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Limelight

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The ad in the paper simply read ‘Guard needed for high profile client’. Red didn’t think he stood a chance in hell, but he called the number anyway.

The voice on the other end that picked up said “Thank you for calling Dreemurr Labs. How may I direct your call?”

Dreemurr Labs? As in the Dreemurr Labs? The highly controversial Dreemurr Labs where they conducted top secret research that was supposed to alter the course of man and monsterkind? Was Red inquiring about becoming the guard dog to some kind of mad scientist?

“uh, i’m calling about the guard job?”

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“Wonderful!” the chipper woman on the other end said. “Dr. Gaster will be holding interviews tomorrow. Can you come in at two?”

“yeah, sure,” Red replied, shuddering at the name ‘Dr. Gaster’.

Gaster was notorious for being a brilliant, if not slightly terrifying, man. He had led research for the Dreemurrs for decades, most notably unearthing a previously undiscovered source of renewable energy.

Red knew there was no way he’d be able to impress the man, and just considered blowing the interview off. But still, the next day, he put on his cheap black suit and headed out his door.

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Red had seen pictures of Dreemurr Labs before, being a little bit of a curious science nerd himself, but those hadn’t prepared him for the sprawling complex, surrounded by a high fence and heavily armed guards that had to escort him to the building’s entrance.

Inside was just as starchy as he had expected, everything adorned in crisp whites and greys that left him feeling cold and empty.

He was pointed to a seating area by the receptionist who gave him a warm smile and assured him the Doctor would be with him soon. So Red sat, and he waited.

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An hour later a meek little lizard came to retrieve him, leading him down a maze of hallways to an office that was just as uninviting as the rest of the building. Behind an L-shaped desk sat the man himself - Gaster - his skull cracked no doubt from his time in the war, and a white lab coat enveloping his thin frame. Red swallowed hard and hesitated as the lizard all but pushed him inside and closed the door behind him.

“So,” Gaster started as Red took a seat across from him. “What makes you think you’d make a good bodyguard?”

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“uh, everyone tells me i’m smart,” Red replied. Gaster did not look impressed. “and i ain’t scared of a fight if it comes to it. i’m dedicated, and i give my all in everything i do.”

Gaster was quiet for a moment. Red half expected him to dismiss him, maybe with a ‘thanks for coming in’ or maybe with no thanks at all. What he did not expect, however, was for Gaster to fold his hands together and lean forward as if he was about to tell a secret, and say “Tell me, son. Are you a fan of comedy?”

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Red thought maybe it was a trick question, but he also got the feeling the Doctor would see right through him if he lied. So he answered best he could.

“yes?” Red said.

“You don’t sound too sure,” Gaster replied.

“i mean yeah, i love a good joke,” Red admitted, then jokingly added “are you thinking about starting a career in comedy?”

“Not me. My son. The job is to guard him,” Gaster explained. Red suddenly felt a wave of relief. He knew he’d have no hope of guarding someone like Gaster, but his comedian son he could probably handle.

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“He’s a bit… high maintenance,” Gaster continued cautiously. “But he’s adamant about going out on this tour despite my reservations.”

“can i ask why he needs a guard?” Red inquired.

“My youngest son recently had a run in with some, let’s call them undesirables. I very nearly lost him to them. I told Sans I didn’t want him leaving because of that but he said he’s not going to let them scare him off from pursuing his dreams. So our compromise was to hire him a guard to keep him safe. That and, he could use a friend.”

“a friend?”

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“Though he tries to deny it I can tell my son is very lonely. He needs a companion as much as he needs a guard. Is that something you can handle?” Gaster asked.

“i... yes!” Red replied. Really, how hard could it be to make nice with some funny guy?

“I’m glad to hear that, because I have a really good feeling about you. If you’re still interested after this conversation, I would like to formally offer you the job,” Gaster said. Red couldn’t believe it, so much so that he didn’t respond right away. “Son? What do you think?”

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The first thing Red did when he got off property was take out his phone and call his little brother.

“quit your job, boss! i’m gonna be making the big bucks!” he told him, skipping the ‘hello’.

“Oh really? Doing what?” Edge inquired.

“playing guard dog to some comedian, and now you’ll only have to worry about school and nothing but school!”

“What about your own expenses?” Edge asked.

“not to worry, bro! i’ll be able to cover those, too! i’ll be out on the road so i won’t have to pay rent. i get a meal stipend. it’s perfect!”

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Red hummed happily to himself as he packed the few belongings he had into a single suitcase. This was going to be the easiest money he’s ever made. No more washing dishes for peanuts, or sweeping floors in office buildings for just a few measly bucks. No, all he had to do now was hang out with some jokester and get paid to keep him out of trouble. How hard could that be?

He handed the keys of his now-former apartment over to his now-former landlord with a smile on his face, and headed off to meet his new boss.

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Red double, then triple checked the address on the card Gaster had given him. He checked it one more time, just to be sure, because the house he had walked up to could barely be described as a house. It was more like a palace, really - all brick and white stone like the Palace of Versailles with tall Corinthian columns framing a grand entryway. It was set behind a sturdy iron fence with a gate that Red walked up to and pressed the little intercom button.

“Can I help you?” came an unfamiliar voice.

“uh, i’m red, sans’s new guard.”

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“Sans isn’t home,” the voice said.

“but... this is when doctor gaster told me to come,” Red objected.

“Well you must be mistaken. Goodbye,” they replied, and then the static of the intercom ceased.

Red stood there dumbfounded for a moment. Had he really gotten it wrong? No, 6 o’clock on Friday evening. He was sure of it! He pressed the intercom button again.

“I thought I told you to go away!” the voice said, clearly annoyed by Red’s persistence.

“can i talk to the doctor? i’m sure i’m supposed to be here now.”

“He’s not here either,” they responded.

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“Yes, I am here!” came Gaster’s muffled voice through the speaker. “Papyrus, get away from the intercom!”

“But Sans said to…”

“How many times have I told you not to listen to your brother?” Gaster scolded his son.

“Sorry, Dad.”

“uh, hello?” Red said, not wanting them to forget about him.

“Hello!” Gaster said loud and clear. “I’m glad you found us. Please, come up.” And with that a loud buzzer sounded and the gate swung open.

Red passed a row of precisely landscaped hedges and a large fountain on his way to the front door, where he knocked apprehensively.

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“Hello again!” Gaster greeted him when he opened the door. He motioned for Red to follow him inside where Red found himself in a marble-clad foyer with a grand chandelier hanging above his head. “Right on schedule,” Gaster continued. “But I’m afraid my son wasn’t lying when he said Sans isn’t home. I told him he needed to be here but, like usual, he didn’t seem to want to listen.”

“do you want me to come back another time?” Red asked.

“No. He’ll be here eventually,” Gaster assured him. “Come, let’s go wait for him somewhere a little more comfortable.”

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Gaster led Red into a room with another chandelier and sat down on a couch that looked like it wasn’t supposed to be sat on. He motioned for Red to sit across from him and Red complied, perching himself on the edge of his seat so as to not disturb the meticulously arranged throw pillows.

“I must apologize for my youngest son trying to turn you away,” Gaster started. “His brother no doubt put him up to it. I should warn you that Sans isn’t exactly thrilled with this arrangement. He’s been insufferable since I told him I hired you.”

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“I’m sure he’ll like you once he gets to know you,” Gaster continued. Red could only nod in agreement.

Gaster continued to speak to him as they waited, and Red couldn’t help but be surprised by how sociable he was for someone with a reputation quite as dispassionate as his. He told Red how pleasantly surprised he was that Sans’s comedy career had taken off after he had abandoned science, and gushed about Papyrus’s culinary accomplishments, saying he never thought his sons would take the directions that they had, but that he’s proud of them for forging their own paths.

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Gaster talked for what felt like hours. Red listened intently, but really he was starting to get nervous. Not that he wasn’t nervous before, but the longer he waited the more he wondered what exactly he had gotten himself into.

If this Sans guy wasn’t willing to listen to his own father about being on time, how was Red going to be able to wrangle him on the road?

Red thought about interrupting Gaster and telling him ‘sorry for wasting your time, but i don’t think i can do this after all’, but then he heard the front door open.

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“Well it’s about time!” Gaster sighed as the younger skeleton walked into the room. He was about Red’s height but with a slightly slimmer frame and a giant grin with perfectly straight teeth, much unlike the crooked fangs in Red’s mouth. In his arms was some sort of fluffy white drooling creature that Red quickly learned was a dog when it started yapping away obnoxiously.

