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Cat's Promptober 2019

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INDEX
Since every chapter will potentially have a different AU, ship or lack of ship, I'm going to try to keep an updated index so people can easily find what they are interested in.

Prompt 1: Ring (Kustard)

Prompt 2: Mindless (No Ship)

Prompt 3: Bait (Mafia Kustard)

Prompt 4: Freeze (Sansby)

Prompt 5: Build (ErrorInk)

Prompt 6: Husky (No Ship)

Prompt 7: Enchanted (Deity!Sans×Mortal!Papyrus

Prompt 8: Frail (Pre-Spicy Kedgeup)

Prompt 9: Swing (DeathDance)

Prompt 10: Pattern (US!Soriel)

Prompt 11: Snow (Implied Offscreen Reader/Papyrus)

Prompt 12: Dragon (No ship)

Prompt 13: Ash (Grillster)

Prompt 14: Overgrown (No ship)

Prompt 15: Legend (No ship)

Prompt 16: Wild (No ship)

Prompt 17: Ornament (No ship)

Prompt 18: Misfit (Platonic Chasriel)

Prompt 19: Sling (Alphyne)

Prompt 20: Tread (No Ship)

Prompt 21: Treasure (SpicyHoney)

Prompt 22: Ghost (No Ship)

Prompt 23: Ancient (Sansgoriel)

Prompt 24: Dizzy (Tango)

Prompt 25: Tasty (No ship)

Prompt 26: Dark (AfterDeath)

Prompt 27: Coat (Implied Sanster)

Prompt 28: Ride (No ship)

Prompt 29: Injured (No ship)

Prompt 30: Catch (Edgeberry)

Prompt 31: Ripe (Frans)

Chapter Text

Wake up. Have breakfast. Sleep at his sentry station. Sneak off to Grillby’s for lunch. Sell hotcats in Hotland. Sleep some more. Go home. Have spaghetti for dinner. Sleep…

It was routine. His routine. He did the same thing, every day, for years now, so why did it suddenly feel wrong? Ill-fitted like the suit he wore when he did stand up comedy at MTT Resort. Sans blamed it on the box. He rarely went down into the basement anymore (why did he even have that dusty machine?) but the last time he did, he found something new on the counter. No, it couldn’t be new. He was the only one that had the key.

Little did he know that he was Pandora, too curious to leave alone what was best ignored. He flipped open the lid and instantly, his Soul ached, agony lancing through him like a forgotten battle wound. Sans clutched his chest, head full of static, staring down at the simple silver band resting on top of a photograph. He knew instantly the ring would fit him.

And staring up from the photo was him and a cluster of skeletons. There was a bundle in his arms (a baby, his baby), and a youthful Papyrus grinning at the camera, dressed in the nicest yellow coat he’d ever seen. Nothing like that ever fell Underground...Beside Papyrus was his dark imposter (why did he want to call him Edge?), in gothic black. With one arm wrapped around Sans’ shoulders was…

...was…

The name skipped and stuttered.

(Husband)

He was sharp-toothed and dangerous looking, like he never grew out of that punk teenage phase. But he looked so...proud. So happy.

(In love)

Sans closed the box.

But the damage was done.

Another broken memory to add to the list.

He went along with his life. His feet dragging even more than before. It all felt wrong. So wrong. But the past was gone. It couldn’t be returned. Right?

(So why did it feel so familiar to find Papyrus’ scarf in the snow? To stand across from a human child in the Judgement Hall? Why was it a relief to ‘port into his basement, near falling to dust, and gaze upon the photo?)

If broken memories were all he had left to cling to in his dying moments, then he’d let them carry him away.

Chapter Text

It staggered towards him like a marionette with half-cut strings and negligent puppeteer. The demon. The angel. The human. No...it wasn’t human. It couldn’t be. Not anymore. There was nothing human in those eyes. Just raw DETERMINATION and unfocused rage. Sans was an obstacle. Another tally mark on the handle of its knife. Another LV to add to its name.

He stepped to the side, offered a false truce that it denied a hundred times before.

Sans hoped.

(HoPed)

If it would just give up. Just submit to Death. Or even restart the world anew like he knew it could…The demon hobbled forwards, weapon slipping from its fingers, clattering against the marble floor in...surrender? Sans held his arms open. The demon smiled. Then gasped, choking on yet another final breath.

For a split second, Sans thought he saw a glimmer of life in that glassy gaze before the world once more went dark.

Chapter Text

“yer just like temptin’ me, don’t yer, level bait?”

With a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin, Sans stared up at Red, seemingly not at all concerned for his state. One would think being caught half-drunk by the leader of a rival mafia and tied to a chair in his basement would make the lazy bag of funnybones a little nervous.

“dunno what’cha mean, buddy-o-pal.” Red slammed a fist against the wall beside Sans’ head, and didn’t earn so much as a flinch. Sans tsked, “easy, easy. what that wall ever do to ya?”

Red leaned over Sans, close enough he could smell the whiskey and ketchup on his captive’s breath. One might think that the idiot was only acting this cocky because he was inebriated. But no, he was always this annoying. Always showing up when and where he didn’t belong, and acting all innocent, before making a grand escape. Anybody who was in the business knew better. There was nothing innocent about The Judge. With a singular LV and pitiful stats, it was easy to mistake Sans for a non-threat, a piece of FreeEXP that would eventually be eaten alive by the criminal world he dared to exist within.

But who needed LoVe when you had Karma?

It was a dangerous game they both played. Sans daring to get piss drunk in Red’s territory, and Red having the gall to kidnap instead of shanking him. One of these days, one of them would end up dead. Red because he was a notorious son-of-a-bitch with a hit list pinned to his back a mile long, and Sans because he lacked a sense of self-preservation and didn’t care if he lived to see another morning.

“as fun as this sleepover has been, i got places to be, people to meet, naps to take…” Sans effortlessly slid out of the chair and under Red’s arm, his binds falling to the floor. Sneaky fucker. He patted Red’s shoulder and swiped his hat, “see ya around, red.” He was gone through a shortcut before Red could grab him. He growled and loosened his tie.

Oh, the level bait was tempting him alright.

Chapter Text

Snowdin was a pleasant little town. The fire elemental had even come to enjoy the perpetual snow. It reminded him a little of the Surface, and those far gone years of when he was wild-hearted spark that didn’t think he’d let himself be cowed by mere humans. How wrong he was...Grillby lost most of his family in the war, and what remained of it lived mostly in Hotland. Though his niece, Fuku, visited often, always complaining about the cold and damp.

Grillby locked the bar door behind him.

He had to start setting up soon, but first, a walk. He moved through the near barren streets, his flame dim in the false light of early morning. A rabbit monster waved from a bakery window, the scent of cinnabuns thick in the air. One of the Guard Dogs gave him a salute as they walked past on patrol. It was nice. Simple, plain, nice.

“SANS! SANS! WHERE ARE YOU?” Grillby paused as the younger of the skeleton brothers hurried towards him, sweat beading on his skull. Ever since Halloween, Papyrus wore a rather bright costume, which made him all the easier to spot. And Sans, the elder brother, was a...friend. A good friend. And a good brother if what he said in a drunken ramble was true, about how he made the costume by hand so Papyrus could be the ‘coolest monster’ at the party. “AH, MISTER GRILLBY SIR, HAVE YOU SEEN SANS RECENTLY? HE WENT TO YOUR ESTABLISHMENT LAST NIGHT AND NEVER CAME HOME. I STAYED UP ALL NIGHT WAITING FOR MY BEDTIME STORY AND...AND...I WAS HOPING HE WAS...WITH YOU?”

It was no secret that Papyrus didn’t like Grillby’s bar or his food, but that was likely due to how much time Sans had spent there as of late. Grillby always cut Sans off before he became too inebriated, but the past few months...his visits had become regular. His lunch breaks to guzzle down ketchup and evenings spent playing poker with the Dogs were replaced with whiskey and an ever straining smile. Grillby knew the signs. Sans was losing HoPe.

The fire elemental could do no more than shake his head, his flames dimming with concern. Papyrus nodded, “O-OH. PLEASE TELL ME IF YOU FIND OUT ANYTHING ABOUT HIS WHEREABOUTS. IT’S NOT LIKE HIM TO BE GONE THIS LONG. HE...HE NEVER MISSES OUR STORY TIME.” Then he was off, shouting Sans’ name with all the barely shielded fear any of them felt when a family member ‘disappeared’. Grillby shivered. Was it possible that Sans? He shook away the prospect.

No, Sans was fine.

He probably fell asleep in a snow poff. Which wasn’t a comforting prospect given that not even a skeleton could tolerate the cold forever. Grillby kept a watch as he finished his walk, toeing large lumps of snow and peeking within the igloos Sans liked to use for pranking the villagers. But nothing. With his flames burning low and nervous, he returned to the bar. Standing in the middle of the main floor, he found his shoulders sagging. So many Monsters were lost back in the War. And their race’s subsequent imprisonment brought their numbers lower. Only the six souls in Asgore’s possession kept the younger generation filled with Hope, unaware of how long those centuries felt to those who’d lived through each human’s fall. He thought that maybe, Papyrus’ youthful optimism would keep Sans from that cusp he’d always seemed to live upon since the brothers showed up in Snowdin. But the younger brother was an adult…one who could very well meet a nice partner and want to start a family.

Leaving Sans behind.

Acquaintance to many, friend to few.

Pushing down the guilt that tried to worm its way into his Soul, Grillby began to set up. Taking chairs down from the tables, filling condiment bottles, tidying up, and taking out any trash he might have missed from the night before. He was in the back room, turning on the fryer, when he heard the knock. Grillby cocked his head as he went to answer. People knew he wasn’t open yet.

When the door swung open, his flames went bright, sparking high.

“h-hey, grillbyz. s’posed t-to ask whos t-there,” Sans was dangerously ashen, bones clattering as he shivered. Unable to help himself, Grillby pulled Sans into a hug, his Soul humming with relief. “w-whoah there buddy. heh. what’s got you all stoked up?”

“You’re freezing.”

One of the few monsters that understood the language of the elementals, Sans gave a strained grin, “naw, i’m all bones. the cold goes right through me. heh...eh...say, this is...kinda nice.” Grillby realized he was still clinging to the skeleton. And that Sans wasn’t pulling away.

“What happened to you?”

No answer came. Instead, Sans went limp in his arms, sound asleep. Grillby touched his forehead to Sans’ skull, clutching a little tighter. Regardless of the why, he was thankful that his worst fears were proven wrong.

Chapter Text

“Woah, you’re really angry, aren’t you?”

If he had the capacity to be nervous, Ink would be sweating right now, a fly entangled in the web of the Destroyer’s blue threads. He choked as one of the strands tightened around his throat. His phalanges twitched reflexively, wanting to sip from his paint vials to feel...a more appropriate emotion. Before Error strung him up like one of his dolls, they were having a pleasant enough conversation, and Yellow still pulsed through his marrow.

Strange to feel so happy while being dangled from the throat by his incoherently glitching foe.

Error pulled on the threads and scowled right into Ink’s face, “t-t-trAitor.” He was close to a crash if his distorted speech was any indication. “I S-shOuld kiLl yoU.”

Ink blinked, his left eyelight shifting into a question mark, “Have I forgotten something again? I have no idea why you’re so angry with me. I don’t think I’ve broken our truce—”

“sCRew thE t-t-trUce!”

“Heh. You look so funny flustered. Ease up, you’re just hurting yourself—” His words were throttled by the threatened cutting off of mana supply in his neck. Oh boy. Just because he couldn’t die permanently didn’t meant being ripped apart by the Destroyer was any fun. It was always so messy cleaning up afterwards. He had to figure out who he was. Find his Paint. Find the Star Sanses...Patch up any broken AUs…

Suddenly, the pressure lifted, and Ink dropped free. He couldn’t see Broomy, but he had to be nearby.

Oh, oh...Yep. A Crash. Error was stiff and his body covered in glitches, a high pitched noise high in his throat. Ink sighed and rubbed his cervical bone before checking his scarf for notes. “Don’t laugh when Error says he loves you, he gets upset…” Oooh, right. He eyed the black-boned skeleton. The abomination that once sought to destroy the very multiverse that Ink defended. The monster that fell in love with the soulless artist.

A love Ink couldn’t reciprocate.

A love Error hated himself for holding.

A love that was built on pillars of dust and pigment.

Error shuddered as he finished rebooting, and Ink quickly sipped from his vial of Pink.

“I’m sorry, love. You know how my memory is. Forgive me?”

In that mismatched stare, Ink saw fear and hatred and bitter hope. This was for the sake of the Creators and the AUs they crafted. For Error himself. A false dance. An illusion. But a wonderful one when they both played their part.

“shut up, squid.”

Though he had to wonder. How many times would it take before Error couldn’t endure his castle of cards being knocked down around him?

Chapter Text

Tucking it in only made things worse. The buttons along the front strained against his chest and stomach, and the taut fabric around his shoulders started to strangle. A little white button popped, then another, and before long, poor Asgore was left with a half open shirt as he stood helplessly in the cramped little changing room. Barely able to turn, he called out, “Are you sure this is the largest size?”

A shuffle and then Frisk chirped through the door, “In that pattern, yeah. I know you like the flowers but…”

Asgore sighed, “Yes, yes. I’m too...full figured for a standard gentleman's clothing. But these Hawian shirts are usually suited for someone of my size.”

“Are you calling yourself fat, dad?”

“Tori mentioned I’d gained weight since we came above...maybe…”

BAM!

Asgore blinked, “My Child, did you just hit the door? That is terribly rude.”

