Sans pressed a hand to his sternum, allowing blood to soak onto his trembling fingers. Each breath came as a shuddering gasp that sent an excruciating jolt through his wounded chest. As he limped across the golden tiles of the Judgement Hall, he nearly tripped over one of his pink slippers. His hands latched onto the bright column closest to him as his thoughts tried to catch up with what he was doing.
It was over. He had lost. The child – that disgustingly indifferent human child – had already left the Hall for King Asgore. They had taken everyone he had ever cared for and had murdered them. Everything had been destroyed in a matter of hours.
And now he was dying too.
He clenched his sockets shut. His sweaty hands skated across the pillar’s smooth surface, and he slid to the ground with a resounding crack.
How could he have failed so monumentally? All the signs had pointed toward the anomaly. The Core’s data. The unique characteristics of human souls. He should’ve seen the child a million miles away. If only he had prepared better…
Then maybe he could have saved Papyrus.
At the thought of his brother’s death, Sans could feel his soul giving way to his injuries. It was only a matter of minutes, if not seconds, before he would be nothing more than a pile of dust. Frankly, he welcomed death. He was so very tired. It wasn’t worth the effort to keep going all alone.
Plus, maybe when he died, he would see Papyrus again. He could imagine him standing in their kitchen, twirling around as soon as Sans entered the room.
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, LAZYBONES? I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO SERVE YOUR DINNER COLD BY THE TIME YOU GOT HERE!”
Heh. The playful jibes. That warm smile. Those cheerful eyes. The pain of death would all be worth it just to see that again.
It was all well and good to hope for a happy ending. But to bank on an afterlife? Heh. Well, he wasn’t holding his breath.
No, really, he wasn’t. In fact, his breathing was getting faster and faster.
Even though his bones were protesting through every movement, Sans slowly climbed to his feet. If he wanted a happy ending, he needed to make it himself. There was no use waiting around for someone to hand deliver it to him.
He dragged himself across the length of the Hall. With each step, his ribs tightened; it was getting difficult to breathe past the agonizing pain. When he reached the Hall’s western entrance, he created a doorway to his final destination: an unmarked room in the heart of the Core.
The moment he teleported, a wave of fatigue rolled over his body, sapping much-needed energy from his magic reserves. He choked on the sulfur-laden air, his soul desperate for any sort of nourishment. The effort only sent more stabbing pressure around his chest.
His fingers scrabbled for the light switch, and after three attempts, the room lit up. Old memories flooded his mind as he peered around the abandoned laboratory room.
There was ‘Dings, standing at the Trait Overflow Pump. His face was set with purpose as he reviewed the data on the computer screen. But as soon as he turned around to see Sans, a bright smile alighted his face.
And there he was again, whooping with exhausted giddiness after Sans had played the old whoopee cushion in the hand trick on him. The reports on the anomaly that the doc had been handing him went flying across the room, coming dangerously close to the open pit of lava on the far side of the room.
No, no. This was no time to get lost down memory lane. He was at Death’s doorstep. His arms and legs were numb, and as he limped to the other side of the room, he could feel the tips of his fingers beginning to loosen.
When he reached his destination, he cast his gaze downwards. At his feet was a hundred-foot drop leading straight to the bubbling lava that haunted his nightmares. He could still hear his best friend’s screams as he realized that his attempt to prevent the anomaly had failed. Not to mention the image of the doc’s body melting into a charred mess was forever burned into his memory. And his memory alone.
But ‘Dings hadn’t had what Sans did now – teleportation. If the doc had only waited just a couple more years, the numbers would’ve matched up, he was sure of it. Then they both could’ve lived and avoided all this destruction.
It didn’t matter. Sans had to take that chance now. He needed to restore everything to before the anomaly came to kill them all. If he could do this, then maybe everyone could live. Undyne. Alphys. Paps. Even ‘Dings himself.
It was time to perform the experiment that he should’ve tried ages ago.
With a great shuddering breath, he threw himself over the edge. As the blazing air whipped through his clothes, a touch of giddiness stole through him. His body quivered from the thrill of the fall. He wondered if this was how Dings felt right before his demise.
As Sans approached the bottom, he called upon his magic to open a gateway. He concentrated, with all his soul, on the world as it was seven years ago. His mentor. His friends. His colleagues. His brother.
The last thought – of his coolest bro in the whole universe – lingered in his mind as he opened his shortcut. His magic had an immediate effect. A burst of lava exploded below him, cascading around his invisible doorway. The air stirred with a violent, frenetic energy that crawled across his bones. Sans didn’t have time to dwell on it; already he was falling through the portal, and –
Everything disappeared. Wind no longer rippled through his clothes. The smell of sulfur was gone. There was no lava. No light. Nothing at all.
Darkness pressed into Sans, gripping him like nothing else. All pain had disappeared, dwarfed by the intense and unnatural blackness. He was suffocating, drowning. There was no air or noise or anything at all. This was all wrong! This wasn’t the past or the present or the future or anything else!
He had failed.
Suddenly, as he tumbled through the emptiness, his bones prickled. After the absence of any other sensation, the sharp pain dragged him from every other thought. He glanced at his hands. Tiny particles of bone were sloughing off him, dissolving into the dark. He wasn’t sure if it was dust or something else, but it was clear that his body was giving way to the impenetrable void.
No! He needed to escape!
His soul screamed in fiery revolt as he called upon the last of his reserves to create a portal to anywhere, anywhere, god please anywhere but here. An explosion of light – blessed, wonderful light – appeared before him. As he fell through the shortcut, some invisible force gripped at his body, trying to pull him back.
But as he shut off the flow of magic and crashed onto solid matter, it was as if a switch had been flicked. The void’s magnetizing tug ceased and a rush of sensation returned to him all at once. Pins and needles prickled his bones and pain sliced through his ribs. He unleashed a piercing scream, his mind too clouded to do anything else.
There was no doubt he was dying. And this time, he had neither the energy nor the motivation to halt the process.
He was done. Forever.
A surge of determination engulfed his soul. Papyrus. Those were his footsteps. How? His brother was dead. It wasn’t possible. Unless…
The last vestiges of energy had been sapped from his body. He couldn’t even raise his head off the ground. The shadows that had gathered at the borders of his vision melded together as he lost consciousness.