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Tipping the Scales

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Of all the things the Gang expected to see today — The Stars, the universe’s Sans or Undyne, the pathetic Guard, or even the human — a skeleton dragon was certainly not on that list. One that seemed hellbent on attacking them and only them even less so.

 

Dragons weren’t necessarily uncommon in the multiverse. There were plenty of AUs that had them, for better or worse. Skeleton dragons specifically weren’t even all that rare, considering how many Gaster Blasters (or just Blaster Sanses in transformation) were based around dragons a lot of the time. This particular AU, however, was notably not one of those. It was a random Underfell on the edge of the multiverse. Cross had checked it before they came in: the only variation was the fact the Papyrus was a little more kind. It didn’t even have a history of unethical experimentation, let alone entire mythical creatures.

 

It should have been an easy AU to fuck around with. This was certainly not planned.

 

“Shit!” Killer leapt out of the way from prying claws, barely making it in time to avoid ripping more than just his hoodie sleeve. The beast screeched, landing skillfully in the snow and whipping back to attack again. Dust threw up a blaster skull over the top of his comrade, giving Killer enough time to teleport away. The skull didn’t last long, anyway. Despite being nearly the same size as the dragon, it was easily torn apart with a few well placed scratches, dissipating in a burst of magic. 

 

All things considered, it was not a very big dragon. At least, not compared to the expected sizes Cross had seen in books or other AUs. If it stood straight up on all four feet, its head probably reached around Horror’s height, the tallest of the gang. Most of its body was covered in semi-clear ectoflesh, including long ears pinned back to its skull. Two spiked horns curled down and around them. The magic glowed a brilliant crimson that mixed with black, complementing the striking red of its eyelights as it glared at all four of them dangerously. The only exposed bones on its body were its face, claws, and the short spikes down its spine.

 

This shouldn’t be as hard to deal with as it was. They’d taken down foes twice this thing’s size easily! The fact this one had them panting and on the defense all by itself was beyond concerning. It was fast, quick to react, even quicker to attack, and for some reason, any kind of colored soul magic wouldn’t work on it. None of them could stop it in its tracks with blue magic, so they relied solely on weapons and attacks. Now, that was proving to not be enough. 

 

Though, a part of that was likely because they’d been messing with AUs most of that day previously, as well… They were already a bit drained. Perhaps they’d gotten a little cocky, going to this last universe while feeling as worn down as they did.

 

It certainly seemed happy to take advantage of that.

 

Wings flaring, the dragon shot toward Cross at a frightening speed. Eye sockets widening, the skeleton raised his large knife just in time to intercept the beast’s sharp fangs. It chomped down hard on the red blade, glaring scathingly over it and clawing at him in swift motions. Black liquid dripped from its mouth as its tail flicked behind it. With the sharpened arrow point at the tip, this jerky sweeping motion unfortunately kept his teammates away from helping him. 

 

Cross cursed as that dark liquid burnt through the snow and singed the ground below. It was dangerously close to his feet. Shoes would not protect him from that acid-like substance. The burn already on his arm (and many of the others as well) easily showed how this was not just inky saliva. 

 

That would be just as gross, but not nearly as painful.

 

Finally, the thing screeched and shot into the air with a beat of its wings, leaving a splatter of red magic. Killer had managed to stab a knife into its back leg — truthfully the first solid hit any of them had been able to land the whole time.

 

“Fuckin’ hell,” the murderer hissed, having been thrown to the ground abruptly in its departure. “The fuck is that thing?!”

 

“A dragon, idiot,” Horror grumbled, keeping his eyelight on the trees above them. They couldn’t see its red glow, but it was certainly still screaming its frustration. 

 

“I know that , but why is it so fucking strong?!”

 

“Cross, can you get us out of here?” Dust asked, readying a few bone attacks again. He was starting to sweat from exhaustion. The bones he managed to summon were noticeably shorter and duller than usual.

 

Cross was barely able to keep standing himself. “No… I don’t have the magic for that anymore. This thing is ruthless.”

 

“We should have had it taken care of ages ago,” Killer complained. “It just took my last fucking knife, the son of a bitch!”

 

“Can anyone contact Nightmare?” Ignoring his whining, Dust looked briefly around at all of them. “Or anyone , really. Even the Star Shits would be helpful here.”

 

“After the shit we caused today?” Horror scoffed. “They’d probably let us get dusted.”

 

“Well it’s worth a fucking shot, asshole! We can’t keep—!”

 

Shooting back into their small clearing, the dragon slammed right into Dust’s chest, using its curled horns like that of a ram. The skeleton shot back, crashing into a tree. The others barely had time to be concerned before it turned its attention on them. Wings flinging up to knock the knife from Cross’ hands and tail whipping out to trip Killer, it set its sights on Horror, who cautiously held out his axe. 

 

It narrowed its eye sockets and sped forward, skillfully dodging the rusted blade. 

 

As they continued to dance around each other, Cross crawled towards his fallen friend. Dust was still against the tree, magic seeping out from cracks in his skull and arms, but nothing seemed broken. He was still breathing, and though his eyelights were out, he was awake enough to groan as he got closer.

 

“We can’t handle this much longer,” Cross muttered dreadfully, mostly to himself. He turned around to look at the three still fighting, fearful to see both Killer and Horror being so quickly overwhelmed. He himself had no way of contacting anyone. Last he heard, Nightmare was going to meet up with Dream in a rare peaceful day for the duo. He had no idea what AU they were in, or if they were even close by. 

 

Stars, honestly, their only hope was either guardian sensing their panic. That wasn’t a very reliable method considering all the negativity they’d been causing in the last few hours could very well be masking their own. 

 

If he could get the thing to focus on him long enough, maybe the others could make it to Snowdin and get help. Underfell wasn’t exactly the most helpful , of course, but he was sure their Papyrus would be easily convinced, and therefore drag in the Pack and the Red lookalike. He doubted any of them could keep it back for much longer, but it might take its attention off the gang and buy them some time.

