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Seven Days across Seven Lifetimes

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He’d noticed her the second he’d walked through the doors, of course.

It’d been kind of hard not to. She was only one of two humans in the bar, the other being a rather robust looking guy with a sour face on the other side of the building, and her attempts to remain hunched over underneath that cloak she was wearing hadn’t hidden her slim figure and general lack of any monster-looking attributes. 

But despite the fact that she stood out like a sour phalange in a city like this one, he hadn’t paid much attention to her. Not at first. It was only until they’d gotten their first round of drinks that he’d noticed her staring in their direction, and that had been enough to make him sit up and take a closer and careful look.

Turns out, he needn’t have bothered. 

“Uh,” Undyne gaped like a fish out of water. Heh. “What?” 

“You said,” the human floundered for a moment, probably under the weight of their combined stares, before seemingly pulling herself together, her back straightening slightly. “You said you were traveling to Mount Ebott. I want to go with you.”

Beside him, Alphys made some sort of wordless squawking noise, sounding like someone had just stepped on her toes, and Papyrus was looking like his eyes were about to fall right out of his skull. Undyne continued to stare, incredulous. 

For his part, Sans simply grinned at the human as he studied her from underneath the hood of his cloak. He knew what they were all thinking - anyone with half a brain didn’t just walk up to a group of strangers in this city and ask to go traveling with them. That was like asking someone to just take all your possessions and leave you for dead on the side of the road. 

And, you didn’t accept strangers to go traveling with you, either, especially when you had a close-knit group of monsters like they did. The very last thing they needed or wanted was an unknown tagalong that needed to be protected all the time.  

“Hah!” Undyne sneered, clearly taking the lead on this weird encounter. “Yeah no, I don’t think so. Now beat it before I pound you into paste, punk.”

The force of Undyne’s derision was usually enough to drive off even the most delusional of interlopers on the best of occasions, but it seemed to only make this human more determined in her efforts. 

“Why not?” she asked, which, okay. Again with the lack of understanding of even the most obvious rules of grouping up with strangers. What even was this girl? She had to be new around here.

“I-I think maybe you m-misheard us,” Alphys finally tried, though she shyly ducked her head downwards as the human looked over to her. Or so he thought - it was kinda hard to tell, the way she seemingly kept her eyes closed. “W-We’re not traveling t-to Mount E-Ebott.”

“and hey, buddy?” he added, shooting the human a wink as her closed-eyed stare turned towards him instead. “pretty rude to eavesdrop on conversations.”

That seemed to deflate her a bit, a hint of color rising to her cheeks for being called out for her shameless eavesdropping. But it faded almost just as quickly as she hunched her shoulders, hands clenched together in front of her stomach. “Sorry,” she said. Funny, she didn’t sound all that sorry. “I didn’t mean to. But you said you were heading to New Haven, right? Mount Ebott is on the way, isn’t it?”

Undyne scoffed again, but Papyrus perked up suddenly, with that twinkle in his eyes that Sans had come to dread over the years. “THAT IS INDEED ON THE WAY!”

He didn’t like where this was going. “bro...”

Neither did Undyne, only she felt the need to express her feelings a little more forcefully. “Nu-uh, bonebag!” the fish monster exclaimed loudly, loud enough to draw the attention of the nearby tables. “No way! We’re not a charity case here! We don’t take dead weight with us, end of story!”

“I can heal!” the human jumped in, apparently sensing her opportunity for a free ride across dangerous landscapes and territories slipping from her grasp. 

Sans raised an eyebrow. Healing wasn’t a very common skill, mostly because it really only benefitted others instead of oneself. It you were going to go through all the trouble of learning a school of magic, it made much more sense to become proficient in a school you could use to defend yourself, not just support others. 

Undyne clearly had the same line of thought as him. “And?” the fish monster sneered. “Can you defend yourself? Can you fight?”

“...”

“kid?” he prompted.

“...Mostly...”

There was a collective sigh across the table - or in Papyrus’ case, a pitying sort of whine. He shook his head. “look pal,” he said, leaning forward to rest an elbow on the table, eyes trained on the human from underneath his hood. “you don’t seem to realize how much you’re askin’, here. we can’t travel out there if we’re too busy pulling you out of every set of dragon’s teeth that starts munching on your bones, and that’s the tooth.

“BROTHER, PLEASE,” Papyrus groaned, “THIS HUMAN IS IN DIRE NEED OF OUR ASSISTANCE. WE HAVE NO TIME FOR YOUR INCESSANT PUNNING! THIS IS SERIOUS!”

“really?” Sans asked, lazily glancing back at the human. “i didn’t think ‘serious’ was a human name.”

“M-maybe she can j-just follow us as f-far as the Ghibraltan Borders?” Alphys cut in hesitantly, over the sound of Papyrus’ grinding teeth.

“No!” Undyne snarled, even going so far as to slam a fist down onto the table. Now half the tavern was glancing over in their direction, probably having figured out what the human was doing by now. “No dead weight!”

“no point in weighting around, kid,” he said unapologetically, shrugging his shoulders at the human. “looks like it’s a no go.”

“I-it’s not very d-dangerous outside of t-town - ”

“That could change, Al!”

“BUT IT’S NOT TOO FAR AWAY, WE CAN JUST STOP BY THE MOUNTAIN!”

“that just sounds like a mountain of trouble for us, bro.”

“SANS - ”

“I can pay!”

The table stilled.

Which...come on. Why didn’t she just say so in the first place?

Because a payment changed everything, and he could see it even on Undyne’s face. Freeloaders and dead weight, they could do without. But getting paid to make one quick pitstop on the way to the capital? Adventurers like themselves made their money through requests, so income wasn’t exactly steady. They made their living taking whatever job they could get, pretty much. 

Plus an escort job, given by the escortee if you will, was the best sort of escort job. Because they paid for their own safe passage; their payment wasn’t waiting in the hands of another person only willing to pay if the escorted traveler arrived safely. If the person being escorted died along the way, well...they could just take what they were owed off the body. 

...Though again, asking a group of strangers for an escort job in this particular city was a pretty stupid move, because not every group of adventurers was as nice as they were. Any other group probably would slit her throat the minute they were out of the city. This human had to either be the most sheltered person in existence, or she had zero common sense. 

But if she could pay, then...what’d it matter?

“Well why didn’t you just say so, human?” Undyne blustered, gripping the edge of the table. “Show us the coin, then we’ll talk.”

The human hesitated, which was enough to make the fish monster’s lips curl up yet again, and for him to raise an eyebrow. Again. All bluster and no talk, huh? A last, desperate attempt to join up with them? 

And then, suddenly, with a furtive glance around herself, the human leaned forward...and begin pulling the collar of the shirt she was wearing, down from her neck. 

Sans was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one to start in surprise. The table jolted as Alphys gurgled and leaned backwards, as if the human might just completely remove the garment and fling it at her. Surely she couldn’t...be offering that kind of payment to a group of monsters, could she? How arrogant could she get?

But the movement stopped, her shirt pulled just barely below the neckline...and he saw it.

And not just him - as one, the entire table leaned towards the human for a closer look. “T-THAT MARK,” Papyrus gasped, his naturally loud voice instinctively lowered to a hushed whispered.

“Is t-that - ?”

“Gotta be kidding me - ”

“the starlit magisterium,” he finished. Less to continue the broken line of thought from the others, and more to confirm it to himself.

Because despite the open trade and cultural mingling of humans and monsters, the Starlit Magisterium was the highest order of human hierarchy that existed. It was the organization responsible for, somehow, providing humanity with the ability to use magic that had previously been allocated solely to monsters. An ability that had allowed humans to grow and flourish and become one of the dominant forces on the earth, thousands of years ago. An ability that kept them in power today. 

And as thanks for their efforts, the Magisterium had been elevated to an almost cult-like status of power throughout the human realms. Though they didn’t quite run the human kingdoms, they came close to it, and their inner workings remained a secret even to most humans, except those that inhabited their closed and private seat of power at -

...At Mount Ebott. Of course. 

“The Starlit Magisterium has a...vested interest in me,” the human said, and, welp. Obviously. She bore their mark directly on her collarbone; not the wrist or the ankle, or even the forehead. On her chest, the center of her body. She couldn’t have gotten branded anywhere else to have a higher meaning than that. “Deliver me safely to Mount Ebott and...” She paused, taking a deep breath. “I can assure you that you will be heavily rewarded.”

Sans didn’t look around the table at the others. He didn’t need to. The moment he had seen the mark, he’d known what the consensus would be.

Because, well...

How could they say no to that?

 


 

“T-that’s awful,” Alphys murmured softly, claws clenched together as she stared up at the human. “I’m s-so sorry.”

The human - who’s name was Frisk, not Serious - nodded, face scrunching up in a sad sort of manner. “Thank you,” she said politely, “it was...traumatizing. But, well. That’s how I got separated from the others.”

Yeah, no kidding. A Skyvern attack would be enough to wipe out even the most resilient of travelers. Frisk was lucky to have survived the encounter. It also explained how she had ended up in the monster-heavy city they’d just left, too, completely alone and with no traveling experience whatsoever.

None, whatsoever. She didn’t even know how to start a fire.

Though, considering where she’d come from, Sans supposed it wasn’t surprising. She’d probably been pampered and taken care of her entire life by the Starlit Magisterium. No wonder she hadn’t thought twice about asking to travel with complete strangers.

“So, you guys were going to Mount Ebott, huh,” Undyne commented, from where she rode solo on her Sylven thanks to her bulky armor. Despite her initial reluctantance, the fish monster seemed to have become invested in Frisk’s journey to an extent. Probably interested in what sort of creatures she’d seen on the journey, though even she knew better than to ask about them when Frisk was recounting the story of her probably dead previous escorts. “Long ways from Khuvani.”

The other major, secluded Magisterium settlement. Journeying from Khuvani to Mount Ebott, huh?

Sans couldn’t see her, but he assumed Frisk nodded behind his back. “We were suppose to go straight to Mount Ebott,” she stated, and he felt her arms tighten around him slightly. “I guess...I guess it’s lucky we detoured through the Filtered Sands, otherwise I may not have ever found my way out of the sand dunes.”

He heard the unanswered question in her words.

So did Papyrus. “DO NOT WORRY, FRIEND,” his brother said valiantly, “I AM CERTAIN YOU WILL MEET YOUR COMPATRIOTS AT MOUNT EBOTT!”

Again, he couldn’t see what expression Frisk made - the way her hands twitched against his ribcage indicated she didn’t really believe Papyrus - but her face must have reassured him, because his brother puffed up some more. 

“AND I, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS, WILL ENSURE YOUR SAFE PASSAGE TO MOUNT EBOTT TO REUNITE WITH YOUR COMPATRIOTS. NYEH HEH HEH!”

“yup,” he added, tilting his head back a bit to glance at the human from the corner of his eye, “you’re in good hands, kid. my bro’s a real pal...”

“INDEED!” Papyrus exclaimed, one hand resting on his breastplate - until he realized what was about to happen. “WAIT NO - ”

“ -adin.”

“NYEH!” the other skeleton screamed, hands flailing off the reins of his Sylven as Alphys nearly toppled over behind him. “HUMAN, PLEASE DO NOT JUDGE ALL SKELETONS BY MY BROTHER’S BAD EXAMPLE. I ASSURE YOU, MOST OF US ARE PERFECTLY CIVILIZED AND VERY COOL.”

“aw, c’mon paps. you really cut me down to the bone, there.”

“Alright, ‘ya boneheads,” Undyne cut in, as Sans carefully maneuvered his Sylven away from his brother’s bug-eyed glare, “cut it out. We’ve got to pick up the pace if we wanna make it through the Coral Shores before they close up!”

“A-actually, I was t-thinking maybe we should g-go through the Drenga Green W-Woods,” Alphys commented, reaching into her pack to pull out her travel map, “t-then that would take u-us through the Under Steppes, a-and...”

Sans tuned them out. Navigation had never really been his things - too much work. He trusted the others to figure out the best mapping strategy to get them to Mount Ebott and New Haven as quickly and as safely as possible.

“I’m not a kid, you know.”

“hmm?” he mumbled, glancing behind him again. Frisk was leaning around him slightly to speak more directly to him, but she didn’t look all offended. Only bemused.

“I’m not a kid,” she repeated...then hesitated. “At least, not by human years. Are you?...”

“heh heh. yup.”

“Oh.”

Her voice trailed off, seemingly disquieted, and he knew why. Humans had always had trouble accepting the fact that Boss Monsters, a special breed of monsters, lived seemingly immortal lives. It just messed with their perception of time. Everyone felt like a kid to him, even though he knew, just judging by her features, that Frisk was probably at least twenty years old. 

Twenty to thirty. Humans tended to all start looking the same after a while, which made discerning their ages all the more difficult. 

“Is it - ”

Hmm?

Sans didn’t prompt her to finish the thought, letting her stew in what he knew she wanted to ask. Heh. He didn’t mind it. Maybe he would have, if he’d been alone, but...well. He had his brother and Undyne, and Alphys. All Boss Monsters. It’s why they had banded together in the first place. 

“Is it lonely?” she finally asked, quietly, hesitantly. “Living forever...is it lonely?”

“nah,” he said, shrugging his shoulders a bit. “not so long as you stay with other bosses. good food and good friends for a good long life...not so bad, hmm?”

“Yeah,” she murmured, and he felt her rest her forehead against his back. Her arms tightened around his waist again.

“It sounds...wonderful.”

 


 

“...”

“...”

“...”

“...welp. we’re broke.”

Undyne’s face scrunched up, as if their empty coin purses hadn’t told them exactly what he’d just said. “Ngaaah,” she growled, slamming one fist into an open palm, “I knew you shouldn’t have bought that new armor, Papyrus!”

“B-BUT MY OLD BATTLE ARMOR HAD A HUGE CRACK IN IT!” his brother protested feebly, though he whirled onto him a moment later. “BECAUSE SOMEBODY DECIDED TO THROW IT AT SOMEBODY ELSE.”

“sorry bro,” he apologized, for the thousandth time, “it was the only thing on hand.”

“MAYBE IF YOU DIDN’T STEAL THINGS YOU WOULDN’T HAVE TO THROW THINGS AT PEOPLE!”

“what can i say?” he grinned, waggling his pointer finger and thumb at his brother. “it’s part of my class act.”

“YES,” Papyrus grumped, “YOUR VERY DISHONORABLE CLASS OF THIEF.”

“summoner thief,” he corrected, because he hadn’t spent eleven years at the New Haven’s Magic School of Magical Magicness for nothing. 

“Okay okay,” Undyne hissed, hands on her hip, “we need supplies, just to get through the Drenga Green Woods and Under Steppes. We got stuff to sell? Al?”

“S-sorry Undyne,” Alphys murmured, rummaging around in her travel pack. “I n-need these potions for b-b-battles, and I d-don’t have any e-extra ingredients.”

“S’alright Al,” the fish monster said, which, was totally biased. Undyne paused for a moment, before glancing to her side with a deadpanned air. “Frisk?”

Frisk started, pat herself down, and glanced up at Undyne with a sheepish look.

“Ugh,” the fish monster sighed, head raised skywards as if searching for some inner strength. Everyone was quiet for a moment. 

Before they all turned to look at him. 

And he, in turn, grinned at Papyrus, who crossed his arms and tried his hardest not to pout. “FINE,” he finally relented, “BUT ONLY WHAT WE NEED, BROTHER. AND NOT FROM THE POOR AND HELPLESS!”

“you got it, bro,” he said agreeably, because he only stole from people who could afford not to notice a few coins go missing here and there anyways. Not that Sans ever kidded himself into thinking it was okay to steal from anyone at all, but his unique skill set had long-since turned thievery into a...fairly lucrative business. They were only heading to New Haven thanks to his contract to steal some documents from the Olingo family, after all. 

“Meet us by the crossroads when you’re done,” Undyne ordered, jerking a thumb over her shoulder towards the path they had just come from, “and we’ll camp out in front of Drenga.”

“Why don’t we just sleep at the inn?” Frisk questioned, confusion on her face. 

Undyne, for her part, constrained herself to an eye roll. “Because we don’t want to be in the same town Sans is going to be stealing from, you punk,” the fish monster said, peering down at the human. “And we’ll be able to get a head start in the morning.”

“Oh,” the human said, before brightening. “Right.”

“Seriously, didn’t they teach you anything Khuvani?” Undyne questioned aggressively, already leading the way back to the crossroads. Papyrus shot him one last Look over his shoulder, but followed along with Alphys, the four of them disappearing into the distance.

Which just left him to do his work. 

The sun was close to setting by the time he rejoined with them, and a camp was set up near - but not directly against - the Grenga Green Woods. Papyrus was still unhappy, but even his brother couldn’t deny the smell of his all-time favorite; a strange human cuisine that was basically long strips of flour, baked and smothered in a sort of red sauce. It was the one thing he’d taken care not to mush or squish inside his bag, and the look on Papyrus’ face when he produced it with a flourish was worth the effort. 

“Is that all the food you got?” Frisk asked, surprised, as he unveiled his spoils. It mostly consisted of a new water skein for Alphys, plus some of the more uncommon ingredients for her potions; a grinding stone for Undyne; a new cloak for Frisk, to replace her tattered one; plus some extra ailment cures and potions, general supplies. The only food he’d gotten was some dried jerk, the essential emergency ration for the wise traveler.

“We’ll hunt on the way,” Undyne said around a mouthful of the fresh meat he’d bought off a vendor. “Lots of stuff to hunt along the route we’re taking.”

“And what about the other stuff?” Frisk asked, hands clasping her own water skein. “The...dangerous stuff?”

Undyne’s eyes took on their own dangerous gleam. “We kill anything that crosses our path!” she declared, slamming a fist into the ground hard enough to make the four of them jolt off the ground by an inch or two. 

“we’ve had it easy so far, kid,” he chuckled. “this was the babybones stuff. now we get to the parts that can swallow you whole if you don’t have the stomach for them.”

Frisk giggled a bit under her breath, and Sans gave her an appraising stare, ignoring Papyrus’ moan of frustration. He liked this girl. Despite their initial hesitance, she’d turned out to be good company...and she liked puns. What more could you ask in a friend?

But like he’d said, all they’d done so far was ride, and the Sylvens were being left behind tomorrow. They couldn’t pass through the Grenga Green Woods. From here on out, the actual journeying would start. 

And he -

Well.

He hoped Frisk survived the journey. 

 


 

Frisk was not going to survive the journey. 

“kid, you’ve gotta stop trying to work me to an early grave,” he said, and he knew the grin on his face had a decidedly grimacey tilt to it. “i don’t think my heart can take it.” 

He tapped one finger against where a heart would have been if he’d been a human and winked at her, but she knew that the reprimand was there, and flushed accordingly. A bit of a ways away, Undyne leapt at the Boghrein, magical spears impaling themselves into the creature, while Papyrus fended it off with his sword and shield. 

“Sorry,” she murmured abashedly, hands clutched in his overcoat. He pretended not to notice how they were shaking. “I was...I just wanted to - ”

“i know kid,” he said gently, because Frisk was a pretty cool human, but that determined little head of hers didn’t do any good against an angry and ravenous Boghrein. “but you’re paying us to get you to Mount Ebott in one piece, remember? can’t have you falling to pieces on us, right?”

Frisk chuckled weakly, nodding her head, and Sans finally felt comfortable to release her from his grasp. Her legs didn’t support her, and she ended up falling onto her rump in the grass. He’d teleported them a ways away from the battle, but the roars from the Boghrein still shook the trees, and he glanced up as Alphys was blown right past them, landing upside down in a bush. 

“good,” he said succinctly, and grinned more genuinely as he delivered another wink down at the human, raising his left hand. “you’re not a fighter. we are. you just sit back, relax...and try not to have a bad time.”

Snap.

He didn’t even have to turn around, he just felt Undyne and Papyrus leap out of the way as two Gaster Blasters were Summoned into the physical plane, angled at the Boghrein. The distinctive sound of their energy blasts briefly charging up, and then releasing, reverberated through the forest, drowning out the Boghrein’s angry wail as it was destroyed in an instant. 

And all the while, he kept his eyes on the human below him, grinning at her slack-jawed expression. 

“Hey!” Undyne growled out as she stomped up behind him, “no kill stealing!”

“sorry,” he said unapologetically, “did i kill the mood?”

“NOW YOU HAVE,” Papyrus grimaced, sheathing his sword into its scabbard as Undyne threw her hands into the air and stalked over to Alphys, who was still attempting to dislodge herself from the bush. 

Sans shrugged, before glancing back down at Frisk...who was still staring up at him wide-eyed. Er...well, he assumed wide-eyed, she still had her eyes closed. But the expression was there. “heh. you okay there, buddy?”

“You - ” she started, then stopped, and tried again. “You’re a thief.”

He grinned.

“summoner thief.”

 


 

“magical residue from the spirit plane,” he explained, flicking his fingers slightly. The Creeper Rats squealed as they were levitated to the left and the right, paws scrabbling for purchase as they were picked out of the air by Undyne’s spears. “summon the spirits hanging around, use them to move things. easy.”

“But,” Frisk said, for what was probably the thousandth time, “you never seem to have trouble Summoning magic wherever we are. Are there...are there just a lot of spirits ‘hanging around’?”

“yup,” Sans said, releasing his magical hold on the rats as Alphys’ poison potion finished its work. “tons of ‘em. it’s how i teleport, too. link spirits together in two different places on the physical plane, and just step through ‘em.”

“But - ”

“gaster blasters are actual spirit creatures. they’re not linked anywhere, i can summon ‘em any time.”

“But - ”

“simple conversion of residual magics relative to physical mass and spatial distance.”

“But - ”

“kid,” he interrupted, because her curiosity was cute, but she couldn’t learn eleven years worth of information in the couple of weeks they had left of traveling. “if you’re really interested, you should study in new haven.” He nodded down towards her hands. “you’ve already got a magic head start, better then most humans.”

Frisk blinked, before following his gaze down to her hands, a bit of healing magic spiraling into existence in her right palm. “I...I’d like that.”

“...but?” 

She started, glancing up at him, as the others in front of them set about collecting teeth from the Creeper Rats for Alphys. “But I...can’t,” she stated, then clarified, “I mean, I won’t be able to.”

“why not?”

Frisk was the one to grin this time, and tapped a finger on her shirt, over her collarbone. 

...Oops.

“oh, right,” he muttered, displacing his hood slightly to scratch at his skull, “kinda forgot about that.” Frisk was a highly-valued part of the Starlit Magisterium, who’d probably been born, raised, and confined in Khuvani for the entirety of her life...doing whatever it was she did that made her so valuable. “guess the magisterium isn’t so keen on letting people run off to study magic.”

“Nope,” she affirmed, with a slight smile on her face. “I’ve been a part of the Magisterium since I was five. They’ve put a lot of work into me.” 

Her words back at the bar came rushing back to him. “vested interest, huh?”

“They took me in when I was five years old and had nothing,” she said, softly, glancing back down at her hands. “They taught me healing, fed me, clothed me...gave me more luxuries that most people can even dream of.” Funny; the words were obviously said in pride at her position, but her tone sounded kind of sad. “I can never leave.”

Heh. A human didn’t just leave the Magisterium, even if they wanted to. Frisk knew it too, if the ironic twist of her mouth was any indication.

That was the joke. Even if she had wanted to learn Summoning, the Magisterium controlled every aspect of her life. She belonged to them. This was probably her first taste of freedom without a Magistrate hovering over her shoulder. And as soon as she was delivered to Mount Ebott -

Straight back to them.

“...do you want to?”

Frisk started, as if the question had never, ever, even occurred to her. And...and he wasn’t sure why he was asking, it didn’t matter. The Magisterium probably already had every single human city on the lookout for their high-valued member who’d gotten lost on route. Even if she ran away right now, she’d be forever hunted by the Starlit Magisterium. 

But after a moment, Frisk shook her head. “No,” she said, and there was genuine sincerity in her voice as she looked up at him. “Sans, the Magisterium...they saved my life. When I was young and alone, and didn’t even have a family name to call my own...they gave me everything. I owe, everything to them.” The human shook her head again. “I could never leave.”

Repaying the life they’d given her by giving her own to them in turn, huh. 

Made sense, in its own way. But it was no wonder she asked so many questions. About the Under Steppes, his Summoning magic, Undyne’s Arcane Warrior skills, the various potions Alphys concocted, and Papyrus’ seemingly endless supply of bone-styled swords. Once she was at Mount Ebott, she’d probably be locked away in their enclave once more, separated from the rest of the world to serve the remainder of her life at the Magisterium.   

She seemed okay with it. 

And despite himself, despite the futility of wondering something that could never even happen, Sans felt himself reach out with his fingers, brushing them against Frisk’s cheek. She stilled at his touch, head tilting upwards a bit as he studied her.

Was he projecting a bit? Heh heh...probably. He remembered how hard he had tried to remove himself from Gaster’s influence, from the madness and insanity that had nearly driven their family to ruin...and how he’d ended up bonding to his father’s creations anyways, Summoning the tortured spirits of Gaster’s research and feeding that perpetual madness.

How futile it had all been in the end, when he’d turned out just like his father. How little freedom he’d actually had, in the end. 

Life wasn’t fair. Things didn’t just work out because you wished hard enough. A son didn’t avoid repeating his father’s mistakes just because he decided he’d never become like him. A human didn’t leave the group that owed her her very life, just because she might want to. 

Seems like she’d made peace with that, the same way he had. 

Sooner or later, everyone ran out of options.

 


 

Running was probably the best option.

“Saaaaans!” Undyne screamed as the ethereal claws barely avoided snagging her ponytail, “do something!”

“nope,” he said simply, one hand in his pocket, the other clutching one of Frisk’s as he dragged her along at top speed, “that’s an amorphous class creature.”

“So what?!” the fish monster panted, lobbing some magical spears over her shoulder without even turning to look. There was a fierce sounding roar behind them, but the arcane warrior continued running with Alphys tucked under one arm, the alchemist haphazardly throwing any potions she could at the group to speed them up. 

“they’re between physical and spiritual, and temporal,” he explained, rather generously in his opinion, considering how they were, you know, running for their lives and all. “can’t be hurt by either, only both together, and only at certain times. pretty plane to see we’re outmatched here.”

“SANS,” Papyrus shrieked as they leapt over a fallen tree trunk, “THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS SAVE YOUR TERRIBLE PUNS FOR A TIME LESS FRAUGHT WITH DANGER AND PERIL!”

“sorry bro,” Sans apologized, and would’ve shrugged if his hands were free, “a-peril-ly this was a bad time?”

“SANS WOULD YOU JUST - ”

“Both of you shut up! We’ve got a huge - ”

“Cliff!”

Alphys’ shriek almost brought them up short, but the crashing of underbrush from behind instinctively kept them moving forward, even as the trees cleared to reveal - nothing. Just vast horizon. And, welp. He could make things and people float, but his magic was drained thanks to a particularly vicious Warg from earlier, and there was no telling how big the drop was - or how long he’d be able to sustain five full grown people. And he couldn’t teleport more than three bodies at a time.

...Then again, there was certain death behind them. A low chance was better than no change, right?

“We doing this?!” Undyne screamed, a bit unnecessarily, as not one of them had stopped running for the cliffside. 

“NYEH!” Papyrus cried out, grabbing onto Undyn’s free hand and hooking his other through Sans’ arm. “FRIENDS! I, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS, WILL KEEP US CLOSE TOGETHER!”

“jump it!” he grunted, and as one, the five of them leapt off the side of the cliff -

and Frisk’s hand was wrenched from his own grasp.

He was already falling over the edge, body automatically twisting around - and there was Frisk, falling over the side as well, momentarily caught just enough by the Wisp to have been pulled from his grasp, and now falling out of sync away from the rest of them -

“SANS!” he heard faintly from behind, followed by “HUMAN!” But he’d already unlinked from Papyrus’s hands as the trees below came up fast, and he reacted without even thinking, pulling her towards him with his magic, arms automatically encircling her body - and then they hit the trees.

Too far away for Papyrus’ defensive magic to encircle them.

He felt the branches hitting, snapping and groaning under their combined weight as they fell, and in the back of his mind, he knew they were breaking the fall for them. But that didn’t stop the falling from hurting as he kept himself wrapped around Frisk as best as he could, eyes squeezed shut as they fell, and rolled, and finally -

- came to a stop.

Distantly, he could hear the Wisp shrieking from atop the cliff, but he was mostly aware of how everything hurt, which, well, seemed the more important issue. And also, there was something else important that he -

“Sans!”

Oh, right. Frisk. 

“Sans,” she murmured, uncurled from the protective ball she’d been in. She leaned over him, and he blinked wearily up at her, trying not to wince as every single bone in his body seemed to creak. “I’m so sorry - here, let me - ”

A wave of healing magic rushed over him, and he groaned in relief as the worst of the pain was numbed from his senses. “t-thanks, kid.”

Frisk shook her head in an agitated sort of fashion as he pushed himself up to a sitting position. “I should be thanking you,” she insisted, her hands still glowing with pulses of healing magic. “When I felt it grab my ankle - ” Frisk paused, and he didn’t blame her. He remembered his first encounter with an amorphous class creature, and it still made him shudder sometimes. 

“heh,” he muttered, checking himself over for injuries - before he reached out and flicked her forehead, startling her into recoiling slightly. “what’d i tell you about working me to an early grave, frisk?”

The fear that had settled onto her face evaporated, and Frisk laughed lightly. “I know, I know,” she said, and leaned forward to tap at his chest. “Your heart can’t take it, right?”

“yup.”

Frisk shook her head once, before standing up and brushing herself. He watched her as she did so, grinning when she turned to him to offer him a hand up. He ended up leaning against her slightly, one of her arms around his waist and his own around her shoulders, but she didn’t seem to mind it.

Heh...funny. Neither did he. 

“SANS! FRISK! WHERE ARE YOU? YOUR VERY COOL FRIEND, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS - IS SORRY FOR LOSING YOU! NYOO HOO HOOOOO!”

“over here, bro,” Sans called out, and braced himself for the inevitable fussing that he could literally hear building up over the sound of his brother’s frantic movements through the underbrush. Frisk smiled as they walked in the direction of Papyrus’ voice...but she paused. “Sans?”

“hmm?”

And smiled.

“Nice catch.”

...Heh heh. Good one.

 


 

“kid, i know i’m a handsome skeleton, but you’ve gotta stop falling for me like this.”

“THIS IS ONLY THE SECOND TIME!” Papyrus complained as they slid down the steep slope of land, and seemed thoroughly despairing as Frisk laughed, loudly and unabashedly over the sound of wind rushing past them. “AND THE FIRST TIME WE WERE RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES!”

He winked at Frisk. “the human doesn’t seem to care.”

“THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’VE CORRUPTED HER WITH YOUR TERRIBLE PUNS!”

“i can’t help it if she thinks they’re punny, paps.”

“NYEEEEH!”

Frisk laughed again as she clung loosely to his neck, seeming to enjoy the ride down more than clinging for safety as he held one hand on her back, the other looped around her knees. Behind and above them, the pack of wild Howling Jackals bayed their displeasure at their escape. 

Not that they were the only ones expressing their displeasyre. “I could’ve defeated them like that,” Undyne growled as they slid their way down to a stop, barely stopping their momentum before they slid completely into the stream in front of them. “We didn’t have to run!”

“B-but we’re running l-low on supplies, Undyne,” Alphys said logically, wriggling free from the fish monster’s grip on her, “and there’s n-not a lot of safe p-prey animals to hunt a-around here.”

“ALPHYS IS CORRECT!” Papyrus chimed in, brushing his armor off as Frisk jumped out of his arms, “WE MUST MAKE HASTE. THERE IS ONLY THE NEBRALAN VILLIERS AFTER THIS AREA, HUMAN. AND THEN - ” The skeleton grinned widely at Frisk. “MOUNT EBOTT! WHERE YOU MAY FINALLY BE REUNITED WITH YOUR COMPANIONS!”

He froze, and felt Frisk freeze next to him too. He wondered if she had forgotten.

Because he had. The past couple of weeks, he had, well...completely forgotten that they were returning her to the Starlit Magisterium. These past couple of weeks had been nothing but fighting with the others, traveling, sharing stories and experiences...protecting Frisk, chatting with Frisk, carrying Frisk down mountainsides. And now, with only the Nebralan Villiers in front of them, there was less than a week of travel time left. 

And he apparently wasn’t the only one who’d forgotten. “No way,” Undyne said, hips cocked to one side, “that means we’ve only got about a week left? Damn.” The arcane warrior shook her head slightly, before grinning her sharp-toothed grin and reaching over to punch Frisk’s shoulder. “Just when I was beginning to get used to having you around, punk,” she guffawed. 

That was pretty high praise, coming from Undyne. 

“I KNOW,” his brother spoke back up again, and there was a definite misty quality in his eyes. “TO THINK WE’VE COME ALL THIS WAY...BUT WE SHALL BE STAYING IN NEW HAVEN FOR A WHILE. WE CAN COME VISIT YOU AT MOUNT EBOTT! RIGHT, BROTHER?”

“You bet we will! Don’t think you can get rid of us so easily, ngaaah!”

Heh heh...visit the highly secretive headquarters of the Starlit Magisterium? 

“...yeah. sure,” he said, glancing off to the side...and making eye contact with Frisk completely on accident. She was thinking the exact same thing he was, of course. Once she got to Mount Ebott, she would be staying there for the rest of her life, and they would be barred from returning the moment they left.

There would be no more adventuring with Frisk. 

“Uhm,” Alphys mumbled, glancing between the two of them. “U-Undyne, Papyrus. We should maybe g-go get some f-firewood for the camp tonight?”

“NYEH? ALL THREE OF US?” Papyrus questioned, confusion on his face. “SURELY IT WILL ONLY TAKE ONE TO GATHER THE FIREWOOD, LIKE NORMAL?”

“Yeah, I’ll go grab some real quick,” Undyne said, already moving away from the stream bed.

“Gah! I-I just though that...u-uhm, I t-thought that Papyrus could g-gather more than you...”

Undyne’s casual stance changed in an instant. “Eh?” she grinned toothily at the skeleton, “you think you can challenge me?”

“NYEH? I DIDN’T - ”

“You’re on, punk!”

Papyrus confused cry disappeared into the distance as Undyne dragged him off for a firewood collecting contest, and Alphys followed along behind - but not before he saw the look she shot them. Equal parts hopeful and pitying. 

And then it was him and Frisk, left alongside the stream. 

...It was a pretty area. Several small flowers bloomed along the side of the water, following its trail across the plateaus. That was the beauty of these untouched wilds, he supposed. Wild...but beautiful. 

“I forgot.”

Sans blinked, tearing his gaze away from the stream to look at Frisk. The sun was beginning to set, and the wash of orange and red behind her head framed her features. She almost looked like she was glowing.

“I forgot that I’m going to Mount Ebott,” she clarified, though he hadn’t needed the clarification. “I forgot that this was all...just for now. Not forever.”

“i know kid,” he mumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. 

“I was just...having so much fun that I forgot - ”

“frisk,” he interrupted. “i know.”

Frisk nodded, wrapping one arm around herself as she stared down at the water. And Sans struggled to think. Why had Alphys given them this time? Nothing was going to change. Frisk was going back to the Magisterium, they would get paid, and...things would go back to normal.

“Yeah,” she muttered, turning slightly to face him. She smiled, and...and it was a genuine smile, despite the sadness tinting the edges of it. He couldn’t find it in himself to look away. “And I...I can’t help but be...happy, that we were attacked by that Skyvern.” Frisk twisted her head away, eyebrows scrunching up. “I know how terrible that sounds, but...it’s the truth. I’m terrible.”

Oh...there went his hand again, moving without his permission. The soft skin of Frisk’s face felt strange against his fingers as he caressed one cheek, before he turned her head back towards him, meeting her eye-to-eye. 

And grinned.

“so am i, kid.”

Frisk was the one that moved forward first, a fact that he would remember later on. But for the moment, he only paid attention to the press of her lips against his teeth, soft and warm, as much as he was capable of feeling their softness and and feeling their warmth. His other hand, the one that wasn’t against her cheek, had migrated to her waist at some point, and her arms had come up around his neck. 

And he struggled not to clutch at her, not to keep her trapped in his arms forever. Because...because maybe he was projecting. Maybe whatever feelings he had for Frisk had come from a place of sympathy and empathy combined. Maybe, whatever this was between them was only a momentary infatuation on both their parts, and would dissipate as quickly as it had come about.

But they would never get to find out, and that...that was the joke. 

Loosely, simply, they held each other as they broke the kiss, and he rested his forehead against hers. Neither of them clung at the other, because the harder they held on, the tougher it’d be to let go. They both knew it instinctively. 

So why couldn’t he stop holding her now, when it was suppose to be easy?

“Then...we can be terrible together. Like a bad joke,” Frisk said - whispered it like a secret, one only for him, and gave him a watery smile on top of it. He pressed one hand against her chest, settled directly over the mark that would forever define the rest of her life. 

“heh heh...hilarious, kid.”

Just for him. 

 


 

“The Starlit Magisterium extends its full gratitude for your brave and tireless efforts of returning Frisk to us.”

“Yeah well,” Undyne said, hands on her hips, “it wasn’t anything big. Nothing we couldn’t handle!”

“Still, you cannot begin to understand the gravity of your services,” the woman continued to say, though she paused as a servant looking guy walked forward, carrying a gilded chest atop a pillow in his hands. “And we hope this will serve as ample reward for your efforts.”

“I’m s-sure it’s more t-than - holy crap!” Sans heard Alphys stutter, probably with a huge and wide-eyed expression. Undyne let out some sort of weird fish gargle noise as they looked at the, presumably, large amount of money currently being handed to them. 

For his part, Sans watched as Papyrus hugged Frisk goodbye. He supposed they’d been lucky enough to even been allowed through the fortified gates of the outer ring of Mount Ebott in the first place. It was only Frisk’s insistence that they be allowed in with her, and her threat of simply marching right back around, that saw them all standing inside the marble domes of the citadel itself. 

He wasn’t sure if this was much better, honestly. 

Frisk hadn’t been given much time either. The moment she had stepped through the gates, she had been whisked away by official-looking people, and it’d been everything they could do just to keep up. Even now, he could see the ornery looking human male attempting to tug Frisk away, even gripping one of her arms and giving it not so subtle tugs, and she reluctantly released Papyrus. 

“I’m afraid I must ask you to leave the citadel now,” the woman was talking again, as Frisk turned in his direction, “we have much to do now that Frisk has been returned to us. Please, feel free to purchase supplies in the outer ring before leaving Mount Ebott.”

“Thanks lady!” Undyne exclaimed happily, before turning towards them. The man had one arm around her shoulders now, forcefully turning her away. “C’mon you boneheads, lady says its time to get moving!”

There was a veritable swarm of people around Frisk now, rushing her off towards the golden doors set off to one side of the chambers. Leading deeper inside of the citadel, probably. He could only just make out her brown hair, head half turned as she struggled to look over the crowd of people pushing her around, and -

- the doors closed shut. 

“S-Sans?”

Oh...that was Alphys, staring up at him with concern on her face. Or was that pity again? Heh heh...he didn’t know. 

And he didn’t really care, either.

“let’s go.”

Mount Ebott pretty much referred to the grand citadel located near the top of the mountain itself, and the surrounding rings were...not really enough to be called cities. The whole place functioned as the headquarters for the Starlit Magisterium, so there wasn’t a place for vendors, traders, merchants...no economy to sustain travelers. This wasn’t a place for travelers, only those needed by the Magisterium. 

There were, however, a few scattered vendors in the outer ring, and one tavern. Apparently just enough for passing people of importance to be allowed inside the gates or to trade with, and no more. And that’s where they found themselves after an impromptu shopping spree, led mostly by Undyne. 

“I’M GOING TO MISS FRISK,” Papyrus murmured, with a suspicious sort of sniffle as he wiped at his eyes. “BUT WE CAN COME SEE HER ON OUR WAY BACK FROM NEW HAVEN, RIGHT?”

His brother was addressing all of them, but he didn’t have to look up to know that Papyrus was looking at him. His brother always looked to him for reassurances, and he was always the first to give them to him. 

“...yeah. heh heh. maybe.”

Papyrus nodded, and he...nodded, as well.

That’s right...why was he acting like the end of the world had come? He still had Papyrus to look out for, and Undyne and Alphys too. And the Dreemurs, waiting for the documents stolen from their warring families. They still had their hunts and their contracts, and their whole lives ahead of them. He still had a life. 

“yeah,” he said with a little more enthusiasm, and shot a grin at his brother. “you’re right bro. we haven’t a thing to worry about.”

“SANS!”

Undyne groaned and Alphys giggled. And he grinned. 

“Folks doing alright?”

Sans glanced up at the friendly looking man with an impressive mustache as he came over with their drinks, settling them down onto the table. He wasn’t sure what had taken so long - they were the only customers in the tavern. “Don’t get many monsters around Mount Ebott,” he commented, “you might just be the first ones to ever set foot on this mountain.”

“UNSURPRISING!” Papyrus declared dramatically, “FOR I, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS, AM AN ADVENTURER OF UNTOLD SKILL AND LEGEND! IT IS ONLY FITTING I WAS TO BE THE VERY FIRST MONSTER TO SET FOOT HERE!”

“Who was first?” Undyne butt in aggressively.

“A-actually I think i-it was Sans t-that was - ”

“leave me outta it, buddy. i’m gonna admit defeet right here.”

The bar owner stared between them bemusedly. “So...you all here for the celebration?”

“C-celebration?” Alphys questioned, ignoring Papyrus as he choked inside of Undyne’s headlock. “Is t-there something special h-h-happening today?”

The man blinked, and paused, long enough for Undyne and Papyrus to stop their mock wrestling and stare - but his expression suddenly cleared. “Oh right, ‘course,” he laughed, holding a hand to his forehead, “you’re not...visitors are so rarely allowed in here that I forget most don’t even know about it.”

“ABOUT THE CELEBRATION?”

He nodded, his mustache tilting upwards. “Right. Everyone who lives on Mount Ebott knows about it, but I forget how little people outside of here know. The Magisterium performs this huge ritual thing every twenty years, and we all celebrate it afterwards. Apparently it’s what keeps humans and magic tied together, or something.” The man scratched at his cheek. “Lots of magic stuff and who-how, don’t know much about it.”

“A big party, huh?” Undyne asked, excitement lighting up her eyes. “Think we can stay long enough to join in?”

“Probably,” the bar owner affirmed. “What with the delay and all, they’re probably already preparing the sacrifice to use as soon as possible, so the ritual and celebration’ll happen right after, I’d imagine.”

...Wait.

“delay?” he said.

The man gave him a funny look. “Yeah, the sacrifice was suppose to be here weeks ago.” Once again, his expression cleared into one of happiness. “But some kind souls got her here safe and sound, thank goodness! Better late than never, haha.”

The table was silent. Undyne had even frozen with her mug halfway up to her mouth. 

And then chaos erupted. 

“S-Sans!” he heard Alphys cry out, but her voice sounded dim in his ears as he loomed over the bar owner, pinned down on the next table over with his magic. He couldn’t even cry out to the empty tavern, only choked and clawed futilely at his throat as if he could physically rip away the hold that had his back on the table. 

“where?”

“L-Let me go,” the man gasped, “h-help! Someone - gak - ”

“where?”

“A-at the top of the m-mountain! They c-call it the Room of Lifeforce!”

“w h e n ?”

“S-soon!” the bar owner wheezed, face beginning to turn an interesting shade of purple. “They were s-so upset that they were delayed, t-they probably started as soon as the s-sacrifice showed up! It’s probably already s-starting!”

He released his hold on the man, ignored him as he fell to the floorboards, and stalked out the doors. 

Which is when Undyne managed to catch him. “Sans, Sans!” she shouted, grabbing a hold of one of his shoulders. He couldn’t match her strength, and was ground to a halt as the fish monster came around to his front, “what do you think you’re - ”

He glanced up at her from beneath his eyelids, and Undyne’s words stuttered to a halt. 

“B-BROTHER,” Papyrus came up on his other side, Alphys close behind and wringing her claws together. “IS IT TRUE? THAT MAN SAID...COULD FRISK BE - ”

“you heard him, paps,” he snapped, “frisk is a sacrifice for their damn ritual. they took her in, raised her - all so they could use her whenever it was convenient for them.” He chuckled lightly, and ignored the way all three of them flinched. “they gave frisk her life...and now she owes it back.”

“Bastards,” Undyne growled, fists clenched tight next to her side, “what sort of damned, barbaric...animals are these Magistrates?”

“BUT THAT MEANS,” his brother said, eyes wide, “WE HAVE TO...WE HAVE TO SAVE FRISK! SHE IS IN TERRIBLE DANGER!”

