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Rus didn’t even bother running to get to class. Sure, it was the first day, but this was college – no one gave a shit. Besides, he still had half an echo-flower joint left and nothing was going to keep him from finishing it.

So, he leisurely strolled across campus, watching his fellow students actually make an effort. He chuckled at one turtle monster who was clearly trying to run but, well, he was moving in slow-mo.

Ah, what must it be like to actually care?

That’s not to say Rus didn’t care. He cared about things that he was actually interested in. He liked puzzles and sculpting, baking (when his brother wasn’t around), video games, and writing poetry. But nobody needed to know any of that. They just needed to know that his brother blackmailed him into going to college.

“Either get a diploma or start paying rent, you useless free loader!”

And here he was, playing at getting a degree so that he could still live in the house he’s lived in since they came to the surface. But, just because he was a student, didn’t mean he had to go towards any certain degree. Right now he was just taking a crud ton of useless classes: linguistics, anatomy, forensics, intro to philosophy, and a history class – the one that he was late for right now.

He wasn’t going to be late for much longer. His joint was essentially burned out and he had reached his building. He sighed, stomped out the cigarette, and put his hood up before heading into the building. He took his time getting lost while looking for his classroom. But, inevitably, he found his classroom. He could hear the teacher’s loud voice permeating the wood of the door.

Note to self: bring ear plugs next time.

He kept his head down as he opened the door, let it slam behind him, and sat in the nearest seat.

“WHY HELLO! YOU ARE TWELVE MINUTES AND THIRTY-SEVEN SECONDS LATE!” Rus looked up, hoping that his glare would shut the teacher up (or at least quiet him down).

That’s not what happened.

The teacher stood in front of the classroom, in front of a board that had the name “Papyrus Great Gaster” in a wavering stiff scrawl. He was a tall skeleton, wearing a pastel pink button up shirt tucked into warm brown khakis (tied off with a practically golden belt). His sleeves were rolled up, showing off his forearms, and he had an oversized watch tightly wound around one of his wrists. He was smiling at Rus, despite his glare, and it was the epitome of warm, welcoming, and excited.

Rus’s soul pulsed out of rhythm.

Only then did he notice the group of humans and monsters that were sitting between he and the professor, glaring at him. Were they really angry that he had been late?

“NOW THAT YOU’RE FINALLY HERE, WE HAVE EVERYONE PRESENT IN CLASS. SO! LET’S START OUR ICE BREAKER!”

OH. His presence meant they had to actually introduce themselves. Yeah, he’d be mad at him, too.

“SO! LET’S ALL STAND IN A CIRCLE. GO ON, MOVE THE CHAIRS!” Everyone stood up, pushed the chairs, and stood in a circle. Rus got moved closer to the front of the room. And the teacher moved to stand right beside him. “OKAY! WE’RE GOING TO PLAY FIVE FINGERS.” Rus couldn’t help but slightly cower. The professor was deafeningly loud this close. It honestly reminded him of his brother and made him want to run to the bathroom. Rus brought a hand up to the right side of his head, trying to block that side from the teacher’s noise. “WE’LL ALL START WITH OUR NAMES!” The attempted muffling didn’t help.

The professor then went into the instructions. Say your name, blah blah blah, what each finger meant, blah blah. Rus didn’t pay attention.

“SO I’LL START.” Was it possible the teacher got louder? “MY NAME IS PAPYRUS GREAT GASTER, BUT YOU MAY CALL ME PROFESSOR P DOUBLE G!” That got an awkward laugh from most of the students. “JUST KIDDING. NEVER CALL ME THAT. EVER!” He said it with a smile, but Rus took it seriously. “PROFESSOR PAPYRUS WILL DO! IF YOU CHOUSE TO ADD ‘THE GREAT’ AS A PREFIX, I CERTAINLY WILL NOT OBJECT! NYEH HEHE!” Rus caught a few students getting won over – mostly the humans, most of the monsters still seemed uninterested. The Professor went through his fingers, holding each one as he went.

He grabbed his thumb. “I’M GREAT AT EVERYTHING! HOWEVER I AM MOST GREAT AT BEING GREAT! AND THROWING JAPES!” Pointer. “I PLAN ON BEING THE BEST TEACHER YOU WILL EVER HAVE!” Rus almost chuckled. Small goals. Middle. “MY BROTHER IS THE MOST ANNOYING PERSON I KNOW! BUT I LOVE HIM! EVEN IF HE DOESN’T PICK UP AFTER HIMSELF!” Ring. “I’M COMMITED TO MY BROTHER! AND MY JOB! AND MY FRIENDS! AND ALL OF YOU! NYEH!” Another chuckle. Professor Papyrus was doing his damndest to be loveable. Rus thought he was trying too hard. Pinkie. “AND MY FUN FACT... WHEN I CAME TO THE SURFACE, THEY WANTED A MIDDLE NAME ON MY RECORDS. I DIDN’T HAVE ONE SO I MADE ONE UP. SINCE MY NICKNAME IS ‘THE GREAT PAPYRUS’ I LITERALLY MADE ‘GREAT’ MY MIDDLE NAME. PRETTY COOL, NYEH HEH!” He put his hands on his hips, laughing in success. He looked to the bunny monster standing to his right. “ALL RIGHT? YOUR TURN!”

The girl started talking and Rus tuned her entirely out, choosing instead to check out his teacher. NOT IN THAT WAY. Just... observing him. He looked about Rus’s age, maybe a little older, but not more than a few years. He held himself with high esteem. His chin was perpetually up and his spine was impeccably straight. Bones couldn’t get wrinkles, but he swore this skeleton had smile lines. Other than that, his skull was completely impeccable. Pristine, pure, white complexion and absolutely no marks, dents, or cracks.

Probably been coddled his entire life.

Rus pulled his hood further over his head, trying to hide his perpetual hairline fracture on his left socket.

Professor Papyrus’s shoes were just as immaculate as the rest of his outfit. They were a lighter brown than his pants and were wing-tipped suede leather. They looked far too expensive for a professor’s salary. Must’ve had a rich dead dad. Rus scoffed and, on the inhale, noticed his cologne. Oddly floral with undertones of sweet pine. Rus now covered his nose. It was a little intoxicating – OVERWHELMING. Just overwhelming.

He couldn’t hide the fact that he found the professor attractive. He had a handsome skull and a good body, with an adequate sense of style. But Rus got a vibe from him that he was just a total square. A geek. He didn’t even seem smart enough to be a nerd – just a straight up few friend geek.

And thinking that made Rus almost tear up. He sniffed, shoved his hands in his hoodie pockets, and prayed he’d be told to sit down.

“STUDENT!” He physically jumped at his teacher’s interjection. He looked at the professor, who looked down at him (they may have been the same height had Rus not been such a slouch) with a slightly gentler smile. “IT IS YOUR TURN!”

“Uh, right.” Rus pulled one hand out of his pocket and started counting up. “You all can call me Rus. Um, ‘m good at puzzles. My goal is to stay in school. Loud voices get on m’ nerves.” He felt his soul quake and heat at the same time. “’M committed to my brother. ‘Nd the fun fact, uh, I got a cat back home.” He rubbed his foot into the floor. “That’s it.”

“While that was short, I appreciate you for sharing.” Rus looked up at his teacher again. Had he... actually lowered his voice? It couldn’t have been because he had said that, right? “Now, let’s get the chairs back in their place and I’ll start passing out the syllabus.”

They moved the chairs and got the lesson plan. The teacher kept his voice at a normal volume for the rest of the class.

Regardless of why, Rus did appreciate it.

Chapter Text

Turned out the history class was all about the combined monster/human history that each culture had missed from the other while the monsters were underground. Turned out the humans had had hundreds of wars while the monsters were banished. They established boundaries, elite persons and races, class systems, who had the right to kill what. It was ridiculous.

Especially considering that the monsters, in contrast, had had three major times of turmoil – the war with the humans that incited their exile, the first expansion from Home to New Home where they all decided where they would live without destroying the natural integrity of the Under, and the original energy crisis. No wars and no murders over hundreds of years.

Nearly every class, the humans sunk low in their seats, feeling guilty for their genocidal and blood-stained history. And every time they shrank, the Professor said, “Do not worry. We modern monsters do not judge you modern humans for the actions of your ancestors. It is simply important we acknowledge the change the world experienced and what brought us to the tenuous and relative peace we have today.” And then he’d look at the monsters, sometimes making direct intense eye contact with Rus. “And don’t you lot go feeling high and mighty. Remember that the Prime Underground committed child murder and atrocious determination research. Not to mention the variants of Prime Under that were arguably more violent than the human world. So don’t judge!”

He just had to know about and acknowledge the alternate Undergrounds.

When the barrier broke way back when, it created a rift between time and space and freed not only the monsters of this world, but the monsters from across the multi-verse. And Rus was from one of those alternate worlds – one of the violent ones that rivaled the atrocities of the human world.

Kill or be killed was the rule.

And Rus hadn’t been killed.

He felt his sins crawling down his back. Every class day.

And he’d been in class for over a month. Suffice to say, despite how attractive the teacher was or how simple the work could be, Rus hated the class and never bothered paying attention to the day to day lessons. He spent the classes writing little lyrics and doodling.

More often than not, he doodled his teacher. It really was the only part of the class he didn’t hate. Even though he was the one inflicting the guilt, he was still alluringly positive, kind, and handsome. The teacher was a good guy. Suffice to say, Professor Papyrus could make Rus feel guilty any day and it wouldn’t bother him in the slightest.

Which was why, when the Professor asked him to stay after class, he didn’t really mind.

He walked up to his teacher’s desk and waited. Professor Papyrus was collecting his things as he spoke. “I hate to bring you over to chat about something negative, but I must let you know that you are failing this class.” Well, Sans wasn’t going to be happy about that. And if he failed then he’d actually have to pay rent. “Is this what you wanted?”

Rus shrugged. “Dunno.”

The professor got everything collected in his suitcase and looked at Rus with concerned eyes. “I can’t help but notice that since the first day, you’ve been putting in lackluster effort. Is it because you do not like the way it’s being taught?” Rus looked at him with wide-eyes. Did he really think he’d say that he thought his teaching sucked? “Do not worry, I have very few feelings to hurt!”

“Uh, no.” It wasn’t the way it was being taught. In fact, that was the only plus side – despite the constant guilt-tripping. Was that what he meant? “Um, actually...” How was he supposed to say this? Papyrus looked at him inquisitively, tilting his head. Rus couldn’t help but notice how cute he was. “Uh, I’m uh, from one of the uh, violent Unders?” He averted his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Yes, I know. Everyone’s original Under is listed on the student list so that we may provide a more adequate and comprehensive education. Have I not been successful in providing that?”

Rus shook his head. The subject matter was, if anything, too comprehensive. “It’s, uh... I’m one of the more, er, violent monsters.”

“So was my brother!” The professor smiled. “Did you know he killed the Prime Ambassador over three hundred times? And look at them now! Best of friends!”

His professor was the brother of the Prime Judge? Rus scratched his cheek. “Uh, my record was four hundred and twenty-seven,” Rus confessed. His teacher’s eyes lit up.

“YOU WERE A JUDGE! OH, OF COURSE!” Rus cowered. “Oh, sorry. Right.” Professor Papyrus actually averted his eye lights. “I know my brother does not like speaking of his time as Judge and is not the biggest fan of violence or even mild sparring, so I can understand how hearing about violent atrocities could make you rather uncomfortable.”

“It’s not that.” Rus was surprised by how quickly he responded. The teacher’s sockets came back up to meet Rus’s.

“Then what is?”

“I guess, uh, I don’t like thinkin’ about all the stuff I had to do to survive down there. I... I didn’t just kill the human. There were others.”

“But none of your crimes from Under are prosecutable up-“

“I don’t like bein’ reminded of it,” Rus said with attempted finality. “I know us monsters were arguable equally as violent as the human race. I’m proof of that. But I don’t like being reminded of that every day. I mean, the humans are dealin’ with the actions of their ancestors, I’m dealin’ with my own crimes. Hard to learn when you feel your sins crawling down your back, ya know?”

Something flickered in the Professor’s eye sockets. “I – I see. I’m terribly sorry. I did not mean to make you feel guilty. It was an attempt to keep either group from feeling overly righteous, but perhaps I took that too far.” Professor Papyrus practically bowed. “Please accept my sincerest apologies for disrupting your learning process. I will do my best not to bring up individual guilt in the future and focus more on our positive future as opposed to any individual or group’s violent past.” He stood straight. “Please let me know if I continue to make you uncomfortable and I will make necessary changes.”

Rus was genuinely impressed. This teacher – an authority figure that could’ve just told him to fuck off for speaking his mind – listened to him. Accepted his complaints as valid. He was going to actually change his behavior.

He’d never felt so heard before.

And, like that first day, he started to feel magic come to his sockets. He pulled up his hood and tugged at his cowl, pulling it up to partially cover his mouth. “Thanks, teach.”

“Of course!” He nearly fell to the ground after a hearty clap on the back. “It is my job as a teacher to aide a student in their educational journey. And I’m happy to accommodate you in any way I can.” He smiled at Rus. A warm, accomplished, big smile that was painfully authentic. “I’ll give your email to Casey – she should let you borrow her notes. If you review them in a less distracting environment, I’m sure you will do wonderfully on the next quiz!” Professor Papyrus walked out of the room, waving jovially as he left. “See you next week, Rus!”

Rus stood near the desk, his eyes on the doorway where his teacher had just been. That smile was branded into his mind. A tear of validation fell down his cheek, and a blush formed.

He was handsome and genuinely nice. The first aspect was uncommon, and the second was legendarily rare.

He wiped his cheek, readjusted his backpack, and made his way out of the building.

He wasn’t going to get a crush on his teacher. Nope. Nopety nopety nope.

He also made an effort to be on time from that day forward.

Chapter Text

Casey emailed Rus with photocopies of their notes. Rus did his best to read them – but he was never a good reader. He always learned better hands on or verbally. It didn’t help that letters all looked the same. Bs and Ds would switch around, words looked like they were borderline moving, and most every sentence was entirely gibberish. All of the notes went through one socket and out the other.

So, when the pop quiz came the next week, Rus still failed. However, he did totally nail some questions that were about that day’s lecture. What Professor Papyrus had lectured about – without the guilt tripping – Rus remembered. But the rest of the quiz was fraught. The day he got the quiz back wasn’t surprising. He knew he didn’t know ninety percent of the information.

At the end of class, Rus crumpled up the test and crammed it into his backpack with his notebook and single unsharpened pencil. He shlupped it over his shoulder and started to make his way out with the rest of the students.

“Rus, may you please stay for a moment?”

He cringed in annoyance. As much as he appreciated having someone actually care about him for once, he, for the first time in his life, didn’t want to disappoint someone. He slowly turned and made his way over to the desk. Professor Papyrus was busy putting his papers into his suitcase.

“Thank you for staying behind,” he said. “How do you feel about your score on the quiz?”

Rus shrugged.

“You got a few questions correct! I’m very proud of you for that!”

Rus erupted in a blush, pulling up his cowl to try and hide it. Pride was not an emotion he was familiar with, either in himself or from someone else. It made him uncomfortable. But he did feel completely flattered. A feeling he was even less familiar with.

“However, you continued to miss the questions that focused on subjects from earlier this semester. Did Casey not get in contact with you?”

“They did.” Professor Papyrus raised his brow, waiting for elaboration. Rus shrugged. “I don’t learn well through reading.”

“OH! Are you an auditory learner?” He asked. Rus smiled. He actually allowed his teeth to curve into a grin. He never knew how good being acknowledged could feel. And every time his teacher recognized him, validated him, saw him, he couldn’t hide his enjoyment.

“Yeah.”

“I completely understand! Talking is so much more effective to me, not to mention I can barely read myself!” Well, that was a bold thing to admit. But he could relate.

“You, uh, you dyslexic or somethin’?”

Professor Papyrus beamed, his sockets sparkling and his grin seeping with joy. For a moment, Rus wondered how often his teacher felt seen. “Indeed, I am! I can assure you it is not a hindrance when you learn how to work with it!” Professor Papyrus put a hand on his chin. “Catching up through the notes of others won’t help you so... I GOT IT!” Rus didn’t cower. He knew that the volume of his voice never resulted in pain or punishment. It was still off putting, but he wasn’t scared anymore. Although, Professor Papyrus slamming his hands on the desk and leaning forward toward Rus’s face certainly made him nervous. “I completely understand if you don’t have the time, but if you would be interested I could sculpt out an hour of time each week to go over my past lectures with you so you may have a second chance to grasp the material. Is that something you would be interested in?”

To Rus’s surprise, the idea didn’t repulse him. He didn’t really like learning but, since he started listening to his professor’s lectures, he did find them entertaining. He might enjoy listening to them again – this time actually giving a shit. Also, he wasn’t going to lie, alone time with a handsome skeleton even in a professional setting was appealing. It would be a safe way to raise his grade and regulate his burgeoning crush that was never going to fully fledge.

“Uh, sure.”

Professor Papyrus’s smile nearly snapped his jaw off. “Wonderful!” He pulled his calendar out of his brief case and they started scheduling. They’d meet every Monday at one for an hour and a half. Rus was almost embarrassed with how his soul fluttered at the appointment. “We shall start from the beginning and I will go through everything as quickly and thoroughly as possible.” He returned the calendar. “Also, it would be beneficial to go to the disability office so that you can take any major tests with extra time, so as to help you understand each question properly.”

“Okay.” He didn’t fight the suggestion. Professor Papyrus proposed it, so he had no doubt to do it. Also, extra time sounded dreamy.

“Wonderful. In that case, I will see you on Monday!” His teacher snapped his suitcase shut and made his way out of the classroom. “Have a good weekend, Rus!”

The sentiment made him smile. “You, too, Professor.”

His teacher turned around and looked at him with such a childlike glee. “THANK YOU! I WILL DO MY BEST!” And with that he left.

Rus let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. His body relaxed as he let himself imagine, for just a moment, going into his teacher’s office, sitting beside his teacher with their arms and knees touching, feeling the warmth of his magic through his sweatshirt. His smile was so warm because of his magic, that slight contact may heat Rus’s entire body.

He lazily smiled, pulled up his hood, and made his way home. It was a walk across campus, a ten minute bus, and a short walk to his home.

It was a small building with boarded up windows (“for safety!” his brother had said) and junk in the yard. It wasn’t garbage, it was just projects in progress all belonging to Rus. He never had much motivation, but whenever he did, he often made stuff. He fantasized about selling it, but that never amounted to anything. Maybe he’d work on one this weekend. He walked into the house and found a sticky note on the coat hook. It was from his brother – telling him he wouldn’t be back until late and that he better make some dinner because Sans would be too tired to make any when he got home.

Rus sighed, dumped his backpack on the couch and immediately started making something. He decided to make baked potatoes. He boiled broccoli and peas and, when he was finished, grabbed a potato with a few paper towels and took it and his backpack up to his room. He collapsed on his bed, ate the potato like an apple and, despite his better judgement, opened Facebook on his phone with a purpose. His thumb hovered over the keyboard in hesitance.

Was this a breach of privacy? It wasn’t against the rules to google a teacher, or to google a possible datemate, but... was it wrong to do that when your motives were a little crossed?

His thumb slowly typed out “Papyrus Great Gaster”.

The first thing that he noticed was something he should have expected. He once considered (and still did, frankly) consider his professor as a geek with few friends. He liked his teacher, he really did! He just didn’t imagine him having many peer friends. And he was right. He had eight friends on Facebook.

Eight.

EIGHT.

Rus sat up. He knew this guy was too eccentric to have many friends, but he expected around fifty. Not fucking e i g h t .

Maybe he didn’t have friends because his timeline was relatively memey. It was full of pictures of minions complaining about day to day life and “Tap Here” images that revealed dogs or broken eggs. There were also a plethora of selfies that focused on him tracking his magical attacks, hanging out with his “best friend” Undyne, watching MTT content, lifting weights and showing off his literally nonexistant muscles, and him photobombing his brother, a Judge. Rus had to admire his enthusiasm despite the lack of likes.

Finally, he went to his bio. From Under Prime. Studied at College University – the same university that he was teaching at now and that Rus attended. He only graduated three years ago. Started working at College University two years ago. Born...

Rus raised a brow in surprise. His professor was only twenty-six. Rus was actually a year older than him. Maybe his teacher seemed older because he had shit together, with like a job and shit. And because he seemed so eager to help. Or maybe it was just because he was in a position of authority and Rus had never been older than his teacher. He didn’t really think of it as something that could happen.

He made a mental note of his teacher’s birthday.

He kept scrolling through his information and then his photos. He found a selfie he had half a mind to save but decided not to. He felt creepy enough, he wasn’t going to up it by making him his home screen or anything.

That didn’t stop him from staring at it as he finished his potato.

Chapter Text

It was Monday. Rus wore a clean hoodie over a clean shirt on top of clean pants. He had just done laundry specifically to make a good impression. He may not make an effort for his classmates, but he would definitely make an effort for his teacher.

Also, if they were going to be crammed in a small office, the last thing he wanted to do was gas out his crush.

Yes, it was a crush. He couldn’t deny the way his soul fluttered and skipped and hummed whenever he saw a picture or thought about him. Or how he was actually looking forward to getting lectured during his free time.

But that’s all it was. People get crushes that go nowhere all the time, it was no big deal, especially if he didn’t act like it. Because it wasn’t one. Not a big deal at all – hell, it was barely a deal at all! Just a trickle of a feeling. That was it.

A deal that made him wash his clothes for the first time in a month.

No big deal.

Rus put his bag on his back and made his way downstairs. “BROTHER!” He jumped. He had almost gotten used to not being yelled at. He stopped before leaving and looked to his brother, sitting on the couch and stroking their pet cat. He hated how much the cat liked Sans. It was his idea to get one. Sure, it didn’t hate him, but still! Its nickname had quickly turned to “Little Traitor”. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING? YOU DON’T HAVE CLASSES ON MONDAYS!”

“’M goin’ to get some extra help for my history class.”

“YOU’RE TOO DUMB TO GET IT DURING CLASS?”

Rus worried his cowl as he shrugged. “I guess.”

Sans shook his head. “FUCKING BLESS WHOEVER’S WASTING TIME ON YOUR LOST CAUSE.”

Ouch. He was used to the verbal abuse, but he had actually started to feel hopeful lately. He never let himself be optimistic because his brother would always knock him back down. He had forgotten to keep himself down on the ground. You can’t crash and burn if you’re flat on your back.

“GET OUT OF HERE. AND PICK UP MILK ON YOUR WAY HOME.” Sans pat Traitor. For a second, Rus thought he looked like a supervillain.

“Sure thing, bro.” Rus gladly escaped, closing the door gently before making a run for the bus stop. He hopped on, eagerly bounced his knee the whole ride, and made haste to get to the building – not even bothering to smoke in between.

He got to office hours exactly at one and saw the door was locked. So, he waited outside until his teacher came.

Weird, his professor didn’t seem like the tardy type.

He watched the clock as minutes ticked by and started to second guess himself. Was this the wrong time? Was it really on a different day? Or maybe his teacher forgot?

He heard shoes pounding in the hallway and turned to find the culprit. Professor Papyrus was running to his office in a full sprint. “OH GOOD, YOU’RE STILL HERE!” He yelled from down the hall.

He finally came up to Rus, slightly out of breath as he shuffled around for his key.

“Course. Wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Rus said, uncomfortable with how true that statement was.

“I cannot possibly describe how terribly sorry I am for being late.” He opened the door and lead them into his office. It was full of furniture that clearly belonged to the school, precisely five books on the shelf (two of which were textbooks for his class, one of which was a children’s book). There was an old computer and phone on the desk and a view to the courtyard – though they were on a third floor so there was a semblance of privacy. It looked like his professor was struggling to find a home in the office, like his workplace didn’t have room for him despite the empty shelves. “The Prime Ambassador had a dentist appointment and I was the only one available to take them. Traffic was horrible, but that is no excuse! Please take a seat.”

Rus noticed that the seat for students was higher quality than the seat his professor would sit in across the desk. His teacher’s was the wooden, stiff, cushion less one. Rus sat in a plush, wheelie, spinney, and large chair. It was incredibly uncomfortable. His teacher sat down and pulled out notes from his suitcase. “You weren’t waiting long, were you?” He asked, panic in his sockets.

“Not that long, don’t worry.”

“Oh good. I appreciate your understanding.” Professor Papyrus finally caught his breath and he put his hands on the desk. “Are you ready to get started?”

“Yeah,” Rus said, a genuine smile at his teacher’s expression. He didn’t want to look too lovesick, but he wasn’t going to hide just how good he felt when he was around him.

“THEN WE – ahem – we shall began.” Professor Papyrus smiled apologetically. Rus waved a hand. He just appreciated how much he was trying. So much better in contrast to his conversation with his brother (if it could even be called that).

His teacher began. Everything he said sounded familiar – which made sense, Rus had technically heard it all before – but this time he actually absorbed what was being said. Monsters and humans were at peace. There was an accident interpreted as malice, and a war broke out.

Rus was paying attention, he really was. But he could listen and admire at the same time while fully absorbing information from both senses. Which was why, while listening to his teacher’s lecture, Rus spent the hour and a half appreciating his teacher.

He left a top button undone, allowing Rus to see parts of his collar bones and the slight feint glow of the soul in the rib cage. For a moment, he humored the idea of possibly seeing it, before shamefully looking away. He went back to the bones and noticed a distinctive scar on his neck. A big, deep, ring shaped scar around the middle of one of his vertebras.

When the alternate worlds merged, so did all of the timelines and many monsters were emblazoned by scars, wounds, and marks left behind from violent timelines. This neck scar was clearly a result of that. But the fact that it went all the way through... Rus reached for his own neck in sympathetic discomfort, his own scar aching. He disguised it with a cowl. Why didn’t his teacher hide his?

“Rus.” He allowed himself to look back at his teacher’s face. There was the look of slight concern again. “What did I just say?”

“You talked about the power of souls and how the barrier was created with the sacrifice of seven human mages.”

Professor Papyrus smiled. “Oh, good! You looked distracted. I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss anything.” His teacher seemed to dive right back into the material, but Rus stopped him.

“Professor?”

“Hm? Do you have a question about the material?”

Rus shook his head. “Could, uh, could I ask a personal question?”

Papyrus sat up a little straighter. “Sure! I am an open book after all! But don’t read my index, nyeh heh!” Rus didn’t entirely get the joke, but he asked his question anyway.

“How did you get your... uh?” Rus grabbed his neck, not wanting to say what he was referring to.

“Hm?” Papyrus reached for his own neck, felt the fissures in his vertebrae, and his sockets widened in realization. “Oh!” At first his cheeks flushed with magic. It was orange in hue – warm and subtle, flicking in and out for a mere moment. Rus memorized the color. He never wanted to forget it. “How very perceptive of you! Yes, apparently in some of my more violent timelines, I was beheaded quite often by the Prime Ambassador themself! What an honor!”

Rus furrowed his brow. “An honor?”

“Well, yes. Because they were able to cut off my head, they eventually made the decision to NOT cut it off, and therefore chose a path of peace and broke the barrier!” Professor Papyrus smiled widely. “It is a wonderful reminder of the journey it took us to get here.” He tilted his head. “May I ask a personal question?”

His soul fluttered in his ribcage. “Uh, sure.”

“You have one too, don’t you?”

Rus instinctively lifted his cowl to cover his scar. They did have matching scars. But his was far less deep. He had not been killed nearly as many times.

“Sorry, have I made you uncomfortable?”

Rus shook his head. “’S fine. Yeah, I have one.” Professor Papyrus’s sockets filled with an inquisitive light.

“May I see it?”

Now it was Rus’s turn to blush. He could practically see the purple hue of his magic shining off his skull. His teacher leant back, the sparkle dimming. “My apologies, I have made you uncomfortable. You must forgive me. I don’t often meet my alternates and I’m incredibly curious.”

Rus nearly froze in his seat. He’d been trying not to think of it. But he could never quite quench the engrained curiosity to meet literal other versions of himself. His teacher had acted like they were different. Hell, he had such a contrasting disposition that Rus could almost forget they shared a name, a disability, and a brother.

Thinking about how they were alternates also put a bit of a wrench in his crush.

There wasn’t anything illegal about alternates dating. The dogs from the royal guards were swinging and it was noteworthy that Prime Sans and a version of himself, Red, had gotten engaged (it made the news as it was the first instance). It wasn’t inappropriate so much as it was a psychological mess. Were you a narcissist for dating your alternate?

Rus didn’t think so. Each alternate was their own person. Besides, how could he be narcissistic if this version of him was so different? In fact, they were so different, Rus had been humoring himself into thinking maybe they weren’t alternates. But, of course, he was wrong.

He was almost always wrong.

“Haven’t you, uh, met your... future co-brother-in-law, though?” Rus asked, hoping not to sound too knowledgeable about his teacher’s private life.

“Of course, I met Edge. But I met him through Red! I didn’t find him out in the wild. Besides,” Professor Papyrus made a strained face, “he’s not the friendliest monster out there.” Rus chuckled. He could relate. “You on the other hand are quite kind.”

His whole body froze. A compliment. He’d just been given a compliment. And he’d been called kind of all things. He almost laughed in shock. “Um... Uh, th-thanks, I guess?”

“You’re welcome!” Professor Papyrus beamed, trying to bring them back from the brink of awkward. “If you ever wish to speak about your experiences as a Papyrus-“ That was certainly a way to put it. “-my door is always open! But in the mean time I respect your boundaries. So, shall we get back to the actual lecture?”

Rus nodded. “You know, you’re, uh, pretty kind, too, professor.” The words came out shakey and nervous. He’d never exchanged a compliment sincerely before.

His teacher smiled. “Thank you. And, considering we are biologically the same monster, I do believe it would be appropriate for you to call me by our name, if you like that is.” That blush came back to Rus’s cheekbones.

“Okay, Papyrus.”

He could have sworn he saw that orange blush blink back like static on a television.

“ANYWAY! So the first year of monster exile for the humans was one of extreme transition!”

Rus buckled in and focused. He listened and watched Prof – Papyrus talk. And he felt the thin crevice of his vertebra scar.

Chapter Text

Rus started absorbing the information. He started learning. He could parrot back facts about monster and human history to Papyrus. He found historical inspiration in his poetry as he waxed about love, loss, and a gap no one could see. He started thinking of a love story between a monster and a human, split by the war and separated for the rest of the human’s days. He took quizes and passed them. For the big tests, he got As and Bs. When Papyrus would recommend a book, he’d go through the slog of trying to read it just because his teacher suggested it.

He was happy.

When he was at school.

Home had seemed to get worse. He wasn’t sure if it was because he was getting used to being treated decently by Papyrus, or because Sans could smell his HoPe growing and felt the need to bash him back into the dust. Whatever the reason, his brother had started being particularly nasty. He threw more chores onto him (“YOU’RE FORGETTING YOUR WORK ETHIC”), he took him to the gym and made him work until his bones swelled (“YOUR BODY HAS GOTTEN SOFT SINCE YOU STARTED STUDYING TOO MUCH”), he kept him up late with punishments and lectures and woke him too early for menial chores.

By the end of the semester, Rus was starting to feel worn down. He’d felt beaten down before, but he was more tired now than he had been in a long time. Things were always easier when he did what Sans said but, for some reason, being obedient wasn’t keeping him safe.

His saving grace was that he had classes and office hours. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when the semester ended (hell, maybe Sans would take it easier on him), but for now he just packed his backpack and looked forward to learning from Papyrus.

At least he did look forward. That day his brother met him in the hall. Rus looked at his phone. If he didn’t leave now, he would miss his bus. But Sans didn’t seem to care. “Uh, bro, I’m gonna be late.”

“YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CLASS TODAY.”

He felt his soul stop pulsing. If he had any organs, his heart would’ve dropped into his stomach. He tried to brush it off with a smile.

“C’mon, bro. Stop fooling.”

“I N E V E R FOOL.” Rus tried to move to one side of the hall or the other, but Sans just blocked his opening. “YOU WILL NOT BE GOING TO CLASS TODAY.”

“It’s the review before the final,” he said. And the second to last time he’d see Papyrus.

“ALL THE MORE REASON FOR YOU TO MISS. YOU’VE BEEN SPENDING SO MUCH TIME WITH YOUR HEAD IN YOUR NOTEBOOKS THAT ALL THE INFORMATION OUGHT TO BE BRANDED INTO YOUR EMPTY LITTLE SKULL.”

“Not that much time,” he dared to mutter. As soon as the words came out, though, he wanted to take them back. Spending time with Papyrus had made him reckless, made him feel accustomed to saying what came to mind. He forgot to hide his newfound courage from his brother.

Sans’s eyelights glowed brightly. He may not have been the judge, but Sans had always been able to overpower Rus. It may have been because Sans was the older brother and had a feigned superiority. Or because he had 1 HP and Rus would dust if he was responsible for Sans’s death. Or because he was so much more bold, aggressive, and offensive with his magic that his strategy simple overwhelmed Rus. He was capable of more, but he didn’t know how to throw it around.

Sans did.

And judging by the glow of Sans’s eyelights, Papyrus had just a moment to duck.

He did, crouching down, hearing and feeling the blazing heat of a blaster laser sore over him, burning a hole in the wall at the end of the hall. He looked up at his brother fearfully.

“YOU CAN’T GO TO CLASS.” His nearly pink eye lights burned as if they were from hell. “YOU HAVE A WALL TO FIX.” He turned, satisfied that Rus had been properly intimidated. But Sans thoroughly underestimated Rus’s determination to not miss class. When his brother wasn’t looking, Rus stood, gathered his strength and booked it toward his brother. Sans turned, yelped and ducked as his brother agilely leapt over him, skidding on the rug as he booked it for the door. A wall of bones shot up, blocking off the exit.

