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The Sans and Grillby Saga

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Out of everything in his life, he never expected his marriage to be what went up in flames. His house, his desk, the strange white dogs that littered the streets – all of those seemed like more probable candidates for combustion… but no. The only thing that burned was his marriage.

He wasn’t graced with a sudden end to his marriage, either. It was long, drawn out, and had spanned the better part of his daughter’s life. She was sixteen now, he thought sadly; beautiful, vivacious, smart… and living in the Capital with her mother while he carried a suitcase through Waterfall. He sighed; there was no point in dwelling on it. He had tried to reconnect with his wife, but she was too distant now - she had become his roommate, instead of his wife. “…Who knew that fire be so cold?” He asked, his raspy voice filled with bitter laughter. He sighed again. He wasn’t being fair to her; their marriage ended peacefully, professionally. They shook hands, busked cheeks and then they went their separate ways. It wasn’t her fault he was walking through Waterfall - that was his own brilliant idea. Grillby adjusted the grip on the suitcase’s handle and kept walking, trying to ignore the ominous roar of the water that surrounded him. He pretended not to notice the water droplets sizzling as they pelted his fiery body, ignoring every reflexive wince of pain from the water. What in the name of King Asgore was he doing out here in Waterfall?! He was made of fire! “…Just keep walking,” he kept telling himself; surely he’d be out of Waterfall soon, right?

Wrong.

Grillby tried to ignore his damp, aching legs as he stared out at what had to be the absolute worst walkway within the entire Underground. The wooden platforms creaked ominously as he carefully traversed the slick surfaces and after every few steps, the pathway would branch off into what felt like a never-ending series of dead ends. And, of course, the stupid cavern was so dark that he couldn’t even see five feet in front of him! Grillby stepped and slipped, dropping to his knee as he clutched his suitcase. Wincing, he pushed himself back to his feet and kept moving, grumbling, determined to make it off the blasted walkway.

When his wingtip-clad feet met solid ground, he gave a sigh of relief, the dim flames of his body flickering. Surely that was the end, right? He wasn’t sure how much further he could keep going. He had already waded through knee-deep water and his legs were still smoking, aching. He needed someplace dry - and, preferably, warm! - in order to recover. Grillby looked around, his glasses glinting, an unseen frown filtering across his fiery face. The only thing he saw ahead of him was a ledge. His head sank back against the cavern wall and he closed his eyes, sighing in defeat…

“hey pal, you look lost.”

Grillby’s head snapped up, flames lashing wildly. He saw a skeleton standing in front of him, looking down at him; he wasn’t sure how, but the skeleton’s face looked concerned.
“…I am lost.”
“where were you trying to go? hotland is to the east.”
Grillby looked down at his feet for a moment before looking back up at the skeleton. “…I don’t know.”
“well, there’s nothing really here in waterfall except for tem village. i can already tell by looking at you that you wouldn’t want to go there. come on, let’s go. there’s a restaurant in snowdin that i like to go to. you look like you could use a hot meal.”

Grillby pushed himself to his feet and picked up his suitcase, looking down at the surprisingly short skeleton; his head barely came to his chest! “…That sounds good.”
“follow me then, pal. we’ll head to snowdin.”
“…Grillby.”
“huh?”
“…My name is Grillby.”
“oh. i’m sans. sans the skeleton. nice to meetcha.” The skeleton started walking to the west, lightly hopping off of the ledge. Grillby descended much more slowly, climbing down, his back towards Sans. The skeleton turned its grinning face up to the fiery man. “you can borrow my umbrella. i think you might need it more than me.” Sans held out a pink umbrella. Grillby opened the umbrella, only to quickly drop it as a spider fell out of it. Sans laughed, a surprisingly deep sound for such a small body. “oh, sorry about that. fake spider, y'see. it’s fine.”

Grillby held in a sigh and picked up the umbrella again, ignoring the plastic spider on a string, as he took his suitcase in his other hand. He steeled himself and resumed walking, following the small skeleton.

He wasn’t sure how far he followed Sans, but it felt like he was walking for ages. The umbrella helped to keep his head dry, but the perpetual rain kept pelting his arms and legs. Grillby said nothing as he walked, idly listening as Sans told him about Waterfall. He couldn’t really focus on the words, though; his mind was distracted by the pain wracking his body. By the time the two had left the rainy corridors, Grillby was barely able to stand upright, his normally bright flames reduced to smoldering embers. He stumbled, his suitcase slipping from his grasp, and fell onto the statue’s lap. Sans quickly turned and caught the umbrella, putting it into the statue’s hand, making sure it covered the stranger.
“you ok, grillby?”
Grillby said nothing at first, pulling his legs to his chest, all but cowering underneath the umbrella. “…No.”
“do you think you can keep walking?”
“…No.”
“the water hurts you, huh?”
Grillby made a soft noise of derision.
“alright. it’s time for my break, anyway, so we can sit for awhile.”
“…Break?”
“yup. i patrol the waterfall, looking for humans.”
Grillby said nothing as he leaned his head back against the statue’s shoulder, listening to the soft music that was now filling the cavern. Sans sat quietly, too, the two resting and waiting for Grillby’s flames to grow brighter.

Grillby wasn’t sure how much time had passed. He wasn’t even sure where he was. The last thing he remembered was collapsing onto a statue and a soft melody… He sat up slowly and blinked at sight of a blurry world. He felt around for his glasses, frowning when he found them on a small side table next to a door key. He wasn’t in the cavern anymore; he was sitting in what appeared to be an inn, warm blankets covering his fully clothed body. Grillby put on his glasses, rubbed his face and slowly climbed out of bed. He was relieved to see that he had not burned the bedding.

The fiery man dug in his suitcase for a clean pair of clothes and quickly changed before sighing, staring at himself in the mirror. He had certainly looked better in the past; his clothes were wrinkled, his shoes were waterlogged and his normally bright flame was reduced to a dull orange glow. Still, though, he was alive and warm… and hungry. Very hungry. Didn’t that skeleton say something about food? Grillby put a hand over his flat stomach and picked up the room key, leaving the room. He locked the door behind him and made his way downstairs, blinking in surprise at the friendly voice that greeted him. The kindly rabbit told him that Sans would be showing up soon, that the skeleton had paid for his room for the next few days. Grillby thanked her and sat down on the couch, waiting.

Sans showed up a few minutes later, the small skeleton smiling up at Grillby. “hey. you didn’t look so good back in waterfall, so i brought you here. you’ve been asleep for a day.”
“…Sans?”
The skeleton ignored him. “are you hungry? you must be, at this point.”
“…Yes.”
“let’s get something to eat. c'mon, grillby. the restaurant’s just down the street. it’s not much, but it’s the only restaurant in snowdin.” Grillby followed him outside, tucking the key into his pocket.

Snowdin seemed like a nice town. It was small and quaint, with friendly people waving at him and almost everyone saying hello to Sans. The two men walked into the restaurant and Grillby immediately frowned at the sight. The lights were off and there were no customers. “…Sans?”
“huh. guess the old guy’s still asleep. here, take a seat. i’ll see if he’s in the kitchen.”
Grillby sat down in an empty booth, holding in another sigh. He was so hungry and just wanted something to eat; at this point, he’d even eat one of the glowing mushrooms from the caverns…

Sans returned a few minutes later, tucking a note into his blue hoodie. “well, uh…” The skeleton slid into the booth, looking up at Grillby. “…apparently the owner retired.”
“…What?”
“yeah. he apparently left about three weeks ago, not that anyone really noticed. no one ever really came to eat here, except me. so… he’s left.”
Grillby stared at the skeleton for a few moments before he put his elbows on the table and dropped his head into his hands, his stomach growling loudly.
“don’t worry, grillby. there’s plenty of food in the freezer. you can cook, right? just make something - it’s not like the owner’ll care.”
“…I suppose…” Grillby stood up and followed Sans into the kitchen, taking an old white apron off of a nearby hook as the skeleton opened up the freezer.
“let’s see… we got some frozen fries, some burgers…”
Grillby stepped around Sans and looked for himself, saying nothing as he plucked various items out of the freezer and put them on the counter. For the first time in what felt like years, the man smiled. “…Would you like something, Sans?”
“huh? uh, sure, yeah. that’d be great.”
“…Any preference?”
“anything you can put ketchup on.”

Grillby laughed quietly and set to work on cleaning up the kitchen in preparation for cooking dinner, a small smile gracing his flaming face. It had been so long since he worked in a restaurant; it brought back memories of his years in high school, taking shifts after classes ended for the day. He had made a lot of friends while working there… that was where he fell in love with his future wife…

“you okay, grillby? you look upset.”
“…Yes.”
“you sure?”
“…Just a past life.”
Sans frowned at that. “whaddya mean?”
“…Nothing.”
“y'sure? it didn’t look like nothing.”
Grillby sighed. “…A memory of my ex-wife.”
“ex wife? what happened? did your marriage lose its spark?” Sans winked… only to lower his head when Grillby fixed him with a withering stare. “sorry, grillby. i didn’t mean anything by it.”
“…It’s okay.” Grillby said, surprised that he actually meant it. His divorce was only a few weeks fresh - shouldn’t it still sting? “…We grew apart.”
“oh. uh, i’m sorry.” Sans fell silent as he watched Grillby move about the kitchen, smiling faintly as he saw the man’s flames growing brighter. After a few minutes, Sans cleared his throat. “so, grillby… got any plans now that you’re here?”
“…No.”
“d’you any idea at all about what you want to do?”
“…No.”
“d'you like cooking? like, y'know, for customers?”
“…Yes.”
“ok. cool.” He smiled, falling silent…

Neither man was sure how much time had passed, but neither complained. The kitchen had been transformed from cold and barren to full of light, warmth and, above all, the scent of a delicious meal. Sans helped carry the plates out into the restaurant proper and stared at the spread before him, smiling up at Grillby. “this looks fantastic! c'mon, grillby; let’s eat!” Grillby returned the smile with a small one of his own as he sat across from the skeleton.

With the plates all but licked clean, Sans pushed himself back from the table and rubbed his stomach. “man, that was fantastic. i have to run, though - got places to patrol. can you put that on my tab?”
Grillby chuckled quietly. “…Okay.”
“cool. thanks grillby. i’ll see you later.”
“…See you.” Grillby watched the skeleton walk out of the door before he gathered up the plates and carried them into the kitchen. He was thankful he had managed to find the ugly yellow gloves under the sink - he wasn’t looking forward to hurting himself more just for some clean plates…

Grillby was wiping down the table he had eaten at earlier when the door opened again. The man looked up and saw Sans standing in the doorway. “hey grillby. what’s cookin’?” Sans strolled up and sat down in the chair he sat in earlier. “what? no answer? that’s not going to be good for business.”
“…Business?”
“yup. i spoke with undyne - she’s the closest thing we have to a mayor around here - and i told her about the awesome meal you made. she was impressed.” Grillby was frowning, his mouth opening for a question, but Sans ignored him. “i told her that you were new to town and didn’t have any plans. she said that if you wanted, you could take this place over.”
“…What?!” His flames lashed wildly, shocked at Sans’ words.
“just think it over, ok? in the meantime, look around the place. the old owner lived over the restaurant. it might be nicer than the inn. anyway, i gotta run. gotta check on my brother. see you later, grillby!” Just as quickly as he came in, Sans turned and left, the door snapping shut behind him. Grillby could only stare at the closed door, pondering the skeleton’s words…

Two years later, Grillby turned the bar’s sign to ‘closed’ before taking his seat behind the bar. He sat across from Sans, a meal spread out between them. Sans smiled up at the bartender and owner, holding up a small glass. “happy anniversary, grillby.”
Grillby tapped his glass to his friend’s, confused. “…Anniversary?”
“yup. two years ago today, you came to snowdin. so, happy anniversary.”
Grillby smiled a genuine smile and laughed quietly. “…Thank you, Sans. It’s good to finally be home.”

Sharing the smile, the two men ate their meals, enjoying the peaceful silence and the other’s company.

Chapter Text

Grillby didn’t mind owning a restaurant, he really didn’t. It was enjoyable work in a quaint town with pleasant customers. The slower pace of Snowdin was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the Capital. No, he didn’t mind this job at all and he didn’t really have any complaints about what he did. He just wished he had been given a choice in naming the restaurant he now owned.

Grillby didn’t mind that the restaurant was named after himself, he really didn’t. Sure, it did seem a little vain and pretentious, but who was to say that he, himself, wasn’t? After all, he insisted on wearing a bowtie and a vest every day! Grillby laughed quietly to himself as he tied his bowtie. No, he wasn’t vain - he just didn’t have anything else to wear and he didn’t feel like going shopping. Besides, he’d have to go back to the Capital if he wanted to buy anything that wasn’t a parka. He fixed his bowtie and walked downstairs into the restaurant proper, ready for the new day.

Grillby didn’t mind that he was his only employee, he really didn’t. It was definitely different from what he used to do, where he was able to take a sick day and not worry about the repercussions of spending an entire day away from work. He quickly found that he liked the responsibility and staying busy from juggling various roles. At the very least, the work was a welcome distraction from his current predicament. Then again, on some mornings…

Grillby did mind.

And this morning was shaping up to be one of those mornings.

As soon as Grillby unlocked the front door, his phone began to ring. It was the first time he had received a call since he had come to Snowdin, three months prior. He pulled the buzzing phone out of his pocket and stared down at the screen, the flames of his body darkening as quickly as his mood. Taking a deep breath, he answered the call…

“…Hello.”
“Grillbsy?”
“…Hello, Cindy.”
“Is this a bad time?”
“…No.”
“Good. I wanted to talk to you.”
“…Oh?”
“It’s about the house.”
Grillby said nothing, dreading his former wife’s next words…
Cindy continued on. “It’s still under your name, as is the mortgage. I wanted to ask if you could legally sign the house over to me.”
Grillby’s mood - and flames - grew darker as his heart sank. “…And the mortgage?”
“I’d take that over, too.”
“…I see. What about all of the furniture, the rest of my things?”
“Well–”
“…Well, what?”
“Well,” Cindy sighed. “The furniture would stay. I could have your things sent to you–where are you, anyway? We’ve not spoken since we signed the papers.”
“…Snowdin.”
“What?!” She laughed. “You went to Snowdin? Really?! What made you go there?”
“…Being served with divorce papers.”
“Oh. i-I see."

Grillby sat behind the bar, staring out of the window at the snowy landscape, unable to see anything but the falling snow. ”…It is nice here. I like it.“
"You didn’t have to leave, Grillbsy.” Her voice was soft.
“…Yes. I did.”
“But–”
Grillby sighed. “…Have the lawyer send over the papers. I’ll give you the address.”
“Alright. I have a pen…”
Grillby recited the address to the bar as he rubbed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his flaming nose. “…I’ll sign the papers when they get here. Is there anything else?”
“Do you want to come back for your things? I mean, you left most of your clothing and your books–”
“…I will. Later. Just box them up for now.”
“Grillbsy…”
“…I have to go to work.”
“Grill–”

Grillby ended the call and turned off his phone, his heart heavy. That was it, then. The first contact with his ex-wife in three months and it was about the house. He didn’t know what to expect, really. Had he thought she would ask for him to come back? Maybe… but no.

After all, she had been the one to serve him with the papers in the first place.

He rubbed his face again, his eyes tightly closed. The divorce hadn’t really bothered him until just now. Hearing her voice again was too much, he thought to himself, his head now in his hands. Seventeen years of his life - almost half of his life! - had been spent with her and now it was over! The fact Cindy wanted a divorce wasn’t shocking; it was the act of finalizing it that was so surprising, so jarring. He had known a divorce was coming, having felt their relationship dissolving over the years. He tried to save it, he truly had. He just… didn’t know how. Perhaps, he thought darkly, there was never anything there to save.

Grillby’s head came to rest on his folded arms as sadness settled across his shoulders like a wet blanket…

They had been high school sweethearts, he and Cindy, dating in the precious few moments where Grillby wasn’t working or doing homework. He had always tried to see her, but he was never able to spend much time with her. He was always so busy…

…but apparently not busy enough to stop him from fathering a child.

Ember was born a few days before he turned nineteen. Cindy was eighteen. Neither of their parents were happy about this turn of events. His parents were especially displeased; he hadn’t heard from them in well over a decade… Faced with the loss of his parents, the constant disapproval of Cindy’s own family and the smile of his beautiful daughter, Grillby pulled together his savings. He bought a small house and a diamond ring. The house and the ring were nothing special, but it made Cindy and her family happy. A few months later, they were married. A few months after that, Grillby received a promotion to Manager at the restaurant where he worked. Life, it seemed, was going his way. He had a wife he loved, a beautiful daughter he adored, a quaint house, a nice job…

“…can i get a cup of cocoa, grillby?”

Grillby blinked, sitting up straight as he looked around the restaurant. His eyes widened behind his glasses as he saw Sans sitting in front of him, the skeleton staring right at him.
“you remember what cocoa is, right? it’s the stuff we can’t give papyrus because it makes him too hyper.”
“…Right. Right. Cocoa.” Grillby pushed himself to his feet and reached under the bar, pulling out a mug. The bartender stared at the cup, his brows knitting together in frustration. It was just cocoa.

…how did one make cocoa?

Grillby found himself staring back at Sans again, the skeleton now standing next to him. He took the mug out of Grillby’s hands and walked back into the kitchen. Grillby followed him, shaking his head as he tried to gather his thoughts. He leaned against the wall as Sans made himself the cocoa, not commenting on the fact that Sans’ mug was filled with marshmallows… and no cocoa.
“do you want a cup, too?”
Grillby shook his head and the two walked back out into the restaurant, taking their usual seats. Sans popped a marshmallow into his mouth as he looked at Grillby, not liking the way the man’s flaming body was, well, no longer flaming. The bartender was only a little more than ash and glowing embers. “what’s wrong, grillby?”
“…Nothing.”
“that’s the biggest nothing in the world, then.”
“…It will be alright.”
“y'sure?”
Grillby lowered his head. “…It has to be.”
Sans made to speak, but fell silent as he heard the front door open. He watched Grillby push himself to his feet, watched the bartender give himself a shake, his flames slowly brightening. Sans ate the marshmallows and put the mug down on the bar, slipping outside as the armoured dogs sat down at their usual tables. Grillby didn’t even notice him leaving.

By the time he announced the last call for the night, Grillby was exhausted to his very core.

The few remaining patrons paid their bills and filtered out into the dark town. Grillby sighed as he locked the front door, turning his sign to “closed” and made his way back to the kitchen, gathering dirty dishes as he went. He loaded the dishwasher, cleaned the kitchen, prepared food for the next day and was halfway through mopping his restaurant when he realized he wasn’t alone.

Sans was sitting on his usual barstool, his white pupils following Grillby’s movements through the dim restaurant.

Grillby frowned at the skeleton. “…Restaurant’s closed.”
“i’m not here for food.”
“…Then why are you here?”
“i’m worried about you. i’ve never seen anyone as sad as you were this morning. what happened?”
Grillby didn’t answer, his attention focused on the mop in his hands.
“talk to me, grillby.”
“…What are you? My therapist?” He snapped, his flames crackling.
“well, it seems like you need one, but there’s no one here. i guess i’ll have to do for now.” Sans shrugged.

The bartender turned and looked back at Sans, his breathing slow and even. The man put the mop back in the storage closet a moment later. He sat down on his usual stool and pulled a glass out from underneath the bar, along with a dark bottle. The cork was pulled free with a pop but before Grillby could even pour himself a shot, Sans took the bottle from his hands. Grillby frowned darkly, his flames crackling angrily. “…Sans.”
“if you won’t talk to me, at least let me pour you a drink.”
Grillby’s anger softened at that. He took the now-filled glass and knocked it back in a single gulp, placing the glass back down on the bar. Sans looked at Grillby and poured another drink when the man nodded, watching as the bartender drank the shot. They repeated the process in silence thrice more before Grillby put the glass down.

Calmer now, Grillby put his hand under the bar and placed a framed photograph on the polished wooden surface. “…That’s my daughter. Ember. She’s sixteen.”
“she’s pretty.”
“…She’s the light of my life.”
“where is she?”
“…In the Capital, with her mother.” Grillby stared at the photograph, his jaw clenched. “…Cindy called earlier. My ex.”
“was that who you were talking to this morning?”
“…Yes. Cindy just… wanted to discuss the house and the mortgage, now that I’m not her husband.” Grillby took off his glasses and ran a hand down his face. “…I don’t know what I expected. I guess… I hoped…”
“that it was all just a dream?”
“…Yes.” Grillby put the photograph away. “…I don’t know where I went wrong, Sans. I tried to… to fix it.”
“sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you try.” Sans eyes were dark as he stared down at the bar. “there are some things that you just can’t fix.”
“…Sans?”
“later, grillby. this is about you right now.” Sans looked back up at the bartender. “what can i do to help?”
Grillby shook his head. “…You’ve done more than anyone else.”
“i don’t care. you’re my friend and you’re in pain. what can i do to help?”
Grillby pushed his glass in front of Sans, saying nothing. The skeleton poured him another shot, watching as Grillby knocked it back in a single gulp.

"…I’m thirty-five. I spent almost seventeen years living with Cindy and Ember. When Ember turned eight, I noticed that Cindy had stopped kissing me good morning. Age nine, Cindy stopped making me coffee with breakfast. It kept on, for years. I tried everything I could think of to make Cindy happy. I got her jewelry, clothes, dinner reservations… everything. And I got nothing.“ Grillby reached for his glass again, sighing when Sans refused to pour. ”…I spent seventeen years of my life, waking up next to Cindy and having breakfast with my daughter. And now… now I wake up alone.“ Grillby put his head in his hands. ”…I wake up in a strange bed, in a strange building, in a strange town–“
"no you don’t.” Sans’ voice was firm. “you don’t wake up in a strange bed. you wake up in your bed, in your restaurant, in your hometown.”
“…I–”
“this is your home, grillby. you might not realize it, but it is. the people here like you. they’re glad you’re here. i know it’s different from what you had… but isn’t this better? you have friends here, you have a life here. do you really want to give this up and go back to what you had? stuck in a loveless marriage?”
“…I miss my daughter.” Grillby’s voice was a whisper.
“she’s not gone, grillby. she’s just not here.”

Grillby blinked at that, sitting upright as his drunken brain processed those words. Sans… was right. He hadn’t lost his daughter because of the divorce. She was still his daughter, even if she didn’t live with him anymore. Besides, she was almost ready for University…
Sans’ gaze softened, matching his smile. “it’s not what you had before, but wouldn’t you say that waking up in your own bed with the promise of a new day is better than,” he shrugged, “y’know, waking up next to someone who no longer loves you and spending every day asking yourself what went wrong?”
“…i-It is. It is.” Grillby smiled, laughing suddenly. “…It is!” He kept laughing. “…It is better!”
“grillby!” Sans lunged forward, reaching across the bar, grabbing Grillby’s vest. “uh oh!” He tried to keep the drunken bartender upright, but it was too late.

Grillby fell off of his stool, laughing, not caring that he was now flat on his back on the floor. Sans sat up nearby, rubbing his head, staring at the drunken bartender with a smile. Grillby’s hands were on his stomach as he howled with laughter. Yes, his heart was broken, his life had been dumped on its head and he was starting over in a new town… but Sans was right! This was truly better! He kept laughing, ashen tears filling his eyes, every passing minute taking more weight off of his shoulders…

Sans sat with his back against the liquor shelf, smiling at the drunken bartender, watching as ashes fell from Grillby’s eyes. “feeling better, grillby?”
Grillby slowly pushed himself to a sitting position, wiping his eyes. “…No. But I will…” He stared down at the embers. “…Thank you.”
Sans smiled warmly. “glad to help.” He pushed himself to his slipper-clad feet. “now let’s get you to bed. it’s well past closing.”
“…Oh.”
“don’t worry, though. you have tomorrow off, remember? you’ll need it, after tonight.”
Grillby couldn’t deny that…

Sans helped Grillby up the stairs and back into his bedroom. The bartender fell face-first onto the bed and kicked off his shoes, almost immediately falling asleep. Sans placed the man’s glasses on the bedside table and pulled a blanket over Grillby’s prone body. “sleep well, grillby.”
Grillby’s snore was his only reply…

The next morning, Grillby woke up in his bed, breathing in the now-familiar scents of his restaurant. He stretched languidly, reveling in the fact that he had the whole bed to himself. He wasn’t better, not by a long shot, but he was happier now than he had been in years. It was a start. He would get better.

…and he’d get better a lot faster once this hangover went away…

Chapter Text

It was normal for a man to have a crush on someone.
It was normal for a man to have a crush on a male someone.
It was normal for a man to have a crush on a male someone who was older.
It was not normal for a man to have a crush on a male someone who was older and made entirely of fire.

Sans leaned his head back against the ancient door, sighing as he sat down. He drew his knees to his chest and stared out into the snowy woods. “how did this even happen? i’ve only known him for a few months now. i just helped him out, like anyone would do, and now i can’t get him out of my head. this is all wrong. he’s… he’s older than i am. a lot older. he’s got a daughter…” Sans let out a low groan, closing his eyes at the realization that he was closer to Ember’s age than Grillby’s. “…and he’s made of fire. as if having a crush on an older man wasn’t bad enough, he’s made of fire!” Sans scowled, slamming his fist down into the snow in frustration.
“It sounds like you have the HOTS for him!” Said a woman’s voice.
Sans jumped and turned his head, staring at the door. “oh! oh, uh… hi… i didn’t think you would be here yet.”
“I only just got here.”
Sans turned his gaze back to the trees. “…how much did you hear?”
“I heard enough to know that you need to talk to someone so that you’ll stop being so hard on yourself.”

Sans heard the woman sit down on the opposite side of the door. He held in a sigh, knowing he wouldn’t be able to get out of this conversation any time soon. Still, though, it was worth a try…
”uh… knock knock.“
"Who’s there?”
“…conversation changer.”
“Conversation changer who?”
“whoooo likes snails?!”
Sans heard a tittering laugh. “That was cute, but now isn’t the time for knock-knock jokes. You’ve not been yourself recently, you know. I might not be able to see you, but I can tell that you’re tired. You’ve not been sleeping well, have you?”
The skeleton sighed as he hugged his knees. “no. i’ve not. i’ve not slept well in weeks.”
“Because you found out you liked this person?”
“…yeah.”
“I’m sorry to hear that this has torn you up so much. Is this your first time ever having a crush on someone?”
“…i… uh…”
“Oh, dear. Is this too personal?” Her voice was concerned.

Sans lowered his chin to his knees. “…kinda, but i don’t have anyone else to talk to.”
“Really? You always made it sound like you’re so popular back in Snowdin.”
“popular, sure, but they’re not… they’re not really people i talk to about anything serious. i mean, i’m not really a serious guy, so this is kinda new to me.”
“I see. Well, you can talk to me. I’ll listen and I won’t judge you.”
He smiled a little. “thanks.”
“Knock knock.”
“who’s there?”
“A herd.”
“a herd who?”
“A herd you were having some boy problems.” Her smile was audible.
Sans chuckled a little. “well, a herd you’d be someone i could talk to about them.”
“My, what an interesting herd that must be!” More laughter.
“so you don’t mind if we just talk today, instead of telling jokes?” Sans asked in a small voice.
“Not at all; take your time. I’ll be here all day!”

The skeleton closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the door. “his name is Grillby. i found him in waterfall a little over nine months ago. he was pretty hurt from his trip; he’s made of fire and the water was extinguishing him. i ended up carrying him out of waterfall and into the snowdin inn. he didn’t even wake up for over a day. he’s now the owner of the restaurant in snowdin and he lives there, too. i go there almost every single day. i think, at this point, if i didn’t show up, he’d come looking for me.” Sans chuckled softly. “he had a really bad day a few months ago. he had been married for seventeen years but it wasn’t a happy marriage. he and his wife split up and he came here. she called him awhile ago and it sent him into a depression. i think i told you about that, right?”
“You did.” Her voice was patient, gentle.
“well, ever since then, he and i have been having a weekly drink after he closes the restaurant. i… i realized a few weeks ago that i look forward to that night, every single week. he’s relaxed, happy… talkative, but not always with words. he doesn’t talk much at all when he’s working, but i can read him like a book at this point.” Sans smiled fondly. “he’s really great. he’s kind and funny, he likes my jokes, he’s…”
“He’s someone you’re completely smitten with?”
“…yeah.”
“I think you should talk to him. You’re clearly fond of him. So… just talk to him.”
“but what if he ends up hating me?”
“If he’s a good friend, then he won’t hold it against you.”
“…well, i won’t make any promises, but i’ll think about it.” Sans pushed himself to his feet. “it’s been a pleasure, but i have to get back to my patrol route. have a good day.”
“You too. Talk to you tomorrow?”
“‘course.”

Sans might not have given his word, but he had definitely thought about how to talk to Grillby.

And thought.

And thought.

And thought.

And, after three months, he realized he still had no idea what to say to the bartender.

"…Alright; last call.“ Grillby’s voice filled the quiet bar, rousing the few remaining patrons. Sans didn’t look up at the bartender, sitting on his usual stool, resting his head in his hand as he idly swirled an ice cube around his empty glass. It was Saturday, his favourite day of the week. This was the night where he and Grillby would always sit and drink, talking, laughing… Sans put the glass down, sighing quietly. He had been looking forward to tonight all week, but now that it was approaching closing time and his usual time for a drink with the bartender, he found himself wishing that he was back in his bed…

Sans didn’t look at the barflies as they paid their tab, too lost in his own head to notice the rest of the world. For months now, he had sat in this same spot and stared at the flaming bartender, watching Grillby establishing his new life, watching the man’s demeanor changing. Grillby was happy now. He wasn’t really smiling much, no, but Grillby wasn’t one for emoting around others. Sans could tell he was happier, though; he had watched Grillby’s flames brighten day by day, could see the man becoming more energetic, more optimistic… more determined to live his new life.

”…Sans.“
Sans kept staring at the ice cube, his heart heavy. Grillby kept growing brighter–
”…Do you want to stay?“
–but he had been fading away…
”…Sans.“ His voice was more firm.
"wha–huh?”
“…Look at me.”
Sans slowly raised his head, meeting Grillby’s gaze for the first time in hours. By Asgore, the man was beautiful…
“…Talk to me.”
“huh? about what?”
“…About whatever is on your mind. You have not told a single joke all day. Something is wrong.”
“nothing’s wrong, grillby. sometimes i just don’t feel funny, that’s all.” Sans lowered his head, unable to keep the man’s gaze.

Grillby said nothing as he put two glasses down on the bar. The bartender poured them both a small drink and returned the bottles to the shelf before stepping back into the kitchen. He came out a few moments later with a plate of fresh fries, a bottle of ketchup and a glass of water. The glass of water was held far away from his body, with only his thumb and forefinger. The bartender put the food down in front of the skeleton and then slid him the glass of water. “…Eat.”
Sans took a few fries and quietly ate, still not looking at the bartender, nor touching the sweet cordial that Grillby knew he liked. Grillby sat across from him, sipping his drink - bourbon, neat - watching the skeleton. He was more than a little surprised to see Sans acting like this - especially considering that this was the anniversary of his first year in Snowdin.

Ten minutes passed in silence before Grillby spoke.

“…A year and a day ago, a skeleton found me in Waterfall. A year ago, a first meal was shared here. Almost a year ago, a new life and career was started. Nine months ago, a skeleton helped me out of my depression. Now?” Grillby took another sip of his bourbon. “…Now it is time for me to return the favour.” The bartender reached out and put a hand on Sans’ arm, the skeleton turning to stare at the touch. “…You have been with me through some of the darkest times in my life and have helped me find happiness when I thought that I would never be happy again. Now it is my turn to help you, to be here for you. Something has been bothering you for months now. Tell me what is wrong.” He took his hand away and sipped his bourbon.
Sans kept staring at where Grillby’s hand had been, his breathing speeding up slightly.

just do it, sans…!

“i like you, grillby.”

Grillby blinked, an eyebrow raising. “…You do?”
“yeah. i like you. a lot. i like coming here, watching you work, sitting with you at night. coming here is the best part of my day and saturday nights are my favourite time of the week.” Sans wasn’t sure where the words were coming from; he hadn’t planned on saying anything! “i really like you, grillby. i like you so much it scares me. i mean, i’ve never felt this way about anyone before and then for me to finally realize that i, y'know, liked you and wanted to be around you more, it scared me. you’re a man, you’re older than me, you were married and you have a daughter… i’m a man… and i’m a skeleton…” Sans sighed, pushing himself off of his stool and onto his slipper-clad feet. “i should just go.”
“…Stay.”
Sans didn’t move. Had… had he heard right?
“…I would like for you to stay, Sans."

Sans slowly climbed back onto the stool, staring in disbelief at the bartender. Grillby hadn’t told him leave!

Grillby sipped his bourbon again. ”…How long have you felt this way? Four months or so?“
"y-yeah. how did you–”
“…I can read you like a book.” Grillby smiled, the flames of his mouth curving and darkening. Sans’ eyes went wide at the sight. “…I had noticed you were acting differently but I was not sure how to bring it up to you. I am relieved to know that this is what has been on your mind. I thought I had done something to upset you.” Grillby sipped his bourbon again, still smiling. “…I am happy you told me this.”
“you are?”
Grillby nodded and smiled. “…What if I told you that you are not the only one who feels this way?”
“what?!” Sans sputtered, shocked.

The bartender reached out and took Sans’ hand, smiling at the skeleton. Sans stared at the flaming hand now holding his own; he had winced when Grillby first touched him, but he quickly realized that the man wasn’t burning him. No, quite the opposite. Grillby was pleasantly warm, like the comforting glow of a hearth…

Sans kept staring at Grillby’s hand on his own, not noticing as the bartender leaned closer to him. “…Sans?”
“yeah?” The skeleton raised his head, his breath catching in his chest when he saw the bartender only inches from him.
Grillby smiled again and leaned forward, gently kissing Sans’ forehead. “…I like you, too.”

If Sans had a beating heart, it would have stopped.

“y-you like me?”
“…Very much so. I was worried, for many of the same reasons that you were. I was not sure if I should feel this way about you, but I realized that seeing you and having you around me brought me a joy that I have not felt in a very, very long time.” Grillby held Sans’ hand a little tighter. “…I will admit, though… I,” Grillby’s flames darkened, his shoulders slumping sheepishly, “…have no idea how to date you, but I would like to try… If you would like to date me, that is.”
Sans could only stare. Grillby… was absolutely adorable. “i’d like that. a lot. i don’t know how to date anyone, but we can figure it out together, right?”
“…Of course.”

There it was - the smile that had captured Sans’ heart all those months ago, when Grillby had started laughing after falling off his stool. Sans reached out and hesitantly put a shaking hand on Grillby’s cheek, the tremors ceasing when Grillby nuzzled his palm. The bartender smiled and leaned down, gently kissing the corner of Sans’ perpetual smile. “…Would you like to go for a walk with me tomorrow?”
“sure!” His whole body quivered with glee.
“…Awesome.” Grillby smiled and kissed Sans’ cheek again.

Sans left Grillby’s an hour later, walking away in a happy, warm haze. He and Grillby had another drink together, holding hands, quietly talking. Neither was sure how this would work out, but they found that they didn’t care that much; they’d make it work. Sans looked over his shoulder at the doorway of Grillby’s and found Grillby leaning against the open door, smiling at him. The bartender winked and then stepped back inside, closing the door. Sans turned and walked back towards his house, his hands in his pockets, looking up at the snowy sky, a skip in his step. He had a date tomorrow with Grillby!

Sans’ good mood lasted until the morning, when Papyrus found him covered in soot and singe marks…

Chapter Text

“SANS! SANS, WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?! YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PATROLLING RIGHT NOW!”
“no i’m not. it’s my day off.”
“HUMANS DON’T TAKE DAYS OFF!” Papyrus stamped his foot onto the ground.
“yeah they do.”
“…OH. WELL! WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?”
“just going out for a walk, pap. i’ll be back later.”
“SANS, YOU’RE BEING VERY STRANGE.” His loud voice was concerned.
“it’s nothing, bro.”
“YES IT IS SOMETHING! YOU WERE COVERED IN SOOT THIS MORNING AND NOW YOU’RE SNEAKING OFF SOMEWHERE! WELL, I JUST WON’T HAVE IT! I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, DEMAND TO KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING!”
“just out for a walk, bro. seriously. i’m just going to go walk around for a few hours.”
“SANS!”
“i’ll see you later, pap.”
“SAAAANS!”
Sans quickly left the house, shutting the door behind him and making his way towards the edge of Snowdin, wanting to go and say hello to his mysterious friend behind the ancient door. She would want to hear about last night’s revelations…

…and he was excited to tell her.

The small skeleton whistled as he walked, lost in his own thoughts. He was still having a hard time believing that last night had actually happened. He was impressed that he had finally spoken his mind to Grillby, was relieved to see that he hadn’t lost a friend and was overjoyed to know that Grillby felt the same way about him. For the first time in a very long time, Sans’ eternal smile was a truly genuine smile.

Sans saw the large door at the end of the walkway and ran towards it, unable to contain his joy. He didn’t know who this woman was, but at this point, he didn’t care; she was his confidant and his friend – her name didn’t matter. He wanted to share his happiness with her; he couldn’t tell anyone in Snowdin about this just yet, especially not Papyrus. Sans’ steps faltered and he paused, staring at the door that was only a few feet away. He wouldn’t be able to keep this a secret from Papyrus for too long. He couldn’t keep anything from his brother. The mysterious woman and Grillby might be his friends, but Papyrus was his brother. Papyrus would be the one to stand with him through everything…

“i’ll tell you soon, pap. i… i promise.”

Sans walked up to the door and knocked, calling out.
“Who’s there?” Came the female voice.
“juno.”
“Juno who?”
“juno who has a date tonight?”
“Oh! Oh I’m so happy for you!” The woman clapped her hands together, leaning against the door. “Oh, tell me everything! Tell me!” She laughed in delight.
“well, i took your advice. i’ve been thinking for a long while and then last night, i just… stopped thinking and just talked to him. we talked for most of the night and then….” Sans felt himself blushing but he didn’t care; he was too happy to care. “he kissed me.”
“OH! It’s so sweet!”
“yeah… it is.” Sans’ voice was as gormless as his grin. “we’re going for a walk soon together.”
“You have to tell me how it goes!” She enthused, her smile clearly showing in her voice. “I’m so excited for you! Your first date! Tell me, are you wearing anything nice? You should always wear something nice for a date!”
Sans looked down at his clothes, his heart dropping. “…nice clothes?”
“You know, something clean and new. It really shows the other person that you care!”
“…i have to go now. i need to find new clothes.”
The woman laughed, a tittering sound he had grown accustomed to hear. “Alright, then. Good luck on your date!”
“thanks.” Sans stood up. “i’ll stop by again tomorrow, around the same time.”
“I’ll be here!”

With that, Sans took a shortcut back to his house, tripping over his feet in his panic. He didn’t have much time to find something new and he definitely wanted to show Grillby that he cared. Sans raced into his bedroom and kicked off his fuzzy slippers, digging around for some tennis shoes he knew he had…

Where were they?!

Twenty minutes later, Sans walked downstairs, wearing a pair of tennis shoes, some new gym shorts and a new tee shirt. He had looked at himself in the mirror for a long time and was proud of what he saw. The skeleton pulled on his hoodie as he opened the front door, jumping back in shock as he saw his brother staring down at him. “SANS? ARE THOSE NEW CLOTHES? ARE YOU WEARING NEW CLOTHES?!”
“uh… yeah, bro.”
“WHY?”
“uh…”
“ARE YOU GOING ON A DATE?!”
Jeez, was there a dating rule book out there that he had missed?!
“nah, bro. i just wanted to break these clothes in, y'know? not all of us wear the same thing every day.”
“ARE YOU IMPLYING THAT I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WEAR THE SAME CLOTHING EVERY DAY?”
“…well, y'do.”
Papyrus opened his mouth, a hand raised, but then lowered his arm. “…I CANNOT DENY THIS. WELL, SANS, I HOPE YOU ENJOY WEARING YOUR NEW CLOTHES! WILL YOU BE HOME FOR DINNER? I AM MAKING SPAGHETTI.”
“of course, bro. see you in a little while.”
“GOOD-BYE FOR NOW, BROTHER!” The two hugged and Sans went on his way…

By the time Sans reached Grillby’s, he was out of breath and shaking with nervous energy. “here we go,” he told himself, “time for my first date. i have on new clothes… that’s all i need, right?” The skeleton took a steadying breath and walked up to the restaurant, knocking on the door. A few seconds later, he heard Grillby’s voice, telling him to come in. Sans walked inside and looked around, breathing in the familiar scents of his favourite place. His eyes scanned for Grillby in the dark restaurant, lightly bouncing on the balls of his feet.

Grillby stepped out of the kitchen and smiled at Sans, the flames around his mouth darkening and curling. “…Hello Sans. You look very nice today.”
Sans found himself staring slack-jawed at Grillby. The bartender wore his usual outfit of slim black pants, vest and shirt, but had also donned a red tie and long black overcoat that accentuated the man’s trim form. “wow.”
Grillby laughed, a sound not unlike a crackling hearth. “…Thank you.” He shouldered a leather bag and walked over to the shorter man. “…Shall we go for our walk?”
“yup!"

The two walked in silence out of Snowdin, occasionally smiling to one another. Once outside the town, Grillby extended his arm to Sans, a rather shy smile on his face. ”…I did not think you would want to be seen in Snowdin just yet.“
"probably a good idea, yeah.” Sans put a hand on Grillby’s arm, finding the gesture rather old-fashioned but endearing. “so where are we going, grillby?”
“…To one of my favourite places in the Underground.”
“where’s that?”
“…You’ll see.” Grillby smiled and put his other hand over Sans’, walking with the smaller skeleton.

The two ended up walking into the caverns of Waterfall, still arm-in-arm. “this is your favourite spot?” Sans was confused; why was the sentient fire-man fond of a place that had hurt him so badly?
“…Not this particular part, no, but I do enjoy it here.” Grillby laughed a little. “…I know it is strange, but there is a place up ahead that is soothing to me. I have actually gone there many times on my own; it is my favourite place to read.”
“so this is where you hide on your days off… good to know.” Sans laughed as Grillby rolled his eyes.

They kept walking through Waterfall, staying quiet as they passed by the echo flowers. Once safely away from the flowers, Sans looked up to the bartender. “so how much further is it to your favourite spot?”
“…Not much further at all-oh, one moment.” Grillby removed the bag from his shoulder, carefully propping it up against the cavern wall, before pulling off his coat.
“grillby? what are you doing?”
Grillby stared down at the coat in his hands, blinking. “…I–”
“were you really going to put your coat down over that little puddle?”
“…Well–”
Sans laughed and jumped over the puddle, staring back at the other man. “i like the chivalry, but you don’t need to do that.”
“…Right.” Grillby pulled his coat back on and picked up his bag, smiling slightly, sheepishly. “…I suppose I am out of practice. I have not been on a date in a very long time.”
“well, you’re wearing nice clothes. from what i can tell, that’s all that you need for a date.”
Grillby laughed, patting Sans’ shoulder. “…Come along, we are almost to my favourite spot.”

Sans and Grillby stepped into the next room. “…Stay here a moment.” Grillby squeezed Sans’ shoulder and walked past the sitting statue. A moment later, he returned with a large umbrella, fitting it into the statue’s hand. The soft melody filled the small room as Grillby knelt down and opened his bag, pulling out a blanket and various containers of food. “…Sans? Are you going to join me?”
Sans was standing in the entryway, too shocked to move. “this… is your favourite spot?!”
“…Yes. Sans, what is wrong?” Grillby’s voice was concerned. “…Are you alright? You look like you just saw a human.”
“how can this be your favourite spot?! you almost died here!”
Grillby’s eyes went wide. “…What?”
“when we first met,” Sans’ voice was hurried, his breathing ragged, “you collapsed here, under that statue. you didn’t move. you couldn’t move. you just sat there… and sat there… and then you… fell down.”
“…Sans…”
Sans didn’t hear him, staring at the statue with unseeing eyes. “i had to carry you out of here, grillby. you couldn’t move. you were turning to ashes… i didn’t think you would make it… how is this…”
“…Hush.” Grillby stood up and walked over to the skeleton, kneeling down in front of him. He put his hands on Sans’ cheeks, turning the man’s face to his own. “…I know that was a scary time, but that does not change anything. This is still my favourite spot in the Underground. I will show you why soon.” Grillby kissed Sans’ forehead. “…Will you have lunch with me?"

Sans slowly walked over to the blanket and sat down, taking up a plate that Grillby had brought for him. so not only am i on a date with sentient fire, i’m on a date with crazy sentient fire... Neither man spoke as they ate, each lost to their own thoughts. The food was simple and delicious, a mixture of their favourite foods.

Grillby was the first to put his plate aside, the flames of his body flickering in contentment. ”…Sans?“
“y-yeah?”
“…Can I show you why this is my favourite place?”
“sure.” Sans watched as Grillby moved to sit under the umbrella, the older man resting in the statue’s embrace. “i don’t get it.”
“…Come here.” Grillby’s voice was calm.
Sans slowly walked over and stood in front of the flaming man, watching as Grillby took his hands.
“…Sit with me.”
“uh…” He looked down at the statue, an uncertain light in his eyes. “there’s not a lot of room.”
Grillby looked around, his flames darkening in embarrassment. “…You’re right. I should have thought this through better…” He moved over as far as he could on the statue’s lap. “…It will be a tight fit, but I would like it if you joined me.”
Sans carefully sat down next to Grillby, their sides touching. The skeleton felt himself blushing, growing flustered at sitting so close to the other man.

Grillby didn’t seem to notice as he pulled his legs up to his chest, a calm smile on his face. “…Listen to the music, Sans.” Grillby’s voice was soft, strangely deep. “…This music always soothes me.”
“it is pretty. is that the reason this is your favourite place?”
“…Partly.”
Sans felt Grillby put an arm around his shoulders, causing him to blush deeply.
“…This is my favourite place because what should have been my ending was actually just my new beginning.”
The skeleton stared up at Grillby, at a loss for words.
Grillby didn’t seem to notice, his gaze distant. “…The first time I sat here, I saw everything go black and I felt cold, frightfully cold, but I could still hear the music… and it was so beautiful, Sans. I knew I could not leave. I knew I had more beautiful things in life to find and to live for. Ember and this statue are some of those beautiful things. And I have the hope that this,” he stared down at Sans and hugged him close, a small, hopeful smile on his face. “…might be one of those things, too.”
“…grillby…”
“…I think of you when I come here. I have thought about telling you these things for a long time now, that I had finally found what I needed to move beyond my sadness. I am happy that I could finally do so, and I am delighted that I could tell them to you while on a date with you.” Grillby closed his eyes and leaned back against the statue, relaxing. “…Listen to the music.”
Sans fell silent as he leaned against Grillby, resting his head on the man’s shoulder, pressing close to the man’s warm body. Grillby’s hand idly stroked Sans’ arm as they cuddled together under the umbrella, listening to the music…

"…Wake up, Sans. It is time to go home.“
Sans sat up and rubbed his eyes, mumbling quietly.
”…You had fallen asleep. I did not want to wake you, but it is growing late. We should head home. I do not want Papyrus to worry about you.“
"oh no! papyrus! i promised him dinner tonight–”
“…Relax, Sans, it is only a little after two in the afternoon. We have only been gone for three hours.”
“oh, that’s good.” Sans slowly stood up, stretching, surprised at the fact that he wasn’t sore. He watched as Grillby packed up their lunch and the blanket, carefully putting everything back into his bag. The bartender shouldered his pack and then held out his arm for Sans, laughing when the skeleton took his hand, intertwining their fingers. “remember, grillby: you don’t have to do everything the old fashioned way.”
Grillby smiled and squeezed Sans’ hand. “…You are right.” He looked back at the statue as the two began to walk home. “…I hope that this was not too much for a first date. Most first dates are dinner and a movie… not, well, this. I wanted to make it memorable and I wanted to share something with you that means a great deal to me. I am sorry if it was too much–”
“it was perfect.” Sans said quickly, looking up at his friend. “i… i wouldn’t have wanted anything else.” He smiled more, a surge of bravery rising in his chest. “but this means you’re going to have to think of something even better for our next date!”
Grillby paused, staring down at Sans. “…You want to go on another date with me?”
“of course! did you think this would scare me away?”
“…I was concerned. I mean, it was… more than what normally happens–”
“grillby,” Sans squeezed the man’s hand again. “it’s okay. really.” Sans smiled more. “can you lean down?”
Grillby did so…

…and immediately burst into bright red flames as Sans kissed him.

"this was a perfect date.“ Sans said quietly, meeting Grillby’s gaze. Grillby smiled, kneeling down to hug the skeleton…

They walked back to Snowdin in silence, hand-in-hand, occasionally stealing glances at one another and blushing. Sans and Grillby had one final hug before they separated for the day, both men smiling fondly at each other as they walked away. Sans hadn’t been sure what to expect for his first date, but he found that he was happy with the outcome. He opened the front door to his house, calling out for Papyrus, and quickly went to his room when he didn’t hear a response. The skeleton began to scrub himself and his clothing clean of soot, blushing as he did so. He didn’t want to spoil his good mood with his brother’s questioning…

…Sans realized he would have preferred the questioning as soon as Papyrus handed him a plate of spaghetti mixed with popato chisps. He took a deep breath, picked up his fork and began to eat as Papyrus beamed in the background. "ANOTHER CULINARY SUCCESS, CRAFTED BY THE MASTER CHEF PAPYRUS!”
“yup. another success. good job, bro."

Thank Asgore, Grillby’s would be open tomorrow…

Chapter Text

Saturday nights had taken on a new and special thrill over the past several months. Sans and Grillby found themselves drinking and talking into the early hours of the morning, having abandoned their usual seats in the bar proper in favour of the second floor of the restaurant, where the bartender now lived. Feet up on the coffee table, Grillby reclined on the couch, Sans resting against his chest, the skeleton’s shorter legs dangling over the edge of the cushions. With drinks in hand, the two men spent their nights together, laughing, talking…

…except for this night.

Grillby’s normal flames were dull as he stared at his bourbon, a hand absently rubbing Sans’ arm. Sans leaned against him, staring at the bartender. “what’s wrong, grillby?”
“…Nothing, Sans.”
“it’s not nothing and we know it.”
Grillby sighed, pulling Sans a little closer. “…It’s fine.
"grillby…”
The bartender sipped his bourbon, looking away.
“your ex called you today, didn’t she?”
“…How did–yes, she did. She wants me to come and get the rest of my belongings, says she wants them out of her house.” Grillby’s voice was low, rough. “…I told her I would go and get them tomorrow. She agreed to not be there when I show up.”
“tomorrow? that’s pretty short notice. you’re lucky that tomorrow’s my day off, too.”
“…What?”
“oh, come on, grillbsy–grillby,” Sans corrected himself, knowing the nickname brought up bad memories, “i’m not going to make you go all the way back there alone. i mean, how would you carry everything back by yourself?”
“…Sans–”
“i’m coming with you. besides,” he winked, “i know a short cut. it’ll take us no time at all to get there.”
The bartender stared down at the skeleton, his flames slowly turning red as he kissed him gently. “…You’re very kind, Sans. Thank you.”
“no problem, and hey, since we’re taking a short cut, you don’t have to wake up before dawn.”
“…I am surprised you even know what ‘dawn’ is.” Grillby grinned, laughing. “…So will you come here when you’re ready to leave?”
“sure. how’s about eleven tomorrow morning?”
“…Sounds good to me.” Grillby tapped his glass to Sans, the two men relaxing together as the conversation drifted back to happier topics…

As the hour grew later - and the drinks flowed - Grillby looked down at Sans, a fond smile gracing his face; they were laying on the couch, Sans’ back against his front, the bartender’s arm around his waist. “…Sans?”
Mumbling.
“…Sans, you might want to wake up.”
“no.”
Grillby laughed. “…Come on, wake up.”
“no. i’m comfy.”
“…Alright. We’ll stay here for a little while longer.” The bartender pulled Sans a little closer with a soft noise of contentment. “…I would like to ask you something, though.”
“oh?”
“…Would you be alright if I called you my…” he paused, debating, “…my boyfriend?”
Sans’ eyes opened at that. He turned his head and stared back at Grillby, eyes wide; he was blushing as much as a skeleton could blush. “what?”
“…Would you like to be my boyfriend?” Grillby asked again.
The skeleton stared at the man for a few moments before nodding, his eyes alight. “yes.”
Grillby leaned over and gently kissed Sans’ cheek, laughing as Sans rolled over to face him, the skeleton hugging him tightly…

Sans walked back to his house shortly after, a gormless grin on his face. Nothing more had happened between then, save more kisses, but that was fine with him. Neither were in a rush and both found it more enjoyable to test the waters as they saw fit. The skeleton walked through the snow, brushing away the soot that covered his skull, yawning. At least he could sleep in some tomorrow before going with Grillby to the Capital.

Grillby was quiet the next morning when Sans met him at the restaurant. He didn’t force Grillby to talk, though, knowing the man’s mind was miles away. The two walked in silence until they reached Waterfall, whereupon Sans took Grillby’s hand, his left eye glowing with an eerie cyan light. Grillby took a deep breath, holding the skeleton’s hand tightly in his own, preparing himself for the lurching sensation that always came with Sans’ shortcuts.
“y'can open your eyes, grillby. we’re in the capital now.”
Grillby exhaled slowly and opened his eyes, blinking at the bright lights. “…Thank you, Sans. I know that takes a lot out of you.”
“beats walking here.”
“…True.” Grillby let Sans’ hand go as the two began to walk through the streets of the Capital. His heart was heavy as he retraced the familiar steps. By Asgore, he didn’t want to be here…! He didn’t want to see the house and the life that he used to have! Grillby looked down and saw Sans staring up at him, the skeleton looking at him with concern. “y'okay, grillby?”
“…No, but I have to do this.” He gave his the skeleton a small smile. “…I’m glad you’re here.”
“my pleasure.” Sans smiled.

The bartender stood before a humble house, his heart hammering within his chest. “…This is the house I bought for Cindy and Ember. This is the only other house I’ve ever lived in, aside from my parents’ house.” Grillby picked up a small rock out of a flower bed and flipped it over, pulling out a spare key. “…At least Cindy is consistent with where she kept the keys.” His tone was frustrated, Sans noticed.
“i guess you didn’t like keeping a key so close to the door?”
“…Not at all.”
“so where do you keep the spare key to the restaurant?” Sans asked, rocking up onto his toes.
Grillby turned and stared at him, an eyebrow raised, an amused smirk on his face. “…I’m not telling you that just quite yet.”
“aw, grillby, don’t be like that!” Sans laughed as they walked inside.
Grillby closed the door and leaned down to kiss the top of Sans’ head. “…The spare key is by the back door, underneath the flowerpot to the right of the stair.” The bartender stood straight and walked through the house as Sans stood rooted to the spot, a beaming smile on his face.

Sans wandered through the house until he found Grillby. He put a hand on the man’s back and looked up at him, not liking the way Grillby’s shoulders were slumped and the dim light of his flames. “i… i’m not normally a serious kinda guy, but,” he rubbed the man’s back, “i’m here for you.”
Grillby turned and knelt down, drawing Sans into a hug. “…Thank you.” He held the skeleton for a moment longer before standing straight. “…Let’s go upstairs.” Sans raised an eyebrow, chuckling. “…That’s where my office is."

The laughter stopped.

 

"Oh, shoot!” She dug around in her purse, stamping her foot in frustration. “I left my phone at home! Mom’ll kill me if I miss a call from her!” She bit her lip and looked around, thinking hard. She had been told that the house was getting cleaned today and that she shouldn’t be at home for a while, but she really, really needed her phone! “Sorry mom. I’ll be fast, I promise!” She hurried home, her skirt whipping around her knees as she ran.

The young woman stepped into the house and blinked in surprise at the silence. If there were maids here, shouldn’t there be, you know, noise?! Ember sighed and shook her head; maybe they were just on their lunch break. She walked up the stairs towards her room, freezing on the last step as she heard a familiar laugh. With her heart hammering in her chest, she ran towards the end of the hall, throwing open the door. Her eyes went wide, her green flames exploding out as she let out a cry of joy.
“DADDY!”
Grillby dropped the book he was holding as he quickly turned. “...EMMY!”

Sans had to dive out of the way as Ember ran towards her father, her laughter filling the room with a warmth that had nothing to do with her fiery body. The skeleton leaned against the desk as Ember and Grillby hugged, unable to stop himself from smiling at the sight of the daughter and her father.

"Dad, why were you gone for so long?“ Ember asked when they stepped apart, looking up to her father. "Snowdin isn’t that far away…”
“…Your mother did not want me to come around.” He said quietly, unable to stop himself from staring at his daughter. He hadn’t seen her in a year! “…You’ve grown.”
“No, I’ve not. I’m still the same.”
Grillby smiled kindly, shaking his head. “…I’m your father, Ember. I’m always going to see you as my little girl.”
“Da-ad! You’re embarrassing me!” She whined, stamping her foot.
Sans’ laughter shook Grillby back to the present, his flames glowing red with his own embarrassment.
“…Ember, this is… is…”
“hi. i’m sans. sans the skeleton. it’s nice to meet you. grillby’s told me a lot about you.” Sans held out his hand. Grillby was shocked to see that there were no joy buzzers or whoopee cushions in his hand. Ember shook the skeleton’s hand and then sat down on the desk, her feet swinging as she looked at her father. “I’m surprised you’re here. Mom told me that she was having some maids come in today and clean. I mean, I’m not even supposed to be here right now, but I left my phone and I came back to get it.”
“…Really?” Grillby’s tone was firm. “…Did she tell you not to come home today?”
“Yeah, she did. Why–oh.” Her voice dropped to a whisper as Grillby began to fume.
“…Ember, could you call your mother, please? I think she and I need to talk.”
“o-Okay. I’ll go call.” She hurried out of the room, closing the door behind her.

“grillby?” Sans’ voice was concerned.
“…What does she think she’s doing?” Grillby’s voice was low, scathing. “…Cindy tells me to not come home, then tells Ember to stay away on the one day I am in the Capital?!”
“grillby, just calm down.”
“…No!”
Sans frowned, grabbing the front of Grillby’s shirt. “calm. down.”
The man stared down at the skeleton, breathing hard, his fiery mouth set in a thin line. “…You don’t understand, Sans.”
“then talk to me,” Sans said quietly, “tell me so i can understand.”

Grillby leaned against his old desk, rubbing his forehead. “…Cindy mentioned something about this a long time ago. I didn’t pay it much mind then, but…” He sighed. “…Cindy never liked it that Ember was a daddy’s girl. Even when we were still living together, she’d be frustrated because Emmy would always come to me first for everything - even with things she should’ve talked about with her mom. A few months ago, I asked Cindy if I could visit. She told me no. I kept asking, for months, but I was always told no.” He sighed.
“couldn’t you have called ember?” Sans asked quietly.
“…No. Ember didn’t have a phone when I left.” Grillby chuckled sadly, remembering those arguments. “…I guess Cindy got her a phone after I left.” He sighed, rubbing his face. “…and Cindy never gave my new number to Ember, it seems.”
Sans looked up to Grillby. “and you couldn’t call the house line?”
“…Cindy hated having a land-line, so we got rid of it.” The bartender pressed the heels of his hands against his glasses, letting out a groan of frustration. “…She’s trying to cut me out of Emmy’s life.”

Sans could only stare in horror. “you don’t think she’d do that, do you? i mean… you’re her father.”
Grillby laughed darkly. “…You don’t know Cindy. I’ve never met anyone as… forceful… as her.”
The skeleton looked down at his shoes, suddenly feeling very young and very, very out of his element. He didn’t even know what to say…

Ember walked into the room a moment later. “Mom will be home soon.” She said in a small voice. “Dad, are you okay?”
Grillby let out a slow breath as he held out his arms, hugging his daughter when she stepped close. “…I’ll be alright, Emmy. Could you do me a favour?”
“Of course.”
“…When your mother comes home, can you take Sans to MTT Resort for lunch??” He let his daughter go as he pulled out his wallet, handing her several large bills.
“Dad…?”
“…Please, Emmy.”
“o-Okay.”
“…Thank you.” He smiled and tousled her flaming hair.

Ember, Grillby and Sans ended up leaving Grillby’s office in favour of the living room. Ember watched as Sans quietly talked to Grillby, trying to coax a smile out of him with several terrible puns, but Grillby said nothing, his eyes distant, his flames all but extinguished. The three heard the front door open and Grillby stood up, facing the doorway, his arms shaking as his fists clenched. “grillby,” Sans whispered, his voice sad. The bartender glanced back at Sans and took a deep breath, relaxing as best he could.
“Emmy? Emmy darling, where are you? Are you alright?!”
“I’m in here, mom.” Ember called out.

Sans turned his gaze to the doorway, his eyes going wide as he saw Grillbys’ former wife.

She was beautiful.

