Chapter 1: Day eleven (Underswap Sans, Chara)
Finally getting to the surface is a terrifying experience.
At first, it's easy to assume that he'd roll with things just like he's always done. After all, he's used to the routine: wait for things to play out and enjoy every scrap of novelty you can find.
That's why Sans is startled, when they finally — finally — end up on the surface, and he cares. And the force of it chokes him up — just like when he was tiny and left the Labs for the first time in his life. The world suddenly seemed so big back then.
Well, it's endless now.
And he's terrified of losing it all.
That's why that night — their first night on the surface — when they're settling for sleep, for once it's he who cuddles up to his brother for comfort and not the other way around.
He's terrified of opening his eyes in the morning too. Terrified of everything being… not there anymore.
But it's still there. They're still on the surface. Time is still moving forward.
The first days are hectic and filled with emotions and construction work, and politics, and paperwork. Everyone's busy, everyone's hard at work, yet Sans still has time to worry — especially as he sees the kid grow wearier each day with all the responsibilities piled up on them — ambassadorial or not.
Will they snap? he wonders. And then it turns into, When will that happen?
"Do you have a pen?"
That snaps Sans out of his mindspace, where he's stuck somewhere between ruminating over their fates and figuring out how to cook a dinner for fifteen people in half an hour.
"Huh?" he says, turning to face Chara.
"Do you have a pen?" they repeat. When he doesn't respond, they add, "Mine is out of ink."
Absentmindedly he notes how they keep worrying the hem of their sleeve. "Uh, pen? Yeah. Yeah, let me just..." He pulls a pen out of his storage.
"Thank you." They snatch it out of his hand and instantly pull a palm-sized piece of paper out to scribble on it.
Sans recognizes a pocket-sized calendar, and Chara is currently busy scribbling out one of the numbers.
Then they look up and meet his eyes.
"It has been eleven days," they say and give him a small smile, as if that explains everything.
In a way it does.
At the very least, the night that follows is mercifully dreamless.
Chapter 2: End of the day (Ink, Splatter, Gradient, Chili, Paper Jam)
Everyone gets tired sometimes. Even Ink.
Ink was tired.
Ink rarely got tired in the usual sense of the word. He didn't exactly need any of the things normal beings rely on. Not air or food or water. And not sleep — even though Blueberror's "sleep replacement" lessons sure helped improve his memory.
So no, he wasn't the sleepy kind of tired.
This exhaustion was different, starting somewhere behind his eyelights, in the core of his mind, and spreading heaviness to his whole being. It seemed so much like emptiness creeping up that he started to take out a paint vial before he stopped himself. The colours weren't the ones to blame here.
It'd just been a long bout of work. Project after project to be tended to — fixed, saved, protected. He loved his job, really. But sometimes he just needed to recharge.
That's why he was returning to the Doodle Sphere. To the little island hard-coded into the place to be precise.
Blueberror seemed to be off somewhere — his usual spots were empty — and Error didn't acknowledge his return in any way — even though Ink was sure the other noticed it. So the first person to greet him was Chili, crying out his name. Followed shortly by Splatter, who just straight up tackled him in a hug.
"Hi to you too!" Ink chuckled, patting the paint-splattered kid on the head.
Gradient poked his head out of the treehouse to wave at him, and even Paper Jam seemed somewhat invested in his homecoming.
Had he really been gone this long?
He let Splatter drag him to a comfy place among the roots of the tree. The kid kept shooting questions at him at rapid pace, without really waiting for answers. Which worked out pretty well, since Ink kept forgetting what the questions were.
Yet, once they were settled under the tree — Splatter on one side of Ink and Chili on the other — a question came which, apparently required an answer.
"So what were you up to?" Splatter asked, practically vibrating out of sheer curiosity.
So Ink ended up telling them about his "day".
At some point Gradient settled down nearby, drawing as he listened. With Ink's encouragement, some of his drawings even survived his inner critic these days. Paper Jam grumbled something about them sitting way too close to his bed, but Ink was sure he was listening to the story too. Hell, even Error probably was, because at some point the Doodle Sphere changed into its nighttime colour scheme, and Ink could just imagine the glitch snapping his fingers to do that.
The artist blinked. Had he just remembered all of those quirks?
Was his memory really getting better?
"Ink!" Splatter called to his attention, sounding put out. "The story!"
"Uh... What story exactly?"
Okay. So, maybe, not that much better.
"The part where you took Nightmare to Horrortale, and then..."
Splatter's reminder soon turned into the kid coming up with the story on his own — aided by Chili and spiced up by PJ's semi-sarcastic remarks.
Ink let them continue on their own, content to just sit there as the exhaustion slowly bled out of his system.
Chapter 3: Champ (Gradient, Ink)
Sometimes being Ink's "child" is harder than being Error's.
Gradient isn't the luckiest kid around. Who would be, if one of their "parents" is one of the most hated people in the entire Multiverse. And it's just his luck that he's stuck living in the place, where everyone knows how the infamous destroyer looks — and he happens to look just like him.
Sure, Chili shares his curse, but that half-sibling of his somehow exudes so much positivity that almost no one even thinks to blame him for all the wrongs that happened in their lives — and those who do are easily ignored.
So, of course, Gradient gets the brunt of it.
But that's not the worst of his problems. Glitching makes him surprisingly sturdy — enough so, that he can take a few bruises — and Serif is always there to mend the wounds people leave on his psyche.
Having Ink for the other "parent" is much worse.
It comes with expectations.
He's expected to be good at art — amazing at it even. And that's worse than accusations.
Because whenever people see him finishing a drawing, they're always disappointed. The remarks — "I thought you were good", "wow, that must be so embarrassing", "you must be glad that Ink will never see this" — those remark stick with him, and no amount of talking to Serif helps. Because he's not an artist, and he simply doesn't get it. And also because these things are something Gradient agrees with.
Come on, he's supposed to be descended from the most amazing artist in the whole Multiverse, and he can't even draw a circle, without hitting Ctrl+Z a dozen times!
In his last-ditch attempt to keep the scraps of his self-confidence, he works for days on a grand picture he has in mind and tries showing his artwork to his half-siblings on the Ink's side. Only to be dismissed by everyone but Splatter. But that last spark of hope gets smothered, when Gradient realizes that the kid is excited about any art — any art at all, no matter how much like garbage it looks.
He can't stop himself from drawing — it's too ingrained into his very nature — but he doesn't keep any of his artworks after that.
Funnily enough, it's the trouble with his Error's side of parentage that gets solved first. Core Frisk lets someone called Blueberror into the Omega Timeline. They do it themself, which is as good as vouching for him. Everyone accepts the glitchy but overwhelmingly positive skeleton — loves him even — and, by association, people stop giving Chili and Gradient such a hard time as well.
Well, most of them do.
Ironically, when he meets Blueberror, it's after a bully knocks Gradient to the ground, and he's on his knees, wiping dirt off his glasses. The glitches keep him from seeing well, but he hears his assailant come closer and is ready to bolt when an unfamiliar glitchy voice says, "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
There's a moment of silence, then, with a few muttered curses, the aggressor retreats.
"Hey? You okay there?" says Gradient's savior from somewhere in front of him. Gradient flinches. "Don't worry. He's gone. You're safe. Take your time. I'll keep the look-out."
It takes some time for the glitching to abate, and when it does, Gradient sees a dark face like his, decorated with stars, like oversized freckles. Or stickers.
They talk. And Gradient ends up taking him to meet the other combos.
He's not quite sure how he gets roped into "meeting his parents", but Splatter and Chili make a scarily persistent team at best of times, and now they have Blueberror to back them up.
So, along with his half-siblings, he gets taken to what he's told is the Doodle Sphere.
And the first person he meets is Error. In the Doodle Sphere. Gradient feels like he's going to die then and there. Error's death glare sure promises that to be a likely outcome.
However, the destroyer says something about "murdering anyone who touches his stuff" and leaves through a portal, muttering curses under his breath. Gradient catches a glimpse of a starry sky before the portal shuts behind him.
Next he meets Paper Jam. Because, apparently, just one abomination made of two opposites wasn't enough. PJ actually voices this thought of his, though he does it with a playful smirk, which leaves Gradient wishing he could possess the same confidence.
Finally, he meets him. Ink. Who isn't quite as majestic as people always told him, but amazing nonetheless. The artist is eager to learn about the kids, but soon he's surrounded just by Chili — who keeps asking him questions — and Splatter — who keeps showing the artist his arts.
Gradient lets himself fade into the background.
They end up staying in the Doodle Sphere. Ink creates a tree house for the three of them to live in, and they all settle into the easy routine of life. Despite the destroyer coming and going, it's actually pretty safe here, and Gradient is content to stay, leaving for the Omega Timeline sometimes just to meet up with Serif and little else.
The safety makes him let his guard down. Which is why he settles to draw among the roots of the tree and not inside his room, thinking there's no one around to see.
"That's so good!" comes the excited voice of Ink from his right. "Why haven't you shown me any of it before?"
Gradient yelps and flinches and shuts off the screen of his tablet in haste, but it's too late. Ink has already seen that. He hugs his tablet to his chest, whimpering, "ImsorryIknowitsbadandImadisappointmentandpleaseforgetyousawitand-"
"Wait, wait, what?" Ink cuts him off. "What are you sorry about? It looks great!" When Gradient stills, unable to respond, the artist tilts his head to the side with a concerned frown on his face. "Uh... Are you rebooting or something?"
"What did you say?"
"Uh... 'Are you rebooting or-'"
"No. The other thing." Now Gradient feels hopeful but also desperate. "Do you really think it's good?"
"I said I did, didn't I?" Ink smiles and plops onto the ground beside him. He frowns, looking straight at Gradient. "No, I really did say that, right? Because I think it's great." Then the smile is back. "Can I see it again?" He taps his fingers on his knee in anticipation.
Gradient lets out a nervous chuckle and slowly, reluctantly turns the tablet's screen on again.
Ink's eyes are immediately glued to the image, taking all of it in. And then Gradient is swamped with questions: about the characters, the setting, the story. When the wave of them abates somewhat, he has a question to ask as well.
"So you really think it's good?"
"Of course! You created something so big out of nothing. That's nothing short of amazing!"
"Even..." Gradient hesitates. "Even despite all of its mistakes?"
Ink fixes him with a serious look then. "If perfection existed, would we ever have so many AUs?" There's something somber and almost scary in the way he says it, and Gradient is at a loss of words.
The moment passes, and Ink is back to spilling his excitement on him.
They talk for hours, and by the time Ink has to leave — he has duties to attend to after all — Gradient feels more confident about his skills than he ever did.
He starts saving his drawings, and this one — the special one — he gets printed and hangs on the wall of his room. As time moves on and he gets better at drawing, the picture looks less and less impressive to him. But he never takes it down. Because, as much as it it a picture, it's also a bit of a trophy. A reminder of his first little victory.
Chapter 4: Three arrows (Dream, Nightmare)
It only took three arrows...
Warnings: character death, vague descriptions of violence.
Fighting Nightmare — even with allies by Dream's side — was always a complicated matter. Since it was only Dream's attacks that could hurt his brother, any confrontation pretty much amounted to the same kind of thing: everyone was tasked with keeping Nightmare distracted and keeping civilians safe, while Dream methodically forced the guardian of negativity to retreat. Even a whole barrage of arrows didn't always do the job, so Dream never kept count.
This time, however, he knew exactly how many arrows it took.
They were fighting for Haventale this time — a universe, which, apparently, was supposed to be positive, meaning that, for once, Dream had Ink aiding him as well.
When Dream arrived, flanked by Ink and Blue, Nightmare was already enjoying the chaos his appearance had brought.
A shining arrow pierced a tentacle that was reaching for a tiny bunny kid. Snarling at the sting, Nightmare turned to face the ones intruding on his fun. His smile twisted into something ugly and wrong.
Killer materialized in front of the trio, only to be intercepted by Blue.
With Nightmare's minion busy, Ink took over the "distract the giant octopus" duty, leaving Dream with freedom to aim properly.
The arrow hit Nightmare in his spine, right between his shoulder blades. A twitch and a growl, but a tentacle easily ripped the arrow out and snapped it in two. A show of strength. A gesture of mockery. A "do you really think you can stop me with these?"
Dream readied another arrow, aimed...
The moment before the arrow flew off, he saw it. He saw Killer, dazed, on the ground. He saw Blue holding up a strange device, pointing it at Nightmare. He saw — oh god, did Blue actually succeed?! — Nightmare's goop being dragged off his body and towards the device, leaving unmarred bones behind.
The shining arrow ripped through the fragile white ribs and sunk firmly into the black apple inside. The world exploded with light.
When Dream could see again, the first thing he noticed was Ink, standing right in front of him with that expression on his face. The one he wore, when Dream "messed with how things were supposed to be". Though it was more severe right now. And also more somber. Dream could guess what he'd see once the artist stepped to the side. The sight still made him sick.
His brother's mangled body lay on the ground. The apple that was his soul really must've exploded, leaving behind a pile of broken bones and...
With a quiet gasp, Dream came closer, reached for the tiny ball of shadows, but didn't dare touch it. That would really ruin it — ruin his last chance — wouldn't it?
"Ink?" he called, and the artist was by his side in a moment. "Take us to Dreamtale, okay?"
