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cotton candy

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I stared at the yellow flowers for a minute; they were bright even under the summer sun. But they only moved in the wind and smelled powdery. Nothing to worry about. I took a few steps forward, then stopped. Yes, that was me, my own choice to move. Good. I was thinking less like that, at least less often because it hadn't happened for at least two weeks. Good. Then...

An explosion of activity swarmed around me. Or seemed to, anyhow, now that I had noticed more of where I was after focusing on the flowers. The sun was hot, but there was a huge misting fan nearby that a dozen kids were playing around, squealing and laughing at each other. Monster kids and human kids. Around them, monsters and humans were walking around this yearly fair, a first since monsters had not been on the surface last year. There were balloons of all colors, bright tents over stalls, a thousand things to smell, a million things to see, music and chatter, walking and pointing, the worn pavement of the sidewalk, the brick wall of the flowerbed, flowers...

“Easy there,” a calming voice said.

Sans was right there, as he always seemed to be when things got overwhelming. Good. If things went bad, Sans could stop it. One time things went completely evil and he stopped it from being evil. This skeleton is the same height as me, but he makes things safe. I went over to him and gave him a blue balloon that someone had given me.

“Thanks kid,” Sans said, taking the balloon and tying it to his wrist. “We're just out to have fun tonight, remember?' Then he winked. “Wanna see if you or Papyrus will manage to stay up to midnight for the fair?”

I smiled. Right, this was for fun. It was just, things had changed so much since I'd gone to this fair last year. Not just the presence of monsters either. It felt like a lot longer than just a year; it felt like forever since school had gotten out a month ago, and I'd gotten that dare to go to the cursed mountain. And then things had gotten very strange. My life had not been my own for a long time and I'd gone through my own death dozens of times...

“Frisk,” Sans said, waving at me. “You should go do something; you can do whatever you like, and if you need some cash, I can spot you a bit.”

“How... do you know... it's me?” I asked quietly. I know I'd screamed when I'd fallen down the hole, and that was when something else took hold. While I had tried not to talk for a few days, not to alert that thing, it was troublesome and my friends got worried. So I felt I should just talk quietly so as not to call attention to myself again.

“It's a feeling in my bones,” he answered, though it was hard to tell if he meant it as joke. “I'm sure that you're you as sure as I'm sure that this balloon is pink.”

Wasn't it blue? I looked up and saw that the balloon was indeed pink, with a silly princess face on it. “It was blue.”

Sans glanced up at it. “Well it's pink now. But you don't need to worry about what color it is, or about others in your mind. They're gone and we're all looking out for you.”

“Why?” I know I'd hurt them, or whatever had been in my mind had hurt them all. Most of them didn't know, but Sans certainly did. Yet, he was one of the nicest to me now. I worry a lot about if that might change and we'll end up fighting again. Which I don't want, but what I want wouldn't matter if they came back.

If Sans was worried about that too, he didn't let it show. “Because you're one of the nicest kids out there. We can feel that, remember? I certainly felt it when you gave me the balloon.”

I should be braver. I've seen some of the scariest things in the world, I'm sure of that, and it'd all turned out to be about someone who very afraid and very sad. But, it's hard to be brave when I have to make sure I'm doing things like walking and talking because I want to do them, not because something unseen wants me to do what it wanted no matter how much I don't want to. I've lived through a lot of very scary things. I should be brave, and trust that my new family would take care of me.

Besides, the sun was shining down on my skin. The fair was thriving with activity and offering fun all around me. The scary stuff was done. Good. I should be brave. “We'll be okay,” I said.

“Okie-dokie, malokie,” Sans said, chuckling a bit. “The less I have to do, the better.”

“Hey, there you two are!” Papyrus trotted over. “What's with the green balloon?”

“It was pink,” I said, although it was truly green now, with the words 'BE NICE TO' above a picture of the Earth.

“Nah, it's green in many ways,” Sans said, making it bounce.

Papyrus poked it, then shrugged. “It's a nice balloon, but let's not waste time just hanging out on the sidewalk! There's so many fun things to do just on this street! Like, there was a cart saying it was selling cotton candy. What kind of human sorcery is that, turning fabric into candy?”

Like many times with the taller skeleton, I couldn't help smiling at that. “It's not made of cotton, it's made of sugar.”

