Actions

Work Header

Death Is Not the End (Even If He Kind of Wishes He Was)

Work Text:

FLOWEY

"I don't believe it. That smiley trashbag killed me again!"

YES, says Death. I BELIEVE THAT MAKES TWO HUNRED AND TWENTY-SEVEN TIMES SINCE I ARRIVED. He pauses, then adds, NOT THAT I AM COUNTING.

"This is getting really, really annoying," says the flower.

YES, says Death.

Flowey glares at him. "Oh, shut up, you stupid skeleton. I hate skeletons so much."

I DO NOT HAVE TO LOOK LIKE A SKELETON, Death says. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN I MADE AN EFFORT TO MANIFEST IN A FORM APPROPRIATE TO THE NATURE OF THOSE I HARVESTED. He looks Flowey up and down. I DO NOT THINK APPEARING AS A BOTTLE OF HERBICIDE WOULD BE VERY PRACTICAL, HOWEVER.

Flowey shakes his currently non-corporeal petals. "I am getting so freaking tired of you," he says.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SEE ME AGAIN, says Death, trying not to sound too hopeful. YOU COULD SIMPLY PASS ON THIS TIME.

"Oh, yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Death would like that. He would like that very much. It took him some time -- or rather, many repeated iterations of the same time -- but he has come to entirely understand why this world's own Death had been unable to continue in its duties. And why it had seemed so tired. You would not think that a sentient swirl of monster dust would be capable of looking haggard, but it had been.

Death sighs heavily, a sound like the howling of wind through mausoleum doors, and pulls Flowey's lifetimer from his robe. He glances at it, then quickly looks away. Staring at it too long hurts his non-existent eyes. He had not thought it possible that he would ever see one more complicated and difficult to make sense of than Rincewind's, but apparently he was wrong.

"Well, it's not going to happen!" says Flowey. "In fact... You like telling people to pass on so much? Fine! I'll send you lots of people to send wherever you like. I haven't had a nice killing spree in ages." And, with an evil little giggle, he vanishes. Off to his save point to start things all over again.

Death sighs again. Looks like it's going to be one of those timelines. If he ever manages to finish this assignment, he swears, he is never, ever going to agree to fill in for another Death again.

 

TORIEL

Toriel, being a queen in a society that regards kings and queens as fundamentally identical, gets the sword, rather than the scythe. Even here, Death believes in observing the proprieties.

Most kings and more than a few queens, in Death's experience, have one of the same few reactions upon finding themselves no longer among the living. If they're not accusing the enemy who just bested them in battle of cheating or vowing ghostly vengeance on whatever ambitious relative or vizier did away with them, they're usually deeply in denial about the fact that such a thing as death could happen to someone of their stature.

Toriel always seems disbelieving, too, at first, but not in the same way. Every time, he watches as the memories of previous time loops come flooding back to her. In death, she is the entire Toriel, the sum of all Toriels of all previous timelines, and Death can always see the moment when the relevant memory hits her.

"No," she whispers, as she almost always does. "My son," she says, looking at him with an expression that might break his heart if he had one. "It was my son. The flower who killed me. I... I tried to spare him, and he..."

YES, says Death. Toriel says nothing, only stares off into the depths of her own memories. Deciding he ought to fill the silence, he adds, awkwardly, THAT IS HOW HE USUALLY DOES IT.

"Well," she says. "It is probably no more than I deserve. I failed him, very badly. I fail him every time."

CHILDREN ARE DIFFICULT, says Death. SOMETIMES THERE IS NOT MUCH YOU CAN DO.

And then, because that is not a subject he particularly wants to dwell on, he says, YOUR FRIEND FROM THE DOOR TOLD ME TO SAY HELLO.

That actually makes her smile, just a little. "He is very kind," she says. "I hope I will meet him again."

I THINK IT IS ALMOST GUARANTEED.

"Well," she says. "Thank you for your time. I suppose I should be going now."

