetheart."

Lust sighed, rolling his eyes as he got up from the table, leaning back in his seat with arms crossed. "asshole."

"sweetheart," Red countered, his grin widening at Lust's scoff.

"i won't be your sweetheart for much longer if you won't carry out my dying wish."

Red looked him up and down for a moment. "ya don't look like yer dyin'."

"oh, i am. it's just too much effort to actually dust. i'm way too fucking lazy for that."

"i'll drink to that," Red laughed, then paused, scratching his skull with a claw. "well, i would if i had anythin' ta drink in the first place."

"there's human alcohol--"

"no fuckin' way am i tryin' that shit again," Red said, cutting off Lust and pushing the empty glass in front of him from the middle of the table to the side closest to the wall with a look of disgust on his face. Lust laughed.

"alright, alright, whatever you say," he relented, putting his hands in the air in a placating gesture. "still makes me wanna try it, if i gotta be honest."

Red winced. "i wouldn't if i were you, sweetheart."

"but you're not me," Lust laughed. "but nah, I'm too lazy to get it."

"that's yer savin' grace, i'm tellin' ya."

"maybe."

"definitely."

They both laughed then, dissolving into hysterical chuckles(or giggles, in Lust's case) before they both calmed down, each letting out a long sigh.

"well, i'd certainly like to stay around longer," Lust began, starting to get out of the booth while Red raised a brow quizzically, "but it's getting late and i need to get back home to my bro. text me when you wanna hang out, yeah?"

Red grinned, ignoring the disappointment that he wasn't going to be able to talk anymore with Lust tonight, and nodded, also getting out of the booth(but not before fishing some G out of his pocket and dumping it in the empty glass as payment).

"yeah, i should prolly go home too," he agreed, sticking out his hand for Lust to shake. "I'll send ya shitty memes n' shit, yeah?"

"fuck yeah, asshole. shitty memes are the best." Lust replied, shaking Red's hand with a wide grin, excited at the prospect of being able to hang out with someone(even if it was, technically, himself) aside from work.

Red grinned as they both exited the bar, saying their last goodbyes for the night before they went their separate ways--Red going right, Lust going left-- before Red quickly ducked into the alley beside the bar, stepping behind a dumpster as he used a shortcut, wondering when he'd be able to hang out with Lust again as he fell into the void.


 

A flash of black, then blinding white, and Red was in his apartment he shared with his brother, taking a moment to get his eyelights used to the surrounding darkness. He took a moment to listen--it usually wasn't dark when he came home, was Boss asleep? How fucking long had he been at that bar?--before deciding that, no, there was no present danger he needed to protect his little brother from, everything was fine, his brother was safe... Was he?

"... can't help to make sure," Red muttered, sliding off his sneakers and kicking them wherever the fuck as he made his way to the short hallway that led to their rooms.

Even in the darkness Red could make out the police tape Boss had decided to staple onto his door, and laughed softly at the warning sign nailed into the wood. He'd just take a peek, make sure everything was well, then go the fuck to sleep. He had work in the morning, after all. 

He used his claws to pick the lock, wincing at the loud click! that resounded in the room, thanking the stars above that Boss' door didn't creak as he opened it.

Inside, everything was near and tidy, and Red's eyelights flickered to every shadow to make sure nothing was out of place, letting out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. see, dumbass? everything's fine, your bro's fine, there's no homicidal kid comin' for 'im. he's fine.

Red leaned against the door frame as his eyelights flickered over to the shape on the black-and-red racecar bed(Red remembered it had been a bitch to move it from the Underground to here, even with magic), smiling softly at the soft snoring coming from under it. Boss was safe--Red just needed to check on him, that's all-- and now Red needed to go the fuck to sleep.

He quietly closed the door, his left socket flaring with red and gold for a moment as he locked the door again, shrugging off his jacket and shortcutting to his bed. What, you thought he was gonna bother to open the door and walk in? Nah, fuck that.

Red's body bounced a bit before it settled on the lumpy mattress, throwing his jacket to the floor(but being careful not to disturb the trash tornado in the corner) and letting his head fall back onto the tattered pillow with a sigh.

He didn't bother unbunching the blankets from the ball he kept them in at the foot of the bed--that required effort, and he had a reputation of being lazy to uphold--instead settling to slowly doze off.

The last thing he thought about was how nice the color of Lust's eyelights were, and he grinned once he remembered he had his number.

And then the nightmares started, like every other night, until he woke up every hour drenched in sweat and praying to the stars that he'd open his eyes and he'd still be on the Surface. 

Chapter Text

Red was running. 

Where?

don't know, don't fuckin' care. just gotta... gotta do somethin'. find someone? who, though?

Papyrus. 

what happened to paps...?

The kid. 

the kid? but... but they promised...

They lied. 

Cold fury mixed with fear as Red's old sneakers pounded against the snow. 

why did it feel grainy...? oh, stars, no, dammit! 

Grey clouds of dust—monster dust—flew up into the cold air with each step as Red ran, fear and panic making his SOUL pound with the feeling of dread. 

why was it so fuckin' cold? it's summer on the Surface–

You're in the Underground again. 

no, no, i'm not, 'm with paps, the kid promised not to RESET, they fuckin' promised

Paps is gonna die because of you. 

no, i'll protect him, i swear, i can protect him, just need to reach him before the lil shit.

Monster dust gave way to crimson tiles, and Red was frozen as the Judgement Hall materialized around him. Any second now and he'd have to fight the kid. Any moment now, and the kid would walk in, and he'd have to kill them again and again and again before the bite of their knife would cut deep into his bones, marrow leaking in copious amounts from the wound that went from his right collarbone to his left lower ribs as he crumbled like ashes and the kid would fucking do it again and again just like last time and he'd die again and again and again before he'd be able to knock some fucking sense into the little shit's head—

"SANS!"

The Judgement Hall wavered for a moment as his brother's voice cut through the empty air. 

"paps...?"

"SANS, WAKE THE FUCK UP ALREADY."

This was different. Boss wasn't ever in the Judgement Hall before. Why was he here now? "Wake up"? But he was already awake... He was waiting for... For the kid... 

"SANS, I SWEAR ON EVERY STAR IN THE SKY THAT IF YOU DON'T WAKE UP RIGHT THIS SECOND—" 

Red launched himself out of his bed on reflex, almost headbutting his brother(who looked even more disgruntled than usual, if his furrowed brows were anything to go by) before he twisted himself out of the way at the last second, slamming into the nightstand pushed beside his bed with a loud bang! 

It took him a moment to calm down his magic; the scent of fire and evergreens filled the room, the magic running along his bones fizzing and sparking as a warning before it settled back into its usual flow. He didn't feel like he was enough danger that his SOUL started to sing, which was good for the most part, since he'd probably accidentally pull Edge into a CONFRONTATION(like a fucking dumbass, the last time that happened he couldn't look his brother in the eyesocket for nearly a week afterwards). 

"heya, boss," Red started once he calmed himself down, leaning against the nightstand and giving his brother a shaky grin(who did not looked impressed with his brother's display in the slightest, fuck, was he screaming in his sleep again?). "sorry if i worried ya. i've only got myshelf ta blame, heh."

"THAT IS NOT EVEN A SHELF, THAT IS A NIGHTSTAND." Edge sighed, pinching his nasal ridge with bony fingers. He looked like he was already dressed for work(with his scarf)—which was as a security guard at the same mall Red worked in("I NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE DOING YOUR JOB ON THE SURFACE AS WELL, BROTHER!")—which made Red's mind go a thousand miles per second as he realized that holy fuck he forgot to set his alarm after he got home from that shitty human bar with Lust last night oh fuck he was late wasn't he—

"I WOKE UP FIFTEEN MINUTES BEFORE MY OWN ALARM WENT OFF BECAUSE YOU WOKE ME UP WITH YOUR SCREAMING!" Ah, shit, so he had been screaming in his sleep. Again. At least he hadn't made Edge late for work. Still, Red ducked his head as Edge's scowl deepened with a sigh, rubbing the back of his skull sheepishly(he could feel the leftover magic residue that manifested in a sort of sweat-like substance make his skull feel clammy and sticky, fuckin' nasty). "I DO HOPE YOU WERE SCREAMING ABOUT THE STATE OF YOUR ROOM, RED." Edge crossed his arms with a scoff as his piercing sockets surveyed the pigsty that was Red's room with thinly-veiled disgust.

"sure was, boss," Red responded with a shit-eating grin as he folded his hands behind his back to hide how they were still shaking, what the fuck, he was safe dammit!, "screamin' with excitement since i realized i could put another trash tornado in here."

Edge clicked his teeth together as he visibly recoiled, a shudder making his bones rattle. Red fought the urge to laugh—it always was fun to mess with his little brother—and instead fumbled around to grab his jacket from the floor with a little BLUE magic.

"y'might wanna shut off that alarm, boss," Red reminded his brother, who immediately brought his phone out from his front pocket to do just that. "i'll take a quick shower and get ready—" Edge eyed his jacket with a frown. "—and i'll be down for breakfast. promise." A wink, a snap of his fingers, and Red was gone in a poof of crimson smoke laced with gold.

Edge sighed, a gravelly sound that came from deep within his chest before he yelled "YOU FORGOT A TOWEL, LAZYBONES!" and quickly got the fuck out of the somehow organized chaos that was his brother's room, scoffing as he passed the trash tornado in the corner nearest to the door.

 

After Red had finished washing off the magical residue that clung to his bones, he quickly shortcut to his room wearing only his jacket(fuck off, Edge knew he was more than likely bare-bone naked and knew better than to bust into his room without knocking, fuck you very much) mostly for his comfort; made him feel secure and safe, like he could hide away from anything that tried to fuck with him, as fucking stupid as that sounded.

He took a moment to revel in the familiar weight of his jacket before he shrugged it off, laying it reluctantly on his bed. It took him a good couple of minutes to find his uniform amongst the pile of relatively clean clothes at the foot of his bed, putting it on quickly and pocketing his phone(which he found a new text notification from Lust that showed to be a fucking hilarious meme, to which Red couldn't help but laugh at) before shortcutting to the dining room.