“PAPYRUS, YOU WILL NOT-“ He shifted concentration to the window. It was boarded up, but he could handle a little wood. He shot forward with speed, aiming his shoulder for the wall. “PAPYRUS!”

His shoulder blade cracked as the wood did, but it made it through the first layer and staight through the glass. Rus spiraled out the window, falling to the grass and rolling to a halt. He sprung up as quickly as he could and saw his brother standing in the window, anger burning in his eyes.

They had a rule on the surface, one that Rus was immeasurably grateful for: punishments only happen in the house.

Out here, in the public eye, he was safe.

He dared to shoot Sans a smug smirk before breaking into a sprint and running to the bus stop. The bus just drove away as the stop came into sight. Rus bent over to catch his breath. He’d already dug his grave so there was no way in hell he was going to miss class. He got on the ground, bending one leg up to his chin and stretching the other behind him.

Class started in fifteen minutes. It was a thirty minute walk. He could shave off ten minutes. At least that’s what he told himself.

He took a breath, centering himself, and then launched. He ran as quickly as he could, shoes slapping against the sidewalk, arms swinging, shoulder shrieking, soul pounding in exertion. He was doing his best to cut through space – just little jumps here and there – but he was never good at skipping. But today, he gave it his all. He skipped nearly half a block and could see the campus clock tower. But he still had so far to go.

He was starting to feel his bones quake. He hadn’t been getting enough sleep. His bones and magic were exhausted from a week of work. He could feel his joints getting loose and a cramp climbing up his thigh. And his shoulder was blindingly painful. His vision came in and out as the pain shot from his blade to both down his arm and up his neck. All he wanted to do was collapse. Yet he didn’t stop. He kept thinking of Papyrus, who waited to start an ice breaker until he showed up; who agreed to give him extra tutoring help; who was sympathetic to his struggles and supportive in his reactions. Papyrus. A skeleton who, despite only knowing him for a few months, Rus knew would never let him down.

He wasn’t going to be late.

Just a little further.

He overshot the building by a longshot, ending up behind the building as opposed to near the front door. He didn’t have time to go back to the entrance and climb up the stairs. He quickly counted in his mind, looking for the class window. He had used a lot of magic, but he could make one more jump. It was just a few stories.

He found the classroom (thanks to Papyrus’s booming voice) and crouched. Just one jump. One jump and he’d grab the window and climb on in. It would be easy. He just needed to do it.

He found his fuel tanks nearly empty. Draining them all week and then taking a run certainly didn’t help. But he needed to jump. He closed his eyes, felt his magic course through him and –

The ground wasn’t under him. He reached his arms out, felt brick scrape against his fingers, and then the window ledge. He nearly slipped off, his arms barely having the strength to keep him attached, but he found some semblance of determination to curb his steel despite his screaming shoulder. He nearly yelled at the exertion it took to pull himself up. Feet on the sill, he pushed the window open, surely breaking some of its mechanics to do so.

Rus nearly fell into his classroom. All of his peers looked at him in shock and disturbance. He didn’t really care about them. No. He focused his eyes on Papyrus. His teacher looked nice today. He had on a tie that was shaped like a question mark and a face to match. Rus smiled, trying to ease his concern as he hobbled over to his chair. Without the adrenaline of running, his shoulder blade has stiffened, refusing to move any more. He had definitely sprained something. He sat, wincing, and one handedly pulled out his notebook before leaning back in his chair and looking at Papyrus with a tired and satisfied expression. His class mates were still wildly confused.

Papyrus opened and closed his mouth. “Rus, you are forty-three seconds late.” He always told everyone exactly how late they were. Rus liked how precise he was.

“Sorry. Missed my bus.”

Papyrus slowly nodded. “Very well then. Um, okay, class! Today we’ll be reviewing for our final in two weeks.” He spoke to the class but continued to make fleeting eye contact with Rus. Rus just smiled. He made it. He actually made it.

Too bad he was too tired to listen.

Chapter Text

Rus woke up when the pain in his shoulder rose from a dull ache to a stabbing sensation. He shot up from where he was, panicked that his brother had found him.

“You’re okay.” He was immediately calmed by the voice. He turned his head to see Papyrus sitting beside him, one hand on Rus’s bare sternum and the other hovering over his back. He couldn’t bend his head all the way, but he knew his teacher was healing whatever had happened to his shoulder. He let himself relax as much as possible, tolerating the waves of discomfort as Papyrus healed him, trying not to think about the fact that he wasn’t wearing a shirt or hoodie and that his crush was touching him on his bare bones.

“Sorry,” Rus said, instinctively.

“No need to apologize,” Papyrus said, letting the palm of his hand rest on Rus’s shoulder blade. It hurt, but he could feel the healthy healing magic seep into him. “This is quite the nasty injury.” Rus shrugged.

“Shit happens.”

“You passed out during class.”

Now that Rus didn’t know, but, honestly, he figured. He remembered Papyrus introducing the review and nothing much after that. He wasn’t sure if it was from the pain, his exhaustion, or the relief... regardless, he wasn’t surprised that he’d took a mental vacation. “Sorry,” was all he could say.

He closed his sockets and let his teacher’s magic flow through the cracks and bumps in his bones. The magic was staticky, like a blanket that had come fresh out of the dryer. Every now and then, when the cracks healed and came back together, it was sharp and uncomfortable. So, he tried his best to focus on the hand on his sternum. There was no healing magic coming from that palm, just bone on bone contact. He had once fantasized about what how his teacher would feel and how his magic would permeate from him. While Papyrus was purposefully funneling his power to Rus’s back, his teacher’s hand still had a strong presence on his sternum. His bones were warm, and calming, sending out passive waves of heat that had the same effect as drinking a cup of tea.

When Rus had fallen asleep in class, it was because he had been painfully exhausted. Now Rus found himself nodding into rest because he was so incredibly relaxed, drunk on Papyrus’s magic.

And then he felt the hand lift from his back. Rus dazily blinked back to reality. Papyrus pushed gently on Rus’s sternum, moving him to lean back in his chair. His shoulder was still sore, but he could rest his body’s weight on it. He still winced. Papyrus frowned, finally removing his hand from Rus’s sternum. He immediately missed the warm presence and looked at his teacher in an attempt to spark another physical connection. Papyrus put his hands in his lap.

“How do you feel?”

Rus rolled his head. “Tired.” He looked around the office and saw the clock on the wall. Class was usually an hour long, but it had only been twenty minutes since class started. He couldn’t hide his confusion.

“All the other students have received the study guide and I dismissed them early,” Papyrus explained. “And then I brought you here to patch you up.”

Rus’s magic-drugged mind was filled with an overly romantic image of Papyrus carrying him bridal style down the hall to his office. It made his soul pound. And yet looking at him didn’t bring Rus much joy. When he was trying to peg why, he realized it was because Papyrus was mad. Actually mad. His sockets were entirely vacant and he wasn’t smiling.

Rus tried to sit up, but Papyrus gently pressed him back down. “You need to rest.”

“Why are you mad?” Rus asked, a little too dazed to speak more delicately. Papyrus stood crossing his arms.

“Oh, I certainly wonder why I could possibly be mad. Maybe it’s because my fa-“ Rus raised his brow as Papyrus blushed. He cleared his throat to correct himself. “I was concerned about your health and safety considering your unconventional yet bold entrance into class, your tardiness, and your apparent broken bones.”

Rus furrowed his brow, concerned. “You’re mad at me?”

He shook his head. “Absolutely not! I’m simply mad at whatever did this to you!” Rus couldn’t help but lean back in response to Papyrus’s angered passion. His teacher grabbed his chair, sat down, and scooted close enough that his face was inches from Rus’s, staring at him with an intense, fiery anger. “So, if you don’t terribly mind, I’d be very appreciative if you explained your behavior and state of health.”

Rus couldn’t lean far enough back. On the one hand, he wanted to close the space between he and Papyrus and kiss him. On the other, he wanted to roll his chair back and run from this conversation. He had never seen Papyrus be intimidating before and it reminded him a little too much of his brother. Speaking of, the last thing he wanted to do was tell Papyrus that he broke through a boarded-up window to escape Sans. He didn’t want to burden him with his struggling home life. It wasn’t his business or responsibility. And, if Rus was being totally honest, it was embarrassing. He was a Papyrus. He was a strong Boss Monster. And he was being bullied by someone with 1 HP.

It was shameful, and just thinking about it made him feel downcast.

He looked down at his lap. He was finally starting to see clearly again, and he saw his bare ribcage. He lifted his arms to try and cover himself.

Papyrus sighed before reaching under his desk and pulling out Rus’s shirt, bag and hoodie. “Sorry. Here.” Papyrus leant back and gave Rus his shirt, who gratefully put it on to maintain a sense of modesty. His teacher leant back in his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You don’t owe me any of that information, and I understand it. It isn’t any of my business.” He dropped his hand and looked at Rus. His pinprick eye lights returned, warmth replacing his anger as he crossed his arms. “I’m just concerned for your well-being.”

“You don’t need to worry,” Rus said. He thought he meant it. He had dealt with Sans before. He’d gotten bruised more badly before. Sure, this wasn’t good, but he’d had far worse. He could handle all of this and he didn’t need to bring Papyrus down with him. “I really did miss my bus and had to skip to get to class in time.” He smiled. “And going through the window was to keep you on your toes.”

Papyrus chuckled, lightening up with the humor. “It certainly was a surprise.” He glanced at him, the last thread of legit anger present in his sockets. “And your shoulder?”

“Sparring accident, let my bro get the better of me.” It wasn’t a complete lie, but he still felt a little guilty. “Thanks for patching me up.”

“It was a duty and an honor.” Papyrus finally smiled, coming fully out of his intense mood. “Although, it is a shame I had to dismiss class so early.”

“Nah, the students are glad for it.” Papyrus glared at him. “Not dissin’ your teaching! Just saying, students are always happier when they don’t have to be in class, regardless of the teacher.” It was true, but it seemed to depress Papyrus.

“Do you feel that way?”

“Most of the time,” Rus admitted, picking up his hoodie and pulling it over his head. “’Cept with this class.” He couldn’t help but smile at the way Papyrus’s face lit up.

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re a killer teacher.” He put his backpack in his lap. “You’re super understanding, accommodating, but still a hard ass.” The truth of what he was about to say made him smile. “That’s why you’re my favorite professor.”

Rus’s smile just grew at Papyrus’s wonderous reaction. His head snapped to Rus with his own charming smile, a magical joyous tear in his socket. “REALLY?”

Rus was so glad he got to say, “Yes, really.” And he gracefully left out that his massive crush was a considerable factor in his favoritism.

Papyrus clasped his hands together, sockets genuinely sparkling. “WOWIE.” He blinked, pulling himself out of his ecstatic reverie. “Have you signed up for next semesters classes?”

“Not yet.” And now that his brother had a sudden opposition to his studies, Rus wasn’t sure if he was going to stay enrolled.

“Well! I’ll be teaching a monster art history class next semester! So, if you would like to be taught by, nyeh heh, your favorite teacher again, there is an opportunity!” Papyrus’s face started to glow that same orange. “And, I must say, I think I would miss your presence as a student if you don’t attend. BUT NO PRESSURE.”

Papyrus was personally inviting him to take his class.

The debate, turmoil, and mental wrestling was instantly over. He was going to come back next semester. And he was most definitely going to take Papyrus’s art class.

“Sounds cool. I’ll see if it fits in my schedule.” Papyrus clapped in excitement.

“Excellent! I sure hope it does!” The campus bell chimed, and Papyrus looked to the clock. “Oh, class is over. Er, it was over long ago, but it officially is now!” He stood and grabbed his briefcase. “And, unfortunately, I have another class to teach.” He offered his hand out to Rus, who gladly took it to help him stand. His shoulder really did feel great.

Papyrus guided him out of the office and turned. “I’m glad I could help you and look forward to seeing you in January.”

“You’ll see me next week, remember?” Rus said with a smile, remembering his final.

“Oh! Yes! Before I forget.” Papyrus pulled a packet out of his case and handed it to Rus. It was the study guide. “I hope you can find some use out of this.”

“’M sure I will.”

Papyrus beamed a smile. “See you next week!”

He turned on his heel and walked away, the picture of joy and ease. Rus almost forgot how intimidating he had been only half an hour ago. He looked down at the study guide he’d been handed. It was five pages.

Sans was going to rip it to bits.

Chapter Text

Rus stayed out far longer than he usually did. Normally he went to the library after class, then shopped for groceries, and then went straight home. But he knew something nasty would be waiting for him when he got back. So, he occupied his time in the library with the study guide. And when the library closed, he went out to a bar and just wasted a few hours drinking a single cider and watching videos on his phone.

Finally, when it was two in the morning, he made his way home. Sans, despite being active, put lots of priority on sleeping (unlike Rus and his insomniac tendencies), so there was no way he was going to be awake when Rus got home. Especially since the boarded window had been fixed. That was more work than Sans usually did, so surely he was exhausted.

He still quietly opened the door and tip toed to his bedroom. He went inside, carefully closed the door behind him, and turned on the light.

And then he screamed in surprise.

Sans was sitting on Rus’s bed, legs crossed, reading a book. And laying in front of him...

Rus’s bones audibly clacked and shook. In front of Sans, was the choker, a metal pronged collar with a heavy metal chain attached to it. His hand instinctively went to his neck, feeling his main scar and the little pucker spots from previous punishments.

Sans turned a page in his book. “TOOK YOU LONG ENOUGH TO COME HOME. WERE YOU OUT STUDYING THE WHOLE TIME?”

Rus shrugged. “M-Mostly.” Sans didn’t look up from his book.

“PUT IT ON.”

Rus found himself unwilling to move. “L-Look, we can t-talk about this. I’m s-sorry for breaking the window.”

Sans’s eyelights shifted, looking at Rus under his brow bone. “PUT. IT. ON.”

Rus swallowed, going against every instinct to run and hide as he put his backpack down and walked over to the collar. It was worn and rusty from use. The prongs had been sharpened in a successful attempt to make it even more painful to wear. His hands shook.

“Sans, please.”

“DO YOU NEED ME TO DO IT FOR YOU?” Sans growled.

No. No, he didn’t want him to. At least Rus would have the sense to be gentle with himself. He picked up the collar. It clinked against itself in his shaking hands. It was freezing cold and very heavy. Had Papyrus not healed his shoulder, Rus wouldn’t have been able to lift it to his neck. He put it on like a necklace, clasping it into place. When he let it go, the heavy metal clanged down on his bones, familiar bruises waking up and a shiver running up his spine from the cold. Sans had clearly been keeping it in the freezer.

“HERE.”

Rus assumed a position. He walked over to Sans and knelt on the ground, the back of his neck facing the bed. He heard Sans shift on the covers, pull a familiar weight out of his pocket, and clicked it onto the collars clasp. A lock with one key. It assured that Rus would keep the collar on until his punishment was, according to Sans, “complete”.

The lock added a good pound to the collar.

Sans stood from the bed, grabbed the end of the chain leash, and started walking. Papyrus hurried to a stand in order to follow Sans through the house, to the backdoor, and outside.

Papyrus kept his hands balled in fists, his eyes on his feet, his mind blank. He didn’t want to think about what was going to happen. He didn’t want to anticipate it any more than his body instinctively already was. He was led over to the tree. Sans wrapped the leash around the trunk and put a second heavy lock to connect it to itself in an unbreakable loop. Once secured, Rus had about two feet of ambulatory freedom around his wooden anchor – not that he was permitted to use it.

“ON THE GROUND.” Sans said. Rus did as told. “TURN AROUND.” He faced the tree. “LIFT YOUR SHIRT.” Rus cringed, tears welling up. A small part of him had thought that maybe his punishment would just be a night in the yard. Of course, his offense was bigger than that.

He reached his hands to his shoulders, slowly tugging his hoodie and shirt up with his fingers until the fabric was balled in his hands and his back was exposed. He flinched at the sound of Sans pulling out his flogger. He never got a look at it, but it was branded traumatically into his brain. He wasn’t sure what the handle was, but the flogger had a dozen braided ropes of leather, each tipped with a cone of sharp, spiked metal. Rus’s breath sped up with anxiety and dread. Any second now. Any second now Sans would –

“AH!” He couldn’t keep the yelp in as the flogger whipped against his back, leaving behind streaks of painful, burning sensations. Thin layers of his bones had been ripped off – ones that had only recently refound their footing on his body.

“YOU WILL KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT.” Sans didn’t need to add a consequence to that threat. Rus trusted that each one could be just as awful. Rus used his teeth to pull his cowl into his mouth, giving himself something to clench onto. It didn’t stop his shameful whimper from groaning out of him when Sans hit him again. And again. And again.

By the fifth whip he managed to remain silent, even though he could feel the metal ends break into his marrow. He could feel the magic fluid leaking down his bones.

Sans would have to be done soon.

He cried, hot tears falling down his cheekbones, dampening his cowl, and going down to the metal collar that had barely found a temperate equilibrium with his body. He was shaking, his knees cramping as he kept a still position for Sans to continue shredding his back. He had been beaten so badly that he could no longer tell which parts of his back were directly bleeding and which parts were just sympathetically burning. For all he knew, every backbone he had was beaten raw.

And then Sans kept going. He was grunting with the effort of punishing Rus as if he had to experience a worse burden.

Finally, after an endless burning bleeding blinding pain, the next flog didn’t come.

“DROP YOUR SHIRT.”

That was also a part of the punishment. His back had been beaten raw and now he was to touch all of those wounds with the fabric of his shirt and the weight of his hoodie. Rus took a breath before releasing his grip. He grunted loudly as the fabric stuck to and pulled off bits of bone and marrow in its journey to its original position. When it was finally down, he could breathe.

“TURN.”

He did stiffly, but he kept his head down. Of course, Sans had to grab his chin and pull his face up to meet him. Rus wondered if his brother could see his tear stained bones and the sopping wet cowl that had been soaked with drool and tears. The flog was still out.

“MIGHT WANT TO BITE DOWN HARDER.”

Rus felt his magic leave his face. He clenched his eyes, another tear falling, and braced for-

All twelve of the metal heads hit the side of his face, scraping across his bones and knocking his face to the side. He managed to keep all sound contained except for a minor squeak.

Finally, he heard the flog get put away. He let his eyes open and he looked at his brother.

“I’LL COME GET YOU WHEN YOU’RE PUNISHMENT HAS CONCLUDED.” Code for: whenever Sans wanted. His brother turned and walked back inside, closing and locking the screen door behind him.

Finally, with his brother gone, Rus spat out his cowl and let himself cry. Before it was from pain and repressing his discomfort. Now it was from the aftermath. The relief that it was over and the acceptance of what had just happened. He’d been brutally whipped. He could feel his marrow soaking into his shirt. And it was punctuated with a blow to the face that not only certainly exacerbated his hairline fracture, but likely added a new injury to the side of his face.

Was having a high HP a blessing or a curse? On the one hand, he could survive a beating this brutal. On the other, because he had that ability, Sans then made him endure it. If he had one HP, would his brother take pity? Or would he have just died by now?

Rus let himself collapse into a shameful fetal position on the grass. Every movement hurt, so once he got down there, he wouldn’t move for a long time. And he didn’t want to. He just wanted to curl up, close his eyes, cry, and escape from here.

He thought about what had brought him to this. He hadn’t let Sans stop him from going to class. He’d been disobedient and defied his superior’s orders. He’d broken a window. He wasn’t sure why Sans had such a stick up his butt this morning. But he had a stick, and Rus was defiant, and now he was laying down in the dirt in the backyard, tied to a tree like a rabid dog, his back ripped up like a couch left alone with Traitor. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed. He was disappointed that he had let this happen. He knew better than this. He knew how to avoid this treatment. And he had chosen not to avoid it. He had chosen this consequence.

He deserved this consequence.

 

Sans didn’t untie him from the tree until the end of the weekend.

Chapter Text

Rus vowed to behave. That week he went to his final and didn’t dare to get distracted by Papyrus. He didn’t look up when he came in and he kept his head down as he left. He didn’t want to take more time than was necessary, and he didn’t want Papyrus to see the new crack that had been made on his socket. Now he had two hairline fractures, the one going down to his jaw, and one reaching up over his brow.

It was hideous and embarrassing and he didn’t want Papyrus to notice.

So, he didn’t interact.

Despite how it hurt him.

He got his grade back the next week. He’d passed all of his classes with B minuses, except for his history. He got an A. He’d only gotten one question wrong on the final. He should have felt proud.

Instead he deleted the email from his university and kept his head down. For two weeks he went around being Sans’s stooge. Cleaning the house, doing the shopping, washing Traitor, and meeting each of his brother’s most mundane whims.

After two weeks of being as useful as possible, Rus did his best to steal his courage. They were watching TV in the evening and Sans seemed to be in a decent mood. It was a better time than any.

“Bro?”

“WHAT?” That wasn’t even supposed to be aggressive. It was just conversational. And yet it made Papyrus jump.

“It’s time for me to sign up for next semesters classes.”

“I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT THAT TOO.” Sans didn’t look at Rus. His bright eye lights stayed focus on the screen. “I THINK YOU SHOULD DROP OUT AND GET A JOB.”

His soul sunk. “Why?”

“I THINK IT’S DISTRACTED YOU FROM YOUR HOME DUTIES.”

“A job is going to take up more of my time than school.”

“NOT YOUR MENTAL TIME.” Sans looked at him now. “YOU’RE THINKING TOO MUCH.”

Rus tried to contain his frustration. He liked thinking. And he liked who and what he was thinking about. But he didn’t dare express it. “But I’ve decided to be a history major.” Not a total lie, it was definitely the thing he liked the most.

“AS IF YOU’LL BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING WITH THAT.”

“I think I’ll use it to be a writer.”

“LIKE YOU’D ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYTHING WITH YOUR THICK EMPTY SKULL.”

He needed to not fight. He needed to lay down and take it while still making his point.

“Please let me go back to school, brother,” he begged.

Sans thought, crossing his arms. “WHY SHOULD I LET YOU?”

“It’ll... get me out of your hair a few hours a week.”

“LAST SEMESTER YOU SQUANDERED YOUR CHORES.”

“I’ll take less classes,” he said. “That way I’ll be home to do take care of things.”

“HM. IF YOU PROMISE TO MAINTAIN A BALANCE-“

“I promise.” Rus leapt on the goodwill. Sans nodded.

“THEN I THINK YOU SHOULD GET TO SIGNING UP. THE SMART CLASSES GO QUICKLY.”

Rus nearly bowed in gratitude. “Thank you, brother. Thank you.”

“DON’T MAKE ME REGRET THIS.”

Rus immediately got up and walked as excitedly as possible to his room. He got out his computer with its cracked screen, logged into his student account, and went to semester registry. He didn’t bother looking over the catalogue. Instead, he searched for his favorite teacher.

Papyrus Great Gaster.

There were two classes listed with his name – one as the primary instructor and one secondary. Primary was the monster art history. He made a note of its registration code. The other was an art class. He wrote down it’s code, too.

Now he went through the catalogue to find one more class to take (three were required to make him count as an actual student). He ended up choosing a poetry workshop class. He’d written a lot in the last semester, and a lot in the last week focused on pining and melancholy. He was well exercised, and now he had something that he wanted to write. And he needed all the help he could to get it done.

He went onto the registry, put in the codes, and officially signed up for the three classes. He smiled, leant back in his chair, and closed his eyes.

In three weeks, he’d be back in class.

In three weeks, he’d see Papyrus again.

He’d done his best not to think too much about his favorite teacher. He didn’t want to give himself any semblance of a positive disposition around his brother. But now... he indulged.

He kept laying back, eyes closed, and undid his fly. He thought about his teacher. He let himself delve into a fantasy.

He was going into his teacher’s office hours. Papyrus was wearing that tight pink shirt Rus liked so much. He looked at Rus and questioned what he was doing there. Rus explained that he needed some extra help. Papyrus asked what with.

His breath hitched, imagining himself closing the distance between them, putting his hands on his teacher’s shoulders and saying, “Extra credit.” He closed the space between their mouths, clacking their teeth together and feeling the warmth of his teacher. Papyrus melted against him, wrapping his arms around Rus’s body as he cradled his face. He imagined the magical orange tongue – a color that perfectly matched that enticing blush – diving into Rus’s mouth. It was sweet and staticky, lighting fires against Rus’s own magic appendage. As he cradled Papyrus’s face, his teacher ran his hands down Rus’s body. The deft fingers ran on the waist of his jeans, moving to the front, unzipping his fly, and firmly grasping his member.

He grabbed himself, squeezing, imaging it was his crush’s hand grabbing him instead. The kiss broke as Rus just breathed into Papyrus’s neck. But then the neck went away. Papyrus was on his knees, firmly holding Rus’s hips as he eyed his penis. His tongue licked up his length. Rus gasped and shuddered, his knees buckling, making him grab something to keep himself up.

Papyrus kissed up the side of him, under him, right on the head. And then he took the head into him, undulating over and back and over and back, taking more of Rus each time. Their magic was mixing into a gorgeous burnt brown, a color from a sunrise that coated Papyrus’s teeth. He took him again and again, Rus unable to keep from thrusting. He looked down at him. Papyrus was looking up at him, his eye lights for once large, bright, and dazed as he took the entire of Rus’s length down his magical throat. Rus moaned, biting his tongue in reality as he squeezed himself with each stroke. He kept picturing that face, those eye lights, that loving, hungry, desperate expression of drunken pleasure. He stroked faster and faster until he capped, cumming into his hand and gasping for breath.

His eyes shot open, facing the reality he was in. He wasn’t getting a blowjob from Papyrus. He was in his dank dirty room, in front of his computer, with a closed door separating he and his brother.

He sighed and reached a box of tissues with his clean hand. He wiped himself off.

That was the third time he did that while thinking of Papyrus. He tried not to, but sometimes he could barely help himself.

But it was easy to rationalize doing it when he knew it would never actually happen. No harm with having an impossible fantasy.

He closed everything up, washed his hands in the bathroom, and then went to sit beside Sans on the couch. He’d missed twenty minutes of the show. Not that he really cared.

He only had to wait three weeks.

Chapter Text

Those three weeks slogged by slower than a slug crawling through salt. He signed homemade contracts with his brother, promising that he’d clean the house every day despite his scholarly obligations, spend no more than three hours outside of the house every day, stay in on the weekends to keep Traitor company, and to cook a decent meal every morning and night.

It was a lot of work he was signing up for.

But he knew it would be worth it. Even though his back was still sore and his backpack exacerbated it.

First day of his history class, he made sure to get there two minutes early. This time he was going to sit at the front of the class. He was going to get as much from his teacher as possible. He waited patiently as other students came into the room and took seats. Some of them spoke to each other. They knew each other and had probably signed up for this class together.

Rus only had one person he was looking forward to greeting.

Finally, Papyrus showed up precisely one minute before class was supposed to start. Rus gave him a little wave and his teacher’s face erupted in a smile. He practically skipped over.

“I’m so glad to see you,” he said, keeping his voice down without even being asked. “After the way you behaved at last semester’s final, I thought perhaps you were no longer interested in being taught by me.”

Rus shook his head, maintaining a smile. “Nah. Just wasn’t feeling great that day.”

Papyrus smiled. “I’m sorry to hear that. But I’m glad to see your smile again.”

Rus flushed purple. He couldn’t believe what he heard. Was Papyrus... flirting with him? Papyrus gave a final warm grin before going to the front of the classroom.

He greeted everyone excitedly, called roll and was excited that everyone was in attendance. Then they did another ice breaker, standing in a circle. This time, Papyrus pulled out a toilet paper roll.

“Please grab as much toilet paper as you usually do when you use the bathroom!” The monsters all furrowed their brows. “And if you’re not capable of using the bathroom, please take as much as you THINK you would use!” Rus almost chuckled at how clever Papyrus seemed to think he was. And Papyrus gave Rus a side eye, considering that, yet again, they were standing next to each other. Regardless, he took his bit and then passed it to his right, letting Rus be the last to collect. He watched everyone take their amount. Some only took a couple sheets, some took handfuls.

When Rus got the roll, he tried to imagine how much he’d use. He lazily grabbed one sheet. Sans would probably be mad if he used more than that. Lots of people giggled and made ew sounds about his choice. Maybe one sheet wasn’t enough?

“Now!” Papyrus spoke again. “Please count up the number of sheets you have. However many sheets, that’s how many Fun Facts you have to share! And don’t forget to state your name!”

No one seemed excited. Rus was ecstatic. He only had to share one fact. Papyrus went first, per usual. He had gotten five sheets. “My name is Papyrus Great Gaster! I chose my middle name because I didn’t have one in the Prime Under. My nickname is the Great Papyrus. I am very popular and loved by many people!” How was his teacher still a total square? Rus rolled his eyes, not out of exasperation, but familiar affection. “I attended five giftmas parties this winter. And tomorrow my datemate and I will be celebrating our one-month anniversary!”

Rus knew he wasn’t next. Papyrus always went to the right first. Which was good because his brain had gone dead.

Datemate. Papyrus was dating someone. He’d been dating them for a month. They’d probably gotten together during the holiday season, maybe at one of the parties. How long had they been pining for each other? Had it started after the end of the semester? Or had there been feelings long before that? While Rus was crushing on Papyrus, had he been thinking about someone else? Then why did he flirt with him? Was he so ignorant he didn’t realize that he was flirting? Maybe he was just being friendly. Of course, that was it. Rus was just swept off his feet because he didn’t hang out with “friendly” people. He knew he never had a chance with him. Dating Papyrus was an impossible fantasy. It was never going to happen and Rus hadn’t realized just how high he’d let his hopes get. He was such a fool. Of course, Papyrus didn’t have feelings for him. He was a piece of garbage. He was a scarred waste of space that got excited over nothing. He was such a –

“Rus you really aren’t very good at these icebreakers!”

He blinked out of his misery. “Hm?”

“It’s your turn and it’s apparent that you haven’t been listening.” The other students giggled. Why didn’t Papyrus ask them to stop? Did he like that they were making fun of him?

“Sorry, just spacin’ out a bit. Uh.” He worried the single toilet paper sheet in his fingers.

What should he even say? That he just got heartbroken? That he was taking this class to be near his crush? That he spent a weekend in the backyard last semester? That his brother treated him like the dog he was? That he had a FUCKING CAT??

He accidentally ripped the paper in two.

“Do you... want to tell more than one fact?”

He felt sick. He wanted to run. Why did he come back to school? He had intended on admiring his teacher from a far – not acting on anything. And now it felt like everything changed.

“Uh, dude? You okay?” It was another student this time. He couldn’t stand the attention. He just needed to be alone.

He dropped the scraps of toilet paper, grabbed his backpack, and stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He leant against the wall next to the door, daring to eavesdrop. He heard Papyrus say something about not doing this icebreaker in the future and then telling everyone to sit. He was just going to go on like he always did. Of course, Rus’s absence meant nothing.

Rus stomped to the nearest bathroom, went into a stall, sat on the toilet and put his head in his hands.

He was sure his face was completely purple. He was so hot that he must’ve been. He was so incredibly embarrassed. Not by what he did in class, but by how uncomfortable he was by learning Papyrus was dating someone.

He had spent the winter in such misery that he had put going to class on a pedestal. It was going to be the most perfect, romantic, joyous, blissful time. This outcome hadn’t even occurred to him.

And it wasn’t even that big a deal! He did like learning history! But he had signed up for two classes with Papyrus. Would that be too much? Too painful? It couldn’t be! He had been pining without reciprocation for a semester, what made this so different? So what if he was dating someone? He was probably really content with his life and Rus should’ve been glad for that. He cared about him and wanted him to be happy, right?

He just wanted to so desperately be the one making him feel good.

But he could pine.

He spent a lot of his life watching other people being happy and imagining it for himself. Was it so bad to be a bystander in this instant, too?

It wasn’t. He could handle it.

He took a breath, stood up, and checked himself in the mirror. His face wasn’t nearly as purple. It was a light tint instead of a blazing fire.

Good.

He pulled up his hood and went into the hall. He started heading to the stairs. He wasn’t going to drop this class – he’d come again next week when he had himself more together. But his abrupt exit made a return awkward and suspicious. He’d just say he left to throw up and went home right after. An easy enough lie. One that he’d tell in a few days. But not today.

“Rus!”

His body jilted.

Or he could lie through his teeth right now to the last person in the world he wanted to talk to. That works too! It had to.

He turned around to meet his professor. “I left my notes in my office and had to run get them! Funny you would still be here.”

Yeah. Really funny.

He walked right up to Rus and stood close – friend close, not teacher/student close. “Are you feeling all right? You left quite suddenly.”

“Yeah,” he lied. “Just a little sick.”

“Oh good!”

Rus tried to keep a straight face but couldn’t hide his confusion.

“I mean! Not good! Terribly bad that you feel ill! Yes, tragic. I just mean that I’m relieved you didn’t leave because of me.” Rus perked up in nerves. Papyrus couldn’t have known why he really left... could he? “I was clearly making you uncomfortable with the ice breaker. I shouldn’t have asked you to speak if you didn’t want to.”

“Eh, it’s fine-“

“No, it’s not!” That interjection seemed to get ahead of him as he snapped his mouth shut. This time, Rus allowed himself to express his misunderstanding. “Something’s not right. I’m not sure what it is but... But I don’t think you’re okay! And whatever is making you feel bad – I want to have nothing to add to your tumultuous feelings! Coming to class should be a point of joy in your life and I worry that today it has had the opposite effect.”

Rus loved how much Papyrus cared. It almost made up for his recently broken dreams.

“I do look forward to class,” Rus said. That wasn’t a lie and he’d be sure it’d stay a truth. He had always looked forward to class. Hell, he got tied to a tree and flogged over his determination to come. And, even though his teacher was in a relationship, he wasn’t going to miss out on having someone to care about him, and someone for him to care about in return. He still really liked him. And he wouldn’t let his jealous feelings get in the way of him spending time with a great guy.

