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PATCHWORK SOUL

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It was a beautiful day outside on the slopes of the towering Mount Ebott. The sun was shining down warmly, making Frisk’s skin tingle. It was warm enough, finally, to wear short sleeves, but, hardheaded in his absolute reluctance to change anything, the short skeleton with a fixed grin accompanying her on her climb was still in his blue winter jacket with the fuzzy hood. Wasn’t like temperature effected him much either way, though.

“Kiddo,” he said, “you know, uh, this is pretty unrealistic.”

“Duh,” she said.

 

He looked down at the dirt and stone under his slippered feet and then turned his eyes up to her as she did her best to stay upright, walking up the steep incline. He raised his brows.

“Aw, c’mon, Sans,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a little kid and I did it on my own before! And this isn’t even real.”

He looked up at the peak skeptically. It seemed to stretch forever up into the clouds. “Yeah, but in your dreams you, uh, make it even taller.”

“Sorry,” she said with a bashful smile. “I guess it was pretty scary at the time.”

 

She had to use her hands to grasp the rock and pull herself up, but a sudden flurry of bird sounds caught her attention. She turned and couldn’t help but gawk as Sans floated by her, hands in his pockets, looking almost as if he were asleep as songbirds carried him effortlessly up the slope.

“Oh my god, what?!” she yelped.

“Eh. It’s my dream, too,” he said.

Frisk pouted. “Bro, you’re cheating!”

“What else is new?” he replied.

She quickly found her soul snared in a blue glow and was whisked up to join him.

 

When they reached a small, solid outcrop, the birds vanished and the two of them plopped down to the stone. Frisk pulled out a blanket and flapped it out to straighten it before laying it down.

“Hey, Sans, what do you-?” Her thought cut short as she noticed the skeleton was standing at the end of the rocky precipice, staring out at the sky. “Sans?” She walked over to meet him and poked him in the arm.

“Heh. Sorry, kid,” he said. “Sometimes it just puts me right back.” He ruffled her hair.

“Thanks for coming with me tonight,” she said.

“No problem, buddy,” he said. “Couldda done it in my sleep.”

She snorted. He grinned.

 

They spent some time hanging around, eating conjured ice cream, and enjoying the sunlight that permeated the dream. It was a nice contrast to what awaited them in the real world. After a little while, Frisk began to feel a little strange, though— started to feel a weird itch in the back of her head.

 

“Hey, kiddo,” Sans said. “So. What’s the deal? The regulars gettin’ to be a bit too much?”

Frisk grimaced. She nodded. Couldn’t hide a thing from him, could she? “I still feel tired after this, but at least I’m not scared outta my pants.” She shot him a sideways look. “You too?”

“Don’t worry about me,” he said.

She gently elbowed him in the ribs. He grinned and mussed up her hair again. She couldn’t help a laugh and nestled against his side.

“Too bad it ain’t a thing you can undo, huh?” he said. “Actually, bet even tryin’ would make it worse. Sorry.”

“No way,” she said. “Honestly, I like this better. We can totally be a dream team, it’s great.”

“If by great, you mean crap.” Sans shot her a grin. “…Thanks, kiddo.”

“You’re welcome,” she said brightly. “C’mon, dude, you’ve been at this too long.”

“Welp. Hear that,” he said with a laugh. He cut his eyes at her jokingly. “Guess it’s not too bad havin’ a time-kid.”

“Good!” she said, grabbing his arm snugly. “Beeeecause you’re stuck with me.”

“Good,” he said.

She snickered, but any levity she felt was cut short when she was certain she heard a scratchy whispering behind her.

 

She turned to look and her heart dropped. Behind her, drained of colour, drenched in rain, was the entrance to a cave. That hadn’t been there before. It wasn’t even raining. She stood up to look, fear turning her cold.

“Kid? What’s up?” Sans asked.

“Where… Where did this come from?” she asked quietly.

“Uh, where did what come from?” he asked.

Frisk couldn’t help herself. It was like a magnet. She took a few steps inward. She could hear that whispering, still, but couldn’t make out the words.

“Frisk?” Sans got to his feet. “Get away from it.”

 

She felt like ice. Her stomach knotted and, before she knew it, something seemed to grab her and pull her forward. Her vision went dark for just a few seconds until she was tossed out onto bright grass, sprinkled with blooming, golden flowers shining like lost coins under dappled sunlight.

 

Grunting, she pushed herself up onto her knees and looked around for Sans, but instead there was trail of the flowers leading up to a small figure standing in a field of them. Her heart sunk. She saw white fur and floppy ears, and a green and yellow striped sweater. She knew him. Frisk forced herself to her feet and stared at him for a long while, her heart thudding hard against her ribs. It sent a shock of nauseating nostalgia through her.

 

Frisk’s world had once been split into humans and monsters— humans out in the air of the surface, monsters more of a myth down below the ground, until she herself had plummeted into the mountain. Stories of a war, of a place filled with magic, and of a barrier that could be broken by the souls of seven humans, had turned out to be starkly true. The tales of monsters being monstrous, though, hadn’t been. Alone in a strange place, the scrawny little kid, shivering from shock, had been taken in by almost everyone she’d met. In return, she loved them and was determined to help set them free.

 

The monster standing before her now was the only one she hadn’t been able to save. Her mind spun; suddenly felt heavy. She winced, rubbed her brow, and then jogged to meet him.

“H-Hey!” she called.

The small, goat-like boy turned to look at her. His eyes were glittering, but his irises seemed black as coal. “Oh. Howdy, Frisk,” he said, shooting her a smile.

“Asriel?” she asked. “You’re still here? Oh my god, are you okay? Can I do anything for you?”

“Wh… What do you mean?” he asked.

“The barrier is broken. Everyone’s free,” she said. “And I know that you… Well, I know all about what happened. Please, if there’s anything I can do—”

“Well gee. There is one thing, I guess. You can erase this world.”

Frisk’s heart sunk. She gulped. He stared back at her very seriously. She could see the seeds on his fur.

“I… I can’t do that,” she said.

“Only you can. You have the power. You can go back as far as you like. You can even make it all stop. Would you do that for me?”

 

Frisk grimaced and shook her head. Asriel laughed, but the sound was low. Tired.

“Of course not,” he said. “I mean, it’s only my life.”

“There has to be some other way,” she insisted.

“Don’t you get it?” he asked. “After what I’ve been, I don’t want to! I just want…” His voice choked for a second and he started to grin.

Frisk felt a shock of fear in her. His body began to shift and melt, and he gurgled as his striped yellow and green shirt twisted with him, forming the vines and petals as his form reduced and became that of a flower. His white face peered out at her still.

 

“You idiot,” he said. “Asriel is dead. I’m all that’s left. Me. Flowey the flower.”

“You’re still Asriel,” Frisk said. “I just… I just need to find a way to—!”

“To what? Fix me? Fix him? You can’t. You’re useless. All you’ve done is prolong the inevitable. I’ll get a human soul.” He began to grow, to Frisk’s horror, rising up on vine-like limbs coated in thorns, his eyes flashing red. “Then, I’ll get another.” He stomped forward. “And another. And another. Until it doesn’t matter how much stupid determination you have. I’ll take yours, too. And I’ll undo this world myself.”

 

Asriel’s massive limbs tore up the ground as he grew closer. Frisk backed away, her heart just about ready to burst from her chest.

“All because you couldn’t save weak little Asriel.”

“I’m so sorry!” She stumbled and fell into the shining golden flowers. “I wanted to! I tried!”

“You didn’t try hard enough!” His voice was distorted, deep, echoing— he didn’t sound anything like himself. “I’m still this thing! I still feel nothing!

“I’m so sorry,” Frisk said. “What can I do? Just tell me and I’ll come back! I’ll do it!”

He bared his teeth. His face twisted and he rose up, bigger and bigger, eyes turning black and his jaws parting into a great, fangy maw. “I should have taken your soul while I had the chance!” He lunged straight at her and she jerked back, screaming.

 

Her cry carried on into reality as she sat straight up in bed, panting heavily, sweat beading at her brow. Her heartbeat thudded in her ears and she felt around her in the dark to be sure she was still on her bed. She took a deep breath, then another, trying hard to steady herself. Her bedroom door slammed open, hard, and she yelped again and fumbled over her blankets.

 

A tall, lanky skeleton in red plaid pyjamas had burst into her room, eyes wide with worry. “FRISK!” he hollered. “Are you alright?! Never fear, little sister, the great Papyrus is here to help!”

“Oh… H-Hey, Paps,” she said shakily. “It’s… It’s okay. It was just a dream.”

“Just dreams shouldn’t make you scream, Frisk,” he said sternly, his brow furrowing.

She supposed he’d know better than most. He jumped onto her bed and spread his arms wide.

“Now, I offer to you a much-needed hug!” he said. “As you know, I am by far the best hugger on the whole surface, so if you would like one, please feel free.”

“Y-Yeah, absolutely,” she said.

He scooped her up instantly, cackling to himself as he cozied her close. He was right, it really was what she needed. He was so warm.

 

She tried to relax, but over his shoulder, in the dark, she saw a shock of blue. It took her a second to realize it was Sans’s left eye as he snuck in close with a worried frown on his face. She stuck her thumb up and gave him a tired smile. He looked relieved and returned the gesture before the glow faded down and he vanished before her eyes.

“Hey, Papyrus,” she said. “Dude. Thank you.”

“Of course!” he said. “It’s the least I can do!”

She smiled. If it meant never having to go back to bed, she would have sat in his hug forever.

 

“Papyrus? Is that you? Is Frisk alright?”

He whirled quickly, turning them towards the door. The large, goat-like monster woman, Toriel, stood at the threshold. She was in her simple purple nightgown, cautiously brushing sleep from her tired eyes, and even in the dark, her white fur seemed to shine quite brightly.

“Yes, it is I!” he said. “I have Frisk.”

“It’s true, he does,” Frisk said.

Toriel smiled with relief and put a comforting hand on Papyrus’s shoulder. “Thank you so much, sweetie. You’re always so good to Frisk. May I speak with her for just a little?”

“Of course, your majesty,” Papyrus said. He gently placed Frisk back down on the bed, and affectionately ruffled her hair. “Goodnight, little sister. Don’t forget, if you have any more troubles at all, just come to me, alright? After all, I am very much experienced in dealing with such things.”

“I know, bro, thanks,” Frisk said with a smile. “I’ll probably take you up on it later.” She beckoned him downwards and then gave him a quick kiss on his cheekbone.

His face flushed faintly orange. “Wowie!” he squeaked. He grinned bright and cupped her cheeks in both hands. “Love you so much!”

“Love you so much, too,” she said.

He gently bumped his forehead against hers and then pranced off.

 

Toriel smiled fondly for just a moment before her face fell to worry. She moved in to sit beside Frisk and rested a huge hand on the small girl’s head, gently brushing some of her hair from her face. “My child, you’re so clammy,” she said. “Are you having a bad night?”

“J-Just a little,” she said with a shrug.

“Really? Just a little has the great Papyrus rushing to your rescue?” she said with a knowing smile.

“Mom, Papyrus’d run in like that even if I only stubbed my toe,” Frisk said. “That’s just how he is.”

Toriel chuckled. “I suppose you’re right. Such a sweet boy.” Her smile fell. “…This is what, the fourth time this week?”

“F… Fifth…” Frisk muttered.

Her mother sighed and stroked her head. “Oh, sweetheart… I know. It’s hard. But you should try getting back to sleep, don’t you think?”

“I dunno, no…?” she said quietly.

“Frisk,” she chided gently.

“I, um... I'm not tired,” Frisk fibbed.

 

Toriel frowned. The dark circles under the girl’s eyes told a different story. Her long ears pinned back. Suddenly, a sly grin spread on her lips.

“Oh my, Frisk, are you resisting a rest?” Toriel asked.

“Oh no, mom—”

“Because I happen to be the chief of the cuddle police,” she said, scooping her up and nuzzling her with her snout, “and I may have to read you your rights!” She kissed Frisk on the face and head as the girl squirmed and laughed.

“Mom!” she squeaked through a giggle.

“Or, maybe a bedtime story, if you would prefer.” She booped the tip of her warm, soft snout against the kid’s head.

“Aw, mom, you’re such a dork,” Frisk laughed. She hugged onto her tightly.

Toriel chuckled, cupping the back of her head and stroking her hair gently. “Little one, honestly, is there anything I can do?”

“I don’t know,” Frisk said.

“What about…? Oh! That old music box,” Toriel suggested. “Would that do?”

Frisk supposed it couldn’t hurt. She shrugged and nodded. Toriel smiled and sat her down, gently booping her snout against her forehead once more before she left the room quietly.

 

Frisk sighed and readjusted her blankets and flipped her pillow over. Though she didn’t mind getting caught sleeping in class, she felt bad that Toriel was having to sacrifice sleep for her sake on a school night. She lay down and forced herself to close her eyes, trying to focus her mind to other things. At least it was Friday. Weekend was up next. She could rest for two whole days if she wanted to.

 

After a little while, she heard her mother return, but she didn’t move, hoping to feign sleep. Toriel sighed quietly and Frisk felt her big paws reach around her to pull the blankets up and tuck her in before she gave her a soft kiss on the forehead. After just a few seconds, the music box started up its gentle, familiar tune and Frisk heard Toriel slip out of the room and close the door slowly.

 

Frisk’s mind was busy but, nonetheless, she drifted off twice. The first dream sent her back underground. She watched through the eyes of a kid who looked a lot like her stealing money from the shop back in Snowdin, and for some reason, it made her feel sick. The second round showed her a monstrous flower creature kicking through human buildings. She awoke in a cold sweat, but at least she could be sure that that last one had never happened.

 

It was still dark when she gave up on trying to sleep despite barely being able to keep her eyes open. Slipping out of bed, she moved to the window and peeked outside. There was snow almost up to the sill, glistening under the light of street lamps lit through magic fire that she was fairly certain was Toriel’s.

 

- - -

 

It had been almost a full year since Frisk had helped free the monsters from the underground and they had begun to make their new life on the surface. For the first time in a long while, Frisk was happy, and her friends and new family seemed to be as well.

 

With magic speeding things along, the monsters— all of the barely nine thousand of them— established a new, sovereign town in a valley at the base of Mount Ebott, only a few dozen miles away from the nearest human city. The monster King, Asgore, a huge, fluffy, goat-like man with the bearing of a cream puff, was quickly elected under the title of King Mayor. He named the town Starhome for the breathtaking views of the night sky, but not before Newest Home and Mt. Mountain were shot down.

 

Frisk’s mother, Toriel, set up a school, and the quaint, friendly atmosphere, as well as the growing fame of the local flamboyant, metallic entertainer, Mettaton, soon drew humans to move in. Integration was a little awkward at first, but with Frisk moderating, Asgore’s absolutely huggable demeanour, and the monsters’s natural inclination towards friendliness, sailings were soon all but smooth. For the first time in centuries, humans and monsters were living together again and neither were terrified of the other.

 

Frisk’s new home was just a few blocks away from the school. Essentially two houses combined, she lived with her skeleton brothers, Sans and Papyrus, and her mother, Toriel, the place split down the middle so that each could keep their own aesthetic and, perhaps most importantly, their own kitchens. She had never been happier and it really seemed to her like the same could be said of her new family. She and her new brothers, especially, had become inseparable.

 

Two houses across the street held more of her close friends. The scaly, blue, fish-like warrior monster named Undyne, and a spiky little yellow lizard and scientist, Alphys, lived in one that looked quite a bit like a fish monster (with a metallic TV host often bunking in their spare room), while Asgore and his flowerpots had taken the other, more cottage-like building, though it was just a little ways down the block, as if to give them a polite berth.

 

- - -

 

Frisk could barely see that the lights were on across the street through the falling snow. She did, however, see a tall blur rushing, knees high, down the street and was sure right away that it was Papyrus. She thought about opening the window to ask what he was doing, but it was frozen shut. After a second, a blue glow followed him as another tall somebody— clearly Undyne, after a second— ran after him with a spear of magic over her shoulder. Rubbing her eyes, she moved across the room closed the music box on her bedside table and checked the clock. She couldn’t believe it was barely past 4:00 am. She felt like she had been in that room for weeks. Her head was throbbing with a cold headache.

 

She put on a cushy sweatshirt over her pyjamas and headed out into the skeleton’s section of the house, eyes mostly lidded, looking for something to drink.

 

“Hey, kid, good morning.”

She looked around and blinked groggily. Sans was peeking over the kitchen island’s counter at her as he dumped marshmallow cereal into a bowl. His face fell when he saw her expression.

“Kiddo?” His brow furrowed a little. “You okay?”

She shook her head. He sighed and slipped down from his chair, tapping his toes back into his fuzzy pink slippers. He put a hand on her shoulder.

“Headache?”

She nodded. His fingers crackled with blue magic and he rested them against her temple for a moment. The pain faded within seconds.

“Good?” he asked.

“Mhm,” she mumbled.

“Wanna talk?”

 

She shrugged, but she leaned into him and clung to his t-shirt tightly. He wrapped his arms around her and she let out a quiet huff.

“I had the one with Asriel, or… Flowey, whatever, a big monster wrecking a city again,” she said. “Sans…?”

“Hm?” he said.

“You had it, too?” she asked.

“What makes you say that?”

She smiled. “You’re awake before me.”

“Nah, I was just hungry,” he said. “Dreamt of marshmallows. Ate my pillow. The whole bit.”

She stared at him and he winked. He ruffled her hair as he moved back to the kitchen, then held up the box of cereal.

“Interested?”

“Umm… yeah. Okay.” Kneading her eye with her knuckle, she wandered over to the counter and clambered onto the chair beside his. “But I want double marshmallows!”

“Only double? Nice,” he said. He pointed at his bowl.

She leaned over to look. She had to squint to pick out even a single star-shaped cereal puff. “Pfff!” She laughed. “That can’t be good for you.”

“Kid, I’m already a skeleton,” Sans said with a wink.

 

Sans pulled, seemingly from nowhere, a bag of extra marshmallows and dumped them liberally into a second bowl before adding the normal cereal and milk. He pushed it towards her.

“Thanks!” Frisk said. She found a spoon on the counter and dug in.

Sans drank milk from the carton.

 

“Hey,” she said, “um… do they bother you?”

“Hm?”

“The dreams. I mean, you saw it too, right?”

“It’s pretty normal for me by now,” he admitted. “I mean… It was nice not havin’ them for a few months, but—”

“But does that mean something’s wrong?” Frisk asked. “I used to only have them in the underground, too.”

Sans shrugged.

She frowned. “You don’t care.”

“Look, everything’s good, right?” he said. “You did a good job. Everyone’s happy, now.”

“Except Asriel,” she said quietly.

Sans’s face fell. He sighed and then put a hand on her shoulder. “Frisk, I get it. But you tried. You tried way harder than anyone could ask you to.”

She nodded, but she pouted. Her brother tilted his head slightly.

“Is he what you saw? On the mountain?” he asked.

She nodded again. He rubbed his face with his palm.

“Sheesh, kiddo, no wonder you can’t sleep.”

 

She shrugged and stuck her spoon in her mouth. Sans sighed and frowned, suddenly seeming lost in thought. His left eye lit up faintly, a cool blue, but in the dark it looked much brighter. Frisk stared at it for a little bit and then went back to eating. She suddenly wished she had asked for more marshmallows. Without even saying a word, Sans passed her the bag and she dumped them into her bowl.

 

- - -

 

There had been a couple months of relief from the strange dreams once the barrier had been broken and everyone had moved to the surface. Sans had once explained them to her as peeks into other timelines— stuff that happened somewhere, or that happened in the past, things undone long before Frisk ever got there— but he had always been speaking about his own experiences. It just came from the time travel, he had said. Whatever power he had that let him jump from place to place effortlessly and keep the memories of when others were time travelling around him was the same one that trapped his mind in loops while he slept. Also didn’t help that there was also the rare occasion where it’d trigger him to sleepwalk and he’d end up back under the mountain. He didn’t like talking about that very often, though.

 

Something in the underground home of the monsters, triggered by the determination branded into Frisk’s soul, had allowed her to manipulate time with varying results, and the dreams began to come to her, too. Sometimes they were benign, but other times they were violent and quite visceral. She often saw through the eyes of beasts that looked a lot like she did. Sometimes they died. Sometimes they killed. If she were lucky, she would wake up in a panic but lose track of the memories quickly. However, the more they happened, the more clear they became, and the more she dreaded ever having dreams at all. She had reached a point where she could recite them as if they were her own memories.

 

Above ground, the dreams had stopped for the first few months, and she was so sure they were gone forever. Sans, too, seemed to finally be sleeping soundly. However, just as fall started creeping in, she was jarred awake by the familiar, awful feeling of seeing through the eyes of someone else. Someone who looked just like her was striking out at Papyrus in the deep snow outside the town of Snowdin, where they used to live. She felt her hand as theirs— attacking as one no matter how hard she tried to stop it. That person succeeded. She felt her big brother turn to dust in her fingers.

 

Frisk was shaken, tearful, heart beating hard, and had gotten up, hoping to find someone awake to talk to. When she heard Sans’s voice through Papyrus’s door, she felt a ping of relief and hurried to check in on them, but the nature of their conversation seemed serious. She hesitated outside the door.

 

“I don’t get it,” Sans was saying. “They stopped. Totally.”

“Maybe you’ve eaten too many strange things today,” Papyrus suggested. “Humans sometimes say that can cause bad dreams. What you need is more home-cooked spaghetti!”

“That’s a nice thought, bro, but there’s no way,” he said. “I’d recognize them anywhere.”

“Oh no, I thought that was settled,” Papyrus said worriedly. “It really is from that time travel stuff, isn’t it?”

 

Frisk peeked in cautiously. Sans was holding his head as if he had a headache, and the blue magic that shone in his left eye was glowing brightly. She watched worriedly and Papyrus donned an expression very similar to her own. Sans nodded.

“Wh… What was it about?” Papyrus asked.

Sans grimaced. Papyrus sighed.

“Can you just tell me this time? I just want to help you,” Papyrus said. “I know, I know, you don’t want me to worry and all that stuff, but you’re my brother and, as you know, I am very great and am therefore very great at comforting you!” Papyrus lowered himself and cupped his brother’s face, magic in his hands glowing gently. He said something quietly that Frisk couldn’t hear, and Sans wilted.

“It… It was this thing. One of those other time kids,” he admitted. “They uh, kept attackin’ you. Over and over. Scared the hell outta me.”

Frisk’s heart sunk and she had to cover her mouth to keep from gasping.

 

“You know we have Frisk now. And she’d never, ever do a thing like that,” Papyrus assured him. “Like you always said. She’s the last one. She loves us. There’s nothing to be scared of.”

“No. Bro, I know.” He took a deep breath. “It was just… I’ll be fine. We’re fine. We’re safe now. No more going back.”

“Sans…” Papyrus huffed out a sigh and hugged his brother tightly. “I know that you know that I don’t always understand, but I still want to help!”

“You’re totally helping,” Sans laughed. The blue light dimmed. “Paps, you always help.”

 

Frisk took a deep breath. She wiped her eyes, though she didn’t think it would help. She knocked cautiously on the door. Her brothers went quiet and she carefully pushed her way in.

“Frisk!” Papyrus said. “H-Hello! Gosh, it’s late, isn’t it?”

She nodded, but she turned her attention to Sans as he released him. “Sans? D-Do…? Do you have dreams like that a lot?”

Both skeletons froze, then looked at each other worriedly.

“H… How much did you hear?” Sans asked.

“I, um, had that dream, too,” she said. “The one you mentioned. Just now. But I wasn’t, um… I wasn’t me. And I saw something bad.”

Papyrus gawked. “Time travel?” he asked shrilly.

Sans’s eyes went wide and he looked aghast. She’d never seen him look like that before.

“Kid, h-how long have you—?”

“Since the underground,” Frisk admitted. “I… I thought they stopped once we got out. I’m sorry, I should’ve told you. I just… I didn’t clue in.”

 

Sans stared back at her, quiet for far longer than she was comfortable with. His eyes went dark. Papyrus looked at him curiously.

“Sans?” he asked.

“Heh.” Sans began to grin. “Oh man, kiddo. No. I’m sorry.” They were both taken aback as his eyes started to water. He took her by the shoulders. “I thought it was just me.”

Frisk shook her head and she hugged him tightly. He froze, grimacing for moment before he squished her close and closed his eyes. He bent his head and gently touched his brow into her hair and his magic resonated through her: affectionate, warm, overwhelmingly relieved, but also deeply apologetic.

 

Papyrus squealed and hugged them both. “See, Sans? It’s not so bad!” he said. “You and Frisk have each other, and you both have me, even if I don’t always know what you’re talking about! No need to worry.”

He looked up and his shoulders sagged with relief. “Yeah, bro, I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right!”

Sans began to smile and he took a moment to brush the tears away, and the brightness came back to the black of his eye sockets.

 

“Kiddo,” he said, “maybe it’s kinda messed up but, believe it or not, you just made my night.”

“Oh really?” She smiled sideways. “I was worried this might be going to a dark place.”

Sans’s face lit up and he started to grin. Frisk’s smile grew.

“B-But it’s good to see you so starry eyed,” she said.

Papyrus threw his hands in the air and cawed loudly. Frisk snickered and Sans ruffled her hair affectionately.

“We’re gonna be okay,” he said. “Kiddo, maybe I don’t say it enough, but I’m glad you finally found us, y’know? Thanks for fallin’ down that stupid hole.”

 

- - -

 

Frisk lazily made her way through the marshmallow mush that was very slowly overtaking any cereal puffs in her bowl. “Sans?” she asked. “Hey, Sans?”

“Yeah?”

“Feeling a bit blue, bro?”

“Oh.” He laughed tiredly and the glow of his magic dimmed down to nothing. “Sorry about my iris. I azure you, I’m completely fine.”

Frisk giggled and he grinned wide.

“You wanna pass me that?” He pointed across the counter to a bottle of ketchup he had left out.

Frisk did. He turned it upside down onto his bowl of marshmallows.

“Eww, gross!” she said.

He shrugged and squeezed it until it made a flatulent sound, accidentally splattering the counter with ketchup as Frisk tried to hide her food with her body.

“Sans!” she yelped.

He simply continued smiling and ate it, even as Frisk made a face. “Hope you’re not seein’ red.”

“Oh my god,” she said.

“Hm. Green with envy, maybe?”

“Green because you’re gonna make me sick!”

He grinned wide and ruffled her hair. She giggled

 

She tried hard to think of another pun but she was interrupted as the front door opened loudly, accompanied with a gust of frigid air. Toriel stepped inside, knocking snow off her feet, and closed the door quickly. She let out a loud sigh of relief.

“Hey, Tori,” Sans said as she hurried inside. “Come to chill with us?”

Toriel laughed. “Well, I certainly won’t give you the cold shoulder. Oof, my goodness, it’s freezing out there!” She slipped out of her huge boots and started to take off her scarf and coat. “Frisk, sweetie, it’s a little early, isn’t it?”

“I got hungry,” she said.

Toriel smiled. “Well, I think you’ll be happy to know classes are cancelled today.”

“Awesome!” Frisk cheered. “Snow day!”

“Yes, well,” Toriel said with a smile, “I suppose it’s not so bad to have a long weekend now and again.”

Sans held out his hand and Frisk gave him a high five.

 

“Welp. Back to bed,” Sans said.

“Sans, your brother is out trying to shovel driveways,” Toriel pointed out. “Aren’t you going to help him out?”

“Nope. You?”

Toriel’s cheeks flushed. “Ah… No. My magic just tends to cause flooding with all this snow, so…” She paused when she noticed Sans grinning at her. “Don’t give me that look, young man!”

 

Sans laughed. He gave Frisk an affectionate tingle of magic when he ruffled her hair, slipped from his seat, and jerked his thumb towards his room. “There if you need me, Frisk. I’ll probably be asleep, but whatever.”

“Hug first?” she asked hopefully.

He chuckled and grabbed her soul gently, floating her over and letting her plop into his arms. She flopped and clung to him. Just what she needed.

“Get it together, sis,” he joked.

She snickered. “I’ll try. You sleep well too, okay?”

“You know it,” he said. He plunked her up onto her seat again, and she passed him down his bowl of cereal. He stuck his thumb up as he headed off and she did the same as a reply.

 

Toriel smiled fondly. Frisk put the last spoonful of cereal in her mouth and then slipped down from the chair with the bowl and headed for the sink. Toriel came closer and took it from her to wash it.

“We should really get you a step-stool,” she said.

“I can almost reach! It’s not as bad as our old place,” Frisk said. “I had to sit on Papyrus’s shoulders.”

“Really? Why?” she wondered.

“He wanted to fit more bones under the sink.”

“Oh, for goodness’s…” Toriel couldn’t help but laugh. “Those boys, I swear. I forgot all about that. And I suppose that is why Sans never does the dishes.”

Frisk nodded.

 

Toriel snickered quietly and patted Frisk’s head gently. “My child, you look like you didn’t get much sleep.”

Frisk shrugged. Toriel gave her a sympathetic smile and squatted down to look at her, stroking her head.

“You know you can always come to me,” she said. “I know I may not understand as well as the boys do, but I will always try my best to help.”

“I know. Thanks, mom,” she said.

Toriel smiled and then looked thoughtful for a moment. “Frisk,” she said, “how would you like to do a little experiment with me?”

“An experiment…?” Frisk’s mind wandered to science class and she wasn’t so sure. “What kind of experiment?”

“Well, I was just thinking, since you’re awake,” Toriel said, “you might be interested in learning to bake a butterscotch and cinnamon pie.”

Frisk’s eyes were instantly alight. “Yes please!”

 

Chapter Text

“Okay, sweetie, now add the vanilla.”

“This? Okay!”

“Good, then whisk!”

 

Frisk, standing on top of a writing chair, grasped a whisk tightly and rolled up her sleeves, then stirred the pudding-like butterscotch filling for the pie vigorously, clanging against the sides of the the saucepan. Toriel laughed and put her paw on top of the girl’s hands.

“Gentle,” she said.

“Oh? Really?” Frisk asked.

Toriel smiled and nodded. Frisk tried again, careful this time.

“See how it thickens now? This is why we mustn’t forget the cornstarch,” her mother said. “Unless you would like butterscotch soup!”

“Hah! Got it,” Frisk said.

 

The custard was getting thick. Its warm, sweet scent, tinted with cinnamon, was already making Frisk hungry. Toriel nodded approvingly.

“Much better! Now, I’ll do this bit,” she said. She took the pot and carefully poured its contents into the magic-baked pie crust she had prepared.

Frisk watched, eyes alight.

“It looks good, doesn’t it?” Toriel said.

“Yeah!” Frisk said.

 

Toriel used a spatula to smooth the top and then took another bowl from the counter. Frisk watched with fascination as the woman spread fluffy, white meringue over the top. Then, very gently, she blew a pink flame over it until it was a toasty golden colour.

“Mom, that’s awesome!” she exclaimed. “Wow… No wonder your stuff tastes so good! It’s magic!”

Toriel’s cheeks flushed and she ruffled Frisk’s hair gently. She carried the pie to the fridge and carefully tucked it inside. “There. Now to let it sit, and we can eat it in a few hours! We must wait at least two, or it’ll be much too runny.”

“Right, right. A lot of baking stuff takes waiting, huh?” she said. “I can do bread. That can take a lot of waiting.”

“Bread, you say? Hm! Yes, it does. We could make that next time, what do you think?” Toriel asked.

“Yeah! I can doooo, um…” Frisk counted one and two on her fingers. “A normal one and a soda one. Fresh bread is just super good, right?”

“That’s absolutely true.” She smiled to herself. Her gaze seemed a little distant. “You know, it has been a very long time since I’ve made a pie with someone. This was nice.”

“Yeah!” Frisk said brightly. “Hey, we should cook more together! I’ve been learning from Undyne and Papyrus and I think I’m getting pretty good!”

Toriel smiled through a cringe. “Of course, my child, but we’ll probably be going at a slower pace than they do.”

Frisk giggled. “I know. We go really over the top and Undyne breaks a lot of stuff,” she said. “Don’t worry, I know it’s weird, but it’s really fun. As long as nothing’s on fire.”

“Oh thank goodness,” Toriel sighed.

 

Frisk laughed harder and gave her a hug. Toriel rested a hand on her head gently.

“I take it you are feeling a bit better now?” she asked.

“Uh-huh!”

“Frisk.” She knelt down and took her gently by the shoulders. “It’s still early. Why don’t you try to get a little rest, and then when you wake up, we will have some pie.”

“Oh. Okay. Sweet idea, mom,” Frisk said, sticking her thumbs up.

Toriel’s eyes lit up. “Well, we cannot leave it to just be eye candy, can we?”

Frisk grinned. She bounced up on her toes and kissed Toriel on the cheek, then headed for the door back to the other end of the house.

“Sleep well,” Toriel said. “Or should I say, sweet dreams, honey!”

 

- - -

 

Frisk made a valiant attempt to get back to bed, but she couldn’t manage it even though her eyelids were heavy and her body was starting to feel shaky. It was like her bed hated her. It was impossible to get comfortable. She went back into the dark kitchen, dragging her blanket with her and sat at the counter to contemplate bothering Sans. Sighing, she wandered to his door and knocked, but nobody came. She pouted, but decided against waking him up. She knew he wouldn’t mind, but she also knew if she had had bad dreams, he probably had, too. He needed the sleep even more than she did. She moved on and peeked into Papyrus’s room. He wasn’t even in there.

 

Frisk then recalled seeing him out in the snow. It had been quite a while ago, though. She returned to the kitchen and sat, slumping lazily. The silence was hurting her ears. She grabbed a chair and pushed it around to reach the kettle on the counter near the sink. She made herself a mug of hot chocolate, and after finishing it, readied a second for Papyrus and turned the kettle back on. With not much else to do, she sat down again and waited.

 

She had just barely nodded off when she was startled almost off her seat by a door slamming. She leaned around the junk on the counter. Papyrus walked in, brushing snow off his shoulders and readjusting his scarf. He was wearing a dark red winter jacket with a fuzzy hood, a lot like what Sans usually wore, and Frisk really couldn’t blame him. Skeletons seemed to be mostly immune to weather, but, get too cold and their bones would still start to rattle. Papyrus kicked off his boots, beelined for the living room, and flopped down onto the sofa, letting out a deep, relieved sigh.

“Hey, bro,” she said.

 

Hurriedly, he jumped upright again and whirled around to face her. “Frisk! Hello! How are you doing?”

She stuck her thumb up and he did the same.

“Fantastic!” he said brightly.

“Staying in now?” she asked.

“Yes. Undyne sent me home for some reason,” he said. “Oh well! Whatever she wants is just fine with me.”

“You can sit down, you know,” she said.

“Ah. Yes, well… Yes. I will do that. Now.” He plopped down again and slumped slightly.

Frisk tried not to laugh. She slipped from her seat and walked over to him, carrying her blanket like a cloak around her shoulders. “Aren’t you going to take your coat off?” she asked.

“You are full of good ideas today, Frisk!” he said. “I almost forgot!”

 

He jumped up and whisked the jacket off, placing it very neatly on one of the hooks near the door, then put his gloves away, too. He paused for a second, as if he were forgetting something. It didn’t seem to come to him and he returned to sit down again, rubbing the thumb of his left hand absently over a scar’s groove on the back of his right. He sighed deeply. Frisk tilted her head.

“You look tired, bro,” she said.

“N-Nonsense! The great Papyrus never tires!” he announced.

Frisk smiled nonetheless and tossed her blanket over his head.

“Nyeh! Frisk! What is the meaning of this?” he cawed.

 

By the time he had straightened himself out, Frisk stood before him again, holding out a steaming mug of hot chocolate. His face flushed a little. “O-Oh.” He accepted it carefully. “Thanks. I suppose it’s not too bad to take a little break.”

“Even mom is relaxing today,” she said as she snuck onto the sofa beside him.

Papyrus sipped his drink. His eyes lit up. “Really? Even m— her majesty, is…?” he said quietly. “Hmm. Alright. Hang on.”

 

He got up and traipsed to his room, almost spilling his cocoa on the way. Frisk caught it and put it carefully on the coffee table. She blew on her fingers.

 

When Papyrus returned, he was wearing his lazy slacks, red hoodie, and “Cool Dude” t-shirt, and had brought a second blanket with him. Frisk passed him his drink again as he sat down beside her. He seemed rather set on keeping his posture straight for almost a minute before he finally caved and curled up; sat cross-legged in the blankets, sipping his cocoa. Frisk could barely keep her eyes open.

 

“Winters up here are much more than I expected,” he said. “N-Not that I’ll let that beat me! I just need to train myself to be ready!”

“Yup,” Frisk said. She yawned and slumped sleepily.

“It’s fine! I’ll just march with my knees very high!” he said.

Firsk’s lids were getting quite heavy. She leaned sideways into him. “Yup,” she repeated.

“Little sister, you are falling asleep!”

“Yup.”

 

He was quiet for a little bit, then shifted in place, rubbing his eye sockets and stretching out mostly lengthwise on the sofa, leaving a leg dangling off to let her have enough room and resting an arm behind his head. “You wouldn’t mind if I also fall asleep, would you?”

“Nope,” she said.

She yawned and scootched closer, and flopped on top of his chest. She hugged him around the neck, closing her eyes and settling in quite comfortably. His face flushed with pale orange and he smiled fondly and put an arm around her.

“Sleep well, Frisk,” he said.

“Mmhm, sleep well, bro,” she mumbled.

 

- - -

 

Hours passed and the snow outside began to climb up just beyond the window sill. Even as day broke, the brightness in the sky came only from the layered blanket of thick, white clouds.  Papyrus slept peacefully for a long while, nyehing gently in his snores.

 

He woke up refreshed in the quiet house with another blanket over them that he couldn’t remember putting there. Frisk was still on top of him, and though she was asleep, she was shaking like a leaf. Papyrus’s brows bent in a sympathetic frown and he gently tried to wake her.

“Frisk? Friiisskkk?”

She simply clung tighter, but she didn’t budge otherwise. She felt solid as stone. His frown deepened. He knew that she got like this when she had the dreams— the strange ones, from other places. He knew Sans had had them for a long time as well; had said that Frisk’s were once real, in some time and place, and that sometimes they were scary. Like their brother’s. He didn’t understand entirely, but he knew he wanted to help.

 

“Hey.”

Papyrus titled his head upwards to see Sans leaning over the couch, in a cozy black hoodie patterned with faded, stylized skeleton bones. His eye sockets looked a little ashy, but he had an amused grin on his face.

“Sans,” he said with relief. “Frisk is doing the dreaming thing!”

“I know, bro,” he said. “I just knocked myself out of the same thing.”

“I don’t understand,” Papyrus said. “She has napped like this for the last several days and every time, she does this. Is it the naps? Am I doing something wrong?”

“Nah.” Sans winked. “You’re a natural at naps, I’m sure you could do it with your eyes closed.”

“Thank you! I…” He quickly began to scowl. “Sans, let me tell you, I would be very loud with you right now if I did not have a Frisk sleeping on me!”

Sans shrugged, grinning. “I thought you wanted to wake her up, Paps, I was just tryin’ to help.”

“You know what I mean!”

Sans chuckled and he pointed at Frisk. “Try some magic.”

“I’m not sure what that would do, she’s already lying down.”

“Bro, you are out of it,” he said with a laugh. “Not that, dude, the normal stuff.”

“Oh. Oh!” Papyrus’s face lit up. “Brother, now and then you do have some good ideas.”

“Yeah, I know, right? Guess I’m not a total bonehead.”

“Sans, why.”

He shrugged again and winked. Papyrus was about to retort, but he quickly recalled Frisk’s plight as he felt her little fingers grip a bit tighter into his clavicle.

 

Carefully, he moved his hand onto her head and let magic well up orange-gold in the tips of his fingers, then rested them against her skin. Her panicked breathing began to slow, just a little.

“Nice,” Sans commented. “Even that much should help.”

