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the price of love

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There was something about the hall that lended itself to music.

It didn’t matter that no instrument had breached its walls for hundreds of years, now. Every voice that entered mingled with every step until one could only think of an orchestra; a tempered vibrato that would never end, acoustics that lasted lifetimes. It was beautiful. It was breathtaking. All it needed was an audience.

Too bad everyone was dead.

Step. Lunge. Twirl.

If every noise was music, it was probably appropriate to consider this a dance.

And Sans was the conductor, in a way. It was his bones making the not-kid move. His attacks spurring them to jump-slide-dodge. It was probably morbid to find it beautiful, but then again, it was probably the last song he would ever hear, so he might as well enjoy it, right?

The once-child’s feet touched lightly back onto the ground, and they both stopped for a moment. They looked resigned to waiting. Sans knew a cue when he saw one.

“that being said...” He paused a second, listening to his voice echo. “you, uh, really like swinging that thing around, huh?”

He watched the way the pooling sunlight parted around them like a river.

“let’s quit fighting.”

He watched.

They watched back.

For the first time in minutes -- hours -- lifetimes -- there was silence. Not even birds were singing. Not this late into the fight. There was no struggle on the thing’s face. Just...thought. Deliberation.

They sat.

Knife in hand, they folded their legs under themself and sat. Judgement. There was no emotion in their expression. Judgement. They knew what came next, with the choices they’d made. Judgement. There was no forgiveness.

They bowed their head, and waited.


“...i won’t let it go to waste,” he promised.


Walls of bones surrounded them like a cage.



...Nothing happened.

“i won’t let it go to waste,” he promised.

“this isn’t how it goes. i know you know that. which to be frank, is, uh, why i’m doing it.” Sans looked up at the ceiling, pretending he wasn’t trying to catch his breath. “this is new, right? you like new. it’s, uh, interesting. shiny. real neat. and, y’know, there’s nothing i can do to keep you from forcing a load, if you want. so just... bear with me. see where all this takes you. if you get bored, well...” He tapped his foot twice on the floor. Listened to it echo. “we can always start right back up where we left off.”

They did not speak. Their face didn’t so much as twitch. But when the bones fell away, and they stood back up, they shoved their knife into their pocket.

“nice,” Sans said.




It was amusing, or at least ironic, that where they’d been almost graceful in battle they were the exact opposite out of it. Their movements were jerky. Shambling. Like they were a stranger in their own skin. Just because they didn’t move any slower for it didn’t make it any less disconcerting. It was probably a good thing that Sans had been planning on offering a shortcut anyway.

They sat down on Sans’ couch and sighed, just a little.

The line rang four times before someone picked up. “hey alph,” Sans said. Their eyes had been locked on him from the second he started punching numbers into the phone. He didn’t pretend not to notice. “yeah. situation’s handled. yeah. i did. pssht, way to hurt a skeleton’s feelings. how’re things over there?”

They could hear, faintly, Alphys stuttering on the other end of the line. They didn’t bother much with wondering what she was saying. Either they would find out, or they wouldn’t.

“oh, about that, it uh, might not be a good idea to send everyone packing just yet. ahuh. yeah. well, about that.” Sans walked over to the fridge, opening it up and rummaging inside. “hey kid, you hungry?” he asked, louder than before.

They didn’t have to guess about what she said that time. That was definitely a shriek.

“jeeze, alph, chill your bones. no, look, look, i’ve got it under control. i’ve got my back turned on ‘em and they aren’t even trying to show me some stabs or anything. heh. what? ‘course i do.” He closed the fridge, shoving whatever was in his hands into the microwave. A lot of buttons were beeped. “listen, just trust me on this one. i got them to stop, didn’t i? we’ve come to an agreement, and there’s no one else for them to hurt up here. just, uh. two days. how does that sound? then you can send everyone back home and go back to being a weeaboo or whatever.”

They watched.