“then let’s stop talking and go,” he suggested, already turning back towards the path up to the citadel, purpose in every step of his -

“Wait!”

He, Papyrus, and Undyne turned, incredulous, at the alchemist, still lagging behind with her claws clenched together. “What Al?” Undyne said impatiently, a spear already grasped in one hand, “we have to hurry! You heard the guy, they may already be starting!”

“But guys,” Alphys whispered, her tone even more wispy and breathless than it normally was, “guys, this is...this is serious.”

...Welp. 

Obviously.

“N-no, I mean, this is...serious,” the lizard monster repeated, looking more anxious than ever...if that was even possible. “This is t-the Starlit Magisterium. If we s-storm that citadel, and rescue Frisk, then that...that would mean war.”

Undyne froze, her aggressive stance shifting, and he could see Papyrus deflating in the corner of his eye. Alphys glanced back at him, and gulped.

But continued on. “War b-between monsters and humans. This could change...e-everything. For everyone.” Alphys looked down towards the ground, her claws clenched so tightly together that it was any wonder she didn’t pierce her own skin. “Are we...are we r-ready to do that?”

Silence, before every head turned towards him. 

And he -

He wanted to charge up there and Summon every Gaster Blaster he had at his disposal...but actions had consequences. He knew that. He would be charged a criminal of the highest order - Papyrus, Undyne, Alphys too, all of them - not to mention sparking a return of the war that had been tenuously resolved only scant centuries ago. 

There would be consequences. 

“...leave,” he said, still half-turned towards the mountain. But he waited. “get out. paps, you too. they’ll see three monsters leave, and only one attack the citadel.” He paused, before grinning. “i’ll save frisk.”

For Frisk, he would -

“FRISK IS OUR FRIEND,” Papyrus said immediately, “AND YOU ARE MY BROTHER. AND...AND IF A WAR STARTS BECAUSE THESE MAGISTRATES DON’T UNDERSTAND HOW TO TREAT THEIR FRIENDS, THEN...IT WILL BE UP TO ME, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS, TO TEACH THEM THE ERROR OF THEIR WAYS!”

“That’s right,” Undyne cut in, hefting her spear over one shoulder, fierce smile spread over her face. “Don’t think you can hog all the glory, punk! We’re gonna save Frisk together!”

Heh heh...so he wasn’t the only one who’d fallen for Frisk, huh? He grinned, turning back towards the mountain - before pausing, glancing over one shoulder. He wouldn’t ask, he wouldn’t pressure her...but she had to decide.

And she did.

“Okay,” Alphys whispered, and for once, her voice was strong and steady as she looked up at them, resolve clear in her eyes. “Let’s go get our friend.”

 


 

It was almost too easy.

Whether because they were all Boss Monsters, or because Mount Ebott just wasn’t equipped to handle magical attacks of this fortitude, storming the citadel became just about as exciting as a walk in the park.

At least through the first set of doors.

“W-We’ll keep them distracted here!” Alphys cried out as she dodged a soldier, the arc of his sword stopped by Papyrus’ shield. “Go ahead, quickly!”

“NYEH HEH HEH! THEY SHALL NOT PASS THIS POINT,” the skeleton declared, forming his magical shield wall that could hold out for as long as he could, “FOR THE POWER OF LOVE FOR MY FRIENDS CAN FUEL MY MAGIC UNTIL TIME ITSELF STANDS STILL!”

“thanks bro,” Sans called out as he and Undyne ran past, “i’m countin’ on you!”

“OF COURSE, MY BROTHER!”

“by that i mean i’m countin’ the time left until - ”

“SANS WOULD YOU JUST - ”

“Go!” Alphys commanded, and Sans saluted the two of them as they slipped through the side doors, away from the commotion. 

“Where are we going?!” Undyne growled, keeping up with his pace as they ran through the halls. And that was...a very good question. All the gilded, marbled halls looked the same. He could only hope he was heading in the right direction, towards the center of the citadel, the innermost portion. Where the guards and officials were probably more experienced and capable of dealing with monster magic -

- speaking of which -

Sans managed to dodge out of the way of a blast of fire, but Undyne faced it head on, running straight through it. “Ngaaaah!” she screamed, hand stretched outwards towards the large group of mages, and she - pulled them towards her. He could hear their startled cries as they tried to run, but her magic would keep them fighting her for a while. “Keep going!” she yelled out, “these punks are tough! We’re close!”

They would be okay. They’d all come out of this alive, with Frisk in tow. He had to believe that. 

Undyne’s distinctive battle cries faded away into the background as he continued to run, conserving his magical energy as best he could. He teleported away from two groups of patrols rushing towards the commotions before they could even understand they’d just glimpsed a monster in front of them, and the hallways seemed endless, but there was a definite pattern to them, becoming smaller and smaller until -

They suddenly opened back up, and directly in front of him, lay a set of gilded silver doors. 

He didn’t even think - he burst straight through.

And immediately his magic was surrounding the man bending over Frisk’s prone body, spayed out on the stone tablet. The man didn’t even have time to shout out in surprise as he was slammed upwards, straight into the giant red crystal embedded in the ceiling, and the others turned with startled exclamations. But they couldn’t react quickly enough as he unleashed a burst of Summoning energy directly in the largest group of them, sending humans flying every which way across the room. 

“Sans - ”

More of them - the woman in front of him flung her hands forward, an arc of lightning racing its way towards him, and he felt the impact and the shock of it, shuddering through his bones - and he turned it back around on her, Summoning the energy to absorb the brunt of the impact and redirect it towards her, the surprise on her face given only a fraction of a second to appear before it was replaced by agony -

“Sans!”

A scream of rage from his left, a blast of energy that scorched his body and soul, combined with more of them all fueling together, but if they thought that could stop him, they were in for a bad time as the Gaster Blasters were Summoned into existence with a simple snap of his fingers, bringing an end to their existences once and for all -

“Sans, stop!”

And then a sudden stillness, the break in battle as everything resolved itself at once. All around him, humans groaned, moaned - some lay completely still where they had fallen, but he didn’t care, he only looked around for any other threats, before looking back towards the stone tablet.

She was sitting up on the tablet now. She’d been cleaned. Scrubbed and primped, all the grime of their weeks long travel erased from her features. Gone were the practical travel clothing and cloak she had worn, now she was dressed in the finest white silk human money could buy. Perfect, and pure. 

Heh heh. The look didn’t fit her at all, but he bet they liked it. A fitting sacrifice. 

“frisk,” he murmured, rushing towards her and - and damnit, he couldn’t stop himself from throwing his arms around her, because they had been so close to killing her. “frisk, we don’t have time, we have to leave.”

“Sans,” she said, and though her voice was steady, her arms trembled around him.

“later,” he ordered, because he had to go back and get Paps and Undyne and Alphys, and then they would leave the damn Magisterium behind and figure out what to do afterwards. “we have to go, now.”

“Sans wait - ”

“trust me frisk,” he said, finally releasing his hold around her to grab onto her hand, pulling her down from the stone tablet, and didn’t even register how she pulled back away from him. “they were going to sacrifice you like an animal, for some ritual, but i don’t know how many more our on their way to - ”

“I know.”

To...

- what?

Sans was vaguely aware that he had dropped Frisk’s hand, but his eyes were trained on the human’s face as she took a step back towards the tablet, hand clenched in front of her. “I know,” she repeated, glancing down at the floor, before looking back up at him, and her expression...

No. C’mon, kid.

“I told you,” Frisk whispered, “they saved me. They gave me everything when I had...nothing. And I...” she trailed off, hand fidgeting uncomfortably in her fine silken dress. “I owe them.”

“you don’t owe them shit,” he snapped, stalking forward, because of course the Magisterium felt they were owed. As if showering Frisk with gifts and a luxurious lifestyle compensated for the life they were taking. “kid, come on, this is crazy. let’s get out of here and - ”

“Magic.”

The randomness of the statement brought him up short. “what?”

“Magic,” Frisk repeated, “human magic. It’s how they...why humans can use magic. This ritual...this sacrifice...without it, humans will lose the ability to wield magic.”

She looked upwards, and he followed her gaze.

Above them, the crystal pulsed with an ominous red light, almost blood red in color. It seemed muted or dulled somehow, as if whatever energy that was powering it had almost run dry. As if it needed -

- another life source -

“Humans are so dependent on magic, now,” she said. Stated, like a fact of life. Humans need magic. I need to die. “If we couldn’t use magic anymore, we’d...humanity would fall.” Frisk shook her head, and he tried his very hardest not to shake her. “Don’t you see, Sans? They...they need me.”

She was serious. She wanted to sacrifice herself for the good of humanity. She wanted to...

...

“frisk.”

She squared her shoulders, already ready to defend her decision. And he could force her - he knew it, and she knew it. He could force her to leave these chambers. But she would never stop trying to run from him, and she would never, ever, forgive him for taking the choice away from her. 

She wanted...

“you never answered my question.”

She hadn’t been expecting that. “Wha...what?” she asked, staring at him. 

And he grinned.

“do you want to?”

Her mouth opened automatically, and he was moving before he knew it, thrusting one hand across her mouth and forestalling the inevitable affirmation.

“frisk.”

Her eyes, closed and secretive, looked at him, and yet somehow, he knew she was giving him a wide-eyed stare. 

“do you want to.”

Do you want to stay with the Magisterium? 

Do you want to owe your life to them? 

Do you want to die?

A drop of wetness ran down his hand, and even though he was staring straight at her, it took him a moment to realize she was crying. Tears, just a few of them, slipped out from beneath her closed eyelids, and he let her silently cry for a long moment, before he slowly - carefully - removed her hand. 

And she -

whispered

“No.”

Something loosened inside his chest. 

“No,” she repeated, and...and the floodgates opened. 

His arms opened automatically as she folded into his embrace, his coat only partially muffling her repeated cries. “I don’t want to die!” she moaned, and clutched at him, and he couldn’t do anything but hold her close, “I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!”

“i know kid,” he murmured into her hair, “i know.”

And he did. 

The Magisterium had wanted her for her determination to die. He knew that. Her will to die for her species, for their betterment and continued happiness. That’s what they had wanted.

But her determination to live -

That’s what they had needed.

That’s what they had always needed in every victim, no matter how much they tried to play it like a noble sacrifice. The will to go on, the power to continue...that’s the life force that had kept their crystal powered through all these countless centuries.

And finally, for the first time since the Starlit Magisterium had been established - that determination had backfired on them. 

And it never would again, as Sans snapped his fingers, and Summoned them. Twenty of them, thirty of them. More? It didn’t matter. 

All that mattered was Frisk’s muffled sobs into his garments, soaking up her tears as the room lit up behind them, shattering the last remnants of an era into a million dully colored fragments all over the beautifully marbled floor. 

 


 

“I swear punk, you punch like an old Whimsum!”

“I’m trying.”

“Well try harder! Like this - ngaaaah!”

“N-ngaaah!”

“Woah wait, time out!” Undyne cried, even going so far as to hold her arms in front of her like a giant ‘x’. “Wrong! First rule of engagement - never steal someone else’s war cry!”

Frisk frowned bemusedly. “Is that really a rule of - ”

“Papyrus!” the fish monster bellowed, and the skeleton popped his head out of the window, a bowl of those baked flour strings he liked held in his arms. “Get over here and show this human how it’s done!”

“WITH PLEASURE!” his brother bellowed right back, dropping whatever he was making and leaping out of the window to join them. They’d learned to just leave the windows open a long time ago. “FRISK,” he announced once he’d stuck the landing, “ALLOW ME, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS, TO DEMONSTRATE!” He sucked in a loud breath. 

And then -

“NYEH HEH HEH!”

“Louder, Papyrus!” Undnye commanded, fists raised towards the sky, “strike fear into the hearts of your enemies!”

“NYEH HEH HEEEEEH!”

“Louder!”

“NYEH HEH HEEEEEEEH!”

On the other side of the garden, Alphys bashfully watched as Undyne attempted to get Papyrus to scream his lungs out, sitting in the middle of her alchemy garden. She looked torn between exasperation and fondness as she attempted to stay focused...though that look quickly morphed into anxiety whenever the two of them got within five feet of her precious supply of ingredients.

For his part, Sans simply basked in the sunlight, arms underneath his head. It was a rare moment of reprieve that they had found, hiding out with the Dreemur family. Of course, Asgore and Tori had immediately offered them a place to stay after word had gotten out of some renegade monsters who’d attacked Mount Ebott, but they’d wanted to hang out in the wilds a bit. At least until the most obnoxious of the immediate rumors had died down.

Except the one that said a skeleton had killed all the guards of the citadel with the weird monster magic of his puns, laughing them all to death. He liked that one. 

Sometimes, he wondered if the two goat Bosses would’ve been able to afford to offer them a place to lay low, if war had broken out between monsters and humans. It was still on the fence, even months after the incident. But with magic no longer an option for humans to fight with, he supposed it wasn’t surprising that they hadn’t immediately leapt to a full blown war with the still very much able to use magic monsters. 

“Talen for your thoughts?”

Sans peeked one eye open, and even though he was already grinning, he felt his smile stretch wider. Frisk was dirty and covered with smudges from face-planting into the dirt so many times, courtesy of a very enthusiastic fish. Without her healing magic, Frisk had literally zero skills to offer up their adventuring group.

Somehow, they’d all been okay with that. 

All except for Frisk. She was, now, slowly learning how to handle herself with a small dagger and some basic hand to hand combat...or should he say hand to fin combat, pfft. 

“probably overpaying for them, kid,” he commented, as Frisk sat down to join him on his nice patch of grass. “just thinking about before. things kinda worked out pretty nice for us.”

Frisk nodded, though a shadow passed over her face, one that had him opening up both eyes. “Yeah, things kind of did.” She paused for a moment - maybe thinking back to Mount Ebott, to the Magisterium members that had died that day. To the ones that had died during her departure from Khuvani. Some of them vile and evil people, and some of them -

Just doing what they’d thought had needed to be done. 

For a while longer, Frisk remained quiet, long enough that Sans actually felt like he might need to sit up. But then, she turned her head back around to look down at him, and smiled. “But I’m still not sorry,” she commented, and I’m still terrible.”

Heh heh.

“like a bad joke, huh?” he mumbled, relaxing once more into the grass, and let out a soft exhalation of air as Frisk abruptly joined him, pressing up against his side. He didn’t even think about wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her closer against him. He just did. 

“Mm-hmm,” she hummed, leaning upwards. He felt the press of her lips against his teeth, and closed his eyes, listening to the birds chirping, the wind rustling through the leaves above, and the sound of her voice in his ears.

“We’re hilarious.”

They really were. 

Because they had changed things. Not just for themselves, but for everyone. Monsters and humans. They had chosen themselves over others, and they would have to live with that. Monsters would flounder as the new dominant species on the earth, and humans would suffer without magic, of that there was no doubt. 

And, well.

Honestly?

They could both use their own damn determination to figure things out, from now on.

 

Chapter Text

 

He supposed he should’ve been grateful that, at the very least, he’d been captured somewhere cold and frozen. 

Of course, he’d have been even more grateful to, you know. Not be captured at all, but, well. Hey. He had to start counting his blessings somewhere. Sitting in a frozen jail cell that was only mildly uncomfortable, as opposed to, say, a jail cell suspended over a pit of lava, was a definite blessing. 

Not that he was speaking from experience or anything.

The grin on his face never dropped for a moment, but Sans couldn’t help but let out a long sigh as backed up to a chilled wall and slid down to the floor, slipping his hands into the pockets of his robe along the way. When he’d first woken up in his cell, it’d seemed like a joke - even now, it took a lot of willpower not to just melt his entire cage with a good ‘ol fashioned blast of concentrated fire. 

But he knew that this cell was only the first barrier, and, well...he didn’t have the skills to get past the most difficult one.

Because a waterbender prison, located in seemingly the middle of an entire ocean, made for a pretty good prison if you asked him. Even if he melted his way out of this cell, he’d have to figure out how to cross an ocean. 

Stealing a vessel was out of the question. The guards didn’t use conventional ships to access the island, of course, they had their waterbending talents to traverse the waters for them. Even with the rarity of waterbenders in general, they kept two or three of them around to ferry their canoes to and from the prison...even though that rarely happened. They had this thing about canoedaling with the mainland, pfft. 

And flying himself?...

His mastery over airbending was, well...he could mimic free flight to a pretty accurate degree. And hovering? No problem. But the problem was endurance. Because, well...compressing the air and manipulating it to maintain a flight pattern was a lot harder than it sounded, and he had no idea how far off the mainland he was. What if he lost energy, fell right out of the sky and into the ocean?...

Yeah...he could just sea a whole mess of problems with that plan.

Which left the only other viable option, which was...exactly what he was doing.

A rustle from outside his cell drew his attention, and Sans narrowed his eyes as the guards bearing traditional Water Tribe garb came into the room. One was a Gyftrot, sporting an impressive rack that almost scraped the icy ceiling; the other, a plain ‘ol human. Both of them came to peer in through the bars of his cell, and Sans reached up to pull the hood of his airbender garment down over his skull.

“Tch,” the human guard sneered, rapping on the cell bars with his spear. “Getting comfortable in there, Avatar?”

He grinned. “yup,” he answered agreeably, and stretched himself out on the icey floor, hands held loosely behind his head. “to be honest, i’d been looking for a nice place to just relax and chill.”

The Gyftrot twitched, but the human seemed to take personal offense that the icy cage wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as they’d clearly been expecting it to be for him. “Keep smiling, scumbag,” the man spat; literally, followed up the words by spitting into his cell, the saliva falling just short of his boots. “Pretty soon you’ll be off to the Northern Water Tribe, to answer for your crimes against our people.”

This time, Sans was the one to twitch, because honestly? That was starting to get real old, real fast. “which crimes were those?” he questioned, taking the time to scratch at his skull with a nonchalance that had the human scowling even harder. “i’ve got so many of ‘em now. you mean the crime of getting preserved in stone for over a hundred years?”

“The crime of leaving our people to die by Fire Lord Tengore’s hands!” the man snarled, smacking against the ice bars of the prison cell, and the Gyftrot breathed heavily next to him, agitated puffs of breaths exhaling in stark white tendrils of air. “You ran away and hid like a coward, and he took his armies to the northern and southern poles.” The disgust on the man’s face was obvious without even needing to look at him. “You were suppose to protect us, and you let our people die.”

Oh right, that crime. The crime of a moment of weakness, one that had gotten him and his brother encased in stone until Undyne had accidentally freed them. Heh heh. See? He really did have too many to keep track of.

“gotcha,” he murmured, scratching at his belly with one hand. “and, lemme tell ‘ya pal, i get where you’re coming from.” Sans tilt his head slightly, the hood of his robes shadowing his face as he stared down the human through the bars, and he tried not to take too much pleasure in the way the male started backwards a step. 

“you know, seeing how that same guy killed off the rest of my people.”

A bead of sweat had formed at the top of the man’s head, visible even to him in his lounging position on the floor of the cage - and the Water Tribe member turned away a moment later, trying very unobtrusively to wipe it away without being noticed. But he noticed he was being noticed, and stiffened angrily. 

“If...if the air nomads had such a poor excuse of an Avatar,” he said, and Sans closed his eyes, “then they deserved it.”

Of course the man needed to have the last word to exert his authority, so he immediately stalked off after saying his piece, the Gyftrot following soon after. Sans counted to ten inside his head, and then once more, and only afterwards, did he trust himself to uncurl his fingers from their fists. 

Heh. He really didn’t need to be constantly reminded of the mistakes he’d made, thanks. 

...What he needed to be doing was figuring out how he was going to escape. 

Sans pushed himself onto his feet with a gust of wind, as if he weighed no more than a feather. The sudden shift in orientation didn’t disorient him at all, and he pressed one skeletal hand against the prison cell, opposite of the bars. And despite himself, he frowned, fingers curling against the ice and not even forming a scratch on the icy surface. 

He could waterbend...but only a little. No matter how hard he tried, there was just some sort of...block, in his head. He was a total blockhead, as Paps would say. 

But he couldn’t help it. Every time he tried, every time he felt the chi moving through his body, around it, surrounding it, he -

thought of roaring waves, crashing down on him. Papyrus struggling, reaching out, being swept under. The feel on something wrapping around him, throwing him upwards and out, Paps being thrown right beside him as they hit land, hit an island, hit something. Lightning and thunder and a wave rising upwards above then, and he’d lost control of his body, lost all consciousness as rocks rose up on either side of him and Papyrus and -

Yeah...no. Water was terrifying. 

Which was really, really weird, he knew. He was the Avatar, and he’d always liked to, well. Go with the flow, as it were. To think that he’d wake up a hundred years into the future and find a problem with waterbending, of all elements...

Not to mention the fact that, again - waterbenders were rare. And then tack on the fact that Water Tribe history had him branded as a selfish traitor, who’d fled from the Air Nomads and allowed Fire Lord Tengore to rampage across both the Air Nomads and Water Tribes in his quest for world domination, and...

Yup. He wasn’t going to be finding a waterbending teacher anytime soon. 

Which was why they’d even been traveling towards the Northern Water Tribe. Funny. The Fire Nation had him labeled as a dangerous war criminal and enemy, and yet they’d managed to find Tori. The Earth Kingdom mostly lived in its own personal bubble, secure in its superiority, but they’d still managed to convince Undyne to come along with them. 

And yet the Water Tribe, fighting for the last vestiges of its culture and history against the Fire Nation’s global warfare, had the time to fight both firebenders and the Avatar. Going so far as to capture him, and the others were -

...Damn. He hoped Paps was doing alright. Knowing his brother, the other skeleton was probably blaming himself for not protecting him or something. 

Sans frowned, and spread his hand against the surface of the icy wall again, before pushing away from it, turning to face the cell door. Er, well...the cell bars, anyways, the door came and went as a waterbender guard saw fit. He spread his stance slightly, slowly raised his arms, and took a deep breath.

Fluidity. Motion. Conductance. Water was an element that shifted and flowed. He was an airbender, fluidity and freedom were the cornerstone of the element. Water wasn’t that far off. 

He could do this. He’d escape this cell, scout out the situation...and learn enough waterbendering to get himself off this icy rock. And, welp...hopefully not mess up so badly that he fell into the freezing ocean, triggered the Avatar State, and woke up in another hundred years to an entirely Fire Nation world. 

Yup. That’d be good. 

Breathe. Exhale. Breathe, exhale. Breathe...arms lifting upwards, fluid and rolling like the sea it self, and then - roll them downwards to -

- melt the entire wall. 

Except -

There was a waterbender standing on the other side of the wall.

It took Sans an embarrassingly long moment to realize that he had done absolutely nothing. Long enough for the waterbender to lower her own arms in a practiced gesture, another rolling motion across her body, and the entire cage melted away into a giant puddle. 

Aaaand, now his boots were wet. 

“uh,” he managed eloquently, arms still spread in a distinctive waterbending pose. “hey.” 

The human waterbender raised an eyebrow at him. Her skin and hair marked her as a Water Tribe native, or so he thought - her blue and Water Tribe-styled garments certainly did, though she seemed lighter than most Water Tribe people, but definitely darker than the paleness of Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom. And he could only guess she had blue eyes as well. Guess, because she kept her eyelids closed, and didn’t seem to have any intent on opening them anytime soon. She was looking right at him however...and not saying a word. 

“...listen, buddy,” Sans said, and finally found the thought process to lower his arms and not look like an moron, shoving them into the pockets of his robes. “not that i’m not grateful for the assist, but, uh...” She tilt her head as he shrugged, and winked at her. “water you doing, exactly?”

Her deadpanned expression twitched. That looked like a smile. Was it a smile? It was difficult to say. 

But in the end it didn’t even matter, as all of a sudden, a very familiar skull poked its way around the doorway of the prison. 

“SANS!”

“paps!” he called out, waterbender completely forgotten as the staff user rushed inside, sweeping him into a hug. Sans didn’t even mind as he was picked straight off the icy floor, squeezing his brother just as tightly as he was being held in return. “i don’t - how’d you find - ”

“NYOO HOO HOO!” his brother cried, and now the squeezing was actually starting to hurt enough for him to slap at the other skeleton’s arms. “BROTHER! I’M SO GLAD WE FOUND YOU! I WAS SO WORRIED!”

“we?” he asked as he was put down. The waterbender had made no move to leave, but was looking anxiously down towards the other end of the prison blocks. “undyne and tori?”

“ALL HERE TO RESUCE YOU, OF COURSE!” Papyrus declared. “THEY ARE WAITING AT THE DOCKS, HIDDEN JUST OUT OF SIGHT AND READY TO SPRING A TRAP FOR ANY GUARDS THAT DARE IMPEDE THE PROGRESS OF OUR GALLANT RESCUE!”

“bro,” he breathed, and couldn’t help but reach out and clasp one hand against Papyrus’ shoulder, “you’re the coolest.”

Papyrus glowed with the praise, holding one hand against his chest. “BUT OF COURSE, BROTHER!”

“no, i mean it bro,” he said, releasing his hold on his brother. And the repeated praise was enough to make Papyrus suspicious as peered down at him, warily watching the progression of his hand towards the nearby wall. “really. it was really - ”

His hand hovered in front of the icicle, and all at once, Papyrus’ eyes got that bug-eyed look that said he knew exactly what was coming next. “WAIT NO SANS, DON’T, DON’T RUIN THE MOMENT - ”

“ - ice of you to rescue me.”

“NYEEEH!” Papyrus screeched, hands clenched into passionate fists in front of him. “THIS GALLANT RESCUE IS RUINED! WHY MUST YOU CORRUPT EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH WITH YOUR TERRIBLE PUNS?!”

“c’mon bro, i think you just need to chill out a bit.”

“NO!”

“icy you’ve got a problem with me.”

“THE MOST UNCOOL BROTHER, EVER”

“welp, it’s not as cold as it was before, sooo...”

“SANS!”

“Um - ”

They both paused, blinking, as they turned to look at the waterbender. She had one hand outstretched towards the opposite end of the prison, where...where two Water Tribe guards had their hands, ankles, and mouths covered in ice and stuck to the wall, looking very much like they wanted to say some very unpleasant things. 

Oops.

“OH, RIGHT. ESCAPING,” Papyrus noted, one hand moving to his back to swing out his staff. “COME SANS, HUMAN! THIS WAY TO THE DOCKS!”

“wait wait,” he said in surprise, because...he didn’t know why he was surprised, he probably should’ve figured it out sooner. “she’s with you?”

“INDEED SHE IS, SANS!” his brother said pleasantly, courteously holding the door open for the both of them to pass through. “AND IT IS THANKS TO HER THAT WE MANAGED TO FIND YOU AT ALL!”

“oh.” He stalled, not really sure what to say to someone who was now probably a traitor and war criminal in her people’s eyes, the same way Tori was. But as Papyrus turned to lead the way down the icy halls, he reached out and caught onto one of her arms, grinning up at her as she turned to look at him. “hey. guess you really saved my skin, huh? thanks.”

She blinked - or at least, did this weird thing with her closed eyes that sort of looked like blinking - before she nodded. “Avatar Sans, right?”

“sans, kiddo,” he corrected, because if there was one thing he hated, it was being called by his responsibility everywhere he went. “just sans.”

She nodded again. “Sans,” she said, tilting her head downwards a bit as they turned to follow after Papyrus’.

But not before smiling.

“It was snow problem.”

...

Pfft.

 


 

“AND THAT IS HOW I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, LED THE MISSION TO RESCUE YOU FROM THE PRISON!”

“you’re the coolest, bro,” Sans reiterated as he leaned back on the edge of the canoe. Behind him, the waterbender continued to bend at a steady pace, slower than the frantic rush she’d set after they’d all tumbled into the canoe on the island, but still plodding along at a decent speed. “still can’t believe you all were able to track me down in the middle of the sea, though.”

“That was all thanks to this punk!” Undyne chimed in, reaching over him to deliver a punch at the waterbender’s gut. Sans intervened with a raised hand, tilting his head back to wink at the human, and she gave him a relieved smile. Anyone who spent more than five minutes in Undyne’s company knew the force of her punches. 

“Yes, without Frisk, I’m afraid we would have been completely lost,” Tori added, leaning over a bit to pat his free hand fondly. “We didn’t even know where they had taken you, let alone how to even get there.”

“INDEED! IT IS THANKS TO YOU, HUMAN!” Papyrus praised, from where he was standing at the other end of the canoe with one foot raised on a seat, giving him the overall look of a captain of a large vessel appraising the vast sea in front of him. 

His head was still tilted back some, so he saw the way Frisk smiled again, though there was a grim set to the line of her mouth. Something was clearly bugging her. 

But he didn’t comment on it, nor her sudden silence, because, well. To be honest? He was just glad to be out of that prison. 

And glad that everyone was alright. 

It took hours, long enough that Sans actually started to feel kinda guilty that he couldn’t switch off with the human at all. But eventually, the mainland came up on the horizon, and Undyne let out a gratifying whoop of excitement as Papyrus held a hand to his chest, his scarf billowing in the rush of wind passing by the canoe. By this point, Frisk was panting harshly and heavily, arms shaking with each movement she made, and in all honesty, Sans couldn’t really blame her for collapsing to one knee in the canoe, the moment it touched land. 

“Frisk!” Tori exclaimed worriedly, rushing over to the fallen human. Papyrus and Undyne exchanged worried glances, but focused on stalking further into the mainland to scout out the immediate area. “Oh Frisk...my child, are you alright?”

Sans started, glancing at Toriel - but if the goat monster noticed her slip up...or, was it even a slip-up?...she didn’t pay any attention to it, all her energy poured into the human below her. 

“M’fine,” Frisk murmured, weakly, and attempted to stand up. Bad idea - she barely extended her knees before she was collapsing back down, one of Tori’s hands supporting her back. “Just - exhausted and - ”

“I am not surprised,” Tori exclaimed, rubbing gently at Frisk’s back, “to have gotten us to that island and back...you poor dear, you must be so tired - ”

“Hey punks!” Undyne’s voice broke the circle of concern as the fish monster and Papyrus stalked back towards the canoe. “We need to get off the shore, Fire Nation patrol could sail by any second!”

“THE WOODS NEARBY LOOK CLEAR,” the skeleton added, “WE CAN MAKE CAMP AND DISCUSS OUR NEXT PLAN OF ATTACK!”

“Don’t you mean plan of not-attack?” Undyne couldn’t help but snipe. In a friendly way, but still with that underlying hint of incredibility. Sans knew Papyrus’ pacifist ways were a giant question mark to a monster like Undyne - most people didn’t really get the Air Nomad lifestyle at all. 

Him? He’d dropped the pacifist stuff a long time ago. But Papyrus still believed in it, fought with a staff and not a bladed weapon. 

Heh. It took a really cool guy to stick to his principles. 

Which is exactly what Papyrus was in a nutshell - a totally cool guy. “YES, EXACTLY!” he said proudly as Undyne rolled her eyes. “DEFEATING OUR ENEMIES WITH KINDNESS...AND PERHAPS A STAFF ACROSS THE HEAD IN THE MOST DIRE OF CIRCUMSTANCES!”

“Which is, like, every where we go - ”

“Enough,” Toriel snapped, with enough force that all three of them took an automatic step away from her suddenly fierce glare. “Frisk is exhausted, we need to find a place to rest. Papyrus, you said the woods are clear?”

“Y-YES MA’AM!” his brother - for lack of a better word - squeaked.

“Good,” the goat monster said, turning back to Frisk with a gentler look. Sans narrowed his eyes, watching as Toriel gently placed a paw back on the human’s...back. There was something about the way she was acting...the old lady had always been like a mother figure, since the day they’d met her. But she was acting...real motherly with Frisk. 

...Welp. Wasn’t that important. 

“here, i’ve got her,” Sans volunteered, stepping forward when it looked like Toriel was ready to simply lift Frisk out of the canoe herself. Because he knew Tori had to be tired too - she’d probably done most of the fighting on the island itself, breaking into the icy prison with her firebending. 

“I can carry her, Sans,” said firebender protested, already bending down to lift Frisk up - and started as she was abruptly floated out of her grasp like a leaf caught in a sudden upward gale.

“but i can do this,” he said, his airbending bringing Frisk to float gently down into his arms, one hand against her back, the other curling around the dips in her knees as he shot Tori a wink. “canoe?”

That did it. Toriel snorted, he chuckled, and they both ignored Frisk’s deadpanned stare as the goat monster finally relented, pushing herself upwards. “Very well,” she said, “Papyrus? Where is this clearing you found?”

“OH! HO OH, AH, IT’S JUST A BIT THIS WAYS - ”

Their voices quieted down in the distance, and Sans followed at a leisurely pace with Frisk in his arms. Behind them, Undyne began earthbending the sand to move the canoe further inland, and cover it up. She probably could have just dragged it up herself rather than struggle with the sandbending part of it, but if there was one thing the fish monster reveled in, it was a challenge.

“Thanks.”

“hmm?” he questioned, raising a brow and glancing down at his arms. Frisk made a broad gesture that seemed to indicate the both of them at once, and then he understood. “heh. don’t sweat it kid. least i can do.”

Frisk nodded and settled down in his arms, and Sans grinned, shifting her to a more comfortable grasp as he followed after Toriel and Papyrus’ voices. 

Camp was settled in quick time - a quick collection of firewood from Papyrus, a brief burst of fire from Toriel, and two large rock shelters to fend off the encroaching elements of nature, courtesy of Undyne. Spirits were relatively high, despite the lack of supplies and general uncertainty of what they’re next plan of not-attack was. 

Although, it only took about five minutes of peace before Sans became aware of Frisk’s melancholy gaze, across the fire. “what’s up, kid?”

Frisk started, and Toriel immediately broke off her conversation with Papyrus about food rations in order to flash concerned goat mother eyes at the human. “What?”

“c’mon pal, you’re not kidding me.” He paused to shoot a wink at Tori’s giggle, and chose tactful ignorance of the sound of Papyrus’ grinding teeth as he stared at the human over the flames. “you’ve been like this for a while now. what’s eatin’ at ‘ya?”

The waterbender didn’t say anything for a while, long enough that Sans glanced back at Toriel to see her worried gaze trained on the human girl. But finally, she shook her head, sending the blue bead in her hair flying about. “I’m just...I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Sans blinked as Undyne, stretched out on her side next to the human, tilt her head. “Huh?” she questioned, scratching at her belly as she side-eyed Frisk. “Whaddya mean?”

“I mean,” the human said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m...I’m a traitor to the Water Tribe, remember?” Despite the brave face she had on, Frisk stumbled over the last word for a second, and one of her hands seem to involuntarily rise, touching the necklace and its emblem that rested at the base of her throat. “I can’t go back to the Northern Water Tribe, and I...I don’t know what to do.”

...wait a second...

“you’re not - ” he started, then faltered as she turned to look at him, because it sounded kinda arrogant to say it out loud, but he was confused. “you’re not here to train me?”

Frisk did that weird eye-blinking thing again, confusion on her face, which is when Papyrus stepped in. “A-AH, YES, ABOUT THAT,” the skeleton said, eyes shifting about. “FRISK, WE ARE...OF COURSE WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE IN RESCUING MY BROTHER.”

At that, the troubled look on Frisk’s face faded away, replaced by something a little less stricken. “You don’t have to keep thanking me, Papy,” she said, squeezing her arms around her knees. “I did it because it was right. The Water Tribe has...we’ve lost sight of what’s really important in this war.”

“Then what’s the problem, punk?” Undyne butt in aggressively, but not meanly. Force was just Undyne’s second language, something she did without thinking twice. “You said it yourself, there’s no way they’ll take you back without throwing you in a cell. So why do you even wanna go back?”

“I - ” Frisk began, then paused, as if the question had literally never even occurred to her. “I’m...not sure.” She glanced down at her hands for a moment, before looking back up at him. “But what did you mean...train you?”

Welp. This was kinda awkward, wasn’t it? But waterbenders were rare - and rarer still, a waterbender who didn’t think he was the worst type of monster in existence. He couldn’t exactly be picky here, could he.

“listen, buddy,” he started, repositioning himself into a cross-legged position. “i’ll be honest here. i’ve got a limited time to learn all the elements, and, well. i’ve been looking for a waterbending master for a long time.” He grinned, leaning his elbows on his knees. “we’ve been getting pretty bone tired looking for one.”

Predictably, Papyrus let out a muffled sort of shriek and Tori chuckled into one paw, while Undyne rolled her eyes. Across the fire, Frisk’s closed eyes crinkled upwards, but she remained silent.

“I know this is sudden, my child,” Toriel picked up for him, and he glanced at her, eyes furrowing. But she either didn’t notice - or chose to ignore him. “And you have already helped us so much, much more than we can possibly repay. But...” The goat monster trailed off, paws clenched tightly in her lap. “Frisk...if you have nowhere else to go...perhaps, ah...with me, you can - ”

“Just teach Sans waterbending and stay with us, you punk!” Undyne interrupted, apparently finished with all the stalling. Which, okay...real subtle there. Way to make Frisk gape like a fish out of water. 

Heh.

“You...want me to teach the Avatar waterbending?” Frisk finally asked, and he couldn’t make anything out of her stare.

“hey, it’s sans, remember? we want you to teach sans waterbending.” Sans grinned at her, waggling the pointer finger and thumb of his right hand in her direction. “c’mon kid. it’ll be sanssational.”

“SANS, SHE’S NEVER GOING TO SAY YES IF YOU KEEP ASSAULTING HER WITH TERRIBLE JOKES AND PUNS!” Papyrus complained. 

“okay okay. just pretend i said what i said, sans the pun.”

“SANS, YOU DID IT AGAIN!”

“really? seems pretty sansless to rile you up like that, bro.”

Tori was doing her best, but by this point she’d dissolved into choked laughter poorly hidden in a sleeve of her garment, while Undyne had fallen flat onto her back across the fire, grumbling obscenities into the rock ceiling of their makeshift tent. 

Frisk stared at him.

He stared back. “so come on, kid,” he cajoled, snuffing the fire out a bit to stretch his hand across. “whaddya say? teach me waterbending?”

The waterbender was silent for a long moment, eyes traveling and accessing each and every one of them, before moving back onto his features. He didn’t drop his grin or his hand, both of them stretched wide as he waited, and watched, and hoped.

And he felt something inside him blossom when she smiled.

“Okay,” she said, reaching forward to shake his hand. At once, the bated breath the entire camp had been holding was released, and Toriel sighed in relief as they shook on it. 

“Then - ”

He perked up. “hmm?”

“...water we waiting for?”

...

“NOOOOO!” Papyrus cried out, probably alerting every single Fire Nation patrol within a five mile radius, but he had a little trouble caring as he snickered. “LESS THAN A DAY IN MY BROTHER’S PRESENCE AND YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN CORRUPTED! I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE SAVED THE PUZZLES!”

“It was the puzzles or the food, Paps,” Undyne deadpanned, because she had been on the receiving end of most of Papyrus’ complaints over her questionable priorities. 

“aw, don’t blame yourself bro,” he added, leaning off to the side to recline his back against Tori’s shoulder, raising one hand and wriggling his fingers at the human. “frisk can’t help but lend a helping hand.

The human in question chuckled, with more sincerity than she had in the canoe. “You’re right,” she said, glancing over at Papyrus’ despairing face, before looking back over to him and...and repeating his pointer and thumb gesture. “I can’t help myself around a...handsome monster like you.”

“pfft,” he snorted, over the sound of Papyrus’ silent screaming. Frisk chuckled again, and Undyne made some sort of wild grab for his brother from across the fire pit. For his part, he ignored the faint heat he could feel in his cheekbones, instead tilting his head backwards so he could wink up at Tori. 

He never did. 

Undyne’s and Papyrus’ snores soon filled up the clearing as everyone settled in for the night, and Sans pulled up the hood of his robes. He leaned his back against the rock wall, facing towards Frisk, and tried not to think about the fierce glare that had been on Toriel’s face as he slowly and fitfully drifted off to sleep. 

 


 

“Hah! How’d you like that?”

Papyrus liked it very much, it seemed, if his slack-jawed expression was anything to go by. Even Sans had to admit, it was pretty impressive. The larger than life rock statue of Undyne suplexing an even larger than larger than life statue of Papyrus would have been pretty impressive under most circumstances. 

“W-WOWIE!” his brother exclaimed, and there could have been literal stars twinkling in his eyes for how brightly they shined. “I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS...WISHED I COULD DO THAT!”

“Well ‘ya can’t!” Undyne declared, arms folded triumphantly over her chest. A little ways away, Toriel hummed to herself as she spread out all their spare clothing, a spool of thread and a needle in her paws. “But you can still fight, even if you’re too much of a little kid to kill! C’mon, we’ve haven’t trained in forever!” she challenged, dropping into a fighting stance. “Let’s see how much that staff of yours can stand up to me!”

“NYEH HEH HEH! A CHALLENGE! NEVER FEAR, MY GOOD FRIEND. I WILL WIN OUR SPARRING SESSION WITH THE POWER OF PACIFIST FRIENDSH - EEEYEK!”

“right, well,” he commented, as Papyrus was suplexed into the dirt. “we’re gonna go over here so that we can, ‘ya know. do what we came here for.” He tugged on Frisk’s arm, who seemingly had to force herself to look away from the entertainment of an Undyne versus Papyrus spar session, and began to lead her up the river, away from the commotion. 

The perfect spot turned out to not be that far away, just far enough to drown out the sounds of Papyrus’ repeated face-planting. The small spring was secluded, surrounded on most sides by boulders and rocks, with a small opening on either side that seemed way too narrow for the passage of the entire river. But inside the spring, the water was still, a pitstop for the liquid before it gained momentum further downstream. 

Perfect for their purposes. 

“Do you know any waterbending at all?” Frisk questioned, as he removed his outer robe. He carefully set the Air Nomad garment to one side, one of the last remnants of his people, before he followed it with the sash of the airbending master. 

He’d been the youngest airbender in the history of the Eastern Air Temple to ever receive his sash, and his arrow marking. And it was a record that would never, ever, be broken again. 

Heh...

“a little,” he answered, before he got too lost in dark thoughts such as, oh, maybe, the genocide of his and Paps’ entire people. “pushing and pulling, mostly. just what i picked up from splashing around in some puddles,” he chuckled, as the sound of water moving around behind him prompted him to turn around. 

And he froze.

Frisk was already in the water, and, just as he’d thought, she’d taken off most of her garments as well. He could see their vivid blue out of the corner of his eyes, folded against a rock outside of the spring. 

And he had to see them out of the corner of his eyes because, welp...

The front of his eyes was filled with Frisk. 

The necklace remained at her throat, but pretty much everything else had been removed. The pale blue undergarments she wore covered up her chest and hips decently enough - or he assumed so, he didn’t really want to look down at the crystal clear water - but their paleness only seemed to make her tanned skin stand out all the more vividly. 

And even as he watched, she slowly slipped beneath the surface, hardly causing a ripple, before she came back up just as easily. And the water clinging to her body made her skin and her hair seem that much darker, with shining highlights that twinkled and sparkled in the sun with every movement she made. Frisk shook out her head a bit, sending droplets of water cascading through the air, and it was only that movement that made Sans realize she was staring at him with a confused look on her face. 

“Sans?”

He started, taking a step forward - and ended up floundering in the water for a wild moment thanks to a misstep. He broke the surface with a gasp for air, flailed like an idiot for a moment longer, before he found his footing on the rocky bed below.

“s-sorry,” he coughed, gasping out some water and holding a hand up to forestall Frisk as she waded towards him, concern on her face. Her golden skin shone with each step, the water creating highlights that hit all the wrong areas, “i was just - surprised, i think - i mean - ”

The waterbender raised an eyebrow, deadpanned stare looking kind of bemused, but she eventually nodded and made her way back to her starting point, while Sans took the time to clear his head. Because -

Because, it wasn’t like he hadn’t known she was pretty, when they’d first met. 

Humans usually didn’t do much for him, not on their own merit - he could never really get over how similar they all looked to one another in regards to shape and proportions, whereas monsters were almost always distinct and different in nearly every way. Oh sure, he’d taken note that Frisk had attractive features, but he’d never really noticed that she was...well. Pretty.

Which, okay, he knew that sounded stupid, but it was the truth. 

“sorry,” he repeated, rubbing a hand against the back of his skull. “just lost my footing for a moment.” He grinned though, and shrugged. “but i’m not admitting defeet just yet.” Frisk grinned back at him, and he waded waist deep into the spring, winking at the human. “anyways...i’m ready for ‘ya.”

That...didn’t sound creepy, nope. And Frisk definitely didn’t pause and stare at him like that was creepy. 

Nope.

But finally, mercifully, the waterbender nodded, and picked up one hand.