“Good.” Papyrus smiled and the energy lit up his eyes faintly with an amber glow. “Don’t worry, I can keep it up for a while.”

 

It took some time, but Frisk began to settle. Just as Papyrus began to relax again, the front door smashed inwards.

“NYEH!” he yelped.

“HEY DORKS, GUESS WHO’S HERE!?” Undyne hollered. She strode in confidently. Her red hair was pulled fashionably over her missing eye and otherwise tied back, and she was wearing a light, black jacket that seemed not nearly heavy enough for the weather.

 

“Hello, Undyne!” Papyrus said, waving over the back of the sofa. “And I presume Alphys as well!”

“H-Hi!” she said. Unlike Undyne, she was bundled up in a pillowy white snow coat and pink earmuffs. “Oh, and hi, Sans. H-Hope we’re not intruding.”

“Nah.” Sans was in the kitchen doing something near the sink. “Lazy day.”

“Hah, when’s it not that for you?” Undyne chuckled. “But okay, listen guys, have you seen this frickin’ snow? It’s nuts, and guess what?!”

“What? What!?” Papyrus demanded.

“It’s packing snow! Guess what that means?”

“Uh… you’re going to… uh… I give up,” Sans said with a shrug; he passed out mugs of hot chocolate. “You’re going to help it move?”

“No, you dweeb! Snow fort time!” Undyne cheered, spilling some of her drink instantly in her jubilance. “You guys in?”

“Oh, yes, I, the great Papyrus, will absolutely do this!” he said. “Soon. Not yet. In a bit.”

“Uh, P-Papyrus, what’re you doing over there, exactly?” Alphys asked.

“Oh! I am simply resting with Frisk,” he said. “Unfortunately she has strange time dreams occasionally and doesn’t sleep well, so I have taken it upon myself to make her time in dreamland as pleasant as possible!”

 

Undyne squinted with confusion and looked at Alphys, who edged closer to the sofa and peeked over. Her cheeks flushed instantly.

“Oh my god. That is so cute!” she said. “This is just how my OTP in Kokkaku no Kissu Kissu STAR started oouuuttt and… uh…” She went quiet and hid under her hands as she realized everyone was staring at her.

“I have no idea what any of that means!” Papyrus said.

“You don’t wanna,” Undyne said with a grin.

“You, uh… You realize Frisk is like, eleven,” Sans said. “And Paps is her br—”

“Aah, no, stop, I just m-meant it’s cute! They’re cute! I mean, it’s cute that he…! I’m… just g-gonna stop. They are not my OTP!” She seemed to melt into the floor.

Undyne had to try not to laugh too loudly as she knelt down and patted her on the back. Papyrus frowned in puzzlement. Sans sipped his cocoa.

 

Across the room, the middle door opened and Toriel walked in to join them, smiling. “I thought I heard you all in here. Good morning!”

“Y-Your highness!” Alphys slumped even farther. “I’m dead. I’m just d-dead. Put me in the trash.”

“Hey, Toriel,” Undyne said brightly.

Sans held out a mug of cocoa to her and she accepted with a smile, but she paused, eyes widening as she saw over the back of the sofa.

 

“Oh! Papyrus, are you alright? Is that Frisk with you?” She looked embarrassed. “Oh… I’m sorry. She’s finally asleep, isn’t she?”

“Of course, your majesty!” he said. “I, the great Papyrus, am fantastic at helping my friends and-slash-or siblings with their problems.”

“That’s very sweet, my child, but that glow, are you—?”

“It’s just a sorta skeleton magic, Tori,” Sans said. “It’s normal. For us, anyway.”

Toriel looked a little embarrassed. “I apologize, even after all this, I still don’t know very much about skeletons. Does that help the nightmares?”

“It should! It’s sort of a variation, actually! Though… It’s much quicker on Sans,” Papyrus said apologetically. “Soon, though! She should be feeling a lot better. ”

“That’s good. Poor kid,” Undyne said sympathetically.

“But, may I ask?” Toriel said gently. “It’s… an emotion-based magic? I’m sorry to push, it’s just—”

“Oh. No big deal,” Sans said. “Since we’re not really, uh, fluffy like a lot of monsters, and we don’t have typical faces with skin, we just kinda use magic to help sorta comfort each other or whatever.”

“Wait. Wait, w-wait, wait.” Alphys was up on her feet and in his face in an instant. “Do it to me.”

“What?” Sans asked blankly.

“For science!” Alphys announced. “I-Is that really what it's supposed t-to be? I thought… I thought it was just a coincidence that it f-felt so… Wow, I d-didn’t realize! C-Could I feel it? W-Would that be okay? I c-can’t believe I never noticed…”

“You should come over more, then, Papyrus goes nuts with that stuff sometimes,” Sans said.

“C-Come on, please?” she asked, scooting in close, her eyes wide and hopeful.

 

Sans looked resigned. He beckoned her closer and put his hand on her face, his magic glowing blue across his fingers.

“Is it working? …Oh!” She pulled back and started to smile bashfully. “O-Oh, a-actually, that is kind of nice,” she said, and then started to grin in a wide, unnerving way. “I got skeleton kisses!”

“Uh…” Sans raised his brow skeptically. “That’s not quite—”

“Ooh, that’s so cute!” Papyrus squeaked. “We should call it that. Can we call it that?”

“Bro—”

“Me next! Do me next!” Undyne shouted. “I wanna try the weird magic!”

“Really? You too?” Sans asked. “Sounds kinda fishy, Undyne.”

“Haaa, Sans, I’m gonna throw you out the window,” she said with a grin.

“Oh, no, please,” Toriel said quickly. “I just had the new ones put in. It was quite a pane.”

Sans grinned wide and pointed both index fingers at her approvingly. She beamed. Undyne rolled her eye and squatted before Sans, pointing to herself.

“Come on, dude, lay it on me!”

 

He shrugged and held his hand out, and she grabbed it tightly as he repeated the process. She watched with interest and then grinned wide.

“Ooh! Okay, right, that’s totally nice!” she said. “Feels super friendly. Ha! My magic doesn’t do anything like that. Mostly just stabbing.”

“Well, I mean, if that’s the point of it…” Sans grinned.

Undyne smacked her face with her palm as Alphys tried to stifle a laugh. “Whatever, dork. Hey, Paps, is Frisk awake yet?”

He was about to answer when Frisk laughed quietly.

“You guys, I’ve been awake for like five minutes,” she said.

 

“Oh, thank goodness,” Toriel said.

“Frisk! How are you feeling?” Papyrus demanded. He began to sit up cautiously and readjusted her to hold her in his lap.

“Better,” she said, and she turned to Papyrus with a big smile. “Thank you.”

“Great! All you guys, we gotta go outside!” Undyne said, beaming. “We’re gonna build a freakin’ fortress out of this snow! It’s gonna be awesome!”

“I-I might just build something small,” Alphys admitted.

“NO! BIG!” Undyne roared. “We’ll do it together!! AND THEN WE’LL KNOCK IT DOWN!”

“W-Well, okay…”

Frisk smiled. “I’d like to do that.”

“Well! Then, of course, I will come along, too! We’ll build the biggest snow fortress the surface has ever seen!”

The kid put her fists in the air. “Yes!”

 

As room erupted into chaos quickly with everyone scrambling for their winter gear, Sans watched with tired eyes and took a sip of his cocoa. Toriel shot him a curious look.

“Are you not going with them?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I’m sure Paps’ll convince me.”

She smiled, but she looked a little embarrassed. “Um… Sans, I was wondering, about that magic…”

“Oh. Heh.” He held out his hand. “No big deal. You asked.”

She cautiously put her hand on his and, after just a few seconds, she pulled back, her cheeks flushed. “That’s lovely, sweetie. So… That’s what Papyrus is doing when he gives hugs, isn’t it?”

He shrugged and nodded. “That’s why he’s the best at ‘em.” He shot her a tired smile. “Unfortunately I, uh, got a little less to spare.”

“Don’t worry about that for even a second, hun,” she assured him. “You’re still gaining ground. I’m sure, one day, everything will be back to normal.”

“Hm. Who knows?”

 

Toriel smiled to herself and watched the others run about until, finally, they all rolled out the door in their winter coats, Papyrus charging out first and Undyne dragging Alphys with one hand and carrying Frisk under the other arm. They slammed the door and the silence was almost startling.

 

“You look pretty happy,” Sans said.

“I am.” Toriel sipped on her hot chocolate daintily and let out a contented sigh. “It’s been so long since… well…

“I get it,” he said. “Yeah. It’s good.”

“I’m glad you’re happy, too,” she said. “When we all first moved in together, you seemed so… I’m not sure if this is correct, but maybe, uncomfortable?”

“Heh. Well,” he said, “kinda lived on a knife’s edge for a long time. Couldn’t help being a bit jumpy when things finally started to go right.”

Toriel smiled. “But they did go right, didn’t they?”

Sans shrugged and nodded. He grinned. “Three. Two. One.”

 

Papyrus slammed the front door open, accompanied by a flurry of snowflakes. “Come on, Sans, what are you still doing in here?! Undyne and I are sure we can build something taller than the house. It’s going to be great! You need to come out here!”

“Alright, bro, on my way,” he said.

 

He finished his cocoa as Papyrus rushed back out; clunked the mug down on the counter behind him. He headed for the front closet. “You comin’?” he asked.

“You know, I think I will,” she said.

“Don’t get cold feet,” he said with a wink.

Toriel snickered and moved to join him. She watched him quietly as he put on his blue jacket. When he turned back, she knelt and gave him a tight hug.

“Tori, uh… What’d I do?”

“My child, don’t pretend you don’t need it,” she said gently. “I have been around long enough to know something is troubling you. Call it a mother’s intuition.”

Sans gave up any semblance of protest, slumped, and clung to her tiredly. “Heh. Don’t worry about it. Thanks, though.”

She smiled and pulled back to hold him by the shoulders. “I know you’re grown,” she said bashfully, “but I hope that you don’t mind that I—”

“Nah. Paps and I, we didn’t really… you know. It was just us.”

Toriel nodded, then looked curious. “So, what are the chances Papyrus is going to drop the your majesty nonsense and just call me mom? Any at all?”

“He slips up when you’re not around.” Sans winked. “He’ll do it eventually.”

Toriel beamed.

 

- - -

 

The snow outside was glistening under the colourful, festive lights hanging from the houses up and down the street. The air was crisp and cold, but the winter silence was broken by Undyne’s excited yelling as she dove, spear-first, down through a massive mountain of snow she had stacked up past the rooftop. Alphys flailed through the oncoming avalanche and Undyne grabbed her up out of the snow and smooched her affectionately on the head. Her scales turned red and she flopped backwards into a snowbank.

 

A few meters away, Papyrus was lifting Frisk up onto the battlements of a castle— including small towers, a gate, and tiny catapults made of sticks— that they had meticulously put together. She had a branch in her hands, and she took off her blue-and-pink striped scarf to tie to it like a flag, then plunged it into the snow blocks proudly.

“I claim this place in the name of the great Papyrus and all skeletons!” she said loudly. “And I’ll call it! …Castle Bonechiller!”

“That sounds a bit sinister, doesn’t it?” Papyrus asked with a laugh.

Frisk lay down of the battlements and peeked down at him with a grin on her face. “I dunno, I thought it was pretty cool.”

“Frisk no, Frisk why.”

She snickered and leaned down to smooch his head and he started to laugh and whisked her down.

“I probably would have called it the Awesome Snow Great Papyrus and Friends Megafort, but I guess Castle Bonechiller is pretty nice, too!” he said. “Though why not for all skeletons and humans?”

“Aw, c’mon, I’m a skeleton on the inside,” she said with a grin. “Well, and I guess on the outside, too?” She pointed out her winter coat— black, but with white bones in a cartoonish skeleton pattern across the whole thing.

Papyrus grinned and he snickered, touching his forehead affectionately to hers. “Sans, did you hear that?! Frisk is being adorable again.”

 

He turned around. Sans was sitting beside a rounded dome of snow.

“Bro, what else is new?” Sans said.

“You guys are gonna make me blush,” Frisk said.

Papyrus put her down on the ground and patted her head, and then leaned over to look at what Sans was doing. “Brother, what the heck is that?”

“It’s the guard dog,” Sans grinned when Papyrus gave him a skeptical glare. “He’s sleepin’.”

“Heeeyyy, that’s just like you back in the underground,” his brother teased.

“Exactly.”

Papyrus frowned for only a few seconds before he burst out laughing. Sans joined him.

 

Frisk wandered over and knelt down to draw a mouth and poke two eyes into one side of it. “There!”

“Dude, that was the butt,” Sans said.

“Welp. It’s the face now!” she announced.

“Oh no, my artistic vision,” he said dryly. “He’s facin’ the wrong way, kid, how will he ever catch the catapults now?”

“Pfffft!” Frisk grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him. “He’s just gonna have to be dogged in his p… purr-suits!”

“Dunno, might be a bit ruff on him, you think I’ll have to throw him a bone?”

“Not one from your arm or anything, bro, you’re gonna need those later!”

Sans beamed. Frisk laughed and he grabbed her into a hug.

“Super proud, kiddo,” he said. “Ten outta ten.”

She grinned and gladly cuddled into him.

“Oh my god you two, I can’t even believe you sometimes,” Papyrus said.

“Oh yes, I totally agree.” Toriel walked over, putting her arms in her sleeves. “In fact, you might even drive us barking mad, with that kind of talk.”

“Yes, thank you, m—” Papyrus made a face as he caught her pun, and Sans tried very hard not to laugh. “Unbelievable!”

Toriel grinned and Papyrus stomped off, throwing his hands in the air.

“Aw c’mon, bro, don’t be like that,” Sans called.

“I’M COMING BACK!”

“We love you, Papyrus!” Frisk yelled.

“I LOVE YOU, TOO! NYEH!” he shouted back in a huff.

 

Toriel’s cheeks flushed. “That wasn’t too much, was it?”

“No, no, it was good,” Sans said. “He loves it. Half the fun for him is yelling about it.”

She smiled brightly. Frisk snickered and leaned around them to see where the tall skeleton had ended up. Her eyes lit up when she saw he was talking to Asgore across the street. The large goat monster looked jolly in a big puffy coat and a Santa hat, and he had beside him a small pine tree with the roots carefully wrapped.

“Mom,” she said, pointing, “do you mind if I…?”

Toriel turned to look, and though her ears pinned back just a little, she patted Frisk’s head. “No, no, not at all.”

Frisk grinned. She got up out of Sans’s hug, gave him a quick smooch on the cheekbone, and raced over just as Papyrus was heading away— he ruffled her hair as he went to join Undyne and Alphys.

 

“Asgore!” she shouted, waving.

He began to beam. “Little Friskadoodle!” he said brightly, and he lifted her up when she got close. “Howdy! Look at you, cutie-patootie! New coat?”

“Yeah! Undyne found it! Cool, huh?”

“Very!” Asgore said, but then he put on a stern face. “Frisk, I’ve heard rumours that you haven’t written Santa a letter yet this year. It’s a very important thing to do, you know.”

Frisk grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ll write one. But between you and me, what I really want is a pasta maker!”

“A pasta maker?” he repeated. “Sounds like something your brother would like!”

“It is!” Frisk said. “I don’t really need anything. And I know he won’t think to ask for it, Papyrus is a huge goof and always wants action figures.”

Asgore laughed and bumped her forehead affectionately with his snout. “Such a considerate child!”

 

“She is, isn’t she?” Toriel joined them leisurely. “Hello, Asgore.”

“H-Howdy, Tori,” he said, his face flushing. “How are you?”

“Fine,” she said. “What are you up to, today?”

“Ah! I-I was just going to ask you, about some trees for the school,” he said. “And I thought a huge one for the town centre would be really nice this time of year. W-With, uh, Gyftmas coming up and all. What do you think?”

Toriel nodded and smiled slightly. Asgore looked relieved. Frisk held in a laugh and gave the huge monster a hug.

“I’mma go play, okay?”

“Oh! Yes, of course, little one.” Asgore put her back down gently. “Have fun!”

 

Frisk backed off to give them some room and joined Sans as he walked up, hands in his pockets.

“Look at that,” he said, “she’s not even scowling.”

“I know,” Frisk said. “Big improvement from slamming the door on him.”

Sans chuckled. “Adults sure are complicated, huh?” he said with a wink.

“I guess.” She shrugged.

“Speaking of, I actually gotta go talk with ‘em,” he said. “Don’t bother listenin’ in, it’s boring grown-up crap.”

“You know that makes me want to listen even more, right?” she said.

“C’mon, kid, don’t ruin your own surprise,” he said with a laugh. “You’re frickin’ hard to shop for.”

“Okay, okay, fine,” she said.

 

He patted her shoulder approvingly and wandered over to join Toriel and Asgore. Frisk sighed, but watched just for a little. She couldn’t hear what they were saying and was about to leave when she thought she spotted the glimmer of Sans’s blue magic. She paused to stare, but it was gone in an instant. She rubbed her eyes. Must’ve been just a trick of the festive strings of lights.

 

She clambered through the snow to where Alphys was building a something. It most closely resembled a tall blob.

“H-Hey, Frisk,” she said. “Wh-What do you think?”

“Uh… It’s great!” she said. “Hey, where’s Mettaton, is he working?”

“He is,” she said. “I really need to build him a new winter body, though. This is way t-too cold for him. And me! I should build myself a coat filled with heaters or something.”

“OR YOU COULD JUST GET IN MY HUG, BABY!” Undyne yelled.

 

She jumped out from somewhere and grabbed Alphys tight. Alphys cooed and all but melted in her arms.

“So when do we get to wreck your fort?!” Undyne said with a grin.

“What’s this?!” Papyrus jumped up from under a nearby snow pile, surprising everyone. “Are you declaring war on CASTLE BONECHILLER?!”

“Whoa, cool name,” Undyne said. “BUT YOU BET I AM, DORKS!”

“Our guard dog may be a lump, and our catapults don’t work, but we will meet your challenge!” Frisk announced. “Just, like… give us five minutes?”

“YOU’RE ON!” Undyne said. “GAAAH, THIS IS SO HYPE! Alphys, c’mon, let’s get PUMPED!”

“Uh… O-Okay,” she said as Undyne dragged her away. “G-Good luck, guys.”

 

Frisk cast a glance at Papyrus. “Bro, she’s gonna totally wreck us.”

“Don’t say that, there’s always a chance!” He picked her up. “TO THE BATTLEMENTS, FRISK, WE’LL GIVE THEM A HECK OF A FIGHT!”

 

Five minutes was not nearly enough to prepare enough snowballs on the top of Castle Bonechiller, but Papyrus and Frisk tried their best.

“Why didn’t we build working catapults again?” Papyrus asked.

“I dunno how and you dunno how,” Frisk said.

“Ack, we should have asked Sans!” he said.

 

They froze upon hearing footsteps approaching and, cautiously, Frisk peeked out over the battlements. Below, instead of Undyne, she was pleasantly surprised to see another friend, the yellow, lizard-like monster kid, Kid, peering up curiously. He was wearing a toque and scarf as well as a cozy winter poncho, but he still looked kind of cold and there was snow on his hat.

“Frisk? Is that you up there?” he said. “What’s going on?”

“Hey, Kid!” she said brightly.

“GREETINGS, KID!” Papyrus said, standing up proudly on the battlements, scarf billowing. “Come to join us in the defence of Castle Bonechiller?”

Kid’s eyes lit up. “Yeah!”

“Nyeh heh heh, fantastic! Get inside!”

Kid looked around, then scrambled through the small front opening. Papyrus helped him up to sit with them.

“So, wait, who’s coming to get us?” Kid asked.

“Undyne,” Frisk said.

“WHAT?!”  He peeked over the snow wall and then immediately ducked down again. “Oh man, here she comes!”

 

They all looked and, sure enough, she was standing there, right on time. Alphys was hiding behind a small barricade she had set up, but Undyne stood poised with a spear in her hand.

“COME AT ME, NERDS!” she challenged.

“OKAY, WE WILL!” Papyrus yelled.

 

He and Frisk began to throw snowballs, but Undyne deflected them back. Papyrus caught a few awkwardly, frowned, and began to throw them even faster. Undyne cackled and knocked them back, and very quickly the exchange was too fast for either of the kids to follow. Frisk grabbed Kid and pulled him down out of the way as the snow battle became like a bullet hell. Papyrus could only catch so many, though, and they could feel the fortress weakening around them.

 

“Oh man oh man oh man, I joined the wrong team!” Kid said.

Frisk laughed. “No way!”

“Uh… Uh, Frisk? I am actually, in fact, out of snowballs,” Papyrus said.

“New plan!” She stood up. “Throw me at her!”

“WHAT?!” Kid shrieked.

Papyrus grinned and picked her up.

“WHAT’S THAT, DWEEBS, DONE ALREADY?!” Undyne roared.

“No way! HERE’S MY SPECIAL ATTACK!” Papyrus said.

 

He tossed Frisk headlong into Undyne and they flopped together back into the snow.

“Oof! Welp. Didn’t expect that,” Undyne said, but she grinned at Frisk. “Don’t think this’ll save you.”

Frisk gulped and quickly found herself flying and wailing through the air until she collided with Papyrus and they toppled off the battlements.

“That didn’t work at all!” he said.

“Ugh, sorry, bro,” Frisk said, rubbing her head. “There’s gotta be something else we can do!”

“Yes! We can’t give up!” he insisted.

“TOO LATE, NERDS!”

 

Undyne dove face first through the wall and Papyrus grabbed Frisk under one arm and Kid under the other and scrambled out of the fortress as part of the wall caved in. Undyne rose from the rubble, cackling, spear in hand.

 

“Hey, uh… Undyne.” Everyone looked up and suddenly Sans was perched on the top of the remaining snow tower. He grinned and his eye lit up bright blue. “How about you, uh, chill out.

“Oh, no, Sans, don’t you dare—!” She was cut off as his magic weighted the snow and the entire rest of Castle Bonechiller tumbled down in an avalanche, knocking her off her feet.

Papyrus shielded the kids, but it didn’t last long; Undyne heaved herself upright in a snowbank and Alphys peeked over her barricade nervously.

“SANS, YOU CHEATED!” Undyne yelled.

 

Sans chuckled and strolled across the snow, unfazed, and offered her his hand. She grinned and let him help her out of the snow.

“That’s it, Sans won,” Frisk announced.

“That was actually really cool,” Papyrus said, eyes wide. “Sans, I am impressed!”

Sans’s cheekbones flushed pale blue and he shrugged.

 

- - -

 

When the wind picked up and the snow began to fall again, everyone retreated into the double house for warm cocoa and butterscotch pie in Toriel’s section, where it was much tidier. It was weird— Frisk hadn’t felt cold at all outside, but now that she was inside, she was freezing. She and Kid were bundled in blankets and digging into pie as Toriel gladly handed out generous slices to everyone.

 

“Tori, this is amazing,” Asgore said.

“Dude, got something in your eye?” Undyne asked.

“It’s just very nostalgic for me,” he chuckled.

Toriel smiled a little and took a seat close to Sans, who was disconcertingly squeezing a squiggle of ketchup onto his slice. “Yes. I think it’s quite nice, Frisk helped me out, she’s doing very well in the kitchen.”

“Oh man, Frisk, you gotta show me that!” Undyne said. “How many times did you have to punch this filling?! It’s fantastic.”

“One thousand times,” Frisk said.

Undyne gawked. “NO WAY!”

 

Toriel hid a laugh behind her hand and turned to Sans and watched him curiously. “Hmm… I wonder if there would be a way to make a proper ketchup pie,” she said. “Maybe I will do an experiment with it.”

“Your majesty, I’m sure even a ketchup pie would be good, coming from you!” Papyrus said brightly.

“Yeah, good idea, your pie-ness,” Sans replied.

Toriel was caught off guard with a bite of pie in her mouth and snorted, trying not to laugh. She was only half successful.

 

“D-Do you guys mind if I bring home a slice for Mettaton?” Alphys said. “I’m sure he’d love this.”

“Of course!” Toriel said. “Wait, he eats?”

“Oh y-yeah, a ton,” Alphys said.

“A metta-ton?” Sans asked. He was met with both groans and laughter and he shrugged.

“I walked into that one,” Alphys said, her cheeks flushing.

 

As Frisk finished up her slice, she had to stand on her tiptoes to put her plate near the sink and then ducked away to take a small sheet of paper from Toriel’s desk. She quickly wrote a note to “Santa” on it and then folded it carefully. She returned to Asgore and tugged on the sleeve of his big, green and white festive sweater.

“I heard,” she said, “that you know Santa pretty well, right? I was wondering, could you get this to him?” She held out the letter.

Asgore beamed. “Yes, of course, my child,” he said as he took it. “Your letter is safe with me!”

“Frisk, what’d you ask for?!” Papyrus asked.

She grinned. “It’s a secret, bro.”

“Wowie, that’s exciting,” he said.

 

As the snow began to fall harder outside, everyone ended up cozied together to watch TV. Monsters finally had access to human channels, but still they seemed to prefer the MTT channel broadcast from the lab and small studio downtown where Mettaton worked. There were some humans on the crew now, but most of the work was still done by Mettaton himself and his ghostly cousin, Napstablook.

 

Mettaton was on now, in fact, doing a call-in segment whilst sprawled across his desk and pointing at things on the green screen with his pink, high-heeled boots. Frisk always thought he looked kind of like an anime character, but couldn’t quite place it. She supposed it was no surprise, as Alphys had designed that body for him, and she was, in fact, the biggest anime nerd Frisk had ever met.

 

“Weather alert for the Mount Ebott and Starhome area!” Mettaton announced. “It’s freezing, darlings! Stay inside! It’s only getting worse, blizzard’s coming in! And I’m solar powered, I need to sit under my heating lamps, this is a travesty!” He stomped his boot on a button of the desk and a festive string of lights and fake snow fell from the ceiling. A toot of the horn in the tune of his theme-song accompanied it. “Alright, beauties! Reruns for the rest of the day, Mettaton is outie! Regular call-in contest tomorrow!”

 

A title graphic with his theme song began to play. Alphys, nestled under Undyne’s arm, stretched her back.

“Oh, I guess that means he’ll be home soon,” she said. “I g-gotta get those lamps ready for him, actually.”

“I’ll give you a hand,” Undyne said. She got up and helped Alphys to her feet. “Thanks for having us over.”

“Of course!” Toriel said.

“Um, we’re, uh… We’re doing a Mew Mew Kissy Cutie marathon next weekend if, uh… Y-You’re all invited!” Alphys said.

Asgore got up from his seat as well, taking a quick peek out the window. “I suppose Mettaton’s right. It looks like the storm is really picking up,” Asgore said. “Kid, how about I walk you home?”

“Oh! Th-That’d be great, your Mayorness!” Kid said.

 

Frisk hugged everyone goodbye before they headed out, then flopped on top of Sans, who was resting lengthwise on the couch, using Papyrus’s side as a pillow.

“Jeez, kiddo, you’re really startin’ to remind me of myself,” Sans joked.

“But I’m tiiiired,” she said.

Toriel chuckled as she moved to sit with them. Sans hugged the kid lazily.

“I still don’t know what a Mew Mew Kissing something is,” she admitted. “Is it at all like these MTT programs? I’m not sure, am I too old for this?”

“It’s, um… It’s like a cartoon?” Frisk said. “But not made for little kids? It’s Alphys’s favourite.”

“Yup. Can’t stand it,” Sans laughed.

“It’s not that bad!” Papyrus said. “I mean, it is, obviously, but that’s part of the fun, right? …Right? I mean, it’s kind of sweet, though.”

“It’s true!” Frisk said, and then looked at Sans, pouting. “So you’re not gonna go?”

“Of course I am, you nuts?” Sans said. “Dude, I’ve been hoardin’ cat jokes for months.”

Frisk grinned and hugged him. “You’re the best!” she said. “Hey, you guys, honestly, thanks for making today super fun, I really needed this.”

“Of course, Frisk! We are all certainly fantastic! Especially me, but everyone else only slightly less so!” Papyrus said. “I wish we had more time with Castle Bonechiller, though, it really was a great fortress, wasn’t it? I should’ve taken some photos, I’m sure we would’ve gotten at least two… no, three uplikes on the UnderNet!”

 

Toriel’s eyes went wide and she fished her phone out of her pocket to show them. “I did! Take a look. I admit, some are a little fuzzy, but—”

“Did you put your thumb over the lens?” Sans asked as he sat up with Frisk.

Toriel laughed. “Not fuzzy like that!” she protested. “Look.”

Papyrus leaned over and he began to grin. “I think they’re perfect! Ooh, look, there’s us building the fort! And there’s Undyne wrecking it! Nyeh heh heh!”

“Heh. Oh. Is that really what day it is?” Sans asked. “I, uh… thought that was tomorrow.”

“Sans!” Papyrus chided.

“No, no, it’s good, more time to shop for the holidays than I thought,” he said. “Got an extra few to buy for this year, I might actually have to go to more than one store. Weird.”

“It is a strange feeling sometimes, isn’t it?” Toriel asked. “I quite enjoy it, actually.”

“Me too,” Frisk said. “I watched people do it before, but I never actually never had to do it before this year! It’s pretty cool.”

“I still can’t believe that humans also have a gift-giving tree holiday,” Papyrus said. “There’s a lot about monsters and humans that are kind of similar, I wish we had all been able to be friends sooner.”

“I dunno, Papyrus, sometimes humans can be pretty mean,” Frisk said. “We’ve been really lucky here in town with the people who moved in and stuff, but really, I kinda like monsters more. You guys are just so nice.”

“But so are you, Frisk!” Papyrus said brightly. He booped her on the forehead with an affectionate spark of magic and she giggled.

“Maybe it wore off on me!” she joked.

 

Chapter Text

On the other side of town, nestled amongst an inn and a small park, sat a red brick building, new, with an old sign on the front that asserted it was called Grillby’s. It was one relic of the underground that most were happy to see stick around.

 

When Sans walked through the door, he was met with the faces and greetings of regulars: dogs playing cards, a horse-man hugging the wall near a juke box; monsters lazily resting in booths and near the front counter. There were new faces, too. Human ones, people who were getting increasingly comfortable with a fire elemental running the best place in town. It was nice to see, in the warm, familiar bar, that everyone was getting along as they got out of the cold.

 

Sans held the front way open for Frisk and she hopped inside, sniffing deeply.

“Oh man, my boogers!” she whined.

“What?” Sans asked.

“My boogers are frozen!” She wiped her nose.

Sans started laughing. “Oh my god, what even…?” He grinned. “Dude, that’s hilarious.”

 

They went up to their usual spot and hopped up on bar stools. Frisk was still sniffling.

“Hey, Grillby,” he said. “Doin’ well?”

The man made of fire behind the counter made a slight downward movement with his head and then placed the glass he was drying onto the counter. He passed Frisk a napkin.

“Thanks,” Frisk said.

 

She blew her nose and Sans snickered. Grillby looked at him over his glasses.

“Just pickin' up,” he said. “Hey. Question. Suggestion? Whatever. What about lasagna?”

“Hmm…” Grillby replied.

Sans shrugged. “Welp. Better than no. Mac and cheese?”

Grillby frowned slightly.

“Dude, I know I can get it at home, that’s not the point.” Sans laughed. “Okay. No problem.”

“Can we get… milkshakes?” Frisk said.

Grillby held up one finger.

“No rush,” Sans assured him. “Four milkshakes.”

Frisk grinned. Grillby moved off to get their order, which he had to wear silver cooling-mitts to prepare.

 

Frisk finally pushed her hood back and rubbed her ears.

“Hey, kiddo,” Sans said. “Were the winters like this where you were from?”

She shook her head. “Cold, but not like this. But if this gets us more snow days, I’m totally okay with it!”

He chuckled, but then immediately tensed up as a phone started to ring. “Uh… Is that me, or you?”

“Think it’s you?” she said.

“Crap.” He shuffled in his pocket until he found the phone, and then looked at the front screen. He immediately looked tired.

Frisk leaned over to look. “The university guy again?” she asked

“Looks like it,” he said.

“Aren’t you gonna get it?”

 

He sighed, then flicked his thumb across the screen and put the phone up to his head. “Sup? Yeah, I know. I’m just getting food with my kid— Yeah, my kid sister… Right now? It’s a Friday, I don’t work on… Oh. Your lab, huh?” He slumped onto the counter and rested his cheek on his fist. “Which one? ESR? …Oh, dude, no, you need Helmholtz coils, not… Never mind. Look, text me your questions, I’ll get back to you. Later. No, seriously. Go home. Yeah, get out of the lab. No, I won’t mark it late, okay? It’s a frickin’ blizzard. Yup. Don’t get stuck in the snow, dude.” He hung up and rubbed his skull.

 

Frisk smiled. “Another one, huh?”

“I don’t get these kids, sometimes,” he said as he pocketed his phone. “They have internet, right? And I wrote all the equations on the handouts. And still they don’t get it.”

“It’s tough,” Frisk laughed. “So sciencey. They can, um, read your handwriting though, right?”

Sans laughed. “I typed it.”

“No excuses, then!” Frisk said, folding her arms. “What a bunch of nerds.”

“Heh, tell me about it. I’m just glad tests are over until, what’s that thing called? Spring?”

“Mhm!” she said brightly. “Couldn’t you just not give tests though?”

  “Not accordin’ to the top nerds. So, you know how I frickin’ hate markin’, right?” he said. “Get this, first, I make the tests easy; everyone complains they’re too easy. So I make ‘em hard, now they’re complaining they’re too hard. Can’t win. You heard what they’re callin’ me now?”

“Yup! Grim Reaper!” She snickered. “Guess it sorta suits you! But I’d probably go with Grin Reaper.”

“Pffft, nice one. But it’s pretty funny, right?” he said. “Next time is next, uh… next Wednesday, I think, you up for it? They like seein’ you, makes them remember I’m not just there to mess with ‘em.”

She nodded enthusiastically. He grinned.

“But I’m thinkin’ though, maybe I might get like, a robe? A black one with the hood, you know? Just show up like that one day, what d’you think?”

Frisk beamed. “That's the best thing I’ve ever heard, bro, totally do it,” she said. “Ooh! We can go to that Halloween store Undyne got my coat at! It’s gonna be awesome. I’ll go with you for sure! And, bet I can get Asgore to lend you a sickle or something.”

He grinned. His left eye lit up faintly blue. He gently ruffled her hair. “Thanks a million, kiddo,” he said. “Heh. Dunno what the heck I’d do without you.”

Frisk beamed.

 

Grillby soon brought over the their bags and the tall cups for their milkshakes in a cardboard holder. Sans had a tab but Frisk left a tip and a monster candy from her pocket on the counter before flipping her hood back up and helping him with the bags. The snow was even worse outside than before. Sans shifted his bags to one arm and put his hand on her shoulder. When she blinked, they were in front of the house. Frisk grinned and ran to open the front door for them.

“We got food!”

 

As Toriel set the tablet for them to eat, Frisk chased Papyrus around the room with the container of hot chilli they had bought for him.

“Nooo, Frisk, I don’t want it,” he whined.

“C’mon, bro, wait up!” she said.

“It’s fine! I made spaghetti last night! I’ll just eat that!”

“Paaapyyyruusss!” Frisk pouted and came to a stop. “Aw, man. Why you gotta have such long legs?”

Papyrus turned to face her, eyes widening. “Nooo no no, don’t make that face! Look, it’s not you, I just don’t like Grillby’s that much!”

“But…! But!”

Papyrus frowned down at Frisk as she held out the styrofoam container of chilli to him. He hesitated. She pouted more dramatically. Sighing, he took it cautiously like it was some alien object and peeked inside suspiciously. She began to smile again.

“Did Sans put you up to this?” he asked.

“Yeah, obviously,” she said. “It’s new on the menu. We think you’ll like it! C’mon, try try try!”

“Weelllll…”

“You’ll never know for certain if you don’t like it if you will not try it, my child,” Toriel pointed out as she finished laying the plates. “Chilli is quite a bit like spaghetti sauce.”

“It is?!” Papyrus’s eyes went wide. “Welllll… Okay. Okay, yes, I will try it! Frisk, why didn’t you just say so?”

“Because, uh…” she shrugged wide. “I didn’t think of it? Whoops.”

 

They heard an incidental womp womp sound as Sans bumped the door to the partition and tooted on his trombone. Frisk snorted out a laugh.

“Ack, Sans, get yourself and your visual pun in here,” Papyrus said.

“Ooh, I love that joke,” Toriel said brightly. “I wonder if I could ever come up with something similar…”

“Best I got is bongoats,” Sans propped up his trombone against the wall.

Toriel snickered. Papyrus frowned and looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Really? I would have thought any horn might work,” Papyrus said. “But I think instrument related puns may not be my… forte!”

Sans grinned wide, Frisk gawked, and Toriel put her hands together in excitement.

“Bro, that was on point!” Sans said. He offered his hand and Papyrus gave him a high-five and snickered loudly.

“Ooh! Ooh! Really cleff-er!” Frisk said.

“I’d give it a four out of four,” Toriel said.

 

Everyone was laughing far too hard for how bad the jokes were. Sans was beaming.

“I love you guys, just sayin’,” he said.

“Ooh, that wasn’t half bad,” Papyrus admitted. “Sans, I have spent too much time with you! Okay! Let me try this weird pasta-less sauce meal!”

 

They settled in and Papyrus dumped the chilli on his plate and stared at it for a long while as the others ate their burgers.

“Dude, it’s gonna get chilly,” Sans said.

“But it’s already chilli,” Papyrus said. He stared blankly as Frisk tried very hard not to laugh.

Sans just grinned.

“Oh god.” Papyrus snickered, then rubbed his forehead and shook his head. “Okay. Okay hang on.” He took a spoonful, stared at it, and then put it in his mouth.

They all watched with baited breath.

“Oh. Hey. That’s… That’s not bad.”

“YES!” Frisk cheered. She reached across the table and gave Sans a high five.

Toriel clapped quietly.

“Sort of the opposite of chilly, though, why’s it called that?” he wondered.

“Bunch of jokers named it, I guess,” Sans said with a wink.

 

With such a success under their belts, after dinner was done, Sans and Frisk retreated to the other side of the house in high spirits to conspire about holiday gifts as Papyrus helped Toriel with the dishes.

“Okay, so I’ll deal with the big stuff, you do the macaroni frame,” Sans was saying. “You’re a kid; he’ll think it’s the cutest shit. I’ll cover for you.”

“Okay, cool!” Frisk said. “What about for Undyne? New tea set? I think she chipped most of her mugs.”

“I can handle that,” he said.

“No, no, split it at least!” Frisk insisted.

“Kid, you don’t have a job,” he said.

“I get allowance! A-And I still have a bunch of gold left from the underground,” she said. “C’mon!”

“One quarter,” he said.

“A third!”

“Alright, alright, a third,” Sans said with a laugh. “How about Tori?”

“That’s easy! We get—” Frisk yelped instead of finishing her sentence as the floor shook and the walls around them rumbled very violently and very suddenly.

Dishes clattered jarringly in the other kitchen.

 

“Wh-What the heck was that?!” Frisk squeaked, recoiling to the corner of the sofa.

Sans frowned and got up to peek through the divider. “Hey, everyone okay over there?”

“Yes, fine!” Papyrus answered as he came to join them. “What was that?”

Sans shrugged and Toriel hurried in as well.

“Frisk! Frisk, are you alright?” She raced over to grab her reassuringly. “Nobody’s hurt?”

“N-No, we w-were just—” Frisk began, but another rumble, even worse this time, startled her and she covered her ears.

There was a strange creaking sound outside over the wind.

“What on earth…?” Toriel ran to the window; her expression switched from worry to horror in an instant. “Everyone, get to the basement.”

“Mom, wh-what is it?” Frisk asked.

Toriel didn’t answer, but quickly put her coat on and made for the door. She paused to turn to Sans. “Please, watch over them,” she said.

