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The first flower appears near their left temple, a small golden bloom that peeks out of their hair when they move around too much. Toriel is the one who notices it, after Frisk had died at her hands and had woken up in their bed by the Ruins.

They sit up quickly, a hand on their stomach where Toriel had hit them with a ball of fire that had broken their soul in half, breathing hard and shaking as they scramble to lift their clothes and inspect the damage.

Nothing.

No burnt clothes, no blood, no wounds. They are in their bed in the house in the Ruins, tangled in sheets and sweating bullets. Flowey appears to be asleep from where he’s placed on the desk beside the bed.

When they go into the living room, Toriel is there waiting, like they expected her to be, and when Frisk approaches, she asks if they would like to hear about the book she was reading.

Is it déjà vu when you’re sure that you remember – when you have a clear memory of things happening before?

“Ah, did you like the flowers in the hallway, my child?” she asks.

Frisk frowns, and then follows Toriel’s line of sight and starts patting their head. There’s something soft and thin at the left side and when they try to pull, a stab of pain shoots through their head. Frisk closes their eyes and hisses, staggering as their vision blackens.

“Child?” Toriel has stood up when everything clears, book forgotten on the floor and arms outstretched to catch Frisk should they stumble.

Frisk signs, I’m fine, and gives her a strained smile. It’s hard to smile at your mother when you remember them killing you.

Flowey only gives them a confused look when they reenter their room, deciding to postpone asking Toriel how to exit the Ruins again.

“You put a flower in your hair?” he asks.

Frisk shakes their head. Pauses. Looks down at the floor.

They sigh and sit down on the bed. “Don’t know,” they whisper. “Confused. Don’t know what happened. Had a confusing dream,” they wave a hand as they rattle off broken words. Their head is still ringing too much to make sense right now.

“I…” Flowey pauses and then clears his throat. “I think you died,” he says, “And returned to your last save point.”

Frisk raises an eyebrow.

Flowey sighs, “Go to sleep, Frisk.”

They lie down, but they don’t sleep.


Still, Frisk asks how to exit the Ruins, and still, Toriel stops them, again and again and again, until she decides to destroy the gate to Snowdin herself. And still, she challenges Frisk to a fight, threatening to bake them into a pie, too mad and too raw from having children disobey her before and dying at the hands of others.

Still, Frisk refuses to fight back.

They should be able to dodge now that they’ve fought the same battle twice, but Frisk jumps to the side too late and the fireball hits their eye. Frisk screams as the heat consumes half of their face and vision, their soul shatters, Toriel murmurs an ‘I’m sorry,’ and Flowey yells their name somewhere behind them before Frisk feels the ground being pulled underneath their feet –

And when they open their eyes, they’re staring at the ceiling of their room in Toriel’s house again.

“Frisk?” Flowey whispers, then, “Frisk! Frisk, are you okay?”

Their chest feels too tight when they breathe, and they put a hand on it as they try to steady themselves. Everything is spinning.

“Frisk,” Flowey nudges the boot he’s planted in and only ends up falling onto the surface of the desk face-first. “Dang it,” they groan, letting a vine sprout from the soil they’re set in and using it to push himself up.

Tears prickle at the edges of their eyes and Frisk covers their mouth with both their hands to muffle their sobs. Flowey stops what he’s doing and looks down instead, leaves curling in.

There’s another flower near Frisk’s cheek, a few inches from the one on their temple, but he doesn’t mention it until morning.


The next time Frisk asks to leave, Toriel looks at the new flower they’re sporting with a strange look, but her attention is quickly diverted by Frisk’s request. This time Frisk doesn’t let Toriel talk them into staying and instead runs down to the basement with Flowey in their arms, Toriel on their heels, shouting in anger.

The only warning they have is Flowey’s cry of “Look out!” before heat flares on their back and they stumble and wake up in their bed again.

There’s a new flower near their ear.


 

Frisk forgets how many times they ask Toriel to let them leave, forgets how many times they beg, forgets how many times they yell for freedom, forgets how many times they’re burnt in different ways and sometimes dragged to the kitchen screaming and feeling knives digging into their skin, forgets how many times Flowey cries over them and forgets how many times the voice at the back of their head says, “Stay determined. Stay determined. Stay determined.”

It sounds like them but at the same time it doesn’t.

All Frisk knows is that every time they die and wake up to the same ceiling that they’ve memorized every detail of, there’s a new golden adornment on their body. They hurt whenever they try to pull at the flowers, so they stop trying to get rid of them. Flowey explains the time jumps, but he can’t explain the flowers. Toriel just gets mad at Frisk’s request to leave to mention the child’s new decorations.

It takes a long, long time – when the flowers have covered half their face and a part of their left wrist – that they finally dodge the last attack Toriel has to give before she breaks down crying. Frisk huffs a breath of relief and sinks to their knees, their soul holding on by the faintest of threads.

Toriel tells them to be strong, and that there may be monsters out there who won’t have mercy on them, and that she’s sorry for trying to keep them here. Frisk smiles and signs, I forgive you.

“You remind me of a child of mine, once,” she says as she hugs Frisk for the first (and the last) time and Frisk buries their head in her clothes that smell of baked goods and fire. Their mother presses their foreheads together before Toriel goes back upstairs and never looks back.

Frisk carries Flowey with them out of the Ruins and watches as the doors slam close.

“Remind her of who?” they whisper. Flowey says nothing but keeps staring at the doors. At the back of Frisk’s mind, Chara’s voice doesn’t stir.


 

Sans the skeleton is the one that greets them near the bridge, trailing behind them until he speaks and his voice stills Frisk in fear. When they turn to face him, he’s got one hand in the pocket of his pants and a lazy grin on his face, single golden tooth at the side glinting in the light, as he looks at the stick Frisk has picked up from the path, idly dragging it through the thick snow. Flowey ducks his head. Frisk’s eyes drift to the golden star hanging on the chain on the monster’s neck.

A save point.

“What’cha got there, sweetheart?” he asks, looking at the stick. Frisk doesn’t answer.

He chuckles and holds out a hand, “Don’t you know how to greet a new pal?”

Frisk takes a moment before they drag their eyes down to the bony appendage being extended. They lift a hand, slowly, before grasping Sans’.

The electric shock that makes them convulses equals the mental one they’re experiencing.

“Didn’t anybody ever tell you?” he drawls, but Frisk can’t see them. He’s getting far away and the side of Frisk’s face is getting cold. There’s white stuff everywhere. “In this world, it’s kill or be killed.”


When they blink, they’re staring at the closed doors of the Ruins again.

Frisk lifts a hand, adjusting Flowey’s boot-pot in the other, and stares at it.

“You okay?” Flowey asks.

“No.”


This time, they whirl around before Sans can speak and don’t take his hand when he extends it. They just clutch Flowey tighter to their chest.

“Kinda rude leavin’ a buddy hanging, don’cha think?” Sans asks. Frisk shakes their head.

He clicks his…tongue or whatever. His mouth never opens. Frisk doesn’t know how that works with speaking.

“So, where ya going?” he stuffs both his hands in his pockets and walks past Frisk and through the bars on the bridge. It’s wide enough for both of them to cross. Frisk doesn’t move and just looks at him.

Sans huffs, “You wanna freeze out here, honey, be my guest.”

On cue, Frisk shivers. They pull Flowey closer and the flower huddles to their form too. Frisk takes careful steps until they’re past the bars and beside Sans.

The skeleton makes a noise of satisfaction and continues walking. Frisk follows.

“There’s a town further ahead. Snowdin,” he says, “Ya headed there?”

Frisk frowns for a second and says, “Out.”

“Out?” Sans echoes, “Out where?”

“Out here,” they say and then point up.

“That’s kinda ambitious, sweetheart,” he stops in his tracks and Frisk follows his lead. “Especially with the folk around here. See, I’m a sentry around these parts and I’m supposed to capture a human,” he says, “But if you’re not dumb enough to trust everybody, I guess I can let you slide every now and then.”

Frisk shifts their weight from foot to foot nervously. Sans motions his head to the side, “Now, my brother. He’s a human-hunting fanatic. In fact, I think I can hear him coming now.”

In the distance, there are faint metallic stomps, and Frisk’s head snaps to the side, eyes wide. There’s a blurry smudge of red up ahead in the snow.

“Good luck, kiddo,” Sans closes one eye socket slowly in a facsimile of a wink, “Papyrus isn’t a fan of mercy.”


Half of their left forearm is covered in flowers when they finally notice the huge boulder at the side of the path and scurry to hide there when Papyrus approaches again. Thankfully, Sans doesn’t give their location away, distracting his brother with puns (“I’ve been doing a ton of work. A skele-ton.” “SANS!”) until he leaves, grumbling loudly about his brother’s incompetency.

Frisk peeks out a minute later, giving Sans an expression that’s confused and angry at the same time.

Sans shrugs.

On one hand, Sans has killed them (once) and will do nothing to save them should they be in danger, but on the other, if they managed to avoid the danger, they’re home free and he doesn’t stop them. Neutrals, Frisk thinks. Bloody indecisive.

“Do you think he’ll be back?” Flowey asks.

Frisk nods slightly.

Sans waits for them to step out of their hiding place. “Heh, guess you got lucky,” Sans says. Frisk looks down at their hand, where the flowers are peeking out of their sleeve. It’s a miracle Sans hasn’t asked them about it. Maybe they’ll pass off as some sort of flower monster at this rate.

