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The River Person spun in place, gently rocking the boat. “Tra la la…” their songs and hums were irrelevant at this point. White noise. Background static.

 

The gentle rocking of the boat combined with the music was threatening to lull Sans to sleep.

 

It was taking everything to keep himself sitting upright and awake. The kid had fallen asleep on his lap a while ago, hands to his coat and face snug against Sans’ chest. Poor kid must have really been exhausted. She’d literally cried herself to sleep.

 

Sans would do anything right now not to wake her up. She really needed to rest. And it couldn’t have been easy for her, to walk nearly all the way to Hotland by herself. Frisk had looked absolutely exhausted even before Sans had let her go so she could face Undyne.

 

He tried to focus on the way his kid had looked, but the gentle sound of running water was torture. The back and forth of the boat did not help. The River Person’s hums just made him sleepier. Sans tried to wake himself up a little more. Stretched his neck; his back was really starting to hurt in this position. He was falling asleep... He couldn’t. He held Frisk just a little closer to his chest.

 

Tried to think of anything in order to stay awake. Like, for example, how long could it have been since the kid had last slept like this? She had travelled pretty far in a relatively short period of time. She couldn’t have slept much.

 

And how long had it been since the kid had last slept on him like this? With her face buried against his chest, letting Sans hold her? It had to have been at least a few months. Had they even done this since she’d turned fourteen? She hadn’t. She definitely hadn’t. It felt like ages since she had last done something even remotely like this.

 

She was growing up so fast. Sans almost wasn’t in a hurry to see it happen.

 

He froze up.

 

The nostalgia that had begun to crawl up inside his chest shriveled up.

 

And he turned the dying feeling to disgust, anxiety, shame… Willed it into dust. He was not supposed to think of Frisk like that. Not at all.

 

Whatever he was feeling made everything else he felt seem disgusting. It needed to stop. Needed to be sliced out of his skull. And if it was Frisk’s head against his chest that made him feel like this, if it was the way she’d leaned into his lap that made him think of her as a little kid— He needed to stop it. Had to get rid of it. Needed to shove this kid off.

 

He moved his hands as if to push her away from him yet he couldn’t.

 

How long could it have been since his kid had last slept this much?

 

…fuck.

 

He felt stuck.

 

Sans tried to force himself to think about anything—literally anything else. The sounds the flowing water made as it hit the boat. The lyrics of whatever strange song the River Person was singing. It was hard to think of anything. It was really hard. It was impossible not to think of Frisk when she had been gone doing stars know what for timelines upon timelines. Harder still when he could feel the soft warmth of her flesh against him. It was—He had to let her sleep. But it was difficult.

 

She’d been this sweet, albeit uninteresting kid just three years ago.

 

What had happened between them?

 

He let himself rest his head on top of Frisk’s and tried to think of anything. The warmth radiating from her body felt nice even through his coat. He loved holding her. Loved the way her warmth seemed to somehow extend into his chest when he was with her. Maybe he could focus on the affection he felt. It was almost like butterflies inside his chest.

 

He made it a point to remember that the River Person, no matter how detached from reality, was still sort of a presence behind them. That was— That was good. It gave Sans the feeling of technically being watched.

 

Good.

 

It was— It was probably better this way.

 

He still let himself keep his arms wrapped around the kid, but now it felt different.

 

He felt the need to hide his affection for Frisk because it was something he shouldn’t be feeling.

 

He tried to think… Tried to think of something else. Something not wrong. Something he couldn’t feel ashamed of.

 

Maybe he could think about what was next.

 

They were back in Waterfall now. The kid was sleeping. But when she woke up—

 

The kid had died enough times, yet she still was dead-set on visiting Undyne. He knew Frisk. She’d gotten so— Difficult lately— What were the odds she’d be okay with Sans going in with her to keep her safe? They probably weren’t in his favor.

 

But if he didn’t stay near her, what then? He’d have to trust Papyrus to keep her safe. He’d also have to trust Frisk to come back. What if she didn’t? He’d have to force her back. He’d definitely force her back to him. But would Frisk forgive him, if he did?

