Papyrus found the crate while trying to goad Sans into playing tag. He’d dashed off into the woods that bordered the far side of the park, yelping cheerfully. Sans had grumbled and groaned but followed, with you clutching tightly to the spikes of his spine. He’d taken off in a lazy lope, keeping his brother’s wiggling tail just in sight as he tried to maneuver around the brush. The young skeleton still had a bit of trouble running about on four legs, despite being reasonably confident on two.
The park had been the first place Sans had found after the three of you escaped the labs. There was a large rectangle of trimmed grass and paved walkways that was frequented by monsters, going to and from the central fountain or visiting the playgrounds with their children. The north, south, and eastern sides of the park had sturdy brick fences to keep out the noise of the bustling Ebott City beyond the walls. Bordering the park on the western side was a thick forest, which tumbled all the way down the mountain to the more residential areas. It provided the three of you more than enough hiding places, and Papyrus had declared that he was going to learn it like the back of his hand in no time. He’d then seen a new scratch on the back of his hand and panicked for half-an-hour.
The two nights the three of you had spent there so far had been dry, but the morning of the third day had begun overcast and heavy, clouds hanging low enough to almost touch, it seemed. Sans had left Papyrus and you resting under a bench far away from the main path while he scrounged up some breakfast – half-eaten Glambagles from the stand near the fountain. You always had to pick off the sequins, and Sans hated the ones that had glitter, but Papyrus was happy to devour whatever came his way.
It was right after breakfast that Papyrus decided he wanted to play. Fueled with day-old Glambagles, he shifted into his dog form and dashed off, yelping cheerfully over his shoulder. You were sitting on Sans knee, still picking off sequins from your bite of bagel when the youngster dashed off.
“Paps, where are you going?” Sans made to stand and nearly threw you off. He paused when you yelped and grabbed onto the loose hoodie he’d found forgotten on a park bench a day ago. He grabbed you and lifted you off his knee so he could stand, sitting you on his shoulder, where his neck met his clavicle and you could hold on.
Papyrus barked something cheerfully, dancing on his paws, moving a bit farther away from the two of you before coming back, yelping again.
“Ugh, bro, I don’t want to play right now.”
Papyrus whined again, backing away and sticking his tail end up in the air, the front of his ribs nearly brushing the grass as he growled, then let out a pleading yelp. He pranced back, and Sans sighed upon realizing that he wouldn’t be talking his baby bro out of his sugar rush.
“Wanna play tag, Silver?”
You nibbled the last bite of bagel and stuck the final sequin to his jacket like a sticker. “Sure! You deserve to play some too, Sans. You’ve been working too hard.”
He snorted something that sounded like ‘mother hen’ and moved away from the bench so he had room to shift. “Hang on, then.” As you’d seen several times, he fell forward, arms held out to catch himself. Before he touched the ground his bones shifted, and paws landed on the grass. You tangled your hands in his hoodie, holding on tightly as he fell. He used one of his front paws to boost you up, so you were straddling one of his vertebrae close to his skull. With a playful growl, he took off after his brother.
They ran about for fifteen minutes, you holding on as tight as you could to the ridges of Sans spine to keep from falling off or, more likely, from being thrown. Papyrus was beyond ecstatic at having his brother playing alongside him, and he showed it through incredibly sharp turns, jumps, and twists, half of which made your heart stutter in worry. He dashed away from the paths, towards the forest, and Sans began to slow down a bit.
Papyrus dove into the brush that had sprung up among the towering trees, his tail standing like a white flag pole above the brambles and leaves. Sans whined in worry and picked up his pace, not wanting to lose sight of his brother. You shifted a bit so you could see over his elongated skull, yelping in alarm when a leaf almost whipped you in the face.
Sans tried to twist his skull around to see you and got whipped across the eye with a branch. He slid to a halt, whimpering and pawing at his socket. Ahead, Papyrus’ wagging tail stopped, and his head popped up over some bushes, tilted just so to achieve an expression of adorableness alongside worry. He bounced back over as you scrambled to stand on Sans spine, trying to see if he’d gotten cut or scraped.
