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Tinted water dripped from the rag, bits of unnamed trash clinging to the stained cloth. Cross shook it out, grimacing as something slimy– an onion perhaps– was slung off the rag and into a bucket. He nudged the bucket with the tip of his ratty shoe, his expression sour as the dirty water rippled. The water looked too much like the soup XGaster liked to feed him, he mused bitterly.

The pub was blessedly empty, only two or three patrons lingering. Cross severely doubted that they were even conscious. He turned his thoughts back to the task at hand, crouching to peer into the bucket. He needed fresh water. He hung the rag on the bucket’s side, standing up with a groan. His back gave an angry twinge as he leaned over, his sore fingers creaking in protest as they curled around the bucket’s broken plastic grip. Water sloshed, threatening to leap out of the bucket as he hoisted it up.

His arms burned, the thin handle biting into his fingers, his spine throbbing, but he hobbled his way to the employees’ door. He puffed out a breath, his wrists feeling as if they would pop right off. With a groan, he put the bucket down, squeezing his eyes shut at the pain in his lower back. Cross took a moment to breathe, absently running his tongue over his teeth. He was so thirsty.

His short break didn’t last much longer, Cross heaving the bucket up again after a minute. He stumbled towards the back entrance, shouldering the door open. The stuffy air of the town’s pub stayed behind, chased away by the sun’s dimming light. The fresh air renewed his strength, giving him the final push he needed to reach his goal. With no small effort, Cross gripped the bucket and threw the water out, making sure to aim for the tomato plants. XChara would be pissed if he knew where all the dirty water was going, despite the fact that it was likely the only reason his measly garden was still alive.

The lack of water in his buck left him disoriented, Cross feeling strangely unmoored without the extra weight. He shook off the feeling, weaving through XFrisk’s apple trees towards the water pump. It was getting dark quickly, a pale glow creeping across the sky. He quickened his step, making for the rack leaning against the tool shed. He left the bucket there, completely forgetting it the instant it was out of his grasp. He swallowed dryly, eyeing the water pump. Maybe he could-

“Cross!!” He flinched, any thoughts of drinking from the pump fleeing his mind. He hurried back through the apple trees, his soul racing. What had he done this time? Thankfully, it wasn’t XGaster or XChara, but XFrisk, a grin on his face and something cupped in his hands. Cross slowed to a stop, standing a few feet away, wary of his brother’s expression. “..Is there something wrong?”

XFrisk smiled wider, throwing his hands out and splattering water all over Cross. There wasn’t much, but Cross gasped all the same. “You little-” XFrisk shrieked as Cross lunged for him, darting back inside, cackling as he ran.

—–(A year later)—–

Cross hated how humans smiled. The nasty flaps of skin and meat pulling back to show their teeth, their faces contorting with the effort, and those beady eyes glittering with disgusting glee. He didn’t mind the children. No, he’d encountered many of those human children before, had even treated two of them as his own brothers. Their expressions were softer. It wasn’t ugly to look at, it didn’t make him cringe away.

Of course, that didn’t change the fact that every human adult he’d ever interacted with was hideous. He hated the human race. But especially this human in particular. “Jackson, I’ve told you before-”

“Shut up, Penaloza.” Cross grimaced. Damn humans and their pettiness. He shifted his arms, wincing as the rope bit into his wrists. His bones would most likely scar from this, he noted sourly. He let out a breath, slumping back into his seat with a groan. “Can your lackeys be any slower?” Jackson’s tobacco-stained teeth flashed again, his disgusting mustache twitching as he sneered at Cross. “You better shut up before I take another tooth.”

Ah, right. Cross’s jaw ached at the reminder, the slowly darkening bruises on his face stinging in warning. How could he forget? Jackson, the pig, was ‘settling a debt,’ as he’d called it. In truth, he’d only knocked out two teeth, but, as the cracks on his everything would testify, Cross wasn’t sure Jackson would be hesitant to knock out more.