 

The kid stirred a little against him, drawing his focus away from the separation anxiety that had begun to build inside his chest. His train of thought changed to something a bit more immediate: How much time should he give her to sleep? Did Sans even have it in him to wake Frisk up?

 

He once again tried to stretch without moving too much. Stars. His back was getting pretty sore.

 

Maybe…

 

Sans didn’t dare move Frisk for fear of waking her up, but he could at the very least sit more comfortably. Creating a structure of bones to prop him up, though, didn’t seem appealing by this point. Sans really didn’t feel like thinking up a design for something like that. Summoning a gaster blaster he could lean against was also out of the question... Kiddo could wake up any minute and freak out.

 

The River Person started a new song behind them and this time Sans rolled his eye lights. What he wouldn’t give to be back home with Frisk alone instead of here, curled up in bed together under a pile of warm sheets. Just having her be this close to him felt nice. It would feel nicer, though, to have her under the covers…

 

Sans could still distantly remember the first time the kid had fallen asleep on him. They had been watching tv as usual, although a little past when Sans would usually call it a night. The Anomaly had fallen asleep without Sans noticing, and then just sort of slumped in his direction when he’d shifted on the couch. At that point, she couldn’t have been older than, what— Eleven? Ten? He hadn’t been even remotely interested in her like he was now. Frisk had been just the Anomaly; interesting because of what she could do… Not because of the kind of person she was.

 

Sans let his teeth lightly graze the top of Frisk’s head as he tried to remember how things had been when she was younger.

 

Things had been different.

 

He wanted to ask Frisk if she remembered falling asleep on him too, or if it had even happened within the current timeline. Then he remembered that Frisk was asleep, and quickly realized that he didn’t really have anyone else to talk to about it—what was potentially part of a dead timeline.

 

He felt alone. He felt infinitely lonely.

 

He didn’t really have anyone else other than Frisk. There wasn’t really anyone else that he could talk to.

 

And Frisk—

 

He held her just a little closer to his chest.

 

Frisk was a kind kid. She was so patient, could be so funny. She was genuinely good and surprisingly bright, had within her the sort of strength and empathy that Sans couldn’t dream of emulating. She really was very pretty. She was interesting, attentive, thoughtful, considerate…

 

Frisk was special. He really was lucky to have Frisk.

 

And if he was destined to have only one person in his life, he really was lucky— He was very lucky that it would be someone like Frisk.

 

But

 

In the end

 

How much could it matter how he felt towards her.

 

Who else was out there for something like him? Where else could Sans seek out intimacy?

 

Who else other than Frisk had the potential to remember other timelines? To understand the RESETs? Empathize with him? And why was Sans thinking of all this now, when his kid was already covered in bruises, his magic already possessing her Soul, his—his mark already on her neck—

 

He felt something in him drop, and let his hand move up and underneath the kid’s bandana. Gently traced the indentations he had bitten into her skin. Frisk let out a deep sigh. Sans made a motion as if to kiss the top of her head, allowing a small wisp of magic to graze her hair. And he did— He really did love her.

 

He wanted her so much. She was everything Sans could have dreamed about.

 

But he was sorry— He was very sorry that Frisk so strongly felt she loved him back.

 

The kid really couldn’t have known any better. She was probably still trying to figure out so many things in life.

 

And if Sans had taken her now despite of it, because he was desperate…

 

Then the kid had had even less of a choice than him, hadn’t she? Sans had made sure of it.

 

He had been selfish, demanding— Everything the kid didn’t deserve. She was going to be miserable with him. Was going to hate him. And whatever he had left of his soul shrank in his chest.

 

He wrapped both of his arms back around the kid and held her just a little bit tighter.

 

And suddenly he no longer felt the need to be asleep. The gentle rocking of the boat and the soothing sounds that surrounded them no longer mattered.

 

Nothing really mattered.

 

If Sans had any shred of decency, or selflessness, he would have let the kid go a long time ago. Frisk’s problem was that he wasn’t. He wasn’t even remotely selfless. And Sans felt low, nauseous and dirty, but the idea of giving up Frisk just made him feel…

 

He ignited another brief spark of magic. He snuck another quick kiss to the top of Frisk’s head. She stirred a little bit, and Sans should stop. He should stop moving. He didn’t want to wake his kid up.

