"Hey, babe, uh... I gotta talk to you..."
"I... fuck, I'm sorry... it's taken me all day to get up the courage..."
"Breathe, Sans. And put the bottle down. You've been drinking since noon."
February 9th, 213X
The room was tilting. Not violently, but just that little, barely-noticeable bit that made Sans feel dizzy and mildly ill. His skin felt too hot even after he'd thrown off his sweater and hoodie. Now in a black tanktop and jeans, shoes discarded by the door, he was sitting at the table, head on his arms as he stared at three beer bottles, two empty and one nearly so. They were only a small remnant of his day, drinking like it was his job for hours. Now nearly eight o' clock, he felt awful. The comfortably numb and buzzed state he was looking for had never surfaced, instead letting him fall deeper down a hole of uncertainty and hopelessness from the previous day.
After meeting with their friends and family, Sans and Frisk had retreated to Sans' home in Snowdin along with Papyrus and Mettaton, deciding to stick together as a group for a while. While the two men hadn't said it, Frisk and Sans knew Papyrus and Mettaton wanted to make sure they were okay. After all, they were most likely to be targets of Chara's interference. But at least for the day after all the bad news and the car accident, Papyrus and Mettaton had left the other couple alone aside from a check-in before they each went out. Mettaton had warned Frisk gently to make sure Sans didn't drink too much, but hadn't interfered. And while Frisk had kept an eye on Sans, they hadn't stepped in til now.
And now, they were sitting across the table. Sans couldn't make himself look up yet. He hadn't looked Frisk in the eye for longer than a few seconds since his visit to Chara. Still, Frisk waited quietly, patiently, for their partner to gather his thoughts and speak.
"Uh..." Sans began, and immediately realized he had no idea what he was going to say. "I... um..." He lifted his head off his arms, staring down at them rather than looking at Frisk. "When I... y'know, went with Tori... I wasn't ready..."
"I don't think anyone could've been," Frisk murmured, watching Sans struggle internally. Frisk already had a few ideas as to what had caused their partner to suddenly retreat, and so they'd given Sans plenty of space that day.
"I mean, I was ready to go in there. I was ready for anything... I thought. I'd gone over all my abilities, what worked best against Chara way back then, what I could use to stop them rather than hurt them, for Tori's sake at least... But I wasn't ready to... see them."
Frisk's brows furrowed. "See them?"
"You guys were like twins when you were little... Shit, I almost mistook you for them a few times when you were nine. And you guys look way different now. You're darker, way taller, athletic... Chara's this shrimpy, skinny little pale thing, their hair's lightened up... but... Fuck, it's stupid, but-"
"Their face," Frisk interrupted softly, their own deep brown eyes reflecting something between guilt and deep concern. "And those eyes."
"I don't know, babe... Like I said, they're thinner. Gaunt, even. Their face isn't quite the same shape, but... just some little details... if I hadn't looked into it myself, I'd swear you two are related. Cousins, siblings even. And... in the wrong light... their eyes can look just like yours..." Sans' head dipped again, his forehead resting on his arm. "It's so stupid, Frisk. I'd never mistake you for them now, but... I remember when you guys were kids... Before I knew you well..."
"You're allowed to be scared of the same thing happening, Sans," Frisk murmured, their eyes drifting to where the top end of the huge slashing scar showed on Sans' collarbone. "They dressed up like me and used our friendship back then to get close, and they nearly killed you. I'm still scared too. They had so much power... they lured me away from Toriel and..." Frisk sighed. "If she hadn't found me, I'd have bled to death at best..."
Sans finally looked up as Frisk's head bowed. He knew the story well. He remembered it every time he saw Frisk shirtless. A then-tiny, nine-year old Frisk had wandered off in the middle of the night into the forest at the foot of Mt. Ebott near Toriel's home. Frisk had claimed it was a red firefly that they followed, a curious sight even if it hadn't been deep winter. They'd been mesmerized, scrambling over a frozen creek and through briar thickets and getting scratched up and exhausted til they reached a clearing and saw a single, small figure awaiting them.
