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The Surprise

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                Sans feels himself wake up before his eye-sockets manage to open, and he simply lays there for a moment, unwilling to wake up from the dream he’s sure he’s been having for the past two years. Slowly, he snakes his trembling hand under the covers, until his phalanges come into contact with something warm and soft. The slightest groan of relief ekes out of him, and he buries his bony fingers in his lover’s plush fur.

                “Good morning, dear,” Toriel’s voice is somehow even warmer than her fur is, “did you sleep well?”

                “Like the dead, babe,” he chuckles, and scoots himself forward to wrap his arms around her as best he can, burying his face in the thicker fur at the base of her neck. “How ‘bouts you?”

                The boss monster giggles softly, and Sans’s soul melts at the sound. Each of her various laughs are like music to his would-be ears. “Likely nowhere as well as you did, dear, there is hardly any of you left.” She reaches back with one of her paws, and emphasizes by lightly patting his ribs.

                He suppresses the reflexive shiver at her touch as best he can – god, it should be illegal to be that soft and warm – and reaches up to run his phalanges through the fluff on her ear. Toriel leans into the contact, pushing his palm flush against her head, and hums contentedly as he begins to rub at the base of her horns.

                After a moment, the skeleton mumbles sleepily, “Don’t you have work today, T?”

                “No, not today; it is the weekend, thank goodness.” Nonetheless, she sits up to stretch and yawn widely, her sharp fangs glittering in the pale light filtering through their window.

                Sans is still hanging onto her, dangling from her back with his feet just touching the mattress and his face still buried in her neck fluff. “That’s some good shit,” he mumbles.

                “Sans! That’s a quarter for the swear jar,” Toriel laughs again, and simply sits there awhile, content to let him hold her. Sans might only be half her height, but damn if he doesn’t try, when the mood hits him. Though he’s nothing more than bone, those bones are thick and solid, and he’s strong where it counts. Such as now, when he’s content to dangle.

                He sighs contentedly and loosens his grip about her chest, sliding his hands through her fur, down her belly and up her sides; after a minute or so, he leans forward a bit so he can catch that copper eye, and she turns to look at him better – he’s got a smug grin cocked under lidded eye-sockets.

                “You’ll have to furgive me,” he begins, his voice a touch lower even than normal, “but I just can’t seem to keep my hands off you.”

                Toriel blushes, and then feels a tugging at her sides.

                “Literally. I’m stuck, T.”

                They both laugh, and spend the next five minutes detangling her fur from his metacarpals.

-||-

                Normally, Saturdays are spent down on the living room sofa, watching cartoons with the kiddo and Papyrus. Today proves to be a different Saturday than normal, however, from the second Sans begins shuffling down the staircase in Toriel’s shadow.

                There’s no sound of early-morning television, and no clattering of pots and pans in the kitchen. Instead, there’s two figures busy putting on heavy snow-boots by the door.

                “GOOD MORNING, YOU TWO!” Papyrus announces. “I’M SURPRISED TO SEE YOU BOTH OUT OF BED SO BRIGHT AND EARLY! ON A SATURDAY!!”

                Frisk grins up at them, eyes bright, backpack slung over their small shoulders. ‘Uncle Pap and I are going to Undyne’s!’ Their signs are a bit sluggish, and they yawn widely, covering their mouth with a sleeve.

                “All right, dear, just make sure you stay warm.” Toriel crosses the living room to bend down and give the child a kiss on the forehead.

                “Eyup, and don’t give your Uncle Paps the cold shoulder, kay, kiddo?” The stout skeleton calls as he hops down the last two steps. “It’d be a shame if you came home a Frisksicle.”

                ‘Dunkle Sans, I’m nine! I know how to go out.’ They shoot him a ferocious pout, and Sans can’t help but laugh.

                “All right, all right, you got me, kiddo.” He steps forward and ruffles Frisk’s hair, dissolving their pout into a bright grin. “You go have fun with Undyne. Make all the spaghetti you can eat.”

                “AT THAT WE SHALL, BROTHER,” Papyrus crows, “AND THEN SOME!!” Scooping Frisk up onto his shoulders, he gives Toriel a valiant salute before ducking out of the doorway and practically galloping down the sidewalk.

                Toriel watches the two for a moment, smiling. With one paw resting on the doorframe, she turns over her shoulder to watch her lover shuffle his way into the kitchen. He hums tiredly to some kind of chill, jazzy tune as he sets up the coffee maker to brew a fresh pot, and then kicks a small footstool into place so he can lean over the counter and reach a calendar on the wall.

                The boss monster leaves her spot and reaches his side in time to watch him finish marking out yesterday’s date. Instead of crossing over the square on the calendar like most people, he writes a number upon it: 728.

                Her smile softens, even though he can’t see it from this angle, and she rests her paw gently on his shoulder. Sans gives a heavy sigh, and leans into her frame, dropping the pen so he can wrap his left arm around her waist, giving her a gentle squeeze through her dress.

                “Sometimes it feels like we just got out yesterday, y’know?” The skeleton’s voice is soft, contemplative. His phalanges curl into the fabric of her gown, and he turns his face into her warmth. “… It’s hard to believe.”

                Swinging her other paw around to rub his skull gently, she holds him tight. “You should believe it,” she intones, leaning down to peck him on the head, “because it’s very real.”

                They stand like this for a few moments longer, before Toriel quietly coaxes him to come to the living room with her, to watch some mindless television, as is their norm. As he heads to claim the best spot on the sofa, she lingers behind to fetch the coffee. Once he’s out of view, she begins to worry her lower lip between her fangs, and tug at one of her ears nervously.

                She’s got something big on her mind she’d like to run by him.

- || -

                He compliments the coffee as always, even when she informs him she didn’t add anything to his. “It’s better black than taken back,” he says with a wink, and she giggles. They’re curled up together on the sofa, watching a rerun of some old human TV show, one about a family of quirky and odd individuals who express a genuine love for each other.

                Toriel is quiet for the most part, watching the actions onscreen with a growing sense of wistfulness in her eyes, one that grows all the more when the mother interacts with her children. Occasionally, her mind wanders to the question hovering in the back of her throat, and she lifts up her free paw – the one not currently wrapped over Sans’s shoulders – and tugs at her ear, twirling the fur between her fingers and nibbling her lip all the more.

                Presently, his voice draws her from her thoughts. “Hey, T, uh, you okay?”

                She glances down at him quickly, forcing the heat in her face back down, but to little avail. The lights in his eyes are flickering gently with worry. “I mean, I know this show’s creepy and spooky, mysterious and cooky, altogether ooky, but you’re lookin’ kind of upset.” Incredibly, he manages to deliver the line in the tune of the show’s theme song.

                At this, she manages a smile. “No, Sans, I’m – I am fine.” With a peck on his forehead, she leans her cheek against the top of his skull and turns back to the television. Her paw around his shoulder strokes idly at the sleeve of his hoodie, and she feels herself becoming engrossed in the story unfolding before her. Her lover is warm beside her, his phalanges finding her free paw as if of their own will, and tangling with her fingers. With a sigh, her copper eyes slide closed, and she hums gently.

                It’s been so long since she’s felt so comfortable, so complete with another soul.

                “Sans,” she’s speaking before she entirely realizes what she’s saying, “how do you feel about… children?”

                His skull shifts a bit under her cheek, but she doesn’t pull away yet, too mortified with herself to move and let him see her face. “Well, uh, I mean, you should know by now, T, with how I’ve been dealin’ with the folks at the PTA, and how I’ve been takin’ care of Frisk. I like kids. They’re weird, but fun.“

                “That is… not entirely what I mean, dear.” She pulls away now to sit upright, running circles with one pad of her finger over Sans’s metacarpals. She glances at him, and the look in his eyes is something between confusion and mild panic.

                Oh, good, at least she isn’t the only one.

- || -

                She’s looking him in the eyes, and he’s glad he isn’t the only one incredibly nervous about the tone she’s using. Sans takes in a shaky breath – not like he needs it, but the feeling of air rushing between his teeth and over his vertebrae is relaxing – and tries to relax his features into something that doesn’t resemble panic.

                Judging by the way she grimaces, he isn’t very successful.

                “What’s on your mind, Tori?” he asks, making a valiant effort to keep his voice as cool and even as ever. It’s hard, when every bit of his mind is rattling off questions at a thousand miles an hour. Is she unhappy? Has he done something to upset her without realizing? Oh, god, he’s neglected Frisk. Before he can stop himself, he’s rescheduling various events in his mental calendar, five minutes off self-loathing here, ten minutes off drafting new machine plans there, all to make more time for-

                “Well,” her voice grounds him to the present, and god, if she doesn’t sound just as nervous as he is. Perhaps even more so, but he doubts that. “It is just… Well, as you remember, a long while back, I had… two children.”

                Ohhhh no. This is it. He’s brought up something to remind her of Asriel. Of Chara. She’s upset. She’s going to be gentle about it, tell him it isn’t a big deal. He looks back at the TV, where the strange human siblings are having some kind of squabble, and he hurriedly shuts it off, startling Toriel. She glances between him and the dark screen several times, before he laughs weakly.

                “I thought, um, this show might be a bit… sensitive, for you. With the, uh, the family stuff.”

                Her confused frown shifts to something almost… amused? “Oh, Sans. You’re such a dear.” Welp. Now he’s incredibly confused, but he can’t exactly complain when she draws him in for another of her soft and slightly tickly forehead kisses. “It is a sensitive subject for me, dear, but… not quite in the way you’re thinking.”

                He laughs again, and it sounds a bit manic this time. “T, you’re killin’ me here, with the suspense.” Bright blue beads of slightly-glowing sweat are rolling off his skull.

                “Sorry! Sorry,” she laughs, and she sounds a bit manic as well. “God, I’m sorry, just, give me a moment.”

                Giving a big sigh of her own, she shifts around on the sofa until she’s facing him directly. He mirrors her action, and they end up sitting cross-legged on the sofa, looking into each other’s eyes and gripping each other’s fingers like they might drown if they let go. Toriel opens and closes her mouth several times, and Sans can almost see a question swimming around in her copper irises.

                His soul is hammering at his bones, and every little thought in his head is screaming at this point. It’s gotta be something important. Does she want him to start taking up some embassy duties? Has he left too many socks on the floor again? Has Frisk told her about the bad times? He’s trembling, clenching his jaw, fighting to keep his cool.

                “So, you like children,” Toriel bleats, at length, her voice silencing the smaller ones in his head, “have you ever thought about… having any?”

                “Uh.” Comes his incredibly intelligent reply. Slowly, he blinks his eye-sockets, and finds his mind isn’t working quite quickly enough to catch up with where this might be going. “Well… no, not really.”

                She winces a bit, and for some reason he feels like he made a mistake. “Oh. Well, I was wondering… I mean, Frisk is going to be ten, soon, and well, when As-… when my son turned ten, that’s when we found Ch-Chara, and,” she sighs, letting one of his hands go so she can tug at her ear again, “heavens, Sans, would you… do you…”

                After holding her breath for a moment, she lets it out in a huff, and blurts, “Don’t you think Frisk would like having a sibling? I mean, if you aren’t comfortable, I understand, but I, I love you, so much, and I think you make a wonderful father for Frisk, already, and I just…”

                Her voice trails off, and she watches him expectantly. In contrast, he sits there, having gone slightly limp, the lights in his eyes staring at her, but unfocused. His hands are limp in her paws, and his trembling has ceased. His smile, normally set as if in cement, has fallen askew, with his jaw hanging slightly open.

                The gears are turning. Slowly. Very, very slowly, but they are turning.

                All too suddenly, his face erupts into a vivid blue, and he jerks upright, only to huddle back down into the neck of his hoodie. His gaze fixed pointedly on Toriel’s slightly alarmed and immensely concerned expression, he proceeds to wobble, then teeter, then slide completely off the couch and into a rattling heap on the floor.

                “Sans!” the boss monster cries, startled, unsure if she should rush to pick him up or leave him be. Before she can act, however, a soft, almost dreamy voice wavers up to her.

                “You… you wanna have a kid with, with me?” He turns his head to look at her again, and the lights in his eyes are so wide they threaten to overcome the darkness of his eye-sockets completely.

                She clenches her paws in front of her, still unsure what to do with them. “Y… yes, Sans, I do.”

                “… wow.” His voice is even smaller somehow, and he rolls over so he’s lying on his back, staring at the ceiling with a wide-eyed, dopey grin, his skull still bluer than ever.

                The skeleton looks back at her, seems to grin all the more, and whispers again, “wow.”

                Toriel bites at her lip again, and crouches on the floor beside him. “Sans, I… I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have sprung this on you, we’ve only been here – been together – for two years, it’s, it’s too soon, I’m sorry, I just-“

                This time, he’s the one to stop her racing thoughts, with a bony hand over her wringing paws. She glances up to his face, and her soul flutters in her chest as she sees the heart-shaped lights in his eyes.

                “T,” he whispers, gripping her paws with his hand and stroking one of her thumbs with his own, “th-that’s a wonderful idea.”

Chapter Text

-||-

                Now, see, monsters are vastly different from humans in a variety of ways, and one of the foremost differences between the two species is procreation. When humans decide they want a child, there’s a number of ways they can go about getting one – adoption, in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, the good ol’ whamalam bam bang – most of these options, however, involve the exchange of DNA and biological gestation within a human’s womb. Some monsters also turn to some of these options when they desire to begin or start a family, especially now that they have reached the surface, but the process of monster reproduction is far less… icky-sticky.

                Monsters are magical beings, by their very nature – some may go so far to say they are more ‘magic’ than ‘being.’ This being said, though their souls are more fragile after death than those of humans, to a monster, the soul is infinitesimally more important. At risk of starting a ramble on the nature of souls and the different kinds of magic therein… When two (or more) monsters wish to create new life, they undergo a kind of… ritual, for lack of better word, that is unique to them and their relationship. It may involve pleasurable stimulation, it may involve simply gentle contact, it may even involve a deep and profound conversation, or even none of those things. The experience is profound, deep, resonant, and completely specific to the monsters involved.

                During this process – which has many names, “soul-mingling” being one of the foremost – the monsters share and exchange parts of their soul, and one of the parents is chosen to house these shared bits somewhere within their physical form. There’s no way to tell how long the new soul will take to form, sometimes it’s as quickly as a day, other times it takes years to fully develop.

                … This time, from what Toriel tells Sans in hushed words at the end of the night, she feels it’ll take just about six months.

-||-

                It’s been two weeks already, and from the dumb, blissful grin plastered on his face, Sans still can’t entirely believe what’s happening. He keeps stealing glances away from the quiche he’s preparing, to look at Toriel as she sits at the kitchen table, filling out a crossword puzzle in the newspaper.

                If he squints just right, he can see the fluttery light of the little soul incubating within her, pulsing and glowing in her belly. Every time he sees it, a fresh wave of giddiness washes over him, and for once in his life, he can understand how his brother gets so excited over things.

                He finally manages to finish preparing the quiche, and pops it in the oven. Sliding into the seat across from Toriel at the table, he picks up the parts of the paper she’s discarded and begins looking them over.

                “Didn’t realize you were into crosswords, T,” he muses, glancing back at her over the top of the paper.

                “Neither did I,” she hums in reply. “… What’s a five-letter word for someone who makes - Wait! Do not tell me,” she scribbles furiously on the puzzle, muttering “baker” like it’s the answer to everything.

                The skeleton laughs softly, shaking his head. “If I didn’t know better, T, I’d say I was starting to rub off on ya.”

                Her eyes lift from the puzzle to squint at him over her glasses, and she snorts. “Oh, really?” A smirk curls her lips. “Like you ever picked up the rest of the actual paper, before.”

                Sans pauses, as if suddenly realizing that yes, he had just been reading an article about monster integration in schools. “It’s, uh, important,” he begins, feeling his cheekbones grow hot, “to have an idea on the uh, the kind of schools our kid’s gonna be goin’ to.”

                Rolling her eyes, she sits back in her chair, chuckling and redoubling her crossword efforts. The skeleton worries a corner of the newspaper between his phalanges as he continues reading, his expression becoming more and more contemplative as he reads.

                Though it’s only been two years since the monsters came out from the underground, many monster parents have rallied for better classroom conditions for their little ones from the start. While many humans are more than willing to share their learning space with these newcomers, many others, like Ebott Elementary PTA vice-president, Mrs. Kathleen Schmidt, have other opinions.

                “Letting these things sit in the same room as our children is just like asking for trouble,” Mrs. Schmidt told our reporter. “Those creatures were put underground in the first place for a reason, why can’t anyone see that?”

                “Sans! Are you all right?!”

                He shakes his head quickly, tearing his gaze from the page, and glances instinctively at his hands. They’re coated in bright, orange flames, flames that have quickly begun to devour the newspaper. Before he can react, the ashes in his hands crumble, and the flaming paper falls from his grip – only to be caught by a blue aura half a second later, floating in place and burning steadily.

                Turning his head, he looks at Toriel, only to see she looks just as surprised and confused as he feels, holding out her paw – pen still gripped between two fingers - and staring at the newspaper. Her left eye is emitting a blue glow.

                “What on earth…?” she mutters, dropping her concentration and staring at her paw, letting the ashen remnants of the newspaper flutter to the tile floor. The blue glow disappears from her eye as the flames die away from Sans’s hands.

                Sans is quiet, unsure of what to say, and Toriel looks over at him. “What did you just read in that newspaper…?”

                The skeleton shrugs. “Some crusty lady making racist comments about monsters in schools, nothing new.”

                “Sans, dear, please be careful with your hands.”

                “Huh?” He turns to look, and once again, his hands are roaring with fire. “… Welp.” He sighs. “Looks like it’s gonna be hard to play it cool around here for awhile.”

                She laughs for a moment. “Do not worry too much, dear, I’m sure it’s just an effect of the, um.” She’s blushing again, and the fire in Sans’s hands flickers and dies, only to be replaced by the warm smile on his face. “You know.” Her paw comes down to rest over her belly, and she turns her gaze downward, smiling.

                In that moment, Sans forgets all about the ashen pile on the floor. He walks around the table, and puts his arms around the taller, seated monster, nuzzling his teeth into the fur on her neck and relishing her warmth. She hums softly in response, planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.

                This. This is perfect. This moment should be saved for the rest of time.

                “You still have to clean up the mess you made,” Toriel reminds him. He groans.

-||-

                Friday afternoon, just a few days later, Frisk is sitting at the living room table, pulling out their various pages of homework and scowling at the growing pile before them. Toriel sits on the couch behind them, humming quietly and flipping through a book.

                Frisk glances back at her, hands lifted to sign, when their eyes narrow pointedly at the back of the book. “Quantum Physics for Dummies.”

                They smack her knee lightly with one hand, gaining her attention immediately. Before she can ask what the matter is, they sign, ‘how come you’re reading about science instead of snails?’

                As she’s stammering to answer that, they point at her belly, squint again, then look up at her and sign, ‘did you eat dunkle Sans while I was at school?’

                Her face reddens beneath her fur. “Goodness, child, I didn’t e-eat Sans! Good heavens, what makes you think that?”

                Frisk frowns, growing confused. ‘How come you got another soul in your tummy then?’

                “I, I what?” Toriel knows exactly what the kid is talking about, but she’s surprised – nobody’s supposed to be able to see it, not really.

                ‘It’s glowing.’

                She looks down, and so it is – there’s a bright, white glow from beneath her gown, and if she squints just the right way, she can see it, pulsing and glowing with love and happiness.

                “Haha, well… Um, I had been hoping I could keep a secret for just a bit longer, until we could tell everyone…”

                Frisk perks up. ‘I like surprises!’

                “Yes dear, I know.” She strokes the child’s hair, and they smile up at her, a hint of expectancy in their expression. Sighing, she nods. “All right, I will tell you, but we must wait until Sans and Papyrus come home, all right?”

                They seem to contemplate this for a moment, and then nod. They shuffle back toward their homework, and pull out a math worksheet. While they focus on their multiplication tables, Toriel casually pulls out her phone, and then begins to rapidly text Sans.

                Sans.

                Sans, dear.

                Sans we have to tell them tonight. Frisk and Papyrus.

                It’s glowing again, and Frisk saw.

                She only has to wait a moment for his reply.

                Oh boy. Okay, T, we’ll do it tonight. This is gonna be awkward.

                She frowns. Why is that?

                His reply takes a bit longer, this time.

                … I still haven’t told Papyrus where little monsters come from.

                She snorts, and has to fight to hold back her laughter.

                All in all, it takes far too long for the skeletons to come home from their jobs. Papyrus ends up getting home before Sans, miracle of miracles.

                “FAMILY, YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED AT WORK TODAY,” he cries merely half a second after throwing open the front door. He doesn’t even wait for a response: “THERE WERE AT LEAST THREE ANGRY CUSTOMERS THIS TIME, AND THE POOR MISTY HUMAN – THE ONE WITH THE HAIR LIKE YOURS, FRISK! – COULDN’T GET THEM TO CALM DOWN, SO I! WITH MY CHARM AND WIT! MANAGED TO PLACATE THEM WITH THE MIGHT AND GLORY THAT IS PAPYRUS!!”

                His story goes on, into almost excruciating detail, regarding his daring feat of heroics in regards to agitated flower shop clients. By the end of it, nobody listening can exactly tell if the clients were merely vaguely satisfied in the end, or if they were actually content with their visit to the flower shop. Toriel is about to ask him to clarify, when two things happen.

                Sans walks through the door.

                As he draws nearer to where Toriel is sitting to give her a pseudo-kiss on the cheek, the soul in her stomach starts shining like a beacon of joy.

                “WHAT IN THE HECK!?” Papyrus’s eyes boggle, and he leaps behind an armchair in his alarm. “MAJESTY, DID, DID YOU EAT SOMEONE!?”

                Pinching the bridge of her snout, the boss monster gives a heavy sigh. “No, Papyrus, dear. Frisk asked me that, earlier. In fact, they thought I ate Sans.”

                Sans looks positively delighted at hearing this bit of news, while Papyrus only looks vaguely insulted.

                “WHY WOULD YOU EAT HIM? HE’S ALL-“ He stops himself, deadpanning.

                “Say it,” Sans is barely holding back a snicker.

                Papyrus gives him a pointed glare. Sans shifts closer to his brother and elbows him knowingly. Giving in, the taller skeleton makes a show of rolling his eye-sockets.

                “WHY WOULD YOU EAT HIM.” He declares flatly. “HE’S ALL BONE.”

                While Sans nearly falls apart in his hysterics, Frisk takes the opportunity to escape from their homework and climb onto the sofa beside their mom. They give her ear a gentle tug, and she turns toward them.

                ‘Are you gonna tell us, now?’ Their smile is so hopeful and excited, Toriel wouldn’t be about to tell them no even if she hadn’t been planning on it.

                “Of course, my child.” She picks Frisk up and sets them on the arm of the couch beside her, and looks to Sans, clearing her throat.

                He manages to bring his gaze to meet hers, and the look in her eye sobers him almost straight away. Clearing his non-existant throat, he moves to have a seat on the couch beside Toriel. When Papyrus starts to look left out, Sans pats the spot beside him, which his brother accepts in a heartbeat.

                “WHY DO ALL OF YOU LOOK LIKE IT’S ABOUT TO BE STORYTIME?” His eyesockets are narrowed in suspicion.

                “Welp, that’s because it kind of is storytime.” Sans shrugs, letting out a nervous chuckle, “storytime about how your brother and this lovely lady right here –“ he elbows Toriel, and she blushes, “- decided that, uh, you know, havin’ another little monster runnin’ around wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

                Frisk gasps, and puts their hands to their mouth, while Papyrus only squints harder. “AND YOU HAD TO EAT SOMEONE IN ORDER TO DO THIS, WHY…?”

                It’s Sans’s turn to sigh now, slapping a bony hand to his skull, and looking like he’s about to do the one thing he promised himself he would never do. Likely because this is the one thing he promised himself he would never do. “Oh boy,” he groans, and shifts in his seat to better face his brother. He’s sweating already, and Papyrus is starting to look concerned.

                “You see, Pappers, when some monsters love each other very, very much…”

-||-

                Frisk glances over while their uncle’s entire world is getting expanded upon. They smile, and give a little wave. ‘Did you know?’ they sign subtly, so as to not get their mother’s attention.

                ‘Of course! I know a lot of things.’

                They giggle as quietly as they can, pressing their sleeves to their mouth. Damn, if they aren’t the cutest. ‘Does that mean I get to call Sans ‘Dad,’ now?’

                ‘Only if you want. He’s certainly about to be one.’

                Their smile is wider than it’s ever been. They’re so excited; it’s all they can do to bounce lightly in place.

                ‘Careful, young one, you might crack your face, with a smile that big.’

                Grinning still, they manage to reply, ‘that’s ok, because then I’d look cool like you, Grandpa!’

                It’s easy to get distracted when one is talking to such an adorable and silver-tongued child.

-||-

                Over the next few weeks, Toriel and Sans divvy up the list of their friends to call and tell the news. Alphys – predictably – shrieks into the phone when Toriel tells her, screaming for Undyne to come quick, “S-S-See, Undyne!? Didn’t I t-tell you!? I knew it was gonna happen!!” Toriel also lands the pleasure of calling Mettaton and his cousin to let them know, but she finds he’s already been told. “Darling, you should have heard Papy on the phone the other night, he was so ecstatic for you two. Congratulations, Darling~!”

                Sans, however, ends up getting the task of telling most of their other friends. He strolls into New Grillby’s one evening, and after succumbing to a chorus of “Hi, Sans” and “Heya, Sansy,” he manages to pass the news around the bar one group at a time. The dogs nearly bury him in their praise and affection; drunk bunny gives him a big, fat smooch right on the face; the other regulars offer congratulations and companionable back-slaps; it isn’t until he sits in front of Grillby that he’s met with silence.

                The fire elemental stands behind the bar, perfectly still save for the flames licking from his head. Sans can feel his gaze looking him over, seeing as Grillby’s eyes are small points of pale light hidden by the fire.

                “Rumor’s going around that someone’s going to be a father,” Grillby murmurs, his voice a soft, warm whisper that seems to be right at Sans’s ear, despite Grillby standing about three feet away.

                “You got sharp ears, Grillbz,” Sans chuckles, and he’s grinning nearly hard enough to split his skull. “Tell me, bud, you got kids, right?”

                “A daughter, Nielle,” the bartender nods, picking up a rag to dry a nearby flagon. “Why do you ask?”

                Sans looks down at his hands, folded over each other on the bar, and stares. “I guess… I donno what to expect, really. What if the kid doesn’t like me, y’know? What if I mess somethin’ up, and there’s no fixin’ it, and-“

                “Sans.” Grillby’s hand is hot, on Sans’s shoulder, but not enough to burn his jacket. “You can’t think about the ‘what if’s. I saw how you practically raised Papyrus, back underground, and how you are with Frisk, now.” He smiles, his mouth a jagged line of concentrated heat. “You’ll be fine, Sans. No parent is perfect. You only have to do your best, and listen.”

                The skeleton’s smile is more sober than it was before, but it’s easy to see the far-away expression in his eye-sockets. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Thanks, Grill. You always know what to say.”

                He shrugs, smiling still. “I’m a bartender. Listening to folks and offering advice is part of what I do.”

                “Doesn’t hurt that you’ve known a lot of these folks since they were itty-bitty, huh?” Sans chuckles, and Grillby smiles all the more. There’s a moment of companionable silence between them, which Sans breaks before too long.

                “We’ve, ah, told just about everybody by now. There’s only one more person we gotta break the news to.” Sans and Grillby exchange a look, and if fire can wince, he’s certainly managing to do so. “Yeah… Asgore.”

                There’s a whoosh as Grillby lets out a sigh. “Good luck.”

                “Yeah, thanks. I’m gonna need it.” The skeleton shrugs. “Hey, bud, it’s been great ketchin’ up with ya. Can I score some for the road?”

                Grillby nods, smiling, and procures a fresh bottle from under the counter. “I’ll put it on your tab.”

                “Thanks a bil, Grill,” Sans winks, and takes a swig of the sauce before hopping down and sauntering out the door.

-||-

                “You ready, kiddo?”

                Frisk cranes their neck so they can catch Sans’s eyes in the rearview mirror. They’ve taken Toriel’s van for the time being, and to be completely honest, watching Sans sit on two extra cushions in the driver’s seat has been more than amusing. They nod, shifting in their booster seat, not forgetting the task at hand.

                Sans smiles as usual, but Frisk can see the anxiety in his eyes as he hops out the driver’s side - nearly forgetting to remove the small sticks he’s got strapped to his feet so he can reach the pedals - and walks around to help them out of their seat. He doesn’t have to help, both of them realize this, but when he’s feeling like this, they both also realize it’s better for him to have something to do with his hands. Otherwise, things start floating.

                “You remember the plan, right, bud?” He asks quietly as they’re both walking toward the cozy house’s enormous door.

                The child nods, beaming. ‘I got it.’

                “Good on you, bucko. Let’s go break a leg, eh?” Sans nudges the kid’s shoulder affectionately, and then they’re standing in front of the door.

                'Like you nearly did?’ They tease him, earning themself another, firmer nudge on the shoulder.

                He has to reach up a bit to touch the doorbell, and the sound of it echoing through the house before them is reminiscent of funeral bells in the back of his head.

                He hopes to god Tori had the right idea with this.

                Before he can quite collect himself, the door swings open, and he’s dwarfed in the shadow of someone very tall, with imposing horns and an incredible beard.

                “Well, howdy!” Asgore beams down at Frisk, and gives Sans a slightly more sobered version of the same smile. “Goodness, is it the third weekend of the month already?”

                Frisk nods excitedly, bouncing on their toes, and Sans laughs. “Yep, ah, bringin’ the kiddo by for their weekend visit, as normal.”

                “Well, do not just stand there! Come on in!” Asgore steps back from the threshold, and his heavy footsteps head into the kitchen. “I had just put on some tea, would either of you like any?”

                Frisk nods emphatically, and Sans shrugs. “Yeah, we’re both up for some quali-tea time before I split.”

                There’s a moment of silence before Asgore laughs. “Oh! Yes, because,” he clears his throat, a bit red in the face. “It will just be a moment. Please make yourselves comfortable in the sitting room.”

                Even when Asgore joins them in the room, and distributes the teacups, the air in the room is tense. Neither of the adults in the room can look at the other. Ever since Sans and Toriel had started dating (is it even called dating if most of what you do together is watch bad television, tell bad jokes, and not leave the house? No judgement, only curious), Asgore has been cordial, at best, to the skeleton. Whenever Sans is alone in the room with the boss monster, however, he can feel the hot heaviness of his fiery magic hanging in the air, and angry, golden eyes fixed on him pointedly.

                Needless to say, they don’t talk very often.

                Sans sits on the far end of Asgore’s couch, cradling his teacup in his bony hands and hoping to god he doesn’t chip it somehow. He’s only barely aware of Frisk signing away with Asgore, working to lighten the mood in the room with small talk. It isn’t until he hears Asgore ask “Oh? You have something to tell me?” that he comes to his senses.

                He turns his head just in time to see Frisk sign the words, ‘I’m gonna be a big sibling!’

                Asgore deadpans, and his mouth twitches slightly. “Oh really?” His voice sounds a bit strained, and he shoots an unreadable look at the skeleton before redirecting his attention to Frisk.

                ‘Yeah! Mom and dunkle Sans are gonna have a baby!’ The brightness in Frisk’s expression is hard to ignore, and even proves a bit contagious as Asgore’s features begin to soften. ‘I’ve never had a little sibling before, I bet they’re gonna be so great! I can’t wait to meet them!’

                Frisk continues, and Asgore watches their signs closely. It seems like something comes over him, and he begins to smile, though he looks infinitely sad at the same time.

                “I am so happy for you, my child,” he says, at length, when Frisk finally stops signing. He wraps them in a hug, and lifts his gaze to Sans. For once, the golden eyes aren’t filled with bitterness. “… And for you, too, Sans. You and Toriel both.” He raises one paw to dab away the tears brimming in one eye. “If it is all right, I would love to see the child, when they arrive.”

                “Sure thing, buddy,” Sans says, offering a smile, setting down his tea. “I’ll talk to Tori about it.”

                When he leaves, Asgore and Frisk are talking about their plans for the next day, about gardens, and a shopping trip, and picking out presents for the little one.

                It leaves a good feeling in his soul, and he’s looking forward to telling Toriel how it all went down.

 

Chapter Text

-||-

                It is Frisk’s idea to throw the baby shower. Well, not necessarily entirely theirs, they may have had a little hint from a gentleman dancing in the shadows in the corner of their room early one morning, before school.

                That’s not creepy. Some folks are excitable about these kinds of things.

                At any rate, Grillby volunteered to let his restaurant be the venue for the party, and currently Frisk, Papyrus, Sans, and Toriel are bustling about the place, helping the fire elemental make the restaurant feel a bit more festive for the event.

                “WHEN’S THE PARTY STARTING?” Papyrus asks probably for the twelfth time.

                “Four o’clock, bro,” Sans tells him again, with the tone of a man who has all the patience in the world.

                “HOW LONG UNTIL THEN??” He turns his skull to look at his brother expectantly, all the while standing on tiptoes to hold up one end of a banner for Grillby, who’s standing on a ladder, taping it into place.

                “About an hour, bro,” the shorter skeleton responds, not once taking an eye off the balloons scattered on the ceiling. He has his left hand raised, his left eye glowing softly blue as he gently gestures the balloons in various directions.

                “WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING, OVER THERE?!”