“Waterbending,” Frisk said, and he watched as a delicate tendril of water was lifted from the spring, circling around her fingers, “is all about chi redirection. You have to move with the water.” She began rotating her right arm in a loose circle, and beneath her fingers, the water of the spring formed a small whirlpool. “If you’re too stubborn, you won’t be able to direct the water where it needs to go.” A rolling motion across her body, and the small encircle of water around her fingers were joined by a gentle wave that rose up and circled around her waist. “Too loose, and it’ll fall right through your fingers.”

“push and pull,” he recited, because if there was one thing he knew about waterbending, it was the fact that waterbending depended on a balance of moving and moving with.

“Right,” Frisk collaborated, and he began to copy her movements. “Feel the water with your entire body, not just your hands and arms. Sway with the movement.”

The small wave beneath him swayed with his hands, but as he went to pull it upwards, it stalled, trembled - felt like he was trying to pull up water with only his mind alone - and splashed back into the spring. Sans resisted the urge to sight. 

Because that’s what always happened. He just couldn’t...feel the water with his body.

Frisk seemed to get it too, because she paused, her own water slipping back into the stream without even a splash. “Can’t feel it?”

“nah,” he said, and struggled not to sound bitter. Fire and earth? He’d picked those up quick. So why water? An element that was as fluid as air, yet he could hardly even get it to move. “it’s always been like this.”

“Hmm...here, let’s try - ”

“huh?” he questioned, glancing up - and started as Frisk moved towards him, behind him, and - “u-uh...kid?”

- wrapped her arms around him -

“Shh,” she chastised, leaning close against his back, and he struggled not to tense up. “Just listen, and try to feel my chi, the way it moves through my body.”

“r-right,” he managed to get out, breathing tightly through his nose as he felt Frisk rest her chin on his shoulder to get a better angle. She was taller than him by only an inch or two, and she seemed to slot perfectly against his back, hands resting over his as he struggled to pay attention to the chi. 

“Try to follow.”

He did. Try, that is. 

Her hands guided his own as the water followed her movements, gliding gently across the surface of the spring, and it...heh. Took him a while to stop focusing on the physical press of her body against his. But once he found his concentration, Sans closed his eyes, tuned out everything else -

And just focused on the movement of the water. 

Focused on the way he swayed alongside her, the water flowing through them and around them and across them.

Focused on the way it felt to align his chi with hers, letting it lead him as his hands circled atop the spring. 

It felt -

It felt pretty damn peaceful, to be honest. Sans grinned, and opened his eyes. 

And blinked.

The water -

- trembled in his hold - only his hold, Frisk’s chi gone from his, and without thinking, he automatically rolled his hands outward, Frisk’s hands following the motion. 

And the water rolled in a gentle wave away from his body, towards the opposite end of the spring. 

He...

“that was,” he said, slowly, as if saying it might suddenly not make it true. “that was me. i...did that.”

Against the side of his head, Frisk nodded. “Mm-hmm,” she affirmed, and he could almost hear the smile in her voice. “I could feel something, something that was making you hold back...but, you got past it. At least for this. And this is just the start.”

“heh...heh heh.” He couldn’t help but chuckle, because that’d been all him. Frisk had helped him start it up, and he’d finished it off, and he chuckled again, turning his head towards the waterbender -

- and found himself face-to-face with her closed-eyed stare.

And logic told him to move away, that he’d forgotten how close Frisk was standing behind him. 

But that logical part of his brain was drowned out but the much less logical part that was focused on Frisk, her expression that seemed just as wide-eyed as his own, despite the closed eyelids. Her lips had parted at some point - in surprise, in confusion, he didn’t know - and he could feel that his cheeks had heat up, blue arching across the ridge of his nose and on his cheekbones -

He wasn’t sure which one of them actually pulled away. All he became aware of was the loss of pressure against his back, the warmth that left his body, and he came back to himself. 

“Very good,” Frisk said, already miles ahead of him as he blinked, arms still outstretched over the water. The human had a faint red tinge on her cheeks, but she seemed happy as she looked at him, arms held behind her back. “Not bad for your - mostly - first time.”

“ah...yeah,” he said, because he wasn’t sure what else to say. And when that happened, welp...there was always a back-up, and he grinned at the human. “so would you say...i made a big splash at my first waterbending lesson?”

She started, then giggled, and it turned into a full blown laugh as he laughed alongside her, rubbing the back of his neck. Their laughter echoed around the spring, bouncing off the rock walls, and when she stopped laughing long enough to look at him, really look...

Well.

He was...fine, with that.

“A big splash, sure,” she said, and he tried to ignore the thumping in his Soul as her smile widened. “But let’s make a bigger one.”

 


 

By the time they came back to the camp, Undyne had thoroughly trounced Papyrus a good fifty times in comparison to his two, and Toriel had gone through all the mending. There was also a small pile of fish that had apparently been caught by Undyne’s super precise method of earthbending pieces of the riverbed out onto dry land, scooping up whatever got caught in her solid earth net. 

Heh. Whatever worked. 

“BROTHER!” Papyrus called, as he and Frisk walked into the clearing. They’d set themselves back to rights in their clothing, though they’d need to do a little sunbathing to get completely dry again. “WE NEED FIREWOOD TO FEAST UPON TORIEL’S CULINARY GREATNESS!”

“you got it bro,” Sans said, in good spirits thanks to the productive waterbending lessons they’d spent most of the day on, “you know i wooden leave you hanging.”

The words were directed at his brother, who predictably turned an interesting shade of blue like he was attempting not to scream into the universe, but it was towards Frisk that Sans shot his wink, grin widening as she giggled. He continued to stare as she walked over to her pallet...bending down to put down her cloak, framed against the setting sun that cast her into a particular glow of red and oranges. 

“SANS?”

“hmm?” he murmured, blinking - and realizing that Papyrus was directly to his left. “er...what’s up bro?”

“HONESTLY YOU LAZY BONES,” the skeleton griped, hands on his hips. “THE FIREWOOD? FOR A FIRE?”

...Oh yeah. 

“right right,” he said, waving one hand over his shoulder as he walked into the woods, “no prob. you know i wooden leave you - ”

“YOU ALREADY USED THAT ONE SANS!”

“oops. i really need to branch out some more.”

“SAAAANS!”

Aaaand there was every Fire Nation Patrol within five miles, bearing down on them again.

Despite the possibility of said patrols being alerted by his brother’s anguished cries however, Sans couldn’t help humming lightly under his breath as he strolled through the woods, using gusts of air to pick up promising sticks. He was gonna stick close to the camp, of course, but...well, the waterbending lesson had remained at the forefront of his mind ever since they’d returned, and he wanted to savor it.

A reminder of his first real success at waterbending, of course. Not because of...because...

“You have to stop.”

“gah!” Sans gasped, dropping the firewood he’d been hovering alongside him with airbending. But it was only Toriel, paws clasped in front of her as she stared at him. “geez, tori, give a skeleton a little warning next time, huh?” he requested, picking the firewood back up in his hands this time. “you scared me right outta my skin, heh.”

He winked at the goat monster, expecting her to laugh - she loved that one. But to his immense surprise, she didn’t, and her stare...her glare only hardened. 

Which is how Sans remembered that hard look she had given him, the night Frisk had agreed to join up with them. 

And with the way Tori suddenly closed her eyes, took a deep breath...and then snapped them back open, Sans had a feeling that...well. He was going to be in for a bad time.

“You have to stop,” the goat monster repeated, taking a step forward, and Sans wished he didn’t feel like he was being cornered with no way out. “Whatever is going on with Frisk, you...you have to stop it.”

Ouch...cutting right to the bone with it, heh?

“tori, where’s this comin’ from, huh?” Sans questioned, as peacefully as he could manage. Because despite the blush that wanted very much to cross his cheeks at the realization that he’d been read so easily by the goat monster - and possibly the others - there was something else here. Tori could be a controlling sort of mother hen, true, but she’d known Frisk for all of two weeks. There was no way she could’ve developed this sort of maternal bond with Frisk in that sort amount of time. 

Heh...like he was one to talk.

But this was...did Tori really think she needed to protect Frisk? From him? After everything they’d been through, she really thought he’d...hurt her, or use her, or...something else?

She really thought that lowly of him?

“It doesn’t matter,” Toriel snapped, aggression suddenly rising to the forefront, and something that suspiciously felt like sweat slipped down the back of her neck as the goat monster took another step forward, flames flickering at her paws. “Just stop it. She’s not ready for something like this.”

She...what?

He’d been trying to figure it out, but now...now, anger rose up in him. “tor, c’mon,” he tried again, because he was still trying to be reasonable here. “she’s a full grown adult, i think she knows what she’s doing, pal.”

“No she doesn’t,” the firebender stressed, and now puffs of smoke were exiting her nostrils with each harried breath she took, rising in sync with her chi. “She thinks she does, but she’s not ready, there’s still so much of the world she doesn’t...she needs me, I know what’s best for her.” Two white paws raised upwards, fire racing across fingertips in arcs. “I know what’s best for my child.

My child...

And...

Just like that, the anger faded. “tori - ”

“She’s too young,” the goat monster snarled, speaking over him. “Too young and too naive, and too, stupid to know what sort of influences there are and - and she needs to be protected and cared for, and sheltered away from this wretched world.”

“tori, listen - ”

“No!” Toriel cried, and he could only imagine what it was the others were thinking back in camp, but he couldn’t help the pitying look on his face, one that just made the goat monster angrier. “Don’t look at me like that!” she snapped, and there were tears in her eyes now. “She doesn’t know what he’s like, what she’s getting into, and I have to make sure - all he has to do is listen to me and he’ll be safe - ”

“tor - ”

“I’ll keep him safe this time, I just have to make sure nothing and no one can get to him and - ”

“she’s not chara!”

She gasped, throat closing around whatever words she’d been about to spew, and across her fingers - in her eyes - the fire died.

Extinguished. 

“she’s...frisk isn’t chara, tori,” he said, as gently as he could, because...because he didn’t know how he’d missed it before. But it seemed so obvious now, comparing Frisk to the monster from his memory. The demon spawn that had relentlessly hunted them down to the corners of the globe, the existence of pure evil that had burned countless in his path, just to get to him.

It was a comparison that could only find similarities in appearance, and appearance alone. Similar hair styles, similar features. But in every other way...the ways that actually mattered, Frisk was...

nothing like that monster

Except -

Once upon a time, that monster had been Tori’s son. And he still was, probably, in Tori’s eyes, even if he’d long ago renounced his mother as a traitor to the Fire Nation, and had rescinded all familial ties with her.

“tor,” he muttered, walking forward. Toriel made no move to turn away, or even look at him. She simply held her clenched paws to her snout, did her best to muffle the sobs that escaped anyways. “it wasn’t your fault. it was never your fault.” Sans reached forward, gently, and lay a hand against the soft fur of her cheek. “he was...going to be what he was going to be.”

It wasn’t what she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear that it’d been her fault, that she hadn’t been a good enough mother. That she’d done something wrong, anything wrong, that had caused him to turn away from her and embrace the depravity of all her failings.

That her son wasn’t simply the monster that he was. 

But he didn’t believe that - couldn’t believe it. And she knew it, too. Because she held out for one moment longer, before she let out a sob, louder, uglier, and collapsed into his arms. It was an awkward fit - she was much taller and larger than he was - but he did his best to hold and comfort her, because...

Because Chara was, for better or for worse, her son. Her family. And if he’d know that, one day, he would have to face down Papyrus in a war that would probably end with his death, then -

Then he wasn’t sure if he wouldn’t just take his own life first. 

Eventually the sobs stilled and grew softer, and Toriel’s grip on him loosened enough for him to feel comfortable to let her go. The goat monster sniffed some more, wiping at her eyes, but he didn’t have anything to offer for her tears. So he...

Sent a gust of wind to pick up a nearby leaf.

“we should really get back to camp, tor,” he said, plucking the leaf out of his miniature tornado...before handing it to her with a sympathetic grin. “though i really hate to leaf things like this.” 

Despite the agony of the moment, Toriel couldn’t help the shuddering gasp of laughter, and she shakily accepted the leaf, gingerly moping at her eyes. “Sans,” she whispered, then stopped to mop up the last few tears that escaped. “Thank you. And...I’m s-sorry.”

He blinked, and grinned, and reached up to pat her once on the arm. “heh. don’t sweat it.” He hesitated for a moment, because he wasn’t sure if he wanted to bring it up now that the atmosphere had calmed down...but...”and hey, listen.”

Toriel wiped at her eyes, and looked down at him.

“you’re not the only one who loves the kid.” He tilt his head up towards the goat monster, and grinned. “don’t worry - i’m keeping an eye socket out for her, too.”

Heh. There was a smile - watery and tenuous, at best, but it was there as Toriel nodded. “I know you are,” she said, and reached down to hug him again. “I know. And I’m glad.”

...Welp. He had the blessings of the goat mom of the team, now. He wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but, well...soon. He’d be glad to find out soon.

Which is when the sound of a gigantic amount or shifting rocks rumbled through the woods. 

Followed by the sound of a gigantic amount of water rushing through the river.

Followed by a scream.

Toriel tensed up at the same moment he did, the both of them staring at each other...before they, as one, turned and ran back towards the camp. 

And found complete chaos.

“Bonebag!” Undyne roared, fending off an entire troupe of soldiers on her own. They were trying to push her into the water, maybe hoping she’d have more trouble earthbending in the murky and slippery rockbeds under the river, but the tremors she caused had them tripping over each other, righting themselves only to find the equivalent of a small boulder barreling towards them. “Across the river!”

He was able to get one look across the river, where the Fire Nation troupes were amassing, coming over in groups of threes or fours on the backs of their water-walking lizards. Ferrying soldiers from the other bank across to this side, their numbers growing with each fast-walking trip. 

And that’s when the first soldier spotted him. “The Avatar!”

“The Airbender! There he is!”

“Capture him! He must be captured alive!”

They came up fast, Toriel dodging to distract another set of soldiers, thinning out the numbers, but most of them came at him, spears drawn downwards as they charged and -

He ducked backwards as the spear passed over him, arms out and palms straight as he circled around the soldier, moving with the wind created by their attacks. It confused them, got the group bunching close together to try and box him in - and he sent the first gust spiraling to his right, causing three of them to go toppling over before he dropped down and circled his legs, the air tripping up another group of them. 

“NYEH HEH HEH!”

“paps!” he ground out, craning to look over the seemingly endless soldiers coming at him - and then gave up on that and simply shot himself up into the air for a brief moment, blasting downwards onto the soldiers to keep himself afloat longer. There was his brother, fighting off a small contingent with his staff. Holding his own for now, expertly twisting left and right and knocking out anyone who got within even a foot of him senseless. 

Sans fell back to the waiting soldiers, but he didn’t wait in turn, immediately bending backwards, horizontal to the ground, and shooting off gusts of wind from his clasped hands and one of his feet in opposite directions. They went flying every which way, were joined by their companions as he struck the nearest soldier directly over the heart with a blast of fire, side-stepped and stomped earth up and into the stomach of the next guy over and -

“Frisk!” Toriel cried out.

He whirled around, and saw exactly what the goat monster was seeing - the waterbender was backed up towards the woods they were coming out of, on the other side of the camp, the Fire Nation soldiers cutting her off from her source of power. There was only so much she could do with the water skein she’d managed to snag, but even as she expertly snapped the flailing strand of water back and forth, each slice from a sword cut it down to size, gave her less and less to work with. 

And that single distraction was enough to -

He grunted as he felt the heavy netting encircle his body, weighing him down, disorientating him. It took him few precious seconds to think of earthbending the net away, slamming his fists into the ground to send the weighted corners flying upwards - but by the time he got to his feet, he was -

surrounded

Spears pointed from every direction, fire ready to flare at the slightest movement. And he could see, through the small gaps in soldiers, the moment Frisk was overtaken and forced down onto the ground, Toriel slammed down soon after. Could hear his brother’s despaired cry and Undyne’s furious roar as they, too, were overpowered. And still more soldiers kept crossing the river on the backs of those damned lizards. 

They’d been outmatched. This time. 

And as Sans slowly raised his hands and the soldiers came forward with the rope, he had a sinking suspicion that he knew exactly who was arriving on the Fire Nation ship that was slowly making its way upstream. 

 


 

It wasn’t just Fire Nation. 

He hadn’t realized it in the confusion, but a good portion of the enemy they’d been fighting were pirates. Now that the Fire Nation soldiers and pirates had once again separated into their own groups, it seemed painfully obvious, their ragged and colorful appearances offset by the sleek and disciplined look of the Fire Nation soldiers. 

How the crown prince of the Fire Nation had gotten entangled with pirates, he didn’t know. And honestly, he didn’t really care. 

Because the monster had found them again, and, well. Honestly?

He was getting pretty sick of it. 

He tried not to pay attention to Tori’s trembles beside him as the ship crashed onto the shore, its steel-plated front opening up with a vent of steam. On his other side, Frisk tensed, and Papyrus gulped and Undyne swore, as another platoon of soldiers marched out of the ship. And directly in the middle of them was -

“Prince Chara,” what was probably the captain said, standing so stiffly at attention that he may as well have been made of stone. “We have captured the Avatar and his companions!”

“Yes, I can see that,” Chara drawled lazily, with just enough nonchalance that the captain froze up, the blood draining from his face. And Sans really didn’t like giving Chara the satisfaction of a job well done, so he just grinned as the Crown Prince of the Fire Nation looked down at him, resting an elbow in one palm, his other hand cradling his chin. 

Because, to be honest? Not like they hadn’t been in this same exact situation before. Chara stepped up to him and -

- wait. 

Chara stepped up to him...except he wasn’t stepping up to him. It was the anomaly, the difference in the pattern, that had Sans looking, really looking instead of just trying to piss the prince off, as one of Chara’s hands reached downwards. 

And pulled up Frisk’s chin.

“And you found my stolen bride. Someone’s been a busy trashbag, I see.”

He...what?

He looked at Frisk, completely thrown off. But Frisk’s face didn’t give anything away. She wasn’t scared, wasn’t angry...wasn’t even defiant as Chara tilt her head up further. She simply looked up at the Fire Nation prince, a quiet sort of resolve in her expression. 

She was -

“Frisk,” he murmured, and the sound of her name coming from his twisted lips made him want to puke. Preferably in a certain prince’s face. “Did you really think you could run from me, hmm? And after all the trouble I went through to make you feel loved...” The Fire Nation prince dropped her head, but his hand didn’t move very far away, and Sans tried very hard not to let his eye light up as Chara caressed her throat - and the necklace she wore. “I even made our engagement official with your people’s customs.”

For the first time, a hint of emotion passed over Frisk’s face. A slight tremble, a wavering. Chara had struck home, somehow, and as the smile stretched over the prince’s face, Sans felt the very strong urge to do something stupid, like leap forward and smack his skull straight into that demon’s face. 

“Load them up,” Chara said abruptly as he stood back upright, red eyes glancing over the rest of them. They took Toriel in and dismissed her in almost the same second, and Sans struggled not to react as he heard Tori let out a small sob from beside him. “And put my bride in my rooms. She and I need to...have a little talk.”

Just, stay calm...

“Hey, wait a minute,” one of the pirates cried. The captain, it looked like, with his impressively plumed hat. “We want our payment!”

Chara stared at them, one browed raised, and it was enough to make the captain pause in his aggressive march forward. Sans was positive he saw the man swallow. 

But then the moment was broken as Chara sighed, and stalked forward, reaching inside of his armor. “As we agreed,” he said, though there was a hint of derision in his voice as he threw the sack of gold over to the captain. “Twenty gold pieces for these Fire Nation fugitives.”

And beat of silence as the pirates all greedily gathered around the money. 

Before -

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!”

Everyone paused, even Chara, at Papyrus’ outburst. And either his brother didn’t notice, or he...just didn’t care. Because apparently...there were way more important things to worry about.

“TWENTY GOLD? THAT’S IT?!” Papyrus exclaimed, and a skeleton could not have sounded more offended if he’d tried. “I REALIZE MY BROTHER IS NOT NEARLY AS COOL AS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, BUT TWENTY GOLD PIECES? MY BROTHER IS  THE AVATAR, YOU NITWITS! HE IS SURELY WORTH MORE THAN THAT!”

Papyrus, what the hell.

“Papy, you bonehead, shut your gaping traphole,” Undyne hissed out of the corner of her mouth, somehow managing to sound louder despite her attempt at a discrete whisper.

Not that it did much good. “NO!” his brother cried out, and he looked...irritated, of all things. “IT IS AN INSULT! THE LEAST YOU COULD ASK FOR IS ONE HUNDRED GOLD PIECES! TWO HUNDRED! A BOWL OF BA SING SPAGHETTI! BUT A LOUSLY TWENTY GOLD PIECES IS, JUST...WRONG!”

The pirates were staring at him, now. “That Avatar?” the captain said, incredulous. “Your friend there is the Avatar?”

“You have what we agreed upon,” Chara suddenly snapped, summoning the Fire Nation soldiers with a twirl of his fingers. “We’re leaving. Soldiers! Board them onto the ship. Now.”

“You tried to cheat us,” the captain snarled, and as one, the pirate crew took one giant step forward, sending the soldiers that had been reaching for them scrambling back into a formation. And Paps was...

Paps was a genius. Because -

“We’re taking the Avatar and selling him ourselves!” the pirate captain declared, unsheathing his curved sword in one smooth motion, and weapons on both sides were suddenly drawn. Both sides stared each other down, Chara in front of the soldiers, the pirate captain in front of his crew.

A pause. 

And then -

“What,” Chara said, red eyes glowing in the last remains of the setting sun, “makes you think you’re the one in control?”

Silence.

Followed by chaos, once again. 

Sans was up in an instant, using a gust of wind to propel himself onto his feet as smoke bombs went off around them. To his left he heard the gurgle of a pirate going down, the distinctive flash of a dagger and bursts of fire outlining wide red eyes and a wide smile, but he ignored them, automatically turned to Toriel. Who reached up and burned the ropes off his wrists, and he winced at the sting of fire, but hurriedly returned the favor before turning to the others. Papyrus seemed to be cutting at Undyne’s bonds with a sword he’d somehow found, and Frisk was gnawing at her ropes with the determination of a gutter rat. 

“frisk, kid,” he called out, catching at her tied hands and startling her into stopping her quest towards freedom, “i appreciate the determination. but it’d be knife if we could hurry this up a bit.”

“SANS, PLEASE, NOT WHILE WE’RE RUNNING FOR OUR LIVES!” Papyrus bemoaned, but handed over the knife all the same, and Frisk was freed and they all began to - well. 

Run for their lives.

And they knew, instinctively, where they were running to. 

Undyne was the first to clear the smoke bomb cloud and reach the boat, leaping upwards to pound her fists into the ground - but the boat had become lodged in the wet mud of the bank by whichever idiot helmsman had been steering the thing. And her sandbending was still shifty, heh. Undyne gave a roar of frustration as he tried again, and only managed to move the thing an inch closer.

“Ngaaaah! I can’t move this thing!” she growled, and he felt his Soul plummet. There’s no way they’d be able to outrun everyone on foot, this ship would give them the biggest head start imaginable. They need to...they needed -

“Sans!”

A hand grasped his shoulder, strong and true, and he looked at Frisk, at the determined tilt of her eyes. “We can do it. Together!”

They needed waterbenders. 

The fighting was continuing on behind them, but Sans tuned them out with all the meditation techniques he’d learned from the monks, focusing on the water lapping at his boots as he lifted his hands. Across from him, Frisk did the same, beginning the motion of pulling at the water, and he copied her, fed from her, felt the motion through her. 

Push and pull.

And it -

“It’s working!” Toriel gasped, as the water rose over their feet, up their legs, and now, with enough leeway, Undyne rolled the sand underneath the ship getting it dislodged from the bank. “Everyone, we need to board, now!”

Papyrus latched onto the rope ladder hanging over the side of the ship, still within reach, and Toriel got up behind him. Undyne launched herself straight upwards with a propelled blast of rock, and Frisk -

Frisk moved to ladder, prepared to start swimming, but he grasped her arm and pulled her close, winking at her startled gasp as he transferred his arm around her wait.

“hang on, kid!”

A propulsion of air, up and across - and they were on. 

And sailing away, with no one any the wiser. All still caught up in their battle, and Sans felt a rush of relief slide over him. 

“Hah hah, yeah!” Undyne roared, pounding on her chest as the shore starting slipping into the distance. “You don’t mess with Team Avatar, you punks!”

“NYEH HEH HEH!”

...Heh. It wasn’t everyday they got away from an encounter with Chara injury free. Sans didn’t bother joining in the celebration though, instead turning towards Frisk, who looked at him with a wide smile on her face. 

A smile that disappeared, and turned to horror as a shadow fell across her features - 

He reacted without thinking, lunging at Frisk, the momentum taking them halfway across the steel flooring as Chara landed in the middle of the deck, the ring of fire flickering upwards at his landing like the signaling of an incoming blaze.

He -

Didn’t give them a chance to even react. 

But they moved on instinct anyways, pure survival instinct kicking in as Undyne leapt forward, relying on hand-to-hand combat without her element to use. Chara matched her blow for blow, evading and kicking and sending a fire blast directly at her chest, hot enough that the fish monster cried out and landed in a couple of crates laying about. But he didn’t even pause, just sent a streak of fire arcing across the deck towards Papyrus, fire that he blew away with a protective shield of air as Frisk leapt forward a rush of water raising upwards on the side of the ship, crashing down onto Chara who -

Dissipated it into steam with one stomp of his boot, and he grabbed Frisk’s outstretched hand, pulled her close with a fire dagger in his other hand and that too-wide smile stretched out over his face.

He was moving forward without thinking it, kicking the raised fire dagger and forcing his arm upwards, and Frisk was released as Chara sent three quick jabs at his stomach, blows that he swiveled and ducked and avoided like the master airbender he was - and Toriel leapt in, fire in her paws as she exchanged one, two, three blows with Chara, paw raised to deliver a burst of fire into Chara’s face and she -

hesitated 

- and Chara jumped on it. 

Chara didn’t hesitate, he didn’t even flinch as Tori went down, smoke billowing upwards from her stomach and face, and Sans felt something inside of him snap as he and Papyrus rushed forwards as one - only for Papyrus to go flying backwards, his armor - his armor broken and flayed on one side, showing the stark and vulnerable bone underneath -

And he faltered as Papyrus landed, and didn’t get back up.

And once again, Chara struck. 

avatar state, Sans thought, or thought he thought, head ringing where it rest against the unforgiving steel plating of the ship, c’mon buddies. i need help here. please -

“I was suppose to deliver you alive, you smily trashbag,” Chara was saying, stepping forward slowly, deliberately. His hair was a mess, his clothing burnt and slashed, but that smile, that damned smile, was as clear as day on his face, spread wide across the demon’s features. “But you stole what was mine...” He stopped, about half the length of the ship away, and tilt his head. 

And that smile...

monster

“So I think I’m going to do a little stealing back.

His hands, pointer and middle fingers pressed together, raised upwards, and across the steel plating of the ship, lightning arced and fizzled. And he had to move, he had to stop him, he had to do something, as Chara pressed his fingers together, and turned towards Frisk - 

- and released -

And -

He was moving with a power he hadn’t even realized he’d had, jumping in front of Frisk’s body as the lightning hit and seemed to fire every single nerve in his body at the same time -

As he felt the flow of Chara’s chi moving through his body -

And everything came to a complete standstill.

For one fraction of a second.

Before that lightning was suddenly racing back towards Chara, who stood stock still, frozen, and the expression on his face as his own energy was redirected back at him was -

heh heh heh...

Hilarious, right?

He didn’t even scream - didn’t have time to scream as he went flying off the side of the ship, propelled away from them and into the water. 

And he...

Tried to keep his eyes open, but it was suddenly really hard, because the steel flooring of the ship was up against his cheek again. He could barely focus on Frisk’s face as she leaned over him, worry clear as day on her features, and well...to be honest?

He didn’t know why.

Because he’d never felt better.

Heh heh...

Redirection, huh?

Yeah...

He could get used to waterbending.

 


 

“So I was promised to Chara. Our marriage was suppose to be an...alliance, between Water Tribe and Fire Nation. A promise of their neutrality against us.”

Sans stared at the necklace, resisting the urge to simply reach up and pull it off her neck. “guessing that ended up not happening, huh.”

Frisk shook her head, a wry smile on her face. “I was foolish. I’d met with Chara, thought he was...nice. That he was just doing what he felt he needed to do for his country.” The waterbender stilled, hand coming up to caress the necklace for herself. “But it was a lie. I realized that the moment we were alone for the first time. He made it clear that our marriage would...would change nothing.”

He nodded, leaning against the rail as behind him, Undyne groaned and made vague threats to whatever punk dared stand in her way the minute she was up and walking around. He heard Toriel tsk disapprovingly, probably checking over the fish monster’s bandages, while Papyrus was suspiciously quiet.

Probably trying out every possible spaghetti combination with the galley’s completely overstocked pantry of ingredients. 

“so why do you - ” he started, unable to help himself. And he flushed as Frisk looked over at him, tried to moderate his tone into something a little less...accusatory. “he made that for you, didn’t he?” Sans nodded towards her necklace, and again, her hand reached up to fondle it. “why do you keep wearing it?”

Frisk...

Smiled again. A bitter smile, this time.

“He made sure I’d never be able to throw it away,” she said, simply. “By taking my mother’s necklace and reforging it.”

...Ah. 

Welp.

Now he felt like a jerk for even asking. Sans rubbed the back of his skull awkwardly, unsure of what to say to take away the bitterness of the moment. 

“...But it’s okay.”

“huh?” he couldn’t help but ask, clearly not having learned his lesson. Because Chara had taken something she’d clearly loved, and forced himself onto it. How could she be okay with that?

“Mmm,” she said agreeably, staring out at the open sea. “Because it was reforged once before. So it can be done again. It can be given new meaning.” She paused, before glancing at him from the side of one eye. “By whoever it is that gives me a new betrothal necklace.”

Ah...that was his cue to say something flirtatious and perhaps romantic enough to make Frisk tear up, so he could sweep her into her arms and dip her downwards for an epic kiss with the sun framing them against the horizon. 

Turns out...he didn’t have to say anything at all.

The fingers on the side of his skull surprised him, made him start and instinctively turn in the direction they were moving him...and he knew the flush on his cheeks only grew in intensity as she pressed her lips against his teeth. For a long time too, long enough that when he finally realized he should probably put his hands to good use, instead of just gripping at the railing, she had already broken away.

And was glancing over her shoulder, one eyebrow raised. 

...oh, no -

“Hey hey, loverbenders!” Undyne whistled, “don’t you do anything I wouldn’t - ow! Tori, what the hell - ow!”

“Oh my,” the goat monster gasped in mock surprise, “I’m sorry, Undyne! If you’d just hold still - ”

“I wasn’t even moving any - ow, damnit!”

Frisk snorted as their squabbling went on, and turned back to him as he pulled the hood up on his robes, hoping their bright yellow would, somehow, wash away the bright blue on his face. Because, heh...he was, well. It wasn’t like he was embarrassed by Frisk or anything stupid like that, but he -

He just preferred Hood Town sometimes, that’s all.

And, welp. As he felt one of Frisk’s hands gently entwine through one of his, he wondered...

How much it would cost to reforge a necklace. 

Because supplies, clothing, and food be damned; the minute they hit the shore, he was going to find the best damn jewelry forger in town. 

 

Chapter Text

 

She wasn’t sure how she’d ever missed it, in the first place. 

The tree glowed, sparkled really, thousands of tiny little lights covering every inch of branch that she could see. She supposed she shouldn’t have been so surprised to see something like this in The Underground - there were literally talking flowers a couple of rooms behind her - but the fact that she had never seen this area somehow...made it seem more special than it probably was. 

She thought that maybe it was some kind of willow tree. The elegant branches swept along the mossy ground, some of them even dipping into the pool of water at its side, and the flowers ran all up and along the branches. 

But when she really thought about it, the tree sorted of reminded her of those pink blossom trees in Alphys’ animes, the ones that the main characters tended to gather under to confess their love to one another. Sort of. The way that there were no leaves on the tree, only thousands of the glowing blue flowers, made her think of those pink cherry blossom trees. 

Aside from the fact that the branches were, of course, dragging along the ground. 

Slowly, she moved forward, reaching out one hand to gently caress the nearest branch. It was feather light, moving without her even really touching it, as if her simply walking near it had made enough of a breeze to make the branches sway gently. She touched it again, rubbed the edges of one, soft petal with the tip of her finger. 

This tree was...beautiful.

...How had she missed it?

How many RESETs had she gone through, playing the same events over and over and over, and traveling through these same areas over and over and over? And yet she’d somehow never managed to find this tree. It seemed highly unlikely, and yet here she was. 

Although maybe, it was the years in this place that had ended up making the difference. Maybe because of her last RESET, before Flowey’s meddling had broken the option for her, and she had ended up living with Tori and Asgore in New Home. She’d lived in The Underground for years now - actually lived in it, not just passed through - as they’d spent the time finding a new way to break the Barrier, growing up for the first time since falling into The Underground. She’d spent years wandering through these areas, visiting the skeleton brothers in Snowdin, Undyne in Waterfall, Alphys in Hotland. 

And still, she’d never...seen this tree. 

...Could it somehow be related to that skeleton? The one she’d seen in only one RESET, through the door that had vanished the moment she’d turned her back. Would this area disappear if she left it? It seemed like the only thing that could make sense - finding her way into a large room that she’d never seen before. 

And if that was the case...then she only had this moment to get her fill. 

Slowly, she moved through the branches, watching as they seemed to both reach out and shy away from her movements. The myriad of glowing blue flowers should have blinded her, but instead, they seemed to only cast a gentle glow around her as she stopped right in the middle of a group of them, looking around at the flowers encircling her. 

Tiny flowers, mostly. The biggest ones were no larger than about half the size of her palm. She reached out and fingered one, head tilting slightly as she inspected it. 

Too small to be Echo Flowers...but...maybe they were a special type of Echo Flower that only grew on this tree? Gingerly, she grasped the branch in front of her, carefully bringing it up horizontal to the ground, one of the largest flowers in front of her mouth. 

And she whispered into it. 

“I am the Legendary Fart Master.”

...

Nothing. She didn’t know why she felt disappointed - the tree was more than beautiful to make up for the lack of sound mimicking properties - and she let it fall back into place. 

The flower -

twinkled

- as it fell. Like a tiny little bell, or chime. 

She stared. The branch fell back into place, and twinkled no more. 

Well, that was...adorable.

She picked up the branch again, stroking the petals of the next flower over, and raised it up to her lips. “Papyrus, the Great and Master Spaghettitore.” She carefully flicked the flower, and giggled as it twinkled as well. And the giggle was caught by the next one over, and she flicked it for another twinkle. 

She held the next one to her lips. “I love butterscotch cinnamon pie.”

“who doesn’t?”

She startled, dropping the branch back to the ground as she looked about.

There was no one, and nothing.

...Except for a pink bathroom slipper, peeking out from behind the trunk of the tree.

She grinned, a bit exasperatedly, because he always seemed to go out of his way to simply show up when she least expected it. But it wasn’t like she minded. She made her way towards the center of the tree, the slightly hunched over trunk, and peered around it. 

“fancy meeting you here, kid. it’s a real tree-t.”

“I’ll bet,” she chuckled, as Sans pushed himself away from where he was leaning against the trunk. “When did you get here?”

It was sort of pointless to ask. Sans came and went as he pleased, and never had much of an explanation for either. Not even the time when she’d opened the cupboard in their kitchen to grab a plate, and had instead found all the dishes displaced by a scrunched up skeleton.

One way or another, he always managed to find her. And she really didn’t mind that. 

He didn’t bother with a real explanation now, either. “dunno,” he said, shrugging, and scratched at the top of his skull with one hand, the other deep in his pockets. “i was taking a nap and running from paps before he could yell at me to recalibrate my puzzles again.” He blinked drowsily for a moment, before he grinned and winked up at her. “it’s a real puzzle how i ended up here.”

She chuckled, and his grin widened, sleepy look dissipating into the wind. 

“but, hey,” he continued, “that story’s probably more boring than yours.” She perked up, staring at him in confusion as he leaned back against the bark again, though his head was turned in her direction. “dressing down for the day, kid?”

...Oh. Right.

“Yeah,” she answered, glancing down at her simplistic clothing. “I told Asgore that I was going to go to Waterfall today, and he convinced Tori to let me wear something a little more...practical,” she finished, fiddling with her hair a bit as she glanced off to the side.

Because she loved Toriel, she honestly did. The goat monster had been more of a mother to her than her own mother had ever been, in every single RESET. But she wished she could just...get Toriel to understand that she didn’t need silk clothes, or a tiara, or the finest heels Gold could buy. Or anything in between. Toriel probably was...overcompensating, wanting to give her the very best life possible...and she appreciated it, she truly did. 

But, well. Traversing the Underground got pretty complicated, pretty quickly, when she went around in heels and floor-length dresses all the time. 

“heh. finally got her to a-dress the issue, huh?” Sans asked, leaning his head back to rest it against the bark. “i’d almost forgotten what you looked like in normal clothes, princess.”

“Sans,” she said, in a voice that was definitely not whiny in the slightest, “come on.” Bad enough that most monsters called her Princess as they passed in the streets, no matter how much she spoke to them individually, face to face...but hearing it from Sans, of all monsters, was a bit much, no matter that it was teasing in nature. 

And he seemed to pick up on her discomfort, because his eyes slanted downwards, and he held up his hands, palms facing forward. “sorry, sorry,” he said apologetically, “my bad.”

Good. She smiled, and leaned against the bark next to him. 

And for a while, it felt peaceful enough for her to simply close her eyes, basking in the glow from the twinkling flowers, the companionship of another. It made her sad to think she might not get to see this place again...if it really was a one-chance room that she’d managed to stumble across. 

“so what about you, kid.”

She started, turning her head slightly to look back down towards Sans. “Hmm?”

Sans grinned up at her. “i’m running from my bro and my work. pretty normal stuff. what about you? what’re you doing ‘round these parts?”

Oh. She tilt her head back, staring up at the glowing branches. “I’m not really sure,” she answered truthfully. “I was just walking around Waterfall today, and...and I saw this path leading here. I’ve never seen this place before.” 

Sans blinked, looking around as if he was actually seeing where they were for the first time. And then he chuckled, grin widening on his face. “welp, that’s not surprising. think they only opened this place back up a few weeks ago.”

Opened it back up? “What do you mean?”

The skeleton shrugged, raising his hands to rest them behind his head and closing his eyes. “this used to be the competing grounds for the regional championships,” he said, as if that explained everything. It really didn’t. “but after tori disappeared, they shut it down and sealed it off in respect for her, and moved the championships over to new home.”

“What...championship?”

Sans peeled open one eye, mouth tilting up to the right as he raised one hand and knocked on the wood he was resting around.

She turned and looked at it, and then noticed what she’d missed before, carved into the trunk.

Nose-Nuzzling Regional Championships Official Challenge Grounds

...

The half-snort, half-giggle made a valiant attempt to leave her mouth, but she managed to wrangle it in. Sans had no such compulsion, chuckling as he settled back against the bark. “These were the battle grounds for the...Nose Nuzzling Championships?”

“yup,” Sans answered. “you can see why. real romantic place. they opened it back up a few weeks ago. think they want to move the championships back over here.”

No wonder she’d never been able to find it on any of her RESETs, and even through her years of living with Toriel and Asgore in New Home. It made her glad to know she’d be able to come back to this place. “I hope they compete again, this year.”

Sans cracked open one eye at her again, seeming to know who she was referencing without her even saying it. “heh. if they do, they’ll beat out every other couple, legendary fart master.”

Yeah, of that she had no doubt. Things had been rough, when the Barrier had failed to come down and Flowey had ruined her RESET capabilities, but the two goat monsters had slowly worked through their -

...Wait. 

She sputtered on nothing but air as his words played on repeat, and turned away to hide the faint blush that spread across her face. Of course, embarrassment had never stopped Sans before, and she struggled not to flush harder as he chuckled at her side. Of course he’d been listening in on her whispering to the flowers. He’d probably been hanging up in the branches somewhere, snickering and giggling all the while.

“and hey, buddy?”

She pursed her lips, and turned back towards the skeleton. 

He grinned at her. “they aren’t echo flowers, ‘ya don’t have to talk to ‘em. here - ” He reached out one hand, extended towards her, and after a moment, she placed her own hand in his, and let him lead her away from the trunk, towards a thick bunching of branches. They tickled at her neck as they settled between them. 

And then Sans released her hand, raising his own upwards. She felt her own expression widen as his left eye, his magical eye, flared up, somehow managing to outshine every flower in the tree as he looked up at her.

And winked his black eyesocket closed. 

He snapped his fingers. 

At once, his magic extended across the area, a wave of gravity-manipulating energy pulling all the branches to one side. Not tugging them, pulling them over, like a child being held upwards on a swing, waiting for release -

And release he did, with a swipe of his fingers. 

She turned, flummoxed, entranced, as the branches swung back down, gently brushing by her face and her arms and legs. They flew around her almost in a circle, before swinging back the other way, blue flowers shining and shimmering all around her. And all the while, they twinkled, a thousand tiny silver bells merrily resounding in the still cavern. 

They started slowing down, momentum from their swing dying off, and still she watched as the flowers swirled around her. The Underground was filled with beauty, but this tree...well. She could see why the most romantic competition in The Underground had once been held here. She raised one hand, letting a branch sweep over her fingers as it swung by, and turned to follow its movement.

And found Sans staring at her. 

Amidst the swinging branches, the blue glow from the flowers stood starkly contrasted against his skull, and she found herself staring back as the branches slowly swayed to a stop. The pinpricks of light in his eye sockets were trained on her, and they didn’t even flinch as she continued to hold his stare, caught up in him as he was caught up in her. 

“Sans?”

He tilt his head to one side, mouth stretching across his face.

“You were right,” she said, running one hand over the nearby branch, the petals softly slipping through her fingers. “This really was a...tree-t.”

He grinned. 

And didn’t say anything more as she stepped forward, looping her arms around his neck and bending down towards his face. She felt his arms slip around her, skeletal hands resting against her waist, and smiled as her nose made contact with...absolutely nothing.

They’d never have a shot at the Nose Nuzzling Championships.

But somehow, she didn’t think he’d mind it, so much.

And, she thought as Sans leaned upwards, eyesockets falling closed -

Neither did she. 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Don’t think about it

Just move your body

Listen to the music

Sing oh, ey oh

 

The dance studio was packed, for some reason, and he leaned his back against the wall as the dancers moved around him.

Or rather, in front of him.

Sans wondered if the crowd was due solely to his early arrival. He usually left his vendor stand exactly at five o’clock to meet up with Papyrus and walk home with his brother, but he’d closed up shop early today. Something his brother would probably pick up on and berate him for, but, hey. Papyrus almost always had a bone to pick with him about something or another.

So he supposed it shouldn’t have been all that surprising to find the dance studio filled with students and teachers and performers as he waited for Paps to finish. Not only was he early, but the Monstum Studio of Dance and Performance had been gaining in popularity recently, according to his bro. It was only the second dance studio to cater to both humans and monsters in the city, and with the other studio all the way across busy downtown, Monstum had grown in attendance. 

Which, welp. Was still kinda surprising. Monsters had only started migrating to this city about three years ago, but the monster population had grown since then. Still, a lot of business, and the humans that ran them, were still wary and unsure of their presence. Mostly the ones in busy downtown, with the highest human population, while the outskirts tended to be more monster accommodating. 

And...well. He couldn’t really blame them. He hadn’t been all too sure of this move either, though Papyrus had been endlessly optimistic about this venture. 

As his brother always was. So cool, his bro. 

But Papyrus’ dreams about becoming a culinary master of fine foods (especially THE FINEST OF ALL CUISINE, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS SPAGHETTI) had ended up making the decision for them, one year ago. And the fact that a dance studio had opened up so close to their apartment was just an added bonus. 

Heh. Some humans might still be wary of them, but they hadn’t waited to capitalize on the fact that monsters expressed themselves by dancing. He was pretty sure two other studios downtown were in the middle of renovations to cater to monsters, too. 

“SANS! YOU’RE EARLY!”

“sup, bro,” he greeted amiably, not bothering to remove his hands from the pockets of his hoodie as the other skeleton trot up to him. Papryus was sweating pretty badly, but he had a gleeful look on his face as he mopped up his face with the towel draped across his neck. “you looked good out there.”

“NYEH HEH HEH!” his brother exclaimed joyfully, and Sans couldn’t help but grin up at Papyrus, taking in the sheer exhilaration that was obviously still lingering from his dancing. “BUT OF COURSE! WHEN IT COMES TO THE SULTRY RHYTHMS OF THE LATIN DANCE, I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, PUT FORTH MY HEART AND SOUL!”

