Monsterkind has made it to the surface. And it's better than Undyne ever could have dreamed.
They stand together, their faces bathed in the rays of their first sunrise. It's almost like the whole of the Underground is there beside them.
It's beautiful, and for a second, Undyne burns green with anger and justice, that humans dozens of generations ago deprived her kind of this. But her rage is dull, and overcome quickly by Frisk's smiling face, and everyone else's happiness.
The only thing that Undyne has wanted all of her life is to be a hero. And she looks around, and realizes: she had nothing to do with this. She wasn't the hero in this story. And that's okay.
The next few months are a blur of slowly moving homes and monsters up to the surface. They set up a small town by a patch of yellow flowers and start to emerge out into the world, Mt. Ebbott still in close range.
Frisk is hard at work as monsterkind's Ambassador of "Peace, Friendship and Collaboration," or whatever it was that Paps came up with. He'd looked vaguely surprised when the human declared their intent to stay with monsterkind the day they broke the barrier. It'd only been a flash of confusion, and suspicion, before he schooled his face back into a smile. Undyne didn't think he wanted anyone to notice. It was pretty weird, but Papyrus is always weird. It's one of the things she likes most about him.
Given the burned-down nature of her old house, Undyne decides to start fresh aboveground, renting out an apartment with Alphys. New bed, new kitchen, new cookbook not covered in dump juice. It'll be perfect.
She'll find a way to shove a baby grand piano in there somehow.
It's maybe 7 months in, that the dreams start.
By day she works in Toriel's school, as a gym teacher, and occasional substitute principal when Toriel's out giving monster inclusion seminars. One taste of that Cinnamon Butterscotch pie with a couple words of her speech and those educators are head over heels. Way easier than the human government any day.
Undyne comes home everyday exhausted and is greeted by Alphys busy on her laptop. They embrace, and let Mettaton drone on in the background as they sit on the couch and Undyne tries to pretend everything is fine.
It wasn't always like this: in the early weeks on the surface, it was a dream come true. The entire world open up before them, and she'd finally gotten up the nerve to confess to the most beautiful monster in the Underground.
Though as the months moved on and monsters seemed to settle into this new life, Alphys shrunk into herself, holing up in her makeshift lab on the surface. Sans and Alphys started to hang out more and more. Undyne's lucky to see either of them once a week. She tries not to let it sting. They're allowed to be close. She just misses them, is all.
She kisses Alphys good night, with a promise to cook something other than spaghetti for breakfast in the morning (old habits die hard) and heads up to bed.
When asked later by Papyrus, she'd have to say the only thing that made that night memorable was its ordinariness. Everything seemed... okay. Not great, but with the potential to be, later.
And then something changes.
Undyne rarely dreams. Ask anyone from her childhood, even back then, (as her dads had said) she always had two feet ironically firm in reality.
Papyrus would tell her later, with a slight twinge of sadness, that it didn't really matter anyway. She'd just keep remembering, like it or not.
Undyne finds herself back in the Underground, the crunch of snow underneath her boots.
Heading towards Snowdin on a daily patrol. Well, not exactly daily. A couple monster kids had come running into Waterfall with wild stories of a human coming into town. Undyne hasn't heard anything from the guardsmen, so she figures the accounts are mostly false.
And yet. Best to check just in case.
Undyne has just raised her hand to wave to Papyrus when he sees her out of the corner of his eye. Papyrus' eye sockets brighten with panic and he stops his pacing abruptly, like a record scratch in the middle of a familiar song. He quickly rights himself and makes a frantic shooing motion with his glove.
Undyne ignores that, and continues towards him. Papyrus' movements grow more frenetic the closer she gets, and he starts hissing under his breath for her to get away.
This situation has escalated from weird to downright worrying and nothing can change her course now.
There are footsteps, not hers, coming from town. They've been getting louder, and Undyne notices them at the same time as Papyrus. He seems conflicted, for a moment.
Papyrus mouths "Sorry," at her and Undyne is hit by blue.
She feels the bone digging into her side from where she's been forced down onto the ground. Undyne has no time to register the betrayal before a human rounds the corner.