“heya, pops,” Sans said, putting the dog down on the floor which was quick to scamper away.

“Sans, this is Red, your guard,” Gaster told him, turning to Red. “Red, this is my son, Sans.”

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“huh,” Sans grunted. “i was expecting someone who looked a little… tougher.”

“I think you’ll find Red is more than capable of handling you,” Gaster said to his son.

“we’ll see,” Sans replied with a chuckle, and Red swore he saw a twinkle in his eyelights.

Sans walked past Red without acknowledging him, calling behind him that he was going to find something to eat. Gaster remained seated across from Red with a smile on his face, watching his son as he walked away.

“Well, that went better than expected,” Gaster said once Sans was out of sight.

It had?

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Red followed Gaster through various rooms until they reached the large kitchen, where they found Sans rummaging through a refrigerator that was twice as big as Red’s old one. Sans pulled out some deli turkey and a bottle of ketchup that joined a loaf of bread on the counter.

He didn’t look up when they entered, instead just keeping to his task of sandwich making. That obnoxious, yappy furball was right at his feet, begging for scraps which Sans happily provided him with.

“you shouldn’t feed your dog deli meat,” Red said.

“i’m sorry, did i ask you?” Sans snapped.

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“glad you hired me one who thinks he knows everything,” Sans jibed.

“i just don’t want your dog to get sick,” Red replied defensively.

“more like you just want to show off in front of my pops.”

“Sans, his whole job centers around looking after you. You should be glad he’s extended that protection to Comet, as well,” Gaster interjected.

“comet is fine. i don’t need this idiot telling me how to take care of my dog. his job is to sit back and shut up and make sure no one kidnaps me like they did to paps,” Sans said.

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Red felt a pang in his soul, like once again he wasn’t sure he could do this. He knew when he wasn’t wanted - he'd been unwanted many times before - and he wasn’t sure the money was worth being subjected to verbal abuse on a daily basis.

But then he thought about his brother, and how hard his brother had been working while balancing his studies. He had made a promise to Edge that he would take care of him, and as big of an asshole as Sans was turning out to be, Red wasn’t about to let his brother down.

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“sorry,” Red apologized, admitting defeat. “it wasn’t my place to say that to you.”

“at least he’s humble,” Sans said with a laugh as he took a bite of his sandwich. Ketchup oozed out the size of it and onto the plate below him, which Sans scooped up with a phalange that he then stuck in his mouth and licked clean. Red felt nauseous. He thought ketchup was gross.

Red stood there awkwardly as Sans finished eating, then stepped forward to try to make things better.

“let me get that for you,” Red offered, grabbing the dirty plate. Sans grinned.

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Red washed the plate while Sans stood back and watched. That obnoxious dog of his yapped away at Red’s feet, nipping at his ankles, making the task that much more difficult than it needed to be. Red hoped Gaster would speak up, maybe remind Sans to say ‘thank you’ to Red for picking up after him, but Gaster simply stood there with a smile on his face as Red dried his hands on a checkered kitchen towel.

“Sans, why don’t you show Red to the room he’ll be staying in tonight?” Gaster suggested.

“fine,” Sans replied with a heavy sigh.

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Red and his suitcase followed Sans down a maze of hallways (honestly, how does anyone find their way in this place?), Sans not so much as speaking a word or acknowledging Red in any way. That little dog followed them and more than once Red nearly tripped over it.

Eventually they stopped in front of a doorway. Sans turned the knob and pushed it open, revealing a quaint room with a four poster bed, a set of nightstands, and an upholstered foot chest.

“here,” Sans grunted, and then walked away. Red entered the room and closed the door behind him.

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Finally alone. Red found himself exhausted, kicking off his shoes and collapsing down on the big bed with its luxurious mattress. He took out his phone to see a text from his little brother.

How did it go?

As tempted as he was to give Edge an honest answer, he texted back a simple ‘great! he’s a cool guy’ then put his phone down on the nightstand and closed his eyes. He didn’t mean to fall asleep but he must have, because when he opened his eyes again the room was dark and someone was knocking loudly on the door.

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“Hello!” a voice that Red recognized as the one from the intercom greeted him. Red rubbed his sockets to see a tall, slender skeleton with broad shoulders over which was draped a long red scarf.

“you must be papyrus,” Red replied.

“The Great Papyrus, to be exact!” he beamed proudly. “And I have come to collect you for dinner. Please, follow me!”

Red followed Papyrus back down the hallway maze and into a room he hadn’t seen yet - one with a large wooden table and tall-backed chairs.

“Please, sit!” said Gaster, who was seated at the head of the table.

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The meal was one of the best Red ever had. They each got their own little chicken, apparently called a Cornish game hen, with rosemary butter potatoes and fresh-from-the-garden snap peas. Papyrus had been the chef, and Red found himself thanking him profusely. Even Sans seemed appreciative, complimenting his brother on a job well done.

Gaster excused himself for the night when the meal was over with a promise that he would be up to see Sans and Red off in the morning. Much to Red’s surprise, Sans escorted him back to his room and even said a half-assed “goodnight”.

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Morning came faster than Red had expected it to. His sockets shot open at the sound of the alarm on his phone blaring. He got dressed then headed out into the hall, determined to find his way through the house and into the foyer where Gaster had instructed him to meet them.

Gaster was standing there, seemingly full of anxious energy. He made smalltalk as the two of them stood beneath the chandelier, saying how excited he was for his son’s adventure across the country, but also how nervous.

“I’m counting on you to keep my boy safe,” Gaster said.

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Sans was late coming to the foyer. Forty-five minutes late, to be exact. Red was starting to catch on that this was a common occurrence.

When he finally graced them with his presence, that dog of his in his arms and Papyrus behind him lugging several suitcases, Sans looked over at Red and then to his father.

“are you sure he has to come?” Sans asked Gaster.

“If you want to go then he’s going, too,” Gaster replied. Sans looked like he wanted to argue some more, but instead he walked past them and out the door with his dog.

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“wait. is the dog coming, too?” Red asked no one in particular. Sans stopped dead in his tracks and turned to look at him with disdain in his eyelights.

“his name is comet, and of course he’s coming,” Sans replied as if it was a matter of fact. Red did his best to hide his wince. He already hated this damn dog and now he’d have to spend four months on a cramped tour bus with it.

Gaster escorted Red and his sons outside where a forty-five foot long shiny black coach bus sat waiting for them in the driveway.

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Sans climbed aboard first, followed closely by his little brother who was still lugging his suitcases. Red followed Papyrus up the steps and started making his way towards the back of the bus but was stopped by Papyrus’s lanky form.

“That’s Sans’s room,” Papyrus told Red.

“then where am i supposed to sleep?” Red asked.

“you get the couch,” Sans called up to him from the back room. Red looked around to find the couch, which was shoved into a corner and only about half as long as him. It looked stiff as a board.

seriously? Red thought to himself.

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“All settled in?” Gaster asked when he entered the bus. Red wanted to say ‘no i’m not fucking settled in. how am i supposed to settle in?’ But instead he just smiled and nodded. Gaster smiled back then walked past him and up to Sans who had emerged from the back room. “Please be safe,” Gaster implored his son. “And listen to Red.”

“i’ll be fine, dad,” Sans assured him, leaning in to give his father a hug. For a moment Gaster held Sans close, maybe a little too close judging by the way Sans said “dad! you’re suffocating me!”

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Papyrus bid Sans goodbye as well with tears in his sockets. Then he straightened himself up and pulled himself together, petted the dog on the head, and climbed off the bus with his father behind him. A thin orange cat monster climbed in once they were gone and closed the door.

“under no circumstances are you to bother me when i’m in my room, got it?” Sans instructed Red. “if you need me for something then send me a text and i’ll decide if it’s worth answering or not.”

Red nodded to show he understood, and then they were off.

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The first day on the road Sans only emerged from his suite to make a Cup Noodles in the microwave. He didn’t even eat it at the table, choosing instead to take it back to his room. He ignored Red the whole time he was out of his room, which Red was honestly fine with. If Sans wasn’t talking it meant he wasn’t putting Red down.

Red waited until he was gone before he got up to scrounge through the cabinets for a meal of his own, going with a granola bar and a big handful of chisps. Good enough.