                “Decorating.”

                Groaning, Papyrus rolls his eyes, and lets the topic drop.

                Toriel and Frisk share a look and a giggle at their antics. The boss monster is busy moving the tables closer to the edges of the dining area, leaving an open space in the middle. Her adopted child dances between the tables behind her, depositing colorful, hand-drawn centerpiece pictures on each table.

                All being said, Frisk is quite skilled with those crayons for a nine-year-old.

                The place is coming together nicely. The bar’s been cleaned off and polished, a large table’s been set up off to the bar’s left with snacks and punch, and another table stands beside that one for gifts. Once the banner is hung over the bar, everything seems just perfect.

                Well, except, Sans is still standing in the middle of the room, messing around with the balloons on the ceiling. Frisk trots over to him, and looks up at what he’s doing, only to cover their mouth as they giggle and grin.

                He’s arranged a heart shape – like a soul, with alternating stripes of purple and blue balloons.

                “Kinda like your sweater, huh?” He pats Frisk on the shoulder, and they grin at him. While he keeps staring up at his handiwork with a dreamy expression, Papyrus saunters up next to him and looks up as well, sockets widening.

                “WOWIE! YOU WEREN’T JUST BOONDOGGLING, FOR ONCE!”

                “Yes, dear,” Toriel walks up behind Sans, placing both paws on his shoulders, “It looks like you’ve truly captured the heart of the matter.”

                Papyrus groans, and Sans flicks his gaze to meet Toriel’s eyes, the top of his skull pressing lightly against her belly. The lights in his eyes are so bright, brimming with love and excitement. “You betcha, T. Some might say I’ve done it for the soul benefit of seeing you smile, though.”

                She giggles, and Papyrus throws his hands in the air. “THAT’S SO CUTE IT’S DISGUSTING!” He shrieks. “BUT I’M GLAD YOU’RE HAPPY!”

                He’s not the only one who’s glad they’re happy. All the smiling faces speak volumes for that.

-||-

                Barely an hour later, the restaurant’s front doors are nearly kicked from their hinges. “Sup, nerds!” Undyne saunters inside in typical Undyne fashion, with a beaming and only slightly stammering Alphys close behind. They’re a bit dressed up for the occasion, with Undyne in a leather jacket and black jeans, while Alphys is in her black, polka-dotted dress.

                “UNDYNE!” Papyrus and Frisk are both sprinting across the open floor of the restaurant, as if racing each other. Papyrus wins, with his longer strides and his uncanny tendency to ignore the laws of gravity when it suits him, and practically tackles Undyne into a mighty hug. “I’M SO GLAD YOU MADE IT!!”

                “What, and miss out on the one time your brother actually got something done!?” (In the background, Sans calls, “welp, she’s not wrong,” and receives a gentle smack on the back of his skull from Toriel for his efforts) “IN YOUR DREAMS, MAYBE!” the fish monster guffaws, easily slipping out of Papyrus’s iron grasp and locking him in a chokehold, grinding her knuckles into his skull.

                “PLEASE DON’T NOOGIE THE SKELETON!!” He cries, and she lets him go, laughing boisterously.

                “H-hey, everyone!” Alphys grins, holding a box in her claws. “We b-brought a gift! Where should I, um, put this?”

                ‘Over here!’ Frisk signs eagerly, and gestures for Alphys to follow. She does so eagerly, and deposits her gift on the table.

                “Oh, looks like we’re the, the first one’s here,” she remarks, and Undyne waves a hand dismissively.

                “Psshh! Of course we are! Nobody else knows how to PARTY like we do!!”

                That being said, the party doesn’t quite start in full until a few surprise guests arrive.

                “Sorry to barge in,” Dogamy calls as he leads the pack inside.

                “We just heard about the shower, and we had to bring something!” Dogaressa grins from under her hood, holding a stack of wrapped boxes.

                Greater Dog bounds inside after them on all fours, more fluff than much else, followed closely by Lesser Dog, jogging on his hind paws with his tongue lolling out. They both make a beeline for where Sans and Toriel are seated near the bar, leaping into their laps and smothering them in slobbery dog kisses.

                “It’s good to see you, too,” Toriel manages to get her words out between laughing and squirming away from the assaulting tongue.

                Sans just sits there and takes it. “This is it, T. This is how I die.” He’s grinning brightly, scratching Lesser Dog behind the ears, snickering to himself at how the dog monster just barely manages to keep his neck in control.

                Dogamy and Dogaressa deposit the gifts on the table, and give Sans and Toriel Doggo’s regards, seeing as he had to work late. After congratulating the couple, they gather up Lesser and Greater Dog, and take their leave – right as someone very square and handsome rolls in.

                “Oh, my, don’t tell me you’ve all started without me, darlings,” Mettaton croons, his display lighting a single exclamation point. “Have I missed anything exciting?”

                “Only the end of my existence on the mortal plane,” Sans is leaning back in his chair, staring at the ceiling. “I have ascended to the realm of the heavens, through the power of dog kisses.”

                “My love,” Toriel gasps, clearly playing along, “are you saying that you have left me behind?”

                “’M sorry, T,” his eye-sockets are shut, cool as ever, “this one-way ticket on the puppy express to smooch heaven is for one holder only.”

                Toriel gasps dramatically, and swoons in her seat, grabbing the table with one paw and putting the back of the other to her forehead. “Oh, woe is me, my love has gone to be among the stars!”

                “Yup.” Sans is shaking with silent snickering by this point, and before anyone knows it, he’s slid out of his chair and onto the floor, somehow ending up face-down. “I’m a goner.”

                Toriel gives another dramatic wail, and Mettaton starts clapping wildly.

                “Bravo, bravo, darlings! A performance for the ages!” He mimes wiping a tear from his LED display, though somehow he sounds completely genuine. “I simply must get the both of you on stage with me, sometime!”

                “Eh,” Sans mumbles into the floor, as Toriel melts into flustered giggles, “I’ll think about it.”

                After Sans returns to his seat and dusts off his jacket, everyone starts getting settled. A few more unexpected guests drop by: Muffet with some spider pastries and a storybook about the itsy bitsy spider (“SANS YOU HAVE TO READ THAT TO ME SOMETIME”); some of the bunnies and other furry folk from Snowdin with various small packages; and lastly comes Kid and their adoptive family, a pair of older rabbit monsters with their daughter. Kid and their sister spend some time enthusing with Frisk about their unborn sibling while their parents chat with the older monsters, before they leave their gift and head out. Asgore never shows up, to Frisk’s disappointment.

                By the time the energy dies down enough for the proud couple to consider opening gifts, it’s nearly six in the evening.

                The dogs left several different kinds of toys. The folks from Snowdin gifted so many jars of monster baby food, Toriel wonders aloud where they can put it all – to which Sans deftly replies “there’s plenty of space up here” and knocks on his skull.

                From Mettaton, they receive an Amazon gift card, which he wastes no time in instructing them to use in order to buy whatever else they may need for the little one.

                Papyrus’s gift consists of a variety of onesies: skeleton jumpsuits with little skull caps, one that reads ‘MY UNCLE IS REALLY COOL’ in what definitely looks like Papyrus’s handwriting, and a few others with animal print; when Papyrus expresses that he has no idea what the baby will look like, and that they might not even fit, Toriel waves him off dismissively, assuring him she can alter them however they need to be.

                Their gift from Alphys and Undyne is straightforward – a large crib, still packaged and brand new – Undyne offers to help assemble, and Sans quickly (but tactfully) assures her he can handle it.

                Grillby’s gift comes last, and the fire elemental hands it to them, himself – two soft blankets, one blue, and one purple.

                “Not to look a gift horse in the proverbial blanket,” Sans asks, running his phalanges over the plush material, “but why two?”

                Grillby gives a soft laugh, sparks fluttering off his head. “One for the crib, and one for the baby bag, of course. It never hurts to be prepared.”

                “They’re lovely, Grillby, thank you,” Toriel smiles, and turns to Sans quickly. “Oh, that is another thing we will need! A baby bag.”

                “Welp, Mettaton gave us that fancy internet card,” Sans winks at her, “go to town, babe.”

                The boss monster’s muzzle wrinkles in confusion. “But why would I need to go into town for the internet?”

                Sans laughs, setting the blankets aside. “T, you’re just… you’re too precious, come here.”

                Cupping her cheek, he tugs her face forward and down, gently, until he can press his teeth against her snout. Grinning, she tilts her face up to catch his teeth with her lips, and even though he instigated the whole deal, Sans’s face goes blue all over, and when she pulls away, he’s left giggling like a schoolboy and kicking his feet in his chair.

                No-shows notwithstanding, it’s a very successful baby shower.

-||-

                Sans stands up from where he’s been kneeling for the past hour or so, dusting off his hands and looking fairly proud of himself. He’s got a screwdriver in his left hand, and a cocky grin on his face.

                “Would ya believe it, unless you’ve seen it?” he asks his brother, looking up at the taller skeleton and waggling the bone ridges that make up his eyebrows.

                Papyrus’s arms are folded over his chest, and he’s regarding his brother’s handiwork with something resembling genuine astonishment. “IF I HADN’T SEEN IT, BROTHER, I’D NEVER BELIEVE IT.”

                Chuckling, Sans twirls the screwdriver in his phalanges, and pats the rail of the freshly-assembled crib with his free hand. “And you thought I’d need Undyne’s help to build a baby cage.”

                “WELL, FOR THE RECORD!” Papyrus holds up a finger. “I AM VERY GLAD YOU DID NOT, BECAUSE SHE PROBABLY WOULD HAVE SUGGESTED PUTTING A SPEAR THROUGH IT.”

                “Wiser words were never spoken, bro,” Sans nods, and tucks the screwdriver into his pocket. “You sure you aren’t upset about us repurposing the guest room, here?”

                “POSITUTELY!” Papyrus exclaims. “MY FRIENDS ARE TOUGH MONSTERS, THEY WILL NOT MIND SLEEPING ON THE COUCH FOR A COUPLE OF NIGHTS NOW AND AGAIN, IF IT MEANS MY NIBLING WILL HAVE A ROOM OF THEIR OWN!”

                “You’re a champ, bro.”

                “I KNOW IT! NYEH HEH HEH!” He claps his shorter brother on the back. “AND SO ARE YOU!”

                “Thanks, Pappers.”

-||-

                Six months have passed since the little soul started sleeping and dreaming in Toriel’s belly. The baby’s room is done; the furniture is set up, the toys are in a soft chest, the books on a little shelf, and the crib is dolled up with a mattress and one of the blankets that Grillby gave them – the purple one. The lavender paint on the walls has long dried, and everything is looking to be in order.

                Nonetheless, Sans lies in his and Toriel’s bed, staring fixedly at the wall across the room with his back to his lover, clenching and unclenching his fists over the blanket and grinding his teeth. The lights in his eyes are small, barely there, and his eye-sockets are wide and round, straining against the flood of thoughts tearing through his mind.

                He’s never felt so terrified in his life.

                Toriel grumbles tiredly, rolling over to face Sans, wrapping an arm around his ribcage under the covers and pulling him flush against her furry front. One copper eye flutters open, and she frowns a bit as she feels his shivering. “What’s wrong, dear? Are you cold…?”

                “Nah,” he laughs a bit too loudly, forcing the smile even though she can’t see it from her angle, “you know how it is, T, th-the cold goes, uh, right through me.”

                She always laughs at that one. Always. But tonight, she doesn’t. “Sans, you sound unwell.” She shifts behind him, seeming a bit more awake.

                “Forgeddabout it,” Sans mumbles, turning his face toward the pillow. “It’s nothing, Tori, don’t worry.”

                He can feel her matronly scowl piercing the back of his skull. “Do not lie to me, Sans.” She hardly waits a beat before her paw drags over his ribs, teasingly slow, and gives a languid stroke down his spine. He gasps, shuddering, and she leans closer to whisper huskily into his ear, “I have ways of making you talk, you know.”

                A weak sound of protest escapes Sans. Any other night, he’d be more than willing to see what ways she has in mind, but the needles of panic threading his soul are too much, at the moment. “All right, okay, T, st-stop,” he lets out a feeble groan as she rakes her paw over the curve of his lumbar. She then leaves him be, propping herself up on one elbow to see him better.

                Taking another deep breath to calm himself, Sans rolls onto his back and looks up sheepishly into her eyes. His gaze is greeted with one of concern, and he has to glance away, grinding his teeth for a moment longer, before he can give voice to his fears.

                “… It’s gonna happen, like, any day now, huh?” His voice is so small, so distant, she has to perk up her ears and strain to hear.

                A soft, understanding smile warms Toriel’s muzzle. “You’re nervous for the baby coming.” It’s not a question, but an observation.

                He nods, and half a moment later, she’s running her paw gently over his skull, trailing her digits over his cranium in slow, soothing circles. “I just… I don’t know what to expect,” he continues, his voice a bit louder now, but a slight tremble to his tone. “I mean, it was just me and Pappers, growin’ up, and he turned out all right, y’know? But I had help, with him. There was Grillbz, and d-…” his voice cracks, and he squeezes his eye-sockets shut, grinding his teeth.

                “You will have help this time, too,” Toriel reminds him, softly, “you have me.” When he opens one eye to look up at her, she gives a small chuckle. “You could say I have… done this sort of thing, before. You don’t have to worry, dear.”

                Sighing, he closes his eye-socket again, and buries his head in the fluff at her chest. “That’s-“

                “Easier said than done, I know.” Her soft lips brush against his skull, and he sighs reflexively into her. “… If it makes you feel better, I am nervous, too; nervous, but also excited.”

                He grunts noncommittally, burying his face deeper into her fluff, and this gets a brighter laugh out of her.

                “You should get some rest, dear,” she pauses to yawn, gently pulling away from him so she can roll onto her back, “tomorrow is going to be a big day, and we’ll need all the rest we can get.”

                “Yeah, yeah, okay, Tori,” Sans sighs, rolling onto his back as well, trying to work himself into a state where sleep will come a little more –

                Wait a second.

                “T-tomorrow!?” The word comes out as little more than a hoarse whisper as he sits bolt upright in the bed, sweat pouring from his skull as he snaps his gaze to Toriel.

                She’s sound asleep, smiling warmly at whatever dream she’s having.

                With a dismal groan, Sans swings himself out of bed and digs around in his drawer for a pair of sweatpants. Once they’re on, he takes two steps toward his bedroom door, and then he’s rounding the corner into the kitchen. Dragging his stool over, he climbs onto it and reaches into the cupboard for a mug, setting it on the counter before turning to the fridge and retrieving the carton of milk.

                He nearly drops it when he turns back around, only to see a large, black mass of someone twirling and sliding across the floor.

                ‘So proud, so proud~!’

                Sans grimaces. “So now we’re doing interpretive dance, huh?”

                ‘You’re just jealous your old man has better moves,’ a cracked, white face turns from somewhere on the bubbling, dripping substance to grin brightly at him. His father is smiling so hard his jaw is threatening to fall off.

                “Eh, take that up with Papyrus. He’s the better dancer, in my opinion,” sidestepping around his father’s goopy body, Sans pours himself a generous mug-full of milk. Looking over his shoulder, he holds up the carton. “You want any, pops?”

                He gives a vigorous shake of the head, followed by something like a slow-motion backflip, in which the goop of his body pools upward, and then down again; it’s almost entrancing to watch. ‘No! I mustn’t, it only makes a mess of me.’ He giggles, and the sound is like many-fingered hands on many keyboards. ‘More of a mess than the me I already am!’

                Sans shrugs, and snaps his fingers, sending the milk back to its spot in the fridge. “You’re in an awfully good mood tonight.”

                ‘And should I not be?’ More of that clattering, cacophonous giggle. ‘You’re sounding a bit salty, to me, son. Have you been craving that mineral again?’

                Rolling his eyes, Sans takes a sip from his mug before slumping into a chair at the kitchen table. “You’re spending too much time on the internet again.”

                The goopy monster pauses, holding up one finger on his hovering, disembodied hand, before spontaneously sinking into a puddle on the floor. ‘Time is an illusion, my son,’ he burbles, the edges of his form quivering much like gelatin, ‘an arbitrary scale used to measure an intangible idea, represented only within our minds as real and concrete.’

                “Don’t change the subject, egg-man,” the skeleton chuckles. “What has you in such a good mood?”

                ‘You do!’ the white face zooms closer to Sans, pulling against the edge of the black mass and dragging the rest of it along the floor in its wake. A skeletal hand with a hole in the palm pops out, and boops Sans on the nasal ridge. ‘More specifically, you and your goat-friend.’

                Snorting, Sans shakes his head. “Tori’s not a goat.”

                ‘Boss-mistress. Whatever.’ The hand flips dismissively, and he continues. ‘You, and she, and the lovely little light you’ve brought into being together!’ Rising from the floor, he assumes a vaguely more solid shape, and both hands cup Sans’s face in hollow palms.

                Unable to remove his skull from his father’s surprisingly firm grip, Sans can only chuckle weakly as he begins to sweat again. Before he can speak, a long, spindly phalange is pressed against his teeth, shushing him preemptively.

                ‘I know what you’re thinking.’ The voice has more of a whispery echo to it, now. ‘You don’t know how to put a thing in a onesie. What if it gets sick? Won’t eat? Won’t sleep? You don’t even know how to change a diaper!’

                Sans’s eye-sockets narrow slightly, “… monsters don’t, uh, have that issue.”

                His old man’s cracked and malformed eye-sockets widen excitedly, and he gives a sharp chirp thick with static. ‘That! That right there! Logic! You have it in you, my son, you mustn’t let your fears get the better of it!’ Patting Sans’s face, he lets go and swirls backward, twirling about before surging himself toward the doorway. ‘Just do it, son. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.’

                And just like that, he’s gone into the shadows. Sighing, the skeleton finishes off his milk, sets the mug in the sink, and shuffles his way back to bed.

-||-

                Sans doesn’t sleep at all. He lies there, staring at the ceiling, focusing so hard on not thinking any thoughts whatsoever that he’s too preoccupied to sleep. He’s only stirred from his tight-jawed vigil when Toriel shifts beside him, stretching her paws over her head and arching her back as she yawns.

                “Mornin’, hot mama,” he grins, internally relieved that about four to six hours of lying perfectly still has returned to him the ability to keep his voice cool. “Sleep well?”

                “Like the dead,” she murmurs, and then her eyes open, and she frowns slightly. “… That joke does not work so well when I say it.”

                Sans laughs, “trust me, T, it barely works when I say it.” He climbs into a more upright position, only to lean over and nuzzle his teeth against her muzzle, wrapping his arms around her neck and shoulders.

                For a moment, she makes a sound like she’s beginning to protest, but it melts to something warm when he runs his phalanges through the fur running down her side. They stay like this for a few moments, enjoying each other, basking in the glow of the morning sun. The really, really bright morning sun. God, when did it get so bright?

                Sans pulls back for a moment, shielding his eyes from the glare, only to realize the glow isn’t coming from the window to his left.

                “Sans!” Toriel’s tugging at his arm, sitting up suddenly and gasping, “Sans, Sans, look!”

                His jaw is hanging slightly open, and he couldn’t look away even if he tried.

                Hovering about three feet over the foot of the bed, shining more brilliantly than any star and giving off a warm pulse, is the soul that – until now – had been sleeping in Toriel’s belly. It’s shaped just like any monster’s soul, resembling a cartoonish heart, but upside-down, with the tip pointing up past the ceiling. Something about the light it gives, the way it pulses, feels to him almost exactly like Toriel, but then a little like himself, and yet, at the same time, like someone entirely different, someone completely new.

                A tear rolls down his cheekbone, and he hardly notices. It’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

                One of Toriel’s arms comes over his shoulders, and his hand finds its way into the fur on her thigh, rubbing absent-minded circles as they both watch the soul – the soul of their child – hover before them, bobbing, slowly spinning, glowing rays of light in every which way.

                “I… haven’t seen something so beautiful since….” Her voice dies away, and Sans gives her a small squeeze. He knows. She doesn’t have to say anything more.

                A minute drags by, and Sans swears he can start to hear the faintest hint of a voice echoing from the soul. Laughter. Confidence. Exuberance. Happiness. Love. These things and more, whispering excitedly between the beams of light, even as the light begins to dim.

                Soon, all falls quiet, and the soul is easier to look at, glowing far less brightly than before, but still pulsing with that same kind of life and feeling. Sans almost wants to touch it, but he knows he has to wait. He finds Toriel’s paw with his free hand, and grips it tightly, feeling he might fall apart if he lets go.

                There’s a sudden, sharp sound, and the soul twitches violently, sending a spike of fear through both himself and Toriel. The soul is still, painfully still before them, the pulsing having slowed to a dull throb. Faintly, barely visible, there’s a crack running up the middle, from between the rounded edges.

                “No,” the word is barely more than a guttural groan from Sans’s throat as he grips Toriel as if for dear life. This can’t be happening.

                Another sharp sound, like a sheet of metal being torn apart, and the crack widens. The soul begins to shudder, the light flashing rapidly within.

                How did he fuck this up? Was he too overbearing? Not overbearing enough? Did Toriel get hurt? Was he too rough with her, one night? He can’t understand. This soul hasn’t even started its life, and now it’s…

                Split. Completely down the middle. The two halves hover with about half a foot of open air between them, shuddering and flickering. He fights back a mangled sob, clutching at his lover’s fur, unable to tear his gaze away from the broken pieces before him.

                He knew this had been a bad idea. He’d had a creeping feeling from the start, but damn it, he’d wanted so badly to try anyway. He’s hurting. He’s hurt Toriel. He’s hurt this life that never got the chance to live. His vision blurs as pale blue tears flood his eyes, and then he hears it.

                Laughter. Confidence. Exuberance. Happiness. Love.

                Toriel gasps beside him, and he blinks rapidly, ignoring the flood of tears down his face. Instead of two broken halves, two full souls, glowing together as brightly as the original had on its own. They bob and dance around each other, trading giggles and flashes of light, until…

                … Two tiny monsters lie at the foot of the bed, facing each other, reaching tiny hands toward each other. They share similar faces, skull-like, with lights glowing deep in their eye-sockets, snouts and jaws shaped like Toriel’s, but lined with sharp-looking teeth. From either side of their skulls hang long, floppy ears, coated in soft, fluffy fur. The child on the left has a furry body, much like a boss monster, with padded paws for hands and feet, and a thick ruff of fur about the neck. The child on the right, however, is a little baby bones, much like how Sans remembers Papyrus looking, way back when, though the two seem to share the same structure, otherwise.

                The two skull-faces turn toward their parents, and the lights in their eyes brighten just like their souls had, their jaws swinging open into happy smiles as they coo and reach their tiny paws and phalanges.

                Sans is grinning so hard he’s certain he’s cracked something. Rivers of tears are pouring from his eye-sockets. He laughs, sharp, broken, disbelieving.

                “Twins,” he mumbles, before his eyes roll up and he falls backwards with a small grunt.

Chapter Text

-||-

                Toriel should be worried, she knows, with Sans snoring in his unconscious state beside her on the bed. She should be worried, but she can’t quite bring herself to be, not with two small, precious little monsters crawling toward the both of them on the bed.

                Carefully, she reaches with her paws to guide them away from their sleeping father – god knows he needs the rest – and huddles the both of them up into her arms. The bony one settles quietly in the crook of her elbow, eye-sockets sliding closed and giving a wide, toothy yawn before promptly going to sleep. The other one, however, fluffy and soft, with tiny little paws, climbs up onto Toriel’s chest, slapping those tiny paws on either side of her muzzle, resting a bony chin on her snout, and stares deep into her eyes with wide, curious eye-lights.

                “You’re a sweet little thing, aren’t you?” she muses, and the little one’s mouth curls into a bright smile at the sound of her voice, eye-sockets scrunching. That grin looks so much like Sans’s, it’s almost hilarious. Grinning back at her little one, she puffs a little air through her nose, watching the baby’s ears flop and the ruff of fur about his neck flutter. He giggles brightly, cooing and patting her muzzle, and she does it again, and again, each time making his squeals a bit louder.

                “Someone oil those hinges,” Sans groans from his spot on the bed, stirring slowly and rubbing his eye-sockets.

                “Good morning, Mr. Bones,” Toriel giggles, and the brightness in her voice seems to bring him to his senses straight away as he scrambles to sit up. “I hope you have not forgotten what’s going on about now.”

                The skeleton seems – for lack of better words – awed by the scene unfolding before him. “Nope,” he mumbles, mostly to himself, letting a smile crawl over his face, “never gettin’ off this wild ride.”

                Gently, she picks up the little one attached to her face, and passes him to Sans, who accepts the transfer with trembling hands and wide, awestruck eye-sockets.

                “Hey, little buddy,” he says, his voice soft, pitched a touch higher than normal, “who’s… who’s daddy’s little buckaroo?”

                “Ababah,” the fuzzy baby replies, with an expression that deems it a statement of fact.

                A strangled, excited sound ekes out of the skeleton, and he looks over at Toriel in absolute delight. “Tori, did you hear that? He was – he’s doing banter!”

                She laughs, but before she can respond, there’s a quiet knock at the door. “Come in,” she calls – she’d recognize that knock anywhere.

                The door squeaks open, and Frisk pokes their head inside. Their hair is mussed and they look almost half-asleep still. ‘Heard a sound,’ they sign sluggishly, stopping to rub their eyes. ‘You guys okay?’

                “More than okay, buddo,” Sans is grinning all the more, carefully holding the baby monster in his lap as he squirms and babbles. “C’mon up here, we wanna show you-“

                He’s cut off by Frisk’s small, sharp gasp, as their eyes pop open and they press the sleeves of their pajamas against their face. They scramble up onto the bed and situate themself close to the monsters, eyes bright and beaming as they look from one to the other.

                ‘Two!?’ They sign. ‘I got two new siblings?!’

                Nodding, Sans laughs, “Yep. We were just as excited as you were when we saw ‘em.”

                Toriel gives a giggle. “Nobody was more surprised than Sans was, though. He fainted.”

                When the human child rounds a dubious gaze in his direction, Sans can only shrug with one arm, the other still holding his kid, and say, “hey, look, not all of us have the heart for these kinds of surprises.” He raps his knuckles on his bare ribcage for effect, and Frisk giggles.

                The kid in his lap reaches up a paw and grabs onto Sans’s hand, pulling it closer to their skull-face for proper inspection. Sans’s expression softens, as he watches the little skull-monster tug at his phalanges and even gnaw a bit on his thumb. He chuckles. “Looks like I’m already having a dad time.”

                “Oh my god,” Toriel snorts, while Frisk dissolves into giggles. The baby in Sans’s arms throws his tiny paws in the air and squeals in delight, releasing his father’s hand.

                Content, they all sit in relative silence. This silence is broken very promptly and unexpectedly by a sudden wail that erupts from the child in Sans’s lap. The skeleton begins to panic, stammering and glancing from the kid to Toriel and back again with a scared and clueless look on his face.

                “Relax, Sans,” she laughs, “he’s just hungry. They are probably both hungry, come to think of it. Poor things certainly took their time coming out.”

                Their bedroom door slams open, and the sudden shock seems to even make the yelling baby stop for a moment. Papyrus looms in the doorway, eyes boggling, looking quite distraught.

                “WHO IS STEPPING ON CATS IN HERE, AND WHY!? ALSO, WHEN DID WE GET A CAT?” He blinks, spies the fussy monster child that’s hiccupping in Toriel’s paws, and squints. “THAT IS A VERY WEIRD-LOOKING CAT, YOUR MAJESTY.”

                His brother can’t take it. No sleep, the scare of a lifetime, and now this. He literally rolls off the bed in a fit of hysterical laughter.

-||-

                By the time Sans and Toriel manage to bring the babies into the kitchen, Frisk is sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, and Papyrus is busy at the microwave, reheating some spaghetti.

                “I’M VERY SORRY I CALLED YOUR NEW BABY A WEIRD-LOOKING CAT,” the tall skeleton apologizes for about the fifth time.

                “It’s all right, dear, you did not know,” Toriel laughs over the very insistent yelling of the squirming baby in her arms. With a bit of bustling, she manages to retrieve one of the various jars of baby monster food from the pantry, and spoons a serving into two separate dessert bowls. She hands one to Sans, with a spoon in it. “I’ve got mister fussypants, here,” she grins, “you can handle feeding little miss boneybottom, can you not?”

                “Ah, yep, I got it, T,” he gives a nervous laugh, looking from the baby bones tucked against his jacket to the bowl in his hand and back again. “Yup. Bone-afide baby-feedin’ dad guy, that’s me.”

                Even Papyrus lets out a small “nyeh-heh” at that one; seeing his brother start carefully spoon-feeding the child warms his heart too much to remember to be agitated by bad jokes.

                Frisk watches for a while in silence, looking between their siblings with a growing look of curiosity in their gaze. By the time they manage to knock on the table to get their mom’s attention, it’s been so quiet that everyone looks at them all at once, and they nearly forget the question on their mind.

                After a moment of thought, they ask, ‘How can you tell that they’re a boy and a girl?’

                “That’s a good question, my child,” the boss monster hums, no longer having to speak so loudly since the small, screaming fluffball in her arms has been placated with magic, yam-flavored sludge. “Monster genders are similar to human genders, in that they’re a part of the identity a monster forms for themself in their soul. So – similar to how Sans projects his voice with his soul when he talks –“

                “Guilty,” the skeleton chuckles, his mouth as unmoving as ever.

                “- and to how our bodies are the physical representation of our soul and who we are,” Toriel shrugs a bit, “our souls project what gender we identify with as a part of it. Some monsters, like most froggits and whimsuns, and your friend Kid, have no gender, and when we read their souls, it’s as easy to see this as it is for me to look at Sans and know he’s a male,” she nods at him, “Or to look at Papyrus, and know that he’s Papyrus.”

                “I COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF, MAJE- er, TORIEL.” Papyrus is beaming, stirring the spaghetti in his Tupperware bowl as he makes his way to the table.

                Frisk’s brows are furrowed. ‘So, you can just kind of feel what they are?’

                “Yup,” Sans grins over at them, before turning his attention to how the little girl he’s holding is trying to grab the spoon out of his hand. “How’d ya think we could tell you weren’t any gender, without you tellin’ us?”

                The human brightens at this, and takes a few more bites of cereal, before whipping back around and signing excitedly, ‘Do they have names, yet?’

                Toriel and Sans exchange a brief look. “Ah, not yet,” the former hums, giving Frisk another gentle smile. “I think we may fix that once they are done eating, however.”

                It’s Frisk and Papyrus’s turn to share a look, and it’s apparent that they’re both just barely managing to keep from bouncing in their seats. Somehow, they both come to the conclusion that if they eat faster, the babies will be encouraged to eat faster as well. All they get for their efforts are a few droll minutes of sitting there and watching the babies accept their meal with varying degrees of intensity. Right as Frisk is about to give up and ask Papyrus if he wants to discuss battle strategies with his attractive robot figurines, a spoon clatters to the floor.

                “Well! I think he’s done,” Toriel muses, staring at the spoon by her foot incredulously. Her son is looking incredibly pleased with himself.

                “Same over here,” Sans is grinning brightly. “Look, look, guys, she’s got the spoon in her mouth.” His daughter’s eye-lights flick around the room absently as she holds the spoon in her tiny, bony hands, gently gnawing on it, her teeth clinking lightly against the metal.

                Frisk slaps their hands against their cheeks, beaming in excitement. Papyrus jumps out of his chair, speaking the words on Frisk’s mind: “ARE YOU GOING TO NAME THEM NOW!?”

                Eyes shining like metal in the sun, Toriel nods. “Yes, I think it’s time.”

                “Holy shit!”

                “Sans!” Her gaze snaps to the short skeleton, a matronly glare narrowing her still-gleaming eyes. “Swear jar.”

                He drops a whole dollar in the jar on the counter on the way out of the kitchen.

-||-

                It’s a little bizarre, with them all sitting in the living room and the television off. Sans and Toriel share the couch, with Frisk between them (all the better to see their new siblings), and Papyrus is barely seated on the edge of the armchair, closest to Sans, craning his neck to get a better look at the baby bones. None of them seem to notice the excited buzzing from the foot of the stairs, or the fluttering shadows that hang heavy there. Just as well – they’re all distracted by the little ones, who are suddenly more interested in their surroundings, without the distraction of food.

                ‘Do you have any ideas?’ Frisk asks, glancing from their mother to their new little brother, who’s decided to climb out of Toriel’s grip and start crawling toward their older sibling.

                “Well,” the boss monster’s cheeks redden, and she gives a small, nervous laugh. “Ah, no, dear. Not really.”

                “Tibia’nest,” Sans shrugs, and Papyrus just manages to suppress a loud groan in order to allow his brother to finish, “we’ve had a lot on our minds lately. I guess now’s as good a time as any to start.”

                Frisk’s lap is suddenly invaded by a fluffy skull-child, who sits directly on their thighs and lifts his paws to pat their cheeks. The exact moment he discovers how squishy human cheeks are is clearly visible in his eyes – the pinpricks of light grow wide and bright, and his jaw swings open in a soft gasp as he presses his paws further into Frisk’s cheeks, somehow smooshing their lips into a fishlike pucker.

                ‘I think he likes me,’ Frisk signs, and their little brother is actively fighting the muscles in their face to remain smooshed in spite of their smile.

                After the soft laughter that circles the room dies away, Sans breaks the quiet. “I donno about you, T, but that kid looks like a ‘Boli’ to me.”

                Toriel blinks. “Boli…?”