 

A rough plan, but it was better than sitting here and watching his family get dusted in front of him. They’ll likely kill him for it later, but Killer was mostly unarmed, Dust was down completely, and Horror barely had reliable energy reserves to begin with. He was the best choice.

 

Summoning a much smaller red knife, Cross stumbled to his feet and threw it right between where Killer and Horror stood. The small cover their bodies provided kept the dragon from properly seeing it in time. Even as it tried to sidestep away, the blade embedded itself between the radius and ulna of it’s right wing. Both the other skeletons jolted back as it screeched and flailed the limb.

 

Cross ran forward, shoving the two towards Dust’s downed form. “Go to Snowdin!” he instructed, summoning another small blade. “I’ll try to hold it off if you guys can get help!”

 

Killer looked at him like he was insane. “The hell?! Fuck off with your self sacrificial bull—!”

 

With another rumbling roar, the dragon snapped it’s jaws onto Cross’ cape, yanking him back and off his feet. He heard the others yell out his name as he was dragged back, his spine painfully hitting off hidden rocks and roots under the snow. He kept a firm grip on his weapon, reaching up to slice the fabric. His body tumbled a bit with the sudden loss of momentum. He rolled to a stop, dazed, but aware enough to quickly go to stand back up.

 

Unfortunately, it was back on top of him in a heartbeat, one clawed paw pinning the hand with the knife to the floor beside him and the other digging into his sternum. It glowered down at him, snarling viciously. From here, Cross caught the way its eyelights were shaped like red crosshairs, and there was a very familiar black splotch decorating its cheek. 

 

If anything, the sight just made him more confused.

 

Was this Ink’s creation? 

 

That may explain why it had no soul. Ink can’t create life.

 

Though why it was attacking them so viciously was far beyond him.

 

He didn’t get to think about it long. The dragon opened its mouth as if to screech again, but instead, rivers of that black liquid dripped down the bone, collecting along its teeth. Cross’ struggles heightened, trying to push the beast off of him, but it hardly budged. The first bit of that burning spit dripped onto his mouth cover, eating through the black fabric quickly. He cringed back, ready for the oncoming pain as it jolted down to bite—!

 

In a flash, the dragon was ripped off of his body. A few stray drops of its spit landed on either side of his skull, sizzling through the snow audibly. It thrashed and screamed in the air above him, held up by familiar blue strings tied tightly over its form. Wings safely pinned to its side and limbs tied together, it was kept far enough away for its tail and teeth to be of no danger anymore while also not endangering itself as it squirmed angrily.

 

“Cross!” Hands were immediately pulling him out from under it, helping him stand and lean against the smaller form. “Cross, stars, are you alright?!”

 

Dream. How was he—?

 

“What the hell did you fuckers do?!” Cross whipped around, unprepared for the molten glare of Error mere inches from his face. Glitches rippled along the Destroyer’s bones, flaring up around his shoulders in response to his anger.

 

The dragon screeched loudly, its tail whipping up to slice at the few strings it could reach. Error, barely even glancing at it, quickly pulled out more strings to rewrap what was lost. The beast snarled, turning that crimson gaze his way and opening its acid filled mouth to shriek once again. The dark skeleton made sure to tie up its muzzle as well.

 

Cross blinked in rapid confusion. “I… what—?”

 

“Don’t what me! What did you fucking idiots do?! How bad did you have to fuck up to get his attention like this?!”

 

“We didn’t do shit!” Killer hissed behind him, stomping forward to glare back at Error defiantly. Back down the trail Cross’ body left in the snow, both Nightmare and Horror were helping Dust walk up to the group, Blue fretting beside them. The Swap Sans had his hand cupping Dust’s cheek, glowing a slight green. He noted the cracks in his skull looked a little better.

 

Error whipped around to meet Killer head on. “Well, obviously you fucking did!”

 

“We fucked around in a couple AUs,” Horror intercepted, cutting off any nasty reply from the hate filled skeleton. “The hell does that have to do with a dragon coming to fucking kill us?”

 

“It’s certainly not something I’ve ever seen before,” Dream said, almost to himself. It was then Cross noticed both he and the other Guardian were dressed in everyday clothes rather than their usual outfit. Dream had a yellow sweater tucked into some jean shorts and a mustardy scarf instead of his cape. Nightmare didn’t look much different, his jeans, sweatshirt, and boots already covered in his goop anyway. Still, it was all the more of a reminder that they should be having a day together, not dealing with their bullshit. Those golden eyelights were pinned worriedly on the writhing dragon. “Is it a part of this AU?”

 

“No,” Nightmare grumbled back. “This should be a normal Underfell. Did it follow you from another universe?”

 

“I don’t think—”

 

“That’s not the fucking point!” Error yelled, glitches flaring up once again. He bared his teeth angrily, showing off surprisingly sharp fangs that Cross hadn’t noticed before. “How many fucking AUs did you mess with?!”

 

Cross blinked. “I, I don’t know! Seven or eight maybe?”

 

“More than that, I think,” Horror muttered.

 

“Why does that matter?”

 

Growling lowly, Error bent down the short distance between them to get close to Cross’ face without touching. “You messed with who the fuck knows how many AUs, potentially harming them beyond saving, or disrupting their fucking story too much , and you think it was going to go unnoticed?!”

 

“Who the fuck cares? You’re the fucking Destoryer, it’s not like—!”

 

“SHUT UP!” Whipping back to Killer, Error strung up a couple more strings to wrap around the other skeleton’s head and snap his mouth closed. “I keep a balance in the multiverse when I destroy an AU! Which I’ve already done recently! You idiots going around like stars damn children disrupted that balance , which is why—!”