“Sans! Sans!” Ah, Papyrus had changed back He rushed up and patted his brother’s cheeks, peering at him closely. “Are you okay, brother?” Sans answered in their odd dog language, and Papyrus’ gaze moved to you. “Ah, right! C’mere, Silver!” He rested his hands on top of Sans skull and made grabby fingers at you. You had to lean forward and grab the top of Sans brow bones to pull yourself onto his forehead and within reach, and the skeleton twitched a bit as you touched a tickling spot. Papyrus’ small fingers closed around you and he lifted you to his chest, beaming.
You smiled back and, very deliberately, laid a hand on his finger. “Tag, you’re it!”
He gasped, dramatically, as his brother changed back and rubbed at his eye socket, seeming okay. “How sneaky!” He claimed, though he didn’t sound put out at losing. You grinned and hugged his top finger.
“Good game, Papyrus!”
“Yeah, good try, bro,” Sans had cleared his eye socket of any residual sticky-ness (ooh, you’d have to tell him that pun later!) and clapped a hand down on Paps skull. “You get enough to eat for breakfast?”
Papyrus bounced a bit. “Yeah! It was really good – I love Glambagels! Can we have them every day?”
Sans grimaced, and you answered before he could. “That’s not healthy, Papyrus. You need a balanced breakfast, not just one thing all the time.”
“Oh.” Papyrus looked a bit downtrodden at the idea of having to eat something else, but he quickly bounced back. “Oh, brother, guess what I found!” He used his free hand to grab his brothers arm and tugged him forward. “Over here!”
His grand fine was a large crate – the kind furniture was sent in, like couches and refrigerators. Instead of cardboard, it was wood, slats crisscrossing to form a large cube with more than enough room for the three of you. Papyrus dragged Sans over to it, standing proudly beside the open mouth, where the lid of the crate had been ripped off and thrown aside. It was on its side, so the inside was dry, if a little dirty.
“Look, Sans, look! I found us a home!” Papyrus was bouncing, rattling your stomach about a bit but his excitement was contagious.
Sans was looking at the box with bright eyes, and his permanent grin widened a bit. “Nice job, Pap!” He tapped the top of the crate (which was almost as tall as he was) with his knuckles, and nodded in satisfaction when it didn’t collapse.
“It’ll be perfect!” Papyrus dropped to his knees and set you on the ground beside the box. “Look, here’s the living room, and here’s the kitchen, and here’s where we’ll sleep!” He crawled into the box and pointed as he spoke.
His brother, meanwhile, was mumbling to himself. “We can get a fake top to put on so nobody can see us, and as long as we always leave a different way we won’t leave a trail. Nobody on the path can see back here,” he was tapping his chin, looking about the surrounding brush for the original lid, though he couldn’t see it.
As the two were lost in their rambling, you took your own stock of the situation. The crate would need a curtain or something to keep out the rain and wind, and the boys would need something soft to sleep on. A box for food, so animals wouldn’t be able to get to it. A toy or two for Papyrus, so he wouldn’t be bored. A book for Sans, for the very same reason. A bored Sans was a punning Sans, and a punning Sans led to an annoyed Papyrus. It had only been three days and you’d figured out that much.
You finally clapped your hands, the sharp sound getting both boys attention. Their hearing was better than the average monsters, thanks to their dog side, which made conversation with them easy.
“Alright, boys,” you grinned up at Sans as Papyrus eagerly poked his head out of the box. “Let’s fix up our home!”
It was a masterpiece in progress – a patchwork of fabrics and discarded materials working together to form a home. Sans had found most of it – the curtain covering the entrance to the box, the soft blankets and pillows that smelled faintly of mildew and long-forgotten laundry soap, the round cookie tin that held food safely for the next meal – all of it had been found by Sans while out on searches through the city. The colorful masterpieces tacked to the wall were all Papyrus, however – pages from discarded books, pictures colored with a box of crayons Sans had found near a toy store (some on paper, some on the wood itself), scraps of pretty cloth he wanted to have to brighten up the room.
It was one hundred percent Papyrus and Sans. You couldn’t be more proud of your boys and the home they’d built. In the past month, they’d become your boys, without you even noticing it. Everything they achieved, you felt pride in. Every time they woke up from nightmares, you were there to soothe them. Every fall, you worried over their scrapes, every morning you greeted them with smiles and kind words. They quickly wormed their way into your silver SOUL, and you couldn’t have been happier.