YES, he says. WELL. I WILL... SEE YOU LATER.

She gathers herself, sadly dignified, and walks off, into a place he cannot see.

He wonders where they go, while they wait for the timeline to reset. He wonders whether they are ripped away from those places when a new cycle starts, whether it's uncomfortable for them. None of them has ever said, and he does not feel it is his place to ask. What lies beyond death has never been any of his business. Well, except when the answer is more life and more deaths.

 

SANS

Sans never seems surprised or disoriented by his returning memories. It always seems as if he's been entirely expecting them.

"welp," he says, "flower got me again. man, I wish that guy would leaf me alone."

This is a pun, or play on words. Death has never been good at those, but after so many meetings, he is finding himself increasingly comfortable with Sans's sense of humor. THAT WOULD BE... He stops and thinks for a moment. What word can he make work there? Stem? Petal? Something about dirt? He doesn't actually know all that much about gardening, despite being very good with a scythe. ER, THAT IS... I'M SURE THAT WOULD BE, UH, THE SEED OF... SOMETHING GOOD?

"hey, you're improving. a few dozen more post-humorous lessons, and we'll have you punning like a natural." Sans grins, but he looks tired. In Death's experience, it's remarkably difficult for people to look tired after they're dead, but he supposes this is an understandable exception.

"got a new one for ya," Sans says. "why are graveyards so noisy?"

ARE THEY? Death hasn't actually spent very much time in graveyards. Usually by the time they come into the picture, his part in the process is long over.

"i dunno. monsters don't even really have graveyards. just go with it."

ALL RIGHT. WHY ARE GRAVEYARDS SO NOISY?

"because of all the coffin."

AH.

"get it? coughin?"

YES. I SEE. THAT IS VERY GOOD.

Sans shrugs. "eh, it's not great, but i'm starting to run out of new material. how many times has it been now?"

IT HAS BEEN--

"you know what? never mind. if I really wanted to know, i could count 'em myself." Sans runs a hand over the memory of his skull. "so, you seen my door lady lately?"

Death nods. I TOLD HER YOU SAID HELLO.

"good, thanks." Sans laughs. It does not sound very amused. "well, not good, but, y'know. thanks, anyway. welp. guess i better get on with it, huh?"

YES, says Death. I WILL TRY TO MAKE A BETTER PUN NEXT TIME.

Sans nods and gives him a thumbs-up. "knock, knock," he says, and disappears through a door, into somewhere Death cannot follow.

Maybe he can come up with a good joke about bones for next time? Sans seems to enjoy those, and they would be equally relevant for him.

Death looks down at his hand and tries to think of a way to make a pun out of "metacarpals."

 

PAPYRUS

"OH! HELLO, MY FRIEND THE SKELETON WHO IS NOT MY BROTHER!"

HELLO, says Death.

To be honest, he is never entirely certain how to respond to Papyrus. He can be a little... overwhelming. Although at least he is easier to deal with now than he was in the beginning. For the first few dozen iterations, he steadfastly refused to believe that he was dead, apparently unable to accept that such a thing could happen to one as great as he. Death had actually had to double-check that he wasn't a king.

He has at least come around to understanding the reality of his death now, but his reactions to it are still somewhat... idiosyncratic.

"OH, NO!" he cries. "THIS WAS NOT A COOKING ACCIDENT THIS TIME!"

NO, Death agrees.

"OH, POOR FLOWEY! HE WILL BE SO OVERCOME WITH GRIEF AND REGRET AT HAVING CAUSED MY DEATH!"

Death looks over to where Flowey is cavorting in Papyrus's dust, cackling evilly and muttering insulting things about skeletons. Papyrus does not appear to have noticed.

I... THINK HE WILL BE ALL RIGHT, Death says carefully.

"AND AFTER HE SAID ALL THOSE TERRIBLE THINGS TO ME! I'M SURE HE IS FEELING HORRIBLE ABOUT THEM NOW. I KNOW HE WAS ONLY TRYING TO PUSH ME AWAY BECAUSE HE DOES NOT FEEL WORTHY OF A FRIEND AS COOL AS ME."