Cindy’s body glowed with a blue flame, her tall, lithe form covered by a well-tailored suit jacket and pencil skirt. She wore black high heels and small, silver-rimmed glasses, her flaming hair framing her face, much like Ember’s. Sans pulled his gaze away from the woman and stood up, looking to Ember. “c'mon, let’s go get lunch.”
“No, I want to st–”
“Your father and I need to talk alone, Emmy darling.” Cindy said, her gaze fixed on Grillby.
“But–”
“…Go have lunch with Sans, Ember.” Grillby’s voice was quiet, firm.
Ember stared between her parents, biting her lip, before she turned and ran from the room.
“…Sans, go with her, please.” Grillby’s eyes never left Cindy’s face.
Sans nodded and hurried out after Ember…

“Grillby.”
“…Cindy.“
"What are you doing? Why did you have Emmy call me here?”
“…Because I have questions for you.”
“Oh? About what?” Her tone was cold.
“…Why have you cut me out of her life?!”
“What?”
Grillby’s temper was starting to flare, much like his body. “…You told Ember not to be here today! Why?! This is the one day I’d actually be here!”
“Grillby–”
“…No, Cindy! Tell me why!” He shouted. “…Why are you doing this?! A year ago, you told me that I didn’t have to leave. A month after that, you changed your tune and told me to stay away! Why?!”
“I don’t have to deal with this.” Cindy spat, her eyes narrowed as her own flames lashed wildly. “Just get your things and get out, Grillby. And take that nasty temper of yours with you! Don’t think I don’t remember all the fights we used to have! I remember what you’re like when you’re angry!”
“…I’m only angry because my ex-wife is forcing me out of my only child’s life!”
“I’ve done no–”
“…LIAR!”
“Oh, screw you!” She shouted. “You were always like this!”
“…LIKE WHAT?!”
“The only things you ever cared about were your job and Ember! You never gave a damn about me!”
“…Is that all? Is that really all this is about? You feeling neglected?” His tone was incredulous. “…You kick me out of my daughter’s life because I gave her more attention than you?”
“Don’t you DARE say it like it’s nothing, Grillby!” She snarled. “For YEARS! For YEARS I watched you work twelve hour days and then come home, spend time with Ember, then go straight to bed! You NEVER gave me any–!”
“…That isn’t true!” He snapped, his flaming body crackling and sparking. “I got you everything you ever wanted! I got you all the jewel–”
“I didn’t care about the gifts!” She screamed, her hands gripping her hair. “I never cared about them! I didn’t! I only wanted one thing and you never gave it to me! I BEGGED Grillby! I BEGGED!”
“…I–”
“I only ever wanted you!” She took a deep breath, her voice softening. “…the only thing I ever wanted from you, Grillby… was you.” Cindy looked away, her blue flames darkening to navy. “For years, all I wanted was for you to–”
“…No.” Grillby’s voice was low, firm. “…Don’t you dare do that, Cindy. You aren’t innocent here. I’m not innocent, but I sure as hell am not the only guilty one here! I tried to reconnect with you! I spent the last three years trying! I won’t stand here and listen to you lie!” He took a deep breath, staring at her, his eyes narrowing as she looked away. “…What changed, Cindy? What made you push me away?”
The woman stared at the ground, hugging her arms.
“…Cindy. Answer me.” He took a step closer. “…What. Changed?"

Cindy turned away, her back to Grillby. ”…I… I met someone.“

Grillby froze in place, the breath stolen from his lungs. ”…what.“
"I met someone.”
“…Who?”
“It doesn’t matter who.” She said quietly, her voice firm. “I… I met him and I… I fell… I fell in love with him, Grillby.”
The man let out a shaking breath, leaning against the wall. “…When?”
“What?”
“…When did you realize you loved him?”
The woman sighed, hugging herself again. "A few months before I served you with the papers.” She pushed her flaming hair out of her eyes. “He… had been my friend for a while. After I handed you the papers, I told him. He… we…” She sighed.
“…Why did you tell me I didn’t have to leave?”
Cindy slowly turned, looking to her former husband. “…because I realized I missed you.”
“…But you changed your mind a month later…?”
“I was in shock at first, Grillby. My life had just changed entirely. But… I realized that it was better this way. For all of us.” She turned away. “…I’ll give Emmy your number, alright? And if she wants to go to Snowdin on the weekends… I won’t stop her.” Cindy took a step towards the door. “…just… get your things. Please… and don’t come back. Not for a long time.”
“…Cindy…”
“Goodbye, Grillby.”
“…Cindy!"

He heard the front door slam… then nothing.

Grillby stared at the doorway for a moment longer before he put his head in his hands and sobbed.

By the time Ember and Sans returned, Grillby had packed two small bags and a box. He was only taking his favourite books and a few small decorations he had collected throughout the years. The bartender was sitting out on the front step, his belongings beside him, staring out at the neighbourhood he had lived in for half of his life, wondering how he had dealt with the crowds for so long.
"Daddy?” Ember’s voice was sad as she sat down beside him.
Grillby put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her to him, kissing her forehead. “…Your mother is going to let you visit me in Snowdin. You know you are always welcome, wherever I am, right?”
“Of course.” She hugged him tightly.
“…Here.” He sat back and handed her a slip of paper. “…This is my number. Please, call me if you ever need me and I’ll be there before you even know it.”
“Dad?”
Grillby stood up and picked up the bags, shouldering them before grabbing the box. “…I love you, Emmy. Never forget that.”
“I love you too, dad.”
“…I’ll see you soon, alright?”
“Y-yeah.” She gave him a tearful smile. “It was good to see you again, dad. I missed you.”
“…I missed you too, Emmy.”
Ember stood up and hugged her father once more. She then looked at Sans and smiled, hugging him as well. “It was so nice to meet you, Sans. Take care of dad for me, alright? Oh, and let me know when you’re performing here again. I want to bring all my friends!”
“sure thing, ember. it was great to finally meet you.” He smiled. “see you later!”
“See you later, Sans.” She stood on the porch, watching her father and his friend walking away, sniffing back tears.

Sans didn’t comment on the tears that rolled down Grillbys’ cheeks.

The skeleton took Grillby back to his bar and helped Grillby unpack his books and a few other small odds-and-ends, barely talking. He watched as his boyfriend slowly moved through the living room, putting books on shelves, his heart aching at the sight of the subdued, dull flames.
“grillby,”
Grillby turned, his eyes tired.
“…i want you to stay over at my house tonight.”
“…Sans…”
“i don’t want you to be alone right now, grillby.”
“…I’ll be fine, Sans.”
“no, you won’t be fine. i know you, grillby. you’d go downstairs and you’d drink and you’d drink and you’d drink. i don’t want you doing that. just… come home with me tonight, please.”
Grillby sighed quietly. “…Sans…”
“i’m not taking no for an answer, grillby. you’re scaring me right now. just… let me be a good boyfriend and take care of you.”
The bartender looked down at the book in his hand and placed it down on the coffee table before walking over to Sans and kneeling down in front of him. Sans threw his arms around Grillbys’ neck and hugged him tightly, relieved to feel Grillby’s arms wrapping around him, a warmth rekindling within the bartender…

With Grillby’s books now resting in their new home, Sans took Grillby back to his home. The two men smiled as Papyrus bounded out of the kitchen. “GREETINGS, GRILLBY. HAVE YOU COME TO JOIN US FOR DINNER?”
Grillby nodded as Sans walked upstairs. “…I have. Sans invited me.”
“WONDERFUL! WOULD YOU LIKE TO WATCH AS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, CRAFT ANOTHER CULINARY MASTERPIECE?”
“…Of course, Papyrus.” Grillby felt himself smiling as Papyrus pulled him into the kitchen.

Sans quickly cleaned his room as best he could, making sure to make his bed for the first time in a very long time. He hadn’t expected Grillby to be sleeping over any time soon, but he knew it wouldn’t be right to have his boyfriend sleeping alone right now. He didn’t know what happened between he and Cindy, but it was clearly enough to rattle him to his very core. The skeleton threw clothes into his closet, telling himself he’d deal with it later. “good enough.” he shrugged.

He rejoined his brother and his boyfriend in the kitchen, blinking in surprise at the wonderful scents. Grillby and Papyrus looked over at Sans, both men smiling. “SANS! GRILLBY HAS AGREED TO GIVE ME A COOKING LESSON. HE IS EVEN BETTER THAN UNDYNE! LOOK!” Papyrus gestured to the surprisingly clean kitchen. “NOTHING IS ON FIRE! …EXCEPT FOR GRILLBY, BUT HE IS FIRE!”
Grillby quietly laughed as he stirred a pot of tomato sauce….

After an unusually tasty dinner, Sans and Grillby went into Sans’ bedroom. Papyrus had left after dinner was over, wanting to tell Undyne about his latest creation. Grillby felt himself smiling as he saw Sans sitting on the bed, the skeleton toying with the zipper of his hoodie. “…If it would make you feel better, Sans, I can sleep downstairs on the couch. I don’t mind.”
“no! uh, i mean… no. i want you to stay here.”
Grillby smiled a bit more. “…Alright.” He pulled off his bowtie and vest, placing his clothes in a neat stack at the foot of the bed. Shoes, belt and armbands soon followed. Sans found himself sweating as the bartender removed his shirt… and found himself staring, slack-jawed, as Grillby pulled off his pants. The two men laughed suddenly, staring at Grillby’s boxers.
“white with red hearts? i could’ve sworn they’d be black!” Sans laughed, sitting in just his gym shorts. Grillby rolled his eyes and sat down on the bed next to Sans. Their arms wrapped around the other, the familiar embrace made thrilling and new. Grillby kissed Sans’ cheek and removed his glasses, closing his eyes. “…Thank you, Sans. For everything.”
Sans hugged Grillby tightly, feeling the man’s warmth spreading through his whole body. “my pleasure, grillby… sleep well.”
“…Sleep well, Sans.” The bartender kissed the top of Sans’ head again and sighed happily, feeling lighter than he had in a long, long time…

Chapter Text

Papyrus left Undyne’s house, happily strutting through Waterfall. He had told Undyne of his latest culinary success - complete with pictures - and still reveling in the fact that both Sans and Grillby had taken second helpings. “TRULY I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM A CULINARY MASTER.” He beamed, striding happily through the dark caverns.
“You really are!” Came a small, young voice. “You, the Great Papyrus, are the hero the Underground deserves!”
Papyrus turned and looked around, his smile faltering as he tried to find the source of the voice. “HELLO?”

No answer.

Papyrus quickened his pace…

Slightly winded, Papyrus strode into the house he shared with his brother, looking around. Sans and Grillby were nowhere to be seen. He had expected to see Grillby sleeping on the couch, but maybe the man had gone home while he was away? Papyrus climbed the stairs and into his brother’s room, wanting to tell Sans about Undyne’s praise. He opened the door and blinked, his eyes wide with surprise.

Grillby was in Sans’ bed, his brother’s arms around the flaming bartender…

Papyrus opened his mouth to speak but shook his head, leaving the room. He’d ask in the morning.

 

 

There were few sounds in the world that were more relaxing than the sounds of a crackling hearth fire on a cold, chilly night…

…except, of course, when one realized they didn’t have a fireplace in their house.

Sans sat up quickly, breathing hard, his eyes wild and staring. Something was burning! Had Papyrus left the stove on?! Was the house on fire?! The skeleton began to climb out of bed, only to pause when he felt a gentle hand on his arm. A gentle, /warm/ hand. Sans looked down and saw Grillby lying on his side next to him, the bartender resting his head on a folded arm, the other on Sans’ own arm. Sans stared for a moment longer, watching the sleeping man, torn between disbelief and joy at the sight before him. He realized a few seconds later that the sounds of the hearth were coming from Grillby.

…Apparently he snored.

The bartender gently pulled Sans back down to the bed. “…it’s still early…” Grillby murmured, his eyes closed. “…go back to sleep…” He pulled Sans closer to his warm body, spooning himself against Sans’ back. The skeleton smiled widely as the man pulled the blankets tighter around their bodies, Grillby’s head coming to rest against his own. The sounds of the hearth surrounded Sans, lulling him back into almost-unwilling sleep; he wanted to stay awake and bask in the warmth of Grillby’s embrace…

Grillby never was one to sleep in. At six thirty in the morning, his eyes opened, his mind awake. He never was one to sleep in - something that always frustrated Cindy. He would not cuddle in the mornings, saying he had to get ready for work. This morning, however, Grillby found something lying next to him that he did not want to leave just quite yet. The bartender pulled a sleeping Sans a little closer and kissed the back of his head, letting out a contented sigh. Yes, this was wonderful. Sans made a quiet noise in his sleep, one that melted Grillby’s heart. With a stifled chuckle, Grillby kissed Sans again, listening to the small squeaks of disapproval. “…urly…” Sans grumbled, pulling Grillby’s arm a little closer. Grillby smiled and put his head back on the pillow, content to watch the small skeleton sleep…

At seven in the morning, according to his internal clock, Grillby crawled out of the bed and tucked Sans in a little tighter, kissing his forehead. He dressed quietly and pulled on his glasses, looking around the room. When he saw a sheaf of paper and a pencil, he smiled, quickly writing a small note. The bartender thought for a moment and then grinned, kissing the paper and leaving a small, singed kiss on the paper. He put it on the bed besides Sans and then left the room, going downstairs, ready to start opening his restaurant.

He was not expecting to see Papyrus waiting for him at the foot of the stairs.

“I MUST APOLOGIZE, GRILLBY.” Papyrus said, dry-washing his hands as he looked at his booted feet. “I DID NOT REALIZE THAT THE HOUSE WAS SO COLD. I AM SORRY YOU HAD TO SLEEP IN SANS’ BED TO STAY WARM. IF YOU STAY THE NIGHT AGAIN, I WILL BE SURE TO TURN ON THE HEAT AND GIVE YOU SEVERAL BLANKETS.”
“…That’s…. that will be okay, Papyrus.” Grillby said, his entire body burning with a bright red flame. “…It is okay, I promise. I did not mind. He is a good friend.”
“OH, GOOD!” Papyrus clapped his gloved hands together. “I WAS WORRIED THAT I, PAPYRUS, HAD BEEN A BAD HOST.”
“…No, Papyrus, you were just fine. You made me a very nice meal. Thank you.”
Papyrus beamed, stepping aside as Grillby walked towards the front door. Grillby turned and looked back at the tall skeleton, a small smile on his face. “…Will you tell Sans to come by the restaurant later?”
“OF COURSE! HAVE A GOOD DAY, GRILLBY.”
“…You too, Papyrus.” Grillby smiled and drew on his coat, stepping outside.

As he walked back to his restaurant, Grillby’s thoughts wandered. He was glad that Papyrus had not pressed more about why Grillby was in his brother’s bed. He knew how protective Sans was of his brother - he did not want to risk angering his new boyfriend by telling Papyrus that he and Sans were dating. Grillby rubbed his forehead, the comforting warmth of Sans’ bed leaving him as he walked through the town. What was he doing? He was a grown man - thirty-six years old! Why was he embarrassed?!

"…Face it, Grillby,“ he mumbled to himself, unlocking the door to his restaurant and home, ”…you’re shy.“ It was strange to say, though; he had never been shy with Cindy - so why was he shy with Sans? It did not have to do with the fact that he was dating a skeleton - they were a civilization of monsters, after all! Was he truly just that shy?

”…Yes.“ He walked into his own bedroom and changed clothes, staring at himself in the mirror. No one in Snowdin - except for Sans - knew that he had been married and had a daughter. Grillby ran a hand down his face, staring at his reflection. It had been different with Cindy. He had known her ever since he was a child - their parents had been best friends long before he and Cindy had even born - and everyone had known they were together. With Sans, though…?

No one knew.

And Grillby enjoyed that.

He liked that he had been able to start anew here in Snowdin. He liked that no one knew he had an ex-wife. The only thing he didn’t like was that his daughter had still not visited, but that would change soon enough. Ember was coming to visit in a month, he thought fondly. She would be spending a weekend here in Snowdin with him soon. It would be good to have his daughter here with him…

…even if it meant he would lose some of his treasured privacy. People would ask who the mother was, where she was, why was Grillby here if she was there…

Grillby groaned and walked downstairs, making himself a cup of coffee. Mornings just weren’t mornings without coffee, he thought idly as he watched the sweet elixir drip into the pot. Soon he would have his rush of caffeine and would be able to finish preparing his restaurant for the day.

Sans didn’t wake until midmorning, yawning and stretching as he rolled onto his stomach. He couldn’t remember ever waking up and feeling this rested… He looked over at the bed beside him and held in a small sigh of disappointment, wishing that Grillby had still been beside him. "oh? what’s this?” He picked up the folded paper and opened it, smiling fondly.

Sans,
Thank you for yesterday
He gently touched the singed kiss, biting back a sappy grin.
PS: You’re cute when you’re asleep

The skeleton climbed out of bed and dressed, tucking the note into his desk, a wide smile on his face. He had spent the night beside Grillby, had been held by the man all night… He couldn’t wait for that to happen again. Maybe next time, he could sleep over in Grillby’s bed…? The skeleton found himself blushing as he left his bedroom, making his way downstairs…

…only to also be met by his brother at the foot of the stairs.

“GOOD MORNING SANS!”
“mornin’, pap.”
“I AM SORRY THAT GRILLBY HAD TO SLEEP IN YOUR BED LAST NIGHT. I SHOULD HAVE LEFT BLANKETS OUT FOR HIM.”
“it’s okay; it wasn’t a problem.”
“ARE YOU SURE?”
“yep.”
“ALRIGHT THEN. I WILL GO OUT AND BEGIN MY PATROLS FOR THE DAY. ALSO, GRILLBY ASKED ME TO TELL YOU TO GO BY THE RESTAURANT LATER.”
“thanks. have fun on patrol.”
“I WILL NOT HAVE FUN - I AM DOING MY DUTY. THERE IS NO TIME FOR FUN WHILE ON DUTY.”
“right. see you later, bro.”
“GOOD-BYE FOR NOW, BROTHER!”

Sans watched his brother depart, smiling another fond smile as he watched Papyrus marching away through the snow. He adored his brother… His smile faltered; if he adored his brother so much, why was he not telling Papyrus that he was dating Grillby? "it’d probably crush him,” Sans sighed, “he’d probably worry that he was losing me forever to grillby. i can’t do that to pap. but…” Sans rubbed his forehead. “…i’ll figure something out…” Sans walked through Snowdin, making his way to the ancient door, scuffing his slippers through the snow. Maybe the mysterious woman would be able to shed some light on the situation…

“knock knock.”
“Who’s there?” The friendly voice lilted.
“wanda.”
“Wanda who?”
“wanda hang out for awhile?”
“Of course! How have you been?”
“i’ve been alright. how about you?”
“Oh, you know…” She smiled, leaning against the door. “How are you and your boyfriend? You didn’t come by yesterday - is everything alright?”
“well,” he sat down, leaning his head back against the door, “i met his daughter and his ex-wife yesterday.”
“How did that go?”
Sans smiled, staring at his toes. “his daughter is amazing. she’s smart, she’s funny… you can tell he had a big hand in raising her. she’s going to be an amazing woman.”
“How was the ex-wife?”
“i dunno. grillby kicked me and his daughter out before i could talk to her… the daughter speaks highly of the mother, but you can tell she loves her father more.”
“How did Grillby seem after all of this?”
“he was upset. i, uh…” Sans rubbed his head, “i had him spend the night with me last night. i didn’t want him to be alone.”
“That was very nice of you.” She smiled fondly.
“…apparently my brother saw us sleeping together in my bed.”
“Oh! Oh my!”
“…yeah…” Sans sighed. “knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“canoe.”
“Canoe who?”
“canoe help me with a problem?”
“Of course.” Her voice was fond, warm.

"i don’t know how to tell my brother that i’m dating grillby. i mean, my brother’s my whole world. i don’t keep anything from him… or, i try not to. but he doesn’t know that i’m dating grillby. i don’t want him to think that i’m abandoning him.“
"Do you think he would appreciate knowing that you’re dating Grillby more than you hiding behind his back?”
Sans blinked at that, stunned. “i… uh…”
"Your brother probably realizes that something is different.”
“i dunno… i mean, he’s not always the fastest to pick up on things.”
“He’s your brother. I think he probably realizes more than you know.”
“…yeah…” Sans pushed himself to his feet. “it was nice talking to you, but i gotta go. grillby wants me to stop over at his restaurant for awhile.”
“Have fun! And please, talk to your brother soon. He would appreciate it.”
“i will. have a good day.”
“You too!"

Grillby’s head snapped up as he heard the front door open, his flames burning bright red for a moment. Sans smiled over at the bartender, smiling more when he realized the restaurant was empty. The skeleton walked over to his usual stool and hopped up, leaning in for a kiss. Grillby kissed the skeleton’s perpetual smile, a warm hand resting on Sans’ cheek. ”…Hello Sans.“
"hi grillby!”
“…Did you sleep well?”
“i did; did you?”
“…Better than I have in a long, long time.” Grillby smiled but pulled back quickly when he saw someone walking up to the restaurant, his happy voice fading into a monotone. “…Can we talk later, Sans?”
Sans’ good mood departed in a flash, the warmth of his lover’s kiss replaced with the cold of an empty bed. “s-sure.” The skeleton gave his boyfriend a weak smile as he sat on his stool…

Unfortunately for Sans, the restaurant was busy from midday to closing.

Sans left for a few hours in the afternoon for his afternoon patrol through Waterfall. He had been sneaking glances at Grillby for most of the day, trying to catch the bartender’s eye, only to hold in a sigh whenever Grillby would look away. What had changed? Grillby was so happy when they were together! They were always cuddling, kissing… what had changed? Had he done something wrong? Sans sighed as he came across the statue; he felt his chest grow tighter as he heard the gentle music. Did Grillby no longer want to be his boyfriend? Had he reconnected with his ex yesterday?! “he couldn’t have. he was too upset… right? right?!” Sans sat down on the statue’s lap, his head in his hands, breathing hard. No, no Grillby hadn’t reconnected with his ex. “he couldn’t have… he was so happy this morning. he left me that note. no, i’m just overthinking this.” Sans looked up to the statue, breathing hard. “…right?”

The statue had no answers.

The skeleton walked back into Grillby’s an hour before he closed, taking his usual seat at the bar. The restaurant was almost empty, only a few regulars remaining at the bar. Grillby was busy cleaning tables, not looking to Sans. The younger man put his chin in his hand, leaning against the bar, lost in his melancholic thoughts…

Grillby glanced up at the clock. “Last call.” His voice carried through the quiet bar, rousing the two sleeping patrons, both of whom placed a handful of coins on the bar before stumbling out of the restaurant. Grillby watched them go and then looked over to Sans, his flames flickering anxiously. All day, he had been lost in his thoughts. He was still feeling guilty for not telling Ember that Sans was his boyfriend, felt resentment towards his ex-wife…

“grillby?”

The bartender blinked and looked over at Sans, his eyes going wide as he realized Sans was sitting in front of him. “…Hi Sans.” He laughed nervously. “…How long have you been sitting there?”
“an hour.”
“…Oh.” Grillby looked down at the bar, his flames darkening. “…I’m sorry. I’ve been lost in my thoughts.”
“i can tell.” Sans’ voice was firm.
The bartender shrunk down behind the bar a bit, wincing. “…I’m sorry. It’s a problem of mine, I know.”
“grillby, tell me what’s going on.” The skeleton didn’t like the quiver in his voice.

Grillby turned away from Sans as he picked up a shot glass and a bottle. The flaming man put the glass down on the bar as he pulled the cork out of the bottle, frowning a little when he saw Sans take the glass away. “…Sans.”
“talk to me, grillby!”
Grillby continued to frown, grabbing another glass, his eyes narrowing as he felt the bottle being pulled out of his hands. Sans’ eye glowed with a cyan light, as did his hand. “…Sans!”
“talk to me!” Sans was glaring as he clutched the bottle to his chest, his eye no longer glowing. “…just talk to me, grillby. tell me what went wrong.”
The bartender blinked at that. “…Wrong?”
“yes! you’ve not really spoken to me all day!”
“…oh.” Grillby sat down heavily, looking across the bar at Sans. “…I’m sorry, Sans. I–”
“grillby?” Sans’ voice shook.
Grillby reached across the bar and put a hand on Sans’ cheek, a slow smile crossing his face as he caressed the man’s cheek. “…You worry too much. Nothing is wrong.” Grillby let his hand trace down to Sans’ shoulder. “…I just wanted to say I’m sorry that I didn’t introduce you to my daughter as my boyfriend."

Sans sat still, blinking. "what?”

Grillby gently took the bottle out of Sans’ hands and put it back on the bar. “…I should have told Ember that you and I are dating. She is my daughter, she deserves to know. I just did not think I could tell her just then - but I will tell her.” Grillby replaced the cork in the bottle. “…I should have told Cindy, though…”
Sans put his head in his hands as he started to laugh.
Grillby raised an eyebrow in confusion. “…Sans?”
“i thought you were breaking up with me!” The skeleton laughed, relief flooding his body.
“…What, in Asgore’s name, would make you think that?!”
“you haven’t really spoken to me today and you’ve been distant.”
“…Oh.” Grillby flushed darkly. “…I am a very private person, Sans. It is hard for me to tell others about anything in my personal life. I feel rather bad about this - it isn’t fair to you. I adore you and I am happy to be dating you, but…” Grillby ran a hand over his eyes. “…I’m a grown man, but I’m still as shy as I was as a teenager. I’m very sorry for worrying you, Sans. Nothing is wrong. I just… feel very guilty for not telling more people we are dating.”
“you had me worried! i thought i had done something wrong, that you had gotten back together with Cindy–”
“…I will never go back to her, Sans. Ever.”
“–do you promise?”
“…of course.” The bartender smiled. “…Let me lock up and then we can go upstairs."

Sans let Grillby take his hand as the older man took him upstairs, drifting along in a fuzzy haze of relief. They went into his living room and the sat down on the couch, Sans sitting between his boyfriend’s legs, his back to Grillby’s front. The bartender put his warm arms around Sans and nuzzled his cheek, sighing contentedly. ”…You worry too much, Sans. I’m not going to leave you. Besides…“ Grillby pulled Sans a little closer, resting his chin on the top of Sans’ head. ”…I love you.“
Sans quickly turned, staring up at Grillby. "what?”
“…I said, I love you.”
The skeleton stared up at Grillby for a moment longer before pulling him down for a kiss…

Grillby was lying on his back on the couch, Sans resting on top of him, a warm hand stroking Sans’ back. Their clothes were rumpled, their bodies flushed, each with a grin on their face. The older man’s body was screaming for more but he refrained, knowing that Sans wasn’t ready just yet. He kept stroking Sans’ back, smiling happily at the other man. “…I love you, Sans.”
“i love you too, grillby.” Sans kissed Grillby’s chest, laughing at the sight of the wrinkled shirt. The skeleton put his cheek on the man’s chest, his smile dampening when he saw the time. “i don’t want to go home.”
“…You can stay here tonight.”
“pap’ll be looking for me.”
“…We should talk to him in the morning.” Grillby said, trailing his fingers up and down Sans’ spine. “…He should know.”
“y-yeah.”
“…Do you want me there with you?”
Sans looked up at Grillby and nodded slowly. “yes. i’d like that.”
“…Alright.” He kissed him again. “…if you really must leave, you might want to go now.” Grillby put his hands underneath his flaming head, smirking as he looked to Sans. “…otherwise, I’m going to have a hard time letting you go.”
Sans’ eyes went wide as he flushed darkly, sitting up as he fidgeted with his hoodie. “o-oh, my…”
Grillby laughed, caressing the skeleton’s cheek. “…You’re adorable, Sans. I like having you around.”

The two men got off the couch and hugged, Grillby kissing the top of Sans’ head. “…Do you want me to come by tomorrow morning? I can open a little later than normal.”
“yeah, that’d be good.” Sans hugged Grillby again, beaming. “i’ll see you tomorrow, grillby. i love you.”
“…I love you too, Sans. See you tomorrow.”

The two kissed good night before returning to their respective beds.

Sans was pacing restlessly in front of the door, wanting to intersect his brother before Papyrus left for the morning. When he saw his brother emerging from his bedroom, Sans took a deep breath, steadying himself. “hey, pap? can you stick around for a bit?”
“OF COURSE, BROTHER! BUT NOT FOR TOO LONG - I HAVE TO PATROL.” Papyrus said as he sat down on the couch, looking to his brother.
“i know. it won’t take long.” Sans was fidgeting with the zipper of his hoodie, staring at his slipper-clad feet. He was going to do it, he told himself, he had to. He had to tell Papyrus. When he heard a knock at the front door, Sans hurried over to it and threw it open, smiling up at Grillby. The bartender stepped inside and walked with Sans over to the couch, the two standing before the seated Papyrus.
“HELLO GRILLBY!”
“…Hello, Papyrus.”
"WHAT BRINGS YOU OVER?”
Sans spoke before Grillby could answer. “pap, i wanted to tell you something.”
“OH?”
“y-yeah…” Sans took a deep breath, his shaking hands steadying as he felt Grillby put a hand on his shoulder. “pap, i…”
“SANS, ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME THAT YOU ARE DATING GRILLBY? THE OFFICIAL RULEBOOK FOR DATING SAID THAT AFTER SEVERAL SUCCESSFUL DATES, THE DATERS SHOULD TELL PEOPLE THEY ARE DATING.”
“what?!” Sans sputtered as Grillby began to laugh. “pap! how did you–”
“IT IS EASY, SANS. I AM YOUR BROTHER. I KNOW WHEN YOU ARE UP TO THINGS.” He waggled his non-existent eyebrows at his brother. “CONGRATULATIONS ON DATING GRILLBY, SANS. AND GRILLBY, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THAT I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, APPROVE WHOLEHEARTEDLY OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP AND WISH YOU WELL.” The tall skeleton jumped to his feet and clasped his hand to his chest, striking a pose. “I SHALL NOW DEPART, FOR IT IS TIME THAT I BEGIN MY PATROLS FOR THE DAY. HAVE A GOOD DAY, SANS AND GRILLBY.” Sans could only stare, slack-jawed as Papyrus strode out of the house.

When the door shut, Sans looked over at Grillby, blinking at the sight of the bartender double-over with laughter, ashen tears falling freely from Grillby’s eyes. “what… just happened?”
“…Congratulations,” Grillby wheezed, still laughing, “…you told your brother!”
“how did he even know?! how does he even know what dating is?! wait–there’s a rulebook for dating?!”
Grillby fell over, laughing harder, as Sans continued to shout more confused questions to the empty house.

Chapter Text

Six thirty a.m., Saturday morning.

A time normally unseen, unless one was either a shift worker or a masochist.

Or, in this particular case, the person that was seeing the unholy time was a daughter who was anxiously awaiting a visit to her father’s new home.

Ember kicked the blankets away from her body as she bounded out of bed, quickly dressing. Her bag had been packed the previous night and was waiting for her by the front door. She stumbled out of her room, pulling on her shoes as she hopped towards the stairwell. Cindy quietly left her own bedroom, wearing a dressing gown, staring through bleary eyes as her daughter did a final check of her appearance. “…it’s early, Emmy.”
“But dad’s already awake by now!”
Cindy sighed; she couldn’t deny this. “Just call me when you get there, alright? You remember that the Riverman will take you there, right?”
“Of course, mom! I know; I’ll call you when I get there.” Ember was beaming, her green flames glowing painfully bright to her mother’s tired eyes. “Can I go now? Puh-leeeese?!”
“Alright, alright… I’ll see you on Monday morning. Have fun.”
“I will. Bye, mom!” Ember ran down the stairs, grabbed her bag and her coat and then ran out the front door, dashing towards Hotland…

Cindy walked back into her bedroom and removed her dressing gown, crawling back into bed and into the arms of her boyfriend, falling back into blessed sleep.

Two hours later, Emmy was standing on the front step of Grillby’s, bouncing on the balls of her saddle-shoe clad feet. It was beautiful here, she thought happily; she had enjoyed skipping through the snow poffs as she made her way towards her father’s new home. She rang the doorbell, practically jumping with excitement, pressing the doorbell again…

Grillby groaned as he heard the sound of his doorbell, rubbing a hand over his eyes. What time is it…? Eight thirty in the morning?! “…Sans, you’re a bad influence.”
“no.”
“…I have to get the door.”
“no.”
Grillby chuckled sleepily and kissed his boyfriend’s head, crawling out of bed. The man didn’t even bother with his glasses as he stumbled through his bedroom, idly grabbing clothing as he made his way to the front door. Sans slept on, the skeleton having moved into the warm spot his boyfriend had just vacated. He opened his eyes and watched Grillby sleepily moving through the room, a fond smile on his face. They had been dating for a few months now and had been spending a night together once a week for the past few weeks. Nothing had truly happened yet, but both men found they liked falling asleep and waking up next to each other…

Grillby pulled on a pair of pants and something shirt-like, stumbling down the stairs, yawning. Sans had truly been a bad influence on him, encouraging him to sleep in on the weekends. “…I’m coming, I’m coming…” Grillby mumbled, walking through the empty bar towards the front door, yawning. He unlocked the front door and opened it, blinking in surprise as he felt two warm arms thrown around his neck, a high-pitched squeal ringing in his ears.
“DADDY!”
“…Emmy?!”
“I couldn’t sleep, so I came here early! The Riverman was already there, though, so it wasn’t a problem. It was an amazing ride over here! Snowdin is so pretty!” She hugged her father again and then bounded into the restaurant, smiling back at her dad before blinking, an eyebrow raising. “Dad?”
“…Yes?”
“When did you start wearing hoodies?”
Grillby’s eyes went wide as he looked down. He was wearing his pants and Sans’ hoodie… “…I’m going to go change. I’ll be right back.”

Grillby all but ran back into his bedroom, frantically changing his clothes, throwing Sans’ hoodie onto the bed. “…Sans!” He hissed, tying a bowtie. “…Sans, wake up!”
“what is it?” Sans sat up in the bed, the blankets falling around his hips, stretching his arms. “what’s wrong?”
“…Emmy is downstairs.”
“what?!” Sans pulled the blankets up to his shoulders, looking at Grillby with wide eyes. “she wasn’t supposed to be here until this afternoon!”
“…Well, she’s downstairs right now. I’m going to go make her breakfast.” He took a steadying breath and walked over to Sans, gently kissing him. “…Come down when you are ready. It seems like I will be telling her about you sooner than I expected, but I… I think this will be okay.” He kissed Sans again. “…I want her to know, since you both mean so much to me.”
Sans felt himself melting under those kisses. “i’ll be down in a little while, then.”
The older man smiled fondly, gave him a final kiss and then returned to his daughter.

Emmy was sitting on a barstool, spinning around, staring at the bar. “I really like this place! It reminds me a lot of your study. Does the jukebox play all those old records that you liked so much?”
“…They’re not old.” Ember rolled her eyes as her father sat down next to her at the bar, a fond smile on his face. “…Do you want breakfast, Emmy? I can make you pancakes.”
“Oh, yes please! I’ve missed your cooking; you know that mom never was great at it.”
Grillby’s smile faltered as he recalled several inedible meals and several more that were better described as charcoal. “…I remember all too well. Come, let’s go sit in the kitchen. It’s warmer.” Grillby pulled on his apron as he began to rummage through his cabinets. “…How are classes going?”
“Oh, they’re going great! I’m almost top of my class in a lot of my classes. My teachers give me a lot of homework, so it’s hard to fit that in along with cheerleading and karate, but I manage.” Ember began to talk in earnest, filling her father in on the minutiae of her life as he made pancakes. The scene felt so familiar to him, despite his relocation to Snowdin; he had always made Ember pancakes on the weekend while Cindy slept in…

Sans had managed to fall back asleep, despite his initial shock at hearing that Ember was sitting downstairs. He slept for another half hour before the smell of fresh pancakes and coffee found him. Rubbing his eyes, the skeleton fixed his gym shorts and pulled on his tee-shirt and hoodie, stumbling around for his slippers. Sans stretched one last time, yawned, and made his way downstairs, still mostly asleep. He leaned heavily on the railing, his eyes closed, making his way through the restaurant on memory alone. Grillby’s head raised up as he heard the shuffling of Sans’ slippers, taking a steadying breath. “…Emmy?”
“Yeah, dad?”
“…I want you to, um…” Grillby’s voice faded away as he watched Sans pull himself up onto his usual stool and then fall right back to sleep, his head on the bar.
“Did Sans move in with you?” She asked, pouring more syrup onto her pancakes.
“…Not quite. Sans, wake up.” Grillby couldn’t keep the fondness out of his voice as he put a cup of coffee and a plate of pancakes in front of the skeleton. He watched as Sans’ hand felt around for the coffee, fingers curling around the mug’s handle. Sans pulled the mug closer and slowly sat up, sipping the hot coffee - with plenty of sugar - before he yawned and opened his eyes, giving himself a quick shake.
“good morning, ember.”
“Hi Sans!” She slid the syrup bottle over to Sans.
“…Ember, I… I want to tell you something.”
“What is it?” Her voice was concerned as she placed her knife and fork down. “Is everything okay?”
“…Everything is fine, Ember. I promise. I just…” He looked over at the mostly-asleep skeleton and then back to his daughter. “…I wanted to tell you that I… have been dating Sans for the past few months. He’s my boyfriend.”
“Really?! Wow!” Ember looked between her father and Sans, her eyes bright. “That’s kinda unexpected, but it’s still cool! I’m happy for you, dad.” She smiled and picked up her knife and fork again. “I like Sans - he’s a lot cooler than Jerry.”

Sans quickly sat upright, staring at Ember, as Grillby fumbled with the glass in his hand. “…Jerry?!”
“Yeah,” Ember cut another piece of her pancake up, “he’s mom’s boyfriend.”
“what?!”
She turned and stared at the skeleton. “What? You know Jerry, too?”
“…Emmy, dear, what does Jerry look like?” Grillby tried to keep his voice level; if Cindy had left him for Jerry…!
“Oh, he’s really tall, looks like a crocodile. I mean, he’s not that bad, but… he’s kinda lame. I don’t like him. He moved in a few weeks ago.” Ember was too focused on her pancakes to notice that Grillby’s flames were now bright red and lashing.
“…He did?” His tone was stern. At least it wasn’t that Jerry, but still…
“Yup. I don’t really like it too much, but he at least cooks better than Mom does. I mean, I dunno.” She sighed, her shoulders slumping. “I’m glad I’m going to University in a few more months.”
“grillby…” Sans’ voice cautioned.
Grillby put the glass down and looked over at his daughter, sitting on his stool across from her. “…Ember, do you feel safe with him living there? Does he ever make you feel uncomfortable?”
“Jeez, dad, relax! He’s fine. He’s just lame, that’s all. I mean, Mom really likes him, but I don’t. He, like, tries to be my dad and stuff, but he’s not and he won’t be. I don’t care if they actually get married; he won’t be my dad and I’ll never call him dad! Or step-dad. He’s just Jerry. He doesn’t like it, but I don’t care.”
Grillby was breathing hard, his flames still lashing. “…Ember, I want you to promise me that you’ll call me if you ever feel uncomfortable around him, alright? I don’t like that he’s living there now, especially because I’ve never met him. I don–”
“Da-ad! Relax, jeez! It’s fine! Like I said, he’s just some lame, boring worker at the same office as Mom. Besides, you taught me how to defend myself. I could take him!” She grinned up at her father. Grillby met his daughter’s enthusiastic grin with a blank stare and slow, steady breathing. “…Just promise to call me if he ever gives you a hard time.”
“Fiiiiine…” She finished her plate of pancakes and looked to her father, blinking large, green eyes, a childish grin on her face. “Da-ad,” she lilted, “can I have some moooreee?”
Grillby’s terse expression faded into a smile as he nodded, stepping back into the kitchen.

Ember turned on her stool and stared at Sans, leaning closer to the skeleton, a sly grin on her face. “Y'know, when I told you to take care of my dad, I didn’t mean for you to date him!” She laughed as Sans shrunk down in his seat, hiding behind his cup of coffee.
“sorry. i, uh, hadn’t really, well…”
“What?”
“um, we’ve not been dating all that long. just a few months.”
“D'you love him?” She playfully needled, still leaning close to the skeleton.
“y-yeah. a lot.”
“And you’re not gonna break his heart later, are you?”
“of course not!”
“Good! Because if you did, I’d kick your butt!”
“i believe that.” He said quickly.
“…Ember, don’t threaten Sans.” Grillby’s voice drifted out from the kitchen.
“Sorry, dad!”
“…No you’re not.” Grillby chuckled as Sans began to wonder what he had gotten himself into.

When Grillby walked back into the restaurant proper, carrying a tray laiden with pancakes, coffee, hashbrowns and ketchup, Sans felt himself returning the smile that Grillby wore. This was what he had gotten himself into - a relationship with a kind, happy and beautiful man who loved his family and his friends.

The fact that he was an amazing cook was also a bonus.

Sans left the father and daughter about an hour later, full of Grillby’s fantastic pancakes, hashbrowns and plenty of sweet coffee. He made his way home, wanting to check in on Papyrus and see how his movie night with Undyne went. Back at the restaurant, Grillby and Ember walked up into the converted living space. Grillby took his daughter’s bag into the prepared guest room, smiling to himself as he heard her walking around his new home, commenting on everything she saw. When he sat down in a comfortable arm chair, Ember flopped down onto the couch, kicking off her shoes. “So you’re really dating Sans?”
“…Yes. We have been dating for a few months.” His tone was almost hesitant, fearing his daughter’s reaction.
“I’m really happy for you, dad. I mean, you were so unhappy for the last few years. I’ve never seen you smile so much as you have this morning. Even on that day when you came back to get your things, you kept smiling when you looked at him - and he couldn’t keep his eyes off you. I didn’t want to, y'know, ask, but I was wondering if something was up. I had a feeling you liked him as a lot more than a friend.”
“…You always were too smart for your own good.” He playfully grumped.
“Oh, come on!” She hugged a pillow to her chest, looking back at her father. “Admit it, you’re happier with him than you were with mom.”
“…Well…” He sighed. “…It’s different, Emmy. Your mother and I had been friends for almost all of our lives. I’ve not even known Sans for two years - we’ve only been dating for a short time. I don’t know if I could really even compar–”
“Dad, I can tell you’re happy now. That’s… that’s what matters. I mean, it’s a pretty big shock, yeah, but I can tell you’re happy. And, well, I wanna see you happy, y'know? I was worried you’d never start dating again after mom. I’m glad to see you found someone that makes you happy. So what if he’s a skeleton?”
“…Thank you, Ember. That means a lot to me.” He stood up and tousled her flaming hair. “…I’ll be right back. I’m going to go put up a sign saying that I’ll be closed for the next few days. I don’t want to spend your visit here in Snowdin working.” Grillby gave his daughter a fond smile and walked downstairs…

Ember pulled out her phone, the heavy keychain chiming with a variety of charms, and dialed her mother, idly kicking her legs as she rolled onto her stomach, waiting for Cindy to answer her phone. A few moments later, mother and daughter began to talk; Ember found herself rolling her eyes at most of her mother’s questions.
“Yes, mom, I made it here just fine. No, I didn’t get splashed in the river. Yes, Dad’s made me breakfast. Yes, I promise I’ll do some homework while I’m here… No, mom, I’m not coming home early. I’ll be back on Monday, like we agreed… Mom! Of course I have a place to sleep here! Dad’s got a big restaurant and it’s really nice! He lives over the restaurant and he’s got a great place! I have a guest room and everything! …No, mom! No, you don’t have to come over! Mom!” Ember sighed, dropping her head onto the couch. “…Mom, mom. Just–mom! Please, it’s fine! Dad’s doing great, I promise! I don’t want to come home yet! I just got here!” Grillby walked back into the room, frowning darkly at what his daughter was saying. “…Mom, I’m going to go. Dad’s back and we’re going to go out and walk around Snowdin. I’ll talk to you later… love you, bye.” Ember ended the call, her own green flames dark. “…Mom didn’t want me coming here.” She said as she sat up, looking at her toes.
Grillby sat down on the couch next to his daughter, putting an arm around her shoulders. “…I had a feeling she didn’t. She has been very–”
“She’s just pissed.”
“…Ember! Language.”
“Sorry dad.” She looked up, idly swinging her feet. “Can we go for a walk? I want to see Snowdin. It’s so pretty here - and quiet! It’s great!”
“…Of course. Let’s go."

"SANS?”
“yeah?”
“DID GRILLBY CLONE HIMSELF?”
“huh?”
“THERE IS A SMALL GREEN GRILLBY WALKING AROUND.”
“huh? oh! that’s ember, his daughter.”
“GRILLBY HAS A DAUGHTER?! WE MUST GO SAY HELLO.”
“pap–” Sans found himself tucked under Papyrus’ arm, his brother’s long legs speeding them through the snow.

The young woman was wandering up the main boulevard of Snowdin, taking in the sights and sounds of the quiet town while her father went to prepare lunch.
“GREETINGS EMBER! WELCOME TO SNOWDIN!”
At hearing the loud shout, Ember jumped and shrieked, clutching her phone to her chest as stumbled, overbalancing. Papyrus dropped Sans as he reached out, grabbing Ember’s arms. Sans pushed himself back to his feet as Papyrus stood Ember upright again, smiling at her. “HELLO EMBER!”
“h-Hi…? Um, thank you for catching me.”
“IT IS NOT A PROBLEM; I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM ALWAYS HERE TO HELP OTHERS!”
“ember, this is my brother papyrus. pap, this is ember, grillby’s daughter.” Sans said, brushing snow off of his hoodie.
“HELLO!”
“Hi Papyrus.” she giggled, holding out her hand. Papyrus shook it with enthusiasm. “How long have you guys lived in Snowdin?”
“WE HAVE LIVED HERE FOR A FEW YEARS NOW. WOULD YOU LIKE THE GRAND TOUR?”
“Well, dad and I just–”
“I WILL SHOW YOU AROUND. COME WITH ME, EMBER!”
“Sans?!”
“it’ll be fine, ember; he’ll take you to your dad’s soon enough.” Sans smiled. “besides, it’s just not a trip to snowdin without one of pap’s tours.” Sans waved as Papyrus sped off with Ember, happily pointing out all the different buildings and various interesting rocks…

Sans made his way back to Grillby’s, laughing as he heard his brother’s voice drifting through the quiet town. Sans walked around to the back door and knocked, smiling when Grillby opened the door. “…Hello Sans.”
“hi grillby. pap and ember are running around snowdin while he gives her the grand tour.”
“…Oh dear.”
“don’t worry, she’s in good hands. besides, pap’ll be here soon enough. it’s not a long tour.” Sans stepped into the kitchen and looked up to his boyfriend, holding out his arms for a hug. Grillby stepped closer and wrapped his arms around the shorter skeleton, hugging Sans tightly, one hand stroking his back. “are you happy, grillby?”
“…Happier than I have been in a long, long time.” Grillby took a step back and knelt down, wrapping his arms more fully around the skeleton as he kissed Sans’ perpetual grin.

Papyrus and Ember came bounding into Grillby’s about twenty minutes later, sitting in the kitchen with Sans as Grillby cooked them lunch. Grillby couldn’t stop smiling; this wasn’t how he pictured his family looking, but he found that it was exactly what he wanted. Papyrus and Ember were both gossiping with each other as Sans sat nearby, surveying the kitchen with a happy grin, idly munching on some leftover hashbrowns and ketchup as he made several terrible puns at Papyrus’ expense. The bartender put several burgers down on his large griddle before standing next to his boyfriend and kissing Sans’ cheek, watching his daughter and Papyrus. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this happy and content…

Chapter Text

Grillby relaxed in his bed, staring up at the ceiling, a smile on his face, his hands underneath his head as the memories of last night played over in his mind. Sans, Ember and Papyrus were all sitting around a table in his restaurant, all sharing a meal with him. The conversation was free-flowing and genuine, their laughter filling the whole restaurant. He had hardly ever felt that happy before. Grillby let out a content sigh and closed his eyes, a smile on his face. The only thing that could have made this better would be to have Sans curled up next to him, the younger man’s arm across his stomach. Still, though, it was hard to be unhappy right now, even if his boyfriend wasn’t with him. Things had been going well - he and Sans had been growing closer and more comfortable with each other. Sans was braver and more confident in himself in regards to his relationship and Grillby couldn’t be happier. He wasn’t going to rush the younger man, not at all, but he was happy with the progress they had been making.

Grillby looked over at the closed door to his bedroom, smiling softly when he heard movement. “…Emmy?” He quietly called. “…Are you awake?”
“Yeah-huh.”
“…Do you want breakfast?”
“Yup!”
“…Alright.” Grillby pushed the blankets off of his waist and climbed out of bed, dressing quickly. He stifled a yawn as he pulled on his glasses, glancing over at himself in the mirror. Satisfied with what he saw, the man left his bedroom and walked downstairs with his daughter. Ember was idly hopping down the stairs, looking back to her father, laughing at him as she saw him yawning. “You’ve only been dating Sans for a month! C'mon, Dad! Wake up!”
“…I am awake.”
“Uh huh, sure you are. That’s why you keep yawning.” She moved into the kitchen and jumped up on a counter, sitting and swinging her legs as Grillby began to make pancakes.
“…I’ll have you know, I always yawn until I have my coffee.” Grillby playfully chided, looking over at his daughter. “…And days don’t start until I have some coffee.”
“Well go ahead and have some! I want to go exploring again today! I want to go see Lesser Dog and Greater Dog.”
Grillby only chuckled as he continued to make pancakes…

Halfway through breakfast, the doorbell rang.

Cindy stood on the front stoop, her manicured finger pressing the doorbell again. Behind her stood a tall crocodile, the man heavily bundled against the chill winds.

Grillby stood up from the table and walked to the front door. Surely that wasn’t Sans - he had told his boyfriend last night that he would be spending today with Ember. Who could it be? The bartender unlocked the door and opened it.

Cindy’s gaze met Grillby’s.

“…Cindy?”
“Hello Grillby.”
“…Why are you here?”
“I wanted to see your restaurant.”
“…You could have come on a different day.”
“I know, but I’m here now. Will you let me inside?”
Grillby let out a long, slow breath as he stepped aside, his eyes landing on the tall crocodile. “…You must be Jerry.”
“h-Hello Mr. Grillby. It’s n-nice to meet you.”
“…Yes, it is.” Grillby’s voice was rather stiff as he shook Jerry’s hand.

Jerry was quick to take his hand back.

“Mom! What are you doing here?!”
“Hello, Emmy darling.” Cindy walked over to the table and sat down next to her daughter, Jerry sitting down next to his girlfriend. “I wanted to see your father’s restaurant.”
Ember was frowning at her mother. “Mom!”
“What is it, sweetie?”
“I told you’d I’d be coming back tomorrow! Why are you even here?! I wanted to spend this weekend with dad! With just dad!”
“I know. I just wanted to make sure this place was fit for you.”
“…And what is that supposed to mean?” Grillby asked, standing near the table, his arms crossed.
“Nothing, Grillby.” Cindy’s tone was airy.
“…It’s not nothing, Cindy. Why are you here? This is the first time you’ve let Ember come and visit and you can’t even go a day without seeing her.”
“I just wanted to see the restaurant and Snowdin. I’ve not seen this town before. It’s rather quaint.”
“…Indeed.” Grillby’s eyes narrowed. “…And you brought Jerry. Why?”
“I thought you two should meet.”
“…I would have preferred to have had some notice.”
“Oh, it will be fine.” Again came the airy tone.

Grillby let out a long, slow breath and looked over at his daughter. “…Ember, I hate to ask, but could you please go over to Sans’ house? I need to talk to your mother and I would prefer you to not see this.”
“Dad–”
“…Ember, please.”
“Who is Sans? Is that the short skeleton you brought with you when you came to get your things?” Cindy looked up at her ex-husband.
“…Yes. That is Sans.”
“He seems rather young.”
“…It’s because of his size.” Grillby forced himself to keep his voice level. “…Now Ember, will you please go to Sans’ house? I am very sorry about this.”
Ember stood up suddenly, her chair screeching across the floor, as she stamped away, grabbing her coat. The young woman looked between the three adults at the table, her green flames lashing wildly. She was tired of being treated like a child, always sent out of the room when Mom and Dad began to argue! “Sans is Dad’s boyfriend.” She snapped before storming out of the restaurant, slamming the door behind her.

Cindy turned quickly and stared at her ex-husband, her lips pursing as she raised an eyebrow. “Boyfriend, hmm? That little thing? Really now, Grillby… A boyfriend…?”
Grillby exhaled, turning his gaze back to his wife. “…Yes. He is my boyfriend.”
“And how long have you been dating him?”
“…For far less time than you have been dating that man beside you.” He snapped. “…I would have liked to have known that you had him move in with you. I would have liked to have met him before he lived under the same roof as my daughter!”
“Our daughter.“ Cindy purred, looking up at her ex-husband. "Now tell me a little about this boyfriend of yours…”
Grillby sat down at the table, staring at his wife, forgetting about the crocodile; Jerry was nervously fidgeting with his coat, sincerely wishing he was back in the Capital. “…Sans is someone I care about very deeply. He helped me start my new life here.”
“How sweet.” Her tone was anything but. “And how old is he? He looks so young.”
Grillby looked away.
“How old is he, Grillby?” Her voice was forceful.
“…He is twenty-three.”
“Twenty-three?!” She shrieked. “Grillby! What in Asgore’s name are you doing?! He’s a child compared to you!”
“…He is younger, yes, but he’s a great deal more mature than some people I could name.”
Cindy scoffed. “How very… mature… of you, Grillby.” She looked away, her face wrinkled in disgust. “Sleeping with a man that’s only a few years older than your daughter. You’re sick.”
“…I am not sleeping with him!”
“Well that’s a relief. I’d hate for you to have to explain to his parents why you’re–”
“…That is enough!” He fumed.

Jerry stared down at the table, saying nothing; if he wasn’t a crocodile, he’d be sweating buckets. He didn’t want to be here…!

“Honestly, Grillby, what are you doing?! Is this a midlife crisis?! You run away from your home and your family–”
“…You divorced me! What was I suppo–”
“–and now you’re dating a man that’s almost young enough to be your son.”
“…CINDY!”
“What, Grillby?” Her tone was snide as she stared at her ex-husband. “Why are you getting so angry? I’m only telling the truth, you know.”
Grillby let out a long breath as he stared at the table. “…I know.” He said quietly. “…I’m not happy about it. I’m not. But I love him.”
“You disgust me.” Cindy stood up abruptly and looked at Jerry. “Come on. We’re getting Ember and we’re leaving. I’m not letting her stay here!”
“…Cindy!”
“What is it?” She snarled, her blue flames fanning wildly.
“…Don’t take Ember from me. Please. You’ve already taken everything else. Don’t take my daughter from me.” Grillby didn’t like the shaking in his voice.
“No, Grillby. I’m taking Ember with me and I’m not letting her come back here. You disgust me! I don’t want you around her anymore!”
“…CINDY!” He shouted, feeling his heart breaking. “…PLEASE! Don’t do this!” Grillby stood up and moved this his ex-wife, grabbing her arm.
“Get off of me!” Cindy shouted back, wrenching her arm away.
Jerry put a hand on Grillby’s shoulder, pulling him away from the woman. Grillby turned quickly, a fist raised before he even realized he had moved his hand. The bartender froze and let out a shuddering breath, stepping back. He stumbled backwards and sat down at the table, dropping his head into his hands as he stared at the floor in shock.

Cindy and Jerry left without a word.

At Sans’ house, Ember sat on the couch with Papyrus, the two watching television. “Hey Pap? Can I ask you something? I’ve been meaning to ask for a little while now.”
“YES?”
“How old are you?”
“I AM EIGHTEEN.” He said proudly. “I AM OF AGE TO JOIN THE ROYAL GUARD NOW.”
“Oh, cool!” She looked down at her hands and then back up at Papyrus. “So… uh, how old is Sans?”
“HE IS TWENTY THREE.”
“What?!”
“IS SOMETHING WRONG?”
“He’s only twenty-three? But… But Dad’s… Dad’s, like, thirty something!”
“I AM AWARE.” Papyrus’ voice was calm. “BUT I DO NOT SE–”
“Pap! It’s gross!” She shouted.
“what’s gross?” Sans asked, rubbing his eyes as he walked down into the living room.
“My dad’s so much older than you are!”
Sans froze on the stairs, his hand griping the railing as he looked down at his slipper-clad feet. “i know…”
“Doesn’t that, y'know, like, bother you at all?!”
“i-it does, some. i-i mean, i hadn’t… i hadn’t planned on, uh, on falling in love with him, but i just… i–”
“Sans!” She got off the couch, staring at the skeleton in disgust. “I… I can’t believe this! I didn’t know you were this young! You’re almost my age!”
“EMBER, PLEASE SIT DOWN.” Papyrus’ voice was shaking slightly. “IT ISN’T THAT BAD–”
“No, Papyrus!” She moved to the door and grabbed her coat. “I was okay with my dad dating a guy,” Ember said, pulling on her coat, her fingers slipping over the buttons in her haste, “but to know that my dad’s, like, dating someone five years older than me?!”
“ember, wait–”
“No, Sans! Ugh, I can’t believe this!” Ember threw open the door and ran outside as Sans hurried down the stairs, staring out of the open front door. The skeleton sank down to the ground as he watched Ember running away, shouting for her mother. Papyrus walked over to Sans and closed the front door. He knelt down in front of his brother and put his arms around Sans, saying nothing as he pulled Sans to his chest. A gloved hand rubbed his brother’s back as he leaned his head against Sans’. After a few moments, he hugged his brother a little tighter. “FOR WHAT IT IS WORTH,” his voice was strangely quiet, “I DO NOT THINK IT IS BAD THAT YOU ARE DATING GRILLBY. I KNOW HOW MUCH YOU TWO CARE FOR EACH OTHER AND I KNOW THAT YOU AND HE ARE BEST FRIENDS, TOO.”
Sans looked up at Papyrus, his eyes watering, his shoulders shaking. Sans threw his arms around his brother, fighting back his tears…

Ember ran into Cindy and Jerry in the street, the mother and daughter embracing tightly. Ember was talking at a rapid speed about the age difference as Cindy rubbed her daughter’s back. “I know, Emmy, sweetie. I know. Come, let’s get your things and go home. Let’s just go home and not come back.”
“o-okay, mom.” Ember took her mother’s hand as they walked back into the restaurant.

Grillby didn’t raise his head as the door opened and the three walked inside. Cindy and Ember went upstairs to get the daughter’s bag as Jerry stared down at the bartender. The crocodile said nothing, but he felt a small sense of victory over the other man. Now that Ember was disgusted with her father, this would let him finally bond with Ember; soon she’d look up to him as a father figure, he thought with a smile.

Ember and Cindy came back downstairs and looked at Grillby, their disgust so thick it was almost palpable. Ember’s voice shook. “…I… I can’t believe this.”
“…I’m sorry.” Grillby said quietly, unable to raise his gaze.
“Grillby, don’t you dare talk to us if you’re still dating that child!” Cindy’s voice was firm. “Don’t call; don’t write; don’t come around.” Cindy put her arm around her daughter, walking towards the door. She let Ember go outside first, then stepped outside into the snowy street. Jerry looked down at Grillby, chuckling smugly, as he turned and left, shutting the door behind him with a snap.

Grillby didn’t move, his head in his hands, his heart broken, his world growing dark…

Sans pulled away from his brother’s embrace and stood up, shaking. He pulled his hood over his head and looked back to Papyrus. “i’m… going to grillby’s… i’ll be back later.”
“SANS…”
“i’ll be fine, pap. i just… need to talk to him.”
“SANS–” Papyrus watched the door close, his eyes worried.

Sans walked through the streets, ignoring the residents of Snowdin as they stared at his melancholic form. The skeleton made his way slowly up to Grillby’s, opening the door and walking inside, locking the door behind him. He looked around the dim restaurant as he lowered his hood, his bony face stained with tears. He saw Grillby sitting at a table, the half-eaten pancakes still sitting on plates. Grillby didn’t even raise his head as Sans walked over to him. Sans reached out and put a hand on Grillby’s shoulder, stepping back with a gasp as Grillby knocked his hand away.
“grillby?” Sans’ voice wavered.
“…They’re gone.” His voice was rough, more suited for drifting over a funeral pyre than speaking to his boyfriend. “…They’ve gone. They’re gone. Cindy’s gone. Ember’s gone. They’re gone.”
“what?”
“…I can’t see them again. I can’t. I can’t see them again. Ember… she hates me now.”
“she hates me too.” Sans said to the floor. “she ran out of the house.” The skeleton shoved his hands into his pockets, biting back tears. “i’m sorry grillby. i…i’m so sorry. i just… i just made you lose your family.” He let out a shuddering breath, the tears falling down his cheeks. “i never meant t-to cause this.”
Grillby slowly raised his head and looked at Sans, his normally bright yellow face reduced to dull orange embers, ashes rolling down his own cheeks. The bartender’s eyes narrowed as he reached out, grabbing Sans’ hoodie.

Sans felt himself being pulled forward roughly, crying harder now. Grillby’s flaming hands gripped the blue hoodie harder, the scent of burning fabric filling the bar. His arms shook as he stared at the skeleton, breathing hard, his eyes searching Sans’ face…

Grillby pulled Sans closer and slid off of his chair, kneeling on the floor in front of the skeleton. He put his face into his boyfriend’s chest, his arms wrapping around him. Sans put his arms around Grillby and knelt with him, the two men quietly crying in the dark restaurant.

