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The Language of Blood

Chapter Text

You have never in your life wanted to slap fire, but here you are, hand raised and ready to smack this snarky fire elemental over the head.

“Are you fucking kidding me, why would you even agree to bet her on anything ? It’s Frisk! Frisk! Determined as fuck, dating Sans, that Frisk?”

Grillby’s mouth smirks devilishly as he dodges your hands. He catches them in his own, but you keep struggling against him.

You are fucking pissed .

“I’ve heard of her,” he says, half-assedly trying to keep you from smacking him into next century.

“She bet you she could drink you under the fucking table!”

“And I won.”

“You’re a bartender you piece of shit! Of course you did!”

Grillby has the gall to laugh. With an exasperated sigh you wrench your hands out of his and pull away, brushing off the bits of soot that just always seem to collect on your clothes around him. You haven’t worn white in months.

“And she’s currently puking her guts out in our bathroom and I’m the only one that’s not hungover in the house and can take care of her. You will collect your stupid friend and get out of my house.”

The orange flames of the fire monster’s body flare little flashes of blue as he laughs. “Of course. Where is Sans?”

You point empirically towards the couch facing the television. A single skeletal hand lifts and does a very limp-wristed wave to acknowledge he heard you.

“could be a lil quieter, y’know,” Sans grouses.

As much as you want to start speaking louder just to spite him, you’re not sure how to get ecto-puke out of the carpet so you fight the urge to jostle him further.

“He tried to tell me last night he could get her home no problem,” you say, marching over to the small pile of belongings that you’d gathered around the house that morning. “I knew something was up when they both started sending me Snapchats. Sans hates that app.”

Grillby holds out his arms for you to drape Sans’s blue hoodie over them, followed by the clothes he’d worn to the bar last night. Currently the pitifully posed skeleton is covered from the waist down in a pair of Frisk’s jeans and a shirt you think was leftover from a charity event at the embassy. Not that a shirt sporting the phrase Cookout 2041 - A ‘Bun’ of Fun! looks out of place on the master of painful puns. Especially not with the cartoon hotdog winking on the front.

“I’m gonna check on Frisk now. Let me know when you get this bag of bones home, will you? Papyrus has been in a right state all morning. I had to video-chat with him to calm him down. I guess Sans confessed some stuff on the phone to him last night-”

A mighty groan rolls up from the couch cushions.

“-and he was sure something awful happened,” you finish, ignoring the pathetic interruption.

You can’t find it in yourself to pity Sans his situation that much. He’s a grown-ass monster who can deal with the consequences of his bad decisions.

“I’ll text you when he’s home,” Grillby says.

There’s still a smirk in his flames and you know Sans will not get a reprieve on his trip home. Not that you disagree with that. You still can’t get the sight of ectoplasmic something violently filling a flower planter outside your house. Damn it, you’d just planted those last weekend and now, a disgusting purple mass had soaked into the soil. You still don’t understand how a skeleton monster can get drunk, let alone puke it all back up.

“Good. I’m going to take care of the girl that this miserable skele-baby should be.”

Grillby helps Sans into the car he’d asked for on his ride sharing app, and you don’t bother watching them pull away. You’ve got much more pressing matters.

The house is modest, a three bedroom ranch with two bathrooms. The latter is what you’re truly grateful for now. Frisk is currently taking up residence in the half-bath near the kitchen, face pressed into the cool ceramic of the tile floor. Her arm lifts towards the sink counter as you walk in but you stop that before it can go too far.

“Woah, there,” you say as you kneel down. You’re much gentler with your housemate than you were with her boyfriend. “Slow moves. Did you drink the apple juice I left in here?”

As much trouble as she got herself into, you are more pissed at the boys for letting her get this way; she can’t help but rise to a challenge. Too much determination.

Frisk nudges the empty apple juice bottle with her toes, her feet pulled up to her chest as she groans in pain. “I hate alcohol.”

“Yeah, me too, buddy,” you say, trying not to let too much bitterness rise in your throat from that. You settle to sit next to her, leaning against the sink cabinet as you stroke her hair away from her face. “Does Toriel have any magical monster candy fix for hangovers?”

“Nope,” Frisk says with extra popping emphasis on the ‘p’. “Stars, this is awful.”

“If you promise not to puke anywhere else I can help you stand up and - op, nope, okay.”

Mid-sentence Frisk lifted herself and the toilet seat in a single fluid motion. All you can do is hold her hair and rub her back until it’s over.

You are definitely slapping that fire monster the next time you see him.

Chapter Text

The next time you see him is far later than you expected.

Work has been hell. Springtime means potholes and potholes mean a lot of work for you and the rest of the crew on cars that have way too many problems for their owners to fix. Usually you don’t have to deal with the people face to face - shudder - since there is only so much ignorance you can handle at a time.

One such lovely customer thought it would be a good idea to argue with you.

“Listen, I keep my car in top shape, lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about bearings for.”

The scratchy material of your jumpsuit cuts into your arms where you have the sleeves pushed up, crossed over your chest. You stop short of tapping your foot impatiently on the concrete floor of the service center but it’s a near thing.

“Sir, I’ve seen under that car myself and-”

“Can I talk to your manager please?”

Oh, god he sounds like a suburban middle-aged woman seeking assistance over the sticker price on a box of Cheerios and you’re about to blow a gasket.

“Ben!” you shout over your shoulder loud enough to carry from the cramped front desk space into the main shop area.

One of the several power-socket sounds stops at the sound of your voice, a thin, tall man emerging around the corner wiping his hands with an already soiled rag. Ben doesn’t look like much but you know better than to challenge him in any sort of test of strength. His name is the one embossed in hand-painted gold lettering on the front window of the garage.

“What’s up, _______?” he asks as he reaches for his other set of glasses out of a breast pocket. “Oh, hello. You’re the white Dodge Charger, right?”

The owner of said Charger puffs up his chest a bit, clearly pleased to be in the company of a fellow male . Even Ben’s soft spoken voice doesn’t seem to deter Charger as he walks over to point his body towards the owner. It’s a transparent move to block you out of the conversation.

Jesus Christ you want to punch something. Maybe you will take a hike in the park after work today after all.

With small gestures of his hands probably meant to be hidden from your view by the man’s oddly shaped bulk, Charger explains his situation. Typically you’re very understanding for drivers who can’t afford to get absolutely everything fixed right then but something about this guy rubbed you the wrong way. And in turn, he had picked up on that and started pushing back on every one of your ‘not terminal, but important’ service suggestions.

“I see. Sir, our policy is to present all findings to the owner of the vehicle regardless of why they brought the car in in the first place.” Voice calm, but firm, Ben walks over to a pile of folders behind the receptionist desk.

You recognize the one on the top as belonging to this vehicle, but Ben takes his time rifling through them to pretend like he can’t find it right away, purposefully wasting the man’s time. Damn, you love your uncle. Someday you hope you can pull off calm pettiness half as well as him. The only other person you can think of to give him a run for his money in that department is Grillby. Nothing seems to rustle that monster’s feathers - er, flames.

Charger is noticeably upset over the reveal that no, you are not a stupid mechanic trying to upsell him. You’re not even sure your gender was his biggest problem, but you can tell it was definitely part of his initial issue, why he refused to believe you.

The de-escalation continues as you leave to re-enter the main garage area. A few sparks fly in the corner as your cousin grinds off a set of lugnuts so rusted its the only feasible way to get them off.

“Fucking asshole,” you gripe, lightly kicking an empty can of antifreeze that didn’t quite make it into the recycling bin.

Your cousin, Isaac, hears you and glances over, but doesn’t stop working. “What’s got your engine revving?”

You roll your eyes and pick up the can to put it where it belongs. “Just another douche who thinks he knows better than me just because he was born with a dick.”

Isaac snorts. “Dicks are pretty great though, you have to admit.”

“They’re alright, I guess, if you’re into that,” you reply immediately.

“Good thing I am.”

“Gross.”

You feel a little lighter already, and Isaac can tell as he keeps teasing you. “ You’re gross.”

Sticking your tongue out at him as he brings the grinder in his hands over to the workbench nearby, you lean against the wall for a moment and let out a deep breath. You watch as he starts to take off one extension for another.

“I’m gonna take a backpack up to the ridge today if you want to join,” you say, letting the frustration and exhaustion of the day leak into your voice a little. Maybe Isaac will take pity and join you. You’re pretty sure Sans is coming over to hang out with Frisk anyway and you really don’t need to hear them having sex again.

You know before he opens his mouth what the answer is. “I’ve been putting off helping Ma with that table set and I promised every night this week to her for that.”

There’s a definite pout to your lips when you say, “Yeah, fine, whatever, abandon me to my sorrows.”

Isaac doesn’t dignify that with a response other than a lifted eyebrow and a huffed chuckle.

You buckle immediately. You always do with him; he’s like the older brother you always wanted. “Okay, well, I’m not volunteering tonight but if you want another set of hands to finish that in time for Uncle Ben’s birthday then let me know tomorrow, okay?”

“You can count on it,” Isaac says.

Tool properly replaced, he walks back over to the stubborn lug nuts, leaving you alone to mope for another thirty seconds before you pull your gloves back on and get to work.

Chapter Text

Something about fresh spring air makes you feel refreshed. It’s cliche as fuck, but you get why it’s a cliche in the first place.

You didn’t even bother to hop in the shower when you got home to change. Why bother when you know you’ll just get sweaty and grimy again hiking up the trail?

The trek is familiar to your entire family, a secluded walk in the state park just outside of town where your father worked when he was alive. It quickly became a tradition after his funeral for you to drive up here and just walk until you reached the peak safe point of the trail. Once in a while you ventured a little further, but there wouldn’t be anyone else out on the trail this time of day in this time of year, so you’re pretty confident you’ll have a few hundred feet between you and another person for an hour or two before the sun sets. The novelty of solitude is hard to recreate in the city, so you cave in to your craving more and more often lately.

Besides, it’s close to the anniversary of your father’s death. With that, on top of the hell of a week you’ve had, you know this will help rejuvenate you back into a semi-socially energetic human being.

Each step you take you can feel a little more sweat build up on the small of your back. You threw your hair up into a bun instead of the ponytail you wear in the shop all the time, to keep your neck free, but you can feel stray hairs sticking to it anyway.

Winter was pretty mild this year, so the trail is clear except for a bit of debris from autumn last year and the occasional rabbits in the underbrush. Every sound is so different than the mechanical ones you hear in the shop it’s instantly calming.

Your phone buzzes in your pocket when you’re halfway up, so you take a moment to pause for a drink of water and to check the message.

Frisk : Sans is gonna order food, did you want anything?

Y : Nah, I’m on the trail for another couple hours. Probably will stop at Grillby’s before I come home.

Frisk : Lol that’s what he’s ordering.

Y: Ooh, shocker!

Frisk : I know, he’s so predictable. Alright have fun! See you later tonight then

The exchange is quick, since you decide teasing her about the sounds her boyfriend makes won’t be as easy to do over a text message. Not unless you record yourself breathlessly moaning in the middle of a forest…

Before you lose your nerve you press and hold the voice recording button in the message app and close your eyes, making the most obviously sexual noises possible, but you make sure to drop your voice as low as you can. There’s no way you can properly imitate Sans’s baritone, but you give Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene a run for her money, goddamnit.

All in all the little recording is almost a minute long, ending with your breathless cries of fuuuuck Frisk ! There. You send it with the little smirking devil emoji and a reminder that the walls in your house are thinner than she thinks. It’s a toss up if she’ll be embarrassed or laugh at it, and you sort of hope Sans is nearby when it plays. It makes your day when you can ruffle that skeleton’s feathers.

You walk further along the trail until you reach a clearing with a fence overlooking a small outcropping. The fence is new, your hands running along the smooth surface of purposefully-aged wood, a bench built into one side. Since the sun is just beginning to set you decide to take advantage of the sight, tucking your phone into your pocket and switching your music off.

The forest is quiet this time of the evening as birds settle in to nest and before the bats venture out in search of bugs. For the first time since you parked your car, and really for the last week or so, you take a moment to just...be.

Your dad was the one who was into yoga and meditation, and you never picked up on that habit when he was alive. Now you tried to practice it whenever you could since it made you feel a little closer to him. It’s the same working with Ben, Isaac, and the guys at the shop. Your dad helped that shop become what it is today. Sure, you enjoy working on cars, a physical thing to work out and solve with a definite fix or answer, but going into the family business felt necessary. Ben told you before you shared that with your dad, too.

Shutting your eyes, you take steady breaths. Your throat feels tight the longer you think about him but you don’t try to stop the sadness. It feels cathartic. So many years spent fighting that pain right after his death had lead to several bad decisions you don’t necessarily regret, but don’t want to repeat.

In this sort of silence it’s like you can hear more and further than normal. No one else is on the trail by now, the last human being you saw passing through more than half an hour ago, right before your little recording prank.

So when the electric buzzing of a huge machine powering up fills the clearing beside you, you can’t miss it.

A flash of bright blue light shines through your eyelids before they fly open. You’re on your feet immediately, wrapping your hand around your pepper spray in one motion. Electric arcs fill a space several paces away from you but you can feel all your hair standing on end from the power of it. You want to run away but something about this seems familiar, almost as if...

Then Sans falls out of a the gaping hole torn in reality.

“Sans? What the fuck are you doing up here?” you exclaim as soon as the skeleton topples out to the ground.

The moment he was through the blue portal of sorts, he fell to the ground like the bag of bones he is. You rush over to your friend. Wasn’t Frisk just saying they were getting dinner together? What the fuck is he doing up here, and...dressed like that?

“Dude, are you okay, what - what are you doing?”

One of his hands grips painfully on your ankle. Sans lifts himself with the other one and the face you see below the hood of his sweater is not the one you know. It hurts to even look at him, and your eyes start to water the longer you try. Colors swirl and there’s fabric fluttering in a way that reminds you of radio static and what the fuck who is this ?

“ah,” the skeleton says, and you think you see its head tilt to the side. God, it sounds and doesn’t sound like Sans at the same time. “i was wondering when i’d find you.”

“Uh, what?” At least, you try to say that. It comes out as more of a choked gasp.

You haven’t been this dumbstruck since you saw the first news reports of monsters appearing out of the mountains you spent so much time on. Your skeletal captor doesn’t seem phased by your speechlessness. Rather, he’s giggling. The longer you look at him the clearer he is, and his robes settle on a uniform charcoal color.

“love to explain, but there isn’t the time, buddy.”

“Who the fuck are you?” you ask, finally finding your voice.

The not-Sans tilts his head, an odd melting quality to the edges of him as he moves. Watching it makes you sick to your stomach. “you’ll figure it out. now, if you’ll excuse me, i have an error to catch.”

You don’t get a chance to ask another question before he shoves you through another blue tear behind you.

Chapter Text

Your ass hurts so fucking badly.

Landing on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere will do that, though.

Where the sky was fiery reds and oranges, the color of Grillby’s flames as he stands behind his bar talking to you at closing time,  it’s a clear blue with blinding streaks of light shining through a forested canopy. Your eyes blink rapidly so your pupils can adjust and you can get your bearings.

“Fuck,” you mutter as you stand up, using a tree behind you for support. The way your head smarts, you must have knocked it against the trunk when you fell through...whatever that was. The glowing blue thing. “Sans, I am going to fucking kill you.”

No one answers, of course. There’s no trace of that strange not-Sans, or the electric blue tear he created when he appeared, or even a clear image in your mind of what he looked like. Was he...taller than the Sans you knew? Shorter? What color were his clothes? Does it matter? Like water, the harder you try to remember anything specific about him the faster it slips through your fingers.

A high-pitched bird call echoes over your head, startling you out of your closed-eye concentration. Right. Middle of the forest. Need to figure out where you are.

Blessedly your phone screen survived your fall through whatever the hell that was, slipped into the front pocket of your canvas jacket for your walk. Working in an auto shop, you have one of the best phone cases money can buy anyway just in case it slips out of your work jumpsuit mid-shift to dive into an oil puddle or into one of the underground bays during an oil change. As soon as you pull it out though, it shocks you with a huge burst of static electricity.

You exclaim in surprise and drop it onto the leaves beneath your feet, face down. Muttering prayers under your breath you beg that it’s not shattered when you pick it back up again because that would just be your luck, wouldn’t it?

Fuck. Of course it is.

Maybe you can - nope, as soon as you try to slide the unlock command, you get a cut on your finger from the broken glass, and the image underneath doesn’t follow your finger anyway. Damn it.

Well. You’ve been in worse scrapes before, right? Worse than getting pulled through a mysterious glowing blue vagina in the middle of the air by a not-Sans who was intensely creepy and your phone only breaking when your butter fingers let it go and somehow it’s a different time of day now and, okay, so things are pretty bad.

You slip the useless phone into your pocket and just hope the nearest town has a cheap shop that can fix it. Only your wallet came through with you so yeah, you have your driver’s license and some cash, but you mostly use this thing to house all your reward membership cards and a few coupons that are probably out of date.

There are limited number of skills in your arsenal that you think could help you right now. You almost wish it were nighttime in this place that looks remarkably similar to the trail you take on Mt. Ebott, but is a little too overgrown to be the same place. If it were dark out you could tell what direction to take by the stars, no matter what time of year it is.

Since it’s sunny as hell, you figure it’s safest to just follow a direction that feels like it’s down the mountain rather than going further up. Sure, up means you might be able to see further, but you know Mt. Ebott and know that it can be a treacherous bitch ready to swallow people whole.

Well, it hasn’t done that since Frisk broke the Barrier and freed monsters, but some superstitions take more than a little logic to ignore.

“Alright,” you mutter to yourself, glancing back and forth along the gravel road you’d been moping on for at least a half hour now, “time to go find Sans so I can break his fucking femurs for this.”

Chapter Text

You’re really glad you were out hiking when not-Sans sent you on a ride and not in, say, your pajamas or flip-flops. Instead of threadbare shorts and a baggy shirt you at least have your hiking boots and athletic clothes as you walk down the side of a mountain.

‘Walk’ is a really generous term. Each step you take on the gravel road feels slippery and treacherous because of the incline in some spots. You wonder where the road came from in the first place.

There isn’t much maintained infrastructure on the mountain to begin with, since most of it was immediately declared a federally funded national park to preserve and protect the monsters emerging out of it. You know where all the ranger stations are in a four mile radius from the park’s main office, since your father used to work as one of the rangers. None of the stations had roads leading to them like this, and that’s the only reason you can see to have clearly marked roads in the middle of a forested mountain.

You can feel your phone vibrate in your pocket, which gives you hope, but when you pull it out to look and try to answer the phone call coming through, it doesn’t work. All you get is another cut on your finger for your efforts.

Doesn’t matter if Frisk tries to stop you, you’re gleefully imagining stringing Sans up by his ragged pink slippers in one of the auto lifts in the shop. Maybe tie his legs with one of the oil hoses that hang from the ceiling. You’re sure you have things that will fit nicely between his tibia and fibula...

He is at least paying to fix your damned phone. It’s the least he can do for scaring you out of your wits and sending you through a magical blue vagina - you have to stop calling it that, this is serious business - without your consent. He knows you’re not the keenest on magic to begin with and -

The phone buzzes again. Through the spider webbing of cracks you can only make out the letters ‘i’ and ‘y’, so you assume it must be Grillby taking his turn trying to reach you. The call before was from Frisk, as well as you could guess by the garbled picture that appeared beneath the cracks.

“Motherfucker,” you curse gruffly to yourself, not bothering to speak under your breath, watching as it finishes ringing and goes silent again.

A gasp in the underbrush off to the side sets you on high alert.

“MWEH! IS THAT YOU, BROTHER?”

Out from the bushes flies...another not-Sans.

Well, he looks like he’s a Sans, but...oh, god you’re too startled by his brilliant blue scarf and starry eyes to believe he is the Sans you know. There is no way . If you hadn’t just seen another monster that looked so much like Sans but not, you would have tackled him and started cursing him out for pulling some stupid magic bullshit.

The stars forming his pupils switch back to little discs in an instant as they focus on you. Brushing dirt from his trousers, the monster-that-resembles-Sans looks at you curiously.

“SORRY, HUMAN, FOR MISTAKING YOU AS MY BROTHER,” the skeleton all but shouts at you. He sounds a lot more like Papyrus than Sans, actually. “I HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR HIM FOR A FEW MINUTES NOW AND THOUGHT YOUR CURSING MUST BELONG TO HIM! EVEN THE MAGNIFICENT SANS MAKES A MISTAKE NOW AND THEN! MWEH-HEH-HEH!”

“if you were looking for me bro you should have just-”

Another skeleton you feel like you recognize appears out from the underbrush. Both monsters look so much like Sans and Papyrus that it makes your head spin, your mouth drop open, and no real words come out for a second. The two are dressed in equally bright colors, one in cyan and the other in orange, but the clothes look like they’ve been hiking, too. You never thought you’d see Sans hike instead of shortcut so you’re on instant alert.

“Hi,” you finally squeak, not sure how to tell these people that they are all wrong . “Uh, which way to parking lot?”

The taller skeleton looks at you skeptically, and you feel rooted to the spot. “you’re on the right track,” he says without looking away. “if you’re lost the closest ranger station is about a quarter mile down this road.”

“BUT BROTHER, MAYBE SHE IS-”

“thirsty?” the skeleton in orange says, cutting off whatever his shorter companion was about to say. He tosses an unopened water bottle at you that feels like it’s been in his backpack all day, warm but not too warm to be gross.

“Uh, thanks,” you say, ready to turn tail and run as fast as you can away from these two. “I was just...yeah, thanks, I’ll head to the ranger station.”

Behind you on your brisk walk away from the not-Sans and not-Papyrus, you can hear the two of them arguing in hushed tones. You start to jog the moment you can’t see them behind you anymore.

Chapter Text

You don’t make it to the ranger station.

Actually, you didn’t try to go there at all, since you are so one-track minded on finding your car and getting out of here. It feels like an elaborate prank and you want no part of this. Since Papyrus told you how to get to the ranger station, that is the exact opposite place you want to be right now. Any prank that has Sans trying this hard cannot be good for your nerves.

The sun has set since you started this misadventure, so you find your way down to the parking lot without trouble. It still feels itchy and wrong to be here, and your mind latches onto the prank excuse with hellfire, because you wouldn’t put it past your monster “friends” to mess with you enough to make the park you know like the back of your hand look different. The last straw really was your phone breaking.

Your dad bought you this phone. It’s the last thing he gave you before he died. You don’t care how outdated that makes it, so long as it works. Not only that, you feel a little helpless without it, and you are not down to clown right now.

Maybe Frisk and Grillby were trying to stop the skeleton brothers’s prank, their phone calls meant to be warnings? You hope so.

The key fob in your pocket feels undamaged, so you start to search for your little pickup truck among the dozen or so other ones that look just like it. You love the model, but so does half of Ebott. You should know since you’ve worked on half of them by now. Light and nimble on the mountain passes and pretty decent in winter conditions and on gas mileage, you can’t go anywhere without seeing a few of them.

So at first, when you don’t hear your truck chirp back at you, you don’t worry.

Traveling two rows to the left, you hit it again. No answer.

You walk halfway down a row and do it again. Nothing.

Okay, now you’re worried.

Your fingers tap anxiously against your thigh, and you stand on your tiptoes to get a better look around. Now your truck might be stolen? Worst prank ever . You go from angry to afraid and back to angry as fast as a yo-yo flying up and down. No. Maybe the battery in the fob finally gave out; it had given you a lot of trouble the last couple weeks. You’ll just have to….walk up and down each row until you find your truck, is all. Panicking won’t help.

A few lone hikers and some families, a mixture of monsters and humans, trickle down from the mountain and pack up their cars as you make your second round around the lot. You’re doing your best to look casual, so you jog over to one of the benches under a tree to hide from the sun and catch your breath. By now half of the vehicles are out of the lot. You’re even thirsty enough to drink the water you caught earlier, draining the bottle sip by sip until it’s gone.

The park is big enough you aren’t surprised you didn’t run across hardly any of these people on your way down. Most of them have knapsacks or picnic baskets in tow, the sun just past the horizon now, closer and closer to closing time.

You don’t expect to see that Sans and Papyrus again on account of Sans’s worst kept secret of shortcuts. They could just head home in a couple of jumps. Even if Papyrus valued his exercise, it’s enough of a distance that even he would concede it was more efficient and eco-friendly to take a shortcut.

Elbows on your knees, you lean forward to stare at the ground, running your hands over your hair where the strands that came loose from your braid are sticking to your neck. Only the worry of possibly having cameras on you to catch every bit of the prank keep you from crying. But, they would have seen you wander the parking lot for over an hour, then, and that makes them assholes .

“You are ASSHOLES!” you shout into your knees, letting anger bubble up to sit stronger in your throat than the tears. Sitting up like a shot, you notice no one is really close to you, so you start flipping the bird in a full circle around you. “Do you hear me? You are assholes .”

“now that’s not very nice,” a voice says to your left, disrupting your miniature tirade.

You fall off the bench as gracelessly as you can manage, scrabbling away in the dirt from the monster - wrong wrong wrong wrong  - that appeared at the other end. Trying to look at the creature that pulled you through a magical field before makes your head pound and eyes sting. It’s like looking at the sun.

You’re so stunned you can’t find your voice, but you are mad enough to stand up and try to take a swing at him.

“nuh-uh!” he mocks as he zips away from you.

Your momentum carries you far enough to fall easily into another tear in the universe next to him.

Chapter Text

“Hey, she’s waking up.”

“Then move so I can reach her.”

“Gak! Fine, I’m moving, I’m moving. Don’t get your panties in a bunch!”

“Undyne, really?”

“Sorry, Your Majesty.”

You blink slowly against the bright light shining into your eyes. There are shapes moving around your head, and you’re dimly aware you’re lying flat on your back on something that has a wall to your side and something hard under your head. Ugh. A couch?

A soft hand rests against your shoulder and you can match it to one of the voices you heard. Asgore, King of Monsters. You aren’t very familiar with him apart from being Frisk’s adoptive father. Most of the time when you see one of your housemate’s parents it’s Toriel, usually coming over to check on her. From what you know of what happened to Toriel’s first two children, you don’t blame her, and Frisk seems very understanding, too. But she and Asgore were long estranged and most of your experience with him was in formal settings.

Definitely not with you curled up on a couch wishing you were passed out again.

“Ouch,” you whisper, moving  your arms up to cover your face and shield your eyes from the bright light. Muffled behind your hands you say, “What the actual fuck is happening.”

“Oh, dear!” the voice you recognize as Toriel’s says. Who all is around you? Are you finally home?

“Sorry,” you mutter, apologizing for the swearing. “It’s been a really, really , long day.”

Keeping your eyes closed you start to sit up with the help of one of those enormous paws you figure belongs to Asgore. With a deep breath you smile, whispering a thank you to your housemate’s father, ready for that nightmare or fever dream or whatever to be over. As you suspected, the large and worried eyes looking back at you belong to the King.

He looks over you with careful glances, like he’s looking for external injuries, though you don’t notice any. You’re pretty used to the parental instincts of these two, though, one of the most prominent personality traits they used around you, so you let him.

“Not at all,” Asgore says. “You were collapsed outside of our studio in the parking lot and we could not leave you like that.”

“Your studio?”

“Yes, you were laying on the ground next to my Jeep and I found you after rehearsal.” Undyne is the one to pipe up now, and you look over to where she stands by the door. It seems you’re in an office of some kind, a few filing cabinets covered in plants and trophies on the wall behind her. The single eye you can see narrows at you. “Do you remember how you got here? It’s pretty early in the morning, still, and we don’t know how long you were unconscious out there.”

“T-the ambulance is here!” Alphys says as she pushes open the office door.

Your eyes widen. “Ambulance? Why do I need an ambulance?”

The monsters in the room glance at each other in turn, Asgore to Toriel and Alphys to Undyne. The Captain and King regard you with concern.

“We do not know how long you were unconscious, so we thought it best that you go to a human hospital for treatment.”

“But-” you start to say, but cut yourself off. There are little things that are off about each of them that you didn’t notice at first that you take in all at once, like a wave crashing into you.

Unlike the skeleton brothers you barely recognized in the park, the monsters before you look remarkably similar, but there are distinct differences that couldn’t have happened overnight. For starters, Undyne had lately been wearing her hair much shorter than normal and it was back to a long flowing ponytail. She also had an entire sleeve of tattoos down her left arm, the arm near her eye covered in a patch. Actually, the design started at the patch and trailed down like a great dragon coiling around her entire left side. It isn’t new ink, and the Undyne you know doesn’t wear a visible drop.

The next thing you see are the way Toriel’s and Asgore’s horns curl and are designed. It feels like you’re playing one of those spot the difference games when you look at them. Instead of growing up and around like halos, Toriel’s are a tiny bit longer, tipped in gold, and twist close to her forehead. Asgore's great curling horns are still impressive, but have intricate carvings along the sides. Again, those look like they are much older than an overnight prank disguise.

Realistically you know it’s not a lot to go on, but you’ve been quiet too long, and your instincts tell you these are not the monsters you know.

Great. Another fucking alternative universe.

Chapter Text

The ambulance checked you over completely. Undyne joined you outside since she felt responsible as the one who found you. Each EMT encouraged you to go to the hospital with them, but since all of your signs were fine and you showed no signs of injury and you flatly refused further treatment, they left without taking you. You know they don’t buy the excuse that you had been taking a morning jog and fell asleep while taking a break, but you know that’s what they put down anyway.

You’re pretty sure Undyne knows you’re lying, too, but she doesn’t push it.

“Need us to call you a cab or something?” she asks, arm folded and mouth set in a stern line.

This is definitely not the Undyne you know. She isn’t the one who has a Jeep she loves so much she basically has you on retainer to help her keep it in top shape, the one who you’ve shared plenty of nights staying up too late watching anime together.

Well, she looks like she probably still loves her Jeep and watches anime, if the character throwing you a peace sign on her tank top is any indication. But she doesn’t know you at all. Hasn’t used the nickname she gave you a couple years ago (“Gearhead!” on account of the cluster of gears and wires you had tattooed behind one of your ears).

“I’ll just-” you start to say, before you remember that your phone is probably still destroyed in your pocket. “Could I use your phone inside to call a friend to pick me up, please?”

Undyne regards you with a quick flick of her eyes before shrugging, and turning so fast her ponytail whips around her like a ribbon. “Yeah, sure. Toriel’s at the desk and I gotta get back to train my class anyway.”

Following her, you figure it doesn’t hurt to ask, “What class?”

Her smile is sharklike and familiar, triggering a smile of your own immediately. “It’s easier to show you. Wanna watch while you wait for your friend to pick you up? You think you got what it takes to dance with us, huh, punk?”

You think about the kind of dancing you normally do, and are very certain it is nothing like she’s suggesting right now. “Let me call them and I’ll check it out if I have time!”

“Deal!” With a friendly punch on your upper arm she jogs from the front desk where she left you towards a hallway further into the studio.

“We have viewing rooms for the parents if you would like to wait there after you make your phone call?” Toriel says, handing you the cordless receiver.

It’s really odd to dial on a landline, the only time you have to do that anymore is at the shop or when you’re calling a ride from a cab to get you home from Grillby’s when Sans is too drunk to teleport and your phone is dead. Oh, man that puts a lump in your throat, remembering it was only last night - or the night before? - you’d had to do that in order to get your housemate and her stupid boyfriend who you really wanted to punch right now damn it...well, you had to do it to get them home.

“Are you sure you are alright, my dear?”

A couple tears prick in your eyes but don’t fall, so you shrug it off. “I’m good, just making sure I remember their number is all!”

Toriel looks at you with a worried expression but nods and moves back into the office to give you some privacy while you call. You realize as soon as you start to press a number that you don’t know if the cab company here has the same number, and on a whim you dial the only other number you can remember off the top of your head.

It takes a few rings, but a cheery female voice on the other end answers. “Thanks for calling Grillby’s, is this an order for delivery or pickup?”

“Fuku?” you ask in a rush without thinking.

“Yeah, that’s me, dear, can I get your name?”

Her voice is sweet but professional. You were worried your outburst might startle her, since no one else seemed to remember your name, but she takes it in stride. Figures, since she’s one of the only fire elementals in Ebott that people calling would know her name.

“It’s _________,” you say, “and I actually have a weird question for you.”

“Uh, alright. Shoot, honey.”

Taking a deep breath to sound as normal and calm as you can, you ask, “Is there a skeleton there named Sans?”

Chapter Text

You’re not sure who is more surprised to see who right now, you or Sans.

Pretty sure it’s him, though. You’ve had an interesting evening....day...wait, it’s morning now.

Fuck.

“so,” he says, dragging out the single syllable in a low and slow voice.

“So.” You really don’t have anything else to say, yet. You’re too busy looking for the differences.

This Sans is remarkably similar to the one you’re used to, nothing like the excitable little blue guy from yesterday or the other one you can’t seem to think about without getting a headache. He’s even dressed like him, with loose clothing in blues and blacks, though the sneakers are a marked difference. The one you know wears slippers as often as he is allowed. Frisk was trying to break him of the habit, since he let the ones he owned get disgusting before he would allow them to be thrown away.

The smoking is different, too.

“fuku said you asked for me when you called.”

Shit, you’re staring and haven’t said anything since you asked him to come outside with you, that much is plain by the look on his face. So, you scramble for something to say. “Yeah, I had something I wanted to ask you, but now that we’re out here, I’m afraid I’ll just sound insane.”

He blinks slowly and raises a brow bone as he lifts the cigarette up to his malleable bony lips. “try me.”

“Uh…,” you take a deep breath in, and your words rush out like a geyser, almost too fast to follow. “Are you pulling a prank on me? Messing with me or something?”

“just met you, kid, but give it some time. i prank everyone.”

“Not what I meant,” you say, voice tart with frustration. “Are you, at this moment, part of an elaborate prank meant to make me feel like I’m losing the rest of my goddamn mind?”

Sans snuffs out his cigarette on a dark portion of the stone wall behind him. He must do that often back here, by the looks of it. A familiar scent lingers in the air, since the brand it one that your mother used to smoke when you were really little, before she kicked the habit at the insistence of your father.

Didn’t matter, he still died from undiagnosed lung cancer ten years later, anyway.