 

She rushed out into the cold, and worriedly, Frisk got up and ran after her, with Papyrus close behind. The wind was howling and the snow was swirling, and though Toriel was nowhere to be seen, there was some strange, dark shapes moving far beyond them.

“Mom!” Frisk shouted.

There was no answer.

“What the heck is going on?” Papyrus said; he shielded his eyes and peered ahead. “Where did she—? NYEH!” He staggered and Frisk clung to him as the ground rumbled beneath them. He grasped the doorframe tightly.

 

Across the street, Undyne came flying out of their house without a coat, followed quickly by Mettaton, who had his arms wrapped tightly around himself.

“Hey!” Papyrus shouted to them. “Guys! What’s going on?!”

“No idea, darling!” Mettaton called back. “Something bad, I think!”

“Guys.” Sans joined them and put a hand on Frisk’s shoulder. “Think, uh, we should get back in?”

“Sans, something is really wrong here!” Papyrus said worriedly.

“Yeah. So we should go in.”

“GO BACK INSIDE!” Undyne shouted to them. She stomped off down the street and Mettaton tried to follow. She threw a snowball at him. “BACK!”

“Alright, FINE!” he yelled back at her.

 

Shivering, Mettaton stumbled over to them through the deepening snow.

“Are you okay?” Frisk asked.

“F-Fine, darling, my body is just a little more t-tuned for i-intense heat than this c-cold,” he said, using a shaking hand to brush the snow from his hair. “What the h-hell was that?”

Nobody had an answer. Sans backed up and the others took it as a cue to come back in. Papyrus unzipped his hoodie and draped it around Mettaton’s shoulders.

“Warm up, okay?” he said. “I can’t believe mom just vanished like that! What the heck is going on?”

“I’m n-not sure, but I saw A-Asgore rushing out a-after the first sh-shake.” Mettaton was still shivering, but he put on Papyrus’s hoodie and zipped it up. “Wh-What do you think? Earthquake?”

Everyone looked at Sans. He seemed worried, but he shrugged.

 

“Don’t you guys think we should go find her?” Frisk asked.

“Yeah, Sans!” Papyrus said, eyes going wide. “What if it is an earthquake? Everyone could be in danger! If we can help, we should, shouldn’t we? And besides, we can’t just leave mom out there alone, right?”

Sans frowned slightly. “Guess you’re right, bro. Okay. Winter gear. Let’s go. Mettaton, you should probably go check on Alphys.”

“Oh, are you the boss, now?” he asked.

“Sans is the boss!” Frisk said..

Mettaton sighed. “Alright. Fine. This better just be nothing,” he grumbled. “Papyrus, darling, thanks for the sweatshirt, do you mind if I borrow it for a little longer?”

“No, not at all, go right ahead!” Papyrus said.

Mettaton smiled and opened the door. “Thanks a bunch, hun, there’ll be some sweet memorabilia in the pockets when you get it back.”

“Wowie!”

 

Mettaton waved at them as he left and, quickly, the others got dressed and headed out. The wind was biting and calling the weather anything less than blizzard-like seemed disingenuous. Frisk squinted through the snow to the distance but couldn’t make out much. Visibility couldn’t be more than a few feet. She looked at her brothers with worry. Papyrus shielded his eyes; was trying to see far off, and Sans looked just as uneasy as she felt. She latched onto his hand.

“Scared?” he asked.

“No. Yes,” she muttered.

“Well, this is no good, even I can’t see what the heck is going on, and my eyes are great,” Papyrus said.

 

They headed a little farther into town, but things were frustratingly silent. Frisk was nervous; didn’t want to say it. Even Papyrus looked like he was on edge, running his thumb along a scratch mark on the back of his hand as had become his habit. They heard stumbling, snowy footsteps behind them and they turned to see Alphys and Mettaton struggling through the snow. To their surprise, they were dragging along Undyne’s armour.

“Uh… What are you guys doing?” Frisk asked.

“I’m not sure, U-Undyne phoned and said she n-needed this stuff,” Alphys said.

“Ugh, my joints do not like this nonsense,” Mettaton grumbled.

“Did she say why?” Sans asked.

“N-No, just that… she, um… oh….” Alphys froze in her tracks and her eyes went wide. Her glasses fogged up. She started stammering and pointed towards downtown.

 

Following her finger, dread hung heavy over the group as they picked out flashes of fireballs, pink and red, and streaks of Undyne’s bright blue magic glowing, distorted, through the snow.

“W-We gotta g-get over there!” Alphys said. “M-Mettaton, c-can we f-fly?!”

“Only for m-maybe five m-minutes, Alphie,” he said. His energy swelled bright around him and metal wings unfolded from some panels on his back.

“So cool,” Papyrus said.

 

Mettaton scooped up Alphys and grunted. “Okay, honeys. You guys should go h-home, okay?”

Before either skeleton or Frisk could respond, Mettaton’s lower wings lit up pink and he and Alphys shot into the air and vanished into the storm.

“Okay. Uh. That’s not good,” Sans said.

“Why are they shooting magic over there?” Frisk wondered worriedly. She felt Sans squeeze her hand and she shot him a look. She was taken aback by the worried expression on his face and she could tell from the snow blowing by that his left eye must’ve been bright with magic. Frisk’s mind raced and her heart thunked to her stomach.

“Brother, what should we—?!” Papyrus’s question fell short when he turned to face Sans. “Oh. Oh, no. Are you okay?!”

 

Sans didn’t have time to answer as another rumble through the ground shook them off balance and the wind began to howl. Papyrus put his arms around both of them and they huddled together until everything was still again.

“Jeez, this is really starting to freak me out, where is everyone?” Papyrus asked. “Do you think we should actually go back?”

“I dunno,” Sans said. “Probably?”

“A-Are we… Are we under attack?” Frisk asked at a whisper. “D-Did humans attack us?”

“I’m sure they didn’t…! I mean. Who would attack us? We have such a nice town!” Papyrus said, though his voice rang high with nerves. “Th-There’s no way.”

 

Frisk gulped. She wanted to continue, but she certainly didn’t want to get separated from them. She took a deep breath, but something in the wind suddenly made her shake. She thought she heard words. She gently moved away from them and pushed her hood down to listen.

“Frisk, what’re you doing?” Papyrus asked.

“Shh,” she said. “Do you hear that?”

Her brothers stopped to listen. The wind carried the echoes of a laugh that chilled Frisk to her core.

“Frrrriiisssskk~! Oh Friiisssskkk, where are yooouu~?”

 

From out of the haze rose a spiral of twisting vines, shaping themselves like the body of a beast, and a petalled bulb of a head with long, fanged jaws rose up, black, shining eyes glimmering like onyx through the whirlwind of snow.

“…Two, three, four, five…! Gee! I’m taking so many souls I just can’t keep up!” he laughed. “But not one with even half as much determination as my little Frisk! Wheeerre are youuu? Come on, come try to stop me!”

 

His laugh poisoned the air. She couldn’t move, could barely finish a coherent thought. Frisk felt arms around her and she was pulled back around a building’s corner and squished tightly against Sans’s chest.

“You aren’t goin’. You hear me?” he said. “You’re stayin’ here.”

She didn’t even know what to say. Her legs felt like jelly. “B-But I—”

“No.”

“But I was the only one who could—”

“Nope.” He was resolute.

She wilted. Her shoulders shook. She was at a total loss. “Wh-What do I do…? What do we…?!” She looked up at him with horror. “Everyone else is still over there! The whole town is—!”

“Guys, what the heck is that?! Oh my god, it’s huge!” Papyrus shrieked. “I think Undyne is still fighting it, we have to go help!”

Frisk looked at Sans. His brow furrowed.

“We… We can try to get them out. But we are not gettin’ close enough that he sees you.” He pulled her hood back up for her. “Promise you’ll stay with us. You, uh… You won’t run off and do anything crazy, huh?”

Frisk nodded. “I promise.”

 

The kid held tight to Sans’s hand as they crept in the wake of the towering beast. The air was sharp with screams and the creaking and groaning of buildings, and the ground was shaking with heavy, pounding footsteps. They could still see magic flashes lighting up the white and grey, but the fireballs seemed to be coming less now. Pink lasers had joined them, though— probably Mettaton’s.

 

“Where is everybody?” Papyrus asked worriedly. “Your majesties?! Undyne?! Alphys?! Mettaton?! ANYBODY?!”

There was a lot of noise, but no answers.

Papyrus grimaced and moved to go ahead, but he stumbled, grunted, and pitched forward over something and into the snow.

“Paps?!” Sans jogged ahead to help his brother up. “You okay?”

“Yes! Just fine! What the…?” He turned to look at what had caught him as he brushed snow off his pants.

Frisk and Sans peeked over, too. It was the top of an office building.

“Ohhh wow, oh no,” Papyrus said.

 

A sound like thunder crashed above them and Frisk latched onto Papyrus’s leg with a tight, trembling grip. Undyne’s spears lit up the sky electric blue and she shouted above the wind, though the words were lost, the anger wasn’t. Papyrus looked relieved and he grabbed the others and rushed them through the snow as fast as he could to keep up with her. They came to the crest of a hill where things suddenly became a lot more clear.

 

The three of them stared with horror as a monstrous beast made of plants smashed through buildings below, growing larger, sprouting more tendrils and gaping, toothy heads as he took in pinpricks of coloured energy. Frisk gawked. It took her mind a second to process it.

“Oh… Oh my god, he’s… he’s killing them…” she breathed.

“Holy shit, how many souls do you think he has?” Sans asked.

Frisk couldn’t articulate an answer— she was shaking too hard. Her mind raced and her heart pounded hard in her ears. She felt like she was going to be sick.

“He said at least five, but that was a while ago!” Papyrus said worriedly. “It has to be way over seven by now! Look at him! What’s he doing?”

Sans grimaced and put his hand on Frisk’s shoulder. She jumped, but then pressed against him hurriedly.

“He wants her,” he said. “You heard him. He needs Frisk’s soul to be able to control the timeline.”

“But why would he want to do that?!” Papyrus demanded. “That’s crazy!”

“He…” Frisk gulped, but she could barely raise her voice. “He’s trying to do what his sister wanted.”

 

There was another thunderous crash and Papyrus bent to shield Sans and Frisk. Undyne emerged down below, throwing spears with fury in her eye. She had her armour, and her attacks were relentless, but the living, monstrous jungle Asriel had become didn’t even seem to notice.

“Go Undyne, go!” Papyrus cheered.

Frisk’s heart dropped. Undyne leaped at him, roaring. He struck her down without even looking at her.

 

“No no no no no!” Frisk said. “No no, Undyne can’t… No…” She dropped to her knees. It was like she couldn’t even hear anything. She stared at where Undyne fell, her heartbeat drowning out all else. Her head swam. This wasn’t right. None of this was right.

 

There was a flash, like a sunbeam penetrating up through the ground and a voice roared out. Undyne loomed up from the rubble, covered in spikes, eyes like fire.

“NGGAAAAAH, YOU THINK I’M DONE?! YOU GOTTA TRY HARDER THAN THAT!” she screamed into the howling wind. “YOU WANT DETERMINATION?! I AM DETERMINATION!” A second spear came to her like lightning and she leapt at the walking abomination, stabbing into its legs with such fury and speed that she began to crack it.

The face on the main head simply looked annoyed. “Weak,” he said. He slapped her down.

Frisk felt her heart plummet with her. She felt only a second’s worth of relief to see Undyne stand up and lunge again, roaring with a sound like nothing she’d ever heard before.

 

Beside her, Papyrus stretched a hand out and his magic drew up bones that begun to spin so fast in place that they became whirling disks.

“I need to help her!” he said. “DON’T WORRY, UNDYNE, THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL—”

“Nope. No no no no no.” Sans grabbed him, yanking him out of his attack, the magic bones thunking down and standing straight out of the snow. “Nope, no, we’re leavin’.”

“What?! But—!”

“Bro, you’ll die,” Sans said.

“C-Come on, Sans,” Papyrus said with a nervous smile, “there’s no way that I, the great—”

“Yeah, bro, you’re great. Totally great. So great that I never want to lose you, okay?” Sans said. “I’m not lettin’ you fight that thing.” He lifted Frisk and then grabbed her around the shoulders and held tight to Papyrus’s hand. “Whatever you do, don’t let go of me.”

 

In an instant, it was like the world beyond them shattered into space. They were engulfed in blackness that seemed infinite, then shifted into a twisting, flowing blue and purple that changed before their eyes without them even realizing it. It seemed like stars streaked and made words, but Frisk certainly couldn’t read them. Before she could even take a breath, the world opened up again. There was snow in shadows, and a tall brick right in front of them.

 

Frisk collapsed onto her knees, and Papyrus slid back against the wall, grasping at his chest. Sans let out a deep breath.

“Ah, shit. You guys okay?” he asked.

“Sans,” Papyrus said, “why the heck didn’t’ you tell me you were a space wizard!?”

“Dude, I’m not.”

“Then WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?! Where are we?!”

“Uh… Grillby’s, looks like,” Sans said.

 

He grabbed Frisk and helped her to her feet. She looked like she was in shock.

“Kid? You okay? Sorry that was a bit rough.”

“Y… Yeah,” she said quietly.

There was an extraordinarily loud boom behind them and Frisk yelped with fear and covered her ears. Sans hesitantly peeked out from behind the wall. It was hard to pull out details, but even through the blizzard it clear: the city was on fire. Asriel was getting larger with every second, and the only sound he was making sounded like he was simply shrieking Frisk’s name. Faint, crackling spears shot up, but the magic fire and laser blasts seemed to have long since ceased.

“Oh, god,” he muttered. “This is bad.”

“There must be something we can do!” Papyrus said.

Sans grimaced. He turned to look at Frisk. She was pale, shaking, and edging ever closer to Papyrus. The tall skeleton put his hand on her head reassuringly.

“H-Hey, Frisk, it’s okay,” he assured her. “You know you’ll always have your awesome, cool big brother Papyrus right here with you, right? Promise.”

Frisk nodded and held onto him tightly.

 

Sans took one last look around the corner. Now he couldn’t see any spears anymore either, and the heads of the beast were looking around through the blizzard. In fact, aside from the monstrosity wailing amongst the buildings and the wind’s rattling whispers, the town was absolutely silent. He felt sick. His eyes began to water but he quickly brushed it away. When he turned back to what was left of his family, he felt like his heart would break; like his soul was dropping into a pit. He set his expression to a pointed neutral as best he could.

“Brother, what do we do?” Papyrus asked. “You must have some clue, right? Because I don’t have a thing. We can’t fight it, right? I guess we could run, but we can’t leave whoever’s left in the city! And what about after that?! Oh my god, this is really bad, isn’t it?”

 

Sans’s eyes locked on Frisk. He beckoned her close and knelt down, taking her by shoulders. She had never seen him look so serious in her life. He held himself rigid and gripped her tightly.

“You have to go back,” he said.

“What?!” she yelped. “Go back to where?! How can I—?”

“No, no, you don’t get it, kiddo,” he said. “Reset. The whole thing.”

Frisk’s heart dropped. “Are you sure? I… I…”

“Asriel is gonna kill us,” Sans said. “He’s after you. If he takes your soul— he even touches the thing, this… Everything. This whole world is over. He gets the timeline for long enough to ruin everything. I’m not losin’ you like that. You gotta go back, try this whole gig over.”

“Sans, are you sure?!” Papyrus asked worriedly. “You can do weird time travel stuff, too, right?! Isn’t there anything you can do? Can’t you go with her?!”

“Nah, bro, my powers don’t work like that,” Sans said. He grimaced and flinched, pulling Frisk in close as another explosion rocked the ground.

Papyrus shrieked and covered his head, then scooted closer to them as Sans took a deep breath and let the kid catch some air.

 

“Wh-What should I do?” Frisk asked quietly.

“Maybe we missed somethin’. Some way to give that kid a soul.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry, this isn’t fair to ask you, but it’s all we got.”

Frisk’s heart sunk, but she nodded. Her chest tightened. “Okay. I’ll do it. But… But if I go back, you guys won’t… you won’t…” She couldn’t stop the tears now, and she clenched her teeth. “You’ll all be back down there, and… A-And I… What i-if you don’t…? Papyrus, y-you won’t—!”

“Oh, no, Frisk, don’t worry about that, you’re our family!” Papyrus knelt down and ruffled her hair gently. “Even if we don’t remember right away, there’s no way we won’t become the best of friends again! You’re our little sister, no matter what happens. Okay?”

“But he’s gonna k-kill you. I… I don’t want to leave you,” she squeaked.

“You’re not. You’re savin’ everything. It’s gonna be okay,” Sans said. “You’ll see us soon. You know you will. Drag us back, and nobody’s dead. Alright? It’ll be okay.”

 

Frisk took a deep breath and nodded, even as her heart was breaking. She hurriedly wiped her eyes on her sleeve and forced a smile and Sans laughed quietly. He cupped her cheek and his magic flared up blue in his hand, cool and comforting against her skin.

“Hey, kiddo,” he said. “Don’t worry. We already love you, right?”

She nodded and sniffed deeply, and hurriedly puffed her chest out. “R-Right! I love you, too! I… I love you both, so much. And I’m going to save everyone.”

Sans smiled. “Duh. Go get ‘em, fartmaster, I’m rootin’ for you.”

Frisk couldn’t help a weak giggle and closed her eyes tight to focus, letting her soul float and catch onto that thing, that light, the little switch in the world that would take her back. It had been a year since the last time, but it was still there, still shining like a star just within her reach.

 

“Sans! You can’t just say goodbye to Frisk and send her alone on a deadly quest, and then call her the fartmaster! That’s so childish!” Papyrus shrieked.

“Bro, it’s a joke. Frisk gets it,” Sans said. “See? She’s smiling. She thinks it’s a gas.”

“SANS!”

 

Whatever they said next disappeared into the echoes of a cave. Frisk opened her eyes and blinked up into the droplets of water weeping down the walls around her. She sat up quickly, her hands pressing through a field of golden flowers.

 

Chapter Text

The heartache had already begun to set in, hurting so deeply that Frisk was afraid she would throw up. She clenched her fists and took in a long, deep breath. She felt smaller, and she had lost her winter coat, and instead was wearing her blue and pink striped sweatshirt, shorts that were almost like pants on her, and sneakers. That sweatshirt she had torn by accident— that Papyrus had turned into a winter scarf for her. She had wrapped, filthy cloth bandages around her hands and one of her knees. Same as the first time.

 

The silence made her nauseous. She held her pounding head in her hands and wracked her brain. The only way to stop that monster was to save Asriel, she was sure of it.

 

Asriel had been a bit of an enigma since she met him. The monstrous thing that had attacked them was the husk of what he once, completely soulless and devoid of empathy, hungering for a human soul and living by the motto his misguided sister had instilled in him: kill or be killed. That little boy, Toriel and Asgore's son, was the key to so much of this world. She had spent a lot of time with him when she had tried to find a way to bring him to the surface before, but nothing so far had worked in keeping him as he should be. She considered him a friend, though as he was now, she didn’t know what to do with him.

 

The guilt suddenly struck her like a train. Her mind raced — if she had just tried a little harder! She choked and the tears came, unbidden. She curled up, hugging her knees, her breathing ragged. She had made the choice to stop trying. She couldn’t keep pulling her friends— her family — back underground as she reset the timeline to try again, especially once she knew how hard it could hit. But now, what did it matter? They lost everything.

 

Frisk took a little while to catch her breath. She tried to relax, then forced herself to her feet. Her mind kept racing back to her family— a family she didn’t have anymore. She wanted to be sick. She wanted to scream. None of it had even happened. She whimpered and rubbed her eyes, sniffling, and she took a long, deep breath that made her chest shudder. She felt like there was a vice around her body. A weight above her head pressing insurmountably downwards.

 

She finally unclenched her cramping fists and wiggled her fingers. She let the extra warmth her soul took on down here give her strength. She had to remember: everyone was alive again. The friends she knew didn’t make it, the humans and monsters she didn’t even know, they’d all still be alive now. That was something, at least. She wiped her tears on her sleeves. Nowhere to go but forward. She knew “Flowey” was just up ahead. He always was.

 

Her legs were heavy, but she began to walk. She passed through the first of the Ruin’s passages of purple stone and saw the dappled light shining bright on the green grass in sparse, but vibrant patches before the next gate. As she got closer, he popped up— a little, golden flower with a white face, smiling at her innocently.

“Howdy!” he said. “I’m Flowey! Flowey the flower!”

She expected to feel mad when she saw him, but even now, she couldn’t bring herself to. He didn’t have a choice. He just wanted to survive. He just wanted his sister back.

 

“Hi, Asriel,” Frisk said.

The little flower’s expression faltered and his eyes went wide. “What? What did you just call me?”

“Your name?” she said.

He looked stunned. He tilted his head. “…Chara? Chara, is that you?” He looked so hopeful, his face shifted, taking on features more like his old self— his true self, the little goat monster boy who had died so long ago. “Did… Did you hear me? C-Can we reset it all?”

Frisk lost her nerve for just a moment. She quivered. She half-expected a certain voice in the back of her head to laugh at him. But it wasn’t there. She wasn’t there. Frisk took a deep breath. “Sorry,” she said. “No. I’m not Chara. My name is Frisk.”

“Frisk?” he repeated. “Frisk… Who is—?” His eyes went wide again, and his face twisted with anger. His pupils flashed red, then his eyes went pitch black. “No. No, I know you. You idiot, I can’t believe this! How many times have you tried!? You didn’t even take my memories and now I have to go through this garbage again?! How about you just give up and die!”

 

His magic rose up around him, narrow seeds like blades pointed right at her. Frisk had to ignore her surprise; she braced her feet in the grass and bounced a little in anticipation. When he launched them, she sidestepped and rolled out of the way, the pattern sowed in her mind from ages ago.

“I’m n-not gonna fight you,” she said.

The flower grinned. His magic swelled around him and Frisk knew without even looking that it had encircled her. He started laughing very loudly. “That’s easy. Then die. Your soul is mine.”

Frisk took a deep, steadying breath. “Sorry.”

 

Asriel let confusion cross his face for a fraction of a second— it was quickly replaced with shock as he yelped and was slapped away by a large fireball. He tumbled away into shadows and Frisk’s face lit up as Toriel appeared like a beacon from the darkness beyond her vision.

“What a horrible creature, tormenting a poor, innocent child,” she said, grimacing. Her gentle violet eyes turned to focus on Frisk and she put on a smile.

Frisk shivered. She tasted ash in her mouth.

“Ah, do not be afraid, my child,” she said. “I am Toriel, caretaker of the Ruins.”

“H-Hi,” Frisk stammered.

 

Her throat was suddenly dry and she felt cold. She didn’t know what to say. It took a lot of will to not simply scream for her mother and race for her arms. Toriel moved closer and knelt down to look her in the face. Instead, Frisk froze up completely. She felt like her whole body was stone. She wanted to crumble.

“Are you alright?” Toriel asked gently. “You look a little dazed. That awful creature didn’t hurt you, did he?”

“N… No.” Frisk wiped her eyes. “No, I’m okay.”

“You are human, yes?” she said. “I check through here every day to see if anyone has fallen down. You are the first new face around here in a long while.” She offered her hand.

Frisk trembled and took a deep breath.

“I can guide you through,” she said. “You will be safe with me.”

The kid nodded and readily grabbed her tight with shaking fingers. “I’m so glad you found me.”

Toriel looked surprised for a moment but then smiled gently. “As am I, my child.”

 

Through the gate, they entered into an open area, scattered with autumn leaves that seemed to have been placed there with some sort of purpose. There was a sort of mound at its centre where leaves had rolled down around it, framing it in red. Beyond were two sets of stairs that led farther up into the ruins of Home. Frisk’s first visit had been fraught with confusion and the others, with goals in mind, she had rushed, but now her legs felt like lead and she walked slowly around the mound as Toriel released her and climbed up the stairs and to another gate.

 

Frisk took a deep breath and moved to follow Toriel, but her eyes caught on a pinprick of light in the leaves on the ground between the staircases. She felt the sting of hope. Over there, as she got closer, she saw what looked like a star twinkling before her. What it was, in fact, was a rip in time, a place where she could attach and pull herself backwards. She hadn’t seen one in over a year. She reached out to touch it, determined to stick to it. There was a sort of feeling it gave, like something clicking to place in a very satisfying way. It held. She smiled just a little, and then hurried up the stairs to follow Toriel and entered through what seemed to once have been a building.

 

Frisk recognized the first room and puzzle immediately. The whole Ruins were filled with them, and it was far from the only place that was riddled with puzzles and small traps. Toriel began to explain. Frisk’s brain tuned it out, though she didn’t notice she hadn’t processed a word of it until the door opened and Toriel looked down at her with a gentle smile. The girl nodded as if she understood and Toriel looked pleased and continued onward. Frisk took a deep breath. She just wanted to lie down, but she followed along anyway.

 

Toriel gave her a gentle, sympathetic smile and knelt down to face her once she passed through the doorway. “My child, you look absolutely dead on your feet,” she said. “We’re not too far from home, but would you like to take a rest?”

“N… No. It’s okay. I’m fine,” Frisk said. “Wh-What next?”

“Are you certain?”

Frisk nodded again. Toriel smiled and straightened up.

“If you’re sure, we’ll continue,” she said. “This room is—”

“Switches,” Frisk said quietly.

Toriel blinked with surprise. Frisk’s face flushed.

“S-Sorry.” She pointed. “You marked the switches. I can see from here. Follow the path to the right ones, right?”

Toriel smiled. “Clever child. Would you like to give it a try?”

 

Frisk didn’t. She wanted to sleep, or cry, or both. She wanted to hold onto Toriel and never let go. She wanted her brothers so badly she thought she might be sick. Instead, she nodded, and followed the path as it lead to switches that Toriel had clearly painted bright yellow arrows around. She stood on her toes to pull them down and Toriel met her at the end of the room as the spikes blocking the way clunked downwards and the floor smoothed.

“Splendid, little one! I’m very proud of you,” Toriel said. She held out her hand.

Frisk took it readily, though her palms were starting to hurt.

“I know we are moving fast,” the woman said, “but it is certainly for your benefit. Do not worry, I know this must be very strange for you, but everything I teach you here will help to keep you safe.”

 

Before she knew it, Toriel plunked her in front of a training dummy. Frisk blinked at it blankly.

“Little one, living here, underground, you may find monsters that will attack you. However, do not worry! If such a thing occurs, please just do your best to stall for time and I will be there to resolve the situation. Alright? Would you like to give it a try?”

Frisk looked at her, then looked at the stoic dummy. She took a step back. “Oh… Oh, no, I’m being attacked,” she said. “Um… Hello. Hi. Nice day today? Nice, um… Nice stuffing? V-Very fashionable…?”

Toriel smiled and laughed quietly. “I suppose it’s hard conversing with someone who cannot answer, but it seems you get the idea. Very good.”

Frisk stared at the dummy. She didn’t know why, but she patted its shoulder before she followed Toriel out of the room.

 

Toriel put her hands in the sleeves of her robe and looked up and down the pathway. She looked thoughtful, and then turned to Frisk and knelt down.

“This is the last one for now,” she assured her. “I know you’re tired, my child. Actually…” She took Frisk’s hand again and then stood, and to her faint surprise, guided her across the path and towards another section of room where the floor was entirely spikes. Toriel stepped through slowly, but confidently, guiding the kid on the path until they reached the other side. “There. Not as scary as it looked, hm? Did you see what we did?”

“You um… You followed the path. From the floor. It was a pattern,” Frisk said.

Toriel beamed. “Very good! But… I’m afraid I fibbed, there is one more little challenge.” She released Frisk’s hand and straightened up. “Forgive me for this.”

 

She took off quickly and by the time Frisk turned to peek down the long stretch of hall before her, Toriel was gone, tail end disappearing behind what Frisk remembered was a column at the other end of the room. Maybe under other circumstances, she would have been able to manage a laugh.

 

Frisk simply followed the path down the long hallway until Toriel peeked out from behind a column near the door and quickly hurried out to meet her.

“Never fear, my child! I did not leave you, I was merely behind this pillar the whole time!” she said. “Thank you for trusting me. However, there was an important reason for this exercise. You see, I have some business I must attend to, and you must stay on your own for just a little while. The Ruins are too dangerous to explore alone, especially for someone so small as you.”

Frisk stared back at her blankly, but she nodded. Toriel smiled and reached into her pocket and produced an old flip-phone, then offered it to her.

“I must ask you to stay here in safety, but please, take this phone. You may call me any time. I will be back soon. Be good, alright?”

“O-Okay,” Frisk squeaked.

 

Toriel headed out quickly and Frisk stared after her for a while. She looked at the phone. It was that same one, silver and worn, a little scuffed on one side. Looked like a dog had gnawed on it for a few seconds at some point in its life. She flipped it open. Of course Toriel had already put her number in there. Frisk sighed and closed it again.

 

Something about the silence was just too much for her to bear. She couldn’t keep herself on her feet and dropped down onto bruised knees. Grimacing at first, her throat tightened until the tears came and, before she knew it, she was sobbing uncontrollably. She put her face in her hands and curled up, trembling, and she cried until she was painfully thirsty and the tears wouldn’t seem to come any more.

 

She thought she heard a sound through the pounding in her ears. Hesitantly, she looked up. She was surprised to see a Froggit— a monster that looked very much like a regular, large frog— sitting before her. He croaked.

“Oh… H-Hi,” Frisk said. “S-Sorry I’m not happier to see you. I had a rough day.”

The Froggit croaked. Frisk sighed.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?” she said.

He blinked one bulbous eye and then the other.

“Thanks… I… Okay, this sounds nuts, but I’m from the future. And everyone I love just probably turned to dust. I came back to when everyone is okay again, but now almost no one will remember me, so it’s kind of like, I lost them twice? I dunno. It’s messed up. I just wanna go home, but it’s not even real anymore.”

The Froggit stared at her blankly. She wiped her eyes.

“Sorry… Th-That probably sounded crazy…” she said. “Thanks for listening though, you’re great.”

The Froggit’s cheeks flushed and he lifted up to flop a hug onto her shoulders. Frisk snickered tiredly.

“Thanks,” she said.

He croaked and settled back down onto his haunches.

“Yeah. You know… at least they’re all okay. And we were all really good friends before, so we’ll be like that again,” she assured herself. “And monsters are so nice. You guys, you’re just basically made of nice stuff, aren’t you? So as long as I st-stay… stay determined, everything’s gonna be okay.”

Again, the Froggit blinked lopsidedly. Frisk smiled.

“Thank you so much.”

He smiled back, took her hand and put something in it, and then hopped away and out of the room. Frisk checked her palm. For some reason, he had given her three gold pieces.

 

Frisk picked up her phone as she forced herself to her feet. It was a weird feeling. Again, that silence bothered her; felt so alien. It took her a moment to realize why. She had never been here without Chara in her brain.

 

- - -

 

Many people have an inner voice that seems to speak to them. It just so happened that Frisk’s, for a time, was a ghost. The troubled spirit of Toriel’s first daughter— Asriel’s sister— in fact.

 

Frisk used to be able to hear her, sometimes whispering advice, good and bad, in the back of her mind. Later, she’d learned that she wasn’t her first host, though Chara hadn’t remembered the others. Frisk had seen them, though, in her dreams. Almost everything she’d learned about her history, though, was from ancient video recordings made mostly by Asriel himself, long before he’d become the soulless flower that he was now.

 

Chara was a human who had fallen into the mountain a long, long time ago. She loved monsters, but had grown to despise humanity, to the point where she had devised a plan to eliminate it. She hadn’t been treated well amongst her own people and, when she learned the truth of how they had started the war against the monsters and sealed them below ground, her rage only grew. She wanted them to die.

 

Monsters and humans had been primarily at odds due to the fact that monsters possessed the ability to absorb the lingering soul of a human. It was said to grant them immense power, turning them into a huge beast: unnatural in form and unmatched in strength. The barrier that imprisoned the monsters below the mountain could only be circumvented by such a beast, according to the stories. It was also said it could be broken completely by the gathering of seven human souls, to match the seven wizards who had cast the spell to begin with.

 

Chara learned this. She wanted those souls. She wanted revenge. She came up with a plan— poisoned herself in order to die, faking an illness, to give her soul to Asriel. Together, they had travelled to her village and she tried to instigate a massacre, using her own body as bait. But, when it came to actually killing anyone, Asriel hadn’t let it happen. He stopped them from fighting, and they were struck again and again. Mortally wounded, they went home, and they were both destroyed, as was their family. Dust scattered and body buried, that seemed to be the sad end to it. That is, until the CORE malfunctioned.

 

The CORE, a magical energy reactor that powered all of the underground, also had strange side effects. It warped matter and energy; affected souls and determination strangely. Records on it were scarce and vague, even though it was within recent memory. That was when Chara’s spirit stirred. Drifting at first, aimless, barely conscious, she simply existed.

 

When Frisk fell down below, Chara woke up. For some reason, a tiny, scared, little ten year old girl armed only with a twig had a soul that resonated so strongly with pure determination that she could travel through the tears in time that had appeared after the CORE’s malfunction. That feeling reminded Chara of herself. She attached to the new human, hoping for a way to get revenge, to take that determination for herself— to finally destroy things for good. However, she found she could do little more than help pass on knowledge to Frisk. The girl was unswayable. She wouldn’t hurt anyone. She loved everyone she met that showed her any shred of kindness, like a little lost puppy.  All of this confused Chara greatly. Their pasts weren’t so dissimilar.

 

Even so, Frisk had done something Chara never expected from a human. The skeleton brothers had taken her in as one of their own. Chara’s mother now called her daughter. Frisk had made a family. She hadn’t hurt anyone. She had only turned back time to do her best to make everyone as happy as she could, and now she had decided that she wouldn’t reset the timeline again, even though she had all the power in the world to do so. For some reason that even she didn’t fully understand, this made Chara feel something she hadn’t felt in a long, long time: hope. Just a tiny spark of it, like a candle’s flame flickering in an endless night.

 

The final day on the mountain, after the barrier had cracked and vanished for the last time, Chara felt like air. She felt lighter. Her grip loosened. She watched Frisk giggle and conspire with Sans about the type of house they’d all build together. She told Papyrus she’d take him to show him all the possibilities of noodles they could try, and promised Undyne and Alphys that they’d all have huge anime marathons together. Told Toriel she wanted more than anything for them all to stay together.

 

The sun was setting low over the horizon and, as everyone else began to leave the mountain’s plateau, and the ever watchful skeleton brothers were chatting with Toriel near an ancient mountain path, Frisk hung back for just a second to take in the fresh air. She had suddenly felt a strange sensation, like a weight dropping from her body.

 

“Ahem.”

Frisk whirled quickly to the unfamiliar voice. She stood facing a girl in a green and yellow sweatshirt, a head taller than herself. She wore her brown hair a little longer and her complexion was fairer, her cheeks dotted with just a few freckles, but they could have easily been mistaken for siblings. Frisk gulped.

“Nice to finally meet face to face,” the girl said.

Frisk stared. Her heart pounded. “Chara…?” she squeaked.

“In the flesh. Or not. In the ghostly flesh? Whatever.”

“H-How did you…? What did you…?” Frisk looked around and it seemed as if no one else had noticed at all. “What’s going on?”

“What? Not happy to see me?” she said with a laugh. “No no, don’t answer that. It’s fine. I know it’s probably freakin’ you out, isn’t it?”

“B-But how are…? How are you here?” Frisk asked. “H-How come I can see you?”

“Because I’m a spooky ghost. Obviously.” Chara rolled her eyes. “And because I’m leaving.”

“You’re… Wait, what?” the kid said shrilly.

“We’re done. You’re not resetting,” she said. “So… Since I can’t come with, I thought I’d just… you know, leave? Pass on? Whatever.”

“What?” Frisk stared blankly. “You’re going. Just like that?”

“Yup.”

“Wh-Why?” she said.

“Can’t leave the mountain anyway,” she said. “I’m pretty weak even out here, honestly. No point in staying. I’m… Hah. Frisk, right? That’s your name? I’m really tired, Frisk. I could sleep forever.”

“Y… You’re not…? You’re not gonna try to push me anymore?” Frisk asked.

 

Chara looked thoughtful; folded her arms. She drummed her finger against her forearm and tilted her head to the side. “You know,” she said, frowning a little, “I’d hoped, at first, that you’d be on board. You and I, we know how bad humans can be. You write out your life before you came here, and just change a couple words and it’s the same as mine. Some destruction here in exchange for the strength to end it all, maybe it’d be worth it. But to you, it wasn’t. I sort of envy that.”

Frisk frowned with concern, but Chara started to smile.

“You gave me a little hope in them again. Maybe that’s stupid,” she said, “but maybe more humans can be like you. And if not, well, you’ll protect these losers now, won’t you?”

Frisk’s eyes began to tear up. Chara laughed and patted her roughly on the shoulder.

“God, you’re such a frickin’ crybaby!” she said. “Go live with your monster family. Be happy for once.”

Frisk gulped, but she nodded. She sighed. “I’m… I’m sorry about Asriel,” she said quietly.

Chara scoffed. “Hey. Don’t keep that. That guilt is mine, got it? But… Thanks. Thanks for trying. He appreciates it. Me too.” She hugged Frisk tightly, her grip cold and strong. “Take care of mom and dad for us, yeah?”

 

She let go. Her form dissolved into what looked like embers, drifting up on the wind and vanishing. Frisk stared blankly for a while. She felt strangely light, but hollow, too. She didn’t know what to say. She supposed it was too late, anyway.

 

“Hey, kiddo.”

She turned quickly and saw Sans waiting for her a few paces away.

“What’re you lookin’ at?” he said.

“Oh… Uh, nothing,” she said, “just… everything.”

“Sounds about right,” Sans said with a laugh. “C’mon. Everyone’s waiting.” He offered his hand.

 

- - -

 

Frisk took a deep breath. She tried to hold onto that moment. She tightened her grip on the phone. “Alright, let’s go,” she said.

 

Chapter Text

Sans blinked, hard. His ceiling seemed to loom darkly above his head. Blank. Bit of a crack in the paint in the corner. For some reason, he hadn’t been expecting that. He heard a thumping beyond his door and he looked up through the dim light.

“SANS!” he heard Papyrus shriek. “SANS, YOUR SOCK IS STILL HERE!”

“Okay,” Sans replied groggily.

“SANS, YOU MUST MOVE IT!”

“Okay.” He rubbed his eye sockets tiredly.

 

He got out of bed and popped his spine, listening with quiet amusement as Papyrus stomped around the house downstairs. Slouching and walking as if in slow motion, he left his room and peeked over the banister to watch his brother with a fond grin on his face.

“Sans!” Papyrus yelled. “Have you seen my boot?!”

“Uh, it’s on your foot, bro,” Sans said.

“Not that one, the other one!” Papyrus stuck one bare foot in the air and twiddled his phalanges. “Did you take it?!”

“Did you check the kitchen?”

“What?! Of course I—!” Papyrus’s face suddenly flushed a little amber in his cheekbones. “I…! Hang on a minute!”

 

Sans rested his chin on his hand as he watched his brother rush off into the kitchen. He was in there for only a few seconds before he burst out, standing proudly with two boot-clad feet.

“I, the great Papyrus, have rescued my boot from under the sink!” he exclaimed. “That annoying dog was in there again! How on earth does it keep getting in?!”

Sans smiled and stuck his thumb in the air. “Great job, bro.”

“But of course!” Papyrus said. “Sans, you should really get ready, you know. Your post is not going to man itself!”

Sans stretched his arms high above his head. “What day is it?”

“It’s Wednesday!” Papyrus called.

“Aw, really? I was hopin’ it was Snoozeday, but I guess that was yesterday.”

“SANS!” Papyrus chided.

Sans shrugged.

 

As Papyrus rushed from the house, only barely thirty seconds behind schedule, Sans took his time making a cup of tea, then sipped it while reading through the paper. The comics weren’t particularly good today, but they were his favourite part anyway.

