Zero Redeeming Qualities
A couple years ago the Undertale, Underfell, Underswap, and Swapfell (Red) universes collided, merging into a single - peaceful - universe.
The skelebros have become friends in this universe, often hanging out and spending time together,
Except for Sans, who is distant with everyone and has a tense relationship with Papyrus.
After losing a drinking challenge, Red asked Sans on a date, where he found himself with more questions than answers. After a second date to the museum, Red and Sans exchanged numbers.
Inspired by: Lov Ya by sunblind_seabird
Chapter Nine: Realization
Red snorted as he read Sans’ misspelled name on his cup of coffee.
“ ‘sands’, eh?”
They’d left The Parlor and were again walking the paths of the park, Red trying to make aimless conversation as he built up the nerve to break the question.
“it’s course, rough, and irritatin’,” Sans answered with a casual shrug. “guess the barista knows me.”
“y’ain't irritating’,” Red growled. “barista’s a beach if they think so.”
“i sea what you did there,” Sans responded, ducking his head and refusing to react to the first part of what Red said. “she made a mistake, s’not shrimportant.”
“yeh shore do like takin’ the piss outta yerself,” Red muttered, taking a sip of his drink.
He was irritated, and he was taking that out on Sans when the other had done nothing to deserve it.
For some reason, Mutt’s teasing had gotten to him.
“you make it sound like i’m doin’ it on porpoise,” Sans said. He raised his coffee cup to his mouth, looking at it with an … almost wistful expression. “i just happen t’ be the biggest joke i know.”
Red frowned, watching the other from the corner of his eye socket. Annoyance gave way to concern as Sans took a sip of his drink, his smile wide and taut at the edges, only to rise again as Mutt’s words came to mind.
“don’t tell me you caught feelings for him!”
Red looked away, glaring at the concrete of the footpath.
It was a relief that his phone chimed at him at that moment, pulling him from his twisting thoughts.
“oh,” he said as he looked at the message. A reminder from a local astronomy group. “there’s a thing goin’ on this weekend, at the observatory. wanna go?”
“what kinda thing?” Sans asked, carefully treading a line between intrigue and disinterest. “i can’t pay for anythin’.”
“it’s a free event,” Red explained, holding out his phone so Sans could see the message. “they’re callin’ ‘em ‘star parties’. buncha people - mostly human, monsters ain’t really … interested in the stars - gettin’ t’gether t’ stargaze.” He felt the excitement building as he talked. He’d been wanting to go to one for … as long as he’d known about them.
No one else had wanted to go. Papyrus and Mutt weren’t interested at all, Black was too busy, and Blue didn’t have the patience to stargaze for hours. Edge would have gone, but Red had wanted to go with someone who would appreciate it.
Someone like Sans.
“th’ observatory ain’t open yet, but the grounds are. they let anybody show up, set up their telescopes,” Red continued, trying to keep his excitement contained. He tossed his empty coffee cup into a nearby trash bin. “sometimes they got speakers and shit. this month is pretty laid back, though.”
“i don’t have a telescope,” Sans said as he handed back the phone.
“that’s part of the beauty of it,” Red said as he turned off the screen of his phone and slid it into his pocket. “y’don’t need one. people’ll let yeh use theirs.”
Red could see Sans’ excitement, feel it coming off of him in waves. His eyelights were wide and bright, and his smile was quirked into something real.
Like he’d looked in the planetarium.
“i … ”
For a moment Red let himself hope.
Sans looked at the ground, excitement snuffed like a candle without oxygen, eyelights dim and unfocused.
“sorry,” he appended. “i can’t take the time off work.”
“why the fuck not?” he demanded in a low growl, unable to keep his anger from his voice.
Red floundered in his own emotional whiplash, dashed optimism and unresolved irritation combining into red-hot rage. He knew he was overreacting, knew that the nascent hopes he’d placed in maybe going to the event weren’t worth this reaction, but he couldn’t stop.
“i told ya, money’s tight right now,” Sans said as he cowered away from Red without making it obvious what he was doing.
“ ‘money’s tight’,” Red mocked. “so tight yeh can’t take one night off’ve work - but not tight enough t’ get over whatever hangup yeh got about humans t’ ask fer help?”
“it’s … complicated,” Sans said.
Red ignored him.
“it’d be easy t’ get yeh hired at my store. all i’d need t’ do is put in a good word fer yeh. the managers all like me.”
“i can’t,” Sans said, voice taking on a desperate edge. He backed away as Red pushed forward.