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When nighttime came, Red had a hard time getting comfortable. He couldn’t even find a blanket anywhere in the main cabin, so he curled up into himself on the couch and shivered until he fell asleep.

When he first woke up he wasn’t sure where he was. The faux wood floor and the cream-colored leather seats sure didn’t look like home, and it was only when Sans walked out of his room did it register where Red was.

“mornin,” Red said. “think i could get a blanket?”

“you should’ve brought your own,” Sans replies, the vexation clear on his face.

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Red took a slow, deep breath before he responded, deciding to play into Sans’s (lack of) sensibilities.

“i ain’t smart like you,” Red said. “i never think of that kind of thing.”

“clearly not,” Sans scoffed. “i’ll give you money to go buy one when we stop later.”

“thanks. that’s very kind of you,” Red replied. “sorry for the trouble.”

“any other idiotic things you forgot?” Sans inquired.

“don’t think so,” Red told him with a fake smile. “but i guess we’ll find out as we go.”

“honestly, where did my dad find you?” Sans asked rhetorically with a huff.

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“do you at least know how to make coffee?” Sans asked as he grabbed a breakfast bar out of a drawer. Much to Red’s surprise he offered one to him, too.

“sure do,” Red replied confidently. Making coffee was something he excelled at.

“good,” Sans said. “i expect a freshly brewed pot every morning. starting now.”

Red got up and made his way to the kitchenette. He took out a grinder first, then beans which he quickly got to work pulverizing. He poured the beans and water into the percolator, then he stepped back to let the brewing magic happen.

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Sans didn’t actually have Red make him up a cup, mumbling something about not trusting him to do it right. And surprisingly once he’d added his cream and sugar he didn’t take it back into his room, choosing instead to sit at the little table. His dog hopped up on the seat next to him and curled into his hip.

Sans stared ahead at the TV for a while, and for the first time Red got a really good look at him. It was a shame he was such an ass because even Red couldn’t deny that he was beautiful.

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“come on,” Sans said when the bus finally parked in the spot where it would stay for the night, at the location of Sans’s first show.

“where are we goin?” Red asked.

“to buy your stupid blanket,” Sans responded.

“you don’t gotta come with me,” Red offered.

“not only are you an idiot but you suck at your job, too,” Sans scoffed. “you’re not supposed to leave me alone, remember?”

“oh... uh… right,” said Red, his face flushed in embarrassment. “i promise i’ll make it quick. i ain’t picky.”

“it’s whatever,” Sans sighed. “i need to stretch my legs, anyway.”

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Red picked out the cheapest blanket he could find at the store, but Sans had ripped it out of his hands with a huff, telling him “i’m not buying you another one so you should probably pick something better.”

Red looked over the selection, ultimately deciding on a super-soft buffalo check Sherpa throw. Sans looked it over and hummed in approval, then took him to the register to pay. Red thanked him several times during the transaction until Sans finally said “has anyone ever told you you’re really annoying?”

“i’m just grateful, is all,” Red replied.

“as you should be.”

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There were a few hours to kill before Sans needed to be at the club, and surprisingly politely he asked if they could take Comet for a walk. The city they were in was nice - small as far as cities go with plenty of walkable areas Red felt safe letting Sans out in.

Comet wanted to stop and sniff every damn thing so it took them a while. At first they were quiet as they walked, until Red decided a little small talk wouldn’t hurt anything.

“are you excited for your show tonight?” Red asked Sans.

“i’m nervous,” Sans admitted.

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When they got back to the bus Sans didn’t say much. He grabbed a snack of chisps then disappeared into his room where he stayed until it was time to go. Red could see he had changed out of his shorts and hoodie into a pair of tight black jeans and a blue button down over a crisp white shirt. He looked good. Like really, really good. Stunning, even. Red found himself blushing as Sans walked past him.

“r-ready to go?” Red asked, trying to hide how flustered he was.

“let’s do this,” Sans said nervously with a heavy sigh.

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Red wasn’t sure what he was expecting when it came to the types of places Sans would be performing in, but where he found himself was not it. It was a true theater - a raised stage with velvet curtains, a mezzanine, even a balcony level. One of the employees told him it sat a thousand people, and that the show was sold out.

Maybe it was because Sans had been the opposite of funny in the time he’d known him, but Red found himself shocked by that little bit of information. This insufferable asshole actually had fans. Who would’ve guessed?

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“i gotcha some water,” Red said, handing Sans a bottle which Sans took with a shaky hand. “you alright?”

“i don’t think i can do this,” Sans admitted.

“of course you can,” Red assured him.

“what if they heckle me?”

“then i’m here to kick their asses out,” Red said with a smile.

“yeah. okay.” Sans took a deep breath, then told himself “i can do this.”

As they made their way to the stage Sans turned back for one last look at Red who gave him a reassuring nod. Sans took another deep breath, then stepped into the spotlight.

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Red stood off to the side backstage as Sans performed, keeping an eye on the room for any sign of intent. He also listened to Sans’s jokes; turns out the guy actually was kind of funny. Red’s favorite was the one where Sans said “i was going to tell a joke about chlorine and potassium, but i’m afraid it’d get a violent reaction.”

An hour later, Sans bid his audience goodnight and stepped off stage. Red smiled at him but Sans didn’t smile back, instead just storming past him and back into the dressing room where he locked himself in.

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“sans? you alright?” Red asked as he knocked on the dressing room door.

“go away,” Sans demanded from the other side. “leave me alone.”

“can’t do that, remember?” Red said. “why don’tcha come out so i can get you back to the bus? i’m sure comet misses you.”

A moment later Sans opened the door and stepped out without looking up at Red.

“fine,” he mumbled.

Red expected Sans to hole himself up in his room once they were on board the bus but much to Red’s surprise Sans sat down on the couch and actually locked eyelights with him.

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“i was awful tonight,” Sans lamented. Red furrowed his brows.

“what’re you talkin about? i thought you were great! that one about boilin a funny bone had me in stitches,” Red assured him with a smile.

“you clearly don’t know anything about comedy,” Sans groused. “My timing was off, my delivery was ridiculously bad. i won’t be surprised if the whole audience asks for their money back.”

“they all looked like they were havin a great time to me,” Red told him. “i think you’re just bein too hard on yourself.”

“i just… i expect better of myself, you know?”

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Sans kept talking, and Red was surprised at how open and vulnerable he was being with someone he hardly knew and had previously had nothing but disdain for. Maybe Gaster was onto something when he’d said that Sans needed a friend. Still, Red wasn’t sure that was something he and Sans could ever be, especially when Sans got up off the couch and said “why do i bother talking to you? you might as well be a brick wall.”

“need anythin before you go to bed?” Red asked, trying to be polite all things considered.

“not from you,” Sans replied.

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That night Red slept a little more comfortably, or at least was a little less cold, and in the morning was awakened by the hum of the engine firing as the bus trudged forward towards their next destination.

Sans came out of his room mid-morning and poured himself a cup of the coffee Red had prepared for him, then surprisingly sat across from Red at the table to drink it. He was quiet for a while until he looked up at him and sighed loudly. Red was unable to look away.

“do you think i’m an asshole?” Sans asked him.

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Red froze. Was he supposed to answer that question honestly or just tell Sans what he wanted to hear? He settled on the latter.

“of course not,” Red said.

“i think i’m an asshole,” Sans responded, despondent.

“you’re just set in your ways, is all,” Red told him. “nothin wrong with knowin what you want.”

“i have no friends,” Sans continued. “thousands of people love me and yet i’m still always alone.”

“i’ll be your friend,” Red offered.

“you?” Sans scoffed. “no offense, but that’s never going to happen. you’re my employee and i don’t even want you as that.”

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The rejection stung harder than Red had expected it to, especially considering he didn’t really want to be Sans’s friend to begin with. But he found Sans’s words echoing through his head for the rest of the day. It was going to be a long few months.

They traveled through the rest of the day and into the night, Sans hiding out in his room and Red laying on the couch reading one of the novels he had brought along for the trip. It was about someone who was as lonely as Sans was. As lonely as Red was, too.

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When they stopped the next afternoon at the destination of the next show, Sans emerged to tell Red he wanted to go out for lunch. He was craving sushi, he said, and as much as Red hated sushi he was willing to bring Sans to make him happy, even if he just sat there and watched him eat. But Sans didn’t like that.