Jackson was a stocky man, only standing up to Cross’s sternum. He was always dressed like he had somewhere to be, his buttoned shirts straining to hold the fat bastard’s stomach in place. There were thick rings on his fingers, looking all the world like they were cutting through his fingers. Cross was fairly certain there was an imprint of that wolf-shaped ring on his face.

Jackson’s bushy eyebrows stuck out over his tiny, bulging eyes, his lips were curtained behind a nasty yellow mustache, and right on the center of his ugly face, a hairy mole sat plump on his nose. Cross glared at the back of the man’s head, wanting nothing more than to rip out his oily black and white streaked hair.

The room he’d been tied down in looked like something out of a Saw film. The walls were streaked with mold, the air was heavy with something nasty smelling, and it was filled with old furniture caked with dust. A rusty ceiling fan creaked overhead, crawling along pitifully. Cross glanced around the room, frowning. Why did everyone who tried 'settling scores’ always pick the worst places?

The only door in the room clicked, Jackson grinning again. “It’s about time.” Cross sighed as four other men, all grimy and disgusting, came into the room, carrying various tools. One of them took a heavy-duty wrench, and Cross sighed. A classic.


XFrisk’s orchard was dead, XChara’s tomatoes rotting and shriveled, and the water pump was clogged with slimy moss that hung off in clumps. Cross stood in the yard, a bucket dangling in his hands. He hated this fucking town. He hated the humans for taking over with their stupid government and mobsters. He hated them. It was because of them that his body ached. It was because of them that he had no one left. It was because of them that his pub was shut down. It was because of their stupid laws that he couldn’t get a job.

No children, monsters and humans alike, are allowed to work before the age of eighteen. Stupid town, stupid laws, stupid, stupid, stupid.

Cross stared at the sinking sun, wanting nothing more than to just escape from this reality, whether it be through death or something more. He sulked back inside, clambering up the rickety stairs into his empty apartment. His bed shrieked as he crawled into it, protesting his movements until he finally settled in the center. Cross curled up in the old blankets, shivering until sleep finally claimed him.


“–not moving. Maybe they’re already dead.”

“Shut up, Dust. Nightmare said-”

“I know what he said, I just don’t think this should be it!”

“Well, it’d be a lot easier than dragging a screaming human back!”

“We can’t take a dea-”

Cross groaned, curling up further. He turned over, trembling as the cold registered. Where was his blanket? He sleepily felt around, taking ahold of the flimsy blanket and dragging it over himself. It did nothing against the cold, Cross curling up beneath it with a whimper. “s'cold…” Whoever had been talking went quiet. Cross slowly started to drift off again, never quite falling back asleep entirely.

“…Does that look dead to you?”

“..It looks sad, more than anything. Wonder what their story is. They look pretty injured..”

“How about this, we take them with us so we can ask.”

“..I still don’t think Nightmare will agree with this. I doubt he’d take in some rando just because you felt bad.”

“Wanna bet?”

Cross jerked awake as his arm was grabbed, his eyes opening quickly. He snatched his emergency knife from under his pillow, slashing at the hand on his arm. Someone yelped, the grip on his arm vanishing. Cross dropped back on his bed, scrambling off of it quickly. It was in the middle of the day, weak sunlight filling his room up. Two skeletons stood frozen at his bed, staring at him with wide eyes. One of them, the one with a hood on, smacked the other. “You woke them up, moron!”

The other, who had black streaks on his cheeks, whined. “You were talking too!” Cross shook his head, disbelief muddling his mind. He kept his knife up, the only thing keeping him safe at the moment. The black teared skeleton gave a grin, “Hello there, stranger!” Cross grit his teeth– ow fuck, that hurts– and brandished his knife. “Stay the hell away!” Hoodie skeleton sighed. “Look, uh, person, if you would just put the knife down-”

“I’m not doing shit!” Cross was panicking, racking his brain to figure out who could’ve sent these guys. “Who fucking sent you! Byron? Jackson? The Aldersons?!”

“The who?”

Cross bared his teeth- and didn’t that fucking burn- and growled, “Don’t play stupid! Someone sent you, and you better fucking tell me before I send you back in pieces!”

