Red Light District
Chapter 16: You can feed him all the love in your heart
The muggy air must have prompted someone to open the windows, he could understand that, but what he couldn’t understand was why the door was left open. There weren’t many monsters around here, but it wasn’t a good neighborhood. And the door was just one more opening for that all-pervading rotten egg smell to waft through.
Maybe Moldbygg had done it? He’d been in and out a few times, acting as the slug’s hands and making up for its nonexistent dexterity, cleaning Sans or making sure the restraints were on right. It figured that slimy bastards stuck together. His visits were almost worse than the slug’s—Sans was terrified that any one of those visits would be the time Moldbygg would pick up where he’d left off with Sans at Red City, with no one around to stop him anymore. But that moment hadn’t come, thank god.
That open door was one more mockery of what Sans couldn’t do anymore. Could never have done, maybe. If it weren’t for the tether and the rope around his wrists, he might have been able to crawl, to squirm to it, but…
A dark shape blocked the door. He should have known this street was the slug’s home address. The smell followed it like a terrible cologne.
Sans wriggled back against the wall, even on his knees, his legs weakening in fright and sliding out from under him so he was pressed up to the wall in a pitiful sit. The thing lurched in toward him, its skin shiny with mucous and feelers twitching excitedly in place of a facial expression. Not that it mattered that Sans had learned how to read its movements—he could feel it thinking at him.
Sans nearly started sobbing as it squirmed closer. This was its second visit down here today. He crushed himself against the wall, and the slug slowly stretched its head so its faceful of feelers grazed the wall over him, leaving a trail of mucous as it slipped downward. Sans shut his eyes tight.
“Please don’t…do this again…not again please…” He felt slime ooze onto the top of his skull. “I’m so tired…please go easy on me…”
A touch of the slug’s tail under Sans’ chin reminded him that he’d forgotten to give the slug its greeting this time, and that really did make Sans start crying. The asshole loved excuses to punish him. Sans was still crying helplessly as he felt himself slide down into the trough, the grayish gunk of the slanted walls piling up under his claws on the way down.
Only doing this when Sans ‘misbehaved’ must have been the slug’s cruel way of making Sans responsible for losing his grip. Every time Sans was let out of the vision, the world felt a little fuzzier, made a little less sense. He couldn’t say what exactly it was he was losing when it was gone, either, which made Sans feel all the more powerless.
He had to keep his Master happy, that was it. It was only it and Sans, after all. It was the only one who was there for Sans. Sans repeated that to himself over and over as his Master took him, talking himself through the pain. His Master wasn’t making it feel good for him because he’d disobeyed, so he had to bear through it until he was allowed to feel good again.
That didn’t stop him from eventually breaking down as the pain got to be too much, begging for lenience that he didn’t deserve. He was bad too often, he was a bad pet, but he was too weak to handle being punished for it every time.
By the time his Master pulled out of him with a scraping pop, Sans was terrified out of his mind that another round was coming, but too exhausted to make with any of the supplications and bootlicking that might earn him reprieve. All he could do was think his pleas as hard as he could and hope the monster could feel it. His Master did leave, but the perfunctory way it slid away and left Sans cold and broken on his back made a different kind of ache constrict tight on his soul. He was so desperate to have a little reassurance, the tiniest bit of consoling after an ordeal like that, even if he had earned the punishment. Even from a monster as disgusting and cruel as his Master.
He was so fucking lonely.
No one in the world was left except Sans and the slug.
Sans had a vague idea that that wasn’t actually true, especially considering he appeared to have visitors today. Two visitors, which, to Sans’ knowledge, was two more than the number of monsters his brain told him existed on the planet.
All his brain could do to fight the contradiction was compromise—the two monsters that couldn’t be his Master had to, therefore, be more of Sans.
Whoever was in here now probably didn’t share his stature, or at least one of them didn’t, because the monster kept leaning oddly over the other copy of Sans.
Sans could hear them speaking, too—could even discern all the words—but he couldn’t make sense of them, or use the words to identify who was really talking. It was like Sans had lost the connection from his hearing to his brain, lost the ability to decode internally. Like they were speaking in gibberish, even though he was fairly certain they were speaking English. He even thought he caught a familiar word now and then, and that only made his throat swell in frustrated despair.
The monster that must have been taller made a gesture at Sans, but wasn’t looking at him.
“Why did you bring me here, little one?”
The small, Sans-sized monster didn’t say anything. The big one sat down on the floor. The vision of them swam, so for a second Sans saw his image warping in size as his copy sat.
“You wanted to evoke some feelings from me, is that it?”
Whatever they were saying, Sans got the sense he was nothing more than a backdrop to this conversation, and it could have occurred just the same in another room without him in it. They barely looked at him or acknowledged him, as it was. The smaller one finally said something.
“Why? Why don’t you care?”
“My dear child…”
The taller one looked like it was about to reach out to the other, but they stopped.
“If you never let time move forward, you will probably never grow enough to understand.” He sighed. “You want to save everyone. Contrary to what you believe, I do understand that. There was a time when I thought that was a king’s duty to his people, but experience taught me otherwise.”
The sitting monster bent one knee up, raising itself enough so that it was in a reverent kneeling position before the other.
“You have a strange power to soften monsters’ hearts. But you have to learn that some hearts are unreachable. Some will never change. You will eventually have to face the choice, to cut them from your life for good.”
It swept out a hand in a regal gesture.
“The longer we’re trapped down here, the more evil and pitiless we become. The more warped. There are those, like him, whose response to hardship is to cling to you and suck you dry, giving nothing in return…like he did to his brother. You can feed him all the love in your heart, but he is a pit with no bottom.”
The large monster was finally looking at Sans, and the eeriness of looking into his own face wearing that expression spread a chill through his soul. The monster continued its nonsense speech in front of him.
“You can say it’s not his fault that he’s like this. He’s certainly not the only one. But you don’t deserve that kind of life. You deserve to be given everything.”
In contrast to the hard look the monster had been fixing Sans with, it turned back to its companion with a softness so genuine, it made Sans want to be wrapped up in it like a blanket.
“We aren’t ready for the surface. I’m not sure that we ever will be. While there are still monsters that drag us down like this, that make us all weaker, it seems it may always be a distant dream.”
At last, the smaller monster took its turn to speak.
“It doesn’t have to be. You know that.”
Its voice had a different quality to it, of some younger, brasher sadness than the larger monster, but the words were still incomprehensible. Whatever it said made the large monster huff like a weary parent.
“Little one, they would eat us alive up there. Him most of all.”
Now it was the little monster that sat, curling its legs up and hunching its shoulders.
“You’ve given up, haven’t you?” The monster wiped at its nose. “You’re afraid that it won’t work out, so you’re not even going to try.”
Whatever the small monster said, it made the larger one lean close, breaching the gap of affectation between all monsters in the Underground and gently wiping the face of the other with a finger.
“Why, I would have thought that preparing you made it clear that I haven’t given up. Not on everything.”
“You can save us.”
Brushing its front off, and still wearing Sans’ image like a strange suit, it gave Sans’ likeness the impression of more dignity than he’d ever really deserved.
“But you can’t save all of us.”
It offered a hand to the other.
“Do you understand, little one?”
The small copy of Sans appeared to consider the offered hand, hesitating with a shadow over its features before light itself seemed to propel it forward, gripping the other’s hand in its own and curling its fingers delicately over the palm.