“you have to order something,” Sans told him. Sans recommended one with crab meat which Red reluctantly swallowed down, gagging as the sticky rice and slimy seaweed touched his tongue. “why are you so embarrassing?” Sans sighed.

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Sans was in better spirits going into the show that night. Red could tell because Sans was ordering him around like Red was a butler, demanding sparkling water but not the lime flavored one Red brought him first, nor the grapefruit kind Red brought him next. When it took Red a while to track down a raspberry flavored one Sans had laughed at him and said “you’re great at multitasking, aren’t you? you can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.” Red found himself counting down the minutes until Sans went on stage so he’d leave him alone.

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The show went by uneventfully. Red kept a careful eye on the audience but everyone seemed to be really enjoying the performance, though Red found Sans much less funny the second time around. Or maybe it was because Sans’s behavior earlier in the night had gotten on Red’s every last nerve.

When the show was over Sans demanded Red find him a slice of chocolate cake to reward himself for an outstanding performance. Red called six different restaurants before he found one offering what Sans wanted and Sans still had the audacity to complain that the cake was too dry.

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The next few shows passed much like the first two did - with Red having nothing to do but sit there and watch and listen to Sans. But on a Thursday night Red got a bad feeling from the crowd and kept a careful eye on them, waiting for the slightest sign of something out of place.

It came in the form of a glass being hurled onto the stage at Sans, which hit Sans square in the ribs. Within seconds, Red had shortcutted to the guy and yanked him up by the collar of his shirt to drag him outside.

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Red was impressed by the way Sans kept the show going despite what had happened, but when he got off stage Red could tell he was shaken up.

“are you okay?” Red asked.

“how could you let that happen to me?” Sans shouted, clutching at his ribs.

“i’m sorry,” Red said, not really sure what he was apologizing for. It’s not like he could have known it was going to happen. “let me look at your ribs.”

Reluctantly Sans lifted up his shirt to expose a dark blue bruise. Red lightly ran his distals over it, causing Sans to flinch.

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Red had Sans sit down on the dressing room couch then kneeled down in front of him. He lifted his hands and started pouring healing magic into Sans’s ribs until the dark bruise faded into a faint one. Sans let out a relieved sigh but didn’t thank him.

Red then escorted Sans back to the bus where Sans shoved Comet at him and told him to take him outside. Red complied, taking Comet’s leash and stepping outside with him. He waited around as Comet did his business, and then it occurred to him that he’d need to pick it up.

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It turns out cleaning up dog shit is just as gross as it sounds. Red gagged as it squished in the plastic bag beneath his fingers, and when he got back on the bus he couldn’t wash his hands fast enough.

When Sans heard them he opened the door just enough for Comet to join him before shutting it forcefully without a word to Red.

What had happened wasn’t Red’s fault, but still he felt guilty. Sans might be a major asshole but he didn’t deserve to get hurt, and Red racked his brain for how to make it better.

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The next morning before they left Red sent the driver out to get Sans a big breakfast. Eggs and toast and bacon and home fries and pancakes with chocolate chips. Red unpacked it all onto a plate which he put down on the table right as Sans came out of his room.

“what’s all this?” Sans asked.

“thought you might like somethin besides a cereal bar for breakfast today,” Red explained.

“cool,” Sans replied as he sat down and started digging in. Red had hoped for a nice ‘thank you’, but Sans not berating him for once was good enough.

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The next show brought a new challenge. Sans was to have a “Meet and Greet” at a local bar with his fans after the show, and the thought of Sans crammed into a small space with a bunch of people who wanted to get handsy with him was making Red feel sick with worry.

All Red could think about during the show was the logistics of this, and about what he would need to do if things got out of control. Surely Sans would go willingly if something happened. The last thing Sans would want is to get hurt again.

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Sans was in a great mood walking to the bar. It was clear that he loved the idea of getting up close and personal with his fans, and had rolled his eyelights when Red had commented that he didn’t think it was the best idea.

“just do your job and it’ll be fine,” Sans told him.

“alright, but if i say we gotta go, then we gotta go,” Red responded.

“whatever,” Sans said, waving him off.

The bar was already packed when they got there, Red having to push people aside to clear a path for Sans to even enter.

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Within a minute Sans got swallowed up by the crowd who all swarmed him, asking for autographs and selfies. They were mostly respectful, telling him how much they admired him and thanking him for his time.

But then there was one asshole who grabbed onto Sans and wouldn’t let go. Red told him more than once that he’d had his turn and it was time to move on, but still he clung on, telling Sans he worshiped him and not taking no for an answer when Sans politely turned down his request for a kiss, instead forcing one on him.

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Red wasted no time grabbing the guy and tearing him off of Sans, then forcing his way through the crowd, pushing him in front of him until they were outside in the night air.

“learn what ‘no’ means, asshole!” Red shouted as the guy stormed off. Red instructed the bar’s bouncers not to let him in again, then hurried back to Sans.

The rest of the night went by without incident, with Sans the happiest Red had seen him yet. As closing time approached and the crowd dwindled, Red suggested they head back to the bus and Sans didn’t argue.

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But as if a flip had been switched, Sans’s mood immediately changed when the bus door had closed behind them.

“what the fuck is wrong with you? you made me look like an asshole!” Sans shouted at Red.

“because i wasn’t about to let a guy assault you?” Red argued back. “i was only doin what your dad hired me to do, that’s all!”

“don’t you ever make me look bad in front of my fans again or you won’t have to worry about what my dad hired you to do because you won’t have a fucking job!” Sans threatened.

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Sans stormed into his room, leaving Red alone and fuming. Would Sans have preferred him to just let that guy continue to force himself on him? No, that would have probably pissed Sans off just as much. Red was starting to realize there was no winning with him.

Red thought about calling his brother just to have someone to vent to, but he knew what Edge would say. ‘Quit. Come home. We can figure something out.’ But Red couldn’t do that to him, so instead he took a deep breath and remembered why he took this job to begin with.

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Sans didn’t speak to him until they got to the destination of his next show, where he walked up to Red and, like a parent to their child, said “are you going to behave yourself this time?” Red could have strangled him, but instead he gritted his teeth and nodded.

Sans wasn’t funny to him anymore, so Red spent the show just watching the audience and trying to tune him out. When it was over he followed him to another bar where he stood back, hoping no one else would start anything so he wouldn’t have to step in again.

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There was one fan in particular Sans seemed to especially like, seeing how he kept standing close to him and laughing when the guy whispered things in his auditory canal. Red didn’t like it, but he also didn’t want to step in and piss Sans off again.

The guy was still by Sans’s side when the night came to an end, when Sans walked up to Red and announced “this is cooper and he’s coming back to the bus to spend more time with me.”

“like hell he is,” Red said. “i can’t let some random guy stay with you.”

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If Red thought the first fit Sans had pitched was bad, it was nothing compared to what happened when they got back to the bus this time, Sans without his hookup. Sans got up in Red’s face, screaming at him about what a waste of space he was and how he deserved nothing but the worst things in life. Red just stood there and took it.

“get off my bus!” Sans demanded.

“no,” was all Red said in response, but that set Sans off even worse.

“i hate you, do you know that? i absolutely fucking loathe you,” Sans said.

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Sans went to his room after that and didn’t come out again that night. In the morning he emerged, seemingly in a much more rational mood, judging by the way he calmly walked up to Red and said “if you want to make it up to me for your behavior last night, you can go get me some waffles for breakfast. feel free to pick something up for yourself.”

“i’m not supposed to leave you,” Red reminded him.

“i won’t go anywhere. i’m just going to stay in my room and decompress a bit. clearly i need it,” Sans laughed.

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Red decided to bend the rules just this once, especially if this meant some sort of truce between him and Sans. He walked until he found a bustling breakfast joint where he ordered strawberry-topped waffles for Sans and an egg sandwich for himself. He sat and drank a cup of coffee as he waited for their food, reflecting on how surprisingly mature Sans was being today.

He thanked the wait staff at the restaurant then headed back to the bus with Sans’s breakfast in hand. But when he got back to where the bus had been parked, it was gone.

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Red wasn’t an idiot. He knew what had happened. Or maybe he was an idiot for letting it happen to begin with. Sans had played him, and now he was faced with how he was supposed to handle this when he finally saw him again. But that would have to wait because he needed to catch up to him first.

Red knew where the next show was. He kept a detailed itinerary on his phone which showed the city where Sans was headed next. It was too far for a shortcut, so Red knew he had to find another way.