“yup,” Sans agreed, eyes crinkling upwards as he noted his brother’s complete lack of defense and preparation, “you’re the soul master of the latin dance.”

“INDEED, BROTHER! AND IT TAKES THE MOST SOULFUL OF PARTNERS TO MATCH MY - HRK -

He grinned wider.

“SANS!” Papyrus immediately barked, and he snickered at the boggle-eyed look on his brother’s face. “WHY MUST YOU INSIST ON RUINING THE END OF MY EXHILARATING PRACTICE WITH YOUR TERRIBLE PUNS!?”

“dunno,” he shrugged, then balanced his back against the wall to abruptly raise one sneaker up to his brother’s face. “guess i’m just a pretty soleless brother.”

“NYEH!”

He chuckled, and tried his hardest to feel even a little bit bad as Papyrus angrily pulled at the ruffled neckline of his shirt, fanning himself. He really stood out from the other dancers - practice didn’t necessitate the full get-up of performance clothing most of the time, but Papyrus almost always wore them, ready at a moment’s notice to start expressing himself. 

“AND TO THINK I WAS PLANNING ON INTRODUCING YOU TO MY NEW DANCE PARTNER. NOW I KNOW BETTER THAN TO EXPOSE HER TO YOUR CORRUPTING INFLUENCE!”

“new dance partner, huh?” he questioned curiously, “is she any good?” The dance studio, Papyrus had told him a few days ago, had a competition coming up against Huster’s School of Dance, the other studio across the city that catered to both monsters and humans. A friendly sort of competition, he thought, but considering both studios were trying to advertise themselves as the best dance studio for monsters and humans to come together, well...he had a feeling that friendly would be defined by its loosest possible translation. 

“YES!” Papyrus exclaimed enthusiastically, the soul jokes apparently forgotten and forgiven - although to his surprise, his brother stopped and squinted down at him with a disapproving air. “THOUGH YOU WOULD KNOW FOR YOURSELF IF YOU JOINED THE STUDIO, BROTHER.”

Damnit. Back to this, huh.

“nah,” he said dismissively, shrugging his shoulders in a completely casual gesture that he hoped Papyrus wouldn’t start dissecting again. He was tired, he’d had a long day, he really...really didn’t feel up to one of his brother’s therapy sessions. 

And...and damnit, that look on Papyrus’ face didn’t leave. And worse still, it morphed into one of pity and sadness. “BROTHER,” the skeleton said, and Sans slumped down further against the wall, “IT’S BEEN AGES SINCE YOU’VE LAST EXPRESSED YOURSELF. YOU SHOULD JOIN! I BELIEVE IT WOULD BE A VERY UPLIFTING EXPERIENCE FOR YOU, FULL OF JAPERS AND CAPERS!”

Just let it go, Paps...

“WE COULD DANCE TOGETHER AGAIN. IT’S BEEN SO LONG SINCE WE’VE - ”

“listen paps,” he interrupted, raising a hand, “thanks for the offer. but i think you should ask the car instead.”

The non-sequitur threw his completely off track. “THE, CAR?”

“yup,” Sans said, glancing back up at his brother...and winked. “i hear it’s been trying to learn how to brake dance.”

...

“NYEEEEH!” Papyrus shrieked, both his water bottle and towel flying into the air, and anyone within five feet of him probably would have been tossed into the air too. As it was, his brother had no choice but to go stalking back towards the other side of the studio to find someone else to throw, muttering under his breath all the while about how uncool his family was. 

Which gave him the time he needed to calm down.

Heh. Paps wasn’t wrong - it had been ages since he’d danced. At least, danced with someone else. What his brother didn’t know what that he did dance every once in a while. Just by himself. 

Of course, even if he had known, his brother still wouldn’t have been satisfied. What was the point of expressing yourself if you didn’t have anyone to express yourself to? And the flow of the beat and rhythm that came when two Souls merges, their dances complementing and building off one another was -

Welp. It was why monsters danced, in the first place. 

And sometimes...why they stopped dancing too. 

“You must be Sans.”

He blink opening his eyes - when had he closed them? - to turn to the voice on his right, coming from a young human female who was -

...what?...

He froze. And stared.

Long enough to make her actually start looking uncomfortable as she took one small step backwards, confusion etched out on her features. “I’m, sorry,” she tried, her closed-eyes seemingly trained on his own eyes as her hands slowly crept upwards, as if she was attempting to ward something away. “I am wrong? I just thought...since you were a skeleton - ”

“AH, FRISK!”

He startled, felt the magic in his left eye flare out - he hadn’t even realized he’d summoned it, feet dropping into a half-spread stance, ready to break into the rhythm of hip hop at a moment’s notice. 

Papyrus didn’t notice. “I SEE YOU’VE MET MY BROTHER!” he exclaimed, cheerfully giving the human woman a pat on one shoulder, although a worried look crossed his face moments later. “HE DID NOT ATTEMPT TO CORRUPT YOU WITH HIS TERRIBLE JOKES, DID HE?”

The human - Frisk - glanced between the two of them as he returned to a casual slouch against the wall, and struggled to maintain his grin and ignore the wild pulsing of his Soul inside his chest.

False alarm. 

“I don’t, think so?” she half-affirmed, half-questioned, looking back at him curiously. “So, this is your brother?”

“yup,” he finally managed, and shot the human a wink that was probably more shaky than he had intended it to be. If she noticed, she didn’t say anything about it. “i’m sans, sans the skeleton.” He shrugged slightly, before he managed a more genuine grin. “sorry, didn’t mean to freeze up like that. you just...”

Papyrus’ eyes took on that signature bug-eyed look that did almost nothing to dissuade him. “SANS, NO -

“scared me right outta my skin.”

“HUMAN!” his brother requested dramatically, even going so far as to intercept an arm between himself and the woman. “PLEASE IGNORE MY BROTHER’S TERRIBLE PUNS! 

“...Right,” the human said slowly, turning to Papyrus, “I’ll try. Because he seems to be the...”

He perked up at the obvious pause, in the same moment Papyrus’ face fell, and he let out one whimpering, whispered, “NO.”

“...bone-a fide deal.”

The effect was instantaneous. 

He choked on surprised laughter as Papyrus screamed into the ceiling of the studio, and the human fluffed out her ballet skirt as if she hadn’t just caused a rift in the house of the skele-bros. Papyrus would never let him forget how he’d corrupted his new dance partner, at least not for a while.

But as he winked at the human, and got a cheeky smile in return, Sans thought that he’d be able to live with Papyrus’ grinding teeth for a while yet. 

Until she tilt her head in just that way, and Sans barely suppressed the shudder that shot through as in his mind’s eyes, he saw gently swaying brown hair, and red eyes that pierced him down to his Soul.

Frisk. Her name was Frisk.

Not Chara. 

 

Just move those left feet

Go ahead, get crazy

Anyone can do it

Sing oh, ey oh

 

“What’s your style?”

“hmmm?” he hummed under his breath, cracking open one eye to peer up at the human. 

Frisk didn’t so much as flinch. “What’s your style?” she repeated, hands on her knees as she bent over him somewhat, her profile blocking out the sun. “All monsters have a certain dance style that they use to express themselves, don’t they? What’s yours?”

Heh heh...somehow he had a feeling that none wasn’t going to be an acceptable answer to her. 

“i’m a mix,” he said evasively, putting his arms behind his head and closing his eye again. “don’t have a single style.”

“Really?” she said contemplatively, and wow, he hadn’t thought she’d be fooled that easily. In the past month, he’d come to realize that Frisk was a pretty determined human being who didn’t really understand the concept of no, and as enduring as that might have been in a young brat, a trait like that got kinda downright scary in a full grown woman. 

“yup.”

Frisk was silent for a while longer, long enough for Sans to start thinking that maybe she hadn’t been fooled after all. And he struggled not to grind his teeth together as, a moment later, he was proven right. “Why don’t you show me, then?”

“nah,” he said automatically, already knowing she was requesting to dance with him. She’d asked the same thing almost once a day since they’d met, sometimes twice. And one time, she’d even grabbed him from behind at the studio and tried to dip him, and had ended up falling flat on her face when he’d deftly side-stepped her.

Heh. He wasn’t a hip hop dancer for nothing.

“Why not?” she asked, like she always did, and Sans grinned. This was the part where she usually let it go, after a couple more rounds of evasive answers. He opened his mouth to -

“Am I no good?”

“uh - ” he said eloquently, completely thrown off target, both eyes opening. She wasn’t leaning over him anymore, but was still staring down at him with a frown on her face. “whaddya - ”

“Do you not like my dancing?” Frisk glanced over towards Papyrus, who was still finishing off his plate of spaghetti, surrounded by the remains of their picnic basket. “Do you - ” The human paused again, glancing down at her hands. “Do you not...like dancing with humans?”

“What’s the matter, Sansy? Don’t want to dance with me anymore?”

“kid,” he said slowly, because he didn’t owe her any explanations, none at all...and yet, he couldn’t let her think that. “it’s not you, okay? i just...i don’t dance.”

“You used to,” she immediately pounced, and paps, what the hell. “Papyrus says you used to dance all the time.”

Papyrus had told her that, but hadn’t told her his style of dancing? Weird priorities of information to divulge, bro. “used to, frisk,” he pointed out, making the effort to close his eyes and shuffle around to a more comfortable position. “used to.”

“Then why - ”

“HUMAN!”

Papyrus loud exclamation startled her, and Sans gratefully turned his head the other way as he heard his brother walk up to the two of them. “ARE YOU READY TO ONE AGAIN BE DAZZLED BY THE SULTRY RHYTHMS OF I, THE GREAT LATIN DANCER PAPYRUS?”

There was a short pause, the slightest hesitation, before he heard the rustle of Frisk getting up from the grass and brushing herself off. “Yes,” she answered, and it sounded like there was a smile on her face. “I’m ready.”

“NYEH HEH HEH!”

The sounds of their footsteps moved away from him, and Sans finally allowed himself to relax. 

He’d been happy for Papyrus when Frisk had started coming over to their place, and them to hers - turned out she only lived a few blocks away from their apartment. Papyrus had made multiple comments about how convenient it was, to have his competition dance partner so close to practice with. And, welp. Whatever made Papyrus happy made him happy, too.

But Frisk was...damnit. Relentless, when it came to him dancing. Maybe she took it as a personal insult, that he wouldn’t dance with her? Her comment seemed to indicate it. But at the same time, maybe it was just insecurity, feeling like there was something wrong with herself that made him not want to dance with her. 

And he didn’t want her to think that, honest - he liked the kid. She made Paps happy, forced down his spaghetti, and enjoyed puns. Heh. 

But at the same time...maybe it would be better to just let her think that. Because even if he had been willing to dance with someone else...he doubted it would ever be her. 

“Come on, Sansy. Just one more. For...old times sake.”

Heh heh...

Burn in hell, ‘ya freak.

The whisper of feet scraping across grass broke him out of his dark thoughts, and he knew, instinctively, that the two of them were beginning their practice. 

Do you not like my dancing?

He’d never even...seen her dance, to be honest. Hadn’t wanted to. Had no idea what he’d do, how he’d react, if he saw her dancing with sharp movements, dizzying acrobatics - a sharp smile and wide eyes framed against the setting sun -

Just the thought of seeing Frisk, who looked so much like Chara, dancing the same way as the other girl...

It filled him with disgust. 

Do you not like my dancing?

...

Despite himself, Sans turned his head to look. 

As he’d expected, Papyrus and Frisk had gotten into their dance. It didn’t look like their performance dance, that he only half knew by descriptions courtesy of his brother. Instead, it was probably just a freestyle sort of dance, one to help them merge their Souls more, get to know each other more. He wasn’t sure why they felt like they needed more practice getting to know each other, he knew they’d done almost nothing but dance together non-stop since they’d met. 

And this was the first time he’d seen them dance. He watched.

Watched as Papyrus expertly lifted Frisk in his arms, her legs held perfectly horizontal to the ground as she was carried over his head and pushed off, landing delicately on the tips of her toes as the skeleton extended his arm over her, the tiniest support in the touch of their fingers. Watched the way she cocked her hip and spun on the toes of her left foot, her stretched leg held aloft by Papyrus, before he used it to swing her around, once again picking her straight off the ground to rest her on his hip.

Watched as her legs held in a straight line on either side of his body, before pinwheeling back and stretching out. Leaping in a line to latch onto his hand, while he leaned backwards, the two of them connected only by the grasp they had on each other. Watched as she used the momentum of the pull to spin forward, toes of her left foot resting on the ground as her right leg went all the way into the air, and her knee curled over her head, while Papyrus stretched his legs out with a flair, hands around her waist. 

As one, they moved upright, Frisk in the air and Papyrus moving beneath her. 

Their dance styles really complemented each other well, no wonder they’d been paired together for the competition. Controlled, concise, connected.

No motion unaccounted for, no erratic and unpredictable dance steps. 

And Sans felt something in his throat close up as he watched her dance, watched them end with her head thrown back and her body held almost completely parallel to the ground in a dizzying dip. 

Watched them smile happily at each other.

Because Frisk’s expression of dance was...

Nothing like Chara’s.

 

Show the world you’ve got that fire

Feel the rhythm getting louder

Show the room what you can do

Prove to them you got the moves

 

The artificial waterfall and Echo Flowers made it a pretty popular place during the daytime, but at night, the park was always deserted. 

That’s because lights had never been installed in the park. Which was kinda surprising - considering how popular the area was, one would’ve thought that the humans living here would’ve made it accessible at nighttime, too. 

But something had gotten lost along the way - some money in city hall getting allocated to something or another - and the park had basically remained finished, lacking the street lamps that most other parks would’ve had. As such, no one went wandering in the park after night, despite the relative safety of the neighborhood as a whole. No one wanted to go walking around with only the glow of the Echo Flowers to light their path, after all.

No one, except him. 

Because, well. 

He didn’t dance with other people.

But that didn’t mean he didn’t dance.

Because of course he did. He was a monster. Even though he needed his hoodie to dance anymore, even though the thought of dancing with another being made him want to lay down and simple stop breathing sometimes -

He was a monster. And so he danced.

He stepped down on the heel of his right sneaker, grinning as it lit up with blue sparks of patterns. His dance sneakers, the ones he wore only when he snuck out at night, glowed the same blue as the flowers around him, the same glow as the sparkling water that flowed down the rock formation. 

They lit up with each step he took, matching his rhythm wherever he stepped. 

And it’d been a while since he’d managed to last sneak out of the apartment. Sans didn’t even bother glancing around as he pulled his gloved hands from his pockets, raised them to his hoodie, and drew it down over his head. 

Because the darkness of the hood, the shadow it cast on everything, was the only way he could find it in himself to dance anymore. It was the only way he could face the rhythm of his own life, what he’d become and what he’d let happen. He couldn’t show his vulnerabilities to anyone, even to the nonexistent partner that danced with him in the park, else they would use it against him to try and destroy everything he loved.

And nearly succeed, too. 

...But, well. Hey. It didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered, right now, was the right step.

Then the left.

Then both together as he stomped forward, right extended in front of the left, the shoes lighting up in time with the inner music of his Soul - and he danced. 

Hip hop was all about control. Locking. Popping. In and out, fast-paced and rigorous. He snapped to one side, sliding against the dirt as the Echo Flowers brushed against his his sleeves, moving alongside the rhythm he created. One knee dropped, framed agains the grass as he extended in a perfect ninety degree angle, pushing himself back upwards with only his legs, hands still held loosely in his pockets. 

Control over his own life. Expression of his own self. Everything was better when he was -

“Liar.”

His eyes snapped open -

And he misstepped, feet entangling against each other as his face rushed to meet the dirt -

Only to come to a screeching halt, one hand against his back, his legs almost parallel to the ground as he stared up at her face. 

He was frozen.

Not his hands though. One had automatically come up to secure the hood over his face - like what the hell, he’d been falling to eat dirt and that was the first thing his brain thought to do - but the other one was...clasping her own. She was expertly bending over him, leaning forward to keep her stance, and he wasn’t even sure how she’d managed to catch him when he’d been free falling to -

 

I don’t know about you

 

“k-kid!” he finally managed to blurt out, real smart-like, but he had no idea what to say. He was shell-shocked, completely out of his depth as she grinned down at him, because how had she - “what the - how’d you - ”

“You know,” she said passively, pulling upwards and bringing him along for the ride. His Soul lurched in his chest as her legs crossed one in front of the other - she was wearing her ballet shoes. “If you want to sneak around after dark, you probably shouldn’t be wearing light-up dance shoes.”

...Oops.

But he’d always been able to sense when other people were nearby, always been able to stop dancing and simply greet them as they passed by. He hadn’t heard...hadn’t felt her come up on him. “but - but you - ”

“Sans,” she interrupted again, which, rude, let him finish, and maybe stop leaning in so close to his face that he had absolutely no way to hide the rush of magical energy to his cheekbones, tinting them blue in color. Because her face was really close to his.

And so was her smile. 

“Dance with me.”

 

But I feel better when I’m dancing, yeah yeah

Better when I’m dancing, yeah yeah

 

She didn’t even give him a chance to protest. She only took two steps backwards, and leapt - actually leapt - towards him, her legs parting horizontal to the ground, and he -

His body didn’t even give him a chance to protest. His hands automatically reached upwards, wrapped around her waist to carry her safely to the ground as their Souls -

merged

Crashed together in self expression, their rhythms colliding to start the beginning of the dance, and some part of his brain railed and retreated, wanted to quit. But the other part of him - his body that felt the rhythm flowing through him as they interlocked hands, and she turned to look at him over her shoulder -

That part of him didn’t give his brain a chance to protest...didn’t give the logic and the confusion and the pain and the remembered hurt any say in the matter. That part of him simply...danced.

One leg raised upwards as she spun around, making her lean forward as they lay their palms together, and he dropped down to one knee, legs spreading in either direction before they pushing him back up, their hands never leaving contact with one another. And she was balanced perfectly on her toes, her extended leg returning to her body to arch and pull back and arch again as he walked around her, so casually, so...instinctively.

Like they’d been doing this forever. 

Their Souls were merged, helping each other coordinate the movements of the dance to better know one another, to better grow their love, the magic that let complete strangers flow in sync and harmony. And Frisk could feel it too, the same way he could as he slid behind her, grabbing her hand to pull her down so she had support to lean her body backwards and kick one leg into the air. 

Control. Precision. Every movement with purpose and meaning, with love and affection. Their Souls were merged...his Soul was merged with another person’s for the first time in years.

And for the first time in years, he danced. Truly, fully, danced. 

His hand was around her waist, his arm across her stomach as she leaned backwards, arms raised and one knee raised. The slightest slip up in his grip, and she’d fall onto her back against the unforgiving, cold dirt, and yet there was no hesitation, no reluctance on her face as she grinned up at him. Trusting him to keep her steady and pull her upright again. 

And he did, using the leverage he had on her to spin Frisk upwards, his hand transferring to grip under her knee in the process, the other one now supporting her back as her arms came upwards, wrapping around his neck. 

He stared down at her flushed face. 

Slow ballet, with its long extensions, its elegant flairs. Fast hip hop, with its snapped positions, its succinct transitions. 

They shouldn’t have been complementary. 

And yet...

He didn’t want to stop dancing. 

“Sans?”

He blinked - he wasn’t sure why. He’d been staring straight at her, held in his arms with their foreheads so close, they may as well have been touching. He had no idea what his own expression looked like, with his hood probably shadowing half of it against the glow of the Echo Flowers around them. 

But whatever it was she saw, it was enough to make Frisk smile...and lean forward to press their foreheads together. And he had a feeling that...

Well.

“Thanks for the dance.”

He had a couple of thanks to give, too. 

 

And we can do this together

I bet you feel better when you’re dancing, yeah yeah

 

Chapter Text

 

“Sans, you still haven’t told me why we’re sneaking around.”

“why? you think it’s pretty snakey of us?”

The emphasis on the wording probably should’ve clued her in, but Frisk just gave Sans her best deadpanned glare. All it did was make the skeleton kid grin wider, his grip on her hand tugging her along behind the bushes, and despite herself, she couldn’t help but smile in turn. She supposed that just maybe, it was her own fault for going along with Sans, who was clearly up to no good and would probably be getting slapped in the face if his mischievous little smile said anything. 

But she had always had trouble saying no to Sans. Even here, in this timeline, when everything had gone so wrong, it was difficult to look at Sans and not feel compelled to help him in whatever way she could. 

Because Sans had been the one to help her, again and again, in the Underground. Even when she had killed some of those monsters, unsure of what she was doing, Sans had been the one that had just...been there. With her and for her, even if she hadn’t known it back then. Showing up when she least expected with a grin and a wink, a funny joke or hot dogs to pile onto her head. 

It was because of Sans that she had RESET, decided to go back and do things over after she’d heard how messed up she had left everyone in the Underground. She’d wanted to go back and help her buddy. 

And instead, Flowey had corrupted her RESET button and flung her further back than she had ever intended to go.

“hey, buddy. still with me?”

Frisk started, realizing she had literally zoned out while still matching pace with Sans. He was half leaning around a bush - probably looking around for monsters that might interfere with whatever it was he was planning - but his head was turned back towards her, one eyebrow raised. 

“Yeah,” she answered, moving forward to peek around his body. They’d hopped the fence to the royal gardens a while back, and even as she watched, a pair of Royal Guards marched past the awning leading into the corridor. “You gonna tell me why we’re here, Sans?”

“nah,” the skeleton shrugged, crouching down to rummage around his coat pockets for something. The goggles on his head reflected the artificial light in the gardens as he pat himself down, frowning. “oh man, you’ve gotta be kidding me - oh wait, there it is,” he amended, grinning once more as he pulled something from his pocket. 

Frisk started - she couldn’t help herself. 

“Is that a...mistletoe?”

“hmm?” Sans murmured, seemingly less interested in her question and more interested in scoping out the gardens again. The Royal Guard pair had gone their way around the bend, leaving the area deserted once more.

Frisk wasn’t sure why she’d asked in the first place. That was clearly a sprig of mistletoe Sans was holding in one hand. But somehow, she felt that if she asked for clarification, it’d stop being a mistletoe and start being something that made more sense. “That’s a mistletoe?”

Sans finally stopped surveying the lay of the land long enough to register her question, and he turned his head back towards her with a gleeful sort of expression. “yup,” he said, with a pop at the end of the word, “borrowed it from al. she found this one at the garbage dump about a year ago, wouldn’t shut up about it for days.”

A year ago...she’d been in this timeline for about six months now. “Do you know what they’re for?”

The skeleton in front of her frowned, a bemused sort of look entering his features. “huh?” he questioned, falling back onto his rump, legs crossing as he stared at her, “don’t you?”

She was quickly losing track of the conversation. 

“Well of course I do,” she settled on saying, “but do you? That’s from above ground, isn’t it?”

Sans seemed to finally get why she was asking the question in the first place, because the confusion on his face cleared as he chuckled. “oh, yeah. the characters in al’s cartoons use ‘em sometimes.” The skeleton grinned at her, twirling the sprig between his fingers. “no need to throw a kissy fit at me.”

So he did know about the tradition, though it wasn’t anywhere near Christmas, or any sort of holiday, in the Underground at the moment. And she still didn’t know what he was planning, a fact - and none other - that made her heart pick up slightly as she glanced at the mistletoe. 

Was he trying to trick her again? She still remembered the faux pick-up line he tried with that falling-from-heaven bit. But if he was trying to trick her, then he probably wouldn’t have outright showed her the mistletoe. Which meant he was -

“you think it’s pretty snakey of us?”

...

“Wait a minute,” Frisk groaned, and by the widening grin on Sans’ face, she knew right away that she had figured it out. “Gorgette?”

“come on pal, just listen,” Sans pleaded, reaching out to grab her hand and tug her downwards. She complied with only a little reluctance, siting cross-legged across from him, the mistletoe held between them.

“i’m just playin’ a little prank on her, that’s all,” the skeleton said, confirming what she’d basically guessed already. Sans smirked. “she thinks i’ve forgotten about the dance. no way pal, this is payback.”

Frisk knew what dance he was referring to, the one Gorgette had basically forced Sans to attend with her in order to try and cajole Toriel away from her own date of Asgore. She’d mostly spent that night hanging out with Papyrus and Al (poor Undyne had been shuffled to and fro by her dad, wearing a dress that’d looked ready to swallow her at any moment’s notice). Pretty boring for the most part...although the dance had ended after a pretty epic clash between the goat and the gorgon. 

Which she, may or may not have managed to capture on her phone.

...Of course, knowing the incident that Sans wanted some payback for didn’t help explain his plan of action, and Frisk frowned down at the mistletoe. “So whaddya need that for?”

Sans face lit up. Apparently, whatever he had planned, he thought it was fool proof. 

“okay,” he started, and almost instinctively, the two of them scoot closer to one another. “i’m gonna hang this up over there.” a jerk of his head over his shoulder, and Frisk leaned around him slightly, spotting the awning. It was a white lattice awning covered with yellow flowers spilling from the top of it, leading the way into the palace itself. 

“and all you gotta do,” Sans continued, “is go find gorgi, and get her over there. and when she does, you just tell her all about the mistletoe and - ” The skeleton kid grinned again, winking one eye at her. “buddy? i’ll do the rest.”

She did not think she liked this plan. “You want her to kiss me?” she questioned, because she didn’t really see how that was any form of payback whatsoever.

Sans didn’t either, eyes widening. “what? no man,” he said, eyebrows furrowing slightly. “you just need to get her over there and tell her what happens when two people stand under a mistletoe. and while you’re doing that...” 

The skeleton’s grin took on a decidedly sly turn. 

“i’ll be getting asgore to the same spot.”

...Oooh. Now she understood. Sorta. 

“Don’t you think she’ll be embarrassed?” Frisk asked, which...okay, that was dumb. Of course that’s what he thought, and she wasn’t really all that surprised when Sans winked, and pulled his phone from out of his pocket.

“course she will,” he said gleefully, “we can a-green on that. and when she’s giving asgore a big ‘ol smooch, i’ll get photo evidence.” The skeleton smirked again, eyes taking on an almost predatory turn. “heh. then we’ll see what she has to say, next time she wants to drag me to a dance.”

She tried her hardest not to give the skeleton a deadpanned stare, but really, she didn’t know what else to do. Blackmail, Sans? Really?

Like that would stop Gorgette. The gorgon monster could be very determined in her efforts to woo Asgore, and she wondered if photo evidence of their kiss wouldn’t just give her more determination to use it as evidence for their unending love. 

But Sans didn’t seem to see any problems with his plan; he’d gone back to chuckling, re-pocketing his phone and waving around the mistletoe. “so? you gonna help me out, pal?” 

But then he paused, his grin taking on a more concerned look as he stretched out one foot, gently pressing down on the tops of her toes. “hey buddy, i don’t wanna step on anybody’s toes, heh. you don’t have to if you don’t wanna.”

Oh...

Darn.

Frisk sighed, before picking herself up from the ground and brushing off her shorts. “Like you even need to ask,” she said, raising an eyebrow at her best friend, and reached out one hand.

Sans’ expression lifted as he took her hand, pulling himself upright. “heh. good. ‘cause you don’t know how many lab shifts i had to trade al to borrow this thing.”

Probably a lot - Alphys took her human collection very, very seriously. 

Frisk didn’t give voice to that thought, however. She merely grinned at Sans, both of them taking on simultaneously determined looks as they gave their hands a purposeful shake, before breaking off - Sans towards the right, and her directly up the awning. 

The palace doors were always left wide and open (she didn’t really know why they bothered with patrols and fences, really), but she still kept to the most inconspicuous spaces possible, ducking behind pillars as monsters passed by. Gorgette was probably in the library if she had to guess, dutifully pouring over her lesson books. The monster princess could be a diva when she wanted, but she took her royal duties pretty seriously. 

And as she’d expected, a familiar, snake-filled head was the first thing she saw as she poked her head around the library doors - also open and unguarded. Frisk still glanced around, noting the emptiness of the library, before she trot inside. 

Gorgette was in the middle of sighing, her head propped up on one hand as the other lethargically turned a page in her book, but the monster princess started and blinked, finally noticing her approach. 

“Frisk?” she asked in surprise, looking genuinely happy for a moment, which surprised her...at least until Gorgette’s face clouded over, a familiar expression of exasperation clouding it. “What’re you doing here?”

Yup. There was the Gorgette they all knew and loved.

“Hiya,” she said simply, like it wasn’t completely unusual for her to be running around the palace. “Whatcha doing?”

The gorgon monster spluttered briefly, the snakes that comprised her hair also hissing their displeasure of the intruder. “You can’t be in here, human,” she said imperiously, closing her book with a flourish, “the library is off limits to commoners. Royals, only.” Gorgette folded her arms as she smirked down at her from her chair, clearly having no intention of moving from her seat of influence and height. 

And so, Frisk walked over to the chair opposite and clambered onto it, ignoring Gorgette’s scowl. “Sooo...” she tried, tapping one finger against the table. “You busy?”

Again, the monster princess floundered for a moment, a faint green flush passing over her cheeks. “Of course I - duh!” Gorgette exclaimed, “I’m a princess. I’ve got tons of princess stuff to take care of - you wouldn’t understand.” 

She was suppose to figure out a way to lure Gorgette out to the gardens, but she had a funny feeling the gorgon monster would ignore her if she just came out with. Frisk paused for a moment longer, before shrugging, and hopping down from the chair. “Okay then. Sorry for bothering you.”

She knew she had grabbed her attention when she heard the snakes inhale in surprise, mirroring Gorgette’s own gasp at the abrupt turn of events. “W-wait!” she called out, and Frisk turned with a raised eyebrow, finding the princess half out of her chair, confusion clear on her face. 

Gorgette seemed to realize she’d reacted without thinking too, because the flush grew deeper on her face. She moved completely down from her chair and gave a very exaggerated yawn, stretching her arms like she’d only meant to step away from her studies for a quick break.

Hee hee. Cute. 

“I mean, you’ve already ruined my concentration,” the other girl said with the barest hint of a pout, but Frisk didn’t miss the way Gorgette glanced at her from beneath her lashes, before looking away and pretending she hadn’t. “What did you want?” she said instead, with so much nonchalantness that it made Frisk smile.

“I just wanted to say hi,” she said, walking back over and picking at the corner of one of Gorgette’s books. The gorgon monster huffed and snatched the book away, smoothing out the non-existent wrinkles on the cover, and she struggled to cover up a grin as she faced away. “Asgore said he could maybe come out to play soon, but I don’t know if - ”

“What?”

“Hmm?” Frisk hummed under her breath, turning back towards the gorgon monster. Who was no longer pretending to act casual in her presence, and was instead staring at her with wide eyes, the book slipping from her grasp. “What’d you say?”

“What’d you say?” Gorgette corrected, leaning forward. The snakes of her hair were all hissing excitedly, and she was pretty sure one of them was swaying back and forth with literal heart-eyes. “Gorey has some free time today?”

“That’s what he told me,” she lied, tapping a finger to her lips like she was actually thinking about it. “He said we could play out in the gardens, where the white awning with the yellow flowers is.”

“He did?!” the monster princess exclaimed, and this time, Frisk could almost imagine the heart-eyes in Gorgette’s own face as she clasped her hands in front of her face, the book forgotten on the floor. “Oh Gorey!”

“...Wanna go meet him?”

She didn’t even get an answer, Gorgette already rushing off towards the library exit, and she followed behind - only to bounce off of the princess’ back as she came to a sudden halt, the two of them pinwheeling their arms to stop from completely falling over. “H-hey! What - ”

“Wait,” Gorgette was saying, as her snakes let out distressed-sounding hisses. “Wait wait, no!” The monster whirled around, eyes on the books still left on the table. “I have to finish studying - ”

Oh...bummer. 

But Gorgette’s face looked so downtrodden, and Frisk frowned. She wondered exactly how little the gorgon got to see and talk to her crush, to be this upset that she would be missing out on some extra free time to be with him. 

...Of course, there was hardly any monster as determined as Gorgette, and Frisk actually flinched when the other girl suddenly whipped her head around towards her, as if remembering she was still standing there. “Uh, Gorgi? You wanna - ”

“Frisk!” the monster exclaimed, leaping forward to grab both her arms. Frisk stared as Gorgette pulled her close, her vivid green eyes standing starkly contrast to the black of her sclera. “You have to stall Gorey, okay? Just for a little bit, I’m almost done studying! Okay?”

“Uh, okay - ”

“Don’t say it, just do it!” the princess commanded, giving her a little shake, and figuratively - and nearly literally - threw her from the room. 

Frisk stumbled to a stop outside of the library doors, taking a moment to regain her bearings from the whirlwind adventure into Gorgette’s personal space. She shook her head a few times, glancing back into the library, and saw the gorgon monster back in her chair, flipping rapidly and frantically through one of her books. The snakes of her hair were leaning over the book as well, and encouraging her own with hisses and flickers of their tongues. 

...Gorgette really was cute. 

So much so that Frisk frowned as she got back to the awning, and spotted the mistletoe hanging underneath it. She’d actually forgotten what she had been luring Gorgette out for, and the prickling feeling of guilt started eating away at her, making her glance to one side. 

And it was there that she spotted Sans, peeking over the top of a nearby bush. 

He looked completely serene, not panicked or disappointed, and when he saw her looking, he grinned and gave her a thumbs up, followed by a series of complicated hand gestures that she supposed meant he’d been successful at grabbing Asgore.

...Somewhere. Maybe somewhat delayed, the same way Gorgette was? 

Still, it was obvious that the Asgore part of the plan was still intact, making Frisk feel slightly better about tricking Gorgette. The gorgon might be mad at first - and she should actually, probably start scouting out potential hiding spots, right now - but as soon as Asgore entered the picture, Gorgette would forget all about it, and enjoy however long she had to -

“Y-yo!”

She started, because of all the voices she’d been expecting to hear at the moment, his had definitely not been on the list.

“Monster Kid?”

Monster Kid was panting slightly as he ran up the rest of the way to meet her, stopping and bending over to catch his breath. She barely caught sight of Sans’ head ducking behind the bush, because she was mostly confused, once again. 

“H-hey Frisk,” MK said as he finally seemed to catch his breath, though he still seemed kinda breathless for some reason. The yellow monster grinned up at her kinda bashfully, cheeks tinged a pale red. “H-how’s it going, dude?”

“It’s - what’re you doing here, MK?” Frisk couldn’t help but ask, and Monster Kid perked up.

“Yo, my dad’s visiting the palace!” he said excitedly, bouncing on the heels of his clawed feet. She tried not to giggle at the motion - somehow, the lack of arms made it seem like he was a piece of driftwood bobbing in and out of water. “And he let me come with him this time. It’s cool, man!” The monster kid stopped his bobbing for a moment however, looking over her. “Yo, what about you, dude?”

“Oh,” Frisk said, “I’m waiting for Gorgi. I want to show her that mistletoe.” She pointed upwards at the object in question, because visuals were always better than simple words. 

Monster Kid leaned his head backwards to view the sprig, mouth falling open slightly. “Woah, what’s that, man? Mistletoe?” he said, trying out the word. “What’s it do?”

Frisk looked back down at MK, barely taking notice of Sans’ head once again sticking partly out of the bush. “Oh, it’s a human thing. If two people stand underneath a mistletoe, they have to kiss.”

MK -

- froze.

Like...just completely froze, mouth hanging open as he stared at her. He wasn’t the only one - out of the corner of her eye, Frisk realized Sans’ had frozen as well, eye sockets black as he stared at the two of them. 

But when she looked around, there was no Gorgette or Asgore coming down the paths, so she turned back to MK...who was still staring at her with his mouth agape, prompting Frisk to reach out and pat at his cheek. “MK? Hey...Monster Kid? Hey!”

Monster Kid abruptly snapped his mouth closed, but his wide-eyed look didn’t go away, and the red flush on his cheeks had only grown worse in the meanwhile. “Y-y-yo,” he finally said, voice hoarse enough to make Frisk frown in concern. “You said they...t-they haveta kiss?”

She tilt her head. Was he weirded out by that human custom? “Well...they don’t have to,” she amended, “but most people do. It’s just tradition.”

A flash of white and teal - Frisk started, realizing Sans was signaling something to her. He looked frantic now, waving his arms back and forth in front of him like he was trying to flag down a Tsundereplane. But there was still no Gorgette or Asgore in sight, so why was he trying to -

“B-b-but! They still k-kiss?”

Frisk stared bemusedly at MK again, briefly glancing down at his toes. His right foot was crossing over his left, the way it did when he got super nervous or anxious about something. “Yeah,” she answered shortly, moving forward as the other kid’s face turned an even darker shade of red. “MK, are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Another flash of motion, as Sans stood up even higher in the bush, flailing his arms around. Frisk frowned at him - this was his idea after all, and Gorgette would be so disappointed if she didn’t get to see Asgore, what was he doing? 

“Y-y-yo...”

“Uh...MK?” she tried again, peering at his face. His eyes were so wide, they looked like they were just about ready to fall out of his head...but then, all of a sudden, they closed, and his chest stuck outwards as the monster took a deep breath. Frisk stared, confusedly, as MK gulped, took another deep breath, and slowly leaned forward to -

“sup.”

“D-dude!” MK yelped as Frisk pulled back from the monster, surprised. Sans was strolling casually towards them, hands in his pockets, like he didn’t have a care in the world. 

“hey frisk, hey mk,” the skeleton said, and Frisk gave him her best deadpanned stare, because seriously? Acting like he hadn’t known they were there the whole time. “what’s up?”

“Y-yo, nothin’s up, man! Nothing!” Monster Kid exclaimed hastily, and his breathing had gotten kind of heavy again, heavy enough to make her frown in concern.

But then, all of a sudden, MK froze up yet again, glancing upwards...and then back down at the incoming Sans, and his eyes widened in realization of...something. “W-wait, no, don’t you dare!” he cried - more like growled - and suddenly charged at Sans with a battle cry, head ducked downwards as if he had every intent on head-butting the skeleton away from the awning. 

Sans didn’t even flinch, easily holding a hand to MK’s skull and keeping the charging monster at arm’s length, looking at her over the top of his head. “frisk, i think we should bail,” he said, completely nonchalant despite the struggling monster underneath his hand. “we’re really toeing the line here, the guards could come back at any second.”

“But,” she protested, glancing back towards the palace. Still no sign of gorgon or goat. “I told Gorgi that Asgore would meet her out here,” she said, “and what if she gets out here and there’s no one? She’ll think I trick her, just to be mean!”

“ah, don’t worry about it, pal,” Sans said, finally releasing MK’s skull and sending the yellow monster flying into the bush behind. The skeleton finished walking up towards her, shrugging lightly as he grinned. “i’ll tell her it was all on me, and she’s goat nothing to hold against you.”

“Sans...”

She...still didn’t know how she felt about this. It just felt kinda...mean. But then, maybe this prank had really just been a bad idea right from the start, so she really had no one to blame except -

“Frisk?”

“Huh?” She turned, as Sans flinched beside her. Her ears hadn’t misheard - Asgore was walking down the outer path towards the awning, looking harried and rushed, but still pleased. “Goat bro!”

“Oh ho ho!” Asgore exclaimed warmly, and she grinned as he enveloped her in a warm hug. Goat bro gave the best hugs. “Howdy Frisk. My, it feels like its been so long since I’ve seen you.” The goat monster rubbed at her hair, before turning towards Sans. “Indeed, this was a very lovely surprise, Sans.”

“huh?” the skeleton startled, “o-oh. yeah, no prob, man,” Sans finished, rubbing awkwardly at the back of his skull as he glanced towards her. He must have told Asgore he had some sort of surprise waiting for him underneath the awning. Only the surprise Sans had had in mind had been more of -

“Gorey!”

...Oh -

She felt Asgore flinch in her arms moments before he seemed to instinctively pull back a couple paces, head wildly swinging around - 

But of course, she had already spotted him, and she was already barreling full speed out of the doorway, arms outstretched while the snakes in her head stretched forward in enthusiastic anticipation.  

“Oh it’s been so long,” she was exclaiming, completely heedless of everyone else as she ran down the pathway underneath the awning, “I’ve been dying to show you my new dress, Gorey, it’s a perfect match to your purple cape and - ”

And she didn’t even seem to register that Sans was in the area either, as she ran straight for them, but at least Sans reacted faster than she did, grabbing her arms and tugging her out of the way as Gorgette nearly ran her over, eyes solely fixated on the frozen goat monster that was - 

“Y-yo! Fight m-me!”

She saw the way Sans blinked as they looked at each other, the voice failing to register on both of their minds.

At least until Sans’ eyes widened as he was pushed forward, courtesy of a head butt from an extremely agitated monster kid. 

But she mostly didn’t see that. Mostly, she saw the way the lights of his eyes turned to pinpricks as his face got closer to hers, the force of the head butt pushing him into her and causing them both to fall, and mostly, she felt the way the hard stone of the pathway met her back, and a weight landed on top of her. 

And also mostly, black eye sockets that were way close to her face now...along with the teeth pressed against her own lips. 

His arms had managed to catch most of his body, resting on either side of her head and preventing him from completely squishing her. And for that, Frisk at least had the presence of mind to be thankful.

But only a little presence of mind, because...again. Mostly. 

Mostly, her mind had stuttered to a halt.

And it stayed that way, until she realized that Sans’ eye sockets were no longer black, but instead swirling with energy. A familiar energy that circled around the glowing blue clock in his left eye, combining with it, creating a magenta that sprung to life in both eyes and drowned out the furious blue blush on his face, because his eyes were -

determined 

And Frisk reacted without thinking - pulled her knees up and kicked Sans chest up and off her, upwards, his hands and eyes flying towards the awning -

And light exploded from him. 

 


 

“...”

“...”

“...So. You gonna tell us what that was, windbag?”

The muffled and embarrassed sounding grunts from the inside of Sans’ jacket hoodie were probably a mixture of requests to please shut it, and maybe another pun about stepping on some toes. 

She wasn’t sure. Even if he hadn’t hidden himself away in Hood Town, it would’ve been hard to hear or see him over the tons of yellow flowers and plant life that they were all currently stuck in, courtesy of Sans’ time-speeding magic having overgrown every possible flora in the immediate area to complete immobilizing growth. 

She hoped MK was alright. His feet had been sticking up into the air for the past ten minutes. 

“No, really,” Gorgette went on snidely, “I think we deserve an explanation. After all, that kiss was just soooo cute.”

Another series of muffled groaning from the inside of Sans’ hood. She didn’t think he’d be coming out soon.

But that was okay, because until the Royal Guard made their next trip around this side of the gardens and managed to get them all free (or stood around and laughed at them, it was probably a toss-up), it gave her time to think.

And to tilt her head back, her nose brushing against the mistletoe still hanging onto the lattice awning. 

The groaning stopped, and Frisk glanced at Sans, catching sight of one eye peeking out at her from the shadowy confines of the hoodie. 

And - just because she could - Frisk tilt her head back up and gave the mistletoe a kiss. 

Sans had retreated back into his hood by the time her head returned back down...but the start up of the muffled groaning was unmistakable, and she grinned.

Maybe it was time for her own payback, now.

 

Chapter Text

 

“SANS!”

Sans yawned lazily, not even bothering to open his eyes. “sup, bro?”

“SANS, IT’S BEEN EIGHT DAYS,” Papyrus claimed, and even with his eyes closed, Sans heard his brother stomp over to him. He could even imagine his brother’s stance, one hand on his hip, the other raised into a vaguely threatening fist. “AND YOU STILL, HAVEN’T - ”

He grinned.

“ - PICKED UP YOUR SOCK!”

Yeah, he was just going to go ahead and admit defeet right here. “sorry bro,” he said, resisting the urge to yawn again as he cracked open one eye. Papyrus was standing exactly like he’d imagined, except his face already had that familiar bug-eyed expression that indicated his brother was about two seconds away from a nuclear meltdown. He almost felt kinda bad about it.

“i’m just not really feet-ing up to it.”

Okay...maybe not too bad. 

There was a cracking sound, like the sound of teeth grinding down against one another - or maybe it was the sound of Papyrus’ last strand of sanity snapping - and Sans shifted where he lay on the couch, finding a more comfortable spot.

“SANS,” his brother said slowly, with very careful constraint coloring his voice. He was impressed. “I AM GOING TO COUNT TO THREE. AND WHEN I DO...” Papyrus’ voice lowered to a pitch that might have been intimidating on anyone else, but only made his baby brother sound like a particularly annoyed duck. “THAT SOCK HAD BETTER NOT BE THERE ANYMORE! OR ELSE I’LL...I’LL - !”

“alright, alright paps,” he hedged, holding up his hands in surrender. “i gotcha.”

