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Do You Believe That Everyone Can Be A Good Person?

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And here we go.

 

Sans jolted awake, as he usually did after a terrible nightmare. He clutched at his chest tightly, forcing himself to remain still as he bit his tongue. He didn't need to go screaming again and alert his brother like the last time. Not that he remembered, but still. Sans squeezed his eye sockets shut, taking a few long, deep breaths through his nostril bone. He could still feel the wetness at the bottom of his shorts from kneeling in the snow, Papyrus's scarf clutched loosely in one hand. Still hear the wordless screaming as he reached out for someone that wasn't there anymore. He shuddered quietly, struggling to sit up and stare out the window at the gently falling snowflakes. Just take a few deep breaths to catch up, pretend that everything was fine. All he had to do was fall back into routine. Things were easier that way. Simpler. Sans could live with that.

 

Knock knock knock.

 

Same time, every time.

“Who's there?” Sans tried to ask in a jovial voice, but his heart just wasn't in it anymore. That didn't mean he couldn't keep up appearances though.

“Sans, it's time to get up, you lazybones!” Papyrus called through the door. “Are you trying to go back to sleep or something?”

“Yes,” Sans sat up with a grin as his brother poked his head in through the doorway. “I'm getting faster and faster at it, I think I need more practice napping.”

“Sans, the only thing you need more practice at is literally anything and everything except napping!

“Like sleeping,” he shrugged. “Or snoozing, or relaxing, or chilling, or chillaxing-”

Papyrus threw up his hands with an irritated shriek, stomping away.

“Just get up already! I made breakfast spaghetti,” he could still hear his brother clearly even though he was already halfway down the stairs. Sans most certainly was not in the mood for breakfast spaghetti of any kind, and he closed his eye sockets for a few moments. Hadn't he just done all of this the other day? Or was it days ago? A week? Didn't really matter, he supposed. He dragged himself out of bed and tried to clear his mind of the images still burned into his eye sockets. Papyrus's scarf in the snow. Dust blowing freely through Waterfall. Splashes of red on golden checkered tiles.

 

He clenched and unclenched his hands slowly, digging out his old journal and scribbling down a few notes before dressing in his shorts and the first white turtleneck that he pulled out of his messy closet. He just had to stay calm. He knew what happened when he panicked, and even though every fiber of his being wanted to scream that absolutely none of this was normal, he had to keep going. He felt a little prickle on the back of his neck of being watched as he dressed, but he brushed it off. He had other things on his mind. He locked his door behind him as he snagged his jacket, pulling it on lazily as he watched Papyrus stretching in the living room.

 

“What'cha doin' that for, Paps?” Sans asked casually. The last time he had asked numbly about training with Undyne, and the time before that had been 'prepare harder for the zombie apocalypse, bro!' He had to change it up a little each time. If he didn't, he would have gone absolutely crazy by this point. If he wasn't already.

“Today is going to be the day,” Papyrus gave a firm fist pump.

“Which day?” Sans winked at him. “Wednesday?”

“No, Sans,” the lights in his eye sockets rolled. “The day I succeed at long last!”

“Because you didn't succeed in making in through yesterday?”

Because today, brother, is going to be the day that I catch a human!

“You're really excited about this, huh,” Sans tried to say with some cheer, but it was falling flat. He gave himself a little shake, forcing a slightly wider grin.

“This is the day, the day I catch a real, live human!” Papyrus was almost bouncing back and forth at this point, struggling to pull on his boots as he stood. “I can just feel it, Sans!”

“In your bones?”

“In m- Sans!

“Only jokin', bro,” he shrugged, watching his brother struggle for a moment. “Come on, man. Maybe... maybe we don't have to catch a human today?” Sans asked somewhat hopefully. Papyrus only stared at him as if he had suddenly grown a second head.

 

“Oh,” Papyrus snapped his gloved fingers after a moment. “Joke. Right.”

“Yup,” Sans said humorlessly as he stared over at the couch, wishing that he could just flop onto it and sleep his problems away. “Just a joke. Ha ha.”

“Are-are you okay, Sans?” Papyrus tapped his fingers together worriedly.

“Yeah, of course!” he replied with a bit too much enthusiasm. “Let's get goin' already, eh?”

“That's the spirit!” Papyrus crowed, grabbing him by the shoulders excitedly. “I want to catch that human!”

“Hey, not possible outcomes, definite outcomes!” Sans grinned up at him, knowing exactly how to get him going.

“I'm going to catch a human!” he thrust a fist in the air, readjusting his scarf in preparation.

“Yeah, I'm feelin' it!” Sans grinned, unable to help growing a little thrilled himself at his brother's display. “Your puzzles are gonna stump some humans.”

“My puzzles are going to stump all the humans!” Papyrus said firmly, newfound determination in his eye sockets.

“Today is gonna be the day!”

“Today is going to be the day!”

“You are the Great fucking Papyrus!”

“I am the Great f- Sans!

 

Sans only cackled as his brother goose stepped him out the door, grumbling loudly about the lack of use for their swear jar. Maybe this time things wouldn't be so bad. Maybe, just maybe, this time things would be different.

And they would be different, one way or another.

Even if he had to make them different.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The crunch of snow was all that Sans heard in the silent forest.

 

He stood just behind the treeline for a while, ensuring that there were no fresh footprints around aside from his own, and he slowly made his way to the large door emblazoned with the royal seal in the middle of the woods. The old door that lead to the ruins. It was strange that his friend chose that of all places to live when surely there were many more comfortable places to be. He had only been in the ruins a couple of times himself, and it just plain creeped him out seeing all of those empty buildings and worn out structures that had been abandoned or lost to time. Why anyone would willingly choose to stay in a place like that was beyond him, but at least his friend had some good knock knock jokes and a decent sense of humor. He was missing her already.

Maybe this time she would actually come around when he knocked.

 

Sans sighed as he watched an icicle fall from its loft perch above the door and shatter with a light tinkle to the ground. It was approximately seven fifty-eight in the morning, and he didn't even need a watch to know what time it was. Maybe he should get one. He shrugged the thought off. He had a specific line of dialogue set up for approaching humans, it helped him keep it together. He'd had enough practice, he thought grimly to himself. The delta rune covering the large door ever so slowly split as it opened just a crack, allowing a small child in a blue and violet striped jumper. He knew better by now than to let looks deceive him. He shifted from shadow to shadow as he stalked them, like a fox hunting a rabbit he stealthily slipped from tree to tree. He saw them carefully clamber over a large branch, and after a few steps they turned on the spot and held something behind their back, looking worriedly about. Sans waited for a few moments, trying to shrug off his weariness. Maybe he could do it again this time.

 

He fell forward into a shortcut, and stomped down hard on the branch with a resounding crack! that caused the human to jump and whirl around again, but he was already gone. Their face was so full of fright, of terror that he made a mental snapshot of it and tucked it away for later. It was a petty victory and he knew it, but he would collect what trophies that he could. Sans watched them approach the shoddily constructed 'gate' that Papyrus had made to prevent any humans from crossing (not that it had done much good before) and Sans fell into another shortcut, taking his time and letting his footsteps crunch through the snow as he stomped toward them to alert them of his presence. They didn't turn around though, holding something in front of them and shivering. Although whether it was from the biting cold or their apparent fear, Sans neither knew nor cared. He simply stood behind the little anomaly and stared down at the human, nearly a head shorter than him.

 

... Human.

They turned and stuck out their hand, not meeting his gaze with their eyes hidden by locks of hair, and they stood expectantly like that for a moment.

“... What?” he shrugged after a few seconds. “Meet some new monster and the first thing you wanna do is shake hands? Weird.”

Their hand slowly dropped to their side and they looked away, tugging oddly at their sleeves as if they could pull them over their hands. His gaze lingered on their hands for a moment, noting that they were thankfully clear of dusty powder this time around. Their mouth opened and closed a couple of times, but they said nothing. Sans had spent years and years studying facial expressions, and with all of the resets that he had gone through he had plenty of time to perfect his hobby. This human, however, was difficult to get a proper read on. Their face drained of all emotion, and they stared up at him with a look that he could not for the life of him identify.

“So, my bro, Papyrus,” Sans continued casually. “Really great guy by the way; the thing is, see, he'd love ta see a human. So if you could, I dunno. Keep pretending to be one? That'd be swell.”

They flinched hard and rubbed their arms close to their body, shaking.

“Actually,” he carried on, trying not to delight too much in their distress. “That's him over there. Why don't you-”

“I'm sorry.”

 

Sans blinked, dropping his arm and sticking his hands into his pockets. It was the first time that he had heard them speak since the Judgment Hall, and their voice was soft, clipped, and so frail that he was surprised it didn't break on the wind. They were quieter than then, too. Or maybe that was just because it seemed louder because everyone else was gone. They shivered and shook and Sans saw that they were beginning to cry, clinging to themselves for warmth.

“I'm sorry,” they sobbed again, their little shoulders wavering with their voice. “I'm sorry. I'm s-so, so sorry.

“Sans?” he glanced upward to see Papyrus marching toward them through the snow. He wanted to tell Papyrus to keep away, but this new turn of developments was proving interesting, even if it was all obviously just an act. “What's going on? This person seems to be... crying. Rather hard, actually.”

“Funny,” Sans said without a single trace of humor in his voice. “They must have had a bad time or somethin'.”

This only served to make them cry harder.

 

They dropped to their knees and almost sank into the snow, sobbing and hiccuping quietly with their face in their hands. Sans didn't need to see their tears streaming down their face to know how hard they were crying. The waterworks shtick could only go on for so long, and they would be stabbing him in the back before he knew it.

“I'm s-s-sorry,” they cried softly, as if afraid to raise their voice too much, pulling at their hair in distress. Papyrus knelt in the snow beside them and placed a large hand on their shoulder. “I'm s-so, so s-sorry, P-Papyrus, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-!

“Shh. It's alright, little one,” Papyrus said gently, either oblivious to or ignoring the fact that they seemed to already know him by name. “It's okay. You don't have anything to be sorry for, little one. It's going to be okay.”

 

Sans groaned internally. Why did his brother have to be the type to play the hero? He wanted to tell him to just drop the filthy anomaly as he watched them get scooped up in Papyrus's arms. From the way that they were crying however, trying to curl into a ball and hide in on themselves when they were picked up, Sans almost, almost fell for their obvious trick for a moment. He just shrugged and followed his surprisingly silent brother back toward Snowdin.

Maybe this time, things really would be different.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus was not the type of person to leave someone, monster or not, crying out in the snow, and as a result wound up carrying them all the way back to Snowdin. They traversed through puzzle after puzzle, and though Papyrus was more than a little disappointed that they didn't get to try any of them, the human looked up at him as if he were the greatest hero they had ever seen the entire time.

That was... kind of a nice change of pace.

Teenage monsters playing with their friends watched them from a distance, but didn't interfere. Sans could live with that. It was quiet for the longest while, even after Papyrus had made them tea they still hardly spoke much at all.

 

“So your name is Frisk...” Papyrus swirled his tea around as he sat beside them on the couch. “That's a very nice name, little one.”

“And I'm Sans,” Sans introduced himself even though he knew that he didn't have to. Had to keep up appearances and all that. “Sans T. Skeleton. The 'T' stands for the,” he gave a small wink. “Evidently you already know my bro.”

“Well, are you really surprised?” Papyrus scoffed. “I mean, who hasn't heard of the Great Papyrus?”

“Heh. Got me there, bro.”

“I'm sorry,” Frisk replied for what must have been the hundredth time already, staring blankly ahead at the black television screen. “I'm so, so sorry-”

“You know, you keep apologizing,” Papyrus finished off his tea although neither of the other two had so much as sipped at theirs. “I'm still not entirely certain for what though.”

“Pa-Papyrus...?” Frisk began slowly, turning their teacup around a few times and staring down into the liquid. “Um. How... how much do you know about-about... resets?”

And here we go.

 

“Not a thing,” Papyrus responded instantly.

“It's-it's like... like, um, g-going back,” Frisk tried to explain without looking at him. “I mean, but not-not really. You're there, but-but you aren't, and I have to try again and again, and-and I-I-I...!”

“Shh, it's alright. You know, you look so thin, are humans supposed to be that scrawny? You look like you could use some nice breakfast spaghetti. Everybody likes my breakfast spaghetti, it's the best, except for when it comes to lunch spaghetti and dinner spaghetti and even sometimes late night snack spaghetti, but those are pretty few and far between. I learned to cook from a good friend, I think that you would like her very much,” Papyrus continued to ramble, and Sans recognized almost instantly that he was speaking in the same tone that he always did whenever Sans woke up from one of his more... devastating nightmares. Seeing it directed at the human instead of him made it feel tainted, somehow. He wasn't certain whether or not he was feeling a twinge of jealousy. But that was ridiculous. He had no reason to be jealous of the little freak.

 

“Papyrus,” Frisk said after a while, and the tall skeleton paused. “I'm so sorry. I... I hurt so many people. I-I h-hurt you, I-”

“Don't be silly,” he patted their head and caused them to flinch suddenly. “You haven't hurt me. I'm right here, aren't I? And besides, that would be very hard for you to do, I am a very tough skeleton. Nyeh heh heh.”

“You don't understand,” Frisk tried to say somewhat desperately, almost dropping their teacup. “I need t-to tell you-!”

“You don't have to tell me anything,” Papyrus said firmly, looking them in the eyes. “Like I said, you're practically skin and bones, you should get something to eat. Who knows, if you ditch the skin you could just be all bones, and then we'd practically be family! Wouldn't that be neat?”

“But-but-!” they sputtered, only for Papyrus to hold up a finger as he stood to silence them.

“No butts but yours, sitting right here while I go make you some breakfast spaghetti,” he insisted. He left them with that, and Sans was hardly an arm's reach away from the human. He didn't move, watching them out of the corner of his eye socket.

 

“... I don't understand,” Frisk murmured, and he almost didn't catch it. “I just... I don't understand.

“Guess that makes two of us,” Sans shrugged. “So, uh. How long you playin' this game, kid?”

Frisk only looked at him with that hurt expression again.

“I-I don't...” they pulled at the tips of their hair, looking away and biting their lower lip. “Was... was it all a lie? Was it all just some big fat lie?

Something was bothering him, tickling the back of his mind. Something wasn't adding up, and he didn't like it when all of the puzzle pieces didn't fit.

“You seem upset about somethin'...” he said calmly, finally taking a sip of the tea. It wasn't all that bad, actually.

“Why... why is he forgiving me?” Frisk's voice wavered, and he noticed that they seemingly had a hard time looking straight at him. “Just... why?”

“Paps sees a lot of good in people,” he shrugged. “Sometimes even when it's not there.

Frisk cringed hard and hid their face in their hands, their shoulders shaking. They had already tried the crying bull once, he wasn't falling for it. He couldn't help but feel a light pang of guilt though. But if he gave into that, it would be exactly what they wanted, wouldn't it? He just had to stay stern and cold. Something familiar, at the very least. Negative reinforcements could work wonders sometimes, and if it helped to prevent them from pulling the same stunt as last time he could live with it.

 

“I... I unders-stand if-if you hate me,” Frisk whispered quietly, drawing their legs up and wrapping their arms around them, tea left forgotten on the couch beside them. “I... I hate me, too. I k-know that-that you probably w-wanna kill me. I... I understand. I deserve to be p-punished.”

Again, something wasn't quite adding up, and it was slowly driving him crazy. He didn't like when the equation came out wrong, there was something here that he wasn't seeing. He eventually rubbed the back of his head and sighed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees as he stared at them. They technically hadn't seemed to have done anything wrong in this timeline. Yet.

 

“... Look,” he said after a few moments of silence. “Kid. Maybe... maybe we started off on the wrong foot and all. I just wanna know somethin' first.”

Frisk didn't speak, but they did finally meet his gaze and nod once.

“Why'd you come back?”

 

They flinched hard and looked away, ashamed. Sans again couldn't help but feel that annoying tingling of guilt pressing in his chest, but he pushed it down anyway.

“Somebody... somebody told me one time that-that they believed in me,” Frisk said softly, staring down at their hands. “That... that I could do a little better.”

“Okay. So... why'd you do it?”

“I... I thought I had to,” Frisk whispered breathily, hiding their eyes in their hands again. Sans was irritated, but he couldn't let it show. Again things weren't adding up properly. There were too many variables unaccounted for.

“Why would you think that?” Sans asked after a few seconds of silence.

“When... when I f-first, um... fell. A t-talking flower told me that-that this world was 'kill or be killed'.”

 

Sans sighed internally.

Of course the damned plant would be involved. When was it ever not?

More and more things were starting to click into place and he rubbed his face tiredly, bone scraping on bone as he sighed aloud.

 

“Kid,” Sans said as Frisk hid their face in their hands, rocking slowly back and forth. “I dunno much about the surface these days, but that is not how things work down here.”

They didn't respond, just continuing their rocking. Sans reached out against his better judgment and patted their back, causing them to yelp and flinch hard as if they had just been struck. Sans didn't draw away however, rubbing small circles on their back.

“I'm sorry,” they broke down completely as they blubbered miserably. “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.

“Tell... tell ya what,” Sans said after a moment. “You're sorry? You're really sorry?”

Frisk nodded furiously, wiping their eyes with their sleeves. He caught a glimpse of something on their arm, but couldn't quite determine what.

 

“You know what?” he gave a limp half shrug. “I guess I can forgive ya, too. On one condition.”

They stared at him worriedly, hand tracing circles at an odd spot on their thigh.

“No more resets,” he continued. “No more.”

“O-okay,” Frisk swallowed dryly. “I-I'll try-”

“Nope,” he drew his hand away promptly, folding them in his lap. “Not good enough. All or nothin'.”

“But-but...!” they looked at him in despair, pulling at their hair again. “I-I c-can't... I mean, if I, um... d-die. It just sort of... happens. I-I don't... I don't have a choice.

 

That was an odd new bit of information. Maybe they didn't have quite the amount of control over time that he had initially assumed. He vaguely wondered just how many times they must have died in order to figure that out, and was hit with another unexpected wave of guilt that took far too much effort to bury.

 

“... Tell you what,” he said after a stretch of silence. “Nobody's perfect. How's about a proposition. You try real, real hard not to reset, and I'll try real hard to keep you from dyin'. That sound good to you?”

Frisk just swallowed again and nodded, looking away. There were so many things that he was still uncertain of, so many questions without answers. But maybe, just maybe, things would be different. They would be different.

 

Even if he had to make things different.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

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Sans never wanted to hear the sounds of a silent household again.

Especially not after last time. He had spent so many countless hours, bottles littering the floor as he lay on the couch, staring at the ceiling and contemplating. He had gotten to the point where he couldn't even cry about it anymore. What was the point when it would all inevitably be reset, anyway? Having Papyrus back was just nice all on its own.

Having the anomaly in his home was significantly less so.

 

It was so utterly quiet that Sans felt a chill run up his spine. Papyrus was never this wordless, certainly not when he was making breakfast. There was almost the constant noisy clatter of pots and pans and other cooking implements as he savagely attacked his challenge, but this time he just seemed... quiet. It was unsettling. He sipped at his coffee that had been overloaded with far too much sugar, staring across the table at the anomaly. They didn't touch their drink, and they kept folding their fingers together like they were trying to hold their own hand. They pulled habitually at their sleeves for some reason, and Sans watched them the entire time. He felt so tired, but he couldn't take his eye sockets off of them for even a moment. It was all such an obvious trap, they were going to stab them the first chance that they got. Sans shot them a dirty look while Papyrus's back was turned, switching back to a friendly grin the moment that he turned back around.

 

“... Pancakes?” Sans asked in slight confusion. “Not, uh... breakfast spaghetti?”

“Well, Sans, I know how much you love my breakfast spaghetti,” Papyrus said lowly. “But I figured that it was a special occasion. Here you go, tiny human!” he said in a much more chipper tone, placing a stack of pancakes before the anomaly along with a bottle of syrup. They stared up at the skeleton cautiously, as if expecting him to pull it away at the last moment.

“... Well, go on!” Papyrus gestured to the nervous human as he sat between the two at the table, carving into his own helping of pancakes. “You know little one, I was thinking about showing you around Snowdin later. I know that we don't have very much, but there's plenty of room to run about outside of Snowdin if you'd like, I even have some fun puzzles set up for later! Are... are you alright?”

Frisk wiped their eyes with their sleeve suddenly, and it took Sans a moment to realize that he had been staring into his coffee. They nodded and swallowed, hair falling into their eyes.

“It's very good,” they said softly. “T-thank you so much, Papyrus.”

“Nyeh, don't worry about it. Save some room for extra though, we can have some popcorn later! Say,” Papyrus said after a moment, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “You know, I normally reserve pancakes for special occasions, and meeting you today was certainly special. We also have them for parties, birthdays – say, tiny human Frisk?” he clicked his fingers as if he had just thought of something. “That reminds me, when is your birthday?”

“I-I don't have a birthday...” Frisk mumbled, not meeting his gaze.

“What?” Papyrus scoffed. “Oh, come now. Everybody has a birthday. Even Sans and I have a birthday, it's on the same day! If you don't have a birthday, how can you tell how old you are?”

“O-oh,” Frisk blinked, counting on their hands for a moment before holding up their fingers. “Um. I'm-I'm ten.”

 

Sans very firmly, very pointedly tried not to think about how he had brutally murdered a ten year old over two dozen times.

He was failing.

 

“T-ten, huh?” Sans tried to give a relaxed grin, leaning back in his chair and swirling his coffee around. “Man, kid. Were your parents dinosaurs? You're practically ancient.”

Even though he was trying to joke, the stabbing guilt rising in his chest wouldn't die down no matter how furiously he tried to kick it away. He shouldn't be feeling guilty. He did what he had to do. But that wasn't really true, and he knew it. He had done far worse than just kill them a couple of times. It was growing harder and harder to look at them and he returned his gaze to his drink, his mind feeling heavy.

“Well...” Papyrus mused aloud after a few moments of silence, standing and taking the plates to drop them into the sink. “Why not today?”

Frisk blinked up at him.

“... Today what?”

“Since you don't seem to have a birthday,” Papyrus stood before them with his hands on his hips. “Why not today? Or if you're not happy with that, why not a 'glad I met you human Frisk' day? That way you can keep track of how old you are and how long we've been friends! Nyeh heh heh.”

 

Sans froze up when the anomaly darted forward in their chair, his magic prickling up instinctively to stop them, but he paused when he saw that they were hugging Papyrus tightly around the middle, trembling furiously.

“... That s-sounds wonderful,” Frisk said in a wavering voice. Papyrus only softly petted them on the head, his expression surprisingly pained for a moment. It was gone the next second that Sans tried to inspect it though. Maybe he had just imagined it. Too much stress, too much reliance on magic could make one see things. Sans had more experience with that than he would ever care to share. Papyrus picked up the shaking child and held them close to his chest, and Frisk appeared to be giving him the strongest little hug that they could manage. He kept an eye socket on the little freak nonetheless. They were a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off, he couldn't afford to tear his sight away from them for even a moment. Didn't Papyrus get it? Couldn't he just see past the stupid waterworks and see them for what they were? But on the other hand, they hadn't necessarily done anything wrong this time...

But that didn't mean they weren't still planning on stabbing them all in the back the first chance that they got.

 

“... Why don't we save exploring Snowdin for later?” Papyrus said quietly, pulling away and helping them to the floor. “How about you go pick out a movie for us all to watch, little one? I'll make some popcorn for everyone, we'll just have a day inside. How does that sound?”

Frisk (anomaly, human, freak, doesn't need a name) only nodded with a little smile, scampering off to the living room.

“Man, when did you get so good with kids Papyr- Paps?” Sans's words caught in his throat as he glanced over at his brother. The taller skeleton who normally exuded positivity and cheerfulness like a lamp radiates light had... darkened. The lights in his eye sockets were dim, his face was weary and heavy, his shoulders were slumped, and he looked more exhausted than Sans had ever seen him. In short, it was downright disturbing on every level. Papyrus wiped a hand down his face and gave a weak grin, but it was too late. Sans had seen through the veil, and very deeply wished that he hadn't. Papyrus only leaned toward him, ensuring out of the corner of his eye socket that Frisk was out of earshot.

 

You need to take a look at their arms.

Sans reeled, uncertainty hitting him in waves. What was he on about? Papyrus was never like this, and it was upsetting in a way that Sans didn't even know that he could be bothered. Papyrus was back to his normal boisterous self within moments however when he saw Frisk (anomaly, anomaly) standing in the kitchen doorway, holding up a little box.

 

“Oh, good, Mettaton Vs. Space Dragons,” Papyrus beamed down at them. “That one's a classic! I've got the popcorn going, why don't you help me set up the movie?”

Papyrus held out his hand for them and they hesitated, looking at him with worry.

“I... I'm sorry-” they started again, but Papyrus only shook his head with a small smile. They ever so tentatively took his hand, letting him lead them to the couch. Sans finished off his coffee and slipped in behind them, dropping onto one end of the couch while Papyrus sat on the other, Frisk between them both. They were clearly trying to avoid Sans's constant gaze, and it was painfully apparent that they were still afraid of him. That was a good thing. He much preferred that they be afraid of him. If they were too scared to try anything stupid, maybe they would stay on the straight and narrow for a little while. It was all so inevitable, really. He couldn't quite shake off the feeling of guilt, though. Frisk reached over to Papyrus's lap and munched on popcorn almost silently, and Sans sighed as the movie rolled.

 

“... Hey, kid,” Sans shrugged internally. Maybe he really had started off on the wrong foot. “You sure you wanna watch this movie? It's about the same as all of Mettaton's other movies. And by that I mean it's terrible.”

“Sans!” Papyrus chastised him. “How can you say something like that?”

“With my mouth,” he pointed to his smirk. He heard a light titter before he realized that it was coming from Frisk. He had heard them laugh before. Only once. But that cruel, high pitched mocking laughter that echoed down the Judgment Hall had sounded so... different, from how they were giggling now. Almost like they were a completely different person or something. It bothered him more than he was willing to acknowledge.

“Don't listen to him, little one,” Papyrus let out an annoyed grunt. “The only thing that even comes out of that mouth of his is a torrent of bad puns.”

“And the tongue,” Sans winked. “Don't forget the tongue.”

“... You have a tongue?” Frisk stared at him quietly.

“Uh. Yeah?” he blinked, opening his mouth to reveal his canines and letting his dimly glowing magical tongue slip out over his teeth. Their eyes widened significantly and they lurched back into Papyrus, their shoulders shaking a little. “What? Don't you have a tongue, kid?”

Frisk just mumbled something, their cheeks heated as they turned away with that expression that he couldn't identify.

“He's only messing with you,” Papyrus rubbed the top of their head softly.

“Is... is your tongue blue, too?” they looked up at the taller skeleton with a curious glance.

“Why would it be blue?” he gawked at them. After a moment he stuck out his tongue a little, letting the dim orange glow illuminate his features and making a bleh noise with a silly scrunched up face. Frisk giggled and shook their head. Sans felt a little lighter just hearing them laugh. He knew deep down that it couldn't last though. It was only a matter of time before they snapped and he would be kneeling over his brother's dust all over again.

 

“Hey, kid. You know the difference between popcorn and pea soup?”

Frisk only stared at him.

“You can pop corn but you can't pea soup.”

Frisk covered their smile with shaking hands, looking torn between laughing and bolting like a frightened rabbit.

“How can skeletons make funny faces?” Frisk kicked their little legs as they stared up at Papyrus, and it was clear that nobody was really interested in the movie. “Or have tongues?”

“Magic?” Papyrus blinked. “Doesn't yours glow?”

Frisk just shook out their head, hair falling in their eyes. They smiled up at Papyrus and turned with their back to Sans, and they must have done something because all of the color and energy just... drained from Papyrus. It was like Frisk (human, anomaly, freak, don't identify it, don't get too close) had leeched the life right out of his brother, and he started to reach out for him when Papyrus seemed to snap right back into the swing of everything, smiling kindly and patting them on the head.

 

“Can... can we just watch the movie?” Papyrus asked in an almost pleading tone, far, far too quiet to be normal. “It's-it's really not that bad. Let's just settle down for a while. Oh, here comes the good part where one of the camera guys falls into the set. Best fourth wall break in the movie. Mettaton sure is talented at writing movie scripts!”

 

The window shades were drawn and it was fairly dark inside. The 'movie' dragged on for hours and hours, and every so often the camera would start slipping away from the rectangular actor with petals falling around him. He couldn't blame the poor camera guy for falling asleep, Sans was about to do the same. He desperately wanted to rest, but he couldn't allow himself to close his weary eye sockets. He had to keep an eye on the human, had to ensure that Papyrus was safe. Frisk's eyes fell and dropped and they leaned toward Papyrus every now and then, but every time that they touched him they flinched hard and tried to sit up straight. They had a small blanket over their lap and after the sixth time that they started to fall asleep only to jerk themselves awake Papyrus gently started petting their head. They flinched again at the contact, but he didn't pull away. Eventually Frisk began snoozing quietly as they leaned against him, one hand in their lap and the other clenching and unclenching at nothing as they slept. Sans wanted to fall asleep too, but he caught the look that Papyrus was giving him, nodding inconspicuously toward the human. Sans felt a small surge of anger. Papyrus was never this subtle. It was just one more way that the anomaly had ripped away any remaining semblance of normalcy in his life, and even when everything reset he would still remember how his brother had changed. He eventually shook off his anger though, Papyrus's words ringing in his head.

 

He carefully, gently peeled up the sleeve of the human's shirt, unable to see much of what Papyrus wanted him to see. The sleeve of their striped jumper rose a bit more as he inspected their arm, uncertainty filling his head. He sincerely wished that he hadn't seen anything at all. Their wrists were scarred and cut in strange little patterns, and he couldn't determine whether or not they were self inflicted. Rows of little circular burns on their arms in random places showed dimly in what light there was, and Sans felt a little sick. He could spot what might have been rope burns on their wrists, and the more he stared the more it occurred to him that maybe not all of these jagged, painful looking marks were done by themselves. He glanced up at Papyrus, but the taller skeleton only shook his head with a frown, motioning for him to turn their arm over. Sans didn't necessarily want to, just looking at the injuries was bad enough. But he turned their arm over slowly anyway so as not to wake them.

He genuinely wished that he hadn't.

 

Track marks.

There were track marks from needles running all up their arm, placed to finely, to perfectly aligned to be done by anyone other than a professional. Sans's hand found its way to his mouth and he ground his teeth, his mind whirring in a tornado of anger, confusion, disgust and uncertainty. He slowly rolled their sleeve back down to cover their... marks, but it was already too late. He had seen something that was probably going to haunt him for a while. Not like he needed more nightmares. He couldn't bring himself to speak, and eventually realized that he wasn't even breathing. Sans glanced up to see Papyrus nodding gently to the kitchen, and Sans bowed his head once in silent agreement. He slipped off the couch and Papyrus ever so slowly, carefully, gently pulled away from the human to let them sleep. After a moment he leaned over them and tucked them in with their small blanket, giving their head a few soft strokes before following his brother into the kitchen.

 

“Shit,” Sans muttered, running a hand over his sweaty head. “Shit, shit, shit, shit.

“We really do need to implement that swear jar,” Papyrus leaned against the door frame, rubbing his wrists awkwardly. “But, yes. I do agree. Shit.

“What happened?” he breathed heavily, feeling strongly like being ill. “Some-somebody... oh god. Oh, god, Paps, some-somebody hurt this kid.”

Maybe even more than I did.

“Who would do something like this, Sans?” Papyrus asked with a frown, glancing over his shoulder at the darkened living room with the dancing shadows cast by the television. “Just... why? Why would-would someone harm a-a child?

Plenty of reasons, he thought grimly to himself, but didn't dare speak it aloud. Instead his brows furrowed as he began to pace, he was feeling too tired, too unnerved, too sick, too disturbed. How long had the kid been like that? Why would anyone do something like that to somebody, let alone a little kid? What in the hell was going on in his life anymore? He had so many questions, and no answers to be found, and it was absolutely maddening.

 

“... We gotta do somethin' about this,” Sans began carefully. He didn't want Papyrus to get the wrong idea. He could probably just tell him that he would walk them to somewhere safer, and dump the body when he got the chance. Maybe that bottomless pit in Waterfall would work. If there really was no bottom then it would be a long time before they died, which meant that he could actually have some peace and quiet before another reset occurred. For some reason just thinking about that made him feel physically ill. Why would he even care? That thing was a freak. A brother murdering, monster crushing, soul shattering anomaly. And no matter how many times he repeated that to himself, he still couldn't shake the feeling that maybe the garbage was where he really belonged.

“We can't take them to Undyne,” Papyrus said after a minute, running a gloved hand down his face with a sigh. “I mean, I-I know that any humans we capture are supposed to be taken to her, but-but the little one, I... I'm worried, Sans,” he continued softly, not meeting his gaze and instead staring at his boots. “They're... they're so thin. Are human children supposed to be that scrawny? And I mean, did you see the way that they eat? They scarfed down food like I was going to snatch it away from them or something! What-whatever happened to that poor child, I cannot even...”

 

Papyrus took a long, slow, deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nostril bone, eye sockets flaring with a quiet but fiery anger. It was gone within a moment though, and Sans really had to wonder if he had even seen it at all.

“Whoever... did that, to a child?” Papyrus seethed with hidden fury. “I want to believe that everyone can be a good person. I really, really do. But... but things like-like this?” he cast an arm back to the living room, his wavering voice rising no matter how hard he tried to keep it down. “It... it hurts. It makes me start to wonder, to really doubt that everyone can be a good person, Sans. And it hurts. God, Sans. It hurts so much.”

 

Even when they weren't killing everyone in sight, they were still hurting his brother.

Sans's fists clenched and unclenched as he turned away, stuffing his hands into his pockets and trying not to let his absolutely boiling rage scorching his bones be revealed to his brother. He took a few breaths, pacing around the kitchen as Papyrus stared. What was their plan? Was this all just some game that they were playing with them? What in the actual hell had that kid been through? There were so many variables unaccounted for. Too many questions without answers. Before it had been the flower with the power to reset the world, he had studied it so many times that he could clearly recall every petal from memory. It made it difficult to do when he had to keep pretending that he didn't know about the resets. That thing had caused so much trouble, so many times. But ever since the kid came, the flower had made itself scarce, and whenever the anomaly died the world would reset. Did the kid and the flower have that much in common? Were they in leagues with each other? Did they both have the same power? Were they just messing with them out of boredom or something? He wouldn't put it past them. Humans tended to get bored easily. But Frisk (anomaly, freak, dirty brother killer, don't give it a name) had told him that they didn't have complete control over the timelines. Could he even trust that they were telling the truth? That if they died they had no choice but to reset?

And if they ever relapsed...

Well.

He could always force a reset to occur...

There again was that unpleasant guilty feeling that made his soul itch.

 

“We... we gotta do somethin',” Sans rubbed the back of his head eventually. And by 'something' he meant dump them off for someone else to take care of, Sans couldn't handle this right now, he was way too sober.

“We can't just throw them out,” Papyrus said pleadingly, rubbing his hands together nervously. “We-we just can't, Sans. I... I really don't think they'll make it very far.”

“You'd be surprised,” Sans grumbled under his breath before shaking his head and clearing his throat. “I... I dunno, Paps. I don't know if we can-”

“Let me rephrase that,” he found a firm purchase on the door frame, fist clenching so tightly that he could have sworn that he was starting to hear wood splinter. “I am not throwing them out, they are hurt and they need help, and by god I am going to help Sans!” he was steadily growing louder and shaking, his free hand jittering hard. “They need our help, they were hurt and they're-they're just a child!

“Alright, alright!” Sans held up his hands defensively. “J-Jeeze, bro. You... you don't hafta shout. Wasn't... wasn't gonna suggest throwin' 'em out into the snow,” he lied with a small forced smile. “I mean, I'm not that... cold hearted.”

“... Sans, are you really making puns right now.”

“It's a coping mechanism, bite me. I'm an ice hole sometimes.”

“Sans, oh my god,” Papyrus rubbed a hand down his face, but he could still see the little grin on his brother's face. Sans was kind of surprised to see that there really was a new hand mark on the door frame, but he ignored it. “Seriously, your puns are just the worst.”

“Ayy, gimme a break, bro. Don't gimme the cold shoulder.

“Sans I swear to god I will disown you.”

Snow problem, bro.”
“One of us was adopted, I just know it.”

“How could you be so cold to me, bro?” Sans grinned up at him expectantly.

“There is snow way you could have any more cold puns,” Papyrus deadpanned. Then he facepalmed himself with a quiet groan, making Sans snicker somewhat proudly.

Icy what you did there,” he winked at him, and Papyrus only shook his head, but he still smiled regardless.

“You really are a terrible influence, you know that?” Papyrus sighed and rubbed his weary eye sockets. They simply stood there for a while in silence, listening to the dim sounds of the television in the next room.

 

“... We need to form a plan of action,” Papyrus said after a moment, pounding his fist into his hand.

“What would you suggest? I'm all ears,” Sans grinned at him, but cringed a little from the look that his brother gave him. “Uh. That last one really wasn't on purpose.”

“We can't just hand them over to Undyne,” he rubbed his chin with one hand.

“Yeah,” Sans nodded once. “Doing that would be pretty much outta the question. Probably wouldn't end too well. You, uh, know how she is about humans.”

“Maybe we could... I-I don't know...” Papyrus tapped his fingers together awkwardly. “Maybe... k-keep them?”

“You mean like-?”

“Not like a pet,” Papyrus frowned hard, and Sans had to fight back the urge to tell his brother that things like that deserved to be on a leash. He wondered what they would look like with a leash momentarily, but brushed the thought from his worried mind. “They're... they're just... just hurt, Sans. They talked about hurting others, and-and I... I know that they haven't done anything wrong. I think. And I also think I know why they might have done that. They're just hurt, and scared, and maybe lashing out is the only way that they know how to respond. Someone must have done something terrible to them to make them want to do such awful things. I can save them from going down that path. I know I can. Everyone can be a good person if they just try. I have to help them, Sans. I have to.

 

Sans stood in stunned silence. He ran a hand over his head again with a heavy sigh, closing his eye sockets for a moment before sticking his hands back in his pockets.

“I'm... I'm gonna go to Grillby's,” he said quietly. “You... you want anything?”

“I'm fine, Sans,” he shook his head. “Just... come back somewhat sober? Please?”

It ached, it hurt the way that his brother looked at him, and San cringed inwardly knowing that he had absolutely no such intention.

“Y-yeah,” he nodded after a moment, swallowing dryly. “Yeah. Sure thing, Paps. Just, uh... c-call me. As soon as they wake up. Send me a message or something, as soon as they start movin'.”

“I'll have the phone ready...” he answered after a few seconds.

“I won't even be gone that long,” he tried to say nonchalantly. “Probably be back before the movie is even over, just gotta talk to Grillbz about a few things is all.”

“I won't take my eye sockets off of them,” Papyrus nodded firmly. Sans thanked him quietly and slipped out the front door, throwing one last look at the human sleeping on their couch. Papyrus was left in absolute quiet as he settled back down onto the couch, sighing heavily. After a while he leaned back into the couch and flipped the television off, letting the darkness swarm over him. He could have sworn that he felt eyes on him, but there was nobody there. He only patted Frisk softly on the head, closing his eye sockets and just staying like that for a while.

 

Papyrus never wanted to hear the sound of a quiet household ever again.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

Sans leaned heavily against the bar, staring down into the wood grain and tracing patterns across the bar with his phalanges. He stayed like that for what felt like hours, dragging his fingertips across the whorls in the wood and just letting his mind wander. He had so many questions, and there were too many things that just didn't add up. He felt slightly ill, and he downed yet another shot of the cinnamon whiskey that Grillby passed him, and he nodded thankfully without looking up. It burned the back of his throat and warmed his bones from the inside out, leaving a pleasant tingle in his chest that would be gone all too soon. Sans sighed quietly, leaning his heavy head against one hand, closing his eye sockets and just letting the atmosphere of the pub wash over him. The chatter of a couple of patrons not too far away could be heard, he just had to focus on things like that. Focus on the slight scent of cinnamon, the worn down jukebox in the corner, the comfortable warmth of the bar as-

- he stared down at the broken body of the human, hands in his pockets. The sound of their tortured, raspy gargles as they struggled to breath, fingernails leaving bloody scrapes over the tile as they reached out to him. Their eyes were so full of sorrow, of betrayal, of pain. But maybe that was just what they needed. Maybe they needed to know what they were doing to other people. The bones piercing their sternum kept them pinned to the floor, and blood was already beginning to pool around them. He wouldn't let them die just yet, though. He had to make them understand.

He had to make a POINT.
Their begging fell on deaf ears as he stood over them, hands tucked deeply into his pockets. They coughed up more blood as they wept, but Sans didn't even care at this point.
“S-Sans...!” they wheezed as blood dripped from between their lips, their eyes wide and pleading. “S-s-sorry, I-I'm s-so sorry...!”
“Heh. A'ight. I'll bite,” he knelt a little before them, meeting their gaze. They shuddered when they saw his violently glowing blue eye, trying to sob with a bone through their lungs and only coughing and jerking more. “Tell you what. If you're sorry? If you're really, really sorry?” Sans slowly placed his hands on their head and chin, forcing the crying child to look at him. “... You won't come back.”
He stayed like that for a moment, letting his words sink in. They knew what was going to happen next. They began to cry with tears anew as their frail hope dwindled and the fear from realization steadily grew, but they didn't try to resist. They just didn't have any more FIGHT in them. They had no more strength to continue in this timeline, and they both knew it. It didn't make it any easier. He tried to ignore the soft, pleading, desperate cries for mercy as he slowly twisted their head, arms shaking as he pushed and pulled and jerked hard, unable to ever forget the sound of their neck cracking-

 

“Sans?”

Sans jolted awake, sweating profusely and feeling like he was going to be sick. He sat up straight in the bar stool and gripped the counter for something, anything to hang on to, forcing a weak grin.
“What's up, Grillbz?” Sans's voice came out quieter than he intended, and he cleared his throat. The bartender stared at him with an odd expression, and he let out a smoky little puff in a sigh as he readjusted his square glasses. His usually tight black bow tie was hanging off of his neck loosely, and his sleeves were rolled up to reveal surprisingly muscular fiery forearms. The bartender stared at him with a concerned expression, and Sans finally realized that Grillby looked like he did at just about closing time. Something that he should have realized immediately considering the lack of patrons and the silence of the jukebox.
“... Sans,” Grillby began slowly after a while, leaning on the bar across from him. “You know that you can talk to me about anything. Right?”
“Heh. Y-yeah,” Sans tried to ignore the scrape marks that his phalanges had left in the wood. “Of-of course, Grillbz. Don't wanna bother you with my crap, though, you must be pretty burned out-”
“Sans,” Grillby said seriously. Sans flinched at his tone. Grillby gave him a quiet, level stare from behind his spectacles, flickering flame casting dancing shadows behind him. Grillby didn't move, he didn't speak or shift or even breathe, and for a very brief, very horrible moment he felt as if Grillby couldn't just see him, but see through him, see all of the terrible choices that made up his life that brought him back time and again. The feeling was gone in a few seconds though, leaving Sans feeling too sweaty, too tired, too ill. The pleasant effects of the alcohol had already long since worn off, leaving him feeling slightly nauseous and more than a little dizzy. He really should have known better than to go getting plastered this early in the day, but dammit he needed it. Could he even call it early, though? How long had he even been there? He could have sworn that he had just drifted off for a little while. But from the lack of customers and Grillby's relaxed posture, it made him doubt his own ability to keep track of time.

“It's... it's just been kinda... weird?” Sans shrugged, forcing a practiced grin. “Man. I'm not even sure where to start, tibia-honest.”
“Why don't you start at the beginning?”
“Well, s-see, there was, uh, this big bang, right...?”
Grillby didn't laugh.
Sans felt like an insect under a magnifying glass, and quietly found himself wishing for at least a couple of other patrons. Even if only for background noise. Sans only sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, looking away and closing his eye sockets for a minute.

“It's just... damn. This whole thing is just one big fuckin' mess, man.”
“I believe that you are referring to your new tennant?”
Sans blinked. Just how fast did word spread in Snowdin, anyway? Or on the other side of that question, just how long was he asleep? There was a vague tickle in the back of his mind that reminded him that he was forgetting something, but he brushed it aside in favor of paying Grillby his full attention.
“... Yeah,” Sans shrugged after a few seconds, not meeting his gaze. “Guess that's one way to put it.”
Filthy little leech worming their way in like a goddamn pestilence gonna have to fucking snap their disgusting little neck all over again-

Sans jolted hard, giving himself a little shake and grinning weakly up at the bartender before clearing his throat.
“A'ight. So, uh,” Sans stuck his hands in his pockets habitually. “Me and Paps kinda... found this... kid? Outside of Snowdin?”
Grillby only nodded once to indicate that he already knew this much. How he knew that much obviously wasn't going to be revealed, so Sans pushed the thought off and continued.
“They're not... they're not, eh, exactly... alright. I don't think that they're in a g-good way. I'm pretty sure that they're not really alright in the head.”
“And what makes you say that?” Grillby asked lowly, in an almost dangerous tone that very much made Sans feel as if he already had the answer. He felt a sudden spike of panic and forced his grin to remain stapled to his face, leaning back on the stool a little.
“Some-somebody...” his grin was steadily slipping and he looked away, clenching and unclenching his fists in his pockets. The blistering stare that Grillby was giving him very nearly broke him. “We-we found out that, uh, somebody... hurt this kid. Pretty-pretty bad.”
“I can hardly imagine what kind of wretched, blackened soul would dare harm a child,” Grillby said quietly, adjusting his glasses. Sans felt like he had just been kicked in the gut, running a trembling hand over his sweaty head as he tried to ignore the feeling of something inside him dying a little.

“So, uh...” Sans said after a little while, returning his gaze to the whorls in the wood. “Me an' Paps are kinda at an... impasse. I mean, we-we could just, y'know, drop 'em off at Undyne's-”
“And you know exactly how Undyne feels about humans,” Grillby crushed his hope almost immediately. “And you know what would happen to any human that might be unfortunate enough to cross her path.”
“Y-yeah, yeah, of-of course,” he gave a weak chuckle, feeling more than a little uncomfortable. “So, uh, guess that's out the window. I mean, we can't just keep – I, I mean, we can't – I can't – this kid is just bad news,” Sans tried to explain, fighting off the slowly growing desperation that wanted to make its way into his voice.
“How so?”

How exactly was Sans expected to answer that? That the kid had single handedly cut a swath through the entire Underground and left a trail of dust behind them? That they were a professional and efficient killer and couldn't be trusted? That once upon a timeline, Grillby's bar had been much, much emptier? Sans sighed quietly and rubbed his temples wearily, trying to gather his words.
“They're a human,” Sans said eventually, looking up to the bartender.
“A human child,” Grillby said softly. “Children are small, fickle flames, Sans. They must be treated with tenderness, and care, lest they fizzle and burn out completely.”
The overwhelming, crushing guilt came slamming back down onto him, and he felt as if there were a heavy iron weight around his neck, demolishing his thought of dragging the anomaly to Asgore himself.
Just a kid.

How had he managed to forget that lovely little detail? Sans let out a quiet sigh through his teeth, squeezing his eye sockets shut and rubbing his aching temples.
“... What am I supposed to do, Grillbz?” he asked at last. “How am I supposed to fix this?”
“Implying you intend to do it alone.”
Sans blinked at him.

“Because you aren't,” Grillby continued quietly. “Sans, have you ever heard of the phrase 'it takes a village to raise a child'?”
Sans didn't necessarily have an answer for that.
“After... after my wife fell,” he said in a soft tone, rolling his sleeves back down his wrist and not looking at him. Sans sat stunned. He couldn't ever even recall a time when Grillby had shared something so personal. “It was... difficult. Raising Fuku felt like an impossible task all on my own. Without my wife, I...” Grillby paused, adjusting his slightly steamed glasses. “I didn't know what I was doing without her. I barely knew what I was doing in the beginning, and it was all so... overwhelming. There were many, many times when I doubted myself, wondered if I was doing the right thing. I spent so many sleepless nights contemplating that. I... I lived in constant fear. That I wasn't good enough. That something would go wrong. Afraid, all the time, of countless possibilities that never came to pass.”

Sans felt like he was witnessing something new for the first time in years. He had never once truly spoken with Grillby, and hearing him open up his soul was... odd. He had never heard him so open, so emotional. It was a little frightening, and Sans wasn't entirely certain of how to cope with the new information.
“It took... great reliance on my friends and family,” Grillby said after a short bout of silence. “To overcome the worry. The fear, the... the grief. The doubt. It is not a weakness to rely on others, my friend. Bearing the world on your shoulders for so long only results in a bad back.”

Sans sat completely stunned before the bartender. It slowly occurred to him that out of all the times he had spent with Grillby, out of all of the different timelines, it had never been Grillby opening up to him. It was a strangely tender moment, and he wasn't entirely certain of what to do with it.
“... Thank you, Grillbz,” Sans said softly after a moment, giving him a rare, genuine smile. “I mean, I-I... thanks. For just... for always bein' there.”
“I am always here, my friend,” Grillby said with a hint of sadness to his voice. He readjusted his glasses and stood a little straighter. “Although I feel I must inform you that we are well past closing hours.”
Sans's marrow froze in his bones.

Shit shit shit shit shit how long was I out I LEF HIM ALONE WITH THE KID!

“I gotta go, Grillbz!” Sans bolted off of his stool, almost stumbling on his way to the door in his panic. He wasted no time in getting out the door and falling into a shortcut as quickly as he could, feeling the magic twist and pull around him as space and time warped to his will. Magic burned in his eye socket as his panic rose, blue light whipping through his eye as he tore through the world. He fell through the darkness like a stone in a pond, reality rippling around him as he slipped out of the shortcut and into his living room. The blue glow from his eye lit up the darkness, casting dancing shadows over him.

Several things happened all at once.

Firstly, Frisk and Papyrus jolted in surprise from seeing him appear out of nowhere. Frisk was sitting on Papyrus's leg with a mostly empty bowl of popcorn in their tiny hands, happily kicking their legs back and forth until they discovered him. Immediately afterwards came the most bloodcurdling scream of terror that Sans had ever heard, the human dropping instantly to the floor as they tried to curl into the tiniest ball that they could, furiously shaking and crying with their hands over their head. Papyrus was over them in a moment, uncertain of what to do. Sans quickly extinguished the fire in his eye, taking a moment to process everything.

“It's okay, little one...!” Papyrus tried to hush the sobbing child, doing next to nothing to calm them. “It's okay, it's alright... it's-it's just a trick of his, just a little trick, it's okay...!”
If anything, this only served to make Frisk shake harder, crying and trying to hide behind their arms as they trembled.
“I'm sorry,” they sobbed hysterically, squeezing their eyes shut in a futile attempt to halt the flood of tears streaming down their cheeks. “I'm s-sorry, I'm sorry, p-please, please I won't f-fight back, I'll let you do wh-whatever you want, just please don't hurt m-me anymore...!”

Sans and Papyrus shared a very uncomfortable look for a moment, and Sans sighed quietly through his teeth, sticking his hands into his pockets and kneeling a little beside the hiccuping child. Papyrus ran his gloved hand over their head in what he hoped was a soothing manner, making soft noises to them and trying to hold them still, but they just kept curling in on themselves and trying to hide their fear.
“It's okay, little Frisk,” Papyrus said softly, brushing their hair. “It's alright. You're okay. You're safe. Especially safe with the Great Papyrus on the watch, nyeh.”
Frisk (goddammit why was it getting so hard to think of them as the anomaly) clung weakly to him, crying desperately and hiding their face against his chest. Sans only stood stock still as he knelt, forcefully pulling the lights back into his eye sockets. The movie continued to play but nobody cared, and Sans tried to compose himself as best he could despite his dizziness. He had to keep his tone low and calm, he didn't need to go having a freak out in front of the kid. So once again he found himself resorting to one of his favorite personas in favor of hopefully calming them a little. After all, who didn't love Comic Sans?

“Hey, buddy,” Sans said quietly with a little smile. “You know, I was just at Grillby's. Met a duck monster. I asked him about his tab, but he said he would just put it on his bill.”
Papyrus cocked a skeletal eyebrow at him, but seemed to understand.
“So, you know, sometimes seagulls fly over the bay. And that's where bagels come from.”
Despite their terrified sniffling, they managed a weak snort.
“Man, I know a skele-ton of chemistry jokes, but I don't know if they'd get a reaction.”
“Sans, that was terrible,” Papyrus shook his head, but he had a small smile regardless.
“I was never all that good at emotional stuff,” Sans shook his head. “I mean, the last wedding I was at was super emotional. Even the cake was in tiers.”
“Sans oh my god,” his brother gave a quiet groan, but Frisk only wiped their eyes and stared up at him nervously.

“I-I'm so, so so-sorry,” Frisk started, but Sans held up a bony finger.
“Hey, now. Don't go starting that again. Turning into an, uh.... apology... machine.”
“Apology machine,” Papyrus deadpanned.
“Sorry. My joke bank went bone dry for a second there,” Sans gave a grin at him.
“Oh, stars deliver me from short skeletons with bad puns,” he shook his head slowly.
“... Hey,” Sans said after a second of silence. “I, uh... you-you mind givin' me and the kid a minute to talk?”
Papyrus looked conflicted, but eventually nodded a couple of times and petted Frisk on the head again.
“Little one?” he said softly, looking them in the eyes. “If you need me, I'll be in my room picking out a good book. Will you be alright?”
Frisk looked back and forth between the brothers in fright, but eventually swallowed hard and nodded. Papyrus sighed and petted them on the head again, rising slowly and withdrawing up the stairs. Sans was left alone with Frisk sitting in the floor, sniffling miserably and rubbing their eyes. Sans sighed through his teeth and looked around at the mess, the popcorn on the floor, the bowl lying upside down. He drew himself up and flopped onto the couch, patting the seat beside him after a moment.

Frisk just stared at him and looked longingly back up the stairs where Papyrus had gone. Eventually, however, they shook their head furiously and climbed with a bit of difficulty up onto the couch, sitting as far away from Sans as they could. He watched them try to press themselves into the couch, like they could just hide in the plush cushions.
“... You alright?” Sans asked after a moment. They didn't answer. “... Alright. Stupid question,” he rubbed his eyes tiredly. How was he supposed to get a point across to someone who was too terrified to even look at him? Was there even a point to be had in the first place? Papyrus had reacted fairly well to Frisk's panic, considering that Sans had had a... few incidents. He really shouldn't have been all that surprised that Papyrus had the situation under control. When had Papyrus gotten so good at being the comforting brother? Wasn't that his job? How was he supposed to say what he wanted to someone who was too afraid to even look him in the eye sockets? What was he supposed to say? 'Sorry for making you afraid of the color blue for the rest of your short life?'

“... Listen,” Sans said after a few moments, rubbing his aching temples. “I just... fuck. I'm... I'm sorry, kid. I don't really know what I wanna say. I just... I'm sorry. For the way that things turned out before. I'm... I'm sorry. I really, really am. I'm sorry it messed with you so badly. I'm... I'm sorry I messed you up so bad. I'm-I'm so fuckin' sorry, kid. I really am.”
“'s not your fault,” Frisk sniffled at last, rubbing their nose with their sleeve, and Sans saw the marks again and felt a strange tension in his stomach. Sans gave a slight grunt of disbelief.
“Hard ta feel like I haven't contributed,” he grumbled quietly.
“I-I was... 'messed up' a long time ago,” Frisk said at last, their words as soft as the snowfall outside. “Way before I... jumped.”
“How long is a long time?”
“Can we talk about something else? Please?” Frisk's tone was expressionless, but their features were clearly pained.
“Alright,” Sans nodded in agreement, his mind overflowing with questions. “Have you had those marks on your for a long time, too?”

Frisk froze in terror, trying to press themselves further into the cracks on the couch. Their lips pursed so tightly that they began to turn white, and they rubbed their arms nervously as they looked over at him.
“I get it if you don't wanna talk about it,” Sans shrugged quietly. “Hell. After... after what I did to ya, I... I wouldn't wanna talk to me, either.”
Way to go, Sans. You have all of the tact and grace of a pissed off cactus.
“... I forgive you.”

Sans sat in stunned silence, staring at him.
They had the gall, the sheer, massive balls to forgive him? After what they had done? Sans was conflicted, to say the least. He felt his smile freeze on his face, and he had to try very hard to keep still.
“Do... do you remember?” Frisk asked after a solid minute. “What... what you said to me?”
“Which time?” he asked quietly.
“That... do you believe that-that everyone can be a good person?” they looked up at him with a strangely hopeful glance. “That everyone can be a good person, if they just try?” they were looking up at him with so much hope, so much fear, and he finally realized what was in their determined eyes as they met his gaze.
They were showing him MERCY.

“I... I w-want to try,” Frisk said after a moment, turning their gaze down to their knees and pulling them close to their chest. “I wanna be a good person. I wanna b-be a person, too.”
That certainly set off a number of red flags in his head, he had so many more questions than he did answers. He was so tired. He eventually sighed and looked away, rubbing the back of his head.
“... Heh,” Sans shrugged after a long stretch of silence. “You know what? I forgive you too, kid. Just, uh, next time, try – oof!”
Sans felt his magic rise instinctively as they tackled him, but he forced it down when he realized that they were hugging him tightly around the middle, trembling furiously. He extinguished the fire in his eye and let the darkness swarm over him. They were going from watching movies to screaming and crying like they were about to die to hugging their killer like they were old friends. Sans gave an internal sigh, pretending that the fresh tears staining his shirt didn't bother him.

This kid was a frickin' rollercoaster.

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Chapter Text

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Sometimes, Sans found himself wishing for a clock.

 

It wasn't as if clocks were hard to come by in the Underground. Far from it, actually. However, most of the clocks had different times, and since there was no real way to see the sun it was rather difficult to tell which clock had the right time, so most monsters went without one. Or at least, the ones that Sans knew. He wouldn't mind having one every now and then, just to have something to fill the silence. However, the more that he thought about it the less that he actually wanted one. The very last thing that he wanted was yet another plastic reminder of the passage of time. He sighed quietly and leaned his head back against the wall, eye sockets half lidded as he stared at the lump on the couch.

 

Frisk (anomaly, that's all they are) lay slumbering on the sofa, curled up in a tight little ball under one of Papyrus's spare small red blankets. They just looked so... tiny. He mused quietly to himself for a while, wondering precisely how something so small could have possibly wreaked so much havoc in another life. Sans stared through the dark at them, his eye sockets drooping tiredly. He really was starting to wish for the ticking of a clock, something, anything to fill the awful silence. He hid a yawn and tried to make himself more comfortable, not taking his gaze off of their unmoving form. It was all such an obvious act. He couldn't afford to take his eye sockets off of them, not even for a moment. It was only a matter of time before they waited until he was asleep and closed their grubby little fist around the first sharp object that they found and resumed what they started. They couldn't fool him. He knew what nobody else remembered. He knew what they were, really. A murderer.

Just like me.

 

That thought always came with a dilemma. Was he really any better than them, after all was said and done? They both remembered things that nobody else could. They could both do things that nobody else could, see the world the way that it really was when everyone else was blind. And to a certain extent, they could both manipulate the world around them. Technically, they could live without consequence.

That thought was a highly disturbing and unpleasant one, and wouldn't quite let itself be brushed aside easily. He knew for a fact that living without consequence... changed a person, and not in a good way. He had witnessed it, lived it once. The memory of his actions would haunt him for the rest of his life. He shivered a little, closing his weary eye sockets and trying to clear his mind. He let out a quiet sigh as he reclined against the wall, sinking into himself as he listened to the quiet ticking of a clock-

 

I don't have a clock.

 

Sans jolted awake, uncertain of how long he had been asleep and mentally kicking himself. The word paranoid bounced eagerly around his head. He was just so damned tired. He glanced for Frisk immediately, noting that they had shifted in their sleep to lay on their side, knees pulled up tightly to their chest as they shivered beneath the blanket. Sans slowly pushed himself up off the floor and stood to his (not very impressive) full height, staring down at the child curled up on his couch. He picked up some of the popcorn from the floor and tossed it to their pet rock before shaking his head and returning to stand before the human. His fists clenched and unclenched before he stuck them in his pockets, letting out a quiet sigh through his teeth. Then he walked away, starting for the kitchen. The image of them lying there shivering, with that soft, pained expression on their sleeping face wouldn't leave him, though. He stood there for almost a full minute, contemplating deeply.

Eventually, he returned to Frisk with one of his spare blankets, draping it over their small sleeping form. He gave them a single pat on the head before turning and leaving them, skeletal eyebrows furrowed as he set about making coffee in the kitchen. It was something to distract himself. He didn't want to think about how miserable and freezing Frisk (anomaly, anomaly goddammit) was in their sleep, didn't want to look into his actions. He didn't care about them. He was just doing the good thing, like Papyrus would have done. He was being a good samaritan. That was all. Sans poured himself a cup of coffee and added far too much sugar, dropping into the kitchen chair and sighing heavily.

 

What was he doing.

He had the anomaly in his house. This mass murdering thing being this close to him, this close to his brother made him supremely uneasy. And yet, it was growing steadily harder and harder to feel any kind of fear about them the longer that he mulled over it. They were just so small. But Sans knew better than most not to let size deceive him. He drank deeply from his coffee, letting the warmth wash down his throat and he let out another quiet sigh. He slowly let his head hit the table, bouncing off of the wood with a soft thunk, thunk, thunk.

The freakin' anomaly was on his couch.

“What am I doing,” Sans muttered to no one, closing his aching eyes. “What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.”

 

As if in answer from the universe itself, Sans heard a loud rapping at the front door. Sans sighed again, wondering who would bother at this time in the morning. He checked himself over, glancing to his worn slippers, his slightly torn jacket, the stain on his shirt and his shorts wearing thin.

Presentable enough.

 

Sans groaned and pushed himself out of the chair, dragging himself with scraping feet to the front door to silence the knocking.

“Yeah, yeah,” he grumbled as he pried open the door. “You know, knock knock jokes are usually a lot funnier when-when... uh... Uh.”

“Uh?” Undyne stood before him with her hands on her hips, armor gleaming in the dim light. “Man. Your knock knock jokes are getting worse every day.”

“Undyne,” Sans tried to say as casually as he could, pulling the door a little closer and doing his absolute best to ignore the panicked screaming inside his head. “Good morning. What's the trick, fish stick?”

Undyne gave him a level glare, her eye narrowing.

“You mind telling me why you and Paps weren't at your posts yesterday?” she glowered down at him, crossing her arms. Sans resisted the urge to draw the door closed a little further, struggling to steady his breathing.

Don't fuck up. Don't let her see. For the love of god don't fuck up. Just please do this one thing right oh god don't fuck up don't make me kill her don't fuck up you can do this oh god just don't fuck up-!

 

“Paps is sick,” Sans lied instantly. “Not feelin' too well, I've been takin' care of him.”

“Since when do skeletons get sick?” Undyne stared at him suspiciously.

“Skeletons don't have immune systems to fight off germs,” he shrugged simply.

“Well, how am I supposed to know how weird ass skeleton biology works?” she grunted at him.

“He-he just needs some hot soup and bed rest,” Sans tried to keep is voice from cracking, the panic clawing its way through his chest. His fist was squeezing tightly against the door frame so badly that he was shaking despite his best efforts to remain still.

Don't fuck up. Don't let her see them. Don't fuck up. Whatever you do, don't fuck up.

 

“Just, uh...” Undyne's arms dropped to her side, and she deflated visibly. Sans tried not to show just how relieved he was too see her backing down. “Just tell him to get better already. And that's an order! That punk missed training this morning. He never misses training.”

“He'll be up and about like it was nothing in no time,” Sans said, sweating heavily. “He'll be fine.”

“Yeah, well, he'd better!” Undyne harrumphed. “I'm gonna get that nerd some super soup, not any of that crap in a can you're probably feeding him. Be back in like an hour punk, gotta go talk to a friend real quick!”

“Yeah that's-that's great-!” Sans started to call after her, a half formed pun about souper soup on his tongue before he dropped it, quietly closing the front door behind him as he retreated inside. He gave a shaking, breathy sigh of relief as he sank against the door and down to the floor, clutching his aching chest. That was... terrifying, for lack of a better word. Not just that Undyne was here, not that she had nearly seen his little secret. But if she did?

Sans was scared senseless from the fact that he wouldn't have hesitated killing her.

 

Sans stared over at the slumbering human, utterly oblivious to the danger that they had narrowly avoided. Sans's mind was flying at a hundred miles an hour, his soul hammering in his chest. He had very nearly killed his boss, his friend. And for what? To prevent her from finding out about his dirty secret? To protect Papyrus's precious image? To save his own (heh) skin? And, if he had been forced to kill Undyne...?

Well.

He wouldn't have a choice but to... reset.

 

“What am I doing,” he let the back of his head hit the wooden door as he groaned miserably. “What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.”

God, he really was repulsive. He was considering slaughtering a child in their sleep because he made a mistake. Sans rubbed his face with the palms of his hands, forcing himself to stand and dragging himself to the kitchen. He started to reach for his coffee before shrugging and turning to one of the cabinets, reaching all the way into the back and drawing his fist out with the neck of a glass bottle, full to the brim of amber liquid. He poured some of Grillby's best cider out of the bottle and into his half empty mug, replacing the bottle and drinking heavily. He let the warmth spread through his bones, letting out a quiet sigh. He had very nearly killed them, just to save himself, and god how he loathed himself. He couldn't think of them wearing that face, that sad little stare full of mercy. He had to think of them as the anomaly. Not... not anything else. Not as a ten year old kid.

That you nearly butchered in their sleep.

 

“Sans?”

Sans jolted and spun on the spot, cheeks lightly dusted as he stared down at the human. They stood with the little blanket draped over their shoulder, rubbing their eyes sleepily as they stared at him clutching his chest.

“Christ on a bike, kid,” Sans gave a weak laugh, rubbing his chest. “Good thing I'm a skeleton, you almost gave me a heart attack. You're quiet as a cat sometimes, you know that?”

Frisk shifted uncomfortably and danced from foot to foot, frowning and rubbing their stomach. Sans let out a quiet breath through his teeth, rubbing the back of his head with his spare hand as the guilt began to dig its way through his middle.

 

“Hey,” he said after a moment. “You, uh... you hungry, kid?” Sans placed his mug on the table, digging around in the refrigerator for a moment. “C'mon, grab a seat. They've got legs, but I'm pretty sure they're not gonna walk away or anythin'. Let me know if they do.”

Frisk silently crawled up onto one of the wooden chairs, blanket pulled around their shoulders as they watched him busy himself about the kitchen. He dropped a couple slices of bread in the beaten up toaster, making bacon and eggs as he worked.

“You know,” Sans said after a stretch of silence, flipping the bacon while he cooked. “Something always bugged me about bacon. I mean, you cook bacon, but you bake cookies. How weird is that?”

Frisk tittered lightly, and just from hearing the sound, he felt a little... lighter, just a bit. He even gave a tired whistle as he listened to the sound of the clock-

Sans shook his head fiercely, forcing himself to focus. There was no clock. He was starting to lose it. Sleep deprivation, maybe. It was making him hear things that weren't there. He tried to ignore the word crazy pushing itself to the forefront of his mind. After a little bit he heard a heavy thumping of someone barreling down the stairs, and he turned on the spot to see a pajamad Papyrus clutching the doorway, panting with wide eye sockets.

 

“Where is it?” Papyrus blurted, head whipping back and forth. “What's on fire?”

“Nothing's on fire,” Sans grinned up at him. “I'm making breakfast.”

Papyrus only gawked at him for a few moments before rolling up his pajama sleeve and pinching his forearm.

“... Is this happening?” Papyrus stared at him blankly. “Because this can't be happening.”

“What?” Sans frowned slightly.

“This,” Papyrus threw out an arm to the kitchen. “Since when can you cook?”

“I can cook,” he replied a little too defensively, smacking the spatula to his chest and adding to his collection of stains. “I cook all the time. I'm a great cook!”

“Sans, the only thing I've ever seen you 'cook',” he made air quotes with a deadpan. “Is a water sausage on a paper plate. Since when do you cook?”

“Who do you think used to cook for you when you were a babybones?” Sans scoffed.

“You know full well I don't remember that,” he crossed his arms, and Sans cringed.

“R-right. Sorry, bro.”

“Nyeh. Don't worry about it, brother,” Papyrus sighed quietly before taking a step and placing a hand on his shoulder. “Breakfast smells fantastic, you're doing great, Sans.”

 

Sans turned so that his brother wouldn't see the dusting of blue crossing his cheeks. Papyrus complimented people all the time, but hearing genuine praise from his brother always seemed to get to him. He cleared his throat and focused on making breakfast, setting a plate of fresh eggs and bacon before them at the table. Papyrus sat between him and Frisk, and Sans sipped quietly at his 'coffee' as Frisk looked uncertainly back and forth between them. Almost like they were waiting for permission or something. He just gestured at them to eat, and they wasted no time in tucking in to their meal, wolfing it down like it would be pulled away from them if they didn't eat fast enough. There again was that unpleasant feeling in the back of his mind, but he brushed it away.

Papyrus was still eating when Frisk had finished early, swallowing their last bite and nodding gratefully to Sans.

“... Thank you,” they said simply, and he shrugged.

“Hey, it's just breakfast. That's, like, the third most important meal of the day. Next to lunch. And brunch. And supper. And dinner. And lupper. And linner. And dunch, and brepper-”

“Sans oh my god,” Papyrus pinched the bridge of his nostril bone as Sans chortled to himself.

“Am... am, um, am I-I allowed to ask a question...?” Frisk asked after a few moments of silence as Sans sipped at his coffee.

“Of course you are, little one,” Papyrus said in a tone much softer than Sans was expecting from him with a little smile. “What is on your mind, tiny human?”

“Um. B-baby... bones...?” they looked up at him with confusion plain on their features. Papyrus only chuckled and shook his head.

“Well, of course!” he replied chipperly. “Big skeletons used to be little skeletons. Didn't you know that? That's just basic science.”

“Um... what-what is it that you don't remember?” Frisk asked curiously, turning their fork around their plate. “What was that all about?”

Sans and Papyrus shared an extremely uncomfortable look, and Sans only shook his head before placing his coffee on the table slowly. Papyrus grunted in annoyance and slid a coaster underneath it when he wasn't looking.

 

“Paps had an... accident when he was a kid,” Sans shrugged. “That's all you need to know.”

“What kind of accident?” Frisk blinked, kicking their little legs back and forth. He wanted to sigh again. They really did have all the tact of a ten year old, and the longer that he let that thought sink in the harder and harder that it got to think of them as just the anomaly. Neither of them answered and Frisk seemed supremely unsatisfied, but that didn't stop them from helping Papyrus with the dishes. He peeled off his gloves and Frisk stood on their tiptoes to hand him dishes, beaming toothily up at him to show that they were helping. Papyrus's face softened a bit and he patted them on the head, humming a familiar tune that Sans could have sworn he'd heard a few times in Waterfall as he busied himself. Sans just lost himself in the rest of his drink, letting it warm his aching bones. For just a while, he could just... be. Let everything sink in. It still seemed so surreal to have Frisk (human? Anomaly?) in his home, helping his brother with the dishes and chatting happily with him about some spaghetti recipe. He wasn't even listening at this point, just resting his head in his hands and thinking. It really was completely bizarre. What kind of game were they playing at? What was the point? Where was the purpose?

 

But Sans's mind was inevitably drawn back to the marks on their arm. The puncture wounds, the bruises, the cuts, the burns. A light chill began to roll down his spine as a new, very unpleasant thought occurred to him.

If that was just their arm...

What did the rest of them look like?

 

He just swirled the last of his drink before downing it, delighting in the warmth in his bones. He could finally relax, somewhat, for just a little bit. He could let the drink chase his thoughts away, and just pretend that things were normal.

Sans's eye lights narrowed to pinpricks as they heard a resounding boom echo through the house. Sans suddenly felt much, much smaller as he heard the familiar shouting, and he could not mentally kick himself enough.

 

Oh. Right. An hour. Man I need a clock.

 

“Alright, nerds!” Undyne bounded into the kitchen with a burst of cold wind, grinning widely. She wore a brightly colored green sweater with a little smiling fish sewed onto the front, wearing jeans with something in her pockets. “Get ready to chug get well soup 'til you puke, 'cause today-! Uh... t-today...”

Undyne froze up suddenly as she stared at the little human quivering in their seat, struggling to hide behind their blanket. Sans was off his chair in a split second, magic rushing through his body and into his head, a flash of blue almost blinding him as a spear went tearing through the air directly at Frisk's face-

 

And then she paused.

The long, conjured fibula with a sharpened, jagged end blocked her windpipe, and she gawked in dull shock at her attacker. Sans wasn't even certain of how to process what he was witnessing.

Papyrus was stopping her.

Papyrus.

 

“Undyne. Buddy,” Papyrus said in a calm tone, right eye twinkling with a dangerously burning orange fire. “Do the smart thing. Don't.

 

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Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Undyne. Buddy. Do the smart thing. Don't.

 

Undyne stood in utter shock at the proceeds of events, staring down at the sharpened femur leveled at her throat. The words that fell from Papyrus's mouth were cold, clipped, deadly. She glanced back and forth between the skeleton brothers and the human, eventually staring back at Papyrus, swallowing slightly and her throat brushed against the tip of the sharpened bone weapon, but she didn't drop her spear. She even held the thermos of soup in her other hand as if it were a weapon. Sans could feel the intense magical energy flooding through the room, through his bones and into his head. The pressure was steadily increasing as he shifted along the wall, ready to jump into action at a moment's notice.

“Papyrus,” Undyne said slowly, dangerously. “What in the hell do you think you're doing?!

“That's... no way to greet a new pal, Undyne,” Papyrus ever so slowly lowered his bone weapon, looking at her slightly sadly, his conjured weapon fizzling out of existence. “Please. I am offering you mercy here, Undyne. Please, please accept it.”

 

He stood before her and ever so gradually opened his arms, spreading them wide and looking at her pleadingly.

“Come on, Undyne,” Papyrus said slowly. “It doesn't have to be like this.”

 

Okay, Sans. This is it. Paps has finally lost his mind because of the anomaly. This is going to go shit shaped any moment, everything is gonna go to hell, something is going to break and there's going to be dust on my hands and then blood because oh god please don't I can't live without him oh god think of something you idiot think of something...!

 

“Papyrus,” Undyne growled in a guttural tone. “You-you threatened –“

“I stopped you from doing something that you would have very much regretted doing,” Papyrus said simply, gently lowering his arms and holding out his hands, almost like he was trying to calm a spooked animal, but the dangerous gleam in his eye sockets didn't fade. “Now, if it's not too much trouble, I really would like it if we could all put our weapons away...” he brushed the tip of the spear away from Frisk's face, who was sitting absolutely stock still with wide eyes and pale face. “And sit down and talk about this like good friends.”

“Have you lost your goddamned mind?” Undyne bellowed. Sans made to move toward her but was frozen by a single glance from Papyrus stilled him almost instantly. “Papyrus, do you even realize what that thing is?

“That 'thing', as you so delicately put it,” he replied calmly. “Is my friend. And you are also my friend. That does make the whole 'attempted murder' thing a little bit awkward though-”

 

Oh my god Paps are you serious you cannot talk your way out of this one do something already...!

 

Sans inched closer and closer to Frisk behind them, summoned magic pounding and thrashing in his aching head. He needed to release it, needed to get it out of his system before something awful happened, he wasn't good at holding it in for this long and it was pushing him over his limit. He contemplated silently just putting the anomaly down there and then. It would be so much simpler. But he didn't want to consider it. If things went pear shaped, he would undoubtedly hold Papyrus's life as greater value over theirs.

 

Bone right through the cranium. Probably wouldn't even feel it. Nice and quick.

 

They probably wouldn't even feel it. Maybe. It wasn't like he hadn't killed them before. What was one more time? He felt so vile, so foul for thinking it. He couldn't risk Papyrus's life over the anomaly-

Over Frisk.

Their name is Frisk.

The child who trusted me.

The child who is depending on me to live.

God help me what in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

“Papyrus,” Undyne stared back and forth between the brothers, clearly exasperated. “Come on. This thing-”

Enough,” Sans's hand found its way to Frisk's shoulder, and they tensed up silently at his grip. They looked as if they weren't certain of who to be more terrified of. That was fine with him. If things went wrong, he could always... try again.

Dirty promise breaker.

Come on. Please. Don't do this. Think of something. You have to figure something out. Use your damned head for once. It would be so easy to just snap their filthy fucking neck no no no no come on get it together, get it together...!

 

“... Look,” Sans felt his magic ebb and slip away, leaving him with a pounding migraine. “Stop callin' the kid a thing. It's not cool. A'ight?”

“So this is what you were doing while you were sick?” Undyne slowly pulled the spear a couple of inches away from Frisk, glowering at Papyrus.

“I wasn't sick,” Papyrus stared blankly at her.

“No, Paps,” Sans said with a quiet sigh. “I told her you were sick.”

“... But I'm not sick,” he blinked.

“I know, Paps. I lied.”

“Sans!” Papyrus turned to him, placing both his hands on his hips. Frisk suddenly became much more interested in something on him, but Sans didn't focus on it. “It's not good to lie to your friends, brother. Deceit only results in more deceit.”

“I know, Paps...” Sans rubbed the back of his neck guiltily. “I was... kinda worried about somethin' else at the time.”

 

Undyne coughed loudly, glowering at them, clearly irritated at being momentarily forgotten. Sans shifted awkwardly, but didn't want to try reaching for magic again. He was so tired.

“Papyrus,” Undyne said firmly, giving him a level glare. “Come on. You can't be seriously considering keeping that thing.”

Papyrus's fists clenched so tightly that Sans heard them crack.

“... Right,” Papyrus said calmly, but Sans could see that his hands (ah, his gloves were off, so that was what Frisk was looking at) were shaking. “Undyne. Buddy. Pal. What did I just say about calling them a thing.

“Y-yeah, well...” Undyne actually backed away a step from the downright withering glare that the skeleton was giving her, her weapon fizzling out with a small static burst. “I mean, just... come-come on! Papyrus! This is literally treason!”

“Helping someone is treason now?” Papyrus scoffed, crossing his arms tightly. “Then consider me guilty.”

“Paps,” Undyne pinched the bridge of her nose, looking to Sans futilely for help. “Listen. You have, uh, o-officially claimed your spot on the royal guard. Just let me take it – them – to Asgore.” Papyrus suddenly looked very, very uncomfortable, glancing between her and the human.

“... What?” he blinked again. “I-I don't...”

“Just hand 'em over,” Undyne said simply, holding out a hand toward Frisk, a pained expression on her face.

Sans's grip on Frisk's shoulder tightened intensely, the rage slowly broiling over inside of him.

 

She was using his own goals, his own lifelong dream against him. It wasn't just cold, it was manipulative, it was cruel, it was downright sick. Sans had to fight to keep his fury down, and it dimly occurred to him that he was probably beginning to hurt Frisk with how tightly he was grasping their shoulder. But she had hurt Papyrus. She had hurt him, Undyne who had promised to protect him and she was hurting him and the evil bitch deserved to die and he could feel the magic swarming through his head-

“No, Undyne.”

“S-sorry?”

“I am too, Undyne,” Papyrus said sadly, deflating a bit. Sans cringed at the sound of his brother's voice. He just sounded so worn out. Beaten down. Drained. Defeated. “But I can't allow you to take my friend, Undyne. I'm... not really certain why it's so important for you to bring Asgore a corpse, but I really think that things would be better for everyone involved if you at least sat down and tried to be friends.”

“Do you want to?”

 

Sans peeled away from the human, the first time of them speaking in a long while. Their blanket was discarded to the floor and they sat with their legs pulled up to their chest on the chair.

“What?” Undyne balked at them, as if surprised that they could even speak at all from how silent they had been. The silence that followed, however, was almost deafening.

“Do you – do you wanna be friends?” Frisk asked in a quiet tone, looking up at her hopefully. “Do you just want somebody to talk to? B-because I'm real good at listening. I k-know you m-might not like me v-very much, but, u-um... I think we could be friends. I can be good. Just-just please, please don't hurt Papyrus. We could be friends.”

Undyne gaped at Frisk with a half stunned, half revolted expression.

“Friends,” she repeated in blatant disgust.

“Y-yeah!” Frisk perked up a little. “We could do all sorts of fun friend stuff-!”

“No,” Undyne said instantly, straightening up a bit, her face dark. “I will not be friends,” she spat as if the word were poison. “With something like you.

Frisk visibly deflated and tried to curl in on themselves, and for a brief moment Sans felt something very raw and fiery claw its way through his chest, but he quashed it almost as quickly as it rose.

 

“That's alright, Undyne,” Papyrus clapped his hands together. “I should have expected that you wouldn't be up to the challenge.”

“I – you can't – excuse you?” she spluttered, giving him a sharp, one eyed glower. The captain of the royal guard looked back and forth between Sans and his brother, and it was painfully obvious that Papyrus was laying out bait for her, looking at her with hope in his eye sockets that she would take the bait. But they all knew better than that.

 

“Paps...” Undyne groaned miserably, running a hand down her face and rubbing her eye patch. She then flicked her gaze back to the human one last time before sighing, looking as if she wanted to tell him a great many things and just couldn't put it into words. The pained look on her face grew, and she sighed again before looking away. “I'll... I'll give you a week.”

She then slammed the thermos of soup on the table with a loud bang! causing them all to jump.

“Get well soon,” she said expressionlessly before stalking out into Snowdin, shouting over her shoulder as she went. “And fix this damned door!”

They were all left in silence for a moment before Papyrus let out a pleased noise.

“... I think that went rather well,” he said with far too much enthusiasm.

“Oh my god,” Sans sank down the wall, not even realizing just how long he had been holding his breath, his whole body feeling weak. “Oh my god, how in the hell did you pull that off, Papyrus...?”

“Classic hostage scenario,” Papyrus responded simply, plucking the blanket from the floor and draping it around Frisk's shoulders, who looked up at him thankfully. “Halt the aggressor, maintain a neutral zone and deescalate the situation as calmly as possible.”

“... Paps,” Sans said slowly, staring at him. “Where in the hell did you learn that?”

“I can read you know,” Papyrus answered somewhat huffily, checking over Frisk to ensure that they were indeed uninjured. “A royal guard has to be more than just hired muscle, thank you very much!”

“Which is good, 'cause you got none o' that,” Sans quipped, though it was more out of nervous reflex than anything. Papyrus didn't even respond, simply slipping his gloves back on and flexing his phalanges.

 

That had been close.

Far, far too close. Sans fought hard against the swelling migraine that plagued him from the mass of unused magic, quietly groaning and rubbing his eye sockets. At least it wasn't nearly as bad as the pain from the resets, blinding agony from memories from different timelines all crashing together inside his head. Not just once, but twice now he had very nearly assaulted both his employer and friend, and there was no guarantee that he wouldn't have killed her. It was taking all that he had just to keep it together, and that alone was a Herculean task.

 

“Um... Pa-Papyrus?” Frisk asked softly, holding their blanket close to their body. He almost didn't hear them, and Frisk held out their comparatively tiny hands toward him, and Papyrus knelt a bit to take their hands in his.

“Yes?” his expression softened a bit. “Are you alright, little one?”

Frisk swallowed and nodded, looking back toward the broken door.

“Um. Am-am I allowed to ask a-a question?”

“I don't see why not,” he patted them on the head warmly.

“What happened to your hand?”

 

Sans could only watch as all of the color and life instantly drained from his brother's face.

“I... had an accident,” Papyrus answered quietly. “A very long time ago,” he continued in a soft tone, running his thumb over the back of their hand. “I'm sorry that you had to see that, little one.”

“Why are you sad?” Frisk blinked at him. Sans couldn't help but cringe. Despite everything, they really did have all of the tact of a curious ten year old.

“I don't... like people seeing the scars,” Papyrus admitted lowly. “That's all.”

“... It's okay,” Frisk gave him a gentle smile. “I don't like anyone seeing mine, either.”

Papyrus slowly, carefully lowered himself to their height and drew them into a bony hug. They wrapped their tiny arms around his neck, burying their face into his shoulder and mumbling something.

 

Sans felt like an intruder in his own home.

 

Mere moments ago he had been nearly bursting at the seams with magic and had been on the verge of blasting his friend into a steaming crater, and now he felt like he didn't even belong in his own house watching such a private and intimate moment. Sans drew his hood up over his eyes, pretending that he wasn't sulking. His head was pounding furiously and he was fighting off weariness with all his strength, feeling stretched thin and drained. Sans didn't want to have the conflicting emotions that he did. It was just strange seeing Papyrus so gentle, so quiet, so... brotherly.

He wasn't jealous.

And he told himself that again and again, reinforcing the thought every time. It was such a ludicrous notion. Like he would ever be jealous of the anomaly for taking his brother's attention away. It could very easily all just be a ploy, waiting until their defenses were down, waiting for the ax to fall.

Sans let out a quiet sigh through his teeth, standing.

Life was nothing without a gamble, so might as well roll the dice.

 

“You alright there, buddy?” Sans patted them on the shoulder, causing them to flinch. He found a brief glimmer of satisfaction at that, knowing that at least they were bright enough to still be afraid of the real threat. For some reason, however, this only brought on another surge of guilt, which was getting mysteriously harder and harder to repress.

“I-I'm okay,” Frisk mumbled, rubbing their arms and looking up at him. “Um. Are-are you okay, though?”