Of course, he wasn’t going to say any of that.

“I really appreciate you caring, Papyrus,” Rus said. “But don’t worry. I’m just gonna go home and rest. And I’ll see ya later.”

“WAIT!” Papyrus ran into the classroom. He could hear his feet stomping and papers shuffling, along with students mumbling through the wall. Then he burst back out again and handed Rus the syllabus. “I understand that you can’t review it in class, but at least take a look at it while you’re at home.”

Rus nodded, unable to hold back a smile. His professor was incredibly endearing at times. “Thanks, I will.”

Papyrus nodded. “Now, um, go home and rest up! I’ll see you bright and early on Wednesday!”

“Yup. See ya.” Rus turned and waved. He heard Papyrus go back into the classroom as he walked away. On the stairs, he flipped through the syllabus. He’d need one new textbook. They’d have weekly quizes again. They seemed to be Papyrus’s signature.

Would it be a good idea to ask Papyrus for extra help with the readings? Or would that be too emotionally draining to bother with?

He stopped walking when he flipped to the back page. Scrawled in a blue pen was a note and a number.

‘If you ever need to talk – or want extra help – feel free to contact me directly through my personal cell. – The Great Papyrus’

And under the note was a phone number.

“What the fuck, man.” He spoke out of exhaustion. First, he flirted with him, then he announced he was in a relationship, now he literally gave him his number. Rus put his head on the wall in frustration, letting the cold seep into his skull. The number looked more and more attractive.

He shook his head, folded the syllabus, and put it into his backpack.

He wasn’t going to take advantage of this. He wasn’t even going to text him! No, siree. Even if it was under the pretense of a teacher/student relationship, he refused. Papyrus was very happy with his serious boyfriend and he didn’t need some lovesick skeleton getting in the way.

He went to the bookstore to grab the one necessary textbook. There was a reading due by the next time they met and it would take him twice as long as it should’ve to do. He’d start it on the bus.

And then he’d go home and scrub the floors.

Chapter Text

Rus actually got lost looking for the art building. It was small, rundown, and hidden among five different identical structures. He had gotten an email telling him to bring charcoal and graphite pencils, along with rolled up pieces of paper called blenders. Oh. And the giant pad of newspaper for sketching.

He barely knew how to use any of it, but that’s what the class was for.

He made his way to the third floor, the classroom he was supposed to go into had an open door with a chalkboard in the way. It had a paper on it that demanding it not be moved. Rus wiggled around it as he came into the room. A dozen easels were arranged in a circle. Some students were already sitting, scrolling on their phones and waiting for the class to start. In the center of the chairs was a platform with a stool on it.

He wasn’t sure if they were supposed to draw the chair, but he hoped that he wouldn’t have to.

He chose an easel, sat down, put his pad on the stand, and waited. He watched the clock tick down and the easels fill up.

A human professor finally came into the room. He was young with blonde, gelled hair and pants with the cuffs rolled up.

“Welcome everyone, to drawing one-three-five, section two. We’re all supposed to be here, right?” It was a joke and the students provided an obligatory and mumbling giggle. “Ya’ll can call me Michael, I’ll be your primary instructor for this course.”

Rus started wondering if Papyrus wasn’t going to show up. Maybe the teachers shared the class so the other one could avoid coming to class if they desired. He started to wish that were true. It had been a solid twenty-four hours, but he was still getting over yesterday’s revelation.

“This is a figure drawing course, so we’ll be learning about the standard humanoid figure. Ordinarily, we would start this class by having you draw Mr. Smiley over there.” He pointed to a fake skeleton hanging in the corner. It had gathered a layer of dust, so it must have been retired. “But, we’re lucky enough to have a volunteer skeleton monster for you to draw for the first half of the semester.” Rus furrowed his brow, his soul starting to sink in realization. “When you’ve all passed drawing skeletons, I’ll be your figure to draw. But, in the meantime, we are lucky to have Professor Gaster as our model.” When he said it, clacking bare bones walking on linoleum echoed through the room. Everyone turned to the sound and Rus’s worst fear came to be.

Papyrus was walking over toward Michael wearing a plush blue robe.

“HELLO STUDENTS!” He greeted loudly, arms spread, smiling widely at each student individually. That was until his sockets landed on Rus. He couldn’t bring himself to return a smile and just gave a small wave.

Papyrus put his arms down, his smile changing from his usual facade to one of pleasant, yet nervous, surprise. “It is a pleasure to see you all.” Rus looked away. He loved how Papyrus always made an effort to control his voice when he was around. “For the first half of the semester, I will be your anatomically correct model so you may gain an understanding of the literal skeleton under a creature’s skin. I will then be your teacher when Michael is modeling.”

Michael slapped Papyrus on the back. The skeleton didn’t even flinch, but the human had to shake his hand out after the gesture. “That’s right. We’re, uh, we’re quite a team. So!” He clapped. Papyrus walked up to the platform. “Let’s jump right into it! For this first round of drawings, keep things loose! Try to take up the whole paper if you can and capture his movement rather than complete accuracy.” Michael started walking around the room.

Papyrus undid the rope around his middle, the fabric slipped from his shoulders and –

Rus made himself look away when it fell. As much as he wanted to drink up the entirety of Papyrus’s body – every pristine bone and curve – this wasn’t the place. Papyrus was teaching a class. He was letting them use his body to study anatomy. That was respectful. He wasn’t there to be eye candy.

He only let his eyes go as high as Papyrus’s knees. His face was a sickly purple all the while. Rus kept his hood up in an attempt to hide his shame, but he knew it wasn’t entirely effective.

He would never had signed up for this class had he known it’d mean ogling Papyrus.

That was a lie. He most definitely would have signed up for it. He wouldn’t have signed up after learning what he did yesterday.

Michael came up behind him. “Nice detail on the feet,” he said, leaning over Rus’s shoulder. “But it looks a little stiff, it can help if you draw the entire form. It really completes the line of movement.”

Rus didn’t understand half of what any of that meant, but he nodded and moved to a new page to try and show his commitment to learning.

But the teacher didn’t move.

“Here, may I?” He picked up a pencil, looked point blank at Papyrus, and then drew a large, flowy squiggle. “See how this is how he’s shaped?” Rus nodded, still looking at papyrus’s feet. Even they were pure and white. “Now draw his body around that.”

Only then did Michael leave. Rus let out a breath. Now he had a line representing Papyrus’s entire body on his page and it would be completely stupid for him to only draw the feet. If he did that, it would be suspicious. He looked to the person beside him. They were drawing Papyrus’s rib cage. The lines were stiff and kinky, and it made Rus want to look at the real thing.

Rus took a deep breath, put his pencil on the page, and looked at his teacher.

Papyrus sat on the chair, his thighs crossed and his feet together. His pelvis rested straight on the chair and his spine curved on a slight crescent, all of his ribs following that curve. The line of his spine extended up to his hand that reached high above his head. His sockets were closed, and his head was turning into his arm. His other arm held its same shoulder. Every single bone was purely white, almost disgustingly gorgeous. The pose made him look delicate and dainty, but at the same time strong with how still he was. His rib cage wasn’t even moving with breath. As still and as beautiful as any marble statue, he had hidden his soul so that his body didn’t even have the glow of a living skeleton monster. Rus’s own soul was practically spinning in him.

Papyrus had a beautiful body. It was undeniable.

And he was sharing it with someone else.

Rus took a breath. That was fine. He was fine with that. He was okay with just being able to appreciate and pine and crush on Papyrus. He didn’t need to see himself as a participant. Or look forward to participating. And one step to accepting his bystander-dom was to draw Papyrus’s body like he wasn’t hideously attracted to him.

So, he did. His drawing absolutely stunk, but he drew him. His eyes traced every curve and outline, every minor texture and angle. He was striking and dynamic and gorgeous and tragic.

Rus went through five sheets of paper that day. And then the class period was over. Papyrus picked up his robe and covered up again. Rus felt like he could breathe wholly for the first time since Papyrus showed up.

“Great job, everyone, for just giving it your all today,” Michael said, standing beside Papyrus again. “You can leave your pads here and next we meet we’ll look at each other’s drawings and have our first critique. In the meantime, get out of here!” It was a joke. Students gladly took their pads, put them to the side of the room, and moved on with their day. Rus tried to follow that lead, but then Papyrus came up to him – still only wearing his robe.

To his pleasure and surprise, Papyrus was tinged orange, and smiling.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He asked.

Rus shrugged. “Didn’t really know you’d be here.” That was a half-truth. He knew Papyrus would be here. He didn’t know he’d be NAKED. “You’re, uh, a good model. You can hold a pose.”

“Do you draw often?” Papyrus asked.

“First time, actually.”

Papyrus broke out into a smile. “I consider myself a pretty good artist! If you’d ever like any help-“

“Thanks, but I think I’m good.” Besides, if Rus spent any more time with this teacher he would both get in trouble with Sans and completely lose his mind. He hurriedly shoved everything in his bag. “I’ll see ya tomorrow, I guess.” He made a motion to move, but a hand grabbed his forearm. One arm remained crossed around his middle, but Papyrus had reached out to stop him from moving. The contact made magic pulse between them – an ordinary exchange, but it felt so much more weighted.

“Did you read your syllabus?” He asked.

Rus nodded. Papyrus clenched his jaw and let Rus go.

“I meant it. If you need help with... with anything! I’m always ready to listen.”

A second invitation to contact him. “I don’t want to take advantage of your time.”

“It’s really no trouble.” His sockets bore into Rus’s. “Really.”

Again, Rus nodded. “I’ll keep you posted.” And with that, he practically ran away.

What was he doing? What the absolute FUCK was he doing? How was he going to survive this semester? He couldn’t try and choke out a crush if he was seeing Papyrus naked once a week! Certainly not if he was being talked to like he fucking mattered multiple days in a row. It was too good. Too decadent. Like eating a chocolate cake, he could feel a cavity festering.

He had to drop this class. He HAD to.

Chapter Text

He didn’t drop the class.

Whether it was because he was a complete and total masochist, or just overly self-indulgent, he wasn’t sure. Whatever the reason, he didn’t drop either monster art history or figure drawing. He kept attending despite the emotional turmoil and discomfort he went through everyday. It was still better than anything he had ever experienced at home. And he felt a sort of power because he was choosing to experience it. Turns out picking your poison made all the difference.

And when it came down to it, it wasn’t that bad. Papyrus was the same old happy teacher, although he occasionally walked with an extra skip in his step. It made Rus happy to see his teacher so happy. By the third week, he was able to look at his class’s model without feeling like he was going to pass out. Not to mention this emotional rollercoaster was great fodder for his poetry workshop. It was a good opportunity to let himself express his feelings through something. With an outlet, he was no longer bottling things up and steaming during class.

He felt better. Papyrus was dating someone that wasn’t him. And that was great for both of them. It made Rus’s poetry transcend to a new level, and it made Papyrus happy. That was enough for him.

His crush was still raging and distracting, and he couldn’t help the way his soul fluttered whenever Papyrus looked at him or when they casually touched.

But it wasn’t distressing or destructive anymore. And he could live with that. Happily.

Hell, he practically whistled when he vacuumed the house every day.

That was the one thing that hadn’t let up, and he certainly hadn’t expected it too. He had told Sans he’d give his household chores most of his energy. He still cleaned the bathrooms, wiped down the kitchen, scrubbed the floors, dusted the ceiling, and mowed the lawn everyday. It was routine at this point. He actually found the work relaxing. It gave his mind time to brainstorm ideas for his lyrics. Yes, he wished he didn’t have to do all the cleaning, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

And because of his dedication, Sans had mostly left him alone. He hadn’t had to wear the collar since the new year started. In fact, Sans occassionally brought him home a brownie mix to make. It was a small reward, and Rus was grateful for the positive treatment. It was blissful in contrast.

Papyrus was vacuuming the living room when Sans came home that day. “EVENING, PAPYRUS!” he greeted.

“Hey, bro.” Sans came into the room and seemed to hold something behind his back.

“CONSIDERING YOUR GOOD BEHAVIOR LATELY, I’VE DECIDED TO GIVE YOU SOMETHING!” Rus turned off the vacuum and turned to his brother. Sans, as if he was offering some proclamation from a King, offered Rus an envelope. He cautiously took it and peeled it open, taking care not to rip it. He looked at his brother before going into the contents. Sans was smiling. It wasn’t devious, though. There seemed to be a genuine excitement in what Rus would think. He couldn’t help but smile back.

This was the version of his brother that he liked. The one that liked giving gifts, that got joy from making others happy. Sans rarely showed this disposition. He used to have it all the time when they were children. But now, it was rarer than a unicorn.

Rus gladly popped open the envelope to pull out what was inside. He pulled out a coupon for one of his favorite restaurants – one that he knew Sans hated.

“SURPRISE!” He erupted. “WE’RE GOING OUT TONIGHT!” Rus huffed out a laugh. Sans was going to take him out. To this restaurant. It wasn’t a gift to trap him in the house for longer. It was a ticket out to do something he truly enjoyed. He was reminded that his brother actually cared. He may have shown it in disturbing ways sometimes, but this was one of the best surprises Rus had ever received. He felt a tear start to fall over his hairline fracture. “OH, CLEAN YOURSELF UP! WE HAVE TO GET A MOVE ON!”

Rus wiped his face and practically bowed to Sans. “Thank you, brother.” He quickly scurried to his room to change into something Sans would deem worthy of a night out.

 

Sans drove them to the establishment. It was an Italian place that served traditional pizza and pasta dishes. It wasn’t excessively fancy, but it was certainly a step up from your average chain restaurant. And the food was to die for.

They spoke to the host and got a table. Sans ordered beverages for them – sparkling water. It was a beverage Rus hated the taste of. But he wasn’t going to object and risk ruining his brother’s generous mood. So he drank the venom and looked over the menu.

“WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ORDER?” Sans asked, so he would be able to convey it to the waiter when the time came. He never let Rus order for himself.

“I was thinking of maybe trying the pesto gnocchi?” It was a dish his brother would probably say yes to. It was a potato pasta with a green sauce and mixed in vegetables. It was a modest and relatively healthy decision. Sans would have to say yes.

“AND LET YOU EAT BALLS OF UNFRIED TATER TOTS? I DON’T THINK SO!” Rus tried not to show his disappointment. He hadn’t expected that response, but he wasn’t terribly surprised.

“Then maybe the paella?”

“WE MAY HAVE A COUPON, BUT IM NOT MADE OF MONEY.” Sans sipped his water. “I THINK YOU SHOULD GET THE EGGPLANT PARMESEAN.” Rus read the description of the dish. He was immediately against it because he didn’t like eggplant. But other than the central vegetable, it seemed to be a standard spaghetti and tomato sauce. Of course. That was a truly modest choice.

“Sounds good.”

“OF COURSE, IT DOES.” He actually snapped his fingers to get their waters attention. Rus forced himself not to show his embarrassment. “WE’LL START WITH A CAPRESE. HE’LL HAVE THE EGGPLANT PARMESEAN AND I’LL HAVE THE PAELLA.” He handed the menus over, the waiter left, and he immediately pulled out his phone. Because of course he wanted to spend his time checking Facebook than looking at his brother. And, of course, they couldn’t afford to have two paellas, so if anyone was going to have one, it would be Sans.

Rus tried not to look dejected as he looked around the restaurant. There were grapes and vines painted on the walls, the curtains were a dark green, and the tables were occupied mostly by couples and a few scattered families. He saw one table that had two fathers taking care of their children. One was wiping tomato sauce off of a little girl’s face.

What a childhood that must’ve been.

There was a low level of chatter filling the restaurant, almost drowning out the background music. Every now and then a voice would stick out.

“I think this chicken is undercooked. Look.”

“And then he broke up with me!”

“I’d definitely have sex with Jeff Goldblum. Definitely.”

“Oh, Papyrus, you’re soooo funny.”

His skull perked up and he scanned the room. He must’ve misheard. There was no way-

He spotted them. They were in a back corner, his teacher practically hidden behind a plant. But he got a look at his datemate. He was looking at Papyrus, but from Rus’s vantage he could see him as clearly as if he was facing him directly.

He was a robot, one with stretchy metal arms, soft gloved hands, and a transparent middle where his soul floated and glowed, showing off every slight change in his emotions. He was also handsome. His face was smooth despite a bolt that could be considered a beauty mark. His lips were realistic and dark. His hair was black and flowing, obscuring half his face. The one eye Rus could see was large, with a heavy lid, eyelashes, and an iris that literally glowed like a lightbulb, likely because it literally was one. As much as he hated to admit it, he was handsome. Of course he was, he was a Mettaton.

And he was holding Papyrus’s hand from across the table. All Rus could see was the back of Papyrus’s neck through the plant, his shoulder and the connecting arm and hand, and the side of his left leg.

The robot giggled again, covering his mouth as he leaned forward, his voice like a heavy syrup. “Darling, do tell me about that fan club you started again.”

“I-I’VE ALREADY TOLD YOU ABOUT THAT STORY A DOZEN TIMES, METTATON!” Rus could hear the embarrassment, a hand coming up to rub the back of his neck.

“Oh, but I do love to hear it oh so much.” Mettaton pouted, his eye sparkling in an attempt to beg. “Please, Papy-dear.”

“W-WELL, I-IF IT MAKES YOU THAT H-HAPPY!” Rus proceeded to eavesdrop through the entire tale, and something seriously bothered him. The story was about how, back in the Prime Underground, Papyrus had started a branch of the Mettaton Fan Club in Snowdin. He wrote letters every week, watched every special in the clubhouse, and was the number one fan and only member of his branch. Mettaton guffawed.

“Oh-ho-ho! Oh, Darling, you’re so adorable.” If the robot had cleavage, he’d be showing it off. Rus bristled. He didn’t really approve of how the robot was holding himself, and he really didn’t approve of the language. Sure, it seemed innocent and kind on the surface, but Rus had become a master of reading subtlety and every possibility in between the lines. And in that space there was selfish condescension. He couldn’t exactly peg why he knew that, but he was positive Mettaton saw Papyrus’s efforts as pathetic and only liked hearing about them because it stroked his ego.

Rus considered he could be wrong. First off, he was a biased party. He wanted to be with Papyrus so it was natural for him to antagonize the monster he was envious of. And second of all, he was only hearing an excerpt of their entire relationship. Reagardless, his certainty had solidified in his bones and he immediately hated Papyrus’s datemate.

And it only had a little bit to do with his jealousy.

Rus glanced at Sans. He was still scrolling through Facebook. Without his scrutiny, Rus was free to invest all of his attention in the date happening near them.

A waiter had come, Papyrus tried to order something, and Mettaton corrected him and ordered something else. Whenever Papyrus tried to talk about his day, Mettaton overwhelmed the conversation with information about his own interests or with requests for Papyrus to talk more about his past fanaticism. Rus worried his cowl in frustration. The robot should have just sat and listened. He was lucky to have this amount of Papyrus’s time and he should’ve taken it more graciously. If Rus had been there, he would have sat back, relaxed, and gladly listened to every story and diatribe that Papyrus was possessed to tell. He deserved that attention and consideration. And he wasn’t getting it.

“WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT?”

Rus jumped at Sans’s interjection. His phone was still out, but he was looking at Rus with an accusatory stare. He started to turn his head. “I was just spacing out!” He blurted out, getting Sans to look back at him.

“I TAKE YOU OUT TO DINNER, AND YOU DECIDE TO ‘SPACE OUT’?” Sans shook his head and clicked his tongue. “WELL, IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE HERE AND BE PRESENT-“

“No!” Sans looked offended at his volume. “I’m having a wonderful time. I’m so grateful for this gift. It’s so unreal that I... I just lost myself a little bit. I’m sorry.”

Sans smiled. “APOLOGY ACCEPTED, JUST MAKE AN EFFORT TO BE IN THIS REALITY.” Sans immediately went back to his phone. Rus swallowed his sigh. It would be easier for him to be here if his brother gave him the time of day.

His train of thought went on a new track and his head perked up. He looked back to Papyrus and Mettaton. The robot was going on and on about something.

For the first time in his life, it occurred to Rus that he might deserve better.

That they both deserved better.

Chapter Text

The rest of the dinner was a boring nightmare.

Sans was completely absent except for when he needed to criticize the waiter for the temperature of their meal and lack of table service, or when he needed to judge Rus. He had to be on his best behavior but was given nothing to do. And he simultaneously got to see Mettaton walk and talk all over Papyrus. He was living his nightmare and watching another.

He wanted so desperately for the night to be over that he actually hoped Sans would make a scene and storm out, making Rus follow. But for once Sans seemed to actually be giving Rus what he would usually want – a nice, long, calm night out.

What luck.

Finally, Mettaton stood up and made his way out. Papyrus stayed behind to sign the check, stood up, and then for the first time in the noticed saw Rus. Rus tried to hide his panic while simultaneously telepathically telling Papyrus to leave. Instead, Papyrus smiled and proudly walked over to their table.

“Hello, Rus! I had not realized you were here!” He greeted.

“Hey, uh, yeah neither did I,” Rus faked. Sans glanced between them before interjecting.

“PAPYRUS, WHO IS THIS MONSTER AND WHY IS HE INTERRUPTING OUR DINNER?” Yes, interrupting their riveting conversation. What a shame. Rus made a move to speak, but Papyrus beat him to it.

“You must be Rus’s brother! I’m one of his professors. I’ve just come to say hello, I hope that’s all right. I mean, it should be, it’s a perfectly normal thing to do!” He beamed, showing off his social knowledge

Sans eyed him up and down. “QUITE. AM I TO PRESUME YOU ARE THE TEACHER WHO HAS BEEN GIVING HIM SPECIAL ATTENTION?” Papyrus furrowed his brow.

“If by special you mean assisting him with topics he has struggled with, yes. Last semester I did suggest we spend extra tutelage time together.” Rus watched his brother carefully. He could see slight changes in his demeanor. Parts of him were locking up and tensing. He could practically see what was coming. He reached his hand across the table.

“I would have failed without his help,” Rus said. “I knew you wanted me to pass so I figured-“

Sans abruptly stood up, his chair scraping against the restaurant floor and acting as an environmental “shut the fuck up”, so Rus did. Papyrus seemed concerned now, taking a step back.

“I’m sorry, have I done something to-“

“LISTEN HERE, PROFESSOR,” Sans practically hissed, stepping forward and jabbing a finger in Papyrus’s chest. He was just over half his size, coming to the bottom of Papyrus’s rib cage. When Rus wasn’t the one being pointed at, he saw just how silly Sans’s intimidation was. He was so small and weak and Papyrus could easily show him up. Instead, his teacher just stood straight, unflinching to Sans’s tactics.

Rus could do that, too. He had the same stature. Did he look pathetic when he cowered to his brother’s bullying? Papyrus made defiance look so simple.

“MY BROTHER DOES NOT NEED YOUR UNWANTED ASSISTANCE.” Rus flushed at the borderline compliment. Did Sans really think that highly of his intelligence? “HE CAN PASS OR FAIL ON HIS OWN AND DOES NOT BENEFIT FROM YOU OCCUPYING HIS PRECIOUS TIME.” Or not. He should have seen that coming. His brother would never give him any credit. “SO, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR AND STOP WASTING YOUR TIME BY INVESTING IN HIM.” Sans leant back, crossing his arms in assumed victory. Papyrus glanced at Rus. He wondered if he looked small, or beat up, or pitiful. He hoped he didn’t.

Papyrus turned back to Sans. “Pardon my possible intrusion, but I’m inclined to ask; do you know how Rus obtained that second fracture on his socket?” Rus’s hand instinctually reached up to cover the new scar. Papyrus hadn’t said anything about it to him since its appearance. He started to wonder if he hadn’t noticed it. “It appeared before this new semester and I’m concerned for your brother’s well-being.” There was something undeniably accusatory about Papyrus’s tone. A flush almost overcame his brother’s face, but he managed to squash it down.

“AS I’M SURE YOU ASTUTELY NOTICED, MY BROTHER IS INCREDIBLY INCOMPETANT. HE HAD A LAPSE OF JUDGEMENT AND RAN INTO A DOOR.” Sans looked to Rus. “IT WAS HIS OWN FAULT.” He felt a wave of guilt. Sans hadn’t done that to him without sense – he did it because Rus deserved it. Had Rus not defied him, his socket wouldn’t be damaged.

He felt himself shrink.

“Really? Because I’ve always considered Rus to be incredibly competent and I find it terribly hard to believe that it was an accident. In fact, based on a lot of his behavior, I’m inclined to believe that someone else inflicted it on purpose.” Papyrus tilted his head, his gaze piercing. “Do you know of anyone who could have caused such an injury?”

Rus loved the sound of Papyrus’s voice. He could listen to him drone on and on about nothing for hours and consider it a wonderful way to spend his time. But, in this moment, Rus wanted nothing more in the world than for Papyrus to shut the up.

“ARE YOU ACCUSING ME OF HARMING MY BROTHER?!” They had gained an audience now, restaurant goers and staff alike watching the confrontation.

“I would never suggest such a thing! But you’re the one to have just brought up your own potential culpability so-“

“HOW DARE YOU!” Sans pushed Papyrus with two hands. Had he done that to Rus, the younger brother would have fallen to the ground. But Papyrus barely moved. Rus could see the shock in his sockets.

“Papyrus, darling! What’s keeping – oh.” Mettaton approached from the restaurant foyer. Yes, because what they really needed now was a self-absorbed robot to join the conversation. His one judging eye looked between his datemate and Rus’s brother. “Am I... interrupting something?” Now Papyrus was caught speechless, and Rus was reminded of their parallel situation. Mettaton was Papyrus’s version of Rus’s brother. He was the dominant component and Papyrus had to submit to him.

Did Mettaton treat Papyrus in exactly the same way that Sans treated Rus?

Rus traced his hairline fractures.

“YES, YOU ARE! BUT PERHAPS YOUR PRESENCE IS FOR THE BETTER!” Sans said. He faced Mettaton and pointed at Papyrus. “THIS MONGREL HAS INTERRUPTED OUR PERFECTLY PEACEFUL DINNER AND HAS ACCUSED ME OF PHYSICALLY ABUSING MY BROTHER!”

Mettaton gasped, putting a hand on his chest despite his soul being in his abdomen. “He is not a mongrel!” The robot stretched an arm out to grab Papyrus’s wrist and yank him to his side. Papyrus didn’t protest despite his past conviction. “Come darling, these plebians aren’t worth your time.” He dragged Papyrus to the foyer. Sans was fuming and shook a fist in their direction.

“YEAH, WELL THESE ‘PLEBIANS’ THINK YOU SHOULD GO TO HELL!”

“Sir!” The manager finally came to interrupt the exchange. As he and Sans got into a shouting match, Rus kept looking to Papyrus. Despite being guided away, his teacher looked back. Their eye lights met for one scared moment.

Rus wondered if the fear in Papyrus’s sockets was for Rus’s safety or his own.

He checked out once Papyrus left his view. He heard the muffled fighting of Sans and the manager. Then a hand pulled him out of his chair before grabbing his own wrist and dragging him out of the restaurant. Sans practically threw Rus into the passenger seat before getting in the driver’s side and taking them home.

He yelled the whole way.

“THAT WAS YOUR FUCKING TEACHER? THAT’S THE IMBECILE THAT’S BEEN TAKING UP ALL OF YOUR FUCKING TIME? I SHOULD’VE FUCKING KNOWN HE WAS JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU. ONLY A PAPYRUS COULD BE SO INSUFFERABLE! LIKE GOES TO LIKE AND YOU’RE FUCKING LUCKY I WON’T ALLOW YOU TO FURTHER ASSOCIATE WITH SUCH TRASH. AND THE GALL TO BRING UP YOUR FRACTURE! AS IF HE HAS ANY RIGHT TO JUDGE THE WAY YOU’RE DISCIPLINED!”

Rus cowered close to the window. He wanted to be somewhere else. Be someone else.

Anyone else.

The inevitable smack came to his skull. “AND YOU’RE NOT EVEN FUCKING LISTENING!! DON’T THINK I DIDN’T SEE YOUR GOO GOO EYES. YOU TOLD HIM TO BRING THAT SHIT UP DIDN’T YOU?!”

“I- I didn-“ Another smack, bone smashing against bone. “Ow!”

“OH, I’M SORRY, DID THAT HURT YOU? WELL YOUR BETRAYAL FUCKING HURT ME SO HOW THE FUCK DO YOU LIKE IT!” Sans was so busy beating Rus that he allowed the car to partially swerve.

He couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. They were just in the car.

They hadn’t even gotten home yet.

He didn’t want to go home. Rus couldn’t go home. He had seen Papyrus defy Sans... he could do that. He could stand up and escape.

Without thinking, under the barrage of smacks, he opened the passenger door and tried to leave the moving vehicle.

But then he felt the painful, heavy, and dreadful grip on his soul – a grip that kept him in the car as Sans pulled over.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?!”

Rus shook his head. He hadn’t been thinking. He shouldn’t have tried that. He should’ve known Sans would grab him. He just dug his grave deeper. Hot tears fell over his cheekbones as he begged for mercy. “S-hans... Sans, please-“

Sans grabbed Papyrus by the front of his shirt, forcing him to face his abuser. That’s what this was. This was straight abuse.

“YOU THINK YOU DESERVE MERCY?!” Sans actually laughed, grabbing Papyrus with his other hand before yanking them through time and space. He felt the world move and swirl around him before slamming to a halt in their living room. Papyrus crumpled to the ground in fear. Sans didn’t let go. He dragged Papyrus kicking and screaming to the basement. It was a room Papyrus had been in two times before.

It was soundproof.

He begged and pleaded, his voice wet with tears as he clawed at Sans’s arm.

Sans flung him down the stairs in response. His bones echoed in the concrete room as he landed on the hard floor. He cried in pain.

“YOU THINK YOU CAN DEFY ME?! THINK YOU CAN FIGHT BACK?!” Rus crawled back, averting his eyes and raising his hands in a feeble attempt to protect himself. “YOU NEED TO REMEMBER Y O U R P L A C E!”

Papyrus whimpered with every step Sans took down into the basement.

The door slammed behind him – sealing Rus’s fate.

Chapter Text

Papyrus got a thorough reprimand from Mettaton in the car. He hadn’t meant to escalate the situation at the restaurant or make anything worse for Rus, but he felt the need to say something. Rus clearly needed help based on his body language. Although, Papyrus must admit that his means were likely inappropriate.

Mettaton dropped him off at his apartment and Papyrus started formulating his apology to Rus. He’d let him know how much he regretted his actions and how thoroughly he supported his student in all aspects of his life.

But Rus wasn’t in class on Monday. He wasn’t in class on Tuesday or Wednesday either.

Papyrus tried to tell himself that it was fine. His brother seemed very invested in his productivity and maybe he was just putting his efforts elsewhere. Or perhaps he was ill! Yes, a stomach flu! He wouldn’t be out for more than a week.

Three weeks later, when he printed out his class’s attendance sheet, Rus’s name was missing.

He went to the registrar and asked what the status of this student was. According to the bunny in the office, Rus had pulled out of all of his classes and dropped out. Papyrus asked if he had just dropped from the semester.

“From the call we received, he made it very clear that he will not be returning to the university.”

Papyrus tried not to show his disappointment, or genuine fear.

It was a month after learning Rus had dropped out of school. Papyrus was at home, sitting at the table, staring at his cell phone which he’d placed in front of him.

It wasn’t any of his business. He had no right to interfere in the lives of any of his students. But he knew that Rus wouldn’t have dropped out. He was a dedicated student who cared about his studies. He always came to class on time, was never absent, always came to office hours and Papyrus had witness him spend many an hour in the library. He was, in Papyrus’s opinion, the least likely of any of his students to drop out. And yet he had. And, after the encounter he had with Rus’s brother, he had a sinking feeling that Rus’s status as a student had been decided by someone else. Someone shorter and louder and meaner. He had a feeling that Sans had also broken Rus’s shoulder blade and added that new fracture. And he was afraid that the Sans had done something even worse. He would have bet on it.

But was he legally allowed to interfere with their relationship? Would he just make it all worse? Or was it exactly what Rus needed?

Papyrus sighed.

Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Rus’s face. He saw those high cheekbones, his sharp angles, his warm smile and his surprisingly attractive scars. He may have been another version of Papyrus, but he was a thousand times more handsome. And he had the determination to do what he had to in order to succeed.

Papyrus was ashamed to admit it, but he had given Rus more attention than he would have had he not been so... appealing. Or rugged. Or mysterious. His feelings were wildly inappropriate, and he knew that and he would never in his life act on it. But it would be a lie to say his emotions weren’t a factor in his supporting of the student. Or his putting his number in Rus’s syllabus. Or his want to call the police on this unfamiliar Sans.

Papyrus rubbed the heels of his hands into his sockets. He was dating the robot of his dreams and he still couldn’t get Rus out of his head. It certainly didn’t help that Rus had drawn his naked body a dozen times.

He stood up, went to the kitchen, ran cold water through the faucet, and stuck his skull under it.

HE WAS A TEACHER DAMN IT. A teacher that was concerned about the safety of his student! And a teacher that may be the only one aware of the obvious danger facing him!

He slammed his hands on the counter in resolution.

He marched over to his phone, dialed the number of the local police station, prayed that Undyne was working, and requested a wellfare check on Papyrus Serif Gaster.

Five hours passed and the police called him back. He hadn’t been asleep – he never slept – and eagerly picked up.

Rus was completely safe and well.

Papyrus was relieved. He had never been more happy to be wrong.

Chapter Text

Rus stood in the grocery store. The lights were bright but he didn’t bother wincing. Sans straightened Rus’s button up.

“DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY?” he asked.

Rus nodded, knowing better than to verbally respond.

“GOOD. HE SHOULD BE HERE ANY MINUTE.”

