Reaper sighed as he stared down at his phone. It had been nearly a whole week since he’d last seen or heard from Geno, not since that charity event he’d been Geno’s date for. It was so weird, things had seemed fine and normal, but then after Reaper went home the next morning nothing but radio silence. It didn’t seem like Geno to ghost him.
“Still no word?” Life asked as she started filling one of the display fridges with freshly made arrangements.
“Even Mercy isn’t responding now,” Reaper replied bitterly as he switched over to Mercy’s texts. They’d been unusually short and uninformative since the charity event. “You don’t think this is his way of dumping me, do you?”
“If so that is an absolutely terrible way to go about it, you deserve to at least be told to your face. And even if not you deserve to know what is going on and why he is treating you this way. Go over there and demand answers.”
“What if they don’t even let me in?”
“Then no matter what is actually going on they do not deserve to have someone as kind and wonderful as you in their lives.”
Reaper felt his face flush with magic, “Life!”
“It is true, you are quite the catch and someday some lucky monster will snatch you up like the treasure you are.”
Reaper just sputtered, unsure how to even respond.
“I had just thought that monster was Geno,” Life continued sadly.
“Well, you will simply have to go there directly after your shift and find out.”
“Right after work?”
“Yes, absolutely! Do not overthink it, just go there and ask for some answers. You two have been dating for over a year now, you have met each other's families, you deserve to at least know if you are still in a relationship or not. And if something is wrong and Geno needs you at his side you deserve to know that too.”
Reaper sighed and dropped his head on the counter, “Yeah, I know. I’m just worried something is really wrong.”
Life gently patted him on the head, “I know, and I have watched it eat you up all week. So go get your answers, whatever they are, and stop the anxiety of the unknown.”
“Ok.” Reaper let his head stay plunked on the counter a little longer, then looked up at Life, “Maybe I should just go now, while I’m still fresh from that pep talk.”
“Absolutely not, we have that funeral arrangement that needs to be delivered at two o-clock sharp.”
Reaper chuckled, “Yes ma’am.”
The rest of the day seemed to crawl by despite Reaper’s new resolve, or maybe because of it. Still when five o-clock finally rolled around Reaper gave a sigh of relief as he turned the open sign to closed and locked the door. He turned around to find Life smiling at him mischievously, her hands hidden behind her back.
“What is it?” Reaper asked warily, unsure if she was about to pull some prank on him.
“Do not worry about the final clean up today, you should go now.”
“What, really?” It’s true there wasn’t really much clean up left, Reaper had spent the last hour before close sweeping the floor and wiping things down between their few customers.
“Of course, the sooner you go see Geno the sooner you can have your answers. And also,” Life brought out her hands and held them out to Reaper. Held delicately between her furry claws was a small nosegay of half bloomed red roses and baby’s breath wrapped in tissue paper, “A little something to give to your datefriend.”
Reaper hesitated, “What if this WAS him breaking up with me?”
A distant look of horror washed over Life’s face, “Then his brother can have it.”
“Which one? Error?”
Life shuddered, likely remembering the havoc Error wreaked the last time he was in the shop. “Just take it, think of it as my hopes for the best.”
Reaper smiled softly as he accepted the flowers, “Thank you, Life.” He tucked them safely into his inventory.
“Now go on, lest you overthink and lose your nerve.”
“Yes ma’am!” Reaper gave a sloppy salute before pulling Life into a quick hug. “Thanks.”
“You are welcome.”
Once done with the hug, Reaper quickly went to the back room, doffed his forest green apron, slipped off his sandals and stuffed them in his inventory, then hopped on his trusty old scooter and started the drive across town. At the door he was met by a maid that led him directly to Mr. Gaster’s office.
“Mr. Gaster, Mr. Reaper is here.”
There was a deep, tired sigh from within the office. “Let him in.”
Reaper went into the office to find Mr. Gaster slumped in his chair behind a wide desk, turned so Reaper could barely see his profile.
“What are you doing here, Reaper?”
“I… I came to see Geno.”
Mr. Gaster’s hand lifted to rub at his skull right over the crack that ran up over his brow, “We haven’t found him yet, I would have assumed the continued lack of contact from him would indicate as much.”
“Found him?” Reaper asked in alarm, “Is he missing?!”
Mr. Gaster paused in rubbing his brow and turned the chair to better look at Reaper. “Yes, did Mercy not tell you? He told me he’s been in contact with you.”
“He didn’t tell me Geno’s missing! He just said to stay put and not worry, that you guys are handling it and then he’s been quiet.” Reaper fumbled in his pocket and nearly dropped his phone once he managed to pull it out. With shaking hands he unlocked it and pulled up his texts with Mercy, then held it up for Mr. Gaster to look at. “See?”