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Red stood on the side of the highway with a bony thumb up in the air, knowing his chances of being picked up as a hitchhiker were slim, and as a monster, even slimmer. As each hour passed, Sans got further and further away and Red’s hope dwindled down to near nothing.

But just when he was about to call it a loss and give up completely, a pickup truck pulled over. Red approached the passenger’s side door and peered inside to see a dark-skinned human with a friendly smile on his face.

“Where ya headed, pal?” the man asked.

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Turns out he was headed the same way, so Red climbed in the truck and buckled up. The man was good company, telling Red his name was Joseph and that he was headed out of town to see his girl. Red didn’t talk much, just let Joseph chat away as they headed towards their destination.

By the time he dropped Red off just outside of town, Sans’s show was long over. Red headed in the direction of the venue, hoping to find the bus on his way. He was hungry, tired, and prepared for his biggest showdown against Sans yet.

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Red eventually found the bus parked a few blocks from the venue. He gathered himself as he approached it, trying to figure out what he was going to say to Sans when he saw him. He didn’t think he should outright accuse Sans of leaving him behind, but he was also positive this wasn’t an accident.

He took a deep breath as he stepped up to the door, then climbed the steps into the cabin. Sitting on the couch was Sans with a smug look on his face and his stupid dog in his lap, and beside him, Dr. Gaster.

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“doctor gaster! what are you doin here?” Red gulped.

“dad was in town for a conference and stopped by to see the show,” Sans explained with a complacent grin. Red started to panic. Sans had known his father was going to be there, hadn’t he? That’s why he’d chosen to leave Red behind when he did.

“You have some nerve showing your face,” Dr. Gaster said to Red.

“i... what do you mean?”

“I hired you to take care of my son, not to sleep around like some tramp!” Gaster proclaimed.

“i-i don’t understand,” Red replied, his bones rattling nervously.

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“i told dad how you stayed behind to hook up with some floozy you met at the bar,” Sans explained.

“that didn’t happen an’ you know it!” Red argued.

“are you calling me a liar?” Sans accused him.

“i’m not callin you anythin! i’m just sayin that ain’t true,” Red countered. He looked to Dr. Gaster. “please, sir. i’m sure me gettin left was just an oversight. but i swear i didn’t stay behind on purpose.”

“Why should I believe you over my son?” Gaster asked.

“‘cause this job means everythin to me. please, give me another chance,” Red begged.

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Gaster looked to his son and said “Sans, if I fire him you’re going to have to come home until we can get you a new guard.”

“what? no!” Sans argued.

“That was the deal. You could only go on your tour if you had protection,” Gaster reminded him. “I will leave the choice up to you. Do I give him another chance or send him home?” Sans studied Red for a moment, frustration clear on his face.

“fine,” Sans sighed. “let him stay.”

“It’s your lucky day, son,” Gaster said to Red. “But one more slip-up and you’re done.”

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Red profusely thanked Dr. Gaster with tears in his sockets, then went back outside to allow Sans and his father some private time together. When the Doctor emerged from the bus he stopped in front of Red and sighed.

“I know he’s a little much,” Gaster said. only a little much? Red thought. “But please try to look past that and do what I hired you to do.” Red nodded to show he understood, then Gaster turned and walked away.

Red climbed back on the bus and tried to thank Sans but Sans refused to look him in the eye.

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They didn’t talk about what happened. As much as Red wanted to call Sans out he knew it wouldn’t do him any good, so ultimately he decided to drop the matter.

Sans was… tolerable for a little while after that, in that he kept to himself and even at his shows didn’t try to order Red around like he had done previously.

Red was starting to settle into a routine he liked, where all he had to do was be by Sans’s side with no need for communication between them.

That was, until the night of Sans’s biggest show yet.

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The theater was three times the size of the ones before it, and once again every seat in the house had been claimed. Sans sat in the dressing room with sweat beading down his skull, tapping his foot nervously as Red stood back and watched. Against his better judgement, Red spoke up.

“can i get you anythin?” Red offered, genuinely ready to help.

“i need a fucking drink,” Sans replied.

“you sure that’s a good idea?” Red asked him cautiously.

“did i ask you for your opinion? go get me a cranberry vodka with a twist of lime,” Sans demanded.

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One drink wasn’t enough to calm Sans’s nerves, so Red was sent out to get him another, then a third after that. At that point Sans was feeling pretty loose, his nerves flushed out of his system by the alcohol.

He was still able to get through his show, but Red could tell that Sans was tipsy based on the way he laughed at his own jokes while on stage. The audience ate it up, though, laughing right along with him.

When Sans got off the stage he walked right up to Red and sloppily put his arm around him.

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Sans pulled him in uncomfortably close, a stupid grin plastered on his face as he used Red to support his weight all the way back to the green room. Red set him down on the couch then tried to step away, but Sans pulled him onto the couch with him.

“i did so good tonight!” Sans praised himself. “don’t you think?”

“uh, sure,” Red said, figuring the quickest way out of this was to tell Sans what he wanted to hear.

“we should celebrate!”

“want me to find ya some cake again?” Red asked.

“noooo, i have a better idea!”

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“let’s go daaancing,” Sans suggested.

“i ain’t dancin, and neither are you,” Red grumbled.

“pleeeease?” Sans begged. “i never get to do anything fun. c’mon, i promise i’ll be good! i just want to get out!” Red looked him over. The pleading look on his face was unfairly cute and Red couldn’t help but smile at him. “ha!” Sans said. “i made you smile! that means we’re going!”

Red followed Sans out into the night and to a club a few blocks away where he could hear the music thumping from outside. Sans grinned and pulled him through the door.

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The club was packed, so Red made up his mind to not stray from Sans. But Sans didn’t seem to mind. He had an arm looped in Red’s which he used to pull Red up to the bar and order himself a shot of tequila. He offered one to Red but Red knew better, knowing how easy that would make it to let his guard down.

Sans then dragged Red onto the dance floor and draped his arms over his shoulder, then pulled Red into him and started swaying his hips and grinding against him in time with the music.

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Red put his hands on Sans’s hips and pulled him in close, as much to keep him safe as to feel more of the friction of Sans rubbing against him. He blushed when he looked up and met Sans’s gaze to see him with half-lidded sockets and an undeniable hunger in his eyes.

This was wrong. Sans was not in his right mind and would have nothing but regrets about it tomorrow. If he even remembered, that is.

“w-we should go,” Red shouted into Sans’s auditory canal, trying to be heard over the music.

“one more song,” Sans shouted back.

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One song turned into five, and one shot of tequila turned into three. Red tried more than once to get Sans to leave, but Sans wasn’t having it. He just kept dancing, his hands roaming all over Red’s body as he moved against him. Red kept trying to redirect Sans every time his hands landed somewhere they shouldn’t, but within minutes those sneaky distals would find their way back to Red’s most sensitive spots.

As the club got ready to close, Sans had no choice but to leave. He stumbled out into the night as Red guided him to safety.

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Sans giggled the whole way back to the bus, leaning all his weight on Red, and when they got inside Red had to drag Sans into his room. As he placed him down in his bed he realized it was the first time he’d been in here.

The bed was large and plush with fuzzy pillows and a quilted comforter. Off to the side was a full length mirror and Sans’s extra stage clothes hanging.

Red tucked Sans into his bed then turned to leave, but Sans grabbed him by the wrist.

“can i have a goodnight kiss?” Sans asked.

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Red faltered before leaning down and pressing his teeth to Sans’s frontal bone. As he tried to pull away Sans grabbed him by the mandible and pressed his teeth into Red’s. Red stood there, leaning over Sans with his sockets wide and his face flushed as Sans continued to grind their teeth together.

When Sans pulled away he had a soft look on his face and a wide smile. He gazed at Red who was frozen in place, still bent over the bed.

“heh. thanks,” Sans said softly.

“yeah,” Red whispered before he found the courage to leave the room.

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To say Red was confused is an understatement. He sat up on the couch for a long time afterwards thinking about what had transpired - the way Sans moved against him on the dancefloor, the lingering kiss goodnight. It just didn’t make sense.

And what was worse - Red was half hoping it would happen again. Maybe it was because he knew it would make his job easier if Sans actually wanted him around, or maybe it was because deep down he knew he felt something for the asshole.

When he finally fell asleep he found himself actually looking forward to tomorrow.