He didn't elaborate, but Ink didn't need an explanation either. After all, this was part of his job too.
Dream spared a glance towards Blue — on the ground and unconscious after the explosion. No goodbyes, but that was probably for the best, wasn't it?
Taking a deep breath to ground himself, Dream summoned the golden apple of his soul, bringing it forth, closer to what remained of the shadowy guardian — of his brother.
Just a little longer — and their story would start anew.
They'll make it kinder this time.
Chapter 5: Voices (Ink, Error, Blueberror)
Ink catches his "roomies" having odd conversations.
Additional warning for some swearing.
Should probably be noted that this (and probably some other prompts) are set in what I lovingly call "Inky and the glitches". I have a whole bunch of stuff about that particular "AU" collected here.
Admittedly, it took Ink a while to catch on that something was up — a few… weeks?… into him sharing his living space with the two glitches. Or, perhaps, his two roomies never showed the signs until that very moment.
Because he was sitting in his usual hammock, considering what to draw next, when he heard Error and Blueberror talking. Now, that in itself wasn't anything new: people do talk after all. Ink was about to tune it out and get back to drawing when he noticed.
"I'd say, it's going pretty nicely." That's Blueber. "Well, considering all the stuff that's happened and everything."
"I don't owe you shit!" That's Error.
"Error, that's rude!"
"Yeah, and getting on someone's case like that isn't—" Pause. Then Blueberror groaned as Error snarled, "That's just wrong, you fucks!"
Another, shorter pause, and Error let out a glitched out scream of frustration just as his companion forced out, "Where's Fresh when you need him?" and burst into helpless laughter.
Ink looked up from his sketchbook, bewildered. Who were they talking to? Sure they could've been talking to their own hallucinations again — only they were too in sync for that to sound plausible. Unless they shared those?
"Hey, guys!" he called, twisting to look at the two glitches. "Who're you talking to?"
The glitches turned around to stare back at him, slowly shared a glance and returned to staring. Both looked like they were thinking intensely, though, judging by their expressions, whatever conclusions they came to must've been very different.
Blueberror broke the reign of silence first. "Wait. Wait just a sec. You mean, you don't—" He was interrupted by a glitchy bone hitting the back of his head. "Ow! Error, what gives?!"
"Of course he doesn't!" Error's grin was too wide to mean anything good. "He doesn't," he repeated, savoring the meaning behind the words. Then his grin got impossibly wider. "And if you tell him, I'll murderize you."
"I'd like to see you try," Blueberror muttered, trailing off as his thoughts caught up to the implications of telling Ink. He stared at the artist with an expression the other couldn't quite parse.
Hurt, closed off, hesitant… What was it?
Error was probably able to read this expression way better than Ink could, because he chuckled in satisfaction and got to his feet. "I won't even have to try, would I?" With a wave of his hand, a portal came into being, and he stepped through with a mocking wish of "Good luck!"
"Error, wait!" Blueberror called, but the portal already snapped shut.
He was left alone with Ink. A very curious Ink, prepared to pursue the subject, lest he forgot what caught his attention.
"So what was that all about?" Ink asked.
"What was what?" Blueberror said, fidgeting with his hands.
"You know what I'm talking about."
"Not the slightest idea."
"The talking. Who were the two of you talking to?"
"Yes, you did."
"Talk to someone."
Ink fixed him with a glare. The glitch squirmed under it, but remained silent. Thus the staring began.
Time stretched uncomfortably...
Until Blueberror said, "You do realize Error has just gone to Dancetale?"
Ink blinked, eyelights switching rapidly. It took him a moment to process what he'd been told. Another to figure out what that meant. Then, giant paintbrush in his hands, he was already splashing a portal to Dancetale on the ground.
There was something nagging at the back of his mind, something important, but, in his haste, he couldn't remember what it was. Perhaps, it wasn't all that important then?
Blueberror only relaxed once the artist disappeared inside the paint puddle. If he's lucky, by the time Ink came back, the whole incident would already be forgotten. Though the implications of it…
And the irony.
"Just what kind of game are you playing?" he asked and winced at the barrage of useless answers.
Chapter 6: Introductions (Paper Jam, Error)
There may be an addition to the "family" in the nearest future...
Additional warning for some swearing.
Error's (questionable) characterization probably deserves a warning too.
Paper Jam's "parents" were… an interesting bunch.
First, there was Blueberror — an overeager "parent" with a passion for "doing it right", who switched between being a helicopter mom and a hashtag-cool-parent. A bearable combination as long as you were ready for it.
Then there was Ink. Well... Suffice to say, most of PJ's siblings agreed he was the kid of the family. Yes, even Splatter couldn't compete with the sheer ridiculousness of that creature. The artist did get ideas though, sometimes — and when "Ink" and "idea" came together in one sentence, it usually spelled trouble.
Finally, there was Error. Sorta… indifferent in most cases, as long as no one in his family was actually about to die. A surprisingly okay parent. Well, by PJ's standards. Which meant being better than Ink. Okay, so maybe PJ had some very low standards, sheesh.
Either way, with a roster like that, it wasn't really surprising that Paper Jam chose to keep Omni a secret for as long as possible.
Until he couldn't. Not with Uncle B growing curious about his random disappearances and — to quote the guy — "the lovestruck look in his eyes".
So Blueberror was the first person he told. The resulting happy "eep!" he met with an eye roll and a promise to introduce the two to each other as long as Uncle B kept everything a secret.
This worked well for a while. Especially since now Paper Jam had someone to cover for him — someone who could do a better job than Gradient and Chili, that is.
As time went on and PJ got to a startling realization that this relationship really was getting serious, the need for sharing the news with his family grew. Despite how flawed this bunch of glitches and outcodes was, he still thought of them as his family.
So Ink was the next to find out.
The moment he finished telling him, Paper Jam saw it. The shipper's spark in his eye. And here he thought Gaster was just joking. He really wasn't. Because over the course of the next hour PJ survived a barrage of questions, a bout of Ink's daydreaming about the "lovebirds" and an offer to see to their wedding. Paper silently promised himself not to agree to anything. He did hear that story from Aster and Gaster.
When Ink's excitement finally ran its course and he got distracted by going to help a universe, Paper Jam sighed in relief. Only to remember there was still one more person he needed to tell.
Error shouldn't have been a problem. Paper Jam expected a blank expression to his proclamation of, "I'm dating someone and their name is Omni," and he got just that. For about five seconds. Then Error's expression warped into something the kids came to call, "It's murder time," and the glitch slipped away through a portal.
It took PJ entirely too long to figure out why he should follow him.
The universe he ended up in was already a mess, and Error kept throwing stuff about. Ink was probably going to be there soon — this PJ realized with a hint of relief. He was in no hurry to go against this murder machine.
What did Error want with this place anyway? Did he expect to find something through all that destruction? Paper had just been to this universe, and he didn't find anything worth…
Then it clicked.
Screw waiting for Ink. He was going to handle this and do it right now. "Hey, what's the big idea?"
Error didn't seem to hear him.
"Hey, Error! I'm talking to you!" And, when that had no effect again, he added, "And you looking for Omni here?"
Paper Jam had to duck to avoid a piece of debris that flew right where his head had just been. He had guessed correctly then.
Encouraged, he went on, "Okay, so what's with the vendetta?"
"Can't wait for me to leave?"
Error spun around to face him, "Like fuck are you leaving!"
Paper Jam should've known these kind of issues would rear their ugly head. He'd faced such things from Error more than once — though not quite like that — so he should've guessed this would be an issue. Oh well, he'd just blame his lack of forethought on Ink's side of his "genes".
"You're right. I'm not leaving."
That stopped Error before he could continue with the rampage.
"Yes. That's right." Holding Error's suspicious gaze, he slowly sat down on the ground, hoping the other would follow his example. "I'm not leaving."
Error remained standing, but the strings around his fingers dissipated. He didn't look entirely convinced though.
Paper Jam sighed in frustration. "Look, Ink dragged me into this mess of a family — yes, a family, no matter how fucked up it is." Error went to say something, and PJ added, "Yes, you can keep calling us 'people I don't want to kill yet' or whatever, that doesn't change what I'm saying."
The snark earned him a glitchy bone to the back of his skull. Okay, he deserved that. (Not like it hurt him anyway.)
"Anyway... What was I saying?"
Smirking, Error muttered something akin to "inky idiot" — a nickname usually reserved for Ink. Yeah, PJ was definitely going to blame any and all memory issues on the artist.
"Aaanyway… As I was saying, I'm not leaving. This fucked up parody of a family might get bigger though."
This brought a serious, contemplative expression to Error's face. It stayed there even as he opened a portal to leave.
"Don't follow me."
The universe behind the portal was full of stars — Outertale, also known as "Error's thinking place" — so PJ let him be, knowing that the glitch's destructive mood must've passed.
PJ watched the portal snap closed and left as well. He wasn't in a mood to deal with Ink — whenever he showed up to fix this universe.
When Error returned to the Doodle Sphere a week later, he was back to his normal abrasive self. The conversation they had had was never brought up again. Though, when PJ brought Omni to meet his family — Error included — and he watched the destroyer stare at them with a contemplative gaze, he was fairly certain that the next person stupid enough to threaten the "new family member" would meet a very gruesome demise.
Chapter 7: Bred this way (Fresh, Glück)
Fresh gets to consider a few things about his current predicament.
This is set in the same Multiverse as the one with Ink, Error and Blueberror. It also features an OC of mine named Glück. You've been warned.
It's great when the only person you're responsible is you.
Too bad it doesn't always work out this way. Or, let's be real, never. It never works out this way. That's something Fresh discovered over the years — ever since that first spark of burning rage nearly made him drown in the intensity of it. It didn't last long enough for him to get into some real trouble that time, and later when other things — other *feelings* — kept popping into existence, he had enough people in his life to pull him through. Pacifrisk, Core Frisk, Ink…
That last one makes Fresh quietly chuckle at the irony of it, and he squints at Glück. The kid's busy messing with some thing or other in a rich flowerbed. Probably trying to discover what each of those flowers smells like or something, the little explorer.
Fresh watches the process with a fond smile. Yes, he can probably add the little tyke to the list of important people as well. Now that he can take care of himself, it's good to have a little personal "project" to work on. Sometimes Fresh even thinks dealing with the kid — despite all of his flaws, despite how *dangerous* he is — helps the parasite as much as it helps Glück.
Thank god for small miracles, right? Or thank the Creator. Which is pretty much the same thing, to be fair.
*Are the others quite so lucky?* The thought comes uninvited and leaves him feeling vaguely sick — him or the body he's come to associate himself with.
Feeling trapped all of a sudden, he looks around, searching for something he won't find. He gets twitchier, almost frantic. It's always the worst when he can't see where They're looking at him from.
"What are you looking for?" Glück pipes up right beside him. That's enough to snap him back to reality — this part of the reality that is.
"Nothi-nothin' in particular," Fresh says and taps his glasses to force the "WHERE?" on them to turn into the usual "YOLO". "Just thinkin'."
Glück tilts his head. A stain of dark goop under his left eye drips to the side a bit. "Is that another thing I don't understand yet?"
"Right-o!" His chuckle sounds fake to him, but the child buys it.
Former question dismissed as irrelevant, Glück thrusts his hands forward. "Look!" On his tiny palms there sits something that looks like a cross between a flower and a lizard — with a colour scheme that can put the universe he's made his home in to shame. Under Fresh's curious gaze that thing takes a leap and flies. Now, the parasite is no specialist in aerodynamics, but that move seems highly implausible.
"Dat's rad!" he praises nonetheless, absent-mindedly reaching out to rub the stain under the kid's eye-socket away with his thumb. The little being makes a loop in the air and settles on Fresh's shoulder, pawing at his jacket curiously.
"I used only fifteen operations," Glück brags with a wide smile on his face. "Instead of twenty three!"
"Dat's one nasty trick." Fresh gives an approving whistle and only then remembers to check, "Dis da only one?" He points at the creature on his shoulder.
"Uh-huh." The kid nods. "This is the only one."
Fresh looks towards the flowerbed just to check. The flowers ruffled but he can't immediately tell if more than one is missing. Nice to see one point going towards nurture in its battle with nature. Fresh considers that a victory.
When he looks back to Glück, the kid is staring up at him expectantly.
The parasite doesn't have an immediate idea for which universe to visit next, but if his sense of time is right, the kid should be hungry by now. So he offers, "How 'bout we get a bite ta eat at Blue's?"
"Okie." There's not much enthusiasm there, but the kid doesn't argue and obediently follows him into a timeline of UnderSwap.
Thank Creator for tiny miracles.
Chapter 8: Hack the planet (Fresh, Glück)
One should always be careful when saying things to impressionable children.
"Where's da lil' dude?" was the first thing Fresh said upon getting to the Doodle Sphere.
"The what?" Splatter, the youngest of them, piped up, always eager to help.
Before Fresh could elaborate, Chili caught on to who the parasite was talking about and said, "Uncle B had to leave for a bit. But Glück is… right…" He looked around, confused at not seeing the aforementioned kid among his siblings. "…here?"
"He went to bother Error," Paper Jam supplied, nodding towards the glitch, who was sitting, reclined, at the roots of the tree a little ways off.