” …yes. I think I do.”
“Good. Shall we go to tea now?”
The two left, the smaller one glancing over its shoulder at Sans with some air of significance he wasn’t sure he’d be able to parse, even if he’d understood a word of their conversation.
“Master…could you maybe…talk with me a little?” Sans was up on his knees, crawled forward as far as the tether allowed. It had been so long since the slug had even bothered with him, or it had felt so long. Time ticked away like an oozing glacier in this room by himself. What was more, the appearance of the visitors that Sans couldn’t understand had filled him with dangerous ideas of things he wasn’t allowed. For once, Sans’ first response to the slug’s appearance wasn’t abject fear, but a sick sort of longing. “Maybe…maybe tell me more about you, or…”
The slug touched Sans’ chin with its tail. Sans had forgotten the greeting again. Terror burst in him like a hatched nest.
“Please! Please just make me say it, please don’t punish me, I forgot, it’s…it’s been so…” Sans dissolved into tears. “I’m so lonely!”
Nothing happened to him for a moment, so Sans huddled himself against the slug’s body, laying at its stomach.
“I’ll be good. I’ll submit. Just please talk with me. Please talk to me. Please.”
The slug wrapped up Sans’ knees with its feelers, rolling him onto his back and arranging him to start fucking him. Sans hiccoughed. It wasn’t punishing him for his mistake, that was something. As the grotesque member flopped against Sans’ pelvis and began to rub against him in preparation, Sans thought to himself that, the slug was only keeping him for sex after all. Even without punishment, it would be ridiculous to think the slug would come here and be willing to put off its pleasure. Knowing that didn’t stop the hot tears from flowing or Sans’ legs from trembling in terrified anticipation.
The member poked teasingly at Sans’ cunt, then went back to rubbing on him. Prickling through his bones, Sans felt the slug inviting him to present his soul. ‘Inviting’…it was going to make Sans do it himself, bare his soul to it of his own volition.
Sans choked, shutting his eyes, but he did it. He let his soul slide forward, ghosting through his chest to hover an inch above it, waiting.
There was a cold drip. Sans knew immediately that the slug’s soul was out.
It was pouring over him, slick drizzles like it was cumming on his soul, and then the revolting feeling of the runoff entering him. A layer of reality misted away, and Sans was as ancient as the world itself, gazing out at a primordial landscape that was both endlessly flat and ragged. Plates of rock offset by their collisions were the only company for miles in every direction. It was warm, so warm, air thick with chemicals he absorbed through his skin and shed from himself in a sulfurous trail of stink. He loved that smell, the hot soot that padded everything, that had never quite been the same since those days.
It took Sans’ own consciousness shyly coming back forward in his mind for him to catch up to the fact that the slug was honoring his request. It was telling him about itself.
So nice and quiet here. So empty and deathly quiet. The certainty that no other thinking beings would be alive for centuries and millennia stretching out before him.
Sans found the notion utterly terrifying, but the part of him he shared with the slug was cozily nostalgic here.
Sans’ petty loneliness was laughable in the face of that. The slug literally had no frame of reference to understand it.
So why have a pet, Sans thought before he could squelch down the noises of his own brain in this shared soup. In some amorphous way, Sans felt himself cowering, not wanting to contradict the slug in even the slightest way that might bring more hell down on him. His soul was lost in here. Who knew the extent of what the slug could do to him like this?
Sans was given an answer to his initial question whether he liked it or not.
A little mouse stared up at him from a new scene, a brothel with red lighting that reminded him of a home long changed. An elegant spider woman was gesturing a spindly arm at the mouse, indicating to Sans that this was their compromise.
The brothel had been a bit too appealing. The comforting warmth radiating from the lights, the stink that clung to the walls, the pleasure of claiming the hallways with his trails and overtaking any creatures unwise enough to stay in his path. Apparently that wasn’t how the establishment was meant to be used. They had made up their own little rules, about cleanliness, checks for communicable this and that. The slug didn’t meet the bar for their regulations, but what good did that do them if they couldn’t stop him from entering in the first place?
So the little mouse was meant to appease him, like a sacrifice to an ancient god.
He’d be lying if he didn’t admit the notion pleased him just a bit.
When he came back to claim his offering, though, they’d changed their mind. He was directed to try out a different little piece, to see if he’d accept it. He could play dumb, but he wasn’t fooled—obviously they were getting cold feet about their older whore, and they were trying to foist off their less valuable leftovers. But he was patient enough to play a long game.
He wouldn’t be greedy. He’d tell them they could keep the new little monster and use him until he broke, and then once he was useless to them, that’s when they would hand him over. How very generous and understanding of their business he was being.
Then he’d take the whore, and he’d lay low for a bit longer as he enjoyed it. He was patient as the world itself. So only when opportunity presented itself, he’d go back and claim more. The broken toy had only entertained him for so long, he’d say. And he’d take their next broken whore. It would practically be a favor to them, taking the mess off their hands. The mouse, for starters. The one so near its expiration date that it had been promised to him already.
And if they refused, he’d flatten them into cragged rock, make the world like it was, one smattering of dust at a time. He’d obliterate everything but what he wanted to fuck, and then no one would be around to refuse him anything he could take again.
Sans gasped, loud and ragged, clawing out like he was struggling not to drown. He was on his back in a grungy house, the slug on top of him and just finished using him for one round that left a stinging pain between his legs and a coating of sticky wetness over his pelvis. It wasn’t clear when their souls had been put away, or what separated the vision from their waking world. Sans was only aware of a change when he started crying hard, trying to roll onto his side but blocked by the slug’s body holding him down.
Higher brain functions that could have better interpreted what he’d seen remained locked away behind pain and fear and loss. He simply whispered croaky, indistinct pleas up at the monster as he closed his eyes and tried to bear through it starting on him for a second go.
Moldbygg had escaped the mutilation of Sans’ reason. Or at least part of it. He still looked like a copy of Sans, just like everyone else did, and Sans forgot who he was as soon as he left. But Sans knew who he was when he was here, and could even understand his words. Sans supposed that since Moldbygg kept coming in to take care of him, and since the slug was the one in charge of Sans’ mind, they’d arranged this small loophole so that Sans wouldn’t irritate Moldbygg by asking who he was each time. How convenient for them, Sans thought dully, that they were able to streamline the mindfuck of their living sex toy.
The tether was snapped free and Sans’ collar undone, cuffs released next. Sans didn’t have a chance in combat, and running was a laughable fantasy since the slug had him crippled. The way that Moldbygg undid all his bindings to clean him up was almost more humiliating than the cleaning itself. It was a mocking reminder that Sans had never tried to free himself, that he had the opportunity but it was still useless to him. It was a reminder of how weak he was.
“You’re gonna be rescued.”
Sans had to double take, replaying the monster’s words in his head to make sure Moldbygg hadn’t started talking in nonsense garble like everyone else. He stared up at him, trying to read the twisted, amused expression. Moldbygg smirked.
“It’s a pretty cute effort, honestly. Total chaos out there. I guess somebody really cared what happened to you.”
He knelt down to meet Sans eye to eye, tipping Sans’ chin up with a finger.
“So we figured we’d go ahead and give them what they want.”