Tears tilted his head, “Why would you think someone sent us?? How do you know we didn’t come on our own?” Hoodie hissed at him to shut up before turning to Cross. “Listen, no one sent us. If you come with us, we’ll explain everything.”

“Bullshit! I’m not going anywhere until you tell me who the fuck you are and why you’re here!” Tears and Hoodie shared a glance. “…That’s easy. I’m Killer, and this is Dust.” Cross squinted between the two, scowling. “..What the fuck kinda names are those.” Tears, or Killer, put a hand to his chest, which Cross noted with alarm had a soul hanging in front of. He pouted at Cross, “Well, that’s not very nice.” Hoodie, or Dust, snorted, “No, he’s got a point, you have a dumb name.”

Killer pointed at Cross, “Tell me your name, then! I bet it’s just as dumb, if not more!” Cross frowned. Should he? It would be a huge risk. If they knew his name, they might be able to track him down if he ever escapes. “…Fine. It’s Cross.” Killer deflated, “Yeah, your name is better than ours…” Cross’s frown twitched, a grin pulling at it. He forced it down, “Now tell me why you’re in my house.”

Dust hummed, “You’ll react badly.” Cross glared at him, “Tell. Me.” Dust rolled his eyelights, “Fine. We were raiding this here town until this moron saw you sleeping and decided he wanted a pet.” Killer sputtered, shoving Dust, “Dude, don’t say it like that!!” Dust cackled, shoving back with a wide grin, “Oh, c'mon, you know it’s true.”

Cross blocked out their bickering, his soul having lept into his throat. A raid? Cross squinted at the two intruders, his soul starting to race. Pirates. There were pirates in his town. And they wanted to take him. Stars, this can’t be happening. Cross edged towards the window, peeking out hesitantly. His eyes widened, mouth going dry. Just mere inches away, belching out the shattered window, flames roared and whipped about.

Cross blanched. And he thought it was the sun. The fire popped, hissing out embers. A change in wind direction and Cross’s home would be next. He dropped the knife, slamming the window shut. His home would be reduced to ashes and he could do nothing about it. He didn’t bother to think over it, snatching his knife and darting past the intruders. “Forget it, I can’t stay here anymore.”

He shoved the closet open, tearing out a burlap sack. Killer moved aside as Cross shoved past, watching as the other started collecting important things. Anxiously glancing up at the window, Cross forced himself to stick to the bare minimum. “Woah, hey, what’s the rush, man?” Cross stuffed the bag as quickly as he could. Only the bare minimum, he reminded himself. His only other outfit, a small wooden chest filled with sentimental things, and a bag of gold. Cross pulled the strings at the top tight, tying them in a quick knot. “We need to leave, quickly.”

He shoved his arms through the handmade straps of the bag, taking Killer and Dust’s hands. Dust immediately pulled himself away, “What the hell are you doing??” Cross shook his head, “There’s no ti-” The window shattered, flames licking their way in. Cross yelped, snatching Dust, who didn’t argue this time. Cross spared one last look at his room before yanking the other two out the door.

The flimsy wooden stairs bent beneath their stomping feet, barely clinging to their places as they fled the building. Cross made straight for the pub entrance, catching a glimpse of the backrooms through the employee’s door. It was filled with fire. The door to the storage room was crumbling under the flames. “FUCK- RUN!” Killer took off, taking the lead, Cross and Dust stumbling after him.

He started slowing, turning around to say something, but Cross continued to run, dragging the other two as far as he could. “Hey, I think we’re far enough!” Cross shook his head, “No, we’re not!” Dust planted his feet in the ground, jerking Cross to halt. “Hold the fuck up! We’re over thirty feet away, we’ll be fin-” Cross spun around, snapping at him. “The fucking storage room is on fire!” Dust refused to move, defiant and glaring back.