“i know,” he said, and they didn’t miss the way his voice hardened. “i know exactly who they killed. i know he’d be doing the same thing i am right now except better. i know she’d try anything to keep us all safe. i know a lot of things, alphys.” He jabbed at a button on the microwave, and it halted to a stop. “try trusting me. maybe it’ll finally get us somewhere.”

He took whatever it was out and headed back into the living room. “yeah. me too. just- forget about it, ok? two days. here,” he said, except not to the phone. He placed the open tupperware on their lap. “dig in.” It was steaming.

They stood up, dumping the reheated spaghetti all over the floor, and walked out of the house.

Sans watched the empty space where they used to be and sighed, heavily. The food was easy enough to clean up. It was the other mess he was worried about.

“yeah, it- it’s real bad, alphys. i won’t lie to you. they’re almost at the threshold. I don’t need any sort of fancy equipment to figure that out.” He bent down, scooping the spaghetti back into its container. “that said, i uh. i need to ask a favor.”

By the time they came back two minutes later, it was already as if nothing had spilled on the carpet at all. Sans looked up from where he sat at the table. A cold wind blew in with the open door.

They looked Sans right in the face as they shoved a Cinnamon Bunny into their mouth.

“yeah,” Sans laughed, “that’s fair.”



After that, they did not eat. They did not sleep. Occasionally they would get up and check parts of the house. The kitchen. Papyrus’ room. Sans’ door. Mostly they just waited.

They were very good at waiting.

“you’ve been, uh. pretty patient,” Sans said. He eyed the hot cat he’d left for them the day before. It hadn’t been touched. “i appreciate that. really. as much as i’d love to get this show on the road right off the bat, these things take, uh. time. but it’s whatever. i’m sure you already know that by now.” He shrugged. Their stare never left his face. “you’re probably ready for something to do, huh?”

He peeked out the window. He couldn’t see anybody, but there were some footprints in the snow where there hadn’t been an hour ago. The lights were on in Grillby’s. His expression was as blank and smiling as ever, but there was a slump in his shoulders when he turned back to the thing on his couch. Relief, maybe. Dread. It was hard to tell.

“just a couple more hours,” he said. “we’ll leave the second i get the go ahead. how’s that sound?”

They didn’t answer. But then again, he hadn’t really expected them to.



When they arrived at the Lab, the first thing they noticed was that the computer desk was cleaned off. That was new. Something different already. They filed the information away, stopping with Sans when he paused in front of the large monitor. Their face was blown up on the screen. Of course she’d still be tracking them.

“H-hold on!” Alphys called. She burst out of the “bathroom”, clawed feet skittering on the floor as she approached. “I just needed to take care of, uh, some- some things, sorry.” She adjusted her coat nervously, glancing everywhere but Sans’ side. “Everything’s already set up, so...”

“cool,” Sans said, because ignoring her nervousness was easier than not. “what do we do?”

“Just- stand there?” She went over to the desk, sweeping her fingers over the keys and biting her lip as the computer monitor flickered to life. “I mean, not you, um, obviously, but. Yeah. The camera equipment is already locked onto their soul, and it shouldn’t be too hard to subroute that through the stat counter since it’s all wired through the same computer... I just need them to- to stay still.”

“think you can do that?” he asked them. They looked up at him, and blinked, slowly, before going back to staring at Alphys as she tapped away on the keys. “i’m gonna take that as a yes.”

“Okay,” she said, “good, that’s- that’s good, uh...” She was quiet for a minute as she worked, until finally she pressed a key and sighed. “There. That- that should do it. I just need to give it a minute to get it to, to sync up, and then it should be ready.”

“you’re a pal, alph.”

“I’m not doing this because I want to,” she said, her voice flat. She turned to look at him with tired lines etched into her face, her gaze falling to them without her meaning to, and she flinched when their eyes met, turning back to the screen. “Just...returning a favor.”

“still.” He shrugged. “figured i should thank you anyway.”