 

He tried to go back to thinking about what he should do about his kid meeting Undyne, but it felt pointless now.

 

And maybe he should just try to sleep, if only to turn off his mind. Things never turned out well for Frisk when he felt as hopeless as he was feeling now. He didn’t—He didn’t want to hurt her. He really didn’t. He didn’t want to be a monster to her. She was sleeping.

 

She needed to rest. He didn’t want to be a bad person to her.

 

He let his pupils dim and forced himself to rethink his position. His back still hurt and his legs were starting to fall asleep. He couldn’t think of a single efficient way to deal with it. Maybe— Maybe if he used gravity magic on himself.

 

He tried igniting a flash of blue, experimented with it until it began to cover him.

 

…And Frisk abruptly woke up, tensing up in his arms.

 

“hey,” he was a little surprice, forcing himself to grin as he moved a hand up to stroke her hair affectionately. “go back to sle—”

 

Frisk pushed herself off of him brusquely, looking at him only to nearly fall off the boat. He grabbed her wrist to steady her, his hand covered in blue magic. And he felt a sense of dread when he finally realized what his mistake had been, a little too late.

 

The kid looked terrified of him.

 

“wait,” he managed to blurt out. “i’m not—”

 

Don’t,” she said quickly, words coming out too fast. She quickly got off the boat, looking panicked, “Don’t touch me.”

 

Sans got up immediately. Behind him, the River Person was still singing. And the kid took a few steps away from him, panicked and disoriented. She looked off. Paused for a second and turned back.

 

Muttered a shy “Thank you,” to the River Person. Didn’t even look at them. Her voice was trembling. Yet the expression of gratitude came so naturally that it would have melted Sans’ heart.

 

Frisk turned around again before Sans could say anything (the River Person wasn’t going to answer her). Started walking pretty slowly, yet urgently somehow. She was going in the wrong direction, but it was as if the direction didn’t matter at all. As if she barely even noticed.

 

He resisted the urge to grab her hand and pull her back to him. “frisk—”

 

“Sorry,” she muttered a little too quick. She sounded distant, anxious, ashamed. Her lips were curved down by the time he caught up to her. Her voice was shaking. And she looked so small, smaller than he was used to seeing her. He felt the need to wrap his arms back around her, kiss the top of her head—

 

“Sorry,” she repeated. “Sorry,” like a loop. “I didn’t mean—I’m really sorry,” as she kept walking back towards Hotland. The wrong way.

 

He moved a hand towards hers and she pulled away.

 

He shrank back.

 

Sorry,” she repeated again, this time more urgent and desperate as her voice wavered even more. She sounded like she was going to cry. Like she was going to collapse into herself. “Sorry. I’m really sorry. Please don’t be mad. I’m sorry. I can’t— I’m sorry—”

 

“frisk, it’s okay.” He tried to soothe her even as he stuffed his own hands and his misery deep into his coat pockets. The kid just kept talking. Apologizing with a broken voice. He kept walking next to her, and the kid wouldn’t stop. He was listening at the inflection in her voice more than anything else at this point.

 

She was walking rather slow considering how fast she was speaking. She was trying to keep her voice steady, yet failing miserably. She kept apologizing for a while before she abruptly switched to berating herself.

 

Called herself stupid, useless—over, and over—

 

Started crying. Berating herself even more in between apologies. Her sobs were heartbreaking.

 

Started talking about people who never loved her, and why they were right. How inconvenient she was. Started talking about her dad, but then she slipped and called him dad.

 

She may as well have kicked him, dusted him—

 

“frisky, stop,” he begged her when she started again, apologies still coming out like vomit. He grabbed her hand. She tried to slide it off. And he didn’t care, he just— “just stop. you're none of those things. just stop apologizing like this.” She sounded even worse than Papyrus had been when the other monsters rejected him.

 

“I’m—”

 

stop,” he was a little more firm now. His chest was raw. And he just couldn’t— “please? can you do that for me, sweetie?”