“I don't care! I won’t let you call yourself fat. You’re not fat. You’re fluffy! You’re, uh, what’s the word...husky! Mom’s just being...mom.”

He allowed himself a small smile, “Well then, I do not believe this shirt comes in a size befitting a ‘husky’ fellow such as myself. A shame. Maybe we should try the next store you suggested?”

Frisk let out a whoop as they walked away, “Oh yeah, more shopping! You’re going to be one hot dadio when we’re through.”

“That child..” Asgore shook his head and unfastened the rest of the buttons, before appraising his bare upper body in the mirror. Frisk always had a way of seeing the best in people. Maybe he could try to see what they did...if only for today.

Chapter Text

It was the best apple Papyrus ever tasted. Beautiful, ripe, red—another half dozen laid resting in the offering dish balanced on the statue’s hands. Ever since he started cleaning up the shrine and roused Sans from his Long Sleep, the fading god left tokens of appreciation for Papyrus to find. Sometimes it was flowers. Other times a bundle of dried wood. And then there were times like now, where Sans left food.

“it’s yours to take, always,” he insisted in that not-so-long-ago season when the offerings began.

“BUT IT’S YOUR SHRINE!” Papyrus protested.

“exactly. i get to say do with what’s placed on it as i feel fit. and if i want to fill it with the tastiest berries in the forest so that you can make a pie, then i can. it pleases me, mortal, to do so.”

And that was that.

Papyrus wasn’t sure where Sans found the apples or if he magicked them himself with some divine power, but he hardly cared for the details. Not when the fruit tasted this good. He yawned before biting into a second treat. He hadn’t seen Sans yet. The nature god didn’t always appear when Papyrus came to work, but in his isolation, it was rare for him to give up an opportunity to talk with another, even if that person was a mere mortal.

He sat down beside the altar, oddly fatigued. He was going to start ripping up floorboards in the shrine today, so that he could replace rotting wood with new panels, but that might be too rigorous. Papyrus took another bite. His chin bobbed. Maybe he was coming down with some illness...his work hadn’t been tiring. He slept his full two hours last night. Papyrus leaned against the statue, tilting his head up to admire his handiwork. Ancient stone once more bright and smooth because of his tender care, Sans’ likeness knelt in humble acceptance of what his guests wished to gift him.

The apple slipped from gloved fingers, surface dulling as it rolled through the dirt. Oh no! Papyrus reached for it, whole body trembling. His vision blurred. Weak. He felt so weak. He curled his hand around the apple and slumped against the statue. Sans. He needed Sans! There was something terribly amiss! But no words came forth. Nothing but slurred hums. And then, a blink later, he went limp, collapsing to the ground, in unwilling supplication beneath the statue’s hooded gaze.

As unconsciousness consumed him, a figure slipped from between shadow and sunbeam, robes fluttering around its form in an ethereal dance. It stepped upon the earth and wildflowers broke the surface in full bloom, matching the clusters of blossoms hanging from the slim antlers jutting from its skull. A perfect match to the statue.

Sans knelt beside Papyrus, a fond smile on his skull, his expression one of nothing but serenity. Around them sprouted all manner of flora, the joy in his Soul too bright to contain. It was all because of Papyrus that he woke. That he lived. Being forgotten spelled more than loneliness for a god. Lack of belief was their end. He touched his fair mortal’s cheekbone.

“One day the shrine will be complete. You will grow older. Find love. Have a family. And you will live and die without knowing the full extent of what you’ve done,” Sans gathered Papyrus in his arms, renewed strength making the mortal as light as air to him. “I can’t allow that. I couldn’t bear it, my mortal. So please, forgive me for what I must do. For us both.”

He couldn’t lose Papyrus.

Not when he knew how to keep him forever.

Maybe one day their children would finish renovating the shrine.

Chapter Text

"yer shaking."

Red guided Sans from the Judgement Hall, back towards the depths of the castle. He didn't have to say another word as they walked; the way Sans stared at the ground, obediently following, it told him he was shaken enough. They warned him about leaving the inner rooms of the castle. Told him that no matter how the Judge called him, that he was best off staying in their chambers. It was a terribly small world he was isolated to, but it was safe. Sheltered from the worst of it. Edge was working on bettering the Underground as King, but one did not wipe away centuries of dust and traditions in a few months.

Sans came to them shortly after Asgore's reign ended. He was punted sideways into a foreign universe by an anomaly, unable to get back, too weak and broken to endure without intervention. Sans needed them. (Hated them.) Red recalled those early days, Sans' non-existent willpower, his HoPe so pitiful that it amazed them that he wasn't dust, the way he shrugged in helpless compliance despite the way Karma had to be screaming its revulsion. He expected his dark reflection to kill him. He welcomed it with a grim smile and open lack of self preservation. Nothing left to lose; nothing to gain by living. Red almost granted him Mercy. Put the shameful creature out of his misery. But Edge saw his limp form on the golden tiles, murky light haloing he and Red, and Spared him.

It took weeks for Sans to regain a spark. To recoil back from their presence with disgust. Disdain. Red recalled the satisfaction that curled in his Soul the first time Sans spat judgemental bullshit his way, the Judge in him no longer willing to sit silent. Red welcomed condemnation. Basked in the unveiling of his sins. How he corrupted his own Karma. Let his Papyrus gain LV. Forced Sans to live another day when he beyond begging to be laid low.

"what kind of twisted pervert takes advantage of their own brother like you do?" Sans sneered as he ran dry on accusations, nothing left in his arsenal to provoke Red into a fight. Into defense. All he received was a toothy smile and a demeaning pat on the skull.

Sans didn't belong. He was too soft for their world. But they kept him all the closer for it.

Today was a reminder of why.

The emptiness in those dark sockets, the waver in his step. Sans saw things. Things they tried to shelter him from since the beginning.

"boss won't be happy when he finds out yer went into the judgement hall alone," Red began, breaking the silence that had fallen between them. They were almost to their chambers. "he worries."

"...okay…" Ah, so they were back to that again. His spite was infinitely preferable. Made him seem a little less eager to cease existing. Red pulled him along until they were in the main bedroom, a place Sans avoided like the truth. Little eyelights bloomed again, small and nervous, jittering back-and-forth. His room was across the hall. It was his private sanctuary. Not even Red dared cross the threshold to invade. Edge, in his infernal politeness, let the doorway act as a barrier between them.

Red kept walking them until they were in the bathroom, turning on the hot water to fill the tub. Without a word, he tugged at Sans' hoodie, and the smaller skeleton shook his head in protest. Red chuckled, "cute. now take this off. yer need a bath."

The spark returned to those eyelights, bright and fierce and temporary...a flashbang in the void of night. Then he slumped against Red, "just do whatever you want. you're gonna do it anyway."

"awe, careful with those blank checks sweetheart. someday someone might cash in on your bullshit," he lifted Sans' hoodie away, and dropped it to the floor. There was leeriness in his gaze, but Red blithely continued onwards, until Sans was barebones and immersed in hot water. Modesty was a funny notion when you've literally seen all the other had to offer. "want company?" Red laughed at his appalled grimace. "hey, yer said do whatever i want. mebbe i want to do yer."

A cobalt flush deepened across his cheekbones as Sans sank deeper into the water, "real funny, dirty brother fucker."

“yer just jealous.”

“how’d you reach that faulty logic?”

“seen the way yer look at him when yer think he aint lookin’,” Red waggled a bottle of bone wash in Sans’ face. “view’s best when he’s in those leather pants of his without the cloak.”

Sans shoved a wet hand at Red, as it would shut him up, “i’m not you. he looks like...i just…”

“he looks like yer precious baby brother, but he aint. he don’t need yer coddlin’. but if yer bat yer eyelids at him real sweet, he’d bundle yer in even more bubble wrap. boss is a fool for a soft touch from a piece of fluff like yerself.” Red captured Sans’ wrist, held it against his jaw, the gesture too intimate to be anything but intentional. “yer can’t go home, sansy. it’s ‘bout time yer make one here. yer might even find yer...enjoyin’ yerself.”

“i’m not a whore.”

“nah, when yer sleepin’ wit a rich guy fer his cash and protection, that makes you a mistress. difference,” Sans tried to pull away. “he’d make yer a good lover. play yer cards right, he’d make yer a better husband.”

“and where does that leave you?”

“awe. considerin’ my feelings? how precious. i’ll be right where i’ve always been. even if yer plan on being the jealous type, he’ll come to me when he needs me. you’re too fragile fer his bad days, sweetheart. but i don’t mind if yer wanna watch.”

“pervert.”

Red let go of Sans’ wrist, and watched him bathe, his bones gaining a blue tinge of humiliation as he continued to play voyeur. “that’s not a no. yer considerin’ it. i can see it all over yer skull. tempted by the thought of a little stolen paradise in hell. hard to turn down even the smallest bit of pleasure when there’s so little good in the world.” The other skeleton stood up and struggled out of the tub, wordlessly seeking a towel. Red smirked in triumph.

“he’s good wit kids too,” Red added, lounging idly against the white ceramic as Sans scrubbed away the damp from his bones. “four’s a good number. mebbe five. some heirs will help inspire a population boom, i think.”

A wet towel smacked him in the face.

When he pulled it down, Sans was gone, already in the bedroom, likely rummaging through the wardrobe to steal something of Red’s to ruin like a pissy feline.

Red sighed and stared at the empty doorframe, his voice quiet, “jus’ let us take care of yer, sans…”

Chapter Text

They'd done this song and dance so often that it almost felt intimate. After keeping pace with every twist and twirl, each frantic beat of tormented base, Reaper drew his scythe back, ready to end this Sans' misery. Dubbed Dance in his mind, his battles with the Human were some of the most interesting to watch. Of all the 'classic' Sanses, Dance was the most energetic, his final stand against total genocide an explosive display of power and grace, neither he nor the human standing still for a second as their bodies wove in deadly unison. It was always a shame when the Human sliced open his ribcage and left him bleeding on the floor.

"papyrus," Dance muttered as he crawled to lean against a column.

Reaper rolled his shoulders. It was time. He couldn't deny a Soul's call. Invisible to mortal sight, he resigned himself to his morbid duty with a grim chuckle, "what's the god of death's favorite dance?" The mortal didn't reply. His scythe carved a lethal arc, "the swing!"

THUNK!

Wait. Reaper blinked, dislodging his weapon from the architecture. Dance was no longer in his usual place. Where…?

"heh. good one. a real rib tickler." Reaper spun to see the dying skeleton once more on his feet, having used the sputtering remnants of his magic to shortcut to safety. "y’see, the past couple resets i got this real creepy feeling. like i had one foot in the grave. didn't realize until now that i was dancing with death."

“you know how this ends, mortal. why not waltz this way and end your suffering?” He was not an unjust god. Perhaps not the kindest, but deaths like these were best handled by him instead of his brother. Like any Sans, Dance’s soul was tricky, sometimes crumbling in relief and other times rioting with unresolved violence. “because whether you fight or not, your soul is mine.”

Dance bent backwards, a willow tree in a hurricane as Reaper’s scythe carved a new path. Blood dripped to the floor. His hoodie saturated both front and back. It was a beautiful, gruesome sight to behold. He straightened and wiped a smear of crimson from his teeth, “the waltz is overrated. how ‘bout we tango instead?” And just like that, as if he wasn’t literally a breath away from dusting, Dance’s soulsong filled the Judgement Hall anew, beyond care or fear for his sputtering reserves. He was literally running on less than nothing. Each stolen beat carving its price in marrow. Reaper brandished his scythe with a twirl.

It was rare that a mortal was able to perceive him when he did not wish to be seen. A primitive desire swirled in the hollow of his ribcage—not quite admiration nor lust—no, he wished to keep this one. To drag him away into the depths of the Underworld to be his muse. If only his cursed touch wasn’t as deadly as his weapon. Reaper sighed and summoned a circle of bones to cage them within. “jive got places to be, mortal, but i suppose if we hustle, i won’t fall too far behind by entertaining your final request.” Dance was grace and careless aggression incarnate. He struck a challenging pose, and then he was moving, Reaper chasing him, not with bullets, but with style. He was a swirling figure in black, cloak flaring around him as he allowed Dance’s magic to envelop him.

As the ‘lazy brother’, few knew the elder god of death could dance with the best of them. In fact, in his many millennia of existing, he picked up a number of hobbies, from chess to fiddle playing, and on a rare occasion, when a mortal defied him or wished to bid for the life of a loved one, he would rise to their challenges. Sometimes, it was the only way for them to accept their end.

On-and-on they spun and twisted, neither gaining ground.

One might think this exchange would last eternity, but Reaper banished his weapon and closed in like a shadow, causing Dance’s steps to stutter, leaning back from the looming threat within arm’s reach. He was plastered in sweat, the corners of his smile starting to droop, his sockets soft along the edges. Ah, so that was the difference. Too much DETERMINATION. Instead of bone flaking from brittle phalanges, his form was starting to melt, his willpower both salvation and destruction. Dance dropped to the ground to escape, blood and a thick, putty-like ooze sticking to the tile floor where a palm splayed flat to support his weight. Reaper didn’t let him go far, cornering him against the wall of bones within a few more measures of Dance’s soulsong.

“curtain call,” Reaper whispered, his cloak flaring as if possessed by a life of its own, closing around them both. He felt a surge of magic as the mortal tried to grab his soul, but he was too weak, too strained, to even shove him away. Dance’s eyelights guttered out. No escape. The god’s smile widened as he offered a hand. A rare offer of agency. Dance could continue to struggle, or accept the inevitable. No scythes or threats.