Yes. He was going to be there any minute. He was going to see him again. He closed his sockets, summoning the memory of his face that he had cherished over the last month and a half. It was going to be so good to see him. He knew that. He just wished he didn’t have to be seen in return.

He’d seen his reflection. He was presentable enough. But all the magic was missing from his face. His soul was pounding so hard every day in an attempt to keep his bones together. It didn’t have the energy to make Rus look, you know, alive.

“HERE HE COMES!” Sans hissed, grabbing Rus’s arm to take him to the vegetables. That was part of the plan.

Ever since the police came, Sans had been planning this day. They found out where and when he shopped. They would be looking at vegetables (very healthy, showing their good choices), and turn around in surprise when they saw him. They would tell him about the welfare check, and then Rus was supposed to dismiss him. And then he would never see him again, never go back to school, and go get a job Sans had chosen and live a life he personally approved of.

That was the plan.

The vegetables were blurry in front of him. He couldn’t tell apart the cucumbers and zucchinis.

“Oh, Rus!” Fuck, that voice. His whole body shuddered. He had missed it so much.

“OH! WHAT A SURPRISE TO SEE YOU HERE, MR. PROFESSOR!” Sans said, turning Rus around with him. Rus tried to keep his sockets on his shoes. They were new and too tight on his feet. He hadn’t picked them out. He also hadn’t picked out the grey slacks. Or the black button up. Or the white tie or silver cuff links or metal necklace that acted as a camouflaged collar. He wasn’t himself. And he didn’t want to be seen. Ordinarily he’d hide in his hoodie. But Sans had burned it, taking away his security.

Sans nudged his elbow. Papyrus looked up out of instinct and his eye lights were overwhelmed by Papyrus’s face.

Shit, seeing him was like drinking water after six months in a desert.

He looked so good. His bones were still soft and pure. His sockets still sparkled – or they had until Rus looked up. His smile was still warm – at least until he saw Rus’s face. It was heartbreaking. Rus’s presence was negatively rubbing off on the nicest person he had ever met.

He felt even more shame.

“It’s good to see you, Professor Gaster,” he greeted, as had been scripted and practiced.

“It’s... It’s good to see you, too?” Papyrus said. The concern in his sockets nearly made Rus cry. But he didn’t have any more tears. “I – I’m sorry. You just look so very different.”

“I’ve been making an effort to present myself in a more respectable manner.”

“ABOUT TIME IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF! MWEH HEH!” Even the laughing was a part of the script. He felt so fake, so brittle. How was he going to keep standing for this conversation?

“Well, you don’t look terribly comfortable.”

“I’m very comfortable.” He had to be contrary. He had to be contrary to everything Papyrus said. He clenched his jaw.

“ACTUALLY, IT’S VERY CONVENIENT THAT WE’VE BUMPED INTO YOU!” Sans said. “YOU SEE, NOT TOO LONG AGO THE POLICE CAME KNOCKING ON OUR DOOR!” Rus hadn’t heard the knock. He had been downstairs when Sans came running down with a bag of flour. “THEY WANTED TO CHECK UP ON RUS’S WELL-BEING!” His bones were caked in flower, hiding all bruises and nicks. Sans shoved a robe onto Rus’s body, covering his ruined one-piece pajama outfit. “WHICH WAS QUITE STRANGE, I THINK.” He brought Rus upstairs, giving excuses that he was sick and needed to get back to bed. The police gave him a once over and asked if he was okay. “BECAUSE RUS WAS MORE THAN FINE! HE WAS RECOVERING FROM THE FLU, BUT OTHER THAN THAT HE WAS THE PICTURE OF HEALTH!” He told them he was fine. Sans asked if he wanted to go back to bed. Rus had stared at the police officers, pleading with his eyes before nodding and having Sans take him to his actual bed room. He heard them talk for a while before they left. “ODDLY ENOUGH, THEY SAID A CONCERNED TEACHER HAD WANTED TO MAKE SURE RUS WAS SAFE.”

He had heard that. He had cried. It was good that Papyrus would think he was happy. Then he could forget him and live his life without Rus. He was such a piece of garbage... Papyrus deserved better.

“Oh, yes, that was me,” Papyrus said. “Forgive me. I was surprised to find out he had dropped out of school and wanted to be sure he was well.” Sans deftly touched Rus’s elbow.

The words were sticky in his throat. “I... I was very well,” he said. “I dropped out because I no longer have the funds to attend. And, after being sick for so long, I certainly would not have been able catch up on the work I missed. It was a better decision to end it now than prolong the inevitable for the rest of the semester.” He was looking Papyrus right in the eye sockets. He was too scared to plead in Sans’s presence anymore. “So, while I appreciate your concern, it would be better for me and my brother if you stopped...” He inhaled, bracing for what he was going to say. He knew his punishment for going off script, and he wouldn’t dare. “... interfering with my personal affairs and crossing the line in a student/teacher relationship.”

Papyrus stood straighter. Rus immediately wanted to apologize. He couldn’t, though. He couldn’t do anything. He... he wasn’t himself anymore. He couldn’t-

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO HIM BUT IT’S CLEAR THE POLICE DID NOT INVESTIGATE DILIGENTLY ENOUGH,” Papyrus bellowed, towering over Sans. Rus stood a little straighter, unsure of what was happening. He could feel Sans heating beside him. Papyrus looked into Rus’s eye sockets. “RUS, PLEASE CONFIRM THAT YOU ARE TWENTY-SEVEN.”

“HOW DO YOU KNOW MY BROTHER’S-“

“I’m twenty-seven,” Rus confirmed. Papyrus spoke to the store, catching the attention of other shoppers.

“YOU ARE A FULL-GROWN ADULT AND ARE THEREFORE ALLOWED TO DO AS YOU WILL AND GO WHERE YOU LIKE.”

Sans grabbed Rus’s wrist. “WHAT ARE YOU-“

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEAVE THE STORE WITH ME ON YOUR OWN ACCORD AND WISHES?” Papyrus offered his hand.

Rus’s soul pumped a little faster. He had been so beat down, physically and emotionally. He’d given up on getting out of this. He’d become completely subservient. The last defiant act he’d performed was trying to escape by opening the car door.

Papyrus’s hand was the car door.

And this time he wasn’t escaping alone. He was escaping with someone strong and smart. Someone he trusted and felt safe around.

Despite all his fear, he reached out a trembling hand.

“RUS DOESN’T WANT-“ His brother tried to slap his hand away. Papyrus grabbed San’s wrist, stopping the interruption. He flexed his fingers.

“Take my hand, Rus.”

“LET GO OF-“

“Take my hand, if you want.”

He did want.

Rus decisively took Papyrus’s hand. In an instant, Sans let go of his wrist. Rus looked to him in surprise at the sudden release to see his brother on his knees, a highlighted blue soul at his core being weighted down to the ground. And to his shock, Papyrus had magic flaring from his sockets and had a hand reaching out, keeping Sans down. He gently tugged Rus’s hand, guiding him to stand beside him.

“WE’RE GOING TO WALK OUT OF HERE BECAUSE RUS IS ALLOWED TO.”

“HE WON’T BECAUSE I’VE TOLD HIM HE CAN’T.”

Papyrus looked to Rus, his hand still keeping his brother down. “You won’t?” It wasn’t a genuine question. He knew the answer. And his confidence helped Rus steal his courage.

“I will,” he announced.

“PAPYRUS YOU-“ Papyrus pushed Sans further to the ground.

“YOU WILL STAY WHERE YOU ARE AS WE WALK OUT OF THE STORE. AND THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE RUS WILL BE BECAUSE HE WANTS TO SEE YOU. HAVE A NICE REST OF YOUR DAY.” Papyrus turned them. Rus was slow and shakey, unable to believe what was going on. Was he really going to just... walk away? Could he do that? Could he do that and face no consequences?

Papyrus put his arm around Rus’s shoulder as opposed to holding his hand. “Is this okay?” he asked. Rus just nodded as Papyrus walked them out. His sockets were still flaring with magic. They flared until the grocery store doors slid open, until they exited, until they were in the parking lot, until Papyrus carefully strapped Rus into a car, until they drove away and finally – finally – his magic dissipated when they had reached the first stop light outside of the store.

And only when Papyrus’s magic dissipated did Rus finally breathe. He suddenly started hyperventilating, wheezing and trying to catch his breath. The tears started flowing again in complete and utter relief.

He... He wasn’t with Sans. He was with Papyrus.

“Are you okay?” his driver asked. “Do you need me to pull over?”

Rus shook his head. He never wanted to stop driving. He wanted Papyrus to slam his foot on the gas and drive them as fast and as far away as possible. His breath turned into laughter.

He was away from his brother. He was safe.

Chapter Text

Rus sat on his teacher’s sofa in soft borrowed pajamas, his freshly cleaned bones warm and relaxed in the comfortable fleece. Rus was melting into the cushions. He hadn’t sat on something comfortable for longer than a minute in nearly two months.

It was heavenly.

And he didn’t even care about how visible all of his bruises were; how visible the bandages on his ulna were; how visible the metal necklace that he wasn’t able to remove from his neck was, cold and shiny and out of place.

It didn’t matter. He was safe.

Papyrus came over to the couch carrying two mugs both filled with hot chocolate, marshmallows, and whipped cream. He handed one to Rus, who gladly let the scalding cup burn his finger bones. It was warm. He wanted to soak it all up. He sniffed the rich, sweet, delicious liquid. It would be the first flavor he’d enjoy in who knew how long. He savored the first sip. The molten liquid burned his magic tongue immediately. He could barely taste the chocolate through the pain. But it was still sweet and he took a giant swig before pulling the cup away and sighing, eyes closed as he leaned back. He was so exhausted, so relieved, so comfortable... he let his head lean to the side and was surprised to find it land on a shoulder. He had been so absorbed in his beverage that he hadn’t realized Papyrus sat closely beside him.

He was too tired to be embarrassed and just let himself lean on his knight in shining armor.

“How are you feeling now?” Papyrus asked. He felt no shame in hearing that voice. Rus hummed, not trusting himself to speak without crying, and nodded against Papyrus’s shoulder. “Nyeh, good.” Papyrus took a sip from his drink, too. “I don’t expect you to really answer, and I think I know what you’ll say, but I have to ask: did you mean any of the things you said at the store?”

Rus shook his head. His hands were weak and he could feel the mug slipping away from his fingers. Papyrus caught it and adjusted his grip.

“So, you don’t think this is crossing the boundaries of a professional student/teacher relationship?”

Rus actually chuckled. Was that the thing he was most worried about? Sure, Rus had thought it was a cutting comment at the time, but now it was so trivial. Nothing that happened earlier mattered. All that mattered was he was safe and comfortable and near someone who actually cared about his well-being.

Fresh tears rolled down his cheeks. Papyrus wiped them away. Rus exhaustedly nuzzled into his shoulder.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

As he should. He didn’t want to think about boundaries and what’s right and wrong. He just wanted to be here. With Papyrus. Against Papyrus. Hugging Papyrus.

He curled against his side. The skeleton put his arm around Rus, allowing and encouraging him to come closer. He sighed. He didn’t care if speaking was going to make him crumble or how he’d get the words out. His soul needed to let something out.

“Thank you,” he muttered. Papyrus squeezed his shoulder.

“You’re welcome.” Papyrus’s magic was pulsing from his bones and flowing into Rus’s body. It was calming and oddly familiar. He could hear Papyrus’s soul beating in his center. His own soul, despite its weakness and exhaustion, pulsed along with the other, keeping up and filling Rus’s marrow with magic and heat. He brought his legs up, balled himself, and fully tucked into Papyrus. He completely lost track of the mug in his hands that had apparently ended up on the coffee table, allowing Papyrus to wrap both arms around Rus to allow him to be as close as possible. “Can I... Can you tell me what happened?”

Rus had thought all the tension had left his body. But the question brought attention to the remaining ounce. He didn’t want that tension, and tried to get rid of it when he said, “No. I just wanna stay like this.”

Papyrus nodded and held him tighter. “Do you want to press charges?”

Rus rubbed his forehead into Papyrus’s chest. Why did he need to talk? Why did he need to acknowledge how Rus got here? Why couldn’t they just sit and cuddle and allow Rus to fantasize that this was his life? That he’d never been hurt and that Papyrus had invited him into his home because he liked him – not because he was saving him?

Reality sank in and his fantasy dissolved.

He wasn’t here because Papyrus wanted him. He was just being a responsible citizen. He would have done it for anyone. Rus was nothing special. He was just a lost child to be rescued and Papyrus was the type of person to rescue those in need. It had nothing to do with Rus. It had nothing to do with any imaginary feelings Papyrus had toward him. It had nothing to do with a finally requited love. It had nothing. There was nothing. He was nothing. Nothing.

“Hey,” Papyrus soothed. Rus had started shuddering and shaking. He hadn’t realized. Papyrus’s attempts to comfort him just exacerbated it.

Rus carefully pushed away, finding his own space on the couch that didn’t involve physical contact with his new source of support. He shouldn’t even be here. He was fucking wearing Papyrus’s pajamas. He was just a burden. Papyrus probably wished he’d get out of his hair. That he’d wipe his tears, thank him, and leave to handle his own business. That’s what heroes expected. They never wanted to handle the aftermath, they just wanted to come in and take credit for the saving, and then move on to the next sad sack. So, it was time for him to get out. To leave. He didn’t have anywhere to go, but he ought to take care of his business and spare Papyrus the trouble.

He stood and started walking to the door.

Then he felt a hand on his wrist, keeping him from moving further. “Where are you going?” Papyrus asked.

“’M leaving.”

“Why?” he asked, sounding genuinely concerned.

“Gotta get out of your hair.”

Papyrus actually chuckled, gently tugging Rus’s wrist so he would turn and face him. “What an odd thing to say for, as you can plainly see, I am a skeleton and therefore have no hair for you to get in or out of.” He dramatically slicked back imaginary hair on his scalp. Rus laughed out a smile. “You don’t have to leave.”

“’M sure you have other things to do than to laze around with me.”

“I assure you, I don’t!” He said, smiling widely and leaning down to meet Rus’s slouched stature. “You’re welcome here for as long as you like, and I will gladly help you to laze around or contact the police or find you a new place... whichever you’dprefer.” He leant close in an attempt to enhance their eye contact. Rus could only think about how close his mouth was. “And I think that, right now, you’d like to continue cuddling on the couch.”

Rus nodded, but then shook his head. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

“I’m not. And if I ever become so, I can assure you I will let you know.” Rus shook his head again, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “Oh, do you not believe me?” Rus shrugged. “You fool! You should always believe the Great Papyrus.” His smile was wide and joyous as he crouched down, put his arm under Rus’s knees and swept him up into a bridal carry. Rus squeaked at the motion, getting a chuckle from Papyrus as he walked him back to the couch.

Last time this happened, Rus had been unconscious.

It felt just as good as he had imagined.

Papyrus plopped down on the couch, crossed his legs, and rested Rus in his lap like a baby. He cradled the back of his head, resting it against his chest and gently rubbed his legs through the fabric. Rus couldn’t help but blush and hide his face in Papyrus’s shirt.

“Oh yes, it very much seems like you don’t want to cuddle. Hm, good choice to try and leave while wearing my pajamas I’m sorry I’m forcing you to do something you so clearly despise.”

Rus chuckled, fisting his hands into Papyrus’s clothes and bringing his legs closer, curling into a ball in Papyrus’s lap. He gladly cradled him, leaning back on the couch and accommodating him.

Even if Papyrus didn’t really mean it, Rus allowed himself to rest. Strong and warm arms held him. He inhaled his savior. Sweet pine and flowers. He loved this. He loved being here. He loved being held. And he loved Papyrus.

It was the first time he allowed himself to think that.

He loved him. He knew Papyrus didn’t love him back – he had a datemate, after all. But he allowed himself to love him. He loved his smell, his smile, his effort, his hold, his clothes, his boldness, his kindness... Rus just love Papyrus. All of him.

“I know exactly what you’re thinking,” Papyrus said. Rus stiffened. He didn’t know if he wanted Papyrus to really know what he was thinking, or if he was mortified at the thought. “I, the Great Papyrus, am the greatest cuddler in the history of all the world.”

Rus laughed in relief. “Yeah, you really are.” That he truly meant. Although, he wasn’t the greatest judge. He had only been cuddled twice before this, both when he was a little kid growing up in the Underground and both because he and his brother needed to share body heat or risk freezing to death. This was the first time he cuddled recreationally. And he loved it.

“You can go to sleep, if you want,” Papyrus said. Rus thought he’d give it a try. He closed his sockets, made one last readjustment to get as comfortable as possible, and tried to even his breathing.

And then he felt Papyrus’s bones vibrate. A low, soft tone echoed through his rib cage and came out his mouth in lyrical and melodic lines. He was singing. Rus didn’t recognize the song, but it sounded like a lullaby. It hummed through his bones and soothed his magic. He sighed, thankful for this moment that he was lucky enough to live through.

He fell asleep against Papyrus’s chest, and he couldn’t have been happier.

Chapter Text

They both jumped at the sound of a knock on the door.

Their positions had changed as they slept. Papyrus had slipped down to lay on his side, arms still wrapped around Rus’s back. And Rus had also moved to lay down, facing Papyrus’s chest, holding the fabric of his shirt, one leg in between Papyrus’s in their sleepy snuggling. Rus was paralyzed in embarrassment, Papyrus looking down at him. His cheeks were completely rusted.

The knock came again. It startled Rus to the point of him pushing back on Papyrus and accidentally falling off the couch. He landed on the rug with a thud and Papyrus crawled up. “Are you okay?” he whispered.

Rus waved him off, wiping his eye sockets. Papyrus leapt up from the couch, attempted and failed to straighten his wrinkled and untucked shirt, and stood in front of the door. He peered through the peep hole. Rus watched his body relax.

“It’s just Mettaton,” he announced.

Well, that may have been relaxing for Papyrus, but it sent a jolt of panic through Rus. He had just been sleeping and cuddling with Mettaton’s boyfriend while wearing Papyrus’s pajamas. Rus struggled to gather his bearings, still groggy from sleeping. He fumbled to a stand and made an attempt to get to the bathroom but didn’t make it in time as Papyrus opened the door and his robotic datemate entered the apartment.

“Darling! I was so worried when you didn’t pick up your phone this mo-“ Mettaton’s eye landed on Rus. He tried to seem collected. He shuffled on his feet, tried to lean on the hall wall, decided that was dumb, and re-shifted his stance to cross his arms, smiling awkwardly. “Who is that?”

“You called this morning?” Papyrus asked, genuinely concerned and apparently ignoring Mettaton’s question. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked the time. Rus saw his eye sockets expand. “OH STARS IT’S NOON!!” Rus couldn’t hide his surprise. He rarely slept and, when he did, it was never for more than three or four hours. But if he remembered correctly, he had finished showering yesterday around three in the afternoon, and then they slept shortly after. Both he and Papyrus slept for roughly twenty hours.

Papyrus looked at Rus in shock.

No wonder it was the best sleep either of them had ever gotten.

“Papyrus,” Mettaton said. Only then did Papyrus look to his boyfriend instead of Rus. “Care to explain why you were unreachable since yesterday evening? And why I’ve found you with another monster who appears to be wearing your pajamas?” The amount of chagrin, suspicion, and anger in the robot’s voice was borderline nauseating. Rus had crossed his arms in an attempt to keep it cool. Now he did it out of protection – trying to hide himself from the situation.

“You have nothing to worry about, Metta,” Papyrus said, holding his hands up in a placating gesture. “I’m just giving Rus a place to stay!”

“Rus.” Mettaton looked Rus up and down. He wondered if the robot’s eyes could act as an x-ray. He curtly shifted his gaze back to his datemate. “Should I know who that is?”

“You might! He was, uh, he was the student I went to talk to at the restaurant.” Mettaton looked coy. “The Italian restaurant.” Still no clue. Papyrus cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed. “The place I... made a scene in, last month?”

Mettaton blinked, still clueless, before he was hit with a wave of remembrance. “Oh! Oh, the sniveling little pleb!”

“Yes!” Papyrus excitedly agreed, then what Mettaton had really said sunk in. “Wait, no! I mean, yes! Yes, you’re remembering the right time but no he is not sniveling nor a pleb!”

Mettaton snorted. “That’s yet to be seen. Care to explain why he’s wearing your pajamas?”

“Oh! He didn’t have any of his own after he showered, so I lent him mine!” Everything Papyrus said was emboldened by pride and truth. Rus was getting peripherally embarrassed. Mettaton frustratingly pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Papyrus, I need you to be completely honest with me.”

“Always!”

“Did you two... sleep together?”

Rus often heard the expression “watching a car accident in slow motion”. He never truly understood what it meant until this moment. This was the ultimate question and final chance for Papyrus to exonerate himself, but he wasn’t going to. Because technically-

“We did. On the couch. That’s why I didn’t answer any of your calls. Why do you ask – OW!”

Mettaton slapped Papyrus hard – the echo of metal against bone ringing and radiating through Rus’s own bones in sympathy. Papyrus nearly fell over, only managing to stay on his two feet because he could grab the door frame for support. He looked up at Mettaton in betrayal. Rus didn’t have to wonder. He knew that’s what his face looked like when Sans struck him.

“We’re over. Never speak to me ever again,” Mettaton commanded. Papyrus reached a hand out and feebily stuttered out his datemate’s name. But before he could finish, Mettaton stamped on his foot with his heals. The crack that ensued made Rus feel nauseas.

Mettaton stomped away and Papyrus stayed in the entry way, still holding the door open. Rus nervously stepped forward.

“Uh, Papyrus?”

His former teacher looked away, hiding his face. “Rus,” his voice was shaking, “could you please go to the freezer and get me some ice?”

“Sure thing.” Rus hurried to the kitchen and grabbed the first ice pack he saw. He went back to the living room and – Papyrus hadn’t moved. “Papyrus?”

“I hate to trouble you as you are my guest, but I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to move. Would you be able to assist me over to the couch?”

“Course.” Rus scurried over and grabbed Papyrus’s middle. He had half a mind to pick him up and carry him, but he knew he wasn’t strong enough. So instead, he supported him and helped him hobble over to the couch. Once there, he helped Papyrus sit and, before the injured had to ask, he closed the door and locked it.

He looked back to Papyrus. He was such a happy confident monster. Now he looked like a bag of bones, barely keeping himself up, silent tears on his cheek bones, a big orange hand print on his skull, and a foot that was bent funny with an ice pack on it.

It had been a few years, but Rus decided he had to try and help.

He went to the couch and sat against the opposite arm rest. He gently lifted Papyrus’s foot by the ankle and put it on the nest of his crossed legs. Papyrus didn’t say anything, but he did carefully watch Rus. It made him more nervous, but he tried to ignore it. He removed the ice pack, making Papyrus wince, and then pain-stakingly taking off the sock. Papyrus whined out pained breaths, whimpers, and tiny curses, but it was highly necessary. With it off, Rus could see that two of his long foot bones were snapped in multiple places. It was a complex break. Rus hated to give that robot any credit, but this damage was actually kind of impressive.

Rus held his hands on either side of the foot and tried to concentrate his magic, closing his eyes. The key was to think about wanting the best for your patient. He had previously only healed Sans and had never genuinely wanted the best for him – a small part of him wanted to fail at healing his brother every time.

But not now. Papyrus was a good monster. He deserved kindness, compassion, and happiness. He deserved to be with who he wanted and to never be betrayed or harmed by those he loved. He deserved love from everyone. He deserved love from Rus. And Rus did love him. He let all of his love manifest in glowing green vapors and flow into Papyrus’s foot.

“Wowie.” It was nothing more than a gasp. Rus opened his eyes to see what had caused Papyrus to speak, and then he saw just how much healing magic he had made. He had expected little vapors to wind through the bones of his foot. Instead, he had summoned a thick, warm green sphere that emanated tendrils of excess health. At the center of it, Papyrus’s foot was rapidly healing. Bones were going back to where they were supposed to be, the fissures were sealing and binding back together.

He was shocked at his ability and pulled his hands away is surprise. The green floated away like steam let loose from a covered pot of boiling water. There weren’t even any scars left behind. It was as if nothing had happened.

Papyrus brought his foot to his lap, examining it and flexing his toes. It had gone from severely broken to completely moveable. Papyrus looked at Rus in shock before attempting to stand.

“Oh my stars!” He walked in place. He walked around the room. He jumped up and down. He hopped over the back of the couch and actually sat with his bad foot folded up under his pelvis. “That was the most amazing healing performance I’ve ever seen! It’s as if nothing has happened!” As he said it, he remembered that something had indeed happened. His smile went away to return to his aghast expression. Rus gave him a sad smile and put a hand on his shoulder. Papyrus looked away, inadvertently showing off the entirety of the slap mark.

Rus hated that mark more than the broken foot. He lifted his hand to Papyrus’s cheek and did as he had before. He felt his love as thoroughly as he possibly could. His hand easily conjured more healing magic. It caressed Papyrus’s cheek, and when Rus took his hand away, he was unsurprised to find that the entirety of the mark was gone. “I’m sorry,” he said, moving his hand to his lap.

Papyrus captured Rus’s hand before it got too far from him. He looked Rus right in the eye sockets and placed both their hands back on his cheek. He brought his other leg up on the couch and leant his head on the cushions. And, despite the tear stains, he smiled.

“It’s okay,” he practically whispered. “He was a shitty boyfriend anyway.”

It was officially the first time Rus had ever seen or heard Papyrus consciously swear. And to hear such a bad word come out of that mouth, hear such filth in that pure voice... Rus couldn’t help but laugh. Papyrus joined him, chuckling and closing his eyes, letting more tears fall. It wasn’t because anything was particularly funny. It was just a release. They’d both been holding things in – maybe Papyrus even more so than Rus – and now they were letting it out.

It ended with a trickle, both of them coming down from the high and wiping tears from their eyes. Throughout the whole fit, Papyrus had kept Rus’s hand on his cheek. And now that they were done, he grabbed Rus’s other hand, too. He rubbed his thumb over the back of Rus’s hand. He brought it up to his teeth and kissed Rus’s bones.

Rus’s soul fluttered. Papyrus’s teeth were warm, and he sent an extra ping of magic through the contact, shooting energy up Rus’s arm.

“I’m going to go make us something to eat. Asgore, knows we’ve worked up an appetite after sleeping for such an obscene amount of time.” Papyrus released both of Rus’s hands and walked to the kitchen. He started humming as he searched for food to make.

Rus looked at the back of his hand. It didn’t look any different, but it still tingled as if the nerves were asleep. He ran his fingers over where Papyrus had kissed him.

It was small.

It was insignifcant.

It was casual.

His soul was on fire.

Chapter Text

Papyrus didn’t mention the little kiss, and Rus didn’t dare bring it up.

So instead, they ate lunch while Papyrus talked about all the ridiculous standards Mettaton had had for him. It was decompressing and Rus gladly listened to every word as his teacher vented. When they were finished, Papyrus asked Rus what he wanted to do.

“You could continue staying here, but considering your brother found where I did my shopping, I think there is a high chance of him finding out where I live. I would feel more comfortable going to the police, but if you don’t want to, I completely understand. Afterall, I don’t totally understand everything that he did to you.” Rus worried his sleeve. “Do you want to tell me? Or do-“

“We should go to the police.” The words tasted like pennies. He knew he had to do it. It would get his brother in trouble, but it was the only way to ensure his and Papyrus’s safety.

So, they got ready to go. Papyrus changed and offered spare clothes to Rus. The clothing was surprisingly comfortable: baggy jeans, spare sneakers, a soft t-shirt, and a dark blue hoodie. Nothing like the formal clothes he usually wore. Rus put them on and was enchanted by how soft they were. He also loved how they smelled just like Papyrus.

They drove to the station and Papyrus kept his hand on Rus’s back for support as they went inside.

“Papyrus!” The receptionist greeted. “Hang on! I’ll page Undyne for you!”

“Thank you, Connie.” The bird monster winked at him. Papyrus brought them to a seat.

“So, uh, your Undyne is the police chief?” Rus asked, restlessly bouncing his knee.

“Yes. She’s a bit abrasive, but she’s wonderful and will do everything in her power to help.”

Rus couldn’t help but be nervous. Papyrus, a monster who yelled and spoke his mind and told the truth regardless of the consequences, thought that she was abrasive. Rus took a deep breath. “You’re okay,” Papyrus assured. “You’re going to be okay.” They waited only a moment longer before Undyne showed up.

She came from a door at the back of the room. Her skin was a deep bright blue and her uniform looked like a desaturated version of her scales. She had the signature Red pony tail and fins of all Undyne. This one had a black eyepatch over her left eye. She walked with a swagger, a gun and a baton clearly visible on her belt. Her sleeves were rolled up and her muscles were trying to escape from their confinement.

“PAPYRUS!”

“UNDYNE!”

They practically ran to each other and wrestled – no, wait, that was a hug. She got the upper hand – can you get that in a hug? – and noogied his head.

“NO! NO STOP!”

She bellowed out a laugh, letting him go. “Aw man, it’s good to see you.” She punched him in the shoulder and he took it with a smile. “What brings you ‘round here?”

“I actually have a friend that could use your help,” he said, gesturing to Rus. He shot up from his seat, standing straight and trying not to shift his feet. Undyne looked between Papyrus and Rus, realization dawning visually through her remaining eye.

“This isn’t a pleasure visit, is it?”

Undyne changed her tune immediately. Her friendly demeanor completely went away, and she brought Rus to an interview room. The kind with a two-way mirror and a metal table in the center. She left him in there for a few minutes alone. He didn’t know where Papyrus was anymore. His leg bounced ever faster.

She finally came back in with a folder in her hand and a cup of water. She put it in front of him. He made no move to drink it.

“Sorry for the stiff welcome. We have certain procedures that we need to follow in cases like these,” she said, leaning against the wall across from him. Rus furrowed his brow.

“Cases like what?” They hadn’t had a chance to tell her anything and yet she seemed to have already categorized it.

“Suspected kidnapping.” Rus couldn’t hide his affronted response. She acted like she hadn’t noticed as she walked forward and put the folder down, opening it. Inside was a missing persons poster with Rus’s face on it. It had his height, his last seen location, and the phone number of the police station. Apparently, there was a one-hundred-dollar reward for information.

“Uh, w-what’s this?” He asked it for pure clarification. He didn’t understand what he was looking at.

“We finished printing these this morning,” Undyne said. “Yesterday we got a call reporting you missing.” Pieces fell together.

“Oh no.”

“Oh no, indeed. Caller came in and said he was your brother. He said you were abducted in a grocery store. Does any of this sound familiar?”

“Well, yes, but-“

“Who abducted you?”

“I wasn’t abducted,” Rus said. Undyne crossed her arms, waiting for the whole story. “I was at the store with my brother, yes. And we saw Papyrus and he asked if I wanted to leave with him, so I did. I’ve been with him since yesterday afternoon.” Undyne raised a brow.

“Really? Because your brother said you were taken three days ago.” Rus shook his head.

“Of course, he fuckin’ did,” he mumbled. One couldn’t report a missing person if they’d only been gone for a day. Sans had lied through his teeth in order to get the response he wanted. “I’ve only been gone since yesterday, and I left on my own accord.”

Undyne sat on the table, offering a soft smile. “I know this is stressful, but it’s okay. I know Papyrus and I seem close, but... anyone is capable of anything. So, if he has abducted you and told you not to blame him, you just tell me, okay? Has he held you against your will?” It was a soft hand reaching out. Had he been a victim, he would have gladly taken it and let her put the words in his mouth. It was exactly what he would’ve wanted to hear had he been kidnapped. It was exactly what he wanted when the police gave came for the wellfare check. But he didn’t need it now and effectively slapped the metaphorical hand away.

“He hasn’t. I’ve only been gone for a day and I couldn’t be happier that Papyrus offered me his help.”

“His help?”

“Yes.” Rus was getting exasperated. He was beyond frustrated that she thought he was here to turn Papyrus in, when in reality he was after a far more abhorrent monster. He wanted to scream out that truth. But instead his words came out quiet, weak, and stammering – as if Sans were in the room listening to every word. “I had... he saved me from my brother.”

“How so?” She asked. Her inquiry was without intention this time. She was ready to receive whatever information he wanted to give.

And yet the words got stuck in Rus’s throat. She pushed the cup of water over to him, but he still didn’t drink. What he said today would never be able to be taken back. It was so much power.

Did he really want to turn in his brother?

Undyne offered him a tissue from her shirt pocket. Rus brought his hand up and felt the tears he didn’t know were swelling in his sockets. He didn’t take the tissue and instead chose to wipe his cheeks and sockets with the sleeves of his borrowed coat. She placed the tissue on the table.

“Did your brother hurt you?”

He nodded.

“How long has he been hurting you?”

Papyrus actually choked out a laugh. “Since we were kids.”

“How young were you when it started?”

He thought back. He remembered the first time. He had stained his brother’s shirt, and Sans was mad. He said he needed to know the trouble he caused. And then he threw him in the clothes washer. And then the dryer.

“Six,” he said.

“What kind of things did he do to hurt you?”

He listed everything that had happened underground. Locked out of the house, tied up in the basement, beaten with a belt, put through abbreviated cycles in the wash, insulted on a regular basis, told he was worthless, made to do housework while Sans was at work, routinely blamed for their father’s death.

He cleaned his face with his sleeves again before continuing.

“Things got better when we got to the surface, though,” he admitted. And they had.

He was seventeen when they came to the surface. Sans had so much freedom up here in comparison to the underground. He was a kid in a candy shop. He brought Papyrus sweets, new clothes, toys, video games, journals... constant gifts. Papyrus got his GED and they went out to dinner. Sans didn’t want him working though. He said he wanted him to enjoy life on the surface.

Papyrus built sculptures and wrote poetry. He had a nice time.

So long as he took care of the house.