 

There was a moment’s pause, but he took it. Took a few deep breaths, as if to settle the pain in his chest—Whatever it was he was feeling. And he was scared. He was so scared for Frisk. The way she felt—How easily the poison she’d fed herself was spewing out—

 

He was failing her worse by ignoring it. As a partner, as—

 

She’d let it slip and called him dad.

 

He wanted to go somewhere quiet and dust. Wanted to never have existed. Wanted the timelines to end and for him to go with them.

 

He felt nauseous, sick— Incredibly guilty—

 

And he didn’t even know what he was doing. But he vaguely remembered doing this with Papyrus, as his voice turned soft, “do me a favor, honey. just for me. tell me how smart you are.”

 

Frisk scoffed. “I’m not—”

 

He interrupted her before she could start again. “come on, frisky. that's not true. you are smart. tell me how smart you are. just for me, sweetie.”

 

She paused. Looked entirely unconvinced. But to please him, she let out a half-hearted, “I’m… smart.”

 

That was all he needed. He latched onto it. “how smart, honey?”

 

“…Very.”

 

She sounded so reluctant that he would have smirked if he weren’t feeling so tired. He wanted to dust. Wanted to fall asleep, end it. But the kid had wanted to go to Undyne’s house. Maybe he could do this for Frisk if he pretended to have the energy. “we’re going to retrace our steps a little bit. okay, sweetheart? there's somewhere else i want to go first before we go anywhere else.”

 

He kept his hand firmly on Frisk’s as he led her. He couldn’t stop worrying about her, in the back of his mind, even if the worry was currently being drowned out by the loud echo of her words. She had just berated herself so much. She was definitely how Papyrus had once been. And what had he done back then? How could he fix this?

 

She wasn’t his kid. But he was sort of responsible for her. What had Sans done when he had been a kid, and he’d had to take care of Papyrus? “i'm going to need another favor from you, honey,” he started.

 

Really thought it through. This seemed very familiar. “i need you to tell me five good things about yourself. can you do that, sweetheart?”

 

“Um—”

 

“i’ll start. i’ll give you one, so you can see how easy it is. you're very caring, frisk. you make everyone around you feel special. that’s one… and you already told me how smart you are. that’s two, pumpkin. can you tell me three more?”

 

She was still pouting, lips tight, so he tried again. “i really need to hear you say something good about yourself, frisky.”

 

“I’m good at drawing,” Frisk finally muttered. And it was good that she had started to talk herself up a little bit, because they were just about to reach the start of the path that led to Undyne’s house. Frisk didn’t sound even nearly convinced or happy, but… This was a start.

 

He’d still take it. This was better than her loudly hating herself. “you’re a great artist,” Sans agreed. “i’m so proud of your work, kiddo. what else? two things.”

 

Frisk sighed. “There’s nothing—”

 

“that’s not true, pumpkin. come on.”

 

“I’m…” she tried to think. “Sometimes I make you laugh.”

 

“you’re funny,” Sans agreed, slowing down their pace now that they were close to Undyne’s house. What were the odds Papyrus was outside waiting for Frisk? Paps probably wasn’t expecting Sans to also show up. “you’re a witty child, you know that right? what else do you like about yourself? one last thing, sweetie. just one more.”

 

“Um— I like… That you like me?” It really hit him in his nonexistent gut, but he couldn’t afford to stop and think of why in that moment.

 

“why do you think i like you?” Sans asked instead. Made it a point to listen to her, but he was debating other thoughts as well. Like how he should probably let the kid approach Undyne’s by herself. That would be easiest. Sans could probably trust Papyrus to keep Frisk safe… and having Paps find out he had left the house wasn’t worth it. Not when Sans hadn’t spoken to Paps in weeks.

 

“You tell me it’s because you think I’m a good person,” Frisk told him, bringing him back from his thoughts a little bit.

 

“you are a good person,” Sans reiterated. “but that’s not the only reason i like you. why else?”

 

Frisk frowned. “You said one last thing. Don’t cheat.”

 

And Sans— Hah. “alright,” he grinned. Kid wasn’t wrong. “hey. we’re almost there, frisky. can you promise me one last thing?”

 

“What is it?”