Nightfall found Sans and Grillby sitting upstairs in Grillby’s living room, the two men each nursing a glass of their favourite liquor, both silently staring into their cups. They were not sure how long they had been sitting in silence, but it was long enough for the ice to completely melt within their drinks. Grillby looked down at his ruined bourbon and sighed, putting it down on the coffee table. He slumped back into the couch and took off his glasses, rubbing his eyes. “…They told me not to come back.” His voice was hoarse. “…To not come back for as long as I stayed with you.”
“i’m sorry.” Sans whispered for the millionth time, staring at his watered-down amaretto.
Grillby looked over at the skeleton, silently watching him for a moment. “…Sans.”
“y-yeah?”
“…I…” Grillby sighed. “…I have made my choice.”
Sans nodded slowly and put his glass down. “i-i see. well, grillby, it… it–!”

Sans found himself lying on his back on the couch, Grillby leaning over him.

"…I have made my choice.“ He said again. ”…It is the hardest choice I have ever had to make… but I have made my choice. Even if I left you now, my daughter would never look at me the same again. I would be dead to her–I am dead to her. I would be alone, completely and utterly alone.“ He reached out and wiped a tear off of Sans’ cheek. ”…But I’m not alone with you.“ Grillby was breathing hard, staring at the skeleton. ”…It hurts, Sans, making this choice. It hurts me more than I knew I could ever be hurt, but I know that I love you.“ Grillby leaned down and gently kissed Sans’ cheek. ”…I knew what I was getting into when I told you I love you. I still love you, Sans. Do you… do you still love me?“
"i-i do, grillby. i do.” His voice was quiet, thick with emotion. “i love you.”
Grillby lowered himself down, resting his head on Sans’ chest, his eyes staring but unseeing. He felt Sans’ hand stroking his back as he closed his eyes. Grillby slid his arms around Sans as he felt the ashen tears burning his eyes. He hated himself, hated himself with a passion he didn’t know he possessed, but he stood firm to his choice. The damage was done. His ex-wife and his daughter hated him now. They hated him for falling in love with his best friend, the one that made him see that life was worth living even when he felt like giving up…

 

“…Forgive me.”

Chapter Text

Sunrise found Sans and Grillby in the older man’s bed, the fiery man sleeping fitfully as Sans held him close, Sans’ head against Grillby’s. His cool hands kept stroking Grillby’s back, his dark eyes worried; the man’s normally bright flames were nothing more than grey ashes and orange embers. Sans pulled the older man closer and buried his face into his boyfriend’s neck, shivering slightly and not entirely from the cold; he was worried. Last night, the bartender had simply laid on the couch with him until midnight, then he crawled over to his bed and fell into a restless sleep. Sans had stayed awake for most of the night, holding the disconsolate man, wishing he knew what to do to make his boyfriend feel better.

Grillby’s eyes opened when the bedside clock showed 6:30 on its glowing green screen. The bartender let out a long sigh as he closed his eyes again. He put his head next to Sans’ and opened his dull eyes. The older man opened his mouth to speak but sighed, closing his mouth and looking away. Sans hugged Grillby and kissed his forehead, trying to catch Grillby’s gaze. “grillby…”
“…I’m sorry I kept you up all night.”
“it’s okay.”
“…No, it’s not.” He sighed, slowly sitting up. “…I need to start preparing for today.”
“i don’t think you should work today.”
“…I rather work.” His voice was low, rough. “…It is better than sitting with my thoughts.”
“grillby…”
Grillby looked down at Sans and pulled his boyfriend closer, hugging Sans to his cool body. “…Thank you for staying with me.”
“any time, grillby. i mean it.”
Grillby gently kissed the top of Sans’ head before getting out of bed.

Sans watched as Grillby dressed, his eyes sad. He had seen Grillby’s naked body several times now, when the man was in his full, brightly-glowing glory; to see him now, as ashes and soot, was crushing him. The older man dressed in his usual outfit of slacks, vest and a shirt, his fingers stumbling as he tried to tie his bowtie. Sans climbed out of bed, wearing only his boxers, and walked over to his boyfriend. “kneel down. i’ll tie it for you.”
Grillby looked over at Sans and slowly knelt down, feeling a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “…Thank you.”
“aren’t you glad you taught me how to tie these now?” Sans said as he stood behind Grillby, tying the bowtie. When finished, he put his arms around Grillby’s shoulders, kissing the back of his head. “besides, you’re smokin’ when you wear a bowtie."

In the mirror, Sans saw Grillby’s lip pull back in a tiny smile for a moment. He grinned more, kissing his boyfriend again.

He knew how to make Grillby smile.

 

Sans lingered upstairs in Grillby’s home as the bartender made his way downstairs, his wingtip-clad feet making nary a sound as he walked over the polished wooden floors. He turned on the restaurant’s "OPEN” light, unlocking the door with a quiet yawn–

–and jumped back quickly as Papyrus strode into the restaurant.

"GOOD MORNING GRILLBY. SANS CALLED ME LAST NIGHT AND TOLD ME HE WAS STAYING HERE. HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS MORNING?“
”…I’m alright.“
"ARE YOU SURE? YOU DO NOT LOOK LIKE USUAL SELF.”
“…I’ll be fine, Papyrus.”
“IF YOU ARE SURE…” He looked around the restaurant, his smile dampening slightly when he didn’t see his brother. “WHERE IS SANS?”
“…He’s upstairs. Feel free to go up.”
“THANK YOU GRILLBY!” Papyrus strode into the back of the restaurant and through the kitchen, moving quickly up the stairs. A quick glance around the upper living space revealed Sans to be asleep on the sofa. What caught his eye, however, was the open door at the far end of the room. He had been up here several times, but he had never seen that particular door open before. Stepping past his brother, Papyrus walked into the room and looked around, surprised to see that it was a guest room… with a chemistry text book on the dresser? He picked it up and walked back to his brother, rousing him.

"SANS! I FOUND THIS BOOK!“
"that’s nice.” The small skeleton was face-down in the cushions.
“I DO NOT THINK IT BELONGS TO GRILLBY.”
“why do you say that?” Sans sat up, rubbing his eyes.
“BECAUSE IT HAS EMBER’S NAME WRITTEN IN IT.”
“crap.” Sans took the book from Papyrus’ hands and sighed. “she’s going to need this for school, but grillby can’t go and give it to her.”
“I WILL TAKE IT TO HER!”
“you don’t even know where she lives.”
“YOU CAN TELL ME.”
Sans looked at his brother, thinking hard; it would definitely be easier for either he or Papyrus to take the book back to Ember and it would spare Grillby further heartache… “go look around the room first and see if she left anything else, then we’ll figure out who’ll go to the Capital.” He sat down with the chemistry book and began to flip through it, spying some of the equations she wrote in. Sans smirked and shook his head, going over to Grillby’s desk. No wonder she had complained about her chemistry classes when they had lunch together - her work was completely wrong! He chuckled quietly as he began to correct the equations, finding himself smiling as he did so. It had been a long time since he had done any work like this and he had forgotten how easily it came to him…

"I DID NOT FIND ANYTHING ELSE THAT COULD BELONG TO HER.“ Papyrus said, standing behind his brother. "ARE YOU CORRECTING HER HOMEWORK?”
“yup. she made a lot of mistakes. hopefully she’ll see these and learn how to do it right. i left some instructions.”
“THAT IS VERY NICE OF YOU, SANS.”
Sans chuckled a little but stopped suddenly as he heard a crash from downstairs. “here, pap, hold onto this. i’ll be right back.” He threw the book to his brother and ran downstairs, stopping in the kitchen. Grillby was sitting on the floor, his head in his hands. Several plates were lying broken on the ground all around the bartender; Sans could see Grillby shaking as he sat on the floor. Grillby didn’t raise his head as Sans cleaned up the shattered plates, not noticing his boyfriend’s glowing eye and hands.

With the plates cleared away, Sans sat down beside Grillby and put his arms around the older man, pulling him into a tight hug. “don’t open the restaurant today, grillby. just… sit with me for awhile.” Grillby sighed quietly as he felt himself pulled even closer. “aw, don’t be like that. come on, look at me. i want to see that glowing smile.” Grillby raised his head and gave a small smile, despite himself. Sans beamed back at him and kissed his boyfriend, holding him.

A few minutes later, Sans helped Grillby upstairs and back into his bedroom; Papyrus was sitting on the couch, flipping through the textbook. After Grillby was tucked back into bed, Sans left the bedroom and took his brother’s hand, walking downstairs with him. “i need to stay here with grillby today. i don’t want him to be by himself. i’ll give you the address to ember’s house, but please don’t take too long, okay?”
“ALRIGHT! I WILL DELIVER THE BOOK TO HER AND THEN COME HOME.”
“thanks pap.” Sans went behind the bar and picked up Grillby’s receipt book and pen, scribbling down an address. “here you go. try to be home by sunset, alright?”
“WILL YOU BE HOME TONIGHT?”
“yeah, but grillby might be staying over too. is that alright?”
“OF COURSE. DO I NEED TO LAY OUT EXTRA BLANKETS?”
“nah, we’ll be fine.” Sans handed over the address. “thanks again, bro. i’ll see you soon.”
“IT IS NOT A PROBLEM, BROTHER. THE GREAT PAPYRUS ALWAYS HELPS HIS FRIENDS.”
Sans tried to ignore the worry plaguing him as he watched Papyrus striding out into the snow… He shook himself and went back upstairs, crawling back into bed with Grillby, his arms wrapping around his boyfriend. Grillby did not ask about what Papyrus had been holding or where he was going.

Papyrus’ pace was brisk as he moved through Snowdin, his long legs quickly clearing distance. He was happy to be going to the Capital for his brother and for Grillby. This would give him the chance he had hoped for; he had wanted to speak with Ember ever since her disastrous visit and her storming out of the house he shared with his brother. That, and going to the Capital would give him a chance to look at the castle and possibly see King Asgore Dreemurr himself.

The tall skeleton strode through Waterfall, stopping briefly to listen to the Echo Flowers. He and Sans had been here plenty of times, quietly talking amongst themselves as they walked through the dim caverns. He always enjoyed listening to the Flowers, finding himself inspired by the lives and stories of the people who had last visited here. Their hopes and wishes to see the Surface again was what made him train as hard as he did. He wanted to help bring his fellow monsters back to the Surface, to free them from the Underground…

…that, and he truly did want to be a member of the Royal Guard.

“I can help you, Papyrus.” A young voice whispered. “I can help you join the Royal Guard. I can help you become even more powerful than Undyne, than King Dreemurr himself. Let me help you, Papyrus.”
“I… I THANK YOU FOR YOUR OFFER, BUT I DO NOT WANT YOUR HELP. I WANT TO DO THIS ON MY OWN.”
“Are you so sure, Papyrus?” The voice was slowly changing, darkening… “Are you sure that you want to do that…?”
“YES I AM VERY SURE!” Papyrus clutched the textbook closer to his chest, quickening his pace. He needed to get away from the voice! Nothing good ever happened when he heard this voice!
“But Papyrus… Undyne isn’t even training you anymore… She is teaching you how to cook. How is that going to help you become a member of the Royal Guard?”
The tall skeleton’s left eye flared briefly as a long femur appeared in his free hand. “S-SHE HAS HER REASONS!”
“I don’t think you believe that, Papyrus…” The voice was distorted now, surrounding him from every angle. “Let me help you become the hero you want to be!”
“NO!” Papyrus broke out into a sprint, running away from the voice. “I WILL DO THIS ON MY OWN! THAT IS THE HEROIC WAY!”
“You FOOL!
The skeleton stumbled as a vine wrapped around his ankle. Papyrus turned and stared at the vine, his eyes widening. He raised the femur and quickly swung it down, landing a solid strike on the thick stem. He heard something rupture and saw a dark sap on the end of the femur, followed immediately by a shrill cry of pain as the vine retracted. Papyrus turned and ran, clutching the book tightly in one hand, his weapon in the other.

The voice did not return.

Papyrus didn’t stop running until he was almost entirely to the Capital. He was beginning to grow very afraid of Waterfall - every time he set foot within the caverns, the voice found him, spoke to him, haunted him. Praise, promises, threats… and now an outright attack. He didn’t dare tell his brother about this, though. Not yet, at least. Sans had enough to worry about with Grillby; Sans didn’t need to worry about a strange vines and an even stranger, more threatening voice. Breathing hard, Papyrus stepped out onto the paved pavilion, the sap-darkened femur vanishing from his grip. He was in the Capital. He was safe here. Giving himself a quick shake, the skeleton’s smile returned as he began marching towards Grillby’s old home. He was here for a reason and it wasn’t just to return a book.

He was here to deliver a message.

The tall skeleton proudly stood on the front step of the humble house and raised his hand, knocking loudly, the book held to his chest. “Who’s there?” Came a familiar voice.
“EMBER? IT IS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS. I HAVE COME TO RETURN YOUR CHEMISTRY BOOK TO YOU.”
“Papyrus?!” Ember unlocked the door and opened it, staring up at the tall skeleton. “You came all the way here just to give me back my book?”
“YES! I REALIZED YOU WOULD NEED THIS FOR YOUR CLASSES. ALSO, SANS CORRECTED SOME OF YOUR EQUATIONS. HE IS VERY GOOD AT CHEMISTRY, SO YOU SHOULD LOOK AT HIS NOTES.”
Ember looked down at her toes, her green flames dimming slightly. “Sans… helped me with my homework?”
“YES.”
The young woman curled in on herself, hugging her arms, her flames darkening even more. “Papyrus…?”
“YES, EMBER?”
“How… how is my dad?”
Papyrus’ smile faltered as he looked away. “HE… IS… VERY UNHAPPY. HE IS ONLY ASHES AND CINDERS.”
Ember bit her lip, choking back a sob. “Papyrus…”
The skeleton looked down at the book in his hand and slowly held it out to Ember. The young woman took it, her shoulders shaking, but Papyrus didn’t let go of the book. “I… I KNOW YOU SAID SOME VERY HURTFUL THINGS EARLIER, EMBER, BUT I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT YOU MEANT THEM. I DO NOT THINK THAT YOU ARE A BAD OR MEAN PERSON. I KNOW THAT YOU ARE BETTER THAN THE PERSON WE SAW YESTERDAY.” Papyrus let go of the book as he looked to the young woman. “I KNOW THAT YOU WILL DO THE RIGHT THING, EMBER. I KNOW YOU ARE A GOOD PERSON. I BELIEVE IN YOU.” The skeleton gave her a smile. “HAVE A GOOD DAY, EMBER.” With that, he turned and walked away.

The young woman watched as Papyrus strode away, her book held tightly to her chest, her other hand over her mouth. She was crying now, stifling her sobs with her hand. The skeleton was right; she hadn’t truly meant what she had said… she was just so angry at the whole situation. Ember returned inside the empty house - her mother and Jerry were out on a date - and walked into her room, placing the book on her desk. With a trembling hand, she picked up her phone…

Back at Grillby’s, Sans slowly sat up as he heard a phone buzzing on the bedside table. He and Grillby had been lying in bed, both having been reading – or they had been reading, until they had fallen asleep. Sans looked over at the bartender, smiling as he saw Grillby asleep, one hand resting on the book across his chest, his other hand on Sans’. The skeleton gently squeezed Grillby’s hand before rolling over and picking up the phone. “grillby?”
“…Yes?”
“someone called. here.” He handed the man the phone, watching as Grillby opened a dull eye, swiping his fiery finger across the screen. Sans looked on in confusion as he saw Grillby’s flames brighten momentarily. “who called?”
Grillby said nothing as he put his phone to his ear, listening to the voice mail.
“grillby?” Sans put a hand on Grillby’s arm, staring up at him with concern as he saw Grillby’s expression change, his boyfriend’s eyes closing as his mouth drew into a thin line.

The bartender lowered the phone as the message ended. He looked over at Sans and put his arm around his boyfriend, pulling him closer, tapping on the screen. Sans stared at the phone as Grillby held it before them, listening…

“d-d-dad… it’s me…” Ember’s voice was breaking from her sobs. “I… I’m so sorry dad. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean what I said. I didn’t. I didn’t!” More crying. “I love you, daddy, and I’m happy for you and Sans. I am… I just… I miss you. I miss our family. I want you back. I want everything to go back to how it was!” Sans felt Grillby hold him tighter as they heard Ember crying harder. “I… just wanted my daddy and my mommy back together again. I want my family back… But I know that won’t happen.” The young woman drew in a shuddering breath. “m-Mom won’t let me go back to Snowdin, but I still wanna see you again, dad. I wanna see you and Sans and Papyrus. I’m sorry dad, I’m so sorry.” Ember’s voice was full of tears. “I love you, daddy… I hope to hear from you soon… I’m so sorry.”

The message ended.

“grillby…”
Grillby said nothing as he placed the phone on the bedside table. The man’s flames were slowly growing brighter; he wasn’t back to his normal roaring flame, but he was definitely glowing again. He laid down on the bed and pulled Sans to him, his eyes closing, a smile slowly filtering across his face. Grillby rubbed Sans’ back, letting out a soft noise of contentment. “…I will call her tomorrow.”

That night, at the brothers’ house, Grillby and Papyrus prepared a meal of spaghetti while Sans sat nearby, the three men laughing and joking with one another. Papyrus said nothing of his adventure or of his meeting with Ember; some things were just better left unsaid.

Chapter Text

He was the most brilliant mind to ever grace the Underground.

He was the alpha.

He was the omega.

He was nothing more than shattered particles.

Caught between life and death, he wandered the Underground, Earth, the corners of the universe. He saw all. He knew all.

He was all.

All in one, one in all.

…but, at his core, he was a grieving father.

He had fallen into the zenith of his life’s work, into the very heart of the source that powered the entire Underground. He had screamed as his body was torn apart, his very existence fracturing.

He had vanished.

He had vanished from photographs, from books, from memories. No one knew him anymore. No one knew his voice. No one knew his name.

He was only The Man That Speaks In Hands.

W. D. Gaster, the First Royal Scientist and the man who made the Underground the haven and home to all of monster-kind. W. D. Gaster, the man who gave life to two children that he was infinitely proud of.

W. D. Gaster… the man that time forgot.

Shadows of himself roamed the Underground, retracing the steps he had taken alongside King Asgore Dreemurr and Queen Toriel Dreemurr, his disjointed voice whispering through the halls. He knew this land, this realm. He had been here since the beginning, the third monster to ever walk these halls. The King and Queen had led their people through the Underground, their Scientist right behind him. Gaster had been an integral part of the Founding of the Underground - specializing in the sciences and magic alike, he had drawn up the plans to make their new home their heaven. His assistants had tended to him, day and night, bringing the man food and drink to keep him sustained as he slaved over his plans. Half mad to begin with and driven mad thrice more, Gaster had done it.

The Core was built. The Underground lived.

His assistants stood around him, cheering, rejoicing, as the power filled the Underground, warmth and life surging through the darkened halls. It was not the Sun, but this was their sun.

And Gaster was its God.

His best and favourite work, though, was his most mysterious, his most secretive. In his last years at the Core, two small children had clung to him, little fists gripping his clothing as they walked through the corridors. The older of the two walked alongside the Scientist, wearing a small labcoat of his own. Brilliant well beyond their years, the child, only five, was already reading and understanding several of the reports that Gaster’s new assistants struggled with. The other child, only months old, lay quietly in Gaster’s arm, happily suckling from a bottle held by the Scientist. Tightly swaddled, the small baby wiggled happily as the bottle was emptied. Gaster said nothing as he took the bottle away, walking and listening to the smaller child giving a summary of the Core’s levels for that day. An assistant rushed forward, took the bottle and scampered away. The Scientist looked to the small child and nodded, a rare smile gracing his stoic face. “Very good, very good. Tell me, then, how do these levels compare to yesterday?”
“they are consistent.”
“And the previous day?”
“also consistent.”
“Is it true the levels are even between the three days?”
“no.” The little child shook their head. “no, but they are within point-oh-oh-five percent of each other!”
“Is that the acceptable level of deviation that I had set forth in my documentation?”
“yessir!”
“Are you sure, little one?”
The little child looked to their shoes as they walked, ignoring the happy sounds of the small infant in the Scientist’s arms. “…yes. i’m sure.” The child looked up to the Scientist and was rewarded with a large smile.
“Very good, my child. Very good. Come, let us go and do a final check for the day before we return home.”
“can we have spaghetti tonight?”
“Is that what you want? Very well, we will have spaghetti.”
“‘etti!” The child repeated, wiggling happily in the swaddling clothes.
Gaster smiled down at the happy bundle and touched the child’s face. “Speaking already, are we? You are speaking a full twelve months before you are supposed to start. Soon, little one, I shall transition you to solid foods.”
“'etti!” The little voice was more forceful now.
“Really? Is that how you feel about it? Well then, little one, I shall give you a piece tonight and see how you fare.” Gaster smiled more as the older child looked up to the baby in the Scientist’s arms.
“when did i start speaking?” His little voice was curious.
“Around the same time as this little one.” Gaster’s voice was very fond. “But solid foods were not something you were introduced to for several more months. I will give a piece of spaghetti tonight to this one, but I do not expect that it will be eaten. The bottle will remain for several more months.”
“oh.” The small hand clung to Gaster’s pant leg as the Scientist stood before the control terminal, the tall man monitoring the readings. The children kept quiet, letting the Scientist work…

Only weeks later, Gaster had fallen into the heart of the Core.

The wailing of the two children rung in his ears as his screams of pain were sucked from his body. He saw the older child being held back by his assistants, another assistant shielding the small baby from the resulting flare. Gaster threw out a hand and screamed as the burning powers of the Core seared through his bones. There was no escape. There was no solution. There was only one last choice…

“Forget me.” The whispered words were full of Determination, the Scientist exerting his very will onto the Universe.

And the Universe obeyed…

Gaster watched the children grow without him. He watched as they grew up in the lab, rage boiling in his heart. At first, his assistants had cared for the boys much like Gaster had done - tending to them, teaching them, caring for them - but as more and more time passed since Gaster’s destruction, the more his assistants began to… fade…

Within months, Gaster’s assistants had vanished from the Underground. He could still see them, yes, but it was apparent that the rest of the staff at the Core could not. Only the children could see the assistants, but the boys were scared of them. The last assistant stopped appearing after the youngest child - who had been christened Papyrus - had wailed for hours at the sight of the ghastly form. Sans, the older child, spent all night in his brother’s crib, cuddling the scared infant.

Soon after, Sans had begun to sleep in Papyrus’ bed every night, the two brothers finding their comfort in one another. Sans was not sure where they were, who they were or why they were there. He did not even know who his parents were. The only person left that was familiar to him was a very young woman named Alphys. Sans did not care for Alphys very much; he found her nervous and jittery, constantly second-guessing herself. He had first met her in the control room of the Core, watching her trying to make sense of the various displays. Sans had walked up next her, holding his brother in his arms, and climbed onto the stepstool that was next to the console. “do you want help?”
“i-I can do it.” She said, her voice shaking. “i-I read the manual. I know what to do.”
Sans looked over at the console and then back to the young scientist. “you’re not writing anything down.”
“i-I’m just looking it over! Give me a minute! I can make it work.”
Sans looked back at the console again. “the levels are within the acceptable range of point-oh-oh-five. the core’s running fine.”
“h-How did you know that?!”
“i’ve been reading these numbers for over two years now.” Sans said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “i grew up doing this. one day, pap’ll do it too!” At hearing his name, the infant began to coo happily, wiggling his long limbs.

Alphys stared back at the small skeletons. “w-Who taught you to do this?”
“huh?”
“w-Who taught you to read the console?”
“i dunno. i’ve just always done it.”
“w-What else do you know?” Alphys’ voice was curiously sharp. It was strange, she’d later admit, to feel so intimidated by a child, but she had the feeling that this was no ordinary child…
“i dunno. a lot. i mean, i grew up here. i know the core and a lot of the stuff behind it. i mean, i could tell you about how it converts the geothermal energy into the magical energy…” Sans climbed off of his stepstool as Papyrus began to cry. “i gotta go. pap needs me.” Before Alphys could say anything, the skeletons were gone.

Two weeks later, Papyrus and Sans had vanished from the Core.

Sans walked through the dark halls of the Core, Papyrus lying quietly in his arms, a large backpack across Sans’ back. The young skeleton’s feet shuffled through the empty halls, his hand rubbing his brother’s back. Carrying all the things he thought Papyrus would need and a few things of his own, the young skeleton moved through the hallways, towards the exit. He hadn’t wanted to do this, but something wasn’t right. He had heard hushed whispers in the shadows, telling him to run away, that it wasn’t safe.

The fact that his bedroom door was now locked every single night was testament to this fact.

After his brief interaction with Alphys, Papyrus had begun to cry every time he saw the young woman. Sans himself was uneasy - he didn’t like the way Alphys looked at him; she didn’t see him as a child, he knew. She looked at him like he was an experiment, her eyes calculating. Sans had begun discretely packing a bag in preparation for leaving, listening to the urging of the mysterious voice. The voice kept telling him that the time would soon be right, to trust him. Sans didn’t know who the voice belonged to, but he felt at ease whenever he heard the whispers…

Then, one night, Sans heard the door unlock. “It is time.” The voice whispered. “Leave the Core. Travel West. I will be with you.”

Sans looked over at his baby brother, watching the small skeleton sleeping, holding a plush race car to his chest, and climbed out of bed. He didn’t want to do this - he didn’t want to leave his home! - but he knew he wasn’t safe.

“c'mon, pap… let’s go.”

The next morning, Alphys made her way to the boys’ bedroom, a breakfast tray in her hands. When she saw that the door was open, she dropped the tray and ran forward, her hands shaking. “s-Sans?! Papyrus?!” She frantically searched the room, tearing it apart for any sign of the boys. “n-No! NO! WHERE ARE YOU?!” She cried, tugging on her lab coat. Alphys turned back to the door, only to scream as she saw a shadow standing before her. She saw a fractured face emerge from the shadow, bone white and grinning, pierced hands raising…

That afternoon, Alphys stood before the console, making her way through the numbers on the displays, humming the theme song to her favourite anime under her breath. She looked over and saw a baby’s rattle on the console, her eyebrow raising in confusion. Had there been a baby here…? She put the rattle down and went back to work.

The rattle was not there on the following day.

As the years passed, Gaster continued to follow the boys through the Underground. A small piece of himself had remained close to the children, watching over them. He had not been able to do much for the orphaned boys, but he had done all he could do. More than once, he had covered them in his cloak of shadows, keeping them safe, hidden and warm as they slept within the caverns of Waterfall. By the time Sans was fourteen - and Papyrus was nine - Gaster began to drift away. The boys were safe now, living in Snowdin; they had been placed in an empty home near the outskirts of Snowdin, a surprisingly large house for two children. He did not worry about the children, for they were safe and warm. Sans had been enlisted at an early age into the Royal Guard, patrolling around Snowdin, having proven himself both mentally and martially capable. Papyrus had taken to training right alongside his older brother, determined to join the Royal Guard, just like his older brother. The two boys were a fearsome duo, Gaster thought proudly, watching them sparring in the snowy landscape. They no longer needed him.

With a smile, his eyes closed as the wind swept his shadow away.

Chapter Text

The Earth had slumbered for centuries. Her body lay broken and bloodied, her soft soil filled with the bodies and ashes of all those that had perished in the Great War. Her mournful cries were heard in the winds, her tears fell with the rain. So many souls had met with an untimely end, dead at the hands of the other. Man killing Monster. Monster killing Man.

All over a misunderstanding…

No longer, the Earth had decided. No longer will Man and Monster fight. No longer will my soil be drenched in innocent blood. No longer, I say, no longer!

The Earth awoke from her slumber.

A child’s eyes turned to Mount Ebott.

Soon.

It was not often that a change warranted his attention.

Turning his eyes away from the planet he held, he looked back to Earth, staring at the pale blue dot. Of all the planets he observed, Earth was, by far, the most turblent. Wars, diseases, disasters… the inhabitants of the planet were never dull, but the Earth had slept through their antics. As he watched, he saw the planet inhale, heard her voice join the harmony of the spheres for the first time in several thousand years. His hands let go of the small planet as he drifted back towards Earth. She was awake again, he could tell, and She was speaking to him. He knew what he had to do.

It was time to return home.

Gaster slowly pulled himself back together, gathering the pieces he had sent across the universe. It would be the first time in far, far too long that the man had truly been in the same place at almost the same time. Time was something that did not truly affect him anymore - probably due to the fact that he himself was no longer corporeal… A small triviality, he was sure. As his body and mind slowly refocused itself, Gaster turned his attention back to the Underground, willing himself to return there. It had been far too long since had last roamed these halls as a mostly unified being. His shadows still lingered, but he felt them slowly rejoining his own body. The sensation was very peculiar, he noted; it was very akin to putting on socks. Considering the amount of energy he was exerting to gather his own body, he was half-expecting to feel something a bit more… climactic.

But no.

Just socks.

Putting his disappointment aside, the man resumed his work. The Earth had told him of what would be happening, of the changes that would be coming. The Earth had asked him for help, asked him to make sure that the harbinger would be safe along their journey. What was needed was beyond Her control - She needed the help of the man who transcended space and time. Gaster, of course, agreed to lend his aid. After all, one could not exactly say ‘no’ to Mother Gaia, now could they?

He drifted along the path that would one day be walked by the harbinger, quietly judging the landscape. The Earth had told him of the harbinger, told him what they would be capable of doing, told him to be kind. “They are but a child,” She had said, “they might tire easily. Help them to recover on their journey.”
“Why a child?”
“A child will be the most innocent of souls.”
“Why a child? Why not a holy person?” His voice was curious.
“The child will be the beginning of my new era.” Her voice was firm.
“You are making your new era more difficult to achieve. No one will listen to a child like they would an adult.”
“Anyone but a child will be swayed and tempted.”
“And a child will not be swayed?” He countered.
“No, they will not. This child is unique, special.”
Gaster stared at Gaia, the two locked in debate…

Gaster eventually relented. Gaia would have her child as their harbinger.

…even though he still thought it was a foolish idea…

 

As he drifted through Waterfall, Gaster paused. Something felt… familiar. There was someone here. Someone that his mortal self had once known. No, that couldn’t be right. Could it? Being scattered across the cosmos made it so very difficult to keep track of the years…

Curious, the Scientist’s ghostly form floated through the walls, closer to the source of the familiar sensations. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw a man sitting in the arms of a statue, reclining underneath an umbrella. Fiery hands were folded across his stomach as the man smiled, lost to his memories. The figure was not what was calling to him, Gaster realized; it was the memories.

This strange fiery man was close to someone he had once known - no, it was more than just knowing! The figure in those memories…

Sans.

Utterly intrigued, Gaster peered into the man’s mind, watching the memories…

Innocent kisses quickly growing deeper. Hushed words were shared, bodies shifting. Fingers clutching a black vest, holding tight. Speech was short and ragged, punctuated by the quiet, keening gasps of pleasure. Friction from their clothing; the air filled with urgent begging and low grunts…

Pleasure.

Grillby sank back into the arms of the statue, letting out a quiet groan, a satisfied smile coming to rest on his face. Last night had been a wonderful night, as all Saturday nights seemed to be. It had been a month since Ember’s apology and his relationship with Sans had only grown stronger - and Sans had grown braver. It would not be much longer, he knew, until Sans was ready to fully consummate their relationship. The thought of that alone made Grillby groan again, his flames flushing darker.

Gaster tilted his head, staring more at the flaming man before him. So this man was becoming intimate with Sans. A peculiar development, truly. A most inventive solution… The Scientist stared at his pierced hands, lost in thought; it had been too many eons since he had felt the touch of another. Perhaps he had simply forgotten what it was like to feel the touch of a lover. Or, in the case of the man before him, an almost-lover.

The Scientist watched as the fiery man’s memories shifted, recalling far less happy events. He watched as Sans hugged the fiery man, pulling him to his feet and tucking him into bed, listening to Grillby’s drunken and heartbroken sobs about the loss of his family. He watched the small skeleton crying with the fiery man, the two clinging to each other, trying to reassure the other with their touch. Gaster felt a strange flutter in his ancient heart as he watched the memories. Was this… love?

It must be.

Yes. It was.

He had felt love before.

He had been adored by many, but only truly loved by two…

Gaster looked down at his aching hands, at the pain that time would never heal.

He shook himself and stared back to the fiery man. This strange man–Grillby, he knew–was in love with Sans. This much was clear to him. What was unclear to him, however, was if Grillby was truly worthy of Sans. The skeleton was no mere monster, Gaster knew, and he did not want to see the fruits of his labours giving their heart to one that was unworthy.

With a smile, Gaster’s eyes lit up; this would be a quick thing to check, really. He raised his hands, his fingers spreading, casting his glowing sight back into the Universe…

A thousand first steps. A million final breaths. Five trillion choices.

He watched the birth of the man, his lifetime, his death. He watched every possible lifetime of the man, watched every single choice the man had made, did make, would make, all playing out before his eyes. He saw Grillby living the rest of his days with a woman made of fire, raising many children and dying surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He saw Grillby dying alone in an empty home, his ashes simply scattering as the wind blew through a broken window. He saw Grillby lying in bed next to Sans, the two men smiling calmly before they faded into ashes, their bodies mingling together as their final, dying wish…

Gaster lowered his hands as he stared at the man resting in the statue’s embrace. In all of Grillby’s lifetimes, he could tell the man was the happiest when Sans was by his side. He was happy, yes, when he died surrounded by his offspring, but the dying man still had an emptiness within his heart. Gaster rubbed his aching hands, the ache spreading across the eons, his own heart heavy. In watching Grillby’s lifetimes, he had watched Sans’ own demise. It was something that he had taken care to avoid ever witnessing, although he knew that soon–

Gaster shook his head again and stared back to Grillby. The man was worthy, he had decided. Grillby was a good and honest soul and Sans was happy with him. The man would make Sans happy, would give him a long and happy life. He was worthy.

Grillby’s head snapped up as he felt the air within Waterfall shift, growing rapidly colder, filling with the scent of ozone. He quickly stood up, looking around, his eyes wild as his flames lashed. Though the Underground had been civilized, there was always the threat that the original inhabitants would return… His hands balled into fists, his flames growing brighter, the man moving into a fighting stance, his back near the wall. As he scanned the room, he saw the shadows growing larger, filling the cavern. Grillby’s fists clenched, his whole body trembling with adrenaline, staring into the shadows.

A face slowly emerged from the darkness, bone white, broken and grinning. Grillby’s back pressed against the wall as two pierced hands emerged, the broken mask of a face tilting, staring at him with unseen eyes. His fiery body trembled, his heart racing within his chest. Was this… what WAS this?!

The shattered face opened its mouth…

Grillby found himself on the ground, heaving, he and his body screaming in pain. He… he had felt the man’s voice! Had felt it dancing between the very molecules of his existence! Grillby pushed himself up, away from the puddle of smoldering plasma, screaming in pain as the abomination spoke again. Plasma leaked from Grillby’s eyes and mouth, the kneeling man clutching his chest as he shrieked in agony, screaming for mercy.

Gaster closed his mouth, his eyes concerned, drawing slightly inward. Had… had he truly caused that much pain to the man? Gaster drew his cloak of shadows tighter around himself, standing before Grillby. The Scientist stood proud and tall, a slender man draped in black. Grillby was staring up at him, his flames reduced to dull embers and ash, staring up at the man in abject horror. Gaster raised his hands…

…and signed hello.

Grillby screamed again.

Gaster winced and held up his hands, continuing to sign. I mean no harm.

More screaming.

The Scientist looked away, thinking hard. This was clearly not unfolding as he had imagined. He looked back to the flaming man, dry-washing his hands. He decided it would be best to simply stand there until the screaming man had calmed down.

He stood for a very long time.

By the time Grillby had calmed, Gaster was sitting in front of him, the two staring each other in the eye. Grillby was a shivering, trembling mess of ashes and terror. Gaster was staring at him in curiosity. The pierced hands raised again as Gaster signed hello. Grillby stared at the man, thinking hard; he had been taught sign language as part of his schooling, but it had been so long… “…h-hello.”
I know who you are. You are dating my son.
“…Son?”
Sans. Gaster spelled out the name.
Grillby’s eyes went wide, his jaw dropping. “…You are Sans’ father?!”
Creator.
”…What? What do you–creator?“
The man with the broken face smiled, nodding. Creator.

Grillby sank back against the cavern wall, staring in confusion. ”…You created Sans?“
Gaster nodded. I approve.
”…What? What do you mean, 'you approve?’“
I approve of you.
”…I don’t understand. What do you mean?!”
Gaster only smiled. Goodbye, Grillby. He spelled out the name.

Grillby found himself staring at an empty cavern, his heart hammering within his chest. The man crawled back into the arms of the statue and drew his legs to his chest, shivering…

It was dusk when Grillby left Waterfall. He made his way slowly back to Snowdin, jumping at the shadows that he saw. He walked straight to the house that Sans and Papyrus shared, frowning when he saw the door to the back of the house ajar. He had never seen this door open before. Cautiously, he walked closer and pushed the door open a little more, tensing as the lights flickered into life. He took a deep breath and walked inside, staring uneasily at the sheet-covered contraptions. Nothing jumped out of the shadows at him, but he couldn’t help but feel that he was being watched. Grillby walked to the end of the workshop and stared down at the desk, hesitantly picking up the picture he saw lying on the desk. It was of three men, he realized, with something written…

Don’t Forget.

Grillby dropped the photograph and left the workshop immediately, slamming the door shut behind him, making a beeline to his restaurant.

Miles away, Gaster and Gaia walked side by side through the Underground, the two talking quietly amongst themselves. “Did you leave behind the picture for the boys?” She asked, her voice tittering and playful.
“I did.” Gaster’s own voice was thoughtful. “It was rather hard, though, to draw while mostly incorporeal. It did not help that I was using a crayon.”
Gaia laughed more, shaking her head. “Sans and Papyrus, two geniuses… and they only have crayons. Will wonders never cease?”

Chapter Text

There was something important happening soon.

It was very important…

By Asgore, what was it?!

Grillby felt like beating his head against the wall as he paced through his living room, his eyes searching for anything that could possibly jog his memory. His pacing took him down the stairs, into the kitchen of his restaurant, the bartender’s eyes staring at the stove.

Was he out of flour?

No, think. You know this, Grillby. I know you know this…

He walked out into his restaurant, standing behind the bar, staring out at the dark room. Something was happening soon. Sighing, the man sat down on the wobbly stool behind the bar, dropping his chin onto his hands. Something…

Grillby quickly turned as he heard his phone ringing in the kitchen, the rickety stool wobbling dangerously…

“…Ouch.”

The bartender was on his back, staring up at the ceiling, the back of his head stinging from the fall.

Oh. Right.

His anniversary was coming up.

…no wonder you’re divorced…

Grillby pushed himself to his feet and rubbed the back of his head, making his way into the kitchen. He picked up his phone, idly tapping at the screen. “…Oh. Emmy called.” Grillby smiled as he called his daughter back.
“Hiiii Dad!” Her voice was singsong as always.
“…Good morning, Ember.”
“So are you, like, coming to the Capital today? You said you would!”
Oh. "…Of course. I’m about to leave right now. I’ll see you soon, alright?“
"Alrighty! Mom and Jerry are out all day today, so you don’t have to worry about running into Mom. Can we go shopping today?!”
“…Of course, Emmy. Let me finish up here and then I’ll go see the Riverman. I’ll be there soon. I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad! See you soon!”
“…See you soon, Emmy.” Grillby ended the call, running his hand down his face. What had happened to his memory?! “…Sans, someway, somehow, this is your fault…”

It did not take him long to reach the Riverman. He had quickly dressed for the day, making sure to grab his wallet and a small shopping list; Grillby made sure to write “Anniversary present” on his list before he left his restaurant. He and the Riverman made pleasant conversation as they sailed down the lone river of the Underground, making their way to Hotland. It was the furthest the Riverman could take him, unfortunately. Grillby thanked the Riverman for the transportation, watching as the man sailed away. He stretched lightly and yawned as he began the trek to the Capital.

Ember sat on the front porch, her feet tapping with nervous energy. It’d be the first time she’d be seeing her father after her disastrous outburst in Snowdin. She and Grillby had spoken several times since she apologized and, thankfully, they were still close with one another. Emmy stared down at her phone and smiled faintly as she saw a text from Papyrus - she and the skeleton would both work through several of the puzzles in the daily newspaper, texting each other when they finished a puzzle. “GREETINGS EMBER. I HAVE FINISHED THE JUNIOR JUMBLE. THE WORD WAS ALPACA. THEY ARE APPARENTLY SURFACE CREATURES WITH A LOT OF WOOL AND LONG NECKS.” Ember laughed - it always took several messages for Papyrus to say what he wanted to say. /Good job! I learned something new today! We’ll talk later - dad’s here!/ Emmy pocketed her phone as she jumped to her feet, running down the brick walkway of the small house. Grillby laughed as his daughter jumped into his arms, lightly spinning her around.

“…Good morning, Emmy. I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”
“Nope! It’s fine, dad!” She let go of her father, the two starting to walk towards the heart of the Capital. “So what do you wanna do today?”
“…Well, you wanted to do some shopping. I need to do some shopping of my own, so I think we’ll start the morning there and then have lunch.”
“Sounds good to me. What were you shopping for? Another bow tie?”
He chuckled faintly. “…Yes and no. I need to,” he looked down momentarily, flushing red, “buy an anniversary present.”
“Oh my gosh!” She let out a squeal. “Is your first anniversary coming up?!”
“…Yes, it is.”
“When?!”
“…Two weeks from now.” He was glad his daughter didn’t see the uncertain expression on his face.
“What are you gonna get him?!”
“…I have no idea.”
“Da-ad!” She sighed, rolling her eyes. “Come on! He’s your boyfriend! You gotta have something in mind for him!”
“…I was thinking of a new pair of slippers. His are rather worn. Or maybe a few long-sleeved shirts.”
“Da-ad!”
“…What?”
“This is your first anniversary! You gotta get him something nice!”
“…Like what?” His tone was genuinely curious.
“Jeez, I dunno! What did you get mom?”
“…A book.”
“DAD!”
“…What?!”
“He’s your boyfriend, not your book club buddy! Get him something with some sentimental value to it!”
“…I’ll have you know, your mother loved that book.”
Ember sighed and rolled her eyes again as they walked.

Shopping for an anniversary for his boyfriend was far more difficult than Grillby had expected.

He found himself moving through the large shopping mall with his daughter, drifting from store to store, staring dumbfounded at almost every single shop’s offering. What on earth did one buy for a skeleton who liked wearing gym shorts, tee shirts and slippers? Grillby stared down at the bags in his hands - most of them belonged to his daughter - and shook his head. For the millionth time that day, he asked himself what he was honestly doing. He was terrible at buying presents! He barely even knew what to buy his own daughter! Grillby sighed and shook his head, following Ember into yet another store. This one was… different, he realized. There were no clothes here, no tacky or gaudy accessories…

It was a bookstore.

Grillby and Ember were stared at by the two clerks, the looks of horror plainly displayed on the staff’s face. Grillby looked over at them and gave them a calm smile. “…Don’t worry; we won’t set anything on fire.”
“i-If you’re sure…”
“Positive!” Emmy chirped, holding a book in her hands. “See? No harm!”
The clerks heaved a sigh of relief and went back to helping the other patrons. Grillby laughed a little as he wandered through the store, his eyes scanning the aisles. He picked up a book on accounting and a new cookbook, a contented smile on his face; he loved books. As he neared the back of the store, a small display caught his eye. There was a single journal lying on the table, surrounded by pens and stationary. Grillby’s eyes took in the leather cover and the golden filigree. It was gorgeous. His mind wandered back to his very first anniversary with Cindy, recalling the book he had given her. It was traditional for the first wedding anniversary to be a gift of paper - surely it wasn’t too outrageous to give a similar gift to a boyfriend? Juggling the bags and the books, Grillby picked up the journal and a few of the pens, smiling to himself. Yes, this would work nicely - Sans was always scribbling down various ideas on napkins or old newspapers with crayons; a beautiful journal and pens would be a great improvement.

 

“Dad…?”
“…Yes?”
“Are you seriously buying Sans a journal for your anniversary?!”
“…It is traditional for the first anniversary to be the gift of paper.”
“Maybe it was fifty years ago–”
“…Emmy, I am not that old.”
“Ugh…” She shook her head. “Fine, get him a journal…”
Grillby only smiled as his daughter left the bookstore, leaving him alone to peruse a little while longer - she hadn’t even noticed the book on accounting that he had so gleefully found.

The bartender rejoined his daughter later in another clothing store, the two talking lightly as they browsed through the jackets. Ember had refused to let her father buy Sans any sort of button-down shirts, saying that the skeleton just would never wear them. “…Then how about a new hoodie?”
“Huh?”
“…He could use a new hoodie.” I almost ruined his hoodie a few months ago… He winced, recalling the vicious fight between with Cindy and how his hands shook in anger as they gripped Sans’ hoodie, burning just like his anger…
“I guess that’d work.” She sighed. “It’s still kinda lam–”
“…Emmy?”
“Yeah?”
“…That’s enough.” His tone was quiet but firm.
Ember closed her mouth.

Grillby sorted through the jackets, humming under his breath. It was normally very difficult to find anything in Sans’ size, but thankfully the Capital yielded a larger selection than Snowdin. With a smile, the older man picked out a dark blue hoodie with a white fur trim. This would be perfect. It was thick and heavy with a large hood and soft lining. Sans would love it. He kept his smile as he moved to the registers, Ember following him quietly.

The pair had a simple lunch together at the MTT resort before Grillby walked his daughter home. They exchanged a tight hug before Grillby left, making his way back to Hotland. As he walked, his mind went back to the journal. He needed to write something in there, he knew, but what would he write?

It was a question that kept him up for most of the night.

Crumpled wads of paper surrounded Grillby’s desk, littering the floor, the trashcan overflowing. He had tried various types of poetry, prose and had even written down a few recipes. Nothing… Nothing was right! Nothing sounded right! It was all either too forced or too cheesy. Grillby paced through his living room, swirling several fingers of bourbon around the highball glass. How could he find the words to say how he felt? He owed Sans his very life and was blessed enough to have the love of the skeleton. How were there words to express his gratitude, his joy, his very love?! Grillby took another sip of the bourbon and stared back at the paper on his desk. He stopped his pacing, his eyes fixed on the paper, taking another drink…

 

Two years with a friend.

A year with a boyfriend.

A year.

Sans was lying in his bed, a week after Grillby visited his daughter, his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling. Tonight was his one year anniversary with his boyfriend, the bartender… and what a year it had been. He looked over at the wooden box on his desk, his eternal smile softening, tempered with love. It was Saturday. The night he’d stay over at Grillby’s. He would spend some of the day there, like usual, but he knew that at night, he’d be sitting right at the bar as Grillby closed for the night. The citizens of Snowdin had rather quickly figured out that there was something between the skeleton and the bartender, but no one really commented on it - there wasn’t really anything to comment on, either. Grillby didn’t show much affection to anyone when he was working. Sans was alright with this, truthfully; he didn’t want anyone in Snowdin to know more than what he himself had said

He shook his head, pushing the thoughts away, and looked back to the box. Tonight was his first anniversary with his boyfriend. He had bought a nice outfit and new shoes. He had a gift that his boyfriend was going to love. He was ready for the most important date yet.

With a mental pat on the back, Sans fell asleep.

The day passed by slowly for the skeleton, every minute dragging by, as if teasing him for his excitement. He spent part of his afternoon in the restaurant, doing his best to mirror Grillby’s air of nonchalance. He envied the barman for being able to remain as stoic as he did - Sans couldn’t stop his eternal smile from growing larger with every second he sat near his boyfriend. When it was time for his shift to begin, Sans discretely squeezed Grillby’s hand before hopping off his stool and walking out into the snowy town.

His slipper-clad feet scuffed through the snow, the skeleton shuffling his way towards the ancient door. The mysterious woman would be waiting for him - she knew his anniversary was tonight. Sans walked up to the door and knocked, smiling a little at the old door.
“knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“ima”
“Ima who?”
“ima so excited for tonight.” Sans sat down, his back against the door. “i took your advice about the present, too. it took a while to be made and it cost a lot, but it’s perfect. i can’t wait to give it to him.”
“I think he’s going to love it very much, especially considering how often you two spend time there. It really seems to be the only place you two can be alone.”
“y-yeah, it is. i love having my brother around, but, well…”
“Some things you just can’t do when company’s present.” She lilted, laughing.
Sans flushed deeply, burying his head into his hands. “we’ve not even really done anything yet!”
“I’m sure you’ve done some things.” She teased. “I can tell these things, you know. I have that intuition.”
Sans flushed even darker, pulling his hood over his head. “you’re terrible!”
“I’m sorry,” her tone softened, but he could hear her laughter, “I’m very happy for you, you know. I’m happy you two are having your anniversary tonight. You and he had a long road, but you’ve made it through. I want you to enjoy your time tonight. Just relax and enjoy.” She sat down near the door, sighing contentedly. “Say, would you like to tell more jokes to pass the time?”
“that’d be good.”

Sans left the door a few hours later, returning home. He carefully dressed, wiggling his way into the turtleneck sweater. The sweater had stayed in his closet for so very long he had even forgotten where the dark green sweater had come from. With a small grunt, he pulled it over his head and looked at himself in the mirror, smiling almost shyly. He wore a pair of new black pants and a pair of black shoes - simple shoes, unlike his boyfriend’s wingtips. When paired with the sweater, Sans couldn’t help but think that he looked very sharp. “…i look hot.” His smile grew more. “not as hot as grillby, but definitely hot.” He turned and looked at his reflection again, smiling more. Yes, this was very good…

He picked up the small box off of his deck and left the room, looking for his brother. “pap?”
“YES, BROTHER?”
“i’m heading over to grillby’s. are you going to stay here tonight?”
“NO. TONIGHT IS MOVIE NIGHT WITH UNDYNE.”
“ah. y'know, you two are spending an awful lot of time together. do you, y'know, wanna… date her?”
“WHAT? NO! THE GREAT PAPYRUS DOES NOT HAVE TIME FOR DATING. I AM TOO BUSY TRAINING TO BE A PART OF THE ROYAL GUARD.”
“alright then. i’ll see you tomorrow, ok?”
“SOUNDS GOOD TO ME. HAVE A GOOD NIGHT TONIGHT, SANS. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY.” The two brothers hugged tightly before Sans left for Grillby’s restaurant. He wore his hoodie over his sweater, the box tucked into a large pocket. Sans forced himself to walk slowly, despite his urge to simply run to the restaurant.

Grillby was sitting near the door, waiting for Sans. He had closed early tonight, since the last few patrons had left before last call. He was sipping a shot of bourbon, relaxing, reflecting on the day. Sans had been very excitable today - perhaps the book he had been waiting for was finally delivered? Grillby smiled as he heard a knock on the front door.
“knock knock.”
“…Who is it?”
“who do you want it to be?” Sans asked, his voice was low.
“…A skeleton, shorter than I, who is normally seen in slippers and a hoodie.”
“well, there’s definitely a shorter skeleton here, but he’s not wearing slippers.”
“…Oh?” Grillby walked over to the front door and opened it, letting Sans inside. He watched as the skeleton placed his hoodie on an empty table and felt his jaw dropping at the sight of his boyfriend dressed in slacks and a sweater. “…Sans…”
“yeah?”
“…You look fantastic.”
“i wanted to look good for you.”
“…You always do.” Grillby pulled Sans close and gave him a smile. “…Let me go and change.” The barman smiled kindly. “…Make yourself comfortable. I will be back in a minute.” The two kissed gently before Grillby walked away.

Once out of his boyfriend’s sight, Grillby felt himself pale. Was… no. His anniversary couldn’t be tonight. No. Sans just wanted to wear something nice.

Right?

Grillby rejoined Sans a few minutes later, wearing a shirt Sans had only ever seen in the man’s closet. It was a tight black shirt that hugged the man’s body. A grey vest and a red tie, along with the barman’s usual slacks and shoes, completed the picture. Sans couldn’t pull his eyes away from the sight of his boyfriend, his jaw slightly ajar. Grillby’s flames flushed momentarily as he rejoined Sans. “…Are you alright?”
“you’re hot.”
Grillby laughed, kissing the top of Sans’ head. “…Sit. I’ll bring out dinner.”
Sans nodded and walked over to the bar, climbing onto his usual stool…

He sat across from Sans, a meal spread out between them. Sans smiled up at the bartender and owner, holding up a small glass. “happy anniversary, grillby.”
Grillby tapped his glass to his friend’s, confused. “…Anniversary?”
“yup. two years ago today, you came to snowdin. so, happy anniversary.”
Grillby smiled a genuine smile and laughed quietly. “…Thank you, Sans. It’s good to finally be home.”

Sharing the smile, the two men ate their meals, enjoying the peaceful silence and the other’s company.

A few minutes later, Sans smiled more. “it’s also our one year anniversary as a couple.” The skeleton was beaming up at Grillby. “so… happy anniversary, grillby.”
“…Happy anniversary, Sans.” Grillby smiled widely back at the skeleton. Internally, though, Grillby was screaming. It was his anniversary. He had completely forgotten, swearing it was next week. At least, for once, he actually had a present ready and didn’t have to pretend that it was still being delivered…

With the dishes cleared away, Sans placed the small wooden box on the bar, looking up to his boyfriend. “i’ve never, uh, never had an anniversary before. i didn’t know if there was something i should do for it, so i just…” He gently twisted a knob on the back of the box. “i had something made for you, grillby. i hope you like it.” Sans finished winding the box and slid it closer to his boyfriend, watching Grillby’s face. “go on, open it.”

Carefully, Grillby pushed open the lid…

Sans watched as Grillby’s eyes grew wide behind his glasses, the man’s flames dimming, glowing a deep red, as the song of the statue filled the restaurant. Grillby sat, motionless, staring at the box, at a loss for words. The skeleton knew how much the statue meant to Grillby…

…but he had no idea that the statue was where Grillby had received the blessings of the strange deific figure.

Grillby put a hand over his mouth as the song continued to play, lowering his head. So much had happened in the past year; so many nights had been spent at the statue, sorting through the changes in his life. To hear the song here, in the place where he had begun his new life and his life with Sans…?

Grillby leaned over the bar, grabbing Sans’ sweater. He pulled the skeleton close, kissing him with a fierceness the skeleton had never seen before.

When they pulled apart, Sans was staring up at the bartender, panting… Grillby stroked Sans’ cheek, standing. “…Let me go and bring you your gift.” He kissed his boyfriend’s cheek and walked upstairs, unable to keep the smile off of his face. He gathered up the embossed leather journal and the pens, as well as the bag that held the new hoodie. The gifts, he realized, were paltry in comparison to the music box…

Grillby sat down on his stool and handed Sans the bag. “…First, a practical gift. I have wanted to give you a new one for a long time, ever since…” His voice faded off. “…I hope you enjoy it.”
Sans opened the bag, gasping as he pulled out the thick, warm hoodie. “it’s lovely. i… i actually had wanted to buy this one.” He looked up at the bartender. “grillby, this was so expensive.”
“…Happy anniversary, Sans.” Grillby smiled calmly as Sans pulled on the new hoodie, watching as he gently nuzzled the soft fur. “…I also got you this.” He handed the man the journal, blushing sheepishly. “…I wrote something in there for you.”
Sans looked at the soft leather journal and then back up to his boyfriend. “read it to me.”
“…What?”
“read me what you wrote. i want to hear it in your voice.”
Grillby smiled and nodded, taking back the journal and opening it. Sans could see the man’s cursive handwriting on the inside of the front cover. Clearing his throat, Grillby began to read…

“…I wanted to write you a poem
To tell you how I feel.
Something elegant, to say "I love you”
But… I find myself at a loss for words.

I was never a poet and I will not pretend to be one now. My mind is not that nimble, nor my tongue that florid. I have always preferred to simply say what I mean to say. For me to try and tell you how I feel with only a few simple words?

I would rather be rendered mute, for fear I would not speak true to my love for you.

It was in my darkest hour that you found me. You took me in and you gave me a home when I was adrift. You gave me a new life when I thought mine was over. You gave me friendship when I was alone. And, in time, you gave me your love.

I thought I had known love. I thought I had known all there was to know about love. I thought I knew all the steps, all the things to say and do. I have never been so happy to be proven so utterly wrong.

You have shown me the beauty of quiet mornings in bed, of slow smiles and lazy laughter. You have shown me the joys of late nights, talking until the small hours of the morning about everything and nothing. You have shown me the pleasures, the blessed and beautiful pleasures, of simply sharing in your company.

If there is a higher power, they have graced me with more than I am due.
For to share in a love, so pure and simple, with one as wonderful as you?

It is enough to make me pray, to pray for all that is right and good and wonderful within the world.

I love you, Sans, with a passion that ignites my very soul.

I love you.“

Grillby closed the journal and looked back to his boyfriend, placing it down on the bar, alongside the pens. He was smiling calmly, gently taking Sans’ hands in his own. ”…I love you, Sans.“
"i love you too, grillby.”
The bartender leaned over and gently kissed the skeleton. “…Happy anniversary.”
Sans pulled Grillby closer, kissing him again, gasping in shock as Grillby pulled away. The bartender walked around the bar and past his boyfriend, his attention on the jukebox. A record that Sans had never heard before began to play, the restaurant filling with sounds of an acoustic guitar and a violin. Grillby moved to stand in front of Sans, holding out a hand to him. Sans took it, looking up to his boyfriend curiously, and smiled as Grillby pulled him to his feet. The fiery man put Sans’ free hand on his hip before placing his hand on the skeleton’s back. “…Follow my lead.” His voice was a kind whisper.
Sans nodded, unable to stop smiling, as Grillby lead the dance..

Chapter Text

He stood beside the closed window, staring at the pavilion below. Behind him, he could hear quiet coughing and the sound of another’s voice. He lowered his head, gripping a pendant that hung from his neck, breathing slowly.

All of his power…

All of his wealth…

And he could do nothing to save her.

Behind him, his wife of almost forty years was lying in her bed, her frail body shaking with each cough. Her doctor knelt by her bedside, the man trying to find something in his satchel to give to the sickly woman to help her pain. The doctor slowly stood up, shaking his head. There was nothing more he could do for now. He picked up his bag and left, planning to return in several hours.

The man left the window and stood by his wife’s bedside, staring down at her, his expression grim. She reached out a hand to her husband, her own eyes sad. “Magmas…” Her voice was a dusty whisper.
“I am here, Ignacea.” He said quietly.
“It is very cold.”
“I will bring you another blanket and send for tea. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
The woman fell silent, turning her head away, thinking hard. “…I want to see my son.”
Magmas’ grip weakened as he stared at his wife. “What?”
“I want to see my son again. I want him to come home.”
“I–”
“I do not care what you say, Magmas. I want to see my son again. Call him home.” Her thin voice was as firm as she could make it.
“…Very well.” He carefully released his wife’s hand. He would have argued, but he could not. Not now… “I will send him a summons tonight. Do you need anything else before I depart, Ignacea?”
“No, Magmas. Thank you.” She placed her hands on her stomach and closed her eyes, resting against the soft bedding.
Magmas stared at his wife for a moment longer before he turned and left the room, his dark red flames flickering angrily. He did not want to call his son home, did not want to lay eyes on him ever again… but he could not deny his wife of what very well could be her dying wish.

With a sigh, Magmas sent a servant to bring his wife warm blankets and tea while he called for his butler…

That night, an envelope with a wax seal was taken from the Manor towards the post office, the envelop bearing the last known address of his son.

- - - - -

“What’s that, Cindy?” Jerry asked, looking up at his girlfriend. “It looks pretty official… Did your ex’s lawyer send you a letter?”
“n-No.” Cindy said quietly, staring down at the parchment envelop in her hands, her heart thumping at seeing the stamped wax emblem. “This came from his father.”
“What? I thought you said they hadn’t spoken since before Ember was born?” The crocodile was confused.
“It’s true, they haven’t. I don’t know what this is… but I guess Magmas had a hope that Grillby still lived here.”
“Are you going to open it?”
“No. No, I won’t. I’ll just go write Grillby’s new address on there and forward it to him.” She walked over to the kitchen table and picked up a pen, marking through the current address before writing in Grillby’s new address. “I’ll be right back, Jer. I’m going to go put this in the mailbox.”
“Alrighty."

Cindy walked outside, holding the letter tightly to her chest, breathing hard. This couldn’t be good news. She didn’t know what the letter said, but she knew it couldn’t be good news. If Magmas was trying to reach Grillby now…?
"Good luck.” She whispered, standing in front of her mailbox. The woman took the letter to her lips and gave it a kiss before placing it in the mailbox.

She returned to the house without a backwards glance…

- - - - -

Grillby sat at his desk, idly swirling his glass of bourbon, his eyes fixed on the heavy parchment envelope before him. A large circle of bright red wax sealed the envelope, stamped with a with a family crest. Grillby knew that seal, even though it had been almost two decades since he had last laid eyes on it.
“whatcha got there, grillbs?” Sans asked, leaning over his boyfriend’s shoulder, resting his head against the other man’s.
“…A letter from my father.”
“from your father? it looks like something that king asgore would send out.”
“…Why settle for regular paper and envelopes when you can use parchment?” Grillby’s voice was slightly scathing.
“what’s the wax stamped with?” His voice was curious as he leaned closer, trying to pick out the details.
Grillby pressed a flaming finger against the wax, melting the emblem. “…I don’t really want to say.” His voice was soft. “…It doesn’t matter.”
Sans frowned, fixing his boyfriend with an empty gaze. “grillby–”
“…Don’t worry about it, Sans. It is nothing.” Grillby pulled his finger away from the melted wax, the envelope slowly opening. Sans gently kissed Grillby’s cheek before he walked away, making his way back to the couch. The skeleton picked up the journal that Grillby had given him a month ago, along with a pen, and went back to work on sketching… something…

With a sigh, the bartender picked up the letter and began to read. It took only seconds for Grillby to realize that this wasn’t a letter - it was a summons.