He explained how his punishments were far less severe now. He was rarely left out in the yard. He was beat occassionally and forced to wear a collar every now and then when he behaved too freely. He assumed Sans did those things because he was afraid of Rus moving on without him. And, despite all the abuse – he actually used the word abuse in front of the police chief – he stayed. They were all each other had and Rus wasn’t going to abandon the only family he knew.

“So why are you here with Papyrus, then?”

Talking about it, it was like he was watching the conversation – watching himself list off all of the bad things that had happened to him. The bondage, the beatings, the lack of bathing and sleep deprivation. The burning water, the kicking. The inhumanity of it all...

“Rus?”

“I thought I was too big but, uh, I wasn’t.” He vividly remembered his feet and hands being bound as Sans pushed and prodded and forced him to fit into a space that he was too big to be in. He remembered being taken out after five minutes and how his whole body was pink with burns. And then how Sans poured a bucket of ice water on him. “It’s, uh, worse than it’s ever been, really.” He sniffed, wiping his nose and trying to temper his voice.

Undyne had stopped looking at him.

“Then, uh, then the police came for a wellfare check,” he said. “They told us a, uh, a teacher of mine had reported a need to be concerned.”

“I have that file,” she finally said. “Papyrus called. I sent my best people over.” She shook her head, clearly angry. “Why didn’t you say anything to them?”

Now Rus shook his head. “I was petrified. I... I couldn’t say something that would anger Sans unless there was a guarantee I’d be able to get out.” He bowed his head. “I shoulda said something.”

“It’s okay,” Undyne said. They looked at each other. Her big single eye was, surprisingly, not intimidating. It was soft and trusting. And he actually believed what she said. “You were trying to protect yourself. There’s nothing wrong with that. My people would have helped you – they should have helped you.” Rus hugged himself. “How’d you end up with Papyrus?”

“Sans planned to confront him.” He described how incredibly overjoyed he was when Papyrus offered his hand. For the first time, Rus didn’t feel like Sans was his only person anymore. And he left. He left with Papyrus as his savior held Sans down on his knees.

He picked up the tissue she had placed down for him and wiped his sockets.

Chapter Text

Undyne had left and been gone for a good twenty minutes before coming back. In tow was Papyrus. He was rubbing his wrists. Rus wondered if he had been hand-cuffed.

“Sorry for the third degree, you two,” Undyne said. She came in carrying a new folder and two mugs full of hot liquid. Rus peered into the cup – it was some kind of tea. He gladly took the warm ceramic mug and held it in his hands. The smell and temperature were soothing. He hadn’t drank the water, and he didn’t intend on drinking the tea, but the heat was soothing to his nerves.

“We completely understand! I would have detained me too if I had reason to believe I was a kidnapper, nyeh heh!” So, he had been hand-cuffed. Papyrus pulled up a chair beside Rus and sat down. He put his hand on Rus’s shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?” Rus nodded. Papyrus rubbed his shoulder blade reassuringly before retracting his touch and sipping his own tea.

“So, now that we know what’s going on – thankfully before I plastered your face all over town – what do you want to do?” Undyne sat down across from them in a chair this time. She opened the folder and started flipping through forms. “We could press charges for assault and abuse against your brother. Take him to court. Arrest him if you think he’s a big enough threat and hold him while we gather evidence. It’s really up to you.”

Rus’s fingers started shaking, clinking against the mug. He didn’t want to send his brother to jail. He didn’t want him to be in that environment or ruin his life despite how much he ruined Rus.

Papyrus put a hand on Rus’s mug, stilling him. What did he want from this?

“I want him to leave me alone,” he said.

Undyne nodded. “Injunction it is.” She pulled out the proper form and passed it to Rus, along with a pen from her belt. “Fill that out and I’ll send it over to the courthouse. We’ll send a summons to your brother and get this sorted out.” Rus nodded. He understood what he had to do. He put the mug on the table, picked up the pen, and held it over the form. He needed to do this. It would put an end to everything. He could go back to school. He could move on with his life. He could... he could maybe be with Papyrus.

His hand was shaking, and the pen was shaking with it. He tried to write his name at the top of the paper, but his “P” came out wavery and almost illegible. He put the pen down. The gaze of the police chief was heavy.

“Do you wanna dictate it?”

He wasn’t sure what was worse, filling it out by hand or saying it aloud again.

He was scared to officially change their relationship. Forever.

“Can I think about it?” He finally said. “Fill it out later and bring it back?” Undyne and Papyrus looked at each other for a brief moment.

“Undyne, could you please give us a moment to speak privately?” Papyrus said. Undyne watched them carefully.

“Sure. Neither of you leave without telling me though, all right?” They nodded. She stood and left the room, closing the door. Papyrus put his mug down and shifted in his chair to face Rus.

“What are you thinking?”

Rus shook his head, trying to contain a new wave of tears at his own possible betrayal. “Imagine if this was happening between you and your brother,” he suggested. Papyrus mulled it over for a moment, his hands together and sockets closed before he spoke.

“It would hurt. I would be a complete and utter mess and my soul may physically crack.” He spoke so frankly. There was no emotion in his voice, just the straight fact of it. “I might not even be able to do it.”

“So then how can you expect me to do this?” A tear escaped him despite his best efforts. Papyrus reached out and wiped the tear away.

“Because it’s the best for you. I want you to be safe and I know that you aren’t while your relationship with your brother is unresolved.” He cupped Rus’s other cheek, trying to look him in the eye. “Please. He’s stopping you from living your life in a very disturbing way.” He looked to the form. “This might be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to write. But the hardest things to do are often the most important.” He let his hands drop and captured Rus’s in his own. “Please.”

He squeezed his hands. It was supposed to be reassuring. But it was mostly confusing and overstimulating. Why was he giving him so much casual physical contact? He was too emotionally raw to let his crushing feelings get further involved.

Rus pulled his hands away and turned to the paper. He picked up the pen. He wanted to get this over with and make this moment stop. It was a band-aid that needed to be ripped off for his own benefit.

He didn’t let himself think as he filled out the form.

Names, descriptions, phone numbers, addresses, signatures, everything. He filled it out as quickly as he could. That first “P” looked laborious. The rest of the writing looked rushed. He didn’t care. It was a race to the end. He got to the bottom of the paper, dated it, and signed it with an extra dramatic flair before putting the pen down and standing up, knocking the chair back.

He looked down at the paper. He still had time to tear it up. He could rip it to pieces and take it all back. But he knew he shouldn’t. It was what needed to be done. Papyrus was right. The sooner the paper was turned in, the sooner he could truly be safe and the sooner he could move on with his life.

It didn’t stop his nonexistent stomach from turning. Papyrus began to say something, but Rus tried to run out of the room. The door was locked. “Rus, what’s-“ He saw a trash can in the corner, bolted for it, fell to his knees, held the rim, and threw up.

Monsters rarely expelled magic in such a violent manner. It was only if they were filled with something truly dangerous to their forms.

But here he was, feeling all of his bones wrack and quake as he got sicker and sicker. He vaguely heard a door open and felt a hand on his back. A tissue was offered to him. He pushed it away to heave one more time.

“Is he okay?” It was Undyne.

“Obviously not!” Papyrus.

He held the trash can a moment longer before rolling to the side. He leant his back against the wall and brought his knees up, resting his arms on them as he caught his breath, eyes close.

Everything had been wrong. Everything had been awful and conflicting. The future and the status quo had been at war and he had fired a definitive shot. A shot so strong that it made him physically ill. But now that he had thrown up, it was as if he had let all of the stress out of his body. He was empty of that turmoil. And he felt surprisingly relaxed. The next breath he let out took the rest of the tension out of his body. Only then did he open his eyes to see the chief and Papyrus watching him carefully. Papyrus looked particularly concerned.

“I’m, uh,” Undyne said, pulling her walkie off her belt. “I’m gonna call you an ambulance.”

Rus didn’t have the energy to fight the suggestion. He stayed seated and closed his sockets again. He heard voices but none of them registered. He knew Papyrus was speaking. He knew he felt his hands on his. But he chose to opt out.

He let himself go blank. And he was blank as the paramedics arrived. As they put him on a gurney. As they placed him in the ambulance. As they closed the doors, leaving Papyrus at the station. He was blank as they placed an IV and took his vitals. As they screened his soul and took him into the hospital. As they put him in a room and took pictures of every single mark on his body. As they took out metal clippers and removed the necklace that had been immovable before. He was blank until it was dark. He mindlessly watched clock. He watched the sun light up the walls and felt his sockets tire from being open. He closed them.

He opened them again when he heard someone’s phone ring. He looked to the source and-

He physically retracted, crawling away from his spot and nearly falling off the bed as he looked at Sans sitting in the chair. He was looking at a phone and wearing a sweatshirt. He only dared to relax when the Sans looked at him and he noticed a distinct difference in the shape of his teeth. They weren’t sharpened and fierce, but straight and square.

Peace washed over him as he realized this wasn’t his Sans. The skeleton in the chair raised one hand, in greeting or placation Rus wasn’t sure.

“Hey, pal.”

Chapter Text

Rus tried to relax, but his magic was still spiked with adrenaline. The small skeleton shook his head.

“Told Paps it was a bad idea for me to wait for ya to wake up. I’m his brother, by the way. I’d tell ya my name, but I know you already know what it is.” His phone rang again and he typed something on the screen. “Don’t worry, I’m not texting Paps.” How did he know what he was thinking? “My boyfriend’s just mad I’m here.”

“Why?” Rus dared to ask. Sans shrugged.

“He hates hospitals, doesn’t want me getting sick, doesn’t want me meeting your brother – ya know, usual over protective stuff.” Sans smiled. Apparently, he found the second-hand caution charming. He glanced at Rus. “Pap asked me to text him when you woke up, but I can hold off if you need a little time.”

Rus nodded. A little time would be nice. Not that he didn’t want to see Papyrus. He just wanted a quiet moment without any extra emotions. Rus lay back on the hospital bed as Sans scrolled through his phone. He noticed the IV in his right radius. He took a breath, trying not to panic over the needle.

It had been easier to be blank. He hadn’t absorbed anything, so he hadn’t had any reactions.

He closed his eyes, taking a breath. He kept waiting for Sans to say something to him, ask a question maybe. But, instead, Sans just let them sit in the quiet. When he did speak, it was light and had nothing to do with any of the reasons Rus was in the hospital. “I’m gonna get somethin’ from the cafeteria. Ya hungry?”

Rus nodded. He was.

“Anything ya can’t eat?”

Rus shook his head.

“Cool, be back.” Sans stood up, shoved his hands in his sweatshirt pockets, and meandered out of the room. And then, Rus was alone.

He rubbed his eye sockets. He hoped he wouldn’t be billed for the ambulance ride.

He wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Sans came back. Everything felt so slow, but he had no thoughts to fill the time. Sans passed him a sandwich that was wrapped in plastic. He sat back in his chair and unwrapped his own food (breakfast, lunch? Rus didn’t know) and took a bite, continuing to look through his phone. And then he stopped and looked at Rus.

“Uh, I can get off my phone and talk with ya, if ya want. But, if I were ya, I wouldn’t wanna talk.”

“You can stay on your phone,” Rus said. He didn’t really want to talk. The sandwich tasted like cardboard. “Blehg.”

“Yeah, it’s grody,” Sans commented, still texting his boyfriend. “Let me know when you want me to text Paps, I mean, if ya ever want me to.” Sans smiled. “My bro’s real cool and all, but sometimes he can care too much, you know.” Rus nodded. He loved how much Papyrus cared, but he was afraid of feeling suffocated. He felt so fragile, so easily overstimulated, so... afraid. If Papyrus grabbed his hands right now or kissed the back of his bones, he might just crumble again.

“You love him, right?”

Rus’s whole body went stiff. So much for not asking any questions! He could feel his skull turn purple in embarrassment.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to say it.” Sans bit his sandwich. “I just figure, if I’d been in your situation, I wouldn’t’ve walked away with just anyone.” Sans let out a chuckle. “Heh, have ya seen this one yet?”

Sans turned his phone to Rus. It was a fucking meme about a movie that came out three years ago. Rus couldn’t even bring himself to care. Sans brought it back to himself. “Imma send that to Paps.” He snorted. “He’s gonna hate it.”

Rus was envious. He wished the worst his brother did was send him a stupid meme.

“Do you know why I’m here?” Rus asked. Sans shrugged.

“You got sick at the police station. Plus, they wanted to see exactly what the damage was.” The small skeleton shook his head, still staring at his screen. “Your brother’s pretty sick.”

“Yeah,” Rus nodded, absorbing the truth for the dozenth time, “yeah, he is.”

“Why’d you tolerate it?”

“Hm?”

“Paps said you were the Judge in your Under,” Sans said. He took another bite of the sandwich. “You were strong. Did you ever fight back?” Rus hesitated in his answer. “You don’t have to say anythin’ if you don’t want to.”

“No, no, it’s a good question.” It was a question with an answer he hated. “I tried a couple times. It never made a difference, though.”

“Why?” His responses were so quick.

“Cause I didn’t wanna hurt him. He only has one hp, so...”

Sans nodded. “Paps is the same way. Other siblings wrestled and rough housed, but Paps was never physical.” He chuckled. “I always thought that being a pacifist like that was a good thing.” His eye lights rolled over to Rus. “Guess you’re proof it’s not.” His phone rang and he looked to the screen. “It’s Paps. He’s askin’ how you are. What you want me to tell him?”

Rus wasn’t sure. He still felt so fragile.

He allowed himself to think about Papyrus, the brother of this alternate version of his abuser. Rus had just met who his teacher came from. Papyrus was used to pacifism, to being careful and loving and caring excessively. But he was also thoughtless and didn’t think his responses or actions fully through – revealing untruths that got him in trouble.

Sans was waiting for an answer. Instead, Rus asked a question.

“Does he talk about me?” he asked, almost too quiet to be heard.

“All the time,” Sans answered. He looked away from his phone entirely to give Rus his full attention. But he didn’t seem to offer anything else.

“What’s he say?”

“Depends.” He shifted, crossing his legs on the chair and turning, making him whole body face Rus. “He talks about how concernin’ ya are. When ya get bruises or breaks and don’t show up. He gets a little frantic, I guess. The rest o’ the time, though?” Sans smiled. “He’s a little insufferable. He talked about how proud he was of ya, how much ya had in common-“ Sans chuckled, rubbing the back of his neck. “- once he actually seemed disappointed that you were his student. Said somethin’ like – shit, what was it?” He sat straight, changing his voice and demeanor to mimic his brother. “‘I wish myself to still be a student? Then we could go to a bar and study together?’” Sans shook his head, hunching back down to his neutral position. “I don’t remember. He liked ya though. A lot. Only ever seen him talk about Mettaton that way.”

Right. His soul nearly fell. He had almost forgotten about Papyrus’s ex-datemate.

“That hunk o’ junk doesn’t deserve Papyrus.” Rus’s soul floated back up. “I swear he only dates my bro cause Pap strokes his ego whenever he wants.” Rus couldn’t help but perk up. That’s exactly what he thought was going on at their date. “And Papyrus is just too naive to notice.” He seemed to think for a moment before becoming resolute. “He’d gladly date ya if ya ever asked ‘im. Rather you date him than that walkin’ garbage can.” Rus couldn’t help but blush. “But ya gotta know, if ya ever hurt Papyrus, I’ll end ya.” The way Sans talked... it seemed like he didn’t know what had happened ealier that day (or had it happened yesterday? God, he had no sense of time anymore).

He got a stupid idea and didn’t finish thinking before speaking. “They broke up cause I think Mettaton thought we were sleepin’ together and then he slapped Papyrus and broke his foot.” It came out as an onslaught. Sans was still, trying desperately to absorb. “We didn’t sleep together though, if that’s what you’re stuck on.” Sans stood up. His eye sockets were dark.

He looked so much like Rus’s brother. Ordinarily he would run. But this Sans wasn’t going to hurt him. “I need to go to the recycling center.” His form started to shake. Before he teleported, Rus blurted out,

“You can text Papyrus that I’m here.”

“Can do.”

Sans disappeared out of thin air.

Chapter Text

Rus was discharged before Papyrus got to the hospital. They asked if he had someone to pick him up. It was presumptive, but he said he did and was watched by a receptionist as he waited in the lobby.

Papyrus came eventually. He looked a little disheveled, his shirt half tucked with two different colored socks. He was missing his oversized watch. “Well, they certainly processed you quickly!” Rus stood up to greet him. He nearly jumped when Papyrus came up to him and embraced him in a hug. It lasted only a moment and, when he let him go, Papyrus cupped his cheeks. Rus vividly imagined the motion as being a prerequisite to press their teeth together in a kiss.

But, of course, he didn’t. Rus almost sighed in relief as Papyrus released his face and moved his hands down to his shoulders. He was weaving and waning, trying to look at Rus at all angles. “Am I correct to assume you’re okay? They wouldn’t have discharged you if something was truly desperately wrong? Are you still nauseated?”

“Papyrus, I’m fine,” he said.

“Are you aboslutely sure?” He asked. “Because I’d be more than glad-“ Rus grabbed Papyrus’s hands, removing them from his body.

“Calm down.” It was firm and left no room for buts. Papyrus shut his jaw.

“Right. Sorry. You’re your own monster. You don’t need me fretting.”

“I don’t.” Papyrus nearly flinched. “But thanks, anyway.” Papyrus’s smile came back. He gestured to the door.

“I don’t presume you want to stay with me, so I am more than happy to take you anywhere you may need to go.”

“I, uh,” he was actually embarrased to say this, “I don’t really have anywhere else to go.” He awkwardly chuckled. “No money and no... yeah, sorry. You don’t have to put me up, though-“

“NONSENSE!” He took Rus’s hands in his. “It is a duty and a pleasure.” His bones were warm, pulsing with excited and comforting magic. Rus’s soul pulsed in response.

Sans said Papyrus talked about him a lot.

He wanted to hear it from him.

Rus pulled his hands away. “Something wrong?” Papyrus asked.

“Why do you do that?” Rus asked.

“Do what?” As naive as ever.

“Touch me all the time? And do that thing with your magic?”

Papyrus’s face was already turning orange. “I-I’m sure I don’t know what you mean! I’m simply a physically expressive person a-and whatever you’re sensing about my magic is m-merely – perhaps your magic is too sensitive. Yes! Yes, you’re picking up on too much!” The orange went away and he beamed proudly. “Yes! Everything’s perfectly explained! Now! Shall we perhaps go get you some clothes so you don’t have to keep raiding my closet? Yes! That’s a wonderful thing to do! Let’s get going!”

After finishing his conversation with himself, he took Rus’s arm in his and practically dragged him out of the hospital lobby and into his car. Rus tried to object, but as soon as they sat down, Papyrus started blasting funk on the car radio. He clearly yelled “I love this song” but Rus saw it rather than heard it because the music was positively deafening.

Rus resigned. They weren’t going to talk about this now.

No. They were going to go to goodwill and get Rus a new wardrobe that hadn’t been burned, bought with his brother’s money, or trapped away in a house he never wanted to go into again. He was hideously embarrassed that Papyrus was offering to pay, but it was discount Monday and Papyrus insisted.

Rus insisted that he’d pay him back with equal enthusiasm.

He meant it. As soon as possible, he was going to get a job, get his own funds, and try and support himself. He almost regretted not choosing to get a job when Sans had given him an ultimatum. On the one hand, he wouldn’t have met Papyrus. On the other, he’d have the means to take care of himself. It had never occurred to him before how trapped his brother had made him by managing everything.

And now that he was “free”, he didn’t have the means to live that freedom.

He was lucky to have Papyrus’s help and felt guilty for taking it.

They walked around the goodwill. Papyrus was surprisingly hands off as he let Rus grab clothes as he pleased. He immediately plucked out a nice purple parka. It had a stain, but was otherwise his favorite color. He got two pairs of jeans, a pair of boots, a handful of socks and underwear, three plain shirts, one set of matching pajamas and –

He was on the way to the dressing room when he saw it.

Along with controlling finances, hobbies, his friends, his pets, and his studies, Sans had controlled his wardrobe. The only thing he had really chosen was the hoodie that he wore over everything else. His brother had certain expectations for how Rus would carry himself. But now, he was free. He could wear what he wanted. And there was something he had always wanted to try.

He craned his neck to see Papyrus looking at scarves, making sure he wasn’t looking. Rus let his fingers trail on the evergreen fabric before him. It was soft and thick, an almost fleece like material with a darker green leaf pattern. It was long sleeve and had a turtle neck.

He worried the fabric between his fingers before hastily taking it off the rack, adding it to his pile, and scurrying to the dressing room.

Once the curtain was closed, he threw everything to the side to hold up the dress.

Ever since he was little, he wanted to wear one. He remembered seeing bunnies in the Underground spinning in skirts and wanting nothing more than to do it too. His brother told him it was undignified. He called him names. Said that no brother of his was going to wear a dress under his roof. And that was the end of it.

Sans wasn’t here.

He was holding a dress.

He stripped faster than he ever had before and yanked the dress over his head. He shook the skirt loose and faced himself.

The neck was high enough that it covered his scar. The sleeves went low, covering part of his palm. The dress draped from his shoulders, flowing down to his knees. The skirt had a bit of a billow that wasn’t present in the top. The dark leaves were artistic. It was lush, like a forest of pine trees. He spun one way then the other, watching it move.

He really liked how he looked.

He wanted to look like this all the time. He wanted to feel like this all the time.

He wanted Papyrus to see him in it.

The thought made his face go violet.

He played with the end of the skirt one more time before taking the dress off and trying on the other clothes. The jeans all fit well enough and the shirts were sufficient. The sweatshirt was nice and soft, but not his favorite. No, that honor went to the dress.

He put it in the middle of the pile of clothes, changed back into his borrowed apparel, and came out to meet Papyrus. “Found everything?” He asked, carrying a blue scarf over his forearm.

“Yep,” Rus said. He had a sudden panic that Papyrus would notice the dress when he took the pile of clothes from him. He marched over to check out and the woman started scanning. Papyrus was looking through his wallet for his card when the dress was scanned. The woman didn’t say anything. Rus worried the cuff of his sleeve as she bagged it.

Was no one going to say anything? Had anyone even noticed?

Papyrus paid, grabbed the bag and they got in the car. “Would you like to listen to some more music?” Translation: was Rus going to try and talk about feelings again?

“Nah, I’m good.” No, he wouldn’t dare.

“If you say so.”

Papyrus drove them back to his apartment. When they entered, the couch had a sheet, blanket, and pillow on it. Rus walked over to sit on it, but a yell from Papyrus stopped him.

“Please do not sit where I sleep.”

“What?”

“That’s where I’m going to sleep so please do not sit on it,” he repeated. “Your room is down the hall and to the right.” Rus cautiously walked down the hall, following Papyrus’s directions to the one door on the right side. It was the lone bedroom in the apartment. It had a king-sized bed with fresh seats, an empty closet, and a mirror. Rus furrowed his brow.

“Isn’t this your room?”

“Absolutely not! This is the guest room. I was going to put you up in here the first night you stayed over but, well, we were a little tired.” Tired enough to sleep for nearly a day. Papyrus handed him the shopping bag. “Go ahead and put these in the closet and come out when you’re ready. I’ll have dinner cooking!” And with that Papyrus left him. Rus stood in the unlived in room. He wondered if he was just giving up the only bedroom or if he truly didn’t sleep in here ever. Maybe his home was like his office, a space he allowed himself to occupy but not one he could truly live in or call his own.

Rus knew the feeling.

He put his clothes away and changed out of Papyrus’s clothing and into the pajamas that he hadn’t paid for.

Before going to the kitchen, he longingly looked at the bed.

What he had back home could barely be considered a bed with how uncomfortable it was. He wondered how this one felt. So, he humored himself. He walked over to the mattress with the plush duvet and sat down.

“Oh, fuck,” he practically moaned, letting the rest of himself fall back on the cushions. He didn’t know material names, but it was made out of one of the soft ones. Silk or satin. Yeah, that sounded right. And it was filled with something luxurious. Down goose feathers or hunks of memory phone. Or maybe he was just laying on angle clouds covered in puppy fur.

He had every intention of getting up and going to meet Papyrus, he really did. But he accidentally ended up sleeping.

He used to go days without sleeping. He once stayed awake for a whole week on six hours of sleep. Now he was going down for his third nap in three days.

His bones were starting to get used to the normal rest.

Chapter Text

Things moved on. They moved slowly, but they moved on. Papyrus and Rus got in a routine of making breakfast, Papyrus going off to work (the semester was still in full swing, after all), Rus staying back to work on resumes using Papyrus’s lap top (that he insisted he didn’t need at school) and emailing tgem to and fro. Then Rus would cook some dinner and Papyrus would come home. They’d eat.

Papyrus always stayed up to watch something. It was clear he had a massive amount of Mettaton related content recorded, but he would find some animated children’s show to watch for five hours instead on a de-sheeted couch. He only ever made the couch into a bed right before he wanted to lay down. So long as it was early enough and the sheet was still off, Rus was allowed to join him.

When he did sit to watch something, Papyrus would make a point to show him some sort of physical affection. He’d wrap an arm around him, purposefully put their knees together, or, as he did one night, rest his hand on Rus’s thigh.

He loved the contact. He really did. It was undeniably good and right and brought him joy. But damn it, he was confused.

He hated assuming things and this whole relationship so far had been comprised solely of assumptions. He assumed Papyrus wouldn’t help him. He assumed he didn’t like him. Assumed he wouldn’t have cared about whether or not he took his class. Assumed he didn’t mind being his figure drawing subject. Assumed he wouldn’t have noticed his absence. Assumed he wouldn’t have broken up with his boyfriend. Assumed he didn’t have any feelings toward him. How could he anyway? Rus was so... Rus. And yet his crush continued to give off counter intuitive vibes, proving each and every one of Rus’s assumptions wrong every chance he got.

And anytime he tried to confront Papyrus about his behavior and their purgatoric relationship, he always evaded. He changed subjects, talked about other things, blasted bad funk.

And then he’d expect Rus to be okay with him casually resting his hand on his thigh.

Sans had said Papyrus liked him. And he could tell. Papyrus was friendly and certainly tolerated his presence with an unbridled enthusiasm. But he couldn’t go on like this. He needed clarity.

“Is this just you... physically expressing yourself?” He gestured to the hand on his femur. It was an innocent enough and relatively non-confrontational question.

Papyrus dramatically looked at his hand and then looked up at Rus. “Yes. Does it bother you?”

“Uh, no?”

“Good.” Papyrus smiled and turned to face the television.

“But I guess I wanna know why you’re doing it?”

Papyrus furrowed his brow. “Beeeeecause I want to?”

“Obviously, but why?”

Papyrus was painfully slow on the pick-up. He must have been doing it on purpose. “I’m not sure what you’re asking.” Rus groaned, leaning his head back and covering his eye sockets. He was the worst at being direct, but he was going to have to in order to get through this skeleton’s thick skull. “I’m very confused.”

“Dammit, Papyrus, do you like me or not?” He blurted. He uncovered his eyes to watch Papyrus’s expression. Based on the lack of blush, it went over his head.

“Of course, I like you! I wouldn’t let you stay in my house otherwise. I think I’ve made it apparently clear.”

“NO, like... like-me like-me.” Great, he had the emotional language of a seven-year-old.

“I repeat: of course! I wouldn’t let you stay in my house otherwise!” Oh god, he was an idiot!

Out of pure frustration with his own words and with Papyrus’s lack of understanding, Rus grabbed the front of his crush’s shirt. It was brazen. It was stupid. It was skipping multiple steps of the dating process. But he knew he was better at comprehending things if he did it hands-on. Papyrus had said he was similar all those months ago, so this would be the clearest way to get his point across. That’s what he told himself. That’s what he made himself believe in order to steal his courage.

He yanked Papyrus by his shirt and slammed their teeth together. Their bones clacked loudly and Papyrus’s arms came up in surprise. But they didn’t push Rus away. They slowly hovered over to Rus’s back, wrapping around him gently before holding him close. Their ribs clacked together at the motion as Papyrus pressed into the kiss. Rus could feel his soul reach for Papyrus’s. Their magic pulsed together, pushing energy throughout their bodies with a fresh vigor.

Rus hadn’t kissed many creatures, but he knew an uninterested soul certainly didn’t behave like that.

And an uninterested partner wouldn’t press in an attempt to make Rus lay down on the couch. He pushed back with his hands, flattening them against Papyrus’s chest to urge his mouth away. He watched Papyrus slowly open his sockets, his cheeks brushed with that familiar and adorable orange. He was still enchanted by the kiss when he spoke again. His voice was surprisingly quiet. “Wha... W-Why did you do that?”

Rus almost laughed at the irony. Almost.

“Why did you put your hand on my leg?”

“I-I don’t know.” His arms were still entrapping Rus and keeping him close. “I guess I wanted to.”

“Why did you want to?”

Papyrus shook his head. It clearly wasn’t out of denial. It was still out of confusion.

“Beeee – Because I... I like how my soul feels around you.” Rus’s own soul fluttered in response. He was still close enough to Papyrus to feel his magic spike and spin.

“How does your soul feel?”

Papyrus closed his sockets. “You know how it feels. You can feel it. I know you can.”

“I want to hear you say it.”

Papyrus almost whimpered. He opened his sockets, tiny little eye lights in the depths of his skull glowing just bright enough to be seen.

“It’s shameful.”

“Why?”

“It’s not appropriate to feel this way.”

“Why?”

“You’re my student.”

“Not anymore.”

“You were. And my soul did these things when you were.” He looked down, apparently putting all of his attention on the top button of Rus’s pajamas.

His soul pounded. He’d had feelings way back then? Back when Rus started having feelings? Had they been having the same exhausting parallel experience?

“So did mine,” he confessed. Papyrus shook his head.

“Students have crushes on teachers all the time. It’s my job to not reciprocate.”

Rus smiled. “But you reciprocate.”

“W-Well, I mean, y-yes. R-Rather obviously.”

Rus’s cheeks finally started to heat. He had feelings. They were confused, but there were feelings. “Not that obviously.” A snarky comment was all he could bring himself to say.

“W-Well it felt obvious!” he whined, his fingers clawing into Rus’s pajamas as he refused to let him go. “Every time you came to my office or gave me that stupid smile, my soul tried to explode!” Rus had to admit: hearing and seeing Papyrus be emotionally vulnerable was utterly adorable. And the little brother in him came out for the soul purpose of teasing him.

He smiled. “You mean this smile?”

“Yes!” It was almost a laugh. “That stupid charming – oh, stop it!”

Rus laughed. Papyrus had been this enigmatic puzzle that he couldn’t solve to save his life. But it was like a flood. There had been a big thick dam keeping him oblivious to everything. The kiss had broken that dam and now Papyrus was admitting to menial little aspects of his crush. It warmed his soul.

How had Rus ever been confused?

“So, you put your hand on my thigh because my smile is charming? Or because your soul’s exploding?”

Papyrus’s whole face went orange and he resigned to tucking it between Rus’s neck and shoulder. “I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.”

“Pfft ha!”

“It’s not funny!”

“Dude, it is! How could you think I wouldn’t notice?”

“I thought you’d chalk it up to not being used to physically affectionate relationships. Maybe you’d think it was normal for friends...”

“... You can’t be serious.”

He lifted his head, completely exasperated. “I’m trying to be serious by giving you a proper answer, but I must say when it comes down to it, I don’t know why I do these things. I just do. I like touching you and every time I do I can feel your soul so I keep doing it. But that’s no excuse! A soul pulse isn’t consent I know that and I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable.” He was speaking fast. Rus was just catching up with all of his words when Papyrus’s hold loosened. “I will refrain from casually touching you in the future.”

Rus grabbed Papyrus’s arms, keeping them where they were. He was acutely aware of Papyrus’s finger tips on the backside of his ribs. “I don’t want you to refrain.”

Papyrus’s jaw dropped and his sockets widened out of exasperation. He was clearly tired of the conversation. “Then why did you bring it up at all if you liked it?”

“Cause I wanted to know why!”

“Well now you know.”

“I do.”

“So, we can go back to the way things were?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on!”

“Things are going to be different now.”

Papyrus actually seemed scared at the proposition. Again, his grip loosened. “H-How different?”

Rus brought his hands back to Papyrus’s chest. He splayed his fingers, feeling his shirt material under his hands as he moved them up over his shoulders. “Now I know that you really like me, and you know that I like it when you –“ The phrase hiccuped in his throat. “When you touch me. We can,” he leant forward, “maybe,” their sockets became half-lidded, “do this?”

He pressed his teeth to Papyrus again. He was gentler this time, savoring the contact. He let his magic pool near his mouth, transferring it to Papyrus through that soft contact. Papyrus let out a sigh, his shoulder’s slouching and his arms wrapping tight around Rus again. He held him close. Magic came to meet Rus’s, and he couldn’t contain his hum of happiness. It made Papyrus’s bones rattle and he pressed hard against him. On this attempt, Rus let him push him down to the cushions.

It was slow and passionate and oh so incredibly cautious.

Papyrus pulled away just a bit so that he could look at Rus. He smiled. “I like doing this.”

“Then do it again.”

And Papyrus did.

Chapter Text

It was the day of the court case. It had been three weeks since he saw his brother. Three weeks of freedom, of healing, of writing resumes, of holding Papyrus’s hand.

It was borderline blissful.

But it today was awful. He felt sick. He couldn’t help but hug himself on the wooden bench outside the courtroom. The reassuring arm over his shoulder and hand holding his only helped so much. Undyne stood across from them, leaning on a wall in full gear. She had cut a hole in her hat so that her pony tail came out the back.

“You’re all right,” Papyrus cooed. “We’re not going to let anything happen to you.” Rus nodded. He knew that. Undyne looked at her watch.

“Come on, we should get in there before the big bad wolf shows up,” she said. Papyrus stood and helped Rus up. He felt completely brittle. A stiff breeze could have knocked him over. He was a sapling ready to snap in half and topple. Rus was the stick he was tied to for support.