“You haven’t,” she muttered, but neither of them said anything after that.

They watched.

“Okay, this should be fine,” she said, breaking the silence. She tapped on the keyboard -- C, down, Z -- and breathed in sharply. “Um, you- you probably want to look at this.”

Giving them one last glance, Sans walked over to the desk, peering over Alphys’ shoulder. His eyes narrowed. “oh. yeah. yikes. that’s a lot of numbers.”

“This is- I’ve never seen this before, not- not outside of a textbook.” Alphys leaned in toward the screen, voice shrill. “Everything’s so high! Look at how much EXP they need until their next LV, it’s--”

“Forty-nine thousand, nine-hundred ninety-nine.”

Both of them froze.

Sans was the first to move, looking over to where they still hadn’t moved. “...excuse me?”

“Forty-nine thousand, nine-hundred ninety-nine,” they said.

“is that true?” Sans prompted, looking back to Alphys where she was still frozen.

“HP,” she said.


“Oh,” she said, and finally her claws started to shake. “That- they shouldn’t- that’s not possible. They’re right. That’s not supposed to be possible. They shouldn’t just be able to know their stats like that, Sans.”

“Nineteen,” they said. “Ninety-two. Forty-six. Fourteen. Fifty thousand,” they said, voice hollow, staring Alphys down in contradiction of everything she knew.

“LV,” Alphys echoed, voice shaking, “HP, AT, DF, E- EXP. I- someone shouldn’t be able to analyze their own stats like that, it’s like trying to look at the back of your own head! How--” She turned to meet their stare, desperate, “-how can you do that?!”

They looked at her. They looked at her for several long moments, and for a second it almost seemed like something in their expression wavered, before, “Nineteen. Ninety-two. Forty-six--”



“Stop it!”

alphys, ” Sans hissed, his grip tight on her arm where he’d stopped her from taking a step forward. Then it was quiet. She shook, silently, until she deflated entirely, her shoulders slumping. Sans let go.

“...Y-y-you need to- to go.” She turned back to the computer and shut it down with a few strokes of her keyboard. She didn’t look at either of them.

“yeah.” Sans stuffed his hands in his pockets, walking back over to where they still hadn’t moved. They were silent now. “yeah. see ya around, buddy.”

In almost everyone’s opinion, they couldn’t get to the shortcut fast enough.



They went outside.

The flow of people back into Snowdin had been slow at first, but as more and more monsters had returned without event, the rest were quick to go back to their homes. The bustle could be heard even through the walls of Sans’ house.

They went outside, and as they walked, silence followed them like a cloud.

They were curious. They wanted to approach them, see if they had anything interesting to say, but every time they drew near one of the monsters loitering outside, all they did was shiver and tremble in fear, looking away. They moved on. They didn’t miss the way the monsters slumped in relief as they passed, or the whispers that followed in their wake. It was impossible not to hear.

Human. Murderer.


They finally lost their patience at the Inn. The door was locked to their advance, as was the shop, and knocking brought no one. The box was still full of Cinnamon Bunnies, but knowing they couldn’t get any more if they needed them was frustrating. They distracted themself with a careful catalogue of their items: Face Steaks. Legendary Hero. Instant Noodles. Pie. Real Knife and Heart Locket; all in place. Placated, they warmed their fingers over a Save.


...Or maybe not.

Sans was at the table when they stumbled their way back into the house not 20 minutes after they’d left. “have fun?” he asked, not looking up from his phone. They sat back on the couch without answer. “mm. yeah,” he sighed, “people don’t tend to be friendly with someone who’s killed all their friends.”

He looked up at the sound of a heavy thud. They were standing, their face as blank as ever, but Sans’ book was knocked onto the floor and their jaw was set in a weird way he wasn’t sure he liked. He’d seen that look on their face before. It was usually how he knew he’d just killed them.

They stared at each other. Neither of them blinked.