Sans felt the slug’s presence before he saw it enter the room. Its thoughts and intentions wafted ahead of it simply through its proximity to Sans, reminding Sans of his own tainted soul. Now, he could tell that the slug was going to…take Sans for a walk. So what on earth was Moldbygg talking about? A deadly hope blossomed, frail and sickly in the very pit of his body.
The slug slouched in, but Sans kept watching Moldbygg. It was picking up the discarded collar.
And putting it on.
As Moldbygg hooked the tether on itself, Sans understood. There was nothing wrong with the way he was seeing Moldbygg right now. Moldbygg had taken Sans’ form on purpose. The one imperfection in its copy was the grotesque way it donned the handcuffs, allowing them to melt through its wrists without unlocking them. An advantage to being made of slime down to its slimy core, Sans mused as he fought down nausea. A slime’s soul was probably indestructible. How could you destroy something that was never genuine in the first place?
Moldbygg showed them a toothy grin.
“Have fun. I’m certainly gonna.”
Sans was led away with a tug inside his soul, his limbs ordered to move. He crawled after the slug, one hand going in front of the other no matter how he screamed at them to stop moving without him. Even the frustrated tears that burned inside him couldn’t come out because the slug insisted Sans was pleased about this. He choked on his own ingratitude, scrambling to catch up to the side of his Master and offering as many lewd services as he could think of as they left the house. If his Master was really happy with him, maybe he’d claim Sans in the street before they made it to their destination.
Their walk was halted by an onlooker’s stare. It was the first monster they’d come across on their otherwise quiet trip through dim alleys, but this monster had apparently been in a hurry in this particular direction. The intruder stopped dead as soon as they saw Sans and his master, a blade formed in the stranger’s grip that sagged by their side as they were struck immobile. The monster’s scarf was the only part of them that moved, fluttering with the breeze of an underground current.
Sans tried not to feel disappointed that this monster spoke only nonsense like everyone else. He reminded himself that he didn’t need anyone, because his master was right beside him, and they could understand each other perfectly.
The stranger took a lunging step forward.
“I’m going to fucking kill you.”
Sans didn’t need to understand the words to interpret the acid tone, or the intent. The monster rushed at the slug with the sharp of their blade bared. Without thinking, Sans crawled before his master, spreading his arms in front of it to guard a laughably small portion of its huge form.
The monster froze their assault anyway. They stared at Sans with equal parts fear and betrayal churning behind their eyes.
It really had been without thinking. Sans could feel the slug puppet his body in place, words that weren’t his tumbling from his mouth with an eerie, stilted cadence.
“You can’t kill me without killing him.”
The monster’s grip on their weapon tightened, their stance preparing for another assault.
“I have excellent aim.”
Sans only heard garbled nothing again, but the monster’s appearance was sparking something, the last true part left of Sans’ soul. He still saw his own face in place of their genuine one—it wasn’t that—and it was startling to see his weak little body wearing that regal armor, standing so high and proud. But the way the monster moved, the way it looked at Sans…it was entirely driven by its goal, and if Sans had it right…that goal was freeing him. Something burst in Sans’ soul, pure and overwhelming.
Or no, it was that his soul was coming forward from his rib cage.
The slug made him hold it out, made him show off the most violating and humiliating thing it had done to him, the green plumes shifting revoltingly under the surface. And it made him speak again.
“You misunderstand. He is not a shield. We’re one now.”
The slug had Sans’ claws tickle over the soul.
“If you kill me, he’ll die.”
The stranger’s hand loosened, the blade dissipating before it hit the ground. Their gaze was transfixed on the soul, the winning confidence draining from their face like the sand of an hourglass. Sans wanted to smash his soul down and scream, hide everything about himself, but he was still made to hold it out bare. The other monster shook its head.
“No…no. You didn’t. You didn’t. “
A tiny yellow light flashed at the monster’s belt, originating from a small box with a speaker. The monster’s hand fluttered to it like a ghost, bringing the box to his mouth without moving his eyes from Sans’ soul.
“He’s…here. I’ve run into them. Second Street East and Wingdin.”
Sans shuddered as he watched the soul. It was one thing to always feel the slug oozing through some untouchable part of him. It was another to see the proof. He wondered which was worse.
The other monster’s eyes were sparkling with a fierce sheen of wetness as they snarled, advancing on the slug with no weapon.
“I swear I’ll find some way to destroy you.”
The new voice came from around a corner. Two new creatures rounded the bend, one tiny and carrying a saber with a point taller than its own body, one encased in a round metal suit that left cracks in the street where it stomped. As far as Sans’ vision was concerned, these were both him too, though their postures and weapons were ones Sans couldn’t imagine for himself.
The one brandishing the saber had a shadow about their head that gave Sans the odd impression of Mickey Mouse ears that followed them around. They shouted to the monster with the elegant scarf.
“We can take him down together! Where’s your attack?”
“It’s…it melded with… it made him meld.”
Whatever it had said, it made the other two monsters look at Sans in horrified unison, a loud gasp coming from some kind of speakers in the big metal suit. Sans felt the slug’s wave of satisfaction at the sight of their distress. It was enjoying this game very much. Maybe there was a point to other monsters after all.
Sans’ mouth was moving, and he was saying something. There were so many things he would have wanted to say to the monsters. ‘I’m sorry I’m disgusting.’ ‘You need to run.’ ‘Thank you for trying.’ But under the slug’s shadow, Sans couldn’t do or say anything except what the slug wanted him to. He heard its words come out of him, its alien inflections making his words stop and start at all the wrong times.
“Your party must retreat, unless you want me to hurt him.”
Sans understood that. Not only because he could understand what the slug made him say, but also because he recognized the way his mind fizzed when the slug prepared to punish him. His body was already quaking.
The party of monsters was split, the metal suit appearing to stand down while the other two dug in battle stances. The scarfed monster bared its teeth.
“We won’t let you do that.”
Sans felt words come out.
“It’s a little late.”
The next thing Sans felt was slipping down a gritty slope, white muck clinging to him and making his weathered shirt hang limp and sticky over his body. The pit had evolved into some sort of well, Sans dropping into the fetid water with a splash.
The water wriggled.
Sans struggled in horror, arms climbing over each other like a drowning man. He couldn’t do this again. The itch he felt all over told him the worms were eating inside him, burying themselves in his body. Sans gasped.
“Please, stop, I’ll be…good, I won’t run master, I won’t. I won’t leave, please!”
“—love of god, you’ve made your point, stop doing that to him!”
Sans was in the street again. He was on his side, shivering all over, skull drooling on the pavement. He didn’t even bother wiping his face, just felt over himself searching for little holes and only meeting smooth bone with his hands. The worms were only in his head this time. He gave a sigh that sounded like a sob, arms crossing to hug himself.
The three monsters were all staring at him with varying degrees of shock. They didn’t move, apparently unable to.
Sans’ tired jaw got moving again.
“It’s not so bad. I’m willing to make a deal with you.”
There was a beat of silence before the scarf monster answered, eyes full of unease.
The slug answered easily through Sans, making him sit up but thankfully not forcing him up onto his knees. Sans didn’t think he could stand the pressure on his bones.
“Five million gold. I’ll give you the chance to acquire it and stow it inside the abandoned game market on the next block. And I’ll leave him for you in my home.”
The monsters took that in for a moment before the scarfed one gave an incredulous scoff.
“You want money? After all you’ve done? Are you insane?”