To Master Feuvant,

You are hereby summoned by Master Magmas Feuvant to appear within the Feuvant Manor on the twenty-eighth of the month of April, at five o'clock in the evening. The presence of your wife has also been requested by Master Magmas Feuvant. Failure to appear on the specified date without proper notification will be considered as grounds for permanent disownment from the Feuvant line.

Signed,

Horatio Mansfield, Butler to Master Magmas Feuvant

Grillby placed the summons down on his desk and drained his bourbon glass in a single swallow, his eyes tightly closed. His father had summoned him home… but why? It had been almost eighteen years since his father had last spoken to him! Why was he being called home now?!

“grillby?”
“…Yes, Sans?”
“what’d the letter say?”
“…It was a summons.”
“what?”
“…My father has summoned me back to the family home next Friday. He wants me to bring Cindy, too, but I do not think that will be happening.” He laughed darkly.
“oh.” Sans hopped off the couch and moved to his boyfriend, picking up the letter. “feuvant manor? is that how your dad refers to his house?”
Grillby smiled despite himself. “…It isn’t really a house, Sans. It is a manor. The Feuvant line is one of the oldest families amongst our kind. Feuvant Manor has been a part of the family ever since King Asgore settled the Underground, modeled after the old family Keep that was on the surface. The Feuvant line has served as some of the most elite generals of the Royal Guard throughout the years.”
“but undyne’s the leader now.” He was confused. “what happened?”
Grillby took the parchment from his boyfriend’s hands, sighing slightly. He put the letter down on the desk and then turned to face Sans, looking into the skeleton’s eyesockets, a faint smile gracing his flaming face. “…What happened is this.” Grillby took off his glasses, chuckling, idly waving the spectacles. “…My vision is so poor that I am almost blind.”
“what does that have to do with anything? if you wear your glasses, you can see just fine, right?”
“…Well, yes, but if they are knocked off of my face or broken, then I am a liability. My father and I argued for a very long time with King Asgore about making an exception and letting me into the Royal Guard, but he wouldn’t budge, despite my family’s long history as generals of the Royal Guard.” Grillby closed his eyes, a faint smile on his face. “…I hated King Asgore for a long time because of that, but it makes sense now. He is a King. His duty is to keep his people safe, first and foremost. Sometimes it means making hard choices.” Grillby opened his eyes and smiled. “…I do not hold it against him any longer. Besides, I rather like how my life worked out.” Grillby held out a hand towards what he thought was his boyfriend, a wide smile on his face.
“so how bad is your eyesight?” Sans asked, curious.
“…Very terrible. Why do you ask?”
“because you’re reaching towards the couch. i’m over here.”
“…Oh.” Grillby flushed darkly, replacing his glasses a moment later. “…I suppose that answers your question, then.”
“yup.” Sans walked back to his boyfriend and picked up the summons, staring down at this. “so what are you gonna do about meeting with your father? also, you never told me his name was magmas.”
“…I try not to think about him, which is why I never told you his name.” Grillby rubbed his forehead. “…I will answer the summons, even though I have no real desire to do so. I will see what the man has to say and then I will return here, whereupon I will probably try to forget the whole ordeal.”
“so should i wear a suit?”
“…What?"

"well,” Sans rocked on his toes, “the letter said that your wife should be there. since you’re not married anymore and your dad’s expecting someone with you, it makes sense that i’d go with you.”
Grillby stared at his boyfriend, his confusion evident. “…Sans, I don’t want to put you through that. You have already met my ex wife; I don’t want you to suffer through meeting my father.”
“if it’s as bad as you’re making it sound, i don’t want you to go through it alone.” Sans smiled a little as he leaned against Grillby’s chair, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s shoulders. “so, should i wear a suit?”
The older man placed a hand over Sans’ arms, smiling softly. “…Yes. Thank you.”
“any time, grillbs.”

- - - - -

For the first time in almost twenty years, Grillby found himself standing before the gatehouse of Feuvant Manor, the massive wrought-iron gate proudly boasting the family coat of arms. A frog-mouth helm, surrounded by ornate flames, stood above a red, angular heater shield with a large, diagonal golden stripe. In the very center of the shield stood a roaring dragon, its scales glittering in the light cast by the flaming bartender. Grillby let out a low sigh as he reached out, tracing a finger over the crest, his eyes lingering on the words of his family’s motto. “…Victoriam per ignem.”
“what?” Sans tore his eyes away from the shield and looked up to his lover.
“…Through fire comes victory.” He watched as the gate was raised by the unseen gatekeeper. “…It is the motto of the Feuvant family.”
“oh.” Sans fell into step behind Grillby. “what did the other stuff mean? the stuff on the shield?”
Grillby felt himself smiling slightly as he walked with his boyfriend. “…The closed helmet shows that we are Knights; the red shield shows that we are warriors. The golden stripe has two meanings. First, the gold shows that we are both generous and of an ‘elevated’ mind.” He made a small noise of derision. “…The stripe - called a bend dexter - shows that we are Knights. It might seem rather redundant to you, but I assure you, each item has its own unique meaning. I just cannot even remember all of the nuances myself. As for the dragon, well,” Grillby laughed a little more. “…The bravest of all creatures and the guardians of wealth. Wealth, of course, can mean many things. In the case of my family, our wealth was the lives of our fellow monsters. The Feuvant line has always been a line of protectors and guardians… except for me.” Grillby’s voice faltered before he fell silent, his flames darkening.
Sans reached out and took Grillby’s hand and held it tightly. “it’s okay, grillby.”

Grillby did not reply as they walked towards the Manor.

By the time the pair reached the front door, Grillby’s flames had brightened back to their normal orange glow. Grillby knocked sharply on the door and stood back with Sans, smiling at the skeleton. “…It will be alright, Sans. Relax… and stop fidgeting with your tie.”
“i don’t like ties.”
“…I know you don’t, but it is only for a few hours. If it helps, I think you look wonderful. Navy is a flattering colour for you.” Grillby fell silent as he heard footsteps approaching while Sans tried to rid himself of his blue-tinged blush. He straightened his navy suit and light blue shirt, pulling one last time at his white tie as he heard the door unlock.
The heavy iron-banded door swung inward, revealing a stern man with a perpetual frown. “Young Master Grillbert, you are early.”
“…Hello Horatio. You know as well as I do that if I was on time, Magmas would criticise me for being late.” Grillby’s demeanor had shifted, Sans noticed; Grillby now stood ramrod straight, his speech becoming as tight and rigid as his posture. It was somewhat unnerving. “…Where is Magmas?”
“He is in the solarium with Lady Ignacea. Shall I take you there?”
“…No, Horatio. I remember the way.”
“Very good, sir. Shall I take your servant to the servant’s quarters while you meet with Master Magmas?”
“…Servant? No, no. This is Sans, Horatio. He is,” Grillby’s voice faltered slightly, “…He is my companion.”
“I see, sir.” Horatio stood aside as Sans and Grillby walked into the massive foyer. “I shall go and tell Master Magmas that you and your companion will be joining him soon.” The butler bowed and quickly walked away, his hard-heeled shoes clicking on the marble floors.

Grillby heard a stifled laughter from behind him. With narrowed eyes, he turned and looked down at his boyfriend, his face stern. “…Sans,” his tone held a warning.
”grillbert?!“ Sans sputtered out. "your name is grillbert?!”
“…Sans, if anyone else finds out–”
“grillbert!”
Grillby’s flames began to flicker in annoyance. “…Sans, I am warning you–”
“warning me about what, grillbert?”
The bartender could only stare down at his boyfriend. “…If anyone else finds out what my name actually is, I will be forced to close the bar and relocate elsewhere.”
“why’s that, grillbert?” Sans couldn’t stop laughing.
“…Because of this exact reaction.” His voice was annoyed.
“i’m sorry, grillbs. i just… i didn’t know your name was grillbert! it’s–”
“…A punishment worse than death.” Grillby sighed. “…Please try to stop laughing. We are about to go meet my father.”

Sans stopped laughing almost immediately as Grillby began to walk across the polished marble floors.

The skeleton followed Grillby through the Manor, in minor disbelief at everything he was seeing. It was as if he had stepped into an entirely different era! The walls were covered with torches and tapestries, elaborate oil paintings decorated vast expanses of the stone walls. Suits of armour stood at attention, swords and shields clasped before them; Sans felt as though the suits were watching him… “grillby, this is where you grew up?! it’s so… so–”
“…Cold? Yes. Yes it is.” Grillby’s ashen voice had turned as cold as the Manor’s halls. “…I never thought I would walk these halls again. I never wanted to.”
“you really don’t like your family, do you?”
“…No. I do not like my father. My mother, however, I have missed dearly. She made life here enjoyable for me.”
“i still can’t figure out how you were a teenager going to a regular school while living here. i just can’t get the pictures to line up in my head.” Sans shook his head, following his boyfriend down yet another hallway. “i mean, i can’t even imagine you being a kid here!”
Grillby laughed. “…It is arguable that I never was a child in the first place.”
“oh come on! you had to have had gotten up to something mischievous as a kid!”
Grillby laughed more as he turned down yet another hallway. “…Oh, I did. That’s how I ended up with a daughter.”
Sans froze at that, staring up at his boyfriend, his jaw dropping in disbelief at what he just heard.
“…Come, Sans. Are you ready to meet my father?”
“what do you mean, that’s how you ended up with a daughter?”
“…We’ve had this conversation before.”
“not in its entirety, apparently!”

Grillby walked back to his boyfriend and knelt down, looking at him, his gaze confused. “…Sans, are you upset?”
“yes! yes, i am! this is crazy, grillby! you went from being a nice bartender with an ex-wife and a daughter to being some noble from a long line of generals in an instant! i don’t even think i know you anymore…” His voice was hurt.
Grillby reached out and took Sans’ hands, sighing when the skeleton stepped away from him. This really wasn’t a good time for this conversation! “…Let me find a servant. I need to tell Magmas that we will be a few minutes late. Wait here. I will be right back, then we can talk.” The older man stood and walked away to find a servant, leaving Sans to stand alone in the hallway with only his distraught thoughts for company…

Chapter Text

Ignacea left the solarium, her heart heavy; her son was here by now… but she had yet to see him.
“Lady Ignacea?” A young woman walked behind the Lady of the House, her large eyes worried. “Are you alright?”
“I am fine, Cala.” Her voice was tired. “I am just going for a small walk. I want to freshen up before I see my son.”
“Alright. Please, call if you require my aid.” Cala curtsied before leaving the Lady to her walk.
The older woman’s head lowered as she walked, her canary-yellow flames darkening to embers as she made her way through the Manor. Even though she was growing healthier and stronger with every passing day, she felt like her mind was deteriorating. What if her son didn’t want to reconnect with her? What if he didn’t even want to see her–

The Lady of the House turned a corner and found herself staring at a suited skeleton sitting on a plinth. “Excuse me,” her ashen voice was gentle, “who are you?”
“wh–oh!” Sans stood up quickly, dusting off his suit. “uh, i’m sans. sans the skeleton. i came here with grillby but he ran off somewhere.”
“You are friends with Grillbert?” Her voice was hopeful, her flames brightening.
“y-yeah. he and i are really close.”
“I see.” Her flames returned to their usual canary-yellow as her voice filled with vitality. “I am his mother, Ignacea Amanece Feuvant. It is a pleasure to meet you, Sans the Skeleton.”
“oh!” Sans’ eyes went wide as he looked to the woman. “i, uh, i’d like to say i’ve been told a lot about you, but…” His voice trailed off as he looked to his shoes. They were brown, highly polished and incredibly uncomfortable… but they went well with his suit.

Sans hated them.

“Grillbert doesn’t talk much about his past?”
“nope.”
“i-I see.” Her flames dimmed.
Sans winced slightly as he looked back to the older woman. “do you know where grillby is? i need to talk to him.”
Ignacea shook her head. “I was going to ask the same of you.” She stepped closer to the skeleton. “How about you and I talk instead? I know I am not my son, but I… I very much want to know of him.”
“alright.” Sans walked up to the woman and looked up to her. “i want to know the same. i feel like i don’t even know him… but i guess that makes two of us, huh?”
“It does indeed.” Ignacea gave the skeleton a faint smile. “Come, walk with me. There is a sitting room nearby.”

The pair settled into a small sitting room, each sitting in a tall wing back armchair, both slightly facing a large fireplace. A large portrait of a man made of red flames hung over the hearth, the man wearing the fine armour of a general. Ignacea paid no mind to the portrait of her husband as she looked to the skeleton. “So, Sans… how do you know my son?”
“i, uh, i go to the restaurant he owns almost every day. i helped him get settled in snowdin when he moved there.”
“He’s living in Snowdin?! What does his wife think about this? She always loved the Capital…”
“uh…” Sans looked at his shoes. “they, uh, got divorced about two years ago.”
“What?!” Her flames lashed suddenly before dimming. “Oh dear, poor Grillbert! He loved her so! They had been friends since birth!”
“he’s actually really happy now.” Sans said quietly, his tone strangely defensive. “he’s got a restaurant in snowdin that he loves and he has friends. he’s doing fine.”
“He owns a restaurant?!” She smiled. “I am happy to hear that - he was made manager, you know, of the first restaurant he worked at. What is the restaurant like?”
“well, he’s the only one who works there, for starters.”
Ignacea blinked, more than confused. “He… doesn’t have any waitstaff? Next you’re going to tell me he does all the cooking himself!”
“he does.”
The woman let out a quiet cry of shock. “He runs the entire restaurant by himself?!”
“yup. he does a really good job of it, too. it’s the most popular place in town - everyone loves it.” Sans’ pride was audible.
Ignacea leaned back in her chair, her eyes closing. “I suppose that is good.”
“it is. he’s happy now, as opposed to a few years ago. he was miserable when he first came to snowdin, but now he’s one of the happiest people in town. everyone likes grillby.”
“He goes by Grillby? I suppose that makes sense. He never did care much for the name Grillbert. I wanted to name him Wickert, but his father would not have it.”
“grillby suits him best.”
“If you say so. You probably know him better than I do.” Ignacea sighed sadly.
“i dunno about that. he’s not told me a lot about himself.”

The older woman looked over to the skeleton, a faint smile dancing across her face. “He is a very quiet man, Sans. Even when he was a boy, he was always keeping his secrets - and doing a wonderful job at it. It took us all fifteen years to realize he was almost blind.”
“i only found out a few weeks ago how bad his eyesight was.” Sans sighed, slumping down into his chair.
Ignacea tilted her head, staring at the skeleton. “You are very close to my son, aren’t you?”
“yeah. i go his restaurant almost every single day.”
“That isn’t what I meant and you know it.” She smiled kindly. “There are a few small clues, but a mother’s intuition is hardly ever wrong. You love my son, don’t you?”
“i… uh…”
She leaned forward in her chair, closer to the skeleton, a kind smile on her face. “Sans, I have not seen my child in eighteen years. I do not care who he love or what he does anymore. At this point, I only want him to be happy. That’s all that matters to me.”
The skeleton stared down at his lap, idly fidgeting with his suit. He was silent for a few moments, deciding on what to say. Finally, he looked back up to Ignacea, a small, fond smile on his face. “i do love him. and he loves me. i just feel like he’s a stranger to me now.”
“Then let me tell you about him.” Ignacea’s voice was fond, warm. “Make yourself comfortable; I will call for tea.”
“what about talking to grillby? you said you wanted to see him.” Sans didn’t want the woman to go away - he wanted to know about his boyfriend! - but…
“I will talk to him after his father does. I have waited eighteen years to see him again. I can wait for another hour or so. For now, I very much want to talk to the handsome young man that is in love with my son.” Her smile was audible. “So, where to begin… well, Grillbert was born on a Saturday morning, here in this very Manor…”

- - - - -

All he had wanted to do was find a servant.

Instead, he found himself staring at his father.

“Grillbert,” Magmas remained seated near the window, “how good of you to finally return home.”
“…Hello, Father.” Grillby said quietly. “…Where is Mother?”
“She is taking a turn around the Manor.”
“…I see.”
“Indeed.”
The two servants in the room were sitting closely together, exchanging nervous glances at the stiff, formal conversation.
Grillby looked around the room, frowning more. “…Father, I need to take some time to handle a personal matter before I talk with you and Mother.”
“Your mother will probably be resting by the time you settle your matter. Besides, Grillbert,” Magmas’ tone grew frigid, “we need to talk.”
“…It can wait, Father.” Grillby’s voice was firm. “…I have something that I must take care of now.”
“You misunderstand me, Grillbert.” Magmas rose from his chair. "We need to talk.“
”…It. Can. Wait.“ Grillby said more firmly, his eyes narrow. ”…I will return soon.“
"I did not dismiss you.” The older man took a step closer to his son.
“…I am not a child anymore, Father. I do not need your permission to leave the room.” The younger man turned towards the door.
“Grillbert, do not leave this room!” Magmas’ voice echoed in the large solarium.
“…Or what?!” Grillby turned on his heel and stared at his father. “…Or what?! What will you do, Magmas?! Threaten to disown me? You have already done that!” Grillby turned back around. “…I have things to attend to. I will be back later.”
“Have you not wondered why I called you home?” Magmas lowered his voice to a dry whisper. “Your mother is ill, Grillbert. Her doctor does not think she has much longer. She asked to see you, you know. It is why I sent you the summons.”
“…Then all the more reason for me to leave now and talk with her!” Grillby’s voice, despite his best efforts, had an undeniable tone of fright.
“Not yet, Grillbert.” The retired General stepped closer, his dark red flames lashing. “Before we have our evening meal, you and I need to sort out a few items from your past.”
Grillby stared incredulously at his father. “…Magmas…”
“If you leave the room now, I will have you forcibly ejected from the Manor and you will not be allowed to return. Now sit, Grillbert, and talk with me like a civilized man.”
Grillby could only stand and stare at his father, horrified. His very own father was threatening to banish him after telling him his mother was mortally ill!

Slowly, very slowly, he walked to the window and sat down, his hands shaking. Satisfied, Magmas returned to his seat and looked at his son, his shrewd eyes taking in every detail.
“Your suit is rather old, Grillbert.”
“…I do not have much reason to buy new suits, Magmas.”
“And it is fitting rather tightly. You have gained weight.”
Grillby’s eyes narrowed. “…Magmas, I am not going to sit here and let you belittle me.”
“Oh, I think you will.” Magmas tilted his head, smiling slightly. “I finally have you where I want you, Grillbert. You and I will finally have our talk. It has been long overdue. Eighteen years overdue.”
The younger man’s flames were smoldering with his rage. “…If this is about the Royal Guard–”
“No, Grillbert!” Magmas barked. “No! This is about how you soiled the family name with your disgusting affair with Cindriana! You not only bespoiled the family name, you couldn’t even have the decency to bear a son!”
“…What?!” Grillby’s jaw dropped. “…This is what you have fumed about for almost twenty years?! The fact you have a granddaughter?!
“Not only did you have a child out of wedlock, you had a daughter! And as if that was not bad enough, you did not even send her to a proper school! You sent her to a public school! I kept tabs on her, you know! A cheerleader, Grillbert?! You let her become a cheerleader?!”
“…It is what she wanted, Magmas!” Grillby shouted back. “…She wanted to be a cheerleader and she also wanted to do karate! I let her do both because I wanted her to have a childhood! A childhood where she had fun! FUN! Do you even know what that is?!”
“Grillbert–”
“…No, Magmas! No! I will not sit here and listen to you belittle my daughter! She is the most precious thing to me in the entire world!”
“Then why is she not here with you?! If she is so precious to you, why is she not here and why is there a skeleton here instead?!”
“…Sans is a very dear friend to me and he wanted to be here with me.”
“And where is your wife?” Magmas’ tone was scathing.
Grillby lowered his gaze. “…We divorced.” He said quietly. “…And she gained custody of Ember.”
Magmas raised an eyebrow, a smirk rising. “She divorced you. My, is that not rich? And she kept your daughter. Let me guess, she kept the house, too. I cannot see why she would want it - it is the size of the servants’ quarters and a far cry from the opulence she was raised in.”

Grillby couldn’t raise his gaze. “…She did keep the house, Father, but I willingly signed it over.”
“So where do you live now, Grillbert? Where do you live, now that you are all alone?”
“…I live in Snowdin, over the restaurant I own.” The bartender’s voice was quiet.
“Snowdin.” Magmas repeated bluntly. “Snowdin. Grillbert Feuvant, of the Feuvant family, lives alone in Snowdin. Over a restaurant, no less. You cannot even afford a home of your own. You live alone, over a restaurant. How… pathetic.”
Grillby shrank down in his seat, unable to raise his gaze, his flames dimming under his father’s withering stare…

Magmas turned his gaze from his ashamed son as the door to the solarium opened. He watched as Cala walked up to the two men and then curtsied. “I have a message for young Master Grillbert.” She said softly.
“You may say it.” Magmas said.
“It is a private message.” Cala said, her furred cheeks darkening as she idly scuffed one of her hooves against the marble floor.
“Say it.” Magmas’ voice was firm.
Cala gave a sigh, her long ears flattening. “…m-Master Grillbert, l-Lady Ignacea has asked me to inform you that she will be taking tea with your boyfriend and will meet with later in the evening.” She curtsied and then quickly left the room, all but fleeing the suddenly-sweltering solarium.

Magmas turned and stared at his son, incredulous. “Grillbert.”
Grillby did not raise his head.
“Grillbert!”
The bartender didn’t move.
“GRILLBERT!” He shouted, causing the two servants in the room to jump, the two young rabbits clinging to each other. “Look at me!”
Grillby slowly raised his gaze.
“You have a boyfriend?!” Magmas shouted. “A BOYFRIEND?!” He pounded his fist on the armrest. “You get divorced and then you take a sodomite to share your bed?!”
“…Father!” Grillby blanched, furious. “…I will not let you speak about him that way! I love him!”
“Who is he?!”
“…What–”
“What is the name of the disgusting catamite that is further slandering my family name?!”
“…He is not disgusting and he is not slandering the family name. The only who is slandering the name of Feuvant is the uptight, self-righteous bastard sitting in front of me!” Grillby shouted, standing so quickly his chair slid across the marble floor. “…I will not sit here and let you insult me, insult my daughter and then insult the man that I love! I will not! I WILL NOT!” Grillby’s fists were clenched. “…The times have changed, Magmas, and it seems that you have remained in the past, just like this forsaken Manor! To the Void with you and to the Void with this place! I am going to go see Mother and then I am leaving! Banish me for all I care! I do not want anything from you, you disgusting excuse for a father!” Grillby stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him, leaving Magmas to sit in stunned, shocked silence…

Chapter Text

For years, he had wanted nothing more than to do what he had just done. For most of his adult life, he had wanted to show his father the true extent of his rage, his anger. For years, he had dreamed of it, thought about all the things he would say…

…but he didn’t think of those things now.

He had to find his mother.

He had to find Sans.

Grillby’s long legs carried him quickly through the manor, his hard-heeled shoes clacking with every stride. He needed to find a servant - more specifically, he needed to find the servant that had just spoken to him. She knew where Sans and Ignacea were… but where was the serving girl? Rounding one of the many corners of the labyrinthian manor, Grillby skidded to a halt and looked around, heaving a sigh of relief as he saw the fluffy pink serving girl ahead of him.
“…Excuse me!” He called out, approaching her.
“m-Master Grillbert?! Oh, I am so sorry about earlier! I am!” She lowered her head, scuffing her hooves on the marble floor.
“…It’s okay.” He said quietly. “…It’s fine. But please, can you tell me where Ignacea is? I need to see her.”
“Of course! I’ll take you to her! Oh, Lady Ignacea will be so happy!”
Grillby let out a small sigh of relief. “…Also, have you seen a skeleton? He’s rather short, wearing a navy suit. I need to find him.”
“I have, Master Grillbert! He’s taking tea with Lady Ignacea. I am bringing them more tea now. Please, follow me; I would be happy to take you there.” She curtsied, holding the tea tray level, and then walked on, her small hooves tap-tapping through the halls. Grillby fell into line behind her, briefly heaving a sigh of relief before cold worry filled his body. His mother and his boyfriend were talking.

This was not going to be good for him.

…Especially if Ignacea knew that he was dating Sans…

Cala hummed quietly as she walked with the young master, her skirts swishing around her double-jointed legs. Grillby didn’t speak; his flames were dark, his mind lost in his worried thoughts. How sick was his mother? Was she going to be burnt embers and ashes? What did she even look like after almost twenty years? Did she truly still want to see him? Why had she not reached out to him before now? What were she and Sans talking about?!

“Here we are, Master Grillbert.” Cala’s soft voice roused him from his thoughts. The serving girl carefully pushed open the door, a wide smile on her fluffy face. “Lady Ignacea, I would like to present to you Master Grillbert!” Cala walked into the room and over to the small table, placing her tray down. The serving girl poured more tea as Ignacea quickly stood up, her yellow hands covering her mouth, her bright eyes wide and glassy. “G-G-Grillbert…” She breathed through her fingers, her heart racing. “Is… Is that really you?”
“…Mother,” Grillby’s voice was relieved, his broad shoulders slumping as sweet, sweet relief washed over him. She looked so healthy, so happy…

…just like he remembered her.

Ignacea gave a cry and rushed forward, wrapping her arms around her son, unashamedly crying onto Grillby’s shoulder. Grillby held his mother tightly, resting his cheek on the top of her head, his eyes closing as his frantic breathing calmed. “…I missed you, Mother.” He whispered. “…I missed you so much.”
“Oh, my baby boy…” Ignacea’s voice was thick with her tears. “How I’ve missed you! I have wanted to see you for so many years. I am so happy that you are home! And that you are doing so well!” She pulled back slightly and looked up at her son, taking Grillby’s hands in her own. “I have been talking with your boyfriend, Grillbert. You have become the man I always knew you would be. I am so proud of you, my beautiful child.” She beamed up at him, ashen tears of joy slipping down her cheeks. “Welcome home, Grillbert.”
“…I am glad to be home again, Mother.” He said quietly, his own voice thick with emotion, as he pulled her into another hug.

Cala smiled at the sight of her Lady and her son, holding her empty tray to her chest. She stared for a few more moments before she curtsied and left the room, quietly closing the door behind her.

Sans watched the mother and son, a strange sensation rising within his own chest. He had no memories of ever hugging his mother - he didn’t even know if he had a mother! He silently watched Grillby hugging Ignacea, sipping his tea. He was happy for his boyfriend, he truly was, but… Sans shook his head. No, this was not the time for those thoughts, of the shadows and the… No. Grillby was reunited with his mother. This was a joyous time.

This was not the time for… him.

Grillby pulled away from his mother and walked to his boyfriend, smiling down at Sans. “…Hello, Sans. I am glad to see that you met my mother.”
“i have. she’s a wonderful woman.” Sans smiled up at his boyfriend. “she had a lot of fun showing me your baby pictures. you were a really chubby child.”
“…What?!” Grillby stared down at the small table, his flames turning a bright cherry red as he realized his mother had, in fact, been showing Sans photographs of himself as a child. Grillby ran a hand down his face before looking back at his mother. “…Mother?”
“Yes, my darling?”
“…Did you have to show him my baby pictures?”
“Of course I did!” She smiled, sipping her tea. “You were such a cute child, Grillbert! You were my little fireball!”
Sans choked on his tea, trying not to laugh. The baby Grillbert truly was a ball of fire - like a beach ball with arms and legs!

Grillby sighed and shook his head; despite his annoyance at having his baby pictures shown to his boyfriend, the bartender couldn’t stop smiling. His mother and his boyfriend seemed to be getting along wonderfully. He slid into the armchair next to Sans, the skeleton shifting to sit partially on Grillby’s lap, the two easily adjusting to one another. Ignacea smiled happily, sipping her tea. “It is good to see you again, Grillbert, even moreso to see you so happy.”
“…The same to you, Mother. I do not remember you ever smiling as widely as you are smiling now.”
“I cannot help myself,” she said with a tittering laugh, “you and Sans make an adorable couple. He and I have been talking for quite some time, you know.” Ignacea waggled her finger at her son. “You need to laugh at his jokes more, Grillbert, and stop groaning. They are very good jokes!”
Grillby stared, looking between his mother and the skeleton sitting on his lap. “…Sans, I have a feeling you were telling very different jokes to my mother than the ones you tell to me.”
“i have no idea what you’re talking about, grillby.” Sans said primly, sipping his tea.
Grillby rolled his eyes and put his arm around his boyfriend, chuckling as he held the skeleton close to his warm body, turning his attention back to his mother…

Magmas stared into his glass of whiskey, his red flames reduced down to smouldering embers. He had never been spoken to like that before. Never. It was no surprise to him, really, that the first person to speak to him like that was his ungrateful son. He took another sip, his eyes narrowing. His son, the source of his shame. Grillbert had ruined several hundred years of history because of his blindness. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the useless whelp had the nerve to father an illegitimate child with Cindriana! A female child! Magmas scowled and drained his whiskey glass, his fingers curling around the cut crystal. He didn’t even have the decency to try for a son after he married Cindriana! “My legacy will die with me.” Magmas said to the empty room, his voice dripping with rage. “Hundreds of years of Feuvant history, glory! All for naught!”

The retired general stood up and poured himself another three fingers of whiskey, fuming as he paced through the empty solarium, his eyes continuously looking to a large portrait of himself in his ceremonial armour. He was the very model of the soldier, just like his father and grandfathers before him: tall, strong, loyal and dedicated to their very core. He had planned on serving until he was too old to properly hold his sword, just like his father and grandfathers, but no… No. King Asgore had other ideas in mind. Magmas had been forced to knight the young orphan girl, Undyne, after Asgore himself had trained her. Magmas and Undyne never had the pleasure of fighting… probably because Asgore knew that he would either lose one or both of his best soldiers in that fight. Magmas knighted the woman and then watched as Asgore presented him with a cloak made of fine fur and a ceremonial sword, thanking him for his decades of loyal service.

And, just like that, Magmas scowled, the long reign of Feuvants had ended. The generations of living flames, the sentient fires that made humans and monsters scream for an escape from hell, were now nothing but a note in the history books. All because of his pathetic, blind excuse for a child.

Because of Grillbert!

Magmas swallowed the whiskey in a single gulp, scowling still - but not from pain, no. From rage. Rage! That worthless, ungrateful bastard was still in his manor!

And that simply would not do.

The solarium door slammed behind him, the general making his way through the halls…

Ignacea let out a startled cry as the door to her sitting room was thrown open, the heavy wooden door now hanging on its broken hinges. Not even a second later, a wave of hellish heat swallowed the room. Sans felt the very air drying around him as the temperature rose. Magmas stormed into the room, his flames lashing wildly, his dark eyes fixed on Grillby. “You.”
Sans jumped to his feet as Grillby stood up, the bartender facing his father. “…Magmas.”
“Get out of my house.” Magmas stalked forward, the air shimmering from the heat of the general’s body.
“…I will not.” Grillby’s voice was firm. “…I am talking with Mother. Or, rather, I was, before you came in here.”
“Silence!” Magmas shouted. “I will not be disrespected like this within my own home by a worthless excuse of a man!”
“Magmas!” Ignacea cried, looking over at her husband, clutching the arms of her chair.
Magmas ignored his wife, staring at his son. “It is bad enough that you bring your disgusting catamite into my own home; I will NOT have you talking back to me, you insolent cur!”

“"hey!“ Sans stepped forward, trying to stand between Grillby and Magmas. "there’s no need for this, magmas. just stop, alright?”
“SILENCE!” Magmas looked past Sans, his dark eyes still fixed on Grillby. “Get out of my manor! NOW! “ He shouted. “LEAVE!”
“…No!” Grillby put a hand on Sans’ shoulder, gently pushing him back behind his own body. “…I will not leave, Magmas. I will not. I am here to talk with Mother, just like you summoned me to do. I will not leave until I have finished my talk with her. Now, leave. You are upsetting everyone."

No one saw the punch.

Sans heard Ignacea scream as he watched his boyfriend falling backwards, the bartender’s body hitting the floor so hard he bounced. Grillby’s glasses fell off of his face, landing on the floor with a clatter. Magmas strode forward and stomped on the metal frames, grinding the glass under his heel. The general stared down at his son, his eyes narrowed, his red flames growing darker with every passing moment, the very air in the room growing hotter. Sans felt the heat through his shoes, jumping as he realized that the very floor was beginning to boil. The skeleton jumped into the air, his eye glowing with an eerie cyan light, his body suspended several feet in the stifling air. Grillby’s clothing was smouldering from the heat of the general’s flames as he pushed himself to his feet, swearing in pain and anger. With a roar, Grillby launched himself at his father, throwing a punch right at Magmas’ face.

Sans watched as Magmas’ head simply turned to the side, unflinching, as if the general was an unmoving wall of fire.

A split second later, Sans found himself trapped in hell.

The room was engulfed in an inferno, the couches combusting, clothing igniting. Sans threw his arms out, shielding himself as best he could from the sudden explosion. Grillby dropped to his knees, his orange body rapidly fading to ashes, his own fires suffocating under the brunt of Magmas’ magic. Sans watched Grillby fall to the ground in an unmoving heap. His pupils vanished, the empty sockets staring at his fallen lover, his eternal smile etched with the ashes that filled the room. Sans turned and faced Magmas, his body shaking with rage, his magic flaring. He stared at the general, his small body now flanked by four massive skulls. The skulls opened their mouths, the screams of the damned filling the flaming room, as blue light began to gather in their jaws…

 

Ignacea watched the whole thing in slow motion.

Father attacking son.

Son attacking father.

It was her worst nightmare.

And it was playing out right before her eyes.

She watched as her only child fell to the ground, his flames suffocating as Magmas’ magic ignited the very air within the room. Her own body was fading to ashes. She had no air, no way to scream or even speak. Ignacea slowly pushed herself out of her chair, stumbling towards her husband, her feet crumbling into ash. She had no voice with which to cry for her fallen child, no voice with which to cry for mercy.

She walked on.

Her vision faded, her canary yellow flames naught but a memory. She stepped closer to Magmas, towards the center of the inferno. A trembling hand reached out, touched the very fires of hell itself. She opened her mouth, but no sound came. She felt herself extinguish as she fell to the ground…

Magmas dropped to his knees.

”…no…“

Hands gripped at the ashes.

”…No.“

The fires of hell died away.

"No!”

Magmas clutched his wife’s ashen body as he felt his world fade away. “NO!” He cried, holding Ignacea to his chest. “NO! NO! Please, no!” He buried his head against his wife’s, a cry of pure agony filling the halls of the manor. Ignacea… had fallen… The woman he loved more than life itself was…

…all because of him…

 

Sans sat next to Grillby in the hallway, the two staring at the charred oak door of Ignacea’s quarters. Grillby was motionless, staring unseeing at the door, his body slowly healing. They had been sitting there for hours, staring at the door. Magmas had gathered up Ignacea’s body, screaming for the servants, for her doctor, as he rushed her out of the destroyed sitting room. Sans had never heard the sound of a broken soul before.

He would never forget it.

Ignacea’s doctor arrived soon after, having already been making his way back to the manor for Ignacea’s nightly checkup. Magmas had let the doctor into the room but not Sans and Grillby, leaving the two in the hallway. Sans stayed by his boyfriend’s side, staring worriedly up at him. Grillby had not moved in hours, the bartender lost to shock, simply staring at the door. Sans did not know what to do, but he did not leave Grillby. He kept a hand on Grillby’s arm, staring between the door and his lover. He would stay here for as long as he had to…

Hours later, the door slowly opened.

Magmas emerged, his proud body reduced to burned clothing and dull embers. Grillby looked up at his father, unseeing.
“Ignacea is alive.” He whispered, his voice hoarse. “But she is very weak. The doctor… does not think she will make the night.” He let out a shuddering breath. “S-she asked for you, Grillbert… and Sans. She wants to talk to you.” Magmas took a few steps down the hallway, unable to silence his sobs.

Grillby slowly pushed himself to his feet and walked into the bedroom,his hand on Sans’ shoulder as the skeleton led him inside. Sans closed the door behind him before walking his boyfriend to his mother’s bedside, the two men staring down at the once-beautiful woman. Her ashen body was almost cold, the faintest glow of a single spark within her chest. “…Mother…”
“Hello Grillbert,” she whispered, “hello Sans.”
“hello, ignacea.” Sans put a hand on Grillby’s back.
“Sans… will you promise to take care of my child for me?” Her voice was thin, filled with pain.
“of course.” Sans, for once, did not hesitate to make a promise.
“Good…” She sank a little lower into the bed. “Grillbert… make Sans happy. You need him in your life. You two complete each other.”
“…Of course, Mother.” Grillby took his mother’s hand, biting his own ashen lip. “…Mother…”
“Shh, Grillbert.” Ignacea smiled very slightly. “It will all be okay. I need to rest now. I love you.”
“…I l-love you too.” He whispered, releasing his mother’s hand as the doctor quietly ushered them out of the room.

Sans and Grillby stood in the hallway, the bartender’s shoulders slumped. Grillby wanted to cry, to scream and to shout, but no words came. It was too surreal. Almost twenty years away from his mother and in the span of five hours, she was standing on Death’s doorstep. Because of Magmas. Because of the man who had sworn to love and protect her. Grillby felt his fists balling in anger as he heard the sound of Magmas’ shoes approaching. The skeleton stepped in front of his boyfriend, his pupils vanishing as he stared up at Magmas.

The general stopped a few feet away from the two men, his once-regal body bent with the weight of his sorrows. “I had your glasses repaired.” Magmas said quietly. “And… your mother… has requested your presence, Grillbert… and Sans. She wants you both to return in two weeks, to join her for tea.” Magmas held the glasses out to Sans, who handed them back to Grillby. “If… if she survives, please return in two weeks and-and j-join her.”
“…Of course.” Grillby put his glasses on and then stared at his father, his expression stiff, cool.
Magmas looked to his son, opened his mouth… and closed it a moment later. He said nothing as he walked away, returning to Ignacea’s side.

Sans looked up at his boyfriend, his eye sockets empty, his smile dampened with soot. “let’s go home, grillby. i know a short cut.” Grillby nodded and took Sans’ hand, the two vanishing in a blink of cyan light.

Neither man said anything as they appeared within the bartender’s living room. The silence remained as they shed their ruined suits and shoes, both making their way to the bedroom. Grillby sat down heavily on the bed and held his arms out for Sans, letting out a shuddering sigh as the skeleton hugged him. Not a word was spoken as Sans climbed into bed beside his lover, both holding the other close, waiting for sleep to overtake them.

The next morning, Grillby opened his restaurant for the day, his heart plummeting as he picked up a formal envelope off of his doorstep. With a shaking hand, he broke the wax seal…

When Sans walked downstairs, he saw Grillby slumped over the bar, the bartender’s shoulders shaking with his sobs. “grillby?” He quickly walked over, fearing the worst…
“…She’s alive, Sans.” He whispered. “…Ignacea is alive. She’s getting better. Her doctor… he said she is going to be alright.” Grillby smiled, tears of relief washing down his face. “…She’s going to be okay.”
Sans let out his own sigh of relief as he threw his arms around his boyfriend, the two embracing tightly in the early morning light.

Chapter Text

Sunday morning, seven a.m.

The morning light was beginning to peep through the window of Grillby’s bedroom, the soft light throwing shadows over the sleeping lovers. Sans was pressed tightly against Grillby’s warm chest, sleeping easily in his lover’s arms. Grillby’s chin was resting on Sans’ head, his breathing slow and easy, his legs intertwined with Sans’ shorter legs. It was peaceful, completely and utterly relaxed…

…until Grillby’s phone began to ring.

Grillby opened one sleepy eye as he raised his head, looking around out of sheer habit; he was almost blind without his glasses on, but he at least knew where his phone was. Carefully, he rolled over and picked up his phone, taking great pains to not disturb Sans too much. The skeleton made a sleepy noise of complaint and pressed closer to his boyfriend, sighing in contentment as he slipped deeper into sleep. Grillby smiled and rubbed his boyfriend’s back, answering his phone.
“…Hello?” His voice was a soft whisper.
“Master Grillbert? It’s me, Cala.”
“…Good morning, Cala.” His heart sank at hearing her voice - why was she calling?! “…Is Mother alright?”
“Oh, of course, Master Grillbert! She asked me to call you, though. She was wondering if you and Sans could come for tea today. Master Magmas is out for the day and she was feeling lonely.”
He heaved a sigh of relief, falling back into the bed. “…I would very much enjoy that, Cala. Tell Mother that we will be there this afternoon, around noon.”
“She will be delighted!” Cala’s own joy was apparent. “We are all looking forward to seeing you and Sans this afternoon. Do you have anything in particular that you would like for lunch?”
“…No, Cala, we have no preferences. We will have what Mother is having.”
“Well,” her voice was almost apologetic, “Lady Ignacea has been eating thin soups and other delicate foods while she recovers.”
“…Sans and I will have a farmers’ platter - meats, cheeses, breads and fruits.”
“Wonderful, Master Grillbert. I will have Helena begin baking. We are looking forward to seeing you this afternoon!”
“…As am I.” He smiled, feeling Sans shifting in his arms. “…See you soon, Cala.”
“See you soon, Master Grillbert!” She hung up the antique phone as Grillby dropped his touch-screen phone onto the bed beside him, pulling the skeleton closer.

"what did you just agree to?“ Sans whispered sleepily, refusing to open his eyes.
”…We are taking tea and having lunch with Mother today.”
“oh.”
“…Magmas is out for the day.”
“oh.” His tone was relieved. “good. that i won’t say no to.”
Grillby chuckled softly and kissed Sans’ head. “…I would be very upset if you said no. You know how much it means to me to have a connection with Mother again.”
“i like ignacea. she likes my jokes.”
“…I like your jokes too, you know. It’s just your timing that needs work.”
“aw, come on, don’t be like that.”
“…It’s hard to maintain a mood when I am laughing too hard.”
Sans made a sleepy noise of agreement. “okay, okay, i won’t do that again.” He yawned and pressed closer to his boyfriend, sighing in contentment. “can we sleep a bit more?”
“…Of course.” He kissed the top of Sans’ head again. Grillby picked up his phone, set a new alarm and then curled closer to Sans. He chuckled a few moments later as the skeleton’s hands began to travel over his back, fingers tracing through the gently burning flames. “…I thought you wanted to sleep.”
“i do, but there’s something i’d like to do first.” Sans looked up at his boyfriend, his eyes gleaming.
Grillby rolled his eyes before moving over Sans, smiling down at the skeleton, gently kissing him…

The bartender looked up at Sans as he placed his iron upright on the ironing board, unable to keep the appreciative grin off of his face. The skeleton was standing in the doorway to the master bathroom, a towel wrapped around his bony hips, a smaller cloth drying off his head, wiping away any residual soot. “…You’re the only person to use that shower, you know.”
“i should hope so.” Sans sat down on the edge of the bed, yawning a little as he continued to dry himself off.
“…You’re free to bring more of your things over, you know.”
“what?” Sans looked over at Grillby, confusion clear on his face. “did you just–”
Grillby gave his boyfriend a sheepish shrug. “…You already spend Saturday nights here with me, occasionally a few more during the week. It might be easier if you just kept a few changes of clothes and other things here.”
“are you asking me to move in with you?”
“…Well, I wouldn’t say I’m adverse to the idea, but I know that you still have other commitments - especially to Papyrus. I’m not going to ask you to choose between he and I, but you are always welcome to stay here. I want you to know that.”
Sans was sitting there, slightly stunned at what his boyfriend had just offered. “…i’d like that, but i still need to be around for pap.”
“…I know.” Grillby picked up his iron again and resumed pressing a shirt for Sans - the two men quickly realized it was easier to keep Sans’ nice clothing at the bartender’s house, away from any of the antics that tended to happen in Sans’ home. “…While I am thinking on it, though, there’s something for you on the dresser.”
“oh?”
“…Yes. It’ll be in a small box."

Sans stared at Grillby for a moment, confusion clear on his face, but he stood up and walked to the dresser, looking around.
”…Blue box.“
"got it.” Sans picked it up and moved back to the bed, sitting down, staring at the little box.
“…Go on, open it.”
The skeleton looked up to his boyfriend for a moment before turning his gaze back to the box, opening it with a shaking hand.

Inside was a small key.

“…You are always welcome here, Sans. That unlocks all the doors here.”
“grillby…”
“…I love you, Sans.” Grillby placed his iron upright before moving over to his boyfriend, sitting down beside him on the bed.
“i love you too, grillby.” Sans’ couldn’t keep his smile from reaching his eyes; if he had a beating heart, it’d be hammering against his ribs. He truly did love this man.
Grillby gave him a gentle kiss, lingering for a few moments, before stepping away to resume ironing…

* * * * * * * *

Cala carefully placed the antique phone down and looked to her Lady. “Master Grillbert and Sans will be joining you for lunch, Lady Ignacea. They will be here around noon.”
“Oh, splendid!” Ignacea’s smile lit up the room. “It will be so wonderful to see them again! It has been almost a month since their last visit.”
“Indeed it has, m'lady.” Cala walked back to Ignacea, placing her furred hands on the back of Ignacea’s wheelchair. “Do you want me to take you to the library before I go to the kitchens? I need to tell Helena what Master Grillbert wants for lunch.”
“You can take me to the kitchens with you; I do not mind. Besides, I grow tired of only seeing the same halls.”
“Shall we tour the Manor then, Lady Ignacea?”
“That would be wonderful, Cala. Thank you.” The woman looked over her shoulder and smiled up at her pink serving girl, turning slightly so she could pat a soft hand. Cala returned her Lady’s smile as she pushed Ignacea towards the kitchen.

Ignacea said nothing as she was taken through the halls, the well-oiled wheels gliding over the marble floors without a sound. Her eyes were downcast, staring at her folded hands on her lap, her long skirts covering the ruined remains of her feet. It had been almost two months since Grillbert’s first visit back to the Manor and she had yet to recover from the disasterous meeting between father, son and son’s boyfriend. Magmas’ rage had ignited the entire room, destroying the beautiful sitting room. Sans and Grillbert had survived with minimal injuries but she herself had not. A small sacrifice, she kept telling herself, a small sacrifice for saving Grillbert and Sans.

She did not regret her choice, not in the slightest, but she did miss her mobility.

During the confrontation between father and son, Magmas had used one of his most powerful attacks against his only child; he had created a vacuum, one that suffocated both her and her son’s flames while his grew only stronger. Grillbert had been reduced to a dull glow before the spell was relented but Lady Ignacea, weakened from her sickness, had faded into ashes from the lack of oxygen. Her feet… had simply fallen off. Her hands were impaired, weakened, almost crippled. It was painful for the woman; not only in the physical sense, no, but also to her pride. She was Lady Ignacea Adiente Amanece Feuvant, wife of Magmas Vulcar Feuvant the Third, the former General of the Royal Guard. She had danced with King Asgore at the celebration of Prince Asriel’s birth, had woven tapestries that hung within the Royal Halls…

…and now she struggled to hold a cup of tea.

Cala’s ears drooped when she saw her Lady’s flames darken, her heart breaking at the sound of Ignacea’s quiet sighs. “Lady Ignacea? Are you alright?”
“It is nothing, Cala.” She said softly. “I will be fine.”
“a-Alright.” Cala resumed walking, pushing her Lady’s wheelchair. It was true that Ignacea would be alright, but that was a long time in coming. Her Lady’s feet were gone. It was unlikely that she would ever walk on her own again. The strength was returning slowly to Ignacea’s hands, but Ignacea’s doctor had pulled the handmaiden aside, confided that it would be a small miracle if Ignacea’s feet ever healed enough to allow her to walk. Cala kept the doctor’s words a secret, not telling Magmas and certainly not telling her Lady. Her decision weighed on her, but she stood resolute; Ignacea did not need to have her hopes dashed. Lady Ignacea would get better - she was sure of it.

She had to be sure of it.

The Lady and her handmaiden made their way through the Manor, spending time in the warm kitchens with the family’s cook, a woman named Helena. No one was very sure what kind of monster Helena was, but she bore a very strong resemblance towards the surface creatures called ‘hyenas.’ Her laughter was infectious and always proved helpful for lifting Ignacea’s spirits. Cala found the laughing woman a little trying, but she put up with Helena’s incessant jokes for the sake of her Lady, laughing when she was supposed to and smiling in the meantime. She did not care much for Helena, no, but it was the very least she could do for Ignacea, for the woman who had housed and raised her since the tender age of ten. As Cala pushed Ignacea’s wheelchair through the home, the servant’s thoughts traveled. She was nearing her twenty-sixth birthday and her sixteenth year of being Lady Ignacea’s serving girl. Many years ago, she stood alone on the front step of the Feuvant Manor, holding a letter in her hand, a small bag containing all of her possessions on her back. As the oldest of nine children, she had assisted her mother as best she could before her mother simply could not afford to keep Cala in the house. Cala’s mother found a new home for her daughter… but she could not walk with her daughter there, could not stand the shame of having to surrender her oldest child. And so, Cala stood alone on the doorstep, her furry pink cheeks damp with her tears, her young heart aching from homesickness. The door had opened and she stepped into the cool, dark halls and into her new life.

Cala had originally been assigned to the kitchen, to work with the family cook, but that plan changed quickly when Lady Ignacea saw the young girl struggling with a large box of vegetables and crying. Ignacea told the young girl to put the box down and to tell her who gave her the orders. With a shaking voice, Cala answered the Lady’s questions, stating that it was the cook who told her to bring in the ingredients. The young girl was then told to go to Lady Ignacea’s quarters and relax. Cala did as she was told, quietly walking through the halls as she dried her cheeks. Ignacea marched into the kitchen and had words with the cook…

The serving girl remembered, quite clearly, watching the cook being marched out of the Manor by Ignacea herself, suitcases in the old woman’s arms, as she sat on a bench near the window.

Soon after, Ignacea joined Cala in the sitting room and told the young girl that Cala would now be her personal serving girl. The Lady then called for tea and sandwiches before sitting with Cala, doing her best to reassure the scared child. Lady Ignacea told Cala about her own child, a proud, strong young man by the name of Grillbert, and how Grillbert had left home at nineteen, to live with his wife and their young daughter. “It was two years ago,” Ignacea had said, “since my son left. Had I known this is how things would have gone, I would have begged Magmas for more children. This Manor is too quiet, Cala. I miss the sounds of scampering feet, of laughter, of happy children. It does my heart good to have you here. It has been so lonely since Grillbert has left…” Unsure of how to respond, Cala simply sipped her tea - which was more milk than tea - and nodded, listening to the woman talk about her now-estranged son.

A few days after that, Helena joined the Feuvant Manor and became the new cook for the family–
Cala’s thoughts came to a screeching halt as her eyes followed the tall, blonde rabbit that walked by, her breath catching in her chest as she heard the rabbit’s skirts whisper around her long, slender legs…
–“Cala!”

“Oh!” Cala let go of Ignacea’s wheelchair as she dove to the side, catching a large vase before it fell to the ground. She stood up slowly, clutching the vase, her large pink eyes frantically looking around. The svelte rabbit was nowhere in sight. With a small sigh, Cala placed the vase back on its pedastle and returned to Ignacea’s side, pushing her Lady’s chair down the hall, her own head hanging low.
“Cala, darling, are you alright?” Ignacea asked, looking back up at her serving girl.
“What? Oh, yes, Lady Ignacea. I’m fine.”
“Cala…” Ignacea chided lightly before sighing. “You’re a grown woman, Cala. I won’t ask you to talk if you don’t want to.”
“Thank you, my Lady.” Cala’s voice as low as she took Ignacea into the library, her shoulders sagging. That was the third time this week she had made a fool of herself because of the rabbit…

Ignacea and Cala made their way through the library, the serving girl collecting several books for her Lady. Cala said nothing, doing her best to hide behind the book cases whenever the rabbit walked by, not wanting to see the elegant woman. The rabbit did not notice the strange behaviour as she carried out her duties, dusting the shelves. Ignacea said nothing as she observed her serving girl, though she did roll her eyes a few times, making a note to talk to Cala the moment they were alone, despite her previous words. It was clear that Cala desperately needed to talk to someone about this. She didn’t mind the young woman being shy, but this was just ridiculous. It had been this way for weeks now! “I have the books that I wanted, Cala. Come, let us go to my quarters. I grow tired.”
“Of course, my Lady.” Cala dutifully pushed her Lady’s wheelchair through the Manor, visibly sagging in relief to be out of the library…

Cala helped Ignacea onto her plush divan, carefully readjusting the woman’s skirts to cover her damaged legs. “We still have a few hours before Master Grillbert and Sans arrive. Would you like to nap, my Lady?”
“No, I am fine. I was growing tired of the wheelchair. It is more comfortable to recline fully.” Ignacea said quietly, her hands resting on a book. “But Cala?”
“Yes, my Lady?”
“Tell me what is on your mind.” Ignacea’s voice was low but firm. “You have been acting very strangely and I am worried about you. Is everything alright?”
“w-What?! Oh, my Lady, everything’s fine! Everything’s just fine!” Cala spoke quickly, her hoofed foot tapping.
“Cala, darling, please come here.”
The young woman slowly walked forward, her ears drooping.
“Please sit.”
Cala sat on the ground beside her Lady’s divan.
“Tell me what is on your mind.”
“…I don’t want you to hate me, my Lady.”

Ignacea smiled fondly and put a warm hand on Cala’s head, stroking the soft pink fur. “Cala, darling, I could never hate you.”
Cala stared at her lap, sighing softly, feeling herself relaxing from Ignacea’s gentle touches despite her anxiety. “…I think I’m in love.”
“With Jezebel?”
Cala’s head snapped up suddenly at hearing the rabbit’s name, staring at her Lady with large, watering eyes. “y-y-yes.” Cala whispered, sniffing. “I think I love her and I don’t even know if she knows who I am.”
Ignacea stroked her serving girl’s head, her smile softening. “She knows who you are, darling. I promise.”
The young woman’s breath hitched in her chest. “It doesn’t matter,” she whimpered, “Jezebel’s going on a date tonight. I heard from the other servants that she’s going out to a very nice restaurant in the Capital. I.. I…”
“Cala, darling, it might not be a date. You know Jezebel has family in the Capital. It might just be her parents taking her out tonight. It is her birthday today, after all.”
“i-I know.” Cala hiccuped slightly. “i-I got her a book of poetry that she said she wanted. It took a long time to find it and I had to save up for a long time to buy it. I just… I… I wanted to give it to her today. Tonight, I mean. I…”
Ignacea continued to gently rub Cala’s head, stroking the long ears. “Just say what is on your mind, Cala. You know I will never judge you for what you say.”
“i-I know, Lady Ignacea.” Cala hiccuped again, her tears starting to slide down her cheeks. “I just… I love her. She’s beautiful, my Lady; she’s poetry in motion. She’s a statue, a living, breathing statue. And I’m… I’m not. I’m pudgy, my fur’s always a mess, I’m just… I’m nothing compared to her.”
“Cala–”
“I don’t even know if she likes women!” Cala wailed suddenly, burying her face into her hands, sobbing. “i-i-If she doesn’t, she’ll hate me! She’ll hate me!” She cried harder, turning and burying her face into the divan, her shoulders shaking with her tears.
Ignacea’s flames darkened as she turned and leaned over, hugging Cala as best she could. “Do not lose hope, my darling Cala, and do not give up before you have even tried.” The woman carefully moved over and patted the cushion beside her. “Come here, Cala. It is okay. Shh, it is all going to be okay.” Cala only sobbed as she laid down beside the older woman, crying into Ignacea’s chest, letting herself be held by the woman she considered to be her mother. Ignacea said nothing as she stroked Cala’s back, humming quietly…

Hours later, Cala found herself nestled in Ignacea’s arms, her eyes closed as Ignacea read to her. It was a scene so familiar to the serving girl; for most of Cala’s first year at the Manor, Ignacea would read the young girl to sleep, sometimes holding her when Cala cried from homesickness. She felt herself dozing off, comforted by her Lady’s warm body and warmer voice, her head resting on Ignacea’s shoulder. “Cala, darling,” Ignacea said gently, “I am afraid we have to leave soon. It is almost noon.”
“…Oh.” Cala held in her sigh as she sat up, adjusting her uniform. “Shall I take you to the solarium, my Lady?”
“Yes, that would be wonderful.” Ignacea put her book to the side as Cala brought Ignacea’s wheelchair over to the divan. With very little effort, Cala picked up the older woman and placed her down in the chair, adjusting Ignacea’s skirts for her. The Lady smiled kindly up to her serving girl, her canary yellow flames flickering. “Thank you, Cala.”
“My pleasure, my Lady.” Cala returned the kind smile as she pushed Ignacea to the solarium.

Cala moved Ignacea’s chair over to the window, the two women overlooking the gardens. They could see Jasper weeding a flowerbed as Jezebel sat nearby, the tall rabbit lost in her book, oblivious to her brother moving around her. Cala sighed sadly, her shoulders drooping. Ignacea looked up to the young woman and placed a warm hand on her furry arm. “Take the rest of the day off, dear. You could use a break.”
“But, my Lady, who will tend to you tonight? Master Magmas will not be home.”
“Lydia can take care of me. It will be alright. You deserve to take a break.”
“Thank you, my Lady, but… do you really want Lydia? Would you not prefer Elowyn or Samira?”
“Lydia will be fine. I find her amusing.” Ignacea’s tittering laughter filled the room.
Cala could only chuckle uneasily as she thought of the serving girl; Lydia was very nice and pleasant, but she was rather… off. “s-Shall I call Lydia now, my Lady?”
“That would be nice. I mostly want you to have the day off, my dear. You have been working so hard recently and you have not had a break. Please, take today and relax.”
“…Alright, my Lady. Thank you.” Cala smiled, idly tapping her hoof on the ground, biting her lip, as she hugged her arms.
Ignacea laughed and held out her arms, her flames glowing brightly as Cala ran forward and hugged her, the two embracing tightly.

When Cala left, Ignacea smoothed out her skirts and smiled as she looked out of the window at her two servants in the garden, laughing quietly to herself. So far, it was all going according to plan…

Chapter Text

Sans stood beside his boyfriend on the front steps of the Manor, his fingers intertwined with Grillby’s. A faint blush would rise in their cheeks when they would make eye contact, squeezing the other’s hand a little tighter. Even though it was hours later, the warm afterglow of their lazy morning had yet to leave them. It was Sunday, their favourite day of the week; it was the one day of the week that Grillby closed his restaurant and took the day off - which was usually spent with Sans. This particular Sunday morning, they had been awoken by Cala’s phone call but neither were complaining. The early wake up meant they had more time for… other… activities.

“…Perhaps we should have shown more restraint,” Grillby whispered to Sans as they stood before the massive iron-bound door. “…Mother is going to comment on our smiles.”
“you don’t think she–oh, yeah…” Sans stared down at his shoes, chuckling a little. “she’s going to say something. i bet it’ll be funny, though.”
“…It would be funnier if it was not coming from my mother.” The bartender grumbled, his flames flickering slightly in annoyance.
“that’s why it’s so funny.”
“…You’re terrible.”
“well, yeah, but you still love me.”
Grillby smiled down at the skeleton, squeezing Sans’ hand. “…With all my soul.”
“i love you too, grillby.”

The front door swung open a few moments later, a purple-furred woman standing before them. Her large, pale eyes stared up at Grillby before looking down at Sans, never once blinking. She looked between them twice more before turning and wordlessly walking away, leaving son and lover to follow in her wake. Sans and Grillby exchanged a nervous glance but said nothing as they followed. The only sounds coming from the trio were the tappings of the serving girl’s hooves and the hard-heeled clack of the two mens’ shoes.

The silent woman took them into the solarium, holding the door for Sans and Grillby. Lydia watched the two men walk up to the Lady’s divan, saying nothing as she stood motionless by the door. Ignacea lowered her book as she looked to her son, her flames growing brighter. “Grillbert! Sans! Oh, I am overjoyed to have you here today.”
“thanks for having us over again, ignacea.” Sans walked over to Ignacea’s divan and gave her a hug, smiling widely as she held him tightly to her warm body. He adored Ignacea; he liked her wit, her sharp humour and, of course, her personality. She had accepted Sans as part of her own family, considering the younger man to be her other son. The skeleton and noble woman kissed cheeks before he moved over to a loveseat, hopping up onto the plush chair.
“…It is always wonderful to see you again, Mother.” Grillby hugged her before he joined his boyfriend on the loveseat. “…How has your day been?”
“Oh, you know,” Ignacea waved her hand, “it has been fine. I have spent most of the morning reading. I must thank you again, Sans; the book that you sent to me has been absolutely fascinating. Cala and I have been enjoying it immensely. We are almost finished with it.”
“i’m glad you’re enjoying it. it’s one of my own favourites.”
“You know, I have a book that reminds me very much of this one. I’ll have Lydia fetch it for you.” She looked over to the purple-furred woman, unperturbed by the owlish stare. “Lydia, darling, will you please fetch me Sun Above, Earth Below from the library? Jezebel will know where it is.”