“Snowdin?” Frisk points to the way ahead.

Sans nods, “Yeah, want me to take you there?”

Frisk takes a step back. The skeleton laughs.

He walks and Frisk follows, at two paces length behind him, stick dropped in favor of holding Flowey tight in case they have to run. Miraculously, there’s no need for that, since soon, they see a huge banner that says WELCOME TO SNOWDIN adorned with Christmas lights. There are a few monsters huddled around a tree, as well as a few shops in the area. Frisk and Flowey both let out sighs of relief.

Sans spreads his arms around. “Welcome to Snowdin,” he says, “Pap’s not usually here, so I guess you’ll have some time to rest for a while.”

Frisk nods as they look at the inn a few ways off. “Thank you,” they murmur, then point to themselves before saying, “Why are you helping?”

“Helping?” Sans does an impression of raising an eyebrow, which once again eludes what Frisk knows of physics, because Sans is supposedly made out of bone. Bones aren’t pliable. “Nah, kid, you’re helping yourself. I’m just watching from the sidelines and letting it happen.”

“Why not take me to your brother?”

Sans tilts his head to the side. “Hmm,” he shrugs again, “You’re funny. Heard ya trying to stop yourself from snickering when you were hiding from Papyrus. You’re lucky that Pap has a hard time hearing people over the sound of his own voice.”

They may be imagining it, but Frisk thinks there’s an undercurrent of bitterness in Sans’ voice.

The skeleton gives one wave for goodbye before he continues on ahead. Frisk stares at his retreating form for a second before they make their way to the inn. It was time for a good night’s sleep. And the hope of having even just one more pseudo-ally in this whole disaster fills them with determination.


Frisk wakes up in the morning, thankful that none of the villagers have tried to kill them yet. They’re cold and give Frisk hard stares, but that’s something Frisk can deal with. They’re used to it.

They trudge out of Snowdin with Flowey in their arms, shivering in the cold. There weren’t any clothes in the shop, and asking if they had any stock at all just gave them a curt “No.”

So out in the cold with only the clothes on their back it was.

There’s something light red in the distance, obscured by the falling snow that was starting to get harsher, and Frisk mildly panics that it’s Papyrus. When they get a little closer and see that the stature is shorter and there’s the golden glint of the save star, Frisk’s shoulders sag.

Sans is sitting at a sentry station, chin in one hand as he leans out the window.

“Didn’t think you’d be up for going this far,” he says.

Frisk shrugs. He snorts. “Thought you’d want to stay in Snowdin. You know: warmth, safety, food. Pap only goes there every now and then and if you’re lucky, you’ll never run into him.”

Frisk shakes their head and points up, “Out.”

Sans stares at them for a few seconds before shaking his own head, “You’re really set on that, huh?”

The little pinpricks of light in his sockets flicker to the flowers that are covering one side of Frisk’s head and he hums. “There’s a lot of puzzles – traps, up ahead,” he says, “Pap set them up. You get past them fast enough, you might be able to get out of Snowdin before he comes back.”

Frisk turns to the path ahead and nods to themselves. Flowey touches one leaf to one of their hands holding his boot-pot.

The human smiles at him before they turn back to Sans. “Thank you,” they incline their head downward slightly, before continuing their walk forward.

The last thing they see of Sans before they pass the station is his mildly surprised look, and the last they hear is his tiny laugh and the words, “Nobody’s ever said that before.”


 It takes them at least half an hour to get through the first trap (several mines in the snow that electrocuted the weight on it instead of exploding), and half of that was spent playing ‘guess which spot to hit’ with Flowey. Frisk threw rocks at a few areas, Flowey extended a few vines to feel the ground for anything and then Frisk would walk, agonizingly slow, for fear of setting something off. The XO puzzle was easier, if it weren’t for the fact that if they got something wrong, the ground would crack, and when they reset the puzzle, the crack was still there and they needed to solve it before the ground caved in.

An hour after that, they meet two hooded figures (dogs, Frisk realizes) that snarl threats and swing their axes at the human without abandon. Frisk gives up trying to pet them and runs instead.

Right into Papyrus.

The skeleton seems a little shocked seeing them, glancing at the flowers at the side of their head, before he frowns.

“Human,” is all he says before Frisk feels their soul being pulled out of their body and into a battlefield, and there’s a huge bone cutting through it.


 

They’re back in Snowdin inn.

“We need to hurry,” Flowey says as soon as Frisk bothers to open their eyes, “If we hurry, we can get past him. We know how to solve the traps now.”

Frisk hums.

“Frisk!”

They push themselves up to sitting position.

“Frisk…you want to get out, right?” he asks.

Frisk hesitates, but nods.

Sans is still there in his sentry station, chin in hand and looking as bored as he’s looked like since they’ve first seen him.

He says the same things, and Frisk thanks him again. This time Sans just laughs.

That’s when Frisk knows something’s wrong.


They pass the electric trap, the XO trap, and outrun Dogamy and Dogaressa (Frisk had learned their names when they called out to each other to catch the human before it dodged and swerved to somewhere else) with time to spare. The next trap was a bunch of spikes with the switch hidden somewhere in the snow, and they’d only solved that because of Frisk’s exhausted and frustrated stomping and Flowey’s attempts to feel the ground and the trees with his vines for any niches.

They run into Papyrus again. This time Frisk dodges immediately, which throws the skeleton off-guard for a few seconds.

“Great job, Frisk,” Flowey whispers.

Frisk spares.

Papyrus frowns deeper and calls up several bones to materialize in thin air again and launch them at the human. Frisk dodges one, two, ducks at the third that passes them by a hair’s width, but something pierces their leg from behind and they fall onto the snow with a cry.

Flowey is dropped and he skids a few feet in the snow. Frisk twists their body to look at their leg – pinned to the ground by a bone – and looks up to see several more hovering in the air, poised to hit them.

The first bone hits Frisk’s back, narrowly missing their spine, and Frisk arches, the motion making them scream harder. The second hits their arm, and the third cuts through their soul.

The last stabs through the back of their head.


Frisk shoots up the bed and immediately pats the back of their head, feeling for any wounds there.

Of course, there’s nothing, but they think they can feel the phantom sting of something breaking your skull open.

There’s something cold there. Colder and softer and thinner but wider than their hair strands. Frisk tugs a little and winces.

Another flower.

So far, the things have only taken their left forearm and the left side of their face, but the back had just sprouted one.

“Another one?” Flowey asks in a small voice.

They nod.

When they reach Sans’ sentry station, Frisk speaks first, “How long does it take for Papyrus to come back to Snowdin?”

Sans looks at them questioningly and Flowey is the same.

“He should be in Waterfall right now,” Sans starts, “Undyne usually checks the second half of Waterfall. So depending on what he’s thinking, he makes rounds in a few hours. Never goes into town unless he needs it though.”

“Like what?” Frisk tilts their head to the side.

“Sleep,” Sans says, “We need sleep sometimes. Food.”

Frisk makes a face, “You eat?”

He snorts. “‘Course we do,” he says, “Would be a shame to pass up on Grillby’s.”

Frisk frowns in confusion.

Sans leans back a bit. “Wait,” he squints as much as a skeleton can, which isn’t a lot, “You never went to Grillby’s?”

Frisk shakes their head. Flowey nudges their stomach, “Frisk, what are you doing? We’ll get caught by Papyrus at this rate.”

“It’s okay,” they whisper back.

“You stayed in Snowdin for a while and you didn’t go to Grillby’s?” Sans actually looks offended, “Breakfast?”

Frisk shakes their head again.

“Jeez,” Sans hops off his seat and then steps out of the station, “You plannin’ on starving yourself out here, sugar?”

“Didn’t have time,” Frisk says, turning to the path, “Had to hurry.”

He throws the path a look that flashes into a sneer before facing the human again, expression lax. “Come on,” he says, walking towards them, “We’re going to Grillby’s.”

Sans reaches down to take Frisk’s hand, and the moment bone touches skin, Frisk draws back immediately, eyes wide and breathing hard.

They focus on Sans’ hand. There’s nothing there. He’s not holding anything, and the sleeve of his jacket is riding up a little that they could see there really wasn’t anything there. Nothing that was going to kill them.

Sans raises a non-existent eyebrow again.

Frisk swallows and closes their eyes. It takes them a few minutes to breathe normally again. They nod and fall in step beside Sans as they head to Grillby’s, but they don’t touch hands.


Grillby’s is just like the rest of the shops in Snowdin, although significantly warmer. Frisk relaxes against their own will and Flowey shakes off a few snowflakes that have gotten on his leaves and petals, immediately leaning forward to urge Frisk towards the source of heat.

The other patrons give Sans a glance and then turn back to their own business. They don’t even spare Frisk a look, which is favorable at the moment.

The source of the heat turns out to be the bartender – and from how Sans addresses him, the owner of the establishment. Grillby’s entire head is a ball of flame with glasses, and Frisk doesn’t know how that works or how his clothes haven’t burned off.

Sans orders them two trays of fries when Frisk shrugs on what they prefer. Grillby hands them a bottle of mustard, much to the human’s surprise, and Sans holds it out to them.

“Mustard?”

Frisk eyes the bottle, looks at the fries and then shakes their head.