Cross growled, “There are gas tanks for the stove and extra liquor in there. That’s a fucking bomb waiting to go off.” Dust swore, “Are you serious?!” Cross didn’t bother answering, pulling the other back into motion. They ran until they reached the edge of the forest, Cross only slowing when he could no longer see the house. He slowed down, letting out a heavy sigh of relief.

Killer groaned, leaning over like he was about to vomit. Dust slumped against a tree, panting and glaring at Cross. “You’re not even winded?” Cross shook his head quickly, “Nevermind that. How’d you get here? A ship? Where is it?” Killer wheezed, “Slow the fuck down-” Cross grit his teeth, swearing when he did. “Shit, that hurts.” He gripped his jaw tightly, tugging on it as if it would make his mouth stop hurting. Dust glanced at him, his eyes narrowed. “..Was that done recently?”

“If you can ask me that, you can tell me where you came from.” Dust scoffed, pushing off the tree and stalking away. He squinted up through the tree branches, muttering something. After a moment, he pointed. “It’s that way. We should’ve been back by now.” Cross nodded, “Right. Let’s go then.” Dust snagged onto his sleeve, “Fucking hold on. Killer needs to rest a moment, and you need to answer my question.” Cross scowled, tearing his arm away.

“I don’t need to tell you shit.” Dust’s expression soured, the hooded monster glowering. “Either you tell me, or I make this-” He jabbed at one of the pale bandages on Cross’s cheek, agitating the wound and making him curse, “- much worse than it already is.” Cross shoved him away, “Don’t fucking touch me, asshole.”

“Then tell me.” Cross kicked at the ground, bitterly spitting out, “It makes no difference whether you know or not.” Dust crossed his arms, sneering. “I don’t fucking care. Tell me.” Cross glared at the floor, stubborn. “No.” Dust went to retort, but Killer jogged up to them, setting a hand on Dust’s shoulder. “Calm down, duster. Boss’s still waiting on us. Cross here can answer your questions later.” Cross rolled his eyes. Fat chance.

Dust sighed, turning away and stomping away through the foliage. Killer offered Cross a grin, “C'mon, kiddo. It’s not too far from here.” Cross turned his nose up, trudging past him uncaringly after Dust. Killer shrugged, following him. The forest gave away eventually, a path to the docks tucked neatly between two wooden posts. Cross caught a glimpse of Dust turning down the path and jogged after him. He paused halfway down the path, gaping at the massive ship floating a ways away. Killer came up behind him, grinning. “She’s a beauty, huh?”

“Yeah..” The ship was enormous, swaying almost gracefully in the water. Cross could faintly see figures pacing on deck, lanterns moving back and forth. The sun was already rising across the ocean, and for a moment, Cross couldn’t breathe. It was a gorgeous image, something straight out of a picture book. Killer chuckled, clapping Cross’s shoulder, startling him out of his daze. “The taxi’s here. C'mon, kid.”

That was the second time he’d called Cross a kid, and while he was technically a child, only sixteen, the term annoyed him. So he frowned and said, “Stop calling me that.” Killer glanced back, brow raised. “Call you what? Kid?”

“I’m not a kid.” Killer snorted, “We’ll see about that. How old are you?” Cross faltered, letting out a sigh. “..I’m sixteen.” Killer cackled, “Only sixteen?” Cross scowled, “Well how old are you, huh?” Killer’s grin widened, “Eighteen.”

“HEY, GET YOUR ASSES OVER HERE!” Cross startled, looked back up to where Dust was waving them over. Killer snickered, taking Cross’s hand and pulling him along. Cross stared at their linked hands, his mind oddly blank. Killer let go not too long after, climbing into the raft and plopping down beside Dust and one other skeleton. He threw his arm over the new person, grinning. “Horror, my man! Didja miss me?”

Cross’s soul nearly leapt out of his mouth, an undignified squeak slipping out. “Whatthefuck-” Killer glanced up, “Hm? Oh, Horror? Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Horror tipped his head in greeting, the pale sunlight tracing the jagged edges of his broken skull. Cross stared at the hole with wide eyes. Dust groaned, shoving him from behind. “Hurry up, slowpoke.” Cross yelped, falling into the boat. Killer shouted as the boat rocked, water splashing over the sides. “Dust, you asshole! You’ll sink us!” Dust snickered, hopping in after Cross.