Sans blinked.

 

Maybe they hadn't intended for it to be as funny as it seemed, or maybe he really was just starting to lose it, but he laughed regardless. Once again, this kid found themselves staring death in the face and they wanted to know if he was okay. This child had some seriously skewed priorities.

“What?” he stuck his hands in his pockets, grinning. “Of course, kid. I'm always okay. What makes you say that?”

“You-you just, um...” Frisk tucked their hands into their sleeves, looking away uneasily. “You looked... really, really m-mad, and-and I, um...”

“Buddy,” he placed a hand on their shoulder, and they shivered but didn't flinch. “You trust me, right? Made a promise, didn't I?”

A promise that you very nearly broke to save your own skin. Heh heh. Skin. Oh my god focus for five seconds.

 

“Y-yeah,” Frisk said with a soft little smile, looking up at him. “I trust you.”

Which was fortunate, because when the time came it would make killing them much eas-

Sans blanched hard, forcing a weak chuckle and patting them on the head.

“I think we've all had quite enough excitement for one morning,” Papyrus stretched and stood. “Frisk, would you like to come with us today on our, er, patrol for humans?”

“I would like that very much,” Frisk beamed at him toothily.

“Then we're off!” Papyrus bounded out of the kitchen, shouting over his shoulder. “By the way, Sans, we really need to fix the door!”

They were left in silence for a while, Sans standing with his hands in his pockets as he stared at the human. He kicked with one slipper at the doorknob, mildly impressed. Undyne really had done a number on it.

 

“... Seven days.”

Sans blinked and glanced over to Frisk, who had their arms crossed tightly and was staring off into the corner.

“Yep,” Sans nodded simply after a moment, hands clenching in his pockets.

“I... I only have a week to live,” they let out a soft, shuddering breath, eyes watering at the realization.

“Aw, jeez, kid-” Sans started uncomfortably, putting out a hand to them nervously as he stepped close to them. “Don't-don't freak out, okay? You were doin' so good when Undyne was here...”

“I'm sorry,” Frisk's shoulders shook lightly as they hid their face behind their sleeves. “I'm s-sorry, I won't cry, I w-won't make noise, I'm s-sorry, please don't be mad...!”

Shit,” Sans collapsed inwardly. “That's-that's not what I meant. Sorry if that came out wrong, kiddo. You're gonna be fine. Nobody is gonna die. Okay? It's... it's gonna be okay,” he rubbed their shoulder with his thumb, finding himself desperately hoping that they wouldn't cry. “It's gonna be alright. You... you trust me, right, kiddo?”

 

Frisk rubbed their eyes and sniffled miserably, gazing up at him.

Curious.

Had their irises always been red?

 

“Yeah. I... I trust you.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

The trek through the woods was a boisterous one. It had been easy enough to avoid the other patrols, and they only crossed a couple of teenage monsters that paid them little to no mind at all, which was fine with Sans. Papyrus chatted amicably the entire way, inroducing Frisk to his numerous puzzles proudly. The child eagerly devoted attention to each and every one as they progressed further and further toward the end of the forest. They even seemed to be having fun, hopping through snowbanks and flipping the carefully laid out switches that Papyrus had arranged in different shapes to confound humans. And yet, Frisk solved each and every one of his puzzles. They occasionally stopped when a puzzle became difficult, and looked at something in the distance, and Sans silently watched as they tilted their head a little each time. Almost as if they were trying to listen to something.

 

And promptly afterwards, they proceeded through Papyrus's carefully constructed maze of switches without pausing, without hesitation, solving it with a blank expression on their face. If anything, this only spurred Papyrus on further, gleefully bounding ahead to the next 'trap' to ensure that it was ready for them. Frisk was left standing alone with Sans in the snow, huddled in on themselves as they shivered in the snow.

 

“... Cool trick.”

Frisk jumped at the sound of Sans's voice, not having even noticed that he was directly behind them. They swerved on the spot, fiddling with their sleeves without looking at him.

 

“I mean,” he continued casually with his hands in his pockets when they remained silent. “It's pretty amazing how you manage to solve all those puzzles of his. Almost like you knew the answer ahead of time or something.”

“I don't,” Frisk shook their head, looking away quietly. “I just have a... different perspective now and then.”

They were constantly avoiding his gaze, holding their hands together beneath their sleeves, almost as if they were trying to hold their own hand. They knelt down in the snow as if looking for something for a moment, like there was something there that he couldn't see. Their hair fell down over their eyes when they looked up at him, and Sans felt an extremely uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. It wasn't often that he had the feeling, and after a while it became easy to ignore, but he recognized it for what it was. It was the same feeling that he always got a little bit before a RESET occurred. He suddenly felt the strong urge to simply remove himself from the situation, to just get away and be close to his brother again, something was wrong and he couldn't put his finger on what. After a moment the feeling passed, and he found himself simply staring at the shivering child.

 

“... You alright there, buddy?” Sans asked after a moment, forcing a small grin.

“Just c-cold,” Frisk shook their head, frowning a little when they looked at him.

Brown.

 

Their irises were brown. Not red.

Sans's mind raced, thinking. Was that a normal human trait? Could they change the color of their eyes? It didn't necessarily seem like something that they could do as he'd never heard of the ability in humans, it would likely require some form of medical procedure with them (or colored contact lenses, as stupid as that idea seemed) since they obviously didn't have any form of magic to do so. He very, very briefly wondered if perhaps it had simply been a trick of the light, if he was beginning to hallucinate from excessive magic buildup and stress. It wouldn't be the first time. Maybe he had just made a genuine mistake.

Somehow, he doubted it.

 

Sans sighed after a moment, shifting his shoulders and shuffling toward them. They flinched at his approach, but he shrugged off his jacket and placed it around their shoulders. They looked up at him in mild shock, thin eyebrows high.

 

“Cold doesn't bother me as much,” he shrugged again simply. “I've got thick skin.”

Frisk giggled lightly, beaming up at him. It wasn't often that he heard them laugh at all. It was... kind of refreshing. He found himself relaxing a little in spite of himself, grin widening.

 

“Come on, kiddo,” he tilted his head in the direction that Papyrus had run off. “Paps is up ahead with another puzzle or something. Thanks for playing with him today, by the way. He doesn't get to have this much fun very often.”

“I'm having fun, too,” Frisk gave a little smile of their own, looking ahead. “We- I kind of like puzzles.”

“D'you think you can kind of like catching up on your own?” Sans rolled his shoulders. “I'm gonna go check on Paps real quick, he's taking an awful long time.”

Frisk simply nodded with the same little smile, and Sans began the slow trudge toward his brother, feeling the snow crunch under his slippers. They would be fine on their own for a little bit. His worry for his brother outweighed the nagging paranoia to constantly watch the anomaly.

Yeah.

Maybe this time, things would be different.

 

He made sure that he was a fair distance away from Frisk before teleporting. He wasn't quite sure why, he just wasn't all that comfortable doing it in front of them.

Besides, he had to keep up his mysterious air somehow.

 

He let out a breath that he didn't know he was holding as he materialized with a little pop of displaced air, stepping out of the void directly behind the kneeling skeleton in front of him. Papyrus had a wrench in one gloved hand, furiously fiddling with a propped up puzzle tile with a number screws of colored wires attached.

“How's it goin', Paps?”

Papyrus jolted a little, frowning at the shorter skeleton.

“You know I hate it when you do that, brother,” Papyrus grumbled before shaking his head, the slight already forgotten. “I'm just having a little bit of trouble with this puzzle tile. It won't activate properly.”

“What'cha mean?” Sans squatted down slightly next to his brother.

“... Where's your jacket?” Papyrus blinked after a moment, lowering the tile a little to stare levelly at him. “Sans, that-that was your favorite jacket. Did something happen?”

“Nah,” he shrugged quietly, focusing intently on the machinery beneath the puzzle. “Kid was cold.”

“Sans...” Papyrus gave him a very curious look. “You never take that ratty old thing off.”

“Says mister 'I wear my battle body in the shower'.”

“Sans,” he frowned slightly. “I'm serious. I didn't even think about them being cold, we have plenty of spare coats.”

“Eh, I doubt any of your old coats would fit the kid very well,” Sans plopped fully into the snow, crossing his legs to further examine the puzzle. It would appear as if one of the wires had frozen over, he probably just needed to make a couple of light adjustments. “Could you imagine what they'd even look like in that great big brown one of yours?”

“Oh my god,” Papyrus snickered a little, rolling his eyes and correcting the wires that Sans pointed out to him. “Probably about as adorable as you looked that time you tried it on.”

“Can we please forget about that already...” Sans groaned into his hands.

“Absolutely not!” he chirruped proudly. “Good lord, Sans, you looked like a little bitty skeleton trying to play grown up-”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Sans hid the rush of blue in his cheeks behind his hands, thoroughly humiliated. “You don't have to rub it in how I'm the short one.”

“I only do it because I love you, brother,” Papyrus patted him gently on the shoulder with a kind smile, earning a grin back from Sans.

 

“... Well, that and because it's fun to irritate you.”

“I knew it!” Sans crowed victoriously, throwing his hands in the air. They both looked at each other blankly before bursting out laughing. Sans felt a little swell in his chest as Papyrus proudly stood and dusted the snow from himself. He hadn't realized just how much he missed hanging out with his brother again. It felt like it had been years and years ago, but yet, here they were again. He almost didn't recognize the feeling for what it was, it had been so long, but when he did, it warmed him from his chest to his feet.

He was, for the first time in a long time, genuinely happy.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans felt the sudden wrench of everything beneath his feet being yanked away, his body falling through infinite cold void as he crashed back into reality, his mind reeling heavily from the pain of memories that didn't belong, that hadn't happened, that wouldn't happen all crashing together in one horrible moment.

 

“You know I hate it when you do that, brother,” Papyrus grumbled before shaking his head. “I'm just having a little bit of trouble – brother, are you alright?”

“Yeah,” Sans found himself answering, trying not to be sick in front of his brother. He moved to stick his hands in his pockets before letting them swing by his side, the weight of everything that had just happened hitting him as well. “Just peachy, bro.”

He was happy.

For just a brief moment, he was finally, finally happy.

And the anomaly had, once again, cruelly ripped it away from him in an instant.

 

He finally had a nice moment with his brother that he might have actually remembered. And now it was lost. He felt his chest tighten in rage at the little moment between his brother and him that had been forcefully removed from existence, his fists clenching hatefully as he took a few steps back toward Frisk to give them a piece of his mind-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

He was yanked back through reality and found himself standing in the same place he had rematerialized behind Papyrus, stomach churning horribly as his vision swam from the pain. He let out a gasp and fell to his knees, surprising the taller skeleton.

 

“Sans?” Papyrus jolted up, quickly dusting the snow from himself. “Are you alright, brother?”

Sans responded by puking violently into the snow in front of him.

“Oh god,” Sans blubbered incoherently. “Oh god oh god please no it's happening again it hurts make it stop make it stop...!

“Sans!” Papyrus lifted him up firmly, panic in his eyes. “Hold on brother, I'm going to take care of everything, just -”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans collapsed to his knees in the snow as the universe was pulled back like taffy once again, not even blinking when Papyrus jumped at his arrival.

“Green wire,” he wheezed, catching his eye before summoning his magic and teleporting as quickly as he could.

 

This wasn't just random resetting, it couldn't be. They were doing this on purpose, they were doing it to punish him for his sins, waiting for him to finally open up a little and then stabbing him where it hurt and god did it hurt it was never going to end why were they doing this and it didn't even matter because when he found them he was going to make sure that they never did it again god help them he would rain suffering down on them the likes of which they had never seen-

 

Sans gasped breathily as he fell out of the shortcut, lights in his eye sockets whirling wildly as he searched for the anomaly. They weren't where he left them, that was for sure. There was a small set of tracks in the snow giving away their location though, leading in the opposite direction that he and Papyrus had traveled. Why would they bother heading back toward Snowdin?

 

He stumbled in the snow, his legs still feeling like jelly from the resets as he forced a burst of magic, teleporting ahead to where he hoped they were, consequences be damned.

 

Please!

 

He froze at the sound of Frisk's pleading, horrible familiarity crashing back in on him. He had heard that soft, weeping cry before. Too many times. Far, far too many times.

 

“Please,” he spotted them a short distance ahead, gripping a stick (where did they get a weapon?) and holding it at shaking arm's length in front of Doggo, who was wildly brandishing one of his favorite knives at them. “Please, mister, I-I don't wanna fight!”

Hey!” Sans shouted hoarsely, earning a shocked look from Frisk, who whipped their head toward him instantly.

Unfortunately, this was all the distraction that was required. Sans watched as the large dagger plummeted downward, slicing cleanly into their face. Frisk screamed as blood sprayed from the slice onto the snow beneath them, their voice torn as they fell. Sans felt rooted to the spot as they continued to scream in agony, writhing only a moment before Doggo's dagger came plunging hard into their chest. They twitched only for a moment, and Sans watched as the blood pooled into the snow, their one good eye falling on him, watching, crying, begging-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Green!” Sans screamed as soon as he materialized, and Papyrus fell over from the surprise. He wasted no time in teleporting as fast as he could manage, feeling the strain of magic wearing him thin already.

 

Snow burst around him in a little cloud as he fell out of the void in front of Doggo's sentry station, hardly taking a breath as he watched the knife fall. He threw out his left hand, screaming incoherently in pain and frustration, in outright fury.

Doggo suddenly found himself jerked through the air as gravity changed direction, his soul a bright flicker of blue. He yelped loudly as he fell against his own sentry station, crashing directly through the wood and smashing his back with a hard SLAM into a nearby tree, cracking it. He fell crumpled sideways after a moment, staring blankly ahead in fear, in pain.

And then he slowly began to turn to dust.

 

Sans felt his throat clench up as he recoiled at what he had just witnessed, at what he had just done.

 

“I'm sorry,” Frisk was on their knees, weeping openly. “I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry-”

He had heard it all before.

Sans slowly, carefully walked over to Frisk, feeling a little as if he were still in a dream. They looked up at him briefly, tears falling freely.

“I'm sorry,” they repeated over and over again, hugging themselves. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry-”

“Kid.”

 

Frisk's breathing hitched, freezing them in place.

“Kid. I'm gonna need you to close your eyes for a sec.”

“... No,” Frisk crumpled instantly, bawling. “No, no no please, please, I'm s-sorry, I'll be good, I can be good, p-please! I'm sorry, please, please don't...!”

“Shh,” Sans knelt a little, feeling light and numb at the same time before passing a hand slowly over their face, wiping away some of their tears. He hated himself. He hated them for doing this to him. For making him do this. He hated them so, so much, but it still didn't come close to how much he loathed himself. “Shh. Come on. Kid. Please. Just... just do this for me. Close your eyes.”

“I'm so sorry,” Frisk wheezed, their nose running a little. “I d-didn't mean for this – I just – please I'm sorry I'm sorry I'll let you do whatever to me I'll be good, I'll be good, I can be good I promise, please – I'm so sorry...!”

 

Sans let out a quiet, slow breath as the magic was released at long last, feeling the hum of the Gaster Blaster long before he could see it. He could even smell it just before it happened, he knew they could too from the way their nose instinctively scrunched up, their eyes full of fear. It smelled of burning sulfur and darkness and judgment. He looked into their eyes just before he released the blaster hanging above them, acknowledging. Apologizing. That he couldn't bring himself to say what he meant, if only a look could share what he wanted it to.

Their eyes were red.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans fell through the void and crashed into the snow behind Papyrus, screaming madly as he fell. Papyrus had the briefest of seconds to yelp in surprise before Sans teleported again, leaving him very confused.

 

Doggo stood in the same place as before, swinging violently at the cringing child, who had utterly abandoned the stick at this point in favor of barely keeping out of the guard's reach. They glanced up at Sans, the outright terror plain on their features and their knees nearly buckled. Sans didn't notice their expression, though.

Their eyes were brown.

 

There was a rush of magical exertion as gravity increased, sending Doggo to the ground with a yelp. He rolled and tossed wildly in the snow for a moment, grabbing for his dropped knife. Frisk backed away a step, hands held out before them defensively.

 

“... Buddy,” Sans said as calmly as he could, straining to keep his voice level as he took a step forward.

“Sans!” Doggo barked, struggling to pull himself to his knees against the overwhelming gravity. “You've got to look out, there's a human!”

“I know,” Sans said shakily, bouncing a little on his feet to ensure that Doggo could still see him. “That's my kid.”

“I – there's – what?” the guard stopped straining to reach his knife, looking uncertainly at the skeleton and back to where he assumed Frisk still was, who was standing as stock still as their shivering self could.

“That's my kid,” Sans repeated firmly, earning a strange look from Frisk. “So I would, uh, greatly appreciate it if you would stop swinging that thing around. Eh, buddy?”

“A human,” Doggo insisted. “Sans, are you-”

“If you shut up about this I'll buy you a month's worth of dog treats,” Sans said desperately.

 

Doggo considered this for a moment before forcefully pulling himself against the blue magic holding him to the ground, straightening his shirt a little before ruffling his head and sighing.

“I'm gonna get so fired,” Doggo grumbled loudly, glowering at him. “I want the good stuff this time.”

“Done,” Sans replied instantly, reaching out for the trembling Frisk and grabbing their shoulder. He didn't wait another moment before teleporting again, feeling the void warp and twist around him. He had forgotten just how much more of a strain it was, taking another person with him through a shortcut, but at this point he just didn't care anymore. He had to get somewhere else, somewhere safe.

 

He fell out into reality into his home with Frisk crying in his arms, sobbing hysterically as he knelt on the living room carpet. They scrabbled in his grasp for a moment, pleading and crying as he held them in his lap, his voice coming out hoarse and strained.

“I know,” he found himself sobbing in turn, painfully hot tears falling down his bony cheeks as he held them. “I know, I know, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry babybones. It's okay. It's all gonna be okay now. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. Please, please forgive me. I'm so sorry. It's okay now. It's okay.”

Frisk clung to the front of his stained turtleneck weakly, crying and hiccuping into him as their little shoulders shook.

 

“I d-didn't mean to,” Frisk wailed quietly, and Sans only held them tighter. “I j-just wanted to...!”

“It's okay, babybones,” Sans shushed them again, blinking furiously and holding them closer, stroking the back of their head gently. “Shh. It's okay. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry that I hurt you. That shouldn't have happened, I-I, goddammit, kiddo, I'm so sorry.”

“... It's okay,” Frisk said softly after a moment, putting a small hand on his cheek and looking up at him sadly. “I... I forgive you.”

 

What in the actual hell was this kid?

He had just vaporized them, after watching them die in front of him. He had pulled them close, betrayed them, broken his one promise to protect them and they looked up at him without anger, without hate, just unmitigated mercy. He had killed them, and they looked him in the eyes with mercy, with love, with forgiveness. With forgiveness that he didn't deserve. Not for what he was. Not after the things he'd done to them.

He felt his soul strain as he fought back a new tide, squeezing his eyes shut and pulling Frisk into a tight hug.

 

“... I'm gonna do better,” he murmured quietly into their ear, giving them a squeeze. “I'm not gonna let something like this happen again. Okay? You can't – you can't just wander off like that.”

“I'm sorry,” Frisk wiped their eyes with his jacket sleeves. It briefly occurred to him that he really should get that thing washed. Someday. “I'm so sorry, Sans. I'll... I'll be good. I promise. I can be good. I don't... I don't wanna die. It-it really, really hurts. It hurts so, so much.”

 

Sans cringed, feeling bile in his throat as he held them.

“It's gonna be okay, babybones,” he pressed his forehead to theirs, forcing a smile. “Promsie.”

They were left alone in the dark for a little while, simply holding each other and listening to the sound of each other's breathing. He had so many questions running rampant through his mind, but the strain of the resets, the barely restrained magic weighing him down was too much. He was just so exhausted. Sans almost fell asleep with Frisk clinging to his shoulders.

At least until the door was rudely kicked open once again, snow billowing forth as Papyrus brought his booted foot down with a wild stomp, startling them both awake.

 

“SANS WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Hi Papyrus,” Sans said tiredly, not bothering to move from their spot on the carpet.

 

“Sans!” Papyrus burst into the house screaming, tattered scarf flapping behind him as he vainly tried to close the door. Then he tried again and again before remembering that Undyne had ripped the door handle off, grunted unceremoniously and pushed it firmly into place.

 

“Hi Papyrus,” Frisk repeated weakly, their voice hoarse and raspy.

“Thank god I found you two,” Papyrus let out a weary breath, clutching a hand to his chest. “Sans, what-what happened?”

 

Oh.

Right.

 

To Sans, it had been repeated and seemingly endless torture. To Papyrus, he had just watched his brother fall screaming profanity and nonsense out of thin air before vanishing. So, obviously, he might have sensed that something was wrong.

 

“I can explain,” Sans started uneasily, standing.

“I should hope so,” Papyrus, breathless, checked carefully on their pet rock before pacing back and forth. “I should certainly freaking hope so! Do you have any idea, just an inkling of just how angry I am with you for doing that to me? You just pop into a snowbank, screaming bloody murder,” Sans cringed openly at this, “And flail around and don't even have your jacket on don't get me started if one of us actually does get 'sick', and then I come back to find out that you and Frisk are gone, just gone, and Doggo is absolutely freaking out by the way, Sans; what happened?

“I-it was my fault,” Frisk muttered, almost unheard, but Papyrus paused long enough to give them his full attention. They curled up under Sans's jacket, as if they hadn't been expecting him to actually listen. “I-I'm sorry. It was all my fault. I ran – I w-wandered off,” they corrected themselves, still shivering. “I got, um. Hurt. A lot. But, but Sans came!” Frisk perked up when they saw the downcast and concerned look on Papyrus's face. “And, and Sans came, and he, he...”

 

Frisk suddenly fell silent beside the shorter skeleton, their face draining of expression.

“Pulled 'em out of a sticky situation with Doggo,” Sans finished for them quietly.

“Sans, I-” Papyrus started.

“Literally,” Sans grinned. “They had a stick.”

“Sans,” Papyrus groaned.

 

“I'm so sorry,” Frisk squeezed their fingers together, like they were holding someone else's hand. “... It won't happen again.”

“I know,” Sans said quietly. He hadn't meant it to come out quite so clipped, so cold, but Frisk shuddered nonetheless.

“You said you were hurt?” Papyrus knelt before them, gently placing a hand on their shoulder. Frisk cringed and looked at him awkwardly before glancing away.

“I'm fine,” they answered expressionlessly. “Everything is fine.”

“You certainly don't look fine,” Papyrus frowned, and it was true. They had mud all on them from where they had fallen, their face was scratched and there was a nasty looking bruise on their neck, splotchy and ugly. Sans flinched inwardly upon seeing it. For some reason he felt responsible. Like one way or another it was his fault. He didn't care for the feeling. Papyrus frowned sadly when he traced his thumb over the mark, causing them to flinch.

 

“I-I can finish the puzzles,” Frisk shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably, glancing up at him nervously. “I can d-do better, Papyrus, I-I can...!”

“Puzzles are fine and dandy little one, but you are a mess,” he tutted softly, picking them up with one arm. His face was set when he picked them up, brother mode entirely engaged. “Come along, little one. Let's get you a bath and try to get you bandaged up a little; we've still got that box of bandages in different shapes, right? By the way Sans, can you kindly find Frisk some clothes to wear?”

“In the bathroom in the cabinet,” Sans answered automatically. “Second shelf, third to the right. And, uh, I'll dig around and see if I can find anything.”

“Thank you kindly, brother. Now then, human friend; onward!”

 

Sans let out an uneasy breath as he watched Papyrus gallop off through the house, heading toward the bathroom beneath the stairs. He felt a little glimmer of pride at Papyrus. He was always one to take charge, and do it with a smile. Again he had to brush aside the irritation that it was the human receiving all of his brother's attention. He was just being silly. Papyrus was kind to everyone. Maybe he was just being selfish.

Another part of him grumbled quietly as he meandered up the stairs to his bedroom, taking his time and listening to the sound of running water as he trudged like a man on death row. Didn't he have the right to be selfish now and then? After what he'd been through, shouldn't he be allowed to be selfish every once in a while? Sans glanced at Papyrus's open door with a frown. It was usually an unspoken rule in the house to keep the bedroom doors closed, but Sans was the only one that locked his.

 

Sans's skeletal brows furrowed as he tried to think of anything else. It wasn't necessarily something he had to rush for, but he tried not to let his mind wander regardless. He didn't bother turning on the light as he unlocked the door to his room and let the door swing open, glancing momentarily to the still whirling self sustained trash tornado in his corner. He kicked a couple of socks as he pushed past his almost entirely unused exercise machine. He found a pair of shorts that might fit them in one of his drawers, one of the few with a drawstring, and one of his old sleeveless shirts that was probably a bit too baggy for Frisk but at least it would fit better than any of Papyrus's clothes. There was an odd noise that almost reached him, a bit like choking or something similar, but it was gone the moment he tried to listen and shrugged it off.

 

Sans grinned to himself, flipping absentmindedly through different clothes that he thought were closest to the human's size. His lost moment came easily to mind, and though a very sharp point of him was still angry and hurt that Papyrus could never remember, it still made him smile a little wider to remember it. They really would look absolutely ridiculous in Papyrus's coat. Come to think of it, they'd probably look silly in Sans's clothes, too. He from then on made it a point to look for the goofiest, baggiest looking clothes that he could after that, debating heavily over a torn old black shirt with parts of the periodic table (DUH, the element of stupidity) or a simple plain white shirt with a picture of crossing bones on the back with the quote 'ask me about my boner'. Both were good, at least to him, but he couldn't for the life of him make up his mind and wound up juggling one in each hand for a good few minutes in what was probably one of the heaviest internal debates he'd had in a long while.

 

For god's sake Sans it's just a shirt just pick one. It's not rocket science.

Which he laughed a little at. Why was he having more trouble with a stupid shirt than he did astrophysics?

 

He shrugged eventually and tugged one of his old plain white shirts that he'd kept for when he swore he would work off the stomach and rolled it under his arms. Obviously, he'd have to get the kid clothes eventually. They couldn't just wear his stuff forever. He briefly wondered if it was narcissistic to think it would be supremely adorable to have them dressed in a little blue hoodie with his shorts hanging down to their ankles, kicking around and laughing in slippers just like his.

On further analysis of his train of thought, that seemed both narcissistic and kind of creepy. He shrugged again. Maybe it was narcissistic. He couldn't really be bothered to care that much about it one way or another, anyway. He just couldn't muster the energy to argue back with himself about what was and wasn't adorable.

 

He then promptly gave himself a little kick for losing an argument with himself, only serving to make him feel a bit stupid and more than a little unhinged.

 

Sans gave his room one last glance, tossing a mournful look at his mattress and wishing that he could just fall into it and actually rest for once. He sighed and forced a small habitual grin, shaking his head and pulling the door closed behind him with a little click. Things were going to be fine. He was going to do better. Things were different for once. Maybe that was a good thing.

Sans eyed Papyrus's closed bedroom door and blinked. He could have sworn that it was open a minute ago. He heard the soft noise echoing from somewhere in the house, but couldn't quite pinpoint it. However, he was certain that he heard it this time, and continued quietly down the stairs. The water had stopped running and Sans tilted his head around the doorway cautiously, uncertainty pulling at his gut. The little bathroom was still wet with steam from the hot water, the mirror to his side a little foggy. He glanced down and noted the clothes and water spots on the floor, frowning.

 

Finding no one, Sans flicked off the bathroom light and closed the door behind him with his free hand. The soft noise clinked again, and the uncomfortable feeling rose in Sans's stomach as he silently stalked toward the kitchen through the living room, uncertain.

“Papyrus?” Sans asked in concern, peeking into the kitchen.

 

The taller skeleton didn't even register his presence, let alone his shock. Papyrus simply kept chugging from the bottle of hard cider that Sans didn't even think he knew about, glass clinking quietly against his teeth. His whole body was just slumped, like it was trying to cave in on itself.

Paps?” Sans wheezed, dropping the clothes as fast as his jaw did. He could feel his eye sockets going hollow as he vainly, desperately tried to insist that this wasn't happening because it could not be happening.

Papyrus brought the now empty bottle (which was quite a feat, considering how much had been in it) down hard onto the table. When his face came back up Sans immediately recognized the drunken haze in his eye sockets, the lights in his eyes blurry and unfocused. His tear stained cheeks were flushed with a light orange, his expression was so haggard, but it was his eyes that were the worst. Just so drained, so hollow.

And so, so full of hurt.

 

Papyrus. His Papyrus, his little Papyrus. Papyrus, who he had held swaddled in cloth as a baby. Papyrus, who had held his hand and looked up at him with wonder and curiosity on their first outing to the capital. Papyrus, whom he had watched grow into an awkward teenager as he developed his flair for the dramatic, reenacting his favorite scenes from old fantasy books about princesses and gallant knights. Papyrus, who had grown into such an outgoing, loving, constant in his life, always ready to bounce back from anything that could possibly be thrown at him with unmatched zeal.

And for a brief moment, Sans wondered if it was possible for a monster to continue existing with a broken soul.

 

“... Pappy?” Sans's voice broke as he reached out a little out of instinct, hand trembling.

“Animal,” Papyrus murmured darkly, almost growling over and over again into his hands, unable to look his brother in the eyes. “Animal. Like... like an animal,” he breathed, his shoulders shaking silently.

“Pa-Papyrus?” Sans carefully drew the bottle away from him, hating the sound it made as the glass dragged across the table. “What... Hell's Bells, Paps, what happened?

“Like an animal,” he repeated to himself, dragging a hand down his horrified face, staring at something in the distance. “Brand-brandy, I don't... god. God help me Sans. Like... just, animals,” he shuddered, scraping his phalanges uselessly across the table. “They-they did – just, just why, Sans? Why?

“Paps,” Sans said lowly, trying to keep his voice from shaking, trying to keep the alarm out. “I need you to tell me. Right now. What happened?

“You can't look.”

 

Sans blinked at the pain in Papyrus's voice, the desperation.

“Don't,” Papyrus pleaded again, looking him almost in the eye sockets, his voice coming out raspy. “Sans. I n-need you to promise me you won't look at their back. Please. Y-you don't want to know. Please. P-please. I don't... know if I can protect you from t-this, Sans. Please.”

The anomaly.

The anomaly.

The goddamned anomaly.

 

It just couldn't manage to go twenty minutes without ruining someone's life.

Sans felt his fists clench tightly in his pockets, taking a deep breath. Now wasn't the time to lose his temper at it – them. At them. What he wanted to do most was to stay, to comfort his brother in his time of need. But then there remained... whatever had happened had affected Papyrus this badly was something that he immediately decided upon seeing regardless of whether or not Papyrus thought it was a good idea. It was high time that he address the issue. Then he felt the anger fade as he remembered what he had seen before, replaced by uncertainty and discomfort.

 

“... Paps,” Sans said softly, quietly, without taking his eyes off his brother as he knelt and reached for the clothes. “I'm... I'm gonna t-take these to the kid. Your room?”

Papyrus looked at him the way a soldier on the front line looked at a losing battle.

 

“I'll... I'll be right back,” he couldn't bring his voice above a whisper, but Papyrus heard him regardless. The taller skeleton looked across at him in hurt, in fear. In defeat. His head slowly dropped and he held his face in his gloved hands, shoulders silently shaking. He didn't speak, he barely breathed. It was one of the hardest, most harrowing things that Sans had ever had to witness.

Sans silently vowed to himself that Papyrus would never, ever again be forced to bear that pain.

Even if it killed him.

 

Sans carried himself up the stairs, determined. He rolled the clothes tightly under one arm as he went, eyes firmly on his feet as his stomach churned. He could do this. He needed to do this. He needed to find out exactly what his brother knew so that he could address the situation. Lack of facts weren't going to solve any problems.

He sighed again as he stood outside of Papyrus's bedroom door, closing his eyes for a moment to collect himself. He should have been more careful. More observant. They had both seen what the human's arm looked like. He should have expected this. He should have seen this coming and taken steps to prevent Papyrus from spiraling downward into despair like this. He should have done better.

The little thought running rampant through the back of his head was insistent upon making itself heard though.

 

Exactly how far back might another reset take them?

 

Sans sighed heavily, forcing the thought away. He really, really did not want to wind up killing the kid so that he could save Papyrus. Even if that wouldn't really be solving the problem. And Papyrus would hate him.

But Papyrus would never find out.

But he had to protect Papyrus.

But it would hurt them.

But it was for Papyrus.

 

Sans flung the bedroom door open before he could continue his train of thought. Frisk immediately scrabbled on Papyrus bed, hidden by nothing but a large fluffy bath towel. It was Papyrus's favorite red towel, and easily dwarfed Frisk. Their eyes widened upon seeing him, and they tried to hide inside the towel.

“I'm sorry!” Frisk blurted as he closed the door behind him. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry...!”

“Buddy...” Sans started as he pulled the clothes up beneath his arm for a better grip, approaching them slowly.

“I'm sorry I'm so sorry,” they clapped their hands over their ears, squeezing their eyes shut. “I'm sorry I didn't mean to make Papyrus sad I'm sorry please don't hit me!

 

Sans reeled back as if he had just been struck.

 

“Bud -” he spluttered. “Babybones,” he held a hand out to them, trying to still their shaking with a touch. “Christ on a bike, babybones – nobody is gonna hurt you. Okay?” Sans knelt a little to bring himself to eye level, even though they were still ducking their head away from him. They were twitching furiously, and he wasn't certain of what to do. He opted to gently lift their head with one finger, forcing them to look him in the eye sockets.

Their eyes were brown.

 

He let out an internal sigh of relief. He wasn't quite certain what it was about trying to look directly into those red eyes, but it made him uneasy in a way he couldn't quite put his finger on.

“... Nobody is gonna hurt you,” Sans ran a hand over their head softly, holding out the bundle of clothes for them. “You trust me, right?”

Frisk shifted uncomfortably, looking away before closing their eyes and slowly nodding.

“... Yeah.”

“Towel.”

“Huh?”

“Towel,” Sans nodded to them. Frisk instantly curled in on themselves, kicking a little away from him to scoot back up the bed, their eyes full of terror.

 

“Please please I'm sorry please not again-”

“Buddy, buddy,” Sans held a hand out to them, cringing. “Easy, bud. Easy. I just – goddammit, kiddo. Did-did Paps manage to bandage your back up any?”

Frisk hid inside the towel, pulling it as tightly around themselves as they could. They looked at him uneasily, uncertainly before slowly shaking their head.

“Yep, that's about what I thought,” Sans sighed through his teeth. “... Can I sit down?” he gestured to the bed. Frisk glanced at him with worry, shivering a little. When they didn't respond Sans sighed again and carefully sat down, leaving some distance between them.

 

“Look,” he said as calmly as he could, twisting the clothes in his hands as he stared at Papyrus's figurine collection. “I don't know exactly what Paps saw, but I promise, kiddo. I'm not gonna freak out. Okay? I'm not gonna be mad. I'm not. I just need to know what I'm dealing with here so we can get you fixed up. Okay?”

Frisk swallowed dryly, hands shaking. Their eyes were darting around nervously, despairingly finding no means of escape. They eventually fell still, their breathing labored as they turned away from him. He started awkwardly before they took a deep breath, bracing themselves and slowly, cautiously lowered the towel, revealing their back.

 

At some level, Sans quietly acknowledged that he was going to need more than a couple of bandages.

 

He wasn't prepared. He'd convinced himself that he was too numb to be bothered by anything anymore.

He was wrong.

 

Their body was a mass of scar tissue all around their tattoo. Cuts, as if little incisions had been made periodically up and down their back was bad enough, he could see the marks trailing down their thin hips. A couple of black and yellow bruises were aligned on their sides almost like hand prints. The small circular burns were placed haphazardly all over, as if done completely at random, but mostly along their shoulders. And then came the part he had been actively avoiding looking at. The 'tattoo'.

It most certainly was not a tattoo that they were marked with.

They had literally been branded between the shoulder blades, the mark dark red and ugly.

 

SLUT.

 

Sans felt something very, very dark gnawing in his stomach.

He slowly drew a hand over his face, letting out a shuddering, unstable breath. He wouldn't freak out. He'd promised. He wouldn't panic. Don't freak out. He needed to stay calm. Above all else he needed to remain calm. Papyrus would need him to.

They needed him to.

 

“... Sans?” Frisk asked quietly.

“Who did this?” Sans's voice cracked. “Who did this to you, babybones?”

Frisk didn't answer.

 

“It's okay,” Sans muttered more to himself than anything. “I'm not gonna freak out. Okay? I'm not gonna freak out. Oh god, oh god I am trying kiddo I swear to god I am I'm not gonna freak out I promise, I promised so you don't have to worry because of all of the things that I am going to do I am most certainly not going to freak out-”

“Sans.”

 

They were still turned away from him, their head tilted with their hair hanging over their eyes.

“... I'm sorry,” Frisk held their arms, shivering, still not looking at him. “I didn't... I don't like it when people see.”

“Does... does it hurt?” Sans asked quietly, trying to keep from shaking as well. Frisk didn't answer immediately, and he took their silence as an answer instead. “I... fuck, buddy. I don't know if we have bandages that can help this.”

“It's okay,” they rubbed their arms, staring down. “... I'm used to it.”

The dark feeling in his stomach roared viciously into his chest.

 

“You shouldn't have to be used to it,” he snapped, and Frisk flinched hard. “Shit, shit, I'm sorry kiddo – just, just, god... okay,” he ran a hand over his head nervously. “Okay. I'm, uh. I'm not as good at healing as Paps is, but it might help... I'm-I'm gonna try, okay? God. Don't be scared. Please, please babybones. Don't be scared. It's gonna be alright. I'm gonna try.” Sans reached out a trembling hand to their back, and they cringed at his touch. They were warm, and soft. Sans briefly ran his phalanges over their wounds, his soul crying out at the sight. This kid. The child who looked up to Papyrus like a hero. The kid who liked puzzles and pancakes and puns and popcorn. A child who was lost across time, and space, and wandering in constant terror, who had looked at him with mercy and a smile.

And someone had hurt them.

 

Sans fought very, very hard to keep the rage down, his mind feeling fuzzy and dark as he focused solely on summoning green healing magic. He wasn't proficient in it; half of Snowdin could easily perform green magic, but it simply wasn't Sans's forte. He'd picked up the bare minimum and practiced for countless hours after Papyrus's incident, insistent upon learning at least the basics. However, he found that he never could perform healing magic even a fraction as well as he could blue magic. It had always come so naturally to Papyrus. Sans flicked off the random thought. Now wasn't the time to be jealous of his brother's skills. Green magic required more than mental focus like blue magic did; it needed concentrated love to work. That was one of the many reasons why Sans hated using green magic so much; his thin trickle of magic only displayed how difficult it was to bring himself to even care about anything anymore.

But for Papyrus, he would do it.

Hell, he'd even do it for them.

 

He released a heavy breath, letting the magic swarm down his arms and into the palms of his hands, luminescent green flickering dancing through his phalanges. He poured as much focused care as he could into his hands, desperately hoping to relieve their pain as well as he could. He thought of Papyrus coughing in the dirt with a broken sternum, his pain, his fear and his overwhelming urge to for once help, to heal.

Frisk promptly moaned deeply, arching their back sharply into his touch before clasping their hand over their mouth, freezing.

 

Sans withdrew as if jolted by an electric shock.

“Kiddo, what-

“I'm sorry,” Frisk flushed deeply, hiding their face in their hands. “I'm sorry, I d-didn't mean to make noise I promise-”

“No, no, buddy,” Sans shakily stood, running a hand wildly over the top of his head, flabbergasted. “What was that? I mean, just, what? No, just... what? Why the fuck did you do that?”

“What?” Frisk shifted uncertainly, thankfully pulling the towel around them once again as they turned to face him. “W-what do you mean?”

That!” Sans threw out his free hand wildly at them, struggling vainly to keep the panic out of his voice. “What do you mean, 'what do you mean'? I mean, just... no!

“I'm sorry,” they withdrew into themselves, hiding inside the towel, their voice muffled. “I-it just, um... it... it made me feel... good. Really, really good. Like the exie tasty.”

 

Sans drew a blank.

“I... I have no idea what you're talking about,” he blinked.

“Exie tasty,” Frisk said again as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “The stuff that makes bad things feel good.”

“Not ringin' any bells...” Sans said after a moment, running a bony hand down his face. His head felt heavy and he had a migraine from trying to use green magic, and wracking his brain trying to decipher exactly what an 'exie tasty' might be wasn't helping.

“I got it if I was good,” they explained quietly, looking away. “I didn't want it when they gave it to me. But... but I did. But I didn't. I didn't, but-but, it-it just felt so... good. I didn't mean to make noise. I'm sorry.”

 

“Babybones.”

Sans reached out with trembling hands, placing them on their shoulders and looking them in the eyes before slowly, gradually pulling them into a light hug.

 

“You don't have anything to be sorry for,” he said quietly. “Okay? No matter what anyone said, whatever happened wasn't your fault. You don't have to be sorry. It's okay, babybones.”

Frisk looked up at him in shock. Their eyes began to water and Sans fought back the urge to cry as they hugged him. He needed to stay calm. Papyrus would need him to stay calm. They needed him to stay calm.

Frisk.

Not just them. Not the anomaly.

Frisk.

 

He swore silently to himself as he held the silently sobbing child, running his hand in slow, circular motions over their back like he used to do for Papyrus when he had a nightmare. He was going to make things better. He was going to fix this. He was determined.

This time, things were going to be different.

 

Even if it killed him.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Snowflakes fell gently through Snowdin, casting long shadows over the buildings. Their proximity to Waterfall tended to bring in the occasional fog, drifting by the house drearily. Sans felt like a phantom, holding the other skeleton firmly as they knelt.

 

“Thanks for holding my hair back Sans,” Papyrus muttered into the toilet.

“Bro, did-did you just make a joke?”

Papyrus responded by vomiting miserably into the porcelain throne once again.

 

“Keep prayin' at the white altar, buddy,” Sans rubbed his back emphatically with one hand, his other in his jacket pocket. Papyrus looked about as spent as Sans felt. “See. This is why you don't sneak into the liquor cabinet.”

“Never again, Sans. This is literally the worst.”

“Is Papyrus okay?” Frisk poked their head around the corner again worriedly, practically prancing from foot to foot. They wore Sans's shirt and shorts, and although it hung off of them a little strangely it fit well enough. The upstairs washer ran noisily enough to fill the house, though not quite loudly enough to cover up the sounds of a miserable skeleton.

“Oh, Papyrus is just peachy,” Papyrus shakily gave them a weak thumbs up.

“Wow, Paps, you are salty when you drink.”

“Okay...” Papyrus said a couple of times into the toilet, not even bothering looking up as he flushed. “Okay. So. So. There are, um. Some things that I think that we need to, uh. Discuss.

“Hopefully not in the bathroom,” Sans frowned a little.

“Sans.”

“Yeah, Paps.”

“Painkillers and a glass of water, if you would please.”

 

Sans blinked and obliged immediately, withdrawing to the kitchen. He quickly gathered the bottle of dwindling pain pills, dry swallowing a couple before dropping the last few into his hand and returning with the glass of water. Papyrus had already situated himself on the couch with Frisk drawn up on their knees beside him. He handed them both to his brother wordlessly, watching as Papyrus downed the pills and the entire glass of water in one go.

“... Another, please.”

Sans wound up bringing another three glasses of water to Papyrus with the same response with every occurrence, watching as the skeleton downed each and every one, staring blankly ahead the entire time. Each time Sans returned with a glass of water he was slightly more unsettled, his mind feeling numb.

 

Sans eventually hopped onto the opposite end of the couch, hands folded in his lap as he waited. He almost hoped that nobody would break the silence, that he could just close his eyes for a moment and let the pain ease off. There was just too much in his mind, too much to deal with right now.

“Okay,” Papyrus leaned forward a little, running a hand down his face. He looked mournfully at Frisk for a moment before forcing a small smile, petting them gently on the head. “Okay. So. Human. I... would like to apologize for my behavior.”

“Papyrus-” Frisk started uncomfortably, but was silenced when he held up a single gloved finger.

“I am sincere in this,” Papyrus insisted. “I most certainly could have handled the situation with a little more tact, and for that, I am sorry.”

“I-it's okay, Papyrus. I didn't mean to make you sad.”

Papyrus shushed them softly before leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped in between his legs as he stared forward into nothing.

 

“I'm... not certain how this happened to you, little friend,” Papyrus said quietly, interlocking his fingers together. “I'm not sure how. I don't know why. I don't even entirely understand why you do not wish to speak about it, but I assure you that when you are ready, I... will be here, for you. Alright?” he tilted his head at Frisk, looking worn out, tired, a bit hungover, but determined. Frisk smiled silently back and took his hand in their own, leaning against him.

“... How did you get to be so cool, Papyrus?” Frisk murmured.

“Years and years of practice,” Papyrus responded, albeit a little dryly.

 

Sans mulled over a great many things as they spoke beside him, tuning them out in favor of drifting through his thoughts.

He understood more than he did before. And yet, there was a part of him that wished he didn't. It would have made things simpler, at least. Sans withheld a groan, rubbing the sides of his head wearily. So he had a drug addled child on his hands with an apparent 'liking' to green magic. He firmly and intently reminded himself to never, ever let Papyrus use healing magic on them. Besides, there was only so much that his magic could do in a short span of time. Some of the wounds would easily heal with a few days worth of good monster food and some rest. Others, however...

Sans didn't want to find himself thinking of it, but it was now one of the images burned into his memory from then until the end of time. Seeing that mark, that burn, that branding had filled him with such a roiling, vicious, intent hate that it scared him, and he wasn't certain exactly what was causing the sick feeling in his stomach but he didn't like it. He bitterly hoped that he never encountered the person (Frisk had said them, it might have even been more than one) that had done that to them.

Because if they ever met, they were going to have one hell of a bad day.

 

Sans didn't notice when the blanket was drawn over Frisk. Still staring blankly ahead, he hardly turned at all when Papyrus made a motion to him. He blinked and drew himself from his reverie, stretching. He had almost made it to the point where he could fall asleep, but it appeared that the kid had beaten him to the punch. They were leaned against Papyrus with their eyes closed, breathing heavily through their nose, their little chest falling and rising slowly beneath the blanket.

“Man this kid loves naps,” Sans murmured just loudly enough for Papyrus to hear.

“Sans.”

 

He blinked and glanced up at his brother, who carefully stood so as not to wake Frisk.

“Do you think that you can watch them for a bit?” Papyrus asked quietly, tapping his fingertips together. “I need to attend to some things, but they need to stay and rest. Can you make sure they get a proper nap while I'm out?”

“Yeah, of course Paps,” Sans blinked again, whispering so as not to wake them. “What's up? Are you sure you're alright? Where are you goin'?”

“Well, there's no time to rest, and besides, we're going to need some tools to fix the door,” he listed off on his fingers. “I'm also going to need to pick up groceries. Maybe I could find some clothes that might actually fit the human at the shop, but I kind of doubt it; at the very least I could pick up some more supplies and break out the sewing machine-”

“Okay, okay Paps,” Sans reassured him with a small laugh. “I get it. I'll watch 'em until you get back. No worries, bro.”

“You'll keep an eye socket on them?” Papyrus's eyes flickered nervously between them.

“Two, if I can manage it,” he gave a little grin.

“Thank you,” Papyrus said a little too loudly, causing Frisk to stir momentarily, whining in their sleep before falling back into slumber. He gently placed a hand on their head as a sadness crossed his face. “I'll be back soon,” he said a little more quietly, slipping out the front door and struggling to close it a few times.

 

Sans was left alone in the quiet house, now completely and utterly unable to fall asleep.

Dammit.

 

Sans quietly folded his hands in his lap, letting out a practiced sigh through his teeth as he stared through the dark. To declare that his day had been hectic would be an understatement. Between dealing with Undyne, the incident with Doggo (who he was going to have to provide a month's worth of dog treats for now) and attempting to heal Frisk, he felt as if he hadn't slept in years. There was simply too much to handle right now, he could feel his body finally, finally shutting down, catching up with his worn out mind. The darkness thankfully swallowed him eventually, letting him drift in bliss for a while.

 

When he awoke, Frisk had shifted in their sleep. They were using his stomach as a makeshift pillow, curled up beneath the blanket for warmth and breathing softly. Sans felt a small smile slowly creep onto his face, and he let out a single chuckle as he gently patted them on the head. They were such a small thing. Constantly watchful, constantly fearful, constantly terrified of him. And yet, they were apparently comfortable enough around him to fall asleep on him.

Frisk was definitely a weird kid.

 

He sat there for a while, keeping his breathing slow and steady so as not to disturb them, his mind wandering. There was an odd spark in his chest that he couldn't quite identify. He mulled it over as he ran a hand over their head, skeletal brows furrowed. They just seemed so small, so tiny. Hadn't this been the creature to wreak havoc all across the Underground and use time like their personal toy?

Then the other thought crossed his mind. Maybe they really were telling the truth. It seemed unlikely at best, but...

There was always the matter of that damned weed.

 

Sans was sick, so, so sick of pretending that he had no idea what was going on just to keep the flower on it's metaphorical toes. He couldn't remember all of the resets; that would have undoubtedly driven him completely insane. Had the kid simply taken control of the timeline away from it? How was that even possible? No, he was glad he didn't remember everything. He could, however, remember quite a few of the resets, and they had almost always been undoubtedly due to the flower. Then the kid came, and everything had started changing again. Those had been bad enough.

He shook his head gently, closing his eyes. He didn't need to go struggling to remember some of the more horrendous resets. The only way to really get through was to try to forget. Which was, ironically, the last thing that he wanted to do.

 

Frisk sighed in their sleep, and Sans resumed stroking their head with soft, gentle motions, phalanges a little tangled in their hair. There were so many puzzle pieces just begging to be put together. He would put it together eventually. It was then that he realized what the feeling in his chest was.

Affection.

 

He recoiled inwardly and froze, fighting the steadily growing horror.

He'd gotten too attached.

He was compromising everything.

 

He stared down at the child in his lap, contemplating deeply. He could find a way to put an end to the resets. He had to find a way to put an end to the resets.

Didn't he?

 

So many timelines, jumping left and right, stopping and starting. Until eventually, everything just... ends.

 

Sans sighed quietly through his teeth, trying to close his eye sockets. Maybe it really all was just pointless.

But there was that little burn, that little spark in his chest that refused to die out. He would keep going. He would go through the motions, play the part he was required to, again and again. Not for him.

For Papyrus.

He gradually spared a glance downward with one cracked eye.

… Maybe even for them.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“You sure you got this, bro?”

“I've always got everything, brother.”

“Positive? I don't think you can manage it without waking them up.”

“Nonsense,” Papyrus scoffed. “Just look at them, they're sleeping like a log.”

 

Papyrus winked to him conspiratorially.

The painfully loud screech of the power drill on the door almost drowned out Frisk's terrified shriek as they jolted awake, tumbling to the floor.

“... Ah,” Papyrus cringed and rubbed the side of his head, looking at the stunned child apologetically. “Sorry about disturbing your nap, human Frisk! I was just putting the finishing touches on the door,” he pointed to the now repaired (slightly patchy looking) door.

“How-how long...?” Frisk's head whipped around wildly, looking between the kneeling Papyrus and Sans, who was reclined on the couch lazily with his arms behind his head.

“Not long,” Sans shrugged halfheartedly as Papyrus began to collect his tools, testing out the new door knob a couple of times with a proud smile. “Thanks for droolin' all over my shirt, by the way.”

 

Frisk flushed awkwardly and rubbed their arms, standing and looking away.

“I'm sorry,” Frisk mumbled, tucking their hands into their sleeves and looking at their feet.

“What are you aplogizin' for?” Sans shrugged again with a grin. “Naps are the best. That's why I have them as often as possible. Heck, I'm having one right now.”

“No you're not,” Papyrus pointed out.

Sans responded by dropping his head and snoring loudly.

 

Papyrus grunted in disgust and threw up his hands, earning a chuckle from his brother.

“I'll have some nice hot spaghetti ready in a few minutes,” Papyrus dusted his gloved hands, standing up straight before clicking his fingers. “Oh! Stay right there, human Frisk! Stay right there, I'll be right back! Nyeh heh heh!”

And with that he literally bounded right over them, bolting up the stairs three at a time, yammering to himself the entire time.

Frisk looked at him questioningly, but Sans only shrugged again.

“No idea,” he winked. “I'm asleep.”

 

Papyrus was back within moments, almost tripping over himself in his excitement as he held something behind his back in one hand. He skidded to a halt a half step in front of Frisk, who only looked up at him uncertainly.

“So,” Papyrus used his free hand to adjust his scarf, smiling down at Frisk and kneeling before them. “After my, er, chat with Doggo I realized that some monsters might not be necessarily, eh... thrilled to discover a human in the Underground,” he continued, playing with his scarf absentmindedly. “So, I mean, I set to work rectifying the issue as rapidly as possible. Obviously it's no substitute for just being a real monster, but I hope you like it, little one.”

 

He ever so slowly withdrew his hand from behind his back, letting the object fall loose in his hands as he held it out to Frisk. Their eyes widened and their mouth dropped a little, staring in disbelief up at him. It was a small deep blue jacket a couple sizes too large, several shades lighter than their jumper with a red stripe across the front identically colored to Papyrus's scarf. The hood had a couple of smooth, velvety floppy little horns sewed neatly to the top, and bounced a bit in Frisk's fingers.

“I know it isn't exactly my best work,” Papyrus tapped his fingers together awkwardly. “I hope it isn't too bad-”

“It's wonderful, Papyrus,” Frisk half choked, hugging him tightly around the neck, beaming tearily up at him.

“I'm glad you like it!” He squeezed them back before standing with a smile. “Try not to fall asleep again though, I'll have dinner ready shortly, okay?”

Frisk nodded happily at him, watching him go before holding the jacket tight, pressing their face into it and swinging it a little back and forth.

 

“Paps is pretty cool, huh,” Sans cracked an eye open to watch them as they clambered up onto the couch beside him, bearing what was possibly the biggest, dopiest looking smile he had ever seen on them.

“I know,” Frisk tugged on the jacket with a chirrup, face a little flushed as they inspected themselves. “He's the best.

 

It was silent for a while longer, and Sans relaxed with his eyes closed as he listened to the sound of Papyrus bustling about the kitchen. He desperately wished that the moment would last just a bit longer, letting him drift in between consciousness and sleep. However, things were never that simple. Papyrus alerted them a short while later and Sans shrugged off the last remnants of sleep, pulling his hands out of his pockets and standing.

“You just gonna sit around kiddo?” Sans asked Frisk, who was curled up with their face against their knees. “... Buddy?”

Frisk looked up eventually, but not at him. Their eyes were a little unfocused and their face was a very light shade of pink. They looked to be sweating a little and mumbled something to themselves.

“Y'alright there, kid?” Sans asked uneasily. Frisk shifted and looked at him almost as if they were looking through him before slowly, slowly nodding and pulling themselves from the couch to stumble into the kitchen. He didn't like that he couldn't quite shake the uncomfortable feeling, but eventually began to shrug it off as Papyrus noisily set plates for everyone, rambling about the plans for the next day. Sans sipped silently at a bottle of ketchup, letting his mind wander while Papyrus talked. The spaghetti really wasn't all that bad. Maybe it was because it was only partially burned this time.

 

“-And I was thinking about showing you around Snowdin tomorrow as well; just because this place is a bit cramped doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to explore! I'm sure we'll have plenty of fun with-with, er... Frisk? Are... you alright?”

Sans blinked and glanced up at the human across from him. Frisk had hardly touched anything on their plate, and while their brow and neck seemed paler than usual their cheeks had grown a bright cherry red, and they swayed gently back and forth on their chair. Their hands were clenching and unclenching on the table, grasping at nothing, and they had that same 'not there' look in their eyes again.

“... Buddy?” Sans asked after an extremely awkward moment of silence.

“I... I don't feel... so good...” Frisk breathed weakly.

“Don't look so good, either,” Sans frowned, reaching out for them a little. “You gonna-”

“B'th'room,” Frisk spluttered quickly, almost falling out of their chair in their haste. They scrambled out of the room, nearly tripping over themselves multiple times before he heard the bathroom door click shut.

 

Sans looked in discomfort to his brother, who had a hurt expression on his face.

“... The spaghetti wasn't that bad, right...?”

“It tastes great Paps,” Sans said automatically. “Kid's just had kind of a rough day is all. They'll be fine.”

He tried to say it with as much conviction as he could, but it wasn't much. They ate the rest of their dinner in relative silence, each of them stealing glances every few minutes for what felt like forever in Frisk's direction. Sans started to clear and collect the dishes before Papyrus shook his head, silently gesturing for him to check on Frisk. Sans nodded once in understanding, sticking his hands in his pockets and shuffling through the living room. He came to a stop before the bathroom door, pulling out his fist and rapping his knuckles a couple of times against the wood.

 

“... Knock knock,” he said for emphasis.

He was greeted by the sound of pained vomiting.

 

“Yeesh,” he cringed. “Is everybody barf-y today or something? Heck, maybe there really is something going around.”

He was met by silence.

“Kinda hoping it wasn't Papyrus's spaghetti...” Sans chuckled more to himself than anything. “Don't tell him I said it, but it kinda isn't exactly the best sometimes. He's getting way better though ever since he started cooking lessons with Undyne. He still refuses to ever let me cook though. But, hey, at least I don't usually set the kitchen on fire,” he said jokingly. “At least, mostly not on purpose.”

Silence.

 

“... Kiddo?” Sans asked quietly, shifting from foot to foot, the uneasiness clawing at his stomach. “You, uh. Doin' alright in there?”

Still no answer.

Sans let out a quiet sigh through his teeth.

“Look, buddy,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “Hate t'admit it, but, uh, the silent treatment is kinda puttin' me on edge here. If you don't answer, I'm gonna open the door. Alright?”

Nothing.

“... Kid?”

 

Sans pushed the bathroom door open, and had to fight to keep from shouting in alarm.

Frisk was lying on the bathroom floor facedown, unmoving. Sans felt his marrow freeze, and he carefully closed the bathroom door behind him. They were fine. They had to be fine. Eventually he was going to make it a single day without something going wrong. The last thing he needed to do was freak out Papyrus, his brother had enough on his plate as it was. Don't panic. Don't worry Papyrus. They were fine they were fine please god let them be okay!

 

Frisk?!” Sans choked and dropped to his knees beside them, carefully turning them over. They were sweating and their hair was matted to their forehead, and their eyes were unfocused. They were pallid and trembling furiously, their cheeks were a fiery red and their forehead was hot to the touch. “Shit, shit, shit,” he hissed under his breath. They'd already used the last of the painkillers, if they'd have even done any good. Was there any kind of fever reducer in the house? Sans found himself wildly rifling through the cabinets, looking for something, anything that would help. Frisk moaned pitifully from the floor, clawing at the tile beneath them. He could feel another headache forming, pounding heavily behind his eyes from stress.

 

“S-Saa-aans...”

“I know, I know,” he murmured quietly, sympathetically. “H-hang on, buddy...!”

Desperate, he grabbed a cloth from the cabinet and began soaking it in water under the sink, dropping to his knees again and carefully helping Frisk to sit against the tub. They struggled weakly at first, prompting him to gently but firmly force them to sit.

 

“Need you to tell me what you're feelin' here buddy,” Sans held the cold wet cloth against their forehead, slightly covering their eyes, and they shivered. He tried to place their hand against the cloth to get them to hold it, but their arm simply fell limply back to their side. Their breathing hitched and their shoulders shook, their head lolling a little from side to side. “Come on...! What's wrong, Frisk? Are you sick? Is it – is it a cold or something, god I hope it's a cold you're not sneezing or anything but that isn't necessarily indicative of a cold just that you need to sneeze I don't even – hang on, babybones,” he tried to keep his hand from shaking as he held the cool cloth to their head. Was there something that had sparked this? How was he supposed to fix it? What was he supposed to do when they looked like death warmed over?

The horrible thought occurred to him that, just maybe, they were close to death.

 

And if they died, they would be forced to repeat everything all over again, inevitably dying from an illness that he was completely powerless to stop, over, and over, and over, and every time he would be forced to watch.

The despair pushed at the inside of his eyes and he fought to keep control, to keep calm. He needed to stay calm, if he snapped then everything would go straight to hell. He had to stay focused.

Stay calm.

 

“Talk to me, babybones,” he said softly, running his hand worriedly over their head, eliciting no response. “Please. Please, god, just... say something. Anything. Please. Please, babybones. Talk to me.”

H-huuuurts...”

“Frisk,” Sans breathed, pulling the cloth from their forehead to wipe their face. They were silently crying, eyes rolling wildly in their sockets as if searching for something that wasn't there. Again the thought crossed his mind that the lights were on, but nobody was home. “Come on,” he held up a couple of phalanges in front of them. “How many fingers am I holding up? Come on. Come on, please buddy, don't go anywhere. Stay here with me. Please. H-how many fingers, babybones?”

Frisk responded by moaning weakly, holding their stomach.

“... Sans?” they breathed eventually.

“Right here,” He said quickly, gripping their hand in his. “Right here, buddy.”

“N-n-need... it...”

“Come on, kiddo,” he wiped the sweat beading from their forehead with the cloth again.

“Please,” Frisk hiccuped miserably, sounding as if their tongue was too heavy. “Please, I-I w-was good...”

“Yeah,” he muttered, washing the cloth and bringing it back to wash their forehead again. “Yeah. You're a good kid, Frisk. You're a good kid.”

“Sans?” Frisk's breathing fell unevenly, and their shoulders twitched as one of their legs kicked at nothing.

“Right here, buddy. You're here with me too, right?”

“We – I'm here,” Frisk slurred. “Sans – Sans, please, please it hurts...

“What does, babybones?” he ran a shaky hand over their head, pulling a little at their matted hair. “Tell me what's wrong. I c-can't... I can't... what is it, Frisk?”

“Feel funny...” Frisk muttered breathily, head drooping a little to the side again, and Sans gently propped them up. “Insides... Belly. Belly hurts. Please, Sans... it hurts, it hurts...!”

 

“Okay,” Sans ran a hand over his head, wiping away sweat that he wasn't sure who it belonged to. “Okay. Okay, stomach ache. I can handle this.”

Please,” Frisk sobbed dryly, clutching their stomach with one hand and scrabbling at the floor with the other. “P-please, S-Sans, it-it hurts, just make it stop...!”

“Alright, alright,” Sans said over their wheezing. “Okay. Just hang in there, kiddo, please, just please be okay, I'm-I'm gonna take care of everything. I promised I'd take care of you, right? Right,” he ran a hand down his face, steeling himself mentally. “Right. Right, okay. Okay. You're gonna be okay, babybones; hold still for me, o-okay?”

 

They were making him do this. This wasn't quite right, this wasn't okay by any means, but he couldn't risk worrying Papyrus. He fumbled to roll up the cloth and presented it to Frisk, pressing it against their thin lips.

“Bite this for me,” he commanded, and they did so. Sans was already drained, he felt so spent, but they needed him. They were hurt, they were in pain, and they needed him. Sans took in a shaky breath, placing a trembling hand beneath their shirt on their stomach. He was awful, he hated himself so much but they were hurting, they needed him. It was difficult, painful to drag up the last dregs of magic that he could, focusing intently as he could on feelings of warmth, of comfort and home, of healing and hope. At first, nothing happened.

Please. Please, just let them be okay. Don't die. Please, please, please babybones.

 

Eventually, finally, a thin, faint trickle of green light began emanating from his palm. Sans felt the drain almost immediately, his bones feeling thicker and heavier with every passing moment. He forced himself to continue, squeezing every last drop of healing magic that he could to reverberate into his hand. Frisk hitched and shuddered, gasping sharply and arching their back before falling still.

As soon as it was over Sans had to fight to keep his eye sockets open, his head drooping and shoulders slumped from the effort. He just felt so tired. So empty. His head felt as if it were filled with water. He gave and gave until he simply had no more to give.

 

“... You okay now, buddy?” Sans's voice was strained as he slowly ran a hand over their quivering head. Frisk didn't speak, but spluttered and spat out the cloth, breathing irregular and shaky. They eventually nodded a couple of times, eyes half lidded. Sans tried to help them stand but they only draped their arms over his shoulders, groaning lightly with their face buried in his chest.

Sans nearly fell to the floor as he fought to stand with Frisk in his arms, his legs feeling like lead. He forced one foot to the floor at a time, focusing intently and feeling as if he might drop at a moment's notice. He just had to keep going. Don't give in. Stay calm. Keep going.

Do it for Frisk.

 

“So I was thinking that we could watch that new Mettaton movie tonight,” Papyrus chatted amicably as he returned from the kitchen, tugging his gloves onto his hands. “I know we're kind of out of popcorn but considering the mess from last t- Sans?

“Kiddo's not feelin' s'good,” Sans was barely heard as he carefully, slowly lay the sleeping Frisk onto the sofa. “Come t'think of it, I'm... I'm not feelin' t'good either.”

“Sans?!”

“That's m'name. See ya when I get back from Hell, Paps.”

 

He was out before he hit the floor.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans was falling.

 

He felt the blur of the black void around him, crushing the life out of him as he failed to escape. He screamed and screamed as he plummeted, suffocating and making no noise and falling forever, crashing through space, through time, through memory-

 

- Of twisting tiled corridors that smelled of disinfectant. Forced to carry himself a step at a time behind the taller skeleton, lab coat swishing a little behind him. He hated him for this. He hated him so goddamn much. But what else was there to do? It was for the benefit of science. It was for the benefit of all monsterkind. There was no one else that could take his place. Yet. And besides.

Where would he even go? No, he had to wait. Had to bide his time. At least until the new experiment could walk upright like a proper skeleton, then maybe, just maybe-

 

- The sound of Papyrus's feeble cries for mercy as the other children hit him, beat him with sticks and rocks, laughing at his pain as his sternum cracked. Sans's scream of rage as he barreled down on them, the shock and fear in their eyes as they met his, flaring blue and promising of brimstone and suffering and agony. The little skeleton cradled in his arms, unable to hear his sobs through his own. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair, no one should be so helpless. Not him, definitely not Papyrus. His brother was so good, he didn't deserve this. Why would they do this to him? Why would anyone do this? Why-

 

- Didn't the damned kid just give up already? Why were they doing this to him? Why would anyone do this? He guessed it didn't really matter as he stared down at the broken human on the floor, flooded with horrible familiarity as they coughed up a few specks of blood, one hand clenched weakly to their broken sternum.

 

S-sorry,” the human wept. “Please – please, understand Sans. Please. I'm so sorry.”

Sure,” he shrugged nonchalantly, pretending that he was entirely unfazed by this point. God, if only that were the case. Tears streamed down their face. They usually did. It was almost funny, he could have sworn that their eyes were red before. Or were they always brown? Maybe he really was going insane from the resets. He wouldn't doubt it. “I'll bet you were real sorry when you butchered Papyrus, too. You dirty brother killer.”

 

He didn't bother listening to their pleas for mercy rising in pitch, their protests, the soft, broken sobbing. He only did his job.

Bones shattered the earth beneath them, piercing the wretched anomaly in a dozen different places, all erupting in different directions. Obviously just killing them wasn't getting the message across. How many more times were they going to make him do this? Did they actually enjoy this? Is that why they wouldn't stop coming back? He didn't even blink this time when the blood splattered across his face. He simply stood there, watching until their tiny body finally stopped twitching. Every death, every reset, he grew more desperate to just make it stop, to make it end. Evidently, he was going to have to be a little more... blunt.

His eternal grin finally began to falter as he stared down at them for what felt like hours. Once again, he was alone. Even if they didn't reset this time, which they would, of course they would, they always did; he had nothing to go back to. There was simply no one left. There was no point. Everything was just so goddamn pointless.

He bit back a futile sob as the universe began to unravel around him once again-

 

And he didn't fall.

 

Sans felt weightless, motionless. The darkness swarmed him, swallowed him. Utterly, mercilessly black.

And yet, he could see the bones in his hand as he waved it in front of his face, feel the texture of his ulna as he gave it a little pinch just to be sure. Even so, it all felt so foggy, so distant. Like he was watching it happen to someone else. He could feel his own body, but it was like it wasn't really there at all. The sinking feeling he got that if he stayed here for long could have dire consequences grew. Time was utterly irrelevant, and that alone scared him. There was that familiar little spark in his chest that rang out at nothing, and Sans found himself wandering through the dark. Was it a dream? If so, it was unlike any dream he'd ever had before. It felt too real, too lucid. Searching desperately for something, for someone, even if he didn't know what. He could hear something, he could feel something, but no matter how far he went it was never any closer. He was so tired. So exhausted. All he wanted to do was lie down and let the encroaching dark overcome him, let him rest, but he pressed on, forced to continue by something that he didn't quite understand.

 

What – did – I – tell – you?

 

The voice he heard was cold, clipped, angry. He pushed toward it immediately, physically, mentally, his curiosity outgrowing his desperation. He could see a couple of figures hunched in the dark, one leaning over the other and shaking the one on the bottom by the shoulders. Both wore differently colored striped shirts, one in green and one in blue, almost like-

No, that was ridiculous. He refused to acknowledge it until he'd gotten a better look. At least until he heard the all too familiar begging, and his marrow ran cold.

They were hurting them.

They were hurting Frisk.

They were hurting his kid.

“Please, p-please, I'm sorry! It won't happen again!”

“You're goddamned right it won't happen again!” the figure atop Frisk shouted. “I told you, I warned you to run when we had the chance, and you never, ever – fucking – listen to me!” they screamed, shaking them with every punctuation. “And now because of you, the things he's going to do to us-!”

Buddy.

 

The figure atop Frisk froze suddenly, head whipping toward him with anger in their bright red eyes. Only for a moment. The anger swiftly drained to that of pure, unadulterated horror.

You!? You shouldn't be here!” the child that looked like Frisk's voice cracked, putting themselves between him and the human on the ground. Granted, they looked a lot like Frisk, but he could spot several little differences almost immediately. Their eyes were wider. Cherry red. Their lips were peeled back in a horrible snarl as they tried to cover the child on the ground. As if they were the ones protecting Frisk from him. Funny. “How – this is wrong! This is all wrong, leave us alone! Get out!”

“Can't help but notice you're bullyin' my friend,” Sans's voice came out whispery, as if it wasn't really him saying it. He could feel his hands clenching in his jacket pocket in preparation. “You... must really be lookin' for a bad time.”

GET – OUT!

 

Sans felt himself thrown backwards by an unseen force, everything in his sight twisting, whipping and warping into everything and nothing, kaleidoscoping into hateful swirls of color and light and noise and pain...

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans jolted in the dark, gasping breathily and clutching his aching chest. He was fine. Everything was fine. He felt hot, far, far too hot, and limp, but it was fine.

Except that it wasn't, because he was right back in bed, as if nothing had ever happened because of course nothing had happened yet it was going to happen all over again and again until the end of time and there was nothing he could do but watch as everyone he loved died and it was so goddamn unfair!

 

His screams echoed and bounced off the walls as he thrashed madly, profanity hatefully falling from his him as easily as the tears did, sobs wracking his chest. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair, he didn't want to watch them die over and over again it wasn't right they were just a kid why didn't the universe just side with him for once? Sans kicked and thrashed and sobbed, punching futilely at the wall until the pain drew him back, and even then it wasn't enough because he just felt so weak, because of course he was weak that's all he ever was he was too weak to protect anyone, too weak to even take care of himself and even his screams felt weak and it was all going to happen over and over and over and-

 

Sans wasn't certain when he snapped out of it.

 

He still felt nauseous, and sick, and horribly hungry and feeble, but not quite so uncomfortably hot. Unthinkingly he felt his forehead with the back of his hand to check the fever. Instead, he found a cool, damp cloth. Sans blinked, taking a few deep, steady breaths. Okay.

Okay.

So, this was new.

 

Sans took a few more deep breaths, his mind feeling fuzzy. He forced himself to sit, swinging his legs over the edge of his bed and stumbling the first few steps to the door, but he would make it. He had to make it. Papyrus would wake him soon. Everything was starting over again. He barely made the effort to scrape his feet into his slippers. He had to hurry. Frisk needed him.

He only made it a couple of slow shuffling steps out of his bedroom door before he was halted in place by a pair of strong skeletal arms, literally forcing him still.

 

“Paps,” his voice came out dry and raspy, the desperation clear in his tone. “Frisk! Frisk is hurt-!”

“Brother, brother,” Papyrus knelt a little before him, speaking softly as one might a frightened animal. Sans glanced up at him, and though he still felt a bit hazy, recognized just how utterly haggard Papyrus looked. There were deep lines under his eye sockets and his shoulders were stooped, but the growing smile on his face was genuine.

 

“Thank goodness,” Papyrus felt Sans's forehead with the back of his hand. Which seemed ridiculous to Sans, considering his brother wore gloves constantly, how could he even feel anything through them? “It's about time.”

Papyrus!” Sans insisted, unable to squirm from his brother's grasp. “You don't understand, it's Frisk...!”

“Everything is okay,” he said quietly, but firmly, coercing him into staying still. “You don't have to worry, brother. I've taken care of everything.”

“Where are they?” Sans all but shouted, unable to tear himself from his brother's grasp. “They're hurt! Paps, they're hurt, they need help!”

Sans!

 

Sans flinched instantly at the sound of his brother's loud tone.

“Look at me.”

Sans glanced up again uneasily, his soul pounding in his chest.

 

“I have taken care of everything,” Papyrus repeated like a mantra. “You don't have to worry. Okay? Just stay calm. It's going to be alright, brother. Just take it easy. You know what happens when you panic. Take a deep, long breath. Okay? Good. That's very good. Just one thing at a time. Breathe.

Sans took a few more shuddering breaths, closing his eyes and letting a sigh out through his teeth.

 

“... Happy?” Sans asked a little snappishly, cracking open his eyes.

“No not really,” Papyrus frowned, and Sans cringed instantly. “I feel pretty terrible actually.”

“Sorry,” Sans rubbed the back of his neck, ashamed. “Didn't-didn't mean it to come out that way.”

“I already forgive you, brother...” he gently placed his hand on his shoulders with a sad little smile. “I'm just glad to see you well again.”

Sans sighed and hugged his brother, wrapping his arms around his waist and feeling Papyrus's grip on his shoulders tightening a little.

“What... happened last night, Paps?” Sans asked eventually, pulling away and looking up at him, searching his face.

“Nothing,” he replied instantly.

“Nothing my ass,” Sans scowled, and Papyrus harrumphed at the swear, but he paid it no mind.

“You've been a little... out of it,” Papyrus shifted from foot to foot, suddenly looking extremely uncomfortable. “You, erm. Haven't had a fit in quite a while.”

 

Sans felt a sudden hot rush of embarrassment and shame, looking away.

“... Crap,” Sans said simply, running a shaking hand over his head. “P-Paps, I...”

“Don't feel too bad about it,” Papyrus patted him on the shoulder sympathetically. “I'm just glad your fever finally broke the other night.”

“You-you mean last night.”

“No, I mean the other night.”

“... I've been out for a whole day?” Sans balked at him.

“Two days, actually,” Papyrus corrected him.

“Oh god,” Sans ran a hand down his face, pushing past his brother. “Oh god oh god Paps I think I messed up bad this time, is the kid oka-”

 

Sans froze at the top of the stairs, and was down the steps before he realized it.

Time seemed to slow to a crawl for several seconds.

 

He saw the familiar green sweater that felt like he was looking at it just yesterday. And more importantly, the person inside of it was leaning over Frisk, red ponytail dangling in their face and oh god she was coming back to finish the job kicking them while they were down she was going to take their soul and everything would reset the evil bitch was smothering Frisk in their sleep he'd kill her he'd kill her he was going to rip her filthy soul out through her gills-

“Get the FUCK away from my kid!” Sans screamed hatefully, feeling the burn of cyan magic in his eye and throwing out a hand immediately. Undyne's soul flickered blue, her head whipping wildly as she stared with one good eye in shock and surprise at him as she was hurtled sideways by the sudden change in gravity. She slammed against the wall, spread eagle, dropping something with a loud clunk as she shouted something incoherent at him. Or maybe it was just that he couldn't quite understand what she was saying, there was so much rushing in his head, she was hurting them...!

 

Sans rapidly found himself picked up fully off the ground in a full nelson hold. He kicked uselessly for several moments, desperate to stop Undyne, to keep them away from Frisk long enough to keep them safe, before Papyrus's voice finally made its way in.

 

-t to stay calm,” he heard him muttering beside his head, calmly, soothingly, his grip on Sans not loosening in the slightest. “Just a dream, Sans. Let her go. Just a bad dream. You've got to stay calm. It's all over now. She's your friend. Remember? It's okay, Sans. It's okay. I promise. I'm right here. Please, Sans. Snap out of it. Please. Please. I'm begging you. Come back to me, Sans.”

Sans's breathing caught in his chest as he promptly released the magic on Undyne, feeling as if his own weight were suddenly increasing by the moment as she dropped to the floor. The full horror of what he was doing, of what he'd very nearly almost done rushed in on him at once, and he felt like being sick.

And then, to make matters worse, what he would have been forced to do if he had actually killed Undyne.

 

Frisk was curled up on the couch, grasping at themselves uselessly with one hand, the other covering their mouth like they were trying to stifle a scream. He met their eyes for only the briefest of moments, but it was enough. The petrified stare, the fear that they looked at him with.

Maybe they knew what had very nearly happened, too.

Somehow, this only made him feel worse.

Didn't they get it? Didn't they know that he was doing everything for their sake? Didn't they know that he was trying to protect them? He meant well. Honestly he did.

The fact that they looked at him in such terror... hurt.

 

“... He's 'better' my ass,” Undyne rubbed her back with a spiteful look as she shakily stood, glowering at them. It was then that Sans noticed what they had dropped. It wasn't even close to a weapon staining the carpet. It was just an ordinary bowl of soup.

She was feeding Frisk a bowl of soup.

 

“... Don't you mean 'better my bass?'” Sans asked weakly, forcing a small grin.

“Yeah. He's fine,” Papyrus deadpanned, finally setting him down softly, but he could hear the relief in his voice. His hand never left his shoulder though, his grip tight enough to keep him in place.

“S-sorry 'bout that, gilfriend,” he gave a feeble chuckle, cringing at the heated glower that Undyne shot him. “I... uh. Thought you were... someone else?” he finished with a half shrug.

“Yeah,” Undyne said sharply, rubbing her back with one hand. “Because so many other monsters have red hair, an eye patch, and blue freakin' skin.

“You sure you're okay, Sans?” Papyrus asked quietly.

“Yeah, 'course. Nothing gets under my skin.”

“I'm perfectly fine, thanks for asking,” Undyne dusted herself off with a slightly growing grin... proudly? “Damn, Sans. Didn't really think you had it in ya to pack a wallop like that.”

“I'm-I'm really, really sorry dude – Undyne,” Sans shifted awkwardly, wishing that he had his jacket on for somewhere to put his hands. He spotted it on the small set of hooks by the door beside a large puffy yellow coat that he assumed was Undyne's. “God. I-I, uh. Must not be... thinking clearly.”

“Evidently,” Sans was amazed that a fish could sound so dry.

 

Though to be perfectly honest, he found himself incredibly lucky that Undyne wasn't beating the living hell out of him. Sans seemed to snap back into himself after a few uneasy moments, his mind still feeling a little blurry. He slipped out of Papyrus's grasp and stood next to the couch, leaning a little over Frisk to feel their forehead to ensure that the fever was gone before slowly sitting beside them on the edge of the couch. He caught a glimpse of their almost closed eyes, paying closer attention.

Brown.

 

“... How ya doin', buddy?” he asked quietly, his face softening as he rubbed their head. “You feelin' any better?”

Frisk nodded silently a couple of times.

“Good,” he cupped their cheek in his hand, running his thumb tenderly beneath their eye. “Good. Thank god. Please, kiddo. Don't ever, ever scare me like that again. I... I thought I'd almost lost you there. Don't scare me like that. Okay, buddy?”

Frisk's lips were tight, but they nodded once more, looking guilty.

“I'm serious, Frisk.” Sans looked them dead in the eyes, and their brows rose a little at the mention of their name. “I may not have organs, but kiddo, you are going to wind up giving me a heart attack. You sure you're alright?”

They nodded once more, slowly, not looking away for a long moment.

“... Okay,” Sans closed his eyes and let out a long, uneven sigh, petting them on the head again. “Okay, buddy. I'll take your word for it.”

 

“Sans.”

 

Sans blinked and glanced up at Undyne, who was watching with an odd expression that he couldn't place, her arms crossed.

“... Yeah, Undyne.”

“Can I talk to you?”

“I'm right here,” he motioned down toward himself.

“I meant outside,” she replied through gritted teeth. It was obvious even to Sans that she was resisting punching him.

“It's a bit nippy.”

“I came prepared,” Undyne deadpanned, plucking her coat from the hook between her thumb and forefinger. Sans gave an internal sigh and gave Papyrus an apologetic look, to which his brother only nodded, as if giving him permission. He rose and trudged to the door, snagging his jacket on the way out.

 

Undyne was standing outside, staring up at the clouded ceiling and watching flakes of snow drift downward around them, her breath coming out through her nose in little white bursts of heat. Sans stood next to her for a while, looking up and peering through the magically formed clouds to see a couple of stalactites poking downward, almost as if the ceiling had teeth and they were all in the maw of a terrible beast. It certainly felt that way, sometimes.

Sans fished around in his jacket for a few moments before pulling something out, handing it to Undyne.

 

“... What is this?” she stared at the object he had dropped in her hand for a moment.

“What's it look like?” Sans stuck one corner of the treat in his mouth. “It's a dog biscuit.”

“Why do you have dog biscuits – on second thought,” Undyne frowned. “Considering who you work with, I can't say I'm all that surprised. I hope you don't expect me to actually eat this garbage-”

Undyne only stared at him with a wide eye as he withdrew a lighter from his inside pocket, flicking it a couple of times and heating the end of the dog biscuit to a fiery red. He took in a long, deep drag before letting out a perfect ring of smoke through his nasal bone, letting it drift up and away.

“... You've gotta be shitting me.”

“I'm a skeleton,” he shrugged simply. “I don't do that kind of thing.”

“Then why do you have a bathroom?

“Because I'm hygienic,” Sans frowned a little.

“Have you seen your room lately?” Undyne snorted, curiously taking the lighter from him and flicking it a few times to produce a steady flame, taking a few experimental puffs of her own biscuit. “... Huh. These don't taste like I expected 'em to. Not good, just... y'know. Not bad, either.”

“That reminds me,” Sans reclaimed the lighter and stuck it back in his pocket, taking another breath and blowing out smoke. “I owe Doggo a whole box of these.”

“Hell, these aren't bad. Get me a box.”

“Don't think that's such a good idea, Undyne.”

“What?” her brows furrowed as she stared down at him. “You don't think I'm a big enough girl to handle a couple of dog treats now?”

“Eh. You'll find out in a minute,” he shrugged nonchalantly. “I figured you wanted to talk to me about sommat before kicking my ass. Uh. Sorry about the whole 'trying to kill you' thing. By the way.”

 

Undyne only snorted again. She wound up inhaling smoke through her nose, hacking and coughing feverishly. Sans didn't bother hiding his smirk.

“Who said I came to kick your ass? Besides. You caught me by surprise,” she rubbed her watering now red tinged eye with her free hand. “I could totally kick your ass in a fair fight.”

“Uh, duh,” Sans rolled his eyes. “That's why I don't fight fair.

“Yeah, but if we fought fought then I'd totally win. And you'd cry. Like, a lot.”
“I know, Undyne. Kinda why I don't wanna fight you.”

“We're getting off topic-” Undyne rubbed at her temple with her knuckles. “I, eh... dammit. Dammit. I know I dragged you out here for something.”

Undyne paused, blinking. She slowly, calmly looked back and forth between Sans, the smoke, and the dog biscuit.

 

“... Sans,” she held the treat out from herself a little. “What exactly is in these, by the way?”

“Oh. You know.”

And he said nothing else.

 

“... No,” she gritted her teeth. “I do not know, smartass, that's why I'm asking!”

Sans only grinned up at her.

“... Oh my god,” she dropped the biscuit in the snow with a deadpan. “You little shit. You actually drugged me to keep me from beating your bony white ass into the ground.”

“I told you,” his smirk widened. “I don't fight fair.”

“... Sans if I were not so ungodly high right now I would make you regret the rest of your short life.”

“Not much change,” he shrugged, dropping his own biscuit and watching the smoking cherry fizzle out in the powdery snow. “Not like I don't regret my entire life already.”

Dark, dude. You really are a completely different person when you're sick.”

 

Sans had to fight to keep the surprise off of his face.

Of course that's what she would think. That was probably what Papyrus thought as well. He'd even scolded them beforehand about making sure not to get sick. To them, it had probably seemed as if they'd both just come down with a terrible simultaneous illness.

But that raised the question...

What exactly had happened?

It was entirely possible that he'd simply succumbed to exhaustion due to magically exerting himself, but that seemed a little far fetched. It didn't explain the sudden fever, the panicked, wild dreams, the hallucinations...

Were they hallucinations? It had felt so real. He felt his fist tighten a little in his pocket at the thought. There had been another child, hurting Frisk. Shouting in their face, shaking them, he had been so furious. It had felt real.

 

“... Sans.”

He blinked, having entirely forgotten where he was for a moment.

“Don't hurt the kid,” he begged instantly, turning toward her fully. “Undyne, please. I'll... I'll pick up extra sentry shifts! I can-”

“Sans,” she looked down at him with a frown, offended. “Do you even know why I'm here?”