“Do you want him back or not?”
The slug’s reply made the fight visibly leave the monster, his voice a hollow whisper that shook in the air.
The other two monsters were exchanging glances, and Sans thought he saw the figure of the one in the suit fidget, adjusting thick glasses. What Sans wouldn’t give to at least tell them they’d be paying to adopt Moldbygg with the money the slug demanded. He didn’t think the slug would even go to collect the money, if they managed to get it together. It was hard to imagine a creature like the slug using money, like it was some common citizen of the Underground and not an ancient, vacuous evil. It would be better if this group decided Sans wasn’t worth the trouble and abandoned the whole operation.
“Why aren’t you retreating?” The slug made Sans lean back, squeezing him into forming magic and spreading his legs open. “You want to see what I can do to his cute little pussy?”
The monsters all balked, taking a step back as one. However, the threat appeared to spur them into speech.
“Sans, you saved me, and I’m going to save you.”
“I w-w-won’t let him keep you, Sans. I’m not g-…g-going to hide anymore.”
“We’ll be back for you, brother. I promise that.”
It was really too bad that Sans didn’t know what they were saying. It seemed like they were putting all their heart into it.
When they ran down the street and rounded the corner, it was as if they’d never existed in the first place.
It was a dreary business, watching this new monster sneaking around the room. Sans had woken up alone, but with the soreness of use. As if him passing out would dissuade his master. Then some incalculable time later, this monster had shown up, moving in a suspicious manner like it was strongly aware it didn’t belong.
What did that matter? Sans didn’t recognize them, his own features jumping back at him mockingly like they always did when he saw someone who ‘didn’t exist.’ Sans had been effectively cut off from not only the notion of help, but the prospect of having a normal interaction with anyone ever again. Destroyed like his mind.
Sans wasn’t sure what he were doing in this new place, either. It had the signature of the slug’s muck all over it, but he felt that it was a different room from before. Sans’ restraints felt different, too. They were arranged in such a way that Sans was pretty sure he’d been forced to put them on himself, rather than Moldbygg attaching them. The fact that Sans couldn’t call back why or when this had happened only made him more despondent. His sight was total nonsense, anyway. It might well be the same place, but it was covered in strange holes that darkened and twisted impossibly into reality itself.
The visiting monster fiddled with the window, peeking out and around. Apparently satisfied, it stepped right in front of Sans. In spite of his chaotic perception, Sans had gotten a little better at discerning things about monsters that weren’t the slug. He could tell that this monster was taller than him, but walked with a hunch, like he was used to cowering. He wasn’t all that much taller than Sans, either—there was something stunted about him, like he was meant to grow more but circumstances had prevented it. Sans didn’t know why, but there was a wrongness to that, like the monster had cheated himself into existence and was being punished for ontological evil. It gave him an aura of being both pitiable and revolting.
In the monster’s features, though, Sans saw his own face looking down at him, a slow smile sliding up it and showing teeth.
“Hey Sans. Fancy seeing you here…like this.”
Sans needed a moment to really take that in. He’d understood those words. He could understand what this monster was saying to him, and it wasn’t Moldbygg or the slug. Excitement combusted inside of Sans before he knew what to do with it. As stupid as it was, the first thing he thought of was how badly he wanted to have a conversation. Just, a regular conversation, it could have been about tiddlywinks for all he cared.
The monster crouched, leering at him.
“Spread your legs.”
There went that.
Sans obeyed automatically, only thinking about it after the fact. He wasn’t technically a whore anymore, so he didn’t have to have sex with this random monster, did he? Although without the slug there, Sans didn’t have any way to fight the monster off to reinforce his refusal. He would only have the hope that the monster would back off if he said no, and how well had that ever worked for Sans before?
Sans drew his legs in slightly.
“Wait. Please. Please don’t f-…fuck me. I’m so tired. Please.”
The monster frowned at that, pointing at Sans accusingly.
“Don’t you dare say no to me when you look like this.”
Like what? Oh. Sans looked down at himself and took in the ragged, open button-up, and his bare chest and pelvis. He’d gotten so used to immodest dress, he didn’t even think of it as something that could be construed as teasing on his part.
The monster knelt before him, taking Sans’ skull in his hand by the jaw, turning it to either side and looking him over.
“Hey, no need for a sour face; I know how to treat you right.”
Without further argument than that, the monster pressed Sans back by the chest, then pulled his hips closer by the femurs, moving him like a doll. Sans just went along with it. He formed his pussy too, because why make this any harder than he had to?
“Ooh, someone’s a naughty little monster.”
Sans turned his head so he wasn’t looking while this happened. Did this monster really have to make fun of him for doing what it wanted? The first touch to his pussy made it embarrassingly obvious that he was already wet, either from habit or from being talked down to, or both.
Without looking, Sans wasn’t prepared for being touched all over—not just having his pussy rubbed, but thin fingers dancing over his ribs and spine, squeezing and stroking. It wasn’t long before fingers dipped between his legs to curl inside him, pressing upward in a rhythm that sent sparks through his body.
Apparently, the monster did know how to treat Sans right. He seemed to know every move and weak spot that turned Sans into putty, just a lazy stroke of his fingers making Sans moan helplessly in pleasure.
“See? You like that.”
The monster breathed on Sans’ face, teetering forward over Sans like his whole body was on a hinge. One hand stayed between Sans’ legs, playing with him mercilessly until Sans could barely see straight.
“You love that. You love it when I touch you.”
There was something gloating in the monster’s words, though Sans hadn’t a clue why that would be something to be so proud of. But there was a familiar undertone, like a threat, that made Sans feel driven to reply.
“I love it…it’s so good when you touch me…”
A second of bafflement in the monster’s face made Sans wonder if he’d read him wrong, but then he was looming over Sans again, a wolfish grin splitting his face.
“Finally ready to admit it. Not so proud now.”
That was odd. He was acting like he knew Sans. Sans knew he’d had everyone he might have known erased, but the most unbelievable part was the notion that Sans had ever been proud.
In spite of a warning prickle about the monster’s behavior, Sans found himself willing this to happen. Something finally felt good. Not just good, but wonderful. Someone was talking to him. For who knew how long now, it was more than what he could have dreamed. Sans lifted his hips into the monster’s touch, spreading his legs wider and panting shamelessly.
“Please. Fuck me. Use me. I love the way you touch me…”
The monster over him only stared for a moment, his touch slowing to a stop and frightening Sans into thinking his invitation had ruined everything somehow. Then the monster was cackling. He bore over Sans with a gleeful smugness drizzling from the air around him.
“Spoiled little brat. I knew you were a fucking slut under it all.”
It hastily undid its pants, and—that answered that question—the likeness to Sans went all the way down to its dick, glowing a translucent red in Sans’ compromised vision. Sans had formed a dick so few times, though, it still felt separate from him somehow. Or that’s what he told himself as seeing the full hardness of it made fresh arousal leak from between Sans’ legs.
The monster pressed the tip against the opening of Sans’ cunt, and Sans sighed deep as the cock teased at him. Maybe he was a slut or whatever, but it was nice to be reminded that sex was a thing that could feel good. It was nice to remember that anything could feel good. The other monster leaned into Sans so that his mouth was breathing against the side of Sans’ face. The tip butted at Sans again.
“You want this? You want my cock?”
