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Mettaton collapsed onto the hotel's bed and stared up at the ceiling, letting out a robotic sigh that just screamed of exhaustion. Another night, another hotel room; it was technically several hotel rooms, if one counted the rooms for his co-stars (they hadn't yet figured out a trailer design that would both include all the amenities they wanted and adhere to vehicle regulations), but the same difference applied.


At first, it seemed like the perfect situation for all of them. They were all getting their chance to see so many different cities and encounter so many cultures. Napstablook was getting to travel with both their cousin and their best friend on a regular basis. Shyren was discovering that maybe she didn't feel like retiring so early after all. Burgerpants... well, he was Burgerpants, nothing much else to say there. And Mettaton, who'd been admiring human culture and wanting to eventually perform for them for pretty much the whole of his existence, was finally getting the chance to live his dream.


So why, then, he suddenly pondered, wasn't he completely happy? After all, unlike his closest cohorts (not just his co-stars, but also the scientist who gave him his body), Mettaton was a very extroverted individual; while he liked his alone time as much as the next person, including moments like right now, he truly felt like he was in his element whenever he was among many people. Performing was an especially major source of happiness for him; whenever he had the chance to show off his creativity and imagination in front of a large crowd who would cheer for him and chant his name, his soul felt like it could fly because of the sheer joy it brought him. And yet, right now, after a very productive day on the road, he just wanted to go home.


He scanned his internal memory banks for possible reasons, thinking over what he and the others had done over the course of the day. There was an interview on a talk show, another interview for an online publication, and a brainstorming session for new material for the next season of their variety show, Weeknights with a Killer Robot. (Mettaton had learned that, while humans did have some variety shows, they weren't quite as receptive to them as monsters were; fortunately, not long after the monsters integrated into human society, a special-interest TV channel dedicated to monster affairs went live, and being the biggest star of the Underground before the barrier broke, Mettaton was of course a mainstay.) While the two interviews went well, he remembered that, during at least one of them, some rather probing questions had been asked. One of them involved whether Napstablook and Shyren were an item; Mettaton had gently dismissed the question, saying "That honestly isn't my business, darling", but somehow, he doubted that that would be the end of that. (He shuddered at the thought of the two having to face overzealous paparazzi; at least he was comfortable with being in crowds!)


There were more questions involving his political views (when he was still learning the ins and outs of this nation's politics, no less; the only views he would definitely discuss were his views regarding monster rights, as he felt it was still a little too early to discuss certain other affairs), as well as whether or not he was seeing certain other stars (the extent of his interactions with them ranged from "knowing they exist" to "collaborating with them now and then"). Mettaton did his level best to answer these types of questions as delicately as possible; he knew that all it would take was one slip of the tongue or one poorly-worded statement, and his reputation could take a hit just like that.


Once those things were over, he and the rest of his team started coming up with ideas for new segments. There were at least a few ideas for new call-in quizzes, but there was a small debate over whether there should be a studio audience quiz as well. Somehow, they had also come up with an idea where Mettaton would read hate mail on the air and come up with snarky replies to it; given that human-monster relations still weren't perfect, they all knew that this would have to be implemented delicately if they decided to go with it. They had also remembered a rather infamous review they had received shortly after implementing a segment showing how fans would dress up as Mettaton and send him fan mail; the subheader very clearly read, "Doesn't Mettaton stroke his ego enough already?" Unfortunately, they hadn't come up with many ideas during this session, but he knew that they would probably think of something by next time.


And so, after arriving at the hotel room and quickly polishing some of the dirt away, Mettaton was staring up at the ceiling as he lay on the large bed. Deep down, he was slowly beginning to piece together what was bothering him so much.


Way back when he and all the other monsters still lived underground, he was just as wrapped up in fame as he was now. Indeed, he was so wrapped up in fame that he was willing to forget his roots entirely. The only reason he remembered himself was because of a young child named Frisk (though Napstablook had certainly helped, too); with their help, he was able to remember how much he meant to his family and his people. Not long after that, the barrier had broken, and monsters started living on the surface; even though it hadn't even been five years yet, it still felt like forever since the days when Mount Ebbot was the only world monsters could live in. Since then, he would always do his best to meet up with Frisk and their friends on special occasions, such as birthdays, the holiday season, the anniversary of the barrier's destruction, and the summer solstice (which had become a rather important holiday among monsters, due to being the longest day of the year, thus being an appropriate day to celebrate being in the sun again; many monsters and human allies, including Frisk and friends, would celebrate with a trip to the beach on this day).


Mettaton always loved spending time with the group. He loved seeing Frisk become more witty and assertive as the years went by, and yet they never lost their good heart. Of course, he would always be grateful to Alphys for giving him the means to become a star in the first place. Even though he had gotten off to a slightly rocky start with Undyne, Alphys' then-girlfriend (and current fiancee), he eventually discovered that he had at least one thing in common with her: they both liked to sing loudly. The former royals, Toriel and Asgore, were pretty much everyone's parents by now; anytime anyone needed a confidant, the two were always among the first choices. And then there were the two skeleton brothers; while Mettaton wasn't quite as fixated on puns as Sans was (or Toriel, for that matter), that skeleton certainly knew how to let loose with a good zinger when the opportunity arose.