 

He squeezed her hand. “the reasons why i love you… you remember them, right?”

 

The kid paused but then nodded, face flushed as she did.

 

He looked at her.

 

And when he thought she was pretty, that was an understatement. She was beautiful in a way that shifted the center of gravity of his universe.

 

She had let it slip and called Sans something that— He really wasn’t okay with—

 

He didn’t want to be thought of like that.

 

And he wondered if he should maybe kiss her.

 

The kid still looked tired. She hadn’t slept all that much. And Sans was selfish, but he—

 

He brushed her hair back with his hand in an attempt to make her look a little more presentable. Less like she had just ran a few miles, slept on Sans in a boat after crying herself to sleep. And he didn’t know why he enjoyed running his fingers through her hair so much.

 

The affection he felt for her now felt tight, uncomfortable in his chest.

 

Should he kiss her.

 

Make it extra clear what his intentions were. What she was going to have from him when this was all over.

 

She’d barely slept.

 

“alright, kiddo—” He tried clearing his nonexistent throat. Didn’t know why he was trying so hard to pretend he was a decent person. “we’re almost there, so i’m gonna let you head off.”

 

The kid didn’t seem to be doing that much better. She still looked exhausted, and now sad on top of that. She looked pathetic.

 

Frisk gave him a hug as he let her go and he stiffened. She told him she would come back, but he felt like he was releasing a sacrificial lamb.

 

He was significantly more worried for her than he was trying to be.

 

And he was supposed to trust Papyrus, but he couldn’t. He felt his own panic rise the further Frisk strayed. And the kid had a history of dying under Papyrus’ watch anyway. Papyrus was too trusting and Frisk was far too optimistic and inexperienced.

 

He lasted less than two minutes before he teleported to behind Undyne’s house like an overprotective fool. Found himself moving to just behind the tail of the house to confirm a suspicion. And Papyrus was indeed waiting in front of the house, just like Sans thought he might. He thanked the stars above for it. At least the kid wouldn’t go in by herself.

 

Frisk became visible just a minute or so after Sans arrived. She walked almost all the way up to the house until Papyrus saw her. And then—

 

“HUMAN!!!” Sans had rarely heard Papyrus sound so happy. His little brother ran to the kid, wrapping his long arms around Frisk and literally lifting her into a warm hug. “YOU’RE HERE!!! I WAS STARTING TO WORRY. BUT NOW YOU CAN MEET MY FIRST FRIEND – I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY TWO BESTIES TO MEET!”

 

Frisk’s own voice was heavily muffled by the armor her face was squished against. Papyrus had to lean in closer to hear her.

 

“OH… I AM DOING GREAT,” Paps shouted his answer. “WHY WOULDN’T I BE? I AM ABOUT TO HAVE A FRIENDLY HANGOUT WITH NOT ONE, BUT TWO OF MY FAVORITE PEOPLE! AND… OH!” Paps seemed to realize he was still holding Frisk above the ground and let her go. Looked her over, inspecting her, and his browbones furrowed. “HOW ARE YOU, HUMAN? YOU LOOK… NOODLIER. HAVE YOU BEEN EATING WELL?”

 

Whatever Frisk muttered couldn’t have been a satisfying answer, because Papyrus looked concerned. “SUBSISTING ON JUST THOSE IS HARDLY SUFFICIENT. HOW MANY TIMES A DAY?”

 

Frisk muttered something else, but Sans was hardly listening anymore.

 

Did she really look thinner to Paps? Sans felt immensely, unpleasantly guilty.

 

He hadn’t noticed.

 

He had spent the last several hours with Frisk. Had seen her naked. And yet he hadn’t noticed. Papyrus had seen it with barely even a glance.

 

Sans felt inadequate. Extremely selfish. He was… fuck. He’d been too turned on to really think about her. Yet Papyrus—

 

“ – OF COURSE I’M GOING TO WORRY, FRISK. YOU ARE MY FRIEND. HOW COULD I NOT WORRY ABOUT MY FRIEND?”

 

His kiddo shrugged and mumbled something.