THAT WOULD BE A REASONABLE THING FOR HIM TO THINK, says Death.

"WELL! I GUESS I NEED TO GO WHERE I AM GOING, THEN," says Papyrus. "THEN I CAN COME BACK NEXT TIME AND BE A BETTER FRIEND TO FLOWEY. THAT WILL HELP HIM LEARN NOT TO KILL PEOPLE!"

ER, YES, says Death. WELL. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT?

But, he thinks as the other skeleton vanishes with a parting "NYEH HEH HEH!", if anyone can do that, it probably is Papyrus.

 

UNDYNE

"That little punk!" Undyne screams. "He killed me again! Aaaargh, I am gonna spear him SO HARD!"

HELLO, UN---

But she's already gone, screaming and waving her spear as if expecting to fight her way through the afterlife.

 

ALPHYS

"Oh. O-- Oh. I remember now. Oh. Th-- That-- That was a bad one."

He does not doubt it. It always is, when he finds her at the bottom of the Abyss. She never ends up there by accident.

"Th-- Thanks," she says. "I mean, thanks for... For always being here, afterward."

IT IS MY JOB, he says.

"Oh. Yeah. I know. But it's good to see a... a familiar face. After... You know. After that. So... Thank you."

YOU ARE WELCOME.

"Hey!" She brightens a little. "Did I ever tell you about the time Mew Mew Kissy Cutie met Death?"

YES, he says quickly.

"And-- and she kissed him and got him to bring her friend back to life? It was such a great episode! It's one of my favorites, well, that and episode seventeen, where they--"

KISSING WILL NOT WORK WITH ME, he says, even more quickly.

"What? Oh! N-- no, of course not. I d-- didn't mean... I mean, I would never...! Uh, not that I'm not sure that kissing you would be very nice! Oh." She hides the memory of her face in the memory of her hands, and he is certain he can see her blushing. An interesting trick, with no blood vessels. "Oh," she says again, her voice gone small and quiet. "I've messed it all up. I always screw everything up."

I AM SURE THAT IS NOT TRUE, says Death. Although he's seen the lifetimers of the things in her basement, and the memory does give him pause. They are disturbing in very different ways from the lifetimers of everyone else in this kingdom.

"R-- really?" She looks up at him, hesitantly. "I mean, l-- look how I messed everything up this time. I'm probably just doomed to screw up over and over and over, timeline after timeline..." Her whole non-existent body slumps.

THAT SEEMS VERY UNLIKELY, says Death. After all, in a reality where the Trousers of Time have enough legs for an entire army of centipedes, no one can make the same mistakes every single time. It must be statistically impossible. I AM SURE YOU CAN DO BETTER. When she merely gives him a dubious look, he adds, WHERE THERE IS LIFE, THERE IS HOPE. OR SO I AM TOLD. IT IS A LITTLE OUTSIDE MY EXPERIENCE.

"You know what? You-- You're right! I've got plenty more chances coming! Just because I haven't gotten it right yet doesn't mean I never will." She sounds like she's trying to convince herself, but it looks like it might be working. "Maybe next time, I'll be braver, and, and stronger, and, and do the right thing! Thanks, Mr. Death!" She waves a clawed hand at him as she disappears somewhere colorful and bright.

He hopes she means it this time. He doesn't particularly like making those trips to the bottom of the Abyss.

 

METTATON

"Oh, no, darling! I cannot be dead. I am far too talented and beautiful! And I haven't even reached the peak of my stardom yet."

Death sighs. Mettaton does this every single time. At one point, Death got so tired of it he suggested that if Mettaton felt that strongly on the subject, he could opt to stay around as a ghost. But the robot was so sincerely offended at the idea that Death hasn't brought it up since.