“...listen,” he said, when it was clear they weren’t going to back down first. “i’m not gonna pretend to know what’s going through your head. heck, if i did, none of this would’ve happened in the first place. but, uh.” He looked back to his phone. “you’re the one who accepted my mercy, pal. maybe you didn’t think anything would come of it, but still. you took that chance. that means there’s at least a tiny part of you that wants to change, right...?”

“Nineteen,” was all they said. Sans grunted.

“yeah. i know, kiddo. it’s a big number. you know what that means?” He looked up at them again, one eye closed. “it means big consequences. like it or not, you have to be prepared to accept them. and, uh, this far down the line? you don’t really have a choice.”

They took a jerky step forward. Sans’ grip tightened on his phone, ready to throw it if he had to, but they swung around suddenly, in the opposite direction. Their feet didn’t stomp on the stairs, but they might as well have. The door to Papyrus’ room opened and closed without a sound. Discussion over, apparently.

well, Sans thought, releasing the phone from his death-grip, at least we’re getting somewhere.




Sans knocked on the door. Nobody came. He knocked again, and then figured, screw it, opening the door himself. He looked inside.

They were standing in the middle of the room, facing the closet. Sans watched them for a moment.

“heya,” he said, “so, uh. it’s been a couple days. and you haven’t come out. like, at all. and i’m guessing you haven’t moved from that spot either.” They didn’t move. Which was probably a good indication towards the accuracy of Sans’ statement. He shifted on his feet a little awkwardly. “anyway... i have something for you. it came for you in the mail.” He held out a hand.

Slowly, they turned. They moved their head down to look at what Sans was holding out: a letter. Sans’ address was written on the back, but they could clearly see “To: the human” penned in a large, elegant scrawl on the envelope. Curious. No one had ever sent them mail before.

They reached to take it, fumbling a little to open it with clumsy fingers and not tear the whole thing. When they finally managed, bits of paper scattered at its feet, they unfolded the letter inside and scanned the scrawl written there.

Without a word, they dropped the letter and moved past Sans out into the house.

He picked it up from the floor and read over it once. Twice. And then he sighed. Dropping it back to the ground, he moved to follow them, not surprised to find they’d already left the house.

In all honesty, he probably should’ve expected this.

King Asgore had invited the human to tea.



They managed to take the Riverperson’s boat to Hotland before Sans caught up with them. The elevator took in one but let out two, and if they noticed or cared that they’d gained an escort, they did not show it. They kept walking. With all of the puzzles and lasers still deactivated, it was a straight shot to the New Home. Sans didn’t offer a shortcut. They wondered briefly why, and then decided it didn’t matter. Delaying the inevitable.

A habit of his, they thought. They didn’t quite smile.

They’d only ever met the King in the Throne Room, but he was waiting for them outside the house, this time. He looked faintly surprised to see them. A familiar expression.

“Howdy,” he said, sounding unsure. “Pardon me, but--”

They held out the letter, interrupting him, and understanding flickered in his eyes.

“Ah. I wasn’t expecting you here so soon. You are very prompt.” He laughed, a little awkwardly. His eyes glanced to Sans. “Thank you for accompanying them. You may leave now if you wish.”

“nah, i’m good,” he said, winking one eye closed. “i’ve been keepin’ an eye on ‘em so far. why stop now?”

“...I see. Well. If you would follow me.” Asgore turned, ducking his head a little to fit in the doorway. They followed. Sans sighed.

He declined the cup of tea when offered. They said nothing. Asgore poured them a cup anyway, sitting them all down at the table, and for a few moments an awkward silence settled over the three of them. They held the steaming cup in their hands. They did not drink it.

“You have been...very busy,” Asgore said, voice a little too loud in the quiet. Sans resisted the urge to wince. “I did not want to believe it when Alphys called. I thought perhaps that, if you continued forward, you might eventually change your mind. Or...perhaps not. It does not matter. Either way... I did not call you here with the intention to challenge you.” Asgore hesitated, setting his half empty cup of tea on the table but not letting go. “Many would call it foolish. One... in particular. But I have just a single question to ask you. And then you may go.”