 

Several snaps were heard above them as the dragon finally ripped out of its binds. Shaking free of the coils and clawing them from its mouth, it howled louder than ever. Its tail whipped out, breaking off several branches still holding it up. It fell gracefully to the floor, landing upright like a damn cat, wings spread in an intimidating stance as it took in its new opponents. 

 

Cross and the others readied themselves for another fight. Dust was hurriedly passed off to Blue, Nightmare herding both of them behind the rest of the group. 

 

Error, however, stepped forward with an angered purpose.

 

“The fuck is he doing?” Horror grumbled incredulously. 

 

Nightmare held up a hand in a placating gesture. “He obviously knows what this is. He likely knows how to handle it. Besides, Error is a god of the multiverse. He’ll have no issue with a small lizard.”

 

“Wow, thanks,” Killer muttered, still pulling the strings from his face so he could talk sarcastically once again. “That ‘lizard’ nearly dusted us.”

 

“I am aware.”

 

The dragon singled in on the dark skeleton immediately. Though Nightmare’s words eased most of Cross’ worries, he still couldn’t help but watch with an inkling of concern. This thing fought primarily at close range, the only exception being when he spat at them. Error was a long range fighter, being one to hate close contact. God or not, it was a very real and fairly easy weakness, if one could get past his blasters and strings. 

 

Based on the last five minutes alone, Cross knew that was very well possible for this thing. It was fast, fierce, and easily slipped through their attacks and defenses. But, then again, it had been fighting weakened mortals previously. Error was well rested and seemingly knew what he was doing. He also had two Guardians as back up, should things go wrong. Worst case scenario, they at least had enough energy to portal out now. 

 

Jaw practically leaking that dark fluid like a faucet, it screeched at its new opponent with its head low to the ground, ready to pounce.

 

Now, Cross was ready for some sort of quip from the Destroyer, or even just a tired groan of “Let’s get this over with,” probably referring to either the dragon, them, or all of the above as “abominations” of some sort.

 

But, to everyone’s shock and befuddlement, Error screeched back

 

The following seconds passed in what felt like slow motion. 

 

The dark skeleton grew taller, his bones crackling and popping from more than just his usual glitches. His feet and leg bones shifted and expanded to look more like the hind legs of an animal, long claws tearing through the slippers and socks he had on. Spikes poked out of his clothes all the way down his spine, extending onward as a boney tail of his own sprung out from underneath that stitched coat. A sharp blade-like bone snapped into being at the end of it, swiping at the snow with sharp precision. Horns that curled down and up grew from his skull, fading from black to red to yellow along the plated surfaces. Large, sharpened fangs snarled back at the beast in a warning, who seemed to be rather uncaring of it.

 

Whatever the fuck was happening, Cross was officially lost.

 

Spitting viciously, the dragon still leapt forward, teeth aimed for the throat. Error caught it easily (caught it, with his hands, how has he not crashed— ), snapping back at it with just as much force. They shared blow for blow, Error never letting it get any closer to the onlookers behind him as they watched in pure fear and absolute confusion .

 

Eventually, the glitched skeleton was able to get a good grip on the dragon’s neck, finally throwing it farther into the woods. It landed in a rolling heap but was quick to scramble back to its feet. Error dropped to a crouch with a rumbling snarl, ripping the rest of his jacket and scarf off to shoot into the forest after it. In a few loud moments, the two disappeared into the trees.

 

They could still hear their fight loud and clear, claws against bone and piercing roars echoing throughout the Underground. Really, it was surprising they hadn’t gained the attention of the AU’s residence anyway.

 

“Okay,” Killer spoke up after a moment, throwing his hands in front of him incredulously, “what the absolute fuck was that? Tell me I wasn’t the only one to see Mr. Windows Vista go all werewolf on us, right?”

 

No one really had an answer to that. Blinking, Cross stared into the thick trees in similar disbelief. Every so often he’d catch the flash of red or, somehow, yellow through the thick bushes and snow. He didn’t quite know how to process this. Instead, he chose to lean heavily into Dream’s hold, slowly letting exhaustion catch up to him. 

 

“You don’t think that was maybe another, um, person?” Blue suggested. “Error seemed to know them…”

 

“He did say ‘he’ when he was trying to interrogate you all,” Nightmare grumbled. He stepped back to help the Swap skeleton attend to Dust. The injured monster seemed to be better just from Blue’s assistance, though he still held his ribs cautiously. The fact he was able to stay awake at all, let alone look as baffled as the rest of them, was a small miracle in itself. At least he wasn’t hurt too badly to have blacked out or seriously injured his head.

 

When a quiet couple of seconds passed where no one could answer Blue’s inquiry, the silence filled only by the distant battle noises, something clicked in Cross’ mind. If they were concerned this was another monster, and Error was possibly another one, after what he saw… “Wait. Holy shit. Where’s Ink?”

 

Blinking up at him, Dream tilted his head. “Uh, I don’t know. I suppose… it is a bit strange he hadn’t taken notice to— oh. Oh.”  

 

The black and white skeleton looked down to meet his gaze. “That dragon had a splotch on its cheek and crosshair eyelights. Fucking hell, no wonder it freaked the fuck out on us. We messed with too many AUs...”

 

“Wait wait wait, are you saying that fuckin’ thing was Ink?” Absentmindedly rubbing the dark streaks from his cheeks, Killer pointed out vaguely towards where the two disappeared. “The hell, did anyone know about this?! ‘Cause this is news to me!”

 

“I-I didn’t,” Dream stuttered, furrowing his brow. “I’m… shocked he’d keep something like that from us…”

 

“I’m shocked he was able to keep something like that from anyone ,” Horror muttered, scratching at one of the burns on his cheek. 

 

“I… Yes, that too, I suppose…” Taking a little breath, Dream turned back to the tall skeleton he held up. Gently, he lowered Cross to the floor, sending a little glance towards Dust. “How is Dust? Was it bad?”