The whole gang of kids watched the casual grin fall from Fresh's face and "OH NO" pop up on the glasses. Before anyone could ask him what's wrong, the parasite was already by Error's side.
"What did he ask?" Fresh said, tone unexpectedly serious.
Error glitched hard, startled by the other's sudden appearance, and screeched, "What do you want, you freak of nature?!"
Fresh's glasses went blank. "The kid," he elaborated and in a slow, menacing manner repeated, "What. Did. He. Ask?"
Error knew Fresh just well enough to know answering would be better for his (relative) sanity in the long run. "The little shizzle? Asked me what would make me happy and left."
"Funk!" Apparently, Fresh was capable of swearing and his magic still insisted on censoring him. "Where did he go?"
"How should I know?!" Error screeched, backing away from the parasite, who started to lean into his personal space.
"The core timeline of All-Hallows-Tale." Paper Jam supplied from his spot in the sibling circle. When Fresh turned around to look at him, glasses still creepily blank, he added, "That's what his trace says."
"FUNK!" Fresh said, and then he was gone, leaving behind a patch of 90s-patterned grass.
He popped up in All-Hallows-Tale just in time to see the giant pumpkin in the middle of the central square crumble to pieces of code and disappear. Everywhere around him the universe was glitching and falling apart. Definitely the right place. Now, where was the kid?
Just where is the access point in this place?
"Fresh?" Ink appeared by his side, holding a terrified Frisk by their hand. "Do you know what's going on? I can't find Error anywhere, and he didn't even take Frisk's sou-"
"Dat's not Error," Fresh cut him off and, before any more questions could come, asked, "What's da most developed part of dis AU?"
"The… the… Snowdin, probably? Skelebros' house? Fresh, what does do you-"
"Keep da human safe." And then Fresh teleported away, leaving the confused guardian behind.
Ink's guess was correct, apparently, because the parasite found Glück sitting in the middle of the room that belonged to this universe's Sans, right on the floor. The world was still intact here, and it was eerie just how quiet and normal the whole scene looked. Well, unless you count the kid's left eyelight spasming, falling apart inside the eyesocket and black liquid flowing freely down his left cheek, staining his sweater and the floor around him.
"Glück," Fresh called, waited for the kid to tilt his head to the side to show he was listening, and added, "Put dat on hold for a sec. Got a thing ta talk 'bout."
"What about?" The kid shifted in place, but his eyelight's erratic movements calmed down somewhat.
Fresh sat on the floor across the kid, using that time to figure out the best way to explain. "Killin' worlds is mega-unrad, right?"
A nod. That lesson the kid knew well.
"So why did ya decide to destroy an AU?"
"Error said that destroying the Multiverse would make him happy. It's good to make people happy." The kid frowned in confusion. "Or is is bad?"
"Nah, nah, makin' some radical dude's day is da bomb." Guess the kid could use some better criteria. "Doing mega-unrad stuff's unrad tho. Even for some rad dudes."
"So," the kid was definitely in his processing mode now, "doing very bad stuff is worse than making people unhappy."
"Worse dan not makin' peeps happy," Fresh corrected. Better not give the child the wrong idea from the start.
There was a moment of silence as Glück made sense of this new revelation. Then he asked, "What about the Creators? They do very bad stuff all the time."
That made Fresh pause and seriously consider what he was going to answer next. They were being watched, he was sure of it. So better not get into too much trouble, if he could help it.
"Dey have different rules. Different creatures, different dimensions." The thought alone made him nauseous, but the answer seemed to satisfy the child.
Or give him ideas, as evidenced by the glint in his eyes. "I'm going to Sci!"
"We're goin' to Sci," Fresh corrected, knowing Glück was about to work on a new science project of his. Better stay around for damage control then.
The kid didn't argue, so the parasite stood up, grabbed Glück by the hand and took both of them to Sci's universe.
Ink could handle the damage himself. Probably.
Chapter 9: Bring own (Dream, Ink, Nightmare)
Dream is once again reminded why he doesn't trust Ink.
If Dream's brother — the being he'd become — saw him now, he probably would've laughed. Actually, scratch that. Even before the corruption took over, Nightmare would've laughed at the irony.
Because right now Dream was being manipulative — and well aware of it too. You see, if the core timeline of an AU could be leaned towards positivity, the other connected timelines would follow suit. So, when he felt a strong spark of hope in the core timeline of Horrortale, the chance was just too tempting to pass up. He came to that call of positivity, to meet the human of that universe.
Dream had to act fast before Nightmare caught wind of what he was doing. So he used all of his arsenal — people's dreams, his own aura... hell, even straight up lying and tricking people into doing things. ... Yeah, even the brother he remembered would've laughed.
The universe was well on its way to solidifying a pacifistic and happy timeline, and Dream was just heading into New Home, when all of a sudden he found himself unable to take another step. A glance at his feet showed that he was stuck in a viscous, sticky liquid. The smell that raised from it, however, told him that it was... paint?
"Ink?" Dream looked around, unsure of what was going on.
"Right here!" came from above. A glance towards the voice revealed the artist himself sitting at a ledge of a nearby building.
"Ink? What is this?"
"What is what?" Ink blinked, and Dream couldn't tell whether the artist was pranking him or didn't get it for real. The keeper of positivity shifted his legs — as much as he was able to — to illustrate his point. "Oh! That! Well, I can't have you doing more damage than you've already done!"
The matter-of-factly tone had Dream startled long enough for Ink to interpret it wrong.
"You see that too, right? Now you just have to leave, so that I can—"
"What damage are you talking about?" Dream cried, confused out of his mind. "I've done nothing but help people!"
Ink looked annoyed at that — as much as he could, with paints for emotions. "That's the thing! This isn't supposed to be a happy universe. You're ruining the story."
"Story?" Dream's mouth fell open in disbelief. "Story?! Ink, these are people's lives you're talking abo—"
"They're characters, Dream." Ink frowned, and the friendly lilt of his voice dropped into something low and even and scary, making the keeper of positivity shudder. "This is how they're story goes."
"But that's cruel!"
Ink was silent, and the two of them spent a few moments staring each other down.
Then the artist shook his head. "So you won't leave and let the world refill with negativity?"
"Not if I can help it," Dream said, making that statement sound as final as possible.
"Okay!" And Ink was back to sounding positive, and the grin he donned looked as friendly as ever. "Then I'll just have to bring my own!"
Before Dream could ask what he was talking about, the sound of a portal opening came from down the street. Looking in that direction, Dream saw tendrils of darkness weaving together to form a passage, and through it came — oh, please no! — Nightmare himself.
"Why, hello, dear brother."
So much for keeping under the radar, huh?
Dream recoiled out of pure instinct and found, with no small amount of surprise, that his feet were free to move again. A quick glance down revealed that the paint was gone. When he squinted at Ink, the artist gestured, inviting him to decide what to do next. Which was a no-brainer, really: with how spent Dream was after tending to this universe, he had no fighting chance against Nightmare. So before his brother could make a move, Dream stepped into a portal, leaving his work unfinished — to be ruined.
"Why did you let him leave?" Nightmare asked, keeping his voice level despite the frustration. Ink wasn't someone he could break and torture for displeasing him.
"He's not supposed to die," Ink said, serious once again.
Nightmare nodded in understanding. No matter how frustrating it was, it was way too dangerous not to play by the artist's rules. He'd better find some ways to cheat and fast.
Unaware of Nightmare's inner turmoil, Ink chirped a cheery, "Okay, have fun!", splashed some paint onto the ground and dived into it, leaving the prince of darkness to fix the universe.
Chapter 10: Waiting (Reaper, Error, Ink, Blueberror, Fresh)
At some point in their lives, all of them were waiting.
Additional warnings: a bit of swearing; a bit of drug use ideation.
Tori does her best to keep his child stable and strong in this world. Alive. But Reaper can see how hard it is on her. And how else could it be? A child of a perpetually dying being and death itself — easy to keep alive? Ha!
Yes, Reaper can see all of this taking a toll on her. So the moment Goth is stable enough to process his magic, he starts taking turns keeping vigil with the infant. However, Tori gets to rest in her time off, but Reaper? Reaper dives into the work that piles up while he's away, exhaustion be damned.
His brother, bless his soul, confronts him soon enough. And it's not about slacking off. No. His brother is way smarter than most people think.
"I can't tell you yet. But it's important, Paps," Reaper says, when asked. "I promise it is."
And just like that his brother gives him a hug and tells him to take his time. And even takes a part of Reaper's duties off his hands — probably scaring the shit out of Undyne with how well he actually handles the more gruesome and violent deaths.
Reaper is grateful for that — both the help and the unconditional trust.
He spends most of his time with his child now. He still hasn't seen Geno — can't bring himself to, scared that won't be able to keep his mouth shut about Goth. Geno has already mourned their child once. He doesn't even want to think about breaking that tiny sliver of his soul again.
Reaper will come see him though. Just as soon as he's sure Goth will be fine.
So he waits.
The lack of landmarks has long since stopped giving him a vertigo. That doesn't mean the surrounding blankness doesn't leave him perpetually straining his already poor eyesight. If bright white rooms weren't a form a torture yet, they really should be made into one.
Another attempt to explore left him with nothing substantial to make use of. He groans in frustration and doesn't even shiver anymore at how sound just... vanishes. No walls means no echo. Plain and simple. Eerie, but he's used to it by now.
What's his name?!
He frantically looks around, as if that would help — of course it wouldn't! Dammit! He really should've scratched it out on his bones!
He stumbles to his feet, screaming bloody murder at this... whatever it is!... for not even letting him keep his name. He just wants to go home, dammit! He reaches up, tugs at the collar of his shirt, and the feeling is wrong — and he doesn't even know why it is wrong! Hell, he doesn't even remember what "home" is! He just knows that he was happy there!
And now he's not.
But everyone else still is.
Everyone else, but him.
Another screech rips itself out of him. He kicks at the "floor", punches the air in impotent rage. And screams, screams as hard as his weak and tired body would allow. Something dances in front of his eyes, making his head swim, and yet he still goes on, only vaguely aware of magic attacks he's throwing—
He comes to in the endless white space. It seems like he's been here forever. Only it isn't quiet. There's screaming coming from all sides, loud, deafening. So he screams too, falling to the "ground" with his eyes shut and palms covering his ears. This is painful, so very painful, and he—
He comes to, and for a moment he mistakes the quiet for silence. But, no, he can hear them talking. Quietly. In whispers and hushed murmur. But they're there. And they sound happy when he sits up — eager to greet him, to talk to him.
He's not sure they won't start screaming again, so it takes him a bit of time to gather the courage to answer. They're excited, delighted to have his company. So he asks questions.
It doesn't take him long to find out there's something outside the endless white. And there are people there. He shudders at the thought, fingers twitching at just the idea of it.
It is enough to make him stand up and start walking... somewhere? If there's a way out, he'll find it. Sure, it might take a while, but he can be patient. After all, once he finds whoever's on the other side... Heh.
He can wait.
He can tell when the paints are starting to run out. Every motion starts taking way more effort than before. The crawling emptiness is... something? He can kind of guess what it's supposed to feel like, but he's run out of that colour for now.
In an attempt to conserve his strength, make it last just a little longer, he sits down on the floor and keeps fiddling with his current project — a set of glass vials.
By the time he finishes the last of them and puts it aside, he can barely force himself to move. Well, time to wait again. And if his idea with the vials works, he'll be able to ration colours better now.
A little tilt of his head reminds him of the liquid sitting in his mouth. He let it stay there before, because spitting it out seemed like a waste, but swallowing it would've done nothing either — his body can't process that ink into colors.
He blinks. Ink, huh?
Dipping a finger into the liquid inside his mouth, he reaches out and drags the fingertip over the floor on his side. The lines form into a word: "Ink". ... He really needs to consider a better way to keep notes.
But with that thought out of the way, he settles down as comfortably as possible. It can be a while until the next portion of paint comes.
Until then, he'll wait.
They call for Blueberror to try making a portal. And try it he does — with no visible effect. It's not like it's his first attempt either. He just can't do it.
The voices are relentless though. At first it sounded like they simply believed in him a lot, and it was sort of endearing, but not it's just annoying. Sure, they helped him figure out what he could do about his current situation and even helped him figure out what to properly call himself — because, apparently, "Sans" is too confusing...
But there's a limit to how much abuse Blueberror is willing to put up with. So he screams for them to shut up. When they do — either he's that convincing, or they're just that surprised at the outburst — he sits down and maneuvers Chara's soul to hover in front of him.
He considers his options.
Clearly, getting rid of his only ticket out of here wasn't the smartest of his ideas. It did leave Chara's soul in his possession though. ... Guess, he'll just have to manipulate Error into getting him out of here once the glitch is back.
He asks the voices if they knew when Error was coming back. Out of all of the answers combined, he gathers that they're working on bringing him back. If their insistence about the portals is any indication, then, with Error's patience in mind, Blueberror will see the glitch soon enough.
He can wait until then.
For the tiniest second, Fresh thinks he can understand why people do drugs. If a bunch of chemicals can alleviate whatever he is feeling right now, that sounds like a fair trade for a little impairment in cognitive function.