The way Frisk had told it afterward, in shock and unwilling to let Toriel leave them for a moment, they saw the red firefly vanish into the figure's back. Then, the figure turned to reveal bright red eyes, a wicked smile, and a destroyed straitjacket hanging in tatters around them over their green striped sweater. And in their hand was a red, bloody kitchen knife. It had been only a month since Chara had been committed to an asylum for attempting ritual suicide and trying to take Asriel with them. Now, their clothes spattered with blood from dead orderlies and doctors, they stared death and glee at Frisk in the snowy night.
Frisk had tried to flee, but the thickets had caught them up while Chara seemed to glide through, their unstable power causing branches to wilt into dust before the thorns ever touched them. Frisk had gotten tangled when Chara caught up, and Frisk struggled to turn and run once more, only to feel a sudden, deep pain lance through their spine. Frisk collapsed in the thorny mass of plants, bleeding profusely as Chara drew the knife back and left them to die. It was an hour before fiery magic burned around Frisk and freed them from the thicket, and they were carried away to the hospital in Toriel's arms. Somehow, Frisk escaped without permanent injury, the knife having missed everything vital, only striking alongside vertebrae and missing the actual spinal cord by centimeters. The worst complication had been a tiny bone chip and a cold, and of course the horizontal scar across the center of Frisk's back, but Frisk hadn't had time to recover before Chara's rampage continued toward the CORE. In the final fight, Sans and Frisk both came away with vicious slashes across their chests, nearly dying of bloodloss in the CORE even while they held Chara off and prevented them from attacking the CORE itself. Sans' own wound had come from approaching Chara, thinking they were Frisk. A good number of their friends had thought Frisk and Chara were working together, thanks to Chara's trickery. Sans had come to the CORE looking for a fleeing Frisk to bring them home.
"Hey, kiddo... listen, buddy, Toriel's real worried. Let's go home, okay? I know you didn't do this. Any of this." Sans slowly approached the small figure in their signature blue and pink sweater.
"I hurt people." The voice came out watery and shaky, and Sans' heart clenched with sympathy for their position. So many people thought they were in league with the real monster, just because Frisk refused to fight or hurt Chara.
"No, you didn't. You've been trying to save everyone, even Chara. C'mon, pal..." Sans opened his arms as the child turned, glancing from the shadow of their ruffled bangs at his open posture. "Bring it in..." Sans offered a sad smile, but it calmed as the nine-year old stepped forward and buried their face in his chest. "That's it, bud... We can sort this all out. We just gotta stick together, right? I'll see you through-" Sans stopped short as a sharp, cold pain ran through his side, under his ribs. He couldn't pull back before the cold blade slashed upward diagonal, finally leaving his skin when it bounced off his collarbone. Sans collapsed backward, his shirt ripped open just like his torso as blood coated his entire front. "F-Frisk..." It was all he could whisper as the iamge before him shifted. The sweater turned green, splattered with crimson, and a knife had appeared in the child's hand. The most striking change, however, was those eyes. Those red, murderous eyes that had only a moment ago been gentle brown, brimming with tears.
Sans only realized he was spacing out when Frisk's hand reached out to touch his cheek. For a moment, he met those familiar brown eyes, deep with the capacity to love, forgive, and sympathize. It was comforting to see them, instead of the demonic red. So Sans held their gaze for a long time, barely blinking even as Frisk rose and came around the table to kiss him. Finally Sans' eyes drifted closed and he leaned back to simply accept Frisk's attention. When they drew back a few inches, Sans heard their soft voice. "I love you."