“Not my problem.” Cross sat up, sighing as Dust and Killer started to fight again. Horror seemed faintly amused, taking ahold of the oars and rowing them back to the ship. Water lapped at the boat, the water going darker the further out they went. Cross didn’t want to know how deep the water was by the time they reached the other ship. Someone tossed rope over the side, Killer patting Cross’s shoulder before he started climbing.

Cross was the last one to grab on, though he didn’t have to do anything. The rope was dragged up, pulling him along. Hands grabbed him and yanked him onto the boat, Cross yelling as he was pinned and tied up. “GET OFFA ME!!” His legs were bound quickly, and Cross found himself tied up for the second time that week. And to think it was only Tuesday. He thrashed around angrily, hissing profanities at the new faces.

Someone shouted something, and another rope was tied around him, this time between his teeth, effectively silencing him. Killer’s face appeared after a moment, grinning and amused. “This won’t take too long, kay?” Cross screamed at him through the rope, furious. Killer snickered again, and in one quick movement, he hit his elbow on the top of Cross’s skull, and Cross passed out. As the world faded, Cross caught a glimpse of Killer’s smug expression. He should’ve known better than to trust anyone again.


Cross gasped, his head snapping up. It slammed against a wall, the impact sending a horrid wave of pain through his skull. Something was definitely broken, he thought sluggishly. Once his mind had cleared for the most part, Cross took a moment to look around. The first thing he noticed was that he was in a cell. Other than being tied down, the cell was honestly the most luxurious place he’d been in months. A comfy looking cot with an actual blanket, a table, hell, there was even a pitcher of water.

He became acutely aware of a burning hunger, for both food and water. He swallowed dryly, staring at the water longingly. He was so thirsty and hungry. It felt like hours before someone finally showed up. “Oh, you’re finally awake!” Cross scowled at the sound of Killer’s cheerful tone, glaring at the other through the bars. Killer pouted, “Don’t be like that! I had to do it, you know. It’s a safety protocol.” Cross rolled his eyelights. “Yeah, sure,” He rasped. Killer tilted his head, smile waning slightly.

“What’s wrong with yer voice?” Cross shrugged, “Du-” He coughed, “Dunno.” Killer hummed, leaning against the bars. “It doesn’t sound very good.”

“Killer, you better not be patronizing him.” Killer and Cross both jumped, startled at the new voice. Well, new to Cross. Killer turned around and grinned at someone out of sight. “Captain! I’m not, promise.” Cross glanced at the corner, trying to see who it was. “Very well. Go back outside and help Dust sort the supplies.” Killer tipped his head, “You got it, boss.” Killer left, and someone else replaced him. Cross stared at the new person, his fuzzy vision making it hard to make out their features. All he could really make out was black and a small blue light. He squinted at the blob, “What are you?”

The shape laughed, the sound somewhat surprised. “That’s a first. I’m a skeleton, like you.” Cross’s vision blurred again, his head pounding. “Y'don’t… look it.” He didn’t get an answer. Or maybe he did. If he did, he didn’t get to hear it, his eyelights rolling up into his skull. He slumped over, passing out yet again.


Cross jerked in place, rearing his head back, and immediately regretting it. His vision swam, colors blurring, and for a moment, he wondered if he was drunk. “Hey, take it easy.” Cross groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. “..mmwhat.. happ'n’d?” In response, a blessedly cool cloth was pressed to his skull. He bit back a moan at the feeling, mumbling a thanks instead. “..Could you explain why you were so injured?” Cross grumbled, “nno? already t'ld you, dun’ gotta say nuth'n..”