His body shook, breaths coming sharp and short, DETERMINATION welling into his sockets like tears. Broken. He was delightfully broken. But beautiful in his defeat. If only...if only…

Dance steeled his spine, squared his shoulders, and laughed. Sharp, bitter, hollow. And then...he gave up. He grasped Reaper’s hand with the careless ease of a man who couldn’t bear to fight any longer to stay on a world that didn’t want him. Reaper held his false breath. Nothing happened. Dance didn’t fall to dust. That cracked, blistered, ugly mess within his ribcage, the remnants of his soul, stayed firmly in place. Kept beating. Dance peered up at him with haggard expectation, unaware that he was supposed to be dead the moment Death touched him. Reaper shivered. Oh poor, poor mortal. What a fate!

A spur of something manic bloomed inside the elder god of death. He’d never touched another this way beyond his brother. Even other gods feared he’d inadvertently reap them with a brush of bare bone. (He wanted, he wanted, he wanted...H E N E E D E D)

Reaper betrayed nothing with his smile, “time to go home, my little mortal.”

Dance staggered into his embrace, unresisting as Reaper pulled him close. Then they were falling backwards through the Void. Reaper already knew just where to put this one. Someplace quiet and safe from prying eyes. His mortal would be his muse. (His mate?) And nobody would steal him away. Deep in the fathoms of the Underworld, in the twisted depths that even his brother never dared explore, he’d make a home for them. Yes. He’d adorn his muse with jewels and silks, all the finest things and luxuries his kingdom of wealth could afford them. Dance would resist the idea at first, most certainly, but Reaper could be patient.

After all, he waited this long.

Chapter Text

The first time was a mistake. There was no better way of putting it. Her Judge’s brother wandered into the Judgement Hall, eyelights shaped into stars, radiating such vibrance and positivity. She couldn’t recall why he was there (did she ever ask?), but it was easy to forget the passing hours when he began to speak, gushing with admiration and bright dreams of becoming a Royal Guard. She should have sent him home. She was Queen (how long had her husband imprisoned himself in the Ruins?) and he was a wayward Sentry. But the prospect of being alone just yet left Toriel shivering with something she refused to name fear. So she poured him a cup of tea, invited him into her private chambers with mentions of pie.

He followed.

She kissed him.

He stayed.

The next day, her Judge refused to speak with her, his stare hot with disgust. When he finally broke his silence, it was bitter, “you took advantage of him.” Toriel opened her mouth to deny it, but shame brought her head low, her sins crawling down her back. For all of Sans’ insistence that he wasn’t a child and could make his own choices, he was still innocent. He’d never known another’s body and soul in such an intimate manner...not before that night. (And she took advantage of that, didn’t she? Of her position of power...His admiration for the Royal family…)

She could find no words. How far she’d fallen. When did she become this Monster? The kind that murdered children for their souls and broke her Bonding vows? Toriel accepted her Judge’s judgement. His ire earned. Deep in her self-loathing, she lost track of the days, time returning in a thunderclap when a certain someone appeared again. He was wearing an odd outfit, like a child’s costume armor, and in his hands was a covered tray.

“SORRY I COULDN’T VISIT SOONER! PAPY HAS BEEN SO OVERPROTECTIVE LATELY,” Sans rolled his eyelights.

“That is what older brothers do, they worry,” Toriel supplied, her tone light, her disbelief hidden behind royal poise.

Sans snickered, “OLDER? HE LIKES TO ACT LIKE IT, BUT HE’S NOT THE BIG BROTHER. HE WASN’T BORN UNTIL I WAS ALMOST OUT OF STRIPES.” He shook his skull, a fond look in his sockets. “BUT I GUESS HE DOES HAVE HIS REASONS. THERE WAS...WELL, I’M NOT SURE HOW MUCH PAPY TOLD YOU ABOUT US, BUT THERE WAS AN ACCIDENT. I DON’T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED EXACTLY, BUT HE HAD TO...GROW UP PRETTY FAST AFTER THAT. YOU KIND OF HAVE TO WHEN YOUR BIG BROTHER CAN HARDLY REMEMBER ANYTHING BUT HIS OWN NAME.”

And with that, he was back to his smiles, like there was nothing amiss at all about what he just confessed. Instead he uncovered the dish in his hands. Tacos, he called them. Guard Captain Alphys taught him the recipe. Toriel knew she should have turned him away, not choked down that terrible meal as she listened to Sans talk. She should have done anything but leaned closer as he squawked at her puns before making a few of his own while feigning disinterest. She shouldn’t have kissed him again. The first time was a mistake. She had no excuse for the second. But just like the first time, he stayed.

Her Judge didn’t say a word the next time they met. He looked tired. Strained.

She couldn’t look at him.

He didn’t try to warn her from his brother.

The third time Sans visited, her Judge followed him to the door of the throne room, shoulders slumped with defeat as soon as his brother bounced across the threshold to greet her. Their eyes met and he turned away. Soon, it became a pattern. A habit. Sans would visit, they would talk, eat a meal and Toriel would invite him to stay with a kiss. It was rare he would say no and walk away, his eyelights dull with disappointment.

Then, things changed.

The routine broken by a Fallen Human.

Broken by the return of her husband.

Broken like the barrier.

“Sans…” Toriel murmured when he saw Asgore tall beside her as they considered how to best approach this new era. The small skeleton flickered his gaze between their chests, their nearly riven Soulbond barely even detectable. He flashed a smile that was impossible to say whether it was real or fake.

“HUMAN CHARA HAS AGREED TO BE OUR AMBASSADOR! MWEH HEH! ISN’T THAT MAGNIFICENT?” He waved at them both. “THEY REQUEST YOUR PRESENCE, YOUR MAJESTIES.” Then he was off, leaving her alone with Asgore. Her husband.

“Nice boy,” said husband murmured. “I can see how you came to love him.”

“I don’t know what you’re implying, Dreemur,” her voice was frost.

Asgore sighed, “Nothing, my dear. We should go before Chara becomes restless.”

Chapter Text

Before moving away from the city, you rarely saw snow. About once a year, as a child, it fell thick enough to close down schools, but that was mostly because of the ice that laid beneath. Never was it the fluffy, knee-deep kind that you stood in now, armed with a shovel and an excessive number of layers. Nobody told you that winters were like this! The townsfolk cheerily mentioned how the weather would turn soon, and how pretty the Valley looked when draped in white. But NOBODY said that you’d be crawling through the stuff every morning to get to your barn.

Luckily, the past year of laboring to make the old farm livable made you strong. Waking up early was nothing new; now your mornings simply included clearing a path.

After tending to your daily chores, you whistled for Toby, and the fluffy white hound bounded across the field to follow at your side. His tail whirled and he bounced in place, clearly enjoying the cold weather. A smile snuck across your face at his enthusiasm.

“Time to make our rounds, Tobes,” you told him, before patting his head and striking out into town. The walk was long, but refreshing and familiar. A few early risers waved their greetings, and Mrs. Bun coaxed you into buying a fresh, hot cinnabun. The treat warmed your belly. Soon you were off again, passing the closed doors of Grillby’s and peeking into Alphy’s office. The doctor didn’t seem to sleep much, and was always a little quick to offer a cup of coffee when asked. Given the locked door, it seemed today she was sleeping in. Good.

Like always, you ambled through the streets, offering little gifts to various townsfolk. The Canine Crew were partial to homemade treats and bones. The Bunny family loved fresh crops and flowers. And most everyone liked the tea mixes you learned to make during the summer. Mayor Asgore Dreemur, his ex-wife Toriel, and Officer Undyne were especially partial to the goldenflower mix, whereas Gerson liked sea tea, a disgustingly salty brew that made you choke the first time you sampled the recipe he gave you. Speaking of Gerson...he liked going for walks by the waterfall during the day. Short of going on a hike into the forest, you wouldn’t be seeing him until evening.

“sup, pal.”

“Hey yourself, Boneboy.”

Used to the elder skeleton brother’s antics, you weren’t surprised to find him at his makeshift stall in town. How Sans managed to be anywhere and everywhere was anyone’s guess, because he wasn’t about to share his secrets. Not when it got such hilarious reactions out of people. You walked up to him and found the baskets around him full of tomatoes as always. Even in the middle of winter, he had them fresh. Did he have some mysterious, underground greenhouse just for them? Or was this some aspect of his magic?

“ice to see you around.”

“Nice to see you too. How’s Paps?”

Sans’ ever present smile grew wider. He was a strange one. Despite your casual raport, you couldn’t see his AFFECTION level during a CHECK. You could even see Flowey’s, and that sadistic sunflower lurking on your property didn’t even have a Soul! It wasn’t too unusual for AFFECTION levels to be hidden at first, trust needing to be gained before a Monster felt comfortable letting their inner self seen. But you’d known each other almost a year and were friends with Papyrus! Heck, his brother had recently started mentioning how he’d like to maybe go on a not-friendship date if you were partial to the idea, acting adorably shy compared to his usual, exuberant self.

(Flowey’s bitter words rose to the surface of your mind. How Monsters with too many secrets couldn’t be trusted. And everyone in town seemed to have one. Nobody would explain why outsiders were rare to come to the Valley...or why nobody ever left. You were breaking down so many walls...except the ones around Sans…)

Ah well, you’d ponder this conundrum another day, when the cold wasn’t seeping through your boots. “I gotta go, but first…” You popped a jar of ketchup onto the counter and winked. “My daily delivery.”

“heh, dunno why you bother, frisk. but i aint complainin’,” Sans whisked the jar into his inventory, looking a little contemplative as he gazed out over the frosted street. He sighed, voice a little softer than normal as he murmured, “can’t wait for spring.”

“I thought the cold went right through you?”

He chuckled and tipped back his straw hat, “it does. i’m all bones, after all. it just reminds me of…” His voice trailed off, eyelights small and unfocused for a moment. “heh, nevermind, it’s not important. see ya around, bucko.” And just like that, the conversation was over. Dismissed. Sans smiling in that placid fashion he always did.

“Sans?”

“hm? still here? you should go visit paps and warm up. he’s got this new hot chocolate recipe from muffet that’s perfect for this weather. pretty sure he got it for you since you made that cake for the cooking contest, and you told him you like sweets.”

“Right...chocolate…”

With a shiver that didn’t feel like it was from the cold, you waved Sans goodbye and made your way to the skeleton brothers’ farm. Toby kept pace. The Valley did indeed look beautiful cloaked in snow, but...as flakes settled on your hair and shoulders, you couldn’t shake a chilling sense of unease.

Chapter Text

.
Frisk picked their way around the pile of bones laid in the center of the massive cavern. It seemed the dragon the townsfolk whispered about was long dead, blood and hide stripped away by time. They glanced around its lair—heaps of stolen treasures, both worthless and priceless, collected dust within the belly of a mountain few dared to even speak of. Cursed, they called Mt. Ebott. Haunted by demons and guarded by a dragon that clawed its way from the pits of Tartarus.

Cloak swishing around their frame, Frisk let out a sigh, and crossed to stand by the deceased creature’s terrible skull. They would need to bring back proof of the dragon’s state. Maybe a piece of bone? No. Desecrating its corpse when it was in such a state of perfect preservation seemed wrong. Maybe they could bring back a part of its hoard? There might be something amidst the mouldering piles that would appease their coven. This was supposed to be Frisk’s Trial. Slaying a dragon would secure their rank as the Red Mage on the Council, a position long since left empty given the rarity of their kind. Determined souls were said to make the most powerful mages...but Frisk was only one of two born in their generation.

And Chara was lost to them.

Lost to Mt. Ebott.

Frisk could still recall when they found that hastily scribbled note, senseless and strange. Chara said they heard voices calling to them. They had to go find the whispering flowers. The flowers didn’t like the dragon.

Swallowing down a pang of grief, Frisk reached for a dirty mirror and wiped away the grime, wondering how the dragon managed to get such a fragile object into its cavern? As they did so, an odd glint caught their eye. They turned, squinting at the skeleton, spying a thin chain of gold tucked around a single tooth. Frisk frowned as they wandered close and gingerly tugged the chain free, curious if it would reveal the cause of the dragon’s demise.

A pendant fell into their palm and Frisk near threw it across the cave in horror.

“No...Chara…” Tears welled up in their eyes as they fumbled at the heart pendant’s clasp, revealing an undeniable image. The two of them, side-by-side, at graduation.

Caught up in their revelation, Frisk didn’t notice light bloom in the sockets of the skull. They didn’t sense the flare of wakening mana lines or hear the quiet pulse of a Soul relearning how to beat. They dropped to their knees and held the pendant close, a sob tearing through their throat. It wasn’t until their Defenses were carelessly ignored and Blue magic sized their Soul that Frisk roused from their mourning. What...how? None of the Blue Mages at the coven could get past their shields! Only the Green Mage on the Council was able to change Frisk’s Soul color during combat.

Suddenly, Frisk was fifty feet in the air, flung up with the acute precision of a true master of the craft.

Sprawled beneath them was the skeleton. The quite alive and moving skeleton.

“not another one of you,” echoed a low voice. Its jaw didn’t move. Perhaps some form of telepathy? It sounded weary as it stretched then craned its neck to peer at Frisk. “suppose i should thank you for lifting the curse. even a lazybones like me doesn’t like being magiked into a coma.” It’s cyan eyelight fixed on the golden pendant. “then again, i can’t just let you go. not after…” The dragon gave a lethargic heave forwards, padding a ways before staring up at the sky above, light pooling from a hole above large enough for even a beast his size to fly down through.