Sans’ grin gets wider, if that is possible. “Well, more for me,” he proceeds to drown his fries in mustard and Flowey lets out a small, disgusted noise from where he’s placed on the seat next to Frisk. Frisk mechanically turns to their own fries and eats, forcing themselves not to look at Sans as he decides that his fries have been mustardized enough and then drinks the mustard straight out of the bottle.

Frisk looks around for the ketchup instead and Grillby seems to notice them, since he grabs the red bottle from the far away end of the bar and hands it over to the human.

“Thank you,” Frisk says. That seems to take Grillby aback for a few seconds before his flames glow a little brighter. Frisk takes that as a good sign.

Sans had reacted a little similarly whenever they thanked him. Was no one polite around these areas?

The fries actually are pretty good. The last they’d eaten had been in the Ruins, and they’d died at least two times since then so it’s been over twenty four hours. Frisk’s stomach clenches a bit when they start eating too fast and Flowey taps their side with a leaf and tells them to slow down. They nod and take small bites out of their fries until their stomach settles.

Sans has already finished half of his tray and doesn’t look too bothered by the disgusting amount of mustard on it.

“Food’s good, yeah?” he asks. Frisk nods.

“Told ya it’d be a shame to pass up Grillby’s,” he says, “No one else makes the best fries here. Of course, this is the only restaurant in Snowdin, so when you remember to eat, I guess you’ll be dropping by here.”

Frisk pauses mid-pick of a fry. They shake their head, “Not…staying.”

“Hmm?” Sans looks at them the same way whenever they say that.

“Out,” Frisk repeats once again. They clench their other hand, “We’re getting out.”

We?” Sans leans forward a bit to look at Flowey, “You and your little flower?”

“Mmm,” Frisk nods. They turn back to him, “What about…you? Don’t you want to get out too?”

“Heh,” Sans returns to eating his fries, “Sure do, sweetheart. Why do you think we’re on a hunt for humans?”

Frisk tilts their head in confusion.

Sans waves a hand, “Finish your food, sweetheart.”


Sans says that Papyrus would be by Snowdin now, although whether he’s going to enter town or not is unsure, so Frisk goes back to staying in the inn. They’re actually running low on gold – the inn’s a little overpriced in their opinion – but it’s either that or freeze in the snow and risk dying again.

The flowers are getting too annoying, especially with half of Frisk’s vision gone, so it’s not worth it.

They set out the next day instead. Sans isn’t at his station, they get past the traps, once again outrun Dogamy and Dogaressa, and then proceed to solve several more traps without Papyrus disrupting their progress.

“Thank god,” Flowey breathes as they finish the latest trap (a bridge with several weapons hanging above it, dog included. The weapons dropped the moment they stepped onto the bridge and it was by sheer luck that Frisk had run fast enough to get to the end and Flowey grabbed onto the ledge by his vines to get them to the other side.) and look ahead the path. There’s a raging blizzard that’s obscuring their vision, but they are no other places they stay in. The bridge is destroyed, so they can’t return to Snowdin.

Frisk coughs weakly and squints, trying to make anything out of the whirlwind of snow. Nothing.

Behind them is a gaping chasm that leads to nowhere, so they’ve got no choice.

Frisk runs into the blizzard headfirst, one hand around Flowey and the other shielding their good eye. The faster they get out, the better. Their boots are starting to sink into the white slosh at their feet, dragging them down, but the human pulls their legs up and trudges on.

“I see something!” Flowey yells and Frisk holds them closer, still trying to run.

After a few minutes, the snow starts to lessen and Frisk runs easier, although they keep one of their hands up.

Flowey suddenly hisses, “Shit.”

Frisk digs their heels into the ground and skids to a stop, bringing their hand down so they can see.

It’s easy to see how Flowey quickly caught sight that the snow was clearing. Papyrus is standing, red cape in stark contrast against the snow, but Sans is standing right next to him too, hands in his pockets with the lazy grin he always has.

Frisk clenches their fists.

“So they really did come,” Papyrus says. Frisk lowers their head with the realization that Sans might have ratted out on them. They glare at the shorter skeleton, who just shrugs.

Papyrus kills them easily once again, although less painfully since the moment Frisk is hit; they stumble, letting the skeleton land a few more hits that kills them quickly.

They wake up in Snowdin again. They hadn’t saved often.

Frisk rolls over and goes back to sleep, even as Flowey calls their name. They can’t remember how to feel determined anymore.

There’s a new flower by their right temple.


It’s two days later that Frisk actually gets up and ventures out of Snowdin. There’s no use asking Sans about Papyrus, since the information is doubtful, but since Sans speaks, Frisk listens anyway. It would be rude.

Before they leave, they say thank you again.

“Why do you keep saying that?” Flowey mumbles.

Sans’ fists clench as they pass by.

“Hey.”

Frisk frowns. That was another pattern break. Usually, people said the same thing whenever Frisk got pulled back to a save point. But then again…

Sans hops off his seat and steps out of his station. Frisk turns to face them.

His face is set in a deep scowl, head tilted downward so that his eyesockets are shadowed.

“What’s your deal, huh?” he asks, “What’s with the sugary-sweet schtick you’ve got going on?”

Frisk frowns further in confusion.

“Do you think you can just get out of here by being good to everyone?” several bones are materializing out of thin air behind Sans. Frisk takes a step back, but red magic wraps around their ankles, working its way up to their body until Frisk is lifted up the air and Flowey is dropped onto the snow.

“Frisk!”

Frisk flails around uselessly, still continuing to drift upward.

“Or are you trying to let us think you’re good?” he asks, “And then, at the last moment, you kill us when we’re most vulnerable?”

“Help!” Frisk tips forward and reaches down to Flowey. Sans raises his other hand and Flowey is coated in his magic in one second and thrown onto the trunk of a pine tree the next. Frisk gasps in horror, “Flowey!”

“Let me tell you, kid, if that’s what you’re aiming for, then that’s not going to work,” Sans moves his hand again and the bones behind him pose towards Frisk. “And if it’s the other way around; didn’t anybody ever tell you? In this world,” the bones all flew towards the human.

Frisk screws their eyes shut.

“It’s kill or be killed.”


They shoot out of the bed screaming bloody murder.

“Frisk!” Flowey uses his vines to drag himself off the desk and onto Frisk’s bed.

The human puts their hands to their mouth, hunching over as they sob. Their shoulders shake with the effort and hot tears stream from their only remaining eye.

“Frisk, it’s okay now,” Flowey says, “We’re back – ”

“It’s not okay!” Frisk yells, throwing their hands down onto the bed, making the foam jump with the effort of the slap, “It was never okay. I…I – ”

They take in a shaky breath and exhale in short huffs, “I came down here to…to – and now…” they wipe their eye furiously. “I’m confused,” they say, “And I don’t know what to do.”

Frisk’s voice breaks at the last syllable and they let their face fall into their hands.

Flowey lowers his head in shame.

“Me too, Frisk.”


If there is anything Frisk has ever learned, it is that just because you are hurting doesn’t mean you have to hurt others too. People do not deserve to be hurt, and so if the world is in pain, a simple act of kindness can sometimes be enough reprieve.

So three days after they wake up in Snowdin with a new flower at their neck, they march down the same path to Sans’ station again.

Sans looks bored as always, but Frisk has suspicions. They let the conversation go as usual, and of course, say thank you.

Sans flinches.

His eyes flicker to Frisk’s face, the flower at their neck and then to Flowey who’s glowering at him.

“What?” he breathes.

“Thank you,” Frisk repeats, and then turns to continue on their journey, never looking back.


This time they don’t outrun Dogamy and Dogaressa, and instead end up being ripped to pieces.

They wake up with another flower on their right cheek, too close to their good eye for comfort.


Sans isn’t looking at them. He’s staring at the snow instead, looking deep in thought and troubled.

“Grillby’s?” Frisk offers instead of the usual spiel. That starts Sans out of his reverie. “Huh?” he says dumbly.

Frisk motions back to Snowdin.

“Y-yeah. Sure.”

They’d left Flowey at the inn today. Said that they weren’t planning on getting out of Snowdin yet, but just wanted to stretch their legs. The flower was understandably skeptical, and then apologized, ashamed that he’d doubted Frisk, the only person in the whole underground who’d shown him kindness so far.

Sans looks distracted the whole way to the restaurant. He doesn’t say anything. Frisk notes that he hasn’t used pet names in a while either.

They order two trays of fries again and Frisk hands Sans the mustard, to his confusion, and asks Grillby for the ketchup. Says thank you again. The bartender looks happy after.

“Where’s your flower friend?” Sans asks.

“Inn.”

He hums, “You stayin’ in Snowdin?”

Frisk shakes their head no and points up like they always do, “Out.”

Sans sighs, “You’re really set on that, aren’t you?”

It takes a while before they answer. A sad smile creeps on Frisk’s face as they idly drag a piece of their food along a spot of ketchup.

“Only thing I know how to do.”

From how the lights in his eyes dim and how he snorts, Frisk thinks Sans understands.


When they set out and end up running into Papyrus and Sans again, Frisk just shakes their head sadly and braces for their soul to be pulled out of their body.

The battle starts. Frisk dodges Papyrus’ attacks while Flowey watches their back and warns them. The skeleton gets fed up and throws Flowey to the side with their magic. Frisk reaches their hand out as if to grab their friend, and that’s the distraction Papyrus needs to ram a femur into their arm, effectively breaking and nailing it to the ground, taking Frisk along with it.