He banishes the thought immediately. No. Definitely not worth it. Too dangerous. And, anyway, the drugs will only affect the body he's inhabiting and not him.
Curling his tentacles tighter around the soul he feeds upon, he seeks comfort in the fullness, safety of that feeling. It barely helps, but something is better than nothing.
Once he feels better, he'll make this body get up, get out of the nook he's hidden in, and go find Frisk so they could, maybe, help him process what's going on.
But for now all he can do is sit tight and wait out the guilt.
When Ink comes out of a portal in ZephyrTop, for a moment he's startled by how surreal the picture he sees seems.
There's a big table set out right in front of the house. Error, Aster and Reaper are gathered at one side of it. The plates and glasses are shoved out of the way there, to make space for a huge night sky map. The three of them are engrossed in discussing something or other about the stars, it would seem.
At the other side of the table, Gaster is showing one of his simpler magic tricks to Glück. The tiny kid frowns, trying hard to guess whether it's actual magic or really just a trick. Gaster and Fresh, who holds the child on his lap, both laugh at the adorably confused expression.
Next to those three, Omni and Paper Jam share a loveseat — made out of water-resistant materials so that their bodies don't soak through. The two watch the scene unfold with soft smiles of their own, sometimes throwing glances away from the table and towards the open space of the lawn.
There, Betelgeuse is entertaining Goth, Mono and Chili. The bone dragon is still much too proud to give anyone but Aster a ride, but letting the kids hug its legs and pet its head is, apparently, permissible.
The rest of the kids are gathered under a tree nearby. Gradient is busy drawing something on his tablet, encouraged by Splatter and Serif, who sit on both sides of him.
Just when Ink finally grasps the whole picture, Blueberror comes out of the house, carrying a cooking tray full of pastries. He's also the first one to notice the artist, and when he calls out a greeting, the rest of the crowd quickly follows — some with open smiles, some with more covert ones.
For a moment, Ink is stuck. He could spend his whole life — possibly, an eternity — waiting for a soul of his own. And maybe, one day he'll get it. But at the moment he is stuck with paints as a replacement for emotions, yet even so, he is sure, he'd be so, so happy right about now.
That's real enough for him.
Smiling brightly, he moves to join them. His family.
It's time to live.
Chapter 11: Protect (Paper Jam, Omni, Mono; a bit of Ink and Error)
There's one sure sign that someone's a part of this family.
"No, Ink, just because he shares a quarter of your magical signature, doesn't mean you get to bring him on 'adventures'," Paper Jam grumbles and holds Mono tighter in his arms.
"Aw, come on!" Ink blinks rapidly a few times, as if he's about to burst into tears. When he sees Mono stare at his eye-sockets in wonder, he blinks some more just to see the tiny hands reach for his face. "See? The kid wants to go."
Paper knew to expect this. Doesn't mean he's any less frustrated now. "No, Ink."
"But why?! Don't you remember the fun we had?"
"Oh? You remember things now?" PJ asks in mock surprise. The only thing keeping him from swearing right now is his son tugging at his scarf. "Well, I don't what what you think you remember, but I clearly remember almost dying?"
"But you didn't!" To Ink, that surely is a viable and sound reasoning. And PJ has known him long enough to be used to it, to not get frustrated when such callousness is aimed at pretty much anyone.
Only his son isn't "anyone".
"Well, I was lucky!" Paper Jam holds little Mono even closer to his chest, as if to hide him from Ink's sight. "And I was older! And stronger! And more self-reliant! I... I... I won't let you leave him somewhere to crawl in the dirt and contract stars know what while—"
His tirade is cut short, when Omni — previously quiet by his side — whispers "shush!" and pokes at his shoulder. He turns towards her, confused as to why she's suddenly taking Ink's side, but she's not looking at him. Not at Ink either. Her wary gaze is pointing somewhere off to the side. PJ follows it to see what's got her so nervous. It's Error. The glitch is too busy watching Undernovela to pay them much attention.
"Meh, don't worry about him," he says, quiet enough so that only she will hear. When Omni looks at him, the skelinkton puts on his best "just trust me on this" smile. She still doesn't look entirely convinced, but she relaxes somewhat.
Satisfied with the result, Paper Jam turns back to Ink — and sees the artist offering one of his smaller paintbrushes to Mono. One of his smaller paintbrushes that has probably seen the dirt of half the Multiverse...
So much for keeping calm.
After Mono is introduced to his family, the three of them — Paper Jam, Omni and their son — stay away from the Doodle Sphere for a while. Both to let Mono get some rest from the loud crowd and for the sake of PJ's sanity.
Mostly for the sake of PJ's sanity.
When they do return though, there's a new addition to the set-up around the tree. Sure, there were always hammocks hanging of the branches, but this one's made of solid fabric, and when Paper touches it just to check, his ink doesn't soak through. It's also unusually deep.
"Look," Omni says then, pointing up, and PJ finally takes note of the little plush toys hanging above the hammock. And just like that, both parents know who the hammock — the crib — was made for. "Do you think that's Ink's way of apologizing?"
"This isn't Ink's," Paper replies, and there's the biggest, brightest shit-eating grin blossoming on his face.
"Who else could that be?"
Oops. That grin just got even wider. "That would be Error."
"You're kidding me!"
"Nope." He reaches up for one of the toys and carefully brings it closer for Mono to see. The kid lets out a happy little squeal at the bright colours. "I can betcha it's Error." And, without waiting for Omni to respond, PJ calls out towards the treehouse, "Oi! Gradient!"
True to his introverted, homebody nature, Gradient pokes his head out of the window. "PJ?"
"Did Error do this?" The slekinkton points at the hammock.
"You know he did," his glitchy brother snorts. "Is that all you wanted?"
"Yeah, yeah, you can go back to you mangoes." PJ grins.
"It's manga and it's an art form!" Gradient squeaks, offended beyond belief, and disappears from sight.
Paper Jam bursts out laughing — this never gets old — and is glad to hear Omni's melodic chuckle as well.
"Should we thank him then?" Omni asks, when their mirth subsides.
"Nah. If you even try, he'll fight you," PJ laughs and adds with an air of seriousness, "Literally." He then shrugs and puts Mono into the crib. "Just enjoy it."
Omni watches as their son pats at the fabric around him in wonder, staring wide-eyed at how it gives under pressure. "Enjoy what?" she says.
"That our son is now officially a part of this crazy family."
Chapter 12: Babysitting 101 (Ink, Error, Blueberror, Paper Jam)
Ink finds someone interesting while out and about and decides to bring it home.
Additional warnings: a few swears. Also, this drabble didn't want to cooperate with me, and that probably shows.
There are some things that come to Error naturally. Like muscle memory. Back when he lived alone, it was a point of pride for him, something to feed his narcissistic tendencies. Now though, when he knows where it comes from, it's just upsetting.
And one day Ink does something to fuel that feeling for a long time.
"Look what I found!" the artist cries one day, to get the attention of his roomies.
When Error looks at Ink from where he was resting in his hammock, he's faced with the very excited artist — already a bad sign — with "can we keep him?" written on his face. In his arms he's holding an unstable blob, vaguely shaped like a body.
"I don't know what that abomination is, but no!" Error snarls just as Blueberror approaches to meet whoever it is Ink brought.
"Error, don't call him that! He feels like our magic — yours and mine!"
"Pfft! That just confirms it further," Error replies before the full implication of what Ink has just said catches on to him, and he—
When he comes back out of the reboot, he sees the blob — a child — struggling not to freak out under the joined enthusiasm of Ink and Blueberror.
That's when it hits him.
"Oi! You two!" Strings wind around Blueberror's wrist and Ink's midsection and yank those two away. "Give that freak of nature some space!"
The child looks up at Error with a grateful smile on his face. Error scoffs at that.
Just what has he just gotten himself into?
Quite predictably, Ink loses much of his "parental" enthusiasm over time. And with his waning focus come the dangers of being in his vicinity: weird food choices, pranks that ended up being hurtful, poor life lessons…
Error just about loses it, when the ink stain takes PJ on an "adventure" to a water-based universe and leaves him behind, when something more interesting comes up. The glitch has to empty half of Inktale of art supplies just for the kid to be able to walk again.
The smile Paper Jam gives him then just proves the theories the glitch has as to why the fuck he is even helping the kid. That realization makes him vomit from the stress of it — actually vomit, even though he was fairly certain his body isn't capable of it.
Blueberror ends up on the opposite side of the spectrum. Eager to give the child the best upbringing possible but lacking any idea how to do so, he turns into the epitome of "helicopter parent" whenever he is around to watch PJ.
Sure, he is the one Paper Jam can rely on for basic care and advice and learning things… But the kid is old enough to want some space.
Stuck between callousness and smothering care, it is little wonder Paper hangs around Error a lot. He keeps his distance, of course, acting aloof, but often chooses a spot to sit and draw nearby whenever the glitch watches a "show" — or even follows him around to see him working at times.
"How do you do that?" Blueberror asks one day.
"Do what?" Error grumbles, unhappy to be bothered.
"Well," Blueber throws a glance towards PJ's bed at the roots of the tree. "How do you make it so he sticks around?"
"Who? The anklebiter?" Error gets a nod and shrugs. "Here's Babysitting 101 for you." He looks Blueberror straight in the eyes. "You're going to fuck up no matter what. And he's gonna fuck up too. So you make sure he's survives it and leave the rest to him."
The other takes in a breath to reply, but sees something in the other's expression and thinks better of it. And walks off without a word.
In the days that follow, Paper Jam is elated to find out he does have at least one proper parent.
Chapter 13: Adopted (Gaster, Ink, Aster, Error)
The family's on its way to get a new addition.
"And that's why jellyfish are better than bunnies!" Ink concludes, beaming at his father, blinks and looks around, trying to figure out where he is and why. The first answer is obvious: he's at Zephyrtop. The second though…
Gaster guesses the reason for his confusion before his son can get too frustrated and helpfully reminds him, "You came here to see us and introduce us to Error."
"Oh! Oh, that's right!" Ink's eyes shine with understanding — even though he can't quite remember why he did it. Now he looks around with an excited smile on his face. One, which slips when he realizes one very important thing. It's supposed to be "parents" — plural — and "Error" — singular. But right now he could only see a singular parent with none Error. "Where…?"
"They sneaked out a while ago," Gaster chuckles.
Ink looks up at him. "But what if—? I mean—? They could've—?" There's too many thoughts he wants to voice at once, so not a single one gets finished.
Gaster stops his floundering with a gentle pat on his head. "I may have an idea just where they've gone to," he winks at Ink.
"Where?" In a heartbeat, Ink's back to his excited adventurous self, and he's itching to go find the missing duo.
Gaster gives him a cryptic smile and gestures for his son to follow him.
"Tell me! Tell me! Tell me!" Ink demands, tugging at his father's sleeve even as he follows him.
"Shh," Gaster holds a finger to his mouth, asking him to be quiet.
Ink pouts but relents.
Gaster leads the two of them towards the door that leads to Aster's observatory. The observatory is actually quite a fair distance away from their dwelling — to avoid any and all light pollution — but the magical passage beyond the door takes them straight to the bottom floor of it.
Gaster again reminds Ink to keep quiet — just in time, since the artist was about to speak again. In the resulting silence a murmur of conversation can be heard coming from the upper level — the platform, where the telescope is.
Ink looks up at his dad in wonder, gets a smirk in return, and the two of them silently climb the staircase. The voices become louder and clearer as they ascend, and Gaster has to remind Ink to keep quiet a couple more times.
At the top of the staircase lies Betelgeuse. The blaster looks like he's sleeping, but he holds up his head on their approach.
Gaster holds his finger to his mouth, asking for silence from Betelgeuse this time. The blaster narrows his eyes at them, clearly not amused, sighs, shakes his head and lies back down.
Gaster and Ink share a conspiratorial sort of look, climb a few more steps and lean out to look at the platform.
There, beside the telescope, stand Aster and Error. The former is enthusiastically rambling about the stars, both showing them to Error through the telescope and pointing them out on the giant map that lies on a nearby table. And Error… Ink could blame his faulty memory, but he's fairly sure he's never heard Error sound so happy — not maliciously gleeful or cruelly delighted, but truly happy.
Well, Ink thinks, watching the scene unfold with a huge grin on his face, looks like someone's on the way to getting adopted.
Chapter 14: I can't delete... (Underswap Chara and Frisk)
Sometimes Chara wishes they could just delete the whole world.
Additional warnings: heavy implications of abuse, non-permanent suicide.
"You're not leaving! I won't let you!" Tem shrieked, holding Toriel's crumbling soul close and backing away slowly, until their back hit a wall.
Chara didn't slow their nearing steps. Their face remained blank, betraying nothing.
Until the Monster soul in Tem's grasp shattered.
Face twisting in rage, the child kicked at Tem with enough force that the body bounced off the wall and landed unconscious. And then the furious human kept kicking and stomping, until the body was no more.
Actually, as a glance around revealed, there wasn't anything left around anymore. Just darkness.
Chara shook, and then they laughed, and then their legs gave out, and they fell to their knees, and then they laughed and cried, until they were numb. That's when they curled in on themself and stilled, head strangely empty.
Do you think it's better this way?
The voice was so familiar — they're used to hearing it in their head — so Chara whirled around, expecting to see nothing. But they saw a child their age. Brown hair, striped shirt and a strange look on their face. Frisk.