“what makes you think you’re being pranked, kid? you off your meds?”

That sets you off and you have to walk around in a circle for a minute to cool off, hands balled into fists at your sides. Oh, you really , want to punch something right now. Or scream. But neither would really help and you know it.

“Listen to me, jackass,” you say, continuing your pacing, jabbing an accusing finger towards him as you do. “There is some fucked up shit going on and it all ties back to you somehow. I was just taking a walk in the park on Mt. Ebott, minding my fucking business, when you or something who looks like you decided it would be a real good idea to pull me through some kind of magical - uh, tear looking thing - to a world I thought was mine but wasn’t .”

You definitely have his attention. He has an unlit cigarette between his bony fingers and a lighter in the other but he hasn’t moved to bring them together again.

“I don’t even know how to explain it, really, just that at first I thought it was a prank, because I saw you and Papyrus but you looked and dressed totally different. You even spoke differently! I’ve never heard you shout like that!”

Sans stares at you and lifts the hands to slow you down, the cigarette and lighter held against them with a tinge of blue magic before they float into the front pocket of his hoodie. Below the pulled-up hood, his eye sockets look enormous and the pupil lights are bright as stars.

“you’re not crazy, kid,” he says, “‘cause if you are then i am, too.”

You deflate, anger rushing out of you like air from a party balloon, the space left behind feeling empty and anxious.

“This isn’t a prank, is it?”

“if it is, it’s a bad one,” he says. You agree, but he keeps talking before you can say a word. “i’d suggest not talking to anyone else about this, okay? paradoxes and all that.”

“Uh, what are you saying?” you ask, unable to keep the worry from your voice.

“you said you’ve been...how many places before here?” You confirm this is the second new place since where you call home. “then we don’t know how if you’re gonna go somewhere else or not. i won’t dance around this, kid, this is strange, but i believe ya. am i the first person you’ve talked to about this?”

You nod fiercely. It’s the first bit of sanity you’ve felt since this started. “What should I do? If I go somewhere else?”

Sans leans against the wall, looking down at his shoes as he thinks about your question. As you wait, you plop down on the sidewalk next to him, the area between the restaurant and the boutique next door quiet and clean this time of the morning.

“just...any version’a me. that’s the best bet.”

“If you say so. And I should mention my phone was busted,” you say as you hold your face in your hands. In case he didn’t hear you, you look up at him. Even though you know this isn’t your Sans, it’s familiar and comfortable to see his face. “I dropped it in the last place, smashed it on the rocky path by mistake.”

“lemme see,” he says, holding out a hand.

The relief you feel when he takes it and looks at it as though he can fix it is cautious. So much weird shit’s been going on, you’re being careful with your hope. You’re a much more pragmatic person than that, sometimes getting called ‘glass half full’, though you preferred ‘realist’.

“i don’t recognize this model but it’s just the glass. i’d be a phone- y if i said i could fix it.”

“Christ, you tell bad puns, too,” you say as you take the phone back.

The moment the phone hits your fingers, you feel the tug and see a flash of blue, and get yanked backwards away from Sans as his face forms a silent scream.

Before you lose a grip on this reality you see a skeletal face full of malicious glee. He’s wiggling his fingers at you in a sadistic goodbye.

...goddamnit.

Chapter Text

The cold wakes you up like a lightning strike.

“Oh, great fucking deal, now it’s a different fucking season ,” you grumble, sitting up out of the pile of snow you landed in. Standing and brushing off your clothes, you wrap your arms around yourself and look around. You don’t care if you sound crazy talking to yourself, it makes you feel better, and you do it all the time at the shop anyway when you’re frustrated. “At least this time I didn’t get knocked out.”

You don’t want to think of the possibilities of unconsciousness in snow like this, especially dressed in athletic pants, a t-shirt, and your canvas jacket! Your socks and shoes are already soaked.

Everywhere you look are tall trees and heavy drifts of snow, the kinds you only saw way up in the mountains that one time your parents took you on a weekend to ski and snowboard. That feels like ages ago. There really isn’t much snow during the winter where you grew up and live today. Every winter you remember looked more like ice, rain, and general dreariness.

This...this is a fucking Christmas card.

Tall evergreen trees tower over you, not a deciduous tree in sight, and every branch is coated in a layer of snow so perfect it looks like you fell into a Bob Ross painting. Or Norman Rockwell. One of those guys your uncle is obsessed with. There’s plenty of their art in the office of the shop that you should know their work better, but it’s never been something you cared much about.

An unexpected and sudden pang of anxiety balls in your throat and threatens to turn to tears. God, you hate crying, but would that be so bad right now? This is either the most vivid nightmare you’ve ever had or there is some really fucked up shit happening to you. All you want to do is go home and hug your aunt and uncle, your cousin, and especially the pair of chocolate labs that always greet everyone coming through the door like a new friend. The resemblance to Christmas doesn’t help your burst of frustration and loneliness.

If a few tears leak out, you pretend not to notice.

You take a moment or two to collect yourself. There’s a time and place for crying, and now does not feel like the time or the place. Your therapist told you it’s important to let yourself cry sometimes, and you plan to let yourself have the full freakout building inside of you to come bursting out - probably over a drink at Grillby’s surrounded by your best friends - but you have to keep going. Whatever is happening obviously isn’t over yet if you’re in a snowy landscape and not in the late-spring air on the side of Mt. Ebott where you started this whole mess.

A cluster of buildings you don’t recognize right away are off in the distance down a path. You can see the footprints all around you and the remnants of what could have been a few snow forts. The footprints are small enough that you assume it was a kid’s snowball fight or something.

It’s not an area you recognize at all, the longer you look at it. You move to the path once the snow around your ankles starts to get unbearable, trying to get your bearings. Above you the sky is inky black with a hint of navies and purples, like the sky well after the sun has set, so you suspect the stars should be out by now. Even with the light pollution from the streetlamps and other lights in the distance, a few should be visible, right?

You sigh. You’re just so exhausted by now you really can’t give a care what the damned sky looks like. Your next goal is pretty obvious at this point.

Resigned to whatever fate lies ahead of you here, you start marching towards the glowing lights of the main street ahead.

Chapter Text

By the time you reach the almost quaint village, you’re chilled to the bone. You’re so out of it you don’t even notice you’d made a Sans-worthy pun.

And, when you walk over the last wobbly bridge over a precipice you don’t care to look down, you notice it isn’t exactly the Norman Rockwell style Christmas scene you’d assumed. Certainly there’s a lot of red, and snow, and warm light glowing out of frosted window-panes, but the lack of cheerful people and fairy lights is noticeable.

Oh, and the monsters dressed like all the grungy or even remotely punk stores were having clearance sales no one could pass up. Or, you know, how you dressed in junior high and freshman year. The level of angst you can see around you is almost stifling, with no one meeting anyone else’s eye, except to glare or bare their teeth. There are too many straps on pants and leather jackets to count so you give up.

“Where the fuck am I now?” you ask yourself very quietly so the bunny monster with a cropped leather jacket with spikes on the shoulders can’t hear you.

You make a beeline for something that feels even relatively familiar in another fever-dream. Glowing purple neon light above the door stands out like a sore thumb in the middle of all the red, white, and black around you. You don’t take the time to think how there’s a Grillby’s in the middle of this nowhere, weirdo town you don’t recognize with monsters you almost recognize. You’re pretty sure he hasn’t given into franchising his name.

Hold on, is that Guy? The Nice Cream Vendor? Why is he wearing fingerless gloves with brass knuckles built-in?

The cold must be getting to you. Yeah. That’s it.

No one gives you a second glance as you walk into the bar. For a moment you blink in confusion, the memory you have of Grillby’s sliding over the place you’re looking at now and falling into place pretty well. The set up is mostly the same with beautifully aged wood everywhere, and a modge podge of stools, tables, and chairs. When you come here alone you usually sit near the end of the bar, the same place you sit when you’re there with Frisk and…

Sans.

That motherfucker is sitting in his chair.

Your brain catches up to your feet by the time you move your way past the tightly packed monsters filling the restaurant. No, it’s still not your Sans, the one with the blue zip-up jackets and ceaseless puns, but there’s no mistaking that short and stocky build perched on a tarnished stool, shin bones showing below dark shorts. Before you open your mouth and start shouting at him, you remember he probably has no memory of you, and you plop heavily into the stool next to him.

He jerks up in surprise, his head resting on his arms on the bartop and his hood over his skull. As he sits up the hood falls back and you get your first good look at this version of him. You try not to react too much, but it’s a shock to see Sans with sharply-filed teeth and a gold fang on one side. Unfortunately, he notices your jump of surprise, and his eye sockets narrow at you in annoyance.

“geez, ya don’ gotta make such a racket,” he grumbles, before setting his head back down on his arms, yanking up the hood as he goes. “why don’ ya take a seat anywhere else, there’s lotsa free stools at the bar.”

You grit your teeth and rest your elbows on the bartop. “I like this one.”

Sans turns to look at you in a gap between his sleeve and fur-trimmed hood. You notice a few gold studs along the sleeves with one missing here and there, like he’d gotten it second-hand or wore it every day. His glowing eyelights are very different, too. Both are a crimson shade of red that makes him look twice as menacing. It’s Sans, though. Nothing to worry about.

At least not unless he’s the one pulling you through magical blue vaginas, because then he’s about get his ass beat. Shit isn’t funny anymore.

“how do you know you like that one best?” he growls, voice muffled by his sleeve so the effect is more petulant than threatening. “y’ain’t never been here before.”

“And how would you know that, bonehead?” you snap back. “Ugh, where’s Grillby, how hard is it to get a drink around here?”

Sans glares at you from that gap, his hand flexing and relaxing around the bottle of mustard-yellow liquid in front of him.

You’re irritated enough now that you’ve warmed up your fingers and toes that you decide to needle him some more. Really, wet socks are a curse to themselves, and enough reason for your foul mood on top of everything else.

“What, no ketchup tonight, numbskull?”

He bristles immediately, head up enough to bare his sharp teeth at you. “quit callin’ me names, unless you wanna have a good time!”

You laugh right in his face, throwing a hand over your mouth to not attract too much attention in the crowded bar. “What, a good time? What the fuck does that mean?”

“it means i’m gonna give you a world of hurt if you don’ leave me alone, you bitch!” Sans says as he digs one hand with claws as sharp as his teeth into the wood of the bar.

“Sans, are you threatening my customers? Do I need to call Papyrus already?”

The temperature around you increases in a flash, and you turn towards a voice you recognize to face a monster you certainly don’t.

Since when is Grillby purple ?

Chapter Text

Also, not to mention purple, since when did Grillby sound British?

“Sans, do I need to call him?”

“don’ call ‘im,” Sans says crossly. He spins the mustard bottle around on the bartop next to him. “i’m goin’ home soon, anyways. and besides, she started it!”

One of his clawed fingertips points at you with imperious impudence, the ruff around his head sort of taking away from the tough guy image. This guy is too much. In a lot of ways this Sans, and from what you can hear of a lot of the other monsters, takes himself very seriously. Too seriously for a guy dressed the way he is. If you had to guess you’d say The Black Parade is his favorite album of all time.

“Yeah, whatever, buddy,” you say, some of the fight leaking out of you in your exhaustion. The cold always takes it out of you. “Say, Grillby, what do you recommend to drink here that’s not mustard?”

Grillby crackles in a dark chuckle, something that sounds almost spooky, sending chills up and down your arms. It’s not a sound you’re used to but you don’t exactly not like the way that sounds? Maybe you’re really losing it. When was the last time you slept, anyway? Crackling fire literally warming you up from your trip through the storm, even starting to dry the melted snow from your arms and jacket, just feels like home anyway.

The Grillby you know is one of your favorite people in the world, when he isn’t dumping hungover friends on your porch that is. Damn. You’d deal with a dozen hungover Sans and Frisks if meant you could go home and see him again.

“What do you usually order, darling?” he asks. Damn, that accent is even sexier in that overgrown campfire’s voice. “I’ve heard dirty martinis are all the rage in the Capital bars these days.”

The Capital? No one calls Seattle that, what is he talking about? But at the suggestion, you make a face. You don’t drink that much or often, mostly hanging out at the bar with Sans and Frisk while they indulged. You’re mostly there for the company. Liquor brings up too many uncomfortable memories of your mother. But, one drink is fine, and might help relieve some of the tension bunching up your shoulders.

Grillby chuckles again at the face you make and walks away to grab a glass and pour something on the other side of him so you can’t see it. He’s dressed similarly to all the other monsters around - where are the humans? - so his tight pants give you a great view of his ass as he lifts the cup to shake whatever drink he’s mixing. You suppose you should be a little more cautious in this world that you know nothing about, but you can’t help it.

You’d deny it if asked, but you definitely harbor a crush on the fire elemental you know. And there’s something about the way this one is dressed, actually pulling off the emo badass look, that just does things for you.

And, of course, he notices when he turns around and slides the drink down the bar to you. It’s not far, but it’s enough distance to give you time to hold out your hands to catch it.

“Let me know what you think of that one, love,” he says, voice purposefully dropped a little into what is definitely only describable as a pur. Damn him.

The liquid in the drink is lightly smoking and has a green tint to the otherwise clear contents. Warily, you take a sip as he takes the order from an already very drunk bunny at the other end of the bar. Oh, god this is pretty strong. You’ll be taking small sips for sure, since the last thing you really ate was a trail bar and that was a couple hours ago now. Maybe you’ll get some fries or something while you’re here, however long you’re here.  

Sans, who you’d honestly forgotten about as you checked out Grillby and thought about your strange situation, sniffs next to you.

“wassat?” he asks with a slur.

For the first time you’ve noticed he’s a little tipsy. Just from mustard? Or was that his method of sobering up before going home? The smell of the condiment is too strong to smell any liquor on his breath, anyway.

“I don’t know,” you answer, “but it’s sweet without being super sugary. It’s good. Tastes a little like ramune.”

Sans looks at you like you’re speaking another language. “the fuck is ramune? i thought that was noodles.”

“Dude, you, Frisk, and I have ramune at Alphys and Undyne’s all the time.”

That was definitely the wrong thing to say. This drink is affecting you faster and more than you thought.

Sans’s eyelights are gone when you look at him again. He poked holes through the plastic of his mustard bottle with his claws and he turned his whole body towards you. It’s rigid, the same way Sans gets when someone starts messing with any of his friends, that false outside calm that creeps the daylights out of you.

“w h a t  d i d y o u  s a y?”

“Lighten up, edgelord,” you say, trying to joke your way out of the situation. At least with the Sans you know you can get him to a better mood with a laugh or two. “Ramune is soda pop, a light fizzy drink. No need to go all overgrown Halloween decoration on me.”

In a flash, one of the clawed hands you’d warily watched all evening is on your forearm. It’s not strong enough to break through your jacket but you definitely feel trapped in place.

“How about you take your hand off me?” you ask coldly.

As you suspected, he doesn’t, and for the first time you truly feel fearful for your well being. Maybe you should have had more self-preservation before, that could have saved you from this whole mess at the start.

“how’s about you explain what a human who knows too much is doing in the underground, first?”

“I don’t need to tell you shit, bonehead,” you hiss back, being as careful not to attract attention as he is. No one seems to care that the two of you are arguing. Fine by you, you can handle this bag of bones any day.

“tha’s where you’re wrong, buddy,” he says, his grin close to feral with those sharp teeth. “if ya don’ wanna lose your soul you’ll follow me.”

“Lose my - Sans, what the fuck are you talking about?”

“stupid human,” he mutters. “stupid jus’ like her. c’mon.”

The tug on your arm is insistent and you follow easily, the tiny sips of monster alcohol in your system making it easier for him. You turn to look at the bartender who watches you with his flame brows meeting above his eyes, but he doesn’t stop Sans from taking you outside.

It’s a little disconcerting to see this little edgelord standing outside smoking just like the relaxed other Sans you’d just seen before getting yanked through - okay, you need a better name than magical blue vagina - by the Sans that made your stomach turn in discomfort.

“ya don’ belong here,” he says, lighting up a short and wide cigarette that looks like it was sloppily rolled at home.

“No shit,” you say. “Fine. You know I don’t belong here. Took you long enough.”

Sans rubs the side of his skull. “whatever. don’ gotta be an ass, i’ve had a long day, okay? you’re not the first human to come through snowdin today.”

“So I’m actually in the Underground? I’ve heard stories but…” you lean around the end of the alley to take a look. “Huh. Underground. No wonder I couldn’t see the stars.”

“no shit,” he says, voice a mockery of the way you said it a minute ago. “you gotta get outta here. ‘specially now that there’s two’a ya, boss is gonna have a shit fit. i can’t protect you an’ the kid.”

“Wait, you keep mentioning a kid. Who is the other human?”

A feeling you are starting to recognize crackles over your skin and flashes of blue fill the edges of your vision. Turning to face him this time before he can yank you through without warning, you try to get a good look at the other Sans before he yanks you by your jacket.

It doesn’t do any good. Through the magical blue vagina you go. Again.

Chapter Text

“I am really getting sick of this shit,” you say to no one in particular. There’s probably a worm or a beetle nearby that can hear you as you mumble into the ground, but there isn’t another person in sight.

The fucker taking you on rides through the blue tear talked for the first time in a while as he took you through again. For a split second you know you could see and hear him clearly, but like all the other times, now that you’re through you can’t recall what he looks like without getting a splitting headache. You do, however, remember what he said before dropping you flat on your face onto grass and dirt.

find the weak links .”

You slap a hand down on the ground in anger. “Awesome, lovely, so straightforward and helpful you asswipe, I will definitely start doing exactly what you said, which was so fucking clear .”

You continue to berate the cause of all your problems as you push yourself into a sitting position. Looking up, you can see stars, and you feel cool air run over your neck and over your other exposed skin. It’s almost warm compared to the frigid temperatures you just experienced in the Underground of the last world. The sight of the stars already has you feeling like you can breathe easier again.

A small bead of hope forms in the pit of your stomach as you look around. It’s much darker than when you last saw it, but it looks just like the spot on the trail where the whole mess started. With shaking hands, you push yourself up so you can stand and walk over to the single wooden bench where -

There it is. The initials you carved into the side of the wood almost two decades ago when your dad lent you his pocket knife. You were afraid he would be mad you marked up a new bench out on the trail, but he’d just looked at your handiwork, smiled, and added his own initials next to yours.

Fuck, you really miss him today.

You’re running your finger over the indentations of your names, and letting yourself believe that you’re truly home, when you hear voices shouting down the trail. A few flashlight beams cross over you before you turn around and are nearly tackled back into the ground by Frisk.

“Holy shit, _________, are you okay? You didn’t answer our calls, not even Grillby’s and you always answer him!” She clamors off you so she can put her hands on your shoulders and give you a good look over. “Fuck you look like shit, what happened?”

Over Frisk’s head you can see Sans on the phone with someone and your cousin Isaac next to him. Grillby stands off to the side, looking over the edge of the precipice towards the ocean, the air ruffling his flames a bit. He looks beautiful, ethereal, and you aren’t sure if you’re hallucinating him or not.

“bro, we found her, can you call undyne?” Sans says, his brother’s voice crackling through the other end almost loud enough to hear. “yeah, meet us back at the cars. yep. no, paps, wait for us there. Yep.”

“Seriously, are you okay?” Frisk asks, catching your attention again.

Isaac holds out his hands to pull you up, his callouses rough against your own. He watches you carefully but doesn’t say a word, walking away to pull out his phone to dial, too.

“I...I don’t know,” you say truthfully. Your throat feels really tight. It’s just such a relief to see the faces you know and have them actually look and act like the people you care about. “How long was I gone?”

Frisk is rubbing your arms vigorously. She’s wearing one of Sans’s heavier jackets which makes you start to notice that, while warmer than the Underground, it’s definitely cold now that the sun has gone down. You shove your hands in the pockets of your jacket and dip your head so Frisk can pull your hood up.

“Well you left to come up here around six or so, and it’s almost three o’clock in the morning now. We weren’t worried about you not being home until after it was midnight and Isaac asked if you ever made it back.”

She sounds guilty, and you won’t have that. As much as you don’t understand about what happened to you in the last day or hour or whatever, you do know it’s not her fault. Not a bit. You pull her into a hug.

Frisk is often physically affectionate with her friends, including you, with frequent hugs, wrapping her arm through yours, or just cuddling on the couch. She’s very ‘touchy’. But, even she is surprised at how fiercely you are hugging her close to you. Her height makes it easy for you to press your face down into her shoulder, since you aren’t that much taller than her.

Hugging you back for a bit, you both stand there for a good few minutes as you fight the urge to cry. She just strokes your back and doesn’t let go until you start to.

“Ready to head down to the car?” she asks, her face showing her worry as she squints at you.

You know she’s checking your Soul but you don’t really mind the slight intrusion. Admittedly it was weird at first to know she could do that at any time, but now it’s more comforting. Checking each other’s Souls was a monster custom between family and close friends you got used to very quickly around her. You had no choice.

“So ready,” you mumble.

Your exhaustion hits you in a rush and you end up leaning on her harder than you meant to.

There’s someone else on your other side who takes you in their arms with a whoosh. Opening your eyes just enough to see who it is, you smile and close them again, nuzzling closer to Grillby as he carries you down the mountain path.

You’re finally home.

Chapter Text

By the time your group gathers in the park’s car lot and drives home, the sun is starting to peek up over the horizon. Isaac insists that you call off work for the day as long as you promise to go to the Ready-Care when the clinic opens later in the morning. When Sans and Grillby both promise to make sure you go, he’s satisfied enough to go back home to sleep for a couple hours before the shop opens.

You are exhausted, but you napped in the backseat of Frisk’s car on the way home while spooned by Grillby, so you’re catching a second wind now. Not to mention you’re still wired from the massive amounts of adrenaline after your assault by the mystery monster. Now that you’re home it’s getting harder to believe you didn’t just fall on the trail and hit your head and that everything that happened between wasn’t just a really vivid hallucination.

As you slept in the backseat you remember hearing snatches of a conversation between Frisk and Sans about making sure to tell everyone that they found you, since apparently it was a close thing before they decided to report you missing. You’re really glad they didn’t. You already don’t look forward to telling them about what happened.

They’re being very considerate and not forcing you to talk about it after you gave them a few bare details. No, you weren’t attacked. No, you’re just tired you aren’t hurt, and a quick shower revealed you only had a bruise or two from one of your falls. You still agree to go to the clinic as soon as they open. Everyone knows you really don’t like doctors or hospitals, so while you feel a bit like a baby, you’re glad Sans and Grillby will be taking you.

Sitting up on your couch, Frisk leans into you as she falls asleep, her legs propped up on Sans’s femurs. She refused to go to bed when you said you needed to stay up for a while, and that meant Sans was staying up, too, by default.

One of her arms is pressed against your side as she cradles her head into your shoulder. Sans has his arms resting over her legs as he lazily plays an older Elder Scrolls game. It feels shockingly normal.

It’s almost too much at once.

The biggest difference - since your brain is hardwired to check for them, now, after your experience - is that Grillby is part of your couch dogpile. His flames set a soft glow in the living room that competes a bit from the blue aura from the television as Sans methodically makes dozens of potions to sell later.

By now your hair is dry after your shower from Grillby’s heat. You don’t think he’s falling asleep like Frisk is, but he’s definitely relaxed beneath you. One of your legs is draped over his thigh, helping to support you as Frisk shoves all her weight into you like a clingy teddy bear. If you put your head back just a little more, it would be resting against his shoulder.

Unlike Frisk, he isn’t nearly as touchy-feely or openly affectionate. Though, no one really rivaled Frisk in that department that you knew of. You don’t want to say anything in case a comment makes him move away. That’s the last thing you want right now.

You just want things to be normal. You just want to feel like it’s not gonna get yanked out from under your feet again. Sans already noticed how squirrely you’re acting around him, throwing glances his way and carefully not touching him at all. He has no idea why yet, but he's respecting it.

The ambient background music of the game and the soft campfire sounds and smells from Grillby start to lull you into a doze. His scent reminds you of happier times spent with your family camping out on Mt Ebott, before everything went to shit. It clings to the inside of your nose like the sweetest perfume and you soak up the calming feeling it gives you. Your head rests on top of Frisks and each of your blinks comes slower and slower, your breathing following suit. Before too long you finally can’t open your eyes anymore.

Grillby watches you slowly slump further and further into Frisk. When he can tell you are finally asleep and don’t just have your eyes closed, he slowly starts to move away from the couch. The bar is open for a late breakfast most days, and he still needs to get some sleep at home before he opens again since he still spends most of the day there, even with other employees to help out.

You shift in your sleep towards his warmth as he begins to pull away, and he stops moving immediately.

Sans catches it all from the other end of the ridiculously large and plush couch. He’s still worried about what happened to you, why you’re being cagey about it, but he can still tease Grillby through all that.

“mind helping me get these two to bed?” he asks his old friend.

Grillby raises one brow over his glasses at the skeleton. “Can’t your blue magic do the work for you?”

Ah, but he’s ready for this one. “could also’ve teleported us down the mountain to our cars. you didn’t seem to mind carrying her then.”

With narrowed eyes, Grillby glares at Sans and doesn’t say a word, almost daring him to continue talking and risk waking the two between them. The shit-eating grin across Sans’s skull says he already feels like he won, anyway.

He pauses his game but leaves everything on so the ambient music continues, and the two of them have more light to see by. Sure, Grillby is made of fire, but it’s all magic, and most of it covered by his long-sleeved t-shirt, jeans, and socks. He doesn’t light up the room unless he wants to.

Resigned to the teasing he’s sure to endure from his best customer and oldest friend, Grillby scootches himself on the couch towards the arm so he pulls you with him. As he does, Sans carefully extricates Frisk from around your torso where she immediately turns to cling to him instead. The skeleton is much stronger than he looks even without using magic, so when he stands, Frisk comes with him with her arms latched around his shoulders.

“Mmmm, Sans?” she mutters into his neck. “Wasappenin’?”

“takin you to bed, sweets. grillbz has got ________.”

“Oh, does he?” Of course, she wakes up enough to give Grillby a sleepy, but knowing, look through her bangs. “Well, make sure we hear noises half as good as that recording earlier.”

Grillby’s flames are tinged with a copious amount of bright blue as he ignores them and marches down the hall towards your bedroom, your sleeping form cradled gently in his arms.

Chapter Text

You start to wake up as Grillby pulls back the covers on your bed. He had to set you down so you were seated near the pillows or risk dropping you. There aren’t any lights on, since he’s glowing enough to see what he needs.

“Hi,” you say as you watch him draw back your covers.

“Hello.”

You already changed into pajamas after your shower, so when you turn to look at your bed, and not at the fire elemental calmly standing in your room waiting to - is he going to tuck you in? - there’s one less step. Your cheeks burn a little from embarrassment. But, you’ve already come this far, and you have to ask.

“I...could you stay for a little while? At least until I fall asleep again?”

Grillby is silent for a beat, and you really don’t want to look over at him yet. Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pound, right?

He has a touch of blue in his cheeks you recognize as his version of blushing, and the flames on his head are burning a little lower. When they’re higher the sound of a campfire is much louder, but at this level is more ambient, a soothing background noise.

He towers over you like this. Standing near you as you sit cross legged on your bed, his arms folded, a little of the light from a streetlamp outside shining on the floor next to him, it’s an almost intimidating sight.

But it’s Grillby. The monster you’ve known since he opened his restaurant on the surface years ago.

“You still have your shoes on,” you say, as if talking about it will make a difference. Part of your brain recognizes that if his shoes are on, he’s probably not going to lay down on your bed and stay…

“Yes. I can stay.”

“Really?” His response honestly surprised you. “I mean-”

“No. No arguing,” he says, leaning over to untie the laces on his pointed shoes, the same ones he wears to work. “I’ll stay.”

“Okay,” you whisper as you watch him.

He waves a hand at you to ask you to make room. With the bed pushed against the wall, the only way for you to go is nearer to the pile of pillows you keep on the far side. Quicker than you should, you throw a few of the decorative ones with beads or other designs towards your open closet to make some room. You don’t usually have people in your bed, after all.

“Are you comfortable?” you ask.

He lifts a brow at you, making a show of pulling the covers up over you before he settles himself on top of them. There’s more than a little disappointment inside of you in response. But, he does lay down next to you instead of sitting up, so that’s a plus.

A long time ago, when you were drunk at his bar, you’d asked him how he worked. How his magical flames worked, that is. You’d never ask that if you were sober. You don’t just ask people how they work, after all.

He’d just answered, “Like this,” and kept mopping behind the bar.

You had almost fallen out of your stool laughing at that. He'd never really answered your question, and you almost want to ask again. But you don't feel like it's the time right now.

“Thanks,” you say quietly, tucking the covers under your chin so only your face is showing. “I’m still a bit freaked out over what happened.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asks, glancing over at you instead of looking up at the ceiling.

A yawn forces its way out before you can answer. “I do, but not right now. I think I need to sleep on it first.”

“I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Silence lingers between the two of you, only disturbed by your forcedly calm breathing and the first hints of birds waking up outside. It lets your mind wander to the monster in your bed. You wonder what he thinks of the neon paint splatter you and Frisk added up there on a whim a few months ago. Actually, you want to ask him everything. Anything. Something about sitting with someone you have a crush on in partial darkness makes nothing feel out of bounds.

He’s still wearing his glasses, and for some reason that makes you giggle.

“What?” he asks without opening his eyes or looking over. His voice is soft, too. You can hear his smile even if you close your eyes.

“Your glasses. Don’t you want to take them off?”

He turns his head towards you, pushing his face into the pillow even as his glasses start to get pushed up, too. “But I need them to see.”

You make a very unladylike snort. “Even when you’re sleeping?”

“I thought I was just waiting for you to fall asleep.”

The way his voice sounds makes you mouth go dry, and as he turns his whole body so he’s on his side facing you, a bunch of butterflies take flight in your stomach. Even with his stupid glasses pushed up on his stupid face, you don’t know when you’ve ever felt more...attracted to him.

Both of you are silent, as if daring the other to speak first and admit something you both aren’t sure you’re ready for yet. Emotions and tensions are still high after your return to what you consider reality. He doesn’t even know the rollercoaster ride you’ve been on. You want to tell him. You want to tell him everything.

You’re not breathing now, not really, the shallow and quick breaths not enough to bring the right amount of oxygen to your brain.

Maybe if you had been breathing properly, and not closing your eyes and leaning in to try for a stupid kiss, you would have noticed the flare of bright blue that did not belong to Grillby’s blush.

Chapter Text

“BROTHER! IT IS THE HUMAN FROM THE FOREST AGAIN!”

It certainly is the human from the forest again , you think angrily to yourself as you stand in the doorway to the skeleton brothers' house.

The Sans that greeted you looked less surprised and more excited when you knocked on the front door by way of slamming your closed fist against it a few dozen times. He even had stars in his eyes for a moment there. Somehow you mananaged to pull your sheet with you through this time. Good thing, too, since you were just in old basketball shorts you think might have belonged to Sans once upon a time before your laundry got mixed up for the upteenth time. That and an oversized t-shirt that says MOTORFEST 2024 in fading script on the front, tour dates on the back.

Oh, and no bra, no underwear, no socks, no phone - even if it is still broken back home - and no fucking patience for any of this bullshit. You’ve got an orange-yellow Soul, not a cyan one.

Why the fuck didn’t you talk to Sans before this happened again? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Maybe he could have stopped it.

You’re just really glad you didn’t end up in the snowy place again. There’s a good chance you’d get frostbite there.

“blue, who are you - oh.”

“Yeah. Oh,” you echo back testily as the taller skeleton comes into view. Wrapping your sheet around you like a royal cape, you look between the two brothers. “Can I come in?”

“YES, OF COURSE YOU CAN! I WAS JUST MAKING BREAKFAST TACOS! THE MAGNIFICENT SANS IS ALWAYS PREPARED FOR MORE FRIENDS AT BREAKFAST!” The monster you thought you heard the Papyrus lookalike call ‘Blue’ sprints off towards the kitchen, only glancing over his shoulder once to ask you, “MILD, MEDIUM, OR EXTRA SPICY SALSA?”

“Medium,” you answer, caught off guard. He acts just like the Papyrus you know.

Seeing that much energy contained in something so much smaller than what you’re used to is downright intimidating. Especially since you really haven’t gotten much sleep recently and that’s catching up to you. And the fact that the Sans you know would never act like this.

Now a blur rushing around the kitchen, Blue is completely distracted when you step over the threshold and the Papyrus you don’t know steps up to block you from going further.

“do i know you?” he asks in a low drawl. If you ever wondered what Papyrus sounds like doing a Sans impression, this is it.

Squaring your shoulders under your sheet, you meet his gaze as best you can. It helps that he’s slouched with his hands deep in the pockets of his orange hoodie.

“No,” you say, “and I don’t know you, either, but I have some questions for your brother.”

“hmm.” He looks you up and down, the neutral look on his face slowly turning curious. Without touching you he pulls you forward into the living room and plops you on the couch, shutting the door behind him.

“Hey! Don’t just use blue magic on me!” you exclaim, standing up from the couch with your hands balled into fists.

“YES? DID SOMEONE CALL ME?” Blue shouts from the kitchen. His head pops around the corner with a hopeful expression.

Those are fucking stars in his eyes, aren’t they?

His brother waves a hand at Blue and says, “nah, bro, talkin’ about blue magic.”

“WONDERFUL! IF THIS HUMAN CAN USE BLUE MAGIC, TOO, I WOULD LIKE TO TRAIN WITH THEM! AFTER BREAKFAST!”

There’s no question of your participation as he disappears again, the noise resuming with him.

“Enthusiastic little thing,” you mutter, still puzzling over the exact opposite these two skeletons are to the ones you know. “But seriously, don’t just use magic on me, it’s not okay. I am not a mage and I do not consent to just using it on my Soul. You didn’t even bring me into an encounter to ask .”

Not-Papyrus just shrugs which does nothing to soothe your anger. Before you can keep tearing into him, he asks, “what’s your name, anyway?”

“_______. And if he’s Blue, I assume you don’t go by Papyrus?”

The dark orange pupils, almost too dark to see, get a bit brighter as he narrows his eye sockets. “friends call me stretch. you can call me papyrus.”