Lydia said nothing as she curtsied, drifting out of the room.

“…So that is Lydia.” Grillby said, his eyes on the closed door. “…I can see why Cala said she was a little… interesting.”
“Lydia is harmless; she just does not like to speak.” Ignacea paused as she thought for a moment. “…Or blink.”
“wait, where’s cala?” Sans looked around the room, surprised to see that the pink hand servant was away from her Lady’s side.
“Oh, I gave Cala the afternoon off. She has been working so very hard recently and I wanted to give her a break.” Ignacea adjusted her skirts, looking between the two men. “So tell me, Grillbert, what has got you smiling so much today? I’ve not seen you this happy in a very long time.”
Sans looked up to Grillby, his eternal smile reaching his eyes, laughing as Grillby gave his boyfriend a cool stare. “…I told you she would comment.”
“you weren’t complaining earlier, you know. and the second time was your ide–”
“…Well, yes!” Grillby’s flames darkened slightly. “…But I didn’t want to deal with the comments!”
“Comments? About what?” Ignacea looked between the two, laughing more as she. “Oh! Oh, I see! Really now, Grillbert, you should not be so shy about something like this! We are all mature, responsible adults. Besides, you and Sans–”
“…I’m not talking about this with you, Mother!” Grillby snapped before flushing darkly, slumping his shoulders. “…I’m sorry, Mother, I didn’t mean to snap.”
Ignacea only laughed harder, placing a hand in front of her mouth. “Grillbert!” She wiped an ashen tear from her eyes. “Really now, Grillbert, you shouldn’t be so embarrassed. You two are quite clearly in love and besides, I could only expect as much from you having such a young, handsome man as your boyfriend. His libido must be–”
“ignacea!” Sans sputtered, his bony cheeks turning a deep, bright blue as Grillby buried his head in his hands. “ignacea, please!”
The older woman continued to laugh, ashen tears freely spilling down her glowing cheeks.
“…I’m going to find Lydia.” Grillby stood up quickly, his entire body glowing a deep crimson, refusing to look at his mother.
“don’t leave me here alone!” Sans cried out, lunging after and missing his boyfriend’s rapidly retreating back.

The door shut with a swift snap.

Sans and Ignacea looked at each other for a moment before they both began to howl with laughter.

When they calmed down, Sans offered Ignacea the pocket square Grillby had tucked into his suit jacket. “you’re right, ignacea. that was hilarious. i didn’t even know he could turn that shade of red!”

“I told you it would be wonderful.” Ignacea smoothed her flaming hair back into
its usual simple bun. “He was always so easily embarrassed. It is nice to see that it has not changed.”
“it is pretty endearing.” Sans agreed. “now i just have to make sure he knows i didn’t plan that. i don’t want to sleep on the couch.” He chuckled.
“Oh, if he tries to do that, just tell him it was my idea. After all, I am just an old woman who grows bored very easily.” She said primly, grinning.
“you’re anything but, ignacea. you probably have several plots going at all times.”
At that, Ignacea’s smile grew coy. “You are more right than you know…”
“oh?”
“Well, I do not want to speak too much about it just yet, for fear it does not pan out… but it is very possible that my dear Cala might have her very first date tonight.”
“oh?” Sans leaned forward, curious. “with who?”
“Jezebel. Cala has been doing nothing but staring at her and pining after her for months now.” Ignacea waved her hand. “I adore the girl, you know that I do, but she was not going to do anything about her predicament. So…” She grinned slyly, smoothing her hair once more. “I helped things along. If things go as I have planned, love might blossom forth in this cold Manor once again.”
Sans sat back, smiling more, impressed with Grillby’s mother. “will you keep me updated?”
“Of course, darling, but you know as well as I do that gossip must be exchanged. I have things that I would like to know, too.”

The skeleton swallowed hard, slightly worried. He didn’t mind Ignacea’s jokes, but the woman was wickedly clever…

“How long have you been Grillbert’s boyfriend?”
“we’ve been dating for over a year now.”
“Did he manage to remember your anniversary?”
“he did.” Sans was slightly confused. “why? did he always forget his anniversary when he was married to cindy?”
“Every single year. It did not matter how many notes or calendars or reminders he set for himself - he would still forget the date of his anniversary. Cindriana was always furious with him.”
“huh.”
“He loves you so very much, Sans. He really does.” She smiled fondly. “I must ask: did you exchange anniversary presents?”
“yup. he’s hard to buy for, but i found him something that he loves.”
“What is it?”
“i got him a music box.” Sans’ voice was filled with warmth and pride. “he listens to it for a little bit each day.”
“A music box?! Oh, how wonderful! I would love to hear it.”
“i can bring it for you next time we come over.”
Ignacea smiled, clasping her hands together. “That would be delightful. You must tell me, though; what did he give to you?”
“he gave me a really nice leather journal, some pens and a new hoodie.”
“A… hood-y?” She stumbled over the unfamiliar word. “What is a hood-y?”
“it’s a, uh, a jacket with big sleeves and a hood on it.”
“Oh! So something that those young hooligans down in the Capital wear?”
“…maybe i should show you mine.”
“Do not worry about it, Sans. You can show me later.”

Sans looked at the closed door before looking back to Ignacea. “well, i think grillby’s going to be gone for awhile. it’ll only take me a moment to go and get it.”
“What? But you live in Snowdin. How can it only take you a moment?”
“i know a shortcut.” Sans stood up and smiled. “i’ll be right back, ignacea. i’ll go get the music box and the hoodie.”
“a-Alright…?” She could only blink as Sans walked out of the room, wondering if both her son and the skeleton had abandoned her…

Sans stood alone in the hallway as his eye began to glow an unearthly shade of cyan. A small rift opened in the air before him, looking into the bedroom he sometimes shared with his boyfriend. Sans stepped through the portal and into Grillby’s bedroom, humming to himself as he picked up the music box off of the dresser. He looked around a bit more, trying to find his hoodie, laughing to himself when he saw it casually strewn on the floor. Grillby might be older than him, but the man certainly had plenty of energy when he put his mind to something, he thought with an impish grin.

With both items held tightly in his arms, Sans reopened the rift, humming a simple tune as he reemerged into the hallway in front of the solarium. He straightened his tie as best he could before he knocked on the door, walking back inside with a smile on his face. Ignacea could only stare at him, her glowing white eyes large behind her half-moon reading glasses, her jaw slightly agape. “Sans, how–what–you just…”
“i told you i knew a shortcut.” He walked up to her divan and handed her the music box. “here, this is what i got him for our anniversary.”
Ignacea carefully held the box between her weakened fingers, staring down at the simple box. She slowly opened it, struggling with the lid, her eyes closing as she heard the simple melody. Sans hugged the hoodie to his chest, burying his face into the soft fur collar, smiling to himself; like Grillby, the song of the Statue held only good memories and the promises for a better day. Whenever he heard the song, he could feel Grillby’s arms around him, his mind taking him back to their very first date when they sat together in the arms of the Statue…

Ignacea closed the music box after a few minutes, smiling a calm smile up to the skeleton. “That is absolutely beautiful, Sans. But, I have to ask, what is the song? It is so hauntingly familiar to me, but I cannot place where I have heard it from.”
“it’s a song that plays in waterfall, at the statue of the sitting monster.”
“Oh, I see.” Ignacea kept her smile in place, even though she very much wanted to frown; she knew what that statue was for, why it was built in Waterfall… “It is a lovely present, Sans. I am sure Grillbert enjoys it immensely.”
“he does.” he smiled fondly; if he had a lip, he would be biting it in an effort to stop a gormless grin from spreading. “here, this is a hoodie. this is one of the gifts he got me for our anniversary.” He held out the blue hoodie to her, the white fur glistening in the light of the solarium.
Ignacea took the hoodie and examined it, utterly fascinated by it. She unzipped it and ran her hands over the soft lining, laying the hoodie out on her lap, letting her fingers trace over the stitch work…
“go on, try it on. it should fit you pretty well, since it’s big on me.”
“Oh, Sans, I am not sure if I should.”
“just give it a shot.” He smiled. “i won’t tell anyone you did.” He winked.
She thought for a moment and then smiled, laughing as she pulled it on. The woman adjusted it around her thin shoulders and then pulled up the hood, laughing as it fell down over her eyes. “Oh, Sans, this is marvelous! It is so comfortable and so much warmer than my shawls. I see now why those hooligans wear them! This is wonderful! And you said that it is called a… hood-y?”
“hoodie.”
“Ah.” She laughed more, zipping up the hoodie. “Oh, Magmas would not believe his eyes if he saw this.” The woman looked over as she heard a knock on the door. “Who is it?” She called, her laughter clear in her voice.
“…Lydia and I, Mother.” Grillby said as Lydia opened the door. He stopped dead in the doorway, staring at his mother and Sans, blinking at the sight of the hoodie on his mother’s small body, his jaw dropping.

"Grillbert, darling? Are you alright?“
He sputtered slightly. ”…y-You are wearing a hoodie…? But… I’ve only ever seen you wearing gowns. i-I…“
"Oh, yes! This is simply wonderful! Will you please buy one for me? I cannot go into the Capital to buy one, nor should I. It would not do for me to be seen like this, you know.”
The bartender stared for a few moments before he shook his head, chuckling slightly. “…Of course, Mother. I will buy a hoodie for you.”
“Splendid! Oh, and you brought lunch, too! How wonderful! Come, Sans, let us eat. Helena made a wonderful lunch for you and dear Grillbert!” She clapped her hands, her tittering laughter filling the room as the hood fell over her eyes once again.

Lydia watched the scene for a few moments, watched as Grillby served his mother the thin soup that Helena had made for her. She watched Ignacea struggle with the spoon and stepped forward to help, only to be intercepted by Grillby. The bartender gave the serving girl a kind smile as he held the spoon up for his mother. “…It is alright, Lydia. Please, go and have your own lunch.”
The woman stared for a moment but then nodded, giving a curtsy before she left.
“You do not have to feed me, Grillbert,” Ignacea said quietly, “I can manage on my own.”
“…It is alright, Mother.” He smiled kindly. “…Consider it a thank you for all the times you fed me as a child.”
Ignacea’s smile grew calm as she placed a hand on her son’s cheek. “I am so proud of the man you became, Grillbert.” She said softly, relaxing on her divan as Grillby helped her with her lunch…

* * * * *

Pink eyes were narrowed in concentration as she stepped through her drills, a short sword held in one furred hand, a dagger in the other. Hoofed feet danced over the cobblestones in the garden as she lunged and retreated. It was a daily ritual for her, these drills, just like brushing her teeth and serving Ignacea her afternoon tea; it did not matter to her that she had the afternoon off. She had drills to do. Still, though, it was odd to not have Magmas standing nearby, barking orders to her. The retired General was very strict in her training - after all, as Magmas had said, Cala was almost always at Ignacea’s side; it made sense for the serving girl to also be a trained guard for the noblewoman, the love of his life. Although Cala had no magic of her own, she was still a fearsome swordswoman, having been personally taught for over a decade by the man who trained the Royal Guard for most of his adult life. Magmas was a brutal teacher, demanding nothing but perfection, but it did not take her long to understand his motives behind the harsh treatment. Besides, the longer she spent with Ignacea, the more dedicated of a student she became. Lady Ignacea was not only her employer, but also her mother. She would defend the noblewoman to her very last breath, should the need ever arise.

As Cala moved through her paces, her thoughts began to travel, despite her best efforts to reign them in. What was she going to do with her night off? It had been so very, very long since she had an evening to herself that she wasn’t even sure of what to do. Should she even bother to go out tonight? She feinted, dancing to the side as she stabbed the air with her dagger. What was the point of going out? She lunged forward, skirts snapping from the swiftness of the attack. Jezebel had a date tonight and it wasn’t with her. Cala spun, blades held defensively as she dropped into a crouch, only to spring forward again. Did she even want to risk running into the beautiful rabbit in the Capital? The woman sighed as she stood straight, lowering her blades, unable to maintain her focus. With her heart heavy and her thoughts clouded, Cala sheathed her blades, returning the dagger to the sheath on her leg. Maybe she would go see her birth family tonight…

The serving girl walked through the Manor, idly listening to the tap-tapping of her own hooves, ignoring the sword that hung from her hip. She still had the book of poetry sitting in her bedroom, wrapped and waiting for Jezebel. At the very least, she should give the present to the older woman. With a sad sigh, Cala plodded along towards the armoury, her heart sinking lower with every step.

Unbeknownst to her, two sets of jade eyes had been observing her swordplay.

“Are you ever going to say something?” Jasper complained, ignoring the startled squeak of his twin sister.
“Jasper! How long have you been sitting here?!” Jezebel was indignant, clutching her book to her chest, as she frowned at her brother.
“Long enough to know that you haven’t read a single page in that book, despite having held it open for almost half an hour. Really, sis, this is just sad. How many months now have you been watching Cala do her drills? Five? Six?”
“Why, I neve–”
“Listen, Jez, just… say something to her, alright? Please?” He pleaded softly, leaning forward to push a lock of hair out of his sister’s eyes.
“What are you even talking about?” Jezebel looked up at her brother, her brows knitted in confusion.
Jasper rolled his eyes before shaking his head. “Jez, you’re in love with her. It’s plain as day.”
“Jasper!”
“Tell me I’m wrong, Jez. Tell me I’m wrong about this and I’ll leave it alone.”
Jezebel looked away, her frown fading as she sighed. “You’re not wrong, Jasper.” Her shoulders slumped as her brother sat down beside her on the bench. “But I do not know how to even approach Cala about something like this. What if–”
“Jez,”
“Yes, Jasper?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too…?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Jasper!”
“Don’t take that tone with me, sis. You apparently can’t see it, but everyone else here in the Manor knows that Cala is completely and utterly in love with you. Even Magmas and Horatio know it and you know they’re useless with anything like this. Have you not noticed how flustered she gets around you? How she can’t stop staring at you? Please, sis, just trust me; she’s in love with you. So go talk to her, alright? I’m tired of seeing you sitting here alone when you could have her by your side.”
“a-Alright. Alright. I will.” Jezebel looked down at the book in her hands before looking back to her twin brother, their jade eyes meeting. “Do you want to go with me to dinner tonight? Lady Ignacea reserved a table for two for me tonight at Roseraie.”
“Sorry sis, not this time. I’ve got other plans.” Ignacea would kill me if I went to dinner with you… “But we can go later, yeah?”
“Oh,” her ears drooped as she sighed quietly, “of course, Jasper. We’ll go later.” Jezebel stood up and looked to her brother. “Lady Ignacea has also given me the afternoon off. Has she done the same for you?”
“Yeah, but I want to stick around and make sure the new flowers are taking root.” Jasper’s voice was fond as he thought of the new flowerbeds; he was the groundskeeper for the Feuvants, tasked with making sure the Manor and the gardens were always picturesque. It was a job he loved. “I’ll catch you later, sis. Happy birthday.”
“Happy birthday, Jasper.” She left the gardens, opening her book as she walked back into the Manor, losing herself in the familiar story…

“Jezebel!”
The rabbit turned, her glasses slipping low on her nose as she looked around, a reflexive smile crossing her fair face as she saw Cala hurrying towards her. She slid her small novel into the pocket of her apron as the serving girl approached. “Hello there, Cala.”
Cala slowed her frantic pace as she neared the rabbit, breathing hard as she held up a small gift. “h-Happy b-b-birthday, Jezebel. I got you a present.”
“Oh, Cala… thank you.” Jezebel took the wrapped gift and looked down at it, a slender finger tracing over the paper. “You didn’t have to.”
“I know, but, well…” Cala looked down at her hooves, biting her lip. “I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I will.” Jezebel slid a finger under the fold of the paper, trying her best not to rip the delicate wrappings. With painstaking care, the rabbit unwrapped the present, gasping in shock when she saw the cover. “Cala! Oh, Cala! You… I cannot believe this!” She felt tears welling in her eyes as she held the book close to her chest, her head lowered. It was a book of poetry, a complete anthology from her favourite poet - a human poet! She had only ever seen one copy of the book in a single bookstore with a price tag that nearly made her faint! “You bought this for me… Thank you.” Jezebel raised her head, her ears drooping when she realized the other woman had left. “Cala?” She called out, only to sigh when no response came. The rabbit looked at the book again, a smile crossing her face. She would be talking to Cala soon, very soon, but there was something she needed before she faced the pink handmaiden…

"Jasper! Jasper, where are you?“
"Over here, sis!” Jasper waved a pair of hedge trimmers over his head, his body hidden behind a large ornamental shrubbery.
“I need your help with something, dear brother.” Jezebel walked up to him, the book of poetry still clasped tightly in her arms.
“What do you need?”
“I need you to help me find a lily, a white one. I know you planted some a long time ago; do we still have any growing?”
“Yup! They spread like wildfire, too. Want me to pick you some?”
“That would be wonderful. But… I just need one.”
Jasper raised an eyebrow but shrugged. “Alright. Hang tight; I’ll grab you one.”
“Thank you.” She smiled as she looked down to the book again, breathing deeply as she opened the front cover, slowly turning to the table of contents…

“…flower.”
Jezebel’s head snapped up as she saw a white lily being held inches from her face. “Oh!”
“I swear, Jez, the world could pass you by and you’d have no idea.” He placed the flower behind her long ear, smiling. “There. A lily for you. Need anything else?”
“No; thank you, Jasper.”
“Anytime.” He turned his attention back towards the shrubbery as she walked away, the woman’s nose back in her new book…

Cala was lying on her bed, her face buried into her pillow. She had done it. She had given the book to Jezebel. It had taken her two months to locate the book and another four to afford it. Cala sniffled again, a few more tears slipping down her furred cheeks. She had wanted to give it to Jezebel over dinner, but that plan had been dashed when she learned that Jezebel had a reservation for two for her birthday. More tears slid down her face as she slowly sat up, her breath catching in her chest as she heard a knock at her door. Cala frantically wiped at her face, drying her cheeks, as she walked over to the door. Taking a breath to steady herself, she opened it, her eyes widening as she saw Jezebel standing before her. “j-Jezebel?”
“I wanted to thank you for the book.” Jezebel said, a wide smile on her face. “Truly, thank you, Cala. I have been searching for this for so very, very long. It makes me so happy to finally have a copy of my own.”
“Oh… uh, it was my pleasure, Jezebel. Really.” Cala smiled a watery smile, her heart aching as she stared up at the beautiful woman, her eyes drinking in the golden hue of her hair, her pure white fur…
“I also brought something for you, as a ‘thank you’ for the anthology.” Jezebel took the white flower from behind her ear, smiling down at it. “This is a calla lily. Would you mind if I put it behind your ear?”
“Huh?” Cala’s eyes went wide as she stared up at the rabbit.
Jezebel leaned forward and placed the flower behind Cala’s large ear, a fond smile on her face as she pressed a gentle kiss onto the younger woman’s forehead.

When she stood back, she found herself smiling down at a furiously blushing handmaiden. “Cala?”
“y-y-y-yes?”
“Would you like to come to dinner with me tonight? I have a reservation for Roseraie tonight, but no one to go with me.”
Cala’s eyes went wide as she stared up at Jezebel, her jaw dropping. She nodded slowly, in shock and disbelief.
“Wonderful! The reservation is for seven thirty tonight. Shall we meet in the foyer at six thirty?”
The serving girl nodded again, too dumbfounded to say anything.
“Then I will see you at six thirty.” Jezebel smiled and turned, walking away, only to pause a few seconds later. “Oh, and Cala?” She looked back at the handmaiden, smiling coyly. “Wear the flower behind your ear. It looks lovely on you.” With that, Jezebel resumed walking, her nose back in her book, her svelte hips swaying…

Cala stood rooted to the spot for several long minutes, her mind attempting to process what just happened. Could it… no. No? Did…? Her heart hammered in her chest. Had it?! She found herself running through the Manor, making her way to the solarium. Cala knocked once before she threw open the door, dashing inside and running straight up to Ignacea. The young woman threw her arms around the Lady, hugging her tightly, laughing. “We’re going to dinner tonight, Lady Ignacea! She kissed my forehead and gave me a flower and we’re going to dinner! She asked me to go to Roseraie with her! We’re going to go have dinner! I think she likes me, Lady Ignacea!” Her words came out in a jumbled stream as she hugged her Lady, laughing in joy and exhilaration.
“Oh, how splendid! I am so happy for you, Cala, my darling!” Ignacea held the woman tightly to her, smiling over to Sans and Grillby. She caught Sans’ gaze and winked. “You have to tell me tomorrow how the dinner goes. This makes me so happy, my darling; I am thrilled for you!”

Grillby and Sans said nothing as Grillby put his arm around Sans, hugging his boyfriend close as he kissed the top of his head. The two men watched as Ignacea answered Cala’s questions, the older woman explaining how dates usually went, what was expected; they remembered, quite clearly, the elation that Cala was feeling, the sweet rush of young love blossoming…

Chapter Text

 

 

Children were sometimes abandoned.
It was a fact of life.
A sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.

The child had been placed on the doorstep of the small cabin in the dead of night. They had lain quietly in the basket, staring up at the starry sky and the mountain that loomed in the distance, never once voicing their displeasure at the cold night air. The following morning, when they were found, they were quickly taken into the tiny home and wrapped in a warm blanket. The elderly couple fussed over the small infant, changing their diaper and making sure they were fed. There was a yellow tint to the child’s skin that they didn’t like, but they both knew there was nothing that they could do. They were painfully aware that they could not afford the hospital bills for the child, not with several other mouths to feed…

As the years went by, the child grew stronger but the sickly yellow hue remained in their pointed face, their voice scarcely heard. They clung to the skirts of their caretaker as the other children were adopted by all sorts of people; they waved to each departing child, watching the cars vanish into the distance. They alone had stayed at the small mountain cabin, watching as the seasons passed, watching but not seeing the toll of the years on their elderly caretakers. They remained blessedly ignorant to the struggles of Ernest and Imogene.

The couple had done everything they could think of to find the silent child a home. No one wanted to adopt the mute, jaundiced child. Imogene made countless phone calls and wrote endless letters, mailing them to any and all that she could think of, begging for someone to adopt the sweet child. Ernest tried his best to locate the child’s parents, driving his ancient truck into the distant city, talking to anyone who would listen…

Still, though, the child was happy. They had a roof over their head, food in their stomach, clothes on their back. The kindly couple taught them to read, spell and write, as well as basic mathematics. The child had a voracious appetite for learning and boundless energy, always exploring and climbing, living up to their nickname of Frisk. “Frisky Frisk!” Imogene laughingly chided, tutting as she helped the child off of the counter top. “Cookies are for after dinner, Frisk. You know that. Now, go and help Ernest bring in the vegetables from the garden. He’s been out there for a long time!”

Frisk nodded and scampered outside…

…only to come back moments later, grabbing the woman’s skirts, silently screaming as tears flooded their eyes.

 

Ernest was buried that night.

Frisk helped dig the grave, their small hands struggling with the large shovel.

Three months later, they dug another grave, a shallow one, right next to Ernest.

 

Frisk stayed in the cabin for as long as they could, unsure of what to do. What could they do? Their family was gone, buried in the backyard underneath the long-dead apple tree. They didn’t know anyone else to ask for help, nor did they have a way to reach anyone. There was no computer in the cabin and they could barely even speak, so using the phone wasn’t an option, either. The child didn’t know what the surrounding land was like - they had never been allowed to wander far from the small cabin. Frisk learned to ration the remaining food, learned just how much they needed to eat to keep the pains of hunger from wracking their frail body. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.

They were still running out of food…

With tears on their cheeks, they packed their small backpack with their few possessions and the remaining food, sobbing silently as they said goodbye to Ernest and Imogene, decorating the humble graves with buttercups. They lingered for hours, sitting by the graves, wishing they could just hear Imogene’s laughter and Ernest’s stories one last time…

When the pangs of hunger sent spasms through their small frame, the child stood up. It was time to go.

Frisk’s eyes turned towards Mount Ebott, listening to the kindly voice that filled their mind, listening to the voice that gently guided them…

It was time to go.

 

 

Gaster cast a withering gaze to Gaia, his cloak of shadows spreading over the darkening skies, staying silent as he forced his anger to abate. He knew why Gaia had done what she had done, he knew why she had sent the elderly couple into their early graves. He knew why she did it… but it did not mean that he liked it. Beside him, Mother Gaia stood tall, her gown of flowing water clinging to her skin of earthen brown. The white clouds of her hair fluttered in an unseen wind as her fiery eyes watched the child’s steps through the trees. She turned her amber gaze back to Gaster, sighing softly. “We both agreed to this, Gaster. Turn your anger away; it does not lie with me!”
“Part of it does lie with you, Gaia,” he grumbled, “nor can I turn my anger away. You and I are the only ones here.”
“Luna is nearby.” She pointed to a silent woman in a long, white gown, her fair face darkening as Luna glowered at her.
“Luna had nothing to do with this and I refuse to bring her into this. This was your idea.” Gaster did not see the smile that the pale woman gave him, did not see her nodding before she resumed her journey through the night sky.
“Yes. It was and is still my idea.” She turned and faced the Scientist, the flames of her eyes burning behind her long lashes. “And I will not take any more of your anger. Calm yourself, Gaster. We are about to usher in a new age!”
Gaster exhaled slowly, clasping his hands behind his back, his own eyes narrowing. Now was not the time to argue with Gaia, even though the woman truly had no sway, no power over him.

After all, he was not of her world.

The Scientist watched as the child clambered through the underbrush, scowling as branches and thorns hindered their progress. He shot Gaia another glare - one that she pointedly ignored - and then waved his hand, sending a small spark racing towards the earth. The spark hovered over the leaves just a few yards ahead of the child, glowing cheerily in the dark night like an earthbound star. Frisk’s eyes went wide as they saw the glow, quickly hurrying towards it. The child knelt down in front of the shining star, hesitantly reaching out a hand, touching the warm light. A shocked gasp flew from their lips as they felt the scratches on their cheeks healing, their stomach filling with food they had never eaten. Frisk stared down at their hands, watching as the dirt, grime and dried blood simply vanished. They turned their dark eyes back to the star, only to silently cry out in dismay when they saw it was no longer there. Scared but full of energy, Frisk scampered away, running towards their unknown destination, following a calling that only they could hear…

“You took pity on the child?” Gaia asked, confused. “That is rather unlike you.”
“You think me that cold? No, I am not that cruel. This is simply the first time that I have chosen to intervene directly in the lives of mortals.” He watched as Gaia opened her mouth, knowing the woman was going to comment on two young skeletons he had spent years watching over; he spoke up before she could voice her thoughts. “However, since this is your harbinger,” he spat the word, “I feel that at least one of us should do something to keep the child alive before they reach the Underground.”
Gaia frowned deeply at that. “Gaster, what is wrong with you?! I’ve known you for thousands of years and you have never been this angry before! What is troubling you, old friend?”
Gaster shook his head. “Do not concern yourself with it, Gaia.”
“I can and I will, especially if whatever this is makes you this hostile towards me!”
He shook his head again. “Let us pray it is nothing. Let us hope that this is nothing at all…”
“Gaster…?”
He turned away from the woman. As wise as Gaia was, she did not have the knowledge that he himself had. She was the mother to all life on Earth, yes, but she was still only a planet while he himself—"Do not worry, Gaia. Let us only hope it does not come to pass.“
She stared at his turned back for several long moments before she simply placed a hand on Gaster’s arm, saying nothing.

Scientist and Mother stood side by side, watching in silence as the child stumbled their way towards Mount Ebott…

 

"Gaia…”
“What?”
“You realize that fall will kill the child, yes?”
Gaia looked down at the yawning mouth of the crevice, tapping a finger to her plump lip as she considered the Scientist’s words. “You truly think so?”
“It is well over two hundred feet down… so yes, yes I truly think so.” His tone was annoyed.
“Oh…” She looked over to the Scientist, her lips pursed in thought. “This is problematic, then. I need the child in the Underground - alive.”
“Clearly…” He sighed. “I will take care of it, Gaia, do not worry.”
The woman gave a kind smile to the Scientist, the two watching as the child neared the cavern. Her smile faltered after a moment. “…I don’t suppose you would mind also assisting with helping the child, well, fall? I don’t think they’ll willingly jump…”
Gaster turned and stared at the woman beside him, his expressionless face managing to look exasperated. His mouth worked silently before he just hung his head, shaking it sadly. He said nothing as the child drew closer to the massive hole in the earth, only raising a pierced hand. A gust of wind picked up, knocking the child off of their feet and disorienting them. The howling, whirling winds quickly rendered them unconscious as the vortex swallowed them whole. Another wave of his hand sent them tumbling down, down, down…

“GASTER!” Gaia stared at the Scientist. “That isn’t what I meant! I just wanted them in the Underground - not touched by your magic! Do not taint them!”
“Ok.” He lowered his hand, releasing his spell, letting the child freely fall.
“NO! They’re falling too fast; you’ll kill them! Slow their fall!”
“Ok.” A wave of his hand slowed the child’s descent to a crawl.
“…We need them in the Underground at some point this century, Gaster.”
“Ok.” Another wave.
“…TOO FAST!”
“Ok.” Another wave.
“Oh, for the love of… GASTER! Why?! They’re falling UP! Stop this!”
“Ok.” Another wave suspended Frisk’s body in the air.
“…just put the child down in the buttercups…” She rubbed her temples, sighing, her eyes closed.
Gaster chuckled, a large, ghostly hand catching and cradling the child, guiding their unconscious form down into the bed of flowers…

Once safely on the ground, Gaia knelt by the child, her warm hands smoothing their hair and clothing, her touch whisking away the residual traces of Gaster’s magic. She knew that soon, very soon, the child would be found and taken into a new home, would be given the chance to fulfill their destiny. She wanted her harbinger to look their very best…

The Scientist did not watch as Gaia tended to the sleeping child; instead, he cast his gaze deeper into the Underground, searching for Sans and Papyrus. It had been far, far too long since had last checked on the skeletons, feeling both joy and remorse as he located the tall skeleton. He smiled as he watched Papyrus marching his way through the streets of Snowdin, proudly strutting towards his self-assigned patrol route. He is an innocent soul, he thought to himself, a feeling of pride welling within him. Sans had done a fantastic job of raising the boisterous skeleton - Gaster doubted that he himself could have done any better… Tearing his glowing green gaze away from Papyrus, Gaster turned his attention to Sans, smiling more when he saw Sans scribbling a complicated theorem into a leather-bound journal, his head resting on the stomach of the flaming bartender. He watched as Sans tapped the pen to his teeth, hearing the soft clicking echoing in the silent room. Intrigued, Gaster found himself staring, listening, as Grillby’s hand sleepily rubbed Sans’ skull, the older man chuckling quietly. “…I cannot help you, Sans.”
“i’m just missing something and i don’t know what.”
“…Did you carry the two?”
“what?”
“…Nothing.” Grillby yawned. “…I’m just an accountant, not a mathematician.”
“i’ve seen your log books. the fact you do that without a calculator doesn’t just make you an accountant or a mathematician. it makes you a real magician.”
“…I’m still not helping you with your theorem.”
“shoot.” Sans turned and leaned up, kissing his boyfriend gently. “it was worth a shot.”
“…Always is.” Grillby smiled more, drawing him down for another kiss…

Gaster turned away, closing his eyes tightly. There was so much he had missed in their lives… but there was nothing he could easily do at this point. He felt his heart hammering within his chest as he turned his gaze back to the small child and Mother Gaia, forcing himself to calm. Gaia looked back to the Scientist and smiled as she walked up to the slender man. “Come, Gaster. The child will wake up soon. It is time for us to depart.”
Gaster nodded slowly, his cloak of shadows surrounding them, his heart heavy.

Chapter Text

“knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“scold.”
“Scold who?”
“scold enough out here to build a snowman.”
The woman laughed as she sat down against the door, closing her eyes as she let her head rest against the smooth stone. “That was a pretty good one. It does feel very cold through the door.” Her furred hand traced the bottom of the door, her trimmed claws lightly scratching at the ancient dirt. “Are you wearing something warm to keep the chill away?”
Sans smiled and pulled his hoodie a little closer, nestling his face down into the white fur. The hoodie smelled like Grillby’s home - spicy herbs, sandalwood, the scent of a hearth… “yeah. i pretty much live in the hoodie he got me.”
“That’s so sweet. It sounds like you two are still doing well, then. Are you?”
“oh, definitely.” Sans blushed a little; he wasn’t afraid to show emotion to his mysterious friend. “he even asked me if i wanted to start keeping some stuff at his place.”
“Oh?”
“yeah. i asked him if he wanted me to move in with him. he said he did, but he knew it couldn’t happen yet. he knows i have to take care of my brother.”
“I see… so what did you do?”
“i… ended up taking over a few changes of clothes, just to keep there.”
“It sounds like it’s getting serious between you two.” Her smile was audible.
Sans’ voice was filled with his own gormless grin. “yeah. they are. it’s great. i mean, it’s really great. we go and take tea with his mother once every few weeks and sometimes his daughter comes to visit.” The skeleton hugged the hoodie tighter to his body, his eyes closing as he felt the key to Grillby’s home in his pocket. “it’s wonderful.”
“I’m so happy for you!” She looked down at her own phone, her heart fluttering a little in her chest as she saw the screen lighting up, the ancient device buzzing in her hand. “I’m sorry, but I need to step away for today. Something has come up.”
“w-what? is everything okay?” This was unlike her; normally they’d sit for hours and talk!

"Everything is fine. I promise.“ She stood up; he could hear her robes rustling through the stone door. "I’ll talk with you tomorrow, alright? Have a good night!” She hurried away, deeper into the ruins, leaving the skeleton to sit alone with his thoughts…

The next day, Sans found himself sitting alone at the door, waiting for his friend. He had arrived at their usual time, had sat and patiently waited. She was nowhere to be found… He was beginning to lose hope that she would arrive today, that she wasn’t going to show up. It made him uneasy. Things were very strange now. Papyrus was also uneasy, Sans knew. His brother, normally so bombastic and verbose, was now very quiet when they were at home; Sans could hear him whispering from within his bedroom. He was used to Papyrus talking to himself when he played with his action figures but this… this was not the normal dialogue that Sans was used to. This was an actual conversation, with pauses and questions and answers. Sans had never heard Papyrus do this before.

It was disconcerting.

…even more so when combined with the feelings that he was being watched…

 

“Knock knock!”

Sans sank down against the door, smiling as he shook his head, clearing his mind. He was just being paranoid, that was all. “who’s there?”
“Impatient goat.”
“impatient go–”
“BAAH!” She laughed as she clapped her furred hands together.
Sans shared in her laughter as he felt himself relaxing more with every passing second. This was all just in his head. “that was a good one.”
“I thought you might like it!” She sat down on and smoothed out her robes. “How are you today?”
“doing much better now. how about you?”
“Oh, I’m doing just fine!” Her voice was radiating with happiness.
“has something changed?” Sans asked as he looked over his shoulder at the door. “i mean, i’m glad to hear you sounding so happy, but… well…”
“What’s wrong?”
“i’m just… well, it’s nothing. don’t worry about it.” He shook his head. “so, didja hear?”
“Hear what?”
“it snowed today. they’re saying it’s a new record.”
“How much did it snow?”
“it snowed a ton. a skele-ton!”
Her laughter made his heart lighter, casting his fears away as the two sat and joked…

Unfortunately for Sans, his fears came crashing back down the moment he left the woman’s company.

As the days continued on, Sans’ anxieties grew more pronounced. Something was definitely different with his friend but she wasn’t saying what had changed. She was so happy now, so joyful, but he was worried. Papyrus’ one-sided conversations were continuing but now, even more disturbingly to Sans, they had shifted into the secret language that only the brothers knew. Sometimes Sans could catch snatches of the conversation but they would always stop within moments of him stepping into earshot, normally ending with Papyrus telling… someone… that they didn’t have to leave, all while sitting in his bedroom. The older skeleton would make sure to quickly leave, just in case the younger skeleton left his bedroom. He did not want his brother to know that he had been eavesdropping…

 

Two weeks passed before his friend’s joyful tone faded.

“…Knock knock…”
“who’s there?”
“Will.”
“Will who?”
“Will you promise me something?”
“…you know i don’t like making promises.”
“I know,” her voice faltered, fell, “i-I know… but I need you to promise me something. Please.”
Sans crossed his arms across his chest, his eyes closing, breathing hard. “…let me hear it first.”
“If,” she swallowed hard, “if a human–”
“what?!” He turned and faced the door, both hands pressed firmly against the stone, “a human?!”
“Let me finish!” She cried, turning to face the door herself. “If a human comes through this door, promise me you’ll take care of them and watch over them!”
“it’s a human! you know what they can do to us! it’s dangerous!”
“This is just a child! A young, sickly child! They can barely speak and, from what I have been able to figure out, they’re an orphan! Their caretakers died and they… they fell down here.”
“two weeks ago?”
“…Yes.” She sighed. “Two weeks ago. I was so happy to have someone to watch over again, to read to, to teach… but they’re unhappy here. They want to explore.” Her voice hitched with unshed tears. “Please, please promise me that if you see the human, you will watch over them. They are so young and so frail. I do not want anything to happen to them.” Sans could hear her crying. “You know what has happened to the children that have fallen down. You know what… what he does to them.”
Sans turned his back to the door and sat down, his mind racing. “there’s a human in the underground…”
“Yes.”
“and they’re staying with you…”
“For now, yes, but they’re restless. They want to explore. They keep trying to leave. I don’t want them to. I don’t want them to leave! I’m trying to protect them, to keep them alive, but…”
“…kids will be kids.” Sans sighed as he knuckled his forehead, his eyes closed tightly. “i don’t even know if i can promise you this. you know what humans are like. or, rather, what they can do. what if this human was sent to infiltrate the underground? what if there are more coming here?”
She turned and stared at the door, her wet eyes narrowing in anger. “They are just a child! Do you honestly think the humans hate us that much that they would send a child down here to spy on us?”
“there’s no telling what the humans are thinking anymore!” He snapped. “they’ve trapped us down here for how many hundreds of years now? has it been longer?”
“Stop it!” She screamed suddenly as she jumped to her feet. “Stop this! It is just a child! A scared, orphaned child! I want someone to watch over them if they leave the ruins!”
“then why don’t you just do it yourself?!” He shouted back. “why don’t you just finally leave here and watch over them yourself?!”
“I CAN’T!” Her voice broke. “I cannot leave here. You know that!” She heaved a shuddering breath, biting her lip as she looked away. “…please, please just promise me you’ll keep them safe. Please. You’re the only person I trust.”
“you don’t even know my name.” Sans’ voice was soft, incredulous.
“That doesn’t matter.” She turned and looked at the door, placing a furred hand on the stone surface. “Just… just promise me. Please.”

Sans stood and looked at the door, breathing hard, thinking through the woman’s words. He didn’t want to make a promise to her. He hated making promises. He hated making promises to anyone! There were only two people he had ever made a promise to in his life: Grillby’s mother and Papyrus. He promised Lady Ignacea that he would watch over her son while she had a not-so-brief courtship with Death. It was a promise he intended on keeping for as long as he was alive. The promise he made to his brother was very similar; he promised that he would keep Papyrus safe, happy and well, no matter what happened. It was a promise he had kept for almost twenty years, ever since they first left the Laboratory as children. He remembered the first night that they had slept in the caverns of Waterfall, the very night he made that promise. The two children had followed the whisperings of a mysterious voice, the gentle urgings that were so hauntingly familiar…

The skeleton stared down at his shoes, unseeing, lost in his own thoughts. She trusted him, whoever she was. She trusted him with the life of a human. A human! Every fiber of his being was screaming ‘no!’ but…

"…i promise.“

Sans hoped he wouldn’t regret those words.

 

Grillby still was unsure of what had caused the change in Sans and Papyrus, but he could put his finger on the exact date of when the change occurred. It was impressive, all things considered; the man could never remember any of his anniversaries or his own birthday, so the fact that he remembered the day of the strange three minute phone call between the skeletons was, well… nothing short of remarkable. His ex-wife would be jealous…

All jokes aside, there was still the alarming fact that there were drastic, dramatic changes taking place within both of the skeletons. Papyrus was growing even more manic, constantly walking his patrol routes, sleeping less, frantically designing more and more puzzles to trap any potential threats. Sans, on the other hand, was acting far more sluggish than normal. It confused Grillby, really; Sans was a lazy soul, yes, but this was unlike anything he had ever seen before. When he compared the brothers, things became even more mind-boggling. The two were feeding off of each other in a highly destructive way. Their tempers were growing shorter. Papyrus was growing more and more excitable and prone to outbursts, whereas Sans just… didn’t care.

The shorter skeleton was spending even more time in his restaurant now, sitting at the bar, idly munching on an order of fries and, as the hours grew later, sipping on glasses of amaretto. It worried him more than he cared to admit. Grillby placed another cordial glass down in front of Sans, letting his hand linger on his boyfriend’s, sighing softly as Sans barely reacted. He gave the skeleton’s hand a gentle squeeze before forcing himself to go and check on his other patrons. He wanted to stay with Sans, to close the restaurant early, but he still had customers. He still had a job to do. Grillby glanced back to Sans, his heart sinking as he saw the skeleton idly swirling an ice cube around the now-empty glass, his fiery lips pulling into a thin line. He looked to the clock and then around his restaurant, thinking hard. It was almost two hours before he was supposed to close, but there were only three other people here and it was unlikely he’d have a rush on a midweek night. Clearing his throat, the bartender announced last call, claiming that he wasn’t feeling well. The sleepy patrons slowly made their way to the bar, settled their bills and then trickled out into the night.

Sans never moved from his stool.

Grillby locked the front door and turned his sign to “Closed” before walking back behind his bar. He sat and faced his boyfriend, gently taking Sans’ hand in his own. ”…Look at me.“
Sans didn’t move.
”…Sans, please.“ His voice was gentle.
The skeleton slowly turned his head and looked up to his boyfriend, his eternal smile worn, haggard.
”…What is going on?“
"nothin’ grillby. just tired.”
“…Sans…”
“i’m fine, grillbs.”
“…Do you promise?”

Sans stared up at his boyfriend, his pupils vanishing as he looked away. “i… can’t make you that promise.” His voice was hollow.
“…Talk to me, Sans. Tell me what’s wrong.”
The skeleton was silent for several moments before he quietly sighed. “there’s a human in the underground.”
“…w-What?”
“yeah. a kid. it fell down into the ruins. it’s staying there for now. that lady i talk to said the kid’s not really very happy there anymore.” He looked to his glass of amaretto, sighing when he realized it was empty. “i just… everything feels different now, grillby. everything. even the underground. it all feels like the world is waking up again, like it’s moving. i feel things, grillby. i feel this, this energy. it’s like the planet is breathing again. and i hear things, too. whispers and laughter and… and i’m… i’m worried.”

Grillby stared at his boyfriend, thinking hard. This was all too confusing, too distressing. There was a human in the Underground?! Now?! A human hadn’t been seen in so very, very long…
“…Sans,”
“pap feels it too. he’s anxious. he knows something’s up. he hears even more than i do. he feels it even more than i do. he always was more sensitive than i was. he was always talking to things that weren’t there. he knows something is happening, but he doesn’t even know how to tell me.”
“…Sans?”
“i don’t know what to do anymore,” Sans continued, not listening to his boyfriend, “but i… i made a promise to the lady. i’d look over the human. i don’t know why i promised her that. i don’t even know the lady’s name. but i made her that promise. i’d promise i’d look over the kid if it ever leaves the ruins.” His hand shook within Grillby’s grasp. “i hope i never see that kid. i hope it never leaves the ruins.” His body was shaking as he wrapped his arms around himself. “something big is gonna happen soon, but i don’t know what. i don’t know what! i don’t know w–”
“…Sans!”

Sans’ head raised, staring up at his boyfriend, his pupils frantically searching. Grillby put a hand on Sans’ cheek and leaned down, kissing his eternal smile. “…It doesn’t matter what is happening, Sans. I’m going to be right here with you. I promise you that.”
“y-you mean it?”
“…I mean it. I love you, Sans. I’ll stand with you through this. I promise.”
“i love you too, grillby.” Sans’ smile softened as he leaned up for another kiss.

The two men left the bar, making their way into the living space over the restaurant. Sans walked behind his boyfriend, letting Grillby lead him by his hand. His mind was still racing from the events of the past few days. He had promised his hidden friend to watch over the life of a human child. Grillby had just promised to stay with him, no matter how bad things became. He looked up to the fiery man, biting a non-existent lip. “grillby?”
“…Yes?” The bartender led Sans to the couch, sitting down and pulling his boyfriend down beside him.
“d'you really mean it?”
“…Mean what?”
“are you really going to stay with me?”

Grillby looked to his lover, meeting the skeleton’s concerned gaze. “…Yes. I mean it. I’d never lie to you, Sans, you know that.”
“but… but what if–”
Grillby pressed a finger to Sans’ smile. “…Do not ask those questions, Sans. They’ll only tear your mind to shreds.”
Sans’ mouth moved but Grillby didn’t remove his finger.
“…If you keep asking yourself 'what if,’ you’ll never be able to ask anything else. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.”
Sans shook his head, pushing Grillby’s arm away. “this is different, grillby! this isn’t like your divorce or your daughter going to college! this is different! something big is happening!” He clambered off of the couch, still shaking his head. “you don’t hear what pap and i hear! you don’t feel the changing currents. things are different!”
Grillby’s mouth thinned as he stared to his boyfriend. “…Sans–” He could feel his temper flaring despite himself; it was wearing on him, seeing his lover growing more and more despondent but refusing to talk about anything until it had all but consumed him…
“no!” Sans’ clamped his hands over the sides of his head, blocking out his boyfriend’s voice. “you don’t hear what i hear! you don’t know what i know–”

“…Of course I don’t know what you know, Sans! You’re a genius and I can barely keep up with you when you start explaining those theorems you keep writing in your journal! And, while we’re on the topic of things I don’t know, I don’t even know what you are! It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that you’re not like a normal monster.”
Sans lowered his hands, looking to his boyfriend. “w-what?”
“…I don’t even know what you are, Sans. You don’t seem like a regular monster. You don’t even look like a skeleton. At least, not like a normal one. I’ve never even seen another monster like you or Papyrus! I’ve been all through the Underground, I’ve met every highborn family and their servants and I’ve seen thousands of monsters during my youth, sitting in Asgore’s court beside Father’s chair… but I’ve never seen another monster like you. Or anything even remotely like you.”
“grillbs, what–”
“…You don’t even look like a skeleton! Great-great-great Grandfather Feuvant has skeletons - human skeletons! - on display in the Manor! He kept trophies, Sans, from the War! And since you don’t even know who your parents are, I’m even more confused. I’ve told you of my past, but I’ve hardly heard a single word about yours!”
“grillby!–”
“…And now this?! Saying that you hear things, that you and Papyrus are feeling things, are feeling the planet breathing, are hearing whispers in the wind?!” Grillby stood up off of the couch and began pacing, not looking to his boyfriend. “…what are you, Sans? You are not a boss monster, you… you are not like anything I’ve ever seen before…” He froze suddenly, his mind coming to a shuddering halt.

“…No. No, I have seen someone that looks like you before.”

Grillby turned and stared at Sans, his white eyes wild as he stared at the skeleton. “…In Waterfall. I was there one day, a long, long time ago, and this… this figure…” Grillby felt his heart hammering in his chest. “…He said he was–” Grillby found himself unable to speak, his eyes growing wider still as he stared at the shadows that swallowed the room. The darkness was growing, tendrils lashing out, devouring light and sound alike, growing ever closer…

The shattered face emerged from the shadows.

Grillby screamed.

The bartender dropped to his knees, holding his head, screaming as he tried to block out the prying, indecipherable whispers of the shattered face. The hushed words were dancing between his flames, in between every atom of his existence. His body ached, ached in a way that he had only ever felt once before. Pierced hands slithered out from the shadows, grabbing Grillby’s wrists, pulling his hands away from his head. More hands emerged, hovering just before the bartender’s face, one reaching out to grab his chin. Grillby found himself staring up into the gaze of the splintered skull, felt the encroaching darkness digging into his mind. No, the hands signed, you will speak no more of that day. Or of me.

Grillby could only scream.

“grillby!”

The bartender couldn’t see, couldn’t see through the darkness, couldn’t see anything but the face and hands before him, the shattered bones laughing…

“grillby! please!”

His body was seizing, his heart shuddering, starting and stopping, his flames growing dimmer with every passing second. The pierced hands wouldn’t release his arms, wouldn’t let him go…

“grillbert! grillbert, please! please!” Sans grabbed Grillby’s arms, bony fingers digging into his lover’s arms, shaking his boyfriend. “look at me! talk to me! grillby!”

The shadows vanished.

Grillby opened his eyes, blinking slowly. He was lying on his back in the middle of the living room, Sans kneeling above him, the skeleton’s face stained with blue tears. Sans was shaking as much as he was, the two quivering in fear. “…s-Sans?”
“grillby!” Sans sank down beside the bartender, wrapping his arms around the older man as he tried to stem his tears. “w-what happened?! what were you saying?! you just kept screaming, pleading for it to go away, to stop, to stop hurting you.”
Grillby’s eyes were fixed on the ceiling, on the shadow that was flickering - and not because of his own flames. His breath caught in his chest as he stared, his whole body trembling. As the bartender opened his mouth, a hand shot out of the shadows, a single finger raised. It slowly waggled in front of the bartender, warning him…

Grillby put his arms around Sans, holding the skeleton close. “…j-Just a bad memory, Sans. Just a bad memory. It’s nothing.”
“but-but what were you saying earlier, about how you had seen someone that–”
“…NO!” Grillby shook his head, breathing hard. “…d-Don’t worry about it, Sans. Don’t. It’s fine. It’s just… it’s nothing.”
“but…” Sans put a cold hand on his lover’s face. “i want to know, grillbs. i want to know. you’re right, you know. i’ve never seen another monster like me or pap before. i’ve never seen anything like us. i’ve never seen my parents. i don’t even know if i have parents.” Sans’ voice dropped to a heartbroken whisper. “i don’t even know what i am.”

Grillby looked up at his boyfriend’s tear-stained face. “…you are Sans, Sans the Skeleton. You are the older brother of Papyrus the Great. You live here in Snowdin, where you’ve lived for most of your life. You,” Grillby’s hand came to rest on his lover’s cheek, “are the man that I owe my life to. You found me in Waterfall, right when I thought my life was over. You found me, you brought me here and you helped me start this restaurant. You gave me a new future.” The bartender leaned up and gently kissed him. “…You are the man that I owe my life to. And…” Grillby gave the younger man a gentle smile. “…You are my boyfriend, my lover.” His flaming hand caressed Sans’ cheek. “…That is what you are, who you are.”

Sans looked down at his boyfriend, his white pupils searching. He knew what Grillby had said was true. He knew this beyond a shadow of a doubt… but there was something missing.

"how did i even get here as a kid?“

The image of the fractured face flashed before Grillby’s eyes, making the bartender’s arms tighten around his lover. ”…It doesn’t matter, Sans.“ He whispered. ”…It doesn’t matter at all. All that matters is right here, in this moment.“
Sans looked down to Grillby, his shoulders drooping. "there’s just so much that i don’t know. there are years missing from my memory - years! - and i ju–”
“…It doesn’t matter.” Grillby whispered, his quiet voice forceful. “…It doesn’t matter at all. I promise you. It doesn’t matter… but one day, I’m sure, everything will make sense.”
“…do you promise?”

Grillby stared up at his boyfriend, breathing hard. “…I… I promise.” I hope I don’t let you down. He stared back up at the ceiling, cringing in fear as he saw the hand slowly turning, giving a sign of approval. The bartender averted his eyes, holding Sans closer as he stroked his lover’s back. “…Everything is going to be alright.” He kissed the top of Sans’ head. “…I promise.” His voice was resolute.

The shadow disappeared.

 

“That was a little much, don’t you think?”
“No.” Gaster waved a hand, scattering the portal that peered into Grillby’s home. “If anything, I should have done more. I do not want anyone to know of me yet. The time is not right.”
“But–”
“Yes, I am aware that some know I have returned, but they do not know who I am. Except for the Riverman, of course, but Charon and I have known each other for centuries now.”
Gaia tapped a finger to her plump lips. “Why is Charon here? Isn’t his job to–”
Gaster shot Gaia a glare.

Gaia dropped the subject promptly, without another word.

The two returned their gaze to the ruins, watching as the scrawny child chased after Toriel, listening to Toriel’s stern warnings to turn away, to go back to their bedroom. They watched as Frisk kept trying to step around the woman, kept trying to reach the door.
“o-Oh dear, oh no,” Gaia put a hand over her mouth, watching in fear as the ruins filled with fire, “Gaster! Gaster, make them stop!”
Gaster put a hand on Gaia’s shoulder, his face grim. “…It will be fine, Gaia. It will be alright.”

He wanted to believe his own words.

The fires died away as Toriel knelt down, embracing the child. The older woman’s face was damp with tears as Frisk pulled away, the child walking towards the door. Toriel hurried out of the room, pausing only once to look over her shoulder. Once out of sight, Toriel fled, running back to her home, trying to stifle her sobs.

For the first time in centuries, the stone doors opened as the human emerged into the Underground…

Chapter Text

She was gone.

He couldn’t deny it any longer.

She was gone.

They had known each other for years and never once had they gone more than three days without speaking. Even when they felt less than stellar, they’d drag themselves to the door so they could talk and banter and laugh. Sans had never realized how much of his day had revolved around the mysterious woman behind the door. He had never realized how much he had come to enjoy talking with her…

It had been a week. There was something wrong. Something very wrong. He couldn’t deny any longer.

She was gone.

Sans sat down in the snow with his back against the door as he hugged his knees to his chest. His cheek came to rest on his knees as he stared out into the dark woods, his eyes closing. “knock knock…” He held in a sigh as the wind whispered around him. “it’s just not the same without you to ask me ‘who’s there?’ y'know? i mean, i can keep making the jokes, like i used to do before we met, but they’re just not the same anymore. i got used to having you as an audience.” Sans hugged his legs a little tighter. “hey, if you’re there, can you tell me a snail fact? you said you had a whole big book of snail facts but you’ve only told me a few. i never used to like snails, y'know, but you made me like them. they’re really interesting.”

No response.

Sans’ back pressed against the door. “why’d you never give me your number? you said you trusted me, that i was your best friend, but you always refused to give me your number. i wouldn’t have called you in the middle of the night, y'know, to tell you jokes. i wouldn’t.” His hand fell away, tracing the edge of the door. “there’s not even a door knob out here. who builds a door without a door knob? and, while we’re talking about this door, i’ve never seen a door this air tight. i can’t even slip a piece of paper under here.” Sans’ fingers brushed over a crumpled, ripped note before he quickly pulled his hand away, as if the paper had tried to bite him.

“i tried making a quiche a few days ago, with your recipe. i wouldn’t let grillby or pap help. i told them i had a recipe that i wanted to try and i followed it as best i could. it didn’t turn out right, though. i think it’s because i left out the snails. it’s hard to find snails here. i mean, i saw one in waterfall, but it just looked too happy for me to put into a quiche, so i left him on the echo flowers. did you ever see the echo flowers? i think you would’ve liked them. they always listened to my jokes…” His breath hitched. “but they’re not as good of an audience as you…”

Sans rubbed at his face. “why did you go?! why wouldn’t you let me get to know you?!” He stood up suddenly, wheeling around to stare at the ancient door. “no human was ever worth losing you! just come back! i’m tired of this! i know you’re there! i know you are! just come out!” His small fists began to beat at the stone. “come on! open up! just open up already!” A blue tear slid down his cheek. “please, just come back. i’ll keep my promise to you, but you gotta promise me you’ll come back!” He screamed. “please!”

Only the lonely wind answered his cries.

 

The skeleton made his way through the woods, his hands shoved into his hoodie, ignoring the small rubber balloon in his pocket as he trudged through the snow. He had spent hours at the door, spent hours talking to the wind and the trees, all in hopes his voice would carry to wherever she was. He had even brought a whoopee cushion with him to help with the punchline of a new joke he wanted to tell her. With a sigh, Sans balled his fists a little tighter and kept walking down the path, more than ready to go back to his boyfriend’s restaurant. He didn’t like spending time in his house anymore - Papyrus’ bizarre conversations kept happening, kept growing ever stranger as his brother tried to coax his own mysterious friend into stay–

Sans froze.

There it was.

The human.

 

He watched as the child picked their way through the snow drifts, the child doing all they could do to stop the snow from falling into their small shoes. He saw the child shivering as they hurried onward; why didn’t they have a coat? Sans frowned as he slowly followed the child, his narrow gaze burning with a cold cyan light…

 

Gaia and Gaster stood in silence as they watched the short skeleton following the human through the snowy landscape. The woman’s arms were crossed under her breasts, the fingers of her left hand drumming against her right arm, her plump lips set into a thin line. This was not progressing as she had expected. The human hadn’t wanted to leave Toriel’s side - Gaia had to whisper into the child’s ear for well over a week, planting the restless urge within their body. She had not expected Toriel to fight with the human, either; it was a relief that the fighting had ended peacefully - and with a hug, of all things. Still, though, it was not going as she expected. Frisk had lingered outside of the door for hours, wondering if they had truly done the right thing, but they eventually began to move.

Gaia’s fiery eyes softened as she listened to Sans’ heartbroken begging, doing her best to ignore the pointed glare that Gaster was giving her. She hadn’t expected Toriel to hide within the ruins…
“I thought she would have gone with the child,” Gaia whispered, shaking her head, “not entrust Sans with the human.”
Gaster said nothing as he watched Sans’ eye flare with a cyan light. The skeleton was furious and it was painfully obvious to see. He silently sighed as he turned his gaze back to Gaia, frowning more as the woman avoided his gaze.

“Do you think Sans will watch over the human?” Her voice was curious as she watched Frisk scampering through the snow.
“He is a man of his word, even though his word was not easily given. He will keep the child safe.” Gaster’s voice was low as he watched Frisk trying to pick up a massive tree branch. The Scientist said nothing as he observed the child struggling to pick up the branch, watching as they gave up a moment later and hurried away.
“You truly think so?” She flinched slightly at Gaster’s expression. “Right. Apologies, old friend; I forgot how well you know him.” Gaia jumped suddenly as she heard the sounds of the tree branch being shattered. The two invisible sentinels watched as the cyan light left Sans’ eye, the skeleton stepping away from the now-broken branch. “That… was unexpected.”
Gaster was nonplussed. “I never said he would be happy about keeping his word. Especially since it has now cost him one of his three friends.”
“But she is still alive!”
“He doesn’t know that.” Gaster grimaced. “Nor can we tell him that Toriel is still alive and well. One day, they will reunite, but I fear it might take some time.”
Gaia looked back to her friend, an eyebrow quirked. “You could help speed things along, you know.” She laughed.
The Scientist exhaled, lowering his head. “Now is not the time for those jokes.”

Gaia unfurled her arms and placed a warm hand on his cold back. “Gaster, what is wrong? You have been growing more and more despondent ever since the Harbinger awoke.”
He shook his head. “Do not worry yourself with it, Gaia.”
“But I am worried, my dear friend.”
“I know you are.” He gently removed her hand. “Let me just say this: there are things that I see that I wish I did not. Every situation has millions of potential outcomes.”
“What did you see that worries you so?”
Gaster shook his head again. “I do not want to even breathe the words to you, Mother Earth.”

At hearing her formal title, Gaia stood straighter as her brows knitted together in confusion. “Gaster?” She frowned when the mysterious man drew his robe of shadows around his thin body. “Gaster, please talk to me.”
“In time,” he whispered, “in time I will talk. For now, I have something that I must attend to.”
Gaia watched as her friend vanished into shadows, her expression grim. It was never a good thing when Gaster was evasive. She turned her gaze back to her harbinger, watching as Frisk hid behind a lamp; she could only describe the lamp as being “conveniently shaped” - and conveniently placed. The lamp had only just appeared moments before Sans and Frisk came into the clearing. “Thank you, Gaster.” The woman’s mood remained as dark as Gaster’s robe of shadows as she watched the skeleton brothers bickering and bandying about before Papyrus marched away.

This was not going as expected…

 

Sans watched as the child sped away, watching as they went running through the snow towards a destination unknown. He had tried to show the human to Papyrus, had tried to get his brother to capture it, all without breaking his word to his hidden friend. He was looking after the human - by directly staring at them. So what if he was trying to show the human to someone else? They were bound to be discovered soon, anyway. Not much could be kept a secret in the tiny town of Snowdin, or in the small world that was the Underground. Besides, the human even felt different to him; surely someone else besides Papyrus would notice the different energy the human had about them? The skeleton shook his head and trudged onward, following the human from a distance…

The longer he followed the child, the more he realized that this human didn’t make any sense to him.

They weren’t fighting.

Weren’t humans violent by nature? Wasn’t that what had been pressed into the mind of every single monster? Humans were violent and drove them underground as a result of the Great War. Sans grimaced. “the great war,” he spat, “as named by our king… the same man who named the land full of lava ‘hot land.’” He shook his head, wishing he could shake away the mood that clung to him like a wet blanket. He watched as the human dodged the attacks of an enraged Gyftrot, his eternal smile blanching as he watched the human fall to their knees; the child was holding their stomach and coughing as their entire body shook from the blow. Sans sighed and walked closer to the battle, standing just feet behind the human. His eye flared with a pale, eerie light as he fixed the Gyftrot with a cold glare. The antlered beast quickly turn and raced away, bounding through the snow poffs.

