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The Ninety-fourth Time

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Frisk’s determination flickered into hopelessness, and something far darker after the ninety-second reset. 

The ninety-second time that she felt the sun on her face. The ninety-second time she saw Sans face light up at being on the surface but becoming dimmer with each time they all made it passed the barrier. This last time his smile hadn’t reached his eyes, and he looked like he was braced for the reset.

It was the ninety-second time that Frisk admitted the truth of what she is a mage, a time mage at that, and was still loved by Toriel. By Sans and Papyrus. By all the others.

It was the ninety-second time Frisk took Toriel’s paw, hoping to introduce her to their family. To her fierce Den that would love the monsters of the underground and would protect them with the same vengeance they protected her.

It was the ninety-second time that Papyrus gasped at the sight of birds, and the ninety-second time that Undyne sobbed at the smell of fresh air. It was the ninety-second time Alphas was mesmerized by the invisibility that was a soft breeze. 

It was the ninety-second time when the demon that had stuck itself to Frisk’s soul laughed, had gathered enough power from the journey to trigger a re-set that Frisk simply didn’t have the power to stop.

She was still so young! She wasn’t fully trained yet, she didn’t have the power to stop a demon or whatever Chara had become…and was sent back to the start of it all with a sob of dismay and Sans haunted eyes following her.

That time line fell apart.

When Frisk walked through the large purple doors for the ninety-third time, she was barely able to hold the tears back. Ninety-two times they had all made it to the surface, Ninety-two times they all ended back up underground once again.

Those ninety-two runs were only the good runs. Frisk couldn’t bear to think how many times the demon had won and take over. How many times had Chara’s possession left Frisk as a passenger in her own body, and watched the demon kill her family while wearing her face? How many scars did Sans carry now, the only other one to remember what Chara had done to them? To him?

How many times had Sans been the one to put a stop to it by utterly destroying her body after Chara destroyed what was left of his heart? How many times after Sans left her dying, chocking on her own blood in the golden hallway did Frisk then wrestle control back from Chara?

How many times had Sans been lost in his own pain and grief, lost in the last time line and simply murdered her when she came through the ruin’s door? How many times had Sans picked himself back up, tried to put the jagged pieces of his decimated emotional walls back into place and pretend everything was fine?

How many times had Frisk watched the light and hope fade from his eye lights and watch Sans die on the inside? How many times had Frisk watched Sans push on and endure for Papyrus’s sake? For her own?

How many more times would he have to? How many more times could he endure?

Frisk lost count and couldn’t bring herself to be angry. She didn’t doubt that one day, one day soon, Sans wasn’t going to be able to pick himself back up, and Frisk needed to find a way out of here before that happened to him. Sans had saved her more times then she could count, and she would do this for him.

Yet, on the ninety-third time, she walked the too familiar path to Snowden with tears running down her face.  She felt the cold breeze of something behind her, but she didn’t look back. Not yet. That wasn’t how the game was played.

She heard him behind her, and Frisk swallowed the sob and wondered why he bothered. He was just as hurt as she was, just as damaged and she just couldn’t understand why he still played the game.

If only she were stronger.

She could feel him getting closer. Heard the snap of a branch behind her. She didn’t bother looking back any more.

If only she were older, better trained to deal with a demon. She was still in training!

Frisk walked a little quicker, wishing Sans would hurry up. The chill from the air around her makes her shiver and her tears are beginning to freeze to her face.

Her magic just wasn’t strong enough yet…

Yet…

Yet the coven was always stronger then the mage.

She made it to the bridge, a plan taking hold. It was foolish. It was suicidal.

Lilith would kill her for this.

The sounds of footsteps crunching in the snow make Frisk stop and the chilling voice came behind her.

“H U M A N…”

Spinning around, Frisk threw herself into Sans’ arms with a cry of agony and clung to his jacket. Pain and hopelessness bubbled before she could stop it as she buried her face into his soft t-shirt and sobbed. She sobbed for their happy ending that was robbed. She sobbed for having to go through the terror and fear of fighting all over again.

She sobbed for the Den she was sure could save her, save her friends from another damn re-set, if the horrible plan would only just work.