Papyrus stopped, suspicion in his eyes. “REALLY?”

“yup,” he asserted - and winked up at his brother. “else you’ll really sock me one.”

“...”

“...pfft.”

“NYEEEEH!” Papyrus screeched, hands clutching at his skull as he stalked back into the kitchen. Probably to make no less than ten pots of spaghetti to calm down, which...c’mon. One would think Paps would’ve learned by now.

He’d have to teleport into the kitchen with a joke about Paps spaghetti-ng it all out of his system. Later. 

But for right now, he was far too comfortable, and Sans chuckled as he returned his hands behind his head, settling more firmly into the couch as if he intended on never moving again.

Sounded pretty good to him. 

Because, well...to be honest. He’d been working pretty damn hard recently. All things considered. He deserved a bit of a break. 

Even if sometimes this whole, live on the surface with family and friends and girlfriend felt like a really bad dream, because of how damn happy he was. Even now, years after escaping the Underground, Sans sometimes couldn’t find it in himself to fall asleep, fearing - knowing - that he’d wake up the next morning in Snowdin, with Papyrus yelling at him to get out of bed. 

And that had made those first few years nearly unbearable as he’d waited, quietly and without drawing any sort of suspicion to himself. Waited for a day, then two days. Then a week. And then a month.

A year.

Three years. 

It’d never gone longer than a week before he’d wake back up in the Underground. Never. And those had been rough years as he’d lazed about and waited and acted entirely the same as he always had, not trusting the new timeline that simply refused - for whatever reason - to RESET. 

He still didn’t trust it. Not really. 

But...well. Time had a sense of humor, he supposed. 

Not caring about the present and the future, knowing that it was all going to be reset anyways...it’d eventually stopped working, as the years on the surface had passed. As the new had started making everything uncertain and unknown, the lack of repetition that’d made him flounder like a goat in water. He’d gotten irritable, snappish, distrusting of everyone around him, even his own brother. 

All because everything had been new. The world wasn’t RESETing. He’d been forced to start caring again.

...Heh. 

Yup...those had been troubling days. And even now, Sans wasn’t fully comfortable. He didn’t trust that this would last forever. That one day he wouldn’t wake back up to the same ceiling, to Papyrus’ voice and snow falling outside his window. That one day everything wouldn’t all be reset, once again.

...

...But, hey.

If he had to be stuck in a timeline, Sans was glad it was this one. One where he could actually let himself feel happy, for whatever amount of time. Because of -

“Hey, Sans.”

Sans inhaled, felt his grin widen without any conscious control over it, and opened up his eyes.

Frisk’s head framed the overhead light as she leaned over the back of the couch, her short brown hair falling around her face. Her expression looked about as deadpanned as it normally did, but he’d gotten pretty good at reading her inner feelings. Heh. He’d always been pretty good at reading faces. Frisk was happy about something, and the sight of her own face made the tense knot in Sans’ chest loosen up.

“hey kiddo,” he murmured lazily, eyes falling halfway shut as his girlfriend leaned down to press a kiss onto his forehead. “back from shopping with tori?”

“Mmm,” Frisk affirmed, pulling back to rest her arms against the backrest of the couch. Sans follow her movements with his eyes, still feeling too lazy to do anything particularly noteworthy. “We’re staying for dinner, by the way.”

“could just stay all the time,” Sans chuckled under his breath, his words casual despite the threads of a real question lingering underneath them. The effort earned him a bit of a grin from Frisk, but from the look on her face, he knew he wasn’t getting anywhere else with her on the subject. 

Which, well. He understood. With Frisk attending the local college now, she was even less at home than normal, and he knew that Tori treasured all the time she spent with her kid. And Frisk wasn’t sure she felt entirely comfortable leaving her mom to move in with him and Paps, despite the fact that they were practically neighbors anyways. It was a subject that Frisk had, apparently, tentatively broached with the goat monster about a year ago, ending up with...mixed results.

He got it. Seriously, he did. No matter how badly his inner thoughts screamed at him to keep his girlfriend close, keep an eye on one of the few things that had settled his scar-ridden mind into a semblance of normality and happiness, he could understand the want to keep family near. If Frisk had asked him to move out and leave Paps all alone? Heh. They’d be having this exact same issue. 

So Sans didn’t resent her for the hesitance, only grinned and reached up to flick a finger against the human’s forehead to make it clear that there was no underlying bitterness at her decision to remain with Tori, and knew Frisk knew it as well with the way a real smile lit up her face. 

“so whaddja buy, kid?” he questioned, turning away from that topic to more casual ones. He thought he could see the edges of a shopping bag hanging over one elbow, which was a surprise in and of itself because Frisk wasn’t the biggest spender. She almost never came home from a shopping trip with anything substantial...unless Mettaton went with her, in which case she never came home unless she was literally buried under a mountain of gifts from the popular robot entertainer. “get anything for me?”

Frisk raised one eyebrow in an unimpressed manner, but as he continued to just grin at her, she relented and reached into her shopping bag. And out came a - 

“is that a deluxe?” Sans asked, pushing himself upwards to grab at the bottle. It was indeed the deluxe edition, something that had mysteriously disappeared off his favorite grocery store shelves recently. “woah. i’ve been trying to ketchup to these for over a month.”

“Apparently they only sell them inside the city, now,” Frisk informed him, which made him grimace even as he unscrewed the lid to peel off the protective layer. “So you’ll need to actually get outside the house if you want to keep buying them.”

“eh,” he shrugged, “pass. i’d make a city tourist, if ‘ya ask me.” Sans paused to take a quick sip of the ketchup as Frisk let out a breathy sort of sound, a mix of exasperation and giggle.

And that breathy sort of sound had him turning back towards Frisk, his grin edging towards the softer side as he leaned upwards towards -

“Oh my...hello, Sans.”

Sans flinched, hand tightening involuntarily around the ketchup bottle as he reeled away from Frisk. “t-tori,” he greeted, in a completely not suspicious tone of voice, waving one hand towards the goat monster as she stalked up towards the couch. “sup.”

The goat monster smiled pleasantly at him - pleasant enough to make him flinch again as he slid off of the couch, tucking his hands and the ketchup bottle into his pockets. Tori just had a way of making him feeling like a monster kid getting caught with his hands in the cookie jar, so to speak. 

Although his particular cookie jar also happened to be the same goat monster’s child...who looked just as deadpanned as usual at being caught. Because of course Frisk didn’t care - the worst Tori would do to her was bake her a butterscotch cinnamon pie. 

Him, on the other hand? Who’d received no less than seven different threats and promises from two very protective goat Boss Monsters the minute they had found out that he and Frisk had started dating?

Well...suffice to say, Tori and Asgore had had quite a few bones to pick with him. 

Though it wasn’t as if they disapproved, or even that they weren’t supportive, no. It was more like they felt the need to flex their muscles to ensure that he remembered what was coming to him if he ever hurt Frisk. Either for his own benefit or for their own. Considering what they had gone through with the royal children, it wasn’t that surprising how protective they had grown to be over Frisk.

Still, even knowing that there wasn’t any real hostility or disapproval, Sans could never stop himself from cringing away whenever Tori got that look in her eyes. It was always worse when they hadn’t seen each other in a while, and Tori got a reminder that he was dating her daughter.

Said daughter was, naturally, being completely unhelpful as she pushed away from the couch, one eyebrow raised at him - but then Frisk turned to intervene, linking arms with the elder goat monster. “Mom, if you’re going to intimidate my boyfriend, can you wait until after dinner?”

Toriel blinked, as if that hadn’t been exactly what she’d been trying to do. “Oh of course, my child!” The goat monster’s smile turned soft as she leaned down to rub her cheek against Frisk’s. “We are having your favorite tonight.”

Frisk perked up. “Spaghetti and butterscotch cinnamon pie?”

“Yes. And we’ll take the extra slices home with us tonight, as well.”

“heh,” Sans cut in, trusting the fierce mama goat act to have calmed down enough for him to actually start talking again. “sounds like a good dinner to me, no matter how ‘ya slice it.”

That did it. Tori forgot all about her intimidation tactics as she laughed heartily, and all three of them ignored an incomprehensible screech of rage from the kitchen. “I suppose I should go help get dinner started,” the goat monster said, “I’ll tell Papyrus to get started on the sauce, shall I?”

“Okay Mom,” Frisk said, unlinking arms with Tori as the goat monster pulled out her phone, typing a few buttons into it. But the former Queen had only taken a few steps towards the kitchen before she paused.

“Oh, my child,” the Boss Monster exclaimed, whipping back around towards Frisk. “Why don’t you put on your new clothes, hmm?”

Frisk blinked, and - to Sans’ surprise - the human glanced away, actually looking sort of embarrassed before she turned back towards her mother. “Okay,” she said agreeably, “I’ll go get changed.”

The effect was immediate. Tori brightened up the way she did when her pie won the annual Pie Baking contest, before she turned and made her way into the kitchen.

For his part, Sans raised an eyebrow over towards his girlfriend. “new clothes?” he questioned rhetorically, gesturing towards the shopping bag she still had slung over one elbow. “trying to fashion a new image for yourself? pfft.”

Frisk giggled softly as Sans came around to lean against the back of the couch, but then her facial expression took a somewhat odd turn. “It’s just a new sweater,” she said, as if to make sure he had no grandiose expectations of a full body makeover. “Mom saw it in a window and asked me to try it on.”

“yeah?”

“Mmm.” His girlfriend paused, that strange look still on her face as she rubbed at her other elbow. “To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of it.”

Heh. Unless it was a blue and pink striped sweater of some sort, than that was hardly a surprise. Frisk rarely wore anything that didn’t have a blue and pink striped pattern on it somewhere. But the obvious question lingered in the air. “so why’d ‘ya buy it?” 

“Mom really liked it,” was the simplistic answer. “It’s not really my color - ” bingo “ - but...well, she really likes it. It made her really happy.” Frisk paused again, before she shrugged, uncertain look disappearing to be replaced with one of happiness. “And it makes her happy, so...I’m gonna try it, for a while.”

And what made Tori happy made Frisk happy. “heh. i wouldn’t sweater ‘bout it too much, kiddo,” Sans reassured her. “i’m sure she’ll ease up after a couple weeks wearing it.” 

Frisk nodded, body half-turning towards the stairs leading up to the bathroom. “I hope so. Anyways...I’m gonna go get changed - hey!”

He supposed he should have felt bad about using his magic to float Frisk back towards him, but the end result had her pressed up against his side, so he couldn’t honestly feel too bad about the blatant misuse of his magic. “listen, pal,” he drawled, his right hand held loosely in a pocket while his magic-coated left hand kept Frisk from running off. “you didn’t even give me a chance to thank you for the ketchup.”

There went the unimpressed eyebrow again. “Isn’t this suppose to be the other way around?”

“nope,” he said easily, before slipping out his right hand to encircle it around her waist. Heh heh. His girlfriend may have been difficult for other people to read, but not him. The pleasure oozing from her every pore was almost palatable, despite her attempts to hide it. “frisk?”

Frisk’s eyes squinted a bit, her closed-eye stare giving away more than she ever gave anyone else.

“thanks for the ketchup, babe.”

Frisk let out a little noise, halfway between a sigh and a hum, and leaned forward as he did the same. With Tori preoccupied in the kitchen, Sans took his time, reveling in the feeling of her soft lips pressed against his teeth, the press of her body against his own. He sent just a hint of magic towards his mouth and parted his teeth, magical glowing tongue whispering across her lips, causing Frisk to inhale sharply and press herself even closer.

It took an effort of will not to clutch at her with both hands. 

But he let her go after that - retracted his tongue and pressed another chaste kiss to her cheek as he released both his physical and magical hold on her. There was the faintest red flush on his girlfriend’s cheeks, probably matching the own magical flush he could feel on his cheekbones. But she was pleased all the same, deadpanned expression or no. 

“You’re welcome,” she mumbled, in a voice that threatened to have him pulling her close again. But Frisk stepped backwards before he could even make the attempt, brushing down her sweater somewhat before she made her way over to the stairs, not looking back once.

Which was a-okay with him. The both of them knew he’d be getting his fill of looking sooner, rather than later.

“WHY ARE YOU TEXTING ME I’M STANDING RIGHT HERE!”

...Pfft. 

Supposed that was his cue to actually help out with dinner rather than staring up at Frisk as she disappeared into the bathroom. Sans straightened out his t-shirt that had gotten kind of rumpled from Frisk’s grip on it as he pulled out his phone, opening up a new group chat message.

tori, i really think you’re texting my bro’s patience

“NYEH!” Papyrus screeched as he waltzed into the kitchen, looking just about ready to fling his phone into the pot of boiling noodles he was standing in front of. Tori was a bit slower to check the new message, but she had the much more appropriate reaction of giggling. 

“YOU TWO ARE SUCH DORKS!” his younger brother asserted, shoving his phone back into his scarf as he returned to the noodles. “WHY MUST I BE CURSED WITH SUCH UNCOOL FAMILY AND FRIENDS?!”

“woah, paps, that’s a pretty big a-curse-ation, there,” he exclaimed in mock surprise, shooting a finger gun at the now helplessly laughing goat monster. 

Papyrus’ face took on a decidedly bug-eyed expression as he abandoned the noodles in favor of chopping up the tomatoes, and that expression on Papyrus’ face said that his brother was probably imagining each tomato as the face of a certain skeleton. “THE ABSOLUTE WORST!” Paps shouted. “WELL, I WILL NOT LET YOU RUIN THIS PERFECTLY GOOD FRIENDSHIP DINNER, SANS!”

“Oh Papyrus, I’m certain that nothing will spoil this dinner,” Tori suddenly said, having moved forward to rescue the simmering noodles. “Because your cooking is much better than even the pasta chefs in the city.”

Sans saw Papyrus perk up from the corner of his eyes, but he was much more interested in the sly smile on Tori’s face. 

“WELL...NATURALLY!” Papyrus was saying at the sudden praise, face taking on a prideful expression. “THOSE OTHER CHEFS HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM MASTER SPAGHETTITORE PAPYRUS!”

“Yes,” Tori said, her lips curling inwards to prevent her from laughing, and Sans felt his own grin stretch wide. “All those other chefs are all...”

There was one quick beat of silence, a pause as Papyrus seemed to realize what exactly was happening, allowing him to let out one, whimpering, whispered, “NO.”

“ - impastas.”

“DINNER IS RUINED!” Papyrus shrieked as he flung his hands up into the air, luckily devoid of any knife. Sans hadn’t been able to help the snort of chortled laughter that had escaped him from the joke, and he could only imagine what his brother might have been incited to do if he’d been holding any harmful objects. “NEVER AGAIN! I CAN HARDLY STAND ONE, BUT TWO CORRUPTING MONSTERS! NO ONE IS SAFE AGAINST THE TERRIBLE POWER OF THEIR PUNS AND JOKES!”

“sounds like an awful pun-ishment,” he added, just because he could.

“SANS WOULD YOU JUST - ”

“Dinner’s almost ready and Papy hasn’t run out of the house yet? That’s a first.”

“FRISK!” Papyrus exclaimed almost tearfully, rushing forward to embrace the human who had presumably appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. Sans didn’t bother looking, only chuckled as he pulled out his ketchup bottle again to take a sip. “PLEASE! YOU MUST SHIELD YOURSELF FROM THEIR TERRIBLE POWERS SO THAT YOU WILL - ”

“Oh my!” Toriel suddenly interrupted, also moving away from the stove and the counter. “Frisk, oh...you look so cute, my child!”

Oh yeah, Frisk was wearing that new sweater that Tori apparently liked so much. 

“W...WOWIE!” Papyrus too, it sounded like, and Sans shifted in the chair he had taken a seat in. “FRISK! THAT COLOR BRINGS OUT YOUR INNER COOL TO SKELETON-LIKE PROPORTIONS!”

“Thanks,” Frisk said modestly, and he could hear her steps walking into the kitchen. “So...dinner is almost done? Do you need any help?”

“THAT IS UNNECESSARY!” his brother said, “FOR I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, AM ALMOST DONE. PERHAPS YOU CAN SET THE TABLE FOR US...AND I’M SURE MY LAZYBONES BROTHER WOULD LOVE TO HELP.”

He couldn’t have not heard the unsubtle request if he’d tried. “heh heh. don’t worry bro, i’ve got dish,” he said agreeably, standing up from the chair to grab some plates and ignoring the grinding sound from his brother’s teeth. He even grabbed them with his hands and not with his magic, grabbed all four plates as he turned back around to set them onto the -

CRASH

“Oh my!” he heard Toriel distantly gasp, and was vaguely aware of the way Papyrus jumped almost a foot into the air. “Sans! Are you alright?”

That was his cue to say something, and not just stand there and stare at...at...

ba-bump

“s...s-sorry, i - ” he stammered, struggling, trying to pull himself out of it the stasis he’d fallen into the minute he’d seen Frisk. His girlfriend, who was staring back at him with concern. “i just - lost my grip - ”

“PROBABLY BECAUSE YOU HAVE LITTLE TO NO EXPERIENCE IN THE NUANCES OF FINE CUISINE, BROTHER,” Papyrus suggested, giving his shoulder a little push to move him away from the broken plates. “BUT IT’S ALRIGHT! ALL MASTER CHEFS KEEP SPARES IN THEIR KITCHENS, FOR UNCOOL MOMENTS SUCH AS THESE!”

ba-bump

“y-yeah,” he heard himself say dimly, against the wild pulsing of his Soul that threatened to beat out of his chest. “yeah. you’re the...you’re the coolest, paps.”

“BUT OF COUSRE, BROTHER!”

ba-bump

“Frisk, stay away from the broken pieces,” Tori cautioned as she swept forward as well, carrying a dustpan and sweeper she had seemingly pulled out of nowhere. 

The human nodded, serenely and placidly, and it was that movement that pulled him out of it, gave him the will to start moving again. And Sans did his best not to gasp as the air seemed to suddenly rush back into him, as sound and color came pouring back in. Did his best to be good ‘ol Sans and nothing else, and even in that, he failed, because Frisk looked back towards him, one eyebrow raised.

“Sans?”

BA-BUMP

“What’s wrong?”

...Heh heh. Hilarious, kid.

“...nothing, frisk,” he finally said, making a passable attempt at nonchalance as he shrugged. But despite himself, his eyes remained fixed on the human across the kitchen from him, unable to tear his eyes away even if he had wanted to. “just uh...looking forward to dinner tonight. i feel like it’s gonna be impastable to not enjoy it, heh.”

Tori giggled. Papyrus let out a noise of rage. And Frisk -

Frisk didn’t let up her stare, her gaze piercing despite the closed eyes and deadpanned expression, and Sans felt something like sweat drip down the back of his neck as he - 

“My child. Help me with the bread, would you please?”

Finally, he was let go as Frisk turned towards the goat monster, helping her with her request as Papyrus returned to the sauce. And he was free for just a moment, free to sink back down into his chair, clutching onto it like a lifetime. Free to be ignored.

And through the rest of the preparations, he never once took his eyes off the human and her yellow and green sweater.

 


 

Sans sunk down onto the couch, feeling more exhausted than he had in...well. Years. 

But at least dinner was over and done with, and for once, Sans was glad Frisk was heading home with Tori. If he’d had to see her walking around his home wearing those clothes, looking so much like...like, that thing, he would have -

...

Well, hey. At least it was only temporary. Even Frisk had said she didn’t like the sweater all that much. She’d wear it to appease Tori for a while, and then it’d be back to the regular blue and pink. 

And that was the important thing, the thing Sans had had to tell himself throughout the entire dinner. It was Frisk, just Frisk. The real Frisk.

Not the...

Not the other Frisk. Not that, that...creature, that had sometimes appeared in brief flashes during the FIGHTs in Judgement Hall, and around the Underground. Not that thing that had stalked towards him in the hall, flashing yellow and green and red underneath the golden light before reverting back to an empty and deadened Frisk. They were two different people. He’d figured it out before - he just needed to keep that in mind.

But what if it wasn’t Frisk. What if it was that other Frisk, the one that had killed everyone, what if it’s really been her all along and she’s just been playing me all these years and what if I wake up tomorrow and Paps is dead and what if what if what if -

“Sans?”

He turned instinctively at the voice, years of honing in on his girlfriend having trained the reaction into it -

And he flinched, so hard that he actually backed into the armrest of the couch. 

Frisk’s face turned downwards, a hard look entering her eyes. “Alright,” she said firmly, making no move to scoot closer to him on the couch, but not leaving, either. “You’ve been acting strange all evening. What’s the matter?”

“eh.” Sans shrugged his shoulders as he slipped his hands into his pockets, attempting to look nonchalant. “nothing kiddo, honest. i’m just, uh...feelin’ kinda jumpy?”

“...Why?” she asked slowly. 

Damnit. “just uh...’ya know. with tori being here and all.” It was a coward’s move, figuratively hiding behind Toriel to explain himself to Frisk...but, hey. Not like he’d never done it before. Tori’s promise was the only reason he’d ever given Frisk a chance in the first place, after all. 

And just as he’d expected, Frisk’s face softened into something decidedly more...impish. “I guess you would prefer not to be set on fire,” she said, as if there was any question about it.

“yup. she was pretty fiery, earlier.” Tori had been no such thing, just the usual posturing to make sure he remembered who Frisk’s mother was, but the pun did enough to get Frisk off his back as she giggled. 

“Well...alright,” she finally said, and Sans let out a quiet breath of relief. “But you’re not too intimidated for a goodbye kiss, right?”

...Heh heh. 

“wanna find out?” he returned, and grinned as Frisk huffed, but obligingly moved closer on the couch. He closed his eyes as he felt that familiar press of lips against his teeth, that sweet smell he’d come to associate with Frisk and Frisk alone.

It was just a sweater. Just a piece of clothing. It didn’t mean anything. He felt Frisk pull away from him, and he opened his eyes.

BA-BUMP

His left hand was lifting even before he realized it, fingers pressed together for a snap that would call the Gaster Blasters into existence and obliterate his girlfriend in an instant. It was instinct, unwilling and unwarranted, yet every fibre of his being screamed at him to do it, to kill her before she could kill him and take out the entire timeline with him -

But he clamped down on the impulse as her face drifted from satisfaction to confusion, eyebrows furrowing once more as she undoubtedly prepared to grill him again.

“Come, my child. It is time to return home.”

For a moment, he sincerely thought Frisk was about to refuse, that he’d be forced trying to evade an entire evening’s worth of questions from his girlfriend.

But that moment passed as Frisk let out a light huff and pushed herself away and off the couch. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asked lightly, apparently having decided that it wasn’t worth arguing about. 

Which was, just, perfectly fine with him. 

“y-yeah,” he said, standing from the couch as well to stretch his arms upwards, making a passable attempt at feigning sleepiness. Heh...usually he didn’t have to attempt sleepiness at all, just came naturally to him. Hilarious, right? “i’m feeling pretty bone tired myself, might hit the hay early.”

Frisk just raised an eyebrow at him even as her lips curled upwards at the pun, and after one final kiss to his cheek, she followed her mother out the doorway, waving goodbye to him and Papyrus.

“ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL DINNER FROM ME, THE GREAT PAPRYUS,” his brother said gleefully as he closed the door. “YOUR TERRIBLE PUNS WERE NO MATCH FOR MY ULTIMATE AMOUNTS OF COOL!”

“heh. yup,” he said agreeably, “you’re the coolest, paps.”

“NYEH HEH HEH!” Grinning, Papyrus bound back into the kitchen to clean up the remains of dinner, leaving him to slowly walk back over to the touch and sink back onto it.

...Funny. Dinner had left him exhausted, but now he was so wired he didn’t think he’d be able to fall asleep at all. All he could do was lay down and bring up Frisk’s face, the confusion that had been on it. 

Just Frisk. He had to keep telling himself that. It was only Frisk. That thing, back in the Underground...she had never been confused about her actions - not once. Not when she had cut down Papyrus, not when she had chased down countless monsters...there’d never once been a hint of hesitation on her face. 

Confusion was something that belonged solely to Frisk and not that other person. Confusion, compassion, uncertainty, sadness...love. Those were all Frisk. 

He could do this. It would just be a couple of days, a couple of weeks until Frisk got sick of it and went back to normal. 

He could handle this.

 


 

He could not handle this.

“Lame,” Undyne drawled, lazily leaning one hip against the desk nearby the entrance. “You need to work on your stamina, punk. Like me!”

“i dunno pal,” he drawled right back, “i think it’d take a long time su-shi the same results as you.” 

The words had an immediate effect as Undyne puffed up, her entire body seeming to rise upwards. “For the last time, I don’t smell like sushi you bonehead! Ngaaah!”

“W-we can maybe t-talk about that o-on the way,” Alphys cut in, though she blushed under the weight of Undyne’s surprised and betrayed glare, and studiously fidgeted with her sunhat. “But w-we should g-g-get on the road b-before it gets r-real bad, r-right?”

“Yeah, we should,” Frisk said in agreement, though she turned to look at him worriedly. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay with you?”

“no way, babe,” he assured, holding his palms outwards as if that might forcibly eject all present company from the house. “much as i’d appreciate your undivided attention, i’m just gonna sleep off this stomachache. i wouldn’t be able to stomach much care, anyways.”

“THAT IS WHY YOU’RE SICK, SANS,” Papyrus claimed, loping out of the kitchen with the picnic basket dangling from one arm. “YOUR PUNS HAVE INFECTED YOU!”

“huh. you’d think i’d have gotten sick of ‘em, then.”

“C’mon, you dorks,” Undyne cried out over the sound of Papyrus’ grinding teeth, “let’s leave this loser and go play some frisbee!” The muscles in the fish monster’s arms flexed rather threateningly as Undyne bound out of the house, followed closely by Papyrus and a sheepish looking Alphys. 

Frisk was the last to leave, glancing over her shoulder, but after a shooing motion from his hands, she grinned and followed the others out the door. The sunlight seemed to make the yellow and green of her sweater blend into the outside greenery before the door closed, and he was left alone.

Finally. Sans felt the grin on his face fall without any conscious control over it as he sighed, turning around to slide down the back of the door.

He’d tried. He’d told himself over and over, and over again that morning, that it was just a sweater. Just some fabric stitched together. It was Frisk, his girlfriend for crying out loud. The one that had worked so hard to free everyone from the Underground, every single timeline where it had been her in charge and not that...that other Frisk. The soulless one. His Frisk, the one that had died countless times and had always come back with a smile on her face and kind words for every monster, even if she didn’t remember her countless deaths. 

His Frisk wasn’t a monster. His Frisk didn’t want to kill anyone, ever.

And that mantra had held out for the entirety of the morning, until the trio of monsters had come over to pick up him and Paps for a picnic at the park. Something that’d been planned for a few days now. And even though he’d steeled himself, warned himself...opening up that door to find her standing there -

And she had taken a step over the threshold into the house -

The excuse had left his mouth before he’d even had time to really think about it, and it had been fishy, at best. He supposed he must have really looked worse than he thought, though, because they’d all bought it easily enough.

Even though Frisk had, once again, given him that confused stare. He hadn’t even tried to give her a hello kiss. He couldn’t bring himself to be that close like he had last night, to close his eyes and be vulnerable to a knife suddenly flashing out of the darkness with Papy standing right there and -

“stop,” Sans hissed, to the empty room. Nothing answered back. “just...stop it.”

Not his Frisk...never his Frisk. He just...needed to remember that, keep repeating it so he could stop his reflexive cringing, stop the disgust that he knew had appeared on his face the moment Frisk had walked in through the door.

A few weeks. That was it. And then everything would go back to normal.

 


 

“Don’t like it?”

He jolted. “huh?”

Frisk gave him a wry smile. “Usually you’re asleep by this time,” she pointed out, gesturing towards the television. Papyrus was sitting on the floor, completely engrossed in the drama of the two cooks competing for the title of Master Top Ultimate Something-or-Other Chef. He and Frisk had taken up the couch space, though they were sitting somewhat at opposite ends thanks to Paps’ habit of wordlessly flailing his arms around whenever something particularly noteworthy happened.

“aaand...me being awake means i hate it, huh?” he questioned, chuckling lightly.

The question didn’t really merit a serious answer, but Frisk answered it anyways. “Well,” she murmured under her breath with a quick glance towards Papyrus, and Sans felt his Soul leap upwards. “You fall asleep even when you do like something. So...” Another significant pause, and subsequent glance to check that Papyrus was still engrossed with the tv. “You’re just waiting up for something else...maybe?”

The human was attempting coy and flirtatious - something she had apparently been really proficient at during her time in the Underground, and Sans really didn’t like to think about that too deeply very often - and not a scant week ago, the sight of Frisk’s closed eyes lowered demurely downwards would have been enough to send his magical eye flaring. 

Now...

Now, with the light of the television highlighting her sweater with bright and vivid colors - the coy smile that danced on the edges of her lips as she took that last step over a promise made countless timelines ago - the sight made Sans want to flare up his magical eye for entirely different reasons. And none too pleasant ones, either. 

“...heh heh. kid - ”

She tilt her head the other way, the smile growing  wider on her face, and his Soul clenched.

“...now that ‘ya mention it, i am feeling pretty tired,” he finished, and struggled to ignore the way Frisk’s expression widened in surprise. Struggled to ignore the flash of hurt on her face as he slipped off the couch, patting Papyrus’ briefly on the skull. “i think i’mma turn in early. don’t get too bonely without me.”

Papyrus let out a brief, muffled rumble of disapproval, but was mostly distracted by the television. Frisk, though...he could almost feel her stare, demanding answers, wondering at his abrupt departure, and the weight of her stare against him...

The image of a brown haired human dressed in yellow and green, sitting on his couch and staring at his exposed back -

- had his bones crawling.

And he did what he did best. 

Sans teleported to his room in an instant, only trusting the privacy of his room to let out the breath he’d been holding. For a moment he almost expected Frisk to come barging upstairs, her determined little head ready to get some answers for his odd behavior...but after a moment of silence and the continued sounds of the television from downstairs, Sans allowed himself to relax, and trudge towards his bed. He didn’t bother undressing from even his coat, flopping straight down onto the mattress.

...He was good at reading expressions. Frisk was more than confused now.

But he could deal. He just had to wait until the storm passed. 

Things would turn out to be fine.

 


 

“Is everything alright, Sans?”

“hmm? why ‘ya asking, babe?” he said easily, raising an eyebrow at the human. 

Frisk shrugged up one shoulder, causing the striped yellow and green pattern to become warped and disjointed. “You just seem...out of it, lately. Like something’s bothering you.”

Heh heh...wondered why that was. 

“You know you can tell me,” Frisk continued from across the diner table, and even though her voice was pitched lowly, he still heard it loud and clear over the low din of conversation going on around them. “You can tell me anything.”

“yeah, i know,” he lied, and grinned at the human. “i promise ‘ya frisk, there’s nothing up with me.”

There was a long moment of silence, so long that Sans actually fidgeted under he deadpanned gaze. For once, he couldn’t read her face, at all.

It was like...like she had no emotion whatsoever -

But then she nodded, slowly. “Okay then.”

...Okay then. Sans struggled not to let the relief show.

Because the thing was, he couldn’t tell Frisk, even if he had wanted to. What would he say? hey frisk, i really hate that sweater you’re wearing because you look like the crazed murderer who’d killed everyone in the underground during a couple of timelines? Because that sounded completely sane in his head and would probably sound just as sane when spoken out loud.

And sure, he could simply claim that her sweater made him anxious, or that he just really hated how it looked on her or something like that...but he knew Frisk. Just knowing the cause of his avoidance wouldn’t be enough for her, she’d want to find the root of it. And he had a feeling - knew it, with absolute certainty - that no lie he could come up with would be enough to convince her. 

Nothing but the truth, because only the truth made sense in any conceivable notion for a lazy guy like him.  

And admitting to that was...out of the question. Heh heh...there was a reason he’d long stopped trying to convince everyone they were re-living the same day over and over again, after all. 

So...he could deal. He could get by. As long as he could fend Frisk off long enough for her to start wearing her old sweater again...as long as he could hold it in and stop flinching every time he looked at her, he’d be fine.

They would be...fine.

 


 

“Sans.”

A part of Sans, the lazy part that wanted to simply ignore everything and to hell with the consequences, struggled to find a reason to care. But the other part, the part that mattered...the part that Frisk had found and raised and uplifted from the darkest recesses he hadn’t even known he’d possessed... 

That part of Sans responded to her voice, and he turned around.

“I want you to tell me what’s going on,” Frisk said - demanded, and there it was. There was no excuse that was going to make her drop this. None at all. 

It was time to face judgement. 

“frisk, babe,” he tried anyways, “nothing’s wrong. i toldja already.”

“And I still don’t believe you,” she countered, because of course she did. She was the Ambassador to Monsters, she didn’t back down from a confrontation no matter how painful it was. “You’ve been acting strange for weeks now. I think you owe me an answer.”

Sans couldn’t help it. He sneered. “do i?” he not-questioned, shoving his hands into his pockets. “i love ‘ya, kid, but if you think i’ve been es-stranged from ‘ya, you’re way outta line.”

“I wouldn’t think that if it wasn’t true,” Frisk stressed, and now there was a hint of anger coating her voice. Heh. He wondered what had taken her so long. “Sans. What is going on?”

Damnit. He wasn’t ready for this. “i,” he started, and stopped, rubbing an aggrieved hand over his skull. “look, it’s just some stuff that’s been happening - just don’t worry about it, alright babe? i’ve got it covered.”

There. Good enough right? 

...Wrong.

“Nice try,” Frisk said, and he had to turn around, face away from the disappointment and stress clouding her face. “But I know you, Sans. You’re just going to keep bottling it up until it...until it explodes.” There was a short pause. “And...and I know it has something to do with me.”

He felt his hands clench into fists inside the safety of his pockets. 

“You’ve been fine around everyone else but...but not around me,” Frisk continued, and Sans felt his Soul plummet as he heard the faint echoes of a tremor on the last word. “Was it...did I do something wrong?”

Oh of course, of course Frisk would think that. She would think she’d done something that had offended him. “frisk, no,” he said firmly, even though he still couldn’t make himself look at her. He wanted nothing more than to run, because that’s what he did best, but Paps was in the kitchen, for once tactfully keeping out of the way as he worked on dinner, and he didn’t want to just dump his problems on his brother by way of Frisk. 

Of all the times for his bro to develop a sense of tact...Sans would have liked nothing more than for Papyrus, or anyone, to come rushing out of the kitchen or into the house to interrupt them.

But nobody came. 

“Then what?” his girlfriend said, her voice rising in passion. “What did I do? Don’t pretend that it’s not me, Sans - I’m not blind! I know whatever’s bothering you has to do with me!”

“ya know, not everything has to do with the savior of the underground, kid,” he snapped, even as the voice inside screamed at him, no, no you bonehead, don’t take it out on her.

But Frisk didn’t even react to the insult. “Is it because I messed with your sock tornado?” she tried.

“frisk, stop it, it’s not - ”

“Or because I made you go to that play with me?”

He couldn’t do this. “it’s not you frisk, it’s me - ”

“Are you - are you tired of me - ”

“no!” he shouted to his feet, to the ground, because he was a coward and he couldn’t even face his lover because of the damn shirt she was wearing, he was so messed up that a simple color swap had thrown his entire world off balance, Frisk deserved so much better than the empty remains of a skeleton with so much human blood on his hands -

“Then what is it! And why won’t you even look at me anymore!” Frisk cried out, and he could hear the tears in the voice, and that was enough to send the last remains of his sanity snapping, grin drawn so tight against his face that his skull felt liable to tear in two at any moment as he whirled around -

She wasn’t holding anything.

There was nothing in her hand, nothing at all.

But it was raised upwards as if she meant to grab at him, she was approaching him, and he was getting tired and running low on magic and his vision was completely filled with yellow and green and golden light and the burden of an entire underground of monsters resting solely on his shoulders -

He sent them flying.

A dozen bones, straight towards her. She was close, so close she’d died so many times now but she just kept coming, she wouldn’t stop coming nothing can stop her, he had to throw everything at her now because she was just too fast now she was going to kill him and he’d never get to see Papy again and -

“SANS! SANS!”

Sans gasped, a shuddering inhale as hands - warm, familiar, red gloved hands shook his shoulders, and he followed them up towards the face of his brother. paps look out he wanted to warn, but his mouth didn’t follow his brain, because Paps was...here. 

His brother was...alive?

“p...paps?” he questioned breathlessly. “i don’t...how are you still - ”

“SANS, SNAP OUT OF IT!” his brother pleaded, shaking his shoulders. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, BROTHER?!”

“p-paps, you have to go,” he said urgently, even as he gripped onto one of Papyrus’ arms. “she’s here paps, you have to get out of here,” he demanded, ignoring the queasy feeling in his stomach as he cast his eyes back around the golden hallway for the body of the human. He had to make sure he’d got her, had to make sure she was dead, because the timeline wasn’t jumping back yet, that meant she was still hanging onto life and -

There. Right there.

Pinned up against the white wall with his expressions sticking out all around her...except, except he’d missed. The bones were keeping her pinned for only a few precious seconds, one right up against her neck and causing blood to trickle down from it, but he’d missed all the others, and he pushed Papyrus aside as he raised his left hand, to bring in the last reserves of Gaster Blasters while she was still vulnerable and helpless -

“SANS, STOP IT!”

- and staring at him with closed eyes. 

Closed...eyes. Not that wide eyed, red stare that he’d gotten far too familiar with. Heh. Not smiling now, huh kid? Finally, he’d wiped that damn smile off her face as she stared at him in stunned silence, one tear leaking out from her right eye to hit the carpeted floor of the living room -

...the -

Living room. Completely normal, no golden light living room. Bland and modest, but with all the comforts of their Snowdin home that they’d brought with them to the surface. And pinned to the wall was -

Was...

...oh no. damnit, no, please no

“p-paps,” he said shakily, only vaguely aware of his brother’s distressed breathing beside him, but his eyes were fixed on Frisk’s face and her wide expression, “frisk.” Her expression was wide, not her eyes - her eyes were closed, just like they always were.

...But he’d always been pretty good at reading faces.

“frisk,” he repeated, felt his left hand shake. It was still raised upwards, ready to snap at a moment’s notice, and even now he couldn’t bring himself to lower it, couldn’t do anything other than stare. “i’m...i’m so sorry, i didn’t mean to - ”

Shivering.

She was...she was shaking. And still that bead of blood ran down her neck, pressed up against the bone that had been millimeters away from taking out her throat. 

“BROTHER, PLEASE! WHAT HAS GOTTEN INTO YOU?!” Papyrus cried, giving his shoulders another shake, and the older brother in him demanded he pay attention to the fear and confusion in his brother’s voice, demanded that he drop everything to protect his baby brother. 

But still, all he could do was stare, breaths coming heavy as Frisk slowly peeled herself away from the wall. Slowly, carefully she moved, and she winced as she brushed her leg up against a bone, and a fresh cut appeared and dripped blood down her shaking leg -

“GET RID OF THEM, SANS!”

He shuddered, snapped his fingers. The bones disappeared, and Frisk...dropped to the floor.

“FRISK!” Papyrus cried out, rushing forward but hesitating, hands hovering over Frisk like he wasn’t sure if he should touch her or not. “ARE YOU ALRIGHT? THAT WAS A VERY UNCOOL THING TO DO, SANS! WHY DID YOU ATTACK OUR HUMAN FRIEND?”

Because...because he’d had to, he had to kill her before she killed -

no stop, it’s frisk, not -

“frisk, i’m - ” he whispered, feeling the weight of his sins crawling on his back. His feet carried him one step forward, and Frisk...she flinched. She flinched away from him. Sans felt his Soul drop. “no wait, frisk, i didn’t mean to - i’m sorry, i just - ”

A sudden burst of speed - Frisk, jumping onto her feet and rushing past him, head down and a second tear streaming down her cheek. “frisk no, stop,” he cried out, his hand reaching forward automatically, as if he could simply force her to accept how messed up and scarred he was. “wait, please - ”

The door slammed shut, closing on the latest, greatest failure of Sans, Sans the skeleton.

And he -

“S-SANS?...”

- he ran.

Teleported straight into his room, away from his brother who he’d probably attack in a moment’s notice, because he was Sans the skeleton, Lazybones, Bonehead, That Guy that did nothing until it was absolutely necessary. Because he wanted to believe, and he wanted to hope, and he wanted to keep everyone else around him happy. Keep them free of the knowledge they wouldn’t ever, ever understand. 

And, welp...looks like he’d succeeded pretty well, this time. 

Heh heh...

Hilarious...right?

 


 

It was a measure of how confused and lost Papyrus was, that his brother had yet to simply kick down the door and demand answers. The tentative knocks against his door spoke to the other skeleton’s lack of understanding, that he didn’t know whether to be mad at him or sad with him or offended for Frisk or anything else in between. 

And Sans wanted to be there for his brother, wanted to reassure him and comfort him and tell him everything was alright.

But, well...he just didn’t know if he had it in him, for one more lie. 

Frisk was gone - of that there was no doubt. He could probably be expecting a furious goat mama barging into their home sometime soon, and he would never see Frisk again. Because who in their right mind would stick around for a boyfriend that’d...that had almost killed -

...

Heh. It was better this way. Frisk deserved a guy she could rely on, not a lazybones like him. Someone who could be there for her, not be so lost in himself that he saw nothing but the color of her clothing. 

It was...better this way. 

There was a sudden knocking - not against his door, but downstairs. Sans heard Papyrus shuffle away, and the creak of the front door opening a moment later. Even behind his closed bedroom door, the sound of muffled voices rose to greet him, and that voice was...

...Welp. She had goat-ten here faster than he’d thought. Sans slipped his hands into his coat pockets as he gazed listlessly at the ceiling, waiting for the moment Toriel slammed open the door to breathe fiery wrath all over him.

It’d be no less than he’d deserve.

But when no fierce goat mamas came knocking, Sans strained his ears...and heard crying. Which was...not what he’d expected. Yelling, screaming, carrying out long-remembered threats against him, sure, but not...crying. Despite himself, Sans slowly pushed himself off the bed, trudged towards the door, and carefully pulled it open. 

“...so worried, I don’t know - is he? Surely he must have seen - ”

“UHM, YES, ABOUT THAT...U-UHM...”

Damnit. He may have run from his problems, run from Frisk, but he wasn’t about to let Papyrus take Tori’s wrath by explaining what had happened. Even if that wrath would’ve been misplaced on the younger skeleton. Sans took a breath - felt it catch in his throat, tried again -

And teleported into the living room. “tori, it’s my fault,” he said without preamble, closing his eyes as Toriel and Papyrus whipped around towards him in surprise. “i don’t know what i was thinking, but it’s all my - ”

“Sans! Please tell me you have seen my child!”

The exclamation, and the tears in the goat monster’s eyes, brought him up short, halted explanation completely forgotten as he stared. “i...she was here this afternoon,” he started, glancing towards Papyrus. The other skeleton’s eyebrows furrowed slightly, but more in worry than condemnation. 

His brother was just too cool to hate anyone, even a brother as messed up as him. 

“B-BUT SHE LEFT BEFORE LUNCH STARTED,” his cool brother cut in, resting a gentle hand against Toriel’s back. “I PROMISE TORIEL, WE HAVE NOT SEEN THE HUMAN SINCE THEN.”

The goat monster let out a sob, fresh tears streaming down her face, and all at once, everything clicked into place. “frisk is gone?”

“Yes,” Toriel whispered, and his Soul dropped in his chest. “She said she would be home after visiting you, but when she did not return in time for dinner I sent her a text - and then I called her, but she did not answer.” The words were slightly muffled as Tori held her paws against her snout, trying her hardest to keep the sobs from completely spilling over. “And A-Alphys and Undyne said Frisk is not with them either, and Asgore is not answering his phone and - and I just want to find my child!”

Frisk...was never without her phone. She needed it to keep up with her Ambassador duties and stay in touch. Sans could recall Frisk taking, at most, an hour to return a text or a call. Not half a day.

Frisk was missing. She’d probably run off, trying to get away from him and the hateful intent he’d shown her and it was -

it’s all your fault

“I just do not understand,” Tori was saying, slowly sinking down onto the couch, “Frisk always answers her phone. I’m so afraid that...that something terrible has happened to her!” The goat monster took in a shuddering breath, tearfully accepting a tissue paper that Papyrus passed on to her, but then her watery gaze turned towards him, and he froze. “Please,” she begged, “did my child say anything of where she was going? Did something happen?”

The urge to run was strong, strong enough that he almost took a step backwards. “i...i don’t - ”

“Howdy!”

All three of them stopped, blinking at one another as the voice registered in the room, before turning as one to find Asgore’s looming frame bundling inside the home. “Oh ho ho,” the goat monster said exuberantly, “it is a fine evening, is it not? I saw the door was opened, I hope you do not mind...” Asgore suddenly trailed off, eyes widening as he seemed to finally take in Tori’s state. “T-Tori,” he exclaimed, “what is the matter?”