“I don’t quite recall that.” Cross chuckled, a grin pulling at his face. “sshhhhut up.” He couldn’t keep himself from giggling. “..God damn, he’s out of it.” Cross twitched, limply turning his head in Killer’s general direction. “I dun l-” Cross hiccuped, groaning. “d-dun lyke yooo..” He trailed off into humming, mumbling nonsense. Someone sighed. “We should let him rest. I wish you would’ve told me—”


Cross woke up to a conversation. “He didn’t say?”

“He refused to tell me anything.”

“I’ll have to ask him myself when he wakes. I need to know where all of these wounds came from, as well as why they were left untreated.”

“I mean, he put bandages on.”

“Simply covering it does not equate to treating it, Dust.”

He slapped his bed, mumbling to whoever was talking to shut up. “m tryna sleep.” Someone chuckled, “I think you’ve rested enough.” Cross huffed, “I think not.”

“You just proved me right.” Cross groaned, opening his eyes, annoyed. His vision was significantly clearer and he felt much better than he did before. He squinted around the room. Dust sat in a chair a few feet away, staring at Cross with a blank expression. The other person in the room, Cross didn’t recognize. He narrowed his eyes at him, “And who’re you?” The new person dipped their head in greeting, “I am Nightmare. You’re on my ship.”

Cross frowned. “I’m on a ship?” Nightmare blinked, “Tell me, what do you last remember?” Cross sighed, waving his hand. “I remember meeting this asshole and the other one, and then running into the woods after you set my house on fire.” Cross pointed at Dust accusingly, hissing at him. Dust scowled, “I didn’t set your house on fire!”

Nightmare cut in, “Enough. It seems you didn’t lose that much memory, which is good.” He tapped his cheek, “Could you perhaps explain why you were injured?” Cross groaned, “Not this again. I told Dust and I’m telling you, I don’t need to tell you anything. It doesn’t matter anymore and I doubt you’d gain anything from knowing.” Nightmare hummed, “Very well. If you won’t explain why, could you tell me how? Or, what was used?” Cross snorted, “You people just won’t give up. Fine, I’ll tell you that at least.”

He pointed at his cheek, where the still healing crack was. “You know those heavy-duty wrenches some people use? The ones with adjustable grips, teeth, whatever you call it?” Nightmare nodded, “Yes, I’m familiar.”

“Right, so I got whacked with one. They also used a few other random tools, but they used the wrench the most.” Nightmare raised a brow, “They? Who’s they?” Cross dismissed the question, “Doesn’t matter.”

“Why are you so insistent on keeping it to yourself? I don’t see the harm in sharing the details.”

“Cuz I don’t see why you need to know.”

“If you insist it doesn’t matter, then surely it wouldn’t matter if you told me.”

Cross scoffed, “I’m not going to tell. They’ll heal and that’s all that matters. Now leave me alone.” Nightmare motioned to Cross’s injuries, “Allow me to tend to this before I do so. If left untreated, it may scar or worse.” Cross mulled over it, weighing his options. In the end, he decided he’d rather get it over with. “Alright, fine.”

“Thank you. Now, could you perhaps tell me why it wasn’t treated? It appears to be quite old.” Nightmare seemed to let the previous topic go, thankfully. This kind of question, Cross could answer. “I just didn’t have the money.” Dust piped up, “Me 'n Killer found you in a pub, though. Wouldn’t that-”

Cross cut him off, scowling, “The fucking law said 'no child labor’ and it got shut down. So no, to whatever dumb shit you were about to ask.” Nightmare made a face, perplexed. “Could you tell me how old you are?” Cross glanced at him, jaw stiff with reluctance. “..How old do you think I am?”

“Well, you seem to be around twenty, perhaps older.”

Cross almost laughed, taken off guard with how wrong Nightmare was. “Stars, no. Do I really act like that??” To be fair, he did act older than he really was, so it made sense for Nightmare to miscalculate. Didn’t make it any less funnier though. The other nodded, his head tipped to the side. “Yes. How far off am I?” Cross hummed, “Well, by about four years.”

“Twenty four, then?”

“Nope. Sixteen.”

Nightmare sputtered, clearly shocked, while Dust choked. “You’re sixteen??” Cross nodded, “Yup.”