“W-who are you. What are you?” Frisk demanded, gathering up their Determination like a cocoon.

“heh. red souls. always so willful.” The dragon didn’t even look at her. “not that it matters, but i’m sans. you’re pretty bad at greeting new pals if that’s how you always do it.”

“We’re not friends.”

“no? i mean, you freed me instead of dustin’ me. but the last mage didn’t kill me either.” Frisk flailed as they were thrust over a pit the dragon had been covering while he slept. “whelp. sorry bout this kid. nothin’ personal. If it’s any consolation, you might not survive the fall.”

Consolation?! Was he suggesting death would be merciful? What was going on? Why couldn’t Frisk break its hold on them?

Suddenly, they dropped.

Down.

Down.

D o w n.

CRACK!

And for a heartbeat, they knew nothing more.

The next, they drew in a shuddering breath, acutely aware that their Soul had shattered. So how was in back in one piece? How were they alive? Frisk rose on trembling legs, a newborn fawn yet to capture a proper gait. They were ankle deep in yellow flowers, Chara’s pendant wrapped around their wrist like an oath.

Chapter Text

It was quiet in Snowdin. When wasn’t it? Grillby moved here from Hotland because it was far away from the bustle and noise of overcrowded city. He couldn't stay there. Not after—

He shoved away the intrusive thought and made his way through the shallow snow, back to his home. With him running the bar for the lunch and dinner crowd, the Grillby got to enjoy the serenity of the town in the early morning. In one hand he carried a bag of groceries. Even an elemental needed to eat. It was routine, peaceful and mundane. After all, nothing out of the ordinary happened in quiet little towns on the outskirts of civilization.

Unless, of course, the extraordinary decide to visit you.

Grillby idled to a halt when he saw the tall, slim figure slumped on his porch, a cigarette in hand, discarded butts clustered around his feet. Seems a certain someone had been waiting awhile. Gaster was never good at patience. Killing the rest of his death stick, Gaster popped another between his teeth, giving him a good look at his face. Even for a skeleton monster, he looked gaunt, his black cloak just as rumpled as the white labcoat beneath, dark circles burnt beneath cracked sockets from years of magic exertion and no sleep. He hadn’t yet bothered to remove his security tag, and it dangled between his bent knees as he inhaled another puff of smoke.

Silently, Grillby approached, easily snatching the cigarette from Gaster’s teeth as he passed by. The skeleton scowled up at him as he rose, brushing snow and ash from his clothes with palpable indignation. The fire elemental didn’t speak, only pressed the smoke to the amorphic flames of his face, false lips sealing around the end. He got nothing out of smoking. Most monsters didn’t. It was a habit to keep one’s hands busy and pacify the mind. It was little wonder someone as stressed and anxious as the Royal Scientist chained one cigarette after another, unable to still the buzzing of his magic.

Gaster reached into his inventory and his shoulders dropped, a frown pinching between his browbones. Empty. He decided to adjust his clothes, like a ruffled bird trying to hide puffed feathers, gloved palms moving almost gingerly. Grillby burned up the smoke in his mouth and spat out the cinders. Something was amiss. While Gaster did visit him on occasion for amicable reasons (the scientist did own a house in Snowdin, even if he never used it), when he was this twitchy, this quiet, it meant nothing good. There were far more bad days than not, as of late.

With a nod, Grillby led the way into his home, the stairs leading to a little apartment above the bar. A cramped little bachelor pad that was perfect for his needs. Gaster followed. Still tense. Still silent. Still fussing with wrinkles and buttons. Grillby disappeared into the kitchen to put away groceries, expecting Gaster to have taken off his coat when he returned, but to his surprise, he remained right where he left him, gaze distant, hands held close to his Soul.

He didn’t like CHECKing his old friend without permission (which he never gave), but this behavior was strange, even for the eccentric skeleton. His flames flickered. Gaster narrowed his sockets. For a moment, the world was still.

“You’ve gained LV,” Grillby murmured, his voice the soft ripple and crack of a campfire; his language one few spoke, near lost to all but the oldest of them Below. He stepped closer. Gaster stood his ground, impassive as Grillby clasped a hand in his own. “And you’re in pain.” He flinched, slight and subtle, but didn’t resist as Grillby peeled off a glove. There was a perfectly round hole where fused plates of bone once formed a solid palm. Grillby yanked off the other and held both of Gaster’s hands in his own. “What have you done?”

“What was necessary,” Gaster replied. His own spoken font was whispered and unintelligible, a language of symbols never meant to be said aloud. Around him, magical constructs formed to sign, an instinctive reflex for when his hands were occupied. Grillby couldn’t fathom what would require him to mutilate himself. To harden his Soul. “For the good of the good of monsterkind. We’re dying down here, Grillby...the youngest generation is starting to believe that the Sun is a myth. That the Above is a fairytale place that their parents believe in foolheartedly. Our species is losing Hope with every day that we are trapped in this angel forsaken mountain!”

He yanked his hands out of Grillby’s—shivering, shuddering, trembling. His false breath came in sharp little pants.

“...The king has six souls...we will be free soon.”

Gaster laughed, bitter and dark, “We have six souls after how many thousands of years? We didn’t even have one until a century ago! Who is to say that we will see another Fallen Human before our whole society collapses?” He fumbled at his buttons, his pockets, pawing for anything to occupy idle hands. Grillby lowered his. Saddened by what had become of the monster before him. Always ambitious and tremendously intelligent, Gaster was once hailed as the monster who would save them all. Now, most knew him as the inventor of the CORE. He couldn’t break the barrier, but in his quest, he made living down here far more tolerable.

“Did Asgore ask you to—?”

“No. His majesty asked me to stop attempting to break the barrier. We have six Souls and he’s trying to cease all my research! We wants me to focus on civil projects entirely. As...as if..”

As if he had no plans of ever shattering the walls of their prison.

Gaster slumped and Grillby carefully gathered the other monster into his arms.

“I’m going to save us all...I promise...I’m going to save them. Save you ...”

As he embraced the trembling scientist, Grillby couldn’t help but wonder:
Who’s going to save you from yourself?

Chapter Text

They dressed her in white. Crowned her with buttercups. And blinded her with silk.

She stood small and barefoot in the snow, the stone beneath unyielding ice that scalded skin until it threatened to crack and blister. It brought no comfort when abused flesh ceased to ache, the lost sensation leaving her unsteady, struggling to stand. She couldn’t uncurl her fingers, the cold like shackles, locking her grip around the bundle of dried herbs and branches that the Head Priest instructed she hold. Wind tugged at her hair (once worn long as symbol of feminine virtue, now cut short against her will), and her flimsy dress, the sound of it drowning out the voices of her people as they chanted the sacred words of this ancient ceremony.

Today was Frisk’s wedding day.

And her funeral.

All because her moonsblood arrived on the day of Dark Sun. That day in which the demons of the mountain slipped free of their prison and blackened the sky, their King of Below warring with the King of Above. The darkness was brief, but her people left shaken. What would they do if the demons overtook the Sun? Thus they turned to their Head Priest and he spoke of a ritual. How the demons Below could be pacified with a sacrifice. The blood of a maiden pure could protect them for centuries! There came talk of how they would choose when the Head Priest caught sight of Frisk’s skirts. Orphaned as a girl, she was raised at the Shrine to later become a Handmaiden to the Head Priestess, a potential successor to the leader of the lunar half of their faith. She knew what blood meant: a girl becoming a woman in the eyes of the Moon. But until that day, she was a child. And in the panic and rush, she hadn’t noticed the staining of her attire.

The Head Priest declared it a sign from the gods. Who’s blood better than that of a daughter of the shrine?

Frisk knew only fourteen summers. She wasn’t old enough to wed for another two. Yet here she stood, a child bride, hair cropped to her chin, as was tradition after a woman came to know the marriage bed. The Head Priestess said the braid would be kept in the archives to honor her memory. Honor...what a funny word. She should feel honored to be chosen. She was serving the gods. Protecting her people. But the swiftness, the eagerness, the almost giddy joy some showed that it was her and not their daughter—it ached.

Hands touched her cheeks. Searingly warm against chilled flesh. Soft thumbs brushed against frozen tracks where tears slipped past the cloth covering her gaze. The Head Priestess. Only her hands were soft and unblemished from years of lotions and oils applied to skin during rituals.

“Do not fear, my daughter,” she said. “Our Lady Mother will welcome you into her embrace, and there you shall know only bliss.”

Frisk could find no words. Even if she could muster the strength to speak past numbed lips, she would surely choke. There was nothing to say. Even if she resisted, they would throw her into the gaping maw of the mountain, and the Queen of the Sky might turn her away for disobedience.

I don’t want to die, her heart cried as the woman that near raised her from infancy stepped away. Abandoned her. Like everyone else. She was alone again. Alone save for the gods Above and demons Below.

“And so may it be!” Cut the Head Priest’s voice above it all.

The crowd gathered echoed the declaration.

That was Frisk’s cue. She didn’t think she could take a step. But she teetered on the edge. All she had to do was let. herself. fall. And so she stopped fighting. With a final plea to the gods, Frisk tilted her head back until she was weightless. Tumbling down into the depths of the Below. A fathomless black pit from which none of the Surface have traversed and returned. Down. Down. Down.

She was distantly aware of the impact. Of bone against stone, her body broken beyond repair, her very self ripped apart...and yet...her eyes opened. Her eyes shouldn’t have opened. Frisk sucked in a breath, startled by the taste of blood and the pain. Oh, goddess the pain! Her head lolled to the side, cheek pressed against rock, the blindfold askew, and gagged at the sight of her arm. This was how she died? A mangled heap in a...humid...warm...lit...cavern? Why was there light? Too weak to rise, Frisk laid on the ground, basking in the soft glow of the gods. A meager consolation in the wake of her suffering. Crimson, thick and stick, puddled beneath her form. Her vision blurred. It would be over soon.

Her eyes fluttered shut. Her heartbeat slowed.

She sank down. Down. Down.

And then—

Her eyes opened.

No. No. Nononono. She was dead. She was dead at least twice over! No more. No more. NO MORE! Her panicked heartbeat and fruitless trashing drained her of strength even more quickly than last time. She fought and gasped until her last breath was a thin, rasping gasp, and something in her chest felt like it tore. Shattered. Like pottery hitting the floor.

Her eyes opened.

Again.

And.

Again.

Until the pain was a familiar friend and time lost all meaning.

Until the cycle broke.

She opened her eyes to see a thorny vine. What…? Frisk tilted her head and shivered. Looming above her was a flower. A giant buttercup with a caprine-like face. A demon. It smiled down on her like she was a curious little bug he would enjoy squishing.

“Howdy. My name’s Flowey. Flowey the flower. You’re in pretty bad shape after that fall, huh?”

Frisk closed her eyes. Refused to look at it. She begged the gods to take her. To let this death be her last. Something slithered against her cheek.

“Hm. You’re no fun all broken up like this. As amusing as it is to watch your Soul shatter, it gets kinda boring after the fiftieth time.” Fifty. Was that how many times she died? Was this the fate of all cast Below? To live an endless cycle of deaths? Denied a final rest? “Teehee. You’re so pathetic. I can’t believe YOU have a red soul like Them.” The slithering thing wrapped around her throat, prickled with thorns that brushed but didn’t embed into flesh. “Now, this is only going to hurt...a lot.”

Frisk thought she knew pain.

She thought she lost her ability to feel.

Until she screamed against the sheer agony ripping through every inch of her being as bones shifted and skin sealed closed. There was cracks and snaps and squelches as her body ‘righted’ itself in a manner that was unnatural. Demonic, even. Eventually, the noises and sensations stopped, leaving her raw and breathless.

“There, all done. You won’t be dying again until I feel like it!”

W-what?

“N-no, p-p-please no.”

Frisk opened her eyes to see Flowey sneering down, “You say that like you have a choice. I’m bored, human. And you shall entertain me. Don’t worry, I’ll eventually have mercy and kill you. But that won’t be much of a mercy at all. After all...you’re not in control. I AM.” The vine abandoned Frisk’s throat to wrap around her form, lifting her helplessly up. She looked around the cavern, searching for a floundering hope. All she found were vines. Along the walls. Across the floor. Sprouting like thorny pillars from the craggy stone floor. Beneath it all were hints of crumbling pillars and cracked carvings, as if this room were once home to a now abandoned civilization.

Tears sprang anew in her eyes.

Flowey laughed.

The vines tightened, thorns cutting into skin through the flimsy fabric of her white dress. They tightened and tightened until bones strain and she felt them crack, her breath stolen away.

“I’m going to have so much fun with you, my new best friend!”

Chapter Text

“Abominations,” Frisk flicked the dust from their blade. Many of their peers preferred swords and spears, but Frisk found those weapons unwieldy. Perhaps that is for the best. Knives were far easier to find on the Surface. Ruby eyes cut to the side. They could feel someone watching. Stalking. Judging. Feh, they would get that skeleton and his stolen karma later.

But first, they had an Underground of monsters to exterminate.

Steps long and steady, they marched ever forward, destruction and silence left in their wake.

Huddled in a dark crevice, watching, sockets dark, was Sans. Legend spoke of an angel that would free them all. It never said that the angel was that of death.

Chapter Text

Black hissed, curling into a tighter ball, his working eyelight narrow with warning. He couldn’t see out of his left socket and he was missing an arm from the elbow down. His skeletal body glittered with magic, as mana rose to fill the cracks. The humans drew closer. Battered but not broken, he summoned a fragile flurry of bones, ready to destroy those that dared intrude upon his territory while he nursed his wounds. (Especially after what those other humans did to him. He hoped they died in agony from his venom.)