“Fine, whatever, drama queen,” you gripe as you sit back down heavily on their couch. “I’ve had a really shit day, okay? Trust me. I want to get this done and over with and be out of your house ten times more than you want me out.”

“whatever. what do you want with my brother?”

Even though the two of you are looking daggers at each other, you’re both keeping your voices down, both aware of the bubble of happiness surrounding Blue. Neither of you are willing to be the one to burst it.

“I was told to only talk to him,” you say, setting your shoulders and not backing down.

You do, however, look over to the kitchen to watch for Sans - Blue - to come back out. After all, the Sans you met a few jumps ago said only talk to him about this.

“by whom?”

“Nunya, Papyrus .”

He rolls his eyes at your petulance with his first name. “something tells me it’s only a matter of time before you tell me what’s going on.”

Your head slowly tilts to the side as you look back at him. The way he said that...there’s something in his eye sockets that is both a challenge and a question, and it takes your exhausted brain a moment to catch up.

“Oh my god,” you say, finally piecing it together. “ You .”

Chapter Text

Papyrus doesn’t get a chance to acknowledge your discovery past a quick nod before Blue tears back into the living room to collect the two of you for breakfast in the kitchen.

“I DIDN’T KNOW YOUR FAVORITE TOPPINGS SO I BROUGHT OUT ALL OF MINE!” he exclaims as he pulls out a chair for you.

“That’s totally fine, thanks, Blue,” you say.

You’re still a little dazed and are probably staring at Papyrus, but the smaller skeleton doesn’t seem to notice. You feel like you should have noticed it before, but you also try to cut yourself some slack. It’s been a hectic time recently.

Here, in whatever time or universe this is, the Sans you know is reflected in a monster that looks more like his brother. In almost every other way, though, like the way he talks, dresses, walks...all signs point to this is the one you need to talk to . A complete switch of bodies and personalities.

“Question,” you start to say as you grab a tortilla as the container is passed around the table, “when did you guys see me in the forest? I think I, uh, lost something up there and I need to find it.”

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN YOU SAW US?” Blue asks, gently placing his shells in the little metal container designed to support tacos. He seems pretty serious about them as he assembles his with eggs, bacon, spinach, all manner of toppings. He’s nearly as obsessed with tacos as your Papyrus is...with...spaghetti.

Of course.

If your Sans is Papyrus then your Papyrus is Sans.

Not confusing at all. Not one bit.

You take a bite of your taco to stall your answer, trying to come up with something to deflect.

“you must be up there on the trails a lot,” Papyrus says as he squeezes honey over his tacos. “not surprised you forgot. blue and i were working up there three days ago.”

“Three days,” you exclaim, and choke at the glare he snaps at you. “Yeah, sounds about right.”

The rest of breakfast passes uneventfully for a meal shared with strangers. Blue seems to assume you know this Stretch guy, and Stretch just goes with it, playing along as if he thought Blue knew you. In the end, as tense as the whole situation is, you’re able to relax and enjoy the first real meal you’ve had in ages. Bonus, the orange juice tastes like it was freshly squeezed, the way your grandma would make it sometimes. You’d kill for a bit of coffee, though.

“Those were amazing, Blue. I don’t think I’ve had breakfast tacos before.”

Blue looks genuinely surprised and delighted. “REALLY? I AM GLAD I REMEDIED THAT UNFORTUNATE SITUATION FOR YOU! TACOS ARE GOOD FOR EVERY MEAL OF THE DAY.”

You stand to take your plate to the sink, but it’s surrounded by blue magic before you can. Blue has his hands out and is cleaning the whole table faster than you can follow.

“I DON’T WANT TO BE LATE FOR TRAINING WITH ALPHYS!” he says, moving around you to grab your empty glass with his hand instead of magic. His eyelights are stars again when he stops to ask you, “DO YOU WANT TO COME WITH ME?”

“sorry, bro, _______ and i have plans. she has to find that thing she lost on the mountain, remember?”

“Yeah,” you say, quick to pick up what he’s laying down. “It’s my phone. I’m sure it’s dead, or broken, or someone took it, but I need to check if anyone dropped it off at the ranger station.”

Papyrus shoots you a look that warns you not to lay it on too thick. The explanation seems to placate Blue, though, and it’s only another minute before he’s got his boots on and is ready to head out the door. He hands you a post-it with his cell phone number on it so you can add it when you get your phone back and wishes you luck finding it.

“MY BROTHER IS AS GOOD AT FINDING THINGS AS HE IS AT LOSING THEM, SO I’M SURE HE’LL BE ABLE TO HELP!” Blue shouts from his convertible's driver’s side window before pulling out of the driveway, two quick beeps on the horn as he drives away.

“i need a smoke,” Papyrus mutters.

As soon as his hand drops from waving goodbye to Blue, he turns back into the house to rummage around in a drawer, pulling out a small box and an enormous lighter. With a jerk of his head, he invites you out to the backyard. The sun is fully up now. When you’d first landed in this world again, it was chilly and foggy, the sun only just starting to rise, but you can tell it’s going to be a very hot summer’s day.

It’s strange, since the world you know is in spring, this one is in summer, the one where you actually got to talk to a Sans felt a bit like fall, and Underground is undoubtedly in winter. Weird, that, the twist in seasons going in order from place to place.

“Can I call you Stretch, please?” you ask as you settle into a ostentatiously large lawn chair. “And yeah, I know, only friends call you Stretch but it would be a lot easier to keep things straight in my head if I don’t refer to you as ‘not-Papyrus’.”

“but i am papyrus,” he quips.

You just roll your eyes, tucking your feet up under you on the chair.

Out from what looks like nowhere, he pulls a little glass pipe already packed, and whips the huge lighter up to it. You watch him take a drag and wonder where the smoke goes if he doesn’t have lungs. It doesn’t leak out his sleeves or anything so you figure it’s all just magic.

He offers some to you, but you shake your head. “No, thanks. I’m out of my head enough as it is right now. I need coffee a lot more than I need that.”

“coffee, eh? lemme finish this first. i know just the place to go.”

“I’m not exactly dressed to go anywhere,” you say, gesturing to your pajamas and sheet. “I left in a bit of a rush, you could say. Unexpectedly.”

With a huff of laughter that turns into a cough, some of the smoke he had inhaled pouring out from his nasal cavity and mouth, the skeleton regards you with a more curious than wary expression.

“you can call me stretch, by the way. sorry about earlier.”

“S’fine,” you say. “I get it. I do. Now, about that coffee? And can I borrow...well, you’re a lot taller than me, but do you have clothes I could borrow?”

All paraphernalia disappearing back into the house with a snap of his fingers, Stretch stands and walks back inside, holding the screen door open for you. “let me see what the kid left here.”

Chapter Text

‘The Kid’ that Stretch was referencing turned out to have a whole drawer of their clothes in a spare bedroom upstairs. He mentioned he and his brother used to watch them when they were still little, and now that they were older they still came over and left spare clothes just in case. From what you could tell, they were the ones who freed the monsters, like Frisk did in your world.

You don’t mention any of this, though. You’re already putting a lot of trust into this monster’s hands.

You put on the offered pair of jeans, new socks from Stretch’s room, tank top, and buttoned flannel. It’s likely too much to wear when the temperature is still climbing outside, but you still feel weirdly exposed without underwear. This makes you feel a bit better.

Stretch confirms your suspicions that he shares more with the Sans you know than just the way he acts, talks, and dresses. Offering his hand once you come back down to the living room, he holds out his elbow for you to grab.

“Shortcut?” you ask, looking at his arm before taking it.

By the time he’s done saying “yep” you’re already through and standing behind a line of buildings in downtown Ebott. As much as you can tell this place is different, this still feels eerily familiar. You can’t place where you are without seeing the streetfront, but Stretch leads you towards one of the heavy metal doors facing the alleyway you appeared in.

“Oh, shit,” you say as you watch him open the door for you. “I don’t have any money. My wallet wasn’t in my pocket when I jumped.”

Stretch blinks slowly. “my treat this time, then.”

“Thanks,” you mumble.

Your hands are shoved into the tight pockets of the pants as you slouch by him. You don’t like to take advantage of people like this.

The shop is bursting with people which makes sense for a cafe in mid-morning. Walking from the back to the front you get an eyeful of the eclectic decorations in the dining areas, a mixture of booths in various upholsteries, surrounded by tables scattered in organized chaos around the floor. There’s the fireplace that every well-respecting coffee shop has nowadays tucked into a corner, and the bricks around the chimney bloom up to appear like a tree spreading its branches around the room.

It’s quirky, and a touch pretentious, but you like it.

Behind the counter there is a mix of employees as eclectic as the furniture, both monsters and humans working to brew coffee, fix up plates of breakfast snacks, put finishing touches on pastries, so many things. It’s too much to take in at once.

Stretch tells you to get a booth somewhere near the back as he goes to get coffee for the two of you. He didn’t ask what you wanted but it’s loud enough you’re surprised you heard him in the first place. You don’t care that much, honestly, you just want the caffeine to feel some sort of normal. It should be better than the sticky black tar your uncle made in enormous pots at the shop.

Your mind wanders to home as you wait in the booth. Thankfully it’s a smaller booth so you don’t feel too exposed as customers and employees wander around the restaurant. It’s hard to tell what could be happening, or what’s next.

Heat rises to your cheeks as you think of what was happening at home right before you jumped again. One hand lifts to your mouth as you imagine what it would have been like to kiss Grillby. Were you misreading the situation? Taking advantage of his kindness, his willingness to indulge you and wait for you to sleep? You’d been craving the touch of your friends like a woman starved after your experience, and you can still feel it, an itch just out of reach.

When Stretch sets a large mug of coffee in front of you, you jump in surprise. You’d been running your fingers along your lips and didn’t realize it.

“whatcha percolating ?” he asks, taking a sip from a mug of his own.

The mugs don’t match the saucers, or each other, and you focus on that instead of how close you were to kissing your crush.

“I’m trying to decide how to start this,” you say, “since I feel crazy even thinking it. So I’m just gonna ramble and you stop me if you need to ask a question, okay?”

Stretch motions for you to continue with a quirk of a brow bone, settling into the booth with one foot up on the cushion. He pulled a toothpick from out of nowhere to chew on as he watches you.

“I had a kind of shit day at work, this guy was a real asshole, saying some sexist shit about how could a girl possibly know more about his car than him.”

And you keep talking, telling Stretch as much and as fast as you can since you keep getting pulled through at the worst times. He’s quiet, sipping his coffee as you let yours get cold. You expected him to ask more questions or to laugh at you but he just listens. It makes you feel like he might actually believe you.

“And I finally made it back home, was there for a few hours, just to get yanked back here. They said I was gone for only a few hours in their time, but because I passed out during one of the jumps I have no idea how long I was actually gone.” You pause to take a long drink from your mug. “I wasn’t even sure if you two would remember me when I knocked on your door.”

“how did you find us, by the way?” Stretch asks.

“Landed on my ass in your driveway,” you say. “Scraped up my palms pretty good, too, actually.”

Stretch sits up and holds his arms across the table. “give ‘em here.”

You hesitate. You know you’ve already touched him on a shortcut to come here in the first place, but the last few times you moved through in a jump you’d been close to touching someone. But you lift your hands and put them palms up in his without incident.

A soft green glow encases your scrapes for a moment before the cuts are healed completely.

“Thanks,” you say, clenching your hand to feel the new healed skin against your calluses built up from working in the shop.

Stretch doesn’t let go for another moment. “your hands are pretty banged up.”

“Told you I work in my uncle’s auto shop. I’m good with cars,” you say with a shrug.

“Well, what have we here?” a new voice says next to you.

You jump and try to pull away from Stretch but he hangs on, both of you looking to the end of the booth at the monster that surprised you.

Tall, his body an almost neon orange, and sporting a pair of very large glasses, a Grillby stands at the end of the booth with a grin wide enough to almost split his face in two. His clothes are even louder than the room around you, somehow. You blink and try not to stare, ignoring the pain in your stomach at seeing this world’s version of the monster you almost kissed.

“sup, grillby?” Stretch asks, only removing his grip on your wrists, slowly, after he acknowledges the flame elemental.

“Checking on my lovely customers, is all, my friend. Hehehe, boy do you know how to pick ‘em, ol’ Stretchy-boy!”

Before you have a chance to blink, Grillby is pushing you towards the wall, occupying the end of your bench and resting his arms on the table. You can’t see his eyes behind the black and white swirling lenses, but he pushes them down for a moment to throw you a wink.

“Ta, darling. Lovely to meet you. Name’s Grillby,” he says, offering a hand to you.

“_______.” You give him your name automatically, still too stunned by his appearance.

“Mm. Adore the name, darling. Stretch, I didn’t take you as a monster willing to, ah, cross the species-”

“she’s a friend, you whorehound,” Stretch says, rolling his eye sockets. His pose is relaxed, but from what you know of your Sans, he’s on high alert.

“Oh, so salty!” The insult sails over this monster’s head. “Well, I mustn't keep you two from your brunch. If you need anything , darling, you let Grillby know.”

You don’t get a chance to say anything before he and his overwhelming personality are gone. You’re left blinking slowly, looking at the cafe with new eyes. Every detail seems a little sharper now.

“So that’s the Grillby here,” you say absentmindedly. “Reminds me of Muffet’s place, now that I think about it. She’s about that extra, too.”

Stretch snorts into his coffee, laughter almost making him choke before you rush over to give him a couple of friendly slaps on the back.

Chapter Text

The next time you jump you almost don’t notice the shift.

One minute you’re slapping Stretch on the back so he doesn’t choke from your comparison to his Grillby to your Muffet, something you don’t understand as that funny, then excusing yourself to go to the bathroom. The next, you’re shaking the last few water droplets off your hands from the subpar hand dryer, pushing open the door to the restroom with your shoulder, and walking out into a completely different place.

“Oh, goddamnit,” you mutter, pinching the bridge of your nose as the last few sparks of bright blue magic fade away.

The swinging bathroom door had morphed into the front door of the dance studio, so you walk into the waiting room expecting tables and chairs but only see rows of benches built into the walls with a large trophy case on one side.

It’s the studio you remember waking up in however long ago that was now. You remember meeting the Dreemurrs, Alphys, and Undyne, before you called to meet Sans. This place still feels so similar to the one you’re used to but you make yourself remember the group doesn’t run a dance studio like this back home. It all feels like forever ago, but it’s the first place you’d gotten a chance to talk to anyone about what the hell could be happening, so there’s a weird sense of comfort here.

Nope, the waiting room isn’t empty like you thought at first. Toriel stands in the doorway of the office and stares at you.

“Hello, again,” she says, voice friendly but not as warm as you’re used to. “How can I help you?”

Does she not remember you? Shit, Stretch did, maybe he’s the only one who can remember you through the jumps besides your friends back home.

“Um, could I use your phone?” you ask.

“Again?”

Oh, so she does remember.

“Of course, but the line is being used by Asgore right now so you will need to wait a few minutes,” she says, pulling the office door shut behind her.

You can’t tell if she’s lying or not, but why would she? Something about the situation puts you on edge anyway as she walks towards you.

Damn, you forget sometimes how much taller she is than you.

“Would you mind joining me?” she asks.

It doesn’t really feel like a question, so you just make a noncommittal noise and follow her.

She guides you to a solid glass door that shows an empty room beyond covered with that fancy-looking hardwood you’ve only seen in movies and television shows. Unlocking the door with a key on her wrist, she holds the door open for you.

“Shoes off, please,” she asks, motioning to the house slippers you’d borrowed from Stretch. You slip them off and follow her with your bare feet into the room, afraid to ask questions yet.

You’re looking around at the impressive space, head tilted back and mouth open slightly, taking in the beautiful blue and green artwork on the ceiling, so Toriel outpaces you easily. She stands on the other side of the room, facing away from you when she speaks next. In the empty room, her voice echoes slightly, and you suddenly feel very exposed, backing away from her slowly. Your feet don’t make as much noise barefoot as they would with the slippers.

“Only those who wish to challenge a studio’s reputation would come unannounced twice,” she says, voice low and serious. Your hand reaches for the knob but the door is locked when you try it. Shit.

At the sound of your hand jiggling the knob, Toriel turns, her skirt billowing around her gracefully. It looks like she is barefoot as well, but the pads of her paw-like feet don’t make more than a whisper on the floor.

“Since you come here to challenge the studio, first you must face me.”

“I’m not here to challenge anyone,” you blurt out, hand still on the knob. “I just need to use your phone again!”

“Do not play coy,” Toriel snaps. Hearing that tone in her voice makes you stand at attention immediately. “Stand where you are meant to. You are ignoring the laws of dance engagement.”

“Laws of - Toriel, what in the world are you talking about ?”

Losing her patience, Toriel lifts her hands and summons your Soul to hover just over your sternum, like a heavy pendant. The room dims around you as your Soul demands your attention; its mixture of orange and yellow inside of a cracked crystalline shell shimmers like a tiny disco ball. You gulp when you notice that your Soul isn’t the only orange-yellow light in the room.

Toriel summoned two perfect circles of fireballs on either side of her spinning like two invisible people were hula-hooping next to her. The light shines off her white fur and sharp fangs, and she looks more dangerous than you’d ever seen her.

One hand sets the fire ring on her right spinning, and the sound of a metronome clicks each time it makes a full rotation. As the other starts to spin, you can hear music start to float up from the magic like an old phonograph spinning a record. It’s a measured waltz.

All of this happens in the space of time it takes for you to look down at your Soul straining to pop away from your chest, and back up to her, so you barely have time to dodge the first volley of magical fire.

“Shit!”

You move to dodge, unable to spend any time looking at your Soul when you’re forced to move your feet around, dodging the flames like a bullet hell video game. This isn’t your strong suit, and you feel a lick of flame against the borrowed jeans. It’s fucking hot but not nearly enough to burn the fabric, which confuses you to no end.

As you glance up to see what she has planned next, you watch as she moves in a one person pattern back and forth and side to side on the other end of the room. You don’t spend much time dancing, not really, but you recognize this sort of movement from when your aunt would usurp the television to watch celebrity dancing shows. She’s missing a partner, but it’s definitely a waltz.

Back home, you’d indulged Undyne and Papyrus in a few training sessions - which you’d agreed to while falling asleep or drunk, so essentially you were coerced - but those had been nothing like this.

“You are not engaging in the appropriate moves of a dance battle!” Toriel says as she twirls again, moving delicately on her paws.

Even with her great size she moves more smoothly and gracefully than you think you ever could.

“Toriel, I’m not here to fight you, I swear!” you say, dodging another volley. She forces you to bend and twist when the flames fly higher.

Wave after wave, it doesn’t stop. None of it seems to be meant to truly hurt you, just directed so you almost lose your footing. The expression on her face switches between confusion, frustration, and concentration. The music from the spinning fire, now behind her, has switched songs a few times, but always stays at the same steady beat.

“Fine,” you growl under your breath. Nothing else you’ve tried so far has worked. Only one thing left to try. “I’ll fucking dance.”

At first it’s difficult to find any sort of rhythm between Toriel’s magic attacks, and most stuff you know is not nearly as graceful as a waltz, but you manage to start throwing your hands up and moving your feet in a pattern you’ve known for years. It’s something your friends begged you to perform with them in a school talent show, and you being a good sport, agreed. After getting bribed with free lunch for the rest of the year.

Humming the words under your breath, you start to move to the first instructional dance that comes to mind. You’re half-proud and half-embarrassed that the first thing you think of is ‘Cool Patrol’. You can’t even claim that you and your friends won the talent show with your rendition of the music video.

Whatever, this should be fine, right? It’s dancing at least.

Toriel doesn’t agree. “What...what are you doing, child?”

“I’m lightly jogging in place!” you say, still a bit out of breath from dodging her. “You said I had to dance so I’m dancing!”

She slows her attacks a bit just to watch what you’re doing with her head tilted to the side. You’re really glad the fire doesn’t seem to be trying to hit you anymore, it’s hard to keep this up as it is. One of your moves is to turn around so you get a chance to see a curious face through the glass door outside. Undyne uses a key of her own to come in, looking between the two of you.

“What’s going on in here?” she asks over the sound of music. She sticks close to the wall. “I’ve got this room booked for my next class!”

“She is here to challenge the studio!”

Undyne looks at Toriel, then back to you. “Uh...are you sure, Tori? I don’t think she’s from a rival studio. At all. She almost tripped on the air just now.”

By now you’ve lost the ability to speak, gasping for breath. You’re not that out of shape, you swear! It’s just you haven’t had a proper night’s sleep since this started and it’s catching up to you. You’re pleading to Undyne with your eyes to make Toriel stop.

“Are you sure, Undyne?”

“Tori!” Undyne shouts, torn between laughter and trying to be serious. “Her jazz hands game is WEAK, c’mon! Not a chance that’s what she’s here for. Give her a break.”

Toriel lowers her hands sheepishly then, halting your desperate attempts at both dodging her flames and coming up with increasingly lame moves. You lean over, hands on your knees, gasping in air.

“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” Toriel says, moving closer to you with her hands folded in front of her dress.

It’s a little annoying she doesn’t seem to have even broken a sweat and you’re gasping like a fish choking on air. But you manage to wave one hand at her, trying to tell her it’s fine, she didn’t know. Thankfully she seems to get the message.

“Come, let’s adjourn to the front office,” she says, ushering you out of the dance hall. “Undyne, would you please grab her a bottle of water before you start your class?”

“You got it, Your Majesty!”

“I am sorry, my dear,” Toriel says as she leads you to one of the soft benches in the waiting area. Undyne arrives with the water bottle a moment later, but doesn’t linger. Opening the bottle for you, Toriel kneels down to check you over. “I incorrectly assessed the situation. It is not often we have humans come to our studio here on the mountain.”

“Really?” you gasp, taking long sips of water between breaths.

“Yes. There has not been a human student at this student for many years, except for my own child.”

As if summoned, the front door opens and a gaggle of people walk in, and at the front of the group are a few very familiar faces. Frisk and Sans stop talking the moment they see you with Toriel, but Papyrus strolls in with a grin so wide it can only mean trouble for you.

“OH BOY, A NEW STUDENT, YOUR MAJESTY?”

Oh, god, not again.

Chapter Text

No matter the world, you feel extremely guilty letting Papyrus down, but there is no way you can join him and the others in Undyne’s hip-hop class. From your seat in the waiting room, you can lean around the corner to look into the practice room you’d fought Toriel in, and spy on them as they move past stretches to literally dancing around each other.

“My dear, did you still need to call a cab?”

Toriel still looks very sheepish after attacking you. She sits behind the desk sorting through papers with a pair of spectacles balanced on the end of her nose.

You realize you still don’t have any money on you, since your wallet is still back at your actual house. When you think about it, you wince. “No, but thanks. I was actually going to call Sans and well, he’s busy.”

“Would you like to watch their practice?” Toriel asks, folding her hands on the desk. “I doubt they would mind. It is a demonstration for this weekend’s series of performances and battles, and while not secret, so long as you would not mind keeping what you see to yourself until then, it should be fine.”

“You know what, yeah, that would be awesome. I haven’t seen monsters battle like this before,” you say.

Toriel blinks in surprise as she walks over to you, offering you a hand to stand and follow her. “Never? No wonder you were caught so off guard when I challenged you.”

“Seriously, Toriel,” you say, “I know it was a misunderstanding. No harm done, I promise.”

“Hmm. But still please know I feel sincerely ashamed at my own behavior and you would not be remiss to admonish me for it.”

This Toriel reminds you so much of the one you know, the woman who is one of the best mother figures you’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Even though she doesn’t seem to have any knowledge or memories of you, you still feel compelled to rest a hand on her arm and comfort her.

“Toriel. If it makes you feel better to hear me say it, I forgive you. And if that’s not enough then how about you just...teach me how to be better?”

Your suggestion makes her brighten considerably. “Yes! I would be happy to teach you, or at least find one of my teachers that is suitable considering your unconventional methods.”

The way she says it, so earnestly, makes you feel like you should be insulted but all you do is giggle. “Sounds good to me.”

By now the two of you are facing a doorway with a set of stairs behind it, and she leads you up towards an observation deck. Looking down to the organized chaos below, you’re not sure who or what to watch first. You settle for Sans. He’s the one you had a chance to really talk to after all and you've never seen him move like that. But the way everyone else moves quickly splits your attention.

Sans's moves are smooth, a combination of short teleports around the attacks from the others and his hands in his pockets half the time. You have a hard time reconciling the lazybones you know with the way this skeleton moves without any visual effort. You don’t know enough about dance to really be able to tell similar styles apart, but you can’t stop thinking the way he moves matches his personality to a T, despite the fact he’s putting in more effort than you’d ever seen.

What you notice the most is how he moves around Frisk. You wonder if they’re together here, too, but it’s hard to tell how old she is, especially dressed as she is with a little tutu around her waist. They're undoubtedly close whether it's romantic or otherwise. Her moves are easier to place as ballet. You don’t know another dance that includes pointe shoes like that. His more modern style, something you assume is hip-hop or something like that, around her practiced and measured movements is downright beautiful.

“This is amazing,” you say under your breath.

Toriel smiles over at you without saying a word before looking back at her students.

You are so focused on the dance moves you almost miss the displays of magic before Undyne really starts to add some to her high kicks and backflips. As you watch you realize you never made good on your promise to dance with her sometime. But you have no idea how long before you’re taken away again.

The thought casts a grey cloud over you that isn’t easy to brush away.

“Is something wrong, my child?”

“Nah, just a little jealous of them,” you say, answering Toriel in a way you hope distracts her enough from prying too much.

It’s already tedious enough for you how often you’ve tried to explain what’s going on. And you don’t even know what it is yourself, anyway, so you really don't want to try and rehash it all again right now. She looks at you closely for a moment before turning her attention back to the group. Half of you is glad, and the other half misses the Toriel that would have fed you golden flower tea and slices of cinnamon-butterscotch pie until you fessed up what was bugging you.

“Monsters are born with a dance in their souls,” Toriel says softly. “Most humans must search for theirs.”

You blink slowly as you look at her. Something in her voice is deep and sad as she looks down through the glass. It’s easy to tell she’s looking at Frisk, and while you don’t know what their relationship is here, exactly, you can assume she still cares as deeply for the girl downstairs in an all-black ballerina get-up as the Toriel you know loves your Frisk.

The displays of magic below you continue, with a series of bones provided by Papyrus launching Sans in all directions around the two girls literally dancing circles around each other. At one point, they slow and halt in unison. Everyone is working to catch their breath and smiling, saying things to each other you can’t hear through the soundproof glass. You wonder why it’s soundproof to begin with, if it’s an observation deck, but you don’t get the chance to ask.

Sans teleports up with a grin that doesn’t meet his eye sockets.

“we’re gonna cool off outside before round two. want to join?”

His question is directed to you and Toriel, but she waves him off explaining she has paperwork to do, and walks down the stairs to leave the two of you alone. The moment she’s out of earshot, the smile on Sans’s face relaxes into a more neutral pose.

“didn’t think i’d see you again,” he says.

His voice lacks inflection, but it still makes your stomach drop. You rub your palms into the jeans you borrowed. “Yeah, same here. I can’t tell when I’m about to get pulled through, or where I’m going next, honestly.”

Sans leans against the window and raps it with his hand to get the other's attention. Papyrus looks up, Sans signs something to him quickly, and the group continues with some routines without the shorter skeleton brother. Staying where he is, he shoves his hands in his pockets to fiddle with the cigarettes you assume are in there. How those stayed in his pockets while he flipped around like crazy, you don’t know, and assume it’s magic.

“didja ever make it back to your time?” he asks.

“I did, yeah. I went somewhere else, though.” You wrinkle your nose a bit at the memory. “It...it was in the Underground I think.”

Sans lets out a low whistle. “damn. we haven’t been down there in ages.”

“How long?” you ask, curiosity perking you up a bit.

“don’t wanna tell you too much, kid,” he says with a shrug, “because-”

“Paradoxes. Well, I’m no expert on those, but there were some close moments where I think Toriel got really suspicious, so knowing more about this can only help me at this point.”

He looks at you with a steady gaze but you match it, not backing down. “we’ve been out for at least fifty years now.”

“Damn, how fucking old are you?” you blurt out.

“nunya. old enough to call you a kid but young enough to kick your ass.”

“Fine, fine, touchy-touchy. So...what year is it here, right now?”

“it’s-”

“BROTHER!”

Papyrus stands at the end of the observation room with one hand on his hip, Frisk and Undyne standing behind him.

You can smell the faint sweet scent of magic sweat. It’s not bad when it’s fresh like this, almost musky, and definitely better smelling than human sweat. But you also know what happens when it’s left unchecked. Like in a pile of nasty, sweaty socks. After the last time you couldn’t get the smell off your hands after cleaning, you picked up Papyrus’s old habit of leaving sticky note reminders for Sans.

But, instead of putting them on the wall near the offending socks, you stuck them on the asshole’s forehead and threatened to write it there in Sharpie if he didn’t clean up after himself.

“WE ARE DONE TRAINING HERE, FOR NOW!” Papyrus announces. “WOULD YOU AND YOUR NEW FRIEND LIKE TO JOIN US FOR BREAKFAST BEFORE WORK OR ARE YOU BUSY?”

Instead of answering, Sans looks to you to make the decision. As much as he was talking about paradoxes, it feels like a show of trust. Not that you feel like you’ve necessarily earned it yet, but you’ll take it.

“That sounds awesome, Papyrus! Who is ever too busy for breakfast?”

“I AM GLAD YOU KNOW MY NAME, THAT MAKES INTRODUCTIONS FASTER! BUT WHAT IS YOUR NAME? HAVE WE MET?”

He leans down close to you and squints, his jubilant attitude rubbing off on you easily. Even though you just ate a little while ago, that impromptu workout with Toriel really took it out of you, and if breakfast includes monster food of any kind you somehow know that will help you more than any amount of rest will.

“My name’s _________. Where are we headed?”

“grillby’s, of course.”

Everyone looks at Sans with some level of an exasperated look. They’re so caught up looking at the shortest among you or teasing him that it’s all he ever wants, that they miss the way your cheeks suddenly bloom with color, and your eyes go wide.

Sans certainly notices.

Well, fuck. Can’t be any worse than the last two iterations of him, can it?

Chapter Text

Your group piles together into Undyne’s Jeep, the soft cover blocking out most of the early-autumn chill. Now you’re really glad for the jeans and flannel, even if they were way too hot back with Stretch in his world.

Depending on how long this crazy shit lasts you’re going to need to think up names to call these other places to help keep it straight. Even if the idea of naming them gives you anxiety, since that feels like you’re assuming this is the new normal, and that is not what you want.

Maybe it’s a good thing you’re so lost in thought on the ride. It’s too loud to get a word in edgewise between Undyne and Papyrus chattering at each other in the front and the sound of wind whipping around the outside of the car.

You’re pressed against the passenger side door - and you are so relieved she has actual doors on this because your nerves are too shot to deal with open sides right now - with Frisk sitting in the middle. Sans is tucked against her fast asleep. That seems to be the status quo compared to all the activity you saw him perform earlier. You still don’t want to assume anything but it seems like he and Frisk are close here, too, in some capacity. One of her feet is tucked up under her, and her bent knee rests easily on top of his femur, a comfortable and familiar looking pose as she looks back and forth between the monsters in front.

She hasn’t said much, at least not out loud. Instead of speaking she’s using sign language to keep up with Papyrus and Undyne, the monsters either glancing at her in the rearview mirror, or totally turning his body towards her like Papyrus in the passenger seat. You don’t know enough to keep up but she does smile your way every few minutes like she is trying to include you.

You watch the world pass by on the drive down from the studio towards the restaurant. Last time you took this ride was in a cab as you went to meet Sans, when you still had your wallet on you. The trees look like the leaves have turned more colors since you saw them last. It’s hard to tell the amount of time that’s passed by that alone, though, since you know sometimes the leaves can change almost literally overnight.

If the colors make you think of your Grillby, well, you don’t think anyone would blame you.

Damn, you miss him. You can feel the ache in your Soul. After all the bullshit of the last day or so, you can feel a new resolution inside of you to really pursue him, tell him how you feel.

Frisk is probably going to lose her shit. In a good way, of course. She’s been trying to get you to admit to yourself and then to the hot bartender how much you like him. It’s taken the better part of two years to even get this bold about it.

Nothing like a multi-dimensional crisis to force you to make a move.

Ever since your last boyfriend cheated on you, you took a sabbatical from any sort of dating at all and managed to use your focus to get through the tests and training you needed to complete your certification as a master of automotive mechanics. The idea of jumping back into a world full of emotional landmines is frankly terrifying.

And, a worse idea is that Grillby would reject you entirely, kill that spark before it can ignite.

Your mouth twitches into a small smirk at how exasperated he would be that you’re referring to your attraction to him through puns. One punmaster is all the world needs, and Sans has that covered.

Gravel crunches under the tires as Undyne pulls into the lot. Last time you were here, you didn’t go inside the restaurant for longer than it took to meet Sans at the door and walk right back outside before anyone really noticed you. As if he had a timer to know exactly when you arrived, Sans sits up wide awake as Undyne parks out front, several other vehicles in the lot around you.

The location is still pretty secluded, a standalone building, like it is in the Ebott you know. Grillby used to be located inside a cramped space in a strip mall down the road from the mechanic shop your uncle owns, but once he saved up enough, he purchased a place all his own in a more affluent part of town. Not that your uncle’s shop is in a seedy area - it’s just not the sort of district meant for decent restaurants. It’s better suited to fast food, service stations, and car dealerships.

It sort of bothers you how separate everything seems to be for monsters here, since you’re used to a world where everyone had integrated pretty evenly across Ebott. Here, despite being out from the Underground for a much longer time, you get the vibe that monsters might still face harsh speciesism. It makes your stomach churn uncomfortably thinking about how awful humans can be. So far you’ve only come across one monster that really deserves your hate.

Magical blue vagina in the air man. The Not-Sans.

Before your thoughts can spiral too negatively about him, or you give yourself a migraine from trying to keep the thin threads of your memories of him together, you shake it off and follow the others inside.

The space is enormous when you walk in. You immediately notice that there are bigger spaces between the tables across the floor, and at first you don’t know why, but as a waiter zooms by you on rollerskates you figure it out.