The magic just barely stops her from running full force at them. The human (a real one, soul and all) is dripping in dust, a neutral expression on their face. A chill runs down Undyne's back and tempers her anger.
They hold out their weapon and Papyrus is jumpy, gives a speech about oddities and redemption and Undyne wants to scream but it won't get rid of the blue in time and she can't risk breaking Papyrus' concentration on the actual human, right in front of him. It's painfully predictable how south this situation will go, but Undyne still hasn't resigned herself to it when the human strikes.
There's a scarf, lying on the ground.
The human's heading toward Waterfall, too fast for Undyne to feasibly catch head on. The blue had released as soon as Papyrus had went down. But she couldn't move, and the human did. She knows she should chase down the human at once, prevent them from killing more people in Waterfall. But Undyne just runs to the scattered pieces of dust that used to be one of her best friends.
She wrenches herself awake, Alphys still snoring beside her.
Her chest is heaving and the fragments that Undyne remembers of the dream slot too carefully back into her mind to be normal. She leans back up against the headboard and tries to calm her breathing.
She hasn't felt this panicked since she was little.
Undyne tries to roll over and go back to sleep, but her mind's still in Snowdin. She closes her eyes and sees Papyrus falling.
It must still be the lingering effects from the dream, because at the thought, her blood runs cold. She scrambles over to her bedside table to grab her phone, struck by the sudden, intense urge to know that Papyrus is okay.
It's fine, he's always awake at this hour anyways.
The phone only gets through one ring before Paps is on the other end.
"Hello Undyne!" he shouts cheerfully. "What brings you calling the Great Papyrus so late at night?"
At the sound of his voice, her shoulders slump in relief.
"Ah, nothing much Paps. Just wanted to check if we're still on for jogging tomorrow!" It's a feeble excuse and he knows it. They'd already confirmed the date that morning through the Undernet (same name, even on the surface), and despite her best efforts, her voice is still shaky.
"Undyne, if there's something bothering you, have no fear! I, Papyrus, will do everything in my power to help you through it!"
"That bad, huh," Undyne says jokingly. Papyrus always knows how to see through her bullshit. It's, nice, she decides. "Yeah, thanks Paps. Just a nightmare."
Papyrus is silent for a moment, weighing his words. "Would you like to talk about it? Or be distracted from it?"
"Distracted, please," Undyne responds gratefully. She wakes Alphys up with a twinge of guilt, and they spend the rest of the night playing co-op videogames and dying repeatedly. It's fantastic.
At school the next day, she can only bench-press five children, instead of her usual 7. Sans has taken on janitor duty today and gives her a look of reproach from his mop bucket.
"Two less? Wow, Undyne, they must be pretty strong to tip the scales. You must be slipping." He winks at her, as if to challenge. Undyne gladly accepts, piling on three extra kids. She lets out a ragged cry as they cheer, and she uncermoniously dumps them all to the ground. Laughter fills the room.
As soon as her head hits the pillow, she's back again.
The air is crisp and the soft flow of a stream can be heard in the distance. They're sitting side by side, feet dangling over the cyan ocean in Waterfall.
Flowey smiles at her and leans away to whisper something to an echo flower, too quiet for her to hear.
He turns back to her with a quick grin, and she ignores his forced smile.
"You're right, Undyne, this place is pretty cool!"
his chirpy voice rings out.
"I told you!" She grins in response. The flower to her left seems satisfied.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Go for it, Flowey." His tone is weirdly serious for the lighthearted meetings they usually have.
"Do you—" He stops halfway through.
"...Do you like hotcats or hotdogs better?" Flowey finishes lamely.
"Come on, Flowey, there's no way that was it. Spill."
He sighs. "Fine."
"Undyne," the yellow flower looks at her solemnly, "Do you believe people can change?"
Undyne turns her head to look at him. "What kind of question is that?"
"A real one, this time."
She fidgets under his gaze and leans back on her hands. "Um. That's a tough one. Yes? I guess?"
"What do you mean." Flowey phrases it like a statement, not a question.