The humans garbled their weird language to one another. Pointed at him. Black flung the bones at them, sending the one in the front staggering back. He grinned in malevolent joy until one of the humans aimed their thunderstick at him. No. Nonono. Flashes of his brother crumbling to dust in the wake of that terrible noise. Attack too fast to dodge. Too powerful to endure. Gold was gone within a soulbeat; Black helpless to save him. If this was going to be his last stand, then he would make it worth it! He lunged forward, striking at the human with the thunderstick, only for the humans to take advantage of his lessened mobility and scatter away. He hissed and coiled again, preparing to strike—

BANG!

Black sneered. Miss. They had missed him! He would now rip apart that horrible thing and choke them with...it...He blinked muzzily, sputtering out another hiss as the humans started to close in again. He lunged, but floundered, his body oddly weak. Numb. Black’s head lolled to the side, dragged into a fitful nothingness.

Chapter Text

“SANS! HAVE YOU BROUGHT OUT THE DECORATIONS AS I ASKED!”

“y'sure did bro.”

If there was one thing Sans wasn’t lazy about, it was Gyftmas decorating. Now taking down said decorations, well, he didn’t see the point, but putting them up? It was a tradition he wouldn’t lay aside for all the gold in the Underground. He peered towards the door to the kitchen, where he could still hear Papyrus shuffling around, banging pots and pans as he searched for his cookie sheets. It was funny to think that the little babybones he once held in his arms was now a towering giant twice his height, who could haul Sans around over his shoulder like a sack. His smile softened, uncertain what he did to deserve such a cool brother.

With a deep inhale, he popped open the battered cardboard box they kept the tree ornaments in and began laying them aside. It was a mismatched collection of memories. A snowman missing his hat that they found in the dump. A piece of broken china, the edges smoothed, from Undyne last year. A rock with Sans’ name scrawled on the top in red paint...More and more momentos found their way onto the floor until the box was empty save for a shoebox at the bottom. Sans lifted it ip and popped open the lid. There it was. The best ornament of all. The one that went on the tree first every year.

To anybody else it was just bits of paper, glitter and glue. But to Sans? It was art. It was HoPe. The first gyftmas after they moved to Snowdin, they were so terribly young, Sans barely out of stripes, trying his best to raise his raise his baby brother. And on the last day before school break, Papyrus came home with the most obnoxious creation ever in his little hands, a huge smile on his face, babbling on-and-on about gyftmas trees. They didn’t have one. But Sans wasn’t going to break his little brother’s heart by not trying to get him one to hang that hideous, handmade bone.

So he went to work with the puzzling supplies he kept for Papyrus’ school projects, and made a tree out of cardboard and construction paper. His eyelights were starry at the reveal. So the next year, he did the same thing. And again, until he found a plastic tree in the dump. By then, Paps’ magic was showing itself, so they started a new tradition, floating all the ornaments onto the tree. It was great. He even had a photo to commemorate the occasion.

“SANS?”

He snapped his head up, his brother’s shadow long upon him. Sans lifted the little monstrosity up by the frayed yarn it hung from. Papyrus groaned, “I DON’T KNOW WHY YOU KEEP HOLDING ONTO THAT OLD THING!”

“because it’s the best ornament ever.”

“IT IS UTTERLY DEFORMED.”

“it has character.”

With a long-suffering sigh, Papyrus whisked the paper bone away with a hint of blue magic, hanging it from a middle branch. “THERE. NOW YOU CAN FINISH DECORATING WHILE I BAKE.” The brothers glanced at one another, the moment soft with memory. His little bro was all grown up and awesome. How did he get so lucky?

“course, paps.”

“NYEH. MERRY GYFTMAS, BROTHER!”

“merry gyftmas.”

Chapter Text

"I'm the daddy so you have to play the mommy," Chara said, shoving the toy into Asriel's paws. "And the mommy takes care of the babies."

"Awe, but I wanted to play the daddy! Why am I always the mommy?"

"Because, you're a wimp that cries a lot. Like a girl."

"Hey! Mom isn't like that!"

"Course not. That's because she is a queen. Queens aren't sissies." Chara waggled the other doll in their hand. "Do you want to play house or not? You're the one that suggested this game."

"So I should get to play the daddy if I want to! Also, I'm a prince, so you should listen to me."

Chara quieted finally, Asriel's comment hitting harder than he could have ever imagined. After all, he thought of them as his sibling. Human though Chara may be, they were raised alongside him since their Fall. They ate together. Played together. Learned together. Even bickered with eachother same as other siblings did. But in his youthful ignorance, for he would be a child still even when Chara matured into adulthood, he didn't consider the ramifications of being the outsider. The adopted child. Chara was not and never would be the heir despite now holding the Dreemur name. They were the royal's child but did not bear the title of prince or princess. If anything, they were just a privileged playmate, whose only claim to notoriety was the Soul in their chest. Should they die, any of the Dreemurs could take it and cross the Barrier. They were monsterkind's hope...and moments like these emphasized how little they actually belonged. No matter how much they wanted to…

"Chara?"

"What?!"

"No need to yell...I was just going to say you could play the daddy if you wanted," Asriel shuffled his feet. He was so nice. Too nice. A fluffy, squishy pushover.

"I don't care."

"...okay."

Chara, despising that sad look on his stupid face, forced on a smile. Asriel balked then snorted, clapping a paw over his snout. Then he shook his head, "Awe man, you know how I hate it when you put on your creepy face."

"I'm just smiling."

"You sure?" Asriel softened as their smile dropped and they looked away. "Because I'm pretty sure smiles are supposed to be happy."

"Tch. Whatever."

And in the way of children, they let the moment pass, and absorbed themselves in play.

Chapter Text

Maybe it was the painkillers. Or maybe the concussion. But when Undyne opened her eyes, she saw an angel straight from heaven above. She was a tiny thing with yellow scales, swamped in white, clipboard clasped in her claws. Perched on her snout were round glasses that kept slipping as she wrote.

"Heeeey~" Undyne slurred as she sat up, thin sheet pooling around her torso. Huh...what was this thing on her arm? Absently she picked at it, stopping only when the angel sputtered out a plea and placed so small hand over hers.

"S-s-top that. You need t-t-to leave your cast alone." Was the angel scolding her? Undyne felt her grin widen. Small, an adorable stutter and...huh, was this a hospital? Smart people worked at hospitals. Then her angel had to be smart too.

"But how am I supposed to kick bad guy butt with this?" Undyne asked, blinking through the muzziness. "You won't fall madly in love with my awesomeness if I can't fight."

"Oh d-dear," the angel hid her face with the clipboard. "Well n-n-no heroics until that arm heals. (Even if it would be sexy) You'll need t-to stay in a sling to make sure you heal right."

"That suuuuucks. Why do you have to be so cute?"

The angel blushed, her scales heating orange, "U-undyne, what d-d-do you remember? Do you know me?"

Know her? Was she supposed to...huh...Undyne squinted her good eye at the angel. Wait..."Are you my sexy, badass anime wife?"

She pressed the clipboard to her nose again, her complexion pushing scarlet, “Ahem....M-m-my name is Alphys and we are, uh…” Alphys wriggled her claws, drawing her attention to the ring. Undyne whooped.

“HECK YEAH!”

Alphys would have quite the story when the meds wore off and her wife of the past five years could think clearly again.

Chapter Text

“I warned you.”

Your head snapped up, the taste of blood sour in your throat. Standing small but poised was the kidnapped child you rescued from the Crysalli House during the last raid. There were rumors that the Family had gotten into trafficking more than hooch, and most of your department couldn’t stand the thought of standing by while children were bought and sold like booze. Except, it hadn’t been children. Just a child. A little kid looking no more than twelve, tied to a chair, face mottled with bruises but expression passive. Almost serene.

They told the police to leave. Even if they arrested the Crysalli’s and confiscated the moonshine, that it was best to leave them there. Their family would be very upset if somebody took them...again. You couldn’t abide by it. You weren’t going to leave some kid there to rot because their ‘family’, what? Abandoned them? Sold them? No, a good citizen that you were, you escorted the kid out, despite their protests. And once out, they pleaded that you just let them go. They were fine. Safe.

You asked them where they lived.

They dithered.

But when you made it clear they weren’t going anywhere without you being certain they were safe, they buckled, confessed they were from the monster district. A shudder passed through you. Humans didn’t go into the monster district. They weren’t welcome and they most certainly didn’t live there. The kid warned you to just let them go. Once more asking to leave them here or maybe, if you had to ascertain their safety, to leave them at Grillby’s. It was as neutral as monster territory came, given its location on the edge of the district and its owner’s no violence policy.

“You aren’t safe if you’re with me,” the kid confessed, quiet and strained. But you weren’t deterred. No, you thrust up your chin, put on a bold face and escorted the kid to Grillby’s with daring in your eyes. The police were not welcome to linger at the restaurant, but you stubbornly sat on the stool beside the kid, even as they fidgeted, shooting pleading glances between you and the owner, a blue-violet fire elemental.

The air went cold behind you.

“Frisk,” breathed a low, masculine voice. The kid spun around, looking both fearful and delighted.

But before you could turn, your world went black.

And you woke tied to a chair, in a damp, dingy room with almost no light cutting the gloom. Your nose felt broken. And the kid, Frisk, regarded you with something akin to pity. Everybody in the department knew not to toe the line between the monster and human districts. Monster business was their own, and those that stick their noses where they didn’t belong often went missing.

“I’m sorry, officer,” Frisk whispered. “I told you to leave me behind. My family takes real good care of me, and they woulda found me given a little time. They were probably plannin’ a raid on the house when you all showed up…”

“W-why?” your voice cracked.

They glanced away. You’re pretty sure that their bruises are all gone. How long had you been unconscious? “Because....My name is Frisk Dreemur.” Your heart nearly stopped.

“D-d-dreemur? Like Asgore Dreemur? The murdering psychopath that—”

“Hey! Don’t talk about my dad that way,” Frisk protested, before their voice went quieter. “...He’s...done some bad things. Still does bad things. But...he’s not evil. He only wants what is best for his people since humans won’t do it.” A door opened somewhere in the gloom, and Frisk straightened.

“yer not ‘sposed to be in here, kid,” grumbled that low voice from before.

“Then you should have locked the door, Sans,” Frisk sassed.

Laughter, deep and masculine, rumbled around you, accompanied by the scent of smoke. It was sweet, like a high quality cigar. “aight, yer gotta point. now scram. boss is gonna have kittens if he finds yer outta yer room ‘fore he’s decided yer all recovered.”

“There isn’t a mark on me. You know how his cooking is.”

“yep. a real sucker punch to the soul.”

Frisk sighed and looked one last time at you and whispered, “He’s a good man, officer. But dangerous. Tread carefully and you might just make it out of here alive. Get him laughing if you can.” And then, they moved away, vanishing into the gloom. A few heartbeats later, the door shut and heavy footsteps meandered your way. Black parted the barely there glow, then white and crimson. Hope drained to your feet as you realized what you were looking at.

A living, breathing, walking skeleton.

“now i got a few question fer yer, human.”

Chapter Text

Awareness came slow and muzzy, his vision unfocused like petroleum on a lens. His back was flat against cold, wet stone, ans the air was hot and thick with humidity. Every inch of him ached. Especially his skull. Papyrus blinked until his eyelights formed properly, gracing him with the stark sight of algae coated rock in near perfect darkness. If it wasn't for his skeletal nature giving him natural night sight, he would be blind. He heard water. Smelt salt. He was...somehow alive, despite the ocean swallowing his ship whole during that unexpected squall, as if Poseidon himself drug them to a watery grave.

Not that he wasn't thankful to be alive. But stranded without crew or captain was almost worse than the fate he survived. Papyrus was a crummy pirate, tempted only by the prospect of a haul big enough to pay for his brother's education, but he wasn't an idiot. He knew he was better off aboard a ship than not.

Slowly, Papyrus forced himself to his knees, ignoring the vertigo. He needed to get up and access his dismal situation. Maybe he was close to civilization. (Not that he was ever that lucky) He wouldn't know if he never got out and looked, and even a lazybones like him had a little get-up-and-go in life-or-death situations.

As he struggled to his feet, there was a splash. A fish? He glanced in the direction of the noise, crept closer until he could see the still rippling surface of a pool of water. It stank of the sea. His weakened magic churned. He could drink salt water if he had to, not limited like more fleshy beings, but the prospect was still unsavory. It never settled right.

Suddenly, the water took on an eerie red glow. What the…? Papyrus lurched back as a sleek, crimson shape shot from the pool, grasping his humeri and dragging him down. There was a twist and a tussle, he choked, and then, he was ashore again, weight pinning him. Papyrus spat up saltwater and sputtered, breath ragged as he got a good look at what assaulted him. His Soul stilled. With a mouth of jagged fangs, skull cracked open as if split by claws, and a scarred form, it appeared to be another skeleton monster at first...but as his gaze traveled down, he saw the vibrant crimson of ectoflesh in the shape of a powerful tail. A mermaid?! An actual mermaid?

"yikes. yer kinda uglier than i expected," Papyrus said, wincing at his own words. Whelp. His captain did tell him his mouth would get him killed some day. When no blow came, he peered up again at the mer, who stared down with violent intensity. Maybe it didn't understand common? "uh, yer gonna let me up or eat me?" Because the latter was very possible. Mers were known for luring land dwellers below to consume them.

The mer growled. Yep. This was where he died. He was too low on mana to muster an attack.