Sans slid back behind the tree line and out of sight as the human pushed themselves back to their feet. They were coughing and wiping at their mouth with the corner of their worn sleeve as they looked around the snowy land. What on earth did this kid think they were doing? Why had they only dodged the attacks? He slid into the shadow of a large tree as the human ran ahead, racing towards a place that only they knew. He said nothing as he pulled out his cellphone, idly scrolling through his contacts until he reached Grillby’s number. His perpetual smile brightened as he heard the phone ringing…

“…Hello, Sans.”
“hey grillby.”
“…I am about to open for the day. Would you like for me to go ahead and start making your usual order?”
“not right now.”
“…Oh? Has something come up?”
“yeah,” he sighed, “the human’s out in the underground now. it looks like they’re heading to snowdin, too.”
“…Oh. Well, that’s wonderful.”
“grillbs?”
“…Yes?”
“if sarcasm could kill, i’d be dead right now.”
Grillby chuckled. “…Since I’m too blind to be useful on the battlefield, I made sure my wit was as sharper than a soldier’s sword.”
“that’s not the only thing that’s sha–”
“…Sans…”
“sorry grillby,” he laughed, “hey, can you do me a favour?”
“…I’ll do my best.”
“will you call me back and let me know what the dogs are doing? i dunno when they’re going to be doing their patrols. i’m hoping it’s after lunch, so i can have some more time to get this human to some place hidden.” Sans could hear the sounds of Grillby unlocking the front door.
“…Of course.”
“thanks grillbs.”
“…Any time.” Grillby returned to the kitchen, cradling the phone as he finished the last bit of preparation work for the day. “…Will I be seeing you soon?”
“yup.” Sans closed his eyes as he listened to the familiar sounds of Grillby placing glassware down onto the shelves. “i love you. see you soon.”
“…I love you too.” Grillby smiled as the call ended.
Sans slid his phone into his pocket and resumed following the human…

At least Papyrus was excited about the human.

Well, no, that was an understatement.

Papyrus was thrilled beyond words at having found the human.

He was finally able to test all of the traps and puzzles that he had spent hours, days, weeks meticulously planning. He could not wait to capture the human and take them to Undyne. He knew that the General of the Royal Guard would have no option but to enlist Papyrus - after all, the Great Papyrus had captured a human! Papyrus marched through the snow alongside his brother, his head held high, his chest puffed out with pride. “I WILL FINALLY BE POPULAR!”
“you already are, dude.”
“NO, SANS! I WILL REALLY BE TRULY POPULAR NOW. I WILL BE IN THE ROYAL GUARD. I WILL BE COOL AND POPULAR AND FAMOUS. DON’T YOU SEE, SANS? NO LONGER WILL I SIMPLY BE THE GREAT PAPYRUS, I WILL BECOME,” he put his gloved hands to his mouth, his entire body quivering with excitement, “THE GREAT ROYAL GUARDSMAN PAPYRUS!”
“how’s this sound? the great papyrus, royal guardsman and master chef?”
Papyrus paused, tapping a gloved finger to his chin. “THAT… SOUNDS EVEN BETTER. I TRULY AM A MASTER CHEF, AM I NOT?”
“yup. and getting better with every day, too.”

Sans couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his brother parading through the snow; the only time he had ever seen Papyrus this happy was when Undyne agreed to give him cooking lessons. The shorter skeleton glanced over his shoulder; he knew the human was behind them, stumbling and tripping through the snow. "hey, pap, go on ahead.”
“SANS?”
“just go on,” he turned and began walking away, “i’ll see you soon, alright?
”“O-OKAY.” Papyru’s smile faltered. “I WILL SEE YOU SOON, THEN, BROTHER!”
“yup. see you soon. go ahead and ready your next puzzle - i’m gonna make sure the human gets there.”
“AH! BRILLIANT!” Papyrus’ smile came back in full force as he bounded through the snowy landscape.
Sans glanced over his shoulder, grinning at the sight of his brother’s joyful springing. He shook himself and resumed backtracking, his eyes scanning for the human…

The skeleton’s heart sank as he stared out into the snowy plains. He sighed heavily as he pulled his phone out of the pocket; his boyfriend’s cheery ringtone couldn’t even lift his mood right now. “hey grillbs,”
“…Hi Sans. I have bad news.”
“the dogs are taking a late lunch.”
“…I take it you’ve found some of them?”
“yep. dogaressa and dogamy. they’re sniffing at the human now.”
“…Oh dear.”
“yep. i don’t get it, though. the kid’s just… dodging and petting. and now they’re rolling in the snow,” he shook his head, “grillbs, i think this kid landed on their head when they fell down here.”
Grillby stifled a laugh. “…What makes you say that?”
“if you’re being confronted by two giant dogs wielding equally giant axes, would your first instinct be to pet them?”
“…Good point.”
Sans shook his head, pinching his nasal bone. “aaand now the dogs are having an existential crisis.”
“…What?!”
“'dogs can pat other dogs!’ apparently. the kid made them think they’re a puppy or something.”
“…O-kay…?”
“i’m gonna go now, grillbs. the kid’s making their way back to pap and my–oh. huh.” Sans grimaced.
“…What?”
“do you have today’s newspaper?”
“…Yes?” Grillby picked up the newspaper, his brows knitting in confusion.
“cool. i’m going to come and grab that. i forgot i was supposed to set a trap for the human. can you set out the word search for me?”
“…Alright. Sans, what are yo–”
“thanks.” Sans smiled as he stepped out of a shimmering portal and into the empty restaurant as he slid his phone into his pocket. The skeleton walked up to the bartender and plucked the word search out of his hand. Grillby stared down at his lover, blinking, as Sans hopped up onto his usual stool to lean up and kiss Grillby’s cheek. With a grin, Sans stepped off of the stool and vanished through another portal.

Grillby blinked as he looked down at his empty hand, wondering what just happened…

 

Sans stepped out of the portal and into the snow, breathing hard as he placed the word search on the ground. The skeleton stared at it for a moment. “huh. there’s a mistake in this one.” He knelt down and traced his finger over the paper. “yup. giasfclfebrehber’s not a word on this one.” Sans shrugged as he flicked a bit of snow onto it. “whatever. it’s an unsolvable puzzle. it’s a good trap.” The skeleton stood up and looked back to the puzzle. “that’ll work. looks like it’s always been there.” He stepped back and nodded, waving a moment later as Papyrus walked up. “hey pap. human should be here soon.”
“OH GOOD. I WAS BEGINNING TO GROW WORRIED.”
“nah, bro. they’re fine. they just got a little sidetracked.” Sans peered out into the snow. “i think i see them. go ahead and get ready.”
Papyrus nodded and stepped away from his brother before striking a pose. The older skeleton couldn’t help but feel his heart swelling with delight - it was wonderful to see Papyrus acting like his old self again. The past few weeks had been trying for the boisterous skeleton…

Frisk slowly approached the two skeletons, their eyes darting nervously between the brothers as they brushed the snow and leaves out of their messy hair. They stopped a few feet short of the skeletons, the snow-covered paper between them. Papyrus cleared his throat as he threw his arm out and pointed at the human, his scarf fluttering for a moment.
“HUMAN! I HOPE YOU’RE READY FOR–” Papyrus blinked as he looked around the small clearing. “SANS!! WHERE’S THE PUZZLE!!!”
“it’s right there. on the ground. trust me. there’s no way they’re getting past this one.”

The skeletons watched as Frisk picked up the word search, the human glancing between it and the two brothers. After a moment, they placed the puzzle back on the ground and walked up to the two men, silently staring between them.

Papyrus blinked in shock. “SANS!!! THAT DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!”
“whoops. i knew i should have used today’s crossword instead.” Sans grinned.
“WHAT!? CROSSWORD!? I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT. IN MY OPINION…” Papyrus glanced to the side, “JUNIOR JUMBLE IS EASILY THE HARDEST.”
“what? really, dude? that easy-peasy word scramble? that’s for baby bones.”
“UN.” Papyrus rubbed his temples, “BELIEVABLE.” He pointed to the child. “HUMAN!!! SOLVE THIS DISPUTE!”

Frisk took a half step backwards, staring between the two, their sallow face twisted with confusion. They turned to face Sans, their mouth working silently, only to watch as Sans gave his head a discrete shake before he glanced up to his brother. Frisk blinked before pointing to Papyrus.
The tall skeleton beamed as he punched the air. “HA! HA! YES! HUMANS MUST BE VERY INTELLIGENT! IF THEY ALSO FIND JUNIOR JUMBLE SO DIFFICULT! NYEH! HEH! HEH!” Papyrus’ laughter echoed as he sped away, hurrying to prepare his next puzzle.

Sans gave his brother’s retreating back a fond smile before he stepped a little closer to the human. “thanks for saying "junior jumble” just to appease my brother. yesterday he got stumped trying to “solve” the horoscope. papyrus…“ he shook his head, laughing quietly to himself, ”…finds difficulty in interesting places.“
The human didn’t move as they stared at Sans, their mouth working silently as they pointed to the word search.
"guess you don’t like word searches, huh?” He grinned, “me neither. i’m more of a funny pages kind of guy.” Sans’ voice was kind. “go on, kid. keep walking. pap’s got more puzzles ahead for you.”
Frisk stared but slowly resumed walking, scratching their head as they went…

Once alone, Sans’ constant smile darkened as he trailed after the human, his thoughts turning grim. Even though it was wonderful to see Papyrus acting like his usual self, each interaction left him feeling more and more unsettled…

Something was going to happen soon.

Something big.

…but what?

Chapter Text

Gaster and Gaia stood together in silence as the snow drifted down around them. Gaia’s hand was resting on Gaster’s offered arm, the Scientist’s other hand resting on her own. Gaster’s gaze was fixed on the sight of the human and the skeletons whereas Gaia found herself staring up at the Scientist. She had known him for eons now - he was her first memory! She tightened her grip on his arm as she watched the snowflakes settling on his thin shoulders. The years had been kind to him, all things considered.

After all, he still had a physical form (more or less) after several billion years…

“Gaster?”
He turned, glancing down at the woman beside him, watching the clouds of her hair fluttering in an unseen breeze.
“What is on your mind, old friend?”
His eyes closed as he silently turned his head away, opening his eyes to look back at the skeletons and the human each making their way through the snowy landscape.
“You’re worried.” It was only a half statement.
"How could I not be?” He asked quietly.
“What do you mean? I have never seen you this worried before.”
“That is because this is different, dear Gaia. This is not like the past. There is too much potential for things to go wrong now. There are too many possibilities.”
“How is this different? There have been so many travesties already…”
“And you turned your gaze from all of them.” His voice hardened.
Gaia lowered her fiery gaze, staring at the flowing waters of her gown. “There was nothing I could do.”
He glanced at her again before exhaling slowly. “No… There is nothing you could have done.” His voice was quietly snide.
“Gaster! What options did I have? What could I have done? The only things I could do would have resulted in the death of billions! I do not like spilling the blood of my creations!”
“And yet almost every single one of your creations must spill blood in order to live.”
Gaia fumed as she stepped away. “It is all in balance! Death gives way to live gives way to death and all back to life!”
“Which has led us to where we stand now, watching what very well could be the en–”
“No!” She stomped an earthen foot down into the snow. “I think I know now what you see, but you must have hope! I believe in the Harbinger! I believe that they will shepherd in the new era - the era of peace! It WILL be alright, old friend! You must believe in that, too!”
Gaster shook his head as he stepped away. “No, Gaia. I will not blindly believe in this, as you appear to be doing. I will wait and see, for that is the only way to know the true outcome.”
Gaia huffed, rolling her eyes as she crossed her arms under her breasts. “Of all the mantles you have worn, old friend, this has to be the most appropriate of them all! The Scientist, dressed in robes as black as your mood!”

 

To Gaia’s great surprise, he began to laugh.

 

She watched in confusion as Gaster’s chuckle soon turned into a loud guffaw, the whip-thin man placing his hands over his sunken stomach, his eyes closing in his mirth. The woman felt herself taking a half-step backwards as Gaster wiped a dark tear from his eye as he tried to calm himself. “Oh, Gaia, dear, sweet Gaia… You have not changed at all, not since you took your first steps.”
“I–”
“It is not a bad thing.” He smiled. “You are still the dreamer with your eyes full of stars. It was always my favourite thing about you. Truly, it is why you are the most memorable of all the planets.”

Gaia could only blink in confusion as she felt herself being hugged against Gaster’s cold chest. She said nothing, though, as she returned the embrace. She had missed Gaster’s laughter; it always reminded her of the happier times when they watched her newly formed creations exploring her landscapes. The woman let out a slow breath as she relaxed more into Gaster’s embrace, her eyes closing as a smile traced over her plump lips…

 

The two sentinels walked through the snow, Gaia’s hand on Gaster’s arm, the two drifting along in comfortable silence. Ahead of them marched Papyrus, the boisterous skeleton actively glancing over his shoulder to check on his older brother as he tried to not lose the shorter skeleton amongst the snow poffs. The two watched in amusement as Papyrus shouted about Sans being a lazy bones while he marched away, oblivious to the snowballs encapsulated in blue light that were now whizzing towards him. They pelted the tall skeleton’s back and sent him stumbling while Sans quietly snickered to himself.

 

Sans stopped laughing when Papyrus’ shadow fell over him.

 

Papyrus trudged through the snow, his brother tucked under his arm. “REALLY SANS, IF YOU PUT HALF AS MUCH EFFORT INTO YOUR PATROLS AS YOU DO GOOFING OFF, YOU WOULD BE THE HEAD OF THE ROYAL GUARD BY NOW.”
“nah bro, that’s not really my thing.”
“WHAT? YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE HEAD OF THE GUARD?!”
“nope. that takes a ton of work. a skeleton.”

Sans laughed as he picked himself up out of the snow, watching as Papyrus stomped away. “worth it.”

 

Gaia’s laughter filled the silent lands as Gaster put his head in his hand, sighing. He took Gaia’s hand as he pulled her through the snow, grumbling about the antics of the two skeletons. The woman trailed along behind him, grinning as she looked to the Scientist. “Gaster?”
“Yes?”
“I just wanted you to know…”
“Know what?”
“I have a very hard time believing you had a hand in raising the skeletons.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because, old friend, they both have a sense of humour… something that you seem to be lacking.”
Gaster stopped walking and turned to stare at the woman, blinking in disbelief.
“Well, maybe you did have a sense of humor at one point…” She tapped a finger to her lip. “Maybe you gave it to–”
“Speak no more of this!” Gaster grumped as he resumed leading her through the snow. “Besides, it appears that your Harbinger has found Snowdin at long last…”

 

 

Sans could not understand this human.

Nothing they did made any sense.

They weren’t fighting. They weren’t talking. They weren’t doing… anything that he was expecting.

He watched as the child slowly walked into the quaint town, their dark eyes wide as they stared at the cheery lights within every building. He stayed out of sight as he followed the human, glancing through the window of Natalie’s shop. He could see the plump rabbit cheerfully talking to the small child and watched her handing several cinnamon rolls to the child, all nicely wrapped up in parchment paper. He saw the child counting out coins with Natalie, watched as the rabbit laughed while explaining the value of the coins. Sans clenched his fists within his hoodie, anger gnawing at him. don’t help them, natalie; we don’t know what they’re planning.

The human left the shop a few minutes later and made their way into the inn as they nibbled on a cinnamon roll, only to leave a few minutes later. They were laughing a little to themselves, their sallow face looking strangely rested. Esmerelda watched the child leaving her inn, shaking her head as her own children scampered around her feet. “What a strange little monster,” Esmerelda said as she picked up her youngest child, “come on, darlin’s, let’s get back inside. That’s enough excitement for now.”

Sans blinked as his non-existent brows knitted together in confusion. Did… Natalie and Esmerelda think the human was a monster?! Sure, the child looked rather strange - by the Void, the sickly child was as yellow as the little wyvern in the striped sweater! - but could they honestly not tell the difference between the human and their own kin?!

The answer was apparently no, no they could not. Nor, it seemed, could any other monster.

He watched as the human interacted with every single one of the townsfolk that was out on the street, watched as the small human walked up to them and waved, their dark eyes large and curious. Everyone greeted the little child with a smile and would talk to them, not seeming to care that the human didn’t respond. The lack of response wasn’t entirely unusual, either; there were plenty of monsters that couldn’t communicate verbally. Sans looked down to his own hands, idly flexing his fingers as he quickly signed the alphabet. Every monster was taught sign language during their childhood as a way to help out their fellow monster. He shook his head and resumed walking through Snowdin, politely returning any smiles and waves that came his way as he followed the human…

He felt cold dread sink into his bones as he saw the human approaching Grillby’s restaurant, felt his body shaking as the human put a hand on the door, pushing it open. It was already bad enough that the human had seen and interacted with his brother, but for the human to be near Grillby?!

The skeleton ducked around behind the back of the restaurant and stepped through the unlocked door - he knew Grillby never kept the kitchen door locked during working hours. He made his way into the kitchen and stood near the entrance to the restaurant proper, trying to calm his frantic mind and reassure himself that with the Dogs in the restaurant that nothing would happen to any of the monsters - or Grillby. Still, his hands trembled as he peeked through the doorway, trying to see where the bartender was…

 

Grillby raised his head as the door to the restaurant was pushed open. His eyes narrowed behind his glasses as he saw the small figure, his hands tightening on the glass he was cleaning. That was the human. He felt his flames growing hotter, darker, as he watched them walking into his restaurant. He felt the blood of his ancestors boiling within his body as the human made their way to the counter. His entire childhood had been spent in training for how to disable and kill humans in order to protect King and Country. And now there was a human in front of him.

He did not care that the human was a child.

They were still a human.

They were still a threat.

…and threats should be eliminated.

 

 

The drunken duck raised her sleepy head as she felt herself growing hotter and hotter. She stared at the now-red bartender, rubbing her beak. Grillby was red. Why was Grillby red? Grillby was orange! She blinked as she looked down to the little monster that was attempting to clamber onto a barstool. She glanced between Grillby and the little monster, not liking the way Grillby’s flames were threatening to ignite the ceiling. The child sat on the stool as they stared up at Grillby in utter fascination, a hand extended towards them. The duck heard the crackling of Grillby’s flames growing louder, saw the man’s mouth set into a fine line, as she cleared her throat. “Grillbs doesn’t speak very much,” she said quickly, “so I translate for him!”
The human turned and looked up to the duck but they kept pointing to the bartender and to the glass he held in his hands.
“Oh, uh, Grillbs said he’d offer you a glass of water, but he doesn’t touch the stuff.” She said kindly.
The little human lowered their hand and turned away, sliding off of the stool and walking out of the restaurant…

Grillby looked to the duck after the human left and smiled faintly as he returned to his normal orange glow. “…What would you like to drink? It’s on the house.”

 

In the kitchen, Sans heaved a sigh of relief before he ran out of the restaurant, ready to resume his trailing of the child…

 

 

Gaster and Gaia watched as the human left the small town, making their way east. Gaia was humming quietly as she walked with Gaster, her simple tune as timeless as the winds. Gaster found himself smiling as he listened to the woman, knowing her tune was her part within the Harmony of the Spheres. He would never admit to it, but her refrain was his favourite.
“Oh dear,” Gaia put a hand on Gaster’s arm, “it seems that Papyrus is going to try to stop the human.”
“Indeed.” His smile faded. “I had a feeling this would happen.”
“Are you worried, old friend?”
Gaster turned to face Gaia, looking into her amber eyes. He placed a hand on her cheek and gave her a very small smile. “No.” He lied. “I am not worried anymore.”
She leaned into the touch for a moment, believing in her friend’s words, before she stepped away. Her gaze returned to Papyrus as she tapped her lip. “I feel like I should enhance this situation a bit.”
“Oh?”
“I think a cloud of fog would be a nice touch, so he’s shrouded in mist for when the human approaches. I think he would appreciate it.”
Gaster felt himself smiling. “He would indeed.”
Gaia closed her eyes as she brought her hands to her mouth, blowing thick clouds of fog through her cupped hands…

The two watched as the human stepped closer to the skeleton, watched as Papyrus slid into a fighting stance as he gave his monologue, watched as the human began to jump and dodge the bones being flung at them.
“They are surprisingly agile.” Gaia was impressed.
“Indeed.”
“The blue attack is fascinating. Truly, it is. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“Indeed. Blue suits the human more than yellow does.”
“Gaster…”

They continued to watch the fighting, watched as the human grew more confident as they avoided the onslaught of bones. The two shared in a smile as they watched Papyrus’ antics, laughing when they watched the skeleton realize he didn’t have ears. The fight, it seemed, was turning out to be more of a dramatic comedy than actual fighting, filled with twists and turns. Speaking of twists and turns…

Neither Gaster or Gaia was prepared for the human to flirt with the boisterous skeleton.

And they definitely were not prepared for the skeleton to agree to a date with the human.

Gaia was crying with laughter as Gaster slapped a hand over his eyes, the Scientist mumbling something in an ancient tongue, his face turned up to the distant heavens.
“He’s got such high standards!” Gaia clapped her hands in glee as Gaster’s grumbling grew more frustrated…

 

From his vantage point behind the trees, Sans watched as his brother fought with the human. “c'mon pap, stop playing around. just knock them out and be done with it.” He gripped the bark of the tree as the human artfully leapt over a series of bones. “really, bro? you could at least make the height of the bones random…” The bark began to crack under his grip.

 

Unfortunately, Papyrus did not hear his brother’s words.

The jovial skeleton continued to announce every single attack, continued to advise the now-blue human when they stumbled. Papyrus was overjoyed to be the one challenging the human now, fighting against them. He just knew that he would be accepted into the Royal Guard after he captured them! Undyne would have no choice but to accept him into the Royal Guard now! He would be the Hero of the Underground! He’d be the one to capture the Human, the final Soul, so he could free all of Monsterkind from their underground home! With glee, Papyrus struck a pose as he announced that he was about to use his special attack.

Sans felt a malicious grin cross his face, uncaring that Papyrus had called this attack out. Surely the human couldn’t dodge th–

–at was a dog. Eating the special attack.

Sans dropped his head against the tree.

 

 

The fighting carried on, but it was clear that both the human and Papyrus were beginning to flag. Summoning up his remaining strength, Papyrus launched bone after bone at the human, femurs flying faster and faster. Soon, very soon, a veritable forest of bones lay before them.
Gaia gripped Gaster’s arm as she stared on in horror. “He’s going to kill them! Gaster! Do something!”
Gaster placed a hand on Gaia’s own as he raised the other, keeping the child aloft as they jumped. The child was motionless as they flew through the air, Gaia realized with a frown.
“Did… you just freeze them in place?!”
“Yes.”
“Why?!”
“You said do something, but you didn’t specify what. This was the easiest.” Gaster released the child as they touched down on the other side of the massive femur, completely safe.
Gaia rubbed her forehead before turning away. “Well, it worked. Papyrus seems to be sparing the human now. Come, Gaster, let us continue on.”
The Scientist watched Papyrus for a few moments, listening to the mostly one-sided conversation between Papyrus and the human. He smiled as Papyrus sped away, amused as the skeleton quite literally ran through the air, before he followed after Gaia…

 

 

Sans sank down in relief at the base of the tree, his chest heaving with a huge sigh. His brother was alright. The human had never laid a hand on him… Sans closed his eyes as he relaxed under the snow-covered tree, his hands slowly unclenching. His brother was alright. He exhaled slowly before pushing himself up, slowly walking out from the forest, looking for the human. He watched as the small child picked their way through the snow as they headed back to Snowdin. He frowned a little but slowly followed, wondering what the child was doing.

The tired human made their way back to the inn, yawning as they stumbled through the front door. Esmerelda smiled kindly to the strange little monster as they placed a few coins down on the counter, laughing as she handed over the key. “Now are y'all gon’ nap for twenty seconds or are y'actually gon’ stay the night?” She laughed as she ruffled the little monster’s hair. Sans watched through the window as the human scampered up the stairs. He let out another sigh of relief as he made his way back towards the home he shared with his brother, pulling out his phone as he went. The skeleton tapped out a quick message to Grillby as he walked, smiling as he saw his lover’s reply. Content with the knowledge that Grillby would be spending the night, the skeleton resumed walking with a smile on his face, one that stayed in place even as he fell face-first into his bed…

 

 

Grillby unlocked the door to Sans and Papyrus’ home, closing and locking the door behind him. He placed his shoes and coat by the door, humming to himself as he made his way upstairs. He gently knocked on the skeleton’s door before letting himself inside, pausing in the doorway at the sight of the sleeping skeleton; his flames glowed with a warm, contented light as he crept closer, kneeling down beside the bed to kiss the skeleton awake. “…Good evening, Sans.”
“mm… hey, grillbs,” Sans rubbed a tired eye, “you’re here earlier than i expected.”
“…The restaurant was empty. I didn’t feel like staying open for a few more hours with an empty building, not when I could be here with you.”
Sans smiled more as Grillby undressed before crawling into bed beside him. “won’t that hurt your numbers though?”
“…No. It was a slow day. It would’ve been more damaging to the bottom line to keep the restaurant open.” Grillby slid his arms around Sans’ waist, letting out a content sigh as he closed his eyes. “…I needed this.”
“yeah?"
”…Yes. Seeing the human today, well, rattled me.“
"you made a joke.”
“…Yes, I did, but the point still sans.”
“another joke? wow, you really must be unsettled.”
“…I wanted to kill the human.” He whispered. “…I felt myself losing control of my temper, of myself. All the years of Magmas’ and Grandfather Vulcar’s teachings came rushing back to me. Humans are a danger and a threat and they should be eliminated.” Grillby shuddered, his flames darkening. “…It was all I can think about. I couldn’t even speak. The world just went red. I–”
“hush,” Sans said gently, “it’s okay. it’s over now. we’re safe. everything’s okay. even pap’s okay and he fought the human earlier. the human didn’t even fight back."
”…What?“
"yeah, they fought for awhile. pap just kept throwing attacks and the human just kept dodging.” Sans sighed. “i don’t know what to do about this, grillbs. i mean, it’s just…”
“…So unusual.”
“yeah.” The skeleton smiled as he felt Grillby pulling him a little closer. He turned over in his lover’s arms, smiling as Grillby leaned down to kiss him…

 

The two pulled away as they heard the front door being thrown open. Sans groaned a little as he and Grillby sat up, both fetching their clothes. “pap’s home.”
“…Indeed.” Grillby drew on his pants, tucking his shirt into his slacks. “…Who is he talking to?”

Sans froze halfway through putting on his own teeshirt, his eyes wide. “stay here. i’ll go check.” please don’t be your mysterious friend… He crept to the door and peeked out, blanching at the sight of Papyrus standing in the foyer with the human. The skeleton closed the door and walked back to his bed, sitting down next to his boyfriend. “pap’s here with the human for their date.”
“…What?!”
“not so loud.” He sighed. “when they were fighting, the human started flirting with him. pap… then said they would go on a date.” He rubbed his forehead. “yeah, i don’t get it either, but here we are.”
“…So what are we going to do?”
“well,” Sans gave a grin to his half-dressed lover, only to be met with a frown, “i guess we’ll just wait for them to leave. i don’t think pap knows you’re here, but he never comes in here anyway. apparently it’s too dirty for him.” Grillby opened his mouth, only for Sans to frown. “don’t comment.”

Grillby closed his mouth with a grin.

The two lovers relaxed on the bed, occasionally exchanging a gentle kiss and caress, as they listened to Papyrus showing the human around the home he shared with Sans. Grillby bit his lip as Papyrus explained the Pet Rock to the human while Sans put his hands over his eyes. “seriously pap?”
“…Hush, he’s having fun.”
“THAT’S THE TRASHCAN! FEEL FREE TO VISIT IT ANY TIME!”
Grillby burst out laughing, rolling onto his stomach as he tried to muffle his laughter. Sans was groaning loudly now, pressing a pillow onto his face. “pap… you don’t show people the trashcan!” The skeleton looked over at his boyfriend, lightly nudging him with his foot. “stop laughing! they’ll hear you!”
“…I can’t… help it!” Grillby wheezed, his shoulders shaking with each laugh.
“IMPRESSED? I INCREASED THE HEIGHT OF MY SINK. NOW I CAN FIT MORE BONES UNDER IT. TAKE A LOOKSY!” Silence. “WHAT!?!? CATCTH THAT MEDDLING CANINE!” The two men heard the sounds of scampering feet and paws.
“i have to do it.”
“…Sans!”
The skeleton ran to his door, grabbing a trombone.
“CURSES!!!”

Sans threw open the door as he brought the trombone to his mouth, grinning as he began to play. He ducked back into his room a moment later, placing his trombone down as he laughed alongside the fiery bartender. "SANS! STOP PLAGUING MY LIFE WITH INCIDENTAL MUSIC!!!”

The two men hidden away in the bedroom howled with laughter, causing Papyrus to pause. He glanced up to Sans’ bedroom and saw the flickering lights, his eyes growing wide. He didn’t know Grillby was over! He saw the human making their way towards Sans’ bedroom, fascinated by the flickering lights…

 

Sans and Grillby froze, their laughter stopping, as they heard the door handle rattling. The handle rattled for a few more moments before the human walked away, stepping into Papyrus’ bedroom, listening to Papyrus as he described his action figures. The two men sat in silence, listening to the rest of the date. At first they were apprehensive and worried, unsure of what exactly was going to happen. After all, the human was alone with Papyrus now… what if this was their plan all along, to get the skeleton alone before they attacked?! Sans was nervously drumming his fingers against his leg, his frantic breathing calming as Grillby rubbed his back. The bartender was also nervous, for much of the same reasons, but neither man spoke as they listened…

 

By the time the date was over and the human had left, Grillby had nearly laughed himself to the point he was nothing but ashes and Sans was dying of second-hand embarrassment. “…At least,” Grillby wiped away his cinder tears, “Papyrus let the human down gently!” He said before he dissolved back into laughter.
Sans was sitting with his head in his hands, a distinct bluish tint colouring most of his head. “what did i just listen to…”
“…A date that made our first date look positively normal.” Grillby rubbed his lover’s back. “…Come now, Sans, it wasn’t that bad. And besides, we got to know the human a little better. I think they’re just an innocent soul.”
“are you trying to convince yourself or me?”
Grillby sighed. “…Both.”
“that’s what i was afraid of.” He groused as he leaned against his boyfriend. “well, we’ll just have to see how things go. i’ll keep an eye on them, like i promised.” He closed his eyes as Grillby held him.
“…I’ll help you however I can.”
Sans looked up to his boyfriend and smiled as he hugged the older man, feeling his worries ebbing away…

 

 

Gaster and Gaia followed the Harbinger as they moved to the east, each step taking them closer to their destination….

Chapter Text

Buttercups.

He loved buttercups.

He loved the way the flowers smelled. He loved the way the flowers felt under his fingers. He loved the way the flowers filled his underground garden with sunshine. He loved the way they reminded him of his only true child.

He hated the way they always reminded him of his only true child’s death.

Asriel had made his way home with the human child’s body. He was battered and bloodied, barely alive. The human child sagged in his arms, the weight of their death far heavier than the weight of their small form. Asriel had carried the child back from the surface, back through the barrier, back to the throne room. His son had placed the human down on the flowers before he sank to his knees. Toriel screamed as she ran towards her son, tripping over her feet in her haste. Asgore remained on his throne, rooted to the spot by sheer agony. He heard Toriel’s frantic whisperings to her child, heard her begging for him to hang on just another moment, heard her say that she would help her baby boy… but Asriel could sustain himself no longer. His body faded to ash, spreading across Toriel’s lap and the buttercups that surrounded her.

 

Asgore still woke in a cold sweat on some nights as Toriel’s screams rang in his ears.

 

He knelt down by a large patch of flowers and quietly sighed, the burdens of his heart creased his furred face. He had spent so many years alone in this throne room. Yes, he had soldiers and servants and the noble families surrounding him… but they were not his family. They would never be his family, no matter how much he pretended they were.

He had tried to raise Undyne as his own child, had tried his best to make her into the daughter he had always wanted. The young woman was the child of two of his soldiers - soldiers that had lost their lives in service to the Crown. He distinctly remembered General Magmas standing in front of the young child and handing her the helm worn by her father. Behind her stood the urns that held her parents, the burnished golden urns resting within the Wall of Heroes. He remembered watching as the young girl tried to bite back her tears, struggling to hold the heavy helmet. General Magmas had stayed with her for an hour after the funeral, the older man keeping a silent vigil alongside the heartbroken child. His stern face softened as he gave her his kerchief, his own hellfire dampening in mourning. Magmas turned on his heel and walked away; he had wounded soldiers to check on…

 

Asgore carefully pulled a weed out of the ground with the roots intact.

 

He had approached Undyne after General Magmas had left, his eyes clouded. The King knelt before the child and placed a furred hand under her chin, giving her a small, reassuring smile. The young girl tried to salute as her parents had taught her… only for her stoic facade to fall as quickly as her tears. She threw her arms around the tall monster and cried freely, her entire body convulsing with her sobs. Asgore let her cry until she had fallen asleep against his shoulder. He did not care that he had spent hours sitting on the ground with the young orphaned girl; she had needed him… and that was more important than anything else that he could be doing. He gathered the sleeping girl into his arms and took her into the Castle, into the bedroom that had once belonged to his own son. Undyne was quietly tucked into bed, her father’s helm placed on the nightstand beside her. Asgore put a soft toy onto the bed before he cast a simple flame spell; a small ball of fire flickered within a glass jar, throwing a warm glow over the room. He smiled slightly as he left the room, his decision made.

 

A second weed joined the first.

 

Undyne’s childhood flew before his old eyes, the child growing as quickly as the weeds before him. Between Asgore’s tutelage and General Magmas’ training, the young woman quickly became a fearsome soldier - one of his best. She soared through the ranks of the Royal Army, her eyes focused on the position of Lieutenant General; she wanted to serve alongside General Magmas until she was old enough to become General herself. General Magmas humoured her, but they both knew the position would be given to Grillbert, to uphold centuries of tradition.

 

Asgore remembered, quite clearly, the day that Magmas had brought Grillbert to the Castle, had announced that his son was ready to swear his life to servitude, just like his father and grandfathers before him. The king, flanked by Undyne and another soldier, glanced between General and son as his brow furrowed. He had known Grillbert was almost blind, had known about it for years - he had seen the young man stumbling around the castle for most of his life when the young man thought he was alone. With a heavy heart, he declared that Grillbert was unfit to serve within the Royal Army.

 

A third weed was plucked from the warm earth.

 

The arguments with General Magmas lasted for well over a month. It was the first time the General had ever truly raised his voice against his King. Had Asgore been anyone else, he would have been worried, but he knew that at Magmas’ very core, the General was loyal to the Crown and to the word of his King and Commander. With a heavy heart, both Grillbert and Magmas accepted Asgore’s ruling. Only months later, General Magmas saluted Undyne as she took up the position as Head of the Royal Guard. To honour the centuries of loyal service of the Feuvant family, King Asgore changed both the name of the army and the title of General; gone away was the Royal Army and its General. Undyne was now Head of the Royal Guard. It was a cold comfort for Grillbert, Magmas and all the Feuvant ancestors…

 

The pile of weeds grew larger as Asgore’s thoughts traveled.

 

As vicious as the arguments were with General Magmas, they could never hold a candle to the fights he had with Queen Toriel before she fled for parts unknown. It was true that he only had a few arguments with his the Queen - far fewer than what he had with General Magmas – but their words echoed throughout the entire castle, their tempers matched only by the flames that burned around them. Their final argument had been their worst, had been the source of decades worth of nightmares…

 

Toriel had stood before him, her purple robes covered in the ashes of her son, the dead human held tightly in her arms. “I am taking my child,” she sobbed, “and I am leaving! I will give them their rest far away from you and your hatred!”
“Your child?!” Asgore stared in disbelief at the sight of his wife’s dusty robes. “Your child lies dead between us, his ashes spread across the flowers! You have no other child to bury! He was our only–”
“NO!” She screamed, cradling the dead human closer to her bosom. “Two children, Asgore! We have two children!”
“HAD!” He shouted. “And both of them are dead, Toriel! Because of the humans!”
“No!” Toriel shook her head as she cried into Chara’s hair. “It was a mistake, Asgore! All of this was just a mistake! Why can’t you see that?! Your hatred of the humans has blinded you!”
“The only one blind here is you!” His voice echoed through the courtyard. “Asriel is dead, Toriel! He is dead! The humans murdered him! They didn’t even ask about the human - they killed him on sight! ON SIGHT!”
“It was a misunderstanding!” Her voice wavered as she clung tighter to Chara’s body.
“Damn you to the Void!” He finally stood up from his throne. “If I am blinded by hatred, then you are blinded by naivety! The humans are dangerous, Toriel! They have sealed us down here because they are afraid of us! They have killed our Prince - OUR SON! They will not befriend us, Toriel, no matter the kindness we show!”
“NO!” She raised her tear-stained face and met her husband’s gaze, her once-kind eyes narrowed to slits. “I will take no more of this! I am taking my child and I am leaving! If you so damn me to the Void, then I will ask the gods to create a new abyss so that I may spend eternity away from you!”

 

With Chara’s lifeless body in her arms and only the clothes on her back, Queen Toriel stormed out of the castle and out of Asgore’s life.

 

Asgore looked down at the large pile of weeds before him, his hands trembling as he slowly gathered them. The hours had slipped away from him as the memories ravaged his mind. The artificial sunlight that spread through the Underground was dimming, their own night approaching. He missed the surface’s sun, missed how its warmth felt upon his sorrow-lined face. He vaguely remembered ordering a sun to be created after the Core was built, but he could not remember the name of the one who had created it. He only had the faint memories of someone dressed in robes of black with a face of white. Asgore pushed himself to his feet as he walked to the edge of his throne room, carefully disposing of the weeds into a small compost pile he had made. After Toriel had left, Asgore had ordered the marble floors of the throne room to be removed and for more dirt to be piled on. He had worked fervently to preserve the buttercups that were now nourished by Asriel’s ashes, desperate to maintain the only link he had to his old life. His efforts were rewarded; a thick carpet of buttercups spread over his throne room, the cheery yellow blooms helping the heartbroken king force a smile onto his face.

King Dreemur returned to his throne and sank heavily into the plush cushions as he stared over his empty court. To think, just a few years ago, this room had been a hive of activity. Noble families gathered and discussed the various aspects of life in the Underground while his most trusted soldiers watched the throne room. He remembered watching dear Prince Asriel playing the simple games of youth with Chara and the other young monsters; the sight of Chara laughing with his son made him hope that, one day, he and his people may return to the Surface.

 

His hopes were soon dashed.

 

…just like Asriel…

 

“My King? I come with the latest news about the human.”

 

Asgore raised his head from his hand, sitting up straight on his throne. Undyne was kneeling before him, her crested head bowed. He cleared his throat before he spoke. “Stand, Undyne, and deliver your report.”
“Of course, my King.” She stood straight and removed her helm, shaking out her long red topknot. “The human has made it through Waterfall. They were more cunning than I expected for one so small.”
“Did you–”
“No, my King. They still live. They are a little bruised, but I made sure to keep them alive. I will not kill them.”
“Did they attack?”
“No, my King. They only dodged. It was peculiar.” She did not want to admit to the fact that the human had saved her life in Hotland. “I even gave them a weapon, to see what they would do–”
“That was very dangerous, Undyne.” Asgore’s voice was stern. “Why did you run that risk?”
“They are just a child, my King. A sickly one wearing a dusty tutu.”
“I do not care what they are wearing. I do not want you to do that again. Do not assist them. Do not arm them. From now on, I only want you to observe them.”
“Of course, my King.” She bowed her head.

 

He sat back on his throne and stared at the woman before him. His stern gaze softened into a half smile as Undyne looked up to him.
“My King?” Her head was slightly tilted in confusion.
“It is nothing, Undyne. Only a memory.”
“A memory?”
His smile softened. “Come, sit.”
Undyne walked forward and sat down beside Asgore’s throne, looking up to him through her remaining eye. She smiled as Asgore gently stroked her hair.
“The years have passed by so swiftly. It feels like only yesterday you were a small child that struggled to hold a training pike.”
She said nothing as Asgore continued to stroke her hair, her eye closing as she, too, lost herself to her memories.
“I am very proud of you, Undyne. You have grown into a marvelous woman.”
She felt her cheeks darken slightly. “You taught me well.”
Asgore chuckled slightly as her head came to rest against his knee. “There are only so many things that I can teach. I taught you how to fight and how to hold a spear… I did not teach you how to become the woman that you are.”
Undyne said nothing as she smiled, her cheeks flushed with pride…

 

Sleep did not come easily to Asgore on that night.

The King lay in his four poster bed and stared up at the canopy as his unhappy memories swirled about him. He recalled every argument that he ever had with his former wife, every encounter he ever had with Chara that left him feeling uneasy, every human that had fallen into the Underground. There were seven humans that had fallen since Asriel’s death. Six had been killed in the courtyard outside of his bedroom window, four of which were by his own hand. Their bodies were entombed within one of the dungeons of the Castle, their souls encased in glass and hidden away from the rest of his Court. He alone held the key to the souls, even though he did not want to.

He did not want any more bloodshed.

He did not want any more fighting.

…he only wanted to free his people…

Asgore rolled onto his side and closed his eyes as he shivered. Each of the dead humans had been different, so radically different. The very first human that had died had been, by far, the most dangerous of the fallen ones. He was an older man, armed to the teeth with pistols and revolvers. By the time he had been captured, he had run out of ammunition and was sporting several vicious wounds, his clothing caked with the ashes of dead monsters. The man refused to surrender, shouting that he would have the King’s head for the death of the human child. Asgore sighed in frustration as the man’s shouts rang in his ears. The human hadn’t listened to a word Asgore had said; he had only been focused on accusing the monster king for slaughtering the human child. Asgore’s hands gripped the blankets as he remembered the sound the human’s head made as it rolled across the buttercups. General Magmas had been the one to decapitate the human, following the orders of his King. Although Asgore was happy to eliminate the threat to his people, he knew that it would only worsen the situation with the Surface - and Toriel.

 

He had not heard a word from Toriel in decades. Did she know of all the dead humans? What would she think of it? Of him?

 

Did she think him bloodthirsty and blinded by hatred, joyfully slaughtering left and right?

 

“I only want to free my people,” He whispered to the shadows. “I am their King. I must act in their best interest, even if it is not my own.” He drew the blankets tighter around his large body. “Their Queen has forsaken her own people and has robbed them of their hope, just minutes after their Prince died…” He sighed. “Toriel, I wish you could see the work I have done to change the minds of the Underground. They no longer want to kill humans. They capture them. They bring them to me. They do not harm them. I condemn violence, Toriel.” He rolled onto his back again as he stared up at the heavy velvet curtains. “You will never see it, though. You fled your post, your people… you fled from your entire life. You left alone me to lead our people, to bring hope to them after they lost the human child, their Prince, their Queen. You left when things grew difficult. You left and you never looked back.” Asgore sat up, his blankets falling to his naked waist. “When you became my Queen, you swore an Oath to myself and the monsters. You broke your oath to the monsters and your promise to me, Toriel.” He sighed. “You are Queen no more.” The King left his bed and drew on a robe as he walked to the windows overlooking his gardens. “I know that you hate me for what I have done, but I am only doing what a King must do. I will return hope to our people and I will lead them back to the Surface. I will lead them back to the world where we belong. I do not want war, but we must be freed from this prison. We were never meant to live underground.” Asgore stared at the buttercups in his courtyard. “If you hate me, so be it.” The man closed the curtain.

“At least my people will be free.”

The King walked away from the window and made his way into the hall, his bare feet whispering over the polished marble floors. He strode into the library and straight to a small alcove. With a wave of a glowing hand, the far wall of the nook swung inward and revealed a small staircase. Asgore squeezed his way inside and up the stairs, his expression grim as he unlocked a heavy metal door. At the top of the landing stood seven plinths, each sporting a tall glass ampule. Six shining souls stared back at him, each boasting their own colour, indicative of the lives of the deceased humans. Asgore knelt down before the souls, lowering his head. “Forgive me.” He said quietly. “I am only trying to free my people.”

One of the souls, a cheery yellow, dimmed in sad understanding…

Asgore sat alone in his throne room, staring out over his field of flowers, his once-bright eyes tired. The human was drawing ever closer to the Capital, right to the castle itself. Undyne was following his orders of maintaining her distance but keeping tabs on the child; she would send him reports every three hours on the progress of the child. He knew that at this rate, the child would be here before sundown…

 

Sans stood alone in the corridor that led to the castle, his eyes downcast. The human had made it here. They had avoided hurting every monster, had shown mercy despite all of the violence that they themselves had faced. It confused him. He and Grillby had spent hours talking about this, trying to understand the human’s thoughts and actions. It just didn’t make sense, Grillby would always say as he swirled a few fingers of bourbon around his glass. Sans would nod quietly, nursing his own glass of amaretto, the two sitting in their usual spots at the bar. Humans were generally violent by nature; why was this particular human refusing to attack?
“maybe they’re too weak? it’s pretty obvious they’re sick.”
“…Maybe.” Grillby shook his head. “…It does not make sense, though. I remember Father telling me about the first human that had fallen while he trained me. The human was violent, so very violent. He had killed dozens of monsters as he made his way to the capital. Magmas told me of the other humans that had fallen. Even the children had put up a fight.”
“probably because they were scared and knew they were probably going to die.”
Grillby paused, lowering his glass of bourbon. “…It sounds terrible when you say it like that.”
Sans chuckled despite himself. “yeah, well, i generally don’t like murder, ‘specially when there’s kids involved.”
“…Neither do I.”
“so then why do you always murder me when we play poker?”
The bartender chuckled slightly. “…Because, Sans, it is one of the very few puzzles that I am good at.”
“poker isn’t a puzzle…”
Grillby smiled. “…You always make it seem that way, you know. How many times have you asked for me to explain the rules?”
Sans rolled his eyes. “fair enough… i still think your ledgers are a puzzle, though.”
“…They really are not that difficult. I’ll have you sit with me next time I–”

 

Sans raised his head as he heard footsteps approaching, the memories of his conversations fading in an instant. He took a steadying breath as the human stopped in front of him, their small body covered in a strange array of ramshackle armour - it looked like it had been put together by paws, rather than hands. Sans turned his white eyed gaze up to the human’s own dark eyes, his eternal smile grim…

 

Gaster and Gaia stood arm in arm as they stared at the skeleton and the human. “So you finally made it,” Gaia whispered. “The end of your journey is at hand.” Her body radiated with pride. “In a few moments, you will meet the king. Together, you will determine the future of this world.”
“That’s then.” Gaster’s voice was firm. “Now. You will be judged.” Gaia’s gaze swung up to Gaster’s dour face, her eyes worried. She said nothing as the Scientist continued. “You will be judged for your every action…” Gaster’s eyes narrowed…

 

“…you never gained any LOVE.” Sans exhaled slowly, glancing off to the side. “‘course, that doesn’t mean you’re completely innocent or naive. just that you kept a certain tenderness in your heart.” The skeleton met the human’s gaze. “no matter the struggles or the hardships you faced, you strived to do the right thing. you refused to hurt anyone. even when you ran away, you did it with a smile. you never gained LOVE, but you gained love. does that make sense?” He chuckled slightly. “maybe not.” Sans looked to his feet for a moment, thinking through his next words. “now, you’re about to face the greatest challenge of your entire journey. your actions here…” He hesitated, wondering what would be the best thing to say… “will determine the fate of the entire world. if you refuse to fight, asgore will take your soul and destroy humanity. but if you kill asgore and go home, monsters will remain trapped underground. what will you do?” He stared intently at the human, watching their reactions. He was not entirely surprised to see that the human simply stood their ground, albeit their face was a little paler than before.

 

Sans chuckled slightly, trying to lighten the mood for his own sake. “well, if i were you, i would’ve thrown in the towel by now. but you didn’t get this far by giving up, did you? that’s right, you have something called 'determination.’ so as long as you hold on, so long as you do what’s in your heart, i believe you can do the right thing.” He gave the human a small smile. “alright. we’re all counting on you, kid. good luck.” He winked before stepping into the shadows, vanishing from sight.

 

He sighed as he reappeared in his bedroom, falling onto his messy bed as his happy demeanor vanished. What even /was/ the right thing? He had partially lied to the human about Asgore. Why? why did i do that? do i want them to die? it’d give asgore the final soul he needs, but that means my promise would be broken… Sans hugged himself, burying his face into the white fur of his hoodie. He breathed in the lingering scents of Grillby’s bedroom as he tried to calm his roiling mind. He didn’t even know if his mysterious friend was still alive…

 

“Good luck.”

 

Asgore held his watering can with one hand as the rustling behind him stopped, slipping his phone back into the pocket of his robes with the other. Undyne has let him know that the human had just entered the castle…

Prepare yourself, Asgore.

The King began to hum a soft tune, forcing a smile onto his furry muzzle, as he pretended to be the happy King that his people knew and loved. He knew it was the human that stood behind him. “Oh? Is someone there?” He knew the answer already. “Just a moment. I have almost finished watering these flowers.” He stared down at his feet for a moment, steadying his nerves. “Here we are!” The King turned and smiled, staring down at the human child. “Howdy! How can I…” He paused, stepping backwards. No, no. Please, no. No… He turned away as he felt the urge to weep.

 

The child looked like Chara.

 

Chara is dead, Asgore. This is not your child, nor is this your Chara.

 

“Oh.” He faced the child for a moment before sighing, his gaze sweeping over his courtyard. “I so badly want to say, 'would you like a cup of tea?’ But… you know how it is.” He took a few steps away from the human, staring at the monster-made sunlight on his flowers. “Nice day today, huh? Birds are singing, flowers are blooming… Perfect weather for a game of catch.” He sighed again, unable to keep up his happy face. “You know what we must do. When you are ready, come into the next room.” He turned and walked away, pausing for only a moment as he stared at Toriel’s throne, at the dusty sheet that covered it. He gave himself a mental shake and walked onward, flexing his fingers as his smile thinned into a line.

 

He heard the child walking behind him, following him into the darkness.

 

“How tense,” he spoke mostly to himself, “just think of it like… a visit to the dentist.” Just another visit to the dentist, Asgore… not the execution of a child… He did not look to the human as he spoke, nor did he look at them as he walked away. He stopped before a dark doorway, staring into the shadows. “Are you ready? If you are not, I understand. I am not ready either.” I am never ready to slaughter another living creature. He walked through the doorway, his smile grim as he stared at the small sliver of natural sunlight at the end of the hallway. “This is the barrier.” He heard a small gasp from behind him. “This is what keeps us all trapped underground. If… If by chance you have any unfinished business, please do what you must.”

 

Asgore heaved a sigh of relief as the child turned and fled.

 

Frisk ran from the room and fell to their hands and knees in the throne room, sobbing as they dug their fingers into the soil. All of this was wrong! So very wrong! They didn’t want to die!

They didn’t want to die!

They didn’t want to die!

I want to go home! I want to go back to Grampa Ernest and Gramma Imogene! I just want to go home! Their small hands beat against the earth, crushing the buttercups, their sobs wracking their tiny form. I want to go home! I WANT TO GO HOME! I want to go back to Toriel! I want to go home! I want to be safe! I DON’T WANT TO DIE! I DON’T WANT TO DIE! I DON–

 

Sans shot up in bed, his entire body drenched in a cold sweat. He was breathing hard as he frantically scanned over the room. He was alone in his bed, in his dark bedroom, in the home that he shared with his brother. He heard Papyrus snoring from the next room. He grabbed his phone and fumbled with it, only to drop it with a gasp. With disbelief in his eyes, he stared down at the glowing screen, panicking as he reread the date on the phone. this is just a dream, sans, you are just dreaming right now…

 

Gaster turned his cold gaze to Gaia, his eyes narrowing. She had placed her hands over her mouth as she slowly shook her head, her eyes wide and horrified. “No…” She whispered. “This… wasn’t supposed to happen…”
“Gaia…?” His voice was as dark as his eyes.

 

Frisk smiled to themselves as they woke up in their plush bed, breathing in the scent of a freshly made butterscotch pie, the warm blankets tucked to their chin…

Chapter Text

Gaia’s hands were over her mouth as she slowly shook her head, her eyes wide and horrified. She could see the date on Sans’ phone as she and Gaster stared into the dark bedroom, their eyes drawn to the glowing screen. The weeks… were gone. Or, rather, they simply hadn’t happened yet.
“Gaia,” Gaster’s voice was firm, “tell me that what I am thinking happened did not just happen.”
“I… I can’t,” she whispered, “b-because it’s true.”
“How did they manage it?”
“I don’t know, Gaster.” She couldn’t bring herself to look at him - or at Sans.

 

The young skeleton was quickly moving through his home, his eyes bewildered and searching. He found himself in the kitchen. His small hands tore through the refrigerator, staring nigh-horrified at the contents. There was nothing in there from the previous night. There were no leftovers from Grillby’s. There were no containers of spaghetti from the latest round of semi-inedible concoctions. All the dates on the containers were wrong.

Sans sat down in front of the open fridge, shaking his head in disbelief as nervous laughter escaped from his eternal smile…

Gaster tore his eyes away from Sans, trying to ignore the stirring of emotions. The young man was suffering; what could he do? There is plenty that you can do, Gaster, but should you do it is the better question. He turned his dark eyes to Gaia, watching as the woman hurried to check on her harbinger. He could hear her frantic whisperings as she knelt down beside the child’s bed, her earthen hands brushing the child’s hair away from their sallow face.
“Oh, my child,” she lamented, “what have you done? Why? Why have you done this? You were so close, my child. Did you not feel it? The hearts of the monsters were with you, beating as one. You were so close to freeing everyone…”
“I warned you not to use a child.” Gaster’s voice was cool as he strode up behind her.
“No! I will stand by this little one - I believe in them!”
He folded his hands behind his back, staring down at the kneeling woman. “How did they have the power to travel through time?”
“I…”
“Gaia…”
She took her hands away from Frisk’s bed and placed them in her lap, her head lowered, “I… I helped them.”
He closed his eyes, exhaling slowly. “I had suspected as much. Tell me what you did.”
“I do not have to explain myself to you, Gaster.”
“Gaia, you know I do not normally interfere with your affairs,” he began to pace, “but, for the first time, there are more than your creations that are at risk. Tell me what you did.”

 

Gaia slowly raised her eyes to meet Gaster’s dark gaze, shrinking slightly inwards as she felt the weight of the eons pressing down upon her.
“I… gave them a fail-safe,” she whispered, “I gave them some of my own power, in case they…” Gaia swallowed, “encountered difficulties.”
He stared, unblinking, down at Mother Earth as he comprehended her words. “All of your humans have some of your essence. This is different. What did you do?”

 

The woman was silent for a few moments, her breathing slow and even, her gaze lowering to focus on her lap. Finally, she raised her head and met the gaze of the man’s latest manifestation. “I gave them Determination. More than any other human. I had to ensure that they would not perish here, that they would be able to make it back to the Surface and free the monsters.”
“You…” He pinched his nasal bone, sighing in frustration. “You gave a child Determination. What made you think that a child - an ORPHANED child - should be trusted with that kind of power?! It is no wonder they willed themselves to be back with Toriel. You killed their real parents, killed their adopted parents, threw them into the Underground and then had them fight for survival for weeks on end!” He was pacing now, his footfalls echoing through time. “Of course they would do everything they could to come back to the only home they knew they had!”
“I didn’t know that they would do this!” She stood up, her fiery eyes narrowing in anger. “Have faith in the child, Gaster! They will do the right thing. I know they will!”
“I will not interfere for now, Gaia,” Gaster’s voice softened, “but I am watching very, very closely…” He turned his back to the woman and began to walk away. “Let us hope, for all of our sakes, that you are right…”

 

Gaia stood in silence as Gaster’s form faded into nothingness. She sighed softly as she stared down at the sleeping human, her heart heavy.
“My child,” she whispered, “my blessed child… please… listen to my voice.” Gaia knelt down by the child’s bedside as her hand came to rest on Frisk’s own. “Listen to my voice, my child, and return to the Surface. Free the monsters from their prison. Help me to usher in an era of peace.” Mother Earth leaned forward to press a gentle kiss onto Frisk’s forehead. “Please…” She stood without another word and left the bedroom, following in Gaster’s footsteps.

 

Frisk began to whimper as their sleep turned fitful, their body humming with nervous energy…

 

Sans heard his brother leave his bedroom and slowly sat up as he rubbed his hands over his tired face. He had never been able to get back to sleep after he checked the fridge. His mind had been racing all night as he tried to comprehend what was happening. Truthfully, though, he hadn’t been able to come to a single conclusion that didn’t make him sound like a stark raving lunatic.

Had he really gone back in time?

Was that even possible?

Sans rubbed his temples as he tried to ignore the dull ache that had settled itself behind his eyes. It was as if he was trying to remember something but he couldn’t put the pieces together. Why did he feel like he had read something about this? Why did it seem so familiar? Why was he remembering a labcoat?

Why was he remembering a man that spoke–

“SANS?”

The skeleton shook his head as he looked to his door, listening to his brother gently knocking. “y-yeah, pap?”
“I AM ABOUT TO MAKE BREAKFAST. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU WOULD LIKE?”
“uh… j-just some coffee, if we have any.”
“I WILL GO AND CHECK. ARE YOU SURE YOU DO NOT WANT ANYTHING? IT IS NOT HEALTHY TO SKIP BREAKFAST.”
“yeah, pap. i’m sure. thanks.”
“YOU ARE WELCOME, SANS.” The tall skeleton made his way downstairs, whistling to himself as he went.

 

Sans stared down at his shaking hands before looking away and heaving a shuddering sigh. Papyrus didn’t seem any different than usual; was his brother aware of what had happened? /just ask him over breakfast,/ he told himself as he left his bedroom. He made his way downstairs, stumbling in his exhaustion. He could smell coffee being brewed, thankfully. Oh, right, he hadn’t run out of coffee yet. He’d be out on Wednesday, though. He knew that much. It was Saturday morning now - he’d spend tonight at Grillby’s.

Did Grillby know what happened?

i should ask him. he probably knows what’s happening. pap’s probably just pretending like nothing happened…

Sans made his way into the kitchen and hopped up onto his chair. He gave his brother an appreciative smile as he was handed a mug, his eyes closing as he sipped the sweetened, milky coffee. Papyrus knew how he liked his coffee - and had the decency to not comment on the amount of sugar that was put into the mug.
“hey pap?”
“YES?”
“did…” Sans put his mug down and rubbed his forehead. “i… nevermind.”
“WHAT IS WRONG, SANS?”
“it’s nothin’ pap; just deja vu.”
“WE NORMALLY HAVE SATURDAY MORNING BREAKFASTS TOGETHER.”
“i know, but…” He looked off to the side, trying to pick his words. “do… you feel like, y'know, you’ve lived this day before?”
“NO. THIS IS A NEW DAY. LOOK, THERE ARE NEW PUZZLES.” Papyrus held up the newspaper with a wide grin. “THE NEWSPAPER HAS NEVER HAD DUPLICATE PUZZLES. YOU KNOW THAT.”
“y-yeah.” Sans gave a small laugh, one that did nothing to reassure either brother. “just feels like i’ve done this before. i mean, i feel like i’ve seen these puzzles before.”
“WELL, EVEN IF YOU HAVE, DO NOT TELL ME THE ANSWER TO THIS DAY’S PUZZLES. I WANT TO FIGURE THEM OUT ON MY OWN.”
“sure thing.”
“THANK YOU.” Papyrus smiled to his brother. “WILL YOU BE SPENDING TONIGHT AT GRILLBY’S OR WILL HE BE COMING HERE?”
“i’ll be going over there tonight. y'sure you’re gonna be okay on your own?”
“OF COURSE. I WILL PROBABLY GO SEE UNDYNE, THOUGH. IT IS MOVIE NIGHT, AFTER ALL.”
“oh, right…” Sans stared into his coffee, his exhaustion etching itself onto his face.
“ARE YOU ALRIGHT, SANS?”
“y-yeah… just tired. i’ll nap later.”
“IF YOU SAY SO…” Papyrus watched Sans for a few moments before slowly turning his gaze back to his puzzles. He would occasionally glance at his brother, his cheerful grin dampening as he watched his brother staring blindly into his coffee…

 

Sans finished his coffee and thanked Papyrus before moving out into the living room. He hopped up onto the couch and curled up under a blanket. He turned on the television, hoping to see the latest episodes of his favourite cartoons but quickly turned it off a moment later. He had seen this new release before… He held the blankets tighter to his body as he closed his eyes, trying to convince himself that this was just a very realistic dream.