Just visible at the top of the screen was the bottom half of the last text Mercy sent before the charity event, something about some fancy muscle car’s engine specs. After that was just the short bout of texts that were, aside from the first one with the apparently false assurances, short answers from Mercy telling him not to come over.
Mr. Gaster’s eye sockets narrowed, “I do see.” He stood up and without another word left the office. Reaper scrambled to pocket his phone again and ran to follow, having to half jog to keep up with Mr. Gaster’s ground eating stride. When Mr. Gaster burst into a room by throwing the doors open Reaper stayed hovering in the doorway rather than following him into the room.
“Papyrus Mercy Gaster!”
Mercy, who was bent over to be practically nose hole to glasses with Error, straightened up and looked over at his father. Then Mercy’s eye sockets fell on Reaper, a sheen of sweat started dripping down his skull. “Father! Whatever could be the matter?”
“You told me you were keeping Geno’s little liability informed, you told me he was being kept safe and out of the way, and yet he’s here today and has no idea what’s going on.” Mr. Gaster crossed his arms and started tapping his foot, “Care to explain?”
“Well… I… that is…” Mercy wrung his hands nervously, “You see I truly didn’t want him to worry and if he found out Geno had been kidnapped-”
“Kidnapped?!” Reaper yelped.
Mercy winced. “Oh dear, see? This is the exact reaction I was trying to avoid.”
“And you couldn’t come up with any kind of excuse? Just tell him nothing and expect him to accept it?”
“I told him not to worry and we had the situation under control!”
“The worst lie I’ve ever heard, learn to tell more believable lies.”
Well that wasn’t concerning at all.
“Should’ve just told him the truth.” Error said condescendingly.
“This whole mess is your fault, I don’t want to hear from you,” Mr. Gaster shot back.
“It’s not my fault!” Error yelled indignantly. “It’s his fault!” He pointed at a somewhat familiar skeleton Reaper remembered from the charity, the excitable one that had tried to dance with Geno. He was sitting on a sofa, leaning so far over the back he was looking at them upside down with a controller in his hands. Next to him was Ink, turned around to watch the scene, his pips cycling through shapes at an alarming rate.
“You brought him into our house, this is your fault. And the rest of us are the ones who have to clean up this mess you made. Well now Reaper is going to be part of that, there’s no way he can leave now without also being a target until we get this mess cleared up. He’s your responsibility, make sure he’s taken care of.” With that Mr. Gaster turned and left the room.
“Great,” Error said sarcastically, “now I’ve got three prisoners to keep track of.”
“Honored guests,” Mercy said firmly as he put an arm around Reaper’s shoulders and pulled him forcefully into the room. “Though I suppose I’m a little responsible for Reaper as well.” His hand slipped into Reaper’s pocket and pulled out his cell phone.
“I’m sorry, but just until we get things sorted out it’s best if you don’t have this. I’ll be sure to let Miss Life know you won’t be able to go into work for a little while.” He was already tapping away at Reaper’s phone as he walked off.
“Tell a better lie this time,” Error yelled after Mercy’s retreating back. “And you! You may as well join us.”
“What’s going on?” Reaper asked with a tremor in his voice he tried to ignore as he followed Error around the sofa. “Geno’s been kidnapped? Who is this guy anyway? What’d he do?”
“Ugh, fine, I’ll explain. This dumbass here is Blue, and for some reason he decided to kidnap himself to our house when Ink and I came home after the stupid charity event.”
“Not for some reason, because we’re soulmates and we belong together!”
“But Error’s dating Ink???”
“Duh! We’re all soulmates, they just won’t give me a chance.”
“I’m cool with a throuple,” Ink added in.
“See! C’mon, Error, give us,” Blue motioned between the three of them, “a chance!”
“Anyway,” Error said loudly, “Geno went to get Blue’s brother to come pick him up and take him away, but neither of them ever did. So now Blue’s family is holding Geno hostage or something.”
“What? So why don’t you just send him back?!”
“He won’t leave.”
“Not until you give us a chance.”
“And also Dad refuses to give up his only bargaining chip until we can be sure Geno will get sent back. Problem is no one seems to be able to get in contact with Stretch-”
“That’s my brother,” Blue cut in.
“… so we can’t arrange a proper hostage trade.”
“And that means we’re all stuck here until my brother comes to his senses! Knowing him that’ll be a while, younger brothers, am I right?”
“Now that there’s four of us how about we do teams in Smash?” Ink suggested cheerfully. “Or if we can get Mercy to come back that’s a good number for a few rounds of Among Us with only one impostor.”
“I don’t want to play,” Reaper said immediately. He was still trying to take in everything they said and it all sounded so… so dumb! So awful. But surely Geno was fine, if Blue and Ink and Error were so unworried, it’s just a silly misunderstanding. Andhe’s a monster, monsters don’t go around murdering each other the way humans do. Geno’s probably sitting in someone’s house playing video games until this Stretch guy finally picks up a phone, right?
