Well, Sans thought. This was embarrassing.
Sans knew he couldn’t keep this new power a secret forever, especially from Papyrus. But that wasn’t going to stop him from keeping the charade up for as long as possible. He had just...hoped it wouldn’t come out like this. Sans went over his options as he looked down at the floor from the high buttress that supported the corridor ceiling, wrapping his arms and legs tightly around the beam as he laid on his stomach. Option one, find a way to caper down without falling to his death. Option two, start yelling and hope somebody with easy access to a ladder heard him before Papyrus did. Or option three, try the new trick one last time.
Option one was out of the question. Once the buttress met the wall it was a sheer drop of at least 20 feet with no hand or footholds. Two was plausible, but the likelihood of Papyrus hearing him first was very high, and Sans’ fear hadn’t overtaken his pride just yet. And three...well that was tricky. He could end up on the ground where he wanted. Or he could end up somewhere much worse. Like in the floor, or in a wall, or high up in the air without anything to grab onto.
Sans sighed. Maybe he shouldn’t have risked so much over a game of hide-and-seek. Still, this sucked. Just when he’d discovered a new power, something all his own, it had to go wrong. Papyrus was going to find out, and then worry enough about it to tell Dr. Alphys. And then she wouldn’t have a clue and would just run to him to try to figure out what should be done about it.
He squinted at the ground beneath him, trying to get a feel for his surroundings. If he could gain an understanding of how far the floor was, that would help immensely. He did better in places he was familiar with, where he could recall the dimensions of the room with his eyes shut.
But the tile pattern beneath him was bright and confusing. White and black square tiles, laid out in a chessboard pattern below him, running the entire length of the corridor. Looking down at it from this height, it created a bizarre illusion that took away all appearance of depth. Having one functioning eye didn’t help, either. It was impossible for Sans to determine how far from the ground he was, and the longer he tried, the more his vertigo set in. At one point the floor seemed to buck and ripple, and he shuddered, gripping the beam tighter.
“ah, jeez,” he muttered, feeling sweat trail down his skull. Maybe getting Papyrus’ attention wouldn't be so bad.
After a few more minutes (or perhaps hours?) Papyrus entered the hall, scanning the room with serious diligence.
“uh...hey, bro!” Sans called. Papyrus started and spun around, searching for the source of the noise. “up here, papyrus.”
Papyrus looked up, then gasped and put a hand over his mouth. Sans gave a little half hearted wave before quickly returning his grip to the beam. “BROTHER! HOW ON EARTH DID YOU GET UP THERE?! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!”
Sans winced at the sound of his brother’s worry. It was even harder to bear than his anger. “long story...do you think you can help me down? maybe get a ladder or something?”
“O-OF COURSE! I’LL BE BACK IN A MOMENT WITH HELP. J-JUST STAY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE! DON’T MOVE AN INCH!”
Sans chuckled dryly. “don’t worry bro, i’ll just be hangin’ out here…” But Papyrus didn’t seem to hear him in his haste.
Papyrus reappeared with two flying monsters wearing the royal crest. Sans remembered they were called Whimsalots. Once they had Sans back on the ground, Papyrus tearfully scooped him into a sight embrace, both to comfort and support his shaking brother. “SANS, OH MY GOD I WAS SO WORRIED! HOW DID YOU EVEN GET UP THERE? HOW LONG WERE YOU UP THERE?! YOU COULD HAVE DIED!”
“i-i know...it’s a long story, l-like i said, bro,” Sans panted. God he was so selfish. Why hadn't he thought of how this might affect Papyrus? “i’ll tell you in a bit, i promise. let's just...rest for a minute. i'm bone tired, heh.”
In response to this, Papyrus hoisted his brother over his shoulder and swiftly marched down the corridor. “NONSENSE! WE MUST GET YOU CHECKED OUT BY A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY! YOU’RE SWEATING AND SHAKY, POSSIBLY SUFFERING FROM SHOCK!”
“i'm not in shock. it’s just...look, i wanna explain to you what happened, but if you take me to a doctor then i won’t.”
Papyrus slowed his pace. “BROTHER…”
“bro, please. i’ll tell you everything, just...don't bring anyone else into it right now.”