Frisk yelps and squirms. They grab the femur and pull, but it’s lodged too deep and their arm is barely hanging on to the rest of their body by a thin layer of skin.

This entire thing, Sans stands and watches at the side. He watches as the human doesn’t give him that hateful look they did when they first experienced this, and how they cry out to their fallen friend, and how his brother breaks their arm, and then their legs with his attacks.

Frisk is breathing hard, red blood dripping from their mouth, staining the flowers at their neck and their clothes, along with the snow underneath them. The dyed slush looks like wings pinned beneath their body.

The human’s soul is in front of Papyrus, pulsing weakly.

“Help,” Frisk rasps, looking up. For a brief moment, their eyes flicker to Sans. “Please.”

Papyrus calls up another femur and stabs them straight through the chest.


“Didn’t work,” Frisk mumbles as they wake up for the whatever-the-fuck-run-it-is time.

Flowey sighs from the desk.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yeah,” Frisk says, “Me too.”


It becomes a pattern for the next few runs. Frisk goes out, finds Sans, they talk, they solve the traps which are getting easier and easier the more they work on them, they meet Papyrus and Sans. Sometimes they almost get past, sometimes they get killed straight away. All the same Papyrus kills them, Sans watches.

Always watches.

The right side of Frisk’s neck and cheek are already covered in flowers. There’s always a new one with every death, and Frisk has long worked out that they’re death counts. They mark their failures.

Stay determined, the voice at the back of their head whispers every time they fall asleep, You are the hope of humans and monsters.

Frisk hopes to heaven and hell that it’ll be enough to keep them grounded and determined to get out. To see the sun again. To be safe from this hell hole.

Once, they agree with Flowey that Frisk find a way to get them out of Snowdin another way. Maybe another route. Or maybe being diplomatic. That had worked with Toriel. Maybe if Frisk was determined enough and lasted longer enough, Papyrus would let them go too. And then they could go back for Flowey.

That proves to be hard during the first try since Frisk falls from the bridge without Flowey to grab onto the cliff and hoist them up. That is an unnecessary death that gains them another flower beside their right eye.

Frisk shifts uneasily and touches the bloom. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s annoying.

They never try it again.

Sometimes Sans greets them, sometimes he looks deep in thought and on those days, Frisk offers to take him to Grillby’s and stops by the inn to leave Flowey there. No use bringing him around when they weren’t making progress. And the inn was warm. Flowey liked the warmth better than the snow.

“Why’d you offer?” Sans asks them on one occasion, when the flowers have covered their left palm and leave only the fingers peeking out.

“You looked sad,” Frisk admits.

He frowns, “What’s it to you?”

“Dunno,” Frisk shrugs, “Wanted to help.”

Sans gives them a strange look.

Frisk chuckles.


When the flowers have taken over three of their left fingers, Sans is the one who offers Grillby’s first, apropos of nothing. He didn’t look sad, didn’t look bored, he just hopped off his seat and held out a hand.

Frisk, of course, doesn’t touch it, but he doesn’t look offended.

Frisk passes him the mustard and he passes them the ketchup. Frisk still thanks Grillby when they are served.

“Why do you do that?” Sans asks when the bartender walks away a little brighter.

Frisk points to themselves and tilts their head.

“Yeah, you, honey,” he says.

Frisk thinks over how to string their words as they place the bottle of ketchup down on the bar. “…be polite,” they say, “People don’t deserve to be…you shouldn’t be rude to people for nothing.”

“Doesn’t mean you have to be polite all the time,” Sans says, “You don’t even know anybody here. You could just leave it as it is and talk to no one.”

Can be rude,” Frisk says, “Don’t want to. Don’t have to.”

“Huh.”

Sans eyes them for a second and then raises their bottle of mustard, “Cheers.”

Frisk giggles – for the first time in such a long time down here – and raises their own bottle of ketchup, “Cheers.”


The next time they go to Grillby’s, Frisk’s left hand has gone numb with the flowers.

Sans notices and doesn’t hold out his hand this time. Frisk smiles to themselves.

“Can I ask you something?” he says once both of their fries are smothered in their preferred condiments.

“You already did.”

“Heh,” Sans huffs out good-naturedly. He waves a hand towards them, “What’s with the…you know?”

“Flowers?”

“Yeah.”

Frisk lifts their left arm, although it’s like lifting a sleeping limb – you can’t feel it and when you try to move it, static runs through your veins.

“Tell you later.”

“You’re stayin’ in Snowdin, honey?”

“No,” Frisk says, “Going out. Wanna come?”

That’s the first time they’ve offered and Sans actually throws his head back and laughs.


“Going out. Up,” Frisk points upwards with their right hand before Papyrus can pull their soul out into battle. The skeleton stops bringing up his magic in confusion and Sans watches, intrigued.

“Wanna come?” Frisk asks. The pinpricks in Sans’ eyesockets shrink and Papyrus stops, stunned.

Then he cackles.

“The only ones who are going up are us,” Papyrus says as bones shimmer into existence behind him, “And we’ll be doing that with your soul.”

Frisk’s eyes go wide. They’re too surprised to move their feet and the first bone slams into their gut, bursting through their back stained with red. Blood trickles down their chin as they cough.


“Seven human souls,” Flowey explains once they’re back in Snowdin, “Seven human souls and King Asgore becomes a god powerful enough to break through the barrier to get us all out.” He shifts, “They’ve gotten six souls…I imagine you know exactly how.”

Frisk nods.

“They just need one more. One more and they’ll be out,” Flowey says. He sighs and looks away, “I know I should be happy about all of this, but once they’re out, they’re going to lay waste to humanity. And that’s not something I can live with. Knowing I probably could have helped…” He shakes his head and laughs bitterly, “Whatever, I’m pretty useless anyway.”

Frisk reaches out and touches a petal. There’s a flower above their eyebrow now and their eye is nearly covered.

“No,” they say, “You’re a friend. You’re here. You count. You’re helping.”

Flowey stills, before he breaks down crying. Frisk hugs their pot close to their chest and lets him.


Frisk wanders by Sans’ station too late, intent on another Grillby hang out just to cool down from getting killed again, and instead Papyrus catches them talking. Well, in the process of actually starting to talk. Sans was going to wave, maybe be the one to offer this time, but the stomp of boots makes both of them freeze and Papyrus catches them in what appears to be mid-conversation.

He frowns and turns to his brother, “A human is here,” he starts, “And you’re not even bothering to catch them?”

Sans says nothing and lowers his hand.

“Were you trying to befriend them, brother?” Papyrus asks.

Sans leans back into his chair.

“No,” Frisk says, “I was trying to befriend him.”

Both brothers’ heads swivel towards them. Thank god Flowey wasn’t here to see this or he’d be shrieking at them for being so stupid.

Papyrus tuts and then turns to Sans.

“Capture them, then.”

Sans blinks. Slow. “What?”

“Capture them,” Papyrus repeats.

“What?” Sans asks, louder this time. His brother huffs.

“They want a friend, don’t they?” he says, “And good friends show friends how things work in the neighborhood.”

Frisk clenches their fist. They look at Sans, but he’s staring at his brother and sweat is breaking out on his forehead.

Papyrus sighs. “Are you actually too lazy to do it?” he snorts, “Fine then. I’ll take care of the human. I never know why you’re still sentry, but I guess it has something to do with you riding off of my success.”

“Papyrus,” Sans says, but his brother doesn’t listen.

“I’m always the one who does everything here. And even when the opportunity presents itself, you act all kind and useless – ”

“Fine, I’ll do it.”

Frisk closes their eyes in defeat.

Papyrus looks at Sans and they stare each other down for a few seconds before Papyrus smiles and takes a step back. He mocks a bow and gestures towards the human who’s slightly shaking.

“All yours, brother.”

Sans stiffly gets off his seat, out of the station and walks in front of Frisk.

Frisk doesn’t open their eyes and bows their head.

They hear something wet tear before there’s a blast of light behind their eyelids and they’re consumed by fire.


“Grillby’s?”

They still offer. Sans looks shaken, the light in his eyes wavering, but they manage a shaky “Yeah”. Papyrus doesn’t catch them this time and they have their meal in peace.

“So, I’ve got a question for ya,” Sans starts. Frisk wipes their hand on a napkin and listens. “Do you think…that even the worst person can change?” He’s staring at his empty tray now. “That everyone can be a good person, if they just try?”

There is a flower right beside Frisk’s eye and they know they are one death away from being blind.

They smile, a genuine one, and nod.

“Yes.”


“ – I’m tellin’ you, this may not be a bad thing.”

“I’ll tell you what’s a bad thing!”

Frisk hears them through the blizzard before they see them.

“That’s new,” Flowey mutters. Flowey always remembers the iterations. That’s what keeps Frisk sane most of the time.

You fraternizing with the enemy!” Frisk drops their hand to see Papyrus jabbing a gloved hand to Sans’ chest. The shorter skeleton staggers backwards, but takes a step back to steady himself and holds his ground.

“I am not fraternizing. I am saying we think this through,” he says. His brother laughs, “You can’t think, Sans. All you do all day is sit in your post and sleep and eat and be useless.”

“That’s enough, Papyrus,” Sans growls.