“Well sit down already, you’re blocking the TV.” Error grabbed Reaper’s T-shirt and tugged on it.
Reaper let himself fall over onto the sofa next to Blue and just curled up where he fell. This couldn’t be real. This really couldn’t be real.
After some unknown amount of time of Reaper just laying curled up in a ball on the couch, Mercy returned to the room. “Error,” Mercy said loudly and cheerfully, “did you go through Reaper’s inventory? We have to make sure he doesn’t have any way to track him.”
There was only silence from the other side of the couch.
“That’s what I thought. I’m sorry Reaper, this will only take a moment.” A pair of large hands braced themselves on Reaper’s shoulder, then there was a stab of foreign magic, sharp and cold and clinical.
Reaper gasped and sat up, or tried to, it was a struggle with the hands holding him down. A second, smaller pair of hands grabbed his ankles to keep him from squirming right off the couch, then another pair grabbed his hips. Reaper choked on a half formed scream that died in his metaphorical throat when he felt that foreign magic rifle through his own in the most disturbing way.
“There we are, all done.” All three sets of hands let him go and Reaper shot upright, gaping like a fish as he looked up at Mercy, who was standing behind the couch and looking down at a row of items laid out on the couch’s back. “The first time is always the worst, I’m sorry about that. But here we are, nothing dangerous here so you can have your things back.”
Reaper snatched at his things, stuffing them unceremoniously back into his inventory. He paused when he picked up the little rose nosegay, it was already a little crumpled from whatever Mercy had done to his inventory, and Geno wasn’t even here to receive them, there was no knowing when he’d get back or even if he’d get back…
Reaper tossed the flowers at Error, then went back to shoving things back into his inventory. His bag of chisps, his sandals…
“Error! Flowers aren’t for eating!” Blue yelled in a scandalized voice.
Error huffed, “What else am I supposed to do? Just sit here and stare at them?”
“Kinda, yeah,” Ink said with a shrug.
“You’re supposed to thank whoever gave them to you and then get some water to put them in.”
Reaper ignored the rest of their conversation, curling back into a ball and even going so far as to pull his hood down over his skull. After a while of just laying there while the others around him played video games, a knock came at the door. “Excuse me, sirs, dinner is served.”
Error and his (two?) datefriend(s) turned off their game and stood up. Reaper stayed right where he was.
“C’mon, you heard her.”
“I’m not hungry,” Reaper said miserably.
“Doesn’t matter, Dad wants us all at dinner.”
Reaper didn’t respond, just stayed curled up in his spot.
Error made a disgusted sound, “Don’t make us drag you to dinner.”
“Oh, do you want our help?” Ink asked excitedly.
“Huh,” Error said contemplatively, “I suppose it couldn’t hurt.”
Hands started pawing at Reaper again, tugging him this way and that until they could get under his armpits and lift him up. Reaper didn’t fight at all, choosing to stay (heh) dead weight for them to drag him down the hallway. Apparently Ink and Blue were fine with that because that’s just what they did. Like most of the hallways in the Gaster household, it was very long, it took quite a while to get to the dining room.
“Oh for the love of! What on earth are you lot doing?” Mr. Gaster’s voice asked angrily.
“He’s being a big baby and throwing a tantrum,” Error said.
“Perhaps it’s less a tantrum and more him being upset his close datefriend is currently missing with no way of knowing if he’s even still alive,” Mercy said rather morosely.
Blue scoffed, “Stretch wouldn’t be dumb enough for that, if he really thinks Geno’s a hostage for a hostage he wouldn’t dare hurt him, not if he thinks it puts me in danger.”
Large hands cradled Reaper’s ribs just under Blue’s and Ink’s hands and lifted. Reaper started and looked up in shock to find Mercy’s brightly smiling face right in front of his. “There we are, feel up to standing on your own two feet?”
“I uh… sure?” With Mercy holding him up Reaper was able to get his feet under him, then let Mercy guide him to a chair. Once he was seated everyone else sat down.
Mr. Gaster, who had been sitting in his chair slumped over so he could support his skull on one hand while he glowered at them, straightened up. “If we’re all quite ready.”
Reaper looked up and down the long table, someone was missing. Well, someone else was also missing, “Where’s Karma?”
“Out doing most of the leg work to track down Geno.”
“Don’t worry,” Mercy added, and honestly Reaper wasn’t sure he would trust Mercy when he said that ever again, “he’s been checking in with us regularly. He’s currently safe and unharmed.”
Reaper just nodded, that actually was a relief.
Dinner was served then, plates of steaming food placed in front of everyone while someone with a bottle circled the table to fill their glasses. This wasn’t Reaper’s first dinner with them, not by a long shot, so he knew what to expect. Reaper looked down at the food that already tasted like dust in his mouth when he hadn’t even picked up his fork yet, it was going to be a long night.