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“reeeeeeeeddddd!”

Red woke up and jumped to his feet at the sound of his name being called.

“reeeeeddddddd,” it came again.

“sans?” Red called back. He walked over to Sans’s door and pressed his skull to it.

“i think i’m dying. i can’t get up. bring me my coffee,” Sans groaned. Red hurried to brew a fresh pot then brought the steaming mug into Sans’s room.

“you okay?” Red asked as he handed it over.

“are you a fucking idiot? why would you let me drink so much?” Sans asked.

“i... uh…”

“you’re lucky i don’t fire you for this.”

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Red knew it was an empty threat, but still he laughed nervously. Sans noticeably didn’t.

“did you at least have fun?” Red asked. Sans glared at him.

“the hell if i know. i don’t remember anything after my show,” Sans responded.

Oh. He didn’t remember. Of course he didn’t remember. Red felt stupid, knowing he had gotten his hopes up about things changing for nothing.

“anythin i can do?” Red offered.

“you can leave me the fuck alone now and spend some time thinking about what a shitty bodyguard you are,” Sans replied.

“right,” Red said quietly. “i’ll do that.”

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maybe i am bad at this, Red thought. Sans made it clear that Red had done just about everything wrong so far. Red tried to consider it from Sans’s point of view - he had been forced by his father to take on a glorified babysitter he didn’t feel he needed. Gaster clearly didn’t trust Sans, and Red could only imagine how that must make Sans feel.

But it didn’t change the fact that Sans hated Red for no other reason than the fact he existed. If Sans was upset with his father he shouldn’t be taking it out on Red.

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Red decided he should take a new approach with Sans. When Sans finally came out of his room to get something to eat, Red decided to kill him with kindness.

“ya look good today, sans,” Red said.

“i look like a pile of comet’s shit,” Sans grumbled back.

“yet ya still look a million times better than me,” Red laughed.

“is there something you need or do you just like to hear yourself talk?”

“just tryin to be friendly, is all,” Red replied.

“how much clearer do i need to make it that we are never going to be friends?”

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Things went back to the way they were before after that, with Sans barking orders at Red from the time he woke up to the time he retired to his room for the night.

At his Meet and Greet after one show, Sans sent Red to the bar to buy a round of shots for everyone. The bartender gave Red a tray to carry them on, and when Red approached them Sans stuck out his foot and made Red trip, sending the entire tray spilling down Red’s front. Sans laughed so hard he had tears coming out of his sockets.

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Red couldn’t believe that even for a moment he’d thought he had feelings for Sans. Sans was by far the most loathsome person he had ever met. He was selfish, inconsiderate, and just plain cruel.

Red excused himself to the bathroom where he used paper towels in a pathetic attempt to dry himself off, stopping to look in the mirror and telling himself “i’m half-way done. only two more months. i can do this. for edge.”

“did you have a nice trip to the bathroom?” Sans asked when Red emerged. Everyone around him laughed. Red had to stifle a growl.

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Red didn’t say another word for the rest of the night. He couldn’t trust himself to not say something he’d regret - like telling Sans that he did, in fact, think he was an asshole despite his previous claims to the contrary.

When they got to the bus after a wordless walk back from the bar, Sans shoved Comet at Red before Red had even had a chance to change out of his booze-soaked clothes. Red took the leash and stepped outside, sighing as he thought about how he wished he’d never called the number on that ad. two more months.

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Much like his owner had been tonight, Comet was unruly on his walk. He didn’t want to do his business, which Red eventually surmised was because the grass was damp and the little princess didn’t want to get his paws wet. No matter how hard Red tried to urge him on, Comet refused to budge from the sidewalk. After five minutes of no progress, Red finally picked him up and placed him down on the grass where he let out a whine of protest.

“why do you two have to be so damn difficult?” Red asked. Unsurprisingly Comet didn’t answer.

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Red had trouble sleeping that night. He couldn’t stop thinking about his brother, and how hard Edge was working to follow his dreams. Red wondered why he didn’t have any dreams of his own anymore. He seemed to remember being young and ambitious, but a lifetime of bad luck had dealt him the hand he had now, where the only way to survive was to suffer endlessly. He never wanted Edge to feel the way he felt, but he wasn’t sure how much more of this treatment from Sans his soul could take. He was pretty sure he deserved better.

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“did you bring a suit?” Sans asked as he emerged from his room the next afternoon.

“a... suit?” Red replied.

“yes, you idiot. a suit. you know, fancy threads people put on when they have somewhere nice to go?”

“why would i need a suit?” Red questioned.

“because we have somewhere nice to go. obviously.”

“we do?”

“yes, we do. i got invited to a pretty high profile party and unfortunately my father says i have to bring you as my date,” Sans explained.

“uh, i didn’t pack it.”

“great. another thing i need to waste money on you for.”

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Sans wouldn’t let Red have any say in the suit he bought for him, but what Sans settled on was nicer than what Red would have picked out, anyway. It was clear to Red that this party was really important to Sans, and making himself look good (and Red by extension) was of the utmost importance to him.

Sans’s charcoal grey pants were snug-fitting, closely hugging the curves of his illia. The jacket buttoned tightly around his ribs, and under it he wore a navy blue shirt with a stark white tie. He looked absolutely stunning and ready to impress.

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“just smile and laugh at my jokes and act like you’re in love with me,” Sans instructed Red as they approached the location of the event. “no one can know you’re my bodyguard so you have to pretend you’re my doting boyfriend. got it?”

“uh, sure thing,” Red agreed, though he wasn’t sure how well he was going to pretend like he worshiped Sans when he didn’t even like him.

Red stood back and let Sans have his moment with the photographers who seemed eager to get a shot of him as they walked through the door to the party.

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“Sans, darling! I’m so glad you could make it,” Mettaton crooned as soon as he saw them. He gave Sans a peck on the cheekbone then stepped back and looked over Red. “and who is this handsome thing?” Mettaton asked. When Red didn’t respond right away Sans nudged him with his elbow.

“i’m sans’s b….oyfriend,” Red replied, a little starstruck. Mettaton was the biggest monster star there was. Red had no idea Sans was rubbing elbows with this kind of celebrity.

“My my, Sans. You have such good taste!” Mettaton said with a smile and a wink at Red.

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“babe, why don’t you go get me a drink while i catch up with my friend here?” Sans requested.

“but i’m not supposed to-” Red started, but Sans cut him off.

“babe. go get me a drink,” Sans said through gritted teeth. It was clear he wasn’t going to ask again. Red sighed and stepped away to find the bar, keeping Sans in the corner of his eye as he went.

He returned a few minutes later with Sans’s drink in hand, in just enough time to hear Mettaton say “It was lovely catching up with you!” before walking away.

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“if i tell you to do something then you need to do it,” Sans lectured Red. “i cannot have you making me look bad. not tonight,” Sans said then, much to Red’s surprise, added “please.”

“sorry,” Red replied. “need anythin else?”

“just... put your arm around me or something,” Sans requested. Red complied, slipping an arm around Sans with his phalanges coming to rest gently on Sans’s hip.

“why do you want me actin like your boyfriend, anyway? i’d think you’d be embarrassed by me.”

“i don’t need people knowing i’m alone,” Sans said. “and you’re nice to look at.”

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Red could feel his cheekbones go hot. Was that… a compliment?

Sans sipped on his drink while Red looked around the room. It was packed with a lot of faces Red recognized from TV, big names that all seemed to know Sans well enough to stop by and say hello to him.

“go get me another one, will you?” Sans asked him, holding up his empty glass. Red nodded and walked away just as an actor from one of those melodramas his little brother loved approached Sans.

When Red returned with the drink, Sans was not where he’d left him.

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Red looked around frantically but quickly found Sans across the room with a crowd of people around him, all laughing at whatever joke Sans had just told. Red squeezed his way in and handed Sans his drink which Sans took without so much as acknowledging him.

"i'm sure you guys all know about murphy's law… but you probably don't know about cole's law, am I right?" Sans started.

"What's Cole's Law?" one woman in the crowd responded.

"it's thinly sliced cabbage. sometimes it has a vinaigrette or mayonnaise," Sans replied. Everyone laughed. Red joined in, though his laughter was fake.

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“go get me one of those mini hot dogs,” Sans said quietly to Red.

“why don’tcha come with me this time?” Red requested, not wanting to lose sight of Sans again.

