Hallowtide: Chapter One by Chelydros (critique requested)

Hallowtide: Chapter One

Chapter 1

All Hallows' Twilight

"So what was that we just watched?" asked Sans over blaring end-credits music.

"That was the new Ghostbusters film, Sans."

"Oh. Well, it was kind of fun but...Tori, d'you think the folks who wrote this consulted with any real ghosts first? They could have if they'd wanted."

"No, Sans. I do not think they did."

"I'm pretty sure they didn't consult with any real physicists either."

"That I am sure of." Toriel pressed a light kiss to her lover's mouth. "Perhaps I should have recommended you as a technical advisor."

The last glimmer of evening twilight was fading from the late October sky. Sans was curled up with Toriel on her capacious and enormously comfortable living-room couch, going through a list of Hallowe'en-themed human entertainments compiled for them by Alphys and the irrepressible Mettaton. "Darlings!" he had said. "If you aren't going to experience the human Hallowe'en for yourself, at least have some spooky fun at home!"

Papyrus and Mettaton, along with a good many other monsters still getting used to life on the Surface in their new home of Ebbotsville, had been excited to learn that their human neighbors celebrated a holiday that was, in a sense, all about monsters. Sans's brother in his capacity as Royal Mascot of Monsterkind declared that there could be no better opportunity than Hallowe'en for a field trip into the human city of Highlands to partake of the festivities and forge deeper ties between human and monster societies. Mettaton, with his fanatical love for all human pop culture, had thrown himself into his boyfriend's project with all of the considerable energy his supple metal body could muster; thanks in part to his tireless publicity campaign he and Papyrus had drummed up enough interest among the other monsters to organize an entire tour group and charter a bus for the evening. Alphys and Undyne were with them, in full Sailor Moon regalia; with them also, costumed in a yellow and blue striped shirt and a red and blue baseball cap, was Frisk, whom Toriel had sent on their way two hours before with their mother's blessing and a kiss to the forehead.

Toriel had considered accompanying the group but a hard day at the Ebottsville school had worn her out; she politely if regretfully turned down Papyrus's and Mettaton's offer to join the tour, as well as their child's gentle entreaty to accompany them and their friends. Sans was secretly glad that Toriel had declined; while he welcomed his brother's enthusiasm he didn't share it himself, and Toriel's staying home gave Sans the perfect excuse not to go anywhere for the night other than down the street to Toriel's house.

"The Palace", as Sans liked to call it whenever Toriel was in earshot, was in fact a modest two-family bungalow that looked little different from most of the other houses that had been constructed in Ebottsville as the monsters filtered out of the Underground and settled in the once-abandoned human town. It wasn't even the largest dwelling in the settlement; that honor belonged to Mettaton's Bauhaus-styled, neon-accented mansion overlooking the rest of the town from atop one of the foothills of Mt. Ebott. Toriel's "Palace" was richly furnished in the Craftsman style, all dark hardwoods and hammered copper and black leather upholstery that served to make the occasional brightly-colored gift from Papyrus or Undyne or Alphys look even more cheerful by contrast. Sans had visited many times in the months following the destruction of the Barrier; already he had warmed to the place, but this was his third visit since he and Toriel had become a couple and now the queen's residence was starting to feel almost like a second home. Toriel was already needling him about leaving socks in her bedroom.

Sans grabbed the remote and shut Ghostbusters off. "Whaddya want to put on next, Tori? Don't want to watch another full-length movie right this minute, I don't think."

"I am inclined to agree," said Toriel as she reached for her phone and scrolled through the list that Alphys and Mettaton had sent her. "Oh, look, they've recommended an episode of 'Friendship is Magic'. We should watch that next! It will be a pleasant change of pace from the Ghostbusters film."

"'Friendship is Magic'?" Sans looked puzzled for a second but then remembered other visits at times when Frisk was at home and watching TV. "Oh, that show! Seriously, Tori? 'My Little Pony'?"

"What's wrong with 'My Little Pony'?" asked Toriel with a hint of remonstrance in her voice. "I have watched many episodes of it with my child and I like it very much."

"Oh, heh, nothing wrong with it," jested Sans, smiling and covering up his slight discomfiture. "I guess I've never ponied up the time to watch it before."

Toriel's musical, bleating laugh resonated throughout the house, warming Sans's bones to the marrow. "Ah, Sans! I love you." She punctuated her laughter with another kiss to Sans's face. "I can understand your reluctance. Whatever else the show might be, it is also a way to sell horsey toys to human children. But really it is charming and well-written as well. I daresay that you will enjoy it."