"Huh?" Chara asked, dumbfounded.
Do you think it's better this way? Frisk repeated. Their mouth didn't move — only their hands did — but Chara still heard them speak. Huh.
"Better?" Chara echoed feebly. When Frisk nodded, however, something in them snapped. "Better?! Oh no, this is not better!" They stumble to their feet, step towards Frisk. "But this is exactly what you deserve!"
But I wanted—
"Wanted what? For Monsters to go free? Lies!" Chara spat, coming even closer and making Frisk curl in on themself. "If you wanted that, you would have stopped LOADing a long time ago!"
But—! But I thought that maybe, if—
"Maybe, if you make me suffer through this long enough, the problem would solve itself?!"
No! Frisk cried.
"Well, it sure does not look that way!"
I'm sorry! The stress of a genocidal walk through the Underground was already weighing down heavily on them, and the onslaught of accusations was enough to make them finally break down into tears. I'm sorry! They crouched, covering their ears, and shook with silent sobs.
"As if it is worth something," Chara sneered. When no response followed, they clicked their tongue, turned away and walked a few steps just to distance themself. Frisk was so sure of themself, so cocky — right until they had to deal with the consequences. How typical.
Chara clenched their fists only to realize they still had a dusty knife in their hand. And — they looked back over their shoulder — Frisk seemed distracted. So... what if?...
Chara saw their soul glow, lighting up their chest. Driven by their sudden burst of mad determination, the little red heart projected itself into reality. Chara held the knife with both hands, raising it above the soul.
Silently, Chara looked over their shoulder, giving Frisk a good view of their unnaturally wide grin.
Chara, what are you doing?
"I am finally going to erase it." They blinked and felt hot, viscous tears flow down their cheeks. "I am going to erase it all." They thrust the knife down.
The last thing they saw before their world — and their soul — shattered, was Frisk leaping towards them in a desperate attempt to stop them.
It was sunny outside. Probably warm too. The sunlight pouring into Chara's eyes from above was warm at least.
The sunlight pouring out from the small hole in the rock ceiling.
Chara closed their eyes to block it out.
And then they cried.
Chapter 15: Central (Ink, Chili)
Ink has a whole palette at his disposal.
There's not much canon info known about Chili, so I'm improvising here. This may be a very erroneous interpretation though. Keep that in mind.
"So how does that work? With just eight of them?" Chili asks, staring at Ink in wonder.
The artist looks up from his sketchbook and blinks, eyelights changing into two question marks (one of them is upside down). "How does what work?"
"Well," Chili has the decency to tone down his excited curiosity a bit, "your emotions. With your paints, I mean."
"Oh." Another blink, though now Ink looks less confused — and, thankfully, not defensive. "It's like this." Setting his sketchbook aside, he picks up a clean palette. "There are eight colours, right? So I take them." He squeezes the colours — regular ones, not the ones he drank — onto the palette in small, neat blobs. The paints form a circle. "And once I have them ready," a paintbrush runs through the blobs to complete the circle in a practiced motion, "I mix them to get any colour I want."
Chili stares at the palette that's presented to him. On it, there's a circle drawn in paint that shows off the full gradient of saturated colours. "And what if you don't mix them in order?" He points at the center of it.
"…Have you seen me throw up?" Ink asks with a smirk.
"Yes?" Chili nods, but the artist doesn't elaborate, waiting for the kid to figure it out himself. Once he does, and a look of utter disgust crosses Chili's face, Ink bursts out laughing.
The artist is still giggling with the remainders of mirth, when Chili asks, "But can't you use the black anyway?"
The question cuts off Ink's laughter, makes him think back, and…
The black is choking him up from the inside, welling in his throat, filling his skull, making his bones crackle. He holds on to it though. Doesn't let it out. Because maybe, just maybe, if he holds on long enough, he'll get it, he'll finally…
"Ink?" Chili snaps his fingers in front of his face, banishing the vision in his mind.
"Huh?" Ink blinks a few times before he manages to focus on the child again. "Uh… What were we talking about?"
"…" Chili may have inherited most of his people skills from Error, but he's still smart enough not to push. "Nothing important. I just asked what your favorite colour was."
"Oh! Well, that's an unfair question!" Just like that, Ink is beaming with enthusiasm. "Because there's so many to choose from! Like yellow for example…"
Chili lets him ramble on.
Chapter 16: The missing colour (Ink and others)
Ink finds the one colour he's missing.
I've had plans to make this concept into a comic, but I've been putting it off for too long by now, and ShandyCandy278 gave me the last push I needed.
It's not canon to this Multiverse, but the general concept is canon to my interpretation of Ink.
Ink was desperately clutching the vial of paint in his hands. He had to remind himself multiple times not to hold it too tightly so as not to break it, but he was also terrified. Terrified that it would disappear, slip through his fingers like sand, if he didn't hold on.
He got it from Fresh, of all people. The parasite told him he'd found this — just a few precious drops — in a budding AU he'd come across, and wondered if this had something to do with the paints Ink drank, since he'd never seen this colour on his sash before.
When given the vial, Ink confirmed that yes, it definitely was one of those special paints, just like the ones he drank. And, while it sounded like Fresh had downplayed the amount of paint he'd recovered — the vial did look full — a quick check revealed that no. No, he did not. There was just one sip's worth of it on the very bottom. Though, if Ink was right about what the colour meant, such appearances were probably fitting.
In attempts to ensure he'd be able to find more of it, Ink had Fresh take him to the universe the colour was found in. There was nothing. No, the AU was there, and the story was in full swing, but there was nothing special about it. Just one of the many AUs of the Multiverse. Which was, perhaps, fitting as well.
So Ink was left with just one chance and no guarantee that there would be another. So he waited until his family and friends were all gathered for some occasion or other — maybe it was even his birthday? He couldn't really remember.
And then he took a sip of white.
Ink snapped back to his normal state in his father's warm embrace. The white was strong and unfamiliar, and the aftereffects of it left his mind in a bit of a haze. But there were things he could remember clearly.
He remembered gathering the kids and gushing over their talents and strengths and how much they've all grown over the years. Remembered apologising to Paper Jam over and over for putting him in danger so many times — until the kid's mask of snark crumbled, and he promised that, while unforgotten, it was all forgiven — and then remembered telling him to keep Omni safe, because she's good for him.
He remembered taking a moment to hug Mono and telling him to grow big and strong. Remembered the toddler say, "I love you, Grandpa Ink," and make him burst into tears — oh, wait, he was already crying by then, wasn't he?
He remembered more hugs and more words spoken — "Dere are more important peeps dere, broski," "You are 'important peeps' too!" — and then he was clinging tight to Blueberror and reaching out for Error. The latter was just bewildered enough by the whole situation to hold his hand without complaint. That was enough for a new flood of tears to come, and through his sobs he tried to tell them just how much they meant to him, just how much this family the three of them had built up did. He clung to the two of them until he couldn't. Until he was too afraid the paint would run out before he'd get a chance for one another very important thing.
He remembered clinging to his parents, telling them all the ways they were important and how much they meant to him, and how he could never wish for anyone else to take their place. He kept babbling, until the white ran out.
He felt numb then. Empty, despite having all the other paints in the system. It was kind of funny: the colour didn't really act on its own, but rather clung to every other colour — from joy to anger — and gave it a special tint, a special flavor. It kind of managed to be everywhere at once, just like those few drops managed to make the whole vial look full.
"Ink?" Gaster asked softly. Concerned. Ink was faintly aware that a few minutes ago that tone would've made his nonexistent soul stutter.
"I'm okay," he answered, not untruthful. This was his normal state, after all. "I just need a few more moments." And, after a moment's consideration, he added, "I just want to remember it."
The concerned crowd surrounding him — if he still had white, would that have made him happy or sad? — started to dissipate, giving him space.
And Ink, true to his word, did his best to commit the feeling to his memory.
After all, who knew if he'd ever get to feel love again?
Chapter 17: Hotline (Underswap Sans, Asriel)
"King Sans ending" in my version of Underswap, probably.
As an experiment, it's written in the kind of script format you see in the original game endings. Since I couldn't find a better way to make the distinction, Sans is in bold letters and Asriel is in cursive.
* Heya, kid.
* You there...?
* Okay. I'll leave a message then.
* It's been a while since out last talk, huh?
* Well, stuff's changed since then.
* Overnight, a few people disappeared.
* Heh, I thought Alphys pulled one of her night-long anime marathons again...
* And my invitation didn't hit my phone.
* But that wasn't the case.
* All of the human souls are gone too.
* And with the queen missing, Asriel's become the new ruler.
* But, since he's so young, I'm here, helping him out.
* He's doing great though, always working to keep people's spirits up!
* They all could use a little pick me up too...
* What with everyone they looked up to... gone, in one night...
* Who's there?
* It's me, Sans.
* 'It's me, Sans' who?
* Sans, you know who it is...
* Heh, sure do.
* But you can never say 'no' to a good knock-knock joke!
* So, did ya want something?
* Oh, right!
* People around Snowdin have been... unwell lately.
* So I thought Papyrus and I could brew some tea or something.
* I know a great recipe!
* And then we'd pass it around to people.
* To keep them warm inside.
* ...You know, to keep their spirits up.
* Sounds like a great idea, Azzy!
* You'll... uh...
* I mean...
* I don't think Paps will be able to help.
* Not that he's being a lazybones...
* He's been working a lot lately. Trying to help everyone he possibly can.
* I'm proud of him, really.
* But that was getting out of hand.
* Not getting enough sleep and all.
* Sleeping is very important, you know.
* So he went on vacation!
* ...Oh... Um...
* O... okay.
* Want me to help you out, Azzy?
* No... uh... no...
* You're already doing so much...
* I can... I can do that thing on my own then!
* I'm sure Paps will be happy to help you out with other projects once he's back!
* Yeah... Once he's... once he's... back...
* I'll go get things ready then!
* You'll do a great job! I know it!
* Hey, kid. Still there?
* You know...
* Wherever you are...
* I hope you're happy.
* Because no one else is.
Chapter 18: Use the anger (Paper Jam, Error)
Once finally settled into her new family, Paper Jam is starting to make sense of what her "heritage" entails.
Reminder: Paper Jam is canonically genderfluid. Although "he/him" gets used, like, 90% of the time, sometimes PJ chooses to present as more feminine and use "she/her" pronouns.
Paper Jam had a family. It took a while for the thought to settle. Granted, one of her newfound parents didn't care much about her existence — unless she was at the risk of dying — and the other seemed to be a probable reason for her eventual dying… Well, Uncle B turned out to be an okay parent figure, at least — once he stopped smothering her with his care.
But once they collectively figured things out, their lives fell into a routine of sorts. And the question of heritage became prominent.
Ink, naturally, was eager to help PJ explore her creative skills and abilities — not out of parental instinct, but out of sheer curiosity. Despite the artist's enthusiasm, it was a disaster. No matter how hard Paper Jam tried, every single one of her creations fell apart in mere seconds. Ink's laughter that followed didn't help.
"Now that's pathetic," Error snorted, when he witnessed one such attempt.
"Yeah? Well teach me how to destroy things then!" she shot back, jumping to her feet.
"And why would I waste my time on something so useless?"
That gave her a start. Enough so that, when she found it in her to cry, "Because you're wasting it anyway?!" — it was to Error's back, as a portal closed behind him.
The conversation didn't end there. PJ took to pestering Error about mentorship any chance she got. Until yet another unsuccessful attempt finally left her both hurt and pissed beyond belief.
So she took to tailing Error instead. Learning. Failing over and over, but trying to succeed. Filled with way more determination than Ink's tutoring could ever provide.
Ridiculous as it was, with some adjustment, she found a solution. She found her own way to cheat an AU out of existing.
So now she just had to wait.
An opportunity did present itself. A universe, where clawing out a human soul was easy, but beating down the ferocious monsters wasn't.
Paper Jam watched with glee as Error stumbled into the Anti-Void, holding a human soul close and glitching madly. She made sure the glitch noticed her — really noticed her — saw confusion on his face, then reached out. With the human gone, the AU unwound with a single nudge in the right direction.
It took a moment for Error to fully realize what had happened. PJ didn't mind waiting. The brief flash of shock in the glitch's eyes was well worth it. What emotion it settled into afterwards PJ couldn't quite make out though.
"Guess, you're not completely useless."
That took her by surprise. "What?"
"I'm not repeating that, pipsqueak," Error grumbled, sending the human soul up to join the others at the "ceiling", and walked into the Doodle Sphere through a portal.
The portal remained open even after he passed though.
Shaking her head, Paper Jam grinned and followed Error home.
Chapter 19: Bonjour! (Blueberror, Ink, Error)
Blueberror, Error and Ink finally discover an AU they have the same opinion about.
Warnings: crackfic, a lot of bad nationality-related stereotypes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The quiet of the Doodle Sphere was broken by the sharp static of a glitchy portal being ripped open too hastily. Way less classy than Error's usual.
Ink must've won, Blueberror noted absentmindedly, watching the portal.
Lo and behold! The destroyer himself came through the portal, covered in a swarm of glitches and muttering, "F-k th- s-it! F- this -it! -uck th- -hit!" in a stuttering voice as he went. Now, frustration would've been expected, but this reaction was closer to shock.