"Agh, you couldn't have chosen something simpler?" The echo flowers catch her frustration and pass it around the cavern. "People can choose to be better and circumstances never stay the same. But sometimes..." Her mind goes to the humans in Gerson's stories and some monsters she's had the displeasure of meeting. It's such a simple question with such a complicated answer. Sometimes, Undyne forgets how young Flowey can act.
"There's a point of no return. Sometimes, we do things, and there's no going back." Undyne turns to see Flowey's reaction but his face is in shadow.
"Good to know," he says, and vines pierce her chest.
Undyne passes at least a week's worth of sleepleeess nights before it first occurs to her that the dreams might be real. She's sitting at the breakfast nook, trying not to fall asleep while Alphys waxes poetic about her new lab projects, which is a rare enough treat on its own. Alphys has come out of her shell a lot, but still keeps her work mostly to herself. It'd be great to hear about her studies, if Undyne could stay awake long enough to understand what she's talking about.
She's about to nod off when Alphys hits her stride, and gesticulates into her cup of tea. Undyne snaps awake to catch it from falling off the counter.
"...and this could even be used to prove the existence of alternate timelines. That's Sans' specialty, anyways. I've always been more of a data collector myself. He's very into application of theory. Anyways, the process entails..."
She sits bolts upright in her chair. "Hey Alphys, rewind for a sec. Alternate timelines? Like, fake history?"
Alphys readjusts her glasses under Undyne's intense stare. "Uh. Of a sorts? It's an explanation that might work."
"You mean, like, in an alternate timeline, I could be drinking coffee instead of tea?"
"I mean. Yes? But usually the changes are more drastic than that. Or, maybe they just tend to be with the data we have..." she trails off into deep thought. Classic Alphys.
Undyne slumps back in her chair. That was the craziest thing she'd heard in a long time. And yet... All of her memories slotted in too easily to be just dreams. And sometimes they correlated with things in the world that had already happened. Promises made, limits reached and the nagging feeling that the Surface was nothing new.
"Hey Alphys. Say these alternate timelines did exist. How would someone remember they happened?"
"Well, the probability of that would be extremely unlikely. It would probably need an extreme inciting event, and as far as I know, none really exist. Not to mention the logistics of at the very least, hundreds of possible variations..." She pauses. "This is purely hypothetical, right?"
"Right," Undyne sighed. "Nevermind."
It's almost tradition at this point. Head home exhausted, try not to fall asleep, fall asleep anyways.
"Toriel, Queen of the Underground." Undyne's voice echoes through the long hallway. She's weighed down with more than the usual share of royal insignias on top of her normal battle armor. Best to do this with as much authority as she can muster. "Your actions have been weighed and found wanting. The monsters of the Underground cry out for justice, and you have not granted them any."
Toriel's shadow is at the end of Judgement Hall. Her head is still hung high.
She struggles to keep her voice level. "You've let a megalomaniac rampage through the Underground without any punishment, and you refuse to do even the minimum of what King Asgore would have done. It's time for a new leader to sit on the throne."
Where Undyne would usually rush in, she holds herself back and waits for the Queen to make the first move. There's a value in holding back and waiting for the outcome. The deaths of all of her friends had taught her that.
Toriel steps towards the window and her face is thrown into sharp relief. Her eyes are hard. A light forms in her outstretched hand, and she aims it at Undyne. A battle forms around them.
Undyne summons a spear to her palm, readying herself, but the fight ends as soon as it begins.
From behind Toriel, a smaller shadow puts a hand on her arm.
"Tori, let's just go," Sans says. The fireball dies, and Toriel gives a small nod of assent.
They walk past Undyne on their way out of the hall and she can swear they disappear the moment they walk through the door.
Undyne heads to school the next morning on a mission.
"Sans! You got a minute?" She runs towards him and catches herself on the slippery ground.
"Always got a minute for you, Undyne. I'm at the tail end of my shift, but I'm not due home for half an hour. Though, I really fish work would end sooner."
Undyne ignores the puns and goes in with her question. "I need to know if you know anything about alternate timelines."