 

Nightmare huffed. “I’m mostly concerned about his magic levels. The cracks and burns are easy enough to heal, and he’s still awake, mostly. They’re all mainly exhausted.”

 

Nodding, Blue looked up for a moment to scan over Horror and Killer. “You two should sit down for a bit! I think, uh, Error has this, and if there’s any issues, we’ll take care of it now!”

 

The other Star nodded. His hand moved from supporting Cross’ shoulder to healing his arm. The warmth of his magic quickly soothed his aching bones. “He’s right. If push comes to shove, we can always call Comet or Lust as well. We have back up now, though I don’t think it’s needed anymore. We should really focus on making sure you’re all okay first and foremost.”

 

“I think I’m fine, starshine.”

 

“Killer, that thing nearly bit your arm off. Your entire sleeve was burnt in the process.”

 

“Horror, shut the fuck up.”

 

Cross sighed, rolling his eyes as he slouched forward a bit more. This entire situation was proving to be more than just physically taxing.

 

Truthfully, Cross was… worried. For a different reason than the others, really. If both Error and Ink had this strange dragon form, that usually meant a Gaster Blaster AU, and those were rarely very pretty. He didn’t know what kind of AU either of them originated from, since they both just seemed to exist outside of them all together. Honestly, he’d kind of just assumed that’s where they’d always been. Now that it’s being shoved into his face, he felt a bit bad for not thinking to ask. 

 

Not Error, of course. As close as they were because of Nightmare’s group and his connection to Ink, Cross definitely had more of a relationship with the artist. It was… a bit strained, recently, but still. They’d stayed together for so long, he really should have asked. Gods or not, even Reaper came from an AU, and those two definitely didn’t originate from Reapertale.

 

Then again, maybe it was for the best. If they really were from a Gaster Blaster universe, that couldn’t hold very good memories. Bringing them back up might have caused more issues than anything.

 

Not to mention he and Ink didn’t get along for the longest time...

 

Ugh, he couldn’t tell if he should feel guilty or not. 

 

“Holy shit!”

 

Jolting from his thoughts, Cross looked up to see what had Killer spooked. It turned out to have everyone stunned, and for a very understandable reason, if he was to have any opinion.

 

That was very obviously Error. Large dragon or not, the blue tear marks on top of dark bone was hard to misinterpret. His head was thicker and more jagged, horns stretching back almost the same length as his snout. He also had his ecto formed over most of his body, which was a dark blue, nearly black, with hardened yellow plates down his neck and belly. Sharp red and yellow spikes lined his red spine, which was just barely visible through his skin.

 

It seemed their battle had taken more to the sky — or, as much as they could within the confines of the Underground’s walls. Error’s large body, nearly three times as big as Ink’s, was perched upon the trees near the group of skeletons, dark wings flapping to keep him upright. The smaller red form zipped around him, trying and failing to dive in for swipes, always chased away by Error’s yellow teeth or claws. Every time the Destroyer opened his jaws, Cross swore he was hearing something straight out of Jurassic Park. Unlike Ink’s hissing and screeching, Error had a horribly deep and rumbling roar.

 

The sight was almost unreal, but the terror it sparked in Cross’s soul certainly wasn’t.

 

They were far too close for any kind of comfort. The longer they stared, the more the trees snapped and groaned under the beast’s weight. Suddenly, their little clearing they occupied for rest and healing didn’t feel safe anymore.

 

“Move!” he shouted, scrambling to his feet and pushing Dream back. Nightmare was already on it, his tentacles having wrapped around the four skeletons near himself, hurriedly moving them away from the clashing gods. Though they stumbled at first, all of them eventually righted themselves well enough to run back towards where, Cross thought, the Snowdin path was. 

 

He actually couldn’t remember which direction was which. Really, he just assumed Dream and Nightmare knew where they were going.

 

Thankfully, they were a fair distance away before he heard the telltale SNAP and crashes behind them, followed by frustrated roars of rage. 

 

Their movement, however, did catch the smaller beast’s attention.

 

In a flash of crimson, the dragon had dived down to land in front of Nightmare, his wings outspread in an intimidating fashion and tail whipping through the snow. The negative guardian barely had enough time to push Dust into Blue’s arms before Ink leapt at him and had a newly freed tentacle between his jaws. 

 

Meeting that vicious glare with one of his own, Nightmare was able to lift the dragon off the ground by his own biting grip and slam him into a nearby tree. Ink released him easily with a cry, spitting his toxic saliva along the ground. The goopy limb Nightmare pulled back looked mangled and burnt already, though the guardian didn’t seem to notice it at all.

 

Pushing Cross behind him, Dream was quick to summon his bow, nocking a cyan arrow to point at the downed skeleton. His brow furrowed uncertainly, likely all the more convinced this was Ink from the close up perspective of his skull. His stance was as confident as ever, though.

 

Red crosshairs zeroed in on the new weapon, teeth pulling up in a boney snarl. He was panting now, the fight finally starting to take its toll. Though he had no serious injuries, there were still plenty of scratches and tears in his ecto that dripped crimson magic like true blood, staining the white snow. Most noticeably was Killer’s knife, still firmly stabbed into his left thigh. 

 

Nightmare narrowed his socket, dropping his hold on Killer and Horror to have all his tentacles pointed and ready. “This is going nowhere for you,” he snapped. “Whether you’re Ink or not, you are outnumbered and overpowered.”

 

“I dunno if this thing speaks your language, boss,” Killer huffed, raising an eyebrow as he glanced between the two. “Maybe try growls and barks. That might get you somewhere.”

 

“Killer, for fucks sake,” Dust grumbled from behind. “Please shut the fuck up.”

 

“Come and make me, Dust Bunny.”

 

As much as Cross wanted to roll his eyes at their stupid antics at a time like this, he kept them firmly planted on the dragon before them. He was backed against a tree and still very pissed. Now was not the time to turn away.