“and if money’s that fuckin’ tight, why ain’t Papyrus workin’?! and not his volunteer bullshit, but a job that actually pays?”
“he’s busy with schoo- ”
“ ‘busy with school’ my ass. my entire nonexistent ass, sans,” Red shouted. “he was gettin’ coffee with the others. i ain’t never seen him pass the bill on t’ someone else, so he probably paid for himself and everythin’!”
“it’s - ”
“if yeh say ‘it’s complicated’ again … pap and the swap bros were goin’ to a movie. he talked about buy-in’ popcorn. that shit ain’t cheap. why’s he doin’ that shit if money is so damn ‘tight’ that you can’t take one night off?”
“he deserves - ”
“and you don’t?!”
“you don’t underst- ”
“then fuckin’ explain it, sans!” Red shouted.
Silence fell between them, Sans staring at Red, mouth agape and at a loss for words. Red’s chest heaved as a strange calm settled over him, in the eye of his emotional storm.
Sans looked away first, hand tight around his half-empty to-go cup.
“it’s just the way it is,” he said after a quiet moment, voice quiet and tinged with shame. Shame and a melancholy sort of resignation. “it’s my responsibility. i’m s’posed to look after him, y’know?”
He glanced up at the sky, taking in the early twilight.
“i gotta get home, get ready for work,” he mumbled. “maybe we can do this again sometime?”
Sans looked around, orienting himself before figuring out the way to his apartment.
“sans wait, i - ” Red reached out and grabbed his arm, hand closing around his upper humerus.
His grip was tight, but he didn’t expect Sans to flinch away with a hiss, dropping his unfinished coffee on the ground. The lid fell off, splashing them both with mocha.
Red didn’t notice, letting go of Sans and holding his hands up defensively.
“shit i didn’t mean t’ … ”
He trailed off as realization set in.
He had hurt Sans, but he hadn’t injured him.
“yeh get that by ‘trippin’,’ too?” Red asked darkly.
Sans rubbed at his humerus, trying to ease the ache and refusing to look at Red.
“it’s nothin’,” Sans muttered. He closed his eyes, like he could click his heels three times and be back in Kansas. “it was an accident. i’m fine.”
“no y’ain’t,” Red said with a sigh. “but yeh ain’t gonna tell me what’s goin’ on. do yeh even tell papyrus what’s goin’ on, or do yeh leave him in the dark, too?”
Sans winced at his brother’s name, but didn’t defend himself. Didn’t do … anything but look at the slowly oozing puddle of coffee at his feet.
“is that why you an’ pap don’t get along?” Red asked. “is that why it seems like he can’t stand t’ be around you?”
He regretted the words immediately.
Sans crumbled, hugging himself with his arms and his carefully crafted facade collapsing into dust and ruin.
“i’m sorry,” he said in a whisper.
Like he had anything to apologize for.
“i didn’t mean … i … fuck,” Red said, fumbling as he watched his counterpart flounder, unable to take back what he’d said to cause it. “i … i gotta go.”
Without waiting for a response Red vanished, leaving Sans alone in the park.
He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, unable to move or think or breathe, staring at the spilled coffee and replaying those final words in his head.
It was funny, in a way, how the sentiment wasn’t anything shocking. It wasn’t like it was a secret, how Papyrus felt about Sans. Everyone knew there was a rift between them. Everyone knew Papyrus didn’t like Sans.
If they didn’t, Papyrus made sure they found out.
And honestly, who could blame him? Sans was little more than a burden on his younger brother. Useless and lazy and unstable.
And Papyrus was … great. The greatest.
But somehow, hearing those words …
It broke something in Sans’ very Soul.
He can’t stand to be around you.
Sans picked up the discarded lid and cup, throwing both into the trash bin.
He wasn’t sure exactly how he’d fucked up this time, how he’d made Red so … angry. He’d never seen the other like that, all fury and spite.
He shoved his hands into his pockets and started his walk home.
It didn’t really matter how he’d fucked up. It was obvious that Red was done with him. He fought the urge to dig his beat up cellphone from his pocket, to text him an apology.
He couldn’t fix this with a “sorry” and a crying-face emoji, if his phone could even deal with those.
His one chance at a friend and he’d blown it by … being himself.
It’d be funny if it weren’t so fucking sad.
Sans sighed as he approached the apartment building. He tried the knob experimentally, uncertain if he’d locked it or not. He’d expected Papyrus to be home tonight, but if he was at a movie with Blue and Stretch …
Sans didn’t look forward to being locked out.