"what'cha makin' today, paps?" Red inquired as soon as he was in his chair, leaning back and placing his socked feet on the table(purely to annoy his brother, of course, because his reactions were fucking hilarious).

Edge turned back to glare at Red before focusing his attention back on the meal he was preparing: pancakes, by the smell of it.

"I AM MAKING BREAKFAST, OF COURSE," he replied, flipping a pancake that looked a little bit too brown for Red's liking. Still, though, his bro had come a long way from cooking that shit he called lasagna(how, again, could something be burnt and fucking frozen at the same fucking time?), so he supposed he shouldn't complain. Heh, his brother really was the fucking coolest.

Red got a plate from the cupboard using BLUE magic much to the chagrin of Edge, and set that along with a fork in front of him. He sighed, putting his arms behind his skull as he closed his sockets, content to just let himself zone out and relax. The ever-protective hum of his brother's magic made him feel safe enough to doze off for a bit(it felt more comforting than usual, oddly enough—guess boss was feelin' sentimental. Red couldn't help but smile), the lack of sleep tempting him to just pass the fuck out right there.

Unfortunately, his nonexistent stomach had other plans, and the hunger gnawing on his bones kept him from slipping too deeply into sleep. Damn it. 

All too soon breakfast was being served and his brother was prodding him awake while he simultaneously piled pancakes onto his plate before he sat down with his own plateful in front of Red. Red ate slowly, mixing in bad puns and bantering with Edge until he was barking with laughter and Edge fuming when he had been tricked to say a pun. 

Eventually Edge started to rush out of the door when it was almost time to go to work—since he hadn't really mastered shortcutting, he had to settle for driving his convertible(which was fucking badass, just like his brother; black, shiny paint and crimson leather seats)—shouting to Red reminders to be on time as he rushed out the door.

He almost slammed it behind him when he stopped, looking back inside with a look that Red couldn't read very well. He saw a hint of worry(he felt guilt settle on his SOUL at that, heavy and unyielding) along with a plethora of other emotions he couldn't quite read before Edge fixed on a mask of confidence.

"RED, BECAUSE THIS IS THE THIRD DAY IN A ROW OF YOU SCREAMING ME AWAKE BECAUSE OF YOUR NIGHTMARES, I GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO PASS OUT AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME. GET SOME FUCKING SLEEP, SANS." And then he was gone, and Red smiled(even though there was some guilt that his brother felt the need to address his problem) as he put on his scuffed sneakers which didn't match with his uniform at all, fuck off, checked the time, and shortcut his way to work.


 

Red now desperately craved mustard as he tried to reason with a crazy dick that no, motherfucker, you can't just fuckin' try n' grope some female human that was only tryin' ta serve ya yer shitty fuckin' mall food, did you humans have no fuckin' respect whatsoever of each other? the fuck does gender have to do with shit? why does it fuckin' matter

Eventually he managed to convince the asshole to leave when he threatened to call the cops on his ass, and afterwards he apologized to the young human girl on behalf of the dickhead. She looked fine—no sign of any physical injuries apart from the injuries to her pride when he ran a CHECK on her—so he left her be to finish his rounds, telling off the occasional wannabe shoplifter and helping kids find their parents(one kid had a fuckin' leash on em'; the shit? how the fuck do you lose your kid when it's got a leash like a fuckin' dog?). 

Frankly, the day had been going by rather slowly. Edge was supposed to be doing his rounds in the top section of the mall, while Red was supposed to focus on the ground level. Several times Red thought he might've seen a flash of his brother's beloved scarf from the balcony(?), but whenever he looked there was nothing to see there. 

Still, the thought that Edge still made time to check on Red once in a while was a good one that allowed his magic to relax(ever since he woke up it'd filled him with nervous energy, like he needed to be on guard at all times because the kid might—) Red shook his skull fiercely. The kid wouldn't do shit. They promised. That was that. 

... He was really looking forward to his lunch break.

But, alas, he still had—he pulled out his phone to check— about thirty minutes left until that happened. Guess he was gonna do the same thing he'd been doing: walk around and hope something interesting happened so he wouldn't fall asleep standing. 

... 

... Nothing interesting happened until his supervisor called him on the walkie-talkie to tell him he was on break. And by that time he actually had almost fallen asleep standing up. Maybe he should take up Paps' order to just sleep as soon as he got home... Yeah, actually, that sounded like a fucking fantastic plan. 

Red grinned in tired satisfaction that for once his bro wouldn't be keeping him from some desperately needed sleep once his job was done before he realized he had another four hours to go before he could make that dream a reality. 

Whatever—he could just spend his lunch break sleeping. 'Sides, he already made himself a makeshift nest of relatively soft materials that served as the occasional rest spot. Just had to remember to set an alarm loud enough to actually wake him the fuck up. Heavy metal might work. 

Red quickly ducked into a bathroom(holding his breath before he entered because humans were fucking disgusting) before he used a shortcut, intending to fall on top of a nest of old blankets and pillows. 

He didn't fucking expect to fall on top of someone. 

"the shit—?" Red didn't have time to register what was happening before he felt himself flying through the air, barely able to catch himself with a well-timed BLUE attack on himself to prevent him from splitting his skull open on the opposite wall. 

Already his magic was reacting to the perceived danger, his left socket flashing crimson and gold repeatedly as his magic crackled and fizzed on his bones like a horde of angry hornets, the scent of what could only be described as a burning forest clashing against the scent of something—someone's magic. While Red's was defiant and pulsed steadily like the heart of a tiger, this stranger's magic seemed unpredictable: it twisted and turned like smoke or fog, one moment biting into Red's bones with a fierce chill and the next reeling itself back, like it was uncertain of his intentions. 

Red's eyelight(his right long extinguished, left still flashing brilliantly) looked around carefully as soon as he was on solid ground, a defiant snarl on his face and a glare in his sockets. Damn, he would've liked to have been in his jacket for this; not in some fucking monkey suit. Still, beggars can't be choosers, and there wasn't much choosing if Red ran the risk of being pulled into a CONFRONTATION in a darkened alley, the thought of sleeping long gone as his eyelight made contact with something red where his nest should be. guess this is the fucker that thought they could just occupy someone else's nest.

"listen, buddy," Red growled, fatigue and irritation beginning to sharpen his tongue, "i came here ta have a fuckin' nap. i didn't come here ta be fucked with. sorry that i kinda dropped in on ya, but dustin' me ain't gonna do shit. so let's calm the fuck down and see if we can figure out what ta do from here without attackin' each other. aight?"

The red light(was it an eyelight? He could faintly make out a rounded head and hunched over shoulders) bore into him, the magic coming from the stranger sharp and accusing before it, too, calmed down, leaving the taste of chilled water and iron in the back of Red's throat. 

"heh. sorry, buddy, but i was tryin' to get a bite to eat since my magic was running, uh, pretty fucking low," the stranger spoke, and Red couldn't help but think that this voice was oddly familiar, what the fuck? had he heard it before? nah, he didn't think so... so why the fuck was it familiar?! "i'll be outta your skull after i eat, yea?" 

Red's SOUL thumped in uncertainty. Something about this guy seemed fuckin' off. He gave the stranger an appraising look, returning his eyelights to their regular state of small spheres of crimson as he furrowed his brow, gold tooth making a metallic click when he clicked his teeth. 

"it's nice talkin' ta a red circle in a dark alley, bud, but i think i'd prefer speakin' ta ya where i can see ya, yeah?" 

 "ya drive a hard bargain. i'm warnin' ya, though, that i'm not really gonna care if what'cha see breaks your resolve, heh."

Red located the nervous pun with relative ease, steeling himself to see maybe a broken arm or some other shit like that.

"try me."

A tired chuckle sounded from the shadows, the red orb shifting to a half-moon with a slit serving as a pupil as the stranger stepped into the light.

Scruffy pink slippers gave way to thin, scarred bone(Red didn't see any injuries; might be a broken arm, then, or something he could heal with relative ease—wait. Bone?), which gave way to old basketball shorts with one bold, white stripe on either side, the bottoms tattered and stringy with the wear of time(and maybe a claw or two, Red noted. His SOUL became more uneasy).

A blue jacket that looked like it had seen much, much better days, if the tears and rips in the old blue fabric were anything to go by. There were a few odd stains here and there that looked like they might never wash out, along with a stained white sweater that was also ripped in some places. White fur lined the hood of his jacket, creating the illusion that his shoulders were much broader than they actually were.

A tired, almost cautious grin gave way to two eyesockets: one was black and... Dead, really, lax like the magic that was supposed to be there was gone, leaving only a blank space of nothingness. The other was filled with bright red agitated magic that looked almost painful as Red wondered briefly what the hell could have fucked up this guy's magic enough for one eyelight to be completely dead and the other swollen with magic that looked fucking painful.

Red didn't have to wonder long before his eyelights snapped to the large, jagged hole in the fucker's skull.

Miraculously, it didn't look like the fucker was gonna die anytime soon from this, which meant that the ugly wound was probably as healed as it was gonna get. But how the hell did he survive this...? 

"yeah, i get that i'm not all that cracked up to be, but i'd still like it a lot if ya'd be able ta give me a break and not stare at me like i'm some sorta circus show," the skeleton replied, making Red immediately revert his gaze back to the one working eyesocket. He could fuckin' feel the magic leaking from the jagged hole and couldn't help but grimace inwardly.

Most monsters wouldn't survive an hour with a wound like that. He couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and respect for this guy. fuckin' badass as shit

"name's Axe," he started, grin widening ever so slightly as he finally relaxed enough to come off as at least slightly nonviolent. "glad to know you're not tryna use me to gain any LOVE."

Red grinned right back, shrugging as he nodded to his head wound—but never looking at it—and giving Axe a wink to show that he wasn't gonna try and fuck with this guy anytime soon.