 

Unfortunately for Sans, the date on his phone remained the same date when he woke up from his nap…

 

The small skeleton found himself walking towards the ancient door, his eyes fixed on the ground before him as his thoughts ran rampant through his head. He couldn’t stand to be in the house with Papyrus. The repeating conversations were haunting, as were all the subtle reminders that he had already lived this day. Papyrus, unfortunately, did not seem to notice - or, if he did, he just wasn’t saying anything. Sans shoved his hands into the pockets of his hoodie as he sighed; maybe his friend behind the door knew what was happening. She somehow seemed to know about things that other people didn’t and he still wasn’t sure how. Maybe… maybe she did know…

 

…maybe she would finally come back…

He wasn’t sure how long he sat at the door as his mind tormented him. He wasn’t sure how long he had sat in unbroken silence, either; even the winds had fallen still, leaving him painfully alone outside the cold stone door. All he knew is that, for the first time in weeks, he heard the familiar rustle of her robes and the muffled thumps of her footfalls. His eyes closed as his perpetual smile grew happier, his breathing becoming a little easier. She was back. For the first time in weeks, she was back.

 

He smiled more as he heard her clear her throat, unable to contain his excitement as he heard–

“Knock knock!”

 

Sans sank down against the door, smiling as he shook his head, clearing his mind. He was just being paranoid, that was all.
“who’s there?”
“Impatient goat.”
“impatient go–”
“BAAH!” She laughed as she clapped her furred hands together.
Sans shared in her laughter as he felt himself relaxing more with every passing second. This was all just in his head. “that was a good one.” but you’ve told that joke before…
“I thought you might like it!” She sat down on and smoothed out her robes. “How are you today?”
“doing much better now. how about you?”
“Oh, I’m doing just fine!” Her voice was radiating with happiness.
“has something changed?” Sans asked as he looked over his shoulder at the door. “i mean, i’m glad to hear you sounding so happy, but… well…”
“What’s wrong?”
“i’m just… well, it’s nothing. don’t worry about it.” He shook his head. “so, didja hear?”
“Hear what?”
“it snowed today. they’re saying it’s a new record.”
“How much did it snow?”
“it snowed a ton. a skele-ton!
Her laughter made his heart lighter, casting his fears away as the two sat and joked…

Unfortunately for Sans, his fears came crashing back down the moment he left the woman’s company.

She had retold a joke.

He stared out into the dark trees as his relief waned as rapidly as the artificial sun.

She had retold a joke.

She had never repeated a joke before.

 

…for that matter, neither had he…

Sans felt himself beginning to shiver. He hugged his arms as his gaze fell to his slipper-clad feet. He had been so lost in the joy of hearing her voice again that he–

“it was a like a dream,” Sans rubbed his forehead, “that conversation - we had that conversation before. every word. every–why did we–what?” He paused, scrubbing his face with his hands, wishing he could wipe away the cobwebs that clouded his mind. “she didn’t even realize, did she? did i? i didn’t. not until now.” He looked around the clearing as his soul fluttered within his chest. Where was he?

Where was the path?

Sans jumped as he heard the sounds of someone struggling to lift something. He knew that sound. The human had made that sound. The hu–

His white eyes flickered with the faintest hue of blue. His soul hammered against his ribs. His entire body was screaming for him to run.

To run.

To RUN.

TO RUN!

 

…and run he did…

Branches tore at his face as he crashed his way through the trees. Shadows followed him, small hands, hands reaching–

The world was no longer silent. There was sound. There was laughter? Laughter. Young laughter. Happy–

“no!”

Sans skidded to a halt as he stared down at the ravine below. His chest was heaving as he slowly stepped away from the edge, his left eye burning with an unearthly cyan light. The skeleton turned and stared at the dark trees as he raised a numb hand. He took a steadying breath.

The sound of his exhale was lost in the low growl of two monstrous skulls.

Flanked by the skulls of demons, Sans stared into the forest, into the shadows…

“come out. i know you did this. i don’t know how, but i know you did this.” The skulls were roaring now. “come out and face me!”

 

…but no one came…

Sans trudged through the snow, his empty eye sockets staring straight ahead. The world hummed around him, the oppressive silence threatening to deafen him. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know where he was. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know where he was.

 

His hand fumbled with a key, the familiar metal suddenly alien and surreal. Tumblers clicked and caught, gave way. The door swung shut behind him. His arm moved of its own accord as his hand locked the door. He stared at his hand as he walked up a flight of worn stairs, staring at the fingers that did not look like his own. Another door opened and closed as he stared around the room. He knew that he knew this place, but his mind failed to recognize the surroundings.

 

Where was he?

 

He sat down on a leather couch and stared at an empty fireplace, rubbing his numb hands over his cold face. Had the fireplace always been there? Where was the television? Where was he? Sans rubbed his face again as he looked around, his brow knitting in frustration. Where was he?

 

He shivered as he laid down on the couch. He hugged his hoodie tighter around him as he closed his eyes. He didn’t know where he was… but this place was familiar. He had been here before. Many times before. It was safe.

 

Home…?

 

Was it…?

 

Sans fell still as exhaustion claimed his small body…

Grillby stared out into the empty restaurant, sighing softly; Sans hadn’t shown up at all today. It was incredibly unlike the skeleton to not come by for at least a few moments. He pulled his phone out of his pocket as his flames darkened. Should he give Sans a call? It was still relatively early - Sans should still be awake. Besides, it was Saturday. This was the night that Sans stayed over. They hadn’t spent a Saturday night apart in well over a year…

 

He put his phone back in his pocket and picked up his mop, deciding to call after he finished his cleaning his restaurant.

 

The restaurant was cleaned in record time.

 

With a heavy heart, Grillby made his way upstairs into his home. He knew that Sans had a key but it still made his bright glow wane to know that he had locked the door on Sans.

He trudged his way upstairs, his flames dimming more with every step. He told himself that it was just one day that Sans hadn’t come by. The skeleton didn’t have to come by every day, after all; maybe he had just stayed at home with his brother? It had happened before, but that was long before they had started dating.

 

Grillby unlocked the door to his home, resolving to call Sans after he had a small drink and a bite to eat. He stepped into the living room and paused, blinking in confusion at the sight of his boyfriend sleeping on the couch. His flames grew brighter as he stepped closer, only to dim even more as he realized that Sans was absolutely filthy. He knelt down by the couch as he traced a hand over Sans’ scratched cheek, frowning in worry at the brambles and dirt that covered the hoodie…

 

A warm hand caressed Sans’ cheek as the sounds of a hearth fire filled the room. “…Sans?”

 

home.

Sans slowly opened his eyes, the warmth of his lover’s touch spreading through his body. “grillby?”
“…Sans, are you alright?”
The skeleton sat up carefully, rubbing his head. “i… i don’t know. i don’t even know how i got here.”
“…What do you mean?” Grillby sat on the couch beside his boyfriend, a warm arm wrapping around the small body.
Sans leaned into Grillby’s embrace, his eyes closing again as he gave a small derisive laugh, “this is new.”
“…Sans?”
“out of everything today, this is new. this is the only new thing. everything else has been done before.”
“…Sans, you’re worrying me.”
“did you realize this is the same day? we lived this day before.” The skeleton’s voice was distant, haunted.
“…What are you saying? You are scaring me.”

 

Sans sat back and stared up to his boyfriend, his eternal smile as hopeless as he felt. “you don’t realize it, do you? we’ve lived this day before, grillby. we’ve done this before. we’ve done this before. we’ve–”
“…Hush,” Grillby placed a warm finger over Sans’ mouth. “…Start from the beginning. What happened?”

 

When the finger was removed, Sans sighed. “this morning, i woke up and i looked at my phone. the date was wrong. we’ve lived this month already. this entire month. we went back a month.”
“…I don’t understand.”
“i don’t either!” Sans cried suddenly, gripping Grillby’s vest. “i don’t know what happened! we’ve gone back a month! no one else seems to know this! you don’t even know it! you don’t–”
“…Hush!” Grillby pulled Sans into a tight hug, not wanting his boyfriend to see the panic in his own eyes. “…Sans, what are you talking about? Are you honestly saying that we’ve gone back in time? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“yes!” Sans felt tears burning in his eyes. “we’ve gone back in time. i don’t know how, but i know the human had something to do with this.”
“…Human?! There’s a human in the Underground?”
“yes!” The skeleton sobbed, “there’s a human. they’re just a kid, but they’re not right. something’s not right about them. i don’t know what, but they’re not right…” His voice broke off into ragged sobs.

 

Grillby held Sans close to his chest as he rubbed Sans’ back, his white eyes worried. The skeleton was talking nonsense. How could they have gone back in time? Did Sans even realize what he was saying? Judging by the panic in the younger man’s voice, it was unlikely that he was even aware of what was happening around him.

 

He pressed a warm kiss to the top of Sans’ head as he carefully picked the skeleton up. Without saying a word, he carried the sobbing man into his bedroom, into the hardly-used bathroom. Grillby placed Sans down on the closed lid of the toilet before drawing on a pair of thick leather gloves. He filled the sink with warm water and picked up a wash cloth, making sure to avoid splashing himself as he wet the cloth. Without a word, Grillby helped Sans out of his hoodie and washed his face, his heart aching at the sight of every single scratch on the younger man’s body. Sans barely even seemed to register what was happening, the bartender thought sadly; the skeleton’s mind was miles away…

When Sans’ wounds had been tended to, Grillby took him back to the living room. He had helped Sans redress into some of the clothes that he left at the flaming man’s home. The skeleton was wrapped tightly in a thick blanket and had a hot mug of cocoa pressed into his hands, a small splash of amaretto mixed into the drink. Sans took a few shaking sips before closing his eyes and sinking deeper into the couch, his mind slowly clearing. He was safe now, he knew; he was safe and warm at home. It wasn’t his home with his brother, but he was home. He took another sip of the cocoa as the clouds in his mind faded. He didn’t know what was happening. All he knew is that, right now, he was safe.
“grillby?”
“…Yes, Sans?”
“i’m,” he swallowed hard, “i’m scared.”
“…I know.” Grillby put an arm around Sans and drew him closer, “…But we will figure this out.”
“do you promise?”

 

The bartender’s white eyes scanned around the room, quietly praying that the strange deific figure would appear. He usually did appear whenever Sans asked for Grillby to promise him something. But, unfortunately, no one came…

“…I promise,” he whispered as he hugged the skeleton a little tighter.

 

Miles away, Frisk found themselves anxiously pacing through Toriel’s living room. They hadn’t been able to sleep, hadn’t been able to focus, hadn’t been able to sit still. They had to move, to go somewhere, but they didn’t want to. They didn’t want to go out into the cold of Snowdin. They didn’t want to go to Hotland. They didn’t want to go to the Capital. They wanted to stay here. They wanted to stay here! HERE!

 

The child found themselves making their way through the dark passageway in the basement as angry tears burned within their eyes. They didn’t want to do this.

 

Toriel took the child back upstairs and sat them on her knee as she began to read to them, her voice shaking slightly in worry. The child had barely slept; she had heard them crying for most of the night. She rubbed Frisk’s back as the child began to cry, her own heart aching with worry.

 

Gaia shied away from Gaster and his palpable anger. She didn’t want to look at him, at the accusatory light in his eyes. This wasn’t working as she had expected and they both knew it. Gaia wrung her hands as she watched Frisk making their way through the passageway again. She bit her lip as Toriel chased after Frisk yet again, hoping that Frisk would just keep going…

Chapter Text

Sans had come to hate the night.

Night had come to mean lying in bed, staring up at the dark ceiling, seeking an escape from the swirling chaos of his thoughts. It did not matter anymore which bed he went to at night. Every bed stared up into darkness.

He swore he could feel the darkness staring back at him.

On some nights, he would curl up to his fiery lover as he sought to find both safety and warmth in Grillby’s arms. On other nights, Sans would crawl into his brother’s bed and would shiver and shake as Papyrus slept soundly beside him.

More often than not, he found himself lying alone in his messy bed as he stared unseeingly to the ceiling.

Sans had come to hate the night.

And, for that matter, he had come to hate the day, too.

The day might even be worse, he thought as he tried to win a staring contest against the ceiling. The day meant that he was forced to relive the days that he knew he had lived before, even though no one else seemed to be aware of what was happening.

Natalie opened her shop every morning. Papyrus marched through Snowdin at the crack of dawn. The monsters carried out their daily lives. Even Grillby, his beloved Grillby, was reliving the same days.

…For the most part, at least.

Sans had told Grillby what was happening, had told him that things had happened before. Grillby listened as best he could, tried to understand as best he could, but the fiery man simply couldn’t comprehend what Sans was saying. He still tried, though. He tried to understand. He would sit and listen to the skeleton for as long as Sans would talk, would ask questions, would try to find a way that he could remember the days Sans swore they had lived before.

They spent hours trying, but neither man could make Grillby remember what had already happened…

“…Tell me, Sans. Tell me whenever this happens.”
“it won’t do any good, grillbs. i’ll have to explain it to you all over again.”
“…I do not care. Tell me. Tell me every time. I want you to.”
“why?”
“…Why?” He was incredulous, “…what do you mean, why? I want to help you, Sans! This is hurting you, making you suffer, and I want to help you! I don’t want you to be in agony alone. Let me help you.”
“but you can’t do anything…”
“…I can be here for you. That is what I can do. I can be here for you. I can let you know you aren’t alone.”
“what good will it do if it all resets again? what good will it do?!” Sans voice broke as he slumped onto the bar in the darkened restaurant.
Grillby gripped Sans’ arms and pulled his lover up as he stared into Sans’ glowing white eyes. “…It will let you know that you aren’t alone! I believe you, Sans; I do! I believe what you are saying. I don’t know how it happens, but I believe you when you say it does. I do. So, please, just…” he sighed as he slowly released his lover’s arms, “…just let me be here for you. I know I cannot do much, but let me do everything I can.” His voice was a heartbroken whisper. “…I love you, Sans.”

Sans found himself speechless as he stared up at the glowing embers of his lover’s face. Grillby believed him. Grillby was the only one who believed him. He had tried to tell Papyrus, but Papyrus brushed it aside with his usual jovial smile and a wave of a gloved hand. Grillby… listened. Grillby believed him. Grillby wanted to know when it happened.

He stared down at the man’s hands on his arms before slowly raising his gaze back to Grillby’s face. “…i love you too, grillby.”
The bartender leaned down and gave the top of Sans’ head a gentle kiss before they made their way upstairs…

Sans pulled himself out of his racing thoughts as Grillby rolled onto his side and kissed his cheek.
“…You keep fidgeting,” he whispered, “…Are you unable to sleep?”
“y-yeah,” Sans turned to face his boyfriend, “but this time it’s a little different.”
“…What do you mean?”
“what you said earlier tonight, about how you’ll listen, how you’ll be here for me,”
“…Yes? What about it?”
“i love you, grillby. i love you. i can’t tell you that enough.”
“…I love you too, Sans.”
“thank you. for listening, for being here, f-for everything,” Sans’ voice shook as crawled into his lover’s arms. He nestled against the hearth fire of his lover’s chest as he closed his eyes, “thank you.”
“…You don’t have to thank me,” Grillby kissed the top of Sans’ head as he closed his eyes, “…but you are welcome.” The bartender stroked the skeleton’s spine as he hummed a soft, familiar tune.
Sans felt himself sinking deeper into his lover’s embrace and into the mattress below as he fell into blessed sleep…

 

Across town, Papyrus stared up at the ceiling as he pulled his blankets tighter to his chest. He stared at the shadows that swirled over his bed, stared at the signs that only he could see. He wasn’t afraid of them anymore. He had been at first, when the signs spelled his name, but he wasn’t afraid anymore. He had come to talk with the signs, delighted when they would respond. He would talk to them for hours, whenever he was alone in his room. The signs would help him with the puzzles in the daily newspaper when Sans wasn’t around - or, at least, they used to.

He didn’t need help on these puzzles now. He had already solved them.

"WOULD YOU BE ABLE TO GIVE ME A NEW PUZZLE TO SOLVE? SANS IS NOT ABLE TO THINK OF ANY. HE CANNOT SLEEP ANYMORE, SO HE IS TOO TIRED TO THINK OF A PUZZLE FOR ME. HE HAS TRIED, YOU KNOW, BUT THEY WERE FOR BABY BONES. AND I,“ Papyrus smiled proudly up to the ceiling, “AM NOT A BABY BONES. I AM A GROWN SKELETON.”

Papyrus watched as the shadows swam across the dark ceiling of his bedroom.

“I SEE. WELL, THAT IS INTERESTING. I DID NOT THINK OF USING THAT AS A PUZZLE. I DO NOT THINK I WILL BRING IT UP TO SANS, THOUGH. I KNOW HE IS WORRIED AND I THINK THAT MIGHT MAKE IT WORSE.” Papyrus sighed softly as he held a plush race car to his chest. “I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO ASK HIM WHAT IS WRONG. I HAVE TRIED, YOU KNOW, BUT HE BRUSHES IT ASIDE, LIKE HE ALWAYS DOES. I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT ASKING HIM IF HE, TOO, KNOWS THAT THE DAYS ARE REPEATING, BUT I DO NOT WANT HIM TO THINK THAT I AM CRAZY - IT IS A CRAZY THING TO SAY, EVEN IF IT IS TRUE.”

Again, he watched the shadows but sighed as he looked away.

“…I KNOW,” his voice was saddened, “I KNOW I SHOULD, BUT I DO NOT WANT HIM TO WORRY. HE WILL TRY TO FIX IT, BUT HE CANNOT FIX THIS. EVEN I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, CANNOT FIX THIS. ONLY THE HUMAN CAN.” He crossed his arms over his chest as he stared to his action figures on the nearby desk. “WHY CAN THE HUMAN DO THIS? WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.”

The darkness slithered down the ceiling, across the wall and over the floor. It rose before the bed in a smoky haze as it took on a vaguely humanoid shape. Hands emerged from the shadows and began to sign, spelling out word after phrase.

Papyrus said nothing as he watched, his eternal smile dimming. He did not like what he was seeing, but there was nothing that he could do. There was absolutely nothing that he could do beyond what he was already doing. To do anything else, he was told, would be dangerous…

“…I UNDERSTAND. I DO NOT LIKE IT, BUT I UNDERSTAND.” He sighed as he closed his eyes. “ALRIGHT. I WILL LISTEN TO YOU. I WILL DO WHAT YOU SAY. I DO NOT LIKE IT, BUT I WILL DO WHAT YOU SAY. I TRUST YOU.” He smiled as he felt himself being tucked into bed. “GOOD NIGHT, MISTER SHADOWS.”

 

Good night, Papyrus…

 

Gaia stared at Gaster, at the pained expression on the Scientist’s face. “Why do you not tell him, Gaster?” She asked sadly, placing a hand on his arm.
“Because it is not the right time for this, Gaia, and you know it. I cannot tell him yet.”
“But you’ll tuck him into bed when his brother isn’t there?”
Gaster said nothing as the pair walked through the Underground, their strides carrying them through the snowy landscape and back towards the Ruins. He held out his arm for Gaia, gently leading her along, trying to find his own reassurance in her warm touch. He was worried, beyond worried. The skeletons knew what had happened. They were the only two who did, aside from the human themselves. It was worrying.

Gaster and Gaia stared at the door to the Ruins, their gaze piercing through the heavy stone door. The world passed them by as they stood together in silence. They knew that in just a few short hours, the human and Toriel would be emerging into the empty foyer. They knew that they would fight. They knew that Frisk would open the stone door and step out into the snowy landscape.

 

Knowing of the battle did not make it any easier to watch.

 

They saw Toriel fighting with the human as she begged for the human to stay with her. They saw Toriel drop to her knees as she embraced the child and stifled her tears as Frisk pulled away. They saw Toriel run deeper into the Ruins and glanced only once over her shoulder as Frisk stepped out into the Underground.

The silent sentinels watched as Frisk stepped out into the cold morning, watched as the human stared in dismay at the snowy landscape.

 

Bitter tears burned in Frisk’s eyes, leaving steaming trails down their cheeks as they wept. They did not want to be out here. They did not want to be in the snow. They did not want to be away from Toriel.

Frisk slowly began to walk, their legs pulling them towards Snowdin as they stared over their shoulder, watching as the Ruins faded into the distance…

 

Gaster said nothing as he saw Gaia whispering to the human as she stood beside him. He forced himself to keep his silence, even though he wanted nothing more than to speak out against the woman that manipulated the child’s mind…

Despite all her whisperings, Gaia couldn’t control the child.

She could only watch as Frisk refused to travel through the Underground.

Gaster and Gaia watched as Frisk made their way through Snowdin, playing along with the skeletons’s puzzles. They watched as Frisk paused in Hotland to give Undyne water, saving the woman’s life. They watched as Frisk made their way through the Core, their eyes darkening as they recalled what was coming next.

They watched as Frisk stopped in their tracks.

“Gaia?” Gaster’s voice was worried as Frisk began to rapidly shake their head. The child was clutching their dark hair and whimpering.
“Oh, child, please! Do not do this!” Gaia rushed to Frisk’ side. She leaned down and began to whisper into the child’s ear. “You have done so well, Frisk. You have come so far. You are doing so well. Please, please, just keep going. You are so close. The barrier is not much further. Soon, Frisk, soon you will be back on the Surface! Please, just keep walking…!”

Frisk’s frustrated wailing was their only reply.

Horrified, Gaia watched as the world began to grow darker. Gaster hurried to Gaia’s side and took her arm, pulling her away from Frisk. He held her to his chest as he wrapped the timeless shadows of his cloak around their bodies. She curled into Gaster’s arms as the world faded…

Sans shot up in bed, his entire body drenched in a cold sweat. He was breathing hard as he frantically scanned over the room. He was alone in his bed, in his dark bedroom, in the home that he shared with his brother. He heard Papyrus snoring from the next room. He grabbed his phone and fumbled with it, only to drop it with a gasp. He stared down at the glowing screen, panicking as he reread the date on the phone.

It had happened again.

He drew his legs up as he began to shake, staring down at the screen, his soul aching within his hollow chest. It had happened again. He forced himself out of bed and made himself dress. He made his way slowly through his house and out into the dark, snowy world. Sans walked through the empty town in a haze, his empty eye sockets staring unseeingly at the world around him. It had happened again. He stared up at the darkened sign over Grillby’s restaurant and sighed, slowly walking around to the back of the building. He pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door; he locked the door behind him as he made his way up to Grillby’s bedroom.

The fiery man awoke with a start, his flames burning brightly in his surprised state. He grabbed his glasses and looked around the now-lit room, his glow softening slightly as he saw a distraught Sans standing in the doorway.
“…Sans? What’s wrong? What happened?”
“it happened again.”
“…What? What happened again?”
“it reset. we’ve gone back.”
“…Gone back?”
“in time. again. we’ve lived this day. this is different. i didn’t come here before. i stayed home. i’m here now. this is different. i’m here now. this is different.” His words were tumbling from his mouth, his voice as disjointed as his thoughts.
Grillby left his bed and came to kneel in front of his lover as he stared up into the empty eyes. “…Sans, what are you saying?”
“you told me to tell you when it happened. you said you wanted to be here for me. i’m here now. i need you to be here for me.”
The bartender put his arms around the skeleton and held him tightly to his chest, rubbing the skeleton’s back as he stared worriedly into the darkness of his room. He didn’t understand what Sans was saying. He didn’t understand it at all… but Sans seemed to recall a conversation that he didn’t remember. Grillby said nothing as he picked up his boyfriend and carried him back to the bed, gently kissing him as he undressed the skeleton. Sans barely seemed to register what was happening but he found himself nestled down into his lover’s arms as Grillby pulled him against his warm chest.
“…I’m here for you, Sans.” He whispered, “…I’m here for you.”

Sans said nothing as he stared into the flames of Grillby’s chest, hoping and praying that he would just wake up…

 

Miles away, Frisk smiled as they curled up in their bed and reveled in the scent of butterscotch pie.

 

Three days later, Frisk was sobbing as they found themselves staring up at Toriel as they stood before the great stone door. They moved through they fight with Toriel as tears slipped down their sallow cheeks, wishing for nothing more than to fall into Toriel’s arms and to never leave her side…

Against their will, Frisk found themselves running through Waterfall. They found themselves staring up to Undyne the Undying. They found themselves watching her armoured form walking into the next room.

Frisk did not follow.

 

 

Sans only sighed as he dropped his phone back to the bed, unwilling to stare at the date on the screen. It was the eighth again. This was the third time that it had been the eighth of this month. He crawled out of bed and drew on a pair of gym shorts, dragging himself down the hall towards his brother’s room. Sans let himself into Papyrus’ room and poked his brother awake, his eyes hollow.
“can i sleep in here tonight?”
“OF COURSE; DID YOU HAVE A BAD DREAM?”
“y-yeah. i did.”
“OH,” Papyrus looked down to his brother, hiding his worry at seeing the exhaustion that was etching itself into Sans’ very bones, “WELL, I AM HERE FOR YOU, SANS. TRY AND SLEEP. TOMORROW IS A NEW DAY.”

Papyrus was glad that Sans could not see his face; he didn’t want his brother to see his own distraught expression.

A tense silence fell over the brothers, clinging to them like a wet blanket. They hugged as they tried to reassure the other that everything was fine, even though they both knew that something was wrong…

 

Grillby stared down at the skeleton that was fitfully sleeping beside him, his flames dimming in sadness as he held a silently crying Sans to his chest. He did not know what had happened. Just yesterday, he and Sans were laughing as Grillby tried to yet again explain the rules of poker. Yes, Sans was worried about the human, but his worry from the previous day didn’t explain the drastic change that had taken place - what could have possibly happened within twelve hours to affect Sans this much?

He stroked Sans’ spine as his brows knit in frustrated worry. He barely knew the man that he held in his arms. He did not lean down to kiss the top of the man’s head, even though the skeleton was crying in his sleep.

“…I hope I wake up next to you,” Grillby whispered, “because my Sans is not in my arms. I do not know who you are anymore.” The older man stared down at the skeleton, his once bright flames fading into smoldering embers. “…I hope you come back to me, Sans,” his voice wavered. “…I miss you.”

The bartender’s arms loosened as he fell into his own troubled sleep; he did not hear Sans’ sobs redoubling.

 

Sans watched as the human emerged from the Ruins. He saw the exhaustion that clung to their thin face, saw the months’ worth of sleepless nights darkening their eyes. He wanted to say he had lost count of how many times he had relived this day, but it was a lie. Ten times now, he had woken up to the same day. Ten times he had seen the human walking through the snow.

This time was different, he realized.

They were moving slowly now, dragging their feet through the snow, as if they were pulling a heavy load. He followed the human through the snow, watching as the child cried angry, bitter tears as they would turn and look to the ruins.

The skeleton frowned as he watched the child struggling to turn around, to go back to the ruins, only to stumble forward. It was as if they didn’t have control over their body, he thought darkly. what are you doing? he asked as he followed the human, moving to the spot where he always greeted the human. With a shuddering breath, he forced himself to approach the distraught child.

Before he could even speak, Frisk began to cry.

Sans stepped away as the child held their head and fell to their knees.
“k-kid?”
Frisk wailed as they pulled at their hair, their heartbroken cries turning to angry screams. It wasn’t fair! It was not fair! They only wanted to stay with Toriel! Why couldn’t they. Just. STAY?!

Sans watched as the world fell into shadows, into the sprawling, yawning darkness of the Void.

He couldn’t even scream.

 

Frisk found themselves moving through Toriel’s home, their dark eyes filled with burning rage. They stepped out onto the balcony that they had stood on countless times before, turning their gaze to the toy knife. With a hand steadied by righteous anger, they picked up the plastic blade…

 

Toriel stared down at the child that stood before her, at the hand held behind their back. “Stop it,” she said as her magical fire surrounded her, “stop looking at me that way.” She took a half-step backwards as Frisk drew the plastic blade, her eyes widening as the child began to laugh…

Chapter Text

Gaster could only stare in mute horror as Gaia clung to his arm, her eyes filling with tears.

The two watched as Toriel's flames burned around the child, watched as Frisk dodged the attacks, watched as the toy knife stabbed at her furred body. They could not move, could not speak, as they watched Toriel fall to her knees. The child only stared at her, their eyes burning with a crazed light. The child did not listen to Toriel's final words; they walked past her kneeling body, ignored the words of the golden flower and pushed open the door to the ruins without so much as a backwards glance. The cold wind whipped at their face, forcing their eyes closed as they steadied themselves. As they exhaled, they opened their eyes against the biting gusts and began to walk through the snowy landscape. An unholy anger spurred them, filled them with sadistic glee as they took the steps that they previously dreaded; they laughed to the uncaring world as they went, the toy knife held fast in their small hand. They would have their revenge, they thought, would have their revenge for all of the torment and suffering that the monsters had put them through...

Toriel's ashes were scattered as the heavy stone door swung shut.

 

Sans gave a soft sigh as he stood in the trees, his soul hanging heavily within his chest. He was tired of being forced to watch over the child, but he had made a promise to his friend. It had not been an easy one to make. He regretted it, but he would never tell her that. By the Void, the stupid promise was the only link he had to her anymore. She had never come back. He had spent what felt like a year being forced wear his smile as he watched over the child, just as he had promised.

He watched as the child made their way down the snowy path, his smile dampening as he saw dust clinging to their clothes. The child ignored the branch, but that wasn't anything out of the ordinary - they had stopped trying to lift the branch after their third reset. With a shake of his head, he stepped out onto the path and raised his head to stare at the child.

Something was wrong.

He felt a cold pang of dread pierce his soul, heard the howling of the Void as he stared into the child's hollow eyes.

This was not the human he knew.

 

Frisk stared at Sans' outstretched hand before meeting his gaze. They did not move, did not blink. Their hand tightened on the plastic knife. They wanted the skeleton to shut up. How many times had they heard those same terrible jokes? Stop it, they thought to themselves, stop talking. Just get out of my way! They finally extended their hand and grasped the whoopee-cushion. They stood still as Sans said his lines, waiting for him to finish, before they kept walking. Their eyes grew darker as they went deeper into the snowy lands.

 

 

Sans stood still as he watched the human walking away, his pupils vanishing as he lowered his head. This wasn't right, he knew. This wasn't right at all. Something had changed within the human.

He slowly began to walk, his thoughts racing as he made his way towards the next spot where he knew he'd see the human. The lamp was already there, ready and waiting for them; he had placed it there earlier in the day, knowing that he'd need it for when the human arrived. His thoughts wandered to Papyrus as he wondered how his brother would react to seeing the human. Papyrus was normally overjoyed to see the child, but something told him that this time would be different. i wonder why, he scoffed, could it be the fact they were staring at me like they hated me? With a sigh and a shake of his head, he leaned against his post as he waited for the human...

 

 

Sans raised his head as Frisk stepped into the clearing. Their clothing was even filthier now, he realized; what were they doing? He pushed himself to his feet and approached the human, forcing his tired smile to look a little more genuine as he went into the spiel that he had always given, urging the child to stand behind the conveniently shaped lamp.

He frowned when Frisk refused to move.

Sans glanced to the path that Papyrus would be walking down, knowing that his brother would be approaching any second now. How was he going to handle this? Papyrus was always so boisterous and jovial whenever he saw the human - it was as if the human was his very best friend. How would he react to the human when they wouldn’t play along...?

Before Sans could push Frisk behind the lamp, Papyrus strode into the clearing.

 

 

Within the span of only a heartbeat, Papyrus knew that something was wrong.

The human was staring at him almost defiantly; their eyes were narrowed as they held their chin high. The smallest of smirks was on their face as their fingers curled tighter around the handle of the plastic knife.

NO, he thought to himself, NO, THIS IS WRONG.

With a shake of his head, he forced his smile to grow wider...

"SANS!!! HAVE YOU FOUND A HUMAN YET!??!" He called, his boisterous voice filling the small clearing.
"yeah," Sans glanced to the child beside him as his eternal smile dimmed with worry.
"REALLY!?!?" Papyrus looked to the child before looking back to his brother. "WOWIE!!! GUESS THAT'S SETTLED!"

Without another word, Papyrus left the clearing.

 

"that worked out, huh?" Sans glanced to the child, frowning as Frisk failed to react. With a sigh, he turned to face them. "well, i'll be straight-forward with you. my brother'd really like to see a human..."
Frisk stood motionless as they stared at the skeleton.
"so, y'know," Sans swallowed, "it'd really help me out if you kept pretending to be one."
Frisk regarded him for a moment longer before simply turning and leaving the clearing; they followed in Papyrus' footsteps, their own small feet almost skipping through the snow.
Sans sighed and sank down onto his heels as he stared into the snow. This wasn't good, he knew; something had happened to the child. All of the previous times he had seen them, the child had always played along and hidden behind the lamp. Now, though...?

He shook his head and pushed himself to his feet. He couldn't dwell on it now - he had a promise to keep.

The skeleton vanished in a flash of blue light.

 

 

Frisk made their way deeper into the frozen wastes. Their eyes lit up as they saw the Gyftrot, their fingers curling a little tighter around the plastic blade....

 

 

Gaster turned his skeletal face towards Gaia as the shadows of his cloak whipped around his feet. "Gaia--"
"What are you doing, my child?" She whispered as left Gaster's side. Mother Earth hurried after the human, only to feel faint as she watched Frisk's plastic blade growing wet with the blood of a frightened Gyftrot. She watched as the monster's legs buckled before he fell to the ground, biting her lip as the lifeless body faded into dust. "Oh, Frisk, no..."
Gaster frowned as he returned to the woman's side, his eyes narrowing as he crossed his arms. "It appears that there is an issue with your harbinger," his tone was as dark as his robes. "They seem to have completely ignored the steps they were supposed to take." He sniffed in disdane. "And now they have killed in cold blood, with a new victim in their sights." Gaster sighed as Frisk's toy knife slashed across Snowdrake's crest. The attack made the monster cry out in pain, only to end a moment later as their feathered body scattered across the snow.

Gaia clutched her flowing gowns as the Snowdrake fell to Frisk's attacks, her widened eyes filled with fright. "Gaster," her voice was thin, "what are we looking at? What are we seeing?"
"We are seeing a child murdering monsters," Gaster said sharply. "They are hunting them down, it seems." He turned his gaze to Gaia. "I do not think they are keen on listening to your whispers anymore." The Scientist frowned as he watched the child running after another monster, his skeletal hands clenching as he heard the Ice Cap's swansong. He said nothing more, though; he followed after Gaia as she raced after the child...

 

 

Snowdin was empty.

Grillby sat in the living room over his restaurant and sighed, staring out at the empty streets below him. Snowdin was empty. All of the monsters had been ordered to evacuate by Undyne. The Riverman had been working almost frantically to ferry monsters out of the snowy lands while others raced through Waterfall. He sipped his bourbon as his flames dimmed. He had refused the order to evacuate, along with Sans and Papyrus. Undyne did not press them, did not question them; if any monsters would be safe on their own, she thought, it'd be them. Grillby had shaken her hand and wished her luck as she escorted the monsters out of town.

He took another drink and rubbed his tired eyes. The door to the restaurant was open to any monster that might need shelter. It wasn't what he wanted, though; he wanted to bring Sans and Papyrus into his home and to lock the doors, to sit with them until the human was dead... but he knew it wouldn't happen.

He took another drink.

Sans had appeared briefly only a few hours ago. They had spoken long enough to have an argument that ended in a worried kiss. Grillby stared down at his fingers, his flames dimming as he remembered how Sans' hoodie had slipped free from his grasp...

Grillby finished his bourbon in a single swallow.

With a sigh, he stood up and moved to his personal bar. His hands were steady now, he sneered; he was able to pour himself a drink without spilling it across the old wooden desk. He poured three fingers into the glass and walked to the window. With a hand clasped behind his back, he sipped his bourbon as he surveyed the empty lands below. His eyes were scanning for the human, but he knew there was nothing he could do if they had found them - he wouldn't break the promise he had made to Sans.

He wouldn't fight the human...

 

 

The child had bypassed all of the puzzles, had walked through Snowdin and was now standing on the path that led to Waterfall. Nothing the skeletons did could deter the human. They simply ignored everything the brothers had said. It was nerve wracking and unsettling. This was like nothing that what had happened previously. Sans wanted nothing more than to grab his brother and run - he had tried to get him to do just that - but Papyrus refused to leave the human.
"I HAVE A PLAN, SANS." Papyrus had said as he hugged his brother. "TRUST ME. I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL HANDLE THIS!"
"pap..."
"NO, SANS, IT IS OKAY." He smiled and stood up. "JUST WATCH AS I CAPTURE THE HUMAN AND SAVE THE UNDERGROUND!"

Before Sans could say anything else, his brother strode out to meet the human. Cursing under his breath, he teleported behind a tree as the human stood before Papyrus.

"HALT! HUMAN! HEY, QUIT MOVING WHILE I'M TALKING TO YOU! I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HAVE SOME THINGS TO SAY. FIRST: YOU'RE A FREAKING WEIRDO! NOT ONLY DO YOU NOT LIKE PUZZLES. BUT THE WAY YOU SHAMBLE ABOUT FROM PLACE TO PLACE... THE WAY YOUR HANDS ARE ALWAYS COVERED IN DUSTY POWDER. IT FEELS... LIKE YOUR LIFE IS GOING DOWN A DANGEROUS PATH. HOWEVER! I, PAPYRUS, SEE GREAT POTENTIAL WITHIN YOU! EVERYONE CAN BE A GREAT PERSON IF THEY TRY! AND ME, I HARDLY HAVE TO TRY AT ALL!!! NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!!!"

Frisk took another step forward.

"HEY, QUIT MOVING! THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! HUMAN! I THINK YOU ARE IN NEED OF GUIDANCE! SOMEONE NEEDS TO KEEP YOU ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW! BUT WORRY NOT, I PAPYRUS..." He smiled, "WILL GLADLY BE YOUR FRIEND AND TUTOR! I WILL TURN YOUR LIFE RIGHT AROUND!!!"

 

Gaster's hands clenched his robes as Gaia began to scream, begging for Papyrus to run.

 

"I SEE YOU ARE APPROACHING. ARE YOU OFFERING A HUG OF ACCEPTANCE? WOWIE! MY LESSONS ARE ALREADY WORKING!! I, PAPYRUS, WELCOME YOU WITH OPEN ARMS!"

Frisk stepped closer to the skeleton as Papyrus knelt down...

With a single strike, the Great Papyrus had met his match.

Papyrus stared up at the child as he felt himself fading away - only his head remained now... "W-WELL, THAT'S NOT WHAT I EXPECTED... BUT.... ST... STILL! I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU CAN DO A LITTLE BETTER! EVEN IF YOU DON'T THINK SO!" His voice shook. "I... I PROMISE..."

 

Frisk walked onwards without as much as a backwards glance.

 

Sans ran from his hiding place and fell to his knees beside the pile of ashes. His small hands clutched at the dusty red scarf. He was too stunned to even shed a tear. "p-pa-oh, oh no. pap this--you--you're..." He could barely speak, could barely think. His brother, his baby brother, was dead.

Papyrus was dead.

Sans stared down at the scarf in his hands.

The human had killed his brother. The human that he had promised to protect. The human had killed his brother.

Sans gathered the ashes into the scarf, his hands moving independently from his brain. His pupils were gone. He was no longer in his own mind.

The skeleton walked back to Grillby's...

 

Gaster could not speak. Rage and anguish stilled his tongue. Throughout his millennia of life, he had never experienced losing a--
"Gaster," Gaia whispered, "oh, oh, Gaster... I... I can't--"
"Do not speak." Gaster's said slowly. "Do not talk to me right now, Gaia." He pulled his cloak closer to his skeletal body. "Keep an eye on your harbinger," he spat the word, "and watch as they kill your creations. Watch as your plan falls apart!" Gaster turned and walked away, his footsteps echoing throughout the years.

Gaia turned her tear-stained eyes back to the human and watched as their rampage continued...

 

Grillby heaved a sigh of relief when he heard the tell-tale shuffle of Sans' slippers just outside the door to his home. "...Sans! Thank Asgore, you're ho--where is Papyrus?"
Sans stepped into the foyer, his eyes on his dusty shoes.
"...Sans," Grillby slowly stood, "where is Papyrus?"
"right here," the skeleton whispered, "right here."
Grillby sank back down onto the couch. "...Sans--"
"he's dead, grillby. the human killed him. he's dead. he's gone. he's dead." Sans carefully walked into the living room, clutching the ash-filled scarf. "i... i don't know what i'm going to do anymore. he was--"
"...Let's go to the Capital. Please, Sans. Please. Let's go."
"i can't. i made a promise. i have to--"
"...To the Void with your promise! The human killed Papyrus!"
"i know that!" Sans shouted. "i know! but i have to kee--"
"...No, no you don't. Please, Sans, please, just come to the Capital with me. We'll go to the Manor. We'll be safe there. We can--"
"no."
"...Sans,"
"i have to see this through," Sans looked around Grillby's home, his eyes settling on a vase. "can you bring me that? i want to p-put pap in it."

Grillby stared at his boyfriend for a moment before standing and fetching the vase. He wiped it out with a dry cloth before handing it to Sans; he said nothing as the skeleton carefully filtered the ashes into the glass, his flames dimming as he stared at the remains of the jovial skeleton. Grillby knelt down beside his lover and put a hand on his back, gently rubbing his hands up and down the man's spine. He said nothing as Sans turned and buried his face into his chest, nor did he say anything as he felt his shirt dampening with tears. Grillby held him closer and kissed the top of his head, the two men mourning in silence...

 

Sans and Grillby looked to the coffee table as their phones began to chime. Carefully shifting Sans on his lap, Grillby reached over and picked up their phones. In silence, they stared down at the text messages on the screens before dropping the phones onto their laps.

Undyne was dead.

Grillby pulled Sans closer to his chest...

 

Magmas stood slowly as Horatio relayed the message from the Royal Scientist. "That settles it. Horatio, come with me."
"Sir?"
"I swore to protect King Asgore and the Underground for as long as I draw breath. I will live up to my vow."
"But sir--"
"No, Horatio. Come, help me with my armour." He looked to his wife as she sat in her wheelchair, his mouth thinning. "Ignacea..."
"Mamgas, please don't go." She whispered. "Please. Stay here with me."
The General walked to his wife's side and knelt down. He took her hand within his own and gently kissed it before pulling it to his own chest. "Ignacea, I must. You and I both know what I must do."
Lady Ignacea took a steadying breath as she placed her other hand on his cheek. "I love you."
"And I love you." He leaned forward and gave her a tender kiss as his arms wrapped around her frail shoulders.

When they separated, Ignacea began to cry into a lacy kerchief. Cala, too, was crying as she stood by her Lady's side. Magmas stared to the pink handmaiden before pulling her into a tight embrace. "You were the daughter I never had," he whispered into her furry ear, "please, protect my wife."
"With my life, Si--"
"Call me Magmas."
"I will protect her with my life, Magmas."
"I will leave the care of the Manor in your hands, Cala. You are a fearsome warrior. I feel safe with you in command." He pressed a kiss onto her forehead before stepping away.

With a final kiss from his wife, he left the room with Horatio. The elderly frog helped him with his armour; the armour had protected generations of Feuvant warriors from any and all threats against monsterkind. He flexed his fingers within the wrought iron gauntlets and looked to his butler. "Instruct the servants that they are to follow Cala's words as if they were my own. She will keep you safe."
"Sir..."
"It has been a pleasure, Horatio." He donned his helmet and marched out of the room...

 

Sans did not move from the couch until his phone chimed again.

"the human's in the capital, making their way to the castle. hotland's empty now and the royal guard has been decimated. well, all the ones that were left to patrol. most are guarding the monsters that evacuated." He dropped his phone onto the couch. "i can't stay here any longer, grillby. i have to go."
"...Why? What are you going to do?"
"i'm gonna try to stop the kid before they get killed."
"...What if they attack you?"
"i'll dodge." He pushed himself to his feet. "i don't want to do this, but i have to."
"...No, you don't! Please, Sans, just stay here with me. If you won't go back to the Manor, then please, just stay here with me."
"i love you, grillby,"
"...Sans, no--"
"i'll be back soon."
Grillby hastily stood and pulled the skeleton back to his chest. "...I love you, Sans. Please, please be careful. I want you to come back to me."
"i'll come back. i--" he met his boyfriend's gaze, "--i promise."

They kissed, their hands clinging to the other's clothing. The skeleton wanted to stay there in Grillby's arms; he was safe here. He was lucky... but so many others weren't. Before Grillby could say another word, Sans vanished in a flash of blue light.

Grillby stayed kneeling on the floor, all but paralyzed with worry...

 

 

Sans stared at the child as they approached, his smile grim. They were filthy; a thick layer of dust covered their entire body and had even caked into the wounds they had received. It was nice, he thought to himself, to see that some monsters had managed to put up a fight. Frisk stepped closer to him, grinning as they clutched a long blade in their small hand. A locket hung from their neck, glinting as much as the crazed light in their eyes. Sans exhaled before meeting the child's gaze with a smile.
"heya. you've been busy, huh?"
No response.
"so, i've got a question for ya. do you think even the worst person can change...? that everybody can be a good person if they just try?"
Frisk frowned.
"heh heh heh heh... alright. well, here's a better question. do you want to have a bad time? 'cause if you take another step forward..." His smile grew fixed. "you are REALLY not going to like what happens next."
With a sneer, Frisk stepped closer.
"welp. sorry, old lady. this is why i never make promises."

Sans smiled more as the air began to whip around him.

"it's a beautiful day outside," he said calmly, "birds are singing, flowers are blooming... on days like these, kids like you..." he grinned as his eye shone with an eerie light, "should be burning in hell."

Frisk gasped as they found themselves surrounded by demonic skulls...

 

Gaia couldn't bring herself to watch the fight.

She knelt beside Gaster as she buried her head into her hands. All of this had gone so terribly, terribly wrong - the Underground was dying. Even if the human didn't finish murdering the rest of the inhabitants, the meltdown of the CORE would. There was no one left to monitor it, let alone disable it. Even Ice Wolf had even fled his post; there were no more sheets of ice flowing to the CORE's cooling system. The temperature in the CORE was rising rapidly and the monsters didn't even realize it.

Her shoulders shook as she watched Frisk and Sans engaging in a deadly dance. This was the end, she knew; this was the end of everything. Her plan, her brilliant plan, had failed in the most spectacular of ways. The Underground was going to die.

And it was all her fault...

 

"listen." Sans jumped to the side, "i know you didn't answer me before, but..." he dodged again, "somewhere in there, i can feel it. there's a glimmer of a good person inside you. the memory of someone who once wanted to do the right thing. someone who, in another time, might have even been..." he leaned backwards, ducking under the blade, "a friend. c'mon, buddy, do you remember me? please, if you're listening..." Frisk lunged again. "let's forget all this, ok? just lay down your weapon, and..." another dodge, "well, my job will be a lot easier."

Frisk lunged towards him, both hands clutching the blade.

"welp. it was worth a shot. guess you like doing things the hard way, huh?"
Frisk snarled at him.
"...just..." he sighed, "don't say i didn't warn you." The skulls appeared again, roaring as a pale light filled their jaws...

 

Sans was all but drenched in sweat as he stared at the caged child. Blue bones surrounded them and forced them to stay still. It wasn't ideal, he knew, but it was the only way he could think to both keep his promise to his mysterious friend and to save the Underground from the genocidal maniac. He tried to slow his frantic breathing as Frisk stared at him, their hands quaking with anger and adrenaline.
"you're just gonna stand there, kid," he said quietly, "forever, if that's what it takes to stop you from killing anyone else." He wiped his brow as he stifled a yawn.

Frisk was standing patiently now - they knew that any sudden movements would disturb Sans. They kept perfectly still and silent, watching as the skeleton's eyes began to droop. It wouldn't be too much longer now, they knew, before he simply fell asleep. And as powerful as Sans was, they doubted if he could keep the cage of bones in place while unconscious.

With a smile, they watched as Sans' eyes closed...

 

The cage of bones vanished. Frisk lunged. Sans feinted--

 

He stared down at his fractured sternum in quiet disbelief. "welp." He touched the wound before staring back to the child. "i'm going to grillby's." He began to limp away, not caring that his back was now to the human - he doubted they'd come after him now. "...papyrus," he smiled to himself, "do you want anything...?"

He vanished in a flash of light.

 

Frisk sat down and began to bind their wounds, crying angry tears as they tried to staunch the bleeding.

 

Grillby's head snapped up as he heard a crash. He scrambled off of the couch and ran to Sans, his hands shaking in disbelief. The skeleton was fading into ash before his eyes. "...SANS!"
"i... kept my promise," he smiled as Grillby picked him up, "couldn't keep the other ones."
"...Sans, hang on. Please, just hang on. Let me--"
He shook his head as his feet began to crumble. "i miss pap,” he said quietly.
"...I love you." Grillby whispered.
"love you too."

Grillby watched as Sans fell into dust.

 

He did not remember how long he sat on the floor of his living room. He did not remember standing and carefully shaking the dust off of his clothing. He did not remember placing Sans' ashes into the same vase with Papyrus. He did not remember leaving Snowdin.

All he remembered was that he had tied Papyrus' scarf around the vase before pulling on Sans' hoodie.

The Riverman had found him in Waterfall and had pulled him onto his boat. Grillby said nothing as he was ferried towards Hotland - it was the closest the Riverman could take him to the Capital.
"Stay safe," the Riverman had said, "stay hidden."
Grillby nodded and resumed his trek back to his childhood home.

 

"Grillbert!"
He raised his head and looked around, forcing his eyes to focus. His eyebrows rose in disbelief as he saw an armour-glad figure walking towards him - he had not seen that armour since he was a child. "...Father?"
"By the Void," Magmas hurried to his son and pulled him into a hug, "you're still alive."
"...Father, what are you doing? Why are you--"
Magmas stepped back and stared at his son. "Where is Sans?"
"...He," Grillby swallowed and touched the hoodie he now wore, "he fell to the human."
"Oh." The General looked away. "I... I am very sorry. I," Magmas swallowed, "I know how much you loved him. Your mother told me about him. She was always so happy to tell me." His voice faded as he pulled Grillby into another hug.
"...Where is Ember?"
"She's safe; she came to the Manor with her mother almost immediately." His gauntlet-clad hand stroked Grillby's back. "You should go to the Manor - go and sit with your daughter. She has asked for you." Magmas smiled to himself. "It has been a pleasure to know her. You did a fantastic job, Grillbert - she is an honour to the family name." His smile faltered as he stepped away from the hug. "I only regret not knowing her sooner - and I know it is my own fault." Magmas whispered. "I..."
Grillby stared at his father, his orange flames the barest of glowing embers.
"I... am sorry, Grillbert. I am sorry for everything. Please forgive me."

Grillby blinked as he met his father's gaze. He heard the words that the man had said, but they had not fully registered. "...You... are sorry?"
"Yes." He squeezed his son's hands. "Grillbert, I am. I," he took a steadying breath, "I know it is almost twenty years overdue, but I am sorry. Please, forgive me."

The bartender found himself speechless. He had never thought he would hear those words from his father - to hear them now, when everything was falling apart...?

"...I forgive you."

 

Grillby and Magmas had gone their separate ways after a strong hug and a handshake. They did not know if they would see the other again, but they had both spoken their piece. It was not enough to erase the years of anger and hatred, they knew, but it gave both men the closure they had wanted.

They did not look at one another as they walked away.

Magmas turned his gaze to the Castle as he drew his sword. "Victoriam per ignam," he whispered, "for the Underground."

 

...At least Magmas would never know that he would fail...

 

Grillby knocked on the door to the Manor and sighed as he waited for the ancient doors to be opened. He hugged the hoodie tighter to his body as he heard the sounds of armoured hooves approaching.
"Who is it?" Cala barked.
"...Grillby."
"Master Grillbert!" She opened the door and peered out onto the landing. "Oh, you're finally here! Please, get inside!" She opened the door a hair wider and let Grillby squeeze inside before barring the door. "Wait; you're alone and... oh, oh Master Grillbert, tell me--"
He only nodded.
"Master Gri--"
"...Where is Ember?"
"She is with Lady Ignacea in the solarium."
"...Thank you." He bowed his head and walked away, lost within his own mind.

Cala watched him walk away, biting her lip behind her visor. She made her way back into the Manor proper, a melancholic smile crossing her face as she saw her beloved Jezebel sitting with an orphaned child on her lap. The white rabbit was reading to the child as she tried to distract him from their painful reality. Jezebel raised her head and gave her girlfriend a sad smile before she returned her gaze to the book.

The handmaiden-turned-warrior walked past the sitting pair, pausing long enough to raise her visor and kiss her girlfriend's cheek...

 

"Daddy!"
Grillby closed the door behind him and turned in time to catch his daughter as she threw her arms around him. "...Hello, Ember."
"Grillbert! Oh, I am so relieved--" Ignacea turned her wheelchair to face her son, "--where is Sans?"
He shook his head as he slowly lowered Ember back to the ground.
"I am so sorry," Ignacea whispered. She looked down to Grillbert as he sat beside her wheelchair and placed his head on her knee. Her pale yellow hands stroked his head as Ember sat next to her father, leaning against him...

 

Half an hour later, Grillby raised his head from his mother's lap as Cindy poked her head into the room.

"Grillby," she whispered in relief, "you finally made it."
"...Hello, Cindy."
"Mom--" Ember frowned as her mother stepped into the room.
"Can we talk, Grillby?" Cindy asked.
Ignacea frowned at her former daughter-in-law as she stepped closer. "Cindriana, I think it can wait."
"It will just take a moment," Cindy insisted.
Grillby pushed himself to his feet and met his ex-wife's gaze. He said nothing as he followed her out of the room and into the empty hallway. They could hear the distant susurrus of the monsters that had taken shelter within the ancient Manor.

They walked in silence before Cindy turned her gaze to her former husband. "I... I am glad you are here."
"...I am as well," his voice was hollow.
"Where is Sans?"
"...He's dead."
"Oh." She blanched. "I-I'm sorry."
"...As am I."
"Grillby--"
"...Where is Jerry?"

Cindy looked to her feet. "He," she swallowed, "he ran away when he heard that the human had made it to the Capital. I do not know where he went."
Grillby did not look to her, but Cindy could see that he had raised an eyebrow. She continued on.
"I wanted to ask you if... if there was anything left between us."
He did look to her upon hearing that.
"I wanted to see if you would want to be a family again, like we were before. I... I realized how much I miss you, how much I love you."

Grillby stopped walking as he stared to his former wife. "...You just asked me to take you back, only hours after my boyfriend dies? Hours after your own boyfriend abandons you?"
"I--"
"...No, Cindy, no. I refuse. I will not take you back. I have no desire to do so and, on top of that," he frowned, "I promised Sans that I wouldn't." He turned away from her. "...I am going to go and return to Mother and Ember now."
"Grillby--"
"...No. Goodbye, Cindriana; we had our chance. It is over."
"Grillby!"

He ignored her cries as he returned to the solarium...

 

 

Frisk clutched the knife tightly as they made their way into the Castle, breathing hard as they looked for any sign of attacking foes. Unnervingly, infuriatingly, the halls were deserted. Why? Why?! Where had everyone gone? Was there no one left that would try to stop them? Surely, surely there had to be more!

Frisk stepped into the courtyard and found themselves staring up at Asgore.

 

"Curious," he whispered to himself, "I've never seen a plant... cry before." He stared down at the sobbing golden flower, watching as the tears rolled across the petals. His ear twitched and he slowly turned, blinking in surprise at the sight of a small figure approaching him. Hadn't everyone gone into hiding? Why was this little one here? Was this—

"...You must be the one the flower just warned me about."

He stared into the dark eyes and blanched; the flower had told him that the child was dangerous, that he should be careful. He found himself having a hard time believing the flower’s words – after all, it was only a child.

"Howdy!"
No response.
"Erm... what kind of monster are you...? Sorry, I cannot tell."
Frisk's eyes narrowed.
"Well, we can alway--Now, now," he cautioned. "There's no need to fight. Why not settle this over a nice cup of tea--"

The blade pierced Asgore's armour.

He dropped to one knee and stared in horror as the air filled with what looked like pellets. He could do nothing as the pellets surrounded him; he did not cry out as they struck his body, nor did he cry as he felt his soul shattering. He only kept his gaze on the child as he felt his body fading into ash....

 

"See? I never betrayed you!" Came the flower’s small voice. "It was all a trick, see!" Flowey's face was covered with the ashes of Asriel's father - his father.

 

Frisk stared at the sight of the ashen Flowey in utter disdain.

 

They hated the flower. They hated the stupid golden flower that had been whispering into their ear ever since they had fallen into the Underground. They stepped closer to the flower, watching as the face within the pistil changed. They did not listen as Flowey tried to explain himself, tried to garner both pity and mercy alike. It was no different from the all the times that the flower had told them his story, his sad, sad little story during their journey through the Underground. Oh, how sad it was, they sneered; how sad it truly was to still have both their parents alive and willing to love them. How sad it was to be surrounded by people that would want to befriend him. How sad, indeed! Their knuckles turned white from their grip on the knife. How could they be sad for someone that just killed their own father?!

As they stared down at Flowey, Frisk began to think of their own twisted, sordid fate. They had no one, now. Their birth parents were gone. Their adopted grandparents were dead. The children they used to live with had been adopted into other homes. The only person that could even remotely be considered family was Toriel, but she had become half-mad from living alone in the Ruins. The woman had tried to hold them hostage in an attempt to stave off her own loneliness, without a care for how Frisk felt...

 

"p-Please don't kill me!" The flower's pistil showed the face of a young child with tears in their eyes. They began to cry in earnest as Frisk stepped closer. "Don't kill--"

Flowey's cries quickly ceased.

Petals fell to the ground as the pistil was cloven in half. Again and again and again flashed the knife in the dimming light of the courtyard. Flowey fell into a heap of sap and leaves as Frisk stood before them. Screaming wordlessly, they stomped the flower back into the very dirt from which he had grown, not stopping until his only remains were a damp patch of soil.

They turned their eyes to the door at the end of the courtyard and began to walk...

 

....only to frown as they saw the world growing darker.

 

 

Grampa Ernest had always told them that the Devil stood ten feet high, with red skin and big, black horns. Grampa Ernest had always told them that the Devil would only appear at crossroads late at night. Grampa Ernest had always told them that the Devil was always surrounded by the scents of fire and brimstone.

They stared at the child that stood before them and all but recoiled in fear.

It was now abundantly clear that Grampa Ernest had never seen the Devil before.

 

The air was filled with the scents of buttercups and chocolate that unsuccessfully masked the scent of ozone. The figure before them stood as tall as they themselves stood, but the stranger seemed so much larger. Brown hair was bobbed to their jaw; they looked like a child, but Frisk knew that this was no child. The innocently blushed, dimpled cheeks failed to hide the soullessness of their eyes.

"Greetings," they smiled. "Thank you. Your power has awakened me from death."

Frisk could not move as they listened to the strange figure talking. Despite their own uneasiness and anger, they found themselves hanging on every word...

 

"We have reached the absolute end," the stranger said, "there is nothing left for us here. Let us erase this pointless world and move onto the next."

Frisk stared at the hand that they had extended.

The stranger was offering them a new world. A whole new world - would there be a family for them in this world? A mother and a father, a home with a brother and a sister and a happy dog? Their grip on the knife began to weaken as they stared into the brown eyes.

A new world was waiting for them. A new life.

With a nod, they took the stranger's hand.

 

 

"Gaia,"

 

She could not turn. She was paralyzed with fear.

Not from the scene before her, no.

She knew what stood behind her.

 

"You have one day," his voice had changed - gone away was The Scientist that she had befriended; in its place was the voice she had not heard since her birth. "You have only one day to fix this. If this does not happen," he exhaled slowly; Gaia felt eons washing over her, "then I will correct this mistake myself."

She did not turn.

"Gaia,"

No.

"Look at me."

Trembling like a leaf, Gaia slowly turned and found herself screaming as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing - to call it apocalyptic was both the truth and an insult to the sheer grandeur that was Father Ti--

"You have been warned."

 

 

Frisk found themselves floating in an endless void.

There was no new world.

There was no family, no house with a picket fence, no happy dog.

There was only emptiness.

 

They stared at the blade that had ended so many lives - so many happy lives with mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. They had killed everyone that had what they had so terribly craved. And for what?

Frisk looked over to the stranger that was happily drifting along. They did not know why the stranger was smiling - what was there to smile about now? There was nothing. No sunlight, no birds, no flowers - nothing. There was nothing.

They looked back to the knife and bit their lip as they saw the notches within the dulled metal. They had never noticed - how badly it must have hurt, they thought, to be killed by a dull knife. Their shoulders drooped as they let the knife fall from their hands.

It only hovered in place before them, haunting them...

 

"You want to go back to the world you destroyed." The stranger half-asked after what felt like centuries of silence. "It was you who pushed everything to its edge. It was you who led the world to its destruction. But you cannot accept it." Another half statement. "Do you think you are above consequences?"
Frisk hesitated before they slowly nodded.
"Perhaps... we can reach a compromise." The stranger drifted closer to Frisk. "You still have something that I want. Give it to me and I will bring this world back."

Frisk stared at the stranger, thinking through the implications. They did not know what would happen if they gave their soul to this... this thing. They knew they had grown powerful during their rampage - what would that power do when in the hands of another? They gave a shuddering breath as they stared down to their own hands. Did they even deserve the power that they had gathered? They had killed for it, had killed everyone for it. The stranger, however, was offering to restore the world that they had killed in return for that power. Would they use it to revive the world or to destroy another?

Frisk's eyes closed as they began to will themselves to go back to Toriel, back to the bedroom with the dusty toys and the box of shoes, back to the small house in the ruins...