Instead he just reminds Mettaton, as usual, that this is, to use Mettaton's own words, a hiatus rather than a cancellation, and that there might very well be an audience waiting for him in the afterlife. And, after a few more histrionic poses, he finally moves on.

YOUR TELEVISION SHOW IS NOT EVEN VERY GOOD, Death mutters after him. Although he does sometimes like the cooking segments.

 

ASGORE

"It is always such a relief," Agore says sadly.

Death does not see Asgore often. The flower always has difficulty taking him out. So he has not heard the king make this speech before.

"Such a relief," Asgore repeats. "For a moment. I think to myself, at least it is over now. I will never have to kill again. I will never have to do any of the terrible things I promised to do. For a moment, I feel so grateful to the one who killed me. And then..." He heaves a sigh. "And then I remember. It is never over." He gives Death a soulful look. "I imagine you get tired of it, too, don't you?"

YES, says Death.

Asgore manages something like a smile. "That's the burden of responsibility, I suppose. Having to collect human souls when all you want to do is to grow things in your garden. Having to collect monster souls when all you want to do is... I'm sorry. What do you like to do, when you are not doing this?"

Death thinks about this for a moment. I ENJOY A GOOD CURRY.

"Hmm. I don't know what a curry is. But perhaps one day, we can enjoy it together. In the meantime... Well, perhaps at least I will have a little time to rest." He looks at Death, hopefully. "Have you seen my wife, this time?"

YES, says Death.

"I like to think," says Asgore. "That one day I'll meet her here, and we can talk. I like to think she might forgive me in death, even if she can't do it while we're both alive."

Death doesn't reply. He knows nothing about this sort of thing. He could offer to say hello to her, as Sans once asked him to do, but he is not certain it would help.

"Well," says Asgore. "It is good to meet you again, my friend. Take care of yourself. Stop and enjoy a -- what was it? A coory? -- once in a while. Or at least have a cup of tea. Tea is very good for keeping one's spirits up. You do look rather tired. I hope you don't mind me saying so."

THANK YOU, says Death. ENJOY YOUR REST.

Asgore waves one massive paw as he disappears to wherever he is going.

Death decides a cup of tea actually sounds like a very good idea.

 

FRISK

Now, this is different.

The human child does not talk to him. They merely look about them, confused and uncomprehending, before time suddenly resets and they reappear, alive, in the past.

They have Flowey's save points. Death cannot help but think this is significant. Of course, any change in the routine at this point is something of a relief. He has a reputation for patience, has always regarded himself as perhaps the most patient being in the universe, but harvesting the same creatures over and over and over again...

He has been drinking a great deal of supposedly soothing tea lately. It has not particularly helped.

In the moment between Frisk's death and their life, he considers. Death is not bound by time, and he can look ahead as easily as he can look back. All right, not quite as easily. Especially not here. All those branching, looping timelines give him a dull pain inside his eye sockets.

But he tries it, anyway, and is only half-surprised to discover the that Trousers of Time suddenly have only enough legs to outfit a small dance troupe of spiders. Some of them, once they pass a certain point, keep going, straight and narrow, less like trouser legs and more like a jumper knitted for a very long snake. One of them, when he follows it a short way, leads to sunlight and warmth, to family and friends and forgiveness and love for many of the people he has met here. It is bright, but it is small and fuzzy. Improbable. Unless.

He is not really supposed to meddle, especially in a world that is not his own. But, on the other hand...

BUGGER THIS, says Death.

He turns to Frisk, still caught in their fragile, in-between moment. Gazing into time has taken Death no time at all. STAY DETERMINED, he tells them. His eye sockets blaze blue, and fill with visions of the future that could be. He sees the child blink in surprise, and meet his gaze, and nod. And then they are gone.

STAY DETERMINED, he tells them, over and over, death after death. STAY DETERMINED.

And every time, they listen.

This may take some time, but what is time to Death? Or, at this point, to any of them? Sooner or later, the child will make it work.

And then he is going home, and he is going to eat a literal mountain of curry.