 

When he finally decided to go outside, he put on his coat and slippers, cozy as ever, and headed out into the snow. The way the air chilled his bones was a little refreshing. He shoved his hands in his pockets and headed towards the other end of town, focussed on maybe getting a bite to eat, taking a nap, checking in on Frisk— He stopped in his tracks for a moment. A sudden sinking feeling caught him. They were back underground.

 

It all flooded back quickly: the shattered barrier, the warming sunset, the plans they had all made. He was confused, though. Frisk was so sure she wouldn’t send them back again. This kid, their kid— he knew she wouldn’t break her word. Not after everything they’d been through together. He felt a cold pit in his soul, but he knew he’d have to talk to whoever came through that door from the Ruins, first. Either whoever had done this wasn’t his kid, or something was seriously wrong. The former was worse, but the latter wasn’t much better. He tried to push his worry aside, but it wasn’t much for fading. It never was.

 

Papyrus was already making his second round through town, as usual, when Sans spotted him near the library. His brother was so punctual.

 

“Sans!” he shouted, waving. “Brother! Have you checked your posts yet? Seen any humans around?”

“Nope,” he said.

“What, you haven’t checked in or you haven’t seen a human?” Papyrus asked, hands on his hips.

“Your guess is as good as mine, bro,” he said with a grin. “Want anything at Grillby’s?”

“Ack, Sans!” Papyrus whined. “You know if I catch a human, King Asgore will finally let me into the Royal Guard! What if one slips by while you’re off eating burgers and drinking ketchup?!”

“So… Is that a no?” Sans asked.

“Ooh, you’re just hopeless sometimes!” Papyrus stormed off in a huff.

Sans shrugged. After a few seconds, his brother doubled back, looking a little embarrassed.

“Does he, um…? Is there pasta on the menu yet?”

“Not yet, bro, I’ll keep asking,” Sans said with a wink.

Papyrus grinned. “You are officially forgiven, Sans! Nyeh heh heh heh!”

 

As Papyrus marched off with a bounce in his step, Sans balled his fists and tried to steady himself. He stole a quick glance behind him and, seeing no one, shifted himself in space. He looked up at the sealed door to the Ruins and then glanced around in the snow. There were no tracks at all, save for his, faded under light snowfall from a few days ago. He frowned to himself. Cautiously, he knocked. There was no answer, but he supposed that wasn’t unusual. It was a little early.

 

Maybe the anomaly would show up today, maybe tomorrow: it was usually within a few days of his memories settling back in. He hoped like hell that it was still her and that there was just some big mistake, but the more he thought about it, the more he doubted it. He rubbed the back of his skull and couldn’t ignore the sinking, sick feeling inside. Maybe heartbroken was more accurate? He shoved his hands into his pockets.

“Kiddo, you wouldn’t ditch us, right?” he said quietly. No, she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. Not on purpose, there was no way. Not his kid.

 

He sighed and then shifted himself back to the outskirts of Snowdin, where Papyrus was setting up one of his switch puzzles.

“Hey, Papyrus,” he said.

“Oh! Hello, brother! Didn’t realize you were here,” he said brightly. “Did you check in at your station yet?”

“Yup.”

“Any sign of humans?”

“Nope.”

Papyrus sighed. “Sans, can I tell you a secret?”

“Bro, of course,” he replied.

“Well, it’s just that…” Papyrus looked a little bashful all of a sudden and he wrung his hands. “I really want to join the Royal Guard and finding a human is my only real shot, I think! But I’m starting to worry I’ll never even see one. I mean, I’m not even totally sure what they look like, you know? What if I miss it?”

“Paps, chill out,” Sans said. “You’re the coolest. You’ll definitely find a human.”

Papyrus began to grin and he picked right up again and balled his fists with determination. “You’re right! I am the coolest! And I will find a human!” he said. “Thanks for the pep talk, Sans. I don’t know what came over me.”

“Hey, no problem. I didn’t even really do anything,” Sans said. “Hey. How about we go check in on your guard house, huh? I think I saw some boxes we could use to patch up the roof.”

“Excellent idea!” Papyrus grabbed Sans up off his feet and out of the snow, grinning, and slung him over his shoulder. “I’m the fastest, I’ll get us there in no time!”

 

- - -

 

Frisk felt like she was on autopilot: doing puzzles, talking with Froggits and other small monsters that pranced about the ruins, and pushing rocks onto switches. She wasn’t snapped from her dazed walking until she heard her phone ringing. She took a moment to rest her back against the cool stone of one of the ancient walls and, cautiously, she picked it up.

 

“Hello, my child,” Toriel said. “For no reason in particular, which do you prefer? Cinnamon or butterscotch?”

“I… um… I like both,” she said.

“Oh! Well, that’s lucky,” Toriel replied. “Thank you for being so patient, little one. How are you feeling? Are you taking a little rest?”

“Y-Yeah. I’m okay. Th-Thanks, mom.” Frisk’s heart dropped and her face flushed. “O-Oh, I’m s-so sorry, I—”

“Wait one moment, did you just… call me mom?” Toriel asked. “I… Oh my.”

“I’m so sorry, I just—”

“No, no,” she assured her quickly and gently. “Would that make you happy? To call me mom?”

“I… I mean… y-yeah, kinda,” Frisk said quietly.

Toriel laughed brightly. “Well then! Call me whatever you’d like, little one! I’ll talk to you later!” She hung up.

 

Frisk stared at the phone. “Frisk, you idiot,” she muttered. She rubbed her eyes with her palms and grimaced, then took a few long, deep breaths to steady herself.

 

Maybe it was good. Toriel was her mom, she was bound to slip up eventually. She sighed. She noticed her hands were shaking. The cold was starting to get to her, but she didn’t know what else to do, so she just kept going.

 

There were so many gates and passages down here, but it was also very linear. She certainly wasn’t lost, but she didn’t realize where she was until another tear in time sparkled quite clearly before her in a room with a weird, ancient plate of cheese on a table. She approached it and it was stuck. She wasn’t sure why she expected it not to be— she didn’t know why, but almost every piece of cheese in the underground was stuck to something. Some mysteries, maybe, were better left unanalysed. She reached into the patch of starlight and stuck to it much like the cheese to the table.

 

The light made her feel a little better; made her notice the shaking a little less. She peeked into the next hallway from the doorway. There were red leaves scattered across the floor as if they had fallen in from somewhere, and she thought she saw a flicker of something light amongst them. Curiously, Frisk snuck a little closer. She was caught off guard when she noticed a translucent shape laying down in the leaves.

 

She edged closer and leaned over, and was shocked by herself to realize that she knew the vacant, teary-eyed face that stared up at the ceiling. She had to stop herself from saying it out loud, but she had stumbled across Napstablook. He was a sweet, if not quiet, ghost who loved music. It was sort of surreal to find him there— Frisk had been so wrapped up in her own troubles that she had forgotten to expect the weepy ghost laying in the leaves.

 

“H… Hey. Are you okay?” she asked.

He didn’t answer. She tilted her head.

“Excuse me?” she said.

Napstablook blinked quickly, as if he had suddenly heard her, and he looked up.

“Oh! H-Hi there,” Frisk said quickly. “Um… Are you okay?”

“Wh-What? …Um…” The ghost floated up just enough that he could see her clearly. “Oh, no… I’m just in the way again… aren’t I?”

Ghostly tears began to dribble down from his large eyes and Frisk immediately raised her hands and shook her head.

“No no no, wait, don’t cry,” she yelped, her mind racing. “Hey, it’s okay! Um… Uh…! Hey! Wanna hear a joke?”

“I… um…” Napstablook blinked slowly. “Maybe?”

“Okay, how about this? What’s the perfect dessert to give a ghost?”

“Um… wh… what?”

“A creme boo-lée!” she said.

 

The ghost stared back at her blankly for a couple seconds before the corner of his mouth twitched up. He let out a weak giggle. Frisk grinned.

“Okay. Yeah. That’s good. You gotta keep your spirits up,” Frisk said.

The ghost smiled a little more. He sniffled. “Oh… W-Wait, maybe… Check this out.” The phantom tears flowed up from his eyes and, somehow, became a hat upon the top of his head. “I… I call this one Dapper Blook. Do you like it…?”

“Hey! That’s boo-tiful!” she said.

He snickered and Frisk stuck her thumbs up. He floated upwards just a little. “Oh gee. I… I usually come here because it’s so… quiet, you know? But today I met someone nice. That’s… a good surprise.” He leaned forward a little. “You look kind of familiar. M… Maybe, have we…? Um… Never mind… I’ll, um, get out of your way… Nice to meet you.” He floated upwards and drifted away.

“See you later, have a good day!” she called.

 

She felt a little bit lighter. Napstablook usually had no recollection of her at all. Maybe things weren’t so hopeless after all.

 

- - -

 

As Papyrus was making his rounds again, Sans shifted himself to the laboratory in Hotland. The lights were out inside, but from the smell of recently cooked ramen, he was pretty sure Alphys was around, somewhere.“Yo. Alphys?” he asked.

 

He heard a weird shuffling, the crinkling of a bag, and a nasally yelp in reply. The fluorescent lights clicked and buzzed to life. The place was a mess, as usual, with cup noodles and crumpled cans of soda all over. Alphys, lab coat pockmarked with the telltale splatter of a cherry cola, was huddling near a bag of dog food before she peeked out and saw him near the door.

“Oh! S-Sans!” she said. “I wasn’t ex-expecting… Never mind! H-How are you?”

“Bone tired,” he said with a wink. “Just checkin’ in. How’re those cameras workin’?”

“C-Cameras?! What cameras?” she stammered.

Sans smiled. Alphys sighed and slumped, rubbing her head.

“You notice everything, don’t you?” she said.

“That’s what they pay me for,” he joked.

Alphys smiled sideways and wandered to the fridge. “Soda?” she asked.

“Sure.”

She handed him a can of green fizzy stuff and took one herself as well, popping the tab almost right away and taking a swig. “Th-They’re working fine, to answer you.”

 

She beckoned him to a dimmed screen and hopped up on the chair in front of it. She tapped a few keys at her keyboard and it brightened, showing clear shots of every place in Snowdin.

“Huh. Creepy,” he joked. “So no humans, right?”

“N-No, nothing,” she said. “Nothing at all s-since we installed th-them. I, um… I saw you at… at the Ruins today. Were you checking?”

“Oh. Kinda. I practice knock knock jokes at that door,” he said.

“Really?” Alphys shot him a sceptical look and he shrugged and nodded. “Huh. W-Wow. That’s um… Oh! That’s… a-door-able…?”

“Now you’re gettin’ it,” Sans said.

Alphys smiled. “H-Hey, um… if… i-if you want to check in, you can j-just use it,” she said. “Your br-brother is always in that area, r-right? I can understand if you’re a bit worried.”

“Thanks, Doc,” he said, taking a sip of his drink.

“You still have a key, right?” she asked.

“Hm?”

“To the lab,” she said.

“Oh. Yeah,” he said.

 

Alphys smiled, but she looked a little apologetic. “Ever, um…? Ever miss it?”

“Eh. Not really.” He pointed to the screen. “Hey. So. Human turns up. What’s the plan?”

“O-Oh, um… Tell Undyne, I guess?” she said.

Sans nodded. “Could you do me a solid?” he asked. “Paps really would love to see a human, so unless one comes out all, y’know, murdery, think you could hold off on the red alert stuff?”

“Uh, I guess so?” Alphys said. “B-Be careful, alright? I m-mean, n-not that there’s been any hint of a human or anything. It’s been a l-long time.”

“Thanks,” he said. “Guess I should be goin’. See you tomorrow, huh?”

 

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a rectangular object in a folded, brown paper bag. Alphys’s eyes lit up and she took it and peeked inside. Her cheeks flushed.

“Wh-Where did you get this?!”

He shrugged. “You don’t have that one, right?”

“N-No! This one’s new!” she said. “Th… Thank you, Sans. ”

He stuck his thumb up and headed for the door as she turned to tenderly place the package on her desk.

“Hey, so you wanna w-watch—?” When Alphys looked again, he was gone; she hadn’t even heard the door open. “Sheesh, he’s f-faster than he l-looks…”

 

- - -

 

Frisk felt like eyes were on her as she continued through the ruins. It was a little unnerving, but she guessed it was probably Asriel following her. He usually kept his distance. She wished he would be reasonable, but as he was, not only was he lacking empathy, but he seemed to assume everyone else was as well. It would be so much easier if she could just explain to him that her plan was to get him a soul, permanently, so not to mess around and be terrible to everyone, but she knew he wouldn’t trust her.

 

  She tried to busy her thoughts on how to get him a soul to begin with, but she was quickly snapped out of it as she realized she had entered the wrong door. She stood and stared at the dark, vacant city of Home sprawled out before her, below an overlooking balcony and along the path she hadn’t meant to take. It looked ancient, frozen in time. Made from magic, it wouldn’t deteriorate like human buildings. It looked like a strangely fantastic place to explore, even though it filled her with melancholy. She guessed a few of the buildings must’ve still been inhabited, since there were some monsters that still lived in the area.

 

Frisk realized that she hadn’t ever taken the time to take a look. Maybe because of how confused she had been at first, or maybe a year’s worth of experience had actually changed her perspective a little. She wasn’t sure. Was ten so different from eleven? Maybe not.  Maybe one day, when everything was settled, she might have time to come back and explore with…

 

Her stomach dropped. She took a deep breath. She didn’t want to start crying again.

 

She turned to head back to path, but she caught sight of something a little out of place from the corner of her eye. She squinted through the low light. It looked like a knife. Plastic, maybe? Had that always been there? Didn’t really matter. She picked it up and stood on her toes to put it on top of the ledge and out of the way before heading back.

 

She soon came upon a large, bright area with a leafless tree as its centrepiece, branches stretching ever upwards even as all they had once held lay scattered, red and orange, around its roots. Frisk supposed this must’ve been the first tree the monsters planted, all those years ago after they finally felt safe enough to emerge from the mountain’s deepest depths. She stared up at the barren branches and felt a little sad. She wondered if it missed Asgore.

 

Frisk heard her phone ring and she quickly went to pick it up, but before she could, she noticed Toriel around the tree. Eyes wide, the woman, phone under her floppy ear, quickly pocketed the device when she saw her and rushed over, kneeling down to take her by the shoulders.

“My child, how did you get here?” she asked. “Oh, no, I’m so sorry, I should not have left you alone for so long. Are you hurt?”

“N-No, I… I’m sorry, I just… I met some nice monsters out there,” she said. “N-Nobody hurt me. We just kept surprising each other by accident.”

Toriel smiled with relief and she patted the kid’s head gently. “Oh, I apologize, it was irresponsible for me to leave you.”

“Mom, it’s okay,” she said. “I’m sorry for not staying put, but I—”

“Do not worry, my child, either way, you’re here now,” Toriel said with a smile. “Come with me.”

 

Around the tree, there was a small, tidy house built straight into the wall before them from bricks and stone of the same, dusky hues. Toriel took Frisk’s hand and, together, they went in through the front door. The tone shifted almost instantly.

 

Inside was a cozy house— quaint, clean, and bright. The light inside was warm and inviting, especially in contrast to the cool, darker areas out in the Ruins. A fireplace in another room added a soothing glow to the whole place. The air was sweet with the scent of fresh baking.

 

Toriel could barely contain the bright smile on her face. “Do you smell that?” she asked. “Surprise! It is a butterscotch cinnamon pie! I thought we might celebrate your arrival!”

Frisk gulped. She wasn’t sure her heart could take it.

“I want you to have a nice time living here. So I will skip on the snail pie for today.” She smiled bashfully, but her ears lifted just a little. “I have one more surprise for you.” She beckoned Frisk down the hallway to the right and took her hand. She escorted her to the first door.

 

“Here. A room of your own. I hope you like it!” She put a hand on Frisk’s head and gently ruffled her hair.

Frisk felt her eyes getting hot. She drew in a shuddering breath. Toriel looked down at her, her brow bending with concern.

“Oh. Goodness. Have I…? Have I presumed too much?” she asked softly.

  Frisk shook her head and hugged onto her legs tightly. “Th-Thank you,” she said. “Thank you so much.”

“Oh…” Toriel went down on one knee, cupped the girl’s face and brushed her tears away with her thumbs. “Little one, what’s wrong?”

“N-Nothing! Thank you for… for being so nice,” Frisk said.

Toriel smiled sympathetically, but then looked quite abruptly towards the kitchen, her snout wrinkling and her ears pinning back. “Oh my, I’ll be right back! Please, make yourself at home!”

 

She got up and hurried towards where Frisk knew the kitchen was, just as she was starting to get the faint whiff of smoke. She wasn’t entirely sure what it could be, since her mom usually cooked using magic. Frisk rubbed her eyes quickly. Her legs felt like jelly.

 

Cautiously, she pushed the bedroom door and peeked in. It was a surreal sight— just an average child’s room, nothing particularly special about it except for someone’s drawing of a golden flower on the wall. Frisk grimaced as she stepped inside. She looked over a box of shoes, some with styles so old she barely recognized them. Six sets. She took off her own shoes and slipped them under the bed and out of the way, then sat on the mattress to rub her sore feet. The silence was starting to get to her again.

 

She took a moment to catch her breath and slipped out of the room, her socks sliding on the clean wooden floors. She could hear Toriel, but when she entered the living room and dining area, she couldn’t see her. She must’ve still been in the kitchen. Frisk doubled back and quietly slunk out of the front door to latch onto a glimmer of light she noticed outside before coming back in and sneaking back down the hallway to the bedroom. She took a seat on the bed and rubbed her brow as she felt the pressure of a headache coming on. She was starting to shake again. She closed her eyes.

 

- - -

 

When Frisk woke up, she was staring up at an unfamiliar ceiling. Her stomach dropped. She sat up quickly, squinting around in the dark for a moment before she realized where she was. She took a deep breath. She had almost forgotten.

 

There was a sweet smell hanging in the air. As her eyes adjusted, Frisk could see that Toriel had left a perfect slice of pie and a fork on a plate on the floor. Frisk slipped out of bed and picked it up. It was just barely cool. Two hours.

 

She ate one bite and nearly broke down again. She took a deep breath. She had to get a hold of herself. She was no use to anyone crying alone into her pie. She ate it quickly, only then realizing how hungry she had been.

 

She wasn’t sure what time it was, but she slipped out quietly into the hallway and checked in Toriel’s room, wondering if she was in bed. She wasn’t, so Frisk guessed it probably wasn’t too late into the evening yet. She didn’t think Toriel would mind, so she went over to the desk to take a plain sheet of paper and one of the many, many pens she kept in one of her drawers. She kept her desk at home and at the school just the same. On the desk itself, her eyes passed over an open passage in a lined book, in Toriel’s handwriting.

“Wh… Why did the skeleton want a friend? Because he was… bonely? Dang, mom… That’s terrible.” She laughed to herself. “…Sans’ll love it.”

 

She went back to her room and leaned over the dresser to write on her paper. She wrote Soul Ideas on the top but couldn’t get much farther than that. She rested her cheek on her fist and sighed. Maybe Sans could help her, or Alphys, once she met them again.

 

Her stomach twisted and her eyes watered a little at the thought of her big brother. She wondered if he had noticed the reset by now. Probably had. He was probably worried. It made her heart ache. She wondered how much he knew. Hoped she hadn’t gone too far back. Sans had always been there for her, every time. He had to be again, right? Unless he thought she had lied to him. She put her head in her hands as her headache came back almost right away. She hoped like crazy that he would forgive her.

 

She tapped her pen on the paper and doodled while she thought, trying to keep the sick, lonely feeling from growing too heavy, and quickly wiped her eyes when a tear splattered her paper. Nothing came from it, just pictures of dozens of hearts. She puffed out an irritated sound, folded the paper to put in her pocket, and returned Toriel’s pen to her desk.

 

Plate in hand, Frisk walked out towards the kitchen and found Toriel reading to herself in her favourite armchair near the fireplace. She looked up over her book at her and smiled.

“Hello, my child,” she said. “How did you enjoy the pie?”

“It… It was great!” Frisk said, forcing a smile. “Th-That was a really sweet thing to do.”

Toriel’s eyes went wide. “L… Little one,” she said, getting to her feet. “Was that a joke?”

“Yeah, but I meant it though,” Frisk said.

Toriel began to smile. “Oh my!” she said with a laugh. “If you are also a fan of jokes, I butter keep practicing mine, then! I… hmm… I cannot think of one for scotch…”

“Um… neither can I,” Frisk said.

“I suppose hopscotch is always one but it’s not exactly applicable at this second,” Toriel mused. “Perhaps one day.”

 

She chuckled to herself and took Frisk’s plate from her. Frisk followed her to the kitchen as she placed it in the sink and rinsed it. Confronted with the counter, Frisk realized a little more seriously how short she was again. She had only grown a little in that year, but at least she used to be almost able to use the sink properly. The whole rest of the pie sat upon the counter. It was almost the same size she was.

“It is good to see you smiling,” she said. “I hope you’ll enjoy living here.”

“Mhm,” Frisk said.

 

Toriel dried her paws on a towel and then looked down at Frisk. She stared for a few seconds, seeming lost in thought. The kid stared back with an increasingly puzzled look, and then Toriel laughed to herself.

“Oh, forgive me, my child,” she said. “You seem so familiar to me. Like… meeting an old friend again. I suppose that doesn’t make much sense, does it?”

Frisk’s heart thumped to her stomach. She shrugged, but her cheeks flushed a bit. Toriel ruffled her hair and returned to the living room. Frisk peeked out of the kitchen after her as she moved back to sit on her chair and put her reading glasses back on.

 

“M… Mom? Um… I kinda… feel the same?” she said.

“You’re very sweet.” Toriel’s ears perked at the base a little as Frisk walked over to join her. “I think you will do well here. I’d love to show you many things in the underground. Bug catching, for one thing, is very exciting! And baking. And I’m sure I can prepare an educational program for you. You know, I have always wanted to be a teacher. But there are many fun things we could do together as well. May I ask, how old are you? Have you had much schooling?”

“J-Just a little bit,” Frisk said. “I’m eleven.”

Toriel’s eyes went wide. “Eleven? But you are so small!”

“Yeah, I get that a lot,” Frisk said with a tired snicker. “I… um… when I was little, I didn’t really have a lot of people looking out for me, so… so I guess I didn’t grow very well?” She wasn’t keen on elaborating further, but Toriel seemed to have caught her meaning.

She drooped for just a moment before a look of determination crossed her face. “You’ll no longer have to worry about any such nonsense. Put your fears aside. I will do all I can to help you.”

Frisk nodded and she smiled. “I know. You’re a great mom.”

Toriel looked bashful.“Well, I will certainly try to be,” she said. “It is getting a little late, my child. Please let me know if you’re still hungry or if you would like anything more. Or, simply head to bed if you would like. I know you must still be exhausted.”

Frisk nodded again and watched as Toriel picked her book back up. She scooted in a bit closer.

 

“So, um… what’re you reading?” Frisk asked.

“Oh! It is just a book about snails,” Toriel said. “Would…? Would you like to hear about it?”

Frisk immediately planted herself on the floor in front of her. “Yes, please. From the start?”

Toriel stared down at her with surprise, then shrugged to herself and smiled. She scooped Frisk up under her arm and then leaned back to sit her on her lap as she began to read the book aloud. Frisk listened for a while, happy just to hear her voice and pretend nothing was wrong, and didn’t realize she had nodded off until she woke up snugly tucked into bed with the sound of a music box’s gentle song tickling her ears.

 

She sat up, rubbing her head, and looked around. Toriel had laid out some clean, albeit a little large, clothes with a note on top. She slipped out of bed to look.

 

Little one, please feel free to borrow these and leave out your clothes. I’ll wash them in the morning. I’ve also used a little magic to heal you. I hope you are less sore than before.

 

  Frisk checked her hands. The raw skin was completely healed. She hadn’t even noticed. There was a small white bandage stuck diagonally from the edge of her right hand and around the side near her pinkie, too. Puzzled, she peeled it off. She was amused and warmed to find that her mother had used it to cover one of the slightly more visible scars she had, one that was just a little paler than she was. She must’ve mistaken it for something a little more dangerous. Really, though, it was quite old. She and switched into the baggy old purple and white sweatshirt with the Delta Rune emblazoned on the front, just like her mother’s robes, and pyjama pants, and then grabbed her phone and note out of her shorts pocket before she forgot about them. As she held the phone in her hands, however, she felt her heartbeat pick up and she looked at it as she sat back on the bed.

 

It hadn’t occurred to her, but brothers were just a phone call away. Though, she supposed, they might not really be her brothers anymore. The thought of it broke her heart and she had to stop herself from crying on the spot. Her fingers shook.

 

Sans was perpetually losing his phone until a few months ago, but Papyrus still had the same one he had kept from underground. She knew the number by heart. Though she felt sick, she slowly dialled it. Her finger hovered over the call button. She wasn’t sure that she should. He wouldn’t know her. She wasn’t sure she could bear it. Her stomach knotted. She gulped and did it anyway. The phone rang twice.

 

“Hello! You’ve reached the great Papyrus, who is speaking?”

Frisk hung up quickly and instantly felt horrible, but it was good to hear his voice. She settled back in bed and tried to relax, but almost jumped right out of her sheets when the phone rang. She scrambled to get it and looked at the front. She gulped. Of course it was Papyrus.

 

She thought long and hard about not answering, but, honestly, she wanted to talk with him, more than almost anything else in the world. She picked it up. “H-Hello?”  Her voice snagged right away.

“Hello! This is the great Papyrus! I believe we got cut off! Who is speaking?” he said.

“Um… I-I’m sorry, I… wrong number,” Frisk stammered.

“Well, hello there, Wrong Number! What can I, the great Papyrus, do for you at this late hour?”

“Uh… N-Nothing! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have c—“

“Are you alright? You sound all choked up!” he said, his voice already taking a concerned tone.

“Oh, I…” Frisk sniffed. “Sorry. I… I guess I didn’t really have a good day.”

“Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that, Wrong Number! Would you like to talk about it? The great Papyrus always has an ear to listen! Well, I mean, not literally. I am a skeleton, after all, but the principle still stands!” he said.

Frisk’s throat tightened and she felt hot tears start to stream down her face. She gulped and breathed out deeply. “You’d do that for a total stranger?”

“Nyeh heh! A stranger is just a not-yet-friend, Wrong Number!” he said cheerfully. “Now, what’s on your mind?”

 

All her mind was screaming about was how much she missed him; how much she loved him. How she wanted him to know she had never meant to leave him. How desperately she wanted to come home. She didn’t know it could hurt this bad. It took her a moment to be sure she wouldn’t just burst out sobbing.

 

“I… um… I got lost today,” she said quietly. “I was with some friends, and my mom, and my brothers, but now I’m not sure if I’ll ever really see them again.”

“Oh, no, Wrong Number, I’m so sorry that happened, but trust me when I say that your family is definitely looking for you!” he assured her. “Family can be the strongest thing in the whole world! Let me tell you, if my brother went missing, there’d be no stopping me!”

Frisk smiled a little and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “Your brother? How is he? T-Tell me about him?”

“Who, Sans? He’s sleeping, as usual, most likely. But it’s late now so I guess I can’t really blame him too much,” he said. “But, he is a very good brother. He eats terrible food, and tells terrible jokes, and is so indescribably lazy, but at the end of the day I really would do anything for him. Do you get along with your brothers?”

“You know,” Frisk said quietly, “they’re both kinda opposites of each other, but I really love them both and we always get along. They’re like… my whole world, you know? B-But I… I’m the littlest one. They went a long time without me, so I… I know they’ll be okay without me, but I’m not okay without them.”

“Oh, no, don’t be silly, Wrong Number!” Papyrus insisted. “Your brothers love you very much! They’ll be so relieved when you all find each other! Is there any way I can help?”

“I don’t think so,” she said, but she started to smile. “Thanks, Papyrus. I-It was good to talk to you.”

“But of course! You sound a little better! Do you have a safe place to sleep tonight?” he asked gently.

“Yeah. I guess I’ll try to get some rest,” she said.

“Good! If you ever need someone to talk to, know that you can always call me, the great Papyrus! Any time, day or night.”

“Thanks, Papyrus. Good night,” she said.

“Good night, Wrong Number! Sweet dreams!”

 

Frisk hung up and took a deep breath. She flopped back into bed and clung tightly to the phone. There was a knot in her throat. “Good night, bro,” she whispered.

 

- - -

 

Sans couldn’t sleep. He didn’t like the feeling. Every time he closed his eyes, he would see some other anomaly, some other kid that looked like their kid, doing horrible things that their kid would never do. His dreams hadn’t been this bad in a while, but he was sure that this was just his own imagination, for once. He wasn’t sure if that was a relief or not.

 

Either way, as he sat groggily at the table downstairs, clutching a mug of lukewarm tea, he was really starting to feel sick. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure they had lost Frisk. What were they supposed to do if some other human— some other soul full of determination from wherever the hell they came from— turned up? After her, he didn’t know if he could handle it. She was supposed to be the last. She was like a constant fact of the universe. A particle that came from the heart of an exploding star. As fundamental as the elements themselves. If she was gone, what he knew— what he had been holding on to— was shattered.

 

With Frisk as their anchor, the world was finally steady, but it wasn’t just that. After three runs of her just trying to help everyone— how they had worked together so closely on what he had been so sure was their final try— he really loved her. Loved her so much it made his whole being ache even thinking about never seeing her again. But no one else would even remember her. It would be like his kid had never even existed.

 

He rubbed his eye sockets tiredly. They were starting to sting. He sipped his tea. It wasn’t very good.

 

He heard Papyrus coming down the stairs quickly, humming an upbeat tune. He stopped rather abruptly.

“Sans?!” he said. “What the heck are you doing up? I thought for sure you’d be fast asleep by now!” He darted around the side of the table, took one look at Sans’s face, and his expression shifted from confusion to a sympathetic frown. “Brother, you look absolutely terrible, what have you done to yourself? No, actually, don’t answer! I know what it is just by that look! You’re having those terrible time shenanigan dreams, aren’t you?”

“Heh.” Sans grinned tiredly. “Not quite.”

“But you certainly can’t sleep,” Papyrus said. “Or else you’d, well, be asleep. Obviously.”

 

Before Sans could say a word, his brother scooped him up effortlessly and plopped him onto the sofa.

“Look at you, you’re a mess,” Papyrus said, taking his mug of tea away from him and gently pressing magic-tinted fingers to his temple. “This isn’t even the one you like. What’s wrong?”

“I, uh… I dunno,” Sans said as his brother went to the kitchen to turn the kettle on again. “I feel like maybe I lost somethin’ important.”

“Oh! Well, that’s no problem at all, Sans, I’ll help you look,” Papyrus said quickly. “Your room looks like a trash beast made of trash rolled around in it, but you know I am fantastically organized. I can clean it up for you, if you like.”

“But bro, how will I know where my trash is?” Sans joked.

Papyrus laughed quietly. “Okay, so not that. That’s fine. You don’t have to tell me. I understand.”

 

When he hopped over the side of the couch to join him, he had a new mug of tea. This one was much better. Sans held the warm cup in his hands for a while after taking a sip. He couldn’t bring himself to look his brother in the eye. Maybe she’d be like a dream for Papyrus. A little ache of missing someone he never met. It made him feel sick.

“Thanks, Paps,” he said.

Papyrus grinned and put his arm up over the back of the sofa and scooted in close as he switched on the TV. He kept the volume low, but put on the MTT channel, where an old episode of one of Mettaton’s early crime dramas was playing. Sans’s eyes were already getting heavy and he slumped onto Papyrus.

“So is there anything you want to talk about?” Papyrus asked. “Anything at all?”

“Nah. Thanks, though,” Sans said. “I’m… uh…” He closed his eyes without really meaning to.

Papyrus snickered. “You’re going to be alright, brother, promise!”

“…Paps, never change, huh?” Sans said groggily.

“Change? Nyeh heh! Into what? I’m already basically the greatest I could possibly be,” he assured him. “I won’t change a bit! As if I’d even want to! Though I’m not sure why that would be of any concern at all.”

 

He looked at Sans. The short skeleton was asleep. Papyrus smiled to himself and gently took the cup away from him before he dropped it. He hugged him gently around the shoulders.

“I knew it. Circuit Super Investigator gets you every time,” he said quietly. “That’s okay. I’ve seen it too many times, too.”

 

Chapter Text

Frisk poured over her scrappy list, tapping a pen of a different colour against the margins, pouting. She had step one down now: leave the Ruins. It barely helped. She didn’t really want to: she hated putting her mom through that. But, she would never get anywhere or help anyone if she didn’t. She sighed. Step two she jotted down as find Sans. Crossed it out, wrote hug Sans. Crossed that out again and wrote FIND AND ASK SANS! +hugs. She knew she couldn’t deal with this without him. She put away the paper again. It wasn’t really helping her actually plan, but the thought of starting to move forward in any sense helped her steady herself.

 

It was late in the morning, closer to noon, Frisk suspected, but her sense of time was a little off, especially with no sky to look at. The Ruins were pretty stagnant in regards to time of day.

 

When Frisk emerged into the living room, Toriel greeted her with a smile.

“Hello, my child, good morning,” she said. “You look much better than yesterday. I’m glad to see it. How are those clothes?”

“They’re comfy. Thanks, mom,” she said.

“Are you hungry?” she asked. “You may have pie for breakfast if you wish. It’s still a special time, after all.”

“Oh! Um… Actually, I’m not hungry quite yet,” Frisk said.

“In that case,” Toriel said, “I was planning on taking a walk down to the flowerbeds near where I found you. Not… Not that there’s much chance we will discover a second human in two days. But I would like to water the plants, anyhow. Would you like to come with me?”

She must’ve been waiting. Frisk smiled sheepishly.

“Sure,” she said.

“Unfortunately your regular clothes are still hanging out to dry, but…”

“No, no problem, these are fine,” Frisk assured her quickly.

 

The kid quickly got her shoes on and, together, she and Toriel headed back out the same way they had travelled the day prior. Toriel carried with her an empty watering can. She stopped to fill it at one of the slow streams that flowed through the room just beyond the very first puzzle.

 

“So, you do this every day?” Frisk asked.

“Oh, yes,” Toriel said as she pulled the can back out of the water, careful not to drip on her robes as she straightened up and began to move on. “Do you know that feeling? As if the one day you do not check on something, a disaster will happen? I suppose I feel a little like that. If another human falls, and they are destroyed, either by accident or otherwise, by some other monster? I don’t know if I could forgive myself.”

“Right,” Frisk said; she had to speed her steps to keep close. “Thank you again for yesterday, by the way.”

“Oh, that was no trouble at all,” she said. “That little flower creature is a strange one. I could have sworn I recognized him, but I’m not certain. Perhaps he is from beyond the Ruins.”

“Y-Yeah. Maybe,” Frisk said quietly.

 

When they reached the patch of golden flowers, Toriel began to move around them slowly, watering each section and humming softly— the same song from the music box. Frisk stared upwards. She could see the hole from here, but it looked so small and so far away.

“Wow,” she muttered.

“Hmm?” Toriel asked.

Frisk pointed up at the hole. Toriel tilted her head to follow her finger.

“Oh. Yes. That’s where you came from,” she said. “Quite a long way up, isn’t it? It’s a miracle you were not more injured than you were. Humans are surprisingly resilient.”

  “I didn’t think that resilient,” Frisk said.

“You are the eighth human to come down here like that,” she said. “In a way, I’m surprised the humans did not try to shut it.”

“It’s really out of the way,” Frisk said. “I don’t think anyone knows about it. Nobody comes back from the mountain. I mean, nobody really goes there, either…”

Toriel let out a contemplative hmm and shot Frisk a curious look. “Honey, were you lost?” she asked gently.

“Sort of. I was trying to get out of the rain.” She shrugged and smiled.

Toriel chuckled. “Quite a ways to go to stay dry, my child,” she said. “For what it’s worth, I am glad you’re here, now.”

“Yeah, me too,” she said.

Toriel smiled. “I am happy you feel so comfortable talking to me,” she said. “For some reason, I was worried you would be a little reluctant.”

 

Frisk’s face flushed. She felt a little bad. She wasn’t sure where Toriel was getting that notion from, but she remembered that, the very first time she had come through the underground, she had been very quiet. She guessed she was a little shell-shocked at the time.

 

“In fact,” Toriel continued, “I am quite surprised that you did not simply flee from me. That has happened in the past. Humans and monsters do not necessarily have the happiest history together. It must have been quite a shock to see a monster for the first time.”

“Y-You thought I’d run from you?” Frisk repeated, surprised. “N-No, no, never. Besides, you don’t look scary at all.”

Toriel chuckled and ruffled Frisk’s hair, and then gently offered her the watering can. Frisk took it carefully. It was mostly empty, so it wasn’t too heavy, but there was enough to feel satisfied when she tipped it out onto the next bunch of flowers.

“There are some monsters out in the world who may look a little more frightening to human eyes,” she said. “But, I urge you to never act rashly out of fear. Things here are often not what they appear to be.”

Frisk nodded. She smiled to herself as she used up the last of the water. “Don’t worry about that.”

 

They made the walk back, Frisk holding the woman’s hand quite contentedly. Following a few small signs, they made a stop at a bake sale run by spiders and picked up some cider. Frisk wasn’t quite sure how they made it, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know, but it did taste vaguely like apples and was quite pleasant.

 

Near the house, Frisk took note of her clothes hanging to dry on the leafless tree as Toriel headed back inside. She snuck up to the shining tear near the front of the cottage and latched onto it. She felt a little more steady.

 

Out of the corner of her eye she thought she saw a little fleck of gold shifting. She rolled her eyes, but smiled to herself. She went inside and could hear Toriel bustling in the kitchen.

“Mom?” she asked, and then peeked in. “Would it be okay if I had that pie now?”

 

Frisk took her slice of pie back outside and sat on the ground. Using the fork, she broke it into small pieces and only ate a little before putting the plate out in front of her. “Hey, c’mon out,” she said. “I know you’re still here. I just saw you, you dork.”

“Rude.” Asriel stuck his head out of the ground in front of her. “Heh. What? Come to gloat. Or…?” His words trailed off as his eyes settled on the pie.

She pushed the plate towards him and he recoiled for a second.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Pie.”

“Yeah, okay, but what the hell are you doing with it?”

“Well. I put it on a plate. Then I broke it small so a certain weird little flower could put it in his face,” she said.

Asriel frowned cautiously. He tilted his head. He drew back and his frown deepened. “What do you want?”

“For you to eat some pie?” Frisk replied, puzzled. “Sorry, was that not kinda obvious?”

“I tried to kill you,” he said.

“Yeah, I know. More times than you even remember, probably,” she said.

“So why are you doing this?” he asked.

“Believe it or not, in some small bits of time, we’re kinda friends,” she said.

“That’s probably the stupidest thing you’ve ever said to me,” he replied.

Frisk couldn’t help but laugh. “Do you need me to hold the fork, is that why you’re so grumpy? I’ll do it.”

“No, shut up, I’m fine.”

Frisk snickered. She put her hands over her eyes. “Better?”

He didn’t answer, but she heard chewing.

 

When she looked again, he had, in fact, cleared the plate and was drooped over a little. He had a weird sort of smile on his face.

“I guess this is where I say thanks?” he said. “That’s… the right thing, huh?” He sighed, and then quickly disappeared underground again.

Frisk picked up the plate and went back inside.

 

“My child, are you alright?” Toriel called from the kitchen.

Frisk wandered in to join her— she was in the middle of making another pie shell. She reached out and took the plate from Frisk to place it in the sink.

“Thanks for the pie again,” Frisk said. “Do you need any help or anything?”

“Oh! No, not at all, little one,” she assured her. “If you’d like, you could play with some of the toys in your room. Or rest if you’d like?”

“Could I borrow a book?” Frisk asked.

“Yes, of course! Anything you like,” Toriel assured her.