 

They did not know how long they tried before they simply gave up.

Nothing was happening.

They could not reset their world.

 

"Give it to me," the stranger said again, "and I will bring this world back."
Frisk's shoulders slumped as they nodded. They had no other option.
"Then it is agreed." The stranger grabbed the knife. "You will give me your soul."

Frisk threw their arms over their face as the stranger lunged--

 

 

Sans opened his eyes.

Chapter Text

Sans exhaled slowly as he stared up at the ceiling.

He had opened his eyes.

Sans rolled onto his side and stared at his phone, staring at the date that had haunted him for months.

He was glad to see it.

Sans pushed himself into a sitting position. Sans watched as he flexed his fingers and his toes; the corners of his eyes burned with unshed tears.

He was alive.

Sans dressed and left his bedroom, staring at the darkened hallway as he made his way to Papyrus' room. He knocked on the door before slowly pushing it open, smiling more as he saw his brother sitting up in his racecar bed.

"pap," he whispered as tears began to trickle down his cheeks.
"SANS!" Papyrus all but scrambled out of bed as he rushed to his brother's side. He wrapped his arms around Sans and crushed him against his chest as the two brothers fiercely embraced.
"pap, i had a--no, it wasn't a dream," he sighed into his brother's shirt. It was time to stop lying. "have you... have you noticed anything familiar, y'know, the past few days"
"DO YOU MEAN ABOUT HOW WE KEEP GOING BACK TO THE SAME DAY?"
"you noticed?" Sans pushed away from his brother as he stared up to him. "why didn't you say something?"
"HOW COULD I SAY IT WITHOUT SOUNDING CRAZY?" Papyrus asked as he knelt before him.
"i..." Sans glanced away; he had kept quiet for the same reason. How could he say it without sounding insane?

"DID," the younger skeleton swallowed, "DID THE HUMAN KILL YOU, TOO?"
"y-yeah," Sans leaned into his brother again, holding him tightly, "they did. i tried to stop them, but they... they killed me." His small hands clutched his brother's shirt. "why didn't you fight them, pap? why did you just..."
"I... I THOUGHT THAT IF I JUST SHOWED THEM LOVE, THEY WOULD RECONSIDER THEIR ACTIONS." Papyrus said in a low tone. "I CAN SEE THAT I WAS MISTAKEN, BUT I..." he sighed, "I DO NOT WANT TO HURT THEM. THEY ARE A CHILD, SANS. A CHILD. THEY ARE SCARED."
"i know they're just a kid and i'm not surprised that they're scared, but i don't want to see you die again!" Sans hugged his brother a little tighter. "please, promise me that if they try to hurt you, you'll... you'll run away or just stop them. just," he looked up to Papyrus, "don't let them hurt you again."
"I PROMISE." He smiled as he felt Sans leaning into him...

 

The two brothers sat together on the couch in their living room, each sipping a warm cup of milk tea. It had begun to snow outside in the early twilight hours, blanketing the world in silence. They drank their tea as they quietly rejoiced in the other's company.

They were both alive again.

"pap?"
"YES?"
"how long have you known about the resets?" Sans asked as he took another drink.
"I HAVE KNOWN SINCE THE START." He looked into his cup, not wanting to meet his brother's gaze.
"why didn't you tell me?"
"BECAUSE I DIDN'T KNOW THE WORDS TO SAY. AND I DID NOT WANT TO WORRY YOU." Papyrus glanced over to his brother. "WHY DID YOU NOT SAY ANYTHING?"
"....because i didn't know the words to say and i didn't want to worry you." Sans admitted lamely. "i mean, i know i asked, but... i guess you didn't want to worry me, huh?" He sighed as Papyrus nodded.

Papyrus finished the last few drops of his tea before looking to his brother. "DOES GRILLBY KNOW? UNDYNE DID NOT KNOW."
"no, he didn't. from what i can tell, only us and the human know." He placed his empty mug on the coffee table. "i told grillby a few times, but after a while, it just..."
"STOPPED BEING HELPFUL?"
"y-yeah. it just made everything worse, to keep saying it over and over again. i got tired of having the same conversations. was that how it was with undyne?"
Papyrus nodded as he, too, finished his tea. "YES."
"you should go see her today. i'm going to go see grillby soon. i need to see him again."
"ALRIGHT. I WILL GO AND SEE UNDYNE." Papyrus glanced to his brother. "SANS?"
"yeah, bro?"
"IF THE HUMAN STARTS TO KILL AGAIN," he exhaled slowly, "WILL YOU HELP ME STOP THEM?"

Sans stared down at his slipper clad feed in silence, thinking through what his brother had just said. After many long moments, he nodded. "y-yeah. i will."
"THANK YOU." Papyrus reached over and pulled his brother into another hug. "WILL I SEE YOU FOR DINNER TONIGHT?"
"probably. but i'll probably spend tonight at grillby's. will you stay over at undyne's?"
"YES." He smiled as he stood. "I'M GLAD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, SANS. I WAS WORRIED THAT I'D NOT GET THE CHANCE."
"same here," Sans watched as his brother left their house, his heart fluttering in joyous relief.

Papyrus was still alive.

Sans left the house and locked the door behind him before making his way to Grillby's. He knew the restaurant wouldn't be open for a few more hours, but he wasn't going there for food.

He crept through the kitchen door and up the stairs in the back of the building. He pushed open the door into the converted living space and made his way into Grillby's bedroom, smiling as he heard the gentle crackling of his lover's flames while he peacefully slept.

The skeleton wiggled out of his clothing before standing by the man's bedside, a cool hand tracing patterns across Grillby's fiery body.
"hey grillbs," he whispered, "mind if i join you?"
Grillby opened his eyes and nodded with a dewy smile. "...I'd be happy if you did," he whispered as he raised the blankets.
Sans crawled into the bed and curled tightly against the man's body, smiling as he felt his very soul warming from Grillby's flames. He let himself melt under the kisses and caresses before he rolled onto his back.

Grillby followed the man's kisses as he moved over him...

 

 

Frisk opened their eyes for only a moment before rolling onto their stomach and burying their face into the pillows. They could smell the scent of homemade butterscotch and could hear the sounds of Toriel cooking breakfast.

The stranger had brought their world back.

Frisk hugged their pillows for a few more moments before crawling out of bed. They combed their shaggy hair and ate the pie before making their way into the kitchen. They smiled as they saw Toriel standing over the stove, only to have their smile grow wider as they threw their arms around her plush waist. Toriel smiled down at the child and patted their head.
"Good morning, little one. Did you sleep well?"
Frisk nodded as they hugged Toriel a little tighter.
"My, you are affectionate today! Do you like pancakes that much, my child?"
Again, Frisk nodded.
"Well, go and sit at the table. I'll bring you some in just a moment. Perhaps, while you eat, we can discuss what we will be covering in your lessons. Would you like that?"
Frisk's nodding continued as they hopped onto a well-worn chair. They patted the table in excitement as Toriel placed a plate full of pancakes in front of them. Toriel only laughed as the child tore into the plate with ravenous vigor.

"Slow down, my child!" Her tittering laughter filled the kitchen, "the pancakes are not going anywhere! You have all day!"

 

Frisk didn't just have all day.

They had a week.

For a week, they had learned about snails, mathematics, reading and had even some basic sign language. Toriel had their days structured so that each lesson was just long enough to keep Frisk's attention without fatiguing them and there were plenty of chances for breaks and simple games. They could hardly remember a time that they had ever been happier.

Their happiness remained, even when they heard Gaia whispering within their dreams.

 

Since the third day, she had filled the child's dreams with visions of the surface. Night after night, Frisk would dream of themselves leading the monsters to the surface, taking them down the rocky slopes of Mt. Ebott and back to the humans. It was not an easy journey, Frisk knew, but it was one that they must face.

"You will see Toriel again, my harbinger," Gaia's voice was soothing, "but for now, you must leave her side. You must travel through the Underground and you must break the barrier. You will not be alone, my harbinger; you will have monsters that will help you. The monsters want you to succeed." Her earthen hands stroked Frisk's hair as the child slept peacefully. "On the dawn of the eighth day, you must depart. Make your way east, to the capital, and then to the surface..."

Frisk clutched the blankets a little tighter as Gaia retreated from the room....

 

On the eighth day, they left Toriel's home.

 

 

Sans stood in the shadows of the trees as he watched the child leaving the ruins. His breath caught in his chest as he stared at them, a sense of relief flooding him as he realized they were not covered in dust. Their eyes were bright and happy, seemingly bursting with life.

It could not have been a starker contrast from the last time that he had seen them.

He watched them walking through the snow as he came to his usual post. He glanced down at the whoopee-cushion in his pocket and wondered if it was worth inflating. The human had stopped caring after the third reset, but... maybe they'd laugh this time?

He inflated the cushion as he stepped into his usual position...

 

Frisk slowly turned as they heard Sans' voice, their heart hammering within their chest. They were afraid to turn around - how would the skeleton react upon seeing them? They had killed him! They had killed him, his brother and everyone he had ever known. What would Sans do to them when they turned?

They took a steadying breath and slowly turned, their entire body trembling with fear. They wanted to run away, but they knew that they couldn't...

Frisk slowly turned and stared at the skeleton, biting their lip as they met his gaze.

I am so sorry, their eyes filled with unshed tears as they stared at the smiling skeleton, please, forgive me...

They glanced down at his hand and slowly grasped it, their honest smile reaching the corners of their eyes as they listened to the cushion deflating.

 

Sans stared at the child before slowly pulling his hand away. He could hardly believe the change within them - the last time they had stood in this spot, he could have sworn the child wanted to plunge the plastic blade through his eye socket.

Now? Now they were silently laughing at the same stupid little joke that they had seen time and time again.

He had to admit, he was glad for the change.

 

Sans instructed the human to go through the gate that Papyrus built, telling them that he'd meet them up ahead. He watched as the child scampered through the snow, tripping over their feet in their haste. The skeleton stared for a moment longer before stepping through a portal.

He appeared beside his outpost and grabbed the conveniently shaped lamp, humming to himself as he placed it into position. He knew that the human would be arriving any moment now, just as he knew that Papyrus would soon make his way into the clearing. He felt a pang of worry stabbing at his heart as he thought about his brother and the words they had exchanged over a week ago.

Neither brother truly wanted to hurt the child, but if it was a matter of the human's life or the lives of the monsters, both knew what they must do.

 

...even if it meant breaking a promise.

 

Sans urged the child to stand behind the lamp as soon as they arrived within the clearing. They scampered over to the lamp and stood behind it, their hands held over their mouth as they grinned. Sans watched in mild amusement as the child silently giggled while standing behind the lamp. Their silent laughter only increased as Papyrus strode into the clearing.

The skeletons talked amongst themselves, saying the lines they had said countless times before. It was just an act to them, both brothers knew, but it was one that they had to put on. Maybe, they thought, if they pretended that everything was still okay that the human, too, would think that it was. Maybe, they thought, it would be enough to stave off another rampage...

When Papyrus strode away, Sans beckoned for the child to leave their hiding spot. They hurried up to him again before scurrying off into the snowy lands, leaving the skeleton to scratch his head in worry. What had happened to the child to make them so enthusiastic? What were they planning...?

He pushed his worries away as he trudged through the snow.

 

 

Papyrus and Sans watched as the human worked their way through the puzzles. Papyrus was overjoyed to see the human now. This was the same the happy human that he remembered; this was the same child that wanted to play along with his games. He watched with unrestrained glee as the child carefully walked through the hidden maze with the orb precariously perched upon their head - he knew that the human knew which steps to take, but both were pretending that it was the first time they had seen the maze.

Sans said nothing as he watched.

When the human approached him after completing the maze, Sans fell back onto the words he had said time and time again. It took almost all of his energy to force a happy smile onto his face and to push life into his words.

Once alone, Sans fought and lost against his will to stay standing. He sat heavily in the snow as he held his head; his breathing was labored as his pupils vanished. He wanted to believe that the human was going to do the right thing, but how could he be sure? He had been murdered. The human had killed him!

The buzzing of his phone snapped him back to the present. Sans fumbled with his phone before swearing and scrambling to his feet. Papyrus was texting him, letting him know that the human was approaching and that he should be getting ready. Even though the human and the brothers all knew what was coming next, each wanted to ensure that they kept the ruse alive for just a little bit longer. After all, the human was happy now - he didn't even see the plastic knife with them. Sans tucked his phone back into his pocket and he waved his hand. A portal opened, showing him the spot where he would be meeting the human. This time, at least, he had remembered to grab the word search from Grillby's kitchen after their not-so-lazy morning together.

He dropped the paper down onto the snow before moving into position, his eternal smile hiding the worry within his mind...

 

The human had completed all the puzzles that the tall skeleton had designed. They had even 'fought' Papyrus. Sans had watched the battle from his usual hiding spot; his fingers dug channels into the tree bark as he watched, his tired eyes fixed unblinkingly on the scene before him. He was flanked by the his demonic skulls and was more than ready to end the human's life if they even so much as raised a finger against his brother.

Thankfully, the skulls were not needed.

 

Sans watched as his brother all but ran from the human after their 'fight.' He smiled in relief as Papyrus bounded into the trees and right up beside him, the tall skeleton's smile all but glowing in the midday light. He hugged his brother tightly as they watched the human walking into Waterfall. Sans' eyes closed as he leaned into his brother's embrace, his shoulders slumping in relief as Papyrus' gloved hand rubbed his back.

 

They were still safe.

 

 

Grillby raised an eyebrow as Sans walked into the restaurant. He said nothing as the skeleton hopped up onto his usual stool, nor did he say anything when Sans asked for his usual. The bartender placed a cordial glass down in front of him before wandering into the kitchen to make an order of fries. He knew something had happened to Sans, but he wasn't sure what - after all, it was very unusual that Sans was awake before sunrise and it was even more unusual that they, well... His flaming body burned a deeper shade of red as he recalled their morning. In the privacy of his kitchen, he beamed as he relived their early morning together. The only thing that dampened his glow was that he realized he still didn't know what had brought about Sans' sudden shift in mood.

The skeleton was normally always a little tired and worried, he knew, but this morning had been different. As much as he had thoroughly enjoyed the surprise visit, it had left him concerned. He didn't press his boyfriend, though; Sans would talk when he was ready to talk.

 

Grillby was not prepared for Sans to talk as he placed down the fries.

 

"the human's different," he said to the bartender in the empty restaurant, "they've changed."
"...Changed? What do you mean?"
"last time they were here--" Sans ignored Grillby's confused expression, "--they were on a rampage. they killed everyone they saw. pap died, undyne died," he swallowed, "and they even killed me. i tried to stop them, but they killed me. i don't know what happened. all i know," he let out a shuddering breath after he drank the amaretto in a single swallow, "is that i left the castle and i came back here. i died in your arms, because i promised you i'd come back to you."
"...Sans," Grillby stared down at him, more than a little horrified by what he had just heard, "what are you saying? Was this a dream? What do you mean 'the last time they were here?' The human has never been here before--wait. What do you mean, you died in my arms?" He moved from behind the bar and sat down next to the skeleton. His warm arm came to rest across Sans' shoulders. "...Talk to me."

Sans stared down at Grillby's hand before meeting his gaze. "the human's been here before, grillby. we've lived this over and over and over again. this time is different, though, and so was last time... but all the other times have been the same. last time they killed everyone. this time?" He began to eat the fries. "this time, the kid's being nice to everyone and everything. they helped out the gyftrot and they worked all of pap's puzzles, even though we know they've done them all before. the kid didn't care, neither did pap. we're all just pretending like it's the first time." He sighed and added more ketchup to the plate. "i just... well, i'm worried. i'm worried they're going to turn on us again and murder us all. i don't want to die again," he slumped against his boyfriend as best he could, "i don't want to see pap die again. i never want to see pap die..."

Grillby found himself at a loss for words as he held Sans - how could he even respond to that? Sans was saying it with such honesty and such conviction that Grillby did not believe for a second that this was a dream. How could it be possible, though? Sans was talking about time travel - he knew his boyfriend could travel distances in the blink of an eye, but time travel...?

He hugged his lover a little closer and pressed a flaming kiss onto the top of his head. "...Whatever I can do for you, Sans," he whispered, "just let me know. I love you and I'm here for you."
"i love you too, grillby."
The two fell silent as they sat together in the empty restaurant; even though they were both lost within their minds, they were not alone. Sans could feel Grillby's warmth through his hoodie, just as Grillby could feel the cool touch of Sans' bony fingers as they traced over his flaming hands. With a quiet smile, they let their racing thoughts slow. For now, they knew, things were alright...

 

Sans watched as the human made their way through Waterfall. They stopped to look through his telescope and pretended not to notice the red paint that Sans had smeared across the eyepiece. The skeleton smiled despite himself as he saw the bright mark on their face; the child played along, leaving the paint on their face even after they left the room.

Their small feet carried them quickly through Waterfall, their hands clasped over their ears as they heard the whispering voice of the golden flower. That was the absolute last thing they ever wanted to hear and yet it was following their every step. Frisk broke into a run as they saw vines surging around them, all but crying now as the flower began to shout...

 

Sans watched as Frisk carried the glass of water to the unconscious Undyne, watched as the woman pushed herself to her feet, watched as she retreated. He did not comment about the fight that Frisk had escaped from as he began to stack 'dogs on the child's head. Instead, he laughed with the child as the tower of 'dogs grew taller and taller with every passing moment. Eventually Frisk grew bored of standing still and left the outpost - but only after Sans refused to stack more 'dogs onto their head. The 'dogs fell onto the walkway as they made their way deeper into Hotland.

The skeleton followed after them, idly kicking the 'dogs down into the churning lava below. He knew that the child did not have much further to go until they arrived within Asgore's court - how much longer did he have before all of this was reset again? He had never seen the child engage Asgore in a fight. As far as he knew, the child would simply travel back through time and return to the ruins, to the home of his friend...

 

 

He was only partially right.

 

The human had gone back, but they had not gone back to the ruins, nor had they gone through time.

He and Grillby sat in his messy bedroom as they listened to Papyrus and the human's 'date.' Grillby had all but collapsed into ashes as he tried to stifle his laughter whereas Sans felt like dying from second-hand embarrassment. It had been painful enough to listen to the date the first time it had happened - to hear it a second time just made it even worse. At least, he thought to himself, Papyrus is having fun and the human isn't murdering anyone.

 

The pair stayed hidden within his bedroom until after the human left. Papyrus knocked on the door a few minutes later before poking his head around the door.
"THE HUMAN IS GOING TO TALK TO UNDYNE NOW. I TOLD THEM THAT THEY SHOULD TALK TO HER."
Sans pushed himself to his feet as he met his brother's gaze. "i'll go keep watch, then."
"NO, SANS. TAKE A BREAK. I CAN HANDLE THIS."
"you sure?"
"POSITIVE."
"but i--"
"I KNOW YOU PROMISED, BUT UNDYNE IS MY FRIEND. NO ONE WILL SUSPECT ANYTHING IF I AM THERE."
"but--"
"LET ME HANDLE THIS, SANS." Papyrus' voice softened. "YOU DESERVE A BREAK." He gave his brother a kind smile. "GRILLBY, KEEP AN EYE ON MY BROTHER." He winked before leaving the room.

Sans was mortified.

"he just..." he sputtered, "did he honestly--"
Grillby smiled as he carefully pulled Sans back down onto the bed. "...Yes, he did. Now lie down and relax. You need a break."
Sans stared at his boyfriend before slumping against Grillby's warm chest. He was nervous, but he found himself being soothed under Grillby's hands as his lover massaged his shoulders...

 

 

The human did go to see Undyne.

The human then went to see Alphys.

The human then saw Undyne, Alphys and Papyrus.

The human also saw things that that they knew they would never, ever forget.

They had hurried through the True Lab, doing their best to make it through as quickly as possible. The Amalgamates scared them more than anything else they had encountered in the Underground - except for the child. The child had scared them to their very core. They had never seen something that utterly soulless before. They pushed their fear aside, though, and kept on. They knew that the secrets here had to be unraveled before they could go any further...

 

Gaster stood beside Gaia as they watched the child moving through the True Lab. To say that he was angry was an understatement. The current Royal Scientist, his very replacement, had done something so despicable he could barely voice it. Gaia herself was quiet as she watched her mutated creations lumbering after the human. It was disgusting, she thought to herself, to see what had been done to the monsters. She could understand why Alphys had done it, but her understanding did not mean that she agreed. She glanced over to Gaster and watched as he rubbed his hands, his fingers tracing the holes that had been punched through the bones themselves.
"I have to wonder where she got her ideas." Gaia said quietly. "Do you think she found your notes?"
"No." He shook his head. "I made sure they were destroyed soon after W. D. Gaster fell into the Void. I did not want my research to fall into the hands of another."
"I do not think you would have to worry about monsters acting upon your experiments exactly as you conducted them." She smiled slightly. "I am not sure another would be so willing to puncture their palms."
He stared at her for a moment before returning his gaze to his hands. The left hand had been the first hand he had experimented upon. In many ways, it had been his favourite experiment. The right hand had come a few years later, after he had ensured that the first experiment--no, not experiment. The first experiment had stopped being an experiment the moment it had said 'dada.'

The Scientist shook his head as he curled his hands into fists. He could not afford to become sentimental now - the end was not yet upon them.

He turned his gaze back to the Underground, watching as Papyrus called his friends to the castle. He had seen this potential outcome now several times over, but he still felt a small pang of worry crossing his timeless heart as he saw Sans approaching the courtyard...

 

Asgore heaved a sigh as he stood before the child. "Human," he said softly, "it was nice to meet you. Goodbye." He lowered his gaze as he drew his sp--

Frisk blinked in confusion as Asgore was knocked off of his feet by a small fireball. Their heart began to race as they saw a familiar form stepping into view.

Toriel stared at her former husband. "What a miserable creature, torturing a poor, innocent youth..." The woman shook her head and smiled as she turned her gaze to Frisk. "Do not worry my child. It is I, Toriel. Your friend and guardian. At first, I thought I would let you make your journey alone..." She sighed softly, "but i could not stop worrying about you. Your adventure must have been so treacherous and, ultimately, it would burden you with a horrible choice. To leave this place, you would have to take the life of another person. You would have to defeat Asgore. however... I realized... I cannot allow that." A small smile crossed her furred face. "It is not right to sacrifice someone to simply let someone leave here. Is that not what I have been trying to prevent this entire time?" She smiled rather beatifically. "So, for now, let us suspend this battle. As terrible as Asgore is..." Her smile vanished as she threw another glare in the direction of her former husband. "He deserves mercy, too."

Asgore pushed himself to his feet as he stared to the exiled queen. "Tori..." He breathed, "you came back!"
She scowled as she heard the old pet name. "Do not "Tori" me, Dreemur! You pathetic whelp!" Toriel turned away from the king. "If you really wanted to free our kind, you could have gone through the barrier after you got ONE SOUL, taken six SOULs from the humans, then come back and freed everyone peacefully. But instead, you made everyone live in despair..." Her voice was all but dripping with venom now. "Because you would rather wait here, meekly hoping another human never comes."

The King could only stare at her; he had been caught flatfooted by her logic. Did she even hear what she was saying? She was still calling for the murder of six other humans! He glanced to the child, noticed how the child was staring at his ex-wife with love in their eyes, and sighed. "...Tori, you're right..." His shoulders slumped; he would not sour Frisk's adoration for his former wife. "I am a miserable creature... but, do you at least think we can be friends again?"
Toriel rolled her eyes. "NO, Asgore."

The bickering of the former spouses was put to an end as Undyne rushed into the courtyard. "Ngahhhhhh! Asgore! Human!" She was slightly breathless, "nobody fight each other! Everyone's gonna make friends, or else I'll... I'll--" Her voice trailed off as Toriel approached.
"Hello. I am Toriel. Are you the human's friend? It is nice to meet you."
Undyne blinked at the woman as she tried and failed to hide her confusion. "Uh, yeah...? Nice to meet you!" She quickly hurried to Asgore's side and leaned closer to the distraught man. "Hey, Asgore," she whispered, "is that your ex? Jeez, that's rough, buddy."

Alphys hurriedly stumbled her way into the courtyard, her chest all but heaving as she tried to regain her breath. "H-hey! Nobody hurt each other!" Her bravado vanished within an instant as she stared at Toriel, wondering why Asgore's former wife was standing amongst the buttercups - hadn't she been missing for years?
Toriel smiled kindly down upon the yellow lizard. "Oh! Are you another friend? I am Toriel."
Alphys swallowed hard as she stared up to the former Queen. "Uh. H-h-hi." Her eyes shifted over to the human as they mouthed "There's two of them?" and blanched as Frisk nodded. The Royal Scientist shook her head before hurrying over to Undyne's side.

A crashing noise drew their attention towards the entrance of the courtyard. Papyrus bounded his way inside, all but tripping over his own feet as he stood in the middle of the gathering. "HEY!" He called. "NOBODY FIGHT ANYONE! IF ANYONE FIGHTS ANYONE, THEN I'LL!" He glanced around. "BE FORCED!" The skeleton realized he was sorely outnumbered. "TO ASK UNDYNE FOR HELP!" He sidled his way back to the human's side as Toriel smiled upon him.
"Hello!" She called cheerfully.
"OH! HELLO, YOUR MAJESTY!" Papyrus glanced down to the human. "PST, HEY, HUMAN, DID ASGORE SHAVE?" He glanced at Toriel again. "...AND CLONE HIMSELF?"

Slowly, Sans sauntered into the room, blinking as he took in the sight of the unusual assembly. "hey guys," he called as he strode up to his brother. "what's up?"

Toriel's eyes shot open as she heard the voice that had kept her company for well over a year now. "That voice!" She hurried forward as she stared down to the small skeleton, her smile growing. "Hello. I think we may know each other?"
Sans blinked as he looked up to her - he knew that voice anywhere! "oh, hey," he smiled, trying to downplay his enthusiasm at seeing the woman that had listened to his jokes for all this time, "i recognize your voice, too."
She smiled, her faint blush hidden by the fur on her cheeks. "I am Toriel. So nice to meet you."
Sans was silent for a moment - his mysterious friend was the former queen! He gave himself a mental shake and winked. "the name's sans. and, uh, same." Smooth, he thought dryly, real smooth...

Frisk could only stand and watch in delight as the monsters around them began to talk amongst themselves. They listened to the jokes and the conversations, watching as Undyne and Alphys tried to cheer up the disconsolate Asgore while Sans, Papyrus and Toriel exchanged terrible jokes. Well, Sans and Toriel exchanged jokes - Papyrus just yowled in displeasure. They hugged their arms to their chest as they beamed - everyone seemed to be so happy now. They felt a wave of guilt crash over them as they recalled what they had previously done, but to see all the monsters they had befriended standing together made their heart swell with happiness.

Toriel pulled her gaze away from her Sans and moved back to the child. She smiled down at the little one and stepped closer to them. "My child," her voice was filled with love, "it seems as if you must stay here for awhile. But looking at all the great friends you have made," she let her gaze wander over the gathered monsters, "I think it will be okay."
Frisk nodded and stepped closer to Toriel, wrapping their small arms around her plush waist.

Alphys smiled at the sight before looking up to Papyurs. "Hey, that reminds me. Papyrus, YOU called everyone here, right? Well, besides, uh, her," she nodded towards Toriel, "uh... Anyway, if I got here before you, how did you know to call everybody?"
Papyrus stood tall and proud. "WELL, LET'S JUST SAY A TINY FLOWER HELPED ME."
Alphys' eyes went wide as she began to tremble. "A tiny... flower?"

 

Gaia went rigid as she watched monstrous vines ensnare the monsters. Gaster remained silent as he placed a steadying hand on her back. It was as much for her comfort as his own. Even though he had seen this outcome previously, to see it playing out before him was still unnerving.

She stepped closer to him as they watched the smiling pistil burst forth from the flowerbeds.

"You IDIOTS!" Flowey stared in disgust. "While you guys were having your little pow-wow, I took all of the human SOULs! And now, not only are THOSE under my power, but all of your FRIENDS' SOULs are gonna be mine, too!" He laughed, his voice sending shivers down Frisk's spine. "And you know what the best part of this is?" He leaned closer to the child. "It's all your fault! It's all because you MADE THEM love you. All the time you spent listening to them, encouraging them, caring about them." He shook his head. "Without that, they wouldn't have come here. And now, with their souls and the humans' together, I will achieve my REAL form!" He laughed darkly, the sound echoing in the courtyard.

Frisk stood resolute, refusing to cower as they stared down at the little golden flower.

Flowey frowned at them, at their expression. He did not like the look within the child's gaze, at the accusing, questioning glare. "Huh? WHY am I still doing this?" He shook his head. "Don't you get it? This is all just a GAME. If you leave the Underground satisfied, then you'll "win" the game. If you "win," you won't want to "play" with me anymore." His voice began to grow petulant. "And what would I do then?" Flowey frowned. "But this game between us will NEVER end. I'll hold victory in front of you, just within your reach." He shook his vines and their friends, emphasizing his point. "And then I'll tear it away just before you grasp it." The vines pulled the monsters further away from Frisk. "Over, and over, and over," he laughed. "Listen, if you DO defeat me, I'll give you your "happy ending." I'll bring your friends back. I'll destroy the barrier. Everyone will finally be happy..." He smiled. "But that WON'T happen. You...!" He shivered with rage. "I'll keep you here no matter what! EVEN IF IT MEANS KILLING YOU ONE MILLION TIMES!"

Frisk gasped as they saw a ring of pellets surrounding them. They covered their face as the pellets struck them but they refused to cry out. They would not give him that satisfaction.

The onslaught continued. Frisk dropped to their knees as pain wracked their small form. They did not cry out.

Flowey's attacks halted as a wall of fire surrounded the child.
"Huh?" He blinked.
"Do not be afraid, my child." Toriel said as she raised her head, "No matter what happens, we will always be there to protect you!" The fires grew as they burned the pellets.
"THAT'S RIGHT, HUMAN!" Papyrus cried as a wall of bones replaced the fire. "YOU CAN WIN! JUST DO WHAT I WOULD DO: BELIEVE IN YOU!" The bones absorbed the next wave of pellets, crumbling into dust a moment later.
"Hey! Human!" Spears struck the pellets out of the air. "If you got past ME, you can do ANYTHING! So don't worry! We're with you all the way!"

Sans raised his head slowly, shaking his head as his pupils reappeared. The human had come so far, had done so much. They were so close to the end, he knew - they had never done this before, surely, surely this was the end! He stared at the child, watched as they pushed themselves to their feet. Their body was already bruising from the stinging pellets, their face scratched and bloodied, but they stood steady. "huh? you haven't beaten this guy yet?" He pushed a smile onto his face, his tone light and joking - he wanted to give the human the courage that he himself did not have. "come on, this weirdo's got nothin' on you."

Frisk stared at the skeleton before nodding; they both knew what Frisk could truly do. This flower really did have nothing on them.

Alphys bit her lip as she met the humans' gaze. "Technically, it's impossible for you to beat him." She flinched. "B-but somehow, I know you can do it."
Asgore nodded as a second wall of fire surrounded them. "Human," his voice resonated deep within them, "for the future of humans and monsters, you have to stay determined!"

 

"Yes, my harbinger!" Gaia cried. "You must!"

 

Her cries were lost amongst the voices of the other monsters that were now gathering within the courtyard; each of the monsters that Frisk had befriended was arriving, was coming to give their support to the fallen human.

 

Flowey stared at the assembly, his eyes wide and horrified. There were so many here now! What would they do if they turned against him? He had the power of the SOULs, but there was still the sheer overwhelming number of monsters that were gathering around him. He took in a deep breath as he shook his head.
"No! Unbelievable! This can't be happening....!" He felt the souls of the monsters hammering within their bodies, felt their power. All he had to do, he knew, was reach out and take it...! "YOU! I can't believe you're all so stupid!" Vines surged around the monsters, ensnaring each of them. "ALL OF YOUR SOULS ARE MINE!"

 

Gaster and Gaia watched as the world began to fill with a white light. Gaia felt herself trembling but soon stopped as she looked up to Gaster.
"Do not be afraid, Gaia," he whispered, "it will all be over soon."

The words were said for both of their own sakes.

 

When the spots cleared from Frisk's eyes, they found themselves staring at a small monster. His white fur and long ears were just like Toriel's...

"Finally," his voice was young, painfully young, "I was so tired of being a flower." He smiled. "Howdy! Chara, are you there? It's me, your best friend!" Asriel laughed as his body began to change. Frisk let out a slow, steadying breath as they stood their ground; they wanted to do nothing more than run away, but they knew they had to fight.

Their heart hammered within their chest as their body filled with determination...

 

Gaia lowered her hand as she watched Frisk stand up to the altered form of Asriel Dreemurr.
"I have done what I could do for you, my harbinger. The rest of this depends on you. Frisk, you cannot give up. For the future of the monsters, of the humans and of the world, you must stay determined!"
Gaster stared at her for a moment before turning his timeless gaze back to the scene before him. He knew that there were only a few remaining outcomes from this fight; if Frisk emerged victorious, the Underground would be able to return to the surface. If Asriel won the fight... He shook his head - he did not want to dwell upon it.

He stepped closer to Mother Earth and put an arm around her, holding her securely. He did not want his predictions to come true; he would do what he could to protect her.

 

"You know," Asriel watched Frisk dodging his swords, "I don't even care about destroying the world anymore. After I defeat you and gain total control of the time line, I just want to reset everything. All of your progress. Everyone's memories. I'll bring them all back to zero!" His jarring laughter echoed within Frisk's mind. "Then we can do everything ALL over again! And you know what the best part of this is?" He leered down at the child. "You'll DO it. And then you'll lose to me again. And again. And again!" A blast of magic dropped Frisk to their knees. "Because you want a "happy ending." Because you "love your friends." Because you "never give up." Isn't that delicious? Your "determination." The power that let you get this far."

Gaster cast a sidelong glance to Gaia.

"It's gonna be your downfall!" Asriel shouted. "Now! Enough messing around! It's time to purge this timeline once and for all!"
Frisk couldn't even scream. They watched the world around them fading into black as it spiraled into a rapidly growing vortex. They forced themselves to stay standing, forced themselves to remain motionless even as the winds whipped around them.
Asriel's laughter turned into a roar as he fed more of the SOULs' power into his spell...

 

By the time the attack ended, Frisk had dropped to their knees. Their body was weak, shaking, but they had not succumbed. They stared up at Asriel and pushed themselves to their feet once again. They dabbed at the blood on their face with the torn sleeve of their sweater as they all but defiantly met Asriel's gaze.

He stared at the child for a moment and shook his head. "...Even after that attack, you're still standing in my way?" Asriel chuckled. "Wow, you really ARE something special. But don't get cocky. Up until now, I've only been using a fraction of my real power. Let's see what good your DETERMINATION is against THIS!"

 

Gaia scowled at the monster before her. "Stay determined, Frisk," she whispered.

 

"BEHOLD MY TRUE POWER!" Asriel screamed as his magic all but consumed Frisk. He watched as the child crumpled to the ground, laughing as Frisk laid motionless before him.

His laughter only grew as Frisk slowly opened their eyes. "I can feel it," he taunted, "every time you die, your grip on this world slips away. Every time you die, your friends forget you a little more. Your life will end here, in a world where no one remembers you..."

 

Gaster held Gaia close to his side as Asriel continued to pummel Frisk. The child couldn't even scream through their pain, even though they felt every atom of their body begging for an end to the torture. They raised their tear-stained face to meet Asriel's gaze once again, their own eyes burning with their determination to live.

Asriel only laughed. "Still, you're hanging on? That's fine. In a few moments, you'll forget everything too." He grinned. "That attitude will serve you well in your next life!"

Frisk's eyes closed against the blinding light. They thought of Toriel's home, of Snowdin, of Waterfall. They thought of all the places they had been, all of the monsters they had met. They began to will themselves to fall backwards through time, to simply go back before all of this had started. If they could just go back, then this could all be avoided!

 

 

Frisk could not move.

Frisk could not go back.

Frisk could not reset.

 

Sans found himself floating in a void. All around him were other monsters but he did not know their names. He did not know who they were. He drew his legs to his chest as he closed his eyes. They all had come so far, had all done so much. Before Flowey had arrived, he had felt the barest warmth from the wind as it blew through the barrier. They were so close to being free, he knew; they were almost free.

But now?

He put his head on his knees as he shivered.

They were stuck here. There was nothing left. There was no happy ending. There was no light at the end of this tunnel. This was their reality.

He had failed Toriel. He had failed his brother. He had failed everyone. He had not been able to keep the human safe. He had not been able to protect them. There was nothing more that he could do to fix the situation. The human had fallen into danger. The human had lost the fight.

He slowly raised his head and looked around once more. There were fewer monsters now, he realized. He watched as another SOUL drifted past him before vanishing. Had they given up? Had they succumbed to the abyss?

He sighed and lowered his head to his knees again.

 

He did not move until he felt a hand upon his back.

"just give up," he whispered.

The hand tugged on his hood.

"i did."

Another tug, more forceful this time around.

 

Sans glanced over his shoulder, blinking in surprise as he stared down at Frisk's smiling face. The child was bloodied and bruised, but they were alive. They kept tugging on his hood, pulling him closer.
"why even try?" He asked softly.
Frisk frowned at him as they took his hood into both hands, all but dragging him through the abyss.

Even after all of this, they were still trying.

The skeleton slowly unfolded his legs and stood up as he looked to the child. If they were still trying, then he should, too. The fight wasn't over yet, was it?

"nah." Sans smiled as he answered his own question. "i'm rootin' for ya, kid."

 

Frisk turned their gaze into the abyss one final time.

 

Asriel stared down at the small hand that was extended to him. "Huh? What are you doing?! What did you do?" He put a hand over his chest before pulling it away in disgust. "What is this feeling? What's happening to me? No! NO! I don't need anyone! STOP IT! Get away from me!" He stepped further away from the child. "I don't need anyone! I'll tear you apart!"

Frisk dodged the waves of magic that came at them - they were slower now, they noticed.

"Chara," Asriel bit his lip as he stared at the human, "Do you know why I'm doing this? Why I keep fighting to keep you around? I'm doing this because you're special, Chara. You're the only one that understands me. You're the only one who's any fun to play with anymore." He paused, lowering his gaze as he cast another spell. "No, that's not just it. I... I'm doing this because I care about you, Chara. I care about you more than anybody else!" He stared at Frisk but the child could tell that Asriel no longer saw them. "I'm not ready for this to end. I'm not ready for you to leave. I'm not ready to say goodbye to someone like you again." Another wave of magic. "So please," he sobbed, "STOP doing this..."
Frisk dodged another blast.
"AND JUST LET ME WIN! STOP IT! STOP IT NOW!"

Frisk did not stop.

Even as the magic seared their flesh and their bones, they did not stop. They kept reaching to Asriel. They were determined to pull him out of this abyss, determined to give him the ending that he, too, needed. He could not stay trapped within the Underground, within the void.

Frisk did not stop.

 

"Chara..." He hiccupped. "I'm so alone, Chara. I'm so afraid, Chara." He stared at Frisk "Chara, I... I..." Asriel sighed as his shoulders slumped forward, his form shrinking...

 

Gaster smiled as Gaia cried out in joy. The behemoth that had threatened to destroy her world was gone now. In his stead stood young Asriel, his large eyes filled with tears. Frisk wiped their own pained tears away as they looked to the young prince.

 

"I'm so sorry," the young monster whispered, "I always was a crybaby, wasn't I Chara?"
Frisk shook their head.
"I know. I know you're not actually Chara, are you? Chara's been gone for a long time. Um," he looked to his feet, "what is your name?"
Frisk signed their name.
"Frisk? That's a nice name." He smiled a little. "Frisk, I haven't felt like this for a long time. As a flower, I was soulless. I lacked the power to love other people. However, with everyone's souls inside me, I not only have my own compassion back..." He put a hand over his chest. "But I can feel every other monster's as well. They all care about each other so much. And they care about you too, Frisk. I wish I could tell you how everyone feels about you. Papyrus, Sans, Undyne, Alphys, Toriel..." He sighed, recalling his own mother's love for him. "Monsters are weird. Even though they barely know you, it feels lke they all really love you." He laughed sadly. "Frisk, I understand if you can't forgive me. I understand if you hate me. I acted so strange and horrible. I hurt you. I hurt so many people. Friends, family, bystanders..." He shook his head. "There's no excuse for what I've done."

Frisk slowly approached him, their fingers slowly spelling out their forgiveness.

"What? Frisk, c'mon, you're gonna make me cry again." Asriel laughed softly as he wiped his eyes. "Besides, even if you do forgive me, I can't keep these souls inside of me." He touched his chest again before lowering his head. "The least I can do is return them. But first, there's something I have to do. Right now, I can feel everyone's heart beating as one. They're all burning with the same desire. With everyone's power, with everyone's determination, it's time for monsters to finally go free."

 

Gaia's joyful cries echoed throughout the world as the barrier shattered. Gaster smiled as she cheered beside him. He quietly applauded as he watched the barrier crumble and fall away.

 

Asriel sighed as he stared to the human. "Frisk, I have to go now. Without the power of everyone's souls, I cannot keep maintaining this form. In a little while, I'll turn back into a flower. I'll stop being "myself." I'll stop being able to feel love again. So, Frisk," he smiled sadly, "it's best if you just forget about me, ok? Just go be with the people who love you."

He watched as Frisk stepped closer to him. When their arms came to rest around him, he leaned heavily against them, crying into their hair as they rubbed his back.
"I don't want to let go," he whispered, "Frisk, you're gonna do a great job, okay? No matter what you do. Everyone will be there for you, okay?" He stepped away and gave a weak smile. "Well, my time's running out. Goodbye..."

Asriel turned and began to walk away, pausing only to look over his shoulder. "Frisk, take care of mom and dad for me, okay?"
Frisk nodded as they shared a small smile...

 

"Frisk!" Toriel softly called. "This is all just a bad dream. Please, wake up!"

Slowly, very slowly, Frisk opened their eyes.

They found themselves lying on their back in the hallway just beyond the courtyard. Their body ached, but they were smiling. Flowey was gone. Their friends were alive.

The barrier was gone.

Frisk pushed themselves onto their feet as they stood before their friends.

Toriel's furred hands clapped together in delight. "You are awake! Thank goodness!"
"W-we were so worried! It felt like you were out forever!" Alphys said, half-hidden behind Undyne's leg.
Undyne smiled at the Royal Scientist before looking back to Frisk. "Yeah! Any longer and I would have freaked out!" She crossed her arms across her chest. "Tell us next time you decide to take a nap, okay?!"
"yeah," Sans nodded, "you made papyrus cry like a baby." He winked.
"WHAT!!" Papyrus glared at his brother. "I DIDN'T CRY! I DON'T CRY! I JUST CAUGHT SOMETHING IN MY EYE!"
"what did you catch?"
"TEARS!" Papyrus cried.

"Now, now," Asgore waved his hand, calming the monsters, "the important part is that Frisk is all right. Here, Frisk," he reached inside his robes for a small thermos, "why not drink some tea? It'll make you feel better."
Toriel glared at the king as she stepped closer to the human. "How about we give them some space, first?" Her words were sharp. "They must be very exhausted. Though, from what, I am not certain." She looked down to the child. "Frisk, we do not remember exactly what happened. There was a flower... and then everything went white." She shook her head. "But now the barrier is gone. When you are ready, we will all return to the surface." Toriel beamed. "It seems the door to the east will lead us there. But, before then, perhaps you might want to take a walk? You can say goodbye to all of your wonderful friends." She watched as Frisk nodded. "Do as you wish. We will all wait here for you."

Toriel waved to the child as they scampered out of the room.

With the child gone, the gathered monsters began to talk amongst themselves. Toriel and Sans stepped away from the rest of the group as they looked to one another.
"why did you never tell me you were the queen?"
"Because I am not the Queen anymore," Toriel's voice was low. "I abdicated my throne after the death of my children. I could not stand to be within this castle. Everywhere I looked, I saw them. I heard their laughter and the sounds of their feet in every hallway." Toriel came to sit upon the polished floor with her back against the wall. "I couldn't stand to be around Asgore, either." The former queen did not look to the king as he stood with the others.
"can't say i blame you," Sans came to sit next to her, "but i still would've liked it if you had told me who you were. i would've told better jokes." He winced as he remembered several of the off-colour jokes that he had told throughout their friendship.
"Oh, no! I love your jokes, Sans, you know that." Toriel smiled as she patted his hand. "They were so refreshing after years of being in court. Everyone was always so prim and proper; your jokes were a breath of fresh air."
Sans blushed as he looked away. "if you say so." He let his gaze drift back over to his brother, watching as Papyrus fawned over his beloved King. "so what're you gonna do when we get to the surface?"
"I do not know," Toriel drew her legs to her chest. "I did not expect to ever see the surface again. I suppose I will have to figure it out. Do you know what you will do?"
Sans shook his head. "not really. i mean, i'll try to find a place that i can live with pap and maybe grillby, too. i don't think they'd mind if we all shared a home. i mean, i already kind of live with grillby."
"I do not think your brother will mind. As you have said, Grillby stays over on some nights already. I think it would make Papyrus happy to have him living there; it would let you all be a family."
"yeah--oh, huh."
"What?"
"kid's back already."
"Oh, my." Toriel took Sans' offered hand as he pulled her to her feet. "I suppose we have even less time to figure out our plans then." She smoothed out her robes and approached the human. "Come, Frisk; let us go to the surface..."

 

 

They stood together at the mouth of the cave, watching the sun as it began to sink below the horizon. Their eyes burned from the brightness but they could not look away. The cool winds blew around them, filling their lungs with the first fresh air that many of them had ever felt. Asgore and Toriel sank back into their memories. It had been centuries since they had last walked upon the surface. Toriel placed a hand on Frisk's head as she smiled; her eyes burned with unshed tears of joy.

"Oh, my," she whispered - it was the most she could think to say.
"Isn't it beautiful, everyone?" Asgore was beaming as brightly as the sun.
Alphys stepped up to Undyne's side as she smiled up at the sunset. "Wow... it's e-even more better than on tv. Way better!" She bit her lip. "Better than I ever imagined!"
Undyne glanced over to the child. "Frisk, you LIVE with this? The sunlight is so nice and the air is so fresh! I really feel alive!" She punched the air.

Papyrus glanced over to his brother. "HEY SANS! WHAT'S THAT GIANT BALL?"
"we call that "the sun," my friend."
"THAT'S THE SUN!? WOWIE! I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M FINALLY MEETING THE SUN!"
Sans chuckled at his brother's enthusiasm.

Asgore inhaled deeply as he basked in the light of the setting sun. "I could stand here and watch this for hours..."
"Yes, it is beautiful, is it not? But we really should think about what comes next." Toriel lightly chastised.
"Oh, right. Everyone," he looked to the monsters that stood with him. "This is the beginning of a bright new future - an era of peace between humans and monsters." He looked to the human. "Frisk, I have something to ask fo you. Will you act as our ambassador to the humans?"
Frisk nodded. They had traveled through the Underground and fought all of the monsters without weapons - surely being the ambassador would be an easier job.
Papyrus beamed. "YEAH! FRISK WILL BE THE BEST AMBASSADOR! AND I," he struck his signature pose, "THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL BE THE BEST MASCOT! I'LL GO MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION!"

The skeleton ran down the mountain path before anyone could stop him.

"welp. someone's gotta keep him from getting in trouble." Sans glanced up to Undyne with a grin. "see you guys." He turned and walked back into the Underground - he didn't need to look over his shoulder to know that Undyne was racing after Papyrus. What he didn't know was that Alphys and Asgore were hot on her heels.

Besides, Sans thought to himself as he returned to the Underground, he had someone else that he had to bring to the surface...

 

"It seems that everyone is quite eager to set off." Toriel looked to the child that stood beside her, smiling as she stroked their hair. "Frisk, you came from this world, right? So you must have a place to return to, do you not?"
Frisk thought for a moment, sadness filling their eyes as they recalled the shallow graves of Grampa Ernest and Gramma Imogene. They shook their head as they stared up to Toriel.
"Do you want to stay with me?" She asked kindly, heaving a sigh of relief when the child nodded. "Frisk, you really are a funny child. If you had decided this earlier, none of this would have happened. Well," she tousled the child's hair, "if you do not have any other place to go, I will do my best to take care of you, for as long as you need, alright? Now come along," her smile grew, "everyone is waiting for us."

Frisk held Toriel's hand as they walked down the mountain...

 

 

Back in the Underground, Sans opened a portal with a wave of his hand. He stepped through the opening and back into Grillby's restaurant. The bartender rushed out from behind the bar as he hurried to Sans, the two embracing tightly in the empty restaurant.
"...Something happened earlier, Sans. I felt like I was--"
"not in your own body anymore?"
Grillby nodded as he kissed Sans' cheek. "...It did not last long, though, but the strange feeling is still here. What happened?"
"the barrier's broken," Sans was beaming, "we're free. we can go to the surface now. come with me, grillby; i want to show you the sunset. it's beautiful."
"...The sunset?"
Sans nodded as he took his boyfriend's hand. "c'mon. i'll take you."
Grillby didn't move. "...The barrier is broken."
"yup. the human broke it. somehow." He shrugged. "but i was on the surface. it was great, grillbs. the air was so fresh. everything was so bright and open. i want to show you."
"...The barrier is actually broken?"
"yes."
"...The barr--"
"no matter how many times you say it, it's not gonna change. the barrier's broken. now c'mon, let's go!" Sans was beaming.
"...Alright. Let me lock up." Grillby released his boyfriend's hand as he hurried to do close the locks.

When Grillby rejoined him, Sans opened a portal back to the mouth of the cavern. The lovers stepped through the portal. Grillby's white eyes growing wide as he stared at the giant ball of fire. "...Sans..."
"isn't it beautiful?" He whispered. "can we just stay here for a while?
"...Yes. Let's."
The pair smiled as they sat together on the rocky ground, watching as the sunset faded into the evening. Grillby's arm slid around Sans as the sky filled with stars. The skeleton was spellbound as he stared up at the sky, his jaw dropping as he took in the sheer majesty of the tapestry of heavenly bodies.
"grillby, look at the stars..." He whispered, "there are just so many. i've read about them for so long, but now..." His smile grew watery as he clung to his lover. "look at them."
"...They are breathtaking." Grillby pulled Sans tighter to his chest, the pair sitting in awed silence...

 

 

 

A year had passed.

Despite Asgore's optimism, the reintegration of Monsterkind into human society had not been the easiest. There were struggles they had to work through, in every way imaginable. No one, the monsters realized, could have predicted the amount of difficulties they would face, but they refused to be intimidated. King Asgore had continued to lead his people as they worked to blend with human society; not a day went by that he wasn't working with the human leaders on every level, from national right down to the mayor of the city in which they lived.

Assisting King Dreemurr was Lord and Lady Feuvant. They attended every meeting, reviewed every law that was drafted an even helped the monsters find new homes on the surface. Their wealth had been spent on securing large sections of nearby land, allowing for the newly freed monsters to rebuild their cities in the shadow of the mountain that had once trapped them. Asgore stood with the Lord and Lady as they signed the building permits, smiling as his former general and his wife found their new purposes in life.

Undyne, too, stood with her King. Dressed in her armour, she served as the body guard to King Asgore. Every morning, she would leave the home she now shared with Alphys, jogging towards her post; the former scientist would work with Mettaton and Napstablook as they tried to organize Mettaton's tour schedule. Undyne drew herself up to her impressive height as she stood on a plinth in front of King Dreemurr's new home. She would address her soldiers, laying out their responsibilities for the day. Many of the soldiers were in charge of assisting the builders as the new homes were constructed; the remaining soldiers would patrol the settlement and providing aid whenever they could. She would patrol the cities with her new lieutenant before taking Ember out to the training grounds. The woman was a fearsome opponent with her grandfather's leaf blade sword, Undyne thought with a smile, just like her grandfather. Ember would make a fine general.

In the center of the new settlement stood a school. Toriel stood with the monsters that had taught at the Underground academies as the children made their way inside; she was not yet a teacher, but she was working on obtaining her certification. As part of her certification, she was shadowing the teacher that taught the younger monsters. Toriel was happily teaching reading, writing and even sign language to the monsters that sat in her classroom. Frisk had joined that class, right alongside the little wyvern that had befriended them in the Underground.

Papyrus, too, had found his new purpose in life. He had become the head of the Royal Knights - the name that had been chosen for the school's sports teams. Papyrus taught the gym classes, right alongside the previous teacher, and had quickly become one of the most beloved teachers. The cheerful skeleton lead each class with the same enthusiasm that he gave to every aspect of his life. The result was a school full of happy children that were always eager to play a rousing round of dodgeball with their teacher.

Frisk would arrive at the school every morning with Toriel and would leave with her every night. They had adjusted well to their life with the monsters. They lived with Toriel, but plenty of days were spent with Sans, Papyrus and Grillby. The child had her own special stool at the bar right next to Sans' and there was always a glass of chocolate milk waiting for them. Sans would help the child with their homework as he did his own. He did not mind helping Frisk whenever they had a question; working through the simple problems reminded him of when he was raising his own brother. On the nights that Sans was not at the bar, though, Grillby would sit with Frisk. At first he had considered it annoying to be forced to play babysitter to the child while he was working, but he soon found that he enjoyed their company. Frisk reminded him a good deal of his own daughter when she was that age. He would take any chance he could to sit with them and carry on conversations in sign language or to help with their homework. He found himself smiling more often than not as he worked through the math questions with Frisk.

Toriel had initially been hesitant to leave the child at Grillby's new bar but she soon realized that the restaurant was far, far different than what she had been picturing. The new establishment was very similar to how his restaurant in the Underground had looked - even the name had stayed the same. The booths were cozy and the lighting was warm. Sans often joked that Grillby had brought the entire restaurant up to the surface as he pointed out all the similarities. Grillby would playfully protest that statement as he would name off all of the new additions that he had installed. In truth, though, there were only two real differences between the Underground restaurant and the new one that had been opened within the nearby human city. The first difference was that the broken jukebox had been replaced with a wireless speaker system. The second difference was the more major of the two: there was now a second employee at Grillby's.

Grillby sat in a booth at the far end of the restaurant, watching the hustle and bustle of the Saturday night crowd. The new bartender, a man by the name of Zelig, was standing behind the bar and pouring drinks for the humans and monsters that sat around him. He laughed as he slid a pint down the bar and cheered as it reached its intended recipient without spilling a single drop. Grillby rolled his eyes at the sight of his human bartender before putting his arm around Sans. He sipped his bourbon as Sans continued to do his own homework; he could not understand a single word of the quite literal rocket science that Sans was poring over. All he knew, though, was that Sans truly was a genius. The skeleton had been accepted to a master's program for science before he had even completed the frightfully few classes he needed to take to graduate with a bachelor's degree. Sans had tested out of almost every class within the undergraduate degree, much to the chagrin of the human professors.

He couldn't have been more proud of the skeleton.

The bar owner pressed a flaming kiss onto the top of Sans' head before waving to Zelig. He watched the human excuse themselves for a moment as he hurried over to his boss.
"Yessir?"
"...Do you have the surprise for Cala and Jezebel ready?"
"Yessir! The bottle and glasses are sitting in the cold room. I have confetti at the bar, too. And--" Zelig held up a hand, "--before you say anything, I know that it'll be a mess. I don't mind, though; I'll clean it all up."
Grillby smiled at his bartender. "...Good. And the cake?"
"Next to the bottle and glasses."
"...Perfect." He handed his and Sans' empty glasses to the human. "...Thank you, Zelig."
"My pleasure!" The man saluted playfully before going back to the bar.

"still can't believe you hired a bartender." Sans grinned.
"...He only works Saturday nights."
"i know, but still." He closed his text book and rubbed his tired face. "i think i've had enough of this for tonight. 'sides, when cala and jez get here, i don't wanna be slumped over a text book."
"...Would you like to go put your things in the office?"
Sans shook his head. "it's fine. i know almost everyone here tonight; i'm not worried about it."
Grillby nodded and thanked Zelig as he placed down two more small glasses on the polished table. The lovers smiled as they sipped their drinks.

Almost an hour later, Cala and Jezebel burst through the door in a flurry of joy.
"WE'RE ENGAGED!" Cala cried, holding up her hand and pointing to the jeweled ring on her finger.
The patrons erupted into cheers as handfuls of confetti were thrown into the air. Zelig popped the cork on a bottle of champagne and poured two glasses for the happy couple as they took a seat at the bar. They toasted one another before slicing into the cake that the bartender brought them.

Sans leaned into his lover as he watched the happy pair, his fingers twining with Grillby's. "i'm happy for them."
"...As am I." He kissed the top of Sans' head again. Grillby watched as Jezebel and Cala fed each other bites of cake; his own flames grew brighter as he basked in the glow of their own happiness. As he hugged Sans to his chest, he recalled the small box that he had hidden within his sock drawer that his mother had given to him. Inside the wrought-iron box was her late brother's wedding ring.
"I want you to have it," she said as she pressed the box into his hands, "for when you ask Sans."
"...Mother," he remembered saying, "I haven't even discussed the idea with him."
"I know, but I also know you." The woman smiled enigmatically from behind her teacup. "I know you have been waiting to ask him."
Grillby frowned slightly at his mother. "...Have you been conspiring with Sans behind my back again?"
Ignacea's smile grew. "Now, now, Grillbert. A lady never kisses and tells."

He glanced down to his boyfriend, watching him watch Cala and Jezebel. Perhaps Sans and Ignacea had been talking; it made no difference, though. He was in no rush to ask the skeleton to marry him. Too much had happened in the past year for him to even consider it. All in due time, he thought to himself.

At least when the time came, he would not have to worry about finding a ring...

 

Gaster and Gaia stood together in the light of the setting sun as they watched the scenes unfurling before them.
"Your harbinger has ushered in your new age," Gaster said calmly, "monsters are living with the humans again. What will you do now, Gaia?"
"I will stay and watch. I will make sure that the two races do not wage war again."
"What will you do if war happens?"
Gaia sighed softly. "I rather not think of that right now, Gaster. The child's murderous rampage is still fresh within my mind."
He nodded and folded his hands behind his back. "Fair enough." He looked into the restaurant, his pale face now sporting a smile. "I am glad to see that Sans is following in my footsteps. He will be an asset to the humans and monsters alike."
"Did you ever have a doubt that he wouldn't become a scientist?"
Gaster shook his head, his smile growing wider. "No." He met the woman's gaze. "After all, he is just like his father."

Mother Earth laughed at that. "So you finally claim him as your son?"
"Oh, quite the contrary! He has always been my son. I just have not always been his father." His smile sobered. "I regret having to leave, but I knew that I had to." Gaster sighed. "Perhaps now, though, I will begin to show myself to my sons."
"Papyrus will be happy to see you."
Gaster nodded. "I am looking forward to the meeting, too. They have become wonderful men."
"What will his future be?"
"Whatever he wishes it to be."
Gaia rolled her eyes as the pair walked through the landscape, making their way to Toriel's new home.

The former queen was sitting by the fireplace in her living room, her nose buried into a book. Gaster and Gaia paid her no mind as they looked into Frisk's bedroom; the child was fast asleep within their new home, their small hands clutching the blankets.
Gaia knelt down beside the bed and stroked a hand over Frisk's shaggy hair. "You have served me so well, my harbinger. You have earned your rest."
Gaster did not comment as he watched a faint glow surrounding Gaia's hand.
"With your journey having ended, I free you from your duty. I will leave you, Frisk, to have your life amongst the monsters and the humans. You shall live out your days, just as the rest of your kind do." The woman slowly stood and stepped away from the bed. "Rest, my harbinger, and enjoy your well-earned happily ever after." Gaia smiled kindly as they left the child's bedroom.

"Free of determination, free of responsibility," Gaster walked through the evening with Gaia; the woman's hand rested lightly on his arm, "they shall now enjoy their childhood."
"Yes, they will. They will be surrounded by loved ones until the end of their days." Gaia's voice was fond. "I can think of no better reward for the saviour of Monsterkind."
"Indeed..." Gaster turned his eyes to the shadow of Mount Ebott. "What of the flower?"
Her happy smile faded at that. "He... will come around. The determination and power that Frisk once held will find a new home, but only after he proves himself ready."
"Will he remain as a flower?"
Gaia slowly shook her head. "No. He will return to his life as he once knew it. It will take time, but he, too, deserves a happily ever after. It is not fair what happened to him. No creature, monster or human, should be forced to live like that."
"And the amalgamates?"
"I..." She sighed. "They will live out the rest of their days with their loved ones. How long those days are, though, depends on how long they wish to stay alive."
Gaster nodded at that, seemingly satisfied by her diplomatic answer.

After a long silence, the two stopped walking and stared at one another, holding the other's gaze.
"So," she said quietly, "I suppose this is the end now. There is nothing left for us to do. The monsters are free. The humans are learning to accept them. There will be fights, as there always are, but they will not escalate like they did before." She exhaled slowly. "I... Is this goodbye?"
"No, Gaia, no." He gave her a small smile. "This is not goodbye."
"Then what is it?"
"Until next time," He held out his hand to the woman.
Gaia stared at the hand and shook her head. She threw her arms around Gaster and hugged him tightly, smiling as she felt his arms wrapping around her.

When the sun rose, Mother Earth and Father Time shook hands before they went their separate ways.