"buddy, i'm not sure i'd wanna fuck with someone that can survive somethin' like that." his grin widened. "name's Red. good ta know ya got some good puns in ya, too. they really crack me up."

A beat of silence passed between the two monsters, and Red began to wonder if he fucked up by making a joke of Axe's wound. A bead of sweat ran down the side of his skull as his eyelights shifted, grin becoming a bit more strained as he opened his mouth to apologize—

Before Axe grinned, barking out a laugh that made the tension bleed from Red's bones. He sighed in relief at the sound, feeling proud that, like with Lust, he hadn't managed to fuck up this interaction, and he got another alternate version of him to laugh a genuine laugh. He decided he liked this guy's expression when he laughed better than the cautious grin and hunched shoulders.

When Axe calmed down, Red spoke again.

"hey, you said you're hungry, right? i'm on break right now, so i can prolly get ya some grub for free. my treat."

Axe stilled for a second like he was shocked that Red was offering to pay for food for him, and then his grin lidten into something like a smile before he shrugged, flipping his hood over his head to hide the wound.

"well, what can i say when ya say somethin' that nicely? lead the way."

Red grinned his classic shit-eating grin as he gripped Axe's arm.

"might wanna close yer eyes," he winked.

And then they were gone in a cloud of Red's magic. 


Axe blinked when he found himself in a human bathroom, wrinkling his nasal ridge in disgust before he was dragged out by Red, who kept a firm grip on his arm through his jacket. 

Axe found himself relaxing at the hum of magic coming from Red, steady and strong and something inherently protective and guarded—almost like it was daring everyone they passed to fuck with him—before Red seemed to realize he was still gripping his alternate's arm, dropping his hand to stuff it in the pocket of his uniform pants with a muttered apology. 

He watched silently as his red eyelights scanned the various shops before they settled on an MTT Burger joint—owned by the 'original' Metatton if the hot pink everything was anything to go by—and made sure his hood was secure over his skull as he followed Red to the counter. 

A cat monster with an eerily strained grin was standing at the register, and Axe watched in silence as Red and the cat—Burgerpants, his name tag stated—started to share the appropriate greetings before Red turned to him, an easy grin making his gold tooth flash. 

"alright, big shot, pick anythin' ya want and i'll pay for it, aight?" Axe nodded, swollen eyelight looking through the menu above Burgerpants' head. He felt a defensive sort of irritation wash over his SOUL as the cat's fur bristled when he looked at him before he squashed it down with a huff. 

"i'll get a, uh..." his brow furrowed in thought. "Healing Sparkles Burg...?" 

He turned to Red with a raised brow, who nodded, already beginning to shuffle through his pockets for the correct amount of gold as Burgerpants frantically nodded, hurrying to grill the requested burg. 

Axe spent the short time waiting watching the mixture of humans and monsters mill about throughout the mall, feeling the now painfully familiar uneasiness at being in such an open space. And his magic was already low after he tried to shortcut here... 

A quick tug to his dead eyesocket grounded him before he could lose himself to the spiral of unpleasant thoughts, thankful that his hood hid his tick from Red. Soon after that the bell signaling that his food was ready rang, and Axe turned just in time to grab the bag that was held towards him before he was, again, dragged to a table with two chairs. 

He quickly seated himself before he tore into the bag with renewed vigor, not giving a single shit that Red looked equal parts amused and surprised. He tore into the burger just as fast as he did with the bag, feeling the soothing tingle of healing magic slide down his throat. 

"hungry?" Red asked, leaning back with a satisfied sort of grin. Axe grunted an affirmation, stopping to swallow and to let his SOUL absorb the magic offered to it. 

"... food was hard to come by in my universe, so..." he shrugged, then continued tearing apart the poor burger until nary a crumb was left—Red was more amused by this— then crumbled up the bag, tossing it to the trashcan nearest to them before he sighed, closing his sockets as he felt the healing magic run through his SOUL, quelling any usual aches he had(the worst coming from the hole in his skull, which wasn't very surprising, all things considered). 

"that musta been shit," Red replied, quirking a brow. Axe nodded, then stilled at Red's expression. 

He knew that expression: it was the expression of someone who wanted to know more but was afraid they would cross a line if they asked, thus settling on keeping their expression open in the hopes that it might convince him to open up. Axe snorted—he wasn't planning on telling his alternate what he had to do in order to survive anytime soon—and quickly changed the subject. 

"i owe ya one for buyin' me that burg, Red," he started, grinning. "what do i gotta do to pay my debt to ya?" 

Red laughed, shaking his head and waving him off. "don't gotta do shit, unless ya wanna keep me company on my break or some other mediocre shit."

"i'll take that deal," Axe said, grinning as Red sputtered, "so long as you pay for the food." 

Red grinned, a look of pleasant surprise plastered on his face before he shrugged, leaning back in his chair. "aight, sure. i got enough gold for that." 

"it's a deal?" 

"fuck yeah, big shot." 

Axe couldn't help but grin widely, satisfaction washing over him that he wouldn't have to pay for food so long as he came to the mall while Red was on break. and a good thing, too. job barely gives me enough to pay for food as it is

"hey, if ya want we can hang out somewhere that isn't my job sometime? not ta be rude or anythin', but i don't think a thirty minute lunch break is good enough since most o' the time i use it ta sleep." Red's voice snapped him out of his thoughts, and he fought the urge to tug on his dead socket again, opting to instead force himself to focus on Red's words. 

He nodded, eyelight sparking to life as he grinned, pulling out his phone and throwing it to Red(who caught it with ease—he had nice reflexes, Axe realized). "put your digits in my phone and we'll set up a time where i can make it up to ya for nearly throwing you against a brick wall." 

Red complied with a grin, throwing the phone back to Axe who easily caught it, twirling it on his fingers like a basketball before he put it back in his pocket. 

"show off," Red muttered, though he couldn't quite hide his grin. 

"you say that like it's a bad thing." Axe countered, crossing his arms while his grin shifted to a challenging smirk. 

Red was about to shoot back a retort, grin turning to a smug smirk before loud heavy metal music began to play, startling both skeletons(Axe jumped about three feet in the air, eyelight widening as he tensed, automatically preparing for an attack). Red cursed, fumbling his phone out of his pocket and shutting off the damned thing—thank fuck, too. Healing magic did wonders for Axe, but it didn't help an oncoming headache—and peering up at Axe with a disappointed frown. 

"sorry, bud, that was my alarm i was gonna use to wake up to. break's over for me," Axe stood up with Red, adjusting his hood for a moment. "text me so we can hang out n' shit, yeah? and send me shitty memes." 

Axe grinned, barking out a laugh as he exited with Red, waving his hand goodbye. "alright, i'll be sure to do that. thanks for the food, Red." 

"no problem, Axe," Red replied, also waving his hand goodbye, going in the opposite direction as Axe. 

Axe began to make his way through the crowd of monsters and humans, taking care to keep his head down and his hood up to avoid revealing his skull. He took out his phone, thumbing through his contacts before he came across Red's contact(which was simply Red—how uncreative). He paused, debating on what he should change it to, eventually settling on Cherry. 

He grinned—he looked forward to seeing Red again. And he didn't usually didn't look forward to seeing other monsters besides his bro. But Red didn't treat him like he was something to be avoided at all costs. 

Yeah, Axe definitely looked forward to making it up to Red after he nearly split his skull open. He laughed; at least then they'd be matching if he did manage to go that far. 

... Somehow, though, he didn't think he'd like seeing that on Red. 

 

Chapter Text

Axe knew many things about humans.

He knew that they could be cruel. He knew that they could be heartless. He knew that they could be downright evil. Frisk proved that much.

And any human who even slightly reminded him of Frisk left his fingers twitching to grab onto his dead socket and tug to serve as a reminder that Frisk wasn't around here (he looked, too. Hard.)and he shouldn't let the deep-seated wrath that demanded his low levels of magic to crackle like a pine tree struck by lightning consume him, lest he be arrested for the murder of a human.

And he really didn't want ex-queen Undyne on his tailbone. Not after...

His hand brushed against the edge of the jagged hole in his skull.

After that.

Still, though. As many humans there were that made his marrow boil and his teeth clench, he had to begrudgingly admit that some humans were better than Frisk. Aliza, for instance, was so much better than Frisk. She actually freed them, and so far didn't RESET. Or, at least, he didn't remember her using a RESET—and he remembered a lot of stuff, despite the hole in his skull.

... Sometimes he wished he could forget a lot of things.

Tug. He didn't need to go into a spiral of thinking about things he was helpless to prevent. He had a job to do at the animal shelter he worked at. 

A job which, thankfully, didn't make him want to tug on his dead socket. Didn't pay all that well, but it gave him something to do. He was glad that it offered that much to him—even if human jobs had gotten much better at hiring monster employees, not many humans were... Used to seeing something as holey as him, heh. Not even his alternates, some of which who actually came from shit universes like himself, were able to contain their stares.

He was used to it, sure—five years of that type of treatment from anyone that wasn't from his Underground who saw his skull guaranteed that much—but it still brought about a twinge of irritation and sort of sick shame that he hated with all of his SOUL.

He had survived long enough in the Underground. He had survived long enough to see the Surface without the threat of a RESET hanging over his skull. He had done some fucked up shit to make sure that his brother didn't starve and dust in front of him.

... So why did he still feel shame whenever someone stared at him?

Tug. Doesn't matter. If someone wants to stare, then they can stare all they want. He didn't care. Hell, he was proud of his scars. He was proud because they showed that he walked through hell and walked out of it with a grin on his skeletal face. Fuck anyone that thought differently—

"Axe! There you are, I've been looking everywhere for you!"

Axe stiffened, then relaxed, turning around to peer at the short female human who was staring up at him with a wide smile on her face. He huffed, turning around again to finish the task he had almost completed—which was organizing the various adoption forms for each animal—then turned back to... What was this human's name again?

He looked at the name tag on her uniform. Sara.