“Welcome back, y’all!” the waiter says as he twirls away. He winks cheekily at the group before sliding to a practiced stop next to the table he’s serving, the tray of full water glasses surviving the entire trip.

“Woah!” you say, impressed.

Frisk rolls her eyes and signs, Show off .

You follow the others to a rounded corner booth. Papyrus gestures for you to go in first, and you accept. At least this way you don’t think it will be as easy for you to get dragged through unannounced, if you’re squished between the skelebros.

With another cheeky grin, the waiter skates over to your group and bradishes a notepad, the tray tucked under his arm now that he served the table their water. Since he isn’t zooming by you now you can take in the light blue tint to his skin and the scales that gather on his neck above his shirt collar. They look like gills, rising up to follow a path beneath coal-black hair.

He looks incredibly human, otherwise, but you’ve met crosses before. Crosses between humans and monsters, that is, but the ones you knew were much younger than this late twenty-something.

“Are y’all having the regular?” he says, looking around before his bright eyes land on you. “A new face! My name’s Heston, welcome to Grillby’s. What’ll you have, darling?”

“Uh,” you say, caught off guard. There isn’t a menu in sight so you just order, “A water for now, please.”

The others place orders as easy as rattling off a number or as complex as Frisk fingerspelling out part of hers.

“Be back in a jiffy,” Heston says before sliding away.

There’s no other waitstaff that you can see, but the restaurant doesn’t look that busy. When you realize all you want to see is Grillby, heat rises to your cheeks, and you return to fiddling with the wrapped silverware you were handed.

“YOUR MOVES WERE VERY INTERESTING, ________!” Papyrus says.

Bless him, the comment feels genuine and supportive in that achingly familiar voice. It’s easy to see why you felt the most comfortable talking to this Sans before. The whole universe is the most similar one you’ve been taken to, yet, and that goes for all the monster friends you know. But it does make you miss home that much more.

“Thanks, Papyrus,” you answer. “Honestly I’m not really much of a dancer but when the song tells me what to do, I can do alright.”

He looks at you with his head tilted to the side just a bit. Heston returns with your drinks, and Papyrus waits until everyone’s settled before speaking again.

“WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHOW ME SOMETIME? I ALWAYS LIKE LEARNING ABOUT MY FRIEND'S DANCES! DANCING IS MORE FUN WITH MORE PEOPLE!”

“Sure, dude!”

As if you could say no to Papyrus.

Undyne snorts into her coffee, a grin opening her mouth enough to reveal some of those sharp teeth. “You need to train A LOT to keep up with this. He has a KICK ASS salsa.”

“THANK YOU, UNDYNE, BUT I DO NOT INTEND TO KICK THE HUMAN’S ASS WITH MY SALSA!”

Automatically, just like whenever you hear Papyrus swear back home, you choke with laughter. Some of the water you were drinking went down the wrong pipe so you’re stuck between coughing and laughing while he tries to help you clear your windpipe.

It’s not long afterwards until you see Frisk clap her hands together, a huge smile on her face, and tiny ponytail bobbing on the back of her head. You don’t have the right line of sight to see what she’s reacting to before he comes into view.

Instead of Heston bringing out your food, it’s the man himself.

“HELLO, GRILLBY!” Papyrus says when he stops by your table. “HOW ARE YOU TODAY?”

“Good morning, Papyrus, everyone,” the owner says.

His hands move quickly as he passes out everyone’s food, but you stick out like a sore thumb because you don’t have a plate in front of you. You’re pretty sure you’re staring, anyway, because you catch the way his flames flicker into different expressions. He speaks a little louder than the Grillby you know, but not as upbeat as the last one you me; he’s much more genuine than that one.

He clears his throat, making you jump. The little smirk on his face is only visible in the way the edges of his eyes crinkle behind wide frame glasses.

Shit. He caught you staring.

“Welcome. I don’t believe we’ve met?”

“Uh, no,” you manage to say in reply. “Name’s _______.”

“Pleasure to meet you, _______,” he says.

God, your name sounds like sin in his voice even like this. You can’t decide if this world is actually real to begin with, and if it is, is your crush on the hot bartender really extending this far? It feels like you’re cheating on a crush, the way you’re acting right now, all easily flustered. You blame the weird day you’ve had and the way you left off with the Grillby you know.

“GRILLBY, AREN’T YOU STILL LOOKING FOR A PARTNER FOR THE FESTIVAL?”

Everyone at the table looks between you and Grillby with varying levels of knowing smirks, and one with subdued horror. Sans looks anxiously at you with a face that is trying very hard to be neutral. You can hear the word paradox practically screamed from his body language.

But no one pays him any mind.

“OH YEAH! Good idea, Paps, _______ is the right height and everything! And she doesn’t really dance, either!” Undyne lifts her arms in the air like a football player celebrating a touchdown. “AWESOME! This is perfect, Grillby, waddaya say?”

“Well-”

Papyrus cuts him off. “SHE REALLY WOULD BE A GOOD FIT IN PLACE OF NATALIE! I HAVE SEEN HER DANCE.”

For some reason you feel like that should be an insult, but coming from Papyrus, you can’t tell.

“hey, _______, c’mere i need you for a sec.”

“Okay!” you agree immediately.

Sans lightly pushes on Frisk so she gets up to let you both out. You’re afraid your face could set a napkin on fire right now, because you have no idea what Papyrus is suggesting, but it involves Grillby, and your emotions are on a wild ride over him right now.

“you okay? you’re looking a little hot under the collar .”

“What?” you ask Sans as you both move towards the front door. “I’m not mad.”

“heh, bad choice of pun, sorry. you looked about as excited about that idea as me, is all.”

Once outside, your cheeks really feel warm with the light fall breeze running across them. “Well, I mean, I don’t belong here, do I? Not that...not that dancing with Grillby is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.”

Sans looks at you, your hands shoved in your jeans pockets, the pants looking a little too short on you now that he really looks at you. His head cocks to the side.

“strong words, thinking you don’t belong here,” he says slow and quietly.

He guides the two of you over to the same side of the restaurant as before which makes you nervous, but not enough to not keep moving. You’ll be damned to let fear rule you.

“As much as this place reminds me of home,” you say, “it’s not. I know another you, like I said. And I went one other place. I just...I don’t know what to expect next.”

“hard to say,” he says, shoving his hands in the front of his hood. “but it might not be the worst idea to interact, if ya got good intentions?”

You fold your arms over your chest and glare at him. “Of course! This isn’t something I chose, but I’m not a fucking asshole. I’m not here to hurt monsters, or anyone else.”

“i’ll have to take your word for it. and, i think it might be a good idea for you to say yes to pap’s idea. just saying’,” Sans says while lighting up. “want one?”

You shake your head and lean on the wall next to him. Avoiding his comment about dancing with Grillby, you say, “No. I don’t smoke.”

“ah, okay. i’ll think of a different excuse to get you out here then.”

Though the smell isn’t something you like that much, you stick around outside with Sans long enough for him to finish his off, since you can’t think of a good reason either. The two of you are quiet as you walk back inside to join the others for breakfast.

Chapter Text

“Goddamnit,” you sigh to yourself. Looking behind you, you catch the flash of blue disappearing behind you as you’re sent through another vag-portal. “You already used that through the door trick, you son of a bitch.”

The snow on the ground outside doesn’t answer you.

You’re back in the Underground, then, by the looks of it. The Grillby’s you’re walking into isn’t the one you were just in with the dancing monsters, it’s the one full of monsters wearing copious amounts of leather, chains, and studs. Except right now, it’s nearly empty, only two people inside when you walk in.

One is that Sans with fangs.

The other is the purple Grillby.

He’s more than just purple, though, when you look at him more closely. There are hints of green at the edges of him. The aura disappears depending on the way he turns.

“Evening,” he says, that British accent cutting easily across the room as you dither by the door. “A drink for the lady?”

You try not to wince as you explain, “I just came in to, uh, warm up a little? I don’t have any money on me.”

“I already have one freeloader,” the bartender explains, nodding at Sans. You notice as he does that Sans is asleep, arms folded under his head on the bar. “One more won’t hurt.”

Instead of answering you walk over and take a seat at the bar. You keep a stool between you and the fanged and sleeping Sans. You were really messing with him the last time you were here, which was more fun than you thought was legal. Seeing him like this you get new blackmail material and wish you had your cell phone.

When he’s sleeping he is downright adorable .

Before you can say anything, you look over at Grillby and he’s placing a dimly glowing glass in front of you.

“New creation,” he explains. “Mind testing it for me?”

“Is it alcoholic?”

The flames above his eyes that are a slightly different color, a little darker purple in the shape of eyebrows, lift at you. Leaning on the bar towards you he says, “I don’t serve anything else, darling.”

Lifting your legs to sit cross legged on the stool, you sit up a little straighter. Even leaning over this Grillby is much taller than any you’ve met yet. Your face is even with his as you sit on the stool.

“Fine,” you say. “But you need to keep pace with me, then.”

“Gladly.” He pours himself a glass, hands ablaze as he warms up the contents, using his bare hands to shake it, a little steam rising as part of the drink evaporates against him.

You’re still pissed you had to get dragged through right as you were building up steam to offer to be that Grillby’s dance partner. Just thinking about it makes your knees weak. There’s no way you’re passing up the chance to dance with him.

For now you’ll settle with what is probably a bad decision.

A voice that sounds a lot like yours reminds you that challenging a bartender to any sort of drinking challenge is the stupidest thing ever.

“Keeping pace means you need to drink, too, darling.”

You jump a little at his voice. You’d been staring angrily at the drink in front of you instead of taking sips. Lifting your glass to clink against his, you take your first mouthful and hum in approval.

“This is good,” you say, tapping your nail against the glass.

“Of course it is,” he says, taking a sip of his own. “It should keep you warm on your way to wherever you’re going.”

“About that, do you know how much a night at the inn costs?” you ask, before remembering again that you don’t have any money on you.

Grillby remembered, though. His eyebrow lifts at you again. “No money, but you want to stay at the inn?”

You wince. “Shit. I lost my wallet and I keep forgetting I don’t have anything on me.”

“Hmm.” The bartender looks at you across the bar, his arms folded loosely. The sleeves of his shirt are pushed up past his elbows this time, and he’s still wearing tight pants, but overall he looks the most normal of anyone here so far. There aren’t nearly as many studs or chains on his clothes.

“You’re far from home, aren’t you?”

The question takes you off-guard enough that you almost reply honestly, but cover it up as soon as you can.

“Yeah - I mean, you could say that.” Your fingernails drum on the glass some more. “It’s as far as it can be.”

“You’re a human.”

The way he says it, you feel like it should be a groundbreaking revelation. His voice is a little hushed and a little tense. It’s the first crack in the cool facade you’ve seen in this monster so far.

“Uh, duh? Obviously,” you say, lifting the glass to take another sip.

Grillby watches you carefully as you keep sipping to avoid speaking. When you put yours back on the counter, you wave your hand at his neglected glass on the counter behind him. Keeping eye contact with you, he reaches over to grab his, lifts it to his lips, and drains it immediately.

“Of course,” he says. “You don’t understand what that means, do you? The child Sans keeps hidden at least knew enough to hide, to dodge, and not be so bold as to waltz into my bar with your enticing human soul up for grabs.”

The more he speaks, the closer he leans towards you, the heat of his breath and scent of alcohol starts to wash over you. In a human the combination would be off-putting. It definitely isn’t, with him. You blame magic.

At this proximity you can really feel the heat of him warming your face. It’s like the sun on your skin on a hot day, nearly uncomfortable, but definitely welcome. Everything in you screams that you should be running away. That you should turn around, dump the drink on his counter - since you aren’t vicious enough to pour liquid on him even if he is being an ass - and leave. Run away. Anywhere but where there is a predatory fire elemental reaching his hand out towards you slowly.

“What the fuck do you want with my soul?” you say through clenched teeth.

“It’s not what I want, darling.” His voice is quiet, breathy. Alluring. “It’s what the king wants with - this.”

With a gasp, you look down to see your soul straining against the top of your sternum, against your skin, like it was around Toriel. But this time instead of fighting to stay protected within you, you have to consciously tell it to go back, to not let the fingers of flame reach out and touch it.

“Ex cuse me,” you hiss. Your hands lift to cover your sternum and keep your soul in check. “Rude!”

Grillby’s fingers curl to shut his hand into a loose fist. You continue to glare at him until he leans back.

“So you don’t know it’s unsafe to be human here,” he muses out loud, “but you know more about your own soul than the child did when she arrived. You are very odd, darling.”

“And you’re fucking rude,” you say. You can’t seem to put much heat behind it, though.

He starts to chuckle quietly. Of all things, this is what makes Sans stir on the barstool next to you. Honestly, you’d forgotten he was there since you sat down.

Like a shot, the skeleton sits up, his hands gripping the counter, eye lights flying between the two of you. Everything else about him is still as a stone, and you hold your breath as his fangs shine in Grillby’s light a foot from your face.

you again,” he grumbles, the tension not leaving his shoulders as he turns his body to you.

“Me again,” you reply, as sassy as you can. “Nice to see you, too, bone boy.”

Sans hisses and flips you the bird. “go fuck yourself.”

“Love to, but no thanks. You wish you were my type,” you say, draining the last of your drink to add just a bit more sass.

“nah. you seem to like em hot .”

Grillby shouts as you spit your drink over his exposed arms.

Chapter Text

“Fuck! Oh, my god, I am so fucking sorry!”

Grillby speeds away from your shouted apologies towards the swinging door leading to the kitchen. Behind you, Sans is staring in horror, unable to find a snappy comeback for what you did. You rush after the fire elemental, guilt giving you extra speed.

When you push the door open after him, you’re greeted with a room made of metal and stone, dark except for the elemental standing next to a stove.

As you stand and stare, you can see where the lines of alcohol and whatever else was in the drink create dark lines on his arm. Some of the bright blue liquid stained his shirt, too, where you missed his exposed arms. The lines get darker as he fiddles with a few dials in front of him.

“I’m so sorry!” you blurt again.

You move closer, lifting your hands, but you have no idea how to help. You’d never seen the Grillby you know get hurt like this.

Like a wounded animal, Grillby’s head whips around to look at you and he hunches his shoulders, glaring down at your outstretched hands like you mean to hurt him.

“Get back,” he says, voice low and dangerous. You obey immediately.

Keeping your distance, you fold your arms and dig your fingers into your arms, pressing the fabric of your shirt into your skin. You hate standing around like this.

“Tell me what I can do to help.”

He huffs a laugh at your comment, his hands bringing the heat of flames to life under his arms, and doesn’t say anything. You watch in fascination as the flames rise up to envelope his arms and the alcohol begins to fizzle and leave him. Grillby’s back arches over the stove as he watches the stove work on him. Though he’s not facing you, you’re sure he is acutely aware of your presence.

To your side, the door swings open just enough for Sans to shuffle in. The lines of his skull look tight and anxious around his eye sockets and mouth.

“alright, grillbz?”

“Fine,” Grillby answers. “Almost done here.”

Sans glares at you as soon as his elemental friend reassures him. You pull your hands out of your tight folded arm stance and hold them up in a sort of surrender.

“You know I didn’t mean to do that, boneboy,” you say, your anxiety making your voice waspish.

“s’not my fault you can’t hold your liquor,” he replies. His fangs look wicked in the dull light from Grillby’s purple flames mixing with the bright orange from the stove. “but if you hurt him or any monster again, remember you’ll have to deal with me .”

“Sans.”

You both turn to look at Grillby, his arms laid palms down on the stovetop as he looks at the two of you by the door. His voice is low and quiet. But, for all that he was just in likely incredible pain, the lighter fire that serves as his eyes is bright and teasing.

“Sans, go home to Papyrus.”

“but-”

“Sans. We’ll be fine.”

The short skeleton stares at Grillby before flicking his eyelights to you a few times. With a shrug, the outward anxiety melts away to a calmness you recognize in the Sans you know. He’s faking it but has resigned himself to whatever is next.

“watch your ass, human,” he says, getting his digs in before he pushes the door to the kitchen open again, “or i might just be around to kick it .”

Grillby stands up straight as the door swings shut behind the skeleton and says, “Your puns are bad and you should feel bad!”

You can’t help the quick snort of laughter, the tension in the room breaking unexpectedly. Your arms are back to being half wrapped around you in a fierce hug to stop you from trying to help Grillby. He’s not the one you know, so you watch as he inspects his arms for any lingering damage.

“I really am sorry for that,” you whisper as you watch.

“Hmm?” he says, his head lifting up to face you. “No harm done, darling. See? Not a scratch now.”

The silence stretches for a bit between you. It feels uncomfortable for a myriad of reasons, so you try to address at least one of them. “What were you saying about...about my Soul earlier?”

Leaning back against the stove behind him, the orange flames dulled to barely embers beneath the grate, his purple body is framed in an oddly sinister light. He looks you up and down without an answer for the space of a few breaths. As he folds his arms, he takes a deep breath in.

“Humans really don’t remember, do they?” he begins. “The war? The barrier? None of it?”

Your nose wrinkles as you give him a confused look. “Wait - so you guys are still trapped down here in the Underground?”

“We certainly don’t stay for the beautiful weather,” the barman says with no small amount of bite.

You laugh again. There’s enough of the Grillby you know in him that this conversation feels more comfortable with that sarcastic wit. Mimicking his posture, you lean against the wall a few steps behind you.

Actually, that was the swinging door, and before you know it, you’re flat on your back rubbing the back of your head.

Grillby moved forward as soon as you started falling, and leans over you now with his arms folded and a smirk rising out of his flames. The effect reminds you of honey or lava separating. There are tendrils of fire covering his mouth with an uneven and jagged effect that is frankly terrifying, but also makes your traitorous soul flutter a little in your chest.

“Sans’s comment earlier made me curious, but now I see you’re already falling for me.”

“Jesus,” you whine, making a face up at him. “Leave the bad puns to the bonehead, please.”

Offering you a hand to stand, Grillby chuckles. You take it without a second thought, the momentum lifting you from the floor, and right into his chest. A small oh leaves your lips as some of the air rushes out of your lungs on impact. The chest beneath your hands is shaking with laughter.

Definitely a planned move on his part.

Asshole.

Backing away from him, you rush over to one of the stools behind the bar, sitting down and folding your hands on the bartop.

“So. The Underground?” you say.

Grillby watches you with that smug grin still twisting the lower half of his face. His voice sounds acidic as he says, “The one and only.”

You play with your fingernails as you think of a way to say what you want, to get the information you need, without giving everything away. The dancing Sans was adamant before about not talking too much about this with anyone but him. But what good has that done you so far, anyway? What harm could telling Grillby do? So far he’s the only one you have any semblance of trust for in this universe.

That’s...not saying much. But he’ll do. Your soul hums a little in relief at the idea of telling someone else about what’s happening.

With a serious look on your face, you lift your eyes to meet his. “I have some things I need to ask you, and you’ll have to promise to be honest with me. Time and space and some other crazy shit is involved.”

You expected some sort of bigger reaction to that than the one you get from Grillby. A slight lift of one fiery eyebrow over his glasses - wait, he’s not wearing any, how did you not notice that before? - is all he does.

“If you expect to surprise me with anything, you’re in for a surprise, darling,” he purrs in that damnable British accent. “I’m a lot older than you think I am. I’ve seen a lot of things in my time.”

“Alright, fine, makes this easier, then.” You take a deep breath. Out of habit you look around and behind you, expecting to see crackling blue magic, but nothing is there so you continue. “I’m pretty sure Sans is dragging me through some sort of blue magical portal to other dimensions.”

Grillby stares at you and says, “Sans’s magic is red.”

“Yes!” you exclaim, pointing at him to emphasize your, uh, point. “ Here  it is. But not the one I know or the one who is getting some fucking boner over messing with my fucking life.” Your hand slams down onto the counter. The salt shaker nearby jumps and threatens to topple over, but you catch it before it does.

“What does this have to do with anything? No matter how you got here, you’re in the Underground. Stuck like the rest of us.”

It’s bait, and you know it. You know he’s testing you and since you have no idea how long it’s been for him since you last stumbled into his bar, you decide to play along. Opening your hands to either side, you say, “Yeah, except I’m not . It’s not something I’m doing consciously, like I said, but whatever this creepy version of Sans is doing is taking me through different places like into the Underground. I know he can like, teleport, or whatever he calls it. Shortcuts. Those. But this is different.

“The place I know, the place I call home, it’s a lot different than this. Namely because monsters are already on the surface because of a girl named Frisk and her best friend Asriel.”

If Grillby could freeze, not move a muscle, that’s what you’d describe what he’s doing now. Of course the flickering of the flames on his head don’t stop. Everything else about him is tense, though. Not a drop of laughter left on his face.

“I believe you,” he says hoarsely, loosening his hands from around his torso to rest against the bar across from you. “Now tell me everything .”

Chapter Text

Time runs away with you as you explain what’s happened so far. Through all of it, Grillby listens intently, interjecting questions here and there, but mostly staying quiet. His interest and patience makes explaining easier than you’d feared it would be. The clock on the wall near the kitchen chimes a few times but you both ignore it.

It goes by so quickly that you don’t notice yourself starting to fall asleep. When you wake up on an unfamiliar couch, though, you’re far from surprised.

“Again?” you whine into the cushions. You don’t even remember the flash of blue that usually happens with this shift.

The room you’re in is dimly lit, and you can hear some commotion in the next room. You don’t recognize it but the look and feel of it reminds you of the bar you’d been in the night before, pouring out your heart and soul to a bartender you feel like you’ve known for years. You wonder where you are now.

It’s not clear if the pattern is holding so far or if you’re somewhere entirely new. The last time you met the edgy red Sans and purple Grillby, you’d gone home afterwards. A knot forms in your throat at the possibility that you’re back where you belong. Home means Frisk, Sans, and Grillby, not to mention your human family and the shop.

Gingerly, you sit up, your tongue heavy and fuzzy in your mouth. You’d do so many indecent things for a real shower and toothbrush right now.

Lifting your arms to stretch you try to keep your eyes open to stay on your guard. Shoulders cracking, you roll your joints and try to get feeling back in your hand, since you slept on your arm in a weird angle and forced it to fall asleep. As soon as you try to stand, you realize your foot fell asleep, too, and you topple to your knees into the coffee table in front of the couch.

“Good morning,” a voice says from the kitchen.

The purple Grillby you’d spent hours talking to pops his head around the corner at the sound of your fall. His uncanny melted smile shows the bright molten interior of his mouth through slowly twisting flames.

“Oh,” you say.

The pain in your knees is nothing to the tightness in your soul. You can’t decide if you’re happy to see a familiar face or cripplingly disappointed you aren’t facing the warm orange-yellow face of the monster you...care for a lot.

Right now you know your face and voice show the latter.

Grillby rolls his eyes, disappearing back into the kitchen. “Sure know how to make a monster feel wanted after a night of unbridled passion, don’t you, darling?”

What ?” You’re on your feet and in the doorway between his living room and kitchen in a matter of seconds.

With his back to you, Grillby continues to work at the stovetop on a skillet of what smells a lot like eggs but they’re green and orange rather than yellow or white. You grab the first thing in reach off of a countertop to use as a defensive weapon. A spatula.

Wagging it towards him you demand, “What did we do last night, what are you implying right now, what the fuck -”

“Stars, calm down, darling.” Grillby looks over his shoulder and rolls his eyes at you, standing there, seething in his doorway using a spatula as a defensive weapon. “Believe me, if we’d done anything more than talk before I carried you up here to sleep...you’d remember. I promise you that .”

Damn your blushing cheeks. With the way his hip is cocked to one side and the almost sparking texture to the flames on his head, you know he’s getting a kick out of this. At least some of those little tells are the same in each monster, no matter how they look, or the weirdness of the surroundings. You still know him.

He’s still Grillby.

“Asshole,” you mumble.

Pulling out a chair from the table in the kitchen you land heavily on it, resting your arms on the top so you can cradle your head. You barely have enough time to huff in frustration before two dull thuds interrupt your well-deserved tantrum. Grillby has set a plate of strange looking breakfast foods in front of you. The same food is on his plate as he sits down across from you. The silverware and plates don’t match but you only notice because of how different they are from each other.

“Is...is this a plate from the royal wedding?” you ask, pushing your food around to look.

Two technicolored faces look up at you in their wedding finery. It amazes you that the same two royals you remember your aunt fussing about got married in this universe, too. The date on the plate is a little different but still...uncanny.

Grillby swallows the food in his mouth before answering. “I’ve got most of the set now.”

“Uh...why?”

“Rare enough to find a matching set of decently made china down here,” he says, spearing another orange circle thing from his plate. “Can’t be picky to what’s on it. Besides, they amuse me.”

You feel a little chastised at that. You remember stories from the Underground the monsters you know told you over the last decade or so. Something you forgot that sticks out now are mentions of the dump, the place where human garbage would fall and where monsters would go to search for material to reuse or recycle.

As hungry as you are, the thought makes you sick to your stomach, so you decide to talk instead.

“What is this stuff?” you ask, pushing your food around some more. “I don’t recognize it.”

“It’s food.”

You look up and scowl at Grillby. “Fucking duh, but what food? I’ve never seen anything like this. Except...wait, are these carrots?”

“Root vegetables are very easy to grow down here,” he explains, popping another large slice of cooked carrot into his mouth.

Even if you aren’t sure how a carrot will taste for breakfast, you’re hungry and curious enough not to care. If his cooking is half as good as the Grillby you know then it should be fine.

Oh, it’s more than fine.

Involuntarily you make a small noise of contentment. You haven’t had real food like this in way too long. What was the last thing you had, food at the strange cafe with the Papyrus that was more like Sans? A pasty or something? That sounds right.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Half the food is gone from your plate, but Grillby’s is cleared completely when you stop zoning out, his voice pulling you out of your blurred thoughts. His hands cradle his head and he tilts it to the side, regarding you with that almost constantly present smirk. Although, it’s not as wicked-looking right now.

“I’m trying to keep these time changes straight,” you explain. “A lot’s happened in the last few days.”

Grillby pauses, his hand stopping before bringing his cup to his lips. Though you know the liquid inside is magic-based and wouldn’t be near him if it could hurt him, it still makes you wince, remembering how you scalded him the night before.

“Days? I haven’t seen you for weeks,” he says with seriousness.

“Woah, really?” you say. “Then that means time really is different in each place.”

“I won’t pretend I know much about what’s going on with you there,” Grillby says. He drains his mug and sits back to look at you. “This is more of a Royal Scientist puzzle to work out.”

“Is the scientist still Alphys down here?” you ask. “She was the scientist for a long time before the role was made into a more honorary title in my world.”

This sort of honest back and forth is disarming, and intoxicating. You want to keep telling him everything. Even the different accent doesn’t deter you. A quiet litany repeats in your head above everything else: he’s still Grillby.

As he explains that there is a small team of scientists and yes, it does include Alphys, your mind continues to piece things together. If Sans is Sans in every place, except where he’s Papyrus - but everything is switched there anyway - then that means that Grillby is Grillby. You don’t think he shares memories with the other ones, by the way he acts. If he did then there might be more pointed teasing...namely about that almost kiss you and Grillby almost shared before that assfuck took you through another portal.

“I know I’m irresistible, darling, but there’s no need to stare.”

“I was - uh - trying to figure out why you’re purple,” you say, stumbling over your words in an attempt to save face.

Your thoughts still scream at you: I was definitely not thinking about how it would feel to kiss fire, nope, not me!

“Why do you have five fingers on each hand instead of three?” His question is snarky and catches you off-guard.

“I just do, it’s the normal number of fingers for humans.”

You waggle your hands at him for emphasis, being as obnoxious as you can about it. Reaching over before you have a chance to react, he grabs your hands with his own, a firm but not uncomfortable grip. Your breath catches in your throat at the contact. He’s warm, just like the Grillby you know. It’s a warmth that zips through your body starting where he’s touching you, twisting and turning, filling you up.

It feels like home.

“And purple is the normal color for me,” he says quietly. His hands still hold yours, lowering them to the table between you.

Does he feel this, too? This intoxicating connection that you don’t want to end? This is a complete 180 from how he approached you at the bar, reaching up like he wanted to touch your soul, your entire body demanding that you run. Now it’s begging you to stay put to see where this goes.

Your eyes flutter closed to enjoy the sensation of holding his hands. A part of you wonders if this is somehow cheating on your feelings for the Grillby you know, but your brain reminds you that some part of him is the Grillby you know.

His hands surround your soul before you get a chance to sceam.

Chapter Text

The heat around your soul is white hot for a split second before you start to see the sparkling blue around your vision. It fucks with you a bit that you’re actually glad that the creepy Sans is next to you, pulling you away from the purple Grillby who was trying to do god knows what with your damned soul.

“I’m not thanking you, you know!” you scream over the sounds of wind rushing past your ears.

The not-Sans shrugs and his grin goes wider than it should. Your back crawls at the sight, as if Muffet is pouring a cup of spiders down your shirt, and you struggle to try to unlock your eyes from his sockets.

“no need to thank me yet,” he says. “but you are not doing what i told you to.”

That comment gives you enough righteous anger to fuel an escape from the look. Your hands lift to reach for his neck. You know that he doesn’t have a windpipe but it’s an automatic reaction. Shaking him silly would be as satisfying as choking him out at this point.

Blipping to the side away from you, disappearing for the blink of an eye, not-Sans laughs in your face. “stick to the plan!”

“What plan , you piece of SHIT?” you scream at him.

“GEARHEAD!”

The entire exchange with the not-Sans lasted an eternity and an instant, something your brain understood for the space of a second before it rejected the idea, quantum theory too abstract to truly comprehend. Undyne’s arms wrapped around you in a fierce hug - that is something your brain can understand just fine. Ignoring the sick feeling in your stomach from lingering in that world between worlds you try to hug her back.

“Undyne! Oh, my god, I am so glad to see you!”

Setting you back on your own two feet, you use Undyne’s forearms to balance. Her face is inches from yours still. The way her single visible eye flies back and forth across your face means she’s looking for something there. You know it’s her - the real her, the one you know - because of the way she’s dressed, the lack of a dragon tattoo coiling on her side, and the nickname.

You’re home again.

“Dude! Where the fuck have you BEEN?” she demands, filling your vision so you can barely see anything else.

“Undyne, let her breathe,” Frisk says.

She walks up to your side to give you a hug and simultaneously pull you a little ways from Undyne. The room is empty except the three of you. At first you don’t recognize it, but as your nerves start to calm down and your vision clears, you notice the little knick-knacks and things that belong to Toriel. The scent of fresh baked goods fills the air, too. No matter if she’s cooking or not her home always seems to carry the same scent.

“How long was I gone this time?” you ask.

You don’t care if Undyne knows what’s going on or not, she’s one of your closest friends, she can know whatever she wants. And after spilling what you could to the purple Grillby - you really need to find different names for these monsters - it is so much easier to just talk about what’s going on the best you can.

Frisk leads you to a couch by an open window. The sun shines through the translucent curtains, ruffled slightly by a light breeze outside. Making sure you’re settled, she grabs one of your hands and says, “A couple hours tops. What happened?”

“No, you first,” you say, “I need to catch my breath first.”

Leaning your head back against the couch, using Frisk’s hand as an anchor, you miss Undyne and Frisk share a look. The monster walks to the kitchen to grab you a glass of water.

“Grillby woke Sans and I up right after you were taken. He said he couldn’t tell what happened, just that he felt a huge surge in magical energy that sort of swallowed you up. Every time he tried to talk about it he started speaking nonsense and  got a huge headache that wouldn’t go away until he’d stop talking.”

“Sounds about right,” you say without opening your eyes. “Does my uncle know what’s going on? What about Isaac? The shop?”

“Oh, my god, seriously don’t worry about it,” Frisk says. Her hand grips yours a little tighter. “They’re worried about you but Grillby, Undyne, and Toriel went to talk to them. Asriel is going to help there until we get everything figured out with you first!”

“What all do they know?”

You’re surprised you have enough of your wits about you to ask as many questions as you are. It’s like you’re on autopilot. Like when your father passed away when you were in high school and your mother wasn’t around, you just had to do things, no excuses. If you didn’t do it then no one would.

“Enough.” Undyne sets a glass of water in your hand and kneels on the floor in front of you as she speaks. “We didn’t want to tell them anything until we understood it more but-”

“Aunt Kay?” you interrupt. One of your eyes crack open to focus on drinking the tall glass of water in front of you.

The thin lips around Undyne’s shark-like teeth twitch into a smile. “Yeah. Kay. She just knows things. It’s weird.”

“I know. Always has been.” The glass is drained quickly and Undyne returns to the kitchen to fill it again. “Okay, so I went back to all the places I did before. The places I told Sans about.”

“________, you didn’t tell us anything. You were in shock and the guys were going to take you to a ready care this morning.”

You sit up and open your eyes fully, looking to Frisk, then Undyne, and back again. With the blank look on Undyne’s face you realize that Frisk was right. You didn’t tell them anything. You sat there in shock like a numpty.

“Shit. Okay. So I don’t know when or how it happens but I don’t have control on when I leave to go to these other places, but there are three others.” You pause and blink slowly, a plan forming in your mind. “Do you have your phone? Can you just record me talking?”

Undyne has her monster-modded phone out in a second, a few swipes bringing up a recording app, ready to go. A small lump of anxiety forms in your stomach as you remember the pattern of getting taken somewhere else right as you start explaining what you think is going on. But you can’t stop now.

You have to keep moving forward.

With a deep breath, you say, “Alright. From the beginning again, I guess…”

------------------------------

Grillby looks up at the sound of his door chime.

A short and stocky woman of an ambiguous age walks into his restaurant. It’s the middle of the afternoon, the slowest part of the day for him, and the sun creeps at the edges of the windows where it can’t quite make it all the way in. He can’t see her face for a moment because of the way it shines behind her.

But this is someone he knows, someone he was expecting since he felt a shift in his soul not an hour ago.

Her face boasts an impressive scar along her neck starting beneath her hairline, twisting a lighter knot of skin down towards her collarbone. Despite the rapidly warming spring air outside, she is dressed in heavy work clothes, something he’d seen you wear on many occasions.