 

“IT IS NO BOTHER AT ALL! IN FACT, AS A CONVENIENT COINCIDENCE, TODAY IS A COOKING DAY IN THE UNDYNE… SCHOOL OF… ROYAL GUARD FUN. THESE LESSONS ONLY HAPPEN SIX DAYS A WEEK! SO WE ARE IN LUCK. I HOPE YOU BROUGHT YOUR APETITE.

 

“JUST…” Pap’s skull began to sweat. “KEEP IN MIND UNDYNE IS MORE PASSIONATE THAN I ABOUT COOKING. AND SHE DOESN’T TAKE CRITICISM VERY WELL, UNLIKE I. ALSO, SHE’S NEVER TAKEN THE LESSONS YOU GAVE ME.”

 

(…The lessons? What lessons?)

 

Frisk said something else, but she was usually so soft spoken… Sans’ ear drums never stood a chance.

 

Papyrus’ own voice was thankfully louder. “DON’T WORRY! I’LL MAKE SURE YOU ARE SAFE. AND AS A SIGN OF GOODWILL, HERE”—he handed Frisk something covered in gift wrap, it looked suspiciously like a bone—“GIVE UNDYNE THIS. SHE LOVES GETTING THESE AS PRESENTS.”

 

He shoved the bone in Frisk’s hands and the kid just stared at it.

 

“WELL, ARE YOU READY? ARE YOU FEELING UP FOR SOME FRIENDLY COMRADERIE?”

 

The kid nodded. She looked slightly confused still, and yet determined.

 

Papyrus knocked on the door.

 

And

Once they all got inside...

 

 

There wasn’t anything for Sans to worry about.

 

There wasn’t anything that Sans should worry about. Frisk was with Paps.

 

And if the inevitable did happen… It wasn’t like the kid hadn’t already died a million times. What was one more death? Just one more RESET. Maybe if she tried and still failed with Sans’ support, the kid would see it his way and stop trying at all. Maybe she’d give up. Admit Sans was right and come back home with him.

 

What was one more RESET if it knocked some sense into Frisk? One more death if it was the last one. Just the one more RESET. The last one. Then no more pain. He’d only have to go through one more.

 

He was beginning to get frantic, now, waiting for what was surely inevitable. Undyne had closed the door a few minutes ago. She had to have noticed Frisk.

 

He felt like he was waiting for his own execution. This was torture. Why had he agreed to do this with Frisk? Sans let his sockets dim and fell to the floor. He kind of wished he had his lab notebook with him. He didn’t really need it anymore, but there were certain things about his timeline—

 

There was a lot he had let happen that he was now regretting, too many failures he didn’t want to repeat. But that wasn’t all this timeline had been. Not nearly all of it— Frisk had hugged him, all on her own. She’ d held his hand. They’d talked.

 

There was so much about Frisk that he wished wasn’t erasable. He wished he was, though. He wished he was erasable. And what about his magic on her? His pathetic excuse of a onesided bond? Could that be erased? When had the kid last SAVEd?

 

This timeline was coming to an end, so he would soon find out. He couldn’t believe he had been so stupid as to count on Frisk and Papyrus. Frisk was fourteen years old. Papyrus blindly trusted Undyne. This wouldn’t end well. This couldn’t end well. And so he waited.

 

There was a loud crash, an explosion of broken glass as if something gigantic had been thrown through one of the windows in the front of the house.

 

Sans got up, panicked—

 

And Papyrus very nearly crashed into him, running to the back of the house as fast as he could.

 

“WHAT—!?! SANS!!!” Papyrus yelled, maneuvering past him at the very last second and nearly crashing into the backwall of the house. Sans didn’t even have the time to teleport. What the hell was Paps doing here!? “WHAT ARE YOU”—Papyrus looked at the back of the house beside them, remembering his desire for stealth and continuing in a forced whisper—“What Are You Doing Here? I Thought You Were Sleeping!”

 

“uh— came looking for you, bro,” Sans lied. Could almost hear Frisk scolding him on the back of his head for lying to Paps. “figured you’d be here, since it’s your day off.”

 

Papyrus gave out a shriek. It was rather loud, but it didn’t matter—

 

He went down on his knees and hugged Sans.