 

There was a small bookshelf near the fireplace and Frisk took a quick look along the spines. Lucky that monsters still wrote in the same languages that humans did. She pulled out a history book. She didn’t really think it would be helpful, but it was the closest thing she had. She didn’t want to take Toriel’s chair, so she turned her gaze on the dining table. There were two large chairs around it and one child-sized one. For some reason, it made her sad.

“I’ll be in my room,” Frisk called.

“Alright, little one,” Toriel replied.

 

Frisk took out her note paper again just in case and sat, cross-legged, on the bed with the historical book. It was about the human-monster war.

 

Frisk had learned about it in passing from when she still lived among humans. It was no secret, but it was very old, and many details were lost. Humans were ashamed of it, and what they had done, but they hadn’t had a clue if any monsters were even left in this day and age. Finding seven humans willing to sacrifice themselves to break a barrier to save a people they didn’t even know were alive was a tall order, and so the barrier remained.

 

Humans started the war, and ended it, out of fear of having their souls stolen. What they didn’t seem to know is that there was almost no chance of a monster maliciously taking a human’s soul. They just weren’t built with that kind of hate in them. Frisk found it all very sad. It was no wonder that Chara had been so angry.

 

Frisk didn’t learn much from the book, and there were quite a lot of words in it that she had to guess at the meaning of or couldn’t grasp at all, but a line in there did catch her attention. There was a mention of how few monsters there were, and how slowly their numbers would grow. It occurred to her that monsters must have to some way create a new soul to make children. Didn’t know why that hadn’t come to her sooner. Maybe they could somehow use a cheat in that process?

 

After a while, Frisk realized she was reading the same page over and over and not processing a single thing. She sighed. The silence was getting to her again. She grimaced. She found it a little funny, now— she had never had this problem before falling down that hole but now, she hated being alone. She was so used to snuggling up under Sans’s arm as he read to her, the debates about anime with Alphys and Undyne, or hearing her brothers banter. Listening to the sounds of pasta being made, or even the possible explosion of kitchen appliances. Mostly, there had been a lot of laughter. It was nice.

 

Against her better judgement, she picked up the cellphone again. She dialled Papyrus and put the phone to her ear. Two rings and there he was, as usual.

“Hello, you’ve reached the great Papyrus, who is speaking?”

“Hi, Papyrus, it’s me again,” she said.

“OH! Wrong Number! Have you dialled the wrong number again?” he asked.

“N-No, I meant to call you this time!” she said with a laugh. “I wanted to thank you for talking to me yesterday. I was really down and… well, it helped. So thanks.”

“Oh! Wowie! That’s great to hear, Wrong Number! Have you found your family yet?” he asked.

“No, not yet,” she said. “But I found a very nice lady, and she’s looking out for me for now.”

“Fantastic!” he said.

“So, um… is your brother, um…? Is he home?” she asked quietly.

“My brother? Hmmm, no, actually, he is out! Hopefully at work! For once,” he said.

Frisk sighed and nodded to herself. “What are you up to? Are you busy?”

“Oh, not particularly,” Papyrus said. “Though I am preparing my favourite dish! Spaghetti and tomato sauce! However. I’m not sure why but nobody else around me seems to like it.”

She held in a laugh. “Really? Not even your brother?”

“Oh, he’ll eat it just fine, but I know he doesn’t really care for it,” Papyrus said with a sigh. “I don’t know, I think it’s great! I don’t even set it on fire or anything like Guard Captain Undyne does.”

 

Frisk snickered. “Maybe it’s the flavour of the sauce. Maybe there’s something you could add that would make it better,” she said. “What’s in it, now?”

“Tomatoes,” he said.

“And?” she said.

“Uhh… garlic?” he said.

“And?” she pressed.

“That’s about it. It is tomato sauce, after all!”

Frisk put a hand to her face and stifled a laugh. “Well, that doesn’t sound too bad! But did you ever try adding some sugar to the sauce?”

“Sugar? In tomato sauce?”

“Try just a little bit. Like a pinch. Maybe your brother likes something with a bit of sweet in it. What’s his favourite food?”

“Ketchup. Which is also coincidentally his favourite drink, side, and condiment,” he said with a hint of disdain.

“Well, there you go,” Frisk said with a laugh. She heard the door creak open to her left and she took note of Toriel entering quietly. “Ooh, I gotta go. Nice talking to you!”

“You too, Wrong Number! Have a great day!”

Frisk hung up the phone with a fond smile on her face as Toriel edged into the room with a slice of pie.

 

“My child, who were you talking to?” she asked gently.

“Oh, I dunno, a monster I butt-dialled,” Frisk fibbed as she scooted back to sit on her pathetic list.

“Butt… dialled?” Toriel repeated with a confused expression.

“Yeah, you know, when you sit on your phone and accidentally call someone,” Frisk explained.

Toriel smiled. “Oh! I have never done that, but I understand. Funny that there is actually a word for that. Here. I hope you like it.” She handed over the slice of pie and looked at Frisk hopefully.

The kid recognized the smell as cooked snail. “You made a whole other pie?” she said with surprise. “Wow, thank you.”

 

Frisk dug in with a vigour that surprised the woman. The taste hit her with hard nostalgia. It was rich and silky, like a meat pie but with a consistency like butter.

“How do you like it?” Toriel asked.

“It’s good.” Her voice came out choked and quickly, she wiped her eyes and then took another bite.

Toriel looked worried. “Honey, are you alright?”

“Y-Yeah. Yeah. Sorry,” she said quickly. “It just reminded me of something.”

Toriel looked guilty for a moment and put her hand on Frisk’s shoulder. “Did you have a family on the surface?”

Frisk shook her head. Toriel’s brow furrowed a little.

“You climbed up the mountain all on your own?” she asked.

Frisk nodded.

“Maybe it’s not my place to ask,” Toriel said, “and… if you don’t wish to answer, I understand… but why did you do such a thing? I know you mentioned the rain, but…?”

Frisk smiled a little. “I didn’t have anywhere better to be. I guess I took a chance.” She wiped her eyes. “I’m happy I did, though.”

 

Toriel smiled gently. Beside Frisk, she caught sight of the book she had been reading.

“Oh! H-History. Interested, are you?” she said. “I’m sure it is different than… Well… I’m sure humans have a much different account.”

“Not really,” she said. “Humans started to feel bad, actually.”

Toriel’s eyes went wide. She stared at Frisk blankly for a few seconds before she began to smile again. “That’s… That is much more comforting than you might realize. Are you finished with it?”

Frisk nodded, so Toriel took it gently and closed it.

“It will just be back on the shelf if you’d like to look at it again.”

The kid nodded again and Toriel slipped out of the room again, leaving the kid to her meal.

 

She ate slowly. She did actually like snail pie, but it was so rich that she usually couldn’t eat more than half of a slice. She shuffled to lift up her now crumpled list. She scooted again to the dresser to use as a table and added, below the list part, Monster parents??? as a note to herself.

 

She came out a little while later to put her plate in the kitchen and found Toriel reading again near the fireplace. Seemed like she had her routine down.

“Hello, little one,” Toriel said. “Would you like to read with me again this evening?”

“Yes, please,” Frisk said.

Toriel smiled and closed her novel, then went to the bookshelf. She pulled out an old book about monster myths. She paused. “Hmm… Perhaps this?” She held it up. “But I believe you may have read this one already?”

Frisk couldn’t hide her surprise. She had— it was one of her favourites— but she had certainly not read it this time. She shook her head. “N-No, but I’d love to hear it.”

Toriel looked puzzled. She took another peek at the cover. “How strange,” she said quietly, “I was so sure that… Hah. Never mind, my child, this is a very good book. You will enjoy it.”

 

She began to read and Frisk sat down to listen, but her thoughts drifted almost right away. It was really starting to seem like something had stuck in Toriel’s mind. Frisk wasn’t sure why, or how, or even what, but the fact that there was anything at all made pricked straight into her sense of determination.

 

It made her heart ache, but she would have to leave soon. The longer she stayed, the harder it would get. And she couldn’t bear to leave Sans hanging.

 

As it got later and they finished the first few stories in the book, Frisk feigned falling asleep. She heard Toriel chuckle when she noticed her slumped over, and felt herself lifted and carried to bed, then gently tucked in. She turned on that gentle music box and switched out the lights before leaving. Frisk stayed still for a while longer in the covers and was about to get up to check the time on her phone before she heard Toriel’s paws on the floor again. She froze. She listened to Toriel come back in, lay something on the dresser, and then leave again.

 

Frisk sat up and peeked over. It was her dry clothes. She checked her phone. It was close to nine o’clock. She fumbled through the settings and found a clock with an alarm. She set it for four in the morning, hopefully before Toriel would be awake, before settling back down to rest.

 

When she heard the phone beeping at her, Frisk shot up out of bed like an arrow. She hadn’t even realized she had fallen asleep. She hurriedly turned the alarm back off and tried to steady her racing heart. She didn’t dare turn the light on, so by what little light her phone could muster, she tore off a piece of her plan page and sat down to write a note.

 

She stared at it for a long while, trying to map it out in her brain. She began to write, slowly, trying to pick her words carefully.

 

Dear Mom thank you so much for taking care of me. Your amasing. I can’t stay tho I gotta leave the Ruins. I’m not trying to run away but there’s a few things I need to do out there. I wish I coud tell you all about them but I think it woud sound too crazy. Please don’t worry I’ll come back and we’ll see each other again. I love you very much. Thanks again for every thing.

 

She didn’t really like the wording, nor did she know exactly what she wanted to tell Toriel, and she was fairly sure she misspelled a lot, but it was the best she could come up with. She pouted. No wonder her writing class marks were low.

 

She went out front, clung to the starlight, and then checked around the dark house quietly. Toriel was definitely in bed. Frisk paused outside her bedroom door and took a deep breath. She told herself not to cry. She’d see her again once the world was safe. She folded the note, drew a heart on it, and slipped it under Toriel’s door.

 

She went back to her room, made the bed, changed into her old clothes, folded the borrowed ones, and then put her sneakers back on. Quietly, she tiptoed down to the basement stairs and slunk down into the darker, cooler path below the house.

 

She used her phone for light as she started down the long, featureless tunnel. Her steps began to speed and she felt more and more determined the longer she went. The first gate was just within view when Frisk heard a strange sound— she realized rather quickly that it was Toriel’s paws on the stone.

 

She grimaced; considered going back in time for just a moment, maybe trying again, but the thought that Sans would notice the backtracking weighed like a brick in her mind. She gulped. She only managed a few more steps before Toriel’s voice bounced off the ancient walls.

“Wait! Little one, please!”

 

Frisk winced. She stopped and turned. The worried woman was racing towards her.

“I… I had this awful dream that…! And then I saw your note and I…!” She grabbed Frisk by the shoulders, eyes wide and worried.Oh, little one! I’m so glad I caught you! You cannot go out there!”

Frisk’s heart sunk. “B-But… But I need to.”

Toriel shook her head vehemently. “I don’t know what put this thought into your head, but it is far too dangerous. The world beyond here, you… you cannot understand.” She turned on the door as if it were an assailant, her brow furrowing. “I am going to destroy this.”

“You can’t,” Frisk said quickly. “Please. I need to go out there.”

“My child, there’s nothing for you beyond here,” Toriel said.

 

Frisk gulped. She bit her lip. Her heart skipped a beat. “Wait, please!” she said, and Toriel shot her an apologetic look. “I’m not leaving for good! I’m just going to break the barrier!”

Toriel recoiled, eyes wide. “Wh… What do you know about that? My child, you… you can’t. There’s no point, don’t you understand? If you leave here, you will be killed. Asgore… The King will kill you and take your soul. I cannot allow it.”

Frisk grimaced but locked eyes with her mother’s, steady and certain. “He can try,” she said. “But he won’t.”

“You do not understand,” Toriel insisted. “The monsters beyond here, they will kill you. Or they will take you to him. Please, my child—!”

 

Frisk sighed. She had to break the rules. “M-Mom, I know you’re worried. You’re scared. You know every human before me, they didn’t make it, right?” Frisk said gently. “B-But I can do it. I don’t know how to explain it without sounding crazy, but I have friends who will help me out there. After all, we’re really all on the same side, right? We all want that barrier gone.”

Toriel frowned. “How can you sound so certain?” she said, then shook her head. “No, I won’t hear it. You won’t turn back? Either return home, or face me.” Toriel raised her hands and blazing, magic fire rose up on either side of her, barring the door.

Frisk gulped.

“To leave the Ruins, you.. You will have to prove to me that you are strong enough to survive,” Toriel said.

 

The kid took a deep breath and braced herself. She rolled up her sleeves and her soul’s glow fortified her, shining red through her chest. If her mother’s shone back, she kept it hidden, but even still she could hear, deep down, the hum of her soul swelling into a heartbroken melody.

“Okay, but I won’t fight you,” Frisk said. “And I’m pretty determined.”

 

Toriel’s expression turned stern and cold. With a wave of her hand, the flames came at Frisk in an arc. Her heart started to pound. Her roll and jump out of the way were almost muscle memory by now. She bounced on her toes— she could feel it all coming back, and her soul’s determination carried her farther, faster. Toriel looked a little frustrated.

“Child, you must fight me or flee,” she said seriously.

Frisk smiled. Her energy picked up, too— that red heart of her soul shining brightly. It didn’t do that much on the surface. For some reason, this felt good. “I still pick neither.”

 

Fire encircled her like a halo and Frisk took off running, rolling through small gaps in the flames and skidding along the ground to slip away from the heat. She hopped backwards to give herself more space, then began again, jumping and dodging, scraping her knees and feeling the heat against her shoulders as she bent out of the way. Toriel’s expression was still sullen and like stone, but even as Frisk began to feel her legs aching, she smiled.

“Dang, mom, didn’t… didn’t realize you were such a hot head,” Frisk said through heavy breaths.

 

A twinge of a smile crossed Toriel’s face before she tried very hard to set her expression into a frown. Frisk took a deep breath to steady herself, and Toriel’s magic flames rushed straight at her. She winced, but Frisk stepped forward into it and the magic parted before her. She smiled to herself and locked eyes with Toriel through the distortion of heat.

“Mom,” she said, “I gotta do this.”

Toriel grimaced and looked aside. Frisk smiled a bit wider.

“You’ve set up such a great home for us,” she said, “and if I didn’t know what was up next, I’d never want to leave. But, I promise, we can break the barrier and nobody has to die. Not me. Not Asgore.”

 

Toriel’s eyes darted back towards her; she couldn’t conceal her surprise and Frisk took a step forward. She snorted and raised her arm high and the fire roared and came at her like a hurricane. Frisk took a deep breath and simply walked straight into it. No matter the fury, the magic rushed out of her way, and she didn’t stop until she stood no more than a yard in front of Toriel.

“Mom,” she said, “I… I know you might not understand. But maybe you feel it? You feel like, maybe we know each other, right? More than just this.”

Toriel’s eyes went wide. “M-My child, I—”

“So I’m asking, please, trust me,” she said. “I know I’m little, but I know this place. I know beyond here it the guy you tell bad knock knock jokes to, and his brother. I know that there’s a nice ghost in Waterfall that sells those snails you like. There’s ruins and puzzles near the CORE, just like here, and Asgore’s house looks like it’s missing half of it without you there and he still can’t figure out how to make pie after all this time.”

 

Toriel looked like she’d seen a ghost. She stared blankly at Frisk for a long, quiet while. Her eyes welled up with tears and, with a wave of her hand, the magic fire faded away to nothing. She knelt down to look her in the face.

 

“My child, what…? What are you?” she asked gently.

“I’m just a kid,” Frisk said with a shrug. “But I really want to help. Will you trust me?”

Toriel sighed quietly. She brushed the tears away from her eyes and she grimaced. She was quiet for a long while. “When… When I saw you,” she said softly, “I knew your soul was… so strong. And I felt like I knew your face. It felt like I’d always known you. Strange, is it not? I cannot explain it. But I… I do trust you, little one.”

Frisk’s eyes lit up. She jumped and hugged Toriel around the neck. “Thanks, mom,” she said. “Thanks a million.”

 

The woman laughed quietly and held her close. She went silent for a few moments, then gently nuzzled her snout against the side of Frisk’s head. “When we met,” she said softly, “you looked at me like you knew me, too, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” she said. “I… I do. Know you. I mean. I know that sounds crazy, b-but—”

“So we were meant to meet. I think… I think I understand.” Toriel drew back and ran her hand through Frisk’s hair, smiling fondly. “I’m not sure why, but, even after just this little time, I know that I care for you very deeply, my child. Something tells me you know what you’re doing. You will… You will stay safe out there, will you not?”

Frisk’s eyes went wide. “Y-You’re gonna let me go out there?” she asked shrilly.

“To be honest, I don’t wish to,” Toriel said. “But, I know there is no way you could know what you said without some sort of power on your side. Just promise me you will be very, very careful, alright, sweetheart?”

“Oh my gosh! Y-Yeah! Of course, I promise! Thank you! Thank you so much!” Frisk grinned. “I won’t let you down! Can you do me a favour, though?”

“Yes, my child?” she asked.

“Pick up your phone!” Frisk said with a laugh.

Toriel smiled. “I will.” She wrapped the girl in her arms again. “You will be good, won’t you?”

“Yeah!” Frisk clung to her tightly. “Don’t worry, we’ll see each other again in just a little while.”

Toriel chuckled quietly. “It’s funny to hear a child so certain like you are,” she said. “Would you like anything before you go?”

“I’ll be okay,” she assured her. “Thanks, mom.”

 

Both seemed reluctant to let go, but when they did, Toriel laughed softly and wiped her eyes.

“Perhaps this is too much,” she said, “and I will understand if you do not want to… but… would you, by any chance, want to come water the flowers with me one more time before you go? I promise, I will not try to stop you again.”

Frisk couldn’t hide her surprise, but she smiled and nodded. “I’d love to.”

Toriel beamed. She stroked Frisk’s hair affectionately. “What a strange couple of days it’s been.”

“Oh man, tell me about it,” Frisk said.

 

- - -

 

“S-So then, they said Kissy Cutie 2 was better! And I was just like, O-M-G, how EVEN?!” Alphys threw her arms up and nearly fell out of her chair.

Sans chuckled and steadied her with his magic as he put his feet up near the monitor. “Gee, these UnderNet trolls, huh?”

“Oh no, they were one hundred percent serious,” Alphys said sternly. “So y-you know wh-what I said? I-I… I told them th-they were so wrong it was like th-they hadn’t even watched Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, and they were a moderator! Th-The only way y-you could think the s-sequel was g-good at all is i-if you h-had literally never ever even watched any show at all, e-ever! I said that whole thing!”

“Oh yeah, how did that go?” Sans asked.

“Aw, well, I got b-banned, but that’s okay, m-my forum is way better, I have at least three more followers,” she said.

Sans stuck his thumb up and took a swig of his soda. He felt a sudden sting of shock when he could’ve sworn he noticed a smidge of movement on the monitor. He sat back and nudged Alphys.

“What?” she asked.

“Look,” he said. “Am I nuts or, uh, did that door just move?”

“O-Oh my g-god!” Alphys said shrilly.

 

She hit a few keys and clicked a button on her computer, and the camera looking at the Ruins from a tree in the southern woods, peering straight at the door, came up full on the screen. There was nothing. Sans’s soul pulsed a worried beat against his ribcage. Just as Alphys was about to relax, the heavy Ruins door definitely moved.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” Alphys said, her breathing starting to stutter. “It’s…! I-It’s m-m-moving! SANS! IT’S MOVING!”

 

Alphys began to cling to his shoulder with panicked, tight fingers as the door slowly was pushed open. Out of the shadows in the opening in the stone came a young girl. Sans’s eyes went wide. Short. Tiny, even. Scrawny little thing. Light brown skin; dark brown hair, barely shoulder-length and straight with bangs; a blue and pink striped sweater. That looked a hell of a lot like her. He felt a chill.

“Oh god. Oh my god,” Alphys said. “A… A h-human? Is th-that a human?! It’s gotta b-be!”

 

The human pushed her way from behind the door and stepped cautiously out into the snow. The ruins door slammed closed behind her like the huge slab of stone it was and she jumped, startled. She slumped with her back against it, seemingly to catch her breath.

“Oh my god. Oh my GOD!” Alphys was shaking. “Sans, your b-brother…!”

“Can you zoom in?” he asked.

“Uh… y-yeah? Where?”

“Her… Her face. Just for a sec,” he said.

 

Alphys did, just barely enough. Sans felt a twinge of relief when he saw those eyes were definitely brown, not red or anything else. It was usually the faces that were the most different, from what he could remember of the others, but this… It really looked like her, but it was always a little blurry. The timelines where he’d seen her weren’t exactly real anymore. He knew better than to get his hopes up, but maybe there was a chance…? He guessed it would be too odd to push Alphys to try to get a good look at her right hand. For some reason, he remembered a mark, but after a second of thought, he realized there was almost no way this resolution would pick up something so small.

 

He took a breath. Reminded himself not to assume anything. He got to his feet. “Gotta go,” he said. “Look. I’ll handle this. Don’t tell Undyne yet, huh?”

“Y-You sure?!” Alphys said. “Th-This is a big d-deal! Th-There’s no way we’ll be able to k-keep this quiet!”

“Try,” Sans said.

 

Chapter Text

The air outside was cold and brisk; kind of refreshing after the mostly windless Ruins. Frisk rubbed her hands together and blew on them quickly. She wished she still had her boots or a coat, but she knew she had to suck it up. She took a look around cautiously. When she had first come to the underground, Sans had snuck up from behind her, and yet she knew there wasn’t really anywhere from him to have come from. He had either used his powers or was napping somewhere, either of which were fairly plausible.

 

There was a thick line of dark forest around her off the trail, framing the path, and not much else besides some bushes near the Ruin’s entrance. Cautiously, she peeked inside. While there definitely wasn’t a skeleton in there, she was surprised to find a camera. Curious, she bent in closer to look at it and the lens buzzed and moved almost as if retreating from her. She laughed and backed off. She couldn’t believe, after passing through his gate three times before, that she had never seen it.

 

With one last look around, peeking in between tree trunks, she covered her hands with her sleeves and proceeded forward. She felt much more nervous now even than when she had encountered Asriel. Sans was a wildcard, always had been. She could never be sure how much he knew or didn’t, and he was hard to pry answers out of. He had only really started being fully honest with her after their family had moved in together. That, and the fact that he was one of the people she loved most in the whole world certainly didn’t help the cold feeling in her gut.

 

As she walked along the path, snow crunching underfoot, she was starting to make out the bridge with awkward wooden bars across it up ahead. She felt a tingling up her back. She skipped over a stick on the path; tried not to flinch when she heard it crack a few seconds later. She hurried ahead and was just about to make it to the bridge when she heard the footsteps in the snow behind her.

 

“Hey. Human.”

She’d know that deep voice anywhere. She froze in place. There he was.

“Don’t you know how to greet a new pal? Turn around and shake my hand.”

She wasn’t sure if she could face him, but she tried to steady herself. She turned and slapped her hand into his, and instantly a farting sound started as he grinned back at her. Despite everything, she couldn’t help but snicker. He shoved his hands in his pockets and seemed satisfied.

 

“Heh… The old whoopee cushion in the hand trick,” he said. “It’s always funny.” He smiled, but there was a twinge of worry on his brow. “Can I be honest with you? You looked, uh, kinda like you were expectin’ that.”

Frisk’s smile fell and she felt her cheeks flush a little. “Um… W-Would you be mad if I said I was?” she asked.

“Mad?” he repeated. “Nah. A bit confused, though.”

 

Frisk’s heart dropped. Sans was still grinning, but it seemed like the light in his eyes had gone out. Her mind rushed with panic— no hug, nothing? Did he not remember her? Where were they in the timeline? Was she even in her own timeline? Had she gone back too far? Her thoughts stumbled over themselves. She had been doing so well, and now doubt weighed her down like doubled gravity. Heartbroken, she pleaded with herself not to cry. She felt like she was going to be sick.

 

“It’s… It’s not what you think!” she said hurriedly. “I know it’s… It’s awful. It’s just that something really bad happened on the surface and this was the only way to fix it. I’m so sorry.”

“Huh.” It was like a switch had been flicked and he was giving her a puzzled smile again. “Okay. I’ll pretend that makes sense.”

She took a deep, relieved breath, but heat in the corners of her eyes still threatened her. All she wanted, more than anything, was to hug him. She wanted big brother to hold her and tell her it would all be okay, that they’d figure it out together, like before. Holding back hurt, more than she thought it would. She had to cling to her own hands to stop herself. She was still shaking.

 

  “Thanks,” she said quietly. “I’m… I’m really sorry. It’s so w-weird, I… I… Um. D-Do you think we can still be friends?”

“Sure thing, kid,” he said. He moved to pat her on the shoulder but his hand stalled in midair. His eyes went wide and his gaze darted between her face and his fingers. Something started glowing blue. He drew back quickly and frowned. “What the hell is that?” he said quietly.

“Wh-What is what?” Frisk asked.

Sans grimaced. He carefully put his hand near her again and the blue glow began once more, more vibrant this time. His eyes widened and he stared back at her, pulling away in shock as she looked at him worriedly.

“What? What’s wrong?” she demanded.

Sans looked down at his hand and then back at her as the glow diminished. “Kid, I’m gonna get up in your personal space for just a sec,” he said. He came in close and his left eye shone blue back at her all of a sudden. He cupped her cheek and only then did Frisk really clue in when the blue glow in the corner of her eye shone and she saw it wasn’t coming from him.

“S-Sans, what—?”

“Just a sec,” he said.

 

He winced suddenly as if something stung him and he drew his hand back sharply, shaking it off. He turned away from her quickly. She put her hand to her cheek.

“What happened? Did I do that?” she asked quietly. “Are you okay?”

She saw his shoulders shake, but when he turned back to her, he was all smiles again. He shoved his hands into his pockets and shrugged.

“Yeah. Just fine. No worries,” he said. “I’m thinkin’ you’ll probably do okay down here.”

“What d’you mean?” she asked.

He shrugged again. “Just a feelin’. Got another one that’s tellin’ me you probably kinda know what’s up next, right?” he said. “I’m sure my brother’ll be pretty excited to finally see a human. Be nice to him, huh?”

“Of course I will, I love Papyrus,” she said.

Sans’s eyes lit up and he seemed genuinely pleased. “Yeah? Alright.” He nodded at the bridge. “Come on. He built this gate but he kinda made the bars so wide that they don’t actually stop anybody, so…”

Frisk snickered despite herself. He offered her his hand.

“Watch out, one plank’s a bit shaky,” he said.

“Oh! Okay, thanks!” Frisk latched onto him eagerly. “Um… Sans? How much do you—?”

“Don’t worry about it.” He made sure she hopped over the right spot on the bridge. “You wanna be pals, right?”

“But just a second ago—”

“Kid,” he said, “chill out, alright? You trust me?”

 

He brought her up towards one of the empty wooden guard houses. He nodded his head at an oddly shaped lamp that stuck out like a sore thumb in the midst of all the clean snow. Frisk smiled.

“Yeah, I trust you,” she said.

“Alright. My brother’s comin’. You wanna duck behind that, uh, conveniently shaped lamp?”

“Where did you even get that?” she asked.

He grinned and shrugged. She was about to ask if she could just meet him right away, but she jumped as she picked up the sound of boots in the snow and then she rushed around the back of the lamp. She only stole a quick glance as Papyrus rushed in like a whirlwind, a frown marring his brow, before trying to make herself as small as possible and trying very hard not to dwell on her utter confusion over what was going on with Sans.

 

“Sup, bro?” Sans asked.

“You know very well what is sup, brother!” Papyrus said; he looked perturbed. “Do you realize it has been eight days since you’ve been to recalibrate your puzzles? I just had to go do it! What if I missed a human?! What are you even doing over here?”

“Checkin’ out this lamp,” Sans said with a grin. “It’s pretty cool. Wanna take a look?”

“What?! No I do not! I don’t have time for lamps, brother, what if a human comes through here?!” he said in exasperation. “I must be the one to capture one! Then I, the great Papyrus, will finally get everything that I utterly deserve! I’ll be invited to join the Royal Guard for sure! I’ll—”

“Bro. Chill. You’re the coolest. You’ll get there,” Sans assured him. “Maybe this lamp could help?”

“Sans, you are boondoggling!” Papyrus snapped.

“Actually, I’m doing an experiment with dramatic irony, dude. And don’t you mean… bonedogglin’?” Sans said with a grin.

Papyrus raised his finger and opened his mouth, then scowled and groaned as Sans began to snicker. “Oh my god,” Papyrus grumbled. “I… Ugh! Sans!”

“Yeah, bro?”

“This is serious! This is my only chance to finally get the recognition I deserve,” he said. “You need to be aware! Alert! Quick on your feet! Like me! Not just loafing around like such a lazybones.”

“Don’t worry, I’ve done a ton of work today.” He winked. “A skele-ton.”

“SANS!” Papyrus cawed.

Sans grinned wide. “Come on, you’re smilin’.”

“I am and I hate it!” Papyrus rubbed his brow. “Okay. Fine. I need to attend to my own puzzles. While I’m gone, perhaps you could try to put a little more… backbone into your work!”

Sans beamed and Papyrus began to cackle at his own joke as he headed back off down the road, with a loud, “Nyeh heh heh heh heh heh!” that soon faded off into the wind.

 

“Okay. You’re good,” Sans said. “He’s gone.”

Frisk peeked cautiously out from around the lamp and went back to join him— she let out a breath she didn’t recall keeping in. “I still can’t believe that works.”

“Yeah, well, he’s got a pretty one track mind, lately,” Sans said. “That last one was pretty good, though, huh? Heh. Backbone.”

Frisk nodded and smiled. “I liked the bonedoggle, I can’t believe you’ve never done that one before,” she said. “Oh! …U-Um… I m-mean—”

“No, you’re right,” Sans said.

Frisk’s face flushed and she rubbed her head. “S-Sorry… I mean. This must be super weird and—”

“Kid. Relax,” he said. “Hey. You think you could do me a favour?”

“Y-Yeah, of course, anything,” she said quickly.

“So, my brother, he’s been kinda down lately about this whole Royal Guard thing,” he said. “He’s also never really seen a human before. I bet seeing you would really make his day. What do you think? Up for it?”

“Sure, absolutely,” Frisk said quickly.

“Thanks a million,” he said. “Meet you up ahead.”

 

He began to head back towards the bridge, but he paused and turned to look at her just as he reached it. “Hey. Thanks for playin’ along,” he said. “By the way. The plank’s fine.”

“Huh?”

“It’s not shaky,” he said. “Thanks for trustin’ me, pal. See you in a bit.”

“W-Wait,” Frisk said quickly; he paused midstep. “You’re welcome! You butt.”

He grinned and continued on his way. She huffed to herself and pouted, quickly brushing a stray tear from her eye.

“Jeez, Sans, do you remember or don’t you?” she grumbled.

 

“Ooh, man, this is rich.”

Frisk felt a chill up her spine. She whirled and saw Asriel grinning up at her from the ground.

“Hah. He remembers everything, he just doesn’t trust you at all,” he said. “I wouldn’t even bother with him.”

“Knock it off, Asriel, you’re not helping,” she grumbled.

“Duh.” He sneered. “Ditch the smiley trash bag. He’s worthless.”

“Hey!” she said, frowning and pointing at him. “Don’t talk about my brother like that!”

He looked at her like she was crazy. “Your brother—?!”

“You don’t hear me going around calling Chara names, do you?!” she said. “No! And she legit wanted to be a murderer and stuff!”

“You could, I don’t care,” he said.

“Yes, you do! And I wouldn’t do it anyway because I don’t think calling people names behind their backs is cool!”

 

Asriel raised his eyebrows as Frisk groaned and covered her face with her hands. “Wow. What an outburst,” he said dryly. “I think that’s the first time you’ve actually yelled at me.”

“Ugh… I’m… I’m sorry for shouting,” she said. “I’m just really not feeling great.”

“Hah! You think I actually care?” Asriel said. “You’re pathetic. Man, do you know how easy it would be to take you out right now?”

Frisk squatted down before him to stare him in the face. “How easy?”

He frowned deeply and grimaced. Frisk smiled. She leaned forward and gave him a quick peck on the forehead. He squawked and recoiled, looking disgruntled, face flushed.

“You freak!” he exclaimed. He ducked back underground immediately.

Frisk snickered.

 

She straightened back up and had to take a minute to collect her thoughts. Sans was acting strange— changing up small things, so far. She couldn’t understand what he was getting at. She really hoped he wasn’t mad at her. It wasn’t like before, though, and it made her heart hurt. Maybe she had gone back too far? Maybe she wasn’t in the right place? Sans had described time as not being a straight line, but running sideways sometimes, too. What if the Sans she had just met had never been her brother? If, in her panic, she had set the timeline askew? Had she somehow gone back before they had ever met? But no, Asriel seemed aware enough, and also way more talkative than usual. She just didn’t understand. She felt sick.

 

She sighed and looked ahead— pine-like trees and snow stretched out over the cliffs before her almost endlessly, and when she listened closely, she could hear a river. She rubbed her eyes. She was getting so tired; her legs still ached from confronting Toriel. Dodging magic had become second nature after a while, but that had been a year ago for her. She guessed she’d need to get used to it again.

 

Walking was good, in a way. It kept some feeling in her feet. Her fingers, on the other hand, were getting numb and there wasn’t much she could do about it. She folded her arms to hide her hands in her armpits, but it wasn’t much help.

 

She was glad to soon pick out a glimmer of time tearing between the trees just a few paces off the road as she drew closer to a curve in the road and a branching path that headed north towards the river. It was warm and welcoming to the touch, but this time, it was a little harder to hold on. She closed her eyes, frowning, urging herself to stay determined. It wasn’t so bad, she told herself. At least everyone was safe. She made the connection and let out a sigh of relief.

 

The path curved around and continued to the east towards where the monster town of Snowdin was, so Frisk followed it. She tried not to grumble as the slope inclined, and she stared at the ground ahead as she tried not to lose her footing.

 

Frisk froze and looked up in a hurry at the sound of Papyrus’s voice, her stomach dropping.  She had almost walked right into him and Sans as they chatted a little farther up the path.

 

Papyrus seemed to notice movement from the corner of his eye. He turned to look at her and began to gawk. She stood totally still, unsure of what to do or say. Papyrus stared at her, then looked at Sans, and then back at her.

“Oh my god!!!” He grabbed Sans and pulled him back, and spun him around as he squatted down and began to whisper far too loudly. “Sans!? Do you see what I see?! Is that…?! Is that a HUMAN!?”

“Uh…” Sans turned to look at Frisk; he winked. “Yup. Sure looks like it.”

“OH MY GOD!” Papyrus shrieked. “I’ll be…! I can finally…! Oh my god! Sans, I finally did it!” He whirled on her, jumped to attention and cleared his throat. “HUMAN! You shall not pass this area! I, the great Papyrus, will capture you! And then I’ll… I’ll…! Oh wow, this is kind of overwhelming, actually. Never mind! I…! I…? Where was I?” He looked at Sans for help, but his brother merely shrugged.

“Y-You’ll join the R-Royal Guard?” Frisk suggested, her voice warbling as she shivered.

 

Papyrus stared at her, his brows raising high. “Wait a second! I know that voice!” he said. “Wrong Number?!”

Frisk’s heart dropped and she locked eyes with him. She waved awkwardly. “H-Hi, Papyrus.”

Papyrus’s eyes went wide and and he turned and grabbed Sans by the shoulders. “SANS! I know her!! I have been talking on the phone to a HUMAN!”

“Oh really? Nice one, bro, I knew you’d find one first,” Sans said.

“This complicates matters. You see!” He pointed dramatically at Frisk. “I, the great Papyrus, am supposed to capture you! And yet! You were so candid on the phone! Your plight truly moved me! I would almost say you might be… a friend?! But to join the Royal Guard, I must capture you!”

“Oh. Right. Um…” Frisk wasn’t sure what to say. “Okay, I guess.”

“So then I—! Wait. What?” Papyrus leaned over to Sans. “Sans, I don’t think the human is quite getting the picture. You know, with the fleeing, the puzzles, the clever traps, etcetera.”

“I dunno, Paps,” Sans said. “I mean, she’s probably just tired. And lost. And scared. And cold, definitely cold. I mean, sheesh, just look at her.”

Papyrus’s eyes went wide. Frisk was definitely shivering.

“Y-You really think so…?” Papyrus asked.

“Oh, totally, bro,” Sans said. “And hungry, probably that, too. And lonely. And scared, did I mention scared? Look, I think she might be cryin’ a little. Wow, must be hard. Little kid, all alone out here, not a friend in the world…”

Papyrus gritted his teeth and he put his fist to his mouth in thought for a few seconds.

“I bet,” Sans continued, “that she hasn’t had a decent meal in days.”

His brother looked to be on the verge of tears. He frowned deeply. “NYEH! ENOUGH!”

 

He marched down the road towards her with fervour. Frisk wasn’t sure whether to stay or run, but either way, he was towering over her in an instant.

“Human…” He grabbed her by the hand. “Come! You can’t stay out here in this cold all alone! I, the great Papyrus, will see that you are warm and fed! Then we will worry about the whole capturing and Royal Guard promotion thing.”

“Wh… What? Really?” Frisk asked.

“Yes, of course, really! As a soon to be member of the Royal Guard, my first duty is to make sure everyone is safe and well!” Papyrus said, leading her briskly away. “So I, the great Papyrus, will take good care of you! That’s a promise!”

 

Frisk couldn’t help a smile and she went along with him eagerly. Sans shot her a wink as he followed close beside them.

“Hey, bro, look at that, she’s not even wearin’ boots,” he said.

Papyrus balked and without a second’s hesitation, he lifted her into his arms. “What is this nonsense!? Don’t they have snow where you came from?”

“The surface? Sure, but I was in the Ruins,” she said.

“What a strange place that must be!”

“Yeah, kind of,” she agreed. She peeked back for Sans he was gone. “Hey, where’s Sans?”

“Oh, he just does that,” Papyrus said dismissively. “Hang on tight, human, I will run us home!”

“What? Oh!” She clung tightly as he broke into a sprint. “Wh-What about the puzzles?”

“Don’t you worry about that, human,” he insisted. “We will come back later and we can do all the puzzles together!”

 

- - -

 

Sitting in Grillby’s, Sans slumped on the counter, hand on his brow, staring vacantly at the back wall. He had screwed up colossally.

 

It was Frisk. He knew it was. Had to be. Everything was right. She looked the same, talked the same; moved in that same sort of confident way she had adopted after her second time through the gate. Had that same scar he picked out along the side of her right hand. She noticed the changes, yet trusted him completely anyway. But then, why were they back underground? What had she said, that there was a problem on the surface? She hadn't actually wanted to send them back, had she?

 

He frowned to himself. He didn’t understand. His memories didn’t go that far, or at least he was fairly sure they didn’t. They never stuck around past leaving the mountaintop. And yet, after seeing that blue magic on her face— being stung by it as he matched what he could only describe as a handprint — he could recall something. A house, maybe? A view from the plateau under a bright sky. Vague faces of people he knew. Toriel, a bit. He knew her a lot more than he did. There were a lot of feelings, too. Strong ones. Mostly good ones, and a very sad one. This was weird. It was new. It was both reassuring and nerve-wracking.

 

He could have kicked himself. Screw the cameras. Screw his initial uncertainty. Why didn’t he just bring her home? Idiot.

 

Across the counter, Grillby passed him a glass bottle of ketchup.

“Heh. I didn’t even order yet,” he said.

Grillby raised an eyebrow. Sans straightened up and sipped it. He felt a little better.

“So,” he said, “I think I accidentally screwed with my best friend’s head real bad. What d’you think I should do?”

“Hmmm…” Grillby replied, frowning faintly.

“It wasn’t on purpose. I just wasn’t sure it was her. I know, I know, that sounds stupid. You don’t need to tell me.” He sighed. “It was stupid. Real bonehead move.” He chugged the bottle and Grillby took it from him as soon as he put it back down.

