“YOU HAVE WHAAAT?!!”
Sans tapped at the space where his ears might be if he had any, the blast of sound emitting from Undyne hurting even his senses even though he lived with his hyperactive younger brother. Despite the auditory pain, he was amused by Undyne's gawking expression, “yup, just one hp. why do you ask?”
“Wha- but-” she points to Papyrus and then to him trying to vocalize the disbelief she's clearly feeling at this moment. “NGAHHH! WHY IS YOUR HP SO LOW?”
Papyrus explained with typical bluntness, “IT'S BECAUSE HE'S ALWAYS SLEEPING AND LAZY!”
As Papyrus continued to scold Sans as usual, Sans smiled and nodded along, but he could see that this revelation truly bothered the fish lady as she chewed on her thumb as the space between her eye and eyepatch was wrinkling oh so slightly from one side. He knew that something pretty intense happened to her eye one day, judging from the way the muscles around her face never quite functioned properly after she started wearing the eyepatch, but he was never quite crass enough to ask. He knew it was next to impossible to avoid disfiguring scars from fighting and training, not to mention the increased incidence of disease from overcrowding.
“Sans.” Undyne murmured, almost talking to herself by the way she still seemed lost in thought. “It's not safe for you to remain at only 1 HP.”
“i know.” She waited, but he offered no more than that. Undyne didn't press any harder, not for lack of desire to do so, but she seemed uncertain where to go next from here. Sans's day continued as normal after he said bye to Papyrus and Undyne training, feeling Undyne's gaze on him.
He decided to go help Alphys with the amalgamates. She'd been nervous and particularly anxious soon after their formation, managing to force a promise even from him to keep it a secret. He'd been taken aback by the whole thing, barely processing the unintended result of injecting monsters with DT, before the realization of what she'd done hit full force. She was always a stutterer, but it had blown up into something uncontrollable, starting with the day she couldn't force her explanation out. Sweat and tears of fear and frustration poured down her face, and she practically stabbed the paper trying to write an almost indecipherable explanation.
Once Sans managed to figure out what she was saying- he realized there was no way he could imagine being in her shoes like this.
He'd reached out wordlessly, arms open and she hesitated before inching close. She didn't let herself lean into the proffered embrace, claws picking away almost frantically at the scales in her arms and around her neck. He could sense her seeking out someway to punish herself, loathing every second of her existence to the point where she didn't really want to be comforted. There had to be some way to help without forcing himself into her space... slowly, he shrugged off his jacket.
“take care of this, will you? i'm gonna get us some grub.” he requested, setting it next to her. He went through the fridge, only finding ramen noodles and fizzy tangy soda. Of course, she had a diet to rival his own in how completely unbalanced and unhealthy it was. He was lucky enough to have a cool guy like Papyrus taking care of him, but Alphys... well, he knows Mettaton tries, but the robot star simply lacked the sensitivity and patience for guiding Alphys out of her ruts. He was more likely to chase easier topics like social media and human 'history' as a way to draw the lizard out from her panic attacks than to address the crumbling foundation of her self esteem. Sans hardly felt qualified himself, but from experience, he felt better after eating and drinking something that was easy on the stomach. Addressing the apparently unbalanced diet can come later, but at least he could make sure that she was taking vitamins. He looked for the calcium vitamin supplement that had to be present somewhere, but couldn't find it and pulled out some of the calcium that Papyrus was always insisting he took with meals. It would easily blend in with the overwhelming salt content and reconstituted vegetables.
In the meantime, he could see Alphys out of his peripheral vision. She was holding the jacket tightly, still a shaking ball with her tail curled around herself tightly, but at least she hadn't fallen into one of her panic attacks yet. She buried her head into it, and sort of hiccuped, any sounds she might've emitted was being muffled by his jacket. It hurt to see her rocking back and forth into it, one hand still digging behind the crests of her head, so ready to punish herself for the people who'd melted into several conjoined beings.