"What the heck?" Blueberror mumbled. He was about to ask his fellow glitch, but that's when Ink came stumbling through Error's portal, looking about as out of it as his "archenemy". Now Blueber was curious. "Okay, what is going on?"
Ink only shook his head. Error had gone into the stage of glitching so close to rebooting than he ended up nearly unresponsive.
Curiosity piqued, Blueberror cautiously approached the still open portal and poked his head through.
The first thing he saw was… Cross? Only, for some reason, this version of him was wearing a sombrero. He was on the ground on his knees, crying over… Was that a taco on the ground?
Before he could ask though…
"Hon, hon, hon!" An Ink, wearing a beret popped up right in front of his face. The lookalike rubbed his tiny mustache — why did he have a mustache?! — between his fingers and squinted at Blueberror. "Sacré bleu! Le baguette???"
"Oui! Oui!" The weird Ink beamed. And then there was an honest-to-stars baguette shoved into the glitch's hands.
"Uh… Oui???" Blueberror tried to smile, bewildered beyond belief.
"Magnifique!" the "Ink" replied, turned and left, apparently, satisfied with his answer.
Slowly, very slowly — just in case rapid motion could attract the attention of… whatever that was — Blueberror leaned back out of the portal and forced it closed with a single snappy motion of his head. He stood there for a moment or two, trying to process what he'd just seen.
When that failed, he turned to face Ink and Error. Error looked only slightly better than when Blueberror had last laid eyed on him. Ink offered a shrug, when their eyes met.
So Blueberror voiced what all of them were probably thinking, "We're never speaking of this again, right?"
I once came across a Tumblr what-if post — what if all the characters spoke the language of their creators — which then devolved into something crack-ish, I'm pretty sure. Donno if that post still exists, but this 'AU' is a parody of that.
P.S. Yes, I know Cross isn't supposed to have anything to do with Mexico. That's just part of the absurdity.
Chapter 20: On silent (MommaCQ Fresh and Error)
Error comes to check up on Fresh.
MommaCQ setting. Probably AU to whatever ending is in store for the actual story. Error and Fresh are in their teen-early adult years.
"Rise and shine, motherfunker!"
"Gah!" Fresh jerked up into a sitting position, staring wide-eyed at the reason for the sudden awakening. Which happened to be Error. Blinking owlishly, Fresh tried to make sense of his surroundings. It was the office. Why was he in the office? "Wha?"
"Guess, who's here to make sure you're not funking dead!"
The younger brother still had trouble connecting the dots. "Huh?"
"You weren't picking up the phone, so Mom got worried and asked me to check on you, since I was supposedly 'living nearby'." Here Error added air-quotes. For good reason, too. The other side of the city wasn't exactly "nearby".
"Oh." Fresh nodded, starting to piece together what had happened. He had an exam earlier in the day — at least he hoped it was still the same day — then went to meet up with his advisor and stayed at the office afterwards to that he can study.
The sound of Error's ringtone filled the silence then — easily identifiable, since it hadn't changed in years — and he fished his phone out of his pocket. "Yeah?"
While his older brother was busy answering the call, Fresh reached out towards his own device to see why he'd missed the calls. Turned out he forgot to take the phone off silent after the exam. No surprise there. The number of missed calls though... If Fresh could have gone any paler, he probably would have. He slowly looked up from the screen then.
"Of course he's funking alright!" Error was, apparently, busy talking to one of those "missed" calls. "Funk, funk, funk! See? Well enough to censor all this shizz." Probably Geno or Deccy then. "If you want someone to mother him, come here and do it yourself." Definitely Deccy. "Yeah, yeah. Okay, whatever." And with that Error ended the call, muttering censored curses under his breath, and returned his attention to Fresh.
"Deccy Dec?" Fresh asked before Error could start telling him off.
"No shizz, Sherlock," Error huffed. "You still gotta call Mom or Geno."
"Yeah, gotcha," Fresh rubbed his sore eyes and squinted at the window. It was dark outside. Wait, what was the time he saw on his phone? "Still Friday?"
"Saturday morning." Error frowned then, glaring at his brother intensely. "You look like shizz."
"Ngh... Can you not swear?" Usually, he didn't care that much, but right now he was just tired enough to be irritable. Plus, the reminder of how exhausted he looked wasn't helping.
"Now I'm gonna funking swear a funkton more just because you funking asked me not to." Error schooled his expression into an antagonistic grin, but Fresh only offered a small smile in return. He knew his brother well enough to tell when he was just messing around. Noticing that his brother saw right through the ruse, Error let the grin morph into a more amicable smile as well. "Come on. Get your stuff and let's go."
"Dere's an exam on Monday. I need ta—"
"You need some funking sleep, or you'll be staying at the hospital instead."
For a moment Fresh entertained the idea of answering, 'You gonna make dat happen?' but quickly dismissed that one. His brother didn't need a reminder. And if he's even capable of coming up with such a response, he was probably more tired than he realized.
So, instead, he said, "Right-o. Lemme just..." He stood up and immediately groaned at how everything hurt. Yeah, letting himself fall asleep at the table was a bad idea. Making that into a mental note, Fresh got to packing his books and papers.
Error, quite surprisingly, remained quiet throughout the process and only grumbled, "Finally!" once his little brother was done.
As they walked out the door, Fresh asked, "So how are your studies going?"
"Gk... My... I... That's..." Error stumbled over his words before snapping, "Call Geno already!"
Fresh only laughed in response.
Chapter 21: Jameson (Underswap Sans and Grillby)
The time Sans tried whiskey for the first time.
"I just don't get the appeal," Sans mumbled from his place at the bar, cheek resting on one arm and the other poking at the mostly empty bottle of whiskey. "I mean, it felt warm at first, but… meh."
"…" It was way past midnight, and the bar was almost empty by now, so Grillby could afford to keep the skeleton company.
"Nah, but I saw Paps drink it a few times, so I thought it must be good." Sans shrugged. "I mean, he drinks honey too, but that would just make me sick. Don't have the stomach for it, heh."
"…" Grillby tilted his head a bit.
"Yeah, this would probably do that too." He straightened up in his seat, turned to look at the last of the customers saying their goodbyes and leaving. Looked back at Grillby. "I should go now, right?"
"…" The fire elemental tilted his head and held up his open palm. "…"
"Oh come on! I'm fine, Grillbs! Honest!" Sans grinned. Truthfully, he did look completely sober. "Don't know what 'drunk' is supposed to be, but if this is it, then I don't see the difference."
He put a palm onto the bar top as if to jump off the stool, but paused, frowning up at the bartender. "I'm not supposed to use magic after drinking, am I?"
"…" The fluid motion of Grillby's head was probably an eye-roll. Then, again, he stared right at Sans. "…"
"He and Undyne are at the labs, having a sleepover." Sans shrugged. That was what they told him at least. "Don't wanna ruin the fun."
"I can walk home. Or take the ferry."
"Yeah, you're right." A nod. "I don't have the," yawn, "stomach for it right no-"
"I did?" Sans blinked. While he tried to think back to what he'd said, Grillby came up with another thing to suggest.
"Nah, there's been trouble in New Home, so she's been busy a lot." Sans finally hopped off the bar stool — quite easily too. He really did look sober. "I wouldn't want to make her cut on sleep."
"…" A clump of fire tendrils separated from the top of Grillby's head and disappeared on its way to the ceiling. Sans came to recognize that gesture as a heavy sigh. "…"
"What do you mean?"
"Really?" The skeleton's eyelights turned to stars. "Like a sleepover?"
"…Uh, isn't that the point of sleepover?" Sans tilted his head to the side.
Grillby started to answer before deciding it was way too late in the night for having long educational conversations, so instead he settled on shrugging.
"Oh. Okay then." Sans let that one slip. "So," he grinned and clapped his hands, "what do you need me to do?" He laughed at the confused look that earned him. "We can close this place up for the night faster if we work together, right?"
Unable to come up with an argument, Grillby gave in. "..."
"Right on it!" Sans responded with a two-fingered salute and got to the task of tidying up the room.
For a few moments Grillby watched the skeleton work — way more energetically than expected, considering the apparent sleepiness and mild inebriation. Then he walked into the kitchen to handle things there, shaking his head fondly as he went.
"Sleepover" it is.
Chapter 22: If next time we'll be us (Geno and Reaper)
Reaper pays Geno a visit only to find out things have... changed.
"Whatcha doing there, sweetums?"
"Ack!" Geno struggled not to drop the beaker out of surprise. Twisting around to face Reaper, he struck forward on reflex. "I could've dropped that, asshole!" Only then he realized that Death stood way farther than he expected him to be — nowhere near striking distance. But when a fist flew towards Reaper — a motion that quickly turned half-hearted — he took an extra step back.
Geno froze, mind trying to decipher what exactly happened. It's not like he ever even struck that hard — not since they stopped fighting and started talking, really. This was supposed to be a little jab — playful, if frustration-driven. It's not like Reaper had anything to worry about.
"Geno, honey," Reaper sighed at the sight of his lover's confusion, "aren't you supposed to be the smart one?"
Geno blinked, still not quite done processing. Then it hit him. He was on the surface now. He wasn't bleeding out. He wasn't falling apart. His frozen life counter had been mended and refilled, and it was running once again.
And there was no telling if a single touch wouldn't break it for good this time.
His thoughts must've showed on his face, because Reaper started to say, "Gen-?"
"I thought you wouldn't come back." Geno didn't mean for it to sound snappish, but it came out that way anyway.
"Ge," Death was quiet for a moment, "why would you think that?"
"Because… because of…" Stars, how was Geno supposed to put one of the most horrifying experiences of his life into words? That desperate pull of a tiny dying soul that begged for him to save them… "Because of you know what!" he spat finally, turning away.
As he stared at his table with unseeing eyes he could hear the whisper of shifting fabric behind him. For a second he thought Reaper would come closer and embrace him. That didn't happen though. The room was sunk into quiet, disturbed only by the hum of fluorescent lamps on the ceiling and machinery at the walls.
When the silence was starting to become unbearable Geno chanced a look at Reaper. The other was hunched, curled into himself where he stood, and seemed to stare into space.
"Nice place you got here," Reaper hummed, making a show of looking around. "Got the lab of your dreams here?"
Geno wasn't sure if he was annoyed or grateful for the out provided. He took it nonetheless. "Yeah, it's pretty good." He looked around too, even though he already knew this place by heart. "Didn't know you were well-versed in science stuff."
"Mostly in godly kind of science, not in…" He trailed off, not yet ready to directly address the elephant in the room. So, as another attempt at distraction, he asked, "So how're you doing? Don't even try to tell me you're staying in here all the time. Can't fool death." Reaper made a scary face there — which managed to get a small smile out of his lover.
Geno watched as the reaper hovered mid-air, legs crossed and leaning forward. Doing his best to look eager for the story — or maybe actually dying to hear it.
And so, Geno indulged him — despite his misgivings. He told his lover of how the monsters finally got their freedom, of how he'd come to gain his freedom as well, of how he and his family had settled into their new homes, started building up their new lives... For once, a few months of his life left him with a lot of new things to tell.
Reaper's attention never wavered. He offered his comments sometimes, a few jokes here and there.
Little by little, tension left Geno's bones as his enthusiasm grew. Soon, he was almost able to believe that nothing had changed between the two of them. Almost.
"...And now every kid in the district just adores Paps." He finished another story and stilled. The smile fell from his face. He crossed his arms, slumping, and closed his eye with a sigh.
"Uh... Ge?" Reaper asked, worried, but Geno held his palm up, asking for silence.
It was quiet again, as Geno collected his thoughts. There was something he needed to say, no matter how hard it was.
"Reaper," resolved, Geno looked up at his lover, "for what it's worth... I'm sorry."
"Geno!" On reflex, Reaper moved forward a bit before stopping himself. That actually made Geno flinch and look away. "Geno, please, look at me." When the other finally did, albeit reluctantly, Death smiled. "Listen... if you threw away that one chance you got... you wouldn't have forgiven me." Seeing Geno about to argue, he pressed on. "And, fuck, if you could only see yourself right now... Geno, if you threw away that chance, I wouldn't have forgiven myself either." He found his hands itching to reach forward, to offer comfort, and to smother the impulse, he crossed his arms instead.
Geno fidgeted then, repeatedly trying to say something — to argue — and failing each and every time. Until, finally, the only thing he managed to voice was, "So what happens now then?"
"You live." Reaper shrugged, and it took all of his willpower to keep the hurt from his voice. "You live and make the most of it."
And pray next time won't be our last.
Chapter 23: Choices (Reaper and Life)
After meeting up with Geno, Reaper comes to Life for support.
Takes place after the meeting in the previous chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Life was just checking on the infant, when Reaper showed up. She heard the rustle of fabric behind her back as he settled on one of the big rocks spread over her garden — kept there for the times he didn't want to kill any of Life's flora. Life remained quiet as she tucked the blanket around the sleeping child. She was giving her lover the time to collect his thoughts. After all, the conversation he was supposed to have could end up in so many ways — all of them quite emotional.