“Y-you,” Tori stammered accusingly, rocketing up onto her feet. “Asgore! I have been calling you for hours! Where were you? Why weren’t you answering your phone?”

Sans recognized Tori’s tone of voice, the stress that was causing her to lash out at the easiest target. But Asgore seemed to take it in stride, one paw stretched outwards as if he wanted to instinctively comfort his ex-wife but knew better than to try. “I’m sorry,” he said instead, eyebrows furrowed worryingly, “I was taking my weekly walk along the base of the mountain, finding new flowers to - ”

Tori didn’t wait to hear the rest of it, covering up her face again as fresh sobs racked her frame. Asgore stood by helplessly as Papyrus pat her back again. “DO NOT WORRY, FORMER QUEEN,” his brother tried consolingly, “UNDYNE AND ALPHYS ARE ON THEIR WAY, RIGHT? WITH ALL OF OUR EFFORTS COMBINED, I AM CERTAIN WE WILL FIND FRISK WITH THE POWERS OF OUR COOL FRIENDSHIP!”

Sans only half paid attention as Toriel nodded shakily, instead focused on the images his brain drew up of Frisk surrounded by human-hating monsters, Frisk tied up and bumping in the back of a van - Frisk laying in a cold ditch, blood spilling out from every corner -

“She is not back home yet?”

Another pause, as - once again - they all turned towards Asgore.

Who was still obviously uncertain of the events that had led to Toriel’s shaken state, but he went on. “She said she would be going home soon,” he went on, confusion evident in his voice. “I thought she would have been back by now.”

They all stared for a second longer, before Tori moved forward, eyes wide. “W-when?” she gasped out, clutching at Asgore’s shoulder.

The goat monster got even more flustered, clearly unused to any willing contact from his ex-wife. “Why - just two hours ago,” he answered, “just before I went on my walk. She said she needed to borrow some rope from the shed - ”

Rope?

“ - for a, hmm...school project.” Asgore stroked at his bread worriedly, eyeing Toriel. “But that she would work at home.”

“But she did not come home,” Toriel cried out, paw clenching in Asgore’s gardening shirt, “and she is not answering her phone!”

Rope...

“BUT THAT MEANS SHE HAS NOT BEEN MISSING FOR AS LONG AS WE BELIEVED!” Papyrus, ever the optimist, spoke up. “SHE CANNOT BE FAR FROM US, NYEH!”

...rope.

He knew where she was. 

And without even a single word, Sans teleported himself out of the house, and chain teleported himself all the way up towards the top of Mount Ebott. 

He seemed to make the journey in record time - maybe from the frantic beating of his chest that had started ever since he’d found Tori sobbing in their living room, maybe from the anxiety of knowing what waited for him down there - but in no time at all he was back where it’d all started. 

The gaping hole leading into the Underground stared back at him. And there, wrapped and tied around a sturdy looking boulder right at the edge, was a length of rope. 

The two parts warred within him. The lazy part, that one that didn’t want to face the music until there was absolutely no other recourse, demanded that he turn around. Keep watch from a distance, make sure she got home safely, and hide away from the disdain and hurt. 

But the other part...the part that loved Frisk?

That part had him raising his left hand and snapping his fingers, and at once his magic surrounded his body. Slowly, giving anyone below plenty of time to notice his presence, Sans lowered himself down into the Underground.

The sun had already set, but still the transition from moonlight to gloomy darkness disoriented him. Only the golden flowers he carefully landed in provided a hint of color to the otherwise dreary surroundings.

That...and the yellow and green sweater.

Frisk didn’t turn around, didn’t even acknowledge his presence as he slowly approached, shoved his hands into his pockets and walked around to the other side. And...he didn’t know why he was surprised at her indifference. He should have expected that. He deserved it. 

He deserved everything. 

And he deserved the pain that cut across him as he saw the tear tracks on her face, fresh ones, as if she’d just gotten finished crying. He deserved everything she could throw at him, and if she wanted to throw a punch or ten he’d deserve that too. He just...he just needed to tell her how sorry he was, that it’d never been her it’d always been him, he was the messed up one. 

He...he just had to tell her that she was the best thing that could have ever happened to a scarred monster like him. “frisk, i - ”

“You remember.”

The words made no sense in any relatable context he could think of, and they brought him up short. Of...course he remembered the fact that he’d almost killed her because of the stupid color of her sweater. Did she...did she really think he’d been a lazybones and forgotten that quickly? 

“kid...”

Her head slowly lifted from where it had been bowed over her chest, tear tracks staining her face and making the moonlight reflect back at him. 

That expression on her face...she -

“You remember the RESETs.”

ba-bump

He was frozen. He couldn’t have moved even if he’d wanted to. The words weren’t a question...they were a statement. A simple fact of life. 

Frisk was...Frisk, remembered...RESETs.

Someone other than him remembered...remembered the RESETs.

“you - ” he finally croaked out, his voice hoarser than he’d even thought possible. He tried clearing his throat to repeat himself, but the most that came out was a suspiciously wet sounding chuckle. “kiddo, you...remember them too?”

She blinked - her closed eyes squinted up and down - and a few tears leaked out from under her lashes. Remnants of her last crying session, rather than a new one. “Yes,” she whispered, looking back downwards, and at first Sans thought she was simply looking down at her hands.

Until one of the flowers shifted, and his breath caught once again.

“I told you that smiley trashbag gave me a lot of trouble,” Flowey said meanly, but there was a distinct lack of bite to his normal tone, and his face appeared shinier than he remembered. Flowey didn’t have a Soul, any tears he shed were ones of pain or manipulation. He couldn’t feel sorrow, no matter if he even meant it. 

But that didn’t stop Frisk from reaching out one hand to gently caress one of Flowey’s petals. The flower grumbled and twitched away from her hand, but he didn’t slap it away with the leaves on his stem. 

Slowly, feeling like he was caught in a completely different timeline, Sans sank down to sit cross-legged in the golden flowers. He needed to say something, find out how Frisk had kept this from him - she’d never acted like she remembered RESETs, never cried out and exclaimed and asked how can this be happening like he had, after Gaster had disappeared. She’d always seemed completely calm and composed and normal, like everyone else. 

...She remembered RESETs. Did she remember -

“I remember dying.”

He flinched. She continued. 

“I remember Asriel breaking the barrier,” Frisk said softly, and Flowey grumbled again. “We all stood in the sun - you walked back into the Underground - and I moved in with Mom to start our new lives on the surface...”

For a while.

“And then I - ”

“woke back up down here,” he finished for her, and Frisk nodded. All this time...he hadn’t been the only one. He was still reeling from it. He wasn’t sure how many more surprises he could take.

“And I remember her.”

He forgot how to breathe. Again.

She couldn’t be...she couldn’t be talking about...

“Chara.”

He didn’t recognize the name, and yet the way Frisk said it sent a chill down his spine, and the scant moonlight streaming from above seemed to dim slightly. He didn’t recognize the name, and yet...he knew exactly who Frisk was talking about.

And he almost didn’t believe her.

“you...” Sans didn’t really know how to word his question, but he had no other way to find out. “you know her?”

Frisk was silent for a moment, arms wrapped around her knees as she stared down at Flowey. “Chara was...I’d see her, sometimes,” she said finally. “In the corners of a room, when I closed my eyes...sometimes I’d walk past a mirror and she’d be there.” Frisk paused again, and Sans struggled not to shudder as her expression turned darker. “And then I started hearing her, every time I died. She told me that I needed to get stronger, so I...”

He suddenly didn’t want Frisk to finish.

“I started to kill.”

His Soul jolted hard in his chest.

“And I told myself that it was okay,” Frisk continued, her words picking up in volume, “it felt good to get stronger. They kept killing me, and killing me, and killing me - ” her voice cracked on the last words, a fresh set of tears spilling from her eyes, “ - why shouldn’t I kill them back? It felt good.”

LOVE...the measure of a person’s ease of killing. The more LOVE you had, the easier you could distance yourself from the pain of killing others. 

“But then Papy - ”

no

“frisk, don’t - ”

“He didn’t want to FIGHT,” Frisk whispered, and her voice shuddered and stammered even as she forced herself to continue, to say it out loud. “He didn’t want to FIGHT, he just wanted me to stop FIGHTing - but I was just so angry, I was just a kid, what did I ever do that was so horrible that everyone kept killing me, and Chara kept telling me I had to, I had to do it so I - ”

He tackled her. 

Whether to stop her from talking for her sake, or his own, he didn’t know. But they ended up in a pile of golden flowers regardless, and she didn’t even flinch, only clung onto him as he lay on top of her. He felt her tears soak into his t-shirt as she sobbed, and tried to pretend his weren’t falling onto the soft strands of her hair. 

He had no idea how long they stayed like that. A few seconds? Minutes? It could have been hours for all that it mattered. All Sans knew was that he had to hold on tight as the last of their tears melted away, because if he let go then -

If he let go, he might wake up in their house in Snowdin. 

“She was so loud, after,” Frisk whispered, once their tears had dried up. He rolled over so that they lay side by side, staring up at the indiscernible moonlight up above. Flowey was quiet at their feet. “I couldn’t ignore her. I knew something was wrong, but I...it just got so, hard to ignore her.” Sans felt her hand reach out towards him, and he caught it in his own hand instinctively, resting their entwined fingers against the flowers. “I got so tired, so exhausted, and I...I just fell asleep. And then I woke up back here.”

She’d given up. He remembered. Five hundred and sixty two deaths, and she had finally called it quits. His hands had been shaking as he’d written the timeline in his notes, the next morning.

“I realized that I couldn’t listen to her.” Frisk swallowed as she looked up towards the cavern ceiling, towards the scant moonlight. “I fought her during every encounter, every FIGHT. I never killed after that, no matter how many times I was killed. But she...she never went away, either. She was always there.”

“Chara always was real bossy,” Flowey chimed in helpfully, and he hummed, squeezing Frisk’s hand in his own. 

“...But not just for me.”

He blinked, the statement throwing him off as he glanced over towards Frisk, only to find her looking right back at him. “Someone stopped her,” she said, and he felt his Soul shudder once again. “Something made her quit and RESET.”

Somehow, Sans knew that if he skirted around it, Frisk would let it drop. She wouldn’t demand answers. Now wasn’t a time for entitlement, now was a time for sharing and listening, and she wouldn’t hold it against him if he chose not to share. 

Somehow...

“...heh heh. guess you could say she really reset-ted me, after a while.”

He told her everything. He started right from the beginning. Gaster, the timeline research, the explosion, the timeloops, the RESETs, his frantic attempts to bring Gaster back and fix everything...her, the eighth human, her FIGHTs through the Underground...

Chara, and the Judgement Hall.

He left nothing out, and felt more drained afterwards than he ever had before. Not even during those first confused days, telling anyone and everyone he could that things were repeating, nothing was right, and only getting amused or disgusted faces in return. 

And the look on Frisk’s face as he finished...

“All this time I thought I was the only one that had to deal with her,” she whispered, and he felt her hand squeeze in his. “But you...you had to stand guard the entire time. You were the one who stopped me from destroying - ”

“not you, frisk,” he corrected forcibly, because that was one truth that would forever hold him grounded. Frisk remembered, Frisk remembered RESETs, had remembered them all along. And she had fought just as fiercely as he had, on a level far beyond what he’d been capable of seeing. “that wasn’t you.”

Frisk shook her head, but not in a dismissive way. “But still, you were the last one standing, weren’t you. You saved the Underground. Everyone thought you were just a monster too lazy to do anything at all, but you - ” Frisk paused abruptly, blinking rapidly as if she was remembering something out of a hazy dream. “You were the hero all along...the one who never gave up trying to do the right thing.”

The way she said the words made it sound like Frisk was quoting something, or someone. “i’m no hero, kid,” he said, “no matter where you heard that from.”

“Just something Gerson said, once, when I was - ” Frisk paused again. Sans thought she might have been about to say possessed by a crazed murderer, or something to that effect. Something that neither of them really needed a reminder of. 

Silence reigned through the cavern once more, not even broken by Flowey. A quick glance told Sans that the flower was still nestled amongst the golden flowers, looking lost in thought. He and Frisk must have been talking for a while, about things significant enough to have the flower in a melancholy mood. 

About RESETs? Past timelines? Or about...

“who,” he started, and dug the fingers of his free hand into the ground beneath them. “who was she?”

He wasn’t sure why he wanted to know - it wouldn’t make any difference - but Frisk looked at him, her expression lifting slightly, before she turned back towards the ceiling. “She was the first human,” she said, and Sans felt his own eyebrows lifting upwards in surprise. “Asriel’s sister. Flowey’s friend.”

Nothing from the flower in question.

“And she was...determined to live.”

...He thought he could figure out the story, now. The first fallen human, the one that had died shortly before the royal prince had...her Soul, clinging to life after thousands of years, and latching onto the second Soul of DETERMINATION that had fallen into the Underground?

Heh heh...the power of DETERMINATION, huh? He wondered if the world just wasn’t better off without it.

“and...” Sans whispered the words, as if she might hear them. He almost didn’t want to say them out loud, feeling as if they might evoke the Soul from the black void of whatever hell she was hopefully burning in right now, but he - he had to know. Had to know if Frisk knew. “where is...where is she now?”

A breath, a shaky sigh. His Soul clenched in his chest. 

“Gone,” Frisk said, and Sans let out his own equally shaky breath. “I think. I wish I knew for certain, Sans, but...I’ve never been able to hear her on the surface. It’s like she’s tied to this place. But it’s never taken this long - ”

“ - to RESET,” he murmured, and felt Frisk nod beside him. 

...That meant that Frisk had never been in charge of the RESETs, after all? Just like she had been a useful pawn in Chara’s game against the Underground, a puppet to be manipulated and pulled along, Frisk had been forced to relive the same events over and over and over again. 

Just like he had. He’d hadn’t been the only one. 

Frisk continued on after a moment. “But I feel like,” she said, “maybe she’s...gotten bored. Moved onto other things.” Frisk shrugged lightly, shoulders barely moving with the motion. “It’s just a feeling.”

Sans let out another breath, blinking up towards the sky. He could just barely make out one or two stars up above, twinkling in the night sky. “you know what,” he said with finality in his voice, “i think that’d be...just great.”

“Mmm. Yeah,” Frisk concurred, squeezing his hand again, before she slowly pushed herself upwards. Sans followed her into a sitting position.

The last tears on her face had dried by this point, but Frisk still rubbed under her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater. Sans felt himself tense, unwitting despite everything they’d just unveiled to each other, and froze as Frisk glanced at him, the lie all but ready to spring to his lips as she lowered her arm. 

“You know,” she said, “when I said I didn’t really like this color on me?”

How...could he forget? He’d spent that entire evening agonizing over Frisk’s new wardrobe, and how he would deal with it. Not very well, as it turns out.

“She’s why,” Frisk continued, and he knew very well that Frisk wasn’t talking about Toriel. “I saw it and remembered her, but...it made Mom so happy, I decided I would just...deal with it, for a while.”

“...i thought i could handle it,” Sans admitted in a hushed whisper. “i kept telling myself it was just a sweater, it didn’t mean anything, but i - ” He broke himself off, unable to say the words out loud. 

Frisk grinned, wryly. “Looks like we both handled it like proper adults.”

“bottle it up until it explodes,” he affirmed, and felt a watery grin split his face as she chuckled. 

“Right.” Frisk let out one more breathy chuckle, her hands fingering the hem of her sweater...and his eyes were involuntarily drawn to the movement, towards the article of clothing. From the corner of his eye, he saw Frisk’s own closed eyes narrow slightly as he watched the movement of her fingers - and then suddenly, she was grasping the edge of her sweater.

And flinging it entirely off her body. 

“frisk, what the hell,” he said, because he honestly had no idea what else he could possibly say. 

“Sans,” she returned, scooting closer to him, and his arms instinctively came up to wrap around her. “Next time...you can tell me that I look ugly in those colors, okay?”

...This kid. 

“heh,” he murmured, pulling Frisk closer to him as one hand settled on her waist, the other against her back. “don’t worry, frisk. i’ll make sure you know you’re the ugliest girl on the surface next time.”

“Promise?” Frisk whispered against his teeth. 

Heh heh. “no bones about it, kiddo.”

Frisk smiled and leaned forward the last couple of inches, and he pressed forward as well, feeling her lips against his teeth. They pulled apart a moment later to rest their foreheads against one another, simply staring at each other as he held her.

...As he suddenly became aware that he was holding Frisk in his arms, and that her body was warm and inviting, and his hands were caressing bare flesh rather than clothes. He shivered, felt Frisk inhale as his own eyes fell half-lidded, and he leaned forward once more.

“Gross,” Flowey said.

...Somehow, being chided by Flowey was even worse than being caught by Toriel. 

Sans coughed behind one fist, and Frisk fidgeted as Flowey glared at them...because, his higher brain suddenly took note of, she was still half naked after having flung off her top, seriously Frisk what the hell. Sans hurriedly removed his coat and hung it over Frisk’s shoulders, feeling a pleased flush cross his cheeks as she smiled gratefully at him. 

“we should probably be getting you back home,” he finally said in an attempt to defuse the heat in his cheekbones, “before you catch a cold. plus tori’s probably worried sick by now, heh.”

At that, Frisk looked a bit guilty. “I lost my phone somewhere in the woods,” she explained, “running up here. I was in such a hurry to talk to Flowey, I didn’t realize it until I’d lowered myself down. And by then I was - ”

“ - too lazy to go back up and get it,” Flowey interrupted, crossing his leaves. “You’ve picked up a lot of bad habits from this smiley trashbag, Frisk.”

“hey, c’mon pal,” he cut in, “that hurts my self-estem.” The pun earned him a frustrated noise from the flower but a giggle from Frisk, so that was a win in his books anyways. “but seriously kid, we should get going.”

“I guess,” Frisk mumbled, unwinding her legs to stand up -

“Hey!”

They both paused, halfway standing and brushing off their legs, and Flowey...he didn’t blush, not really, but there was a definite hue to his petaled face. “Um,” he hesitated, then jabbed his face over towards the right. “What’re you going to do with that?”

They both looked over at the discarded sweater. Against the golden flowers and their green stems, it seemed to fit right in. 

“I’m not sure,” Frisk said, a thoughtful look on her face as she glanced between the sweater and the flower. “I was just going to throw it away.”

Flowey nodded, ducking his head even as his eyes also glanced towards the sweater.

“...But maybe I’ll wear it later, for Tori,” his girlfriend continued, and it was the gentleness of her voice that clued Sans in to her true intent. “Do you mind holding on to it for me, Flowey?”

The flower grumbled and grimaced, leaves crossing and uncrossing for a good five seconds before he abruptly rolled his eyes. “Fine, give it here,” he acquiesced, flapping his leaves in an agitated sort of fashion. “But this doesn’t make us even, you know!”

He had no idea why they would be even - or not even, as it were - and neither did Frisk, apparently. But she nodded all the same, and he used his magic to float the sweater over towards Flowey. On a whim, he arranged the sweater to wrap it around the flower, and grinned as the other blinked in surprise at the arrangement. 

“Hey, I didn’t say you could bury me under it!” Flowey protested. Sans nodded agreeably, and both he and Frisk pretended not to notice the way his leaves caressed the sleeve of the yellow and green sweater that was encircling him. “Oh, and - Frisk?”

She perked up. “Yes?”

Another long pause as Flowey seemed to struggle with what to say...before finally, reluctantly, “...Thanks.”

He thought the flower was thanking Frisk for the gift of the sweater, but that assumption was dissuaded after a moment. 

“For...you know. Talking about Chara with me.” Flowey paused again, petaled head ducking low. “She wasn’t a very nice person, but I still - ” He cut himself off, and didn’t bother trying to finish the thought. 

Because Chara had left her mark. Not just on him, not just on Frisk. On others, too, marks that weren’t as bad as theirs had been. Marks that others, just maybe, actually cherished and held as treasured memories. Maybe, all those thousand years ago, Chara had been more than just a soulless creature bent on taking everything down with her. 

And that was...truly a terrifying thought. 

“I should be thanking you,” Frisk was saying, and Sans felt her link an arm through his own and look up towards him. “You made me...figure out some things.”

He grinned, removed his arm so he could wrap it around her waist, and squeezed her tight against his side. 

“Yeah, well,” Flowey said, leaves once again crossing in an act of defiance. “You can...you know. Come talk about things once in a while. Maybe.”

The invitation - the request - was as clear as day, and Frisk heard it too. He didn’t even need to look at his girlfriend to know what sort of expression she had on her face...and he didn’t even mind, either.

“c’mon buddy,” he cajoled as he settled himself back into the golden flowers, “that was a pretty lacka-daisy-cal effort. you can ask a little more nicely, right bud?”

Frisk giggled as she followed him down, the both of them ignoring Flowey’s irritated “Well I didn’t mean right this second, golly,” as they settled against one another. Idly, he listened to Frisk start talking about nonsensical things with the flower as he pulled out his phone with his free hand, typing out a quick message to Tori and the others. 

He’d still have a lot of answers to give, once they got back. They both would. But for now -

For now...

He’d fought for this timeline. Fought for every timeline. And if it all turned out to be for nothing...if he woke back up in Snowdin tomorrow when he opened his eyes...

...

Then he’d do it all over again. Because he wouldn’t be alone. With Frisk he could...they could deal with it. Together.

But for now...welp.

He’d take what he could get.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Sans.”

He fingers the edges of the card bemusedly, staring down at the two smiling golden flowers that lean against one another with a comically overdrawn heart behind them. It is far from the only one. The rest of the card is near covered with them, all coming in various shades of red, but the centerpiece is clearly meant to be the two cartoonish flowers. 

One of them is professing its undying love to its partner - the other is commenting on its own budding feelings. 

He grins, but the pun doesn’t dissuade the confusion he feels. “valentine’s day?” he questions, a bit rhetorically because he’s sure he heard right the first time. The words trigger something in his head, the nagging feeling of something being almost on the very tip of of tongue but he doesn’t have anything to say in the end.

Like he’s heard of the name before and just can’t quite place it. 

“It is a human tradition,” she explains, mouth tilted upwards. “Like Christmas and Halloween, but not quite as widely celebrated.”

“huh.” He looks back down at the card, littered as it is with hearts and talking flowers. Seems strange that this is his first time hearing about it, considering how long they’ve been living on the Surface now. He’d thought Papyrus and Alphys would have figured out every last human tradition possible over the course of twelve or so years. 

Then again, New New Home was founded away from nearest human settlement, to lessen pressure on the humans with their newfound monster neighbors. He supposes it’s not so strange, then, that there are some human traditions that they, in their carefully cloistered and slowly expanding community, are still discovering to this day. 

“so what’s it all about, anyways?” he decides to ask, since she clearly had a reason for handing over this card. He has a very tiny inkling in the back of his brain as he studies its features once more, but it seems uncertain enough that he has trouble putting words to it. “i don’t think i’ve got the heart to guess.”

She covers her mouth to politely hold in the giggles, but he hears them anyways. “It is a holiday to express love to one another, Sans,” she says. His eyebrows raise, very slightly. “Humans celebrate love with chocolates and hearts and cards.”

Yup. Exactly what he’d guessed. 

And it still makes him feel a bit queasy. Humans, humans, with a specific holiday dedicated to expressing love to one another, of all things? Seems almost humorously ironic. “love, huh? seems like humans’ll celebrate just about anything.”

The statement doesn’t offend her. Surprisingly, her smile only widens. “And yet they choose to celebrate love. Choosing love...it is a lovely sentiment. Do you believe so?”

He wants to say i guess, but at the same time, the smile on her face only makes that disquiet grow in his stomach. “heh heh...yup,” he says instead, and struggles to throw off the strange feeling as she blushes lightly, and he feels time crawl to slow motion when she glances at him from under her eyelashes. 

Maybe disquiet isn’t the right word. There’s nothing wrong, nothing uncomfortable. Nothing making his stomach drop to the floor...nothing making his Soul race in his chest. 

So why does he feel like he’s suddenly an actor in the wrong play?

“welp,” he tries, when the silence stretches on for a beat too long. She’s looking away from him now, but the blush has grown on her cheeks. Maybe catching onto the awkwardness. He hadn’t meant to make it awkward, but there it was. “thanks for this, buddy,” he says, grinning and waggling the card at her. The levity returns things to a semblance of normal as she turns back to him, pleased smile on her face. “i uh, didn’t know this was a thing. i card-ly had time to get you anything.”

She giggles again. “Oh my, do not worry, Sans,” she deflects modestly and with full sincerity, “there is no need. But we are having a celebration for Valentine’s Day tonight.” She pauses, head tilting contemplatively. “I believe your brother Papyrus is shopping for some ingredients to make ‘Super Special Love Flavored Spaghetti’ tonight.”

So that’s where Paps has been all day. He wouldn’t have been able to avoid the party even if he’d wanted to. “sounds good,” he says agreeably, slipping the Valentine’s Day card into his coat pocket. “your place?”

“Yes.”

“heh. you’ve goat it.”

She laughs this time, and he winks at her. She always laughs at that one, no matter how many times he uses it and no matter how agitated it makes Asgore. “Oh Sans,” she mock chides as she turns around, heading to the open doorway. But then she stops, glancing over her shoulder, and taps her knuckles twice against the open door.

The familiar sly look in her eyes makes him raise an eyebrow in anticipation. “who’s there?”

“Abby.”

“abby who?”

“Abby Valentine’s Day, Sans!”

...Probably should have seen that one coming. 

He chuckles, grinning and throwing her another wink. The same faint flush from earlier spreads across her white cheeks - and again the same feeling of weirdness overcomes him. Maybe because he’d been thinking of Asgore just a moment before, but it’s enough to make him hesitate, grin etching downwards just a touch.

Luckily she doesn’t notice, already seeing herself out the door as she waves cheerily goodbye. He barely has time to return the wave before she’s gone, leaving him alone in his and Paps’ living room in front of the muted tv loudly advertising Mettaton’s upcoming concert. 

For a moment he simply stands there in bemusement, much as he had when she’d first arrived. His hand, slipping back into the comforts of his pocket, ends up providing a form of distraction, making contact with the edge of the holiday card. For wont of anything better to do, he pulls it out and opens it back up. 

Choosing love, huh? An entire holiday dedicated to the celebration of love?

He still thinks it’s kind of ironic, but as he stares down at the card Toriel handed him, he decides that it’s something he can’t ever fully explain to anyone, because he can’t even properly explain it to himself. 

 


 

“Ngaaah, yeah! Alright!” 

“I c-can’t believe it,” Alphys said - wheezed, more accurately. She was even clutching a claw to her chest like her heart was liable to explode at any moment. “We d-did it!”

“Hell yeah we did!” Undyne proclaimed loudly, as she and Papyrus competed to pose on top of the downed Skyvern, “that’s what you get when you mess with Bosses!” 

Any sensible traveler would have gutted and beheaded the creature before going anywhere near it, no matter how dead it seemed, but he could hear the excitement in their voices. They were still too full of the rush of killing one of the most dangerous sky beasts known to monsterkind. 

He wondered why he wasn’t as excited. 

Papyrus lost his footing halfway up the creature’s back, but he didn’t seem to mind at all as he slid back down, gloved hands clasped to his cheeks. “WOWIE! NOT EVEN A SKYVERN IS ANY MATCH FOR THE POWER OF OUR FRIENDSHIP! I, THE GREAT PALADIN PAPYRUS...AM OVERCOME WITH TEARS!”

“Hey, can the waterworks, ‘ya bonehead,” he heard Undyne growl, and was vaguely aware of the fact that he knew there would be a wide and happy smile on her face that otherwise belied the harshness of the remark. “We’ve still gotta cut off the wings so we can sell ‘em!”

“A-and the teeth!” Alphys cut in helpfully.

“Yeah yeah.” There was the sound of what was probably a fish monster hopping off a Skyvern’s back and back onto the ground. “Hey Sans, see if you can blast off the wings! We’ll get the teeth.”

Silence.

“Sans?”

And then Paps’ head was sticking around the beast, annoyance clear on his face. “SANS!”

He didn’t jolt or start, only gave a very slow blink as he turned towards his brother. “oh, sorry bro. you say something?”

“HONESTLY YOU LAZY BONES, WERE YOU PAYING ATTENTION AT ALL?” Papyrus griped, folding his arms. “WE NEED TO START MOVING THESE PARTS BEFORE THE CARCASS ATTRACTS BEASTS OF ALL SORTS OF INSIDIOUS NATURES!”

“right,” Sans said, bemusedly, though he took his time moving. Mount Ebott rose above the horizon in the distance, its glimmering peak like a signal that called out to every traveler in the area. Not that they’d ever be allowed in - the humans were very particular about that mountain.

He’d never really thought about it before, to be honest. 

“Are you a-alright, Sans?”

“...yup,” he answered with a grin, shrugging at the disbelieving stare Alphys shot him. “just uh...thinking about how long we’re gonna be traveling through the Goliad Skyverns up ahead.”

“TERRIBLE,” his brother immediately announced in a baleful sort of voice. “THE WORST! WHY MUST A COOL PALADIN LIKE I BE SUBJUGATED TO THE TERRIBLE PUNNING OF A DISHONORABLE THIEF LIKE YOU, BROTHER?”

“heh, yeah. you’re the coolest, paps.”

Mollified, Papyrus returned to hacking off the wings of the Skyvern while Undyne and Alphys set on its teeth, and none of them noticed as he turned his head back towards the mountain, faraway and unreachable as it always was.

 


 

Valentine’s Day isn’t actually until tomorrow, he finds out that evening. Why they’re celebrating the eve before is a logic that only the coolest of skeletons can comprehend -

“SO THAT WE MAY COUNTDOWN TO LOVE, SANS! TO WELCOME IN THE DAY THAT HUMANS HAVE CHOSEN TO EXPRESS LOVING INTENT TO ONE ANOTHER!”

“heh heh, ok. lemme know when you’re ready to head on over to tori’s, ok?”

“OF COURSE, BROTHER!”

“i’ll be counting on you, paps - ”

“NYEEEEH!”

- but no one is complaining. Neither is he, for that matter, because he thinks he’s finally figured out what was bugging him when Tori had come over earlier that day. 

Because if he hadn’t figured it out by the time of the party, he would have during the actual party itself.

He’d half started to suspect it after Toriel had left, but now, watching monsters mill around making heart eyes at one another, Sans is starting to think that the human Valentine’s Day is the celebration of a specific kind of love. 

Namely, the romantic kind involving kissing and dating and more nose-nuzzling than even Dogamy and Dogoarresa could handle.

And, if he’s not mistaken, Tori was trying to express that same love to him. It couldn’t have been more clearer, he thinks - clearer than all the little hints he’s picked up over the years but has been too lazy to do anything about. 

It’s why he was feeling strange earlier with Tori, he reasons. Especially considering how, even after all these years, Asgore still hasn’t given up attempting to reconcile with the other goat monster. Things are definitely better now, twelve or so years after the fact; at least Tori doesn’t glare at Asgore whenever she’s within a few feet of him. It’s a pretty quick improvement, considering how long monsters live and can consequently hold onto negative feelings.

So the idea that Tori might be interested in him that way is one that has his eyebrows furrowing downwards as he grins and makes his way around the party, plastic cup filled with ketchup clutched in one hand. He loves Tori, sure. She’s funny, smart, has a great sense of humor - an integrity that can’t be denied. He has to struggle to think of reasons why anyone wouldn’t be interested in the kind-hearted goat monster, himself included. 

But he loves Asgore too. He can’t really imagine hooking up with the one goat monster without it affecting the other, and the thought of Asgore suffering even more than he already has is something he’s not sure he can handle. 

He doesn’t want to hurt the fluffy goat monster, who’s already been through so much. That’s the reason he’s been feeling weird all day, the reason why he feels the need to glance away whenever Toriel catches his eyes across the room. He doesn’t want to hurt either of them, and starting something romantic with the goat monster would most certainly hurt Asgore.

That must be it. Tori introducing him to this romantic holiday, her shy looks from over the sea of people, Asgore carefully maneuvering his way through the crowd towards - 

“Howdy, Sans!”

He doesn’t quite spill his cup of ketchup, but it’s a near miss. “heya pal,” he says anyways, and doesn’t bother pretending that he doesn’t have ketchup smeared on the edge of his hoodie. “here to ketchup with your good buddy sans?”

Asgore hums lightly under his breath, which he’s come to interpret as the goat monster doing his level best to internalize his screaming at the punning. Paps could use some lessons from him. “Of a sort,” the ex-King says passively, but he seems cheerful enough as he fondles his own plastic cup. Asgore doesn’t dress in his purple cape and armor platings anymore - now, he’s dressed in gardening overalls and a plain shirt. 

Larger than life to humble gardener. 

“I must say I am surprised,” Asgore speaks up after a moment, and Sans raises an eyebrow at the monster as the other gestures around them, towards the floating heart decorations that adorn the place. “To think we have been missing out on such a wonderful human holiday! Choosing love to celebrate is a very beautiful sentiment.”

“heh. tori tell you that?” he questions nonchalantly before he realizes what he’s doing, and he struggles not to flinch as Asgore turns to look at him. He hadn’t meant to bring his ex-wife into the conversation, it had simply slipped out -

But to his surprise, there is nothing but a fond sort of resignation on the old goat’s face. 

“Oh ho ho, no. No, she did not.” Asgore pauses for a moment, before he clasps him on one shoulder. “Though I suppose...well. Now is as good as time as any.”

The hand on his shoulder squeezes - not in warning, but in companionship.

“I have been speaking with Undyne,” the goat monster says slowly, the words coming out almost painfully as if he is forcing them out. Sans isn’t entirely sure he wants to hear the rest of it. “About Tor - things.”

“listen, buddy,” he tries, already prepared to put Asgore’s worries to rest, but the other monster holds up a hand, and he stops.

“And...and I think I am ready.” He blinks up at the monster, but Asgore is back to looking over the monster crowd, gazing at Toriel as she laughs at something on her phone, and he is suddenly entirely sure that he doesn’t want to hear the rest of it. 

“Ready to move on, to accept that...well. Tori and I are over.” Asgore blinks, and there is that sadness again - but at the same time, a sense of liberating freeness rests on the goat monster’s face, as if a weight had been lifted off him. A familiar, comforting, loving weight, but a weight all the same. Sans struggles to keep up as Asgore turns to look down at him, smiling sadly, but kindly. “All I ask is - that you take care of her.”

“i...” He wants to deny it, claim that it will never happen because he would never dream of hurting Asgore, but the sincerity pouring out of the other monster is too much to bear. “heh. don’t worry. i’ll keep an eyesocket out for - ”

Asgore is already groaning and moving away, so he doesn’t notice the sudden pause as the you spirals into the abrupt silence. But he does. He notices, wonders why his throat suddenly tried to close up like he was forcing down one of Paps’s spaghetti dinners. 

Keeping an eyestocket out for her, is what he’d been trying to say. Not you.

Not you. For...her?

It rings against the side of his skull, shallow and unfulfilled. It sounds wrong, like the timbre of a pitch that is only slightly off-key, barely perceptible on the edges of his senses. But it’s there all the same.

...Nerves?

After all, Asgore just gave him the green light forward with Toriel. Even as he watches, the two goat monsters speak quietly to one another across the room - and they lean in and hug each other for a long moment before Asgore leaves with his shoulders set high, and Toriel is casting her gaze back around the room and onto him. He can’t look away as she blushes prettily. 

That was Asgore’s blessing. If he wants it, he can pursue something deeper with Toriel without any hard feelings. There’s no reason to feel weird about the goat monster’s interest in him. 

So then why does he -

“I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS - DEMAND PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE OF OUR INSANE AMOUNTS OF FUN!”

He doesn’t get a chance to even protest as his brother sweeps by like the relentless hurricane he is, dragging him along by the back of his hoodie towards the fireplace. It’s a testament to their friendship and love for one another that they all instinctively gather around, the first of them that stepped foot out from under the shadow of Mount Ebott. Even the crowd of monsters makes room, an unspoken awe for the leaders of the mass exodus out from the Underground. 

“Move over, bonehead!” Undyne roars, and the muscles in her arms flex threateningly as she cracks her knuckles. “You dorks! You better do some rad anime poses this time, or we’re gonna take a hundred pictures until you get it right!”

“O-oh! Can we do kawaii M-Mew Mew Kissy Cutie p-poses?” Alphys requests bashfully, like she does every single time a picture of all of them is taken. 

Undyne is as indulgent as always. “Hell yeah we can!” she proclaims, and strikes a pose like she’s getting ready to spear down an enemy while Alphys shyly positions her claws up in a vague mimicry of a cat. There is a faint sounding sigh from afar that is probably Asgore reluctantly posing, while Tori giggles behind him and Papyrus loudly “NYEH HEH HEH!”s to his right. 

In front of them, Mettaton raises an unimpressed eyebrow, so he raises up a peace sign in deference to Mew Mew Kissy Cutie fans everywhere.

“OH YES, DARLINGS!” the robot exclaims passionately, and immediately sets to clicking the large camera. It’s one of those cameras that prints out a picture within a few seconds, and after those few seconds, everyone is cooing over the brand new picture. 

“I will find a frame for it later,” Toriel informs them all, safely removing it from Undyne and Papyrus’ pawing hands to set it up on the fireplace mantle next to the others. That seems to be for it then, as they all disperse - except for him and Tori. 

He’s caught by the various pictures adorning the fireplace. Various holidays, traditions, newly discovered aspects of human life - all of them captured in small snippets of time. ‘Valentine’s Day’ will probably go between the beach picture and the picnic one, if he had to take a wager. 

Movement from his left - it’s Tori, shifting where she stands. Maybe waiting for him to say something, to mention Asgore or...something else. Because...why not, right? He’s a lazybones and she knows it, and she likes jokes. And Asgore is fine with it. What’s there to lose?

Except she shifts closer as he glances towards her, and as she looks at him through lowered lashes, he feels strange. Again. 

He doesn’t know why. He’s not sure he wants to know why as she places a paw against his shoulder, and leans forwards. 

Which is when the smoke alarm starts blaring through the house, causing her to flinch backwards and whirl around towards the kitchen, and there is Papyrus barely visible through the black smoke filtering out of the room. His brother doesn’t seem distressed at all - instead, he seems to be vigorously mixing something in a bowl while Undyne shouts encouragement from around the doorframe. 

It’s a familiar enough sight for himself, but not, apparently, for Toriel.

“Oh my,” she says breathlessly, moving away from him to waft through the black smoke, “what are you two doing in here - ”

Her voice slips away just as easily as she did, leaving him free to return to the party. It takes him a moment to realize he’s crushed his plastic cup of ketchup in his hand, and after another moment, he sets it on the mantle of the fireplace. And that, in turn, has him pausing again, studying the pictures once more. 

They span various dates and events and feelings, but there is a recurring theme to them. Just them, their core group, their tightly-knit family. Never anyone else in these special pictures that adorn the fireplace. And each one, no matter the setting, features them all in varying states of...similarity. 

Like they all had their favorite spots, lining up for a photograph. He’s never noticed it before. But in every picture they are all situated in the same spots. Papyrus to his right, Tori behind him. Alphys to his left.

His far left. 

Maybe it is a habit they all got from that very first picture when they met each other - really met one another. Not through doors or from vaguely remembered laboratory days. But the day the Barrier had fallen and they had all walked through and into the sunlight. The very first picture they had posed for, all together, when Flowey had called them all together in some effort to get them to defeat Asgore, and had instead managed to somehow unleash the Souls on the Barrier and send it crashing to the ground against all known hope and logic. The first picture, the first celebration they had had. 

Tori has a copy of it, just like they all do. It’s standing right in the center of the mantle, proudly on display. 

He looks at it now and compares it to the others; takes note of Papyrus to his right and Tori behind him, the giant space between him and Alphys, and tries to ignore the feeling of being trapped in the wrong timeline. 

 


 

Firelord Asgore had always been a figure out of legend and myth to him, despite the very real threat of the Fire Nation. Something to be feared, to cause restless and sleepless nights, as the figure lorded itself over all his hopes and dreams. Almost unreal, an insurmountable hurdle that, even now, he feels unprepared for. 

In reality, Asgore was all that and more. 

The very last thing he expected was the ‘more.’

“Tori...”

He twitched, hands clenching in their pockets. But the Firelord didn’t make any move away from his throne. It was the first word either of them had said after the incongruous opening, the almost surreal “Howdy” the other monster had greeted him with as he’d breached the underground bunker. 

The eclipse is passing by. He doesn’t have much time.

And yet Sans found himself frozen, staring at the creature out of veritable legend. The raging monster that wanted to tear entire nations apart with his bare paws, who was said to burn defectors and traitors alive...daydreams and nightmares and stories and legends piled upon one another.

And yet...all he sees now is a sad goat monster. 

“Is she,” the Firelord said, voice hoarse enough that he had to clear his throat, and Sans struggled to hold onto the righteous anger that had been fueling him until this moment. His own rage, mixed with fear and adrenaline, ready to tear down the tyrant that had continued on the genocide of his grandfather Firelord Tengore...and he can’t do anything other than stare. “Is she...alright? Is she still alive?”

He should lie. If this all went wrong, maybe believing Tori to be dead would get the Fire Nation off their trails some. It made sense.

And yet -

“no,” he answered, and stared unabashedly as the figure from relentless nightmare...sagged, on his throne. His entire body just...deflated. 

“Thank you,” Asgore whispered, passing a paw across his eyes. The white fur came away suspiciously dark. “Please - please. I have no right to ask you of anything, Avatar Sans, but...no matter how this ends...” 

The Firelord stopped, raising his head, and Sans felt his breath catch in his throat as he met the eyes of his mortal enemy for the first time. 

“Please take care of her.”

There was no guarantee how this confrontation was going to end. Earth, Fire, Air at his disposal...missing the final component of true Balance, but the eclipse had waited for no one. Especially not a waterbender teacher that had never been found. They’d taken their chance.

Just like he was taking his now. Like Asgore was. 

He nodded once, slowly, the movement barely felt, and watched as Asgore matched it across the bunker. Just one nod, regal even in agony, before the Firelord stood up, majestic purple cloak painted deep red by the flickering lanterns.

Firelord Tengore began a war, and destroyed his entire race of people. Firelord Asgore continued that war to this day - to keep the Fire Nation from crumbling apart, or too proud to make peace with the nations his family had brought harm upon? It didn’t matter much, in the end. Firelord Asgore’s actions spoke for themselves, and those actions painted the figure across from his as the worst kind of monster in history. 

No matter the pain that rang from every word out of that royal throat. No matter the loss that stared at him from watery goat eyes across the bunker, a forlorn confusion that defied explanation.

The same loss that he saw every time his reflection stared back at him from a silent pool of water. 

 


 

Except he can’t ignore it.

He can’t, because he’s spent so much of his life across countless timelines paying attention to it, listening and watching out for the cues of something gone wrong with the flow of time. It’s engrained in him, no matter how hard he’s tried to rid himself of it.

Because he has tried. Especially in this timeline, where Flowey has lost control over RESET and they’re all allowed to finally live their lives on the Surface, he’s told himself to leave it alone. To enjoy the happy ending as the years pass by. Even if something has gone wrong, it’s not so bad, right? Of all timelines to be stuck in, fully living on the Surface is hardly the worst fate imaginable.

He hasn’t looked in the drawer in years. 

Again, a habit he’s had to slowly force out of himself since the Barrier collapsed for the last time. He doesn’t want to look in it. He doesn’t want to read the reminders of countless timelines spent battling the demonic flower as it killed its way across Snowdin. Doesn’t want to remember watching that same flower make his brother laugh and smile. 

He’s tired. He’s done with it. He just wants to live his life. He’s earned this happy ending.

He doesn’t want to know why. Why now.

Everything was fine, as far as he can remember...so why now, with Toriel’s Valentine’s Day card littering his bedroom floor somewhere and monsters cuddling noses in corners - why is he getting that nagging feeling again? One that he thought he’d been done with?

Why Valentine’s Day?

“SANS?”

He starts, blinking rapidly as the familiar weight of a red-gloved hand clasps down on his shoulder. Papyrus looks down at him, concern on his face despite the black ash that covers half of his skull. “IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT, BROTHER? YOU’VE BEEN STARING AT THESE PICTURES FOR SOME TIME NOW.”

“oh,” he says slowly, blinking again. He has been staring at the pictures adorning the mantle, hasn’t he? He hadn’t noticed. “yeah, i’m good paps.”

