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Mirrored Absolution

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“How did Papyrus come to be with you and your brother?” The King of Underfell questioned curiously. His alternate self offered Edge a lazy grin and shrugged.

“That, your highness… is a long and, honestly, completely other story.”

Edge leaned back and smirked, “You have my complete attention.”

“well… you asked for it,” Stretch sighed and then began, “it started right after sans disappeared from his world…”

__________________________________________________________________________________________

The world hazed into sluggish view as the skeleton monster slowly processed that he was staring at the ceiling of his living room. Surprised, he blinked away the lingering disorientation and Papyrus sat up to discover that he was laying beside the couch. The tall skeleton had standards and sleeping anywhere but his bed was unsightly. Needing little rest was one of his many talents so taking an unplanned nap was highly unusual.

Briskly regaining his footing, Papyrus glanced out the window to find the magical light still dim enough to be early morning. Sockets scanning the surrounding living room provided no answers to this confusing scenario.

If he had been too exhausted to get to his bed, Papyrus would have had a sleepover at Undyne’s. Nothing indicated that he had collapsed or… Wait, what had he even just been doing?

...His normally infallible memory seemed to have a hole in it.

Papyrus wasn't due for one of his naps and he couldn't recall what had brought him to wake up splayed on the carpet. The television wasn't on and after checking himself, the tall skeleton found no injuries or cause.

Curious.

Still, he was fine and he had his morning routine to get done before sentry duty. Resolving to put the strange occurrence behind him, Papyrus strode to the front door to begin his morning jog.

Running laps around Snowdin had been something the skeleton had taken up as soon as he decided to become a Royal Guard. He never skipped it and made sure to shout greetings to other monsters who valued rising early as he did. His neighbors smiled and waved a tad hesitantly as the tall skeleton passed them.

Through town, past his puzzles and to Sans’ sentry station before the skeleton looped back, his footfalls muffled as his gait displaced fresh snow.

As great as he was, Papyrus couldn't help but linger on this morning's break from routine. Though it was one occurrence, the monster felt that it was more notable than it should be.

It was like the sudden change in his brother. Sans liked to think he was good at lying and well... that was true but Papyrus saw right through it. Weaving a successful story and fooling him would make Sans a great liar.

But Papyrus wasn't fooled.

He simply didn't know how to confront Sans on what had become a veritable mountain of lies.

Sans wasn't fine. His older sibling lost his genuine smile for what felt like forever ago but was only yesterday.

...was it truly only yesterday?

Papyrus passed their house and ran towards Waterfall to complete his circuit, thoughts still troubled as he thought of Sans. He loved his brother and though he wasn't the most knowledgeable, certainly the younger skeleton could help Sans in some way…?

His gloved hand tagged the rockface near the mouth of Waterfall’s entrance and Papyrus turned back towards Snowdin only to slow to a walk as the snow began to fall heavily on his way back.

The tall monster slowed to a stop and simply stared through the falling snow, the strangest sensation welling up in the culmination of his being.

He had been here before. Exactly like this. Papyrus had been talking to someone.

...this morning? Right before he woke up?

The vertebrae under his red scarf burned and the strangeness of the day crested into dread.

Breaking into a sprint, Papyrus ran half-blind through the snow, his soul pounding with sudden anxiety. He didn't know why but he was afraid.

Papyrus needed to see Sans with the same urgency as he had as a child waking from a nightmare. He didn't bother wiping his feet at the entrance, simply throwing the door to his home open and discarding all routine.

“SANS!”

His call as he debated taking off his boots was met with silence. Breath hitching, Papyrus abandoned all politeness and took the stairs two at a time, pausing once more in front of his sibling’s closed door.

His fear had only worsened instead of getting better with distance.

“S-Sans?”

The house was too quiet.

Papyrus reached out with a shaking gloved hand and turned the knob. The creak of wood was obnoxiously loud, causing the tall skeleton to flinch back.

The bed was empty…

Had Sans actually gotten up without prompting? Did they just miss each other?

... Without breakfast spaghetti?

Orange magic welled up in his eye sockets as the fear and the dread continued to churn in his soul.

“Sans… I think I had a nightmare.” His normally boisterous tone was quiet and strained, needing to speak it out loud despite no one being there to hear his words.

...Where was his brother?

Chapter Text

Papyrus stood motionless in the doorway, dark sockets no longer registering his older brother's bedroom. It was so quiet that it felt...loud. The skeleton had heard the phrase "deafeningly silent' but had never experienced it until now. Of course, he had always been the type to fill said silence but that was neither here nor there...

What mattered was the complete lack of his sibling, a vacuum where Sans should be. His steady breathing as he slept. His deeper voice as he cracked a joke followed by an expectant expression. The quiet but reassuring hum of the other monster's soul.

Gone..?

But that didn't make any sense!

Sans would never leave him! That was preposterous! Unthinkable, even! Papyrus reached up and roughly wiped the orange magic leaking from his sockets, expression hardening.

He was missing something. A clue or some rational explanation. Papyrus refused to accept this. He refused to just give in or give up on the most important person to him.

His gloved hand automatically went for his phone. His sibling may carry on like he was lazy but Papyrus knew he would have his phone on him. He dialed Sans’ number and slowly brought the device up to listen.

Ring…

Pick up, brother…

Ring…

The younger skeleton always stressed that picking up on the second ring was polite, so his soul dropped when a third ring came. And a fourth… until Papyrus was just listlessly staring at a middle distance while holding the ringing device. He couldn’t hear any indication that the phone was left in their home so the monster hung up and quickly made a mental list. Grillby’s and Sans’ sentry stations had to come first before anything else. One in Waterfall and one in Hotland. It was a long trek but Papyrus could ask if anyone had seen his brother on the way. An efficient method of combining his tasks.

His gaze trailed to Sans’ dresser where the drawers were before he tore himself out of the despondent state he had fallen into. Nothing good would come of that line of thinking! The tall skeleton hung up the phone and closed the door to Sans’ room before quickly taking the stairs, walking out into the cool Snowdin air. His long strides easily ate up the distance along the main road in Snowdin and Papyrus arrived at the bar and grill in short order. Without his usual hesitation, the monster entered with a determined expression.

There were only a few monsters inside, the canine unit already attending to their duties. While the whisper of shirking his own duties passed through the back of his mind, Papyrus knew where his priorities lay and approached the bar. The fire elemental crackled with slight surprise upon seeing who had entered his establishment.

“Papyrus, what an unexpected pleasure. May I assist you?” Grillby knew that the skeleton wasn’t here for breakfast, his preference well known.

“Greetings, Grillby, have you seen Sans today by chance?”

The elemental’s fire dimmed a bit in confusion, the other’s subdued tone and serious expression taking him aback, “Sans? …No, I have not seen him. Is something wrong?” Papyrus hesitated as he had just started searching but there was no reason not to inform Grillby of his fears.

“My brother was not home when I woke this morning. It is highly unusual behavior for Sans to break routine so I am out searching for him.” The bartender frowned, his fiery eyes blinking behind his spectacles.

“Have you taken this to the Captain?” The note of concern in Grillby’s voice soothed Papyrus’ worries about coming across as a mother hen. It was being taken seriously instead of being brushed aside.

“I plan on searching along Sans’ route first, but I will be telling Undyne immediately after if I do not find him.”

“Please keep me updated, Papyrus.” The bartender picked up a glass and began cleaning it, “I am sure we can find your brother.” The younger monster nodded in agreement before excusing himself, stepping from the warmth of the restaurant into Snowdin’s cool air. Inhaling and then exhaling slowly, Papyrus decided to head straight to Waterfall since he had already covered Sans’ assigned route in Snowdin. Setting off down the main road, Papyrus adopted a steady pace that allowed him to scan his surroundings thoroughly. In short order, the skeleton arrived at Sans’ sentry station. Frowning, Papyrus checked behind the structure in hopes of finding any clues only to discover the usual bottles of condiments. He returned to his trek and upon reaching the crossroads the monster hesitated.

He could ask Undyne for help.

Immediately shaking that impulse, Papyrus continued by himself. There was still Hotland and Sans’ side business of selling hotdogs to check off before he bothered his best friend. The skeleton tended to stay away from Hotland due to the sweltering heat and if he were completely honest, there wasn’t a reason to go further. He knew that the sentry station immediately entering Hotland was a rotation point and not what he was looking for. Everything familiar was behind him so it took more time than Papyrus liked to navigate the elevators and puzzles.

Panting lightly with orange beading on his skull, the monster finally stopped when he had circled back repeatedly to where Sans had said he was a vendor. His mistake caused him to slap his face in exasperation. There were clear signs of a station being here and the younger sibling realized that his older brother had used a ‘shortcut’ not only for himself but the entire structure. It would have been funny another time but it only added to Papyrus’ stress. Taking out his phone, he dialed Undyne.

“’Sup, Papyrus!” The Captain’s voice was cheerful and Papyrus swallowed, his voice failing him for a moment, “…you okay, big guy?”

His sockets itched with the need to cry.

“…Undyne, I cannot find my brother.” He muttered. The skeleton’s tone of voice must have clued her in because her demeanor switched immediately.

“Have you called him? Asked people in Snowdin if they saw him?”

He sighed, “already done.”

“Where are you, Paps?” She questioned and upon his curt answer, Undyne sighed, “well, have you asked Asgore yet?”

The skeleton blinked in surprise and replied, “I am worried but there is no reason to bother the King about this.”

“No reason to- Papyrus, he is Sans’ boss. Why wouldn’t we ask him?”

“I understand all sentries are employed by the King but I may be overreacting. Sans might still be at Mettaton’s hotel or the Core?”

A long moment of silence dragged over their connection before Undyne answered him, “…Paps. You’re kidding, right? Sans being a sentry wasn’t his main job.”

“Pardon?”

More silence.

“He DIDN’T tell you??!” She exclaimed before sighing raggedly, “of COURSE he didn’t tell- Paps, stay right there.”

The dial tone sounded before the tall skeleton ended the connection, utterly confused. That knot of worry lodged in his soul tightened as his anxiety grew. Surely Undyne knew he had already checked the hotdog stand? He was standing right where it usually was but he doubted it was a legitimate business that the King would sanction. Papyrus pocketed his phone and waited for his best friend to arrive.

Chapter Text

The stifling heat and grinding puzzles of Hotland swiftly reminded Papyrus why he didn’t venture further than Waterfall. Small beads of orange magic gathered on his skull the longer he stood but he knew that his best friend wouldn’t be long. Undyne was nothing if not punctual and she would suffer more from the temperature than he would.

He tried to quell the worry and confusion their phone call had left him with. There were many things about his older brother that he didn’t know. Sans had always kept quiet about heavier topics, preferring to exchange light banter and jokes instead, Papyrus had respected that boundary because the younger skeleton knew Sans was protecting him. However, there was a sinking feeling in his soul due to Undyne’s tone when she ended the call.

How much had Sans been hiding?

The longer Papyrus thought about it, the more holes he realized were riddled in his memory. His brother was a sentry, had a questionable hotdog business, loved jokes and Grillby’s.

Wait! Had San’s been telling jokes recently? Papyrus couldn’t place the last time he heard a pun. Seen a genuine smile on his sibling’s face.

What did it sound like when Sans’ laughed? He couldn’t-

“...yrus! Papyrus!”

The tall skeleton gasped in air, snapping his attention up to the Captain’s worried expression. Undyne had her helmet off and placed a steadying hand on his shoulder. She opened her arms for him and Papyrus accepted the hug tearfully. She inhaled a slow breath and canted her voice to be quieter.

“Hey, tough guy. What did I tell you about crying?” Undyne patted his back as he pulled himself back from panic.

“That it is a waste of energy?” He answered meekly and her expression dropped into confusion.

“No! That you invite ME to the pity party! I swear when we find Sans I am going to-”

“Give him a stern lecture?” Papyrus cut in with a small smile, “you know my brother is fragile, yes?” Instead of the expected smile from his best friend, she sighed and then turned them around to the path towards MTT Resort.

“Let’s cover ground while we chat, Paps. We need to bring this to Asgore and...well, you deserve to hear directly from him about your brother.”

Papyrus didn’t like the unfamiliar resignation in Undyne’s voice, “can you just explain it to me? I mean, I have never talked one-on-one with King Asgore. I am sure he has better things to do then…”

He trailed off, unsure of what to say. King Asgore was a kind monster and he had visited several times throughout Papyrus’ schooling as a babybones. Any monster could approach the patriarch but the tall skeleton had hoped his first conversation with the King would happen when he joined the Royal Guard officially.

They pass through the resort without stopping and Papyrus was so worried that he couldn’t appreciate the luxurious surroundings. Undyne remained quiet until the door to the elevator closed on them, beginning their slow ascent up towards New Home.

“I really don’t think I should be the one to explain it to you, Paps. I know the basics but Asgore would be the better source for this type of knowledge. Try not to worry about talking to him, he really IS a fluffy pushover.”

A few long moments pass between them with only the sound of the elevator humming.

“How many people know about this? Sans’ real job..?” He asked in a quiet tone, sockets lowering to the floor.

“Uh,” Undyne hummed in discomfort, her fins drooping, “the King, the members of the Royal Guard, ol’ Gerson and Grillby. And whoever the King needed to see.”

The elevator chimed and both monsters exited. Papyrus slowed to a stop, sockets widening in surprise at the view they had of New Home. The skeleton had definitely never been this far away from Snowdin. There was no way he would forget such a wide open cavern with so many large buildings below them.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” Undyne called back to him with a lopsided smile, “I never get tired of this view. Most of the monster population live down there.” The younger monster took in the view, attempting to remember what he learned of their History.

“Is Home this big?” He questioned absently, inwardly grateful for the extra time this afforded him before they met with the King.

“Pfft, you kidding?” Undyne grinned wide, showing off every sharp tooth, “Home is teeny compared to this. All the monsters from there moved here and then some.”

Papyrus took a few more minutes appreciating the view. He wasn’t stalling! He wasn’t nervous at all!

“Come on, Paps. We still have a bit more to go.” Undyne prompted. Papyrus could hear the gentle scolding in her voice and realized she knew he was procrastinating. Sighing, the skeleton resumed following the Captain and he stepped over a large threshold only to freeze in place.

Everything was glowing and gold. Warm and encompassing. Papyrus could hear birds singing here, actual animals from the Surface. It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe the light here belonged to the Surface, shining through cracks in the mountain.

The view was impressive but that paled in comparison to what Papyrus felt in his soul.

“Sans?” He called and Undyne turned to see him frantically glancing about the hall for his older brother. This place hummed with magic that Papyrus knew better than even his own. The air was heavy with it. It would be suffocating to anyone but Papyrus, whose confusion only rose upon realization that Sans was not present.

“Papyrus, what’s up?” Undyne’s single golden eye followed his movements.

“This place feels like him,” he explained fretfully, “can you not sense that?”

Undyne frowned and shook her head, “I feel the pressure but it doesn’t feel like your brother to me. Come on, Asgore is just beyond here.”

At her prompting, Papyrus forced his way along the hall, his boots thudding across the smooth tile. The tall skeleton was reluctant to leave this place. It was as if Sans was right beside him or just out of sight. The sensation faded as soon as the pair stepped through the threshold and beyond, leaving the hall behind.

Papyrus blinked as the darkness faded and another golden light dominated the room. The floor of the Throne Room was littered with Golden Flowers, swaying in the breeze. The towering monster among the foliage glanced up and smiled wide in welcome.

“Howdy!” King Asgore rumbled in pleased surprise, “please give me a moment to finish watering these flowers!”

Chapter Text

Papyrus followed Undyne’s example and carefully navigated through the flowerbed. The skeleton was a bit starstruck at how much the King towered over them both. Undyne and himself were tall for monsters and it was rare someone looked down on them. It made him feel like a babybones again, the sensation calming his troubled soul. Surely the King would know where Sans was. If nothing else, Asgore had answers. The patriarch placed the watering can aside and motioned to the table and chairs nearby.

“Would you two fancy a cup of tea?”

The pleasant invitation took Papyrus by surprise and it was Undyne who answered for them, “sure, Asgore. Appreciate it.”

The goat monster’s expression softened in pleasure, “I will be right back.”

His best friend sat down at the table before Papyrus was able to force himself to take a seat for himself. This didn’t feel like the meeting the skeleton had feared. Asgore Dremuur had come across as fatherly during school visits but Papyrus had thought that manner was reserved for children.

Clearly he had been mistaken.

“See, Paps?” Undyne questioned with her lopsided grin, “nothing to be scared of! Asgore is a big fluffy guy!”

Papyrus played with the cuff on one of his gloves anxiously, “yes. My fear of him was not accurate. ...Do you think he knows where Sans is?”

Undyne shrugged her shoulders, eyes adverting to watch the doorway Asgore had disappeared through, “if anyone would know, it would be him. He isn’t the King of Monsters for nothing.”

Papyrus nodded and sat back, the itching in his soul signaling suppressed nervousness. He exhaled and took in their surroundings. The Golden Flowers were well kept and healthy. Not a single petal bruised or missing. Asgore must tend the blossoms every single day. Even though the skeleton’s favorite subject in school was Puzzles and Pitfalls, all monsters knew the story behind them.

A human had fallen to the Underground. They were taken in by the Prince and became like a sibling. It had been the most hopeful the Underground had ever been. Then they fell ill. Their last wish had been to see these same flowers.

They died…

Asriel had taken their soul. Went past the Barrier only to return with his human sibling in his arms.

They had died in this room, Papyrus realized with widening sockets. Asriel’s body had dusted here and the seeds of the flowers on the human’s clothing took root.

“Apologies for the wait.” The skeleton straightened automatically, the King’s return snapping him out of his thoughts.

“I do not get many visits where I can offer my hospitality.” Asgore gently sat three cups of steaming tea before both the Captain, Papyrus and himself. A tea pot and a saucer filled with sugar cubes followed, the King settling down in the last open chair and smiled widely down at Papyrus.

“Hello, Papyrus. I have heard much about you from Undyne.” Asgore absently scooped three cubes into the Captain’s tea by habit and offered the skeleton the tongs, “sugar?”

He politely declined and noticed Undyne sipping on her tea, “n-no thank you! I mean- It is very nice to meet you, your Majesty!” An orange flush glowed on his skull at his social fumbling but the King didn’t seem to mind. He took a sip of the Golden Flower tea, breathing out in shock at how much tightness had been around his soul. The magic in the liquid soothed his anxiety and Papyrus felt more steady, replacing the cup on it’s dish.

“Asgore, I wish this was a casual visit but we do have an issue.” Undyne finally spoke, following Papyrus’ actions. The King’s warm smile eased into a worried frown.

“What can I help you with?” He queried, keeping his cup close to his chest as Undyne folded her hands on the tabletop.

“Sans is missing, Asgore.”

The King’s emerald gaze tightened in worry, “are you certain?”

Papyrus finally found his voice and spoke up, “absolutely. I checked his sentry stations, Grillby’s restaurant, his route and questionable hot dog business location. He did not answer his phone.”

Asgore’s expression darkened further in worry, “that is very uncharacteristic for Sans. He makes certain to allow for time with all of his jobs. That aside, he would never make you worry, Papyrus.”

The younger monster had thought he could keep his composure in front of their King but those words felt like a strike to the soul, orange magic sliding down his face. He hiccuped in embarrassment and tried to stem his tears but there was no stopping them.

“Oh dear.” Some rustling and a cloth was gently applied to his face, “I did not mean to upset you, Papyrus. I am sure there is some rational explanation for this situation.”

It took a moment for the sobbing to ease and Papyrus’ flush deepened upon realizing it was Asgore who mopped his skull free of tears. Undyne cleared her throat and nodded at the patriarch.

“I will get some of my men on it. That isn’t why we came though. Sans has been keeping a lot from Papyrus and you’re the best person to explain it.”

Asgore sighed and sat his cup of tea aside, focus shifting solely onto the younger monster, “ah, I see. Sans is fiercely protective of you. I gather he did not tell you of his true role regarding all of monsterkind.”

Papyrus’ spine straightened and he nodded, “my older brother is a private skeleton. He did not tell me a lot of things.”

“I see,” Asgore repeated with a frown before shaking his head, “the golden hall you passed in order to get here has a name. It is where Sans does all of his work for me. Did you notice anything different about it?”

“It feels like my brother!” He blurted out and Asgore tilted his head in intrigue.

“Truly? That is quite interesting. Most monsters feel a tangible pressure but perhaps it is different because you two are related,” the King folded his hands on the table, “but I digress. The name of that place is called the Hall of Judgment. Monsters aren’t brought there often but it does happen on the rare occasion. Sans acts as Monsterkind’s Judge.”

Papyrus’ sockets were wide, simply taking in Asgore’s words, “...Judge?” He echoed faintly, confusion lacing his tone.

“Indeed. This position is magically inherited. A power beyond our understanding appoints our Judge, extremely old magic…” the King hummed thoughtfully, “Gerson was the previous Judge. ‘The Hammer of Justice’, a title that was not earned solely in the War.”

“So Sans was given this position from old magic?”

Why hadn’t his brother told him?

“Yes! However I remember that Sans’ introduction to this role was…unusual. Far too young… He was not even in the age group that we were keeping track of. The boy was still in stripes.” The longer Asgore spoke, the more confused he sounded, “I can’t seem to remember how events fell that day for some reason.”

Undyne frowned and leaned forward, “…Asgore?”

The tall Boss Monster snapped out of it, expression pulling into worry once more, “I apologize, Papyrus. I do not know where Sans is. I trust Undyne will be thorough in her search?” The Captain nodded and smiled at him briefly before rising, “thank you for the tea, Asgore. We’ll take it from here.”

Papyrus nodded and stood up, soul churning anxiously, “yes! Thank you so much, your Majesty.”

“Come on, Paps. Let’s head over to Alphys’ lab. She had cameras up all around the Underground.” At Undyne’s words, a small glimmer of hope shone through his soul. While the King had not been able to locate his brother, there was a chance they could find him or at least get on the trail. His gaze rested on the troubled King before following his best friend once more.

Chapter Text

The elevator trip back down from New Home felt longer to Papyrus but surely that was just his imagination. Or perhaps it was the way Undyne kept quiet while obviously wanting to fill the dead air with conversation. Now that they had an audience with the King that didn’t offer any answers, the tall skeleton felt more unsure than he could recall ever being before. This entire day was just....wrong.

From his mysterious unplanned nap to now, Papyrus just wanted the world to begin making sense again. If he had the option to start the day over, he would be tempted. But doing that would take away the knowledge King Asgore gave him in regards to Sans being a Judge. Or was it The Judge? There only seemed to be one at any given time…

Even now, Papyrus couldn’t wrap his mind around what that truly meant.

The elevator issued a tone and the doors slid open to allow them through. Papyrus glanced around at the elegant surroundings with a forlorn expression. Mettaton’s resort was just as it appeared on television but he couldn’t put aside his worry to enjoy it. It would be nice if he and his brother could laugh at this later together, after a stern talking to about disappearing.

Another silent elevator ride had them exiting back into the harsh heat of Hotland, Undyne noticeably speeding up at the sight of the Lab. If this wasn’t such a dire situation, the skeleton would tease his best friend about her obvious feelings for Doctor Alphys. As it stood, he would rather she give them helpful information.

The front door was locked so the Captain buzzed the bell with a slight frown. Papyrus waited quietly, wringing his gloved hands together until they could hear something stirring inside.

“O-One moment!” Alphys’ voice called through the door. There was some shifting noises and banging before the metal door parted. The Royal Scientist smiled up at them both, a shaky smile stretching across her face.

“Hey, Alphy,” Undyne greeted, smiling slightly when the woman relaxed slightly, “sorry to drop in so suddenly without an invite. This is my best pal, Papyrus!”

The Royal Scientist perked up in recognition, “o-oh! Sans’ little b-brother! Nice to m-meet you!” She offered a shaking hand upwards and he took it gently. His soul trembled with confusion at the familiar tone of her voice.

“Pleasure to meet you, Doctor. Did...Do you know Sans well?” He questioned and their grip broke apart. Alphys blinked behind her small glasses and hummed.

“Oh y-yeah! Of course I know Sans! We studied at the Academy together! T-Though our d-days working together were...long? Or short…” She fretted, “w-well we took very d-different majors so…”

“What majors were that?” Papyrus questioned gently, keenly aware of her nervous state. Undyne said familiar topics helped her crush feel more at ease and the skeleton definitely did not want to cause her more anxiety.

“W-Well, Sans was in Q-Quantum Physics and I was i-in Mechanical Engineering!” She pushed her small glasses up her snout with a smile, “a lot of our classes overlapped. H-How is he, by the way?”

Undyne flinched and briefly exchanged a glance with Papyrus, “that is actually what we are here for, Alphys. Sans has been missing since this morning…”

The Royal Scientist’s expression fell into abject horror, “m-m-missing?!”

Undyne lifted both hands in a pacifying gesture, “woah, Alphy. We’re just touching all bases before getting a search party out.”

A miniscule amount of tension bled from her shoulders, “you w-want to see the camera feed!” She realized and then nodded, “o-of course, p-please come in!”

Papyrus stepped into the Lab a pace behind the Captain, dark sockets taking in the bright and cluttered area. Alphys swept the clutter on her desk aside haphazardly, all three monsters glancing up at the huge screen set into the wall. Her claws tapped rapidly across the keyboard, the large image breaking up into many small feeds.

“J-Just let me reel the footage back.” The reptilian woman murmured, eyes darting across the activity. Papyrus frowned thoughtfully. A certification for Quantum Physics at the Academy? He felt like he should remember this big detail about his brother. Sans was older, but not to the point where he wouldn’t remember such a thing. The only thing Quantum Physics in their house was that joke book inside of a textbook of that subject. Or was it the textbook inside of a joke book…?

“What is Quantum Physics?” Papyrus asked into the silence, startling Alphys and prompting her to spin around to face him. Sweat beaded on her face and she laughed nervously.

“I-I, oh my g-gosh? I r-really can’t answer that, P-Papyrus. It would t-take years to even…” She trailed off and sighed, “S-Sans was always good at explaining t-things.

“Maybe give us a Quantum Physics for Dummies explanation?” Undyne suggested with a small smile and Alphys nodded hesitantly.

“W-Well… Sans was studying r-reality! The spaces between spaces? The Many Worlds theory… Schrödinger's Cat?” She tried.

“Whose cat now?” Undyne asked with an expression that suggested she wasn’t following at all. Alphys laughed nervously.

“Well, if you put a cat in a box and introduce radiation, w-which is deadly to the cat, would that cat be dead or alive when you looked inside?”

“Dead.”

“Alive!” Papyrus and Undyne exchanged a look before the Royal Scientist laughed, “it’s b-both!”

In response to their confusion, she turned around in the wheeled chair completely, “in that moment, before you open the box, the cat is both alive and dead. B-Both possibilities are t-there until you look inside. When you open the box, t-this reality adopts one possibility and the other outcome happens in another. It’s all very fascinating!”

Undyne hummed, still clearly not on board with the explanation, “so Sans was studying...reality. Other realities?”

“Y-yes! Quantum Physics is a LOT more involved and complicated but his education was utilized to p-possibly break the barrier!”

Papyrus’ sockets widened, “my brother was involved in attempts to break the Barrier?”

“W-Well, he was studying the smallest place in between the smallest places. There were guesses that we would be able to see some way t-through.”

“Is this how Sans’ could prank people across time and space?” The younger skeleton questioned. Both his best friend and Alphys stared at him with confusion. He gestured vaguely, “his shortcuts?”

“W-Well, I d-dunno...he...the studies were done under the previous Royal Scientist, so I’m not sure??” She turned back to the screen to resume typing. Papyrus frowned at the vague answer, unsatisfied.

“Who was the previous Royal Scientist?”

The answer was met with silence. Papyrus shifted uncomfortably on his feet, wondering if perhaps he should repeat himself. The silence lingered longer than he thought appropriate. Opening his mouth to repeat his words, he shuddered and stopped. Undyne was absently staring off at a middle distance. Alphys’ typing had stopped altogether, her gaze set on the screen but somehow staring through it…?

Papyrus froze and trembled, the sensation of being watched growing heavier and heavier until-

“Ah! The footage is all reeled back twenty f-four hours. L-let me activate it.” With another few decisive taps, places all over the Underground a day before flooded the screen. Undyne straightened and Papyrus took a step closer, his gaze flickering from one perspective to another.

The first camera was just outside the Ruins which made sense as they could go no further. Angles along the path and into the forest led into Snowdin. Waterfall, Hotland, Mettaton’s Resort, New Home-

“S-Shoot!” Alphys muttered, tapping the keyboard and pulling up one of the small screens. Static filled the view along with the word “Offline”, “I-I could’ve sworn we just fixed that camera.”

“Where is that?” Undyne questioned, brow furrowed.

“O-Oh! That’s…” Alphys’ words trailed off, brown eyes widening. The Captain shifted her attention to the smaller monster, worry welling in her soul at the expression worsened into a soft, dawning fear. Papyrus watched them exchange a glance, his own worry cresting at Alphys’ next words.

“The Judgement Hall.”

Chapter Text

“T-That can’t be! The feeds from the Castle are checked hourly! M-Mettaton wouldn’t let that go, d-despite being busy!” Furious typing sent the recorded footage into reverse. The static remained no matter how far back the timer read. She threw it back to the present time and issued a frustrated noise.

“I-It’s completely offline! How did I not notice…?” Alphys trailed off before realizing both Undyne and Papyrus still looked worried, “I-I’m sure it’s j-just the shoddy system acting up! O-overdue for maintenance!”

She backed out of the dead feed with a sigh.

“Doctor,” Papyrus pointed to the monitor in dismay. The camera outside the Ruin’s door displayed the same ‘Offline’ notification. Alphys’ mouth fell open in shock as each camera began to cut to static.

“B-But these are yesterday’s recordings!” She wailed, “it was JUST working!”

The last view blinked out, the roar of static filling the silence as Papyrus, Undyne and Alphys stared at the screen in mute shock. It continued for a few long beats until Alphys spoke again, stutter completely absent and tone flat.

“I’m sorry. I will get them back up as soon as possible. Expect my call.” The reptilian woman hunched over the desk, pulling up what must be the code without saying anything further. Undyne hesitated and then sighed, turning her single gold eye towards her best friend after realizing they had been dismissed.

“You should go home for now, Papyrus. I will brief the Guards and have them begin a search,” she gestured towards the door they came in and Papyrus fell into step with her, dismay fogging his soul.

“I can help!” He insisted, upset at the thought of returning to a home that didn’t have his brother waiting. Undyne shook her head regretfully.

“I know you can, Paps. But I need you waiting there just in case Sans shows up. For all we know, he’s taking a nap in the snow like the lazybones he is, yeah?” The Captain offered him a lopsided smile. Papyrus hesitated, jaw clenching in response to the words meant to pacify him. It was coming from a place of caring but he was so frustrated being shoved aside when things got heavy.

The tall skeleton wanted to argue with his Captain. He wanted to scream in fear and dissatisfaction. He wanted to insist that he wasn’t a babybones! He wanted…

He wanted Sans.

Nodding in resignation, Papyrus allowed himself to be led outside and down the stairs to where the Riverpersion waited in their boat. He turned to a smiling Undyne, noting the apology shining in her good eye.

“We’ll find your brother, Paps. Everything’s going to be okay.” She murmured, her voice soft before she brought the skeleton in for a tight hug. Papyrus laughed weakly.

“Aw, come on! I know you have more in you than that!”

“Nyeh! Heh! Heh!”

It was loud but no where near convincing.

“I’ll call you!” Undyne motioned to her fin as she backed away and waved briefly, disappearing over the stairs. Papyrus waited a moment before exhaling loudly, stepping into the boat and taking a seat. Hugging his long legs to his chest, the skeleton sighed.

“Snowdin, please.”

The Riverperson sang out a few notes before the boat began to sail on swift currents. The skeleton stared at the water in silence before looking up at the hooded monster. Riverperson didn’t speak like anyone Papyrus knew, but he still had to try.

“Have you seen my brother, Riverperson?”

A beat of silence followed his despondent question.

“No one where they’re meant to be…”

Papyrus blinked at the cryptic words, frowning.

“Unraveling. Unrolling.” Riverperson sang as they slowed down and snow drifted around them. The boat stopped at the appointed crop of land and Papyrus hesitated before stepping onto solid ground. Riverperson hummed to themselves as they disappeared around the bend, leaving Papyrus alone.

He had done everything he could...hadn’t he?

Calling Sans’ phone. Searching Sans’ route. Had a search party summoned. Met the King of Monsters. Visited the Royal Scientist.

Yet, all of those things resulted in failure…

A flash of where he had lingered in his brother’s room that morning crossed his mind, the dresser of drawers that hid a secret Papyrus had respected.

There was still one thing he could do.

Chapter Text

The silence of the house upon Papyrus’ return was somehow worse than this morning, the added weight of Sans truly being missing heavy in this soul. The tall skeleton shut the front door and sighed heavily, orange magic welling in his sockets. While he had all the confidence in Undyne and the other members of the Royal Guard, Papyrus felt there was something he could do to aid in the search himself. Sitting around the house crying would not do. Bringing one glove up to wipe the tears away, Papyrus straightened and took the stairs.

The door to his older brother’s room was still open from this morning but the skeleton still hesitated just over the threshold out of habit. Avoiding the piles of socks and litter, Papyrus reached the wooden chest and opened the topmost drawer. He dug through it until a silver glint caught his attention.

Papyrus pulled the silver key from the drawer.

It didn’t take much for him to connect this small key to the door on the back of their house. Papyrus had found this when he was a lot younger, still in stripes in fact but he had known his older brother was very private. Respecting Sans’ space had always been ingrained in him even if he was overwhelmingly curious. The younger brother had trusted in the fact that if Sans wanted to share then he would approach him about it. If it weren’t for the dire circumstances, Papyrus knew he would be excited to learn one of his sibling’s secrets.

Soul thrumming in anxiety, he walked back out into the snow and rounded the corner to loop around the back of their home. Papyrus stopped in front of the metal door, gathering his wits. It still felt very much like he was intruding or doing something wrong, but this was an emergency. Sans would surely understand why he did this after the fact, wouldn’t he…?

The key slid seamlessly into the lock and the skeleton flinched when the tumblrs gave, the metal swinging forward. Papyrus frowned and reached along the inner wall, finding the light switch and flipping it on.

A staircase leading down was revealed.

Papyrus steadied himself and took them carefully, blinking in the almost clinically bright light as his red boots hit purple tile. This definitely wasn’t...what he had expected. Basements usually were damp and cluttered. With how his older brother’s room was kept, it was shockingly clean in comparison. The space was narrow, half of the room contained a built-in desk and drawers. There was something large shoved into the corner with a tarp covering it but the skeleton gravitated to the desk first.

Papyrus set the keys on the table and examined the only other things laying in the open. Blue scrolled paper covered in white symbols was curled up here, along with red rimmed glasses. Absently stripping off his gloves, Papyrus’ expression fell into a soft sort of curiosity as he gingerly picked up the frames.

Were these...Sans’?

He couldn’t remember a single instance where his sibling had required glasses. Turning them over in his hands, Papyrus noted there was a faint magic signature engraved in them. Breath hitching, he lifted them up and slid them into place, the magic resonating as everything close-up became focused.

These…

“...Impossible.” He whispered, the skeleton monster glancing around with his sharpened vision. These were HIS. But he didn’t wear glasses! It didn’t make sense, there had to be a mistake… But they were right here on his face working exactly as they should with his magic all over them, no matter how faint. The magic held them in place as he glanced down at the faded Blueprints.

The writing was strangely familiar despite being foriegn.

Papyrus abandoned them for now, backing up a step to take in the four built-in drawers. Shoving aside the sensation that he was snooping, the skeleton opened the first one and withdrew a picture frame. The tips of his phalanges hesitantly touched the glass, right over the image of his smiling brother.

That smile.

It was genuine and touched Sans’ eye-lights, something he hadn’t seen in…he couldn’t remember. Ignoring the few droplets that fell from his sockets and onto the glass, Papyrus noted that Sans was wearing a labcoat. Most of the monsters pictured were wearing one while beaming in the camera’s direction.

Papyrus unlatched the frame and took the picture, idly turning it over.

‘Smile, Sans!
Take a bow!
En ‘Core’!’

The letter wasn’t signed but the pun made him smile unintentionally. ‘Core’. The Core? He had been under the impression that it had been created long ago. Perhaps it had just taken quite a bit of time before it was actually complete?

Folding the picture felt horribly rude but Papyrus needed this image of his brother more than anything. Appearing years younger and so happy, it caused his soul to throb with longing. Placing it into his dimensional box for safekeeping, Papyrus put his cell phone away. There was a binder inside the first drawer and his eagerness to learn more urged his search.

It quickly ebbed into perplexion as he paged through the images.

The first was a group photo. There was a motherly looking goat monster he didn’t recognize, his best friend, the Doctor, the King, Sans...himself...and what had to be-

Was that a human?

They were smiling wide at the camera, flashing a peace sign.

How could he be in this picture? He didn’t remember it being taken and he certainly wouldn’t forget a HUMAN of all things. Yet, here he was looking at the picture with glasses he also had forgotten all about. Frustrated, Papyrus turned to the next page.

The skeleton’s soul went cold, an odd ringing starting just below his notice.

The photograph was a perfect copy of the previous if you could ignore the violent red ‘X’s obscuring every face except the human’s. It was as if the picture had soaked in the hateful intent, Papyrus dropping it as if it had burnt.

Fear touched his sockets as he stared down at the binder. None of this was making sense! It was like finding puzzle pieces yet they were blank. What was he supposed to think upon finding these things?! He didn’t know if he wanted to continue but if Papyrus gave up what would happen to his brother??

There was a loose page peeking over the pages in the binder. Unable to stop himself, Papyrus extracted it and that unnoticed ringing roared to levels that it was all the monster could hear.

...There were three people on the page...

A crude drawing of himself-

Sans-

And…

‘Don’t forget!’

A third skeleton that had been their father. A family member that no longer existed but remembered regardless. His name was-

“Gaster?”

The world shuddered as Papyrus stumbled back with a cry, knocking into the tarp-covered machine as he frantically shoved the binder away. Awareness slid through his phalanges as everything went dark, the roar of static dragging him under.

Chapter Text

“...aps?”

Who..?

“...rus… yo-”

Someone was speaking gently against his skull. Did someone find him in Sans’ basement? It felt like he was being carried and Papyrus internally berated himself for doing something as foolish as… He had fallen, hadn’t he?

“wake up, sleepy skull.”

The skeleton’s sockets flew open in alarm and relief before freezing. Several things registered at once, stealing his breath. His soul sung in recognition but Papyrus was frozen in place.

Sans was carrying him, red-rimmed glasses attuned to his magic keeping them firmly in place. The most beautiful smile stretched across his sibling’s face, eye-lights growing and becoming softer.

“hey, papy. dad called me in and… welp, the sitter was unavailable so looks like you’re coming with me.”

Papyrus opened his mouth to ask far too many questions, but all that came out was a squeak that brought easy laughter that stunned him even further.

“sorry, bro. i know you hate the labs but this is short notice.”

Tearing his desperate and confused gaze away from Sans, Papyrus noticed even more that was amiss. Besides the glasses (which he seemed to be wearing as well), a white lab coat hung off of Sans’ shoulders. Underneath it was a blue and white shirt.

It was striped.

Actual sneakers scuffed the metal grating below them instead of pink slippers. Papyrus’ focus snapped back up to his brother’s face. Stars, Sans was so small, his voice higher and softer in adolescence. He was so carefree and open that it caused his soul to ache. His gaze was caught by Sans, who smiled but his brow furrowed in worry.

“it’s okay, papyrus. hopefully this won’t take long but you know how he can be.” A white sleeve dabbed at the orange magic leaking from his sockets and the smaller skeleton couldn’t contain himself anymore.

He threw his small arms around his brother’s neck and wailed, high and agonized, “SSSSAAAAA!!! NNNNNAH!!! AHHHHH!”

This was wrong. So many things were wrong! But this was what was right! Sans was here! His older brother right here, safe and sound. He smelled different, sounded different, looked different, but his soul was unmistakable.

“hey,” Sans crooned with a softness that made Papyrus wail even louder, “it’s okay, papy. i’m here, i gotcha.”

Papyrus hiccuped through the magic all over his face as his sibling continued to coo at him, “did you see another tear? remember what dad said about our glasses? no need to be scared. seeing is knowing. knowing is safety.”

A door swooshed open and drew Papyrus’ gaze, a tall skeleton monster approaching them. The very same whose crude image had been drawn replicated with that note in Sans’ basement.

Gaster.

He looked refined and controlled, though there was impatience shining in his sockets, white pupils finding Sans’, “did you have to bring the child? Leave him with Alphys, there is much to be done!”

Papyrus clung to Sans and glared up at the skeleton, whose expression became more impatient in response, “nevermind that. We must hurry. I finally discovered our issue.”

Sans was practically jogging to keep up with Gaster’s longer strides as Papyrus stared up at the monster. This man was their father? Although he was dignified in manner and appearance, there was a coldness about him.

What was happening here?

Had he somehow traveled to his past?

Papyrus simply didn’t know and he had no way of asking, his magic wasn’t developed enough to form words. Even so, Sans was safe and here and happy. If reliving his past again was the price he had to pay for his brother, the skeleton would do it all over again. Gaster keyed in a long code before they were admitted to a dim room. The walls were absolutely jammed with equipment that beeped and hummed, flashing numbers over screens that Papyrus didn’t have any context for.

Sans held Papyrus tighter as his eye-lights scanned the screens intently, taking a few steps closer to the adult skeleton.

“are those readings accurate? the pressure is a bit high in the service shaft.”

Gaster scoffed, “it is within acceptable parameters. Look there.” He pointed a phalange at one of the screens that changed to show a complicated matrix. Finding nothing he could discern, Papyrus watched his brother’s young face. Seeing Sans so serious and focused was oddly thrilling. His intense expression eased into disbelief.

“you...you found it?!” Sans looked up at their father with a growing grin when the scientist’s expression revealed his own excitement, “you found it!”

Gaster reached over to the screen and zoomed it in, “the Point of Origin. The human magic converged here under their intent. Decay over time is only natural so if we utilize the Core to pierce this specific place on the Barrier…”

Gaster paused with a smirk.

“monsters go free…” Sans breathed out, eye-lights bright and trembling.

“Are you prepared to save Monsterkind?” Gaster questioned with a grin that reminded Papyrus of himself.

“n-now?!”

“Why wait, Sans? The others have already made the necessary preparations, they are only waiting on us.”

“...yeah… yeah! let’s do it!” Sans tore his gaze from Gaster as he turned back to the controls and grinned brightly. Sans’ teeth pressed an excited kiss to Papyrus’ forehead, “do you hear that, paps? we’re gonna break the barrier!”

“Watch the levels for me, Sans. It is time.”

Multiple glowing hands appeared around the scientist, casting a purple gleam in the dimness as they all began to work rapidly. Confusion and concern welled up in Papyrus’ soul, gaze jerking between his sibling and Gaster.

If this truly was the past, then this would fail. Unless, was he supposed to do something? Change something? But he was only a babybones, what could he do? Something wasn’t adding up…

A hazy movement caught his attention and Papyrus issued an alarmed whimper upon noticing a jagged rift in the corner. It awakened a primal fear by how it moved, static crackling faintly around it. Sans followed his gaze and rubbed his back.

“it’s okay, bro. just a tear. it’ll go away in a little bit.” Sans comforted him before turning back to the monitors. Papyrus turned his face and it disappeared in his peripheral. Jerking his attention back, it was still there and he looked away a bit slower. As soon as the lens of his glasses didn’t cover it, it disappeared. The glasses really did allow him to see these odd things…

“...the pressure is rising in the secu-”

“If it is not in the red, it is of no consequence,” Gaster murmured distractedly, disembodied hands quickly working the controls before a pleasant voice began to be broadcast.

CORE INITIALIZED. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. REMAIN INDOORS UNTIL FURTHER INSTRUCTION.