Well, scratch that – you could have been happier, if there was a true roof above your heads and gold in your pockets. Many nights you snuck your bit of dinner onto Papyrus or Sans lap so they could have a little extra, even if it was only a bite. You ate enough to survive, but the boy’s health was more important. Besides, Sans needed the extra energy – he was the one running all over the town in the early mornings and late evenings, getting you and Papyrus food and clothing and things in the first place.
When Sans was away, you stayed with Papyrus. The two of you would wander the playgrounds together, and the young skeleton would often watch the other monster children play from afar. For some reason, he was very hesitant to go play with them, even when they waved and beckoned for him. When you asked, he said he was happy playing with you and would leave the kids to their fun.
Sometimes, Papyrus went with Sans. Night would fall and the two would shift into their dog forms and head out to explore alleys and dig through trash cans for prizes – food or toys, anything that caught their interest. You’d gone the first night, but Sans had been attacked by a stray cat and you’d been thrown off his back. You’d escaped with a few bruises and a scrape on your elbow, but the boys both freaked out and brought you straight home. Sans declared that you weren’t coming with them anymore, and set Papyrus to ‘guard’ you for the night. The youngster took the duty to heart, keeping you in his lap all night, even as he fell asleep, waiting for Sans to come back.
Tonight Sans was on a solo-hunt; he was able to move faster and grab more when he wasn’t worrying over Papyrus, and the tin of food was almost empty. Papyrus was happily humming to himself as he drew a picture with his crayons. The curtain that covered the entrance to the box was pulled back to let in the fading sunlight, giving him enough to see.
“Silver,” he called, unnecessarily, as you were sitting beside his paper, watching him color in a bright yellow sun. “Look! I drew us!” Beneath the sun were three stick figures – one in a blue hoodie, one with a big smiley face and a red scarf, and on his shoulder was a gray blob that was too small to have a facial expression. They were standing on a green hill, the perfect picture of a happy family.
“It looks wonderful, Papyrus!” You stood and carefully stepped onto the page, making sure your bare feet didn’t trail any dirt. “I see Sans, and I see me, but who is that dashing skeleton in the middle?”
Papyrus’ ribs puffed out beneath his t-shirt in pride. “That’s me! The GREAT Papyrus!”
You laid down beside the Papyrus stick figure, joining the line and pretending to hold onto his outstretched hand. “You are pretty great, Paps,” you agreed, and he let out a triumphant ‘NYEH HEH HEH!’ before dissolving into giggles.
“You are very great too, Silver!” Papyrus rocked back a bit, beaming. “You look like part of the picture! Oh, hold still!” He snatched up the gray crayon and leaned over the page, orange tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration. He carefully pressed the tip of the crayon to the paper beside your head, and traced it around your still form. The smell of wax and paper was heavy, almost overwhelming, and you were relieved when he took the crayon away. “Get up, get up!” He prodded you in the side gently, rolling you over, so you were sprawled on top of Sans now. He began coloring you in with vigor, though he took care to stay inside the lines. You’d just sat up to watch, brushing flakes of crayon off your action figure shirt, when Sans burst in.
There was a rip in the neck of his hoodie that hadn’t been there when he left, and a few dots of bright blue magic clung to his skull as sweat. “We gotta go,” he said without preamble, scooping you up off the paper. Faintly, from beyond the box, you heard a voice.
“Wait, please! I only want to talk to you!”
The boys, despite not having muscles, both tensed. Sans grabbed Paps arm and hauled him upright, holding him close. He glanced down at you, sockets calculating, before coming to a decision. He released Papyrus long enough to unzip the top of his hoodie and shoved you inside, so you were tangled in his ribs.
“Sans, what-“ He shushed you and zipped up his hoodie just as the voice came closer. You shifted so you were on the inside of his ribs, legs thrown over one set, arms draped over the other, holding yourself up. It was like sitting on a set of monkey bars.
“Ah, there you are. I’m sorry for scaring you…” The mysterious voice said, and Sans shifted uncomfortably – you could hear the scuff of Papyrus’ feet on the wooden floor of the box as Sans tried to hide him.