“i’m obviously kind of busy here,” Sans muttered. Red wanted to argue but instead he walked away and went to fetch Sans’s snack.

The night went on much like that, with Sans ordering Red around and Red being forced to obey. But after about the tenth time when Sans had told Red to find him a piece of shrimp, Red finally put his foot down.

“no,” Red told him.

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“what the hell do you mean, ‘no’?” Sans uttered. “do as you’re told!”

“i’m tired of bein ordered around tonight!” Red argued.

“well if you want to keep your job then you need to get over it!” Sans replied.

“you can’t fire me an’ you know it!” Red countered.

“oh really? watch me,” Sans threatened, taking out his phone and pulling up his father’s contact. Red started to panic as Sans’s distal neared the dial button.

“sans, please…” Red pleaded softly. Sans put his phone back in his pocket.

“your job isn’t hard. just do as you’re told,” Sans said.

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Red knew he should have nodded and ended it there, but something in him told him to keep pushing.

“can’t you at least treat me like a person and not your personal servant? i’m here to protect you, not wait on you hand an’ foot!” Red argued. Sans grabbed him by the tie and pulled him until their skulls were mere inches apart.

“you’re mine to do whatever i want with, do you understand?” Sans told him. “if i want to order you around then i’m going to order you around, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.”

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“now go get me my shrimp!” Sans demanded.

“you need to come with me,” Red countered. Sans furrowed his brows. “if you want me to do my job so bad then i’m goin to do my job an’ not leave you alone. if you want somethin then you need to come with me.”

“i have people to talk to,” Sans said, brushing him off as he was approached by a couple Red vaguely recognized.

“sans...”

“do i need to take my phone out again? now go!” Before Red could respond Sans turned his back to him to greet his acquaintances.

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Red was fuming. He had tried to reason with him but clearly “reason” and “Sans” couldn’t be used in the same sentence. He walked past the waiter holding the tray of shrimp and didn’t stop until he was outside.

Suddenly two months felt like too long. He took a big gulp of cool night air, and with the exhale came tears. Sans should be grateful that Red had come along so he could even go on this tour to begin with. And this is how Sans thanked him? Red didn’t deserve this, and didn’t think he could do it anymore.

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Before he could stop himself Red had his phone in his hand and was dialing his brother’s number. When Edge picked up and said “Hello” all Red could do was answer him in sobs.

“What’s the matter?” Edge asked.

“i can’t do this anymore,” Red responded. “he treats me like i’m the scum of the earth an’ it just ain’t fair.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this was going on?” Edge questioned.

“i didn’t want ya to worry,” Red told him.

“Brother, I can’t allow someone to treat you that way. You need to come home. Right now,” Edge said.

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“i can’t. we need money for your school,” Red reminded his brother.

“I’ll quit school,” Edge offered. “You can move in with me until you get a new job. I’ll take care of us both.”

“it’s supposed to be me who’s takin care of you,” Red said, his soul heavy. Suddenly he felt guilty for calling his brother. “i’m just havin a bad night,” Red tried to backpedal. “it really ain’t that bad. i just gotta suck it up a little longer an’ we’ll be set for a long time.”

“...Are you sure?” Edge asked after a pause.

“i’m sure.”

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Red said goodbye to his brother then took a deep breath and dried his sockets before heading back inside to find Sans. He stopped and grabbed the shrimp he’d been sent to retrieve before heading back to where he’d left him. But once again Sans wasn’t there. Red looked around to see the room had largely emptied out as the night was coming to an end.

“Looking for Sans, handsome?” Mettaton asked Red as he approached him. Red nodded. “He said his goodbyes and headed out a few minutes ago.”

“oh. uh, thanks,” Red replied, then headed to find him.

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There was a lot going through Red’s mind on his way to the bus. Maybe he’d been wrong to stand up to Sans. Maybe he’d been wrong to allow himself to feel like he deserved better. After all, what had he ever done to deserve anything good?

He’d always tried to be a good person, but clearly it hadn’t done him any favors. Meanwhile someone as awful as Sans had all the fame and fortune and good things he could ever want.

Maybe it was time for Red to accept that nothing good was ever going to happen to him.

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It wasn’t that Red wanted to apologize to Sans, but he figured it was probably a good idea if he wanted these last few months to go smoothly. When he got back to the bus he knocked on Sans’s door but got no response other than the dog barking wildly.

“sans?” Red started. “i’m sorry for tonight. i promise it won’t happen again.”

The only response Red got was more obnoxious barking from Comet. Red knew he needed to see Sans face-to-face, so carefully he pushed the door open. Sans wasn’t inside.

where the hell is he now? Red wondered.

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The first call to Sans’s phone went unanswered, so did the one after that. Red was more frustrated than worried, figuring Sans had run off somewhere just to spite him. Maybe he’d decided to go home with some celebrity for a hookup, and would come back to the bus in the morning with a smug look on his face knowing Red would have stayed up all night wondering where he’d gone.

Red heard his phone ring, and picked it up to see Dr. Gaster calling him.

“WHY DID I JUST GET A CALL SAYING MY SON’S BEEN KIDNAPPED?” Gaster bellowed.

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“Please tell me this is some cruel joke and that he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be, which is with you,” Gaster continued, though his volume was a little more subdued.

“i-i...” Red stuttered. “i lost track of him.”

“I hired you to do one thing! ONE THING!”

Red sat there in stunned silence, unsure of what he was supposed to say.

“I am flying out there right now and when I get there you’d better have my son back or I’ll have your head!” Gaster threatened.

“i... i will,” Red said, hoping it was a promise he could keep.

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The problem was he had no idea where to start. He was in an unfamiliar city, and the only thing he knew for sure was Sans had been taken sometime during his walk back to the bus. Red retraced Sans’s steps but found no evidence of him.

On a whim Red called Sans’s phone again. It rang and rang and rang, and just when Red was about to hang up someone answered but at first didn’t speak.

“sans? you there?” Red asked.

“Who is this?” came a voice from the other end that most definitely did not belong to Sans.

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“i’m sans’s bodyguard,” Red responded. The voice on the other end laughed.

“Not a very good one, apparently,” they said. “Well, Sans’s bodyguard. I highly suggest you don’t try to come after him. If the Doctor wants him back he’s going to have to pay, and if anyone tries to interfere we won’t hesitate to kill the comedian.”

Red listened silently, but his hands were busy pinpointing the location of Sans’s phone. It appeared on screen right away.

“Now don’t call again,” the voice advised him, then hung up. Sans’s location vanished, but Red had already committed it to memory.

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Red knew he was taking a major risk by going after Sans. If he screwed up Sans could get hurt, or worse, Sans could end up a pile of dust. But he had to go. Not just because he had made a promise to Gaster to get Sans back safe, but because despite everything he knew Sans didn’t deserve this. No one deserved this.

Red secured Comet in Sans’s room, then without bothering to change out of his suit climbed off the bus. He checked the map one more time, then plotted out the best route to get to there.

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Red started his venture to where he’d seen that little dot on his screen. It seemed to be across town, on the outskirts of the city if he was reading the map correctly.

It took a few shortcuts and a lot of walking, but eventually he found his way to a rundown industrial complex behind a chain link gate with a heavy lock on it. Of course, when you can manipulate time and space a lock is hardly an inconvenience, and with a quick trip through the void Red was on the other side and headed towards the imposing buildings.

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The complex was big, and as Red went from building to building looking for any sort of light left on or indication whatsoever that there was anyone here, he wondered if he’d even be able to get to them all before Gaster got out here.

But that didn’t deter him. He kept looking around until finally, towards the back of the complex, he saw the faint glow of fluorescent lights inside a building. As he neared he saw a white cargo van beside which were two humans. For a moment he sat back and watched, then he made his move.

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He turned the soul of one of them blue and pinned them against the van, and sent a bone flying at the other that knocked them to the ground. He opened the door to the van and shoved them both inside, then used a bone to jam the door shut.

They had been guarding a door, which Red carefully pulled open and slipped inside. He couldn’t see anything from where he was, but he could hear voices which he followed.

Cautiously, he peered around a corner to see a large room with a gagged and tied Sans in the middle.

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In front of Sans with their backs turned to Red was a man and a large monster who were talking as Sans sat on the floor crying. Red could hear Sans’s bones rattling, even from across the room.

He watched quietly for a few minutes until Sans looked up and locked eyes with him, his eyelights going wide. Red put a finger up to his teeth to tell Sans to stay quiet, and Sans subtly nodded back.