Sans didn't answer.

 

“Yeah, that's what I thought,” she sighed, crossing her arms and leaning against the house, staring out at Snowdin. “You know that Papyrus came to me asking about drug symptoms?”

Sans felt as if his bones had suddenly been filled with ice.

“They were like that when we found 'em,” Sans blurted, eye sockets widening.

“Yeah, he told me that part, bonehead,” Undyne rolled her eye. “But, man. You know Papyrus. He tried to explain it to me without actually explaining much of anything. I can't be too sure, but I think he was trying to avoid hurting my feelings or something.”

“So then why are you here?” Sans asked suspiciously.

“Because I had too many questions and not enough answers,” she shrugged simply, pulling her coat a little tighter around her. “I, uh... actually got a look at the human, by the way. Real good look.”

“You mean the-”

“Yeah,” Undyne finished before he could, staring at nothing ahead of her. “That.”

 

They fell silent for a little while.

“Just... god,” she shuddered eventually, looking (heh) a little green around the gills. “I knew humans were nasty creatures, but, just... god!” Undyne threw out her arms in exasperation. “Even Gerson doesn't have scars like that!”

“I know, Undyne.”

“I mean, who would do that?” she asked in disgust, kicking a little at the snow. “To a kid! To one of their own! It's fucked up, dude!”

“I know, Undyne.”

“So I thought – I, I thought...” Undyne rubbed her temples again, letting out a puff. “God. I don't know what I thought. Paps was just so... freaked, you know? And I know him. He's one of my best friends. Not a lot phases that guy.”

“Yeah, Papyrus is pretty tough. Not much rattles him.”

“I don't even – Sans did you really just make a skeleton pun.”

Sans couldn't hide a weak chuckle. It was that or break down crying again.

 

Undyne pinched the bridge of her nose, letting out a deep sigh.

“Sans I swear as soon as I come down from this I am so kicking your ass.”

“Let me know if you find it,” he slapped his rear twice. “Mine went missing years ago.”

“Sans-”

“Probably for the best, old thing had a huge crack in it.”

Undyne let out a single guffaw before clapping her hand over her mouth, and Sans crowed internally.

 

“Why can't I stay on topic,” she groaned and rubbed her face before holding up a hand. “Don't answer that, I know exactly why. Obviously I'm not here to kill somebody if I'm helping them eat stuff, dude.”

“Yeah, but... why?”

“Because they hadn't eaten in two days,” she stared at him as if he were stupid, which at that moment, he sincerely felt were true. “Man, you actually do have a thick skull.”

“So...” Sans shifted from foot to foot. “What changed?”

“What do you mean by that?” she frowned.

“Uh. The first time you met? Ring any bells?”

“That was different,” Undyne said defensively. “I'm not... it was weird,” her frown deepened a little, her brows knitting in thought. “I just got this... awful feeling when I first saw them.”

“What'cha mean?”

“Like they'd killed someone I cared about.”

Sans very carefully, very firmly forced his expression to remain neutral.

“And... now you don't want to kill them. Forgive me if I'm kinda fuckin' suspicious.”

 

Undyne leveled a glare at him, causing him to flinch. Her gaze eventually softened a bit, and she sighed.

“I just... y'know. Actually tried what Paps suggested.”

“Friendship spaghetti?”

“Eh, we tried that too,” she said flippantly. “Barfed it up all over the place, just like everything else aside from Al's soup. She makes some good stuff. But I meant the sitting down and talking thing.”

“You talked,” Sans stared at her in utter disbelief.

“Yeah,” Undyne shrugged with one shoulder. “I just wanted to get some answers out of 'em, but... I dunno. They're nice.”

“Yeah, well-”

Too nice,” she scowled again. “It's disgusting. Scars just prove how tough you are, how is that kid not freakin' indestructible?”

Sans almost laughed at that.

Almost.

 

“Just...” Undyne started awkwardly, shivering in the cold. “They're... I mean, damn. They're just a kid. Kid's shouldn't have battle scars like that, dude.”

“I don't think those are from any fight they could have won, Undyne.”

“I know that,” her face darkened for a moment. “I offered to show 'em my scar to see if it cheered them up any.”

“You mean your eye?” Sans blinked again.

“No, I mean the one on my left butt cheek,” she said, leaning around and looking behind her a little. “Got a nasty one when I tried to jump Asgore's trid-”

She clammed up immediately, her cheeks actually tinging a little pink.

 

Anyway,” she coughed conspicuously into her hand. “Fact of the matter is, I can't get much outta the human aside from wimpy goody two shoes crap and weird ass apologies that don't make any sense. So, as your boss,” she said with added emphasis. “I'm making it your official job to find out everything you can about the kid.”

“So then you can kill them.” Sans deadpanned.

“Dude, no,” Undyne slapped him in the back of the head. “You're gonna actually do your job, we're gonna find some mean human that'll fall down eventually, and then we're gonna cross the barrier, and after that we're gonna hunt down the sum'bitches that did that to a little kid and teach 'em the real meaning of pain!” she pounded one fist into her hand with a manic grin.

“... Undyne,” Sans said after a long, long moment. “I think I finally have a little respect for you.”

“We're totally gon- excuse you? 'The fuck do you mean, 'finally'?!”

Sans only laughed, shaking his head.

 

They fell silent again after a little while. Eventually Sans looked back up at her, uncertain.

“So... you're not gonna hurt the kid.”

“I think Paps would sooner tear off his favorite arm rather than let somebody hurt them,” she gave him a flat stare. “Besides, somehow I get the feeling that you're kinda keen on taking care of them.”

“Gee golly what gave it away,” Sans said emotionlessly.

“Are-are you serious?” she cocked an eyebrow. “Really? Dude, when you saw that the human was okay, your face lit up like a neon sign.”

Sans felt his face heating a little.

“Their name is Frisk.

“I'm serious!” she grinned and ignored him, punching his shoulder playfully. “You look at that kid the way a drowning sailor looks at a life raft. You think I don't know you wouldn't be a little pissed if I offed 'em?”

 

Sans's head slowly, gradually turned toward her, and she cringed a little to see that his eye sockets were completely devoid of light.

“Buddy,” he said without budging an inch. “You'd be dead where you stand.

Undyne shivered again, and this time it certainly wasn't from the cold.

 

“... Kidding,” Sans shrugged with a little grin, the lights in his eyes back. “Come on, Undyne. 'Course I'm kidding. You know I can't fight.”

“I dunno about that...” Undyne's grin slowly returned, though she was clearly still uncomfortable. “Threw one of a hell of a punch with that blue magic of yours. You sure you don't wanna join the royal guard, too?”

“Positive,” he said immediately. “That's always been my bro's thing, Undyne. Though, uh, while you're out here, I do have a question. You use... green magic, usually, right?”

“Uh, doi?” she blinked. “What, have you never watched me and Paps train?”

“Yeah, of course. Is there much of a difference between the thing you do, and, say... healing magic? I mean, it's all green magic...?”

“Uh, doi?” Undyne repeated. “You can't heal somebody with combat magic. That'd just be weird.”

“R-right.”

“Besides,” she continued. “Even an idiot could tell you how careful you have to be with healing magic.”

 

Sans suddenly felt very, very uneasy.

“Because it's complicated,” he rubbed his knuckles together in his pockets. “Like blue magic? You know. Maintaining focus to knit cellular structure back together-”

“Pfft, what?” she scoffed. “Dude, no, that's not how it works. It's all about intent.

“That-that too...”

“No, man. It's complicated because it's simple,” she tried to explain. “If your intentions aren't one hundred percent pure, all the way through your soul, even a little, you could wind up doing some real damage instead of patching somebody up. Green magic is always best left to professionals,” she thumped her chest a little proudly.

Sans felt like being ill. The horrible sinking feeling in his stomach grew no matter how much he tried to fight it. Then again, he couldn't very easily fight off his own self loathing that was growing more intense by the second. She must have seen the look on his face and mistaken it for something else, as she clapped a hand on his shoulder a moment later.

 

“Oh my god, dude,” Undyne beamed at him. “Me, you and Paps; we should train! I could totally teach you how to fuck somebody up for good with green magic!”

Sans quietly and politely declined.

Besides.

 

He was pretty sure that he'd accomplished that already.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A short distance away, a little yellow flower vanished into the ground.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus stared long and hard through the dark up at the ceiling, letting out a quiet sigh.

 

Why was it like this so often? He was just so tired. All he wanted to do was rest. He held his eye sockets closed, steadying his breathing and attempting to clear his mind yet again, already knowing how futile it was. But there was only futility in surrender, right? So he just had to keep fighting.

 

I think I can keep going today.

 

Papyrus felt a tightness in his chest as his thoughts resumed and the creeping loneliness began to stealthily crawl back, refusing to be stilled. He had to keep going. No matter how tired he was, no matter if it felt like he was steadily running out of life to give, no matter how much it hurt, he just had to keep going. His thoughts wandered with his eyes to his alarm clock, and he stared at the red lighting. Obviously an hour of sleep was going to have to suffice for today, too. Well, a little under an hour, but who was counting? Besides, he couldn't allow himself more than three or four hours of sleep at a time, anyway. That's how 'the dreams' came back. All he had to do was stay on his toes and everything would be fine.

He wondered if that was why Sans had bad dreams so often. He just slept too much.

 

Papyrus desperately wished that he could sleep, too.

His brother needed him. Sans needed him to be strong, for him. And now there was a new addition to the household. Frisk needed him to be strong. The little one needed so, so much, and Papyrus's soul ached with his fear that no matter what he did, no matter how much he gave, it would never be enough to heal them. But he had to fight against those feelings. He was good at fighting. He just had to keep going, and everything would be fine.

He sighed again, holding a hand out above him through the dark, reaching out for something that not even he could see. It almost felt like he was reaching out to someone, sometimes. Wondering, he slowly twisted his hand, staring at his fingertips. It was one of the few times that he actually felt like he could take his gloves off without fear and dear god was there a HOLE in his hand?!

 

Papyrus jolted upright, flexing his fist wildly in shock.

No. No, of course not. His hand was fine. It had the same nasty, jagged scar across the top, just like always. He was being silly. He let out an uneasy breath, running a hand down his face to hide his sigh. This always happened when he didn't get enough sleep. He started seeing things. Strange things. Papyrus tried to force himself to lie back down, squeezing his eyes shut. Just try to get what little sleep he could before the alarm went off in a few minutes.

 

He heard a low, loud, unsteady moan echo from his brother's room and cringed. It would seem that Sans wasn't sleeping too well, either. His chest ached at the thought. He desperately hoped that it wasn't another one of the worse nightmares, but even if it was, he knew that Sans would refuse to tell him. He was always doing that, even when Papyrus knew. Seeing the worry in his eyes, forcing that pained, struggling little smile and pretending that everything was okay. He hated it. But his brother needed him. For him, he would keep fighting. He'd fight like hell. He'd fistfight god himself, if he had to, for them. He just had to keep going. Everything would be fine. Papyrus preemptively shut off the alarm, dragging himself out of bed and silently getting dressed.

 

Papyrus let out a frustrated breath through his teeth. He had forgotten to do the dishes last night after Undyne had come to visit and they had all watched movies together, with Papyrus and Undyne sitting cross legged on the floor in front of the couch with Sans and Frisk behind them. Momentarily he wondered if breakfast spaghetti would suffice for the others. He just wasn't feeling hungry. Certainly not nearly as hungry as Undyne had been. It was odd, though. Undyne had been behaving awfully strangely the previous night. He shrugged it off. After seeing what had happened to Frisk, he had behaved 'strangely' for a little while, too. But he couldn't let himself think about that when there were things to be done.

 

He found his turmoil slowly dwindling away as the soapy water ran over his hands, the clink and clank of dishes against the sink the only noise in the house. This was something that he could do. Something simple that required no focus or annoying thoughts that he didn't want to think about, just simple action. Besides, he always felt better when things were clean. He could focus solely on getting things done in a productive manner without having to think about scars or exhaustion or those tearful red eyes looking up at him apologizing for killing him or his brother slowly wasting away and being utterly powerless to do anything to help-

 

Papyrus forcefully slapped the side of his head with a soapy hand a couple of times, trying to keep his breathing steady. Everything was going to be fine. If he started to fall apart then everything else would inevitably begin to come unraveled, as well. What about his loved ones that needed him to be strong? What about all of the other people that needed him to be strong? Undyne needed him to be strong, too. If he was ever going to join the royal guard, then he had to be tougher than tough, and more than that. Being strong was more than just physicality or magical prowess to Papyrus. People needed to be able to see him and know that they could rely on him. Not laugh at him behind his back.

His fists clenched and unclenched in the water.

 

Why didn't any of them get it? Why was it so hard to understand that all he wanted to do was help people? Why didn't anyone care that all he wanted was to be accepted for who he was? He knew the kinds of things that people said when they thought that he couldn't hear. Too tall. Too lanky. Too loud. Not smart enough. Not brave enough. Not strong enough.

 

No. It was more than that.

Strength wasn't just a symbol. It was something that he should have, something he had to have in order to protect the people that he cared about. To protect everyone. And maybe someday, if he just kept going, he would be as strong as he needed to be. As strong as he wished he could be. Maybe someday, it would finally be enough.

Maybe, someday, someone would finally look up to him.

But he had to be strong.

For Undyne.

For Frisk.

For Sans.

For everyone.

 

Papyrus tried to keep his shoulders from shaking. He was just so, so tired. He felt like a cassette tape that had been played far too many times. Burned out. Worn thin. But that didn't matter. All that mattered was that the people he loved were happy. For that, he had to be happy, to look happy. Even if he was tired of it, so tired that sometimes he really wondered if it was even worth it, but he had to keep going. And if that meant that he had to keep putting on a brave smile, keep standing tall and spreading as much happiness as he could, he would keep on doing it no matter how much it felt like he were dying inside. No matter how much it hurt.

 

For them.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Frisk munched happily on the iced cinnamon bunny that Papyrus had gotten for them that morning before parting ways, sitting on the edge of Sans's sentry station and kicking their legs in contentment. They had kept the hood up on the jacket that Papyrus had given them all through Snowdin, but had finally let it down, and snow was beginning to stick to their hair. Sans sat back in his rickety wooden chair with his arms behind his head, watching the snowflakes gently tumble around them as his mind wandered.

 

After Papyrus's boisterous voice had left them, Snowdin's forest just felt emptier. Colder, too. Sans let out a quiet sigh through his nasal bone, closing his eyes. It would be fine though. He had a new job tacked onto his already hefty list of work to slack off on. Find out what he could about the kid. Seemed simple enough. Then again, ever since Papyrus had left they had suddenly become mute, focusing instead on their treat. That was fine with Sans. He would get what he wanted out of them one way or another. All he had to do was be patient. He didn't have a problem with that. Even thinking that way made him uncomfortable, but he brushed it aside. It wouldn't be a problem. He didn't have problems.

 

Undyne's words of warning the previous night before her departure drifted into his mind, and he found himself frowning.

I can't guarantee that little punk's safety if they're out on their own, she had said quietly. Don't let them out of Snowdin, got that? Keep them on a short leash.

 

Sans almost snorted. Obviously she hadn't meant it literally, but at least it would keep them out of trouble. He wondered what they would look like, if he were to literally get them a leash. Red collar, to match the stripe on the jacket that Papyrus had made for them? Probably blue. It seemed better color coordination. Definitely blue. He might even be able to convince anyone that asked that they were just a weird puppy. He'd likely have to train them to walk on all fours though, get them a pair of false puppy ears to stick up from their hair and a cute little tail-

 

“... Oh god maybe I do have a problem,” Sans muttered miserably into his hands, rubbing his face. What the hell was wrong with him?

It was the stress. It had to be the stress. Everything was piling up on him at once, things were changing quickly and his mind was struggling to keep up with reality, and the stress of it all was getting to him. That had to be it. If he could just close his eyes, if he could just rest, he would be fine. Maybe he could stop feeling terrible and actually live with himself for a bit. But he doubted it.

“... Sans?”

 

Sans blinked and straightened up, forcing a smile at Frisk, who was licking their fingers to clean the stickiness from them. They lapped quietly at the sweet frosting on their fingers the entire while, not taking their eyes off his. Carefully. Slowly.

Too slowly.

Like they were... teasing him.

And more unnerving...

Like they knew.

 

“What's up, buddy?” he grinned uneasily, pretending that the sudden provoking heat wasn't intensely bothering.

“... Are you okay? Are you hungry, Sans?” Frisk gradually held out another wrapped cinnamon bunny that they pulled from their pocket. “I-I have another, if you want to share...”

“Nah, I'm good,” he shook his head slowly. “Thanks for the offer, though, friend-o. Why don't you hang on to that for now?”

Frisk eventually nodded and stuck the treat back into their pocket, looking away. He had to tear his eyes away after a while, staring out through the trees. It was the stress. He was exhausted and repressed and it was manifesting in his thoughts in an irrational manner and all he needed was a few drinks and some good rest and everything would be fine. He was supposed to get information from them. But that would come in its own time. Why couldn't they just sit here in silence for a while?

He wondered if the thought was a sullen one. It might have been. He wasn't sure what had caused his mood to flip so suddenly as he watched them hop off the station, playing with something that he couldn't see in the snow. On second thought, he did know what had bothered him so much, but he certainly wasn't going to admit it to himself. That train of thought could go straight off the edge of a cliff.

 

Sans sighed and closed his eyes, trying to let his mind wander to other, more pleasant things. They could stay like this for just a while longer before he started prying. Maybe he would crack out a book that he kept inside his sentry station. Would Frisk like to be read to? Perhaps he could read one of his spare physics books to them and bore them to sleep like it did Papyrus. Or maybe he'd find one of Papyrus's books, one of his many fantasy stories. Sleeping Frisk was a trouble-less Frisk.

It then occurred to him that he'd never actually read anything to them at all. He wondered if anyone had ever read them anything, at all.

Guilt began to rise in Sans's chest once again.

He was supposed to be taking care of them, and instead he'd dragged them around, hated their guts, made them petrified of the color blue and (sometimes brutally) killed them more times than he could even count anymore.

Yeah. Kind of fucking dropped the ball THERE, didn't you, asshole?

 

Sans let out a slow, miserable breath through his teeth, not opening his eyes.

He was going to do better.

Eventually.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans wasn't sure how long he had been asleep.

 

He groaned and rubbed his aching head, feeling as if he were going to be sick. It was strange, coming out of the rare dreamless nap had almost felt just like the yanking sensation he felt whenever a reset-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans jolted awake, feeling pulled in too many directions. He gasped, clutching his aching chest, lights in his eye sockets whirling when he discovered Frisk was nowhere near him. He cursed loudly, pain and growing fury pounding inside his head. Why didn't the reset take them back to the other day? Were they actively choosing new 'starting' points to reset from now? Couldn't he close his eye sockets for five minutes? Why didn't that damned kid ever listen to him? What was it going to take to make them behave? Thankfully, there was plenty of snow around, meaning that he could easily trace their footsteps before they managed to get too far and incite another reset-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans had to bite back a pained scream as the universe unraveled again, and he fell out of his chair. Was this the fifth time it had happened? Ninth? Twelfth? The resets were occurring too fast, in such rapid succession. He wanted to be sick, but there was nothing on his stomach, and he wound up with painful dry heaves as he clutched his stomach, gasping for breath. The screaming behind his eyes was so loud, he just wanted it to fucking end!

 

He seethed, wobbling a little and forcing himself to his feet, all pretense of remaining calm gone straight out the window. His thoughts were such a jumble, he could hear white noise and static in his head and it sounded like HIM and hell's bells what was even going on anymore? They couldn't be resetting on purpose, it was too unlikely. He needed to find them. He needed to find them. They were being hurt, someone was hurting his kid and god help them he was going to make them SUFFER!

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans screamed angrily, kicking his way out of his sentry station and stumbling, sweating heavily and half blind from pain through the snow. It was too hard to focus, too hard to breathe but he had to fight, had to keep going. He stomped hatefully through a few of Frisk's tracks that they had left behind minutes (hours? Days?) ago, despair clawing at his chest as he saw that they had apparently started wandering in circles at some point. He swore vehemently, closing his eyes and drawing deep for magic.

He felt the spark.

 

It stunned him, almost enough to shake off the blinding fucking rage, but not quite enough. It was definitely enough to startle him though. It was unfamiliar and eerily too familiar at the same time, and some part of him recognized why. He reached for that warmth, that little spark, almost throwing himself into the shortcut. Darkness swarmed around him like an angry hive, tearing and pulling at him, but he remained sturdy. He fell from the teleport almost a foot into a snowbank, promptly pulled himself from his knees and dragged himself forward, almost instinctively. It felt a little silly, just going in a seemingly random direction.

At least, until he heard Frisk's voice, and his buzzing mind hit a snag again.

 

There had been no logical procedure of following Frisk's footsteps, not even a simple educated guess on where they had gone. He'd just done it. He had simply felt it. Somewhere, somehow, he had reached out with his magic and just known something that he had no possible way of knowing, and it was absolutely disturbing.

He could have time to figure it out later. When his thought process wasn't in utter shambles.

After he'd found whoever was making them reset and personally dragging them kicking and screaming to hell, that is.

 

“Please,” he heard them before he saw them, on their knees as if trying to hold something with their back to him. Their arms were at an odd angle in front of them, wasn't that uncomfortable? Unless... “Please, I-I k-know you can... can do b-better...”

And then came the laugh.

That familiar, high pitched, reedy, god awful horrendous laugh.

 

“You really are an idiot,” Sans dared to peer around one of the trees, hidden just enough in the shadows to prevent having his position given away. “If you honestly believe that you must be even stupider than you look-”

The flower paused and tilted a little from around Frisk, looking directly at Sans.

And it fucking smirked at him.

Sans didn't bother listening to him finish. It wasn't like he could hear him over his own screaming, anyway.

 

There was a flare of blue light and tearing sound as bones ripped through the air almost fast enough to puncture the sound barrier. Instead of pulling the vines from their arms, they were yanked as a slightly surprised Flowey ducked laughing a bare moment before the bones collided in the spot he had just been, burying themselves into the earth. Frisk screamed his name as they were jerked roughly by the arms to the ground with the plant's departure, their face colliding with the snow and dirt hard as they were dragged several meters away before finally coming to a violent halt against a tree.

 

Sans bolted over the ground, almost losing one of his slippers in the process, his head pounding so hard that it was difficult to see. He almost tripped over himself and dropped to his knees beside them, grabbing them roughly by the shoulders and throwing them both into a shortcut faster than he thought he even could.

They fell from the teleport a moment later onto the living room carpet, dropping snow everywhere.

 

“WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?!” Sans bellowed in their face, shaking them by the shoulders to emphasize. “WHAT – DID I – TELL... y-you...”

What was wrong with him?

They were in pain and they needed him, he loved them why was he hurting them?
What in the actual fuck was wrong with him?!

 

Frisk was sobbing and desperately trying to cover their face as if he was going to hit them, and collapsed like a rag doll to their knees the moment he released them, shame and horror plain on his features. He couldn't bite back the cringe of self disgust, and his breathing was labored as he gradually lowered himself on his knees to the floor in front of them, pulling the crying child into a gentle trembling hug in his lap. They fought against him weakly for a moment, their whines growing louder and more desperate, their voice cracking as they blubbered meaningless fearful apologies.

 

“... Oh god,” he murmured into their ear, rocking them gently back and forth as they wept into his chest. “Oh god, oh god oh shit I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, p-please, please babybones just look at me; it's okay, don't cry, it's all gonna be okay, Christ I'm so sorry, I'm sorry kid, b-babybones – Frisk... F-Frisk,” Sans felt like being sick again. “I didn't mean it, I swear I didn't mean it I'm so sorry, shh, shh it's okay please, please don't cry kiddo, g-god I'm so sorry...!”

 

Frisk sobbed and cried in his arms, quavering and trying to hide inside themselves to no avail. He only let his own tears trail down his face, stroking the back of their head and whispering assurances that all felt so empty. His stomach was in violent, angry knots and his chest was burning painfully. They needed him. They needed him, they cried out for him and he hurt them.

He hated them. He hated them for making him do this. He hated them for making him feel this. He hated them for making him into this.

But he hated himself so, so much more.

 

He didn't know how long they were there in the dark. He didn't care. It didn't matter. Maybe nothing ever did.

“I'm sorry...” he petted the back of their head as they sobbed dryly against him, his own tears having dried away to leave him with a sick, clawing feeling in his stomach. “Shh. Please. Please, don't cry. I'm so sorry, babybones. It's okay now. You're okay. I never, never meant to hurt you. Please, please god I'm so sorry Frisk.

 

He didn't know when exactly they fell into complete silence, with him slowly, gently rocking them back and forth, their shoulders still heaving quietly. He just knew that his voice had finally gone hoarse from repeating himself. He hated himself. He was such a loathsome, disgusting, miserable creature. He could barely call himself a monster.

Everything about him was wrong.

He would have wished for death if he knew that it would last. He knew from experience that it didn't. But, god, maybe he deserved it.

 

“I'm sorry,” Frisk breathed against him, hair hiding their eyes. “I-”

Shh,” he held a finger to their lips, pulling them into another hug, slowly moving from their position so that he could sit against the couch without dropping them. Were they always this light, this frail? “It's not your fault. Okay, babybones? Don't cry. Please don't cry. It's not your fault.”

“Please don't be mad at me,” they shivered, pulling their arms a little closer to themselves without letting go of the front of his shirt. “I'll be good, I'm g-good, Sans please-

“Babybones,” he started, running the palm of his hand down the side of their face softly. They hissed sharply when he did so, and when he pulled his hand away he found that it was sticky and warm.

It was dark inside.

Not dark enough.

 

There was blood on their jacket.

There was blood on him.

Once more, without fail, their blood was on his hands.

Sans felt himself die a little on the inside.

 

“... Shit,” his breath finally returned after a few seconds. “Shit, oh god kid you're-you're bleeding, hang-hang on...!”

He carefully picked them up and sat them gently on the couch, scrambling for the light switch. Of course, this just made them look even worse. Their face was scratched and cut and marred with tear streaked dirt. The cut seemed to be just above their temple and bleeding slowly but steadily, and their eye was black and a little swollen from their high speed introduction to the pine tree. He at least knew that he wasn't the one responsible for this, however terrible a consolation that might have been, if he hadn't just rushed in Frisk wouldn't be in so much pain.

And when he found that flower he was going to slowly mulch it from the roots up.

 

“Okay,” Sans wiped his hand down his face, ignorant of the blood staining his cheek. “Okay. Oh god. It-it's not bad, don't cry...! Oh god, just – just be still for me, o-okay, F-Frisky-bits? Just sit still. It's gonna be okay. I promise. I promise,” stroking their head with one hand, he held a palm over their cut worriedly and desperately plunged for his magic, drawing it out from as deep inside as he could. They touched his hand worriedly with their left, as if uncertain. The burning, writhing in his chest was back and he felt like he was going to sob and be ill all at once and they were hurt and god just when he thought he couldn't possibly feel more horrible...!

All he wanted to was to hold them close until the hurt went away.

A brilliant flare of green lit up his palm for the briefest of moments, illuminating their face even more brightly as he observed the oozing cut start to magically repair itself, like watching a zipper. Their breathing hitched and stopped altogether as they shivered intensely, their eyes growing wide and mouth going a little slack. He felt a bit queasy just watching the cut, forcing his tired eyes away to look into their red ones-

 

Sans felt the surging warmth in his chest twist darkly.

Frisk cringed instantly, letting out a shivering, moaning sob. Their face contorted too rapidly, from fear, to pain, to drooling, eye rolling euphoria and something in between that lit something primal and needy in his soul and it scared him just how completely and utterly fucked up it was. He reluctantly fought back against the swelling dread and tried to forcefully focus instead on thoughts of hope, thoughts of healing. Vibrant memories of Papyrus, his smiling face beaming up at him proudly. The first time he had caught Papyrus dancing by himself. The first time that they had built his bed, how happy he was for the present. The rising joy Sans had felt in his soul when he saw that pure, genuine smile on the face of the little skeleton that didn't get to smile nearly often enough.

He wanted them to have that smile, too.

I just want them to smile.

I just want them to be okay.

I just want them to be safe.

I just want them to be happy.

 

I just want them to be healed.

I just want them to be loved.

I just want to care again.

 

I just want to care again.

I just want to love again.

 

No matter what they did. No matter what they became. No matter what happened.

He had to choose.

It was him or them.

I just want to love again.

 

Shelter.

Hurt.

Protect.

Fight.

Defend.

Reject.

Heal.

Break.

Rejuvenate.

Defile.

Hope.

Despair.

Inspire.

Hate.

Hold.

Shake.

Laugh.

Love?

 

Love.

 

The light from his hand had long since gone out. He was just so tired. He was unsure of how long he'd been sitting beside them, his hand over their face, gently wiping away the long since stopped stream of tears. The swelling in their eye had finally gone down, but it was still clearly bruised. He couldn't even be certain if exhaustion had claimed him again as he slipped in and out of focus, like his mind was blurring into something that he couldn't quite identify. Like watching them and watching himself back at the same time. And just like that it was over, like he'd been pulled back into the waking world by their touch alone. Their hands were cold, and shaking, but their touch was gentle when they reached up and brushed his cheeks, their brown eyes wide.

 

“S-Sans...” Frisk said breathily, their cheeks a cherry red.

“I'm sorry,” he rasped, his tongue feeling as heavy as his aching head. “I'm so sorry, kid-”

“... 'Frisky-bits...?”

 

Sans paused.

He stared at them for what felt like an eternity. Out of all of the things that they could have said, they picked that. Maybe it was the magical strain. Maybe it was the rampant fighting emotions he couldn't figure out what to do with. Maybe it was the stress. Either way, he let out a laugh.

“I'm sorry, babybones,” he whispered, squeezing them close and rubbing their back.

“You don't have to be sorry,” Frisk weakly hugged him back, nuzzling against him, apparently not minding the blood on his shirt. “I forgive you.”

God, this kid really just didn't get it. He didn't deserve to be forgiven.

And yet, they looked at him with mercy regardless. With leniency and forgiveness in their eyes.

And it hurt.

Were they intentionally being this cruel to him? Didn't they know that they were tearing him apart from the inside out? Didn't they know how much simpler everything would be if they just sank to his level and hated him back?

And stars, he hated himself for thinking that way.

He hated himself so much.

 

“I didn't mean to scare you babybones,” Sans said eventually. His throat felt dry and sore, but he didn't care. They weren't bleeding. They weren't crying. They weren't even flinching when he held them. They just stared at him with a flushed, unsteady look that he couldn't identify.

“I'll be good...” Frisk shifted, climbing into his lap and holding him around the neck.

“I know. I know, kiddo. You're a good kid. Just... stay away from dangerous shit like that flower bastard. Please.”

“He can be good, too,” they started, but Sans cut them off.

“How many times did he kill you, kid?”

 

Frisk looked away, ashamed.

“I was... getting through to him...” they fidgeted.

“There is no 'getting through' to that thing,” he responded tiredly, really not in the mood to let his anger kick in again and nipping it in the bud before it could blossom. “He isn't going to show you MERCY back, buddy. Trust me.”

“How do you know?” Frisk asked sadly, looking back to him. “He... he can be good, too. I know he can. He j-just... needs somebody to-to show him how.

“Frisk. Frisk,” he held their chin between his thumb and forefinger, forcing them to look him in the eye sockets. “Look at me. Don't. Ever. Do that. Again. Capiche? Stay away from it.”

“His name is Flowey.”

 

Oh god were they pouting now?

“Will you listen-” he growled, causing them to cringe, and Sans drew in a sharp breath through his teeth before forcing himself still, softly resuming stroking the back of their head with the tips of his phalanges. “Please. Listen to me, kiddo,” he continued quietly. “He's not... he's not good. Like you. Okay? That thing is not a good person. I don't think he's even a person at all.”

Frisk looked horrified at this, and miserable, and hurt all at the same time.

 

“Shit, I-I didn't...” Sans gripped them more tightly, as if he could just make them understand. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry I snapped like that, babybones. It isn't your fault. It's-it's just...” he ran a hand over the top of his head with an unsteady breath, feeling his bones rattle. “It's the goddamned resets. Do-do you have any idea what they do to me?”

Frisk slowly shook their head, staring at him uncertainly.

 

“It hurts,” he tried to explain, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice. He didn't want them to hate him. He just wanted them to understand. “It... it hurts a lot. It... scrambles my head. Y'know?” Sans muttered, growing more quiet. “Makes it... makes it hard t'think. I'm not... Please. Please, just understand, kiddo. I'm not... in my right mind. I'm not always me when I come back. Y'know?”

It was a testament to his surprise that Frisk held their forehead against his, letting out an unhappy breath.

“... I know,” Frisk nodded after a moment. “I know, Sans. I... I get it. Sometimes, when-when I come back, w- I...” they looked away, embarrassment and discomfort plain on their face. “... I'm not always me when I come back, either.”

 

The dream child.

The one that had made him so angry.

The one that hurt Frisk.

The one with red eyes.

 

Several theories began formulating all at once, bouncing around his already worn out mind. He had so many questions. He didn't have time for this. It felt like it had been days since he'd last slept. He needed rest. But there was that constant ache in his chest, that burning spark that refused to go out, forcing him to continue.

The same feeling he got when he had, against all logic and reason, almost pinpointed Frisk's location in the forest.

Like he could sense them.

What was happening to him?

 

“... Sans?”

“Hmm?” He hummed after a while of silent petting, mulling his thoughts over.

“Thank you.”

“Fuhgeddaboudit,” he shook his head a little, dipping his head into their shoulder and hugging them. “Not gonna let some Caesar salad reject hurt you.”

Frisk snorted a little, but shook their head as well.

“That too. I-I meant...” they shifted, color rising in their cheeks again. “T-thank you. For... f-for. Um.”

Shit.

 

“I don't know if I-I can heal you anymore, babybones,” Sans said quietly, forcing himself to look away. Anywhere else. At anything aside from those eyes. It would only hurt more. “I-I'm not... I c-can't...”

“It feels... it feels good, Sans,” Frisk's soft voice gave him pause. “Y-you m-make me feel so, so good.”

“No, Frisk, listen-”

“Please,” they begged, clinging to him a little tighter, sounding as if they might cry again. “Please, don't-don't take it away. I-I'll d-d-do anything, a-anytime you w-want it, just, please...!”

It wasn't a simple matter, fighting against himself. When was it, exactly, that he had become his own worst enemy? It was so hard to fight this when he wasn't entirely certain that he wanted to. But he was tempted. God help him, he was tempted. He shouldn't be like excited like this. It was wrong, made him recoil on every level imaginable. It was so selfish, so manipulative, so cruel what they were doing to him. Papyrus never would have had a problem like this. Papyrus was actually good. It was like staring down the fiery gates of Hell itself and knowing that it was inevitable that he would eventually cross the barrier. And what made it worse was knowing that he would do it, too. He would damn himself of his own volition.

Sans had never hated himself quite so much in his entire life.

 

He wasn't just trembling, he was outright shaking. Squeezing them too hard. He had to force his grip to relax to keep his bones from rattling, to keep from hurting them again. He didn't want to hurt them. Not that. Anything but that. He just wanted them to be safe. He just wanted them to be happy. They were so good. They were like Papyrus. They had a good soul.

He just... needed them.

He could fit the puzzle pieces together.

He could protect them.

He could get answers.

God he was such an evil, vile fucking creature for even considering it.

 

... I love you, Sans.

 

And with that, he felt his resolve finally crumble as the despair consumed him.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans quietly mused to himself that things were most certainly not taking the direction that he had anticipated. It bounced in his head over and over again, echoed behind his eyes, pounded in his sweating bones.

 

I love you, Sans.

 

How was he supposed to react? How was he supposed to respond to that? How could they just keep accepting him, keep forgiving him for the horrible things he'd said to them, he'd done to them? It felt like no matter what he did, there was just no winning. Even when he won, he lost. No matter what he did, he just couldn't seem to win. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair, what they were doing to him.

But he was just too tired to fight it.

“... S-Sans...?”

 

They looked like they were about to cry again, trembling slightly. What was he supposed to do? What was he supposed to say? They were in pain. He'd already hurt them, and no matter how much he wanted to hold his tongue, he could only imagine what his silence would do to them. Maybe they deserved it. At least, he desperately tried to convince himself of that. It would make it easier to deal with. They made him so confused. They made him so, so angry.

They made him so afraid.

He slowly, cautiously pulled their head against his chest, cradling them as close as he could.

“... I love you too, babybones,” Sans whispered after a moment. They relaxed visibly, letting out a quiet shuddering breath. He did. He knew it, he loved them, and it was killing him.

It hurt, it physically hurt.

Why? Why were they doing this? Were they doing this to him on purpose? Didn't they know how much it hurt?

Didn't they care?

Even a little?

 

It would be so much easier if he could just hate them as much as he wanted to.

There were so many thoughts running rampant through his mind. So many questions. He decided against asking any of them, instead sighing, closing his eye sockets and leaning back against the couch. He felt Frisk situating themselves to stay on his lap, their arms still locked around his neck. They buried their face into his shoulder, mumbling something, but he couldn't quite make it out. He didn't care, he thought, sinking into himself. So long as he could just rest for a moment. So long as they could just... stay like this, for a while. A momentarily bit of solace amongst the storm. So long as he could just hold them for a while and let them know that they were loved. They were the only one who understood what he went through. Maybe he was the only one that could understand them.

He wondered if they needed him as badly as he needed them.

What the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

But the niggling thought remained.

How did he find them?

 

He had a few guesses, and absolutely none of them were ones that he wanted to acknowledge. A part of him wanted to attribute it to sheer blind luck, but Sans never was a believer in coincidences. Maybe trying to use green magic was starting to affect him in more ways than he realized and it was somehow causing him to develop supersensory abilities, but he sincerely doubted it. He couldn't sense things around him. That would have been incredibly useful though. He'd practically never have to bother keeping his eye sockets open then. His mind was just so muddled. It was difficult to focus.

 

Sans awoke with a little start a while later, unsure of the time. He silently kicked himself for never bothering to get a clock and vowed to get one as soon as possible. He then kicked himself again for letting someone with a possible concussion fall asleep.

“... Hey,” he gently shook Frisk awake. They murmured incoherently, their eyes squeezed shut as he tapped them atop the head a few times, his worry growing. “C'mon, kiddo. Hate to say it, but, uh, now's not exactly the best time for a nap. You know?”

“How come?” Frisk asked sleepily, rubbing their eyes. Or at least, trying to, before flinching and letting out a little hiss when they touched the bruise. Sans cringed, instinctively holding out a hand to cover their eye. They blinked and looked directly at him, breath slowing.

Brown eyes.

 

He silently made it a point to investigate further when he had the strength.

“... We'll get some good food in ya,” he rubbed the top of their head after a moment. “Bruise'll be gone before you know it, buddy. But before that, I, uh, kinda think we need to clean up a bit.”

Frisk looked at him questioningly for a moment before their mouth formed an o, and they nodded.

 

“... Y'know. 'Cause I'm pretty sure Paps is gonna freak if he sees blood all over the place,” he added for emphasis. Frisk nodded again, looking down sadly at their stained jacket. “Don't worry, kiddo. We'll get it good as new. Probably gonna have to wash all that 'ketchup' too, your clothes should be good to go upstairs. Why don't you go get washed up, buddy?”

Frisk looked at him uncertainly for a moment, fidgeting and glancing toward the bathroom before meeting his eyes, biting their bottom lip.

“Can... can you... give me a bath...?”

 

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Ye-

Say no.

Say no.

Say. NO.

God fucking dammit please I am literally begging just say no don't break now everything was going to be okay oh god please don't do this pretend there's no tightness in your shorts just for fuck's sake do the right thing do the right thing please for once in your miserable life why are you so weak you sick fuck do the right thing evil little shit is doing this to me on purpose ought to snap their goddamned neck and save myself the trouble no no no no no NO-

 

“... Sans?” Frisk asked worriedly, looking alarmed. He felt the pinpricks in his eye sockets return. They looked so frightened. They were afraid of him.

Maybe that was a good thing.

It meant they were smart.

So why did it make him feel so awful?

 

“... C'mon, buddy,” he trying to force a little grin. He was failing. “I-I, uh. M-maybe that's not such a good... idea-”

“Please?” they pouted, sticking out their bottom lip and batting their lashes. He felt his soul melt a little, and god he hated how easy it was to break him.

 

Sans closed his eyes, letting out an unsteady breath before slowly standing and carrying them to the bathroom. It would be fine. Everything would be fine. His head felt heavy. It was fine. Like giving Papyrus a bath as a little skeleton. The only difference was that this time there was hair and meaty bits to deal with. So long as he didn't keep indulging in his paranoia and checking their eyes to see if the red irises were back.

But was it really paranoia if he was right?

I'm not always me when I come back, either.

 

Sometimes, it was like Frisk wasn't really Frisk at all. And the more that he thought about it as he tried to calmly run hot (somewhat excessively) soapy bath water for them, the more that it seemed to make sense. That dream, that vision felt too vivid, too real. It was like he'd peeked inside of them and saw something that he was never intended to. That other child. The one with the red eyes.

He had to fight to keep his breathing steady as he tested the water every few minutes, making sure it wasn't scalding. Why was it, exactly; what was it about seeing those red eyes that made him so marrow boilingly furious? It sparked something so violent, so angry inside him, and he hated it. He shouldn't be like this. It didn't matter what color their eyes were, he was supposed to protect them.

The child in the green shirt.

The child with the red eyes.

The one who had looked at him with so much fear, so much fury. So much hate.

I'm not always me when I come back, either.

 

Sans sat on the edge of the tub and carefully shampooed their head in silence, the scent of strawberries filling the air as he tried not to think of the blood mingling in the soapy water. So long as he stayed focused on the task then everything would be fine. They stayed turned away from him, and he had to kick down the itch to get them to turn so that he could check to ensure that their irises hadn't changed. So long as he didn't look at the marks, everything would be fine.

And yet, he found his eye sockets wandering regardless.

 

SLUT.

 

He had to fight to keep his hands from shaking as he held his fingertips over their branding. There was that anger again, but it felt fundamentally different from when those red eyes met his. It was like it had only been slumbering under the surface and now it was furious, it was fiery, it was righteously offended and outright fucking pissed.

Frisk froze at his touch, their breath halting as the water splashed a little.

 

“... I don't know if I'm ever gonna be able to heal this, buddy,” Sans said after a moment, looking away with his cheeks stinging a little as he tried to rinse the shampoo from their head. “Christ. I'm-I'm... so sorry, babybones.”

“You don't have to be sorry,” Frisk said quietly and held their arms close to themselves without looking at him. “I deserved it.”

Sans spluttered, dropping the shampoo bottle into the water.

 

“I – I don't – kid, what the fuck?” he gripped their shoulders angrily, causing them to flinch. “No – no! Kiddo; babybones,” Sans released his grip a little, trying to still their trembling. “You-you can't say things like that, I-I mean... Christ. Kid, nobody 'deserves' that. Nobody. Sure as HELL not you. You got that?”

Frisk didn't respond.

“... You're a good kid, Frisk.”

Their shoulders began quivering again and their head bowed, and Sans felt like his soul was being punched. He couldn't even keep his hands from shaking on their shoulders, he just wanted to hold them and tell them that everything was going to be okay. He didn't care how stupid or unlikely Undyne's plan sounded, he was going to hunt down the soulless bastards that did this and rip their throats out with his goddamn teeth.

 

“I'm sorry,” Frisk's voice came out in a squeak as they held their face in their hands, sensing his fury. “I'm s-sorry Sans.”

“... Hey. Hey,” he gently held them around the head, pulling them closer, not caring anymore how much soap got on him. “Shh. It's okay. You're gonna be okay. Alright? C'mon. Please don't cry anymore. Shh. You don't have anything to be sorry for.”

“B-b-but it's m-my fault-”

Don't,” he growled deeply, causing them to shiver despite the warmth. “I don't care what anyone told you. They're wrong.

“I-I just...” Frisk mumbled, hiding their heated face in his arm. “... I just wanna be good, too.”

“Hey. Buddy. C'mon,” he tilted them weakly by the chin, forcing them to look at him. “You are good, Frisk. You're a good person. And I'm gonna keep on telling you that until you believe me.”

Frisk crumbled and let out a choked little cry, burying their face against him.

 

They were so distraught that they couldn't even bring themselves to speak coherently. Sans couldn't really bring himself to find words, either. He certainly didn't have any pleasant ones to share, his quietly bubbling rage at the thought of someone hurting them burning his bones. He only shushed them and softly stroked their head, rocking them a little back and forth until they finally stopped crying.

Frisk didn't deserve to be hurt. Not like this. Nobody did.

They were such a good kid. He saw a lot of his brother in them, sometimes. They had made mistakes, granted. He couldn't think of anyone that hadn't. He was never, ever going to quite be able to bring himself to forgive them fully for the things that they had done, but even still... they were good. They were a good person. Not like him. Even though they were scared and hurt, they still trusted, they still loved. It wasn't fair that they were so much braver than he was. He couldn't wrap his mind around how anyone could possibly be so trusting as to practically lay their soul bare for-

 

Sans's marrow froze.

Their soul.

Their soul.

That was how he had done it.

He hadn't just located them.

He had sensed their soul.

The only feasible way that he could have possibly done that...

 

What was he, anymore?

He had gone far, far beyond the point of just hurting them anymore. If his theory was right, then this was worse. Definitely much, much worse. But it was only a theory. It couldn't possibly be correct. He wasn't twisted on the inside. There was nothing wrong with him. Everything was fine. The rising horror and disgust with himself was just a reaction to the thought. It was too far fetched. Humans couldn't even access their own souls. Monsters' and humans' souls simply couldn't be connected like that. It just wasn't possible.

God how he prayed it was impossible.

I'm a fucking abomination.

 

“... Sans?”

“What's up, kiddo?” Sans asked, his throat feeling very dry.

“Water's cold...” Frisk mumbled again. They started to rise, but he gently pressed on their shoulder until they sat back down. “Sans?”

“Buddy,” he cleared his throat after a moment, his face feeling heated. How was he supposed to breach a subject like this? Would they even know what he was talking about? They wouldn't even understand. And even if they did, well.

At least they would finally hate him. It would simplify matters considerably.

That was what he wanted.

Right?

 

“... We need to talk.”

“A-about what...?” Frisk shifted uncomfortably, looking nervous. Their eyes were wide as they stared up at him. Openly. With love. With trust. It made him melt.

They'll never look at me like that again.

They might not look at anyone like that again.

Frisk will never love me again.

 

“... You wanna go grab some grub?” he asked suddenly, draining the water and making sure they were covered with a towel. For some reason they seemed to have grown attached to Papyrus's favorite fluffy red towel. He watched the water drain slowly, his mind foggy. Maybe that's all his life was, a mess of blood and filth as he slowly circled the drain. It certainly felt that way. “I mean, don't get me wrong, leftover spaghetti again would make me... upsetti. I'm already full of spaghetti.”

“So...” Frisk said after a moment, poking their head out from the towel with a little grin. “You regretti the spaghetti?”

Sans laughed and pulled them into a hug, ruffling their damp hair.

God. How had he ever hated them?

Actually, he knew exactly how, but if he didn't think about it then it wouldn't be a problem. That was the solution to every problem like that. Just don't think about it.

 

“Come on, kiddo. I think it's high time to introduce you to Grillby's.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Grillby's had a certain scent to the place that Sans never could quite get enough of.

 

He could smell the place even before he entered, but the strong whiff that hit him when they opened the door always felt like a second home. The slightly crispy scent of wood smoke and cooking food, the warmth that seeped into his bones the moment he stepped inside filled him with a soothing sensation that he never could fully place. It was something that he found that he could never quite get enough of, no matter how many times he came back to Grillby's, he always felt that delightful sensation.

He held Frisk's hand and glanced down to them with a hopeful grin. Maybe they could understand. They looked worried as he felt, and were holding their stomach with one hand, looking a little flushed.

 

Frisk's eyes were wide as they took in the place, looking about curiously at the slowly spinning ceiling fan with thin trails of smoke swirling around it, at the monsters lining the booths along the wall and stools, at Snowdin's royal guards chatting amicably amongst themselves at a circular table where they played cards. Frisk's eyes lingered on them nervously for a while before they glanced back up at him, but he only smiled and nodded. He wanted them to know that they were safe.

Granted, he couldn't necessarily ensure that they had their disguise, what with it being soaked to get the blood out, and yet... nobody seemed to notice. Even Doggo paused when they entered the building, looking up from his slowly waving hand full of cards and a smoking dog biscuit in his mouth. He said nothing at all to Sans, his eyes narrowed for a long moment. However, after a bit he reclined visibly with a barking laugh before turning back to his game with the other dogs, and his grip on Frisk's hand relaxed a little.

 

“Heya, Sans!” Dogamy perked up the moment, his thick brow rising in surprise. “Good to see you!”

“Hi, Sans,” Dogaressa yawned quietly, holding up a paw to him. “Good to see you in better health.”

“I get knocked down, but I get up again,” Sans shrugged with a little grin. “Ain't nothin' gonna keep me down.”

Greater Dog rumbled from his spot opposite them, tongue lolling happily from his mouth.

“You said it, big guy,” Doggo barked another laugh, blowing out smoke. Did nobody but Doggo recognize Frisk for what they were? What exactly had he been so worried about?

 

“Hi there Sans,” an odd horse looking monster in a leather jacket slid a comb through his hair as he passed them, heading for the door. “Good to have ya back.”

“Heya, Sansy~” he heard the slur from his right, and he had to bite back a groan. The bunny monster with her head slumped on the table had heavily flushed cheeks, and it looked like her eyes were spinning. But he couldn't say much. That would have been rude. Besides, the last time he'd been less than considerate toward her had been... highly unpleasant. Thank god she would never remember it.

“Hey doll,” Sans waved to her as they passed, trying to get to the bar without looking right at her.

“Who's your new friend, Sansy?” she called after him. “Totally like flies t'honey, huh?”

“What can I say,” he shrugged, trying (and failing) to fight off the deadpan. “I'm like a lightning rod for fun.”

A lightning rod for crazy, actually.

 

“Hey, Sans...” a duck looking monster with a large bill looked at him in confusion as he plopped into one of the barstools, patting the one beside him for Frisk to hop up on. They sat on top of a small whoopie cushion and pulled it out from underneath them, slowly turning and giving him a blank stare, which he only shrugged at with a smirk. “Where have you been? You never miss out on a visit at Grillby's.”

“Just one visit?” he said loudly. “Buddy, I never miss out on any meals,” he patted his stomach. There was a chorus of chuckles behind him from the dog's table, and he relaxed a little. Everything was going to be fine. Grillby was busy with another patron at the end of the bar, but it didn't matter.

 

Frisk was staring off into the corner where the monster with the slicked back hair had been; or more accurately, staring intently at the old wooden and glass jukebox. It was worn, and beaten, but polished with a pleasant sheen.

“So you like music, huh? What? Never seen a jukebox before, kiddo?” Sans asked, sticking his hands in his pockets. He withdrew a hand and held it out to them, dropping a few golden coins into their palms and nodding toward it. “Why don't you go give it a whirl, buddy?”

Frisk's face lit up brightly as they hopped from the stool that they had struggled so hard to climb atop, scampering excitedly over to the jukebox and bouncing on the balls of their feet with a huge grin as they pressed their face to the glass to see better.

 

He heard the crackly chortle of the bartender, and almost jumped. For someone that was literally made of fire, Grillby could easily sneak up on someone. Or was Sans just paying that little attention?

“Heya, Grillbz,” Sans said tiredly, sticking his hands back in his pockets. “I'm gonna need somethin' strong.”

“Is that really such a wise idea, my friend?” Grillby blinked behind his spectacles, which was a strange sight. “I had heard from your brother that you and the little one were not well. I cannot deny I began to grow worried.”

Sans felt like he had been punched in the stomach. How was he supposed to say it?

What was he supposed to say?

That there was a depraved sickness inside of him that was infecting his mind?

That he was a vile creature that could never truly wash the blood from his hands?

That his life was slowly crumbling around him no matter how desperately he tried to fight to make things better?

 

Sans realized that he had been sitting stock still for a little too long and forced himself to relax, giving a small practiced grin.

“No worries, Grillbz,” Sans waved him off with faux cheerfulness. “My fault for not bein' cautious enough. Everything is fine now. Everything is fine,” he said with a bit too much conviction. Grillby looked at him quietly, not moving. There was that feeling again that only Grillby could make him feel, like he was being looked through. Like he could see the sins staining his soul.

Like he knew.

 

Sans desperately tried to pretend that he wasn't sweating.

After a moment however Grillby nodded silently and returned with a couple of shots of slightly fizzing red liquid, which Sans wasted no time at all in downing with a thankful nod. He felt the burn almost immediately and let out a grateful sigh, closing his eyes. The insides of his bones were warm, and Grillby's already small establishment felt just a bit cozier for a little while. His mind felt thankfully fuzzy. At least he wouldn't have to drag his mind out of the dark places for a while. He couldn't go getting full on drunk, and had to forcibly remind himself of this a couple of times. He had things to do. He had to take care of Frisk.

Speak of the devil...

 

“Sans?”
“What's up, buddy?” Sans blinked his eye sockets open, turning on his stool to give them his full attention.

“I-I put in the money, but...” they fidgeted awkwardly, hiding their hands in their sleeves and looking away. “I... I didn't b-break it, did I...?”

Sans let out a single heh and patted them on the head, slipping from his stool. “Nah, don't worry, kid. That thing's just old and doesn't always work properly.”

“Like you?”

 

Sans wasn't quite sure that he had ever heard Grillby laugh before.

“Got a lip on ya today, huh, kid?” Sans couldn't keep the smile off his slightly heated face.

“I have lips every day,” Frisk blinked up at him in confusion. “You're the one who doesn't have lips.”

Were... were they messing with him? At least Grillby would back him up-

Was Grillby snickering behind his back?

 

“Alright, alright,” he nudged them toward the jukebox with his elbow. Why was he getting irritated? “C'mon, kid. I'll show ya how to fix it.”

Frisk lit up promptly, shifting from foot to foot with an eager expression.

Sans stood directly in front of the jukebox for a moment, unmoving. Then he casually reached out and gave it a couple of raps with his knuckles before elbowing it hard a few times, like he was tapping out a tune. Frisk's eyes widened considerably when gentle speakeasy music began emanating from the speakers.

 

“Whoa...” they stared at him. “How did you do that?”

He waved his hands in front of him with widened eyes and a dopey smile.

“Mmmmmmmaaaaaaagic,” he said with a smirk. Frisk seemed highly unsatisfied with his answer. He only found it slightly funnier that way. He couldn't keep a smile off his face as they tried to wiggle along to the music, shaking their arms a little and sliding left and right along to the tune. He rolled his head back in the direction of the bar after a minute, where Grillby was leaning with a quiet smile.

 

“There's not exactly a lot on the menu,” Sans shrugged as they reclaimed their seats. “Unless you like burgers and fries.”

Frisk looked back and forth between Grillby and Sans. The skeleton shrugged again.

 

“Burgers it is,” and Grillby nodded before taking off at a brisk pace. “You're gonna love it, kid. Grillby's got the best stuff around.”

Frisk brushed the hair from their eyes, and he froze instinctively. Their eyes were brown. It was fine. Everything was fine.

“Sans?”

“What's up, buddy?” he pulled a ketchup bottle from across the counter and flicked off the top expertly before taking a long swig. He held his hand on the table, tracing the wood grain with his fingertip.

“Um... what did you want to t-talk to me about?”

Sans swiftly felt as if the couple of shots that he'd had before weren't nearly enough.

 

Grillby still wasn't back yet, and Sans wished that the elemental would hurry to distract him so that he could stop this conversation and never, ever bring it up again.

“... Look,” Sans's shoulders sank a little, his face saddening. He swallowed hard, the guilt pulling at his chest. God this was difficult. “There's-there's, uh. Something I've... something I think I need to tell ya. I'm-I'm just... not sure how.”

“It's okay,” Frisk said kindly, placing their soft hand over his with a little smile. “I trust you.”

 

It hurt.

It ached, it burned, it fucking hurt.

He really was a miserable creature. They looked at him with that hopeful smile, tilting their head a little with their hair in their eyes. With so much belief in their eyes. With so much love that he didn't deserve.

They needed to know so that he could find a way to stop this. To stop him. To know that they had to stay away.

And just the thought of forcing them away hurt even more.

What the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

“... Heh. This is Grillby, by the way. Looks like the grub's up,” Sans's smile stayed on his face, but it felt so plastic. Frisk looked almost worried as they poked around the plate that Grillby set for them before he resumed tending to other patrons. “Bone appetit, buddy.”

Sans thoroughly enjoyed Grillby's cooking, and this was no exception. The burger was thick and juicy, not too well done with a slight hint of charcoal among the tender meat. Frisk watched him eat for a few moments, like they were uncertain.

 

“It's alright, kid,” Sans said after a bit of them poking uneasily at their plate without actually eating. “It's probably not gonna bite back.”

“I'm sorry,” Frisk rubbed their arms, trying to hide their hands in their sleeves. “I... I can't.”

“Aw, come on, kiddo...” he gave a little sigh. “Who knows? Maybe you'd like it if you tried it.”

Frisk shifted again, staring down at their plate. They had to be hungry by now. They were so small, so thin. It was like they weren't used to eating, and the thought made his soul ache.

“... Just a bite?” he prodded.

Frisk looked around nervously, their cheeks flushed. They opened and closed their mouth a few times before tightly locking their lips, looking away. What was wrong with them? Were they really disliking Grillby's that much? They seemed so happy when they were dancing and shaking along to the music. Were they not used to public places like this? That might have explained the redness in their cheeks. Maybe they were just nervous about being to a new place. Something wasn't adding up and it bothered him more than he admitted.

Sans sighed internally and waved to Grillby.

 

“Don't worry, kiddo,” Sans patted them on the head, and they flinched. “Hey, Grillbz. I think we're gonna get ours to go. Put it on my tab?”

Grillby crossed his arms and narrowed his fiery brows, but put away their food in a brown paper bag for them regardless. How Grillby managed to even hold it without setting it on fire was a mystery to Sans. Sans quietly asked Grillby for something after Frisk had climbed down from the barstool, and Sans gladly traded off the remaining golden coins in his pocket for a second bag, this one with a couple of large glass bottles.

 

They didn't take a shortcut immediately. He simply stood outside of Grillby's, taking a deep breath and letting the snowflakes fall and build on him. He held Frisk's hand the entire time, staring off at the ceiling for a while. He could still see some of the more luminescent crystals in the ceiling poking through the clouds. If Frisk minded at all they didn't say a word, only holding his hand back and slowly looking up at the cloudy ceiling where the snow fell in puffy bits.

“... Sans?”

“What's up, buddy?” Sans asked quietly, not looking away.

“Why are you sad?”

Sans blinked, glancing down at them. He gave their hand a little squeeze as he smiled.

 

“I'm okay, kid. I'm always okay. Just thinking.”

Frisk was silent for a moment.

 

“Sans?”

“Yeah, kid.”

“... Have you ever seen the sky?”

“I've seen pictures,” he shrugged. “There are illustrations in textbooks.”

Frisk looked at him with something that might have been... sadness? Hope? Pity? God he hoped it wasn't pity. He didn't want them to pity him.

 

“... Sans.”

“Yeah, kid.”

“Someday,” Frisk took a deep breath, puffing out their chest. “Someday, I'm-I'm gonna give it to you.”

“... Give what?”

“The sky,” they said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “You, and Papyrus, and Undyne, and Mo- everyone,” Frisk's voice grew quieter as they gently squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back, running his thumb slowly over their knuckles. “Someday, I'm gonna give you stars. Real stars. All of the surface, and the sun, and the moon, and all the stars in the night sky.”

 

Sans felt his breath catch in his aching chest. They really were such a sweet kid. They looked at him with that little smile, so hopeful, so happy, so full of love. Sans let out a shaky sigh and lowered himself a little until he was head height with them.

“... Hey. Kid. I wanna show you something,” he carefully tucked the bags into his jacket before pulling them a little closer. “Hang on real tight, and whatever you do, do not let go. Okay?”

Frisk nodded obligingly, and Sans felt the pull of magic as the void whipped and whirled around them. He stepped carefully from the shortcut into the dark, and Frisk took in a sharp breath as they released him.

 

The stones in the ceiling sparkled brilliantly. It was one of the relatively drier spots in Waterfall, but it still wasn't exactly dry by any means as droplets of water fell from the ceiling regularly in small sprinkles. Sans sat quietly on the ground cross legged and craned his neck, keeping Frisk in sight as they gaped open mouthed upward.

“We might not have stars down here,” Sans said quietly. “But we've got these. Everybody just calls it the wishing room, since we don't have stars to wish on, we just use these glowing rocks up here. And, hey, who knows. If you wish hard enough, your wish might even come true.”

Frisk slowly, carefully sat down beside him, reaching out to hold his hand again before leaning against him quietly.

“That's... that's so sad,” Frisk said unhappily after a while.

“Sad?” he blinked. “Nah, not even close. Just proof that monsters can stay hopeful even in the face of adversity. I think it's kinda admirable.”

“Do you ever make wishes here?” they asked.

“Nah. Too lazy for that kind of thing,” he winked.

Frisk seemed displeased at his answer, but didn't say anything else. They only squeezed his hand a little tighter, giving him an odd look before turning their head back to the ceiling. They sat like that for a long while, neither of them speaking. That was fine with Sans. He gradually began to slip into unconsciousness every now and then. Maybe they could just stay like this for a while. Sans really wouldn't mind. He wasn't necessarily comfortable, sitting on the cold slightly wet hard stone, but he could relax just about anywhere regardless. Frisk skipped a few rocks silently over a puddle, tossing them out with their left hand.

There was that feeling again.

 

“... Hey, kid.”

“What is it, Sans?” they replied without looking at him, tossing another rock.

“When are you comin' back?”

They stiffened.

“... Whatever do you mean?” they said quietly, turning a little to face him. Their red eyes locked onto his empty ones, and they froze.

“That's a pretty neat trick you can do with your eyes...” he said with a slowly growing grin.

 

W a n n a s e e m i n e?”

 

Sans's left eye flared blue with magic, causing them to nearly trip over themselves in panic to get away. The child screamed as they were hurled roughly through the air, and the wind was knocked from their lungs as they hit the dripping stone wall. He could see their soul doused in blue through their shirt, giving off a slightly sickly light. Their eyes were wide as they scrabbled at their throat, little chest heaving for air as gravity slowly increased, pinning them in place.

“I'm always a fan of fun,” Sans said slowly as he stood, dusting off his shorts. “But I think this is kinda messed up as far as practical jokes go. So I'm only gonna ask you once. Where's the kid.

It wasn't even a question as much as it was a statement, a promise of pain to come.

 

The human choked and pulled at invisible cords around their neck, eyes rolling wildly in their head. Sans let out an irritated sigh and held out his hand, releasing his grip a little. They sucked in greedy gulps full of air, tears streaming down their face.

“Don't have all day, buddy,” Sans tapped an invisible watch on his wrist, trying his best to remain calm. “So let's get this show on the road, huh? Because to be honest, I'm not exactly in a patient fuckin' mood right now.”

Fuck you,” the child that looked like Frisk screamed at him as soon as they could, still gasping for breath. “Fuck you, fuck you I hate you, I hate you so – fucking – much...!

“I can live with that,” he stuck his hands in his pockets. “I hate me too, kiddo.”

“Fuck you,” they swore again, sobbing. “F-fuck you, fuck y-you...!

“Man, I am gonna have to introduce you to the swear jar,” Sans chortled humorlessly. “But, see I'd really like to have Frisk back, and you're getting on my nerves.”

“I-I am-”

Don't,” he growled viciously, increasing the gravity on them a little and causing them to gasp in pain from the pressure. “Don't get me wrong. You look just like the kid. But there are a few things that gave it away. For example, that little lilt in your voice when you talk, sound like you're not even from this era. Plus, Frisk doesn't swear. Like, ever. Also, you happen to be left handed,” he eyed their left arm pointedly. “Frisk is right handed. You aren't. So what do you say we just cut the shit, eh? I'd really like to have my kid back. How about it?”

“How about you go fuck yourself-”

 

He threw out his arm, slamming the child into the ground.

Hard.

 

They groaned and coughed in agony, curling up in a little ball and desperately trying to kick away from him but were unable to move from their spot.

“Man, what is it with you?” he asked quietly, leaning a little with his hands in his jacket pockets as he stood over them. “Do you like pain or something? 'Cause if that's the case, buddy, I can grant that wish for ya.”

“I hate you,” they hiccuped with their arms over their head, trying to hide their face. “Go to hell, fucker!”

Sans let out a quiet sigh through his teeth, gradually bending at the knees until he was squatting in front of them. He silently picked up their tear streaked face by the chin with his forefinger, forcing them to look at him. Those red eyes, so full of anger, leaking tears and rage and hatred.

And Frisk was in there, somewhere.

 

“Let's just get to the point.”

They froze, breath catching.

“I don't wanna die,” they whispered miserably, tears beginning anew. “I don't wanna die.

“That's kinda too bad for you,” Sans said quietly. “Because I promised to take care of Frisk. I've got no such obligation toward you. Hopefully you'll be Frisk when you come back.”

“No, no no no no...!” they sobbed again, trying to curl in on themselves. They only shook and cried, vainly trying to hide their entire self behind their arms. Sans couldn't help but cringe.

God, was he really going to kill them until he got Frisk back?

 

Sans sighed a little. He stood up straighter, giving them a minute as they cried.

“... Look, buddy,” he said with a frown. “If you don't quit with the waterworks I'll be forced to use my special attack.

If anything, this only caused them to cry and shake harder, but they silenced themselves immediately. Sans sighed again.

 

“Can't say I tried. Alright, here' goes.”

They flinched, stopping breathing altogether.

 

They hardly even registered when Sans's slipper bounced off their head.

The child tearfully blinked in confusion, looking back and forth between Sans and the slipper.

“Nyeh. Take that,” he said in a straight deadpan. “I gotta warn you though. I can only do that twice.”

“... Are you fucking with me?” they choked.

“First of all, watch your damned language,” Sans scowled, sliding his foot back into his slipper. “But, uh. I got to thinkin'. Maybe we got off on the wrong...” he pointed at his slipper again. “Foot.”

“... I hate you so much.

“Again, something I can live with. If not I'd surely die,” he winked. They hadn't even noticed when the gravity altering magic had ceased to hold them down, but they didn't run when they sat up. “So. How's about we start this off right with introductions? The name's Sans. Sans the skeleton,” he winked again. “But I don't seem to remember your name, though I'm pretty goddamn sure we've met.”

“There's a lot you seem to forget,” they sniffed hatefully, rubbing their nose with their sleeve.

“Like, for example?”

“Like, for example all the dirty, perverted disgusting shit you promised to do to me if I ever came back.”

 

Sans's marrow ran cold.

“... I said a lot of things,” his voice didn't seem to want to come out properly.

“Yeah, you sick fuck. Like 'I'll pull out your eyeballs and skull fuck you to death,” they listed off on their fingers, giving him a withering glower. “Or 'I'll make you choke to death on my cock', or 'I'll assfuck the life out of you', ooh, or my personal favorite, 'How about I-

“That's enough!” Sans snapped, sweating. “Jesus. Jesus fucking Christ,” he ran a hand over the top of his head. “I... I said a lot of things that I regret,” he stuck his hands back in his pockets before they could see how badly he was shaking. “I just... you really don't get just how badly I wanted it to stop.”

“You think you're the only one to suffer?” their red eyes narrowed as they wiped their eyes with their sleeve. “Do you have even the slightest inkling of what you did to Frisk?”

That seemed to strike a nerve.

 

Sans had to take a long, hard, deep breath to keep from screaming.

 

You -” he jabbed a finger at them. “Do not get to speak of behalf of Frisk. If they've got something to tell me, they can tell me themselves. Capiche? Now, I really, really don't like repeating myself, and it would be a bad idea to make me. I'm trying – honest to god, really fuckin' trying – to be a nice guy, and I can't guarantee that the offer is going to last long, so I'm gonna ask one. More. Time. Where's Frisk?

“Resting,” they said simply. They still didn't stand, didn't look him in the eyes.

“Better than no answer,” Sans rolled his overly tense shoulders. “Next question. What's your name?”

They didn't answer.

 

Sans started to remove his hand from his pocket, and they flinched.

“... C-Chara,” they answered quietly, their cheeks heating a little as if they were ashamed to admit it. “My-my name is Chara.”

“Whelp,” he stuck out his hand to help them up, which they slapped away and stood on their own. “Can't necessarily say it's been 'nice' to meet'cha, 'Chara'. But I know Frisk hasn't eaten much, so you've gotta be hungry, too. Let's go finish off these burgs, eh?”

“What do you care?” they crossed their arms sourly. “You're just like everyone else. You just want to get rid of me.”

“Why would I?” he shrugged halfheartedly. “I got two kids for the price of one.”

Chara stared at him curiously, lower eyelid slowly rising as their eye ticked.

“Don't call me a kid! What is it with you?” they almost shouted at him. “What the fuck is your prob-

 

Chara suddenly found it more difficult to speak with Sans's fist clenched around their throat.

He forced himself to release his grip, his shoulders shaking with barely concealed rage. It was a good thing he'd picked up the liquor from Grillby, because at the rate they were going now he was most certainly going to need it later. He had to list off the reasons in his head why it was a bad idea to force resets until Frisk came back.

 

“... Right,” he said quietly, widening his grin a little. “Definitely gonna have to introduce you to the swear jar.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Stay calm. Stay calm. Stay calm.

 

They dropped out of the shortcut almost as soon as they entered it, falling into the kitchen as displaced air popped around them. Chara slapped angrily at his hand and backed away into the kitchen wall, glowering hatefully at him. Their cheeks were red and they seemed to be sweating, but their neck and forehead seemed uncomfortably pale. Sans ignored them and pulled the bags from his jacket, carelessly dropping them onto the table and almost flopping into one of the mismatched chairs before yanking out one of the bottles of heavy cider. He tore off the top with a flick of his thumb, leaving behind all pretense. He chugged hard at the amber liquid, either not noticing or not caring about the burn in the back of his throat. He slid the bottle top across the table and pocketed it.

 

Chara started to speak, but Sans silently held up a finger without taking the bottle away from his mouth, continuing to drink. They looked extremely irritated, but Sans ignored them in favor of pouring down more of the burning cider. He eventually pulled away from the bottle and slammed it down onto the wooden table, causing Chara to jump. He sucked in greedy breaths of air, his vision blurring.

 

“... Sit,” he jabbed a thumb at the chair opposite him. When they refused to move, he slowly turned his head toward them, and they saw that his eye sockets were empty. “Buddy. Friend. Pal. What did I say about making me repeat myself.

Chara uttered something extremely foul under their breath, deliberately slowly shuffling over until they were in the seat opposite of him. They sat in complete silence for what felt like hours. Sans stared at the top of the glass bottle, watching the amber liquid slosh back and forth as he tipped the bottle, and the neck felt like the smokestack to a terrible factory. He let go eventually, leaning back and closing his eyes, letting out a long, frustrated sigh.

 

He cracked an eye socket open just in time to see Chara reaching for the bottle, and he was swift to grab the neck and yank it away, much to their annoyance.

“Yeah, no. None for you,” he frowned. “I'm not totally irresponsible, thank you very much.”

“... So when are you planning on doing it?” Chara asked quietly, not looking him in the eyes. Their arms were crossed and their scowl was plain on their face. They looked significantly different than Frisk when they pouted. Even now the little runt was tainting his child. He had to fight to keep his hands from shaking again.

“Do what, kid?”

“Kill me.”

“Don't tempt me,” he said dryly before cringing internally.

 

Stay calm. Don't get angry – well, actually, that's not going to happen, just don't take out your anger on them. Stay calm. For the love of god just stay calm.

 

They fell silent again, looking away.

“... So,” Sans leaned forward suddenly with his elbows on the table, steepling his fingers beneath his chin. “Here's how this is gonna go down. I'm gonna ask some questions, and you're gonna answer them to the best of your ability.”

Then you'll kill me.”

“Depends on the answer,” he replied darkly before closing his eyes and sighing heavily. “Look. I don't know you. I don't like you either, but that's neither here nor there. I'm not going to pass judgment until I've heard your side of the story. So do me a favor and make it a damned interesting story.”

 

Chara didn't speak.

Sans sighed again. He slowly pulled one of the burgers from the bag in it's paper wrap and casually began to unfold it. It was still hot, surprisingly. Chara's eyes didn't leave him as he gradually unwrapped it before sliding it across the table in front of them.

 

“You should eat something,” Sans said as he leaned back in his chair.

“Screw you.”

Sans felt the magic building and roaring inside his head, and he had to fight to hold it back.

“Let me rephrase that. You're going to eat something.”

“Then let me rephrase that,” Chara scowled. “I can't.

“Suit yourself,” Sans took another swig and pulled his own remaining burger from the bag, digging into it. “Paps won't eat Grillby's, but I sure will. Fork it over.”

They didn't move.

He only shrugged, finishing off his meal.

 

“Honestly I couldn't care less about what you eat or whether or not you eat at all,” Sans began quietly. “But you seem to be piloting my kid right now, and I'm positive that they need fuel. So do us both a favor and chow down already.”

“I told you,” Chara's frown deepened. “I can't.

“A'ight,” he shrugged with a little grin. “I'll 'bite'. Why not?”

They pointed at their stomach.

 

“My stomach hurts.”
“Yeah,” he deadpanned. “Because you haven't eaten anything. Eating food makes stomach aches go away.”

“You don't get it...” Chara seethed through their teeth. “I can't. It. Hurts.

“And I'm telling you that you don't get it. It'll stop if you just... just eat... uh.”

 

Sans blinked.

“Is it like before?”

Chara tilted their head a little at him.

 

“Y'know. Like when Frisk was looking kind of – well, a lot like you're lookin' right now.”

“I don't know how I look right now,” Chara said blankly. “I don't have eyes outside my head.”

Sans paused before taking another swig. He was already a quarter of a way through it, and he could most certainly feel it. Frisk was a good kid. Chara was a pain in the neck and he wanted nothing more than to forcefully plant his foot right up their ass.

This kid was going to cause him to go through the whole bottle in one sitting at this rate. His head was feeling numb and fuzzy, the pleasant buzz ringing in his bones. Frankly it was the only thing keeping his bones from rattling by now.

 

“... Will you eat if I heal you?”

“Fuck off, I don't need-” Chara started before grasping their stomach, their face contorting. Their breathing quickened considerably, and sweat was almost pouring off their forehead.

“Okay,” he shrugged again. “Suit yourself. I'm sure you won't wind up inches from death passed out in the floor again any time soon.”

Chara pushed their chair away from the table, the legs scraping loudly against the floor. The stomped directly over to his side, their expression completely empty. They pulled up their shirt with one hand to reveal their stomach, and glared at him.

 

“Just hurry the fuck up and give it to me.”

“Hey, save the bedroom talk for your date, eh?”

“Stop fucking with me!” Chara bellowed angrily.

“Stop swearing and maybe I will,” he replied coyly. Chara opened their mouth to retort before slamming it shut, their cheeks a cherry red as they turned their head away. They opened and closed their mouth several more times without speaking.

 

“... Please?” they asked through gritted teeth.

“Please what?” Sans asked with his chin in his hands, grinning at them. It probably wasn't a good idea to antagonize them when they were clearly in pain, but he honestly couldn't help it. They were just too much fun to not irritate.

“I hate you,” Chara seethed, clutching their stomach with one hand. Sans instantly felt the guilt resurface as they began to cry again, shaking hands unable to keep themselves still. Sans sighed internally and turned in his seat before holding his hand over their belly. He would just get it over with and then they could go back to eating and everything would be fine. Maybe he could even get Frisk to come back before Papyrus returned home and they could all sit down for a movie and pretend that everything was going to be okay for a while. Sans felt an uncomfortable prickle after a few moments.

This slowly grew into a gnawing feeling of growing despair and confusion.

 

“... Uh oh.”

“What do you mean, 'uh oh'?” Chara snapped.

“Uh. Uh. Okay. Okay, don't panic,” Sans felt sweat bead on the back of his head.

“That's not a reassuring thing to say to someone in pain,” their eyes widened a little. He missed seeing Frisk's eyes. He missed hearing Frisk's quiet voice. He missed having Frisk around.

Chara was just obnoxious.

 

Was that why the green magic wasn't coming? Because he felt no love for them?

That drove a spike of fear into the center of his chest.

What if Chara was just another part of Frisk? Was Chara's presence alone killing them?

What if he literally couldn't bring himself to care enough to heal them?

 

“... Sans?” Chara asked after a moment. They didn't look angry. They didn't look spiteful, or bitter. They were crying silently. They just looked... hurt.

“Okay. Okay, just-just stay calm,” he wasn't sure who he was talking to. “I can do this. Just... just stay still for me. Okay? Just stand real still. I've got this.”

 

Sans took in a deep breath, feeling dizzy.

Maybe getting drunk and performing healing magic that he didn't have a full grasp of wasn't the best idea.

“... Are you sure you can't just ride it out?” Sans asked nervously, drawing his hand away a little.

“Are you shitting me?” Chara said through their teeth, eyes narrowing to slits. “Sans, I said please, don't make me beg like a dog!

They really would be better behaved with a leash-

 

Sans shook his head fiercely, pressing his hand against their stomach gently.

“Alright. Okay. Just... hold on to something.”

Chara gripped their shirt a little tighter. Sans reached again for the magic, pushing harder this time. He could feel a terrible pounding in his head from the over exertion, his bones feeling heavier as magic coursed down his palm.

Nothing happened.

 

Sans had to fight back a tide of panic, closing his eye sockets tightly.

It was like healing a hurt Papyrus. Little Papyrus who scraped his knees falling down a small flight of stairs. Papyrus, who had been so overjoyed to see him come to his rescue. Frisk. Frisk needed him too. If Chara was in pain, then there was a good chance that Frisk was, too. Frisk, who looked at him with hope, with forgiveness, with mercy.

Frisk, who looked at him with love and promised to give him the impossible like it was something that they would gladly do for his sake. He had to do it. He had to do it for them.

Do it because you love them.

Do it for Frisk.

 

Sans heard them let out a shuddering breath as luminescent green light slowly began to trickle from his fingertips. He cracked open an eye socket to see their expression, and it was... unsettling. It was like a disturbing amalgam of anger, slipping back and forth between pain and pure, unadulterated pleasure. A sliver of drool was leaking from the corner of their mouth and their eyes were rolling slowly back and forth beneath half lidded eyelids. Sans stopped immediately and it was like his whole being drooped. His shoulders fell and his head slowly began to slip, his eye sockets suddenly becoming heavy.

 

“... Sans?” they asked quietly, dropping their shirt.

“Don't... make me... do that... again,” Sans said through heavy breaths, putting his shaking hands on the table to keep the room from spinning. It wasn't helping. “Please... kid. I can't... I just can't.

Chara looked at him with something that might have been... worry? He couldn't tell. He was so tired. So drained. He felt like his bones were full of lead. It was so much work just to keep his eyes open.

 

“... Please eat,” he asked quietly. It took so much energy, so much effort just to lift his arm, and he let it drop onto their shoulder. “Please, kiddo. You're killing me here.”

Chara looked back and forth from him to the food, clenching and unclenching their left hand.

“... Okay,” they said eventually. “We- I'll eat. I'll eat, Sans.”

“Thank you.” his hand dropped to his side and hung limply. Sans shakily stood, his legs feeling like a Moldsmal on a cold day. He couldn't quite bring himself to say what he wanted. He wasn't even sure he had the energy in him anymore. He couldn't focus. He couldn't think. He blindly grabbed at the bottle on the table, almost dropping it before slowly shuffling past Chara, who was bearing one of the strangest expressions that he had ever seen on anyone.

 

He could hear them softly stepping behind him as he made his way to the couch. Why were they following him? Didn't he ask them (very politely, for a change) to eat? Didn't they care?

That was fine.

Sans couldn't find it in him to care anymore, either.

 

He dropped onto the end of the couch, cradling the glass bottle between his legs. His eye sockets were still closed, but he could feel Frisk (Chara, Frisk, did it matter any more?) climbing onto the sofa beside him. For someone who hated him so much they were awfully close. He still didn't care.

They were silent for a while. Sans could feel unconsciousness pulling at the back of his mind. At least he would finally be able to rest. At least-

 

Their hands are between my legs oh god oh god oh god what do I do don't move don't react don't budge an inch don't panic just stay calm stay calm you know what happens when you panic just for the love of god stay calm-

The friction he felt between his legs stopped as the glass bottle was slowly pulled away from him. He assumed that they were simply putting it away, which was nice of them. Then he rethought that and crankily cracked open an eye to see them chugging heavily from the bottle.

 

Shit!” he snatched it from them, causing them to cough and splutter as the liquor spilled onto their lap.

“Hey, what the hell?!” Chara scowled. Sans couldn't bring himself to stand again, so instead he rifled in his pocket for a moment to find the bottle top, screwing it on and sticking the whole bottle into the crack in the end of the couch.

“How much did you just drink?” Sans asked resignedly. His tongue felt so heavy. From the color of their face and the slightly fuzzy look of their eyes, he wagered that it was far more than they should be allowed.

Which was none.

 

Chara shrugged, crossing their arms and looking away.

“... Goddammit, kid,” Sans pinched the bridge of his nostril bone and closed his eyes. “I let a kid drink alcohol. Oh, god. Oh, Christ. Oh, god. Paps is gonna kill me.”

“... Papyrus doesn't have to know...” Chara said quietly, and even though his eye sockets were closed he could feel that odd stare on him. Their words rang in his head. He felt slightly sick. Not just from the liquor. Not just because of the way that they said it.

Because it was true.

 

“... Kid, you're gonna wind up giving me a heart attack.”

“Sans.”

He grunted in response.

“... I still feel funny.”

“That's because kids aren't supposed to drink,” he frowned without opening his eyes. “Have fun with the hangover, by th' way.”

“Sans I'm serious,” Chara shook his shoulder roughly. “I... I still feel weird.”

“Bad weird?”

They didn't answer.

 

“... I think I need more.”

“Like hell I'm letting you drink-”

“Not that,” Chara shook his shoulder again. “I-I just... I just need it. Okay?”

“Oh.” he blinked his eye sockets open. “... Oh.

“... Please?” they stuck out their lip like Frisk did, pouting.

“Okay,” he caved almost as soon as he tried to fight it, his eye sockets slipping closed again as he let out a long, pained sigh. “Okay, bud. Just gotta rest for a few... few minutes.”

“Sans, come on-”

“If you b'have,” he tried to hold up a finger but wound up flopping his hand instead. “A'ight? Can ya – can you be on your best behavior f'r a bit?”

They grumbled something incoherent, but it sounded enough like noncommittal agreement. Sans let out another long sigh, unable to hold his eye sockets open any longer.

 

It wasn't a good idea to fall asleep next to Chara. He didn't like the feeling of those red eyes on him. Especially not when he was vulnerable. It was a bad idea to start drinking, but they just made him so angry. So furious.

He did not need to take that anger out on anyone else.

Maybe not Chara.

Definitely not Frisk.

He heard rustling.

 

“... Kid.”

They froze promptly next to him, having crawled a little closer. They were probably trying to wait until he was fully passed out before sneaking the alcohol again, but he kept it firmly away from them and pushed it a little further into the couch with one hand.

 

“Y-yeah.”

“As soon as I get up, me n' you are gonna have a nice, long chat. Either you or Frisk are gonna give me some answers.”

“And what if I don't?”

“You will.”

“So, what if I-”

“Then don't do it for me,” he groaned quietly. “I don't care if you do it for me. Do it for Frisk.”

 

They fell silent at that.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Why do we have to keep doing this, Dad?”

You were specifically instructed not to call me that,” Gaster leveled a stare at the smaller skeleton from across the steel table. “You were given a designated position to refer to me-”

Aw, come on. 'Doc' sounds so formal, don'tcha think?” Sans grinned at the bespectacled skeleton. He was stooped slightly over the table, scribbling furiously at a stack of papers encoded in an odd language. “Besides, it gets a funny reaction out of your little lackeys.”

They are assistants and you would be wise to refer to them as such,” Gaster shifted his glasses with his forefinger expressionlessly. As he did everything. He always looked so blank. So empty.

 

... You didn't answer my question,” Sans said pointedly, rifling through some of the papers that he had been instructed to sort through for mathematical errors. It didn't even matter when he found any (because he always did) as Gaster's 'assistants' would undoubtedly be going back over them in a few hours anyway. So why bother doing the work when someone else would do it for him?

Do you not want to be the savior of monsterkind?” the taller skeleton asked wryly. “Or are you still so selfish as to keep everyone behind the barrier?”

You know full well that the stupid blasters aren't going to tear down the barrier no matter how many times we hit it,” Sans grinned. “Why not just give up? I did.”

I know,” Gaster said quietly. “That's why we have the backup.”

Yeah, and 'the backup' has a name, you know.” San's grin fell from his face.

He will have a proper name when he earns it,” he replied tartly, shifting through papers. “You should feel privileged that you are being included at all.”

Yeah. Because 'privileged' is exactly what I feel during our 'sessions'. Y'know. That, and mind breakingly tortuous agony.”

 

Gaster let out a breath through his teeth, his expression unchanging.