                “He’s a whole Boli good times.” He waits, grinning. Frisk coughs a bit. He deflates a bit. “All right, sue me, they aren’t all winners.”

                “No, actually,” Toriel smiles, and gently picks up their son. “I like it. Boli. It sounds like him – fun, energetic, short and to the point.”

                ‘B-o-l-i.’ Frisk spells it out slowly, smiling to themself now that the boy’s paws are no longer mashing their cheeks. They watch him wrap his furry fingers around one of their mother’s protruding fangs and babble something. ‘I like it,’ they decide with a nod.

                “BOLI IT IS THEN!!” Papyrus flings his hands into the air, and then flinches when everyone’s eyes are on him. “Ah, I mean, um, IF THAT’S WHAT YOU TWO WANT.”

                “Yeff,” Toriel laughs without hesitation, her paws quite full as she tries to gently pry tinier paws off her fangs, “Boli iff a good name.”

                “Good.” Sans is beaming. “Great. Wonderful. Boli.”

                The child in question turns to look at his father, fluffy ears perking up questioningly. Sans grips his femur through his shorts to keep from melting on the spot.

                At that moment, there’s a small, soft sound that interrupts everything else: a yawn.

                Sans picks up his daughter – god, will that excited, tingly feeling at the thought ever go away – and cradles her to his chest, smiling down at her. She blinks her eye-sockets slowly, and smiles back, reaching up one of her tiny, bony hands to touch his nasal ridge.

                “God, she’s so cute,” he sighs.

                Toriel can only nod, tears swimming in her copper eyes. She blinks them away, taking a deep breath. “What about Gabriola, for her?”

                His eye-lights are heart-shaped as he looks over at her. “She’s our babby Gabi. Our little Gabber goo.” He turns back down to the little one, who’s grinning all the more. “Gabriola fabulosa.”

                Papyrus almost looks like he’s regretting the idea of living in the same house. Almost.

                “It’s perfect.” Sans lifts his daughter gently, and brushes his teeth over the top of her skull, gently. She coos warmly in reply. “Boli and Gabi. Gabi and Boli.”

                “Perfect.” Tears are flowing down Toriel’s cheeks at this point, but it’s unclear she even notices them. “They’re perfect.”

                Nobody in the room can disagree.

-||-

                “Boli, come on, come see Daddy.”

                It’s been about a month, and the twins have grown pretty fast. They’ve both reached about a foot in height, and the onesies their uncle Papyrus bought them fit beautifully. Boli – who seems to almost be getting fluffier by the day – is snugly squeezed into one of the skeleton-themed onesies, with a little purple cap on his head, the words “MY UNCLE IS REALLY COOL” scribbled on it in permanent marker. Thusly clad, he stands a few feet away from his father, staring at him in mild uncertainty as he holds out his arms for balance.

                “C’mon, buddy, I gotcha.” Sans is crouching on the kitchen floor, arms open and beckoning, while Frisk and Toriel (with a napping Gabriola in her arms) watch from the table. “You can do it.”

                Boli glances up at his mom and his siblings for a moment, then looks back at Sans. “Habah,” he mumbles, and he takes a shaky step forward, before falling down.

                Chuckling, Sans walks forward and picks him up, rewarding the effort with a pseudo-kiss on the skull before getting the boy up on his feet again. Resuming his position about four feet away, he grins over at his son. “C’mon, kiddo. Up an’ at em.”

                Boli takes one step, then another, and yelps a little as he nearly falls again. After pausing to get his balance, he looks down at the kitchen floor, then over at where Sans is grinning.

                “It’s been about half an hour, today,” Toriel muses, “maybe you should give him a break. Try again tomorrow.”

                “Hold on, T, let him finish this try.” Sans grins up at her, and she shrugs.

                “Fine, but then it’s Gabriola’s turn.” The fluffy-eared skeleton in her arms opens one sleepy eye-socket, mumbles, and closes it again.

                Boli hasn’t moved yet, and once his father’s attention is fully back on him, he lets out a soft huff, his eye-sockets narrowing ever so slightly. He takes another step. Another. And suddenly, he’s slapping his paws on Sans’s knees, giggling and beaming up at him.

                Though nobody says anything, the resounding “what?” through each of their minds is seemingly loud enough to wake Gabriola again; she lifts her head this time, looking around at each of them in confusion.

                “But, he still had another two feet to walk,” Toriel is downright befuddled.

                Sans, on the other hand, looks like he couldn’t be prouder. He looks from Toriel, to Frisk, then back to Boli and all over again, before picking the boy up and giving him a gentle toss in the air.

                “He found a shortcut,” he breathes, absolutely delighted.

                There’s a few moments of bustling and exchanging of babies – though Frisk ends up being the one to hold Boli in the end, he simply won’t sit still with his mother – and Sans is holding Gabriola by the hands, gently pulling her to her feet.

                Or, well, trying to. She seems incredibly reluctant to stand, today.

                It takes him about ten minutes to finally – somehow – convince her to remain standing long enough for him to take a few steps back and squat on the floor. Holding out his arms, he beckons gently.

                “Okay, G, you got this.”

                She glances between her feet and her father for a solid minute, wobbling in place. Her eye-sockets squeeze almost shut in a show of concentration, and she lifts her foot to take a step forward, only to clatter to the floor.

                Shockingly, it’s the first time since she and her brother were born that she’s cried. She screams and wails in frustration, and Sans has to cradle her for a minute until she stops hiccupping. As quickly as it starts, it stops, once she’s done. When he goes to stand her up again, she does it almost entirely without his help, and she looks much more steady on her feet.

                He squats and holds out his arms, and before he can even start talking, she’s fighting to shuffle forward. Even with all her concentration, she falls. Again, and again, several times. Another half an hour passes, and she hasn’t taken more than two steps without landing in a rattling heap on the floor. Even still, she hasn’t cried again, and only looks more and more frustrated with each attempt. She whines and grumbles, but doesn’t give up.

                “Okay, okay, G, this is the last one,” Sans nuzzles her forehead with his teeth before backing away and crouching down once more.

                It takes a long time for her to do anything besides stand there. Presently, she lifts up her hands, looking at the phalanges peeking out from her onesie sleeves.

                She gives the tiniest of starts, like an idea going off in her head. Looking back up at her father, the frustration seems to have melted away, replaced only by something akin to curiosity, and a hint of confidence. One of her eyes starts to glow brightly blue, and she lifts one hand toward him before pulling it back to herself.

There’s no time to react before Sans feels himself shooting forward, closing the distance between himself and his daughter. He’s afraid he might crash into her, but his journey ends with his face an inch away from hers, and her eye fizzles out.

                Thoroughly contented with herself, Gabriola flops onto her backside and rocks, giggling softly.

                “Oh, that’s nice.” Sans says, his grin wide, his voice deadpan, and sweat trickling down his skull. “That’s great. Cool. One of my kids finds shortcuts. The other one has blue magic. Great. Fine. This is, this is fine.”

                He sits down, and flops onto his back, staring up at the ceiling with his tight grin.

                ‘You okay?’ Frisk signs, a bit worried, while their little brother is clapping his paws giddily at the whole scene.

                Sans catches their signs from the corner of his eye, and he laughs. “Nah, I’m not okay, bucko. I’m Dad.”

                “Aaand that is enough walking lessons for today,” Toriel decides, scooping up her daughter and stepping over her lover. “Time for toys, I think.”

                Still staring at the ceiling, Sans wonders how long he gets to wait until he’s fishing children off of bookshelves and dodging flying dolls.

-||-

                It’s close to bedtime, but Frisk has volunteered to get their siblings ready for bed so their parents can have a shower together. Frisk doesn’t mind – they love spending as much time with the kids as they can.

                Gabriola is curled up on the couch next to them, her head pillowed on Frisk’s thigh, and Boli is wrapped up in the purple blanket – his favorite – in Frisk’s arms. He’s trying to keep his eyes open and look around at everything he can, but the sockets droop occasionally, and the lights inside flicker.

                Hugging their brother close, Frisk leans back and gazes off at nothing. Siblings. Two. They have two siblings. So small. So precious. Beautiful, too beautiful and pure for this world.

                They kiss their brother on the top of his skull, and lean down to do the same for their sister. Their eyes slide half-closed, and they feel a thought flutter through their mind. A single, unbidden, but completely honest thought.

                After leaving the Underground two years ago, having been through so much, seen so many things, died so many times, Frisk promised they would never fight anyone ever again. Now, however, seeing these two little souls, bundled in blankets and snuggled up to them, resonating with love and brightness… They’re filled with determination.

                And they will fight anyone who threatens their little siblings.

                Damn straight we will.

                Frisk smiles a bit; it’s good to see that they’re on the same page.

Chapter Text

-||-

                It should go without saying, but life has definitely changed since the twins’ arrival into the family. Things are definitely a lot busier. Saturday mornings are still filled with cartoons and breakfast spaghetti, but now there’s the added elements of toys and blankets strewn about the living room floor, turning the carpet into a labyrinth of potential hazards. And to think, just half a year prior, Sans and Toriel had been anxiously approaching the subject of even bringing the little ones into the world – but now, here they are, rolling around on the carpet and… well, generally causing chaos.

                Especially on this Saturday in particular, despite Frisk’s best efforts to distract them. The human is sitting cross-legged on the carpet with their siblings, showing them how to build towers. Or, at least, that’s how it had started. Now, Gabriola’s got about five blocks floating five feet off the ground and twirling them around with her magic, while Boli is busy constructing small, modernist approximations of the majestic block tower Frisk has constructed, and keeps winking away to hide his newest creation somewhere.

                There’s a shout from the kitchen, followed by “HOW IN THE SPA-HECKIE DID THIS GET IN MY SPAGHETTI!?”

                This is immediately followed by an undignified snort, and a bout of cackling laughter. From the clattering of bones that can be heard clear from the living room, it’s pretty certain that Sans has collapsed off his chair and onto the tile floor.

                Frisk is grinning like a fiend. Today is extra-special for them, for several reasons, but the biggest underlying reason as to why today is so special is that today – just as it happens – is Frisk’s tenth birthday.

                When they’d first told the monsters about birthdays, there had been a bit of awkwardness on the subject – after being trapped underground for so long, having reminders of the fact they’ve just spent another year living in a glorified prison wasn’t so appealing to them. With the looming reminder of their imprisonment now gone, Frisk’s monster family seems all too happy to find reasons to celebrate every passing year – especially since it’s another way to thank their little savior.

                Whatever thoughts Frisk is having as they watch the twins start collaborating on a new block tower are dashed after a few minutes, when the front door flies open with a magnificent bang to reveal the muscular leg of one of their two favorite aunts.

                Undyne hauls in an armful of presents and covered dishes, grinning dangerously. “NGAAAAHH!!! WHERE’S THE BIRTHDAY NERD?!”

                Gabriola’s ears fluff out in alarm, and her brother is already on his feet and throwing his hand-paws into the air, squealing in delight. Frisk giggles, ruffling Boli’s head as they skip past, barreling themself into Undyne’s legs for a hug.

                The fish monster laughs, beaming down at the kid. “I missed ya too, squirt!” She calls over her shoulder as best she can with her arms full of stuff, “yo, Alph! You got the rest!”

                “I-I’m good, out here!” Her girlfriend shouts back from beside the car.

                “NONSENSE!” Papyrus has rushed past Undyne and out the door in less time than it takes to breathe. “ALPHYS, LET ME HELP YOU WITH THAT!”

                While the skeleton and the lizard monster fumble with the rest of the goods in the car, Toriel emerges from the kitchen to take the plates of food from Undyne’s arms. “You did not have to bring so much, dear,” the boss monster is smiling nonetheless.

                “And let everybody miss out on my fantastic cooking?” Undyne cackles, “IN YOUR DREAMS, MAYBE!” She shifts the gifts so she’s holding them with one arm, and stoops a bit to ruffle Frisk’s hair with her newly-freed hand. “Hey, Toriel, where do you want this junk?”

                “In here on the table, if you would,” Toriel calls from the kitchen nodding toward the dining table. Undyne carefully extracts her leg from Frisk’s grip and heads over to deposit the gifts. The child smiles after her, and then turns to go outside and help the others get the rest of the stuff from the car – nearly running headlong into Papyrus’s femur in their enthusiasm.

                “HUMAN! YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL,” the skeleton cries, just barely managing to sidestep the child’s advance. “WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”

                ‘Gonna help!’ Frisk signs, bright-eyed. ‘I’m a big kid, now!’

                “N-now, Frisk, it’s your party!” Alphys shuffles past them, shooting them a smile. “It’s your day to have fun, a-and you don’t have to help us.”

                Frisk shrugs. ‘What if I want to?’

                “WELL! I DON’T THINK WE CAN ARGUE WITH THAT!” Papyrus sets down an armful of bags and boxes in the kitchen, and pats Frisk head as he heads back out to the car. “WE JUST HAVE A FEW MORE THINGS TO GET, BUT WE COULD USE YOUR HELP, FRISK!” Pausing, he narrows his eye-sockets and waggles a bony finger in their direction. “BUT! NO PEEKING!”

                Frisk, beaming all the brighter, draws a cross over their heart, and dashes out to Undyne’s car to help unload the last few things.

                Putting up the decorations turns out to be half the party in and of itself, before the party even begins. Frisk is quick to direct everyone where streamers, banners, and ribbons are to be hung from the walls and ceiling, and while the taller monsters assist Frisk in fulfilling their artistic vision, Alphys and Sans are put on baby duty.

                “G-gosh, Sans, I can’t believe how little they are…!” Alphys holds Boli up by his armpits, and he giggles as his feet dangle a couple inches from her lap.

                “You should’ve seen ‘em when they first arrived,” Sans is beaming, watching Alphys with his son and idly running the tips of his phalanges through the plush fur on Gabriola’s ears as she snoozes in his arms. “So small. So bright. Like little stars.”

                Alphys glances at him, cheeks flushed in her giddy grin, but before she can say anything, a soft paw gently pats the end of her snout to get her attention. “Y-yes, Boli?” She looks at the little skull-monster, unable to help how her smile widens as her eyes meet the little lights in his sockets.

                Boli’s teeth click together a few times as he opens and closes his jaws, almost like he’s forgotten what he’s about to say. He frowns slightly, patting the end of Alphys’s snout and squeezing experimentally. He almost seems disappointed that her nose isn’t as squishy as his mother’s. Though his gaze has flicked to focus on his paws for a moment, it returns to Alphys’s eyes, and seem to brighten as his smile returns. All but forgetting her nose, he reaches over her snout for her glasses.

                “A-aah…!” Alphys gently pulls him back, and sits him down on her lap. He frowns up at her – if he’d had lips, he’d most certainly be pouting. Gently, Alphys uses one hand to smooth back the ruffled fur around his neck – that’s just starting to crawl up onto his skull, somehow – as she says, “Look, I need these to see, buddy. O-otherwise, it’s like, it’s like this, for me!” She takes her hands, and gently covers Boli’s eye-sockets.

                He goes still, jaw hanging open, ears twitching. Brightening at a thought, Alphys’s smile grows mischievous, as she holds her clawed hands over his eyes. Suddenly, she pulls her hands away, holding them up with her claws splayed on either side of her face. “Peekaboo!”

                For a moment, Boli almost looks offended. His sockets blink slowly, and then his maw curls into an excited grin. “Booooo!” he cries, waving his paws over his head.

                This time, Alphys covers her own eyes with her claws. She peeks between them, and Boli giggles as he catches sight of her looking; she hides behind them once again.

                “Where’s Boli? I can’t see him!” She asks. Turning her head, eyes still covered, she goes on, “Sans, have you seen Boli?”

                “Not a wink,” Sans closes one eye-socket with a click, and Alphys snorts lightly. She turns back toward Boli when she feels tiny paws start tugging at her wrists. Letting the paws pull her hands away reveals that the little skull monster has pulled himself as close as he possibly can, staring up at her eyes with wide, bright eye-lights.

                Alphys gasps, beaming. “There he is!” This sends Boli into another fit of giggles, and she catches him as he loses his balance on her lap. The lizard monster holds him gently as his giggles subside, and he contents himself to rest for a bit.

                “He’s so precious,” she whispers, and glances over at Gabriola, fast asleep in her father’s lap. “Both of them are just… so precious.”

                The skeleton chuckles, but before he can answer, Undyne saunters over and leans over the back of the couch, planting a noisy smooch on the top of Alphys’s head.

                “Hey, babe,” she says, her voice far softer than normal, and her good eye dances between the two baby monsters before she directs a cheeky, sharp-toothed grin at her girlfriend, “so, you ever thought of having one of those?”

                Alphys sputters wordlessly, the scales on her face darkening to orange.

                “Or maybe not just one,” Undyne flicks her gaze toward Sans for a moment, and he snickers lightly. “Maybe four. Or five. We gotta outdo Sans and Toriel, that’s for damn sure.”

                “B-b-babe!” Alphys gasps, and even though she’s grinning, her scales are dangerously close to red, now. “Th-this isn’t the t-time to-“

                “Undyne, please,” Sans drawls, winking. “Such a low number? I had better faith in you.”

                The fish monster’s eye flashes dangerously, and her grin widens all the more. Scrambling around the side of the couch to claim the seat next to her girlfriend, she wraps one arm around Alphys and crows, “he’s RIGHT, babe! Imagine! Like, fifteen-“

                “More,” Sans shakes his head.

                “Okay, like, fifty –“

                “Child’s play,” Sans yawns.

                “FIFTEEN THOUSAND BABIES, ALPH!!” Undyne hisses, somehow managing to not quite scream in front of the little ones. “We could have an army!!”

                That does it – Alphys is shaking in her seat, chewing on her claws, having turned bright crimson. “B-b-b-but why would w-we need an – an army?!”

                Undyne plants another noisy smooch on her girlfriend’s cheek, rendering Alphys immobile. “So everybody knows we have the best kids around, that’s why.” Cackling, she looks down at Boli, who’s staring back at her from Alphys’s lap, grinning at all the commotion. Her fierce features settle into something warm as she glances between him and his sister. “… Damn, they really are precious.”

                “Thanks,” Sans chuckles. “Frisk sure loves the heck out of ‘em.”

                Laughing softly, Undyne looks over at where the young human is sitting on Papyrus’s shoulders so they can straighten a banner to their liking.

                “I don’t doubt that for a minute.” Undyne’s grin brightens as Alphys relaxes finally, leaning into the crook of the taller monster’s shoulder. Boli decides that’s a bit too much cuddling for his taste, and he crawls over to join his sister on Sans’s lap.

                As the twins curl up together for a nap, the three older monsters watch as the house slowly comes together for Frisk’s party.

-||-

                Frisk is crouched just inside the front door, holding a party whistle in one hand and a wide, mischievous grin on their face.

                “ISN’T IT THE GUESTS’ JOBS TO SURPRISE THE PARTY PERSON?” Papyrus asks nobody in particular, as they all watch Frisk in amusement.

                “See, bro, Frisk is the ultimate party person,” Sans doesn’t take his eyes off the human for a moment. “Look at them, they’re in the zone.”

                “The party zone,” Toriel giggles, elbowing the shorter skeleton in the ribs while holding a napping child in each arm, and he looks up at her in wordless adoration.

                Alphys shoots them both a sidelong look as the Undyne and Papyrus share a quiet groan. “Th-that wasn’t even good,” she starts.

                “You want a good time, talk to Frisk,” Sans winks back at her, “they’re the ultimate party person, after all.”

                He and Toriel snicker as Frisk sends the others a thumbs-up, and the rest of the room reels for a minute, trying to figure out exactly how the shorter skeleton pulled that off. Before much of a conclusion can be made, however, the door flings open.

                “Good afternoon, darlings, I-“

                Mettaton’s no-doubt dramatic arrival is cut off prematurely by a small human child blowing fiercely into their noisemaker and throwing a fistful of confetti at the robot’s gleaming chassis. The paper bits are clumped together, and don’t quite flutter like they’re supposed to, but the effect isn’t lost on Mettaton by any means; it doesn’t hurt that he’s in his EX form today, either.

                “Oh my!” He gasps, clapping his hands to either side of his face in a perfect display of surprise. “What a fabulous surprise! Is it… my birthday?”

                Giggling, Frisk shakes their head and jerks their thumb emphatically into their chest.

                “Oh! That’s right, it’s your birthday!” Confetti erupts from the robot’s palms, showering over the young human. “Happy Birthday, gorgeous!”

                Frisk firmly affixes themself to one of his gleaming, polished legs in a fierce bear-hug. The robot chuckles warmly, and straightens so he can see into the living room properly. His eyes visibly widen as he spies the sleeping twins still curled up in Sans’s lap. “Hello, darlings~!” He says this to the entire room, but his eyes are focused on the babies.

                There’s a general chorus of a response, and when Mettaton gathers his composure enough to procure an immaculately-wrapped present from a compartment in his chest, Toriel stands to direct him into the kitchen. When the two are out of earshot from the others, Mettaton stretches one of his arms to dangle over her shoulders, and pulls her close.

                “Were those the twins?” He whispers, his electric voice wavering in excitement.

                “Yes,” Toriel chuckles, amused and a bit flustered by his actions. “Boli and Gabriola. Boli’s the round one, Gabi’s the sleepy one.”

                The magenta apertures in Mettaton’s eyes widen to the point of disappearing into his porcelain sclera. “Oh my god…!

                Grinning – be it from pride or happiness, or a bit of both – Toriel pulls his arm from around her shoulder before his grip tightens too much. Glancing down, she realizes Frisk is still riding Mettaton’s leg like a small, shaggy-headed sloth. The birthday child smiles up at her, and she can’t help giggling yet again.

                “Come on,” Toriel beams, “we have a party to start, do we not?”

-||-

                How does one even begin to describe the cacophony that is a ten-year-old’s birthday party, especially when that party is orchestrated and officiated by their monster friends and family?

                Though the festivities generally starts with a few games when Mettaton arrives, the party doesn’t actually get underway until Frisk’s friends from school arrive. Young, armless Kid nearly barrels them over in their enthusiasm, heralding the first of many children to arrive, and before too long, the kitchen and living room are nearly overrun with children and parents alike.

                Everyone generally takes turns sitting on the couch and the loveseat – all except for Sans, who is stuck on the couch with his phalanges full, holding two little monsters who are getting more and more excitable as time goes on. It isn’t until it’s time for presents that anything terribly exciting happens.

                Frisk sits on the floor in the middle of the living room – Undyne has hefted the coffee table into the upstairs hallway to make room – and tears into each present with gusto. They stack every new gift carefully beside themself, but not before flashing a brilliant smile at whomever the newest gifts are from.

                During all this – unnoticed by all but one who may be watching closely – the twins are observing Frisk’s process with distinct interest. Their ears perk up every time Frisk unwraps something new, and two sets of eye-lights dart between Frisk and whoever receives the newest bright, grateful smile.

                As the pile of presents dwindles to nothing, and Frisk sets their most recent gift – a baggy, striped tan-and-orange poncho – to one side and gives their armless best friend a massive hug, Sans lets out a startled noise.

                “Where’dego?” he says quickly, eye-lights darting all over, and it doesn’t take much to notice that he’s suddenly missing a son.

                “Seriously, Sans?” Undyne rolls her one eye dubiously. “How do you just lose a kid like that?”

                There isn’t time for him to answer, as Frisk moves aside a pile of torn wrapping paper, and there’s their brother, beaming up at them, resting his little paws on top of one of the block towers he’d made with them, earlier. Once he’s certain he has their attention, he hums happily, and pushes the tower toward them, careful to keep it from falling down.

                A moment of still silence falls over the room as Frisk looks from the little stack of blocks to their brother and back again. They touch it lightly, and their lip starts to tremble. Gently, they push the blocks to their pile of gifts, and reach forward to gently pick up Boli, pulling him close in a hug.

                Though he’s grinning brightly, he tugs on the collar of their sweater until they pull back enough to look at him. He points over their shoulder, and very clearly states, “Gababh.”

                Frisk turns enough so they can see where he’s pointing, and Gabriola is grinning at them as well, ears perked up and eye-lights bright. When they give her a bright smile in turn, she giggles quietly, bringing up her phalanges to cover her maw.

                It’s a very, very good birthday, and Frisk couldn’t be happier if they tried.

-||-

                The guests file out around eight in the evening, and Sans and Toriel take stock of who all came, out of those invited. The Whimsuns stayed home, it seems, but they didn’t expect much else – their present may arrive in the mail soon. All in all, it seems everyone else arrived… Everyone, that is, except one.

                “I should have figured Asgore would not show up,” the boss monster grumbles as she gathers paper plates and plastic cups into a garbage bag. “He hasn’t called either of us back in months, not since we invited him to the baby shower.”

                Sans sighs, having just descended the stairs in time to hear the tail end of his partner’s mumbling. “Look, babe, I know you’re upset –“

                “Do not even think to start this with that placating nonsense,” Toriel snorts, and Sans flinches at the intense glare she gives him, and the sight of smoke puffing from her nostrils. “You, of all people, should not be defending him.”

                Sans grits his teeth a moment, fighting to choose his words carefully. “I’m not defending him, T, I’m just saying there has to be a reasonable explanation for why he’s virtually disappeared.”

                The boss monster clenches the trash bag she’s holding so hard her claws tear through it, and just as she’s about to give voice to the fire in her gaze, she catches sight of something behind Sans, and flinches. “Oh, my child, are you unwell?”

                Sans turns to look at Frisk, who’s standing about halfway down the staircase, holding onto the railing with one hand. They shake their head at Toriel’s question, then lift both their hands to sign. ‘Can I have some water?’

                “’Course, kiddo,” Sans motions for them to come down the stairs, and ushers them into the kitchen. He catches Toriel’s eye as he turns to enter the room, and her expression is glassy, set like stone, but looking fit to break at any moment. She shakes her head and returns to cleaning; he sighs, and follows Frisk into the kitchen.

                They have to stand on their tip-toes to reach the sink properly, but they insist on getting the water themself. Once they have it in hand, they take a seat at the table across from Sans, sipping at their drink and staring at a nondescript point on the table.

                He recognizes the conflict written all over their face – he’s felt it too many times not to. Whenever they find the words to say, they’ll say it, whatever it is. They always do.

                Sooner than he expects, Frisk pulls their hands away from their cup and look him in the eye, gaining his attention. ‘How come Asgore doesn’t come around anymore?’

                Immediately, he realizes he isn’t as ready for that question as he had initially thought. “Well, kid, there’s a lot of… adult stuff, between him and Tori, still,” Frisk rolls their eyes at the terminology, but doesn’t otherwise interrupt, “and if I’m, uh, honest about it, I think he’s having trouble with the idea that your mom and I have kids of our own.” He smiles a bit wider, and winks. “Besides you, of course.”

                Frisk mirrors his smile for a moment, and nods to themself; their gaze lowers to focus on their glass of water, and they seem to study it with furious intent. After a few moments, they stand from their chair, signing a tired ‘thanks, Dad’ to Sans before taking their water upstairs with them.

                He sits quietly for a moment, staring after them, slack-jawed. A buzzing crackle catches his attention, and he turns to face the source.

                A wide smile meets his gaze, almost uncomfortably close to his face. ‘Hello, ‘Dad,’ I’m Grandpa.’

                “Pretty sure you’ve used that one already, pops.” Sans is laughing anyway.

-||-

                The difference between the twins is almost alarming. When Gabriola isn’t sleeping, she’s either eating or watching, and both of those are usually in silence. Boli, on the other hand, seems like he never stops doing things; if he isn’t playing, he’s babbling, unless he happens to be doing both – and once he figured out running, he’s been even harder to catch, as he often combines it with his shortcuts to escape naptime and bedtime. Those are arguably his least favorite times of the day.

                Sleep doesn’t come easily for the boy. Gabriola can snooze through just about anything – her uncle’s cooking, noisy movies on the television, Kid’s exciting personality when they come over to play with Frisk – but Boli, on the other hand, can’t seem to be still long enough to sleep.

                Thankfully for his parents, he hasn’t quite figured out how to find shortcuts past closed doors, so he’s limited to furiously blinking all over his and Gabriola’s shared room, trying to busy himself with all of their toys at once. It’s… a bit hard to watch, seeing as it’s obvious how tired he is. He wobbles in place, even when sitting, but when it seems like he’s about to fall asleep, he only whimpers and begins to cry.

                Eventually, one has to take pity on the poor boy.

                ‘Boli~’

                The boy blinks his eye-sockets and turns to face the voice. God, it’s such a relief to find that he can see‘Boli, come here.’

                Too tired to bother to stand, the child crawls toward the lumpy black puddle on the floor, staring down at the white face beaming up from its edge. He sits down, and pats one of his small paws on the face’s cheek. The chalky cheeks buzz with a warm, grey blush, and a quiet sound like a surprised whine pierces the quiet.

                The puddle on the floor coagulates into a taller, more defined shape, with the face looming over the child, who watches on with tired – but curious – eye-lights. Two bony, white hands appear on either side of the boy, running long and dexterous phalanges tenderly over his skull and through the impossibly-soft fur on his ears. For several moments, there simply aren’t words, just the softness of baby fur and the tender feeling of infinitesimal adoration.

                Eventually, the hands gently scoop up the baby into a cool embrace; Boli doesn’t complain, not even when the hands hold him close to the approximation of a chest. Instead of recoiling, he reaches out and shoves his paw right into the dripping, fluid substance. His eye-sockets blink with the softest click as he hums in contemplation, and one can’t help remembering a similar expression in similar eye-lights from so long ago.

                Deep breaths, calming breaths. This is the reality, for now, and it’s best to stay in it, especially when one is holding something so small, so new, so pure. Still holding the child, goop and hands glide over to settle beside the crib. Settling down in on oneself to form an impromptu chair isn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds, rest assured, and with the distraction of such a bright and alive little soul, it’s hardly worth mentioning.

                A low, only slightly static-filled humming fills the air, following no tune in particular. Boli blinks again, and poorly stifles a yawn behind one little paw as he reaches the other for the spindly phalanges hovering just over him. He grips one in his tiny fist, pulling and flexing it gently to watch how it moves. At one point, he gnaws it experimentally, and pulls an odd face.

                ‘Am I not tasty enough?’ There’s a whirring, clattering laugh that disrupts the humming, and the long phalanges tug themselves free of the child’s grip to run over the fluff growing on the back of his skull. ‘That’s fair enough, I suppose. I technically shouldn’t be here, you know.’

                Glancing into the crib reveals that the boy’s sister is still sleeping soundly – even the odd, discordant tones of semi-existent speech have done little to stir her slumber. Truthfully, one hopes dearly that this fact has more to do with the soundness of her sleep, and less with her abilities to perceive.

                Another quiet yawn directs attention back to Boli. The bony lids of his eye-sockets are drooping, but he looks more like he’s sad about it than anything else, with small beads of glowing, periwinkle tears beading at the corners of his eyes. Dexterous fingers are quick to wipe those away, and the soft humming from earlier resumes for a few minutes.

                Before too long, Boli is placed gently in his crib beside his sister, and his favorite purple blanket is pulled over his shoulders. He keeps staring up at the figure before him expectantly, smiling still.

                A wavering, tired smile pulls at features of the cracked, white face. ‘Would you like Grandpa to tell you a bedtime story, little one?’

                Boli’s ears perk up, and that’s a definite yes. God, the enthusiasm in his eyes is so reminiscent of the boys, way back when… This moment has been worth the excruciatingly long wait, relatively speaking. Smile wider, deep breath, just like back then, but with a new story, this time.

                ‘By all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly…’

-||-

                A few weeks roll by without much incident, until breakfast one Thursday morning. It starts out normal enough – a few contributions to the swear jar are made, Papyrus updates the score chart on the wall (Sans is still in a dizzying lead with a staggering $200 total donated; nobody knows where that money came from – even still, there’s another entry with a scribbled, illegible name, that is just behind him), and Frisk is standing on the stool at the stove, tongue between their teeth as they perfect the art of flipping pancakes. The twins are sitting in their respective high-chairs at one end of the table, eating mushy monster baby food with vastly different degrees of gusto.

                Papyrus comes to the table with a plate bearing a stack of fresh “FRISK-CAKES! LIKE PANCAKES, BUT INFINITUDALLY BETTER BECAUSE FRISK MADE THEM!” Some of them look a little burnt, but the various berries Frisk tossed into the batter make up for it. Sans and Toriel divvy up the stack between themselves, but as Papyrus is about to take the plate back to where Frisk is cooking, there’s a sound.

                “Pa…”

                All eyes are immediately on Boli. He’s looking from Papyrus to the pancake at the top of Sans’s stack, his tiny brow-bones furrowed in concentration. “Pa…. Pe….”

                “Holy s-shoes,” Sans hisses, just barely catching himself this time.

                Frisk switches off the stove and scrambles over to watch, climbing halfway into Toriel’s lap; she doesn’t bother to chastise them. Gabriola continues eating her mush like nothing is happening, but Boli’s little paws are clenched into fists, and he looks more determined than ever.

                “Papapapaapah,” he stammers, then shuts his jaw with a click, sucking in a breath through his nose-hole. It makes a soft whistling sound that has Sans squirming in place in his valiant attempt not to ‘aww.’

                “IS HE…” Orange sparkles are glowing in Papyrus’s eyes, “IS HE SAYING MY NAME…!?”

                “Pehhhh…” The baby bleats, flexing his jaw a few times soundlessly. He glances up over his father’s shoulder, at someone his mother and uncle can’t see. His grin stretches to massive proportions, and he looks over at the pancake on Sans’s plate.

                “Pepe!” he cries, pointing at it.