She sobbed for Sans. He was so broken. So very broken, and Frisk couldn’t save him.

She wanted her sister, her big sister who would do anything, kill anyone to protect her. Lilith would go to war for her, would surely slaughter a demon for her. Lilith would hold her when she fell and scraped her knee and tell her to stay determined. Would hold her hand when Frisk feared the things that lurked in the dark.  

Slowly, hesitantly, skeletal arms wrapped around Frisk’s shoulders and Sans sighed softly, “Heh. Come’on kid.” His voice waivered and he swallowed thickly, “Ya’ can’t give up on me yet.”

Frisk only sobbed harder and felt guilty for it. Sans had been going through this so much longer then she, had been the only thing to stand between Flowey and the surface longer then Frisk’s ninety-three good runs.

“Stay determined Frisk.” He whispered, his voice hallow and small, “You can’t… we need you…” he huffed a sigh and squeezed Frisk a little bit tighter. “Please don’t give up.” His soft voice waivered. He had seen so much death, he had experienced his own death more times than he would ever dare voice. The memories where always there, dancing in the back of his mind like a cruel shadow and reminding him of all the times when Chara and Flowey won.

He was gasping for air as Chara sawed off another rib, peeling it back slowly away from his spine. His arms and legs were gone, and he couldn’t have lifted a hand to save himself if he still had them. Chara was methodical, and ensured that Sans felt every saw…

Sans pushed the memory away and clung to Frisk, and he fought so hard to not give up. He pushed the thought about how good it would feel to lay down and sleep away viciously. It was too real to think about how wonderful it would be to let someone else fight the good fight. Let someone else take the hits for a while, and maybe…maybe he would just not ever get up again.

Frisk didn’t let go, couldn’t let go of the front of Sans’s shirt. She knew she couldn’t give up, she knew too many people were counting on her and she needed to do right by them. Yet, she was so afraid to fail. So afraid to be trapped in the Underground for all eternity and never bring her friends to the surface. She sobbed harder into Sans and clung to him with a white knuckled grip, a little girl who was caught up in something much larger then herself.

Sans let out a little wet laugh and lay his cheek on the top of Frisk’s head, “Come on kid. I know this is a lot to put on ya but…. but we need you.”

Frisk nodded into his chest and pushed herself away to sign up at him, Sans feeling guilty as soon as he saw her tear stained face.

I’m sorry!’ Frisk signed. ‘I’m so sorry!

Sans’ watery frown deepened, hands falling to her small shoulders, “Kid, it’s okay. It’s fine. I’m just…I’m glad you’re you. That’s…that’s what’s important. We…. we can try again.” His voice grew smaller with every word, knowing he would have to leave Frisk to her own devices and win this re-set on her own. She needed to be the one to befriend the monsters of the underground. Not him.  

Frisk huffed and rubbed at her eyes. ‘Sans, I’m a mage.’ She signed at him and her determination returning, the sadness slowly fading into something much fiercer.

Sans flinched, internally shuttering in fear at the confession for the ninety-third time. It took concentrated effort that Sans didn’t realize he still had to remain where he was, and his fondness for Frisk is what kept him there. A platonic love that made him look at her like she was a little sister. Yet, mages and witches still bred fear in the underground, and Sans still sometimes had trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that those blood thirsty killers who had trapped them to rot here where the same as the little girl who had befriended him. 

“I know kid.” He said quietly, clearing his throat, his grip still tight on her shoulders.

She held her ground, taking a deep breath like she always did just before entering a fight. ‘We have a saying among mages. The Den is stronger than the mage. The coven is stronger than the Den.’

Sans brown furrowed, not quiet understanding the sentiment of the phrase, but Frisk’s hands were a flurry of movement and he focused to keep up and understand.

It means that no one mage is stronger than a Den. That the Coven will be stronger than a single Den. That a Coven will always be stronger than any single mage. Any single being!’ She looked up at Sans with pure determination now despite the tears that stained her face, ’Sans, I come from a very powerful Coven. A powerful Den. I..’ her hands paused, balling into little fists before unfurling and continued. ‘Lilith always said I was a late bloomer. That my powers would come eventually. I think…. I think my ability to save, reset and even rewind to a save point are my powers! Time travel is rare, but not unheard of. I think Chara was a mage at one point, I can feel magic in their soul, and they were like me. But…they’re stronger. So much stronger than me.