When the silence seemed to last too long even for that, she sighed, turning around, "Sans, what-?" Life stilled. She expected elation or, perhaps, tears... Not that lost and hollow look, which, she was sure, wasn't focused on anything in particular. "...Sans?"
"I didn't tell him, Tori."
Reaper tilted his head up, and she felt his stare land on her. "I didn't tell him." He shook his head and a helpless smile found its way onto his face. "How could I?"
"Sans?" Slowly, she came closer and sat on the ground in front of him so that she didn't have to look down at him. "Sans, what happened?"
"He's alive, Tor," he chuckled, the sound somehow speaking of devastation despite the still-present smile. "Alive."
"Sans," Life said slowly, still not quite sure, what had happened, "why did you think he would be dead?"
"No." Reaper shook his head. "No, I mean he's alive alive. He's healed. He's free." For a brief moment that smile of his looked real. Until... "He's mortal."
Life didn't need an explanation to understand the implications. Slowly, she reached towards him, and Reaper let himself be pulled into her warm embrace.
She held him, until his tension gave way to exhaustion, and even then she didn't let go, only craned her neck to press a soft kiss to the top of his head and ask, "But why didn't you tell him?"
"How could I?" he mumbled, proving that sounding like death was just as possible as looking like one.
"It is his child too, Sans," she argued, even though she couldn't quite bring herself to sound stern. "He has the right to know."
"Why, Tori? Do you expect me to tell him that the child he's already mourned is alive — only for him to find out he can't even touch them?" he shook his head. "C'mon, Tor, don't pretend you can't feel the pull of their magic!"
"It is not that strong, Sans."
"And he's not that strong either," Reaper pulled away just enough to be able to look her in the eyes. "Tori... Geno's healed, yes. But his soul... He's got eight years — maybe ten, if he takes good care of himself." He let out a laugh that sounded more like a sob, shaking his head in a sort of resigned disbelief. "And, of course, he's too much of a stubborn bonehead to do even that." He closed his eyes then, tucking his head under her chin once again. "If I take them to meet him... they'll be the death of him.
"And I'm not ready to let go."
To clarify: Reaper isn't cheating on anyone. It's a polyamorous relationship, where Reaper is in a relationship both with Life and with Geno (aka LifeAfterDeath). Life and Geno has never met though, but they're aware of each other.
And no, Goth doesn't have a name yet. Reaper didn't want to name him on his own, without Geno's involvement :)
Chapter 24: Farewell (Blueberror and Underswap Chara)
Blueberror comes to visit Chara.
Funnily enough, this was originally written for the prompt on the original list ("pauper") — only with Russian translation of the word in mind... which happens to have a figurative meaning as well as a literal one. I only realized my mistake after I finished writing. Oh well.
"Song time no see, human," Blueberror greets. He sees Chara flinch where they're standing and whip around to face him. There's a look of surprise which quickly turns into elation.
"Sans!" they cry and run towards him to tackle him in a hug. He catches them, and they both laugh as he spins them around.
Then, as he's coming to a stop, Blueberror reminds, "Not Sans anymore, remember?"
Chara's laughter dies down as well. "Blueberror, right?"
"Yeah." He puts them down on the ground and chuckles, "Ink keeps calling me Blueber, so I guess that works as well."
Chara smiles then, but that doesn't last long. "Blueberror?"
"What is it, human?" the skeleton keeps a neutral smile on his face, if only just to be encouraging.
"I will not be able to take the Monsters above ground. I have tried so many times." Their expression turns scared, apologetic, and they hurry to explain, "It is not my fault! Some Monsters got hurt because—"
"I know, Chara," Blueberror stops them before they can start panicking. He didn't see what happened exactly, but he knows whose fault this is, and he's dealt with him already. Now, it was time to deal with this. "You'll have to reset."
"But... but... But your brother will forget you!"
Despite his resolve, Blueberror can't hold back a flinch. He forgives himself for that one weakness though. Because then, it's time for voicing one of the hardest things in his life. "He's not my brother anymore, is he?" When Chara looks at him in disbelief, he continues, "Come on, you've met the new Sans, haven't you?"
"But... but your family?..."
"It's his now." It takes all of his willpower to make his voice sound firm — even with all the glitching. "Besides, I have a different family to take care of now. And it just so happens to consist of two of the most dangerous overgrown babies in the whole Multiverse. Believe it or not," he leans closer and lowers his voice, as if he's telling a very important secret, "they're a real challenge for someone even as magnificent as me to handle." He leans back and winks at them then.
Thankfully, that's enough to make Chara smile, even thought they look like they might cry. "I will miss you," they say, their voice strained.
"Oh, Chara," Blueberror sighs and hugs them. "I'll miss you too." He's quiet for a moment, just letting them hold onto him, then he says, "Can you promise me something?"
"What is it?" they ask, the sound muffled.
He leans back so that he can look them in the eyes. "Free the Underground, okay? And once you do, please, keep them safe. Can you do that for me?"
Chara's expression grows resolved then, and they give him a decisive nod. "I promise," they say, and there's a glow of determination in their eyes.
"Thank you," he says, and then he's hugging them again.
They stay like that until they know they can't anymore.
When Blueberror finally takes his leave, neither can bear to say "goodbye". So instead, Chara mouths, "I promise," and the skeleton smiles and nods in understanding.
Then the portal closes behind him.
Chara closes their eyes.
And the world resets.
Chapter 25: Pink Sauce (Nightmare, Ink, Error)
Nightmare attempts to gain Ink's loyalty.
Additional warnings: a swear-word or two.
Nightmare slapped one of his tentacles on the floor to create a puddle of black ooze and sent a mental call to Ink. He didn't know how that worked exactly, but — unless otherwise occupied — Ink never failed to show up. Nightmare only hoped it would be through the puddle this time and not through — he shuddered — the sludge covering his body, like the artist did last time. Not only did that feel gross, it also threw the Prince of Darkness off his balance and sent him falling on his face.
Thankfully, this time it was the puddle that boiled and took the shape of the awaited skeleton.
"Hey, Nightmare!" Ink waved. He tilted his head in wonder as he noticed a table set for two at the side. "What's the occasion?"
"A few new universes emerged that I wish to discuss with you. And I am nothing but a gracious host." He extended a hand towards the table in invitation.
You didn't have to tell Ink twice. He may have had no need for food, but it didn't mean he didn't enjoy tasting things. In a blink of an eye he took one of the seats and grabbed a slice of cake with his hand like the savage he was. "So what AUs did you want to talk about?"
"All-Hallows-Tale, for starters." Nightmare held back any comments on the artist's manners, taking a seat across from the other. "UnderWatch and NightTale too. But don't worry," he poured himself some tea and shrugged, "there's no hurry." He watched Ink indulge himself over the edge of the cup with a discreet smirk on his face.
"Hey, oil slick! Who put you through meat grinder?" Coming from Error, such a statement qualified as concern. Nightmare must have really looked awful then.
"What do you want?" Nightmare asked, not quite in a mood to discuss his injuries.
"Nothing." The glitch shrugged, swinging on his strings up in the air without a care in the world. "Just curious."
Then again, Error knew Ink better than any other intel source the Prince of Darkness had, so… Perhaps, a little give would earn him an explanation for what the everloving fuck had happened...
"It was Ink," Nightmare admitted reluctantly.
"Ink? Ha!" Error, apparently, found Nightmare's current state even more amazing now. "What did you do? Try to corrupt Pacifist UnderSwap?"
"I got hold of a few of his paints," Nightmare sneered.
"Ooh! Got caught red-handed, huh? Even so, that's harsh, even by that ink stain's standards."
"He doesn't know."
Now that really got the glitch curious. "Okay, I'll bite. What did you do?" He even leaned forward to hear better.
"If you really need to know," Nightmare squinted up at him, "I used the paints to drug him. To enforce his loyalty."
"Yeah?" Now Error just looked amused — which didn't bode well for the guardian of negativity. "What colours did you use?"
"Pink, of course. Love and devotion should be close enough to…" He trailed off when he saw just how wide Error's grin was getting.
"And you got that colour… how exactly?"
"...By mixing magenta and diluted red."
There was a moment of silence and stillness. Then Error burst out laughing near-hysterically and tumbled off his seat of strings, hanging off it only by one foot. The glitchy and distorted laughter was a thousand shades of terrifying, and normally Nightmare enjoyed the horror it instilled into people. But right now, with no one but the two of them to hear it, it just served to annoy him more.
"What the fuck is so funny?" he spat.
"Oh, haha! Oh, I don't know! Haha!" Error forced his laughter down just to say, "Never expected you to think that mixing diluted anger with disgust was a good idea!" And he was back to laughing then.
Error's usefulness exhausted, Nightmare didn't hesitate to strike at the glitch. Sadly, even despite the mirth, Error was quick to drop off the strings and into a well-placed portal. "Later, loser!" He even flipped the guardian of negativity off before disappearing from sight.
Nightmare struck uselessly at the spot where the portal had just closed. He stood there for another minute, glaring holes into that spot.
Then, collecting himself, he turned and opened a rift into HELP_Tale. He really needed a bit of suffering right about now.
The matters of Ink and Error could wait.
Chapter 26: Couch (Geno and Sans)
Geno gets a chance to contemplate his life.
Geno awoke on top of something soft. Did he lay down on something soft before falling asleep? He couldn't remember. Opening his only working eye revealed his living room. He was on the couch then. He couldn't remember laying onto the couch, much less getting an actual blanket and pillow.
Groaning, he pushed himself to sit up, rubbing at his left eye-socket and yawning. The ambiance of the house had suddenly gone a lot quieter. He grew tense only to relax once he realized that someone shut off the water in the kitchen — and nothing else.
"Geno? You awake?" Sans called from the kitchen softly.
For a moment Geno considered not responding, but thought better of it. "Yeah, I'm up." He looked up as Sans walked out of the kitchen. "No idea how I got here though."
"Paps brought you here last night." Sans sat down beside him and leaned back, closing his eyes. He looked totally relaxed and content. Geno didn't believe the act for one second.
"Yeah?" he prompted.
"Yep. You haven't been home in five days, and Paps got worried. So he called to see if you were okay, but your phone was dead." Sans said easily. Geno wasn't fooled though: this was an accusation. "So he called the labs, and they told him you fell asleep at your desk." Sans opened one eye to look at Geno intensely then. "After not sleeping for five days." Shutting his eye again, he shrugged. "So Paps went to grab you and bring you home."
It was quiet then. Sans was waiting for Geno to react, and Geno… Geno stubbornly refused to justify his actions. Instead he glared holes into the floorboards.
When the long-awaited answer failed to come forth, Sans sighed and called, "Geno?" When the other didn't move to respond, he tried again, more insistently, "Geno."
Reluctantly, Geno turned to look at his other self. Sans was staring straight at him, expression serious for once.
"Always thought it'd be amusing to hear Paps say that someone needs more sleep," Sans said. "But it's not. Geno, he's worried. We're worried. What is going on?"
"What does it matter?" Geno growled. "Thought I was free to do what I want?"
"Thought your family mattered?" Sans responded in kind, just as bitter.
"…" Geno turned to look away, running his fingertips over the frayed edge of his scarf.
Despite the lack of a verbal answer, Sans heard the response loud and clear. Guess that approach is off the table. Letting out another sigh, he put a hand on Geno's shoulder. "Listen… I've heard of the stuff you've been working on…"
Geno held back a flinch.
"Just… be smart about it, okay?" Faced with silence — again — Sans shook his head, gave Geno's shoulder a light pat and stood up. "You know, this might sound ironic — right now and coming from me — but…" He turned to Geno, waited until the other met his eyes. "Someone really cares about you."
He stood there for a few moments more, holding Geno's gaze, then turned and walked out of the room.
Geno waited until he was sure that Sans couldn't see or hear him and only then let himself clench his fists in frustration, until his bones creaked. He thought he'd kept his DT research safely under wraps. Someone must've ratted him out. Great, just great. He took a deep breath to try and calm himself — it didn't work all that well — fell back onto the pillow and stared up at the ceiling.
Sans simply didn't get it. None of them did. They thought he should be ecstatic. They thought he'd gotten his life back. The problem is, this life wasn't quite his. His friends weren't quite his. His brother wasn't quite his. His name wasn't quite his. It all belonged to someone else — to Sans. And the things that were Geno's? Just the memories, the scarf and the Determination still in his blood — just the things he carried with him through it all. Them — and the one person who found him. Geno's smile fell as soon as it appeared. Reaper wasn't quite his either, was he? There was Life by his side, wasn't there?
Geno sighed and closed his eye, exhaustion weighing him down. The few things that were his — he'd keep them.
The scarf that his fingers curled around even as he was falling asleep.
The memories that he'd visit and revisit in his dreams a thousand times over.
And the Determination, that would drive him forward in his waking hours.
Drive him towards change.
Chapter 27: I hate you (Gradient, Paper Jam)
Paper Jam likes annoying his sibling.
Really short, but I when this prompt popped up, I wanted to write something that wasn't obvious.
"I hate you!" Gradient screeches, throwing a pencil at Paper Jam. PJ lets the projectile pass straight through his head, unobstructed. His grin widens when that makes his sibling scream even more — wordlessly this time.
"No!" Gradient gasps out when the excessive glitching makes him lower his voice a bit. "No! Funk you!" The teen teleports, and the rest of his heated tirade comes out of the windows of the treehouse. "I hate you! Go and die!"