                His father looks down at his plate, and – lo and behold – the burns on this pancake bear an uncanny resemblance to a frog by the same name.

                “Oh my frickin’ god,” he breathes, stunned at the dual realization that his son just said his first word, and that that first word is a god-forsaken meme.

                A spindly hand grips his shoulder, and the form just behind him is vibrating violently with suppressed proud and triumphant laughter. Now he knows exactly who to blame for this.

                “… THAT IS NOT MY NAME, BOLI!” Papyrus looks slightly crestfallen, but it only lasts a moment, as he leans over to look at the boy on an equal level. “MY NAME IS PAPYRUS, UNCLE PAPYRUS! CAN YOU SAY ‘PAPYRUS?’”

                Toriel’s about to say something, when Boli slaps a tiny paw on the top of his uncle’s skull. “Unca Papa!”

                The stars are back in the tall skeleton’s eyes, and he nearly melts on the spot. “THAT’S ME!!!” he cries.

                Sans doesn’t know if he feels proud or dejected about this. The confliction dissolves when Boli turns to Toriel, reaching out his paws with little grabby motions, bleating, “Ma-ah!”

                No, he can’t feel bad about anything when he sees the proud tears welling in those copper eyes.

                Boli squints at Frisk next for a few moments. “Fssk. Frrrrrrrrrsk. Frasss.” He pauses in his attempts, rolling his eye-lights around the room, as if for an idea. “F-… Fist.” The lights of his eyes brighten, and he seems pleased by this.

                Frisk does, as well, as they double over in quiet giggles, nearly falling to the floor.

                Finally, Boli looks over at Sans, and they’re both absolutely beaming at this point. His focus settles on the figure just behind his father, and he giggles. “Ganpa,” he says, a bit quietly. Before anyone can quite react, he looks at Sans, and is suddenly in the shorter skeleton’s lap, slapping his little paws on his father’s cheekbones. “Dad-ah! Dad-ad-ad-addy!” He squeals, and Sans laughs as well, hugging his little boy close to his chest.

                Boli pulls back after a moment, looking at his sister and grinning so wide his mouth is hanging open. “Gabi!” he calls, and she looks up at him, ears perked and head slightly tilted. “Gab-Gabber!” She looks slightly less amused, and returns to her food.

                “I HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE AT WORK THAT I’M UNCLE PAPA, NOW!!!” Papyrus shrieks, and everyone laughs.

                Yes, yes indeed, a fine Thursday. One could even say that this has been the good shit, the real good shit, right here.

                All right, all right, swear jar. Now look who’s in the lead!

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    Gabriola tends to stare at the things she's interested in. Her brother generally prefers to put his paws all over the object of his attention, or climb on top of it, all the while asking "what's this?!" But Gabriola simply sits, eye-sockets wide and unblinking, and regards it for up to hours at a time. When Toriel and Frisk sit them down to teach them sign language, Boli fumbles with his paws to make the signs right, and Gabriola merely observes, occasionally making vague gestures along with her mother or her sibling.

    Currently, she's crawled up onto the couch with one of Toriel's old storybooks, a pre-war story about monster children playing in the sunshine. She's made several rounds through the pages, back and forth, taking in each of the pictures and every detail she can glean, touching the parts she likes best with small, delicate phalanges.

    An excited squeal sounds from the kitchen, jerking her attention momentarily from a picture of a slime child and their fox-like friend playing catch. "Gotta have BIG ba-doons," Boli's voice is unmistakable, and she smiles reflexively at the sound.

    "HOW MANY BIG BALLOONS ARE WE GOING TO HAVE, SMALL SOON-TO-BE-BIRTHDAY BOY?" Their uncle's voice is equally unmistakable, and upon hearing him talk, Gabriola slides off the couch and begins hobbling toward the kitchen doorway, hugging the storybook to her chest.

    There's a small thwack of tiny paws slapping a wooden table. "SO MANY!" Boli shrieks, and Gabriola peeks inside just in time to see Frisk and her uncle Papyrus both devolve into giggles.

    She steps fully into the kitchen, looking over her uncle and her siblings in quiet contemplation, when she catches Frisk's eye. They wave, and Papyrus nearly spins about in his seat.

    "WHO ARE YOU WAVING AT -- OH, HELLO, GABI!" The lights of her eyes shift from her older sibling to her uncle, and the smile on the tall skeleton's face is enough to widen her own. "WHAT HAVE YOU GOT THERE, LITTLE BONES?"

    Still smiling, she holds up the book so the cover is showing, then flips it around and starts showing them the pictures inside, all while hobbling toward Papyrus still.

    He gasps, clapping his hands to his face - the bones make a clattering sound on collision, as he isn't wearing his gloves today. "WOWIE! I DON'T THINK I'VE READ THAT STORY YET! OR, MORE LIKE, SANS HAS NOT READ IT TO ME YET." He narrows his eye-sockets in thought, but only for a moment before his bright grin is back. "SAY, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE FOR ME, YOUR GREAT AND WONDERFUL UNCLE PAPYRUS, TO READ THAT TO YOU?"

    Gabriola's eye-lights widen to almost completely fill her sockets, and little lavender-colored sparkles dance around her skull. She bounces on her toes, closing the book and holding it up to Papyrus excitedly.

    "EXCELLENT!" Papyrus stands, taking the book in one hand and then scooping Gabriola up under his other arm, before wheeling about - much to the child's delight - and asking the others at the table, "WHO ELSE IS UP FOR STORYTIME!?"

    "ME!!" Boli shouts without a second's hesitation, and in the blink of an eye he's somehow perched himself on Papyrus' left shoulder, fuzzy arms wrapped around his uncle's skull. "FIST," he jabs a finger-pad toward his human sibling, "you come too!"

    Frisk nods, giggling, and stands to follow behind Papyrus as he marches into the living room, deftly depositing the twins on either side of the couch and planting himself in the middle cushion. Frisk flops onto the floor on the other side of the coffee table, watching as Boli and Gabriola slide closer to either side of Papyrus, as he opens the storybook to the first page, clears his nonexistant throat, and begins.

    "ONCE UPON A TIME, WHEN EVERYTHING WAS GOOD, THERE LIVED A LITTLE SLIME NAMED MANDY..."

 

-||-

 

    Across town, a tall man made of fire calmly washes dishes behind his bar, listening contentedly to the steady rumble of chatter from his patrons. Grillby can be a difficult man to read, to those who don't know him, but once one gets accustomed to his presence, one can learn to tell the subtle differences in the brightness and colors of his flame, specifically around his face, behind his glasses, which hover just an inch over the surface of the rippling flame that forms his features.

    The door opens, and the fiery man lifts his gaze. There's a familiar face standing in the doorway, wearing a default smile and wide, dim eye-sockets that look vaguely overwhelmed. Grillby's flames flicker a slightly darker red, and he chuckles quietly as the short figure shuffles forward, looking somehow more disheveled than usual.

    "Been awhile," he hums softly, when his old friend pulls himself onto a stool.

    "Grillby," Sans mutters, running his phalanges over his skull and looking at the elemental, "... holy fuck ."

    As the bartender sets the dish he's drying on the rack and drapes the cloth he's using to dry it over the top of the dishes, the skeleton goes on. "I was preparing myself for one , Grillbz, I would never have expected two ."

    Grillby chuckles again, and Sans's eye-sockets narrow slightly as he points an accusatory finger at him. "... You knew, you sly bastard!"

    The barkeeper shrugs in turn. "Had a feeling. What's eating you?"

    "Not dogs, today, thankfully," Sans shakes his head and chuckles. He orders his usual, promising to get into the details once he's eating. Grillby disappears into the back room, and Sans takes a moment to turn about in his seat, leaning back against the bar and looking around the room. He waves hello to the regulars he recognizes, and even to some new faces he doesn't know yet.

    "Saaaaansy~!" The skeleton suddenly finds his vision obscured by tawny fur, and his arms pinned to his sides in a hug that would have crushed the breath from his ribs, if, you know. Lungs.

    "Hey, Bunny," he laughs, and his assailant - a tan-furred rabbit monster with warm cheeks and slightly droopy eyes - backs away a step to grin back.

    "Hey yourself, handsome, we haven't seen you around here in ages, " Bunny drawls, batting at him playfully with one paw. "So, how's it goin', bein' a father and all that?"

    "Oh, it's, it's great," Sans's smile is nearly as wobbly as his long-eared friend's attempt at standing, "the twins are gonna be a year old in a few days, so ah, been planning parties all week. Papyrus offered to let me have a break, said he'd watch the kids for the day."

    "Papyrus? Letting you slack off?" Bunny gasps.

    Sans shrugs, closing his eye-sockets. "He said I earned it, this time."

    A gentle thump on the bar behind the skeleton's back alerts him to his meal's arrival. Bunny glances up, giggles, and gives a wave. "Heya, Grillby, you doin' anything after work, hot stuff~?"

    "Your food is getting cold," the bartender observes, causing the rabbit monster to pout.

    "Fine, fine, I can take a hint," Bunny sighs, and turns away dramatically - somehow just managing not to fall over. "Toodles, boys~."

    Chuckling, Sans turns back around on his stool and looks up at his old friend. "Persistent, huh?"

    "Another constant I'm glad to have from before," Grillby's expression is as collected as ever. He leans against the counter, keeping eye contact with the skeleton. "You said there was something on your mind."

    "Yeah, there is." Sans is quiet for a moment, stirring the thick layer of ketchup adorning his food with a long, thin fry. "Boli started talking a couple months ago. Just figured it out one day, after babbling almost nonstop since the second his body formed, but Gabi, she's... She still hasn't said a word. She barely makes a sound."

    Grillby is quiet, and Sans goes on. "I'm not really worried, or, maybe I am, I just... Don't kids usually make more sound? I mean, I know she has a voice, because I have heard her coo and mumble on occasion, but..." he props up his skull in one hand, staring at his fries.

    After a moment of silence, the man made of fire shakes his head and chuckles quietly. "Some of us are simply more soft-spoken than others, my friend, and some of us take longer to catch on than others. Give it time. When she finds her words, you'll know."

    "You always know just what to say," Sans sighs, eye-lights flicking over to the bartender for a moment. "I feel like I was just in here yesterday, talking to you about how scared I was to be a dad."

    Grillby only smiles, his jagged heat-fissure of a mouth burning almost white against the orange flames of his face.

    "It's not bad, though." Sans eats a few fries, giving a small hum of contentment as the magic food warms his soul. "The kids get into trouble now and again, figuring out their magic and all that." Grillby tilts his head to one side, and Sans laughs outright. "Oh, oh man, I haven't told you about their magic, yet, have I?"

    "What about it?"

    "You know how Pappers and I can do the blue attack?" Grillby nods. "Well, Gabi can, too. Boli, ah... he finds shortcuts. All over the place. To the strangest places. I found him on top of the fridge last week."

    "Stars above," the bartender's flames flare a bit brighter for a moment.

    "You're tellin' me. Just wait till ya hear about the time with the cookie jar..."

 

-||-

 

    "... What d'you mean he hasn't called you back?"

    ...

    " Really!? THAT long!? Nnnngh, I'm gonna shove those horns of his up his ass!!"

    ...!

    "No, Toriel, this is serious. He told Frisk he'd come visit, and, what, now he's practically vanished off the face of the planet!? No! He doesn't get to do this to them, to you , OR to the kids! I'll show him a piece of my mind!! "

    Click.

 

-||-

 

    Bang, bang, bang!

    Three loud knocks on the door; the ex-king of monsters lifts his head for a moment from the book he's reading by the magical fire. His ears twitch, a frown set on his face, and he turns back to his book.

    Thud, thud, thud!!

    More insistent, this time. He knows who it is, but he doesn't have the energy to get up and answer. He keeps reading, ears pulled slightly back, his frown twisting into a scowl at the sound of agitated yelling from the other side of the door.

    Wham, wham -- CRACK!!

    He groans aloud at the distinctive sound of splintering wood, and of stomping footsteps storming down the entry hall. A tall, slender figure holding a glowing teal spear in one hand looms in the doorway to his sitting room, her one good eye glinting a cold, furious light at him.

    "A little birdie tells me you haven't been keeping your word," Undyne hisses between knife-sharp teeth, "and by a little birdie, I mean a really tall lady with white fur, who I just got off the phone with, about fifteen minutes ago."

    "Howdy, Undyne," Asgore sighs wearily, placing his thumb over his page and closing the book on it, "I see you have broken down my door."

    "Don't you avoid the subject!!" The warrior brandishes her spear in his direction, and he cocks a single eyebrow at it. "What is WRONG with you!? You've stopped letting Frisk come visit, you didn't even bother showing up to the shower, much less even sending a gift -- I have half a mind to drag you over there right now and make you apologize!"

    Undyne stands in the doorway, breathing heavily in her anger, arms trembling from the effort to not throw the spear in her hand at her old boss. Even still, Asgore sits in his oversized chair, thumb still holding his place in his book, regarding his old guard-captain with an unreadable expression in his golden eyes.

    "... You cannot understand what it's like," he says, softly.

    "Then make me understand," the fish monster snaps.

    For half a moment, it looks like Asgore might snap back at her. His mane bristles, his ears pull back, and his muzzle crinkles, baring his long, white fangs. As quickly as it comes, the tension leaves his form, and he looks sunken, tired, beaten.

    "You misunderstand my meaning," he sighs, "I say you cannot understand, because you have not been where I am. You have never lost a child." Wincing, he corrects himself. "Two children. You have never lost a wife. You have never had to sit aside, while the love of your life moves on with her own, and replaces the children you lost together with someone else's."

    Undyne balks for a moment as he speaks, but a snarl curls her lip as she barks back, "This isn't about you, Asgore!"

    "Is it not, though?" His gaze is steely as he stares down her snarl. "You are the one who broke into my house."

    Her eye widens for a moment, mouth sputtering. Suddenly, she stamps her foot into the floor, yells wordlessly, and hurls her spear into the wall. It pierces the wood cleanly, flickers, and then dissipates.

    "THIS IS PATHETIC!!" She screams, and then jabs an accusatory finger in his direction. "Do you REALLY think Toriel did all this to get back at you, because she hates you, or something!?"

    When Asgore doesn't reply, Undyne screams again, whirling away from him to launch another spear across the hall into his kitchen. There's a shattering sound, followed by the startled screaming of a cat from the neighboring alley. "ABSOLUTELY FUCKING PATHETIC!!!"

    "Did she send you here to convince me to come visit?" He asks in a flat tone. "If so, this is proving quite detrimental to that endeavor."

    "Shut the hell up," she snaps again, glaring at him over her shoulder. "Look. Obviously, you aren't willing to see how incredibly STUPID you're being, so I'm going to tell you something even more important."
    "I am all ears," he deadpans.

    She poignantly remains silent, until he rolls his eyes and leans forward in his seat. "Frisk misses you." She says simply, the malice gone from her tone. "And even though the twins aren't yours... I'm sure they'd hate to miss the opportunity to meet you, too." A small pause, and then, "They're turning a year old in a few days. There's a party at Sans's and Toriel's house. Come if you want."

    With a roll of her shoulders, Undyne retraces her steps out the front door. Asgore sits in contemplative silence, staring at the blank back cover of his book, paw-thumb still holding his place. Small spots of dampness speckle the white fur on his arm, and he gives a bitter laugh.

    "Damn it all," he growls, but he can't fight his tears.

 

-||-

 

    It's the big day, at home. Papyrus and Toriel bustle about, putting out balloons and streamers, while Frisk keeps Boli entertained and - more or less - out of the way with some of Papyrus's older, worn-down robot figures. Sans sits on the sofa, watching, with Gabriola snuggled up next to him, resting her head against his ribs, eye-sockets mostly closed, one hand loosely hanging onto his jacket pocket. Even when Mettaton arrives, with a giddy Alphys and an oddly sour-looking Undyne in his wake, Gabriola only lazily cracks open one eye-socket to investigate, while her brother screams their names in rapid succession.

    "Gabber!!" He cries suddenly, and just as suddenly has her full attention. "Is Aunty Ass!"

    "N-no, Boli, it's Alphys, " the lizard monster in question is beyond mortified, while her girlfriend is too busy cackling to help.

    He looks up at her, eye-lights bright, eye-sockets wide. He tries again. "Ass- fist ?"

    Undyne howls. Alphys sighs in defeat. It's the beginning of a great evening.

    The party, in itself, is a pretty casual affair, from the adults' perspectives. Most of it involves Boli and Frisk running around and playing with balloons and ribbons, while Gabriola occasionally catches one of the non-helium balloons they're swatting back and forth to each other with her blue magic, much to her brother's simultaneous consternation and exhilaration. All of this proves to be more than enough to keep the older monsters entertained.

    "Where on earth did he get all that energy?" Mettaton asks, balancing a glass of grape juice in one gloved hand, perched on the arm of the sofa next to Papyrus. "Certainly not from you , Sans."

    "Nah, must be Tori's influence. I'm sure she was a real spitfire as a kid." He winks to the room at large, and basks in the collective groan that washes over him.

    Toriel - sitting on his right - rolls her copper eyes. "Oh, my dear, I do not know about that. I fear I may have been more of a..." she smirks lightly, "... firecracker ."

    Sans snorts, and gives her a playful nudge on the shoulder, while Papyrus loudly groans, and Mettaton holds up one hand in a vain attempt to hide the fact that he's chuckling.

    "S-s-so, when is it time for presents, a-and cake?" Alphys chime in, only just rejoining the party from a brief trip to the restroom.

    "Soon, I think," Toriel says, still smiling.

    "Nope," Undyne interjects, checking her phone and scowling. "Not yet."

    "Not to be a twig-in-the-gills, guard-captain, but isn't that for the hosts to decide?" Sans quirks one bony brow in her direction.

    She glances up long enough to flash him a rather forced-looking smile. "Trust me. You'll want to wait."

    Ten minutes pass in companionable silence. By the time twenty have passed, the adults have caught on to the growing sense of agitation Undyne seems to be possessed by; Toriel has taken to tapping her finger-pads on the arm of the sofa, Papyrus is picking absently at his patella, and even Sans looks less relaxed than normal. Right when the latter of the two looks like he's about to ask what exactly they're all waiting for, there comes a polite knock at the front door.

    "Now, who could this be?" Mettaton asks, voicing the question on everyone's minds.

    Undyne smiles, but it's something between a grimace and genuine relief, somehow. "Frickin' finally ." She stands, and strolls over to the door, swinging it open and taking a step back, setting her hands on her hips.

    "Howdy," a deep voice announces itself, and the hair on the back of Toriel's neck visibly bristles, "I, ah, heard there was a thing, tonight. May I come in?"

    Toriel glances at Sans, and the fire in her eyes is enough to make him jump, at first. Then she closes her eyes, sucks in a sharp breath, and says simply, "Of course, Asgore, please make yourself comfortable."

    The ex-king of monsters shuffles inside, ducking down to avoid gouging the doorframe with his massive horns. Undyne wastes no time in promptly throwing him into a headlock and delivering a fierce noogie.

    "And here I was, thinking you bailed again!" She cackles.

    Asgore winces, and gives a weak chuckle. "No, not this time, I am afraid." He pulls himself from Undyne’s grasp easily, and crosses the floor to stand by the sofa. He opens his mouth to say something, but his words leave him as the sight of Frisk and the twins playing on the floor catches his eye.

    “Goodness,” he mutters, more breath than word. He looks like there’s more he might say, but Boli turns around to look at him once he speaks, and all the words are gone again.

    Boli, in contrast, narrows his eye-sockets at the newcomer, and makes an exaggerated “hmmm” sound through a clenched jaw. Gabi flicks her gaze unblinkingly between the large monster standing over them and her brother. At length, he speaks.

    “You look like Ma.” Asgore balks, but before he can respond, Boli brightens visibly, climbing to his feet. “But, but, so BIG!” There’s a hint of a flash, and Boli is suddenly clinging to one of Asgore’s horns like a very giggly sloth.

    “G-good heavens!” The boss monster stands alarmingly still, paws trembling. “Little one, do not hurt yourself!”

    He gets a raspberry blown at him with a ghostly periwinkle tongue for his efforts.

    “Boli, dear, that’s quite enough…” Toriel stands and gently attempts to coerce her son to release his grip on her ex-husband’s horn. It takes the better part of fifteen solid minutes to accomplish this task.

    With the child secured in his mother’s arms, Asgore ushers himself into the armchair - which Papyrus and Mettaton have been kind enough to vacate for him. He settles in, sighing, and when he cracks open one eye, he sees Toriel and Undyne having a hushed conversation by the kitchen doorway, Toriel looking relieved, Undyne looking smug. He lets out a little relieved sigh of his own; he hadn’t expected such a warm welcome. Before he can so much as think any further on the matter, his vision is obstructed by a small, beastly skull with pronounced canines and wide, hollow eye-sockets with burning lights in their cores.

    “Oh.” He blinks, and lets a smile cross his lips. “Well, which one might you be?”

    A small, bony hand places itself on his snout. The wide eye-sockets continue to not blink.

    “Well, that answers the question!” He chuckles. He brings up one paw to gently touch one of the child’s fluffy ears, and something in his eyes make him look like he almost wishes he’d done something else. “Wh-… May I help you with something, little one?”

    Gabriola tilts her head to one side, ears perking up slightly. The lights of her eyes pulse gently, and with each pulse comes the soft voice of a child. “No thanks. You want cake?”

    The room goes oddly quiet, but the moment is lost on Asgore. “Oh! Ha ha, of course I would like some cake, little one.”

    Everyone else watches on in stunned silence as Gabriola slides onto the floor and quietly leads Asgore to the kitchen. He has to poke his head back through the doorway and awkwardly ask why the cake hasn’t been cut yet - when he does, everyone scrambles to commence the birthday regalia.

    He continues to remain oblivious as to why everyone seems so excited. At least, he does until about halfway through the twins’ free-for-all with the presents, when Sans leans in close, and whispers casually into his ear.

    “She hasn’t spoken to any of us, yet. Not even to her siblings.”

    He pats Asgore on the shoulder, and leaves the boss monster starry-eyed and fighting back tears for the rest of the evening.

   

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    “Gabi, Gab, wake up!”

    A heavy grumble comes in response from the top bunk.

    “Come on, sis, I know you’re awake!”

    “Mrrrm.”

    “What was that?”

    “It’s three in the morning, Boli.”

    “So you are awake!”

    “Well, now I am. What do you want?” A very small pause. “... Did you just teleport up here again?”

    “Yup!”

    She groans. “All right, bro, what’s so important you had to wake up in the dead of the-”

    “I just thought of an amazing joke, Gabbers, you won’t want to not hear it!”

    “Boli…! Three! In! The morning!”

    “I don’t think I understand the point you’re trying to make here-”

    “The point is that some people like to sleep at three in the morning, bro.”

    “Fine, fine, sheesh. I’ll just go tell Grandpa.”

    She tugs the blankets up over her skull and yawns. “Tell him hi for me.”

    “Mm-hm,” comes his response, just as the bedroom door clicks shut behind him. A few moments later, she can hear muffled laughter from the kitchen, along with what sounds like the clattering of many, many keyboards.

    Gabriola smiles to herself, and goes back to sleep.

 

-||-

 

    A few years have gone by; it’s hard for one to keep track of exactly how many. Asgore has started letting Frisk visit again, and sometimes the twins tag along for a weekend with Mr. Dreemurr. The twins, themselves, are about to start school in the fall, and they’re greeting the prospect with vastly varying degrees of enthusiasm; Boli won’t stop talking about all the new friends he’s going to make, and Gabriola occasionally interjects with a comment about how much she’s looking forward to mandated naptimes. Frisk, on the other hand, is about to go to middle school, and their optimism toward that venture is quite nearly equal to Boli’s own.

    Sans and Toriel seem rather proud and surprised at how their children have grown. Well - one should correct oneself - Sans is the one who seems surprised, while they both are immensely proud. How could they not be? The only real issue that comes up in regards to the twins is exactly what kind of monsters they are.

    “Well, Mom’s a Boss monster,” Gabriola supplies one morning at breakfast, languidly stirring her cereal with her spoon, staring off toward the ceiling, “and Dad’s a Skeleton monster…”

    “Skeleboss!” Boli blurts out, eye-lights beaming. “We’re Skelebosses! Or…” He falters slightly, “or maybe… Skoss? Skosses?”

    “Howzabout ‘Bossaton’?” Sans adds, tapping his phalanges lightly against his steaming mug of coffee. “You know, ‘cuz you could boss-a-ton of guys around?”

    Gabriola pulls a face, lavender ecto-tongue dangling from between her teeth. “Dad, that was awful.”

    “Eh, can’t all be winners,” her father shrugs, chuckling like he clearly thought it was a winner anyway. Boli gives him a high-five, snickering away.

    “Nah,” Gabriola goes on, her eye-lights rolling downward to meet Sans’s gaze, and jaw unmoving except to quirk a little grin, “I think it’d be easier to just… toss -a-ton of guys around.” With a lazy flick of her left hand, she sends a single cheerio flying out of her bowl to smack her brother in the forehead, making a small plink sound.

    Boli quickly transfers his high-five to his sister. “ Nice, sis.”

    “Thanks, bro.”

    “Sure, sure,” drawls a metallic voice from the doorway to the sitting room, “but have you Mettaton of guys to toss around yet~?”

    A single, glossy metal leg juts through the doorway, announcing their uncle’s arrival to a herald of giggling from the table. A shrill screech announces the arrival of their other uncle.

    “I CANNOT BELIEVE ALL OF YOU! IT’S ALTOGETHER WAY TOO EARLY FOR THIS!”

    “Sorry, Uncle Papa,” Boli shrugs, and even with his almost bestial skull and his big furry paws, he looks the spitting image of his father as he winks, “you know we can’t really help but tell-a-ton of skele-puns --”

    The rest of his sentence is cut off by Papyrus’s indignant shrieking, while everyone else laughs. It’s the beginning of a bright day, a great day: the twins’ first day of first grade.

 

-||-

 

    “How come you don’t got any eyeballs?”

    Gabriola stares blankly at the other child sitting across the desk from her. He’s a human boy, with bright green eyes and messy brown hair that looks like someone attempted to give him a literal bowl-cut, salad bowl and everything. She tilts her head to one side, otherwise expressionless. “Eye… balls?”

    “Yeah, like, like I got,” the boy says, lifting his hands to his face, pulling back his eyelids with his fingers. “All gross n stuff!”

    Gabriola blinks once, her eye-sockets making a soft clicking sound as they close. Flicking her fluffy, droopy ears, she looks around the desk and surrounding floor, humming in thought.

    “What’cha lookin’ for?” the human asks, leaning over the desk to try and help her look.

    “Found ‘em,” Gabriola says quietly, and then slips out of her chair and under the desk for a moment. A second later, she re-emerges, grinning softly, covering her eyes with the long sleeves of her baggy sweater.

    “Found what?”

    She pulls her sleeves away, revealing a pair of vividly colorful bouncy balls she’s shoved into her formerly empty sockets. “My eye-balls,” she giggles.

    “Whoa, gross!” They both collapse into laughter, drawing a few looks from their peers.

    After a few moments, Gabriola settles to rest her chin on her folded arms, grinning coolly at her new acquaintance. The boy similarly settles down from the giggles wracking his form, and leans his chin on one hand. He still giggles a bit now and again; Gabriola has yet to remove the rubber balls from her eyesockets.

    “S-so,” he sputters, trying his best not to laugh, “what’s your name?”

    “What’s yours?” She doesn’t waste a second in her reply.

    “Mitchell,” he says, green eyes sparkling. “Now you gotta tell me yours.”

    “Gabriola,” she smiles. “But everybody calls me Gabi.”

    “Can… can I call you Gabi?”

    “Sure. You’re somebody, right?”

    “Yeah, I mean, I guess so.” He smiles, and in spite of a missing front tooth, it’s a rather bright smile. The skull-monster smiles back, just as brightly. It’s a wonderful moment.

    “Gabriola, what are those in your eyes!?”

    She lifts her head to look at the teacher, an older woman with salt-and-pepper hair and thick, dark-rimmed glasses. She points to her face with her phalanges, smiling wide. “They’re my eye-balls, Mrs. Hill!”

    “Good heavens, get those out, right now!”

    If Gabriola had lips, she would be pouting as she carefully pops the offending toys from her eyesockets. She hands them over, and watches with dim eye-lights as Mrs. Hill takes them to her desk, dropping them firmly into a jar of miscellaneous items.

    Mitchell leans across the desk. “I thought they were funny,” he whispers encouragingly.

    She looks at him, and the tiniest spark of mischief lights her eyes all the brighter. “You’ll think this is hilarious, then.” Without another word, she lifts one finger on her left hand, and flicks it upward.

    Mrs. Hill shrieks.

 

-||-

 

    “... So nobody actually got hurt?” Sans asks at around 3:30 in the afternoon, eye-sockets half shut, hands in his pockets.

    “Well, no, of course no-one got hurt,” the older human behind the desk huffs, tugging her hair back into place with one hand. “And thank goodness for that! No, the issue here is that this school has a strict ‘no-magic’ policy that I will enforce with--”

    “No it doesn’t,” the skeleton says flatly.

    Mrs. Hill balks. “I… beg your pardon?”

    “I read the charter and the handbooks and all that hoo-hah before even thinking about enrolling my kids here,” he goes on. “Nowhere in any of that does it say that monster magic isn’t allowed on school grounds.”

    The older woman’s cheeks puff slightly as she clears her throat. “What I meant to say, Mr. Skeleton-”

    “Feemurr.”

    “I beg your--?”

    “Sans Feemurr. Husband to Toriel Feemurr. We got the formalities out of the way this morning, paperwork and all that. She was ecstatic when I came up with the name. Gonna be a big party on Saturday. You can come if you-” he pauses. “Oh, wait, no, you can’t, because you think my daughter’s harmless pranks are some kind of dangerous sorcery.”

    “Now, I said no such thing, Mr. Fee--”

    “Nah, uh uh, don’t speak, the adult is talking,” Sans’s eye-sockets are dark, and he holds up one finger, effectively shushing the woman. “Funnybones,” eye-lights flickering back on, he glances down to his daughter, who is currently slumped in a chair beside him, kicking her feet absently. “Why don’t you go out in the hallway and keep an eye on your brother? I don’t want him getting into trouble.”

    “Ok.” She slides off the chair and trots out of the room, her shoes tapping lightly on the floor. The tension hangs tight in the room until the door clicks shut, and Sans’s eye-lights snuff out at the sound.

    “I don’t know exactly how humans have handled things all these centuries,” he starts, slipping his hand back into his jacket pocket, “but back in the underground, we didn’t punish our kids for expressing themselves. We simply redirected their energies when they got too disruptive, found different tasks for them to engage themselves with. Or, you know, that’s how I handled raising my little brother, anyway, and that’s what I saw folks in Snowdin doing.”

    “With all due respect, Mr. Feemurr, this is a place of education and --”

    “Then set a good example, and teach these kids a bit of, y’know, not bein’ an asshole?” He shrugs. “Just my opinion.”

    Standing, the skeleton rolls his shoulders, and heads for the door. “Welp, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta get the kiddos home in time to get their homework done before Tori gets home from the PTA.”

    “Your… wife… is on the PTA?”

    “Heck yeah she is.” He chuckles, and winks. “She’s a teacher, here; goes around between fourth and fifth grade classes to tell ‘em a bit about monster history.”

    “You mean the eight-foot-tall goat woman…?”

    “Oh my god, why does everyone think she’s a goat…?” Sans shakes his head. “Yeah, that’s her. Do try to be nicer to her than you were to our kids, okay?”

    “B-but, Boli climbed my desk…!”

    “You gotta set firm boundaries with him, or he’ll blink all over ya.” He’s at the door now, with one hand on the knob. “I did tell you that, y’know, when I dropped them both off this morning. You don’t listen very well, do you?”

    And with that, he’s on the other side of the door without even opening it. Gabi and Boli are looking up at him with wide eye-sockets.

    “Are we in trouble?” Boli asks, his voice small.

    “Nah, kiddos, but Daddy might be, if we don’t get outta here before that teacher of yours comes after me,” he gives a nervous chuckle. “C’mon, kids, I know a shortcut…”

 

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    It should go without saying, especially after the twins’ first day of school, that humans are still very far from comfortable with any sort of magic. Toriel and Sans, after a long talk with the children about a few little things like “social acceptability” and how it’s “not okay” to do things that “might scare the humans,” are starting to feel lke maybe the situation will play out nicely enough.

    That is, until Toriel’s monster of a cell phone starts ringing in the late afternoon one day after school.

    “This is Toriel, who may I ask is -” she’s cut off by what sounds like a vaguely nasal voice from the other end of the line. “Oh, Mrs. Schmidt, so lovely to hear from -... a meeting today? Oh, well I had just come home with the children… Okay, I’ll, ah, see you soon.” She stares at her phone in mild bewilderment before pocketing it once more.

    “Don’t tell me,” Sans says, holding up one hand. “She’s giving you a medal, for ‘most valuable PTA mom.’”

    “If only,” Toriel scoffs, and runs a paw through the fur on her ear before giving it a tug. “She’s calling an ‘emergency meeting’ to take place in just an hour and a half. I’m sorry, dear, you’re going to have to watch the kids for awhile by yourself tonight.”

    “Wha-? what? Isn’t Papyrus home?”

    “It’s Friday, dear. Date night.”

    “Right. Spaghetti at Mettaton’s. How’d I forget?”

