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The New Caretaker of the Ruins

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  “IF THIS IS WHAT BEING IN THE ROYAL GUARD IS LIKE, I DON’T KNOW IF I EVEN WANT TO JOIN IT ANYMORE!!”

  “WELL YOU’RE JUST WASTING YOUR TIME ANYWAY!!  I WAS NEVER GOING TO LET YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE!!” Stepping forward, she forced him down to a lower step, giving her the ability to tower over him.

  “YOU’RE A COWARD, PAPYRUS!  YOU MIGHT BE STRONG, BUT YOU’RE USELESS IN A REAL FIGHT!!”  Another step closer and she pushed her face a hair away from his, snarling “You couldn’t kill if your life depended on it.”

  Straightening back up, she returned her voice to full booming volume, “YOU COULDN’T KILL IF ANYONE’S LIFE DEPENDED ON IT!!”

  Nothing was registering correctly.  Dread weighed on his chest, it would’ve choked him had he needed to breathe.  Her words rang out through the hall, deafeningly loud, yet he still couldn’t hear them, could he?

  He could.

  He stared blankly at her, her harsh words translating slowly, his eyes widening with each blow.  He almost stumbled on the steps as he moved away from her.

  Shock burned away with disgust as the space between them grew.  She made no attempt to close the gap.

  Finally, at the bottom of the stairwell, everything slid back into place.  The world felt horrifyingly real again as emotion turned to words behind his teeth.

  “IF YOU THINK IT TAKES MORE STRENGTH TO KILL THAN SHOW MERCY...I DON’T THINK WE SHOULD BE FRIENDS ANYMORE.”

  The first glimmer of feelings beyond rage flickered across the Guard’s face.  Hurt.  Anguish, even.  But it was gone again in a heartbeat, replaced by what he could only describe as betrayal.  It mirrored his own.

  “Get out.”  Her voice was barely above a whisper, yet it sounded clearer than anything she’d been screaming.

  He had already turned to leave by the time her words had even registered, a crumbling sort of feeling picking at the inside of his chest.

  Everything around him blurred into gold and black, his mind racing while his legs struggled to maintain a stride.  Every step, a knife plunging deeper.  His lies and guilt swelled, converging on him like a tide before a storm.

There was no going back anymore.

  Not knowing what he knows.

  Not knowing what he’d done.

  It was the right thing.  He was doing the right thing.

  Why does the right thing always hurt so much?

  His body on autopilot, his thoughts became flooded with memories and empathy; pain from the losses, guilt in knowing what she’d lost, too, anger in his isolation.

  Undyne.

  Sans.

  The people whom he held so dearly, dissipating between his fingers like...like...

  Dust.

  There was no room for any purposeful thought, everything was drowned out by the torrent of emotions.  It was too much.

  It was crawling all over him and he needed to get it off.  He needed to get it off.

  The ground was moving faster under his feet.

  Prying his focus desperately away from the fear and the guilt, he could feel water on his face.  A mist at times, proper drops at others.  He focused on that.  But it reminded him of Undyne.

  Undyne.

  How could she be so cruel?

  She was so much more than that.  But revenge was consuming her.  It would tear apart her soul.  She would tear his apart in the process, too, if he let her.  She was...too much.

  Without her, there was only Sans.

  But there wasn’t.  Not really.

  It looked lighter now.  It was colder.

  It was Snowdin.

  His feet were flying.

  It wasn’t home anymore.  Not without Sans.

  He’d always tried so hard to be strong for his brother.  His brother who worked hard in spite of himself.  His brother who always put him first.  His brother who had struggled along for years and fought so hard not to show it.

  His brother who hadn’t noticed he’d been home less and less.  His brother who hadn’t noticed how distracted and anxious he’d been lately.  His brother who promised he’d be home for dinner but never was anymore.  Who didn’t read him to sleep anymore.  Who didn’t notice he wasn’t sleeping at all anymore.  Who lied to him given every opportunity.  Who...wasn’t here.

  He didn’t know how long he’d been standing there once his mind caught back up, but he’d reached their house.

  His mind as dark and void as the living room he stood in, the house was empty.  It was the middle of the day and his brother was nowhere to be seen.

  Forcibly anchoring his gaze on his own two gloved hands, he played back the memory of the significantly smaller ones resting timidly in them.

  He was doing the right thing.

  The human needed him.  They could do better, and with his help, they were going to.  Together, they could be better.

  The fear in their eyes stained his memory like ink, bleeding through the pages.

  They were a child.  They were so scared.

  No one here needed him the way they did.  And maybe...maybe he needed them.

  A single drop pulled him back to the present.  Wiping away the tears he hadn’t realized sopped his face until one dropped into his hand, the dark thoughts and feeling ebbed further towards the back of his skull.  A determination filling the space between, there was only one clear option.

  It was what would be best for everyone.  He could see that now.

  Solemnly, he made his way upstairs to his room, his legs feeling distant and heavy.  Removing his now unbecoming costume, he laid it neatly in front of his closet.  It stared back at him while he changed, but no nostalgia emanated from it, only serving to reaffirm his decision.

  Things were different now.

  There’s no going back.

  Mulling through his most treasured belongings, he fought to keep himself from reminiscing, deeming only a few things fit to add to the bag he’d laid on his bed.  Only what he really needed.  That, however, proved more difficult, awakening a deep ache in his heart.

  It took longer than it should have, finding excuses to linger as he worked.  But when the time came, he knew he was ready.  There was only one thing he needed to do.  There was only...one more thing...

  With tired eyes and a weak hand, he found a pen and a piece of notebook paper.

  He couldn’t bring himself to explain everything, no matter how much he knew this would hurt his brother.  Were there even words to articulate any of this?  Possibly the greatest puzzle he’d ever faced.  So he remained vague, but impressed that he was safe, and this wouldn’t be goodbye.

  He just needed.       Space.

  His hand shook as he signed his name, pressure in his eye sockets warning fresh tears might surface, so he took a deep breath.  Stood up.  And walked to the door.

  Gathering his small collection of belongings, mostly clothes, he took in the house for what felt as close to forever as a few minutes could.  Then, he was back in the snow.

  Dragging his feet across the frozen landscape, his mind drifted further still, remembering the very happenings that brought him to this point.  The human.  The killing.  The fighting.  The crying.  The pain.  The hiding.  The anger.  The yelling.  The loneliness.

  The human, the child...he believed in them.  Even though they had done really terrible, awful, bad things.  They were a scared child.  And with his help, they could be the person he knew they were deep down.

  Maybe one day Undyne would be able see it.  Maybe one day Sans would care enough to try to.

  But for right now, all that mattered was them.

  Distractedly summoning the slightest hints of magic, he distorted the tracks he knew followed him.  The snow would cover them soon enough, but he had to be certain.  He had to be careful.

  Maybe, in some ways, this was a goodbye.

  But it was not the end.  Not yet.

 

  Not yet.