"need something?" he asked, grin becoming a bit strained as he tried to put his hands into the pockets of his jacket before realizing for the hundredth time that he wasn't wearing his jacket, and the only pockets he had was a pocket on his shirt that could barely fit a pen, and pockets in his baggy jeans that were too small to fit his hands into.

He settled for crossing his arms as Sara nodded, practically jumping with excitement. He sighed inwardly—this usually meant that he'd be working a bit overtime, which was less than satisfactory when it happened thirty minutes before his shift was over, like now—and prepared to force himself into doing some sort of bullshit manual labor that he didn't feel like doing on account of his low magic levels and his nearly permanent exhaustion. 

"Yep! Manager asked me to tell you that you need to check on the cats, make sure they've got water and food, all that stuff. I'm leaving early." She smiled, then went off to change back into her casual clothes, leaving Axe to sigh and allow his grin to fall.

He didn't mind checking on the cats. He liked them—they seemed to like him, too—but he did mind having to be the one to do someone else's work every time someone was leaving early or couldn't come to work.

Which meant that he'd be the one to pick up the slack because his manager figured that because he was a monster, he'd be jumping at the oppurtunity to "prove he was just as capable of doing work as humans are".

It also meant that because he was a monster, he couldn't do shit about it because his race was treated like a minority by a lot of humans. Fantastic.

Whatever. He'd go in, tend to the hissy flea bags, then get the hell out once his shift was over. Easy peasy. 

He was suddenly thankful that cats seemed to like him more than most humans. Meant he'd be able to enjoy this more until he had to leave for the mall Red worked at, like he'd done so for the past week once their little routine was established. 

He sighed again, trying to push away the exhaustion that seemed hell bent on weighing him down before he made his way over to where the cages were. 

He greeted the fur bags with soft purrs of his own(though they were more gravelly and a bit raspy, but the cats didn't seem to mind) and gentle strokes of his phalanges, letting out a particularly pleased rumble whenever a cat greeted him enthusiastically.

What could he say? He had a soft spot for the little shits.

He made quick work of feeding and watering them, soothing the more skittish ones with soft pets and gentle murmurings before he moved on, finding himself relaxing as he tended to the animals. He gave a bit more attention to the cats that were ready to be adopted soon, a sort of pride washing over him as he realized that he had some part in keeping the fur balls healthy and fed from the time they came in to the time they left.

He purred a bit harder at that thought before he caught a glimpse of his watch. Five minutes before his shift ended.

He sighed, annoyed that he was going to have to rush to finish up before he continued on quickly, feeding cats that needed feeding and giving water to cats that needed water before he was finished, going quickly to the back room to change out of his uniform and back into his beloved jacket.

He waved to a human by the front desk as he left, opening the door and walking into the bright sunlight. 

Damn. If he didn't have a jagged hole in his skull, he might've been able to let his hood down to let the warm sun wash over his bones—might've even helped to sooth the throbbing ache that came from his holey skull, heh—but he supposed that he'd warm up just fine with the hood over his skull. Just as long as he wasn't cold enough to remind him of Snowdin... Or, rather, what remained of Snowdin after...

Tug. No use in thinking about that. Not if he's never going back there. 

Axe stuffed his hands in his pockets, comforted by the familiar weight of his jacket as he contemplated shortcutting to Red's workplace. He could, of course, since he would be getting monster food to replenish his magic levels either way, but he also ran the risk of passing out from using magic whenever he didn't need to.

He trusted Red to continue with the little routine they had set up at the beginning of the week, but he didn't trust him not to try anything if he were to pass out from making a stupid mistake he could have prevented by being smart. He may have spent five years on the Surface without many unfavorable incidents, but he couldn't afford to make any mistakes that could have any impact on his safety.

Axe's thoughts quieted as he walked along the sidewalk, keeping his head down to make sure the fur along his hood covered the majority of his face—humans and monsters alike tended to do double takes when they caught a glimpse of his eye socket filled with agitated, crimson magic—and with the exhaustion weighing down on his bones, he wasn't in the mood to deal with that.

He just needed to keep his head down, move quickly, and he'd be fine. 

He decided to forgo his usual pink slippers and instead ended up wearing a pair of light blue sneakers with yellow laces that went nicely with his jacket. They were a bit scuffed around the edges, but nowhere near as bad as his poor slippers. He'd have to throw them away soon... Shame. He really liked them, too. 

 He continued to walk, not bothering to look up since most monsters and humans tended to avoid him like the plague anyway. Most misinterpreted the constant thrum of magic coming from his skull wound as more of a constant threat—which he didn't mind, so long as no one tried to fuck with him—which meant that, generally, nearly everyone either crossed the street to avoid him, or rushed past him with their heads down to avoid making eye contact.

... It did irritate him that he was treated like something wrong, but they themselves weren't exactly wrong. Hell, he himself would avoid a shady-looking monster with magic thrumming around them without a second thought if it meant that his safety wasn't jeopardized. Safety first, feelings later. That was how he had survived for so long back in the hell hole once called Snowdin.

Axe was lost to his thoughts—which, thankfully, didn't spiral into more... Unpleasant ones—while he walked, glancing up through the fur lining on his good every once in a while to check that he was, in fact, going the right way. Red's break would be in about fifteen minutes; by the pace he was setting, he'd probably be there in ten.

He passed a nightclub that was owned by a Grillby that he rarely saw, on account of the lack of windows that suggested that the nightclub offered a different type of entertainment than he was used to, and quickly glanced at it, taking his eyes off of the sidewalk to give it a once-over like he'd done so many times before.

It was pretty generic, really—flashing neon signs and all—but he supposed that the fact that it was owned by a monster that had a relatively good reputation with the public helped with drawing in customers, whether they were monsters or humans. Even now, he could see some cars parked in the parking lot, even though it was in the middle of the day. Guess the food and drinks were as good as the entertainment.

He hoped that this Grillby had good ketchup—

Bam!

Axe was knocked flat on his back, the back of his skull slamming against the sidewalk with a loud thunk! before he quickly sat up, one hand prodding at the point of impact to check for any new injuries as a low growl rumbled from his chest, his magic crackling with the scent of burning metal and pine. His teeth were bared in a fierce snarl as he looked up to tell off whoever the fuck wasn't paying attention, before he stilled, growl dying down to a quizzical hum in his chest as his red eyelight made contact with two purple eyelights.

Another alternate

Axe gave him a once over, noting his softer features, nightclub-esque attire(that included a vest lined with fluffy blue fur over a crop top and black leather pants), and overall feel of his magic, which he noted didn't have the sharp edge that his own magic had, though still kept up the guarded bite to it.

The scent of burning metal and pine faded as he realized that his alternate wasn't attacking him, though his magic still popped and crackled weakly in warning.

His alternate looked down on him for a moment, eyelights wary and cautious, before they brightened, a smirk taking place on his face before he stuck out a hand. Axe eyed it warily, not quite trusting him before going fuck it and grabbing onto it.

Despite the fact that this guy looked as though he didn't lift anything in his life, he was surprisingly strong, and lifted Axe to his feet with ease.

"sorry for hitting on you in the literal sense, bud," he said as Axe dusted himself off, placing a hand on his hip, "but i guess that's what happens when you're looking at relatively attractive versions of yourself walking down the street, hm?"

He didn't give Axe the chance to register his words before he was suddenly grabbing his arm, ignoring the warning growl bubbling from his chest as he maneuvered his hand so that his palm was facing up. 

Axe felt coins being dropped into his hand before purple eyelights invaded his vision once more. He stiffened, magic continuing to crackle weakly as he clicked his teeth together.

"name's Lust. that," he pointed to the coins in Axe's hand, "is my apology for running into you. literally, not figuratively." he winked.

"... Axe," he introduced himself quietly, glancing down at the G in his hand before pocketing it—he'd count it out later—all the while not taking his eyes off of Lust, who was standing there with a casual smirk on his face as his purple eyelights looked Axe up and down.

Axe fought the urge to snarl to cover up his nervousness. 

"well, your holeyness—" Lust started, casual smirk edging into a shit-eating grin that was too familiar for Axe's liking before he was brushing past him, flipping Axe's hood up and over his skull—wait.

His hood had been down. His hood had been down for the entire interaction and Lust had seen, he had seen he had seen the hole in his skull—

Tug. So what if Lust had seen his skull? It showed that he survived something most monsters wouldn't survive for a few hours, let alone years. Axe should be fucking proud of that, not... Not whatever this was, which was decidedly close to shame but still not quite that.

He just knew he didn't like it, whatever it was. He burrowed his face into his jacket, making sure to keep his eyelight trained on Lust.

"—i'd hate to keep you standing around like some sort of shady door-to-door salesman, so i'll be on my way." Lust looked back at him with a wink as he stepped to the curb, looking in both directions as he prepared to cross the street.

"hey."

Lust stopped, looking almost as surprised as Axe when he spoke as he looked back at him with a quirked brow and a simple grin. "yeah?"

Axe narrowed his eye socket at Lust, taking out a coin and waving it in the air so that it glinted in the sunlight. "what's with the whole givin' me G thing? am i supposed to owe you now?"

Lust grinned, eyelights flashing with amusement. "my apology for hitting on you in the literal sense."

Axe rolled his eyelight in a show of unamusement, though the corners of his grin twitching upwards stated that he wasn't as unaffected by this guy's personality as he'd liked to be. He tried again. "alright, so why G?"

Lust shrugged in response. "saw you eyeing my Grillby's nightclub so i figured you'd want a drink or something. take it from me, they're good. better than human alcohol, anyway," he laughed, almost like he was remembering something hilarious—perhaps an inside joke or something like that—before he composed himself.

"but if it's not alcohol you want, Grillby has some good food, too. some's got healing magic infused for the occasional monster or human that drank too much too fast or whatever. no offense, but, well... you look like you might need some."

Axe hunched his shoulders defensively, tugging the hood of his jacket to further conceal what was beneath it as he huffed. Lust's grin turned apologetic.

"i already got a friend that can cover the healing magic food. thanks for the offer, though," he replied gruffly, scuffing his shoes on the pavement below him as he averted his eyelight. A weed poking up from between the two slabs of concrete was suddenly very interesting to him.