The boiling water kettle made a pop! as it turned itself off, and Alphys scrambled to put his jacket down, frantically wiping at it as Sans poured hot water over the noodles in both cups and handed one to her. He scooted his jacket aside while they ate in silence.
“it's okay to ask me for help. you know that, don't you alphys?” He told her on his way out, and Alphys gave a halfhearted laugh. “after all, it's no skin off my back.”
“Y-you d-d-don't have skin.” she pointed out.
“i know.” He winked. “that's why you can rely on me.”
When he left, taking a shortcut and shrugging his jacket back on, he could see the tears and scales that Alphys had been trying to dislodge from the fabric of his hoodie.
The memory made him worried. It was hard to help without overwhelming Alphys or making her feel like she's imposing, but she needed it. If she didn't get help, then... well, he's seen her staring into the abyss more than a few times. It's happened less and less often since Undyne had found her, but she's also become more of a shut-in too. Talking to the girls that ran the alley business next to Mettaton's resort, he's found out that even they hadn't seen their ex-babysitter at all recently. She's been teetering for awhile, and he was getting steadily more paranoid that he would find her dust one day.
“how's today been?” He asked, after helping distribute food to the amalgamates. They'd settled down to drink soda afterwards. Alphys never was particularly hungry after that chore.
“O-oh it's been... w-w-well, I got out and picked up some things today.” Alphys blushed, and Sans nudged her with his elbow.
“oh? sounds like fishy business to me.” Sans teased. “i'm all ears, or i would be if i had them anyways.”
“W-well... Undyne called to ask about the weather, a-a-and it sorta t-turned into... a shopping thing?!?!” Alphys stuttered, blushing profusely. “We're going to c-check out c-clothes later... y'know, 'cuz I d-don't actually have anything t-to wear. B-besides lab coats I mean.”
Sans muffled a chuckle at Undyne's transparency. Really? What weather, Undyne? “sounds like fun.”
“Y-yeah... I just thought I'd t-try giving her some scale polish but uh... i-it's not like we're on a d-d-date or anything, y'know?” She fiddled with her claws. “S-so I g-guess it's a little inappropriate...”
Sans wondered how long it'll be until she realizes there's no weather down in the Underground, the little lizard rambling on in perfect obliviousness.
He didn't have much time after that to check in with Alphys, following the human and making sure they stayed safe. Before he knew it, not only had the human made friends with his bro, but Undyne as well. He thought he'd have to do some convincing of his own to keep Undyne from murdering the human but they'd managed to pass that test with flying- well, burning- colors. Undyne had to sleep over for awhile after that, but both Undyne and Papyrus seemed perfectly happy with this arrangement, cheering on the human over the phone.
He was taking a break at Grillby's when Undyne came in, his magic desperately needing a boost after following the kid around. He joked as she sat down next to him, her eyes narrowing at the whoopie cushion underneath her seat, “hey, if I didn't know better, i'd say you were stalking me.”
“Nah, Paps mentioned that you were always here at Grillby's. I haven't tried the food here yet, and I wanted to ask you something anyways so it was a no brainer.” She explained, throwing the whoopie cushion into his face. It gave a 'pthhht' sound upon impacting his face, and her annoyed face fell away to laugh heartily. He didn't see much of Undyne normally, all chance encounters occurred at his posts or being pulled along for Papyrus's 'training', but he liked her laugh.
“i'm on break, but you can ask away anyways.”
Undyne placed an order for the burg, unsurprising given the amount of training she does with Papyrus, and then seemed to think about what she wanted to say. She was uncharacteristically quiet, reminding him the other day- before the human showed up -when she'd found out about his HP. He was mildly surprised when she asked instead, “why do you always get up in the middle of the night for snacks?”
“why don't you?” He returned evasively.
“'Cuz other than your kitchen light, I sleep through the night.” Undyne answered, impatience already flashing through her face. “Answer the question, Sans.”
“eh, well you 'cod' me. i don't. sleep through the night i mean.” he explained. He'd tell the truth, but that didn't mean he had to tell the entire truth. He hadn't been able to sleep through the night for awhile now, since the human showed up. He wondered if Asgore or the lady from behind the door had the same trouble, having seen the humans for themselves. He knew Papyrus's sleep remained uninterrupted, peaceful.