"I love you too, Frisk." Sans looked up again finally, and was secretly relieved to see Frisk was still Frisk. No tricks of magic or his mind, no red eyes, no green sweater, and no knife. Just Frisk Shale, his partner in crime as a child and his partner in life as an adult. "I love you," Sans repeated more softly, rising from his seat while his hands took hold of Frisk's waist and he pressed close. His forehead touching to Frisk's collarbone, Sans pressed a kiss to their chest where the skin was exposed by a loose tanktop. Sans realized, with a small smile, it was one of his own shirts. Frisk liked to wear them around when they had nowhere to go.
Frisk's arms draped around their lover's shoulders easily, and they leaned into his embrace with a long, tired sigh. "What will I do with you, Sans?"
"This is pretty nice..."
"Having a drunk masochist for a boyfriend isn't easy, you know."
"Heh... and it isn't easy for a guy like me to keep up with a well-balanced, responsible person like you. You're just as much trouble to me."
"And you like it that way. As I said- masochist." As Sans looked up, Frisk met him with another kiss and reached down to catch his belt in their fingers, giving him a little tug to get him moving toward the stairs. "And as I remember it, being drunk has never stopped you from being a good stress-reliever. So march." Frisk gave him a nudge and Sans grinned like a fool, strolling lazily along despite Frisk's urging. It wasn't til Frisk pulled his belt loose and pulled off his shirt that Sans finally scampered upstairs toward his room with Frisk on his heels. They needed this, he thought to himself as he heard Frisk shut the door and throw off their own shirt. It was how they worked through stress most times, how they took the edge off their few arguments and fights, and how they solidified their confidence that no matter what, they'd always face everything hand-in-hand.
"They must be asleep, I guess."
Mettaton arched a perfect eyebrow at Papyrus as they set down a few bags of groceries in the kitchen. "Sans, asleep before three in the morning? I doubt it. It's only ten o'clock." Each shed their jackets, scarves, and boots before putting their purchases away. "I've known that man to go to bed as late as noon the next day."
"Weirdly enough, he actually evens out a lot around Frisk," Papyrus mused, turning to look through the mail he'd brought in along the way. "He tends to follow their example. I think it's because he likes the idea of not sleeping alone anymore, so he goes to bed when Frisk does. That, and he doesn't like to sleep through time he could be spending with Frisk when they're both free."
"I might be jealous if you weren't the same way. Both of you boys are soft, romantic dopes," Mettaton teased, his black-painted lips curling into a smile as Papyrus blushed lightly.
"We take care of our own," Papyrus explained quietly. "Always have."
"I know, baby. Out of necessity as much as love. While I've never been pleased with the circumstances as to why, I'm kind of glad you two turned out to be such loving men. Even if Sans is a lazy asshole half the time, he's a good guy. And you're a dreamboat." As Papyrus' blush deepened, Mettaton laughed softly and stepped forward to wrap his arms about the taller man's neck. "Papyrus Skjallar, the most handsome man in Delta, if not the whole world. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve a gentleman like you. And not just because you're pretty."
Papyrus couldn't help a goofy, bashful grin as Mettaton kissed his cheek. "Well... I always believed as a kid that my friends all deserved the best in life. And if you think I'm the best for you... well, I'm honored. You're a really great guy, you ought to get the person you want, even if I can't believe it's me half the time."
"You are far too sweet for your own good, Papy. It's funny, you know..." Mettaton's gaze fell to his chest. "I've heard other men say similar things... but none of them ever meant it. They just said it to get me into bed, or to cling onto a relationship that wouldn't work."
"But I do mean it," Papyrus insisted worriedly, quickly reassured with a kiss that made him relax and close his eyes. He felt Mettaton's forehead press to his own, and both men stood like that for a few seconds of silence, eyes closed and minds suddenly quieted.
"I know you do, baby," Mettaton murmured, a smile returning to his lips. "You always mean it. You've never lied to me, you can barely stand to hide surprises from me. That's what makes you so different..." He lifted his head and they met one another's eyes again. "... Can I tell you something?"
"Anything," Papyrus nodded, though he was worried at Mettaton's soft, forlorn tone all of a sudden.