"sounds nice. i assume that they're the one that's buying the food?" Lust inquired, raising a brow. Axe nodded, shrugging his shoulders in a noncommittal manner.

"so you've got someone that's buying you food and no one to buy you drinks?" Axe could practically hear the smirk in Lust's voice, and he let his red eyelight flick over to the skeleton to confirm that fact. Again, Axe nodded, turning to face Lust fully with a raised brow of his own.

"alright, guess you're my new drinking buddy, then! sorry bud, but i'm not letting you escape from this anytime soon," Lust chuckled, pulling out his phone from a pocket in his vest and handing it to Axe after he unlocked it, who begrudgingly accepted. Guess he was putting his number in. 

"...why?" Axe asked after he did so, not bothering to put a contact name. He handed the phone back to Lust, who rolled his eyelights at the sheer lack of effort Axe was putting into the interaction with an amused air about it.

"i actually see you around pretty often. you're always looking a little bonely whenever you walk outta that animal shelter," he nodded to said building that was a little ways back. "plus, i work at the animal hospital that you take your animals to treat. it's always nice to give them a final checkup before they're adopted, and i figured i'd kill two birds with one stone and give you a fun time and sorta thank you for taking care of those animals."

Axe tilted his head, furrowing his brow before his features softened, a small grin taking place on his face.

"heh. you don't have to take me out on a date to thank me for taking care of a few dogs and cats, but who am i to deny free food?" he chuckled, still guarded but not as much as before, as Lust grinned widely.

"oh, so it's a date now?"

Axe scoffed, grinning as he shook his head. "don't get your hopes up."

"too late, it's now a date. wow, this relationship is moving so quickly, Axe!" Lust laughed, grin turning shit-eating as Axe flipped him off, returning the gesture with the classic pointer-finger-goes-in-the-hole signal and a wink.

Both Axe and Lust were breathless with laughter by this point, subsiding into soft chuckles as they regained their composure. Axe sighed, shaking his head as he grinned at Lust, who was still shaking with little giggles that tried to escape him.

Lust mock-wiped an invisible tear from his eye socket with a wink, going back to face the road. "i'd hate to cut this short, but i kinda need to go if i don't wanna be late for my side job."

"you a waiter or somethin'?" Axe asked, nodding towards the nightclub. Lust turned back to him again with a devilish smirk, and Axe furrowed his brow at the obviously-teasing expression.

"strippers don't normally serve drinks, Axe," he winked, and once again Axe didn't have time to register his words before he was crossing the street, yelling something that sounded like "text me!" over his shoulder.

Axe watched him, dumbfounded, as he entered the nightclub, the full meaning of the words Lust had said not hitting him until the door closed behind Lust.

He blamed the pale red flush on his face on the heat as he turned, setting a brisk pace to get to the mall quickly before he was later than he was sure he already was. 

Chapter Text

Stars, Lust was bored. 

Work had been unusually slow this week. Usually, he rejoiced at the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep, but as the week progressed with little change and the heat in his bones kept growing, he began to rethink that idea.

Monsters from his universe had too much magic—for whatever reason, the magic built up Underground until it sparked a widespread heat that lasted for generations until the very biology of monsters evolved to combat the excessive magic(which could become very harmful very quickly if left unchecked)—and needed to expell that magic before it got out of hand.

Lust could handle a day or two without needing to expell his overactive magic, but by the third day he was beginning to get a bit desperate. 

Which led him to where he was now: in the middle of a small prank war with his coworkers to both pass the time and to help take off the edge of the heat simmering in his marrow. It wasn't as effective as he'd like it to be, but it gave him a distraction from the growing heat, and gave him something to do.

And that something to do was fastening a spray bottle filled with water in a cupboard so that if someone opened it it'd spray them right in the face. Was it a cheap trick? Yes. Could he do better than this? Also yes. Was that stopping him from completing his need for pranking? Fuck no.

Even better was the fact that his shift was over in a few minutes, which meant that as soon as he was done with this he could shortcut out of here and go to his Grillby's to either pole dance for a little excercise(believe it or not, he wasn't just the lazy older brother) or buy a drink to cool down his magic. Which also meant that he'd be long gone by the time someone got sprayed in the face, meaning that the blame would, hopefully, effectively be put on someone else.

His favorite strategy in a prank war always was to divide and conquer.

Lust stepped back to admire his handiwork for a moment before he closed the cupboard, a satisfied grin settling over his features as he turned and walked away, momentarily thanking the stars that everyone was busy with their own pranks for each other or actually doing work like they were supposed to. 

Lust checked the time—fifteen minutes before his shift was over—and sighed, rubbing a hand over his face as he tried to ignore the pang of annoyed boredom that rang out from his SOUL. He ran through the things he could possibly do to pass the time(most of which he'd already done thrice before), settling on pulling out his phone from his back pocket and browsing Undernet.

A quick look through his feed told him that nothing really changed since the last time he had checked it, and he groaned, checking the time again. Ten minutes until his shift was over. What the hell could he do to pass the time that he hadn't done already?

He'd already set up at least three pranks(one of which had been set off earlier in the day; the other two had either been avoided for now or hadn't been discovered yet), checked the animals that needed to stay overnight(two dogs recovering from a simple surgery and a cat that had somehow broken its leg) four times, cleaned the floors twice, bantered with Red a few times before he realized that Red was working and decided to stop risking the poor guy his job, and had done his work over an hour ago.

Which meant that for the remaining eight or so minutes he had before his shift was over, he didn't have much else to do other than avoid his coworkers pranks(which was painfully easy).

Lust's mind drifted to Axe and Red, and a contemplative look settled over his skeletal features. Hadn't he invited them to hang out sometime? Axe might not be the type to let his guard down that easily—Lust shivered when he remembered the gaping hole in the poor guy's skull—but Red seemed like he might want to check out his Grillby's. 

What could possibly go wrong? The worst that could happen is neither skeleton would want to hang out with Lust. Not only that, but he felt like they didn't go out of their way to meet new people. Why not introduce Red to Axe? Who knows where that route might lead? 

With a firm nod and a confident smirk, he texted both skeletons his proposal, and after a few minutes(some spent waiting for both of them to reply with increasing excitement) negotiating who was paying and where they'd be going—Axe took a bit more to convince; Lust didn't blame him—both monsters were on board with Lust's plan and ready to go as soon as their shifts ended(which, conveniently, ended when Lust's shift ended, and Lust again thanked the stars for that small miracle).

Lust pocketed his phone when all arrangements had been made, sighing with a satisfied grin as he looked at the clock in the far corner of the wall. Two minutes till his shift ended. Lust could spend the time changing into his beloved vest and other articles of clothing(he didn't have the heart to change his style into something different since coming to the Surface, preferring to sink into the comfortable familiarity he had with his clothes). He slipped into the janitors closet where he stashed his stuff for the day and changed in record time; the prospect of hanging out with two alternates of himself excited him, and the hum of his magic said just that. 

An enraged shout sounded down the hallway as he exited the closet in his regular clothing, and Lust grinned as he realized that it sounded awfully close to where his water spray prank was located.

He shortcut to Grillby's as soon as the clock showed his shift ended, effectively avoiding possible revenge for his cheap prank. 

For now, anyway.


poof of purple magic accompanied the muffled beat of electronic music that never failed to vibrate through his bones and settle into his magic, and a grin settled onto his face before he strode from the dark alleyway he had happened to shortcut into and towards the front of Grillby's nightclub, the familiar fiery red bricks a welcome sight. The sun was just starting to dip below the horizon, and Lust took a moment to admire the faint beginnings of gold in the clouds before he opened the door and stepped inside. 

Lust waved to the bouncer(a scowling Froggit that had an impressive maw full of sharp teeth—could he be from the same universe as Red?) and made his way over to the bar, letting the loud music wash over him as he took a seat in his usual stool.

Grillby took a bit to notice him from the corner he sat at from where he was mixing drinks with flourish, and Lust waved with a lopsided grin on his face as the fireman(heh) finished the drinks he was working on. Lust leaned onto the bar as Grillby approached, taking note of how his flames seemed a bit brighter and more sparky since the last time he saw him. Guess he wasn't the only one getting restless after a long week.

"heya, Grillbz," Lust greeted with a grin and a wink, folding his hands together in front of him. "how's my favorite bartender?"

"I'm as well as I can be, thank you," Grillby replied, Lust easily picking out the soft-spoken words from the warm crackle and hiss from his fire. "Need to cool down your magic? I've got more than a few drinks in store."

"yes and no. i invited a couple friends of mine to join me for a night out, if you will. any open booths or anything? they, uh, came from rougher neighborhoods than us."

Lust's grin wavered a bit as he remembered his first meetings with his alternates—Red, with his cautious glare, like he expected Lust to fight him there in the bar, and Axe, who reminded him of a skittish cat that had been through too much to expect anything good from the world—and glanced toward the door, suddenly wondering if maybe a nightclub wasn't exactly the best place to bring them. 

Grillby must have read his thoughts, because the blue flames atop his head slowed slightly in thought before he nodded towards a corner booth that was currently unoccupied.

"Over there is a good spot, I think," he said, tapping the edge of the bar thoughtfully. "It's out of the way, at least."

"that's good. if you see two good-looking skeletons besides myself come in here, tell them where i am, yeah?" 

Grillby chuckled good-naturedly before nodding, turning to take more orders from monsters and humans looking to celebrate the end of a long week and the beginning of a short weekend.

Lust grinned, already up and out of the stool as he thanked Grillby, turning to make his way through the crowd of monsters and humans dancing(that Lust was sure would grow as the sun fell) and began picking his way through the crowd.

His eyelights roamed over the stages, his SOUL giving out a ping of a sort of want as he passed them. He sighed—he could wait until tomorrow to take a turn on the pole, so to speak—and quickly settled into the booth that was a deep purple that made his bright purple eyelights stand out better against the darkness.