“But why call it cotton candy if it's not cotton?” he asked. “Sure, it'd be confusing to call it sugar candy, but cotton's not something you think of eating unless you're a moth.”

“Let's get some,” I suggested. It'd be easier than trying to explain more, plus it was the fair. Getting some cotton candy was a must.

“It better not taste like cotton,” Papyrus said, taking my hand. Sans followed along; there were a lot of people around us, but as long as these two were close, it'd be okay.

By the time we got to the line at the cotton candy cart, Sans' balloon had turned orange with a smiling sun on it. I tried to watch it to see how it was changing colors and designs, but it stayed that way. It wasn't until I got distracted by Papyrus asking me a question that I took my eyes away from the balloon. And when I looked back at it, it was white with a rainbow heart on it. I frowned at it.

That just amused Sans. “Don't you know that a watched balloon doesn't change color?” he asked.

“Just forget it, he's probably messing with you,” Papyrus said.

The customers ahead of us left, so the one worker waved us over; she seemed bored. “Hey, what can I get you?” Thankfully, she was taking the pair of skeletons for normal already; some others around us were staring.

“This cotton candy isn't really made with cotton, right?” Papyrus asked. “Just want to make sure.”

“Uh, no, it's colored sugar spun up by the machines,” she said, taking one of the sticks of fluffy candy to show him.

“Wow, how's that work?!” Papyrus asked, leaning on the counter for a better look. “And that's a lot of sugar on one stick.”

“It fluffs up,” the worker said, then glanced down at me. “Oh wait, aren't you the kid that released the monsters from the mountain?”

Did she not like that? I nodded, moving closer to Papyrus. Somebody had yelled at me about that in the grocery store the other day, making me cry. While I'd not been in control of a lot, freeing the monsters had been a good thing. They should realize it wasn't good to keep nice people like the monsters locked up behind a magic seal.

“Yeah, he's the greatest little hero around,” Papyrus said. “And Frisk is my little brother now, and that's my big brother Sans, and I'm the great Papyrus! Nice to meet you cotton candy lady!” Sans waved with the hand tied to the now blue balloon with gold stars all over it.

Fortunately, she smiled at that. “I'm only working at this cart today, for the high school band,” she said. “I'm Jamie, nice to meet you too. Actually, if you want to see how the stuff is made, I guess I can let you in and show you. Need to make another batch anyhow and my partner hasn't come back yet.”

Of course, Papyrus was eagerly curious about this. “Really? That would be swell, thank you!”

“I think you mean that'd be sweet,” Sans said, making Jamie roll her eyes as she went to let us in. He volunteered to take up the cashier position in case anyone wanted to buy something while we were working on the candy.

“I don't really know how this works, just how to do it,” Jamie said, putting a mix of sugar and other things into a machine like a big bowl. Since I was small, I had to stand on my tiptoes to see into it as the machine got to work spinning the sugar up into candy. “Got to be careful with the food dyes. And don't try to mix them, or it'll make some really ugly stuff.”

Papyrus nodded. “Right, I know about that. One time I made spaghetti with coloring and it was a real unappetizing mess of greenish-brown.”

“Why would you color spaghetti?” she asked, baffled. She wouldn't be if she spent more time around him.

“I was attempting to make an exotic rainbow spaghetti!” Papyrus said, punching a bony fist in the air. “But it's something that even I, as a master chef, must take time to solve how to manage such a magnificent feat.”

“He just learned that you need to put water in the pot to cook pasta,” I said. It was something I had to insist on, since I remember my foster mother telling me to be careful when she went to drain the pot.

“Uh, all right,” Jamie said. “If you really want rainbow spaghetti, what about cooking it in small batches and dye each one a different color? Then you could just mix it together at the end. I've seen somebody spin two colors of cotton candy together like that once, but I just started doing this.”

“Ah, you must be another genius in the kitchen!” Papyrus said, impressed with her idea. “Although, that would take lots of pots to finish. But the end result would be worth all the trouble in cooking and cleaning!”

I knew I'd have to help out with that, and that he'd mess up a lot trying to pull that feat off. But, the idea of rainbow spaghetti was so interesting that I wanted to see him make it right at least once. “We'll keep trying,” I said.