 

“I AM SO HAP—I Am So Happy You Are Doing Better!” Papyrus loudly whispered. There was strong emotion in his voice; was he crying? “I Was So Worried! I Am Sorry I Helped Frisk Without Telling You. I Know She Is Your Best Friend. I Thought… When… When My Flower Friend Suggested It, I Thought If Frisk Broke Us Free, It Would Make You Happiest.”

 

“bro—it’s nothing like that.” Now it was Sans who was breaking. The strain in Pap’s voice. It really hurt. “i don’t care about the kid leaving. c’mon.”

 

“I Know You Do! You Never Left Your Room After She Left. It Was Just Like Before. You Didn’t Do Much At All Either Before The Two Of You Became Friends. And I Took Your Friend.”

 

“you didn’t take my friend,” Sans tried to soothe his brother. Hugged him back to soothe him and patted his back. “c’mon, paps. the kid just left on a trip, but i’ve still got my bro. i'm fine, paps, really—”

 

There was a sudden loud BANG and a crash, scream and yells from within the house.

 

Both Papyrus and Sans froze, hyperalert with Sans just about Ready to go in and take his kid back by force.

 

“HEY!! DON'T GET UP!! YOU'RE THE GUEST!! SIT DOWN AND ENJOY YOURSELF!!!”

 

Papyrus’ shoulders relaxed instantly but Sans’ didn’t. Undyne was yelling at Frisk loudly enough that her voice was carrying through the walls.

 

“I Knew She Would Welcome The Human If She Only Stopped By For A Visit,” Papyrus whispered, noticeably relieved. He let go of Sans and stood up, wiping something wet from his eye sockets. “It’s Just Good Manners.”

 

“paps…” Sans wasn’t sure if his assessment was right. “are you hiding back here to check on the human?”

 

“It’s Not That I Don’t Trust Undyne,” Papyrus got defensive, but looked guilty. “I Just Really Value Both Of My Friends.” Then he thought of something, “But Why Are You Hiding Back Here And Not Out Front?”

 

It was very easy to lie to Papyrus. Sans had done it for years and years, probably ever since he started taking care of his bro. “figured maybe i could set up a prank.”

 

“Sans! That Is Terrible. You Know Undyne Hates Those.”

 

“yeah. she finds those pretty fishy, huh.”

 

“Sans, No!!”

 

“heh.”

 

Papyrus looked away to rub at one of his eye sockets. Sans couldn’t help but inspect him after his outburst. Paps said he was sorry... Did he feel guilty? It wasn’t like Papyrus to feel that way. Not anymore.

 

“hey, bro. you really been worrying about me?”

 

“OF COURSE I— Of Course I Have!”

 

“how come?”

 

“Sans, You’ve Been Avoiding Me For Days. Do You Not Think I Would Notice If You Don’t Even Leave Your Room To—"

 

There was another loud clash, what sounded like objects being violently thrown inside the house. Both Sans and Papyrus tensed up again, absolutely rigid, attention once more to whatever was happening inside the house.

 

There was a moment of silence during which Sans fully expected his kid to scream.

 

And then Undyne’s booming voice—

 

“WE’LL BECOME CLOSER THAN YOU CAN EVER IMAGINE!!!!”  Followed by the sound of maniacal laughter, silence, and a loud STOMP.

 

Sans was on edge now, yet Papyrus had once again relaxed considerably. “Good,” Paps sighed with relief. “It Sounds Like They’re Getting Along.”

 

Sans begged to differ—

 

“As I Was Saying,” Paps continued. He sounded absolutely determined not to let this go. His eye sockets were once again firmly on Sans, but Sans was having trouble not focusing on whatever it was that was going on with his kid inside the house. “You Didn’t Leave Your Room, Not Even To Eat. For Days, Sans. This Is Just Like Before. I Remember What That Was Like. I Do Not Want You To Go Back To Being All…” He paused, unsure of what to say or how to phrase it. Sans didn’t think he had ever seen Papyrus this hesitant before. “Sad. You Were… Sadder Before. You Aren’t As Sad Now. I Notice These Things, Brother. I—”

 

Sans didn’t want his brother to notice anything. He was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. “i said i’m fine, paps. haven’t i told you not to worry about me? you know i can take care of us both… take care of the kid, too, for that matter. you’re my kid brother. you don’t have to worry—”

 

“OH MY GOD!!!” Undyne’s frustrated roar came from within the house. “STOP PETTING THE ENEMY!!!”