“Hello! Who are you?”
Sans utterly failed at hiding Papyrus, and you could imagine it right now – the child poking his head around his brother, all sunshine and smiles, believing the best in any monster, despite having lived as an experiment in a lab. Sans hushed hiss of ‘Papyrus!’ completed the picture.
“Ah, hello there!”
“Hello!” Papyrus parroted again. “You look familiar. Who are you?”
“Papyrus, it’s the doctor.”
Any levity you’d found in the situation before was gone at Sans declaration – the doctor? The doctor had found you? No wonder he’d run back to try and hide you and Papyrus!
“No, he’s not. Look! His scars are all different-y.” If you weren’t swallowing down a panic attack at the thought of being taken back to the lab (or more likely dusted in the doctors thin, sharp phalanges) you would have chided Papyrus for his manners.
Sans made a sharp move to the side, and you heard Papyrus’ feet rush across the floor and onto dirt. “See, Sans? His face is – oh, can you lean down please, mister? Thanks! – see, his face is all smooth!”
“Ah, I suppose you had a bad experience with one of my counterparts?” Now that you had connected them, you could hear a bit of the doctor’s cadence in the voice, though it was much softer, not nearly as rough or unkind.
Sans relaxed a bit; you could feel his shoulders slump, clinging to his ribs as you were. “Heh, well, you smoothed that out, didn’t ya, bro?”
Papyrus let out a cry of annoyance, while the not-doctor chuckled in appreciation of the pun. “Hmph,” you could hear the pouting in Papyrus’ voice.
“What do you mean, counterpart?” Sans asked, zeroing in on the odd word.
“Ah, well, in quite a fascinating cosmic tangle of events, every alternate of our universes empty into this one place in space-time. Because of that, many versions of many monsters walk the same streets. For example, I know of a Dr. Gaster who is the royal scientist for King Asgore. I also know a Mr. Gaster who excels at dancing hip-hop.”
Papyrus giggled, but Sans ribs vibrated a bit as he hummed in though. “What kind of Gaster are you?” He asked, tone under laid with suspicion.
“I am a Mister Gaster,” the kind voice reassured them, “I work at the castle as the Royal Librarian.”
“Wowie!” Papyrus exclaimed, glee in his voice. “What’s a librarian?”
Librarian Gaster chuckled. “A librarian takes care of books.”
“We have books!” The world rocked as Sans was jostled, as Papyrus darted back into the crate, then right back out. “See! This one is my favorite, ‘Peek-A-Boo With Fluffy Bunny.’ Sans reads it to me almost every night!”
“Does he? You have a wonderful big brother, huh?”
“I do, he’s the best!” You bit back a yelp as Papyrus collided with Sans and tightened your grip on the older skeletons ribs to keep from falling. Mister Gaster made a sound, like he was about to start talking, when Papyrus’ stomach let out a loud roar. Well, it sounded like a loud roar to you; he was still standing right next to Sans, and their bones tended to make sound echo.
“It sounds like you could use a good meal,” Mr. Gaster commented, sounding amused. “I know a place downtown with a hot bartender that’ll cook whatever you’re in the mood for.”
“Oooh! Do they have Glambagels?”
You could feel Sans roll his eyes, without having to look, even as Mr. Gaster chuckled. “No, but there’s plenty to choose from – more than you can eat in one meal!”
“Wowie!” Papyrus feet went from the wood floor to the forest soil, patting lightly. “C’mon, Sans! It’s rude to keep new friends waiting!”
“Papyrus, I don’t think we should be bothering Mr. Gaster.” Sans sounded hesitant, but also wanting – you were certain he was just as hungry as Papyrus, if not more so. You knew you were.
“I understand if you do not wish to come,” Mr. Gaster’s voice was soft as he spoke directly to Sans, “I can bring food back for you, if you’d like.”
“Nooooo!” Papyrus whined, and you were reminded that despite the way they acted sometime, the two boys were young children. “Brother, I want to see the hot bartender!” Mr. Gaster made a sound akin to choking down laughter.
“He will be pleased to hear that,” he let out a low chuckle. “I promise; all I am offering is a good meal. You are free to leave my company whenever you’d like.”