He turned to really look at them for the first time. They hadn’t looked away from him since they’d sat down, gaze unblinking, unwielding, clothes and hair dishevelled almost to the point of no repair, some parts of them seeming almost to shimmer in a way that made him uncomfortable to think about. He took a breath.

“You emerged from the Ruins. Last I knew, there was...a woman living there. Tell me,” he said, a fragile sort of hope in his voice, and Sans couldn’t stop himself from wincing that time, “how was she? When you last saw her? Is she...?”

Sans glanced over to them, beginning to sweat. They didn’t move at first. They didn’t speak. The silence stretched out for a long time, and Asgore’s grip tightened on his cup with every passing second. The hope never left his eyes.

They looked away.

They set their cup on the table slowly enough it didn’t make a sound as it met the wood. Two pairs of eyes followed them as they reached into their pocket. They placed a slice of pie on the table. Asgore took a small, sharp breath. He didn’t have to ask to know who made it. Even days later, it was still almost warm, an effort of fire magic and love, and the smell of it filled the room. It was just as he remembered. No one spoke.

They raised a fist and brought it down hard.

Pie flew everywhere, the cup of tea knocked over from the force of the hit and spilling over the table. For several moments there was only the sound of liquid dripping onto the floor. No one moved. No one breathed. Then their chair scraped the floor as they stood, walking past them and back into the main room where the door was. Asgore’s eyes never left the remains of the pie. Sans’ flickered where they’d gone dark.

Tears silently began to trail down Asgore’s face. Sans figured it was probably about time to leave him to it.

He found them standing just outside. They were staring, which wasn’t unusual, but they were staring at their hands; pie filling smeared over their skin, and they clenched their fingers lightly, feeling them stick and unstick with each movement. They looked up at him as he approached. They were frowning.

“Six,” was all they said. He had no idea what the hell that was supposed to mean.

“yeah,” he said. “let’s go.”

They curled their fingers into their palms. He lead the way home.



Not a lot of people had Sans’ number. All but one on that short list were dead, and it wouldn’t be too far of a reach to assume that the exception considered him dead.

Which was why he was so surprised when it started to ring.

He nearly dropped it when he saw the caller ID. He considered not answering it. Then he realized that was a fucking stupid idea, and accepted the call, bringing the phone up to where his ear would be if he had one.

“wasn’t expecting to hear from you again.”

“I wasn’t expecting to s-speak to you again, but- Sans,” Alphys said, and he didn’t miss the frantic note in her voice, “I checked the human’s stats again. Something about it was bugging me, and I- I found something that it- it’s impossible, or I- I thought so, but I checked the equipment for errors over and over again and it- it- it explains so much otherwise, I had to call you--!”

“alphys,” he said, cutting her off. He tried his best to keep his voice calm. He heard her take a steadying breath; coin toss as to whether it worked or not.

“The human,” she said. “They’re not who you think they are.”




He didn’t bother knocking when he stepped into the room. They didn’t bother looking over. They both knew what to expect. He stood in the doorway, watching them stare at the pirate flag for several long moments. Then,

“chara,” he said. “that’s you, isn’t it.”

They didn’t look at him. But they stiffened, just enough for him to notice. The smile on his face grew strained.

“alphys called,” he said. “she told me she realized something was off, went to check your stats again. you probably know this already, but the soul is a funny thing. it’s everything that makes you you, concentrated into a little floaty heart. and, if you have the right equipment, you can, uh, scan it, see what makes it up. alphys has that equipment, obviously. and that’s how she noticed something real funny. this kid’s soul has got someone else’s name written all over it.” Sans laughed, leaning against the doorframe. “that’s how you’re able to know your stats, isn’t it. because, uh, technically, it’s not your stats you’re checking. am i wrong?”

They took a breath.