    “Doessat mean Daddy’s gonna hang out with us today?” Boli chimes in, tugging at his father’s hoodie with both paws.

    “You bet your fluffy buns it does, bucko,” Sans ruffles his son’s surprisingly fuzzy skull. “Tell ya what, why don’t you go find your siblings, and we’ll set up a game in the living room?”

    “What game!?”

    “My secret.” The skeleton winks, and sends the little monster off with a grin and a chuckle. “Ho, boy, I’m in for it tonight.”

    Toriel laughs softly, and bends down to plant a fuzzy kiss on the top of his skull. “Best of luck, dear.”

    “Same to you, T. Keep me posted.” He sends her off with a mock salute, and hefts a sigh from the doorway once she’s in her car and down the street. He’s only roused from a mild reverie when he feels a hand on his shoulder.

    Turning, he’s met by Frisk, who’s a couple of inches taller than him now. They haven’t quite grown out of stripes yet, and he finds he’s not looking forward to the day they do.

    You okay?’ They sign, head tilted to one side.

    “‘Course, dunkaroo,” he has to reach up to ruffle their head, but he does so anyway, despite the effort. “You ready to teach the little boneheads how to play chutes n’ ladders?”

    They grin brightly, and that’s enough of an answer for him. He pats their shoulder, and they walk back inside together. Frisk heads on into the living room and pulls the board game out of a cabinet beneath the television, but Sans pauses for a moment by the kitchen doorway.

    “You know where the school’s at?” He asks in a low voice.

    A nod.

    “Could you go and--?”

    Another nod.

    “Thanks, pops.”

    No problem.

 

-||-

 

    Toriel arrives at the meeting room thirty minutes before the PTA vice-president had told her to be there, and finds that it’s right about to start. As if being the only monster on the entire PTA weren’t hard enough, she can only imagine how it would have gone for the rest of the meeting if she had shown up late.

    She takes a slow breath to steady her nerves and claims her usual seat in the back of the rows of metal chairs set up before the podium. It takes every ounce of restraint she has not to grumble at the fact that it so happens to be the squeakiest chair in the room, tonight. Though she has a cool, collected smile plastered on her lips, anyone who knows her body language can recognize what the seemingly random twitching of her right ear means.

    Bad things. It means bad things.

    “Well! It seems everyone made it! On time!” Kathleen Schmidt, the vice president, is already perched behind the podium, sporting a wide and overly confident smile, framed perfectly by her ash-blonde bob. “So lovely to see you this evening, Mrs. Feemurr, seeing as the subject of this meeting tonight is one that directly concerns your kind.”

    Toriel’s eyes narrow imperceptibly. “Pardon me?” She asks, and her voice betrays none of the bitterness she’s starting to feel.

    “Yes, but, my, haven’t you heard? There’s some new little troublemakers in Mrs. Hill’s first-grade class. Monsters, both of them.”

    There’s a bustle of murmuring that rolls through the room, before Kathleen gently pats the podium, regaining everyone’s attention.

    “Incredible, I know, that our beautiful facility should be chosen as the bridge between worlds, so to speak,” she gives a derisive chuckle, “but it seems that their first week here, these little things have already started causing trouble.”

    Toriel’s already bristled at the mere utterance of the word “things,” but Kathleen continues before she can even open her mouth. “Throwing things at teachers, frightening our children, causing a general disruption, and casting spells .”

    This elicits a sharp gasp from the collected PTA members. “I know, I know, it’s all very alarming, and this situation is clearly some kind of mix-up in the school system that will be corrected,” Kathleen begins, but she’s interrupted by the agitated shrieking of a rusty metal chair suddenly being vacated by its eight-foot-tall tenant.

    “I beg your pardon, Mrs. Schmidt,” the ex-queen of monsters towers in the back of the meeting room, copper eyes glittering like candle flames. “But those happen to be my children you are talking about.”

    For an immeasurably small segment of time, Kathleen Schmidt looks like she’s going to mess herself. And then it’s back to that self-righteous smirk she calls a face. “Excuse me?”

    “Boli and Gabriola, the twins my husband and I enrolled just this last week.”

    “You mean those horrifying, skull-faced hooligans?” Kathleen snorts. “What is your husband, exactly, a skeleton ?” She laughs.

    “As a matter of fact, he is.”

    And so the mood is set for the rest of the meeting: tense and awkward.

 

-||-

 

    Sans is trying to lose, he really is. He can’t help it that he’s bad at trying.

    After the twins started getting dismotivated about ten minutes into the game, Frisk elected that they all team up and work together to beat their dad, and that seemed to brighten the mood a bit. At least Boli’s interested; he’s provided some of the most enthusiastic reactions to chutes and ladders that Sans has ever witnessed. Gabriola seems to be halfway paying attention, making her rolls and movements with one hand, the other tucked in the pocket of her little hoodie. Either way, she’s been doing better than her brother the whole time.

    “Stop cheating, Gabbers,” Boli huffs, glaring daggers at his sister.

    “No proof,” she shrugs, moving her token up a ladder.

    Sans’s phone buzzes in his own pocket, and he steals a moment while his children are bickering to check the message. It’s from Toriel. Glancing at the time, he finds it’s only been forty-five minutes since Toriel left. It only takes her ten minutes at most to reach the school…

    She tried to get our little sugarskulls expelled.

    Something in Sans’s nonexistant gut feels like it would be wrenching, if it were there. And?

    I’ve seen more than my share of delinquency in the week I’ve been here. Far worse than our twins. I’ve let everyone here know as much. We’ve ended the meeting early. Be home soon. Want pie tonight? ]:-)

    Sans chuckles. “Hey, kids, your Ma’s on the way home. Who’s up for pie?”

    Boli shrieks. Gabi shoots her little fist into the air. Frisk gives a double thumbs-up.

    “Righty-o.” A resounding yes from everyone, T. I might be deaf for awhile.

    Excellent. See you soon. Love, Toriel.

 

-||-

 

    Later that evening, after the pie has been demolished, teeth have been brushed, and children are off to bed, Sans is sitting alone in the living room, resing his skull against a throw pillow and staring at the blank television screen.

    Mind if I have a seat?

    “Can you even sit with all that business you call a ‘self?’” He chuckles heavily, and pats the seat beside himself. The area is soon enveloped in a kind of seeping darkness, over which a pair of hollow hands fold themselves neatly. “So, you see what went down today?”

    Quite so.

    “Don’t leave me hangin’, pops.”

    Clattering keys, and one of the hands gently pats the skeleton on his shoulder. “ Relax, son. Toriel is a formidable individual. She had the humans enthralled the moment she opened her mouth.

    “You think so?”

    I’ve seen countless infinitudes, my boy, but there are very few in which I’ve seen a room full of humans who looked so utterly bedazzled and terrified. Simultaneously. How does she do it?

    “Heh.” Sans relaxes. He thinks it isn’t noticeable, but anyone who knows his body language can recognize when he’s clenching his joints and when he’s not. He was, before. Definitely. “Shit, what a relief. Thanks, old man.”

    No problem. Ah, but Sans?

    “Yeah?”

    Swear jar.

    “Fine, fine, jeez.”

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    It’s taken awhile for the twins to adjust to the more rigid schedule of their school week, and the more rigid rules they have to abide by around humans, but it’s not like they aren’t enjoying themselves. Boli has become something of a class favorite among his peers; his energetic and excitable personality ensure that everyone wants to play with him at recess, or pair up with him for various class activities. Gabriola, on the other hand, is content to keep to herself, more or less, with one exception - her new best friend, Mitchell Schmidt.

    They sit together every day, and today is nothing new. It’s Tuesday, and after a long morning of activities, class has settled down for snacktime.

    “Hey, what’s that?” Mitch is peering at the contents of Gabriola’s lunchbox, which is decorated with embroidered stars and planets.

    “Hm? This?” The monster pulls out a fist-sized wrapped treat with a smiley face on the front. “Nice cream. Dad knows a guy. You… want some?”

    She holds it out to him, the tips of her phalanges just poking out from the depths of her sleeve to grip the cheerfully-colored wrapper. He regards it for a moment, brows furrowed together. “But, but it’s yours.”

    Gabriola shrugs lightly. “I have them a lot. You can try this one.” She sets it on the desk in front of him. “Go ahead.”

    He looks at it like it might be a bug. “I… Ice cream makes me sick, though…”

    “It’s monster food. Made out of magic. It won’t make you sick.” It’s Gabriola’s turn to furrow her brows. “... Why would humans eat things that make them sick?”

    Mitchell makes a noncommittal noise and gives a shrug in response to her question. Hesitantly, he picks up the wrapper, and peers at the happy face on its front. At some point, he decides ‘to heck with it’ and tears it open.

    “It - It’s still cold!” His eyes brighten, and he pulls it out the rest of the way, until he can hold it by the stick. He gives it the smallest of licks, and then his eyes go wider than ever before. Immediately, he takes a massive bite.

    “Good?” The skull monster asks, jaw unmoving, eye-lights bright and flickering like little sparks.

    Mitchell nods enthusiastically. “It’s like, like cotton candy, and marshmallows, and sour apple candy, but, but without the tummyache!” He looks closer at where he bit into it. “Why isn’t it melting? Doesn’t ice cream melt?”

    “Nice cream doesn’t.”

    He turns his gaze to her, full of awe and wonder. “... Why?”

    Gabriola’s smile curls into a grin, and her bony hands emerge from their refuge in her sleeves to make a waggly, grandiose gesture. “Magic.”

    His eyes are bright as he utters a soft “wow” and takes another bite from the frozen treat. It’s gone within record time. Before he can stand to throw his trash away, she stops him.

    “Hold on, you gotta read the stick!”

    “Huh?” He looks at it. For a moment, it’s blank. When little words ripple into existence on its surface, his eyes go wide and starry.

    “It’s - it’s like a fortune cookie! It has a little message!”

    Gabriola ignores the fact she doesn’t know what a fortune cookie is, for now. “What’s it say?”

    Mitchell takes a moment to piece out the words. “It says…” A small, wobbly smile tugs at his mouth. “It says, ‘Your friends really love you!’”

    Gabi nods, smiling bright.

    Her friend shifts in his seat, holding the stick tightly. His smile grows a little more sober. “But, I don’t really have any friends, though.”

    “Me,” the skull monster states, rather matter-of-factly. “I’m your friend.”

    His smile comes back, and it’s the brightest smile she’s ever seen, with little tears in the corners of his eyes. “Thanks, Gabi.”

    She grins back, contented. That’s all they really need.

 

-||-

 

    “... So then, Mikey kicked the ball like REALLY hard, and I had to run and grab it because Mrs. Hill says blinking is cheating-”

    “The nerve,” Sans chuckles, interjecting in the middle of his son’s story.

    “I KNOW,” Boli groans, dragging his paws down the sides of his skull, “I mean, I can still run really fast, but it would have been more fun if I could just schwoomp over there and catch it. She wouldn’t let Gabbers catch it with blue magic, either. But she gave everybody else like, kneepads and stuff.”

    Toriel pokes her head out of the kitchen doorway. “She didn’t give you or your sister any?”

    “No,” Boli shakes his head, ears flopping. “She said somethin’ about us having stuff the other kids don’t anyway. Gabi tripped and nearly lost a bone!”

    “I got it back,” his sister blinks, absently stirring at a pudding cup.

    Toriel’s lip twitches, and she stomps back into the kitchen, growling under her breath.

    “What your mom means, kids,” Sans says quickly, “is that Mrs. Hill needs to learn a thing or two about safety.”

    Boli scratches his ear. Gabriola takes a small bite of pudding. Toriel reemerges from the kitchen, looking calmer and carrying two triangle-cut sandwiches, which she hands to the twins.

    “Can Mitchell come over and play?” Gabriola asks, out of the blue.

    Toriel looks a little taken off-guard, but she laughs lightly. “Of course dear, is he a friend of yours?”

    “Mhm.” Gabriola nods. “He doesn’t talk to the other kids much, but I gave him a Nice Cream yesterday and he started to cry.”

    Her parents exchange mildly concerned looks. “Uh, Funnybones, it’s generally good practice not to make people cry before inviting them over.”

    “No, it was a good cry.” Gabriola glances between her parents, and smiles softly. “He was happy.”

    “Well, that’s good, then.” Toriel gives a small sigh of relief. “Would you like to invite him over on Friday?”

    “Mmhm!” Her daughter nods, eye-lights bright.

    “So wait, like a party!?” Boli’s eye-lights are even brighter, somehow. “I gotta tell Fist!” He leaps off the sofa, dashes across the room, and is suddenly halfway down the hall toward Frisk’s bedroom, screaming “FIST, FIST, OPEN UP, WE GOT A PARTY TO PLAN!”

    Gabriola giggles, and her father scoots a bit closer on the sofa so he can ruffle his phalanges over her skull. “So, kiddo, you lookin’ forward to your first sleepover?”

    She nods, and he thinks the last time he saw her eyes so bright and sparkly was when she dragged him across the kitchen floor with blue magic instead of learning to walk. He can’t imagining anything being able to damper that smile of hers.

    Gabriola, herself, can’t wait for class tomorrow so she can invite her best friend to see her house and meet her family.

 

-||-

 

    Fast forward two days, to Friday afternoon.

    Gabriola has planted herself on the back of the sofa, peering through the curtains with her ears perked up attentively for the past hour. Mitchell had been just as excited to come over and play as she had been to ask him, and at this point, her excitement seems to have reached a plateau at the level of ‘literally unable to focus on anything else.’ When she’s been presented with snacks or otherwise offered some form of distraction, she proves to be virtually unresponsive. This started out as slightly stressful for her mother, who was very much against the idea of her sitting on the back of the couch. This changed for the better, however, when Sans pointed out that Gabriola is literally just bones, and as such weighs about ten pounds - if that - and can therefore do very little structural damage to the family sofa.

    Every time a car drives by, she grips the curtains she has tucked up under her chin just a bit tighter. Every time, it’s not the car she’s expecting. She honestly has no idea what the car bringing Mitch by will even look like, but this doesn’t stop her from looking.

    Sans is sitting on the couch close by, just in case she falls or something. It’s doing wonders for Toriel’s nerves, to say the least, so he feels he’s helping out already. “Gabbers,” he starts again, probably for the fifth time, “you want a snack or somethin’ before your friend comes by?”

    No response. He can just make out a tiny twitch of her short, bony tail, where it pokes out the backside of her pants; that’s enough for him to know she’s heard him, at least.

    Somewhere off in one of the back bedrooms, Boli seems to be playing a rather noisy bout of ‘go fish’ with Frisk, with very dramatic reactions to most every move. Sans finds himself thanking the stars above for his near-limitless bounds of patience. Toriel is bustling in the kitchen, preparing playtime snacks for the kids, and - now and again - he can make out the swirling shadows pacing back and forth across the living room. Seems the nervous excitement is pervasive, today.

    Gabriola remains unmoving for another half hour. Sans begins to fidget with his hands in his pockets, casting furtive glances at his daughter now and again. Toriel adds the finishing touches on the playtime snacks - little finger sandwiches, some glasses of warm cider, and a fresh butterscotch-cinnamon pie, which she leaves in the kitchen. The rest, she brings out to the living room on a platter, setting it down on the coffee table. She catches Sans’s eyes, and they both glance at their daughter for a moment, unsure what else to do. Much to their surprise, it’s Gabriola who breaks the silence.

    “Someone’s here,” she says simply, but there’s a slight waver to her voice that betrays her excitement.

    Sans lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Toriel runs her paws over the fluff on her head and smooths out her ears. Boli screams from Frisk’s room, admitting his defeat. The mass of shadows by the staircase has an absolute conniption. He won’t deny it.

    The little skull-monster slides off the back of the couch and rolls into a more acceptable sitting position for about half a second, before she elects to scamper over to the stairs and take a seat a few steps from the bottom, so she can see the doorway. Her mother is already by the door, waiting to greet the visitor. A voice can be heard approaching the door.

    “My, Mitchie, your friend has such a cozy little house! I have to ask her mom what kinds of flowers those are, they’re so charming… Oh, Mitch, would you like to get the doorbell?”

    “Yes, Mom.”

    A second later, the bell rings, and Toriel brushes her paw-pads over her ears once more before opening the door with a bright smile. “Hello! So nice to meet you. I’m To-”

    And she freezes, smile growing slightly strained.

    “Oh.” The ash-blonde woman in the doorway says flatly. She looks the tall monster up and down, and then cranes her neck around to peer inside. Her eyes narrow slightly when she sees Gabriola sitting on the steps.

    Gabriola looks uneasy for a moment, tugging on one ear through her sleeve. Tentatively, she raises a bony hand and gives a wave. “Hi, Mitch. Hi, Mitch’s mom.”

    Mrs. Schmidt recoils at the sight of Gabriola’s waving hand, and grabs her son by the shoulder. “Mitchie, is that your friend?”

    Mitchell winces, and nods.

    His mother sucks a sharp breath through her teeth, and pulls her son away from the door as she steps back. “Go get in the car, sweetie.”

    “But, but Mom-”

    “No buts, Mitchell.” She glares down at him for a second, and once he grudgingly shuffles off, she rounds her gaze on Toriel and jabs a finger into the boss monster’s chest.

    “How dare you get your little offspring to endanger my baby boy, you devil ,” Kathleen hisses, “I ought to have you arrested.”

    Toriel, clearly blown away, bleats, “But, Gabi just wanted a playd-”

    “Don’t you start spouting your lies, monster, ” the human snarls. Without another word, she turns on her heel and storms back to the car. She drives off with her son in the backseat, just as quickly as they arrived.

    Toriel is standing dumbfounded in the doorway. Sans’s eye-sockets are dark, fists clenched in his pockets. Gabriola’s jaw is hanging slightly open, hands tucked up near her face. Little lavender tears pool in the corner of her eye-sockets, but she scrubs them away hastily. Her teeth snap together, and she stumbles down the stairs to shove a few finger-sandwiches into her maw. Her eye-sockets blink furiously, fighting back the ethereal waterworks.

    “Going to bed,” she announces, her voice lowered to a mutter, and she scrambles to hers and Boli’s shared room, shutting the door behind her.

    Toriel and Sans exchange another look, and one has never seen so much murder written in either of their eyes.

 

-||-

 

    “C’mon, Gabbers, just sit with me, today.” Boli gently nudges his sister’s arm as they walk side-by-side toward their classroom on Monday morning.

    Gabriola gives a grunt in response.

    Boli groans and gives her a little push. “Siiiiiis, c’mon, stick with me today. You haven’t smiled or anything all weekend. I promise I’ll make you laugh!”

    “Can’t. Gotta find out.”

    He winces slightly. “... Why?”

    Gabriola looks at her brother; her eye-lights are dim and small, like they have been since Friday night. “... He’s my friend.”

    Her brother looks like he might argue further, but then he just pats her on the head instead. “Well, come sit if you want anyway.”

    They step into the classroom, and part ways like normal to sit at their separate tables. Class hasn’t started yet; kids are still roaming about, putting their snacks in their cubbies and talking. One kid isn’t walking around.

    Mitchell Schmidt sits alone at his desk, slumped in his seat and looking at his hands like he’s being scolded. Gabi pauses, eye-lights wavering. For a moment it looks like she might just go sit with her brother after all, but she huffs a deep breath and walks forward anyway.

    “Hi, Mitch.” Her voice is still wobbly, despite her efforts. “You… have a good weekend?”

    He doesn’t answer. He only stares down at his hands.

    Gabriola grabs at her backpack straps, flexing her phalanges around the fabric in an attempt to calm herself. “I… I like your lunchbox. It’s got a superhero on it.”

    Mitch glances at the lunchboox in question, one depicting Iron Man in a flying pose. He sighs, and looks back at his hands.

    The skull monster clenches her jaw. The lights in her eyes are almost completely snuffed out. “... Why aren’t you talking to me? Did I do something bad?”

    Mitch winces, and hesitantly looks up at her. “My… my mom said I can’t be your friend anymore.”

    Having known her for a few weeks, Mitch likely expected her reaction to be more measured. However, children can be hard to predict, even for other children. Or, perhaps, especially for other children. Her eye-sockets go pitch black, bony brow furrowing into a glare, blue fire flickering from the tips of her phalanges, and she demands in a voice that’s more of a hiss, “ Why?

    The human before her, looking like he might just pee his pants, hurries to stammer, “B-because she thinks you’re a monster, like, a monster monster, one that eats kids and sc-scares people.”

    Her countenance shifts drastically. Her eye-lights are back, wide, but flickering, and she almost seems to shrink in on herself, having realized she just did one of those two things. “... Do… do you think I’m a… a monster? A bad monster?”

    She waits for his response for the better part of a whole minute. Eventually, he just goes back to staring at his hands. Gabriola slowly works herself into a calmer demeanor, stopping the trembling of her jaw, tucking her hands into her hoodie pocket, and letting the lids of her eye-sockets sink half-closed.

    “Ok,” she says, once she’s had enough of his silence, and she turns away to join her brother at his table, instead of her best friend.

    Or, well, someone who used to be her best friend.

   

    For a first-grader, she does an amazing job of not crying until she gets home.

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    With all being said, the year of first grade isn’t exactly the most exciting of years, even for monster children. With Mitchell now firmly adhering to his mother’s wishes of not even acknowledging the twins in the slightest, Boli has seized the opportunity to introduce all of his really cool friends to his really cool sister, and vice versa. None of them want to admit it at first, but the other kids are all a little apprehensive of Gabriola at first. With Boli, at least, he has soft paws for hands and feet, and he doesn’t rattle when he moves around.

    After about thirty minutes, Steve - a blond boy with wide, blue eyes - can’t help but blurt out, “how come you don’t got any fur like Bols?”

    Gabriola stares into his eyes for five seconds, then her eye-lights sweep smoothly over the eight faces of her other peers. After a slightly uncomfortable silence, she gives a little giggle.

    “Guess I was just bone that way,” she says with a shrug.

    And with that, she goes from losing her only friend to gaining nine new friends in one swoop.

 

-||-

 

    “Good afternoon, everyone!”

    Toriel beams a bright smile at everyone in the meeting room, balancing a covered pie dish in her left paw, and holding the door open with her right. A murmured chorus of “hello”s finds its way back to her as human teachers and parents alike cast dubious glances at one another and back at her - save for Kathleen. The PTA’s vice-president scoffs under her breath, gripping the podium and rolling her eyes.

    “What’s that you’ve got there?” A man sitting closest to Toriel in the back of the rows of seats asks, craning his neck to try and get a look at what she’s holding.

    “This? Oh, just a little something I brought from home, for the potluck.” Toriel moves to the snack table and sets her dish down among tupperware containers and store-bought plastic cases of cookies, hors d'oeuvres, and paper cups holding plastic utensils. She removes the lid, and the warm, tantalizing aromas of butterscotch and cinnamon waft through the room.

    Eyes widen, jaws drop, mouths water. Even Kathleen isn’t entirely unaffected, and she almost looks uneasy at her perch behind the podium.

    “Did you… bake that?” She asks, hesitantly.

    Toriel laughs, and the sound is as warm and sweet as her pie smells. “Why, of course! Feel free to help yourselves to some, there’s plenty to go around.”

    Kathleen Schmidt fumes silently behind the podium as, one by one, the other PTA members slowly get up and shuffle to the table, trying in vain to hide their eagerness to have a taste of Toriel’s confectionary concoction. Between dishing out slices, the eight-foot-tall monster locks eyes with the PTA vice-president over the heads of their peers, and for half a second, she smirks victoriously.

    In all of Toriel’s centuries of life, it has never been so easy - or satisfactory - to start a war.

 

-||-

 

    The twins are both incredibly fast learners. As the end of their first year of schooling comes near, Sans has elected to take it upon himself to teach them how to better use their powers, seeing as they seem to have a lot in common with his own. Fortunately for him, he is not alone in this venture.

    “BROTHER! ARE YOU SURE IT’S SAFE TO PRACTICE IN THE BACKYARD LIKE THIS?”

    “Better than potentially tearing up human property,” Sans chuckles, tossing a wink up at his brother. “‘Sides, it’s not like human kids have any less potential to burn down a house or kill a bunch of people.”

    Frisk shoots him a dirty look from where they’re sitting on the back porch.

    “Just pullin’ your leg, kiddo.” The skeleton beckons with a sharp nod of his skull. “You wanna help me teach your siblings what they’re capable of?”

    “Ooh! Ooh, yeah, Fist, c’mon!” Boli blinks to his sibling’s side, grabbing their face with both his paws. “You’re a big hero, you gotta help us learn how to fight!”

    Laughing, Frisk nods. ‘Okay, just remember I don’t have any fancy magic like you.’

    “We know.” Gabriola smiles over at them, holding onto her father’s jacket sleeve. “We’re ready.”

    “Heck yeah, we are!” Boli’s at her side instantly. “What’s first? We gonna blow somethin’ up!?”

    “Calm down, firecracker,” Sans laughs, ruffling the tuft of fur growing on the top of his son’s skull, “take your stances, kids.”

    His son is out from under his palm with a flash and a snap , reappearing about eight feet away, on top of a playhouse. Gabriola dashes to stand close by, barefoot in the grass, with little licks of lavender fire licking from her phalanges. Frisk sprints past to take their position across the yard from their brother and sister, bouncing on the balls of their feet and rolling their shoulders.

    The two older skeletons take a moment to survey the scene. The kids look like they can hardly contain their excitement, all of them ready to see what they’re all capable of. Sans exchanges a look with his brother. Papyrus folds his arms over his chest, grinning; Sans lets his shoulders relax and stuffs his hands in his pockets.

    “Welp,” he says, eye-sockets half-lidded, “here we go.”

 

-||-

 

    Asgore hums a gentle harmony to the kettle’s dying whistle as he pours a cup of steaming water over his tea leaves. As he picks up the cup and gives it a gentle swirl, his gaze falls on the fridge, where he can see a series of crayon drawings. Ones from when they first came to the surface, showing himself, Frisk, and the others, holding hands. Then, toward the bottom, he finds the more recent ones. Boli’s drawings are more like generalized abstractions of the scene depicted - is this supposed to be him and Asgore playing a game, or are they working in the garden? Gabriola’s, on the other hand, are remarkably detailed for her age. Each figure has a different expression, every object is defined by some feature. Sure, they all sort of resemble coffee stains, and not actual things, but he’s enamored with her work nonetheless.

    Each of these drawings brings back another memory of the day they were drawn. Simply thinking about each weekend he’s spent getting to know the twins, watching them play with Frisk and learn about the different plants in his garden… he could strangle his past self for ever thinking they would want nothing to do with him.

    He reaches out one paw, and gently takes one off the refrigerator; it’s one that both the twins worked on, and even though he hasn’t the slightest idea what is actually happening on the page, he can clearly recall watching them share the page and the crayons so fluidly, hardly a word between them. He swears, even now, that he can remember the room being a little brighter with the two of them in it, working so perfectly in tandem.

    The last time he saw something that beautiful, it turned to dust before his very eyes.

    Silently, he returns the artwork to its rightful place on the fridge, and dries his face on the back of his furry arm before taking his tea to the armchair by the fire. The children will be over any moment, and he doesn’t want to let them see his tears.

    They don’t need to hear about it.

 

-||-

 

    Frisk is a good older sibling. Even though they’ve started middle school and are making all kinds of new friends, they still put in the effort to make more than enough time for their brother and sister. As the twins have gotten older, they’ve begun to express increasing amounts of independence. They love their parents, that much is easy enough to tell just by looking at them when they’re all together, but there’s some days where they want some extra time to hang out with their friends after school, or when they don’t feel like riding in Toriel’s van after a long day of having to sit and do schoolwork.

    Days like these, kids like them get to walk home with their big sibling.

    Frisk picks up a stick along the way, giving it a casual swing and admiring how it makes a soft whistling sound as it cuts through the air. They wave goodbye to Kid when they’re about halfway to the elementary school, and only continue onward when they see the armless monster step through their front door.

    It’s a beautiful day, outside. Some wildflowers have made their home along the edge of the sidewalk, and lots of birds are passing through on their route south for the winter, filling the air with their tumultuous song. The schoolyard - where all of the kids waiting to be picked up are playing - comes into view as Frisk rounds a corner, and they can just make out Boli and Gabi, standing back to back while they play some kind of game with some older kids.

    Older kids that are all around them, and coming closer.

    Frisk frowns, and the grip on their stick tightens. Setting their jaw, they pick up the pace, eyes locked on their siblings and the unfolding incident. They don’t want it to be bad. Maybe it’s some roughhousing. Kid stuff. Kids pretend-fight all the time, right?

    One of the human kids picks up a rock, and throws it at Gabriola, and while Frisk is too far away to hear what exactly is said, they can just make out the word “freak.”

    Blood pounds in Frisk’s ears. Something swells in their soul, and before they know it, they’re running at the instigator with the stick in their hand, poised to swing.

    Determination.

    The first kid stumbles backward, clutching at his arm - now bearing a painful red brand where the stick made contact. Frisk stands protectively between the bully and their sister, breathing heavily and sizing up the rest of the competition.

    Human kids. Attack: minimal. Defense: laughable. After the stuff you’ve been through, this should be nothing.

    Frisk doesn’t get the chance to make the next move, as another kid on the other side of the ring lunges forward and takes a swing at Boli, who manages to blink out of the way, but inadvertently leaves his sister in the line of fire. Gabriola cries out as the blow lands square in the middle of her back, and she stumbles forward, grabbing blindly at her sibling.

    Wheeling about, Frisk manages to lower their sister to the ground. She blinks her eye-sockets, staring up at them with pained, flickering eye-lights.

    “Frisk,” she says, her voice a whisper, “thanks for helping.”

    She lifts a hand, and the tip of her phalange starts to --

    The first kid stumbles backward, clutching at his arm - now bearing a painful red brand where the stick made contact. Frisk stumbles slightly, but stands protectively between the bully and their sister, breathing heavily and sizing up the rest of the competition.

    Don’t underestimate them again.

    Tears blur Frisk’s vision, but they’re blinked away before they can fall. Fighting for fighting’s sake is one thing, but when they know what will happen if they don’t… Frisk can’t afford to take that chance.

    Their father will be pissed later, that’s for certain. But it sure as hell beats the alternative.

    With red, tear-strained eyes and a grim, determined smile, Frisk gives those kids the fight of their lives.

 

-||-

 

    Later that evening, after sitting through a long and unnervingly quiet lecture from Sans about Not Doing The Thing They Did Earlier, Frisk shuffles down the hallway toward their bedroom, holding a cold, damp towel against their eye. As they reach the door to their bedroom, they hear soft footsteps coming up behind them.

    “Hey, Fist.”

    Looking over their shoulder, the first thing they see are two glowing dots staring at them from the shadows of a nearby doorway.

    They set the towel on top their head, revealing their bruised eye and also freeing their hand to sign. ‘Hi, Boli.’

    Their little brother shuffles up to them, already wearing his rubber duckie patterned pajamas. The malleable bones of his skull-face are twisted up in thought, and after a moment of hesitation, he pats Frisk’s shoulder with one fuzzy paw.

    “I donno what you did earlier,” the eight-year-old monster child says, “but… thanks, Fist. It was scary, watching you fight, but…”

    Frisk nods, and puts a hand over his paw. He doesn’t have to finish.

    After a short silence, he opens and closes his jaw a few times, and then manages to say, “What… what did you do?”

    For a moment, Frisk looks like they might tell him, like they really want to share the burden of all the things they’ve done - and un-done - with another living soul. This moment passes, however. They gently take their hand from over his paw, pat the fluff on top his skull, and leave him with a few signs.

    ‘I’ll tell you when you’re older, Boli. Goodnight.’

    “G… Goodnight.” Boli watches his sibling shuffle into their room and close the door. Neither of them sleep well, tonight, but they’d be damned if they let each other find that out in the morning.

 

-||-

 

    “Are, are you really sure about this, Papyrus?”

    “DAPSOTUTELY, BROTHER-O-MINE,” the taller skeleton pats his brother on the skull with a small clink . “YOUR FAMILY IS GETTING SO BIG, ALL OF THEM, AND THEY’RE ALL GOING TO NEED THEIR SPACE! BESIDES - METTATON’S BEEN PUSHING THIS FOR AWHILE--”

    “ Actually, darling,” the robot in question chimes in, all the while shoving one of Papyrus’s particularly large suitcases into the trunk of a limousine, “ you have been pussyfooting around the subject for about a year, now.”

    “PUSSYFOOTING!? PREPOSTEROUS!” Papyrus guffaws, “PRESUMING THE PRESTIGIOUS AND PERFECT PAPYRUS PONDERED THE PREDICAMENT FOR A PREVALENT PERIOD OF PERCOLATION IS PRACTICALLY POPPYCOCK!”

    “Damn,” mutters Sans, looking impressed.

    “Second that,” murmurs Toriel from beside him, similarly dumbfounded.

    Mettaton dusts off his gloves, rolls his eyes, and saunters over to lean against the tall skeleton, snaking an arm over his shoulders. “Papy, dear, do you have any more luggage?”

    “PLENTY!” Papyrus cackles. “PERSEVERANCE IS PRUDENT! PERMIT ME TO PROCURE MY PARCELS!” And with that, he bounds back into the house.

    The other monsters stare after him for a moment, before Mettaton breaks the silence. “Things will be more lively with him around, I think.”

    Toriel chuckles. “I believe that is a fair assessment. I am happy for you two.”

    “Yeah, this has been a long time comin’.” Sans gives the robot a playful punch on the arm. “Take care of him, yeah?”