Gaster hummed in satisfaction, leaning back to press a large blue button, the screech of metal against metal signaling a panel that slid away from a window. Sans glanced out the window that revealed Hotland, higher up and much closer to the Core than Papyrus ever had been. Machinery whirled in the distance, four points of light growing brighter by the second. Sans expelled a long breath, riveted before glancing back at the levels.

Papyrus squinted at the growing light until he couldn’t watch anymore.

“One minute until activation.” The excitement was thick in the scientist’s tone. Papyrus lowered his gaze and saw movement on a staircase. There...there was someone.

The squawk of alarm Papyrus issued drew Sans’ attention, the sibling’s gaze following his own until Sans cried out in alarm, “gaster! There’s someone down there!”

Gaster jerked away from watching the countdown and dashed to the window, “impossible! We cleared it!”

“look!”

A small Astigmatism was struggling up a ladder, movements jerking in panic.

“The service shaft,” Gaster spat in realization, “the fool didn’t remember today’s experiment.”

“we gotta stop!” Sans shouted frantically, voice cracking as he held Papyrus so hard it nearly hurt.

“We cannot.”

Twenty seconds.

“you can’t?!” Sans’ young face twisted in frustration, “or you won’t?! We’ll dust them!”

Their father’s face slackened with apathy, “it’s just one monster.”

“...just one…” Sans echoed in disbelief as he clutched to Papyrus like a lifeline.

Ten seconds.

Papyrus shrieked in fear when Gaster lunged for them just as Sans spun on a heel. The world blinked to black and Sans was suddenly slamming his small hand against the ‘Emergency Shutdown’ lever and pulling.

EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN ACTIVATED.

Gaster was frozen in place, hand grasping where they had been standing just a millisecond ago. A harsh siren blared as the pressure in the Core destabilized. The pressure gauge for the service shaft going critical. The facility shook under their feet and Sans yelped as the window cracked. Papyrus’ sockets were open as far as they could go, terrified.

“Are you happy, Sans?” Gaster’s voice was deceptively calm but rage was written all over his features, “are you happy you saved one meaningless, insignificant monster?”

“we can still-”

Another explosion shook the room, “still what, Sans? Still save everyone?”

Gaster chuckled, rasping long phalanges over his skull, “don’t you realize, you idiot child?” You have killed us all. Ha ha!”

Papyrus clung to his older brother, tugging desperately at Sans’ lab coat. Gaster was now giggling around his words.

CORE MELTDOWN IMMINENT.

“This is your fault, Sans.”

EVACUATE IM-

....

..

.

Sirens faintly reached Papyrus over the white noise, sockets weakly peeking open. There was a weight on him, shielding him. The entire mountain rumbled and quaked as Papyrus stared up at his older brother. Sans’ glasses had shattered, darkened sockets staring down at him, the rush of a ‘check’ running through his bones.

“paps…”

A bolt of pure magic tore apart a metal path near them.

“run away!”

Papyrus refused, terrified as he looked around desperately. Sans’ leg was dislocated at the hip, the magic holding him together stretched thin there. He spotted a tear below and tugged them towards the edge, soul sick at his brothers pained cries.

Sans could still get them to safety.

He already knew what to do.

Tears welled up in Sans’ sockets and he pulled Papyrus back into his embrace. They turned once more before they dropped into a freefall.

Sans knew what to do. He was calm because he knew and believed.

His older brother’s magic resonated with the tear and his intent to save. Everything was fine because this already happened.

They took a shortcut.

Chapter Text

Papyrus stumbled through the shortcut, his arms closing around open air with a dismayed cry. Lifting a hand revealed that he was back to normal. The sirens, collapsing Core and the Past left behind him where it belonged. Taking stock of his surroundings revealed the familiar snowy route from the Ruins to Snowdin. There was a steady fall of large flakes that hinted a storm was on the way, the magic generated light dim.

Glancing about, the skeleton decided searching the entire sentry route again couldn’t hurt. If only to pace off the tightness in his soul. Fresh snow crunched beneath his boots as Papyrus turned towards the Ruins.

Staying still would only give him time to brood. It was too close to giving up for his tastes. However, he couldn’t stop his thoughts looping back to what he had just experienced.

Sans’ secret basement lab. Meeting his older brother in his past and their father. The Core melting down…

He was no closer to getting any answers. The monster actually had even more questions. His footfalls slowed as Papyrus noticed a familiar tear just ahead, fingers reaching up to find the glasses still secured to his head.

Sans had figured out how to use these for his ‘shortcuts’. Half of that battle had to be noticing them in the first place. His outstretched hand stalled just before touching it.

What if they took him back to the Past?

...What if it took him to Sans?

The even odds bothered him but the skeleton straightened, feeling brave even though it was reckless.

Papyrus reached for the magic, the glow bouncing off his bones as he stepped through only to tumble legs over head, knocking over something in the process. The snow thankfully broke his fall but the something landed right on him.

It had cried out....

Mortified and an apology on his tongue, his sockets opened only to widen even further. Another skeleton was sitting on top of him mirroring his own shock. It was not his brother and mercifully wasn’t Gaster. The mystery skeleton was tall and lanky, a bright orange hoodie and khaki pants and were THOSE CROCS?!?!

“EXCUSE ME!” He accidentally yelled while lost in his own bafflement, absently shocked that the volume hadn’t caused the other to flinch.

The stranger’s sockets only widened further before he coughed and replied, “uh yeah, and excuse me?”

“WHO ARE YOU?”

Papyrus lost his mind to mouth filter when surprised, apparently.

“i am you.”

“WHAT that doesn’t make any sense! I am me! Who are you?!”

The other skeleton sighed, “look, buddy. if you could possibly go back to where you came from that would be-”

 

“PAPYRUS!”

Both of them froze before the other skeleton awkwardly but quickly got off of him with a curse. Papyrus surged to his feet, the voice sounding similar enough to his brother that maybe-!

A short skeleton clothed in soft grays and bright blues marched down the path, slowing in confusion as he got closer. The more Papyrus looked, the less the stranger looked like his older sibling. A bright blue bandanna was fastened around his neck and his boots matched that same color.

His eye-lights were shaped like stars despite his clear confusion.

The resemblence between his sibling and this one was unmistakable. His counterpart behind him merely confirmed it in his fumbling.

“sans, i-”

“Sans?” Papyrus echoed weakly as the familiar stranger stopped in front of the sentry station, gaze darting from the other him and then to him at the weak call.

“THAT IS MY NAME?” The shorter skeleton grinned, though it faded back into confusion as Papyrus dropped to his knees. He embraced the skeleton tightly, shoulders shaking as his brother’s duplicate returned the embrace.

Crying was becoming too common a thing for him as his sockets burned. He was so tired. The sentry’s smile faded before the stars turned into regular eye-lights, meeting his own brother’s nervous gaze over this stranger’s.

“LET’S GO HOME AND HAVE A NICE CHAT, SHALL WE?”

Chapter Text

Papyrus trailed after the odd version of his brother quietly, taking in the strange world he had arrived in. The snowfall had grown heavier and the three skeletons were traveling along the sentry route at a firm pace. It was like a dream and the monster could only absorb his surroundings in mute shock.

The stations were manned by the bunnies from their town instead of the dogs. Seeing neighbors clad in armor made his soul feel tighter. His eye-lights moved from the guards to the Sans that was leading the way.

He wasn’t certain how to cope with this familiar stranger and the sensation of being watched by his other self made everything that more surreal. While Papyrus was certain they wouldn’t harm him, it was clear his arrival caused an inconvenience.

They arrived in Snowdin and Papyrus was able to note that Grillby’s was now called Muffet’s before their progress carried them home. The energetic Sans opened the door with a bright smile, motioning them inside. Papyrus kicked the snow off his boots before entering and the Sans hummed in appreciation.

“AT LEAST SOMEONE IS POLITE!”

An orange flush touched the other skeleton’s cheeks as the door was closed behind them, “sorry, bro.”

The short skeleton huffed before those blue eye-lights found Papyrus again, “COULD YOU DO ME A FAVOR?”

Startled, Papyrus stood a little straighter and nodded, “of course!”

“STAND STILL RIGHT HERE AND-” the monster perked a bit as his motioning to his sibling brought the other version of himself closer, “YEAH! AND YOU HERE, BROTHER.”

Papyrus stood as instructed and the smallest skeleton looked slowly from him to the other, clearly cataloging the differences and similarities. Insecurities began to well up in Papyrus before the other’s eye-lights erupted into stars.

“HE IS TALLER THAN YOU!”

...what?

“SADLY THAT MEANS WE LOST AND HAVE TO TAKE THE NICKNAMES!”

What?!

“darn,” the skeleton exhaled, though amusement colored his words, “and here i thought i didn’t come up short.”

The other Sans made a frustrated noise before softening, “ONLY IF YOU WANT TO, OF COURSE. YOU ARE OUR GUEST!”

Blinking in surprise, Papyrus considered the present situation before nodding in mute agreement. The other Sans took a moment before grinning up at him.

“YOU CAN CALL ME ‘BLUE’! SIMPLE AND ELEGANTLY STRAIGHT-FORWARD!” Blue tugged on his neckerchief, “AND MY BROTHER WILL BE...HMMM… WILL BE CALLED ‘STRETCH’!”

The skeleton in the hoodie pressed a hand against his chest, “you’re making height jokes too? never thought i’d see the day.”

Blue continued as if Stretch hadn’t spoken, “YOU DO NOT MIND BEING CALLED ‘PAPYRUS’ BY BOTH OF US, CORRECT?”

The ease of which Papyrus had been accepted into their home was staggering, especially considering his other self had wanted him to leave at first meaning. His gaze met Stretch’s in clear question but the nonverbal question was ignored.

“I do not mind,” Papyrus answered, “though I must ask… Has this happened before?”

“it’s a theory you only just confirmed by showin’ up.” The orange clad skeleton shrugged carelessly, “didn’t know you’d be dropping in.”

Blue puffed his cheeks and tapped a boot in impatience at Stretch’s words, “ABOUT THAT! YOU WERE TRYING TO MAKE HIM LEAVE WHEN HE WAS UNDER DURESS! THAT WAS RUDE!”

Stretch blinked his eye-sockets at the frustration on his older sibling’s face before gentling and giving Papyrus his full attention, “hey, i’m sorry about that.”

A long beat of silence lingered before Blue straightened to his full height, “RIGHT! DO YOU LIKE TACOS, PAPYRUS? IT IS QUITE PAST LUNCH BUT CLOSE ENOUGH TO DINNER TO GET STARTED!”

“I…” Papyrus floundered with his words before answering, “I have not tried them so I do not know??”

“I WILL GET STARTED THEN! STRETCH, PLEASE MAKE HIM FEEL AT HOME!” Blue smiled warmly at Papyrus before disappearing into the kitchen, the sounds of pans banging together starting up.

“can you follow me, papyrus?” The other skeleton requested and Papyrus nodded his agreement, following his other self up the stairs. Stretch opened the first door of what would usually be his own room before grabbing his arm. A familiar tug and darkness followed, Papyrus’ eye-sockets widening when they stepped through a shortcut and into the caves of Waterfall.

Papyrus tensed and Stretch raised both hands in a placating gesture.

“i know that was rude too but i gotta chat with you before anything else, okay?” Stretch sighed when his words didn’t help Papyrus’ wariness, “look, i’m really protective of my bro, yeah? just don’t want anything bad to happen to him.”

That was the truth and though Stretch had been rude at the beginning, he really couldn’t find fault in the other’s logic, “Okay, but I want some answers as well!”

The small orange eye-lights in the other skeleton’s sockets searched his face before he sighed, reaching into a pocket in his hoodie. A sucker was pulled free and Stretch shelled off the wrapper before placing it between his teeth.

“that’s fair.”

Papyrus finally relaxed for the first time since reaching this strange world, “after you.”

Despite being dragged straight here without warning, Stretch took his time before speaking again. Enough so that Papyrus’ attention began to wander. Much of his own Waterfall had been unexplored and where they were seemed out of the way. The echo flowers were within sight but they would have to raise their voices quite a bit for the blossoms to repeat anything back. His gaze trailed up to the ceiling of the cavern.

The ‘stars’ were still beautiful, just like at home.

“so…” Papyrus’ attention snapped back to Stretch, “it’s obvious enough to both my brother and i who you are, but just for the record… you are me, a papyrus from another universe, correct?”

Papyrus stared at his other self as the words settled into place. They felt right, “that seems correct. I did not mean to go to another world, however!”

“where did you expect to be?”

Soul aching, Papyrus gritted his teeth, “I was only searching for my brother!”

Stretch’s eye-sockets widened in response to his outburst and he looked down at the glowing grass at their feet. The itchiness behind his white eye-lights signaled more tears and Papyrus issued a frustrated noise, taking off the glasses to avoid further smudging. Their presence was still alien to him but these were definitely his. It was odd to feel protective over them but they were definitely his in this topsy turvy place. One of the only things that were ‘right’.

“I woke up and he was missing! Sans would not simply leave me and I know in my soul he lives! But I could not find him and the King said he was a ‘Judge’ and the cameras weren’t working and he-!”

“woah, hey…”

“-had this secret basement and these glasses and I fell down and then it was the Core-!”

“Hey!”

A hand firmly grasped his own to stop his nervous fidgeting, offering support as Papyrus breathed longer and deeper to calm himself. He could feel the warmth from Stretch’s hand even through his gloves. The gesture was achingly familiar, though Papyrus was used to smaller hands than his cradling his own. When he managed to peer at Stretch’s face through his tears, his other self appeared tentatively gentle.

“i thought you were more like me but…” Stretch shrugged, “looks like you’re more like sa- more like blue than i realized.”

Papyrus nodded in agreement, he had noticed that. How Stretch was acting more like Sans and Blue acted more like himself.

“i’m guessing you don’t know anything about...the resets?”

He shook his head in response, clear worry pinching his expression at something else being secret.

“i see…” Stretch hummed before continuing, “tell you what, papyrus. give me a few days and i’ll tell you anything you ask me. for now, just get settled in and get to know everyone. i don’t know how to help you and i want blue to be kept away from it.”

Papyrus made a face, soul sinking.

“like how sans kept me away from it?” There was a bitterness and raw tone of pain in those words that took Stretch by surprise, “what if you disappear too?”

The hoodie-clad skeleton stared at him, “i won’t disappear-”

“Are you implying my brother left me voluntarily?”

It was like Papyrus had struck Stretch physically, the shock giving away to an understanding that appeared similar to agony.

“give me a week and i’ll tell you both.” The other skeleton said tightly, almost pleadingly. Papyrus was done mincing his words and letting things go. So he made sure to be one hundred percent clear where he stood.

“Do you promise?”

A long beat of silence hung heavily between them before Stretch answered, looking both defeated and resolved.

“i promise.”

Chapter Text

When Stretch led Papyrus back through the tear and into the hallway of their home, there was a tension that didn’t fully disappear hanging between them. It would not fully go away until Stretch kept his promise. If the other skeleton was truly like his older sibling, then making promises was a sacred thing. Words meant a lot among monsters and swearing to something even more so.

Sans never broke a promise he made.

Blue peeked out of the kitchen in response to their footfalls on the stairs, “THERE YOU TWO ARE! DINNER HAS BEEN READY FOR QUITE SOME TIME!”

The points of blue in the shorter skeleton’s sockets bounced between them accusingly but dropped the topic swiftly, clearly used to it, “IT IS STILL WARM THOUGH! PAPYRUS, COME SIT BY ME!”

Blue grabbed one of his gloved hands and excitedly led him into the kitchen. A smile stretched across his face at the other monster’s eagerness. As he took a seat, Papyrus looked at Blue only to freeze,

He blinked and it was only Blue once more.

However, Papyrus was certain he had seen Sans, dressed in a lab coat and a striped shirt. But only for a moment… Grasping for a topic, he decided to break the ice, more than happy to befriend Blue.

“What do you do for a living, Blue?” Papyrus questioned curiously as Stretch took a seat next to his sibling. Stars replaced the normal teal eye-lights as Blue leaned forward to place tacos on each plate.

“I WANT TO BE IN THE ROYAL GUARD!” Blue gushed, “I HAVE BEEN TRAINING WITH ALPHYS NEARLY EVERYDAY!”

Papyrus choked on his first bite, drawing concerned looks until he managed to swallow. The texture of the tacos was indescribable but the intent of the magic in the dish was overpowering, a strong compassion that drowned out everything else. While he was certain Blue was a novice just as he was with cooking, the magic made the tacos appealing beyond the taste. However, that wasn’t what made him forcefully swallow it down, at least in full. Blue’s face was drawn into concern.

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT?”

Stretch was eying him as well, as if he would jump up at any hint of an emergency. Papyrus waited a moment to make sure the tacos dissolved as magic food did before managing an answer.

“Apologies. It is just that I had that same goal as well.” He answered, the siblings relaxing in response. Blue brightened in response.

“AH! THAT IS AMAZING!” The smaller skeleton watched as Papyrus finished the two tacos on his plate, secretly happy the other monster had finished them. Stretch tended to only eat half, what a waste. “YOU AND YOUR BROTHER WERE SENTRIES AS WELL?”

Expression falling at the reminder of his distress and the whole reason he ended up here, Papyrus answered in a soft tone, “yes. Yes, we were.”

He didn’t need to look at them to know they were looking at him with concern in the long pause that followed. His other self was the one to break the silence.

“it’s been a rough day for him, bro. he’s come a long way and needs to rest.” Stretch murmured, standing up and leaving the kitchen, “i’ll get the couch set up for him.” Blue’s expression shifted to displeasure.

“HE IS A GUEST, BROTHER! SHOULD WE NOT GIVE-”

Papyrus interjected gently, smiling at the smaller skeleton, “I do not mind at all. In fact, I would prefer the couch so my hosts sleep well.” Blue’s starry eye-lights searched his face before relenting.

“ARE YOU SURE?”

“Absolutely.”

After aiding Blue with the dishes, much to the shorter monster’s chagrin; both skeletons entered the living room to discover Stretch fluffing a pile of pillows and blankets. There were so many that it looked like a nest. Stretch stopped upon seeing them and pulled back from the task, flushing a barely noticeable orange.

“uh…”

“GREAT WORK, STRETCH! IT IS NICE TO SEE YOU PUTTING IN SOME EFFORT!”

His other self rubbed the vertebrae of his neck self-consciously, “is this okay, papyrus?”

Papyrus closed the distance and sat on the couch, “this is fine. Thank you. Both of you.” Both brothers softened at his words and after repeated ‘good nights’ and worried glances, they left the skeleton to go to their rooms. Blue had not insisted on being read to and Stretch had not left that night for Muffet’s. It was a long time before either native of this world managed to sleep, soft sobbing floating up from the first floor making their souls ache. It was only when everything became quiet that their dreams took them all.

Chapter Text

The sounds of banging from the kitchen startled Papyrus awake, the lingering unease from an already forgotten bad dream fading almost immediately. The skeleton monster had kicked off most of the blankets in his restlessness, his mind was frantically trying to catch up with where he was.

“I AM SORRY, PAPYRUS! I TRIED NOT TO WAKE YOU!”

Papyrus turned his attention to the kitchen, where Blue was staring around the corner at him. With a sheepish smile, the smaller monster ducked back out of sight.

“YOUR GLASSES ARE ON THE TABLE WITH THE PET ROCK! YOU FORGOT TO TAKE THEM OFF LAST NIGHT!”

Blinking his sockets slowly, Papyrus stood and retrieved the red frames, giving them a long considering look before replacing them back on his face. His magic immediately adjusted and he peered around. His surroundings really did get a tad sharper but it was for the tears in time that he needed them.

“HAVE YOU ALWAYS WORN GLASSES, PAPYRUS?”

Startled out of his internal musings, the tall skeleton tidied the mess of blankets, “they are a new addition actually.” Once he was done folding everything, Papyrus entered the kitchen. Blue was a whirlwind moving pans and preparing food; the table already set with dishware. He hovered in the doorframe, uncertain before the other stopped to shoot him a reassuring smile.

“JUST TAKE A SEAT AT THE TABLE, PLEASE! YOU ARE A GUEST AND I STILL NEED TO WAKE STRETCH. PANCAKES OKAY WITH YOU?”

Shaking off the last of his fatigue, Papyrus gave Blue his full attention, “ah, yes! Pancakes sounds amazing. Thank you for the hospitality.”

Blue beamed over at him, retrieving the ingredients and setting them out in a line on the counter. Papyrus saw Blue grab for something in the refrigerator before halting, shooting him a questioning look.

“UM, MY BROTHER REALLY LIKES HONEY AND I DID NOT THINK TO RESTOCK… DO YOU PERHAPS LIKE POWDERED SUGAR OR MAPLE SYRUP?”

Papyrus normally was the one to cook for Sans, so having Blue dote over him was an unusual turn of events. Now that he acknowledged it though, it didn’t feel as alien as the monster had anticipated.

“Whichever is the least messy..?” He ventured with an uncertain expression. Blue leaned out of the fridge with a huge smile and starry eyes. He had a full bottle of honey and a small box in his hands.

“THAT WOULD BE MY ANSWER TOO!” The shorter skeleton placed both items on the table, “BUT AS A GOOD HOST, WHAT DO YOU NORMALLY PREFER FOR BREAKFAST?”

“Oatmeal. My preference is for the one with little dinosaur eggs but it has been getting harder to find as the years go on,” Papyrus answered in a soft tone. Sans would stay in the Dump for hours in order to find his favorite. If he failed, there would always be hot chocolate in the cabinets as a form of apology.

His soul ached.

“I Will See If I Can Find It For You.”

Blue’s voice was the softest Papyrus had heard so far, his gaze lifting to find the smaller skeleton gazing at him in compassion. He flushed a slight orange before Blue spoke again, as if the moment had never occured.

“LET ME GO WAKE MY BROTHER.”

The sudden exit had Papyrus worried. Had they heard him crying last night? The skeleton had tried so hard to be as quiet as possible. Or was it how Papyrus had initially greeted Blue? He wasn’t sure. The sound of banging and Blue’s scolding drifted down from the second floor, reminding him of a normal morning for him but in reverse.

Stretch popped into the chair across from him, startling Papyrus so badly that he yelped in shock. The lidded sockets of the other monster popped fully open in surprise.

“shi- shoot, papyrus! sorry.” Stretch rumbled, voice still husky from sleep, “don’t mind me dropping in.”

Papyrus’ groan of dismay was echoed by Blue, who was stomping back into the kitchen with displeasure, “IT IS TOO EARLY FOR THAT, BROTHER!” The small skeleton began messing with the ingredients in lieu of grilling his younger sibling on proper manners. Stretch huffed and reached across the table to pull the bottle of honey closer. Papyrus observed his other self popping open the container before squirting it into his mouth. Both shocked and horrified, the tall skeleton ran both hands down his face, knocking his glasses off as he wasn’t used to them being there yet.

Amused orange eyelights met his when he sat them back into place, Stretch making a show of the second pull on the sugary substance, “you’ve never seen a skeleton with a sweet tooth?”

The puns were so much worse coming from a monster that looked like his identical twin.

“PLEASE STOP OR I WILL TATTLE ON YOU TO MUFFET!” Blue threatened, the smell of pancakes sweet and slightly burnt already. An expression of panic fleeted across his other self’s face before returning to lazy apathy.

“muffet knows i am good on my tab, bro.”

It was strange how somewhere that looked like home could feel so peculiar at the same time. Papyrus had already noticed Sans and his own personalities were switched in this other world. It was uncanny.

“My…” Papyrus hesitated, white eye-lights drifting between the brothers before addressing the ‘elephant in the room’, “my brother likes to drink ketchup.”

Blue turned from the oven to join his sibling in staring at Papyrus with mute shock.

“And Grillby is who Sans has an open tab with,” he continued awkwardly, trailing off into silence. Blue was the first to regain his voice of the two of them.

“THAT- THAT IS A HORRIBLE HABIT! I KEEP TELLING STRETCH TO USE MODERATION IN HIS SWEETS!” A slight tinge of magic flushed the smaller skeleton’s cheekbones before he hurriedly turned back to the oven to save the pancakes from burning completely. Stretch was staring at him in quiet contemplation, honey forgotten as Blue began another bunch of pancakes.

“you mentioned your brother being missing…” His other self hummed, “how long since you last saw him?”

Papyrus hesitated before shaking his head in confusion, “technically, Sans has only been gone for a day.”

“technically?” Stretch echoed in clear question. Papyrus frowned and tried to gather his thoughts. The time within the dream, or was it a memory? Whichever it had been... That situation in the Core had felt like both an instant and a century.

“I did not arrive here directly from our home. It is difficult to describe. But my best guess is twenty four hours. We have never been separated this long before.”

Blue and Stretch exchanged a brief glance before the shorter skeleton filled all three plates with pancakes. They appeared barely cooked in some areas, burnt in others. Papyrus picked up the small box of powdered sugar and used a moderate amount. His own skill with cooking was questionable. Blue seemed to be the same.

The thought that they could learn together lingered longer than Papyrus would like to admit. This wasn’t a vacation but Papyrus had no idea how he could replicate what brought him here. Or where it would send him.

“how did you get here?”

The tone in Stretch’s voice caused his soul to shudder. It was clinical and intense, very different from his usual manner of speaking. Blue frowned at his sibling over their breakfast, an edge of warning in his starry eye-lights.

“HOW ABOUT I SHOW PAPYRUS AROUND? WE CAN FIGURE OUT THE HOW, WHY, AND WHAT LATER.” Papyrus blinked at Blue’s empty plate when the other monster chomped down his charred breakfast in a few large bites. Stretch sat back at Blue’s actions, watching Papyrus struggle with his own food as his sibling moved to clean up already. Just as with last night, the taste was worth it for the intent Blue laced the pancakes with.

“YOU TWO CAN CHAT AFTER I GO TO ALPHYS FOR TRAINING BUT NOT BEFORE.” The ‘big brother’ tone Blue was taking reminded Papyrus of a time when Sans had scolded him long ago. The memory was blurry and nearly lost. But it snapped Stretch out of whatever mood he had fallen into before.

“IS THAT OKAY WITH YOU, PAPYRUS?” Blue questioned and the taller skeleton nodded when those blue eye-lights glanced at him in askance.

“Of course!” Finishing his pancakes, the tall monster stood and hovered at the sink uncertainly. Blue looked up and offered a dish rag, “YOU DRY AND I WASH?” Accepting the task, Papyrus fell into a comforting rhythm that chores brought.

There was a sudden feeling of displacement as Papyrus looked at the table to discover Stretch had left. Blue sighed and looked up at him with a serious expression.

“PLEASE FORGIVE MY BROTHER. HIS CURIOSITY SOMETIMES OVERPOWERS HIS TACT.”

Papyrus’ sockets widened, “there is nothing to forgive! But… What was that?”

“STRETCH AND I HAVE ODD MOMENTS THAT ARE BETTER IGNORED. HE WAS BEING RUDE.” Blue replied, starry pupils regarding the soapy water before reaching down to pull the plug.

“YOU ARE OUR GUEST UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. SHOWING YOU AROUND SNOWDIN IS MY FIRST PRIORITY,” the smaller monster looked up at Papyrus, “OF COURSE, I AM ALSO VERY CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR BROTHER AND YOUR WORLD, BUT YOU SHOULD GET ADJUSTED.”

Papyrus’ face fell but Blue continued upon spotting it, “WE WILL HELP YOU FIND SANS BUT MAKING A PLAN TAKES SOME TIME.”

The last dish was dried and the kitchen returned to order. Blue bounced to the front door and began sliding into his boots, the taller skeleton following suit. Large flakes of snow were swirling from the magic-fed atmosphere, blocking out the view of the cavern. It was nice. Was this how the Surface looked on a normal day?

Barks of greeting instead of hearty waves brought the monster from his thoughts, bringing him to speak, “it is so strange to see the dogs like this?” Blue paused a moment at his side before responding.

“THEY ARE?”

The words were careful, like Papyrus could back out if he wanted to but what else could he share but observations at this point?

“Yes! The dogs make up the Snowdin Dog Squad. They are sentries.”

Blue’s starry pupils glowed with fascination up at Papyrus before the smaller skeleton giggled in delight, “REALLY?! I COULD NOT IMAGINE THAT. THE RABBITS HAVE BEEN IN THAT ROLE SINCE FOREVER!”

Papyrus couldn’t fight the smile in reply, “perhaps bunnies and skeletons work together better. The dogs get distracted from our, well, our bones at times. It can get troublesome.”

Blue’s giggling pitched higher, “MWEHEHEH! NO WAY!”

“How do the dogs manage the shop and inn?” Papyrus questioned, “that is something I can not picture.”

“WELL, THEY TAKE MORE BREAKS THAN NECESSARY BUT OVERALL, THEY ARE HARDWORKING.”

Papyrus hesitated a few steps in front of the brick building, taking in the fancy window displays containing pastries. Blue noticed and shook his skull, “STRETCH WILL TAKE YOU THERE SOONER RATHER THAN LATER. NO WORRIES ABOUT THAT.”

Wind tugged on his scarf as he continued to trail behind the smaller monster, a tear in time passed without acknowledgment. Could Blue not see them? The red-rimmed glasses had given him that ability so the skeleton would not ask.

“DOGGO RUNS THE SHOP. HE DOES NOT KNOW YOU ARE THERE UNLESS YOU ARE MOVING. PEOPLE CAN SNEAK UP ON HIM BUT NO ONE HAS GOTTEN AWAY WITH STEALING!”

That didn’t sound too far away from their own Doggo, rather than his role switching.

“DOGAMY AND DOGARESSA RUN THE INN. I ACTUALLY STOP BY THERE OFTEN.” Papyrus glanced at Blue in surprise.

“You two are close?”

“ABSOLUTELY. THEY ARE SO ADORABLE!” Blue beamed happily, “WE ARE CLOSE FRIENDS.”

Quiet surprise washed through Papyrus’ soul. He had been so focused on getting into the Royal Guard to make friends. Would the dog couple of his world be friends with him if he had given them the time?

Their boots sank deeper into the freshly fallen snow as they left Snowdin behind. Wherever a dog would be stationed in Papyrus’ world, a bunny had taken their place. The sisters that had owned the Shop and Inn patrolled together. Blue stopped and got on his knees just off the path and Papyrus’ breath hitched in excitement.

Blue was knelt above an X-O puzzle.

“You like puzzles?” The glee was barely hidden and Blue looked up only for his pupils to shine brighter.

“NO WAY?? YOU TOO?!”

The first genuine grin graced the skeleton’s face as Blue jumped up to grab his hand, “LET US BE PUZZLE BUDDIES! DO YOU WANT TO HELP?!”

Would he? Of course! Puzzles had always been a subject he excelled in. It was a monster tradition, after all! Both skeletons began to discuss the merits of puzzle-making, sharing tips they had figured out along the way. Papyrus and Blue calibrated every single puzzle between Snowdin and the Ruins, talking non-stop. The same ban on spikes had carried true here but they argued the merits of reintroducing them back to the populace. Papyrus stopped talking when a few mentions confused him.

“Do you not mean ‘The King’?”

Blue shook his head, “NO, THE KING HAS NOT BEEN SEEN FOR AT LEAST A CENTURY. QUEEN TORIEL RULES THE UNDERGROUND.”

“It is switched again,” Papyrus mused with a thoughtful expression, “King Asgore sits on the throne back home.”

“interesting.”

Papyrus and Blue jumped in shock before the smaller skeleton frowned at his brother, “SOME WARNING WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE!”

The hoodie-clad skeleton gave them both a strange look, “i expected you both two hours ago, even got a nap in.”

Blue’s face drew into dismay before he gasped, “IT IS THAT LATE ALREADY? ALPHYS! SHE WILL MURDER ME!”

The smaller skeleton sprinted back towards Snowdin without a second thought, panic fueling his actions. Papyrus exhaled sharply and smiled after Blue. Stretch hummed and trodded through the snow until he was shoulder-to-shoulder with Papyrus.

Orange crocs.

In the snow.

“Boots would be more suited for this weather.” Papyrus murmured without heat. Stretch blinked his sockets at him, orange eye-lights glancing down at his foot-wear.

“welll…” The monster drew the word out before pausing, “you aren’t wrong.”

Papyrus sighed and adjusted the frames of his red glasses, considering leaving his other self behind for being…

For being like Sans?

His expression fell into dismay. No, he didn’t mean it like that. He just wasn’t going to take the dodging and secrets any more. Those had cost him his sibling. Stretch scuffed his crocs in the snow before releasing a long sigh.

“look, i’m sorry about this morning. i didn’t mean to pressure you. can i take you to muffet’s?” At the invitation, Papyrus hesitated before shaking his skull.

“Perhaps another day. ...I feel strange.”

Stretch’s expression contorted with sudden worry, “you’re sick?”

After a moment’s consideration, the other monster shook his head in response, “I am not ill. Just unusually exhausted.”

“wanna take a shortcut?”

Papyrus gazed to their left, “you mean travel through one of those tears like yesterday?”

“you...can see those?”

Papyrus sighed at the leading questions, “it is a new ability. If you can expedite the process of returning to your home, I would appreciate it.”

Stretch didn’t say anything more, simply offering his outstretched hand to Papyrus. Once hand-in-hand, they approached the tear and it was like walking through a threshold. Outside one moment, in the home the next.

As Papyrus got comfortable under the blankets on the couch once more, his other self gazed at him before smirking, “we can be napping buddies.” Snorting in response, Papyrus turned over on the couch, facing away from him.

“This is temporary, no need to partner up. I do not take naps.” Stretch smiled in response, so very much like his older brother.

“sure ya don’t.”

Papyrus didn’t reply and Stretch carefully approached the couch and peeked at the other’s face. He was already gone, breathing deeply. Delicately plucking the glasses from the other monster’s face, Stretch folded them and pulled the blanket a little more over Papyrus’ shoulder.

“sure ya don’t,” he repeated softly, taking watch over the slumbering monster.

Chapter Text

Papyrus came up from his slumber with a sharp gasp, soul trembling in his ribcage. He tripped on the blankets in his desperation to find Sans and it took him knocking into the television to take notice of his surroundings. He wasn’t in his room with his race-car bed and action figures. Sans wasn’t sleeping in his room down the hall, always willing to soothe him of his nightmares.

His brother was lost…

Just as Papyrus had been in his nightmare. The skeleton had been terrified, missing one of his red boots and out of breath but unable to rest for even a second. Someone had been pursuing him. Searching for him.

Wanted to harm him.

“Papyrus..?”

He jerked at the soft voice, white eye-lights quivering in his sockets before falling on Blue, those starry pupils staring down at him from the second floor. The smaller skeleton began to take the steps, approaching him slowly.

“Was It A Nightmare?” He whispered in question, reaching the landing and coming to his side. Orange tears welled up in Papyrus’ sockets, “...Do You Want To Talk About It?”

The taller skeleton inhaled sharply before sighing, “it is silly. Someone was chasing me. There was nothing more than that. A babybones type of nightmare…”

“It Is Not Silly,” Blue insisted, expression gentling, “Do You Need Some Tissues?”

Papyrus huffed and wiped at the remnants of magic on his face. His glasses had been taken off in his sleep, the monster would have to get used to them or he might lose them.

“Do You Need Some Warm Milk?” The shorter monster questioned in concern and Papyrus retook a seat on the couch with a deep exhalation.

“I do not, but thank you,” eye-lights moved up to look at Blue and Papyrus smiled shakily, “I appreciate you checking in.” The short monster returned the gesture before pausing at the foot of the stairs.

“It Is Strange.”

Papyrus looked up from adjusting his blankets into some order, “hmmm?”

“That You Were Dreaming About Running From Someone. Would You Not Be Dreaming About Searching For Someone Under Current Circumstances?”

Papyrus stilled and his brow furrowed, eye-lights watching Blue in the dark. The monster shrugged helplessly in response.

“Nevermind Me. I Asked Alphys For Tomorrow Off. I Can Spend The Day Sharing Embarrassing Stories About My Brother If You Want?”

The taller skeleton laughed quietly, “I would like that actually.”

Blue beamed, “Goodnight, Papyrus.”

Already dozing off, the younger monster hummed, “goodnight, Sans.”

Blue froze, eye-lights widening before looking over his shoulder. Expression softening, the blue-clad skeleton gazed at the slumbering skeleton before taking the stairs back to his room.

------

When Papyrus opened his sockets again, there was early light streaming through the window. With how quiet everything was, it must still be early even for Blue to be awake. The skeleton used to pride himself on being able to stay awake for days on end, with only a short nap needed in between. Sleeping through the night had seemed unnecessary but after experiencing nightmares two days in a row it was becoming clear that wasn’t the case. Perhaps that was why Sans had slept so much? From a young age, the monster knew his older sibling was haunted by bad dreams nearly every night. A night passing without sobbing and screaming was rare.

Maybe it had been that vision 0r memory Papyrus had seen before arriving here? He was more certain of it actually having been a lost memory at this point… If that accident had happened, did Sans blame himself?

A door creaked upstairs and the skeleton snapped his attention upwards, shocked that it was Stretch emerging from his room instead of Blue. Orange eye-lights met his before his other self slouched down the stairs, sockets heavy and lidded but fixed on him.

“Good morning.” He greeted simply, unsure why the other was up but not wanting to be rude. He didn’t dislike Stretch, it was just the other’s habit of keeping secrets that was frustrating.

“’morning,” Stretch greeted with a sluggish tone, “blue tell you he’s staying home today?”

“Yes. He informed me last night that he had asked for a day off,” Papyrus hesitated a beat before continuing, “is that okay, though?”

Stretch hummed at him in question, “whassat?”

“Is it okay for Blue to take off from sentry duty? I do not want to be a bother…” The skeleton murmured from the couch. The hoodie-clad monster blinked a few times, sockets narrowing before the skeleton sighed.

“papyrus, you aren’t a burden or whatever. blue wants to spend time with you, that’s all.”

Flushing a light orange in response, Papyrus looked down at his gloved hands with a slight smile. It was nice that Blue wanted to take time out of his schedule for him. He was still curious as to why Stretch was up so early and asked him as much. Stretch groaned and rolled his shoulders.

“covering for blue today. going to stop by muffet’s and bring home breakfast. be right back.”

Before Papyrus could utter another word, Stretch was gone. Not having seen the tear, Papyrus reached up to touch his glasses but found them missing. A quick glance confirmed they were safely sitting next to the pet rock. He really would have to get into the routine of taking them off himself instead of falling asleep with them on. Papyrus folded the blankets neatly and Stretch arrived with a bag just as Blue’s door opened on the second floor.

“BROTHER, YOU ARE AWAKE AND ALREADY OBTAINED BREAKFAST!” Blue grinned as he stomped down the stairs, “I DO NOT NORMALLY LIKE TO INDULGE IN SUGAR BUT TODAY CAN BE AN EXCEPTION.”

Stretch rounded the corner and sat the bag with Muffet’s logo on it down on the kitchen table, joined by both Blue and Papyrus. Taking the available seat, Papyrus watched with interest as Stretch began to pass out the contents of the bag. Personally, he had never seen Muffet’s product so he didn’t have anything to compare this world’s Muffet with. The spider woman’s pastries had been priced extraordinarily high to save her kin trapped in the Ruins. Hopefully those prices didn’t carry over or this would be the most expensive breakfast of his life.

Two Spider Donuts were placed on a napkin before them and Blue audibly sighed with a pointed look. Stretch chuckled and then retrieved three plates before passing out a Spider Cider to his sibling and Papyrus. The last item was a fresh bottle of honey from the bag before Stretch crumpled it up and threw it at the trash can.

It missed.

“BROTHER!”

“oops, my bad.” Stretch rumbled but dug into his breakfast without righting his mistake. Blue’s sigh of exasperation sent a pang of homesickness through Papyrus’ soul. Their bickering reminded him of the harmless spats he and Sans would get into constantly. It wouldn’t shock him if Sans had been doing it on purpose just to have an opening for a joke or pun.

A way to make Papyrus smile.

“DO YOU NOT LIKE SWEETS, PAPYRUS?”

Blue’s question startled him back to the present and Papyrus glanced down at his plate, “oh, I have not ever tasted Muffet’s baked goods so I am unsure.” Both skeleton brothers watched him in open curiosity as he plucked one of the donuts up and took a tentative bite. It left a strange coating on his teeth as he chewed, just shy of sticky but the rush of energetic magic and sugar were blended perfectly, the sensation fading as he swallowed.

“…They are not as bad as I expected.” Papyrus allowed, just in case this was a point of argument for the siblings. Surprisingly, his new house-mates appeared relieved at his assessment. With how pricey these may be, he couldn’t fault them. Stretch devoured the rest of his goods and began the spectacle of drinking the entire bottle of honey. Papyrus wasn’t sure if honey or ketchup was worse at this point.

Both.

Definitely both.

Blue cringed visibly as his brother finished the bottle off, “welp, I’m gonna head out.”

“HAVE A GOOD DAY! DO NOT SLACK OFF! YOU ARE STANDING IN FOR ME TODAY!” Blue insisted and Stretch sighed as he waved as he walked around the corner. Right before the displacement of air, the hoodie-wearing monster spoke once more.

“remember tomorrow is my day off. you don’t get to hog papyrus to yourself, bro.”

A stunned beat of silence followed before Blue began giggling, “I KNEW HE WAS JEALOUS! HE DID NOT WANT TO ADMIT IT! MWEHEHE!” Papyrus glanced at his companion, going through his sweet breakfast at a more reasonable rate than his other self. Blue only finished one of the donuts and wrapped the remaining pastry up, probably for Stretch if the taller skeleton had to guess. The smaller skeleton jumped up to clear the table just as Papyrus finished, picking up the crumpled bag in the process. Startled by the change of pace, he glanced at the energetic skeleton in clear question.

“DO YOU WANT TO WATCH NAPSTABOT WITH ME?” The other asked, starry eye-lights brightening.

Napstabot?

“Who?” Papyrus ventured after a long beat of confusion.

“…YOU KNOW? NAPSTABOT! THE UNDERGROUND’S BEST DJ!”

They were seated in front of the television for about two hours, watching the azure and silver robot on the screen mix music live. While not as exciting as Mettaton’s performances, it was interesting to see the process of creating new songs. Blue spent most of the time explaining how Undyne had become the Royal Scientist over creating Napstabot’s body and detailing the other’s rise to fame.

It was strange to think of Undyne swapping places with Alphys.

Was she as anxious as the Doctor had been? Papyrus hadn’t known the reptilian woman very well but her nervous demeanor had been remarkable. The reminder made his soul hurt for his own Undyne. Were they worried about him? Looking for him like he had been searching for Sans? …Or was it similar to what happened to their supposed father?

The skeleton couldn’t wrap his mind or his soul around the thought of them forgetting him.

Blue had fallen into a content silence, a soft smile stretching his mouth, “STRETCH USUALLY FALLS ASLEEP WHEN I WATCH NAPSTABOT. IT IS NICE TO HAVE AN ATTENTIVE WATCHING PARTNER!”

Papyrus returned his smile, “sounds exactly like Sans…”

Blue picked up the remote and muted the television, turning towards the other version of his brother, “Can You Tell Me More? About Him?”

It was like a flood was released. The taller monster began to speak about his sibling. His lazy smiles, kind eye-lights and constant nurturing presence. Sans had been like the snow around their home, a constant. From as far as his memories went back, there wasn’t a day apart. But then his gentle smile dropped as he described his sibling’s nightmares, the secrets and the careful dance of not looking too closely; paved with puns and easy retreat. Never pressing too hard. Never stepping over that invisible line that Sans had set.

How it had seemed like both yesterday and eons since a true smile from his older brother. How Papyrus wasn’t certain he could remember what true laughter from Sans had sounded like. He told Blue how Sans had sheltered him protectively. How sometimes Papyrus would know more than Sans realized but would fake ignorance. How his brother’s expression had morphed into something alien when Sans didn’t know Papyrus had been watching.

Exhausted.

Haunted.

Papyrus had thought that expression had reached a level that he could barely stand when it had gotten even worse.

Apathy.

On the edge of what he could only guess as insanity. A monster at his limit.