“Oh look, he knows how to talk back!”

“They’re fighting?” Flowey whispers and turns to Frisk, “Frisk maybe we can run – ”

They shake their head. “Papyrus will notice,” they say, “Not yet. If I die, I might go blind. Can’t risk that.”

Sans and Papyrus are still yelling at each other. Frisk shivers in the cold and waits for them to notice that they’re here.

When they do, Papyrus grins, “Speak of the devil.” He summons his bones to attack and Frisk swallows, but then Sans marches over towards them.

The bones disappear. “What are you doing?”

“To spite and show you that I am not useless,” Sans grabs Frisk’s good arm and the human flinches on instinct, “I’m taking them to Asgore.”

The human freezes.

A deep growl rumbles in Papyrus’ throat, “No.”

“Watch me,” Sans bites back. The ground pulls out from beneath them and Frisk stumbles back. Flowey extends vines to take root in the ground, but touch nothing as light explodes around them in one second and disappears in the next.

When they blink, they’re in front of a sentry station similar to one in Snowdin, but there is no snow around save for the roof of the small building. There’s a bright blue flower at the side.

Frisk nearly falls back and Sans grabs their sleeve of their other arm to steady them.

“You alright there, sweetheart?”

Frisk pulls away quickly, careful not to drop Flowey. Sans lets them go and holds up his hands, “Easy there.”

“Y-you…” Frisk hasn’t hyperventilated in a long time. They’d thought they were doing so well, but they’re back to having their chest too tight and taking in short breaths. “You’re taking me to King Asgore?”

Flowey extends a few vines towards Sans, ready to defend if need be.

The skeleton spares the flower a glance, but looks back into Frisk’s only visible eye.

“Would you believe me if I said I lied to my brother, honey?” he asks.

Frisk frowns, “Why –”

“He was going to kill you,” he says, “Had to make use of what I had and get you out of there. Don’t think he’s going to chase us now except for if he wants to dust me.” He laughs, “I reckon he’s always wanted to do that, but I don’t go down easy.”

“Unbelievable,” Flowey breathes. Frisk frowns further, “You…” they look at his held up hands and the expression on his face. “You’re helping me?”

“You said you believed that everyone could be a good person, right?” he shrugs like he always does, “I’m trying.”

He slowly lowers his hands and holds one out. Frisk eyes it warily.

It’s a minute or two when they hold the left one out and put it in Sans'. He wraps bony fingers around their flower-covered ones and starts walking towards what looks to be a waterfall.

Frisk isn’t dead. Nor are they dying. They got past Papyrus.

They smile to themselves. Determined.


They sneeze for the umpteenth time as they wade through the water. The waterfall is gushing strong and Frisk is soaked up to their hips. If it weren’t for Sans holding them steady, they would have been taken by the current. The falling rocks aren’t helping either. Neither is the fact that they’ve been taken from a blizzard to somewhere with no snow in sight, and then dipped waist-deep water.

Another sneeze. Flowey looks at them worriedly. Sans probably hasn’t gotten a cold in his entire existence (the perks of having no nose, probably), so he just looks confused and leads Frisk until they’re at the other side.

Once they’re on dry land, Frisk sits to rest their tired legs and gives another sneeze.

“You okay?” Flowey asks.

Frisk shakes their head. “No,” they say, “Might be sick.” They shiver involuntarily, “Bit cold too.”

It’s a few minutes before Frisk gets up and they continue walking, and when they do, the human is staggering and shaking like a leaf in a hurricane.

Their vision is blurry and their insides feel too hot although they’re freezing. There’s a rustle of cloth and then there’s a weight on their shoulders.

“Here,” Sans’ voice says. Frisk turns their head towards him. He’s not looking at them. He’s pointedly not looking at them.

Frisk puts their arms through the sleeves and brings his jacket closer.

“Thank you.”

They yawn and miss the smile that graces Sans’ face, however briefly.


Most of the monsters that they encounter around Waterfall sniff the air and stare at the human for a few seconds before they scurry off once they register Sans’ presence. The skeleton himself says nothing and walks on, Frisk’s numb hand clasped in his and occasionally stopping to let the kid catch their breath. They’ve been breathing heavily for a while now.

Flowey shifts in his boot-pot and keeps on muttering things to Frisk, and the human nods, but Sans can barely make out words in the middle of unintelligible babble.

“Wait,” Flowey says at one point. Sans stops and it’s all the human beside him can do to not fall on their face. Sans catches them with his free hand.

“You okay, honey?” he asks, brushing hair out of their good eye. It’s almost being devoured by flowers now.

“They’re heating up,” Flowey says at the same time Frisk nods and then slowly sinks to the ground to sit. Sans waits for the flower to explain. “Sick,” the creature says.

On cue, Frisk sneezes. Sniffs and rubs their nose. “Sorry,” they say.

Flowey’s expression falls. “It’s not your fault, Frisk,” he says.

The human continues sitting on the ground covered with bioluminescent grass. Sans scans their surroundings for a minute before taking a seat beside them and leaning back, weight supported by his arms.

“Let’s stay here for a while, yeah?” he offers. Flowey gives him a thankful look. Frisk nods again.

It’s risky trying to stay in one place like this. Papyrus might be right behind them, or Undyne – or maybe for once, his brother has decided to trust him that he will deliver the human to the king. Papyrus might insult Sans all he wants, but traitor has never been on the list.

This counts as treachery, he knows. But the monsters do not deserve to destroy this soul for their freedom. All else, yes. But not this one.

This one is confusing and bright and red and Determined, but it is also warm and kind and polite and forgiving. Sans barely knows kindness, barely knows politeness, barely knows forgiveness. All mistakes are punishable by lashing here. Lashing and being kicked around. Sometimes offenders even get dusted for their trouble.

Frisk doesn’t dust no matter how many times he’s killed them or led them to their death.

He’d been furious when he noticed that whenever the kid died, time wound itself back to make that they never perished. He’s had his fair share of time shenanigans, and has given up hope several rewinds ago, so finding the object of his frustration, well, he wasted no time in killing them then and there, wrapping them in his red magic and watching as they screamed.

But then time jumped back again. And the kid acted like it never happened. He’d thought of the possibility that the kid never remembered, but the mustard-sharing gave it away. But they always tried to be good to him. One determined human with a weapon versus one monster with one measly health point already had a clear victor. But Frisk never fought.

Besides, it didn’t look like the kid was doing the rewinds on purpose. They died, and then time jumped. If anything, the flowers on the kid had gone more numerous and the human looked even more tired.

Frisk tips to the side and their head lands on his shoulder. He jolts in surprise and the kid pulls back, blinking sleepiness out of their eye, mumbling an apology.

He pauses. Then shrugs. “It’s okay, sweetheart. We’ll be here a while.”


“What are they?”

He’s resorted to carrying the human on his back. Poor kid’s still wrapped in his jacket and Flowey’s looped his vines on one of their hands so he’s conveniently perched on Sans’ shoulder. All he’s done is look around for potential danger while Sans focuses on getting them out of here.

Frisk is pointing to one of the tall blue glowing flowers. Sans doesn’t stop but he answers, “Echo flowers.”

“Mm?”

“They repeat the last thing they hear,” he says. Steps to the side as they get near one. Frisk inclines their head towards it, but they don’t appear to hear anything. Good. Kid’s temperature has been on the steady rise though.

They make it through the last of the Echo flower fields after half an hour and find a cave. So far there’s been no sign of Undyne, and Sans isn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he continues on, Flowey holding his head high to watch for any danger.

They pass by a small corridor and Frisk mumbles at them to stop. He does so and the kid weakly tries to straighten and squints at one of the signs. They make a frustrated noise.

“A haunting song echoes down the corridor,” he reads instead, “Won’t you play along?”

“There’s nothin’,” Frisk slurs and drops their head back down to Sans’ other shoulder. He continues walking.

A little ways off, there’s a statue being pelted by drops of water from the cave ceiling. He doesn’t know where the water’s coming from, but maybe this part of the Underground was directly under a lake from above or something.

Just as they near the exit, there’s a small bin with umbrellas. He picks one up, since he can hear water up ahead and the downpour might be stronger there. Frisk says, “Wait,” and then picks one up too.

“We’re only gonna need one, honey,” he says. They shake their head, “Go back.”

“What?”

“Go back,” they say.

Even Flowey looks confused, but Sans does as he’s told.

He watches in amusement as Frisk opens the red umbrella and stretches their arm out as far as they can to place it by the statue.

He’s about to laugh when a music box starts playing.

Frisk gives a little squeal into the fabric of his sweater. “Pretty,” they say, “So that’s what the sign meant…”

They stand there for a while until Frisk falls asleep. Sans stares at the music box before they move on.


Frisk doesn’t wake up.


When they wake up, it’s nothing but darkness. Frisk tries to blink. They feel their eyelids move, but it’s still total darkness. Maybe they’re still stuck in wherever they go before they reload. Like a limbo of sorts.

Something hard clasps their hands.

“Sweetheart, you there?”

Sans? They were awake after all, so why – they reach up and try to pull off whatever might be covering their eyes, but once they snag the offending objects and pull, hot pain shoots through their head and they pitch forward with a yelp.

Something catches them. Must be Sans.

“Steady there,” he says, “Steady.”

“They shouldn’t pull the flowers,” that was Flowey’s voice, “It hurts them.”