    “Of course!” Mettaton has hardly looked away from the doorway Papyrus disappeared into. “He’s… ah, really the only person who treats me like I’m… normal. And, hah, who can deal with me after a stressful performance.” He glances away from the door, and down to Sans. “... Are you sure you’re okay with this, Sans? The two of you have been pretty much inseparable your whole lives.”

    “Ah, I’ll be fine. ‘Sides, he’s an adult, he can handle himself.”

    “And Sans has us.” Toriel sets a paw on her husband’s skull. He chuckles quietly in response. “But that does not mean you two are not expected to visit! These children will miss their favorite uncles.”

    “YOU BET WE WILL!” Papyrus emerges from the house with two massive suitcases tucked under his arms, and begins marching toward the open trunk of the limousine. “AND I WILL SEIZE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WRITE MANY, MANY LETTERS!”

    “Postcards, too, darling.”

    Stars begin to dance in Papyrus’s eye-sockets. He drops his suitcases and claps his hands to the sides of his skull. “OH MY GOSH!! METTATON --” he grabs the robot around the waist, and pumps his other fist into the air. “WE MUST PROCURE PRECARIOUS QUANTITIES OF POSTCARDS!!”

    “That we will, darling, postcards from every place we visit!”

    “WOWIE, THAT’S A LOT!”

    Half a second after the words leave his mouth, his skull is suddenly covered by a fluffy, skull-faced nine-year-old.

    “THANK YOU FOR THE NEW ROOM, UNCLE PAPA,” Boli all but shrieks. “I’LL SNAPCHAT YOU LOTS WITH DAD’S PHONE!”

    “YOU HAD BETTER, NEPHEW!” Papyrus picks Boli up by the armpits, and holds him out at arm’s length, beaming. “BECAUSE I’M GOING TO BE SNAPCHATTING THE WHOLE FAMILY! AND WRITING LETTERS! AND POSTCARDS!”

    “It’s like you will never have left,” Sans laughs.

    “THAT’S THE POINT!” Both Papyrus and Boli exclaim in unison.

    Reluctantly, Mettaton interjects. “I hate to rush, darlings, but if we don’t head out soon, we won’t get home until well after dark.”

    “YES, I FEAR WE SHOULD BE GOING,” Papyrus gently sets down his nephew and gives him a pat on the head. He looks around a moment, before asking, “WHERE IS THAT SISTER OF YOURS? I HAVEN’T SEEN HER SINCE WE GOT HERE.”

    “Do you think she went with Frisk to Kid’s house?” Mettaton muses, looking around as well. “They left shortly after we came to pick up your things…”

    “Nah,” Boli says, “I woke Gabbers up from a nap and told her you guys were leaving. She said she’d come say bye, but then I haven’t seen her again.”

    Everyone exchanges a look, and collectively sighs. “Welp, we shouldn’t hold you guys up,” Sans says, “we’ll be sure to tell Gabi you said bye.”

    Hugs are exchanged, goodbyes are said, and Toriel helps Papyrus finish lugging his luggage into the trunk, and the family waves them goodbye as he and Mettatton ride down the road.

    “Are you excited, dear?” Mettaton asks, letting his hand rest absently on the skeleton’s femur.

    “VERY EXCITED! WOWIE, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE ALL THE PLACES YOU GO!”

    A tiny yawn interrupts their conversation, and both of their gazes are immediately caught by the sight of a small skull monster with a blue blanket draped over her shoulders, sticking her skull out from under a console.

    “Where we goin’?” Gabriola asks drowsily.

    Mettaton tries very hard to hide his laughter. Papyrus deadpans. Gabriola grins, and there’s a hint of mischief in her eyes.

    Pulling out his cell phone, Papyrus hits a number for speed dial, and waits until the line is picked up.

    “HELLO? SANS? I FOUND YOUR DAUGHTER.”

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    Clear, crisp breezes tug at the ends of Toriel’s ears as she stands on the front porch of her family’s bungalow, waving good-bye to Frisk and the twins. They’ve just boarded the bus for the twins’ first day of middle school, and she can make out Boli’s excited grin as he scrambles to lower the window so he can wave back properly. His white paw flaps enthusiastically out the window until the bus rounds a corner, and it disappears from view. Toriel sighs; the moment is a bittersweet one.

    If only all of her children could have experienced such a day.

    The door opens behind her, and shuffling footsteps alert her to an incoming hug, with bony, sleeved arms wrapping around her waist. An impressive feat, given her husband’s size relative to herself.

    “Mornin’, T,” Sans hums into the back of her housecoat, “seein’ the kids off?”

    She nods, placing a paw over his hands where they’re resting on her belly. “Yes. They all seemed so excited, and I cannot blame them.”

    “‘S too bad they won’t be in your school anymore, though,” Sans notes.

    Toriel laughs. “So long as there is no one there quite like Mrs. Schmidt ,” she enunciates the name with a bit more force than entirely necessary, “they should be fine. Besides, they have Frisk to help look out for them in their first year.”

    She feels a shifting against her back as Sans nods in agreement. “Howzabout we go inside and snag some breakfast, hm?”

    “Sounds like a plan to me, dear.”

    They head inside. Sans sits Toriel down at the kitchen table and procures an apron from a low cabinet, one that reads “bone appetit.” Donning this, he gathers a pie dish, a bowl, and some eggs and flour, among other things.

    “What’s the occasion?” Toriel asks, cocking an eyebrow in amusement as she watches him lay everything on the counter.

    He only grins and winks in reply, dragging over his stool with blue magic. While he sets to work, Toriel puts on her reading glasses and picks up the newspaper lying on the table. Human politics, human news, human cartoons… nothing particularly interesting. Though she continues to stare at the page, she lets her focus drift, and her thoughts begin to wander.

    A part of her is half-expecting to be shaken back to reality by tiny bony hands and fuzzy little hand-paws, both letting her know it’s time for a story, or that they’re hungry. It takes a moment for her to realize that those little hands have grown bigger now.

    “... It feels like just yesterday, we would have had to feed the twins by hand and teach them to walk, does it not?” She muses aloud, turning her head slightly to look at Sans for his response.

    He takes a moment to answer. “Yeah, sure does, Tori.” He puts the prepared quiche in the oven, and Toriel gives a double-take.

    “How - how did you get that ready so quickly, Sans?”

    He closes the oven door and turns to look at her. His smile is stationary as ever, but his eye-sockets are hard to read. “... I’ve been at it for about ten minutes, Tori.”

    Her eyes widen. “Wh- Really?”

    “Tori…” Sans looks her up and down for a moment, and then sighs. “Tori, we, uh, we need to talk.”

    A chilling sensation creeps through her soul, and she reaches one paw to tug at her left ear. “... Of course, dear, what is on your mind?”

    Sans takes off his apron, tosses it up on the counter, and then trots over to claim the seat across from Toriel at the table. He clasps his bony hands together on the table, flicking his thumbs against each other idly. After a few moments of click-click-click, he stops, sighs, and says, “Look, Tori, I want to start off sayin’ I’m not mad. I get it. Life… hasn’t really been too nice to you, has it?”

    The boss monster averts her eyes. “I am not sure I want to be having this conversation, Sans.”

    “Yeah, well, we gotta.” He sighs again, and shakes his skull. “Look, Tori, I can’t say I know what it’s like, being through the stuff you’ve been through, so, before I bring any of that up… let me tell you a bit about me. About skeleton monsters.”

    She looks back over at him, brows crinkled with worry. He gives her a slightly more reassuring version of his default smile, and goes on.

    “We don’t exactly… age, like most monsters do. I guess you and I have that in common. Me and Papyrus? Sure, we were kids once. But we grew up pretty fast, a lot faster than the other kids. Course, that’s probably because of some…” he turns his skull away, but even so, she can see the lights in his eyes fizzle out, “... unfortunate circumstances. But, ah,” he looks back at her, eye-lights just as bright as before, “that’s all besides the point. The point is, me and Pappers, when we moved to Snowdin, we were there for… for awhile. Hard to say how long. We saw other monsters growing up and growing old around us, but there we were, just… being. I can’t say when exactly I’ll turn into ol’ dustybones --” Toriel frowns at the dark humor, but he goes on regardless, “but I can bet that it won’t be for quite some time.”

    “I am unsure as to what you’re getting at,” Toriel says slowly, looking her husband up and down.

    “Okay, sorry, I’ll, I’ll make it simple.” Sans lets out a heavy breath, runs his phalanges over the top of his skull, and then leans forward, resting his weight on his elbows, hands clasped tightly together. He stares intently at his hands while he talks. “I know how boss monsters grow old, Tori. They can’t age, unless… they pass some of their essence on to their children. And, well, I’m no expert on kids, but, ah, Boli and Gabbers have always been a bit ahead of the game for their age.”

    Toriel is sitting rigidly in her chair, paws clenched in her lap. She swallows, like she wants to say something, but she can’t bring herself to open her mouth. Her lip trembles.

    “I… I know what you’re doing, Toriel,” Sans says softly, lifting his gaze to meet his wife’s. “You’re… It must have been hard, when… And you never got to see either of them grow up.”

    The ex-queen of monsters sniffles, clenching her jaw to quell the traitorous sob rising in her throat.

    “... I’m not upset with you about it, really.” The skeleton’s smile is starting to look strained somehow, and he blinks his eye-sockets forcefully. “I just… I just want you to be with me still, when they grow up and make their dreams come true… ok?”

    Floodgates crash open, and tears stream from Toriel’s copper eyes. That persistent sob finally escapes her throat, and she covers her face with her paws. “I… I’m s-so sorry, I…”

    “Aw, no, T, it’s ok,” Sans is at her side in a flash, with an arm around her back and one hand stroking her ear. “I understand, it’s ok.”

    She picks him up suddenly, hugging him to her chest and letting the tears roll freely. Several times, she tries to speak, but nothing coherent is said.

    It’s all okay, though. They needed this out in the open, after eleven years. What’s important for them, is that they’re on the same page, now.

    … And also that grandpa is willing to get the quiche out of the oven while they work things out.

 

-||-

 

    Middle school is certainly an entirely different animal for the twins on their first day. Homerooms are divided by grade level and alphabetically by last name, so at the very least, they get to hang out a bit longer in the morning.

    “Wish Frisk could be here with us,” Gabriola murmurs, resting her skull on her desk, facing her brother in the desk beside her.

    Boli shrugs. “Well, they are ahead of us by a bit. But hey, we can make some new friends, this way!”

    “Mmph.” His sister nods, jaw scraping lightly on the desk. Her eye-sockets are steadily sliding closed.

    Humming to himself, Boli takes a look around the classroom. Most of the other kids in his homeroom are humans, and he recognizes a few he went to elementary school with. They give him a smile and a wave when he looks at them, and he waves back. However, there are a few monster kids in class that he doesn’t recognize offhand. One sitting in the desk to his left looks kind of like a cotton-candy platypus, another near the front of the room is a slime, and the last one on the very back row looks kind of like a mer-horse with mane-like fin.

    He knows it shouldn’t be weird, seeing others of his kind at school, but he can’t help not knowing what exactly to do. Deciding not to dwell on it, he gives a wave to the mer-horse kid.

    Her eyes widen, revealing dark sclera. She glances around herself, then looks back at Boli, gives a shy little smile, and waves back with a webbed hand.

    Boli beams. Potential new friend sighted. Perfect.

    “All right, kids,” their homeroom teacher’s lazy drawl brings his attention back to the front of the room. “Seeing as today is your first day of classes and all that, I’ll be handing out your schedules for this semester. Make sure to hold on to these, trust me, it’s a pain in the backside to get a new one.” The teacher - a relatively young human man with tired eyes and a regrettable haircut - stands in front of the whiteboard, holding a stack of papers. “So, ah, when I call your name, please come up and get your schedule, okay? All right, ah… ‘Francis Edison?’”

    A blonde girl in the front of the class stands up, and trots over to get the first schedule. Boli sighs and kicks back. Being at the back of the room, it will take a bit for him and Gabriola to get theirs.

    “Psst!”

    Boli turns to the source of the sound - the desk to his left - and finds that the platypus monster he saw earlier is looking right at him. He grins. “Hey! What’s up?”

    “Are,” the monster swallows, tapping their little webbed claws on their bill for a moment, “are you really Boli Feemurr? Ms. Toriel’s kid? Frisk’s brother?”

    The skull monster giggles. “Sure am! And that sleepy sack of bones is my twin sister, Gabi!” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder at his twin, who is dead to the world.

    “Whoa!” The platypus monster’s eyes begin to sparkle. “That’s… that’s so cool! Gosh, I, I can’t wait to tell my mom I got to meet you guys! Oh!!” They give a start, and blush darkly under their pastel-pink fur. “S-sorry, I, uh… I’m Alex! Nice to meet you!”

    “Likewise!” Boli chuckles. “You know, it’s kind of weird - I’ve never really hung out with monsters my own age before.”

    “Whaaaaat!?” Alex gasps. “Really?”

    “Hah, yeah, just humans for me.”

    “No way! What’s that like?” They lean forward, clearly enthralled.

    Boli blinks his eye-sockets, and shrugs. “Welp, looks like you’re gonna find out soon enough. But don’t worry! ‘Cause we’re friends now, so I can keep them from pickin’ on ya or anything.”

    If Alex’s eyes were starry before, they’re galaxies, now. “You… mean that? I just, I just met you, and --”

    “Shh,” Boli says, leaning over to put a single paw-pad on Alex’s bill. “Shh. Just accept it, pal.”

    Friendship. Sealed.

    Up at the front of the room, their teacher seems to be having a bit of an issue. “... Gabriola Fee…” He stares at the paper, squinting. “Fee… Feemurr? Is that right?”

    “Yup.” Gabriola lifts her head, eerily quickly for how still she’d been just a moment prior. She stands, rattling slightly as she rights herself, and stuffs her hands in her sweatshirt pockets. Taking her time, she saunters to the front of the room and looks up at the teacher. “That mine?”

    He stares wordlessly for a moment, mouth slightly ajar, and then shakes his head. “Uh, yeah! Sorry, here you go.” He pulls the paper from the top of the stack, and hands it out to her.

    Gabriola considers the paper for a moment. Then it lifts from the teacher’s hand, dimly glowing with a blue hue. “Thanks.” She smiles briefly up at him, hands still firmly in their pockets, and heads back to her seat with the page floating before her.

    When she sits, it takes her a moment to see that everyone else in the room is staring at her. When she finally does, she gives a little start, and her ears fluff out slightly, partially hiding the sides of her skull in white fur.

    “... What?” She asks the room as a whole, her voice small and nervous.

    There’s a short moment in which everyone starts exchanging small looks with each other, until one of the human kids toward the front of the room blurts out, “that was so cool! Can you do that again?!”

    The fur on her ears smooths out again, and she glances over at her brother with a shaky smile. He’s beaming brighter than the uncertain lights in the foam-tile ceiling overhead. Her smile stretches to match it, and she looks over the heads of her peers at the teacher.

    “May I?”

    Though he’s trying to hide it, the glimmering in his eyes is belying his curiosity. “Uh… Sure thing.”

    Grinning, she sets the sheet of paper dramatically on her desk. There’s a bustle of desks moving and chairs scraping on the floor as everyone turns to watch. Slowly, she pulls her left hand from her sweater pocket, and waggles her phalanges.

    She winks at the classroom. Showtime.

 

-||-

 

    Ten minutes later, Gabriola finds herself following a map that was handed out at the end of homeroom to her first class. She’s realized too late that she forgot to compare schedules with her brother, and now she can’t find him anywhere.

    Outwardly, she looks calm enough. Her sleeves are tugged to cover her phalanges, and her ears are slightly poofed out, and only get more so every time she nearly runs into someone. By the time she reaches her first class, she looks like she has stretched-out cotton balls affixed to her skull. Her eye-lights are dim and shaky, and once she claims a seat in the back of the room, he puts her head down and covers her eye-sockets with her sleeves. She has to remind herself to breathe, literally, since she doesn’t need to, and she shudders at the cold, stale air brushing over her bones.

    More of her peers enter the room. She doesn’t lift her head, only tries to bury herself deeper in her sleeves each time she hears one sit down. In a room full of people, she’s never felt more alone in her life.

    Looks like she won’t be sharing this class with her brother.

    The bell rings, and she uncovers one eye-socket too examine her surroundings. Every single seat in the classroom is filled, except for the one directly to her right. Her ears flick backward, and she slowly slumps back into something of a more upright position.

    “Good morning, class,” says the teacher, a portly, sharp-nosed human woman with a daisy pinned in her ash-blonde hair, “I’m Mrs. Nesbit, and I’ll be your history teacher this semester.”

    She launches into a small tirade about high expectations and syllabi that Gabriola can’t find the energy to pay attention to, even as she mechanically grabs the syllabus that is passed to her by the kid in front of her. She elects to read the syllabus through on her own, instead. She’s about halfway through a passage about classroom policies when the door creaks open.

    All gazes - her own included - snap to the door, where a scrawny human boy with buzzed-short brown hair and shaded green eyes is standing, map and schedule clutched in his fists.

    “I’m,” he starts, eyes darting from his classmates to the teacher, “I’m looking for History…?”

    “You must be the one missing student!” It’s hard to say if Mrs. Nesbit looks relieved, or just more tired. “Come on in, there’s one seat left for you.”

    She points across the room, and the boy’s gaze follows the direction until it lands on the person he’ll be sitting next to.

    He blinks. Gabriola blinks back, eye-sockets clicking. She hasn’t talked to Mitchell Schmidt since they were very young, let alone really made eye contact. Somehow, by the way he screws up his face for a moment, she doubts that’s going to change. Deciding to be merciful, she lowers her gaze to her syllabus again, and resumes reading about how cheating is bad and gum is not allowed on school grounds.

    Mitchell grudgingly takes the seat next to her after receiving a syllabus from Mrs. Nesbit. Gabriola doesn’t look at him, and he doesn’t look at her, either.

    Nonetheless, she decides that she hates history class already.

 

-||-

 

    Lunchtime doesn’t come till after third period, and by that time, Gabriola is even quieter than ever. She beelines for the lunchroom, bag over her shoulder and lunchbox in hand, and many of the others she passes in the hallway learn just how tired a skull-faced creature can look.

    As soon as she enters the room, there’s a small crack , and a fuzzy arm drapes itself around her shoulders. “Sis!”

    She releases a breath she had no idea she’d been holding. “God, Boli, it’s so good to see you…!”

    “Likewise, Gabbers!” He pats her shoulder, and takes a step aside. “... Hey, are you okay?”

    She shakes her head, eye-lights dim and staring at the floor before her. “I just wanna eat.”

    “Yeah, okay.” He rests a paw on her shoulder, and begins guiding her forward. “You can sit at the table with me and my friends. I’ve told them all you might not talk much, they said it would be ok!”

    “Thanks,” she hums, and tosses her brother a brief and wobbly smile. He stops her, and gives her a big hug.

    “You can talk to me about it when you’re ready,” he says softly, so only she can hear. She nods, and hugs him back.

    After a second, she lets go, and smiles back at him, more openly. “The pie Mom sent us should make me feel better.”

    “You betcha!” He steps back and punches her arm lightly. “If you start feelin’ better, I’ll introduce you to my new friends! Some of ‘em are monsters, like us.”

    She nods, and continues following him to the table in question. There’s a fair assortment of kids at the round table - Frisk is there, with their best friend Kid at their side, and a few other kids from their own grade level, too. There’s Alex, babbling excitedly to the mer-horse girl, who nods along while listening intently; there’s the slime girl from their homeroom, who waves her fork in greeting while eating some monster variation of jell-o; and a few other kids Gabriola doesn’t immediately recognize - a rabbit monster with peach-colored fur, a dark-skinned human boy with cornrows and a charming grin, and another boy with curly ginger hair and bright, brown eyes. Amiably enough, Gabriola waves a greeting to the others, and then claims her seat next to her brother.

    By the time the slice of butterscotch-cinnamon pie is gone and the bell rings for them to head to their next class, Gabriola feels just strong enough to take on what the rest of the day has to offer.

 

-||-

 

    Toriel and Sans are in much better spirits than they had been that morning by the time the kids come home from school. Gabriola collapses on the living room sofa, while Boli bounces around his father and fills him in on all the new friends he made.

    “... And then there was Clara, she’s like, this cool water-horse monster!”

    “No kiddin’,” Sans chuckles, “sounds like Aaron’s kid. Tori, remind me to congratulate the guy.”

    “Sans,” she chides him, giggling.

    “Oh!” Boli goes on, as if unaware his father interjected, “And, and there’s Misty! She’s a slime, and it’s really cool, ‘cause she can change colors at will, and sometimes she gets excited and starts flashing every color at once, and then there’s Dedrius, he’s a human, and Nick, he’s also a human.”

    “Sounds like you made a lot of friends today, Boli,” Toriel notes, and turns to Gabriola, who’s still lying facedown on the sofa, while Frisk plops into the seat at her feet (she nearly takes up the whole sofa, lying flat). “What about you, sugarskull?”

    Gabriola makes a noncommittal noise into the cushion. “Tired. Long day.”

    “Mtchell’s in all her classess, ma, can you believe it?”

    Toriel sighs. “Well, I suppse it can’t be--”

    Her thought is interrupted by the lilting tones of BWOMP, bwomp, WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT before Sans can pick up his phone.

    “‘Sup, bro?” He tosses an apologetic look at Toriel, who looks more amused than anything. He gives a start, and glances at the phone. “Come again?”

    “Ooh! Say hi to uncle Papa for me, Dad!”

    Sans is quiet for a moment. “... Yeah, Pappers, that was Boli, he says hi. And to uncle Metta, too. Now, uh, what was that first bit you said?”

    The room is so quiet that the shrill tones of Papyrus’ voice can be heard from across the room. Sans begins to sweat.

    “Wow. I… I can’t believe it…! Congratulations, bro, to ya both. Yeah, I’ll tell the others. Hope to see you guys soon. Bye.”

    He hangs up, and stares dumbly at the phone.

    Toriel steps forward. “What was that about, dear?”

    His response doesn’t come right away. He chuckles, then he snorts, and then he laughs outright.

    “Guys, kids, Tori - oh my god,” he wheezes, wiping a tear from his eye-socket. “... Guess who has a new little cousin?”

    “You do?” Boli tilts his head to one side.

    “Wrong-o, bucko,” Sans pats his son on the head, beaming. “ You do!”

Chapter Text

-||-

 

    It’s a bit regrettable that the Feemurrs hadn’t been able to visit Papyrus and Mettaton much at all since Papyrus moved out, but upon hearing the happy news, Toriel was incredibly insistent that they rectify the situation immediately. Even still, they had to wait until fall break - around the human Thanksgiving holiday - so Frisk and the twins won’t miss out on school.

    Toriel glances into the rearview mirror to get a good look at the kids. Frisk is sitting in the middle of the backseat, while the twins have claimed the van’s middle seats. Gabriola is staring out the window, her eye-lights dancing around between different things outside as they pass, and Boli is engrossed in helping Frisk with something on their phone. When Toriel glances back again, she notices that it’s more likely from the giggling that the two of them are more likely making a road trip video than actually figuring out settings. Neither time she looks back does she notice that the seat on Frisk’s left in the very back seems more shadowy than the other side.

    A bony hand rests on her thigh, and she looks over at Sans in the passenger seat. He winks quietly, and she giggles, waving him off with a paw while returning her full attention to the road. It isn’t very often she has her family all in the car like this; in fact, the last time was probably when she and Sans drove the kids to school for the last day of third grade for the twins. Of course, they’d dropped Frisk off at the middle school along the way, so the full-family ride didn’t last very long.

    Toriel can’t lie to herself, as she settles into the driver’s seat and smiles. It feels good to have everyone together, again. And the thought of seeing Papyrus and Mettaton again just makes everything feel so much better.

 

-||-

 

    Nobody had really known what to expect when they reached their destination, but what greets their eyes upon arrival is surprising in all aspects. The first surprise is the house’s size. Knowing Mettaton, it would have been expected to see something large and boisterous, but the house whose driveway the Feemurr family van pulls into is a single-story ranch home with a fairly average structure. However, the exterior has been painted a bright magenta, with bold black accents. The driveway is fairly long, and allows the visitors a chance to behold the spacious front lawn, complete with plastic flamingos, a birdbath, and a couple of strong oak trees standing beside each other, which so happen to be laden with round, red paper lamps. If one looks closely, one can just make out the power cords running to an exterior outlet through the grass. A woven hammock with bright, warm colors hangs between the two trees, though currently only a few acorns and shed leaves are resting within.

    “You think we’re at the right place?” Boli asks, craning his neck to see the lawn through the window on his sister’s side.

    As soon as he says this, the front door of the house flies open with a bang, and a tall, bony individual wearing a red scarf, a knitted sweater, and khakis strolls out onto the porch. He spies the car, slaps his hands to his skull, and shrieks loudly enough for the visitors to hear from inside the van, “METTATON, COME QUICK, THEY’RE HERE!!”

    “Yup,” Sans nods, “this is the place.”

    There’s a clamor of unbuckling seat belts and opening doors as the Feemurrs file out of the car. Almost immediately, Sans is scooped into a crushing embrace by his brother.

    “SANS! OH, BROTHER, I HAVE MISSED YOU!” Papyrus sets the smaller skeleton down promptly, and moves on to embrace Toriel in a similar fashion. He even manages to lift her off the ground by about half a foot. “AND YOU TOO, YOUR MAJESTY! YOU LOOK AS LOVELY AS EVER!”

    “Oof! Oh, Papyrus, you flatterer!” Toriel laughs, and struggles to pat the skeleton on the skull.

    “NONSENSE, YOUR HIGHNESS! I, THE GREAT AND NOBLE PAPYRUS, DO NOT BELIEVE IN FLATTERY! I MEAN EVERY WORD OF IT!” He sets her back down at the end of this little tirade, and smooths the shoulders of her dress with a bright smile.

    “Uncle Papa!” Boli rushes forward and leaps at his uncle, nearly tackling him to the ground. Toriel takes a step back to give them space.

    “WOWIE! IF IT ISN’T MY FAVORITE NEPHEW!”

    “Your only nephew,” Boli winks.

    “THAT’S WHY YOU’RE MY FAVORITE NEPHEW! ARE MY FAVORITE NIBLING AND MY FAVORITE NIECE HERE, TOO?” Papyrus looks around, ruffling the fluff on Boli’s skull.

    Frisk latches onto their uncle’s free side, and Gabriola giggles. “Yeah, we’re here!”

    “FANTASTIC!!” Papyrus beams for a moment, and then does a double-take. “WAIT A SECOND! HOW DID YOU TWO GET SO TALL?”

    Boli and Gabriola exchange a look, and then turn back to their uncle, who is only about a foot taller than either of them. Before one of them can answer, Papyrus begins to cackle.

    “NYEH HEH HEH HEH!! SANS, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW YOU’VE GOTTEN THE SHORT END OF THE STICK?”

    Sans laughs along with everyone else. “Feels good, Paps. You should get down on my level sometime.”

    Papyrus’s expression sours almost immediately. “OH, GOD. SANS, THAT WASN’T EVEN GOOD.”

    “Aw, c’mon, uncle Papa,” Boli grins, “don’t feel so down about it.”

    “ENOUGH!” Papyrus cries, releasing his niblings and wheeling about to head inside. “GET IN HERE, BEFORE YOU START MAKING MORE ATROCIOUS JOKES!”

    And with that, everyone follows him into the pink-and-black house, the door clicking shut behind Sans as he enters last.

    Well, not quite last. Not all of us need doors, you know.

 

-||-

 

    If the exterior of Papyrus’ and Mettaton’s house is gaudy, then the interior is downright baffling. It’s hard to describe. The wallpaper seems to be color-coded for every room - blue for the entryway, a warm orange for the living room, light pink for the kitchen, and so on - and the furniture in each room matches these palettes almost exquisitely.

    “Darlings~!” Mettaton waves with one arm from his reclining position on the sofa. He’s in his more power-efficient box-shaped form at the moment, but if his flashing display is anything to go by, he’s more than pleased to see his extended family again. “Oh, you all look just as wonderful as the day we left! And taller, too, all except for you, Sans.”

    The skeleton shrugs. “Welp, we can’t all have our heads in the clouds.” He ignores the fact that his brother suddenly rounds a glare in his direction, and continues on to say, “Some of us have to stay grounded .”

    “WHAT HAVE I STARTED.” Papyrus groans, clapping a bony hand to his face.

    Boli snickers, visibly shivering with the effort not to laugh outright. “Yeah, everyone knows it’s good to have friends - or in this case, family - in low places.”

    Papyrus says nothing, but it looks like he might just cry.

    Mettaton laughs, covering the speaker just below his display with one gloved hand. “Goodness me, dear, they haven’t even been here for ten minutes, and you’ve already got them going.”

    “DON’T REMIND ME.” Papyrus makes a show of rolling his eye-sockets. “SO! IF YOU ALL WILL MAKE YOURSELVES COMFORTABLE, I’LL GO SEE IF--” His eye-sockets begin to sparkle, “-- IF THE LITTLE ONE IS READY FOR COMPANY!”

    He marches from the room, nyeh-heh-heh’ing to himself, and leaving the others to find seats. Fortunately for them, there’s more than enough sofa space to go around. Sans and Toriel claim a loveseat right beside the fireplace, and the kids pile themselves on the large sofa on either side of Mettaton, Boli on his right, and Frisk and Gabriola on his left.

    Their robot uncle stretches his arms to rest over all of their shoulders. “Ah, it’s so good to see you again, darlings. Papyrus has been working hard all day to prepare dinner for us, and your cousin has just been so delighted to meet you!”

    Frisk bounces in their seat, and the twins lean forward to grin at each other from around their uncle. Across the room, Sans clears his metaphorical throat.

    “Not to burst your bubble, there, but how exactly can you tell what the little kiddo is thinkin’?”

    Mettaton chuckles, and it’s a low sound, full of mischief. He gives an animated shrug. “Oh, let’s just call it intuition.”

    At that moment, Papyrus reemerges from the hallway, smile brighter than ever. “IS EVERYONE READY?!”

    The visitors are almost unanimous in their nodding.

    “BEHOLD!” He takes a wide step away from the entryway, and gestures toward the opening with a grand flourish. “THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST, ONE AND ONLY, YOUR COUSIN-SLASH-NIBLING, RIGATONI!”

    Right before their eyes, something like a spectre fades into existence, standing in what can only be described as an outlandishly exaggerated vogueish pose and smiling even brighter than their skeletal father ever could. Well, ‘spectre’ is probably too sinister a word to use for this particular little monster, since the only thing they really seem to have in common with the beings from human horror films is a vaguely skeletal face, and an overall ghost-like appearance, with their body glowing pale grey, with a tinge of salmon. Their legs seem to disappear into nothingness somewhere below the knees, and their hands seem slightly bony, in addition to being slightly translucent. Their face is mostly humanoid in appearance, though they seem to lack proper lips, with their smile being all teeth with hollow gaps at the corners of their grin, and they sport thick, wavy spectral hair that shimmers slightly blue. They open their eyes - they shine like pearls in the light - and relax their pose into something more casual, offering a little wave.

    “THOUGH WE CALL THEM ‘TONI,’ FOR SHORT!” Papyrus is still beaming like he’s won the lottery.

    “Whoa!” Boli gasps, clambering off the couch to approach them. “Did you just teleport!? I can do that, too! Oh, I’m Boli, by the way!”

    Toni giggles, and shakes their head. “No, I can’t do that! But I can do this!” And they vanish, right on the spot.

    Boli’s eye-lights are almost like stars in his skull. “YOU GO INVISIBLE!? THAT’S SO COOL!”

    They giggle again, this time the sound coming from the seat on the couch he’d just vacated. “Glad you think so!” They reappear right as he turns back around, his jaw hanging agape.

    He looks at his siblings, then back at his cousin, then over at his parents, to Mettaton, over his shoulder at Papyrus, then back at his cousin. “... You’re so COOL!”

    “I know!” Rigatoni throws their arms in the air, beaming. “Thank you! But, wait, you said you could teleport?”

    “You betcha!” Boli grins, and then points at his sister. “And Gabbers can throw stuff around without touching it! It’s called blue magic!”

    Rigatoni gasps, and leans around their robot father to look at Gabriola with wide, starry eyes. “You can do that, too!?”

    “Oh,” Gabriola blinks, and nods. “Yup. Wanna see?”

    “WELL!" Her uncle interjects sharply, beads of sweat on his skull. "IT LOOKS LIKE EVERYONE IS GETTING ALONG NICELY!” Papyrus stands with his hands on his hips, now looking victorious. “ALLOW ME TO JUST SET UP THE DINNER, AND LET’S GET THIS UNDERWAY!”

    “Oh, allow me to help, dear,” Toriel stands and shuffles toward the kitchen, pausing along the way to smile down at her nibling. “Hello, my child, I am your aunt Toriel, and that over there,” she tosses a smile to the bag of bones on the couch, “is your uncle Sans.”

    “Ooooh, I’ve heard of you guys!” Rigatoni hops up from the couch, and gives Toriel a big hug around the waist. They’re already slightly taller than Sans. He doesn’t know how to feel about this, upon realizing it. That changes almost immediately, because a moment later they’re hugging him. “It’s so nice to meet you!”

    “Ditto to you, Toni,” Sans chuckles, ruffling his phalanges through the young monster’s ephemeral hair. “Don’t you forget your cousin, Frisk, though.”

    Rigatoni pulls away, gasping, and wheels to face Frisk. The human waves brightly, and their spectral cousin gives an excited squeal. “Oh my goodness! I’m sorry, Frisk, I’m just so excited, I didn’t mean to overlook you!”

