It wasn't unusual for the cell in their shed to have an occupant. Mutt had often seen a drunk sleeping it off, or a traitor waiting for transport to the King, or other such things inhabiting the prison, sleeping on the lumpy dog bed, shackles optional most times.
What was unusual was the occupant being a human, now that , that was interesting, and he watched his brother's lackeys drag you in as he smoked a dog treat, flicking the remains into the snow and slipping in as they exited just as swiftly.
Aw, it's frightened. He prowled the edge of the room, watching as you pulled at their chains frantically. Not very good at surviving, it seemed, hardly a scratch on yoy so probably got captured pretty quick. And by the, er, less competent of his brother's team as well.
He kinda felt bad for you. Like a trapped, wounded animal.
"well, lookee here."
That startled you, and Mutt crouched outside the bars, cocking his head and meeting your eye as you whirled around, flattening against the wall.
"Let me out!" You shouted instantly.
"fraid not, little lamb. i let you out and it's my head that goes rolling. besides, gauging from how you were brought in, yer safer in there." He flicked his hand and the door swung open, allowing him to stand and step in. You tried to rush for the door, the chains stopping you and Mutt reached out to catch you before the chains could yank your limbs from your sockets. "woah, easy there, gonna hurt yerself."
"What're you gonna do to me?" You squeaked, eyes wide as you tried to back away.
"well, uh, do you want the truth or one of those little white lies that makes you feel better?" Mutt chuckled, letting you step back until he was only barely holding your hands. "shit, yer hands're like ice! you cold?"
You huffed, annoyed, but you can't say he isn't charming. "I'm wearing a short sleeved shirt in the snow, what do you think? Of course I'm fucking cold."
"okay, testy," he hummed, slipping off his jacket.
He was surprisingly slim beneath it, though what you expected, you'll never know, he's a skeleton after all--a skeleton that can somehow walk and talk, but then, you've seen all sorts of strange shit since you fell down here.
He laid the jacket over your shoulders and oh, oh, it was instantly so warm that you couldn't help but pull it closer, shuddering as your abused extremities flared with heat.
"there, that's better, huh?" He asked, patting your shoulder gently. "can't have you freezing t'death out here."
"...Is this your place?" You asked, casting your gaze around the small cell, to the door on the other side of the bars.
"m'brother an'i live in the house right there," he said, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. "he's captain of the guard down here an' i work for 'im. don't see humans much...up to him if he wants t'turn you in."
"Turn me in?"
"to the queen. supposedly she's collecting humans to help break the barrier an' get us outta this hellhole but…" The monster sighed, shrugging. "so far we've gotten diddly-fuck for it, so, who knows what'll happen. he'll prob'ly wait a while 'til the rest of the town forgets they ever saw you anyway. safer. got a name?"
"...Not that I care to share with someone keeping me prisoner."
"fair 'nough. mine's papyrus, but most 'round here call me mutt." He pulled something out of seemingly nowhere, and you recoiled as he reached toward you with it. "just a pastry. you look hungry."
You don't really know if you can trust him, but he did tell you all that for no reason, and he did give you his coat. Hesitantly, you reach for the paper bag, finding a slightly crushed pastry that smelled of maple and well, it didn't look poisoned.
"trust me, i'd be a dead monster if i killed you now," he said. "i should go, before my brother comes checkin'. see you 'round, little lamb."
And he disappeared, into thin air, the gate swinging shut and the lock clattering, leaving you with only a pastry and a jacket to prove he was ever even there.
Two months you had been here. Two months you'd been captive. Your wrists and ankles chafed beneath the heavy shackles, but at least you had been allowed some breaks from the chains to piss in a corner you didn't sleep in.
The brother, Sans (or Black, as you found he preferred to be called), was much smaller than Mutt but far more intimidating and chilly in demeanor. His visits were merely for checking you were alive, hardly ever speaking a word but to tell you if he was going to sell you out today or not.
Mutt, on the other hand, had won you over fairly quickly. His job seemed to be sure your basic needs were met, and he was happy to do it. Every now and then he would sneak you extra food, or bring you fresh clothes. He had even convinced his brother to install a shower in the cell--a small one, he argued, so you could be presentable at a moment's notice for the queen. It was hard to dress and shower with the shackles, but Mutt did his best to assist you.
You grew used to his dumb jokes after a while. It was almost comforting to have him there. After a time, you even gave up the pretense that this was an elaborate Good cop/Bad cop routine and began to believe he was sincere.
If you ever escaped, you would probably want to take him with you. That can't be healthy, probably some form of Stockholm Syndrome, but it didn't stop you from inviting him to care for another basic need he'd been neglecting, didn't stop you from pulling him into the shower with you, or letting him lay you down on his warm, soft jacket to buffer against the cold concrete floor. It didn't stop you from enjoying it.