One day you will thank me, Sans. You will thank the stars for ever having the right to know me. Stars that you will get to see after we eradicate humanity.”

See, statements like that are the reason why I think it's a good thing that you're trapped down here and not up there.”

Gaster didn't react. Not in the traditional sense. He did, however, become very quiet and very, very still, and Sans couldn't keep the grin off of his face. His session today was going to be absolutely brutal, he had no doubt. But that didn't matter to him.

It was a little game between them by this point. If he could get under the skeleton's skin (hah) and elicit a response from the seemingly emotionless scientist, then that was it. He won. They both knew it. That made it more fun.

 

But Gaster always was a sore loser.

Sans almost didn't care how many times he begged for death that day.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter currently being edited.

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

It was cold.

 

It was so, so cold.

 

He knew, on some level, that as a skeleton he couldn't really feel the icy chill that the fleshier monsters could, but that knowledge didn't help. The gurney he was strapped to was like a slab of ice. It was so cold that he could swear he felt his marrow slowly freezing. The taller skeleton never bothered looking up from his notes as the machine screamed to life, blasting a concentrated beam of pure, unfiltered magic into his eye.

The cold suddenly felt like a mercy as overwhelming heat flooded his bones yet again, his muffled cries either unheard or ignored. It was like being slowly dipped in magma, it was excruciatingly hot, unbearable in every sense of the word. The heat seeped into his body and cast out the chill, so fiery that he could feel his marrow boiling in his bones. Too cold, too hot, too cold, too hot – it didn't really matter, in the end. It never did.

 

Nothing really mattered.

That was fine with Sans.

 

Sans's mind was a flurry of images as his cognitive functions shut down against his will, unconsciousness creeping its way in from the corners of his eye sockets. The pain like a railroad spike in his left eye was too much, too intense; he couldn't tell what was reality and what was fiction anymore. Flashes of red on gold tiles, of scarves in the snow and dusty knives. Too much information compounded into images rifling through his head. It was like dozens of icy hands reaching out and choking the life from him all at once. He couldn't think clearly. Couldn't speak, couldn't cry out for help that wouldn't come anymore.

 

The sweet embrace of sleep called to him, and he reached out to it with a smile as he slowly slipped away.

 

And then some jackass had to go and wake him up.

 

Another injection should do,” Gaster reapplied the IV drip into his arm, focused liquid green magic frothing a little in the transparent bag. How many times was he going to drag him back from the brink of death? Maybe it didn't even matter, either. “Do try to stay conscious this time, will you Sans? I've got a lot of ground to cover and your feeble attempts to sway my opinion are growing thinner by the hour.”

Sluh ohm bu dob duh muhfuggah,” Sans slurred incoherently, the lights in his eye sockets fuzzy as he fought to prevent the green magic from healing him. Maybe if he could just resist it long enough he would be lucky enough to turn to dust before Gaster finished his experiments. He'd gladly turn to dust out of spite by this point.

But there was the matter of the 'backup'.

He really had grown too attached to it.

Him.

Attached to him.

He had a name. Even if Gaster refused to acknowledge it.

 

Use your words, Sans,” Gaster fiddled with a couple of dials on the crane like machine, and the power rumbling through it's center rattled his bones a little.

I – said,” he muttered through tightly clenched teeth as he pulled uselessly at the restraints. “Slob on my knob, you motherf-”

Sans's words died in his throat as Gaster flicked a switch, sending yet another seemingly endless barrage of heavily concentrated magic blasting into his eye socket. It hurt, it boiled him, it burned it fucking hurt and Gaster just kept on doing it over and over and over as he shrieked, asking the exact same question each time.

 

A cozy little house in the snow with a pair of mailboxes out front. A tall, regal looking goat monster with a fuzzy beard and a wide smile shaking hands with a withered old human. Figures and letters in a language that he didn't understand. Dust, so much dust billowing in the wind, empty corridors and hollow laughter. Grey figures holding gelatinous black pieces of quivering matter that felt too familiar and surreally unfamiliar simultaneously. Bloodied bones and broken screams, endless cycles of chaotic memories that didn't belong, that hadn't happened, that had been long ago, that never would come to be.

 

Sans wasn't sure when the beam had been lowered, but he could still feel the burning sensation in his left eye. He couldn't even see straight anymore, the slamming between his eye sockets was just too much, he couldn't see, he couldn't think, why wouldn't anyone just help him? He knew that the assistants heard. They knew everything that went on in the underground facility. They didn't care. None of them did. So long as they got their name on the papers, it didn't matter to any of them how loudly he begged, how many times he'd screamed himself hoarse.

 

Now, I'm going to ask again,” Gaster asked calmly as if he were discussing the weather, striding to his side and leaning over him a little with a clipboard in his holed hands. “What do you see pertaining to the machine?”

Sans either couldn't, or wouldn't bring himself to answer.

Gaster let out a quiet sigh through his nostril bone, rearranging his spectacles.

 

Are you sure that you don't want another dose of the anesthetic?” Gaster asked in an almost gentle tone. “You know that I worry for you, Sans.”

... Wow,” Sans breathed croakily. “And here I thought you had no sense of humor.”

Sans didn't care if he irritated him by this point. He couldn't bear the thought of having that damned 'anesthetic' injected into his arm again. It was most certainly not just a painkiller like Gaster claimed it was. It hollowed him out on the inside, it didn't just make it hard to think, it made it impossible to think for himself. Made him too susceptible. The fact that Gaster presented him with the illusion of choice was already cruel enough.

 

Instead of reacting as he expected, Gaster only sighed again, standing up straight.

Very well,” he said without a trace of emotion. “Then I shall just be forced to give your dosage to the backup-”

Don't,” Sans growled hatefully. “Don't, don't you fucking DARE...!”

You have been warned about swearing in my presence,” he replied coolly. “And why would you care? I thought you didn't even want it around in the first place.”

HE is not an IT!” Sans tried to shout, but his throat was just too sore, and it came out cracking and weak. “I don't want him dead, I just don't want him any-fucking-where near you, you goddamned manipulative psychopath!”

Gaster smiled.

He actually, for the first time Sans had ever seen, smiled.

 

It still haunted him.

 

Perhaps you need a deterrent,” Gaster said simply. Sans flinched when he reached for the dials on the laser, and stared in confusion as it was slowly turned away. Sans felt sweaty and worn thin already, but the little action made him even more wary. “Obviously, persuading you with logic and reason is getting us nowhere. What you really need is motivation.”

... No,” Sans fought weakly against the straps, reaching for magic that he didn't have for a fight that he couldn't win. “No, no no no, please, c'mon doc, don't-!”

You still seem to be under the delusion that you can give me orders,” Gaster's smile widened a little bit. “Do you even know why I do the things that I do, Sans?”

Because you're a sadistic fuck who gets off on the suffering of defenseless children?” Sans asked innocently.

Gaster's smile froze in place.

 

... I think that you can have the privilege of sitting in on the backup's session today. Clearly the trial study will end in failure no matter the circumstance. Who knows, maybe you can learn a thing or two from it about respecting your elders.”

See, I knew it wasn't just about getting results,” Sans forced a little grin, trying to mimic Gaster's too wide smile. “This was personal to you ever since you made us, amirite?”

Gaster peered down at him from behind his spectacles, like one might observe an insect.

Don't flatter yourself. This has been 'personal' since before the war. Don't you understand, Sans? Don't you get it? No, of course you don't. Your mind is underdeveloped. You simply lack the capacity. But you will understand, Sans.” he continued, slowly running a hand down Sans's forehead, causing him to shudder. “Once we get to the surface, everything will become clear. Maybe one day you'll finally understand that what I do, I do only out of LOVE.”

... Hey, 'doc'.”

What is it, Sans.”

Not a question. Merely an acknowledgment that he had spoken. Something he rarely received.

 

Sometimes? You make me really glad that humans won the war.”

Sans hated himself for being weak. He hated himself for being cowardly. He hated himself for being bitter, for being spiteful, for being angry and hateful and vengeful and everything that Papyrus was not.

Mostly, however, he hated himself for the wrath that he had just brought down upon Papyrus's head. The little skeleton who looked at everything he saw with wide eyed wonder and hope. Who was so happy to see him whenever he returned to their 'room' with the too small cots and cold steel walls. Who begged him, pleaded with him day after day to just give Gaster another chance, that all he really needed to redeem himself was someone who cared.

Sans hated himself for a lot of things.

 

And for once in his life, he hated someone else significantly more.

This time, when Gaster spoke as he jumpstarted the device, he couldn't even make himself heard over the screaming-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans fell from the sofa and faceplanted into the floor, the taste of carpet the only thing to register through his pained screams. He was sweating profusely and his chest felt horrendously tight, like he couldn't breathe in enough air anymore. The pounding behind his eye sockets was so fierce, so intense, it was like he could still see that goddamned smirk.

 

Sans caught his breath after hacking and coughing violently, grasping weakly at his chest and heaving. The room was spinning too quickly, and all he had to hold on to was the floor. He could feel his left eye flickering as blue magic leaked from his eye socket, which he was quick to snuff out. He took in huge gulps, feeling the sharpness in his chest slowly ebb away. He stared down at the patterns in the carpet for what felt like hours, his head whirling.

 

See, this is what happens when you drink. Dumbass.

 

He gradually pulled himself from the floor by the edge of the couch, freezing when he saw that Frisk was backed against the wall like they were trying to blend in with the wallpaper, eyes wide and fearful.

“... 'Sup?” Sans held up a hand feebly, feeling strongly like being sick. “You okay, buddy?”

Frisk opened and closed their mouth several times, but didn't speak.

 

“S-sorry 'bout that,” Sans chuckled weakly, but there was clearly no heart in it. “Do me a favor, kid? Never, ever drink. Just trust me on this one.”

He started to open his mouth to speak again with what he hoped was a clever pun about whining and dining; however, that thought was swiftly brought to a standstill when Frisk tackled him around the stomach, almost knocking him off his feet.

 

“Sans! Don't scare me like that!” Frisk demanded tearfully. “Please, p-please Sans, don't do that...!”

“Okay, okay, it's alright,” he tried to say as soothingly as he could, patting the back of their head. His hands felt clammy and he couldn't stop trembling, and Frisk seemed to be in no better condition, breathing so rapidly that he thought for a moment that they might end up hyperventilating. He still couldn't focus properly. Not after that memory forcefully resurfaced. “It was nothing ta worry about, babybones. Everything is okay. Alright? Everything is f-fine. Just-just a... just a bad dream, is all. C'mon, kiddo. Please... please don't cry.”

Frisk squeezed him around the middle and he had to resist the urge to push them away. Not that hugs weren't nice and all, but there was a good chance that he was going to be sick and he really did not want to do that immediately.

 

He stood there holding on to the shaking child for nearly a full painfully silent few minutes (partially because the room was still at an awkward angle) before finally patting them on the head with a quiet sigh.

“Hey. C'mon, Frisky bits. You should know better than to worry 'bout ol' Sansy,” he gave a little grin down at them. They were such a good kid. It tore him up inside that they were so frightened by hiim. “I'm so tough that I eat nails for breakfast.”

“Sans-”

“Without any milk,” he added with a conspiratorial wink.

“Sans, I'm really serious!” Frisk looked as if they might cry again, and Sans guiltily pulled them into a hug.

“Alright, alright...” he shifted from foot to foot. “Didn't mean to spook ya, buddy. I'm... I really am sorry that you had t'see that, kiddo. I don't usually have fits like that.”

 

It was an outright lie and he knew it, but if it helped them feel a bit better then he would continue to lie his nonexistent ass off. If it meant that they could be a little bit happier, then he would lie and lie and lie through his teeth until his teeth fell out. He was too tired, too drained, and the thought of seeing them cry again was just too much to bear.

“... Hey,” he said after they had dried their eyes for a bit. “I got a surprise for you.”

“It's not another hamburger in your pocket, is it?” Frisk cringed a little.

“Pfft, no, probably not,” he chortled. He reached out to pat them on the head, and his phalanges lingered on their bruised eye. “... Why don't you go grab some ice for that while I run and grab the surprise? A'ight, kiddo?”

Frisk looked relatively confused but nodded after a moment. Sans watched them scurry off to the kitchen before hopping into a shortcut.

 

He emerged from the void in his dark bedroom, and he fumbled with the light for a minute before almost giddily throwing open his closet. Of course, it was still there. He had hardly taken it out of the cardboard box ever since Papyrus had brought it home from the dump all those years ago. And yet, there it was, gradually collecting dust. Sans blew the cobweb sticking to it away, wiping it down with his sleeve before picking it up in both arms and carrying the box downstairs. It really was heavier than he recalled, but he didn't mind. Frisk was sitting on the couch with a single ice cube pressed to their bruised eye.

 

He paused in the middle of the living room to stare at them, slowly setting the box on the floor.

“... Uh, you know you can wrap that in a cloth or something, right?” he asked, looking pointedly at the ice cube. Frisk only shrugged, popping the ice into their mouth and crunching it a little before swallowing it. Sans shook his head with a small grin.

 

“Alright, kiddo. So, you like music, huh?”

“Y-yeah...?” Frisk said uncertainly, pulling their legs up underneath them.

“This old thing came down into the dump a billion years ago,” he cracked the cardboard box open fully before hauling out the record player. Frisk peered over at it curiously, and Sans beamed proudly as he set it on the floor. “It's ridiculously hard to find records for it, but I've collected a couple. Man, the last time I pulled this thing out of the box...”

The front door rattled for a moment before Papyrus stumbled in. Sans froze, taking in the sight. The taller skeleton looked relatively worn down, with a stain on his battle body and oh god is that blood?!

 

“... Paps?” Sans stared uneasily, unable to take his eye off of the crimson mark.

“Ah, good to see you made it back before me,” Papyrus clicked the door shut behind him, letting out a heavy sigh. “Hello to you too, human Frisk.”

He looked so... tired. The lines under Papyrus's eye sockets was plain as day, and the more that Sans stared the more he wanted to look away. The (please don't let it be blood) stain on his chest stood out like a sore thumb, and there were tracks of dirt and snow that briefly made him wonder if Papyrus had been rolling on the ground.

Frisk bounded off the sofa and wrapped their arms around Papyrus's leg, and it was like watching all of the weariness be washed away in a single instant. Papyrus's face softened as he knelt a little to pick them up, swinging the giggling child around in a circle.

 

“Nyeh heh heh! Did you really miss the Great Papyrus that much, little Frisk?” he chuckled, carefully setting them back down on their feet. “I know that my company is wonderful, but-”

Papyrus froze as he looked them in the eyes, his whole face going utterly blank.

 

“... What happened to your eye?” Papyrus asked quietly. Sans felt like his soul had just been dipped in icy water.

“... I fell,” Frisk said almost silently after a moment.

“You fell,” he repeated numbly.

Frisk nodded once and looked away.

 

“I'm sorry,” they flinched when Papyrus shifted his hand. “I'm sorry Papyrus, i-it won't happen again-”

Frisk froze when Papyrus's hand lingered over their eye.

“Yeesh. What did you fall on, a rock?” Papyrus frowned a little, patting them on the head.

“Um, a-a tree, actually.”

Papyrus tutted softly.

 

“Don't you worry about a thing,” he said gently, standing up straight. “Some good food should heal that up in a day or so. I'm going to make you an extra special batch of spaghetti!”

“You're awesome, Papyrus,” Frisk beamed toothily up at him.

“Nyeh. Well, yes. Of course I am,” he held a hand to his chest proudly. “See, Sans? Somebody knows coolness when they see it.”

“I would never imply you weren't awesome, bro,” Sans grinned sticking his hands in his pockets.

Papyrus froze again when he looked down at Frisk, and Sans cringed.

He'd forgotten to get their clothes in the wash.

 

“Kiddo and I stopped by Grillby's,” he said quickly. “Must have... gotten some ketchup on them.”

“That's an awful lot of ketchup...” Papyrus frowned deeply.

Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god please Paps I don't know if I can fix this please just move on please please please god just move on-

 

“So,” Sans clapped his hands together loudly, causing them both to glance in his direction. “Hey, Paps. Remember when you dragged this home?”

“Is-is that your record player?” Papyrus blinked, staring at him. “Sans, you haven't pulled that dirty old thing out in years.”

“I just figured I might show it off to the kiddo,” he nodded in Frisk's direction, motioning for them to take a look. They carefully drew closer as if they were afraid of it, tugging at their sleeves.

 

“... It's alright, Frisk,” Sans chuckled. “It's not gonna bite. Never seen a record player before?”

Frisk slowly shook their head, leaning over the device curiously.

Sans withdrew one of his few records from the box, one that wasn't too terribly scratched. It still amazed him that it had even survived long in the garbage dump, and yet here it was. He gently placed the large black record disc under the needle, fiddling with the side of the player before standing up straight as music began to drift out from it. Sans's grin grew at Frisk's expression, their eyes wide.

 

“May I have this dance?” Sans asked in what he hoped was a suave manner and held out his hand. Frisk eagerly held his outstretched hand in both of their small ones, grinning at him.

“Um... I-I don't really know... know how to dance,” Frisk shifted awkwardly.

“Don't worry 'bout it, kiddo,” he shook his head. He picked them up easily (had they always been so thin and light?) and helped them set their feet on top of his slippers, one hand on their shoulder and the other on the small of their back to keep them from falling. “I'll take the lead. Dancin' is easy peasy stuff. Just roll with it.”

“Oh my god I can't believe that Sans is actually dancing again,” Sans saw the humongous grin on Papyrus's face, and his cheeks heated a little in embarrassment. But if they could be happier, then he'd do it. “Stars help me, I would give my favorite arm for a camera right now.”

 

The familiar music drifted through the air as Sans smoothly swept his feet left and right, dancing in a small circle around the living room. Papyrus clapped along to the music, chortling to himself. Sans couldn't fight off the grin either, and Frisk looked somewhere between smiling and worrying. Were they really still scared of him? Sans gave an internal sigh, taking a deep breath.

 

Fly me to the moon,” he sang quietly, but still loud enough to be heard as he sang along to the music. “Let me play among the stars; let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.

He swung Frisk around in a circle, eliciting a giggle from them. The sound was like nectar and ambrosia for his soul.

“Come dance too, Papyrus!” Frisk nodded their head toward him with a huge grin. Papyrus only laughed and shook his head.

In other words,” Sans rumbled in a low baritone. “Hold my hand. In other words, ba~by kiss me.

Frisk laughed as he picked them up and gave them a little twirl, their giggling ringing in his head. Sans's smile grew wider than he thought he could smile as he watched Papyrus bob his head back and forth to the music, clapping in tune.

 

Fill my heart with song, and let me sing – forever more,” Sans laughed aloud as Frisk stepped to the floor and spun in a little circle, still clinging to his hands and almost tripping in the process. “You are all I long for – all I worship, and adore.

“Sing it Sans, sing it!” Papyrus cackled, shaking his head when Frisk motioned for him to join in yet again.

In other words...” Sans picked up Frisk and whirled them around him, delighting in the sound of their giddy laughter. “Please, be true...! In other words...

He pressed his forehead to their, meeting their eyes.

I love you.”

 

Frisk's cheeks colored significantly and Sans laughed, giving the giggling Frisk another twirl. They hopped to the floor and eagerly pulled at Papyrus's gloved hand until he finally sighed and let himself be pulled to the center of the room. Frisk smiled up at him as they tried to follow the same dancing steps that Sans had shown them. They held their tongue sticking out in concentration as they spun around again, and Papyrus laughed again before picking them up and swinging them around. Frisk whooped gleefully as Sans continued to sing along to the music, clapping his hands.

“Yeah, yeah! Now you've got it!” he laughed at the display. He was smiling so hard that his bony cheeks hurt, but he didn't even care. It didn't really matter, and that was perfectly fine by Sans. “Swing, baby, swing!”

 

All of the surface, and the sun, and the moon, and all the stars in the night sky.

 

Maybe he couldn't give them all of that.

But all that he could give, he silently swore that he would give, and give gladly.

What he did, and what he would do, he did only out of love.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus was not necessarily a stealthy skeleton.

 

He hated that the stairs creaked with his every other step, but he continued down regardless as quietly as he could. It didn't seem like he was going to get any sleep tonight, either. He descended as softly as he could to prevent the stairs from creaking so loudly, but it did little to help. Frisk lay unmoving on the sofa, their back to him, and he let out a quiet sigh. They were wearing some of Sans's old clothes and were half covered by a blanket, but from the way they held their shoulders they looked a bit cold. He made a mental note to find them better blankets. Papyrus was quick to don his favorite scarf as he double checked his freshly cleaned battle body. Unfortunately, there appeared to be a small tear in the shoulder, which he tutted at. It required immediate attention, but he simply had too much to attend to.

 

“... P'pyrus?”

 

Papyrus froze with his hand on the door knob, turning silently to the human. Their red eyes glinted in the dark, tracking his movement.

“It's just me,” Papyrus said in a whisper that came out louder than he intended. He strode over slowly and patted them amicably on the head, making sure to pull their blanket up around them to tuck them in properly. “Shh. Go back to sleep, little one.”

“What's going on?” they asked uncertainly, trying to rub the sleep from their eyes.

“Just running some errands,” Papyrus lied immediately. He felt terrible about it, but it was necessary. His flower friend really didn't like others knowing about him. He rubbed them on the top of the head once more, as if the simple motion could put them back to sleep. “Get some rest, tiny human.”

 

They mumbled something incoherent and held his hand for a while, slowly retreating back to their lying position and closing their eyes with a weary sigh.

Papyrus shifted back and forth awkwardly.

 

They'd fallen asleep while they were still holding his hand.

Papyrus let out a quiet sigh through his teeth. A part of him didn't really want to let go. They didn't have that worried crease in their brow that they normally did. For once, they just looked... peaceful. He ran a hand over their head softly, making sure to slip out of their feeble grip and tuck them in. They whimpered something that he couldn't make out, but finally let go. Papyrus stared for a while longer, his chest beginning to ache.

Be stronger. They need you.

 

He nodded to no one, briskly slipping out the front door and pulling his scarf a little tighter to ward off the night (it is night, right? We need a clock for the living room,) chill. Papyrus stomped through the snow with determination in his eye sockets.

It didn't take long to walk from one end of Snowdin to the other. He momentarily contemplated taking the icy tunnel beneath Snowdin to save himself some time, but considered against it. There were few monsters out and about. Papyrus waved cheerfully to a large bear monster reading a newspaper leaning against Grillby's front window. The bear gave an uninterested halfhearted wave back and immediately resumed reading his paper. Papyrus fought off the urge to sigh, instead putting more pep into his step. It wasn't enough to be confident, he had to look confident, too. But that could wait. Someday, people would be elated just to see him. Maybe not today. Maybe not in many years.

But someday.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus held his shoulders high and broad as he marched through Snowdin, bypassing several of the traps that he had laid for potential humans (and one human friend). He carefully made his way over a snowy outcropping, hopping through knee high underbrush without even losing stride. He continued to steadily make his way through vegetation frozen over and icicle coated pines, his breath coming out in steamy little bursts.

 

After what felt like an hour Papyrus finally reached the little clearing in the woods. It was perfectly circular and many trees around the cold meadow appeared to have been tipped over. It was very strange to Papyrus, as he couldn't think of anything that could have done such damage to the place. It almost felt like it was designed to be unsettling. At least, that was what he thought, as he most certainly felt unsettled every time he crept out to meet his friend. It disturbed him to think of what manner of creature might have left such terrible gashes in the trees.

 

“Howdy!” he heard the voice before he saw the yellow petals bursting up from a patch of snow. “Golly, you sure are taking a lot longer than usual, best buddy. Going for 'fashionably late' tonight, are we?”

“Sorry it took me so long, Flowey,” Papyrus kicked aside a bit of snow and ice and knelt before the flower, smiling. “How have you been, little friend?”

“The same as I always am, Papyrus,” Flowey responded with a little smile. Papyrus felt a little more uneasy at the sharpness of Flowey's teeth (how does a flower get teeth?) but stood his ground regardless.

 

“... Papyrus,” Flowey said eventually as Papyrus sat down cross legged on the ground before him. “Let me be frank with you for a moment-”

“I thought you were Flowey,” Papyrus blinked. “Who's Frank?”

Flowey's mouth opened and closed, his eyes narrowing to slits.

“Are... are you messing with me right now?” Flowey asked quietly.

“Most certainly not, Flowey!” he responded chipperly. “I enjoy visiting you.”

“I think that would enjoy our little chats, too,” the flower said with a small smile. “If I could actually feel anything.”

Papyrus shifted uncomfortably again. There was always that little matter. Papyrus honestly didn't know what he could do to help his friend. It didn't help that Flowey was very vague on explaining how he could be alive without a soul. He felt so sorry for the poor creature. And even stranger, Papyrus sometimes felt as if he already knew that Flowey had explained it to him before. Again. And again. And again.

That peculiar sensation of de ja vu prickled almost every time that Flowey was around. Like there was something just plain wrong and he felt as if he were being stupid on purpose for not being able to recognize it for what it was.

Whatever it was, that is.

 

They sat in silence for a while. Flowey said nothing as they stared up at the stones in the ceiling.

 

“... I have been thinking.”

“Careful not to hurt yourself,” Flowey winked at him, sticking out his tongue.

“Earlier...” Papyrus tapped his fingers together, still staring upward. “I don't mean to pry, flower friend, but... did you really mean what you said?”

“About what, Papyrus?”

“About-about Frisk,” he continued awkwardly. “Is there something that I'm supposed to know?”

Everyone has secrets, Papyrus,” Flowey lifted a vine and inspected it closely as if it were far more interesting. “Your new 'friend' has more than a couple of skeletons in their closet.”

“I don't follow,” Papyrus blinked. “Do you mean me, or Sans? Because I don't think the closet is big enough for the both of us-”

“Papyrus!” Flowey gave that rehearsed giggle that made him almost flinch. “It's just a saying, don't take it so literally. Ah, you always were my favorite.”

“Well, you're my favorite too, Flowey!” Papyrus beamed at him, trying his hardest to relax. “Number one flower friend, top of the list. You should be honored.”

“Oh, golly,” he held a vine to his stem like he would a hand to his chest. “I feel so privileged.”

 

It was plain as day that he was joking, but Papyrus didn't mind. He had grown accustomed to the flower's somewhat strange mannerisms by this point.

 

“You know, Papyrus,” Flowey said conversationally as he stared up at him. “I've been watching you for a while.”

“That is both commendable and creepy,” Papyrus said without missing a beat. Flowey continued as if he didn't hear him.

“She's just messing with you, you know.”

Papyrus shifted awkwardly, uncertain of how to respond.

 

“I'm... I'm afraid that I don't quite follow, Flowey.”

“I can't say I'm surprised,” the flower gave another rehearsed giggle. “But as your friend, I just thought I'd bring it up. Undyne has no intentions whatsoever of ever letting you be a real member of the royal guard.”
“That's not a very nice thing to say!” Papyrus frowned. “I'm practically already in the royal guard, just because-”
“Because what?” Flowey winked. “It's not 'official'? That you're an 'honorary member'? What a laugh,” he scoffed. “Fish face has been dead set against you joining ever since day one.”

“But-but – Flowey, these... these terrible things you're saying,” Papyrus crossed his arms, huddling a little over him. “Undyne would never do something like that. She just wants what's best for everyone.”

Instead of arguing, Flowey only winked and laughed again.

 

“How silly of me,” Flowey ruffled his petals. “Why, you're always right, Papyrus! How could I forget.”

“W-well, I don't know about always-”

“And modest, too! Didn't you leave any good qualities for your brother to have?”

“... Excuse me,” Papyrus stiffened considerably. Flowey knew that he was walking a thin line, but he just couldn't help it. Not when he knew exactly what buttons to press. Watching the skeleton shift between emotions, the conflicting concern and uneasiness, the pride and irritation. It was just too entertaining.

Papyrus always had been his favorite toy.

 

“But I think we're getting off topic,” Flowey lifted a vine from the ground and rolled it like he would a hand. “We aren't here to chat about your greatness, I doubt you need another pep talk so soon. No, dear Papyrus, I think that it's time that you learned the truth about your new... friend.

“I'm pretty sure that if they have something to tell me, then they will tell me in their own time...” Papyrus said loudly, unable to keep the aggravation out of his voice.

“What?” Flowey asked in a mock hurt tone. “You don't want to know the truth? You would rather live in ignorance of why they act the way that they do?”

“I already have a pretty good idea of what Frisk went through on the surface-”

Flowey laughed.

 

“Oh ho, no, no Papyrus...” Flowey perked up a little, raising himself to head height to leer at him. “I'm not talking about silly old things that some schmucks on the surface get up to. I'm talking about what your dear brother did to them.”

 

It didn't matter whether or not Papyrus believed him immediately.

It didn't even matter or not he believed him at all.

 

All that mattered was that, deep in his mind, the seed of doubt had been sown. Before long it would blossom, and Flowey had full intention to tend to that dark seed as frequently as possible.

 

Papyrus really was his favorite toy.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans trundled down the stairs with a whistle.

 

Today might not be a good day. He couldn't even remember the last time that he'd had a 'good' day. But by god he was going to strive for one, at least once.

Or at the very least pretend that it was going to be a good day, whichever took the least amount of effort.

 

“Morning, Paps,” Sans yawned as he entered the kitchen, where Papyrus was steadily working on a batch of breakfast spaghetti with a wooden spoon in one hand. Hopefully the latest concoction didn't feature eggs this time. His shoulders were slightly stooped and the lines under his eye sockets were deeper than ever. He just looked so... tired.

Instead of answering or even responding much at all, Papyrus simply waved a hand halfheartedly at him without turning around. Sans shrugged it off, though not easily. He must have simply been too enticed with his cooking to pay proper attention.

Or greet him.

Or bother waking him up like usual.

 

“... Everything okay, Papyrus?” Sans asked quietly as he pulled a bottle of ketchup from the refrigerator. “You seem, uh... a little out of sorts.”

“Everything is fine brother,” Papyrus said in a terse tone without looking up.

“... Are you sure?” he stood next to the taller skeleton, twisting the ketchup bottle in his hands nervously. “You... you don't look so good, Paps. I'm serious.”

Papyrus took a long, slow deep breath through his nostril bone, closing his eyes for a few moments. And just like that the smile was plastered back on, and it hurt Sans to see just how strained it was.

 

“Just had a... bit of a rough night,” Papyrus gently placed one hand on his shoulder. “Why don't you go wake up Frisk and we'll have some breakfast? I even made coffee.”

Sans silently noted that it appeared as if half of the pot had already been emptied, which was even more concerning. Papyrus and coffee did not sound like a good mix, but he wordlessly agreed and trudged to the living room, scraping his slippers across the floor.

 

Frisk was lying with their back to him, and he quietly nudged them with one foot. There again was that bizarre sensation of de ja vu, but he ignored it. There was too much on his mind already.

“Hey. Munchkin.”

Frisk didn't move.

Sans sighed and leaned over them a little, repeating himself and shaking them gently by the shoulder.

 

Their eyes bolted open at his touch, red orbs darting wildly back and forth, mouth hanging open in a silent terrified scream as they tried to bury themselves into the back of the couch as they hid their face with their arms.

 

“E-easy, easy!” Sans tried to keep his tone low and calm as he held a hand to still their shaking shoulders. “Easy there, buddy. Just-just me. It's just Sans.”

They peeked fearfully from behind their arms, eyes wide.

Brown eyes.

 

“... You okay there, Frisk?” Sans asked quietly, petting their head with a couple of soft scratches to their scalp. “Looked like you saw a ghost. Or, y'know. A skeleton.”

Frisk didn't laugh, but they did manage a partial wry grin. They were still trembling a little, gripping tightly onto their left hand like they were afraid it might fall off.

“We slept in a little late today,” Sans continued as they sat up, rubbing their eyes. “No sentry duty today. But there's still no rest for the wicked, and we're sure as hell no saints. So what d'you wanna do today, kiddo?”

Frisk blinked, looking at something past him before glancing back, uncertain.

 

“What do you mean?” Frisk hid a yawn behind one hand.

“What d'you mean, 'what do you mean'?” Sans grinned. “I just, you know, figured we could do somethin' fun today. I dunno. Maybe you, me and Paps could all go fishing or something. I know this great little spot in Waterfall that you might like.”

“Can we?” Frisk perked up a little. “When can we go? Is it nearby? Are there lots of fish? Can-”

“Easy, kiddo,” Sans laughed, standing up straight. “What do you say we grab some grub first? Papyrus made breakfast. You like coffee?”

Frisk stuck their tongue out, and he chuckled again.

“Hey, don't knock it till ya try it.”

“Do I have to try it...?” Frisk looked at him with a slight frown.

“'Course not. Just leaves more for me,” he winked. Sans helped them stand and they straightened their borrowed clothes, yawning again. Sans started to turn and caught a flash of red in the doorway before it was gone. He felt as if he'd been struck with an electric jolt.

 

Why had Papyrus been watching him like that?

 

If he had hair, it would be standing on end. There again was that awful feeling of having too few puzzle pieces to put everything together. Something wasn't right. He hoped intently that Papyrus really hadn't slept well and it was taking its toll on him, and as terrible as something like that was to hope for, it was better than the alternative.

 

Breakfast was painfully silent.

 

Sans sipped wordlessly at his coffee as Frisk tore hungrily through an entire plate of spaghetti. Papyrus did perk up considerably when they even asked for seconds, which was a huge relief to Sans. He didn't think that he could take much more of silent Papyrus. His brother's gaze was set on his plate almost the entire time. No speaking, no glancing up, not even the usual small talk or plans for the day.

It was, for lack of a better word, utterly disturbing.

 

“So,” Sans said after a long while, twirling his coffee cup through his phalanges before collecting plates to drop into the sink. “You got any plans for the weekend, Paps?”

“I'll be training with Undyne this morning,” he answered quietly, folding his hands across one another. “I should be back within a few hours. Unless you'd like to take up the offer to train with us for once,” Papyrus added hopefully.

“C'mon, bro, you know I'm way too lazy for that,” Sans shrugged, albeit a little guiltily. “I'm just gonna show the kiddo around the rest of Snowdin while you're busy flexin' muscles with Undyne. Or, lack thereof, I mean.”

“Har de har,” Papyrus said blankly. Sans flinched deeply, and Papyrus let out a breath and shook his head.

“You... wanna go fishing with us later?” Sans asked quietly. “I swear I'm not bringing cards this time. No jokin', actual fishing poles this time.”

“That would be a relief, because trying to fish with cards would have failed spectacularly,” Papyrus rubbed his chin with one gloved hand.

 

“So... that's a yes?” Frisk asked cheerfully, kicking their legs back and forth.

“I don't see why not!” Papyrus seemed to finally regain some of his eagerness, to which more than a small part of Sans was overjoyed to see. “We haven't gone fishing in ages, it'll be fun! Nyeh heh, we can even make a picnic out of it.”

“Are we bringing spaghetti for the picnic?” Sans asked, propping his head up on one hand.

“Sans, don't be ridiculous,” Papyrus shook his head. “Of course we're bringing spaghetti, what else does someone bring on a picnic?”

“I dunno. Potato salad?”

“That sounds absolutely disgusting,” he scowled. “You can't make salad out of potatoes. Can-can you?”

“Not entirely sure, bro. I've never tried.”

“I wonder if you can make spaghetti into a salad...” Papyrus steepled his fingers together. For some reason, Frisk cringed. Sans was glad at least he wasn't the only one who didn't like the idea of spaghetti salad.

 

And more importantly, who would be forced to taste test it when Papyrus inevitably tried making it.

But that didn't seem all that important to Sans at the moment.

Papyrus was picking up more steam as he ran through a list of ingredients that they would need to try out the 'potentially groundbreaking' new recipe. Frisk even gave him suggestions, absolutely none of which were helpful in any way.

However, Papyrus did seem to like the idea of topping it off with monster candy, and if it made Papyrus happy then Sans was more than willing to shrug and roll with it. Maybe today wouldn't be as good as he hoped. Maybe tomorrow wouldn't, either. Maybe not even the day after that.

 

But someday.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

I can do this.

I can do this.

I think I can keep going today.

 

Papyrus marched through the swampy water with his hanging head full of thoughts that he didn't particularly care to acknowledge. The soft stomping that sent ripples through the water hardly phased him at all as he pressed on. He barely even made time for the bridge seed puzzle, his mind was so preoccupied. His head felt heavy, his bones felt like they were about to fall apart, and his legs felt like leaded weights, but he pressed on regardless.

 

Keep pushing. Don't stop. As long as it hurts, then you're still alive.

 

Was that what the feeling in his chest was? Just being alive?

At this rate, he didn't particularly care for the feeling.

 

I'm talking about what your dear brother did to them.

 

Papyrus pushed harder, forcing his mind to clear as he pressed ahead. Undyne's house wasn't too far away, he just had to keep up the pace. Then again, he was very likely to simply keep running and go in a circle before approaching her house, just as he had done for the last few times. Eventually however, he had to stop putting it off and see her for training. He was early, as he always was, but if he kept avoiding it then he would surely be late, and he could imagine few things worse than that.

Papyrus finally came to a halt in front of the little pond, grasping his knees and heaving. His chest was burning, his legs felt like gelatin and his vision was swimming, but at long last his mind was mercifully clear.

 

He stared down at his reflection in the crystal water for a long while, simply slowing his breathing. Papyrus ran a single gloved hand down the side of his face, meeting his eye sockets and staring. The lines beneath his eyes were worse than ever, his face felt haggard and weary, and his back and shoulders felt almost permanently stooped from the way it hurt to stand straight. In short, he looked absolutely terrible.

Papyrus took a long moment to kneel and wash his face in the icy water. When that seemingly failed, he instead dunked his whole head in the pond. He coughed and spluttered as he dragged his head back up, shaking water off like a dog. He took huge gulps of air and rubbed his face, as if he could wash out the exhaustion. The unsettling expression remained on his features though, and he frowned to see the look on his face. He instead closed his eyes and let out a quiet sigh through his teeth, letting the calming atmosphere sooth him. He couldn't quite tell, but it almost sounded as if someone were playing a music box somewhere far away.

 

He wasn't certain of how long he had been sitting, but when it finally occurred to him he jolted up and bolted in the direction of Undyne's house.

 

Papyrus skidded to a halt outside Undyne's front door, greeted by the sound of wafting piano music. It sounded stilted, like she was only half playing. He considered this briefly before drawing himself up and knocking. It really would be easier to tell time if he'd just get a watch.

 

It was silent for a few painfully long moments, but eventually Undyne arrived at the door, peeking out to see him.

“Oh!” she seemed surprised, blinking and widening her one eye as well as the door just a bit. “Uh. H-hey. Hey Paps,” she said without opening the door all the way. “What are you doing here so early?”

“I'm... here? For training?” he balked. “What do you mean? Is that a trick question? Wait, wait, am I being tested?” Papyrus tried to fight the tide of panic. “I didn't know there was a test, should I have been studying-?!”

“Papyrus – Paps,” Undyne gave a nervous half laugh, rubbing her arm awkwardly. She wore a heavy jacket over her favorite tank top, though for what Papyrus had no idea. “There's no test. Everything is fine.”

“Oh, good,” Papyrus let out a heavy breath, running a gloved hand over his head. “Because even though I am obviously ultra prepared in absolutely everything, I must admit that royal guard tests haven't necessarily been in the forefront of my thoughts. I am completely prepared for training though!”

 

Undyne looked extremely uncomfortable for a moment, checking something behind her before turning back to him, drawing the door a little closer. It almost sounded as if there was someone else aside from Undyne in her house, but he couldn't see.

“... Hey, why-why don't we just, uh... skip training for today?”

 

If Papyrus had ears, he would have been cleaning them out.

“... Undyne, is everything okay?” he asked in alarm. “You never want to skip training, what's going on?”

“Nothing is going on!” she said with a too wide grin. “I just, uh... y'know.” she shrugged.

Papyrus clearly did not know, and it bothered him supremely.

 

“Is everything alright?” Papyrus leaned a little closer, crossing his arms. “You're acting very strangely, Undyne. Are you unwell?”

“No, no, I just-” Undyne checked behind her once again before turning back to him, letting out a sigh. “I've just got, uh, guests. It's kinda private.”

“Oh!” Papyrus blinked, nodding immediately. “Why didn't you just say so, Undyne? I can come back later today-”

“It's cool, Papyrus!” Undyne said with no small amount of relief. Again she resumed rubbing her arm gingerly, and the sinking feeling in his stomach rose once again. “Just consider today a free day, 'cause you're gonna train your bony butt right off tomorrow morning-”

“How is your shoulder, Undyne?”

She froze.

 

“... That's about what I thought,” Papyrus said softly. A hot wash of shame at the pain he had caused her rose into his face, and she shuffled from foot to foot awkwardly.

“It's not a big deal,” she answered quietly. “Just... forget all about it, okay? I'll be at peak condition in no time. I don't want you slacking off, because I don't even need my arms to kick your keister. You got that?”

Papyrus let out a too loud laugh and shook his head.

“Of course, Undyne.”

Captain Undyne,” she corrected him. “We've gotta get you prepped for the royal guard, so might as well get used to it.”

“You got it, Captain!” he said with a salute.

“On second thought, just call me Undyne,” she chuckled and shook her head. Just before she closed the door, Papyrus caught a very strange glimpse of her giving her 'guest' a peculiar, sad nod. He pretended that he hadn't seen it and took in a deep breath, running a hand over his head as he walked. And then he kept going in circles.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

So, all of that nervousness and panicking had mostly been for nothing. If anything, Papyrus just felt even more lost and confused than before, and a little silly for worrying himself sick. He was tired, and worn out as if he really had spent all morning training, but more than that, he just felt exhausted mentally, physically, emotionally, every sense of the word. He finally dropped into a cross legged position beside the rectangular pond that he had stopped at before, staring into the water with his hands folded in his lap. Meditation usually helped just a bit.

Though at the moment, he felt as though a hundred years of meditation wouldn't quite be enough

 

He had so, so many questions, and so few answers.

It was like trying to put a puzzle together, except all of the pieces were from different puzzles. It gave him a headache. He rubbed his temples and sighed, going over his training and evening his breathing.

“Howdy!”

Papyrus groaned inwardly.

 

“Hello, Flowey,” Papyrus said without looking up from the water. He didn't even need to, as the flower had surfaced directly beside him in the patchy earth, looking into his reflection as well. “How are you today?”

“Aw, shucks, you don't have to worry about me, best buddy!” Flowey stuck out his tongue. Papyrus watched the expression with a strange feeling in his chest that he couldn't quite fight down. “But forget about me, let's talk about you.

“I'm sorry, Flowey, but-” Papyrus started, unable to quite bring himself to stand just yet. “-I don't think now is the best time.”

“Aww, for shame. Feeling a little guilty?” Flowey tilted over towards his leg, grinning at him. “Golly! You sure did a number on fish face, huh?”

Papyrus cringed openly, wiping a hand down his face to hide the look. Flowey had already seen though, and he let out yet another sigh.

 

Captain Undyne is fine,” Papyrus said a bit too forcefully. “She's-she's just... busy right now.”

“Oh, man,” Flowey bounced a little on his stem eagerly. “You would absolutely flip if you knew what she was really up to.”

“Then I think I'd rather not know,” Papyrus answered in a deadpan.

“Is that really the way that you want to live your life?” Flowey asked with a smirk as he slowly extended out of the ground until he was a little higher than head height with him. “Living in total ignorance of everything and everyone around you? Come on, best pal. We both know that's not true.”

“Flowey,” he started quietly, looking over at him. “Do you ever get the feeling that you don't really know what the truth is anymore?”

Flowey only gave one of his rehearsed little titters.

 

“Every single day, Papyrus...” Flowey grinned widely. “You always were my favorite, you know. No matter what, you just keep going. How do you manage it, Papyrus?”

“They need me to,” he said simply, looking back to the water. “I... I have to be stronger,” Papyrus continued, uncertain of why he would even share that with Flowey. Maybe he just needed to get it out.

Flowey tsked a couple of times, shaking his petals.

“You could be king, you know,” Flowey said matter of factly.

“Sorry, what?” Papyrus blinked.

“You could be king,” he repeated as if it were obvious. “I could help you. I could make you the king of the entire Underground.”

“I prefer our current king,” Papyrus answered promptly. “He is very nice.”

Flowey laughed again, but this time it was colder, darker. He sounded so... bitter.

 

“He's very nice. Nice,” Flowey shook his head. “Oh, man. Papyrus, you really do have no idea.”

“I for one think that he's a darned good king...” Papyrus crossed his arms. “Have you seen his flower garden? He takes very good care of it. You might even like it there.”

“Ew, why?” Flowey scowled. “Because I'm a flower?

“No, because it's rather peaceful and calming and you seem to be in a bad mood.”

Flowey tittered again.

 

“I don't have moods, Papyrus,” Flowey stared up at him. “I don't have emotions. Remember? I can't feel anything.”

“So you've told me...” Papyrus said again, looking deep into the water. “And yet, it appears that you can still feel things like annoyance and irritation. So maybe there is hope for you that you can feel other things, too!”

“I don't get how you stay so hopeful, Papyrus,” the flower said quietly, looking away. “If you knew the truth; the real truth, all of it... well. You would be a completely different person. Who knows? The truth might even break you,” he continued with a knowing smirk. “Once you learn the truth, you can't ever, ever go back. Not really. It sort of burns its way into your soul, you know. There are some things that can stain your soul forever.”

 

They were silent for a while. Papyrus could live with that.

Sometimes Flowey invited him out in the night just so that they could sit together in quiet and enjoy the atmosphere. It wasn't an odd occurrence. This, however, felt different. It was like Flowey was just on the verge of telling him something important, something that could fit all of the puzzle pieces together properly. And yet, simultaneously he felt as if somewhere deep down, he already knew the answer to a question that he hadn't asked. It was strange, to say the least. Papyrus brushed off the feeling and tried to clear his mind to no avail, letting out a quiet sigh through his nostril bone. He glanced over to Flowey to finally ask what he really wanted to, but his friend was already long since gone.

 

Papyrus returned his gaze to the water.

Maybe, just maybe, Flowey was right.

Maybe it was time that he started asking the right questions.

 

Even if it broke him.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Against all logical thought, Sans was actually beginning to miss the silence just a little.

 

“Nyeh, no, no, no, that's not right,” Papyrus stood next to Frisk with a fishing pole in one hand. “Like this, see? Stand just like this little one, with your feet spread evenly and the pole extended... Yes, like that!”

 

Sans sat with his back to the stony wall with his fishing pole stuck lazily in the ground next to him, his line undisturbed the as of yet, which was fine by him. Frisk constantly shifted from foot to foot next to Papyrus as they shuffled through the short damp grass, looking back and forth between their line and the taller skeleton the entire time. The picnic basket lay mostly untouched as well, as even Papyrus hadn't particularly cared for his 'masterwork' spaghetti salad. Frisk had just eaten the candy off the top, and he wasn't particularly surprised by that. He thought about telling them to try standing still to avoid scaring off the fish, but resisted against it. He couldn't really care less whether or not they caught any fish.

 

It was just nice to see them smiling for once.

Sans closed his eyes after a while of listening to Papyrus and Frisk chatter about what constituted as 'correct' fish catching technique. There again was that strange feeling in the pit of his chest that he couldn't quite identify, but he brushed it off as well. The echo flowers not far away murmured a lullaby to him in words that he couldn't quite make out. He slowly drifted away into a hazy rest, his eye sockets flickering open every now and then to ensure that they were both still where he could see them. So long as he could just keep his eye sockets barely open long enough to-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

- fight back against them, maybe they would just get bored of dying over and over again. It was a vain hope and he knew it, but at this point it was the only hope that he had left. They had to stop at some point or another. They just had to. Everyone had a breaking point.

Sans was fairly sure that he'd already long since passed his.

 

He stood over their shattered body once again, hands deep in his jacket pockets. He'd lost count of how many times they'd forced him to do this. He was tempted to simply go back home by this point, but the idea of pressing open the front door to a completely empty house seemed somehow even more terrifying than facing down whatever the hell this thing was that apparently had a severe murder boner for monsters. They twitched and shuddered even though the conjured femur had pierced their sternum, their shoulder, their legs; clearly he was going to have to step up his game if he was ever going to convince them to stop coming back.

And then what?

 

Almost everyone was gone.

Papyrus was gone.

 

And it was all their fault.

 

Sans took in a deep breath through his teeth, kneeling a little in front of the human.

So,” he said eventually, his voice much quieter than he intended. “It appears that we have come to an impasse, buddy.”

They coughed up blood in response. On the upside, if they reset again then at least he wouldn't have to get new slippers.

S-S-Sans, p-please...!” they were reaching out to him with their unbroken arm, gasping and wheezing with their last breaths.

I don't really wanna keep doing this, you know,” Sans admitted softly. “But it's only gonna get worse for you. Every time that you come back, it's gonna be worse. You got that, brat? I won't just stop at dunking your ass. I will wreck and damage and ruin and DEFILE you until you learn-” he stood a little straighter, the anger coming out plain in his voice. “-that your ACTIONS have – fucking – CONSEQUENCES!”

 

The sound of the blaster humming behind him overwhelmed whatever they were desperately trying to tell him, but it didn't matter. Nothing really mattered. Not anymore.

Maybe it never did.

He finally glanced up to look into their tear filled brown eyes-

 

- and oh god what was he doing it was Frisk, he was hurting Frisk he couldn't even hear them begging for mercy with their last breath as they were vaporized by the blaster, his own screaming unheard as he watched his child be forcibly ripped apart atom by atom and the screaming oh stars the god awful SCREAMING that he couldn't tell was his or not it didn't matter it was Frisk not human not creature not anomaly it was his little Frisk and what kind of sick vile creature was he that he couldn't help but keep screaming and he could hear HIM laughing, mocking him, delighting in his suffering just like he always did behind that smug smirk and all he wanted was to turn the blaster on that demented bastard-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“-ns! Sans, calm down, it's just me!

 

Sans felt like he had been pulled hundreds of miles down from the stratosphere and slammed back into reality. His bones felt clammy and weak, he was definitely sweating and he was rattling so hard that it took every fiber of his being to stop shaking, and even that wasn't enough. It took him longer than he'd have liked to forcibly remind himself that he was in the real world, that Papyrus was unharmed, that Frisk was okay, that he wasn't there again.

 

“... 'sup, Paps?” Sans tried to ask casually, sticking his trembling hands back into his pockets.

“Are you alright, brother?” Papyrus knelt a little next to him worriedly. Frisk was wide eyed and holding their pole in front of them vertically, almost like they were trying to hide behind it. Sans stared for a moment and couldn't help but chuckle, closing his eyes for a moment before standing and rubbing his aching back from sitting against the stone wall for so long.

“Yeah. I'm fine, Paps,” Sans answered quietly, the tinge of disgust from the lie on his tongue. “Sorry. Just a bad dream.”

“This is hardly the time for a nap!” Papyrus frowned even through his relief, patting him on the shoulders protectively. “You already nap throughout the entire night, for crying out loud! Don't you do anything other than sleep?”

“I try not to,” he shrugged with a little grin, noting silently that at last he'd made Frisk giggle. They tried to hide it behind their hand, which somehow just made him just a bit happier.

“Augh! I don't know why I bother,” Papyrus threw up his hands (and fishing pole) before stomping over to collect the picnic basket and blanket. “This entire venture was a bust, anyway.”

“You guys didn't catch any fish either?” Sans blinked.

“I caught four fishies!” Frisk proclaimed proudly.

“Okay. Where are they?”

“I... let them go...” they kicked at a bit of dirt awkwardly, looking away. Sans only chuckled and shook his head.

 

“What 'bout you, Paps?” Sans pried as the taller skeleton collected their belongings in his arms. “You manage to catch anything?”

“Well, I tried very hard, but they just wouldn't take the bait.”

“Can't say I blame 'em,” he shrugged with a wink to Frisk. “I don't particularly care for the taste of worms, either.”

“Worms?” Papyrus scoffed. “As if. Fish obviously just don't know good spaghetti when they see it.”

 

Papyrus was not necessarily pleased with Sans's hysterical peals of laughter.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

It was a relatively quiet night, for which Sans was supremely grateful.

 

They had a large helping of Papyrus's spaghetti salad leftovers (though Frisk never saw Sans once take a bite, his plate was still mysteriously empty at the end) and Frisk picked out one of the many Mettaton movies (starring Mettaton) about a robot (Mettaton) falling in love with a supposedly handsome duplicate (also Mettaton). He felt a weight on his side as Frisk slowly began to fall asleep between the skeletons, but he didn't disturb them. They just seemed too happy for him to wake them. He wasn't even sure he'd seen them smile that much when they were awake, let alone falling asleep.

Sans sat with one of his hands in his jacket pockets on one end of the couch with his eye sockets half lidded the entire time, gently stroking their hair with his other. Every time that he looked at them, they just seemed so small, so thin, so frail. Hopefully with time, with good food and good friends, they would start to look a little healthier. It made him a tad warmer in the chest to know that they at least looked a bit better than they did before. Not much, but a little. That was good. Maybe soon he would finally work up the courage to speak to the lady behind the door in Snowdin forest again and finally admit that he had actually been doing as she'd asked. He wondered briefly just how much she knew of the human if she had asked him to watch out for them, even though they'd technically never even seen each other. It took a lot of trust on her part, and he respected that. But that could wait for later. For now, he was... well, not exactly good. But okay.

And that, he could live with.

 

It was a long while before he finally realized that the movie had been over for a while. He glanced over to see Frisk cuddled up beneath a blanket with their head on his legs. The strange feeling in his chest was back, that warm, delightfully light little glow that he couldn't identify.

Was it... contentment?

He honestly couldn't tell.

 

“... Sans.”

He blinked at the sound of his brother's surprisingly low voice, glancing over to the other end of the couch. Papyrus had an odd expression on his face, his features flickering in the dim light from the television.

“What's up, bro?” Sans answered quietly. Papyrus was staring at him all the while, and it was beginning to make him a little uneasy from the unblinking gaze.

“Sans, I-” Papyrus started uncomfortably, shifting slowly so as not to wake Frisk. He closed his mouth several times, eventually folding his hands in his lap and leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, letting out a slow, quiet sigh. “Sans. I feel as though I need to ask you something.”

“Okay?” Sans resisted the urge to close his heavy eye sockets. “What is it? You okay?”

Papyrus stared at him fully, and Sans suddenly began to sweat.

 

He'd seen that look before.

The look of someone who, despite all logic, just knows. Because of course he would know oh god he'd fucked up so irreparably badly, every action had a consequence and he absolutely could not know.

And the thought of Papyrus knowing...

He had to fight the intense, overwhelming urge to force a reset-

 

Sans fought off the train of thought, focusing intently on the taller skeleton.

“Sans...” Papyrus began slowly. “Have-have you ever... I mean, did you... I-I mean, of course you didn't, but just in case you did...”

“'Pyrus?” he asked softly, his chest and throat suddenly feeling very tight.

“Did-did you...?” Papyrus started again, only to run a hand slowly down his face with a heavy sigh. “Nyeh. You know what? It's really not important. You-you wouldn't lie to me, Sans.”

“What?” Sans broke out fully in a cold sweat. “Of-of course not, bro.”

“The little one...” Papyrus said again after a while. “Frisk. You... you wouldn't hurt Frisk, right?”

What?!” he blanched nervously. “I- no! No, god no, of c-course not!”

 

Dirty liar.

Reset.

Filth.

Reset.

Freak.

RESET.

Abomination.

RESET RESET RESET RESET RESET RESET RESET-!

 

“That is good,” his brother looked away for a moment., his gaze softening as he looked down at the sleeping child. “I just... thought I'd ask.”

“W-why would you even think that, bro?” Sans asked through a plastered smile, hating himself a little more with each passing moment.

Papyrus didn't answer immediately, which only served to make the clawing guilt even more ferocious.

 

“Frisk is...” Papyrus interlocked his gloved fingers, head bowed a little. “They're a good person. I can see how much that is to them, how very hard they try. Some people... well. They don't really try. Maybe they just don't have anyone to point them in the right direction. But Frisk is... different. They've been hurt so, so terribly. To think that anyone would-”

He choked for a moment, wiping a hand over his eye sockets for a moment and letting out an unsteady breath. “I can see how scared they are. All the time. They're downright terrified, and it-it kills me to see them so afraid. I only wish I knew what they were afraid of. Is-is it my fault?” Papyrus asked eventually, turning back to him worriedly. “What am I doing wrong, Sans?”

“B-bro,” Sans said eventually, his chest feeling painfully tight. “You haven't done anything wrong, 'Pyrus. You're, like, the best person that I know. Hell, you're probably the best person in the whole freakin' Underground!”

Papyrus didn't respond for an uncomfortably long few moments, eventually closing his eye sockets and letting out a long, drawn out sigh. When he reopened his eye sockets Sans saw that his focus seemed a million miles away, and the look on his face was so worn, so... pained.

He felt like his soul was cracking just watching Papyrus sink.

 

“... Listen,” Sans said eventually, not even paying attention that he'd stopped petting Frisk's head or how still he'd become. “Papyrus. Please, please listen to me, because I'm tellin' nothing but the truth here. It's... it's not your fault, okay? You're probably the best thing for the kid in the whole world. They practically worship the ground you walk on,” he added quietly, looking down to the sleeping child. “You remember the way their face lit up when you made that spiffy jacket for 'em? Every time you walk in the room, they get a little bit more cheerful. So don't think that you're anything but good, Paps. Because you're not just good, you're the best. Always have been,” he added with a small smile, and this one at least felt genuine. “You've always been better th-”

“Don't,” Papyrus said suddenly. Sans blinked, looking over to him. “Don't do that to yourself, Sans. You don't have to put yourself down trying to make me feel better. You're... you're the best brother that anyone could ever ask for, Sans.”

 

They sat in relative silence for a while, the darkness flickering around them in the dim light of the television screen.

 

“I'm... I'm going to bed, Sans,” Papyrus said after a little bit of silence. He placed his palm on Sans's shoulder briefly, giving him a soft, kind smile. “I'll see you in the morning. Alright?”

Sans could only nod curtly, as he didn't trust himself to speak.

For the first time in his life, Sans was actually glad to see Papyrus go.

 

At least that way he wouldn't see him bawling his eyes out.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans wasn't quite certain of how long he'd been sitting in the dark.

 

It had to have been several long, quiet hours. He even popped in a couple more of Mettaton's movies, although he didn't bother watching them. He and Papyrus had already seen them quite a few times. Sans had actually seen all of them so many times that he could easily quote some of them, though not nearly to the level that Papyrus could, even though he had seen them so many more times. It didn't matter. He didn't like Mettaton, but spending time with Papyrus just doing anything was fine by him. He just wanted background noise to fall asleep to.

 

Sleep was something that obviously wasn't going to come to him tonight, either.

Sans stroked Frisk's hair for a while, subtly shifting them aside to swap out old movies now and then. At some point Frisk began murmuring in their sleep when he stopped, letting out a low, quiet whimper. He almost didn't hear it he was so lost in thought, and his chest ached to see their brows furrowed in pain. Sans worriedly pressed his palm down on their head, applying just enough pressure to still them, to hopefully help, to let them know that though whatever dream they were having they weren't alone. Their expression shifted a little bit after a while, finally relaxing enough to allow them to slumber more deeply.

 

But of course, they weren't really alone, even when they were.

There was always the matter of this 'Chara'.

 

It was more than an irritation, it made his marrow boil to think of that brat pushing around his kid. Another entity living in Frisk, the child with the red eyes. Sans let out a sigh through his teeth, thinking. That was, though, if Chara even really was a separate entity at all. That particular thought was a relatively haunting one. What if Chara was just another personality of Frisk's?

Was hating Chara just a method of hating Frisk?

 

He looked down at the child curled up next to him on the couch, and his expression softened. He wasn't entirely certain that he even had it in him to be angry at Frisk anymore, let alone hate them. He hated a lot of things. He hated the taste of anchovies. He hated the thought of them being hurt. He hated resets.

But he honestly couldn't bring himself to hate them, even if he tried.

And besides, that would imply that he would try, and that was, quite frankly, just too much effort.

 

He started to rise after a while, blinking the weariness from his eyes. He didn't make it completely off the couch before he realized that Frisk still had an iron grip on the hem of his jacket. He thought about subtly slipping their fingers off and heavily debated simply flopping back down onto the sofa and hoping that sleep might actually come tonight before he realized that they were staring sleepily at him, their eyes half lidded.

“Sans?” they mumbled blearily.

“Hey buddy,” he said softly, petting them on the head again and stroking their cheek. “Don't worry, just me. Go back to sleep, alright?”

“Okay, Sans...” Frisk said through a yawn, but didn't release him.

“... Kiddo.”

“Please,” they looked... scared? Hurt? He couldn't tell. “Please, Sans. Don't... don't go. Please...?”

 

Sans forced a plastic grin, silently noting that his resolve was steadily crumbling.

“Not goin' anywhere, babybones,” Sans ran his thumb over their forehead. “Get some rest. Okay?”

“O-okay, Sans...” Frisk agreed after a long, drawn out moment. He only hoped that they'd bought his boldfaced lie. “I-I just...”

“What is it, buddy?” Sans slowly caved in and sat back down next to them, careful not to disturb them much as he pulled their blanket a little more around them, drawing it up to tuck them in.

“I'm sorry,” they said through another little yawn. “I don't... I don't wanna be alone.”

“You're not alone, Frisky-bits,” he chuckled. They held out a hand to him again, and he met it with his own. Their touch was so gentle, so soft, so warm.

 

How in the hell are these the same hands that were covered in my brother's dust-?

 

“Sans?”

He blinked, not even having realized that the lights in his eye sockets had gone out momentarily. He tried to force himself to relax, steadying his breathing.

“It's nothing, kiddo...” Sans rubbed their hand with his thumb, drawing small, tiny circles over their palm. “Don't worry. Okay? I'm... I'm gonna fix this.”

“... Fix what?” Frisk snuggled against him a little more, closing their eyes as their breaths came slow and heavy. He instantly regretted his choice of words, turning instead to the flickering television screen. He felt like the pit of his stomach was a mile deep, and he bit his tongue.

There was no need to open up to them about it.

There was technically no need to open up to them about anything.

Did they even deserve to know, after what they'd done?

 

Do I even deserve mercy after what I've done?

 

There was so much he wanted to say. There was so much that he wanted to tell them, to ask them, there was so much that he wanted to know, to just understand. They were a good kid. They might understand, too. They might be the only one in all of creation who might actually understand.

They might also hate him almost as much as he hated himself.

The thought of them knowing him for what he truly was, that awful gnawing desire in him that he refused to acknowledge, it made him feel sick. He was just repressed, that had to be it. That was the only thought that he would allow. They just couldn't be permitted to know, to see him for the wretched thing that he was. All it took was a small magical pulse and he could sense them, could feel their soul burning like wildfire beside him. They were so good, so loving, so forgiving, so pure and just being around him would inevitably corrupt them, and that thought only made him feel worse. Papyrus really was the only good thing for them, the fact that he just came as part of the packaged deal was disgusting. He didn't deserve to be around them. He didn't deserve to know them.

It would be so easy to just throw himself into Snowdin's river.

They would be better off that way.

 

They wouldn't be hurt nearly as badly, then.

 

Sans opened and closed his mouth uncertainly, squeezing his eye sockets shut.

“Babybones...” he started eventually, his breathing ragged. His chest hurt, his stomach hurt, his head hurt, everything just ached and every fiber of him wanted him to just shut up before it was too late. When Frisk didn't respond, he made his decision, finally turning to them and opening his eyes.

They were fast asleep, still gently holding his hand, with a small, pleased little smile on their face.

 

Abomination.

 

Sans quietly, softly, ever so slowly slipped out of their loose grip, making sure that they were fully tucked in before clicking off the television. He didn't trust himself to speak anymore. Hell, he hardly trusted himself to breathe. He felt so horrid. Maybe because that's all he was. A horrid, awful creature that felt like he deserved to.

 

He made sure to keep from dragging his slippers across the floor to avoid scuffling noise and ever so silently slipped out the front door, latching it quietly behind him. He rifled in his pockets for a moment before digging out one of the dog biscuits, reminding himself to drop off the box for Doggo when it wasn't the middle of the night.

Or maybe he could just drop them off in the middle of the night, he couldn't really care less anymore.

 

He lit the tip and inhaled deeply, the scent filling him as he finally let out along, arduous smoky sigh. He sank down and almost collapsed on the front step, rubbing his tired eye sockets with his free hand. Maybe if he really, really tried, he could just pretend for a little while that things would all turn out okay. It felt so silly, so selfish, but that was all he really wanted. To just... pretend.

Maybe that was all he had been doing the entire time.

 

“What am I doing,” he muttered bitterly. “What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.”

He really was a foul, miserable creature. He didn't bother with the usual smoke rings, just letting out one puff through his nostril bone after the other until the effects finally began to kick in. He felt a bit lighter, a bit dizzier, a bit more absentminded, but he still felt sick.

 

Maybe because he was the illness, a sickness for which there was no cure. He was the source of his own misery. And if he kept going down the path he was on, there was a good chance of it spreading to everyone he loved. He simply couldn't afford not to care anymore.

 

Sans let out another sigh and dropped the dog biscuit into the snow, standing and dusting the light sprinkling of snow from his knees before closing his eye sockets. His mind was made up. He almost fell into the shortcut, but he still didn't really care. So long as he got from point A to point B, that was all that mattered.

 

Snow rustled down in little eddies from the displaced air as the skeleton vanished from the world, little white monuments to the fleeting hope that he used to hold.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Alphys slurped at her cup of noodles, never taking her eyes off of the screen. The human wandered about the edge of the screen for a little while. They even tramped through the snow right up next to the camera, giving her a decent glance of them. They poked inquisitively at absolutely everything, even meandering eventually right up to the camera with wide eyes. For a brief moment Alphys smiled when they gave a little friendly wave before wandering off, a gait in their step. From the length of their hair and their odd choice of blue striped jumper, she really couldn't tell if they were a boy or a girl. She shrugged to herself, fast forwarding through the silence. It probably didn't matter.

 

She eventually came to the end of the tape, where it was suddenly cut off in a flash to black. Alphys frowned as she ate another mouthful without glancing away, frowning when she dropped a noodle onto her pajamas before flicking it up with a spare claw and chowing it down as well. It was puzzling, to say the least. The tapes were all modified to hold many hours of footage apiece, and the fact that the Snowdin cameras all seemed to suffer from the same malfunction was strange, to say the least. With one of them she even thought she caught a flash of blue, but it might have just been a flicker on the tape. She sighed quietly. She'd have to go back down to the sub lab, again, and dig up more blank tapes. She didn't relish the idea of potentially being forced to write over any old tapes just for footage that might or might not yield any sight of the elusive human about. Hopefully the next trip to the garbage dump would provide some more.

Or at the very least, maybe a couple 'new' anime hidden amongst the rubble.

 

“Man I love this channel.”

 

Alphys gave an unholy shriek of terror as she toppled out of her swivel chair, tumbling to the ground and grabbing uselessly at her noodles before they landed with a splat beside her.

 

“Sans!” Alphys spluttered indignantly as she struggled to stand, blushing deeply. “W-w-what have I t-told you about d-doing that?!”

“Sorry,” Sans chortled good naturedly as he assisted her to stand. “You're kinda jumpy, anyone ever tell you that?”

“Yes,” she scowled at him, giving one last dejected gaze to her lost noodles. “Y-you, for one. Undyne. My moms. E-everyone I've ever m-met. What a-are you even doing here? Don't y-you know what time it is-? Are... are you drunk?”

“Obviously the right time, if you're up at this hour,” Sans ignored her last question and shrugged with a small grin. He stuck his hands in his pockets, leaning back and forth on the balls of his feet cheerfully. “Didn't think you'd actually be awake.”

“C-couldn't sleep, as usual,” Alphys rubbed her eyes wearily, letting out a sigh as she dropped back into her chair and faced him fully, letting her tail swing behind her in the small opening in the back. “I a-assume you h-have a good reason for scaring my tail off.”

 

Sans looked about a million miles away for a moment, his gaze somewhere behind her. She resisted the urge to glance behind her, staring at him for a bit before he finally answered and the look was gone like it had never been there at all.

 

“Just picking up on a bit of light reading,” he shrugged with a plastered grin. “I was gonna pop on down to the true lab and grab hit the books.”

“C-can you p-please not call it that?” Alphys shifted uncomfortably. “J-just call it a sub lab. That's what it i-is.”

“Yeah sure,” he shrugged again noncommittally before pulling a small black comb out of his pocket and running it a few times over the top of his skull. “Can I ask a favor of you, by the way?”

“Wh-what is it?” Alphys rubbed her elbows. “Y-you know you can a-a-always ask me anything, Sans.”

For a brief moment, she saw through the carefully planned facade, and it was like seeing a completely different skeleton. He just looked so worn, so tired, so hurt.

And just like that it was gone, leaving her wondering if maybe she'd imagined it altogether.

 

“... You're a good friend, Al,” Sans said after a moment, sticking his hands back into his jacket pockets. She blushed awkwardly, looking away. He shook his head quietly. It was painfully apparent that she really wasn't used to receiving compliments.

 

“I'm, uh...” he coughed uneasily into one hand. “I'm gonna need to borrow some of your documents on humans. Not the anime this time,” he added pointedly.

“Wh- really?” she blinked curiously. “Is this about the human that you found?”

“Yeah kinda,” Sans shrugged for the umpteenth time. “Guess you could say I'm, uh, working on some research of my own right now. That's why I'm, eh, also going to need t'borrow some of your notes on... human souls?”

For a long, horribly stretched moment, she didn't respond.

She didn't blink.

She didn't say anything at all.

 

“... O-okay...?” she said after a long while, and Sans let out a visible sigh of relief. “A-any r-reason why?”

“I... I can't really...” Sans looked away, crossing his arms. There was a light dusting of blue crossing his cheeks, and he slowly closed his eyes and let out an uneven sigh. The pained look was back for just a second, but his grin took over his face a moment later.

 

“Just researching everything that I need to know to improve the situation,” he said after a moment, and she could tell just how forced it was. “I just have a, uh... theory that I need to test out before anything. It's probably nothing to worry about. By the way, could you keep the chatter between you and Undyne about the human to a minimum?”
“Sh-she told you ab-bout that?” Alphys froze, wide eyed.

“Nah, took a wild guess,” he winked at her expression. “But in all seriousness, if word were to get out about them, things could get hairy.”

“I d-don't think U-Undyne would tell anyone...” she shifted nervously in her seat. “A-and I-I-I wouldn't, either! Just... just saying.”

“Good to know, Al,” he patted her genially on the shoulder, and this time his smile seemed a little more genuine. “I'mma pop on down to the 'sub lab' and dig up some books, shouldn't be more than a few minutes. Can you compile some the information on human souls for me-?”

“Done and done,” she said proudly, swiveling toward her computer and printing out several long sheets of paper. “I can even have it in a neat little binder for you when you're ready.”

“You're the best of the best, Alphys,” Sans beamed at her, and she turned a cherry red. She started to respond, but he was already gone by the time she tried.

 

Alphys sighed and stared down at her ruined snack with a frown.

 

For as much as Sans liked to joke around and poke fun, he really was harmless. She closed her eyes for a moment, her mind feeling heavy.

Before long though he would be gone again, just like always. And before she knew it, it would be back to routine. Back to painful silence, back to the weight of everything on her shoulders, back to misery. She sighed again and began to rewind the tapes, her thoughts almost tripping over themselves to be heard, to be listened to, to be acknowledged. Maybe things wouldn't turn out the way that she wanted to. Maybe things wouldn't all wind up more ruined than they already were.

 

But for just a little while, she could pretend.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans was drifting through eternal shadows, the darkness drawing him in like a black hole. He didn't know where, didn't know for how long. Maybe it didn't really matter. Maybe nothing did.

 

He could live with that.

 

But was this even really living? He didn't feel alive. He didn't necessarily feel dead, either, but he didn't care for it. He just felt so lost, so alone. No matter how hard he looked, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how hard he reached out he was just met with that awful emptiness as it grew darker-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

-and darker inside their 'room' as Sans struggled once again to conjure into existence any fragment of magic that he could. Why was magic so difficult? Other monsters could do it. Literally every monster that he knew could do it, even little Papyrus, but he was loathe to ask him to try again after the last fiasco. No, Sans was better off this way. Granted, not by much, but it had to be better. He forced his mind to clear as he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, focusing on what he wanted. A key, perhaps, that could finagle its way through the solid steel door's lock.

He chuckled to himself.

 

Oh, what a joy it would be, if only he had a skeleton key.

 

Papyrus shifted on his cot and Sans cursed under his breath, turning and eventually sliding down the door to find the smaller skeleton staring at him.

 

... Sans?” Papyrus rubbed his eyes, shifting beneath his pristine white sheet. “What are you doing?”

Trying to break out again,” Sans answered truthfully.

Sans, you shouldn't do that!” Papyrus cringed openly. “What if he gets mad again?”

Why care?” he shrugged, refusing to admit that the idea terrified him just as much. “What's he gonna do, torture me? Oh. Right. Wait.”

That-that isn't funny...”

Sorry, bro,” Sans shook his head. “Yeah. That was kinda grim. Just, uh. Just go back to sleep. Okay?”

You know full well that I can't sleep if you're doing that,” Papyrus frowned. After a moment he smiled and patted his bedside. “I can rest easier knowing that you're sleeping, too.”

 

Sans paused for a full beat.

He could feel his resolve slowly dwindling, and oh god how he hated the feeling. He just didn't have it in him to say no to the little skeleton though, and they both knew it. Sans sighed again for what felt like the millionth time before giving up and slowly shuffling over to Papyrus's cot. His brother wriggled to the side and pressed himself up against the wall with a grin.

Yay, story time!”

Paps, I really don't know if now is the best time-”

I can sleep easy if you tell me another story,” Papyrus said pointedly. Sans only laughed a little and ruffled the top of his head.

Sneaky little prison rat, aren'tcha?” he chuckled again. “Alright, alright. You win.”

The Papyrus always wins!”

 

He held Papyrus's outstretched hand, gazing off into the distance-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

-where the many packed buildings held so many monsters, more than he had ever seen in one place. Papyrus looked about in wide eyed wonder, his mouth hanging open a little. He pointed eagerly at the dingy apartment that they approached, just on the outside of the capital. At least it was likely that they would be undisturbed here. Sans slowly put down the cardboard box that held some of the 'acquired' belongings, sticking his hands in his pockets. He really could get used to the jacket. He hated leaving his hands swinging by his sides like Papyrus tended to do, it was like having somewhere to place his hands was just a reflex by this point.

 

Heh-huh-hew...” Papyrus struggled as he pointed at the little grey building. “... H-h-house?”

That's right, Papy,” Sans encouraged him lowly, his chest aching. “This is our new house. We're... we're gonna be so much better off here. Just you wait and see.”

House!” Papyrus poked his head in through one of the broken windows. “House, house!”

 

Sans wanted to weep from the sight. Not the 'house', it was absolutely an eyesore. The paint was peeling, the bricks were cracked and chipped, vines were strangling their way up the side and what patchy grass that grew out from the front was all dead and choked from the weeds. Sans really did hate weeds. No, it was the fact that Papyrus was ever so slowly learning to speak again. After such a long, painfully silent time of the little skeleton only able to communicate through basic noises, hearing him pronounce anything at all was such a relief that he almost cried. Maybe he wouldn't recall the experiments that had robbed the innocent skeleton of his vocal functions for such a long time. Maybe he wouldn't ever really remember. But maybe, if Sans tried harder than he had ever tried, the healing magic would eventually lead his brother to being able to speak normally again.

But that would only heal half of the damage, even if he did everything in his power.

 

The damage to his mind was already done.

 

Sans's fists clenched in his pockets futilely as he let out a long, slow breath.

God how he desperately hoped that Papyrus never remembered.

He wished that he didn't remember, either.

 

All he could do now was try his damndest to give Papyrus a better life, a good life, the life that he deserved. Maybe things would work out here. And if not, well, there were always more isolated places that he could continue to work. He most certainly was never, ever going back to Hotland again, that was for sure.

Who even named a place smothered in magma 'Hotland', anyway? That was just silly. He shrugged to himself. Who knew. Maybe he'd someday meet the person in charge of naming the Underground and give them a good piece of his mind.

 

He followed closely as Papyrus wandered inside the dark abode-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

-and stared down at the child holding their arms out to him. They didn't even bother dodging anymore. They just... stood there. Smiling. Crying. Accepting of every single attack that he threw at them. They didn't sidestep anymore, didn't roll out of the way of the bones that shattered across their body as they were swiftly bludgeoned to the ground, leaving them broken and bleeding.

 

What was WRONG with them?

 

Sans mused over this for a while as he crouched in front of them, not even hearing their wheezing words. There was clearly something very, very wrong. Maybe he was finally close to getting them to give up and stop the resets for good this time. Why weren't they fighting anymore? Had he finally gotten them to just... surrender?

 

F-f-forgive...” they sputtered even as blood dripped from their lips. Blood really was an interesting thing, the longer that he stared at it. Did they actually want him to forgive them? After everything that they had done? Like they deserved it. It was too late for that. It was too late for a lot of things.

You must have a sick sense of humor,” Sans said quietly, kneeling before them on his haunches. He just felt so sick. Sick of them making him do this. Sick of this awful golden hall with the chirrup of birds no too far away. Sick of reliving the same thing over and over again. He was so, so tired. How long were they going to keep this up? Just how long had they been doing this? His sense of time had been utterly demolished quite a few resets ago. Maybe it didn't matter anymore. Maybe it never did.

 

I... forg-give... you.”

Now, that was sick. They were the one forgiving him.

 

Sans let out a low, shaky breath, slowly placing his hand atop their head. They flinched at his touch, weeping beginning anew. They knew what was coming next. They both did.

This time Sans didn't bother torturing them to death.

Maybe this time was the one.

Maybe this time, they wouldn't come back.

God how he hoped they wouldn't come back.

This had to be so much worse for them than it was for him.

 

And if it wasn't, god help them he was going to make it worse.

 

He conjured another sharp bone in his hand, drawing his hand up high-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans bolted upright at the sound of a terrified yelp that echoed through the house, his marrow pounding through his bones. He coughed and clutched at an invisible line across his chest, mind whirling.

 

Snowdin. He was in Snowdin, lying on top of his blankets. A single glance out the window told him that much. The books were scattered around his bed, right where he'd left them. His breathing came fast and shallow as he struggled to close his eye sockets, squeezing them shut and forcing his rambling mind to narrow, to focus. He was in Snowdin. It was definitely still nighttime, it had to be. Papyrus hadn't woken him up, but it felt to be sometime around very early morning, if not there already.

And it hadn't been him who had screamed this time.

 

He lay in bed for another minute, desperately wishing himself to stop shaking.

To his surprise, after a few minutes he heard his bedroom door slowly creak open just a crack. Had he left it unlocked again? He started to respond to Papyrus not to worry as he was going to check on the source of the noise before he realized that Papyrus wasn't actually in his doorway at all.

 

“S-Sans...?”

“Yo,” he said without lifting his head. “You... what's up, buddy?”

“I... I thought I heard a noise.”

Which was, essentially, kid code for 'I had a scary dream and now I can't go back to sleep'.

Sans sighed again and sat up, rubbing his weary eye sockets. Frisk's hair was messy and they bit their lip as they shifted from foot to foot, as if uncertain that they should even be there.

“... C'mere, buddy,” Sans said eventually, forcing himself to sit up. Frisk almost ran to his bedside, throwing their arms around his shoulders and burying their face into his chest. Sans felt his soul ache as they hugged him, noting how fiercely they clung to him, how badly they were shaking.

 

“You, uh... you okay, kiddo?” Sans asked softly after a few minutes, gently picking them up and letting them sit on the bed beside him. “You don't look so good.”

“B-bad dream...” Frisk muttered, still not pulling away. “It was... it was bad.”

“It's okay, pal...” he rubbed concentric circles on their back, eventually hugging them as well. “It's okay. Alright? Everything is okay.”

“It was bad,” Frisk finally broke down and began sobbing, only serving to make him feel worse. “B-b-bad, it was so bad...!”

 

“Shh, shh shh, hey-hey now,” he refused to allow himself to panic, the sudden swarming urge to squeeze them tighter overwhelming his thoughts. “Shh. It's okay, babybones. It's okay. Alright? You're-you're safe, okay? Shh, come on. Please, don't cry, babybones. Everything is gonna be okay.”

Frisk sniffled and buried their face in his shoulder, and he hugged them again.

He only repeated himself for a while until his throat began to feel hoarse, but it didn't matter. Maybe it never did. He didn't care either way. He just wanted to hold them until the bad dreams left them, to still their trembling, to dry their tears.

 

His dream, however, was still right at the forefront of his mind. He loathed himself for the things he'd done. They were so small, so frail. They just wouldn't stop shaking.

“... You wanna talk about it?” Sans asked after a long while, petting the back of their head. Frisk was muffled with their face pressed against him and he sighed before shrugging and holding them a little closer as gently as he could manage. “It's okay. It's okay, babybones. I... I get nightmares like that too, sometimes. It's all gonna be okay.”

 

He eventually shifted uncomfortably as he carefully pulled Frisk with him so that he could sit with his back to the wall, letting them cling to him in his lap as he stroked their hair. He closed his eye sockets after a while, never letting them go.

 

He silently swore to himself, that no matter what, he wasn't ever going to let them get hurt again.

They were already hurting, so much.

He was tempted to let out a magical pulse to sense their soul, uncertain of even why he felt the urge to do so. He just needed to know... something. Instead he sighed again and shook his head subtly. He could feel their heartbeat against him, shaky and weak. They obviously weren't doing well. All he wanted to do was help.

 

“I'm sorry-” Frisk started, but he hushed them almost instantly.

“It's okay, buddy,” he held his forehead to the top of their head, the scent of their hair filling him with determination. “It's okay. You don't have to be sorry. Okay? You're gonna be alright. I'm gonna take care of everything. Just don't cry. Please, babybones. Don't cry. Okay? Because everything is gonna be okay.”

“I... I had a bad dream,” they started after a long while. “I was... I was back there again.”

 

Sans had to fight not to cringe. Of course he wasn't the only one to be haunted by that. After the things that he'd said, after the horrendous things he'd done, of course they would have nightmares. They were living in the same house with their murderer, it was no small wonder they woke up screaming. He sincerely hoped it wouldn't be a regular occurrence. And if it was, what else could he do but hold them and apologize? He felt a tinge of remorseful disgust at himself. How could they possibly still trust him, still look at him with mercy, with forgiveness?

How could they possibly be so cruel as to be so much better than he was?

He was so vicious. So selfish.

 

“I'm... I'm sorry, kiddo,” he choked, fighting back a sudden tide, his eye sockets burning. “God... god, babybones. I'm so, so sorry.”

“It wasn't that...” Frisk murmured after a bit of silence, never letting go of his jacket without looking up. “It was... I-I, I'm sorry. I can't, it hurts so much, I just can't...!

“Shh, hey, it's okay...” he petted the top of their head, running a thumb over their eyebrows and looking into their eyes. At least they weren't red this time. “C'mon, kiddo. If you start cryin' again then I'm gonna start cryin', and there's few things sadder than watchin' a fully grown skeleton crying his eye sockets out. So please don't cry anymore. Okay? Everything is gonna be okay. I promise.”

 

They sat in relative silence for a long while. That was fine with Sans. They even managed to stop crying, although it felt like it took hours and hours, but he didn't care. So long as he could hold them just a while longer, so long as he could keep their bad dreams at bay, he didn't mind. He was half fending off his own memories as well. But for once, he could put those aside, if only for long enough to let Frisk know how important that they were to him, to let them know that they were loved, to let them know that they were safe. He could feel their soul, so gentle, so warm, so alive. He had to actively resist the urge to draw it out to ensure that it was safe, to hold them as close as he could, something, anything he could do to just make the hurt go away.

 

“... Sans?”

“Hm?” he blinked sleepily, not realizing that he had almost fallen asleep yet again.

“Did... did you really mean what you said? Before?”
“What'cha mean, kiddo?”

“A-about...” they fidgeted awkwardly, finally meeting his gaze. “Um. About... t-trying to be my, um. Dad.”

 

Sans was fully awake now, suddenly feeling as though his mind were reeling from their words.

“W-well... yeah,” he admitted, a light dusting of blue crossing his bony cheeks. “I-I know I'm not exactly the best role model. I'm not a good caretaker. Hell, I'm not much good at anything. But I just... I dunno. I just... want you to have the best life possible. Maybe I can't give you the best, but-but... I just want you to have better. I'm... I'm sorry I'm not your real dad, babybones.”

Frisk muttered something darkly, burying their face into his shoulder again.

“Can't hear a word you're saying, kiddo,” he chuckled lightly, patting their back. Frisk eventually pulled away a little, and he saw how dejected, how utterly miserable they looked, and he froze. Had he said the wrong thing? What did he do wrong? Should he have just kept his mouth shut?

This is what happens, moron. This is what happens when you open up-

 

“I don't have a 'real' dad,” Frisk said with a surprising amount of bitterness in their tone. “He doesn't get to be called that after he sold me.”

Sans felt the pit of his stomach drop.

 

“... I'm gonna keep you safe,” Sans said quietly after a while. He held their chin in his fingers and tilted their head up to see them fully, and he didn't even care that he was crying just as much as they were. “Okay, babybones? I swear to whatever you find holy, I will – keep – you – safe. Nobody – and I mean nobody – is ever gonna hurt you, not ever, ever again. You trust me. Right?”