They walked to the courtroom and took their seats. Undyne stood near the judge’s bench, waiting patiently.

Rus bounced his leg. Papyrus didn’t tell him to stop. He just squeezed his hand under the table. He whispered, “Even if they don’t enact a restraining order, you’re still your own person and have every right to avoid him as much as you like.” Rus nodded. He knew that. But he... He was weak. He liked who he was right now. He didn’t like who he became when –

The courtroom door practically slammed open. Rus dared to glance out of pure shock and regretted his decision.

Sans was walking up the aisle, hands behind his back, dressed in his old royal guard uniform. It was black and purple. Long sleeves, long tights, elbow and knee pads along with a chest plate. He had huge boots and a scarf that dangled down his back, torn at the edges. He even dared to carry his old helmet under his arm.

Rus knew he had never seen any action. He had been given the uniform and then made to work on the technology behind puzzles and traps. But he didn’t look like someone who snuck in the shadows and set traps so the real soldiers could face what he caught. He looked like the one who killed humans and monsters who were out of line.

What a lie it was.

Sans walked right up to Rus at the prosecuting table. He was short but stood tall, chin up, a smolder in his eye lights. Scuttling up behind him was his lawyer. It had just occurred to Rus that he didn’t have one. Did he need one? Undyne hadn’t said so! Was he destined to lose?

His brother’s gaze was painfully heavy. Why wasn’t he saying anything?

“Excuse me!” Of course, Papyrus had to speak first. “I do believe you’re supposed to sit over at that table!” He pointed to be as clear as possible. Rus looked to his lap. “I don’t think either side of an issue is supposed to stand, so I suggest you go sit.” Rus glanced up at his brother. Sans was still staring down at him. He wasn’t giving Papyrus any mind. “Are you listening to me?”

“IS THIS WHO SPEAKS FOR YOU NOW?” Sans asked. “YOU RUN FROM ME ONLY TO FIND SOMEONE ELSE TO MOOCH OFF OF?” That wasn’t what was happening. Rus knew that. Sans just said it with such authority that he instinctively thought it was true. “All I ASKED OF YOU WAS TO GO TO SCHOOL. TO DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE –“

“AND THEN YOU BEAT HIM SENSELESS,” Papyrus bellowed. “YES, WE ALL REMEMBER THAT PART SO VIVIDLY AND THANK YOU FOR BRINGING IT UP!” Sans finally turned his searing gaze to Papyrus, eye lights flashing dangerously.

“DON’T YOU DARE ACCUSE ME OF SOMETHING SO HEINOUS! I WOULD NEVER-“

“But you did,” Rus barely whispered. “You-“

A hand slammed down on the table. “YOU SHUT-“

“HEY!” Undyne all but teleported to their table and put her hand on her baton. “Do we have a problem here?” Sans straightened himself.

“FORGIVE ME. I TEND TO REACT STRONGLY WHEN MY CHARACTER IS ASSASSINATED.” He straightened, collecting himself. “I’M SURE THE JUDGE WILL SEE THROUGH YOUR LIES.” He walked over to his table to meet his lawyer. Undyne shook her head.

“I never thought a Sans could be that proud.”

“Yeah, Papyrus’s brother seems way nicer,” Rus said, rubbing his arms like he was cold.

“HE IS!” Papyrus specifically yelled as loudly as possible so his voice would easily carry to Sans’s table. “MY BROTHER IS SO INCREDIBLY NICE BECAUSE HE DOESN’T MAKE ME DROP OUT OF COLLEGE!”

A door on the far wall of the court opened and out came the judge. She had light brown hair, slightly curly as it was falling out of her bun. Undyne jumped at the sudden entrance, collecting herself to yell,

“Uh – ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE JUDGE DOLLY B-“

The judge waved her hand, dismissing Undyne’s late attempt at an introduction. The police officer put her arms behind her back and hung her head in embarrassment. The judge tucked a curly tendril behind her ear before sitting down and opening a folder in front of her.

“We’re here today to discuss the proposition of an injunction on the behalf of Papyrus Serif Gaster against Sans Serif Gaster.” Papyrus looked at Rus. He could practically read his boyfriend’s thoughts: you have the same middle name? Unlike Papyrus, Sans hadn’t given his brother a choice. “Would the filer please stand up?”

Rus’s bones felt brittle. He was a marionette without strings attempting to stand. That was why his cracking joints and bones filled the room with sickening sounds as he brought himself up. He had let go of Papyrus’s hand so as not to look too dependent. But he felt like he was going to collapse any second.

The judge held up a picture of his back. It was riddled with scars, fresh bruises, and a previously shattered shoulder blade. The him in the picture was wearing a hospital gown. It was a picture taken from three weeks ago when he had gone to the hospital. “Is this your back?”

“Yes.”

“Who made it look like this?”

There was a huge rock in his throat, trying to block his words. “My brother.”

Sans slammed his hands on the table as he bolted out of his chair. “FALSEHOOD! MY BROTHER BROKE HIS OWN SHOULDER!” The judge glared at him, completely perturbed.

“Are you done?”

Sans opened his mouth to speak, mulled the question over in his head, then closed it again. “FOR THE MOMENT, YES.” He crossed his arms and took his seat. The judge looked back to Rus. Her eyes were a cool and comforting gray.

She asked him questions. They were the same questions Undyne had asked. What did Sans do? How often? How’d you feel? Why now?

Every time he spoke, Sans tried to interrupt. He either yelled, opened his mouth and got deterred by his lawyer, or clenched his jaw to keep from yelling his opinion.

When Rus was done, the judge asked him to sit. She looked over to Sans. “Do you have any proof none of this is true?”

“I DO NOT REMEMBER ANY OF IT HAPPENING LIKE THAT!”

She raised a brow before looking at his lawyer. He frantically looked through his papers. It took him too long and the judge spoke, “Non-molestation injunction granted and the defendant Sans Serif Gaster is herefore prohibited from harassing, be it physically or mentally, the prosecution Papyrus Serif Gaster. Should he break this injunction he will be subject to arrest and due process. Case dismissed.” She slammed the gavel and stood.

“NO!” Sans yelled, standing and stomping his foot. “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”

“I can. It’s literally my job,” the judge said, beginning to go to her chambers.

“HE’S MY BROTHER! I’M THE ONLY FAMILY HE HAS IF YOU SEPARATE US-“ She slammed her chamber door. Sans cursed and slammed his fist on the desk. The lawyer tried to comfort him but he slapped his hand away. He marched over to Rus and Papyrus, pointing at the latter. “ENJOY YOUR NEW PARASITE!” Then he looked to Rus. “YOU’LL BE CRAWLING BACK TO ME IN NO TIME ONCE YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I’VE DONE FOR YOU!”

“Excuse me, are you harassing him?” Undyne asked, leaning forward knowingly and thumbing her handcuffs. Sans bit his tongue before stomping out of the courthouse, his lawyer in tow. Undyne walked over to the table. “I gotta get back to the station. Call me if he ever bothers you.”

Rus nodded. She slapped him reassuringly on the back before leaving, too.

It was just Rus and Papyrus, sitting side by side. Papyrus smiled widely. “You did it.”

Rus nodded, absorbing what had happened. “I did it.” His brother was forbidden from bothering him. Should he contact him in any way that made Rus uncomfortable, he could call the police and he would be arrested. He was safe from him no matter where he went, no matter who he was with, no matter if they were in public or private. He was allowed and encourage to ask for help. He wasn’t alone anymore. He was protected.

Rus huffed out a laugh. It was weak, no more than a gasp. But then it started tumbling like water down a rocky creek. He laughed and chuckled and wiped tears from his eyes. At some point, Papyrus took him against his chest. He held him through his hysterical episode.

He was safe. His brother wasn’t going to hurt him anymore.

He was safe.

Chapter Text

With a decision made and Rus no longer being a refugee of his abusive brother, he did everything he could not to be coddled or treated special by his host. He managed to get a job at a nearby grocery store as a bagger. It was only eight dollars an hour and he was going to do everything in his power to get a second gig, but it was a start.

He was going to pay Papyrus back. Eventually.

The first thing he bought with his salary was a bus pass for his commute. The second thing he bought was groceries for he and Papyrus. The third thing he bought was a five-dollar dress from goodwill. He hadn’t even worn the first one yet, but he felt so incredibly free that it was more a symbol of his free will for not having to hide anymore. He walked up to the cashier shamelessly.

There were two months left in the semester, so Papyrus was gone three of the seven days. Every Friday he went to hang out with people from the Prime Under – including his brother, the Prime Ambassador, and the original king and queen. He always invited Rus and Rus always declined. Maybe someday he’d feel comfortable enough to meet Papyrus’s extedned family, but he was still shaking off his discomfort from the recent half-year ordeal.

He also enjoyed the alone time. Because of the get together and Papyrus’s classes, Rus had the apartment to himself from nine to eight on the last day of every work week. He always made sure to ask for Fridays off so he could maintain his scheduled alone time.

It was on one of these days that he decided to make a fantasy come true.

He kissed Papyrus on his way out the door, letting him hold the small of his back and bend him back for a moment before straightening, punctuating the exchange with a kiss on Rus’s nasal bridge.

He enjoyed the relatively casual physical contact now that he knew it came from a genuine interest on Papyrus’s part.

When is datemate (boyfriend? Bae? They hadn’t yet had a discussion labelling their relationship) left, Rus closed and locked the door and immediately went to the bathroom. He took a shower and enjoyed the hot water without having to worry about saving it or racking up the water bill. The words of his brother echoed in his mind. “YOU’RE GREEDY FOR TAKING SO LONG.”

He wasn’t greedy though. He was allowed to enjoy cleaning himself. He sudsed himself up and let the water strip his bones of bubbles. He used a plush and fresh-out-of-the-laundry towel to dry off before going to his bedroom.

They may have been in some sort of relationship, but the bedroom was still soley Rus’s. He didn’t really mind, but he still felt guilty. And a part of him really wanted to sleep beside Papyrus again. They hadn’t cuddled like they had on the first night since, well, his first night. He missed the contact through his sleep. They cuddled when they watched TV, but he wanted to be put to sleep by Papyrus’s gently pulsing magic.

Maybe he could bring up the sleeping arrangements tonight.

In the meantime, Rus had a mission. He went to his closet and pulled out the first dress he had bought. He considered wearing the second, but it was a little too nice for a day in. He pulled the green, fleecey fabric over his freshly scrubbed bones and savored in the feeling. He rolled plush socks up his shins and looked at himself in the mirror.

For a second, he wondered if he looked weird.

But he did a little twirl and immediately didn’t care. It was too comfortable and fun.

He went to the kitchen, made himself a hot chocolate, grabbed Papyrus’s laptop, and sat criss-cross on his bed as he looked for a documentary to watch. He found one about the legality marijuana and leant back to watch it. Halfway through he found himself itching for an echoflower cigarette. He hadn’t had one since before his big punishment. He’d been so focused on just making it through to a safe time in his life that he hadn’t thought about it at all. The movie reminded him.

He used a messaging app on the computer to contact his grower. Echoflowers weren’t illegal, but they were hard to obtain as they didn’t grow on the surface. So, one needed a special contact in order to get the cigarrettes for a good deal. His provider agreed to meet three blocks down the street.

For a single moment, he considered putting on different clothes. But he couldn’t be bothered so he just slipped on some boots and walked down the stairs to the lobby, across the street, and across the few blocks.

Burgerpants stood on the corner with his collar popped and smoking his own cig. He wasn’t from Rus’s Under and he suspected this cat monster was from the Prime Under, but he never bothered to ask. It didn’t really matter; it was just casual conjecture. He looked up when Rus approached, and snorted as he regarded him.

“Are you seriously wearing a dress?” He asked. Rus tried to swallow his embarrassment.

“What of it?”

“Nothing.” Burgerpants shrugged. “Just never thought you’d have the guts.” It was a back-handed compliment, but it made Rus feel good. He did have the guts now. And he was proud of them. He palmed over the money and took a package of twenty cigs. “You didn’t get another provider, right?”

“No. Why?”

“Just haven’t heard from ya in a while. Glad you’re still kickin’.” He breathed out some smoke and the smell was intoxicating as he walked away.

Rus immediately took out a cig, lit it, and took a hit. He missed the flavor. It was like lavender with the after taste of peppermint and the sugary softness of marshmallow. It was delicious and warmed his bones. He smoked as he walked and stood outside the apartment until he finished. He pocketed the rest and went back upstairs. He made himself some lunch/dinner before sitting down and writing.

It was a new notebook. He was sure Sans had burned all of the ones he had had back home so the first few pages of this one were filled with what he remembered of the poems in progress he had left behind. He was still workshopping the poem he had presented at his college poetry class.

It was for Papyrus. At first it had been about how his past teacher had been like the north star, a distant but guiding presence that gave him hope for a new direction in his life. But now he wasn’t at a distance. He and Papyrus actively shared their lives. He needed to find a new metaphor. He tried to compare Papyrus to a sun but he didn’t like the implication that he would then explode and completely destroy Rus and everything he had. He also didn’t like the inevitability of the destruction. He wanted something more constant and supportive. He spent a good amount of the evening googling in research. He considered celestial objects, different types of plants, creatures of the ocean... nothing felt right.

He was so invested in his search that he didn’t realize how the time flew by. He didn’t notice the sun set or how the clock ticked past seven. He didn’t hear the door open or the quiet greeting that followed. He didn’t hear the footsteps. He only looked up from the lap top when Papyrus appeared in the bedroom doorway and said, “Evening.” He jumped at the sudden voice that broke him from his concentration.

“Sup,” he greeted, closing the lap top. He moved his legs to the side and remembered that he was indeed not wearing pants. No. He was wearing a dress.

His brain spastically panicked as Papyrus looked at him. Was he looking at him humorously or admirably? Was he going to laugh like Burgerpants? Get mad like Sans? Maybe share Rus’s enthusiasm?

It was a horrifying few moments as Papyrus loosened his tie and walked over to Rus on the bed. He didn’t seem angry. He had a small smile. “May I sit?”

“Sure.” He sat down and looked Rus up and down. He couldn’t help but blush under the attention. “You’re staring.”

“I am,” he said matter-of-factly. He puthis hand on Rus’s leg and thumbed the material. “It’s a pretty color.” Rus didn’t know what Papyrus was going to say, but he certainly hadn’t expected that.

“I just liked it, is all.”

Papyrus’s smile grew, emboldened. “I was wondering when you were going to wear this.”

His non-existant stomach dropped. “What?”

“You bought this a few weeks ago, when you were first released from the hospital.” His eyes moved up from the fabric to Rus’s flushed face. “You tried to hide it between your jeans.” He nodded despite how embarrassing it was and how the memory made the purple on his cheeks deepen. “It goes well with your magic.” He brought his spare hand up and cupped Rus’s cheek, running a thumb over his cheek bone.

“Thanks,” was all he could eloquently say. Purple and green did go well together. Papyrus looked at Rus’s mouth and leaned in slightly before pulling back and dropping his hand.

“We’ve been doing this all wrong,” he said. Rus furrowed his brow. “We’re living together already, and we haven’t even gone on a date.” Rus couldn’t help but agree. It was one of the reasons he had been so confused all those weeks ago. Their relationship wasn’t following any of the dating books he had read in high school. “I think we should remedy that.”

Rus’s soul pulsed excitedly. “I... I do have another dress I could wear.” Papyrus tried to hide his excited response, but Rus noticed the slight upturn of his smile.

“Only if you want to.” He took Rus’s hand in his. “Why don’t we spend the day together tomorrow? A proper date for us.” It was a simple, kind, timid gesture. And Rus was highly endeared.

“I’d love to.”

Papyrus’s eyelights flashed in excitement. He brought Rus’s hand to his mouth and kissed his knuckles. “In that case, I’ll leave you to rest in preparation.” He stood and walked to the door, giving Rus a final parting glance before leaving to his couch.

Ordinarily they watched TV and they kissed and cuddled. The change in behavior made Rus feel simultaneously excited and nervous. He wondered if anything had happened at school, or maybe at his family dinner, to spur this behavior. Not that he really objected, it was just out of his routine. And Rus always struggled with changing routine.

He figured the disruption in their nightly ritual was because of their date tomorrow. He hoped so, because he always looked forward to cuddling and watching TV with his boyfriend every night.

He changed into pajamas to try and sleep, but couldn’t bring himself to. Instead, he just lay awake, eyes closed, amping himself up for his first real “first date”.

He didn’t sleep at all.

Chapter Text

It was the first really warm day of the year. The sun shown brightly and Rus would be able to get away with not wearing a coat.

He got ready for the day quietly. He showered and changed in his room. The dress he had bought was made of flimsy yellow fabric. It was cinched at the hem and the billowy sleeves did the same thing at his wrists. The neckline was dipped and low, showing off part of his sternum and neck. His scar was prominent and he could see every intricate movement of his collar bones. It was revealing, but the rest of the dress was rather conservative to make up for it.

He did think it made his head look small.

He put on plush socks and his pair of boots, bracing himself for leaving his room. Papyrus would surely be outside. Maybe he was making breakfast. Or maybe they were going to go out and he was just spending the time fixing himself to look just perfect.

Rus fretted with his neckline before submitting and putting his purple cowl on. It made an awkward little sternum window. But he’d rather hide his scar and look silly than walk around showing it off.

He mustered his courage and left his bedroom.

Papyrus was stretching his arms in the living room, as if he was going to go on a run instead of on a date. He gave one extra stretch before turning his head and smiling at Rus. “Are you ready to be official?” He asked.

His smile was contagious. Rus took a step forward and crossed his arms in front of him. “As I’ll ever be.”

Papyrus turned and looked Rus up and down quizzically. “Something’s missing.” The declaration sent a jolt of panic through Rus. Was he wrong? Was he hideously imperfect? Did Papyrus not like the dress?

He walked around Rus, not touching him as he opened the hall closet and pulled out a yellow wide-brimmed hat with a red ribbon trim. He placed it delicately on Rus’s head, adjusting the brim so it fit him just right. “Perfect.” Rus had no idea what he looked like. Judging by the look on Papyrus’s face, it must have been good. He leant forward and pecked Rus on the cheek before taking his hand. “Shall we?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

Papyrus beamed before leading him out of their home. They exited the apartment, walked down the stairs, and went to the nearest bus stop. Rus had no idea what they would be doing. Papyrus had dominated all the planning and insisted on keeping it a secret. So, he had no idea of what landmarks to look for or how long they’d be on the bus. He just focused on the way Papyrus’s magic permeated his bones and transferred into Rus’s marrow. With him, Rus would never be cold.

Papyrus pulled the stop chord and guided Rus off the bus when they hit the waterfront. He told him to wait by the railing while he went to a little wheeled stand. As much as Rus didn’t want to take his eyes off Papyrus, he let his sockets wander to the sea.

He remembered the first time he saw the ocean. Everyone had been excited by seeing the sun and moon and how they rose and set – how the sky was always changing throughout the day. But Rus liked the ocean best.

In the Under, he had been perpetually reminded by how limited he was. He could only walk so far and see so well. There was a literally wall surrounding his world, keeping him and his potential inside. But the ocean on the surface just went on and on forever, until everything became hazy. It wasn’t that there was an obstacle in the way. His magic was just unable to see as far as the ocean actually stretched. It was limitless.

He should write this down.

“And here you are!” Papyrus returned and presented Rus with a little cup of fish and chips. Rus furrowed his brow. “What? Do you not like cod?”

“No, but this is fried food.” Rus dared himself to smile. “You don’t strike me as a fan of grease.”

“And you are correct in that assumption!” Papyrus said, though he still had his own fried breakfast in his hand. “However, this is a very reputable food truck whose fried food isn’t soggy, so I have made an exception.” He punctuated his statement by picking up a fry and proudly eating it. He showed off his fingers. “See? It’s as if I haven’t eaten anything at all! Perfectly clean and a wonderful indugence!”

Rus shrugged. “I personally don’t mind a little grease.” He ate one of the chunks of fish. “The mess doesn’t bother me.” He licked his fingertips. There was a trace of salt behind, but not the excessive amount he usually enjoyed.

Sans used to regulate what Rus could cook and eat. He’d never tolerate excessive grease. Rus liked eating it just to show his freedom of choice.

They strolled along the waterfront and ate. They walked along the boardwalk and felt the water crash against the support pillars beneath their feet. They walked on the grass line that rested just above the rocky sand. They walked into the park and watched children play on jungle gyms and slides. They picked apples from a tree, bit into them, and were pleasantly surprised to find they weren’t crabby. They intertwined their fingers and talked about their Unders. He loved hearing about the Prime Universe. It sounded so nice and safe. He loved hearing about Papyrus’s relationship with his brother. He was a little envious of how peaceful it was, but he was glad to just be peripherally a part of it.

“I met your brother,” Rus said at one point, “at the hospital.”

“Yes! It was very kind of him to watch over you for me!” Right when the words came out, something shifted in Papyrus’s magic. “Not that you need me to watch over you! You’re a strong independent skeleton who doesn’t need me or anyone else to protect you! You’re perfectly capable and I trust you to –“ Rus shifted on his toes and kissed Papyrus on the cheek. He flushed that warm orange that Rus loved so much. “What was-“

“I like it when you protect me,” Rus said. And he meant it. Sometimes it was overwhelming, but he did appreciate how present Papyrus was and how much he looked after him.

“Th-Then I will gladly continue to do so!” He stammered with confidence before taking Rus’s arm to loop around his.

Rus felt like a Victorian bachelorette, strolling through the park in his finest clothing with his gentleman suitor.

They walked until his feet hurt and only then did they go to a restaurant for dinner. It was a little place called Mama Caruso’s that served delicious Italian food. At least, Rus thought it was delicious when he ate it. Papyrus was equally vocal and excited, praising the food and shamelessly scarfing down the figs wrapped in prosciutto.

When they finished, they took the bus back to the apartment. Their feet were so tired that they took the elevator up to their floor. They kept their hands clasped tightly all the way. They stood outside the apartment door, holding their hands together.

“If we didn’t live together, now would be when I’d give you a goodnight kiss.”

“But we do live together,” Rus said. He opened the door deftly with one hand and tugged on Papyrus’s arm, urging him to come inside. “So, we can do more than one chaste kiss.”

“You’re incredibly naughty, you know that?” Papyrus couldn’t hide his smile as he came inside, closing the door behind him.

The word triggered something in Rus’s skull. “Do I need to be punished?” Rus was pressing forward until the back of Rus’s legs hit the armrest of the couch.

“No. Your boldness ought to be rewarded.” Hands still interlocked, Papyrus leant forward and kissed him. It was simple and soft for the opening moments before Rus let himself push. He held Papyrus by the back of his head and neck, summoning his tongue to gently ask for access. Permission was granted as Papyrus wrapped his arms around Rus’s back, feeling his bones through his clothes. The gentle touches sent shivers up his spine and a small hum rose from his throat. Papyrus chuckled. “You make such cute sounds,” Papyrus whispered. Rus smiled against the kiss, unafraid of letting his enjoyment express itself. He spread one hand on the back side of Papyrus’s skull. The other felt the bumps and dents of his neck vertebrae, his thumb finding a familiar deep crevice.

In another life, Papyrus had been beheaded. In another life, Rus had been, too. But now, in this life, in this moment, they were together. Rus couldn’t bring himself to think about sorrow or to have any regrets. This moment was so good that it made up for everything in their histories.

Rus broke the kiss, pressing his forehead against Papyrus’s. “This might be a little bold, but Imma say it anyway.” He smiled at the thought of what he was going to say. “I really really like you.”

Papyrus chuckled. “Nyeh, I certainly hope so.” He kissed him again.

“I do. I mean it,” he pulled away again, feeling a sudden desperation to get something out. “I haven’t liked anyone this much before.” Their eye lights met in a way that warmed Rus’s entire being, turning his marrow into magma. “I-I-“ Papyrus silenced him with a kiss, one that was deep and successfully lobotomized him. He pulled away and left Rus breathless.

“It’s our first date. Give it a while more before you say that.”

Rus furrowed his brow, coming to his senses. “If... If you already know what I’m gonna say, then why should I wait?”

“Because I like this part too much.” He kissed him again. “We have plenty of time to take steps. Let’s savor this.”

Rus nodded. He could appreciate that sentiment. “Okay.”

And they savored it. They savored it like you would a decadent chocolate cake, with slow bites that chipped away tiny chunks of the whole slice. They shared small kisses, small shifts in where they rested their hands, moved from standing to sitting and kissed until they were breathless.

Rus prolonged the moment ever further by cuddling up against his boyfriend. They hadn’t said anything explicitly, but he was sure of them now. And he gladly cuddled into his neck, letting Papyrus play with the frills of his dress.

He didn’t fall asleep. And neither did Papyrus. They just entangled themselves together on the couch, and Rus appreciated every second of it throughout the long night.

He loved this moment, and the monster he was sharing it with.

Chapter Text

“Papyrus-“

“Please!”

“Come on, I don’t-“

“Can you just try to-“

“It’s not gonna go well.”

“Certainly with that attitude it won’t.” Papyrus grabbed Rus’s hand from his sweatshirt pocket. “If it doesn’t go well and you don’t get along with anyone then I’ll never ask you to come to these nights again.”

Rus looked at him through the rim of his eye sockets. “Promise?” He put a hand over his own soul and let it pulse, the magic flowing through the arms to Rus’s core.

“You have the Patented Papyrus Pledge.”

Rus took a deep breath. “Okay. Okay, let’s do it then.”

Papyrus beamed. He lifted Rus’s hand to his teeth and kissed his knuckles.

“You won’t regret it, I assure you!” He kept their hands interlocked and guided him out of the apartment and onto the street. Rus let him pull him through alley’s, across streets, and ultimately into a nearby cul-de-sac. He basically bee-lined for the large blue house to the far left. There were lights hanging on the outside and people in the yard. Human children were running around, chasing each other, and trailing behind them was Undyne. He could hear them from across the street and felt himself tense.

“How many people did you say would be here again?”

“Mostly monsters from my universe. Some of the alternate ambassadors come with their guardians. Mostly just children and my friends.” Rus nodded his head in an attempt to guestimate who all would be there.

He didn’t have much time though as they came to the door and easily walked over the garden gate. The four children that were playing in the yard stopped and smiled excitedly, all running to Papyrus with squeaks and squeals of excitement. They all looked the same. Rus couldn’t tell if that’s because they were alternates or because he thought all humans looked similar. “Hello, humans!” One child, with the darkest hair, wearing a beanie, and sleeves that easily covered their hands, grabbed Papyrus’s hand and beamed a smile, pulling him into the backyard. “Oh, yes! Of course, um, Undyne?” The police chief stood nearby, catching her breath but appreciating the break. “Can you take Rus inside and introduce him to everyone?”

Undyne nodded. “Sure thing.” One of the human children – the one that looked the oldest and carried themself a little less frantically – took Rus’s hand. They smiled up at him, warmth spreading through Rus like the child was a fireplace. He followed them, almost hypnotized inside. He glanced behind him to see Papyrus being yanked around the building by the other three children.

“Don’t worry,” the human said, “they just like him cause he’s really nice.” Rus couldn’t agree more. Papyrus was one of the nicest monsters he knew. They entered the foyer, Undyne trailing behind. She and Frisk took off their shoes and Rus followed suit. “I’m Frisk, by the way. Well, one of them. The Prime one.”

“The one that actually saved everyone,” Undyne said. Frisk flushed with embarrassment.

“Let me show you around.” The kept hold of Rus’s hand as they walked to the living room. Rus was pleased to see a familiar face on the couch – well, technically two. Sans was watching something on his phone while laying on top of his alternate. It must’ve been his fiancé. The other Sans was slightly bigger and had sharp teeth, a huge golden tooth drawing Rus’s attention. When Sans saw Rus, he smiled and gave a small two finger salute.

Sitting on a love seat was a yellow lizard in a floral dress, her pink secretary glasses resting on her nose as she flipped through a book. Undyne practically skipped over to her and kissed her on the head.

“This is Alphys,” Frisk formally introduced. The lizard smiled at him.

“H-Hello.”

“And that’s Sans and Red. They live for PDA.”

“Stop quoting my brother,” Red said. “Ain’t no one gonna stop me from lovin’ ‘im.” As if to prove a point, Red wrapped his arms around Sans and rolled them so he could cuddle him from behind. Sans didn’t react. He just allowed himself to be maneuvered, still looking at his phone with a slightly more satisfied smile.

“THE HUMAN WOULD DO RIGHT TO QUOTE ME!”

A new skeleton monster appeared from the kitchen. He wore a red silk shirt that was tightly buttoned up his neck and tucked into his black ironed slacks. The sleeves were rolled up and he was drying his hands on a tea towel.

His face was sharp and intimidating. His teeth were elongated and met each other like a bear trap. His cheek bones alone could cut a human’s flesh open and he had a horrifying scar over his socket. It was big and jagged and let Rus see into his skull. He couldn’t help but touch his own barely visible fracture.

“And that’s Edge,” Frisk said. Edge threw the tea towel over his shoulder and stomped over to Rus.

Rus took a step back.

The way he carried himself was painfully familiar. Those scrutinizing eye lights cut through Rus like knives. His dopple briskly whipped his hand out from behind his back and Rus couldn’t help but flinch.

“OH, CALM DOWN! I JUST WANT TO SHAKE YOUR HAND IN A CUSTOMARY GREETING CEREMONY! BUT IF THAT IDEA OFFENDS YOU SO EVER MUCH THEN I GUESS WE WON’T!” He raised his hands in frustration before crossing his arms. “REGARDLESS OF YOUR ETTIQUETTE I SUPPOSE IT IS NICE TO MEET YOU. ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO SEE WHAT I COULD HAVE BEEN.” Edge turned around and went into the kitchen without another word. That is, until he was out of sight and yelled, “HOW MUCH CREME DID YOU ADD?!?”

Somehow Edge was even louder than Rus’s brother. “Don’t worry about ‘im.” Rus looked to Red, feeling like a frightened cat. “He’s always that big of an asshole. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, though, so don’t worry.” He snickered. “One time, I let Doomfanger into his closet. All of his clothes got covered in hair. You know what he did to get back at me?”

Get thrown in the laundry like all of his clothes.

“He bribed Grillbz to keep me out of ‘is restaurant for a week.”

Rus could barely absorb that. This version of himself that reminded himself so much of his abusive brother punished Red by preventing him from going to his favorite watering hole for a week? That was nothing. Rus almost laughed.

He must’ve let out some sort of sound because Red laughed in return. “What? Didja think ‘e was going to rip out your soul or somethin’?” Rus nodded.

“Or something.” Frisk squeezed Rus’s hand, giving him another wave of warmth. “And what’s your deal?” He asked. He’d never met a human who could have that sort of influence.

“Kid’s got enough DT to power a core single-souledly,” Sans said. “Easy to befriend ‘em when they’re as welcoming as a warm hearth.” Rus would say so. The kid would actually have stood a chance in his underground. Sans looked to Frisk. “Maybe keep him out of the kitchen for a bit yeah? Take him outback.”

Frisk nodded and again guided Rus away.

The backyard was a garden party with fairy lights and tables set up for eating and card games. Speaking of games, Papyrus was sitting down in the grass in a circle of the three remaining children. Frisk pointed to each of the children one by one. “Risky is from Red’s universe-“ They pointed at the kid in the beanie. “Chara is from Queen Toriel’s universe.” First the kid with red cheeks and painfully straight hair, then a goat woman standing near the wall of the garden in a long cloak. “And Charlie is... Charlie’s Charlie.” The kid they pointed at was shy looking. They wore clothes that thoroughly covered all of their skin and a scarf that covered all but their eyes. They must’ve been able to hear the conversation because they turned their head. Their eyes were a blood red that seemed to glow when they saw Rus. They scrambled to a stand, ran towards them, and slammed into Rus as they gave him a hug.

“Woah.” They took a step back and started waving their hands in little motions and ministrations, still making direct eye contact. Rus watched them before shaking his head and speaking to Frisk. “What are they doing?”

“They’re saying it’s nice to finally meet you.” Frisk shuffled on their feet. “Papyrus may have told us a little bit about you.”

“I did no such thing!” Papyrus yelled from the circle. Risky signed something and Papyrus swatted their hands away. “Stop revealing my secrets!”

“Never!” Chara hollered.

Rus watched the orderly circle dissolve into a senseless wrestling match, the humans crawling over Papyrus until he triumphantly stood, their bodies still clinging to all of his bones before he laughed and ran around the house, the children screaming and laughing at the movement. To Rus’s surprise, Frisk and Charlie stayed by him.

“Don’t you... don’t you wanna go play or somethin’? Go do kid things?” Charlie shook their head and signed something.

“’My Papyrus is gone and you remind me of him.’ They just wanna spend time with you,” Frisk translated. Rus’s soul pulsed.

“Gone?”

Frisk immediately sensed the panic. “Oh, don’t worry. They’re just spending the year travelling around South America. They didn’t dust or anything.”

Rus was briefly worried at the idea of a version of himself travelling with their version of his brother. But then he thought about the other skeleton brother relationships he had seen. None of them seemed like he and his brother yet, so he didn’t need to be too worried. But a part of him itched in suspicion.

Charlie grabbed his hand and pulled both he and Frisk to the plants against the back fence. They started signing about what type of plants they were and Frisk translated.

It was nice.

This was nice.

Papyrus was going to rub it in his face when they got home.

Chapter Text

Rus started going to the dinners every week. He looked forward to spending time with the human children. There was something about them that just filled him with so much joy and HoPe.

That HoPe was seeping into every aspect of his life. He bagged groceries with gusto. He got a second job as a waiter at a little hole in the wall diner. He had energy and he gladly raised money in preparation for the next semester.