Papyrus smiles grandly, and despite everything, the sight makes his own grin widen. “NYEH HEH HEH! THEN STOP BEING A LAZYBONES AND STARING AT FIREPLACES, SANS! WE MUST KEEP ON TRACK FOR THE COUNTDOWN OF LOVE!” The smile on the taller skeleton’s face is gone and replaced with a scowl almost too quickly to follow. “YOU DID REMEMBER TO PUT UP THE GIANT HEART ON THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK, RIGHT?”

He still thinks Paps and Tori have gotten their holidays a little confused - the ‘giant heart’  is a literal giant heart that glitters like a disco ball, that his brother is keen on dropping down from the top of the clock to the floor to mimic a tradition the humans have to celebrate New Year’s. 

He was also suppose to actually string it up on top of the grandfather clock. Oops.

“sorry bro,” he says unapologetically, and grins as Papyrus’ eyes bug out slightly, “i’m on break.”

“SANS, YOU’VE BEEN ON BREAK FOR THE PAST FIVE HOURS,” Papyrus asserts. “SINCE WE FIRST GOT HERE.”

“hey, i’m sorry bro. honest,” he says, which is enough to have his brother blinking in surprise. “i just lost track of time.”

“WELL,” Papyrus says slowly, eyes narrowed in intense contemplation. “I DO UNDERSTAND HOW DIFFICULT IT IS FOR A LAZYBONES LIKE YOURSELF TO KEEP TRACK OF TIME...”

“so, you’re not mad?” he hedges. 

That does it. “WHY SANS, OF COURSE NOT,” Papyrus reassures him, annoyance completely forgotten as the taller skeleton’s arms come around him in a hug. “NOT EVERYONE CAN BE AS COOL AS I WHEN IT COMES TO MATTERS OF HUMAN CELEBRATIONS!”

Hook, line, and sinker. “thanks paps,” he says, and plucks a red paper heart decoration from the nearby fireplace to present it to his brother, “i can’t take it when you’re mad at me.”

“BROTHER,” Papyrus sniffles, predictably getting a bit teary-eyed at this sudden reaffirmation of love from his totally uncool brother - but Papyrus freezes as he suddenly clutches the heart in both hands, delicate paper trembling in his grasp.

“cause when you’re mad at me, it’s simply - ”

It’s far too late, but Papyrus tries anyways, eyes bugging outward from his skull. “SANS, DON’T YOU DARE - ”

The paper heart is ripped straight down the middle. “ - heart breaking.”

The volume of Papyrus’ shriek is enough to draw attention even from the milling monsters who should have been well used to his brother’s vocal decibels by now. At least, he assumes it’s Papyrus shriek that has caught their attention - he’s suffering from a mild case of hearing loss at the moment, so it’s a little difficult to tell. He shuffles both pieces of the heart to one hand, freeing up the other to rub at the side of his skull a bit.

“ - ABSOLUTELY MAD AT YOU, FOREVER,” he hears once his skulls stops ringing as Papyrus stomps off back towards the kitchen, whipping out his phone with a single-minded aggression, “I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR TARNISHING THIS FRIENDSHIP LOVE HOLIDAY WITH YOUR - NO I DON’T THINK IT’S HEART-LY THE TIME FOR JOKES - I MEAN YES I DO BUT - WHY ARE YOU TEXTING ME WHEN I’M STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU - ”

He can only guess that Tori has sent his brother said pun via text message as she laughs helplessly. He sends a thumbs-up her way, one that she accepts with another peal of laughter as Papyrus stomps around behind her in the kitchen -

- and then she’s looking back at him, something soft and searching and interested in her eyes, and his Soul shudders in his chest. 

Why -

It feels weird again. Why? He’d just...he’d completely forgotten about it, joking and messing around with Paps and Tori, and now...that same feeling drops over him. Like he’s acting in the wrong play, like...like he’s expecting something else, except he doesn’t know what that something else is. Like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that don’t quite fit together, because one of the pieces belongs to an entirely different puzzle.

Like a familiar expression, an offer of love shining out of her face...except it’s in the wrong face.

He’s moving away before he properly registers it, past the flash of white lingering by the kitchen doorway and through the throng of monsters. It’s not until he’s made it all the way to the empty hallway leading to Tori’s backyard that he realizes he still has the two halves of the heart in his right hand.

He’s not crushing them. He’s holding them delicately, carefully, fingers cupped as if to prevent the heart pieces from fluttering away or being accidentally crushed. His first instinct is to shake them free of his hand, useless after the punchline of the joke.

Instead, his other hand reaches forward mostly against his will, caressing the edge of one of the broken heart pieces like it’s something precious. Something to be treasured. He doesn’t know why he’s doing it, except that’s what he feels like doing, until something lands with a wet plop! onto the right half of the heart, soaking into the delicate paper.

It takes him a long moment to realize he is crying. 

Not at lot. Hardly anything at all. Just a single tear that had managed to make his right eye socket burn a bit, before it had landed on the right half of the torn heart. 

It takes him another long moment to realize he is standing in a deserted hallway in Toriel’s house, crying over a torn piece of paper as the monsters in the living room celebrate a dedication to choosing love. 

He’s done with it. He’s over it. He’s so tired. He doesn’t want to fight anymore. 

He doesn’t want to know.

But he’s standing in a deserted hallway crying over a torn piece of paper. He doesn’t think he has a choice anymore. He wants his happy ending - damnit, he fought for his happy ending. He wants his peace. He doesn’t want to cry over torn pieces of paper. He doesn’t want to have to settle his stomach every time Tori looks at him with that foreign expression of love.

And he also doesn’t want to know if this life on the Surface has been one giant punchline, all along. He’d rather just live the lie.

He doesn’t want the contradictions, but he doesn’t want to know, either. 

Which is worth more?

“BROTHER!”

He stills as Papyrus’ voice echoes down the hallway.

“MY SUPER SPECIAL LOVE FLAVORED SPAGHETTI IS READY...EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE A TERRIBLE BROTHER WHO DOESN’T DESERVE TO TASTE THE GREATNESS OF MY COOKING, NYEH!”

Papyrus...

He may have been alright with it, but Papyrus...his baby brother who had gone through so much, even if he didn’t remember any of it...

Paps deserves better than to live a lie. His brother is his catalyst.

And so, he shortcuts away, and then he’s back at home, silent and deserted. Their pet rock makes no move to welcome him back as he turns to trudge down into the basement.

The drawer is right in front, from the far end where the busted up machine sits. The contents of the drawer used to reside in his desk upstairs, relocating after the move up to the Surface, but he had moved it all back down to the basement after a few years of no RESETs. He hadn’t wanted to wake up every morning to the temptation of checking, double checking, triple checking that they were still in the same timeline. He hadn’t wanted the reminder staring him in the face every single day.

He wants to forget. 

But he needs to remember.

He opens the drawer.

 


 

Fukufire and Monster Kid were putting up a good fight, even if the latter kept shaking from head to toe every time their faces went back in for a nuzzle, but they were a young couple. First time competitors. The surrounding crowd cheered more encouragement than anything else, pleased to see the newly budding love even as they patiently waited for the main event. 

After all, this would be the first time that the reigning champions of the Nose-Nuzzling Championships would be competing underneath the Chiming Tree. The area had been closed off long before the two dog monsters had become a couple and started competing, after all, and legends about this place had lived up to the hype. It was really beautiful, made all the more romantic by the sighs and giggles that burst out from the crowd with every nuzzle.

Every. Single. Nuzzle.

“Man, this blows,” Undyne said with a gusty sigh, leaning almost aggressively on the lamppost next to her. Beside the fish monster, Papyrus nodded sagely, even as he surreptitiously raised a gloved hand to his eyes, and the big brother in him immediately pounced on it.

“yeah? you think so too, paps?” he not-questioned, grinning as his baby brother froze and glanced hurriedly at the bored looking Undyne. 

“I...O-OF COURSE, BROTHER!” the taller skeleton reassured his role model, who was looking at him with a raised eyebrow now. “SUCH A LOVING EVENT FILLED WITH FRIENDSHIP AND INSANE AMOUNTS OF FUN IS...C-COMPLETELY UNCOOL, NYEH!”

“Pfft, yeah,” Undyne scoffed, and Sans’ eyebrows furrowed slightly as his brother sagged a bit. He’d been planning on just embarrassing his baby brother in front of the fish monster, he hadn’t meant to make him feel - 

“Where’s the love? Where’s the passion?!” the captain of the Royal Guard complained loudly, gesturing animately towards the tree. “You gotta nuzzle noses like ‘ya mean it!” 

“uh - ” He didn’t know the fish monster that well, only knew how much Papyrus looked up to her as said skeleton gaped blankly. “R-REALLY?”

“Yeah!” Undyne yelled at the top of her lungs, smacking a fist to her chest. “Imagine felling your foes with the love of one thousand headbutts! Your nose rubbed raw as you scream your war cries! That’s how you nuzzle noses, not like this dorky competition!”

“WOWIE!” Papyrus exclaimed with glee, hands clasped to his cheeks as he himself struggled to catch up with the strange turn in conversation. “THAT IS INCREDIBLE! SUCH AN ACT OF PASSIONATE FRIENDSHIP CAN ONLY TRULY BE MANAGED BY THE MOST PASSIONATE OF FRIENDS SUCH AS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”

Sans actually took a step backwards as Undyne suddenly whipped her head around towards his brother. “Oh yeah?” she said throatily, a fierce smirk spread across her features. “Is that a challenge, Papyrus?”

“OH!  UH - ”

“Ngaaaaah!” Undyne cried out, grabbing Papyrus by the shoulders, and he barely managed to meet her with his own “NYEH HEH HEH!” before her head came flying forwards, meeting him “head on” as it were, like she was attempting to knock him out rather than nuzzle noses. 

Not that Papyrus had a nose to nuzzle with, but all the same. 

“Hah!” Undyne crowed, as Papyrus staggered away from her with the biggest smile on his face and literal stars in his eyes, “now that was a nose nuzzle!”

“heh heh. looks like you hit it right on the nose, pal.”

Papyrus was apparently still too out of it to react to the pun, but the fish monster paused in her gloating, glancing down towards him in surprise as if she’d forgotten he was standing there. Not that he really minded. 

He was more curious as to why Papyrus had thought the Nose Nuzzling Championships the perfect place to formally introduce his cool trainer to his brother, but he’d long since given up attempting to understand his brother’s eccentricities. 

Some things were just way to cool to really understand. 

“Thanks?” she said uncertainly, like she wasn’t really sure if he’d been mocking her or not. He didn’t bother clarifying however, just grinned and winked up at the larger monster, and she relaxed. “Your name is Sans, right?”

“yup. sans the skeleton.” She matched his grin and punched him in the arm - he was pretty sure that was the same as a friendly hug to the fish monster - but before he could comment, a cheer sudden rolled through the crowd, causing both of them to remember what event they were suppose to be watching.

Dogamy and Dogaressa were walking through the crowd, paws clasped tightly together. 

“Ugh. Still dunno why Papy decided to hang out here,” Undyne griped, folding her muscular arms over her chest, “with all these dorks. Hey,” she abruptly brightened up, eyebrows rising, “maybe we need to liven things up! Show these punks how to really nuzzle noses!”

“uh - with paps?” he hazarded. “he doesn’t exactly have a nose.”

“Pfft.” Undyne waved a negligent hand in the air that was probably dismissing the small details, such as having noses for a nose nuzzling championship. “Whatevs, it doesn’t bother me.” The fish monster didn’t technically have a nose either, though she had a distinct ridge where a nose might have been on another monster. “Why, s’it bother you?”

“heh heh, nope,” he answered succinctly - 

- and paused.

But the moment was gone before he could even analyze it properly. “Papyrus!” the fish monster suddenly bellowed, wild red ponytail swinging to the left as she whirled onto the skeleton in question, “you bothered?!” His brother was still clutching at his skull, but his eyes immediately lit up in face of the other monster’s approval.

“NEVER!” Papyrus crowed immediately, “NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY BOTHER A GREAT FRIEND LIKE MYSELF, EXCEPT FOR TERRIBLE PUNS AND UNCOOL FRIENDS IN TURN!”

“That’s the spirit!”

“UHM...BUT WHAT EXACTLY DOESN’T BOTHER - NYEEEEH!”

The sound of his baby brother being dragged off by an enthusiastic fish would have, probably, induced alarm bells in his brain under normal circumstances. But Sans found himself a bit out of focus as he stared at the tree, its softly chiming flowers barely heard over the din of the crowd as Dogamy and Dogaressa stole the show.

The fact that he didn’t have a nose didn’t bother him in the slightest. Not even the tiniest bit. 

So then why did the knowledge that it didn’t bother him...bother him?

 


 

The drawer is exactly the same as it always is, except for two glaring oversights. 

Said oversights rest directly on top of everything else, yet are laying at angles that makes it seem like they were thrown haphazardly into the drawer with little care. 

He picks up the first one, the small velvet box, and studies the ring embedded inside its plush center. It is simply made, just a silver band, but what looks like a jewel is sitting atop it that vaguely resembles a golden star. 

Sans inspect it bemusedly, morbidly fascinated, trying to reason out why his past self would have put a ring in here - but then he notices the second oversight, and it sends a punch of air straight into his gut. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! the cartoon heart says, with little stick arms spread out wide and open, I love you this much!

You’ll never know how much you mean to me, the words on the inside of the card say in a much more modest and handwritten font. Thanks for choosing love, Sans. 

He pockets the box and its ring in order to pick up what has to be a Valentine’s Day card, and flips it over. There is nothing telling on the back, only a plain white background, so he opens it back up to the handwritten words. It’s not his handwriting, that is for certain, and not any handwriting he can immediately recognize. 

Is it...Toriel’s? 

She was the one who introduced him to Valentine’s Day. Had she given him another Valentine’s Day card in a timeline, somewhere? And his past self had felt it important enough to store in this safe space? 

Sans doesn’t know what to make of the two anomalies. He sets the card back in the drawer, and turns to more familiar items. 

There is the photo album first and foremost, and it is only thanks to the binder that resides next to it that he knows the names of the monsters whose faces litter the photo album. The binder itself that he uses - used - to chronicle the changes in timelines looks exactly the same as well, but he knows that what matters lies underneath the cover. 

He takes a breath, and opens it up.

There is the first entry, as always, blaring up at him in desperation. He remembers those first days after Gaster had disappeared, and Flowey had shown up to start wrecking havoc on the timeline. The save space in the drawer had been discovered entirely by accident, but it’d ended up being the one thing that had kept him sane.

Relatively speaking.

The first entry starts on timeline twenty-six - the best he could guess, after he finally realized he should start documenting the shifting timelines - and from there it only grows. Fifty. One hundred thirty-two. Four hundred forty-five.

Until finally -

678

flowey pacifist run. 0 exp. barrier has broken. current surface time: 1 day 2 days 3 days 1 week 2 weeks 1 month 3 months 6 months 1 year 2 years 3 years 5 years

He had stopped counting then. Stopped checking the binder, and stopped writing in it. He’d stuffed it in the drawer and had never opened it again, resolving to simply live on the Surface once and for all. He sets the binder aside, and picks up the photo album.

He only remembers Gaster through the binder itself, rather than any personal knowledge of him. It’s the same with every other face - a logical knowledge of the monsters that had disappeared alongside Gaster after the accident, learned only through repeated readings through the binder. He knows Gaster is his father, and that they worked well together.

And yet, he remembers never being able to shake off that sense of disconnect as he stares down at the familiar yet foreign skeletal face, the proud smile as one of his hole-ridden hands encircles his own shoulder on his first day working at the lab with dad. 

It’s impossible to feel truly sad over someone you’ve only ever read out of a story. Knowing who he is, what’s happened to him...it can’t change that disconnect. 

He flips through the photographs. They’re all the same. Him working in the lab, Gaster puttering around pointing at things, the others all happy and healthy and whole. Sans continues looking through the photos, until he comes to the one distinct from all the others.

It’s exactly identical to the one on Toriel’s fireplace, down to their positions as they all stand next to one another. He’s seen it a hundred times before. It’s exactly the same.

Except for the human girl standing in the center.

She’s young, no more than a child, and she sports a fairly deadpanned expression. Yet she stands directly in the center as if she is the impetus to it all, the centerpiece of their congregation. 

She stands between himself and Alphys. 

Sans stares at the photograph, thrown off and suddenly feeling completely out of his depth. He’s never seen her before, just like he’s never seen the card before. Was she a part of Gaster’s lab who was never - but that can’t be right. She’s a human, there’s no mention of a human ever working alongside them and falling into the Void in the binder. And the picture is on the Surface. The sunlight relentlessly beaming down on their smiling faces says it all. 

Baffled, he sets the photo album onto the surface of the drawer, the picture staring back at him and mocking everything he ever thought he knew. He picks the binder back up, flipping to the last entry he made.

Except -

It doesn’t stop there. He hadn’t noticed it before, reassured in what he knew - what he thought he’d known - but there is writing on the next page over. He turns the page.

679

new day. timeline has shifted. a human has fallen into the underground. 

think there’s a new save point.

Wha...

A human? 

But that was...impossible. Sure he didn’t remember the details of a RESET, but he knew what he’d written in the binder before a RESET occurred. This timeline had yet to be RESET, and he knew the last thing he’d written had been the record of the 678th timeline, the marking of the years on the Surface. In this timeline, Flowey had accidentally broken the Barrier with the human Souls he’d stolen and his own powers of DT. There had never been a human after that point or previous, and it was impossible to go back to an earlier save state of the Underground once a new one was made.

He knew all this. He’d learned all of this over the countless RESETs he had lived through. It was just impossible. 

And yet -

The entries continued.  

680

neutral run, 4,793 exp. new save point confirmed. new timeline begins at 7:42 am at sentry stand in snowdin forest. 

692

human neutral run, 15 exp. confirm that human has control over reset. flowey missing.

701

human pacifist run, 0 exp. barrier has broken. current surface time: 1 day 2 days

He flips to the next page, and stops.

702

human genocide run, 49999 exp. bad time death count: 82.

What the...

A human...genocide run? 49,999 EXP?

That was...that had to be the majority of the Underground. 

Flowey had gone on a few genocide runs, he remembers. But never as far as Waterfall. He’d always killed the weed before or after Snowdin, depending on his mood. For the human to have gained that much EXP...that didn’t make sense. Why would he have waited so long to kill her?

Assuming it was the same girl in the photograph. 

This is getting to be too much. Basically everything he had feared but had needed to find out anyways - something about this timeline is off, something has messed with it and altered it. And not just the timeline itself - his own damn memories, to where he’d thought he’d been living in the 678th timeline, but in reality he was living in...

Out of frustration, he flips through the binder. It goes on further, much further than it should have. Numbers pass before his mind - 800th timeline, 856. 922. 

1000.

It goes on. And on. And on. And every new timeline revealed in the pages makes him want to scream, because why doesn’t he remember writing all of this down? How could he have written all these timelines down, but only remember up to the 678th entry?

Something has made him forget. Something has altered his memories. And even now, he wants to forget, wants to go back to living the peaceful lie that he damn well earned.

But he needs to remember.

Abruptly, he reaches the very last entry...and he stops.

Because it’s not a timeline entry at all. 

The handwriting is undoubtedly his, but it’s messy and uncoordinated. Gone are the succinct and blunt records of the timelines - in their place are near scribbles, barely legible and written with obvious haste, and lacking the most basic grammar structure, even by his own standards. 

don’t you know how to greet a new pal keep eyesocket out for you. brown hair closed eyes tan skin promise to tori. blue and pink sweater brown shorts black socks. don’t forget. fries ketchup water sausages on head. saved everyone broke barrier true pacifist freed monsters from underground lives with tori. don’t forget. goes to college studying political science ambassador for monsterkind. don’t forget. don’t forget don’t forget don’t forget her find this find her her name is fr

It abruptly cuts off, and is the final entry in the binder. 

And like all of the other entries, the words trigger nothing visceral in him except for the fact that he wrote them down, and he knows he’s the only one who can possibly make sense of them. He uses this binder to keep track of all the things a RESET will force him to forget.

This isn’t a RESET. They’re still living on the Surface. This is something different, and his past self had felt it important enough to write it down in their shared tome of sacred knowledge, the one and only constant in a plane of ever shifting timelines.  

Felt it important enough to leave a Valentine’s Day card with unfamiliar handwriting on it. 

Now he knows where the strange feeling has come from. He’d wanted to forget. But his past self, the self that had so desperately written down this message for him...needed him to remember. 

don’t forget don’t forget don’t forget her find this find her her name is fr  

He’s forgotten.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t remember again. 

 


 

“OH MY, FEEL THAT JAZZ STEP RHYTHM, HONEY! KEEP IT UP!”

“NYEH HEH HEH!” Papyrus bellowed, legs stretched expertly as he locked hands with the robot, who in turn raised up a leg at an almost perfect ninety degree angle. “I WILL DO MORE THAN KEEP IT UP, METTATON! FOR NO DANCE IS A CHALLENGE TO MATCH IN FEELING WITH THE SULTRY RHYTHMS OF THE LATIN DANCE!”

“OH YES, DARLING!”

They were, by far, the loudest dance couple in the studio, but despite the noise they produced, the other dancers hardly seemed to notice. The studio was working overtime in preparation, after all, with every pair of contestants practicing around the clock, even late into the night.

Papyrus and Mettaton were, perhaps, the most enthusiastic with their practice, probably because they had been late partnering up. All the other dancing couples had been practicing together for weeks, but the dance instructor had, apparently, not found anyone he’d thought was a suitable match to Papyrus’ Latin Dance style. Not until Mettaton had literally strolled through the doors and immediately set about to ‘SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE, DARLINGS.’

But they had wasted no time dancing around the subject, heh. They had set into a fervent practice schedule that the rest of the studio had seemed to be unwittingly swept along with. 

All well good, except Papyrus insisted on him hanging around for at least half of the practice session. Every time he tried to plead off, his baby brother would get that pouting lower lip that had him rolling his eyes but dutifully trudging along, even though he knew exactly what Paps was trying to accomplish. 

“BROTHER!”

Right on cue. “sup paps,” he greeted amiably from where he was lazily leaning against the wall, winking up at the taller skeleton, “you guys look good out there.”

His brother beamed at him, sweat running down the sides of his skull. “BUT OF COURSE, SANS! I AM BUT A MASTER OF THE FINER ARTS OF DAZZLING DANCES!” 

He grinned, and made a heart with his two hands. “you are the soul master of the latin dance, true.”

Papyrus stiffened, leftover grace and fluidity from the dancing gone in an instant as he glared down at him. “AND YOU ARE A TERRIBLE BROTHER WHO INSISTS ON CORRUPTING THESE DANCE PRACTICES WITH YOUR INCESSANT PUNNING.” He chuckled as his brother let out a breathy sigh...until the annoyed look left Paps’ face and turned into speculation, and that look immediately had him on the defensive. “CLEARLY YOU NEED MORE EXPOSURE TO SOUL FUSIONS IN ORDER TO COMBAT YOUR TERRIBLE JOKES.”

He resisted the urge to sigh. He really didn’t want to fight about this again. “heh. no thanks paps,” he said instead, and turned away from the disappointment clouding his brother’s features. “i’m actually feeling kinda bone tired, bro. think i’m gonna head home early today.”

“O-OH, OF COURSE SANS,” Paps said hesitantly, “METTATON IS MORE THAN WILLING TO GIVE ME A RIDE HOME - BUT SINCE YOU’RE HERE, SURELY YOU MIGHT WANT TO - ”

“thanks paps, you’re the coolest,” he interrupted, and waved one hand goodbye as he made his way towards the exit of the dance studio. “i’ll heat up the spaghetti for ‘ya.”

He was too far away to hear his brother’s response, but he didn’t worry too much about it. With the dance competition so close, Paps would do his usual fretting about Sans not expressing himself enough for all of two minutes, before returning to practice. He and Mettaton were going to steal to show next week, he just knew it.

Though they weren’t the only hot dance couples. Sans deftly sidestepped the two goat monsters that elegantly waltzed their way in front of him, giggling to themselves and looking like they were on a date rather than practicing in a dance studio. Next to them, Undyne and Alphys performed a complex set of twists and bends, triumph clear on the fish monster’s face while exhilaration lined the lizard monster’s own. 

Bunny monster and fish. Ghost and snail. Cat and alligator. He kept his head down as, all around him, the energy of two complementary Souls fusing into one swirled about, almost palatable enough that he could almost swear to feel it. 

But he didn’t. He moved apart from the rhythm, away from the hurt and the pain and the passion that had once made his feet move in motion, and now only made him want to sit down on the floor and never move again as he exited the studio, heading towards the park.

And it was fine. Even if he could never express himself to another monster for the rest of his life, he had his park and his shoes, and it was fine. Everything was better when he was dancing, even if it was only by himself.

It was fine, and Sans ignored the part of his Soul that imagined all the ways that it could be better.

 


 

It takes him a moment to figure out what to do.

He’s entirely out of his league here. He doesn’t have any notes, anything that survived whatever messed with his perception of the timelines other than a cryptic, hastily scrawled note begging him not to forget someone. Not to forget her.

The human in the photograph, he’s assuming. 

A human girl who, according to his past self, broke down the barrier and set monsters free. Willingly? In this timeline, Flowey stole the Souls but something went wrong, and the DT he had control of combined with the Souls to bring down the Barrier. It’s why they’ve survived on the Surface so long, or so he’s always figured. Flowey has lost the ability to RESET.

At least...that’s how he remembers it.

If this girl really is the cause of their freedom and not Flowey, then...the fact that she’s apparently been erased from the timeline might explain why he remembers things so wrong. A reworking of memories to explain what shouldn’t have been possible. Why he’s had this strange feeling, ever since -

Ever since Toriel mentioned Valentine’s Day.

He remembers how the words had struck him, as if he’d heard them before.

From the girl?

Everything had started to happen this morning, during and after Toriel’s visit. Valentine’s Day is the catalyst to it, he thinks. The trigger. Something about Valentine’s Day is so fundamentally important to him that he’d started noticing tiny details that, perhaps, differ from the timeline the human girl had once existed in. 

So where does he start searching?

He’s always only had himself to deal with RESETs and their consequences, and that hasn’t changed. There is no one else to talk with, no one else that can remember. 

...Wait. That’s not entirely true, is it. 

He slips the binder back into the drawer - and his fingers brush against the Valentine’s Day card as he does so, causing him to pause. The cartoon heart stares at him, arms stretched wide in acceptance as it declares its love for him. He stares right back. 

Then he abruptly slides his lifeline closed, secured. The drawer snaps shut with ringing finality. 

He teleports.

The air (or is that the familiar and much hated feeling of responsibility?) weighs heavy on his shoulders as he teleports all the way to the top of Mount Ebott, and there, the gaping hole leading back to the Underground greets him. He doesn’t know how far he will have to travel - hopefully, the answers he seeks will meet him just below. He starts to descend.

A burst of sound behind him, and he jerks mid-air, magic roiling off his body and left hand. The fireworks continue on - not very extravagant, but they make red and pink hearts in the dark sky, and one even explodes into what looks like a very familiar skeletal skull. 

...He can still go back.

He’s fine away from Valentine’s Day. Everything is alright outside of this one anomaly. He can go back and live his well-earned peace on the Surface, and only suffer a few hours of uncomfortable familiarity one day out of the year. He can still have his happy ending, and Sans slowly floats himself away from the hole leading down into the Underground.

don’t forget her find this find her her name is fr

...Welp.

Paps’ always said he was pretty boneheaded. 

He turns around, and floats himself all the way down onto the bed of golden flowers. And as his slippers land in the delicate flowers, one of them tilts its head and smiles up at him.

“Howdy!”

 


 

“mist-tel-toe?”

Alphys giggled, probably at the slow way he sounded out the word, but he can’t exactly help it. Both the word and the plant in question are completely foreign to him - like pretty much everything the lizard monster finds worthy enough to dig out from the Garbage Dump. 

“M-mistletoe,” she corrects, and he grins as he shoves his hands into his pockets, staring up at the plant that’s merrily decorated with a red ribbon. “I found it y-yesterday, and it’s in a-mazing shape! I c-can’t believe how great it l-looks, uhm...c-considering where I f-found it.”

He decided that he didn’t want to know that particular detail, but he’s interested all the same. “yup. sounds anime-mazing, alright,” he praised, because only something Alphys had seen from a human anime would be worth her time mucking around in the Dump for. “so what’s it for?”

“O-oh!” Alphys exclaimed happily, body actually thrumming with excitement. “It’s a human t-tradition, see, I’ve seen it happen a l-lot of times with Mew Mew, it’s t-the most kawaii thing ever! See, when two humans s-stand - ”

“Oh my, hello Sans. Hello Alphys!”

He blinked, whipping his head around to spot Toriel wandering up the stairs, with the rest of their friends in tow. The goat monster in particular looked a bit harried about something, which was enough of a setup to spurn him on. “heya tori,” he said, raising an eyebrow at the other monster, “something got your goat?”

She blinked, much the same way he had earlier, before she burst into a peal of giggles, reaching over to punch lightly at his shoulder. “No, silly,” she reassured, but the slightly annoyed look didn’t leave her face as she glanced over her own shoulder, almost too quickly to notice. 

Except he did, and immediately spotted the problem. 

“Gorey, we really should try to do something today,” Gorgette cajoled, clinging onto the other goat monster’s arm as Undyne raced forward to grab Alphys in a headlock, Papyrus hanging off her arm. “We haven’t been able to see each other in forever, you’re always so busy!”

“maybe he’s just being snakey about it,” he called out jeeringly, and the gorgon monster’s head immediately whipped around towards him, snakes hissing their displeasure.

“Stuff it, windbag,” she said, and only clung to a clearly-uncomfortable-Asgore’s arm tighter. 

He didn’t miss the way Tori’s face tightened in both agitation and exasperation at the motion, but the goat monster turned back towards him before he could react. “Were you guys waiting long?” she asked politely, “what were you doing?”

He blinked, then glanced upwards, having pretty much forgotten about the mistletoe in the wake of their friends. “oh, al was showing me the new human thing she found,” he explained, jabbing a finger up towards the plant in question. Tori appropriately looked upwards, eyebrows raising in surprise. “heh. she finds plant-y of new stuff down at the Dump.”

“NO PUNS, SANS!” Papyrus demanded, still hanging off of one of Undyne’s beefy arms. “WE CAN’T SAVE MONSTERS IF YOU’RE TOO BUSY CORRUPTING EVERYONE WITH TERRIBLE PUNS!”

He raised his hands in peace, but didn’t get a chance to reply as Undyne abruptly took pity on the winded lizard monster in her grasp, apparently having caught sight of the mistletoe too - and the sight was enough to make the fish monster’s eyes widen. 

“Hey hey,” she said, and if Sans didn’t know the other monster any better, he’d say she sounded kind of...worried? “I’ve seen one of those! From those human FIGHTing videos of yours, Al!”

“O-oh, yeah...” The words were kind of mumbled, the way Alphys always mumbled whenever talk of the origin of her videos came up, but Undyne seemed too distraught to notice the slight hesitation. The fish monster actually...backed away from the mistletoe, trembling. 

“woah hey, buddy,” he said worryingly, exchanging a confused look with Tori beside him, “calm down. you’re acting kind of fishy there, heh. it’s just a plant.”

“Nu-uh!” Undyne declared, pointing a shaking hand up towards the mistletoe. “That’s a mistletoe! Anyone who stands under a mistletoe has gotta kiss the person they’re with!”

None of them said anything for a moment, trying to process this revelation.

“Ki,” Asgore bleated, and under normal circumstances the sound of goat bleating would have made him burst out into laughter, but he was too busy standing stock still and generally not doing anything helpful, like running for the nearest clock portal. “Kiss?”

“W-well, it’s a human t-tradition,” Alphys elaborated, claws clenched in front of her. “If two people get s-stuck under a mistletoe, they h-hafta kiss.”

“And then you’re gonna get cooties!” 

“W-WOWIE!” Papyrus said wonderingly, “THEN THAT MEANS...SANS! YOU AND TORIEL MUST! - ”

“wait wait wait,” he cried out, waving his hands around like that would slow everything down long enough for him to make sense of anything, and maybe give him time to stop blushing hard enough to feel it on his collarbone, “i don’t like kisses - ”

“Doesn’t matter, you bonebag,” Undyne said, and she actually looked sympathetic to his plight, “you’ve gotta. That’s the rule!”

“Oh,” Gorgette suddenly exclaimed, and he glanced over to see the gorgon monster still hanging on to a stricken looking Asgore, “well if those are the rules, Sans, I guess you have to! And the two of you make such a cute couple, too!”

There was a faint gagging sound from behind him that sounded like a fish flopping onto a beach, and he felt himself go from hot to cold in a single instant. But then a grip was suddenly holding onto his arm, and he flinched, eyes wide as he stared at Tori’s determined and narrow-eyed gaze.

“w-wait,” he said weakly, turning his head away as she leaned inwards. For clock’s sake, he wanted to disappear into his hood right about now. The force of the stares from their friends, the jeering he could hear from Gorgette and Undyne’s gagging sounds, and what sounded like a muffled squeal from Alphys - 

Clock clock clock this was so embarrassing. Sans flinched and had to look away from the approaching goat monster, casting his gaze upwards towards the mistletoe as he struggled not to completely lose his lid over how embarrassed he was. He was so -

Clammy.

He felt clammy, and his bones felt...he’d gone cold. Hot to cold. He wasn’t blushing anymore, but he felt as if he’d gotten paler. He felt cold. 

He...he hated getting kissed, hated all that romantic mush stuff, especially in front of his friends. It was so embarrassing...but he didn’t feel embarrassed as Tori came closer, lips puckered up, and the mistletoe slowly rotated above his head. 

He didn’t feel embarrassed, at all. Why didn’t he feel embarrassed?

Why did he feel so cold?

Why did he feel so...sad?

 


 

“listen, buddy,” he drawls, “i don’t really have the stem-ina to banter with you, right now.”

“Golly, what a shock,” Flowey drawls straight back at him, leaves crossed in approximation of crossed arms. “The biggest lazybones in the Underground, too tired to do something? Wow. I’m so surprised.”

Sans waves a negligent hand through the air. “yeah yeah, you’re a class a dirty brother killer, we get it,” he grits out, hoping to skip the customary opening of exchanged barbs in favor of moving straight on to the important stuff. “let’s just cut straight to the chase, before i get hungry and make dandelion salad outta you.”

The threat does nothing. “Oh please, you’re not gonna hurt me,” Flowey asserts, completely at ease.

And he pauses to think about that.

no, Sans abruptly realizes, i won’t hurt him. 

why won’t i hurt him?

“why won’t i?” he decides to ask, more out of curiosity than anything else.

And Flowey...also pauses, eyes widening slightly as if he, too, is parsing out the words, trying to figure out what has given him that ultimate confidence in his safety, when they both know he could obliterate the flower in a single instant in time. 

He could. He won’t, but he could. He should...but he won’t. Why won’t he kill Flowey? 

“I...I just,” the flower tries, staring down at the golden bed. He shakes his flowered head once, twice, as if attempting to dislodge a particularly stubborn memory. “You...you just won’t. You won’t hurt me.” For all his bravado moments earlier, Flowey trembles slightly, losing confidence in the face of an unknown truth. “R...right?...”

He should lie, to keep the flower on his roots, so to speak. To keep him uncomfortable and guessing. 

“nah,” he says instead, and watches as the flower seems to almost sag in relief, “not looking to do some pruning.” He raises an eyebrow. “i only do a bit of gardening when giant weeds start trying to destroy timelines, and all.”

“Hah hah,” Flowey grumps, but the relief is evident in his voice. 

Sans waits for that relief to settle, before he nudges it. “course, i could change my mind,” he adds, even though he knows he won’t (why won’t he?). Flowey’s confidence has risen again and he gets a defiant look in return, though it seems slightly muted. “maybe give me some info and i won’t have to dig it outta ‘ya, bud-dy.”

“Hmph.” Flowey sniffs and crosses his leaves again, face turning away. “Oh yeah? And what exactly are you looking for, down here?” The flower’s expression turns slightly wide as a jagged-tooth grin takes over his face. “Not enough excitement up there on the Surface for you? Getting a little...bored?”

He suppose that the same unspoken reason why he won’t kill the weed is the same one that makes Flowey feel safe, as if there are assurances in place to make sure he doesn’t enact Judgement on the flower. 

Doesn’t mean he appreciates the ribbing, though.

“nope,” he says with a pop on the last syllable, shrugging his hands into the pockets of his coat. His eyes have probably gone black at this point, if the way Flowey flinches in surprise is any indication. “flowers like you...maybe you like to play with our lives like you’re playing out a sick game, but i’m not into that.”

To his surprise, Flowey doesn’t immediately spit out vitriol in return. The golden flower’s face slackens somewhat, as if he is thinking. “You think so?” he says mildly, and though there is still that bite of meanness to his voice, the words are spoken contemplatively, wonderingly. 

Wondering how a monster can relive the same events without getting bored and experimenting around, maybe? Who knows. He certainly never felt the need to, you know. Commit mass genocide on account of simple boredom.

Heh. He’s always been a funny guy like that. 

“yup,” he says simply, and Flowey grumbles under his breath and glances away. 

Which he takes as a checkmates of sorts, and takes another step closer. “listen, pal. i’m not looking for trouble. even though you deserve some,” he feels the need to add, and struggles not to feel too much pleasure at the way Flowey turns his face away some more. “i just want some info, is all.”

“Oh good, please tell me, I would just love to help out a smiley trashbag like you.”

Sans ignores the sarcasm. “good. so tell me.” He grins down at the flower for a moment, watching as Flowey reluctantly turns to face him, curious despite himself. “what happened at the barrier?”

“Wha...that’s what you wanted to ask me?” Flowey says incredulously. “Golly, I mean I know how lazy you can be, but you can’t even be bothered to remember the most important moment in Underground history? Even though you were right there?”

“just humor me, ‘ya overgrown weed,” he not-requests, winking down at the flower, “unless you’d rather spend your time pushing up daises, pfft.”

Flowey glares at him, unamused, but after a moment the flower lets out a large sigh. “I asked Papyrus to call you all to the Barrier,” he begins, and that same sharp smile splits over his face again. “Not the smartest monster in the Underground, your brother.”

Sans doesn’t react to the insult, but something in his face must warn the flower off from that train of insults long enough for Flowey to huff and continue onwards.

“Mo - Toriel started yelling at Asgore, Undyne started yelling at her, and he brought out the Souls,” Flowey recounts. He doesn’t nod as he listens, but everything is lining up with his own recollection of the event. “I took the human Souls, and then I - ”

A pause, and he stares down at the flower. He’s looking somewhat bemused, as if he’s arrived at a mathematical answer that he can’t show the work for. “They turned on me, and broke the Barrier.”

“and you can’t RESET.” 

“Well obviously I can’t, otherwise you and all your little friends wouldn’t have your happy little ending, now would you,” Flowey snipes. 

He does nod this time. “and how’d the barrier come down, pal? what happened?”

Flowey twitches, frowning down at the golden flower bed. “I...the Souls brought it down, duh.”

“but there were only six of ‘em.”

“Yeah, I know that,” the flower exclaims forcibly, clearly agitated now. “They must have...I don’t know, used up my DT, and that’s why I can’t RESET anymore. Or something.”

Yeah...he can tell that even Flowey believes more in the or something than his own ‘logical’ explanation. 

And he’s starting to think that or something is the human girl. 

A seventh one. Seven human Souls were needed to bring down the Barrier, and Asgore had only had six. Had her death...done something, to the timeline? Erased her from it, somehow? That hadn’t happened with the other humans who’d been killed in the Underground. 

“c’mon pal,” he tries, though he’s not sure why. Whatever has happened in this timeline, it has effected everyone, not just him. Flowey is just about as likely to remember anything about the human girl than he is. “that was a pretty lacka-daisy-cal effort there. there’s gotta be more.”

“Well there’s not!” Flowey asserts aggressively, leaves flapping around. He looks offended of all things, and Sans probably shouldn't find the thought of a mass murder being offended by his questioning amusing, but he chuckles anyways. 

“you know there is,” he chides, grinning as the flower’s movements slow down. “you can feel it. just like me. there’s something that’s missing...or something that doesn’t belong.”

Flowey grumbles again and glances away, and he knows he’s struck a nerve. The breaking of the Barrier doesn’t make all that much sense to either of them, and it’s a wonder that they’ve never stopped to think about it until now. Until Valentine’s Day. 

But then all of a sudden, the flower stills. Even his leaves stop gesticulating. 

“Something that doesn’t belong...”

He perks up, tilts his head. “hmm? you got something, buddy?”

“I’m not your buddy,” Flowey feels the need to clarify, and he doesn’t argue against the sentiment. But the flower is too busy thinking to put much heat into the statement, eyebrows furrowed over his comically cartoonish eyes, and he waits.

“There was,” the flower starts, slowly, “during one of my runs...there was a door.”

There is heavy weight to Flowey’s voice, as if this is a significant thing he says, but the importance of it is lost on Sans. “wow,” he drawls, “i can see you’re really trying, huh. that’s a-door-able.”

Flowey bristles. “No, you stupid windbag!” he snaps, “I mean there was a door in Waterfall that appeared - but it was never suppose to be there!”

Now the flower has his attention.

“I only saw it once - just once, you get it? In all my runs, it was only there one time,” the flower compounds, teeth bared. “I don’t think it was ever suppose to be there at all, but I only saw it once...and then it vanished.”

A pocket in space. A save space?

Or...

He almost regrets asking, but the words desperately scrawled across a page drive him forward. “what was inside?”

The flower blinks once, before jagged teeth erupt across his face like an ragged gauntlet of sharply defined desire. “Well...”

 


 

“Ugh. You again.”

“me again,” he said agreeably, floating himself down until his slippers touched onto the bed of golden flowers. “didja miss me?”

“Like a Soul,” Flowey ground out, leaves crossed across his stem. Sans only grinned and settled himself down, slightly hunched over as he crossed his own legs to get comfortable. “I’d rather gag on chocolate than listen to you talk my ear off.”

“aw, that hurts, pal,” Sans faux-moaned, shrugging off his jacket. “are you implying that i choc-o-late?”

Flowey grimaced. “I’m serious.”

“heya serious, i’m sans.”

“Ugh! Stop that!” Flowey demanded, waving his leaves so fast that Sans thought he was actually trying to create a miniature tornado to carry him back up the opening of the cavern. “Just go already!”

“i would, but ‘ya see, i’ve been feeling kinda down lately.”

“Just so you know, all these late night gab sessions have forced me to appreciate the pain you put your brother through,” the flower grumped unhappily. “I can’t believe I used to find his complaining about you so annoying - now I know why he complains so much!”

“heh, yup,” he grinned. “isn’t he the coolest?”

“No,” Flowey said meanly, but Sans didn’t take much offense to it. Flowey didn’t think anyone was cool unless they were a mass murderer, so he considered that a compliment to his brother. 

They sat in silence, then, sans the quiet grumbles that Flowey let out under his breath every so often. He himself didn’t offer up any conversation, only shifted to get a bit more comfortable as he fingered his jacket. 

“Seriously.”

He perked up, eyebrows raised as he looked down at the flower. Contrary to his usual sharp look, Flowey was looking almost confused, leaves once against crossed. “Why are you here?”

Sans blinked, his expression clearly asking the question for him as the flower sighed.

“I mean - why are you here?” he expounded. “Every month you...you come down here and sit down, and take off your jacket - why do you even bring it with you if you’re just gonna take it off, you stupid trashbag,” Flowey sneered, jabbing his head towards the clothing item in question. 

He...wasn’t sure. 

“maybe i will,” he said, even though the thought of leaving his jacket at home while he talked with Flowey filled him with a sudden, inexplicable anxiety. And judging by the widening eyes on the flower’s face, it did the same to him.

Why? Not a damn clue. 

“but i mean, c’mon pal,” he suddenly said to change the subject, shooting the startled flower a wink and a finger gun, “don’t try and pretend you’re not budding with happiness, here.”

“I’m not!” Flowey was quick to insist, but they both knew that was a lie. 

They also didn’t know why it was a lie, when he would rather dust himself than willingly spend time in the presence of his tormentor and toyer. When Flowey would rather wallow in his own demons and silences and failures than spend time in the presence of his greatest challenge and biggest regret. 

Neither of them knew. But neither of them wanted him to leave, either.

“alright, buddy,” he acquiesced with a tired grin. “you’re not.”

“That’s right,” Flowey sniffed, leaves crossed over his stem.

But he didn’t turn his face away. They looked at each other from across the golden flower bed like they always did once a month, and Sans absently rubbed his hand over his jacket as if he were caressing a lover as they continued to stare at one another. They stared, and waited. 

Like two pieces of a puzzle desperately trying to fit, if only to see what completed picture could possibly, ever, take shape from two broken and lacking Souls. 