“Nineteen,” they said, voice wavering just slightly, “ninety-two. Forty-six. Fourteen. Fifty thousand.”

“ahuh,” Sans said. “kid. chara. whoever you are. you’re a real pickle. and as much as i’d like to know what’s goin’ on with you, i’m smart enough to know i’ll probably never figure it out. not all the way. but, uh. i gotta wonder... what do you want?” He grinned at the back of their head. “do you even know?”

They raised a shaky hand up to their chest, fingers clutching stiffly at their sweater where their heart would be under their ribs. Even from behind them, Sans could see their jaw working. “Nineteen,” they whispered. “Ninety-two. Forty-six. Fourteen. Fifty thousand. Nineteen. Ninety-two. Forty-six...” Their voice lowered further, mumbling the numbers to themself on repeat.

Sans sighed. He’d been hoping maybe that would’ve been enough to...something. To do something. Anything. But now he had the killer of the entire Underground’s hopes and dreams repeating digits in his dead brother’s bedroom and nothing to show for it. He pushed off against the frame. “well. nice talk. i’ll just--”

“One, they said, and Sans paused. “Twenty. Ten. Ten. Zero.” They looked back at him then, their jaw set in that unsettling way again, and they repeated it more insistently. “One. Twenty. Ten. Ten. Zero.” They looked at him like he had the answer to every question they’d ever asked and they were waiting for him to spill. It was unsettling.

“...your base stats,” he mused, mulling it over. They watched. “let me guess. you want to go back.”

“Zero,” they said, as if in agreement.

Sans deliberated a moment before going over to sit on the bed. He patted the space next to him, waiting until they joined him to speak. “you’ve killed a lot of innocent people,” he said, watching for a reaction that he knew wouldn’t come. “you’ve hurt a lot more. and i’ll be honest. a lot of those people were my friends, so maybe i’m a little biased. but don’t you think their lives are worth something?” They frowned, watching him back.

“to get straight to the point,” he said, looking over to the bookshelf, “i have a pretty good idea of what you can do. all those dreams i have? i get the feeling they’re not just dreams. ya dig? but, uh. if you have some special power... don’t you think it’s your responsibility to do the right thing?”

He closed his eyes. He could feel them looking at him still. Neither of them moved or spoke for a long time, but eventually he sighed, getting to his feet again. They stayed sitting. “welp. either way, it’s not up to me. and it looks like you have a lot to think about. all i ask is, just stay honest with yourself, ok? that’s all you can do.”

He left, shutting the door behind him.

After several long moments of silence, they reached under their sweater. Their fingers were loath to cooperate, more fit to curl around the handle of a knife than pick up small things, but they kept at it until they had the thin chain gripped firmly between their fingers. They pulled it out, settling the locket in their palm.

Best Friends Forever, it said

They curled their fingers over it into a fist.



They did not eat. They did not sleep. They sat on Papyrus’ bed during what stood for “night” in the Underground, listening to the house breathe. It was always still. It was always quiet.

Which made it that more curious when something banged against the wall.

They cocked their head, listening, but the silence resumed. The wall. Sans’ room was on the other side. They considered their options and rose, not bothering to close the door behind them as they shambled out into the hall. They stopped at Sans’ door. They couldn’t get the key to his room on this route. That particular dialogue branch was out of reach. But, then again, this was a brand new timeline...

The door opened to near pitch blackness.

But the ambient light from the house filtered into the room, casting just enough light to see by, and they were quick to notice Sans sitting on the edge of his mattress. His face was buried in his hands. He was shaking, and obviously trying very hard not to. He didn’t move as they shuffled in.

“you’re probably thinking “nightmare”, huh?” His voice was tired; hollow. They stopped when they reached his side. “haha. if only. it was a good dream. can you believe it? we were all...up there. all of us. undyne, alphys, asgore, the old lady. pap. even you.” He laughed. But it was bitter, and watery, and when he looked up at them, they didn’t even need the light they had to see the tears on his face. “you make it really hard not to hate you sometimes, y’know that?” he said, voice light with false cheer.