But maybe the non threatening route had its advantages. The aggressive mer laid upon him for a long minute before crawling off, making a gesture that seemed like a universal motion to stay put. Papyrus didn't move. He laid there stiff as the mer slipped back into the water, and stayed there until until they returned. In their claws were oysters Not exactly what Papyrus liked to eat, but if the mer wanted to share…

The crimson mer cracked one open and dug around. He repeated the act with another three before seeming satisfied. Then he slid his form back over to Papyrus and presented the slimy meat. Not about to protest, he let the mer feed him, thankful for its benevolence, no matter how temporary. And hey, with a mer as help, maybe he could find his way home! He was planning how he might communicate his want when the mer curled his form around Papyrus', humming low, the noise making his Soul prickle. Uh, heh, was it warm in here? He squirmed, and the mer nipped at his sternum. There appeared to be some kind of misunderstanding here!

Papyrus yelped and tried to roll away, and the mer growled again, seeming annoyed. Then they huffed and dropped something on his forehead. It clattered and rolled. A...pearl? The mer dropped another. Was he literally being showered in pearls? Befuddled, he laid there tense, until the mer tugged him close, their frames entwined.

"I may be ugly, but you are beautiful, my treasure," the mer growled, spooking Papyrus near out of his bones. He could talk! And understand him. Shit. "I couldn't just leave such a pretty land monster to the deep."

"uh, heh, i am flattered, but uh, i don't...i'm not interested in more?"

The mer blinked, "Is my courting gift not satisfactory? I could bring you the heads of--"

"no heads!"

Whelp. This whole escape thing might take a little longer than he hoped.

Chapter Text

Only three knew the truth.

The one on stage, having sold his past, his name and his family for fame.

The one behind the curtain, who lied and lied for the hollow chance to save them all.

The one left behind, watching the television, wondering if his cousin was happy, and hoping the facade never shattered. For Mettaton's sake. For Alphys...for the whole of the Underground.

Because one little crack and it would all tumble down.

Leaving Napstablook more alone than ever.

Chapter Text

For as long as there have been Kings and Queens, they were counterbalanced by their Judges. The invisible third of an ancient triad, the final point of the Deltarune itself. It was balance. The King stood for land and country, the needs of the kingdom his crown. The Queen was the voice of the people, her brow heavy with their joy and suffering. The Judge existed between, their word guided by law and actions led by truths instead of economics or emotion. All three were meant to exist in harmony. They were to protect monsterkind. Long living as boss monsters are wont to do, it was perhaps inevitable that the triad would crack.

.

The first division was between King and Queen. Toriel couldn't stand the sight of her husband when the blood of a child came to stain his paws. It was the only way to save Monsterkind, he pleaded. Seven human souls. The Queen exiled herself, and the triad was imbalanced.

.

The next division was within the Judge. Between what was necessary and what was moral. By instinct deep and undeniable, he wanted to mend the rift, and what better way than through the replication of the human Soul? The subjects were never supposed to look and act like monster children. He corrupted his own Soul in his quest...and Karma took its due. The Judge fell into his greatest creation, his name and legacy forgotten...by all but his unknowing heir.

Asgore was surprised to see the small skeleton wander into the Judgement Hall one day, lost and befuddled. There hadn't been a Judge in centuries...right?

.

The King bore the burden of rule alone. His Queen gone. His Judge too young. It weighed heavy and then heavier with each Soul taken. Eventually, the Judge grew up and stared at him with unspoken condemnation.

.

Freedom came at the hands of an Angel. One that made it their mission to mend what fell apart. Frisk brought his wife out of her exile, shattered the barrier that trapped them Below, and guided them through the ways of a changed world. And while Asgore and Toriel found themselves growing closer again, old wounds starting to heal in the wake of ruling together once more, Sans drifted further. The Judge, despite not even knowing it, had been drawn to both King and Queen as companion and council. He may have disapproved of Asgore's sins, but he was always present when called, fair in his assessments. And he exchanged jokes and recipes with Toriel through a door, almost coaxing her to leave with his friendship alone.

Above, he seemed smaller, more jaded. As if burdened with weight no one could see but him.

King and Queen worried. Their triad still without balance. They didn't know how to mend it. The Judge was bound to them by magicks old and powerful, but they weren't to him.

Oddly enough, it was Asgore that came upon a solution. Drunk on wine and wallowing in regrets, he called Sans to his home for a meeting. The Judge arrived in time to see Toriel scolding Asgore for his state, and when he asked what his monarchs needed of him, the King embraced him. Kissed him. The Judge faltered. Toriel watched with wide, startled eyes. Muttered apologies were met with a plea to stay, but Sans was gone. They wondered if it was forever.

But it wasn't forever.

Just a couple days then he made hesitant knock knock jokes until all became peaceful again. There began a slow song and dance. An odd push-and-pull.

"You want him."

"So do you."

Perhaps one day the triad would be whole again.

Chapter Text

He was drunk.

So. So. Drunk.

Grillby cut him off before he could get started (two glasses of wine was NOT enough to get him tipsy) and so he made his way to the part of town that didn’t know him and had a reputation for anything goes. Want to drink yourself unconscious? That’s your business. Drugs? They don’t much for monsters, so feel free to waste your money. The whole district was known for late nights and wild rendezvous that put Vegas to shame.

(Sorry Paps)

Sans hardly paid attention to the name of the place he chose to forget his memories within. The thumping music stirred his aching Soul (broken, he was so broken, but he almost wanted to dance to pain away), and the neon promised cheap drinks. A couple of months ago he might have felt shame, pulled his hood up over his skull, but he needed this. He needed the endless bass and burning booze. So he wove through the crowd, sat himself at the bar, and drank until he started to feel and then kept knocking back glasses in hopes of numbing it all again.

His whole body was loose for the first time in years (he probably looked pathetic, drinking himself stupid alone while most of the patrons exchanged sweat), and he could almost pretend the nightmares didn’t hold a grain of truth. That if he danced his Soulsong would be the one from his youth and not the vicious declaration of war that it had become, warped by the human’s desire to win. To perfect their craft. To dance with them all.

“hey stranger, wanna take a spin on the dance floor?” Sans nearly fell from his chair when someone purred in his acoustic meatus. Sitting on the stool next to him was the epitome of the Purple District in skeleton form. He was petite, bones and frame slimmer than Sans’, with violet eyelights and a devil-may-care smile. His clothes were a riot of purple and teal, his black crop top showing off a generous expanse of spine. He winked at Sans, “like what you see, handsome? because i sure do~”

Sans sputtered, surprise sobering him up just enough to flush indigo. People didn’t flirt with him. He was standoffish and made shitty jokes on a good day...and good days were far and few between since coming to the Surface. (Too many humans) Sans gathered his glass of cheap wine and took a long sip, peering at the other skeleton through the corner of his socket. That hooded gaze and violet tint was alluring, and the other knew it.

“strong and silent type?” the skeleton queried in that sultry purr of his. “that’s okay. i can do allll the talking. people call me lust, by the way. feel free to do the same, love.”

“d-dance,” Sans found himself saying.

“hm? you wanna dance?”

“call me dance.”

It was an ill-fitted pseudonym, but he didn’t want to fork over his real name. Not when the news could get to his brother. Papyrus would never let him hear the end of it. But Dance? Dance was a stranger to Papyrus. Dance wasn’t disappointing friends and family every damn day. Dance was nobody...He could be Dance for tonight.

Lust’s gaze was piercing, as if he could see the lie but was pretending otherwise because it amused him, “nice to meet you, dance. though i will admit i wish that was an invitation.” He stretched his legs and rolled his shoulders, collarbone on stark display. Despite the casualness of his tone, Sans detected a hint of disappointment. Even if he was broken, he was still a Judge. He was good at reading people. There was an anxiousness to Lust’s Soulbeat, like sitting still like this wasn’t natural, that his body needed to be in motion to make his magic spark with life. Yet here he was, lounging at the bar like a wallflower, wasting his time on Sans.

“what if it was?”

“oh?” Bright interest gleamed in hazy eyelights, he slid a gloved hand to rest on Sans’ shoulder. “then let’s go.”

Sans was drunk.

So. So. Drunk.

But that couldn’t quite explain why he slipped from the stool and grabbed Lust’s hands. The other skeleton practically glowed with delight as Sans dragged HIM onto the dancefloor. It had been years since he last danced. This was a terrible, horrible idea. He couldn’t control his Soulsong. It would play whenever he danced. It was how his magic worked. But he was helpless in the moment to resist a long buried urge to let go. To be free. Nobody knew him here. Nobody knew what his Song was supposed to sound like. Nobody knew he was broken.

“make everyone else disappear,” Sans demanded.

Lust complied.

He drew Sans close and spun them around, the steps all-too-easy for a monster like Sans to pick up. Then he heard it. The bass. The horrible, terrible song. It—

“oooh~ challenge accepted,” Lust cooed, swinging Sans around into a vindictive pace. It was brutal. It was sensual. It was right. For the first time he didn’t see fear or pity (oh so unlike the monsters in his dreams), instead, Lust looked back at him with predatory thrill. Sans grinned back, his smile just as sharp.

Chapter Text

"SANS! WHAT EVEN IS THAT?"

"it's a quiche, bro."

"NYEH! IT LOOKS…WEIRD...WHERE ARE THE NOODLES? AND THE SAUCE?"

"you're right, my quiche is sadly lacking in spaghetti awesomeness."

You shook your head as you walked past the skeleton brothers, covered pot of curry in your hands. This wasn't your first cooking contest in New Home Valley, so you had a good idea of who and what to expect. Papyrus would make some kind of pasta dish and the Judge would give a good college try at choking down a bite. Sans apparently knew how to cook given how varied his dishes were, but his entries always went mysteriously 'missing' before the tasting. Then there was Undyne...the Sheriff was enthusiastic? Her dishes were almost always burnt and half exploded.

Reaching the main table, you see your true competition. Toriel with her pies and snail dishes packed with enough healing magic to near bring a dead man back to life. Muffet with her beautiful pastries made with mana rich spider flour. And Grillby, who despite Papyrus' claim that he ran a grease trap, never failed to impress with mouth-watering grilled dishes and cocktails. All three stood nearby, looking alert and triumphant, proud of their work.

You placed down your dish where it belonged and took note of some other entries. Likely dishes done by the Bunny Clan or the Canine Crew.

You couldn't wait until judging was over and everyone had a chance to eat.

"10 minutes everyone! We will begin in 10 minutes!" At Asgore's announcement, you retreated from the table, the scent of monsterfood still lingering thick on your senses. There really wasn't anything else quite like it.

Chapter Text

The SAVE SCREEN. The VOID. The END.

Whatever one wishes to call it, it is dark. Darker than dark. A darkness so unfathomable that it swallows all color and sound and heat. The only reprieve comes in the form of a single pool of light that cuts through the void in the same incomprehensible fashion that the dark consumes. Within this singular circle grows grass, or perhaps, it cast an illusion of it, for the grass neither dies nor climbs taller. But that is to assume time even passes in this place. This nowhere, nowhen in which he exists.

(Neither alive nor dead, blood oozing from his sternum endlessly)

Sans—that is his name (right?); he can’t remember much, just pain and pain and pain on endless repeat until crimson and gold blend together with childish laughter—curled in on himself, phalanges twitching around bent knees. His only solace is the light and the scent clinging to the scarf wrapped around his neck. He can’t remember who it smells like—but he knows it is a who—or why there is a fine layer of odd, grey dust clinging to the fabric.

A shiver passes through him, crawling up his spine colder than the chill of the darkness.Sans tucks his chin deeper into the scarf and fights the urge to look behind him. Nothing is there, he tells himself. Nothing. No one. It doesn’t matter that he hears a voice calling softly. It bids him to abandon his sanctuary of light, to turn around and shake its hand. It calls him by name. Maybe that’s the only reason he remembers it.

“sans,” the nothing—no one—murmurs on repeat. Sans stares vacantly into the Void ahead. How many times has he screamed? Has he begged? Has he bartered? To be free of this place. To go home. To die. To close his eyes and forget it all. As always, the Void stares back, unblinking, uncaring for the fractured Soul drowning in it. The nothing grows silent for a time before changing tactics, “geno.”

(That’s not his name, but...it is? It’s more his name than Sans. Sans had a life. Geno is the fractured remnants of countless Genocides until his very world fell apart.)

“i can only help you if you step out of the light.”

The Void doesn’t help. The darkness only devours. It hungers. Sans is merely prey to it. An idle amusement on the rare occasion it bothers to acknowledge his existence. But he can’t leave the light. At least in the light he knows that his death might be final. To enter the dark, it holds no such promise.

“shut up,” Sans whispers, hands flat on the sides of his skull, as if it could keep the voices away. “leave me alone.”

“your soul keeps calling me, mortal. but i cannot grant you peace if you refuse to leave this place.”

“peace? peace?!” Sans chokes on laughter. “there is no peace for me. the only peace i will ever find again is in death if it finds me at last.”

“i have found you, little genocide, but i cannot take from here what will not leave.”

“liar. you are just another lie it tells. it wants me forever. i’ll never find rest.”

“turn around and you will see me. i am real. i exist.”

“nothing exists here.”

“except you?”

Sans shivered at the grim humor in the voice, “...if you exist then why can’t you enter the light?”

“there are places even death cannot reach, few and rare though they may be. your sanctuary is your prison.”

He never had much willpower. Even dosed up on DETERMINATION, he was one wayward strike from demise. Here and now? He is weak. So weak. Even the Void’s lies are sweet enough to compromise him.