"Dat's some unrad lingo dere," Fresh notes and looks at the way-too-gleeful PJ. "Whatcha do?"
"Oh nothing." He doesn't even have the decency to look guilty. "He was just being a weeb, and I asked a couple of questions about the mangoes he so adores."
"Mangoes?" Gradient pokes his head out one of the windows. His right eye is twitching. "Mangoes?!"
"I can make you a mango!" Glück holds out his hands, and in his palms there really is a mango.
Fresh is actually impressed by the reaction time, but, seeing how frustrated Gradient already is, the parasite leans down to say, "Hey, kiddo. Just 'cuz some rad brosef tells ya someone thinks a thing's da bomb, doesn't mean-" He stops when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees Error book it outta the Doodle Sphere, forgoing Undernovela he was watching. And, like the smart creature he is, he grabs the kid and follows the glitch's example, no questions asked.
Paper Jam, however, is too busy being a troll to make smart decisions. So he's absolutely not prepared for when Gradient screams in helpless rage. Apparently, very loud screaming at high frequencies plus glitching equal an awful enough noise to make a skelinkton's body near-collapse from the mental strain.
Needless to say, Paper Jam has some regrets.
Chapter 28: Delivery (Ink, AU Sans)
Sans never expected to get such a strange visitor.
Additional warnings: minor character death.
This might read a bit funky, because the idea was originally planned for a comic. Alas. It'll have to become a drabble.
Sans set up the parameters for a series of simulations and sat back, looking at the screen with hopeful eyes. It took so much work — years of it, probably — but he was almost done. If this series of tests proved successful… Well, there would be no stopping him from turning on the machine — and setting all of them free. Everyone would live their lives the way they want. The kid… Sans rubbed his chest where faded scars were hidden under his. The kid would be free from whoever made them repeat this cycle again and again. And Sans… Sans would be free of the resets.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," came from behind him.
Flinching, Sans spun in his chair to face… himself. A younger and smaller-looking version of himself, who wore way too many layers and was leaning against a… giant paintbrush? "…Wha?"
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," the strange skeleton replied with a cheerful smile. Met with no response, he added, "The name's Ink, by the way."
"…Sans," the other introduced himself warily and ignored Ink's "I know" in favor of asking, "Wouldn't do what?"
"Use that machine."
"…And why not?" Sans asked when no clarification followed.
"Because it'll tear your world away from the Creator."
Well, "Creator" was as good a term for the bastard upstairs as any. So Sans shrugged. "Yeah, that's the purpose of it."
"Oh." Ink blinked, and Sans was startled to see his eyelights change shape and colour. "You don't get what that would mean, do you? "
"It would mean freedom. I fail to see how that's bad."
"Hm…" Ink frowned, tapping his chin in thought. "What's the easy way to put it?… Oh, I know!" He snapped his fingers, beaming. "I'll show you!"
And before Sans could even react, Ink slapped the brush against the floor, spreading paint around, grabbed him by the sleeve and tugged him into the puddle.
In the next few moments Sans found out what drowning probably feels like. It felt like he was simultaneously choking on nothingness and wading through molasses. The sensation was pulling his very being apart.
And then it wasn't, and he was standing somewhere that wasn't his lab anymore. Actually, it didn't feel like a somewhere either. He was surrounded by blackness, as far as the eye can see, with just one landmark: a patch of snow with two mailboxes sticking out if it. He just had the time to make out "Sans" and "Papyrus" written on them — then right before his eyes this last landmark collapsed into tiny pieces of colour that fizzled out into nothing.
Unnerved, he glanced at Ink. "What is going-"
"Sans?" He heard coming from behind him. Papyrus. And he sounded terrified and exhausted and in pain.
"Paps?" Sans turned around to see Papyrus stumble towards him.
"Sans, I don't understand!" his brother whimpered as his body started to fall apart just like the mailboxes did. "What's going on?"
Sans was vaguely aware that he'd never seen the clothes his "brother" was wearing and there were little nicks on the other's skull that his brother — his real brother — didn't have. But the look of pure anguish on such a familiar face had him running towards that Papyrus. He needed to get there, to do something, to help…
"Sans?…" Papyrus asked one last time — and then he was gone. Sans stumbled before coming to a stop. His eyes remained glued to the spot where Papyrus was just a moment ago.
"Whoo, boy. That's kinda ironic," Ink chuckled as he walked up to Sans, hands behind his head. "Usually it's the Sans that lasts the longest. Creator's favorite and all…"
"What was that?" Sans sounded so small then. So lost.
"That?" Ink blinked at him, then it hit him. "Oh! You mean the disappearing thing? That's what happens when a universe loses the link with its Creator or the Artist supporting it. Everything just kinda runs outta creative juice."
"Oh," Sans said.
Ink kept on speaking then, but none of that registered. He was just… trying to wrap his head around what this meant for everyone's freedom. What it meant for him.
His companion must've run out of patience at some point, because Sans found himself dragged through the paint again — only this time he felt too numb to be uncomfortable.
Then the two of them were standing in front of the door to his lab. Ink rambled some more, but Sans processed none of it.
He only moved when, with a friendly pat on his back, his companion left. Blinking owlishly, he reached forward and pushed the door open. Walked down the stairs.
Frisk — or maybe Chara — hopped up from the chair when they saw him. "Sans!" they cried, excited. "There are only four tests left! The rest are successful!"
He didn't look at them.
Sans held his hand up. A Blaster whined behind his back, powering up.
"Sans? Sans?!" Chara backed away, scared and confused. "What are you doing?!"
The blast hit the machine, tearing it to pieces — and taking all his calculations with it.
As Chara screamed wordlessly, not yet able to process what had happened, he stumbled back until his back hit the wall. Then he slid down it and pulled his knees to his chest.
And then he cried.
Chapter 29: Black everything (Error, Ink, Blueberror)
Ink tries something new when fighting Error.
Ink, Error came to discover, was full of surprises. Starting with his soullessness — and all the way to the trap the glitch had just fallen into. Literally.
What happened was that he went to tear apart a random universe he came across. Then the inky bastard showed up, as usual, and had the gall to ask him to stop. That's when they started trading blows — mostly Error did, actually, since Ink preferred to avoid head-on combat. But there were exceptions, of course, and when Error teleported to avoid one such attack, he landed smack-dab into a puddle of paint.
When he tried to stand up, he found out that he was stuck. The black liquid clung to his bones, slowly climbing up to cover more of his body. He flung his one free hand out to try and pull himself out with strings, but a tendril of paint rose to wrap around his hand and pull it down, effectively trapping him.
Ink walked up to him then, stopping at very edge of the puddle and tilting his head. "Does that mean I win?"
Error roared in fury. The sound turned hoarse when the wet, sticky feeling reached his neck. He jerked in one last attempt to free himself only to be pulled back into the fluid.
The last thing he saw was that bastard's fake apologetic smile.
And then there was darkness.
Black. Everything around him was pitch black.
Was he back there?! Oh, god, please, no!
No. No, that's not right. He's not him anymore.
He wasn't him at all.
The pain lingered though, spreading over his chest, burning his mind. His fingers twitched, trying to reach it, to soothe it. The sharp movement met resistance, tired him out in a matter of moments.
Was he… floating?
Once noticed, the faint feeling of weightlessness came to the front of his mind. It was… surprisingly calming. Different. Not like before. Not like it happened to him.
Accepting the new rules, he moved his hand again. Slowly this time. Went with the flow of this place.
It let him move. Let him rub his fingertips over his sternum. Let him find no sign of blood, no shattered bone.
Reassured, he closed his eyes.
He heard silence. Twitched in surprise, so used to the cacophony of voices surrounding him.
It wasn't the silence from his past either. Not the empty silence of the Anti-Void. Not the echoing nothingness of the Void. What surrounded him was the rolling, whispery silence one finds underwater. It soothed him further still.
Then, a pulse of pure kindness spread through his surroundings, warming his bones.
He embraced it then, this blackness that surrounded him. Slowly, he curled up, utterly comfortable. Let it carry him.
Let the blackness fill his mind.
"You sure he's okay?" Blueberror asked as he watched Ink dissipate the giant ball of paint.
"Donno." Ink shrugged. "First time I tried this."
As the artist collected the last of the paint, Error was left behind, lying flat on his back with his eye-sockets closed.
"He's not even glitching," Blueberror noted and frowned at Ink. "Is he dead?"
"I donno." The artist shrugged again. "I've never killed anyone before." He sounded vaguely enthusiastic about the prospect of it though — enough so to make Blueberror scowls and grumble a warning.
But the artist beamed as he looked at the unconscious glitch, prompting Blueber to do the same.
As it turned out, Error wasn't unconscious anymore. Or, at least, he opened his eye-sockets. There was a slow blink, and the eyelights were back as well. Though he didn't move beyond that, staring placidly into the endless sky of the Doodle Sphere.
Ten seconds later Ink ran out of patience and leaned into Error's line of sight, staring down at him. "Hi!"
And just like that, Error screeched and scrambled away from his two companions, hissing like an old modem. The glitches were back too, rising over him like hackles on a cat.
Ink laughed then, making Error adopt a scandalized expression. The glitch let out an unintelligible scream, flipped the other off and escaped into a portal. Into OuterTale, by the looks of it.
As Ink was hit by another tidal wave of mirth, Blueberror recalled how tranquil and at peace Error looked before disturbed.
For now Blueber would leave his fellow glitch alone. But he sure had a lot of questions to save up for later.
Chapter 30: Creamer (Undertop!Gaster, Error)
Gaster meets Ink's new "roommate" for the first time.
Not sure how to write Gaster, but... I gave it a shot.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Once you've lived enough and experienced enough, letting go of things becomes a whole lot easier. Gaster struggled to say how old he was — and the experiences he'd had? Many of those would better go unmentioned for another eternity.
Furthermore, there was Ink. Despite his creative spirit, the kid could be a terrifying force of nature — and forces of nature tend to be destructive at times. Sure, the artist didn't do that on purpose, and if things got broken, he always made sure to replace or restore them — sometimes even make them better in the process. Still, the fact remained: quite a few things Gaster owned from times long-forgotten were lost to Ink's shenanigans.
So, with all of that in mind, he was fairly prepared that something would end up broken when Ink brought his new friend — "my new roomie!" — over. Especially since this new friend — Error — looked broken himself, considering the glitches and all. Combined with what he'd heard from Ink before, this visitor was… at the very least concerning.
Surprisingly enough, the introductions were tame enough. Error actually looked timid and wary — possibly a little scared even — when Gaster extended his hand for a handshake.
"Oh. Oh! He's got haphephobia!" Ink piped up helpfully, when the glitch glared at the offered hand in silence.
Figuring that explained things, Gaster took his hand back with an easy apology.
Error didn't relax completely though, neither around him, nor his husband. Which… gave Gaster a few ideas as to why that was. Error was a Sans, after all. The magician could only hope that wariness wouldn't grow into violence...
Surprisingly enough, it did not. Error stoically fought down his unease through the beginning of the evening, and then… Bless his husband for thinking to take the glitch to the observatory. And here Gaster thought he'd never see Ink levels of excitement from another grown person. And, looking at Aster, he now realized they might have two overgrown children to look after now. … They'd cross that bridge when they get there.
For now, the evening was winding down — blessedly destructionless. All five of them — Betelgeuse included — were now gathered at the Gasters' dining room, sitting down for some tea and pastries.
Gaster should've known something was up when Error seemed to have some trouble taking his seat. Gaster should've known something really was up, when Ink squirmed and fidgeted in his seat much less than usual.
Foolishly, he didn't read the signs.
"Milk?" he said, offering their guest the creamer.
Error eyed the creamer with narrowed eyes before taking it.
Then, right before Gaster's eyes, five bright blue tendrils extended from the glitch's mouth, grabbed the creamer and pulled it back inside. There was a crunch, a second one, a swallow — and that, it seemed, was how the creamer's existence ended.
"Hm… Crunchy," Error noted licking his teeth with a tip of one of his tongues.
Gaster stared at the glitch in shock. Then he spared a side glance at his husband to find that Aster had a similar expression on his face. Then he was back at staring at Error. Error stared back.
"What?" the glitch asked, when the silence stretched too long.
That's when Ink burst into laughter, prompting Error to glare at him and growl, "The fuck is so funny, rainbow asshole?!"
"Error," Gaster called to distract Error before things got violent. Once he had the other's eyes on him, he explained, "Usually, you put milk into tea. It changes the taste and texture."
Error gave it some careful thought and nodded in understanding. And gave Ink a look that clearly said, Only and idiot like you would laugh at that.
"Tea is perfectly fine on its own too though," Gaster continued, taking a sip out of his own cup just to give Error and example. He was perfectly prepared to say goodbye to the cup Error was holding though.
As Error held his cup up, Gaster shared a glance with Aster. They sure had their work cut out for them. And — Gaster didn't even flinch as he heard Error's cup crack — some things will have to be sacrificed along the way. Which was perfectly fine with him.
Letting go of things is easy after all.
And on this note, I'm happy to say I'm done with this challenge! It sure was an experience. Never knew I could actually write 20k+ words in a month!
Thank you all for sticking around for this!