    Frisk giggles, and shrugs. ‘It’s fine,’ they sign.

    “Aw, don’t be silly!” Rigatoni bounces forward and pulls them off the couch by the hands. “Hey!” They look at Gabriola and Boli, “Would you guys like to come see my room? I have some cool action figures we could play with! Papa said they used to be his!”

    Over on the loveseat, Sans puts a hand over his chest and looks a bit misty-eyed.

    “Sure, we’d love to, wouldn’t we, guys?” Boli looks at his siblings expectantly, and they both nod. Half a moment later, the four kids are scrambling down the hallway.

    “I’ll let you know when dinner is ready, darlings!” Mettaton calls after them.

    There’s a comfortable settling of silence between him and Sans as they stare after the kids. Toriel disappeared into the kitchen with Papyrus sometime shortly after introducing herself to her nibling, and for the moment, it’s just the two of them in the living room.

    Sans closes his eye-sockets and leans into the couch cushions. “You have a good thing goin’ here, you old bucket of bolts.”

    “Could say the same to you, lazybones.” Mettaton chuckles in turn.

    “So, uh, just wonderin’,” Sans scratches at his skull, “How long were you guys plannin’ to uh, you know…?”

    Mettaton doesn’t reply right away. His wheel spins uselessly, not quite reaching the floor from where he’s reclining, and he threads his fingers together, twiddling the thumbs. “... Well, between you and me, Sans, we weren’t exactly planning.”

    Sans opens one eye-socket, regarding the robot in surprise. “... Come again?”

    “It’s… Complicated.” Mettaton sighs. “I promise, Papyrus and I will tell you, some other time. All right?”

    “Sure thing, bro-in-law.” Sans closes his eyes and lies back once more, but not before regarding the robot a bit more closely for a moment.

 

-||-

 

    Papyrus has definitely improved his cooking abilities since he’s moved out. Not only is the food edible, but it’s damn good. As they expected, dinner is spaghetti and meatballs, but for once, the magical meal doesn’t have any burnt aftertaste that lingers on the palate long after the substance is dissolved. The table is perfectly round, and the dining room it’s settled in is fairly large, so there’s plenty of room for everyone. The food itself is set around the edges of a sizeable lazy suzan in the center of the table, and everyone simply turns it gently to fill their plates.

    Mettaton has changed into his EX form, if only for the simple fact that it takes up less space at the table. He sits amiably to Papyrus’ right, with Rigatoni at his other side, with his hands folded neatly in his lap. Papyrus is regaling Sans and Toriel - both of whom are seated in that order immediately to his left - with tales of his latest culinary escapades. Gabriola sits beside her mother, and Frisk sits next to her, while Boli completes the circle, sitting beside his cousin.

    While it’s undeniable that all of the conversations taking place are interesting, it seems more appealing to sit back and take it all in from a distance. Frisk alternates from signing with their brother and their cousin to exchanging a few thoughts with their sister from time to time. It’s hard to tell who has more enthusiastic stories - Rigatoni, or their skeletal father. Mettaton makes a show of pretending he’s sampling the spider cider that he and Papyrus bought for the occasion, but it’s obvious to anyone really paying attention that it’s only pretend. One supposes that even monster robots must not have much of an appetite. His child, on the other hand, can’t seem to get enough of the meal, even when their form proves a bit too insubstantial from time to time, and bits fall through their throat, or they have trouble grabbing the fork. These slip-ups fail to dampen their spirits, and they keep up their lively interactions as if nothing is amiss.

    Frisk and Boli occasionally glance toward this dark corner of the room. Sometimes they have mildly questioning expressions, but these are always met with a polite, if not wobbly smile and a gently dismissive wave. It can be tiring, just being around so much going on at once, but it’s usually worth it to see loved ones having such a good time. One tends to forget how nice it is to have everyone under the same roof for a change…!

    At one point, toward the end of the meal, Rigatoni turns around and peers toward the corner as well. Their eyes are so bright and shimmery, like someone took the very stars from the night sky and melted them into stones to inlay into some ethereal sculpture. After only a moment, they turn back around, and ask a question in a hushed voice one only just happens to overhear.

    “Hey, Boli… what are you looking at over there?”

    Boli glances into the shadows once again. Hollow hands twitch slightly, daring to hope. He looks back at his cousin, and asks in equally hushed tones, “What do you see over there?”

    Rigatoni thinks for a moment, then glances back. They shrug. “Ah… a corner?”

    Boli’s eye-lights dim just a bit, and he gives the corner the briefest, most apologetic look. “... Yeah, it’s a neat corner.”

    One should know better than to get one’s hopes up. Still, it’s hard not to be disappointed.

 

-||-

 

    After dinner, everyone shuffles into the living room for a movie. The four adults claim the couch, and the four kids bundle up on the floor under a large blanket, giggling and shushing when they get too loud.

    It only gets to about halfway through the movie before all the kids seem dead to the world. Boli is snoring - somehow - and Frisk’s back has become a makeshift pillow for Rigatoni to sprawl all over. Gabriola is resting her skull on top of her brother’s, and sometimes she lets out a slow breath that makes the golden fur atop his head ruffle.

    Such a spectacle proves distracting even for their parents. “Goodness, look at all of them,” Toriel croons softly, hugging Sans to her side. “They have only just met today, and they are all so comfortable with one another!”

    “YES,” Papyrus hisses in a strained, excited whisper, “THEY ARE THE BEST OF FRIENDS, AND THEREFORE THE BEST OF COUSINS!”

    “Couldn’t’ve said it better myself, Pappers,” Sans sighs, smiling warmly. “I gotta ask, though… Didn’t Toni first make their appearance, like, what, two months ago?”

    Mettaton - still in his EX form - nods his affirmation. “Why yes, Papyrus was so excited, he had to call you right away.”

    “If that is the case,” Toriel muses, “How come are they so… well, big? When the twins were two months old, they were still fairly small.”

    Papyrus is oddly quiet. Mettaton shifts in his seat. The two of them share a pointed look. “... Again, we’ll have to tell you more another time,” the robot says, gently patting his partner’s shoulder, “but for now, let’s just say our Rigatoni is… a special case, among monsters.”

    Everyone seems to agree to leave it at that, and sit back to watch the rest of the movie. Everyone, that is, except for the skull-monster resting her skull on her brother’s head-fluff. She spends the rest of the relatively quiet evening wondering what her uncle could possibly mean about her cousin.

    If she thinks to ask, however, her grandfather may have the answer.

Chapter Text

-||-

 

     The first official sleepover at their uncles’ place is a good one, for the Feemurr kids. So much so, in fact, that they end up not sleeping for quite some time. Well, Gabriola at least gets a little snooze in, curled up at the foot of her cousin’s bed while Rigatoni sits on the floor with Frisk and Boli, the three of them chatting excitedly.

     “So, wait, hold on,” Boli says, looking his cousin over, “So you’re only a few months old, right?”

     “Well, yeah! Kind of,” Rigatoni grins, their opalescent eyes shimmering. “I… feel a lot older, you know? And I can talk, and stuff.”

     “Yeah, I mean, Gabi and I couldn’t talk that good at your age,” the skull-monster hums.

     Giggling, Rigatoni shrugs. “I only really know as much as my dads told me, but… they say I’m kind of special, as monsters go.”

     “No kidding…!” Boli leans forward. “How d’you figure?”

     “Well,” They look from him, to Frisk, to where Gabriola’s curled up on the bed, “That’s probably because I’ve been here longer than they have…”

 

-||-

 

     “As you can probably tell,” Mettaton says, his display glowing steadily in the dim living room lights, “Our little Toni isn’t like most monster children.” He’s sitting - more or less - in his more box-shaped form on the sofa, only his legs out, one folded neatly over the other as he reclines before the television. Complete with an untouched glass of wine in his gloved hand, he’s the very picture of elegance.

     “I mean,” Sans shrugs, from where he’s nearly buried in Toriel’s coat, sitting on her lap in an armchair, “Neither are Boli and Gabi.” He side-eyes his brother, who begins to sweat under his gaze. “Lemme guess - us bony folks like to mess up the natural order of things, is that it?”

     “SORT OF, I GUESS?” Papyrus wrings his hands together, phalanges clicking over carpals. “WELL - I FIGURE YOU KNOW HOW MONSTER BABIES ARE MADE…”

     “I’m the one who told you , bro,” Sans chuckles.

     Papyrus pulls a face. “DON’T REMIND ME…!” Shaking his skull slightly, he goes on. “ALL THAT CONSIDERED… TONI CAME ABOUT A BIT DIFFERENTLY.”

     “So much suspense!” Toriel laughs softly. “Come on, don’t keep us waiting.”

     Papyrus glances at Mettaton; the robot’s screen has shifted to a red background with three yellow dots. “Well, for starters,” Mettaton hums, “They were already here when we bought the place.”

     When his words are met with confused look from Sans and Toriel, Papyrus pipes in: “THIS HOUSE WAS HAUNTED, WHEN WE BOUGHT IT.”

     “What, with a ghost?” Sans blinks his eye-sockets. “Paps, aren’t you … you know, afraid of ghosts?”

     “W-WELL, SOME GHOSTS,” the taller skeleton tugs at the sleeves of his shirt. “NOT ALL OF THEM! IN FACT, ALL THE GHOSTS I’VE MET ARE ACTUALLY PRETTY NICE!” He pardons a small smile at his husband, who seems pretty amused by the whole exchange. “BUT - SEE - THOSE ARE GHOST MONSTERS. GHOSTS - YES - BUT STILL MONSTERS! LIKE HOW WE’RE SKELETONS, BUT YOU KNOW, MONSTERS .” He looks at his phalanges, as if they might hold the words he’s looking for. “... HUMAN GHOSTS ARE DIFFERENT.”

     Toriel goes very still, her smile frozen on her face, while Sans’ eye-lights dim ever so slightly. He manages to shake it off better than his wife, however. “... How d’you mean, bro?”

     “... WELL, FOR STARTERS, HUMAN SOULS CAN HANG AROUND FOR AWHILE AFTER… YOU KNOW,” he winces, and moves ahead quickly, “AND SOMETIMES, WHEN THEY DO, THEY SORT OF GET TIED TO A PLACE. TONI - OR, erm, WHATEVER THEIR NAME WAS BEFORE WE GOT TO KNOW THEM - LIKED TO PLAY PRANKS ON US. OPEN THE CUPBOARDS, TURN ON THE DRYER, TOSS BOOKS OFF THE SHELF,” here he pauses, and then laughs. “HONESTLY, IT WAS A LOT LIKE YOU WERE STILL AROUND, SANS!”

     This brightens the smile on the shorter skeleton’s face. “No kiddin’...! C’mon, get to the god bit, bro. We’re dyin’ over here - metaphorically speaking.”

     “VERY WELL!” Papyrus grins. “SO! WHAT MAKES A HUMAN GHOST BECOME A MONSTER GHOST-LIKE CHILD, YOU ASK? I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, SHALL TELL YOU!”

     He pauses for a very prolonged dramatic silence. Toriel - no longer stock-still - looks like she might explode in anticipation. Sans is grinning same as always. Mettaton is eating up every moment, casually swirling his drink. The shadows along the wall behind the couch are vibrating.

     After he deems the thirty-second silence to be long enough, Papyrus waves his phalanges mystically through the air. “MAGIC!”

 

-||-

 

     … Even after decades of research on the subject, it never really seemed possible, but if what Papyrus and Mettaton are telling Sans and Toriel is true…

     Yes, perhaps it’s not so far-fetched, after all… Monsters are formed from magic and dust, and humans are formed from… well, meat. And bone. And all sorts of other things. However! All humans have a Soul, like Monsters do. Some humans, when they… expire… have a tendency for their Souls to stick around, in a sense. Refusing to die, if you will. These are what humans have referred to for ages as ‘ghosts’. In this case, somehow, with the kinds of monsters that Papyrus and Mettaton are, and their intent, and the magic involved, it all came together to give shape and form to the little Soul hanging around their haunted house.

     … Truly, a marvelous thing…

 

-||-

 

     Two weeks after that first sleepover, Frisk, Boli, and Gabriola have invited their cousin over for a Friday-night party at their place, along with many of their friends from school. Toni was the first to arrive, in a bright red convertible their skeletal father was driving.

     “You know he tapes on the sunglasses, right?” Rigatoni giggles, holding their backpack in front of themself with both hands as they stand just inside the front door. “Like, to the sides of his skull.”

     “Yeah,” Boli grins, his eye-lights dancing happily in his sockets, shutting the door behind his cousin. “He’s pretty cool.”

     “The coolest,” Gabriola nods her agreement from where she’s sprawled over the back of the couch. She’s lying on her back, hands clasped under her ribs, where her belly would be, if she had one; as it is, her sweater simply caves in under her ribs. She turns her skull to smile at her cousin. “You excited to meet our friends?”

     Rigatoni nods, though their smile seems a bit shaky. “Yeah! I haven’t met many other folks. Are… are they nice?”

     “Course they are! Wouldn’t be our friends, if they weren’t!” Boli laughs, and takes his cousin’s bag with one paw. “C’mon, you can stay in my room - Gabbers likes her space.” The next moment, he’s at the stairs, taking them two at a time.

     “Slow down, hotshot,” Sans calls from the kitchen doorway, having stepped out with a cup of coffee in one hand. “Not everyone can blink, buddy.”

     “Yeah, I can,” Rigatoni says, sounding mildly confused, and slowly blinking their opalescent eyes. “See?”

     Sans looks like his heart is melting. “N- … That’s great, buddy.”

     “Thanks, Uncle Sans.” They smile a bit more, and turn to follow their cousin upstairs.

     For a moment, it’s just Sans and his daughter in the room, the former taking slow sips of coffee through his teeth, the latter watching the cars roll by through the window.

     “How’s school been, kiddo?” He asks her, admiring how easily she fits on the sofa like that.

     She shrugs in response. After a long pause, she adds, as an afterthought, “... Had a fight, today.”

     “You had a what…? ” Sans grips his coffee mug a bit too tight, eye-sockets darkening.

     Gabriola’s eye-lights roll. “Nothing serious. Some guy thought it’d be funny to act like a jerk at lunch. I thought it’d be even funnier if his lunch tray flew into his face. He told a teacher. Teacher didn’t think it was so funny.” She hums a moment. “Got detention tomorrow. I asked Boli to take me. Didn’t want to worry you guys.”

     Sans is silent, shocked. “... You know you can tell us things, Gabbers.”

     “I know. It’s just not that important.” She flicks one ear, drumming her phalanges on the back of her metacarpals. “Seeing as Mom’s at the PTA tonight, I figured she’s going to hear about it.” She casts her gaze at her father. “... You’re not mad, are you?”

     Sans sighs. “... I can’t say I’m too mad, no. Just… try not to do stuff like that, okay, kiddo?” It’s obvious he’s trying not to add, or, y’know, just don’t get caught.

     “Mm.” Gabriola nods slowly, turning her skull to face the street. She doesn’t say much more for awhile, and her father finds himself at a loss for what to say.

     Eventually, he clears his metaphorical throat. “You know your mom dislikes it when you sit on the couch like that,” he nods to where she’s lying.

     “I weigh forty pounds,” Gabriola hums, not taking her eyes off the street.

     “Yeah, I know. She doesn’t let me do it, either.”

     One of her ears perks up, and she lifts her skull to look her father over. “... When’s she get home, tonight?”

     “Not for another few hours. It’s gonna run late again, she said.” He pauses, eye-sockets narrowing. “Why?”

     She swings her legs over, letting them dangle between the back of the couch and the window, and sits upright, smiling mischievously at her father. “... Come try it. It’s fun to see the looks on people’s faces.”

     Sans’s eye-sockets squint, outright. “... You want me to join you in deliberately breaking a rule that Tori set out, what, just because it’s fun?”

     Gabriola blinks slowly, and says nothing.

     After a moment of staring each other down, Sans sighs, closing his eye-sockets entirely. His daughter blinks, and then he’s sitting on the back of the sofa beside her, taking another sip of coffee.

     A grey sedan drives by, and an elderly human woman stares at the two of them through the window, with wide eyes. Gabriola fixes her unmoving stare on the woman, and Sans takes another sip of coffee. The car speeds up, and turns right at the next stop sign.

     “... You’re right, this is fun.” Sans laughs. Toriel doesn’t have to know.

 

-||-

 

     So far, this year for the middle school PTA has been one nightmare after another for Toriel. First, she’s had to deal with Kathleen Schmidt appointing herself as chairperson for most every meeting despite the fact that Debbie Clarke - a mousy-haired, plump woman who runs a bakery downtown - is the elected president; second, though she’s glad to only have this PTA to worry about for the year, seeing as the twins are in sixth grade and Frisk is in eighth, she almost wishes she didn’t have to hear about all three of her children apparently being troublemakers all in one sitting; and third… Well. Better just to listen.

     “... and things like this are why it’d be better if monsters had their own school,” Kathleen says to the room at large, a sweet smile on her lips. “First, it’s going to be little disputes at the lunch table, then what? Fires? Riots?”

     Ms. Clarke, who’s just been interrupted while informing the room of an incident where a monster student and a human student got in a fight in the lunchroom, is staring blankly at Ms. Schmidt, holding a page with the meeting agenda on it in one hand, and adjusting her glasses with the other. “... Kathy, if I may? I haven’t even mentioned who the children in question were, yet.”

     “Mm? Oh, sorry .” Kathleen rounds her too-sweet smile on Ms. Clarke. “Go ahead, Deb.”

     Toriel focuses her attention on Ms. Clarke, trying to ignore Ms. Schmidt for just one minute. Maybe, if she tries hard enough , she can forget all about the devil woman, and just worry about--

     “According to the report, it was Gabriola Feemurr and Mitchell Schmidt who had the altercation...”

     Toriel stares blankly at her paws, hardly hearing the buzzing in the room around her, hardly noticing the glances people are giving both her and Kathleen, who’s sitting across the room. She remembers Mitchell, the kid who used to be Gabriola’s best friend, the little human child she invited for a playdate years ago, whose mother, standing just yards away from her now, took one look at precious little Gabriola and decided she wasn’t good enough to play with her little boy…

     Suddenly, Toriel realizes that her paws are very, very hot. She fans herself with them, quickly, to distract herself from her anger and cool them off. Even still, that point proves itself moot when she hears Kathleen demanding to know what “that creature” did to her “baby boy.” Folding her paws in her lap to attempt to smother the oncoming flames, Toriel plasters a sweet smile of her own on her face, and inhales slowly, calming her nerves to face the incoming debate.

 

-||-

 

     By the time Toriel returns home, later that evening, she’s too exhausted to be angry. A chorus of greetings herald her arrival through the front door, and she barely hears herself bleat a response in kind as she looks over the flock of children piled in her living room. From the looks of it, most of her kids’ friends had been able to make it. They all quickly return their attention to the video game that Frisk seems to be absolutely demolishing the others at. Namely, they're demolishing their brother, and a redheaded human boy named Nick.

     “C’mon, Boli, you gotta counter!” Alex cries, wringing their claws over their bill and slapping their tail on the floor excitedly.

     “Frisk, go, go go, they’re gonna gang up on you!” Clara - the mer-horse girl - gasps, clinging to Frisk’s left shoulder.

     “Aw, you guys ain’t seen nothin’!” Kid grins, sitting on Frisk’s right. “Frisk has this in the bag, don’tcha, buddy?”
Frisk is grinning victoriously, even though the fight is far from over.

     Smiling tiredly and shaking her head, Toriel heads to the kitchen for a bit of a snack. Sans is already inside, sitting at the table and showing off some of his blue magic for a wide-eyed human kid with dreadlocks.

     “That’s just like Gabi’s…!” Detrius is looking more delighted by the second. “How do you guys do that?”

     “Magic,” Sans says, plain and simple, with a wink. He looks up, and his smile softens upon seeing Toriel. “Evenin’, hon.”

     “Good evening, you two,” she smiles at the both of them. “Is everyone getting along well?”

     Sans clearly notices the edge in her tone. “Sure are,” he responds. “Gabbers took Toni upstairs to get them to bed - poor little thing is tuckered out from all the attention, but boy , did they love it.” He chuckles. “I was just showin’ this kiddo some little tricks. He tells me Gabi’s almost as good as I am.”

     “Maybe better,” Detrius teases.

     “Watch out, kid, or I might show you…!” Sans flashes a playful grin at the boy, who laughs and scoots out of his chair.

     “I’ma go hang out with the others,” Detrius grins at the two monsters. “Thanks for having us all over, Mr. and Mrs. Feemurr! Your place rocks!” With that, he dashes back into the living room.

     Toriel smiles after him, then claims his vacant seat at the table. “... I am glad our children have such wonderful friends.”

     “Me, too.” Sans looks her over quietly. “... You hear about the -”

     “I did.” She cuts him off before he can say the dreaded f word. “I’m guessing she told you?”

     “Yup. She didn’t really want to talk about it. Said it wasn’t a big deal.” He sighs. “... She should realize it’s always a big deal. I’m just glad there weren’t any Souls involved.”

     “We’re monsters, Sans,” Toriel reminds him, her voice lowered so the children can’t hear from the other room. “Souls are always involved. … I’m just glad nothing came of it.”

     “You think we should do anything about it…?”

     She falls quiet, thinking. “... I will have a talk with her, once the others are gone.”

     Sans winces. “She’s got detention tomorrow. Might not get a chance, before then.”

     “Afterwards, then.” Toriel tugs on one ear absently, looking over her husband with sad eyes. “... I’m tired, dear. Let’s go to bed.”

     “Course. Be up in a jiffy. I’ll just make sure the kids are situated down here.”

     She leaves him with a smile, heading down the hall to their room. Even with the door closed, she can hear the sounds of laughter echoing through the vents, and the sound helps her feel calm, despite the tension she can’t shake.

     … Something tells her this is only the beginning.

Chapter Text

-||-

 

     Oddly enough, when Boli blinks into his sister’s room to wake her up for the trip to detention, he finds she’s already dressed and ready to go, sitting on the edge of her bed in an oversized sweater and a pair of leggings - which, arguably, fit her like sweatpants, hanging loosely from her bones.

     She looks up at him, blinking slowly. “I’m ready.”

     “I noticed,” Boli stuffs his hands into the pockets of his gym shorts, looking a little concerned. “Are you sure you’re gonna be okay, today? I can hang around, if you want--”

     “No, you don’t need to get in trouble, too.” She shakes her head, standing up and shouldering her backpack. “C’mon, let’s get going before we wake Toni up.” She nods at the ephemeral monster sleeping oh the futon across the room from her bed, curled up in a pile of blankets and looking downright peaceful.

     Boli nods, and takes his sister’s carpals in his paw. “Alright, hold on.” Only when he feels her return the grip does he walk toward the closet, opening it up and taking a step through.

     They step out from behind a car in the middle school’s parking lot, standing under a streetlamp. It’s still fairly early, and the lamp’s light pierces through the haze of the misty morning.

     “You sure you’re gonna be all right here, alone?” Boli asks again, unable to shake the uneasy feeling in his gut.”

     “Relax,” Gabriola sighs, offering him a placating smile. “I knew what I was getting into by causing trouble. I always heard detention was where all the cool kids go, anyway.” She nudges him playfully. “Maybe by the time Monday comes around, I’ll be more popular than you!”

     “Pfft, sure, sis, whatever you say.” Boli grins. He knows she’s trying to make him feel better. She sure knows how to do it. “Try to let me know if you have any issues, okay? I’ll be here in a flash.”

     “Okay, bro.” She ruffles his head, and walks toward the school. “I’ll let you know when I’m out.”

     He waves her off, but doesn’t leave right away, not until he sees her actually go inside the building. The second she disappears around a corner through the glass doors, he lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and walks around the car again, back to Gabriola’s room, through the closet. Rigatoni is sitting up on the futon, now, looking at him with wide eyes and a small, concerned frown.

     “Is… Gabi going to be okay?” They ask hesitantly, kneading the blanket in their vaguely-transparent hands.

     Boli smiles at his cousin the best he can. “She says so, so I’m gonna believe her,” he decides. He ruffles Rigatoni’s hair as he walks past. “Wanna help me fix breakfast, buddy?”

     “Do I…!” They throw aside the blankets in a flourish, and follow him eagerly downstairs. He always thought his own footsteps were quiet, but Rigatoni’s are downright silent . They pass the next half-hour making an absolute mess in the kitchen, fixing the most fantastic batch of waffles they can possibly conjure.

     It helps to distract Boli from his nerves.

 

-||-

 

     Gabriola checks and rechecks the details on her detention slip as she shuffles down the halls. Being in school when it’s so empty is disorienting in and of itself; it hardly helps that all the hallways look more or less the same. At least the folks who designed this place thought to include some signs at the intersections.

     Eventually, she arrives at the room she’s been assigned to - room 205. It’s an alien classroom, to her, she doesn’t have a single class here, but on opening the door, she sees a familiar face.

     Among the three other students serving detention this morning - all of them humans, she notices - is the boy she’d picked a ‘fight’ with, the day before, Mitchell Schmidt. Suppressing the urge to pull a face on seeing him, she instead fixes him with a steely, unblinking gaze as she meanders between the desks to find a seat. As if having every class with him isn’t enough, now she has to serve detention with him, as well.

     Fine. If things are going to be that way, she decides to nip it in the bud. She picks the seat right next to him. She finally takes her gaze off him as she sits, rummaging in her bag to get out her homework.

     “Ooh, shit, Mitch,” one of the other humans - a large, shaggy-headed boy nursing a black eye - grins over at him, “Isn’t that the monster chick who got you good , yesterday?”

     She isn’t looking, but she can feel the air around Mitchell tense up at those words. “... Put a sock in it, Blake.”

     “Whatcha gonna do, Schmidt, tell a teacher?” Blake snorts, arousing some snickering from the equally-rough-looking teen on his right. “Ohh, no, I’m so scared…”

     Without moving, Gabriola glances up to look at Blake properly, sizing him up. He flinches at the sight of the pinprick lights in her hollow eye-sockets looking at him, and she can’t shake the thought in the back of her mind that she could take him, it’d be easy. Huffing a soft breath, she returns her attention to her math homework, twirling a pencil between her phalanges as she thinks over the first problem. The gentle click-click-click of wood against bone helps to distract her from her immediate surroundings.

     Presently, the teacher arrives, a younger human man who clearly looks like he’d rather be anywhere else. He writes his name on the board - Mr. Dervish - and plants himself in the chair at the desk.

     “Listen up, kids,” He says, and though Gabriola hadn’t thought it possible, his voice sounds even more bored and exhausted than he looks, “Do whatever you want in here. Play cards, text, do homework, listen to music, I don’t care. I have over a hundred essays to grade this weekend, and they put me in here with you guys. So I am going to put on my headset and grade these papers. If y’all get too loud for me to hear my music, you get more detention. If y’all don’t, then y’all get to go home after today and we never have to talk about this again.” He looks each of them in the eyes. “Y’all understand?”

     Four teenage heads nod in understanding.

     “Good. Keep it to a dull roar and we’ll be peachy.” With that, he puts on an enormous pair of headphones, opens up his briefcase, and pulls out one of several hundred essays.

     While the three human kids blink and stew in surprise, Gabriola twirls her pencil once more and returns her attention to her homework, humming a quiet sigh to herself.

     Maybe it won’t be so bad.

 

-||-

 

     After breakfast - and clean-up - Boli waves the last of his friends off from the porch as their parents drive them home. Yawning, he turns and heads back inside, starting for his room.

     Toriel looks at him from the kitchen table. For a moment, she opens her mouth to stop him, to ask him to come in and talk for a moment, but she thinks better of it. Prying him for information about his sister won’t help her, not really. Gabriola’s always been more of an enigma, even to her own brother, who arguably understands her better than anyone else. Of course, Toriel knows, he could even be just saying that to help protect his sister. Toriel understands that Gabriola can be sensitive to even the smallest things, even when others around her think she’s sleeping and gone to the world.

     No, it’s best to talk to her daughter directly about her feelings. That’s the only way to get a straight answer, even if the chance of that is very slim.

 

-||-

 

     Two hours have passed, and Gabriola is officially bored out of her mind. Her homework proved less challenging than she’d hoped, and she’s been done with all of it for the past hour. The digital clock on Mr. Dervish’s desk reads 8:05am; about three more hours of detention left, by Gabriola’s reckoning. She doubts she could survive three more hours of boredom.

     Lifting her chin off the desk, she looks around. On her right, Blake and his dark-haired friend have moved toward the front of the room, closest to the door. They’re sharing earbuds, talking to each other in hushed tones. From what bits she can glean of their conversation, they’re struggling over fractions. She can’t say she blames them. Mr. Dervish seems to have made a small dent in the stack of essays piled in his briefcase, but as a result, the bags under his eyes seem to have grown exponentially, and he looks like he might fall asleep any second, if not for the physical pain that reading this particular essay seems to be putting him through. She feels for the man, watching him struggle through whatever slop his students have written. She hopes the rest of the essays aren’t nearly as terrible.

     Before she can decide if she wants to turn her attention to her left, Mitchell’s voice reaches her from that very direction. “What’s your deal?”

     Blinking, she turns to look at him, one ear perked up in questioning. He’s got his backpack on his desk, arms folded over it with his chin resting on his arms, all the better an angle to glare at her under his dark-brown brows.

     “Sorry, what was that?” She asks, her jaw unmoving, eye-sockets half-lidded in her boredom, “I couldn’t hear you over all that edge you’re giving off .

     He glares even more, and she has to hold her breath to keep from snorting in laughter. “It’s your fault I’m even here. I didn’t do anything wrong!”

     “Really?” One of her eyebrow-ridges darts for the ceiling. “Because as I remember it, it was you who thought it was a good idea to call me… oh, what was it again…” She makes a half-assed attempt at a show of thinking. “Oh, that’s right, ‘last-year’s Halloween decor…’” She shakes her head. “See, now, that wasn’t even a good enough insult to hurt my feelings; what hurt my feelings was that you thought it was.”

     He’s sitting upright, now, face reddening, lips twitching. “Well - Wh-, why don’t you think of something better, then?”

     “Oh, I have,” She responds almost immediately, stifling a yawn. “‘Gosh, she doesn’t even fill out those leggings,’ ‘Good heavens, who let the goth kids’ class pet out of its cage?’ ‘Is that even real bone, or some cheap substitute?’” She winks lazily. “I could go on.”

     Mitchell blinks, slightly taken aback. “Those - those are all about you.”

     “Who else would they be about?” Gabriola shrugs. “Everyone else has friends to back them up. Look at me - I have to piggyback off the friends my brother makes.” She laughs quietly, but the sound dies almost the second it’s heard. “... The only friend I ever made hates me, now.”

     She doesn’t look at him. She doesn’t have to - she can see him from her peripherals, the initial shock, and then the guilty wincing, followed by burying his face in his backpack. Sighing, she closes her eye-sockets and rests her chin on her sleeves. For a moment, Gabriola enjoys the silence, broken only by the rustling of paper and furtive whispering from across the room.

     “... The only friend?”

     Gabriola opens one eye-socket, turning her head slightly so she can look at the human on her left. It’s the first time she’s really bothered to get a good look at him in a long time. He’s looking back at her with a strained expression, like he’s either trying very hard not to mess his pants or to cry - she’s not entirely sure which; in either case, there’s something more in his eyes - regret, guilt, sadness. “... I thought, I mean, it happened so long ago…”

     “Sure, it did. Doesn’t mean I don’t remember.” She tears her gaze away from him. “It’s whatever. It happened.” She clenches her jaw. It hurts. God, does it hurt. Her bones are buzzing with the pain of it. How dare he act like he’s hurting? He has no idea.

     “No, it’s not ‘whatever.’” He huffs, and stammers for a moment. “... I didn’t… I wanted to be your friend. I did. You were… you were the coolest kid I’d ever met. You could put rubber balls in your frickin’ head, and it didn’t hurt! You could make stuff fly around just by moving your hand.”

     “Still can, on both counts,” she mutters, hardly sure why she’s speaking. Though she hasn’t moved from her position, her ears are perked up attentively, soaking in every word he’s saying.

     “See? You’re… still cool.” He sighs. “... If it weren’t for my mom, I’d… Look, when she found out I had classes with monsters this year, she nearly had a cow. I didn’t want to think what she’d say if I told her I had classes with you .”

     At this, Gabriola lifts up her head and looks at him directly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

     “N-no, don’t, don’t get the wrong idea,” he waves his hands defensively, “I - I mean, she… she refers to you and your brother - and your sibling, for that matter - as ‘Toriel’s little minions.’ She… she thinks your mom has some kind of vendetta to take over the world or something, like some kind of ridiculous anime villain.” He laughs, in spite of himself. “It’s stupid, really, but mom makes it sound terrifying. She tells me,” he swallows, and Gabriola can clearly see there’s no stopping him, “Every day, she tells me that you guys - monsters - that you’re all out to get us, and that you’re no good, and no matter how nice or cool any of you seem, that it’s all an act. But I just…” He stops abruptly, looking down at his hands. “... I find it really hard to believe. Especially… especially now, with you actually talking to me after I’ve been such a jerk to you.” He sighs, resting his chin on his bag again. “... Last time I tried to argue the point with her, she nearly grounded me for a year.”

     Gabriola frowns slightly, ears drooping. She wishes she knew just what to say. After all this time, hearing that he didn’t actually hate her, or any of the other monsters… She hums, an idea hatching. “You… want to see something really cool?”