Once the cotton candy machine was done spinning the sugar into fluff, she showed us how to get the cotton candy to wrap around the sticks. Papyrus had been watching and listening to all this, looking thoughtful about it. Just as I was wondering what was about to happen, he said, “So if this is cotton candy, do you think it could be remade into cotton clothing?”

“I dunno, it'd be rather sticky,” Jamie said.

“But it could be done,” Papyrus insisted. “If I could wrap it around my arm...”

“We couldn't do something unsanitary like that, or my band would get in trouble,” Jamie said.

“I could buy up some of the large bags to try,” he offered.

We ended up leaving the cart with five large bags of pink cotton candy, with Sans staying to help out with selling. Papyrus began unraveling the candy, getting a long strand of it instead. To keep a hold of it, he tried to wrap it around his arm bones but bits of it either floated off or stuck to him. At the second bag, he asked me to hold one end instead while we pulled it out. My hands ended up all sticky, while he was covered in pink all up his arms and on his costume armor. We did manage to get it stretched out pretty far, even though it broke on us twice.

By then, people were starting to watch like we were an unexpected show. Papyrus even grabbed a couple of those bystanders to help out with trying to keep a hold of the stuff. “We're going to do something great, so it'd be nice to have a couple extra hands,” he said to them. They listened, though I don't know if they realized he had no idea how he was going to do this.

I did figure out that if you squished the ends a bit, it was easier to stick the strands of cotton candy together. It was no longer fluffy and was a bit darker in color, but it worked. After we got the third bag pulled apart, Papyrus started spinning it around again, a wider more regular form with a brim. Yes, he had made a hat out of the cotton candy strands, much like the goofy tall hats I'd seen on sale at another booth.

He even put it on himself, where it bent over a little. “There we go, don't I make a sweet dapper fellow?” Papyrus asked proudly, posing for the crowd. Some laughed and some clapped.

At the cart, Jamie laughed and said, “You're a dork.”

“Well of course!” Papyrus said, using his hands to make sure the hat was steady. “Ordinary people wouldn't think outside the box. You have to be a dork to come up the with most creative solutions! Now if only this was a proper red to match my scarf, then it'd be perfect.” Then he offered me one of the unopened bags. “Here Frisk, it's a good thing we didn't have to use them all because now we can eat it too.”

“Right, thank you,” I said, taking it from him. “You look like somebody from Candyland.”

He and Sans don't have eyes like everybody else, yet he still managed to get a sparkly-eyed look at hearing that. “W-wait, there's a place called Candyland up here? Oh my gosh, that's so incredible, can we go?!”

I ended up laughing at that, which felt a bit strange as I haven't laughed in a long time. I'd been worried before, but that question made me feel like I didn't have to be. In the face of such sincere goofiness, I knew whatever spirits had me were completely gone for certain. “Not a real place, it's a board game.”

“Aw, really?” Papyrus asked in disappointment. But he cheered up pretty quickly. “Well then, you'll have to teach us to play sometime!”

From inside the cart, Sans said, “I dunno, do you really want to play a bored game?”

Papyrus stamped his foot down. “Sans! Not that kind of board!”

I just laughed. After a bit, Jamie's teacher and the other student that was supposed to be helping out came back. But thanks to Papyrus' cotton candy hat and maybe even Sans, they'd sold quite a lot of cotton candy in that time. The teacher thanked us for it, even giving me a free bracelet to go on the fair rides. It was already a great day, getting better every minute.

Since the other student was back, Sans came out of the cart with a brown balloon that supported the high school band. “Well that was a diversion,” he said. “How about we just have some fun the rest of today?”

“Yeah!” I agreed. “I want to be like cotton candy.”

“I think you've got being sticky covered,” Sans joked with me. Which was true, though Papyrus was stickier and had some trouble with attracting flies the rest of the day.

Though I didn't say it at the time, I mean being sweet, colorful, bright, and fluffy, that seemed like a nice way to live. Especially if my life was going to be my own from now on.

hey you… what're you doing with frisk?

if you're just watching, that's fine. he'll be okay. but if you mean to overtake his life again, i can't let you do that. leave the kid be. i know it wasn't him who did the worst of everything back then and i intend to make sure he doesn't live through anything like that again.

leave my brothers be.