Speaking of, the present semester was ending. Papyrus was managing finals and was starting to lose his head (no pun intended). He left every morning with a thermos of tea and his clothes rumpled from a night of grading papers and planning. He was seeing his datemate less and less and Rus was starting to worry about him. So, he was going to do something nice for him.

He got as many plush blankets and pillows as he could and put them in his room. He moved the TV into the bedroom too before collecting all of their snacks. Cashew nuts, peanut butter, little baby pink marshmallows, kale chips and those little vegetable straw things. It was a proper feast.

He queued the TV so it was ready to play a Scooby-Doo movie. Papyrus liked the optimism of the crew always catching the bad guy. Rus liked the comically bad animation and stupid catchphrases. They both liked trying to guess who the monster really was. This one was about them chasing an electrical ghost. It was just positive and mindless enough to be relaxing.

He got a pair of pajamas ready for Papyrus and started to draw a boiling hot bath for him.

In time, he heard Papyrus come inside. His feet were heavy. Rus rushed out in the living room to meet him. He looked tired, with bags under his sockets and disheveled clothes. He blinked blearily at the wall.

“Rus, am I hallucinating or is the TV missing?” His voice wavered nearly as much as he did.

“It’s missing, but I know exactly where it is,” he said. “Come on, I drew you a bath.” He grabbed Papyrus’s wrist and tried to guide him down the hall. Papyrus’s feet were heavy.

“You drew a... What? Why?”

“Because you’re tired and I don’t think you’ve bathed for the last week and half.”

“You’re keeping track?” There was a lilt of teasing in his tired voice.

“Someone ought to,” he said with a smile. He opened the bathroom door to show off the water that was filled with bubbles and a single candle on the rim. It was for atmosphere and yet not an excessive fire hazard. “Now get in there and enjoy yourself a thorough scrubbing.” He gently pushed him into the bathroom. Papyrus looked back at him while loosening his tie. “And what do you intend to do?”

Rus shrugged. He had intended on just waiting.

“Would you... care to join me?” Papyrus offered one hand palm up. Rus’s soul pounded. They’d done a lot of things together. But they’d never done anything naked together. And a bath would certainly entail...

“We wouldn’t both fit and the water would certainly overflow,” he said. It was a truth. It wasn’t the reason, but it was a good logical one. Papyrus nodded.

“I’ll see you when I’m finished, then.” He gave Rus a gentle kiss on the cheek before closing the bathroom door. Rus lightly slapped his cheeks before going into the kitchen and drinking a massive glass of water.

 

He waited in the bedroom for what felt like an eternity before Papyrus finally came in. He had dumped his work clothes in the hamper and had changed into the soft pajamas Rus had picked out. He surveyed the comfort nest that had taken over their bedroom. Rus gave his hands a little shake.

“Ta da.”

“Very nice.” Papyrus walked over and crawled into the spot to the right of Rus. He adjusted the pillows to prop him up before grabbing a corner of a blanket and wrapping Rus up with him, holding him close and nuzzling his skull against him. “Yes, I can certainly support this after school activity.” Rus moved to turn on the movie, but Papyrus kept him locked in place. “No. Not right now. Just... Just let me hold you.”

Rus couldn’t possibly argue with that. He curled into his boyfriend’s chest. He clacked his teeth against Rus’s skull. “This is a wonderful gesture,” he murmured. “It would have been better timed had you saved it for after finals week.”

Rus shrugged. “Yes, but you were in desperate need of a recharge so... you’re welcome.” Papyrus chuckled.

“Thank you.” Papyrus sighed around him, his arms getting heavy as he relaxed. Rus looked around, thinking of all the uneaten food littered before them. Maybe he had gone overboard. Had he known that all it would have taken to lure Papyrus to relax was lots of blankets and someone to cuddle, he wouldn’t have gone to the extra trouble.

Rus nuzzled and wriggled, finding a perfect position to be as close and comfortable as possible.

Then Papyrus wriggled back and, inadvertently, rubbed their pelvises together. Or maybe it had been on purpose? Because shortly after he repeated the motion and kissed Rus’s skull, taking a deep breath as he did. Rus pressed his hands against Papyrus’s chest. “Hm?” He hummed.

“Are you... doing what I think you’re doing?”

At first, Papyrus looked confused, not fully understanding the question. He shifted his toes and their bones clacked together. In realization, he smiled devilishly, running his thumbs on Rus’s upper arms. “That entirely depends,” Papyrus rolled them over so he was on top of Rus, pressing him into the mattress, “on what you think I’m doing.”

Chapter Text

“That entirely depends,” Papyrus rolled them over so he was on top of Rus, pressing him into the mattress, “on what you think I’m doing.” He adjusted himself so his knees were on either side of his pelvis, hunching over Rus and hovering his face inches away. Rus couldn’t help the violet color that took over his skull. “So, what are you thinking?” Papyrus was looking down at him with such sincerity. He knew that, if he just said the word, his boyfriend would leap off in an instant. And because of that, he gratefully smiled, cupped Papyrus’s cheeks in his hands, and said,

“I think it’s about time.” He pulled Papyrus’s skull down to meet his. Their respective magics formed immediately, entwining them in a kiss as they embraced whole-heartedly, wrapping their arms and grabbing at each other’s ribs through the thick cloth of their pajamas in hunger. Papyrus arched forward and started unbuttoning Rus’s shirt so he could spread bone on bone, running his thumbs on the indents where ribs connected to sternum. Rus couldn’t help the moan that came from him, leaning into the contact.

He had dreamt about this for so long. To know what Papyrus’s hands felt like against his bare, sensitive, aroused bones. His soul was practically blaring like a speaker set on high, pulsing and sending quakes of magic through him that reverberated up Papyrus’s hands. His partner’s soul beat back, each of them feeling like two timpanum booming in harmony.

Rus let his hands move from Papyrus’s cheekbones to his neck, carefully memorizing the jagged lines of his dusting scar before moving down to unbutton his shirt. He moved his hands up and over his shoulders, pushing the garment away. Papyrus sat up to fully remove it. He pulled Rus up to meet him and removed his shirt too. Rus couldn’t help but notice the difference of color in their bones. Papyrus’s were a pure, polished, healthy ivory whereas Rus’s were yellowed and aged and covered with little scrapes and fractures – dozens of marks that no amount of healing magic could remove. He half expected his boyfriend to look away. But, of course, he didn’t. He trailed his fingers over every rib, tracing every mark and scar until he took Rus’s face in his hands.

“Don’t look so ashamed,” he whispered. “Your body tells a story, and it’s beautiful.”

“You don’t have to lie.”

“Hey.” He gave his head a little shake, looking him so hard in the eyes that it almost hurt. “Do not accuse me of being dishonest. I am simply saying the nice things to my boyfriend that are true and that he deserves to hear, so if you don’t mind-“ Rus kissed him. Papyrus’s ensuing chuckle only meant trouble. He pushed him back slightly. “And do not think that your ministrations are going to stop me from saying nice things. Please be nicer to my datemate and let me compliment him.” Rus shook his head, but he didn’t physically object further.

Papyrus adjusted them so Rus was sitting straighter. He hooked his thumbs in Rus’s trousers. “You should really meet my boyfriend, you know.” Rus snorted.

“Oh yeah?”

“Oh yes.” He kept his eye lights firmly locked on Rus’s while his hands explored. One played with his floating ribs and the other went south, caressing his iliac crest. “He’s a little stiff to start with, I’ll admit. But he melts like ice in boiling water if you treat him right.” Treating him right apparently translated to teasing his pubis. Rus’s breath hitched, arching into the touch. “He’s one of the most sincere monsters I know.” His magic started pooling. Papyrus stood on his knees, keeping one hand down in his pelvis and using the other to hold his skull, arching him into a kiss.

His magic pooled into Papyrus’s hand, taking shape in his grip. Rus moaned when he fully formed and a thumb stroked the underside of his shaft. “He’s also incredibly resilient. I believe he could endure walking through an active volcano if he had to.”

“That’s a-ha! Sp-Specific example. You don’t ha-have any surprises do you?” Papyrus chuckled.

“Maybe one.” He climbed off of Rus and started removing his pajama pants. His magic had already pooled into an orange vulva. Rus took the opportunity to remove his own pants, leaving the entirety of their exposed bodies in the open air. Rus couldn’t help but shiver at the vulnerability. Papryus moved to sit on Rus, but he held his arms steadfast.

“Before you, uh, can I... touch you?”

Papyrus blushed profusely. “He’s also pretty bold, have I told you that yet?” He sat back, his pelvis resting on Rus’s femurs. That wasn’t the position he wanted though.

He wrapped his arm around, grabbing Papyrus’s spine and hoisting him up so Papyrus stood on his knees again, wrapping his arms around Rus’s neck. “Persuasive, too.” He held him with one hand and used the other to explore.

His magic was incredibly warm, like dipping his fingers into a hot tub. It even swirled with movement, reacting to his intrusion. He explored his lips, feeling their slickness and softness – like wet silk. Papyrus hummed, leaning his head back. His two fingers slipped over the sensitive nub before moving down to press into him. Papyrus wriggled at the contact, leaning his head over Rus’s as he breathed.

Rus explored, moving two fingers in and out, stretching them and bringing them back together. It honestly made a disgusting sound, wet flesh squelching with every movement. But Papyrus’s moans drowned it out. “He... He’s ah-also v-v-hery thoro-hoh.” Rus pressed the pad of his thumb on his clit. “F-huck,” Papyrus hissed.

Rus couldn’t help but raise a brow. “Doth my ears deceive me? The Great Papyrus is swearing?” Rus couldn’t help but chuckle. “The earth has stopped spinning.”

“Shut up,” Papyrus said. He could hear the smile in his voice as he tilted his head and took Rus in for another kiss.

“Now he’s telling me to shut up, my word – hmph!” He shoved his tongue in and Rus gladly met it, still moving his fingers and rotating his thumb. Papyrus shivered over him and clenched on Rus’s fingers.

Rus had had his fun. He slipped his fingers out. He knew the next step, and he was shaking with excitement. Papyrus broke their kiss to look down and line themselves up.

Rus saw stars when his tip entered him. “Y-You’re so wet,” he said dumbly.

“I wonder whose fault that is.”

Rus gasped as he slipped down ever more. “Guilty, as charged.” Papyrus slid down, slowly hilting himself on Rus’s magic. He was so warm and wet and soft. The room wavered in haze around them as Rus’s senses started to blow out. For a moment they just sat like that, Papyrus resting down with his full weight and Rus leaning his head on his shoulder, desperate for grounding. “Fuck.”

“Oh, look who’s swearing now.”

“It’s normal for me and you know that.”

Papyrus fumbled with his hands in an attempt to hols his face and, eventually, successfully crane it up for a kiss. He used it as a distraction and leverage so he could properly rise and fall up and down Rus’s shaft. The movements were gentle and undulating, borderline hypnotizing. They rocked together, moving in sync as the pounding of their souls slowed to a gentle thrum. Each one was sending out waves of magic, but it was passive now – less desperate.

He could feel the magic of Papyrus’s soul reaching out to him. It was speaking softly, like a whisper to his very being. You’re here with me, it said. I’m here for you. Come meet me. Come love me. I’ll take you and your entirety wholly into me. Nothing else matters now.

Rus clawed at the ribs of Papyrus’s back, trying to merge their bodies into one and answer the soul’s desperate pleas. But all he could do was meet Papyrus’s magic with his own. He thrusted and moved and felt everything in that moment. The surface of his bones were electric as he thrusted into him. He didn’t know if he was doing anything right. He didn’t know if Papyrus liked what he was feeling or not. He wondered what his own soul was saying – what his soul was screaming as his bones vibrated in fire.

“You know his best quality?” Papyrus said, his voice just above a purr, his breath sending shivers from Rus’s skull down to the base of his spine. He twitched inside him.

“What’s that?” The words came out airy and without any fortitude. Papyrus changed the way his pelvis moved, rutting him deeper as opposed to moving in and out. Rus leant his head back. He was so close. Papyrus spoke in his ear, moving one hand down to his pelvis to touch himself. He came, his body twitching and convulsing on Rus’s, dragging every last bit of energy and feeling from him until he snapped. He couldn’t help the mewl that came out, his toes curling as he thrusted in climax, emptying himself and letting Papyrus’s magic milk him dry.

“He’s almost always on time.”

The orgasm pounded through him and left his bones empty and exhausted. Both their magic retreated to their souls, leaving their pelvises to dryly rest on top of each other. Papyrus tried to get up, but Rus held him steadfast. He crossed his legs and moved Papyrus’s body so that he was sitting between in the nook of his lap and resting the side of his head on Rus’s chest. He clutched him dearly, as if he was the most important thing in the world.

In this moment, Rus was sure he was.

He pulled up a blanket to wrap up their naked bodies together, warming them as Rus kissed the top of Papyrus’s head.

“Can I say it now?” Rus asked.

“Hm?” Papyrus was in a complete daze as he lazily lifted his head. The one thing not sleepy about him was how he was holding tight to Rus’s collar bone – as if he’d disappear.

“A few weeks back I wanted to tell you something, remember?”

“Mm.”

“You told me not to say it.”

“Mmhm.”

“Can I say it now?” Papyrus smiled mischievously, like a child who already knew what they were getting for Christmas. He closed his sockets and snuggled closer, nuzzling into Rus’s chest.

“I think now would indeed be a good time, if you still want to.”

Oh, boy did he. He rolled the sentiment around in his skull, hypothesizing how it might sound when the words actually came out of his mouth.

“I love you, Papyrus.”

The words tasted like sweet milk chocolate on his tongue – decadent and delicious and like he wanted another. “I love you. I do.” He grabbed Papyrus’s chin and angled it so he could look Papyrus in the sockets. “I LOVE YOU.”

He couldn’t remember the last time he used that voice, spoke with that confidence, pride, and volume. Papyrus didn’t jump. He blinked in surprise and his brows raised in excitement. He smiled and cupped Rus’s cheek. “I love you, too.”

He pulled him down for a single, soft, sealing kiss, capturing this moment in their memories forever.

It was one that he would never allow himself to forget. And one he never wanted to end.

Chapter Text

Papyrus stopped sleeping on the couch. Whenever he did become tired, he’d make his way to their bedroom and climb in behind Rus, habitually wrapping his arms around his middle and curling their legs so they fit together like silverware in a drawer.

Rus had no stronger sense of belonging than he did when he fit so perfectly next to his boyfriend.

They spent nearly every night of the summer together like that, curled on one another with or without the duvet – depending entirely on how hot it was outside. It was getting warmer, but it wasn’t intolerable. Hell, nothing was intolerable anymore.

They spent their Fridays with the Prime Monsters, they spent the week apart while Rus was at work and Papyrus prepared for the next semester, and they spent the weekends together, curled in bed and making up for the sleep they’d missed for the entirety of their relatively young lives. Rus felt strong and stable in this routine, like he could fight a golem not even break a sweat. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this good – or if he had ever felt this good before. It was in large part because Papyrus was now a part of his life, but he knew it was mostly because of his freedom.

He could choose who to spend his time with, what to spend it doing. He could choose what to eat, what to wear, the timing of it all... He loved it. He loved his life.

That was something he knew he never felt or said before.

And he had one monster to really thank for that. The monster who got him out of his miserable life experience. The monster who saw good in him and did what he could to save him. The monster who gave him courage to hope and to look forward to his life.

He had to thank Papyrus. And he had the perfect excuse to - a certain day that he had branded into his brain months ago was coming up.

He got in cahoots with Sans – the good one, not his – and started planning things. He knew where he wanted to take him and how he wanted to surprise him, but he needed some help setting it all up.

Sans was happy to help him with anything so long as it meant making Papyrus happy.

Rus felt the smallest twinge of jealousy. He forced it to turn into elation. If he himself couldn’t have a brother like that, then he was glad that at least Papyrus had that kind of support.

And he was glad to add to that positivity.

The day of reckoning had finally come. Rus had convinced Frisk and Risky to take Papyrus out all day. He gave them permission to demand anything – ice cream, toy stores, horse carriage rides in the park... anything to keep him out while they set up at the beach.

They had gotten the usual crew of prime monsters from the house parties and some extra guests – Edge, Red, the Prime Sans, Undyne, Alphys, and Monsterkid, all the human children, and a flower. The flower was the weird one. Sans had insisted that it was one of Papyrus’s best friends and that Frisk would be sure to tell it to come.

Rus couldn’t really recall a flower from his Universe, so it was strange. But if it would make Papyrus happy than the “weed” (as Sans called it) was more than welcome.

He was at the beach, setting up balloons and towels, umbrellas and grills, and a space for the sandcastle competition, when the flower finally made an entrance popping up through the sand right at Rus’s heels.

“So, you’re Papyrus’s new friend!” it nearly yelled. Rus jumped and turned. The flower was nearly a foot tall with a big face the size of a tea cup saucer and big yellow petals to match. He bobbed back and forth, flashing a friendly yet slightly unsettling smile. “It’s really sweet of ya to throw such a hullabaloo for him!” Rus tried to smile, but he’d be lying if he said this flower wasn’t disconcerting.

“It’s, uh, the least I could do.” Rus fidgeted with his fingertips, waiting for the flower to move on. When it became clear it wasn’t go to leave, he fumbled for conversation. “Your name’s Flowey, right?”

“Yepperoo! And you’re Papyrus!” Being addressed by his full first name put Rus on edge. “Nicknames be damned that’s what I always say!” He winked. “I’m gonna go mingle! You know, like a normal person! But you just keep having a swell time setting up! Toodiloo!” The flower dove back into the sand and reappeared over by where Undyne and Alphys were sunbathing. They screamed when he showed up.

“He’s a creepy little bugger, ain’t he?” Red teleported beside Rus, and, again, he jumped.

“Why don’t any of you just walk?” Rus asked, unable to hide his frustration. Red shrugged.

“It’s good to keep people on their toes. Need ‘elp with that?”

Red helped Rus finish setting up the umbrella he had been wrestling with.

“Just keep your eyes closed!” Risky’s undeniable voice bellowed. All of the monsters on the beach turned to the sidewalk, where Frisk and Risky were holding Papyrus’s hand and pushing him from behind toward the beach. He was covering his face with one of his big hands.

“I SHALL OF COURSE KEEP MY EYES CLOSED! NO NEED TO DOUBT A VOW MADE BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS!” He said in the booming voice that used to scare Rus out of his nonexistent skin. He was proud to say the voice bothered him little now. He still jumped if he didn’t see who it was coming from, but he was okay with listening to either Edge or Papyrus speak.

Rus rushed to the edge of the beach, gesturing for everyone on the sand to follow. They did and they made a proper monster/human barricade. Frisk and Risky stopped Papyrus right before the beach.

“Okay,” Frisk said. “Uncover your eyes in three... two... one!”

Papyrus lifted his hand and everyone immediately yelled, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Rus’s boyfriend was not easily surprised, but this excited boom almost knocked him off his feet. His eye lights frantically scanned the group, suspicion turning to joy as smile curling up when he recognized everyone.

“What is this?” he asked, genuinely dumb-founded.

“It’s your birthday, you dumb little goose!” Flowey clarified, still bobbing back in forth in his borderline disturbing way.

“Yeah, your bonefriend made us set all this shit up,” Red said.

Papyrus looked to Rus, his eye lights practically sparkling. He looked like he was going to cry. Rus furrowed his brow. Sure, he had never had a birthday party, but that was because his brother was a complete and utter asshole. Papyrus had a nice family. He should be used to this, shouldn’t he?

By the way Papyrus lunged forward to hug him, he knew he wasn’t. He pulled away with a massive smile on his face. “I’VE ALWAYS WANTED A SURPRISE PARTY! AND ON THE BEACH NO LESS!”

Sans held out Papyrus’s swim trunks. “Go ‘head and get changed over there.” He pointed to a public changing room and Papyrus practically ran over. The barricade dispersed and everyone ran to towels and water and sandcastles. Rus looked down at Sans. “What?”

“He acted like he’d never had a birthday party before.”

“Oh, he hasn’t,” Sans said, as if that was obvious. Rus furrowed his brow.

“You never-“

Sans shrugged. “He never wanted one. ‘E always said a birthday party didn’t count if it was thrown by me. ‘M family in all that, you know. He believed a true birthday party ‘ad to be thrown by a best friend.” Sans elbowed Rus. “So congrats. You made a little babybones’s dreams come true.”

He walked off and away, down to a towel where Red was laying down. He unceremoniously fell on top of him.

Papyrus came up behind Rus, giving him a peck on the cheek. “Thank you for this, flower.” It was a nickname Papyrus had adopted for Rus, and it made Rus’s soul flutter with joy every time he used it.

Rus turned in place, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend and tucking his head in his neck. Papyrus gladly held him back. “I promise, I’m gonna throw you a birthday party every year for the rest of your life.” He felt Papyrus’s soul pulse and swirl through his rib cage.

“I look forward to each and every one.” He kissed him on the forehead and took his hand. “Now, let’s go swimming.”

Rus gladly let his boyfriend lead him to the water. They spent the day swimming and splashing, building and playing until the sun set and all had left except for Rus and Papyrus. They sat until it was cold and they were forced to clean up.

Rus couldn’t wait to do it all again for Papyrus next year.

Chapter Text

Sans and Red were shopping. They had run out of their condiments of preference and couldn’t be out of stock. So, despite the early hour, they were standing in a grocery store that had opened five minutes before. Sans was leaning on the shopping cart, saying that he was keeping it in place, while Red shuffled down the aisle, getting handfuls of the things they needed and impulse buys before dropping them in the metal frame, making it rattle from the impact Each and every time, it shook Sans out of his dozing, but he was just glad Red wasn’t asking him to help.

As they walked, accumulating more than what they initially wanted (they were shopping, may as well stock up and not go out later), Sans people watched. There were only a few people up and grocery shopping this early. But those who were, were interesting characters.

There was a woman wearing a handknit outfit and pink cat eye glasses with a cat in her coat – Sans had saw the ears, he was sure of it. There was what looked like a homeless guy sneakily putting hot sauce in his coat pockets. The cashier of this store was also partially falling asleep, looking down at a book but obviously not reading it.

It was the usual two AM people, even though it was eight-oh-five in the morning.

There was one person there that made him double take though. He had to wipe the sleep out of his sockets to be sure his vision wasn’t lying to him.

Standing in the vegetable section, scrutinizing every grapefruit in the pile, picking each up and putting it back, was a doppelgänger.

He stood straighter than either Sans or Red. He had skinny black jeans on, a black button up shirt with rolled up sleeves, black gloves, and a purple kerchief that was torn on the edges. His combat boots laced halfway up to his knees. His bones were pristine and perfect, and he held himself like he was above everything around him.

Sans furrowed his brow before rolling the cart forward and purposefully bumping Red. He was tired, so the motion nearly knocked his fiancé over. “Watch it,” he growled, too tired to be polite as he glared at Sans. He motioned his head toward the other Sans and Red looked, as if he were going to find a rushing assailant. When he saw the skeleton, Red visibly relaxed and dumped the stuff in his arms into the cart before quietly walking over to Sans. “’S one of us, right?”

Sans nodded. He kept watching his obvious alternate. When he picked up a fruit that didn’t meet his standard, he tossed it back into the box – bruising it more in the process. He had tossed back fifteen options already.

A weight sunk inside Sans as a thought came into his skull: was this Rus’s Sans?

As if they had the same brain, Red murmured, “Y’ don’t think that’s numbah three’s bro, do ya?” Rus was the third Papryus Sans’s boyfriend had met, so he had been given that oh so creative nickname. Regardless, Sans shrugged.

“We can’t just ask ‘im,” he said. If he really was as violent as everyone said, bringing up their alliance with his brother wouldn’t be good for either of them.

Red pulled Sans’s phone from his pocket, unlocked it (Sans had given up trying to hide his passwords), and took an incognito picture before sending it to Rus’s number with the text, “This your bro?”

They didn’t have to wait long for the phone to buzz in reception. “Where did you find him?” It read.

That was enough confirmation either of them needed.

A bond of skeleton brothers was a strong and sacred one. They each loved their younger brothers with such a violent determination that they were almost painfully self-sacrificial. Sans did everything he could to support his brother’s dreams. Red, despite his rough universe, always put Papyrus first and had taken quite a few blows on his behalf. Their sole purpose during both of their depressive episodes was to protect their brothers.

And this version of them, this version that was tossing grapefruits for being a little too squishy or too hard, had hurt his brother to the point that he had filed for a restraining order.

Sans’s anger was cold, while Red’s burned brightly. He nearly stomped over to confront him, but Sans grabbed his arm. “We shouldn’t engage,” he murmured.

“That motherfucker hurt our brother.”

“Not our brother.”

Red turned on Sans, growling. “He hurt a Papyrus.” Sans’s anger flared at the reminder.

“I know.”

“So we gotta-“

“EXCUSE ME.” Neither of them jumped, they just turned their eyelights on the dangerous Sans. He was still standing in front of the grapefruits as he eyed them up and down. “WOULD YOU PLEASE TELL ME WHY YOU ARE STARING SO RUDELY? HASN’T ANYONE TOLD YOU TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS?”

“I’ll show ‘im ‘ow to mind ‘is own business.” Red growled and tried to move again. Sans had a vice grip on his arm, keeping them in place.

“Sorry, pal. We couldn’t help but notice our shared likeness, is all,” he explained away. The Sans crossed his arms in offense.

“I’M AFRAID YOU ARE MISTAKEN. I WOULD NEVER LEAVE THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE THAT AND I CERTAINLY DON’T LOOK LIKE YOU NOW.” He thought they were talking about their clothes.

“We got the same fuckin’ face, asshole,” Red said. Sans went stiff. So much for keeping this on the DL. The Sans got angry, marching toward them.

“EXCUSE ME? WOULD YOU CARE TO SAY THAT AGAIN?” He was trying to be intimidating. He was a little shorter than Red but still seemed to tower. Sans couldn’t help but notice how he held himself like Edge did.

“I said-!”

“Red, don’t, he’s not worth it.” Sans stood by his initial opinion; they shouldn’t start any trouble. Rus wouldn’t want them to fight him, despite how much both of them wanted to. They needed to keep cool skulls and walk out without incident.

Sans’s phone buzzed again. Red instinctively looked at the screen, scanning the notification from Rus. Unfortunately, the other Sans noted. He swiped the phone from Red’s hand and read it. His eye lights practically crawled from the phone to the two of them. “YOU KNOW MY BROTHER?”

“Yeah, we do.” Red was aggressive as he yanked his phone back. “We’re practically in laws.” The Sans looked confused.

“’E’s my brother’s boyfriend,” Sans said, wanting to connect dots in an attempt to keep the situation contained. The Sans’s magic flared.

“YOU’RE THE BROTHER OF THAT NOSEY, INSUFFERABLE, MORONIC PROFESSOR?” Each word was like a pull of Sans’s engine, trying to get him started up. His grip tightened on Red. It was keeping himself back as much he was his boyfriend. “I SUPPOSE AN INVASION OF PERSONAL AFFAIRS RUNS IN THE FAMILY, HM?” His anger was boiling now. “YOU OUGHT TO TELL HIM TO MIND HIS OWN BUSINESS.”

“I don’t control ‘im,” Sans said pointedly. Red looked at him, recognizing the change of tone.

“WELL YOU SHOULD. HE’S GOING TO GET HIMSELF HURT.”

“’S’that a threat?” Red asked. The Sans focused on him now.

“I’M GUESSING YOU LET YOUR BROTHER RUN WILD TOO, DON’T YOU?” Red was fuming. “YOU BOTH OUGHT TO REIGN THEM IN BEFORE THEY REFLECT POORLY ON YOU. ALTHOUGH, JUDGING BY YOUR OUTFITS, THEY CAN’T MAKE YOU LOOK MUCH WORSE!”

That was it. Red was the one that started the fight. He summoned a bone in his hand and swung it like a bat. The Sans ducked, dodging agilely. Of course, he did. He was a Sans. They were masters of that. “YOU WANT TO FIGHT? FINE!” He dropped his basket. Sans pushed away their cart, not caring where it ended up as the Sans summoned a massive and pointed Gaster Blaster, purple magic glowing and growing from its charging laser. It shot. Red and Sans rolled away, letting the blast destroy a good portion of ten different shelves.

Sans looked to Red, mentally confirming their strategy. He hadn’t started this fight, but he was sure as hell going to finish it.

Chapter Text

Rus nervously sat up in bed, unable to keep his foot from shaking nervously as it rested on his knee. He was holding his phone in his hand, having sent a text half an hour ago and gotten no response. He hadn’t heard anything of his brother since the trial. It had been months. And now, Papyrus’s Sans had seen him at a grocery store.

He needed to know what was happening. As much as he knew his brother was abusive and toxic, he wanted to know how he was.

He jumped from his seat when Papyrus’s phone rang. His boyfriend had been asleep before the sound immediately pulled him into consciousness. He barely wiped the sleep from his sockets before he answered. “Hello and good morning, Papyrus speaking,” he said, his voice still drowsy. Rus scoured his boyfriend’s expression for a reaction. He had a sickening feeling that this call had something to do with the text he received.

Papyrus’s sockets widened in shock andconcern. “Yes, yes, I’ll come get you immediately. Be there in a jiffy.” He hung up. Rus half expected Papyrus to leap out of bed and get ready without pause. Instead, after a long moment of looking at his phone, his eye lights bore into Rus.

The sickening feeling got worse.

“Who was it?” He asked, his voice catching in his throat.

“I have to go pick up Sans and Red. They got in a fight at a grocery store.” He still didn’t move, carefully waiting for Rus’s reaction.

“Who did they get in a fight with?” Rus asked, feeling like he knew the answer. When Papyrus didn’t immediately respond, Rus turned his phone to him, showing the texts he sent, he received, and the picture that started it all. He didn’t need to verbally ask the follow up question.

“You can stay home, if you want,” Papyrus assured. “You don’t have to come, I am capable of-“

“I wanna come.” He felt some sick need to see his brother. To see how he was. To show him that he had thrived during this time apart. He was scared at the prospect, but his gut wouldn’t let him ignore this opportunity.

Papyrus nodded, not double-guessing his decision. They silently got out of bed and hurriedly got dressed. They wore simple clothes, for purpose, not pleasure. Papyrus held Rus’s hand all the way down his car. His boyfriend did have one. They took the bus because, according to Papyrus, “We must support the public transportation system when we can! And it’s good for the environment!” But this wasn’t a bus kind of trip. Rus sat in the passenger seat, his soul pounding almost painfully as they backed out of the parking garage and down the street. He couldn’t stop bouncing his leg.

“Is your brother okay?” Rus asked, trying to distract himself and also ashamed that he hadn’t asked sooner.

“Sans is always okay,” he assured. “Since he was the one that called me, I think he’s better than Red.” The weight of the statement rested heavily on them both. They had no idea what they were going to find this morning.

They saw the police cars and ambulance in the parking lot before they even got close. A minute later, they pulled into the same lot and both got out. Rus wanted to tuck into his boyfriend, use him as a boney shield and a stalk of support. But he didn’t want his brother – if his brother was still there – to see him as a weak monster that was still painfully dependent. He needed to be strong and to stand alone. So, he pushed against all of his instincts to simply march beside Papyrus.

Three Sans’s were sitting on the curb, all of them handcuffed with their wrists behind their backs. They were equidistant apart. The blue fabric of Papyrus’s Sans’s coat was scorched and torn. Red had marks and scratches on his skull. And the third one...

He thought he was prepared to see him, but his soul still skipped a beat when he lay sockets on his brother. He was the most pristine out of the three. His boot was untied, he was missing a glove, and he was a little sweaty, but other than that he was unscathed. He was speaking to a police officer, likely telling his side of the story. Despite the battle damage, he looked good. Rus hoped he looked better.

A dog monster in police gear held their paw up to stop them. “Sirs, you’re gonna have to step back.”

“Those are our brothers,” Rus said assuredly. That was good enough for the officer. He stood to the side and let them pass. Red and Papyrus’s Sans looked up as they approached. He saw the panic in their sockets as they saw him. Sans shook his head. Red frantically looked to Rus’s Sans, as if he was ready to launch up and fight again. His Sans glared at Red before his eye lights came up to Rus.

It took everything in his power to keep walking. To not stop and freeze in place. To not look scared and let his fear control him. He was scared, but he wasn’t going to let it be visible. The officer speaking to his Sans walked over to them.

“Excuse me, officer,” Papyrus asked, “why are they all handcuffed?”

“They had a fight,” they responded. “Destroyed a good portion of the store.”

“’E was the one that blasted the shelves!” Red interjected. A sharp look from his fiancé and the officer shut him up.

“We need to determine if any permanent arrests need to be made or if any charges should be pressed.”

“I WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO PRESS CHARGES!” Rus’s Sans announced. The officer glared at him.

“You’re lucky if you don’t get sued.”

“ME?”

“It was your shot that destroyed the place!” Red said.

“IT WAS SELF-DEFENSE!”

“You provoked me, asshole!”

“AND YET WHO IS THE ONE CALLING NAMES, HM?”

Red fumed, biting his tongue and looking at his feet.

Rus felt a familiar painful weight on his being. He let himself look over to his brother. His eye lights were like daggers as he sat straight, high and mighty and oh so righteous. “ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE COMPANY YOU KEEP NOW, BROTHER? MISCREANTS AND DELINQUENTS?” Rus couldn’t bring himself to speak, but he did meet his brother’s stare, trying to beat him out in confidence. Unfortunately, he had to look away, unable to handle the intense pressure. “TCH. YOU’VE GOTTEN WEAK.”

“This was the kind of stuff he was saying before Red swung,” Sans, the good, normal one said to the officer. They nodded.

Another officer approached from a girl standing at a distance. She looked young and a little shaken up, but mostly just exasperated. The officer stood between all the Sans’s. “Good news, none of you are going to jail.”

“I SHOULD THINK NOT!” Rus didn’t want to call him Sans anymore. He knew a good Sans now. He wanted that one to be the Sans.