 

Sans gave one look at the wall beside them and then at Papyrus, but Papyrus no longer seemed to mind the shouts. “shouldn’t we do something?”

 

Paps didn’t even consider it. “They’re Fine. They Must Be Cooking By Now. Don’t Change The Subject.”

 

“i was just telling you, there’s nothing for you to worry about. ’m fine.”

 

“I Know You Are Not Fine,” Papyrus began, ignoring the loud clang of pots, pats and—what else was that?—coming from within the house. “I Wish You Would Talk To Me. I Know You Talk To Frisk, But We Used To Be Friends Too And I— I Just Want My Brother To Be Alright.”

 

“paps, i’m fine. how many times do i have to say it?”

 

Papyrus looked entirely unconvinced. “But Then Why—”

 

“the human has been wearing me to the bone, alright?” It wasn’t even a lie. “she’s hard to keep up with. remember when you were a kid?” Sans barely did. “tibia-nest, paps, i’ve been taking full advantage of having a break from her so i can sleep.”

 

Papyrus was torn. He wasn’t the kind of person who wanted to ever doubt his brother, but he was concerned for Sans too. “Have You Really, Really Been Sleeping This Entire Time?”

 

That wasn’t exactly a lie either. He had chosen to mostly sleep without Frisk. “of course, pap.”

 

“And Not It’s Not Because You Were Sad, Or… Or Angry At Me?” He almost looked scared to ask the question. Like a fear that was private, threatening to become real if it was spoken aloud.

 

Something twisted in Sans’ chest. There were more yells coming from within the house, but he ignored them. Paps did seem worried. Looked like he needed reassurance.

 

And Sans— Sans was the big brother. He had been depressed because of Frisk leaving. He had been angry, had even gone as far as to blame Papyrus. But he would never say it. He would never do that to Paps. “i’d never be mad at you, bro.” And he couldn’t be mad. Paps was his little brother.

 

Papyrus knelt back down and gave Sans another big hug. Sans felt frozen in place. He was affectionate with Frisk—

 

A little more honest with Frisk—

 

So the kind of open communication Papyrus seemed to want from him shouldn’t have felt so… different. Unachievable. And yet it was.

 

He was about to force himself to hug Papyrus back when Paps let him go. He looked a little bit… Happier? Relieved? Frisk had been right. Paps really had been worried about him.

 

“i’m sorry, bro.”

 

“Oh… It’s Alright,” Papyrus smiled. “As Long As You Are Okay, Sans, That Is All That Matters. But… You Would Tell Me, Right…? If You Weren’t.”

 

Not in a million years would he subject Paps to that. “of course, bro.”

 

He paused for a moment, got this nagging feeling and added, “same with you, right?”

 

Papyrus looked—

 

He was very quiet.

 

“paps? you know the same goes to you, right? you can come to me for… whatever.”

 

“Yes…” Papyrus sounded uncertain. His gaze focused to the side. “I Know, Sans.”

 

Every bit of concern he had for Frisk was immediately forgotten.

 

“papyrus,” he started. “what’s going on?” He was anxious. Nasal cavity full of smoke. What hadn’t he fixed for Pap? What—

 

Papyrus’ attention had shifted away from him. Sans heard Undyne’s voice before he registered what he was smelling.

 

Undyne’s house was on fire.

 

“I Have To Go,” Papyrus whispered. “Before Undyne Sees Me And Thinks She’s Been Bamboozled. Sans—You’ll Stay Behind And Keep An Eye Socket On Frisk, Right? I Am A Little Concerned. I Don’t Think She’s Been Eating.”

 

“but paps, what about you? you don’t sound—”

 

“I Am Much Better Now That We Talked,” Paps whispered. “Take Care Of Frisk. She Never Talks To Me Either.”

 

paps—”

 

Papyrus jumped onto the roof of the house and spun himself into the ether.