You could tell Sans resolve was wavering – he was rocking a bit on his feet, which he did when he was thinking hard. Thanking the stars that he had thick ribs that were easy to grasp, you stretched and pulled yourself up a few more, like rungs of a ladder.
“Sans,” you hissed as quietly as possible, “go. You and Papyrus need to eat.” You didn’t trust this new monster 100%, but both boys were more than capable of taking care of themselves. They could run if they needed to, but if the monsters offer was genuine they could get a hot meal for once.
He made a ‘hmm’ sound, but finally rocked his head forward. “Alright,” he agreed, stepping out of the crate. You resumed your monkey-like grip on his bones to keep from slipping.
“Yay! C’mon, Sans, food!” Papyrus bellowed. “Let’s go, Mr. Librarian Man!”
“Have you been having a good day?”
“Mm, yes, it’s been very busy.”
“Oh, that’s good, but you look a bit tired…”
“I am, but no more than any other Saturday night. Luckily we’ll have all of tomorrow to be lazy.”
“Yes, about that, dear…”
“What is it?”
“Uh, Grillby, have you ever thought about having kids?”
The bartender’s arm flew out from beneath him, his hand leaving a scorch mark along the bar where he’d been wiping it down. He barely managed to keep from smashing his face against the shiny wood surface, wincing when the side of his glasses caught on his shoulder and dug into the side of his face.
“What?!” His head snapped up and he stared at his mate, flames flickering erratically. “Gaster, are you – are you pregnant?!”
The royal librarian laughed loudly, the sound rolling up from his non-baby-bump belly at the panic on his mates face. “No, no,” he reassured the rapidly-flickering monster. “Grillby, breath, I’m not pregnant. I cannot imagine either of us could handle a flaming skeleton running about.”
“Ah.” The bartender’s flames turned a lovely shade of blue across his face, clearly displaying his embarrassment for all who knew how to read his expressions. “Sorry, love. You just took me off guard. I thought you were going to tell me we were having a child!”
The skeleton tented his fingers together and looked over Grillby’s shoulder, refusing to meet his eyes as he tilted his head to the side. “Well…”
“…what did you do, Gaster?”
“Mr. Gaster, can we come in now? It’s cold outside!”
A small skeleton child poked his head through the front door, and Grillby was thankful that the bar was empty at the moment. He leaned heavily on the bar as a second face poked in over the first, this one more rounded with a pair of lazy eyes glancing about in curiosity.
“Ah, yes, please. Come in.” Gaster, expression a textbook example of ‘sheepish,’ motioned the two children into the building, moving to close the door behind them and usher the two boys over to the bar. The smaller skeleton bounced forward happily, looking about with unbridled curiosity as he clambered up on one of the barstools Gaster motioned him to. The other skeleton child moved slowly, eyes darting about warily, as though he was expecting a sudden attack or surprise. He was hunched over a bit, one hand resting over his stomach. Once he was certain his little brother wasn’t going to fall, he pulled himself up on the neighboring stool.
Grillby leaned against the bar, looking from the boys to Gaster (who was dodging his gaze as well as he could). Seeing his husband was avoiding tackling the subject head on, he examined the children, taking in their ragged clothes and thin bones. The rounder skeleton had a little crack under one eye, and he was slumping slightly against the bar. His companion was wearing much warmer, cleaner clothes, including a long, red scarf that was more like a cape, and was bouncing as he looked about in delight.
“Hello!” He noticed Grillby’s gaze and fixed his empty eye sockets on him. “You’re on fire!” His expression became slightly concerned, “Are you supposed to be?”
There was a distinct sound of bone-hitting-bone as both older skeletons face-palmed at the youngest one’s comment.
“Ah – yes. Yes, I am a fire elemental. I am supposed to be on fire.” Grillby’s reassurance brought a bright smile to the little skeletons face.
“Wowie! I’ve never met a fire elemental before!” He squinted up at him, examining the wavy flames and eyes hidden behind the lenses of his half-moon glasses. With very deliberate movements he thrust his arm out, having to shake down the sleeve a bit so his phalanges poked through. “I’m the Great Papyrus!”