Luckily, he’d been too distracted to lock the door.
Without Papyrus around Sans felt like an intruder, the dark quiet of the apartment oppressive and stifling.
Sans wandered into the kitchen, pulling out a container of leftovers to heat up for himself. Spaghetti with meatballs, a classic Papyrus dish.
As the container spun on the microwave’s turntable, he realized he wouldn’t be able to eat it.
The smell of tomatoes and basil made his magic churn uncomfortably, a state that only worsened when he took the food out of the microwave.
“guess i’m not eatin’ tonight,” he muttered as he tried not to gag.
Fortunately, he knew someone who would gladly eat the pasta, so Papyrus would never know he’d skipped another meal.
Sans left the apartment, heading directly to the alleyway beside it, whistling through his teeth as he approached. He smiled when he saw who he was looking for.
“hey there, buddy,” Sans said softly as the small, white dog crawled out of the cardboard home Sans had built for him. “got some dinner for ya, if ya want it.”
He set the container down, taking a step back to let the dog investigate the food.
The dog had shown up months ago, starving and mangy. Sans wasn’t sure if it was the same “annoying hound” that had plagued Papyrus in the Underground, but he liked to imagine it was. He’d always liked the little beast and his antics, sneaking into their home and stealing bones when Paps wasn’t looking.
He’d been glad when he’d found the dog, even though he regretted that he couldn’t give him a better life. Sans had been very careful to keep the dog away from Papyrus, wary of his brother calling Animal Control.
The dog sniffed at the spaghetti before eagerly chowing down. Sans wasn’t sure pasta was necessarily good for dogs, but he hoped it wouldn’t hurt.
It was better than nothing, at least.
He made a mental note to stop at a butcher shop to ask for scraps sometime soon, and slumped against the wall.
“i fucked up again,” he told the dog as it ate. “red’s prob’ly never gonna talk to me again. i mean, it was only a matter of time, right? he asked me t’ go to this stargazing thing … honestly it sounded amazing. buncha people getting together to look at the stars’n’planets. too bad stars ain’t visible durin’ the day. i’d gladly give up a couple hours’ve sleep t’ see jupiter or saturn with my own eye socket.”
Sans sighed as the dog licked the container clean, then whined at him for more.
“sorry bud, that’s all i got,” he said with a sad shrug. He scratched the mutt’s head as it came over to him for a snuggle.
“i told red i couldn’t go,” he said with a dark chuckle. “he got angry. i don’t blame him … but it still hurts.”
The dog whined and lay down next to the skeleton, head on his lap. He yawned and closed his eyes, fed and safe.
“thanks bud,” Sans said with a small smile. “y’always know how to cheer a guy up.”
Red sat at the table, looking at the notebook in front of him. The moment he’d gotten home he had started scribbling all the little observations he’d noticed about Sans.
Bruises - head and arm - won’t explain
Speaks highly of Pap - doesn’t have a bad thing to say about anyone?
On the opposite page were things he’d noticed about Papyrus.
Fashionable - always wearing something new
As he detailed out both Tale brothers, a picture began to emerge.
A very concerning picture that he didn’t want to admit.
But he couldn’t think of any other explanation.
He’d fucked up. He’d fucked up bad.
Edge took comfort in routine. He felt most secure when things were in their proper place, when things happened at the appropriate time.
It made it easy. to tell when something was wrong.
What he expected when he came home from working nights was to find Red asleep on the couch, snoring and drooling, some gory slasher flick playing for no one. Every night Red tried to wait up for Edge.
Every night he failed.
Edge would turn off the TV, wake his brother enough to see him to bed, then shower to wash the smell of the kitchen from his bones. Then he could go to bed, resting easy knowing everything was where it should be.
“BROTHER?” he asked when he opened the door to the apartment.
Far from being asleep, Red was wide awake, pacing manically. At his brother’s voice, Red turned and Edge saw his eye sockets were wide, the eyelights nearly nonexistent.
Confusion, concern, and worry surrounded him in a near-tangible aura.
“boss,” he breathed out in a relieved sigh.
Edge waited, nervous, as Red collected his thoughts, uncertain what to expect.
He began wondering where best to hide a body.
Red looked at him, eye sockets full of uncertainty and concern.
“somebody’s hurtin’ sans,” he said in a quiet rush, like he was afraid someone might overhear. “… and i think I know who.”
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