 

Frisk didn't answer at first, and it made his chest ache. However, they finally swallowed dryly and nodded, sniffling and hiding their face amongst his jacket once more.

“Y-yeah. I trust you, Sans.”

“I love you, babybones.”

Frisk was shaking harder than ever as they held on to him for dear life.

“I love you too, Sans.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Grillby stared out at his pristine bar. It had been a long night before, and the early morning customers would soon begin arriving. He felt a spark of pride at his daughter, who had gladly helped him and still managed to keep up on chores and homework all at once. He certainly hadn't managed her level of multitasking when he had been her age. She really was so much like her mother.

Now if only he could convince her to stop texting every five seconds he'd be making actual progress.

 

He gave a little puffy sigh and shook his head, giving the jukebox a once over before returning behind the bar as the front door slowly swung open, the little bell above the door ringing cheerfully.

“Good morning!” he stifled a yawn, straightening his bow tie and glasses. “How can I – Sans, are you alright?”

 

Sans shuffled right up to the bar, not bothering to wipe the tear tracks from his face as he dropped a small but hefty brown paper bag with a jangling thunk onto the counter.

“'Sup, Grillbz?” Sans said emotionlessly.

“Sans, what happened?” Grillby almost leaned over the counter anxiously. “You look as if you owe death itself money.”

“Speak of the devil,” he replied blankly, nudging the bag toward Grillby. The fire elemental stared at the skeleton a moment longer before peering into the bag.

 

It was filled to the brim with money.

 

“... Sans, what-?”

“I'm paying off my tab.”

 

Grillby stared at the skeleton before pinching his arm, staring back and forth between the skeleton and the bag.

“Is... is this happening?” Grillby balked. “I'm having the tab dream again, right? This isn't happening.”

“I'm paying off my tab,” Sans repeated more intently, slowly drawing himself up to sit on one of the stools. “I threw in some extra for the interest, and more on top of that.”

“... Why? Is everything – oh stars, Papyrus is okay, right?”

“I... I need a favor,” Sans asked after a long silence. “Grillby. My man. My bartender. My friend.”

“Yes, Sans.”

“I... need you to teach me how to be a good father.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

- The true nature of the human soul is as fickle as it is elusive.

 

Curiously, unlike monster's souls, human souls are incredibly powerful and have a peculiar tendency to persist a while after death instead of dissipating completely. Humans leave their bodies behind entirely instead of turning to dust, and some believe that it is this inconsistency between the body and soul which causes their metaphysical identity to linger. It is also unknown precisely where human souls go when they pass, as no known reliable record exists of a human soul returning, however there are a great deal of human religions based on such similar theories -

 

- Asgore has instructed me to continue research on the contained souls. I'm worried. After Mettaton I thought that things would be so different. I guess I was right, in a way. Hypothetically, if it were possible to create a new soul from scratch, it wouldn't be such a big deal. Everybody is counting on me now. I can't give up. I don't even know if I can do this. I can't -

 

- unable to be properly developed. Humans lack the capacity to connect on the level of monsters. Perhaps it is because they do not require either magic or love and compassion in order to continue existing. They truly are terrifying creatures. If they still retained even the most basic of magical capabilities, perhaps there is hope that humans could someday once again bond as monsters do-

 

Sans blinked.

He paused, reading and then rereading the sentences several more times.

 

Terrifying creatures.

Human souls are incredibly powerful.

Lack the capacity to connect on the level of monsters.

Bond as monsters do.

 

Oh. Oh no. Ohh, no.

“... Ohhh, shit.

 

“Sans?”

Sans slammed the decrepit books shut, sweating buckets as he swiveled on his stool. He propped his chin up instantly on his workbench, turning casually to Papyrus who stood in the doorway of the shed behind the house.

 

“What's up, bro?” Sans tried to sound as nonchalant as he could, in spite of the fact that he felt as if he were going to be ill. He felt suddenly clammy and weak, and had to force himself to sit straight on the barstool in front of his bench. He calmly shuffled the papers together and stacked them atop the books, covering them without looking away. “You need somethin'?”

“I was just letting you know that it's almost time for your sentry shift,” Papyrus blinked. “Are you alright? You don't look so good.”

“Yeah, of course,” Sans hopped down from the stool, sticking his hands in his pockets. “Everything is fine. Just peachy.”

“Are you sure?” Papyrus entered the shed tentatively, fiddling his gloved fingers together. “You've got that look again.”

“What look?” Sans had to resist the urge to flinch. “I'm-I'm just not used to bein' up this early is all,” Sans lied quickly. “C'mon, bro. You know me. Never have been an early bird.”

“Fair enough...” Papyrus seemed at least somewhat satisfied with the answer. “I can't say I'm not surprised, though. What are you even doing in here at this hour?”

 

Sans took in a deep, shaky breath and let out a quiet sigh.

“I'm, uh...” he started lamely. “Studying.”

“... For what?” Papyrus blinked again.

“I just thought, y'know... maybe, since Frisk is living here now, that I'd try to... pick up the slack? A little? Alphys is always swamped with work, so I just thought that I'd, uh, pick up another job... at the lab.”

Papyrus didn't answer.

He didn't blink.

He didn't even breathe.

 

Sans shifted beneath his gaze for what felt like hours, sweat sticking to him like glue.

“That's fantastic news!” Papyrus belted suddenly, swooping inward and scooping Sans up in his arms, who let out a surprised yelp. “Oh my god, Sans! This is great! Effort! You're putting in actual effort!

“C'mon, bro,” Sans slapped his shoulders weakly with the palm of his hands, grinning. “You don't have to sound so shocked.”

“I'm just...” Papyrus gently placed him on the ground, wiping his eye sockets. “I'm just... I'm so proud of you, Sans.”

“It's-it's really not a big deal-” Sans started awkwardly, rubbing his colored cheeks. “I'm probably just gonna have to slack off twice as hard now.”

“Make terrible jokes all you like, I know effort when I see it!” Papyrus patted his shoulder, beaming. “This calls for celebratory breakfast spaghetti!”

“Is it any different from regular breakfast spaghetti?”

“Yes. Celebratory breakfast spaghetti has significantly more confetti.”

“So it's confetti spaghetti?”

“Not necessarily-”

“Just don't forgetti the confetti for the breakfasti celebratti spaghetti.”

“OH MY GOD, SANS.”

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans trudged through the snow, ice trickling in through his slippers as they walked. Frisk bounced gleefully from snowbank to snowbank, making little hop! hop! noises as they went. Sans couldn't help but grin a bit wider at the display, shaking his head a little and adjusting the worn old book tucked under his arm. The velvet horns atop their jacket flopped wildly with every jump, and it was a testament to Papyrus's stitching skills that they hadn't fallen off yet as he was expecting to happen at any moment.

 

“Keep practicin',” Sans chuckled as they approached his wooden sentry station. “You could make a long jump athlete at this rate.”

“I don't wanna be an athlete,” Frisks stuck out their tongue a little, bouncing down from the snowbank to land next to him. “I'm a bunny today.”

“Might have the wrong ears for a bunny...” Sans plucked the velvet horns on their hood between his phalanges.

“I can't be a bunny rabbit?” they frowned a little, their brows furrowing.

“You can be anything you wanna be, kiddo. I like you plenty as you are, though.”

 

Frisk beamed up at him toothily as they took his hand, marching wholeheartedly through the snow. That mysteriously warm little tingling had returned to his chest, but he brushed it off in favor of returning to his thoughts. There was so much work to be done, and he wasn't even certain of where to start. That tiny hope remained though, that niggling little voice in the back of his head that reminded him that he could always be wrong, that he might not really be in over his head, that all he needed to do was check...

He let out a quiet sigh through his nostril bones, dropping the book under the backside of his sentry station next to the chair as he released Frisk's hand and ruffled their hair. There were some things that he simply couldn't ask of them, though. That much was apparent. Besides, what if they declined? What was he supposed to do then? He pushed that thought away as well, digging in his pocket for a moment before drawing out a small paper bag and holding it out to the child.

 

“... What's this?” Frisk asked after a moment, taking it and peeking inside.

“Positive reinforcement?” Sans shrugged as they pulled out the cinnamon bunny. “I'm gonna be, uh, busy for a bit. Can I trust you to stay here for a while?”

“I guess...” they responded with a bit of a frown. “How long will you be gone?”

“I'm just gonna see if an old friend is around,” he said simply. “And then I'll be right back. Okay, kiddo? Nothing to worry about, I promise. Just don't go wandering off this time. Alright?”

Frisk nodded once before tearing into the sugary treat. He couldn't say that he was particularly surprised, they'd hardly touched their 'celebratory spaghetti'. The ferocity with which they devoured the treat with the pleased expression on their face was nothing short of adorable. It was probably far better than the spaghetti anyway. Perhaps that was why Papyrus had been acting so strangely as he left. Sans shrugged it off and patted them on the head again as they clambered up onto the seat behind the sentry station before tucking his hands into his pockets and setting off at a brisk pace. They would be fine for a little while, hopefully. Just in case, he sent out a magical pulse to see if he could sense any other monsters. Frisk's soul burned brightly beside him, but he couldn't find a single soul around aside from them. That was fine. Everything would be fine. They would be alright on their own for a little bit.

 

It only took a few minutes of walking to reach his destination, but he didn't mind. He could have easily just taken a shortcut, but he needed the time to clear his mind. He stared up at the massive stone door with the worn old royal insignia painted across it, letting out another sigh. He rifled in his inner pocket for a few moments before digging out a dog biscuit and lit it, taking in a deep breath as he sank down with his back against the door. He sat there for a while, keeping mental note of the time. Maybe this time she would actually be there. He waited until the effects began to kick in and his trembling hands finally began to stop shaking as he stared up at the stony ceiling, clouded by snow.

“... Knock knock,” he said after a few minutes, rapping his knuckles against the door without standing.

 

But nobody came.

 

Sans sighed yet again, closing his eyes and focusing instead on smoking. He had to do something to still his nerves. Maybe this time would be different. Maybe this time someone would actually answer.

He doubted it. The prickling loneliness began to claw its way into his chest yet again, familiar and unwanted, but he couldn't manage to push it off. He just wanted someone to talk to. Even if it was just lame knock knock jokes, he really couldn't care less. Just someone to talk to. Someone that would understand. Someone that would listen. Someone that would care.

Stars knew he couldn't bring himself to care much anymore.

Sans took in another long drag and blew out a smoke ring.

Come on. Please. Please, just give me this.

 

“Knock, knock...” he said again, although he couldn't really bring himself to speak very loudly. He had just started to flick away the dog biscuit into the snow and began to stand when, finally, at long last, he heard a soft, quiet reply.

“Who's there?”

Sans's soul bounced in his chest at the sound of her voice, and he gleefully replied with a growing grin.

 

“Snow.”

“Snow who?”

“Snow problem for you, but I'm getting hypothermia out here.”

 

He heard the light titter of laughter just behind the door, and he allowed himself to relax a little.

“Only joking, you know,” he added quietly, closing his eyes. “You know. Skeleton and all. Cold just goes right through me.”

“I find that rather humerous,” the woman replied. “Good to know you've still got a funny bone.”

“All of my bones are funny,” he grinned. “Too bad I can't say the same for everybody. How've you been, by the way?”

“It has been... quiet,” she responded softly, so quietly that he almost didn't hear. “I'm sorry that I could not arrive for a few days. I have been... rather preoccupied.”

They fell silent after a while, swapping knock knock jokes for a few minutes. The silence nagged at him and he let out another sigh, thinking.

 

“Hey,” he said eventually. “Are you... are you alright, miss?”

“Whatever do you mean?” the woman asked, though her tone was low.

“Just, y'know...” Sans frowned a little, crossing his arms and readjusting in his position against the door. “You seem a little outta sorts today. You alright?”

“I am... fine,” she replied after a moment. She didn't sound fine. Her voice was a little hoarse and scratchy, and it made him supremely uncomfortable to think of the mystery woman being miserable.

 

“... So,” Sans started after a while, sticking his hands back in his pockets and taking a deep breath, his mind made up. “You know that human that you wanted me to watch out for?”

He could almost feel her bristle behind the door.

“You have been keeping an eye out for them, have you not?”

“I guess you could say that,” he shrugged to no one. “They're, uh, actually living with me an' Paps now.”

“Have-have they... mentioned me? At all?”

When Sans failed to answer, he heard her let out a heavy sigh.

 

“I... suspected-” she started before clearing her throat. “Are they well?”

“Yeah. The kid's doin' alright,” Sans answered quietly. “Likes to wander off a little bit too much, but they're a good kid.”

“Thank you,” he heard her barely above a whisper. “For... for caring for them.”

“Ayy, don't even worry 'bout it,” he shrugged again. “I'm happy to. They're practically part of the fam-fam...ily...”

He closed his eyes slowly, letting out a long, slow breath.

Family.

My kid.

Family.

Part of the family.

 

I'm gonna fix this, babybones. I swear to god. I'll fix this.

I'm gonna fix everything.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Shh, come on, now. You aren't going to start crying again, are you?”

 

Frisk sniffled miserably, pulling at the vines wrapped tightly around their wrists as they knelt in the snow.

“P-please, Flowey...” Frisk insisted, forcibly kneeling before the plant that just stared blankly back up at them. “Just-just listen...!”

“Just listen, just listen!” he spat mockingly. “God, you really are an annoyance. Do you really even believe a single word that you're saying?”

“Flowey, please-”

“Not that listening to you grovel isn't fascinating and all,” Flowey inspected the tip of a vine protruding from the earth as if it were his fingernails. “But I'm kind of on a tight schedule, so let's just get to the point.”

 

Frisk was slammed hard into the ground. They whimpered when they were dragged back up into a kneeling position, another vine wrapping its way around their neck and forcing them to tilt their head up to meet the flower's gaze.

“This?” Flowey said calmly as if he were discussing the weather. “This is just the beginning, you little idiot. You should have listened to me when you had the chance. Everything is wrong, it's all wrong, and it's that damned skeleton's fault. I'm giving you a chance to fix the mistakes, you understand?”

Frisk didn't respond. Flowey tightened the vine around their neck significantly, causing them to struggle and try to pull at it futilely.

 

“We just have to get things back on track,” Flowey said matter of factly. “But don't you worry your pretty little empty head about that, Frisk. Your old pal Flowey is going to get things worked out for you. And this time, you're actually going to listen properly. You got that?”

Again, Frisk didn't reply. Flowey responded by squeezing the vine around their throat, causing them to choke, their eyes widening as they gasped for air. He released them after a moment, leaving them coughing and hacking, grasping uselessly at the snow.

“Obviously,” Flowey said cheerfully as he used his vines to lift Frisk's head up to look at him, and he gently brushed the tears from their face as he did so. “We're going to have to take more drastic measures. Shh, there there, my little monarch. Don't cry, now. I'm not going to hurt you.”

Frisk looked at him hopefully, sniffling and wiping their eyes.

“I'll hurt Papyrus.

 

Frisk froze.

“Mm-hmm, that get your attention?” Flowey perked up a little, leering at them. “Hurting you isn't getting us anywhere, since apparently next to nothing gets through that thick head of yours. You're going to do what I say, when I say it, or, well.”

He plucked a single flower from the frozen ground, holding it in his vines in front of Frisk. Then he wrapped a vine tightly around the stem and violently ripped the top off, sending petals dancing into the snow.

You get the idea.

 

Frisk let out a single sob, holding their hands over their eyes and sinking into themselves.

“Shhh, now now, don't start that again!” Flowey chirruped happily, bouncing a little on his stem. “Just take what we talked about into consideration, that's all I'm asking, friend. And if you don't, well. Think about it for a minute. You know how much Sans loves his brother. That useless sack of bones can't live without him. So if he were to come back to find Papyrus's dust all over the floor, do you know what would happen?”

Frisk opened their mouth to speak, but Flowey spoke over them.

“Why, he'd want to RESET, of course!” Flowey grinned at them. “And you know he would. You think he's bad now? Tee hee. You have no idea what a real monster is like.”

Frisk deflated, their cheeks a cherry red as they looked away, silent tears beginning anew. Flowey patted them softly on the head, causing them to flinch. He chuckled at that, burrowing into the ground and leaving them holding their bruised arms over their chest, snowflakes silently falling around them.

 

“Oh!” he popped back up, causing them to jump. “Just a friendly reminder,” he plucked another flower from the icy ground and held it in front of them in one of his vines. Then he grinned and slowly began to rip it apart, tossing the remains at their knees. “Of what will happen if you tell anybody. Let's keep in touch. See you later!”

 

Flowey grinned to himself as he burrowed away a short distance, watching as Sans slowly trundled back down the path in the woods.

He was going to fix this.

He was going to fix everything.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans meandered down the snowy path at a leisurely pace.

 

For once, things were turning out okay.

Not great. But okay.

 

Light trickles of snow fell around him, obscuring his vision, and he huddled inside his jacket a little. He didn't need the warmth, necessarily, it was more out of reflex than anything. He chuckled a little to himself at that. Muscle memory, indeed. He gave a little wave to Frisk as he approached the sentry station, having to peer through the snowfall to find them. They didn't seem to notice him, and he frowned. Maybe leaving them on their own for a while really wasn't the best idea. It was growing colder and the snowfall surely couldn't have been comfortable, and he could see them kneeling beside the wooden station as if inspecting something between their arms.

Almost like-

 

Sans jolted ahead, almost tripping over himself in his hurry.

“Frisk?” Sans stumbled through the snow, feeling dizzy. “Buddy? You okay?”

Frisk was clearly not okay, and he felt panic rising in his chest as he doubled his pace, reaching out for them. Frisk cringed when he did so, and he held a hand on their back as he knelt down beside them.

 

“Kiddo?” Sans asked worriedly. “What's wrong?”

“N-nothing,” Frisk said a little too quickly, pulling habitually at their sleeves. Like they were trying to hide their arms from him. Sans grabbed them by the forearms and they instantly hissed, and he drew up their sleeves to get a better look regardless of how they tried to pull away.

The track marks. He'd forgotten about those. He felt a little disgusted looking at them, but more than that, he could see several angry red welts wrapping all around their wrists and arms.

“What happened?” he insisted even as they tried to pull away, their cheeks colored as they looked away. “What happened, kid? How did you get hurt? What-”

And then he saw the thin, vicious rope like mark around their neck. He felt his marrow boil and his hands started shaking again as he traced the welt across their throat, and they looked ready to cry again.

 

“I'm sorry,” they sputtered, flinching. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please don't hurt me-!”

“B-babybones,” he froze. “I'm... I'm not gonna hurt you, okay?”

“Please don't be mad,” they covered their eyes with their palms, quivering as he held them closer. “I'm sorry, please...!”

“Shh, hey, hey...” he stroked their hair, holding his chin over their head so that they wouldn't see just how furious he was that someone had hurt them. “Take it easy, okay? You don't have to be sorry. It's okay. I'm-I'm not mad,” he lied quietly. “Just... just tell me what happened.”

Frisk stiffened considerably and said nothing, but they didn't really have to say much.

“... It was that fucking flower again, wasn't it?”

 

Their shivering began anew, and he felt pretty certain that it wasn't just from the cold.

He silently swore that when he found that little bastard he was going to slow roast it over an open fire.

How had it even gotten to them? He thought he had been careful, searching for any soul around. He sent out another magical pulse just in case, to see if he could sense its soul, but again found only Frisk's weakly beating soul against him. Was it really that fast? Could he not leave them alone for five minutes without it trying to wreak havoc on his life?

“It's gonna be okay, babybones,” he hushed them gently. “It's all gonna be okay. I'm gonna take care of this-”

“I-it wasn't Flowey...” Frisk started, but he knew a lie when he heard one. “It w-was my fault, I'm sorry, please...!”

“Okay. Okay, kiddo,” he said in the same tense, terse tone before taking a long breath. “We're gonna go home. We're leaving. Okay?”

He glanced down and saw that they were barely holding back from crying, and he felt his soul ache at the sight. On second thought, slow roasting the weed was too good for it. Maybe force feeding it compost for a while would teach it a lesson, but he doubted it. He pulled Frisk a little closer, stepping instantly into a shortcut and vanishing from the world.

 

A short while later, a little flower protruded from the ground behind the sentry station, mulling quietly over the book that Sans had left behind. Something that could certainly prove its use in the future. Something that he could use.

“... Interesting.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Just hold still for me. Okay?”

Frisk let out another hiss through their teeth as he wrapped a bandage around their wrists, covering up the welts as best he could. They sat before him on the couch as he knelt on the floor in front of them, the roll of gauze almost entirely used up.

“It stings...” they frowned, and he rubbed the top of their head softly.

“I know babybones,” Sans said quietly. “You didn't wander off this time, did you?”

Frisk shook their head quickly, eyes wide and lips pressed tightly together. Maybe they actually had listened to him this time, however doubtful. If that was the case, however, that implied that the weed had actively come seeking them out. Was he really going to have to stay on his guard until he finally managed to mulch that repulsive creature? Just the thought alone was tiring. He traced his finger lightly over the mark on their neck and they shuddered, causing him to flinch.

 

“... Maybe we can get something to cover that up,” he started uneasily, but they gently pressed his hand back over the mark with their fingertips.

“Can... can you make it feel better?” Frisk asked quietly. “... P-please? Please Sans, it-it really hurts...”

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

 

“I was good...” they pressed his hand a little tighter against the welt, even though they cringed again when they did so. “Please, Sans... I just-”

“I-I can't,” he tried desperately to explain, and tears started forming in their eyes again. They looked so betrayed, so hurt. And it was all that damned weed's fault. He had to fight to control himself, taking a long, shuddering breath. “Are you sure you can't just-just hide it for now?”

God, how he hated himself.

They looked so let down, so ashamed of themselves as they looked away. They were in pain, they were hurt, and here he was asking them to just hide it away and pretend that nothing was wrong.

Like him.

 

Please forgive me for this, babybones.

“O... okay,” Sans said after a moment, gently placing his palms over their neck. “Okay, kiddo. Just... just hold real still for me. Alright?”

Frisk nodded immediately, a strange look in their brown eyes. His gaze met theirs for a brief second as he tried to decipher exactly what that expression was-

-and he had to suddenly fight down the urge to reset, to squeeze.

He felt a rising sense of disgust at himself, and he couldn't hide his shaking hands from them any longer. God, what was wrong with him?

He tried to clear his mind and closed his eye sockets, focusing. They needed help. They needed him.

They need me.

Why was that thought comforting? Wasn't he the one that was supposed to be comforting them? When had he gotten so damned selfish? Had he always been this way? That was a little sobering. And from the lingering effects of the dog biscuits, he could use a little sobering. He didn't need to be angry right now, he needed to hurry up and help them.

Sans realized that he had been sitting stock still for almost a full minute with his eye sockets squeezed shut, and he released an unsteady breath and focused on what healing magic he could muster. Thoughts of regeneration, of comforting and love filled his mind as green magic slowly began to trickle down his wrists and into his palms. His head slowly drooped as it grew harder to focus, his bones feeling heavy as lead. He opened his eye sockets after a moment to check and saw that Frisk's eyes were slowly rolling, a small sliver of drool leaking from the side of their mouth.

 

“... Kiddo?” he rasped, pulling away instantly. Frisk shivered and pressed his hands harder against their neck, even though he had long since stopped healing them. The red welt was thankfully receded into a barely noticeable thin line, and they were shivering as they leaned into him.

“I was good?” Frisk murmured quietly.

“I-I, oh god,” he withdrew, causing them to look hurt. “Ohh, fuckin' Christ, I-I'm so, so sorry babybones.”

“Sans?”

“I'm sorry,” he choked, eye sockets stinging. “I'm sorry, shit, I'm so sorry babybones.”

“Why?” Frisk searched his face for answers. “Sans?”

“I'm sorry...” Sans blubbered, drawing them into a hug so that they wouldn't see him breaking down. “I'm sorry, I-I'm sorry, I'm so sorry Frisk.”

“Sans?” they were starting to panic, that was the last thing that he wanted, if they panicked then he wouldn't be able to hide it anymore and god what was wrong with him?

 

“I c-can't do this anymore,” he felt like being sick. “I-I just can't, I'm sorry, I'm sorry kiddo. Oh god, oh god help me. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I hurt you babyones.”

“I'm not hurt...” Frisk started, but he was already stumbling off to the kitchen. He was so dizzy, so tired, so empty. He dug in the cabinet for a moment before popping the top off of the liquor, downing as much as he could muster. He chugged until the burn became almost unnoticeable. He was so bitter, so miserable, so sick.

“S-Sans...?”

He paused only for breath before finishing off half the bottle, sinking until he was sitting with his back against the cabinet, the bottle hanging from his fingers loosely. He needed to stay calm, but how was he supposed to do that when every fiber of his being wanted to scream? They were the ones doing this to him. He should just blame them. It would be easier. And he knew, no matter how hard he tried, that he just didn't have it in him to do that anymore. He felt the bottle being slowly pulled out of his grasp, but his grip was too loose to hold on anymore. He didn't care. So long as he could just stay numb, it was so much better than the alternative.

On second thought, perhaps smoking several dog biscuits and chugging half a bottle of hard cider hadn't been his brightest idea.

 

“... Kid,” Sans muttered after what felt like an hour without opening his eyes to avoid seeing the spinning room. “You'd better not be doin' what I think you're doin'.”

He heard a slight popping noise and forced himself to crack an eye socket just in time to see Frisk pulling the bottle away from their lips, and he sighed heavily. He tried to swipe the bottle from them, but they kept it just out of his reach. He gave up after a couple of tries, sighing again and closing his eyes.

 

“... P'pyrus is gonna fuckin' kill me.”

“Papyrus doesn't have to know...” he heard them murmur quietly, and he could hear the slight slur in their voice. God, how he hated himself. There was always that little nugget of information that haunted him. He didn't technically have to tell Papyrus. Maybe it was just better to keep his brother in the dark.

Maybe Papyrus would know what to do to fix this. Papyrus always knew what to do.

Nobody can help you.

Nobody would ever help something like you.

 

“I'm... I'm so sorry,” San's voice came out in barely just above a whisper. “I'm sorry, babybones.”

“You don't have to be sorry,” Frisk said quietly, crawling into his lap and wrapping their arms around his neck. “Thank you. I feel... better.”

“Gimme th' bottle,” Sans opened his eye sockets against his better judgment, the room spinning even more vehemently than before. Frisk looked at him uncertainly before shakily handing it back to him. Instead of putting it away, Sans took another few swigs for good measure, letting the fiery liquid work its way down his throat before he woozily stuffed the topper back on. It fell from his hand and rolled a little away, but neither of them made to move it.

“... Kid, are-are you sniffing me?”

“You smell like smoke,” Frisk rubbed their head against his chest affectionately, settling down atop him. “... And ketchup.”

“You're a weird kid, Frisky-bits.”

“I get that a lot.”

“You can't tell 'Pyrus,” Sans couldn't keep the slur out of his voice. “'kay?”

“B'cause he'd be real mad?”

“Because I fucked up,” Sans said quietly, holding them closely. “I'm... god, I'm so sorry. I messed up, I really fucked up, Frisk.”

“What'cha mean?”

“I-” he felt like he was trying to speak with a golf ball in his throat, and he dry swallowed. “I don't even know how ta say it.”

“I get like that sometimes, too...” Frisk said softly. They were clinging to his jacket with one hand, stroking the top of his head with their other. Once again they were the one comforting him instead of the other way around, just one more thing to add to the daisy chain of fucked up things in his life that never should have been.

 

“... Frisk.” Sans finally managed to speak after a while. “I'm... I'm gonna ask you to... do something for me.”

They froze. After a moment however they resumed petting him and he felt them nod a little.

“O-okay.”

“D'you trust me?” he pried his aching eye sockets open. They swallowed and nodded again, and he let out a shuddering breath. “Okay. Okay. I can do this. I... I need to-to...”

 

Sans opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, his head feeling heavy. Why was this so difficult?

“You know what your soul is, right?” he asked tensely. They nodded again, looking confused. “What I'm gonna ask y'to do, it's-it's, uh. Intimate.

“... Intimate,” Frisk repeated slowly, as if they had never used the word.

“I'm-I'm gonna draw out your soul,” Sans explained as he shifted, moving them a little away from him and placing his palm over their chest. “I just... I just need ta check something real quick. It-it won't hurt, so don't-don't be scared. Okay, babybones?”

Frisk nodded worriedly, glancing back and forth for a moment before closing their eyes and leaning into his touch. They were so fully trusting of him. It hurt, it made his soul ache, he was possibly the least trustworthy creature in the world. How had someone as good and pure as Frisk wound up stuck with an abomination like him?

But maybe there was still hope. That tiny glimmer offered to him that he could just ignore everything and continue pretending that everything would turn out okay. He didn't need to know.

And that little niggling voice in the back of his head reminded him that, yes, he did. He'd never be able to rest otherwise. Maybe he didn't deserve rest. There were a lot of things that he didn't deserve. Frisk, for example. It was too late for that, though. Too late for a lot of things.

 

He made up his mind.

Frisk shuddered and shook for a moment as their soul was ever so slowly drawn out from their chest, floating through the air over his palm. He gazed at it in wonderment, marveling at how something so bright, so luminous and beautiful could be sitting in the palm of his hand when his own soul was so foul, so corrupted and cruel. He could feel the regretful tears stinging his eye sockets as he stared at it, looking at the little white spot in the dead center of their soul. It really was too late for him. Too late for regrets. Too late for Frisk.

Too late for a lot of things.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans was drifting.

He was starting to get used to the feeling. He didn't like it, necessarily, but it wasn't all that uncomfortable. He felt like he was floating through a dark sea, and it didn't matter whether or not his eyes were opened or not anymore. All he could see was the dark. It was almost like rest, sans resting.

Heheh. 'Sans' resting. Oh my god, focus.

His mind felt fuzzy and it was difficult to focus, but something drew his attention after a long while. He could hear a voice in the deep dark, like it was reaching out to him. He ever so slowly, gradually lifted a heavy arm, searching in response, cautiously, warily, hopefully.

 

“-And I'll fucking kill you, you son of a bitch!”

Ah. So that's where the hangover went to. It wasn't great to have it back. He was actually starting to miss being blacked out just a little bit.

No going back it is, then.

 

“Hey Chara,” Sans slurred as he cracked open an aching eye socket, the cool tile of the kitchen floor cold against the back of his head. They were straddling his chest with their grip tight on his shoulders, barely tilting his head up to meet their gaze. For a very brief moment he caught a glimpse of their face, their sharp red eyes softening in what might have been relief. It was gone the next moment though, as it was overwhelmed by pure, unadulterated rage.

 

“What – did – you – do?!” Chara screamed, accentuating their words by slamming his head against the floor.

“Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow,” Sans repeated numbly, the pounding in his head only growing worse. “Yeah, no, it's fine. I totally wanted the migraine.”

“A headache's going to be the least of your worries,” they growled at him, pausing.

And then they headbutted him.

 

Sans saw stars as he fell back against the floor, letting out a gasp of pain.

“Nope,” Sans wheezed after a minute had passed. “Pretty sure headache is top priority right now.”

“What did you do to me?” Chara grappled him by the neck when he tried to move, pinning him to the ground. “What the fuck did you do?!

“First of all, your whole allowance is going straight to the swear jar,” he gave up trying to push them off after a couple of futile tries. It wasn't that they were particularly heavy, it was just that his limbs felt like jelly and it was so much easier to give up. “Secondly, Jesus Christ my head! And thirdly,” Sans struggled again in their iron grip. “I'm... I'm not entirely sure.”

It wasn't exactly a lie.

It wasn't exactly the truth, either, but at least it got them to stop shaking him for a moment.

 

“... I'm gonna fix this,” Sans closed his eyes with a sigh. “I don't know how, but-but I'm gonna fix this.”

“Yeah, you'd fucking better-!”

Chara suddenly found it difficult to continue speaking with his fist clenched around their throat.

“... Last. Warning,” he released them quietly, causing them to shoot him a filthy glare. “Quit swearing.”

Eat me.”

“Improvement,” he shrugged, falling back against the floor, letting the back of his skull hit the tile with a thunk. “... Ow. Right. So, as soon as I get over this ungodly hangover, we're-we're gonna fix this.”

“Not before you tell me what you did to my soul!” Chara insisted loudly. Or maybe they were whispering and it just sounded like they were screaming. It was high time that he swore off alcohol.

“You mean Frisk's soul,” he corrected them. “At least, that's m'understanding of it. Unless you'd like ta clarify?”

Chara's lips tightened.

 

“That's what I thought,” he shrugged again. “Now would you mind doing me a solid and get off?”

“I'm not doing jack until you tell me what you did!” Chara's hands found their way to his throat. Their breathing was heavy and uneven, their brows knitted tightly together in a vengeful scowl. “I hate you, I hate you, I-I... I could... I could kill you right now.”

“Could you now.”

 

They froze.

He said it so calmly, so casually. And he did it with a blank, even smile, the lights in his eye sockets gone completely. He didn't move, didn't blink, didn't breathe. His grin was just too wide, too unnatural, and Chara's expression slowly shifted from one of anger to that of uncertainty, of nervousness.

All it took was a flicker of blue in his left eye to cause them to completely break down.

They were off of him in a heartbeat, scampering on their hands as they kicked away fearfully until they were pressed against the wall, almost hyperventilating, red eyes wide with terror.

He felt horrible, he felt like being sick, he felt like scum, but at least they got the message. He closed his eye sockets for a moment and extinguished the magical fire in his eye, taking a long, slow breath before sitting up until his back was against the cabinet. When he finally opened his eye sockets he saw that Chara was crying silently, pressed tightly against the wall like they were trying to phase through it. They just looked so... bitter. So unhappy.

Way to go. You succeeded in making a small child cry out of fear.

Prick.

 

Sans groaned and hid his eyes in his palms, letting out another sigh.

“... Look,” he said after a moment, running a hand over the top of his head. “Just... don't freak out. We – I'm gonna fix this. We're gonna sit down, we're gonna have some tea or somethin', and we're gonna discuss this like calm, rational adults.”

“I'm not an adult,” Chara pouted, sniffing msierably.

“... Fuck,” Sans shuddered, covering his eyes again. “Okay. Okay, fine. Like calm, rational people who don't try to kill each other at any given opportunity. You wanna talk, fine. We're gonna talk. Just don't freak out. Capiche?”

Chara responded by flipping him the bird.

“... Getting real sick of your shit, kid.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

It took a while for Chara to calm down.

Perhaps 'calm' was too strong of a word.

At the very least they had stopped threatening to stab him.

 

Sans quietly placed the steaming mug of tea in their waiting hands, Chara's eyes hidden behind their hair. He was really starting to miss Frisk. He missed seeing Frisk's hopeful eyes. Chara's constantly narrowed red ones were unnerving. Did he take them for granted? He felt like he did. The next time that Frisk was back he was going to hug the living daylights out of them.

 

“O-kay,” Sans murmured more to himself than anything as he slowly sat down beside them, his own untouched mug between his phalanges. “Okay, kiddo. This is, uh. This is gonna be... hard to explain. 'specially since I'm still kinda hungover, and your little game of playin' basketball with my head ain't helpin' matters any.”

“What did you do,” Chara frowned, staring down into their mug. “How about you start with that.”

“Okay...” he said again, rubbing his temples with one hand. He took a sip of his tea and almost spit it out. “Blech. Golden flower tea. Dunno why Undyne keeps dropping this crap off, pretty sure neither me or Paps even drinks it.”

“Can you fucking focus?!

Sans's head snapped toward them, and they cringed instantly.

 

“... You need to chill,” Sans said after a moment, setting his tea down and digging in his inner jacket pocket for a few moments. “Because I'm gonna tell you some heavy stuff, and I really, really don't want you to freak out any more than you already are.”

He produced from his pocket a slightly crumbled dog biscuit and held it out to them. Chara stared at him as if he were stupid.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

“What do you think?”

Chara started to bite into it before he snatched it away, ignoring their indignant protests.

 

“Gimme a sec,” he reached into his pockets again before producing an old flip lighter. He lit the tip of the dog biscuit and inhaled deeply before passing it to Chara, who looked back and forth between the biscuit and the skeleton. “I figure I'm already goin' to hell, so screw it. Just take a breath like I did.”

Chara frowned deeper and stuck the dog biscuit between their lips. They tried to breathe in and immediately started hacking and coughing, almost dropping it a couple of times.

“Eh. You'll get used to it. Shit, on second thought,” he clapped a hand to his forehead. “You are not getting used to it, this is a one time thing because I think what we both really need is a momentary reprieve. Capiche?”

Chara responded by coughing up a lungful of smoke again.

Sans sighed and motioned for them to pass it back, and he carefully showed them this time.

 

“You gotta breathe in slow. A'ight? Take in a deep breath and hold it 'til you can't anymore, then let it out slow. Try it like that,” he handed the smoking biscuit back after his display. Chara nodded once and gave it a couple of experimental puffs, more slowly this time and managed to keep from coughing except for a couple of sputters.

“... What am I doing,” Sans mumbled into his hands when they had smoked most of the biscuit. “Oh god, I can't believe this is happening. What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.”

“Not much, apparently.”

“Don't get salty with me, punk,” Sans sighed again, finishing off the biscuit and putting it out in the ashtray next to the couch. “Alright. Okay. Okay, so. We gotta talk.”

“... Sans.”

“Yeah, kid.”

“I... I feel... funny.”

“You're also gonna find it kinda difficult to panic for a little bit,” Sans informed them quietly, turning to face them. If he thought that their eyes were red before it was a severe understatement compared to now. “Which is good, considering that I think our souls might be kinda... bonded?”

“... What.”

“See?” he reclined a little, folding his hands behind his head. “Significantly calmer-”

 

Once again, Sans found Chara's hands around his neck, and he discovered that he was getting really sick of the feeling. They were grappling him tightly as they straddled him, fury plain on their features.

“Say that again,” Chara seethed, eyes narrowed to bloodshot slits.

“So much for 'calmer', I guess.”

“About the souls!” they shouted, and he flinched. His head was still pounding painfully, although the dog biscuit had helped a little bit. “What the hell do you mean, 'bonded'?!”

“Kid,” Sans slowly placed his hands on their shoulders and pushed them away a little. “Don't make me tell you twice to get off me.”

“Funny, usually it's get me off, not get off me-”

 

Chara's mouth slammed shut and their cheeks flooded with color as they glanced away, unable to meet his gaze. Sans was dead silent for a moment, and he found it difficult to breathe.

After a moment, he slowly, carefully leaned forward and pulled them into a hug, wrapping his arms as gently as he could around them.

“... You've been through some shit too, huh, kid.”

Chara didn't answer. They didn't particularly need to. They'd already said enough.

 

“... I'm gonna fix this, babybones,” he couldn't find it in himself to raise his voice above a whisper. “Just... just trust me. Okay? I promise. I'm gonna fix this.”

“How?” Chara mumbled, their voice unsteady, dropping their face into his shoulder in defeat. “How can you possibly fix something like this?”

“It's... it's gonna take some work. A lot of work. And before that, there's... there's some things I gotta know.”

“Whatever,” he felt Chara shrug, but they didn't pull away. “Just... tell me what you need to know.”

“Tell you what. We'll swap stories. If we're gonna fix this, there's some things that... that both of us need to know. So. Let's just... start at the beginning.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Okay,” Sans began quietly. “Let's... start at the beginning. I guess we'll work our way up to the soul stuff afterwards. Just... start at the beginning.”

“Why don't you?” they asked snappishly.

“Kid, now is not the time to be saucy,” Sans frowned, folding his arms over one another. “I'll tell you my side of the story if you tell me yours n' Frisk's. I just... just gotta work up the nerve.”

“I can't-” Chara started uncomfortably, looking away into their drink for a moment. “I can't tell you Frisk's side of the story.”

“Why not?”

“Because they don't want me to,” they replied bluntly. “I don't want to speak on the issue anyway, it's... it's just bad. Alright? And they're sure as hell never going to speak about it, so you'll just have to get over not knowing.”

“Yeah, and maybe you can shove-” Sans started before biting his tongue, taking a deep breath. God, they irritated him so easily. “... Alright,” he said through his teeth after minute had passed. “If Frisk wants ta talk about it, they'll do it when they're ready. Tell me your story, kid.”

 

“I climbed up Mount Ebott, tripped and fell in and died. The end. Your turn,” Chara turned to him to witness what might have been the most withering glare that they had ever seen from him. They cringed and looked away, swirling their tea around for a bit without drinking. Their lips were pursed tightly and they wouldn't look directly at him.

“You're gonna have to try a little harder than that,” Sans leaned back into the couch, not taking his eye sockets off of them. “You think I can't tell when somebody is lyin' through their teeth?”

“How do you know?” Chara asked somewhat bitterly.

“Because I spend every day of my life lying through my teeth and I know what it looks like when I see it,” he responded quietly. “So how's about you take the second chance I'm giving you and try again?”

“Fine,” they spat, putting down their drink and drawing their legs up underneath them. “Fine. You really wanna know? Don't come crying to me when you-” they paused for a moment, chewing their bottom lip, still not looking at him. They were staring straight ahead, holding their knees close to them and looking off somewhere into the wall. Sans didn't push them to hurry. He certainly wasn't in a hurry, either.

 

“... My dad hated me,” Chara began quietly, closing their eyes. “Said that I was an unholy demon spawn.”

“Daddy issues, man.”

“Eat a chode,” their eyes snapped open, giving him a filthy look. He only shrugged.

“Just sayin' that I can relate, that's all.”

“Can you, now?” Chara asked a little mockingly. “Did your father make you wear a blindfold so that he wouldn't have to look you in the eyes while he and your uncles took turns on you?”

Sans didn't respond.

“That's what I thought,” they said huffily, closing their eyes again and taking an unsteady breath. They opened and closed their mouth a couple of times before scrunching up their brows, turning away. They flinched when they found Sans's hand on their shoulder.

 

“I don't do physical contact...” Chara grumbled, but didn't move to shrug him off.

“I don't think that's entirely true,” Sans said slowly. “You're kinda grabby, actually. Might just be affection that you have a problem with.”

For some reason Chara's cheeks heated considerably and they stared down at their knees, squeezing them tighter against themselves. Sans sighed and withdrew after a moment.

 

“... You don't gotta keep goin', if you don't wanna,” Sans said when a few arduously silent minutes had passed.

“... I stabbed him.”

Sans froze.

“In... in his sleep,” Chara admitted softly, closing their eyes again. “I took his k-knife, and I ran. I stole food for a while. They chased me out of the village a little after that. Called me a... freak. A demon,” they took another slow breath. “Said that everyone would be better off if-if the monsters just took me.”

“That's... how you wound up at Mount Ebott?”

“I was out of options,” they responded simply. “I couldn't go back. Couldn't hide anymore. I figured that monsters couldn't possibly be worse than humans.”

“You went looking for monsters.”

“Pretty much,” they shrugged without looking at him. “After I fell, I... I met monsters. They were... they were the best people that I ever met,” Chara finished with difficulty.

“... So what happened?”

 

They took another shaky breath, and he noticed that although their face was almost entirely devoid of expression, their hands and knees were shaking terribly.

“... Can I... can I have another?” Chara asked after a couple of minutes. “Another biscuit?”

“Dunno if that's a great idea-”

“I'll tell you the rest of the story,” they bargained. “We both know you're too damned curious for your own good. You'll just keep pressing until you get the rest of the story, will you not?”

“I already said,” Sans answered quietly, reaching out and placing a hand slowly over theirs. “If... if you wanna stop, then we'll stop.”

Chara, for a very brief moment, looked as if they were seriously considering his offer. After another moment however they looked away back down at their knees, shaking their head and holding out their hand.

 

“Just... just give me the damned biscuit already. I'll... I'll be good.

Sans sighed and caved in, withdrawing long enough to pull one of his last dog biscuits from his pocket. He lit the tip for them and passed it to them, and they greedily tried to suck in as much as they could only to hack and cough again.

“You really don't learn your lesson, huh,” Sans mused aloud. Chara gave him a foul look, but didn't speak until they had taken several puffs. They let out a steady stream of smoke through their lips before handing the biscuit back to him, looking about a million miles away.

“... I accidentally got my brother killed.”

Yikes,” Sans cringed. He glanced away for a moment, just trying to imagine himself in that position. Of what might have happened to Papyrus if he had...

Suddenly the dog biscuit seemed much more appealing.

 

He took a long, slow drag and blew out a smoke ring through his nostril bone.

“He was... god, he was such a little crybaby,” Chara scoffed, but their was an odd expression on their face. It was like a mixture of fondness, gentleness that he usually only saw on Frisk and deep sadness that he knew all too well. “Seriously, he would cry over the tiniest little things. If I stepped on his toe, if I made fun of his drawings, if I pretended to forget his birthday. Such a wuss.”

“You sure have a weird way of complimenting people,” Sans said with a soft little grin.

“Please, like I ever complimented him,” Chara scoffed again. The froze, looking... disappointed? “I... I never complimented him. Not... not even once.”

They suddenly hid their face in their hands, curling in on themselves. Sans gently rubbed their back between their shoulder blades with the palm of his hand, giving them time. He silently put out the stub of dog biscuit with his other, sticking his hand back into his pocket, thinking.

 

“... It... it was my fault,” Chara said through their fingers after a while, their voice uneven. “I m-made him go along with my plan.”

“What plan?”

“We... we were going to save everyone,” Chara groaned. “And he had to go and fuck everything up.”

“That doesn't really clarify anything...”

“Our plan,” they explained. “To cross the barrier and collect enough human souls to tear it down forever.”

“... Wait.”

“I wanted to burn that whole fucking village to the ground,” Chara said bitterly, rocking back and forth. “And he wouldn't let me. He wouldn't let me. Just because he didn't want to hurt anybody. And they... they killed us. He just carried my body all the way back to Dad's garden.”

Our plan.

My body.

Human souls.

Killed us.

 

Just how common of a human name was 'Chara', anyway?

“... Oh god,” Sans said after a moment, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees as it finally clicked. He was so painfully, unbearably stupid. “Oh, god. Oh, holy shit, I know you!”

Chara didn't look at him.

“You're... Chara. The Chara. The first one to fall. Chara motherfucking Dreemurr.

“Ee-yep.”

“But that means-”

“Ee-yep.”

“But that means your brother was-”

“Ee-yuh-huh.”

“And your dad is-”

“You got it.”

“Ho~ly shit,” Sans let out a weary breath, running his hand over the top of his head.

“So now you know,” Chara shrugged eventually. “I'm done talking. I don't wanna... I just don't. I'm done.”

 

Sans took in a long, slow breath, still trying to decipher exactly the best way to deal with this new information.

“Your turn.”

Sans froze. He felt his breath catch in his chest, the tightness growing until he couldn't quite bring himself to breathe properly.

“I... I still have questions,” his head felt fuzzy. “God, I have so many more questions. You're alive? Sort of? How...? How the hell are you alive?

“I'm very determined,” Chara responded simply, not looking him in the eyes.

“None of this makes sense...” Sans held his head in his hands. “What in the flying blue hell are you doing inside of Frisk?”

“I already told you that I'm done talking,” Chara crossed their arms, somewhat huffily. “Now spill.”

 

Sans gave them a level, awkward look for a moment before closing his eye sockets, letting out a quiet sigh.

“... This never should have happened,” he said eventually. “This... I don't even know what to call it. Us. The soul thing. It shouldn't be possible. Maybe... maybe it's because I'm... not a real monster.”

“Now you're starting to sound like Frisk,” they snorted. “With your 'I'm not a real person' crap.”

“You... you don't quite get it,” Sans said with some difficulty. “Let me ask you a question. You know where babies come from, right?”

Chara stared at him as though he were stupid.

 

“... So is that a yes?”

“Uh, duh?” they blinked. “You get it up with your mouth, some gross guy jams it in and splooges and then a baby comes out.”

“... Humans are kinda disgusting,” Sans shrugged, clearly uncomfortable. “I was, uh, talking about monster babies.”

“... Oh,” Chara said simply, glancing away. “Why don't you refresh my memory.”

“Well,” he said with a bit of difficulty. “Normally, when two monsters love each other very much, they, uh, bare their souls to each other. Sometimes it's an egg, sometimes the male carries the child, it can vary from monster to monster. I wasn't, eh, technically born. Not in the traditional sense.”

Chara rolled their hand through the air, staring at him. His teeth were clenched tightly and he couldn't quite meet their gaze. Why was this so difficult?

Sans sighed again and dug in his pocket, withdrawing with his final dog biscuit.

 

“... Really need to go see Gerson again,” he muttered more to himself than anything as he lit it and took yet another drag. “Pick up some more.”

“Why do you even smoke those things?”

“I... get the shakes,” Sans frowned, blowing out a small cloud of smoke. “You ever have a nightmare so bad, that you wake up in a cold sweat and can't sleep for days afterwards?”

Chara didn't answer.

“It helps,” he continued, blowing out another cloud. “It just helps, okay? I... I need to stay calm.”

 

Sans took in a few long breaths, his head feeling heavy. He didn't have to tell them. He didn't have to tell them anything. He didn't necessarily want to tell them anything. He didn't want to think. He didn't want to remember. All he wanted was to just stay numb for a bit longer.

“I was... me and Paps,” Sans started after a while, staring down at his hands after he finished off the biscuit. He felt fuzzy, light and heavy at the same time. So long as he could just stay numb for a while, nothing else mattered. “Me and Paps, we were never technically born. We were made.”

“What does that even mean?” they asked, curling up on the couch next to him and tucking their hands into their sleeves.

“We were... grown,” he said after a bit. “My dad, uh, never thought that the traditional method of creating new monsters was worth it. So he... took bits of himself,” Sans mimed with his hands, drawing circles over his palm with one forefinger. “Made us from parts of him, and grew us. In test tubes.”

“He cut off parts of himself to make you,” Chara repeated slowly.

“Me and Paps were the lucky ones. God help me. I don't think I can ever get the sight of the failed experiments out of my head. The... the things that didn't make it,” he continued quietly. “Not quite monster, any of us. And... and he started to... lose himself,” Sans's phalanges clicked together nervously as he stared down into his hands. He didn't want to think. He didn't want to remember. Not that. Anything else but that.

 

“He... he got worse,” Sans explained softly. “Just kept using us for his sick, twisted fucking experiments. He-he did things. To... to our heads. Made us see things that weren't there. But he... he hurt Paps. He hurt him so, so much more than me.”

“... What happened?”

“He made us see things that no living creature was ever meant to see,” Sans finished, closing his eyes. “I still see it, sometimes. When I'm alone. When I'm in the dark. Watching time and space fold in on itself too many times, it-it changes you. I think that's why he kept using us, because he'd experimented on himself a few times too many. That's my theory, anyway. Goddammit, I need another smoke,” Sans patted down his jacket uselessly, his hands shaking.

“Do... do you want to stop?” Chara asked gently. Gently. It threw him off possibly more than trying to speak had. Their hand slowly made its way over to his trembling one, and they traced invisible patterns over his phalanges with their thumb. Once again they were the one comforting him when they had clearly drawn the shorter straw. Frisk was definitely a weird kid.

Except, he had to remind himself, that this wasn't Frisk. Maybe that was a good thing. He wasn't certain that he could ever tell Frisk the things that he had just shared. Maybe not ever.

 

“I think... I think it's good to just finally get it out,” he laughed shakily. “I can't let Papyrus know.”

“He doesn't remember?”

“I told you,” Sans said bitterly. “He did things to our heads. Paps got the worst of it. Broke him. Made him... different. He was in a bad way for... for a long time.”

“I... I'm sorry.”

“Fuhgeddaboudit,” Sans shrugged, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees again, turning a little to face them. “Can't change any of it. Old bastard is worse than dead, now.”

“How can you be worse than dead?”

“Dabbled in things he didn't fully understand,” he felt a wry grin slowly creep onto his face. “He kept us weak to keep us from running away. 'Cept I learned from my mistakes. He didn't. I... I made sure that there was no way he would hunt us down afterwards. You're not the only one to bump off your dad, y'know.”

They sat in silence for a long while, but they didn't release his hand either. Their tea was already long since cold, but neither of them cared.

 

“... You still haven't told me about the souls,” Chara said after a long stretch of silence. He mentally kicked himself for almost falling asleep again.

“Right,” he shifted uncomfortably. “I'm... I'm not entirely certain how this happened,” Sans tried to withdraw, but their grip was like iron and he gave up a moment later. “Humans and monsters can't bond. It's just not possible. Maybe it's because of... of what I am.”

“And what do you think you are, exactly?”

“An abomination?” he scoffed bitterly, looking away. “God. I-I'm so, so sorry kiddo. I royally fucked us this time.”

“Let's just consider how to deal with this and then you can... undo it,” their frown became a little more pronounced. “How do you even fix something like this?”

“I wish I knew,” Sans ran a hand over the top of his head. He felt clammy and weak, but Chara still wouldn't let go. “I... I dunno what to do. Something like this has never happened before. I don't even know if I can manage it by myself.”

“So don't do it by yourself,” Chara said as if it were obvious. “How often to monsters divorce?”

“Oh Christ please don't phrase it like that,” Sans cringed openly.

“Well, obviously it happens...” they shrugged. “I mean, nobody is perfect, it has to have happened before. Actually, I'm sure that it's happened before. I don't know about the soul thing, but I do know one person who would know.”

“Like who?”

“... Asgore.”

 

That thought was, quite possibly, even more terrifying.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“No, no, and no, absolutely not, hell no!”

God, how he hated that dejected, disappointed and upset look on their face. He hated himself more, though. He couldn't just let them go. Not now. It was too late for that.

“Why not?” Chara scowled at him.

“Why do you think?” Sans sputtered. “You think King Asgore will just want to sit down for tea and frickin' biscuits? He'll kill you, kiddo!”

“Maybe I could talk to him?” Chara frowned, shifting uncomfortably beneath his gaze. “He's not unreasonable-”

“Unreasonable,” he scoffed. “Kid. Babybones,” he said slowly. “Do you even know what happened to all of the other kids that fell down here?”

Chara didn't seem to have a response for that.

 

“I... I had to watch them go,” Sans said slowly, looking away and folding his hands over one another. “Each and every one of them. I watched them all march right into Asgore's hands. You think I don't regret that? You think I'm not fucking haunted by that every single day of my life? I-I can't let that happen to you too, babybones. I just... I just can't.

“... Other... other kids?”

 

Sans's marrow froze. He'd said too much, he'd said far, far too much, and he was struck with the sudden urge to try to take it back, to stop, to just reset.

And even if he did, they would remember. They would still know.

“... Shit,” Sans wiped a hand down his face, sighing. “Kiddo, please. I'm... I'm all burned out. You wanna talk, that's fine. But I can't let you go to Asgore. You won't... you won't make it. Please, babybones.”

Chara didn't respond immediately, they just curled their legs up underneath them and stared off into the distance. Sans sighed again and placed a hand on their shoulder for a moment, as if he could transfer everything that he wished to tell them with only a simple touch. Chara only let out a slow breath through their nostrils, closing their eyes and tilting their head down.

 

“... Look,” Sans said after a bit, rolling his thumb gently over their shoulder. “We're... we're both kinda toasted right now. Let's just take a bit and unwind, okay? Just... just trust me. It's not a good idea to make potentially life changing decisions when-”

“Oh, what do you know?” Chara snapped angrily, crossing their arms.

“I know enough to keep you from getting killed!”

“Like I haven't died before!” they shouted back at him, standing on the sofa cushions so that they were a little higher than him. The anger was plain on their face and even more so in their voice, wavering and furious. “What's your deal?”

“What the fuck do you think?” his voice was steadily rising as he stood, clenching and unclenching his hands in his jacket pockets. “You think it's just-just gonna be all candy and gumdrops?”

“I didn't say it was going to be easy! I'm actually trying to fix your fuckups!”

“I can fix this without sending you on a goddamned suicide mission!”

“Like you care about how many times I die!”

I can't fucking LOSE you anymore!”

 

San's voice caught in his throat as he realized just how loud they had grown. He flinched and curled away into himself, his eye sockets stinging as he tried to take a few long, shaky breaths. He patted himself down uselessly, resorting to stuffing his fists uselessly back into his pockets.

“... B-babybones,” he said quietly, standing directly in front of them so that he could take their hand. They looked like they wanted nothing more than to hit him; maybe he deserved it. “Kiddo. Please. Please listen to me. I-I can't... I can't lose you again. Just the thought of you getting hurt when I could have done something, anything to stop it scares the living daylights outta me. Please, babybones.”

Chara had a very strange expression on their features that he couldn't quite place. A small part of him really didn't want to. He wanted them to understand, to just pay attention for once, to realize just how badly their actions were hurting him.

And it slowly dawned on him that maybe, just maybe he should have been paying attention to how badly he was the one hurting them.

 

He released them slowly, slipping away and turning away so that they wouldn't see the outright despair clawing its way onto his face. He had to keep it together. Had to stay calm. Even that seemed like such a pointless, futile effort. There was no point, really. No point to anything.

“... Do whatever you want,” Sans said softly, trying to keep from choking up. He couldn't face them, couldn't look them in the eyes anymore. Couldn't bear the thought of seeing that disappointment directed at him. The rage and disgust that didn't belong on Frisk's face. There was no point. No purpose or rhyme or reason to anything that they did. They were all going to die anyway. There was no hope. It was all just so pointless. “... Not like I could stop you anyway.”

 

He heard them try to speak, but it didn't even register as he fell into the shortcut.

His mattress was always there for him, at least.

 

He didn't have it in him to cry. He was just so drained, so hollow, so damned empty. He really was a miserable creature. He was so tired. So very, very tired. And it slowly registered in the back of his mind, no matter how much he tried to ignore it, that there was no amount of sleep that would ever truly relieve him of his eternal exhaustion. Even if he dusted and tried to sleep forever, somehow he would always find himself back in this torment with no way out. It was all so meaningless.

Sans ever so slowly placed a palm over his aching chest, using what little magic he could muster to draw out his soul.

It was beating, but just barely. It looked so thin, so pale, so frail, like he was about to fall apart at a moment's notice. And then he discovered something that only served to cause him to sink further into his den of despair.

In the dead center of his soul was a tiny sliver of red.

 

He felt like choking as his soul sank back into his chest, the darkness of the room swarming around him. Frisk (Chara, Frisk, maybe that didn't even matter either) was going to leave. And then they were going to die, and die, and die, and he would be forced to live through the resets each and every time. Maybe that's what he deserved. There was no rest for the wicked.

Just let me die. Please. I give up. Just let it end.

I just want to rest.

Just let it end.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“... Sans?” he heard Papyrus knocking gently at the door. “Sans, please. It's me. I-I brought spaghetti,” Papyrus had a hopeful chirrup to his voice, but it was clearly forced. “Brother?”

Sans didn't respond.

“I'll... I'll just leave it out here by the door,” Papyrus said just loudly enough for him to hear. Sans didn't care. He didn't have it in him to care anymore. All he knew was the paint of his wallpaper that he rarely opened his eye sockets long enough to stare at when he couldn't sleep anymore. It wasn't like sleep would come easily. Even when all he wanted was rest, he was denied at every turn. There was no point. There was no purpose. How many days had it been? Maybe it didn't matter. Nothing mattered.

Just let it end.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

His head was pounding, hard. Sans covered his eye sockets with his palms, letting out a quiet sigh. All he wanted was rest. He just wanted it to stop. He just wanted it to end. He just wanted it to be over, he was so, so sick of just living. It took too much effort, too much work, and what was the point? He felt like he was being watched even though he was completely alone, and even though he hated the feeling he just didn't have it in him anymore to care. Eventually everyone that he loved would be ripped away from him again, torn back in time to a world where none of them remembered anything. He felt like being sick. It was so pointless. It was-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The world reset.

 

Sans cringed instinctively, gasping at the tightness in his chest. Had that really happened? He blinked woozily, feeling like being ill overwhelming all else. He was sick into the wastebasket beside his bed, coughing and sputtering miserably as he clutched uselessly at his sheets. It was painful, it was too intense, reliving the memories crashing through his head all at once. If he thought that the pounding in his head was bad before-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans bolted upright, his head reeling. How many resets had just happened? There were too many to count, in too rapid succession to even keep track of.

Frisk.

The goddamned flower.

 

Someone was hurting Frisk, and god help them he was going to rip them limb from limb. He couldn't think, couldn't focus, it took all of his mental energy to push himself out of bed. He angrily fell to his knees, feeling clammy and weak, gasping for breath as he tried to push himself up onto his knees. The room was spinning violently, and he sent out a wavering magical pulse to see if he could sense Frisk's soul. He needed to find them and fast, they were hurt, they were in danger-!

 

… They were still in the house.

 

San blinked, narrowing his focus to a pinpoint and slipping into a shortcut. He fell through the infinite for less than a fraction of a millisecond, air displaced around him as he reentered the world, stepping barefoot into the kitchen.

 

“... Frisk?”

His voice came out raspy and weak, and he wanted to let his knees buckle at the sight as a cold chill ran up his spine. Frisk was kneeling, sobbing hysterically on the floor, their sleeves rolled up with a large, sharp knife in one hand, blood dripping down their forearms and onto the floor in a little pool.

Shit!” Sans tripped over himself to rush to their side, panic violently pushing its way into his throat. He yanked the knife out of their trembling hands and threw it away, not even caring that he was stepping in blood. “Shit, shit shit kiddo!”

“I'm sorry,” Frisk hiccuped, holding their injured arms close to themselves. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry Sans, please don't die!

“Okay, okay, I promise,” he spluttered, holding their arms out to see the damage. Long, thin vicious cuts ran up and down their arms seemingly at random, he didn't know what to do...!

 

PAPYRUS!” he screamed, whipping his head towards the living room. “Paps! 'Pyrus, I need help!

But nobody came.

“I'm s-sorry,” Frisk cried as he held them, his whole body shaking almost as much as them. “I'm so sorry, I d-d-deserve it-”

“No, no no no fuck no,” Sans gingerly took their trembling arms in his hands. He reached deep inside himself, plunging as hard as he could for something, for anything, for magic that felt so weak, so sparse. But he needed it, he needed it now, and he didn't care if it killed him so long as he could keep them safe.

 

Green magic sparked wildly out of his palms and Frisk shuddered instantly, gasping as the healing magic took effect almost immediately. Their oozing cuts knitted and wound themselves back up together, but they continued crying silently even as their eyes began to slowly roll back into their head. Sans focused only on thoughts of healing, of how badly he just wanted to protect them, to keep them safe. He was a little shocked himself at the ferocity with which the emerald sparks flickered out of his hands, and he continued until the fresh marks were completely gone, little thin scars added to their collection. His bones felt like they had just been dipped in liquid lead, his head hollow and drained as he slipped and almost fell backwards were it not for Frisk's iron grip. He sank to his knees and clutched them weakly to his chest, unable to breathe properly, unable to focus, unable to even think.

He wasn't certain for how long he just knelt there in a little puddle of blood, shaking and listening to them cry softly into his shoulder.

 

“... Babybones,” Sans croaked eventually when his faculties began to ever so slowly return. “I'm only gonna... ask this once... so listen close. What in the fuck?

“I'm sorry,” Frisk sniffled miserably, hiding their face in his jacket. “I'm s-sorry Sans, I'm sorry, please, please don't die...!”

“I'm not – shh, hey, hey...” he petted the back of their head with his blood slicked hand, pulling them a little closer. He had to stay calm, but that seemed like a pretty tall order at the moment. “Shh. It's okay. Nobody is gonna die. Okay? Don't cry, babybones. Don't cry, it's okay.”

“I thought you were gonna...!” Frisk choked, squeezing their arms limply around his neck.

“Shh, shh now, come on,” Sans had to fight to keep his voice in check, regardless of the fact that he was crying just as hard as they were. His head hurt so much, he was so tired.

“Why did you leave me?” Frisk sobbed, and his soul felt like it was breaking. “I t-thought y-you loved me...?”

It hit him like a slap to the face. He would have preferred a slap to the face, actually, as that wouldn't have hurt nearly as much.

 

Babybones,” Sans breathed shakily, holding them as gently as he could. “Of course I love you-”

“Then why did you leave?” Frisk whimpered quietly, hiding their face against him. “Why?”

What was he supposed to say? How was he supposed to respond to that? How could he tell a ten year old that he was so sick of existence that he just wanted to curl up in a ball and beg for death?

“... I'm sorry,” Sans murmured quietly, phalanges tangled in their hair, but he didn't care. “I'm so, so sorry, Frisk. I promise – I promise. I won't leave you. I won't leave you again. Please, forgive me, babybones. I'm so sorry.”

“... I forgive you,” Frisk sniffed unhappily, curling up a little into his embrace. “I love you, Sans.”

“I love you too, babybones.”

 

I'm gonna fix this.

Somehow.

I'm gonna fix this.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“I really don't understand,” Papyrus sat cross legged in the snow, watching as white flakes drifted down around them.

“I'm not asking you to,” Flowey said simply, bouncing a little on his stem. Papyrus sighed and glanced around the little clearing that his friend seemed to love bringing him to so much, leaning back and propping himself up on his hands as his scarf fluttered a little in the breeze. “All I'm asking is that you consider it. Mull it over a while, you know?” Flowey grinned up at him cheerfully. “You never know what you might find.”

 

Papyrus sighed quietly again, staring up into the cloudy ceiling.

“... I really should be getting back,” he said after a while of silence.

“Worried about Frisk and Sans, huh?” Flowey chirped. “Golly, I wouldn't worry any. They're probably fine. I mean, just what kind of trouble can they be getting up to, anyway?”

“See, when you phrase it like that,” Papyrus frowned a little, causing the flower to laugh.

“You sure are a little paranoid lately, Papyrus!” he raised himself up a little on his stem.

“I just... I just get this bad feeling,” the skeleton shifted uncomfortably. “Sometimes. Like... I don't know quite how to describe it, little friend. Like something is just... wrong.

“Maybe that's because there is something wrong,” Flowey said with what might have been smugness, but Papyrus couldn't quite tell. “Why, sometimes it feels like everything is off track. You mean feelings like that, don't you, Papyrus?”

Papyrus didn't answer immediately, only frowning more deeply and staring off into the snowy woods.

 

“... You know,” Flowey said after a long stretch of silence. “You're my best friend, Papyrus.”

“I also value your acquaintanceship, Flowey!” Papyrus nodded, smiling softly. “It's nice to have someone to talk to.”

“Say, Papyrus,” Flowey began again in that same rehearsed tone. “You know, I brought you out here today for a reason.”

“I assumed as much,” Papyrus said slowly. It was usually that way. Then again, there were plenty of times where Flowey would invite him out to the clearing just to enjoy the quiet together.

“Why, I almost forgot to ask!” he perked up a little, giving Papyrus a strange stare. “Just how is your brother doing, by the way?”

Papyrus leaned forward and crossed his arms, concern plain on his face.

 

“He's... he's just a little sick.”

Flowey outright laughed.

“Oh ho ho, friend. You have no idea.”

“He really hasn't been-been feeling well these last few days,” Papyrus shifted uneasily, the awkward feeling that he got sometimes when he stared at Flowey for too long rising up. “I'm sure that he'll-he'll be fine. He just needs rest and some good food.”

It was clear from Papyrus's tone that even he didn't believe himself.

“You'll remember what I said though, will you not?” Flowey asked quietly.

“I'll... I'll remember,” Papyrus twisted his head a little to glance down at the flower. “But I don't think that's a very, er, polite thing to ask.”

“So don't ask him,” Flowey said as if it were obvious. “Just take a little sneak peek at his soul when you get the chance. Maybe you could find out what's been making him so 'sick', hmm?”

“I can't just do something like that...” Papyrus closed his eye sockets as he tried to explain. “Souls are-are a very personal thing, Flowey.”

“Oh, believe me, I know a lot about souls for someone who doesn't have one,” he winked and stuck his tongue out a little. “You should try talking him into training. He has a hard time saying no to you when you're determined. Then pull his soul out and you can see what's wrong!”

“But-but that's seems so...” Papyrus clasped his hands together nervously. “I don't know. Manipulative?”

Flowey only laughed again and shook his head a little.

 

“But you want to know, don't you?” Flowey bounced on his stem again, raising himself up to eye level with the sitting skeleton. “Golly. You know, I sure am jealous of you, Papyrus. Living without knowledge of so much must be a real relief. You know, I hear a whole lot that I can't forget. Why, I'd bet that some of what I hear might even be useful to you.”

“... I'm going to go make dinner,” Papyrus said simply, dusting the snow from himself as he stood. “Besides, I need to check on Sans again.”

“Oh, before you go...” Flowey said just as he turned, once again in that same rehearsed tone. Like he'd had this conversation before. “I just wanted to give you a little tidbit that, who knows? Might even come in handy.”

“What is it, little friend?” Papyrus knelt in the snow to meet his gaze.

“Tell me, Papyrus. How much do you know about a person named Gaster?

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

I can do this.

I think I can keep going.

I have to keep going.

 

“I don't... fully understand.”

“I didn't expect you to,” Flowey winked at him. “Just take it into consideration, Papyrus. See you tonight!”

 

And with that the little flower vanished into the snow, leaving the dazed skeleton kneeling over the place he had just been. He felt as though he had been punched, his head was reeling and no matter how tightly he clasped his knees he couldn't quite manage to get a firm grip on himself. There was simply no way that it could be true. How could the flower even manage to get his metaphorical hands on information like that? Papyrus sincerely doubted that he had simply 'heard it somewhere'.

You're not a real monster.

 

The thought was like a train wreck to his line of thoughts, damaging everything that he tried to distract himself with until all he was left with was a smoking mess. He didn't know for how long he'd been kneeling in the snow, watching the snowflakes dancing and twirling down around him. He didn't want to believe it. It seemed too far fetched, to unlikely, too impossible.

And yet, there were things about Flowey's story that added up regardless. The gap in his memory still remained from when he was young. And for all of his prying, Sans had never, ever mentioned their parents whenever he'd asked. Why would he keep something like that secret?

Didn't Sans trust him at all?

 

Papyrus didn't know how long he had been musing to himself, completely lost in thought. Reality came back down upon him after what felt like hours, and it was a shock to his system.

“... Dinner,” he muttered more to himself than anything, pushing himself on his hands and knees to stand in the snow and heading back into town. “Make dinner. Focus, Papyrus.”

And regardless of his words to nobody, Papyrus still felt a million miles away. He felt so confused, he had so many questions, and simultaneously he was loathe to ask Flowey again. The flower only dropped little bits of information after what he had told him. Like he was toying with him, seeing how much he could get away with. But that was just silly. Flowey was his friend. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have told him something like that.

But how did he even find out a secret that huge?

And what in tarnation was Papyrus supposed to do now?

 

He sighed quietly, marching steadily but slowly toward Snowdin, pushing tree branches laden with ice out of his way as he retraced his steps back to civilization. Obviously he was just going to have to try to get answers elsewhere. As much as he was loathe to admit it, Flowey was right. He couldn't just live his whole life not knowing. There were some things that he needed to know.

Sans would know what to do.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

I think I can do this.

I have to do this.

Keep it together.

 

Papyrus took in a long, arduous breath through his nostril bone as he stood on the front step, closing his eyes for a moment and leaning his forehead against the cool wood. He could hear soft voices coming from within, but not loud enough to make out what they were saying.

What exactly was he supposed to say to his brother, anyway?

'Hey, so I think you've been lying to me for my entire life, how's that going for you?'

Papyrus groaned and covered his eye sockets with one gloved hand, thinking. Sans wouldn't lie to him. He just wasn't that kind of person. He'd known him all of his life, and Sans never-

Actually, that wasn't quite true. Sans had been lying to Undyne just the other day. And he had seemed so... casual about it. Like it had been just another thing to do. Papyrus frowned, stirring up his courage. He would get things sorted out. Sans wouldn't lie to him. Just like Papyrus wouldn't lie to him.

Then again, wasn't omission of truth technically a lie, as well?

 

Papyrus pushed the door open before he could change his mind, taking in a deep breath.

“I have returned from training!” Papyrus called out as soon as he entered, quietly latching the door behind him. The voices had apparently been coming from the kitchen, and stopped as soon as he came inside. He took a couple of long strides and peeked into the kitchen to see what the pair were up to, and instead of finding the pleasant surprise of Sans cooking again, he found the not so pleasant surprise of Sans on his hands and knees next to a bucket with a sponge, cleaning up a suspiciously large puddle of blood off the floor.

 

“... What,” Papyrus felt like being ill at the sight, forcing himself to look away to Frisk, who was backed away against the wall with their arms tucked tightly into their sleeves. “What happened?”

“K-kiddo had an... accident,” Sans said uncomfortably, unable to look him quite in the eye sockets. Papyrus eyed the bloody knife lying in the corner, shifting from foot to foot as he glanced back over at Frisk, who was staring up at him in terror, their eyes wide.

“... An accident,” Papyrus repeated slowly.

“I-it was m-my fault,” Frisk's voice came out in barely above a whisper. “P-please don't b-be mad...!”

“I'm not angry at anyone,” he slowly knelt in front of them, gently placing a large hand over their tiny shoulder, smiling softly. “Just promise me that you'll be more careful in the future. Okay, Frisk?”

“O-okay,” relief flooded their face almost instantly as they hugged him. “I promise, Papy.”

Sans watched the entire display without moving, almost without breathing, and his chest tightened up the instant Papyrus glanced over at him with a very peculiar look on his face.

 

“... I'll-I'll just finish cleaning,” Sans said awkwardly, his cheeks strangely colored as he looked away back down at the half cleaned mess on the floor.

“Do you still need bandages or anything, little one?”

“No, it's-it's okay,” Frisk shook their head. “Sans took care of me.”

“Alright then. Why don't you go find your nightclothes and pick out a movie for us tonight, Frisk? I'll get started on dinner for everyone, how does that sound?”

Frisk nodded with a small smile, hugging him again before scampering off to the living room.

 

Papyrus waited until they were out of earshot to slowly, ever so slowly, stand and turn until he was facing Sans. The shorter skeleton tried to continue scrubbing without looking up, but he could easily see the blue dusting his cheeks.

“... Must have been a terrible accident,” Papyrus started casually, crossing his arms. He sniffed for a moment and glanced to the almost empty liquor bottle lying in the floor. “... Have... have you been drinking again, Sans?”

“Y-yeah,” Sans quietly said as he dipped the sponge in the bucket once again, finishing up cleaning the red mess, either ignorant or apathetic towards the blood all over his clothes. “Must've... nicked an artery or-or something.”

“Yeah. Or something.”

“Are you tryin' to imply somethin', Paps?” Sans retorted angrily, throwing the sponge into the bucket with a small splash. Why had he grown so furious? It was just as irritating to Papyrus, didn't he care? His breathing was heavy and he looked more tired than ever, and the anger was plain in his scowl.

“I'm not implying anything!” Papyrus stamped a foot against the floor. “Why is it that every single time I come back after leaving Frisk with you, they seem to have been hurt again in one way or another?”

Sans spluttered and grasped at nothing in his hands, eye sockets wide.

What?!” his voice was steadily rising. “Paps, what the hell? This isn't my fault!”

“I didn't say it was!” Papyrus said defensively. “I just want to know the truth Sans!”

“Paps, what-what are you talking about?” Sans stood higher to glare at him. “I am tellin' you the truth!”

“So you're telling me that you won't lie to me,” Papyrus lowered his voice a little, tilting his head downward.

“Of course not, Paps,” Sans said a little more softly, embarrassed that he had resorted to shouting at Papyrus. God, he felt like garbage. “I-I won't lie to you.”

“... Who is Gaster?”

 

The effect was almost instantaneous.

All of the color drained from Sans's face instantly, leaving him looking pale and about to be sick.

“... W-where did you hear that name?” Sans choked, staring up at him.

“Who is he, Sans?” Papyrus frowned. “Is he really why... why I don't... remember?”

Sans didn't answer. All of the light went out of his eye sockets and he appeared ready to drop at a moment's notice. “So how about I ask a different question... how long have you been lying to me, Sans?”

“I can't fucking believe this!” Sans bellowed. “Paps, what?

“I'm not stupid, Sans! Don't treat me like I am!”

“I never said you were stupid-”

“No, you just act like I am! Why can't you just tell me the truth for once?!”

“You know what?” Sans stood on his tiptoes for little to no effect, thrusting his shaking fists in his jacket pockets. “Fuck you, Papyrus!”

 

Sans recoiled almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, and no matter how much he wanted to take it back there was no undoing what he had just done.

Papyrus took a step backwards, tears streaming freely down his face.

“P-Paps,” Sans choked instantly, reaching out for his brother. Papyrus only jerked away, turning his head so that he wouldn't see him cry.

“... I'm going for a walk,” Papyrus said in an uneven tone. “Goodnight, Sans.”

“Paps – Papy, wait!” Sans stuttered, chasing after him and almost slipping on the floor. “Wait, Paps; I'm sorry, I d-didn't mean-!”

Papyrus didn't hear the rest of what he had to say over the sound of the slamming door.

 

Sans sank to his knees, feeling like he was being choked by himself. What had he just done? Papyrus was the best thing he had in his whole miserable life, and he was hurting him.

Because that's all he ever did. All he could do was hurt. It was the resets. The goddamned resets, they made it too hard to think, made him too impulsive. It made him face himself for the monster that he really was.

Just when he thought he couldn't hate himself any more.

Sans was crying silently, desperately trying to wipe his eyes with his forearm when he noticed the terror stricken Frisk standing in the doorway. He started to stand and they backed away into the wall, hyperventilating and holding their hands out in front of them defensively. Like they knew how desperately he wanted to force a reset and try again. That's all it would take. One flick of the wrist and a burst of magic and Papyrus wouldn't remember anything. He could fix this.

They looked... so afraid.

And of course they were afraid, that was just one more thing to kick himself over. Of course they were afraid of him, because every time that he made a mistake, they were the one to suffer for it.

There were some things that just couldn't be fixed. He had created a schism between his own brother, and he couldn't even blame the fucking anomaly anymore because they did nothing wrong, it was his fault, it was always his fault that the people he loved the most were hurt.

 

“... Goddammit,” Sans breathed into his hands, trying to stem the flow of tears. “I'm... I'm s- shit. How... how much of that did you hear, kiddo?”

Frisk didn't respond, their lips were pressed tightly together and they looked ready to bolt at a moment's notice.

 

“I... I need you ta stay here for a bit, babybones,” Sans murmured as he stood, wiping his eyes. “I... I gotta go find Paps. Okay?”

Frisk nodded for a moment. And instead of running away like he expected them to, they instead only darted up to him to hug him around the middle. They were trembling furiously, even more so than him. He didn't want them to be afraid. Not ever again. Not of anyone. Not of him.

Especially not of him.

 

“I'm gonna fix this, babybones.”

God, I just wish that I knew how.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

A short distance away, Flowey popped back down into the ground away from the window on the log house, giggling to himself.

Oh, this was going splendidly.

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus stumbled mindlessly through snowfall and icy path, uncertain of where he was going.

Maybe it didn't matter.

Maybe it never did.

 

He felt so cold. So numb. So empty.

He huddled in on himself regardless of how little it did to ward off the chill, and yet he pressed on regardless. He didn't know how long he had been walking. He wasn't particularly concerned about that, either. All he wanted to do was just get away. There was no escaping his own memory, though. The sight of his own brother screaming at him like that, so furious, so angry, so bitter. It hurt, it ached, it scalded his soul. What had he done wrong? Everything? Was it his fault?

Maybe it was his fault. He could see that Sans was clearly in distress, and he had let his roiling emotions and confusion get the best of him, and now he was suffering for it. Papyrus kicked uselessly at a chunk of ice sticking up out of the snow, shattering it and watching it sail in chunks through the air before vanishing into a snowbank, but it did nothing to relieve the thrashing anger. At himself, at his brother, at the world. It just wasn't fair.

He couldn't think on it for too long though. He couldn't allow himself to. If he did, he would start crying again like a babybones. And he was just so tired. So drained. So dismayed. All he wanted was to just escape.

But how far could he really run from himself?

 

“Howdy!”

Papyrus took in a shuddering breath, not even realizing that he had stumbled straight into the familiar little clearing.

“I can't... talk right now, Flowey,” Papyrus's voice came out wavering and weak.

“Having a bad time, huh?” Flowey curled his way around Papyrus's ankle, but he didn't care. He wasn't certain whether it was Flowey pulling him to the ground or if maybe his legs had finally just given out. “Man, that was pretty brutal. And your own brother, too. Can't say I didn't try to warn you, buddy.”

“I don't understand,” Papyrus choked as Flowey wrapped a vine around his shoulders. “I j-just don't understand.

“Shh, hey there...” Flowey hushed him in a soothing tone, patting him on the shoulders and twirling around so that he was face to face with the skeleton. “It's all going to be okay, Papyrus.”

Papyrus hugged him around the stem and couldn't fight back the flow anymore, desperately trying to hug him and hide his crying.

 

“There, there...” Flowey had practiced that particular tone so many times that it came easily to him. “That's right, pal. Just let it all out.”

Papyrus sobbed miserably against him, grasping uselessly at nothing.

“It's all going to be alright, Papyrus,” Flowey didn't bother to hide his smirk as he dipped his head over Papyrus's shoulder. “Your old pal Flowey is always here for you.”

A few simple words, a pat on the back and he was like putty in his vines. He had such big plans ahead for him. All he had to do was give him a little push in the right direction, and almighty power would be his, just as it should be. Papyrus really was his favorite toy.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Where could he have possibly gone?

 

“Papyrus?” Sans shouted into the snowstorm, his bloodied jacket whipping wildly in the wind. “PAPRYUS?!”

“I don't see him...”

“I told you twice to go back to the house!” Sans growled, barely heard above the heavy muffling of snowflakes.

“But-but w-what if he g-gets hurt?” Frisk danced from foot to foot, clearly freezing in the snow. Sans's expression softened a little, and he pulled his jacket from around his shoulders and draped it around them, zipping it up halfway. He glanced back out over the bridge, searching for any sign at all of the tattered red scarf in the myriad of white.

“Go back home,” Sans instructed them quietly. “Just wait for us there. I'll bring Paps home safe and sound. Okay?”

“I-I c-c-can't,” Frisk shivered. “What ab-bout Papy?”

“Frisk,” Sans let out a breath through his teeth, watching as the little steamy cloud left in a puff. “Please, kiddo, I am beggin' you here, just please listen to me and go home.

“Please don't leave me again,” Frisk tugged at his hand pitifully. “Please, please Sans... I d-don't wanna be alone again.”

Why were they doing this to him? Were they really that twisted? Were they really that cruel as to make him choose between them and his brother?

 

“P-please, Sans... please don't leave me.”

 

Sans could feel his resolve slowly dwindling as he stared at the child, and he felt so torn that he was surprised that he wasn't split in half. What was he supposed to do? What was the most sensible thing to do? What was the right thing to do?

Either he could continue his fruitless search for his brother, who probably wouldn't even want to be around him after such a horrendous incident, or he could return home with Frisk and wait for his return. What if he wasn't even out here? What if he had gone in another direction?

What was the right thing to do?

He honestly didn't know anymore.

 

Sans stared down at Frisk as they pulled gently at his hand, and he couldn't tear his gaze away from their pleading expression. He had seen that face so,so many times. They looked so hurt.

So lost.

And how many times had it been because of him?

 

“... Okay,” Sans withered a little inside. “Okay, babybones. Let's... let's go home.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

They had cold spaghetti for dinner.

 

Sans did everything that he could to keep Frisk as comfortable as possible. He cooked (if reheating spaghetti counts as cooking), he cleaned while they sat on the sofa and watched him sweep like his life depended on it, he didn't complain when Frisk insisted that they watch another Mettaton movie as they were wrapped up in their favorite red blanket as they curled up next to him on the couch. Their jacket lay draped over the back of the couch, and Frisk gave it odd glances every now and then, though for what he couldn't determine.

Nothing could take his mind off of it, however.

Nothing could change what he said.

Nothing could change what he was.

 

“... Sans?”

“Yeah, kiddo,” he blinked, almost having fallen asleep next to them on the couch. They were curled up beneath their fluffy red blanket, leaning against him as the movie played and cast dancing shadows over the living room.

“When is Papy coming home?”

“He'll...” Sans started, the weariness hanging off him like a cloak. He sighed and close his eye sockets for a moment. “He'll come home when he's... ready. God, kiddo. I'm... I'm so sorry.”

Frisk didn't respond, but they silently took his hand in theirs with a weak little squeeze, giving him a soft, sad smile. He tried to smile back at them, but it was clear his heart wasn't in it and he gave up almost immediately, closing his weary eyes with a slow sigh. He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be sitting at home watching television with Frisk like nothing was wrong. He should be out there, searching for his brother.

His brother, who was probably so disgusted with him that he never wanted to see him again.

God, what was wrong with him?

 

And the more pressing question on his mind...

Where had he heard the name Gaster, anyway?

He was absolutely positive that he hadn't mentioned that name to him, not even once. Sans considered it the greatest disservice to the scientist to forget him completely. There was little chance that he'd had a drunken slip up, or at least he hoped so. He didn't even want to think about him. Gaster was gone, more than gone, and he was never coming back. It wasn't right, it wasn't fair that he was still hurting them even from beyond the grave. He felt his fists slowly clench in his jacket pockets – or one of them, before he realized that he was still holding Frisk's hand, and gradually released his grip to avoid harming them. This happened every single time he allowed himself to think on the old royal scientist. He got angry, boilingly so, and it took hours to cool off long enough to avoid taking it out on anyone else. Then again, it wasn't like he wasn't already taking his anger out on the ones that he loved, so what difference did it really make? Did it even matter?