Sans' stance shifts imperceptibly and his eyes are a bit warier as he responds. "A little bit. Why're ya asking?"
"You and Alphys work together a lot, and I've heard her talk about it around the apartment," she lies. "I'd love to get a leg up so she doesn't have to re-explain it every time."
"Oh, that's fine," Sans relaxes. "Almost thought you were gonna make me do lab work during my actual job." He finishes cleaning his corner of the room and dunks the mop back in the soapy water. "It's pretty great to have someone clamoring to learn about science. What do you want to know?"
"Um. Let me think." Undyne did not think she would get this far. "I guess, why do you guys think alternate timelines exist in the first place? What kind of experiments have you been doing? Is it possible that a bunch of these could exist at once?" The questions come tumbling out, all things she's spent hours wondering about.
Sans sits down and pats the tile next to him. "That's a whole lot of questions for 2:00 pm on a Monday. Let's take it slow." She sits.
"Well, just know, we are studying alternate timelines, but mostly as a backburner project. Need something to fall back on when the theoretical physics of a non-existent barrier cease to entertain." He winks at her and Undyne forces herself to casually return it with her good eye.
"Alphys said something about data collection?" Undyne tosses out, hoping to keep Sans talking.
"Oh definitely. She's a genius with machines and automated process. We mostly throw things at the space-time continuum and see what numbers come back when we hit it with probabilities."
"That makes no sense, but please keep talking."
Sans snickers. "If you say so. Well, onto timelines existing simultaneously then. The answer is probably: I guess?"
"You guess? Seems like a pretty big thing to guess on."
"See? Everything's weirdly muddy with timelines. I mean usually they exist side by side, in different instances, but the only ones we can collect data from right now are all in a row, like loops–" He cuts himself off.
"What if," Undyne hazards, "someone could remember things in alternate timelines?"
Sans' smile becomes forced. "That couldn't really happen. It'd be an anomaly for sure, but I've never heard of it, outside of some pretty weird circumstances."
Undyne pounces on the information like a starving woman. "What kinds of circumstances?"
"Like throwing yourself into the CORE." Sans states flatly. He stands up. "I think a class needs me around the corner. See ya, Undyne. If you see her first, say hi to Alphys for me."
Sans walks away, and Undyne is left sitting on the ground, the seeds of an idea taking root in her head.
The next time she's asleep, Papyrus hands her the key to the puzzle.
"I just– can't believe they're gone." Undyne says as they walk through Snowdin. "The human, and Asgo–" she cuts herself off.
"No, I understand," Papyrus responds, after she recomposes herself. "I miss them too."
They walk in silence for a bit.
"How can you be so calm about this?" Undyne knows she's projecting, and making a general mess of things, but can't help but flop down in the snow. "The Royal Guard's disbanding, our friends presumably killed each other, and all of the human souls have gone missing!"
Papyrus looks sad, before he lowers himself to the ground beside her. He sits, with his legs pulled tight to his ribcage. "I'm not really calm, Undyne. You know that."
"Well, I wish you'd show it! You make the biggest deals out of the smallest things, like socks or puzzles, but when this happens? Radio silence. Why?" Undyne tries to make her words bite, make Papyrus do something, anything that she feels, but he just looks over at her.
"Undyne, I— You know what? Fine. Here's why." Papyrus' gaze hardens.
"Time is a circle." He taps his fingers on the surface of the snow, and they make little indents. "Sometimes, things happen, and then time moves on. And no matter what happens, we end up at the beginning. That's why.
"Do you get it?" It comes off as a rhetorical question, but Papyrus is looking at her with tempered hope. Undyne's sorry to crush it.
"No, Papyrus, I don't. Sorry."
"It's okay, Undyne," Papyrus responds, the disappointment evident in his voice. "Just. I'm saying that things will get better. Eventually. Try to believe it."
They sit together, in the snow.
Undyne wakes up with a jolt and knows what to do. She's alone in the bed; Alphys' spot is cold beside her (a long night at the lab, probably). Undyne slips on a presentable pair of combat boots and rushes down the street. She gets there in record time and stands determined on the welcome mat until the door opens.