So he wanted a bit more begging. Sans wasn’t in a particular mood to deny him. Begging for something he actually wanted was making him feel high.
“Yeah. I want your cock. Please put it in me.”
The monster obliged with a gratified huff. He slid into Sans, licking his neck and giving it a tender bite as he thrust his hips forward with a groan. He didn’t wait long to start humping Sans hard. Sans couldn’t find any more dirty words of encouragement as he lost himself in the building pleasure, and the other monster was quick to make fun of Sans for that, too.
“Who’s in charge now, huh? Bet you wish I’d done this to you a long time ago.”
Sans didn’t reply, instead giving the monster a stuttered moan for his efforts. The monster made a special show of turning Sans’ skull towards his, to better reveal the probably stupid face Sans was making as he let himself go to what was being done to him.
“Look at you. What a whore.”
He almost sounded affectionate.
The teasing fell away for a bit as the monster held Sans tight, drilling into him and grunting. Sans’ femurs were starting to tremble, a heavy tingling gathering at his groin. And, like a mirror above him, the monster driving into him began to announce himself.
“Yeah, I’m gonna cum…I’m gonna cum inside you. I’m gonna mark you.”
A sudden anxiety broke through the surface of the pleasurable feelings.
“W-…wait, don’t cum in me, I can…swallow it, or…”
The monster drew his head back enough to show Sans an annoyed sneer.
“What’re you talkin’ about?”
Sans gulped. The monster hadn’t quite stopped, and Sans could feel himself getting closer beyond his control.
“My, my master might get…mad at me, if he sees me all…and then he’ll…”
One constant was the slug’s eagerness to find reasons to hurt him. However, Sans’ fears were met with a wry snort from above him.
“Heh. Like I give a rat’s ass.”
With that, the monster humped Sans with a few more slow, long jerks of its hips, settling with its dick shoved all the way in as it came. It moaned in a deep growl of satisfaction against Sans’ face, pulling him close again.
“You belong to me. Just me. You’re all mine.”
Sans felt a strange, dazed euphoria at the words. Or maybe that was just how hard he was cumming as the other monster pumped him full of its release. Warmth flushed through his whole body, radiating out from that burst of pleasure between his legs.
“Look at that face. Still gonna tell me you didn’t want me to cum in you, y’little slut?”
Sans experienced just a shadow of disappointment in himself, all he had left really, as he realized he’d probably cum harder because the monster had done it against his wishes.
The monster drew up from him, sighing as his dick softened and slipped out. Leaving Sans spread out on the floor, he sat back and took a cigarette out of a pocket, lighting it up.
As Sans came down from his heightened state, the truths of the situation came clearer to him. This monster was dangerous, didn’t care about him, and apparently reveled in seeing him hurt and humiliated. Pleasuring Sans was just a byproduct of what it had wanted to do for now, but when it inevitably changed its mind about what it wanted from Sans, the good times would be over for him. And there would be nothing he could do about it.
The other monster went on looking Sans over, admiring his handiwork it seemed like. Sans wanted the monster to leave. He was starting to feel a little sick, and he was afraid of the monster, and afraid of what he would do if he saw Sans trying to clean himself in front of him. He’d said he wanted to ‘mark’ Sans, so would that make him angry?
But he just kept eyeballing Sans, intensely, like he was memorizing what he’d done to him, and Sans wanted to curl into himself until he became nothing. He wanted to stop existing.
An odd, fizzling bang called Sans out of his frozen state.
Another monster had appeared seemingly out of nowhere, a giant pack on their back and a beeping instrument with what looked like dowsing rods attached held in two of its hands. Sans wasn’t sure why, but he had the impression of more arms than two sprouting from the monster. Maybe because they seemed to be doing more than two things at once with their hands. Glasses were being adjusted, something from the pack was being taken out, and the beeping instrument was being fiddled with in an intensely concentrated manner for all that multitasking.
The monster directly in front of Sans whispered to him.
“Don’t get any ideas with her. She’s not gonna help you.”
With that he stood up, hunching over and greeting the newcomer with a half-hearted wave. The many armed monster was maybe looking at him, but Sans got the feeling she was also looking around the room at the same time.
“I can’t believe what a layabout you’re being about this. You’re going to need to stop slacking off over here if we’re to find that anomaly. There’s an unusually high concentration of abnormalities centered around this area, but there have been a few hot spots that—”
Her babbling halted as she took in Sans on the floor, looking over his restraints.
“Oh. Oh no. What happened to him?” She knelt down, putting her equipment aside and feeling over the tether that connected Sans’ collar to the floor. She glanced up at the hunching monster. “I’m so sorry. How you must have felt when you saw…”
The hunching monster waved a hand again.
“It’s okay. We’re here to fix things, right? This won’t even matter in a little while.”
“That’s right…” The many armed monster smiled up at the other, but didn’t sound confident. “It will be difficult to isolate the anomaly with so much interference.” She held the beeping tool up to Sans’ face. The dowsing rods jutting from it gave a small jiggle, like they were acknowledging his existence. “He’s not it, even though he’s obviously been brushed with it. What twisted alternate routes must have sprung from ours to create a situation like this…”
She reached out to touch Sans’ arm, the delicately kind stroke of her fingers making Sans shiver with need.
“You poor thing. What you must have been through.”
The hunching monster gave a noncommittal hum, tapping a foot. Suddenly, he showed Sans a sly grin that the other monster couldn’t see behind her back.
“So, why don’t you take him with us?”
The dowsing rods swung as the monster pulled them away in surprise.
“Oh, no. You know we can’t.” The monster behind her wore a smug grin that appeared to be just for Sans’ benefit. It was wiped away as soon as the monster in front of Sans turned her head. “Tell me you remember that while we’re here, no matter what we see or what we feel, we must—”
“—follow the same rules as a nature preserve. Yeah, yeah.”
The many armed monster pointed a chiding finger at the other.
“Nothing left behind, and nothing taken out.” She fiddled with her device again. “Who knows what additional damage we could deal this timeline, or ours. The fabric of spacetime is already a soup…”
“Right, right. So it’s impossible.”
The kneeling monster reached out more hands towards Sans, touching over him and making the monster behind them frown. Her fingers hooked under the cuffs on Sans’ wrists. Sans breathed out, suddenly realizing he hadn’t said a word to this monster, even though he could understand her too. He was so used to speech not making a difference. But even now, with these extreme circumstances, it felt as though the hunched monster was warning Sans with his sharp stare. If the monster was dangerous, who was to say he might not attack this newcomer too, if she or Sans annoyed him?
An overly complex looking pair of heavy duty scissors was in front of Sans’ face before he registered the many armed monster taking it out from her pack. The scissors were swooped down to Sans’ wrists, cutting the cuffs free with two loud snips. The monster then raised them to Sans’ neck to snap off the tether from his collar.
The hunched monster gesticulated awkwardly before he spoke.
“What are you—what was all that Prime Directive bullshit you just gave me, if you’re gonna—?”
The other monster waved two hands at once.
“There’s nothing that says we can’t leave kindness behind. If we operate within the laws of this timeline, and don’t leave a trace, it’s like—it’s like an endangered species rescue.” With that odd comparison, she bent forward to take Sans into an embrace. He nearly broke down and cried in her arms, but shock must have prevented it. “Don’t you worry, dear. If you still exist after we’ve sorted this whole thing out, I’ll come back to see how you are. It’s going to be okay soon.”