     He looks at her, confused. “Uh… sure?”

     She grins a bit, and flicks her left hand. His backpack flies out from under his arms, clattering to the floor and causing him to flop heavily on his desk.

     Reeling, he scrambles to sit up. “H-hey, what was that for!?”

     Cackling under her breath, Gabriola leans back in her seat, closing her eyes. “Consider that payback, for the last few years.”

 

-||-

 

     “Yes, I’m aware my daughter had detention, today,” Toriel says, cradling the phone to her ear with her shoulder as she stirs a bowl of pie filling. “I’m failing to see what this has to do with--”

     “It has everything to do with my boy!” Kathleen Schmidt’s shriek rings in Toriel’s ear for a moment even after it passes, “You! You pulled the strings so they’d be in there together, didn’t you!?”

     Toriel sighs, pausing in her stirring to pinch the bridge of her snout. “Honestly, Mrs. Schmidt, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Why should it matter to me who spends detention with whom? Gabriola and your son have hardly spoken since kindergarten.

     “Mrs. Schmidt, she does bring up a point,” the school’s principal - the third party on the line - begins, but is cut off by Kathleen once again.

     “No - I refuse to believe this is a coincidence. First, my boy has monsters in every class, and now this ? The superintendent will hear about this, Michael, you mark my words!”

     “That hardly sounds-” Kathleen hangs up before the principal can finish his sentence. He sighs dismally into the receiver.

     Toriel picks up her spoon and resumes stirring. “For what it’s worth, principal Fairhaven,” she muses, “I think you handled that as well as you could. Is there anything more I can help you with?”

     “No, no, Mrs. Feemurr, that will be all. Sorry to inconvenience you.”

     “It is not a problem,” Toriel smiles warmly, knowing full and well he can’t see it. “Have a good afternoon, principal.”

     “Same to you, ma’am.” He hangs up, and Toriel sets the phone on the countertop, hefting a sigh of her own.

     Sans looks up from the crossword he’s doing at the kitchen table. “That sounded rough,” He notes.

     “Do not get me started,” Toriel snorts, setting down the bowl and fishing a pie tin out of a cupboard. “If I never hear anything from that woman again, it will be too soon.”

 

-||-

 

     Lunch is spent in the classroom, eating meals prepared at home under Mr. Dervish’s not-so-direct supervision, while he slurps cup ramen and continues grading papers. Gabriola pokes absently at a slice of leftover quiche while Mitchell asks her hesitant questions about his homework.

     “So, uh, square root of nine…?”

     “It’s three, you know that,” she hums boredly, twirling a bit of quiche on the end of her fork. “Give me something harder.”

     “All right, 144 then.”

     “You’re not even trying, ” she rolls her eyes, teasing him. “Didn’t you ever do your square tables?”

     “Yeah,” he admits, sheepishly. “Sorry. I just wish I had something better to talk about than homework.”

     Smiling to herself, she parts her jaws just enough to float the bite of quiche into her mouth before she eats it. “Well, we could start with a plan to tear apart the patriarchal establishment, brick by brick, until we’re all on an equal level.”

     She meets his shocked gaze with a wry smirk. “Or you could tell me what kinds of stuff your mom does let you do.”

     “Oh.” He chuckles, looking mildly relieved. “Well, I mean… I don’t do a whole lot. I’m in the art club, but there’s not a whole lot of members. I don’t… really like sharing my work there, anyways. They tease me about it.”

     “That sucks.” She hums. “What do you draw?”

     His face goes crimson, and he mumbles something that might be “don’t wanna talk about it.”

     She blinks, ears twitching. “... You know, if you act like that, it only makes folks more interested.”

     “Yeah, I know,” he groans. He reaches for the zipper on his backpack, but hesitates, looking at her. “... Just, y’know, don’t… don’t laugh, okay?”

     She only offers a small, encouraging smile. Sighing, he opens his bag, and digs in to procure a ratty, well-used notebook. “It’s, uh, it’s a comic. Kind of. Ideas for a comic.”

     “I like comics,” She offers, and he laughs nervously.

     “Okay, if you’re sure.” He hands it over with shaky fingers. “Just, uh. It’s kind of. Falling apart. Please be careful.”

     She nods, setting the thing on her desk and opening it with the utmost care, pinching the cover between her phalanges at the very edge. Inside, she’s met with what could very well be a very sketchy cover page, and if she squints just right, she can make out the main character punching his way through a brick wall, with the title spelled in block-letters around him: Buck-Wild.

     She pauses for a moment, looking at the character in question. “Is he a monster…?” She asks, keeping her voice down. “I see he’s got a human-like body, but is that a deer head?”

     Mitchell swallows. “He’s, um. Not a monster, really. Not like you guys. In, uh, in his world… well, people are animals.” He’s nearly mumbling by the end of this, casting a nervous glance across the room at the other teens.

     “Really?” Gabriola hardly looks bothered by this. “That’s interesting.” She flips the next page, where it shows the character in various fighting poses. “Your anatomy’s pretty good,” she notes, marvelling at a kicking pose. “You practice a lot, huh?”

     It’s Mitchell’s turn to blink. “Uh. Yeah, I do.”

     Gabriola looks up at him, smiling. “So do I. But I’m not as good as you. And I don’t have any big ideas or characters or anything. I usually just draw when I’m bored.” She flips slowly through the next few pages. Most of it is more character doodles, but some of them seem to be ideas for actual comic pages. “... What’s his name?”

     “What?”

     “The deer boy. What’s his name?”

     Mitchell rubs his neck. “... Buck.”

     The skull-monster snorts reactively, beaming. “Because he’s a deer…! That’s hilarious. I love it.”

     “You don’t think it’s weird? Or dumb?” Mitchell looks like he’s seen a ghost. Or an angel.

     “Pff, of course it’s weird, but that’s what makes it cool.” Gabriola smiles at him directly, handing back the notebook. “Can you show me more, when you get some done? I like what you have so far.”

     “...Oh.” Mitchell hugs the notebook for a moment, eyes wide. “Um. Sure, if you’re… if you’re sure. … Thanks.” He laughs. “Nobody’s ever said they liked it, before. My mom says I shouldn’t spend so much time drawing, that it won’t get me through college.”

     Gabriola rolls her eye-lights, leaning back in her seat. “Sounds like your mom has a chip on her shoulder.” She lifts her quiche into the air before her face by pointing with one finger, and takes a bite.

     “Maybe.” he shrugs. “Hey, um… I know we got in a fight, yesterday, but… Would, would you mind if I came and hung out with you at lunch, sometime?”

     She pauses mid-bite, teeth sunk halfway into the quiche. She’d almost look terrifying, if one didn’t know her. “... Does this mean we’re friends?”

     He blinks. “I… I guess so?”

     “Then sure.” She smiles, and uses her lavender ecto-tongue to pull the rest of the quiche into her mouth, demolishing it in one bite. “If we’re friends, though, you have to come over to my house, sometime.”

     “Really?” He blinks. “How’s that?”

     She winks lazily at him. “You owe me that playdate.”

     This gives him pause, as she sits back and closes her eye-sockets. At length, he chuckles. “Yeah, I guess I do. Hope you’re good at Smash.”

     “I’ll kick your butt,” she hums, in the utmost matter-of-fact tone.

     “You’re on,” he laughs quietly, turning his attention back to his partially-forgotten homework. “Now - real quick - square root of 144?”

     “I’m gonna fight you, now,” she hums, tossing a pencil at him with her magic. “Get ready for the butt-kicking of the century, human.” She doesn’t move from her reclined position.

     “You’re on, bonehead,” he laughs.

     Gabriola cracks open one eye-socket, smiling brightly. Whoever says detention is terrible is clearly doing it wrong. Maybe she’s just lucky.

 

-||-

 

     Boli is spending his afternoon sitting upside-down on the sofa, a plate laden with pie crumbs on his chest, furiously attempting to beat his older sibling in a round of Smash. His first mistake might be trying to do this while upside-down. His second mistake might be his entire strategy, which involves taunting at the edge and strictly dodging.

     “Another one bites the dust!” He chuckles as his character flies off the map. “You’re too good at this, Frisk.”

     Frisk sets the controller down long enough to sign, ‘ or maybe you’re just bad .’

     “You wound me,” Boli sniffs, still grinning. He’s about to start up the fiasco one more time, when he feels overcome with a strange, warm sensation. It’s faint, but it’s definitely there, first radiating in his chest, before fluttering down into his stomach. He pulls a face; it’s not a feeling he’s personally fond of. Frisk snaps their fingers, effectively bringing him out of a daze.

     ‘ You okay? ’ They sign, looking worried.

     “Yeah,” he nods, rolling into an upright position and setting his empty plate aside, “Yeah, I think… I think I need to check on Gabbers.” He pulls his phone from his pocket, and anxiously texts her. Yo, gabs, you okay?

     She doesn’t respond right away. A minute or so later, right when he’s about to pick up the controller again, he feels another twinge - this time it’s white-hot, radiating out to his paws, making them twitch and crackle with magic. He blinks at his paws, confused. For a second, he feels his jaw clench, and feels a surge of energy through his left arm, but faint, like a phantom pain.

     Frisk looks even more worried, now, and this time Boli can’t even start to brush their worries aside. He grabs his phone again, sending a myriad of texts. Gabs? What’s going on? Do you need my help? Are you fighting!? Gabi, c’mon, this isn’t funny!

     Suddenly, the buzzing energy stops, and Boli’s left with just a lingering sense of confusion. They’ve had a connection like this their whole lives, but this… nothing’s ever been this strong, before. His phone buzzes, and it takes awhile for him to register his sister’s response.

     Everything’s fine. Just had to take care of something. See you in an hour.

     He looks at Frisk, who’s looking like they might start biting their nails. “... The heck just happened…?” he mumbles, looking back down to his phone in disbelief.

     Half a second later, his phone buzzes. It’s a response from his sister:

     I’m fine. Come pick us up, detention’s over.

     Boli squints at the message. “... ‘ We? ’”

 

-||-

 

     Gabriola sits beside her new - old? - friend outside the school, keeping him company while he waits on his ride home. She’s on the concrete sidewalk, her back against the wall as they hang out in the shade of an awning, looking out at the mostly-empty parking lot. The sun is warm today, and though the temperature never really makes her uncomfortable, she prefers the shade.

     “... So, he’s really skilled at martial arts,” Mitchell goes on; he’s been spending the last few minutes explaining the premise of his comic to her. “He’s really light on his feet, hard to catch, so he wins most every match he’s in! Makes a lot of folks mad at him, though, so he’s got a lot of rivals both in and out of the ring.”

     “Sounds like a real go-getter,” she muses, smiling. She’s never had the chance to sit and listen to someone tell her about their ideas. She loves every second; watching his excited gestures and the brightness dancing in his eyes fills her with a bubbling warmth that dances in her ribcage.

     “You bet!” Mitchell grins, and goes on to describe a scene he’s been planning for weeks - one where Buck’s fighting a team of wolf guys, who close in on him from every side. He seems to be getting into it, bouncing on his toes and miming some of the moves - albeit, not very well - as he describes them. Gabriola can’t help her grinning, at this point. It’s all too good.

     From her peripherals, she sees the other teens from detention - Blake and his shaggy-haired friend - approaching the two of them with troublesome expressions. She turns to fix them both with her steely gaze, but they seem unbothered, this time.

     “Yo, Schmidt,” Blake calls, as he comes into range; Mitchell flinches, dropping into a more-or-less neutral pose as he wheels around to face the larger boy. “Nice moves, you got there.” Blake holds up his fists, smirking. “How about we put ‘em to the test?”

     Mitchell blanches, taking a step back. “W-what? Hey, dude, don’t - I don’t, I don’t want any trouble!”

     Blake chuckles. “See, that’s what I thought you say. But, you know what’s funny about that? I do. ” He turns to his friend. “Hey, Lowell, go give our boy some motivation.”

     Lowell smiles coolly under his shaggy hair, and steps out from around Blake. In a flash, he’s behind Mitchell, holding back the smaller teen’s arms. Mitchell struggles in his grip, but it’s no use.

     Gabriola’s eye-sockets narrow, and the feeling in her chest runs cold, crackling and buzzing. “I’m going to have to ask you to stop that.” Her voice is low and even.

     “Oh, what’cha gonna do about it, funny-bone?” Blake turns his sneer to her. “You better hope your new pal here gives us the fight we want, or we’re comin’ after you, next, freak.”

     “Gabi, no, just go, I can handle them!” Mitchell looks at her, pleading in his eyes. “Just-”

     He doesn’t get to finish what he’s saying, before Blake punches him square in the face. Half a second after the blow lands, he finds himself hovering two feet in the air, covered in a shimmering blue energy. A glowing, blue, vaguely-cartoonish heart shape hovers over his chest, and the energy seems concentrated on it.

     “The - the fuck is this?” he asks, eyes wide.

     “See, I asked nicely,” Gabriola says, and though her expression has hardly changed, her voice is more of a low growl. “Now I’m gonna have to make you boys leave.

     With a flick of her wrist, Blake flies about fifteen feet across the courtyard, falling in a heap at the base of the flagpole. Gabriola shudders, her bones rattling together quietly; it’s the first time she’s ever used her magic on a human. She knew human Souls were small and vulnerable, but seeing one in person is jarring. She can feel her phone in her pocket virtually exploding from all the messages she’s getting.

     Nonetheless, she rounds her gaze on Lowell. “Don’t make me ask you.” She points the index phalange of her left hand at him, and a dull, blue glow seems to tug at his chest.

     Clearly panicking, the taller human drops his grip on Mitchell and skitters backwards, turning to dash away and check on his burly friend. Mitchell’s knees buckle, and Gabriola points at him instead, catching him just for a moment in her magic to let him down gently.

     “Are you okay, Mitch?” she asks, her voice more or less back to normal, barring the shakiness.

     He sits up slowly, rubbing his face. “I… I think so…” He looks at her, awestruck. “Did… did you do that?”

     She only blinks, slowly, her eye-sockets clicking. She hates to admit it. From how his expression shifts to one of admiration, she doesn’t have to.

     “That was so cool, ” he whispers, and she imagines he’d have sparkles in his eyes, if humans could manifest magic like monsters could.

     She rubs her neck sheepishly, phalanges scraping lightly over the vertebrae. “I donno about that.”

     “You threw him across the yard without touching him, the heck do you mean, ‘you donno’!?”

     Gabriola winces. “... My folks wouldn’t be too thrilled to hear that.”

     “And my mom wouldn’t be too thrilled to see I’m hanging out with a really cool monster girl, now, would she?” He laughs, looking a bit overwhelmed. “Dang.”

     Blinking again, she cranes her neck to look around him. “Speaking of which - shouldn’t she be here by now?”

     Mitchell turns around to look for himself, and Gabriola brings her phone out to read the messages. She isn’t surprised to see they’re from Boli. He always gets so worried whenever she feels things too strongly. It’s part of why she tries not to, usually.

     “... That’s weird, she’s normally never late,” he hums, causing Gabriola to look back up at him.

     An idea flickers into life in her mind. “... You could come over.”

     “What?” He turns and blinks down at her, blearily. “I… what?”

     She shrugs. “Come over. I’m sure my folks would like to meet my friend.”

     “Are… you sure? I mean, they know I’m the kid you got in a fight with, right?”

     “No disrespect,” she sighs, glancing over at where the other two teens are dusting themselves off, casting her dirty looks before they walk off toward home, “but that list is probably going to get longer, soon.”

     He winces. “Yeah, uh, fair enough. I mean… I could always tell my mom I asked somebody to give me a ride.”

     “Yeah, do that.” She responds, already texting her brother back.

     “... Who you texting?”

     She looks up after sending the message, and waits until she sees her fuzzy twin step out from around a corner and wave at her. She smiles up at Mitchell before standing. “Our ride.”

     Taking his wrist in her bony hand, she leads him toward where her brother is waiting, unable to contain her smile.

     This is going to get interesting.

Chapter Text

=||=

 

     For Mitchell, the next few minutes are a blur. One moment, he’s following his new - old? - friend, Gabriola, and her brother around the corner of the school building, and the next, they’re walking down a familiar driveway, one he walked down with his mother once before, when he was much younger.

     His footsteps slow as he looks over the house before him. Much like back then, there’s a little bed of golden flowers in a window planter, a cozy awning over the porch held up by two brick pillars, and a silver knocker on the front door with some weird symbol - a winged circle over three triangles. He’s vaguely aware of Boli walking to the door and asking his sister a question. He sort-of-hears Gabriola’s nonchalant response. What has most of his attention is the haunting sense of familiarity he has with this place and this moment, arriving in the mid-to-late afternoon on a weekend at his friend’s house to hang out.

     The only difference between now and then is that his mother isn’t holding his hand and dragging him away from the door; her texts are making his phone buzz in his pocket like a hive of angry wasps.

     Mitchell stops walking for a moment, and pulls his phone out of his pocket to scan the messages. He winces. Where are you? Why haven’t you called yet? Are you with someone? Is your phone dead? I’m going to call you in five minutes. He sighs.

     “Yo, Mitch, you good?”

Looking up, he sees both Boli and Gabriola regarding him with concerned eye-lights. He manages to give them what he hopes is a convincing smile, and says, “Yeah, just one second, I gotta call my mom.”

     “Oh, sure.” Boli nods. “I’ll head in and let Mom know we’re back.”

     “Cool.” Gabriola wheels about and sits on the stoop. “I’ll wait.”

     Mitchell gives a bit of a breathy laugh, and looks down at the messages again. “I’ll just… go stand over here, real quick. Shouldn’t be long.” He trots to the end of the driveway, and sits on the curb near the mailbox.

     He can feel Gabriola’s eye-lights glued on him while he pulls up his mother’s contact and hits the call button. Until just recently, her stares used to make him feel uneasy. Somehow, this time, he can tell she’s trying to make sure he’s okay.

     “Guess Monsters are weird like that,” he mutters to himself, listening to the dial tone.

 

-||-

 

     The Schmidt residence is the very picture of functionality. Mr. Connor Schmidt is a successful caterer of no small reputation, and as such brings in a substantial income; his doting wife, Kathleen, has made it her personal goal to be as much a shining beacon of success as her husband is. She is a consistent presence at the PTA for her son’s school, and hosts a book club on the weekends for other mothers in her neighborhood. She donates on a monthly basis to the local soup kitchen, she goes to church every Sunday morning, and she picks up her son every day from school.

     Her home is a mere five-minute drive from the school itself, so on this day in particular, with her son in detention, of all things, she insisted he call her the moment he got out so she could come get him. However, it’s now nearing three in the afternoon, and she hasn’t heard a word from him.

     She texts him, as she does when she starts to worry. Where are you? Why haven’t you called yet? Are you with someone?

     She sends a few more messages, waiting a few moments between each one. All the while, she paces up and down the length of her kitchen, occasionally stopping to pick up her purse, before putting it down and reminding herself to wait.

     Mitchell isn’t a child anymore, she tells herself. If she wants him to trust her, she has to give him some leniency.

     Her phone rings, and she nearly drops it, having been lost in thought. “Hello, you’ve reached --”

     “Hey, mom.”

     Kathleen lets out a heavy sigh and clutches at her chest. “Mitchy, thank goodness, I was so worried! Are you all right?”

     “Yeah, mom, I’m fine. I… didn’t want to bother you, so I got a ride with a friend.”

     A … friend? He hadn’t mentioned any friends were going to be there. That, and something in the way his voice trembles when he hesitates tells her something’s up. “Mitchell, I told you to call me when you were done, so I could take you right home. Where are you?”

     “I’m,” His voice cracks a bit more this time, and her eyes narrow, “I’m at, at Ryan’s house, y’know, on Spruce? I’ll have him bring me home, d-don’t sweat it.”

     “Absolutely not.” She knows something’s up, now. “I’m coming to get you right now. Don’t you move an inch, young man.”

     “W-” he yelps, which is new, and gives her pause, “Wait, mom, please! I… I’ll be home in just a minute, okay? I’m - I’m already on the way. Promise.”

     She hesitates. Her keys are already in her hand, and she’s got her purse over her shoulder. “You have two minutes, young man,” she says, “or I’ll check the location on your phone.”

     Mitchell makes a muffled sound from the other end of the line, and Kathleen grips the straps of her purse with white knuckles. “O-okay. I’ll see you soon. Love you.”

     “Love you, too.” Her son hangs up immediately, and she in turn taps her service provider’s app on her phone, and pulls up the location of her son’s device.

     She stares at the screen with a scowl that slowly intensifies into a glare; she recognizes that address. She drove him there nearly a decade ago, and ever since has taken every precaution to avoid it on any route to or from town. However, just as quickly as she’s ready to declare war on the Feemurrs, the front door opens, and Mitchell walks inside.

     “H-hey, mom! Told you I’d be home!” The smile he offers is a little shaky, and so is the wave that accompanies it, but Kathleen is too distracted by what she’s witnessed on her app to really notice.

     “B-but, you were, just,” She balks at the screen, unsure of what she’s seen. Where a moment before, Mitchell’s phone had shown itself at the Feemurr’s home address, it’s now… here. At home.

     Kathleen looks at her son. He’s standing in the kitchen doorway, giving her a forced, nervous smile. He jerks a thumb over his shoulder, and says, “I’m gonna do homework in my room.”

     “Okay, Mitch.” Kathleen watches him leave, rubbing at her forehead. She knows something isn’t right. As for what? She can’t say.

 

-||-

 

     Toriel sits in the living room, a book on snail categorization lying half-forgotten on her lap as she stares worriedly out the window at her two children on the lawn. Gabriola is kneeling in the grass, staring motionless out at the street; Boli is kneeling beside her, no doubt comforting her in the best way he can. Toriel had only heard a little of what was going on; one moment, Boli came inside announcing there was company; the next, he was rushing back outside at Gabriola’s call, and now… it’s quiet.

     Toriel doesn’t have to see Gabriola’s face to recognize the grief. Moments like that tend to stick in the mind. She sighs, and closes the book in her lap. Standing, she crosses the floor to put it away.

     She knows Gabriola prefers to trudge through her feelings on her own. At most, only Boli has ever been able to truly console her. Regardless… Toriel can’t just sit still and--

     “Mom?”

     Toriel jolts, and turns around to see her daughter standing behind her, with her son gently shutting the front door. “Mom,” Gabriola says, and the misty lavender tears in her eye-sockets are enough to break Toriel’s heart, “Can… we talk?”

     Toriel smiles, blinking to fight back her own tears. “Of course, my child. Let’s talk.”

     Gabriola takes a seat on the sofa. More specifically, she kind of lets herself collapse onto the cushions. Toriel can almost hear her bones clattering unceremoniously under her oversized sweatshirt. Boli clears his throat from the other side of the room, and strolls wordlessly toward the stairs, tossing a thumbs-up and a small smile at his mom before taking the stairs two at a time. The boss monster turns to her daughter once more, and resumes her own seat in the oversized and well-loved armchair by the mantel.

     Gabriola is quiet for several moments, her eye-lights small and trembling in her teary eye-sockets. The tears remain unfalling, resting bubbled on the precipice of her cheekbones, threatening to burst at the slightest movement; for a moment, Toriel imagines that’s why her daughter is staying so still. Presently, Gabriola speaks, her jaw unmoving, in the smallest voice Toriel has ever heard from her.

     “... What am I doing wrong?”

     Toriel blinks. “Wh-” She shakes her head, baffled, “Whatever do you mean, my child?”

     “Both times I’ve asked him to come over, he never gets to stay.” Gabriola says, her voice wavering in the air, her eye-lights focusing as intently as they dare on her mother. “Last time, I didn’t get to talk to him for years . What if - what if his mom makes him move so far away, I never see him again?”

     Toriel’s gaze softens, and she offers her daughter a sad, empathetic smile. “... Speaking from experience, my child, I do not believe any of that is any fault of yours. This is the Schmidt boy, yes?”

     Gabriola nods slowly.

     “I see.” Toriel closes her eyes with a sigh. She clasps her paws together in her lap. “His mother had myself and your principal in a conference call earlier today, going on about her… opinions regarding your contact with her son.” Toriel pulls a face. “She is… a difficult woman. But if I can measure anything based on how Mitchell was willing to try again to come spend time with you… well, that alone can speak volumes.”

     She opens her eyes, to find Gabriola looking at her with confusion in her own sockets.

     “I don’t get it,” the skull-monster says, blankly.

     Her mother smiles a little more. “If he truly wants to be your friend - and I suspect that he does, somehow - his mother won’t be able to put a stopper on that friendship.”

     Gabriola blinks slowly, the lavender tears finally rolling down her cheekbones. Her jaw curls into the slightest smile, and a bit of hope glimmers in her brightening eye-lights. “... Thanks, mom.”

     “Of course, my child.” Toriel smiles warmly still for a moment, and then her brow sets with a matronly scowl. “... And now, we must discuss the ramifications for your fight at school - the one that sent you to detention. I need you to tell me what happened, and how serious it was.”

     Gabriola tenses, going stock-still.

     “Did you use your magic on the human?”

     The skull-monster shakes her head.

     Toriel’s eyes narrow slightly. “Did you see his Soul?”

     Again, Gabriola shakes her head.

     Toriel draws a breath, and nods. “Very well. Regardless, I need you to understand that these actions have consequences, Gabriola. You are grounded for a week. No going out, no video games.”

     Gabriola’s shoulders relax as she nods. “Okay, mom.” She stands, and picks up her backpack to sling it over one shoulder. “I’m going upstairs. Got homework.”

     “Very well, my child.” Toriel stands and gives her daughter a warm, fuzzy hug. “I love you, Gabriola. And I am sorry you are having these troubles.”

     “I love you too, mom.” Gabriola hugs her mother back with her free arm. Once freed, she offers the boss monster a small smile, and then heads upstairs.

     Toriel watches her go with a sad little smile, and releases a deep sigh once she disappears into her room. She can’t shake the feeling her daughter is hiding something from her, but she decides to let it go, for the time being. If it’s important enough, Gabriola will tell her sooner or later.

 

-||-

 

     Mitchell closes the door to his bedroom as quietly as he dares, and lets out a shaky breath once he’s behind the closed latch. He drops his backpack onto his bed and sits on the floor, back against the side of the mattress, head leaning back against the comforter so he can stare at the ceiling fan. He did the right thing, in coming home - he knows that. If - no, when his mother found out he’d been at the Feemurrs’ house, he’d be in huge trouble. The last thing he wants is to drag Gabriola into it, especially after how fiercely she’d protected him after detention.

     He looks at his hands for a moment. They’re shaking, if only just a bit. He laughs. Of course, he’s scared - his mother hates monsters more than she hates seeing a C on a report card. For his whole life, she’s told him they’re nothing but manipulative demons trying to prey on the Souls of humanity.

     Ridiculous.

     Mitchell - purely for the need of something to do with his shaking hands - reaches into his backpack and pulls out his sketchbook. The ratty old notebook threatens to fall apart in his hands, but he handles the flimsy cover and the tangled wire binding with a practiced ease. He grabs a pencil off the floor - because, of course, he hasn’t cleaned his room all week - and starts to draw.

     A few lines, scratch, erase, re-scratch , shade it lightly, make it sharper - no, sharper still . He sketches without really thinking, drawing a figure familiar to him, one he’s drawn a hundred dozen times over, a deer with no inhibitions, grinning like a champion and ready for anything - and another figure, one that’s new, but refreshing, almost like he’s been dying to draw it for ages.

     He blinks at the page, once he realizes it’s done. His face buzzes a bit, in embarrassment. Is this… okay? Is it acceptable? God, he wants to show Gabriola. But he can never let her know.

     He tears out the page - carefully, so as to not rip it. He holds it for a moment, feeling the buzzing in his cheeks grow warmer still. He smiles in spite of himself. Standing, he crosses the floor to his desk, and opens up a bottom drawer to stash his latest work where no-one can find it.

     He takes one last look at the piece; Buck the deer, standing with his arm around a certain skull-monster, giving the viewer a bright grin and a thumbs-up. The skull-monster, heavily stylized in this depiction, of course, is wearing a dark robe and wielding a scythe, but is also smiling, and giving the viewer a peace sign. The two are close; that’s what gives Mitchell that buzzing sense of hopefulness in his chest, as he closes the drawer and locks it out of sight.

 

-||-

 

     Later that night, Gabriola finds herself scrolling listlessly through her social media feed on her phone. She’s hardly reading anything that appears before her, just… scrolling. She’s vaguely aware, now and again, of Boli tossing and turning in the bunk above her, equally restless. He’s never slept well, she knows that. It’s not often that she doesn’t.

     Her phone buzzes, rattling against her phalanges, and she sees a new notification pop up - a little red balloon in the top-right. She taps it, and is greeted by an icon of a grinning blue deer, seemingly done in colored pencil, and a message beside it:

     New friend request from Buck Wilde.

     Gabriola grins, and hits ‘accept.’ She then pulls open a new message to Buck. Sup nerd.

     The reply is almost immediate. Lsdjf this is dumb i know i just wanted to talk to you but i couldn’t do it on my main account cause my moms on there

     Gabriola laughs quietly. Easy there tiger you’re good

     Oh. cool. I knew that. How’re you?

     Grounded. Can’t sleep.

     Grounded?! Aw, dang. Sorry - wait, how come you have your phone?

     Mom doesn’t know about IM’ing yet, I guess. Never had anybody to message before. Gabriola is twirling an old stuffed bear in the air beside her with one hand while she texts. She said no going out and no video games, so… this is neither of those.

     Careful now, you’re starting to sound like a real delinquent.

     Gabriola chuckles again. Boli groans in annoyance and throws a blanket over his skull. This doesn’t stop his sister from continuing to text into the small hours of the morning.

     Thank goodness it’s the weekend.

 

-||-

 

     It’s not very often that the entire Schmidt family can sit down for breakfast in the morning, but Kathleen pounces on every one of these rare opportunities that come by. Sure, her only son had just been in detention the day before, and sure, her husband is already talking on the phone in the other room with a potential client about a catering gig, but that doesn’t mean she can’t make a Sunday morning meal special.

     Kathleen hums a little song to herself - a snippet from the chorus of some popular radio song she heard the other day on the radio. The stove hood hums its discordant harmony. Its efforts against the bacon smoke are worthwhile enough; the fog in the kitchen isn’t as thick as it could have been. A pile of freshly-done pancakes sits proudly on a plate to her left. All she has to do after this is--

     “Hey, honey, is there anything I can help with?”

     Kathleen looks over her shoulder at her husband, Connor, with a sleepy smile. “As a matter of fact, I could use some help with the oranges. Could you peel those for me?”

     “Sure, hon.” Connor slides around his wife to reach the fruit, stealing a little peck on her cheek as he does. They work together in companionable silence for a couple of minutes, him peeling and parting the oranges, and her putting the finishing touches on the bacon.

     It’s mornings like these that help Kathleen forget her troubles. No more PTA, no more bothersome school policies; just family. Isn’t that what matters?

     The quiet minutes pass, and Connor breaks the silence. “So, Kathy, I’ve got a new gig lined up for next weekend - big, fancy party, should pay well.”

     “That’s great, dear!” Kathleen smiles up at her husband once more. “I hope you have fun.”

     “You kidding? I always have fun at these things. You wouldn’t believe the appetites on some of these rich folks.” Connor laughs. He tosses the last of the orange peels into the trash, and holds up the bowl of peeled slices. “We ready to eat all this, or what?”

     She nods, and they load up the plates to bring breakfast out to their son. Kathleen can’t help noticing the sleepy bags under Mitchell’s eyes, in spite of how happy he seems.

     With the food set out and everyone seated, they all help themselves to a bit of breakfast. Connor says grace before they actually start eating, as is customary in the household. Only after everyone’s taken a few bites does Kathleen say anything to her son.

     “So - you have a late night?”

     Mitchell blinks, and then nods. “Yeah, uh… up studying. Been having some trouble with math, but… I think I got it now.”

     “Attaboy,” Connor cheers from across the table, raising his glass of juice in a mock salute. “By the by, kiddo, how was your first detention yesterday?”

     Mitchell grimaces, “Oh, you know, pretty boring. I mean, it’s detention, right? Not supposed to be fun.”

     “Mm-hmm,” Kathleen nods slowly, sipping her mug of coffee and watching her son in curiosity.

     “Yeah, well, goes to show you shouldn’t make a habit of getting in trouble like that, anymore.” Connor sniffs, and swallows a bite of pancake.

     Kathleen’s jaw clenches a bit in spite of herself, and she sets down her mug. “Connor… do you know why our boy was in detention?”

     Connor pauses. “He… he got in a fight, right?”

     “He was attacked, Connor. By one of those animals.

     Mitchell winces again, and stares down at his plate.

     “Wh- attacked? ” Connor balks, and does a double-take. “... But there isn’t a scratch on him.”

     “That’s not the point , Connor,” Kathleen hisses, glaring at her husband outright. “That, that terrible little beast threw our son into a trash can with its devil magic, and the school saw fit to punish him, too!”

     Connor’s brow creases in concern, and he looks at Mitchell. “Is that right, son?”

     Mitchell only whimpers in response, hunching over his plate and picking at his pancakes.

     “Of course it’s right! Those things are a blight on this good town, and we’ll be better off when we put them back underground where they belong.” Kathleen spears a bit of pancake on her fork and eats it.

     The remainder of breakfast passes in silence, but Kathleen Schmidt hardly notices, consumed as she is with her anger. Toriel Feemurr will rue the day she sicced her dirty gremlin on her baby boy.