"You know Sans and I were together for a long time."
"And you've never been bothered by that?"
"Uh... should I be? You two were what the other needed at the time, you said it yourself after we started dating."
"Well... I have a little confession to make... about us, him and us."
"Okay." Mettaton looked up once more at Papyrus' innocent and gentle expression, and offered a guilty smile.
"I still love your brother to death." When Papyrus smiled, Mettaton felt a little confused.
"I know," Papyrus chirped. "It's hard to get over a relationship like that. You guys loved each other so much, but you let go because you knew you didn't fit well. Sans talked to me about it once... he wasn't in a good place, and he didn't want to drag you down. He said he was too unstable, he drank too much, he smoked... And he was depressed, even more then than he is now." Papyrus' tone grew a little sadder. "He and I have the same outlook on the people we care for- you all deserve the absolute best. And Sans knew he wasn't the best for you, even if you two were in love, even if you still are. But I don't think either of you knew back then that it was a good decision to part ways, especially when you ran into some really bad boyfriends. Sans found- well, not found, but you know what I mean- he found Frisk... And... you found me. It turned out okay, right? I'm happy as can be with you, and Sans is... Well, he's not doing well, he's still working through a lot of things. But having Frisk makes him get out of bed and try harder, because Frisk proved to him that he's worth someone's love and time, something none of the rest of us could do, not even me or you. So I guess, in short... I'm glad you still love him. He deserves to be loved, even if it's platonic now. And he still loves you. He's said as much, on several occassions, and he said that he was happy that you finally had someone who'd really take care of you. Which I always will."
Mettaton listened in silence to Papyrus' explanation, finding no tinge of jealousy in anything the younger man said. He was shocked, honestly, but at the same time he remembered this was his Papyrus, the adorable goof whose only grudge was against punching bags, which he promptly apologized to if he felt he got too energetic and damaged them in his kickboxing.
Mettaton smiled once more, though it was a little sad. "The reason I wanted to say it, Papy... was because I used to think Sans was the best I'd ever had, and I gave him up. I thought that for a long time, even a while into dating you. I compared every man to Sans, the way he looked after me, the way he managed to be the best and laziest man I knew at the same time. He took such good care of me, just by being there when I needed him. We didn't talk all that much, honestly. Our relationship was pretty quiet most of the time. It was about being together, eating bad takeout, and singing in the car, but never really talking. The night we decided to split up if I ever found someone else I was interested in... I was shattered. And I don't think I recovered, really. And when I dated Roland... God, I missed Sans every moment."
Papyrus held Mettaton tighter at the mention of Roland, an abusive, controlling ex of his. "Sans came in and rescued me... took me to the hospital... I got up the courage to ask him to get back together, but he told me it wasn't right. He wasn't right for me. I was so mad, so broken up, I went back to Roland. And Sans had to save me again."
"M..." Papyrus muttered. "You don't have to talk about it anymore if it hurts..."
"I want to talk about it. I want you to know why I run to Sans when I'm scared, why I check the locks three times at night, why I flinch when men I don't know get too close. Sans is the only reason I'm not a complete wreck, and why I can still be a performer even when I'm terrified of most men in those clubs and bars. Any one of them could be another Roland. But I'm secure in the knowledge that Sans will be there in a flash to save me if I can't save myself. And now I know you'll be there too. You have been there, even if it didn't turn into a fight. I suppose I'm more in love with the defender Sans is, than the boyfriend he was. I owe him so much... and I'm so happy he found someone so wonderful and understanding. Even as kids, he and Frisk were a great team. Even when they grew apart for a while, either would drop everything to go help the other. Sans is by no means perfect, and Frisk has their own issues, sure... but they're a perfect match. And I'm really starting to think we are too."
Papyrus smiled softly at that, hugging Mettaton tightly once more with a content sigh as the shorter man relaxed in his arms. Mettaton's slim fingers traced down his back, and Papyrus murmured, "Me too, M."