Did anything matter, really?

 

Papyrus still wasn't returning any of the dozens of messages that he sent, and he wasn't particularly surprised. He wouldn't want to talk to himself, either.

“... S-Sans?”

“What's up, buddy?”

“Y-you're shaking again...”

“Sorry, kiddo,” Sans cringed inwardly, opening his eye sockets a crack to glance at their worried expression. “Must just be the cold.”

“I thought you couldn't get cold?”

Sans opened and closed his mouth once before letting out a weak chuckle.

“Just... just don't worry about it, Frisk.” he patted his jacket uselessly, frowning. “Damn. Need a smoke. Gotta pick up some more anyway.”

He started to rise and Frisk slipped out from beneath their blanket, not releasing his hand.

 

“Don't worry, kiddo,” he shook his head. “I won't be gone long-”

“Take me with you?” they asked softly. “Please?”

“... Gotta make it hard on me, don'tcha,” he shook his head. “Alright, Frisky-bits. Hang on tight to me. Okay?”

Frisk nodded twice and hugged him tightly around the waist, and he closed his eyes and reached for the magic. It was always a bit more of a strain taking anything other than himself through a shortcut, it left him short of breath and weary, but he didn't care. They fell into the shortcut together, the void wrapping and warping around them for a millionth of a second as they burst out of the air and into the warm gently flowing wind of Waterfall.

 

Frisk let out a quiet gasp as they stumbled, blinking rapidly at their new surroundings. He stood next to one of the mossy walls and gestured for them to stay, but they only shook their head and clung more tightly to him. Sans gave in eventually and sighed, guiding them by the hand down the familiar hall with sparkling stones glimmering in the wall. He peeked around the corner of the entrance to a small enclave, knocking a couple of times on the stone wall.

 

“Knock knock,” he called out into the shop crowded with an assortment of items.

“Who's there?” he heard a grizzled voice like rocks on sandpaper echo from somewhere within.

“Broken pencils,” Sans called back.

“Broken pencils, who?”

“Never mind, it's all pointless.”

He heard a short barking laugh as a wizened old tortoise monster poked his head around the corner and entered through a sheet of hanging beads, grinning widely at him.

 

“Wah ha! That was even worse than the last one,” the aged tortoise rolled his eyes, but his grin remained. “What brings... you...”

He paused, staring fully at Frisk.

Sans had forgotten to have them put on their disguise. He froze in place, unable to move from beneath the old turtle's piercing gaze.

 

“... Never thought of ya as the maternal type, to be honest,” he rubbed his scaly chin. “I'm just gonna assume you're here for a friendly chat.”

“Uh,” Sans's mind reeled a little. “S-sure, Gerson.”
“Have a seat,” he said blankly, nodding to a couple of stools in front of his cluttered counter, filled with all sorts of knickknacks and baubles. Frisk eyed a particular seashell curiously as they clambered up onto the seat, eyes wide. “Back in a tic.”

Sans let out an uneasy breath as he dropped onto the stool, not even caring how badly his hands were shaking as he stuck them into his pockets. Maybe bringing a human with him to one of the few survivors of the monster and human war wasn't one of his brightest ideas. Then again, Gerson didn't appear to be alarmed, or even all that surprised. Better yet, he wasn't trying to smash Frisk to bits, so that was a plus. Gerson always had been strange, to Sans.

 

The wizened tortoise returned a few moments later with a couple of steaming mugs, brushing the bead curtain out of the way with his elbow and placing both of the mugs into their hands before returning to his place behind the stone counter, leaning on it toward them.

“... What is this?” Frisk sipped at the drink curiously before scrunching up their face. “It's really salty.”

“Of course it is,” Gerson rolled his eyes. “Did you expect sea tea to be anythin' but? Drink up, young 'un. It'll put a pep in yer step.”

“Thanks, Gerson,” Sans said quietly, pretending to sip at the tea. Gerson gave him a low glare, and he slapped himself inwardly. He took a few guilty drinks, the tea burning his throat a little as he drank. He felt a strange tingling in his stomach and for a brief moment everything felt just a little clearer, just a little sharper.

“You drink up too, sonny,” Gerson's glower slowly faded away. “You look like you've been sittin' on death's doorstep.”

“I'm fine.” Sans insisted bluntly. Gerson only snorted and shook his head.

“Yer about as bad as Undyne,” he shook his head slowly. “Took me all day t'patch her up, and she just goes right back to it. I'll go ahead and make another assumption and guess that you're not just here for a friendly tea time, eh?”

“Y-yeah,” Sans shifted awkwardly, twirling his drink in his hands. “I, uh, need to pick up s'more of-of, y'know.”

“Again?” Gerson's eyes narrowed a little. “Yeesh, sonny, already? You have any idea how hard those are to come by?”

“I know, I know...” Sans coughed uneasily into one hand. Frisk was staring at him and he could see them out of the corner of his eye socket, but he couldn't bring himself to glance at them.

“Eh, alright,” he shook his head. “Gimme a minute. I'm chargin' you extra for this batch, just so y'know.”

Sans simply nodded his head as Gerson vanished behind the curtain for a few moments, returning with a small paper bag. Sans handed him a stack of golden coins and stuffed the bag of biscuits into his jacket, heavily tempted to dig in while he was still in the shop.

 

“So,” Gerson said after a few seconds, leaning on his elbows on the stone counter. “What's your name, youngster?”

“I'm Frisk,” they responded quietly, staring up at him. “It's very nice to meet you, mister.”

“Wha ha! Manners, from a whippersnapper,” he chortled. “Now, that's a nice change of pace. Nice t'meetcha too, Frisk! Everybody just calls me Gerson.”

“Funny,” Sans shook his head with a small grin. “I could have sworn everybody just called you old fart.”

“Can it, funnybones,” Gerson deadpanned. “Or you just might find some 'old farts' in the next batch you pick up. Get me?”

Frisk covered their mouth with their empty mug to hide their snickering, and Sans only shook his head.

“Yeah, yeah. Yuck it up, kiddo,” he ruffled their hair with his free hand, grin slowly spreading over his face. Did Gerson really not care that they were human?

 

“So tell me, Blue,” Gerson leveled his gaze at Sans. “What's got you down in the dumps?”

“I think that's a bit further ahead, actually,” Sans grinned. “The... the dumps.”

Gerson didn't laugh.

Sans shifted uncomfortably, coughing into one hand.

 

“P-Papyrus and I... we, we, uh... we had a fight.”

He wasn't entirely certain why he was even telling Gerson this. For all he knew it was utterly pointless sharing anything at all with him when the world might very well be reset to before he met up with him. What was the point of even trying when it would inevitably reset anyway? The simple answer was that there was no point. No purpose.

“So apologize,” Gerson blinked. “What are you expectin', advice?”
“Kind of?”

“So be a big boy and admit that you were in the wrong,” he stated quietly. “It ain't all that hard. You've got responsibilities, so go take care of them.”

He wasn't entirely certain of what Gerson meant by that, but he had a pretty good idea from the odd glance that he was giving Frisk.

“... Thanks, Gerson,” Sans said after what felt like an eternity, placing his empty mug on the counter top. “I, uh... think I needed that.”
“This one's on the house,” Gerson gave him a toothy grin. “But next time I'm chargin' you double for free advice.”

Sans chuckled and rose, shaking his head. Frisk followed him closely as he waved goodbye, letting them take his hand as he vanished around the corner and into his shortcut.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

You've got responsibilities.

 

Sans sighed quietly as he dropped onto the wooden bench, patting the seat next to him for Frisk to join him. They silently climbed up beside him and fiddled with their sleeves, pulling their hands inside them and watching as Sans wordlessly pulled a dog biscuit from his pocket and lit it, taking a long drag and letting out a soft puff of smoke. Frisk held out their hand patiently with a bizarre expression on their face that he couldn't quite place. He almost pulled away from them at that, but caved in almost instantly when they pouted, sticking out their quivering bottom lip. God, he really was so easy to break. It was just pathetic.

 

So much for a one time thing.

Sans held out his hand and allowed them to take the smoking biscuit, and watched them hack and cough when they tried to imitate him. He wasn't helping them, like this. He was only helping himself. What was he supposed to even do? How was he supposed to be responsible, how was he supposed to take care of them when he could barely take care of himself?

He mused over this silently for a while, staring off his side to glance at the echo flower beside the wooden bench. Was he even ready? Could he do this?

“I'm just... I'm not ready for the responsibility,” he muttered aloud as Frisk passed him back the biscuit, giving him time to take another long, steady drag before letting out a single smoke ring through his nostril bone. “I wasn't ready for the responsibility.”

Maybe that's what he needed. He needed to admit that he wasn't ready. That there was no amount of pep talks from Gerson or friendly training from Grillby that could make him a better person. And he needed to be a better person. For Papyrus. For Frisk. He wasn't good enough. He wasn't 'good' in any sense of the word.

 

Silently, almost as if they could sense his distress, Frisk gently took his hand and snuggled up next to him, leaning on his shoulder and rubbing their thumb over his phalanges softly with a small smile, their eyes half lidded.

“... Thanks, Sans,” they murmured quietly.

“Thanks for what?” he gave a weak laugh. “For bein' an asshole to everybody?”

“For... for taking care of me.”

“... I just...” he closed his eyes slowly, sighing again. “I'm not good for you, babybones. I'm not good for Papyrus. I'm not... I'm not good for anybody.”

“I don't believe that,” they squeezed his hand gently, beaming up at him. “Everybody can be good if they just try. Somebody really special to me told me that once. I believe it.”

“... You're a good kid, Frisk,” Sans flicked the stub into the water, his head spinning a little as they hugged him softly. “Never let anybody tell you different. Okay?”

“Okay. I love you, Sans.”

“I love you too, babybones.”

 

They simply sat for a while in silence, holding each other to ward away the encroaching darkness, utterly unaware of the fact that they were being watched.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Tell me, Papyrus. How much do you know about souls?”

“It doesn't matter, Flowey,” Papyrus sat numbly with his back against the old warped tree trunk, his forehead pressed against his knees with his arms wrapped tightly hugged around them. “Doesn't matter. I don't want to keep talking about that.”

“Aw, come on now, buddy!” Flowey popped down and resurfaced beside him, grinning. “Don't you wanna get back at your brother for being so mean to you?”

“No,” Papyrus answered without lifting his head. “I just want to be alone right now.”

“Come on, Papyrus,” Flowey prodded him in the side with a vine to no effect. “Get it together already.”
“Papyrus isn't here right now,” he said, his voice muffled. “Papyrus is in hug town.”

“Aww. You want another hug, friend?” Flowey sidled up next to him, wrapping a vine around his shoulders. “Don't you worry about a thing. Your old friend Flowey is always here for you.”

Papyrus sniffled miserably and hugged him around the stem.

 

“Thanks, Flowey,” Papyrus sighed, wiping his eyes. “I... think I can keep going.”

“That's excellent,” Flowey grinned gleefully. “So, he's got them all in these special containers-”

“Flowey, again?” Papyrus frowned. “I know that-that Asgore has them, but maybe they wouldn't help you.”

“What's the matter?” Flowey's grin slowly faded. “Don't you want me to have a soul?”

“Of course I do, little friend,” he shook his head. “But I just don't think that stealing them from Asgore is the right thing to do.”

“Oh, don't think of it as stealing,” Flowey snickered. “It's more like I'm borrowing them without permission.”

“Which is stealing,” Papyrus sighed again. “Flowey, sometimes I doubt the capacity of your moral compass.”

“Oh, yes...” Flowey rubbed a couple of vines together like hands. “Golly, you're so right, as always. I shudder to think of what kind of person I would be without you around, Papyrus.”

“I'm glad that I could help you somewhat, flower friend,” Papyrus closed his eye sockets and leaned back against the tree.

“You're such a good person, Papyrus,” Flowey inspected one of his vines closely. “Why, it's almost like you and your brother are polar opposites.”

“I really don't want to keep talking about this,” he covered his eye sockets with one gloved hand. “Please, Flowey. I don't want to talk about it.”

“Oh, come on, Papyrus!” Flowey prodded him again, a bit harder this time. “If you keep on moping nothing is going to change. If you want things to change, you have to make them change. Trust me on this one, friend.”

 

Papyrus took in a deep breath, steeling himself before rising slowly and brushing the snow off of him.

“... Thank you again, Flowey,” he said quietly, crossing his arms. “I think... I think you might be right. I should have a talk with my brother.”

That's the spirit!” he chirruped, sticking his tongue out a little. “Why, I think it's high time that he started treating you with the respect you deserve, Papyrus!”

“I just have to get through to him,” Papyrus pounded a fist into his gloved hand. “I can get through to him. I just have to try harder. I know it.”

“Go get 'em, tiger,” Flowey patted him on the back before slipping away back into the ground. Say the right things, push the right buttons and he could get it all back on track. He was so, so close, he could almost taste it. It was almost time for the finale.

All he had to do now was get all of his actors in place.

 

You'd better give me one hell of a show.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Come on, babybones. Let's go home.”

Sans wasn't certain for exactly how long they had simply sat in silence on that familiar bench, listening to the quietly falling droplets raining down around them. He stared off into one of the stony moss covered walls and mused for a long while, his mind abuzz with thoughts.

He needed to be better. He needed to be a better person, for Papyrus. For Frisk. There was so much that he should be doing, so much that he shouldn't have done, so much that he should have done and didn't. Frisk needed him to be better. Papyrus, just as much. And he had taken out his anger on the best person that he had ever known. He felt the pit of his stomach sink a little at that as they walked hand in hand, unable to push away the feeling.

 

So this is what garbage must feel like.

 

Frisk glanced up at him from time to time, their eyes still half lidded and a strange little complacent smile on their lips. He couldn't help but wanly smile back at them, letting them almost lead the way back to Snowdin and past one of his sentry stations, down the icy fog covered road that lead to their house. He couldn't just give up anymore. They needed him.

He needed him to be better.

But how in the world was he supposed to do that?

 

It was all so futile. It all felt just so... pointless. Like there was no real reason to even try. Everything would eventually be reset anyway, so why bother?

Frisk squeezed his hand a little as they approached the house, almost like they could sense his distress.

 

“... You okay, babybones?” Sans asked quietly, unlocking the front door and failing when the key didn't turn properly.

“Mm-hmm. What's wrong, Sans?”

“Door's unlocked,” he muttered more to himself, letting it swing open. A few dancing snowflakes made their way in as he latched the door behind him, the darkness of the house causing him to take a moment for his eye sockets to adjust. The light in the kitchen was still on however, and Sans released Frisk with a gentle pat on the head to investigate.

 

“Ah. I... see that you have returned,” he spotted Papyrus almost instantly at the kitchen table, a partially emptied bottle of hard cider before him. “Welcome home, brother.”

“Paps...” Sans started awkwardly, unable to quite meet his gaze. “I-I, I just...”

His hands flopped uselessly at his sides and he struggled to find the right words, but Papyrus only slowly shook his head and nodded to the seat opposite him. Sans sank into it like a stone in water, head in his hands.

 

“I n-need to tell you first. I'm sorry,” he murmured, barely loud enough to hear himself. “G-god, 'Pyrus, I-I'm so, so sorry. I know you probably wanna yell at me right now, and-and I get it. I deserve it. Christ, Paps. You're... you're a good person. All I want is for you to be okay. I... I never should have let the thing that hurt you so bad be me.

Sans froze when he felt a gloved skeletal hand reaching out across the table, covering his own.

“It's okay, Sans,” Papyrus said gently with a small, sad smile. “I forgive you.”

How?

How could anyone possibly be so merciful? He didn't deserve it. Papyrus should be shouting at him, telling him off for being so lazy, so selfish, so cruel, and he only gave him a soft touch and a smile and forgave him. That, quite possibly, hurt much worse than being shouted at. He didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve him.

 

He barely noticed when Frisk clambered up into one of the wooden seats between them, silently watching as Sans struggled to dry his eyes.

“I'm... I'm so sorry, Paps,” Sans strained to keep his voice from cracking.

“Here,” Papyrus slowly passed the bottle of cider to Sans. “I'm normally against it because it's gross and dulls your motor senses, but right now I think we both need a pick me up.”

“... Thanks, Paps,” he took a long swig and felt the burn in the back of his throat almost immediately before plopping the glass bottle back onto the table with a thunk.

“Don't thank me yet,” Papyrus sighed and leaned forward with his elbows on the table, staring fully at Sans. “We need to talk.”

“Hoo, boy,” Sans sighed and closed his eye sockets. “Alright, bro. I'm... I'm ready. Hit me with it.”

 

He expected Papyrus to say that he wasn't allowed to have alcohol in the house anymore. He was preparing himself to hear his brother demand that he clean up his act and stop being such a selfish prick like he deserved. He was bracing himself for a lot of things, but most certainly not the question that Papyrus asked.

 

“What are we, Sans?”

Sans blinked and his breath caught in his chest. He glanced over to Frisk to see that their eyes were hidden behind their hair, but he could feel their stare on him regardless. He suddenly felt like an insect beneath a microscope from the look that Papyrus was giving him. He didn't particularly care for the feeling.

 

“W-well...” Sans let out a shaky breath before steeling himself, pulling the bottle to his mouth and taking a few more long, hard swigs. He felt the buzz kick in almost immediately, and he shuddered a little before taking another long, slow breath. “We are... weapons.”

“Weapons,” Papyrus repeated slowly, folding his hands over one another on the tabletop.

“That's what we were created as, initially,” Sans began gradually, staring into the amber liquid before him. “Created as test subjects by our father, Doctor Gaster. We are... designed to be human killing machines.”

 

The incredulous look that Papyrus was giving him almost physically hurt. It made his chest ache, and he couldn't even determine what the look that Frisk was giving him might be. Either way, he didn't like it.

“That's... that's insane,” his brother breathed eventually, running a gloved hand over the top of his head.

“You think that's nuts,” Sans chuckled darkly. “That's just the tip of the ice berg. So, that leaves me with a question of my own. Where'd you hear about Gaster, anyway?”

“That's not important,” Papyrus said a little too quickly. “I-I need to know, Sans. Why... why did you keep this secret from me for so long?”

“You think I wanted you to know?” Sans frowned, rubbing his temples before taking another swig. He really was getting completely drunk at this point, and he didn't need another hangover. “You think I wanted you to know that we were designed to take human lives? I just... I just wanted you to be free from that. To be happy.

“I think...” Papyrus let out a shuddering breath. “I think I understand. I'm... I'm not happy that you kept me in the dark about this, but... but I think it's good to finally know it.” Papyrus was... taking the news suspiciously well. Something didn't settle quite right with Sans. Something was just off, and he didn't know what it was, and it bothered him deeply.

“For now,” Sans gave another dark laugh. “Until you forget we ever had this conversation.”

“Why would I forget?” Papyrus blinked.

Frisk had become very, very still, and wouldn't look at either of them.

 

“Maybe... maybe it's best if you don't forget,” Sans mused aloud, turning the drink in his hands, staring at the now almost empty bottle of cider. He felt dizzy and heavy headed, and so, so tired. All he wanted to do was rest, though he knew that no amount of sleep could ever cure that exhaustion. Not even death would save him. There was no rest on the other side. There was never any rest.

He was so tired.

 

“... Papy?” Frisk said softly, and Sans jumped out of his reverie. They had been so silent that he had almost forgotten that they were sitting beside him.

“What is it, little one?” Papyrus asked gently, turning to face them.

“Don't... don't be sad,” Frisk placed their comparatively tiny hand over his, smiling up at him. “The bad man is gone now, so don't be sad. You don't have to be what your dad wanted you to be. You're a good person, and you can be your own person. So don't be sad. Okay?”

“... You're a good child, Frisk,” Papyrus gently ran a hand over their head, leaning in his seat to give them a light hug, and they gladly hugged him back. “Goodness, that sounded too mature for someone your age. You're growing up so fast.

Frisk started to pull the bottle to them, but it was quickly swiped away by Papyrus. Their eyes flashed dangerously, and Sans quietly noted that their eyes were a vibrant shade of red. It was going to be a real chore explaining Chara to Papyrus. But maybe that could wait, he'd already dropped enough bombshells for one day.

 

“What?” Chara pouted, sticking out their bottom lip. “I'm plenty grown up enough to drink.”

“Not in this house, you're not!” Papyrus said firmly. “You're ten!”

“Sans would let me drink,” Chara scowled, crossing their arms over their chest.

“Like hell Sans would,” Sans growled dangerously, and they flinched. “Give it about another decade or two, kiddo.”

Chara grumbled darkly to themselves and retreated into their seat, hair covering their eyes. Papyrus was staring at the child with a peculiar expression that Sans had never seen on him. It was like a bizarre mix of contemplation, curiosity and irritation all jumbled together. In short, it was utterly peculiar.

He could have sworn that he'd seen that look before, but he just couldn't quite put his finger on it.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Unsurprisingly, they had spaghetti for dinner.

 

It was not as quiet as Sans would have expected it to be. Papyrus behaved as if nothing had changed at all, and it was... strange, to say the least. Sans honestly didn't know how to react. Papyrus was overjoyed that Frisk even asked for seconds, though Sans really did try to eat the burned spaghetti just didn't seem all that appetizing. He couldn't take his mind off of when the next reset would occur, when he would be having this same conversation with his brother all over again. There was no way out. There was never a way out. It was all so pointless, so meaningless-

 

Once again, Sans found Frisk holding his hand like they were joined at the hip, smiling gently up at him with kindness in their eyes. He closed his eye sockets and took a deep breath as Papyrus chatted amicably about the latest Mettaton movie playing in the background as they all sat on the couch, Frisk between them. It was like they knew what he was thinking, and the thought was terrifying. He couldn't imagine anything worse than Frisk seeing him for what he really was, see the darkness and outright cruelty lurking in his soul. Parts of him that he didn't want to acknowledge. Parts of him that he wanted to keep far, far away from Frisk, because it was the only way to keep them safe.

Papyrus started to drift off with his head leaned back against the couch after a while, and Sans suddenly felt the intense urge to check on Frisk's soul, but he brushed it off.

That was another thing that he had to figure out. What was he supposed to do about their souls? Was there anything that could be done? What could he possibly do to fix this?

 

“... Hey,” Sans said after a long while of silence, glancing over at his sleeping brother. Frisk's eyes blinked wearily open and they rubbed their eyes with their knuckles, looking up to him.

“Y-yeah, Sans?” Frisk resisted a quiet yawn.

“I'm gonna... I'm gonna go talk to somebody for a bit,” Sans informed them softly, running a free hand over their head and ruffling their hair a little. “Can you babysit Papyrus for me until I get back?”

“You're leaving?” Frisk pouted again, sticking out their bottom lip. He had to refrain from commenting, forcing himself to focus. He didn't want to leave. He wanted to stay here, where it was warm and safe, relaxing on the couch with Frisk and his brother while they watched dumb movies and could just pretend that everything was fine for a while.

 

“I won't be gone long,” he promised quietly. “I've gotta go see somebody to talk to them about the... soul thing. Plenty of work to do. Okay?”

“Can't it wait?” Frisk frowned, holding onto his hand with both of their warm ones. “Please?”

“I-I...” Sans started, forcing himself to look away. If he stared at that disappointed, sad look any longer he was going to completely lose his nerve. “I promise I'll be right back. Okay, babybones? And when I get back, how about I read you and Paps a bedtime story? That sound good?”

“... Okay,” Frisk said eventually with a little sigh, leaning into his chest to give him a tight hug. “I trust you, Sans.”

“I'll be back soon, babybones,” Sans hugged them back gently. “I promise. I'm gonna fix this. I'm gonna make things right.”

 

San left them with that, covering them up with their spare red blanket that they shared with Papyrus, closing their eyes slowly and cuddling up with him. Papyrus held them with one arm around their shoulder in his sleep, a peaceful smile resting on his face. Just watching made his chest ache terribly for some reason, and he sighed and closed his eyes before falling backwards into the shortcut.

 

It was time to go back to the last place that he ever wanted to go.

The true lab awaited him.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

All that awaited him was the encroaching dark.

 

Don't worry, babybones.

I'm gonna fix this.

 

Sans stared up at the dragonesque skull shaped machine, lurking over a pit in the dark. He could hear the amalgamates wandering the halls, but he wasn't all that bothered.

He had work to do.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Keys clicked and clacked as he typed away at the computer, the bleach white light the only source of illumination in the dark room. Skeletal phalanges ticked away as he searched and searched, his eye sockets feeling heavy as he worked. It had to be here. Something had to be here. Anything. He couldn't just give up. He couldn't afford not to care anymore. There was so much to do. But where was he even supposed to start in these massive digital archives?

 

“Come on...” Sans murmured to himself. “Come on, give me something.”

“S-Sans?”

Sans jolted in the worn swivel chair, swirling it around and dragging his slippers across the floor.

“Hey Al,” Sans gave a little wave, watching the nervous scientist tapping her claws together awkwardly. She wore pajamas underneath her white lab coat, glasses dangling from her nose.

“W-what are y-you doing down here?” Alphys gawked at him. There were bags under his eye sockets, his clothes were a mess, and he looked ready to drop at a moment's notice. She sniffed uneasily at the air for a moment. “Have... have you b-been drinking again?”

“Um... maybe?” Sans shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “Just... just gotta fix it. Gotta be something here. Gotta fix it. Gotta fix it...”

“A-are you, um... okay?” Alphys danced from foot to foot. He looked so worn down, so tired, so haggard, it was making her extremely uneasy. “Sans, y-you don't l-look so good. W-what are you e-even doing d-down here this late?”

“I've... I've got a problem, Al,” Sans began unsteadily, almost looking ready to fall over. His cheeks were a pallid shade of gray with a dash of embarrassed blue, and he couldn't quite meet her gaze. “I, uh... y-you know those books on souls I borrowed?”

“Yeah?”

“It wasn't enough,” Sans continued, rubbing his temples wearily. “I decided to check out some of the old computers to see if I could dig anything up.”

“Why is it so important?” Alphys asked curiously, standing beside him and peering over his shoulder at the screen, glancing over the old reports.

“I... I need to know more about soul bonds.”

“I-I-I, w-what?” Alphys balked at him. “Why do you... oh. Oh, oh my god,” a tiny grin began growing on her lips. “Are you thinking of-of finding your special someone? Oh my god, Sans, why didn't y-you just tell me?”

“It's not like that...” Sans closed his eye sockets with a weary sigh. “I... I need to know how to break a soul bond.”

 

Alphys stared at him for almost half a minute.

“Why?” she asked simply.

“I... I, uh...” he interlocked his phalanges and stared into the screen to avoid her gaze. “I've... got a little problem. And... and I'm not sure how to approach it. I'm not sure what to do, Alphys. And to be honest, it... it scares the shit out of me.”

“Sans...?” Alphys asked softly, folding her claws behind her back. “You... you k-know you can tell me anything, right?”

“Of course, Al...” Sans answered quietly, closing his eye sockets again and letting out a quiet sigh. “I'm just... god. I'm tired. I'm so, so tired.”

“Did something h-happen?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” he shrugged bitterly, glancing over to her. “I... I don't know how it even happened.”

“Sans? Are... are you implying t-that you actually soul bonded with someone?”

“... Yeah.” Sans blew out a breath through his teeth. “That's why I need to break it before they get hurt.”

“Sans, soul bonding isn't all that scary,” Alphys blinked. “I mean, I've looked into it plenty – I-I mean, not for any particular reason, it's just that some relationships-”

“I soul bonded with the human.”

 

Alphys choked suddenly, gawking at him.

“Sans, what in the fu-”

“NOW do you get it?” he scowled, running a hand down his face. “I have to fix this, Alphys. I have to.”

“But-but-but...!” she spluttered, staring at him in disbelief, looking like she was about to be ill. “Sans, they're...! Oh god, why would you do something like that...?
“I didn't do it on purpose!” he was almost shouting defensively. “I don't even know how it happened! All I know is that I have to fucking fix this. I need to fix this, Alphys, and-and I... I don't...!”

He sobbed dryly into his hands, groaning aloud. He was almost collapsing where he sat, caved in on himself so much that he looked ready to drop at a moment's notice.

 

“I... I dunno what to do,” he gestured uselessly at the computer screen. “I don't know what to do. I don't know what the right thing is to do anymore, Al. I'm just... screwed. No matter what I do. Once again, completely fucked over by the cosmic dick of the universe.”

“How-how did something like... like that even happen?” she took a shuddering breath.

“I think it might be related to how much I've had to heal them,” he started slowly, thinking heavily. “I'm not good at green magic. You and me both know this. They reacted... strangely to it, to say the least. I'm wondering if that's how I accidentally created a bond between us.”

“Christ almighty,” Alphys released another shaky sigh, rubbing her tired eyes. “This... this is pretty fucked up, Sans.”

Sans cringed. It wasn't often that Alphys swore. In fact, it was close to never, he'd only heard her do it twice, and it seemed almost unreal that profanity stained her lips.

 

“You think I don't know that?” he sighed again, pinching his nostril bone in irritation. “I gotta fix this, Al. And fast. If this goes on for much longer, Frisk might... might see... They absolutely cannot be allowed to see me for... what I am,” he finished uselessly, letting his hands hang by his sides.

“What d-do you mean by that, Sans?”

“I've been researching,” he explained slowly. “And I... I saw things, I think, when the bond was developing. Like... like I was seeing inside them. And every known report I've found on soul bonds implies shared memories. If... if by any chance, that kind of bond works both ways... god. God help me,” he was shaking by this point. “Alphys, they can't be allowed to see.”

“Allowed to see what?” she blinked curiously. “S-Sans?”

“I'm... I'm not a good person, Al,” Sans shivered a little. “I am probably the worst possible thing for that poor kid in the whole Underground. If they get too close to me, if that soul bond manages to let them-them see me like I could see them, then... shit,” he swore loudly. “I've-I've seen things, Al. Despicable, horrible, awful things. I... I can't let that spread to them. I just can't.

“Are you.... are you talking about...?” she started, but Sans cut her off.

“Don't say his name,” he warned her. “Don't even think it. He'll just be getting what he wanted. To be remembered forever. Fuck him, and the skeletal horse that he rode in on.”

 

Alphys let out another weary sigh and leaned against one of the warm computer towers, crossing her arms.

“... Y-you really a-are freaked out a-about this, huh,” she seemed to say more to herself than anything. “I mean, it's no wonder, but... geez.”

“... Alphys,” Sans began slowly, interlocking his phalanges. “You know about EXP and LV, right?”

“Well, duh,” she rolled her eyes.

“Do you remember when you tried scanning me with that device of yours?”

“Y-yeah?” she blinked uncertainly. “Can't forget it, I spent weeks trying to fix that thing. It just came up with errors.”

“That wasn't an error, Alphys. The machine works fine,” he explained quietly. “There are... there are some things, some actions that-that stain your soul. Forever. Things that can't be as easily quantified and calculated. That's why it didn't work. Why it never will. I am... wrong, Al. I am a disease for which there is no vaccine. You couldn't begin to imagine what... what I am.

“I think you're wrong.”

“... 'scuse me?”

“I t-think you're wrong,” Alphys crossed her arms tightly. “For as long as I've k-known you, you've been a good person. A good friend. The whole reason that y-you're here is because you're trying to do what you t-think is right. That's... that's pretty commendable on its own,” she said softly, placing a claw on his shoulder with a gentle smile. “It takes a lot of guts to do the right thing, no matter how hard it is. I only wish I could b-be that brave.”

 

Sans almost collapsed back into the seat. It felt... as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He felt shaky and clammy, and a little sick, but... different.

“... T-thanks, Al,” Sans gave a weak laugh. “I... I think I needed ta hear that, even if I didn't know I did.”

“Glad to help,” she smiled kindly at him. “Now, let me see if I can help dig up t-the right f-files for you. We've got a lot of work ahead of us if we're going to fix this mess.”

“You'll... you'll still help me?”

“Um. Duh? You're, like, o-one of my best friends. What do y-you think friends are for?”

Sans stood abruptly and caused her to jump a little, but he only leaned in and gave her a tight hug, causing her to flush slightly.

“God I'm glad we're on the same team, Al,” Sans chuckled, his throat feeling oddly tight.

“Come on, Sans. Let's get to work.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans felt refreshed.

Exhausted and tired beyond belief, but refreshed. He fell through the shortcut and landed in the dark living room, letting out a tired sigh as he glanced around and let his eye sockets adjust. Papyrus was nowhere to be seen, but Frisk was sitting up on the couch watching a Mettaton special. They perked up almost immediately upon seeing him, bolting from beneath their blanket and wrapping their arms tightly around his midsection and burying their face in his jacket.

 

“Sans!” Frisk chirruped happily, albeit a bit muffled.

“Heyya, Frisky-bits,” Sans grinned, hugging them back. “Sorry I was gone for so long. Had a lot of stuff to dig through.”

Frisk ignored him and pulled him by the hand to the couch, crawling up onto it and patting the seat next to him, beaming the entire time.

“Alright, alright,” he snorted, flopping onto the end of the couch and grinning at them. “Guess I did promise to read ya a bedtime story, didn't I?”

“You don't have to if you don't want to,” Frisk said quietly, not letting go of his hand. “I'm just glad you're back.”

There again was that mysteriously warm sensation in his chest, and he sighed.

“... How about this one?” Sans picked up the book from the wooden stand by the couch. Frisk nodded happily and curled up on the couch next to him, leaning against him as he opened the joke book.

Inside was a quantum physics book.

 

“Huh. So that's where I put that,” he shrugged and opened the book.

Inside was another joke book.

Inside that was another quantum phsyics book.

Inside that was another joke book.

 

“... You wanna just watch tv instead?” Sans closed all of the books.

“I can live with that,” Frisk leaned into his side with a lopsided hug. Sans shrugged and slowly closed his eye sockets, holding Frisk close as they drifted off listening to the ramblings of a killer robot about precooked pastries.

Maybe things wouldn't work out perfectly. Maybe there was no point to anything.

But as long as he had his friends, as long as he had his family, as long as he could just hold on to the ones that he loved, maybe, just maybe, things would be okay.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

He was close.

He was so very, very close, he could almost taste immortality. All he had to do was bide his time, and it would all play right into his vines. Flowey giggled to himself as he burrowed through the earth, wriggling and snickering the entire way. That old fool would play right into his metaphorical hands. He almost always did. Things were finally starting to go according to plan.

This run was going to be the best one yet.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Hey. Hey, Frisky-bits.”

Frisk murmured in their sleep, rolling slightly without releasing their grip on him.

 

“Seriously, kiddo, you're killin' me here.”

Frisk blinked sleepily and stifled a yawn, stretching their aching muscles. Sans prodded them again in the side of the head gently, rubbing their hair and grinning.

“C'mon, munchkin,” he said softly. “Wake up, already.”

“Wha- time is- it...?” Frisk said through their yawns.

“Early. Paps isn't up yet. C'mon, squirt. Let's go make some coffee.”

 

Frisk slipped out from beneath their blanket and followed him like a blind man follows a seeing eye dog, and even bumped into the door frame while rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Sans couldn't help but snicker at that, patting them on the top of the head and starting up the worn old coffee pot. He gestured to the seat across from him, plopping down into the seat and filling up his mug to the brim before passing Frisk one.

“What's this for?” Frisk stifled another yawn.

“For coffee?” he blinked, pouring an unhealthy amount of sugar into his. “You have had coffee, right?”

Frisk didn't answer immediately.

 

“First time for everything, I guess.”

Sans had to bite back a yawn of his own, taking a cautionary sip of the hot drink. Frisk tasted theirs and scrunched up their face, frowning.

 

“Whassa matter, buddy?”

“It tastes gross,” Frisk smacked their lips, brows furrowed. “Do I have to drink it?”

“Not if you don't wanna,” he shrugged. “You want somethin' else instead?”

“Hot chocolate!” they perked up immediately.

“Heh. I think I can do that.”
Sans dug in the cabinets for a few moments before finding a spare package of hot chocolate, fist bumping against the liquor bottle. He stared hard at it for a moment before sighing and leaving it, carrying the packet of cocoa to the table. He then dumped the entire thing into their coffee cup, entirely straight faced.

“... Ta da,” he grinned at their irritated expression. “Hot chocolate.”

“Coffee and chocolate can't go together,” Frisk insisted, turning the drink around and around in their hands. “It's like peas and carrots. They aren't supposed to touch.”

“Pfft. If you say so, kiddo,” Sans laughed. “But don't knock it 'till you try it. Give it a whirl, it's really not bad.”

“It's not good, either...” Frisk sighed, but drank deeply regardless. Their thin eyebrows raised a little upon tasting it.

“See? These old bones know a thing or two,” he winked slyly. “... Peas 'n carrots, huh?”

“It's a metaphor,” Frisk stared into their mixed drink. “Um. Sort of.”

“If you say so, buddy.”

 

They sat in silence for a while, just enjoying the quiet. There was a warm, fuzzy feeling in Sans's chest that felt so familiar, something that he couldn't quite pin down. Was it... contentment? He hadn't felt anything like it in so, so long. It was so strange, yet simultaneously so... consistent. It didn't fade away quickly like he expected it to, he just felt as if he were... okay.

How long had it been since he'd felt this way? How long had he been terrified of allowing that feeling back into his life? And it was all thanks to them. Frisk. He wasn't certain of what he wanted to tell them, although he had several ideas of what bouncing around his head, still unformed perfectly. Things he needed to tell them. But it could wait. For now, he could just be with them. He could just... be.

He was... happy.

 

And, of course, as it always seemed to be whenever he finally allowed himself to open up, to relax, to be free from his self inflicted internal prison of the mind, it all came crashing down a short while later.

 

Sans blinked sleepily when he heard a quiet knocking at the door. Frisk glanced at him worriedly, as they didn't have their disguise jacket on, but he only shook his head.

“Door's unlocked,” he said loudly, taking another sip from his coffee.

Or at least he tried to, as when Asgore silently crossed the threshold, he suddenly found his coffee mysteriously draining from his mouth and running down his chin.

This isn't happening.

You're dreaming again.

This isn't real.

It's. Not. Real.

 

“Sans of Snowdin Town,” Asgore's familiar rumble felt as if it were shaking his bones apart. He stood tall, his horns scraping the door frame as he entered their home uninvited, his armor gleaming brightly and his royal raiment flapping slightly in the snowy breeze. “I hereby find you guilty of treason.”

 

Undyne stood almost directly behind the horned monster, silently mouthing I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Sans felt lightheaded and numb, not caring that his mouth was still hanging open. This couldn't be real. Of course it wasn't real, this wasn't happening. It couldn't happen. Not yet. Not now. Not when he had finally allowed himself to feel alright again, not now. It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.

 

“Human,” Asgore said a little more quietly, his polished armor shining in the dim light. Frisk gawked at him with fear plain on their face, but they shakily stood from their seat and tucked their hands into their sleeves. “You know what it is that we must do.”
“No!” Sans sputtered, struggling to stand on shaking legs. “No, no no-!”

“Sans.”

 

He froze at Frisk's light voice as they gently took his hand, smiling sadly up at him.

“It's... it's okay,” they said softly, just loudly enough that only he would hear. “We... we both know I'll be back soon. So don't be sad. Okay?”

“Babybones,” Sans felt like he was being punched in the gut, and his throat felt too tight. “You... you can't...!

“It's going to be okay,” Frisk hugged him, and he could see tears welling up in their eyes. It made his soul ache, it made his chest ache, it made him hurt. He could easily see through their facade of bravery. Or maybe it wasn't as much of a facade as he assumed. They really were a brave kid. They were going to face their certain death, and they did it with a kind smile. They were so much stronger than him, so much braver than him. Did he even stand a chance against the king himself, the strongest monster in the underground? Was there even a point to fighting back anymore? How far back would the last reset take them? Did he have time to get them to safety? Could he simply take them and Papyrus and run? How far could he really make it before they were caught?

 

“... Y-yeah,” Sans shifted stiffly beneath Asgore's watchful gaze. “I... I'll take that at face value.”

“I love you, Sans,” Frisk hugged him more tightly, and he squeezed them back.

“I love you too, babybones.”

Undyne stood almost behind Asgore the entire time, armored arms crossed and lips tight. She looked so... torn. Had she sold them out? Had she confessed about Frisk's existence to the king? Why would she do that? Why was this happening now? Couldn't he have just a little bit more time with them?

Why was it always so damned unfair?

 

“If you surrender peacefully,” Asgore said quietly as he watched them. “I will take your past... assistances into account and waive this terrible action of harboring a human, for now.”

“It's really okay, Sans,” Frisk leaned up and kissed him on the cheek through his tears that he couldn't fight back anymore. “I'll... see you again soon.”

He knew exactly what they meant. They had no intention whatsoever of surviving their encounter with Asgore. They knew just as well as he did what would happen when the reset occurred. There was no point. No point whatsoever. He felt his resolve crumble as he collapsed in on himself, not wanting to let go as they ever so softly slipped out of his grasp and stood before the king.

 

“... Okay,” Frisk said quietly, wiping their eyes. “I'm... I'm ready.”

“Sans?” Papyrus poked his head over the upper railing, blinking sleepily in his pajamas. “What's going o-o-oh, oh, oh dear.” His face took on an ashen, gray pallor as he stared down at Asgore and Undyne, looking almost ready to fall over the railing. He appeared ready to be ill, and his grip on the railing was iron tight.

 

“U-Undyne...?” Papyrus choked, weak at the knees. “Your... your highness?”

“There will be no more words,” Asgore said solemnly. “I am... sorry. For this. For what we must do.”

Asgore took Frisk and guided them by the shoulder, nodding silently to Undyne, who wore a stony expression. Sans did what he always did. He did what he did best.

He did nothing.

He did nothing at all.

He watched silently as Frisk was taken away. Their bright little light that had been so happy just to be there. Who was so good, was so much better than him, who wouldn't have sat in stunned silence if someone that they loved was taken away.

But what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to fix this? What was he supposed to even do? They were right. He would see them again soon. After the reset. All he could do was surrender. He couldn't fight the king himself. Not him. All he could do was just give up.

They were going to die.

They were going to die, and there was nothing that he could do to stop it.

He was so tired. So empty.

He felt so damned empty.

 

And all he could do was watch them go.

 

“... S-Sans?” Papyrus started after them, looking back uncertainly, the distress plain in his voice. “Sans! They're... the king! He-he-he t-took Frisk, Sans, what... what do we do?

“Easy,” Sans couldn't even bring himself to cry anymore. “Just give up. I did.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The house felt so... empty.

It was all so empty.

 

“What do we do?” Papyrus paced back and forth, hand held to his head. “Oh god. Oh god, what do we do, Sans?”

“There's nothing that we can do,” his own voice sounded so... hollow. So drained. “We can't do anything but wait until we start over. And over. And over.”

“What?” Papyrus balked at him. “Sans, this is serious! Why was Asgore here? How did he find out? What do we do?!

“We wait,” Sans said in a tone much calmer than he felt, taking a sip of what remained of his coffee. That he had been sharing with Frisk. That maybe he would be sharing again soon just so that it could happen all over again. “That's... that's all we can do, Paps. We wait.”

“Not a chance!” Papyrus slammed a gloved fist onto the table, making him jump. “I'm not going to just stand here and let them take Frisk, I don't care if he's the king, this-this is wrong, Sans!”

“And what do you propose we do, then?” Sans asked, wiping a sleeve across his eyes. “What can we even do, Paps?”

“Simple,” Papyrus donned his scarf, his eye sockets full to the brim with determination. “We go get them back.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus, once again, was right.

He couldn't just give up.

He couldn't afford not to care anymore.

 

“... So what's the plan?” Sans tried to ask calmly, even though his hands were trembling badly. “Storm the castle?”

This wasn't just stupid. It was unbelievably stupid. There was no way that it would work out.

“If we have to,” Papyrus said grimly. “One way or another, we are not just going to sit by and let this happen. Capiche?”

“Did... did you just capiche me?” Sans blinked in shock. “That's... that's my thing.”

“There is not a chance in hell that I'm letting him get away with this! Maybe if we run we can catch up to them,” Papyrus readjusted his scarf as he swiftly donned his battle body, his eye sockets almost burning with intensity. “We're getting them back, and that's that. If the king disagrees with that, he can kiss my bony butt, now let's move, Sans!”

“P-Paps,” he started uncertainly. How was he supposed to tell him? How was he expected to even understand just how pointless it all was? “Just... just listen to me for a sec-”

“Time is wasting, Sans,” Papyrus clapped his hands on his shoulders. “On second thought, you had better stay here. It might not be safe for you. I'm going to talk to the king and get Frisk back!”

 

And with that he was bolting out the door, leaving a somewhat stunned Sans sitting at the kitchen table uncertain of quite what to do or even what he was doing. The front door hadn't even been closed, and a few stray snowflakes made their way inside. Sans rifled numbly through his jacket pockets for a moment before drawing out a dog biscuit. He lit it slowly and took a long, slow drag before blowing a smoke ring out through his nostril bone.

“... What am I doing,” he stood slowly, shaking his head. “What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.”

The lights flickered momentarily as he vanished with a little burst of static that scorched the air, leaving the house empty once more.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans fell from the shortcut a little short of breath, and took a moment as he clasped his knees. He was getting too old for this. He wiped his brow and let out an unsteady breath, staring down yet again at the golden checkered hall that plagued his nightmares so frequently. Except this time, he wasn't waiting patiently leaning against one of the pillars. Frisk wasn't here. There was no dust littering the floor, no blood splatters and ruptured earth from broken bones.

That didn't mean he didn't still see it, though.

 

Sans closed his eye sockets momentarily and took a slow breath before forcing himself to walk, dragging his slippers across the tiles. He could do this. All he was doing was confronting the strongest monster in the entire Underground and was possibly walking right into his death.

But Frisk needed him.

Frisk needed him to be there for them.

For them... maybe death wasn't so bad.

 

Sans picked up the pace a little, clenching his fists in his pockets. The warm tingling in his chest was back and he finally allowed it to burn, the fire in his belly raging hotter than ever. Frisk needed him. There wasn't a snowball's chance in hell that he wasn't going to be there for them. He could sense them, he could feel them not far away, and he didn't even stop as he trudged like a man on death row over the royal flowerbed. He felt one of his slippers get caught in the flowers, but when he checked there was nothing there. His head felt heavy and his mind was numb, but that was fine. He didn't particularly want to be especially lucid for what was coming next.

 

Human.

 

The sound of Asgore's low baritone almost shook the stone walls as Sans descended closer and closer down the hall that lead to the barrier, that place that he had been so very many times. The barrier that kept them all locked down in this dark prison. And if Asgore had brought the human there, then there was only one thing that he meant to do. There was no longer any doubt in Sans's mind as to what he had to do.

 

“You know what it is that we must do,” Asgore was kneeling a little in front of the shaking child. The collected souls were jutting up from the ground in their containers, one last empty container awaiting the child. He wasn't surprised to see that Undyne was no longer with him. Maybe she just couldn't watch as someone she'd betrayed was about to be killed. He dimly reminded himself to have words with her if he survived this. “I... I am sorry. It was... nice to meet you.”

Asgore's hand flickered in a flash of red light as his familiar trident was summoned from thin air, his arms raised high to strike-

 

Asgore went crashing to the ground as his soul flashed blue, his trident skittering away across the stone floor. Frisk jolted at the sight, head whipping around to face him, their eyes full of terror.

“Beautiful day outside,” Sans said calmly as he stepped toward the king out of the shadows, who was kneeling and struggling against gravity to pull himself up. Sans could feel the intense strain of keeping Asgore pinned to the ground, and it was a testament to the king's raw, snapping power that he was already shrugging it off. “Birds are singing. Flowers are blooming.”

“Sans!” Asgore boomed, finally drawing himself up to his full height, his royal raiment flapping in the warm wind tossed about by the barrier. “What is the meaning of this?”

“What do you think?” Sans's fists clenched tightly in his pocket as he stood next to Frisk. He felt so small compared to the king. He suddenly felt his own frailty, his own mortality staring him in the face. All it would take was a single hit. His soul was pounding furiously in his chest, but he pressed on regardless. “You really think I'm just gonna sit back while you murder my kid?”

 

Asgore looked away, the shame clear on his face. He didn't look as angry as Sans expected. He anticipated shouting, screaming, demanding, threats... anything but that. He just looked so... old. So weary. So tired.

It hurt, in a familiar sort of way. Asgore was his friend. He had done unspeakable things for the king, and without question. But this... this was too far. He had to understand.

 

“It doesn't have ta end like this, your highness,” Sans said quietly, placing a hand gently on Frisk's shoulder, who was glancing nervously back and forth between them. “C'mon, man. Let's... just talk about this. We-we could make somma that tea you like so much. Please, Asgore. Just... just don't take my babybones from me.”

Asgore opened and closed his mouth several times, looking... uncertain. He finally snapped his jaw shut, sighing deeply, his hands falling limp at his sides.

“This... cannot change, Sans,” Asgore said softly, looking away. “We are at war with humanity-”

“Against kids?” Sans insisted. “You really think a ten year old knows anything about warfare?”

“Their age does not change anything,” he frowned, staring him down. “That human is the key to our freedom. To our salvation.”

And, for only a moment, he sounded like him.

 

“... It doesn't have to be this way,” Sans tried desperately, uncertain if he could even summon enough magical power to stop the king at his full strength. He wasn't certain that he wanted to know. He was sweating terribly, and he could feel the lights in his eye sockets fading as he reached deeper and deeper for magic, power beginning to crackle dangerously along his phalanges. “Please, just listen to me, Asgore. After everything that I've done for you, don't I at least deserve that much?”

It was like watching ice melt under a flame. His stony expression faded away as he sighed heavily, his shoulders slowly drooping as he began to cave in under his gleaming armor.

 

“This... this does not have to happen just yet,” Asgore let out a long, unsteady breath through his caprine nostrils, bowing his head. “Perhaps... yes. I can... I can give you time. For you, my friend, I will... allow you time.”

Sans felt like his legs were made of jelly as he released the magic and his breath at the same time, and he pulled the relieved Frisk into a tight hug. They wrapped their arms with bated breath around his neck, and he could feel just how badly they were trembling.

They really were prepared to die. They had stood before Asgore himself and faced down death, and did it with a smile. God, they were so much braver than him.

 

“... Sans?” Frisk asked softly so that only he could hear.

“I'm here, babybones,” Sans murmured quietly, stroking their hair and holding them close. He could feel the fiery heat of their soul beside him, so warm, so kind, so alive. That was the way that he wanted them to stay. Alive. Safe. Happy.

Asgore tried to say something to them. Sans wasn't certain of what it was. He never really found out.

The king's lips moved, but no words came out. Possibly because of the thick vine wrapped tightly around his neck. He was jerked upwards toward the ceiling like a rubber band and came to a halt with a sudden, wicked snap! He fell still almost immediately, going completely limp.

 

“Get behind me!” Sans instructed Frisk promptly, summoning magic as quickly as he could. Frisk obeyed but didn't release his arm, trying to tell him something, but he couldn't quite make it out over the pounding in his head.

“Howdy!”

Sans balked down at the wretched creature that had caused them so much suffering. The creature that had played with their lives like they were so many toys. The thing that haunted him for so long.

 

“Whassup, petals?” Sans threw out an arm as soon as he saw the flower, reaching for it's soul.

He couldn't find it.

Flowey just giggled loudly as vines wrapped and warped as thick as tree trunks from the walls, the ground, the ceiling and covered the room, blocking the exit and even covering up the entire barrier. Sans threw out whirling, slicing conjured bones, but for every vine that he cut through three more would take its place. Since when had the flower gotten this strong? It had only been-

The souls were gone.

 

“Thanks for weakening that old fool for me,” Flowey burrowed into the earth and swiftly resurfaced, dodging yet another spinning bone attack with a smirk. “Golly, I might have never gotten this far if it weren't for you.

“Fuck off, fertilizer muncher!” Sans yanked his fist down, drawing a Gaster Blaster from the void. He felt the rumbling of the living skeletal machine as energy hummed for a bare moment, scorching the air and incinerating the plant at long last. Sans crowed in victory, turning to face Frisk-

 

Frisk was hanging by their legs with a vine wrapped tightly around their mouth and neck, one arm free and slapping uselessly at the emerald appendages. Sans cast out his arm to send another bone attack to cut them down, but his arm never even made it from his side. More vines burst out of the ground and wrapped around him, dragging him down and slamming him hard into the earth. His breath was knocked from his chest and he coughed dirt from his mouth, his head spinning wildly. The flower popped up out of the ground gleefully inches from his face; how? How had it managed that when he'd literally just blasted it into oblivion?

 

“Golly,” Flowey poked the restrained skeleton in the side of the head with a vine, grinning at him. “You can't imagine how long I've waited for this moment, trashbag. How unbearably tortuous it's been to finally get to this point.”

“Let – go...!” Sans struggled, reaching for his magic-

He felt a sudden electrical burst as he jolted and shuddered in pain, gasping for breath as he felt like he was being drained like a living battery.

 

“Hmm. Not that watching you fight for your life isn't entertaining and all,” Flowey raised himself up on his stem, which was steadily growing thicker as his face contorted into a demonic leer. “But I think it's time that I teach you all the real meaning of this world.”

 

He cackled deviously as Sans was slammed into the ground again, reaching out uselessly for the flailing child held suspended in midair.

“Monsters,” Flowey's face took on an imitation of a goat monster. “Humans,” it warped into a crude fascimile of Frisk's face before shifting into a slowly spinning amalgam of features. “Everyone. In this world, it's KILL – OR – BE – KILLED!

“Reset!” Sans screamed with what little breath he had, unable to pull himself free no matter how desperately he fought. “Frisk, RESET! NOW!

 

Nothing happened.

At first.

 

There was a brilliant flash of light and he was almost blinded, his eye sockets squeezing shut reflexively. For a long moment it was completely dark. He couldn't see Frisk. He couldn't see Flowey. He couldn't even see his own body or the ground which he was still pinned to.

And then, it came.

 

It was like watching a nightmare come to life. A horrid, abominable mishmash of fleshy tree trunk sized vines, shuddering tubing warping around attached to eyes, too many eyes, too many gigantic mouths, too many teeth...! Just looking at the thing was going to haunt him for the rest of his life. He could smell a horrible overwhelming scent of pollen and earthy smells that burned his nostril bones.

“W-what?” Sans couldn't manage to blink the image out of his eyes as light from what appeared to be a television screen flickered to life, illuminating the monstrosity. “What in the fuck?!”

“Tee hee hee...!” Flowey's familiar giggle emanated from the screen. His face burst out of it with a smirk, and he grinned down at them smugly. “Golly. So this is what having a human soul feels like.”

The human souls turned the flower into this... thing? Sans was suddenly glad that he had never touched one of them. He could only imagine what kind of abomination he might have been transformed into. He tried to reach for the magic again, and nothing happened. It was like the vines constricting him were leeching the very life out of him. He felt so tired, so weak, so helpless.

 

“F-Flowey!” Frisk managed to yank the vine from their mouth, choking and gasping for breath to pull the vine from around their neck. “Flowey, please...!”

Flowey, please!” he mocked them gleefully, shaking them a little in his grip. “Now I'm the one with the power, and god it feels so good,” Flowey giggled again, and all of the vines smothering the room seemed to jiggle with him. “And it's all thanks to you. I just need one more soul... before I become a true god. And, golly, guess who's got that last soul?”

 

Frisk fought uselessly at the vines keeping them dangling from the ceiling, kicking and biting and thrashing to no avail.

 

“But don't you worry,” he snickered again, violently jerking them sideways and causing them to scream in pain. “I'm going to take my time with this. I've been waiting for so, so long.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Had the world reset? Sans coughed and tried to clutch his head, but found that he was still restricted to the ground by a mass of thorny vines. He could feel them jabbing into him from every angle, and nothing he did could get him free-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The world reset.

They were still by the covered barrier, and he could swear that he heard ticking somewhere. Sans shouted and kicked to try to free himself, unable to do anything but watch as Flowey dangled Frisk in front of him.

 

“F-Frisk?” Sans choked, gawking at their bloody body. They didn't move. They didn't breathe. They weren't moving and oh god please let them be okay!

 

“Well, would you look at that,” Flowey said as if he were discussing the weather. “Humans sure do break easily, huh? Awfully useless, these things.”

Fuck you!” Sans screamed, his throat feeling hoarse from how much he was shouting. “Let them go, you bastard!”

“Well, if you insist,” Flowey giggled again. He hauled Frisk higher into the air, and he could see them twitching in his grip. Then he hurtled them violently into the ground, sending them crashing and tumbling over the floor. Sans kicked and fought and suddenly found himself released from the viny grip, and he stumbled and crawled his way to the broken, battered child. Their arms were twisted and bent at a horrible angle, their legs splayed awkwardly, and there was a gaping hole in their side. Sans sobbed and pushed at the viscera, struggling to push it back inside them. Once again, their blood was on his hands.

 

He cried silently as he tried to put them back together, the unmoving child in his arms feeling colder than they had ever felt. He couldn't sense their soul, he didn't care how badly he hurt, he just wanted them to be okay and nothing was going right and oh god their blood was everywhere, there was so much of it all over-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans jolted violently as he was jerked back through reality, too many memories crashing together. His head felt like it was splitting and he couldn't fight his way out of the vines. Frisk was dangerously hanging from their ankles by the ceiling, kicking and crying as they were swung back and forth.

 

“We're going to have so much fun,” Flowey giggled. “I'm the one in control of the timelines now, just the way it should be.”
“Please!” Frisk screamed, and Sans felt so numb, so hollow, he couldn't escape. “Please, Flowey, s-stop!”

“Stop?” he laughed cruelly. “What, now that we've come this far? It's too late for that, idiot. We're going to play together forever. At least, until I get bored. But let's not break our toys just yet, hmm?”

“Let them go!” Sans coughed and pushed at the thorny vines restraining him to the earth, unable to even raise his head or look away from the sight. He could still see the blood, still feel the gore in his hands as he struggled to put them back together and it was all wrong, everything was wrong!

 

“Speaking of toys,” Flowey turned his bright screen toward him, and he saw that the face on it was shifting rapidly in black and white, tossing and turning and screaming silently. “I'm going to finally have fun breaking you.”

Sans felt a tightness as he was yanked through the air, too tight to think, too tight to breathe...!

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

How many resets had it been?

Dozens?
Hundreds?

 

He couldn't tell anymore. Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe it never did.

 

“Come on,” Flowey yelled at him, his voice echoing a little as he bounced Sans through the air. “I'm getting bored here. You don't want me to have to go and hunt down your brother for fun, do you?”

Sans couldn't even bring himself to swear at the abomination any longer. All he could see were the images from past resets flashing through his mind. He felt so numb. So empty.

So tired.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.

Empty.... Frisk. Protect Frisk.

 

He could see the child hanging limply in the vines. How many times had he been forced to watch them die? They looked at him pleadingly, silently begging. Did they not even know how useless he was? He couldn't protect them. He couldn't save them. He couldn't even save himself. There was no point in fighting anymore. No point in anything.

 

“Oh, for Pete's sake,” Flowey rolled his eyes, flipping Sans upside down. “Hey, Frisk. You know that humans have a holiday called Thanksgiving?”

Frisk didn't respond, only silently mouthing something to Sans. There was that ticking again, annoying as ever.

“Let's see what a wishbone looks like, huh? Flowey giggled, and Sans felt his legs slowly being spread, pulled taut and painfully being yanked, too much, too far. Sans screamed in pain as he was suddenly jerked, the agony spreading through his legs, thighs, his spine-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

What's your name, little guy?”

Pa pa pa pa pap?”

That's a weird name. Can't really speak much, huh?”

Pa pa pa.”

Don't worry, little fella. I'll teach you. You're gonna be okay here. Just... stick close to me. I'll keep you safe, okay?”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans felt like his mind was leaking out of his eye sockets, or maybe that was just the hot tears leaving streaks down his cheeks. He couldn't see clearly anymore. The pain was too intense. Too much. He couldn't think. Couldn't move. Couldn't breathe properly. There was no escape.

 

“Sans~y,” Flowey wriggled around and drew him closer through the air. “Come on. What am I going to have to do to get a reaction out of you two, huh?”

Sans blinked woozily, unable to quite focus. That was right. Frisk was here. Trapped in this special hell with him. He could barely make out their figure hanging upside down. He couldn't move. Couldn't reach them. Couldn't hold them and tell them that it would be okay no matter how much of a lie it was. Couldn't save them. Couldn't save himself. Couldn't save anyone.

 

“How about this?” Flowey pulled Frisk over in front of him so that he could see. The vines around his neck tightened and forced him to stare straight ahead, unable to look away. “I'm going to see how far I can push vines into them until they start poking out their mouth. Let's have some fun, huh friends?”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Reset.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

… Reset?

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans felt like he was watching a film. He no longer had control over his own limbs. He could feel himself fighting back weakly, not even enough to properly push. He couldn't get the images out of his head. Couldn't look away from what he was doing. There was no point at all. And the screaming. God, the awful, awful screaming would never leave his head, bouncing around even though they had fallen utterly silent so long ago.

 

“I'll kill you,” he sputtered, sobbing dryly. “I'll k-kill you, you sonofabitch, I'll kill you...!”

Sans felt his neck snap as he was slammed into the ground-

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

How long had he been here?

How long had it been?

Did it matter at all? He couldn't tell. Couldn't focus. Couldn't think.

 

“Come on, Sans,” Flowey said in an exasperated tone, screen leaning over him. He could feel the disgusting breath from the gigantic gaping sideways mouth on him, he couldn't breathe... and why was that damned clock still ticking? “What's it going to take, huh? Did you really break already? I can think of more ways to get you to react, my little toy. And trust me, you're not going to like any of them,” he giggled again. “We've got literally forever. I'm going to kill you again, and again, and again. Scream for me some more, huh? Frisk won't scream now. Come on, I'm getting bored! Scream for help, why don't you?”

“H-help,” he wheezed, almost in a laugh. Like help would ever come.

“Louder!” Flowey shook him. “That's not how you scream for help; this is how you scream for help!”

He was helpless to do anything but watch as vines constricted around Frisk tightly and they screamed in pain as thorns jabbed into their flesh. He kicked futilely and thrashed and fought, shouting himself hoarse, yelling words he didn't even think about.

PAPYRUS!

 

That's who you call for?” Flowey mocked him with a little shake, grinning. “Ooh, look at the big bad skeleton, crying for his useless brother-

 

Sans blinked.

The ticking.

Just barely, but he could hear it.

Ticking.

 

No.

Not ticking. It was almost like bone.

It was like the sound of... chipping?

 

It was utterly silent for a moment.

And then, Sans was rocked by a massive explosion.

 

Shredded vines blasted through the air, disintegrating before they hit the ground, withered and brown. A gigantic hole had been blown through the wall of vines, light pouring in through the barrier and illuminating the dark. And there, in the midst of the chaos and carnage with flapping scarf and a conjured femur held like a sword in one hand, stood Papyrus.

 

“Say, 'bud',' Papyrus stepped into the dark room without a moment's hesitation. “I'm gonna have to ask you to 'leaf' them alone.”

“Papyrus?!” Flowey gawked at him, mouth hanging open. “How did – wait. Did... did you just...?”
“I just,” Papyrus said, hurtling his bone at a ferocious speed through the air. Vines flew up in front of his screened face, but it wasn't where Papyrus was even aiming, although several stray bones bolted into the vines and jutted out at wild angles. Sans felt himself fall through the air as the vines constricting him were sliced down. His head felt heavy like it was full of water and he couldn't stand, but Papyrus was there with a gentle touch to help him to his knees. Another whipped bone attack sent Frisk falling through the air and Papyrus caught them deftly, the shaking child sobbing silently in his arms.

 

“... So,” Papyrus started as Flowey pulled the vines from his face, drawing up one of his massive viny arms into the air to ready an attack. “You hurt my friends. You hurt my family. You really, really shouldn't have done that.”

Papyrus nodded to Sans, and he got the picture. Sans summoned the last dregs of magic that he could manage, and instead of using it in an attack, he sent it coursing down his arm and into Papyrus's gloved hand. Papyrus shuddered with a gasp for a moment before immediately nodding again and casting out his arm toward the abomination.

 

“Flowey,” Papyrus said slowly. “I'm a pretty firm believer that everyone can be a good person. But you? I don't think that I really believe in you anymore.”

“Do you even know who you're talking to?” Flowey scoffed as the exit was sealed over by fresh vines. Papyrus's arm was glowing with a sharp blue light that cast dancing shadows over everything, somehow even making the thing that Flowey had turned into seem even more menacing.

“What have you done with the king?”

“That old fool?” Flowey cackled as more vines replaced the ones that had been cut down. “What even is a king, compared to a god?”

“What is a god to a nonbeliever?” Papyrus said without missing a beat. He threw out his arm and Flowey sent up a half dozen vines to block the attack-

 

Except that Papyrus didn't throw bones.

Six blue souls were suddenly ejected violently from Flowey, bursting out of the fleshy vines and tubes as he screamed in agony, green viscera flowing from the wounds. The souls were pulled directly to Papyrus and they floated wildly around him for a moment. Frisk gawked at the sight as they gently fell into a slowly spinning circle around them, light pouring brightly from them and almost making the child glow before them.

 

Flowey screamed in rage, the face on the screen contorting violently from face to face.

“You think this changes anything?” he laughed manically. “I'll just reset and... and...”

The face on the screen suddenly began to sweat.

“Go on,” Papyrus conjured another bone and twirled it through his fingers. “As you were saying?
“This is impossible!” Flowey bellowed, the whole room shaking. “I've killed you hundreds of times!”

“Yes, that may be true,” Papyrus swung upward without taking his eyes off the screen, slashing right through one of the massive vines. The remainder of it came crashing to the ground behind them as Papyrus hurtled his bone weapon directly into yet another set of vines, sending them crashing to the ground. “But have we ever fought?

“I killed you-!”

“Nyeh heh heh. That would be a no, then,” Papyrus said calmly, using his magic to summon a shield of bones surrounding Sans and Frisk. “You see, I usually believe that everyone deserves a fair fight, but I learned from someone that I love very much that sometimes it's best to not fight fair at all.”

 

One of Flowey's enormous arm like vines flew up into the air and screwed downward at a spiral toward Papyrus, ready to crush him-

Instead, Papyrus deftly grabbed Sans by the shoulder and pulled him and Frisk to the left, keeping them firmly out of danger.

“Would you hold still?!” Flowey screamed in rage, screen thrashing left and right as Papyrus dodged one slam after another. The skeleton nimbly leapt up onto the massive vine, orange fire burning in his right eye. “I'll kill you, I'll kill everyone you love!

Flowey slammed one of his other vines at Papyrus, but the skeleton only slipped further up the vine and watched as green gore splattered across the floor from the strike.

 

“You can't do this!” Flowey whined viciously, scowling at him. “Who do you think you are?!

“I,” Papyrus stormed up the vine toward the screen, clutched fists crackling with overflowing magic. “Am the Great – fucking – PAPYRUS!

And with that, Papyrus reeled back his fist and punched Flowey in the face.

The screen exploded in a collision of glass and bone and fleshy matter and magic, splattering over as he fell through the air. Vines collapsed all around them and turned to dust and ash, falling like dark snowflakes. There was a violent flash of light and Sans covered his eye sockets to keep from being blinded.

 

When he opened his eyes, the vines surrounding them were all turning to dust, some of them withering slowly and drooping to the ground. Sans saw Papyrus kneeling gently over the little sobbing flower, one arm tucked to his side. The flower was wilting horribly and half of his petals were torn off, his face leaking green goo. Papyrus cupped the flower in one hand, looking down at him sadly.

 

“Th-that w-was... so... cool,” Flowey giggled madly as the last few of his petals turned to dust. “Oh my god, Papyrus. I knew you had it in you.”

“I'm... I'm so sorry, little friend,” Papyrus said softly, cupping the dying creature in one hand. “I'm so sorry. I... I couldn't save you from yourself.”

“You... always were...” Flowey wheezed as he faded away. “My... favorite... toy.

 

Flowey turned to dust in Papyrus's hand, and soon all that was left was dancing ashes through the air.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Papyrus knelt with one arm tucked against his side, unmoving for the longest time.

 

“... Hey,” Sans managed to drag himself toward his brother, despite feeling as if he could take a hundred year nap. “Bro. Gotta say... that-that was pretty boss.”

“Do you think...” Papyrus said softly as the dust and flecks of plant matter drifted through his fingers. “Do you think that... maybe... he could have been good, Sans?”

“Not anymore,” he responded darkly, placing a hand on Papyrus's shoulder. “That... thing was about as far from good as he could possibly get.”

Papyrus only sighed and shook his head slowly. He glanced over to see Frisk peeking from around Sans, their eyes wide as saucers. They hesitated for a moment, but only for a moment, before bolting to him and wrapping their arms around his neck. Papyrus cringed as if in pain, but gently patted the back of their head as they silently sobbed against him.

 

“It's alright, Frisk,” Papyrus said softly. “It's okay.”

This only caused them to cry harder, clinging desperately to him. Sans shifted from foot to foot for a moment before Papyrus sighed and nodded him over, letting Sans join in on the hug. Papyrus flinched again and let out a hiss through his teeth, and Sans looked at him with uncertainty.

 

“It's fine,” Papyrus said through his teeth and shook his head. “You should see to the king, Sans.”

Sans had almost completely forgotten about him. He didn't even see the lump of motionless figure until Papyrus pointed him out, laying amongst the rubble in the dark. Sans forced himself forward with trepidation, feeling almost as if he were still in a dream. If all of this were a dream, he certainly wasn't ready to awaken just yet. He was fearful, though, that he would be walking over the king's dust and find nothing but his royal garb lying on the ground, but instead, to his immense relief, he found the king lying face down. He groaned quietly when Sans cautiously placed a sweaty hand on his head.

 

“... Sans?” Asgore rumbled, sitting up slowly as the skeleton helped him. “What... what happened?”

“That depends,” Sans answered quietly. “How much do you remember?”

“I... I remember...” Asgore started uncertainly. “Something... grabbed me,” he felt for invisible cords around his neck, and Sans saw that there was indeed a terrible gash across his throat from where he had been yanked away. “And it was... dark. I think I saw a flash of light...? I am sorry, I... can't quite seem to remember.”

Sans let out a quiet breath, still feeling shaky. He felt as if he hadn't slept in years. At least that was some consolation. Asgore, at the very least, wouldn't be haunted by the horrible images of what had occurred.

 

“ASGORE DREEMURR!”

The king flinched immediately upon hearing the familiar voice, struggling to stand. Sans was helping him to his feet when he heard her, and he almost collapsed upon hearing the voice. Bright, flickering flames were wrapped around her clenched fists as she stormed through the broken entrance to the room containing the barrier, sending shadows dancing around them.

 

“T-Tori?”

“Don't you 'Tori' me, Dreemurr!” the caprine woman snapped angrily, stomping straight through rapidly decaying plant matter without even missing a stride. “You aren't to lay a single finger on that child!”

“I know you,” Sans balked, almost too afraid to believe it. “I know that voice...!”

“Oh!” Toriel blinked, adjusting her violet robe after a moment, her face softening when she blinked and glanced down at him. “I recognize yours as well. Would you happen to be my skeleton friend, perchance?”

“Hey, don't let me hold you up,” he shrugged and took a step away from the king, who looked very much as if he had just been thrown under the bus. “Looks like you got a bone to pick with the big guy.”

Toriel snickered, which made his soul soar. There was already too much to deal with right now, and the fact that the woman he had been telling jokes to for so long was the long missing queen was way, way too much to handle right now. The queen was here. The freaking queen. He turned back towards Papyrus, who was still kneeling at an awkward angle with Frisk and holding them with one arm, but was interrupted before he could even make it to his brother.

 

“Nobody fight anybody!” Undyne crashed in through the wrecked opening, armor gleaming as she brandished a spear. “Or I'll be forced to-! To... to, uh... Uh.”

“Uh?” Sans egged her with a weary grin. “C'mon, man. Finish your sentences.”

“What happened in here?” Undyne balked as skittering footsteps sounded down the corridor behind her, lowering her glowing spear as she stared around at the wreckage, the chunks of sliced stone missing from the walls and ceiling. She stepped in a pile of swiftly disintegrating vines, kicking disgustedly at it.

“Oh, not much,” Papyrus answered her calmly. “Normal day. Got up, had some coffee, punched a god in the face. Same old, same old.”

“U-U-Undyne, w-wait!” Alphys stumbled over her feet awkwardly behind Undyne, bumping right into her. “We h-have to... to... the human... yikes,” Alphys let out a whistling breath through her teeth. “W-what happened?”

“Do I have to tell it again?” Papyrus answered tiredly, the lines beneath his eye sockets more pronounced than ever. “Because I'm not sure that I have the energy.”

“Are you alright, my child?” Toriel knelt before Frisk. Frisk hugged them immediately, drying their eyes with their sleeve and nodding a couple of times. They still looked so pale. So frail.

But alive.

They were alive.

 

Like it was all just a bad dream.

Sans slipped away from the chattering monsters and slid down against one of the walls, feeling the coarse stone against his back through his jacket. His eye sockets started to droop almost right away. He was so tired. So exhausted. All he wanted to do was rest. He felt like he hadn't had that opportunity in years. He almost did fall asleep amidst the excitement were it not for Frisk, who gently pulled at his hand. He blinked drowsily a few times as they wordlessly pulled at him, and he nodded once to let them understand that even though he didn't say it, he would follow regardless. He would follow them to the ends of the earth if he had to.

“What is it, babybones?” Sans asked quietly. Why weren't they speaking? Frisk only shook their head and drew him closer to the barrier. His footsteps echoed a little as they retreated from the group, and he gazed upon the massive barrier locking them all within their prison.

 

And then Frisk did the unexpected. They shaped their hands into a little heart over their chest, taking a long, slow, steady breath and let it out, and when they did there was an eruption of color as the souls poured from them, spinning and swirling. Sans stood back in shock, unable to comprehend what he was seeing.

Frisk was a human.

Humans can't absorb human souls.

 

They pointed their forefinger at the barrier with their hand shaped like a gun, and for a very brief moment he could have sworn that he heard them quietly say pew. The souls tore into the barrier and vanished from sight, and for a moment, nothing happened. Then he saw what was like a crack in reality where the barrier had once stood, splitting and rippling like a stone dropped in a pond.

And just like that, the barrier was gone.

 

Frisk almost dropped and he rushed to their side, propping them up with their arm slung around his shoulder.

“H-holy shitballs,” Sans spluttered, unable to believe his eye sockets. If he hadn't seen it for himself he definitely wouldn't have believed it. He could hear birdsong not too far away, rustling wind and chirrups of crickets. This was possibly because he didn't hear the others anymore, and couldn't bring himself to speak as the crowd of curious monsters peered up at the place where the barrier had once been.

 

“... It's gone,” Asgore said simply. “The barrier is... gone.

“Frisk did it,” Sans breathed, his legs barely holding him up, let alone the both of them. “Frisk actually did it. We're... we're free.

“I, er... s-suppose that I should apologize for, um. Trying to kill you,” Asgore tapped his fingers together nervously beneath Toriel's withering glare. Frisk just shook their head with a tired little smile, their eyes full of forgiveness. “You are... quite merciful. For a human,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“It's gone,” Alphys stuttered quietly, standing beside Undyne and readjusting and cleaning her glasses multiple times pointlessly. “It's gone, oh my god it's actually gone, the barrier is gone...!

“Dude, is that your ex?” Undyne whispered a little too loudly to Asgore. Asgore swallowed dryly and nodded, looking extremely uncomfortable from the unwavering stare that Toriel was giving him. “Harsh, bro.”

 

Undyne cleared her throat and dissipated her spear, bowing cordially before the queen.

“Nice to meet you, your majesty,” Undyne gave her a huge grin. “So, what brings you here?”

“Word travels rather quickly in the Underground,” Toriel said simply. “When I heard that Dreemurr here had arrived in Snowdin,” she crossed her arms, and Asgore resumed looking at a much more interesting spot between his feet. “I came as quickly as I could manage to stop him from doing something foolhardy and stupid. Which he was apparently just about to do.”

“I did say that I was sorry,” Asgore shifted nervously, her eyes burning a hole through him.

“Which wouldn't have happened at all,” Sans interjected venemously. “If somebody hadn't sold us out.”

“... What are you starin' at me like that for?” Undyne balked at him.

“Don't give me that crap! Why did you tell Asgore?”

“I didn't-!” Undyne sputtered, stamping a foot against the ground. “I-I mean, uh, y-your majesty, I, I, uh...”

“Did everybody but me know about the human?” Asgore clapped a large hand to his forehead.

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe that was for a good reason?” Toriel quipped coldly, causing the king to flinch again. He looked like an overgrown schoolchild, twiddling with his thumbs as if he had just been caught passing notes to another student.

 

“So... then how did you know?” Sans tried and failed to stifle a yawn. God, he was so tired.

“Oh,” Asgore blinked. “A nice little flower monster told me.”

If Sans weren't already so exhausted and worn out, he could have screamed.

“If everyone is quite finished catching up,” Papyrus said pointedly, still holding his arm close to his chest. “Frisk has been trying to get our attention.”

Sans blinked and glanced down at the child beside him. They hadn't said a single word, but they were indeed nodding toward the opening where the warm orange glow was flooding in. Sans pocketed his questions and followed numbly, drifting along the floor as he was gently pulled along.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“It's... more beautiful than I remember,” Asgore said softly as the collection of monsters stood on the precipice of the cliff, staring out over the horizon.

“It truly is a gorgeous sight,” Toriel agreed, standing as far from him as she possibly could.

“What's that big orange thing?” Papyrus squinted in the dusk light. “It's... very pretty.”

“We call that the sun, bro,” Sans answered quietly. “Nice to finally get you introduced.”

“Oh. How quaint! Hello, sun!” Papyrus beamed up at the glowing orb.

Obviously, the sun did not reply.

 

“Its'... it's so big out here,” Alphys tapped her claws nervously, fiddling with something in her pocket. Very likely her phone, but Sans didn't have the energy to ask. “It just looks like it goes on f-forever...”

“That's because it does, remember?” Sans tucked one hand into his pocket, still holding Frisk's hand in his other. “We've got the whole wide world open to us now. And it's all thanks to this munckin,” he ruffled Frisk's hair, and although they looked a little annoyed they smiled back at him wordlessly. Why didn't they speak? Didn't they have anything to say? He would have thought that they would have so much more to tell them, but still, they just said... nothing. Nothing at all. It was making him supremely uneasy.

 

“So...” Papyrus said after a while of silence. “I hate to be a buzzkill, but would anyone happen to have a spare bandage on them?”

“Why, bro?” Sans blinked and glanced up at the skeleton beside him. “You get a scratch or Jesus titty fucking Christ!

Sans felt so supremely stupid that he hadn't even noticed why Papyrus had been holding his arm so close to his chest.

Or what was left of his arm, anyway.

 

“I, er... can't really look at it,” Papyrus said with a frown. “Because I am definitely leaking marrow, and if I see that again I'm definitely going to faint and it will totally ruin my big hero moment.”

“You are injured?” Toriel took him by the shoulder instantly, guiding him over to sit by an old oak. “How did this happen? Did Dreemurr do this?!”

“No, it's fine,” Papyrus tried to insist, but was forcibly pushed back down as emerald light flooded from her fingertips, and Papyrus pointedly looked away. “I, er, had a little... disagreement with someone that I thought was a friend.”

“Disagreement?” Toriel gaped at him. “Your arm's off!”

“It's only a flesh wound,” Papyrus said uncomfortably. “Or. Um. Lack thereof.”

Toriel snorted as she healed him.

 

“... Oh god, now I'm making puns,” Papyrus sighed and closed his eye sockets, leaning his head back against the tree. “See, Sans? I told you that you were a terrible influence on me.”

“You've got me there, bro,” Sans said softly.

Papyrus's arm was... difficult to look at, to say the least. For a skeleton, broken bones were possibly one of the most terrifying things to witness, but seeing what punching that demented flower had done to him was... awful. His arm was completely gone almost up to the elbow, marrow spattering his battle body. Sans felt a little sick just looking at it, but he felt Frisk's firm but gentle grip in his hand draw him away.

 

“This... changes a great many things,” Asgore said quietly as he stared out over the mountains and forests, to the glimmering sea and the city beside it. “This changes so much. Perhaps... perhaps everything.”

“Say,” Undyne cleared her throat, nodding towards Papyrus. “You remember the guy I was telling you about?” she grinned widely. “That's him. So, whaddya think? Royal guard material, or what?”

Papyrus perked up instantly, eye sockets snapping open.

“I would be delighted to have you in the royal guard,” Asgore said intantly.

“This is it,” Papyrus wept openly. “This is the greatest day of my entire life.”

“However...” Asgore coughed into one large hand. “I believe that it would be... very unwise to wage war with humanity once again. The royal guard no longer has need of capturing humans, and would therefore be disbanded.”
“This is it,” Papyrus wept openly. “This is the worst day of my entire life.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

They set up camp a short while before the sun began to set.

 

Papyrus was tended to personally by the queen, and Alphys peppered him with question after question almost the entire time, but he didn't seem to mind. In fact, he rather appeared to be annoyed by the constant attention rather than basking in it.

Careful what you wish for, I guess.

 

Papyrus joined them a while later as the others toasted drinks around the campfire. He sidled down on Sans's opposite side after petting Frisk gently on the head with his only remaining hand.

Sans shifted with his back against one of the worn old oaks, never letting go of Frisk's hand. He had to fight to keep from staring at his brother's injury. Papyrus had lost so much just trying to protect them. And what had Sans given? He wasn't a hero like him. He was so far removed from 'hero' that he couldn't begin to imagine being in his brother's position.

 

“... So,” Papyrus clenched and unclenched his fist over his leg, giving a heavy sigh. “I suppose that the royal guard just sort of waters flowers now. Call me crazy, but I'm not exactly big on taking care of plants at the moment.”

“So does that mean you turned down the king?” Sans blinked in surprise, hardly able to stay awake.

“Of course not, he's the king,” Papyrus threw out an arm in exasperation. “So much for being the dashing hero fighting off hordes of humans.”

“Bro, are you kidding me right now?” Sans couldn't help but chuckle. “You'll be beating 'em off with a stick, no doubt. Showers of kisses for you every morning, no doubt 'bout it.”

“You really think so?” Papyrus leaned with his elbow on his knees.

“Of course, bro. After everybody hears about what a hero you are-”

“I don't quite consider myself that,” he answered softly, looking away. “I... killed my friend. Yes, he did something terrible, but...”

“Don't,” Sans started, placing his free hand on his shoulder. “If you doubt yourself and keep guessing what if, you'll never, ever be able to let it go. Just... just trust me on this one. You're a goddamned hero, Paps. And I am never gonna let you forget it,” he added with a wink.

Papyrus started to respond but was stopped when Frisk leaned over Sans and gently put their tiny hand over his with a smile. He sighed and shook his head, closing his mouth and letting out a sigh through his teeth.

 

After a moment of not releasing him, he realized that Frisk was prodding Sans as well, and they both looked up and felt like their whole world was reeling once again.

 

Stars.

There were so many stars.

 

“... Whoa,” Sans let out a shaky breath.

“Understatement of the century, brother,” Papyrus whispered, looking ready to start crying again. “It's... stars and stones. It's so... beautiful.

“Told you,” Sans heard Chara's familiar tone, their voice almost soft enough to be confused for Frisk's if he didn't know the difference. He didn't want to glance away from the sight of infinity before him to know that their eyes had changed again. “The sun, and the moon, and all the stars in the night sky.”

“What you've given us really is an irreplaceable gift, little one,” Papyrus wiped his eye sockets with his arm, beaming down at them. “I'm... I don't know if I told you, but... I'm happy that I met you.”

“Papyrus...” Chara started slowly, looking directly at him. “I think it's time that I-I told you the truth about me.”

“You mean that you're not Frisk.”

“No, that I'm-I'm, uh. What?”

“What?” Papyrus didn't even register Chara's or Sans's outright shock. “You thought I wouldn't figure it out? Why does everyone assume that I'm dumb?”

“I – you're – how?” Chara spluttered.

“The inflection in your tone, for one,” he pointed out. “What? Did you think it was just a coincidence that I never once called you Frisk while your eyes were red? I know you aren't Frisk. But you're still family,” he said warmly, placing a hand over their head gently with a kind smile. “And I'm glad that you are.”

 

Sans couldn't even bring himself to speak for the longest time.

“Whelp,” Papyrus stood after a while. “Alphys is going to roast marshmallows for everyone, and I promised that I would help make smores. Come join us when you're ready, alright?”

Sans could only nod silently. There was simply no way that his body could take any more shock today. He just wouldn't make it. He could only watch as Papyrus happily rejoined the others, chatting amicably amongst them like he had never left.

 

And then Sans started laughing.

He just couldn't hold it in anymore. He wans't certain of why he was laughing, and he only shook his head when he felt Frisk's grip on his hand tighten a little. Frisk, Chara, he didn't know. Maybe it didn't matter. Maybe it never did.

But so long as he had Papyrus, so long as he had his little babybones, then somehow or another they could make things work. And he wanted it to work, he wanted it so badly that it burned inside his chest. But for that, he had to try. More than that, he had to want to try, and keep doing it. Frisk hugged him around the belly and he held them closer, closing his eyes as his wild chuckles died down. Maybe things would be okay. And maybe, if he tried harder than he had ever tried in his entire life, then maybe, just maybe, someday he could be a good person, too.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

End Of Book One

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“It isn't going to be an easy matter,” Asgore spoke before the assembled monsters and single human child, staring up at the sun in the dawn sky. “But I have faith that we can manage.”