 

“He has to be lost to some kind of instincts,” Blue suggested weakly. “I mean, that’s a thing that happens in Gaster Blaster AUs, right?”

 

“Sometimes,” Dream nodded shortly. 

 

“Then shouldn’t we be able to break him out of it?”

 

As wonderful as that sounded, Cross wasn’t too sure that would work. Judging by the uncertain glances the rest of them sent around, including Blue himself, no one else was either. 

 

It wasn’t so much the idea that didn’t appeal to him than it was the timing of it. Ink was feral, wounded, and backed into a corner. If he was going by some primal instincts alone, he imagined the Protector would act as any hurt and trapped animal would. That is, violently. As comfortable as he was with the skeletons around him, absolutely certain that they could all handle him now, he’d much rather not risk any further harm to either them or Ink. 

 

Plus, if someone actually did get seriously injured, more so than Dust, Cross would hate to imagine the guilt Ink would feel when he came back to his senses.

 

No, it was likely better to just keep him here until Error came back around and either handled it himself, or explained what to do.

 

But, it seemed not everyone had the same thought process as he did. After a moment’s hesitation, Dream had slowly lowered his bow. Though he eased the arrow a bit, he also didn’t relax it completely. The movement alone was enough for those crimson eyelights to snap back to him though, rumbling growl once again picking up. Without his weapon fully drawn, the positive skeleton took a step closer. Cross was quick to reach out and grab his arm.

 

“The hell are you doing?” he hissed, gaining another hiss of more ferocity from the threatened dragon. 

 

“I’m going to try and calm him down.”

 

“Dream, that’s insane.”

 

Golden eyes snapped up to him. “He feels cornered and angry. If I can just get a bit closer—”

 

The monochrome monster glared lightly. “This is Ink , you idiot. He has no soul to use your magic on! You can’t get him confused with other—”

 

Apparently sick of their dawdling, the smaller dragon snapped forward once again, sights set on Dream, who was now the closest to him. The guardian was able to back out of the way, but a splatter of black spit burnt through his sweater sleeves immediately. He yelped, stumbling back into Cross’ grip and holding onto his burnt humerus.

 

“Dammit!”

 

“Dream!”

 

Nightmare shot between the two just as the beast leapt forward again, though Ink didn’t seem to mind who he was biting so long as his teeth dug into something.

 

He was unable to, though, as much larger teeth suddenly snapped around him instead. 

 

 

Where Error had been or where he came from, Cross had no clue. All he could do was watch in bewilderment as the larger dragon locked his jaw around Ink’s body and yanked the writhing monster away from their proximity. For a moment, he was scared Error was going to actually hurt the other, but after a few short moments of him shaking his head just enough to stop Ink’s insistent squirming, it was clear there was nothing actually threatening about his hold on the smaller body.

 

Ink was just small enough to fit in the dragon’s mouth, one wing pinned to his side while the other flailed around. Error mostly had a hold of his torso and midriff, though his right front leg was definitely caught on one of his teeth. As much as the smaller clawed, scratched, and screeched, grabbing at any surface of bone he could, Error merely rolled his eyelights. Cross felt like he was treating this more like a child having a tantrum than a god going on a literal murderous rampage.

 

But, just like that, it was… done.

 

Error gave them a final tired, scathing glare before opening a portal three times the size Cross is used to and disappearing into what he assumed was the Anti-Void. As the glitchy gate closed behind his tail, the excessive hissing and screeching of the captured skeleton cut out completely. The others were left in complete silence for the first time in what seemed like hours. 

 

It was almost more deafening than anything.

 

Rather, the lack of any kind of explanation was what had Cross as perturbed as he was. Because of course, after all of that, the most Error would leave them with was an accusatory look, as if they were purposefully causing more work for him, and that was it.

 

If he had hair, he’d be pulling it out right now. Based on Killer’s wordless hand gestures, he wasn’t the only one.

 

“Should… should we help him?” Blue muttered, the first to actually speak afterwards.

 

“I think Error’s got this one,” Dust grumbled with an exasperated tone of voice.

 

“What the absolute fuck happened here?”

 

...As if things couldn’t get any more chaotic. 

 

With an officially done expression, Cross turned to glare at the Underfell copy skeleton brothers and the dog guards they’d brought with them. Each new monster looked baffled as they took in the unfamiliar Sanses and the extreme damage done to the area around them. 

 

Killer, his teeth straining into a tight, pissed off grin, narrowed his dark sockets dangerously as new waves of black hate ran rivers down his cheeks. “Oh, so now you all show up! Where were you dickwads thirty minutes ago when we were getting our asses handed to us by some red demon dragon maniac! You are the shittiest guards I have ever seen, and that’s saying a lot!”

 

Nightmare ran a hand down his face. “One normal day. I wanted one , singular, normal day.”

 

“Pretty sure this is normal for us,” Cross muttered lowly.

 

“A normal day by normal standards. Not whatever the fuck this is.”

 

“Is no one going to answer me?!” the ‘Fell Papyrus growled.

 

“No!”

 

-:(o):-

 

It was nearly an hour later when they all saw the Destroyer and Protector again. 

 

Nightmare had taken his boys back to his castle, allowing Blue and Dream temporary access for medical reasons. Not only were both skeletons far more experienced in healing magic, but Dream was also mildly injured. Guardian of Negativity or not, Nightmare was still set on making sure his entire family was taken care of. Thankfully, everyone was relatively still in one piece, with Dust having taken most of the damage. His skull had been cracked in the back and several of his ribs were broken, but it was all bandaged and healed well enough within the hour break they had. 

 

After Horror had been checked over, only having a few burns and scratches, he was quick to bring in leftover stew and some extra sandwiches to replenish the lost magic all around. The four bad Sanses were exhausted beyond belief, magic so drained it was bordering on dangerous for them, but the Stars were also using quite a bit of their own energy to heal. Overall, the small meal was very appreciated. When he was sure everyone was eating, the large skeleton took his seat on the couch again, pulling Dust into his lap protectively while Killer leaned into his side.