Grillby took the child’s hand, his own large palm completely engulfing the small, fragile bones. Flames tickled Papyrus’ bones, making the child giggle and squirm a bit as they exchanged a firm handshake.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Great Papyrus.” Grillby couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm in the child’s every move and word. His gaze shifted to the other skeleton, who had a sharp eye on the both of them, despite the bags beneath his sockets and obvious exhaustion in his frame.
Papyrus followed his gaze and began bouncing again. “Oh, and this is my big brother, Sans!”
The older skeleton didn’t move to take Grillby’s hand, he just nodded, slumped against the bar a bit. The bartender took in both boys thin, ragged appearance and fragile bones.
“Are you boys hungry?” He asked, and it was like he’d said the secret word on a children’s show. Sans lifted his head, looking torn between nodding and shaking his head. Papyrus had no such qualms.
“YES!” He boomed, standing on his stool and leaning over the bar to look at Grillby with wide, excited eyes. “Mr. Gaster said we could come here and have a real dinner! With hot food and condo-ments and hot chocolate with the little marshmallows you have to spend real money to get!”
Gaster reached out when the boy wobbled a bit, but before he could catch the skeleton a blue glow surrounded him and steadied the stool. Sans’ left eye was flickering with bright blue and yellow magic, though the longer he held it the quicker it began to fade. The child’s shoulders shook a bit as he lowered his arm, lids closing tiredly. The librarian reached out and steadied Papyrus, keeping him from falling. He cast Grillby a look that spoke volumes.
“Papyrus,” the flame elemental held a hand out to the boy, “Would you like to come into the kitchen and help me make some hot chocolate and hamburgers?”
“Sure!” Papyrus grabbed his hand and giggled as he stepped up onto the bar top, before allowing himself to be picked up by the bartender. “What’s a ham-burg?”
“A city in Germany.” Gaster chimed as he took the seat Papyrus had vacated.
“WOWIE! We’re gonna eat a whole CITY?!”
Grillby shot his mate an annoyed look and explained that they were not going to eat a city, but instead a special kind of sandwich. Sans watched them like a hawk as Grillby carried the boy through the swinging-door to the kitchen. Gaster was certain that if the child were not dead on his feet, he would be hurrying after his brother.
“Sans,” he rested a hand on the skeletons head and gently rubbed the bone. The child stiffened, fingers curling into fists. “Grillby will not harm Papyrus. They are simply going to cook dinner for us all.” He shifted his hand so his long, slim pianist fingers (though he’d never taken up piano – he was completely tone deaf according to Grillby and everyone else who came to karaoke night) rested at the back of Sans’ head, his thumb rubbing small circles along the top of the vertebrae where it met the skull in a soothing motion that immediately had the child relaxing.
Sans shifted and finally released his hoodie, folding his arms in front of him and leaning against the bar to rest his chin on them. Gaster continued to rub soothing circles along his spine as the boy angled his sockets to watch the kitchen – there was a porthole window and Grillby could occasionally be seen passing as he moved about the room, Papyrus riding on one broad shoulder. “I know,” he muttered into the torn, dirty fabric of his hoodie, “He has a good SOUL.” His pin-prick pupils shifted over to look Gaster up and down, lingering on his chest. “You do too.”
Gaster stopped his ministrations for a moment, then resumed rubbing his spine. “You can see our SOULS?” He asked curiously, certain he had never met the child before, meaning there would be no reason for him to know what their SOULS looked like.
Sans stiffened a bit when he realized what he’d said, but when Gaster didn’t move to strike him or pull away, he relaxed and spoke softly. “Yeah. I know ‘m not s’posed to be able to see ‘em, but I can.” His eyes drifted back to the kitchen door. “Mr. Grillby’s is really bright and warm, like Paps.” He watched his brother parade past the window, slung over Grillby’s shoulder as he tried to juggle several plates of food and the wiggling child at the same time. His gaze slipped back to Gaster. “But you’re is more…calm. Like a pond without any wind.”
Gaster raised a brow, a bit worried at the languid way the child spoke. The boy couldn’t be more than seven or eight, but his gaze was so much older. “You’re very poetic,” he remarked, moving to rub a palm along Sans scapula. The boy had been spitting nails when he’d approached him at the park (well, chased Sans down after he caught him trying to pick his pocket, but semantics weren't important right now), but now he seemed to be letting down his guard.