She pat him on the back and got herself up, brushing off her front with other hands. Behind her, the hunching monster’s frown had turned to an ugly scowl.
The many armed monster didn’t take notice, typing on a third strange device that appeared out of her pack, a little keyboard with a floating screen. It chirped, and one of those odd dark holes in the room grew to be as large as a doorway. A totally different interior showed through the ripped doorway, like a window into someone else’s house. The hunched monster kicked at some dirt on the floor as he sullenly followed the other monster toward that door.
She stopped, eyeing the cigarette butt still smoldering on the floor.
“Where did that come from?”
The hunched monster gave a disinterested shrug.
“Huh? You know I’ve always got some on me.”
The other monster whipped around.
“You—it’s yours? That was from you?”
“Yeah, yeah, relax, I’ve got it, ‘Smokey.’”
The monster crushed it under his heel, swiveling to ground it out and extinguish the last of its glow. In almost the same moment, the other monster was reaching forward, shrieking his name as she yanked him back with three arms.
In the instant the two of them flickered out of existence behind the hole in space, the cigarette butt crumpled into itself, taking the air around it with it, and soon the floor and dirt in its immediate vicinity were curving into nonexistence, being sucked into a tear in reality.
As a rip into endless nothingness tore out a piece of the room, forming a negative spiral shape like the kind of pasta that antagonized any attempt to nail it with a fork, Sans felt distracted.
Why did that name sound familiar?
The slug had finally done what Sans had been most afraid of. Not fucking up his brain—that was a ship long sailed. Sans now existed in an uncertain slurry of holes and windows, not sure if he’d suddenly fall in his sleep and wake up on the ceiling. That had happened yesterday.
The worst thing faced him today, as he looked over the curled up and beaten form of another person, which meant that the slug had taken in another prisoner.
Sans half wanted to convince himself that the other person wasn’t even real. It was about as plausible as anything else Sans had seen lately.
But despite the fact that the captive took the shape of Sans’ own pathetic body, Sans couldn’t sit there and watch when he knew what awaited them. He couldn’t let what happened to him happen to anyone else. If anyone else in the world really existed, they deserved better than serving the slug.
Sans approached as non-threateningly as he could manage, making enough noise that he wouldn’t sneak up, but quiet enough that hopefully he wouldn’t scare them. As he got closer, they crumpled into themself anyway, covering their face.
“Please. I can’t take anym-…more. I wanna die. I wanna die please. Please kill me.”
Sans’ marrow chilled. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t asked that same thing before. It was perfectly reasonable in a place like this. But from the other end, he so desperately wanted better for this person than that, wanted to believe that someone out there could have better. Living had to be better if they could get out. Maybe they had family.
Sans set a hand on their shoulder, and at the very least they didn’t flinch from him. Either something told them Sans wasn’t an enemy, or they were ready for him to strike a finishing blow. Sans spoke softly. He knew that if it were him, he’d want to hear confidence and assurance, so he tried his best to inflect that, too.
“Hey, hey, none a’ that. We’re getting you out, okay? This’ll be over in a jiff, so don’t worry about a thing.”
“You can’t do anything either, fucking idiot.”
Sans wilted a little. He must not be able to sound all that confident after all, and he couldn’t blame them. He tried using reason instead. Maybe the slug hadn’t gotten to their soul yet. It was a long shot, considering it hadn’t bothered to tether this new captive, but there was one constant about Sans’ hell with the slug.
“Look…that door’s open. It’s right over there. It’s close enough you can crawl.”
“Don’t that mean you could crawl out too?”
Sans looked over at the door, then down at himself. What would even be the point of leaving? Something in his soul told him that there wasn’t anything for him out there, that he was meant to be right here, waiting for his master to return.
“…no, I. I can’t leave any more. There’s no way I could…leave like this.” Sans’ hand unconsciously went to his rib cage. “But we can get you out. So let’s go.”
Without waiting for them to argue further, Sans got himself under the other monster’s torso, hooking them half onto his back. The monster made a small noise, but otherwise didn’t fight him. Something about that unsettled Sans, but it was merely all the more reason to get them out of here.
Since Sans wasn’t able to get up higher than a creeping position on all fours, it was exceedingly slow going to support the other monster even that short distance. Sans’ joints began to ache, a sickly exhaustion spreading through him before long. Crippling circumstances aside, his body wasn’t meant for the strain of carrying anyone and it certainly wasn’t meant to carry more than one bit of hope. But the hell if he’d let his stupid body call the shots here. The slug could demean him, and hurt him, and make him less than worthless, but he wasn’t going to let it turn him into someone who watched.
The slug had already gotten another prisoner to replace the one Sans had set free.
He tried not to think it, that maybe this was just a passerby or an illusion, but the collar on their neck cinched it. They were on all fours, too—the slug had already had them maimed.
Overwhelmed with despair, Sans found himself giving in to weakness and repeating the plea of the monster he’d helped escape only a few hours ago.
“Please. I can’t take anym-…more. I wanna die. I wanna die please. Please kill me.”
The approaching captive touched Sans on the shoulder, treating him with a warmth that made Sans immediately want them to give up on him and save themselves, that filled Sans with a fear for things he shouldn’t want anymore. Their gentle confidence sounded like hope that couldn’t be killed by past suffering.
“Hey, hey, none a’ that. We’re getting you out, okay? This’ll be over in a jiff, so don’t worry about a thing.”
Sans leaned against a pillar. Something was crawling up his legs, squirming over him, burrowing into his soul—
“Ngh…no no no stop, s-…stop, please…”
Hands were on his shoulders. He’d sunk down to the floor, something falling from his grip to clatter beside him.
“G-…get it, get it out…get it out, p-. Please make it stop…”
His hands reached to claw at his rib cage, to get his soul forward and yank out the intrusion. A gloved pair of hands grabbed his and pulled them down.
“Sans, you’re safe. There’s nothing there. Dr. Alphys says you need to stop scratching it.”
Sans looked up, a jagged face greeting him with scars over one eye and angular dignity outlining every feature.
The dignity melted away under a cloud of mistiness, sharp eyes suddenly hazy and searching.
“Sans. Do you know who I am?”
That question was begging for Sans to come up with a distinguished nickname for his brother, like General Fartstinker, but the delicate expression forbade it. Sans simply repeated himself.
Papyrus’ face twisted before he hid it behind a hand. His voice trembled, and Sans couldn’t compute his surroundings much less that his brother might actually be crying.
“It’s…it’s been so long, Sans.”
Papyrus made a single choking noise before stifling it.
Sans felt unforgivably stupid. He felt like he’d been turned upside down and expected to live the rest of his life with his directions reversed. Papyrus rubbed his face and covered it with his other hand.
“It’s been months, Sans. Since that imposter—and since we found you wandering by yourself. You never once recognized me, while we were…”
It was uncharacteristic for Papyrus’ sentences to stop and start uncertainly, but Sans still knew it must be him. His face, his voice, the exact way his hand settled on Sans the very few times he touched him—Sans could never, ever forget.
Papyrus suddenly stood, like he was already fed up with this emotional business, and when he showed his face again he’d indeed eradicated all traces that there’d been any.
“It’s time to take you to the Crown, and begin discussing your new position. It’s sure to get you back on your feet.”