"Aw, gee, Tori...I'd enjoy watching anything with you," replied Sans, his cheekbones turning faintly blue. "Wild horsies couldn't drag me away."

"I know it well." She kissed him again. "All right, then! Open up Netflix and search for—"

Their conversation was interrupted by a quiet but insistent knocking from Toriel's front door. Both of them looked toward the door in mild surprise. "Tori?" asked Sans. "Are you expecting anyone?"

"No, not at all. All of our close friends are with Papyrus's tour group, so far as I know. Could it be a..." Toriel paused for a second to retrieve the unfamiliar human phrase from her memory. "...'trick-or-treater'?"

"I don't think so. They're supposed to yell 'trick or treat' when they do that. Anyway you really think some human is going to drive in the dark halfway up a mountain just to beg candy from monsters?"

"No, it does seem unlikely." With great reluctance Toriel released Sans from her embrace and pushed herself to her feet. "I shall see who it is. Please search Netflix for 'Friendship is Magic' and look for the episode 'Luna Eclipsed'. It is in the second season, I believe." As Sans fiddled with the remote Toriel went to answer the door. She opened it on a youngish, flustered-looking human with dark brown hair and wire-framed glasses hanging slightly askew on his face. From one hand dangled a backpack while the other was frantically thumbing buttons on his phone.

Toriel recognized him instantly. "Why, it is Stephen Corey, Dr. Alphys's assistant! I am pleased to see you again, Stephen. What brings you here so unexpectedly?"

"Can't get a fucking signal on this fucking piece of Android shit," muttered Stephen without looking up. "Hey, uh, guys, sorry to bother you, but my car's broken down and my phone's garbage and—" Only then did Stephen look up from his phone and recognize who he was talking to. "Oh, jeez! I didn't even know whose house this was...my apologies, your Majesty." Stephen made a hasty bow. "Forgive me for interrupting your evening. I will leave you to your—"

"Stephen, please! When have you ever known me to stand on ceremony?" Toriel smiled broadly and extended a paw. "You have interrupted nothing. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Since you seem to be in some difficulty my friend Sans and I will endeavor to assist you. Is that not right, Sans?"

"Yeah, sure thing, buddy," Sans called out from the living room. "We're just watching cartoons, we weren't making out or getting naked or anything."

Stephen winced. "That's not exactly what I was thinking you were up to, Sans..."

"Really? Huh. I was kind of hoping that's what everyone thought we were doing."

Stephen managed a chuckle as he took off his shoes in the foyer and entered the living room where Sans was sitting. "I haven't been around this town long enough to speak for 'everyone' but I admit that my bosses won't stop gossiping about Toriel and you."

Sans's face lit up with a huge grin. "That's Alphys and Undyne for you. How are those two lovebirds doing?"

"They're doing fantastic! But they decided to join Papyrus's and Mettaton's expedition into Highlands for Hallowe'en. They were really excited about it. I wanted to finish up some work at the lab first and then drive down to the city to join up with the gang but, eh...doesn't look like luck's on my side. The work took longer than I wanted and then I couldn't get my car moving."

"Oh, dear!" replied Toriel as she joined Sans and Stephen in the living room. "Are you hoping to arrange a ride? I fear that very few of us monsters own vehicles."

"Not sure what I'm gonna do tonight, Lady Toriel," Stephen answered as he settled into an easy chair beside the couch. "Maybe Evelyn's right and I should just get a place here in town instead of commuting all the time. Not like I got a lot going on in Highlands."

Toriel resumed her seat at Sans's side, planting a swift kiss on the top of his head; the diminutive skeleton happily nestled himself close against his lover's side. "You would be the first human to settle here permanently, if you did! Aside from the convenience store owner Mr. Darzens but his case is unique. I cannot deny, Stephen, a certain excitement at the possibility that you may join our community."

"Eh, well, I'll think about it. For now I just want to relax for a few minutes at least, enjoy your hospitality and watch...uh..." Finally Stephen took in what was on Toriel's television. "You're watching 'My Little Pony'?"

The slightest touch of frost crept into Toriel's demeanor. "I am the mother of a human child, Stephen Corey. I am no stranger to children's programming."

"Oh, don't get me wrong! I've watched the show myself though I'm not a huge fan." He studied the television for a few moments. "Oh, it's the 'Nightmare Night' one. I've seen this, it's pretty good."

All of Toriel's warmth came flooding back again. "Ah, that is well! My child Frisk adores this program and I do agree that it seems to teach good lessons on occasion."