 

They all sat on logs surrounding the campfire, the early morning breeze ruffling gently over them. Sans wanted nothing more than to return to his shared tent with Papyrus and Frisk and sleep for just a couple more years, but he forced himself to remain and listen to the king as he briefed them all on their mission. Frisk sat wordlessly between the skeletons, looking about from person to person as they spoke.

 

“So how are we supposed to do this?” Undyne shifted uneasily, having removed her armor in favor of a pair of jeans and a tank top, sitting cross legged on one of the logs that she had personally cut down. Alphys was staring pointlessly at her knees with a pink tinge to her cheeks, glancing up at the warrior every now and then. “We can't just stroll right into the human city and expect everything to work out.”

“Actually,” Asgore responded quietly. “That is exactly what we plan to do.”

If he was expecting any kind of reply, he was sorely mistaken.

 

“... You've gotta be kidding me,” Sans balked at him.

“This is not the time for tomfoolery,” Asgore said seriously, crossing his arms. “There are few among us that could possibly pass for humans for long, and you are the best candidate in that venture. I am hereby charging you with the mission to-”

“Asgore, you can't be serious,” Toriel said in exasperation. “You can't possibly expect that to work.”

“Am I at least allowed to finish?” Asgore frowned a little huffily. “Sans. You are possibly the best that we have in the field of infiltration. I need you to requisition supplies, but should anything go wrong you are hereby ordered to flee the city without hesitation. The very last thing that we want is to cause a panic.”

“Well, you've... thought it out, at least...” Toriel said in dissatisfaction.

“I would also like you to take the human Frisk with you on this mission,” Asgore continued quietly, leaning forward on the log and folding his hands over his massive knees. “Perhaps if the humans see that their kind and monsters can peacefully coexist, there will be a lowered possibility of potential violence.”

“... You want me to take the kid as a freakin' shield?” Sans balked at him, fighting to keep his temper in check.

 

“Nothing so... drastic,” Asgore tapped his fingertips together nervously from the absolutely boiling look that Toriel was giving him. “I just believe that it would be better for everyone involved if you were to take the human with you.”

“And what does Frisk have to say about this?” Papyrus asked quietly, his arm still in the sling that Toriel had made for him. He looked down to the child awaiting their response. Instead of speaking, they simply gave him a small smile and slowly took Sans's hand in their own, determination in their eyes.

 

“... Guess that's that, huh,” Sans shrugged. “A'ight. We'll go on recon, I guess. You ready for this, Frisky-bits?”

Frisk simply swallowed and nodded, taking a slow, shaking breath before beaming up at him, giving his hand a little squeeze.

 

And here we go.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The gleaming seaside city stood before them, a monument to the technological advancement of humanity. Sans didn't really think he'd ever see it in his lifetime. He kept expecting to wake up back in Snowdin, looking out through his familiar little window at the constant snowfall, and yet the warm seaside weather beckoned them further. Frisk gripped Sans's hand tightly as they walked, but still they were completely silent. He couldn't particularly say that he was all that surprised. After the unspeakable... things that the demented flower had done with them, done to them and forced him to watch...

But Frisk carried on regardless, and they did it with a smile. Like it had never even happened. Like they hadn't lain broken beyond repair before him, covered in blood. They kept going, no matter what. They really were so much stronger than him.

 

The forest ever so slowly began to give way to paved paths, the tall spruces and pines becoming thinner as they descended the mountain and traversed the roads. Soon trees and bushes began to give way to more paved roads and houses on the outskirts of the city. There were a growing number of houses and apartments with neat little lawns, but they passed right by them. Sans kept his hood up as a couple of cars passed, but thankfully nobody seemed to notice. He simply held onto Frisk and carried on, his mind feeling heavy with thoughts and plans. They needed this to work.

 

Frisk paused by a wooden bus stop, looking fearfully about for a few moments. Sans stopped with them, gently rubbing his thumb over the back of their hand.

“... You okay, buddy?” Sans asked quietly. Instead of answering, Frisk checked nervously around, dancing from foot to foot. “Frisk? Come on, kiddo. Talk to me here.”

Frisk openend and closed their mouth a few times, flushing pink and turning away from him, shamefaced. It... hurt, that they wouldn't speak. He'd heard Chara talk. Why wouldn't they?

Actually, he had a pretty good idea.

He had to fight to keep his fists from clenching. That damned flower.

He really wished that Papyrus hadn't killed it.

Only because he wanted to slow roast it over an open fire.

 

Frisk drew him over by the bus stop, glancing back every now and then at Mount Ebott in the distance. Sans stared up at the mountain, hardly able to believe his eyes. It wasn't all that long ago that they were all beneath the mammoth of earth, buried and trapped. And here they were, looking up into the sky with the breeze on their faces, enjoying the bright morning sunlight. It all just felt so... impossible. Sans quietly wondered how long it would be before the next reset.

 

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sans froze upon hearing the rough voice. Frisk stiffened considerably beside him, instinctively shifting a little behind him. “I asked for sausage, you troglodyte!”

“Look, man,” Sans stared at the blonde man with short spiky hair standing on one of the apartment doorsteps. “I'm really sorry about the mix up. Are you sure you don't still want the pizza-?”

No I don't want your fucking pizza!” the bearded man standing in the apartment doorway screamed at the blonde person with a square pack slung over his back. “I'm not paying for shit unless you get my order right, dumbass!”

And with that the door was slammed roughly in the blonde man's face. He sighed quietly, placing the box back into his pack and turning on the spot, marching down to a worn down, beaten up red car. He paused for a moment as he realized that Sans and Frisk were staring at him only a few feet away.

 

“... Sorry about that,” the blonde man with the pointy nose rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “The pizza's really not bad, some people are just-just... uh...”

It took him a moment as he stared fully at Sans, peering into the darkness under his drawn up hood to see his skeletal face. Then he slowly pinched his arm, looking back and forth between his arm and the skeleton.

 

“Yo,” Sans said, causing the man to jump a little.

“Okay,” the blonde man ran a hand over his short, spiky hair. “Okay. So this is happening. Are, uh... are you real?”

“The last time I checked I was,” Sans answered quietly. Frisk was almost hiding behind him, and his grip on them tightened defensively.

“... Cool,” he shrugged after a moment. “Well, I've got a pizza here that nobody's eating, and you look like you're skin and bones. Or, uh, just bones, actually.”

Sans snorted a little at that.

 

The first human aside from Frisk that they met, and he was telling jokes. Maybe humans weren't so bad after all.

“The name's Blake, by the way,” Blake pulled the pizza from his pack, sitting down on the doorstep and holding it open on his lap. “Blake Roudy. Hope you guys like pepperoni, 'cause that's all I've got. Plenty, actually.”

“Sounds good to me,” Sans drew Frisk a little closer as they sat on the step next to him, and Blake passed them each a piece of the pie. “The name's Sans, by the way. And this little monster is Frisk. Good to meetcha, buddy.”

“Same here,” Blake grinned at him through a mouthful of pizza. “So...” he said after he'd swallowed. “I can't help but notice that you're, uh... not exactly human.”

“No, not really,” Sans shrugged lightly. “You're not really reactin' the way I'd expected, to be honest.”

“What?” Blake shrugged in return. “I think it's mostly shock. I'm sure I'll start freaking out later. And here I thought monsters didn't exist.”

“You'd be surprised,” Sans grinned at him. He held out a hand and Blake took it without hesitation. And then the whoopie cushion in his hand went off. Sans held up the toy with a smirk, and Blake just shook his head and laughed.

“Oh, man. Really? You're so mature.”

At the very least the human seemed to have a decent sense of humor.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Sans noticed Frisk flinch sharply at the voice. The bearded man stood directly behind them, glowering down at them. “You're just going to-!”

 

He couldn't quite seem to finish his sentence as he saw San's head slowly turn toward him, a dimly glowing blue light in his left eye. Then the man slowly retreated without turning, closing the door. Sans heard several locks click and clunk into place, and he couldn't help but chuckle.

“See, that's the kind of reaction I was expectin',” Sans shrugged again, finishing off his pizza slice. “Can't wait for the others to get such a warm welcome.”

“Others?” Blake blinked, putting the rest of the pizza in his pack and zipping it up. “There are more skeletons just hanging around?”

“Just one other, actually,” Sans said quietly. “My brother. They're, uh, kind of waiting on us to get back.”

“Need a lift?” Blake nodded toward his beaten up red car.

“I'd... actually appreciate that,” Sans smiled a little.

“Coolio. Hop in, dude,” he drew himself up and twirled a small key ring out of his pocket through his fingers.

“Maybe...” Sans started quietly as he sent a quick message on his phone. “Yeah. I think you'll do just fine.”

“Not sure exactly what that means, man, but it sounded way ominious.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Ho~ly crap.

 

“Guys,” Sans gestured to the monsters surrounding the campfire as Alphys and Undyne toasted marshmallows. “This is Blake.”

The blonde man stood in utter awe of the collected monsters as Asgore slowly approached him, drawing himself up to his full height. He was several heads higher than the human, and he seemed to notice this, and he lowered his horned head a little with a smile.

“Salutations,” Asgore rumbled, holding out his hand. Blake's own hand seemed so comparatively small in Asgore's paw as he shook his hand. “You must be the human that Sans informed us of.”

“You're monsters,” Blake said in shock. “You're... you're literally all monsters.”

“That gonna be a problem?” Undyne leered at him, crossing her arms.

“Nope, no problems here,” Blake held up his hands defensively, smiling back nervously. “Just kind of freaking out right now. This is kind of some life changing stuff, so please give me a minute to adjust.”

“Please take all the time that you need,” Toriel said kindly, standing beside Asgore.

“Thank you, miss...?”

“You may call me Toriel,” she responded elegantly, bowing her head a little and folding her hands over themselves in front of her dress. “It has been a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Mister Roudy.”

“Oh, please, just call me Blake!” Blake beamed up at her, running a hand over his spiked hair. “And it's nice to meet you too, Toriel.”

“This is Alphys,” Undyne jabbed a thumb at the nervous scientist.

“H-h-hi...?” Alphys waved a claw at him.

 

“So what exactly are you guys all doing out here?” Blake asked as he passed around the pizzas, eventually sticking his hands in his pockets and looking from person to person. “I'm kinda still in the dark here, Sans didn't explain much on the car ride here.”

“We were recently freed from out prison by the human Frisk,” Asgore explained quietly as he inspected the pizza slice. Frisk nodded wordlessly at this, and Blake blinked.

“... Prison?” he shifted awkwardly.

“Under the mountain,” Sans explained. “Monsters are free now.”

“Whoa,” Blake breathed. “So, like, there's even more of you? I thought that all of those old stories about monsters under the mountain were just myths, but...”

“Here we are,” Papyrus greeted him warmly. “We are quite real, I assure you.”

“Sorry, man,” Blake laughed nervously. “This is still kind of a lot to take in. Meeting all of you guys, and royalty, and monsters being real. This is a lot to take in.”

“We understand if you would like to take time to process all of this,” Toriel said gently.

“And you guys have just been out here camping in the woods since you got out?”

“Pretty much,” Undyne shrugged.

“Okay,” Blake clapped his hands together. “Okay. That settles it. Camping sucks, and you dudes deserve better. You guys are all invited to my place until you can get your own places.”

 

This was met by absolute dead silence.

It would appear that they would all be visiting the human city much earlier than they expected.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Blake did not have a large vehicle.

It was decided that Sans, Papyrus and Frisk would go in one trip, while Undyne, Alphys and Toriel would be the next. Asgore would receive travel last, as that would give him ample time. Plus, he took up a lot of room.

 

“I will return to my people for now,” Asgore informed them all, waving everyone goodbye. “I trust that they are in good hands, human Blake.”

“Just don't let things get too crazy and you'll be fine,” Sans gave him a thumbs up as he helped Papyrus into Blake's small car. “I expect everyone is gonna be pretty thrilled about the barrier.”

“And understatement if I ever heard one,” Asgore shook his head slowly. “I shall return as swiftly as I can and join you all afterwards.”

 

Asgore stood behind by himself, gazing up at the mountain as Sans watched the world speed away.

 

It took roughly twenty minutes to go from the woody forest to Blake's abode.

“And here we go,” Blake shifted in his seat for a moment, staring up from the shade of the buildings. “Not necessarily the Ritz, but it's not bad, either.”

“You own all of this?” Papyrus stared up at the building. Blake snorted and shook his head, opening the back door for the skeleton.

“Nah. Just a little flat. Apartments aren't exactly, uh, the biggest, but I'm sure I've got room for everybody.”

 

Sans marched in silence the entire way, Frisk clinging tightly to his hand. They traversed a couple of flights of metal stairs and Blake fished in his pocket for a moment before digging out a key ring and unlocking the door. There wasn't much of a view from the balcony except of the car lot, but just over the edge of the buildings Sans could see the city stretching away before him. There was simply so much now, so much to explore.

He didn't have the energy for any of that. There was still so much on his mind, still so much to process. It was, quite simply, utterly overwhelming.

 

As it turned out, Blake did not necessarily have a large apartment, either. They entered through a tidy little kitchen which connected to a small living room where a single, worn old recliner sat beside a small sofa, but Sans's eyes were solely on the bean bag chair. A slim hallway lead down to a couple of dark rooms, but he was too tired to investigate. He dropped onto it and half expected a whoopie cushion noise, though he wasn't entirely certain on why. Perhaps his mind was just still too frazzled from recent events. He could still see that damned smug, self satisfied smirk every time that he closed his eye sockets. It was awful enough on its own, but what was he supposed to do? He heard Frisk clambering up onto the sofa nervously, but didn't open his eyes.

“Just make yourselves at home,” Blake gestured a little lamely about at the place, noting that Papyrus was gazing about in wide eyed wonder. “I'll run back and pick up the others. 'Till then, uh, I guess the television works. Don't really have much except for old Disney flicks.”

“... What's a Disney flick?” Papyrus blinked.

“... Oh my god,” Blake's grin slowly grew as he clapped him on the shoulder. “You, my friend, are in for a treat. Help yourselves to anything you'd like. Be back in about twenty.”

“You got it, boss,” Sans gave a sleepy thumbs up without opening his eyes.

 

He was going to say something else before he passed out, but was interrupted by something very large and very heavy landing in his lap. He cracked an eye socket to stare at what was possibly the fattest house cat that he had ever seen, covered in orange fur with little white stripes.

“Guess I forgot to introduce Crisco,” Blake sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck, his one earring flashing in the dim light. “He usually doesn't like visitors much.”

'Crisco' was purring loudly in Sans's lap, rolling over onto his back and kicking his stubby little legs in the air with a pleased expression on his face. Sans absentmindedly scratched at his belly with his fingertips, causing the cat to wriggle a bit and almost fall out of his lap a couple of times.

“... Weird,” Blake shrugged. “He's not much of a guard dog.”

“Maybe because he's a cat?” Papyrus proffered helpfully. Blake only laughed and shook his head, waving them all goodbye as he turned on the spot with a mock salute to the side of his head, marching away. They were left in silence for a little while, and Sans had almost fallen asleep when he was prodded awake.

 

“Whuzzat?” he forced his aching eye sockets open.

“Sans.” Papyrus said seriously. “What on earth is a 'Disney flick'?”

“Not a clue, bro.”

Frisk interrupted them by tugging at Papyrus's hand, and the skeleton glanced down to see the child holding up a rectangular plastic box with a picture of a mermaid on the front.

“Well,” Papyrus crossed his arm and a half. “I guess it's a start.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

It was nearly an hour before they returned.

 

Papyrus was pacing nervously by the door in little circles, glancing every now and then up at the movie at Frisk seemed to be utterly enraptured by. Sans slipped in and out of consciousness, unable to fully fall asleep, just as the previous night. Every time that he closed his eyes, he could still see-

 

- Frisk pleading for mercy as they were brutally broken in front of him over and over again. Time and time again, the bloated flower just didn't listen. Didn't care. He wasn't just torturing them out of maliciousness by this point. Sans guessed that maybe he was just doing it out of boredom. His throat felt so hoarse from screaming, feeling so utterly drained and emptied. There was no escape. Nobody would come to save them. He couldn't even save himself. He was so pathetically weak, it was his fault. He couldn't save them. He couldn't save himself. All he could do was watch until it was his turn-

 

- Split, broken, battered, torn, fractured. He could feel a piece of himself die every time that the light in their eyes slowly went out, but the flower didn't stop. It was just so... methodical. So routine. Like he'd done all of this before. He probably had. All of the timelines were crashing into each other so frequently he couldn't even keep track anymore. It was just one big blur of violence and pain, of thrashing uselessly to free himself, reaching for magic that wouldn't answer him anymore and it was just like -

 

- Being trapped in that godawful cell all over again. No outside light, no escape, no hope. But that wasn't necessarily true. So long as he had little Papyrus, it wasn't all terrible. He didn't see how the skeleton could possibly keep hoping for the best when he knew what was coming, what would inevitably happen all over again-

 

- Hearing the screams of pain as he stared down the checkered golden hall. Or was it in Snowdin? There was snow, certainly. Or maybe there wasn't. Just ash. Ash and dust cluttering the air. Watching almost like it were a film of someone else's life as his limbs were forcibly removed from his body one by one, unable to die as the demented flower pumped green healing magic into him, forcing him to live on through his broken shrieks of agony barely heard over the constant, unending laughter-

 

Sans jolted awake when he heard a sharp gasp. His eye flashed dangerously as he jerked upwards, scanning for the source of danger. Instead he saw Frisk sitting with their legs drawn up to their chin, staring with wide eyes at an apparently pivotal part in the movie. That was right. They were above ground. It was over. It was over.

Sans let out a weak, shaky laugh as he sank back down into the beanbag chair, earning a strange glance from Papyrus. The startled fat cat mrowled up at him and readjusted himself to further sink into his lap, but Sans didn't mind. It was just truly starting to sink in, and it was... too much. It was all just too much.

It was over.

The weed was gone.

It was finally gone.

 

He wanted to speak, wanted to talk to his brother, to Frisk, to anyone, but what was he even supposed to say?

So instead, he said nothing. He simply closed his eye sockets again and let out a quiet sigh, knowing full well that he certainly wasn't going to be doing any sleeping any time soon. Papyrus paced again and again until the doorknob finally ticked and turned, revealing a pleasantly surprised looking queen standing regally in the doorway.

 

“Oh. How quaint!” Toriel smiled softly as she gazed around at the little apartment.

“Like I told the others, make yourselves at home!” Blake said cheerfully, earning an odd glare from Undyne, who stood with her arms crossed behind the queen. “I've got pretty much nothing but pizza, so if you like that then I guess we're set for a while. I'm gonna head back and pick up... Asgore, right?”

“It's certainly... something,” Alphys peeked around Undyne, tapping her claws nervously. “I wish I had access to my computer right now, there's quite a f-few things I'd l-like to document...”

“I've got just the thing,” Blake snapped his fingers, crossing the threshold and moving at a brisk pace through the hallway. He returned out of breath a couple of moments later with a small laptop tucked under one arm, looking nervous over something.

 

“Just, uh... had to delete the browser history first,” he informed Alphys, somewhat uncomfortably.

“... For what?”

“No-no reason,” he shrugged, pulling his key ring from his pocket and twirling it deftly through his fingers. “Knock yourself out. I've got a couple of games on there too if you'd like.”

“So what took everyone so long?” Papyrus asked a little too loudly, unable to keep the relief out of his voice.

Somebody insisted that we stop at a little bento place,” Undyne shifted, somewhat awkwardly. “It was, uh. Kind of cool, actually.”

“Why bento?” Sans cocked a skeletal eyebrow at the blushing scientist, certain that he already knew.

“No-no reason,” Alphys shrugged.

“... What's a 'bento'?” Papyrus blinked.

“Kind of like a snack?” Undyne offered the door open for Blake, who nodded thankfully. She was very pointedly not looking at his arm, and it was taking all of her concentration. “Usually with rice, sometimes with noodles.”

“So it's spaghetti?” he blinked again.

“You... you do realize that noodles don't just come in spaghetti, right Paps?”

Papyrus did not seem to have an answer for that.

“Hey,” Blake poked his head back in through the door. “You know, if you like spaghetti, I can always pick some up.”

“You would do that?” Papyrus beamed at him joyfully.

“Uh, yeah? It's-it's not a big deal,” he laughed and shook his head as he left again. “See you guys in a bit.”

“Human internet is so fascinating,” Alphys murmured in wonder more to herself than anything as she hopped up onto the sofa beside Frisk without sparing them a second glance. She then paused for a moment, looking extremely nervous as she peered over the top of the laptop screen at Frisk.

 

“U-uh, um, h-hi,” Alphys stuck out a trembling claw, which Frisk took silently with a smile. “I d-don't think w-we've been introduced. I-I'm Alphys, A-Asgore's royal scientist.”

Frisk didn't speak.

 

“Um, a-anyway...” Alphys cringed a little at their silence, drawing herself up a little. “I'm going to find out what I can from the human internet.”

“Sounds like a solid plan,” Sans yawned and closed his eyes again. If it was anything like monster's internet then it was probably pretty boring. He heard Toriel fussing in the kitchen over Papyrus's arm, and Sans felt that well of sadness crawl up into his chest again no matter how much he tried to force it down. Papyrus had sacrificed so much for them, and he just kept on going. He was like Frisk. They were both so much stronger than him.

He... needed to be stronger.

 

Maybe it was time to pay Grillby another visit.

 

And the entire time, Sans couldn't help but feel as though, somehow, he was being watched.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

So patiently I watch this town

Slumbering beneath the ground

When ground ruptures 'neath the sky

Beware the beast with flashing eye

You shall know fear when I know form

Enjoy the calm before the storm.

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“This will be an undertaking of historic import,” Asgore said quietly with his massive hands folded in his lap. “Knowing this, you would still assist us?”

“Man, I just learned that monsters are real today,” Blake ran a hand over his short hair, letting out a breath through his nose as they turned a corner. “It's... it's a lot to take in, but, still. Of course I'm gonna help you guys out. I'm just... not entirely certain how the rest of humanity is going to react.”

“I cannot stop my people from trickling out from beneath the mountain,” Asgore informed him without looking up. “I can only delay the inevitable.”

“Yeesh, don't make it sound like a death sentence or anything,” Blake cringed a little. “The main thing right now is getting everybody somewhere more comfortable and actually getting the whole story.”

Asgore fell mysteriously quiet and somber at this.

The rest of the car ride was spent in silence.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

'The whole story' could apparently wait.

 

His home was certainly much more crowded with a handful of monsters taking up space, but Blake wasn't all that worried about that. What he was worried about, however, was the enormous plume of blackened smoke belching out of his kitchen.

He hacked and coughed, swiping uselessly at the air as he desperately scurried to open windows.

 

“Where is it?” he wheezed as Asgore stood in the doorway, sniffing curiously at the smoke. “Where's the fire?”

“No fires here!” Papyrus poked his head out of the kitchen, soot mark running up his cheek. “Just, er, experimenting.

Sans flinched in his half sleep.

“It's very... quaint,” Asgore steepled his fingers together, looking about the packed apartment. “That is, aside from the fire.”

“There's no fire anymore!” Undyne shouted from the kitchen, several pots banging together.

Anymore?!” Blake spluttered.

“Not important!” Papyrus patted him genially on the shoulder. “Nyeh! Who wants pizza?”

 

It took several long minutes of trying to fan out the smoke through the windows (and the calming of one very confused, very distressed old neighborly woman who had come to check out what was burning) but the apartment was considerably less smoky afterwards. There wasn't nearly enough room in the kitchen for all of them, so Undyne and Papyrus passed around plates stacked with slices of blackened pizza. Even Sans cracked an eye socket for a few minutes to taste test the pizza.

Mysteriously, nobody seemed very hungry. Blake stood in the corner of the room, observing them all quietly.

 

“... Alright,” Blake said after a while of silence which was only interrupted by the soft clicking and clacking of Alphys's claws on the keyboard. “Now that everybody is here, how about we start at the beginning?”

“Well, you see,” Sans said without opening his eyes. “There was this big bang, right?”

Nobody laughed.

“... I'm unappreciated in my time,” Sans rolled his eyes.

 

“I suppose...” Asgore began quietly from his spot in the recliner, his hands folded over one another. Undyne leaned over the back of the couch attentively, her hand brushing the neck of Alphys's lab coat. Alphys flushed at this and stopped typing immediately, pretending very hard to be listening to the king.

“What'cha doin'?” Sans heard Undyne whisper into Alphys's ear.

“Texting Mettaton. Pay attention,” she giggled lightly.

 

“I suppose that I should begin with... the war.”

“Which war?” Blake blinked.

“Well,” Asgore began slowly. “Which one do you think?”

“Um. The civil war?”

“There was a civil war?” Asgore gave him a strange look.

“And the World War. And World War Two.”

“The entire world went to war? Twice?!”

“Y-yeah?” he frowned. “Just how long were you guys under the mountain?”

“That depends,” Sans shrugged, cracking open an eye socket from his position on the beanbag chair, revealing that he was indeed still awake despite his attempts to appear otherwise. “What year is it now?”

“20XX.”

“It has indeed been many, many generations since we were first forced below the ground,” Toriel said quietly, though she was still loud enough to be heard over the absolutely deafening silence. Frisk watched her pace in slow circles from their spot on the couch between the scientist and Papyrus, who was still cradling his arm in the makeshift sling. Sans caught Blake's gaze on the magically cauterized wound several times, but said nothing. “The monster and human war was... terrible. On many accounts.”

“I don't think that there would be many, if any publicly available records of a war of that caliber,” Blake mused quietly, stroking his chin with his forefinger. “It's likely that the government would have some kind of recording, considering that to almost everybody monsters are just myths and legends. To find out that you're... real, it's just...”

“Frightening?” Asgore asked lowly.

“I was gonna say strange,” Blake shrugged. “I mean, you don't seem like monsters to me. Ever since I first met Sans over there,” he nodded toward the slyly peeking skeleton. “Monster just seems more like a term of species. You're all just people to me.”

If it was quiet before, by now you could have heard a pin drop.

 

“... What'd I say?” Blake tried to back into the corner uselessly, rubbing his arms.

“Y'know what?” Undyne leaned a little further over the couch, grinning widely. “I thought you were kind of a dork at first. But you're alright. For a human, I mean,” Undyne added smarmily.

“Thank... you...?”

“Don't mention it. I don't think we've actually been introduced, by the way,” she clicked her fingers. “I'm Undyne. Captain of the royal guard.”

“... 'kay?”

“I'm unappreciated in my time,” Undyne threw up her hands and rolled her eye, but her grin remained.

“Obviously,” Asgore continued and it fell silent once again. “Monsters were not the victors of the war. Seven human mages sealed us all underground, until a force equivalent to theirs could be brought to the barrier.”

“Wait, wait, hold on,” Blake held up his hands. “Question. Mages?

“V-very p-powerful mages, at that,” Alphys chimed in, leaning over the computer screen a little. “We w-were unable to r-recreate that kind of soul power, even w-with everything that we had.”

Humans used to be able to do magic,” he gawked at the king.

“But no longer, I am afraid,” Asgore informed him softly. “Perhaps, this is for the better. Considering... well.”

“That's... pretty terrible,” Blake agreed. “The whole 'being sealed underground' thing. I'm claustrophobic as is, it sounds like a nightmare to me. And you might be right about it being a good thing, humans not having magic anymore. Good god, I can hardly begin to imagine Hitler with magic on his side.”

“... I'm... not certain who you are referring to,” Asgore said honestly.

“Okay,” Blake ran a hand down his face. “Okay. After this, I, uh, really need to get you guys up to speed on human advances. Absolutely none of us are going to be happy with most of it, but it's something that needs to be done.”

“Even so...” Asgore continued, looking down to his hands again. “We were sealed beneath the earth for a very, very long time. So long that I am not surprised that we have been almost forgotten entirely.”

“So, it would take seven human souls to break down this barrier,” Blake began slowly, turning his head toward the pensive king. “I can't help but notice that you've only got the one human with you, and he doesn't seem like much of a talker.”

They will talk when they damn well feel like it,” Sans said rather bitterly, earning a shocked look from those around the room. He flinched afterwards, but didn't speak further. Papyrus was giving his brother a very strange, worried glance, but he did not reply either.

 

“The... other humans,” Asgore pressed onward, staring down at a spot between his feet. “They... I-I...”

“The other six humans did not survive,” Toriel said in a cold, clipped tone. “And Asgore kept their souls so that the barrier could be broken.”

“Yes,” he said with no small measure of relief, looking thankfully to Toriel, who only returned the look with a blank, even glower. “That is the thing that happened.”

“So, if I'm guessing right,” Blake scratched the back of his neck, leaning into the corner. “Uh. Frisk, was it? Frisk was the one to break the barrier? How?”

“I-I am... not entirely certain, to be honest,” the king frowned, finally looking up at him. “When I brought them to the barrier, I was... attacked. By... something.”

“A flower.” Sans added quietly. He would not look directly at anyone, and sat staring ahead through the wall with a strange expression. Papyrus wore an equally confusing face, and was taking slow, deep breaths with his eye sockets closed.

“You were attacked by a flower,” Blake reiterated blankly.

“Yes,” Asgore nodded once. “I was incapacitated. And when I awoke, I discovered that young Papyrus here was the one to have dispatched it and saved us all.”

“How did a flower do that?” he stared at the king.

“He... absorbed the six human souls,” Sans filled them in softly, still not looking at anyone. “H-he... that-that thing that he turned into...” he shuddered briefly. “If-if it hadn't been for Paps, then...”

“A great travesty could have befallen the world,” Asgore agreed. “Monsters. Humans. No one would have been safe.”

“That's an understatement if I ever heard one,” Sans scoffed bitterly, crossing his arms and leaning forward with a weary look on his face. “If it hadn't been for my bro, it would have been hell on earth.

“But how does a flower manage literally any of that?” Blake pressed on curiously.

“I-I t-think, u-umm...” Alphys started nervously before she was interrupted. Surprisingly, by Papyrus.

 

“He wasn't always a flower, you know.”

Everyone's heads turned toward Papyrus. The taller skeleton was sitting with his arm and a half folded over one another, and the bags beneath his eye sockets were more pronounced than ever. It hurt Sans to see him like that. He looked just like he did as he cradled the flower as it died. Drained. Exhausted. Miserable. Frisk was staring up at him uncertainly, trying to squeeze their hands together like they were attempting to hold their own hand.

“We... we used to talk,” Papyrus began softly, unable to look at anyone. “A lot. He didn't want me to let anyone know, but-but we did. We were... I thought we were friends. And one night, he told me some-some things. Some very... strange things.”

“Like... what?” Sans asked, his throat feeling mysteriously dry.

“He told me his name,” Papyrus closed his eyes and let out a long, uneven sigh. “Before he... you know. Became a flower.”

“And what was it?” Asgore pried.

“I'm... I'm sorry,” Papyrus took another shuddering breath. “I... I can't say. Not right now. Please, your majesty. It's... not the time.”

“I... understand,” the king rumbled and shook his head. “It is never easy, and betrayal by a loved one always cuts the deepest.”

“Yes,” Toriel said quietly, her eyes narrowing dangerously. “Funny thing, that.”

Asgore cleared his throat uncomfortably, looking away.

 

“Okay,” Blake blew out a heavy breath, running a hand through his short hair. “Okay. I'm getting a clearer picture now. And after Papyrus beat up a flower, then – wait, if the flower had six souls, how did Frisk break the barrier? I'm still confused.”

“As are many of us,” Asgore frowned, turning his attention to the human child. “I was aware that humans cannot absorb human souls. Tell us, human Frisk. How did you bring down the barrier?”

He was met by an extremely uneasy silence.

 

“As Sans said,” Toriel said after almost a full minute of awkward quiet. “They will speak when they are ready.”

Sans was sweating bullets.

What was wrong with Frisk? Something was definitely wrong. Chara spoke. Not very loudly, which was strange enough for Chara, but seeing the normally vocal and upbeat Frisk so still, so absolutely silent was like wordless torture.

And after the flower, he'd certainly filled his torture quota and wasn't in the mood for any more ever again. And if he was feeling this consistently terrible, he couldn't fathom just how Frisk felt.

He didn't really know.

It occurred to him that he never even bothered to ask, either.

 

Good job on that, douchenozzle.

 

“... Hey,” Sans leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, looking directly into Frisk's wide eyes. The others chattered quietly amongst themselves, and Sans took advantage of the conversations around them. “You... you okay, kiddo?”

Frisk glanced nervously back and forth like they were observing for danger before swallowing and nodding once, very, very slowly. They kept glancing over at the only human in the room, like they were trying to tell him something with their eyes but couldn't convey the message without speaking. It irked Sans badly. What was wrong? Was there something that he was missing?

Either way, he kept a closer eye on the human.

 

“Okay,” Blake clapped his hands together after a while, causing the chatter to die down slowly. “Alphys? Keep the laptop on. So. I've been thinking it over, and it's pretty clear that you're going to need a declaration of independence in case the government tries to pull a fast one on you. On top of that you're going to need papers for proof of birth certificates, as well as an official declaration of peaceful entry as passport to the country. Although technically you've never left the country, it pays to be safe,” he began to pace in what little room their was, running a hand through his short hair. “Plus, if we can get word of caution to the rest of humanity about monsterkind before they really start coming out from underneath the mountain, it'll be safer for everyone.”

“You would go through these lengths for us?” Toriel asked, slightly surprised.

“Said it before, I'll say it again,” Blake said with determination in his eyes. “You seem like good people to me. One good turn deserves another, and all that,” he added, a little flippantly.

“I do not know if anyone has told you, human Blake,” Asgore stood to his full height, horns scraping against the ceiling as he stood before him with a small, kind smile. “But thank you. For everything.”

“Ayy, no worries,” Blake shrugged, a little sheepishly. “My only regret is that I don't have more to offer.”

“All that you have done for us is much more than we were anticipating,” Toriel stood beside Asgore, hands folded into her sleeves. “There is goodness in you. I, too, wish to offer you my thanks.”

“Seriously, guys...” he laughed nervously, ruffling his hair awkwardly. “Thank me after we get everything sorted out. And maybe again after I get something in the house that's not cold pizza.”

There were a couple of titters at that.

Sans had finally almost managed to relax.

 

And then some jackass had to go and kick the door in.

 

“ALRIGHT, BEAUTIES AND GENTLEBEAUTIES, THE STAR HAS FINALLY ARRIVED!”

“Oh, god help us all,” Sans groaned into his hands. Just when he thought that today couldn't possibly go bad.

Mettaton?!” Papyrus leapt up looking very much as if Christmas had just come early. And was delivering Mettaton shaped presents. “What are you doing here?”

“The world's greatest star couldn't possibly leave his friends in a potentially dangerous situation, right?” Mettaton flicked a strand of shining black pseudo hair from his face, revealing a shining eye. “By the way, smile darlings, you're on camera.”

“Uh. I. Um. H-hi?” Blake waved meekly. “Uh. Welcome to my house. I guess. Thanks for kicking the door off its hinges.”

“Fear not!” Papyrus held his remaining hand to his chest. “The Great Papyrus is a master of fixing doors!”

“And that's my cue to bail,” Sans forced himself to stand, holding out a hand to Frisk. “Heyya, kiddo. Lookin' kinda down, there. Wanna come with me to Grillby's?”

Frisk smiled and nodded once, taking his hand softly and hopping down from the couch.

 

They were gone almost the moment that they squeezed past the robot.

In Sans's opinion, they couldn't have been gone sooner.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not as gone as you'd think.

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Once more, Sans found himself falling through the void.

It only lasted for the briefest of moments. He held on to Frisk as they fell through eternity, blackness whipping and warping around them as they plummeted, and for just a fraction of a second, he could have sworn that he could feel eyes on him, calculating, watching his every move-

 

And then it was over before he could fully allow the thought to click, and they were stepping slowly out of the shortcut into the dark living room. Their Snowdin house felt so oddly... empty, without Papyrus there. The strain from taking a shortcut such a long distance was wearing on him heavily, but Sans forced himself to focus and shrug it off. Frisk took a sudden shuddering breath and clung to him tightly around the middle, and he petted the back of their head gently.

 

“Take it easy, buddy,” Sans held the trembling child closely. “... Buddy? You okay?”

Frisk shuddered and gasped, shaking their head fiercely.

“Frisk?” he frowned. “Frisk. Buddy! What's wrong?”

 

Frisk was staring with wide eyes into the corner of the dark room, and Sans felt a prickle on the back of his neck. His head whipped around to look at the spot they were staring at, but there was nothing there.

“Kiddo?” Sans turned back to them worriedly. “You're really startin' to freak me out a little. Tell me what's wrong, babybones.”

“C-can't...” he almost didn't hear them their voice was so soft. “Hurts.”

“What hurts?” Sans frowned as they looked up at him nervously. “I can't help if you don't tell me what's wrong, babybones.”

“Please, Sans...?” Frisk slowly took his hand in theirs. “I-I just... I hurt. On the inside. Can... can you make me feel better? With-with the magic? Please?”

 

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

I swear to god. Just say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Be responsible for once in your miserable fucking life-

 

“Please?” Frisk stuck out their bottom lip quietly. “I'll be good.”

“I-I... look,” Sans gave them a light hug, drawing them over to the couch and sitting down with them, though he did so with no small amount of difficulty. “Kiddo. I told you. I just... I just can't do that anymore.”

“Why not?” they pouted dejectedly. “I'll be good-!”

“It's not about that,” Sans carefully took their hand in his, looking them in the eyes. “You are a good kid, Frisk. But I just... I just can't... it's hurting you, babybones.”

“No, it's not!” Frisk insisted, pulling his hand closer and holding it over their chest, looking like they were about to cry. “Please, Sans, please-”

“Babybones, listen-”

“I just... I n-need to feel good,” Frisk desperately tried to explain. “I waited, I was good, I need it!”

“It's not right,” Sans pleaded with them, feeling as though he were fighting an uphill battle.

“Sans, please...!

“No, listen to me, babybones-” Sans could feel the spark of anger flaring in his chest, and he fought to keep it down. “- we are not having this discussion and that's final, understand?”

 

Frisk cringed and looked away from him, struggling to keep him from seeing the tears streaming down their pained face.

“... Shit,” he muttered under his breath. He started to reach out for them and they flinched hard, causing him to freeze for a moment, but he gently brushed their hot tears away with the back of his hand and drew them into a slow, gentle hug. He almost didn't hear them as they buried their face in his shoulder.

“Don't... don't you love me anymore?”

It felt as if he had just been sucker punched in the gut. He would have preferred that, actually. It would have hurt far, far less.

“Of course I love you, kiddo,” Sans pulled at their hand gently. They wouldn't respond, regardless.

 

“Just... just trust me, babybones,” Sans said softly. They wouldn't look at him anymore. They wouldn't even answer him, and seeing them go so silent again physically hurt, it made his soul ache. “Come on. Please, kiddo. Don't cry. C'mon now. You're a strong kid, Frisk. Frisk,” he said again, trying to keep the desperation out of his voice, carefully wiping their eyes with his hand as they sniffled. “You gotta be strong. Okay? It's-it's not something that you need, and it's not good for you.”

“Why not?” Frisk rubbed their nose with their sleeve.

“I'm pretty sure that's what got us in the whole soul debacle in the first place,” Sans explained quietly. “And for all we know, it could wind up making it worse.

“Chara's still mad...” Frisk rubbed their elbows, looking away. At least they had finally stopped crying, but they still looked so dejected, so put out.

“Can't say I'm surprised,” Sans shook his head slowly. “Don't worry, babybones. I'll figure all of this out. Just trust me. I'll... I'm gonna fix this.”

Somehow.

 

“... C'mon, kiddo. I... I will. Later,” he swallowed dryly, feeling like he had just condemned himself. “What do you say we catch up on heavy stuff like this after we grab some grub, eh?”

Not wanting to remain sitting in the dark, Sans held out his hand for Frisk to take, and they did with a thankful little smile. It warmed his soul to finally see them smiling again, even if it was just a little one. Sans dug in his pocket for a moment as he tried to lock the door behind them.

“... Huh,” he blinked, frowning. Had he forgotten to lock the door? Oh well.

Frisk gave him an inquisitive look, but he only shook his head and guided them down the steps. He felt a chill run up his spine as he looked out through the snowfall.

Snowdin was utterly devoid of life.

 

He felt Frisk squeeze his hand gently, almost as if they could sense his distress. He gave a weak chuckle and continued down the frozen path, although it was Frisk leading him by this point. His knees felt oddly gelatin like, and it was hard to shake off. He couldn't help but throw a couple of nervous glances behind them, even though there was nobody there.

Paranoid. You're getting paranoid.

Frisk shivered in the snow, wiping their eyes again but carrying on with determination. They meandered down the path at a leisurely pace until they arrived at Grillby's, and Sans felt another rush of dread as he saw that the normally bright and warm lights in the windows were oddly dim.

The bell rang as they entered, and yet another sense of déjà vu overwhelmed him when he saw that the bar was almost completely empty. Thankfully, the pub was not entirely empty. Only the bartender remained in his spot behind the counter, humming a tune as he packed away glasses into a cardboard box.

 

“Whassup, Grillbz?” Sans gave him a half wave.

“Oh! It is good to see you again, my friends,” Grillby seemed to be smiling, though Sans could never really tell through all the flickering flame. “You have caught me at quite the time. Almost everyone else has headed for the surface.”

“So it's really beginning,” Sans stuck his hands in his pockets, letting out a sigh through his teeth. “It's finally happening.”

“This is indeed a marvelous occasion,” Grillby nodded, motioning toward the bar as he rolled up his sleeves. “Can I interest you in one last drink, my friend?”

“You know me too well,” Sans winked as he took a spot on the stool, patting the one beside him. Frisk hopped up onto the stool-

And immediately set off a whoopie cushion. They pulled it out and stared blankly at Sans.

 

“Sorry,” he shrugged, unable to fight back his grin. “Old habits die hard, I guess.”

“I had heard that you and your brother were already on the surface,” Grillby leaned atop the counter, crackling softly. “Surely you did not come all this way simply to see me.”

“Can't get burgers like yours anywhere else in the world, Grillbz.”

“I'm afraid that my usual menu is temporarily discontinued, for now,” Grillby shook his head, noting the crestfallen expression that Sans wore. “However, drinks are still available. Consider the first one on the house.”

“You're a good man, Grillby,” Sans grinned up at him as Grillby poured him a glass full to the brim with bubbling liquid. Sans gently nudged Frisk's hand away when they tried to reach for the drink. “Uh. Sorry, kiddo. This one here is a 'skeletons only' drink.”

“Hot chocolate then,” Frisk mumbled somewhat crankily, but Grillby seemed to hear and vanished into the fire exit.

 

“... Alright,” Sans turned on the barstool a little, propping his weary head up on one hand as he stared over at them. “What's up with you not talkin' to anybody?”

Frisk only shrugged and looked away.

“C'mon, kiddo. Don't play this game with me right now.”

“I-I just...” Frisk fiddled with their fingers, pulling at their hands. “I just... I can't.

“'Kay. Why not?”

Frisk opened and closed their mouth a couple of times, but nothing came out.

 

“Hey, look at it this way,” he lazily threw out an arm toward the empty bar. “Nobody's gonna overhear what you've got to say.”

“... Please don't be mad,” Frisk yanked weakly at a few strands of their hair.

“Kiddo, I'm not gonna be mad just 'cause you wanna talk.”

Frisk tried to speak again, and once more failed to say anything.

 

“... It was the flower, wasn't it?” Sans asked quietly, feeling the familiar rage bubbling in his bones.

Frisk looked like they wanted to say something, to say anything, and he would have listened, but they just wouldn't tell him. They appeared to be on the verge of crying again, and if that happened then he certainly wasn't going to remain calm for long. “... You know what,” Sans gently took their hands from their tangled hair, holding them in his own and looking them in the eyes. “It doesn't matter. You don't gotta say anything you don't want to. Okay, babybones? That... thing is gone. It's gone for good, and he's never gonna hurt you or anybody else, ever again.”

Frisk sniffled miserably and wiped their eyes furiously until their cheeks were red from the effort, and Sans patted them on the head. Grillby soon returned with a piping hot drink, which he wordlessly placed in front of Frisk.

Sans couldn't quite shake the feeling that Grillby had taken a little too long in making a single mug of hot chocolate, but didn't press the matter. It wasn't like it would have done much good, anyway. Grillby could be remarkably silent when he wanted to be. Usually at the most opportune times.

It made Sans uneasy.

 

“So,” Sans cleared his throat, turning back to the bartender. “I... guess this is it, huh.”

“The whole world awaits,” Grillby agreed quietly, crossing his fiery arms. “At long last, endless possibilities are upon us.”

“So what are you gonna do first?” Sans stared up at him. “Explore the world? Take in the sights? Take up surfing?”

“What, and miss out on a perfectly good business opportunity?” Grillby chuckled. “From what I hear of it, monster food could prove to be quite lucrative to humans. I am a businessman before all else, my friend.”

Sans only laughed and shook his head.

“A businessman? And yet you hand out free drinks?”

“Only the first one was free. I'm putting the rest on your tab.”

“Never change, Grillby. Never change.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sans – Day of birth: December 5th, 19XX

Day of death: Sooner than you know.

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

The sun had nearly started to set by the time they returned to Blake's apartment. The pair stepped from the void with a little burst of displaced air, and Sans let out an uneasy breath. The entire time they were back Underground was nerve rattling, to be sure. Even if it had been at a place as comfortable and homey as Grillby's, Sans still wouldn't care to go back again, if presented the option. The fact that Grillby was planning on setting up shop on the surface was actually kind of refreshing, and scary at the same time. That meant human customers.

Sans did not necessarily have a good track record with humans.

 

Regardless, he couldn't help but keep checking over his shoulder. He could have sworn that there was someone watching him.

Paranoid. You're getting paranoid.

 

Sans walked up the flight of metal stairs with Frisk close in tow, and they held his hand the entire way. He glanced back a couple of times to see them, but they were looking elsewhere each time, averting their gaze. For some reason they wouldn't meet his eyes, though he had a fairly good idea why. They were probably just sulking.

It still made him uneasy.

Frisk was so still, so silent. It was creepy, in a way. Mostly though, it just made him sad. They had been so full of life, so full of energy and joy.

And the goddamn flower took it all away.

 

Sans's fist clenched in his pocket and he took in a few slow, steady breaths as they approached Blake's apartment door. Frisk squeezed his hand, almost nervously, and he relaxed a little.

“It's all good, babybones,” Sans said softly, running his thumb over the back of their hand. “Don't worry 'bout me. You okay?”

Frisk swallowed and checked behind them before nodding once. Why did they keep doing that? What were they checking for?

A chilling thought occurred to him.

Maybe they kept looking for what he was missing.

 

Sans fumbled in his pocket for a moment, temporarily considering digging out a dog biscuit to calm his rattled nerves, but considered against it. He didn't need to go smoking those around others. He didn't care for the odd and judgmental looks he got when he did, but he was out of energy to really care about that anymore. Surprisingly, the door was unlocked (not like it could have stopped me from getting in anyway) and it creaked as it opened, echoing a little down the hall of rooms.

The apartment was empty.

 

“... Hello?” Sans peered about uneasily. All of the lights except the kitchen one were off, and he checked back at Frisk to see how they were assessing the situation. They looked... uncertain. However, they didn't let go of his hand, and he slowly drew them inside before closing the door behind them with his foot.

 

“Anybody home?” he called out again, poking his head through the kitchen doorway. Nothing seemed to be out of place. Everything seemed relatively normal.

He still couldn't shake the feeling of being watched.

Observed.

 

There was a small sticky note attached to the beaten refrigerator, and Sans peeled it off with the tip of his fingers, staring at the hastily scribbled letter.

 

Took everyone on a trip to the supermarket.

Help yourself to anything in the fridge. Haven't got much, but that should be changed soon.

BTW, what's big, black and white?

Sans paused, flipping the note over when he saw the little arrow.

A refrigerator in a dinner jacket.

 

Sans snorted at that.

“He's got jokes,” he shook his head, sighing. “Man. This guy is... weird.”

Frisk nodded a couple of times, glancing behind them again at the dark living room.

 

“You... you know it's safe to talk here, right?” Sans turned to them, asking softly. They still weren't letting go of his hand, and there were only a certain number of things that he could do with one hand. “It's really okay, kiddo. Nobody else is here.”

“I... I'm sorry,” Frisk said so quietly that he almost didn't hear them. “I just... I just can't.”

“It's okay,” he pulled them into a light hug, placing his chin on the top of their head. “You don't gotta talk in front of anybody if you don't wanna. I just... wanna know why.”

“Some-sometimes...” Frisk started nervously, checking behind them again to ensure that there was nobody there. “When... when you were-were... gone. Flowey m-made me... say. Um. Things.”

“Like what?”

Frisk's cheeks lit up and they turned away, shame plain on their face. Sans felt his bones begin to boil in anger, his grip on their hand tightening. Of course it was the flower. The goddamned flower. Even when it was gone, it just couldn't stop screwing with their lives. Oh, how he hated that thing. A small part of him wished that he was still alive.

He wanted to kill him all over again.

 

Frisk seemed to notice his quietly bubbling rage, trembling a little. He let out a quiet sigh and forced himself to relax a little, regardless of how difficult that prospect seemed. Sans let go of them after a moment, glancing through the refrigerator for a bit before giving up. He wasn't finding what he was looking for. He dug about through several cabinets that he could reach, eventually using his magic to open up some of the higher cabinets. Most of them were empty, but thankfully, one of them was stocked to the brim with a myriad of bottles.

Jackpot.

 

“Blake, my main man,” Sans magicked down a large bottle of brandy gleefully. He popped the cork with his thumb, peering about for a glass before giving up and taking a long, thankful swig from the bottle. It burned the back of his throat but he drank regardless, the warmth spreading into his bones almost instantly. Human liquor wasn't half bad. It wasn't anything like Grillby's hard cider, but it was better than nothing. He paused after a moment and shuddered hard, pulling the bottle away from his mouth when he realized that Frisk was simply standing there, staring at him the entire time.

 

“... Sorry, buddy,” he cleared his throat. “Had-had to, uh. Just... just had to. My nerves are kinda shot right now.”

Frisk simply held out their hand expectantly, their expression blank.

“I. Uh. I don't... really think that's a good idea...” he shifted at the stare that they were giving him.

“Please?” Frisk asked softly, drawing closer to him. “I'll... I'll be good. I was good.”

“Y-yeah,” he nodded after a moment, turning the bottle through his phalanges awkwardly. “You're a good kid, Frisk. B-but, uh, I don't really think this is what ya need right now.”

“Then...” they approached softly, never taking their eyes off of him as they wrapped their hands around his. “If... if I can't have some, will-will you please give me some of the magic now? Please?”

 

Sans froze.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

Say no.

How many times do I have to say it you incompetent blithering imbecile-

 

“You said you would...” Frisk pouted, sticking out their bottom lip. God, they just made him melt when they looked at him like that. He was so pitiful, so weak. Like putty in their hands.

You're a disgusting creature.

 

“You... you can have one or the other,” Sans answered quietly, looking away. He hoped that they chose the drink over the magic instead. Please, just the drink. It was easier to deal with. Not as hard to look people in the eyes afterwards.

I'm contemplating giving alcohol to a child. Or worse. What the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

“I...” Frisk paused, unable to meet his gaze. For a moment he dared to hope, and it was cruelly dashed a moment later. “M-magic. I... I want the magic.”

“... Are you sure?” Sans asked quietly. “You know it's only for when you're, y'know. Hurt.”

“I am hurt,” Frisk pleaded with him as he tried to draw away, and they only pulled at his hands which were still wrapped around the bottle. The brandy was strong and was beginning to kick in from how much he had chugged, and he knew that he wasn't in a good position to be making decisions like this. That didn't stop him from taking another few swigs until his feet began to spin. Or maybe that was the room. “Please, Sans. I-I hurt. Inside.”

“Explain first,” Sans insisted, noticing how distressed they were growing. “Are you sure-”

“I'm sure,” they said firmly. “Please, Sans? You said you would, you said-”

“I know what I said,” he retorted a little angrily. Why were they pushing for this so hard? Why couldn't they just...

Give up?

Like me?

 

Frisk looked ready to start crying again, and he felt his will slowly crumble away. It was like trying to hold water with his bare hands. He just couldn't manage it for long, and he hated how easily they could break him down just by looking at him like that. He was so pathetically, disgustingly weak.

“... Okay,” he said after a moment, placing the bottle on the counter top. “Okay. A-alright, kiddo. Just... just gimme a sec. Show me where it hurts. Okay?”

Frisk stilled for a moment before gently taking his hand. He was guided to their chest, just over their heart. Where their soul would be. Their soul that he had watched shatter so, so many times. God, how he hated himself for that. The things that he had done to this poor kid.

His kid.

His little Frisk.

He'd hurt them.

So, so many times.

Didn't they care that now they were the one hurting him?

 

Maybe that was what he deserved. Retribution for his sins.

Not like what he was doing now was any better. If anything, he was just making it worse. Frisk noticed just how still he was standing with his hand placed over their heart, how silent he was as he looked down at them with that sad, broken expression. That's all he was, now. And he couldn't even blame that damned flower.

He was just... broken.

Maybe he always had been.

Maybe it didn't matter.

Maybe it never did.

 

“I'm... I'm sorry,” Sans whispered as he let magic flow down his arm and into the palm of his hand. “I'm so, so sorry for this, babybones.”

Frisk shuddered and shook when the green light flickered between his phalanges, illuminating their face for a few seconds, casting long, almost smiling shadows over the walls. Their expression was that of rapturous joy, drool leaking from the side of their mouth as their eyes slowly began to roll back into their head. Sans jerked away after a moment, his bones feeling heavy and weak, panting as he withdrew. Frisk's knees buckled as they dropped to the floor and he yelped in panic, almost tripping over himself to get to their side.

 

“K-kiddo?” Sans shook their shoulders gently, their hair falling down over their face to cover their eyes. “Frisk? B-babybones. C'mon, kid. Talk ta me. Please.”

Frisk shivered in delight, and Sans slowly lifted their chin up with his forefinger. He carefully sat on the spinning floor with them, holding them by the shoulders as tenderly as he could, like they were made of glass and a single touch could splinter them. Their cheeks were so red compared to their pale face, sweating as they were. They were crying, from the way that their eyes were unfocused he could tell that they were most certainly not entirely lucid. He could have sworn that their eyes had a little red tint to them, but it was gone when he tried to check again. He gently brushed the hair out of their eyes and wiped the sliver of saliva from their chin with his sleeve, feeling a little sick to his stomach.

 

“... Thank... you...” Frisk murmured as they leaned into him, sighing as they buried their face into his shoulder. “Thank you, thank you.”

“You shouldn't be thanking me,” Sans didn't let them see his deep scowl, his anger at himself, his helplessness to stop himself. “God, babybones. I'm just... I can't anymore. I'm sorry. Oh, god help me. I'm sorry,” he rocked back and forth, holding them gently. “I'm so, so sorry, Frisky-bits. I-” his voice cracked and he fought it down, squeezing his burning eyes shut. This was bad, this was bad, oh god what was wrong with him? “I fucked up. Oh, god, babybones, I am so, so fucked up.”

“It's okay,” Frisk shushed him softly. “It's okay. I love you, Sans.”

Yet again, they were the one comforting him while he was in the process of a nervous meltdown. He didn't want them to love him. He wanted them to hate him so that they could stay far, far away.

It was so much safer for them.

But that wasn't entirely true. He did want them to love him. He hated that schism inside of him, his warring emotions tearing through the battlefield in his soul. He wanted them closer to him, he just wanted to hold them and pretend for a while, just pretend that things would be okay for once.

Just once.

 

“... Sans?” Frisk asked softly after a few minutes had passed. Or maybe it had been dozens of minutes. An hour? He was losing track of time so easily now. The alcohol wasn't helping with that. God, he needed a smoke. His nerves were so shot. He felt sick, he hated himself so, so much. He was hurting them, he was corrupting them just by being around them, he was hurting his little babybones and all he wanted to do was crawl into the hole he came out of and just die.

But there would be no rest, that way. He knew that. That's all he really wanted by now. Just a little rest.

 

“Sans?”

“Y-yeah, babybones,” he answered quietly after a few seconds. “Sorry. M-magic like that, it... it makes me a little... weird.”

“... Thank you for making me feel good,” Frisk rubbed their cheek against his jacket, smiling quietly. “That was... really, really good.”

“What can I say, I'm good with my hands,” he responded bitterly. They were the one doing this to him. They were the one making him do this. Didn't they care? Didn't they see how badly it was tearing him apart? Didn't they care even a little?

“Y-yeah...” Frisk nodded after a second, taking his hand in theirs. They were so soft, so warm, so gentle, so kind. Nothing like him. He was their antithesis. The exact opposite of all the good in them. “Yeah. You are. You're... really, really good with your hands.”

“Please don't say it like that,” Sans cringed, but didn't pull away. He just wanted to hold onto them for a while. He didn't want to feel. He wanted to stay numb. He needed another drink. Just keep the emotions at bay long enough to get a grip, live with himself again. God, it was himself that was hardest to live with. There was no escaping himself, no matter how hard he tried. Forget the drink, he needed a smoke. Or five. He was so tired. So drained.

 

“Can... can I have more?”

“You want more?” Sans croaked.

“Y-yes,” Frisk nodded feverishly. “Y-yeah. Yeah, yes, yes please Sans-”

“K-kiddo, I-”

“I need it,” Frisk pleaded with him, pulling his limp hand to their chest. “I-I just need it. Please. Please? I-it feels... it feels g-good when you t-touch me like that-”

“Okay, no,” Sans cringed. “Don't say things like that, kiddo. Christ on a bike.”

“Wasn't I good?” they pouted, curling their lip a little, their brows furrowing. “I thought I was good...?”

“You are good, babybones...” Sans said softly, unable to pull his hand away. He was so tired. “It's... it's me that's not good. I'm... shit. I'm sorry. God, I'm so, so sorry babybones.”

“You don't have to be sorry...” Frisk gently brushed his cheek, smiling kindly up at him. “I like it when you make me feel like that.”

“... Listen,” Sans sighed after a moment, pulling their hand away. They looked so confused. So hurt. “Babybones. Frisk,” he took in a shuddering breath. God, what he'd give to be numb right now. “We... I, I can't – I can't keep doing this.”

“Why not?”

“Because it's not good.

“You... don't like it?” Frisk asked quietly. “You don't feel good?”

“I feel like the scum of the earth,” he admitted miserably. He wanted to hold on to them for a while. Just sit there and hope that things would turn out for the best. But he knew better than to hope. Hope was a cruel, vicious little sliver that refused to leave completely, forcing him to continue even when he didn't want to. He just wanted to pretend. Make believe that he could hold onto the ones that he loved.

 

Sans's thoughts were interrupted by Frisk grabbing his crotch.

“What the FUCK?!” he screamed, causing them to flinch away and cover their head protectively with their arms.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry!” Frisk choked, kicking away from him in terror. “I'm sorry please don't hurt me!

“K-kiddo,” Sans couldn't focus, couldn't breathe. He forced himself to his knees, but he couldn't bring himself to draw any closer. They were hyperventilating by this point, sobbing hysterically and trying to cover their face with their arms.

 

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry...!” Frisk whimpered through their sobs, tears streaming down their cheeks and over their chin. “I'm s-sorry, I-I'm s-so sorry, I'll u-use my mouth next time please I'm sorry-!

“No,” he woozily crawled toward them so that he could cradle them in his arms. “No, no no, baby, babybones, shh...” Sans held the crying child close, rocking them back and forth. “It's okay, it's okay. Don't cry. Don't cry, please don't cry Frisky-bits. It's okay. I... you just-just... scared me. I didn't mean ta shout, c'mon, shhh. It's okay,” he petted them softly as they cried into his chest. “Shh. C'mon. It's okay. Don't cry. It's alright, babybones. I'm here. I'm here,” he repeated himself over and over again.

“I'm sorry,” Frisk hiccuped dejectedly, cheeks heated considerably. “I'm s-sorry, I'll be good, please, I-I'll do b-better next time, please please please I don't wanna die...!

Sans felt like his whole world had just been rocked by an explosion.

 

They were so afraid.

They were so scared.

Of him.

Of course they were afraid of him. He really was the most vile creature on the face of the earth. And yet they still looked at him with mercy in their eyes. There was so much goodness in them, so much more than he could ever be.

 

“It's okay,” he hushed them after a moment, unable to fight back the tide behind his eyes anymore. “Shh. It's okay. Nobody is gonna hurt you. Not ever, ever again,” Sans promised them softly as he stroked the back of their head, holding them tighter. “It's okay. I promise. I promise. Nobody is gonna hurt you, babybones. God, I-I'm sorry. It's okay. It's okay.

And maybe, just for a little while as he held them, he could pretend that things really would be okay.

This is so completely, totally fucked.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

From the darkness of the living room, a smiling figure patiently watched, and waited.

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

“And... what is this for?”

“That's a poop scoop, Undyne,” Blake responded blankly.

“Why do humans scoop their poop?” Undyne dropped the plastic instrument in disgust.

“It's for pets,” he explained.

“How are pets supposed to use it?” she scoffed.

“Human Blake!” Papyrus bounded across the supermarket aisles, scaring the living daylights out of a woman picking up cabbages. “You won't believe it, they have so many noodles here!”

“Toss that in the cart too, I guess,” he shrugged when Papyrus dumped an armful of noodle boxes with some difficutly into the shopping cart. “Man. We've, uh. Kind of gone a little... overboard with the shopping. Don't you think?”
“Nonsense!” Papyrus crowed, holding up a box of noodles victoriously. “The Great Papyrus will buy everything that they have!”

 

Blake sighed quietly to himself, watching as Toriel quietly explained to a curious old woman about monsters coming above ground. It was definitely going to be a long day.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“... C'mon, kiddo,” Sans said for the fifth time. “C'mon. Get up. Please?”

Frisk wouldn't answer him.

“Come on. Please. Please, baby. Come on, babybones,” Sans petted their hair softly. “C'mon. Just talk to me. Please. I'm beggin' you here, kiddo. Don't leave me hangin'.”

They just sat limply in his lap, clinging to him with their arms draped around his neck, face buried in his chest, their little shoulders shaking silently. He was pretty sure that they were all cried out by this point. He was, too. They simply sat on the kitchen floor, holding each other for a long while. He wished that they would say something. Anything. He didn't care what anymore. The thought of them returning to that deathly silence was unbearable, it was painful. He just wanted them to say something. They wouldn't speak though, not even to him anymore.

 

How long had it been?

It felt as though it had been hours, but he was still slightly drunk and his sense of time was a little skewed. That was nothing out of the ordinary though. What even was ordinary anymore, though? He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about anything. Not right now. He just wanted to be numb. He wanted to stop feeling things for a while. He was so tired. So drained.

 

“... Hey,” he said after a long while. “Baby. Babybones,” he gently shook them a little, but they still didn't let go. “C'mon. Whaddya say we get off the cold floor, huh?”

Frisk didn't respond.

They didn't reject the idea, either, so that was a plus.

They just held on to him.

They needed him.

A part of him quietly addressed the fact that being needed was... something that he wasn't entirely certain how to handle. Maybe he could tackle that particular train of thought later.

 

“C'mon, little babybones,” Sans said softly as he gradually stood, picking up Frisk in his arms as he did so. They were so frail, so thin, so light. So fragile. They were limp in his arms even though they clung to him weakly, and he sighed as he started off to the dark living room. “Just... hang on to me, kiddo. Don't wanna go droppin' you on your head or somethin',” he added lightly with a little forced grin, but they still wouldn't respond. Sans sighed as he sat down on the sofa with them, reclining a little as they nuzzled into his shoulder. He dug around in his jacket pocket for a few moments before pulling a slightly crumbled dog biscuit. He flipped out his lighter between his fingers and lit it, letting the smoke waft around their heads for a moment before taking a long, slow drag, blowing a little smoke ring through his nostril bone. Frisk pulled away for just a second to look at him with an expectant stare, and he sighed again.

One time thing my ass.

 

“You cannot under any circumstances tell Papyrus,” Sans passed them the biscuit, and they nodded slowly. Frisk took a couple of experimental puffs and coughed, and Sans shook his head. “Man. Never learn, huh.”

Frisk frowned at him and took in another drag with a determined expression before handing it back to him. Sans felt the effects kick in after a few more breaths, and it felt like his aching bones finally, finally began to ease up a little. He didn't realize just how tense he had been, and he sighed as he closed his eye sockets and stroked Frisk's hair a little. They readjusted themselves in his lap until they were leaning with their head directly under his chin, and he rested atop their head for a while as they smoked in complete silence. Before long the biscuit was gone to nothing but a stub, and Sans used a flicker of magic to incinerate it completely. For once, he could simply sit and close his weary eye sockets and let his mind wander.

 

He didn't want his mind to wander. But it would happen regardless. It always did. Usually when he didn't want it to. He needed to be around for Frisk. Frisk needed him. And just how utterly messed up was it that a part of him wanted them to need him, that he wanted to be needed? He was so selfish. He hated himself for it, but what was he supposed to do? There were no easy answers to be had for the questions he asked himself. And he asked himself a lot of questions. What was wrong with Frisk, for one? What was wrong with him? How was he possibly supposed to fix this? What was he supposed to do now?

 

He wasn't sure for how long they simply sat in the dark, holding on to each other. He must have fallen asleep at some point, because he was dimly awoken by Frisk shifting to sit more comfortably with him. They gave him a little hug and curled up against him, and his expression softened a bit. They still wouldn't speak no matter what he tried, but maybe they would later. He just had to figure out a way to get them to open up a little bit again. He just wasn't certain how. He hoped he figured it out sooner rather than later. A silent Frisk put his nerves on edge. And the way things were going, he most certainly did not need to be any more on edge. He sighed again and let his weary eye sockets rest a bit, wrapping his arm around their shoulder and pulling them a bit closer. Frisk snuggled against him, and he felt that odd little spark warm in his chest again. They could stay like this for a while longer. It didn't really matter. So long as he could just hold on to them, hold them close, let them know that they were safe, that they were loved, then maybe things wouldn't be so bad. The way Frisk had reacted had done more than scare him a little. He was, without a doubt, completely and utterly terrified. Not just from what they had done.

Because there was a little, tiny sliver of him that almost didn't stop them.

 

God, he was so repulsive. He really was a miserable creature. He just wanted to get as far away from himself as physically possible. But escape from himself wasn't really an option. He needed another smoke. Sans was half tempted to dig out another biscuit from his pocket. But that was the real problem, wasn't it? Temptation. Was he horrible for it? Was he a bad person for being tempted? He was just repressed and pent up, that had to be it. There was nothing wrong with him. That's all he had to keep telling himself.

If only he could believe it.

 

Sans let out a soft, slow breath through his nostril bone, his brows furrowing in the dark. He could just hold on to Frisk, for now. They and Papyrus were the only things that mattered anymore. He had to take care of them. He needed to take care of them, they needed him. They needed him to be stronger. And he wasn't strong, not in the slightest. Not in the way it counted. He couldn't protect them like he wanted to. He couldn't even protect himself. That damned weed had proven that to him. And it had been so simple, so easy for it to break him down. He shuddered slightly, closing his eye sockets and taking a deep breath. He didn't need to go thinking on that again. Not the things he saw. Not the things he was forced to watch. He could still see it when he closed his eyes, that damned smug, self satisfied smirk of someone who knows more than they're letting on, the look of someone in a fight they've already won. He hated that weed, he hated how weak he was, how powerless he was to stop it from harming his little babybones. The things he had done to them, over and over and over-

Sans shook his head a little, feeling dizzy. He didn't need to focus on that. It was over. It was gone, and it was never coming back.

 

… Unless the kid reset.

 

There was always that little matter to deal with. How far back would another reset take them? When would the kid reset? Was it really inevitable? Would it all just happen all over again? He didn't want it to. But it was bound to happen eventually. Sooner or later he would wake up in Snowdin again, watching the snow fall outside his bedroom window. He'd wake up and look over the mess in his room, the dirty clothes scattered all over the place and tossed and crumpled notes in the corner. There was no escape. Not really. There was no way out. He'd be back and he'd have to live through it all again, meeting the same people, saying the same things, doing the same things all over again. It was all so pointless to just try. What was the purpose? There wasn't any, that was the easy answer. He had no way out.

Except for the child clinging to him in the dark. He could hold on to them. And, in a way, he finally had some control over the resets. If he could control them, then he had some manner of power over when the world would inevitably turn back.

 

God, he was so twisted. He didn't want to be like this. But he had them. So long as he could hold onto them, so long as he could keep them close and ensure that they were alright, then maybe everything wouldn't be turned back. He felt sick with himself, he was so manipulative and like him that it made him nauseous, but what else was he supposed to do? He couldn't just let them go. Not now. It was too late for that. It was too late for a lot of things. What was he supposed to do? What was the right thing to do?

 

Sans glanced down at Frisk in his lap, gently running a hand over the top of their head. They leaned into his touch with a kind little smile, and it felt like his soul was melting a little. He missed seeing them smile. He just wanted to keep them close, keep them safe. He wanted so much more than he had. But mostly, he wanted them to be happy. He wanted so, so much for Frisk to just be okay. Maybe he couldn't give them the perfect life. He couldn't promise them much, if anything. But he wanted them to be okay. But could he give them that? Could he even bother to care?

He wanted to.

He wanted to care. He wanted to be better. He needed to be better. They needed him.

He would be better. He had to be better. Not for himself. For them. So that they could be happy. All he wanted was to give them just a bit of comfort, and all the happiness that he could. He wanted them to have a good life. And he was screwing things up so badly. There was such a sickness in him that couldn't be cured, he was so foul, and sooner or later they were going to figure it out and see him for the monster that he really was and all of that happiness would be lost forever, and he would wind up back in Snowdin and it was all just so fucking pointless.

 

“... Frisk,” Sans said after what felt like an eternity. He held their hand and they gave him a gentle squeeze to let him know that they were paying attention. “... Listen. Babybones. I...” he struggled, unable to put in words what he felt. Why was it so difficult? They looked up at him with that little smile, looking so kind. So merciful. Like their blood had never been on his hands at all. They looked at him with so much love in their eyes, and god it hurt his soul to see them looking at him like that. His words died in his throat and he looked away, shame plain on his face. He was ruining them just by being around them, he was a corrupting force to them. Didn't they understand that? Why couldn't they just hate him already? Maybe if they did he'd never have to worry about their bonded soul in the first place. Just how deep was it, anyway? Was it something that he could even fix?

And what would happen if it grew? Soul bonding wasn't something that he even wanted to discuss with them. They would see him for what he really was sooner or later. And then, they would finally hate him. They would stay away. They would finally be safe.

So why did that thought hurt so badly?

 

“Listen,” Sans started uncomfortably as they shifted to hold him. “Babybones. I'm... I mean, we can't... god. What am I tryin' ta say,” he ran a hand over the top of his head, feeling like his skull was full of water. Why was this so difficult? “I gotta tell you somethin'. I-I, uh. Well. You see... the, the thing is, I...” he swallowed dryly. He felt dizzy. He felt sick with himself. He felt like passing out. But they had to know. Didn't they? Didn't they deserve to know the truth? They would see him for what he really was. All the vengeance in his soul. His anger, his rage, his judgment, his cruelty. He was so vicious on the inside, he had hurt them so many times. And they had still forgiven him, he who deserved no forgiveness for what was in him. They deserved to know.

But they would hate him.

He didn't have to tell them. That was something that he didn't have to share at all. He didn't have to tell them. They were a bright kid. They'd probably figure it out for themselves.

“... Sans?” Frisk said softly, holding his hand in theirs. Their voice cracked a little when they spoke they were so quiet, and he almost didn't hear them. They ran their thumb over this phalanges gently, gazing up at him with that look that hurt his soul so badly. “It's... it's okay. If-if you don't wanna talk. I understand.”

“... You're a good kid, Frisk,” Sans sighed quietly, pulling them into a little hug. They hugged him back, nuzzling their face into his shoulder.

“I love you, Sans.”

“I love you too, babybones.”

 

He could tell them later. Right now, he could just hold onto them. He could keep them safe. Or at the very least try his damndest to. They were his little babybones, and he was never, ever letting go.

He was determined.

 

Sans gave a weak little laugh, shaking his head. What was this kid turning him into? Did they even know what they were doing to him? Did they even know how badly it hurt, how much he wanted to keep them close and push them away at the same time? The conflicting emotion was killing him slowly. That's all his life was, was a cycle of slowly dying. There was no way out. So why bother anymore?

But Frisk. He wanted them to be okay. He wanted to try. For them.

He would give anything that he could. Anything. Everything. So long as they could be happy.

 

“... Hey,” he said after a while, placing a hand on their cheek. “K-kiddo. You, uh. You doin' okay now?”

Frisk nodded softly, glancing up into his eye sockets. “I-I, uh, just... just wanna check somethin'. You mind if I pull your soul out for a sec?”

Frisk looked at him nervously, placing a hand over their chest. After a few moments they took a breath and closed their eyes, nodding once. Sans swallowed and placed his hand over theirs, just feeling for a moment. Their heartbeat was so powerful, so strong that he could feel it through their hand. Sometimes humans really could be incredible. And his kid, his little babybones had gone through so much and kept going, had done so much for everyone and asked nothing in return. They were so much stronger than him.

“... You're a good kid, Frisk,” Sans whispered gently, unsure if they could even hear him he was so quiet. “You're... you're so much better than me.”

Frisk frowned and started to reply, but Sans gently used his magic to draw out their soul. The dark room was illuminated almost immediately in a brilliant red glow, casting dancing shadows flickering across his face. Their soul was a vibrant shade of red, shining like a star in the sky in the palm of his hands. He cupped it gently, careful not to touch it, staring down at the little white speck in the center of their soul. Was it just his imagination, or had that white spot... grown a little? The thought was unnerving, to be certain. He felt the sudden urge to reach out a little more, to grab hold of their soul. He wanted to touch it, to embrace it, and the impulse to just squeeze was so intense that it frightened him. He could feel his bones rattling as his fingers ever so gently brushed against their soul. Frisk gasped deeply when he touched it, and he felt a spark in his chest when he did so. It was like an electric rush through his whole body, it shook him to his core. He saw flashes of... something, all too wild to keep track of. Frisk shook in his embrace, their eyes wide and dashing back and forth, like they were seeing something new for the first time. He felt so vibrant, so full, so alive for just a split second. He let go almost immediately, his eye sockets wide as he stared down at them.

What did he do?

Oh, god. Oh god, oh GOD what did I just DO?!

 

“F-Frisk?” Sans carefully pressed the soul back into their chest, the dancing light slowly fading away. Frisk was gawking up at him with wide eyes, their mouth slightly agape. “Frisky-bits? B-babybones?”

“S-Sans,” Frisk breathed heavily, looking shaken. “Holy shit.

Sans cringed at the swear, feeling like he was watching a movie rather than experiencing... whatever the hell he had just done.

“Are you okay?” he asked, panicked. “Fuck, fuck fuck I'm sorry, I'm sorry I didn't mean to-”

“That-that was,” Frisk stuttered. “Oh god. Oh wow, oh gosh.”

“I'm sorry, fuck me sideways I'm sorry!” Sans felt sick, he was sick what the fuck was he doing?

“That was... weird,” they shivered a little, taking his hand in theirs. “W-what was that?”

“I-I, oh no,” he sputtered. “Oh shit. Oh shit I shouldn't have done that,” Sans flinched deeply. “I'm sorry babybones, oh god, oh god-”

“Sans?” Frisk noticed his growing despair, their grip on his hand growing a little tighter. “S-Sans?”

Don't cry. Don't cry, for fuck's sake don't cry in front of the kid. Get it together. Get. It. Together.

 

“D-don't freak out,” he shifted nervously, eyes flickering back and forth as he searched their face. “I-I-I, oh fuck, oh shit.

“Sans?!” Frisk was staring up at him, wringing his hand in theirs. “Sans? What's wrong?”

“What's wrong?” he laughed bitterly. “Frisk, I-I just, oh, oh god. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.”

“Why?” they pried, looking into his eye sockets. “W-what was that?”

That... that, w-what I just did,” he started slowly, feeling so vile that he could have dusted while they held him. “That was, uh... that's-that's something... personal.”

“Intimate?” Frisk asked softly.

“... Y-yeah.”

“... I liked it.”

 

Oh no. Oh no. Oh no, oh god. Oh Christ, oh god, I'm fucked.

 

“It's not happening again,” Sans said carefully. “W-we, we, uh, I-I mean, I can't... Fuck,” he ran a shaking hand over the top of his head. “Oh god. Oh fuck babybones, I d-didn't mean ta do that-”

“It's okay,” Frisk gently squeezed his hand. “It's okay. Breathe, Sans.”

Why were they doing this? Why were they the one comforting him? Didn't they have any idea of what he had just done? He hated it, he loathed himself, he could feel all of his accumulated sins crawling over the back of his neck. He shuddered hard when they hugged him.

This is so completely fucked.

 

He'd done something stupid. He was impulsive, he was so utterly boned.

“Listen,” Sans said quickly. “L-listen, babybones. I-I... fuck,” he sputtered. “Y-you can't tell 'Pyrus about-about, um. That,” he couldn't even bring himself to speak properly he was so shaken. “You just... oh fuck I'm so sorry Frisk.

“Why are you sorry?” they blinked up at him curiously. “It was... nice. It felt like you were touching my insides-”

“Aaaand we're not continuing that sentence,” he cut them off immediately. “No, no, fuck no, oh god I fucked up, I royally screwed us, oh shit what did I do...?!”

“Sans,” Frisk gripped his cheeks, forcing him to look at them. “Sans. Sansy,” they said softly. “Hey. Hey, hey. Sans. Sans. Look at me,” they rubbed his bony cheek with their thumb. “Sansy. It's okay. Really,” Frisk smiled gently at him, their eyes half lidded. “It's okay. Thank you.”

“Don't thank me for that!” Sans had to fight to keep his voice from raising. “Oh shit, I really fucked up Frisk-”

“Sans!” their grip tightened a little. He was shaking so badly, his hands were trembling, god he needed a smoke. He needed a drink. He needed something to calm his rattled nerves. “Sans. Hey. Hey, c-come on. Stay with me.”

“I'm here,” Sans shivered, blinking wearily. “Not... not goin' anywhere, babybones.”

“Good,” Frisk said with a hint of relief in their voice. “G-good. It's really okay, Sans. Everything is okay. It's alright,” they reassured him, brushing his cheek again. “It's okay. Don't worry, Sansy.”

“Please don't call me that,” he physically cringed again.

 

Oh god. What did he just do? What had he done?

“S-souls,” Sans started nervously, feeling too sweaty. “They're, they're – uh, well. It's really, really personal. I-I didn't mean ta t-touch it, Frisk, I swear...!”

Sans,” Frisk gave him a chaste little kiss on the forehead. “Hey. Hey, come on. Don't worry so much. It's really okay.”

“No, no it's not okay!” Sans scowled. “This... this is fucked, oh god. I'm sorry, I'm sorry babybones. I fucked up, I fucked up bad, oh shit-”

“Stop.”

 

Sans froze.

Their eyes hadn't changed color, but their voice was just so firm, so insistent that he really did freeze completely in place.

“Listen to me, Sans,” Frisk said softly, but unwaveringly. “It's really okay. Okay? Don't panic. Everything is alright.”

For the umpteenth time, they were the one calming him down. He was supposed to be a responsible adult, the one to comfort them, not the other way around. This was so wrong, he was wrong, why couldn't they just understand that? He wanted to tell them, to hold them, to push them away, to get away from himself, how was he supposed to fix this when he kept ruining everyone's lives?

 

Sans wasn't breathing at all and he realized this at last, taking a long, slow, deep breath and stilling his shaking hands. Frisk took his hands in theirs, smiling up at him from his lap. This was so wrong. He had done something irredeemable, and they were looking at him with so much love, so much MERCY, and it hurt so much.

“I'm sorry,” he whispered, hugging them tightly. They hugged him back, sighing as they buried their face against his chest. “I'm so sorry, babybones.”

“You don't have to be sorry,” Frisk insisted. “It's okay, Sans. I forgive you.”

 

God it hurt. It hurt so badly, his soul was aching. He sighed again and kissed the top of their head, holding them a little closer. Didn't they realize what they were doing to him? Didn't they care that he was awful? Did they even realize what he had done? Didn't they care that he was...

Could he even call himself a proper monster anymore? He didn't know. All he was was an abomination. Something that never should have existed.

And they just kept forgiving him, and it hurt more than anything else he could have imagined.

 

He lost track of how long they had been sitting there. Sans didn't even care anymore. Something had happened when he touched their soul, he saw... something. Things he couldn't quite process. People he didn't know. Flashes of another life that wasn't his. He was so lost in thought that he almost didn't notice when Frisk shifted uncomfortably, looking at something behind him-

He did notice, however, that there was a white, holed skeletal hand resting gently on his shoulder.

 

Sans jolted out of his reverie and jerked his head around wildly in panic.

There was nobody there.

 

You're losing it. This is it. You're finally losing what's left of your fragile little mind.

 

“... Sans?” Frisk said softly after a while, catching his attention.

“Y-yeah, buddy.”

“Can... can you do... that again?” they pressed his hand against their chest where their heart was. “Please?
“No,” he said firmly. “Please. Please, b-babybones. Don't... don't make me. I don't wanna do that again.”

“I... I saw... something,” Frisk started slowly, looking up at him with a strange look in their eyes. “What... what happened?”

“Sometimes,” Sans explained cautiously, uncertain of how to convey what he wanted to say. “Sometimes, uh. S-souls are weird. They aren't supposed to be... touched. Like, ever. And with the way we are...” he ran a hand over his head again, blinking. “God. I-I gotta know. Did... did you, uh... see anything? When I... when I did that?”

“Y-yeah...?” they gazed off in the distance for a moment. “I... I saw something.”

“What did you see?”

 

He was afraid to ask. He didn't want to know.

But of course he had to know. He couldn't not know. There was too much at stake to be ignorant.

“It was weird,” Frisk frowned, their brows furrowing. “I... I saw...white? And black. And blue. And... somebody else.”

“You saw somebody,” Sans blanched. “W-what did you see, babybones? Please. I-I gotta know.”

Frisk wouldn't answer him. They only glanced away, wringing their hands nervously.

“Come on, baybones. Don't leave me in the dark here,” he grinned weakly, pointing at the bare light bulb above him.

“That was bad,” Frisk shook their head, but they smiled back at him. They still wouldn't explain to him what they saw when he touched their soul.

And there was still the matter of what he saw.

Flashes, images, almost like little photo snaps. Too much red. Overwhelmingly so.

What was happening to him?

What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

“... I'm gonna fix this,” Sans said firmly, grasping them by the shoulders. “Trust me, kiddo. I'm gonna fix this. I... don't know how, just yet,” he frowned. “But I will. I'm... I'm gonna fix this.”

I'm gonna fix me.

Oh god, I'm so broken.

I have to fix me.

I have to fix myself.

I'm the problem.

 

So what's the solution?

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“Guess who's back?” Papyrus almost tore the door down in his excitement. Sans glanced up from his position on the couch, and though Frisk was laying with their legs stretched out and their head in his lap, they still craned their neck up to look at them.

“I have no idea, Paps,” Sans shrugged with a small grin as everyone filed in through the door, all carrying brown paper bags full to the brim with groceries.

 

“Okay,” Blake ruffled his hair when he set down a bag, closing the door behind Undyne as the last of the conglomeration of monsters entered the apartment. He flicked on a light and the bulb flickered on and off for a moment before basking them all in a fluorescent glow. “Okay. So, uh. We got groceries. Kind of... a lot? Miss Toriel wouldn't let me pay for any of them.”

“Of course not, we are your house guests!” she beamed at him as she sat a bag on the table. “You have been so kind to us, and so helpful. It only seems right that we repay that kindness with kindness, should we not?”

“I could have carried all the groceries,” Undyne grumbled to herself.

“You really are too kind,” Blake smiled softly at the queen. “Seriously. You guys are great.”

“I believe that is the last of them,” Asgore rumbled as he placed own a couple of bags filled to the brim. “Tell me, human Blake. Have you ever had food cooked by a monster?”

“Can't say that I have,” he shrugged, pulling at his studded ear ring nervously.

 

“Worry not, human Blake!” Papyrus patted him on the shoulder so hard that he was nearly knocked to the ground. “For I, the Great Papyrus, am going to create for you a culinary masterpiece!”

“Sounds like tonight is spaghetti night,” Sans grinned at them from his spot on the couch. “Kinda surprised you guys could get so much stuff.”

“Y-yeah,” Alphys shifted from behind Undyne, tapping her claws together. “Um, as it turns out, humans don't use the same currency as monsters.”

“Can't say I'm surprised,” Sans shrugged. “How'd that go?”

“Apparently,” Papyrus rubbed his missing arm awkwardly. “Well. Gold is a precious commodity to humans. They were... actually very happy to accept payment for the groceries. They were very nice and helped us carry some of them,” he added with a smile. “On the one hand, apparently we're rich now. And on the other hand-”

“You have a stump,” Sans grinned at him.

“ON THE OTHER HAND,” Papyrus continued loudly. “We shouldn't have to worry about income for a while. See, Sans? I told you saving up was a good idea!”