 

When they had all settled down, wrapped up and well fed once again, another glitchy portal opened in Nightmare’s living room.

 

Rather than coming back as his usual self, Error was still very much a large, winged beast. Though he had an uncaring expression on his face, he was still noticeably careful about where he put any of his limbs. His wings were tucked neatly into his sides, tail staying low to the ground, and every step of his feet was made deliberately to prevent his claws from catching on the rug. 

 

Cross mentally thanked the stars for the high ceilings throughout the entire castle. Error was probably around ten feet tall, but he still had a bit of space to breathe. This didn’t stop him from keeping to the far side of the living room, as small of a distance as that may have been. The room may be big, but it wasn’t enough for him to comfortably settle down without fear of touching any of them. Dream, helpful despite the bandages wrapped around his arm, vacated the armchair nearest to the dragon to sit further away. If Error noticed, he didn’t acknowledge it. He simply pushed the chair with his tail and laid down. 

 

Draped across his back like a saddle was very clearly Ink. Though he had been hard to recognize before, any doubts were thrown out the window now.

 

Not only did it seem he’d taken the time to grab his brown scarf back, but the once bright crimson ecto was now a marbling shade of yellows, pinks, emeralds, and violets. His eyelights were back to their ever changing shapes as well, the sun and swirl worn with a toothy smile on that long face. His ears were perked upward, tail swaying back and forth in a lazy pattern. 

 

He wiggled as Error plopped down, twitching his wings as if to wave while his paws kneaded the air. “Hey guys!” he chirped, making a couple of them jump. They honestly didn’t realize the duo would be able to talk like this. Cross supposed that wasn’t the smartest assumption, seeing as a lack of vocal chords wasn’t really an issue for skeletons in general, but they’d only heard a series of growls, roars, and hissing previously. As Ink’s eyelights scanned everyone, taking in their tired and patched up states, he tilted his head, one ear flopping down. “What happened?”

 

… The fucking audacity this skeleton had. He was forgetful, of course, but Cross couldn’t help but be a little pissed that he’d forget nearly killing them all.  

 

“Squid,” Error growled, glaring down at the smaller dragon.

 

“Hm?”

 

“The fuck did we just talk about.”

 

“I attacked someone!” Ink answered, his tone far too cheery. In a few moments, the connection seemed to kick in as his ears folded back and his ecto had a tinge of blue thrown into the mixture. “Oh.”

 

“I do hope you are here to talk,” Nightmare said, crossing his arms and curling his tentacles unpleasantly. 

 

That annoyed glare shifted from Ink to the Guardian. “Shut the fuck up, asshole. I’m pissed at you, too.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

The bone of Error’s snout pulled up into a snarl. It was surprisingly more threatening, considering all of his teeth were on display anyway. “You fucking heard me! Thanks for the fucking help, dick.”

 

Nightmare’s hands shot down to grip at the armrests of his chair as he leaned forward and hissed, “And what the fuck are you so pissy about?! I was busy keeping the so called Protector from tearing these fools apart! Apologies if I do not know how to deal with a mini murder dragon!”

 

“I shouldn’t have to butt in to save your shitty ass hoard!”

 

“My — What?!”

 

“Okay, let’s calm down for a second!” Dream interjected, raising his hands in a calming gesture. It successfully kept the two quiet, but they continued to sneer at each other. “It’s clear we aren’t all on the same page here. Ink?”

 

Said skeleton perked up at being addressed. “Yeah?”

 

Dream smiled uncertainly. “Could you maybe shed some light on what happened? We’re all… a little confused…”

 

Horror scoffed, pulling Dust closer to his chest. “Tha’s an understatement…”

 

“... and I think Error’s a little too emotional right now.”

 

“Fuck off, you fuckin’ highlighter!”

 

Instead of complying, Ink once again tilted his head in confusion. His eyelights shifted between colors and shapes quickly, as if unable to decide on any one set. “Um, can’t you do it? I don’t really remember exactly what happened, heh.”

 

Blinking, the positive Guardian scratched his head. “Well, I don’t know what’s happening either? Error said the balance was uneven because the gang messed with too many AUs, but I don’t see what that has to do with your, um, dragonness?”

 

Both dragons stared at him incredulously, one more so than the other. It was starting to make Dream visibly uncomfortable when Error shook his head and closed his sockets. 

 

“I’m sorry, what?” he grumbled. Those molten eyelights encased in red flickered between Dream and Nightmare. “Why the hell are you both still denying shit? Are you really trying to pin this on just us?!”

 

“We don’t know what the fuck you are talking about, Destroyer,” Nightmare said lowly gritting his teeth. “Do not make me wring the fucking information out of you.”

 

“Okay, there’s no need to get violent!” Blue pleaded, smiling nervously. 

 

“You’re in Nightmare’s castle,” Killer shrugged, raising a brow. “‘Violent’ is how we solve everything.”

 

“Well, not right now!”

 

“How about we just start with the how, okay?” Cross was starting to feel bad for the smaller Guardian. Dream looked like he wanted to be anywhere but right here, and he couldn’t blame him. “How are you two dragons? Is that something you can explain?”

 

Once again, the duo just stared at Dream as if he were the strangest thing in the room at the moment. After a few seconds of watching Ink’s ecto swirl a dark green and purple, the Protector finally said, “Dream, it’s a balance thing.”

 

Silence settled over the room, neither side really knowing what to say to that. It took a moment for the words to click in Cross’ head, and suddenly the situation both made more sense, and got a lot more confusing.