Nothing exists in the dark. No color. No sound. No warmth.

Except, this place. Except him. And if he dares believe it, there is another.

Slowly, very slowly, Sans turns until he is on his hands-and-knees. He can see nothing. A lie. It was all a lie! His breath comes short and harsh, ragged with humiliation.

“reach your hand out of the light, you will see me then.”

“liar. you said i would see you if i turned around.”

No answer or excuse came.

Sans is tempted to curl back up and return to ignoring the voices, but the smallest spark of indignation spurs him into a fury. The Void wants him that badly? It can’t touch him while he is in the light. He’s done this before. He’s reached into the dark. This just another deception. Sans rises to his feet and thrusts and arm into the darkness.

The darkness holds tight.

He doesn’t have time to scream before he is yanked from the light into the Void…

No...into the arms of Death.

Chapter Text

There are little things he can’t explain.

Gaps in his memory filled with radio static and a sense of loss. Fragments of conversations that echo like cracks of flame in a fireplace, stuttering through his brain like a broken camera flash. Moments where he is speaking to someone and a question arises that he knows the answer to but can’t recall, gears grinding out white noise until they both of them blink at the other, unable to remember what they were talking about.

There are little things he can’t explain.

The diploma and the textbooks he kept on his shelf that declared he went to University in Hotland—yet he lived here in Snowdin, all those years of memorizing theoretical physics left to collect dust. A key to a basement with a machine he knew how to repair but couldn’t name, couldn’t explain the purpose of despite taking it apart and putting it together again.

There are little things he can’t explain.

Like the photo of him with monsters he didn’t know, his own handwriting on the back in permanent marker reminding him to never forget. In a drawer with the photo is an ID with his own image smiling back, naming him as a scientist at the CORE. Upstairs in his bedroom closet are two lab coats buried in the back, one tailored to fit him and one that was most definitely not his size.

There are little things he can’t explain.

Brief pangs of nostalgia over the scent of coffee when he’s never liked to drink the stuff. The way his Soul flutters quicker when Grillby lets him bum a cigarette and the smoke curls through his senses like a barely forgotten dream. How, despite a shared admiration with the elemental, for some reason, even imagining being with him feels like betrayal to a lover he’s never had.

There are little things he can’t explain.

And larger things he cannot fathom.

Chapter Text

It looks just like the picture in the magazine. Shiny and red with leather interior, a pair of oversized fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. The hood folds down like a proper convertible should, perfect for letting one's nonexistent hair flow in the breeze. Papyrus is ecstatic, gushing over the paint or the tires or whatever it is that's caught his attention this time. It's everything his brother ever wanted.

And today, Sans would make that childhood dream come true.

Chapter Text

“m’lord? m’lord!” Papyrus could hardly see through the smoke, his bones aching from exertion. He lost Sans in the fray, a most egregious failure on his part. What use, what place, does a dog have without its master, without someone pulling its leash? A sharp tug at the collar banded about his throat, he hurried through the dust-darkened slush, ignoring the groaning form of a Royal Guard. Given the way his armor was caved in at the chest, the canine didn’t have much longer to live. Sans would be displeased with the losses to the Queen’s ranks, they were already few in number, and an event like this was devastating.

His breathing quickened. It was fine. Sans was fine. He was Captain now. One of the strongest monsters in the Underground. He proved to everyone that his size didn’t matter (to himself that his low HP didn’t matter). He wasn’t fragile. He was powerful! A figure of mighty authority that kept his men in line and the Underground safe—

Papyrus’ thoughts stuttered.

There, laying in a heap in the snow, was Sans.

“m’lord?” his voice cracked. How shameful. Sans would never approve. But it was fitting, yes, for a worthless mutt to whimper? The battle raged on. The combatants masked by the thickening smoke. Beneath it all he could hear the whisper of crackling flames as they consumed the forest around them. Papyrus knelt by his brother (his master, his lord, his world) and carefully lifted him to his chest. His skull lolled to the side, fresh cracks splitting open his socket, marrow leaking to paint ashen bone.

It had been years since he held Sans like this.

Since Sans allowed himself to be held.

Always such a fussy babybones…

Papyrus’ breath stuttered. It was easy to forget that HE was the older brother given their dynamic. Sans was the head of the house. Sans was the Captain of the Guard. Sans paid the pills and called the shots. But there was once a time when it was different. When Papyrus was the one doing everything he could to better their lives—taking advantage of his shortcuts to work at the CORE, train with the guard and more, all while raising that precious babybones to be the best monster in the Underground.

He pulled up his hood and steeled himself. This battle had gone on long enough. His Lord was weary (broken, damaged, injured) and needed his rest. Papyrus would end this affair. Ignoring his fatigue, the faithful hound bared his teeth, bones and blasters forming around him with vicious eagerness.

“everything will be just fine, m’lord. i’ll clean up this mess.”

Sans slept on.

Chapter Text

“Where ye be goin’ boy? It be midwinter’s eve. Ye know better than ta go a wanderin’ into the forest around a Solstice. And right before sundown at that! Have some sense.”

Edge refrained from rolling his eyelights as he adjusted his pack. Gerson might be a respected Elder of the village, but he was even more superstitious than most of his nattering peerage. His rants and ramblings about the Unseen were paranoid at best. Of course, the tortoise met any rebuffs with claims that the younger generations had forgotten the old ways and would suffer for it. Edge was a pragmatic skeleton. He had no time for children’s tales. (Even if this particular myth was one his own brother insisted he exercise before he…) He shook away the memories before they began.

“If ye must go, best be back before moonhigh!”

“YES, OF COURSE, ELDER,” Edge said, trying to placate the nosy pest. “THE VEIL WILL BE BUT MIST AND BOTH MORTAL AND FAERIE WILL WALK TOGETHER.”

“And the mists will clear at dawn! If ye have strayed upon their world and do not escape before the sunrise, ye will be trapped forever!” Gerson waved his cane and staggered forward, his eyes wide with that familiar mania.

“I WILL PROCEED WITH CAUTION. NOT TO WORRY.” His own breath hitched a little, and he forced the discomfort down. A year ago today his brother set out to buy medicine from a neighboring village for an ailing Edge. He never returned and no one from the village reported seeing him, meaning that he either lied about his destination...or the forest was his grave. There were many dangers in the wilds. Anything could have happened. Well, aside from magical mist and mythical beings. But he would be remiss not to perform the annual rights of remembrance if the forest was indeed Red’s grave.

Edge held little fear of the forest. He was more fearsome than any beast that may try to assault him, a hunter trained from his toddling youth. (Red did his best despite his poor health, it wore heavy on him when Edge became the provider, he could see it in his sockets.)

“Remember, if ye are unfortunate enough ta cross the veil, take no food or drink. Do not join their dances or sleep in their glade. It is all to distract ye so ye lose your way forever!” Gerson shouted as Edge reached the outskirts of the village. He peered back at him and nodded, hoping the Elder would go bother someone else with his ravings.

He had hunted in this forest for over fifteen years.

He knew what to expect.

.

Edge traveled to a little waterfall his brother liked taking him to when he was a child. It was a decent walk, and with the lengthening shadows, he was mindful to keep a hurried pace. A smile crept on his skull as he reached his destination. Despite the bitter cold that stripped the leaves from the trees, Echo Flowers bloomed readily on the banks, their glow familiar and persistent, even more beautiful at night than in the daylight.

He knelt by the blooms and pulled his pack off his shoulders, silently laying out small bundles of dried herbs and a cloth bag stuffed with straw. Edge wasn’t an especially religious man, but his brother often stared into the sky and spoke of an Angel, and became irritable whenever Edge stayed too late in the forest. He could burn an offering in his honor. An offering to remember his life...an offering to bring him home if he somehow still lived...to whatever gods or spirits out there who might grant a wish despite their supposedly fickle nature.

“I miss you,” Edge murmured as he set everything alight. Aromatic smoke filled the air. Leaving him alone with his grief. Little murmurs of ‘miss you’ ‘miss you’ ‘miss’ ‘miss’ ‘you’ shivered through the Echo Flowers as they shared their latest snippet of sound. Again and again until it all became a blur of meaningless noise.

“yer shouldn't be here, boss. getcher tailbone home 'fore dark."

Edge shot to his feet, soul racing, but soon he was clenching his fists in self-flagellation. He was imagining things. So caught up in memory he recalled one of those old warnings his brother growled out, his deep baritone made husky through years of poor choices and persistent fatigue. Red eyelights danced towards the canopy, whispering leaves masking a gold-and-violet sky, twilight soon to steal away the last of dusk's gilded rays. Bracing his magic, primed for attack, Edge gathered what remained from the ceremony, taking care to spread the ashes around the flowers before he turned away. The echo flowers muttered nonsense, hints of his voice mixed with dry leaves in the wind. (Though a part of him wished one would scold him as the memory did.)

But Sans was gone. Best to remember it. Holding onto ghosts brought nothing but tragedy.

Edge began his trek home, stride long, the prickle in his bones left ignored.

.

Lost.

He couldn't be lost.

He should be close to the edge of the forest. He knew every tree and stone as well as his own house! Edge glared at the moon. It hung heavy and full, as if to mock him for some folly. A full moon on a solstice, nothing to fear, there was no mystery to be found on a night such as this, no matter if the mists were high and freezing, lapping around his form like a burial shroud. Edge wasn't vulnerable to the cold. He could wait out the night if he must. Then figure out how he became turned around come daylight.

Now if only he could stop imagining music.

Gerson's ramblings were getting to him.

Edge made a point of walking in the opposite direction of the imagined melody. Yet somehow it lingered, following him wherever he went, ringing through his skull until he was tempted to scream his frustration. Eventually, he settled at the base of a tree. It wouldn't do to wander aimlessly. He'd rest here tonight…

Scanning his surroundings, he saw nothing amiss. Nothing. Nothing...wait… existing for just a blink were wide, luminous orbs, brighter than lightning flies on a summer lake. Just his imagination. Edge grit his teeth.

He would be here a while.

.

Again. He saw then. The lights.

Still he heard the music.

He was being watched…

Impossible.

.

"I LIKE YOU. YOU'RE INTERESTING."

Edge summoned a flurry of bones and shot to his feet. But the voice was bodiless. Another imagining.

"YOU SHOULD SLEEP. YOU'LL FEEL BETTER IF YOU DO."

Tch. Right. Because he would be dusted by some predator in the night. He tried clearing his head. Hearing things wasn't a good sign.

Laughter. The imaginary voice laughed at him.

Edge growled.

Again, he saw the lights.

He quieted. Those glows were closer now. Gerson's tales had him so riled he was imagining will-o-wisps. Regardless, he wasn't about to follow those lights to his doom. He was staying. Right. Here.

The glows vanished again.

.

"SO STUBBORN."

He didn't hear anything. Not a word.

"MWEH HEH. AND SO EMOTIONAL!"

Just a few more hours.

"I WONDER…"

.

"boss? boss! where are yer?"

Edge stiffened. That was Red's voice. It...no...it was just his mind playing tricks in the mist.

"boss? edge? little brother? please, go home. yer can't be out here."

Just his mind...just…

Edge blinked. Through the mist he saw it. Small but bundled in a dark, wool coat, white fleece around the hood--his brother plain as when he last saw him. Tiny red eyelights roamed his surroundings, scarred skull on full display.

Those pinpricks focused on him, "boss! oh thank angel yer fine."

"What kind of sorcery is this," Edge murmured as he pressed his back against the tree. "Is this some trick? A shade playing with my head?"

"no. no i'm real."

Red ran close, the scent of smoke upon him, his toothy smile relieved as he embraced Edge. Brother. His brother...he was here and alive and real…Wonderfully, hauntingly, distressingly real. Gloved hands lifted up to touch chipped bone and stained fleece. Brother. His brother—

"MWEHEHE. GOT YOU~"

The Voice.

Edge peered down to see luminous blue orbs where crimson ought to be.

"SUCH A STRANGE, MORTAL," said the imposter wearing his brother's face. "NORMALLY YOUR KIND AREN'T SO HARD TO SWAY."

"UNHAND ME, DEMON!" Edge roared, trying to free himself away from the doppelganger. His magic sang with ire, bones forming around him response to his anger. "YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR DECEPTION!" The false copy staggered a step then cocked his skull, smile wide and bright.

Suddenly, that stolen grin pressed to his teeth, supernatural strength dragging Edge down to meet him in a parody of a kiss. It was brief. Bizarre. And sent a spark of something strange through his mana lines. Edge finally squirmed free.

"INTERESTING. YOU AREN'T CHARMED. YOU ARE A MOST FASCINATING MORTAL INDEED." The smile softened, teeth becoming dull, cracks closing, his clothes rippling until he was adorned in translucent white. Ethereal against a backdrop of black, he bore a fey luminance that made him impossible to ignore. "DOES THIS FORM SUIT YOUR TASTES BETTER?" Was the creature trying to seduce him now? The mirth in his voice suggested that this was all some game to him.

The fae were known for their trickery.

"I WILL END YOU."

That was the only warning the creature got before crimson bones ripped through the forest floor, casting all in a rusty patina. But there was no dust rewarding his efforts. Instead, the creature vanished with another laugh.