They looked at him. They looked at his tears, the pain etched into the lines under his eyes he was too weak and tired to hide. They knew, somewhere, that they should feel...bad. They should feel sad about what they’d done. It was simple logic; A plus B equals C; dead once-friends and dust on your hands equals emotional distress. But the feelings wouldn’t come. They’d lost those along the way, after 19 LV too many. The tears wouldn’t come. They’d lost those, too. In a better world, things would be different. In the world he dreamed of, they would be crying, too.

Sans was too slow to move when they reached out a hand. By the time he realized what they were doing, they’d already wiped a tear from his cheek with a finger, and he watched, utterly confused, as they brought their hand to their face.

Understanding dawned like that first sunrise he knew he’d never see as they traced their still-damp finger down their cheek.

He didn’t move purposefully that time as they reached for his face again, and again, until both of their faces were wet. Satisfied, they settled cross-legged on the floor. He watched them for several long moments. He wasn’t crying anymore.

“Nineteen,” they whispered, softly.

Sans closed his eyes.

“...yeah,” he whispered back. “i’m sorry too.”



Sans was sitting on the couch when they came down. There was a bag in his lap, smelling suspiciously of grease and ketchup, and he didn’t look over at them, too preoccupied with the TV. They stopped by the side of the couch. Finally, a minute later, he glanced over at them.

“you want some?” he asked, holding up a fry. They stared at him. He was about to shrug when they nodded, jerkily, and he hid his surprise in a grin. “cool. join me a sec, you can’t eat standing up.”

He dumped the bag in their lap when they sat down. They looked from the bag to him, a question in their hesitance to act, and he did shrug that time. “‘m not really hungry. go for it, kid.”

The two of them sat in a silence that could almost be described as companionable. They methodically munched away on the fries, staring at the TV, but there was a distant look in their eyes that meant they weren’t really watching it at all. Sans dozed.

He woke to the sound of crinkling paper, and he looked over to see them crumpling the bag up into a ball. They stuck it in their pocket. Which was weird, and kind of gross, but he wasn’t one to talk. It was when they took their hand back out that he felt a chill go down his spine.

“woah, kid, hey--”

They set the knife down on the couch between them.

They turned their head to look at him. A smear of ketchup stained the side of their mouth. There was something in their eyes that kept him from moving, something in the pursed set of their lips that gave him pause; it was negligible, but it was the most emotion he’d seen on their face- the most that wasn’t badly hidden anger.

“Zero,” they said. The tension left Sans’ bones like a string had been cut.

“heh. so you figured it out, then?”

They smiled. It was stiff, and awkward, and it didn’t reach their eyes. The message was still clear. Sans could appreciate the effort.

“welp. i guess this is it, then.” Sans winked one eye shut. “see you on the other side, pal.”

He blinked, and everything went dark.



It was cold in the dead forest outside Snowdin. It was quiet. Few monsters ever went that far out, too wary of old stories and doors that never opened.

The silence broke violently to the sound of stone grinding against stone. Someone was coming out.

Sans knew where he was supposed to be, then. He was supposed to be hiding in the treeline, waiting to give whatever came out a good scare and a bad joke. He definitely was not supposed to be leaning on the wall right outside. Technically, he wasn’t supposed to do a lot of things.

He watched with one eye closed as the kid stomped their boots into the snow. They shivered in their sweater, a ribbon in their hair and a stick in their hands. Lifting their gaze to glance around, the child froze when they saw him. Neither of them moved for several seconds.

He was unable to stop himself from blinking, ending the staring contest between them, when they smiled. Little crinkles formed under their eyes from the force of it, their breath fogging the air. They rocked on their feet.

“Zero,” they promised.  

Sans laughed. Definitely not dreams, then.

“yeah,” he said, laughing. “yeah. you did real good, kiddo.”

Somewhere, a bird began to sing.