Grillby brings a heavy tumbler over to her spot at the bar before she sits. On the stool next to her, Sans stirs from his nap. His narcolepsy is getting worse. But that’s not something that the skeleton will let his friend help with, at least not until your situation is corrected.

Just thinking about it makes Grillby’s hands shake as he pours a few fingers of bourbon for the newcomer.

“afternoon, kay,” Sans says as he reaches for his ketchup bottle. “s’good to see you.”

Kay knocks back the drink before responding. She nods to Grillby to fill her glass again as she says, “Likewise. But better circumstances would be preferable.”

“paps and i need to host another spaghetti night, your lasagna was out of this world. we could get everyone over for the solstice or somethin’.” Sans lifts his legs to sit cross-legged on his stool and lifts a hand to gesture at her scar. “that looks like it’s healing nicely.”

The sound of glass hitting glass rings through the almost-empty bar as Grillby tries to control his shaking. Both Sans and Kay look at him with concern, their heads snapping to attention, smalltalk forgotten.

Grillby stares at the cracked tumbler in his hand without seeing it. He doesn’t want to be here. He needs to find you. He needs to-

Aestus .”

From every corner of his soul, he responds to the use of his ancient name. It’s a command and an effort to calm him wrapped into one. Grillby grips the bartop with fingers threatening to turn it to ash as Kay repeats his name again. This time it’s calmer, less a command and more of a reassurance.

“Aestus, you can’t go to her yet. You both are in flux, too vulnerable. She’s with two of her anchors in this world and you need to form two of your own.”

Sans watches warily as his best friend struggles against the almost heat-like single-mindedness threatening to take over. His soul aches to see Grillby like this and he understands you can’t be feeling much better.

Whatever he needs to do to protect the two of you, he’ll do it unquestioningly, and he know Kay feels the same. You’re more than her niece. You’re one of her own, her daughter, and you’re important to Frisk. That’s more than enough for Sans.

“kay, just tell us what we need to do,” Sans says, his hand flexing into a fist in his lap, “how do we help him?”

Chapter Text

It took over an hour and several recordings, but you’ve got a copy of your explanation tucked away on Undyne’s phone. The way she’s furiously typing on the screen, her thumbs blue blurs above the phone, you figure she’s either texting Alphys or sending the file as an email immediately. Watching her you realize you haven’t seen your phone since the last time you were home. It’s not a big enough deal for you to worry about it out loud. They told you your family knows, after all, and the friends who matter are in the loop now, too.

You just feel so drained after all of this that you start to fall asleep on the couch next to Frisk.

“Hey,” she says, nudging you gently with one hand. “Let’s get some food in you.”

“M’not hungry,” you mutter. “Had breakfast in the last place.”

“I mean monster food, you’re completely drained.”

Her wording confuses you, but you comply anyway. Drained? Of what? Hard to argue when Undyne sighs and picks you up off the couch herself, anyway, gently moving you into the kitchen to sit at Toriel’s table. The queen of monsters is still absent but you don’t have the brainwaves to spare to wonder why.

“Strong fish,” you say, patting Undyne’s bicep as she sets you down.

“Nerd,” she says affectionately. “Frisk, I’m going to head home to Alphys, try to get a few things sorted over there. You and Gearhead here gonna be alright?”

Frisk looks over her shoulder, arm deep inside of the fridge as she rummages around. “Yeah, go ahead. Sans can pop over right away if something happens, he’s at Grillby’s right now.”

At the sound of his name, you perk up. “Grillby’s? Can we go there instead?”

Frisk and Undyne share a glance.

“What?” you ask, getting suspicious. No one should blame you for that; you’ve had a very interesting few days. “He serves monster food. I know that’s basically all Sans can eat. Not that I don’t love Toriel’s cooking, but, that just sounds really good right now.”

“I’m sure it does-”

“Undyne, isn’t Alphys waiting for you?” Frisk says, interrupting her.

Now you’re really suspicious. Especially with the tone of Undyne’s voice. Usually she saves that for Frisk and Sans, teasing them until one of them teases her back.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll get going. Seriously, call me if you need me for anything you guys.” Undyne looks between the two of you, the teasing smirk falling from her face before she turns away and out of the kitchen.

“What the fuck was that about?” you ask Frisk as soon as Undyne’s Jeep starts outside.

“Hey, mom made buttspie!”

You narrow your eyes at your friend. She’s bent over digging through the overfull fridge - Asriel going through another growth spurt, maybe? - and emerges with a cling-wrapped pie tin. Even cold, you can smell the combination of cinnamon and butterscotch.

“Frisk, you’re dodging,” you say.

Coming to the table with two forks, two plates, and a large knife to cut pieces out for the two of you, she continues to dodge the question. You’re starting to get very frustrated about that but manage to wait until both of you have had a forkful of pie.

“Frisk. What happened when I was gone this time? Why did you and Undyne suddenly get all weird when I mentioned Grillby’s?”

She stabs another much larger than necessary piece of her pie and shoves it in her mouth. After struggling to chew it she finally swallows and winces. “You don’t like magic that much, right?”

You shrug. “I mean, it’s fine if it’s consensual. It makes me feel all weird when it’s used on me. Why? What does that have to do with Grillby?”

Frisk sort of winces and wipes her hands on her jeans, a few crumbs falling to the floor. She tilts her hands this way and that in a gesture that tells you she’s struggling to come up with the right words. From what you know, she mostly used sign language to communicate as a child, only starting to speak aloud a couple years after freeing monsters from the Underground.

You wait as she signs a few disjointed words you can’t catch before she sighs and says, “Everything?”

“Dramatic, much?” you say, shoving another piece of pie in your mouth, waiting for the punchline.

It doesn’t come.

The delicious treat suddenly turns to chalk in your mouth and you struggle to swallow it. “You’re...you’re not kidding, are you?”

“Wish I was, honestly,” Frisk says. “This is something I don’t understand at all. It’s never come up once in everything mom, dad, and Asriel have told me about magic.”

“Can you try?” you ask.

She tucks her feet up under her on the kitchen chair, resting her hands on the table. Her plate is far from empty, and she uses her fork, knife, and pie as a distraction to keep talking. Instead of meeting your gaze, she focuses on her plate.

“Magic has been around long before monsters were, by the way. Kind of like how no one can agree on how humans were created the same is true for monsters. This is apparently really old magic so I dunnno how best to explain it.”

“That’s okay,” you say. “Just try, please?”

Frisk nods and says, “So you know about souls, right? We all have one. Monsters, humans, most animals, some plants, most everything that is alive has one. Human kids have a solid colored heart to match one trait when they’re born, but it can change as they get older and go through life, and monsters always have an upside-down white heart shape.”

It’s something you’ve heard before, but you don’t interrupt her. You figure she’s giving context, which you are desperately thirsty for at this point.

“Like, for example, my soul is red for determination. It probably has other things going on but I’m happy with what I do know about my soul. I don’t want it poked and prodded anymore.”

“I get that. And mine’s orange,” you say, “but with some yellow. Bravery and justice, right?”

Frisk nods and says, “Bingo.” She pauses again and bites her lip before continuing. “There’s this...theory? That one of the previous Royal Scientists left behind before he disappeared.”

“Gaster?” you ask, recalling a name you’ve heard her discuss with Sans before.

“That’s him. Well, one of the going ideas of why he just disappeared, and why most people have a hard time remembering him, is that his soul is gone. Just...gone.” Frisk pauses to take a small bite of the pie she has all but crushed at this point. “Even when someone dies, their soul doesn’t go away. It’s literally reborn into something or someone else. The void picks where and when, of course. But Gaster didn’t die . He went right into the void as his whole self.”

Frisk falls quiet, so you take the chance to speak.

“Sounds like a bad ghost story,” you say. “What does this have to do with what’s going on, though?”

Wiping her hands down her face, Frisk adjusts herself again, full of nervous energy that you’re trying hard not to let affect you. A blanket of exhaustion still weighs you down even after finishing your pie, and you don’t want to disturb the tiny bit of peace you’re enjoying.

“Sans is better at explaining this than I am,” she starts, “but I’ll try. It has to do with the multiverse theory. No matter where our souls are, there are others in parallel universes that share it.”

Your eyebrows shoot up. Parallel universes?

“That actually makes a bit of sense! The places I’m getting taken to have people that look or act a lot like people here! I mean, with some really big differences.” You bite your lip and sit up a little straighter. “Like, there’s a place where Paps and Sans are totally swapped, personalities and everything, but their bodies look about the same as they do here.”

“I mean, totally plausible,” Frisk says. “So you’re going to parallel universes?”

“Must be,” you say in a whisper.

“But if your soul is here, and you have the same soul as all the other you’s-”

“I haven’t seen anyone else that looks or acts like me,” you say defensively.

“Doesn’t mean they don’t exist...or...wait…” Frisk’s voice trails off and she stares at the wall behind you, unseeing. Her lips move rapidly as if she’s doing math equations in her head, and you can’t make out the shape of any words. A light red glow shows beneath her shirt, so it’s easy to tell she’s using magic, even if you can’t see what the magic is actually doing.

Frisk stands up suddenly, pulling her car keys out of her pocket in one motion. The normally brown pupils in her eyes are slightly red, which freaks you out, but you know it’s just a side effect of using magic. “You know what, let’s go.”

“What, really?” you ask. “Where?”

“Grillby’s, of course. I’ll drive. Call Sans for me?”

Any questions you might have had fly from your head as soon as she mentions Grillby’s. “Small problem, I still don’t have my phone.”

“Heads up,” she says, all the warning you get before she tosses her phone to you. Bending over to put her shoes on, she gestures to you. “Yours is probably still in your room. I should get Paps to fix it. Call Sans from mine, he needs time to prep if we’re going there. Just tell him I have an idea if he argues.”

She’s speaking so quickly you don’t think you catch it all, but you do understand enough to open her phone and pull up her favorites. Sans sits at the top with some silly selfie as his contact ID. It warms your heart a little to see your name and face as the number two on that list. That warmth turns into a flicker moving lower as you see the fifth face beneath Toriel and Asriel.

Grillby.

You physically stop yourself from calling him, pressing Sans’s face with your thumb, and bringing the phone to your face before you can think twice.

It only rings once.

“Hey, Sans?” you say, before he can get out more than a ‘what’s up’, “It’s me. Frisk says she has an idea and that we’re going to Grillby’s.”

On the other end, Sans sighs. You can hear the clicking sound of him dragging his hand across his skull.

“fine. see you soon.”

What you can’t hear after he hangs up is, “ i hope she knows what she’s doing.”

Chapter Text

Riding to Grillby’s simultaneously took forever and no time at all. You wonder if your perception of time is permanently affected now after all the parallel universes you’ve experienced. But now isn’t the time to worry about that.

It’s a time to worry about why you being around Grillby was a problem and now is not.

You have to admit, you’ve been getting drawn to him more and more over the years. And, you’d like to think that if the not-Sans hadn’t interrupted the two of you - last night? Yeah that was last night in this world - that maybe the two of you could have sorted out some of those feelings. Or, at least, enjoyed a nice make out session. Either or. You’re not picky.

Damn. Stepping back out of your thoughts, you blink slowly, not really taking in the view outside your window. When did you get this thirsty? Sure, you find him incredibly attractive, and had worked through the weirdness of that a long time ago. The person you were as a teen before the monsters appeared, and before you met them, would have made a face at the idea of even finding one to be attractive in the first place.

Oh, how your world has changed. You don’t miss the person you were, but are thankful for the lessons she learned.

“You doing okay?”

Frisk’s question takes you out of your thoughts. “I guess?”

“It’s just not like you to sit there quietly,” she says. “I get you’ve probably got a lot to think about, but I’m here for you, okay? Nothing is too crazy to tell me. You’re literally getting pulled through space and time against your will.”

“Thanks for the reminder, Frisk, I totally fucking forgot I have some crazy shit going on,” you bite back.

She actually smiles in response to your sarcasm. “That’s the _______ I know and love.”

“Weirdo,” you mutter, fighting a smile.

“Gearhead.” Reaching over, Frisk lightly punches your shoulder when she stops at the last light before Grillby’s. You stick your tongue out at her in response. “I mean it, though. You know I’ve been through some weird shit, too, so I might be able to help you. Just think about it.”

Around the next corner, the modest sized standalone building comes into view, only a few cars parked out front. You recognize Undyne’s Jeep, Papyrus’s candy apple red Corvette, and…

“Why is Kay’s junker here?” you ask.

Frisk doesn’t get a chance to answer, and you have your seatbelt unbuckled and door open before she puts her Jetta into park. You hear her yell at you to stop but you ignore it.

The front door is locked when you try to pull on it. A sign that reads ‘Be Back Soon!’ cheerfully mocks your attempt to get in. Your yanking makes the sign on the inside rattle a little, the little plastic arms of the clock falling down to the ‘6:30’ position. The inside is too gloomy to see past the foyer. The hostess booth is in front of a wall that blocks most of your view inside, anyway.

You lift your hand to start knocking as loud as you can. Your fist meets the steel a couple of times before you feel Frisk’s hand on your arm. Before she gets a chance to speak, Sans appears outside a few yards away. He looks tense, to put it lightly, hands in his pockets of his hoodie and shoulders hunched. The lights in his eye sockets look like pinpricks.

“mind if I take you in?” he asks.

You wince. This is your friend, not the eerie not-Sans, but the idea of taking a shortcut even this short distance makes you want to vomit right now.

Sans notices your discomfort and pulls his phone out of his pocket and up to where his ear would be. “yeah, figured you wouldn’t. paps? yep, they’re here. yep. thanks, dude.”

Frisk holds tighter to your arm. With her grip, you notice you’re shaking, and it makes you feel worse. You want to trust Sans but just seeing him is making you on edge. Or is it something else? You can’t tell. The closer you get to getting inside the antsier you get.

Papyrus rushes the front door to open it from the inside. The cheerful sound of the bell connected to the door rings in your ears.

“HELLO, HUMANS!” he says. His voice is strained, but no less energetic. There’s a pinch in his skull next to where his jaw meets his eye sockets when he grins. “COME IN! EVERYONE IS INSIDE ALREADY!”

“Thanks, Paps. C’mon.” Frisk uses her grip to slide her arm through yours entirely, guiding you inside.

The rumble through your body gets worse as you cross the threshold. From the crown of your head down to your feet, now covered in your own clothes and shoes courtesy of Frisk and Undyne, you feel like a flag snapping in the wind. Sometimes when storms roll through the city from the ocean the entire world feels as tense as the air in this room right now.

Behind the bar your eyes fall on the fire elemental that’s been on your mind near constantly since all this shit started. You almost miss who flanks him on either side, arms linked just like you’re linked with Frisk. Papyrus steps up to take your other arm even as you notice Undyne and Sans on Grillby’s either side.

In the middle of it all stands your aunt.

“Hey, kid,” she says with a smile.

Dark hair streaked with grey pulled up away from her face, her scar is on display, giving her a very badass aura. Not that she isn’t badass enough as it is. It just makes her look like she could kick even Undyne’s ass. Seeing her makes you feel loads better already even if you are confused as hell.

Uncertainty in your voice, you stop when Frisk and Papyrus force you to, and say, “Hey, Kay. What are you doing here?”

“Trying to fix Eris’s mess. Her little protege is causing quite a fucking mess right now.” She starts to roll up the sleeves of her shirt, one you think she ‘borrowed’ from her husband, Ben. “Honestly, the catalyst is late. I don’t appreciate tardiness, but I’ll work with it.”

You don’t understand what she’s talking about but the name she mentions rings a bell. You can’t place it though, and before you get a chance to ask, she’s talking again as she moves through the room.

“Something must have held him up from getting here. Doesn’t make sense since he lives in a world where time isn’t as linear as it is here, so something could have stopped him. Again, doesn’t matter, I can work around it.”

Throughout her talking to herself, she slowly paces from your small group, then over to the bar to Grillby’s. You have a hard time looking at anything but him right now. Everything else is peripheral. Behind his glasses, connected to his face by some kind of magic you don’t rightly understand, his eyes lock onto yours. It feels strange, the way your body starts to heat up from that gaze. You suppose it makes sense since he’s made of magical fire. Not that you understand it any better, of course, that or the way he makes you want to wrench yourself away from Frisk and Papyrus so you can just touch him -

“How do you feel?”

Kay’s voice, and the grip of the two around you, snaps you back to reality. Her question is directed towards Grillby.

It looks as though it takes considerable effort, but he takes his eyes away from yours to look at Kay. Standing right near him she looks comically short. But, most monsters you know tend to be enormous, with Sans as an exception. Asriel, Toriel, Grillby, Papyrus, Undyne...they all tower over most humans.

“I feel...warm.”

Sans snickers at Grillby’s answer, and the bartender’s fiery hair sparks in annoyance, but he doesn’t comment further. The laugh wasn’t malicious. Even you sort of chuckled at that.

“I don’t usually feel heat,” Grillby explains, “not the way others do, as it’s been explained to me.”

“That’s fine,” Kay says. “It’s normal enough, given the situation. And you? How’re you doing, _______?”

You blush. “I mean, same as Grillby? I feel too warm. Antsy.”

“Yes,” Grillby interjects. “Anxious. And it is more than simply worry or confusion about what is going on.”

Kay nods slowly, one hand scratching her neck and the other shoved deep into the pocket of her pants. Her voice is low, muttering, but you can still hear her say, “Catalyst, you waited too long.”

“Wait,” you say, narrowing your eyes. “The way you...Kay, is his name Catalyst? The one that’s doing this?”

“It’s what I call him,” she says. Her eyes spark with mischief. “He wanted the job so I make sure to remind him what the job is. The goddess Eris gave him one job and he’s already fucked it up. I did warn her. Not that my opinion much matters anymore.”

There’s a hint of bitterness in her voice that you haven’t heard before, not unless she’s bemoaning the actions of some person on the city council that refuses to listen to reason, or a character on a soap opera she watches being predictably dumb. You’ve known and loved this woman longer than you can remember and have never seen her act like this. She walks like she’s wearing a crown atop her head, not with the quick and steady gait she’s formed from walking with her much taller husband and children.

It’s both unnerving and captivating. She’s not so out of character to not be herself, though, for all the differences. You’re just trained to look for the differences now.

“The goddess Eris?” you ask. “What, like in Greek mythology?”

Kay tilts her head back and forth a bit and says, “Technically. The Eris of myth is far more glamorous than her true self. Catalyst is her pawn - she revels in discord and strife so naturally a creature like him gravitated towards her.”

“So she’s real?”

“Is that so hard to believe, kid?”

You stare at your aunt and try to find a hint of deceit or joke there. You don’t find it.

“What does this have to do with us?” Grillby’s voice is hoarse as he asks.

“Eris made a bad gamble with some souls hundreds of years ago,” Kay said. “It resulted in many things. One of them a magical barrier that trapped the most magical of us beneath a mountain for centuries.”

A small gasp comes from Papyrus above you. Everyone is riveted to what your aunt has to say.

“The details don’t rightly matter. She lost a bet with a higher power than herself and was forced to use her power in ways she didn’t want. The barrier certainly caused enough strife and discord but she prefers to work in her own time, in her own way. Serving any master for any amount of time...irks her.

“An unintended consequence of this barrier was the way it blocked magic from going in or out. Now that it’s broken there are dozens of souls that were meant to cycle, to reincarnate, that never did because they did not have their other half. That is why Catalyst exists. He is the new embodiment of the force that makes that happen.”

Everyone is silent and staring at Kay, working through what she said at their own pace. Frisk is the first to recover.

“Is that why in the other universes she isn’t seeing a copy of herself?”

Kay nods gravely. “That is precisely it, my dear, great thinking. He’ll probably be here soon,” she says after a moment of silence. “A gathering of this many players in the game? He can’t ignore it. Sans, Papyrus, and Undyne - I will need you three to join Frisk and I over here. We need to observe as much as we can.”

“So we can’t stop this Catalyst from pulling her through again?” Grillby’s voice is angry, incredulous. “What does soul reincarnation have to do with taking her away from...here?”

His voice makes your Soul flip in your chest. As it moves, you realize the tension and vibration you can feel through your body is starting from your Soul in the first place.

“You will still be with her,” Kay says as she guides the rest to one of the booths nearby. “You know that.”

“Not me , they are not me !”

Aestus, be still !”

The building shakes from the force of Kay’s voice. Everyone in the room stops breathing, some of them staring at Kay, some at Grillby, but one of them stares at you. You’ve never heard that name before but it’s easy for you to guess who it belongs to and the power it holds.

And, like the dramatic son of a bitch Catalyst likes to be, he chooses that moment to appear, slipping you through a pocket dimension you’re painfully familiar with by now.

The last thing you hear from your universe is a screeching sound like a car crash and a burst of orange flames.

Chapter Text

“You son of a bitch!”

Your screams fall on deaf ears as Catalyst slips you through from your universe to the next like a needle pulled through cloth. Something is different in the way he interacts with you this time. Before, he would act like he enjoyed what he was doing, which only made you madder and madder each time. But now...it’s like he can’t wait to be rid of you.

“Okay, bye !” you scream at the rapidly sealed hole in reality he left behind.

Since you had a chance to change, you’re dressed in one of your light zip up hooded sweaters, a favorite pair of jeans, and the first shirt Frisk probably saw when she went into your room. Seriously, bless her and Undyne for thinking of this, since you still have a small bag at your hip that has a few things you might need in it. Namely your phone that Papyrus didn’t have a chance to fix yet, some gum, about fifty dollars in cash, and your photo ID. Not to mention you actually get to wear a bra and underwear again which raises your comfort level through the roof.

You were so focused on getting to and seeing Grillby that you didn’t get a chance to appreciate it before. Now you have the time to rifle through what you have. Probably the best item of all is a small flip style notebook and a couple pens.

“Oh, thank fuck,” you mutter to yourself.

On the top of the page you immediately write your name and what you think the date is. You figure it could be dangerous to keep this kind of stuff written down on your person, but it’s more important for your well being to take notes at this point. The first thing you do is try to take brief notes of what you’ve seen so far.

So.

Take a step back. Remember all you can.

Greek gods. It’s probably one of the least crazy things you’ve encountered recently so you have the feeling of ‘fuck it, why not this, too?’ and just go with it. Kay talked like she knew them, though. Of all the information thrown at you at the restaurant that was something you had no answers for. Maybe she just studied them closely. She did work as an odd-job enthusiast - her own words - with a bit of paranormal investigation here, some essential oil sales there, just random stuff. She knows a lot.

Your hand cramps a little as you write as fast as you can. Your brain feels like a sieve. You keep thinking about how good it was to see Grillby, even briefly.

Frisk did have a point, too. You haven’t encountered yourself in any of these worlds. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that since all the monsters are all still friends with each other that you would be friends with them, too. If you existed at all. That would be something to keep an eye out for.

Souls. You know about them but you’re no expert. Most kids growing up in your world know more than you do because they’re getting taught certain things from preschool and beyond. What you do know is that you’ve never heard that reincarnation was verified, a real thing, not just something some religions believed. And from the sounds of it yours had been, what, stuck in your universe? Or Grillby’s was, or some of the monsters? Something like that. Maybe that’s the stick that’s up Catalyst’s ass then. Kay did mention his job involved guiding those souls or something.

For now, though, you kind of want to focus on staying alive and sane before you get a chance to go home. You’ve been okay so far but the look on Catalyst’s face made your skin crawl. He has more than one bone to pick with you. But you still don’t know what you’re supposed to do with all this fucking information.

This is how Stretch finds you, bent over a notebook on the side of the road where Catalyst left you.

“fancy meeting you here.”

Using your hand to shield your eyes from the warm, summer sun, you look up at the owner of the voice. “Yo.”

Stretch chuckles. “yo? alright then.”

He sits down next to you, flipping his skateboard up into the crook of his arm as he does. Between the ground and his arm it slips into the void for presumably safekeeping.

His skull blocks some of the sunlight hitting your face so you can look at him without squinting too much. Once he’s settled he takes out a cigarette and lights it. There’s a park full of kids playing on the jungle gym but you two are far enough that not even the smell should reach them.

The two of you are quiet for a few minutes. In the heat of the sun you can feel your skin warming up, and can smell the combination of the fabric softener from Stretch’s clothes mixing with all the other scents of summer. Thankfully whatever magical cigarettes he smokes don’t smell too bad or that would ruin it. In your journal, you note a little sun next to Stretch’s name. The weather seems to be a pattern, too, but you need more proof of that.

“didn’t know if we’d see you here again,” he says.

“No offense but I was hoping I wouldn’t,” you say. Drawing your knees up to rest your chin on them, you wrap your arms around your legs. “Not that it’s not nice to see a familiar face.”

“can’t say i blame you for that. same shit as before?”

Tilting your head so you’re looking at him, you nod a bit and say, “Yeah. I went to the same places in the same order, too. After this was the universe where monsters use dance instead of typical fighting techniques, then the edgelords, and then back home. And I have a name for that guy now, by the way. My aunt called him ‘Catalyst’.”

“catalyst? huh. haven’t heard of him. you said he looks somewhat like my bro, right?”

“Mmhmm. Short skele-dude. I like your bro a lot better than him.”

Stretch full on laughs at that one for some reason. Extinguishing the last of his cigarette on the ground next to him, he stands, and reaches a hand over to you. Looking at his hand, and then his face, you take it and stand up next to him.

The shortcut rushes over you and before your legs are straightened beneath you, you’re standing in small copse of trees in a place you don’t recognize. The secrecy surprises you since you figure he just shortcut out in the open. Why would you need to appear here?

“c’mon,” Stretch says, starting to walk out from the secluded corner, pushing a low branch away from your face.

Like the opening scene of a Disney movie, when he moves the branch away a row of beautiful homes appears. A couple of birds even fall out of a tree to flutter in front of the tableau for a moment to add to the effect.

“Holy shit,” you whisper.

You’ve only seen homes like this on TV or in movies. At least two stories tall, there’s a large swath of manicured lawn between each home, the forest and Mt. Ebott rising above it all in the background. The nearest home is mostly brick with white trim. A balcony nestled in the middle of the home is covered with artfully woven ivy, and there are several lattices around the walls with more of it, mixed heavily with a few plants with cheerfully colored flowers.

And to top it all off you can hear a violin being played from one of the open windows on the second story.

“good, the kid’s home,” Stretch says. “we can ask chara if they’ve felt anything weird going on with space-time.”

“Wait, Chara? Why do I know that name?” you ask.

Stretch tilts his head to the side as he looks down at you. “if my bro acts like me back in your world, and my muffet is your grillby, maybe the kids are flipped, too. a complete swap. you told me you know a frisk, yeah?”

“Yeah, she’s my roommate and best friend,” you say.

“well, here, frisk was...not a good person. we have chara instead. i’m guessing chara wasn’t so nice in your world so, uh, be careful bringing them up if they aren’t around already.”

Stretch doesn’t explain further, just guides you up a cobbled path towards the house. It’s difficult to not openly gape at what you see. If this house belongs to who you assume, you guess it makes sense, but it’s still daunting.

The closer the two of you get to the house, the louder the music is above you, and so is the sound of a pair of garden shears snipping away behind the hedge lining the path.

“afternoon, your highness,” Stretch says.

A pair of short horns pops up over the top of the hedge, Toriel’s face following shortly after. “Hello, Papyrus and...who might you be?”

Her voice is just as calming as you’re used to; most of her is the same to be honest. But what you cannot get over is the long scar that runs from above her right eye down over the lid and falling further towards her muzzle. Almost as if someone had sliced at her with a sharp knife or spear, which the spear is more likely in your mind, due to her height.

“friend of mine,” Stretch explains smoothly. “i’d like you to meet toriel, former queen of monsters. she’s chara’s mother.”

“Pleasure,” you say, remembering yourself. She’s scarred, but still not scary. “My name’s ________.”

“Mine is Toriel. Welcome.” She brushes one of her ears back over her shoulder. “Papyrus, if you are here for Chara, they’re upstairs.”

“i won’t string you along then, majesty. we’ll let ourselves violin .”

Toriel rolls her eyes and waves the two of you in. “Asgore might have left some fresh vegetables and a pie in the kitchen, if you and Sans need any of it. Feel free to take some home.”

Stretch salutes to the queen before walking into the open front door.

“Should I close this?” you ask as you follow him through.

“nah, house is cooled by magic, mostly. not many monsters use much electricity as it is.”

You’re glad he understood what you were asking without explanation. These monsters here must have been topside for at least a few years, then. You try to remember if one of the monsters you’ve met in this swapped place have actually mentioned that, and can’t recall.

Inside, the music is muffled, but still present. Stretch walks up the stairs and takes them two at a time. You follow like a little lost puppy, which is probably a description that’s too close for comfort at this point.

“Chara?” Stretch says.

An open doorway to your left shows the various knick-knacks you’d expect in a teenager’s room. You can’t see much around the tall skeleton monster, but you do see the head of the monster ambassador over his shoulder.

“Paps! Hey!”

Chara runs out to the hall to greet Stretch before he enters the room, throwing their arms around his shoulders as high as they can reach. Since the top of their head comes to his shoulder, about as tall as you, actually, they can almost reach their hands around his neck. You remember that you borrowed their clothes and understand why they fit pretty well now. You wonder how old Chara is, since they seem younger than the Frisk you know.

“‘sup, kid? you sounded great outside, by the way.”

Backing up so Stretch can’t muss their hair up more, chunks already falling out of their ponytail as it is, Chara smirks up at their friend. There’s a moment where you’re standing there waiting to be introduced that the kid flips their head to get more hair out of their face. The moment ends when their eyes lock with yours.

Milky white and wide, you stare into eyes you assume can’t stare back. You’d assume that, at least, if they weren’t doing just that. It passes quickly, the pupils falling to a place somewhere just below your chin. Chara’s smirk widens further, and they clap their hands in excitement a couple of times, their pale cheeks tinting with a rush of blood that paints them pink easily.

“You finally brought her!” they say. “Why didn’t you call to tell me she was back?”

Chapter Text

“Woah, you told Chara about me? I thought we weren’t telling anyone! I asked you not to!”

You’re pretty miffed Stretch would mention you after you’d tried to press secrecy so heavily.

Stretch looks down at Chara, the lights in his eye sockets rolling, and voice both teasing and exasperated. “ya gotta stop doing that, kid. i never told you about _______.”

Waving a dismissive hand, Chara turns and goes back into their room. Little clues to their blindness appear as you follow them inside: a cane folded inside of a backpack, very few posters on the walls...at least you assume they’re clues.

You honestly have never spent much time around someone who is blind. Deaf? Yes, though that’s your uncle and he lives out of state, and the only times you really see him is on holidays. You decide to follow Stretch’s lead to avoid an etiquette faux pas. You’re still confused about what’s going on, though, so that’s only in the back of your mind.

The thing you want to know and want to know now is why Chara is acting like they know about you.

“Sit there,” they command, pointing at a desk chair off to the side. Stretch already sunk into one of the beanbags by the window so you assume the chair is for you.

“You know you don’t have to outright tell me anything, dude,” Chara says. “I see all !”

They dramatically flop on top of the skeleton. He’s prepared, though, using a touch of blue magic to make it so they don’t land too heavily on his bones. You imagine that might bruise both of them. Immediately the kid curls up next to him and he lets them, acting completely aloof of what’s happening, but by the way he rests his elbow on Chara’s shoulder you can tell the two are thick as thieves and he has a great deal of affection for them.

Their milky-white eyes meet yours again as you watch them interact. “So, you’ve met our friend Catalyst, then?”

“Uh, yeah, but I wouldn’t say he’s a friend,” you say bitterly.

Chara giggles, and sits up straighter next to Stretch. “He’s a bit of a twat, honestly.”

“don’t let gorey hear you talk like that.”

Making a face at Stretch, Chara rolls their eyes. “What Dad doesn't know won’t hurt him. Anyway, I wanted you to know that someone else has some idea of what’s happening to you. Did Paps tell you who I am or anything?”

“Kind of. You freed the monsters, but where I’m from, that was Frisk.”

“Yikes,” Chara says with a shudder. “I figured there had to be at least one universe where they were good, so that’s a relief, but still. Yikes. So, yeah, I helped free the monsters here and lost my eyesight doing it. That was all Catalyst’s fault, though, so if you ever want to organize a beat down, gimme a call.”

You laugh at their tone because it surprises you. It’s obvious they’re trying to be funny and make light of what happened to them, but it’s hard to miss how serious they are.

“I have to admit that if this was my first time here, I would probably call this crazy. You, I mean, knowing what’s going on without being told.” You pause and crack your knuckles. Stretch winces at the sound but doesn’t comment. “But after everything I really want to believe you.”

Chara plays with the hem of their sweater for a moment as you talk, and stands up to grab their violin again when you finish. “Good, because I think you can help me as much as I can help you.”

“How?”

“What, are you surprised? I told you I have beef with Catalyst, too. He claims I didn’t do what he told me to, so he took my sight away. It’s not like in the comic books where you get superpowers after a villain takes something away from you. It’s just bullshit.”

The room falls quiet as Chara’s bitter speech ends. A few notes dance out of the instrument as they play with a mixture of hand and bow positions. You watch them as they feel out where they want to start, eventually landing on a quiet tune that’s soft, mournful, and reminds you of a place you think you’ve only seen in dreams.

Watching the way this kid, this teenager, moves and how they speak, it sends chills up and down your spine. The setting is different of course - you didn’t grow up in a white picket fence paradise like this - quite the opposite before moving into your uncle’s house - but something about Chara reminds you of yourself. Young. Bitter. Surrounded by chosen family who loves them, but underneath it, an anger you relate to very well.

A tattoo here. A piercing there. Drinking so much you landed yourself in the hospital once before your aunt got custody of you. You didn’t make life easy on yourself after your dad died when you were fifteen. Mom...well, she wasn’t a good influence, either. You wonder when she’ll send another email from prison.

Yeah. This attitude is something you are familiar with and can work with.

“You’re right, it is bullshit. It’s not the same comparison but I know what it’s like to feel a loss you have no control over.”

Chara’s fingers stop playing, and the abrupt stop in music makes the silence heavy. They stay facing the open window, sun shining onto their face, their eyes closed.

“Who did you lose?”

“My parents.”

The kid doesn’t need to know how, because it's true. You lost them both permanently. An understanding passes between the two of you when they answer.