You were thinking that maybe, if all this ends, you'd like to have him forever.
It wasn't, apparently, a wish you were destined to have granted. No. It seemed the universe had a...sense of humor.
“What do you mean we’re married now?!”
If Black had less training, he might have flinched at your raised voice. As it stood, he only waited patiently for you to stop sputtering, watching your mind race as you took in his words.
“I’M AFRAID THAT IS THE PREDICAMENT,” he explained calmly. “I WILL SAY THAT INSTANT BONDING DOES NOT HAPPEN OFTEN, SO THERE IS NO MISTAKE THAT WE ARE SOULMATES–”
“My ass !” You scoffed.
“–AND I REALIZE THAT THIS IS INCONVENIENT AT BEST, BUT I WILL TRY TO BE AS SUPPORTIVE A PARTNER I CAN AS WE GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER–”
“This is not happening. It’s not,” you huffed, but you had seen it, you had felt it. You knew enough about monsters after being underground this long, and from what Mutt had shared with you, you know what a bond looks like.
You sat on the floor of your cell, wondering how this could have happened. Black, cool and calculating as ever, right up until you had grabbed his arm through the bars yesterday. You hadn’t thought too much of it, really, beyond the smug enjoyment you felt that his facade had broken--he had squeaked a very unmanly squeak, and he had retreated immediately.
Why? Why did it have to be him? Your stupid soul thinks the rigid warden keeping you here was better than Mutt, who’d been keeping you warm at night? Well, it wasn’t as if Mutt had tried to help you escape or anything, he’s just as much under Black’s thumb as you were, but at the very least he kept you company, kept you fed and clean and warm. How ironic that less than ten hours ago, you’d laid in this very spot, clinging to Mutt as he muttered wishes of whisking you away, making you pant and cry out–
–only to find out, in this very spot, that you were bound to his brother, the cold one, forever.
The clanging of the door caught your attention and you jolted, pressing against the wall as Black stepped in.
“I AM AWARE OF YOUR PHYSICAL RELATIONS WITH MY BROTHER,” he said, stepping closer slowly with the key to your chains. “I WON’T REQUEST YOU STOP. I DON’T MIND IT. I ALSO AM AWARE YOU DON’T LIKE ME VERY MUCH.”
“No shit!” You huffed, but fell silent as he unlocked your ankles, then your hands. “…what are you doing?”
“THIS CELL IS NO PLACE FOR MY MATE,” he said. “IF I AM TO EARN YOUR TRUST, I HAVE TO START BY GIVING SOME MYSELF. I WOULD LIKE YOU…TO PLEASE JOIN US INSIDE THE HOUSE FROM NOW ON.”
You rubbed your wrists, glaring at him, disbelieving. He shifted nervously, and you felt a rush of feelings–regret, shame, fear of rejection…worry. “You’re serious. You’re trying to make good for trapping me here.”
“PLEASE UNDERSTAND, I WAS ONLY DOING MY JOB–”
“What I understand is you were content to let me fucking rot in here until you were suddenly linked by some divine sense to my soul,” you hissed. “And if it weren’t for your brother, I might have frozen to death.”
“I CAN’T DENY THE WRONG I HAVE DONE. I ONLY ASK FOR THE CHANCE TO MAKE IT RIGHT,” he pleaded, soft, almost desperate. “PLEASE. GIVE ME A CHANCE.”
Your eyes flicked to the open cell door. It was an opportunity, and it wasn’t a bad one. You had leverage here, in case he ever decided to turn you in again.
“Fine,” you said slowly. “But I’m staying in Mutt’s room.”
“THAT’S FINE,” he agreed.
“And I’m never going back in this fucking cage again?”
He looked almost offended, hand fluttering to his chest. “OF COURSE NOT, DARLING!”
You snatched up your backpack, previously too far for you to reach when shackled. You brandished it at him, narrowing your eyes. “No pet names. Don’t fucking touch me.”
He took a deep breath, and a wave of understanding and quiet acceptance washed over you. “NEVER WITHOUT YOUR CONSENT.”
You stared at each other for another long moment, and finally you sighed, stepping out of the cell before he could lock you back in. “Okay. Let’s go inside, I guess.”
“I PROMISE I WILL MAKE IT BETTER,” he swore, hand ghosting at your elbow to guide you, but dutifully not touching. “I PROMISE.”
You’ll believe it when you see it, but for now you had a free pass into the house, into Mutt’s arms in the comfort of a bed, and that was enough to make your feet move from beneath you.
You wondered if he felt your relief.