 


 

The Underground feels a lot more ominous, now.

Maybe it’s the old paranoia setting back in, after so long on the Surface. Maybe it’s the fear of turning a corner and suddenly being back in his bed in Snowdin, with Papyrus loudly banging on the door for him to wake up and realizing that it’s all been RESET, yet again. 

Maybe it’s the vast emptiness that was once filled with laughter and light. 

He doesn’t know, and he doesn’t stick around long enough to inspect the feeling. Sans flits from room to room, corridor to corridor, intent on finding this mystery door as quickly as possible.

To find what his past self had hidden away for himself, now, to find. 

In all my runs, it was only there one time, Flowey had said, teeth bared. I don’t think it was ever suppose to be there at all, but I only saw it once...and then it vanished.

Flowey made several hundred runs through the Underground, he remembers from the binder. Plus, the door apparently only has an exceedingly slim chance of appearing in a timeline. Unless he is living in the timeline where Flowey encountered the door, there is little to no chance of him finding it. 

Yet he has to try. He has no other leads.

Because a door that shouldn’t exist, yet does...from the way Flowey described it, it defies even the perplexities of the Underground. He had entered it during the run, encountered an unknown monster that had vanished when he’d tried speaking to it, and the moment he had left the room...it, too, had vanished. 

Entire rooms in the Underground aren’t known for suddenly vanishing into thin air, as if they had never existed at all. Is it an area that has been erased?

Like the human?

But it can’t be quite the same. He has no memories of this apparent human, while Flowey remembers this door with vivid clarity. There is a fundamental difference between the two...unless this door defies the timeline by remaining in memories somehow. Could the entire area be a save space in and of itself?

...He supposes that none of it will matter much if he can’t find the door in the first place. 

He’s passed by it twice now, forwards and back. At least, where Flowey has claimed it to exist. He’s teleported himself all over Waterfall, just to be sure - even into Hotland and Snowdin a ways, because there’s no telling if the door only appears in Waterfall, or appears in random and hard to reach places. 

Sans teleports so far back into Snowdin, at one point, that he ends up on a cliffside outside of a cave. 

He pauses, glancing inside of it. There is a door there - The Door, as he and Paps used to oh-so-cleverly designate it. The one with the Delta Rune on it. No one, from Snowdin and beyond, had ever been able to figure out how to open it, though he and Paps used to play around it when they were younger. Pretending to vanquish evil humans and bring down the Barrier-door with great relish. 

It had never opened back then, and it doesn’t open now. 

He wonders if it could be connected, somehow, to this mythical room that Flowey encountered...but it can’t be the same one. This door has always been here, keeping guard to its secrets, while the door he’s looking for is...welp. 

Somewhere.

He trudges back in the direction of Snowdin and Waterfall, taking his time. The rush of the cryptic messages, the don’t forget her, has faded with each failed pass of the supposed corridor and its supposed door. He feels more languid now, somewhat back in control as he passes through Snowdin Town, and tries not to dwell too much on the memories that filter through his mind’s eye.

He fails as he passes by the Christmas Tree in the center of the town square. 

It’s still lit up, somehow, the Core still doing as its programmed, even without the cooling power of the ice floes. It probably won’t be able to go on much longer, but he appreciates the sight while he can.

...It’s funny. Just a day ago, he would have laughed out loud at the idea of himself missing the Underground even the tiniest bit, and yet here he is, looking at a tree that he has spent countless timelines seeing every single damn day. 

Heh heh...hilarious, right?

A clock suddenly chimes out nearby, startling him so badly that he almost falls over into the snow. It takes him a moment to realize it’s the clock above the Libraby, and it’s happily announcing the eleventh hour of the evening. 

One more hour until tomorrow, huh? Until Valentine’s Day. 

Paps had wanted a countdown to Valentine’s Day...he wonders if they’re preparing for it at the party he abandoned, or if the party itself has been abandoned in favor of searching for one lazybones skeleton. He hopes not - Paps deserves to celebrate whatever love-infested holiday he damn well wants to without having to leave off to search for him. 

He moves away again, continuing on his trek back into Waterfall and still taking his time. It normally takes him only about ten minutes to get to Undyne’s village, but he spends thirty minutes simply trudging through the familiar and slightly threatening landscape. The damp area is, at least, the same as he remembers. Waterfall has always been a bit quiet, a bit hushed, even with monsters roaming back and forth across it. 

He decides against heading into Undyne’s former village proper, though. There is only so much silence he can withstand, after losing all the immunity he has gained from Surface. 

He’ll head back into Hotland, he plans out. Just one more time. And then he’ll make his way all the way to New Home, to where the Barrier had once stood. If he can’t find it after an entire pass of Flowey’s route through the Underground, then...

Sans isn’t sure what he’ll do. The weight of an endless amount of timelines presses down on his shoulders again, a burden that he thought he’d paid his due for. For a moment it is a struggle not to simply sit down against the unforgiving cavern floor and simply burn hell with the rest of his failures as he rounds the corner, heading towards the telescope.

A grey door stands in the cavern wall. 

It is nondescript in every conceivable way, bland and boring. It sticks out like a neon light against the rich purples and blues of the cavern. The wall itself is extended, a large expanse of cavern that stretches between the mouse hole and the telescope he can just see around the far bend of the corridor. 

Sans tries to comprehend, and fails entirely. He is vaguely aware of a pain in his hands, and forces himself to unclench his fingers until they stop digging into the bones of his palm. 

He has no idea what is waiting for him behind that door. Flowey had been vague and unhelpful in the end, teasing and playing coy with him, but the look that had been on the flower’s face...he thinks this room, this potential save space in time, holds forgotten memories. Forgotten timelines.

Forgotten humans. Maybe. 

Maybe. He takes a deep breath to steady himself - takes another one - 

- opens the door -

 


 

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Sans.”

He fingered the edges of the card bemusedly, staring down at the smiling heart that had its little stick arms spread wide in acceptance. It was far from the only one. The rest of the card was near covered with them, all coming in various shades of red, but the cover centerpiece was clearly meant to be the cartoon drawn heart. 

He grinned, but he was pretty sure the confusion he was feeling was visible on his face. “valentine’s day?” he questioned, a bit rhetorically because he was sure he’d heard right the first time. He’s never heard those words before.

His girlfriend smiled, with that sort of lopsided smile she’d been wearing for the past couple of weeks. The one that made him frown and lean towards her, but she shook her head a moment later. “It’s a human holiday,” she explained, and he obligingly returned his attention to the card. “Well...tomorrow is a human holiday.”

He’s still kind of confused, but he buried the instinct to question her, to try and get to the bottom of the somber moods she’d been in lately. “oh,” he said instead, trying for levity as he flipped the card over to inspect it further - until his brain actually caught up to her words, causing him to raise an eyebrow. “you share a birthday with a human holiday, kid?”

Her eyes crinkled up at the corner then - a real smile this time, with none of that brittleness she’s had for weeks. “Yeah, sort of.” She shrugged lightly. “I’ve never known when my real birthday is, so...I just picked Valentine’s Day to be my birthday, when I was ten.” A pause, before she smiled again. “I guess you could say we’re counting down to both my twenty-first birthday and Valentine’s Day, tonight.”

He grinned right back at her. “heh heh. only ten more minutes, huh? not that i’m keeping count or anything.”

He didn’t really need to. From downstairs he could hear the frantic footsteps of monsters moving to and fro, getting everything perfect for the countdown. He was surprised Papyrus hadn’t barged upstairs to kidnap her yet, considering how close it was getting to midnight.

It had become tradition some odd years back, everyone gathering together and counting down to Frisk’s birthday day. The humans did the same thing to welcome in New Year’s, and his brother had proclaimed it a ‘MOST UNCOOL TRAGEDY, SUCH A MAGNIFICENT CELEBRATION TO HAVE ONLY ONCE A YEAR!’ Suffice to say, Papyrus had immediately starting looking for another occasion to have a countdown for, and when Toriel had, quite innocently, brought up her daughter’s upcoming birthday, well -

As they said. It’d all been ancient history, after. 

Still, didn’t really explain why she’d never told them about this human holiday of hers, especially considering that she’d, at one point, found it special enough to claim as her birthday. “so what’s it celebrating, then,” Sans questioned, leaning casually against the wall as he flapped the card at the human. “valentine’s day? i card-ly got time to study up on it, kiddo.”

A huffed chuckle, like it’d been forced out of her without her consent. “It’s not as widely celebrated as, say, Christmas or Halloween,” she warned, holding her hands loosely behind her back, “but it’s basically...well. It’s a holiday used to express love to another person.”

That did him in. 

Sans felt something stuttering to a halt as he stared, wide-eyed, at the human, before glancing down to the card and its cartoon heart. It seemed to be almost mocking him now. 

“you...don’t say,” he muttered, feeling a bit awkward as he glanced sheepishly back up towards her. Had she expected... “aw hell, babe, i’m sorry. if i’d known - ”

“No, no,” she exclaimed, expression wide as she waved her hands through to air as if to ward off his apologies. “I wasn’t - I’m not mad, Sans! It’s not like I was expecting something from you or anything. I just, wanted to get you something,” she finished, voice dropping almost apologetically as she gestured towards the card. 

Sans relaxed slightly, but only somewhat. For one Soul stopping moment he’d thought that, maybe, she’d been waiting for him to get her something specific for this human holiday that he’d never even known about.

A...a holiday where people expressed love to one another.

His Soul stopped again, for an entirely different reason. 

“heh,” he said, and chuckled a bit breathlessly as she frowned at him, maybe wondering why he had suddenly started blushing right out of the blue, because there wasn’t a mirror around but he could literally feel the magic heating up his cheekbones, “that’s good to know.” She let out a light, happy sigh as he stuck the card and his hands into his pockets.

And felt the box brush up against the fingers of his right hand.

He grabbed at it instinctively, and attempted his most innocent expression as she frowned again. Maybe wondering if her boyfriend was about two seconds away from a seismic meltdown, and he was starting to wonder if that wouldn’t just be the preferable alternative. 

A human holiday to...express love to one another. And her birthday, to boot.

It seemed almost too good to be true. All the birds were singing, the flowers were blooming...cherry blossom petals were gently spiraling downwards to set the perfect mood and timing. 

For months he had been agonizing, thinking about it over and over, and had been so close almost two weeks ago...until he’d noticed her strange moods. The strange brittleness that had made her seem almost scarily vulnerable at times, a far cry from the determined kid that had once faced up to a weed of monstrous proportions without an ounce of fear. 

He’d held off in deference for her, trying to help her get to the bottom of it. Trying to just be there for her, even if - and he ignored the slight pain in his Soul - she didn’t see him fit company to confide her troubles in. 

But now, this sudden revelation...a holiday dedicated to celebrating love for one another? And she’d seemed better, the past couple of days.

There couldn’t have been a better time. 

He cleared his throat into one hand, the other still gripping onto the velvet box so tightly that he was half worried he would break it. But he continued on as she raised her eyebrows. “anyways, m’glad you told me about this,” he said succinctly, finally raising his head to look her back in the eye. 

And winked. 

“since it’s about damn valen-tine.”

She froze. Utterly and completely.

Before she laughed, a loud and brilliant laugh that never failed to make him crack up as well, and Papyrus was probably breaking a couple of teeth in frustration somewhere downstairs but he was past caring, too caught up in her face as the moonlight from the window highlighted it into an ethereal glow. 

Why were they even standing in his darkened room, anyways? Whatever, wasn’t important. He chuckled, again breathless as he drank in the sight of her, and shakily began pulling his hand out of his pocket.

“Thank you.”

Sans flinched, shoving the box so far down his pocket he swore he heard the seam rip a little. “w-what’s that, babe?”

“I said thanks,” she repeated, still giggling slightly as she wiped at her eyes, making him grin wider. Heh heh. Laughing until she cried, huh? That was the sign of a great pun. 

And the sudden outpouring of tears from her eyes was the sign of something going terribly, terribly, wrong. 

“wha - ” he said, taking a step forward - and his Soul jumped in his chest as she took a step away from him, hand held outwards as if to ward him off. She was muttering something under her breath as she seemed to struggle to get herself back together, but he couldn’t - he didn’t understand. Why was...why was she crying?

“S-sorry,” she gasped, drawing in a shuddering breath, but even then the tears continued to flow. She forced a smile through them. “Sorry, I didn’t mean - I’m so stupid - ”

He had no idea how to help what had probably been his fault somehow, because he was Sans, Sans the skeleton, and he had this tendency to get human blood on his hands. “babe, what’s wrong?” he tried anyways, wishing he could think of something more helpful to say - wishing he could at least hold her. 

The box seemed to burn inside his pocket. 

The tears had slowed down now, but one or two edged out from beneath her closed eyelids as she gently tried to wipe them away. “Sorry, I’m sorry, I just - ” Another shuddering breath, one that matched the shudder in his Soul. “You just...make me laugh and...I feel better than I have in days, just from a silly pun. Hah...”

He blinked rapidly, hands falling to his sides as she looked up at him, hands clenched in front of her. 

“I...I love you, Sans.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d said the words, but they made his Soul leap upwards in his chest all the same.

“i love ‘ya too, kiddo,” he murmured, risking a small step forward. She didn’t react, only stared back at him with a watery smile on her face, and he felt something inside him unclench and relax as his Soul was laid bare. “living here, up on the Surface for so many years...”

He scratched at the back of his skull, and almost missed the way her face slackened at the words. But he was too far gone to read the subtle shift in expression. 

“feels almost like a dream. heh heh...tibia honest, i’ve...”

It almost hurts to say it out loud, to tempt fate, the universe, into ripping away everything he’s ever loved yet again...but he can’t not say it. 

“i’ve never been so damn happy in my life.”

She stared at him, long enough that he felt the blush crawl back across his face, tempting him into curling in on himself. But then the moment passed, and her smile...

It lit up the whole damn room.

“I’m glad, Sans,” she whispered, and he was once again caught up in her as she laughed breathlessly, whatever hesitation or bitterness or fear she’d been feeling previous evaporating into sheer joy. “That...makes me so happy.”

He took a step forward, eyes trained on her. The human, the Ambassador, the one that had freed them from the Underground. The Angel of Life. 

“Now I know, for sure. I’m doing the right thing. So...s-so now I can...”

His Angel. 

He closed his eyes, felt peace like he had never before known as he reached out for her shoulders, edging his teeth downwards towards her trembling lips.

“I can disappear.”

He stumbled, off balance where he had been expecting a counterweight, and his mind struggled to make sense of his hands passing straight through her shoulders. 

The both of them gasped, but she moved away first, a hand clenched to her throat. “He...he said it would work on you first,” she whispered, already leagues ahead of him as she usually was, already determined as he struggled to play catch up. “Because you’ve meddled in timelines, it...would affect you first...”

“you - ” he managed, even as his body seemed to instinctively reach for her. She flinched away from him, but his hand made contact with her arm anyways. 

And passed straight through it.

She was bright and vivid and solid, but his hand couldn’t - why couldn’t he -

Why couldn’t he do anything but stare, as she abruptly straightened her shoulders, and stared right back at him. The tears had dried on her face by this point, and they went unnoticed by the two of them as she opened her mouth.

“I’m going to disappear, Sans.”

And shattered his happy ending.

He liked to think he was a pretty modest guy, for a bonehead - but he also liked to think that he knew a thing or two about disappearing loved ones, about watching them fall into a vacuum beyond space and beyond time. Her statement could have meant any number of things that any number of people could have interpreted. 

But something inside of him knew, immediately, what she meant. And what it will mean for him.

“kid,” he said slowly, unknowing of what sort of expression he was making, but the sight of it only made her gaze harden in determination, determination, that damn determination. “that was bad. like, actually bad,” he chuckled, trying to play it off like a joke, but the words end up choking halfway through. “not even a little bit humerus.”

She snort-giggled, an ugly wet sound. “It’s okay,” she said consolingly - consolingly. Consoling him. “It’s okay, Sans. I figured out a way to fix everything. For good.” She backed up a step. “And I’m going to disappear.” 

“cut the crap, kiddo,” he requested - yelled it without meaning to, and a very vague part of him worried about drawing attention from downstairs. A very vague part of him could hear Papyrus yell out in excitement one minute, only one minute left until the countdown to our very good friend’s day of birth.

Where is the human? 

“I’m sorry I’ve been acting so strange recently,” she said, only now explaining her unaccountable changes in mood swings - and of course only now, now when he’s too late to do anything about it. Because she’d known he would have stopped it, somehow, with or without her consent. He would have done a lot more to keep her from disappearing. From being -

erased from time and space

He can’t begin to imagine how she’s managed it. He doesn’t want to even start. 

“And I just...want to spend this last minute with you, with our family.” She bowed her head briefly, one hand on the doorknob, before looking back up at him, smiling that watery smile again. “So please...just...come be with me? Please?”

She...she can’t be serious.

But she is. She is already moving out to the hallway. 

“you - wait, stop - ”

He teleported directly in front of her, ignoring her startled look as he loomed over body. But his hands grabbed at seemingly empty air again, even as she stood there in front of him. He couldn’t...he couldn’t do anything to her, couldn’t even -

He was -

“Forty-five seconds, you punks! Where the hell is the birthday girl?! I’m ready to eat some store-bought cake!”

The shout startled both of them, badly, but it was enough to stir her forward, her own hands reaching out this time to rest against his shoulders - and they too, passed through his own bones, causing her to wince and pull back. He reached forward instinctively, and again the same happened, until the two of them were locked in a bizarre parody of themselves, half within, half without. 

“Please,” the human gasped out frantically, and whatever determination she’d been feeling seemed to waver in her expression, “please, just...be with me. You won’t remember, I promise, it’ll all go away, but don’t - don’t let me leave without being there. I just want all of you to be there when I go.”

She’s pleading with him, to offer her comfort in her last moments, and yet all he can think of the ring in his pocket, and the promised future that will now never be.

“how...” He barely heard the words himself, barely felt them leaving his mouth. “how could you do this to us?”

“Oh my! Only thirty seconds left!”

“I had to, Sans, please, believe me.” She shook her head, hands clenching where they rested half-sunk into his shoulders, as if she wanted to grab him and pull him downstairs where everyone was waiting with happy and innocent smiles. “I had to, before she could come back and ruin this timeline - it was the only way to save everyone, forever.”

“M-maybe she went u-upstairs?”

“no,” he denied, hands flexing against her hips, where he should have been able to grasp her, tickle her, hold her close, but instead his hands only uselessly flopped through nothing. “no, it can’t - stop this, you can’t do this - ”

“P-please Sans, I know it’s selfish, but please, don’t let me go alone. I’m so s-scared Sans, but I had to - please, come downstairs, let me see my family together before I’m gone - ”

“fr - ”

“HUMAN!”

They both startled again, but the maelstrom of Papyrus could not be denied. “THERE YOU ARE, WHY ARE - N-NYEH?! ALREADY CRYING FOR SHEER JOY!” his brother gasped out, and hurriedly wiped away his own rapidly forming tear as he strode past him towards her. 

And picked her straight up over one shoulder. Papyrus had no trouble holding onto his lover, no trouble turning around to carry her away from him. “ONLY FIFTEEN SECONDS LEFT UNTIL THE COUNTDOWN HUMAN,” he announced, already having trouble holding back the passionate tears that threatened to escape him. “SAVE YOUR TEARS SO THAT I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS...CAN CRY WITH YOU!”

His brother was poised for a giant leap downwards, moving so fast that he only got the barest glimpse of her on top of his bulky shoulder. 

Please, she mouthed. Please. Don’t let me go alone.

He doesn’t move, and they disappeared down the stairs. 

He doesn’t move.

“Why, my child? Whatever is the matter - ”

She’s disappearing.

“Hey hey! Twelve seconds, c’mon everyone lineup - where the hell is that bonebag, ngaaaah, I swear I’m gonna suplex someone - ”

He’ll never see her again.

“N-no time Undyne!”

And the worst is -

“SANS, YOU LAZYBONES, GET DOWN - NYEH, IT’S STARTING!”

He’ll never even remember that she existed.

“Oh ho ho! All together now!”

His fingers brushed up against something.

The box, in his pocket. His hands instinctively returning to a comfort zone without any conscious control. He felt its smooth velvet against his fingers, opened his palm to let it tumble into his grasp. 

He twitched. 

“TEN - ”

He teleported straight into the basement.

 


 

“I would say I was not expecting you so soon, but that, my dear son, would be a lie.”

“dad,” he whispers, and the door closes behind him. 

Gaster only tilts his head, crooked smile on his face and hole-filled hands clasped modestly behind his back. It’s just about the only part of the other monster that he recognizes on any base level, a pose featured in various pictures scattered throughout the photo album and detailed descriptions in the binder. 

The black substances that comprises Gaster’s body quivers as he approaches, footsteps silent in the grey room. It makes his bones crawl - there is something fundamentally wrong with this place, and he wants nothing more than to be out of it. 

But he’s not leaving. Not until he finds her, whoever it is that his past self so desperately wants him to find. 

Maybe then he’ll be able to rest. Maybe then he’ll have done enough to deserve a happy ending. 

“expecting company?” he says into the stillness, and watches, fascinated, as Gaster shifts, the black of his body seeming to follow the movement without even really moving at all. As if the black is just background wallpaper that stays stagnant, while the skull tilts the other way.

“Of course,” Gaster answers, and Sans shudders at the tone of the other monster’s voice. “You were always too inquisitive to let things lie.”

“heh. that so?” He pockets his hands as he takes another few steps forward, resisting the urge to glance over his shoulder for the door. He instinctively knows it is no longer there. “i’d be lie-ing if i said my curiosity hasn’t gotten the better of me.”

Gaster...

Grins. 

A crooked, lopsided, broken thing. 

So it has,” he says, voice taking on a mocking quality that is discernible even amongst the garbled static that seems to coat every word leaving the monster’s mouth. “Dark, darker, yet darker. Deep runs the veins of our lust for power.”

The words seem to spring to life and hit him across the face. 

“You exist in a timeline free from the possibility of RESETs,” Gaster announces with pleasure, and Sans shudders again. He is not outside of time and space yet, but that is where Gaster exists. He can’t be surprised at anything the other monster knows. “Everyone lives alive and well on the Surface. There cannot possibly be a better happy ending for you.”

Something resonates in his Soul, struggles to force him to his knees at the truth of it. He knows it, deep down, that this timeline with Flowey’s inability to RESET stripped from him is the best possible outcome. RESET no longer has power over this timeline. 

And yet -

“And yet still you search,” the black-voided monster says, “still you are not satisfied. What more do you seek?” 

He knows that Gaster already knows the answer, but he says it anyways. 

“her.”

“Her,” Gaster mocks, his entire body bending sideways to move around. He follows the movement, keeping the other monster opposite of him. “One small, insignificant file that you cannot even remember, and for that you risk your happy ending.” 

“I remember her,” he bites out. 

“You do not,” the other monster immediately rebuffs, hands twitching in front of him in a series of complicated gestures, “you remember only that you remember. None other. Destroy that binder and that album, never again see evidence of her existence, and the disquiet will fade.”

Sans straightens out his back, defiant in the face of the the truth. “i have to find her,” he insists. “she existed. i wanted to find her again.”

“Beware the price of pride.” Gaster makes a new symbol with his hands -  it looks like a star. “We had food, and water, no wars. No death. Warmth and shelter and family and friends. We were happy.” His head cocks to the side again, in that disturbing way that makes it seem like it’s about to fall completely off into the abyss. “But it wasn’t enough, was it. We desired the Surface.”

His eyes close, and Sans mentally reads through the passages in the binder.

“We only need more power...just a little more power, we always said. Just a little more from the humans,” Gaster whispers. “Happiness was not enough for us monsters. We wanted more. And in the end, we did what?” Another tilt of the head. “Tell me, Sans.”

“we created a timeloop in the underground,” he says, tonelessly, because he has read the same despairing passage in the binder one thousand times. “the accident. when you fell.” The words sound bitter coming from his own mouth. “a timeloop that anyone with enough DETERMINATION could exploit.”

Gaster sighs. “We wanted more...and in the end, we gave humans the power to loop us through the Underground again. And again. And again. Happiness was not enough for us monsters.”

There is a slight pause, one that has him instinctively tensing as Gaster leans forward very, very, slightly. 

“Just as happiness is not enough for Sans the skeleton, no. Sans the skeleton desires...perfection. The absolute, perfect, ending. Tell me...” 

He is abruptly unprepared for Gaster suddenly being directly in front of him, hands outstretched and his smile dripping black ichor down into the void of his body. 

“Who are the real megalomanics?”

Hands grasp at his arms before he can move away. And he -

He screams as his magical eye flares to life - not just his life, but others, countless others, unfathomable and foreign and yet entirely his own. He envisions them in his mind’s eye, the force of a thousand lifetimes ripping through his skull all at once, and he sees them all, watches from beyond as -

- dragon wings left marks in the sand as it was dragged by the fierce fish monster, while the tall skeleton loudly proclaimed their subsequent cool and the lizard shyly joined the celebrations, all of them ignoring the hooded figure as he stared across the distant horizon, wondering what he had left behind at the mountain.

- the yellow-robed skeleton fell to his knees in front of a trident drenched in fire, and struggled to understand how he could possibly feel empathy for his mortal enemy as he stared up into eyes that reflected back down to him the pain of lost love.

- cheers rang out in Waterfall, drowning out the cooing and gasps of awe as the two dog monsters blushingly rubbed their noses together, and the skeleton tried to figure out why the thought of never being able to nuzzle noses the same way with someone didn’t bother him at all, even while knowing that he knew bothered him.

- the rhythm moved around the skeleton rather than through him as he danced, his shoes doing their best to light the way, and all around him was peace and quiet as he moved to his heart’s content in the darkened park, keeping his expression solely to himself as he danced alone, alone, alone.

- she sucked in a breath and moved closer, white cheeks tinted red as the young goat monster pressed a bold kiss to his cheek, and their friends jeered and cackled as the equally young skeleton wearing goggles hardly reacted at all, only stared up at the mistletoe, confusion written clear on his face like lightning across a cloudless night sky.

- the skeleton lay down his jacket amidst the soft petals, between himself and the talking golden flower, and though neither of them trusted the other, the two of them stared at the jacket for the rest of the night, and not another word was spoken between them as they waited for something else to fill the silence.

- the countdown dwindled down from upstairs, tearing away the last precious seconds the skeleton had to frantically scribble down her features and her hopes and dreams and his love for her in the comfort of the dark room, the anguish clear on his face as their voices raised in anticipation for the finale, desperate to keep her existence alive the only way he knew how as trembling hands fumbled for the ring and the card so that one day, one day, he could find her again, because for her, he would always, always, choose love, and her name was -

He gasps as his magical eye burns in his socket, in a way it hasn’t burned since the accident that had granted him the slight ability to sense altered timelines. Unforgiving, uncaring, and unknown. 

There is a vaguely smug air about Gaster as he drifts away, but he hardly notices as he scrabbles his hands weakly against the muted grey floor. He’s on his knees, shaking from head to toe, his bones well and truly rattled as he grunts in pain, clenches his eyes shut, but his eye refuses, to full with the visions that have defined timelines across the multiple universes -

They’re already fading, disconnected from the void monster across from him. He can’t even remember them anymore, only getting the vague sensation that across all of them, there was a common thread of confusion, an understanding that something was not quite right.

“It will fade.”

He takes a shuddering breath, the discontinued memories from the other timelines bleeding out of him and allowing his magical eye to fade from existence, and only then does he trust himself enough to look up at his dad. 

“In time,” Gaster says, hands held once again placidly behind his back. No longer do his eyes and mouth leak black ichor from them - instead, there is a familiar, sad smile on the skull, and his drooping eyes turn downwards still. “It is still fresh, still new. There are bonds that hold feelings in place, unseen...but the river flows downstream. They will fade. In time.”

“dad,” he say weakly, and sees Gaster move forward again. But the other skeleton makes no move to touch him again. Instead he feels himself being floated back onto his feet with magic, and the void monster stands only a few feet away.

“Sans,” Gaster says softly, and there is...he doesn’t remember, he can’t remember, yet the knowledge that this monster, forever lost in the void, used to be his father once upon a time...it makes him feel as if he does recognize the tone of voice, and that alone threatens to undo him. 

“Things were not perfect...but we were happy. Were we not? And yet our meddling...our lust for power, destroyed everything. For so many...many, timelines.”

He shudders, yet again, as Gaster bends down slightly. No longer threatening, but comforting. 

“Do not repeat my mistakes, son,” Gaster warns - pleads with him. “Your timeline can no longer be RESET. She will...Flowey will never kill Papyrus again. Ever.”

He has to choose. He’d thought he’d been ready to make this choice when he’d walked into this room. 

don’t forget her

Gaster leans away from him, and behind him - behind him, six hands suddenly appear, each similar to the skeleton’s own hole-ridden hands. They circle around his back, and even as he watches, wide-eyed, they suddenly converge on each other, before moving back to starting position. 

And between them, a gate to the Void expands. 

He has to choose. His timeline was just about as perfect as perfect could be. Everyone was happy. Everyone was safe. The strangeness would go away in time if he could stop himself from searching. He would forget her.  

don’t forget her

“Live your life, Sans,” Gaster whispers, as he drifts backwards. The Void welcomes him home like a beacon call against a still night. The hands began to close around him, as his blackened body starts to fade away. 

He has to choose. Chase after the perfect ending, risk destroying the timeline in a million different ways - relive the same day over and over and overoverover again, fighting a fight that no one else can see and pretending to be content as everyone around him blissfully goes on with their happy and innocent lives -

“You deserve your happy ending.”

don’t forget her don’t forget her don’t forget her

He chooses.

“ok.”

Gaster smiles, closing his eyes as he reaches out one hand in farewell to his long lost son, returning to his eternal prison, the price of his pride -

And they snap open in surprise and fear as he latches onto that hole-ridden hand, grinning at his old man, and the two of them are pulled through the gate.

And they explode in his skull again, all timelines now open to him in the infinite and endless possibilities of infinite universe, passing through his mind’s eye as he -

- leapt into the magic gate as the portal to the Unseeing Realm, the one that the Starlit Magisterium has long used to destroy all their secrets to a banished realm of lost memories and unknown souls, pulsed to life before him, calling him onwards to -

- released his airbending to drop down into the Forest of Forgotten Spirits, Harmonic Convergence closing the portals back to the physical plane as he fell, eyes fixed on the unending chasm below him where he knew he would find -

- unleashed every Gaster Blaster at his disposal and others he hadn’t even known had existed, the Delta Rune glowing ominously red on the cracking door as DETERMINATION ran down his skull in beads of dripping red, determined to break through for -

- danced to the rhythm of the ballet, ignoring Chara’s expression of disbelief and fear as she dropped to the golden floor, her red Soul now in his grasp as he used its powers to access her stolen SAVE FILE and grab onto the star as it raced him to a distant point in time that would bring him back to -

- flew through the Timeverse that beat in synchronized tempo to his Soul, millions of pocket watches hanging from the infinite ceiling as his goggles glinted in the brilliant white lighting of the room and reflected the one, the one, just one universe where her Soul had refused to be erased because that DETERMINATION was all entirely and uniquely -

- watched the machine roar to life, red glow washing over the entire room as the Void opened up before his eyes, threatening to swallow him whole except he went willingly, jumping straight into the unfiltered grey because the fear for his existence was completely overpowered by his love for -

- was pulled straight into the Void, the memories of an infinite amount of timelines and universes passing through his head all at once with a pain so unimaginable that all he could do was scream as the burden and understanding of every possible outcome was placed onto him once more, because he had chosen, and despite everything, or maybe because of it, he chose -

- Frisk.

She stares. She can’t believe it. She looks exactly like she did when she had disappeared, a young woman of maybe twenty-one years of age (depending on when her birthday actually is) only she is washed out and grey looking. 

The expression on her face...

It makes him want to laugh, until he realizes he actually is laughing, just a touch hysterically, but give him a break, he’s just had an infinite amount of timelines and universes shoved into his skull all at once, he thinks he’s allowed to laugh until his Soul explodes out of his chest if it hasn't already. 

“S...”

He stands on his feet, if it can even be called standing. There is the semblance of a floor covered in grey grass below his pink slipper, but he may as well be walking along the grey sky for all it matters to his perception. 

She’s not moving, so he takes the initiative to move to her. He has no idea where Gaster has drifted off to, if they even arrived at the same non-existence - a distinct lack of time and space tends to skew perspectives like that, he doesn’t need more than a second in the Void to figure that out. 

She’s still not moving. Her mouth is hanging open in a somewhat unattractive way. You’d think he’d at least deserve a welcome kiss, for his efforts. But he doesn’t mind, simply stops in front of her, or maybe miles away from her, and raises up one hand.

He grins.

“sup.”

Her mouth flaps a bit, like she’s trying to say something, so he uses that opportunity to envelop her in a hug. He thinks he’s earned at least that. And even if he hasn’t, he’s going to anyways, he’s going to be selfish for once, because he’s damn well earned that, against everything else.

“You,” she says, and her voice echoes across the barren nothingness of the Void. “You can’t be here.”

“welp. good thing i’m not,” he returns, grinning wider as she pulls away to stare up at him. Her hair is ash brown, and her face is pale and wan. The colors of her plain clothing are muted, dulled, and even as he watches, he swears he sees the grey blue that dominates her sweater turn down to an even more greyed out color. “can’t be somewhere if you don’t exist, heh.”

Her lower lips trembles. He leans down and captures it against his own teeth, feels her arms squeeze around his neck probably without her realizing it, but he will take what he can get. 

Until she pulls away again. “No, Sans, you can’t - ” she tries, and turns her head away as he tries to shut up her with another kiss. “What are you doing here, you can’t be - you’re going to be forgotten!”

“like you’ve been?”

She stiffens in his embrace, and nothing makes him gladder. “You...of course you know,” she realizes, and lets out a - for lack of a better word - annoyed breath. “You can see them, then?”

He squeezes her around the waist without really meaning to, answering the question for her. She shudders. 

“Then you know why...why I had to do it, Sans. I’m the Avatar - without me, she can’t - ”

“i see it,” he says tiredly, because he can see it in his mind even as she speaks it. He sees the countless timelines, the countless RESETs...the countless battles through Judgement Hall. He sees the universes where he couldn’t fend her off, and Chara went on to consume her Soul, forever ending any chance of a happy ending.

He sees it all, and it makes him chuckle. How hard his past self had thought he’d had it, fending off Flowey for a couple hundred of timelines. It’s laughable. He is laughing.

She’s looking at him again, and there is something in her expression...something slowly bleeding out of her the way the color is, briefly brought back to existence by his appearance but slowly losing its will to continue existing. A by-product of spending too much time in the Void, he supposes. 

“This is the only way, Sans,” she pleads. “If I don’t exist, she can’t ever use me to play her game. This is the best happy ending, for every - ”

“you see ‘em, kid?” he interrupts, startling her into shutting her damn mouth finally as he echoes her question straight back at her.

“I...yes, of course,” she answers, and his grip tightens on her yet again. 

“then i gotta say,” he warns, after the fact, “it’s pretty sansless trying to lie to me.”

She stiffens up again, but he doesn’t give her any wriggle room, leaning forward to press his forehead against her own muted skin as -

- the door softly closed shut after the bittersweet goodbyes were said, and they were once again alone as he turned his head away from the doorway to gaze upon her, felt the ring move against her wrinkled and wizened fingers as he grasped them with his own fragile bones, and they both leaned inwards at the same time, gently pressing their foreheads together to share one last breath as a gentle whiteness began to slowly wash over him - but he was not afraid as he faded away, because he knew that when he next opened his eyes, she would be there, waiting, on the other side. 

She is crying when he pulls away, dull, grey tears sliding down her once tanned and healthy looking cheeks. He’s not sure if the color of his tears have started to change yet. 

“That,” she starts, and has to stop. He resists the urge to kiss her again. “That timeline...the odds of everything falling into place to get it...Sans,” she gasps out, voice broken. “It’s a million to one. The chance of getting it...”

“heh heh. yeah,” he chuckles, even though there’s nothing remotely funny about her words. He can’t help it though - the Void has a way of sucking existing things like emotions until they didn’t exist anymore, but he thinks what he’s feeling is happiness.

“It’s so small Sans...so, so small.”

“mmm-hmm,” he hums agreeably.

She wiggles in his arms, brushing up against his sides - and something brushes against his waist from inside of his coat. “It may as well not even exist.”

He removes one arm from around her long enough to stick his hand into his right pocket...and grins at her. “but it does.”

“Sans - ”

“it’s valentine’s day, you know.”

That shuts her up again, but knowing her, it won’t last very long. “What?” she questions, right on cue, and he grins wider as he finally pulls back away from her. Just enough to look her in the eye, keeping his other arm firmly around her in case she decides to do something dramatically heroic like try to erase herself from the Void, if that’s even possible.

She’d find a way, he’s sure. 

“valentine’s day,” he repeats matter-o-factly. “you gave me a card, but didn’t give me a chance to get you something in return.” He remembers his past self, how badly he had been blushing, how much he had been shaking as he had planned it all out, struggling to think of the best way to say the words.

He does none of that now as he pulls the box out of his pocket, flipping it open with the thumb of the same hand, and he doesn’t even bother tapping down on the pride that sweeps over him as her expression widens. “even though i, actually, had just the th-ring to give you.”

“...”

“pfft.”

He finally trusts her enough to stay still and drops his arm from her, handling the box and its contents with both hands so he can remove the ring. She is trembling, but she doesn’t resist as he flippantly tosses the box over his shoulder and takes her right hand with his free one. She still doesn’t resist as he slips the ring onto her fourth finger. 

The golden, star shaped centerpiece on the ring seems to shimmer in the grey of the Void.

“It’s better this way,” she whispers, threadbare and broken, but her closed eyes don’t move away from the ring, even as he brings her hand upwards to lay a kiss onto the back of her hand. “It’s better for everyone.”

“yup,” he says against the secret of her hand as he looks into her face, beloved and beautiful even in its unnatural grey. “it is.”

She swallows. Her lower lips trembles.

“but hey, buddy? i’ve decided something.”

She looks up at him, and he doesn’t bother relinquishing his grasp on her hand.

“actually, i decided it coming here,” he amends, not like it’s an important detail, but hey. Always good to be forthcoming, right? “i decided that, this may be the best ending for everyone. but, tibia perfectly honest, right now?” 

He waits until she looks him dead in the eye, and grips onto her hand tightly.

“i decided that it’s not the best ending for me.”

She swallows again. The golden star on her ring catches more golden light in the endless expanse of grey. “Sans - ”

“i made my choice,” he reiterates, for she has to know that he’s made his choice, his non-existence in the Void right now is proof of his choice. She has to know how much of a megalomanic he is. “what’s yours?”

She stills, and he waits. He knows what he is asking. How can he not? 

They will risk everything - every conceivable timeline for this universe. They will have to start from scratch, and potentially doom everyone to a lifetime of misery and death by the end of it, an unending pattern of having their lives dictated by the whims of boredom. He will have to relive the process alone, again and again, and suffer the megalomania of a human of unmatched determination. 

He knows. He sees all of this.

And he has made his choice. 

He will fight. No matter how many timelines it takes, no matter how many Judgement Halls he presides over. He deserves his happy ending.

He deserves his beautiful, loving, ceaseless, sappy, melodramatic, tense, life-ridden, imperfect, perfect ending. And he will fight for it. 

He picks up her other hand, their fingers intertwining with the ease of an infinite amount of timelines of love between them. She is crying again - for her selfish love, her selfish desires, her megalomania that powers the golden star in the ring and causes it to spill forth into the dark Void, filling it with golden light. She cries for her selfishness, her hopes and dreams for a perfect ending that fills her with DETERMINATION. 

She cries as makes her choice, but the tears fail to hide her smile and his grin, leaning towards each other as the star between them grows to immeasurable heights, because she knows, and he knows, that she will always -

always

- choose love. 

 


 

 

 

R E S E T

 

 

 


 

He blinks, once, twice. Then again for good measure. 

And then he chuckles bitterly, and bangs his head back against the door. 

Another RESET, huh? He can’t tell for sure, not until he gets back home and checks the binder, but it’s just a feeling he has. That little whisper of events that seem all too familiar to him. He sighs, and leans his head backwards some more. 

The Delta Rune glares down at him, uncompromising as always. 

It kind of reminds him of the door to the Ruins, the one that is firmly closed from the outside. Even now, after so many RESETs from that stupid weed, the old lady’s voice filters through his brain, making him shift uncomfortably. 

He hadn’t meant to promise, all those timelines ago. Before Flowey had started wrecking havoc on everything. He didn’t like to make promises. 

But even now, he can remember her exact tone of voice. Cab remember hearing her slide to the bottom of the door as she had cried, asking him to protect any humans that wandered from the Ruins and unknowing of the sixth human’s Soul that now resided in New Home. 

...Heh heh. Maybe he hangs onto the memory so tightly because that moment had been the last major point in his life before things had started being RESET again and again and again. Sort of like his own secret save space, he supposes. 

Please. Protect the human children. Watch over them. Keep them from harm. Do not choose hate. If a human child leaves these Ruins, then...please. Promise me...

...No point in dwelling on it now, anyways. The sixth human was dead, and it was just about time for Flowey to exit the Ruins. Slowly, he stands and pushes himself away from the immovable door, and takes a shortcut out of the cave towards his sentry stand. 

He ends up in the woods nearby the Ruins. Close enough. 

And the Ruins door suddenly rumbles, and turns outwards. Right on cue, ‘ya dirty brother killer.

He feels tired though, and rather than blast the weed as soon as he exits the Ruins, he decides to let Flowey roam around for a while until he hits Snowdin. He doesn’t care how many times Flowey RESETs the timeline, he won’t just sit and watch the soulless creature strike down his brother. But he really can’t be bothered stopping the flower every single time he exits the Ruins. He’ll wait.

Except -

It is not Flowey who trudges out through the snow. 

He stares, hidden by the trees, as a human girl exits from the Ruins. She takes time to poke around in a bush, for some inane reason, before she heads off down the snow-covered road, seemingly heedless of the snowfall all around her. 

A human...

A seventh human. The last one they needed to break the Barrier. 

The monumental occasion actually makes his left hand shake as he raises it upwards, eyes never leaving the human girl as she skips through the snow. She is young, she can’t be more than nine or ten by human years. He can’t believe it, can’t even concentrate that well. It’s too much to think of, that maybe...maybe this is the solution, that the endless cycle of RESETs will finally stop once he delivers her Soul to Asgore and they’ve been freed to the Surface.. 

She’s slowing down in front of Paps’ too-wide bridge. She looks confused. He teleports behind her in the snow, noiseless, and raises his left hand towards the heights of the mountain above them. 

Promise me...

He flinches, freezes right where he is. He must look like an idiot, would probably scare the human girl out if she turned around, but she is too busy inspecting the bridge, finding wonderment in its craftsmanship. 

Promise me...

His hand slowly lowers on its own accord.

He made a promise. He hates making promises.

But he keeps the promises he makes.

Promise me...that you will choose...

...Heh heh. It’d be safer to just obliterate her and take her Soul. Smart, too. He doesn’t see any dust on her clothes, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t killed. And what if she turns out to be even worse than Flowey? What if he turns his back, and she strikes down Papyrus?

Buddy...

Promise me...that you will choose...

...

Heh. Okay, old lady. A promise is a promise. 

He doesn’t summon his Gaster Blasters. He doesn’t impale her with bones. He trudges forward instead, stares at her a bit...and puts on his best intimidation voice.

“Human. Don’t you know how to greet a new pal?”

She’s frozen where she stands, put off by his voice or the chill she can probably feel behind her. Because, welp...he’d promised not to hurt a human child, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t mess with her a little bit. 

“Turn around and shake my hand.”

She turns, very stiffly, and he taps down on his own urge to raise his eyebrows. Her eyes are closed shut, so much so that he half-suspects frost bite to have sealed ice over them. They look fine however, save for the worried frown crinkling her forehead as she slowly reaches out to grasp his hand.

He doesn’t bother resisting the urge to grin as she stiffens, the whoopee cushion slowly deflating between their clasped hands. 

For a moment there is just silence, and he is abruptly reminded of the fact that Flowey has never much appreciated the old whoopee cushion in the hand prank.

Until -

She bursts out laughing, startlingly loud and echoing across the somber landscape of Snowdin Forest. It is a squealing sort of laugh, almost shrill, but infectious nonetheless, and it is only when he realizes he is laughing alongside the human does he get it, he thinks. 

Promise me...that you will choose...

...Choose love, huh?

Heh heh. 

He's not sure how long he'll be able to keep it up, but...

Welp.

He thinks that he can give it a try.