“Me, too,” Chara says. They take a deep breath and keep playing, a different tune this time. It’s a bit brighter than the last one. “I was pretty young but...yeah. Asgore and Toriel are my legal guardians now.”

“My uncle and aunt raised me with my cousins. They’re more like brothers to me.”

Chara just nods, their fingers moving over the instrument. The three of you enjoy the song without speaking. The sense of urgency you haven’t been able to shake for days now feels a lot less stressful right now. You don’t know if it’s the music or the company, but have a feeling it’s from both.

“I want you to try to trap Catalyst,” Chara says.

Your eyes pop open. You’d closed them to listen to the music. Chara’s blind gaze meets yours, and you wonder if they really lost all of their sight, but figure it’s rude to ask a question like that.

“How?” you ask.

“wait a minute-”

Chara interrupts Stretch before he can comment. “I don’t know. We have to work on that part. But I’d like to see - heh - I wanna know if he can give me my sight back.”

“now, hold on-”

Stretch is interrupted again. This time, it’s by a tall goat monster walking up to the open door to the room, slightly bending his head to look in. “Chara, I - oh, Papyrus! And I do not believe we have met before?”

You stand from the computer desk chair and hold out your hand. “Name’s ________, nice to meet you!”

“Pleasure! I am Asgore, Chara’s father. Are you a friend of Papyrus’s?”

“Something like that, yeah,” you answer.

The monster you know as the king looks at you shrewdly, then behind you where Stretch still is lounging in the bean bag, and back to you. A hint of color rises to your cheeks. You sputter a bit before speaking and throw a hand to your forehead with a loud smack.

“Oh, not like that! God, no!”

In the background Chara is giggling their ass off, their violin safely set on the bed behind them. Stretch chuckles at your expense. Standing slowly, he mocks you more as he says, “if i didn’t already know who you have the hots for, i’d be offended.”

You cross your arms over your chest and refuse to speak about it any more in front of a monster you aren’t sure whether to trust, fear, or seek help from. Who you are interested in has nothing to do with any of this!

Except, of course, it does. Kay’s words filter into your head with a mocking tone as you endure a few more bad fire puns from Stretch. Something in the way she’d said “ you’ll still be with her ” sends goosebumps up and down your arms.

If you understand it, including what you know about Souls…

“I made tea with pie for the three of us, but would be happy to make more to include the two of you.” Asgore’s voice is still filled with mirth from the teasing. It cuts through your fog easily.

You can’t ignore the way your stomach is churning though. You know exactly where you need to be right now. So, again, you speak up to answer before Stretch can.

“I appreciate the offer, Asgore, but I’ve got an appointment. Stretch was nice enough to offer to take me there since my car’s busted at the moment.”

Stretch is smart enough not to make a comment. Yet.

As you say your goodbyes and exchange phone numbers in your notepad with Chara. Before leaving the room though you remember to ask, “Hey, have you met anyone like me before?”

Chara stares in your direction for a moment with a pondering look. “No. If you’re asking if your mirror is here, I don’t think I have. And being ambassador for monsterkind, I’ve met a lot of people.

It’s the answer you expected but you’re not sure how you feel about it. You say your goodbyes then you and Stretch walk back down the stairs and out of the house past Toriel, who waves from her place in the flowerbed.

“do you actually have a plan or did you just need to talk about something away from asgore?”

There’s a lit cigarette between his teeth the moment you’re past the gate around the property. Your fingers itch to take one, but you know that’s a bad idea. You quit years ago and never want to start again. It’s not a healthy vice.

Instead, you take out your notebook, motion for him to stop in that secluded spot where no one can see you, and start taking notes.

“Your puns are awful but they reminded me what I wanted to tell you,” you say. You stop after a second of writing and look up to stare at him. “Actually, how the fuck do you know I have a thing with Grillby?”

“i healed your hands at his restaurant,” he says, taking a long drag on his cigarette. “and when he spooked us i was still holdin’ on. made that kind of obvious, really.”

“I don’t get it, but okay? That sounds fake.”

Stretch laughs and smoke pours from his nasal cavity. “you’d be offended if i told you it was honestly a lucky guess.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” You throw your hands in the air, almost tossing the paper and pen still in your grip. “I am not that transparent! And your version of Grillby is completely weird! Nothing like my Grillby.”

With one lazy blink, Stretch finishes his cigarette, vanishing the butt into the void or who knows where before speaking.

“keep telling yourself that, friend. you might even start to believe it.” You start to protest, but he gets back at you for interrupting so much before by saying, “c’mon. let’s go to muffet’s first.”

The shortcuts with Stretch are easier. At first you’re not sure why. But, as your feet land gently on some scrubby grass near a line of shops, you think of some theories.

First off, he looks nothing like the Sans you know. His height makes it easier to feel steady on him when you arrive. It makes you feel bad for how you reacted to the Sans you know offering to teleport you inside of Grillby’s restaurant, but you think he understands. Something about the way he acted tells you he does. There’s nothing to do to take that back now anyway.

You remember that, after you mentioned the Grillby he knows acts a lot like the Muffet you’ve met once or twice, that those two seemed to be the ones who swapped. So far, the switches make sense. Chara and Frisk, Sans and Papyrus, Toriel and Asgore. Now there’s Grillby and Muffet. You don’t know if they share some kind of history since the others do, now that you think about it. A jealous voice in you rejects that idea immediately.

Grasping onto any little thing that makes sense is all you’re trying to do at this point.

“grillby’s will still be packed with the lunch rush,” stretch says as he extinguishes another cigarette. You didn’t even notice him light up in the first place, too much going on in your head.

“What does that have to do with anything?” you ask him.

He looks over his shoulder at you as he guides you to the front of the restaurant. “you’ll see.”

Chapter Text

The door creaks a little before a bell chimes above your heads. It still bothers you how some of the monster shops in some of these worlds feel segregated from humans, but that is not the case here. It’s not busy or anything. Only a few tables are full of customers. What you’re happy to see are groups of monsters and humans eating together. One booth looks like it’s a family, the children a visual mixture of their human and monster parents.

Behind the bar, instead of your favorite fire elemental, is Muffet. You’re instantly impressed by the way she’s managing the area behind the breakfast bar. There’s a short-order cook station in the back that she’s facing. All six hands busy with something.

It’s so impressive to watch her that you don’t notice the person sitting in a corner of the restaurant, a huge booth to himself as he pours over notes and a sleek laptop.

Grillby is dressed just as loudly as you remember. His neon-orange flames tinge with a spark of green here and there to match. His legs are pulled up and crossed on the bench. But for how loud he looks, he’s focused and quiet, speaking to no one.

You force yourself to stop staring and take a seat next to Stretch at the bar. A few people are at the bar with you but don’t do more than wave at Stretch.

“Hello, Stretch. The usual for you, my dear?” Muffet says.

Her eyes blink out of sync and goosebumps flare up on your arms at the sight. You don’t know if you’ll ever get used to that. And you still don’t know what eyes to focus on so you stick to the bottom two.

“yes, and coffee for this one for sure,” Stretch says.

Without a word she puts two plain mugs in front of the two of you, a third hand pouring hot coffee into them.

“Thanks,” you say.

Muffet smiles at you as she takes plates full of breakfast food to one of the tables nearby. She’s a hell of a lot quieter and less unsettling than the one you know. Without the lolita style clothes and dark atmosphere of her bake shop, this Muffet looks more reserved. The clothes are a huge difference: black slacks and grey fitted button up, combined with a dark purple tie almost long enough to tuck into her pants. It all suits her, in your opinion.

“ya gotta stop staring,” Stretch mutters to you.

“Huh?” You blink and look back at him. He’s putting honey into his coffee. “Gross, dude.”

Stretch raises a brow bone at you, squeezes a little more honey into it, then sets it down. “dunno, i think it’s pretty sweet .”

“And that pun was really cheap.”

“can’t win them all. seriously, stop staring. you’re going to freak people out.”

“I’m not-”

Stretch silences you with a look.

“Ugh, fine.” You fix your coffee how you prefer, rejecting Stretch’s offer of the honey container. The entire time, your eyes keep flicking over to Grillby. “So he hangs out here when his place is busy?”

“he does his paperwork here when he can’t concentrate there, yeah,” Stretch explains.

“Seems a little asshole-ish to leave his employees alone when it’s busy, though,” you say, then take a sip of coffee.

Muffet returns to her stovetop and crumples a few of the order papers hanging in front of her. She obviously overheard your hushed conversation, since she adds, “His employees can handle it, dearie. Most of them are spiders.”

“they certainly have enough hands on deck, then,” Stretch says with a shit-eating grin.

You shove Stretch with your shoulder for the pun, and Muffet rolls all five eyes at once.

“Really?” you ask, “I thought they would work for you.”

“There isn’t enough to do here for all of them,” she says, flipping a pancake with easy as another hand cracks an egg, “but some work here, too. Mostly in the back. Everything is homemade from scratch because of them.”

You narrow your eyes, your fingertips drumming against the counter. “Monsterphobia?”

Muffet giggles and almost burns a pancake in her distraction. “Oh, no, just arachnophobia. It’s taken adjustments since coming to the surface but we understand that some humans associate us with actual spiders. We haven’t had a problem with monsterphobes around here in some time.”

She looks at you curiously for a moment before turning away again. Two plates with a delicious mix of breakfast foods are passed in front of you by two of her six hands. You’re thanking her for your silverware when someone sits down right next to you, making you jump and the silverware to fall and clatter on the plate.

“It’s rude to speak about someone when they’re in the room, lovelies!” Grillby says to announce his presence.

He leans an elbow on the bar next to you and rests his head in his hand. At this proximity, you can tell the lenses in his glasses aren’t a smooth surface, but a fractured pattern that looks like the eye of a fly. Your breath is caught in your throat at how suddenly he landed next to you. It takes some effort but you recover quick enough for a comeback. Living with your aunt forced you to have a quick wit.

“You’re a little delayed on that,” you say. Your hands are shaking when you pick your fork up again to spear a piece of fruit. “We stopped talking about you a while ago, but it’s nice you think so highly of yourself.”

Grillby’s eyes dance behind those patterned frames, his too-wide mouth almost splitting his head with a grin. “That you find me important enough to whisper about? Of course.”

You almost choke on your food at the pur in his voice.

“waddaya want, grillby?” Stretch asks.

The words are said calmly enough, but you’ve heard Sans use that tone of voice when people try to hit on Frisk when your group goes out, and you know the threat hidden in the tone.

“I see you’re still hanging around this skeleton,” Grillby says, ignoring Stretch completely. “But I assure you, there are more pleasant ways to spend your time.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” you ask.

Stretch might be trying to play it safe, but you don’t like this fire elemental’s tone one bit . Maybe Grillby thinks this is funny but you’re feeling particularly fighty today. The sting of being pulled away from one of the most important conversations of your life still burns in your soul.

Grillby looks taken aback for a second, leaning away from you. He recovers quickly. “Why, I meant nothing, ah, untoward about your relationship-”

“We don’t have one,” you hiss.

“-but your spark is difficult to ignore, even compared to what I myself provide. It would be wasteful not to acknowledge that.”

You grind your teeth together, gripping the countertop until your knuckles are white.

“How dare you, you-” What you called him made the mother at the table with children gasp and reach over with her vines to cover their ears. “You are the rudest person I have ever met. How you can share his soul, I don’t understand!”

Angrily, you shove your chair back so you can reach into your bag, take out a small wad of money to throw on the table to cover your bit, and turn towards the door.

After the dimmed atmosphere inside of Muffet’s, which reminded you painfully of the Grillby’s you know, the sunlight is very intense. It’s absolutely summer here. The clothes that were perfect for spring air at home are almost too much here. You stalk off away from the building in the first direction your feet decide to take you.

How fucking dare he suggest shit like that? It doesn’t feel like he could possibly be anything like the Grillby you - well, it’s a bit soon to admit you have any feelings more than intense attraction towards him, right? All of this is happening so fast you don’t feel like you have time to sort out your feelings.

So you decide to make time.

You have no idea where Muffet’s is in Ebbot and the territory is an unsettling combination of familiar and not. But, like a compass needle pointing north, no matter where you are in the city you can see the mountain. It’s a long branch of the Rocky Mountains, truthfully, but one mountain stands taller than all the others in this region. So, you decide to head that way.

The way Kay spoke of the two of you, you and Grillby that is, is hard to ignore. She was implying that because of the barrier, and some bet a goddess made, yours or Grillby’s souls were forced to not do some sort of natural cycle. You’d never really thought much about what happened after death or what happened to human souls. The train of thought makes you shiver and get goosebumps. You don’t want to make assumptions without being able to ask questions to Kay, Sans, Grillby, anyone that might actually have answers instead of speculation.

You’re sure you have blisters on your ankles and toes by the time you get close to a road that shows a sign to the entrance of Ebbot National Park. The logo here is the same as the one back home, strangely. There’s an arrowhead shape with a silhouette of the mountain in the center, the sun just starting to rise in the background. That image is something you associate with your dad. All of his ranger clothes carried the exact symbol somewhere on them.

You remember joking about how he should just get it tattooed on his shoulder where it’s sewn onto his shirt. He’d actually gone and done it, the goober.

Standing at the base of the mountain, sitting in the shade of a tree to stop the feeling of an impending sunburn, you draw your legs to your chest and lay down on the cool grass. There are a few homes and businesses in your sight, but most of them taper off this high up. You must have been walking for at least an hour or more, based on how much the shadows have changed. Honestly, you’re surprised Stretch hasn’t tried to come find you yet.

Wait. Why would he? You’d disappeared a couple times before now, so why would this be any different?

You completely forgot to try to sort out your feelings for Grillby in the midst of your stress.

You fall asleep beneath the tree, clutching your bag to your chest like a lifeline.

Chapter Text

“Man, why am I finding you outside of the studio like this again?”

“H-huh?”

A strong pair of arms covered in smooth scales picks you up. Your eyes blink rapidly to try and focus on the monster holding you. Of course, it’s Undyne again, lifting you as easily as if you were a ragdoll.

“Hi, ‘Dyne,” you say weakly.

You’re actually really glad to see her. You have nothing but good or helpful experiences to go on, after all.

Undyne sets you down on your feet. She makes sure you’re standing on your own okay before letting go. There’s a set of headlights framing her so you’re having a hard time seeing her face. The long dragon tattoo is easy to see, though, sparkling against her deep blue scale-skin. That’s your cue to know you’re back in the place where monsters dance more than you’ve ever seen monsters dance before.

You think you hear another familiar voice but she talks again before you can decide who it sounds like.

“Woah, WOAH, why is your soul out?”

You slap your hand up towards your chest on instinct.

She’s right, of course. Your orange-yellow soul illuminates your chest as if you had a flashlight shoved in your shirt. Sparks and streaks of red trace patterns over the surface of it, ribbons of color visible in a prism-like effect.

The irony that your soul looks like an ember isn’t lost on you.

It takes a bit of effort but you concentrate enough to put it back inside of you. No, you’re not fond of magic when it’s done to you involuntarily - seriously, you want to consent to everything done to you, what’s the problem with that? - but you know enough about your own soul to do that. A monster still needs to draw it out for you, so you have no idea why it was sitting there under your shirt like a light-up necklace.

“Shit, I don’t know,” you say.

Your tone is so full of worry and confusion that Undyne believes you. Besides, it’s hard for a human to lie when their soul is that vulnerable.

“C’mon, tell us why you’re here - again - in the car. I’ll take you home.”

“Can you just take me to Grillby’s, please?”

Undyne was walking away from you, but your blurted request prompts her to turn around and stare at you for a moment. “Uh, sure? We’re actually heading there ourselves.”

You release the breath you were holding. It’s not like you to let your tongue run away from you like that, and you have no idea where the urge came from. Well, you do, but you still haven’t taken time to sort out your feelings for Grillby and what they mean. Or, how they relate to what could be happening to you.

You just have a hunch it will be easier to think about it in a somewhat familiar place.

“Are you cold? You’re not wearing your coat.” Looking over at Undyne, you notice she isn’t either and make a comment on it. “Fuh-huh, I’m okay for now. Training has my blood boiling so I need to cool down!”

To demonstrate just how boiling her blood is, she bends over and poses in an intimidating flex. Her smile is sharklike again and she’s giggling through her teeth.

“Fair enough,” you say, climbing into the back of the Jeep. The passenger seat is already filled with an enthusiastic Papyrus. “Um, are we meeting everyone else there?”

“Yep! Haven’t you seen the posters around town? They’re all performing tonight!”

“I don’t pay attention to flyers,” you say as an excuse. “Are you guys doing that dance stuff I watched you do before?”

Papyrus turns a bit to look at you with his signature grin. “NOT TODAY, THAT EXHIBIT IS NEXT MONTH ON THE SOLSTICE!”

“If she doesn’t know, let’s make it a SURPRISE, Pap!”

You can feel your stomach drop. Your voice is strained as you ask, “A surprise?”

“THAT IS A WONDERFUL IDEA, UNDYNE! SHE IS EVEN DRESSED CORRECTLY FOR THIS ADVENTURE. SO MUCH FORETHOUGHT FOR SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHAT’S COMING!”

Holy shit, your clothes are a bit different than what Frisk dressed you in before. Mostly it’s your jacket. It’s laying across your lap and you move to slip your arms through the sleeves. Where did you get this beautiful leather jacket? When? How? It looks great over your shirt and jeans but you can’t believe you didn’t notice it before.

As Undyne hits a bump in the road, you take a deep breath and inhale a scent of smoke. You can’t decide if that’s woodsmoke or one of Stretch’s “special” monster cigarettes, but it’s definitely some kind of smokey scent.

With one hand firmly gripping the handle above your head, you watch the dark countryside fly by as Undyne drives you to Grillby’s. You figure wherever Papyrus is, Sans won’t be far away, and that’s who you feel compelled to find right now. Going to Grillby’s is just a happy bonus. Your soul is thumping wildly in your chest at just the thought of seeing him again, wondering what this one is like since you feel like you’ve spent the least amount of time with him so far.

After your last experience with one of his doppelgangers, you’re hoping this one is more like the one you know. It certainly helps he still looks a lot like him.

Resigned to your fate of whatever surprise is in store, you look out the window and try to hide your blushing cheeks.

The two in the front of the vehicle got suspiciously quiet, but you didn’t notice, too focused on trying to remember what all you know of this universe. And trying not to think too much on how excited you are to see Grillby even if he isn’t the one you’ve known for years.

“So what have you been up to the last few weeks, PUNK?”

Woah, it’s been two weeks? You drag your notebook out of your bag as you answer with the first thing that comes to mind. “I was out of town working.”

“MECHANICS GO OUT OF TOWN FOR WORK?”

“Uh, well, no,” you say. You wince and you’re glad it’s dark enough in the back of the car that the two in front can’t see it. “I work, uh, freelance sometimes. It’s top secret though.”

Probably your lamest save but you can’t be expected to think on your feet all the time. You’re getting better at it, of course, with all the shit going on. But perfection isn’t something you’d use to describe yourself.

“TOP SECRET? SOUNDS LIKE THE KIND OF WORK ALPHYS AND METTATON DO, RIGHT, UNDYNE!”

One yellow eye looks at you closely in the rearview mirror. It takes a beat of silence before she answers her friend. “Could be, Paps!”

“WE’RE HERE!” Papyrus shouts the next instant.

The parking lot is insanely full of cars, very different than the last time you were here. There are even vehicles pulled up onto the grass in the back of the restaurant. Undyne pulls around to park in one of those spots. She and Papyrus are out their doors before you have your seatbelt off.

“Hurry up! Can’t be late, we still need to get our goodie bags and the BEST seats!”

“UNDYNE, WE HAVE ASSIGNED SEAT TICKETS!”

Papyrus brandishes a small handful of tickets he pulled out of his battle body...from somewhere. It’s impossible to tell what the tickets say. The yellow-orange light of the streetlamps isn’t strong enough for you to read them.

“WHATEVER! I promised Alphy we’d be right at the front so let’s go !”

You’re lucky you’re pretty strong from your job as a mechanic because when Undyne and then Papyrus grab your arms to basically drag you towards the line at the front of the restaurant, if you were any weaker, both arms would have popped out of their sockets.

“Oh, no…” you whisper to yourself.

There’s an enormous banner above the front door as you round the corner. You stare at it as you’re bodily moved to the front of the line so Papyrus could hand over the pre-ordered tickets.

ONE NIGHT ONLY; THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW!

Chapter Text

“Here’s your bag of interactive goodies. Watch the Transylvanians onstage for the cues on when to use the stuff.”

Undyne interrupts the greeter enthusiastically, nabbing her own goodie bag off the folding table. “We’ll make sure she doesn’t fuck up!”

“UNDYNE!”

“Sorry, Paps, I meant mess up!”

“BETTER!”

The monster explaining what to do doesn't seem fazed by their behavior. They just roll their eyes and shoo them along so they can keep handing out the brown paper bags with a random collection of things. Toilet paper...a single slice of toast...at least the habits for a live performance of Rocky Horror seem the same here.

“I’ve done this before,” you say as the three of you make room off to the side. “So long as the rules are the same I should be able to follow along!”

“REALLY? THAT IS EXCITING! AND THIS WAY YOU WILL NOT MESS UP”

“YEAH! This is going to be the BEST you’ve ever seen! Alphys is in it so of COURSE it’s going to be better!”

You smile at Undyne’s enthusiasm for her girlfriend. “You know what, I bet it will be!”

You’ve gone to a couple shadowcast performances in your life of the movie. One time your crush was playing the roll of Frank N Furter, rocking the enormous heels flawlessly, which did not help your crush one bit. You blush furiously at the memory of just what happened later that night when you finally told them you were interested. Definitely one of your weirder experiences. You had glitter and black wig hair in weird places for days after that.

A traitorous part of you wishes that would happen again, but with Grillby instead of someone you don’t even talk to anymore.

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT, HUMAN? WE NEED TO TAKE OUR SEATS!”

Papyrus’s voice snaps you out of your indecent thoughts. “I’m right behind you, Paps!”

You really need to get that under control. Especially since that odd confrontation with the Grillby you know at his restaurant with Kay...you don’t understand why but it’s getting harder and harder to not think about him that way.

It’s not like you’d never considered the idea before. Frisk got it out of you one night during a small truth or dare game with her, Undyne, and Alphys. Admitting you had what was probably more than just a crush on one of your best friends is ranked in the top five of your most embarrassing moments of your life. In the end, though, you’re glad you said something.

You still swore them all to secrecy. You wanted to figure out how to approach him on your own terms. Undyne and Alphys were the hardest to convince not to meddle; you had to promise them details once anything happened. They still threatened to write a manga about it and you remember tackling Undyne and tickling her until she promised they wouldn’t.

Following the two tall monsters into the transformed restaurant, you inspect the room around you. You remember how open the space here was before so the employees could skate around and the room. The front of the house was used to make a modest sized stage at one end with enough room for chairs and tables. A dinner theater? You’ve never been to something like this that you remember.

“How long until the show starts?” you ask.

“We have like fifteen minutes, why?” Undyne says.

“I need to go to the bathroom real quick,” you explain. “Save me a seat?”

“OF COURSE WE WILL, WHAT KIND OF FRIENDS DO YOU THINK WE ARE?” Papyrus says.

You smile at him and throw a light punch towards his upper arm before walking away.

There is a short line at the restrooms when you get there, but they’re people who you don’t recognize so you can just politely get in line without making conversation.  You’re still trying to wake up from your impromptu nap and dimension shift. You think Catalyst got off easy this time, moving you when you were asleep, but the mystery remains of why your soul was out.

It’s not the time or place to practice, but you don’t think you can take it out yourself, no matter how many times Frisk or Toriel tried to show you back home. It only ever surfaced with the help of a mage or monster.

You swear, if this makes you get some creepy super powers like in a comic book, you’re going to be even more pissed. Your life is complicated enough.

Unless the power was like super strength or something...that would make working in the shop a lot easier.

Regardless, it’s your turn to use the restroom, so you quickly do your business and get back out to take your seat near Papyrus and Undyne. The restaurant is packed to the brim, every table full of spectators looking at the drop screen and stage expectantly. In the quiet and relatively low light, you carefully unfold the program in front of you so you can flip through it while you wait for the show to start. One of the first few pages includes the cast list.

It seems each place has the same names for the monsters, more or less, even if their personalities and appearances vary from who you know. So, when you see Mettaton’s name listed near the top as playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, you’re hardly surprised. Brad and Janet are being played by two names you don’t recognize.

Before you can read further the house lights dim completely and the first notes of the opening song start to play. Everyone is shouting the audience participation lines with giggles and laughter scattered around the room. It helps you forget how upsetting your last visit to the swapped world was, and you decide to try to enjoy yourself while you can, at least until you get a chance to talk to the Grillby that belongs here.

You’re ready to start to dig for some answers behind what your aunt was talking about before. Your mind wanders a little since you know this movie backward and forward anyway.

What was the name Kay mentioned when you got to Grillby’s with Undyne and Frisk? Eris? You wish you could take out your phone discreetly to try to connect to some kind of internet and research that. Instead, you quietly take out your notepad and pen to write the name down. At least, you’re pretty sure it’s a name. Maybe this Grillby or Sans will recognize it?

Speaking of Sans, he and Frisk look hysterical as Riff-Raff and Columbia in the wedding scene. The two people whose names you didn’t recognize from the program playing Brad and Janet look too human to be purely monsters.

Wait...except for the glasses he’s wearing, Brad is that waiter you saw the last time you were here. Looks like a pretty diverse cast.

You notice Papyrus looking over at you, a hopeful expression on his face. You slip your notebook back in your bag and give him two thumbs up to let him know you’re having fun. He returns the thumbs up and snaps his head back towards the stage. His eye sockets focus right on Mettaton’s spot even though he’s not in his full Frank N Furter get up yet. Seems even this skeleton is infatuated with the robot.

It gets easier to get into the play the longer you watch the shadow cast perform in front of the projector. They’re doing a fantastic job, one of the best performances you’ve ever seen of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, actually. It’s one of those quirky things Ebbot has always had every Halloween so you’ve seen your fair share.

You’re enjoying it so much you’re up and doing the Time Warp with everyone else. This makes it easy to forget how much crazy shit has been going on, and even the confusing way your feelings towards Grillby were thrown out into the open. You join in with Undyne by whistling with your fingers in your mouth as Mettaton makes his grand entrance, ridiculously high heels and all. Papyrus blushes an intense orange at the sight of the robot busting it out to Sweet Transvestite .

You’re so entranced, in fact, that you nearly spit out your water when you see Grillby make his entrance.

Stars above. It is not fair how good he looks in those...tiny...gold...shorts.

“Rocky!” Mettaton’s voice overlaps with Tim Curry’s as the nearly-naked monster emerges.

“Oh, fuck,” you choke out.

Undyne definitely noticed that. Her single visible eye is trained on you and is narrowing quickly. At first you freeze and swallow - she looks terrifying in the half light - but you see a look you recognize very well.

Triumph.

Her lips curl into a wicked smile, and she turns back around. You groan in defeat to yourself, sliding down in your chair and putting your hands over your cheeks, the blush making them very warm.

It seems no matter what universe it is, you’ve got it bad for the fire monster.

Chapter Text

By the time Grillby’s moment arrives to have a very, uh, intimate scene with the monster playing Janet, you are a sweaty mess.

The actors and actresses on stage have already shown how well they dance with original renditions of songs you know by heart based on their dance skills. Mettaton used a pole made from his own metallic chassis to dance an impressive version of I’ll Make You a Man including a (mostly clothed) striptease. That told you all you needed to know of why Toriel and Asgore weren’t present for this particular performance.  If you weren’t imagining it, the robot was keeping his gaze on Papyrus in the crowd whenever he could, breaking the fourth wall in favor of a monster he obviously has his eye on. During the Time Warp , Frisk and Sans used ballet and hip-hop respectively to add their own twists to the instructional dance.

You’re nervous - no, that’s a lie - you’re anxious to see what Grillby will do with Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me .

The last time you were here you’d agreed to dance with him in some performance and still had no idea what kind of dance this monster’s soul demanded. It sounds like that wouldn’t be for a while yet, depending on how far away the solstice is.

So, when the monster pulled the actress close to him during their scene, you expected a tango or salsa or some other fiery dance. That would make sense, right? Literal fire doing a fiery dance? But Grillby had another thing in store for the audience.

Even in her slightly skimpy slip and bra set, the actress found herself flipped and twirled and dipped in one of the best swing dances you’d ever seen. The way he moved fluidly across the stage made the temperature in your cheeks rise even more.

As you watch you really envy the woman playing Janet...

Your Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben both had a soft spot for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies and would commonly have them on in the background while the family went about it’s business. You recognized some of the moves in front of you from watching those films. Grillby’s feet moved as lightly as Astaire’s did across the small raised platform, the gold slippered shoes on his feet moving with precision as he led his partner around, both lip-syncing along to their characters on the screen behind them. The whole dance set was used in replacement to the obvious sex scene going on behind them, Janet getting passed around to the other characters to be dipped or twirled, but you admit privately to yourself that you find the dancing far more erotic.

The rest of the performance passes in a blur as your cheeks stay at a warm temperature. Your eye always finds Grillby when he’s onstage. Before you know it you’re standing with everyone else at the end to give a standing ovation.

There wasn’t much of a backstage besides the characters going to a curtained off area to change costumes, so it doesn’t take long for the whole cast and crew to get onstage to do their final bows. Papyrus wastes no time as Mettaton walks off to cheering to approach the robot and give him a huge hug and kiss on the cheek in congratulations. The robot blushes in happy embarrassment, and you wish you had a camera to catch the absolutely adorable moment.

As crowded as the restaurant is, you’re not surprised you lost Undyne in the commotion, too. You spot her by Alphys giving her similar congratulations as the short yellow monster gets up from her wheelchair prop. But, it doesn’t take long for Frisk to find you.

When you turn around from someone tapping gently on your shoulder, you try not to freak out and freeze up. There’s no staticy blue magic though so you start to breathe easier looking at a slightly familiar face.

“Hey, Frisk,” you say, giving her a genuine smile.

“Hey there,” she says. Her voice is quiet. She lifts a hand to brush her hair out of her eyes, the sticky temporary hair color spray making the short strands stick out at odd angles. “Thanks for coming tonight!”

“I had no idea you guys were doing this, but I ran into Undyne and Papyrus before the show started and they insisted. You guys did great!”

You’re finding it really easy to lie lately, with everything you’ve been through. It’s a habit you fell out of after your teen years of acting out. You made some bad decisions after losing your father to cancer and your mother to her own foolish decisions, and only after you started living with Kay and Ben did you stop stacking lie over lie over lie.

It’s not a comfortable feeling.

“Thank you,” she says. “How have you been?”

The way she asks makes goosebumps rise along your arms. Her mouth is quirked in a kind smile, the red lipstick slightly smudged from the last bit of the performance, but her eyes are drilling into you. And there it is - they flicked down to your chest for a moment to check your soul.

You don’t understand how you know, but you know that this Frisk has cottoned on to whatever’s happening. So much for paradoxes. The world doesn’t seem to be folding in on itself, and nothing’s on fire - except your cheeks still, damn them - but you decide sharing your secret is probably better than keeping it.

“I’ve...well, I’ve been traveling a lot unexpectedly and I’m pretty exhausted from it to tell you the truth.”

“Did you find a safe place to stay while you’re here, yet?” Frisk glances around her to see if anyone is listening.

Yep, definite confirmation she knows what’s up. “No. And whenever I show up I’m in the parking lot or the yard of the dance studio.”

“Yeah, I know. C’mon, follow me. Stick close.”

A breath you didn’t realize you were holding leaves you in a sigh. Before she guides you close to the others, you ask, “Do you guys have greek gods in this universe?”

She gives you a funny look with her head tilted to the side. “Like Greek mythology? Yeah, why?”

That answer tells you all you need to know. She obviously can tell you are from another place, though you don’t know why. But it seems greek gods are just as much a myth here as you thought they were before.

“Just a metaphor, but I can’t think of it right now,” you say to cover up your question. “And I’m the only one of me you’ve ever met, right? I don’t have some twin running around Mt. Ebott?”

“Not that I know of but the town has like fifty thousand people in it. I can ask Toriel if you want, she practically knows everyone.”

You nod and resign yourself to getting pulled through the crowd. With Frisk’s hand in yours she leads you past the crowd of monsters, humans, and a mixture of all types to make it towards the cast members. To your surprise, Sans’s face lights up when he sees you.

“That wig is awful,” you say as soon as you get close enough for him to hear you.

He pats the raggedy blonde wig he used to play Riff Raff and keeps smiling. “thanks, buddy.”

“She just arrived a little while ago I think,” Frisk says. “Dyne and Paps found her.”

“that so? well...the rest of ‘em want to have a cast party at ours after people clear out. you’re welcome to join us.”

You’re actually very surprised by how Sans is acting right now. Even the good mood he seems to be in shouldn’t make him that ready to welcome you into his home. You sure have tried to be trustworthy and unassuming when you’ve gone through the portals, trying not to stir too much trouble up unless it comes knocking on your door, but it’s still odd.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” you blurt.

“Obviously you’re important or you wouldn’t be here.” Frisk is matter of fact, catching your gaze and staring at you for a moment.

Your fingers twiddle with the hem of your shirt. “I don’t know that I believe that.”

All Frisk does in reply is roll her eyes and smile. Another person comes up to tell the cast how much they enjoyed the show. The crowd is starting to thin as the audience trickles out, buying up the last of the concessions and walking out the door. As the people start to disperse, it’s much easier to notice that Grillby is nowhere in sight.

A look over your shoulder confirms he’s behind you. He isn’t facing you, though, he’s preoccupied by a conversation. The butterflies in your stomach go in a frenzy at the sight of him. He’s not so scantily dressed anymore, which you don’t blame him for. He has a light robe that is long enough to reach the floor, covering most of him except for his sandaled feet and fiery head. With so many people around you’re not sure he could avoid people touching him in the cramped space.

The idea of other people touching him sends a flare of hot jealousy through you.