Papyrus still didn't like it, but he conceded and returned to their rooms instead.
“so, um, it's like this…” Sans began. It was the fourth such start he’d attempted so far, and still wasn't any closer to actually beginning. He shifted, retreating further into the mountain of blankets Papyrus had wrapped him in to try and stop his shivering.
“BROTHER, JUST TELL ME. I CAN HANDLE IT,” Papyrus said.
“yeah...i know you can. i'm sorry.” Sans drew in a shaky breath, then let it out slowly. “not long after we got here, i...discovered something. something new i could do with...with my magic.”
Papyrus leaned closer. “SOMETHING NEW, LIKE A NEW POWER?”
Sans nodded, swallowing. God this was hard. Why was it so hard to tell this to his own brother? “yeah. so...if i just think about a place i wanna go, like across the room or something, and imagine i’m there, it sort of...it triggers somethin’ and i can just...appear there? i dunno, it's really hard to explain…”
“SO...YOU CAN GO SOMEWHERE ELSE, BUT WITHOUT WALKING?”
“yeah, that's it. like a...shortcut”
Papyrus crossed his arms. “IT FIGURES YOU WOULD COME UP WITH A WAY TO AVOID WALKING AROUND.” Sans let out a small laugh, despite himself. Papyrus peered at him sharply. “WAIT...IS THIS HOW YOU’VE BEEN WINNING AT HIDE AND SEEK LATELY?”
“heheh, guilty as charged,” Sans shrugged. “i can't go very far though, just from one side of a room to the other. i did go from one room to another room once...but i haven't done it again since. it felt like i got really close to getting stuck in the wall. b-but i’m getting better!” he added, seeing the look of horror on Papyrus’ face. “i think it has somethin’ to do with math. it got a lot easier when i started reading about physics and stuff.”
“I SEE…” Papyrus studied his brother. Sans shrunk further into the blankets. He should have told Papyrus about this sooner. He knew that. And Papyrus knew that, and knew that Sans knew that. He sighed. “BROTHER...I’M GLAD YOU TOLD ME, BUT WE REALLY SHOULD TELL DOCTOR ALPHYS ABOUT THIS.”
Sans looked away. “...fine. just as long as she doesn't tell him about it.”
Dr. Alphys knocked on Gaster's office door. She knew he was busy with the Core problems, but it had taken much convincing to get Sans to approve of her consulting Gaster. She wasn't going to delay it a moment, lest he change his mind. The door opened and Gaster stood in the doorway. He was wearing his white button-down shirt today, with the sleeves rolled up and no lab coat.
“Oh, hello Dr. Alphys. Is there something I can do for you?” his magic hands signed.
Thank god, he was in a good mood today. “Y-yes, actually, Dr. Gaster. I-I was wondering i-if you had some time to discuss something w-w-with me,” she stammered. “A-as long as you have the time, t-that is.”
Gaster stepped back and ushered Alphys in. “Of course. Come in, please.”
Alphys flipped through her notes as she searched for a place to begin. “T-thank you Dr. Gaster. I, uh...hope I’m not interrupting something?”
“No, no. I could probably use a break from it, anyway. I was calculating tweaks for some of the machinery in the Core. It isn’t difficult so much as it is tedious.” As Alphys moved some papers off a chair to sit, Gaster walked to his coffee machine and poured a cup. “Coffee?” he offered.
Alphys sat down and looked up to see what he was signing. “Oh, n-no thanks, I’m okay.”
Gaster shrugged and took a long pull from the mug, leaning back against his desk. “So what is it you wanted to discuss?”
“W-well, I was going through some of your writings on skeletons, a-and I wanted to know if there was anything else you knew about quantum physics a-and how they relate to certain aspects of skeleton magic. The chapter was a bit, um, s-sparse, and it’s been awhile since the latest edition came out...s-so I was wondering if any discoveries had been made since then…?”
Gaster considered her for a moment, then his brow rose. “Alright, which one of them is teleporting?”
“N-neither!” She shuffled her notes around some more. “B-but, I wanted to be prepared for any e-eventuality, s-so in case something happens or one of them has questions, I have s-someplace to start.”