Blue listened to it all, face drawn into compassion and worry the entire time Papyrus poured his soul out. Hours passed, to the point where the taller skeleton’s voice was hoarse and his eye-lights tiny as he fought back what felt like the thousandth bout of tears. Blue ended up holding Papyrus’ shoulders, pulling him down into a hug and shushing the monster until his sobbing stopped and his troubled rest began. Stretch found them both like that upon arriving home, the light of the muted television casting odd shadow. It was easy and familiar work to tuck Blue in and kiss his forehead. Getting Papyrus situated without waking him was a difficult chore.

It wasn’t until deep into the night that Stretch managed to rest.

Chapter Text

Replacing his glasses himself the next day was a small victory for Papyrus. He had lost all his routine and anything considered normal so any progress on putting himself back together was significant. The level of reliance on Sans he had was quite clear now. Getting back to being able to function would be the first step in being able to devise a plan to find his older brother. Giving up on Sans was not an option. Blue and Stretch got up within ten minutes of each other, the smaller monster exclaiming over how proud he was that Stretch was waking up without a problem. If the hoodie-clad skeleton was really similar to Sans, then that was quite a feat. Papyrus couldn’t help feeling a little appreciative that his other self was making such an effort.

“I WILL BE GOING TO COVER BOTH SHIFTS TODAY AND ATTEND THE TRAINING SESSION WITH ALPHYS!” Blue shot Stretch a look, “AND I WILL DEFINITELY INTERROGATE THE OTHER SENTRIES ON YOUR WORK ETHIC IN MY ABSENCE.”

Stretch hums in affirmation, “wouldn’t expect anything less, bro.”

Those starry pupils met his own and Blue visibly gentled, “PLEASE DO NOT LET HIM SLEEP THE DAY AWAY. MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME!” Papyrus nodded in response and watched as the other monster left the freshly cleaned kitchen. The front door opened and then shut as Blue yelled his goodbyes. There was a beat of silence before Papyrus turned his attention to Stretch, who was still seated across from him at the table.

“You are not really going to sleep all day, are you?” Papyrus questioned and Stretch’s orange eye-lights brightened slightly in response.

“as much as i would like to, i was hoping we could chat.”

That wasn’t a surprise. The instant Papyrus had arrived here, Stretch hadn’t hidden his curiosity. The impression that the other wanted to barrage him with questions was a constant. However, he wanted to make one thing clear before allowing his other self begin.

“I will not answer any questions unless you swear you will not keep any secrets away from me. I need to know anything that might help me find my brother.” Papyrus insisted in a firm tone, causing Stretch to straighten from his usual slouch.

“you’re really going to keep searching for him?”

Papyrus shot him an incredulous look, “if it were Blue, would you not do the same?”

Stretch blinked his sockets at him before looking down with a soft expression, “you’re right. that was a silly question. sure, I promise i won’t keep any secrets from now on. but I have to tell you, i spent yesterday searching and your bro is not in this universe.”

Papyrus’ shoulders slumped a bit and a long sigh escaped between his teeth. Concern flickered in Stretch’s gaze, “i’m sorry.”

“No. It is not your fault. If I remember… Sans had been reading about universes and worlds. While it was not my area of interest, I can recall that the idea was there were countless worlds, all branching like a big tree based on decisions. …Is that correct?”

“it is.”

“Then, he could be anywhere. But I will not give up on him. Never.”

Stretch kept his gaze for a long moment before nodding to show he understood. At least these brothers could imagine what their own reaction would be and that one wasn’t different from how they would deal with it in the same situation.

“that aside, can you tell me about yourself just for my own speculation?”

Papyrus hesitated a moment before beginning to speak to his other self. Prefacing his words, he made sure to make it clear that a lot of his memories were hazy just in case. Keeping the events that he had witnessed between worlds to himself due to not knowing if they were real, the skeleton began at his earliest memory. Which was Sans, of course. The monster had been a lot more shy and withdrawn while a babybones. His older brother had been so patient and understanding. Everything Papyrus could possibly want for was provided without a second thought. Gradually, the skeleton grew in confidence and his world view became almost painfully optimistic.

Though he still struggled with self-doubt and insecurity, his belief in others became unshakable.

All thanks to his older sibling.

Sans had never once raised his voice at him. Never doubted him or the things he wanted to do. He just followed Papyrus’ lead as if there was nothing he would enjoy better. Papyrus paused at this realization and scrutinized Stretch with a sharp look.

“Does this sound similar to you and Blue?”

Stretch mulled over it before taking a lollipop out of his orange hoodie, “as far as the overall jest of it… yeah. me’n blue were inseparable. i supported his interests and followed his lead. just felt easier that way.” Placing the candy behind his teeth, the taller monster continued, “our ages are the same though. i’m still the younger brother.”

So not everything was swapped, it seemed. The personalities and roles were mixed up but some of the things remained unchanged.

“Were you like me when you were younger?”

The answer took a good few moments before Stretch spoke again, “yep. i was shy and didn’t know if other monsters liked me. telling jokes was the easiest way to break the ice or bleed a situation of tension. trying so hard to please everyone got exhausting, so going with the flow seemed like the best choice.”

“Did you not have a dream of your own?” Papyrus questioned.

“Blue being happy is all I want.”

That… Papyrus wasn’t sure to think of it as selfless or taking the easiest path available. Deciding to continue, he detailed his aspiration of becoming a Royal Guard but Stretch interrupted him.

“undyne is the captain?!”

Papyrus chuckled, “of course. It was so strange to figure out Undyne was the Royal Scientist here.”

“i couldn’t imagine alphys being a scientist.”

“Well, where I come from, she is. I am still working on the culture shock,” Papyrus exhaled before shaking his head, “…if this world is truly opposite of everything in mine, does this mean your secrets might match up with Sans’?”

Stretch’s expression fell and the monster became very quiet. The skeleton simply watched the subtle changes on his other self’s face before being startled as Stretch stood up. Was he running away? Had he hit a sensitive point and hurt the other’s feelings? But Stretch offered his hand, worrying the stick of the lollipop between his teeth.

“want to go to muffet’s?”

His soul calmed and he nodded at Stretch, standing and taking his hand. The other monster’s hold was firm but not to the point of discomfort. Papyrus looked around and spotted the tear through the lens of his red glasses. It was a sliver of displaced light just shy of the kitchen entrance. As they approached the turn into the living room, the strange distortion began glowing and getting wider, as if sensing Stretch’s intent. They turned and stepped into the cold air of Snowdin. The building that was normally Grillby’s Bar loomed over them abruptly and Papyrus was internally delighted that he now knew what the ‘shortcuts’ looked like from Sans’ point of view.

“Could I learn to do that?” He wondered out loud and Stretch eyed him appraisingly, a gentle chuckle huffing past the candy in his mouth.

“you already did it once, right?”

Ah, that was true. His reckless step through space with everything else thrown aside. Personal safety hadn’t even occurred to him. Only finding Sans, “that’s true.”

“wait until I can give you a proper lesson before doing it again. you could’ve dusted yourself or been lost between worlds forever if you made a mistake.” Stretch’s words hit Papyrus hard and he hastily reassured his other self, feeling lucky that his fate had been kinder. It should have been obvious that such an ability was dangerous. The hoodie-clad skeleton opened the door to Muffet’s establishment, holding it to allow Papyrus to proceed before him.

Despite there being no fire elemental within, Muffet’s was just as cozy and warm as Grillby’s had been back home. There was a distinct lack of the smell and feel of grease that secretly pleased Papyrus. The interior was drastically different as well. The walls were painted a deep purple color and the furniture was more reminiscent of a cafe than a bar. The fixtures were black and the ‘bar’ area doubled as a glass display for all manner of baked goods.

While he wasn’t overly familiar with his own Muffet, the one behind the counter definitely was similar to Grillby. She was dressed in formal wear, minimalistic rather than frilly. A single pair of spectacles covered her main eyes as all five of them moved to look up at them. A few rabbits from the Guard were here, curious eyes following both skeletons as they approached Muffet, who waited for them wordlessly.

“hey, muffet. can I get a menu for my pal and the usual?”

The spider woman merely continued staring Stretch down with an intensity that made orange magic bead on his other self’s skull. It was crystal clear that she was not going to do anything until her most regular customer explained himself. Stretch laughed nervously before motioning towards Papyrus.

“this is papyrus, he’s here on vacation.”

That was a horrible lie. Muffet’s attention moved to him though and he smiled politely, “I am here to look for my brother, is what he meant.”

“Your name is Papyrus?” The reserved woman questioned in a very soft tone of voice, though she was easily heard over the din of the building. Stretch sighed raggedly as he nodded, dismayed over his lies being quickly rejected.

“It is.”

Muffet glanced between them both, all five eyes shrewd and critical before she inclined her head, “I see… Please take a seat.” She left them both to go through the door to the back.

“you could’ve just rolled with it.” Stretch complained, slouching into a seat and Papyrus followed, taking the one beside the other monster.

“Lying is a habit I do not want to form.”

The sigh his other self released spoke volumes, “she doesn’t need to know. it’ll make things complicated.”

Papyrus glanced over to meet those orange eye-lights, “the situation became complicated when I arrived. No need to put a strain on others by feeding them a cover story. They deserve the truth.”

“i am not arguing with you,” Stretch murmured with a frustrated look, “it’s like trying to win against blue.”

“Blue is likely right then.”

Stretch groaned and pulled up his orange hood, his skull hitting the glass counter none-to-gently. Papyrus didn’t bother with an apology, they were both their own brand of stubborn. His own combative nature was only coming forward due to his realization that giving Sans space to keep his secrets only ended up to this reality. One where Sans was missing and they were separated. Unsure of if they would ever be reunited again. Papyrus wanted to believe in himself but he only felt lost without his older sibling.

“hey…I’m sorry,” Stretch apologized unexpectedly, “i know you mean well. i’m just not…used to sharing things.”

“You will get better at it.” Papyrus murmured and the other skeleton straightened.

“You believe that.”

“I do.”

A bottle of honey being deposited between them caused them both to jump, Muffet’s silent return startling both monsters. She laid a black and purple menu before Papyrus and nodded, two of her hands placing two Spider Donuts on a plate. It was sat before Stretch with a grace that anyone could appreciate. The skeleton glanced up at his friend and smiled helplessly.

“thank you, muffy.”

Muffet hummed in response, observing Papyrus’ quick pass over the menu before asking for one Spider Donut and Cider. Her delivery was quick and she spoke again, “please let me know if you need assistance.”

Her easy departure was surprising.

Stretch shook his head, “back to your question before… i want to wait the agreed amount of time. i have four days left and there is someone i want to be here when I tell you’n blue. but from what I can tell, a lot of secrets may line up if he didn’t tell you anything. others very well may be false.”

Papyrus paused before speaking, “is it really that long?”

“i only want to tell it once and having my story confirmed by someone else would help.” Stretch said.

“…Why did we come here then?”

“I was hungry and it’s my favorite place to be.”

“…You are contrary.”

“So is muffet.”

Papyrus held in the desire to scream out protest, the action so similar to his dynamic with Sans that he merely smiled and shook his head as Stretch laughed beside him.

Chapter Text

On the fourth morning that Papyrus woke up in this world, he stood up from the couch just as Blue began cooking breakfast in the kitchen. Plucking his glasses up from the table, the skeleton returned to where he now slept and folded all the blankets neatly. These had become steps for his new morning routine. A structured day was how he preferred things, so he added questioning Blue if he required any help to it as Papyrus was loathe to bum off of the brother’s hospitality.

“I MANAGED TO ACQUIRE OATMEAL, PAPYRUS! IT DOES NOT HAVE DINOSAUR EGGS BUT IT SOUNDS DELIGHTFUL!” The smaller skeleton showed him the slightly beaten box, the face displaying ‘cinnamon flavor’.

“That looks spectacular, Blue! I appreciate you going out of your way for me.” Papyrus told him with a gentle smile, a soft blue spreading across the older skeleton’s face in response.

“ONLY THE BEST FROM THE MAGNIFICENT BLUE!” The monster beamed up at him, “MWEHEHE!”

They separated the little packets and followed the steps they could read on the back of the box, many of the words were smudged from the Dump. The result was passable but it wasn’t the same as when Sans would make it. Stretch blinked into existence across from Papyrus, looking at his bowl in surprise. He tasted it with some hesitation but smiled at his tense sibling who was awaiting the verdict.

“tastes great, bro. good job.”

“THANK YOU, BROTHER!” Blue replied before continuing, “I HOPE YOU ARE READY TO COVER ANOTHER DOUBLE SHIFT.”

Stretch froze, spoon halfway to his mouth, “wha? why?”

“A TRUE ROYAL GUARD IS ALWAYS READY FOR DUTY!” Blue scolded before continuing, “PAPYRUS’ PRESCENCE HAS BEEN NOTICED AND CAPTAIN ALPHYS WANTS TO MEET HIM.”

Stretch sighed and placed the spoon back into the bowl to palm his face, “of course. what are you gonna tell her?”

“THE TRUTH!” Blue answered immediately and Papyrus shot Stretch a meaningful glance. The other didn’t even need to look at him to realize Papyrus was referring to their conversation at Muffet’s the day before.

“welp, i can’t argue with that. you’ll be back tonight?”

“YES! TODAY IS JUST A VISIT.” Blue reassured his sibling, the kitchen falling quiet as each monster ate their cinnamon flavored oatmeal. It wasn’t a tense silence but it wasn’t completely relaxed either. Stretch seemed to enjoy the oatmeal more than the pancakes but he still drowned it in honey and drank the rest of the bottle as he ate. To be fair, instant oatmeal seemed harder to mess up. Papyrus idly wondered if Blue’s ‘training sessions’ with Alphys were cooking classes like Undyne gave him. Well, he supposed he would find out very soon.

“I’m off then,” Stretch told them, standing up from the table and waving at them as he walked away, “let me know if you need me.”

He turned the corner into the tear Papyrus knew was there and was gone. Blue sighed at the abrupt departure, “LEAVING WITHOUT CLEANING HIS SPOT ON THE TABLE AGAIN. I AM NOT SURPRISED.” The taller skeleton stood and picked up the mess, joining Blue at the sink to help with dishes. This was another routine he liked, cleaning alongside Blue was calming.

“Is there anything I should know before the visit with Alphys?” Papyrus spoke up as they finished the chore, Blue’s face falling into a thoughtful expression before beaming up at him.

“NO! I AM CERTAIN YOU DO NOT NEED A BRIEFING BEFOREHAND!” He insisted, “STRETCH TOLD ME WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT UNDYNE AND FROM WHAT I CAN GATHER, THERE IS NOT MUCH DIFFERENCE THERE! JUST BE YOURSELF!”

It was a comforting thought. He had always gotten along with Undyne. Papyrus was sure that it would be strange to treat the reptilian woman the same way when all he knew of his own Alphys was that she wasn’t very sociable. Still, he would do his very best. Both monsters left the kitchen to slip their boots on, blue and red respectively before stepping out into the brisk wind of Snowdin. It wasn’t snowing but there was a chill to the air that suggested it may later on. Snow was a guarantee in this part of the Underground but blizzards were a rare occurrence. He and Blue trudged through the white powder and traveled east until the temperate rose. Papyrus felt his soul tighten a bit from the uncertainty of how their Waterfall may be but when they stepped into the cave system, he relaxed.

It was the same.

The steady slosh of water, teal grass, and the whispers of the Echo Flowers. The glowing crystals dotting the roof of the caverns. Papyrus had always been partial to Waterfall, but it was Sans’ favorite. Countless times, the siblings had traveled here together. To ‘wish on the stars’. To whisper secrets and dreams to the large blossoms. To scour the Dump for anything usable. Anything that would give them a glance into what life would be like on the Surface.

“Is It Like Home?” Blue questioned in a soft tone, startling Papyrus out of his thoughts.

“There…are a few differences.” The taller skeleton responded as they passed a flexing Shyren. Or to be more accurate, Shyren’s talent agent was flexing for her as the fish monster winked at them as they passed. If that was Shyren…then…

Oh dear.

Aaron would be something Papyrus was not certain he could handle today.

It was most likely best to leave that thought alone and just roll with anything that was swapped here. Resisting the changes would be more difficult than adapting. Papyrus didn’t have that sort of energy to waste when finding Sans was his priority. Their walk to Alphys’ house was interrupted by a soft voice.

“H-Hello. Care for ah-a flier?”

Both monsters stopped and Papyrus was shocked at who was speaking to them. A pink ghost was shyly offering up a few leaflets. Bearing heavy resemblance to Napstablook besides the sweep of a hairstyle across his face, the skeleton recognized the ghost despite his appearance. It was Mettaton before he got his new body. Happstablook moved to pull the advertisements back but Papyrus cut him off.

“Of course!”

The ghost smiled up at him and offered them again, both monsters taking one despite Blue having already taken one before. The paper was pink with pretty calligraphy scrawled across it. The header was ‘Human Culture and Fan Club’. The time and meeting place as well as the mission statement followed. According to the leaflet, the club was meant to ‘study and appreciate all things ‘human’ in preparation for the Barrier breaking’.

“Thank you! I will look into attending.” Papyrus said, looking up from the paper to see Happstablook’s smiling face.

“P-Please do, darling!” The ghost replied before drifting away in search of more monsters to hand them out to. Blue grinned up at Papyrus as they continued on.

“THAT IS NAPSTABOT’S COUSIN! HE IS A REALLY SWEET GHOST.”

“He really is.”

They arrived at the main crossway and took the familiar northwest path where Undyne’s house would normally be. The house awaiting them looked less like a fish and more like a fortress…with cat ears. Were those cat ears? The architecture was a tad questionable in the way only monster homes could be. Blue knocked loudly on the door and it took only a moment before it swung open.

Standing in the threshold was unmistakably Alphys, but she was a tad taller and more muscular. There was a scar down one side of her face that looked like claws had swiped into her flesh. It appeared old but definitely upped her ‘cool factor’, though that had to have nearly dusted her when fresh. The Captain was in casual dress and not armor.

Her mouth dropped upon seeing Papyrus.

“You brought him!!” She gasped before grinning in a way that reminded him of his best friend, “he really does look like your lazy brother!!”

“I can assure you, I am not lazy in the slightest.” Papyrus replied succinctly and the feral grin on her face widened in clear delight.

“He has spunk! AWESOME!” She extended her hand and nearly crushed Papyrus’ own in a very firm handshake, “I’m Alphys, Captain of the Royal Guard!!”

“I am Papyrus. Nice to meet you.” He greeted and her grin grew impossibly wider.

“I KNOW! Blue told me! Coming from another world, huh?? That is RIGHT out of an anime!” She eyed him with her one good eye, “didn’t buy it at first but here you are!” The tall skeleton looked down at Blue in clear question and he giggled, guilt crossing his features.

“I ALREADY TOLD HER EVERYTHING. STRETCH DID NOT NEED TO KNOW, REALLY! I DO NOT KEEP SECRETS FROM MY BEST FRIEND!” He insisted and Alphys’ gaze softened a bit at his words.

“Damn straight! Come on in!!” She motioned for them and both skeletons wiped their boots on her cat themed doormat before entering. This drew raucous laughter from Alphys but she immediately set to work on fixing them both tea upon asking for Papyrus’ preference. The inside was filled with anime themed objects and what looked like an armory. Dark green armor was hung up on the wall. A large battle axe sat propped up in the corner, both pieces of equipment obviously taken well care of. The fact that Alphys loved Mew Mew Kissy Cutie hadn’t changed and somehow that was comforting.

The tea kettle went off and Alphys poured Golden Flower Tea into three cups. Her hospitality was as proper as Undyne’s despite her roughened life and they sat together at the table, letting the tea cool.

“So you are searching for your Sans?” Alphys spoke up to break the comfortable silence. The way she phrased that caused Papyrus to flush orange in embarrassment but his soul was pleased in turn.

“That is correct.” He replied and she leaned forward with a sympathetic expression.

“That’s tough, man. Sa- Blue told me he had vanished.”

She sat back.

“Normally I would guess that he fell asleep in a snow poff somewhere but since you are here… I am guessing he changed worlds?”

Alphys’ tone of voice was solemn and lowered from her initial boisterousness. This side of her was painfully like how Undyne would be in her more sober moments, when Papyrus needed cheering up.

“Have you made a plan, yet?” She asked. Papyrus’ white eye-lights lowered to the reflection in his tea, his uncertain expression staring back up at him.

“I have not. Though I am in the information-gathering phase. There are too many things I do not know still but I suppose at some point I will need to speak with Undyne. She is the Royal Scientist and much of what brought me here is something only she can understand. …At least, I hope so. I did not share my brother’s interest in science.” He was regretting that now but there was nothing he could do about it.

“Undyne is amazing! She will definitely be able to help you!” Alphys crowed, the praise for the other woman thick and genuine, “when you are ready to see her, let me know!!”

Blue smiled secretly but Alphys wasn’t watching him, her attention solely on Papyrus.

“In the meantime, how about you join Blue in his training?!! I am more than capable of teaching two pupils!!” Her sole eye glanced between them, “What do ya say?!”

Papyrus nodded with a soft expression. It was unrealistic to expect Blue and Stretch to keep skipping work for him. Staying cooped up in the empty house during the day sounded unhealthy as well. Though it was difficult to not put finding Sans first, Stretch had already said his older brother was not here. Not in this entire world. Searching when knowing that was pointless. Though the swap was a bit strange, at heart; Alphys was like Undyne and he dearly missed his friendship with her. The more help he had, the more likely Sans would be back in his arms.

Chapter Text

The first time that Papyrus had some time alone was on the afternoon of the fifth day. Blue and Stretch were out on their sentry duties and had seemed reluctant to leave him by himself, but Papyrus had insisted. While the skeleton appreciated their effort, he needed somewhere quiet to wrap his mind around his present situation. Possibly start on a plan if he could.

The house was very quiet without the brothers.

Was it like this on a normal day back at his home when both he and Sans were at work? Papyrus paced around the first floor in idle though, from the kitchen to the stairs and back again. His gaze was as listless as his path but his mind was in turmoil.

It was nearing the one week mark of his arrival and when Stretch had promised to tell him everything. While he was fairly certain the information would help, Papyrus had to begin a plan with what he had at his disposal, just in case.

What did he know so far?

Papyrus had woken up to Sans being missing. Not just missing from the house, but from their world. Asgore had revealed his older brother had been the Judge, a position granted by an outside source. From the basement underneath their house, Papyrus had learned Sans had been a scientist as well. Though he had no way to know for how long or when it had stopped, Sans had definitely been in stripes that he saw. His time at the Core was confusing to say the very least. The longer he thought of it, the more Papyrus was certain it was a memory.

Their father had been called Gaster.

Saying that name out loud before had taken things out of Papyrus’ control, so he would not speak of him at all. To be safe.

Sans appeared to have worked with him from a young age, to the point that Papyrus was taken along on occasion. A safety check or something similar had put a monster’s life in danger so Sans had forced a shut down. While Papyrus had no way of measuring the damage in his mind, it had been something irreparable.

Gaster had vanished and Sans had been injured.

They had escaped through a tear. That ‘shortcut’ had brought Papyrus here somehow. Stretch had told him Sans was not here, so the safe guess was that his older brother was in another world. Another world of countless other universes, where each decision created a new one.

If Undyne and Stretch knew about these worlds and Papyrus had proven them, there must be a way to detect them. A way to figure out how to traverse them… There had to be a way. Papyrus and Sans had already jumped so there was a way! Giving up on Sans wasn’t an option. As topsy turvy as this new world was, it was not home without his beloved sibling. Papyrus would not stop his search, no matter the odds.

The tall skeleton pulled out his phone for the first time in this universe, discovering the device to be powered down from low battery. His charger was literally a world away and he had been too occupied to give it a second thought.

There may be a few things left in the dimensional boxes but what he really wanted were the photos and text message logs. How it behaved with Undernet was currently unknown. Papyrus glanced up at the second floor balcony and decided that borrowing one of the brother’s chargers did not seem unreasonable.

If he learned a few things while looking for it, that could hardly be called snooping.

Papyrus took the stairs and hesitated at the first door. Stretch’s room was located where his was and if his other self was anything like Sans then…

Locked.

It wasn’t a surprise. Abandoning the door, he walked to Blue’s room at the end of the hallway and tested the knob, which gave easily. Hesitating for a moment before entering, Papyrus was frozen to the threshold at the immediate difference.

Instead of a mattress on the floor, there was a blue spaceship themed car. Yellow glow-in-the-dark stars were pasted all over the ceiling in discernible constellations. The Trash Tornado was gone and replaced by a table that featured science fiction themed figurines. A computer and bookshelf similar to Papyrus’ own filled the usually empty room.

The culture shock showed no signs of stopping.

Papyrus located the available outlets and checked each one before plugging his phone into the present charger. It’s screen lit up and the monster turned away to stare at the photographs taped to one wall.

One showed the skeleton brothers both still in stripes, beaming for the camera. Another revealed Sans and Alphys playing in the snow together. His eye-lights fell onto a photo of Stretch and Undyne, shocked by how meek her body language was. Her battle-scar was missing and spectacles took the place of an eye-patch that Papyrus was familiar with.

But somehow he could get a feel that this was still his best friend, somehow.

His attention moved from the pictures to the books on the shelf, the puzzle making titles added to with a few astronomy books. He could not find ‘Peek-a-boo with Fluffy Bunny’ so that must either be elsewhere or replaced with another title altogether. Everything was just similar enough to offer that uncanny feeling. Papyrus did not want to snoop any further and figured taking the charger down with him would be okay as long as he put it back.

It had powered enough to turn on as the skeleton set up the charger. A sad smile spread across his face at the background, Sans was in his arms, their faces pushed together as they flashed peace-signs at the photographer. It had been Undyne in this instance on the day after a blizzard in Snowdin. She had spent the night getting the structures and residents ready, staying over for some fun despite Undyne hating the cold.

It was hard not to cry seeing this reminder of his sibling.

Papyrus pulled one of the blankets to him and got comfortable as he began thumbing through his album. Each snap-shot had a memory attached and Papyrus had taken so many that he dozed off before the halfway mark.

—----

The sound of the front door opening snapped Papyrus out of his unplanned nap, Blue and Stretch’s conversation trailing off as they entered.

“HI, PAPYRUS! DID YOU HAVE A GOOD DAY?” Blue questioned, one arm supporting a bag of what had to be groceries. Stretch’s orange eye-lights quickly took notice of his phone and filled with curiosity.

“found a charger that worked?” He questioned capturing Blue’s attention, who beamed in response.

“I had a good day. I am sorry, Blue. I only meant to borrow-”

“IT IS OKAY! DO… DO YOU HAVE PICTURES?!” Blue was hardly able to contain his excitement, settling the bag down on the table near the door instead of the kitchen. Obviously according to priorities. Papyrus nodded and unplugged from the wall charger, unlocking and handing the phone to Stretch.

The picture Papyrus used as his background of him and Sans had both brothers softening and exclaiming separately.

“WOW! SANS REALLY IS A ‘LAZY ME’!” Blue beamed at the screen, “OF COURSE, YOU ARE LIKE ME BUT I COULD NOT PICTURE WHAT YOUR BROTHER WOULD LOOK LIKE AT ALL!”

Stretch hummed in agreement and swiped to open the photo album. It was bittersweet to relive his pictures through the other brothers. Stretch’s expression fell before flashing back into his lazy grin. Papyrus took note of where they were instead of asking his other self. If he wanted answers before the agreed deadline, the skeleton would have to get them himself.

Blue had gotten more ingredients to try again on his tacos but this time with teaching Papyrus what he knew. Together, the dish was certaining...well, it was passing. Stretch appeared like he would be bowled over with their combined intent, so the skeleton wasn’t sure if it was that or the taste that had the monster going to bed early.

“WELL, HE CERTAINLY ATE MORE THAN USUAL!” Blue said with a grin, fully aware that they both could use more lessons.

“You are a better chef than I am, Blue,” Papyrus replied as he helped put the dishes away, “I should have not taken Sans’ word at face value when I cooked.”

“WELL, TO BE FAIR, THAT COOKBOOK WAS HALFWAY READABLE AT BEST. OUR SOURCE MATERIAL WAS NOT COMPLETE!” Blue huffed out, unplugging the sink that was at a reasonable height. Papyrus pulled out his cell and began swiping through the photos in his album.

“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?”

Papyrus glanced up from his scrolling to find a bittersweet mix of curiosity and resignation. Blue clearly didn’t expect a straight answer.

“Stretch made a face at one of these pictures.” He responded, swearing not to brush the skeleton off as he was so many times in the past.

“THE FACE THAT SAYS HE IS KEEPING SECRETS?”

“Exactly that face,” he responded and to Blue’s delight, motioned for them to sit together on the couch, “I knew I would not get answers from him. At least, not for two more days.”

Blue looked up at him with starry-pupils, “two days?”

Oh, of course. Of course Stretch would not give Blue any indication of a deadline for his secrets being revealed, “Stretch made me a promise he would not keep secrets and share everything he was keeping to himself in a week. We are on day five.”

“HE MADE YOU A PROMISE?!” The smaller skeleton questioned in shock. Upon his affirming nod, Blue’s expression became determined, “DO NOT LET HIM SPILL WITHOUT ME BEING THERE!”

Papyrus shot his new friend a look, “I would not do that to you, Blue. I know how it feels.” Blue’s pupils grew larger and stared up at him for a long moment before the skeleton smiled.

“That Means So Much To Me. Thank You So Much.”

Both skeletons refocused on the pictures and Papyrus slowed around the same area Stretch did. Blue sat up straighter, pressed close to his side as he scrutinized the images at the same time.

He had narrowed it down to three before the thought that perhaps Stretch had merely had an unpleasant memory triggered by one photo when-

“IS...IS IT THE SCAR?”

Papyrus met Blue’s gaze, “scar?”

“GO TWO BACK...YEAH! THERE?” Blue pointed at a photo Papyrus had snapped of Sans, the skeleton looking away as the ambient light shone through his clothing. Papyrus followed Blue’s pointing phalange to his brother’s exposed collar-bone.

Sure enough, there was the hint of an injury disappearing under Sans’ shirt. There was an issue with this.

That it existed at all.

“My brother does not have a scar.” Papyrus insisted despite staring right at the evidence that said otherwise. Blue made a soft considering noise.

“Can I Tell You A Secret, Papyrus?”

The skeleton tore his eye-lights away from the picture of Sans to find a serious expression on Blue’s face, “of course.”

Blue took a moment before answering, gaze still on the picture, “When I Was Doing Stretch’s Laundry One Morning, I Saw Him Without His Hoodie… There Was A Scar That Had Not Been There Before. It Started At His Collarbone And Ended On The Wing Of His Pelvis.”

The stars faded out to plain cyan circles, “I Raised Him. He Had Not Once Gotten An Injury So Dangerous That It Scarred. Much Less One That Would...DUST Him.”

“What did he say?” Papyrus gasped and Blue’s brow furrowed.

“I Tried To Get An Answer. We Had A Big Argument. But,” Blue hesitated and stared up at Papyrus with a helpless gaze, “He Would Not Tell Me! Then…”

Papyrus waited for the smaller skeleton to continued, and when he did, it was a fully lowercase tone, “...the scar disappeared.”

...What?

“It was gone. I remember it vividly. My mind would not make something like that up. Did you ever see a scar?”

Had Papyrus seen a scar? His eye-lights shrank and focused on the photograph. It was frightening that an immediate answer hadn’t come. Surely if Papyrus was as observant as Blue was, he would have surely noticed…

Wouldn’t he?

Chapter Text

On day six, Papyrus felt less rested than usual. Waking anything other than ‘refreshed’ was an unheard thing but wishing to go back to sleep was another that he was just now experiencing. Going through these offered more understanding to Sans’ sleeping habits. But what had been at fault was that question Papyrus wasn’t able to answer. Had Sans had a scar like the photo implied? If he had then why hadn’t he noticed it? There had been times when they had been shirtless around each other. He was sure of it.

Then again, the picture…

The tall skeleton straightened his shoulders and forced his thoughts away from that topic. If pursued, it would be exactly like it had been last night. He was done asking himself in circles and wanted to move forward. Papyrus was setting out the ingredients for instant oatmeal when Blue’s door opened like clockwork for nearly a week. The smaller monster worked around him and they fell into a retrospective mood, not needing many words this morning. Blue had to go wake up Stretch, who must have hit his threshold for waking up early. What wasn’t typical was that Stretch had things to say at the breakfast table.

“clear your schedule, papyrus. we’re gonna go see undyne tonight.” Stretch murmured sleepily around a spoon of flavored oatmeal. This jerked Blue and himself away from their thoughts and back into the present.

“UNDYNE?” Blue questioned and when Stretch didn’t answer, rolled his cyan eye-lights as he had expected that much. Tomorrow couldn’t come faster, the brothers needed to clear the air. Blue would be attending whether his other self liked it or not.

“she’ll have the equipment and knowledge we need.” The younger brother eventually replied.

“Not you?” Papyrus asked, drawing Blue’s curious gaze, “Sans had a secret science basement.”

“SECRET SCI- IS THAT WHAT THAT KEY GOES TO?” The smaller monster questioned and Stretch issued a long sigh.

“not a secret now.”

“Are you going to keep your promise about secrets or not?”

Stretch’s expression became firm, “a promise is a promise.”

“I WILL BE AT THIS SECRETS MEETING, BROTHER. I HOPE YOU KNOW THAT.” Blue stated firmly and the hoodie-clad skeleton looked over at his older brother pleadingly.

“blue, you know i only want to protect you-”

“PROTECTING YOU IS MY JOB! I AM THE OLDER BROTHER!” Blue insisted, “BESIDES, I AM TIRED OF ALL THE LIES. I WANT TO HELP!”

Papyrus watched as Stretch slumped back into his chair with a contemplative expression, “…alright. If it sticks, it sticks.”

Stretch stood up right after and left through a shortcut without another word. Blue sighed and cleared up after his younger sibling; easily falling into their dish-washing routine. Papyrus had no idea what his other self had meant and didn’t bother to ask Blue due to his reaction. The dishes were brought to cleanliness and order before the shorter skeleton turned to Papyrus with a small smile.

“HAVE A GOOD DAY, PAPYRUS. FEEL FREE TO BORROW ANYTHING IN MY ROOM!”

Unexpectedly, Blue jumped into his arms for a hug, the reciprocation automatic as Papyrus held the smaller monster close. Only after the front door shut did what happen fully register. How natural it was. It wasn’t because Blue looked like his brother. Their first embrace may have been because Papyrus was longing for Sans but anything after was solely just for Blue.

Strange.

It had not occurred to him before now but Papyrus was inwardly pleased his soul recognized Blue as his own individual. Obviously Stretch was his own person but it would have been easy for his grief to use Blue. But it didn’t. Papyrus considered the other skeleton’s offer before entering Blue’s room. Despite his snooping the previous day, Papyrus was glad to be granted permission to try things as he wished. Searching the Undernet got boring after an hour. Most of the posts were nearly identical except for who had sent them. The books were where most of his entertainment came from. While science fiction wasn’t his usual cup of tea, it was good for passing time at the very least. Two books later, the sensation of displaced air and magic signaled Stretch’s arrival. Papyrus marked his place and stood, opening the door and looking over the banister to discover Stretch waiting for him below.

“ya ready?” His other self questioned.

“I am always ready.” Papyrus retorted and Stretch grinned at his response.

“should’ve known. let’s take a shortcut.”

The tear flared in front of them as Stretch took his hand and rounded into the kitchen, where the landscape settled on Hotland. The hot air blasted them both. The skeleton glanced behind them at Waterfall and then ahead to where a cat and alligator monster guarded the elevator. Did that mean R01 and R02 ran a shop in an alley somewhere? As they traversed the path, Papyrus wondered if Undyne lived at the lab. Hotland had been unbearable for his best friend and she hated the cold of Snowdin. Stretch knocked on the door in a certain rhythm.

“Who is there?” Came the muted reply.

“me.”

“Me who?”

Knock knock.

An even longer pause due to confusion, “who’s there??”

“me.”

“Ugh… ME WHO?!” The door was thrown open and the Royal Scientist’s expression crumbled into shock.

“me two!” Stretch finished the joke with an understated flourish but Undyne was too caught up with Papyrus to notice or care. To be fair, Papyrus was just as shocked by the swapped version of his best friend. Her hair was down, spectacles over both of her intact golden eyes and the lab coat signifying her station. She did look nervous but her excitement was currently winning out.

“O-Oh! It’s y-you! Please! Please!! Come in!” She gestured and Papyrus smiled politely as he passed the threshold, Stretch grinning as the door closed the hot air out behind them. Undyne was still very much getting over the shock and excitement.

“Wow! Woooow! S-So, you’re Papyrus, right? From a-another universe?” Her gold eyes flashed to Stretch for confirmation and Papyrus extended his hand in greeting.

“I am. It is lovely to meet you, Undyne.” He replied and she took his hand much gentler then his own Undyne would.

“I still can’t believe it, wow, so exciting,” she smiled sheepishly, “it’s just…you’re proof that alternative universes exist! The Many World’s Theory! PROVEN! Wow…” She trailed off and blushed, “I’m sorry, it’s just so… How- How did you get here!?”

Where Alphys had stuttered, Undyne seemed to ramble but Papyrus found he didn’t mind. Stretch motioned to some bean bags around a large surveillance monitor. Wordlessly, they gravitated to them to take a seat as Papyrus glanced up at the multiple views of this Underground. The bean bag was squishy and much more comfortable than it had any right to be.

“I do not have a clear answer on that one,” he admitted and her face fell before brightening.

“Oh! O-okay! How about you just take it from the start? W-We’ll, uh, listen and maybe come up with s-some theories?” She beamed at his agreeing nod and Papyrus began. Naturally, he started with Sans going missing. His visit to Grillby, Undyne, the King and then Alphys was carefully detailed, this world’s Undyne pulling a clipboard and pen from her cell phone to take notes.

“I decided to follow up on a suspicion of mine when everyone else was looking. Sans had a silver key in his room that went to the basement of the house.”

Undyne glanced at Stretch, who shrugged in reply, “i didn’t kick the science habit entirely. just some bits and bobbles, nothing serious.”

“Then the blueprints, the glasses, the pictures…” At Stretch’s continued head shaking he continued, “this picture of completing the Core?” Papyrus had pulled out his cell phone and retrieved the folded photo from his inter-dimensional box. Undyne’s mouth dropped open as she leaned in over Stretch’s shoulder to see the congratulations, group photo and pun written on it’s back.

“That’s from the Core being complete!” She gasped without stumbling. The hoodie-clad skeleton had an odd look on his face as his orange eye-lights lifted to consider Papyrus more seriously now.

“if there is a name that caused you trouble before, don’t say it again.”

The Royal Scientist glanced between them in clear confusion.

“it’s rude to talk about someone who is listening.” Stretch murmured darkly. Papyrus nodded as a clear shiver ran up his spine, “that name is off limits everywhere. if you know a man that speaks in song, it is best not to say their name either.”

Another name…?

Wait, was it still swapped in this case? But he did not know the actual name of the River Person… Perhaps that is exactly why they never shared their name or gender. Or was the River Person also called G-

“anything else?”

Stretch had his guard up for some reason.

“There were pictures… Pictures taken of me and my brother. With Alphys and Undyne. With the King and Queen. And someone else. Not a monster. Not a picture I could remember taking.” His eye-lights were steady as Stretch returned his gaze intensely.

“Another picture with red marking taken to it?”

“Yes.”

Stretch closed his eye-sockets and rasped his hands over his skull with a groan. Undyne’s gaze widened behind her spectacles and she appeared flabbergasted, “what? What?! What pictures!??? What does this mean??”

Papyrus was equally as baffled from Stretch’s reaction. After a few minutes of silence, Stretch finally spoke again, “i had hoped so much…that wasn’t the case. seems like everything lines up. i just hope sans didn’t have it too hard…”

“What is going on?!” Undyne finally asked, clearly fed up with both monster being vague.

“you’re invited to the secret-sharing meeting, ‘dyne,” Stretch murmured, “i’ll get you tomorrow. …was there anything else, papyrus?”

There was.

Papyrus collected his thoughts and began, “there was something I saw that I am pretty sure was a memory but it felt like I was actually there. I was in the Core with Sans and the person whose name is dangerous. They were doing some sort of test on the Core.”

“how old were you?” Stretch asked, surprise flashing across his eye-lights.

“Small enough to be carried. Sans was in stripes but seemed like an employee. The test failed due to Sans shutting it down to save a monster. Something went wrong… There was an explosion and that person fell into the Core. I helped Sans through a tear and I arrived here.” Papyrus explained and his other self fell into an extended quiet, phalanges steepled in thought.

“undyne, can you draw up a diagram for the universes? i think i found our box for schroedinger’s cat.”

Papyrus was vaguely familiar but he still had to ask, “box?”

“Pa- I mean Stretch! He had wondered why we weren’t an EXACT flip of your world! If we were p-perfectly mirrored, it would’ve been different! We theorized t-that, uh, um,” she scribbled quickly on a dry-erase board, “that there are REGULAR and SWAPPED universes! But we don’t know what caused such a thing! In this, it might make sense!”

She flipped it around to show two branching lines labeled ‘One’ and ‘Two’. In between was the word ‘Core?’

“In this new model, it shows a source of e-energy that would be POWERFUL enough to cause this divide. The ‘box’ where the cat could be both alive and d-dead!” The aquatic Royal Scientist smiled down at the small board, “since you c-came through this, it might be reasonable to s-say the Core has been there in the past, right NOW and maybe e-even the future??! It may hold the secret to traveling between worlds! We might even…”

“Find Sans?” Papyrus sat up straighter, hope touching his expression, “if we can find it and go through?”

“It’s ONLY a theory!” Undyne reminded, still smiling as Stretch perked up slightly, “but it IS a start!”

Chapter Text

On the day of the promise, Stretch was the first one awake, waiting for both Papyrus and Blue in the kitchen. It was one of the rare mornings where Blue simply fished some cereal out of the cabinets, clearly without the patience to cook when it appeared that his younger sibling may actually speak. Blue joined both of the taller monsters at the table.

“I ALREADY CLEARED TODAY WITH ALPHYS.” Blue spoke up, “WHEN I TOLD HER MY BROTHER MIGHT SPILL HIS SECRETS SHE WAS MORE THAN HAPPY TO LET US BOTH OFF THE HOOK.”

“ouch, bro.” The hoodie-clad skeleton murmured around his cereal, eating slower than usual as if to stave off the inevitable. Papyrus smiled at both of the siblings, still in a good mood from the hope that Undyne had ignited in him yesterday. Now that they had a rough plan of something that may find Sans, a weight had lifted from his shoulders. Being listless and sad had not agreed with him. Blue gathered Papyrus’ dishes and his own to place them in the sink, returning to the table with a huff as he realized Stretch was just massacring the poor cereal at this point.

“I WILL PAY OFF YOUR TAB AT MUFFET’S IF YOU STOP STABBING YOUR CEREAL AND BEGIN THE SECRET MEETING.”

Stretch looked up in surprise at his older brother’s bargain, “you must really be determined not to ‘wheat’ any longer to offer that.”

Both Papyrus and Blue groaned at the pun. It was just like Stretch to crack a joke to lighten a serious situation. Sans had done the exact same, but there was nothing that would make Stretch change his mind about a promise. He pushed the bowl away from him and sat the spoon down, staring down at it for a long moment of contemplation as Papyrus waited patiently. Blue took the dishes to the sink when it seemed his sibling was taking a moment to gather his thoughts. When all monsters were seated, it took another long moment before Stretch finally began to speak.

“first of all, i don’t know how many of these facts match up to sans. so take everything i say as possible, not set in stone.”

“I understand,” Papyrus replied, expression firm and unwavering.

“okay… well, i guess i’ll start at the beginning… forgive the vague nature of how i word this. there is actual danger in mentioning a name,” Stretch glanced at Blue, who nodded in understanding, pupils a normal cyan circle instead of stars, “a little over a decade ago, there was an accident at the core. blue had been working under the previous royal scientist when our world…fractured.”