Lust pulled out his phone, sending a quick text to both Red and Axe of his location in the nightclub before pocketing it, waving over a waitress and ordering a bottle of ketchup(and, of course, laughing at the slight look of disgust in her eyes) before he leaned back into the leather, tapping a tune onto the wood of the table he made up off the top of his skull as he smiled to himself.

Now, all he had to do was wait and hope that he didn't somehow fuck this up. 

He glanced over to Grillby, who looked like he was talking to someone that was blocked from his point of view by a crowd of female humans. Lust noticed how his back seemed a bit straighter, his head tilted quizzically before he nodded his head in his direction—

"Ketchup bottle?" 

Lust snapped his head to the voice, instinctually tensing before he grinned, sure that his eyelights had become bright purple stars as the waitress—who was now confused more than disgusted—set down a glorious bottle of ketchup. 

He didn't even wait for her to turn and leave before he was knocking back a gulp, a satisfied sigh leaving him as he felt the chilled tingle of cooling magic work through his SOUL and settle into his bones. At least he'd feel better physically, if all else failed. 

He took another long sip, letting the flavor settle in before he swallowed, allowing his eyelights to roam the quickly-growing crowd of dancing bodies ready for a long night of partying and a long morning full of hangovers. 

"... hey." 

Lust's purple eyelights met Axe's swollen red eyelight, which was quickly flicking from Lust to the ketchup in his hand to the crowd with no small amount of uneasyness, tugging his hood further down over his face as he tensed his shoulders like he was expecting to get jumped from all angles. 

Lust took a moment to admire the flashing colors from the strobe lights dancing on Axe's form before he leaned back with a teasing grin, intent on helping to calm the other skeleton down. Besides, he invited him and Red for a good time, not a panic attack. 

"heya, handsome, glad you could come. take a seat," he gestured towards the booth in front of him, not wanting to force Axe to sit beside him.

The other skeleton stilled, looking from the booth and back again to the crowd of people, and Lust was beginning to get worried that he'd bail before he took a deep breath, sitting down in the booth opposite of Lust. 

Lust smiled reassuringly as Axe—seemingly instinctually, he noted—pressed himself to the wall, tugging on his hood to make sure it was still in place. He silently thanked Grillby for picking out this booth: away from the crowd, in a corner, nearly in the dark? Lust realized that it was perfect for someone that didn't want to draw attention to themselves. 

He took a swig from his ketchup, quirking a brow as he noticed Axe eyeing it almost hungrily, and he grinned, throwing a wink towards the scarred skeleton as he set down the bottle. 

"ketchup lover too?" he asked, resting his head on his hand while he tapped the tips of his phalanges against the table. "i can buy you one, if you like. on me." he winked again. Was he doing that too much? Maybe. Fuck it, he'd keep doing that til the day he dusted. 

Axe blinked, then shrugged, barking out a chuckle as he shook his head once—almost a bit bashfully—before he spoke. "nah, you don't have to waste money on me. i'll live." 

Lust had a feeling those last words held more meaning than Axe let on. 

"wasting money on a handsome alternate version of yourself?" He asked drily, layering on the sarcasm with a raised brow and a teasing grin. "never heard of anyone doing that before. guess i better be the first one, then, huh?" 

Axe grinned—strained, but softening into something more genuine and less stressed—and rolled his eyelight as he shook his head. Lust leaned back in his seat, grinning back at him. 

"anyway, i made myself a friend at the beginning of the week," he said, watching Axe's reaction carefully. "and i thought it'd be fun to introduce you guys and become—" enter jazz hands, "—the skeleton version of the Three Musketeers." 

Axe grinned widely at that—still strained, still stressed, but his eyelight sparked for a moment at Lust's enthusiasm—before he shrugged, scratching his cheek awkwardly with a phalange. Lust waited patiently for a response to gauge if he was uncomfortable with his proposal of introducing another person to their hangout. He'd mentioned it in text, sure, but he also needed to be absolutely sure that he wasn't fucking up. 

When Axe gave no sign of being overly uncomfortable(he had tensed his shoulders, and his eyelight was flickering from Lust to the crowd, but Lust had a feeling that that was simply a conditioned response), Lust breathed out in relief, knocking back another sip of ketchup. His eyelights sparked mischievously. 

"i am serious about buying you a drink, though," he said, smirking. "pick your poison and i'll pay for it." 

Axe hesitated, furrowing his brow, before he gave a noncommittal shrug.

"since you're so hung up on that, sure." 

"i think you mean hung over on that," Lust laughed, and Axe snorted, grin becoming a bit wry. 

"does that joke even work?" 

 "you doubting me, handsome? if it doesn't i'll make it work through sheer spite and will." 

"that's admirable," Axe replied, shrugging as his shoulders finally, finally relaxed a bit more fully. Lust grinned, considering it a victory on his part, before he composed himself and settled on a sly smirk as Axe spoke again. "so, uh, when's the third Musketeer comin', bud?" 

Lust glanced over to Grillby as he opened his mouth to respond before a pair of red eyelights caught his eye from the crowd. He paused, grinning, as he made out a particular fluffy hood on a particular leather jacket that belonged to a particular warily aggressive skeleton. 

"he's already here, handsome," Lust winked, throwing Axe a wry grin as he waved over the edgy skeleton.

Axe watched carefully, warily, but not hostilly—more out of curiosity—and Lust was suddenly reminded of a very aloof cat as Red made his way over, crimson eyelights flashing defensively and gold tooth glinting in the flashing strobe lights as relief melted into his gaze and a wide grin split his skeletal face as he, too, waved to Lust with clawed phalanges. 

Lust grinned—everything was going to be fine. 

Then Red looked at Axe, and Axe looked back, and suddenly Lust wasn't so sure that everything was going to be fine when Red, in all of his aggressively confused glory, asked "the fuck'r you doin' here, Axe?" 


Red felt like he fucked up as soon as he went to the address Lust had given him for their night of hanging out and felt the music rattle his bones from outside the nightclub.

It wasn't the fact that it was a nightclub that deterred him and made a sort of anxiety settle in his gut as he scuffed his sneakers into the curb; it was the fact that he realized that he was going to be out in the open, in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people save for a teasing bastard he met once in a shitty human bar at the beginning of the week.

Not only that, but if he did go out, it was to help his bro go grocery shopping and to go to Grillby's. His Grillby's. Not some other fire monster from another universe that he knew next to nothing about.

Stars, Boss'd dust him if he caught Red doing stupid shit like this. 

Fuck it. He was already here; he'd already agreed to meet Lust here. If this was a nightclub owned by a Grillby, then the drinks had to be good. His Grillby's drinks were good, anyway.

Red sighed heavily, tugging on his collar with his claws as he forced himself to relax, because like hell was he going to show weakness in an unfamiliar environment. That was how you got killed in his universe. 

And he damn sure didn't live this long by being a dumbass. 

 Still, old habits were hard to break, and one of those old habits that had become instinct at this rate was flipping his hood over his skull to make himself look larger.

The more he looked like someone who wasn't to be fucked with, the less likely someone was gonna fuck with him. Usually, anyway. Some assholes over the years practically begged for a fight in his Underground when they thought he was just some free EXP and he and his bro were just a couple of rebellious street rats.

Well, they weren't wrong, but still.

Red shook himself out of his thoughts, deciding instead on just entering the stars-damned building and having a good time with Lust and whoever else he brought along. Besides, nightclubs were supposed to be fun, right? And it was run by a Grillby, and if his Grillby didn't tolerate people starting shit in his casino/bar, this Grillby should have the same standard for his nightclub.

Red hoped so, anyway. 

He forced himself to walk through the door, deciding to coolly ignore the Froggit bouncer that looked like he was from his universe, if the sharp teeth were anything to go by.

The music was loud and had a lot of bass to it, which Red could normally appreciate, except for it did nothing for his nerves. Being almost immediately surrounded by strangers was an overwhelming experience since he tended to stay the fuck away from people(humans especially, after Frisk...). He growled low in his throat whenever someone brushed against him, and the magic along his joints flared and popped, but beyond that he was... Well, he wasn't fine, but his SOUL wasn't singing, so he supposed he could be worse.

The sea of dancing bodies pushed him towards the bar, and Red found himself unable to stop staring at this Grillby. Hell, the guy didn't even have a fucking shirt on! Just some sort of weird ass mech thing that could barely pass for an item of clothing. Was this a recurring theme for Lust's universe? 

He took a moment to assess Grillby's current mood by paying very close attention to the flames along his body—they were brighter and more sparkier, which either meant that he was in a good mood or a very bad mood, if he was going by past experience with his Grillby—and just deciding fuck it and walking up to the bar, ignoring the curious and wary stares as he put his hood down.

He gave two short knocks on the wood to get the fire man's(heh) attention, and once Grillby was facing him with an arched brow he asked if Lust was around. Hey, no point in getting friendly with the guy just yet—he knew first-hand from his Grillby that strangers were treated with a sort of guarded wariness before Grillby was comfortable enough to even talk easily with someone.

He felt a CHECK run over his SOUL, and he instinctually growled, low and deep in his throat, before he realized that he wasn't being thrown into a CONFRONTATION.

Still didn't feel right having a Grillby-look-alike see his low HP and LV.

Grillby took a long look at his stats, and Red thought he might actually have to fight the fiery fucker before the flaming monster sighed a defeated sigh and nodded to the far corner of the nightclub, where the shadows grew long and the strobe lights looked more mysterious and almost weirdly intimate. Red nodded back, a curt thank you before he disappeared back into the crowd, searching the darkness for hazy purple eyelights as he passed the stages(Lust really wasn't joking, holy fuck).

He was on the edge of the crowd and halfway ready to just give up and go home before he finally saw Lust, thank fuck, he was starting to think about how stupid he looked walking around like a fucking idiot.

The teasing fuck was waving him over to the booth he sat at, a quiet pocket in the shadows that was out of the way. Red liked it—it didn't feel like he was being suffocated on all sides.