Gaster’s eye narrowed. “It would be much easier for me to give relevant advice if I knew which one—”
“Dr. Gaster, with all due respect, it’s up to my discretion what information about them I give you.” Alphys met his eye. “If any at all.”
Gaster looked away first. “Right, of course,” he signed, running a hand over his skull. “It...isn’t my place to ask such questions. How much time do you have?”
“A few hours, I-I cleared an afternoon block for this.”
“Good.” Gaster walked to a corner of the room to retrieve a chalkboard mounted on an easel. “Grab some paper, this will be...comprehensive.”
Alphys shifted a blank piece paper to the top of her stack and nodded.
Two hours, four cups of coffee, and several sticks of chalk later, Gaster put the finishing touches on the last equation while Alphys frantically scribbled on her note paper. “That's about it. Make sense?” he signed, setting the chalk down and dusting off his hands.
“I've got it. It's a bit abstract, but it all comes back to support the same practical concepts.”
Gaster nodded. “Yes, exactly.” He straightened his glasses. “If Sans has any trouble understanding, his books should fill in the gaps.”
Alphys glanced up to see what he was signing, then looked absently back down at her notes, touching the tip of her pen to her lips. “No, this shouldn't be too much for him, I think.” She froze. Slowly her eyes moved back up to Gaster.
He coughed, looking away. “Yes, well, let me know if anything changes. The ability can be a bit unpredictable as it's developing.”
He held up a hand. “I know, I'm sorry. I won't press the issue anymore.”
Alphys’ brow furrowed. “Yes, I believe you’ve said enough.” She gathered her notes and stormed toward the door. “Thank you for your help, Dr. Gaster, I’ll let you know if I need anything else.”
Gaster winced at her tone. “Alphys…”
“Oh no, I understand completely,” she said, turning to face him at the threshold. “You’re only concerned about them, as any father would be, right?”
All emotion drained from Gaster’s face. His shoulders tensed. He stepped forward and gripped door tightly. “Good day, Dr. Alphys,” he signed coldly. Alphys backed out into the hall, regret flickering across her features for a moment, before she gave a stiff nod. The door shut.
Gaster walked back to the chalkboard, wiping it clean with the eraser a little harder than necessary. Alphys simply didn’t understand. They couldn’t be regarded as a unit. Each one had his own unique strengths and weaknesses, and methods of approaching problems. What made sense to one could be completely lost on the other, and vice versa. He had only wanted to make sure he gave her the right recommendations. Her outburst had been low and uncalled for, highly inappropriate.
He slammed the eraser down and returned to his coffee maker. The pot was empty. He muttered a curse and began searching for his grounds and filters. He had only wanted to help. Maybe he was a little curious, but there was a practical reason behind it. There was no harm in it.
...Well, maybe there was some harm in tricking Alphys into divulging which one it was. Gaster had spent a long time rebuilding the trust between them since...that day. And now he’d betrayed that trust, in one moment of blind...curiosity. He sighed, weakly pressing the button to start the brew. He had brought this on himself. He was being selfish.
Watching the coffee drip into pot, he thought of Sans despite himself. It made sense the power would begin to manifest now. The skill was closely tied to one’s abilities with advanced spatial reasoning. It was the reason Gaster hadn’t taught them much math beyond the basics, even though Sans had shown great aptitude for it. God only knew what sort of trouble he might get himself into before he got the power under control. Gaster hoped Alphys’ newfound tenacity would continue to grow. She would need it in order to set some hard and fast rules so the child didn’t get himself stuck in a wall, or scattered across time and space.
The coffee finished brewing and Gaster poured himself a fresh cup. His eye fell to the pen and note paper on his desk. No, she was fine. It was nothing she couldn’t figure out on her own.
But...Sans was so fragile. One mistake could be the end of him.
Gaster blew on the steaming mug. No, now was not the time. Not after what just happened. It wasn’t his place.
...But, there was some key advice he could offer from his past experiences. Gaster hadn’t mentioned any of that in the lecture, and he hadn’t gone that in-depth in his books.
He reached for the pen.