“WHAT?” Blue’s brow furrowed, “I DO NOT REMEMBER BEING EMPLOYED AT THE LAB.”

“that’s the thing, bro. the accident was so devastating that everyone’s memory of it was completely erased. not only that, but everyone…changed immediately after.” Stretch took out a lollipop and shelled the wrapper, placing it between his teeth to worry at the candy.

“i used to be a lot like papyrus but my manner slowly veered into an easy-going persona. my beliefs are the unchanged. i still believe in the best of people but i mask my insecurity with jokes instead of optimism.”

Blue issued a thoughtful hum, “BUT THAT COULD JUST BE HOW YOU GREW UP? EVERYONE DEVELOPS DIFFERENTLY.”

“i had considered it but the fact is that the change was instant for everyone else.” Stretch replied with a shake of his head, “jobs, hobbies, manner of speech, it was like switching on a light. everyone except me.”

Papyrus couldn’t imagine such a thing. But at the same time… Hadn’t Sans put off an odd feeling that he had changed overnight? Or had it been over the course of years? His memories were unreliable so he spoke up, “was memory loss a part of this accident?”

“as i mentioned before, everyone forgot the existence of that person. but that was all they forgot. perhaps their new personalities were like turning a page in a book. whatever happened in your world and your involvement may have complications. that or…” Stretch sighed, “it gets worse from here on out.”

“I Believe In You, Brother.” Blue said in a soft tone, drawing a fond smile from Stretch.

“your memories may be messed up due to your world’s time-line being messed with,” the skeleton chewed on his lollipop with a pinched expression, “i can’t look inside your head and measure how many but if you are experiencing deja vu or dreams that seem real…it may be much worse than what has happened here.”

“Time-line?” Papyrus asked as Blue spoke in the same instant.

“LIKE GOING TO THE FUTURE?”

Stretch smiled helplessly and shook his head, “time travel. going to the past. i have actually told you this before, bro. about a dozen times. but every time everything is turned back, you forget. i’m the only one who remembers. so it goes to guessing that sans was the only one who remembered it as well. i call them ‘resets’.”

“What?” Papyrus wondered as Blue stared hard at his younger sibling, expression unreadable though the smaller skeleton was clearly stressed at the idea. Stretch sighed and bit down hard on the candy, shattered it and consuming the magic, expression growing pained.

“imagine living the same week over and over. the same routine. the same conversations. the same events. all driven by an outside force you could not bargain with. your life becomes a game to sate someone’s curiosity.” Stretch’s orange eye-lights were small and trembled as he stared at a middle distance. Blue suddenly stood, startling both skeletons.

“IS THIS STILL HAPPENING?! IS SOMEONE HURTING YOU, PAPY?! TELL ME WHERE THEY ARE AND I WILL CONVINCE THEM TO STOP!”

Stretch was frozen in his chair as Papyrus’ soul shook at the cyan tears threatening to fall from Blue’s eye-sockets. He would have said the exact same thing to Sans if his older brother had told him-

A horrible thought occurred to the monster and his breath hitched. If Sans had told him before, then he had completely forgotten! Those memories stolen as Sans suffered all by himself. Smiling still for Papyrus. Pretending nothing was wrong! Warm trickles of orange magic trailed from his sockets as Stretch managed to speak again, voice shaking just a bit.

“i know, blue. i know you would…” He shook his head, “you don’t have to worry though. this time-line has continued for nearly a year now with no abnormalities.”

Blue sat down hard, his sockets still wide as his breath hitched on a sob, “Is That True? W-Why?”

“they found out something that made experimenting pointless.” Stretch frowned before shaking it off, “we have a truce they won’t break. th-” Both brothers stopped when Papyrus audibly stifled his crying. Blue was immediately at the younger skeleton’s side, taking Papyrus’ shuddering shoulders in his embrace now that his own sibling had verbally expressed his safety.

“IT’S OKAY! I AM SURE WE CAN FIND SANS AND MAKE THIS RIGHT.” Blue encouraged, his own eye-lights small and wavering at the sight of Papyrus breaking down, “WE WILL FIX IT!”

“It is not that-” Papyrus managed before continuing in tiny voice, “that scar…you asked if Sans had…”

“you remembered that, bro?” Stretch questioned in a strangled tone.

“TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES!” Blue suddenly demanded and the kitchen fell perfectly quiet for three seconds before a collective blush covered all three monsters’ faces, “I- I MEAN! LIFT YOUR HOODIE! I REMEMBER THERE BEING A SCAR!” At the older brother’s demand and reassurance he remembered, Stretch sighed and stood. His long phalanges hooked the bottom of the orange hoodie, the thin black undershirt easily gripped in one go. He lifted it, exposing a lengthy spine and a compact rib-cage. Blue and Papyrus stared with wide sockets at the sight, their respective magic coloring their features more prominently.

There was no scar.

“BUT…but, that…” Blue trailed off, his emotions a mess as Stretch pushed the clothing back down where it normally rested.

“it’s okay, blue. there was a scar there, you aren’t crazy.”

“Where Did It Go?” Blue questioned and Stretch sighed, glancing at Papyrus pleadingly. As if to say he didn’t want to tell the truth. That he wanted Papyrus to say that was good enough. That he could stop spilling secrets now. But Papyrus was not deterred and merely waited for an answer that would most likely hurt him.

“the last reset was peaceful. that wound only carried over if I fought them the time-line previous. did sans also have it?” He questioned as gentle as he could, tone feather soft. Papyrus nodded and let out a sob.

“I saw it. Once. But then I forgot. It hurts to even try to recall it now,” he managed before shaking his head, “but Sans began to dress differently. Thicker shirts instead of a tank top.” The skeleton was sure that Sans had made that change and it had been consistent. Did that mean that his older brother was constantly fighting and getting hurt? But Sans only had ONE Hope! How did that work with such an grievous injury!? This did not make sense. Papyrus was more worried than ever for Sans. Had the world he had traveled to treat him worse or better? Or… Had Sans given up?

His older brother loved him. That fact was irrefutable.

However, Papyrus could remember Sans’ steep/subtle decline. Both sudden and gradual to his perception of time, Sans’ eye-lights had gone from confused, to tormented, to slightly mad to ease into something more terrifying and dangerous. A glassy look and fixed neutral expression. Apathy. Acceptance. Surrender. But Sans’ grip on his hand had never loosened. Papyrus was the last thing Sans clung to. Now he was gone. In a world where his mind already registered hope being meaningless. Was the thought of him still enough to keep Sans’ going?

…Even if they were world’s apart?

“i have someone to fill you in on the rest.” Stretch murmured before standing, placing his hands into the pocket of his hoodie, “let’s take a trip to the ruins.”

Chapter Text

The walk to the door of the Ruins was a quiet one, though it was not at all peaceful. Blue’s eyes had not returned to their star-shaped enthusiasm, the small skeleton deep in thought and staring to the side with normal cyan pupils. Stretch had not spoken once during the walk and Papyrus was still coming to terms with how much that he forgot. There wasn’t a need or want to fill the air with chatter when they were overloaded with the amount of information his other self had dropped on them. It was still daylight and the bunny sentries were out in full force. None of them approached however, shooting worried looks at their retreating backs. The hoodie-clad skeleton pulled out his cell and dialed a number on it, drawing both his and Blue’s attention.

“…yeah, nearly there. naw… it’s up to you.” Stretch hummed before cutting the call very short. He glanced back at his older brother and Papyrus, “they’ll be waiting for us.”

“Who Is There?” Blue questioned in a soft tone. The skeleton leading them slowed down and frowned in thought before shaking his head.

“it’s the person in charge of the resets.”

Both of them began to speak adamantly at once but Stretch firmly cut through their words, “they are a human child. keep in mind that they can erase all your memories and are much stronger than us. better to keep the truce. i don’t know what will happen to papyrus if a reset happens with him here.”

“A HUMAN Is Here?!” Blue asked an octave higher than his normal voice and though Papyrus had seen the picture of the human in Sans’ basement, it was another to hear the reality of it. Stretch sighed and pulled another lollipop from his pocket. It seems that was a nervous habit. That or it was replacing another worse nervous habit, even if skeleton monsters did not have lungs.

“their name is chara. they are really determined and are better on our side than not...”

“Determined as DETERMINED?” Blue asked, “Red Soul?”

“yep.”

That made an awful lot of sense, seeing as the human would need as much to bend time itself. However, as distasteful as just allowing the human control was, there would not be an emotional bond to soften words or keep secrets. Stretch stopped a few paces in front of them and both skeletons looked up sharply to realize they were next to Stretch’s sentry post.

In the distance, there was a small figure making their way to them.

Papyrus and Blue stood frozen in place before the taller monster reached out to take Blue’s hand gently. He didn’t want to admit it, but the sheer amount of control this being had over them was terrifying. A small squeeze told him Blue felt the same and they watched Chara come into better view. Papyrus wasn’t very knowledgeable about human children, but they were small in stature, wearing green and yellow stripes. If their culture was the same, that meant the child had not reached puberty and were still young enough to need a guardian.

However, those crimson eyes held an expression in them that hinted at being older.

Their skin was pale and their face rosy. From cold or just their normal complexion, Papyrus wasn’t certain. Chara stared up at Papyrus, as if completely forgetting there were two other monsters present.

“You weren’t joking,” the human finally said, tone even and mature, “he really is you modeled after Sans.”

“we’re calling sans ‘blue’ to avoid confusion,” Stretch crunched down on the candy, “don’t ya know how to greet an old pal?”

“Right,” Chara replied, “hello, old pal. No whoopee cushions this time around, I’m afraid.”

Stretch sighed and took back his hand, “can’t blame a guy for trying…”

Chara snorted, “they know I killed you. Not an appropriate atmosphere for pranks.”

Blue let go of Papyrus’ hand and stopped shoulder-to-shoulder with his younger sibling, staring at the child with a pained expression, “How Can You Joke About THAT?! Why Did You Kill My Brother?! How Could You Kill ANYONE!”

The human child’s expression smoothed out into mild annoyance, “I was curious. If you are given a power to do things all over again with no consequences just to see how it goes, you want to try everything, isn’t that right? I did not know your brother remembered at first. Besides, consequences did come for me eventually… I am not killing anyone now and will not unless provoked. “

Chara looked back up at Papyrus, “this is new, however. I haven’t felt so excited for quite some time. Are you called something silly too, Other Papyrus?”

Papyrus finally managed to speak, his tone of voice flat so it wouldn’t shake, “I am called Papyrus and I am not here for your amusement.”

The child’s red eyes widened in shock and a delighted laugh erupted from their mouth, “wow! There’s a backbone on this one!”

“Chara… That is the name of the Royal Child in my world. The human I saw in the pictures must have been this world’s Royal Child then.” Papyrus was speaking just to fill the silence but Chara’s expression fell in response.

“Was the child named Frisk?”

It felt familiar.

“Maybe. I do not remember the resets.” Papyrus pointed out.

“Swapped, like you said- What is your nickname before it becomes annoying?” Chara questioned and Stretch sighed it out before they continued, “then your brother was the one to remember the resets, then.”

“He was.” Papyrus answered shortly. The crimson eyed child hummed before looking up at the snowfall, tilting their head back enough to look right up at the cavern of the mountain. Their amusement vanished and was replaced by apathy.

“While this is all very interesting, that still doesn’t change the fact that nothing is worth it. Perhaps there is something to hope for in your world…or maybe in another universe, it’s still a fact that this world is ‘closed’.” Chara sighed, bringing their listless gaze back down to look at the group of skeletons. Papyrus finally took a few steps forward to stand beside Stretch and Blue, drawn closer by this change in manner. Blue frowned and though it was clear he did not like what the human had done, he was still concerned by the words.

“What Does That Mean?” Blue questioned and Chara blinked at the smallest monster, clearly surprised that Blue could speak to them with anything other than dislike after what they had done to Stretch.

“chara…” Stretch cautioned, but the child began speaking as if they hadn’t heard the hoodie-clad skeleton speak at all.

“Whenever I tried to leave the Underground… No matter what I had done down here, there was always the same thing waiting for me,” Chara looked off to the side, gaze at a middle distance and thoughtful, “I thought there was a magic combination of actions to reach the ‘real end’ but save one time, there was nothing there.”

‘Nothing’?

“You could not get out?” Papyrus asked after they remained quiet and distracted.

“I got out,” they answered simply and returned their attention back to the monsters, “there was just nothing there. Like hitting the void of space. No sun, no sky, no nothing. I would always reset before it killed me. It felt like I was freezing to death and suffocating all at once…”

“And The One Time Something Was Different?”

Chara smiled with no joy, “it was the time after I killed every monster in the Underground for the first time. I traded my soul to the deceased child and we reset to escape that nightmare. We did not want to return to it after trying everything we could, so now we just live down here. A lifetime down here is better than a minute out there.”

There was…nothing Aboveground? That rang so many alarm bells that Papyrus had to digest the information for a few minutes. It did not feel like there was nothing there in his own world but he could be mistaken. But if there was no Surface, then what would monsters hope for? Blue’s cyan eye-lights searched the human’s expression before he spoke again.

“You Gave Your Soul Away..?” The small monster questioned and Chara sighed, glancing back up at the towering caverns.

“You would focus in on that, wouldn’t you? It’s still here, I just have an extra passenger!” Chara pointed to their chest, where their soul lay, “shouldn’t you worry about there being no Surface before the condition of my soul?”

Blue fell silent and frowned. Stretch reached up and popped his back, magic coloring both Blue and Papyrus’ faces at the overly casual gesture in front of a child, “welp, with papyrus here, we know there is something else to look for than just an escape beyond the barrier. not everything is hopeless when there is the possibility of countless universes we may be able to jump to.”

“Hope, huh? That is surprising, coming from you.” Chara retorted but appeared interested at the prospect, “you going to research that line of thought?”

“we gotta find papyrus’ brother and reunite them. if that makes it possible for a future for this world, it would be a bonus.” Stretch answered, as if either way didn’t matter to him. Blue finally looked away from the child to gaze up at Papyrus in question.

“Do You Think Other Monsters Traveled Like You Did?”

He actually hadn’t thought about it. Papyrus might have thought Sans disappearing was a fluke but then he too had jumped to another universe. Alphys had been warned and she might have already been looking into it. Maybe even came to the same conclusion.

“How did you get here, anyway?” Chara questioned and Papyrus shook his head.

“It was an accident.”

“Perhaps it was something wrong with your world and not the monsters,” Chara mused, “I cannot imagine resets in the long term being good for any world. I was done at just over one hundred. Since you can’t remember, it may have been a lot more.”

“interesting. the fabric of space-time may have just been worn thin, which is what happened to sans and then you.” Stretch looked at Papyrus, “were there any notes that your brother left in the basement?”

“If there was, I did not get to see them before coming here.” Papyrus responded with a frown. Even if they did not have any clues to where Sans went, it would have been full of information that would provide some closure of the rift between him and Sans. Stretch sighed and shrugged.

“well, we can’t get anymore info on papyrus’ world but we can make some educated guesses on how this phenomena may help us going forward,” Stretch turned a solemn gaze on Chara, “you gonna help us?”

Chara waved him off, “I am done with the whole hope thing. I would rather just hang out here with Dad. Besides, this whole world-jumping ability may be a ‘monster-thing’. Rather not help with something that might not benefit me.”

“wow, how selfless of you.” Stretch replied sarcastically.

“Hey, I did not climb Mt. Ebott for sass. Or a happy ending.” The child reminded before tilting their head, “I told Dad I would be right back but I would like a few minutes to talk to the other Papyrus alone.”

Blue and Stretch looked at Papyrus in clear concern of leaving him alone with the child.

“That is fine,” he replied, “I had a few questions for them too. I will be okay.”

Though the resulting footsteps signaled the sibling’s departure, Papyrus knew that they would not go far. Chara watched their retreat before lifting their red irises to stare up at him. They turned on their heel and approached the sentry station, digging around until they found a untouched lollipop. Sitting on the counter-top, Chara motioned for Papyrus with a crooked smile.

“You can come close, I will not bite.” Chara tilted their head, “though I can not promise the same for Frisk.”

Chapter Text

Papyrus was shocked by how easily this child was speaking of their possession. The soul was sacred to monsters and the mere thought of someone inhabiting it by force made him uncomfortable. Still, he closed the distance between them and leaned against the sentry station. They offered him a stolen candy but he declined much to their amusement.

“You are more different from ‘Stretch’ than I thought. His entire skull is his sweet tooth.” The child pocketed the candy for themselves later.

“And you speak rather fondly about a monster you murdered in cold blood.” Papyrus retorted and Chara’s eyes gleamed with amusement, “am I really so novel that you wanted to speak further?”

“Of course! That and you speak like you take no shit.” Chara elaborated. Such language was appalling and he said as much before the child nodded, “ah, there is the ‘Blue’ personality I was expecting. This journey has really taken it out of you if you changed so quickly.”

“I…” Papyrus floundered for words for a moment, “I simply am tired of secrets and dodging. That only hurt me in the long run. Finding Sans is all the matters.” Chara stared up at him in silence before something curious happened to their demeanor. Those red eyes lidded and fell completely closed, their smile smoothing out into neutrality.

“You love your brother.”

Chara’s tone of voice had also changed until it was a whisper, like the speaker wasn’t used to talking out loud. Papyrus realized that the children had switched and this was now Frisk. It was uncanny and Papyrus wasn’t sure what they wanted with him, so he answered even at the disturbing turn of events.

“I do. I love him more than anything else.”

Chara-turned-Frisk nodded solemnly in response, “I understand… I had a brother. A brother I loved more than anyone else, like you.” The tall skeleton was quiet before realizing they were speaking about Prince Asriel.

“It wasn’t an accident, you know?” Frisk continued, “me dying… I had died inside long before I climbed the mountain. The kindness the monsters showed me, the love that Asriel gave to me… I wanted to pay it back. I wanted to set them free.”

“You,” Papyrus was having difficulty finding the words, “you killed yourself?”

Frisk nodded with a black expression.

“We planned it out. I ate the buttercups that had made Mom sick... It was a violent death but I was reassured that Asriel would take my soul and save all the monsters.” Frisk shook their head, “but everything went wrong. Asriel was too soft-hearted to harm anyone. …I should have known this before pressuring him into the plan. But I went ahead with it despite how he felt.”

Papyrus didn’t know what to say, his emotions in one big tangle from the events of the past few hours. He had not imagined just how deep Sans’ suffering had been and had not remembered his brother’s decline because of the resets. Now he was learning a secret about the Royal Children from the mouth of the current Fallen Human. Though they were switched in his own universe…

“If you were in Chara’s shoes, what would you have done with the power to reset time?” Papyrus asked and Frisk tilted their head, appearing to give the question some deep thought. Though all this information felt like it was tearing at his soul, the tall skeleton would prefer to know compared to being ignorant. Every secret destroyed drew him closer to Sans, to understanding his sibling better and closing the gap between them in the only way he could.

Frisk finally began to speak.

“Putting the fact that the Surface is gone aside, I would reset as many times as it took to reach the perfect outcome. I would save everyone, even if everything else told me it was impossible. If it actually was impossible. That is my nature and the nature of Chara as well. They are more pragmatic than me, so they stopped despite my misgivings. They are content with how things are, but I would not stop.” The child explained and Papyrus frowned in response.

“Why keep going if you know you will fail?”

“That is all I know.”

That was such a solid answer that Papyrus did not know how to counter. To keep going despite everything was the essence of Determination and Frisk seemed to be the pure example of that trait.

“Would you also kill monsters?”

“I would if it meant the best outcome,” Frisk responded immediately, “gathering as much information as I could would be key to the success of my goal. If you are trying to discern how much my other self would be when dealing with your time-line, it would be the same. I would save everyone. I would kill everyone. As many times as it took. Even if I had to keep going forever, I would continue until my sanity eroded into nothing. Until the world broke.”

“Why do you not force Chara to do the same?” Papyrus asked in a strangled tone, trying to keep any negative emotions at bay. This was not the human that hurt his brother. This was not the human that hurt his brother. The monster would have to keep repeating it until his soul accepted it.

“Chara’s life has been rough. I sympathize with them. Though I took their soul, I still give them autonomy. If they become dissatisfied with the current events, I will support them and add my own Determination to their own. If they remain happy, I will allow them to continue as is. I refuse to force another being to do something against their will.”

Frisk was clearly referencing Prince Asriel and Papyrus had to admit that despite the dark reality of what the other Frisk had done in his own world, that the child’s morals were hard to argue against. Still, the skeleton had one more pressing question that he had to ask.

“If Chara had been the Royal Child and you the Fallen Human, would that change how you behaved? Would you have stopped if Chara had asked?”

More silence, Frisk’s expression set into neutrality as they thought it over.

“If our lives were switched…and things are indeed the same,” Frisk’s eyes opened, revealing the dark red irises, “Chara would never ask me to stop. We would lay waste to everyone and everything. Over and over. Without fail.”

Papyrus’ eye-lights shrank in fear, the need to flee rising in his soul. If this was a glimpse of the human in his own time-line, then the skeleton was fortunate he had escaped. He could only hope that where Sans had escaped to had a kinder human. Or no human at all, as that was possible. Frisk’s expression dropped and he realized Chara had returned.

“But that isn’t us, isn’t that right?” Chara grinned, “bet you’re happy about that, right?”

Papyrus nodded with a numb expression, still reeling over everything that had been revealed today. The child giggled and hopped up from the sentry station, spinning in the snow and sighing with a grin, “I am content with how things are, Papyrus. If your experiments say that I can go to another world, I will go. If not… Frisk and I have lived long enough.”

He wanted to be sad that a child could accept that but the tone of voice was one he couldn’t argue. It was the voice of someone who knew exactly what they wanted and wouldn’t take anyone else’s opinion into consideration.

“Well, I better get back to Dad. He’s probably worrying his little fuzzy head off about me taking so long. Still…” Chara’s expression softened as they looked at Papyrus, “don’t give up, okay? Find Sans, no matter what. Be determined.”

Papyrus nodded, “I will not give up.”

It was an unspoken promise and Chara beamed before turning to walk back the way they came without a goodbye. They didn’t need one, they were happy to accept whatever happened next. Papyrus watched them go until the snowfall obscured the child. Despite wanting to hate them, the skeleton could not muster it up. He could not even muster it up completely for the other human in his own world. What was the human saying for this situation? ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’? A child should never be given such an enormous ability.

No one should be given that power, ever.

Papyrus sighed and began to walk back to Snowdin. As he had suspected, the siblings had not traveled very far and were waiting for him at the next sentry station. Blue ran up to him and hugged him tight.

“ARE YOU OKAY? DID THEY HURT YOU? DID THEY UPSET YOU??”

Blue’s open concern brought a wave of bittersweetness and Papyrus placed a hand on the other’s skull, “I am okay. They did not hurt me. The conversation was upsetting but that is no surprise.”

Stretch stepped away from the curious bunny sentry, the woman who normally ran the Inn in his own universe and approached them, “did you want to take a shortcut? prying ears and all.” He and Blue turned towards Stretch and took his offered hands. The nearest time-tear was a minute’s walk away. The instant they stepped back through to the living room of the sibling’s house, Blue began to rummage in the kitchen. Stretch watched in bemusement and shrugged.

“blue stress cooks sometimes.” He explained to Papyrus and the skeleton nodded in understanding. Stress cleaning and cooking were how he coped with things as well, so that Blue also did the same thing only made perfect sense.

“I am still cross with you, Stretch. These secrets belonged to Blue as well.”

Stretch flopped onto the couch, messing up Papyrus’ folded blankets but he chose to ignore that, “i know. it’s just a pain to explain every reset. i thought i was protecting him. everyone really… by keeping it secret.”

Papyrus softened at Stretch’s posture and tone of voice. He sounded exhausted. It reminded him of Sans and the younger sibling had no doubt that the reason for his brother’s silence was to protect him too.

“I understand your motivation but it only hurts in the long run.” Papyrus replied and Stretch looked away from the television screen, which wasn’t powered on anyway. Orange eye-lights scrutinized him but only grew hazy in fondness the longer they stared at one another.

“no more secrets. i made a promise.” Stretch murmured.

“GOOD!”

Blue’s sudden entrance into their conversation made both taller monsters jump in surprise, “REPEAT YOUR PROMISE TO ME! NO LOOPHOLES! NO EXCUSES!”

Stretch blushed and mumbled incoherently.

“THOSE DID NOT SOUND LIKE WORDS!” Blue insisted.

“i promise no more secrets, bro.” Stretch finally managed and Blue placed his fisted hands on his hips.

“AGAIN!”

“no more secrets, blue.” Stretch was only blushing a deeper orange.

“ONE MORE TIME FOR POSTERITY!”

“i promise!”

“PERFECT! I AM MAKING BROWNIES AND POPCORN! WE ARE WATCHING NAPSTABOT. NO FALLING ASLEEP, STRETCH!” The smaller skeleton disappeared back into the kitchen and Stretch’s flustered expression gave way to adoration.

“he’s so cool.” The skeleton praised and Papyrus blushed, recalling how Sans would always say the same about him. It wasn’t the snacks and television time that Stretch was speaking about though. It was the way Blue handled the fallout of everything Stretch had revealed. There was no lingering resentment or an argument over things that could not be changed. They had been given the answers to their questions and had painful truths unearthed but it was forgiven. Blue still loved Stretch and Papyrus felt more at ease with his other self, the pressure of ‘not knowing’ coloring his actions.

Now was the time for relaxing and spending a pleasant day together. A reassurance that things had not changed, despite everything. So all three skeleton monsters watched a blue robot mix music the rest of the day, consuming way too much junk food but having no room to care. They were okay and everything would be alright in the end, somehow. Papyrus went to bed that night and slept without dreaming.

Chapter Text

The next day, Papyrus was woken up by pounding at the door. The ambient magic light was still dim and Blue had not woken up. He must have been close because his door flew open and the small skeleton dashed down the stairs to answer it. Alphys’ voice wiped the last remnants of sleep from Papyrus’ mind and he groggily stood to begin folding his blankets. He had slept heavily and actually felt rested. Perhaps due to yesterday’s revelations, though he would have thought nightmares would be more normal in this case.

“GOOD MORNING, ALPHYS!” Blue greeted and Papyrus glanced over to see Alphys bring him in for a bear hug, causing the small skeleton to squeak in an adorable manner. Papyrus blushed at his thoughts and returned to his first chore, neatly stacking the blankets as he finished with them.

“MORNING, BRAT!” Alphys crowed, “You just woke up, didn’t you?! ALMOST CAUGHT YOU SLEEPING!”

Alphys shared his universe’s Undyne’s manner of giving the skeleton noogies, it seemed. He walked over to the table that housed the pet rock to put on his red-rimmed glasses, drawing the lizard woman’s attention, “oh! Did I almost catch you too?!”

“Your observations are astute, Alphys,” Papyrus responded. She puffed her chest out in pride at his words and laughed boisterously.

“Of COURSE they are!” The Captain threw an arm around Blue’s shoulders and forcibly led to the kitchen, “let’s see the fruits of our training sessions!”

“YOU JUST WANT FREE BREAKFAST!” Blue scolded but did not fight her, the sounds of drawers being opened far too quickly and pots banging filling the house. Papyrus almost didn’t jump when Stretch stepped through the time-tear in the living room, appearing as if he hadn’t slept a wink.

“she’s already here?” The hoodie-clad skeleton yawned, blinking his eye sockets in an attempt to wake up further, “not that it’s shocking but…”

Stretch trailed off, his skull dropping to the side as his battle against sleep appeared to be too much. Papyrus gingerly took one of the other skeleton’s arms and slung it over his shoulder, jostling his other self to wake enough to shoot him a questioning gaze. They made the short journey to the green couch and Stretch sighed as he sat down, shooting Papyrus a thankful look.

“sorry. didn’t sleep well.”

“Nightmares?” Papyrus questioned and Stretch sighed, slumping into the pile of blankets with a nod. Yesterday had been rough on all of them. Papyrus pushed the pillows aside to take a seat beside Stretch, who ended up slouching into his side. The skeleton flushed orange at the sudden closeness and peeked down at the other monster’s face to find him already dead to the world. Sans had did this more times than he could count so Papyrus simply accepted his fate as a temporary pillow. He better understood the lure of sleep but Papyrus refused to fall back to sleep when the day was waiting to be had. The sudden sensation of being watched caused him to look up, discovering Alphys grinning wildly at them.

“Blue! Ya gotta see this!” She disappeared for a moment to reappear dragging the smaller skeleton, who beamed widely.

“CUTE!”

Papyrus felt like his face was on fire. Wait, why was he even embarrassed?

“i can still hear you.” Stretch grumbled, causing Papyrus to jolt. He had been awake?!

“If you are awake, do not use me as a pillow!” The tall skeleton scolded, looking away from their audience, “what are the plans for today?”

Stretch actually sat up straight again and groaned, “alphys is going to have breakfast with us. then all of us are going to head to Undyne’s Lab. catch them both up on everything and plan what we’ll do next.” This was a pleasant surprise. After yesterday’s long discussion, Papyrus had not expected them to progress forward for perhaps another week. Maybe talking to Chara had motivated Stretch enough that he wasn’t dragging his feet?

“I’ve been waiting to hear all the secrets!” Alphys spoke up from the kitchen, returning to prepare what smelled like tacos with Blue, “better not disappoint me!” Stretch didn’t look enthused about this and leaned back into the couch cushions, closing his sockets but clearly not going back to sleep. His own Undyne would have been just as curious. Papyrus had regularly complained about his older brother to her and she had looked like she would run to Snowdin to shake some sense into his sibling on a few occasions.

It only took ten minutes of rambunctious clashing in the kitchen for the tacos to be done. They appeared less palatable than usual but as always the intent made the odd texture and uneven cooking tolerable. Alphys took Papyrus’ usual place next to Blue doing the dishes. All of the skeletons winced when a dish shattered on the floor and Blue shooed the lizard monster out with a cross expression. The cleanup went slower but more safely after that. Stretch was too tired to ‘shortcut’ them all to the Labs, so they traveled to the north-most area of Snowdin to take the boat.

Papyrus blinked when the others loaded themselves into the boat without greeting the Riverperson. In fact, there was no singing or a single word exchanged. Their travels were swift and before he knew it, they were already in the stifling heat of Hot Land. Papyrus stepped out of the boat and turned to watch it leave. Only when it was out of sight did he realize that perhaps the Riverperson had been swapped with someone else. Someone who maybe didn’t enjoy speaking? He jolted at an impatient shout coming from ahead and hurried to catch up with the other monsters.

The door was already open with Undyne motioning for everyone to come on in, blushing as Alphys grinned up at her. Papyrus smiled at them, reminded of his best friend’s crush. The same was true here and that was oddly comforting. Undyne had already cleared a spot for all of them to sit, tea prepared as everyone settled in.

“W-Well, uh, is everyone having a good morning??” Undyne questioned in a higher pitch than usual, “n-not that you, um, aren’t entitled to having a b-bad morning! From y-yesterday?!”

It was clear that Alphys’ presence keyed her up more than usual and Blue smiled kindly at the scientist, “IT IS A GOOD MORNING! YESTERDAY WAS DIFFICULT BUT WE ARE READY TO CATCH BOTH OF YOU UP!”

Instead of Stretch being the one to share the secrets for a second time, Blue launched into an explanation with only a few times that he asked if it was accurate of his younger brother. He shared that Stretch had been living in a time loop that only he could remember. That there had been an accident at the Core that had changed everything, including memories. When Blue brought up that there was a human in the Ruins, Alphys sat up with a fierce expression.

“WHAT?!” She glared at Stretch, “you kept this from the Guard?! Do you realize we only need one more soul!?” She demanded and when Stretch’s orange-eye-lights lifted to bore into her own gaze, she fell quiet at the younger skeleton’s demeanor.

“even if you killed them, you would not get their soul. don’t you think we haven’t tried that?”

Alphys deflated in response.

“Well, yeah… That would be one of the things I would try first!” She insisted.

“you managed to kill them quite a few times. but they killed us more times than that, all of us. it’ll be in our best interested to leave chara alone. i don’t want to break our truce, especially since i don’t know what will happen to papyrus in that case.”

Alphys grumbled her understanding but it was very clear she was NOT happy with that. Even though Papyrus was appalled at the thought of murder on either side, he could not fault the reptilian Captain for doing her duty when so much was at stake. His Undyne would do the same. Even though Sans and his best friend did a lot to shield him, it would take someone both deaf and blind to miss exactly what was keeping them Underground. Papyrus had never acknowledged that truth more for their benefit than his own. Plus, what would be the point of dwelling on it?

That wasn’t healthy for a monster.

“P-Please continue, Blue!” The Royal Scientist prompted with a nervous smile, her fins perking in interest. Blue returned to the subject at hand. While it may just be him sparing Stretch for repeating himself, the small skeleton was really good in condensing the whole ordeal into something better grasped. However, Papyrus was aware that Blue left one huge point out when he had finished.

The fact that Chara said there was no Surface.

While it caused an unpleasant pang in his soul, Papyrus knew that it would be devastating to hear. If there was nothing there, what had they been struggling for? What was the point of the human souls? Why had their Queen taken so many lives if there was nothing waiting for them above?

Secrets were a thing Papyrus hated and he would be an accomplice if he didn’t speak up now. Despite that, the skeleton couldn’t bring himself to deal such a devastating blow. Monsters were delicate. What if sharing caused a loss of Hope? Information like this would caused others to Fall Down. He wanted to limit the damage and felt like such a hypocrite in the process.

It was easy to understand why his brother would lie when in this position. That didn’t mean Papyrus liked it but he could finally understand. Stretch finally eased up out of his slouch in the bean bag, attention on Undyne.

“do you still have the material on multi-verse theory, ‘dyne?”

The aquatic woman perked up, “y-yes! There were a lot of resources and models already drawn up in the True Lab! I can gather them together, if you want?”

Stretch nodded, though something flashed across his orange eye-lights at her words. It was easy to figure out that Undyne hadn’t meant to reveal something when the Captain sat up, gaze unwavering.

“True Lab?”

Undyne pressed her lips together and flinched, fins drooping in response, “I…I…”

“it’ll be okay, undyne. you can show her.” Stretch insisted in a very gentle tone, as it appeared like she would burst into tears at any moment. Undyne shook her head repeatedly, blinking back tears before standing and motioning for Alphys to follow her. The shorter Captain was clearly distressed at how upset Undyne was, but disappeared with her in the room that was labeled as the bathroom for some reason.

“SHOULD WE WAIT?” Blue questioned with a concerned expression.

“actually, if you and paps could head home and enjoy the rest of the day together, that would be appreciated. i want to take to undyne some more.” Stretch took one look at their faces before sighing, “no secrets, i know. it’s more of the fact that we’ll be covering possible plans and go over data. this will go faster if it is just me and her.”

The unspoken addition that Stretch wanted to be with her while she was upset didn’t need to be said. Blue gave in quickly and shot up, taking Papyrus by the hand with a soft smile, “WE WILL LEAVE THE NERDS TO THEIR WORK! KEEP US UPDATED THOUGH, YES?”

Stretch grinned, “of course, bro. thanks. both of you.”

Blue and Papyrus left the hoodie-clad skeleton where he sat and he waited until the sound of the elevator chimed nearly an hour later. Relief washed through his soul at seeing Alphys holding Undyne’s hand, murmuring reassurances as the taller woman wiped away a tear. While he had been confident the Captain would not hurt his best friend, it was another thing to see it in reality. Alphys set off to meet with the Queen after Undyne calmed down, leaving them alone in the Lab.

Chapter Text

Stretch gingerly patted Undyne’s red hair, the Royal Scientist leaning on his shoulder after her ordeal with Alphys. She had always been terrified to share her dark secret, especially letting Alphys know due to her crush on the other monster. He remembered that most resets resulted in a success with their relationship, but there had been a rare few times that the Captain was ordered to arrest Undyne. Despite it being the Queen that had ordered any experiments that may result in a benefit to their kind in a war against the humans. Still, Stretch was relieved that they had come through on this time-line where it appeared to matter.

“I-I was so scared she would hate me!”

That had been the fifth time Undyne had said as much, circling back to the main reason for her terror. The skeleton allowed her to get it all out, holding her in a half-hug as her sobs sped up again. Stretch could not blame her. The fate of the monsters in the Determination Experiment was one of the worst things monster-kind had done in recorded history. Undyne had good intentions, but intentions didn’t matter in some cases. The road to Hell was paved with them, after all.

“it’s okay, ‘dyne. she doesn’t hate you. she would never.” Stretch reassured once more.

Undyne hiccuped and finally pulled away to look up into his face, “t-thank you for sticking with me… I am guessing you want to get the research material.”

“yeah, we’ll have to look at everything.”

“W-We?” She questioned hesitantly.

“yeah, of course.” Stretch insisted, “just because you messed up in the past doesn’t mean you aren’t brilliant. i can’t do this on my own.”

“Are you sure?” The Royal Scientist questioned with an unsure expression.

“wouldn't have it any other way.”

She smiled wide through her lingering tears and wiped them away, standing up and leading the way to True Lab. While it was a bit of a pain, it wouldn’t do to remain down here so they would have to carry everything up. Stretch was more aware and could thankfully shortcut multiple times. It just wasn’t…a good atmosphere to study in, especially with Undyne revealing her secret today.

It wasn’t long before they are seated back upstairs, papers and files covering every inch of space around them. Stretch began to sort the papers by date and subject. Some of the writing was unreadable, or at least, Stretch would pretend he couldn’t read it while taking them back to his basement. Those were done by their father. A lot of the papers had Sans’ handwriting scrawled across them. Some must have been Alphys but he wasn’t sure what her handwriting looked like.

Stretch could not remember the Core Incident.

From what he now knew, it was partly because he was young and mostly because their world had diverged from being similar to Papyrus’. Hmmm… In fact, while he was here, it would make sense to speculate with his best friend.

“is it correct to assume all universes were born from one?”

Undyne looked up at him curiously.

“I-If we are going by Big Bang Theory, every world was born simultaneously. Though the universes would continue to grow from there, perhaps infinitely. Of course, in a branching manner like a tree, every decision made within them causing them to grow.” She replied but then sat back, “though with the catalyst included, it may be safe to assume that some universes were born exactly at the same time and then others later…”

“the catalyst was monster-made, so it could defy any standing theory.” Stretch mused with a shake of his head. With both of them sorting the papers by date, the chaos became more controlled. They were mostly quiet. Only speaking to confirm a few subjects and getting up multiple times to cook Instant Noodles. The hours dragged by with both monsters focused on their task. It was long into the evening before all of the research was consumed. Undyne and Stretch were now bent over the old blueprints for the machine in the brother’s ‘secret’ basement.

Time travel had been in the original intent of the device, after all.

“From what I gather,” Undyne pointed to a few key components of the Time Machine, “many of the parts were burned up when it failed. Scouring the Dump will turn up some of what we need but it’s old enough that we may have to use the more current technology that has washed down.”

A troubled expression flashed across her face, “though, the things that fall down have slowed down an alarming rate. Humans must have discovered another disposal method.” Stretch hummed noncommittally, unable to tell her that things were slowing down because the Surface was gone. It was a miracle anything was still washing down but monsters had already guessed there was a magical element to how it must work. Trash didn’t just fall into a mountain like that naturally.

“We need to focus on repairing the machinations before anything else,” Undyne sat back with a smile, “though it would probably be in our best interest to add more features. I can change these models into digital information. We’ll feed what we know inside and perhaps by using Papyrus’ magical signature… We may be able to locate his own world!”

Stretch beamed at her, “nice call, undyne. if we can get our own universe as a baseline and then add papyrus’. we may be able to sense others once we find out how the two interact.”

“So it’s a plan?” The Royal Scientist questioned excitedly.

“it’s a plan.” He confirmed.

“Please tell me you’ll help with searching the Dump,” Undyne complained and he shrugged in response. She groaned but the skeleton would not let her do all of the work. He would sneak in whatever he found to play a prank on her or something. Undyne laid aside her notes to smile at him in a manner that caused him to sigh. She wanted to drop the science jargon and gossip.

“So how have you been holding up?” She sat her chin in one hand as she gazed over her glasses at him, “it must be strange to have another you around?”

“i won’t lie. it was uncanny and weird at first. but papyrus is more like blue. even with that, he is totally his own person.” He replied, “there are similarities in some of our core traits but other than his appearance, he is not me.”

“How is Blue taking it?”

Resigning himself to this conversation, Stretch got comfortable in the bean bag, “blue is excited that he has a friend that relates to him. Papyrus has been helping him around the house and they are cooking together.”

Undyne hummed before her gold eyes lit up, “have you confessed to blue, yet?”

Dark orange colored Stretch’s skull as the conversation took a familiar turn, “undyne… you know i haven’t.”

“Well, you now have competition so…” She trailed off as the skeleton shot her an incredulous look.

“competition? i think you’re being ridiculous.” Stretch fell quiet and shook his head. Papyrus being competition…what nonsense. Still… The subject of Papyrus’ brother was a sensitive subject. He and Blue had largely stayed away from it to avoid upsetting their new house-mate. Still, did Papyrus love Sans? In a romantic way? From what Stretch had observed, the answer to that question was ambiguous. Papyrus clearly loved his older brother but he could not tell if it was the same.

…Had Sans loved Papyrus like he loved Blue?

The taboo of dating within the family was purely a human issue in his universe. It wasn’t common but they didn’t have the same problem with it that humans did. They were made out of magic and a bit of dust that couldn’t be warped the same way physical matter could. Of course, if their offspring were harmed by two family members reproducing, the taboo would be both human and monster-wide. Stretch hadn’t confessed because of the time-loop. He had wanted to be sure that Chara couldn’t destroy anything he started with Sans.

Still, it had been a year…

“You’re thinking pretty hard there, buddy,” Undyne teased with a laugh and Stretch shook his head ruefully at her words. Stretch’s crush on Blue had been lifelong and had taken some time for the skeleton to accept fully. Mostly it was feelings of inadequacy or that Blue could do better that held him back. With Papyrus now involved, it felt kinda strange to see them together. He wasn’t jealous, not at all. There just had been a new emotion that he couldn’t identify added to the mixed.

“it’s complicated,” he finally said but that did not deter his friend.

“Of course it’s complicated. It’s emotions. Still, I was joking about Papyrus being after your bro. He’s too sweet to do something like that. But you should also know that Blue is too kindhearted to not reciprocate your feelings. I got a feeling about it! Just like you had a ‘gut feeling’ about me and Alphys. You should tell him!”

Stretch wanted to confess, he really did. But there always seemed to be a good reason not to standing in his way. More than a week ago, it was the possibility of Chara becoming bored and returning to the loop. Today it was that Papyrus needed their help. The skeleton knew that it would remain that way until they found a way to reunite the other brothers.

“maybe.”

But both he and Undyne knew that was unlikely. Why face possible rejection when he could take the safer route? Even though their conversation moved back to the Time Machine, Stretch’s thoughts would circle back to that ‘maybe’. That possibility. What would happen if he spoke up? What would Blue do and say? What would Papyrus think? It was harder to push the subject aside as usual, so it remained always at the back of his mind. When he and Undyne called it a night, Stretch went to Muffet’s for some honey and a quiet atmosphere.

He couldn’t shrug the subject.

When it was late, Stretch returned home to find the television on but muted. Both Blue and Papyrus were asleep on the couch, their limbs slightly tangled up. They must have attempted to stay up for him. He paused, simply taking in the sight and trying to read his own emotions. He wasn’t jealous. He didn’t view Papyrus as a potential competitor for Blue. But seeing them laying there together caused his soul to hum with…something. Something that felt soft and fond. He smiled and carefully untangled Blue, picking up his smaller brother. As he turned, his hand was caught.

“You are home…”

Papyrus’ voice was groggy and when he turned around, those white eye-lights were hazy in the dim room, “we were worried.”

“everything’s okay.” Stretch murmured and Papyrus released his hand with a soft hum. The skeleton was already asleep before Stretch took the first step towards their rooms. Putting Blue to bed was an increasingly common occurrence. It was usually the other way around, with Blue practically dragging him in the right direction. The hoodie-clad monster tucked his older sibling into his bed, lingering to touch that sleeping face. Blue looked peaceful and Stretch pulled himself away.