"A HUNTER YOU MAY BE, BUT EVEN A PREDATOR CAN BECOME PREY." The fae—because what else could be?—he reappeared beside him, eyelights blown out stars. "I'LL MAKE YOU A DEAL, MORTAL, AND ONLY THIS ONCE. ESCAPE ME UNTIL DAWN AND I SHALL GUIDE YOU HOME, BACK TO THE SIDE OF THE VEIL TO WHICH YOU BELONG. A COSTLY LOSS FOR ONE OF MY KIND, FOR I WILL BE UNABLE TO CROSS BACK MYSELF...BUT IF I CATCH YOU…" There was something distinctly immortal about his gaze, both ancient and wistful, like a wizened Elder that once more dared to see the limitless possibilities in imagination as he held a childhood toy. "I GET TO KEEP YOU. A RARITY, THESE DAYS, TO BRING HOME A MORTAL BRIDE." At Edge's appalled expression his grin widened, "DENY ME AND I WILL STEAL YOU AWAY WITHOUT GRANTING YOU THIS SMALL TOKEN CHANCE AT ESCAPE."

He said it with surety. As if running was a pointless endeavor, and him allowing it was to humor the silly mortal that was too arrogant to realize he was beaten.

"I NEVER LOSE."

And with that, Edge bolted. That laugh he was learning to hate chased him through the trees. The very branches seemed to whisper in return, "WELL NEITHER DO I."

Chapter Text

How long had it been since she Fell? Since the earth opened up and swallowed her whole? How long had she wandered, lost and aimless, searching for a way back Above?

Long enough to hunger. Long enough to bend with exhaustion. Long enough to walk until her bare feet bled.

Frisk stumbled onward, the flower crown her nymph handmaidens spun from buttercups laid askew upon her head, petals dripping now-and-then like grains of sand in an hourglass. Her hands ached, blistered from holding onto a slim branch for countless days, the remnants of her final struggle before she Fell, instinct having her grasp for anything within reach to anchor herself. Since Falling, she learned very little, just that she was in the kingdom of the dead, and nearly everything down here was dangerous. It seemed that if a living being were so foolish as to end up here that they were meant to join the dead post haste. After countless attempts to steal her Soul, the dead became...quiet. Almost at peace with her presence. Perhaps word traveled around that she was not wholly human. A demigoddess with enough mortal DETERMINATION to gift her a place in the Pantheon when she discovered her designation. More godling than human, but as of yet, unnamed...and vulnerable to that mortal condition known as death.

Perhaps she should have listened to Mother and stayed in her garden. Hidden away from gods and mortals alike until she came into her own. Life assured Frisk she would likely mature into a minor goddess of nature, for flowers bloomed in her wake even as a child. But that didn't feel right. Not fully.

So she strayed from home Search for herself. Never for long. Never far. Just enough to visit villages or roam fields of wildflowers.

Then she Fell.

Her Mother had to be worried sick.

Caught up in her thoughts, Frisk didn't notice the temperature change, the air thicken with humidity. It wasn't until she felt grass beneath her feet instead of stone that she returned to herself. She stood on the outskirts of an oasis. Lush trees full of fruit surrounded a pond of crystalline water. There were voices and laughter. Nymphs? Frisk ignored her aching feet and ran, stopping only when hunger roared for her attention at the scent of food. Strange trees were these, for all the fruit was red and varied. Pomegranate, apple, and...tomatoes? Those only grew on vines! How odd. There were misplaced fruits growing where they shouldn't. Strawberries. Raspberries…

Her stomach wrenched.

Hungry.

She could die of starvation.

Her Mother warned her to never eat the food of the gods beyond what grew in her garden. Though she never detailed why, since Life assumed the situation would never arise before Frisk shed her mortality for a true name. But this was the first food she saw in what felt like forever, and it looked so ripe, ready to pluck and consume. Frisk's mouth watered as she plucked fruit from the tree: an apple and a pomegranate. Both weighed heavy and tempestuous in her palms. It wouldn't do to become too greedy and glut herself. But these two fruit might sustain her a little longer. Frisk tucked the apple away and with some effort, cracked open the pomegranate. Sweet juices sloshed free, dripping pink between her fingers, and with ravenous need, she pried out a seed. Then another. Soon she picked it clean, hands stained with evidence of her meager feast. It wasn't much, but for now, it would sustain her. Like any godly food it began to mend her, cuts and blisters knitting together, whole once more.

Frisk padded to the pond, catching sight of ripples on the surface, but no evidence of whom she heard speaking and laughing. "Hello?" she called, but no one came. So she knelt and rinsed her hands free of the stickiness before retrieving her trusty weapon, the one she abandoned to partake in her brief feast.

She marveled at the beauty of this place (because she never knew there could be life and beauty in the Underworld) before striking out again. As much as lingering to rest tempted, she knew it unwise.

As soon as she stepped back onto stone, the humidity fled, drawing her gaze back at the isolated paradise. Suddenly, a chill shot up her spine. "somethin' tells me you're new around here. how about you be a pal, turn around, and shake my hand." Frisk spun to see a skull grinning back at her, bone a blanched white, sockets blacker than pitch. A dead man walking? Her breath caught. No. She remembered her Mother's descriptions of the gods. This was HIM. Lord of the Underworld, God of the Dead, King of Earthly Riches and The Judge of Souls. The Arbitrator. The Reaper. Death.

He was small and unassuming, Life always said in her warnings, opposite of his younger, more peaceable brother. While both brothers bore the burden of collecting Souls, the elder was known for his callousness, as opposed to his mercy. When the gods were young, he one of the oldest among them, Death the Elder never took sides in their wars, but instead, watched with what she could describe as amusement. He was a vicious fighter when threatened and possessed one of the few weapons remaining from the last era that could slay an immortal. The gods were happy to leave him unchallenged in his dark domain, cloaked in black and despair.

"heh. you look like you saw a ghost," Lord Death drawled, shifting closer. "or somebody ran over your grave. or maybe my good looks stopped you dead in your tracks." Frisk noticed his hand, held outstretched, phalanges spread, expectant. "not very talkative? that's fine. i tend to steal people's breath away."

"L-lord Death, an honor," Frisk sputtered out, subconsciously creeping back before bowing as respectfully as she could while remaining on her feet. It was said his very touch was lethal, and while he could not reap the Souls of the immortal with a brush of the hand, the gods didn't especially enjoy being 'shattered'.

Death dropped his hand, skull tilting slightly, "oh? an honor you say, yet you flinch back from my presence. right after you had the gall to steal from me." His smile widened, and Frisk gave a small shake of her head. "no? you never stole from me? i see the proof of your crimes on your hands...that is evidence enough without me having seen you eat the pomegranate and sneaking off with an apple. tsk. a liar and a thief. a pity."

"I'm sorry!" Frisk burst out. "I've been down here, lost, for so long and I...I was hungry! There was so much food and I didn't know...please, have mercy." Death made an amused sound when she begged. Like many other inhabitants of Below, he wasn't one to Spare the little lost mortal, she knew in an instant. But unlike the others, she wasn't sure what she could do to convince him to let her live.

She couldn't buy passage like the River Person. What use did a god of wealth have for the coins in her belt pouch? He had a garden full of living plants. She doubted a flower from her crown would sway him. She bartered, sang and danced her way towards freedom, and yet here she stood, mind empty on how to overcome this most treacherous obstacle.

"Please."

Death sighed, "even i wanted to, i can't let you go. those that eat the fruit of the underworld cannot leave. if you were to escape and flee above, you'd end up drawn right back here. how about you don't make a fuss and i'll promise to be gentle. you won't feel a thing." Again his hand was out.

Frisk shook her head, heart racing, her very Soul swelling bright with DETERMINATION. Death drew in a sharp breath, no doubt sensing the change. Maybe even seeing it. A Judge of Souls would be poor at his job if he was blind to them. "I need to go home. I will go home. I'm sorry for stealing food from you, but I don't believe that I'm trapped here." Frisk brandished her stick. She had to defend herself on occasion, but never once did she have to strike first.

Death the Elder stared…

Then threw back his head, laughing.

When he recovered from his hysterics, he wiped away a nonexistent tear, "very well, human. i accept your challenge." From the Void he pulled a scythe of outlandish proportions, the upper arc of the blade adorned by a terrifying draconic skull. It looked too huge and heavy to ever be practical, but Death gave it an easy swing, as if it were lighter than air. "well, go on, strike me down."

Frisk gripped the stick tighter, eyes flicking towards any possible escape.

"ah-ah, no running off." There was a sudden yank on her Soul as she was dragged into an Encounter. Red light bloomed between them, her soul radiant in the gloom. It was dark. Too dark to see anything but her foe. "first strike is yours."

"I don't want a fight!"

"you waste your only chance to hit me? how bold." Light bloomed a flickering yellow and cyan in his left socket. Suddenly, the air stank of heated air and rang with static. Frisk flung herself forwards, barely escaping the blast of the strange weapons. She shrieked and skidden back as bones burst from the ground, a few ripping through the flesh of her legs. Frisk wasn't a fighter. She never hurt anyone in her life! Tears sprang unbidden into her eyes as she forced herself to leap on injured legs to avoid another flurry. A pitiful sight, indeed, was she, as her knees buckled and she fell to the ground.

Death spun his scythe and caged her with it, that wicked, soul-stealing edge a mere hairspan from her shoulders. "one more chance," he murmured. Death offered his hand.

Frisk shook her head, and the god gave an exaggerated sigh, "very well. i wished to avoid this but…" And then, despite it very much being her turn in the Encounter, meaning he shouldn't be able to take action, Death outright grabbed her Soul. Snatched it from the air between them like a fruit to be plucked.

Two things happened:
Frisk died.
Then she was alive again.

It happened in a quick, wrenching shatter. Death's touch should have been final but her Soul denied him. It refused. She refused. When her eyes next opened, in her palm was the empty remains of the pomegranate...and at her feet were golden flowers. Wild flowers hadn't bloomed as she walked since she Fell. She couldn't awaken life in a dead place.

The remnants of the fruit fell to the grass.

What...happened?

"it seems you've had your awakening, godling."

Frisk leapt back to see Death looming, "W-what just happened?"

"you earned your name."

"Do you—?"

"remember what happened to cause the event? indeed. but that is very likely only because i was holding your soul in my hand."

"You said I earned my name? What is it?"

Death's grin was wide, "you tell me."

Frisk wanted to flee from this god, but feared it would go over same as before. She closed her eyes instead, focusing inwards, listening for her Calling to speak. And softly, it did…

"Spring...I am...Spring," a nature goddess as Life predicted, but that alone felt incomplete. "Goddess of flowers...fertility...and…"

"rebirth."

Her eyes sprang open.

"nature and death aspected," the Elder god continued. "how curious...it seems that i was correct in my assumptions."

"What are you talking about?" Frisk backed away. Her stick laid on the ground, her hands still coated from her hasty meal.

"that you would never reach your full potential above," he floated closer. More ominous than ever. "i know all souls, godling. the moment i saw yours, i knew your fate was entangled in my world.”

Realization fell heavy upon her, “This is all your doing. My Fall. Our fight. All of it was planned.”

“yes.”

“How long?”

Death hummed as he drifted close enough to touch her again, the edges of his cloak creeping wisps that curled like living shadow. “i believe you were a child less than ten years of age when you first escaped wherever life kept you hidden. far too young for a name.” She swore she saw the tiniest fleck of light in those void pits that were his sockets. “i was mostly curious, then, that life took a human lover. it wasn’t until you came of age that your soul changed and you stopped being human. naughty of life to feed a halfling child ambrosia. she could have killed you. instead she cursed you with a godling’s fate. if you were human, still, you would have been able to live happily in her hiding place for as long as you never strayed from life’s domain. but instead, you were lured by your calling...the both of us were.” He chuckled, “to answer your question, i planned your fall as soon as i realized the role i played in your naming.”

“But you weren’t completely certain. You just assumed my Calling was death aspected.”

“if i had been wrong, you would be dead and neither of us concerned about that fact.”

“This was all a game. You didn’t care about the end result. You knew I was here the whole time...You left me here to wander until I was starving and bleeding and ready to collapse from exhaustion. The caverns seemed senseless and endless...was my finding this oasis part of your game?”

“yes. the underworld is my domain, it bends to my will and whims. it would reflect poorly upon me if it were easy to escape, since i am responsible for containing the souls of the deceased. there can be no life if the dead stay walking.”

Frisk thrust her chin up, not wanting to cower in his wake. She was a goddess in her own right, now. New though she may be. “You allowed me to discover my Name, and for that I am thankful. But I must go back Above. I need to return to Mother.”

Death shrugged and that amorphous shadow shifted further until they seemed to meld with Frisk’s. “no,” he held up a hand to silence her protests. “as i told you before. you ate the fruit. you are bound to this place. oh, you may find some way to escape in time, but it would be the height of foolish. after all, you now belong to the underworld. to me. not only will you be unable to stay away, but i will be able to find you wherever you stray. i’m certain life would be rather displeased with you her daughter should she lead death into her little hidden sanctuary after so many centuries of isolation from the gods.” He seemed to encase her with darkness. “you may be a goddess of nature, but you are also a goddess of death, and for that reason you belong here. no need to mourn. once you’ve come to accept your place, comprises can be made. i won’t keep you from the above forever.”

“Just until I’m broken?” Frisk snapped, ire at last surging to the surface.

“heh. no. never broken,” he reached a hand out, and before she could flinch away, he skimmed it down her cheek. There was no pain. No Soul shattering. “you will remain down here until you are crowned queen. a good wife always comes back to her husband, after all, her home his and no longer her mother’s.”

“Queen? Wife? You’re delusional! And stop touching me.” She slapped his hand away.

“no, i am quite sane. it’s been long since woven by the fates, you and i. You are to be my queen. lady spring, goddess of flowers, fertility, rebirth...and resurrection.”