Frisk let her hands fall to her sides and grit her teeth, ‘Sans I’m not strong enough to stop Chara. But my Den is. My sister is. Lilith,’ pausing again, Frisk let herself relax at the thought of her older sister, and her soul panged is sadness at the thought of never seeing her sister again, ‘She’s so powerful, and fierce, and good! She can help us! The two of us would be enough to stop Chara!’

Frisk paused when she felt Sans hands shake on her shoulders, his eye lights faded into his skull so that only empty black remained.  He struggled to keep his voice calm, but Frisk could hear the steel in his voice. The same coldness that he addressed Chara with, but there was panic there now, “Kid. Why are you tell’n me all this? Yo-your Den isn’t here. They can’t help us.”

Frisk felt his distress in waves, felt his soul pulsing his terror and hurt that he usually kept carefully bottled up, and it made her shiver. Sans scared her sometimes, when he got lost like this, when his fear got the better of him. Yet, she stayed determined and held her ground. ‘Because I think if I’m determined enough, I can reset to the start of the day I fell down here. All the way back to when I was on the surface with Lilith and my Den. I can bring back help to stop Chara and stabilize the time lines.’

Sans bones rattled and Frisk took a half step back before he spoke. “If you can go all the way back, why would you come back at all?” he lost his steel and his voice was empty, “No one would blame you if you didn’t come back and left us all here.” He shrugged and let her go, turning away. “This isn’t your fight anyways.”

Frisk felt herself fill with determination that flickered into rage. To hell with this not being her fight! It was as far as Frisk was concerned! Sans needed to understand! Reaching out, Frisk caught his hand and gave the boney appendage a sharp tug. Sans seemed to sink into his jacket, but his phalanges still wrapped around her hand. “Honestly kid, if ya got the option to get out of here, do it.”

Frisk growled and tugged harder on his hand until he turned watery dark eyes towards her. Only when he had, did Frisk dare let go and sign. ‘Not leaving you down here! I don’t have the strength to stop Chara, but Lilith does! I’m sure of it. I just need to get her, and I will come back. I promise.’

“Shouldn’t make promises kid.”

‘Promise!’ Frisk signed with confidence. She wasn’t going to leave Sans or any of them down here. ‘I will come back.’

She wrapped her arms back around Sans’ middle and squeezed hard. She gripped at his sweater and eventually he sighed and hugged her back.

“…Kay kid. How do we get you to the surface?”

Frisk buried her head into his chest. ‘I have to die to reset.’

Sans went cold when he saw her tiny hand sign that above her head, her fingers trembling.

‘I’m afraid to do it by myself.’

“Frisk.” NO! He couldn’t do it, not this time. Not to Frisk. Not when he wasn’t still riding on the last time lines coat tails and trapped there thinking all his friends were dead. Not when he knew it wasn’t Chara he was murdering.

‘I can’t rewind or reset if I don’t die. Not yet, I’ve been trying. So far it only happens when I die.’ She looked up to see his blank eyes and mouth pulled into a grim line. ‘Please Sans. It’s going to work.’

Sans grit his teeth and looked like he hated himself more than he ever had, “Kid…” he then huffed out a sigh and pulled her into a tight hug. Frisk buried her head into his shoulder and gripped his jacket tightly as a Gaster Blaster appeared behind Sans, and he hated himself with how easily he could be persuaded.

“I’s okay Frisk.” He muttered and put his head down, his face pressing into her hair. “I’ve got ya.” He muttered, sounding a little bit drunk, “You’re gonna wake on the surface, and you’ll get to see the sun and feel its heat. And feel a breeze on your skin and get caught in the rain. Stay up there and live a happy life. That’s what you’ll do.” Frisk wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince, her or himself.   

Her grip on him tightened, and he gripped her back just as hard as they heard the blaster power up, the humming causing Frisk to shake in Sans’ arms, “It’ll just take a second.” He mumbled and Frisk felt a tear fall into her hair as the blaster fired, and Frisk knew nothing but pain.

Then nothing at all.