Complicated indeed.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Papyrus got up far earlier than either skeleton brother and decided to get a head-start on making breakfast. The dish that he and Blue could reliably make and be well-received was oatmeal. Rummaging in the cabinets revealed that Blue had noticed it as well, a total of three different flavors within. He got everything out and began the simple task.

As he waited for the oatmeal to cook, his thoughts returned to their meeting in the lab. It didn’t sit well that Papyrus couldn’t share all of their information. Secrets kept had only seemed to hurt and the monster didn’t want to start that cycle.

This inevitably lead his thoughts back to Sans.

His soul ached whenever he thought of his older sibling. Papyrus knew that Sans had been keeping secrets but the sheer depth of them was still hard to accept. The longer he spent here the more he seemed to remember. Everything was still a tangled and blurred mess in one large portion of his memory but Papyrus was remembering.

It was just happening slowly.

“gold for your thoughts?”

Papyrus startled as an arm reached past him and switched off the heat, the oatmeal a bit singed from his thoughts slipping. He turned to watch Stretch take a seat at the table, the other skeleton shelling a lollipop to stick it behind his teeth. Refocusing on the question at hand and not how flustered he felt; Papyrus began to dish out the oatmeal into bowls.

“I was thinking about Sans.” He murmured, the sleepy expression sobering as Stretch’s gaze sharpened and trained on his face, “the more that I think of it, the more that I realize he must have been trapped for a long time…”

Stretch was quiet for a moment before responding, “you mean the time-scar?”

“It’s not only just that.” Papyrus sat the bowls at the correct places, getting out a bottle of honey and sitting it down in front of Stretch. His alternate self stared at it thoughtfully before returning his gaze as he sat across from the hoodie-clad monster, “I had always had the confusing notion that Sans had not smiled or laughed in what felt like both forever and a day. My childhood is one vague knot. I had thought it was normal but I am beginning to realize just how much I lost.”

Stretch’s gaze softened and stared at a middle distance as he lost himself in deep thought. Papyrus waited as the other skeleton processed his words, crunching the candy to finish it off and replacing it with honey. The need to scold Stretch was there but Papyrus decided against it when it was clear his concerns were being thought of.

“blue has never talked about it but i am guessing since both of you have gotten certain details, you will regain those memories. i’m not sure if it will happen within a year or a lifetime, but they seem to be coming back,” he sighed and shook his head, “if you think about it, it is normal. normal for the underground, at least.”

That was only slightly comforting. Their entire race had collective amnesia. Hopefully it would not cause too much grief in the long run.

“I know your experiences are different but...could you give me some insight?”

Stretch nodded with a soft expression.

“Did Sans give up on me? I know he was trying to protect me but I cannot help but think I could have somehow helped him.”

“papyrus…”

He looked up to see the other skeleton staring at him with an expression he could not decipher before continuing, “did your bro have 1 hp?”

The nod he offered caused Stretch to smile in a bittersweet manner, “you were the only one he didn’t give up on. think about it. monsters have a higher hp the happier they are. you were the one thing he refused to let go of.”

Orange tears sprung up unbidden and Papyrus let out a strangled laugh, shaking his head. The deepest part of his soul panged with both agony and joy. Why did that not shock him? There had always been a deep-rooted fear that his older sibling found him a burden or was sticking around out of obligation.

Papyrus should have known.

Why had he never realized?

It had taken traveling to another universe and his brother’s swapped version telling the truth, blunt and direct. Like a bandage being ripped from a wound that wouldn’t heal, the memories of Sans sticking by Papyrus to no one’s benefit but his own became more clear.

Still in stripes himself and fresh from the Core incident, Sans had taken him to Snowdin. Had enrolled him in monster school. He had learned how to be a parent far too young and had done it all with a genuine soul. Not regretting his lost childhood. Not blaming Papyrus for a single thing.

It must have been Sans’ happiest years.

Before a human came and began to manipulate time, using his older brother and every single monster as a plaything.

“ARE YOU OKAY, PAPYRUS?!”

Blue’s concerned tone snapped him from his thoughts and Papyrus blinked the fresh tears away. The smaller skeleton appeared to have just woken up, standing in the threshold separating the kitchen and living room, clearly confused on what he had walked in on. In fact, the reality that Stretch and Papyrus were awake and already having breakfast must have thrown the smallest skeleton.

“It is okay, Blue. I asked Stretch a question and remembered some things is all.” Papyrus focused on his breakfast and began to eat while both siblings stared at him. A moment passed before Blue took his seat at the table and joined them.

Another moment went by before the tense silence was broken.

“THANK YOU FOR BREAKFAST, PAPY!” Blue’s grin met him as he looked up, “I SUPPOSE I NEEDED A BIT MORE REST FROM ALL OF THE EXCITING EVENTS AS OF LATE.”

Stretch chuckled, “i’ll need to sleep for a month after all of this.”

Blue’s cheeks puffed out in response, “YOU WILL NOT!”

Their banter smashed any awkwardness that lingered and Papyrus’ smile became wider. It was familiar and comforting, something he could enjoy.

“DID YOU FIX THIS YOURSELF THIS MORNING?’ The smaller skeleton asked, “I APOLOGIZE I COULD NOT BE UP IN TIME TO AID YOU!”

“I did, but do not fret! I enjoyed fixing breakfast for you both.” He replied with warmth radiating in his rib cage, “you have been shouldering most of the cooking duties and I like to give back.”

Stretch’s grin grew wider at his words, “better you two than me, i’d possibly blow the kitchen up. though blue-”

“DO NOT START, BROTHER! IT WAS ONLY THE ONE TIME AND ALPHYS WAS HERE!” Waving his hands frantically, Blue seemed to try to hide behind his bowl. It failed to protect him from his younger sibling.

“You set your kitchen on fire too?” Papyrus asked in a manner that seemed to give such words an excuse.
Stretch choked on a swig of his honey as Blue flushed with a smile, “I MIGHT HAVE! BUT ONLY IF YOU HAVE TOO!”

The hoodie-clad monster grumbled as he calmed down, “gonna keep you both outta the kitchen…”

“WHAT WAS THAT, BROTHER?” Blue smiled sweetly, “YOU WANT TO TAKE OVER COOKING AND CLEANING THE KITCHEN?”

“i didn’t…”

“THAT IS SO AMAZING TO OFFER!” The sweetness turned into deviousness, “BUT I WILL HAVE TO DECLINE. YOU ARE HOPELESS WITH CHORES.”

Papyrus began laughing and that cheered both siblings, Blue turning more attention to him, “THOUGH, I HAVE BEEN CURIOUS ABOUT SOME THINGS. IS IT OKAY IF WE PLAY THE QUESTION GAME?”

‘Question game?’

“What is that?” He asked with a slightly confused expression.

“WELL, IT IS WHEN YOU GET TO ASK QUESTIONS AND THE PERSON MUST ANSWER TRUTHFULLY. SORT OF LIKE ‘TWENTY QUESTIONS’ BUT PUTTING A LIMIT TO THEM IS SILLY. STRETCH NEVER PLAYED WITH ME-”

“i’ll participate.”

Both Papyrus and Blue turned widened sockets on the hoodie-cad monster, causing him to shift in his seat and speak up louder, “i’ll ask a few and answer a few. when i don’t feel like it anymore, i’ll back out.”

Blue brightened, “OKAY, BROTHER! THANK YOU!”

The bowls and utensils were pushed aside for their ‘game’. Blue took the lead and mulled over his first question.

“WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?”

Stretch chuckled, “really? That’s your burning question?” His older sibling shot him a displeased look before shifting in his seat.

“IT IS POLITE TO START OUT WITH EASY QUESTIONS!” He insisted, plucking at his blue gloves and giving away his anxiety.

“It is blue!” Papyrus answered immediately. Specifically, it was the color of Sans’ soul. It was a memory he could barely remember as souls were very private. In the innocence of their childhood, they used to bathe together at what had to be the home they shared with Gaster. The impression of it was vague and no other details about it stood out. Sans’ soul had been cyan and sparkling, the hue that gave away the owner’s main trait of Patience.

“aw, you took my answer.” Stretch complained.

“YOU TOO?” Blue asked but didn’t seem too shocked, “I THOUGHT THAT MAYBE YOU WOULD LIKE ORANGE! YOU WEAR THAT HOODIE EVERYDAY!”

“i can’t pull blue off, blue.” Stretch teased and the smaller skeleton huffed.

“What about your favorite?” Papyrus questioned and Blue grew quiet for a moment before adverting his starry eye-lights.

“I ACTUALLY LIKE ORANGE VERY MUCH! BRAVE SOULS ARE AMAZING AND I ENVY THEM!”

Papyrus blinked at how the other monster worded that answer. Were...their reasoning for those answers the same? Stretch shook his head with a slight smile, “i hear ya, bro. being brave is super cool.”

Blue glanced up at Papyrus, his next question sounding shy, “ARE… WHAT IS YOUR SOUL TRAIT?” Stretch sat up straighter with a surprised look painted across his skull. Moving from ‘favorite color’ to ‘soul trait’ was quite a leap in their culture. While it wasn’t exactly taboo, it was not casually discussed, even among friends. It probably matched up a human asking another human ‘who was your first kiss’? At least in terms of how it was received.

“I-I have a Brave soul!” To Papyrus’ credit, he hardly stuttered. Stretch decided to hop onto the train while still able.

‘I have a brave soul too.”

He held a hand up and Papyrus high-fived him with a brightened grin, “TWO BRAVE SOULS?! I AM OUTNUMBERED!” Blue flushed with magic and answered the question on his own without prompt, “I AM PATIENT, MY TRAIT IS! IT MIGHT NOT SEEM LIKE IT BUT I ENJOY THE LONG GAME!”

Just like Sans.

It was a bit shocking that Stretch was Brave. He had not known his other self for long but acts of bravery didn’t come to mind when looking at him. Then again… Papyrus hesitated with his own question.

If Stretch were the Judge…

That would be a secret from Blue, would it not?

A game of questions did not seem appropriate to risk that sort of thing. He was certain he could catch Stretch alone and ask if he had shared that with his brother. So Papyrus moved onto the next best thing.

“What is your most embarrassing memory?” He questioned with a slight smirk and both siblings sputtered in response to his direct tactic. All in all, none of the following questions asked were any worse than that. Hobbies, certain memories and their preferences were shared. It was well into the afternoon, nearing lunch that their game broke up to allow for lunch. Their shared day off was lighthearted, as if to balance out yesterday’s hard truths.

Later that night, Papyrus woke up with a jerk; the sensation that he had been dreaming about something important slipping through his phalanges and it was simply gone. White eye-lights scanned the dark for any clue or noise that may have jerked him awake, but nothing was there. He sighed and got comfortable again, falling asleep after struggling with it for a good hour.

He did not dream again that night.

Chapter Text

Breakfast had already been placed on the table the next morning, as if Blue was proving a point from yesterday. The short skeleton grinned up at Papyrus as he fixed the red-rimmed glasses on his skull more properly, still shaking the last traces of grogginess away. The pancakes sitting on the table were the best results that Papyrus had seen so far and he said as much to Blue.

“YOU REALLY THINK SO?” Blue questioned with a soft flush, “I HAVE BEEN REEVALUATING HOW I COOK AND COMPARING IT TO ALPHYS. HER COOKING STYLE IS SIMPLY...TOO VIOLENT FOR MY TASTES!”

That was a polite way of saying he didn’t agree with what he was being taught. Though it was also safe to say that if Papyrus was going to break away from Undyne’s cooking lessons, his wording would be similar if not exact. Blue and himself were gentle skeletons, after all. He took a bite and hummed in surprise.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK?” Blue questioned, concern coloring his expression and posture.

“It is done inside, evenly the same soft texture. I believe that is how these are meant to be cooked.” Papyrus complimented and Blue beamed at him.

His soul flipped in an odd fashion and Papyrus placed a hand over his chest, internally confused at the reaction. Of course he would be happy for Blue’s successes, but that didn’t exactly feel like happiness.

“I MADE SURE TO MIX EVERYTHING UNTIL SMOOTH! THEN I STARTED WITH A VERY LOW HEAT,” the skeleton went over to look at the washed out box, “SHOULD I WRITE THIS ON THE BOX AS THE PROPER WAY TO COOK IT?”

“How about you buy a book and write them down in there, Blue?” Papyrus suggested, “if you write it on the box, it will get thrown away.”

An overjoyed expression took over Blue’s face and his starry pupils shone just a bit brighter. Stretch blipped into existence next to his counterpart and blinked his hazy sockets down at his plate with shock. Only a few of the pancakes had gotten slightly burned, the rest were uniformly browned.

“DID YOU WANT TO GO TO THE SHOP WITH ME, PAPYRUS?”

Stretch looked up, his fork gathering his first bite, “what’re going to the shop for, blue?”

“PAPYRUS SUGGESTED MAKING A COOKING BOOK WITH THE RIGHT METHODS WRITTEN INSIDE. ONLY YOU ARE SCHEDULED FOR SENTRY DUTY TODAY, SO TRYING A FEW THINGS AND ADDING THIS ON SEEMED LIKE A DAY WELL SPENT.”

Stretch chewed his bite of pancakes, orange eye-lights brightening at the taste. Blue bounced in place as Stretch actually poured some honey on the stack. An appropriate amount, not to drown out the burned parts.

“I do not mind doing that,” Papyrus spoke up. He preferred to spend time with the siblings. If he was left alone for too long, his thoughts became rather dismal. While exploring had crossed his mind, Papyrus just couldn’t bring himself to do so. This strange swapped world only made him long for his own universe, thus bringing on those same undesired thoughts.

“this is amazing, bro,” Stretch examined his older brother quietly, “did you ask alphys for the day off? won’t she think you’re slacking?”

Blue shook his head vigorously, sitting down to eat his own breakfast, “I WILL MAKE UP FOR IT NEXT WEEK. I DO NOT SLACK.”

Stretch considered the answer and then shrugged, “it’s not like i’ll work harder. your shoes are just too large to fill.”

“MY SHOES ARE SMALLER THAN YOURS!” Blue shot back with a soft smile, watching Stretch’s reaction fondly, “AT LEAST MAKE AN ATTEMPT!”

“yeah...yeah…” The hoodie-clad monster hummed, finishing off all of his pancakes to Blue’s clear delight.

“DID YOU WANT TO TAKE THE EXTRAS FOR LUNCH?”

Stretch nodded with a lazy smile and dozed slightly as Blue got a lunch packed for him. Papyrus watched with some amusement as the small skeleton practically pushed the taller skeleton out the door, Stretch leaning back into Blue much to the elder brother’s exasperation. Once the door shut, Blue returned to the kitchen table while shaking his head.

“I SWEAR THAT LAZYBONES IS GOING TO BE THE DEATH OF ME!” Blue exhaled and looked up at Papyrus when he began to speak.

“Are you certain I am not imposing? I do not want to affect your work ethic…” He worried but Blue waved him off.

“DO NOT WORRY, PAPYRUS! I AM SIMPLY KEEPING YOU COMPANY AS UNDYNE IS WORKING ON A SOLUTION.” Blue replied, taking the other skeleton’s dirty dishes when he was finished. They completed the rest of the cleaning together, going further than just the kitchen this time. The entire house was attended to except for Stretch’s room. At Papyrus’ questioning look, Blue sighed and shook his head in response.

“I WILL NAG MY BROTHER UNTIL HE CLEANS IT. HE GETS TO IT EVENTUALLY…” He mused and then appeared curious, “DID YOU EVER FIND A GOOD WAY TO MAKE LAZY BROTHERS DO AS THEY ARE TOLD?”

The hope was crushed with a rueful shake of his head, “Sans would not let it get too bad. But he got back in other ways.”

He glanced at the spot next to the television, “like bringing one sock and placing it in public zones.”

Blue made a face, “EW, REALLY?”

Papyrus nodded.

“IT BEING JUST ONE SOCK SOMEHOW MAKES IT WORSE!”

Papyrus laughed, “it is good someone understands! I am sure Sans realized exactly what he was doing. It was infuriating! ...But it made me love him more, somehow. I was always the good, upstanding brother. He simply had to pick up the role to make up for it.”

“...WERE YOU EVER TRULY ANGRY WITH HIM?” Blue asked with a soft, faraway expression. Papyrus glanced down at the smaller monster and hummed in consideration.

“...Not truly.”

“GOOD. I AM GLAD.” Blue murmured before shooting Papyrus a hesitant look, “IS IT OKAY IF WE GO TO THE SHOP AND THEN MAYBE HANG AROUND?”

Papyrus blinked and then nodded. Blue took his hand and led him out into the light snowfall. He only noticed something was odd after their visit to the Shop, the sight of Doggo still shocking to behold. They purchased a simple notebook and a few colorful pens. Nothing strange but the feeling that something may be off about the elder brother wouldn’t leave him. When their trek back to Snowdin became a journey into Waterfall, Papyrus broke the lingering silence.

“Blue? Is everything okay?”

There was not an immediate answer.

Concerned, he glanced down at the skeleton leading him by the hand, “Blue?”

“DO NOT WORRY ABOUT ME, PAPY. I SIMPLY WANT TO TRAVEL TO THE WISHING ROOM. I DO HAVE SOMETHING I WISH TO SPEAK ABOUT. SOMETHING PRIVATE.”

Papyrus blinked, his soul thudding nervously. Blue’s voice was nearly dropping into that softer tone he only used when being careful with him. He nodded when Blue glanced up for his answer. The silence became charged but both monsters were patient. The taller skeleton was glad Blue set a destination, otherwise he would be fidgeting with his gloves in a clear sign of anxiety.

When they reached the Wishing Room, Papyrus noted that the stones here were more numerous than at home. Any Echo Flowers had been left far behind them and Blue finally stopped, sitting down in the glowing grass. Papyrus followed his example, sitting the bag safely by their resting place.

The tense silence slowly changed into something else Papyrus couldn’t decipher and it was another long minute before Blue spoke in that soft voice.

“I Did Not Want Stretch To Hear Us,” the smaller monster confessed, “In Truth… I Have Broken A Promise We Made A Long Time Ago.”

What…? Those words felt like someone had squeezed his soul. Blue didn’t seem to be the type of monster to break his word. Papyrus wasn’t sure if that was because of his personality or because he looked similar to Sans.

But that wasn’t fair of him to judge. It was just his first reaction, Papyrus was sure Blue would not break a promise without good reason.

“In Fact, It is Sort Of Dangerous. Please Speak Softly Here.” Blue’s eye-lights were not only their natural shape, they were white. Upon seeing the other monster this way, the taller skeleton could only nod his head. The rest of him was too stunned. Why could he not find his voice?

“My Brother Is Not The Only One With Secrets.” Blue revealed, “Do You Understand, Papy?”

After letting that sink it, Papyrus nodded mutely, sockets wide and attentive.

“He Assumed I Forgot. When The World Broke Apart. When The Universe Realigned Itself. Everyone Changed Suddenly,” Blue looked up, meeting Papyrus’ rapt gaze, “i chose to change.”

A beat of confusion passed before the roar of the Waterfall was all he could hear. Because he could not understand at first, just what he had realized before it struck him like electricity.

Blue was speaking in lowercase.

Papyrus felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“do you understand?” Blue murmured, eye-lights staring directly into his own. It was hard to find his voice, but when he did…. The taller skeleton whispered, like if someone overheard their conversation they would be in danger.

“I… I do not.”

Blue’s white eye-lights softened into compassion, “it is alright, papyrus. i will explain but please do not interrupt. this is already enough of a risk.”

He nodded wordlessly and Blue continued to speak in that voice that made Papyrus’ soul ache because it sounded so, so much like-....

“this world used to be like yours. i worked in the lab as a child and stretch had barely started in monster school. a security check failed during an active test of the capabilities of the core. i sabotaged the test and the core’s energy began to tear the underground apart. That man though… the one who we cannot speak of. He survived using the machine in the basement but it created a paradox.”

Papyrus wasn’t the most well-versed in science but he had paid enough attention to what his brother read to know about the universes and what a paradox was.

“the swap was what saved us. what allowed this world to continue without destroying itself. my brother and i were saved from the effect due to our proximity to the epicenter. ...it began as a game. we were playing pretend. i would be the overbearing older brother and he would be the lazy younger brother.”

Papyrus couldn’t find his voice.

“it had started out as a safety precaution but over the years, it became our normal. enough that it was natural. enough that magic itself decided that my baby brother was the better choice for the judge.”

His breath hitched, his sockets feeling itchy with unshed tears, “but…” He had to force his voice to be even quieter, “you’ve had to live a lie. You’re lying to each other.”

Blue shook his head sadly, “we were young enough that the change was not too jarring. we don’t regret it. but we promised to never approach him for anything. no matter how powerful he had become.”

‘He’?

Was it Gaster?

Blue seemed to read his expression and nodded in response to his unasked question, “he can’t be a part of our world anymore. not after that. his body is here but his gaze is beyond us. to the in-between spaces. to nothing.”

A shiver ran down his spine.

“I broke our promise.” Blue whispered.

“Why?” Papyrus breathed out.

“i wanted to help. stretch cannot do this alone, he needs help to know where to even begin. the universe is constantly growing and constantly ending. finding sans would be impossible,” Blue reached down and pulled out his cell phone, “impossible without him.”

The smaller skeleton opened one of his dimensional boxes and an item phased into existence between them. It was a star-shaped yellow crystal, a bright light shining from it’s center. It had been tied to a simple leather cord.

“Take It.” Blue instructed, his voice returning to normal as Papyrus reached out and took it, feeling a steady power emit from the jewel. His breath caught on the question before he was able to voice it.

“What is this?”

Blue closed his cell phone and stood up, gaze still gentle, “he called it a Save Star. With it, finding Sans will be more possible.”

Papyrus felt like he might cry. Blue had risked something great in order to obtain this. The Save Star’s power had felt terrifying at first, but the longer he held it the more it resonated with him. He didn’t know how to thank Blue enough…

“LET’S GO HOME.”

Papyrus blinked back the tears and looked up at Blue, who appeared as usual. Accepting the lot in his life and growing with it. The taller skeleton slipped the Save Star over his skull and hid it among his red scarf.

Together, they returned to Snowdin.

Chapter Text

The morning after Papyrus had received the Save Star from Blue, both of the skeleton brothers had to attend to their sentry duties. Instead of driving himself crazy by staying in the house, the tall monster decided to make a journey to the Lab. Although this Undyne wasn’t his Undyne, his first instinct was to reach out to his best friend when troubled. Hopefully he would not alarm her or make her think he was odd. He slipped into the boat with the Riverperson and just like the first time, they did not speak to him. It was curious but he didn’t dwell on it because they had always been a mysterious monster. The journey was swift and the stifling heat was the same as ever. It took a moment to bring up the courage to knock, small worries still lingering but Papyrus finally pushed them away.

His knock was firm and it only took a minute for the door to be answered.

To his surprise, Alphys had answered and she blinked up at him before offering a wide grin, “hey, Papyrus! You here to bother our resident scientist?!”

“Hopefully not bother,” Papyrus said with a slight laughing tone to his voice, “I simply wanted to get to know everyone here.”

The reptilian woman gestured grandly for him to enter and Papyrus took the invitation with no more procrastination on his part. The lab was messier than it had been when he and Blue had left a few days ago. However it was a controlled chaos that had a clear purpose. All trash and unneeded clutter had been shoved into one corner and every inch of available surface was covered in research papers, notes, blueprints and graphs. The sheer amount of information on display had the skeleton afraid to touch anything. Undyne was at the very center, a notebook sat in her lap as she jotted down notes with a fierce single-minded determination that was so similar to his friend back home.

Perhaps the monsters here weren’t so different from those he knew after all. After what Blue had revealed, this was more than likely. The accident had caused the ‘swapping phenomenon’ but at the very root of their souls; they were the same. While Blue and Stretch had chosen to diverge, they were happy with how their lives progressed. Papyrus was relieved this wasn’t forced on their part. Shaking off his thoughts, Papyrus settled on a chair that had the papers pushed to the side. It was just enough room for him and Alphys returned to where she had been sitting, a hole among the papers right next to Undyne.

The Royal Scientist’s face flushed at her close proximity, snapping her out of that focused trance.

“O-Oh! Hey, Papyrus!”

Her smile was a bit forced. The skeleton was well aware of what that expression hinted at so he wasted no time asking after her, “are you okay, Undyne?”

The aquatic woman sighed and dropped the strained smile. Alphys glanced up from her phone briefly in concern before refocusing back on her screen. Papyrus wasn’t certain what was keeping the Captain’s attention but staring at Undyne may cause more distress than help her. He followed suit, picking up the nearest research paper and squinting down at it through his glasses. The math and diagrams sketched on it were beyond his capacity of understanding.

“W-Well, I-We went to see the Queen yesterday. Alphys and I,” she began, a tremor to her voice, “s-she was understandably upset, er, well, disappointed may be a closer term?? She wasn’t happy, in any case. B-But that was the nudge I needed and we are getting the Amalgamates ready to be returned to their families…”

Papyrus glanced up from the science jargon in confusion, “amalgamates?”

Undyne’s face fell, the slightest tremble of her lips signaling her upset before returning back to her research. Alphys began to speak while staring at her phone, “failed experiments downstairs. Injected with the human trait of Determination. They melted because humans are, ah, more. Physically.”

A flash of horror erupted in his soul but he was able to keep it from showing. Papyrus attempted to rack his memory for any melted monsters, but if there was one it had been lost to the resets. At least for the moment, according to Blue, it may return. The Captain had been curt and clearly dumbed down the situation so he could understand the quickest so they could move on from the topic.

“What brings you here?” Alphys questioned, the change of topic obvious but welcome.

“I wanted to get out of the house while the brothers were working,” he explained, “this is the only other place I could think of coming.”

“Ah, yeah. About that,” Alphys’ mouth tilted upwards into a feral smirk, “you really gotta stop being such a distraction, Papyrus. While Stretch doesn’t pull his weight, Blue works enough to make up for it. All this time off is making me wonder what you three are up to.”

Papyrus frowned, peeking at Alphys over the top of his glasses, “what we’re up to…? We are trying to find my brother.”

“Yeah, but is that really all?”

Undyne lifted her gaze from her work, openly staring at the two of them in interest. Papyrus blinked his sockets and tilted his head, “I am not sure what you are talking about.” Maybe she was implying that they were also looking into how to access the other universes. Perhaps traveling to them. The taller monster figured that this was the biggest discovery for Monsterkind overall. The possibility of traveling to another world that had a broken Barrier instead of killing human children wasn’t lost on him so it couldn’t be lost on Undyne.

“Ya’know what, forget it,” she snorted, “so you wanted to hang out with us so you wouldn’t take either brother off the clock. At least you are the better skeleton for not giving Stretch an easy out. I know the guy is intelligent and can do a damn good job when he wants to, but his laziness is through the roof.”

Papyrus couldn’t say anything to that, it was the truth.

“Sans tried the same thing all the time. I did my best to keep him on the right path.”

“Pft, it’s so weird hearing that name,” she chuckled. The ‘not referring to Blue’ was implied but didn’t need to be said. Papyrus turned his attention back to the papers he was holding, curious.

“I do not understand any of this,” he mused out loud, much to Alphys’ amusement, “is this all about universes?”

Undyne looked back up from her writing again and frowned at the sea of research surrounding her, “this is everything we could locate. Stretch stayed to help me sort this out.”

It was a shocking amount. Papyrus wished he had picked up science like Stretch, if only to understand Sans when he talked about it on the rare occasion. But he hadn’t spent the time on it, unaware of just how crucial it would be. He hadn’t even remembered his older brother working right next to the inventor of the Core, their father. Who he wasn’t even sure he should care about with how he spoke to Sans.

“…it’s a lot, Papyrus. It’s going to take a while.”

He glanced over at Undyne, whose brow was furrowed as her fins lowered. She was staring at the words without actually reading them and he worried if he had upset her. Thankfully, Alphys seemed to know what to do.

“Hey, let’s head to NTT Resort. I haven’t eaten anything for a bit. We can grab a bite,” she offered and the skeleton nodded, gingerly placing the paper back where he had found it. They dodged the papers on their way out.

“I’ll bring you back some late lunch, okay?!” Alphys called as they were leaving and Papyrus looked back in time to see a shy grateful smile on Undyne’s face. The door to the Lab shut that away and he turned back to the Captain, who motioned for him to follow her. Catty and Bratty moved aside to allow them use of the elevator that shockingly wasn’t broken down. Perhaps that ‘swap’ here was that theirs were always broken while these ran smoothly. It was an unconfirmed detail but the thought made Papyrus smile.

“Thinkin’ about a crush?” Alphys teased as she pressed the correct button and the skeleton startled, blushing orange at her sudden question.

“What?! No, not at all. Why would I?” He asked and she blinked slowly up at him, smile never fading.

“Monsters have a lot of love in their life! We’re literally made of it! You have anyone back home?”

…Was Alphys trying to gossip with him?

“I did not date back home. I was very focused on becoming a Royal Guard. You should know that from how Blue is!” He insisted, “I did not have time for it.” There also had been no romantic interest directed at him. His pool of friends was a very small one. All of them had been purely platonic in nature.

“No one at all?” She asked slowly and he frowned. Of course he was certain there was no one. No one was that important to him except…

His older brother offering him a smile like one in the photo flashed across his mind like lightning.

The elevator issuing a cheery chime and the doors opening jerked him out of his thoughts and Alphys stepped off, leading the way to the NTT Resort. The sight of the building was distracting and uncanny. It looked exactly like MTT Resort but the purple was switched with blue. Papyrus had never been to the resort back home, his only concept of it shown on the television by Mettaton. If he remembered correctly, there had been a documentary shown about it. The automatic doors whooshed open as they got near and Alphys motioned to the door near the elevator.

The sign above it read ‘NTT Ice Cream’.

While it was odd to go for dessert without a more substantial lunch, there really was not a good time to NOT get ice cream, Papyrus reasoned as they entered. He should not be surprised at this point, but the Nice Cream Guy was manning the counter instead of the stressed out cat Undyne had mentioned in passing. He couldn’t recall his name. Alphys smirked up at the rabbit monster, who sighed and began scooping out her order which also covered Papyrus. She was paying so the skeleton didn’t think it was too forward. She had invited him along after all.

They left the shop and went through the northern-most door. The Core loomed about them and Alphys leaned against the rails on the bridge, handing Papyrus his blue cone. He broke his gaze with the structure and smiled.

“Thank you for the treat, Alphys. You did not have to do this.”

She glanced up at him with her good eye and smiled ruefully, “of course. Any friend of Blue is a friend of mine. …Speaking of, I wanted to talk to you about him.”

Papyrus wasn’t shocked. While he was sure the main reason for this trip was to take pressure off of Undyne, the secondary reason being Blue made perfect sense. Blue was her best friend and he had been with Undyne. It was natural to look after your precious people.

“He’s been acting kinda down since Stretch dropped that humongous ‘secret bomb’ on him. Could you make me a promise?”

Papyrus straightened at her words and nodded, “of course! Blue is important to me too. I will do my best!”

She grinned and looked out across the lava pool far below.

“That’s the spirit! Could you look out for him? Like Stretch does? And do NOT hurt him, ever, or I will find you and make you sorry!” She glared briefly up at him before softening, “I know it probably didn’t need to be said…but I don’t want you to care about Blue because he looks like your brother.”

“Blue is not Sans, he is his own person,” he reassured, slightly hurt she would think that of him, “do not use Stretch as a model to judge how I think.”

Her good eye widened and after a long moment, barking laughter escaped her, “wow! You really just called me out for being a hypocrite! Sorry, I didn’t realize I was doing that. I don’t know Stretch that well and…well, yeah. I was being an ass. Still, what I really mean is that I want you to give him what you gave your brother. That single-minded and unshakable connection. Blue needs all the friends he deserves and I want every single one of them to give him that.”

Every monster was kind to their friends, but what the skeletons had was more intense than that. Papyrus was sure that is what she was asking and he nodded, “I will be Blue’s true friend.”

Alphys was right, Blue deserved all the friends and more. In truth, Papyrus wanted more friends than he had. Her smirk faded into a soft look, both of them looking out into the glow of the lava as the Core’s machinations sounded overhead.

“I will hold you to that.”

He smiled.

“I would not have it any other way.”

Chapter Text

Sentry duty was a familiar comfort to Blue, his starry eyes scrutinizing his surroundings as he marched his designated route. It wasn’t quite as essential or honorable as it could be anymore because the small skeleton knew very well that a human was in the Underground. They simply were staying within the Ruins and Stretch had made it crystal clear that facing them would be fruitless. Blue didn’t like the idea of giving up on his duties but he was wise enough to leave the human alone when they held such unfathomable power. There was also no point in pursuing the last human soul when there was nothing beyond the Barrier. Blue had not foreseen that there was no Surface in any of his studies before the Core Incident. Though, it was also probable that the Incident had been the cause for that in the first place.

Blue veered from his appointed path in Snowdin, walking until he reached water and the ever-faithful ferry. He took a seat and the hooded figure began their journey to Waterfall. The tunnel between the two places stretched on and on. It seemed like they wanted to speak this time.

“YOU HAVE BEEN RATHER TALKATIVE LATELY,” Blue said in a cheerful manner.

The hooded ferry-man turned enough to reveal one purple eye-light, one crack going through the visible socket, “you spoke first.”

Gaster was correct. The smaller skeleton had only approached the lost monster on a rare occasion. This was the third time they had spoke since their world changed, “THERE IS A LOT GOING ON LATELY.”

“Indeed.”

The tunnel went on and on.

“I GAVE THE SAVE STAR TO PAPYRUS, THE ONE FROM ANOTHER WORLD. DID RIVERPERSON EVER TELL YOU HOW IT WORKED?”

Gaster returned his attention to the water, going silent. Blue tilted his head and waited patiently. Their lost father ran on his own time, just like the Riverperson now ran forever, everywhere and nowhere. The former Royal Scientist had been very fortunate that Riverperson took his place in the Void. Blue didn’t blame the monster his strange choice. They had always been odd and the Void was the perfect place for the last shadow elemental. Gaster was now a shade of himself in exchange for his continued existence. Only able to speak when in this ‘in-between place’ when he used all of his power. Otherwise, monsters forgot him as soon as he wasn’t in front of them.

He and his brother were an exception for obvious reasons.

“The Riverperson has his own logic and reasons,” Gaster finally responded, “though I am old enough to remember our lost abilities and belief-system.”

Ah, that meant ‘no’ then. No one could blame Blue for the attempt. The shadow elemental could be shockingly blunt when they wished.

“DOES THAT MEAN YOU KNOW HOW IT WORKS?”

“The Save Star also runs on lack of logic and reason.”

It was always a tad frustrating that Blue couldn’t get a clear answer from Gaster. He was slightly more lucid than the Riverperson but the accident had effected him in a different way.

“CAN YOU GIVE ME A HINT?”

The small skeleton wondered if the crystals zooming past them in the walls of the tunnel looked like a meteor shower on the Surface.

“The Save Star produces miracles, but only on it’s own time.”

That was both amazing and inconvenient. Who was to say what this miracle would be with no way to control it? Blue sat back and sighed in exasperation. Of course it had to be out of their influence, just as most things were. A miracle could be anything. Large or small. It was simply an event that went against nature and science. Who was to say that it wouldn’t bring back their Surface? As welcome as that change would be, it would not help Papyrus get Sans back.

He had made a promise.

“SO WE JUST HOLD ONTO OUR HOPE LIKE ALWAYS.”

It wasn’t a question so Gaster did not answer him. The small skeleton hummed in displeasure and shook his head ruefully. Still, a possible miracle was better than no miracle at all. The blur of the tunnel around them began to slow, signaling that their boat ride and conversation had come to an end. Blue stood when the ferry came to a full halt, not bothering to say farewell to his lost father. The former Royal Scientist was the same as always, curt and clinical. Starry eye-lights followed the boat as it disappeared so that Gaster could give a boat ride to the next monster waiting.

His unsanctioned trip continued, Blue walking far from his assigned route to return to his favorite place in Waterfall. Taking a break was a harmless secret compared to everything else and he really needed some quiet to sort out his thoughts.

And his emotions.

While he was still reeling from the confirmed time travel and universe hopping, the short skeleton could no longer ignore the feelings welling up in his soul. His crush on his younger brother had been forced aside for everything else in their lives and with Papyrus’ arrival, it was returned tenfold. Blue had wanted to give Stretch a chance to find love on his own that didn’t depend on him. He was already the older brother and the only constant to his younger sibling, being his first relationship smacked of a overpowering influence.

But Stretch had not shown interest in anyone.

Papyrus arriving in their universe reminded Blue of his buried emotions and his soul would just not stop crying out for Stretch. Not only that, it was beginning to cry for Papyrus as well, which shocked Blue when it really should have not. His love was a near painful thing and deep down he was terrified that he would be rejected. Blue wasn’t sure if he could take that sort of rejection. If Stretch turned him down there was still hope with Papyrus. But if Papyrus turned him down as well that hinted that more worlds leaned towards them never loving him in return.

He wasn’t sure he could handle that.

Which is why Blue needed a quiet place to search his soul. Bravery was their thing while Patience was his. The monster was patient enough to examine his feelings until he was one hundred percent certain he wanted to risk it.

Still, Blue could not remember a time when he did not love Stretch. When they had both been children, it had been a typical love between youngsters with the added embarrassment that Stretch swore he would marry Blue when he grew up. As they aged, it had turned to romantic interest in Blue. It had been seamless and felt perfectly natural. It had happened long before Blue realized it.

But he let it go to give Stretch freedom to choose.

Now everything had returned and he wasn’t certain he could ignore it. Scratch that, Blue was certain he would not tell Stretch and Papyrus. He just needed a bit more time. His feelings were genuine and his intent pure. His soul was singing and even if he kept quiet, it would eventually be felt. Despite his terror of his love being unrequited, Blue wanted to confess and spill his soul to them both.

Blue wanted to be brave.

For both of them, even if Papyrus had just arrived shortly before. The affection for Papyrus was new but Blue didn’t doubt it would be the same as it was with Stretch. He had waited to see if they faded but he was mistaken.

After everything, it would take a Save Star miracle to get their happy ending. Blue looked up at the glowing crystals and made a wish. Please let things end happily. Please let it happen for all of them. Stretch, Papyrus and himself.

And Sans, wherever he may be…

Chapter Text

The artificial light that shined during the daytime in the Underground was absent as Papyrus quietly shut the front door of the sibling’s home, stepping out into the quiet air of Snowdin. His bouts of restlessness were getting worse. No matter how much he wanted to sleep, it would never come. So to avoid wearing a hole into the couch by tossing and turning, Papyrus decided to take a walk. The taller skeleton glanced up the road and then down the other way before his legs began to carry him to Waterfall.

While Papyrus previously hadn’t slept much before arriving here, he also hadn’t ventured outside the house during the night. Internally, he had not wanted to wander when Sans may have a nightmare. There was also his computer and puzzles to keep him occupied during the twilight hours. ‘Taking a walk’ had been a thing Sans did, though little walking probably occurred when his older brother did this.

The temperature rose as Papyrus stepped into the caverns, the familiar rush of water drowning out his mindless musing. If he were to close his sockets, Papyrus could pretend that he was back home. This wasn’t a night-time walk, it was the path to Undyne’s house. To her booming voice, the sound of her playing her piano and his best friend ready to soothe any of his worries. His sockets opened dazedly, like he had been walking in his sleep but the tall skeleton was much too awake.

The weight of the Save Star hidden in his red scarf reassured him of that.

This was not his home. Where the Guards were dogs, where Grillby’s lay behind him and was ruled by a King.

In fact, that was not home if Papyrus listened to his soul. Sans was his home and he was gone. The wooden planks gave way to glowing grass, the skeleton’s eye-lights moving up to the crystals in the ceiling of the cavern. Echo flowers were close enough to pick up his voice if Papyrus spoke too loudly. He settled among the grass, first sitting and then laying on his back.

...The crystals really did appear to be stars the longer Papyrus gazed up at them. At least the stars pictured in the washed out astronomy book Sans had shown him. His brother loved the idea of the night sky and everything beyond. But Sans had especially adored the stars.

“Can you see them where you are, Sans…?”

His voice was a whisper, private and meant for someone that could be just as far away as the real stars. They had promised they would see them together, especially for the first time, but Papyrus wouldn’t mind a broken promise if he had the reassurance of his sibling’s happiness.

Happiness…

If the tall skeleton was perfectly honest with himself… If Papyrus thought as hard as he could back to the sea of hazy memories. To that impression of a scar time would not erase and merely added to Sans’ many secrets…

If Papyrus were honest with himself, he knew Sans would be struggling with all of that pain and all of those secrets.

“I am...coping where I am.” The monster murmured to the fake stars, “it is a very strange world but the skeletons here are kind to me. Stretch is a lazy me and Blue is an energetic you. But that really does not do either of them justice, it is simply the easiest way to describe them.”

There were a lot of secrets here too.

Some Papyrus was now keeping to himself, namely the Save Star Blue had given him. There had been no instructions given to him on how to ‘use’ it but the smaller monster had clarified that it would create a miracle.

One they could not influence in any way.

Papyrus had to agree that one miracle was better than no miracles.

“Sans…” His voice trembled around that name, “I will not give up on finding you. Mostly because I know you are going to give up on me. While that hurts to think about, from what I have been told-”

He couldn’t continue out loud, silent orange tears threatening to spill as he completed that thought, ‘you had given up a long time ago.’ Stretch did not have the scar when things were ‘reset’. The scar had become permanent enough on his brother that he dressed differently. How many resets did it take for the scar to stay there?

The concept was still difficult to think about. Papyrus wondered how he would have reacted if it had been him and not Sans. A human coming down to save them. A human coming through the Underground and hurting...killing everyone? For how long? How many resets?

While Papyrus was very great at believing in the best of people, would he truly be able to continue watching Sans die repeatedly? Would that blind faith continue if the human turned to the worse? If they killed just because it amused them?

Papyrus wanted to believe he would always offer a hand and believe.

But Sans…

Sans, who he had loved the most. Who was so very fragile. Who would offer a joke before an insult. Would he watch Sans be murdered over and over and still offer that same hand?

No.

Papyrus couldn’t do that! Maybe for awhile? Maybe longer than Sans! But not indefinitely! Not to the point that he could hold onto that blind sentiment that their lives meant something to someone so cruel.

“How did you do it, brother?” He whispered to the crystals in the cavern. Even though they did not answer, Papyrus already knew the answer. Stretch had hinted as such, but Sans had that one HP. That last hope in him. That if the whole world were to burn, Papyrus would be there for him.

“Oh I do so hope you are safe.” He choked out, the tears finally spilling onto his face, “I hope you found a world where there are people who will take care of you…” Maybe another Sans or Papyrus, like he had found. A kind pair of brothers who would understand his older sibling and would shield him.

“Please wait where you are.” He begged, voice cracking. The nearest Echo Flowers picked up on his voice. ‘Please wait…’ , ‘where you are’ ; ‘please…’ , ‘please where…’ The blossoms lapsed into silence and the skeleton monster took a moment to gather his wits. Papyrus wasn’t done ‘talking to his brother’ just yet. His soul trembled under his rib-cage, words the barest of a breath so not even the flowers could steal his secret. The realization of just how far his feelings ran.

It was fresh, new, and horribly painful.

“The longer that I am here and watching the siblings interact...the more I realize how much I need you by my side. Not just as support but as someone I love,” Papyrus chuckled shakily and shook his head, “actually love. It may be unconventional but maybe… ‘a Sans needs a Papyrus’?”

The words were tangled in a way that revealed his uncertainty of how Sans would react to such a sentiment. Papyrus simply came to the conclusion that his love was stronger than was normal for a sibling’s bond. Monsters did love swiftly and with everything they were so it was not unusual. Loving Sans was as easy as existing.

How deep that ran and how far he wanted to pursue it was still being explored, if that option ever became available. There were far too many uncertainties in the mix for Papyrus to even touch on that tangled mess of emotions. He let out a long sigh and sat up, gaze still on the twinkling crystals.