The fire elemental raised both eyebrows.

“You’re right, dude. You’re right. I gotta apologize,” he said. “Could I, uh, get another bottle of that first? You know, while we’re ketchin’ up?

Grillby rolled his eyes and slid another bottle of ketchup Sans’s way.

“Thanks.” He sighed, but he started to grin a bit, too. He had never been so happy to be completely wrong.

 

Chapter Text

Bypassing the puzzles he had initially set up to stop her, and dashing by the other guards on the path, by the time they reached Snowdin, Frisk was almost asleep in Papyrus’s arms. She clung a little tighter to his shoulders and forced herself alert. The town was small, alongside a river, with a small burb of homes just off the main street, closer to the water. The place looked like it was stuck in a perpetual winter holiday, covered in glistening snow and colourful strings of lights. Frisk knew the friendly little town well— had lived there for a while before Starhome was properly built.

 

Papyrus took her to their house, the one flying a pirate flag near the end of the main street, planted her on the couch inside, bundled her in a blanket, and served her a hot cup of tea. It was exactly liked she remembered it— two bedrooms upstairs, the television and green sofa downstairs near the kitchen, and a sock covered with post-its in the corner. She was fairly sure that Sans had still left it there even when they moved out. The sink in the kitchen was still extra high to allow for more cabinet space below, for reasons only Papyrus really understood.

 

Papyrus rushed around the house, chattering to himself just out of earshot. Frisk sipped her tea carefully. It was awful, but it was hot, and that was enough.

“HUMAN!” The tall skeleton jumped to stand before her with his hands on his hips. “You must be starving! I, the great Papyrus, also happen to be a master chef! How would you like a plate of delicious, homemade spaghetti?!”

Frisk remembered that early spaghetti recipe. She tried very hard not to scrunch up her face. “S-Sure, I’d love some,” she said.

Papyrus’s eyes lit up. “Wowie! I’m so excited for you! This will be your first time tasting the perfection that is my spaghetti!” he said. “This won’t take long! Stay right there!”

 

He bounded off towards the kitchen and she heard the clanging of pots and pans. She sipped her tea and sank deep into the blankets. She closed her eyes. The sounds of his frantic meal preparation and cackling, the scent of the tomato sauce— it made her almost feel like she was home.

 

Her heart began to ache and she took a deep breath. She wanted to hug him so badly. How strange to miss someone so deeply when they were only feet away.

“Hey.”

Frisk jumped at the sound of Sans’s voice and fumbled with her tea for a second. “Sheesh, you scared me!”

“Yeah. I do that.” He sat down on the other end of the couch. “Doin’ okay?”

She nodded. “Y-Yeah. Happy Papyrus isn’t really trying to capture me right now,” she said quietly. “He’d totally kick my butt.”

“Oh. Right. And puts you in the garage, right?” Sans said.

“With hotdogs in the dog food!” Frisk started laughing.

“He’s a good guy,” he said. “He’d, uh, never actually hurt you, y’know?”

“Don’t worry, I know,” she said. “He’s… He’s just about the nicest guy in the whole world, I bet.”

 

Sans nodded and he smiled tiredly and rubbed the back of his skull. Frisk frowned slightly and tilted her head.

“Are you okay?” Frisk asked.

“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Don’t worry about me,” he said.

 

Sans leaned back to relax and, just a few minutes later, Papyrus peeked back into the room, winter mitts switched for oven ones that were off-white and patterned with cartoon tomatoes, and stained with tomato sauce.

“Almost ready, human!” he said. “Oh! Sans, you’re home! I assume you would also be interested in some spaghetti?”

“Absolutely, bro.”

Papyrus’s face lit up and he ducked back into the kitchen.

 

He emerged a few minutes later, carrying three plates of pasta drenched in tomato sauce. He gave Frisk hers first, then Sans, and then turned back to her. “I truly hope you enjoy it, human!” he said brightly. “I’ve heard human food is a little different in that it is not made of magic and is not quite as fantastic, but I think you will find this thoroughly satisfying!”

Frisk put the first forkful in her mouth. The pasta was sticky and the sauce’s flavour was indescribable. She tried very hard not to make a face, and as Papyrus stared at her, eyes alight, she gulped and took a second bite. “It’s, uh… it’s great.”

“Wowie! This is fantastic! You are the first person to ever enjoy my spaghetti!” he exclaimed.

“O-Oh, really?” she asked. “I… I can’t believe it!”

He cackled and plopped down in the middle of the sofa to eat his own meal quite enthusiastically. Frisk stared at her plate with dread. Maybe skunky was a good word for it?

 

She leaned around and saw Sans was already almost finished his. She took one more bite and didn’t know if she could stomach any more.

“Hey, Paps,” Sans said. “Looks like the human’s drink is a little low.”

“Oh! Human, let me get you more tea!” Papyrus said. He leapt up and bounded off, grabbing her cup as he raced to the kitchen.

Sans grinned and held his mostly empty plate out to Frisk. “Trade ya.”

Frisk could have melted with relief. She passed him her plate as she took his.

 

Papyrus returned with more tea for Frisk and a second helping of pasta for himself.

“Th-Thanks,” she said.

“Ooh! Look at that, you really ate almost the whole thing?!” he asked. “Wow! Sans, you could learn a thing or two from the human.”

“Yup,” Sans said. “Told you. Must’ve been hungry.”

“Would you like any more?” Papyrus asked.

“N-No, thank you, I’m okay,” she said.

He grinned and cleared her plate away for her in an instant, and was back on the couch in less than five seconds.

 

Frisk took a sip of the new tea. She wasn’t sure if she was just getting used to it or if this one was actually better, or if it was just washing the taste of the spaghetti out of her mouth. She sunk back into the cushions and tried to relax; didn’t realize she had drifted off until she heard Papyrus squealing and realized she was clinging to his arm.

 

“Sans, LOOK! The human fell asleep on me!” he said. “She must really have been tired, poor thing.”

“You’re takin’ all this human stuff pretty well,” Sans commented. “With all those stories goin’ around, I thought maybe you’d be a bit more, I dunno, cautious or something.”

“It’s true that Undyne said that all humans were dangerous,” he said. “But this one’s just so small and nice, and—! I don’t know, but I really like her! It’s… It’s like… I’m not sure how to explain it. But I think she actually likes me, too!”

“Fair enough,” Sans said. “She looks like she’s kind of attached to you, bro.”

“Nyeh heh heh, I’ll let that one slide because it was kind of sweet.”

 

Frisk cautiously released him and pulled back, blinking hard. She tightened her grip on her mug of tea that had, miraculously, not slipped from her grasp.

“I’m sorry, how long was I out?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about a thing, human!” Papyrus assured her. “It wasn’t long at all! You must be so tired. Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you end up getting down here, anyway? Was it a long trip?”

“Oh. I fell,” Frisk said. “Into the, um, Ruins.” She sipped her tea again.

It was a little soapy.

 

Papyrus looked thoughtful.  He tapped his fork on the edge of his plate. “Human, you said on the phone that you were missing from your family. I assume that’s still the case?”

“Y… Yeah, pretty much,” she said.

“So you are needing to get to the surface, yes?” he asked.

She shrugged and nodded.

“Well, that’s great news! Because, you see, us monsters would also love to get to the surface! Maybe we can work together,” he suggested brightly.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Frisk said with a smile.

Papyrus grinned. “Fantastic! I knew you were a nice human the moment I saw you!” he said. “We’ll all go to the capital together, later! And, in the meanwhile, never fear! As long as you’re with us, Sans and I will be your family! Isn’t that right, Sans?”

“Sure, why not,” he said with a shrug.

Frisk stared at him in shock. Her throat dried. She nodded.

“I mean, since you’re used to two brothers, there’s not much better you can do down here than us! I’m sure you’ll be excited to know you have such a smart and cool and tall big brother! And Sans, also!” Papyrus continued.“Here! Let me clean up! I’ll tell you all about King Asgore afterwards! I’m sure we can all help each other here!”

“Okay,” she said softly.

 

Papyrus took her plate, then Sans’s, and then strode off to the kitchen. She heard the water turn on and she let out a long, deep, shaking breath and rubbed her forehead.

“Hey. Kid,” Sans said.

She looked at him curiously. He was frowning; looked apologetic.

“I didn’t know you had family on the surface,” he said.

She smiled tiredly. “I don’t.”

His frown deepened. “I, uh, don’t get it,” he said. “What about your brothers?”

“Well, um…One’s in the kitchen right now doing the dishes, so…”

Sans stared at her silently for a few seconds. Frisk winced and turned away.

“I’m sorry, forget I said anything,” she said quickly. She hid herself in her blanket. Cursed herself for being so stupid. What kind of position was that to put him in?

 

Sans’s eyes went to the floor. He rubbed the back of his skull. Quietly, he shifted a little closer to her. He went to reach out to her, but he faltered. He winced as his left eye flickered with magic, crackling like static. He covered it quickly with his hand, but Frisk turned either way, looking worried. Sans couldn’t hide his shock— that marking on her cheek had lit up, as had her left eye. Blue, just like his.

“Sans? You okay?” she asked.

He blinked hard and tried to steady his energy. It settled and, at the same time, hers did as well. She didn’t seem to notice anything had happened to her at all.

 

He stared at her for a few seconds and then smiled bashfully. “Fine. Just a headache.”

“Oh. Um… Do you want my tea? It tastes pretty… herbal?”

Sans chuckled. He held out his hand and Frisk was eager to give it. He tossed it back without much care, then closed his eyes.

 

Frisk sat in silence for a few seconds, then slipped off the sofa. She put her blanket over Sans, then wandered to the kitchen.

“Hey, Papyrus?” she asked.

“Yeesss, human?” he said, leaning over towards her.

“Do you need any help?”

“Oh, no, not at all, human, but thank you for asking!” he said. “Wowie, I didn’t expect a human to be so polite. But, don’t you worry at all, you are our guest! Go take a seat! Relax! I will be with you shortly!”

Frisk nodded and Papyrus got back to the dishes. She wondered if when he had to clean, he ever regretted raising the sink up. Probably not.

 

She wandered around the room, looking out the window absently. She heard Papyrus’s phone ring. He picked it up exactly as the second one had finished.

“Hello! You’ve reached the great Papyrus, who is…? Oh! Undyne, of course! Nyeh heh, you know, I was having so much fun I nearly forgot! But of course I didn’t actually forget, because I will be on my way in just a minute! Oh yes, I have a new friend over! Very exciting! Just doing the dishes! See you soon!”

 

The clattering of dishwear disturbed the air and Papyrus strode out of the kitchen, pulling his regular mitts back on.

“Sans and…! Oh. He’s asleep. Figures.” Papyrus rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I must be off to a very important Royal Guard meeting and possible training session!”

“Oh. Okay. Have a good time,” she said with a smile.

“Thank you!” He grinned brightly. “You won’t leave, will you, human? It’s still very cold out there, and potentially dangerous! I’d hate for you to get hurt!”

She shook her head.

“Good! I’m so happy to hear that! Now! I need to get a move on. Very important stuff! But first!” He went down on one knee before her. “I know you must have been through a lot, so I, the great Papyrus, offer you a hug! You may not know this, being new around here and all, but I am the best hugger in the whole underground, so if you would like one, please feel free!”

 

He opened his arms to her. Frisk stared at him blankly; her breath was suddenly shaky. She grabbed him and he snickered and held her close.

“Nyeh heh heh! Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon!” he assured her. “When I get home, we can maybe do some puzzles together, and you can tell us about the surface, and I can teach you how to make spaghetti! How does that sound?”

“R-Really great,” she said.

He let her go and smiled at her brightly. “Hopefully my meeting won’t take too long! Tell my brother to take care of you when he wakes up!” He straightened up and he marched out with a bounce and purpose in his step.

 

As soon as Papyrus shut the door, Sans opened his eyes. He stared absently at the wall for a few seconds before turning his gaze on Frisk. “Kiddo. C’mere,” he said.

Frisk turned and gave him a puzzled look, then went over to him. He got to his feet to meet her and, to her utter shock, he wrapped her in a tight hug.

“Sans?” she squeaked.

“You’re doin’ great, Frisk,” he said. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to be so stand-offish before, just had to be sure it was you. Plus we, uh, kinda had eyes from the lab on us out there. Still not a hundred percent on what’s going on, but I’ll help you out, okay?”

 

“S… Sans…” she muttered; her voice cracked. She felt like she could collapse. Her mind reeled. It was too much, and she choked and grabbed him tightly. Started to cry before she could stop herself. “Oh my god, oh my god, you… you… oh my god.” She couldn’t even speak anymore, her throat was so tight.

“Whoa, kid, uh…” He released her hesitantly, but she clung to him for dear life and sobbed into his shirt. “This was supposed to, uh, make you feel better?”

“I-It does!” she choked.

“Uh… You’re crying, now, though.”

 

She let out a small, trembling squeak and Sans sighed. He held her against his chest and cupped the back of her head. His grip wasn’t tight, but it felt solid. The sick feeling finally started to slip away. She sobbed and laughed and clutched onto him like she never wanted to let go.

“S-Sorry, sorry sorry sorry,” she said quietly.

“Don’t,” Sans said.

 

She took a deep breath, trying to steady herself, but her breathing was still ragged. She pulled back carefully and sniffed deeply, wiping her eyes with her sleeves.

“Jeez, you alright?” he asked worriedly.

“I just really missed you,” she said.

“Kid, I was here the whole time,” he said.

“Y-Yeah, but… but, your memories, are they…? I mean…”

“I know you. Don’t worry. We’re still best buds, huh?” he said.

 

He grunted when she hugged him again and his cheekbones flushed with icy blue. He smiled sympathetically and put his arms around her. She looked so small and tired. She was shaking pretty hard.

“Kiddo—”

“Oh man, I…  I th-thought I messed up really bad,” she whimpered. “I… I knew the others wouldn’t know me, b-but, if… i-if I lost you, too, I… I don’t know what I’d do.” She sniffled into his shirt.

He stared down at her with wide eyes as she hiccoughed and tried to catch her breath. He rubbed her head; she relaxed a little despite everything. “Heh. C’mon, kid, you’re gonna flood the place,” he said gently.

“Th-That’s fine…” She coughed and laughed. “We can hide in the dumb sink. Oh my god, you scared the crap out of me.”

“Figured. Didn’t mean to,” he said. “More than a little screw up, huh? Sorry. I’m an idiot. We okay?”

She let out a raspy sigh and reluctantly pulled back to dry her eyes again, but she smiled nonetheless. “Y-Yeah, of course!”

“It’s okay if you’re mad,” he said.

“Never, no, no way,” she said. “I’m so glad that you’re… That you… I’m just so glad to see you.” Her eyes began to sparkle. Lit the room right up.

He grinned and mussed up her hair. She snickered, sniffled, and then wiped her face on her sleeve again.

 

“Sorry,” she said. “I j-just…”

“Hey. Don’t,” he said. “Got nothin’ to be sorry for.”

“I j-just can’t stop crying!” she said, laughing tiredly as she rubbed at her eyes and sniffled. “Uuuugghhh, I’m a m-mess.”

“Jeez, kiddo,” Sans said. “Relax, huh? S’gonna be fine. Cry if you gotta, you’re obviously not havin’ a great time, huh?”

She huffed and nodded, wiping her eyes insistently on the back of her arm.

 

“Um. H… How much do you remember?” she asked hesitantly.

“Enough, I think,” he said. “Fourth time you showed up here. But last time we were pretty sure we were done, huh? So what happened?”

Frisk bit her lip nervously. She tented her fingers. “You told me to reset.”

He looked surprised. “I told you?” he said. “Welp. Must’ve been serious. Because, I mean, your type of time travel… Can’t say I really enjoy it.”

“Tell me about it,” Frisk agreed quietly, and though she tried to keep a straight face, tears welled up in her eyes again. “We’d been living on the surface for, like, a year. Everything w-was so nice, but… b-but th-then—”

“You don’t have to say a thing if it’s gonna wreck you,” he assured her. “But… Really, a year?”

“Y… Yeah,” she said.

“Huh. Sorry, kiddo, that’s rough,” he said. “What do you need?”

“I, um… I need to get a soul for someone who doesn’t have any soul at all,” she said. She quickly wiped her eyes again. “And break the barrier again.”

“Huh. That’s a tall order for such a little kid,” he said. “Guess you’re talkin’ about the prince, right?”

“Y-Yeah. He, um… He wrecked some stuff, and…Well, I don’t really know how to fix it,” she said. “And if I don’t get him a soul, he’ll just do it again. And… And it’s really bad.”

“You should ask Alphys,” he suggested.

“You don’t have any ideas?” she asked. “Don’t you have a… what do you always call it, a doctor-it?”

“Doctorate. That’s for quantum physics, kid, not for soul stuff,” he said. “Seriously. Alphys.”

“Okay,” she said.

 

She took a long, deep breath to steady herself. “I, um… I have something else,” she said. “I think you’d kinda like to hear it. It’s about, um, Chara? You know about her, right?”

“I know. What’s up?” he asked.

“She, um… She left,” Frisk said. “When I woke up, she wasn’t there. She didn’t stick to me. I didn’t hear her at all.”

“Oh? Oh.Yeah?” There was a glimmer of excitement in his eyes. “You sure?”

“Y-Yeah. Um. On my last time, because I… I never meant to reset again, she told me she was leaving for good,” she said. “So… S-So she’s gone. She’s not coming back.”

“Heh. Well. Okay,” he said, and he raised his brows. “Feels better?”

“Kinda,” she said. “She, um… When she was with me, um… It w-wasn’t too bad, but… I’m happy she felt done. You know? She won’t hurt anyone again.”

He nodded and, gently, he patted her head. “Finally some good news, huh?” he said. “Real glad for you, kiddo.”

She smiled sheepishly. Her eyes felt dry and itchy now, but she wiped them once more. Sans looked at her quietly for a second before he wandered out of the room towards the kitchen.

 

He returned with a glass of water, somehow. She accepted it gratefully and drank the whole thing in a few quick gulps while he plopped back down onto the couch.

“So,” he said, “you, uh, stickin’ around?”

“Can I?” she asked shrilly.

“Dude, obviously,” he said. “Stay as long as you want. Our place is your place. Take a nap or whatever. That’s my plan. But, uh… can you c’mere a second?”

She nodded and hopped up onto the couch beside him and he straightened up a little.

“This might be a bit weird,” he said.

 

He turned to face her put his hand on her left cheek carefully. Just as before, it brightened with magic, lines like fingers streaking across her skin. She tried to look from the corner of her eye.

“Oh my god, seriously, am I glowing?” she said.

“Yeah.” His left eye lit up almost as if in sympathy. “Oh. Me too. Okay.”

“Why am I glowing? Are you doing that?” she asked. “Why are you glowing?”

“I’m still not sure, but… Oh. Ow.” He winced and pulled back. “Gettin’ a little light headed.”

“Pffft,” Frisk said. “Oh. Wait. Sorry, are you serious? Are you okay?”

Sans laughed. “Chill out.”

She sighed with relief and then tenderly rubbed her face. “That’s really weird,” she said.

Sans shrugged, put his hands in his pockets, and leaned back into the couch. “Yup. It’s all really weird,” he said. “Honestly? This isn’t what I expected when I saw you turn up again.”

“What did you expect?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Welp. Nothin’ good. Resets are usually bad. Thought it might not be you. Definitely not you with weird blue glowing face stuff.”

“Who else would it be?” she asked. “You mean, another time anomaly person or something?”

He shrugged again and Frisk let out a frustrated sigh.

“Why you gotta be so mysterious?” she asked.

“Heh. It’s not on purpose,” he said. “For what it’s worth, it’s real good to see you again.”

 

He stretched. Drained, she flopped back into the cushions.

“You in a rush to get going?” he asked.

“Not really,” Frisk said. “I don’t really have any plans other than talking with Alphys, and she doesn’t even know me yet. Look.” She pulled out her plan list and handed it to him.

He looked it over and shot her an amused grin. “Think you mightta put a little too much stock in step two, there, buddy.”

“It wasn’t done!” she protested. “I just… didn’t have any more ideas. A-And at least I got a hug out of it…”

“Frisk, you are a weird kid,” he said, but he shot her a smile and gave her her list back. “Don’t worry too much, we’ll figure out somethin’.”

She nodded, rubbed her eyes, and began to snicker quietly.

“Sup?” he asked.

“I’m just happy,” she said. “And also super tired. Did I ever tell you I had to fight mom before coming out of the Ruins?”

“Tori actually fought you?” he asked.

“Not seriously,” she said, “but dang, that fire, though.”

“Oh. That’s what that smokin’ smell was,” he said. “I thought it was just Papyrus’s cookin’.”

Frisk laughed and Sans’s face brightened.

 

“So, I’m guessin’ you’re not up for much, huh?” he said. “You, uh…? I dunno. Wanna watch something?”

She shrugged. “What d’you got?”

“Uh… Got that garbage old drama where Mettaton plays like ninety percent of the characters on tape. I was thinkin’ of going through it again.”

“Oh! I hate that one!” Frisk started to smile. “We have to start it from the pilot.”

“The pilot’s even worse. They didn’t even have the theme song or the wigs yet,” Sans said.

“I know! It’s awful.” She grinned widely. “I’m so excited!”

He laughed. “Alright, alright. I’ll get it.”

“Can I raid the kitchen?” she asked.

“Do whatever,” he said. “But actually, I have a better idea.”

“What?” she asked.

He winked. “Grillby’s. C’mon, I know a shortcut.”

 

- - -

 

It was starting to get a little late. Cozying on the couch under blankets, with take-out burgers and fries from Grillby’s, Frisk clung tight to a pillow and Sans nursed a bottle of ketchup as they watched the midseason finale of one of Mettaton’s old shows, Under Ground Hearts.

 

Parading across a set haphazardly thrown up in front of Asgore’s home to make it look like a dark, spooky mansion, Mettaton in a blonde wig rolled out to confront another Mettaton with a moustache and a leather jacket.

SUSANA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?” demanded the moustachioed robot.

Don’t give me that, Greg!” She slapped him. “You know damn well that I know all about you and that hussy, Diane!

The cuts were awkward, trying to hide that whichever Mettaton was not speaking at the time was just a stand-in box. They stared dramatically at each other. The music became sad and a plaintive piano and violin tried to set the mood, and it began to rain very abruptly.

 

“I never got this part,” Frisk said. “Okay, so like, Susana knows that there’s an assassin out for her but she goes out to Mansion de la Muerte anyway. That’s where literally every other character gets killed!”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Sans said. “It’s fine. She had to because reasons. And, uh, because it’s in the script.”

“Ugh.” Frisk rubbed her head but Sans elbowed her quickly.

“Wait, wait, this bit,” he insisted.

 

Suddenly, there was a gunshot. Greg fell over. Susana whirled dramatically, hair flipping in the rain so hard that the wig actually flew off— there was a quick jump cut and it was back. Frisk and Sans burst out laughing. It only got worse as there was a smash zoom onto the shooter, who also was Greg, but wearing a cowboy hat.

GREG?!” Susana yelled dramatically. “But HOW?!

That’s not me, sugar-circuits,” the second Greg said. “That there’s Diane.

The music ramped up and there were abrupt close-ups on each character. The first Greg ripped off the moustache and was suddenly wearing a long black wig. Sans almost choked on his drink and Frisk buried her face into her cushion.

 

Diane?! How could you pretend to be Greg, my one true love?!” Susana cried.

No! Susana, you are MY one true love!” Diane, now with a totally different voice, shouted. “Can’t you see!? All those times I told you I hate you, and that I wish you would fall down stairs, and that I was going to kill you, couldn’t you tell that, deep down, all I wanted was you?!

Oh, Diane!” Susana hugged Diane dramatically in the rain.

The lights flickered and someone banged on a trashcan. It was supposed to sound like thunder. It didn’t. Then, just barely visible in the bad lighting, Asgore’s front door opened.

 

“Oh my god, look!” Frisk said. She pointed just as Asgore accidentally stepped into the scene in the distance, froze, wide eyed, and then slowly walked backwards and closed the door as if hoping no one had seen him.

Sans lost it. “Oh my god, I can’t… I can’t…” He was laughing so hard he started coughing. “His face, dude!”

“He didn’t even…! I never noticed that one before!” Frisk said.

 

They finally managed to settle as Susana started off on a monologue about true love. Sans sighed, slumped, and Frisk kneaded at her watery eyes. Then, Diane shot Susana. They were both in stitches again as the terrible tragic music swelled and Greg screamed “No!” dramatically to the sky — some of the rain cut off at the edge of the frame.

 

“Haaa, oh my god Diane is my favourite, she’s such a shit,” Sans said, then froze and looked embarrassed. “I mean—”

“Pfft.” Frisk waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, my god, wait, is the stand-in still in the corner?! No one moved it?! Oh my god! THIS IS THE WORST!”

 

Smash cut to the credits and a title card that said, “Stay Tuned for PART 2!!!” Frisk laughed and clapped. Sans grinned.

“Welp. That was garbage,” he said.

“Yeah, it was great,” Frisk agreed.

 

Her ribs hurt from laughing so much. It felt good. She yawned and flopped onto him, and he ruffled her hair. He took a deep, satisfied breath. They sat together as the credits rolled, and he absently rubbed her head. She clung a little closer. Everything suddenly started to feel a little more normal. She closed her eyes, just for a moment.

“Kid, I gotta get the next tape,” he said. “Getting tired?”

“Mmhm.”

“Long day,” he said. “What d’you think, can we make it to the one with the mysterious twin before you pass out?”

“Mmmaaybe,” she said. “I’ll definitely try!”

“Okay. Me too. Alright.” He slipped off the sofa and tapped his toes back into his slippers. “Hey, you wanna call Paps and see what’s takin’ him?”

“Mhm!” she said.

 

As Sans started to scrounge through a box of tapes and disks in the cabinet under the TV, she fished her phone from her pocket and dialled Papyrus’s number. Two rings and he picked up, as always.

 

“Hello! This is the great Papyrus, who is—?”

“Hi, Papyrus!” Frisk said brightly. “You coming home soon? Me and Sans were wondering.”

“Oh! Hello, my friend!” he said. “Yes! In fact, I’m just coming up the road!”

“Great!” she said. “See you soon, bro!” She hung up before she realized what she called him. Her face flushed. She noticed Sans giving her an amused grin. “H-He said he’s coming now,” she stammered. “Don’t gimme that face!”

“What? I think it’s nice,” he said. “Honestly, you probably just made his day.”

Frisk blushed a little. She pocketed her phone and Sans pulled the tape out of the box, finally. Before he could put it into the VCR, they both jumped as the door slammed open.

 

“Hey, bro, how was…?” Sans lost his train of thought to the sting of dread as Papyrus walked in, grinning, with a large, armoured silhouette behind him.

“Hello, Sans and human!” Papyrus said brightly. “Sooo, I was at my meeting with Captain Undyne, and I happened to mention I had a new friend over! Human! She is very keen to meet you!”

Frisk gulped and cast a worried glance at Sans. He got to his feet and Undyne walked in, past the completely oblivious Papyrus. Frisk recoiled.

 

“Oh, uh… P-Papyrus, um…” she said. “I, uh… Um… Hello.”

Undyne took one look at Frisk and she tensed up. “Seven,” she said quietly. She held out her hand and a spear came to her.

Frisk’s stomach knotted.

“Seven human souls and King Asgore will become a god.”

“Uh… Undyne, what are you…? I think the human may be too little for that kind of training,” Papyrus said nervously.

“Six. That’s how many we have collected thus far. Understand?” Undyne’s shining eye locked on Frisk’s and she came closer.

Frisk gulped. She understood perfectly.

“Undyne,” Sans said, “I’m thinkin’, uh, chill out a bit.”

“Through your seventh and final soul, this world will be transformed.” Undyne raised her spear. “Goodbye, human!”

Papyrus yelped Undyne’s name. Frisk braced herself, but Undyne’s strike never hit as a row of bones erupted from the floor, forcing her to jump back.

 

“What the hell?!” Undyne yelled. She looked at Papyrus, but he was gawking.

Sans shoved his hands in his pockets and wandered over to stand between Frisk and Undyne. “Yeah, that’s not happenin’,” he said.

“Sans?! What the hell, put those bones down!” Undyne yelled.

“Nope.”

“S-Sans, you don’t have to—” Frisk muttered, but he gave her a stern look. She gulped and edged backwards a little, but there wasn’t really anywhere to go.

 

“Yo, dude, if you wanted to catch the human, you couldda just said so,” Undyne said. “Didn’t expect that from you, but hey, people change their minds, I guess?”

“Fair, but that’s not it,” Sans said. “I don’t wanna fight you. You know me, I’d really prefer to not have to move. So you, uh, wanna back off?”

“This is a joke, right?!” Undyne said.

“Um, Undyne! Sans! C-Come on, what are you doing?” Papyrus said worriedly. “I don’t understand. We’re all friends here, aren’t we? Frrriiiendly acquaintances who do not stab each other?!?”

“Yeah, Sans!” Undyne growled. “So just hand over the human, and—”

“Nope,” he said.

“NGAAAAAH DAMN IT, SANS!” she yelled.

 

Undyne’s magic formed spears around her and she shot them out like lightning from her body, around him and towards Frisk; Sans matched every one with a jutting, magic bone. Undyne roared and her attacks got faster and faster. Sans frowned.

“No, no. No no no no no, nope,” he muttered.

“UNDYNE, WAIT! This is not what I meant when I said make friends with the human!” Papyrus yelled. “OH MY GOD, WATCH OUT FOR SANS!”

 

Sans braced his slippered feet on the floor and his eye lit up vibrant blue. He raised one hand and a wall of bones towered up out of the floor as a shield.  Undyne roared and her spears pounded into them relentlessly. Frisk covered her ears. Sans grimaced but held firm.

“SANS, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Undyne yelled. “STOP GETTING IN THE WAY OF MY STUFF! I DON’T WANT TO HURT YOU!!!”

“Can we, uh, talk about this?” he asked.

“NGAAAHHHH!”

“No?”

 

Undyne’s spears were like lightning, but so were Sans’s reflexes, like he could see it all before it happened. He blocked everything. Papyrus gawked and held his face.

“SANS!?” he demanded over the din. “Sans, you’re actually being kind of awesome, why didn’t you tell me you could do that?!”

“Bro. Not now. Talk to her,” Sans grunted.

“NO TALKING, ONLY STABBING!” Undyne roared.

“UNDYNE, OUR HOUSE!!” Papyrus wailed.

“I’LL GET YOU A NEW HOUSE!”

 

Her fervour increased and her magic ricocheted across the walls, breaking everything in its path, including the TV and stabbing straight through the sofa. Papyrus’s eyes went wide and he covered his mouth for a second. He cautiously pointed across the room.

“Um… Wh-What’s the human doing over there with that spear?”

 

Sans was struck by a sudden sinking feeling and he whirled to follow Papyrus’s finger, the shield of bones collapsing into nothing, and when Undyne let out a victorious whoop, he felt ill. Frisk had taken a spear to the chest.

“No no no no no no.” He was at her side in a second, taking her hand. “Kid, I… Shit. This wasn’t supposed to—”

“No no no, hey, it’s okay.” Her voice was soft. She clung to his finger bones with one hand and gave him a weak thumbs up with the other. “It’s okay. No p-problem. It’s all fine, remember? Be right back.”

 

Chapter Text

Frisk blinked heavily. Her chest hurt a lot, and when she opened her eyes, all she saw was white. She was out in the snow again. The flakes were drifting softly down from above. One landed on her nose and she brushed it away on her sleeve. She took a deep breath and a quick look around. She could see where trees and a branching path ahead. It took her a second to realize she was all the way back at the river. She started to laugh a little and tiredly ran a hand through her hair.

“Thanks a lot, Undyne, sheesh,” she muttered.

 

She took a few moments to rub her hands together to warm them, then went to shove her them in her pocket, but she paused when her numbing fingers hit her cellphone. It felt like a block of ice. She pulled it out and looked at it, then smiled and punched in a number by muscle memory.

 

The phone rang twice and then she heard a click.

“Hello, you’ve reached the great Papyrus, who is calling?” Papyrus asked.

“Hi Papyrus, can I talk to Sans, please?” she asked.

“What? Oh! What a coincidence. You want to speak to Sans, and yet you have called my phone number! I am currently standing right beside him!”

“Well, I just wanted to hear your voice first,” Frisk said, trying not to laugh. “And I’m pretty sure Sans lost his phone.”

“Ah yes, that does sound like my brother. Very well!” he said.

 

She heard a shuffling and a little bit of high-pitched nyehing.

“Sup?”

“So, um… Hi. It’s Frisk,” she said. “Um, do you remember—?”

“Yeah. You okay? Where are you?” Sans asked.

“I’m fine. Pretty cold, I guess. I’m near the river crossroads. The one with the, um…” She looked around. There was also what was known as a dimension box and a signpost a little farther along. “The one with the weird box that moves your stuff for you?”

“Hang on. Go back to the empty guard station.”

 

He hung up before Frisk could answer. She looked at her phone, then shoved it in her pocket. She hid her hands in her sleeves to protect her fingers from the chill and trekked back towards the vacant guard house. She looked around, but she didn’t see anyone nearby at all. She took a deep breath and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering.

 

“Hey.”

Frisk yelped and nearly fell over as Sans appeared over guard house’s counter, grinning. “Did I scare you?” he said.

“Surprised! Just… surprised,” she said. “Thanks for coming.”

He walked out and offered a red and white bundle to her. Cautiously, she took it and unrolled it. She was taken aback to see that it was a long, striped sweatshirt.

“It was Papyrus’s,” he said. “It’s a bit big, but it was the first thing I found.” He shrugged.

Her face lit up and she smiled wide. “Thank you so much!”

 

She hurried to pull it on. Two sweatshirts were much better than one, and it went almost down to her knees. The sleeves were definitely too long.

“Good?” he asked. “We can get home right now if you want.”

“Oh! W-Wait, just a second,” she said. “I, um… I was hoping I could go play with the dogs.”

“After all that?” Sans asked, raising a brow.

Frisk nodded. “I think it’s important. And… And the puzzles with Papyrus, too. Especially those.”

“That’s good, actually, Paps loves those things,” he said.

She nodded enthusiastically. “I got them memorized!” She stuck her thumbs up. “It won’t take long.”

“Got it, kid.”

 

Frisk smiled bashfully. “Thanks for being so patient. I gotta get this right.”

“Yeah. That’s true. I, uh… Nah, sorry for tryin’ to rush you. It’s just…” He frowned and rubbed the back of his skull. “Seein’ Undyne get you like that… I dunno.”

“Oh my gosh, I’m sorry!” Frisk said— it had already almost slipped her mind. “I’m fine, really! Undyne usually gets me at least a few times each time! I mean, the first time even she got me so many times I can’t even remember! She’s really tough, so I kinda expect it now, and I mean, all that was a big surprise so at least it was different than normal. Spear’s not so terrible a way to go.”

“Yeah? Huh,” he said. “Still. My bad.”

“No way,” she said. “Thanks for sticking up for me. You didn’t have to.”

“I know. Weird, right?”

She beamed. “Oh man, it’s so much better having you in my corner again.”

“Always am, kid.” He winked. “Anyway, no problem. See you up ahead.”

She blinked and he was gone. 

 

- - -

 

Papyrus’s puzzles were the same as ever. She followed his steps through the electric maze, took her time on the Junior Jumble, flipped his switches from X to O, poked at the frozen spaghetti on a table, and confidently strode across Alphys’s trap as it malfunctioned and remained completely harmless. She was happy to play along, but she tried to talk quietly so he wouldn’t recognize her voice from the phone calls this time. She felt pretty good about it, though, especially because her brother was grinning his face off, despite trying to play it cool. She loved that about him.

 

Frisk also noticed Sans was watching her a little more intently than usual, even hanging around more closely when dog guards approached her in the snow, or when some of the ragamuffin teenagers from town jumped her. It ended up being fun, anyway, no need to worry. Snowy Snowdrake’s pun game was strong, but Frisk’s was stronger. She had learned from the best, after all.

 

As Frisk came upon the final hurdle before reaching town, a large, long bridge made of stone, but painted to look like wood, she took a little break to catch her breath. Papyrus was at the other end, ducking off to the side, whispering conspiratorially with Sans, just loud enough that she could hear the rhythm of his voice.

 

She took a deep breath and stepped out. There was little in the way of support, so she tried not to look down and walked straight ahead. Papyrus caught her from the corner of his eye and quickly took a position with his hands on his hips at the other end of the bridge. His scarf billowed like a cape and he frowned defiantly.

“Human! This is your final and most dangerous challenge!” he announced. “BEHOLD! The Gauntlet of Deadly Terror!” His magic sparked and a plethora of weapons appeared around the bridge, pointing squarely at Frisk.

She didn’t flinch in the least. She was a little curious about where he’d gotten all these sharp things, though. She’d never asked. Maybe he’d borrowed them from someone.

 

“When I say the word, it will fully activate!” Papyrus said. “All the parts will swing violently! There will be fire, and blades, and slicing and…! And you will be…! And I will! Definitely! Emerge! Victorious!”

Frisk stuck her thumbs up.

“Okay! Then! I will! Activate it! Right! Now!” He didn’t move at all. He stared at Frisk and flinched slightly. “Iiiiis what I would say if I was really going to use the dreaded Gauntlet of Deadly Terror. But! I feel like maybe it's a bit… unfair?”

“You think?” Sans said with a smile.

“Yes! Ahem! YES, actually, I think this win would be much too easy now! There’s no way I can use this!” He whisked the pointy objects away with a wave of his hand. “I have standards! I am a skeleton with integrity and class, after all! No way would I r-resort to using such overpowered tactics to defeat the small… tiny… human!”

“Then why’d you pull it out, bro?” Sans asked.

“Shush! ANYWAY! Now you have seen what I can do… HUMAN!” He pointed at her accusingly. “Seeing as I have definitely won this round, I challenge you to a duel! To fully claim my victory! I’ll…! I’ll capture you for sure! The next time I see you! Um. So, it’ll be just at the end of main street, okay? Hope to see you there soon! GOOD BYE! NYEH!”

 

He marched away hurriedly. Frisk held in a laugh and crossed bridge, taking a deep breath on solid ground. Sans laughed and gently thumped her on the shoulder.

“Alright?” he asked.

She nodded. “He’s so funny,” she said with a smile.

“Sure is,” Sans said. “I like that you can really feel all his internal conflict.”

Frisk scoffed and rubbed her face. “God, I miss him,” she said quietly.

“You got this,” he assured her. “Hey, come by the house first, alright?”

“Yeah.” She gave him a hug. “Thanks, Sans.”

He smiled and gently patted her head, and the moment she released him, he vanished.

 

After all that, freezing, damp, bruised, and shaking, but with a smile on her face, Frisk stumbled through Snowdin. She found the sparkling rip in time close to the inn and stuck to it right away, before she forgot.

 

She greeted everyone on her way, but picked out Kid near the tree. She was relieved to see he was okay, but then again, why wouldn’t he be? He met her with a smile before she’d even said a word.

“Yo! You’re a kid, too, right?” he said. “I can tell because you’re wearing a striped shirt.”

“Y-Yup,” Frisk said; she was shivering harder than she had realized.

“You new in town?” he said. “Never seen you before.”

“Y-Yeah, j-just moved in,” she said.

“From the city?”

“Y-Yup,” Frisk said.

“Cool! Hey, want to hang out some time?” he asked.

He was so enthusiastic that Frisk had to stop herself from laughing. It made her heart light up. “S-Sure! I’m in the h-house with the sk-skeletons, just at the e-edge of town. S-Sorry, I’m g-gonna go, I’m freezing.”

“Heh, yeah, you sound like it,” he said with a sympathetic smile. “Maybe I’ll see you around!”

“D-Definitely,” Frisk said.

 

She hurried on her way. Coming up to the house was a bit surreal after what had happened before. She climbed the small steps and then cautiously knocked at the door. Usually, no one came, but this time Sans met her.