Back on his feet. Right.
Sans took a baffled moment to stare at the floor in front of him like it might start to move and convey him where Papyrus wanted. As usual, the world for Sans was slow and the world for Papyrus was fast, impossible to catch up to and without the patience to allow it.
Papyrus held out his hands as though he expected to help Sans stand, but Sans was pretty sure he couldn’t…
With an unceremonious heft up, Sans was on his own two feet. Amazed by this, he took a few wobbling steps forward before Papyrus halted him.
“Sans, you’ve left your cane.”
Sans blinked, looking down at the object that had caused that clatter when he fell. It was an elegant black cane with a gold tip and golden handle, the handle in the shape of a goat’s skull. It looked familiar, but it couldn’t be his. Sans was somehow sure he’d seen it before, but held by someone else. Or at least by someone in front of him.
“That’s not mine.”
“Of course it’s yours, Sans. I found it for you.”
Not waiting for Sans to get it himself, Papyrus retrieved the cane and shoved it into Sans’ hand. Sans tested it, like he was checking if the ground ahead was solid. It certainly helped him balance his shaky legs.
The hobbling walk to the throne room gave Sans the chance to take in the complete absurdity of his situation. They were in the golden hall of the palace, on the way to the king to talk about Sans getting a job. It was as though Sans had been thrust backwards and forwards in time simultaneously. Perhaps he should scream and toss his cane on the ground and run like a madman. That seemed like the most sane thing to do.
As his thoughts spun inside his skull, another familiar monster approached them, clasping four of her hands as she greeted Papyrus and Sans with one raised one.
“How is he doing today, dearie?”
Sans froze in place. He wasn’t going to be able to do a thing until her words got him moving again, that he knew for sure.
Papyrus did a double take between the two of them, then set an assuring hand on Sans’ shoulder. Sans could get used to him continuing to do that, if Papyrus deemed it fit.
“You recognize her now—but Sans, this isn’t the Muffet you know. This is Dr. Muffet.”
Papyrus gave a flourishing gesture at her as the Muffet lookalike curtsied. Now that Sans was thawing a little, he could take in that Muffet was wearing a very unusual getup for her. She had on a special pair of goggles that couldn’t rightly be called a pair: there were five lenses covering all five of her eyes. Over some clothes so plain that the Muffet Sans knew might have called them dreary, this monster had draped on a long, clean white lab coat.
Papyrus went on with his introduction.
“She has been assisting Dr. Alphys with some paradoxical issues. Apparently our timeline crashed into the neighboring one.”
He said it with the nonchalance of one commenting on the outside atmosphere. Papyrus never was very impressed by science stuff.
Muffet steepled the fingers of two hands, looking down at Sans with a friendly smile.
“There’s a bit of a crowding issue at present, but it does offer up a truly fascinating field of study. I can’t say I’m unhappy with it.”
“Yes, yes. If you’ll excuse us, Doctor.”
‘Doctor’ Muffet touched a hand to her mouth and then took a step aside.
“Of course dears, so sorry. Don’t let me hold you up.” She waved at Sans again. “Go on then. Please do visit me soon; I’d love to hear what you’ve remembered.”
With Muffet’s permission, Sans’ legs got moving again, albeit with a bit of a teetering start. More was coming back to him after all, though nothing that really filled in the months-long gap Papyrus had been talking about. Long before that, when Sans had fallen through a bath into an alternate timeline. There had been strange holes, an anomalous number of shifts in time. Had it all been because of this ‘crash,’ or had the crash merely been another symptom?
A commotion from behind called him out of his thoughts. He and Papyrus turned as one, and Papyrus huffed.
“As she was saying about crowding…”
Two royal guards were holding back a short monster who was attempting to charge past them. It took Sans a moment to recognize one of the guards as Cecil the mouse, who was decked out in guard uniform including a very physical saber rather than a magic bullet for a weapon. The other guard was some tall bear-like creature.
The short monster was…Sans dropped his cane as he rubbed his sockets with both hands. He was seeing everyone else fine, so why did that monster look like Sans?
Papyrus gave another long-suffering sigh, bending to pick up Sans’ cane and returning it to his hand with one motion.
“Your unlikely counterpart. I’m afraid this happens every single day. If he has anything in common with you other than looks, I can’t say, but dignity is not one of those things.”
Sans felt himself flush a little as some part of his brain picked up that his brother had just asserted that Sans had dignity.
Most of him was absorbed with fascination, giving this copy another look.
The other Sans was violently shrugging off the guards, continually attempting to skirt around them and charge the throne room door. Energy level was definitely a big difference between him and Sans. He also had on what looked like a sad Halloween costume version of a guard outfit. Sans supposed that whatever timeline, a constant was how pathetic he was. The other monster was also kind of screechy.
“I demand a duel to challenge for the throne! You cannot deny me! I will be the king!”
He attempted to punt Cecil in the stomach, but the mouse parried the move with a whip of their saber.
“That isn’t a thing. Will you please calm down and leave.”
“You can’t make me leave! I was invited to live here!”
Both Cecil and the tall guard gave heaving sighs of regret.
“Yes, yes, can you go back to your room now.”
“I demand a full course meal for dinner tonight! Four courses is paltry and insulting. It must be at least five! On silver platters, none of that stone nonsense! Do you hear me!”
Cecil got to pushing the Sans on the chest and turning him, steering him carefully out of the hall like a mental patient.
“Trading kingship for a free meal again, are we?”
“I deserve to be treated like a king regardless of my circumstances. If it is not gotten right, I will be unbearable.”
The Sans copy was moving along with Cecil’s encouragement after all, the tall guard trailing behind them. Cecil’s whiskers twitched.
“I don’t not believe you.”
Papyrus rubbed at his brow as they watched the scene leave the hall.
“Every day, Sans.”
Papyrus turned to Sans.
Ah. Entering the king’s chambers. Sans nodded his assent, the silence filled by every frightful thought of what was to come. After everything, his brother wasn’t really willingly about to bring Sans back into hell? Sans was too afraid to ask what was going on.
Papyrus opened the throne room door ahead of them, and golden light enveloped Sans like a flash.
Standing before the throne, surrounded by luminous flowers and wearing the Dreemurr family regalia, was the human child.
“Your Majesty.” Papyrus knelt down before them, stopping Sans from doing the same with a hand out in front of him. “Forgive my brother for not kneeling, your highness, his legs—”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Frisk’s smile suggested that this was a routine request on Papyrus’ part. “He can stay however’s comfortable.”
“Highness, there is a matter of importance. Sans can recognize me now.”
Frisk’s face smoothed out in shock. They took a step forward, regarding Sans with awe.
“Do you know who I am too, Sans?”
Sans couldn’t help it this time.
“Can’t say I recognize you without grapes up your nose, kid.”
Frisk snorted and cried all at once, stumbling over to Sans to clutch him in a wet embrace, their crown sliding off and clanking to the floor with their commotion. They kept shifting their arms on his back, like they were making sure he was real. Sans pat their back once, then began to stroke it. It felt as automatic as it did right.
“Sans. I can’t believe it. You were so—I didn’t know if you’d ever know me again…”
Papyrus cleared his throat.
“I had confidence that Sans would come back to us someday.”
Frisk laughed, wiping their eyes even as more tears fell.
“That’s true. Papyrus never lost hope for you.” They hiccuped.