 

He knew what the balances were, of course. They were the three major systems of the multiverse: Life versus Death, Creation versus Destruction, and Positivity versus Negativity. Regular monsters like him may not fully understand the intricacies of how they function or why they function, but he got the basics. Too much of one side would lead to the fall of the multiverse, one way or another. The idea of multiversal balance has long since been hammered into his skull, and for very practical reasons, considering he was around the gods and guardians of the very systems. Being a part of Nightmare’s group, he helped keep the negativity of the multiverse in check. 

 

He knew there was so much more to the multiverse’s inner workings than just the six immortals he was familiar with, but the former guard didn’t really need to know much more. He had his job, and he’d stick to it.

 

The insinuation that the two Guardians were also giant skeleton lizards was certainly not lost to him, however. That would definitely throw a wrench into their functions for a while.

 

When the information had finally sunk in and everyone seemed to catch up to why their previous attempt at conversation made absolutely no sense, Ink finally broke the silence by snorting. A warm yellow slowly seeped across his body as he struggled to keep a straight face until he was completely encased in the color. His attempts to stay quite very quickly failed. Suddenly, Cross was watching the smaller dragon absolutely cackle on Error’s shoulders. 

 

Error himself lowered his head slowly, covering his eyes with his paws and digging his talons into his skull. “Idiots. I am surrounded by clueless, useless idiots. This multiverse is fucked.”

 

Ink rolled onto his side, swiping his feet at nothing. “Th-This is— I can’t —  pffff, hahA oh my stars, how did you not know—!”

 

Dream frantically waved his hands back and forth. “Y-You must be mistaken! Nightmare and I are not—!”

 

He didn’t even get a chance to defend himself as Error’s large head shot up again to growl, “You both have hoards, your teeth and phalanges sharpen when you’re mad, I know for a fact you both have a heat cycle, you cuddly pieces of shit, and every fucker related to the three balances has it! If Ink, Reaper, Life, and I have to deal with this shit, you do too!”

 

Nightmare shot out of his chair, his goopy appendages curling angrily. (Upon closer inspection, Cross could confirm that yes, he did have fangs now. How had he never noticed those came and went? He always figured the skeleton just had them.) “Bullshit! I do not have a hoard of shit in my castle!”

 

The Destroyer snarled back at him once again, slamming his paw into the ground, glitches rippling down his form. It seemed he didn’t care about damaging the rug anymore. “You collect traumatized gremlin children, that’s your stars damned hoard! And you!” He jabbed the wrists of his wing towards the shorter Guardian. “Don’t think we don’t know about all the fuckin’ pillows and shit you have! You both have hoards! It comes with the shitty instincts!”

 

“I-I just—!” Dream buried his face in his hands, flushing a brilliant yellow. “It’s not— I’m not hoarding them!”

 

“You have like fifty blankets in your closet, how is that not hoarding!?”

 

Ink finally fell to the floor in his laughter, rolling off the dark dragon in a tangle of limbs and scarf. It seemed his amusement was starting to get contagious, as Killer snickered silently in the background as well. This additional noise merely added to the brother’s embarrassment, even getting a bit of a cyan tinge on Nightmare’s cheeks.

 

“How are we supposed to connect that with being a dragon shifter?!” the negative Guardian demanded. 

 

“You’re not! But you’re hundreds of years old, you damn octopus! How have neither of you shifted in that time?!”

 

“We didn’t know we could!”

 

“That’s not— That isn’t how it works, you idiot!”

 

This was getting ridiculous.

 

“Enough!” Cross yelled finally, startling everyone in the room (except Ink, who only snorted a few more times, giggles slowly quieting down). When everything went silent again and he was sure all eyelights were on him, he sighed and rubbed his head tiredly. “We’re getting absolutely nowhere with this. Can we please get back on the important topic? I would love to know why I was almost murdered today.”

 

“Oh! Yeah, you messed up too many AUs!” the Protector chirped, shifting to lay more comfortably on his back. How that was comfortable with the little spikes down his spine, Cross didn’t know, nor did he care at the moment. “Error got rid of a couple empty AUs earlier this week, so the multiverse was at a good point creation wise. You all damaged more universes beyond recovery and, whether they were copies or not, it threw the balance out of place!”

 

Out of all the people here, Cross honestly hadn’t expected Ink to be the helpful one. He was surprised the artist hadn’t already forgotten what the issue was. Then again, he always did have more of a grip on things when it came to his job.

 

...Well, usually. This was kind of information they already figured out. They knew why it happened, just not why it led to nearly getting mauled to death. 

 

Plus, didn’t he just tell Dream he couldn’t remember any of this?

 

Whatever. At least he was making sense and not beating around any bushes or yelling in their faces. It was a start.

 

“Okay, and why does that trigger… all of this?” He gestured to both dragon skeletons in the room vaguely.

 

“Instincts,” Error rumbled. “Think of it like an emergency system kind of thing. When we can’t control things normally, the multiverse is in danger, so our magic kinda handles things itself. In this case, that means being a little more violent.”

 

Dust blinked incredulously. “You call that a little? You broke my ribs!”

 

“You say that as if we haven’t been at each other’s throats before,” Ink snickered. “I know for a fact I’ve caused worse injuries! Though I suppose that it was the fatigue that was the most concerning, yeah? I’m surprised you guys lasted as—”

 

“Squid.”

 

“Sorry! Sorry. I’m sorry for attacking you. I’d say I won’t do it again, but I can’t really control that, so…”

 

“So don’t fuck with the AUs as severely,” Killer drawled, stretching out and leaning further into Horror’s side. “Duly noted.”

 

Nightmare sent all of his boys a tired glare, tentacles drooping. “I want to know why you were doing that in the first place. You all should know better than this.”

 

“Sorry, Dad!”

 

“Killer, I swear to god—”

 

“Horror and I both had LV spikes,” Dust muttered, hitting Killer with his elbow. “We had to do something. This idiot and Cross just said they’d help.”