He made his way over, shoulders relaxing as a wide grin grew over his face. He was still wary as fuck—he always was, really—but he figured he could relax a bit with Lust, have a few drinks, then go home to sleep away the inevitable hangover.

Just as he made his way over to the booth, a flash of red caught his eyelights, and he quickly turned to see Axe(when the fuck did he get here? He didn't look like someone who hung out at nightclubs for the fun of it) in all of his skittishly wary glory, watching Red with a cautious curiosity that reminded Red very distantly of a stray cat.

He arched a brow, and before he could stop himself, he said, in all of his dumbass confused glory, "the fuck'r you doin' here, Axe?"

Red felt more than saw Lust tense, and Axe shrugged, red eyelight flicking from Red to the crowd—he sensed the uneasyness washing off of him in waves, feeling the low hum of his magic become more staticky and shit—and back to Red again, shrugging his broad shoulders.

"dunno. Lust here asked me out 'n said he wanted to introduce me to one of his friends or some shit." He barked out a nervous laugh, tired and low, and turned back to Lust, who was now looking between Red and Axe with what could either be anxiety or nervous excitement.

"wait, you two know each other?" he asked, and both Red and Axe nodded, shrugging their shoulders. Red felt the growing tension bleed from the atmosphere.

Lust had on a contemplative look on his face, like he was analyzing this shit in any way he could before he grinned, the casual teasing air around him coming back into play, and he looked at Red, sliding over and patting the leather of the seat of the booth next to him.

"great, cause i'm way too fucking lazy to make introductions. come on, asshole, i gotta hear how you two met."

Red barked out a loud laugh, remembering very fucking well how him and Axe met on the first day of the week, and slid into the booth next to Lust, sharing a casual grin with Axe(who was still stressed, did this guy ever fucking relax? Red guessed not) and leaned into the booth, gold tooth glinting in the colors of the flashing strobe lights.

"well, y'see, sweetheart, me 'n Axe had a bit of a fallin' out..."

Red could already tell this was going to be one hell of a good time. 

Chapter Text

Turns out, Red needed only two things to have a great fucking time with two alternate versions of himself: a good fucking bottle of mustard(bought by Lust before he could even ask, don't worry, dammit, he made sure the poor bastard wasn't accidentally offering him food like he might if he grew up in Red's fucked up universe), and good fucking company, which was provided by Lust and Axe.

Axe, the tough bastard, was quiet and observant, but damn if he didn't know just when to throw in a sarcastic comment or a previously overlooked pun that would send all of them into a wheezing mess. In those moments, Axe's blood red eyelight would shine with quiet pride as he patiently waited for them to calm down and continue with the conversation.

Red decided he liked that version of him instead of the one where he pressed himself into the darkest corner and curled up like a feral cat in a cage.

Lust, however, seemed to be the complete opposite—the middle ground between Red's crude humor and Axe's unfairly hilarious dark, sarcastic humor— throwing in casual flirts with a fuck you, or me, don't care confidence that Red could honestly respect, and participating in the conversation in his own way by either wheezing and giggling at a particular remark or throwing in clever wordplay that seriously spiced up the evening. 

Right now, though, it was Red's turn in the spotlight. 

 "—n' that's how i broke three o' my fuckin' ribs in one hit. Boss was pissed, had to spend 1500G t'get me to a healer that wasn't full o' shit." Red took a swig of mustard, eyelights flashing crimson as he noticed the analyzing stare Lust and Axe were giving him(specifically his ribs, like they expected to see the jagged scars through the thick leather of his jacket). Felt weird to be on the receiving end. Red found he didn't like it too much.

"y'all tryna look fer my SOUL'r some shit?" he said, gruffly, putting down the mustard bottle and meeting Lust's eye with a sharp grin. "eyes up here, sweetheart."

Axe rolled his eyelight and quietly watched as Lust replied, "while i am curious about how good-looking your SOUL is compared to how handsome you are, Red, i'm more curious as to how the fuck you managed to survive three broken ribs in one hit."

Red scoffed, gesturing to Axe with a pointed claw, "he survived after somethin' came fer his skull an' he's still kickin'. goes t'show that we can take what this bullshit universe hands out to us and then some."

"true," Lust conceded, "but that's still a critical hit, isn't it? since..."

He mimed a slash through the air that followed a path that had never been made, and Red instinctively stiffened while Axe's eyelight shrank. Lust's grin turned apologetic, and he dropped his gaze to the table. Red cleared his throat.

"yeah, yer right, sweetheart, but i'm guessin' my LV had somethin' to do with it."

Lust's brow quirked, and the previous tense atmosphere bled out of the air in place of open curiosity.

"what's LV got to do with anything, anyway?" he asked, leaning back and grabbing his ketchup bottle. "we didn't fight a lot in my universe, unsurprisingly." He winked. Axe looked at Red expectantly. 

"well," Red started, tapping his chin with his claw as he leaned back in his seat, "our king was kinda crazy t'begin with, so there's no surprise there that a little additional LV fucked him up even more." And oh, how fucked up he was indeed. Red could still remember when he was forced to judge monsters that were innocent but got caught at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Didn't matter what they did or why they did it. They could've stolen food from a royal guard to feed their family. Could've talked back to the wrong person. Could've killed someone important in self defense. It didn't matter to king Asgore, oh, no. Everyone was found guilty. 

And if you were found guilty?

 You didn't come out of the Judgement Hall alive. 

Red shivered as his LV reared its ugly head, sensing blood in the water. He pushed it away with an inward snarl. Didn't need to scare off his alternates.

"King an' Queen were Boss Monsters, so they got t'live fer more'n a couple hundred years," Lust and Axe nodded, the information familiar to them. "while the rest of us had shorter lifespans n' shit, yadda yadda yadda, King and Queen's kids died, Asgore went batshit insane, Queen disappeared, you know the drill." he waved his hand in a dismissive manner.

"point is, Asgore decided he was gonna install the new rule of Kill or Be Killed. kinda fuckin' bullshit, but ya can't really argue with the paranoid fucker. anyway, with that rule in place, LV started goin' round like the flu, and after maybe a couple o' decades i guess our magic started tryin' ta adapt to it. since, y'know, went against what our SOUL goes by n' shit."

Axe and Lust were listening attentively now, Lust with curiosity laced with something like dread but not quite. Axe, meanwhile, observed as quietly as he always did, for once without a sarcastic comment, though he looked a bit more tense. Weird. Red thought he might've seen a flicker of crimson something in his eyelight, but he ignored it. Right now he was giving a free lesson on how fucked up his universe was. Not recommended for kids, unless you wanted to scar them.

"so then monsters started to be born with low amounts of LV as a defense mechanism 'r whatever. another couple decades an' monsters are bein' born with higher LV. now, they're startin' t'develop sharper claws n' teeth and all that other bullshit t' try an' keep alive. Asgore didn't get better, and eventually the sheer amount of LV fucked around with his head and made him a paranoid piece o' shit that thought everyone was out t' get 'im."

Red could still remember the first time Asgore turned on him, twisted trident pinning him to the dust-covered carpet of the throne room as he threatened to dust him there and then after Red refused to judge someone. 

Red had never been more fucking terrified in his life.

The memory must've shown on his face, because he felt a hand settle on his shoulder gingerly. He snapped his teeth at the possible attacker before Lust's purple eyelights met his, the intent to calm clear on his face and in the magic connecting the bones in his hand, a gentle buzz that could barely be felt through his thick coat, and he relaxed, rubbing at his face with his hand as he let out an irritated sigh. He continued when Lust removed his hand.

"then the kid came around, all o' that bullshit happened and, welp, here we are now." Red waved his arms sarcastically in classic jazz hands. He met the gazes of his alternates defiantly, daring them to pity him. His gold tooth flashed, and they didn't give him pity. Good.

Lust hummed, looking thoughtful, and said, "wait, didn't your Toriel overthrow Asgore after you guys got to the Surface?" 

Red nodded, his grin becoming sharp. "yeah. Asgore wasn't happy. Queen don't tolerate the bullshit Asgore let happen, and she didn't let her LV fuck her over in the head as bad as Asgore let his. last i heard she joined the coalition with th' others t' help rulin' go easier or some shit." 

It was better with her as Queen, too. She didn't condemn everyone to death. She didn't let anyone fuck with her people. Red was thankful for that. 

Lust nodded, absorbing the information, and grinned. 

"well, asshole, i didn't know you were some kind of badass disguised as a wannabe hot topic employee," he said, and Red laughed, happy to fall back into their usual banter.

"aw, but sweetheart, you love the wannabe hot topic employee look," he crooned, and Lust hummed, agreeing.

"oh, yes, i just love me a man with a tragic backstory and an angsty badass look to match."

Axe snorted, muttering "then you'll just love about half of the entire population," and Red and Lust lost it, catching their breath a moment later.

"alright, alright," Lust said, waving his hand to get Red and Axe's attention, and when he did, he leaned back into the leather booth, smirking. "time to tell you guys about a universe that's fucked up in the literal sense: my universe!"

Red glanced to Axe, met his eyelight(there it was, again, a flash of crimson gone too fast for Red to be sure what he saw, only that the color was registered as familiar somehow. He didn't like it) before he turned his attention to Lust, who cleared his throat dramatically, as one does when they tell you their version of their universe. 

 "basically," he began, "for some reason or another our magic kind of built up in the Underground, and after a couple years it must have set up some sort of, uh, heatwave, if ya catch my drift." He shrugged and gestured helplessly, his flirtatious bravado receding before he slapped it back onto his face with an awkward smirk that didn't quite reach his eyesockets.

"so, naturally, monsters are fucking like jackrabbits, magic keeps building up, and like with LV—" he nodded to Red, "—the build up of magic started to affect our magic and became a sort of permanent heat. not fun, wouldn't recommend to your kids."

Red snorted and nodded to Lust to continue, half unbelieving him because of the sheer fucking absurdity, and half knowing that someone who looked that sincere likely wasn't lying about what he was saying. Unless he was confident that no one could call him out on his bullshit, but somehow Red doubted that. Axe remained silent.