Red pulled down a metal shelf beside him, sending it crashing to the floor and no doubt drawing the attention of Sans’s captors.

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As footsteps neared, Red jumped back and hid behind another shelf. The human rounded the corner to see what had caused the commotion, and as he neared Red’s position Red pushed the shelf down on top of him.

The man screamed, which drew the attention of his partner who hurried towards the noise. As the monster moved away from Sans, Red shorcutted to him. Sans stared at Red with wide sockets as Red used a sharp-tipped bone to snap the rope on Sans’s ties.

“let’s get you out of here,” Red said quietly as he pulled Sans to his feet.

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Red shorcutted them outside the complex, where before he could even reach up to remove Sans’s gag, Sans’s arms were around his neck. Red held him close as Sans’s bones rattled and he sobbed into Red’s shoulder.

“you’re alright,” Red said, rubbing a soothing hand over the back of Sans’s skull. He peeled Sans off and looked him over, relieved to find that he didn’t seem to be hurt. Red slipped the gag down off Sans's mouth and Sans threw his arms around him again.

“you saved me,” Sans cried, pulling Red as close as he could get. “thank you.”

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A few more shortcuts and they were back to the bus, which Red had the driver immediately move somewhere safer. Sans remained clutching onto Red shaking, with tears streaking down his maxilla.

“i’m sorry, sans,” Red said, running his distals over Sans’s skull. “if i’d been doin my job this never would have happened.”

Sans didn’t reply, probably because for once he was in no state to be snarky. But Red was fine with the silence, and with keeping Sans close. After all, once Dr. Gaster got there Red would probably never be able to get close to Sans again.

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Red realized in this moment that, as awful as Sans had been to him, Red’s want for nothing bad to happen to him transcended his responsibilities as a bodyguard. Sans was a living, breathing being. A fellow monster. Someone who lived in the shadow of his brilliant father and was just trying to make a name for himself in his own way. He and Red both wanted the same thing - to be happy.

Sans cried in Red’s arms for a long time until finally his magic was too spent to generate any more tears. After that they waited in silence.

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“Sans!” Gaster cried out as he boarded the bus. He rushed right over to Sans and pulled him out of Red’s arms. “Are you alright? Did they hurt you?”

“i’m okay,” Sans assured his father, though Red could still see his bones trembling. Gaster looked Sans over, grabbing him by the mandible to examine the light bruising from where the gag had been pulled too tight. “i’m fine, dad. really.”

“I was so worried about you,” Gaster confessed. “This never would have happened if HE had just been doing his job!” Both Gaster and Sans turned their attention to Red.

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“I never should have given you another chance!” Gaster shouted at Red. “Get your things and get off this bus now! I never want to see you again.”

Red stared at him speechless, but before he could think of what to say, Sans spoke up for him.

“what? no! dad, he saved me!” Sans told his father.

“He’s the reason you were in this mess to begin with! I hired him to keep you safe, and he failed. Now I want him gone before I hurt him the way they hurt you!”

“no!” Sans said defiantly. “he’s not going anywhere!”

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“it wasn’t his fault,” Sans continued. “he was trying all night to keep me in line but i snuck off just to make him mad. if i had just stayed with him like i was supposed to everything would have been fine.”

“I don’t know why you’re trying to defend him, especially after all the complaining you’ve done to me about him,” Gaster said to his son. “But he doesn’t deserve it.”

“yes, he does! he’s been nothing but good to me, and i don’t want you to send him home!”

“It’s not up to you, son,” Gaster told Sans.

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“if you’re not going to pay him to stay with me then i will,” Sans said defiantly.

“Sans…” Gaster started.

“i’m serious, dad! he’s not going anywhere!” Sans looked at his father with pleading eyelights. Gaster looked back at him, studying his face before shutting his eyes and sighing.

“Fine,” Gaster reluctantly agreed. “But this is absolutely his very last chance. If you so much as stub a toe under his watch then I will end him.” Gaster looked to Red, and said “Do you understand, son?”

“y-yes, sir,” Red finally managed to stutter through the lump in his throat.

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Gaster stayed a while longer, and Red sat off to the side at the table in silence. He couldn’t figure out why, after everything, Sans didn’t take this opportunity to be rid of him for good.

When Gaster left, Sans came and sat down across from Red and looked up at him with watery sockets.

“i owe you an apology,” Sans said solemnly.

“sans, you don’t gotta-”

“no,” Sans cut him off. “let me talk. i have been nothing but awful to you since day one, and you didn’t deserve any of it. i don’t expect you to forgive me.”

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“it really ain’t a big deal,” Red brushed it off.

“it’s a huge deal,” Sans argued. “i’ve spent two months making your life hell. and what’s worse is while i was doing it i didn’t care. but despite that, you still came after me. i don’t deserve you, but i really meant it when i said i want you to stay. but if you don’t want to i understand.”

Red looked at Sans - tears streaming down his face with wavering eyelights, looking like he might fall apart depending on what Red said next.

“i’m not goin anywhere,” Red assured him.

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Sans tried to talk more, but every attempted apology turned into tearful blabbering. Eventually Red got up and moved to the other side of the table beside Sans who he draped an arm over.

“we can talk more about this later if ya want,” Red told him. “but right now i think you need to go get some rest.” Sans nodded in agreement then allowed Red to pull him to his feet. Halfway to his room he hesitated and turned around.

“would you, um, sleep in there with me tonight?” Sans asked. “i’m scared to be alone.”

“sure,” Red agreed.

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Red changed out of his suit then joined Sans in his room where he could see Sans had done the same. Sans climbed into his bed then held the blanket up in an invitation for Red to join him. Admittedly flustered, Red momentarily faltered before stepping forward and gingerly climbing in.

As soon as Red’s head hit the pillow Sans curled up into him, letting out a heavy, shuddering breath as if he was releasing the day's stress.

Red absentmindedly ran his distals over Sans’s bones until Sans started breathing slowly as sleep finally took him. Red wasn’t far behind.

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When Red woke up he was greeted with the unfamiliar sensation of a body pressed against him. Sans was warm, and his bones felt smooth beneath Red’s arms which were protectively wrapped around him. It was… nice.

Red lay still for a little while just taking Sans in, trying to decide if he really could forgive him for everything. Red wasn’t one to hold grudges, and if Sans was as sincere as he seemed to be then maybe there was something to salvage here.

“oh... hey,” Sans said shyly as he opened his eyes, a blue blush highlighting his cheekbones.

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Red pulled his arms back so Sans was no longer within them.

“thanks for staying with me,” Sans smiled.

“of course,” Red mumbled, kind of embarrassed that Sans had woken up to Red holding him. He made to climb out of Sans’s bed, but was stopped by Sans’s fingers closing around his wrist.

“do you want to go get breakfast with me?” Sans asked hopefully. He was making that face again, the one Red found himself unable to say no to. Not that he wanted to say no. Breakfast sounded nice.

“yeah, that sounds good,” Red said with a smile.

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Sans took Red to a restaurant he said was one of his favorites in the city, with a sprawling brunch buffet being served up by waiters in cute bowties. Red had never had real brunch before, and had admittedly thought it was a made up thing until Sans showed him that he could get a slice of fillet mignon and scrambled eggs if he wanted to. Red jumped at the opportunity.

Sans ordered a Bloody Mary, then sat across from Red with a smile as Red shoveled the food into his mouth. It was the best meal he’d ever had.

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“looks like you liked everything,” Sans laughed as he eyed Red’s empty plate.

“this was the nicest place i ever been,” Red informed him bashfully. “thank you for bringin me.”

“if you liked this place then there are loads more places i can bring you,” Sans told him.

“you don’t owe me nothin, you know. you don’t gotta do that. ”

“yeah, but i want to. every city i’ll bring you somewhere good and when we get home you can tell me which was your favorite,” Sans said with a smile as he reached across the table and grabbed Red’s hand.

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Sans kept his promise, and the morning after his next show he brought Red to a restaurant where Red tried Scotch eggs for the first time and absolutely fell in love with them. It helped that it had been paired with some of the best coffee he had ever had.

The one bad thing about going to all these nice places was Red felt out of place in his typical attire of gym shorts and a hoodie, but as soon as Sans caught wind of that he insisted they go shopping. Red tried to refuse but Sans wouldn’t hear it.