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Life and All Its Side Effects

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Everyone knows that you aren’t supposed to base your higher education decisions on whether they’ll keep you close to your boyfriend. And they didn’t, not really.

Because if neither of you were planning on leaving the state anyway, and if the small private college with those great scholarship offers was a short drive from that culinary institute your boyfriend had been dreaming about since middle school, nobody could deny the convenience of sharing an apartment.

Almost nobody.

“Do you really have to move? You could just commute. Mike said his cousin did that.”

Sans sighed. “Paps, if I had to drive an hour and a half just to get to class, I don’t think I would go to class.”

“But what if I need help with math? I heard math gets really hard in sixth grade.”

“We can Skype every day, and Tori said you can visit as often as you want.” Well, she drew the line at school nights, but weekends were free game. “Besides, won’t it be nice to have a room to yourself again?”

This exchange had happened almost every day that summer, so Sans was a little surprised when Papyrus forewent his usual pout and latched onto his brother, pressing his face against Sans’s chest.

“I’ll miss you,” he said quietly.

Sans held him close. “I’ll miss you, too. Know how much?”

“How much?”

“2,000 pounds.”

Pulling away in confusion, Papyrus squinted at him. “That makes no sense. Why would you measure how much you miss someone in pounds?”

“‘Cause I’ll miss you a ton, duh.” Classic.

Their new apartment was on the cheaper side, and the walls were thin. Tori gave Frisk the last of the pies to put in the freezer (they were all housewarming gifts, of course, and definitely not leftovers from a bout of stress-baking) and went to investigate the shrieking that could be heard from the kitchen.

One of the bedroom doors was open. Inside Sean appeared to be having a very serious conversation with Fiona, who had recently discovered the word “why” and took a real liking to it, while their mom secretly snapped pictures on her phone. They seemed unaffected by the racket coming from across the hall.

Opening the door to Sans’s room revealed Sans himself, lying on his poorly made bed and cackling. Papyrus, now that he was finished yelling, had flopped sideways across Sans’s torso and was burying his face in the comforter.

Tori tried to sound stern. “Sans, stop tormenting your brother.” She mostly just sounded fond.

“Aw, c’mon Tori, he loved that joke.”

“Then why was he screaming?”

Papyrus lifted his head just enough to be heard. “Because I actually did like that joke and I hate myself for it.” He let it drop back down.

She chuckled at that, making her way into the room. This would be hard on both of them, she knew, but it would be good. They needed the space to grow independently, needed to learn how to trust that their brother would be alright even if they couldn’t see each other in person every day.

It would be hard for her as well. Tori was so proud of Sans for taking this step forward, and she knew he would do just fine, but a small part of her longed to take him home, to where she knew he would be safe, to where she could protect him best. It was irrational, and she would never actually hold him back, not ever. Still, she worried.

Anyone would if they had watched a routine flu shot trigger a dissociative episode.

Another yell, one Tori had come to recognize as a battle cry, shook her out of her thoughts. Frisk was in the middle of a running leap toward the bed.

“Dogpile!” they cried, falling on top of the pile of brothers. They giggled with Papyrus when Sans let out a dramatic groan.

“Uncle, uncle! Get off me, you rapscallions.”

Said rapscallions began to sit up, still giggling, and then Sans grabbed them both and pulled them back down.

“Aha! It seems you’ve both fallen victim to my brilliant japery!”

Papyrus scoffed from where he was comfortably snuggled up against his brother. “That wasn’t brilliant! It wasn’t even a jape. Right Frisk?”

They nodded, not sure what qualified something as a jape but in agreement nonetheless.

“Unbelievable. Hey G,” Sans hollered, “get in here!”

Well aware that ‘G’ would never deny such a request, Tori stepped out of the doorway and sank into the desk chair. Sure enough, it took mere moments for Sean to show up.

He gazed at the bed’s occupants with a raised eyebrow, moving the toddler in his arms to settle on his hip. Elaine followed him in, moving to stand next to the desk. The mothers shared a knowing look.

“As the oldest person in this room who doesn’t pay taxes yet, and also as my boyfriend, we require your wisdom.”

Sean looked unimpressed.

“These hellions,” Sans continued, nodding his head at the preteens on either side of him, “don’t think I japed them. Do you agree with me that I did, in fact, jape them, and that it was brilliant?”

Stroking his chin with his free hand, Sean leaned over the bed to examine the scene. Fiona shifted in his grasp.

“No,” she said helpfully.

“Hm.” Sean considered this. “You know what, Fi? You make a strong argument. Sans, as your elder and boyfriend, it is my expert opinion that there was no jape, and if there was, it was definitely not brilliant.”

“Betrayed first by my siblings and now by my Prince Charming? This is too much to bear.”

Prince Charming was a new one. Sean rolled his eyes. Referring to Frisk as his sibling was also new, and Tori blinked back the tears that welled up.

“You’re, like, four months older than me. How expert can your opinion be?” Sans was moving through the stages of grief fairly quickly.

“Sorry Sleeping Beauty, the charges have already been filed.”

Sans gazed at him in something close to wonder. “Okay, I’m going to need everybody else in the room to look away immediately. Someone take the baby, too.”

“Why?” Frisk asked, already moving to retrieve Fiona.

“Because I’m about to kiss this man and none of you need to see that.”

Tori dutifully covered her eyes, smiling softly. Elaine whistled lowly, only looking away after Sean’s face had grown sufficiently red.

“Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming aren’t even from the same fairy tale,” Papyrus mumbled. “You guys are weird.” He rolled off of Sans’s arm and once again planted his face in the rumpled comforter.

“Yeah, but Sleeping Beauty’s my favorite.”

And then Sean was pulling him up off the bed.

And then they were kissing.

And if anyone snuck a peek at their gentle embrace, well, nobody had to know.