“So that’s not just a human thing?” Sans asks. One hand pulls away and Frisk imagines he’s gesturing, “I thought it was a human thing.”

“No, it’s not,” Flowey says, “It’s…it’s complicated. Let’s just – ”

“One flower grows every time I die,” Frisk croaks.

There’s silence. Sans’ one hand on their numb hand tightens by a fraction. Or maybe enough to snap their wrist, but Frisk can’t feel much with that limb, so it’s inconsequential.

“Frisk,” Flowey’s tone is reprimanding, “He doesn’t understand, just leave it.”

They shake their head, “No, he does. He remembers.” They do their best to turn to where they think Sans is, “You remember, don’t you?”

There’s no answer.

“I know you do,” they say, “Your reactions are always different every time I reload. Sometimes…sometimes you think about things. Sometimes you look conflicted. You remember that I like ketchup.”

Sans still doesn’t answer. Flowey pleads one last time, “Frisk…”

“When?” Sans asks. His voice sounds deeper and more subdued than usual, “Since when did you know?”

“Since you laughed at when I thanked you the second time,” they say, “The first time, you were shocked. The second, you were just amused. I…I started thinking about the possibility.”

“Are you doing the reloads on purpose?”

Frisk shakes their head, “I’ve wanted to die more times that I can remember and I can’t seem to.”

There’s another pregnant pause before Sans grunts. He starts tugging their hand after a few seconds and Frisk starts walking.

“Flowey?” they ask.

“Right here, Frisk.”

Ah, somewhere above them. He must be on Sans’ shoulder again.

“Where are we?”

“Waterfall,” Sans says, “Near the Echo flowers.”

Then he stops, and so does Frisk, blind without a guide. A moment later something warm and thick is wrapped around Frisk’s shoulders. Their mouth falls into a little ‘o’ when they realize it’s Sans’ jacket.

Sans takes their hand again, “Come on, sweetheart. We’re wasting glowlight.”


Occasionally, Frisk tilts their head to the side and strains their ears to listen to the Echo flower’s whispers.

Most of the people who’ve wished around here are either dead or have gone far, far away. Or have joined the royal guard in a quest for prestige, popularity and freedom. Sans knows.

He chances a glance back to see the human’s mouth curled in what appears to be discomfort. He slows down so that they can move closer before they continue walking. Flowey shifts on his shoulder, “I don’t remember the whispers being so noticeable last time.”

“We were preoccupied,” Sans says.

“What is this place?”

“People used to hang out here, to rest,” he keeps his voice low for the human’s benefit, “Others liked to wish. Others liked to promise.”

“Seven souls,” one flower whispers.

“Seven souls, and King Asgore will become a god,” another whispers back.

The flowers promise death to every human that falls into the Underground, whisper freedom to every monster trapped, and plan the destruction of the human race once monsterkind has been set free.

Frisk has one hand holding onto the back of Sans’ sweater.

“Don’t listen to them,” he says, “They’re death wishes.”

Once they get to the corridor with the statue, Sans does the same thing as they did before and places an umbrella over the statue. Frisk smiles. Flowey looks at the statue wistfully for some reason that Sans ignores. The flower is weird enough as it is, helping a human at the risk of execution, but he hasn’t done any harm yet so it’s all good.

He lets Frisk piggyback again and they hold the umbrella so that all three of them can travel easily. They walk past the looming view of the castle. The kid has been impressed with Grillby’s and Waterfall when they first saw it, so Sans thinks they would be impressed if they could see the castle too.

“You can see the castle from here,” Flowey beats him to telling the human that. He continues walking as Frisk straightens in attention.

“It’s huge,” Flowey says, “And nice.”

The human giggles. Sans finds himself cracking a grin.

He returns the umbrella to the next bin they find and Flowey lifts them all up with his vines. The tiny thing is surprisingly strong when he wants to be – Sans turns to the flower at his shoulder and finds them panting. Okay, maybe not, but lifting a human and a skeleton (although he was admittedly light) was an impressive feat for such a tiny flower.

Frisk walks again this time, hand still clasped in Sans, and it’s in this condition that they run into Undyne.

She looks at their joined hands and frowns.

Sans straightens, “I’m taking the human to the king.”

“And the flower?” she nods towards the monster perched on his shoulder, who lowers his head on cue.

“Little tag-along.”

Undyne snorts. “We all know you’re just after your brother’s position,” she says, and goddamn, he wishes they would all stop thinking that. If he wasn’t lazy, he was an usurper and if he wasn’t an usurper then he was a traitor.

The rules of the Underground. Kill or be killed. Trust no one. It was easier when people weren’t kind to you and you felt like you owed them shit.

The Captain of the Royal Guard brandishes her spear and points it towards them.

“I’m doing this so that we can be free,” he says, hold on Frisk getting tighter. The human whimpers weakly behind him.

“That may be so,” Undyne says, “But whoever brings the human to the king gets to be his right-hand warrior and I’m not giving that up to you.”

Fucking competition in the Underground too. You’d think everyone would learn to work together to solve their problems, but it was still every monster to themselves.

He takes a step back and summons his Blasters, “Well, I can’t let you do that either.”

Frisk grabs his sleeve. He doesn’t turn to them.

“Don’t hurt her,” Frisk pleads. Sans momentarily stills at the stupidity of that request. They were all about to be killed by the Captain of the Royal Guard, and out of all things Frisk can ask, it’s for said captain’s safety? Sometimes he wonders if kindness is another word for stupidity.

Please,” Frisk whispers, “Don’t hurt her.”

“Frisk,” Flowey turns to them. At least the flower’s reasonable, “We – ”

“No,” Frisk cuts in, firm. “Don’t hurt her. We don’t hurt anyone. Ever.”

Undyne takes the distraction and attacks.

Sans lets Frisk go to raise his hand and stop the captain in mid-run and then push his hand forward, slamming Undyne back into the wall ahead of them.

“No!” Frisk yells. They wave their arms around and manage to catch Sans’ outstretched arm. “Don’t hurt her, Sans!” tears are streaming past the flowers that are covering their eyes now, “Please.”

Sans frowns, but he doesn’t lower his arm as he stares at Frisk as they lower their head and cry into his sleeve.

Flowey grabs both of them by his vines, “Come on!” he hisses, “Let’s get out of here if you don’t want to hurt her.”

Frisk snaps their head up at that and starts pulling Sans’ sleeve, running blindly. Flowey makes sure to pull them back before they trip and that’s when Sans makes his Blasters disperse and helps Frisk remain steady as they run past Undyne, who’s still reeling from the impact of the blow. It probably wasn’t enough to kill her, but enough to incapacitate her for a while.

They run.


Frisk doesn’t explain why they don’t want Undyne to be hurt. Sans doesn’t ask anymore after the first few attempts only end up with them crying. Flowey is asleep, tucked in one of the kid’s arms, exhausted from using too much magic. Frisk’s head is lolling a little. Even Sans is a little drowsy from not having the chance to rest since the last reload and then nearly fighting Undyne.

So they sit by the patch of land just near the wooden bridge that will take them to the other side of Waterfall. Undyne hasn’t followed. Sans probably threw her harder than he thought and she was dead. Or was biding her time. Or was looking for them in all the wrong places. But they need to rest now, because if she was alive, then she will find them later.

Frisk sits beside him and puts their head on his shoulder and this time he doesn’t mind.

He closes his eyes, just resting but not sleeping.

“We shouldn’t hurt people,” Frisk mumbles once Sans thinks they’re asleep. He cracks an eye open to look down at them. They chew on their lower lip before continuing, “Always be kind.” A pause, “Sometimes kindness is all we can give. Sometimes kindness is enough.”

Sans falls asleep with those words repeating in his head.


Undyne does find them later, and Sans hauls Frisk to his back, Flowey grabs onto him and wraps his vines around Frisk and his arms so that they’re all secured together as Sans runs. He could fight, he should fight, but the kid doesn’t want that and he did promise to try to not solve everything that’s thrown his way by violence or a beam from a Blaster.

Always be kind. Sometimes kindness is all we can give. Sometimes kindness is enough.

Always be kind.

“Don’t hurt her,” Frisk mumbles into his sweater again.

“I know.”

He dodges the spears Undyne summons to form in their path. One of the things narrowly hit his jacket which the kid is currently wearing, but thankfully, it’s only the jacket. Not the kid themselves.

They reach a dead end and Sans digs his heels into the wood, skidding to a stop just before they’re a push over the edge.

He turns back and only gets a step because Undyne is a few feet away from him.

She drags her spear across the bridge and he can imagine her grinning smugly beneath her helmet as their part of the bridge falls away and then there’s darkness and a splash of water.


Sans? Sans! Sans, wake up, please, I can’t – I can’t – ”

He wakes up to someone screaming his name above him. There’s a light that’s being obscured by something, and when his vision clears, the human’s face is above him. Top half obscured by flowers and all, but it’s Frisk, light above them acting like a halo behind their head, and they’re soaking wet and maybe crying but he can’t tell. Flowey is on his chest and he sighs in relief too when Sans wakes up.

“He’s awake,” the flower declares.

Frisk exhales and then leans back. Sobs and then lets out a watery laugh.

“Thank God.”

Sans tries to sit up, ends up wincing and then lies back down again. Undyne’s not coming after them for a while.