“So, catch me up,” he said.

“I think it’s going good,” she said. “The dogs all th-think I’m a puppy and everyone keeps giving m-money for some reason. And I saw my friend, Kid. And I think Papyrus had a r-really good time!”

“Yeah, looked like it,” he said. “Come in.”

Frisk was taken aback. “A-Are you sure? Papyrus should be j-just up ahead, right?”

“Heh. Yeah. He’ll probably just wait out there until you go get him. But you’re still cold, right?” he said. “You’ve been outside for hours. You can spare a few minutes.”

 

She nodded and followed him into the house and towards the kitchen. Her jaw dropped when she saw that he had hot cocoa and a sandwich waiting. “Sans, you didn’t have to—!”

“Kinda did,” he said. He went to the counter to grab a mug and plunked a few marshmallows into it. “Don’t care how cool you are, no way I’m letting my kid run around freezing her ass off without any…” He lost track of his sentence when he turned to give her her drink and lunch and saw her eyes glistening. “Uh… kid?”

“Th-Thanks!” She took the hot chocolate carefully and sipped it. “It’s… It’s really good!”

“Buddy, you okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine.” She smiled and wiped her eyes. “Thanks for doing this. I’m excited to go up against Papyrus, actually”

“Oh yeah?” Sans put his hands in his pockets as she took the sandwich too. “He’s pretty tough though.”

“Mostly, I... I miss him a lot,” she said around a mouthful, “and maybe he’ll remember me. At least a little. Mom did, just a bit. A-And even Napstablook seemed to a little.”

“I hope so, kid.” Sans patted her shoulder sympathetically. “You know he’ll be your best friend anyway.”

Frisk gulped. She preemptively wiped her eyes. “Yeah, but…” Her cheeks flushed bashfully. “I just really want my big brother Papyrus back. I really miss him, you know? I kind of hate being away from him. We… We made a promise last time. Th-That we’d always be together, no matter what happens. I want to keep it.”

 

Sans looked taken aback for a fraction of a second before he started to smile and ruffled her hair. “You know my deal, right?” he asked.

“With the memories? Yeah, mostly, I think,” Frisk said.

“He’s not quite like me,” he said, “but Paps is a little more sensitive than some of the others. Plus, you know every time he’s ever met you, he decides he loves you within like fifteen minutes. I think you’ll be okay.”

Frisk snickered and rubbed her head. “You’re right. Well, anyway, even if he doesn’t remember… I… I just really wanna hang out with him again, you know? But I’m already tired just thinking about it. His blue magic is really a downer.”

Sans grinned. “Heh. Yeah. Long day. Double long day, I guess. Welp. I’m rootin’ for you. Get warm. Go whenever.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “Gotta do some junk. You okay on your own?”

She nodded. He was gone.

 

Frisk sat on the sofa and finished her sandwich. It was basically just chopped hotdogs, ketchup, and chips in bread. It wasn’t bad, actually. She cleaned up after herself as best she could without being able to get anywhere near the sink. She also took off Papyrus’s old sweatshirt and folded it. She hoped he wouldn’t mind, but she went into his room and returned it to his closet. She felt like being a little lighter would probably be better for trying to dodge whatever he would decide to throw at her today.

 

She went back downstairs and pulled out her phone. She dialled Toriel’s number and sat on the sofa. She honestly didn’t expect her to answer, so when she heard her voice on the other end of the line, she almost jumped and her heart thudded with shock.

“My child, is that you?” she asked.

“Mom! Hi!” she said brightly.

“Oh, thank goodness. Are you well, little one? Where are you? You haven’t had to fight, have you? I hope you’re staying warm, and—!”

Frisk laughed. “I’m okay.I met a nice monster right outside the Ruins and we’re best friends already.”

“R… Really?” She didn’t sound like she believed her.

“Yeah! A skeleton,” Frisk said. “Think you might already know him! He tells really great jokes.”

“Oh…!” She suddenly sounded relieved instead. “Oh, honey… That is good to hear.”

“Yeah! So, I guess I was just calling so you wouldn’t worry,” she said. “I’m safe.”

“Thank you, little one,” she said. “You sound much better, actually. Good luck out there. Please be good. I sincerely hope no more hardship comes your way on your journey.”

“Thanks, mom,” she said. “I gotta go for now. Talk to you later! Love you!”

“Oh…! I… Hah. I love you, too, little one. Have a good day.”

Frisk hung up, pocketed the phone, and got to her feet. Time to go fight Papyrus.

 

She braced herself against the chill outside and walked down the path out of town. Fog and snow began to roll in almost as soon as she was beyond the garage. She shielded her eyes with her arm and squinted ahead. Was that a speck of red? She sure hoped so.

 

As she got closer, she saw him through the blur of snow, standing quite heroically, his red scarf billowing. She tried not to smile too wide as she wondered how long he had been standing there like that. She waved. She saw him falter for just a second as if he dearly wanted to wave back before he stood up tall and straight, looking the part of the dashing hero.

 

“Human! You’ve finally arrived,” he said. “I, the great Papyrus, have waited here for you! Allow me to tell you about some complex feelings. Feelings like… the joy of finding another pasta lover. The admiration for another’s puzzle solving skills. The desire to have a cool, smart person think you are cool. These feelings… They must be what you are feeling right now!”

Frisk tried not to laugh. She stuck her thumbs up.

“Oh, you are?! I…! Of course, I can hardly imagine what it must be like to feel that way. After all, I am very great. I don’t ever wonder what having lots of friends is like. I pity you, lonely human… Worry not! You shall be lonely no longer! I, the great Papyrus, will be your…!” He stopped himself— looked conflicted. It was all rather dramatic. “No. No, this is all wrong! I can’t be your friend! You are a human! I must capture you!”

“Oh. Well, I still want to be your friend, is that okay?” Frisk asked.

 

Papyrus froze. He frowned. “Th… That voice?!” he said, and his eyes went wide. “Wrong Number?! Could it be?! No! I… I really, really must capture you! You’ll go to the capital! Undyne will be proud of me! I’ll join the Royal Guard! I’ll finally be popular! Everyone will want to be my friend! I will bathe in a shower of kisses every morning and I will smell like the sun and moon! The great Papyrus will finally be number one!”

“You’re already number one in my book,” Frisk said.

“Well then it must be a very cool book,” Papyrus said. “I must admit, I’m having several conflicting emotions right this second. If you are Wrong Number, you…! You trusted me at a very vulnerable moment all those days ago! And I…! I do want to be your friend! I feel like it could even be our destiny to be the best of friends! But, no! I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least try! It’s my duty!” He stood solid in the snow and his magic whisked bones from nowhere. “Are you ready, human?!”

 

Frisk took a deep breath and readied herself to move quick and light. She rolled up her sleeves and her soul shone bright through her. His must’ve shone back and connected in sync, because his hum shocked her mind with its upbeat pulse, but she couldn’t see it through his battle body.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she said.

He grinned. “Good!”

 

He didn’t move. Frisk didn’t either. Her heart started to pound.

“Well?” Papyrus asked.

“What?” she asked.

“You start,” he said.

“Me?” Frisk said with surprise.

“Yes! It’s only fair,” he said. “As I said! I’m a skeleton with very high standards, mostly involving fairness! You are my new fr… foe! My new FOE. So, you get to start!”

“B-But I don’t want to fight!” she said.

“What?! I thought all humans loved fighting!” he said.

“N-No, I don’t love it!” she said quickly. “Maybe we could not fight?”

“Nonsense, human, I still need to capture you! Think of it like a game,” he suggested brightly. “Come on!”

 

He sent a rush of bones at her, but all she had to do was hop and not a single one even came close. “Good!” he said. “Your turn!”

Frisk shrugged.

“What? Nothing?” he said.

“Papyrus, I don’t wanna fight you,” she insisted. “Couldn’t we be friends and… and maybe hang out or something instead?”

“Wh… What?! You… don’t want to be a foe? Or a fiend? You… You really want to hang out with me?” he asked.

She nodded vigorously.

“I-I mean, of course you do! I am very great and cool and smart and definitely good at hanging out with… friends?! B-But after! After I capture you.”

Frisk threw her hands up. “Okay, I surrender, can you capture me now?”

“WHAT?! No, human, you don’t get it, that’s not fair at all, I need to give you a proper chance,” he said. “But, if you won’t fight, then prepare yourself! Do you think you can handle my fabled blue attack?!”

“Oh dang.”

 

Papyrus’s eyes lit up amber, then flickered with blue as his magic raised bones that shone with the same light into the air. They shot at Frisk in a violent barrage, but she stood fast, shielding her face with her arms, wincing against the wind in their wake as they passed straight through her. She shuddered, took a deep breath, but then staggered forward as she felt a magically charged weight pull her down.

“Jeez!” she yelped. She didn’t have time to straighten up before a bone rushing at her at knee level toppled her over.

“You’re blue now,” Papyrus said proudly. “That’s my attack.”

Frisk grimaced but, looking at the shine of her soul, it was definitely a deep blue now. Felt like a rock. “Oh fantastic,” she muttered.

“You alright, human?” he asked.

Frisk couldn’t help a smile as she straightened up, even as everything inside her felt like thunking to the ground. She brushed the snow from her hair. Her heart went a little faster.  “Paps, this is a fight,” she said. “If I gotta do it, let’s go!”

“That’s the spirit!”

 

Papyrus’s attacks were relentless, precise, and quick, racing at her from the ground and cutting through the air above her head. She leapt and tumbled, diving between bones made of magic that he seemed to be able to summon indefinitely. Her heart was pounding. She whirled as another came up behind her and she bent backwards— ended up in a stumbling cartwheel to get around it. Her eyes went wide.

 

“Dude, did you see that?!” she exclaimed.

“Wowie, human, you’re good!” he said. “I’m impressed.”

“You’re definitely no lazybones yourself,” she said.

He grinned. He raised the magic up with his hand and bones came at her in a wave, arcing upwards and then down again as they raced at her. She sprinted for it and jumped, but the highest one caught her foot and she tumbled. That blue magic tugged her roughly to the ground, colliding with the rest of the attack on the way down. Hurriedly, she managed to roll back to her feet in time enough to hop backwards and try again on a second wave. She whooped excitedly when she cleared it. Papyrus cackled.

“Don’t get comfortable, human,” he teased.

“Comfortable? Did you see that? I just wrecked my knees,” she joked.

“Oh! Are you okay?!” Papyrus said. “I… I mean! AHEM! Get ready! I might just be getting close to my special attack!

“Dang,” she said.

 

Papyrus raised both hands this time and rows of bones appears in front and behind her. She braced herself, then leapt over them like it was jump-rope. The attacks only got faster, and bones charged with blue energy entered the mix. Frisk had to dodge, then freeze to avoid taking a hard fall as they rushed straight towards her face. More came from above and she had to try to balance that weight that would make her slam hard to the ground with sliding under them. She stumbled, took a whack to the side and rolled over into the snow. Papyrus was nice enough to pause just long enough for her to regain her footing.

 

He raised what looked like a wall rushing towards and Frisk gulped. She took a few paces back before running for it and jumping. She couldn’t quite make it, but she grabbed for the top reflexively— though it hurt her hands, she managed to scrabble up and over to balance on the odd shapes— she realized rather quickly that they were words made of bones. Papyrus gawked. She wobbled at first, then sprinted across the first moving COOL and leapt to the oncoming DUDE. She quickly confronted more magic flying at her face. She had no time— she braced to take it and it rammed against her chest, and though it hurt, she grabbed it as she tried not to lose her balance. Something happened, then, that she hadn’t expected: it dislodged from its attack position.

 

She stood, staring with shock as she held the bone in her hands like a weapon, but she didn’t have time to dwell on it as another one flew at her. With a yelp, she swung the one she held forward into it. The two shattered and exploded into amber tinted, sparkling dust that drifted lightly into the snow. The wall below her disassembled itself and she fell onto her rump, too.

 

“H-How…?! How did you DO that?!” Papyrus asked. “Hey, is your eye okay?!”

Frisk could do little more than shrug. She forced herself up again and stuck her thumbs up, but Papyrus hesitated. He shook his head quickly, put on a confident grin, and raised his magic up around her once more.

 

Frisk spun, wove, and tumbled through speeding pillars of white and blue, but felt her heart thunk heavily when she saw a field of bones racing towards her, backed by the towering sentinel of a femur. There was was no way— No! She couldn’t think like that. She had to! She’d done it before, she could do it again.

 

She ran straight at it, as fast as her tired legs would carry her. She jumped and closed her eyes. Determined to fight that magic, determined to make it over no matter how crazy it seemed. Her heart was pounding in her ears. Something scraped her. She couldn’t bear to look.

 

Her stomach plummeted and she did too. She tumbled to the ground, landing hard on her back, and she let out a groan. She opened her eyes and could see the calcified titan vanishing just past her line of sight. Just as she pushed herself to her feet, her gaze caught on the final attack, a bone coming straight at her at a rather leisurely pace. She took a deep breath. Her legs were so tired that she could barely make the jump. Her toe caught on the top and she stumbled, but didn’t fall. She doubled over, holding her knees, panting to catch her breath.

 

“H-Hey, Papyrus…?” she asked, her voice wobbling. “Can we…? Can we take a break from fighting?”

“What’s that, human? The great Papyrus is a bit too much for you?” he asked loudly, striding up to her and putting his hands on his hips even though he was huffing a little, too. “I can see you sh-shaking in your boots!”

Frisk leaned forward and held onto his leg to keep her balance, nodding.

“H-Hey,” he said, his voice softening. “Human? Are you alright? We can take a break. I understand my attacks can be a little too much sometimes!” He snapped his fingers and the blue magic fell from her as if it were simply a shadow chased away by the sun. He bent one knee to join her close to the ground and patted her on the head. “Ooh, what’s this? I didn’t know humans could glow like that!”

 

Frisk frowned with confusion but, before she could ask, his cheekbones flushed faintly orange-amber and his eyes began to water. A puzzled frown crossed his face and wiped the tears away with his mitts.

“Why am I—? Nyeh!” He put a hand to his head quickly, flinching. “Why do I…?”

Frisk quickly grabbed him by the shoulders. “Papyrus? Are you okay?!”

“Wow, this is really weird!” he said. “I feel so happy and so sad all at once.” He had to pause to wipe his eyes again, making a quiet nyeh sound, but then looked her in the face with shock, first, and then determined certainty. He took one of her hands and held it tight in both of his.

 

“Wait a second! We’ve met before, haven’t we?” he said. “I’m sure of it! I feel like we’re best friends! I feel like we should be playing in the snow and doing puzzles and watching action cartoons and cooking! I… I feel like I’ve really missed you! More than I’ve ever missed anyone in my whole life! I don’t want you sent away, that would be the exact opposite of what would be good!”

Her heart thunked to the ground and she gawked. “W… Wait, what?!” she squawked. “You… You actually remember me?!”

“Yes! Well, I think so! I mean… Yes, definitely!” He suddenly looked bashful. “D… Do you remember me?

She nodded and felt her eyes well up with hot tears. Her mind was reeling, she had no idea what was going on, and she couldn’t care less. “I really missed you, too!”

 

His eyes widened. It seemed to click. He started to grin and grabbed her into a tight hug right away, lifting her up off her feet as hopped back onto his. His eyes glowed gently and he touched his brow to hers. “How could I ever forget you?”

 

The kid could have melted. She was grinning like an idiot, and she hugged him tightly and gave him a kiss on the head. He giggled loudly and then held her back, aloft, under her arms.

“Seems the great Papyrus has caught some happy tears and a best friend!” he said. “This was all wrong, though. I must apologize, human! I don’t know why I didn’t recognize you the exact second I saw you! It must’ve been all that blowing snow, I guess!! But I’m so happy you’re back! I’m sorry about that nonsense on the bridge, I hope I didn’t scare you too badly with that gauntlet challenge!”

“No, no no no, it’s fine,” she said quickly. “I wasn’t scared at all.”

“Oh good. Excellent.” He blew out the words like a sigh of relief. “I guess I really was victorious after all!”

“Of course, dude, you super captured me,” she joked.

“Hm! Oh, I really am so glad.” He gently bumped his brow against hers. “This is the best day I’ve had in a long time! However, you look completely exhausted, so I, the great Papyrus, will bring you home! And make you delicious spaghetti!”

“C-Can we make spaghetti together?” she asked.

 

Papyrus’s eyes went wide and he gasped; he was all but sparkling and his eyes had literally lit up. “Are you serious?!” he demanded. “You want to cook with me?”

“Of course I do,” she said.

He beamed and embraced her tightly. “I knew it!!! I knew you were good!!!” he said, cuddling her close. “Yes, of course, human, we will cook together and it will be excellent! Let’s go right now!”

 

He bounded back to the house and burst inside bombastically. “SANS? SANS, ARE YOU HERE?” Papyrus shouted. There was no reply. He pouted, but only for a second. He put Frisk back on the ground and gestured widely to the house. “Welcome to—! Oh right. Nyeh heh heh! You’ve been here before. Wow, that’s weird but I am so glad you’re here! So, welcome back to our house!” He knelt down to take her by the shoulders and grinned. “Your house, too!” A cautiously hopeful look spread on his face. “You…? You will stay, won’t you?”

“I’d love to,” she said.

“Nyeh heh heh! Perfect! Like I said, we’re family now! …I… did say that, right? I remember saying that,” he said. “I remember saying that on more than one occasion, actually.”

Frisk nodded. Papyrus beamed.

“Excellent! And I meant it, too! I still mean it, I mean! I’ll always mean it!” He bounced back onto his feet. “Get comfortable, it’s time to cook spaghetti!”

 

As Frisk took off her shoes, the tall skeleton bounded around the kitchen. She could hear the sharp clanging of pots and pans, and rushing water. She wiped her eyes quickly but still couldn’t keep the smile off her face. What was that feeling? Home? It sure was close.

 

When she entered the kitchen, she saw him plunking the water-filled saucepan onto the stove. He was already wearing his stained oven mitts and an apron that read “BONE APPETIT” with the lettering made of cartoon bones. He was about to dump the spaghetti into the pot, box and all.

“Ooh, ooh, wait,” Frisk said quickly. “I need a chair.”

“Ah yes, you are in fact quite tiny! Hang on just a tick!” He ran out of the room and, as soon as he was gone, Frisk turned up the heat under the pot of water.

 

Papyrus returned and dropped the chair down near the stove, then picked Frisk up and plopped her down on top of it.

“Okay, so! Let the great Papyrus show you how it’s done!” he said. “You can be my excellent assistant! First, let’s put the pasta in the pot!” He passed her the box.

She opened it, and he helped her reach over to pour it in.

“Oh! Okay. Different,” he said. “And now—” Papyrus paused when Frisk stuck her hand up urgently. “Yes, human?”

“Do you flavour it with anything? Sometimes I put a little salt in. Just like a small spoon of it.”

“Oh-ho!” Papyrus’s eyes brightened. “That’s not a bad idea!”

 

As he reached up into a cabinet to grab the salt, Frisk checked the back of the pasta’s box and booped the oven’s buttons to put on a timer.

“Okay!” he said as he salted the water. “Pasta’s in! Time for the sauce!”

She wasn’t sure where he had gotten the many tomatoes he was suddenly holding, but he smushed them in his mitts, cackling, and threw them into the other pan on the front burner. Pale red goop splattered all over the stove. He handed one to Frisk.

“Now you try!” he insisted.

Frisk frowned and smashed the tomato down into the pan.

“Excellent!” Papyrus said proudly. “Okay! Next step is… Um… Garlic! Hang on!” He went to scour the fridge.

 

While his back was turned, Frisk quickly picked the leaves and stems out of the goopy tomatoes.

“Okay, bad news, we are, in fact, out of garlic,” Papyrus said. “But, never fear! I’m sure we can use something else!”

“What else you got?” Frisk said.

Papyrus picked her up and moved her to the fridge, and she knelt down with him as he opened up the small crisper at its base. She rubbed her chin and Papyrus mirrored her. She found an onion, and some leaves that smelled like maybe they might be an herb of some sort.

“Okay,” she said. “This. And a knife, maybe.”

“What for?” he asked.

“Chopping the onion?” she suggestion.

“Oooor…” He grinned. “We could use magic?”

“Ooh, okay, smash it to goo!” she said. “Take the skin off first, though.”

“Wowie, human, you know a lot about vegetables!” He stuck his thumb up and took the onion from her, and with a wave of his hand, his magic was smashing the vegetables together in the pan without so much as scraping the metal.

 

Frisk watched with awe for a moment before she clambered back onto the chair and tore off little bits of the herb and threw them into the weird paste Papyrus was making.

“Now, for… Oh! Ack!” Papyrus put a hand to his eyes. “Oh gosh what is this stinging?”

“Onion stink!” Frisk gasped.

“Onion stink?!” Papyrus repeated.

“Water!” Frisk said.

 

Squinting through tears, Papyrus reached up to the sink to grab a rag and used it to dab water around his eye sockets. Frisk snickered and patted his shoulder reassuringly when he returned.

“Phew! That was weird! Didn’t expect a vegetable of all things to get me,” he said with a laugh. “I never use it because of the smell!”

“It’ll be worth it,” Frisk said, and hoped she wasn’t lying.

 

They simmered and stirred the sauce, adding more seasonings, like some powdered herbs that looked like they had been in a cabinet since Snowdin was founded, and a little sugar.  Just as they were about to drain the pasta, Papyrus’s phone rang.

“Oops! That’s probably Undyne,” he said.  He reached into his pocket to pull it out but with the oven mitts still on, he slipped and the phone went straight into the pot. “ACK!” he yelped. Papyrus tossed the mitts off frantically and reached into the boiling water to pull out his phone and waved it around.

“Oh jeez,” Frisk said. “Is it okay?”

“I don’t knooowww,” Papyrus said; he stared at the screen suspiciously and poked it. “I think I’ll need to dry it? Probably?”

“Oh no! Uh… You wanna use mine instead?” she asked.

“Thank you very much!” Papyrus said.

 

Frisk pulled her phone from her pocket and handed it over.

“Oh wow, I’ve never seen one this old before, where did you get it?” he asked, turning it over in his hands.

“Ruins. Never mind, just call her back,” she said, flipping the front open for him.

Papyrus dialled hurriedly and held the phone to his head. He tapped his foot, then frowned. “Hmm… She’s not answering,” he said. “I guess I’ll try again later? Maybe Undyne doesn’t pick up numbers she doesn’t know.”

Frisk shrugged.

“I don’t quite understand that train of thought, honestly,” he said. “I always pick up my phone! You never know who’s on the other end. Why, just the other day I had a really nice conversation with a monster who was telling me all about a down-on-his-luck prince from far away lands who possibly needed to borrow some gold! No idea why they called me, though.”

“You didn’t send any, did you?” Frisk asked.

“Well, no, I am saving a bit for something, since… you know, very technically I do not actually have a job?” He grinned. “But! I sent a plate of spaghetti in the mail, in a nice envelope and everything. I hope it gets there alright!”

Frisk snickered, patting him affectionately on the arm. “Never change, dude,” she said.

“Of course I won’t!” he said brightly. “Why do people keep telling me that, I wonder…?”

 

The sauce began to bubble. Papyrus glanced with wide eyes between his phone and the sauce.

“Go set that out to dry,” Frisk insisted. She rolled up her sleeves and grabbed the big wooden spoon. “I got this.”

Papyrus stuck his thumb up, tossed her back her phone, and ran out to the other room. She stirred the sauce vigorously. It was actually starting to look quite similar to food. She wasn’t sure what he had done with his phone, exactly, but when he returned, he was dusting himself off. She offered him the spoon.

“I think it’s done,” she said.

“Ooh!” Papyrus cautiously tasted the sauce and he whirled on Frisk with wide eyes. “Wow, this is really good! This may be the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever had!”

“Oh y-yeah?!” she asked.

“Try it!” he said. He gave her the spoon.

She tested it hesitantly on just the tip of her tongue, but then she looked at him with surprise. “It’s not bad!”

“Human, do you know what this means?!” he said, beaming at her. “You and I, being best friends, making spaghetti, being such a great sauce making team!? This must be what was meant to happen!”

“Y-You think so?” she asked.

He nodded. “Yes, of course! This is right where you’re meant to be. I’m so happy I found you again, because I’m sure you belong with my brother and I! In fact, I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life!”

 

Frisk stared back at him and her chest tightened. It all hit her in a wave. That was her big brother staring back at her, like nothing had changed in the least. She couldn’t believe it. She shivered and, before she could stop it, tears dribbled down her cheeks again. Papyrus’s face fell.

“H… Human?” he asked, tilting his head.

She sniffled and, quickly, his eyes lit up amber and he cupped her face in both hands, his magic cooing with a reassuring warmth through her skin.

“Oooh no no no, are you okay? Did I say the wrong thing?!” he asked.

Frisk coughed, but she couldn’t help but laugh. “N-No, I’m just… I’m just really happy.”

“Happy?” he repeated.

She nodded and then grabbed him in a hug around his shoulders. He froze and his glow died down in surprise.

“Thanks, bro, thank you so much,” she said quietly.

Papyrus’s cheekbones flushed. “B… Bro…? Brother?” he stammered quietly. He held her close, resting his hand on the back of her head gently. “I… Yes. Okay. I can do that.”

 

She settled back on the chair, wiping her face on her sleeves. “Sorry about that, it’s… It’s just been a few really long days. I’m just so happy you still like me.”

Papyrus looked shocked and he took her by the shoulders. “Of course I still like you,” he said. “Even if I didn’t remember you, I would like you! I mean, I did the first time we met, didn’t I? And that’s putting it mildly.”

“Y-You remember that?” she asked quietly.

“Absolutely I do!” he said brightly. “I may not really get what’s going on. But know that you can always rely on the great Papyrus! Alright?”

She nodded and again smiled. “You’re the best.”

He looked relieved and then smiled brightly. “I know! Ready for spaghetti?!”

“Yeah!” she cheered.

 

Chapter Text

The spaghetti was a huge success, but, cozied under a blanket on the sofa and with a full stomach, almost two full days behind her, and several pressing worries put to rest, Frisk was quickly out like a light. Papyrus only noticed when she flopped over sideways when he went to get up for more food.

 

“Oh, ah… um… Human?” he asked cautiously. No reply. He cupped his chin thoughtfully and peered down at her. He felt a little bad. Their battle had even made him a little tired: he couldn’t even imagine how tired someone who was not him must’ve been. Cautiously, he scooped her up and brought her upstairs to his bedroom.

 

He didn’t really know much about humans, or their weird, non-magic skin, and though her complexion was generally a little dark, he was sure some of those other spots on her were bruises. He wasn’t sure what to do for that, though. Other monsters bruised, but he and Sans had no skin. Was it even the same for humans and monsters? He didn’t want to make it worse. He supposed he’d wait until Sans got home. He certainly didn’t have any books about caring for humans, but Sans seemed to be full of strange and uncommon knowledge— maybe he would know?

 

He wanted nothing more than to just hug her close, but he was worried those bruises might be painful. Very carefully, he put her on his car-shaped bed and pulled his blankets up over her. He wasn’t sure what else to do, but he had a hand-stitched fluffy bunny plushy and he placed it with her, then flicked the lights out and tiptoed out of the room.

 

- - -

 

It was mid afternoon by the time Sans finally got home, carrying a large, boring paper bag in one arm and sipping from a can of soda.

“Brother! There you are!” Papyrus said, leaping to his feet. “Where have you been?!”

“Doin’ my job, bro,” he said with a grin. “How about you?”

“I, uh… Well…” He turned off the television as Sans crossed the room and put the bag down on the table just outside the kitchen, and stood tall and puffed out his chest. “I have big news, brother!”

Sans leaned back against the table and raised his drink approvingly. “Shoot.”

“Okay, so, don’t panic, Sans, but I, your cool and smart brother, have confronted the human, but! I did not capture her!” he said. “Because actually we are best friends and also she is taking a nap now because I guess she’s really tired? Because I tried to capture her all day before I remembered that we are best friends and we’ve actually met a few times somehow, and I really wanted to hug her, but I only did after she actually came quite close to besting my blue attack challenge and then she started glowing a bit. And it turned out she remembered me, too, and she’s very sweet and I like her a lot and I think this is how it’s supposed to be and I’m one million percent sure she’s the good one you told me about.”

 

Sans looked surprised. “For real? You recognized her, huh? You actually remembered.”

“Yeeeesss?” Papyrus said somewhat suspiciously. “Yes, why? I mean. It does feel unusual, I’ll admit, but yes, I definitely, definitely remember meeting the human.”

“Oh. Cool,” Sans said. “That’s new. She thought you wouldn’t remember her. Glad it all worked out.”

“Wait what?” Papyrus said. “Sans, you knew?!”

“Uh, yup,” Sans said.

“Sannnsss,” he whined. “Why didn’t you tell me that I was best friends with the human, what if she got hurt?! I should have just brought her home right away!”

“Welp, tried the bringin’ her home thing the first time and it didn’t go so well, honestly,” he said.

“The… The first time? Oh no, this isn’t some weird time travel shenanigans is it?” he asked.

“Yup. Sorry, bro,” Sans said. “Anyway, you’d never hurt her in a million years.”

“Well, of course I wouldn’t!!” he said shrilly.

 

Papyrus sighed and rubbed his skull. “Sans, I am very confused. Did you do this?”

“No, she did,” he said.

“The human can time travel?!” he yelped.

“Yeah, dude, why do you think you remember meeting her a bunch of times?” Sans asked.

Papyrus’s face flushed a little. “Wow, okay, that’s weird,” he said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy about it but now I’m also really confused, too. It’s like… I forgot a lot? Which is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me! But more of it keeps coming in and… I do not like feeling this confused, brother.”

“We’ll explain what we can soon, alright?” Sans said. “Where’s the kid?”

“Ah. She is resting in my bed,” he said. “We made some really fantastic spaghetti together but she fell asleep after actually eating it.”

Sans laughed. “That bad, huh?”

“No, no, it was really good!” he said. “She showed me some new things to try! It was really exciting actually.”

“Nice. Glad you had fun,” Sans said.

 

Papyrus nodded and then went to a strange set up of towels and a small fan in the corner. Sans watched him curiously as he pulled his phone out of the mess, shook it, and then poked at it with a frown on his face.

“Sup?” Sans asked.

“Oh, nothing, I just dropped my phone in a pot,” he said. “I’m just waiting for it to dry out, I need to call Captain Undyne.”

“Oh, uh… Don’t invite her over yet, huh?” Sans said.

Papyrus seemed confused, but he nodded nonetheless. Sans settled in on the couch and closed his eyes.

 

“Wait, wait wait, you can’t nap now!” Papyrus said.

“Why not?” he asked.

“B-Because, I…! I want to talk to you about this!”

“What, your phone?” he said. “I guess I could take a look?”

“No, not that! The human! She’s not hurt, is she?” Papyrus asked nervously.

“What?” Sans grinned and had to stop himself from laughing. “No, bro. Don’t even worry about it.”

“Okay. Yes. Of course,” he said. “It’s just that… I mean, of course. It’s just that she’s so small and what if I—”

“Bro. Chill,” Sans said.

“But I think she’s all bruised! And I have no idea what to do about that!” he said. “It’s just that she’s not made of magic and I don’t want to make her worse by accident!”

Sans smiled and rubbed his brow. “You want me to go ask if she’s okay?”

Papyrus nodded hurriedly. Sans laughed, got back on his feet, and went upstairs.

 

It was pitch black in the room with the door closed, so Sans casually lit up his eye to get a little brightness. He saw Frisk, fast asleep. She seemed fine. He wasn’t sure what his brother was so worried about. Nonetheless, he sat on the bed and took her gently by the shoulder.

“Hey, kiddo?” he said quietly.

It took a moment, but she shifted. “Hmm? S… Sans?” she asked groggily.

“Yup. Sorry. Paps was just worried about you.”

She frowned a little. She looked confused as she sat up and blinked heavily in the blue light. “Really? Why?”

“Said you were bruised?” he said, and then shrugged.

“Oh…” She rubbed her eyes and laughed quietly. “That’s probably true. I am a little sore.”

“You wanna go back to sleep, or—?”

“No, no, that’s okay,” she said quietly. “I’ll get up. Where am I?”

“Papyrus’s dream car,” Sans said.

Frisk snickered. “Aw, that’s really nice of him,” she said. “Um. Sans?” She clung to his sleeve. She started to smile and he could see a glisten in her eyes. She snuck closer and wrapped her skinny arms around him. She was shaking, and her grip was strong.  “H-He… He remembered me,” she said quietly. “He actually remembers, I… I thought he’d never… I n-never thought that he’d… Oh god.”

“I know. S’good, huh?” He patted her head.

She huffed out a tired laugh and nodded. He smiled.

“He’s, uh, pretty thrilled about it, too,” he said. “Wanna go see him?”

“Y-Yeah! Yeah. I do,” she said.

 

Papyrus was waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs. His face lit up when he saw them as they went down to meet him.

“H-Human! You’re alright! Did you have a good nap?” he asked.

“Yeah. Thanks for letting me borrow your bed,” she said.

“Of course!” he said. “You, uh… You’ve met Sans, I suppose?”

“Oh yeah, we’re best buds,” Sans said, ruffling the kid’s hair.

She snickered and Papyrus smiled with relief.

“That’s excellent news! Really, that’s great!” he said. “Sans, I sort of told the human she could live with us, is that okay?”

“Dude, of course, I said the same thing,” Sans assured him, and then turned to Frisk. “I mean, if that’s what you want, kiddo.”

 

Frisk felt her heart thunk and she started to grin, then hugged him tightly without a second thought. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“Welp. I’ll take that as a yes,” Sans said.

“This is excellent!” Papyrus scooped them both up into his arms. “Plus one to the skeleton family!”

Frisk was overwhelmed and Sans started to laugh, but their moment was interrupted by the distorted ringing of a phone.

“Oh!!” Papyrus plopped them down on the floor quickly. “Sorry, I need to get that!”

 

He hopped the sofa to reach it quicker and then stood almost at attention when he held it to his head to answer. “Hello! This is—!”

They could all hear Undyne shouting. Sounded something like she was saying he had scared her half to death.

  “Oh. Undyne! No, no, I’m just fine! I’m sorry for missing your call! I know, I know, out of character, but you see, there was this pot of—! Oh. A… A human, you say?” His eyes darted to Frisk.

She shrunk down behind the sofa. Sans tried not to laugh.

“N-No! No, I’ve never seen a thing like that at all! Definitely not. Oh…” He started to sweat. “Oh,  uh… W-Well… No worries! No human could ever slip by the great Papyrus! Could we perhaps talk about this in person? I’m sure this is just a case of mistaken identity!” He paused to listen for a little while, nodding.

Frisk wanted to just slink under the couch and hide.

“Okay! I’ll see you soon then!” he said. “Thank you for understanding!” He hung up and sighed. “I don’t like lying to her. But! If it keeps the human safe, I have to do my best!”

“Thanks, Papyrus,” Frisk said with a laugh, “but don’t get in trouble, okay?”

“Never fear, human!” he said. “I’m incredibly resourceful! I’m sure I’ll come up with something.”

“Good luck, bro,” Sans said.

Papyrus winked and put both thumbs up.

 

He got ready to leave like a whirlwind, booped Sans and Frisk both on the head with an affectionate spark of magic, and rushed out the door. Sans shot Frisk an amused look.

“Not gonna start cryin’ again, are you?” he said.

“Wh-What? No!” she said quickly.

He snickered. “Where were we? Episode twelve?”

 

- - -

 

Under Ground Hearts was having an identity crises. At the time it was made, there were only two pre-recorded programs on MTT: itself, and another romantic drama that was almost the same but minus assassins and plus few more actors. Audiences said it was all too depressing, so Under Ground Hearts started trying to be funny as well as dark, and scary, and mysterious, and romantic, which only succeeded in making it a failure in all genres. Episode fifteen was a prime example of this awkward phase. After their usual cliffhanger of someone getting shot in the last thirty seconds of an episode, fifteen decided it would try to be artistic and humorous and do a dream sequence episode in a lighter tone that was all together cringeworthy. It was one of the only episodes that wasn’t unintentionally hilarious. Sans had a higher tolerance for sitting through it than Frisk did, but it was possibly due to his reluctance to get up and fast-forward through it.

 

Frisk went to the kitchen and shoved the chair around to get her up to the counter to start making some tea, the one she remembered Sans was fond of. When she finished up, she saw the skeleton had heaved himself off the couch and was emptying a brown paper bag onto the table against the wall just outside the kitchen. She passed him his tea and peeked over to look at what he was doing.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Oh. It’s from Alphys.” He showed her a packet of a monster brand of ramen noodles. “For you. Thought it might be closer to human food or something?”

“She… She sent you with all this? When? What? That’s so nice,” she said, and then added, hopefully, “Sh-She… She doesn’t happen to remember me, does she?”

“Nah. Just been spyin’ on you,” he said. “She thinks you’re kinda… what’s the word? The one from anime that they call the cat girl from that show she likes?”

“Oh gosh,” Frisk said, her cheeks flushing.

“Yeah. Weird,” Sans said. “We watched your fight with Paps, by the way. Nice goin’, I haven’t seen him that pumped in a while. I managed to convince Alphys that him huggin’ you and runnin’ you back to the house was actually him capturin’ you, so hopefully that holds up for more than a couple hours. She said she’d keep it quiet for a little. I gotta ask, though, what was up with your eye?”

“My eye?” she repeated. “I dunno, nothing?”

“Hmm.” Sans shrugged. “It’s just that it was kinda gold.”

Frisk stared back at him blankly. “Maybe you need to get your eyes checked,” she joked.

He grinned and lit up his left eye brightly with radiant blue while his right one went dark. “I think I got more problems than an optometrist can fix.”

Frisk giggled and he smiled and sipped his tea as he let the magic dim.

“Thanks, kid,” he said.

She stuck her thumb up.

 

“Hey. Been meanin’ to ask.” He shot her a confused look. “Why didn’t you call?”

“What?” she asked.

“When you got in.”

“Oh. Oh! I… I dunno.” Her face flushed. “I, um, I did call Papyrus. I just mostly cried on the phone to him, I… didn’t know how to tell him who I was. Didn’t know how to tell you either, I… I guess I wasn’t really thinking straight. Wh-What if you didn’t know who I was a-and—”

“Kiddo. I’ll always know who you are. Alright?” he said. “It’s just how I work.”

“…R-Really?” she squeaked. Her eyes seemed to glimmer. “You sure? It’s always like that? Even if I went back w-way too far?”

“Mhm.” He ruffled her hair. “Doesn’t matter. Just, no matter what crazy crap you think, call next time, huh?”

“Hah! A-As if there’ll be a next time,” she said, but there was a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “I’m sorry.”

“No worries,” he assured her.

 

She plopped back down on the sofa as the episode was just finishing up and tentatively drank her hot tea. Even now, in their experimental comedic episode, a main character, Tragic Bill, got shot thirty seconds before the end.

“Oh come on!!” Frisk shouted. “Sans, this is dumb. Dang. It’s like it’s trying to be terrible at this point.”

“Do you remember the next episode?” he asked as he wandered over to join her.

“Ummm… I don’t think so. I’m usually asleep by now.”

He grinned. She raised her eyebrow.

“What?”

He merely smiled wider and sat down with her. She looked at him with confusion, and then back at the TV as the credits finished up.

 

Episode sixteen began with a funeral.

“OH MY GOD!” Frisk shouted.

Sans was immediately choking with laughter.

“What? WHAT?! He’s dead?! Just like that?!” she demanded.

“Yup. Yes. Absolutely.”

“Is this real life?!” she demanded.

“Oh, yeah, dude, Tragic Bill is super dead,” Sans said.

“I THOUGHT THEY JUST LOST THE WIG!” Frisk yelled, throwing her arms up in frustration.

Sans couldn’t stop laughing. “Hooooly shit,” he wheezed, “that’s hilarious.”

Frisk covered her face with her hands and couldn’t help laughing, too.