"Papyrus, I know you know more than you're letting on."
"Undyne, I love you dearly, but it's 3 am and you've been knocking for the past 10 minutes!" He declares cheerily. His tone is belied by the bleary look on his face. "I know I don't sleep much, but I still sleep."
"It couldn't wait, I promise." Undyne reassures him, hopping from foot to foot. This is the most energy she's had in weeks.
"Wait," Papyrus pauses in preparing his rebuttal. "Was it a nightmare? One of the ones you've been calling about?"
"Yeah," Undyne admits. She's kept him up far too many nights with panic. Though, he's got a solid record of midnight anxiety attacks with her as well.
His composure softens. "Okay, come
on in. Sans is still at the lab."
Papyrus digs out a couple of containers of new looking spaghetti from his fridge and hands her a plastic fork. It's actually pretty decent, and Undyne ponders this new development as he leads her to his newly acquired, but still very ratty, couch.
"So," he asks her as they sit down, "anything specific you wanted to talk about?" His normal bravado is replaced with a more sober manner.
"Actually, yes," Undyne says, finishing up the spaghetti. Paps was right, it makes great comfort food. "I wanted to tell you that I understand why now."
"Um. Understand what?" Papyrus gives her a confused look.
"Time is a circle," she quotes, and hopes to the Angel that that conversation meant as much to him as it did to her. "Sometimes, things happen, and then time moves on. And no matter what happens, we end up at the beginning."
His eyes are wide. "Oh. You remembered." Papyrus stands up abruptly only to fall back on the couch. "OH. You remembered?!" He shouts at her. Before Undyne can respond, he's pacing the room and then back on the couch. The cycle repeats.
"How long have you remembered? How much do you remember? How did– Undyne, I have so many questions!"
It feels like a weight off her shoulders, talking to Paps. "For about a month and a half. I kept getting dreams, well nightmares, and they seemed like they were from other timelines. I've been trying to talk to Alphys and Sans about it for weeks, and I just now remembered talking to you about it." Each word is a vindication and Papyrus' response to each is a strange mixture between utter joy, disbelief, and sadness.
"Wow! Uh, what was the first thing you remembered?"
Undyne frowns at the memory. "You dying and turning me blue to watch." She knows that he probably meant to keep her from attacking the human, but she just feels anger at the memory now.
Papryus winces. "Yeah, apologies for that one." He looks at the floor and mumbles, "I didn't think you'd remember it."
"Well, I did," Undyne says. "First one, too." Undyne feels bad, pressing her advantage like this. Paps already feels guilty enough. But she needs as many answers as she can get.
The normally cheery skeleton shrinks further into himself. "I'm sorry, I really am. I didn't think this could happen to anyone else. Except for... nevermind."
Undyne opens her mouth to speak, but Papyrus rambles over her. "And if anyone had, why would they tell me about it? I'm just–"
"Someone who remembers too," Undyne interrupts. "We need all the help we can get."
"Help? What do you mean?"
"To stop these repeating timelines, Paps!" At his skeptical expression, Undyne doubles down. "This definitely isn't the last timeline, is it? How many have you even been through?"
Undyne stops short at the figure. "What."
Papyrus sheepishly shrugs. "I don't think I missed any, but who knows."
He looks incredibly tired. Undyne tries to regain her lost momentum. "Papyrus, that is a horrible amount of– what's a shorter word for timeloops?"
"I call them runs."
"Runs it is. That makes it even more important to stop this cycle! We should combine efforts with Sans and Alphys, and try to break out of this mess.
Papyrus lightly grabs her shoulder. "Undyne, I've tried. For dozens of runs, but there's not a lot to change. Things just kinda... snap back."
Undyne hears his words, but can't internalize them for herself. She's spent too long cooped up, looking for answers. Now Undyne has a lead, and she's going to follow it.
"But you've always worked solo. And so have I! Neither of us are alone anymore. We've probably never been."
Papyrus sighs and crosses his arms. "I'm tired, Undyne. But I'm willing to try."
She smiles, a real one.