Frisk feels around his chest to get Flowey off of him and onto the – bed of flowers? Yeah – bed of flowers they’ve all landed on. The things were thick enough to break their fall. They’re gold too. Like the ones on Frisk. He thinks maybe if the kid laid down, they’d blend right in.

“Mind if we stay here for a while, honey?” he coughs weakly, “I’m a little bone-tired right now.”

Frisk giggles and snorts unelegantly. Sans smiles anyway. Papyrus barely laughs at his jokes.

“Yeah. We’re not going anywhere,” Frisk says, “I can’t see without you anyway.”

He falls silent at that. Half of the flowers that have taken over the human are his fault. From his own act of killing them, to betraying them by ratting them out to his brother, and to neglecting their health.

They haven’t taken off that jacket since he gave it to them though. “You’re not sick from the water again, are you, kiddo?”

Frisk shakes their head.

He makes a contented noise and closes his eyes, exhaling.

“Thank you,” Frisk says.

He opens his eyes again to look at them smiling down at him.

“For what?”

“For sparing her,” they say.

Sans only curls his mouth in that curiosity-confusion again. Frisk reaches a hand up slowly and carefully tries to place it on his cheekbone. The skeleton stiffens as they drag their fingers down his cheekbone and near his mouth.

They laugh weakly, “I wish I could see your face. You feel funny right now.”

Sans looks at where their right eye once was. “I was an eyesore anyway, sweetheart,” he says. The human appears to disagree as they shake their head again.


There is a dummy that blocks their path once they start moving again. It keeps on muttering things under its breath and Sans is half tempted to cut it down then and there since it’s grating on his nerves, but Frisk is holding him back so he doesn’t.

They try to get past it, but it snaps, and starts fighting them. Sans tries to dodge as best as he could, but the water is hindering his movements and he’s still got Frisk and Flowey to worry about.

One shot nearly hits him, but Frisk pushes him aside and takes the hit.

He’s the one that wakes up staring up at Frisk again, although the human’s not yelling this time. Their mouth is slightly parted in shock, and when they make a sound, it’s laughing as they lean back. Sans sits up this time.

He asks what they’re laughing about, but Frisk just laughs harder before they sag against him.

He checks their face for any news flowers and find none, so he moves on to their arms and hands. There’s a new bloom on their right wrist.

“Let’s not do that again, honey,” he says. Frisk nods, “Yeah,” they let out another laugh again, “Let’s not.”


Undyne finds them again, and Frisk tells Sans one firm “No” when he turns to them to silently plead for permission. They didn’t even need eyes to see what he was trying to say. They just held on to his sweater tighter.

So he dodges, making sure Frisk is behind him and Flowey in one of their arms. The flower tries to block shots as best as he could, taking in damage for Sans, and he’s thankful for that. Undyne’s not letting them get past her that easily, her magic rooting them in the same spot so he can’t teleport them out of here.

But Frisk refuses to fight.

One mistimed block hits Sans and takes him out, one health point doing nothing to withstand the damage, and Frisk gasps as they feel him falling away. A second later, he blacks out. Another minute and they’re back at the corridor with one Echo flower standing there.

“Sans?” Frisk asks, one hand raised to touch his face. He cautiously takes it and places it on his cheekbone. “Yeah, I’m right here, sweetheart.”

“Good,” they breathe, “Good.”

He looks down at their right wrist and finds a new flower right next to the other one.

It’s hard to face Undyne with so many people with you and her magic restraining all of them in place. Time jumps back and back and back until Frisk’s right hand is no more, and then the flowers crawl up to their arm until finally, finally, Flowey manages to deflect one attack and Undyne looks tired out.

Sans uses their momentary reprieve to grab Frisk and run.

Once they’re a good few feet away from Undyne, who’s yelling threats behind them, he teleports a short distance, and then another, and then another – short bursts enough to get them away but not to exhaust him.

Once their feet touch hot solid ground, he stops. Frisk pushes away from him and he staggers a little, shocked, before the human turns away and then retches.

He winces. He forgets how teleportation can be disorienting to those not used to it.

“Don’t,” Frisk shudders and draws in a shaky breath. There’s sick in their hair and they wipe their mouth with their sleeve, “Don’t do that again.”

“Can’t promise that, sweetheart,” he says, “Come on, let’s get you cleaned up.”


 

Frisk can’t feel both their hands anymore. It’s Sans who cleans and patches them up, and then takes care of Flowey too. They’re glad that he and the flower are getting along. Well, not exactly getting along, but they are learning to work together.

They have no idea what they’re going to do, really. They’ve heard the Echo flowers.

Seven human souls and one monster soul in order to break open the barrier. The king has six, and Frisk is the seventh, and the voice at the back of their head insists that they are the future of humans and monsters and even though the monsters are horrible, nobody deserves to be trapped underground.

Sans doesn’t know that Frisk can barely feel their legs too. The flowers have taken over both their arms and their torso is probably going next, but their legs are starting to get numb.

What if they can get out to the Surface, but it’s in this condition? What if the flowers are irreversible? What if they could never be back to normal again? What if?

Sans tells them that they’re making their way to Hotland, and then to the Royal Scientist’s lab. Frisk can’t feel their feet as they walk anymore even though they know that the flowers haven’t eaten them yet.

The scientist’s name is Alphys, they gather, and she hisses, “You,” when she sees Flowey. Even Sans steps back a little when Alphys starts to yell, starts to tell Flowey what a traitor he is for helping a human, says, “Do you think your parents would be happy with what you are doing, Asriel?” And that’s when Flowey yells back at her to shut up shut up shut up.

But Alphys doesn’t fight. Instead there’s an explosion of sorts, and Sans is fighting someone named Mettaton. A robot, Frisk thinks from what they’ve been hearing. A robot originally built for entertainment and then was modified to destroy humans. But Sans isn’t letting Mettaton lay a hand on Frisk. Frisk wants to say thank you but their throat is getting numb now too. They wonder if there’s a limit to how many flowers their body can hold.

All Mettaton does is ask questions and if Sans answers wrong, they would all die. But Sans answers them all confidently, smugly even, from how Frisk hears it, and eventually they’re left alone. Alphys has long fled the lab.

Frisk drags their feet as they walk, too tired to muster the strength to actually lift them.

“Hey, honey?” Sans speaks. They lift their head as best as they could. He shouldn’t lose hope with this. If anything, Frisk can do him one last favor for his help. “We kind of need to hurry. No pressure, but things are going to get a little heated if we lag.”

Frisk giggles. Right, right. The Core is near magma and lava. Or maybe this place was called Hotland? They can’t remember. But it’s good that Sans is telling jokes. He’s been telling jokes lately and whenever Frisk touches his face, he feels like he’s smiling. Even Flowey is snorting an “Unbelievable” from the skeleton’s shoulder.

So they try best to walk. Determination, they chant. Determination, Chara whispers in the back of their head. Hope of humans and monsters. They have friends who don’t deserve to be trapped down here. Flowey and Sans don’t deserve to be trapped down here. And then maybe Papyrus and Undyne won’t be so mad anymore once they’re free.

There is no doubt that Papyrus and Undyne are still chasing them, that’s why they’ve been walking and walking for as much as they can now. No more stopping. Because they all know Sans is a traitor now. And Sans will die if they get caught and it will be Frisk’s fault.

So they walk. And they stumble upon other guards in Hotland, and Frisk dies again, twice, because they’re too tired and slow to dodge and they think that they’re losing one of their feet for real now.

Sans is starting to get exasperated, they can tell, and they apologize, but Sans just sounds sad when he brushes their hair aside and says, “It’s okay, sweetheart, it’s okay.”

Mettaton fights them several times more –it would have been ridiculous if Frisk could see, but they can’t, so all they have to go on are what they hear, and it still sounds ridiculous. From the cooking show, to the newscasting, and Flowey points out that they might want to stay out of the spotlight if they don’t want Papyrus and Undyne to find them.

They manage to rest at a hotel. Sans keeps them close to him at all times since the monsters don’t appear to be very friendly around here. And Frisk thinks about just staying asleep, but Sans is right. They will be found out, and Flowey and Sans will die if they are caught.

Determination, Chara chants. For your friends. For my friends.

So they walk. And Muffet makes them reload and reload and reload until their right leg is out of commission and they walk with a limp. Sans gets frustrated and ends up killing Muffet.

Frisk cries.

They don’t speak for a little while, but Frisk doesn’t force a reload. They continue walking, Sans supporting their weight, while Flowey remains on his perch to scan for danger.

This time, they’re really at the Core, Frisk thinks when Sans speaks again. They fight Mettaton and Frisk’s soul shatters from defending Flowey and they all wake up at the hotel. And the human knows that it’s their other leg that’s going to pay this time.

This time Muffet doesn’t die. Neither does Mettaton,  although Sans keeps on growling as he dodges like he’d rather rip the robot apart. Frisk is thankful that he doesn’t.

By the time that they’re out of the Core, Frisk stumbles and falls to the ground with a yelp. They scrape their good knee and one of their cheeks. Their arms are useless.

“Shit,” Sans curses as he moves beside them and then pauses before slipping one arm under their back and the other under their knees.

Frisk signs, I’m fine.

“No you’re not,” Sans says.

Not your fault.

Sans is silent for a while. Then they just continue walking.