"so, since heats are only supposed to last about a week or so and not months or even years, our magic sort of adapted as the heats became longer and more permanent. and, well, that's why you're sitting with a handsome bastard like myself." He winked, showing off his own jazz hands, and downed a swig of ketchup.

"monsters either dealt with it by using cooling magic or fucking someone. and since i'm not fucking someone right now, i'm drinking this wonderful magic-infused ketchup so that i don't go apeshit and fuck everything that i find attractive," he winked at Axe, then Red, who laughed. "any questions, class? raise your hands so i can call on you!"

Red raised his hand, laughing and going along with the joke, and Lust pointed at him dramatically. "hot topic wannabe employee that looks unfairly handsome—unless that's just me self-projecting, of course—what's your question?"

"alright, sweetheart, so—" Red laughed, a disbelieving sound that had Lust's brows raising in clear challenge. "—so what yer sayin' is ya literally gotta fuck someone for yer health?"

"yep," Lust replied, popping the 'p'. "otherwise we get thrown into a version of heat that's worse than your regular heats. again, not fun, unless you're into that kind of thing. i don't judge." He shrugged, then, and smirked at Red shaking his head.

"you poor bastard," he muttered, to which Lust replied: "i believe it's 'you poor sweetheart', Red, get it right."

After that, both skeletons were lost to their laughter, almost loud enough to be heard over the music of the nightclub, and they each let each other settle and catch their breath until they could be functioning citizens of society again.

When that was an achievable feat, Red watched as Lust turned to Axe, resting his chin on his hand with a classic wink.

"so, handsome, what's your story? an interesting battle scar needs an equally interesting story to go along with it, you know."

"... i don't want to talk about it."

Red watched quietly as Axe tensed, hand ghosting over where the jagged hole in his skull was, poor fucker, and settled on tugging on the edge of his hood to fall more lower onto his face, casting a shadow that created a really eerie fucking glow that, for some reason, set off an alarm bell in Red's skull. 

He tensed, paying close attention to the Axe's body language: more tense than before Lust asked him where he got his old injury, or maybe he was tense throughout the whole conversation about their universes. His shoulders were hunched, hand clutching the fur of his hood as his eyelight met Red's, and oh. 

Red could see the pulses of crimson LV fighting to gain control in Axe's magic, and Red knew that the jagged hole in his skull was something of a sore subject if it sparked his LV to rise. 

No sharp teeth, no claws... His magic wasn't even adapted for LV. This was going to be some tricky shit. 

It seemed Lust noticed, too, because his grin faltered for a split second before he slapped it back on again, leaning back to give Axe the illusion of more space. His eyelights turned sharper, analytical, as he tried to figure out how to remedy the situation before something snapped. Red could respect that, if it weren't a lost cause. 

Once LV began to boil in someone's magic(at least in Red's fucked up universe, anyway), the best you could do was wait for the shit to pass if you didn't want things to turn a bit... Dusty. 

"you don't have to answer if you don't wanna, handsome," Lust said, about as calmly as one could when someone's magic was turning darker, more violent. "just simple curiosity, i get that that's private stuff."

Red looked to Lust, and Lust met his eye, nodding, giving him control of the situation. Good. Red knew how to handle this shit. Lust didn't. He was thankful for that bit of trust they had established with each other.

Axe now had his gaze fixed on the table in front of him, one hand clutching his hood and the other digging the tips of his phalanges into the grain. Like that would somehow make the LV calm down. Tough bastard.

"listen, big shot," Red growled, intent on getting Axe's attention, and when that one crimson eyelight focused in on him, half in maybe fear or disgust or shame, and half out of the prospect of seeing potential prey, he couldn't help but grin to himself. He'd caught Axe when he wasn't lost to the LV. This'd make this shit a lot easier now.

"i don't know what th' hell ya do t' keep that LV o' yer's at bay, but diggin' yer phalanges into wood ain't gonna stop it. y'gotta let it pass before that shit boils over, and sittin' here in a nightclub with loud ass music ain't gonna do the trick. need to head out back to calm down?"

Lust tensed beside him, and Red glanced over to him, meeting his tense gaze and hoping his own conveyed that, no, he wasn't gonna fuck this up, he'd be able to put a stop to it before it boiled over, he could handle this, and Lust sighed, watching Axe.

Red looked back at the tough bastard, seeing his eyelight turn a darker shade of crimson, a shade of fear on his face, grin completely gone as he tried to keep himself in check, and he leaned on his elbows, wondering.

What the fuck happened to him to make him react so negatively that his LV showed up to try and fuck him over? 

 "so, y'wanna head out back n' settle this shit before it boils over? cause i ain't boutta have ya snap on my watch. i'm tryna help you out here, cause that shit's gonna eat you alive if you don't keep it in check."

"like i don't know," Axe snapped, meeting Red's eyelights head-on, the surrounding music reverberating in their skulls as their magic began to pop and crackle along their joints.

Not enough to be noticeable yet(especially for Axe), but the reaction was there all the same. Red needed to gear up in case he was gonna be attacked. Axe needed to gear down so he didn't snap. Axe still looked apprehensive—might be the fact that he was afraid he wouldn't be able to keep himself in check, or maybe he was afraid he'd dust Red somehow, he didn't fucking know—so Red dropped the bravado bullshit and focused on trying to appease the stubborn fucker.

"c'mon, Axe, ya want me to shortcut yer ass outside to destimulate or whatever the fuck you gotta do? i'm handin' ya a blank check, buddy. breathe."

Axe stilled, then obeyed, breathing in deep through his nasal aperture to calm down, and Red could see it was working. Not well enough, but it'd have to do.

Then Axe nodded, leaning back in his seat as he gazed at Red through a tired crimson eyelight. "yeah. low magic n' all. too lazy to do it myself."

Lust grinned. "aren't we all, handsome? i'll come with to make sure you both get insanely tired of my dick jokes."

Red grinned, and held out his clawed hand to Axe, who, after a moments hesitation, took it with a roll of his eyelight. He looked tired, like the world was pressing in on him on all sides. Red found he didn't like that too much, oddly enough.

He didn't waste time. He was just thankful that all Grillby's had their establishments follow the same general setups, albeit with different aesthetics. Lust put his hand on Red's shoulder. 

After that, Red used a shortcut, and soon after found himself in the back of the nightclub: a quiet alleyway with the bass of the music from inside creating a steady beat, a cloud of crimson flecked with gold the only evidence of Red's magic. Axe's still prickled along his, staticky and uneasy, and Red allowed him to snatch back his hand.

Lust removed his hand from Red's shoulder, leaning against the fiery red brick as he looked up at the sky. Red didn't take his eyelights off of Axe, who was now leaning on the opposite wall, grey concrete of another nondescript building that Red honestly couldn't give less than two shits about, but he knew that the sky was black and starless(which was a shame, but hey, light pollution was a bitch he couldn't exactly fight against) without looking up at it.

Axe's hands were shaking, and his eyesockets were closed, like he was trying to close himself off from the world and retreat into his head for a moment. That was fine. Red just had to make sure the bastard didn't let his LV fuck him over in the head for right now. Red could do that. 

They all sat in silence for a bit, letting Axe clear his head, before Red noticed Lust perk up out of the corner of his eye. Before he had a chance to ask what the fuck had caught his attention, he was gone, vibrant blue fur and black leather whisking away into the streetlights, where he turned a corner and Red lost sight of him. Well, okay. Leave him in a dark alleyway with an alternate version of himself that had issues with LV. That was fine. Fucker. 

Whatever. He had more important things to do than mull over how he was possibly ghosted: like watch Axe and make sure he wasn't gonna snap.

Seems that he felt Red's stare, though, because he muttered quietly(it seemed loud in the silence of the alley, Red mused), "stare at me like that and i'll think you give a shit about me."

Red snorted at that, and Axe opened his eyesocket, the corners of his grin twitching upwards. Before Red could make a crude retort, Lust was suddenly there, holding something out for Axe to take. Red couldn't see what it was, and he cranked his neck to see better before Lust turned, holding a Nice Cream bar for him with a proud smirk. 

Red blinked. This was technically offering him food, but it seemed Lust didn't realize that(like almost everyone on the Surface, which made for some weird interactions), so Red decided to just suck it up and take it, even if his instincts screamed at him that it was a clear sign of trust and this was just a plot to make Red owe him something.

Lust was already biting into his own, and Red looked at Axe, who was examining it closely before he opened up the paper and bit into it(with almost the same near-desperation as when Red bought him food for the past week), while Red stood there looking like a dumbass. 

"where th' hell didja get this from?" he asked Lust, waving his Nice Cream bar. He didn't want to risk anyone pulling some shady shit with these things, seeing as how they were almost all magic.

"saw a nice cream vendor across the street. good-looking hot topic wannabe employee look to him like you, so i figure he's from your universe," Lust answered, shrugging. "so i thought, if this evening's going to shit, might as well try and see if i can smooth over any rough edges."

Ah, Red knew that guy. Scrappy fucker, didn't try to shit on anyone by making the prices too high for the poor to buy. Sometimes he even infused a bit of healing magic for the monsters he thought needed it. Nice guy. 

Then Red saw the flash of guilt before it was shunned away by bright eyelights and a mischievous grin, and he nodded. "nah, i don't think this woulda boiled over. Axe's got good control of his LV now. right?" he turned to Axe, who paused in eating his Nice Cream bar, then nodded, wolfing down the last bits. He turned back to Lust. "plus, you did good by tryna smooth things over. not sure if you noticed, sweetheart, but i'm shit at that." 

They both laughed quietly, and Red finally opened his with a slice(thank fuck for claws) and took a bite of the sweet treat, sighing at the familiar taste. Yeah, this shit tasted good. Nice Cream vendor had better be getting good business these days. 

After that, they all sat in silence, eating their respective treats, and Red found that he might not mind doing something like this again. 

This time, Red looked at the black sky, and thought he might've seen a bright star through the light, but he couldn't be sure.

Light pollution was a bitch, after all.