You’re still not sure about you belonging here, no matter what Frisk or Sans say, or even what Catalyst said before. What is there to fix here? You’ve been trying to figure that out. It can’t be that your soul is missing, can it? You need to ask Kay to be sure but you don’t feel special enough for that. This world has had monsters on the surface the longest and they seem to have decent lives so you don’t see anything obvious to fix. There are even a ton of monster-human people and if that doesn’t scream ‘cooperation’ to you, you don’t know what does.

You’d sure like to ‘cooperate’ with Grillby sometime.

You do your best to hide your blush from your lewd idea and stick close to Frisk, waiting for the moment you can go with everyone to the cast party.

Chapter Text

All in all, you barely got five hours in the world of dancing monsters before you were essentially kidnapped to the next dimension and back to the Underground.

There was no hint of the usual trickery or finesse when Catalyst pulls you through this time. You were helping pack up the stage and equipment as best you could without magic so you could get to the cast party faster. Sans had explained you’d arrived there on a Saturday night so no one was really in a hurry - the only person that might have had work the next day was Grillby but he was going to have the restaurant closed for the day. He also said it was still a few weeks before the performance they’d mentioned before so you still had a chance to dance with him. That had made you blush like a motherfucker, grab a box to take outside, and run away before the teasing could start.

Carrying a box of costumes out to Undyne’s Jeep, you had your first real moment alone in the universe since waking up there. You didn’t notice you were alone until you weren’t .

The fine hairs on your arm stand straight up from the spike in static electricity. The magic is silent, but unmistakable.

Catalyst is back.

“you’re not listening to me.”

It’s still incredibly hard to look at him, but you can still make out the shape of a black cloak and hood that cover him from head to toe. His skull is stark white inside of that hood, his eyelights bright white spots in each socket. The colors you remember from when you first saw him still dance at the edges of him but disappear when you try to focus on them.

“Kind of hard to listen to an annoying bastard taking you through time and space when he barely talks to you!” Your voice rises until you’re shouting at him.

You wonder if you can keep him talking long enough before he grabs you and takes you back to the Underground, a place you’re sure you should never return to after what that Grillby tried to do. You silently wish Sans or Frisk or maybe Undyne would come out of the restaurant right now to see what was going on. Maybe they could stop him or get some answers?

Panic bubbles up in your gut when the world around you starts to lose focus, but when you stop staring so hard at Catalyst Sans you realize you’re still firmly standing on the black asphalt behind the restaurant. It’s only your vision playing tricks because of him.

“you don’t need your ears for this, you idiot.”

“Not sure how up to date on human anatomy you are, you bastard, but humans use their ears to hear.”

Catalyst moves slightly so he’s leaning against Undyne’s Jeep. “are you really that stupid?”

“You know what, if you’d stop being cryptic, I’d be able to do whatever it is I need to that makes you stop this universe merry-go-round!”

“you’re making this no fun at all,” he says. That nearly makes you blow a gasket, and he continues. “there is a weak link in every one of the universes you’ve been to and, unfortunately, you’re the only one who can fix it.”

“Unfortunately?!” you splutter in anger.

The asshole has the nerve to pinch the bridge above his nasal cavity as if you’re the headache here. “zeus preserve me. she promised you’d figure it out by now.”

“Who? I learned some things from my aunt but guess what, you fucked that up. And you know what, maybe if you gave me some fucking CLUES or let me actually TALK to people for longer than a few minutes I could figure something out!”

You lunge for him to grab his cloak. It’s about time you beat the shit out of this smug son-of-a-bitch, after all.

The moment your hands hit him you feel like you’ve had a bucket of ice water dumped over you. In the flash of time it took for you to leap across to him, he’d opened a blue portal of magic behind him so the two of you tumbled through and into the snowy Underground.

You’re infuriated. How dare he! You pull your fist up above your head and start to curl down to punch him in his stupid cryptic face when the monster pinned under you shoves you away. The air rushes out of your lungs and you’re left on your side, gasping for air in the snow.

As you fight to get oxygen back into your lungs your eyes blink against the sting of icy snow that filled your eyelashes. The sound of running footsteps towards you makes it even harder to really catch your breath. You are too disoriented to see who’s coming. If it’s Grillby you don’t know what you’ll do. The feeling of his too-hot hands reaching for your soul is still engraved in your memory and makes fear rise in your chest.

Small hands, cold and not what you feared at all, touch your face and hold it. It’s too dark to see much but you can tell the face of a small person, likely a child, is looking at you.

They aren’t speaking but you can feel something flowing from them to you. Thoughts, feelings, you aren’t sure, but it’s a subtle form of communication that cuts easily through your panic.

Breathe slowly. Deeply.

“How are-” your coughing stops you from finishing your question. There are tears in your eyes mixing with melting snow. The child shakes their head slightly.

Not here. Come with me.

Their little hands help you to stand with a strength their small body hides. You decide to throw your lot in with them. There’s something strikingly familiar about them. Your brain won’t cooperate and put the pieces together right away but by the time you’ve walked behind two stone buildings, you realize the child holding your hand and guiding you is a much younger version of Frisk.

Yes, I’m Frisk.

“I-”

I know who you are . Frisk soft voice telepathically being transferred to you interrupts you gently. Sans and Papyrus will be able to help you. Undyne, too .

Panic spikes in you again at the mention of Sans, but not because of the thought of the edgy little boneboy you’ve teased since meeting him, because of when you last saw him. At Grillby’s. His threats didn’t bother you since you had no intentions of hurting monsters. What does he take you for, some kind of animal? Sure you’d love to give Catalyst a beat down but you know how dangerous it is for monsters for a human to attack them.

The source of your panic is Grillby and Grillby only.

Frisk can tell you’re starting to breathe harder and figures out the source of your distress immediately. They stop you and take both your hands with theirs. Their hands are so small they barely cover half of yours. It bothers you how cold they feel against your skin - shouldn’t they be wearing gloves?

Shh. He won’t be there. I know what he tried to do to you. Let’s get you inside and we can talk about it with the guys, okay?

Unable to speak, you nod, and continue to be led by the child through the blowing snow towards a house at the end of the row.

Chapter Text

Eat.

Frisk lifts their hands to offer you a small rabbit-shaped pastry. It smells heavenly, and you take what they offer without question. With one bite it starts to melt in your mouth with an almost cotton candy texture. Cinnamon sugar magically spun into a treat you recognize, you gobble it up immediately. A sigh of contentment leaves your lips and you sink further into the tiny couch.

The entire time you eat a pair of eye lights watches you like a hawk. Sans sits with his arms crossed over his chest, chewing on something between his fanged teeth that is quickly disintegrating. It looks like he’s destroying a cigar of some kind.

Do all the Sans smoke? Maybe the Frisk you know broke the one in your universe of the habit because you can’t remember a time you’d seen him smoke or smelled it on him.

You try to ignore his glare as you finish the last bits of the magical treat. It tastes heavenly and it makes you feel so good that you stick your thumb in your mouth to get the last of the sugar. Sans rolls his eyes when you do and pushes himself off his perch on a table nearby and trundles towards you with his hands in his pockets. His jacket looks a little better patched than what you remember.

“fucking done yet?”

Sans .

“sorry, kid. this one just makes my skin crawl .”

“Likewise,” you quip back, popping your thumb out of your mouth with a loud pop .

Frisk rolls their eyes and scoots closer to you on the couch so Sans has room to sit on her other side. You weren’t out there very long, were you?

“No, you found me just after I got here,” you say.

That’s good. It gets cold here at night.

You refrain from asking what the difference between night and day is in an Underground world, because you figure the answer would just be ‘magic’.

“boss won’t be happy yer here,” Sans complains.

Papyrus will understand. Maybe now his plan with Undyne will work!

Sans drags his hand over his face as Frisk bounces happily between you two. This kid is so cute. It makes it easy to see how they wiggled their way into the soul of the grouchy, prickly, asshole monster on the other end of the couch.

“the boss’s plan includes findin’ some hidden passageway he swears he saw months ago. said it smelled different, like the surface.” Sans puts his head in his hands. “he ain’t never seen the surface.”

Don’t discourage him . Frisk’s little arms cross in an imitation of what Sans was doing earlier. He tries his best!

Sans reaches over to ruffle the kid’s hair as he stands up. He starts to pace back and forth in front of the couch, his gaze checking out the front window every so often.

You’d never seen Sans and Papyrus’s house in the Underground before. The whole place was magically sealed once everyone was out of there. Something about the area being unstable without all that magic trapped inside, people were worried about cave-ins, or animals wandering in where they shouldn't. And of course there was the enormous hidden hole that Frisk fell into in the first place. The whole process was broadcasted live and you remember watching the stream on your phone.

That was the last time you were in the hospital, actually, recovering from another very stupid decision. From what you remember, that was the week Aunt Kay and Uncle Ben got custody of you from your mother, right before she went off and got drunk and drove for the last time.

You don’t notice you’re scowling until Frisk puts a hand on your cheek. The shock of their cold fingers snaps you out of that particular bad trip down memory lane.

Sans says it’s been a couple weeks since you’ve been down here. How did you get out?

“It’s not anything I’m doing,” you explain. “I’m getting taken different places at random times in some weird cycle. Time passes differently, too.”

Frisk is on their knees watching your lips move instead of meeting your eyes. You wonder if they’re hard of hearing, or maybe deaf? That might explain the mind communication. As you look at them, oversized sweater and messy dark hair, a thought strikes you.

“Wait, bonehead, didn’t you say there was another human that appeared in the Underground the same day I did?”

Sans stops pacing long enough to grind his teeth at you. “what about it?”

That was me! Frisk says excitedly. I’ve been here about a month I think. Sans and Papyrus have taken good care of me, but they won’t let me try to help the rest of the Underground.

Oh, that pout is dangerous. The way they look at Sans accusingly for a moment makes him cringe a tiny bit. Yep. They definitely have him around their little finger. But that only makes it clearer why he’s reluctant to let them leave.

“Frisk,” you start to say. You can feel Sans’s eyes on you as you look at the child. You try to pick your words carefully, but you don’t have much practice talking to kids this small. “That bonehead probably has a point. I mean, the last time I was here, Grillby tried to take my soul out without permission.”

Sans hisses through his teeth. “don’t talk about that shit in front’a the kid, will ya?”

You scowl at him. “Grow up, boney. Haven’t you told Frisk anything about how monsters work?”

“i’m not the kid’s parent, s’not my job to tell ‘em about the froggits and the whimsuns.” Sans’s entire skull is a bright cherry red.

What are you talking about? Frisk asks. It’s obvious that because the adults are trying to hide something that they are ten times more interested to know what’s going on.

“Frisk, all you need to know is that no one should look at or touch your soul without your permission.”

Oh, I knew that. You don’t have to use code words to make it weird.

Matter apparently settled, Frisk slides off the couch and runs up the staircase. They smile over their shoulder before disappearing into a room that looks like a bathroom.

“why d’ya always gotta make things more complicated?” Sans growls.

You roll your eyes. “It’s not like I’m coming back here for your devilishly good looks and gentlemanly charm, numbskull.”

“then why’re ya coming back at all?”

You take a deep breath and explain what you can in as few words as possible. “I’m still going round and round these different worlds like I mentioned before, but this time I have a bit more info. The monster doing this to me says something is wrong, there’s something I have to do to make him stop dragging me through all these places.”

“sure is somethin’ wrong down here,” Sans says. He’s back to sitting on the table with his arms crossed.

“If you say that I’m the thing that’s wrong-”

“no, dummy, the fuckin’ underground is fallin’ apart. literally.” Sans scratches the side of his skull and his eyes go out of focus as he talks. “a few weeks before the two’a ya decided to show up down here we were getting more cave ins n’shit. the kid says they know how to help but apparently that means fuckin’ suicide at the hands of the king to use their soul to break the barrier and i ain’t lettin’ ‘em do that stupid shit.”

“Holy shit.”

“now you get why i don’ want ‘em going off on some stupid adventure.”

By this time Frisk is back downstairs. Wiping their hands on the sweater to dry them, they decide to go up on the coffee table to sit next to Sans. They caught the end of the conversation judging by the look on their face. Snuggling into Sans’s side, they lean their head on the monster’s shoulder. As cute as it is you try not to laugh at the stricken look on Sans’s face. He looks torn between being a big, bad, edgelord and hugging the tiny human seeking comfort from him. He settles for patting Frisk on the back awkwardly and letting them cling. It’s like watching a baby hug a snarling guard dog with a spiked collar - which means it’s more adorable than it should be.

“boss’ll be comin’ home soon,” Sans says. “means we needa come up with an excuse for ya, why you showed up outta nowhere.”

“Boss?”

The Great and Terrible Papyrus, Frisk explains. He tried to capture me but he’s not that bad. We can tell him she’s my mom that came down here looking for me!

“Woah, I’m nobody’s mom,” you say, holding up your hands and shaking your head. “If we go that route the most I’m okay with is cousin or sister, okay? Or maybe your aunt?”

Frisk thinks on it a second and agrees. Okay. Aunt sounds good.

“Can he really not know what’s actually going on?” You direct your question towards Sans who is slowly letting Frisk climb into his lap. The kid looks exhausted and for the first time you really appreciate how small they are, how young, and they helped you trudge through a blizzard. Who knows how long they were out there before they found you?

“notta chance, buddy,” Sans says. “unless ya wanna forfeit your soul.”

“How does my soul have anything to do with this, or Frisk’s?”

It’s the only way to break the barrier, Frisk says sleepily. Their mind voice sound further away. If Sans would let me leave Snowdin -

“notta chance,” the monster repeats with a growl.

He lets Frisk tuck themselves up into Sans’s jacket and light snuffling snores start a minute later.

Chapter Text

Sans takes Frisk upstairs to bed with a blip through reality, leaving you alone in the living room for a few minutes. Your feet are pulled up onto the couch and tucked underneath you. It helped keep your legs warm as you thawed from the blizzard. Now, though, your feet are both asleep and the pins and needles are almost unbearable.

“Shit,” you mutter to yourself when you stand up.

You don’t move away from the couch, trying to clench and unclench your toes to help the blood get moving back to where it belongs. A dangerous curiosity is blooming in you as you wait for Sans to come back. What is Grillby’s deal, then? Why would this one have tried to grab your soul? Did it have anything to do with how you felt a gravitational pull towards your Grillby, even the one in the dance universe before you got dragged away again?

You’re not sure how to unpack that. Not only that, you don’t know how you feel about wanting to see him again. That feels like the last thing you should do.

Doesn’t stop you from feeling that way, though.

You tap your feet back and forth, the pins and needles feeling almost gone, when you see Sans standing on the small upstairs walkway with the lights out of his eye sockets and red sweat beading along his skull. He doesn’t seem to be looking at you so you look over your shoulder.

Standing in the doorway is by far the most badass looking Papyrus you’ve seen yet. If the monsters here are trying to be punk or emo or whatever they are, he has the look down to a science . Of course you can see where in true Papyrus fashion he’s gone above and beyond. Long black and red gloves cover his hands, which end in claws that look sharper than Sans’s. You’ve never seen more ostentatious shoulder wings in your life. Instead of blunt teeth in his skull they’re filed to points like the shorter brother’s are, too.

It’s intimidating...and awesome .

“SANS,” the monster at the door says, “WHAT IS THIS?”

Thinking fast, you remember what Frisk called him. Holding out one hand you take a small step forward and say, “You must be the Great and Terrible Papyrus. I’ve heard great...and terrible things about you.”

You can feel Sans holding his breath on the ledge above. Papyrus keeps his arms crossed and looks down at your hand without saying a word. You don’t lower it though. There is no doubt in your mind that you are very much in danger right now since there is no way he doesn’t know you’re a human. That means your soul is in danger.

Maybe you can win him over the same way you can with all the other Papyrus personalities - honest flattery.

“I AM AFRAID I AM AT A DISADVANTAGE,” Papyrus says. “YOU KNOW MY NAME BUT I DID NOT CATCH YOURS. OR THE REASON WHY YOU’RE IN MY HOUSE?”

I captured her!

Frisk’s voice is loud and sudden, breaking the tension in the room like a balloon popping. The kid rubs sleep from their eyes as they trundle down the steps from behind Sans and over to Papyrus. Lifting their arms towards him to ask to be picked up, the taller skeleton obligues. His eyes never leave you, though.

“YOU CAPTURED HER? A HUMAN? YOU SAID WE SHOULDN’T-”

This is different, Papy. That’s my sister. She came to take me but I captured her before she froze out in the snow.

“DEFEATING THE ELEMENTS! I AM TEACHING YOU WELL, SMALL CREATURE.”

The entire exchange is equal parts terrifying and adorable. You don’t dare giggle at them for fear that Papyrus would reach over and try to snatch your soul from your chest. You’ve had that happen to you more times in your life than you ever wanted in the first place.

Papyrus - Boss? - carries Frisk with him towards the staircase. “YOU WILL NEED TO TELL ME THE WHOLE STORY IN THE MORNING, SMALL CREATURE. IT IS PAST YOUR BEDTIME.”

But Papy-

“YOU DARE ARGUE AGAINST THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS?” The monster stops moving and scowls at Frisk’s pouting face. “I WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE IF YOU FALL ILL. YOU HAVE TRAINING AND THE LAST TIME YOU SPENT TIME OUT OF DOORS YOU WERE SICK. YOUR WEAK HUMAN BODY CANNOT TAKE THE COLD LIKE WE SUPERIOR MONSTERS.”

Frisk tries to argue further but a yawn interrupts whatever they were trying to say. You can hear a soft fine echo from upstairs before the taller monster takes the kid to bed. He’s not in there very long before stepping out again.

“SANS! YOU ARE NEEDED TO READ THE SMALL CREATURE THEIR BEDTIME STORY.”

“okay, boss.” Sans swallows and starts to walk into Frisk’s room.

“AND MAKE SURE TO USE THE VOICES! THEIR WEAK BRAIN NEEDS TO DEVELOP AND THE BOOKS SAID THAT HELPS.”

“yep, sure boss.”

You try not to stare as Papyrus gives Sans more orders clearly learned from some kind of parenting book he must have read. You can’t back up any of the claims he’s making of course but it makes it obvious both monsters are wrapped around the kid’s little finger.

Sans goes into the room a minute later and you can barely hear his low voice reading aloud from some kind of bunny book. Your attention is mostly riveted on Papyrus, though. He keeps eye contact with you as he dramatically walks back downstairs to stand a few feet from you. The gloves on his hands squeak a bit as he clenches his fists, his arms crossed.

“DO YOU INTEND TO REMOVE THE SMALL CREATURE FROM OUR CARE, BIGGER CREATURE?”

You don’t know how you feel about being called ‘bigger creature’. “Not at all. Frisk seems happy here.”

“HMM. I DOUBT MY BROTHER OR I WOULD BE SO FORGIVING IF SOMEONE ELSE, STRANGERS, HAD CAPTURED OUR SIBLING.”

Damn it. What do you say to that? Papyrus spares you the pain of trying to think of something.

“BUT YOU MUST BE CLEVERER THAN YOU APPEAR, HUMAN. YOU SEE OUR TACTICS ARE FAR SUPERIOR TO YOUR OWN LACKADAISICAL SKILL AT RAISING ONE OF YOUR OWN SPECIES. I KNEW MONSTERS WERE FAR SUPERIOR IN ALL THINGS TO HUMANS.”

“Of course,” you say, latching onto the opportunity to flatter him. You try to remind yourself not to lay it on too thick. “I have no doubt Frisk has been very happy here. I, uh, see they’ve crown even more intelligent since I last saw them. No doubt from your influence.”

“PRECISELY! I AM GLAD YOU AGREE! SO...YOU WILL NOT TAKE YOUR CLAIM TO HIGH KING ASGORE?”

Papyrus sounds genuinely worried. Instead of fear the feeling is manifesting as aggression. You feel the opposite towards Papyrus as you did to this Sans the first time you met him. The last thing you want to do is agitate him more, to poke fun at him. He is very obviously someone who does not joke around. It makes you wonder how fragile his tough-guy exterior really is.

“Of course not,” you say matter-of-factly. “I followed Frisk here to make sure they were happy, that’s all.”

Papyrus searches your face for a few more seconds before reaching his hand across the space between you.

“DO YOU PROMISE?”

Without hesitation you take his hand and shake it slightly. He’s really stiff, but you move it a little anyway. He seems a bit confused for a moment.

“I promise. I will follow whatever Frisk wants and what’s best for them.”

Papyrus doesn’t let go of your hand. Your palm gets warmer and warmer for a moment and you can feel that spread up your arm to your soul. It doesn’t hurt, but you feel like you’re getting in pretty deep with this ‘promise’. But, you don’t back down. Your soul isn’t orange-yellow for bravery and justice for nothing, after all. Everything happening here tells you that Frisk is in the safest place in this whole cursed Underground. You won’t interrupt that.

“I do have one question for you though, Papyrus, in exchange for my promise.”

The brow bone above Papyrus’s eye socket wrinkles in imitation of a raise eyebrow. “I WILL LISTEN TO YOUR QUESTION AND DETERMINE IF I AGREE OR NOT.”

“That’s fair,” you say. “Tell me. Are there any monsters here in Snowdin who would hurt Frisk?”

“MANY. THERE ARE MANY ACROSS THE UNDERGROUND. BUT NO ONE WOULD DARE CROSS THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD, PAPYRUS.”

You sigh in relief. At least if Grillby was being an ass he reserved it for you. If this Papyrus fights even half as well as the one you know, you’re sure Frisk is in safe hands. “I’m glad to hear that, Boss.”

“AND IF YOU ARE INDEED THE SMALL CREATURE’S SIBLING, THEIR SISTER, THEN THAT PROTECTION COULD EXTEND TO YOU AS WELL. I DO NOT WISH TO UPSET FRISK. I FEEL AS THOUGH IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO YOU THEN IT WOULD NOT BE GOOD FOR THEM.”

You’re floored. An offer of protection? Man. Even when he’s edgy as fuck, Papyrus is really the sweetest cinnamon roll, isn’t he?

“THAT MEANS IN ORDER TO NOT BE A LIABILITY YOU WILL BEGIN TRAINING WITH US IMMEDIATELY. YOU MUST REQUIRE REST THE SAME WAY THE SMALL CREATURE DOES SO I EXPECT YOU TO GO TO BED IMMEDIATELY.”

Sans is on the ledge again. Somehow, even with Papyrus’s raised voice, Frisk seems to have fallen asleep. “boss-”

“AH, SANS, GOOD OF YOU TO JOIN US WITH SUCH GOOD TIMING. PLEASE PREPARE THE COUCH FOR THIS HUMAN TO USE AS THEIR BED FOR THE NIGHT. WE WILL FIND MORE SUITABLE TRAINEE ACCOMMODATIONS IN THE MORNING.”

Sans looks as surprised as you feel. “uh, alright boss.”

“I AM GOING TO GO TO MY ROOM TO STRATEGIZE AND GO TO BED. DO NOT DISTURB ME EXCEPT FOR THE MOST DIRE SITUATIONS.”

“k, boss.”

“GOOD NIGHT.”

“Good night, Boss!” you say as Papyrus closes his door behind him. Sans is downstairs with a single blanket and pillow in the next blink. “Hot and cold that one, eh?”

Sans glowers. “y’got no idea.”

You chuckle and take the offered blanket and pillow, throwing them onto the couch in some semblance of getting ready for bed. “Thanks, numbskull.”

Sans rolls his eyes and starts walking back to the staircase. “how’s about you just call me red instead of that stupid nickname?”

“Red. Alright, I’ll call you Red. That makes it easier for me.”

“don’t mention it,” he mutters.

“Oh. Hey, Red?”

“what? i wanna go to sleep.”

“If I disappear in the middle of the night,” you start to say, folding your arms around yourself, “what are you gonna tell Boss?”

Sans’s grin gets wicked for a moment as he says, “could say you broke yer promise and ran off, payback for buggin’ the shit out of me.”

“I’m calling your stupid bluff, be serious.”

“can’t be serious, i’m sans.”

“Oh, my god, don’t even start with that you little shit!”

“a’right, a’right. gotta think of somethin’, then.”

“We can’t just tell him the truth?” You watch the way Red’s eyelights almost glow in the dark. “Frisk know’s what’s up, and so do you, and Grillby-”

“you told that hothead?” Red sounds equally surprised and humored.

“Yeah, I did, okay? It’s fine. Just...it’s okay to tell him the truth if you think it’s best. I sort of trust your judgement.” You give him a crooked smile and he rolls his eyes.

“we’ll figure it out when we get there,” Red says. “i’ll see ya in the mornin’ if yer still around.”

“Red?”

whaaaaaaaaaaaaat ?”

You ignore his whining and set your jaw, determined to see this through. “If I do get taken away again, I’ll come back to help get you guys out of here. I promise. I don’t know how or when but I promise.”

Red stares at you until the silence feels so heavy it’s hard to hold. He nods once at you and slips through reality to get to his room instead of opening and closing the door like a normal person. You’re pretty satisfied with that reaction. It takes a few minutes for you to figure out how to turn off the lights in the living room after he disappears.

You lay down on the couch and cover yourself with the surprisingly warm blanket, hoping you didn’t just make a promise you can’t keep.

Chapter Text

You sleep deeply that night. The transition through universes is as smooth as it was the last time you were asleep for it. At least, until someone starts yelling.

“SANS! Sans, she’s home!”

“SHE’S BACK!”

Still covered in the slightly scratchy but warm blanket you covered up in, you feel a body land heavily on top of you.

“Oof! Oh, my god, Frisk get off me! I can’t breathe!”

“Are you actually back right now? I didn’t see anything happen last night and when I came downstairs for breakfast you were just here on the couch!”

You manage to sit up with Frisk still hugging you, Papyrus and Sans standing off to the side with huge grins on their faces. Well, they always have grins on their faces, but these are genuine ones, not just because they’re skeletons. Papyrus has an apron on with what could be flour dusting all over it and you notice by sheer proximity that Frisk has it on her oversized t-shirt.

“It sure feels like I’m back with the way you’re squishing me,” you tease. Frisk doesn’t relent even a little now that you’re sitting up. You look from face to face and feel some of your elation from being home flies out of you. “How are things here? What happened after Catalyst took me? Is Grillby okay?”

“GRILLBY HAS BEEN OKAY,” Papyrus says gently. He grips a wooden spoon between his hands and rolls it slowly in a nervous fidget in his boney fingers.

“a little more hot-headed than usual.”

“SANS!” Papyrus rolls his eyes at his brother and makes a motion like he was going to bop his brother on the head with the spoon. He stops short of actually doing that, and Sans doesn’t even flinch, knowing his brother would never do that to him. “HE IS RIGHT, THOUGH, DESPITE THE AWFUL PUN. HE’S BEEN WORRIED ABOUT WHEN YOU’LL RETURN.”

“I saw a lot of fire the last time I left here,” you start to ask.

“Magical fire,” Frisk explains. “Didn’t burn any of us or the restaurant but it did make a hell of a mess. That was just yesterday and they’re still cleaning it up. He was aiming for Catalyst but that asshole put you in between them as a meat-shield.”

You can’t say you’re surprised. “He’s an asshole alright. I got to talk to him for a couple minutes in one of the universes, the one that’s in autumn.”

Frisk nods to show she understands. “The place where monsters use dancing to fight.”

“DANCING? THAT SOUNDS VERY INTERESTING!” Papyrus adds, posing with his apron fluttering in a nonexistent wind. It makes you grin, his attempts to lighten the mood.

A loud beep starts in the kitchen that makes you all jump. Papyrus’s hands fly to his cheeks as he screeches about his scones burning and sprints from the room.

“Yes. And he just threw me into the Underground this last time. You found me though, well, that version of you Frisk. Didn’t let me freeze.”

From the kitchen Papyrus asks, “WAIT, THE UNDERGROUND? FREEZING? IF YOU WERE IN SNOWDIN THEN YOU MET ANOTHER VERSION OF ME, RIGHT?”

“I’ve met almost all of you guys in the other places, Paps,” you call over to him, “just not myself, not once, like Kay said.”

“INTERESTING!”

You push the blanket off of you and are pleased to note your little backpack Undyne and Frisk packed is still strapped to you. You’d kept it attached to you even though it wasn’t comfortable. Seems like even the blanket came along for the ride, using the same logic of “attached to you, it comes along”. Looking at the knapsack reminds you that you still don’t have your phone, since there’s a specially designed pouch on the outside for a cell phone.

Your tall friend had returned from the kitchen apologizing for burning breakfast, which no one blamed him for, and you took the chance to ask, “Hey Paps could you fix my phone screen for me?”

Your friend used his outstanding puzzle skills to help Alphys with mechanical contraptions and inventions in her lab so repairing the screen would be simple for him - not to mention Alphys was the one who modded it and would know what special things it needed. It’s how he and Mettaton got together in the first place - Papyrus was almost as good as Alphys at repairing the megastar robot. The two had been a couple for almost as long as you’d known them.

“ALPHYS AND I HAVE ALREADY DONE THAT FOR YOU, FRIEND! LET ME GRAB IT OUT OF MY BAG.”

Papyrus sprints outside to his bright red convertible, leaving the door open to catch the lovely spring breeze. You see your truck parked in front of it in the driveway. Looking at it longingly, you check to see if your keys are hanging by the door like they should.

“I can drive you to Grillby’s,” Frisk says, reading what you were thinking easily.

“I want to drive,” you pout before you realize how bad of an idea that is. You have no idea how far Catalyst will go. Would he pull you through while you were in the driver’s seat? That would be awful. “But could you, please? And I need to call Kay first.”

“HERE YOU ARE!” Papyrus returns with your phone. “GOOD AS NEW!”

You cradle the phone from his hands to yours, the metal rattling a bit off the fine bones of his hand. “Thanks Paps! You’re so good at this, I really appreciate it. I’m just going to dial Kay, alright? Wait for me Frisk.”

Sans sits down next to his girlfriend and hugs her close so her response is a muffled, “M’kay, not going anywhere.”

It feels so damned good to have your phone back. You can’t believe how little you care to check any of your social media right now. Maybe later but for now there are far more pressing things. Like cornering Kay and getting some answers! The line rings twice before she picks up.

“________.”

“Hey, Kay. I’m back again.”

“I wasn’t sure that was you I felt come back, I’m glad it is. Where are you?”

“Home, my and Frisk’s place with Frisk, Sans, and Paps. What about you, can you come here or can you meet me at Grillby’s? We need to talk.”

Kay chuckles quietly on the other end and says something muffled to your uncle, something about it being you on the line. “You’re right about that, and we need to do it before Catalyst decides to move you again. I’ll get ready to go to the bar and meet you there. Here, talk to your uncle for a second.”

There’s a bit of a rattle where you think maybe Ben dropped the phone or something but his voice is there in the space of a breath. “________? Are you okay?”

“Hey, Ben,” you say. It feels so good to hear his voice, you wish you could go hug him. So long as you’re still around after meeting with Kay and Grillby you plan to head over to the shop to do just that. “No worse for wear. You?”

“Shit, don’t worry about me, take care of yourself. Kay told me a little of what’s going on but...are you sure you’re alright?”

You shrug and try to smile a little so you don’t sound too bad on the phone. “I’ll be okay soon I hope. I’ll come by the shop to see you later, okay? Is Isaac working today, too?”

“Yeah, that sounds good - oh, Kay’s headed out so I have to give the phone back. Kid, I love you, be safe. Don’t forget the self-protection stuff I taught you okay?”

“I love you, too, Ben. I will. Wait!”

Ben hmms on the other end of the line, probably holding up a patient finger to Kay to ask her to wait a second before taking the phone back.

“Did you…” you bite your lip and fight the sick feeling in your stomach. “Did you know about any of this? Why it’s happening, any of that?”

Your uncle sighs softly on the other line. “That’s hard to answer, kid. Yes and no. I knew about the souls not reincarnating like they should from your aunt, but I didn’t know that it included you. I had a hunch someone in the family was affected but...your aunt can explain that better than a mortal like I can. Love you, kid. See you soon.”

Kay takes the phone from her husband and lets you know she’ll be headed out the door soon. They don’t live far from the restaurant but not as close as you all do. Hanging up the phone you return to the living room. Papyrus is sitting on the couch across from Sans and Frisk, his leg bouncing excitedly.

“SINCE I AM ONE OF YOUR ANCHORS, I WILL BE COMING, TOO!” he announces excitedly, popping up from the sofa.

“That’s great, Paps!” you say. You remember the way he and Frisk stood by you the last time you were here. “Are we all ready to go? Kay just left her house.”

Sans makes some soft grumbling noises as he lets Frisk stand up. When he stands too, with her help, he sticks near to her. If you didn’t know better you’d say she was mostly holding him up. He looked exhausted. Must have had to work last night or something.

“You get changed while I find where the hell I put my keys yesterday,” Frisk says. “Those are the same clothes you left here in except for that sick leather jacket.”

“Shit, you’re right,” you say.

You sprint to your room and start to rifle through your closet and drawers, completely changing your clothes. After Grillby’s and going to the shop you hope you have time to shower, too.

---

The ride to Grillby’s isn’t as quiet as the one you took before with just you and Frisk. This time you have Papyrus and Sans following behind you in Papyrus’s convertible. The brothers had cleaned up the mess in the kitchen before the four of you set off, and you were glad for the moment alone with your best friend to talk a bit.

“Sans is really quiet today,” you say.

“Yeah,” Frisk says with a sigh. “He’s been sleeping like shit since this started a couple days ago. I don’t think he was sleeping well for the week before, either.”

“Is it because of me?”

Frisk looks at you with a gentle smile at your question. “No, not because of you. I don’t think this helps, though. He and Grillby go way back. Remember when Kay mentioned you guys need anchors the other day?”

“Yes,” you say, nodding slowly.

“Well, Paps and I are yours and Sans and Undyne are Grillby’s.”

“I figured Undyne would be one of mine?”

Frisk shrugs. “Yes and no? You know that Grillby used to be part of the Royal Guard ages ago, right?”

You slap a hand to your head. “Totally blanked! And he worked with Undyne’s grandparents, helped to train her before he retired, right? Wasn’t there a turtle as Captain before?”

“Yes, Gerson. Grillby was actually the Captain before him , even.”

“How fucking old is Grillby?” you say incredulously. “I knew he had to be like at least a century old but that Gerson guy is ancient .”