“I’ll get you to the Surface,” he says, “Don’t worry. No matter what it takes, sweetheart, I’m getting you to the Surface.”

Frisk wants to tell him to not make promises he can’t keep but they can’t talk anymore.


King Asgore might have been a good king once. No, Sans knows that King Asgore was a good king once. But desperation and loss can do things to a man. The kingdom was losing hope, and with the death of both of his children followed by his wife’s leave due to her grief, he has hardened and now looks at everything as mere things that can be expended if they reach his goal.

Sans knows. Because once upon a time, he cared for his brother although Papyrus always was a  little ambitious. Once upon a time, he held out hope for getting to the surface and nobody hurt each other. Once upon a time, he didn’t resort to so much violence. Then once upon a time, Chara and Asriel died, and Queen Toriel left, and everyone thought, this is it, we are stuck here forever. Unless we take seven human souls and blast our way out of here.

Once upon a time, everyone learned that sometimes murder got them what they needed. Once upon a time, time started resetting so much that Sans didn’t care anymore how many times he needed to kill human children. He just needed to kill. And eventually he just decided not to because no matter how much he did kill, everything was going to be reset again.

Then once upon another time, a human with a red soul that sang Determination fell and was kind. Once upon another time, Prince Asriel Dreemurr’s soul was put into a flower by the royal scientist and said prince was currently perched on his shoulder. Once upon another time, Sans remembers exactly how being happy feels like and wants to fight for it.


Flowey knows how to reset and reload, back when he still had that ability. Somehow, that was transferred to Frisk’s soul when they fell, and Flowey feels guilty for being relieved. He could only reset so much to prevent the other children to be killed, see. And he knows he’s weak in magic to defend all six of those who’d fallen. So he tries to wind time again and again until he gets tired and decides to just let it be.

And then a human falls. A human with a soul as red as Chara’s. A human who looks like Chara. A human who is kind and determined like Chara.

So he goes with them. He helps them. He is a traitor, but he is loyal to his best friend and sibling whom he promised that he would find a way to get all the monsters to the Surface. He promised Chara. And he is not going to go back on his promise when he’s being reminded all the time by Frisk’s presence.

So sometimes he dies in the middle of battle, hoping to hell Frisk and Sans get out, but that never happens, because they always reload with a new flower on Frisk but Flowey holds on.

He sits on Sans’ shoulder listening to his father explain why they should do this, and why the humans deserved to be punished, and thinks, that no, this isn’t what King Asgore would do. Not the father Asriel once knew, but the enemy Flowey would face.

He defends Sans and Frisk for as long as he can, no matter if Frisk can no longer stand with all the flowers clinging on to them.


Frisk can’t stand now. But they plead still. Don’t hurt him. Don’t kill him. Spare him. Asgore looks at them strangely, and Sans says nothing as he defends. When a fireball gets too close to Frisk, he starts to attack. Frisk can’t see anyway. He won’t kill the king. He’ll just weaken him until he can’t fight anymore.

Stupid child. Stupid human child believing in kindness and managing to worm their way into his ribcage. Stupid him for wanting this kid as a friend. Stupid fucking circumstances that made everything like this.

In another life, where everyone hadn’t lost hope, they all could have been friends. And this entire mess wouldn’t be necessary. And sure, they wouldn’t be out of the Underground quick, but it would be happy and peaceful.

Flowey stills on his shoulder for a moment before whispering that he has an idea and then sinks into the floor, roots breaking the cement before he disappears and leaves Sans to fight alone. The skeleton curses, but whatever that damn flower had planned, it was probably worth it. He wouldn’t leave Frisk like that.

Frisk is sitting behind him. Hands on the ground. Still praying that nobody got hurt. Can’t see. Can’t move. Can barely talk, even. Goddamn kid.

Sans strikes one blow before Asgore is down on one knee, weak from the fight.

“Well?” the king asks, huffing, “Do it.”

Sans still has his bones behind him and he’s still able to call his Blasters to finish Asgore off. It would be easy. One blast. One blast and he could kill the king and take Frisk out of here and out into the Surface.

He lifts one hand.

And then drops it.

Turns back to the human behind him, picks them up into his arms and faces the king again.

“No.”

Asgore looks up and frowns, “No?”

Frisk moves in his arms and leans their head into his chest. They’re signing something rapidly, hands making jittery movements that Sans can barely register them, but he catches a Thank you in the midst of that.

“Always be kind. Sometimes kindness is all we can give,” he says, “Sometimes kindness is enough.”

Asgore laughs, “That’s not how it works around here, boy. It’s kill or be killed.”

Sans shakes his head and pulls Frisk closer.

“Not anymore.”


He walks past Asgore, tense, but to his surprise the king lets him. He makes no move to stand and just keeps his head low. Sans walks over to the barrier and stares at it.

He needs seven human souls to cross the barrier. Or one monster soul and one human soul. Whoever gets that gets to cross the barrier. He looks at the feverish human in his arms.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he smiles as he looks at them. They’re trying to press closer to him, it’s almost amusing. “You still holding on good?”

Frisk nods slowly.

The cement in front of him breaks and Flowey emerges. He’s got his vines wrapped into a ball and is panting, but he looks at Sans and then pulls his vines back to reveal six floating orbs of different colors.

Sans’ breath hitches.

No, not orbs. Souls. The six human souls.

“We can…can cross the barrier,” Flowey coughs, “Or at least take one of the souls. Cross the barrier, take one more, come back, take the rest and then break the barrier.” He’s shaking badly, “I don’t know, just get Frisk out of here or something.”

It’s a good plan. Take one soul, get another from Surface and then go back to complete the job and free Frisk and monsterkind.

“No,” Frisk rasps and grabs Sans’ sweater.

“Frisk!” Flowey yells, “We need seven human souls to break the barrier; we only have six.”

Frisk shakes their head rapidly and clenches their teeth. Painful to move, even. Seven, they sign, Have seven.

“No, we...” Flowey pauses and stares at the human, “…don’t.”

Frisk points to themselves.

Sans nearly drops them.

Flowey’s stares at them, disbelieving, and Sans tightens their grip on them, “Are you fucking stupid? You can’t just give up – not after all that – ”

“Not…not giving up,” Frisk croaks, “Can’t go back to Surface anymore. Nearly covered in flowers. Hah,” they laugh weakly, “Dying. Slowly.”

“Don’t say that.”

Frisk chuckles, “One last thing. Hope of humans and monsters. Have to do it. Take my soul,” they smile weakly, “Free everyone.”

“Frisk, no,” Flowey sobs.

Sans watches two drops of water land on Frisk’s cheek before he realizes he’s crying too.

“Won’t last long,” Frisk says, “Please.” They clutch Sans’ sweater tighter, “Please.”

The red soul flickers in front of them and Flowey starts crying. Frisk’s chest is still moving, up and down, but it’s getting slower. Sans looks at them as the red soul floats near his face.

Frisk whispers something, but he can’t hear it, so he lowers his head.

“Can you say that a little closer?” he asks. Frisk is falling asleep, and the soul is getting brighter in front of them, and he needs to shove it back in so the kid can keep breathing. His tears are falling faster onto Frisk’s face.

But he needs to listen, because the kid can barely talk and it would be rude not to listen. “I didn’t quite catch that.”


King Asgore is a good king. He’s called off Undyne and Papyrus and even the plan to destroy humanity. They know that the humans are stronger than them anyway, with their Determination and all, so it would be useless to try and get themselves trapped back underground again.

Flowey – no, Asriel says that sometimes he hears the king tell tales of the seventh human. Of their sacrifice. Of how they rather chose to give up their soul for people that have tried to kill them.

Asgore doesn’t know about Flowey being Asriel, of course. Poor kid’s still a flower and he doesn’t want to talk to his parents in his condition. Especially not when they’ve both killed him at least once too.

Asriel says he’s insane. But not in the condescending way. In the ‘I care about you so stop being stupid’ way, and he thinks it’s funny because there was a time when he’d love to pick the petals off of the little bugger. Now the plant’s living in the same house as he is in the Surface. They’d built a little town in Ebott while Asgore tried to smooth out relations with the humans. Papyrus doesn’t talk to him so much, but he hasn’t been insulting him either.

They’d buried Frisk back at the entrance of the Ruins. The same place they fell, Asriel says. He says that was where Chara was buried too. The first human, their sibling, the first red soul of Determination. The flowers had disappeared when the barrier had broken and he’d said that maybe Chara’d finally found peace and moved on. Asriel didn’t say anything.

He visits the entrance to the Ruins every month or so. Another patch of flowers has grown there. They’re gold, just like the ones Frisk was covered in, and just like the ones that grew over Chara’s grave.

Sans lays there sometimes, staring up at the sun through that small hole above him where Frisk had fallen. He’s thought about finding a way to reload – or reset. Get Frisk back, find another way, but it would be throwing the kid’s sacrifice in their face if he did that.

So he visits. Sometimes Asriel comes with him, sometimes he doesn’t. All the same, Sans lays there and waits. Frisk always reloaded after they died, see. And sometimes it would take a while, so he’s waiting. Asriel says he’s insane. He thinks he might be too.

“Knock knock.”

Who’s there? asks Frisk’s voice in his head.

“Flower.”

Please.

Flower who?

“Flower you today….”

Come back.

“…Sweetheart?”

Soon.

But nobody came.