Perhaps it was because he could see their SOULs? It was a rare but not unheard of talent, though some didn’t like it because it felt ‘invasive.’ Most of the Clan leaders, the Toriel’s and Asgore’s, had some form of SOUL Sight. Seeing that he and his mate were good Monsters must have been relaxing him, calming him down enough to succumb the obvious exhaustion he’d been fighting.
How long had the pair been on the street? Gaster had asked, but Sans had headed him off with questions about what being a librarian was like. Papyrus had latched onto that and it turned into a longer, drawn out conversation about books and the like before he convinced the pair to come get a bite to eat with him. Looking at the child’s state – bones thinner than normal for his age, sockets hollowed with exhaustion, he wondered if he would even manage to eat whatever Grillby prepared.
The door was shoved open by an unseen skeleton – Grillby had set the child down so he could carry out four plates of burgers and fries, as well as balance four mugs of hot chocolate. Each mug had miniature marshmallows carefully organized in a smiley face floating on top of the frothy drink.
“Sans, look! Look! Grillby let me help him make th’ hot chocolate!” Papyrus came into sight as he rounded the bar, saw that Gaster had taken his stool, paused for a moment, then scrambled up onto the skeleton’s lap. “C’mon, wake up lazy bones, it’s rude to sleep through dinner!”
“I’m up, Paps, I’m up,” Sans assured his brother as he straightened, one hand going back to his non-existent gut, the other propping his chin up. Gaster dropped his hand and rested it on Papyrus’ shoulder, trying to keep the wiggling child from falling off his lap.
“Just a moment, Papyrus, and I’ll get out of your way.” The librarian smiled softly at the eager child, such a contrast to his big brother.
Papyrus looked up at him, eyes dancing with curiosity. “Why?” He asked, leaning against the fellow skeletons chest. “We can share the chair!”
Gaster opened his mouth to say it might not be comfortable, or difficult to eat, but the completely open and trusting expression on Papyrus’ face was enough to kill the words before they reached his tongue. “Ah, well, if you’re sure,” he muttered, glancing at Grillby as the bartender laid out the meal before them.
Papyrus exclaimed over the food as the plates were set before them, and even Sans managed to sit all the way up and smile at the steam curling off the crisp fries. As Papyrus began to eat with gusto, Grillby rounded the bar and went to the door, flicking the neon sign off and locking it. There was a storm coming in – two feet of snow tonight predicted – and nobody in their right minds would be out with the gathering storm clouds. Heh, then again, half the monsters he knew weren’t in their right mind. Well, Sans – not the child Sans in front of him, all the grown Sanses – could go find their own Grillby’s for the night if they really needed a drink.
The flame returned to stand behind the bar and ate standing up, keeping an eye on Sans as Gaster tried to keep Papyrus from making a huge mess. The child tackled everything he faced with gusto, including his meal. There was already a chocolate mustache on his lips, and his ragged sweater was stained with flecks of grease and ketchup.
Sans was more reserved, watching his brother carefully between large bites of the hamburger and fries. He’d drowned them both in ketchup and, when Grillby gave him a smile, he squirted a bunch of the condiment straight into his mouth and swallowed. Papyrus theatrically gagged at the action, while Gaster merely raised a brow. Grillby chuckled and sipped his hot chocolate, flames sparking in amusement.
Gaster relaxed a bit at his mate’s laughter – he had been worried by the bartender’s reaction when he’d first brought the boy inside, but it seemed Papyrus had softened him up. The pair had been married for years, but had never discussed children. The two skeleton children he’d found living in the park, inside a discarded crate barely big enough for them to share, without proper food or beds, had tugged at his SOUL. Now, listening to them giggle and laugh at each other as they enjoyed their first warm meal in months, he felt that tugging at his SOUL turn into a deep, warm wash of feelings.
“Mr. Gaster,” Papyrus’ had cleaned his plate and finished his drink, and was no leaning back against the skeleton, eyes drooping, “thank you for giving us dinner. It was really good!”