 

“Of course you're right,” Sans shook his head slowly. “You always are, Paps.”

“Of course I am,” he said rather proudly, readjusting his scarf. “Now, to begin... the greatest spaghetti to have ever been created!”

“Is that why you got sixteen boxes of different noodles?” Blake blinked, staring out over the sea of groceries littering the apartment.

Seventeen,” Papyrus corrected him, pulling out a box. “Shells, angel hair, bucatini, tortellini, pappardelle, gnocchi! There are so many different types of noodles on the surface, this is going to be magnificent!

 

Sans only laughed and shook his head. At least Papyrus was happy. It had been so long since he had seen him smile like that. He felt a little guilty for poking fun a Papyrus's arm, he really shouldn't have done that. But it wasn't like he wanted to make him feel bad. He just wanted to laugh again. He wanted to feel again. He felt numb on the inside, like a part of him was dying, and another was being born. It was so strange. But that was his life in a nutshell. His whole existence was strange. There was absolutely nothing about his life that was in any way normal. But that's all he wanted. All he craved. Just a little bit of normalcy in his utterly fucked up life. Just a bit of peace.

And here, with Frisk holding his hand, and Papyrus happy, maybe he could find that.

Maybe, just maybe, he could find a little bit of consolation. Of peace.

Something in his soul was stilled for just a bare moment, and he clung to it for as long as he could.

 

If he wanted peace, then he would have to look for it. He wanted Frisk and Papyrus to be happy. He wanted his family to be safe. To have comfort. To take away their pain. Even if he had to bear it all himself, he would do it without question, without hesitation.

He was going to fix this.

Somehow.

 

If he didn't make it irreparably worse, that is.

But for now, for just a moment, he could close his tired eye sockets and smile at the universe that answered none of his questions.

Someday he would find answers.

Somehow.

 

He still couldn't shake the strange feeling of someone grabbing his shoulder, though.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

 

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

Life is a very strange thing.

 

Sans contemplated this over dinner, which surprisingly nobody but one ate much of despite the overflowing amount of noodles they were all provided with. Blake, however, tore through three whole plates of spaghetti and kindly complimented Papyrus's skills, which the taller skeleton simply could not get enough of. Sans had plenty of second thoughts about the human. On the one hand, he seemed to have a significant amount of respect for Papyrus. On the other hand, nobody could eat that much of Papyrus's cooking and still be fine afterwards. It was suspicious as all hell.

 

Sans was not alright. He was about as far from 'alright' as he could possibly get. He wanted another drink. He wanted another smoke. He wanted something to help get him as far from conscious thought as possible. He didn't want to think. He didn't want to be awake. He didn't want to focus. He just wanted to rest, so badly. He felt like he was slowly slipping away every now and then, habitually checking over his shoulder for something that wasn't there. He was getting paranoid. That was all. He wasn't losing what was left of his mind. He was just jumpy from lack of proper sleep. He just needed a little bit of rest is all.

 

Asgore, Toriel, Alphys and Undyne sat around the crowded kitchenette table, quietly discussing the stack of papers that they were going over. Papyrus and Frisk sat on the couch with him while a movie played, and although Sans was hardly paying attention at all in favor of letting his tired eye sockets slip every now and then both his brother and Frisk seemed to be utterly enraptured by the animated story about lions.

 

“... Hey man.”

Sans jolted out of his thoughts in panic, whipping his head around.

Breathe. It's not him. Breathe. Breathe goddammit.

 

“What's up?” Sans forced himself to give a little grin, relaxing a little.

“Just curious,” Blake said with a blank expression. “I take it you found the brandy.”

“U-uh. Y-yeah...?” Sans shifted awkwardly beneath his empty gaze.

“... You realize all you had to do is ask, right?”

There were plenty of things he wanted to say. Most of which he refused to repeat in front of Papyrus, but that was neither here nor there.

 

“Sorry,” Sans replied quietly, but Blake only chuckled and shook his head.

“Don't worry about it, man. Just drink responsibly, alright?”

“No problem,” Sans shot him a pair of finger guns, and he snorted and shook his head again.

The Lion King, huh?” Blake ruffled his hair, dropping into the empty recliner besides Sans. “How are you liking it so far?”

“Are all human films this good?” Papyrus asked quietly, rubbing his missing arm with his gloved fingers.

“Nah. But Disney has a certain quality to most of their movies,” Blake informed him as he leaned back in the recliner comfortably.

“It's absolutely amazing,” Papyrus said, and Blake could have sworn that he saw literal stars in the skeleton's eye sockets.

“Ooh. Uh, you... might not like the stampede scene, then.”

“Pfft. I'm not stupid, lions don't stampede,” Papyrus rolled his eyes. Blake only frowned uncomfortably and shook his head.

 

“Okay, so...” Blake leaned forward, lowering his voice as he did so, clasping his hands together to rest them on his knees and looking over to Sans. “I gave my brother a call, he's a lawyer. Called in a favor or three. Richard – my brother – he's going to go over the paperwork for us and help us work out the kinks before we go public tomorrow afternoon. It's... going to get a little hectic, I'm guessing.”

“You... really?” Sans blinked, a little surprised. He turned in his seat to face the human more comfortably, resting his forearms on the armrest of the couch. “Hot damn. I... thanks, man. I... guess tomorrow is when it all really starts going down.”

“I've got a reporter friend who's going to be over tomorrow as well,” Blake explained quietly. “She's really nice, so not much to worry about. She still thinks I'm yanking her chain on the whole 'monster' thing, so for now she just thinks I've lost my mind. We can get a good word out about monsters since apparently some have already started coming out from underneath Mount Ebott, so there's that to deal with. All we can do now is try to inform people as best we can and keep everyone relatively calm about their whole lives potentially changing.”

 

“... You're pretty cool, you know that?” Sans grinned at him, propping his chin up on his hand. Surprisingly, Blake flushed deeply, rubbing his arm and looking away.

“I'm, uh, r-really not,” he coughed into one hand.

“If it's any consolation,” Papyrus said without tearing his eye sockets away from the movie. “I think you're cool, too. And that's a compliment coming from the Great Papyrus, so treasure it always.”

Blake just laughed and shook his head again.

“I will, dude.”

“So, I've got questions,” Sans started slowly, sizing up the human. “I thought you were just a pizza guy. And yet, mysteriously, you seem to have some pretty good connections.”

“It's good to know people,” Blake responded simply. Why was he avoiding the question?

“Look buddy,” Sans frowned a little, lowering his voice and leaning in toward him. “I'm not stupid. I've got, like, nine PHDs and I know when somebody is holding something back.”

“Very funny,” Blake rolled his eyes. Then he paused at the look that Sans was giving him, staring awkwardly.

 

“... Oh my god,” he said after a moment. “You're... you're actually serious. I-I mean... nine? Really?”

“He keeps them in a box in his closet,” Papyrus informed him with a smile. “Refuses to ever let me put them up on the walls, too.”

“Holy crap,” Blake's eyes widened a little. “And here I was just proud of my one.”

“... You have a PHD?” Sans blinked.

“I used to be a marine biologist,” Blake shifted uneasily all of a sudden, looking away and rubbing the back of his neck.

“So how did you go from marine biology to delivering pizzas?” he gawked at him. This human just raised more and more questions than answers.

“I watched my best friend get eaten by a shark,” Blake informed him quietly, looking down at his knees.

“Ah. Y-yeah,” Sans frowned deeply, dropping his steely gaze. “Yeah. That... that'd do it.”

“It was a long time ago,” Blake shook his head with a little sigh. “But, yeah. I met a lot of people in Florida, a lot of good friends. I have a tendency to keep phone numbers, so when I need to call in a favor, like, uh, helping monsters go public, I have a couple of people that can help out when I need a hand.”

 

Sans still had questions, but he didn't press the matter further. It was a somewhat satisfactory answer, but he was still uneasy. This person, this human had already done so much for them, and was continuing to help them. How long until he got bored with them and turned coat on them, he wondered? Humans were fickle creatures. They could change at the drop of a hat. Sans didn't want to hope. He was so afraid to hope. He glanced down at Frisk with their legs curled up beneath them, and he realized that they were staring back at him with a strange expression on their face. Could he even hope any more? Was it even worth it to try?

 

But with Papyrus and Frisk close to him, maybe he could try. He wanted to try again. He wanted to care. He wanted to hope, no matter how frail it might be. He wanted to believe that things would all work out. He wanted it so badly.

 

“So...” Sans was brought out of his reverie when Blake leaned forward in the recliner. “I gotta ask. Papyrus?”

“Yes?” Papyrus straightened up a little, looking over to him. “What is it, human Blake?”
“You realize you can just call me Blake, right?” he gave a weak chuckle. “I was... just curious. Do you mind if I ask something?”
“Ask away!”

“What happened to your arm?”

 

Papyrus froze in place, and Sans cringed. It was... definitely a touchy subject. There was no way that Papyrus would ever share something like that-

“I... punched a god in the face.”

“I'm sorry, what,” Blake stared at him.

“Well, more of a demigod, really,” Papyrus admitted quietly. Frisk slowly placed their hand atop of his and gave it a little squeeze, smiling up at him. Papyrus smiled softly back down at them, sighing heavily. “I... know how it feels. Losing a friend, I mean. Flowey, he-he was... he was my best friend. For so long. It felt like I knew him for years and years, sometimes. When he absorbed those souls and became... something... else,” Papyrus continued with difficulty, his voice softening. Sans realized that it was so quiet that he could have heard a pin drop. “I... I, I had to-to... I had to stop him. He was hurting my family. He d-died. In-in my arms,” he choked suddenly. Sans felt like his soul was breaking apart just watching the normally so upbeat Papyrus slowly crumble before him. “I'm... I'm so sorry that you'll never get to meet him. I-”

Papyrus couldn't bring himself to continue. Sans knew despair when he saw it, and it was written plainly all over his face. He could only imagine the overwhelming, crushing remorse that Papyrus must have been going through. Did it even occur to him to comfort his own brother in his time of need? How could he possibly be so selfish?

 

“You did the right thing,” Sans said softly, clasping his hands together. “You saved us. All of us. If you hadn't stopped that thing, we wouldn't even be sitting here right now. You're a hero, Paps. You did – the right – thing.

“I know, Sans,” Papyrus answered quietly. “Doing the right thing. That's... that's what heroes do. So... so why do I feel so terrible?

“God damn, dude,” Blake let out a shuddering breath, running a hand through his short hair. “I... I had no idea. I thought you looked kind of like a superhero or something.”

“Is it the scarf?” Papyrus shook his head a little. “Or just the battle body? The whole point of it is to look as awesome as possible.”

“You do look awesome, man!” Blake grinned kindly at him. “Dude. I had no idea I was in the presence of a genuine hero here. You should have let me cook for you, not the other way around.”
“I just might take you up on that offer,” he smiled back at him. His smile faded after a few seconds though as he stared down at his magically cauterized arm, looking so... sad. So drained. So tired. “... Sans?”

“Yeah, bro.”

“I... I know that Flowey... did some bad things,” he rubbed his stump without looking up.

“Yep. That's... one way to put it.”

“I-I can't shake the feeling. Like, I... I don't know. That I didn't try hard enough to save him from himself. Do... do you think t-that, maybe... maybe, he could have been saved? That maybe, he could have been good if I could have tried harder?”

“Bro,” Sans answered gently, looking over at him. “Don't question yourself like that. You saved everybody.”

“I know,” Papyrus said dejectedly. “I just... wish that things could have turned out differently. Is... is it wrong of me? That... that even after what he did, that I-I still... miss him? Just a bit?”

Papyrus looked so torn. So upset, so miserable, so unhappy. Sans couldn't bear to see that look on Papyrus, and the taller skeleton seemed to realize this as he closed his eye sockets and wiped his one hand down his face, clearing it of all emotion. He was steeling himself for something, but Sans didn't know what. Again he couldn't fathom what his brother was going through. However, he could relate a little bit.

He'd killed someone that he loved very much, too.

Many, many times.

Hadn't he considered himself doing the right thing at the time, too?

God we are so fucked in the head.

 

“Frisk?”

 

Sans turned around in his seat, glancing over at the queen who was standing in the doorway. Frisk stood up on the couch, turning to face her.

“I was just wondering if we could borrow Frisk for a moment,” Toriel folded her arms into her sleeves. “We have something to discuss with you, my child.”

Frisk looked over at Sans worriedly, and he couldn't quite place their expression. What were they looking at him like that for? Were they waiting on permission or something?

“What'cha need, your highness?” Sans blinked when Frisk grabbed his hand. They looked so nervous, so... apprehensive.

“Please, just call me Toriel, will you not?” Toriel replied with a little smile. “We only wish to speak with Frisk about some matters concerning monsters and humans.”

“We... believe that it would be best...” Asgore stood beside her in the doorway, causing Toriel to frown slightly. “If the human that freed us all from our prison were to act as our ambassador to humankind. Human Frisk clearly is suited for the position.”

“Are you freakin' kidding me?” Sans balked at them, looking back and forth between the royal pair and the child. “You want Frisk to be the ambassador to monsters?”

“Yes,” Asgore nodded immediately. “We believe that, serving as a face for humans to relate to, it would help things along if they were to act as ambassador.”

“They're ten!” Sans scoffed. “They can't-”

“I'll do it.”

 

Sans blanched when Frisk spoke, slowly releasing his hand and rubbing their forearms, trying to tuck their hands into their sleeves. Sans worriedly looked them over, turning his head back and forth quickly, trying to process this. It was the first time that they had spoken in front of anyone else since the damned weed had... harmed them. In so many ways. They were finally speaking.

And it hadn't been him that had helped them do it.

For some reason, this hurt, just a little bit.

 

“Are you sure, babybones?” Sans asked quietly, holding their shoulders and looking deeply into their eyes. “Are... are you sure you can do this?”

Frisk didn't speak, but they did nod their head ferociously, looking so filled with hope, so much determination that it was a little frightening. Frisk smiled at the king and nodded again, and Asgore let out a little sigh of relief.

“Very well,” the king smiled down at them, walking over to the back of the couch and taking their tiny little hand in his massive paws. “Then it will be done. Thank you, human Frisk. You are helping us immensely, and I do not yet know how to repay this kindness.”

Frisk only shook their head and smiled softly up at him, and for just a moment Sans could have sworn he saw a flash of red in their eyes, but it was gone the next moment.

“They're... they're just a kid,” Sans struggled, clearly fighting a losing battle. “They're a kid, your highness. I mean, just... come on.

“And is not the face of a human child the most comforting to humans?” Asgore asked quietly.

“Are you even considering the freaking responsibilities you're putting on them?” San's voice was raising, though he tried to keep calm to the best of his abilities. “You just want them to do it for goddamn politics?

“It is not quite that simple,” Asgore shifted uneasily. “I truly believe that they are capable. Also, it is one of the highest positions that I can confer. Consider it an apology for, um, trying to kill them.”

“Hold on, what?” Blake blinked.

 

They were interrupted by the sound of a heavy rapping at the front door. Blake sighed and closed his eyes, rubbing his temples.

 

“That'd be Rachel,” Blake shook his head. “The reporter. She's early. So, uh, hang on to your butts, everybody.”

Sans only sighed at his powerlessness to change the situation. There was so much he wanted to say and couldn't. What was the point in even trying, anyway? If the kid wanted to be an ambassador for monsters, what was he supposed to do? Crush their hopes and insist that they never leave his side? He couldn't do that to them. He just... wanted them to be happy. And they had spoken. Not much, but they did. If this was what it took, then there really was nothing that he could do. He sank down into his seat and sighed heavily, closing his weary eye sockets. He almost didn't realize when Frisk leaned over and hung their arms around his neck, giving him a peck on the forehead and smiling at him. He rubbed their hair and hugged them back, smiling a little.

Whatever it took to make them happy, he would roll with. No matter what.

 

The door was opened to reveal an utterly speechless woman holding a notepad, gawking with open mouth at all of the collected monsters hanging around the apartment. Sans had to steel himself for what was coming, too.

 

And here we go.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

The bespectacled reporter had her black hair styled back into a tight little bun, her notepad hanging limply in one hand as Blake slowly closed the door behind her. She wore a conservative gray skirt with a white blouse, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she breathed heavily through her nostrils, eyes darting back and forth.

 

“So, believe me now, Rachel?” Blake grinned at her, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He was tapping his fingertips together and beaming at her widely. “Still going to finish giving me the 'take your damned meds' schtick? Eh? Eh? … Rachel?”

“... I need a minute,” Rachel backed into the door and let out a shuddering breath, running a hand through her hair.

“Sup,” Sans waved at her from the couch, causing her to jump. “I'm Sans. Sans the skeleton. You're a human, right? That's hilarious.”

“This is happening,” Rachel's voice was wavering. “Oh, god. This is happening. This is actually happening.”
“Allow me to be the first to welcome you!” Papyrus bounded up straight in front of her, startling her enough to make her jump. He took her free hand in his and shook it jovially, beaming down at the shorter woman. “My name is The Great Papyrus! Capital 'T', capital 'G', etcetera.”

“It's... very n-nice to meet you, uh, mister Great Papyrus,” Rachel readjusted her glasses awkwardly. “My name is Rachel.”

“Welcome back to casa del Blake,” Blake rolled his shoulders. “You staying for dinner?”

“How can you think about food at a time like this?” Rachel spluttered at him. “Roudy, are you kidding me with this?”

“I joke,” Blake said evenly. “I josh, pester and gag, but I do not ever kid. This is happening.”

 

“Would that be the reporter you mentioned?” Toriel asked quietly as she left the kitchenette, dipping her head a little to fit through the doorway. Rachel tried to take a step back into the door when she saw the comparatively taller boss monster, her eyes widening even further.

“Oh. Oh my. Oh, my. Um. Y-yes?” Rachel squeaked. “H-hi. Oh. Oh wow.”

“My name is Toriel,” the queen smiled kindly down at her, careful to give the panicking woman space. “It is a pleasure to meet you, young woman.”

“N-nice to meet you too, ma'am,” Rachel gave a weak little wave, her brows furrowing tightly as she looked about the room at the two skeletons, the king standing behind the queen in the doorway, and the human child staring at her from the couch with a bizarre expression.

“Oh! Another human!” Asgore beamed at the still slightly shocked woman. “Hello there. Would you care for a cup of tea?”

Tea,” she repeated numbly. “Y-yeah. Sure. Sure, why not. This can't get any weirder. All we're missing are the white rabbit and the Hatter.”

 

“Okay,” Blake took her gently by the shoulder, guiding her toward the kitchen. “It sounds like somebody needs to sit down for a minute. Take your time, Rach. Take your time.”

“Okay. Okay. Alright. I can do that,” Rachel babbled as she was walked slowly out of the living room with Papyrus close in tow. “Sit down. I can do that. That I can manage. Easy peasy. Not a problem. I can do that.”

Sans was half tempted to follow into the kitchen to watch the woman's inevitable mental breakdown, but that would take effort, and frankly he was just too tired for that. He gave a little sigh and closed his eye sockets, chin resting on his chest. The movie that Frisk was watching continued to play, but he was too tired to pay attention to it. He was just so tired. So drained. If he could just rest for a little while, he would be fine. There were still so many things that he needed to process, so many things to handle. Could he even manage it all by himself? Was that even feasible? He needed a drink. He really felt like calling up Grillby and asking him to come back to the bar, but that was a selfish impulse and he knew it. Grillby was probably up on the surface somewhere exploring the whole wide world with his family.

A horrible thought occurred to him.

The world was a really, really big place.

Would Grillby even come back?

What if that had been the last time that he would see Grillby?

 

That was not a pleasant train of thought, and his skeletal brows furrowed as he tried to clear his mind. He was being silly. Grillby wouldn't just take off like that. He'd even told him about his business ventures, he probably wouldn't go far. Probably.

He was still uneasy though.

 

Once again, it was like Frisk just inherently knew when he was in distress. He felt them curl up closely beside him, taking his slightly trembling hand in theirs. He cracked an eye socket to glance down at them and saw that Frisk was smiling softly up at him, and he felt himself relax just a little bit. He smiled back and squeezed their hand gently, closing his eye sockets again and letting out a little sigh. Everything would be fine. He was overreacting. God, he was just a bundle of nerves today.

Can I really blame me?

 

There were quite a number of things that he could blame himself over. But that wouldn't get him anywhere, he'd wind up going in mental circles again and wasting time. Then again, wasting time was something that he excelled at.

Focus.

What he wanted to do was discuss a few things with Frisk, but he doubted that he could get them to speak at all with so many others nearby. But it couldn't hurt to try. And he had to, he had to try. He wanted to try. No matter how hard it was, no matter how badly it hurt, he just had to.

 

“... Hey,” Sans asked quietly after a while of listening to the rapid chatter in the kitchen. “Kiddo.”

Frisk didn't respond, but they did softly run their thumb over his phalanges to let him know that they were listening.

“Listen. Buddy,” he said after another moment. “We... we gotta talk.”

Frisk looked at him worriedly, eyes darting nervously toward the light but constant talk coming from the kitchen.

“It's important,” Sans looked them in the eyes, and they bit their lip uncertainly. “C'mon, buddy. I really gotta know something. And I think I've gone long enough without knowing.”

Frisk opened their mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Their cheeks flushed a little and they looked away, embarrassed.

“... We don't gotta talk about it here,” Sans placed a palm over the top of their head, causing them to jump a little. “Okay? I'm not gonna make you talk in front of anybody else, so don't freak out. I don't want you to freak out. Alright? What... whaddya say we go for a walk, huh, buddy?”

Frisk glanced back to the kitchen as if they were expecting to be stopped, but they eventually nodded a couple of times and swallowed dryly.

“A'ight. Let's ditch this nicecream stand,” he winked at them.

With a little burst of displaced air and a crackle of static in the air, they were gone as if they had never been there at all.

 

Smiling from the shadows, someone watched, and followed.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

It's a beautiful day outside.

 

Birds were singing. Flowers were blooming.

 

Sans took in a deep breath through his nostril bone, and couldn't keep the little smile of his face despite himself. Ebott city had a fairly nice park, and it didn't even take them long to find. The less walking that he had to do, the better. He was fine with continuing along the sidewalks, as people tended to give them a significantly wide berth until he eventually pulled his hood up out of habit. That seemed to prevent a few of them from panicking, until they got close enough to see his bony legs sticking out from his shorts and the few that dared look him the eye sockets. Sans pulled down his hood a few times as they walked just to examine the reactions. It didn't fail to amuse, at least. Nobody bothered them, which he could most certainly live with. He just had to pretend it didn't sting a little that they all seemed so afraid of him.

That raised a few questions about the human that they had been living with, which he pondered as they sat down beneath the shade of a large oak tree in the park. The first human that they had actually met hadn't panicked at all when he met them. In fact, he had been nothing but friendly and helpful ever since they'd met.

 

That didn't add up to what Sans knew of humans.

Something about Blake was just.... off. It bothered him deeply that he couldn't quite put his finger on what. Granted, it was surprisingly nice meeting such an apparently kindhearted man of science turned pizza guy.

He was too nice.

There was definitely something wrong.

And it was going to bother him to no end until he got to the bottom of why.

 

The park was 'mysteriously' cleared out a little after they arrived, and Sans closed his eyes and sighed, leaning up against the weathered oak. Frisk's grip in his hand tightened a little and he cracked an eye socket, smiling wanly down at them for a moment. After a bit the smile faded as his thoughts resumed wreaking havoc on his focus.

“Okay,” Sans tried to keep from frowning. “Okay, buddy. Guess nobody wanted to stick around a bone bag like me, eh?”

Frisk didn't respond, but they did smile up at him kindly.

“They just haven't had a chance to meet monsters yet,” they said with determination in their eyes. “Monsters are so nice. People will figure it out.”

“Heh. You're such a smart kid, Frisk,” Sans grinned, ruffling their hair. They tried to dodge a little too late and stuck out their tongue, trying to fix their hair again. They sat in silence for a little while, just staring up at the dappled sunlight flickering in through the leaves above them. Natural sunlight, the gentle warm breeze on his face, the smell of earth and trees and life all around them. How had humans lived with this for so long and just ditched something so amazing just because they saw a skeleton? Humans could be so weird.

 

“Alright, kiddo,” Sans began slowly. “I know you got a thing about talkin' in front of others. It's just me here. I promise.”

Frisk looked at him with a bit of confusion, still holding his hand.

“I just got a couple things on my mind, that's all,” he did his best to appear as calm as possible, regardless of the battle currently waging in his head. “You mind if I ask you somethin'?”

“It's okay,” Frisk smiled up at him.

“Who put that mark on your back?”

It was like a switch had suddenly been flipped. Frisk immediately dropped his hand, clinging to their forearms desperately and looking away, shame overwhelming their features as their cheeks heated. They began shivering and looked ready to cry, staring down at their knees as they drew them up close to their body, rocking back and forth a little.

 

Shit.

“K-kiddo?” Sans started to reach out for them and they flinched hard.

“I-I c-can't...” Frisk mumbled, looking more and and more distressed with every passing second. “I, I can't, I can't...!

“Easy, ea~sy there buddy,” Sans carefully tried to draw their hands down away from their face, noting how utterly afraid they looked. He hated seeing that expression on their face. It made his soul ache. “Take-take a breath. Okay? Just breathe babybones. It's okay. You... you don't gotta say anything you don't wanna,” he pressed further against his better judgment. “I'm not gonna hurt nobody.”

It was a double negative and therefore not technically a lie. He still felt like scum for saying it though. Frisk was a bright kid. They probably knew just as well as he did that he was a dirty liar. He shouldn't be pressing them when they were like this, he knew it and god he felt horrible for putting them through this, but he needed to know.

The judge had to know everything.

 

Frisk was hyperventilating at this point, whimpering and covering their eyes with the palms of their hands, and Sans cringed deeply.

You fucked up. Way to go, asshole.

“Shit, I... I'm sorry,” he stuttered, pulling them ever so gently into a hug and rubbing the back of their head. “It's okay. It's alright, shh. C'mon. Forget I said anything. Shh. Please. Please, babybones. Don't cry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, just-just forget all about it. Okay?”

They still cried as he held them, but they had fallen completely silent. They trembled noiselessly in his arms, shaking like the leaves in the wind above them. He just held them and petted their hair, making soft noises that didn't have any meaning.

 

Why did he do that?

Why did he have such a bad habit of continuously fucking up?

Because he just had to know. Someday, he would. He would find out who had hurt his little babybones.

And god help them when that day finally came.

But it was evident that he wasn't going to get any answers from Frisk on the matter. The way that they had just... flipped like that. They had been so calm, so happy. So trusting.

And he had just tossed it all away because he wanted...

Well.

Would murder count as justice?

That was a question that Sans had asked himself many, many times.

Sometimes, he still wasn't sure of the answer.

 

He apologized over, and over, and over, but it was far too late. Frisk wouldn't speak any more. They had finally begun to speak again, and he had ruined it all with a couple of stupid words.

God, if only there was a cure for stupidity.

If only there was a cure for being me.

 

Sans wanted to hold them close. He let them dry their tears with his sleeve, and he pulled them around the shoulder into a loose hug. Frisk hugged him back around the chest, burying their face in his jacket and mumbling something too low for him to make out. He didn't question what it was. He didn't want to say anything else potentially stupid at this point. He could only keep his jaw locked tightly and try to keep the lowly bubbling rage burning his bones at bay. Whoever had made his kid – his little babybones – like this, so terrified to speak out that they turned into a blubbering mess whenever it was brought up...

One way or another, he was going to find them.

One way or another, someone was going to suffer for their sins.

 

He closed his eye sockets and sighed, slowly resuming getting his phalanges tangled in their hair. He was going to protect them. He was going to keep them safe.

But how was he supposed to do that? How was he supposed to be the good person that they needed? How was he supposed to be the good person that they deserved?

How was he supposed to be a good person at all?

He desperately wanted to call Grillby. There was a good chance that he would answer. Grillby always had an answer to every dilemma. Maybe not with an answer that made immediate sense, but he had a good head on his shoulders. Maybe he could go back and talk with Papyrus. Papyrus always knew what to do. Unlike him, Papyrus was actually a good person.

Maybe it should have been Papyrus raising them, instead of him. He didn't deserve to have Frisk. He didn't even deserve to know them.

 

Sans tried to derail that train of thought, but to no large success, as it had already departed. He didn't want to get up and go back to the apartment. Not really. It was where everyone else was, and maybe spending time around good people would help Frisk to open up again. Lord knows he wasn't helping matters in the slightest. He was so damned selfish. Every single day that he kept going he continued to think that his self loathing couldn't possibly grow any deeper, and every single time it did. It was mind boggling. Maybe that was the problem. His mind was wrong.

Sans was pondering this as he stared into the shadows when he finally realized that the shadows were staring back.

 

Sans jolted suddenly, accidentally shaking Frisk out of his grasp as he clutched at his eye, magic instinctively rushing into his fingertips. He searched in vain for... whatever he had seen, finding nothing there but the mottled shadows cast from the oak tree. He looked over to Frisk for clues, who only looked bewildered and a little bit frightened.

“S-sorry,” he forced a little laugh, though it was devoid of any humor. “Thought... thought I saw something. Sorry, babybones. Everything is fine,” he lied. Did everything that passed his teeth have to be a lie? “Didn't mean to scare ya. Just... jumping at shadows,” he pointed at the shade with a weak grin.

Losing your mind. You're losing your goddamn mind.

 

He wasn't there. He couldn't be there. He was gone. He was gone. He wasn't even real.

Not anymore.

The park suddenly seemed like a much less comfortable place to stay.

 

“Hey,” he said conversationally, animatedly stretching his arms above his head like it had just occurred to him. “I'll bet the others are gettin' ready for dinner. You wanna grab some ice cream on the way back?”

Frisk only frowned at him slightly, furrowing their brows.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he ruffled their hair, hugging them again and giving them a chaste peck on the forehead. “Ruining your appetite, what would Papyrus say, etc. C'mon, kiddo. Wanna take a shortcut back?”

Frisk checked over their shoulder for a moment, biting their bottom lip before turning back to him and smiling softly, taking his hand in theirs.

That raised a question that he wasn't certain that he wanted the answer to.

They kept checking over their shoulder.

Like they knew that somebody was watching.

Sans didn't want to think about that. That was the trick to not going completely insane. He just had to avoid thinking about it.

Don't think about it.

Don't think about it.

It won't bother you if you don't think about it.

Whatever you do, don't think about it.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

He thought about it.

 

Sans stepped out of the shortcut with Frisk beside him, letting out a relieved sigh as they entered the living room. Papyrus blinked up from the couch with Alphys sitting beside him, her legs curled up underneath her as she went over a stack of papers with a pen in hand. She yelped a little when she saw him, readjusting her glasses and frowning at him.

 

“Y-y-you know I-I h-hate it w-when you d-do that,” Alphys sighed, shaking her head.

“I wondered where you two had gotten to,” Papyrus said quietly.

“You... you okay, Paps?” Sans let go of Frisk's hand, sticking his fists in his pockets.

“Everything is fine,” he replied in the same terse tone. “Apparently human Blake has insisted on cooking for everyone tonight.”

“H-he's s-sulking,” Alphys informed him tactlessly.

“Nonsense!” Papyrus said huffily. “I'm not sulking. That's for babybones. I'm not sulking. I do not sulk. That is simply not a thing that I do. I don't do that. Ever.”

“Of course not,” Sans chortled and shook his head while Frisk clambered up onto the couch beside Alphys. The scientist stared at them for a moment before Frisk leaned over their head and hugged Papyrus hard.

 

“... I missed you too, little one,” Papyrus ran a hand over their head with a soft little smile. “We waited for you for movie night.”

Frisk silently mouthed thank you to him, pulling back over the awkwardly blushing Alphys, who's shoulders were so slumped that it looked like she was trying to curl in on herself to avoid contact.

“Alright, stir fry's almost done!” Blake poked his head in through the kitchen doorway, readjusting a pink apron that said kiss the cook with the word cook etched out in marker and replaced with cool dude. “Oh. Hey Sans. Didn't even hear you come in. You guys mind if Rachel stays for dinner?”

That woman actually wanted to stay? Maybe I should have a word or two with her after all.

“Sure. And, uh. What can I say, I can be stealthy when I want.”

“Yeah right,” Blake said, crossing his arms. “Really stealthy. Considering that this place is small and I can see the front door from the kitchen.”

“I got in easy,” Sans winked at him. “I had a skeleton key.”

Blake hid a snort behind his hand.

“Don't encourage him,” Papyrus grumbled. “Or else there'll be no end to the puns.”

“Hey, just be glad I'm making stir fry tonight,” Blake grinned at him. Sans could hear a familiar giggling coming from the kitchen, and it didn't take much to figure out who it was. “I would have thought you guys would prefer spare ribs.

“That doesn't ev- oh, not you too!” Papyrus clapped his hand to his forehead. Sans only laughed and shook his head.

“Aw, don't be like that Paps,” Sans snickered quietly. “We're just numbskulls.

“Sans, no!”

“Sans, yes.

“Whelp, my joke repertoire is going bone dry,” Blake chuckled. “But dinner's almost ready.”

“Oh, thank god,” Papyrus stood immediately. “A much appreciated distraction from the puns.”

Bone appetite.”

“FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

They all looked so comfortable, laughing and joking as they passed around plates. Eating popcorn and watching movies that had been watched already. They thought that they were all so safe. What a dangerous assumption to make. Throughout it all, he simply did as he had done for countless millennium, over and over over again in so many timelines. He knew exactly where to go. He knew exactly what to do. He knew exactly what to say. All he had to do was wait. He was good at that. Soon he would be asleep, and slipping through the barriers of consciousness and right into his clutches.

 

Omnipotence was one hell of a drug.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Experiment #2 – Given name 'Papyrus'

Status – Soon outliving his usefulness.

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

'Rachel' was a bit of an odd woman, Sans thought to himself.

 

She had apparently let her hair down at some point in the night, and it fell down to her shoulders in black waves. Toriel and Alphys remained in the kitchen, talking amongst themselves about their plans as they baked a couple of pies together. Blake had simply stood back in utter awe the from the first one she had made, casting magical fire out of her hands and cooking the homemade pie to perfection. Sans wondered just how long a human would have to see something like that before the initial shock of seeing magic in action wore off. Frisk never seemed to be afraid of magic. Then again, they were a very brave kid.

 

Rachel sat in the recliner with Blake leaning over the back, chin in his hands as he stared absentmindedly back and forth between the conversation and the movie. Undyne didn't speak at all the entire time, utterly blown away by the film about cartoon mermaids, but Sans couldn't really care less as he sat on the floor with his back to the couch, eye sockets loosely closed as he listened to the conversation. Asgore and Papyrus shared the sofa with Frisk squeezed in between them, and they looked like they desperately wanted to hold his hand and even tried once before remembering. Their face softened sadly and they looked away, fiddling with their hands for a while before eventually tucking their hands into their sleeves.

 

“So, yeah. I took after my grandfather, mostly,” Rachel continued quietly, hands folded neatly in her lap with one leg crossed over the other. “He really loved his job, couldn't stand the 'stay behind a desk all day' type of reporters. The kind of guy who thought a day was wasted if he couldn't get dirt under his nails while he worked. I think that you and he would have really gotten along well, your highness.”

“He sounds like a fine man,” Asgore nodded kindly, and she smiled back at him. “It would have been nice to meet him.”

Rachel fell silent for a moment, sadness passing over her face for just a moment before she sighed and readjusted her hair, brushing black locks out of her face.

“It was... really cool to meet all of you,” Rachel beamed quietly at them, flipping the pages on her notepad a few times and tucking her pen behind her ear. “I definitely think that I've got enough to go on. I... I guess a part of me still can't believe that this is really happening.”

“Just, uh... try not to let them publish anything too inflammatory?” Blake pulled away from the back of the recliner as sh stood.

“Pfft. What do you take me for, some two bit schmuck?” she snorted. “This isn't even going to get published until my boss has actual proof of monsters, so there's not much I can do until tomorrow except go over it and highlight the juicy bits. I mean, a child saving all of monsterkind? I'll be lucky if this doesn't blow up in my face first.”

“Thanks again, Rach,” Blake guided her to the door. “Good luck.”

“Funny. You're the one wishing me good luck,” she sighed again and shook her head, clasping a firm hand to his shoulder for a moment. “Be careful. Understood?”

“What?” Blake looked a little hurt, running a hand through his short hair. “I'm careful. I'm super careful. I'm the most careful guy I know.”

“Blake, you got third degree burns from sticking your hands in a toaster-”

“That was one time!” he ushered her quickly out the door. “Good luck, see you tomorrow, adios, yadda yadda.”

 

Rachel only shook her head as she left. Asgore stood and yawned, attempting to stretch and only bumping the ceiling. Asgore rumbled quietly to himself when he did, shaking his head and heading off curiously to the kitchen.

“... Sorry this place is so small, you guys,” Blake flinched a little at the claw marks on the ceiling.

“It's nothing to worry about, human Blake,” Papyrus informed him kindly as he stood and stretched his arm and a half behind his head. “It might not be roomy, but it is very cozy once you get used to it.”

“I'd suggest a hotel like that Mettaton guy,” Blake shrugged. “I hope that works out for him, he can sort of pass for human if he's careful, but he doesn't really strike me as the type to hide it. But, uh, I'm not entirely certain how humans would react to a whole bunch of monsters checking in.”

“I wouldn't worry too much,” Papyrus shook his head with a smile. “I'm going to go see if anyone needs help in the kitchen.”

 

Blake seemed supremely upset at this, but Papyrus apparently didn't notice as he bounded off heartily toward the others. Blake ran a hand over his head, looking helplessly at Undyne. He started to speak to her but she only held a finger to her lips, staring wide eyed at a movie scene with a singing octopus. Blake sighed heavily, trodding over toward Frisk. Sans kept his eye sockets mostly closed, stilling his breathing a little to continue the illusion of sleep. Blake was leaning over him to Frisk, and Sans felt the sudden, very intense, very violent urge to grab the human and push him away. He was too close to his kid and he couldn't see what he was doing, nobody got that close to his kid he'd kill him-!

 

Sans let out a shuddering breath, forcing himself to remain calm.

What was wrong with him? Why was he getting so overprotective? He wasn't paranoid. He wasn't.

 

“Hey there, squirt,” he heard Blake say softly. “You're... looking a little green around the gills,” he gave a weak chuckle, but Sans knew forced laughter when he heard it. “You doing okay, fella?”

He didn't hear Frisk speak, but they must have nodded, because he heard Blake hum quietly.

 

“Okay. Just thought I'd check. You really don't look so good, little guy. Let me know if you need anything, alright? I'm going to go stop Papyrus. No offense to your friend, but I kind of don't like the thought of him being in there after the fourth time he set fire to my kitchen.”

Frisk giggled quietly, and Sans felt that sudden bubbling anger again.

Blake was making them laugh.

It hurt that it hadn't been him to do it.

Why?

He wasn't... jealous or anything. That would just be silly. Blake was just looking out for his kid. Being nice to his babybones. Sans didn't like it.

Regardless, he didn't particularly care for the human being around his kid any longer than necessary.

 

Shit.

Blake must have wandered off to the kitchen because when Sans cracked an eye socket he was gone. He looked blankly at the back of Undyne's head for a moment, watching her toy with her ponytail while she watched the movie. Sans sighed quietly and picked himself up off the floor, rubbing his aching back before dropping into the seat beside Frisk on the sofa.

“... Mind if I sit here?” Sans asked quietly. Frisk responded by smiling toothily at him and hugging him tightly. Sans let out a breath and hugged them back, running his hand over the top of their head. So long as he could keep them close, that was all that mattered. He really, really had grown too attached. A small part of him silently wished that he could go back to just thinking of them as the anomaly. He wouldn't be getting so overprotective. He wouldn't have thoughts to fight against. He could just...

Go back?

 

He didn't want to go back. Even though it was inevitable. For once in his life, things were moving forward. He didn't know what would happen. How things would turn out. He had no clue as to what the future held. He didn't know if he could even trust this new human who had been so kind to them, without asking a single thing in return. Nobody was that nice. There was always a price to everything. Something was just plain wrong, and he didn't know what. He was going to pinpoint exactly what it was about Blake that put him on edge. Perhaps when he was out of the house he could have a decent chance to snoop around and see what he could dig up on him. Maybe the Rachel woman had some more insight that he could look into. She had been point blank terrified at first, but after a few hours of just sitting down and talking with them all she had turned out to be not all that bad. She was very polite and especially respectful toward the king and queen, and seemed to ask more questions pertaining to her own curiosity rather than her journalism. Sans didn't like that she peppered Frisk with question after question before finally realizing that they weren't going to speak to her. Why was it so hard for her to just understand that the kid didn't want to talk?

Humans could be so strange.

 

After pie was served to everyone, Blake began gathering blankets for everyone. Alphys and Undyne shared the kitchen, which was fine with Sans.He insisted that Toriel and Asgore take his bed (if they could both even fit on it) and he finally stopped before Sans and Frisk on the couch, arms full of quilts. He stepped carefully beside the quietly snoring skeleton on the recliner in a bundle of blankets, shaking his head when he saw Papyrus try to grab at something in his sleep.

“We really should have picked up some more sleeping bags or something,” Blake frowned as he passed a couple of blankets to Frisk and Sans.

“Ayy, don't worry 'bout it,” Sans shook his head with a small smile. “Thanks, man. I... really appreciate all you've done for us.”

Blake did not blush, exactly, but his ears did turn a very bright shade of pink from the praise.

“I'm sure anybody else would have done the same,” he said simply, grinning widely. “G'night, you guys. If you need anything, I'm right down the hall in the laundry room.”

“And, uh. Thanks,” Sans added quietly. “For lookin' out for my kid.”

“Frisk is your kid?” Blake blinked at him as he passed him the blankets.

“Yeah?” Sans looked between the child in his arms and the bewildered human in front of him. “I-I mean... not, uh. Not technically,” he shifted uncomfortably. “But, yeah. I've been taking care of 'em since they... fell.”

 

Blake mused over this quietly, pinching his chin between his thumb and forefinger.

“... This could be a problem.”

“Why is that a problem?” Sans asked somewhat defensively, instinctively pulling Frisk a little closer. Frisk looked back and forth between them worriedly.

“If... if you're not Frisk's actual legal guardian,” Blake began slowly. “Then there could be some issues. I don't even know if monsters technically have citizenship yet, we've gone over the papers a dozen times and we still can't work out all the kinks until Richard gets here tomorrow from his flight. If... if you don't have custody of Frisk, the country's government might try to put them in a children's home.”

“Wait, what?!” Sans blurted, causing Papyrus to jerk in his sleep. He lowered his voice carefully, feeling far to sweaty and a little sick to his stomach. “This... that can't – I, I can't just... oh, shit,” Sans ran a hand over the top of his head. Frisk looked so worried, so afraid. He didn't want them to look like that. They had been so comfortable a moment ago, so happy.

“Don't freak out,” Blake held out his hands. “We're not going to let anybody take Frisk away. Okay? We'll... we'll figure this out. We'll get you all official citizenship as fast as possible so that you can get parental responsibility and legal guardianship. First thing in the morning. Don't even worry about it, bro. I've got your back.”

 

Sans let out a quivering, aching sigh, closing his weary eye sockets. Frisk squeezed his hand gently to let him know that even though the despair was clawing at his chest, they were still there. They wouldn't leave his side. They were there, they were with him, and they weren't letting go.

It... helped. Just a little.

 

“... Thank you,” Sans eventually said almost noiselessly. “God. Thank you.”

“Don't mention it,” Blake said kindly as he placed a hand on Sans's shoulder. “I'm legally able to adopt, so I can claim Frisk as legally under my care until we can change official custody to you guys. That sound good to you, Frisk?”

Frisk silently mouthed thank you and beamed at him, looking ready to cry out of relief.

“Rest easy, fellas,” Blake shook his head slowly and straightened his back. “We've got a big day ahead of us tomorrow. I hope you're prepared for crazy.”

“Dude, my entire life is a cycle of crazy,” Sans laughed weakly. “I... I just... thank you.”

“Seriously, man, you're making me blush here, quit thanking me!” Blake chuckled and gave a two finger half salute as he turned. “G'night, guys. See you in the morning.”

Frisk waved at him animatedly as he left, but he didn't seem to see. Sans could finally relax a little bit, and he sighed contentedly when Frisk gave him a tight hug, nuzzling their face into his shoulder.

 

Maybe he had been wrong about Blake.

That still wasn't going to stop him from snooping around the first chance that he got, though.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans was drifting through the dark.

 

He really didn't care for the feeling.

He saw flashes of dreams that flickered behind his eye sockets. Glimmering golden sunlight dancing through the stained glass windows as dust gently floated in the air. Cold steel gurneys that felt like they were freezing his bones. A deep darkness, so black that he could see colors that didn't appear to the untrained eye. He vaguely wondered if he would see Frisk in that darkness. He silently hoped so. They were so near, so close to them that he could still feel their soul somewhere, their powerful little heartbeat. At some level he knew that what he saw wasn't really there, that Frisk was cuddled up next to him under their blankets on the couch as they clung to him in their sleep. He wanted to keep them close. Keep them safe. Make them happy. He wanted that more than anything. He just wanted to see them again. Even if that meant having Chara with them, he didn't care. They were both his kids. His little babybones. He was going to keep them safe. No matter what.

 

And then he saw it.

A little click of bone on bone, chittering in the dark.

 

He tried to call out but couldn't quite find his voice. Where was he anymore? He couldn't see anything but the dark. He could hear skittering, almost like a skeletal spider behind him, before him, around him. He knew that sound. The rattling of bones.

No.

No.

NO.

 

“It's been a while, hasn't it, Sans?”

He turned and tried to cast out a burst of magic to illuminate the dark, but it would not answer his call. He felt so tired. Like his bones were full of lead. He couldn't run. Couldn't find his little babybones to ensure that they were okay. Even with this growing feeling of dread he was still more concerned for their health than he was his own. He couldn't let him get close to them. He knew that voice.

 

“You aren't real,” he heard himself say, but it was like the dark was simply swallowing his words. “You aren't real.”

Aren't I?”

 

He stood there like he had always been standing there, hands folded calmly before him with that smug, all knowing smirk. That pronounced skeletal jaw, the slightly closed eye sockets as if he were squinting without his glasses, the lab coat that he had been wearing when Sans pushed him into his creation. Like he had never fallen at all. He just... stood there. Smiling. Like there was a joke that only he knew the punchline to. He hated that look, he despised it so much.

“Didn't you miss me, Sans?” Gaster asked quietly, his phalanges clicking together and resounding through the darkness. “Don't you have any love for your creator anymore?”

“Eat my bony ass out,” he swore violently, clutching his fists tightly in his jacket pocket. “What do you want this time? Come to haunt me like the ghost you are, old man?”

Gaster only tittered, his jaw clicking and clacking as his fingers reached over each other. He really was like a gigantic skeletal spider. Sans could have almost swore that he could see webbing, if he looked hard enough. Little lines protruding from nowhere and going everywhere. But it was gone the next time he tried to look. Like he was searching for something that wasn't there.

 

“Don't be distressed, Sans” Gaster said with a little smile. “I'm only here to give you a little bit of a warning.”

“Suck a fat one,” Sans glowered at him angrily. “Why can't you just fucking stay dead?

“Say what you like,” he started to readjust glasses that weren't there. “I just wanted to drop in again and let you know something important.”

Sans held his breath, wanting nothing more than to summon a blaster and incinerate the skeleton's ghost. If he even was a ghost. He was less than that. He was a dream. None of this was real. It wasn't real.

 

“You are going to want to reset soon,” Gaster informed him quietly with a smile. “I want you to repress that urge. You're good at repressing urges,” he drifted through the dark without walking, and Sans felt like he was being smothered slowly. He was too close, far too close for comfort. He could still see Gaster standing calmly before him, but he felt like he was behind him too, leaning over his head and choking the life out of him. “I have seen so much, Sans. I want you to change the future.”

“I want a future without you in it,” Sans hissed angrily.

“Just think over what I told you...” he simply smirked at him, folding his hands behind his back. “Don't let your little... harlot reset. That's all I ask of you, Sans.”

“Don't you fucking call them that!” he was shouting at this point, but his voice felt too small, too weak to even hear himself. The shadows were too much, it was like he was being slowly eaten by them.

 

“You'll remember our little chat, won't you, Sans?” Gaster said quietly, but he could still hear him like he was whispering beside his head. “All you have to do is exactly what you want. And I know... what you really want.

A chill ran up Sans's spine as he clenched and unclenched his fists in his pockets. He felt too sweaty, too heavy, too tired.

“There are so many different timelines,” Gaster continued calmly. “Timelines where you live beneath the barrier. On the surface. Cavorting with filthy humans. You even take some of them for your own, in those times. You could be happy. I know you for what you are, Sans. I know who you are. I know what you really want. And you can have it, you know. I don't care what you do with your little... experiment. You can have them when you help me, you know. You can have them. Any way you want.”

“Fuck off!” Sans growled deeply. “Just... just stop talking!”

“Are you afraid, Sans?” Gaster was suddenly behind him, and Sans jerked away in fright, trying to reach for magic that wouldn't answer him. “You don't have to be scared. I'm here now. I'm going to fix everything. And you're going to help me.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Sans jolted awake from the nightmares, sweating and coughing. He could still hear his last words ringing in his head.

You're going to help me.

Whether you like it or not.

 

It wasn't real. It wasn't real. He was repressed and it was manifesting in his psyche in the form of the person gone the most. That was all. The living room was dark, but not nearly as dark as that void he had just been in. It was just a dream after all. It wasn't real. It wasn't happening. Sans took a deep breath, trying to resist the urge to shift Frisk away and dig in his jacket pockets. Except that he had removed his jacket a while ago, leaving him with just his shorts and his old tutleneck. Frisk murmured quietly in their sleep atop him. They were curled up with their head on his chest, clinging desperately to his shirt in their sleep. They looked so small. So weak. So frail. Sans held them tenderly as if they were made of glass, and a single touch could shatter them. Even with that... dream bouncing around his thoughts, he was still more worried about them. Their brows were furrowed deeply and they whimpered something that he couldn't understand. Sans simply rubbed circles on their back and kissed the top of their head, holding them close. Frisk stilled after a few moments, their chest rising and falling slowly in their sleep.

 

Harlot.

His bones felt too hot, his marrow was boiling he was so angry. Gaster was not going to get away with calling his little babybones that. It wasn't the first time that he had dreams of similar caliber. It got easier to ignore with time, but this one seemed to be stuck in his head. Frisk twitched and jerked fretfully, trembling a little.

“... Hey,” Sans got his phalanges tangled in their hair, trying to sit up a little on the couch. “Hey now. Babybones?”

“... Sans?” Frisk muttered softly.

“I'm here, baby,” he hushed them gently. “Shh. It's okay, babybones.”

“I... I had a bad dream...” they murmured, eyes opening a little as they darted back and forth for something in the dark. They reached out in the shadows for him, and he took one of their hands in his.

“It's okay, babybones...” Sans petted the back of their head, stroking them softly. “It's okay. It's just a dream. Okay? Dreams aren't real. They can't hurt you if you don't let them. Okay?”

“Okay, Sans...” Frisk yawned quietly, closing their eyes and snuggling with their face against his chest. “It's okay, Sans. You don't have to be scared either. I'll make the bad man go away.”

“... Bad man,” Sans whispered nervously.

“The scary man with the white coat,” Frisk tiredly explained. “I had a dream about him again. Chara doesn't like him at all.”

 

He was there.

He was there, he was coming back, he was real and he was in their head.

Sans had to repress a sudden shudder, holding Frisk a little bit closer. There was no coincidence there. Was Frisk having the same kind of dreams that he was? Was Gaster trying to influence them through their dreams? What could he possibly have to gain by that? Why couldn't that bastard just stay dead and out of his life? Why was he doing this? Why couldn't he just leave him alone?

 

“It's not real,” Sans muttered darkly, pulling Frisk a little closer. “Just ignore it. Okay? It's not real. It's not real.

“O-okay...” Frisk nodded quietly. “Okay, Sans.”

They fell silent after a while, but it was clear that they weren't going back to sleep. Sans didn't feel like he could sleep again, either. He wasn't even safe in his sleep anymore. The nightmares about the resets, the dust of his friends, that damned weed, and now Gaster? How could it possibly get any worse?

 

“... I love you, Sans.”

“I love you too, babybones,” Sans replied softly, closing his weary eye sockets and giving them a light hug. They responded by crawling a little until they were laying on top of him with his chest as a pillow. They smiled up at him and gave him a celibate little kiss on the cheek, hiding their face in his turtleneck.

 

So Gaster wanted him to keep them from resetting. Why? What could he gain from that? What was the point? He didn't want Frisk to reset anyway. He could have done just that without Gaster's intervention. Why bother telling him to do something he wanted to do anyway?

Why was this happening? What was the point?

What was the point in anything?

 

“... Sans?” Frisk prodded him gently. “Are you okay?”

“Y-yeah, of course,” he nodded and swallowed dryly.

You can have them. Any way you want.

 

No.

No.

NO.

 

Sans took a slow, shaking breath, squeezing his eye sockets shut. He wasn't wrong. He wasn't an abomination. He wasn't like him. He didn't even want to think his name. He just wanted to have a life. He wanted to keep things as they were. There was change coming, and it scared the living daylights out of him. He wanted to keep them close. He just wanted to let them know that they were loved. That he would do literally anything for them. He wanted them to be safe. To be happy.

And he was ruining their happiness just by being around them. Didn't they understand that? Didn't they understand just how awful he was? The thought of other timelines bouncing around his head weren't helping. If things had turned out differently. If he had been a different Sans.

If he had been a better person.

He needed to be a better person. For Papyrus. For Frisk. They needed him. He needed to be stronger. He couldn't afford to be weak. If he was weak, if he caved in for even a moment, it was over. He had to stay on his toes. He had to defend against himself, how was he supposed to take care of them when he was the worst possible thing for them?

He was so full of regret. How things could have turned out differently if he were just a little bit better. He should be better. They needed him to be better. He was so overflowing with filth, he could feel his sins crawling all over his back.

 

“... It's okay,” Frisk whispered softly, just loud enough for him to hear. “Don't cry, Sansy. I'm here.”

Sans wiped his eyes with his sleeve, giving Frisk a light hug. He was supposed to be the adult here. And they were the one comforting him, dear god he was pathetic. They were so much stronger than him. They were so much better than him. He would give anything for them to be safe. For them to be happy.

And they might be taken away from him.

Maybe... maybe that was for the best. They would be among other humans. Safe from monsters like him.

But he didn't want them to be taken away. He wanted to hold them close, to protect them, to see them smile again. He wanted to tell them so much. But what was he even supposed to say? Instead, he wound up doing what he usually did. He said nothing at all.

 

“... You're a good kid, Frisk,” Sans said quietly, pulling the blankets up a little to cover their shoulders. “You're... you're a good person. Everything is gonna work out. You're... you're gonna make a great ambassador. I'm... I know I haven't been the best caretaker. I know that-that I fuck up. A lot. But I-I... I want you to know. I'm... I'm so proud of you, babybones.”

Frisk sniffled suddenly, wiping their eyes with their palms and beaming toothily at him before giving him another gentle kiss on the cheek.

“It's okay to make mistakes,” Frisk insisted gently, taking his hand in theirs. “What's important is learning from your mess ups so that it doesn't happen again. You're... you're a good daddy. I love you so much, Sans.”

 

Sans wanted to talk. He wanted to speak, to tell them about the roiling storm in his chest.

He couldn't find the words through his hot tears. He could only hold them carefully, feeling like his soul was going to burst from the sheer overwhelming love that he felt for them. They were such a good person. How could they possibly see any good in him at all? How could they possibly forgive him for all of the things that he had said, all the haunting things that he had done?

He didn't understand.

But he wanted to.

He wanted to understand more than anything in the world.

 

And for just a few moments, he wasn't worried about his dreams of the reality deprived scientist. He wasn't worried about the nightmares of the weed, or repeating everything over and over again. He wasn't worried at all. He could just feel their soul beating warmly against him, so full of mercy that it was just incredible. He had his friends. He had his brother. He had his little babybones. He had a future ahead of him.

For once, just a little bit, he could allow himself to be truly happy.

 

But more than that, he wanted Frisk to be happy, too.

He would do whatever it took. He would give them the entire world on a platter if they asked for it. They had given him the sun, and the moon, and all the stars in the night sky.

The very least he could do to return such kindness was to try.

He would try.

 

Maybe he wasn't a good person. Definitely not as good as Papyrus. Not as good as Frisk. But for them...

He would try.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Chapter Text

0-0-0-0-0

 

It was a hectic morning, to say the least.

 

Sans was awoken by the sound of an alarm clock and rustling and bustling as Blake stumbled through the house in ludicrously bright blue pajamas with little birds on them, rushing back and forth with his arms full of cups of coffee and plates of scrambled eggs and bacon. San sniffed quietly at the air, blinking a couple of times.

He had almost forgotten about the dream. Almost.

 

“Hey. G'mornin', babybones,” Sans brushed the hair from Frisk's eyes, and they yawned sleepily. They blinked a few times and Sans saw that their eyes had changed color again.

“Oh... hey,” Chara mumbled, turning their head away and pulling off of Sans. They shifted beneath their blankets and rubbed their eyes. They suddenly flinched when Sans rubbed the top of their head and gave them a soft peck on the forehead, causing their cheeks to flush. They sighed and closed their eyes for a few moments, and when they reopened them Sans saw that they were back to chocolate brown. It appeared that Chara wouldn't be hanging around much. Sans could live with that. The less that he had to deal with the loudmouthed brat...

But maybe that was his fault. If he wanted them to be on better behavior, he had to do a decent job of raising them to do so. He needed to be better. And, even if Chara got on his nerves at every opportunity that they got, they were still just as much his little babybones as Frisk.

 

The scent of coffee brewing was fresh in the air, and Sans took a deep breath. It was still early morning, early enough that the sun was still rising slowly over the horizon, peeking in curiously through the windows at the stretching monsters. Alphys wandered in from the kitchen wearing a long nightshirt with little smiling fish all over it, looking extremely flustered for some reason, with a widely grinning Undyne behind her with a cup of coffee in her hand. Frisk mumbled something that he couldn't hear and they held his hand for a few moments before drawing themselves up off the couch, pulling Sans to sit up with them.

 

“Alright, alright, I'm up already,” he yawned quietly. “Just gimme a sec, kiddo. I'm getting up.”

“Well, I should hope so!” Papyrus stuffed a cup of coffee into his hands. “Drink up, Sans. I added sugar for you as well as cream, just the way you like it.”

“Aww, man,” Sans rubbed the back of his head, grinning up at his brother. “Thanks. You're the best, Papy.”

“I know I am,” he responded somewhat tiredly, and Sans saw that the skeleton had deep lines beneath his eye sockets as if he hadn't slept much. Sans could definitely relate. “Just prepare yourself, Sans.”

“Big day ahead of us,” Sans yawned again, petting Frisk on the head with his free hand. They leaned into his touch and smiled at him kindly. “Hey, kiddo. You like coffee?”

Frisk stuck out their tongue in response. He only chuckled.

 

There was a loud rapping at the door, and Blake was bolting through the house with a nervous expression on his face.

“Okay,” Blake exclaimed loudly enough for everyone to hear, Asgore and Toriel emerging from the bedroom. Asgore still had a little bit of egg stuck in his beard, which Toriel quietly pointed out to him. “Okay, everybody. That'd be my b-brother, so, uh. Just keep cool.”

Why was he acting so awkward all of a sudden? He had been much calmer when the other human had been introduced to them. Why was he behaving so strangely now? Sans mused over this quietly, leaning back into the couch with the blanket draped over his lap, sipping at his coffee. He'd have answers soon enough, he supposed. Blake took a long, slow breath, running a hand down his face and clearing it completely of expression before he carefully opened the door.

 

In the doorway stood a very tall, very gaunt looking blonde man with his hair slicked back over his head. He had a thin, pale face with a serious expression, his brows furrowed as he looked down his nose at Blake as if he had just stepped in something disgusting. He wore a black suit with a white tie, clipped and tight around his rail thin body with a pair of slim black shoes that looked as if they had never touched dirt.

 

“Brother,” the man tilted his head a little to the shorter man. “I see that you have... guests.

“Richie!” Blake threw out his arms in an attempt to hug him. 'Richie' didn't move at all, simply glowering down his nose at him. Blake shrank a little in his gaze, dropping his arms limply to his side and looking extremely uncomfortable. “Do... do you, uh... wanna come in?”

“I suppose that I shall have to,” Richard sighed through his nose, walking in and looking about at the collected monsters like they were all specimens in jars that so happened to be mildly interesting to look at for a moment. Sans immediately disliked this human. He didn't like being viewed as a specimen at all.

 

“So, uh... guys,” Blake cast out an arm to the monsters uneasily. “This, uh... this is my brother Richard.”

“Pleasure,” Richard bowed his head a little, sounding as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world. “Blake, tell me. Are these... people the reason that there is a crowd gathered outside this apartment complex?”

“Y-yeah?” Blake shifted from foot to foot, pulling at his ear ring. “We kind of... need your expertise. I-I mean, we did our best with the paperwork, but w-we could really use your help with some of the, uh, legal jargon.”

Jargon,” his brother frowned slightly, his already narrow face seeming more pointed and sharp by the minute. “Oh, for god's sake, Blake. Don't call it jargon, just give me the paperwork and I'll see what I can do.”

“Thanks man,” Blake said with no small measure of relief, darting off to the kitchen. “Just a sec, bro, just a sec! Left the papers on the table!”

 

Richard was left standing amidst the monsters for a few moments, and he stared at them all with an unidentifiable look.

“... My brother informs me that you are all from under Mount Ebott,” Richard began quietly. “Quite difficult to believe that there are monsters among us until you see it with your own eyes. Funny thing.”

If he thought that it was a funny thing he certainly didn't show it. He looked as if he had never found a single thing funny in his entire life. It was clear that everyone was pretty uncomfortable with the man standing in the middle of them all, calmly looking down his nose at them.

“It is nice to meet you, brother of Blake,” Asgore said calmly as he approached the tall man, smiling kindly at him. “If you are anything at all like your brother, then I think that we will get along just fine.”

“Please do not compare me to him,” Richard said emotionlessly. “I'm just here to do the paperwork and then I'll be out of your hair.”

 

There was an almost audible sigh of relief when Richard stalked out of the room into the kitchen, his shoes clipping over the floor at a swift pace. For some reason that man made Sans incredibly uneasy. He was far too calm. Too rigid. He was definitely not very much like Blake. Sans glanced down to Frisk to see their thoughts on him, but they were huddled beneath the blanket with the quilt pulled up over the top of their head, just their little face peeking out.

“... You okay, buddy?” Sans asked quietly, petting their head. Frisk simply nodded and gave him a wary smile. He heard loud but muffled talking coming from somewhere, and Asgore gently laid a hand on Toriel's shoulder. She looked unhappy about it, but didn't say anything.

“We shall speak to the humans gathered outside to calm their fears,” Asgore began slowly, and Undyne was busy strapping her armor to herself. “Soon we shall address them and announce our presence to the world at large. Things are about to change, for everyone. I hope you are all prepared.”

“If anybody tries anything stupid...” Undyne pounded a gauntleted fist into her hand.

“They won't,” Papyrus said firmly. “You'll probably scare anyone who would like to cause trouble. Besides, they wouldn't be here if they didn't want to just talk, right? They can't be too bad.”

“I-I-I'll s-stay and h-help with t-the paperwork,” Alphys tapped her claws together nervously.

“Are you ready, our little ambassador?” Asgore stood before Frisk. Frisk pulled themselves from their blanket and stood on the couch, giving Asgore a little hug around the stomach. He looked utterly shocked for a moment, his face softening a little as he smiled back at them.

 

“Very well,” Asgore took in a deep breath as Frisk stood beside him, eyes full of hope and determination. “So it begins.”

 

And here we go.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

There were definitely more humans gathered in the parking lot than Sans expected. Several of them had cameras that were clicking away the moment that Asgore and Toriel descended the steps with Undyne and Frisk close in tow. Sans would not approach with them, but instead hung back on the steps to observe the gathering of humans from afar. If anyone tried anything dangerous, he could be on them in a mere moment. He sincerely hoped that all went well. He silently pulled up his hood, feeling foolish for wishing that he could be holding Frisk's hand instead of the queen. Things would work out. If not for the gathering of humans, then his friends. What would one even call a gathering of humans? A flock? A herd? A gaggle?

Heh. A murder...?

 

“Salutations,” Asgore greeted them in a rumbling tone, and the crowd hushed considerably when he began speaking. Sans couldn't help but admire him a little bit. He always had that impression with crowds. Maybe that was why monsters all seemed to love him so much. “My name is Asgore Dreemurr. Golly. It is very nice to meet you all. I would invite you in for tea, but I do not think that there is quite enough room for everyone at the table.”

He gave a small, meek wave to them as a couple of people tittered. Undyne stood around looking tough, standing surprisingly still, her one eye flashing back and forth over the crowd for any sign of danger.

 

“As you might have already heard,” Asgore continued quietly, but it was so silent in the crowd he could have whispered and they would have heard him. “Monsters are indeed returning once again to the surface. This is a momentous occasion, as most monsters have never once seen natural sunlight in the entirety of their lives. It is... a most beautiful thing. There is so much beauty here on the surface, it sometimes boggles the mind. I only wish that I could have given my people the chance to see it sooner. Please know that we monsters come in peace. We wish no harm to anyone-”

“Is it true that you eat children?” someone in the crowd called out, and Asgore gawked at him with open mouth before snapping it shut. Before he could speak Toriel laughed melodically, shaking her head.

“Only if your children are butterscotch pies,” she winked at the man that had spoken, causing him to duck awkwardly out of the sudden gaze of the chuckling people.

 

“We wish no harm upon anyone,” Asgore continued with a smile. “However, I believe that you deserve a word from our ambassador.”

Asgore nodded to Frisk, and Sans froze.

Frisk couldn't speak in front of others.

This was going to go horribly, horribly wrong and why was he still just standing there?

 

How quickly could he get to them? Could he distract the crowd with something? God what was wrong with his head why didn't he put his foot down harder this was all going wrong! Frisk opened their mouth a couple of times without making a noise. They looked fretfully back and forth across the crowd while they pulled at their sleeves before finally taking a long, slow, deep breath.

 

“... Monsters are really, really nice,” Frisk began softly, but again it was so quiet that Sans had no problem hearing them even with the distance. “Ever since I... fell, into the mountain, monsters have been nothing but kind to me. They took me in when I... when I didn't have anywhere else to go. They treated me like... like family. All monsters want is to love, and be loved. I think that if people can have love inside them like monsters do, then everything will be okay. For everybody.”

It was so silent that Sans could almost hear their heads spinning.

 

“Um. T-that's all,” Frisk finished quietly. There was a surprisingly raucous amount of clapping and flashing of cameras going off. They looked over to Sans, pleadingly, and he got the message. He trotted down the steps at a brisk pace until he was right next to them as the crowd began to steadily increase in volume with their questions, and Asgore tried to placate them with the response that all questions would be gladly answered.
“You okay, buddy?” Sans leaned in as they took his hand, shaking ferociously. Their cheeks were flushed and their eyes were wide, but they weakly smiled back and nodded once. “I'm proud of you. You're such a brave kid, Frisk.”

They hugged him around the middle and he chuckled, hugging them back. He heard the shutter snap of someone photographing them, but he didn't care. Sans tried hard to pretend that he didn't see the long, ludicrously bright pink limousine rolling up behind the crowd, causing many of them to start spouting questions at the robot with glistening black hair beneath a wide brimmed yellow hat, waving cheerfully to them all. He did not have time for Mettaton. That was another problem altogether. All that mattered right now was Frisk. He took them by the hand and walked around behind Asgore where it was more difficult for anyone to see behind the large monster, and propelled them both into a shortcut.

 

They reentered the world from the void with a little pop of displaced air in the living room, and Sans ruffled their hair, grinning widely the entire time.

Blake stuck his head in from the kitchen, looking back and forth between them and the door in bewilderment.

“How do you keep doing that?” he asked, clearly distressed. His short hair was a mess and sticking out in multiple directions, and he was still in his brightly colored pajamas.

“Mmmmmmaaaagic,” Sans smirked, waving his hand through the air. Blake snorted and shook his head, flinching when he heard a loud, clearly staged cough from behind him. He spun immediately on the spot, looking guilty and returning to the kitchen.

 

“I'm so proud of you, babybones,” Sans kissed the top of your head. “That took some real cajones. Stars know I couldn't have done it. I don't have the guts,” he pointed at his belly, and Frisk giggled. God how he'd missed that sound. He didn't even know just how badly he missed it until he could hear it again, it was like music in the air. It was like healing for his soul. He felt just a little bit lighter from hearing it. Frisk still wouldn't let go of his hand, but he didn't mind. He nodded his head subtly toward the kitchen.

“Wanna go spy on these dorks?” Sans asked quietly. Frisk only gave a little snort and shook their head, smiling as they followed him into the kitchen. Sans saw that Alphys and Blake were sitting at the small wooden table while the tall gaunt man leaned over a stack of papers, and he didn't even glance up at Sans. Papyrus was leaning against the counter with his arm and a half folded tightly together, looking upset about something. Alphys was constantly readjusting her glasses nervously, unable to keep her eyes anywhere but her work as she scribbled something out with a pen.

 

“Hey, buddy,” Sans said jovially as he approached Richard with his hand extended. “Don't think we've been introduced. I'm Sans. Sans the skeleton,” he added with a wink. Richard glanced over to him slowly before tightly grasping his hand. The whoopie cushion set off a loud, wet noise, and Sans grinned up at him expectantly.

Richard did not laugh. He didn't even blink.

“That's... uh. Your cue to... laugh?” Sans retracted his hand uneasily. “Or. You know. Emote? At... at all?”

“... Hilarious,” Richard said expressionlessly as he turned back to the paperwork, using a bright red pen to etch something out and neatly write down a few notes. “I can see why Blake likes you.”

He said it so coldly, so venemously, Sans hardly realized that Blake had flinched and coughed awkwardly into his hand, eyes downcast.

 

“That should about do it,” Richard reshuffled the papers and passed them across the table in a neat little stack. “You're welcome, by the way.”

“Thanks again, Rich,” Blake beamed widely up at him.

“I told you not to call me that.” Richard responded in such a clipped, even tone that it made Blake flinch deeply, and he rubbed the back of his neck and looked away.

“R-right. Yeah. Right, of-of course Rich. Um. Richie. R-Richard,” he sputtered awkwardly. Richard only rolled his eyes.

“Hey,” Sans frowned at him, feeling Frisk squeeze his hand. They knew when he was getting angry, they could sense the danger coming from a mile away. They really were a bright kid. Still, Sans tried to keep it under control. “Come on, man. Lay off him already.”

“No idea what you're on about,” Richard replied coldly, turning those blank, emotionless eyes toward the skeleton. Frisk squeezed his hand and Sans took a quiet breath, forcing a grin.

“Take it easy, buddy. I'm tryin' to give you the benefit of the doubt, here. Don't go disappointing me now.”

“Call your damned father,” Richard turned his icy gaze back toward Blake. “You know. Speaking of disappointments.

Blake cringed deeply and rubbed his wrists uneasily. Sans felt the sudden urge to kick the man in the shins and give his head a good introduction to the table, but Frisk's grip held him back, kept him grounded.

 

“Keep in touch,” Richard stood and readjusted his white tie. “And pick up this place the next time I'm over, you're living like a slob.”

“Y-yeah,” Blake said immediately, cutting off the very unpolite response that Sans had staining his tongue. “Yeah. Of course, Richard. It was- I-I mean, it-it was n-nice-”

“Spit it out, Blake.”

“Thanks,” he rubbed his spiky short hair awkwardly.

“Don't mention it,” his brother nodded curtly. Then he did something that Sans didn't expect from a man of his caliber. He stood before Blake and ever so gently clapped a hand to his shoulder. He didn't speak, Sans couldn't even tell if he was breathing, but he knew the gesture for what it was. After a moment Richard sighed through his pointed nose and pulled away, not even looking back as he brushed beside Sans and Frisk as he headed for the door. Frisk shivered as he passed like the man was bringing a cold storm with him, and Sans could almost feel... something. Something that he wasn't sure how to identify. It bothered him deeply.

 

“Richard?”

The gaunt man paused without looking around, and Sans was surprised to see that it was Papyrus who had spoken, softly, like he wasn't expecting to be heard at all. However, Richard did not continue, slightly turning his head without looking at them to imply that he was listening.

 

“You seem to be upset about something,” Papyrus continued quietly. “If you ever need to talk to someone, we're all here for you. Okay?”

Richard seemed... unsettled, at the very least. His lips pursed tightly and his brows furrowed for a moment before his face was cleared of almost all emotion. For just a moment, just a very brief second, the gaunt man looked so... sad. Sans wasn't sure how to respond to that.

Richard didn't speak, but he did silently nod once toward Papyrus with an expression that Sans couldn't place before he finally left, quietly latching the door behind him. Sans wouldn't be too bothered if the man never came back. He didn't look forward to Richard being his problem.

 

There was an audible sigh of relief from Blake, and Sans blinked as he and Frisk strode over to the table. Sans had almost forgotten that the human was there at all, he had been so silent. Even Alphys made a little bit of noise, tapping her claws together nervously.

“So, uh...” Sans began conversationally, noting how distressed Blake seemed. “Is your dad a cactus?”

“What?” Blake blinked at him curiously.

“Because that guy was definitely a prick.”

Blake snorted and covered his smirk with his hand, and Sans relaxed a little.

“He seemed...” Alphys stuttered quietly. “Um. Well. He was very... here?”

“What are you trying to say, Al?” Sans rubbed the top of Frisk's head before placing his hands on the table, glancing over the papers.

“N-nothing,” she blurted quickly. “He w-was v-very helpful!”

“Richie – Richard really isn't so bad,” Blake insisted quietly, noting the odd stare that he was getting from Papyrus. “I mean, he can be a little, um. Stiff, sometimes,” he pulled at his ear ring habitually. “But, still. He-he dropped literally everything when I told him we needed help, and took the first flight here that he could. Richie really isn't so bad. He's just... not, eh... good at expressing himself.”

 

Frisk nodded for moment before approaching the man in the chair, patting him on the arm with a kind little smile. Even though Richard had clearly been frightening to Frisk, they were still trying their best to make Blake a little more at ease. How in the world could he have possibly been landed with such a kind soul?

Frisk really was a great kid. They saw that Papyrus was looking forlornly at the door, as if he wanted to chase after Richard and tell him something. Frisk ever so gently took his remaining hand in theirs, smiling wanly up at him. Papyrus sighed quietly and patted their head when they hugged him around the leg, returning the smile in kind.

 

“... Oh my god that is so cute,” Alphys giggled quietly, snapping a picture with her phone.

“Yeesh,” Blake rubbed the back of his head as he sipped quietly at his cup of coffee. “Where'd you get that phone? It looks ancient.

“The garbage,” Alphys replied calmly. She was... surprisingly coherent around Blake. She didn't seem to stutter quite as much as she usually did. Blake laughed weakly and shook his head before he realized that she was serious.

“... You really aren't joking,” he blinked.

“You can find all sorts of neat stuff in the garbage!” Papyrus said cheerfully as Frisk clung to his leg. “I found some cool shirts and a neat television one time.”

“I didn't know dumpster diving was a thing that monsters did,” Blake blinked.

“No, we literally have a garbage dump under Mount Ebott,” Sans explained. “Humans tend to toss a whole bunch of garbage down there and it all winds up going through Waterfall. It's kind of how monsters have managed to salvage some forms of technology over the years.”

“That sounds terrible!” Blake gawked at him. “I-I had no clue people were using the mountain as a garbage dump, that's awful!

“It's really not as bad as it sounds,” Alphys informed him quietly. “So long as monsters do their best to keep the pollution to a minimum, it's not so hard.”

“Still...” Blake said uncomfortably. “It's not right. Humans are the ones polluting the place, why should monsters have to clean up the mess?”

“You also forget that we have magic on our side,” Sans clicked his fingers. A burst of blue tinging magic swarmed over his fingertip and spun in a circle before fizzling out, leaving the human gawking at him in amazement. “Like she said. We've got it under control.”

 

“... You guys are so cool,” Blake leaned back in his chair, grinning widely.

“Well, of course we are,” Papyrus flicked his scarf back, picking up Frisk to let them cling around his neck. “I tend to rub off on people.”

“Gross,” Sans grinned at him. “The less I know about you rubbing off, the better.”

Blake laughed and blushed a little, trying to hide his snickering behind his hand.

“Sans, don't be disgusting,” Papyrus deadpanned at him.

“Can't help it, bro. I guess you could say it's just in my bones.”

Blake was outright giggling at this point, earning a very strange look from Alphys. Papyrus only sighed and closed his eye sockets, trying to pretend that Frisk wasn't sniggering just as much as Blake.

“Please don't encourage him,” he said flatly. “Come along, little one. Would you like to watch a movie together? There are so many that it's hard to choose. Why don't you pick the next one, hmm?”

 

Papyrus carried Frisk toward the living room, and Sans watched them go for a moment. Then he realied the starry eyed stare that Alphys was giving him, and he shifted uncomfortably.

“... Oh my god,” she whispered, clearing her glasses. “Blake can blush. Number one ship of all time.”

“What are you talking about Al,” Sans gave her a level look.

“N-nothing!” she said quickly, covering her smile. “Nothing a-at all, S-Sans.”

“Guess I'll go crash with my bro and Frisk,” Sans shrugged.

“Oh!” Blake clicked his fingers together, remembering suddenly. “Speaking of bros. Richard helped talk me through the adoption process. You're definitely going to need official citizenship before you can legally adopt Frisk, we should have all of the paperwork turned in by tonight. Just in case anyone decides that they want to try to pull a fast one on you, I have my own papers ready thanks to Richie to legally claim Frisk under my name until we can get custody switched over. Nobody is going to take your kid from you, buddy,” Blake finished proudly. Sans felt a swell in his chest and he had to resist the sudden urge to hug the human.

“I... thanks, man,” Sans said softly, beaming at him. “I can't... I can't tell you how much this means to me.”

“Don't even worry about it,” Blake's ears began turning a light shade of pink. “It's really no problem at all. I'm sure that anybody else would have done the same.”

“Don't say things like that,” Sans said softly, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You're not just anybody. You're a swell guy, Blake. I don't know where we'd be without you.”

Blake spluttered and stuttered, pulling at his ear ring awkwardly and looking away down to the papers.

 

“We've... we've still got some s-stuff to do...” he shuffled the paperwork, clearly uninterested in assuring that any of them were in order. Sans just chuckled and shook his head, turning on the spot and trudging toward the living room where Papyrus was cheerfully showing Frisk all the different movies that they had to choose from.

He dropped onto the couch and closed his weary eye sockets, just wishing for a little bit of rest. It had been so hectic, and the morning was barely half over and he wanted to just crash so badly. He felt a sudden stir as Frisk clambered up onto the couch and before he knew it they were in his lap, hugging him around the neck and giving him a soft, gentle peck on the cheek. Sans laughed and cracked an eye socket, kissing them on the forehead as Papyrus settled in beside them.

It was such a strange feeling, flowing through his chest. He had his friends backing him, and he could hear Undyne yammering about the monsters introduction as she held the door for the king (and Mettaton, unfortunately). He didn't care much about the movie, it was just a distraction from a perfectly good nap. He had his brother nearby. He could feel Frisk's soul so warm, so bright, so full of life next to him. He had his friends. He had his family.

And, for just a little while, he felt contentment such that he had not felt in many, many years.

Maybe, just maybe, things would turn out okay.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

“... Sans.”

“Yeah, Paps,” Sans quietly answered the skeleton trying to sleep in the recliner. He shifted on the couch trying not to wake Frisk, but they seemed to already be awake although their eyes were closed. They mumbled something that he couldn't hear, cuddling up beside him and hugging him around the middle.

“Have...” Papyrus pulled his blanket up to his chin, staring up at the ceiling. “Have you been having bad dreams again?”

“No, of course not,” he lied immediately. He didn't want to admit that he was still having nightmares of waking up in Snowdin. Of that damned weed breaking him down, ripping his limbs off, tearing and violating and laughing as he hurt his little babybones. Of him. He didn't need to bring that onto Papyrus's plate, he was already dealing with so much. “Everything is fine, bro.”

“Because you've been... saying things,” Papyrus continued uncomfortably. “In... in your sleep.”

 

Sans froze.

Oh god.

Oh god.

 

“Everything is fine,” Sans repeated softly, rubbing the back of Frisk's head as they clung to him a little tighter.

“Alright, Sans...” he sighed. “I believe you.”

Sans felt like total scum for lying to his brother like that when it was so plainly obvious, but Papyrus absolutely did not need to deal with Sans's problems too.

 

“... So,” Papyrus said just as Sans was about to fall asleep. “So, um. Apparently we're loaded now.”

“Humans really like gold, I guess,” Sans shrugged, shifting the blanket so that it would properly cover Frisk's shoulders, and he couldn't tell if they had actually fallen asleep or not.

“Human Blake has been very kind to us,” he said quietly. “King Asgore had Blake help him pick out entire plots of land today. Houses are going to be built for monsters on the surface. Things are changing, so fast, Sans. It's... it's a little overwhelming.”

“Yeah,” Sans sighed, getting his phalanges tangled in Frisk's hair. They frowned a little and he realized that they weren't asleep at all, but were simply keeping their eyes closed and listening to them talk. “It is kinda scary, huh.”
“So I've been thinking...” Papyrus rolled his hand through the air. “With all of the money that we have now and such a large amount of land just on the outside of the city, we could build a house. We could get a car, and a garage, and we are going to furnish the crap out of that place.”

Sans snickered once, noting quietly that Frisk was smiling softly.

 

“It sounds great, Paps,” Sans answered quietly. “Man. Sure would be easier just to move our old house up to the surface.”

“Don't be ridiculous Sans,” Papyrus said with exasperation. “How would we even carry it?”

Sans snorted.

 

“... Good night, brother,” Papyrus finished quietly. “And good night to you, little one.”

“G'night, Paps...” Sans answered softly, smiling as he closed his eyes.

“Good night, Papy,” he heard Frisk ever so gently whisper. Sans blinked his eye sockets open, carefully placing a hand on Frisk's cheek. They slowly opened their eyes to glance at him, looking a little confused from his expression.

 

“So, uh...” Sans said after a few silent minutes as he tried to find the right words. “I got a question for you, kiddo.”

Frisk looked at him nervously, uncertain.

“Don't worry, it's-it's not a question like before,” he said lowly, choosing his words carefully. “It's something, uh. Personal.”

“Like... intimate?” they blinked at him.

“Sort of. I just... thought that I should ask for your permission. It feels like I've been plannin' stuff out, and it doesn't seem right to leave you out of it or not get your thoughts on it. I... I wanna know what you think.”

“What is it, Sans?” Frisk asked gently, tilting their head a little on their side and looking at him curiously.

“Do you... I-I mean. D'you mind, if, uh...” he closed his eye sockets for a moment. He was so afraid. He was so scared of their response. He knew what they would say. They couldn't possibly want to be around a monster like him. Not for any longer than they had to. And yet, they ever so softly brushed his cheek with their fingertips, smiling kindly at him. They were such a good kid. So full of hope. Of mercy. Of love.

He just wanted to hold them close and keep them safe.

He wanted to hear them laugh again with that melodic little giggle, that beaming smile that radiated joy. They were like nectar and ambrosia to him. He just wanted them to be happy.

But could he even give them that? Could he give them the happiness that they deserved? He wanted so badly to. He wanted to see them smile again.

 

He summoned up his words and wished for the help of liquid courage before letting out a sigh, looking them in the eyes.

“Would you... like it?” Sans asked cautiously. “If... if I were to, um. A-adopt you? Like... officially. I know you're already family and it's just a piece of paper, but-but I'm freakin' terrified of somebody takin' you away from us babybones, it scares the livin' daylights outta me and I don't wanna panic because the last thing I wanna do is panic and shit shit please don't cry...!

“Y-yes,” Frisk mumbled through a wave of tears. “Yes, yes please. I'll be good.”

Sans didn't want them to cry, if they started crying then he was inevitably going to start crying. He just brushed their tears away with his fingertips as they beamed at him, giggling a little and kissing him on the cheek.

 

“I want it,” Frisk chirruped happily, squeezing him as tightly as they could. “I... I wanna belong somewhere.”

“You do belong somewhere, babybones...” Sans kissed the top of their head gently, the scent of their hair filling him with determination. “Right here. With people that love you. I love you, babybones. And I want you to have a good life. The best, whatever I can give you. I just... I just want you to be happy.”

“I am happy, you bonehead,” Frisk rubbed their cheek against his, sighing and cuddling next to him.

“Hey, leave the skeleton puns to the professional fools,” he chuckled quietly, hugging them back. “I know I might be bone tired, but I've still got some good ones up my sleeve.”

“You might have a whoopie cushion up your sleeve, maybe...” Frisk giggled again. Sans sighed contentedly and closed his eyes, holding them close. He was going to keep them safe. He was going to make them the happiest kid in the world, like they deserved. He was going to have a family.

Oh god.

Oh god I'm starting a a real family.

What in the actual fuck am I doing with my life.

 

But he could live with it. He would try. He would fight until his last breath and keep on fighting for his family, for their lives, for their happiness. It was his problem now, and he would tackle it head on for once in his