“Sometimes I feel like you make puns to deflect attention.” Undyne grumbled as Grillby came up with her burger. She went to take a bite, and paused midway, amusement flashing through her face before she belted out, “BUT SOMETIMES I THINK YOU DO IT FOR THE HALIBUT! FUHUHUHU!!!”
Sans nearly choked on his ketchup, taken aback by the unexpected line, and grinned at the change of subject. “i think you'll appreciate this joke- what's the difference between a fish and a piano?”
Undyne gave a grunt through her food, indicating that she was listening.
“you can't 'tuna' fish.”
She went straight faced as she had to focus on swallowing her food without it entering her lungs. She smirked amiably, “That's fucking AWFUL! You whaley need to stop.”
Sans held up his hands as if giving up, “hey, if you know a better fish pun, let minnow.”
Long after Undyne ran out of puns and the laughter gave away to silence, Undyne finally asked, “Seriously though, I feel like everyone's got something they're keeping from me. Even Alphys... no, especially Alphys. I want to help, I don't know how to reach her.”
“we were lab partners back at school,” Sans mulled it over. “if i had to suggest anything, you'll need all of your patience for alphys, especially when she's acting her weirdest. she's not going to find it easy to tell you about... well, much of anything really. she rambles, and she gets annoyed with herself in anticipation of annoying someone else. so, when it comes to the stuff that truly bothers her, she tries to clam up while reasoning that no one has time for her problems.”
“So I have to convince her that I have time for her problems?” Undyne asked, eyebrows furrowed.
“not that so much as you have to convince her that she's worth your time.” Sans gave her a sad smile. “things have been rough on her.”
Maybe his advice helped, but he's not sure he'd attribute what happened next to himself as much as the human's tireless efforts. Doing what even Undyne nor himself could do, the human brought Alphys out with her secret and even managed to get the girls together as part of the bargain.
Now. Now, they were waking up to sunlight every day. Toriel came out from the isolation of the ruins to run a school like she'd dreamed of, Papyrus finally got that convertible that he always wanted, and the girls had their first kiss on the beach. He couldn't be prouder. Everyone he cared about was doing so well, finally getting to live their lives as they'd always wanted. As much as things changed though, some things stayed the same. His HP remained fixed, and he never could quite lapse into the stages of sleep where he would dream of...
… of red eyes piercing through the golden glow of the almost dim lighting of the corridor, DETERMINATION charging towards him like a train roaring on the tracks-
Shaking, his bones rattling was the first thing he registered before the glow of his eyelights flickered back on. “H-hey, w-w-wake up Sans!” Alphys whispered.
His breath came in deep gasps, and he clutched at his chest like he was capable of having a heart attack. He could still see the flash of red dancing, the night terror very much real with the dull throbbing of his sternum. A hand on his back made him whirl and summon a Gaster blaster, almost not recognizing Undyne's form in the dark.
“Whao, calm down Sans!” Undyne held up her hands, not whispering but speaking lowly, soothingly. “It's okay. You're here, and not wherever you were here before.”
He checked his surroundings, pulling the events that brought him here around him like a blanket to soothe the high tension flow of panicked magic that pulsed through the blaster so that it slowly faded from existence. They were on the surface. This was a sleepover. His brother was over on the couch, snuggled with the snoring human child, who was a good kid and not the merciless specter of his nightmares. He slouched, his eyelights resting on the girls who'd woken him up and nearly taken a full dose of his karmic retribution. He slumped.
They felt the weight of their sins ten-fold, without his help. They needed to recover from the events of the Underground, not be reminded of them. “sorry, i'm okay now.” His voice came out raspy and strained in the silence.
“Y-you're out of b-breath like you've j-j-just ran a marathon.” Alphys rebuked. He realized she was keeping a tight grip on his sleeve, as if afraid he'd disappear from the spot. Undyne's eye was glittering knowingly, putting the two and two together from his midnight snacking habit to his night terrors. If they weren't watching, he might've considered taking a shortcut after all. It seemed that as much as he knew about them, they knew him just as well.