 

The larger skeleton grumbled in acknowledgement. “Didn't realize we took it so far. Sorry.” 

 

Large eyelights flickering between the two, Error let out a huff of breath and flapped his wings a bit. “Just don’t do that again. Get into contact with me or Ink and we’ll either drop you into an AU you can let loose in, or spar with us.”

 

Ink perked up. “Ooh, yeah, I’m fine with that! You can’t really kill either of us, too, so it won’t add onto your stats either! Everyone’s happy!”

 

Laying his head down again, Error muttered a short, “Anything else, or can I leave?”

 

“Uh, can we ask how this happened?” Blue inquired, tilting his head a bit with an uncertain smile. “Not the thing with Ink, but why you guys can turn into dragons in the first place? If you don’t want to, that’s fine! It just seems a bit strange.”

 

Both gods stared at the little skeleton for a while. Ink’s ecto started to shift to a dark purple and blue, but it was drowned out quickly by a neutral orange and green. Cross barely had the time to wonder what that meant when Error huffed and looked away. “Reaper and Life were just made like this, and we don’t know about Ink or I.” After a moment, he rolled his eyes and continued, “Or these dipshits, ‘cause they were too stupid to know they could shift in the first damn place.”

 

Dream groaned, dropping his head again. “You don’t have to be so mean about it…”

 

“It is very funny though!” Ink snickered, rolling to lay on his belly as yellow overtook his ecto again. “I mean, you’ve never shifted on accident? At all? Do you know how many times Error and I have brawled it out before we made a truce? It just kinda happens sometimes.” He giggled lightly. “Here we thought you guys were just really stingy about it!”

 

“Thanks, Ink… That really helps…”

 

“Of course!”

 

The change in subject was blaringly obvious. The monochrome skeleton wasn’t sure if the others were just ignoring it for the two gods’ sake (which is hard to believe for the Trio, being the nosy bastards they were), or if they actually didn’t notice the blatant lie and deflection. Everyone seemed too focused on Ink’s teasing and the slowly raising mood of the room. Well, everyone but Nightmare and Error, both of whom shared a glance with him, the latter being more of a warning look than anything.

 

Cross merely blinked and looked away. If they wanted to keep secrets, he wasn’t going to pry. They likely had their reasons.

 

That didn’t stop the swell of concern from rising in his soul, but he crushed it down to indifference quickly. Just in case, considering Dream sat right beside him.

 

“Everyone satisfied? Can I leave?” Error muttered. His eyelights sweeped over the room for a moment, then he moved to stand up anyway. “Actually, don’t answer that. I don’t care. I’m done.” He shook himself off swiftly, not unlike a wet cat or dog. A glitchy white portal expanded to his full size behind him, which he was already stepping into. Just before his tail fully entered, he spun around and fixated stern eyelights on Dream and Nightmare. “Don’t lose track of your fucking hoard next time. I’m not saving their asses twice.”

 

Scoffing playfully, Ink flicked his tail towards the other dragon. “Yeah, he would.”

 

With an angry growl, Error snapped forward to grab the Protector by the back of his scarf, yanking him into the air and through the portal as well. Glitches and ERRORs rippled down his snout and ecto, but he stubbornly didn’t let go. Ink merely curled his feet forward, waved his wing with a grin, and shouted, “Call us if you need help shifting!” before the gateway closed with a staticky pop. 

 

“I didn’t think they could get any weirder,” Dust grumbled, mostly to himself. 

 

“You severely underestimate them,” Cross sighed.

 

Sitting up abruptly, Killer turned an intrigued smirk towards his boss. “So! Do we get to see some weredragon action from either of you now? The curiosity is overwhelming, I must admit. I wonder if either of you will be as large as our big boy Error, huh? We might need to get a bigger castle!” 

 

“Doubt it.” A slight smirk of his own pulled at Dust’s teeth. “Betcha they’re gonna be small. Not Ink small, but Boss’s pretty short.”

 

“Ah, yes, though I don’t think anyone could be Ink small.”

 

Blue pouted. “That’s just rude…”

 

“And who knows! Maybe it’s going by a different size reference—”

 

“No, we are not doing this right now.” Nightmare squinted at the dark eyed skeleton, though he only got a snarky smile back. He rubbed at what Cross could only assume was a growing headache. “You are all exhausted, and quite frankly, so am I. Everyone is going to bed. We will talk about this in the morning.”

 

“Aww, so we don’t get to cuddle up to scales and tails? That’s disappointing. Maybe your hoard is lonely, Nighty.”

 

“Sleep. Now.”

 

Dream huffed a small laugh behind his hand, standing up alongside the rest of them. He nodded in agreement. “We should all rest. Blue and I will leave you be. And I’ll, uh, talk with Ink tomorrow, sometime…” He clasped his hands in front of him, smiling nervously toward Nightmare. “It was nice to see you today, Night. Even if things got a little out of hand.”

 

Nightmare visibly relaxed, though his face was still as grumpy as ever. “Of course. Now we’ll have to meet up to discuss… other things.” Sighing heavily, he snapped out his tentacles to wrap around the Trio, jerking them towards the living room door. Cross was left alone, likely just assuming he’d follow. He’d be more offended if it weren’t completely true. “I trust you two can see yourselves out.”

 

Cross gave a small wave to the Stars as he trailed behind, rolling his eyelights at Killer, who made plenty of suggestive comments about being manhandled. 

 

As they walked down the hall, Cross couldn’t help but let his gaze wander along the extra appendages Nightmare had. They were such a normal sight to them now, but he knew they weren’t exactly natural. He just had to wonder how that would translate onto a dragon. 

 

That train of thought led to a thousand possibilities, for both Nightmare and Dream, flashing through his head. 

 

It would be an interesting day tomorrow, to say the least.

 

He watched the skeletons in front of him bicker with a slight smile under his burnt face mask. 

 

Well, he certainly couldn’t say his life was boring.