“Still, the first thing I am going to do when I find you is to give you a stern talking-to about secrets. Then I will give you a big hug and probably cry a lot,” Papyrus sniffled with a sad smile, “okay, there will definitely be a lot of crying… It serves you right though, brother! Disappearing to another world without any prior notice! Unacceptable!”

‘Another world…’ The flowers whispered.

‘Disappearing...unacceptable…’ The other blossoms murmured back. Papyrus sighed as they continued on in his voice, standing up and dusting himself off. The skeleton was being silly but talking to the ‘stars’ had helped in an odd way. If only just a little.

Papyrus walked a bit more, choosing a flower that was a fair distance away from any of the others. He hadn’t made a wish like this since he was a babybones, but if it would help in any way, like this private chat, then maybe Papyrus could will a path into existence.

One that would lead him to Sans.

The skeleton crouched down and began whispering. He held onto his red scarf and fiddled with the small glowing stone underneath before Papyrus stood and began his trek back to the house in Snowdin. The blossom swayed silently in the breeze before whispering into the night in the younger skeleton’s voice.

‘Please connect us again.’

‘Please….please…”

Chapter Text

Stretch watched quietly as Blue and Papyrus cleaned up after dinner, smile widening at how they interacted. If he was perfectly honest, the hoodie-clad skeleton would say it was cute seeing them together. While he appreciated both their company and the intent Blue provided with the meals he cooked, it had been quite a while since he had spent some time at Muffet’s. Blue’s cooking had improved since Papyrus’ arrival. His older brother had firmly divided ‘training with Alphys’ and cooking with Papyrus, a new notebook filled with their new recipes. It was refreshing to see after so many resets.

This one was the last one, however.

Chara had made their promise and Stretch was holding them to it. The kid had some sort of honor system they held themself to. Not that there would be much to do if Chara decided to go back on their word but it had been a year.

Stretch straightened out of his slouch and called to them, “going to muffet’s.”

“OKAY! BE BACK SOON!” Blue returned as Papyrus called his own ‘goodbye’. That was another change. Stepping through the time-tear worn into their living room, the skeleton stepped from his house to the counter in Muffet’s. The spider woman glanced up at his arrival and nodded in greeting.

Stretch took his seat and waited as she tended to other customers. A bottle of honey was slid across the glass to him and he nursed it, sipping on the nozzle as he relaxed. Usually these visits were to escape from something. It was refreshing that this was a simple visit.

A simple visit…

Well, not entirely if he was admitting truths to himself tonight. That seemed to be the theme. The skeleton’s thoughts had been on the nature of what was occurring and his emotions that he usually hid.

Papyrus hadn’t wanted there to be secrets.

Stretch was trying, he simply wasn’t used to it.

The first order of business was what progress was being made in the lab. Which wasn’t much, unfortunately. Undyne was a beast at processing vast amounts of information and then building something that could work with that data. The information for something this groundbreaking was literally endless.

In other words, Undyne was still not done with their own data. He had heard that worlds could be built on nothing but numbers. It was another thing to see it in action. Once their world’s data was compiled, then Papyrus’ world could be entered. Thirdly, Undyne would imput everything they had discovered in True Lab and finally, she would write a predictive algorithm for the multiverse.

That humongous task would take time and that was just locating Sans. Stretch’s orange eye-lights examined his bottle of honey critically with a frown. Actually getting there was another thing entirely but they had promised. He had all the confidence in Undyne, if anyone could find a way it would be her.

“Are you going to pay your tab tonight?”

Muffet’s voice brought him out of his thoughts and Stretch grinned at her, “maybe another night, muff. didn’t think to bring it tonight.”

All five of her eyes rolled, though she was too reserved to be more dramatic than that. She got comfortable and began idly cleaning some smudged glasses. The Spider Cider took more time cleaning than anything else but this was mostly for show.

Muffet was waiting for him to spill if he wasn’t going to pay up tonight.

Talking about the multiverse and what they were attempting to do was too hot a topic for Stretch to share. He didn’t doubt her ability to understand it but it wasn’t just his secret. Papyrus, Undyne, Blue and Alphys were in on it too. Casually discussing something like that seemed it would bring about bad luck.

Stretch usually wasn’t suspicious but he didn’t want to jinx their chances.

After all, if they could reach other worlds, then Monsterkind could go free as a pleasant side effect.

The other thing that was on Stretch’s mind was… His expression sobered and Stretch finished the bottle of honey. Muffet took it and replaced it with another. At least she wasn’t cutting him off.

“my feelings for blue have resurfaced lately.” Stretch murmured, toying with one of his hoodie’s drawstrings. Muffet quirked a brow but did not comment.

“i know blue wouldn’t hurt me on purpose but my own insecurities are getting in the way,” Stretch’s eye-lights softened, “since papy showed up, i’ve been remembering all the little reasons he makes my soul sing.”

“Feel like the other Papyrus is a threat?” Muffet questioned and the tall skeleton blinked his sockets before humming in consideration. He wasn’t jealous or threatened by Papyrus at all. In fact, just before teleporting here Stretch had been internally pleased.

“naw, papy is just as cute as blue. maybe it’s how he was talking about his own bro that brought this on?” Stretch shrugged, “still, i don’t think i could bring myself to overcome my fear enough to tell him.”

Muffet let out a long sigh, causing the hoodie-clad monster to smile in a sheepish way, “yeah, i know i talk in circles… what would you do, muff?”

It was the first time he had asked her in this ‘year-long reset’, so Muffet took her time thinking over the question. Stretch wasn’t expecting anything new. The spider woman was to-the-point and blunt in most of their dealings.

She surprised him by asking a question in turn, “do you think he is not worth it?”

What? The very question had his bones tensing as if Muffet had just insulted his sibling. But she hadn’t. She had just asked if his fear outweighed Blue’s worth. Of course Blue was worth it! She saw as much in his expression.

“He will not think less of you for how you feel. If you insist on remaining a babybones on speaking frankly, ask him on a date.”

Stretch blinked, unsure if he should defend himself on the insult or be shocked he overlooked the obvious choice. A relationship was one thing. A single date might come off as casual while implying there could be more… If they both enjoyed themselves. Stretch nursed the honey while Muffet waited for his mind to wrap around it.

“Why do you have t’go and make me the idiot, muff?”

She smiled thinly, “are you going to ask him out or not?”

Stretch sighed and shook his head ruefully. Being rejected for a date was a lot less intimidating than being rejected completely. Where should they go? What should they do? The longer he was quiet, the more frustrated Muffet appeared.

“Well?”

He looked up at her, “maybe...once papy finds sans.”

All five of the spider woman’s eyes blinked slowly before Muffet simply walked off, “hey! I need another-”

“I am cutting you off. Figure out your own problems when not on my dime.” Yikes, Muffet really didn’t like how he was dragging his feet, did she? That was exactly what he was doing too… Fantasizing about Blue was safe. Their dates and how he might react all imagined into the ground. But at the end of the day, Stretch never risked what they had. Even in the resets, his insecurity ruled his actions with his older sibling. While he had the security of things being undone in the loop, there was the fact that Stretch would remember that rejection. Even then he hadn’t been brave enough.

Which was ironic considering his soul trait was bravery.

Stretch was brave. He took on his role as the Judge with no fear. The Karmic Retribution ability that came with it was merely the proverbial icing. He had fought Chara without hesitation. Had aided other monsters no strings attached. He acted for others when they couldn’t for themselves.

The skeleton was just a coward when it came to his own wants and needs. Allowing all other needs of friends and peers mask his inaction.

Even if Stretch could admit to it, nothing would change.

He would remain passive.

Perhaps it was because of how much work reuniting Papyrus and Sans would be, but that was his new mental deadline. Yeah, as soon as the other brothers found each other, Stretch would ask Blue on a date.

It was easy to think it and it was with that thought that Stretch left Muffet’s, returning home. The lights were low and Papyrus was already tucked in under all the blankets on the couch. Stretch paused at his side, orange eye-lights quivering as he stared at the troubled expression written on Papyrus’ face. His sockets were closed but Stretch could still see the stress there. Reaching down, the monster rearranged the covers to better tuck him in.

Papyrus pretended to be asleep.

Stretch pretended life was that simple and he had the luxury to wait forever.

Chapter Text

Blue happily began to clean up their home when he arrived home from work. In a rare bit of luck, Papyrus was not at home and the small skeleton was attempting to get everything ready before both of the taller monsters returned home. Alphys was due to arrive tonight for a slumber party and Blue wanted to be prepared.

While it wasn’t unusual to hold a sleep-over, Blue had specifically requested this of his best friend to cheer Papyrus up. If he was being entirely truthful himself, the small skeleton needed this as well. Alphys had been preoccupied with Undyne and keeping Queen Toriel informed. The whole Amalgamate situation was now resolved. Everyone had been returned to their rightful family and though they were different, they were accepted without hesitation.

The rest of the pillows and blankets formed a respectable fort. The skeleton put on one of the only VHS tapes he owned, a documentary covering the rise of Napstabot’s fame. Rewinding it and pausing it near the beginning, Blue returned to the kitchen to cover one of the most important things that went into the sleepover.

The snacks.

Popcorn had to be popped for the movie. Chisps to be laid out for his lazy sibling and hot chocolate for when they wanted to calm down later in the evening for the actual sleeping in the slumber party. Blue paused as he sat the last of everything out, surveying his work with a soft smile. While he had already done what he could in relation to finding Sans, the small skeleton knew that Stretch and Papyrus worried about the progress. Acquiring the Save Star was more valuable than anything he could offer, even his dropped passion of science. Stretch now knew far more than what he had studied and Blue was out of practice. His presence would also stress Undyne, so he reluctantly stepped away.

He could be content to provide the support both monsters needed without becoming actively involved.

They could not work the entire time, after all!

The front door opened and Papyrus paused in surprise at the changes in the living room, “Blue? Are you throwing a party?”

“CLOSE! WE ARE HAVING A SLUMBER PARTY!” He corrected and watched in amusement as Papyrus ducked down to search the pillow fort.

“Am I the first back home?” Papyrus questioned and proceeded to disappear inside, missing the pleased expression that crossed Blue’s face at the other considering this ‘home’. Blue was glad Papyrus was finally adjusting to a world so different from his own.

“YOU ARE! MY BROTHER AND ALPHYS WILL JOIN US SHORTLY!” He informed, his starry pupils brightening, “UNDYNE SAID SHE MIGHT COME BUT SHE IS UNDERSTANDABLY BUSY.”

Papyrus hummed but then spoke quietly, “she deserves some time off.” Smiling gently, Blue approached the fort and crawled inside to discover that Papyrus had already settled down. The Save Star was being fidgeted between Papyrus’ long phalanges as he looked up to smile gently at Blue.

“Besides Napstabot, what else will we be doing tonight?” He questioned and Blue flopped down next to Papyrus with a laugh.

“WELL, IF YOU MUST KNOW~,” he drew the last word out teasingly, happy that it brought a smile to the other monster’s face, “PROBABLY SILLY HUMAN SLEEP OVER GAMES!”

Papyrus made a face, “like Truth and Dare? Would that not be boring?”

“HOW SO?”

“Well, we are very similar and Alphys is very much like my Undyne? Enough that it could take the fun out of it?” Papyrus questioned and the smaller monster frowned in consideration.

“I AM SURE WE CAN FIND A WAY TO MAKE IT INTERESTING,” Blue tilted his head to the side, “BESIDES, IF BOTH UNDYNE AND ALPHYS SHOW UP, WE CAN TRY TO MAKE THEM CONFESS TO EACH OTHER?”

The delight that crossed Papyrus’ face caused Blue to laugh in appreciation. A shift in the air caused by Stretch’s ‘shortcuts’ cut their conversation short.

“what’re two doing?” Stretch sounded amused and both skeletons moved to peak out of the fort, “did i miss a good joke?”

“JOIN OUR SLUMBER PARTY, BROTHER!”

“i can’t say no to a party about sleeping,” Stretch continued even if both skeletons huffed their exasperation, “can i get some monster alcohol?” Blue’s expression shifted to annoyance.

“REALLY, BROTHER? YOU JUST DROPPED YOUR BAD HABIT OF SMOKING! ARE YOU PICKING ANOTHER VICE ALREADY?”

Stretch held out both hands in a pacifying gesture, “naw, bro. i’ll get the weakest stuff. just thought it might make a few tongues looser.” Blue’s starry pupils searched his younger sibling’s face before grinning.

“YOU CONVINCED UNDYNE TO STEP AWAY FROM HER WORK?”

Stretch nodded as Papyrus watched their conversation in silence.

“THEN YOU MAY! BUT IT HAS TO BE THE WEAKEST AND SWEETEST ON THE MENU, OKAY?” Blue insisted and Stretch saluted; immediately stepping back through the time-tear.

“Is getting Undyne and Alphys to confess our goal for tonight?” Papyrus questioned with a sly expression that caused Blue to laugh in response, “not that I doubt our combined capability!”

“OF COURSE! MORE LOVE IS NEVER A BAD THING!” Blue blushed and crawled out of the fort. He had not decided on when to tell his brother and Papyrus how he felt yet. Now seemed too early but it wasn’t for their resident scientist and captain. He could convince himself that he wanted to give it more thought, but Blue knew when his soul decided on something it wanted, there was no denying it. A form of distraction came when someone knocked loudly on the door, the small skeleton rushing to answer it.

“Hey, nerd!” Alphys crowed and nudged the taller woman at her side, “look who I found on the boat!”

“WOW! I AM GLAD BOTH OF YOU COULD MAKE IT, PLEASE COME INSIDE!” The shorter monster gestured inside. If there was one thing Blue could be, it was a good host. Stretch startled both women as he came back, but Alphys began laughing boisterously when the hoodie-clad skeleton held up a bottle of monster alcohol.

“Starting the party without us, are you!?” The Captain questioned, “isn’t that bottle on the weaker side?”

Stretch shrugged, “blue’s orders.”

Alphys let out a loud ‘AWW’ in complaint but took the bottle anyways.

“NO DRINKING UNTIL AFTER THE MOVIE!” Blue instructed as Undyne took a seat in the kitchen and greeting Stretch with a soft voice. The Napstabot movie was started immediately, as it was long. If Blue had to admit to it, the film was also a dry watch but it was good background noise. When Napstaton did speak, it was to the point and meaningful. Blue caught Papyrus watching everyone with a soft expression, one that hinted he was thinking about his own friends literally a world away. It was a expression that had his own soul bittersweetly aching for the other skeleton.

The snacks had a considerable dent in them as the film ended far into the evening.

“IS EVERYONE READY FOR SOME GAMES?!” Blue called from the kitchen, finally popping the cork on the monster alcohol and filling tiny shot glasses. Echo Flowers made a good tea and wine, the liquid azure and glowing. Alphys was the only one who agreed with excitement but Blue knew Stretch and Papyrus were curious as they watched him give each person five glasses.

“THE GAME IS CALLED ‘NEVER HAVE I EVER’! EACH MONSTER GETS FIVE DRINKS. GOING CLOCKWISE, A QUESTION IS ASKED AND IF YOU HAVE DONE THAT THING, YOU DRINK!” Undyne carefully balanced her drinks on the arm of the couch as he continued, “LAST PERSON STANDING WINS!”

“Ah-is there a l-limit to what can be asked?” Undyne questioned, appearing both nervous and excited at the same time.

Blue handed Papyrus his last shot glass, “HM, I DO NOT THINK SO?? JUST DO NOT BE MEAN!” If he had not been looking he would have missed the hurried glance both women gave each other. He took his own seat in the circle they formed in the living room, “DO YOU WANT TO START, PAPY?”

Papyrus blinked and then furrowed his brow in clear thought, “never have I ever…dated someone.”

Soft ‘ooohs’ rang around the room and each monster eagerly glanced around.

No one took a drink.

“Are you KIDDING me?!” Alphys made a face, “…damn! We are a buncha’ losers!”

The laughter broke the nervous tension and Stretch took his turn next, “never have i ever set my house on fire.”

Blue, Papyrus and Alphys took a drink after audible groans of complaint. After a second, Undyne also drank causing Stretch’s orange eye-lights to shrink in shock, “what?! you too! when?!”

“I-I MAY have fallen asleep c-cooking instant noodles after f-four days of being awake??” She offered him a sharp and sheepish grin to which he shook his head in disappointment.

“man, now i’ll have to burn food to be part of the club…”

“PLEASE DO NOT, BROTHER!”

The group of monsters laughed at Blue’s expression and continued their game.

Alphys was up, “never have I EVER built a puzzle!”

Blue and Papyrus shot her scandalized looks before drinking. Stretch’s hand shook but he didn’t complete the motion. Blue smiled at his younger brother, his starry eye-lights soft as they continued to keep their secret. Papyrus saw the exchange but only smiled as Undyne took her turn.

“N-Never have I e-ever written a bad anime review on Undernet!”

Alphys gasped, “Undyne, no!”

“U-Undyne, yes!” She replied and the reptilian woman groaned, hiding her smile behind her drink. Blue took his turn.

“NEVER HAVE I EVER BUILT A ROBOT!”

Undyne nodded at him and drank one of her shots.

“Never have I ever slacked off at work.” Papyrus challenged.

Stretch frowned but then took his first drink.

“That’s it, Papyrus! Get him!” The Captain of the Royal Guard cheered, “smug bastard thinks he is gonna win!”

Stretch lifted a glass and motioned to her, “never have i ever wanted to be in the guard.”

Papyrus, Alphys and Blue drank, the captain complaining that the question was too obvious.

“H-Hey! That’s not fair, bone-breath!” Alphys complained but conceded as she downed the sweet wine.

“only one more left, captain,” Stretch grinned. She glared at him in clear challenge. It was her turn after all.

“Never have I ever owned rainbow bone boxers!”

Stretch’s entire skull became dark orange, “w-wha?”

“DRINK!” Alphys demanded as Undyne tried to stifle her laughter. Stretch looked at her, betrayal written all over his face, “you told her!?” Blue was giggling and motioned at his younger brother.

“I CAN CONFIRM, HE HAS TO DRINK!”

Papyrus’ shoulders were shaking with suppressed laughter and Stretch begrudgingly took the drink, pulling his hood up to hide his lingering blush. Undyne wiped a stray tear away before taking her turn after that uproar.

“Uh… N-Never have I ever…experienced unrequited love.”

The humor faded from the room at the question. A long moment passed before Stretch took a drink. A moment later, Papyrus drank a glowing shot. Blue stared at both skeletons in clear shock but neither would look at him. Had…had Stretch liked someone and not told him? And Papyrus had drank too!? Was it the same person? Someone they didn’t tell anyone?

“S-Sorry! I didn’t think anyone wo- I didn’t know!” Undyne insisted, gesturing frantically.

“NEVER HAVE I EVER HAD A CRUSH ON UNDYNE!”

The room went so quiet that if a pin were to drop it most likely would have deafened the monsters sitting there. Blue slowly realized what he had blurted out in his panic to correct the situation and covered his eye-sockets in horror. That had been as smooth as a train wreak. While it had been the overall goal for this game, Blue had intended to be a lot more sneaky in the execution.

…Had he ruined everything?

A soft touch caused his trembling blue eye-lights to peek through his phalanges. Alphys was staring at the shocked scientist as she downed her last shot. Undyne’s shock turned to relief and Alphys caught her up in fierce hug. Both of them were laughing and confessing with the biggest smiles. Blue exhaled slowly and his starry eye-lights returned. It was okay. No one’s friendships had ended. The game was lost amongst the resulting congratulations. When Blue thought back, he would think Undyne won the game. She had the most glasses left and her crush had been returned, after all.

But try as he might, he couldn’t shake the unease from the question she had asked that made his younger sibling and Papyrus drink to unrequited love.

Chapter Text

One month later, Blue couldn’t keep everything buried any longer. He supposed that the slumber party had been the last straw in giving him what he needed to break his silence. Truly this was a long time coming, at least with Stretch. Papyrus had become a gentle crush, one that Blue hoped reciprocated. The skeleton would count himself lucky if either of them agreed to date him. It would be even better if both of them agreed! Blue had enough love in his soul for both of them and dating multiple monsters was common in monster culture. After all, love came quick and strong for his kind. It was as natural as breathing!

The small skeleton exhaled the breath he had been holding, blushing a light blue. Yes! Breathing would be good! It wouldn’t do to pass out after all of this hard work he had put in. Starry pupils scanned the kitchen and he mentally checked off everything he had done. While this wasn’t a date, a confession seemed to require just as much care. Mood lighting with candles? Check. Fixed delicious food for dinner? Blue glanced down at the assortment of tacos, donuts, honey and Golden Flower Tea. Check? If not the most delicious, Blue had made sure to include everyone’s tastes. While Stretch wouldn’t be back home until late, the discussion with Papyrus could happen in the meantime. He fidgeted and considered what to do next. The food hadn’t taken him as long as he hoped and-

The front door opened and Blue gasped audibly, trying to calm his soul as Papyrus entered. His curious expression eased into confusion, his soft white eye-lights taking in everything Blue had done to the kitchen.

“Am I interu-?”

“NO! NOT AT ALL!” Blue took a stabilizing breath, “IN FACT, I HAVE SOMETHING I WANT TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT!”

The taller monster hesitated and Blue motioned at the kitchen table, “Please! Have A Seat.”

At Blue’s quieter tone, Papyrus entered the kitchen and sat down across from the nervous skeleton, “it looks like this conversation is very important.” Papyrus mused out loud, eye-lights locking with the other monster’s.

“It Might Be The Most Important.” Blue laughed uneasily, “I Have Been Thinking About This For Over A Month Now. Could You Just…Let Me Speak And Get It All Out?”

“Of course, Blue.” Papyrus replied.

A long moment of silence passed before Blue started to speak.

“I Do Not Know When It Started But I Have Loved My Brother For As Long As I Can Remember. It Was Not Always Romantic But It Has Always Been True And Present. It Is True And Not Going To Go Away.” Papyrus’ expression was slack in gentle shock, “And When You Got Here And I Learned All About You, I…Developed Feelings For You. Just As Genuine And Quite Fast, As Monsters Tend To Do…”

The other skeleton did not speak and Blue continued with a soft expression, “I Know It Is Odd But I Am Being Truthful… I Can Not Be Your Sans. I Am Not Trying To. And I Do Not Feel This Way Because You Are My Brother. Or…Like My Brother? I Love You And Stretch For Very Different Reasons. Do You Think…Maybe, Would You At Least Try Going On One Date For Me? I Only Ask For One Chance But If You Will Not I Will Understand.”

Papyrus lapsed into thought, mentally attempting to unwind this situation. It had only been very recently that he realized his feelings for Sans and that was still fresh, confusing and bittersweet. He had not thought out his connection to the siblings here aside from they were friends.

“Are you going to confess to Stretch?” Papyrus questioned so that there wouldn’t be too long of a silence between them. Blue nodded and motioned around them.

“This Is For Both Of You.”

Papyrus frowned and tried to read his own reaction. The first was concern over if Blue’s love would be accepted. The longer he thought about it, the easier it was to accept it was silly to doubt Stretch. It was that simple. The second was confusion as to why Blue felt like that for him. Ever since arriving here, Papyrus had felt he kept letting others down by not being able to fix this problem he created. The third was something harder to read. It had to do with Blue being similar to Sans and not wanting to complicate matters.

However…

His soft eye-lights rose to find Blue staring at him with a shaky smile. …Would Sans look like this when confessing too? Was that the issue? He couldn’t find a way to articulate it.

“Sans…” He whispered, “what if…”

What if…? That was truly the question here. What would this relationship mean once they found Sans? What would Sans think of him? What if they never found- Papyrus stopped that train of thought with a frown. He was going about this all wrong. He loved Sans. He wanted to be with Sans. That did not change, no matter what. Blue finally spoke up again, smile falling into a solemn expression.

“We Will Find Sans. If You Want To Be With Only Sans, I Will Understand. If You Want To Be With Us And Then Sans Does Not Approve, You Can Be With Sans And I Will Think No Less Of You. We…We Can Try And If Things Need To Change With Whatever Happens… Then It Will Change! No Hard Feelings!” Blue insisted and Papyrus couldn’t help returning the words with a small smile. Put that way, it was hard to deny Blue anything. Especially when those words were backed by that face with big starry eyes.

Blue wanted a single date to find out if there could be anything there between them.

If there was truly nothing there or if Sans came back into the picture, there was no hard feelings between them.

What harm was there in trying?

“In that case, I want to try.” Papyrus murmured and Blue’s face lit up with a grin that both thrilled and tore at his soul. The smaller skeleton reached across the table and placed a hand over Papyrus’. He turned it so they were holding hands properly.

“Thank You!” Blue beamed, “Thank You, Papy!” Papyrus returned that expression with a grin of his own.

“Should I go to your room and read until you are done with Stretch?”

That was a very polite way to ask if Blue wanted privacy and the smaller monster appreciated it. In truth, Blue was still rather nervous about talking to Stretch. The result of this could change their dynamic forever. For better or worse. Having an audience would just make things more difficult. But he was so happy Papyrus was going to at least try. Blue had been bracing for a rejection.

“Thank You! I Would Appreciate That!”

The small skeleton jumped to his feet as Papyrus stood, briefly taking one of his hands and smiling up at him without needing to say a word. Papyrus squeezed his smaller hand and whispered that things would turn out fine before going upstairs.

Chapter Text

It was a very long three hours until Stretch appeared in the kitchen via the time-tear. It was a good thing magic food kept unlike human food. Swallowing down what felt like butterflies fluttering in his soul, Blue beamed at his younger brother as he took the turn into the kitchen and stopped. He watched Stretch take in their surroundings critically, a hint of orange magic beading on the other’s skull the only visible reaction.

“Hi, Brother!” Blue greeted and motioned across from him to an open seat, “Can We Talk?”

Stretch placed his hands inside the front pocket of his orange hoodie, slumping in the chair, “sure. i’m always up for your company, bro. where’s papyrus?” The smaller skeleton motioned in roughly the direction of their stairs with a small smile.

“Papy Is Up In My Room! He Already Had Dinner!” Blue reassured, focusing on his sibling, “Did You Have A Good Day, Brother?”

Stretch tilted his head and regarded him quietly before answering, “i did. spent my guard duty and dropped by undyne’s to check on her. gotta remind her to eat, drink and sleep or she will forget.”

“She Is Lucky To Have A Friend Like You!” Blue complimented and Stretch flushed with magic, rubbing a hand across his vertebrae in a sheepish gesture, “Really! She Is! While It Is Great To Hear She Is Working So Hard, Neglecting Herself Is Not The Way To Go!”

“she is overworking but i can’t convince her to take a break, so i do what i can.” Stretch shrugged and considered the candles nearest to them, “while i appreciate you checking in on my day i am curious why you want to talk.”

Blue blushed and fidgeted with his gloves, “I Apologize! Somehow You Are Harder To Talk To About This Than Papyrus.”

Stretch hummed in interest, “this talk involves paps too?”

“Yes!” The elder brother confirmed before sighing heavily, “I Will Just Be Blunt Like I Was With Him. Stretch… Brother, I Would Be Honored If You Went On A Date With Me!”

Stretch’s sockets widened, the orange eye-lights within shrinking before expanding past their typical size, “wow, bro… that’s so unexpected. I…uh…” The younger monster was clearly taken aback and Blue rushed to give him all the information.

“But I Also Would Like To Date Papyrus! While My Feelings For You Are A Lot Stronger And I Have Had Them For Some Time, I Do Have New Love For Papyrus!” He insisted despite Stretch’s shocked expression, “I Understand This Is A Shock And Might Not Be Ideal, But I Wanted You To Know What Is In My Soul Before Any Decision Was Made.”

Stretch lapsed into thoughtful silence before meeting his starry eye-lights, “you chatted with paps about this, right?”

“Yes! He Made Sure To Give Us Some Privacy To Talk.” Blue responded.

“what did he say?”

“Papyrus Is Willing To Give It A Try.” The smaller skeleton smiled softly as Stretch’s expression did something complicated, “He Agreed To One Date And I Reassured Him That There Was No Pressure.”

“what about his sans?”

Blue hesitated before answering truthfully, “Papyrus Clearly Loves His Brother More Than Anything. I Told Him That When We Find Sans, He Can Decide How Things Progress From There. He Can Pursue A Relationship If They See Fit Or We Can Discuss Other Avenues. We Cannot Anticipate What Will Happen But I Appreciate That He Cares Enough About Us To Allow Us To Be His First Relationship.”

Stretch fell into a long moment of contemplation before meeting his gaze again.

“this is a lot to think about. can you give me time to think on it? papyrus will probably need some time as well. even if he answered already, it’s a lot to process at once.” Stretch finally replied with a gentle expression. Blue exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding and offered Stretch a smile. That they were considering this at all was a blessing. Deep down, Blue had been worried he would receive a rejection right away. However, that was his own insecurity surfacing.

“Of Course, Brother! I Want Both You And Papyrus To Be Absolutely Certain Before We Dive Into This!” Blue reached across the kitchen table and took both of Stretch’s hands in his own. His sibling offered him a lopsided smile that melted his soul as the taller skeleton squeezed his hands affectionately.

“thanks for being patient.”

“That Is My Soul Trait After All! I Have To Live Up To It!” Blue grinned as Stretch huffed out an amused laugh. The untouched food was quickly dug into as Blue had been grazing all day. Papyrus came down shortly after and despite the heavy topic hanging in the air, nothing felt out of place or awkward as Blue had feared. He clearly had over-thought things and that was a relief. He would rather over-think than be unprepared for such an important part of his life.

Digging into the food, Blue happily recounted what Alphys had told him about their relationship. They were so happy and the small skeleton could only hope they would be as well. He would wait for Papyrus and Stretch to sort out their feelings and no matter what the answer was, Blue would accept it. He loved his sibling and Papyrus was too important for him to pressure.

“Alphys Has Her Hands Full With The Queen And The Guard. They Have Only Gotten To Go On Dates Twice That I Know Of.” Blue nodded to Stretch, “Which Is Why You Have To Make Sure Undyne Takes Care Of Herself When The Captain Cannot.”

Papyrus glanced between them and frowned, “is Undyne neglecting herself? Perhaps I should check in with her as well?”

Stretch placed a hand on Papyrus shoulder and shook his head in regret, “while i am sure she would appreciate the sentiment, undyne is emotionally charged on top of being busy. the less people showing up in her lab, the better. she doesn’t work well under pressure.”

It was clear that Papyrus felt guilty about Undyne working so hard but Stretch soothed his worries as Blue watched with a gentle expression.

Despite everything, things would turn out okay.

Chapter Text

It took two weeks for Stretch to come to his own decision. He had thought everything through and was ready to have this conversation with Papyrus. If it were just him, he would have had an immediate answer for Blue but it wasn’t just him involved. It was Papyrus as well. The possibility of Sans and then the mystery of whatever Sans had been up to while gone. Papyrus had been here for a month and a lot could happen during that time. There was also the fact that time may not work how it did here but that was beyond over-thinking a possible relationship, so Stretch let that be.

It took him a few shortcuts to figure out where his alternate went off to. He had checked Blue’s section where Papyrus often went to look over the puzzles with his older brother, recalibrating them if needed. He checked the library and then as a last resort…teleported to Waterfall.

Papyrus was laying on the grass in the Wishing Room, his eye-lights hazed as he gazed up at the ceiling. Stretch stayed where he was and watched the other monster, soul softening at the sight. The other skeleton was good at masking his grief but not even the best could hide that forever. He debated on leaving and saving this conversation for another time but Papyrus’ eye-lights flickered over to where he was hovering.

“Hi, Stretch,” the other greeted in a soft tone and the hoodie-clad skeleton smiled in greeting. Laying down in the glowing grass was second nature and Stretch let out a long sigh as he got comfortable next to Papyrus.

“You have been looking for me?”

The question was very mild, almost a statement and Stretch nodded, “yeah. you’re a hard skeleton to find.” His tone was light and teasing, drawing a reluctant smile from the other monster. Stretch looked at him more properly and frowned. Had…Papyrus been crying? His soul felt like someone squeezed it when he caught the barest traces of drying orange magic on Papyrus’ face.

“…should i come back later?” He questioned.

“No. I want you here,” Papyrus admitted, “is this about what Blue spoke of earlier?” The blunt nature reminded him of Blue and brought a smile to his face. He could appreciate going right to the point. Stretch procrastinated enough as it was.

“yeah. sorry it took me so long.”

“No need to apologize.” Papyrus reassured and turned his skull towards him, offering the other monster his complete attention, “have you made a decision?”

“i have, but i wanted to ask you some things first,” Stretch murmured, orange eye-lights searching Papyrus’ face, “what are your feelings on this?” Papyrus looked back up at the shining crystals, clearly gathering his thoughts before answering.

“I would like to try and give it a chance. It was recent that I was able to identify my feelings for my brother as romantic in nature. I…want to believe we will find him. I need to believe it. My feelings for Sans are unshakable, even if he does not return them. I am afraid I will mess something up. I have never dated anyone so I am not quite sure how it works. I care about you and Blue deeply. Enough that I know emotions similar to what I have for Sans could exist.” He replied and Stretch’s sockets lidded in thought as he considered Papyrus’ words.

“are you sure you’re ready for something like this?” The hoodie-clad monster questioned gently, “we wouldn’t blame you for waiting until we find sans.”

“I…” Papyrus paused for a moment before shaking his head, “I want to try and not stop my life just in case…”

Stretch reached out, phalanges bumping against Papyrus’ until his touch was accepted, their fingers twining and holding firm. He didn’t look at Papyrus, he could sense the tears falling and felt a similar itch behind his own. That sentence didn’t need to be completed. Whether out of positive thinking or suspicion that admitting it out loud might bring it into reality.

‘Just in case we don’t find Sans.’

Papyrus was bracing for the very worse. How could anyone blame him? While Stretch was sure Papyrus’ naive view of life had been reinforced with Sans’ overprotective nature, it was impossible to ignore his growth. It had been painful and unforgiving. Far too much at once for such a tender soul. He had lost his whole world when Sans vanished and it had been a struggle since then. Stretch knew that overbearing need to protect, he had it with Blue. The difference was that they remembered how it was before the Core Accident. Blue wasn’t so naive and Stretch hadn’t lied aside from when the resets started.

Only then had the brothers diverged in their memories. The need to shield Blue had came strong. Papyrus was the result of an extreme universe that had showed neither sibling any mercy. While Stretch could help Papyrus, in the back of his mind he wondered if Sans was okay.

Unable to ignore Papyrus’ pain anymore, Stretch shifted onto his side and opened his arms in invitation. The other skeleton was in his embrace before he could blink and Stretch held on tight as Papyrus cried into his shoulder. His hands ran up and down the other’s spine, whispering nonsensical words of comfort until the tears slowed down. Pulling back slightly, Stretch offered Papyrus a gentle smile, wiping some of the orange magic away.

“hey now, it’ll be okay. things work out in some strange ways,” he hummed as Papyrus visibly calmed, “as for my answer, i want to go on a date with both of you. i want to try too.”

That drew a watery smile from his alternate and Stretch chuckled, pulling the monster close and simply enjoying the contact. The sounds of Waterfall washed over both of them in the silence that followed. If he stayed here, he might fall asleep but Stretch didn’t rush this. In the end, he had to carry Papyrus home on his back as the other gave into exhaustion. The skeleton wondered if Papyrus was sleeping well as Blue hadn’t fallen asleep on him like this in years.

The thought that Blue, Papyrus and himself had each other cheered Stretch up as he continued on. But he did wonder…did Sans have the same?

Chapter Text

A week later, Papyrus was brought out of his reading by an energetic shout of his name. The monster at the desk ‘shh’ed the small skeleton, who apologized but continued into the library regardless. The bright smile on the other monster’s face caused Papyrus to return it with one of his own. He folded up the crossword puzzle he was working on before standing and greeting Blue. Arms wrapped around his spine as the shorter monster hugged him close. He placed a gentle hand on top of the other’s skull before they pulled apart.

“What are you doing here, Blue? I thought you had guard duty today?” Papyrus questioned and a light flush of magic spread across Blue’s cheekbones.

“I TOOK A HALF DAY! ALPHYS SCOLDED ME AT FIRST BUT THEN SHE SAID I WAS CATCHING UP ON MY SICK DAYS,” his grin returned in full force, “AND WHEN I TOLD HER I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU ON A DATE, SHE EXCUSED ME WITH A PROMISE I WILL TELL HER ALL ABOUT IT.”

Papyrus squinted down at Blue with a wry expression. While he didn’t like to admit it of himself, he certainly knew how to turn a situation into a way that benefited him. Undyne had been an exceptional example of falling for his manipulation. It seemed Blue knew exactly how to get his way without being direct about it and allowing other monsters to walk right into a carefully laid plan.

“I am not sure I want you to gossip about our date.” He murmured.

“I Do Not Kiss And Tell, P- WAIT! IS THAT A ‘YES’??” Blue’s star-shaped eye-lights grew and shined a little brighter, causing a warm feeling to well in Papyrus’ soul. He nodded and Blue bounced in place in excitement.

“What are we going to do?”

“I Was Thinking A Picnic In Waterfall! We Can Cook Together And I Will Save The Special Surprise For Last!” The smaller skeleton held out his hand and Papyrus took it with a slight blush but a big smile. As they walked back to the house in the snow, Papyrus chuckled and spoke up.

“What surprise, Blue?”

“IF I TOLD YOU, IT WOULD NOT BE A SURPRISE NOW WOULD IT?” That was fair. Both monsters stomped off the snow from their boots and took them off at the door before they entered the kitchen. Blue took out their cookbook and squinted at the recipes. The book had been greatly damaged in the Dump, so many of the original human recipes were unreadable. They had been filling it with their own creations when Stretch had given them a thumbs up on how it turned out. A real one, both Blue and himself had dropped their facade of being good cooks and would not accept anything less.

“Hmm… How About We Try Your Spaghetti Again? I Know We Have A New Recipe To Try On Them And It Has Been Getting Better Each Time?” Starry eye-lights glanced up at him in askance and Papyrus made a soft noise.

“Picnics tend to have finger food to avoid mess, would spaghetti be appropriate?”

“Of Course! I Am Confident That We Can Eat It Without Being Uncivilized And If We Mess Up, Who Would Be There To See Us? It Will Be Fun!” Blue grinned and Papyrus shook his head before agreeing.

“Only if we get to try out your new recipe for tacos as well.” He insisted and Blue flushed with magic at his words, pleased. After getting out all of the ingredients they needed, the kitchen became a whirlwind of noodles and taco fixings. The glitter and sequins were long tossed away in the trash, replaced with more appropriate replacements that had required trial and error. Papyrus was still embarrassed that Undyne had been so off the mark when their cooking sessions had begun. Not that he could blame her with the water damage leaving information missing but he should have begun revising his method long ago. If only for Sans’ sake, but to be fair… His brother had been fibbing about it long before he realized it was practically an abomination.

It took a few hours to fix everything, pack it away in a basket and then clean up the disaster they had created. His datemate offered up a hand and Papyrus took it with a grin, allowing himself to be pulled all the way to the boat by an energetic Blue. The ride was quiet and swift as usual, though it had been the first time to have his hand held the entire time. Papyrus’ skull flushed in pleasure and he threaded his phalanges with Blue’s smaller ones, squeezing gently.

They trekked through the wet terrain back to where Blue had led him to speak of secrets. Papyrus noted that the land here was a bit dryer and far enough away from the Echo Flowers for privacy. Blue tugged the blanket from their basket and both skeletons worked to lay it neatly over the ground. Using the basket as an anchor, the monsters settled down and began to carefully unpack their food.

It was a lot more challenging than anticipated but Blue was correct in saying it was fun. With some giggling and maneuvering, Papyrus and Blue started their date.

Taking a generous bite out of a taco, the taller skeleton made a soft noise of approval. The texture was nearly what he believed to be correct, but…

“I believe we are still missing a few spices that we cannot get Underground, but other than that your taco expertise has certainly leveled up!”

Blue blushed at his compliment, “Goodness, Papyrus. You Sure Know How To Flatter A Monster…” He returned his attention to the spaghetti and took a very careful bite. It didn’t help the neatness, both skeletons already taking more steps to salvage the messy dishes without getting food everywhere.

“I Will Have To Take Your Compliment And Use It On You… This Seems Almost Perfect, Just Underseasoned…” Blue’s expression twisted with slight confusion, “Or At Least, It Does Not Seem To Be As Powerful As The Description Implies.”

Papyrus hummed in consideration, “I suppose we will only get a clear answer to that once we reach the Surface.”

Blue sat his bowl of spaghetti aside and leaned forward, “You Think We Will Make It?”

The unsaid question was ‘if there is a Surface’ but Papyrus nodded with a firm expression, “if we can find Sans, we can find an Underground with a Surface. We will not be stuck down here forever.”

Blue’s expression gentled, “I Am So Happy You Think That. After What Chara Said, I Have To Admit That My Soul Ached. While I Love Everyone Down Here, We Will Not Last Much Longer As A Species If We Had Nothing To Hope For…”

Papyrus had been fearing that. In truth, he had much difficulty with the concept, shoving the information to the side to deal with at a later date.

“We will get there.” He reaffirmed and Blue grinned up at him.

“I Believe You!” His starry pupils grew hazy in happiness, “We Will Save Sans And Then Figure Out A Solution. Then You, Me, Stretch and Sans Can Date And Live Together Under The Sun And The Stars!”

Papyrus’ expression gentled as they continued with their meal. Wouldn’t that be nice? Having so many loving date mates and his brother safe and sound… All on the Surface with so much to explore and learn together. Blue fidgeted and smiled sheepishly.

“Do You Really Like That Idea?” Papyrus nodded in answer to the question, “I Was Afraid You Would Not. Sometimes My Enthusiasm Is Too Much.”

The taller monster frowned.

“Because of you having to act like it or..?”

“No. I Am Sure Your Brother Would Be A Little More Like Me Had Things With The Core Went Differently. I Usually Go Straight To The Most Desired Option And That Sometimes Puts Others Off.”

“Well, it does not with me, Blue. I am glad you are honest and use your most positive visions of the future.” Blue grinned and then forked a few noodles up before beaming up at him.

“Can You Let Me Do Something?” Blue asked and Papyrus nodded, curiosity welling up in his soul as Blue offered up his fork. Papyrus moved forward to eat the bite but then froze when Blue hurriedly took the other side of the noodle, starry pupils bright and bold. He huffed with laughter as they finished the bite and ended up with their teeth pressed firmly together.

Blue was the first to lean back, a magic flush rising to his face as Papyrus because laughing genuinely at their situation.

“What?! I Bet You Wanted To Try That Too! Everyone Gets One Pass For That! I Swear!” He puffed out his cheeks but was smiling at Papyrus’ continued amusement, “Do Not Laugh At Me! I Had To Do It!”

Papyrus finally reigned in his laughter and his expression became soft. He reached back out for Blue and cupped his skull. Blue fell silent, stars fading into hazy large circles as their teeth met in a more proper kiss, magic sparking at the contact. It was a bit awkward as they were both clearly inexperienced but when they parted they were both smiling wide.

“Wow…” Blue blushed and he was now looking to the side in embarrassment, “I Did Not Know You Would Be So...Forward?”

“You wanted a kiss. You did not have to hide it behind a joke or reference.” Papyrus gently scolded and Blue groaned, rubbing at his magic flushed face.

“I Was Doing That…” He admitted before beginning to pack up their dishes, “That Is It! Date Is Canceled Because You Embarrassed Me!”

“Did you not mention a surprise?” Papyrus questioned and Blue grinned.

“I Did! However, It Will Be After Stretch’s Date With You. I Just Wanted You To Be Aware And Excited!” Blue paused in closing the basket, unsure what to do before Papyrus laid down and stared up at the Underground’s ‘stars’. The smaller skeleton joined him and their date continued for a few more hours, both monsters sharing secrets and wishes that were too faint for the nearest Echo Flowers.