“Was that a cannon?” Undyne said, choosing to ignore what she'd just learned. “Can you fire that thing?”
“not while everyone's sleeping,” Sans gave a strained chuckle. “heh, maybe another time.”
Alphys's grip slowly loosened on his shirt sleeve, and hesitantly she pressed the palm of her claw into his shoulder and rubbed soothingly. “W-what was the nightmare about?”
“nothing relevant, i just get them sometimes.” He sighed. With the blaster gone, Undyne scooched forward from her defensive position and leaned into him. They stopped asking questions, but they were both pressed up against him. He could feel warmth radiating from them, lulling him to sleep despite the recent night terror.
“It's okay to ask us for h-help, y'know.”
“it's no big deal,” he muttered. “nothing compared to everyone else.”
“Then it's no big deal if we chip in once in a while, starting with now.” Undyne said firmly, in a tone that brokered no argument. She pulled him and Alphys under the same blanket, hugging them firmly. “If you have another nightmare, we'll be here to scare the shit out of it!”
Something passed in a look between her and Alphys, oddly secretive, but all they did was secure him between them and eventually he passed back into sleep once more. He didn't wake until the smell of burnt pancakes wafted through the air, a fire alarm singing over the shouts and extinguisher going off.
It was the next afternoon, Alphys blasting the media with messages freaking out about having to call someone, when Sans received a call from Undyne. “NGAHHHH SANS!!!”
Holding the phone far from his skull, he responded “'sup undyne.”
“Uh... well, how's the weather?” She asked, sheepishly as if she wasn't prepared to go further than shouting his name through a phone that day. Amused, Sans looked up at the sky. Well, at least there was weather to ask about this time.
“pretty good actually. there's some cumulus clouds drifting about, but sunny.” He noted.
“What the hell's a cumulus cloud?” Undyne muttered, before she audibly stopped herself. “No no! Never mind about that! We got so distracted by the excitement of yesterday's sleepover, we forgot to ask! Would you like to go out with Alphys and I later?”
“sure, but i wouldn't want to be the third wheel.” Sans remarked absently.
“What- NO! I mean it as a date.” Undyne could be audibly heard facepalming. “God, you're dense.”
Sans stopped, not expecting this at all, flushing blue and going silent. “Hello? SANS?! DAMMIT IT MUST'VE DROPPED AGAIN!!! HUMAN CELL PHONE SERVICES SUCK!”
The line hung up as he stared blankly, bones rattling slightly, as his magic went almost entirely to coloring his face. Passerby would glance at him and then do double takes of concern as they saw how blue he was turning. His phone notified him of one more Alphys post on media, before it started ringing again.
“H-h-hello S-sans?!” Alphys stuttered at full force. “A-are you o-okay?”
“... i mean, i'm not dead.” Sans chuckled nervously. “but I gotta ask, what's this about a date?”
“W-w-well, you d-don't have to go on a d-date with us, o-or anything it just sounded... o-oh geez, this is really a-awkward isn't it, uhhhhh... j-just f-forgetabouti-itandd-don'thatem-me-” Alphys was tripping over her words even as she was talking so fast that it was almost impossible to tell what she was saying. He caught 'don't hate me' though, and never responded so quickly-
“alphys i wouldn't hate you, ever.”
He paused, gathering the thoughts that had been put on pause in his shock. “i just wasn't expecting it is all. i'd like a date.”
Alphys audibly sighed through the phone, clearly relieved. “Oh thank g-god-”
“and! i'd like a raisin!” He added mischievously, “lettuce not forget prunes!”
“heh, i thought my puns were just peachy myself,” Sans snickered.
“no wait-” Laughing hard, he tried to stop her before she hang up, but the line went dead. Before he knew it, her status updates began blowing up again-
“OH MY GOD I FORGOT TO TELL HIM WHEN THE DATE WOULD BE!!!”