“The King…” Sans heard himself ask, even as he considered that it might not be the best idea. Papyrus was the one who answered.
“You’ve forgotten that too, Sans? He’s fallen down. Bequeathing the throne by right to his heir.”
Frisk peeked at Sans from the corner of an eye.
“How much…do you remember?”
Sans felt himself going stiff. The surrealness of everything around him had helped in a way, to keep down other thoughts lurking below the surface, threatening to flow out. Frisk quickly pat Sans on the arm.
“We can take it slowly. It’s a lot. It doesn’t have to all be in one day.”
Papyrus made an ‘excuse me’ noise, making Frisk turn their head to him.
“Your Highness…about the matter we discussed. My brother’s employment.”
Frisk stooped to pick up their crown and replace it on their head, straightening it and stepping back from Sans a pace.
“Sans, we’ve been draffing a new system of—”
“Drafting, Highness.” Papyrus corrected.
“Drafting, thanks. A new system of justice for the kingdom, and there’s an opening that Papyrus says you’ll be suited for: the Judge.”
Sans looked over at Papyrus, who was staring up at him from his still kneeling position. There was an intense glint in Papyrus’ eye.
“Someone to bring order to the unruly, brother. To sentence those deserving of recompense at last. I can think of none other as deserving to judge the delinquent and savage of the Underground as you.”
Sans didn’t know what to say. Either that, or his mouth and brain had inconveniently stopped working at the same time, and he had just been about to say something brilliant and becoming in response. Certainly that was the reason, and the response had been lost to pure bad luck. Oh, darn it.
Frisk reached forward to pat Sans’ shoulder.
“You can think about it. I’m sure there’s a lot on your mind right now, and you need to take your time.”
Papyrus stood, frowning.
“I’m of the opinion that the position and its…responsibilities would hasten his recovery. But no matter…if that is all, your Majesty.”
Frisk blinked, looking between Papyrus and Sans.
“Papyrus…would you mind if we…if just the two of us talked. Me and Sans?”
To his credit, Papyrus showed a very good poker face, but Sans caught a telltale twitch of a finger that betrayed dissatisfaction.
“Yes, your Majesty. I’ll take my leave of you now, and wait for my brother in the hall.”
Frisk nodded, and Papyrus took his exit. As Frisk looked back at Sans, Sans felt as though some air had been let out of both of them, two pairs of shoulders sagging in relief at once.
“I told him he doesn’t need to every time, but—”
“He was that formal even with our dad. Long as I can remember. He ain’t gonna stop now.”
“I’m so tired of standing up straight, Sans.”
Sans kept stroking the child’s arm, caught up in wonderment that of all the feelings that came back, happiness was one of the biggest. It was hard not to be happy in his ridiculous circumstances, standing before this child ruler, who was okay, who had made it through it all, who was tearfully happy to see him. There were other feelings, of course: that ever-present fear, a nervousness about what he might have to do and things that might be expected, a sadness from somewhere lost just as it always was, but happiness was there. Happiness and some hope. Just a little, but enough.
“About the King…” Frisk started. They took a breath. “I killed him. I don’t have the powers I used to, so I poisoned his tea.”
The powers they used to have. Sans saw in a flash a dark room, a knife, the promise of freedom. The first time they really met.
“There was some contest for the crown, when I took it. Some monsters are still real unhappy. But I think, even though I’m different now, they’re still a little scared of me. Cause…”
“Because they remember when you killed all of them.”
Frisk didn’t look at Sans, nodding after a moment.
Sans still didn’t know what to say. Something brilliant would have definitely been opportune.
“I changed because of you, you know.” They wiped a finger under their nose. “God, it sounds so stupid now. But it’s because you…you said thank you. You talked to me like normal even though you knew I was there to kill you. It was the first time I felt something other than being mad. I felt like…I’d done something good. Which is horrible. But it, it wasn’t like something that felt just…interesting. Before, I’d experiment with different actions, pretend to be nice, and things would be interesting, but that was it. This felt more than interesting. It was like it was warm.”
They were shivering a little, and Sans wasn’t sure if he should touch them or not. He felt himself starting to shake, like it was contagious. Frisk barreled on.
“You were the one who taught me about déjà vu. About why monsters remembered me but didn’t. The next few times, déjà vu was different with you, too. Other monsters always got this frozen look, but you, every time you saw me come in, you…you looked at me like an old friend. After a while, I didn’t really want to kill you, even though you kept asking me to.”
Sans reached a hand for Frisk, but let it fall. They’d taken on a matter of fact tone, distant from the subject. Sans could almost believe they were talking about two people unrelated to them. For Frisk, that couldn’t be true, but for Sans and what he knew of time travel, the him that the human befriended so long ago may well not be him at all.
“So I thought maybe if I could change things around you, maybe you wouldn’t want to die. But there were so many things to change. I started getting the idea that there were other monsters I needed to save too, because you couldn’t be happy without them. And then, when I got to know them more, I…I couldn’t be happy without them, either.”
They looked up.
“I tried so hard, Sans. I tried so, so hard.”
They cried with big, gulping tears, hugging their royal cape around themself like a cocoon.
“I wanted…to save him…so bad!”
Sans felt his soul swell with something hard and deep like a primal memory, the shadow of a family that never was. The oldest memory of them all. He finally came forward to hold the human and ‘shh’ their tears. They rubbed their wet eyes on him.
“I didn’t want to kill him. I wanted to find a way. I didn’t want to kill anyone! But I was too, too tired, and too…stupid!”
“Shh, no, kiddo. You did your best. Sometimes you…can’t. I know. I’m sorry.”
“I loved him so much, Sans! Why wouldn’t he change too!”
Sans held them tight, trying with all he had in him to squeeze out the sadness and the impossible.
Maybe Sans shouldn’t trust them, but. It didn’t feel like it mattered, whether Frisk had changed for real or not. Sans didn’t have a way to look into their heart. Their actions had quantifiably changed, at least. There was nothing to be said about their past. They’d already done more to repent than most monsters did in a lifetime. As for the present, Sans had certainly benefited from their actions. Who was he to judge?
“You did more for him than anyone coulda asked of you, sweetheart. You can’t make their choices for ’em.”
Frisk wailed and gasped in Sans’ hold until eventually they calmed, or maybe just wore themselves out. They nudged their head into Sans’ shoulder.
“Sans. I’m so glad that you…I’m sorry it took me so long. I’m sorry.”
They were looking a little better than the last time Sans saw them, their eyes just a bit brighter, but they still looked so incredibly tired. Sans ran a hand through their hair, tucking a strand back behind their ear.
“I’d put up with a lot for you, kid.”
The child fixed Sans with a look that was a bit too knowing.
“Sans…we’re not doing any of it again. Nothing’s gonna repeat again.”
Sans’ soul squeezed. There was something buried, something Sans was still too afraid to name, but needing this child to be in his life felt like a close way to put it. Maybe it did hurt sometimes, but a little pain felt like an acceptable price to pay in the end.
“The future’s ahead of us, huh?”
It was then Sans noticed the color of their eyes. Not the same dim red as before, a muddy brown had taken over with only splotches of sparkling red left. It hadn’t occurred to Sans that eyes could be different colors at all—no one he’d ever met had had anything other than red. Sans thought that mud might be the most beautiful color he’d ever seen.