"Yeah, it's entertaining enough, good kid's fare. I admit, though, that I had a couple chums in college who were flippin' obsessed with this show and turned me off it, so I didn't actually get round to watching any until a few years later." Stephen shook his head, smiling wryly at old memories. "I wonder whatever happened to Brent. Sorry, I should say, 'Sparkling Helm' or whatever it was he started calling himself. He was really into ren faires and cosplay and stuff like that."

Sans giggled. "Seems like a lot of humans are into dressing up, Steve. Not you?"

Stephen guffawed. "I'm way too lazy for that."

"I knew I liked you for a reason. Didn't you say you were going trick-or-treating with my brother, though?"

"Oh, I just wanted to tag along. I don't do costumes."

"Are you still wanting to join the group, Stephen?" asked Toriel, who was idly stroking Sans's ribs. "I would be perfectly glad to call you a taxi, if you have no other means."

"I guess I should still try to join them? The impulse is kinda gone, but I've got nowhere else to go right now. Sometimes I've crashed with Alphys and Undyne if I didn't want to drive all the way back to town at the end of the day but they're not around tonight."

"Stephen, you are more than welcome to stay the night here, in my home. We have multiple spare rooms. You will be no trouble to us at all. Will he, dearest?"

"Oh, yeah!" Sans looked up from Toriel's chest and nodded toward Stephen. "You're a good kid, I trust you. You, uh, might need some headphones later in the evening, though."

"Huh?" Stephen's eyes darted back and forth between Sans and Toriel for a long moment before the light bulb in his head went off. "Oh. Oh, yeah. Well, I've got some earbuds." He looked away, blushing slightly. For the next couple of minutes nobody spoke, content with watching the travails of Princess Luna's struggle to win the acceptance of Ponyville.

"Speaking of costumes," Stephen asked at length, "mind if I ask you a question, you two? Like, you've got a bunch of monsters going into town for Hallowe'en this evening but I don't see anyone around here doing anything, well, Hallowe'eny. Forgive me for saying it but I figured that a town settled by monsters would look like something out 'A Nightmare before Christmas' during Hallowe'en season. Instead everything looks like business as usual. Do you have some other kind of holiday or festival analogous to Hallowe'en?"

"It's a bit tough to celebrate special times of year when you can't see the Sun, kiddo," Sans drawled. "It's not like we really had 'seasons' down Underground."

"Oh, huh. That hadn't actually occurred to me."

"But there is something else too, Stephen." Toriel briefly paused the episode so she could address the human more intently. "We monsters are very much creatures of feeling. 'Love, hope, and compassion,' in the words of one of our writers, are what constitute a monster's soul. Unfortunately, though, our natural empathy can give us trouble with, well, darker emotions. We have difficulty acknowledging sadness, doubt, and fear. These are the emotions that your Hallowe'en is intended to evoke, are they not?"

"Well...I guess I never really thought of it that way, but, yeah, that's a fair reading. Humans don't being scared any more than you do, but we've figured out ways to have some fun with that dark stuff."

Toriel nodded sadly. "Monsters never have. There are those few monsters among us whose emotional nature is attuned toward pensive and melancholy feelings but...they tend to be solitary and find few friends."

"Oh. I'm sorry." A corner of Stephen's mouth twitched in an attempt at a wry smile. "It's a bit surprising. I don't know if you know this, Lady Toriel, but a lot of us humans seem to think you monsters have your shit sorted out better than we do, and look up to you. It's a bit sobering to learn that even monsters can be lonely and depressed. I mean, I know that already because of, well...but Dr. Alphys is doing much better now. Still I can tell she has her bad days." Stephen forced a giggle. "So do I, when it comes down to it."

A wistful smile played across Toriel's long face. "As do I, Stephen. So do we all."

They watched the rest of 'Luna Eclipsed' in respectful silence.

Hallowtide: Chapter One (critique requested)

Chelydros

31 October 2016 at 14:00:36 MDT

Hallowtide: a Sans and Toriel story

Pairings: Sans / Toriel; Papyrus / Mettaton

Characters: Sans, Toriel, Papyrus, Mettaton, Frisk, Muffet, Napstablook, Stephen Corey (OC) and friends

Warnings: references to depression

Summary: While Papyrus and Mettaton are away, leading a tour group into the human city of Highlands to experience their first taste of Hallowe'en, Sans and Toriel try to relax at home but are interrupted by an increasingly disruptive succession of unexpected visitors.

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