And that left his younger, yet taller, brother; he always loved calling himself "The Great Papyrus". Now, the thing about Papyrus--


"Dooo do do-do, do do do-do do do-do!"


Mettaton gasped at hearing his personal theme song, not anticipating his phone to ring at this hour. He quickly snatched it up, checking the caller ID; apparently, Burgerpants wanted to tell him something. With an aggravated sigh, he took the call. "Hello?"


"Hey, Mettaton, sir, Napstablook and Shyren wanted me to call you."


"Yes, and why couldn't they have called me themselves?" If Mettaton's voice were any flatter, he could fill it, roll it up, and serve it as a crepe. (He began briefly pondering if a crepe in the shape of his voice would sell as well as the face steaks and butt omurice.)


"They thought you were asleep, and didn't want to disturb you, so I decided to leave a message before I forgot. I wasn't expecting you to answer, to tell the truth... anyway, they came up with a few new ideas for the show, if you wanted to hear them."


"Can this wait until tomorrow? I'm very exhausted right now." As much as Mettaton loved his cousin and their friend, tonight was one of those nights where he really just wanted to be alone.


"Sure. We can write those ideas down."


There was a conspicuously long pause afterwards as Mettaton waited for Burgerpants to get back to him. When the silence proved to be too much, Mettaton finally spoke. "Are you quite done?"

 
"Uh - yeah! We were just finishing." Mettaton could hear him mutter under his breath, "He doesn't pay me enough for this..."


Mettaton rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry you feel that way. However, in everything I do, I believe my employees should always have the brand's best interests at heart. And somehow, I doubt that stealing some of our inventory just to impress a couple of girls is putting the brand first, Burgerpants. Well anyway, I actually will be going to bed soon. Give my regards to Blooky and Shyren. Good night."


He promptly hung up before Burgerpants could say anything else. After setting the phone on vibrate and placing it back on the nightstand, he gently cradled his forehead in his hand. When will he learn?


So where was he...? Oh yes, Papyrus. Not long after meeting him, Mettaton had learned that Papyrus had been a fan of his for quite some time. However, aside from acting rather starstruck around him (to which Mettaton wasn't surprised; who wouldn't be at least a little starstruck around him?), Papyrus treated him with around the same amount of courtesy he afforded his friends and brother, which was quite a large amount. Sure, Papyrus would get annoyed when he thought his brother was making too many puns and/or not doing enough work, and Mettaton had once seen him get angry at a dog who was stealing his bones, but aside from that, Mettaton had no idea how Papyrus managed to be so nice to everyone. The craziest thing was that, unlike some sycophantic people he had run into, who were only nice because they thought they could get something out of him or because they were talking to a celebrity, Mettaton honestly had no reason to believe that Papyrus was anything but sincere. Something deep within Mettaton's heart wanted him to believe that Papyrus could be just as much of a confidant as Blooky and Shyren and Alphys and the former royalty.


But Mettaton knew. From the first time he laid eyes on a celebrity tabloid, from the first time he watched a celebrity news show, from the first time he saw the headlines in the entertainment section, he knew.


This wasn't what they wanted.


They wanted him to find a fellow celebrity, preferably one who was just as big of a star as he was, if not bigger (so presumably a human star, since Mettaton didn't yet know of any other monster stars who had reached A-list status). He would have to become the "hottest new power couple" with this person, and from then on, the news would report every little thing they did together, often using a cute portmanteau name to refer to them ("Mettaxxx spotted at such-and-such restaurant!"). Eventually, they would either have a highly-publicized break-up, with at least one of them inevitably becoming the "villain" of the failed couple, or they would get married; the timeframe of the latter would start with a very public proposal, leading all the way into the wedding itself, which would probably be recorded, livestreamed, liveblogged, and all those other things from every angle. And of course, anytime there was a dispute of any sort, people would wonder if a break-up was on the horizon.


But it wouldn't end there; since many stars had children, people would start wondering when it would be Mettaxxx's turn. Assuming that Mettaton and his partner could even have children together, that too would be a huge production from start to finish. First there would be a creative pregnancy announcement, then a creative gender reveal as soon as possible, and all the while, the media would be taking all sorts of pictures of Mettaton's partner's baby bump (Mettaton wondered if there would be just as much of a media frenzy if they had a child his way, by using magic to summon a new ghost monster into existence). Even if they adopted a child instead, the media would be all over it, and Mettaton had the feeling that some conspiracy theorists would go nuts, claiming that he only adopted a child for the sake of his image. And, of course, once they had a child through whatever means, they would be pretty much obligated to give this child the most outlandish name possible. After all, only common people gave their children common names; celebrities gave their children unique names. That was the way of the world.