Chapter Text

It was one month and one week of Papyrus being in this new world when his alternate approached him quietly, hands buried in his orange hoodie. Blue’s date had taken place just over seven days ago and though Stretch was a procrastinator, he must have felt a sufficient amount of time had passed. It was touching that the monster had given his elder brother’s date the proper time to sink in. This was an overly complicated situation and needed all the consideration possible. Papyrus was sure that he now held a romantic attraction to Blue and he was a bit nervous about how he would feel after their date today.

“wait long, paps?” Stretch questioned as he came up beside Papyrus, who had been waiting just outside Muffet’s. Papyrus adjusted his red scarf and shook his head.

“Perhaps about ten minutes tops, I was not expecting you to ask me on a date this evening,” he tilted his head and continued, “Blue decided to have a sleepover with Alphys tonight to give us space.”

“he’s so cool,” Stretch praised with a fond look, “are you ready to enjoy the full experience at muffet’s?”

Papyrus chuckled, “I really do not know what that means, but I am fully prepared for anything you throw at me. I am very good at dating, after all!”

Stretch laughed, “have you forgotten our game of ‘never have i ever’? welp, you are probably a natural at it so I won’t doubt your capabilities… oh, and after I have a surprise planned.”

Papyrus squinted up at Stretch, “what? You have a surprise too? Did you and your brother coordinate this?” His alternate self shrugged and he sighed, “very well, keep your secrets. As I mentioned before, I can deal with anything you have planned.”

Stretch’s grin broadened and he opened the door for Papyrus, motioning for him to proceed inside before him. The gentlemanly gesture caused a light blush of orange magic to rise to his face before he walked inside Muffet’s. Surprisingly, the normal patrons were mostly absent. One of the bunnies were sleeping at the table next to the other guard that played cards. Muffet looked up at their arrival and nodded, two of her hands grabbing something below the counter before motioning to them.

They bypassed the counter altogether and Papyrus watched in a mix of amusement and slight horror as she seated them at one of the tables. She sat a bottle of honey before Stretch and a Spider Cider in front of him before placing a single candle in the middle of the table, lighting it in one smooth motion. Papyrus was torn between laughing and scolding his alternate on how tacky and just off the wall this whole thing was. Stretch could see his shoulders shaking in suppressed laughter and grinned as Muffet went off to prepare their order.

“aw, come’on, paps. you gotta give me credit for my classy taste.”

He finally laughed out loud and shook his head, amused, “’classy taste’? You are so awful!”

Stretch’s face went from smiling to smirking at him, “not as awful as my crocs, right?” That wiped the laughter from the other skeleton and Papyrus shot Stretch an affronted look.

“Those shoes are an abomination against fashion. I am shocked your feet can stand them.” Stretch chuckled at him and leaned back to allow various sweets to be placed before them by Muffet. Papyrus blinked at the table and glanced up at Stretch for an explanation.

“heh, don’t look at me like that. muffet doesn’t advertise these on her menu because it is rare to find the necessary ingredients. i figured that at least one thing should be different from a regular visit.” Papyrus’ attention went back to the creations on their table. There were Spider Donuts but the rest were unfamiliar. Some looked like blown glass and others looked vaguely like chocolate but had fancy illustrations on them. Upon looking up at the woman, Papyrus smiled helplessly.

“Are these edible? They look like works of art…”

Muffet’s expression blossomed into a smile, a light purple flush on her face, “they are. Please enjoy and let me know how you found them.” She nodded to them and then disappeared back into her kitchen. Papyrus eyed the desserts with regret.

“They are too pretty to eat… This looks like something you would display at home…” He complained but in the same moment, reached out to one of the creations. The ‘glass’ of the desert was actually blown sugar and instead of being harsh to bite into, it yielded and dissolved into a cotton candy texture upon reaching Papyrus’ magic.

The intent of silent blessings and well wishes were laced expertly within. His white eye-lights immediately found Muffet’s face and she smiled as he beamed at her.

“she’s a great friend, isn’t she?” Stretch questioned with a fond look.

“I admit, I do not know my own Muffet well but I may have to befriend this one at the very least.”

“what’s the muffet like in your universe?”

Papyrus shot him a look as he finished another confection, “probably like your Grillby? She is a very shrewd business woman who sells her wares in Hotland. If I remember right, it was to save some of her clan trapped at the Ruins.”

Stretch nodded and ate a few of the pastries before speaking again, “sounds about right… grillby is trying to bring fuku and heats back from there. if it were just them it might be fine, but most of the elementals stayed there and grew especially sensitive to cold.”

Papyrus frowned in dismay.

“That is a shame. Fuku is such a wonderful monster. She made time to talk to me on her visits to Snowdin.”

Their conversation then stayed on differences between their worlds. Stretch would prompt him to keep talking, his curiosity having waited this long to indulge. Papyrus humored his datemate before bringing it back to something he had been puzzling over for days.

“What about your surprise?” Papyrus questioned even though the quality of the food could count to him as the surprise. He had not realized he had such a sweet-tooth. They would have to be careful about that.

“heh, blue told you?”

“No, he hinted at one just like you did.”

Stretch shrugged, “if he didn’t spill then i won’t either. you’ll find out very soon.” It was a bit of a disappointment but Papyrus could be patient. Their conversation throughout their date was lighthearted and it left Papyrus wanting. He wasn’t sure if it was a habit from living with Sans but there was a line he wasn’t sure about with Stretch. As they paid, thanked Muffet and then left, Papyrus’ soul began to sink in disappointment.

It was easier with Blue. Right now, he was one confused jumble of bones. He wanted to know more and he didn’t know how to express it with Stretch. This must have been written all over his face because the hoodie-clad skeleton slowed and leaned against the wood of the sibling’s house.

“what’s wrong, paps?” Stretch questioned with a slight smile.

It faded as Papyrus wrung his hands together in a nervous gesture, “I...It is hard to put to words…”

“wanna share? i can be real patient…” Stretch murmured, orange eye-lights searching Papyrus’ expression. Papyrus sucked in a shaky breath and the slightest burn in his sockets hinted that he might cry.

“It is just… You are so much like Sans! You are a closed book and I cannot tell what you’re feeling or thinking! I do not know if you are just doing this for Blue’s sake or what your feelings might be about all of this!”

Stretch’s eye sockets widened and before he could blink, Papyrus was pulled into warm arms and tight against Stretch’s rib-cage. It was just shy of hurting, so firm and holding him in place. Stretch’s breath hit his skull as his alternate self began whispering a fervent answer.

“i’m sorry, paps. I didn’t mean to make you feel that! damn...i am horrible with this. it’s been a habit to hold all of my cards to my chest since these resets began.”

Papyrus shook off his surprise and returned the embrace just as hard. His sockets squeezed shut.

“i’m just so fucking scared, paps.” Stretch laughed uneasily at this confession, “of everything. everything that might go wrong...everything that might go right! i’ve been getting better but i’m just terrified of losing all this… this new thing with all three of us. dunno if i could deal, ya know?”

“I…” Papyrus’ voice cracked, “I had no idea…”

“heh, pretty good at what i do, huh? don’t you feel tired of being cheerful all the time? maybe just wanna curl up into a ball of bones and sleep?”

Papyrus shifted and rested his head on Stretch’s shoulder, “...increasingly often since Sans disappeared.”

Stretch made a choked noise that sounded like a complex mix of pain and compassion, “you’re so much braver than me. I would’ve just accepted my separation with blue not even a week into what you’ve dealt with.”

Sans must have done the same…

As if sensing his thoughts, Stretch drew back and Papyrus was startled to discover tears in the other monster’s sockets, “please believe me when i say i don’t wanna replace sans. i don’t, no one can replace your bro. i just want whatever we’re making together right now. i want to be happy with you and blue. i’m terrified of losing this.”

Papyrus couldn’t speak. He couldn’t find the words that would make this right. So he acted on what his soul was singing with, leaning into Stretch and brushing their teeth together. Stretch froze before leaning into him. Unlike the sweet and lingering kisses shared between Papyrus and Blue, Stretch was all desperation and tentative affection. It overwhelmed both monsters but neither pulled away, their tongues sliding firmly but clumsily together.

The moment stayed until footsteps alerted them of someone approaching their spot pressed up against the brother’s cabin. Stretch pulled away and Papyrus was overjoyed to discover the soft and genuine smile aimed at him.

They didn’t let go of each other’s hands until they had to go to bed that night. A wall had been shattered and Papyrus was happy to call both of these skeletons his boyfriends. It was fragile and scary, but he could be brave enough for all of them whenever they faltered.

As the siblings kissed him goodnight and retired for the evening, Papyrus gazed down at the image of his older brother on the screen. He hoped that Sans would be proud of his efforts and like his new datemates.

Maybe enough to grow this relationship with them.

“Goodnight, Sans.” He whispered to the screen.

Chapter Text

Papyrus slept in unusually late the next day and was woken up to find both brothers still at home. He was becoming concerned about their work ethic but then remembered just who their boss was. He supposed his best friend would have made him do the same since Undyne had been both protective but also very…’shippy’. Whatever that meant… He did his morning routine of putting on his red-rimmed glasses, folding his blankets and fluffing his pillows and then going into the kitchen to see if Blue needed any help with breakfast. Well, Papyrus supposed it was brunch at this point…

“GOOD MORNING, PAPY!” The small skeleton greeted and got up on his tip-toes, face pleading and asking for a kiss that Papyrus gave him with a orange flush to his cheekbones. It was a chaste kiss but had a lot of affectionate intent behind it. The smile it caused was more than worth the embarrassment from inexperience.

“Good morning, Blue. Did you two already eat?”

Blue nodded, “I Made A New Recipe Called French Toast. It Turned Out Okay For A First Attempt And I Saved You A Plate! Please Give Me Some Honest Critique! I Want Only The Best Recipes In Our Cookbook!”

Papyrus nodded in agreement, happy to try something new. Blue warmed the breakfast and Stretch peeked over his folded arms, the skeleton appearing half asleep at the kitchen table. Not that it was out of the ordinary but this particular sign of exhaustion usually came hand in hand with overworking rather than being lazy. The hoodie-clad monster reached into his pocket and pulled out three slips of papers. He blinked down at the fancy font and then gasped upon realizing what these were.

“Did you… Our date is at Napstabot’s Resort!?”

His shock delighted both siblings. Stretch chuckled, looking pleased as punch as Blue’s starry pupils grew at his reaction.

“This Is Our Big Surprise!” Blue told him with an excited and softer tone, “Brother And I Worked Together To Make Our Group Date The Best We Can Give You!”

“I… Well, I am very thankful and touched,” Papyrus sputtered, flustered, “you did not have to do that for me.” The brothers smiled at him and Blue placed a plate of French Toast down in front of him. Stretch slid the tickets back into his hoodie pocket and returned to his light doze. Papyrus tasted the new version of Blue’s breakfast before smiling down at the other’s starry pupils.

“These taste amazing. However, the cinnamon may need some more sugar to balance it. It is slightly more bitter than needed.” His expression softened at the smaller monster’s pleasure and watched him revise the recipe right away with a fond expression. Even though this relationship had come as a surprise, Papyrus was still quietly marveling how natural it felt. Like a puzzle piece sliding into the bigger picture. Though, none of them could be blamed. It was a monster’s nature to love swift and strong.

“When do we have to be ready for the resort?” He asked after finishing the toast.

“We Can Go At Any Time To Get Our Room. Though There Is Not Much To Do Until The Evening!” Blue smiled as Papyrus joined him at the sink to wash off the rest of the dishes. That left much of the day open for Papyrus. He hummed in acknowledgment as they fell into the companionable silence. The splash of water and the rhythmatic scrubbing allowed him to muse over what he should do. The skeleton spent much of his time in the library reading for any differences or clues that may help him in finding Sans. Most of the books were not helpful but did give Papyrus some insight on the monsters who lived here. Even though he appreciated that, Papyrus was still no closer to an answer on what he truly wanted to know.

Still, it was a way to kill time. He had considered attempting to join the Royal Guard for sentry work like Papyrus had done back in his own world but his motivation had vanished after finding out about Chara. What the skeleton had kept was his training routine, though he did not always do it right when he woke in the mornings. His mind flickered over his options.

“I will go on my routine and then get ready when I return, is that acceptable?”

Blue grinned as Stretch raised a sluggish ‘thumb’s up’, “Go Ahead, Papy! We Will Be Here When You Return!”

The skeleton left the house with a smile on his face, kicking up snow as Papyrus began his jog. Diligently keeping the memories of that morning that started it all away, he first ran to the Ruins and touched the door before doubling back. The Bunny Brigade waved at him both ways, delighted to see Papyrus.

...How had he made friends here so easily? It had seemed impossible back home. Something that was constantly at the back of his mind. But here, even though the skeleton hadn’t focused on it or even tried, monsters had approached him readily with an extended hand.

Had Papyrus changed so much?

Yes.

Of course he had.

Losing his only constant in life. Learning the truth where there had only been lies. Found his older brother and Father through a time-rip. But only a memory as he surfaced in a brand new world.

His heart had been broken. His foundations shaken. But he had found friends. He had found love…

Papyrus felt like the speed of it all would crush him but here he stood, brave soul holding up against the trials. Now, if he could find Sans and a way to free them all… That would be the perfect outcome and like Blue, he would wish and hope for it.

Despite everything.

It was well after the lunch hour when Papyrus returned to the sibling’s home and greeted his boyfriends with a smile.

“wanna take a shortcut to check out our digs?” Stretch questioned, holding a hand out for Blue and Papyrus to take. They met his suggestion with enthusiasm and with a second of nothing, appeared in a place Papyrus had only seen in the tapes of Napstabot. It was...similar to Mettaton’s but it lacked the flair. The over-the-top indulgence. But it made up for it and how high-tech everything appeared, constant mixed music playing over the speakers.

Blue sprinted to the counter, his starry pupils wide and bright as they followed. Stretch passed the tickets over and they were politely directed to their room. It was the very last one in the facility’s hallway. Stretch whistled as they stepped inside.

“is that..?”

Blue belly-flopped onto the covers, “THIS BED IS HUMONGOUS!”

“definitely a super-sized king, right?”

Blue made a face, “Do Not Ruin This For Me, Brother.” Papyrus laughed at the dead-pan delivery and sat his belongings down where his boyfriends did. The bed was just as soft as he imagined, though it took up half of the room with its sheer size.

“i hope you have a craving for comedy because that’s what accompanies dinner.”

“Please Tell Me You Took Off Tonight!” Blue groaned and was shocked when Stretch merely nodded, “Wait… You did? I…” The skeleton flustered and appeared uncertain how to continue their banter.

“That is lovely of you to devote your time to us.” Papyrus cut in and Stretch blinked his sockets, a light touch of magic heating his skull.

“oh...um, yeah, of course. not a big deal…”

“But It Is, Brother!” Blue’s smile could outshine anything they had Underground, “I Am So Happy! We Will Have The Best Date Ever!”

“don’t thank me yet, they might be worse at comedy than me.” Stretch mumbled and Blue did not take the bait to scold his sibling. Blue was enjoying this new dynamic instead of falling back to old habits. Papyrus smiled at them and shook his head.

“Want to look around to pass the time?” He questioned and all three skeletons set out to explore the resort. Though it was the most grandiose structure, it wasn’t as large as the tapes made it out to be. The hallway only had six doors and the lobby was mostly to hold the statue of Napstaton. The structure was more clinical than Mettaton’s over the top presentation. Papyrus wondered if Happstablook would fill the hotel with images of himself if he got the chance.

They walked into the ice cream parlor and Papyrus wished he could say he wasn’t shocked at the presence of Nicecream Guy. However, Guy looked more depressed than ‘nice’. A long sigh escaped the blue bunny as he eyed them with eyes that appeared to never have slept.

“Are you guys here to buy or just wasting my time?”

Blue blinked at the rabbit, “We Are Taking In The Sights...Should You Not Take A Break Though? You Look Exhausted.”

Guy huffed a humorless laugh, “Breaks? What are those? Naw, I’m good. But if you aren’t buying, leave me to my grief.”

Stretch, Blue and Papyrus all exchanged meaningful expressions before backing out of the store. Ice Cream would ruin their dinner at that rate. They looked into the dining hall briefly before going outside. R01 and R02 were selling garbage in the alleyway next to the resort and were interesting to talk to. In fact, their conversation led them all the way until it was time to go back inside.

Papyrus hesitated at the back door, white eye-lights trailing upwards to take in the sheer size of the Core.

It was strange to think the invention that made the Underground more bearable was the source of so much trouble…

“Papy! They Called Our Number!” Blue shouted and Papyrus jolted from his trance to turn back to his boyfriends.

They ended the day with bad jokes, good boyfriends and laughs. Papyrus wistfully realized Sans would have enjoyed this date if he were here. Maybe they could plan something like this when they found him? That night, all three of them slept easily, curled up into each other on the ridiculously big bed.

Chapter Text

The following morning, Papyrus woke in the large bed and recounted the previous evening with a smile. Stretch and Blue were still sleeping beside him,their peaceful expressions causing his soul to pulse with love for them. How easily his soul went from affectionate to actual love shouldn’t be a surprise, but it was to Papyrus. It might be his inexperience or naivety, but this connection felt natural. As natural as what he felt for Sans. He decided to stay put as it was impossible to move without waking both siblings. Stretch’s long legs were hooked around his own and Blue’s skull was nestled against his chest. Even though they had not been intimate last night, the monster had to admit that he would not have turned that down if they had offered. To be ready for that level of commitment…

Well, he supposed he was making up for lost time. Papyrus never did anything halfway and this was a relationship that he wanted to give his all for.

His soft white eye-lights simply watched both brothers sleep and though it felt like an hour of laying still, Blue was the first to stir and open up his sockets. It took three seconds before recognition flashed across his star-shaped pupils and the sweet smile Blue offered him caused Papyrus to grin back.

“Did You Sleep Okay?” Blue whispered and he nodded.

“Yes… I enjoyed yesterday very much. Thank you so much.”

“n’problem.” Stretch answered without opening his eyes, announcing that he was awake but not quite ready for the day. Blue shook his head in exasperation at his younger brother before brightening.

“Happy Gyftmas, You Two.”

Papyrus and Stretch were now fully awake as they processed the words. He had lost track of time, was it really Gyftmas already? A part of him felt guilty that he had allowed his mind to wander from Sans but that was a destructive mindset to adopt.

“How is Gyftmas celebrated here? What are the plans?” He questioned and Blue sat up with an excited expression across his skull.

“Gyftmas is celebrated all day in Snowdin. The townsfolk set up stalls along the main-street that have homemade treats and toys ready for everyone. A lot of people travel from other areas in the Underground to enjoy the snow just like in the human version of the holiday. Then, Mrs. Santa Claus comes to see the children and older monsters to pass out boxes that have delicious food in them.”

That…wasn’t that different from what Papyrus and Sans did on Gyftmas. Save for many monsters choosing to celebrate where they lived instead of Snowdin and Mrs. Claus arriving instead of Santa, it was identical. The Snowdin Festival had been a long-running tradition as long as Papyrus could remember. Stretch spoke up, drawing him from his thoughts.

“we usually end the day with hot chocolate and private gift giving. mrs. santa always makes sure it will snow the whole day and night.”

A pang of alarm flashed across his soul.

“I did not remember the holiday and forgot to get gifts!” He fretted, now fully awake and feeling awful for his oversight. But the siblings were quick to smooth over his worry.

“Do Not Worry, Papy! You Have The Entire Day To Find Gifts At The Stalls! Most Of Our Gold Went To The Date So We Will Keep Our Gifts Small.” Blue’s words made Papyrus feel a little better but he was usually better than this… He would just have to think of the perfect gift to make up for his lapse in memory.

They packed their things back up, folding blankets and packing pillows before leaving some G as a tip to whoever cleaned their room. Stretch pulled them through a shortcut and crashed on the couch as soon as they returned.

“m’gonna get a few more ‘zzs’ in. don’t mind me.” Stretch hummed.

“Have You Finished Your Shopping, Stretch?” Blue asked curiously and the skeleton hummed in answer, already falling back to sleep. Papyrus chuckled before shrugging at an exasperated Blue.

“I suppose we will have to trust him on that. Do you want to check out the festival?” He questioned and the smaller skeleton brightened at the suggestion.

“I Am Happy SOMEONE Will Attend The Festival With Me!” He teased but Stretch was already gone, soft snores escaping him. Blue blinked and then sighed, an affectionate expression taking over the irritation.

“Poor Dear. Stretch Does Not Handle Too Much Socializing In Such A Short Time.” The small skeleton unfolded a blanket and covered Stretch with it. The sight brought a pang of homesickness. Sans would tuck him in almost every night and he missed that. He missed all the tiny things Sans did for him that he hadn’t realized at the time.

“The date exhausted him,” Papyrus murmured in reply and Blue nodded.

“He Will Be Better After A Few Hours Sleeping.” The small skeleton checked his younger sibling once more before turning to Papyrus, “We Can Take In The Sights And Then We Can Split Up.”

Papyrus nodded, happy that Blue gave him the time to find them both presents. The guilt hadn’t faded but he would make it up to them somehow to make up for the oversight.

He and Blue had to split up halfway through their trek due to the sheer number of stalls and monsters that were present. There was too much to look through and Papyrus was lucky to run into both Muffet and Gerson before night began to fall.

Papyrus felt overloaded and slightly overwhelmed as a crowd gathered down the street. A figure stood taller than most monsters and it took a moment to realize this was the Queen. He hurried to approach her and felt nervous in her presence.

Papyrus had known Santa Claus had been King Asgore. Those horns were very hard to hide and Papyrus was not a fool. That entity was a human myth but it had been fun to indulge in a bit of holiday magic.

Mrs. Santa Claus was a gorgeous woman and the skeleton wondered if Queen Toriel had been happier than this version. There was a motherly smile pulling at her lips but her amethyst eyes were endlessly saddened. The monster children tore through their gifts under her delighted gaze before she looked at Papyrus.

He felt very small as she approached. His height was formidable but she had that royal air about her that gave Asgore the same impression.

“Oh?” She breathed, “I do not know you, my child. Are you here to get a present?”

Papyrus scrambled to answer, “ah! Yes! I mean ‘no’! I mean… Yes, I am new. I came from...the Ruins! I would very much like a present!”

If she noticed his fib, she did not show it. Her smile widened but did not follow her eyes as she reached into her red bag. A delicious piece of butterscotch pie was within the container and she pressed it into his waiting hands.

“Merry Gyftmas, child. Perhaps you could join me for tea in the castle one day, hm?” Queen Toriel smiled and moved on to another waiting monster. Papyrus blinked and looked down at the pie, shocked Toriel hadn’t questioned him further.

Blue’s voice rose above the din of talking monsters, “PAPYRUS! ARE YOU READY TO COME HOME?”

“Coming!” He called, glancing back once more at the Queen before leaving the waiting crowd. Most of the children were already half-way through their present as he passed, eating the monster food made by Toriel immediately. Papyrus considered his own pastry before joining Blue on the way back home.

There were two containers of butterscotch pie on the kitchen table and he looked up at Blue in askance.

“Mrs. Santa Claus Came By To Wish Us A Happy Gyftmas Personally. She Does That For Her Employees.”

Oh…

Stretch was the Judge. He kept forgetting about that and he was too afraid to ask for the details. It might not be the same as Sans and it was a heavy topic Papyrus didn’t know how to approach.

“Are Those Presents?” Blue’s starry pupils brightened at the packages and Stretch entered the kitchen as Papyrus placed his piece of pie with the others. He opened the bag to offer each sibling their respective gift.

“I know they are not much,” he murmured, “I will try better next year. My boyfriends deserve better.”

It seemed his words thrilled them more than the gifts. Stretch chuckled low at the three pack of honey-flavored pastries.

“muffet’s secret menu, huh?”

Guilt flashed across his soul but Stretch was already talking again, “this is perfect. especially on such short notice. thank you, darlin’.” Stretch kissed him and he flushed as Blue opened his parcel.

He paused on the astrology book, “Where Did You Get This!?”

“Gerson.” Papyrus answered with a smile as Blue freaked out over the present. Two small packages were shoved into his arms. Papyrus opened them to discover the blown sugar treats and a book on puzzles.

“Appears like food and academics is the theme this year.” He said in an amused tone as he realized Stretch was lost in a engineering text, already eating Papyrus’ present.

No self control, it seemed. He sat down on the couch and read the puzzle book until his sockets grew heavy. Absently, Papyrus pulled out his cell phone to put the items away when he froze at the sight of Sans on his screen.

He was frozen. Had he really forgotten his brother in the upswing of festivities?

Papyrus jolted out of his thoughts, realizing that both siblings were looking over his shoulder to look at the photo of him and Sans embracing splashed across the phone’s screen.

“Do…”

It was a false start and Papyrus had to swallow his emotions down. This was the first Gyftmas he had celebrated without Sans and that felt so painful. His chest felt tight, as if there wasn’t room for his soul inside his rib-cage.

“...Do you think Sans is having a good Gyftmas?” He finally managed. Stretch kept his silence but Blue spoke up, always the optimist and picking up the slack where Papyrus had failed.

“If He Did Not, We Will Make Sure His Next Gyftmas Is Twice As Magnificent!”

That had been the right thing to say and Papyrus nodded with a smile. It did not stop his worry but the warmth of his boyfriends drawing him down into the couch to enjoy some hot chocolate certainly helped.

Chapter Text

Papyrus opened his eyes, confusion rising in his soul as he didn’t wake on the sibling’s green couch. Slowly pushing himself up onto his elbows, his eye-lights shrank in recognition. The high arched ceiling. The tiled floors and beautiful stained glass windows… Everything glowing a bright but gentle gold that was far too cheery for what Papyrus now knew was the Hall of Judgment. Approaching footsteps had Papyrus springing to his feet defensively but his breath caught as the strangers rounded the corner.

Sans!

His soul cried out strongly for the familiar and dearly missed sibling he had been searching for, “brother! You are here! You-”

Papyrus stopped, realizing the grim but determined expression Sans was wearing did not falter. His words hadn’t reached Sans. In fact, there was no recognition there at all. Like his older brother could not see him. His gaze flickered to the other person with his sibling and upon finding a human child holding Sans’ hand tightly, his soul sank. What was this? The last thing he remembered was falling asleep.

…Was this a dream?

Sans and the human halted a good distance away from Papyrus, allowing the skeleton to take in the changes of his brother. His favorite blue jacket was missing and in place of a white shirt, there was a black one that Papyrus didn’t recognize. He was wearing proper sneakers instead of slippers and… Papyrus’ tiny eye-lights scanned Sans’ form, realizing there was an unfamiliar bump below the clothing. Like he had eaten way too much and needed to summon his ecto-flesh to consume everything properly? Heavy footsteps at Papyrus’ back had him whirling around defensively, able to catch a few Royal Guards disappearing through the other end of the hall while three of them surrounded Sans and the human child.

Papyrus rushed to his sibling’s side and held out his arms defensively, “no! He did not do anything wrong! I am certain this is a misunderstanding!”

Speaking was futile, his words not reaching anyone present in the Judgment Hall. Papyrus looked down at his beloved sibling, shocked to discover the determination replaced with a calm one. One of Sans’ hands was placed over the swell in his stomach while the other squeezed the child’s in what appeared to be a reassuring gesture. Papyrus examined the human a little further, realizing they were trembling.

They were terrified.

Did they not have the ability to reset? What could a human possibly be afraid of in the Underground?

His brother looked down at the child, eye-lights gentling in a way that pulled at Papyrus’ soul. This human wasn’t the one who had hurt Sans… He was protecting them. But from what? The guards?

“it’s gonna be okay, kiddo.”

The sound of Sans’ voice had him reaching out and his inability to do anything here was solidified as his hand passed through his older brother. It was like he was a ghost and not a monster. Papyrus wanted so badly to hold his brother close. To talk to him. To just..! Have him back! How could he be this close and Papyrus could not reach him!?

“remember what i told you?”

Papyrus stilled and glanced down at the child once more as they examined Sans. Their trembling slowed down before the human’s expression smoothed out into fierce determination. Whatever they had discussed had apparently wiped the child’s fears away, giving them strength. Papyrus’ confusion as to why this was happening was silenced as heavy footsteps accompanied by several frantic others grew closer.

Papyrus slid a step back in shock and dawning fear. This was…wrong! The creature that stood there was not King Asgore! There wasn’t a whisper of the gentle patriarch that invited monsters in for tea and wore a sad smile. No. The creature here held himself rigidly and those eyes reminded Papyrus of a predator, gleaming red instead of soft green. He felt like an abomination, radiating violence and intent to kill. His white fur was mated and the scarfed skeleton realized with a choking gasp that it was grey from Dust.

This monster had murdered his subjects and looked keen on doing the same to Sans and the human with him. Papyrus lurched to stand in between them, now certain this was a nightmare but he couldn’t do nothing! Even if it didn’t matter!

“P-Please! Leave them alone!” He yelled, spreading his arms out like he could shield them both, “LEAVE SANS ALONE!”

He hadn’t done anything!

This was a bad dream, it had to be!

Why did it feel so real?!

No! No! No!

However, his screaming and his presence was overlooked. Those cold and calculating crimson eyes took in the sight of a human greedily, staring right through Papyrus and to his intended targets. A child’s whimper sounded behind him and the skeleton wasn’t able to check them as the gross parody of King Asgore began to speak.

“I do not know how you brought the last soul here without alerting the Guard but you will be rewarded beyond your wildest imagining for your faithful service.” That chilling and emotionless tone brought out a primal fear in Papyrus but Sans was silent behind him. He was facing this creature in an uncharacteristic act of bravery the younger sibling never saw in Sans before.

The King reached out a massive paw.

“Now the barrier will be destroyed and the war brought to the humans.”

Sans did not speak, even as the creature’s mouth twisted into a nasty expression.

“Come here, child. Your death will be swift and your soul put to a greater cause.” If Asgore believed his tone was coaxing, he clearly had lost all sense. Papyrus jerked and glanced to side side to see the human hiding behind a column. The twisted patriarch blinked and gazed through the tall skeleton at his older brother. Who had not spoken. Who stood there, unfazed.

“What is this…? I do not know you, pitiful creature. But if you think you stand a chance against ME, you are insane.” The ensuing laughter was absolutely ugly. The King took a single step forward and finally, Sans spoke; voice calm and quiet.

“do you think even the worst person can change?”

Papyrus’ breath hitched, orange tears finally escaping at the sound of Sans’ voice. One that he missed dearly. His soul ached as Sans continued, “do you think even the worst person can change? that everyone could be a good person, if they just try?”

That was…

Those words were Papyrus’ belief.

The scenery suddenly warped nearly beyond recognition, like mirrors facing mirrors. In them were countless Sans’, most wearing his blue jacket and facing a child who looked different, with deep red eyes.

The knife swung.

The glowing trident of the king arched towards his brother.

Red everywhere. And screams. Childish laughter. His brother’s voice choking wetly, “…papyrus, do you want anything?”

——

Papyrus woke up screaming Sans’ name. Stretch was beside him in the next moment, sturdy arms holding him together as he continued to yell. His soul was racing and he couldn’t see through the tears, a second pair of hands touching his face. There were frantic words of reassurance but Papyrus couldn’t shake the nightmare. The first he had in such a long time.

The glow of the Save Star hidden in his red scarf grew noticeably darker.

Chapter Text

Stretch took his phone out of his pocket and dialed Undyne, hoping she wasn’t too busy. In truth, he was missing spending time with his best friend but understood that the machine came first. He had gotten a rare day off and wanted to spend it with her as Papyrus and Blue were both out. It rang four times before it connected.

“H-Hello?”

The monster chuckled at her unsure tone, she always answered like this despite having caller ID, “hey, ‘dyne. can i pop by?” There was a long pause before the Royal Scientist made a strangled noise.

“…But, um, the machine…”

“it can wait for a day. have you taken a break? eaten anything?” The silence was rather telling, “how about watching anime with a pal?” That got to her and Stretch grinned at Undyne’s hesitant agreement to meet. After hanging up with the scientist, Stretch walked leisurely to the closest time-tear and took a shortcut right into her lab. The answering screech caused him to throw up both hands in a pacifying gesture. She must have really been in the zone as Undyne had been one of the few that got used to his ability.

“You are going to Dust me one of these days!” She gasped, one hand placed over her soul as if to steady it, “I will come back as a ghost to haunt you!”

Her stutter was completely absent in her distress and Stretch laughed, dropping his hands to shake his head ruefully, “ah, if you come back as a ghost the trend is to become a famous robot.”

She blushed in embarrassment. The tall skeleton was one of the few that knew about Napstablook becoming Napstabot. Most of the population never knew of the timid ghost and the rumor that spread was that Undyne had created an A.I. along with that mechanical body.

“Obviously.” The Royal Scientist retorted before smiling timidly at him, “d-do you really wanna watch anime? I thought it wasn’t your thing.”

“ah, i enjoy me some good animes once in a while.” She snorted at the accent he took on before motioning for Stretch to follow her to her upstairs bedroom. He did so with his usual lazy gait, orange eye-lights appraising his friend when she wasn’t looking. She looked… Well, it appeared like Undyne hadn’t slept for days and if she had then all of those nights had been restless at best. There were dark circles underneath her eyes and her hair was wild instead of neatly brushed back into the regular ponytail. Her clothing was rumpled like she had slept in them. Sympathy welled into Stretch’s soul and he inwardly sighed. He had been hoping to ask after her progress on the machine but it looked like his friend was barely holding it together as it was.

So the machine, her work and Sans were off the table.

They arrived in her room and she motioned to the shelf of anime and manga she had collected over the years, “do you have any r-requests?” Stretch shrugged and walked over to survey the collection. Mew Mew Kissy Cutie was open and appeared to have been watched to death. Alphys must have been here recently… That or they watched it as background noise when seeing each other. Selecting a plot heavy and noisy title, he handed it to her and she smiled. As Undyne set up the television, he finally broke the silence lingering between them.

“we’ll only watch three episodes but i want you to take a shower when we break for lunch.”

Undyne blinked and looked back at him, “are we going somewhere?”

“yeah, i’m gonna shortcut us to muffet’s or grillby’s. no instant noodles today.” While his wording indicated that this was for him, he didn’t miss the soft look Undyne shot at him. Making sure she took care of herself when lost in a project was just what friends would do. She hummed and then started up the anime, going to take the other vacant beanbag as Stretch crashed on the blue one. He enjoyed that it was an unspoken rule that the blue beanbag was ‘his’ while the pink one was always Undyne’s. It made the sterile atmosphere a little easier to deal with.

Stretch didn’t like labs much and he preferred his own basement if the need arose. Even though the hoodie-clad skeleton had chosen a plot-heavy title, Undyne still spoke to him. Only half of their attention was on the screen as the conversation started back up.

“Thank you for showing up,” Undyne murmured, gold eyes on the robots fighting on screen, “and for helping me open up to Alphys. She’s amazing. I’m still getting over the fact I still have my job after we told the Queen of the Amalgamates…”

 

“The queen can’t fault you for a project she ordered.”

Silence lasted for a few minutes before Undyne turned to look at him, “all that stuff you told me is still...so alien to me. There’s a human with the king in the ruins that can manipulate the timeline...the resets…”

Stretch watched her eye him carefully, “it doesn’t sound real.”

He shrugged carelessly, “eh, about as real as a determination driven temmie. i’m glad that is staying in the ruins too.”

Undyne hunched her shoulders close as if he had yelled at her, “I am so sorry.”

“not your fault, ‘dyne. one for science and one to never ever repeat, yeah?”

“Yeah…”

Stretch very much wanted to ask her about the progress. Papyrus was getting lost in troubled thoughts more recently but they say that ‘no news is good news’, after all. Undyne was so smart and resourceful. If anyone could figure it out, it would be her.

“How are your boyfriend’s?”

Stretch glanced over at her big, sharp grin, “nosy monster. you know i don’t kiss and tell.”

“Awww, come on! I am dying over here! You suddenly go from chronically single to having TWO boyfriends, I want the details!”

“i don’t ask about you ‘n alphys,” her mouth opened and he cut in, “and i don’t want to hear about it. you’ll just have to wonder…”

“And write a lot of fanfiction…”

Stretch blinked, “what? now i think you’re making up words to fuck with me. just watch the animes and i’ll drag you for actual food later. okay?”

She sank further into the pink beanbag, “okay...but you’re paying!”

Stretch didn’t bother to correct her. He had invited her out, you don’t do that and expect your guest to pay. It was like...an unspoken law. The animation played on as he sighed. Unspoken...a lot of secrets had been spilled but there was so much he was tiptoeing around. Namely...the machine. It was okay. Even though his soul wasn’t like Blue’s, Stretch could be patient.

So he took care of Undyne that day and hoped this aided with a faster solution. It wouldn’t do to have a starving and exhausted Royal Scientist trying to do science. They had done that together before in the past.

There had been a lot of explosions but it had been so fun. Maybe after they found Sans, Stretch might consider picking science back up again. Working was fun when everyone he loved was happy.

And he had to admit, he was looking forward to meeting Sans from everything Papyrus shared about him. Sans sounded just like his kind of monster...

Chapter Text

Blue and Stretch had completed their sentry duty for the day and Papyrus found them both in the living room when he returned from the library in the evening. A board game was sat between the brothers and Papyrus approached them with a curious expression.

“Are we having a sleepover?” He questioned and Blue giggled, tugging him down so that he was sandwiched between his boyfriends. Papyrus was quickly realizing this was his favorite way to snuggle with them and he settled in.

“No! No Sleepover Or Special Occasion. It Just Felt Like A Cozy Night For Games And Sharing Company.”

“we always share our company, bro.” Stretch chimed in and Blue stuck his ecto-tongue out.

“Not Like Usual! There Is A Blizzard Occurring Tonight So Board Games, Hot Chocolate and Cuddling Seems Like The Best Course Of Action, Do You Not Agree?” Blue looked between them as if expecting an argument but found both taller skeletons nodding with soft smiles.

“i agree.” Stretch mumbled, tossing an arm around Blue and scooting towards Papyrus until their sides were pressed together. The natural affection still caught Papyrus by surprise but it was a pleasant one.

“Yes, I think that is a perfect plan.” Papyrus’ expression hazed over with nostalgia, “Sans and I would always hunker down whenever the excess magic caused a blizzard in Snowdin. It did not happen often but he always had hot chocolate ready. Aside from Gyftmas, of course. We had to save our resources just like any other monster.” The siblings stared at him in compassion and he laughed to dismiss the heavy topic. Everything was already being done to locate Sans, Papyrus just had to believe and be patient.

“I do not recognize this game, could you tell me the rules and how it is played?” He questioned and Blue beamed, launching into the instructions. The current game was what humans called a ‘role-playing’ game. It had different races like elves, orcs and halflings. The point of the game was to betray the other players and get the most treasure. While Papyrus had initially felt bad, it quickly faded as the fun revealed itself. Stretch and Blue naturally decimated his attempts but watching them go against each other was the most entertainment he had experienced in a long time. The card game was put aside for another unfamiliar board game whose premise was to gather all natural resources and grow the strongest civilization.

Papyrus had been a natural at it and actually won the third time they played it through.

“Wow! I Did Not Expect You To Beat Me!” Blue gasped out and Papyrus replied that it had been a close call. Which was the absolute truth, Blue must usually destroy Stretch in every game. The next game was a card game to root out who was the spy and it was admittedly not very fun with just three people so it was dropped after the second round. It was nearly dinner when all of the skeletons decided on a jigsaw puzzle. Blue put Napstabot on as background noise and hopped up to get dinner ready. Papyrus glanced up as Stretch began putting together the border pieces.

“Do you need help preparing dinner, Blue?” He called and the smaller skeleton called back to him in answer.

“No! I Want To Fix My New Variation On My Tacos! You Go Ahead And Spend Some Time With Stretch!” Papyrus looked at his alternate who merely shrugged in answer. That Stretch had not fallen asleep today was a small marvel. It was already dinner and he hadn’t opted out of any of their games.

“Are you having fun?” Papyrus questioned, leaning into Stretch’s side and flushing happily when Stretch wrapped an arm around him.

“of course i am. though i already knew i would lose most of these games. blue is something of a master at them.”

For some reason, this atmosphere brought an important question to Papyrus’ mind. It wasn’t one he could ask though. He remembered his promise even if the weight of the Save Star was a constant, tangled in his red scarf. Blue had been clear not to tell Stretch and the small skeleton had not approached him about it again.

He felt guilty. Sans and Stretch were the secret keepers… At least, that was what Papyrus had thought before Blue had revealed so much of how things had been before. If he could keep just one secret as good as both his brother and his boyfriends did then it would be okay. What he carried was a tiny miracle and was unpredictable.

This was his secret and Papyrus wouldn’t tell.

Blue called them to dinner and the tacos had indeed improved, much to the smaller monster’s delight. The cookbook was revised after they ate and Stretch was the first to disappear into his room.

“He Did So Well Today,” Blue grinned, “Stretch Has So Much Trouble Going Through A Day Without His Naps.”

“Compared to my brother, he has come a long way,” Papyrus mused out loud and continued when Blue looked at him in worry, “everyone has their thresholds! Sans was simply a 1 Hp boss monster. It was crucial that he rested.”

Blue didn’t appear appeased with this answer, “We Should Be Hearing Back From Undyne Any Day Now. The Task We Gave Her Was...Astronomical! I Am Sure She Is Being Very Diligent To Make Sure Everything Works Correctly!”

He didn’t know the Doctor Alphys from his world very well, but Doctor Undyne seemed to have that single-minded stubborn streak that was typical in his own best friend, “yes, I am sure she is too! Undyne does not stop no matter what!”

“Just Like Captain Alphys, Right?” Blue questioned with a grin and Papyrus nodded with a smile of his own. It simply did not do to dwell over the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ when they had such good friends with amazing souls.

“Do You Want To Play Another Game?” His smaller boyfriend questioned eagerly and Papyrus relented for another few hours of learning new board games to play. His time with Blue and Stretch was precious and Papyrus felt the worry fade.

Chapter Text

A month later was the three month mark of Papyrus living in this new world, all of the skeletons had taken the day off to spend time with each other. Blue had reassured Papyrus once more that taking the time off of work did not negatively impact either monster. One day out of many did not seem too bad but Papyrus still felt disruptive.

“No Human Is Coming Through. Chara Is Happy In the Ruins And They Would Warn Us Of Any Change,” Blue glanced over at Stretch, who was fiddling with the Undernet on his cell phone, “Right, Brother?”

“yeah. no human can get by them and we still have that truce.” The hoodie-clad monster replied before placing his phone on the kitchen table. They were correct but it did rub his standards the wrong way. Usually, Papyrus would not be able to keep such a huge secret but the cost of revealing Chara was too high. They weren’t being violent or messing with time so he was okay with leaving them in peace. Blue plated pancakes with small chocolate chips before sitting it on the table with a grin.

“I Decided To Add Something A Little Extra! It Is More Interesting Than Plain Pancakes And Stretch Has Such A Sweet-tooth!”

Stretch chuckled and shook his head, “don’t you mean both of us?”

“Shush, Brother. My Teeth Are Perfectly Fine With Healthy Food!” Blue sabotaged his cover-up by humming in pleasure after taking a big bite of his portion. Papyrus and Stretch exchanged a look before digging into their own breakfast. He wondered if all skeletons had a secret sweet-tooth. Four out of four skeletons he knew all loved sweets, so it might be a universal trait.

“Did you alter our cookbook to reflect this?” Papyrus questioned and Blue nodded with a huge smile.

“Yeah! I Also Included A List Of Additions That May Work With Pancakes In The Future!” The breakfast went by in peaceful silence after that. Stretch fiddled with his phone and Blue was the first one up as always, starting in on the dishes with a cheerful hum. However, when Papyrus moved to help him he was stopped by Stretch leaning across the table and grabbing his hand. Papyrus took a seat with a confused expression over their routine being broken.

A slight flush of orange magic on Stretch’s skull halted any complaints.

“we actually had something to ask you, paps.” The hoodie-clad monster pocketed his phone and was speaking in a soft tone, “it’s really important, so if you could let me talk without any interruptions it would…make this easier for me.” Papyrus nodded and watched Stretch visibly gather himself. His confusion was replaced with curiosity as Papyrus had never seen the others act like this. If his memory was correct, he hadn’t seen Sans look like this either.