“However, you are all indefinitely banned from shopping on the premises of this store.”

Sans and Red shrugged, seemingly glad to get off so scott-free. The officer started undoing Red’s handcuffs. Rus’s brother was highly offended. “I THINK NOT! I’VE BEEN A LOYAL CUSTOMER AT THIS ESTABLISHMENT FOR YEARS! I HAVE A LOYALTY CARD TO PROVE MY DEDICATION!”

“You rather get taken to court?” The first officer asked. Words with unbridled confidence bubbled out of Rus before he could think to stop them.

“Again?” His brother was full of white-hot ire. He had provoked him. Did he have a death wish? Red rubbed his freed wrists as Sans finally became free of his.

“Let’s go before they change their minds,” Papyrus said, herding Rus and the two Sans’s toward the car, finally let free. Rus was surprised by the lack of continued yelling and protesting from his brother. He wondered if he’d really get away with such a snarky response without any repercussions. But then his brother spoke.

“PAPYRUS SERIF GASTER!” He jumped at his own full name instinctively. Nothing good came from that name. Despite Papyrus’s attempt to get him into the car, Rus turned to look at his brother. His Sans – his abuser – was rubbing his wrists and yelled, “I HAVE NO BROTHER!”

It shouldn’t have hurt him. Rus had built a life away from him. A few days ago, he was joyous at the prospect of never seeing him again. He only came today to prove a point. But now he felt like he should’ve stayed behind. Because, despite their separation, despite how he knew Sans was more of an abuse and manipulator than family... He still considered him his brother. A brother that was toxic and that Rus was better off without, but a brother. He assumed Sans would view him in a similar regard.

Apparently not.

Papyrus gently touched Rus’s hand. He had frozen half way into the car, holding his door open. He looked at Papyrus sitting in the driver’s seat. In the back were the two Sans’s that still had brothers. He could feel all of their magic reaching out to him, trying to coax him in.

He sat down and closed the door, not because he was comforted, but because he knew he would fall had he kept standing. He felt dizzy as the car started driving away. He tucked his head between his legs.

“’E’s not okay, is he?” Red asked. Papyrus put a hand on Rus’s back, familiar calming and pulsing magic permeating through his jacket and warming his bones. The direct contact did help him. But he just felt himself crumbling under the comfort.

“I say we call ‘im Serif,” Sans said. It was a passing comment. “Don’t really want my name associated with that particular kind of asshole.”

To Rus’s surprise, he nodded. He sat up, slowly, and wiped his cheeks and sockets. If he had no brother, then he had no Sans. Instead, he had a dark figure from his past, a figure he had escaped, named Serif.

It felt right. His brother Sans was gone. All that was left was that... nightmare.

A nightmare that he had woken up from. He reached his hand across the median to hold his boyfriend’s hand. Papyrus interlaced their fingers, driving with his one left hand so he could show Rus comfort. He liberally sent magic through their palms. Rus could hear Sans and Red debriefing what had happened and how they still needed to go shopping.

Rus tried to relax. He was with much better company now.

Chapter Text

Rus was going back to school. He had registered for his classes and was able to buy a new satchel and a notebook for each class – and a mechanical pencil. He’d never had one before.

He had signed up for classes that specifically didn’t feature Papyrus as a teacher. As much as he liked learning from him, his boyfriend had frequently expressed the inappropriateness of dating one of his personal students. “It’s already uncouth enough for me to be dating a college student as a professor. I fear we may actually get in trouble should I control the outcome of your grades.” Every time he finished the rational, he took Rus’s hand and said, “I will miss having you in class, but I’d rather see you at home at the end of the day.” And Rus agreed. He wouldn’t trade their relationship for an education.

So, he signed up for different classes. He signed up for another figure drawing class. He had enjoyed it beyond the eye candy of his crush. He signed up for another poetry work shop – he still had a poem he was working on and needed help with. He also decided to take a psychology class, specifically the psychology of abuse. He didn’t want to go to therapy, but he wanted to understand his feelings toward Serif. He could afford one more course, so he took a literature class. It focused on books written by the Brontë sisters, three women who wrote coming of age, poetry, and romance during the mid 1800s.

Serif never liked when Rus “wasted his time” reading. Now that he had freedom, he was going to make up for lost time.

Every day, Papyrus drove them both to the campus and then they parted ways. They spent their day apart, not wanting to arise any attention. There wasn’t going to be massive repercussions for getting caught dating, but they still didn’t want to draw any interest.

So, Rus spent his days going to and from class and reading in the library while Papyrus taught his classes and graded in his office. Then, at the end of the day, they’d get back together to drive back home, eat dinner, and spend the evening making up for the time apart by cuddling on the couch.

It was perfect.

He couldn’t have been happier.

One day, they were driving back to the apartment and he was snoozing in the car. Instead of waking him up and letting him walk, Papyrus exited the vehicle, walked to the passenger side, and picked Rus up, carrying him bridal style to the elevator. Rus woke up as soon as his boyfriend had lifted him. But he didn’t panic. He just looped his arms around Papyrus’s neck and nuzzled into his chest.

“I love you,” he mumbled as the elevator doors closed. He said it every day. The words felt so good to say. He meant them with every bone of his being. Every time he said it, he was reaffirmed in who he was now, and who he was with. He also needed Papyrus to know that. It was imperative that his boyfriend knew exactly how much affection he held for him.

He could feel Papyrus smile as he kissed his forehead. The elevator dinged and they moved to the apartment. “I love you two, flower.” He deftly unlocked the door and entered the dark space. He closed the door behind them, locking it, and turned on the light switch. Rus blinked fully awake, finally opening his eyes only to see the room full of fairy lights, candles, rose petals, and, against the far wall, a banner than said “Happy Birthday”. There was dinner on the table in a slow cooker, a trail of petals leading to the bedroom, and a plethora of blankets decorating the couch. Rus furrowed his brow, blinking in confusion. He looked up at Papyrus in surprise.

“I never told you when my birthday was.”

“And I didn’t tell you mine,” Papyrus purred, nuzzling his skull as he walked them to the couch. He sat down, still carrying his boyfriend before tossing their book bags over the armrest. “And yet you threw me my first birthday party.” He held him close and kissed his cheek. “It’s only fair that I return the favor.”

Rus couldn’t stop the tears from welling up. Serif had been awful, but he still did something for his birthday every year. He usually got him a present and threw it at Rus’s head. The first few years, being a toddler and highly uncoordinated, it brained him square in his forehead. He started catching it as a preteen. He bought him sketchbooks or snacks, little pleasures that he wasn’t permitted otherwise. He even had a party one year. He was allowed to invite three friends out to a night at Muffet’s on Sa-Serif’s tab. That was the last time he had been allowed to eat there.

All of those things had felt obligatory. Like it was a chore to get a gift or to go get dinner, and he was required to show his infinite gratitude at the slightest kindness Serif had given. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.

This on the other hand was entirely different. It was warm. Papyrus had been at work all day so he must’ve recruited his brother to help set everything up. It wasn’t necessarily the materiality of the atmosphere and dinner – it was the thought. Papyrus knew Rus would like an experience, a loving expression that wasn’t limited to a day, but an enhancement of their life. It wasn’t an anomaly so much as a reminder.

He tucked and hid his face in his boyfriend’s chest. He didn’t want to cry in front of him. He cried too much, and what spurred the tears didn’t matter. Whether happy or sad, Rus felt it was too frequent.

Papyrus never thought so. Despite his attempt to hide, his boyfriend pulled his face into his hands so he could look at him. He wiped a tear away with his thumb. “Happy birthday, flower.” Rus nodded, taking Papyrus’s face in turn and pressing their teeth together in an embrace.

“Thank you, love.”

Chapter Text

It was the middle of the afternoon and Rus had completely finished his studies. He had caught up on all of his readings and had gotten so frustrated with the poem he was trying to write that he had completely scrapped the present draft.

He was tired of looking at printed words. His mind was somewhere else.

Which meant he was only thinking about Papyrus. That’s where his brain went to in day dreams. He remembered long ago fantasizing about going into his office for extra help and... doing non academic activities.

He let his brain wonder there again before stopping himself, a smile of realization dawning on his face.

He didn’t need to fantasize anymore. He was dating Papyrus. Papyrus was his boyfriend. He could go see him at his office without the guise of needing tutoring. He could just... He could make a day dream come true.

He cleaned up his stuff in record time and practically jogged across campus from the library to the Liberal Arts building. He caught his breath as he took the stairs two steps at a time and, before too long, he found himself standing outside Papyrus’s office. He had a brief feeling of hesitation before swallowing his nerves and knocking on the wood, cracking open the door further.

“OFFICE HOURS ARE OVER,” he said. Of course. Always so correct.

Rus came in anyway. Papyrus looked up from his gradebook and flinched back in surprise. “Oh, flower, what are you doing here?”

“I missed ya,” Rus admitted, activating the deadlock on the door. Papyrus stood up. He tried to seem disapproving, but Rus recognized the pleased angle to his smile. He may not have wanted to, but he undoubtedly liked this idea.

“We agreed we’d avoid each other on campus,” he said. Rus shrugged, dropping his backpack off on the student chair. “And don’t you have work to do?”

“Finished it.” It was a smug response, but Rus didn’t really care. He liked this permitted delinquency. He wanted to see how far he could go. “Been thinkin’ ‘bout you all day you know.” He stood next to Papyrus on his side of the desk. He took both his hands and started stroking them with his thumbs.

“Then perhaps you should double check your work,” Papyrus suggested. “If my mind wandered like that, I would get nothing done.” His words didn’t match his actions. He let his hands roam up Rus’s arms under the sleeves of his coat. Rus took a step forward, nuzzling his forehead against Papyrus’s cheekbone. “Perhaps you need some guidance?” Rus furrowed his brow, an amused smile growing on his face. He pulled back to scrutinize Papyrus. He was blushing. “Maybe some... private tutoring?”

A moment of silence hung between them, Papyrus waiting for an answer and Rus trying to process the offer that had come completely unprompted.

“Is... Is this really happening right now?” He couldn’t help but laugh. Papyrus removed his hands, his face blushing that bright orange.

“I’m – I’m so sorry, I thought perhaps you were – Stars, that was wildly inappropriate I shouldn’t have as-“ Rus wrapped his arms around Papyrus’s neck and silenced him with a kiss. Their teeth clanked together awkwardly before they found their rhythm. Papyrus put his hands on Rus’s hips and pulled him close. He pulled away, his eye lights blurry. He could still see the smile on Papyrus’s face – dumb and happy. “Wowie.”

“I have absolutely nothing against some ‘private tutoring’,” he winked obviously, soliciting a giggle from his boyfriend. “I just never thought you’d ask. You always seemed too proper to allow such scandalous behavior to take place in your place of work.”

Papyrus cleared his throat. “Ordinarily I would not permit such a thing! However,” he rubbed his thumbs into Rus’s hips, “There’s an exception to every rule.” Rus leant forward with enthusiasm.

“Does that refer to me? Is that me? Am I the exception?” Papyrus pushed back against Rus, blushing hard at the teasing before sitting down.

“Forget I said anything. I just have a few more things to finish and then I’ll be ready to go.”

“Okay.” Rus wasn’t ready to forget what Papyrus said or willing to wait patiently. No, he walked around his boyfriend, standing behind him and placing his hands on his shoulders. He rubbed his thumbs into the shoulder blades and squeezed his collar bones with his finger tips. Papyrus rolled his neck at the sensation.

“What are you doing?”

“You just look so stressed,” Rus lied. He let his hands move and work, going up his neck and down to his ball joints and then, when he felt particularly bold, he reached his hands down the front of Papyrus’s shirt, spreading his fingers along his ribs. Papyrus tried to keep working, but Rus could feel the aroused flutter in his soul. He kissed his temple. “You know, now that I’ve thought it over, I think you’re right. My grades could greatly benefit from some special attention.” Papyrus put his pen down, swallowing in anticipation.

“Well, I could certainly oblige if you would require some extra help.”

“Oh, I require it all right.” He stood straight, waiting for Papyrus to tell him where to go. His boyfriend put away his gradebooks and folders, partially clearing the desk before he tapped it with his hand.

“Sit there, will you?”

“Yes, sir.” He walked around the uncomfortable looking chair and sat down on the desk that was likely older than either of them. Papyrus looked him over before standing. “So, got any study tips?” Papyrus hummed, spreading Rus’s knees apart.

“First, it’s important to keep an open mind.” He stood in the space closest to Rus’s crotch. He let his legs cross behind him, locking Papyrus in place. “Next,” he unzipped Rus’s hoodie, “leave no stone unturned.” He undid each and every button before opening Rus’s shirt and spreading his cold hands on his warm ribs. Rus leant back, using his hands to perch. Papyrus almost immediately pulled him up, keeping him from lounging. “Sitting up straight is, in general, a wonderful thing to keep in mind.” He cupped one side of Rus’s face, not to kiss him but so he could properly look him in the socket. He used his spare hand to undo Rus’s fly, giving him easy access to his pelvis. He stroked and teased, making Rus’s whole body warm and heat. He tried to squirm as his magic pooled. “Patience is also a virtue. Nothing good comes immediately, and you must wait and work for success.”

“Does practice make perfect, too?” Rus asked, practically breathless from the simple attention. He felt his magic pool and his pussy form. Papyrus’s exploring fingers slipped in him, massaging his walls.

“It does. You’re a fast learner.”

“Only cause I got a great teacher,” he nearly gasped, Papyrus’s two fingers scissoring open. He leant his head forward and rested it on his teacher’s shoulder. “Fuck.”

“Language, please,” he purred.

“Sorry, sir,” he said, the nickname naturally coming from him. Papyrus blushed, a smile spreading wide on his face.

“It’s quite all right, no need to fret over something so menial.” The hand that had been in Rus was now unbuttoning Papyrus’s own pants. Magic was swirling in his cradle, but nothing had formed yet.

“Can I help you with that?”

“Depends on what your motivations are.”

Rus smiled. “What can I say? I’m a hands-on learner.”

“Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.” Papyrus allowed Rus to bring his hands down. His magic was warm and energetic against his bones. He watched his hands interact with the magic. It curled and wisped around his fingers, and he had to sculpt what would enter him. It was long and warm, not terribly thick but incredibly gorgeous to look at as it glowed so brightly orange. Papyrus took his member in his hand, giving it an experimental stroke. “Well done.” Rus shrugged.

“I cheated. I used study notes.”

Papyrus clicked his tongue. “That is highly looked down upon.”

“I know, I’m such a disappointment.” Rus couldn’t hide his smile. He was trembling in anticipation, wanting his boyfriend to just enter him already.

“You really do need the extra help, don’t you?”

“I do. I need it badly.”

“Then it is my responsibility to provide it.” He set himself, getting his angle right before slipping into Rus. His ankles crossed behind Papyrus, latching to his hips as Papyrus moved in and out of him. He braced himself on the desk with his hands as Rus wrapped his arms around his shoulders, tucking his head forward and gladly taking every movement. Hands grabbed his wrists and pushed him back onto the desk, giving Papyrus the perfect vantage to suck on his neck. Every thrust shook the furniture in the office, making pencils roll and drawers thump against themselves.

Rus was breathless, blissed out not only from the present pleasure but from the realization of a fantasy. He’d dreamt of this moment dozens of times. Of coming to Papyrus’s office and getting completely ravaged by his usually correct teacher. Finally, here he was. The wood desk hard against his back, his wrists held above his head, Papyrus suckling and kissing his neck as he thrusted into him over and over and over again, hitting his g-spot and making him see stars while moaning in pleasure.

He was here. He was getting fucked over a desk. There were folders and attendance sheets under him, and Papyrus had no regard for anything else but him. He scraped his teeth against his vertebrae before biting down hard. Rus opened his mouth, trying to moan but feeling it trapped in his throat as his orgasm quaked through him. His release squeezed and tightened against Papyrus, bringing him to climax. He rocked slowly, riding out their orgasms together.

He remained hunched over, slowly kissing his vertebra until both their magic started to dissipate. Papyrus fastened his pants before helping Rus up to a sit, hugging him and kissing his cheek once he was upright. And then he kissed him fulling, guiding it by holding his neck. Rus hummed as the kiss ended.

“Say it,” Rus said.

“What?” Papyrus whispered.

“I know exactly what you’re thinking, so say it.”

Papyrus smiled. “That was highly innappropriate and unsanitary.” Rus laughed, giving him one last kiss on the cheek before getting off the desk. He fixed his pants, buttoned his shirt and tucked it back in. “Oh, I can’t believe we just did that.”

“I can. It was real fun.”

“It was better than I had imagined.” He was being stern, but smiling as he started fixing the papers they had dislodged.

Rus raised a brow. “You’ve imagined that before?”

Papyrus blushed, collecting his things into his satchel. “O-Of course, I have. I never thought it would happen, but... I-I’ll admit that I thought about it maybe once or twice.” Rus hugged his boyfriend from behind.

“Is there anything else you’ve thought about ‘once or twice’? If you tell me, we can see about making them happen.”

“Oh, I don’t know.”

“Don’t let your dreams be dreams, love,” he purred, pressing his forehead into his shoulder blade. Papyrus turned in Rus’s grip before wrapping his arm around his middle.

“I won’t anymore.” He kissed his temple. “So let’s go home and we’ll see what else we can achieve.” Rus’s face went purple and hot. They walked out of the building and to the car, arms wound around each other before separating to get in on their respective sides.

They held hands for the entirety of the drive home.

Chapter Text

Rus adjusted the dress. It was dark green with long sleeves. The bodice was loose but tied into a knot with the sash that rested just below his sternum. The skirt looked like a flowing three tear cake - three skirts layered each shorter than the last. The shoulders were broad, but the sleeve cuffs cinched to his wrists.

He had bought the dress with Papyrus, and his boyfriend assured him that it was perfect as he picked out a matching tie. Rus did like how it felt, but he purchased it knowing he’d be wearing it in front of dozens of people. No one’s eyes would be on him, but he was still nervous.

He fixed his dark headscarf. It fixed to his big white skull with a high knot that had a long dangling fabric coming out of it. It was almost like having a ponytail? He guessed? He mostly did it because he thought he looked stupid in dresses without something on his head. Also, the tight folds gave him a good place to put his phone and ID. He laughed at the image of a petty thief trying to steal from the folds of his scarf, standing on their toes to reach his height.

Barely satisfied, he came out of the bedroom and walked to the bathroom. Papyrus was standing in front of the mirror in his suit. The jacket was hanging on the towel rack as he tried to tie his tie.

Since moving in with him, Rus learned that all of his ties had been clip-ons and the poor skeleton couldn’t actually dress himself.

Rus came into the room and gave his boyfriend a little turn by pushing his shoulders, making him face him. “Wowie, you look gorgeous, flower,” he awed. Rus didn’t even try to hide his flattered blush. He made quick work of the soft green fabric, adjusting the length so it was just right before tucking it into his vest.

“I gotta look good if I’m gonna be on your arm,” he said. Papyrus held Rus’s elbows, looking into his eye lights.

“I assure you, it’s quite the other way around.” Rus loved the proximity. He stole a quick kiss before walking down the hall.

“Put on your coat or we’re gonna be late.”

“The Great Papyrus is never late!” He proclaimed, grabbing his coat and throwing it on, buttoning it quickly as Rus held the door for him. He raced to the elevator as Rus got the door, locking it before chasing after his boyfriend. They went down to his car and started the drive to the apple orchard.

They arrived early. They had to. Papyrus was in the wedding party and needed to be punctual. The party included two Alphyses, one Undyne, a Toriel, Frisk and Risky, two Grillbys, and Edge. Rus was technically part of the party, but only by association. He followed Papyrus closely, doing as told to help prepare for the wedding. They set up the trelis and the chairs, the flowers, and the scattered petals.

The wedding was due to start. Everyone, including Rus, was sitting in their places, Asgore Prime stood under the trellis with a tiny book, and the two brothers of honor stood at the beginning of the aisle with Frisk and Risky, waiting for the grooms to arrive. Rus had suggested calling them, but Edge waved his hand.

“THEY JUST OVERSLEPT. THEY’LL GET HERE IN TIME.” They were twenty minutes behind. Rus was starting to feel chilly in his seat. He untucked his phone and started scrolling through apps.

And then the music started. The grooms must have arrived.

He quickly put his phone back as he turned to watch the two humans walk up the aisle. Risky and Frisk were both ring-bearers, each carrying a pillow with one ring on it as they made their way up to Asgore before standing to the side. Then Red came walking up with Edge. Everyone stood.

Edge held his arm stiffly, Red slipping his hand in the crook of his elbow and rushing to keep up with his brother’s prompt steps. When he stopped, Red nearly stumbled. Edge looked him up and down before fixing his brother’s blue tie a final time. He looked down to his brother, something warm and respectful passing between them before he assumed his position as a best man. Red held his hands in front of him and looked down the aisle.

Rus’s heart thumped. He should have been looking at Sans, who was wearing a white suit with a red tie, clearly referencing Red’s magic. But his eyes were on Papyrus who simply held his brother’s hand as they made their way up.

Papyrus looked so handsome, visibly beaming with pride for what he was doing. Rus couldn’t help but feel just as happy. Papyrus glanced at him and gave him a quick wink before focusing back on Sans. When they got to the head of the aisle, Papyrus got down on his knees and gave Sans a hug. Rus could see the almost desperate grip of the older brother’s hands, clawing and taking as much from the exchange as possible before separating. Papyrus kissed Sans’s head before standing and gesturing for him to go to Red. He did as instructed, standing across from his double and joining their hands. Papyrus assumed his position beside him, mirroring Edge.

What followed was a hideously romantic ceremony. Asgore was fumbling through it, Edge kept looking at his watch, the kids were getting tired of standing... Sans and Red just kept looking at each other, dumb smiles on their faces. Every now and then Rus would look at Papyrus. Half of the time he was close to tears, looking at his brother. The other half he’d meet Rus’s eyes, his sockets full of joy and love.

The ceremony didn’t go on for long, before Rus knew it, Asgore as asking for the rings and the skeletons were saying their “I do’s”. They slipped their rings onto each other’s fingers and were given permission to kiss. Red lurched forward, taking Sans’s waist in his arms and diving right in. Sans just smiled, cupping Red’s face as he embraced the kiss.

Rus clapped, not out of obligation but genuine excitement for his boyfriend’s brother. He was witness the first alternate universe monster wedding. Yes, he had a personal stake in it from his personal desires, but he was also just so glad Sans and Red could find each other and become such an important part of each other’s lives.

They walked hand and hand back down the aisle, waving as they went to the barn. That was where they were holding the reception. Everyone made their way over. On the way, Papyrus came beside Rus and took his hand. Rus recognized the tension in his face. He was trying to hold back tears.

They took their seat in the barn and watched Sans and Red have their first dance. They moved like high schoolers slow-dancing at prom, leaving no room for Jesus as they rocked from foot to foot.

It was somehow incredibly them.

The DJ invited everyone to join them on the dance floor. Papyrus didn’t even ask Rus before he took his hand and pulled him up. They were the second couple on the floor and his boyfriend unabashedly put his hand on Rus’s waist and started guiding him with his other. They weren’t doing anything fancy. They took small steps, walking around the floor, Papyrus occasionally twirled Rus and he was thoroughly charmed, unable to hide his smile as he spun back against his boyfriend’s chest.

When the room filled up with more brave souls, Papyrus took them off the floor to sit at a now empty table. Rus leant back against his shoulder.

“How does it feel to be a brother-in-law?” Rus asked.

“Relieving,” Papyrus admitted. “It’s so good to know that someone else is now legally responsible for him so I don’t have to worry as much. Sans deserves more than just me caring about him.” Rus nodded in agreement. Seeing the way the two lazy skeletons clung to each other, still rocking on the floor even as the music got fast and hectic.

“You’re a good brother,” Rus said, holding his hand. “Trust me, I would know.” It was a joke now. Enough time had gone by. It had been a few months since the incident at the grocery store, and his freedom was getting to him. He wasn’t over it, but he could laugh about his trauma in a cathartic way. And Papyrus could laugh with him.

“Well, when I marry you, you’ll get three brothers who will care about you the way you deserve.” It was nonchalant, but Rus couldn’t hide his excitement.

“’When I marry you’?” He asked. He craned his head to look at Papyrus. His face was flushed.

“That is, uh, if we were to, or if you were to marry anyone with a sibling then – but in this case I suppose I was talking about me and I’m not saying that means we will get m-married or-“ Rus kissed him quickly.

“Don’t worry, love, I’m just glad we’re on the same page.”

He watched the cogs turn in Papyrus’s head for a second before he smiled widely and held him tight.

They hadn’t been dating long. Anything could happen and, for all Rus knew, their relationship could crumble, but Rus didn’t think it would. They were strong. They had already been through thick and thin together and had come out the other side. He was sure in their relationship and could vividly imagine a day where they would be joined together like Sans and Red were. They never talked about it – they’d only been dating for eight months, after all – but he had always assumed. But this was the first time Papyrus had echoed that sentiment, and it made his soul pump in excitement.

They both took a deep breath, happy to think about their possible future.

If Rus married Papyrus, he would get Sans and Red and Edge as family. But most importantly he was going to get Papyrus as a permanent life partner. And, honestly, he wanted nothing more.

He lay his head on Papyrus’s chest. “I love you.”

“Love you, too, flower.” The words made his soul spin and thrum in pure bliss.

His future was bright, and he was excited to live for it.

Chapter Text

The semester ended. Papyrus had finally finished submitting final grades and was free. Not to mention Rus had finished his second complete semester with flying colors. They went out to a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate.

The food was delicious and the conversation was wonderful, as always. Afterwards, they took a walk along a boardwalk. Papyrus put his coat over Rus’s sleeveless shoulders, fighting against the December chill. How his boyfriend could wear sleeveless dresses in the winter, Papyrus couldn’t comprehend. But he was glad to have an opportunity to be gentlemanly. They sat on a bench on the pier and looked out onto the water. They could see their breaths, but Papyrus didn’t care. He didn’t want the night to end just yet.

“Are you registered for next semester’s classes?” Papyrus asked.

“Yep.” He recognized the grind of his boyfriend’s teeth. He was stealing his courage to say something. “I changed my major.”

That wasn’t necessarily what Papyrus had expected. It wasn’t an unpleasant surprise, but it still caught him off guard. “You’re not pursuing history anymore?”

Rus shrugged. “Honestly, I mostly chose that path so I could take classes from you.” He should have seen that coming. He nuzzled Rus’s skull, rubbing the back of his hand with his thumb.

“Why am I not surprised?”

“Cause you know me so well.” Papyrus kissed his head. “I’m gonna study creative writing,” he announced. “With a concentration in poetry.”

That made him sit a little straighter. He did occasionally notice Rus scribbling down in small notebooks. He did it before bed and throughout the school day. Sometimes he’d even write while they were watching TV. He’d always wondered what Rus was doing, but he hadn’t wanted to pry and infringe on something potentially private. “Is that what you’re always scribbling down in those notebooks?”

“You noticed? What are you, stalking me?” It was a joke. He could tell by the nudging of his shoulder against his ribs.

“It’s hard not to watch your every move when you’re completely adorable.” He brought his hands to Rus’s sides, tickling his floating Ribs. Rus flushed and giggled before pushing him away. Papyrus permitted the distance, easily falling back into a position of comfort.

“I actually wrote you something,” he said. Papyrus couldn’t help the way he perked. Rus wrote him something? He actually wrote him something? He’d always read books of suitors writing poems about the people they loved, but he thought it was a practice of fiction. He didn’t know or really believe that anyone actually did that.

“You wrote me a poem?” He had to confirm it. Rus nodded. “Wowie! I’m so flattered. When can I read it?” He didn’t want to put too much pressure on Rus, but he was dying of curiosity to see what Rus wrote.

“I can do you one better.” A shaking hand reached into his head scarf and pulled out a piece of paper folded into a triangle. He passed it over and Papyrus gingerly took it. He unfolded it, trying not to rip it at all. The poem was hand written in Rus’s scrawl, except there was something particularly legible about it. He must’ve tried to make sure Papyrus could read it.

He leant back, ready to read, feeling Rus peering over to read along and gauge his reaction accordingly.

And then he had an idea.

“Actually,” he asked, “would you mind reading it to me?”

Rus’s blush was prominent. “What?”

“They’re words that came from your heart. I think I’d enjoy it the most if I heard it in your voice.” He offered to paper to Rus. He was hesitant, frozen in place by the request. Papyrus tried to offer a placating smile. “Or not, I can also read it myself.”

“No! No, I’ll... I’ll read.” His shaking hands took the paper from Papyrus. He replaced his arm over his shoulder, trying to steady him. He closed his eyes and listened.

“A seed doesn’t know it is planted.
It wakes up one day and reaches winding roots out.
It drinks what it can, it bursts through the dirt.
It grows tall with energy and life.
It doesn’t know where it’s going.

A sprout doesn’t know how to flower.
One day it gets top heavy.
It feels something stretch and expand,
reaching out to welcome the bees.
It knows the bees like it.

A flower doesn’t know it wilts.
It curls its leaves and drops dead weight.
It gives it’s all for one more day.
A flower doesn’t taste the sun.
It only knows the absence of warmth.

A flower knows when its stem bends in half.
A flower knows when its petals fall to the soil
A flower knows when the bees stop coming.
A flower knows when it’s alone.
A flower doesn’t know why.

A flower knows when it’s pulled from the soil.
It knows when it’s roots touch fresh dirt.
It remembers what water feels like on its leaves.
It knows how sweet it tastes to its roots.

A flower knows how the sun can warm it,
but only after it’s been in the dark.
A flower knows that water can grow it,
but only after it’s been starved.

A flower knows when it blooms,
when it’s stem grows strong and its leaves grow back.
The bees return and its petals can hold them,
no longer missing the company it lost.

It loves the sun and the water,
the soil and the bees,
the hands that put it into its new garden.
A flower knows what makes it grow.
And a flower is grateful.

It blooms bright in thanks.”

Papyrus opened his eyes, letting the words sink into him. At first, he didn’t understand how it was a love poem. Nothing in it seemed to involve him or their relationship. But then the seed turned into a flower. That was his nickname for Rus. His flower. The flower he had watched wilt in that first semester. A flower that was nearly lost until he took him somewhere safe. Rus may not have recognized everything that had been happening to him, but he knew it now.

And he was grateful to Papyrus for helping him.

“So... So what do you think?” Rus asked. Papyrus lifted his head off his boyfriend’s skull. “I, um, I’ve been workshopping this all semester,” he admitted. “It could still use a little work, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to give it to you, so... did you like it? It’s okay if you don’t. It only got me a B and my professor thought it was repetitive, so I’d understand if... you...”

Papyrus took Rus’s chin with one finger and craned his neck so he could give him a soft, deep, passionate kiss, softly silencing him. Rus hummed into it before they pulled away. He cupped Rus’s cheek and looked him in the sockets. “It was beautiful.” Rus blushed. “It’s a pleasure to know you and help you grow, flower.” He put his head against Papyrus’s chest. “I have one suggestion though.” Rus stiffened, pulling away nervously.

“It’s the ending, isn’t it? Jane said it shouldn’t be about gratitude-“

“No, no, the ending is fine,” Papyrus assured. He played with the fabric of Rus’s head scarf. “I just think you ought to add a line.”

“And that line is?”

“A flower is loved.” Rus blushed purple again. He tried to cover his face with his hand.

“Is it hot our out here or is it just me?”

“It’s thirty-eight degrees outside, flower.” He kissed his temple before wrapping one arm behind Rus and one under his knees. He lifted. Rus didn’t make a sound. Papyrus made such a habit of picking him up that he just silently accepted it. “And that temperature may definitely wilt your petals.”

“Oh, stop.” He wrinkled the paper in his nervous grip and hid his face behind it. “Can’t the poem just live in the moment? You don’t have to reference back to it.”

“It’s true, I don’t have to.” He walked them to the car, putting Rus down in the passenger seat before climbing into the driver’s. He leant across the median, meeting Rus halfway. “But it’s the only poem of yours I’ve ever heard and it was positively absolutely lovely.” The praise made Rus smile. “Show me more poems and I may not worry so much about the hydration of your roots.”

“Do you even know what that symbolizes?”

“Of course!” He smiled, knowing he was wrong but letting the false words come out anyway. “The importance of hydrating because, before I met you, you only ever drank liquid sugar!”

Rus laughed. “True, but noooooo.”

“And the sun symbolizes how you hated going outside!”

“Stop!”

“And the bees are obviously – “

“Don’t say it! I know what you’re gonna say you don’t have to –“

“THEY REPRESENT BEES!”

Rus guffawed out a laugh. He laughed and rolled, holding his middle and turning purple with joy. Papyrus would never get tired of inciting that reaction. He looked forward to bringing Rus joy every day. He put the car in gear and started driving.

A gardener knows when a flower blooms. And Rus was bursting with petals from every limb of his bush. He was beautiful. And, while Papyrus did feel partially responsible, he knew the gardener didn’t deserve all the credit. The flower had to choose to grow.

Rus knew where he was growing to now. He knew how to help himself. He knew how to surround himself with good people. And Papyrus was lucky enough to be one of those good people.

A Papyrus knows he is good.
A Rus knows he is deserving.
A flower knows it is loved.
A love knows it is true.

“Stop staring at me and watch the road!” Rus demanded, a laugh still in his voice. “You can look at me when we get home all you want.” Papyrus did as told, unable to hide his smile. He let the silence fill the car, comfortable and warm as Rus clasped his hand across the median, sending pulsing magic through Papyrus’s bones.

He kissed his knuckles, reciprocating the soul-based affection, running the words of the poem through his skull again. He’d have to come up with something equally as romantic to give Rus in turn.

But for now, he could just be happy, grateful to have such a beautiful thriving flower in his life.