(Besides, Mettaton often wondered if he even wanted to be a father someday. Even if things turned out well in the end, he still couldn't keep his promise to his cousin, and this was when they were old enough to be self-sufficient; with that in mind, could he really take on the responsibility of taking care of a life that was dependent on him? Even if he could, the child would still have to deal with having a celebrity for a father, along with everything that entailed; if Mettaton did become a parent, the last thing he would ever want for his child would be for them to become a punchline, one of the people accused by the media of being "famous for being famous".)


He had another thought, as he thought more about the tabloids. Frisk and their friends tended to be very forgiving; if Mettaton or anyone else did something wrong, they could apologize and be forgiven. Even if they messed up several times, as long as they at least tried to improve themselves, or expressed a sincere desire to make things right, they knew there would always be a place for them in this circle of friends, since everyone supported each other. (That said, this wasn't a universal rule at first; it was only just recently that Toriel had really started to get over her resentment of Asgore's more questionable decisions.)


But in celebrity media, the phrase "forgive and forget" might as well be nonexistent. Mettaton had heard some stories before; someone makes a poorly-informed or ill-thought-out statement, or gets caught doing something bizarre, or simply has a bad day and acts grumpier than usual, or even has one of their more reasonable statements taken out of context (either through ignorance or malice), and that, at best, leaves a black eye on their career that could be repaired over time. At worst, someone could have their reputation destroyed and lose a large amount of their audience. But the truly horrible part was that, even if the person sincerely apologized, did everything in their power to improve themselves and set things right, and in general tried to be a better person (or even if it turned out the incident wasn't their fault), some people (whether fans or executives) would never forgive that celebrity. Fans would give forlorn speeches in the vein of "I used to be your biggest fan, but then I learned that you weren't perfect, or even that you disagree with me on something, and now all my merchandise of you is in the trash and I'm never supporting you again", or at the very least make shorter, ruder comments on social media. Executives could even have the power to blacklist certain personalities from the airwaves, or at least spread their "dirty laundry" faster than the truth could be clarified, or even outright lie about things just for a sensationalistic headline; some people wouldn't even believe an explanation of the truth, because "that's just what a guilty person would say". Granted, some bad deeds were truly horrible and didn't deserve forgiveness, but when even the smallest mistake led to "strike one, you're out" no matter how repentant the person was?


Mettaton looked out the window at the starry night sky. In spite of everything, he truly loved being a star. He loved seeing his name up in lights; he loved answering eager fans' question-and-answer sessions; he loved hearing unique stories about how he touched an individual fan's life and possibly inspired them to become a new star; and in general, he loved performing, and he loved that people loved him for performing. The fans certainly loved Mettaton, the biggest star of the monsters...


...but would they love Mettaton as he was outside of the public eye? Would they love Mettaton, the former snail farmer who just so happened to luck out on acquiring the means to achieving his big break? Would they love Mettaton when he was doing mundane things, such as buying groceries, or flipping through channels on a rainy afternoon, looking for something interesting to watch? Perhaps most importantly, would they still love him in spite of his less-proud moments? Would they want to forgive the man who abandoned Napstablook after promising he wouldn't leave, who double-crossed Alphys and tried to kill Frisk just for the chance to leave his people behind, and who in general could be a needy person on some of his more unfortunate days?


Perhaps, deep in his heart, that was what Mettaton truly wanted; he wanted someone who could understand him on a personal level, and put up with his quirks, and help him overcome his flaws. He didn't want someone who would just date him for the publicity, or who would run screaming into the night at the first hint that he wasn't the flawless marble statue they thought he was. And besides, how could he possibly feel secure if he felt like he had to fulfill the fan's every fantasy to the very letter, to be Mettaton the idea instead of Mettaton the person? He had the feeling that no one would really be happy in that sort of relationship.


A gentle chime from within his internal systems briefly snapped him out of his thoughts. He knew this chime; it was the signal that he needed to charge soon, if he wished to remain in his EX form for the time being. At this stage, he would drift into sleep mode within minutes of plugging in.


Remembering his friends, he grinned with renewed confidence. He knew he could always count on them, even when the worst parts of celebrity culture were making themselves known. In the meantime, he would wholeheartedly embrace the aspects he loved. And, he thought, when he got home, one of the first things he would do would be to call Papyrus and ask him if he wanted to hang out (just platonically, of course... at least for now). Perhaps just play some cards, or see if Alphys and Undyne wanted to join them for a movie night. It would be a good place to start, and from there, he could see what would develop.


Mettaton took out his personalized music player (highly decorated, of course), selected a song he wanted to listen to, and plugged himself into the wall before flopping onto the bed again. Even though his celebrity life wasn't guaranteed to be perfect, and even if things were overly focused on the superficial sometimes, he still loved the limelight, and he still loved his friends.


Those were his last thoughts for the night as he drifted into sleep mode, the sounds of the low-key disco beat running through his head.