“I don’t know,” Frisk answers honestly. “I’ve never asked. Monsters age differently, though. You know that, right?”

“Yes. Something about magic, of course.”

The tires of Frisk’s car hit the pavement of Grillby’s parking lot. Meeting here felt right, instead of going to someone’s house. At least it felt right to you. Kay’s junker was already parked out front.

“Grillby could be thousands of years old, dude,” Frisk says. “And Sans is a damned cradle robber, because he’s at least four hundred or something, probably older because of the resets. Like me. My soul is a lot older than my body is.”

At that moment Sans and Papyrus pull up next to you two, and since the top is down on the car Sans caught the last bit of the conversation.

“an’ you’re a grave robber , sweetheart,” he quips.

“SANS THAT IS AWFUL!”

You join Papyrus in rolling your eyes at the couple. Though he looks stocky, you know because of his literal skeletal makeup that Sans is a lot lighter than he looks. So, when Frisk reaches in to grab him under his arms and pull him out of the car to give him a smooch on top of his skull, no one is surprised she can.

The four of you walk together towards the front door of the restaurant. Frisk did mention that Grillby had made a mess so you’re not surprised to see the closed sign still up.

“What kind of excuse is he giving people for being closed?” you ask.

“renovations,” Sans says with a small snicker. He sobers up quickly, though. “he’s been out of sorts since this started so it’s for the best.”

A small wave of guilt rushes over you. You know because of the amount of gold they had when leaving the mountain that the monsters were pretty well set financially speaking, but you didn’t want Grillby to suffer even this small bit because of you. You feel a fresh wave of determination flood you to get this sorted and see what you need to do in order to satisfy Catalyst’s demands.

“Well, let’s get going then,” you say, leading the group inside, the charming bell above your heads announcing your entrance.

Kay greets you immediately. Her arms are outstretched for a hug. “Hey, kid.”

You accept the hug readily. It’s comforting, even if you’re confused and still a bit upset at her for apparently hiding some big things from you.

“What do I need to do, Kay?” you whisper to her as you embrace.

“Sit down, kid,” she says, breaking away gently. “We need to have a long talk.”

Chapter Text

For the first time in what feels like - at least to you - forever, you’re back home and able to find a sense of normalcy.

Normalcy comes in the form of sitting in a booth at Grillby’s with Kay sitting across from you. Whatever gods exist are also being extremely kind to you at the moment, because normalcy also means that Grillby sits next to you, his arm very close to yours.

Neither of you have made a move to really touch each other since you sat down. He’d pulled you into a hug as fiercely as Kay had as soon as she let you go. You’re not a short person but Grillby is tall enough that he can rest his cheek against the top of your head. The heat of him against the leather of your jacket set off a heady and delicious scent. You wonder if the jacket belonged to another Grillby before ending up with you between two of the worlds.

The contact from the hug was nearly too much. You knew he would never intentionally burn you. However, you started to feel extremely warm the longer he held on. The hairs on your arms stood up and  every place you’d touched felt like you’d gotten a mild sunburn and it was starting to cool down rapidly. When you broke apart there were flares of blue on his face beneath his eyes - a blush. You are sure you had one, too. Your breathing got a bit faster, too.

He had led you to one of the larger booths, allowing you to scoot in before him as Kay took the seat opposite. Before sitting he’d gone to get each of you mugs of coffee or tea to sip on as you talked. Frisk, Papyrus, and Sans all piled into the booth as well, or in Papyrus’s case pulled up a chair from another table.

“Are you alright?” Grillby asks you again.

You finish your sip of coffee and smile at him. “Yeah. I’ll be okay. I’m just really happy to be back here.”

You leave off that you’re really happy to see him especially, but everyone knows it's implied. The soul-sensitive monsters can tell how calm the two of you are now that you’re near each other and no one is actively trying to tear you apart. The sense of calm is intoxicating and makes everyone more relaxed in general, even if there is no indication of when or if you might get pulled away again. For now, this is enough.

“How long has it been this time?” you ask, directing your question around the table.

“Just overnight,” Kay answers.

“So that’s why it’s still a bit of a mess in here,” you tease. Grillby rubs the back of his neck and you’re satisfied to see another flare of blue on his cheeks. “I’m glad it wasn’t too long for you guys.”

“How long was it for you?” Frisk asks. “I know you mentioned time acts differently when Catalyst pulls you through.”

You take out the notebook you’d been keeping track of things in whenever you had a chance. There are a few numbers and things that don’t make sense when you glance through and you wish you’d had the forethought to make them clearer. Why did you make a note about the number three hundred twenty two, for example? Was that the address of the house where you met Chara? The last three numbers of a phone number? Fuck if you know. You did do a decent job at marking down how many days the monsters told you that you were gone, though.

“I’m not the best at math but there seems to be a pattern,” you say, holding out your notes to Frisk.

Papyrus and Sans grab the notepad instead. You sometimes forget how much monsters like puzzles but the way the two of them hold the book between them with their skulls nearly knocking together reminds you like a roaring freight train. Not only that but Sans has a Ph.D. in some science or other that probably  means he can help. Papyrus helps Alphys with improving his boyfriend’s robotic body. You’re sure they can spot a pattern in numbers before you would.

“THERE ARE A FEW MISSING THINGS, BUT I THINK THAT YOUR IDEA IS RIGHT,” Papyrus says.

“What’s that?” Kay asks, leaning towards the notebook..

“So right now, here, it’s spring, right?” you begin to explain. You lean forward to look around. “The next place I’m taken it’s summer, then fall, then winter. At least that’s how the weather feels. I mean the Underground place has me in Snowdin so that’s winter but I have no idea what it is on the actual surface there. And each place I go to the time moves faster when I’m not there. The last place where I was in the Underground they said it had been a month since I first showed up, so two weeks between each jump.”

Frisk whistled softly. “And it’s only been a couple of days, maybe two total, since you were first moved from the trail on the mountain.”

“I WOULD LIKE TO LOOK AT THIS NOTEBOOK FOR A WHILE, LET ME KNOW IF YOU NEED ME.”

Papyrus moves to a table a few booths away and took another notebook from somewhere in his battle body to start taking more notes of his own. Sans decides to follow him to help. You’re pretty happy you didn’t put any embarrassing things in that notebook about the way you’ve felt towards other people and versions of Grillby in the other places. That you can remember vividly in your head and soul.

You look closely at Kay after the brothers walk away. She’s already looking at you when you turn. You’re not sure how to start but you take a shot in the dark. “I asked, by the way. I asked if there were other versions of me that the others saw. The other Frisks and Sans said they haven’t. And those two always seem to know more about what’s going on without me having to tell them.”

Kay actually turns to Frisk before answering to see if she has something she wants to add.

“It makes sense,” Frisk says. “Who knows where these other places came from? The resets probably didn’t help. It’s quantum theory, you know? Asriel and Sans would know more about that than me. And if what you say about souls is true, Aunt Kay, then it really makes sense. I feel like I’ve known about the possibility about other me’s being out there all along.”

She pauses and looks over at her boyfriend and his brother talking quietly and writing notes down. Her face pinches with a sadness you don’t think you understand.

“Sans has always known,” she says quietly. “I...since this started he hasn’t been sleeping. Like at all. He’s had some bad episodes in the past about this stuff. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”

“You said before that the souls are the same,” you say to Frisk. “The last time I was here, you said something about ‘no matter where our souls are in the universes, we are the same’ or something like that.”

Frisk takes a sip of the tea Grillby brought out for her before and nods thoughtfully. “I did. And that’s true. I need to know more about your side of this, Kay, but Sans and I were wondering if what happened to Asriel might help _________ with what’s happening. Since it’s soul related.”

You watch Kay and Frisk look at each other and wonder what the details are around Asriel. A long time ago, back when you first met him and Frisk, you’d heard a little of what had happened to Asriel at the same time the monsters were freed. It was common knowledge back then for humans and monsters alike that they worked together to break the barrier blocking the monsters in and keeping humans from remembering them in the first place. Details are fuzzy in your head now but you do remember that Asriel was presumed dead or missing for decades before Frisk fell down, only appearing again when the barrier broke.

“Any information would be helpful,” Grillby says.

He hasn’t spoken much since you all sat down. The air between your arms feels pressurized, like the same poles of magnets forcing away from each other, but at the same time wanting to flip and fly towards each other. The feeling takes up a lot of your subconscious brain power but you really work to listen to what’s happening around you. You have an idea that once you really get a chance to touch him...you won’t want to stop.

“I’ll call him,” Frisk says as she stands up. “Mom and Dad, too. They remember a lot of what happened before even if they hate talking about it, or they might be able to help the skelebros.”

As Frisk walks away, Kay reaches her hands across the table to grab yours. Her eyes are warm, the laugh lines around them creased a bit as she smiles at you. “I know we keep asking you this, dear, but how are you feeling? Do you need to rest?”

“I’ll be okay. It’s a lot right now and I just feel like I’ve been in the dark and don’t know what to do.” Your thumb strokes across the back of Kay’s hand. “And I’d really like to know why you kept this a secret from me at all.”

The smile on Kay’s face pinches a little. “It was an ancient woman’s hope that her guess was wrong about you, that your soul wasn’t the one she was drawn to for this.”

You don’t answer that, just try to keep your temper down and let Kay talk. By now Frisk has returned from her phone call and said the Dreemurrs would be coming as soon as they could.

“I am the titan Hecate,” Kay starts. “My kind are some of the oldest beings to walk the planet, those of us that still live. Many of my brothers and sisters and other family sleep far beneath the earth, like my father Kronos in Tartarus. Which, in all honesty, is the safest place for him to be for mortals. The only creatures that can even compare to our age are the gods, goddesses, and some of their own followers and creations.”

“What do you mean, creations?” you interrupt.

“Monsters.”

This time it’s Grillby replying, not Kay. Your aunt nods to agree with him and you look at him with renewed curiosity.

“Were all monsters created by gods?” you ask.

“The king and queen would have a more detailed answer for you than I would. They themselves are creations from the joint efforts of several gods and goddesses. But no. Not everyone. Though, most of the oldest of us can trace back to someone in the pantheon.”

The information washes over you like a shot of hard liquor. You’re sure you aren’t reacting to this yet because you’re in shock and trying to believe it. Later, though, you’re sure you’ll feel the effects of learning so much so fast that changes the way you see the world.

“What about you?” you ask quietly. “Were you created by a god?”

Grillby looks at you through his glasses with an inscrutable expression. “I do not mind you asking me, my friend, but take care not to ask every monster you meet the same question. Some of us have as difficult relationships with our creators, our parents, as you do with your biological mother.”

He says it so gently the words don’t carry any sting even though he mentions your estranged mother. For all you’ve gone through, especially recently, the strife you have with her seems insignificant. Besides, Ben and Kay are more your parents than she is, anyway.

“I was created by Hades as a gift for his wife, Persephone. It’s been a very long time since I’ve thought of that time of my life, so I apologize that I’ve forgotten details. I feel I am only just starting to remember them again and...it is not an entirely pleasant experience.” You open your mouth to tell him that he doesn’t have to talk about it if it makes him uncomfortable, but like he read your mind he held up a hand and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. This was a long time coming, is all. The Underground has more side effects than anyone thought possible.”

Kay grumbles something that sounds like “fucking Zeus” which makes Frisk giggle.

Grillby’s eyes perk up a bit in one of his smiles before he continues. “Indeed. That one could do with another few centuries of sleep. His brother is still active, as far as I know, my creator. I was sent by Hades’s wife and queen of the Underworld to search for something and was meant to return to her, but was caught up in the war on this side of the world with monsters and humans, eventually becoming trapped with the others.”

“So,” you say after thinking on his words for a quiet minute, “does that make you a monster like the others? Or something else?”

“I consider myself a monster. My soul is so similar to theirs that any difference is insignificant.”

Grillby’s voice is raspy and soft, and you would have a hard time hearing him if you weren’t sitting so close. He doesn’t speak this much very often and you appreciate him answering your probably very intrusive questions. The emotions you’ve been experiencing for the other Grilbys you’ve met along the way pale in comparison to the draw you feel to him. The hardness around your heart and soul you’ve built up over the years to protect yourself are starting to melt away in the heat of his protective gaze.

You’re so caught up making eyes at each other you almost don’t notice the entrance of the king and queen, tailed closely by their son. Instead of the sound breaking your concentration, your nostrils flare instead at the smell of grease and diesel fuel that follows Asriel into the restaurant.

“Alright, lovebirds,” Asriel says as he slowly strides over. His horns are almost high enough to bump the ceiling as he walks over. “Break it up so I can give my best friend a hug.”

“Your best friend?” Frisk chimes in. “What about me?”

Grillby moved smoothly out of the booth so you could slide out and hold your arms out for Asriel. You weren’t a touchy person, but you made exceptions for a few people. As Asriel wrapped his arms around you and lifted, you pressed your face into the shoulder of his jumpsuit and held on tight.

“You’re my sister, it’s different,” Asriel reasoned. His voice rumbled through his chest like a purring motorcycle engine. The sound is almost as deep as his father’s.

He sets you back down on both feet and some of the amusement on his face wipes away. His hands rest on your shoulders, large enough to make you feel like a small child. There’s a stretch of quiet where Sans and Papyrus watch you two and the other newcomers stand patiently near the door. Asriel opens his mouth to speak but you cut him off.

“If you ask me if I’m okay I may blow a gasket,” you whisper hoarsely.

That breaks the tension immediately. Everyone shares a chuckle around the room. You lift a hand to squeeze one of his, though your fingers can barely surround two of his, and Grillby invites him to sit in one of the chairs large enough to accommodate his height.

“Alright,” Asriel says after declining Grillby’s offer to get him something to drink. He leans over so he isn’t sitting so high above you, Kay and Grillby. His ears hang loosely around his face. “Frisk said you had questions about what happened to me in the mountain. I’m here. Shoot.”

Chapter Text

Asriel patiently gets caught up on what’s going on, nodding here and there to show he follows. He’d already known some of what was going on, after all. He had been working in the shop with Ben and Isaac to make sure they didn’t fall behind. When Kay introduces the greek mythos part of the story, though, he holds up one of his huge hands to pause her.

“Ex-fucking-scuse me?” he asks under his breath.

“Asriel!” Toriel exclaims.

Asriel has the sense to look a bit sheepish. “Sorry, ma.” Turning back to your group, he whispers, “I forget she hears everything.”

You can see Toriel scowl at her son and roll her eyes before returning to her discussion with Asgore, Sans, Frisk, and Papyrus. The five of them seem to be waiting for their turn to join the conversation, and you can tell Frisk is filling the royals in on what’s happened so far.

“But seriously, they’re involved in this?” he asks.

The way he asks that makes you sit up and ask, “Wait, you knew they exist?”

Asriel shrugs and gives you a look similar to the one he gave his mother. “Yeah. I assumed everyone did, really.”

“You know what they say about assuming-” you start to say.

“It makes an ass out of you and me, yeah, I know. We didn’t know until recently that people on the surface thought they were just legends and not real things. My parents were created by Aphrodite and Hephaestus a long time ago. I figured they were pretty hands off nowadays, though, like they were irrelevant right now. Doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Kay reaches over from the booth to bop Asriel gently on the nose. “Never count the gods out, kid.”

Pretending the little slap hurt, Asriel pouts and rubs his snout. Kay rolls her eyes, calling his bluff, and picks up where she left off. “Eris represents many things, including strife and discord, and Catalyst was her creation. He is the first of his kind made by a god or goddess, or even the titans for that matter, in centuries. No one has attempted such a feat in recent years.”

“Why?” you ask.

“I’m getting to that,” Kay says over the lip of her mug. “It takes an incredible amount of power to create something of his caliber, to allow him his own autonomy and abilities. Many of the gods still lie dormant to this day after creating monsters like the king and queen or our favorite bartender here. Though their makers are strong enough that they still have energy to manipulate the mortal world, just not at the same level. When worshipping them started to fall out of favor they stopped getting tokens and promises from mortals, one of their main sources of power. In order to continue influencing mortals they created agents to act on their behalf.”

No one speaks for a minute after Kay finishes, everyone in their own heads for a moment, or sipping their drinks.

“Asriel. You have more personal experience with this than I do,” Kay says.

The prince looks down at his hands that are folded loosely in his lap. “Of course. I can remember everything about that.”

You watch him as he gets settled, preparing to launch into his own story. He doesn’t seem uncomfortable with the idea but you can tell this isn’t something he talks about lightly. Without a word Frisk is over to your group with her hand on his shoulder. He leans into that a bit but his voice doesn’t waver when he speaks.

“I was born hundreds of years ago in the Underground. Our kind had existed there for several centuries already and the magical barrier was eroding most of the older monster’s memories about what the world was like before they were trapped. Including who made them.

“Not long after I was born, the first human child fell into the Underground. The same hole that Frisk fell into on the mountain is where they fell, too. It happened the week after a huge earthquake that shifted and twisted the world above and below because the opening didn’t exist before that. I remember that was the first time I’d ever seen the sun. My parents forbade monsters from using that chamber anymore because of how unstable it was.” Asriel pauses and gives you a conspiratorial smirk. “I used to be pretty good at slipping past all that.”

You’d never heard this version of what happened to the humans that fell before Frisk. You want to interrupt with questions but your desire to hear it through is stronger. Grillby sitting next to you acts just as enraptured. You’ve never heard the restaurant this quiet before. The gentle rumble of Asriel’s voice filled the space but without other noises of cooking or chatting it felt far emptier than it was. You notice that Sans and Papyrus had left when you weren’t looking, Asgore and Toriel as well.

Before you can ask where they went, Frisk sees the way you look at the corner they were in and explains, “They went to talk to Alphys. Keep going, Azzy.”

Asriel runs his hands over his scalp to itch behind his ears before continuing. “I found Chara one day when I was wandering. Took them back to my parents who helped to fix them up. My fur was standing on end the entire time and I don’t remember much of the details that happened, all I know is that I refused to leave them until they healed, and then we were inseparable after that.

“My parents had no idea what that meant at the time but years later, after the barrier was broken, we understood that Chara was - for lack of a better term - my soulmate. Not like...romantically or anything. We just clicked. The gods that made my parents had made them each other’s mates, though, in a different way. The ones that locked us under there realized they made a mistake and forced the earthquake and Chara’s fall to try to make it right without actually doing anything useful.”

You snort with laughter. “Sounds about right based on what’s been going on with me.”

“Exactly,” Asriel says, agreeing readily. “And my fur stood on end so much when I met Chara because we didn’t know what our souls did, so the touch was literally electric.”

You’re suddenly very aware of your slight casual almost-touch against Grillby and every single time you may have touched recently. In general you’re the least touchy of your friends so you can’t really recall many times touching him before you came back that first time from the Underground. That was the night you two had almost kissed after years of knowing each other and nothing like that happening before. Your cheeks are warm and you want to ask if your connection is why you felt so instantly attracted to him like that but voicing it would be too embarrassing. Maybe you can ask Asriel in privacy later.

“You guys seem to be doing okay, though,” Asriel points out. “How are you feeling now?”

“Much better. Calmer,” Grillby answers first.

“I agree. I’m still really anxious, like Catalyst might show up at any moment, but better,” you say.

“That’s good!” Frisk says.

“Yes, it’s good that you’re both in a better place. The way the gods intervened when Chara and I were children was wrong. It wasn’t our job to free the Underground, not without Frisk’s help, but because we were trapped there were a lot of space time issues. Namely, the places you’re visiting.”

“those didn’t exist until we were trapped underground.”

Behind the booth Sans and Papyrus were sitting at with the king and queen several minutes ago comes Sans’s voice. Everyone had assumed he left with the others but here he is. He slips out of the bench and walks towards you all, hands still in his pockets, blue smudges under his eyes to show how tired he is.

“s’not your fault,” he says at you before you can say anything. “there were a lotta souls that couldn’t do what they needed to, not jus’ yours. s’only way to explain why there are so many of us-” he points around the room at everyone but you “-in those other universes and not any other you. there’s gotta be other humans or monsters that only exist in those worlds because of some anomaly shenanigans.”

Sans settles himself in Frisk’s lap to join the conversation fully now instead of eavesdropping. He seems to have said his peace since he closes his eye sockets and starts to breathe slower like he wants to sleep.

“I don’t think Sans is wrong,” Asriel adds. “I think he’s right on the money.”

“That’s not exactly comforting,” you say. “Anomaly shenanigans? Really?”

“Really,” Kay interrupts. “Though the gods created, they did not have much regard for many of those creations. Most were made to serve them and not the other way around. Delegation at its finest. And Chara was a mortal who was chosen by gods to do something for them. How many stories like that do you know that ended perfect and sunny side up for that mortal?”

Asriel has his head facing his folded hands when you glance at him to see his reaction. You speak up and say, “Not many, really.”

Kay nods imperiously. “No. Most of them couldn’t resist meddling. Pain in my ass.”

“What happened to Chara?” you ask quietly.

Asriel lifts one hand slowly to the middle of his chest, where his soul resides. “I carry them. They are the reason I could come back at all. I would have done the same for them in a heartbeat.”

You take a sip of your coffee to wet your suddenly dry throat. So, Chara, willingly or otherwise in this timeline, had given up their soul in order for Asriel to live. You wonder if you could do the same for Grillby. He’s your friend, of course, and you’re incredibly attracted to him, but could you give up your soul for him like that? You aren’t sure you’re ready to answer that question but a sinking feeling in your gut fuels your next question.

“So, if Grillby and I are connected in some way, kind of like how Asriel and Chara were,” you pause to collect your thoughts, “then what does that mean for me? For Grillby? For all the other worlds?”

“In short, I don’t know,” Kay says seriously. When you look at her you think you can start to believe she is older than you can imagine. She looks like she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, and a set of determination in her jaw. There is an air of other and of power around her in that moment. “The best answer I can give you, or anyone I suspect, is that we need to keep asking questions and seeing what works. I sent word to the few I still have connections with on Olympus that we have a situation and I’m waiting for Mercury to return. It should be very soon.”

“Who on Olympus?” Frisk asks.

“Last I knew, Mercury, Athena, and Ares were still awake on that peak. Since the rise of technology and all this terrorism garbage, those three were reawakened by sheer activity in what they oversee. Dionysus never rested, but he never tried to create anything with as much magnitude as the others.”

Your mind is still stuck on the possibility on one or both of you having to give up your souls so you almost miss Grillby’s question. “What about Hades?”

Kay drums her fingers on the tabletop. “I haven’t had any contact with him. Since it’s spring I doubt he’d be much for conversation.”

“Wait,” you say, trying to remember your Greek mythology, “that means Persephone is above with Demeter, right? Is that still how it works? Can we find her to ask her what she might know?”

“That’s a good idea, if we could find her,” Kay says. “What say you, Aestus? Do you know if you could find your former mistress?”

Grillby’s eyes are wide when you look at him and he is watching you with obvious admiration. Though his eyes are on you, he answers Kay. “Undoubtedly, if I try.”

“That settles that,” Kay says when she slaps her hands quickly on the table. Everyone jerks to attention at the sound, even Sans who was still trying to sleep. “You two go find Persephone, I’ll connect with Mercury, and everyone else back to business.”

“The shop-” you start to say.

“We’ll go there first,” Grillby says, sliding out of the booth and offering a hand to you to help you out.

You stare at it a second before taking it and letting go as soon as you can. The sunburnt feeling still happens and feels more persistent than the last time.

“I’ll take you guys,” Asriel says. “My parents brought me here, and your truck is parked out front. I need to go back anyway.”

“Thank you for helping them while I’m...whatever the fuck I’m doing,” you say. You trap the enormous monster with a hug. He could easily keep walking with you attached like a tattoo’d barnacle but like his parents he’s a gentle giant and stops.

“It’s no problem. I like working with them and whatever you’ve got going on is a lot more important.”

“Than working on the Core?” you ask.

“The Core is a lot more stable than it was even a half year ago,” Asriel says. Sans makes a small noise of agreement nearby. “It can handle one less mechanic on it for a little while. Just more motivation to get this sorted.”

“Yeah,” you say, and let go of him. “You’re right. Grillby?”

He’s already at your side when you say his name. It almost makes you jump. He’s wearing a backpack on one shoulder and has your knapsack in his other hand. “Ready when you are.”

“Alright.” You breathe out slowly and square your shoulders, marching towards the front doors, stomaching the nerves and uncertainty by way of determination. “One stop at the shop and then we’re off to find a goddess.”

Chapter Text

Seeing Isaac and Ben at the shop is just as emotional as you had expected. To them it had only been a couple days since you first disappeared but for you it’s been weeks. You made an exception to your normally not-huggy nature and gave them both long hugs. Grillby stood by patiently and Asriel took over the work while the three of you talked for a bit.

“I don’t know how much time I have, so Kay will have to fill you in on most of this,” you explain to them.

“Mom’s already told us enough,” Isaac says.

Ben nods in agreement. “Right. You don’t worry about us, you do what you need to, kiddo. We’re here for you when you need us.”

Fighting back unexpected tears you blink rapidly and say, “Ugh, I fucking love you both, you know that?”

“Yeah, we know. And we love you, too, Gearhead,” Isaac says, using Undyne’s nickname for you. He leans over to rest his arm across your shoulders in another half hug. The mixture of engine grease, welded metal, and some kind of burnt plastic clings to his jumpsuit. “Just go and what, save the world? Or at least save yourself.”

“It isn’t that dramatic,” you insist. “I’ll text you guys and call when I can. Make sure to mess with Asriel for me, okay?”

“That won’t be an issue,” Isaac says with a wicked little grin. He uses his arm across your shoulders to guide you towards Grillby and the door. “Get out of here already. Watch out for her and yourself Grillbz. Good luck finding Persephone.”

“Any suggestions where we should look first?” Grillby asks.

His question is directed towards Isaac, which confuses you for a second before it dawns on you that while your uncle is mortal, which he clarified that morning on the phone, Isaac is half-titan. You watch the two of them, interested in what Isaac will have to say.

“Dunno, man,” Isaac says with a shrug. “I’m nothing that special. Being a ‘divine personification’ is nothing close to even what you are, a direct creation of a god. I can’t tell where the gods are. Your best bet is far away from Demeter. Last I heard they still don’t get along.”

“What’s a divine personification?” you ask.

“Not quite a god, not quite mortal. There’s more to it than that but it will have to wait until you get back. Don’t trust everything Wikipedia says, though, half of it’s garbage,” Isaac says.

“Good to know,” you say. Grillby shifts to cross his legs the other way as he waits and the motion forces you to realize that you’re stalling. He doesn’t seem agitated, but you know you’ve been here too long. “Thanks for everything. I hope this is done soon so I can get back to working and all that shit.”

“Me too,” Isaac says.

You leave the shop after a few more goodbyes, Grillby not far behind. Your truck sits waiting for you to climb in again and you look at it with a knot of worry in your gut.

“What if Catalyst tries to pull me through while I’m driving?” you ask Grillby. “Besides, I don’t even know where to start looking for Persephone.”

Grillby looks at you over the hood of your truck from the passenger side. His head is tilted to the side a bit. “I can find out.”

“What? Why did you ask Isaac, then?”

“It’s...a process, really. And it’s been a few centuries since I’ve tried it.”

“Alright, old man,” you say, “you’re being as cryptic as everyone else and I don’t appreciate it.”

“The stars must be aligned at this exact spot in the sky,” Grillby says. His voice sounds like a bad impression of a psychic and he starts to really get into the act. It feels like a more normal banter between you two. “And there should be ten glasses of Peruvian wine poured in exact order around a circle draped in silk-”

“Oh, my god stop,” you say with a giggle.

You can’t help but smile at the way he’s starting to treat you more like normal again. The overprotectiveness and caution was sweet and all, but you’re into him for his literal and figurative fiery nature, after all. This feels a lot better. It makes you feel like you aren’t living through some Alice in Wonderland type of acid trip.

“Eh, most of that isn’t true though there is some small ceremony to it involving a candle or two. Persephone was my mistress for millennia and I haven’t tried to locate her since leaving the Underground so I’m not sure how well this will work but it should give us a much better idea of where she is. We need to stop at my house so we can grab what I need to try this.”

“Well, what are we waiting for!” you say. Without a warning you toss your keys towards him so he can drive. “Let’s go get some candles!”

---

On the drive you start to think of a dozen questions you want to ask him but each time you do, you chicken out. Most of your questions concern what it was like for him before the Underground and you don’t want to bring up painful memories. Another side of you wants to know what his other companions were like before you. You try for something relatively safe.

“Kay kept calling you by a different name,” you start to say.

Grillby picks up immediately. “Yes. My given name is Aestus.”

“Why Grillby, then? Aestus sounds badass.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Grillby says with a chuckle. He puts the blinker on to drive down his street and looks both ways before continuing. “But when we were trapped in the Underground, I only spoke and understood Greek and Latin. I could get along well enough with basic sign language and words that were similar to ones I knew.”

“Let me guess, Sans gave you your new name,” you ask.

“No, actually, it was the sound I heard when some of the creatures were describing me.”

“Huh. Well, alright then.”

Grillby’s modest sized house came into view behind some trees. His driveway was really a side road that several houses were on with his near the end of the makeshift cul-de-sac. Most of the neighbors are monsters, but you know at least one of the houses has a pair of humans in it with their adopted child. You’ve gone to a couple barbecues with Grillby in this neighborhood and one of them was welcoming Jack and Neil to the area in the first place.

When you step out Neil is in the yard with his daughter Tiffany teaching her how to ride a bike. You and Grillby wave but don’t stop to talk, which is fine because Tiffany is making her dad really have to try to keep up with her.

“Follow me,” Grillby says when you walk in. “Don’t bother with your shoes, we’re going to the basement and you’ll need them.”

You nod and follow close behind. Grillby’s basement was specially made for him completely out of cut stones. You find it gorgeous and unique...just like him. Each brick in the wall is made from a different kind of stone and is cut with a flat face, polished to shine. The floor is a seamless floor of granite or marble, you’ve never thought to ask. You just remember he had this made so when he couldn’t control his flames he would have a place to go.

It’s one large room with the staircase descending near the middle of the entire area. The space is almost empty, just a few metal shelves at the far side with neatly stacked boxes and one lone wine rack with dusty bottles. You know the stuff he actually drinks is upstairs in an expensive cabinet that Asgore made for him years ago. Besides that there are some pillars scattered throughout at precise intervals to support the home above. Inside of one of these is a small shelf that he approaches. One of his hands lifts and slips inside the opening and the dancing flame of a candle appears.

“I need you to watch that one, please,” he says, indicating the candle he just lit. “It will be at my back as I watch the other directions and it will be faster if you monitor that one.”

“Sure,” you say.

He goes to three more pillars and does the same before coming back to the middle of them with you. He steps rather close to you. Looking at him your chin tilts up so you’re still able to meet his eyes behind his glasses. Your cheeks feel a little warm.

“You don’t need to do anything except watch the direction the flame burns,” he says quietly.

Butterflies roar in your stomach. “Pretty sure I know which way my flame burns.”

You’re surprised by your boldness but you don’t take it back, squaring your jaw and clenching so you don’t say anything else. Your cheeks are on fire. Grillby seems just as surprised as you. The tension you’d both been ignoring pretty well since leaving his restaurant just the two of you is demanding your attention. His cheeks are tinged blue and the flames on his head are a little higher. You want to lift your hand and run your fingers through it.

He asks a question and you don’t hear it, so you mutter, “What?”

“May I kiss you?”

“Fuck yes,” you say with a sigh of relief. It’s all the permission he needs.

At first your skin reacts the same as it has before, with that tingle of a feeling that mimics a sunburn. But as soon as it’s clear that this touch will linger that pain fades into something better.

You’d wondered what it would be like to kiss him and now you get to know. He’s a lot taller like this, standing instead of laying next to you on the bed, so you’re on your toes to make sure you get as much contact as possible. His knees are bent a bit and brush your legs.

Instead of burning your lips it feels like the heat of a warm mug of coffee or when you lay on the sand at the end of a hot summer’s day after the sun goes down. Startling at first - but the touch doesn’t leave a mark. Once the initial shock is gone you want to sink into that feeling forever. You had been afraid of getting burnt even though logically you figured the magical fire that made him up had never burned you before so it shouldn’t with a kiss, either.

Steady pressure builds inside of you like the tension before dropping over the hill of a rollercoaster. Grillby’s lips are gentle even as he grips you tightly to him. Your hands are trapped between your bodies so you can’t roam like you want. With your eyes closed you allow touch to guide you and ignore the way static builds at the back of your neck. It’s hard enough to focus on getting enough air between kisses. When you lick your lips to get some moisture back across them, he teases his tongue - which you didn’t know he had, to be honest? That’s neat. Cue dirty fantasies. - against yours, but keeps the kiss rather chaste all things considered.

The first hit of summer sun on your skin or the warmth of a fire on a cold winter night could never compare to this sort of relief and joy. You start to shiver despite the warmth inside of you and coming off Grillby. It’s almost too much.

Grillby notices the way you shake against him and pulls back. Without thought, you let out a whine. His hands were just starting to move to your ass and into your hair and fuck did you want to feel more of that.

“Are you alright?” he asks. His voice sounds shaky, too.

“Why’d you stop?” you ask with a whisper against his chest. Fuck, you sound needy as hell.

Since he pulled away it’s all you can reach so you nuzzle your nose into the space in his chest covered by a line of buttons you want to pop open. There’s a low hum in his chest as you do this, and it sounds like the purring of a cat.

“Look,” he says.

You pull back reluctantly to look up at his face. He’s looking at you when you do but looks away towards one of the candles to direct your gaze. The southern candle, a dark orange lump of wax now, is the only one left burning of the four.

“Are you kidding me?” you say with a laugh. Your mind is floating on a high after that kiss. “Was that the fucking ritual?”

Grillby’s cheeks are dusted blue but his smirk is nothing if not shit-eating and very satisfied with himself. Confidence. Fucking sexy. “Well, I mean...not exactly? But that works, too. It's a nicer alternative to standing and chanting wouldn't you say?”

You smirk up at him and poke him in the chest playfully. “I dunno. I couldn’t really tell. Didn’t last long enough to - mmph !”

Grillby’s lips silence your teasing with a kiss that starts out chaste but lasts much longer than the first one.