“well… there is no easy way to start this conversation,” Stretch murmured before meeting Papyrus’ eye-lights with his own, “blue and i have been wondering…that is…uh…if you would be open to being physical with our relationship.”

Papyrus blinked, a matching flush of color on his face. Was he reading too much into this or… He had to make sure.

“Are you speaking about…intimacy?” He questioned slowly and the sound of water stopped at the sink. Blue was listening without joining in on their conversation. Papyrus wondered if it was because Blue was embarrassed or did not want to overwhelm him. Stretch appeared like he would answer but it ended up simply being a nod of affirmation.

“Well, I have not done that with anyone before so I am unsure if I would be any good at it.”

Papyrus’ fumbling caused Stretch to relax a bit, “it’s alright. it’s just…something we want and we wanted to ask you if there was any interest.”

“Of course!” The answer was out before he could stop it and he flushed a darker orange at how eager he sounded, “I...I mean, yes, I would like to. You are my boyfriends and having sex is a natural thing for a relationship.”

Papyrus had tried to sound confident and reasonable but his nervousness still shined through, bringing a gentle expression to Stretch’s face, “paps, you don’t have to do it if-”

“No! No… I really do, believe me. I am just terrified I will not be good enough.” His words trailed off and Blue finally returned to the table. Honestly, for some reason Papyrus had thought Stretch would take the lead but it was Blue who seemed the most composed.

“Have You Pleasured Yourself Before?” He asked and the skeleton merely nodded in answer. Of course he had. All monsters discovered self-pleasure between that awkward transition from stripes to adulthood and he was no different. It hadn’t been very often but Papyrus learned what he liked from it. As some ‘less physical’ monsters could do, he could change his anatomy between genders or even mix them. He just went without most of the time even though Papyrus had plenty of magic to sustain ecto-flesh.

“Of course. I have experimented. I simply have not been with another monster. Have either of you..?” His voice trailed off on the obvious question and Stretch shrugged.

“not me. just didn’t want to with anyone but blue.”

Blue flushed with magic, obviously pleased with that answer, “Me Either. However I Have Self Pleasured A Bunch So It Feels Like I Have Been With Another… It Might Just Be My Soul Trait Giving Me An Advantage?”

Stretch hummed, trying not to blush too bad and failing on an epic scale, “if that’s the case, why don’t you take the lead, blue?”

Surprised flashed across Blue’s starry eye-lights before he smiled, “Of Course I Can! I Am Also The Oldest Out Of All Of Us, So It Makes Perfect Sense.” Instead of sitting down or going up the stairs, Blue slipped his boots on much to their confusion.

“where...where are you going, bro??” Stretch questioned, at a complete loss. Blue spun around while opening the door and made a face.

“I Have Standards And I Am Sure Papyrus Does Too! I Will Not Let You Ruin Our First Time Having Sex Together.”

The door slammed on the wide-eyed skeletons and a beat passed before Stretch’s phone began to ring. His orange eye-lights shrank as he took in the name.

“Aw fuck...nope.” He walked over to the time-tear in the corner and tossed his still ringing phone through it. Papyrus was still in shock but noted that he couldn’t hear the ringing as soon as it passed through the shortcut.

“I...Who was that?” He finally managed as Stretch took a seat back at the table.

“ugh, undyne...i forgot she had a camera near the front of the house. she heard blue.”

Oh… That was…

Certainly a thing and Papyrus discarded the knowledge because he really did not want to dwell on it. He hesitantly reached out and took Stretch’s hand.

“Are you as nervous as I am?”

“maybe more. damn, blue is so confident...at least one of us is. two awkward virgins is better than three.”

“You make a good point. Are you sure you want to..?” He trailed off as Stretch finally met his eye-lights.

“i more than want to. naturally, thoughts of blue are common for me with the crush but i can admit to a few fantasies about you more recently.” Stretch revealed. That was embarrassing but also...it was nice to hear? Perhaps he had been more than naive growing up and hadn’t realized his romantic feelings for Sans until recently but he wanted this. A part of him wished he could have his first time with Sans but Papyrus loved both of these skeletons.

“I want it too.” Papyrus murmured again and Stretch smiled. The moment was broken as Blue slammed the door open and shut, running up to his room with a ‘Do Not Come Upstairs Until I Get You’ yelled behind him as his own door shut.

“that was fast…” Stretch murmured with small orange eye-lights, clearly shocked at how Blue was handling this situation. Papyrus would have loved to say they waited in comfortable silence right then, but that would be a lie. Both of them were tense and nervous, so when Blue called down to them from his room, they were relieved to join him.

They opened the door to discover Blue had made a large comfortable nest of blankets and pillows. The lights inside were dim, many candles lit to set a mood. As much as Papyrus wanted to linger on their surroundings, Blue was what caught his attention the most. There was a shy and excited look on his face, his starry pupils toned down to cyan pins of light. He was barefoot, his scarf and battle body shed to leave him only in his grey pants. Papyrus flushed at the sight of the skeleton’s soul casting beautiful light through his ribcage.

Blue was stunning.

Papyrus jerked out of his trance as Stretch finally moved beside him, entering the room and shucking off his orange hoodie. A tight, black tank-top still covered his boyfriend’s body but his orange soul could be seen below the thin fabric. Papyrus quickly moved to his scarf but paused when he realized in his preoccupation that the Save Star was still within. Moving more carefully, he took off his red scarf, being extra cautious to keep the glowing stone together with it. If Blue or Stretch noticed anything amiss, they didn’t say so. He followed the scarf up with his battle body, revealing his bare ribs with an excited flush.

His soul was a lighter colored orange than Stretch’s, his eye-lights watching his alternate removing the tank-top so that all of the skeletons only had one article of clothing left. Stretch was just as handsome as Blue and Papyrus felt blessed to have two amazing people love him like this. If they had any weaker self control, they would be giggling with nerves but it felt natural to settle into the nest with Blue.

“I Know This Is Unusual For A Monster’s First Time But Sex Is About Having Fun.” Blue murmured with a gentle smile, “Meant To Be Enjoyed. I Will Try To Be Less Nervous As We Figure This Out.”

Ah. Papyrus realized with a start that not only were they sharing a first time but they were starting out with multiple partners. The thought was intimidating but he didn’t have to linger on it for long, his eye-lights watching as Blue shed the last of his clothing, baring all of his bones to the warmth of the room. Stretch exhaled a sharp breath as if pained, but his gaze was hungry as he eyed his sibling.

“how are we…” Stretch trailed off before Blue laughed.

“Just Do What Feels Right!” He grinned at them both, “No Sense Stressing About It!”

Stretch was the first to reach for Blue as Papyrus began to shed the rest of his clothing as well. He was terrified but the sight of his boyfriends’ tentatively beginning to explore each other was enough to distract him. They really were beautiful and Papyrus shivered under their combined attention as he bared himself fully, that same hungry look sparking arousal within his soul.

A flash of orange captured his focus and Papyrus whined when Blue and Stretch began kissing. Not wanting to be idle, he scooted close to them and waited patiently for his own kisses. It was strange and wonderful how different both of them were when handling him. Blue was competitive but coaxing as their mouths met. The slide of the older brother’s thicker tongue was addicting and he tasted uniquely like citrus. Stretch was slower with Papyrus, taking his time and leaving him breathless. The taste of Stretch’s sweet magic blending with Blue’s was Papyrus’ new Big Favorite taste.

If that was a thing… He was unsure.

Stretch’s long fingers trailing up and down Papyrus’ rib-cage caused him to moan, blushing at the slip. A smirk eased onto the other’s face as Blue moved behind him to box him in between them. Both had such warm bones and he wasn’t quite sure how to contain himself when Blue ground his pelvis against his tail bone. He looked up into Stretch’s heated gaze, his magic already gathering as Blue kept it up behind him. The motions in turn carried to Stretch and he was deliciously trapped between the brothers. There was a flash of heat behind him, something soft and wet dragging over the tip of his tail-bone.

“Oh stars,” he gasped out, wondering where the hell their anxiety had went. Everything felt so good and so intense. The awkwardness had faded to be replaced by passion that scrambled his thoughts. Stretch’s fingers slipped between them to toy with his magic and he did what he often was prone to.

Overcompensating and summoning both ecto-genitalia to the slightest pleasure. His counterpart pulled back with an impressed look, staring down at his formed magic as Blue laved his tongue against his spine.

“Shit…that’s so…come here. turn around so my bro can see,” Stretch panted and Papyrus turned between the brothers, revealing his genitalia to Blue’s hungry gaze. His orange cock twitched in interest as small phalanges caressed the head, smearing the magic already beading there.

“So Pretty!” Blue praised with a wide grin, “Here, I Got An Idea. Stretch, Lay Back And Spread Your Knees So Papyrus Can Rest Between Them.”

“Damn, blue…” his alternate huffed out, easing back against the pillows and pulling Papyrus up and between his legs. It was like the puzzle clicked into place for their first time as Papyrus realized their position. Blue shifted until he was between both of their femurs, deft fingers reaching down to free Stretch’s cock. A strained curse was muttered against his skull as the long shaft slapped against the slit below Papyrus’ cock. He didn’t get the luxury to process anything before Blue’s thick ecto-tongue lapped against his slit, moving down to suckle the length of Stretch’s cock.

Both of them jolted under the attention and Papyrus wasn’t too proud to lie about cursing just as much as Stretch. It felt so good, the orange ecto-flesh of Papyrus’ slit quivering each time Blue licked him in between sucking his younger sibling off. The attentive licking eased into delving into his pussy as his neglected shaft twitched. He thought he might lose his mind before Blue finally moved back a bit, taking Stretch’s heavy cock in hand. Papyrus felt fingers move the pulsing head against his pussy and Stretch groaned, wrapping his glowing tongue around Papyrus’ vertebrae.

“Fuck..i gotch’a, darlin’. is this okay?”

The question was for both of them and the breathy agreement was eager. Stretch moaned as he pressed up into Papyrus’ tight entrance, Blue’s hungry expression getting darker when his magic allowed Stretch in. It was strange and wonderful at the same time. An indescribable feeling as Stretch slowly filled him up, a sob escaping Papyrus as his neglected shaft was finally given some attention. That made it easier for Stretch to bottom out, Blue’s fingers playing at the point where they were connected. His shaft pulsed as Blue pulled away but his frustration was wiped away as the smaller skeleton stood. Both he and Stretch kept still, struck at the vision Blue made. His glowing pussy was drenched without once being touched, trails of magic leaking onto his femurs as he straddled Papyrus.

“Good?” Blue asked in a heated but gentle way.

“Please!” Papyrus managed to gasp as Stretch watched over his shoulder, his body shaking with the need to buck under the sensations. Blue beamed and rubbed the wetness of his magic against the tip before sinking down to take all of Papyrus inside.

Pleasure whited out the world for a moment, with only him, Blue and Stretch existing. Feeling and just soaking up the moment. Then the instant passed and Papyrus was driven senseless as Stretch and Blue began to move. It was all too much and amazing to him. His slit gripped Stretch’s cock with each thrust as if to keep him inside. His cock jerked every time Blue fell down right to the root, luxurious soft heat squeezing his large shaft like a vice.

They didn’t last long. Stretch’s pace stuttered after a few moments and slammed deep into Papyrus, hot magic flooding his pussy and leaking out. Even when blissed out, Stretch managed to reach up to Blue’s pelvis and began fucking Blue down onto Papyrus’ dick faster; harder. Blue cried out, passage fluttering as magic squirted between them.

Papyrus screamed his completion and flooded Blue with his magic, overstimulated and whispering urgently to both of his lovers. How good this all felt, thanking them and loving them for this experience. The afterglow lingered and finally all three skeletons pulled apart to recover.

Chapter Text

At the four month mark, Stretch’s cell began ringing as he was dozing at his sentry station. His orange eye-lights flickered down to check the screen and snatched the phone up when Undyne’s name flashed across the screen.

“hey,” the skeleton greeted simply.

He patiently waited through Undyne’s stuttering. She always seemed shocked when someone answered her call despite that being the obvious outcome. She managed to reign in her nerves before speaking, “c-can you come to the lab? A-All of you. Blue and P-Papyrus too?”

Relief washed over Stretch and he grinned, “sure. i’ll go wrangle them up. be there in a few, ‘dyne.” The hoodie-clad skeleton cut the call short, knowing it was Undyne’s preference. Honestly, it was his preference as well. His phone was basically a portable Undernet device unless it were his sibling or now Papyrus calling him. It had been a long wait but knowing Undyne had discovering something and felt the need to brief them seemed promising.

Stretch took a shortcut into the house. He peeked into the kitchen and Papyrus looked up from the cookbook he and Blue had created together.

“Stretch! You are home early! You are not slacking again, are you?” Papyrus’ suspicious expression caused Stretch to laugh and he hugged his lover close.

“undyne wants us in the lab. where’s blue?”

Excitement flashed across those white eye-lights and Papyrus grinned, “Blue is on his way back from training with alphys. If we wait, he will be here any moment!” Papyrus took Stretch’s hands into his own, “has she found out how to find Sans?”

“the call was short but she must be done with her work. if not, she wouldn’t have called for all three of us.” Stretch reasoned.

“That is great news!” Papyrus let go of Stretch and began cleaning up what he had been working on. The cookie cutters had been laid out, so it appeared his lover had been baking today. Placing the book and utensils away, the front door opened. Blue hesitated in taking off his boots upon spotting Stretch.

“BROTHER, DID YOU TAKE OFF EARLY AGAIN!” It wasn’t really a question and Blue only stopped himself from scolding his younger sibling when Papyrus rushed beside him to put his boots on.

“Doctor Undyne called us to the lab, Blue!” Papyrus stated with excitement and that wiped away any lingering confusion, the smaller monster’s starry eye-lights growing bigger.

“REALLY!?”

“yeah, bro. we’ll take the boat. i don’t think I can handle teleporting so much today.”

Blue bounced in place, “LET US GO THEN!”

Laughing, Papyrus took Blue’s hand and reached out for Stretch, who took it with a fond smile. Stretch wasn’t sure if Papyrus did that from habit since they did teleport quite a bit or if he needed the contact. Perhaps both? The snow was easy to traverse since it had been a few days since the last snowfall and all three monsters walked to the boat, getting in and allowing the ferryman to whisk them off to Hotland. Papyrus and Blue barely noticed the heat because they hurried out as soon as they arrived, Stretch chuckling and shaking his head in amusement as he followed.

The automatic doors ‘whoosh’ed open and the skeletons calmed down upon spotting Undyne standing in front of a new machine. Stretch marveled at it’s size. She must have commissioned the guards working under Alphys to raid the Dump for all the parts involved. Just the screen by itself was amazing. The Royal Scientist glanced up at their arrival and nodded a tad shakily.

“I-I..um, hi. Thank you for c-coming.”

Both his brother and Papyrus smiled at her while Stretch answered, “no problem. gonna explain this ‘monster’ of a machine.”

Their groans at his puns brought a reluctant smile to Undyne’s face but she seemed visibly cheered at him going straight to the point. Or was that the elephant in the room? Still, both of those worked and she powered it up.

It took a few moments before a color shifting line began to steak across the darkness. The literal rainbow among the void. Undyne pointed to it, “t-that’s the world Papyrus came from!” She tapped a few keys and zoomed out, “I was able to backtrack the progress from when Papyrus arrived using his magical signature and the Core’s power. This is what it looked like right before he came here…”

The rainbow point stalled and focused into a star.

All three skeletons jerked back when it literally exploded across the screen. It was like watching tree roots grow was too quickly to be natural. Behind the indicated place of Papyrus crossing over is what looked like a knot. The lines stopped abruptly in places and doubled back in a lot more.

After his arrival…

The line stopped, hints of technicolor remnants sinking downward.

When none of the skeletons spoke, Undyne broke the silence, “the time-line shattered completely after… I do not know what is left where it was located. The negative space suggests something is there but it is not natural. The trails of light might be…what remained seeking a new universe.”

Papyrus stared at those trails of light, eye-lights dimmer than what either brother had seen. The skeleton had hoped that his home was intact. That everything was continuing without Sans and himself present…

His soul hurt.

“are those…anomalies?” Stretch questioned and Undyne nodded, her golden eyes wide behind her spectacles.

“I-It’s a time-loop.” The Royal Scientist confirmed with a grim expression. Stretch glanced over at Blue and Papyrus’ faces to discover confusion and loss. There was really no easy way to ask them but they had to know.

“how many..?” Stretch trailed off and Undyne actually adverted her attention fully.

A long pause.

“Exactly one thousand five hundred forty one repetitions.”

A choked sound tore out of Papyrus, the skeleton bringing up one hand to cover his mouth as his sockets widened. The white eye-lights were absent as tears began to run down his face. He felt a small hand take his dangling fingers into a gentle hold and a firm arm wrap around his shoulders. He attempted to repeat the number, but he couldn’t. Papyrus looked at Stretch, still stunned.

“Over… Are those resets?”

Stretch nodded without speaking and merely held onto Papyrus as he continued to cry. The slump in those shoulders and the amount of tears spoke of a serious toll on the other monster’s soul. He glanced down to check on Blue only to find his sockets closed and grip on Papyrus tight. Anger at the unfairness of it all, he returned his attention to his best friend. She couldn’t even look at them.

Stretch’s voice was deadly calm when he spoke, “tell me you found sans.”

“I found Sans.” Undyne’s response took them all by surprise. Mainly because it was delivered in a joyless tone. The Royal Scientist reached forward and the view widened even further. The mess of the origin time-line was small as two other branching lights came into view. They were red and blue respectively.

An orange light filtered down from the original universe and entered the blue time-line. At the heart of the resets, a light blue streak fell into the red time-line at the opposite side of the screen. Undyne pointed at the animation, which looped as she explained.

“That orange beacon is Papyrus jumping universes. This shows him falling here,” her finger moved to the other red time-line, “and that is Sans as he arrived in another.” Stretch glanced between the two with a frown. The worlds were at a clear divide, far and opposite to each other.

“Do Those Colors Mean Anything?” Blue asked suddenly and Undyne did not look at them as she answered.

“Cyan universes contain more positive energy,” she frowned, “red universes are the opposite and include negative energy.”

Positive and negative… Stretch gritted his teeth in frustrating, “are you talking about LV and HP?”

“Yes.”

Her brief answer cut through the air and the silence that followed was heavy and painful. It was Blue that broke the silence.

“How Do We Save Him?”

The Royal Scientist’s shoulders shook before she choked on a sob, “I- I- I’m SO SORRY! I’M SO SORRY! I tried EVERYTHING! Believe me I did! But it’s impossible!! We can see him! But crossing over…We can’t do it!”

Stretch’s sockets widened at her outburst, “but Papyrus is here! Sans got there too! There has to be a way!”

“F-Flukes!” She insisted before shaking her head, “I…I’m sorry!” She excused herself as the skeletons watched helplessly. A moment later, Papyrus bolted from the lab and Stretch chased after him, calling his name.

Blue watched Stretch follow Papyrus at a hurried pace and frowned at the large screen showing the branching universes. Undyne had left the room, likely to cry from this whole situation. The small skeleton didn’t blame her. It just… Blue hadn’t thought Undyne would come up with nothing. Perhaps if he… Phalanges reaching forward and pressing a series of keys, he scrolled out as far as he could and watched the time-lines branch out further and further. It really did seem endless… The longer he watched, the more despair rising in his soul.

Something in the corner of the screen caught Blue’s attention and he frowned at the errant white pixels in a sea of black, stark compared to the rainbow lines. Scrolling out more and more, he realized there was something else out there. Something…strange. A garbled voice filtered through the speakers, causing Blue to jerk back.

“Ar3 y0u f- fuck1n6 k1dd1n6 m-m3??!”

Angry glitched eye-lights flashed across the screen and the white area disappeared along with the mysterious entity. Undyne rushed into the room in confusion, “Blue? What was that?”

“NOTHING!” He squeaked, “Just… JUST AN ERROR!”

Undyne gazed at the screen, golden eyes still wet with tears as she scrutinized the system, “no, everything is working fine… It’s just not enough.” Blue frowned sadly and hesitantly offered a pat on her back before excusing himself to find his lovers.

They needed each other now more than anything.

Chapter Text

The skeleton’s residence in Snowdin was quiet that night. There were no boisterous conversations, no playful arguing and no laughter to be heard by passerby. While this drew concern from their neighbors, the monsters who noticed gave them privacy. The living room was covered with every pillow and blanket both brothers owned, forming a large nest that allowed all three boyfriends room to hold each other tight. Papyrus had not stopped crying, face drawn in a mix of grief and exhaustion as his tears were wiped away by his lovers. Blue made sure Papyrus drank water, offering it periodically when they broke apart or moved. Despite this, Papyrus’ voice was hoarse and Stretch had whispered that he didn’t need to explain himself or apologize.

They were here and weren’t going anywhere.

But that was all the comfort they could provide against the distress the multiverse had handed to Papyrus. Blue and Stretch held themselves together for Papyrus’ sake, but their souls churned with the agony of being put through what Papyrus was dealing with now. Their sockets itched and both siblings wanted desperately to cheer their lover up.

But Stretch and Blue couldn’t.

This raw wound would not go away overnight or perhaps ever. Trauma had a way of sticking like tar if it was harmful enough. Even if years were to pass and he rarely thought of it, the damage was there and there wasn’t a cure. They didn’t say it was going to be okay. Blue and Stretch did not know and didn’t want to lie to their boyfriend. However, they didn’t want to give up on the idea of finding Sans despite everything. Giving up would be admitting that Papyrus’ brother was gone forever. They refused to accept that because if it became set in stone, Papyrus may never recover.

Blue was the first to speak, drawing both Stretch and Papyrus out of their thoughts.

“I Will Go Fix Dinner. Please Stay Here.”

His tone was nearly lowercase. It would be the first time in years Stretch had heard that particular quality in his older brother’s voice. So he stayed and held Papyrus close, the other skeleton burying his skull back into the fabric of his orange hoodie. The fabric was damp with old tears and soon acquired a fresh wave of new ones. He… He didn’t know what to do to make this better. While Stretch was certain there were a few new things they could try with Undyne’s machine, there was nothing he could say to stop Papyrus’ tears.

He could check the notes again...

But inside, Stretch knew that Undyne would have tested them right into the ground before speaking to them. Could he possibly change anything? Add anything? Stars, even Blue? Despite being out of the loop for over a decade now? Papyrus’ grip tightened on him and Stretch hugged him close.

“we’re here, paps. you’re not alone.” He whispered hoarsely and there was a long pause before he felt a nod. Blue stayed in the kitchen for a while and came out with a bowl for their grieving lover. Papyrus pulled away from Stretch and took the offered bowl delicately, discovering the familiar sight of oatmeal and tiny dinosaur eggs. For a second, it appeared like more tears would come but the skeleton looked up into Blue’s face for a long moment before beginning to eat at a slow pace. Stretch figured the gesture was accepted but it had been a risky one. Blue could have inspired new tears since that was what Sans made Papyrus. It seemed their efforts were not in vain but it still did not help the issue at hand. Blue motioned for Stretch to follow him upstairs before climbing to the second level on his own.

“i’ll be right back, paps. i love you.” He whispered before kissing the side of Papyrus’ skull. The lack of movement was alarming but he knew the other skeleton had heard him. He gently tucked blankets around his boyfriend and stood up to shortcut straight to Blue’s room.

Stretch paused at the sight of Blue’s small form slumped on the rocket shaped bed before rushing to his sibling’s side.

“blue?” He carefully roused the other skeleton and frowned at the tears running down Blue’s face, “aw, honey, come here…”

Blue pushed into his arms and Stretch held his older brother tight. He was nearly silent in his crying and despite expecting his sibling to speak, he hadn’t anticipated it would be in an angry whisper.

“it’s not fair.” He gritted out in lower-case, shocking Stretch right out of his own grief, “it’s not fair…”

Stretch hummed in agreement. He knew it wasn’t fair, especially for someone as good as Papyrus. He definitely wasn’t an angry person but there was a low current of rage at how the universe was treating their boyfriend. He knew that Blue felt the same.

“What are we going to do?” His older sibling asked after a long moment of just holding each other. Stretch pulled back to look down into Blue’s tiny, trembling eye-lights and the skeleton cupped the other’s face.

“we’ll be here for him. that’s all we can do for the moment. be here and love him.” Stretch wanted to throw out possible ideas for new research but everything was too fresh for all of them. He wasn’t sure what to do and it looked like Blue didn’t either. Surely there were more possible avenues… Maybe they couldn’t get to Sans physically, but there might be the possibility of confirming if he was okay and what type of world he was in.

It took a long time for the siblings to break apart and when they went downstairs, Papyrus was sleeping restlessly on the floor instead of on the couch. Blue and Stretch decided to stay with him that night, getting as comfortable as the many pillows and blankets would let them. They would be afraid to leave Papyrus alone for a long time coming if everything they attempted in the future failed.

Chapter Text

The following days dragged on forever and everything hurt. The brothers had hovered in worry over him and Papyrus had finally asked for some time alone. Blue and Stretch were reluctant to leave him in this state, he did not blame them but was grateful when they respected his request. He hadn’t been sure if he could stand the attention anymore. His soul was tight with pain and his mind restless as Papyrus tried to come to terms with Undyne not being able to help them. It was hard to read anything other than the agony and the skeleton could not bring himself to do anything productive. He just wanted to be left alone to parse his emotions out. Find some way to deal with this. Find any sort of solution that could reassure Papyrus that it wasn’t over.

But his mind kept returning to how Doctor Undyne broke down and how he had felt in that moment.

He shifted on the couch and pulled out his cell phone. A tap lit up the dark screen and he stared at the picture of himself and Sans for what felt like the thousandth time he had done during his time in this world. It didn’t help the pain but he needed to see Sans in the only way he could.

“What do I do now, brother?” He whispered to the screen, tears burning his sockets, “I promised I would never give up. I need to find you but everything hurts. I just want to sleep.” The soft pillows and blankets offered little comfort but it was all Papyrus knew to do in order to soothe himself. Was this why Sans had slept so much? He was already familiar with the nightmares, his dreams haunted by his brother dying over and over surrounded by the gold of the Hall of Judgment. One thousand, five hundred and forty one times to cover would be a lifetime of bad dreams.

“No wonder you did not care in the end.” Papyrus whispered to the image of his sibling. Pushing away all hope but Papyrus had allowed Sans self-preservation but to what end? To a world doomed to be caught in that endless loop? In the hands of a cruel child who just wanted to sate their curiosity? Perhaps Sans had told him, maybe more than once, what he was experiencing? Something that was likely given up long before the hundreds of resets pushed to a thousand time-lines.

If it hadn’t only been Sans remembering… If Papyrus could have remembered along with his brother… Would they maybe had found a way to stop the human? Would he have lent the repetitions any help by offering his mercy among the violence?

What if… What if…

Papyrus could think himself in circles and never get any answers. There were countless ‘what if’ questions but no way of knowing if his presence would have helped. Maybe it would have at least aided Sans. He wouldn’t be experiencing that nightmare alone. It was ironic that Papyrus wished he could go back in time himself. No one should have that type of power, especially a child. Had there been any good to them at all? Would Undyne’s machine showing the other time-lines reveal realities where Monsterkind reach the Surface?

A droplet of orange magic struck the screen, trailing down Sans’ smiling but exhausted expression. Papyrus wiped it off gently and let it idle until the screen grew black. The day was spent in a haze of crying and thinking himself in circles. Whenever Papyrus thought he might have an idea to find Sans, it would quickly be shot down by just how powerless he was in this world. The confirmation of the multiverse had been on his arrival, surely it took decades to learn how it all worked? Much less find a way to jump between them. The monster had done it before but the time-tears never took him anywhere but their normal shortcuts.

There was a wild moment where Papyrus wanted to say Gaster’s name.

That had been a contributor to him being here, after all.

But he was afraid of what might happen. Blue had warned him not to say it and there was a feeling in his soul that told the monster that if he did, something horrible would happen. So he did not risk it. If not for himself and this world, for Blue and Stretch. When the day turned into night and his boyfriends returned, Papyrus was exhausted with grief. Blue tried to wake the skeleton for dinner but a groggy assurance he was fine and would eat sometime later caused the smaller skeleton to leave him be.

When he woke up alone much later and it was still dark, Papyrus felt a part of him break and his HP fell by ten points as he sobbed into the night.

—————————

Papyrus didn’t last three days under all the pain the revelations in Undyne’s lab had left him. After the first drop of his HoPe, Blue and Stretch had refused to leave him again and Papyrus did not want them to, if he was honest. His soul still stung from it’s sudden 10 HP loss and the nightmares of chasing Sans but never reaching him had him crying out into the darkness of the house the following nights. Stretch and Blue had rushed down the stairs every single time to comfort him. He could see Stretch’s face cloud with loss of sleep and even Blue appeared exhausted. There was a darkness to their expressions that hinted of their own troubles and Papyrus felt horrible that he was the cause. When another 5 points had disappeared, it appeared to be the breaking point.

After checking on him, Stretch actually left the house. Blue stared at the front door in worry before turning to Papyrus.

“Another Nightmare?” He questioned, cupping Papyrus’ face and letting their foreheads touch. The other’s eye-lights were simple points of azure instead of their usual star-shapes. He couldn’t remember exactly when the change had happened but his soul hurt over the loss.

“Yes. It was the same…” He sighed and closed his aching sockets. Would there be a time when he wouldn’t be crying anymore? Blue made a soft noise and buried his face into Papyrus’ shoulder, arms tightening around him.

“I Want To Say ‘Yes’ But I Do Not Know.”

A beat of confusion swelled in Papyrus’ soul until he realized he had unintentionally asked that question out loud, “I am sorry, Blue. You two are losing so much sleep… Could you stay with Alphys and maybe Stretch with Undyne?”

The small skeleton pulled back and gave him a disappointed look, “Papy… We Do Not Want To Leave You. We Will Not Allow You To Push Us Away… There Has To Be A Way. We Will Find It Together! Even… Even If It Does Not Feel Like It Now…”

Blue lapsed into silence before shaking his head and whispering, “The World Can Not Be This Cruel To You. I Will Not Allow It.” Those words brought a weak smile to Papyrus’ face and he hugged Blue tighter.

“Do you think Stretch is mad at me?” Papyrus questioned and Blue pulled back to look up at him.

“Stars, No! He Just… We Both Want To Help. Stretch Is Not Too Familiar With Quantum Physics But He Has Been Going To The True Lab From What I Can Tell.” Blue frowned and looked away, “I Must Admit… Even With My Degree, Traveling To Other Worlds Is Far From My Reach.”

Blue was quiet for another moment before continuing, “I Am Sure There Is A Way. We Will Not Give Up.”

Chapter Text

After waiting a month to see if Papyrus’ condition would improve Stretch couldn’t take it anymore. His soul seething with urgency behind his rib-cage as he walked around the house. Papyrus had been here for exactly five months now and this world had done nothing but hurt him thus far. He and Blue had promised to find Sans, they had sworn to it. On their souls. Instead of succeeding, they had failed. The last straw had happened late in the night as Stretch had checked on Papyrus only to discover that his HP had dropped ten points.

The pain he had felt then was excruciating.

That light and innocent hope had taken a harsh blow as Papyrus became worse. Stretch could not stand by and watch Papyrus degrade. If it got to be too much, he might… Growling in frustration, the hoodie-clad monster unlocked the basement with jerky movements and took the stairs two at a time. He yanked the dusty tarp from the defunct machine and glared at it.

“you’re gonna work if it’s the last thing i do,” he swore before popping off the metal siding covering the inner machinations. The bad parts had been pulled long ago, the inside more empty than functional. Turning to the drawers, Stretch gathered the abandoned blueprints and reached inside his hoodie pocket. Pulling out the red rimmed glasses, Stretch affixed them to his skull and watched as the Wingdings became readable. The glasses were obviously Papyrus’ and taken from the table that housed the pet rock. He felt bad for stealing them but when he found out they could spot anomalies, Stretch knew they would help him read the language distorted from the Core Accident. For the first time, Stretch was able to read the Blueprints in full and quickly noted what he required to rebuild the abandoned machine.

Stretch used a tear in time and was quickly wading through cool water with single-minded focus, orange eye-lights scrutinizing the piles of garbage. He ignored the water soaking into his clothing and the smell, digging through each pile in his search. The first part took a good twenty minutes to unearth and Stretch was able to find four other useful components. He also yanked a few items apart to strip their glass and metal. He stuffed everything into his phone and his pocket, wherever they would fit as his search continued. After about a full hour of this, the skeleton had to move on. While this was an ungodly time to be awake, Stretch was running out of time before Blue and Papyrus would wake up. He couldn’t risk being caught like this, so he took a shortcut back home. It lead to the Shop in town and he walked back around to return to the basement.

As Stretch laid his finds from the Dump on the empty tabletop, he realized he still didn’t have everything required on the blueprints. Frustrated tears were wiped away before the monster had to admit that what he needed could only be found in the lab. In the lab, inside creations Undyne had built. He didn’t want to destroy her hard work, especially with how guilty she still felt.

But this was all Stretch knew to do if he was going to keep his promise…his and Blue’s promise to Papyrus. Who had become an irreplaceable part of both of their lives… So when he took the next shortcut, he did so with tunnel vision on what needed to be done to achieve his goal. When the skeleton opened the new machine his best friend had built, he began tearing parts out and it definitely was not quiet.

As expected, Undyne rushed out of her room with wide gold eyes. The scientist was wearing pajamas as she had been asleep like any sane monster would do at this time. Obviously, Stretch was not a sane monster. Especially not right in this moment.

“don’t try to stop me, undyne! i am doing this!” Stretch snarled at her, still pulling parts out of her machine that he needed. She held her ground and shook her head, gold eyes pleading.

“I-I won’t!”

He stopped and looked back at her with a conflicted expression so she continued, “do you need help?”

The tension in Stretch’s bones that had been waiting for a fight drained from him and he looked back at what he was doing, “…no, ‘dyne. you have already helped us enough. leave the rest to me.”

Undyne paused but then nodded furiously.

“Go find him!” She insisted before backing away, the dismantling of another piece of equipment causing her to wince. That had taken so long to build but she couldn’t be angry at Stretch for what he insisted on doing, “make things right, o-okay?!”

“okay.” He looked up at her and smiled helplessly, “sorry about your work. gotta save the world.”

She scoffed and turned around, returning to her room to go back to sleep but not before yelling back to him, “y-you’ll have to save your bony ass if your plan fails, Papyrus!” The skeleton huffed a laugh before disassembling three different pieces of equipment. Ripping out components, picking up notes and blueprints as well as the notes from the machine Undyne had found Sans with, Stretch placed them all in his dimensional box before shortcutting back to the basement.

It was absurdly easy to fix the machine with everything already acquired and the priceless information Papyrus’ glasses offered. It took another half hour and Stretch was about to push the button without giving a fuck about the consequences. Their time-line was unstable and would likely fall apart at this rate. What difference would it make if the extinction event happened a little earlier? The world blinked and the skeleton frowned, his finger still poised over that big red button.

His phone rang.

Had that been…a load?

Drawing away from the machine, Stretch answered the phone, “what the fuck did you do, kid?”

“No need for crass language,” Chara scolded before continuing, “you will fail because you need one last piece.”

Stretch’s focus moved back to the machine and he squinted at his work. Sure, he had been reckless but everything was here. How did the human even know… Of fucking course, time magic or whatever their ability sprang from. His teeth gritted in irritation as he continued their unexpected conversation.

“what happened?”

“That does not matter. What counts is that you are nearly to the solution. Are you going to listen to me or interrogate me further?” The child’s voice was level but a hint of sadness was there. Stretch blinked and spoke up.

“i’m listening, chara. what is it?”

“The other Papyrus has something hidden in his scarf. Something of unimaginable power. Take it and fit it into your machine. Anywhere works, as long as it is connected.” The child said. Their tone had the skeleton staying on the line instead of hanging up when he got his answer.

“chara…what are you-”

“We don’t belong where you are going. …I hope you all find happiness and I’m…sorry. We will be joining the other Frisk. This is goodbye, Papyrus. Take care.” The line cut before Stretch could say another word and he stared down at the device. A part of him wanted to call Chara back and demand answers. However, he was sure if he did, the human child would not pick up their phone. Instead, Stretch immediately followed Chara’s advice and approached the time-tear in the basement. His surroundings hazed into his room and the monster made sure to be very quiet as he took the stairs to the living room.

Gaze gentle upon seeing Papyrus actually sleeping, Stretch slowly and gently unwound the scarf as he did not want to face either Papyrus or his sibling. His soul was set on using the machine. Whatever came after was his responsibility. His sockets widened upon spotting a glowing yellow gem connected to a thin chain around Papyrus’ neck. Was that..? He shook his head. If they made it through this, he would scold Blue on sneaking behind his back. They had agreed never to speak with Gaster. That didn’t matter now though. Being as careful as possible, Stretch unlatched the chain and took the gem.

His orange pupils searched Papyrus’ face for any sign he was aware but the skeleton didn’t move. Letting out the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding, he took the time-tear in his room back to the basement. Stretch approached the machine and used some metal wiring to latch the gem into his magic. Connecting it to the inner workings was more simple than anticipated.

His eye-lights appraised his work before lingering on the button. It was now or never.

Stretch activated the machine and it roared to life with the ferocity of a black hole being born right in their basement.

The Save Star shattered under the pressure of the machine. A universe over, another Save Star shattered in the same moment.

The world blinked.

Stretch’s expression contorted into shock and everything he knew ended.

————————

“…And it worked.” Edge murmured from the throne as he stared down at his alternate. Stretch smiled and his orange eye-lights hazed over as he nodded. The King shifted on his throne as he considered the other skeleton.

“yeah…” Stretch’s voice was soft and wondering, “it worked.”

Chapter Text

Papyrus didn’t know what was happening. One instant, he had been asleep on the couch in his boyfriends’ house and the next his entire being had streaked through existence to throw him here. His wide sockets stared across the room, unable to fully grasp what he was seeing. There were two skeletons that had sprang up at his sudden arrival, protective waves of intent rolling off them.

The figure in the bed had straightened in shock and that familiar voice trembled with emotion when they spoke.

“p…papyrus?”

Was this a dream? It had to be, right? His brother was holding two tiny bundles, barely covering his delicate ecto-body. Papyrus couldn’t even be embarrassed at the moment at seeing Sans topless. But the moment dragged on and a faint glimmer of hope sparked in his soul.

Ignoring the other skeletons present, Papyrus reached a hesitant hand out towards him and gasped out his older sibling’s name.

“…Sans?”

Please let this be real! Please, if anyone could hear him! The angel, the stars, anyone or anything. Do not take this strange new reality away! The strangers relaxed their stance as Sans’ breath hitched into a sob and smiled that happy smile.

That smile that Papyrus had missed so much.

“SANS!” Papyrus crossed the room swiftly with a single-minded focus and took his sibling’s face into his hands, tilting Sans’ head up to rest their foreheads together in a familiar gesture. Large blue and orange tears mixed together as they cried, souls singing with relief. Shaky but loud laughter escaped both siblings at their unexpected reunion.

“you’re here! how?! how did you get here, papyrus?!” Sans asked between laughs, still too caught up to realize the door had been opened to admit a worried Toriel. Dogamy and Dogaressa peeked in after her with wide eyes and concerned expressions.

“I do not know, Sans! I woke up and you were gone and I could not find you and I and Blue and Stretch and-and!” Papyrus was babbling before a slight tugging cut off his words. Confused, he glanced down to find two babybones resting in Sans’ arms. The larger of the two had grasped his red scarf, frowning up at him with soft purple eye-lights. The smaller baby was still lost to the world, laying against the soft of his brother’s ecto-body.

“Oh…” He exhaled before glancing up at Sans in askance.

“Your Majesties, the Underground is in chaos. I must ask for your help, please forgive me.” Toriel whispered behind him and Papyrus blinked, looking up to watch the two skeletons grimace and very reluctantly step away from Sans. He only got a small impression of both, his mind still fighting to catch up with this turn of events. It still didn’t feel quite real…

“don’t worry about us. we’ll be here.” Sans promised. Both King and the Hand left with Toriel. The door shut and Papyrus pulled back from Sans, his eye-lights bouncing between it and his older brother, as well down to the two babies he held.

“Are they..?” Papyrus drifted off, his thoughts all in a big tangle but the sight of Sans glancing lovingly down at the children eased some of his turmoil. His brother looked so…happy. So healthy. A part of Papyrus was quieted with comfort at the sight.

“yeah… they’re both mine. heh…kinda the reason i ended up here if i’m honest.”

Papyrus made a face and frowned, “you are going to tell me your story and I don’t want anymore lies.” At Sans’ shocked look in response to his words and tone, the taller skeleton softened a bit, finally letting go of Sans’ face, “please, brother. I have changed quite a bit. Grown up a little more, a bit too fast.”

Guilt flooded Sans’ eye-lights and blue tears gathered at his sockets, “paps, i am so very sorry. i…when i arrived here, i thought everything was gone. that the world we came from was erased… i know it doesn’t excuse it but i had to let go to survive in this world. to keep on going…”

Papyrus leaned back to sit properly on the bed rather than in the sprawl he had fallen into in his desperation to get to his sibling, “please, tell me what has happened. I want to know all of it.”

So Sans did.

Starting with the resets and how a skeleton called Edge kept crossing over into their world to stay at Sans’ side as he died over and over. How they had conceived a child together without intent and that caused Sans to cross over. How another monster called Red had wanted to kill him and how their chase had ended, with a strange drug called Frenzy. Papyrus was shocked and his sibling had to explain the mentality of this world, kill or be killed when he had first came here. How they had grown closer, how Sans and Red had created another child next to the first, twins with different fathers.

His eye-lights dropped briefly to stare at the two babybones Sans was holding close before the story continued.

Sans detailed the politics and how he was reluctant to get romantically involved with Edge and Red. His future hadn’t been realized until a tyrannical King Asgore had been dealt with and Judged. How they had become the rulers of this land. How they had been married and bound by their souls. How this world was changing… Papyrus sat quietly for a few long moments, his entire being thrumming with shock.

He was not certain which part of this story surprised him the most. That Sans was holding his newborn children conceived by another version of himself and one of Sans. That he was married or that he was the Queen.

All of them, yes. That sounded the most correct. His soul softened in response to the anxious look Sans was staring up into his eye-lights with. He wanted to be jealous of Red and Edge. He wanted to be angry. He wanted shout how unfair fate was for separating them in the first place. But…he couldn’t. Not with Sans looking so very alive and happy after what had probably been years caught in the same time loop.

Sans deserved this and more.

So, Papyrus let go of his conflicted emotions. He still wanted to confess his feelings to his older sibling but it was not the time for that. It could wait when everything seemed to be too much. Smiling, the tall skeleton looked down at the babybones and caught a glimpse of the time-scar through the pretty cyan ecto-flesh. A blush was overtaking Sans’ face, as if he just noticed their situation for the first time. That was probably true, it would take some time for everyone to adjust to this miracle.

“Hello, babies,” Papyrus finally cooed and the larger child blinked up at him owlishly; his tiny sibling still sleeping heavily. How ‘Sans-like’ it was warmed his soul and Papyrus knew he would allow them both to wrap him around their teeny phalanges.

“Can you introduce them to me, brother?” Papyrus asked quietly and Sans’ worried expression bloomed into a beautiful smile. The multi-verse around them finally settled. Everything was stabilized and made right by their reunion and merger of worlds.

Now…

Now it was the time for living in the moment and looking forward to a bright future as time flowed uninterrupted around them.

 

——————

“Are you going to accept responsibility for your actions? For your people that were dragged along with you?” Edge was unmoving on his throne, scrutinizing Stretch as the low light glinted off his crown.

“of course, king edgelord.”

Edge’s brow twitched and he sighed, “is that the ending to your story?”

Stretch nodded, “it is…and here we are.”

The King of Underfell leaned back, staring down at his alternate in bemusement, “indeed. Here we are.”