Sans, who had begun to slump again, lifted his head and nodded. “Yeah, thanks,” he muttered, before yawning hugely, jaw cracking.
“Brother, show some manners!” Papyrus chided, though only a moment later he was yawning as well.
Gaster chuckled and moved so that Papyrus was resting side-ways against his chest, legs thrown over his thigh, face cradled in the crook of his neck. “Let’s get you to bed,” he muttered, rubbing the child’s back.
“Don’t have a bed,” Papyrus muttered, reaching up to wrap his arms around Gaster’s neck. Sans twitched, trying to stay awake and looking like he wanted to hush Papyrus, but his head was simply too heavy to lift.
Grillby chuckled and rounded the bar once again, resting a hand on Sans shoulder and squeezing it. “We have a guest bed upstairs you are more than welcome to use,” he jerked his chin up, indicating the second floor.
Papyrus gave him a sleepy smile, and both adults were certain that was what a cherub would smile like – sweet and innocent, nothing but love and trust in his face. “Thank you,” he was already dropping off, like a stone off a cliff.
As his mate stood and adjusted Papyrus in his arms, Grillby lifted Sans into his own arms. The child went stiff at being lifted, but after a moment he relaxed against the heat the flame elemental exuded. He kept one hand over his stomach, the other in his pocket, and simply put all his weight against Grillby’s chest.
Gaster led the way through the kitchen and up the back stairs to their modest second floor apartment. There was a small kitchen (Grillby did most of the cooking, and he used his larger, state-of-the-art kitchen downstairs for it), a large living room with windows facing downhill, towards the residential areas and forests, a decent-sized bathroom, and two bedrooms. The larger he shared with Grillby, the smaller was a guest bedroom that was rarely used.
The guest bedroom had a large queen-sized bed, more than enough room for the two small skeletons. Gaster shifted Papyrus to one hip and folded down the blankets, noting absently that the little skellies would need baths tomorrow, and the sheets would probably need to be washed after tonight. He would also need to run out and get some clean, good-fitting clothing for the children, maybe some toys as well – Papyrus would most likely want something active, like a ball, while Sans would want something more low-key. Books, maybe some art supplies?
Grillby settled Sans on the other side of the bed, sitting him on top of the blankets. “Let’s get you out of these layers,” he muttered softly, tugging at the bottom of Sans hoodie. “We don’t want you to get overheated during the night.”
The boy recoiled as though he’d been struck. “No!” He grabbed his hoodie and yanked it down, farther over his hip bones and torn pants. Grillby immediately released him and took a step back, hands raised.
“Alright,” he kept his voice low and even. “Alright, that’s fine. I just don’t want you to get too warm while you sleep.”
Sans leaned forward, one arm wrapped around his stomach, as though protecting himself. Gaster, who had started to help Papyrus out of his layers, shot his mate a worried look but didn’t stop until Papyrus was dressed in just a ratty t-shirt and his long pants. When the librarian went to unwind his scarf, Papyrus jerked back and dug his fingers into the fabric, hiding the bottom half of his face.
“Alright, under the covers now,” Gaster gently pressed Papyrus’ shoulder, guiding him to the fluffed up pillows at the top of the bed. The little skull easily nestled into the softness, and Gaster noted that the pallor of his skull was off, most likely from a lack of proper calcium. He would need to get some special vitamins while out shopping for them tomorrow…
Grillby let Sans get under the blankets on his own, but once he was settled he stepped back up to the bed and tucked him in. “If you need anything we’re just next door,” he told the half-asleep pair. Sans nodded, and Papyrus let out a sleepy-sounding ‘nyeh’ as he snuggled deeper into the soft mattress. The two adults left the room, Gaster pausing to turn out the light, though he left the door open.
“Mr. Gaster?” Sans sleep-heavy voice came from the bed as he propped himself up. “Could you – would it be okay if you shut the door?”
“Of course.” Gaster rested a hand on the doorknob, understanding the child’s need for feeling safe. “Goodnight, Sans.”
“Night,” came the sleepy reply as he firmly shut the door.
Grillby wrapped his arms around his mate from behind and they stood there, staring at the shut door, for several moments before Gaster finally broke the silence.
“Can we keep them?”