 

There was a sudden burst of cold air as Papyrus opened the door and walked back into the house. “Hey, you two!” he said, taking off his mitts. “I could hear you laughing from down the road. What is up?”

“Bro,” Sans said. “U-G-H, episode sixteen. Frisk’s never seen it.”

“Pfffft, oh my god!” Papyrus said. “I’m so sorry!” He leaned over the side of the sofa and Frisk could only gesture to the screen in disbelief.

“You seen this?!” she said shrilly.

“Tragic Bill!” Papyrus said.

“I KNOW, RIGHT?!” Frisk said.

“It was so on the nose with that name I assume it can’t even be called foreshadowing at that point,” Papyrus said. “Uh, wait one second, Sans, what did you just call the human?”

“Uh… Her name?” His brow furrowed for a moment before his expression turned somewhat sympathetic. “Oh. You don’t remember that, huh?”

 

It was like a hit to the gut for Frisk when he bashfully shook his head. “Oh! Dang, my bad, I should’ve introduced myself, especially since I live with you now,” she said, and she stood up on the sofa and offered him her hand. “I’m Frisk.”

“Frisk. That’s a perfect name for you! I like it!” he said as he shook her hand, but his brow quickly furrowed with puzzlement. “That’s weird, it’s like I’ve heard that before, but not quite? This is getting kind of confusing.”

“I’m sorry,” Frisk said quickly.

“No no, don’t be sorry, human. I mean Frisk. I mean—”

“It’s okay, call me whatever,” she said as she sat back down. “Actually, now that I think about it, most monsters just call me whatever.” She shrugged.

Sans grinned. “Guilty,” he said. “Hey, bro, you wanna join us?”

“Sure. Let me just get changed,” he said.

Sans stared at him for a moment.

“What’s that look for?” Papyrus asked suspiciously.

“Nothin’, bro, do what you want,” he said with a smile and a shrug.

 

Papyrus seemed satisfied and went upstairs, and disappeared into his room.

“How was the meeting?” Sans asked.

“It was good!” Papyrus called back. “Undyne was pretty suspicious but I think I threw her off the trail for now! And we had a very good training session after I gave her my report. She said I’m really improving! Also that I’m her best student! I mean, obviously, but it was really nice to hear her say that!” He bounded back downstairs in a t-shirt with no sleeves that read “Cool Dude” and some shorts, and hurried into the kitchen.

“She’s probably gonna be back on the trail tomorrow,” Sans pointed out. “Alphys saw you “capture” Frisk. Undyne’ll hear about it.”

“Alphys? You mean that monster in the lab?” Papyrus asked. “The one with the hilarious UnderNet account with the anime reviews and the dramatic, vague status posts?”

“That’s her,” he said.

“And she’ll tell Captain Undyne?” Papyrus asked shrilly.

“She’s, uh, easily pressured. And you know how Undyne gets,” Sans said.

“Oh man, she’s gonna kick my butt,” Frisk said with a sigh, but then her eyes lit up. “Ooh! Oh, no, she’s gonna make me into a Frisk-kabob! Get it? Because she, like, gets me with the spear?”

“Can we maybe try to not?” Sans mussed up her hair. “Good joke though.”

“Well, yeah, I’ll try to not get stabbed,” Frisk said with a laugh.

“Nobody’s getting stabbed,” Papyrus assured them. He came back in with a mug of that other very herbal smelling tea and sat with them. “Human, I’m confused, do you get stabbed a lot?”

“Depends,” Frisk admitted.

“It doesn’t seem to bother you much,” he said worriedly.

“I mean, I try not to do dumb stuff,” Frisk said, “but if it happens, I can always go backwards, or… Oh. Wait. Uhh…” She looked at Sans for help.

He shrugged.

 

Papyrus gave her a puzzled look. “This is the time travel things again, isn’t it?”

“Oh! You… You know?” Frisk asked with a confused frown.

“A little,” Papyrus admitted. “Sans, has… Well, uh…”

“She knows my stuff,” Sans assured him.

“Right, okay, well, Sans has had some time travel related issues in the past, and he said that this particular memory nonsense is related to that, but it’s because of you?” Papyrus said.

“I… I think so,” Frisk said.

“Okay,” Sans said, “let’s just lay it all out. Frisk’s actually got some important junk she has to do.”

“That’s true,” Frisk said.

“Oh! Good!” Papyrus said. “Yes. Thank you.”

“This is gonna be a bit heavy,” Sans warned.

“That’s fine, I can definitely handle it,” Papyrus insisted. “Nothing is too heavy for Papyrus!”

 

“So, here’s the deal,” Sans said. “Frisk can time travel. Backwards. Because time got ripped at some point and stuff is messed up. You know that bit, right?”

“Right,” Papyrus said.

“She’s got a set timeline,” Sans continued. “It starts when she falls down into the underground, and from there on she’s like an anchor in this world. Means no one can mess with the timeline except her, and since Frisk is pretty cool, that’s really good for the rest of us. She can also hang onto time in certain spots. We call that saving. It’s because of this stuff we called determination that’s a part of souls. It’s barely in most monsters, but it’s really strong in humans. And in Frisk, it’s stronger than anyone else, monster or human.”

“Right, yes, I see,” Papyrus said, nodding thoughtfully.

“Um, usually how it seems to go for me,” Frisk said, “is that no one can remember when things go backwards except for a bit of feelings and dreams, sometimes. Sans is different, though.”

“Well that goes without saying, but what does that have to do with this?” Papyrus asked.

Sans laughed. “She’s just talkin’ about how I actually remember stuff. I mean, unless the barrier goes down and we get out, I don’t remember anything past that,” Sans explained. “But there’s somethin’ up with Frisk this time that’s makin’ people near her hold on a little more, from what we can tell. More like what I do, without all that extra garbage, y’know what I mean? So, I gotta ask, bro, what do you remember?”

 

“I remember… uh…” Papyrus paused to think, then his eyes went wide. “Well, I mean, obviously Frisk is one of my best friends. I feel like I’ve known her forever! Definitely supposed to live with us, absolutely. I remember… I remember meeting a few times, but also not remembering the first few times? Weird.” He smiled and tented his fingers. His cheekbones flushed faintly. “I remember all of the times we met now. All four of them? It makes me very relieved that you’re still here with us, human.”

 

Frisk was taken aback. She looked at Sans. He shrugged. She took Papyrus’s hand.

“Dude,” she said quietly, “I’m… I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?! What for?!” he asked.

Her eyes went wide. Before she could answer, he grinned and took both her hands in his.

“Human, we had so many good times together! So what if they did a bit of time loop nonsense? It just gave us more chances to hang out! You were always incredibly nice and cool and fun!” He was absolutely beaming. “I mean, to have to repeat those events over and over and still to make time to spend with me— you must really think I’m great! And I think you’re great too! It makes me happy to know that, no matter what, we were always best friends from the minute I stopped throwing bone attacks at you. Nyeh heh! I wish we got you sooner.”

“Yeah, me too,” she agreed.

“So what the heck were you sorry for?!” he demanded.

She smiled bashfully, trying to hide a sort of heartache. “Sorry I left you. I never wanted to.”

 

He froze; eyes went wide. He blinked back at her in shock. He started to laugh again and cupped her face. “Oh, human, I know you didn’t! I mean, who would, right?” he said brightly. “Though, I do have to admit, I did miss you a considerable amount, especially that first time when the barrier did not break, actually.”

“Yeah, he was almost as much of a mess as I am on a regular basis,” Sans said.

“Impossible!” Papyrus said, folding his arms. “But anyway! Human, don’t worry for a second about that! As long as we’re all together, everything is perfect.”

Frisk wiped her eyes quickly, but she giggled anyway. “Thanks. You’re awesome,” she said.

“I know! Thank you!” he said. “Now. Let’s think…”

 

He drummed the fingers of one hand on the opposite arm and looked thoughtful. “I do remember that you went to break the barrier! The second time we met. And third time, too! But more recently, I… Oh! Human, you were the one on the phone! And we had some lunch, but then Undyne… oh.” He looked shocked and put his face in his hands. “Nyoo hoo, I made a terrible mistake! I promise that was not what I meant to happen when I invited her over!”

“Don’t worry, I know,” Frisk said with a laugh. “It’s all in the past! Happens all the time.”

Papyrus opened his mouth and raised a finger, then began to frown as Sans began to grin. Papyrus groaned and rubbed his forehead.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” she said with a smile.

The tell skeleton sighed, but he laughed as well, just a little. “I’m glad you’re taking that well, it looked like it really hurt, honestly. I’m surprised at Undyne, I thought we were all friends!”

“Not if she doesn’t remember me,” Frisk said with a sigh. “Which, um, kinda sucks because I really love her, too.”

“Wow okay, yes, then we really need to fix this,” he said. “But hoooow…?”

“Same way she got your memories to hold, probably,” Sans said. “Get up close and do the glowin’ thing.”

“Wait, which glowing thing?” Frisk asked.

“I wasn’t jokin’ when I said your eye was gold, kid,” Sans said. “You started glowin’. You did that near Papyrus and now he remembers you.”

“What?! Is that really it? I didn’t even know that was a thing!” Frisk said. “I thought I was doing weird blue glowing stuff?”

Sans shrugged. “Welp, it seemed to be what helped Paps out. Right, bro?”

“Yes, there was definitely a glow around you when I suddenly recalled all those things,” he said.

“Oh! Well, that’s great, how do I do that?” she said. “And also, how do I get close to Undyne?”

 

Both skeletons shrugged.

“Carefully?” Sans said.

“Throw me at her?” Frisk suggested.

“You wanna get stabbed?” Sans asked. “Again?”

“You got a point there,” Frisk said.

Sans grinned. Papyrus put his hands on his face.

“Well,” he said, smiling sardonically, “I’m glad you two will be able to deal with each other’s terrible jokes from now on. But, I have one more thing I was wondering about.”

“Oh, yeah? What is it?” she asked.

“F… Frisk, um…” Papyrus looked embarrassed. “Why did you come back in time? If… If we got to the surface, isn’t that what everyone wanted?”

 

Frisk flinched and sighed. Reality struck her; made her slump in place, but she nodded. “You guys don’t remember this, but we lived together with mom… um, Toriel, once the barrier went down. It was good. But see, the problem was, back here, there was someone I had to leave behind. His name is Asriel. He’s a monster who came back to life as a flower, but he… he has no normal feelings. He kept trying to steal the souls Asgore has, and mine, too. I found out that he was nice before everything happened to him and I tried to save him, but he needed a new soul and I couldn’t figure out how to get him one. Because of that, he’s…” She sighed again and grimaced.

Papyrus reached over and gently held her shoulder. She steadied herself, but her eyes stayed locked on the floor.

 

“I couldn’t keep resetting the timeline trying to figure him out, not with you guys and everyone else getting dragged back underground. And Asriel wouldn’t let me bring him with us to the surface when he didn’t have a soul. Said it was too dangerous,” she said. “So, us, Toriel, Undyne, Alphys, Mettaton, Asgore… Everyone. We built a town and we started living on the surface. We were happy. I’m not sure what happened, but after a while, somehow, Asriel got all angry again and killed a human and took their soul. Then, with that power, he killed another, and another, and he came for me and… Well… We ran. That’s when you told me resetting was the only way to save everyone, Sans. So, I did. He’s why I’m here again. I need to get him a soul for good. So… So he won’t be bad anymore. So maybe everyone could be happy? I dunno…”

 

When she managed to look up, Papyrus was gawking. Sans’s face had flushed a little blue and he was staring at her blankly.

“Wh… What? Was that too much?” she asked.

“Holy shit, kid, no wonder you’re so down,” Sans said.

“Yeeeeeah,” Frisk said.

“Oh, no, poor thing!” Papyrus said shrilly. He lifted her into his arms quickly and held her close. “This is all a huge, horrible mess, but know we’re here for you the whole way! I believe in you, human! There has to be something that can be done!”

Frisk let out a deep sigh and clung to him tightly. She nodded. “Sorry to be such a buzzkill,” she said quietly.

“No, kid, that’s… Heh.” Sans rubbed his head. “I didn’t expect it to be as bad as that.”

“Yeah,” she said quietly.

 

Her heart was aching again, but it helped that Papyrus was holding her— he was so warm. “What we all had there, it was… It was finally really home for all of us, you know? I wouldn’t have made us give that up if it there was any other choice,” she said. “It… It was really rough to pull everyone back. And now Asriel needs a soul and I just… I don’t know. I still feel pretty lost, I guess?”

 

Tears came again and Papyrus immediately cozied her against his chest.

“Don’t give up, Frisk. I’m sorry you lost that. But we’re all here, and soon, I bet all your other friends will remember you, too. And we’ll do whatever we can to make this all right again. I promise!” He put her back on the couch and he gently brushed her tears away. “You know a promise from your super cool big brother Papyrus is always a good one, right?”

“Oh, dude, you are just gonna make me cry so hard,” she squeaked. She hugged him tight around the shoulders.

He gently patted her back and gave her a quick, affectionate shot of magic through his fingertips.

 

“Okay!” he said brightly. “Sans! We have a new job to do!”

“What’s that, bro?” he said.

“Our small human is a wreck and we must cheer her up!” he announced. “So! What should we do?”

“I’ll be okay,” she said.

“Nonsense, human, there is no use in trying to dissuade me!” he announced, lifting her to look her in the face. “I, the great Papyrus, am top notch at making people down in the dumps with time travel related woes feel much better!”

“It’s true, he is,” Sans added.

Papyrus hmmmm-ed for a long time. Then, his eyes lit up and he put Frisk back down gently. “Nyeh heh heh! Okay! I got it!” he said, and he got to his feet. “But! I need to get a few things. Hang on, be right back! Sans, I will take your coat, yes?”

“Go ahead, bro, I’m not leavin’,” he said.

Papyrus threw it on, along with his boots and mitts, before racing out of the house.

 

“Huh. Lookit him, wearin’ normal clothes and stuff,” Sans said. “Cool.”

Frisk sniffed and wiped her eyes quickly. “Dang, he’s so nice,” she said quietly.

“Bet you feel a bit better after that, huh?” he asked.

Frisk nodded. “It was… It was good to say it out loud but is…? Is it bad that I keep trying not to think about it?” she said. “I feel like I’d just cry, like, all the time if I did. I just… I just want everyone to be happy again, you know? But it… It’s tough for me. Ugh. I’m sorry.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I just keep crying anyway!” she said. “Th-The… The bad stuff. It didn’t happen anymore but—”

“But you still saw it happen,” he said.

“Yeah. Y-Yeah…” She nodded and rubbed her eyes. “And with everyone forgetting me again, after we were all s-so close, I… I just d-don’t even really know what to do with myself.”

 

Sans was quiet for a bit. He got up, patted her on the shoulder, and walked around the sofa towards the stairs. When she turned to look after him, he was already gone. Frisk took a moment to rub her itchy eyes, but he was back before she knew it. He had put a blue sweatshirt on and brought a blanket, which he gently tossed on top her. She wrapped herself in it and sighed.

“Thanks,” she said.

 

He sat back down beside her and she bit her lip. The TV was hissing quietly with snow. Sans fished the remote out of the sofa and turned it off.

“Kiddo, you, uh…? You want my advice?” he asked. “I think I know how you feel. I’ve been there.”

Frisk grimaced. “So… So how do you deal with it?”

“Honestly? I just kinda go with it,” he said. “It used to drive me nuts, but, I actually kinda found that, a lot of people, even if they don’t know the things, they remember how they feel after a bit, you know? Sometimes that’s more important.”

Frisk nodded and she sighed, hugging her knees close to her chest. “So I guess hoping to get back to normal is stupid, huh?”

“Here’s the thing,” Sans said. “You’ll drive yourself crazy thinkin’ about it like that. Trust me. If the only thing you can be sure of is yourself, you gotta be normal. Does that make sense?”

“So, like… I’m home wherever I am?” she said. “That kinda idea?”

Sans nodded. Frisk frowned.

“But… don’t you miss everyone?” she asked.

“Nah, kiddo, they’re all right here. You love ‘em, right? That’s what matters.” He shrugged. “Besides, you get a lot of use outta the same jokes.”

Frisk snickered tiredly, then rubbed her eyes. “Thanks,” she said. “That, um… That helps. A lot. Sheesh, what would I do without you?”

“Uh…” He looked confused and then smiled sideways. “Ah, c’mon, kid, you’d be fine.”

“No I wouldn’t, shut up,” she laughed.

His cheekbones flushed blue and he scoffed and ruffled her hair. “Actually, you’re a step ahead. You got the benefit that the timeline is yours. You get a kinda certainty in that, you know?”

“Didn’t expect you to be the one to show me the bright side in this,” she said with a quiet snicker.

“What’re you talkin’ about?” He lit up his left eye and winked. “I’m always lookin’ at the bright side.”

“Pffft!” Frisk snickered. “You get a lot of jokes out of that one trick, huh?”

“Oh yeah, imagine if they both lit up,” he said, grinning.

 

- - -

 

Papyrus seemed to be taking his time, and the magic that lit the outside was starting to grow just a little dim to give the illusion of night. It wasn’t like that in many places underground, but Snowdin and the capital city of New Home both seemed to have enough monsters and magic to warrant it.

 

Sans had dozed off on the sofa, so Frisk put her blanket over him and watched out the window for Papyrus. Little bits of snow, glittering from the window light, began to fall and she smiled to herself.

 

A bit of movement caught her eye and she looked down. She was taken aback when a little flower face popped up and looked at her with an expression just as surprised as hers was. He ducked back down quickly. Frisk rolled her eyes.

 

Shoving the chair around the kitchen, Frisk had to hop up onto the counter and strain to use a wooden spoon to refill the kettle. She made four mugs of hot chocolate. Searching the cabinets, she found a couple bendy straws tossed in haphazardly with some dry, loose spaghetti. She plunked one into one of the mugs, a white one with a red heart on it, and then cautiously slipped down from the counter. She put on her shoes again before heading outside with it.

 

She looked around suspiciously, and walked to the left side of the house near the window. She peeked around, checking behind the mailboxes, but didn’t see anything. “Hey,” she said. “Asriel?” She didn’t hear anything, no reply at all. She frowned and sighed, and turned to go back to the house and then saw him pop out of the ground before her.

“Stop calling me that. You shouldn’t come out alone,” Asriel said. “It would be so easy to—”

“Oh, knock it off, grumpy,” she said. “Here.” She knelt down and placed the mug in the snow.

Asriel frowned. “What the hell is that?” he snapped.

“It’s hot chocolate,” she said. “It’s cold out here. Stay warm, okay?”

Asriel looked confused. “Why even bother, I’ll just—”

“What? Throw it at me? Knock it over?” she said. “That’s just a waste of good hot chocolate. You should probably just drink it.”

 

The little flower grimaced. Frisk shrugged and slipped back around the side of the house. She peeked back and saw Asriel frowning at the mug. After a few seconds, he reached for the straw and sipped tentatively. He sat still, pouted for a second, and then took a second sip. Frisk grinned to herself.

 

She heard footsteps in the snow and she turned to look down the street and saw Papyrus coming up with a microwave under one arm and a grocery bag in the other hand.

“Human!” he said brightly. “What are you doing out here?”

“Oh, nothing, just looking at the snow,” she said. She darted ahead and opened the door for him and they hurried in out of the cold.

“You look like you are already feeling a little better,” he said.

“I am, a bit,” she said. “Sans gave me a pretty good pep talk.”

“You know, for someone who doesn’t take much very seriously, he is actually very very good at that,” Papyrus said.

 

Papyrus ran around, setting up the microwave, turning the lights off, making popcorn, and getting more blankets and pillows from upstairs. Sans only woke when he accidentally rolled off the sofa when too many pillows slid behind him.

“Oops! Sorry, brother!” Papyrus said.

“Oh. Hey, Paps,” Sans said, smiling groggily up at him.

“Sans, we are going to watch a movie I borrowed from Undyne a while back, and we will have many blankets and popcorn!” he announced.

“And hot chocolate,” Frisk added.

“Huh. Okay,” Sans said. “What movie?”

Papyrus grinned and passed Sans an old tape with a tattered case. He looked at it with a frown.

The Screaming Skull?” he said, brow raised.

“Yes! Well, I was warned it might be a little scary because a human turns into a skeleton in it, but it’s one of the human movies where a skeleton is a good guy!” he said. “A story of murder and revenge! Dramatic! Undyne said it wasn’t very good but you never know! And even if does happen to be a terrible mess of a film, I know you love watching bad things and our human seems to as well.”

“Eh. Okay, I’m into it,” he said.

Papyrus grinned and then bounded back into the kitchen. “Nearly done!”

 

Frisk walked over and looked down at Sans.

“Sup?” he asked.

“You need help?” she asked.

“Nah.” He stuck his thumb up. “I’m good.”

She snickered. “How you gonna drink hot chocolate like that?”

“Huh. Good question,” he said.

Frisk grinned and scampered to the kitchen to get the mugs, and Papyrus returned, picking Sans off the ground. He put him back on the sofa and put in the movie and Frisk passed out the hot chocolate.

 

They all cozied together on the sofa, but it soon turned out that the only screaming skull would be Papyrus. The clearly fake skeleton in the movie was tossed around and broken into pieces quite a few times. It was too scary for him and he hid behind a pillow until they turned it off and watched the MTT channel instead.

 

It was a good night anyway, though. Frisk fell asleep again long before even Sans did. He watched her snooze under Papyrus’s arm for a little with a sort of sense of disbelief settling in. He looked at the TV for a few minutes, and then looked at Papyrus, who seemed to be getting a little drowsy.

“Hey, bro,” he asked. “I’m, uh… I’m not dreamin’, right? I’m awake?”

“Yes, surprisingly,” Papyrus said. “The human actually fell asleep before you did, that is quite a feat.”

“Y… Yeah. Okay. Good,” he said.

“Why do you ask?” Papyrus said.

“Nah. No reason,” he said.

“Saaannsss…” Papyrus shot him a knowing look. “What’s on your mind?”

“Nothin’. Don’t worry about it,” he said; he got to his feet. “I’m goin’ to bed. Can you handle the kid?”

“Absolutely I can!” Papyrus said.

Sans nodded and lazily wandered upstairs.

 

Papyrus finished watching the end of the gameshow before he turned his eyes back on Frisk. She was very much asleep. He switched off the TV stood up and gently lifted her into his arms. As he did, he noticed a small face in the window. A flower. He recognized him. Papyrus waved and the flower hurriedly ducked out of sight. Sort of strange, but it didn’t really bother him.

 

He carried Frisk and some blankets back upstairs to his room and tucked her in again. He turned off the lights and sat beside her, using the glow of his eyes to read a puzzle book in the low light until he accidentally drifted off.

 

Chapter Text

Frisk felt like she was falling. Her eyes blinked open in a hall steeped in golden light. What should have been warm felt freezing. The floor’s patterned tiles glared upwards with a polished sheen. Columns that lined the walls were bars between her and the stained-glass windows. She knew instantly that it couldn’t be real. Her heart sunk. There was only one type of dream she had here; she didn’t have the words to describe it. Her heart began to pound and she noticed, much to her dismay, that there was a knife in her hand.

“No. No no no, drop it. Drop that. No. Bad. Stop.” Nothing happened. The hand wasn’t really hers, after all.

 

She was walking forward without wanting to— she did her best to drag her feet but nothing came of it. In a blink, she saw Sans appear before her. Her throat went dry. His eyes were dark. In her mind, he loomed; towered like he were ten feet tall and made of stone.

“Oh, no. No no no, what did you do!?” she yelled at whoever’s eyes she had.

Sans started talking but she couldn’t hear it through the heart pounding in her ears. She’d heard it before, anyway. It was a nightmare. She could feel her body tensing up.

“No no no no no, don’t you hurt him, don’t you dare—”

 

She ran at him anyway. His eye lit up. Her soul turned blue. He threw her, hard. She felt every impact— things snapping, other things going numb. In a strange way, it was almost a relief, but it struck her with horror that whoever she was seeing through knew the fight almost as well as she did when her body began to outmanoeuvre the dragon-like skulls, the Gaster Blasters, surrounding her brother that shot great, blinding beams from their mouths.

 

“No, no no no, stop!” Frisk yelled. “Stop it, I won’t…! I don’t want to—!”

Her body ran at him with the knife again, but she threw all her weight towards the ground. She didn’t expect a thing, and so felt like she could faint when the leg gave out and her body dropped to its knees.

“Wh… What the hell…?” someone else’s voice asked.

The dragon’s maw opened before her and she had no choice— she was blasted away. She felt everything stop.

 

Frisk’s eyes blinked open in the hall steeped in golden light. She looked around quickly. It wasn’t quite right, but maybe that was a good thing. Her back was to a column outside of the main path and she faced one of the grand windows marked with the sign of the Delta Rune.

“Wh… What?! No. No, no, c’mon, wake up,” she said to herself.

 

She heard a crash. Her eyes went wide and she peeked around the column. To her shock, she saw someone who looked a lot like her, with a knife in their hand. Walls of bones were flying at them. She froze. Her brain stumbled over itself to try to understand. She had never seen this battle from the outside before. That other thing, though, it was fast. It was like an acrobat. She gulped, hard.

 

She tried to run; found that she could run. Determination filled her to the brim. She could see them— see them both. It was just like before. That thing that looked like a kid was about to charge at him, the sheen of their blade glinting coldly. She ran faster. Why did she have to be so small? She felt tears in her eyes.

 

She had to remember it wasn’t real. Maybe it had been, once upon a time, but now it was just an echo. She could help.

 

She reached out and snagged the beast around the middle, and tackled them to the ground. They slid along the tile together until the wall stopped them. That thing— she could almost have sworn it was Chara— looked up at her with a frowning face and bright red eyes.

“You again?!” they demanded.

Frisk struggled to get to her feet, but the other one was faster. Their knife was quick. Frisk jumped back, but the blade still caught her shoulder. It hurt like it was real. Frisk gulped, tearful, and tried to catch her breath.

“Stop fighting,” she said. “Please. Leave him alone. You’ve done enough.”

“Or what?” they sneered. “I dunno what you are, but you’re so weak. What the hell could you even do to me?”

Frisk grimaced for a moment saw a flash of blue beyond the other’s head, and she started to smile. “Get dunked on,” she said quietly.

“What?” The other one scowled incredulously.

“I said,” the kid muttered, her voice getting a little stronger, “get dunked on.”

They looked back at her with a furrowed brow, but then their eyes went wide and they whirled to face Sans. It was too late, though — those monstrous skulls faced them and blasted them into the ground until there was little left but charred dust. The glimmer of their red soul hovered for just a second and Frisk hopped and grabbed it tight in her hands.

“Stay gone,” she said.

 

Frisk took a deep, shaking breath as the soul vanished into dust, and she turned to Sans. His eyes were still black, his brow furrowed. She steadied herself and hurried over to him— had to resist hugging him in case she freaked him out.

 

“Are you okay? She didn’t hurt you, did she?” she asked. “I think I tripped her up that first time. I hoped she wouldn’t come back, but I think we’re okay for now.”

He didn’t relax much, but the magic along his fingers crackled out. “You’re bleedin’.”

She looked at her shoulder reflexively and wished she hadn’t, but she tore her eyes away quickly. “Hey, small price to pay, right?” she asked with a smile. “It’s not like it’s real, anyway.”

“That’s not a very good joke, kid.”

“I-It’s a dream,” she insisted. “It’s not real now. Everyone’s fine. Papyrus is fine. You just gotta wake up, you’ll see.”

 

He frowned and rubbed the back of his skull. “Oh. Right. Shouldda guessed when there were suddenly two of you. You her evil twin or somethin’? Evil twin of evil kid means you’re good, right?”

“Sans, what the heck are you talking about?” Frisk said. “Dude, are you okay? Who do you see when you’re looking at me? I-I’m not her, I… I’d never… I’m not gonna hurt you.”

 

Sans stared at her in silence for a few, long moments. His brows lifted and he leaned in a little closer. “F… Frisk…?” He sounded like he couldn’t believe it.

“Yeah!” she said.

The light came back to his eyes. He took her by her good shoulder. “Frisk?” he repeated.

She nodded. The look of shock on his face made her heart stall. Before she could say a word, he dissolved into glittering blue dust and vanished. She took a deep breath. He had managed to wake up. The dream had been his. This one almost always was. It began to dissolve, too.

 

Her vision blurred to black and she stood in a room of shadows. She looked around quickly, confused. This was different. She pulled out a speck of a lighter colour in the darkness. She headed for it, squinting. Hands, maybe? Skeleton hands?

“S… Sans?” she asked. “Papyrus?”

Finger bones carefully grasped her shoulder. Comforting; reassuring. Grateful? She turned to look, but still couldn’t see.

 

- - -

 

Frisk woke up sweating, her heart pounding, body shaking with every breath. “Oh my god,” she muttered. “Not again.” She rubbed her eyes and looked around in the dark. She was in Papyrus’s room, on his bed, though he wasn’t even in there.

 

Frisk threw back the covers and stumbled onto the floor. She hurried out into the hall. Sans’s door was barely ajar. She could hear the skeletons’s voices just inside. She bit her lip and crept closer.

“You’re one hundred percent sure you’re okay?” Papyrus asked.

“Yeah. No worries,” Sans said. “Thanks, bro. Super cool of you to check on me.”

“Of course, Sans, I’m the number one brother a monster could possibly have!” he announced. “And, as such, I’ll do whatever you need from me to help you feel better. I know the amount of fun involved in these dreams is basically none.”

“That’s true. Huh. What’s that?”

Frisk didn’t realize she was tapping the wall anxiously with her foot until he spoke. Her heart stuttered. She gulped and peeked in.

 

“S-Sorry. Just me,” she said.

“Ah! H-Human!” Papyrus said quickly. “It’s um… It’s quite late, isn’t it? Would you like me to tuck you back in?”

Frisk shook her head and cautiously looked at Sans. He seemed okay, but only until he locked eyes with her. Then, suddenly, he looked almost afraid. Frisk gulped.

“I’m… I’m gonna go. Sorry. S-Sans, feel better, okay?” she said.

 

She hurried out of the room quickly. Uncertain, but wanting to give them privacy, she slipped on her shoes and rushed outside.

 

Frisk wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the cold and leaned against the side of the house looking off towards Waterfall, frustrated, unsure what to say or do. She wanted nothing more than to give Sans the biggest hug in the world and explain everything, but she didn’t want to put that on him yet. She didn’t have nearly enough answers, and they weren’t even close to being on the same page anymore. Once everything was settled, she told herself.

 

She sighed. Of all the memories, of all the dreams, why did it have to be that one? Sans didn’t like to talk about it much. All she knew was, in that piece of time, everyone else was dust. Sans fought not to save himself, not even for revenge outright, but to force a reset or what he called “ditching a timeline”. Frustrate another time traveller into giving up on the place he was trying to protect. He was really good at it, too.

 

Frisk pouted and rubbed her arms from the cold. She closed her eyes. He must’ve been desperately worried about something else. Usually that one didn’t get to him unless— Frisk gulped. Of course. The reset. It was her fault.

 

She jumped when she heard the front door open and feet crunching through the snow and hurriedly wiped the tears from her eyes.

“Kid?” Sans knocked on the wall. “What the heck are you doin’?”

She turned to look at him with surprise and he met her with a strange expression. He looked worried, for some reason. She grimaced.

“You’re not lookin’ too good, kiddo,” he said.

“M… Me? N-No, I’m okay,” she said quickly. “What about you?”

He shrugged. “How’s the shoulder?”

“Fine! It’s fine, don’t w…” Frisk’s stomach dropped. Blew it right away. She stared at him and bit her lip.

His brow furrowed and he locked eyes with her. It was almost like she could see all the pieces sliding into place in his mind.

 

“Oh… uh… I mean… I’m a huge dumb idiot.” She smacked her face into her hands. “I was gonna tell you, I just didn’t want to freak you out. I’m so sorry.”

Sans flinched. He came a little closer. “How long?”

Frisk took a deep breath. “U-Um… Ever since I started being able to save,” she admitted. “Sorry. I u-usually can’t stop that thing but I r-really tried and—”

 

She squeaked when he hugged her tight. She certainly hadn’t expected that. She could feel something of his soul pulsing like a quickened heartbeat through his ribcage.

“Kid, I… Uh… I’m sorry,” he said. “That hurts pretty bad, huh?”

“What? Oh, no,” she said, “I mean, my shoulder’s f—”

“Not that.”

Frisk’s stomach dropped, but she laughed tiredly and hugged him back. “It’s okay,” she said. “You’re awesome. They deserve it every time. The, um… the Gaster Blasters are my favourite.”

“Never shouldda been you,” he grumbled. “You shouldn’t have ever even seen those.” He cupped the back of her head and his magic tingled comfortingly through her skull.

She wilted. “S-Sans…” She grabbed him tighter and hid her face against him. “Th-Thank you. It’s okay. You did the right thing.”

He sighed quietly. His fingers clenched gently into the back of her hair. His magic was faint, a gentle, cool blue light. She felt a little tinge of regret come through the sense of reassurance he was trying to send out.

“Rough night. C’mon.” He pulled back and shoved his hands in his pockets, then tilted his head towards the house. “It’s cold out here, huh?”

 

Inside, they caught Papyrus halfway through putting his boots on.

“Oh! There you are, what happened?” he demanded.

Sans shrugged. “Nothin’, bro,” he said. “Frisk, uh… she thought she saw the nice cream guy go by.”

“Th-That’s right!” Frisk said. “No luck.”

“Darn.” Sans shrugged again. “Next time I guess.”

“Next time, you two grab me first, I am clearly the fastest runner,” Papyrus said. “I can catch up, no problem. Though I’m not sure exactly why you would want nice cream so late at night!”

“I, um… I just thought i-if Sans was having a bad dream, m-maybe it might make him feel better?” Frisk suggested.

“Aw! That’s very sweet of you, human!” he said. “Isn’t it, brother?”

“Mhm.” He grinned. “Just so you know, I’m holdin’ back, like, at least five puns just for you, Paps.”

“NYEH! You better,” he said. “Anyway! Never fear! Know that you all can sleep safely with the great Papyrus around!”

“Thanks,” Frisk said.

He stuck his thumb up and then took off his boot. “Now, unless you two need anything, I’m going back to bed!” he announced. “Good night!”

“Good night, Paps, thanks again,” Sans said as Frisk waved.

 

Sans took off his jacket and then turned his eyes on the kid. “Can I tell you somethin’?”

“Y-Yeah…?” she said.

He was quiet for a while.

“Uh… Sans?” she said.

“Sorry. I forgot.” He grinned and shrugged, then ruffled her hair and walked off. “Good night, kiddo.”

Frisk pouted.

 

- - -

 

Frisk woke up to the sound of Papyrus shuffling around his room. She sat up and rubbed her eyes groggily to watch him pulling on his “battle” wear over top of a t-shirt that had a skull and crossbones on it.

“Good morning, human!” he said brightly. “Sleep well after all that strange stuff last night?”

“Yeah. Thanks for letting me use your bed,” she said.

He stuck his thumb up. “Not a problem at all,” he said. “It’s definitely the coolest bed ever. Very cozy! Feel free to use it any time! Especially right now, it’s still very early.”

“So what are you doing up?” she asked.

“Well, I’m about to…! Uh…” His face went blank for an instant and he straightened up and rubbed the back of his skull. “Huh.”

“What?” Frisk asked.

“Well, every morning since I decided I wanted to be a member of the Royal Guard, I would get ready and go out patrolling for humans,” he said. “But now, I mean, I guess I don’t need to go recalibrate my puzzles, or even Sans’s! I’m… not exactly sure what I should be doing right now. Hm. Didn’t occur to me.”

 

Frisk frowned thoughtfully and then stood up off the bed. “Well. There’s still a human to catch.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” Papyrus said.

The kid pointed at herself with her thumbs and smiled. “I bet,” she said, “that I can get away from you for at least a few minutes.”

“What?! Impossible!” he said. “I’d catch you for sure!”

“Okay, how about, if you can catch me before I get out of the house,” she said, “I’ll do whatever puzzles you want.”

Papyrus’s eyes lit up. “You mean it?!” he asked shrilly.

“Yeah, of course!” she said.

The tall skeleton grinned. “Human, you’re on!”

 

- - -

 

Sans looked up from his newspaper as he heard a clattering and thudding from upstairs. He peered around curiously and the sound of a door slamming made him jump. Frisk came sliding down the banister and ran for the front door. Before Sans could even ask what was up, Papyrus overtook her and she turned on a dime and sprinted for the kitchen. Papyrus cackled and ran after her. Sans watched them with confused amusement as they tore around the room until Papyrus dove over the sofa and grabbed Frisk.

“And the great Papyrus is the victor! As expected!” he said. “Good try, though, human!”

“Oh darn, I guess we’ll have to do some puzzles,” Frisk said.

“And I have just the ones!” Papyrus said. “Back to the upstairs! Nyeh heh heh heh!”

Frisk waved at Sans as his brother ferried her away. He finished up the page he was on before getting up and peeking in on them.

 

“It’s all theoretical, mind you!” Papyrus was saying— he was sitting on the floor with Frisk, pouring over a large sheet of graph paper. “But if you were to change these all from X to O, and you can’t fly—”

“What? No flying?” Frisk joked. “Gee.”

“No flying! And see, these here are… well, I was thinking maybe a really cool spike trap, but honestly they will probably just end up being snow piles. Or rocks. Possibly.”

“Okay. So you can’t go over the snow piles.”

“No! They’re too high and you have no snowpants.” He handed Frisk a crayon. “Got it?”

“Got it,” Frisk said. “Don’t want wet pants. Okay.”

“Wet pants are failure!” Papyrus said.

Frisk hmmed and stared at the puzzle plan. Sans grinned to himself and walked in.

 

“Sup?” he asked.

“Brother, good morning! I’m shocked you’re up! Frisk is going to test some of my puzzle prototypes,” Papyrus said brightly.

“Oh. Nice.” He squatted down to look as well. “Huh. Looks a little complicated.”

“I’m sure I can get it,” Frisk said. “I just need to… um… Hmmm…” She drew her first arrow on the page.

Papyrus was already beaming. Sans sat down to watch. Frisk was careful with her lines, but the hint for success was soon obvious— the way to go was ultimately like completing a connect-the-dots of Papyrus’s face.

 

“Nice,” Sans said.

Frisk grinned. Papyrus was aglow.

“You did it! Fantastic! How was it? Too hard? Too easy? Tell me everything!” he said.

“It was good,” Frisk said. “I think it’s a good challenge. But I think it was a little easier for me because I know what you look like. But I do like that it’s also a picture, that’s pretty creative!”

“Fair enough!” Papyrus said. “Up for another? Ooh! Actually! There’s one I set up outside already that I’d like to ask you about!”

“Oh, okay, which one?” she said.

“The invisible electricity maze!” he said.

“Uh, bro, she did that one already,” Sans said.

“Yes, I know, but I’d like some live feedback,” Papyrus said. “I know we won’t need it any time soon, but you can never be too careful with your puzzles!”

“No problems here,” she said.

 

“Guess we should get you a coat,” Sans said. “Paps, you got anythin’ left from when you were short?”

“Nnnnoooo I don’t think so, not from when I was as small as the human, anyway!” he said. “I think I gave most of it away, but you’re still short, Sans, maybe you have something?”

“Fair point. Alright,” he said. “Kid, hope you’re okay with hand-me-downs.”

“Yeah, of course! That’s actually a really good idea, yesterday was super cold,” she said. “Thanks so much!”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Sans said as he got to his feet. “Still gotta find somethin’.”

“Still appreciate it though,” Frisk assured him.

 

Sans’s room was full of socks, and his mattress and blankets were in disarray, but that wasn’t really anything unusual. In the corner, somehow, a gentle tornado of garbage and papers covered in what looked like complicated maths spun, giving off a light breeze. Trying not to step on any of his floor stuff, Frisk followed him to his dresser and he opened a drawer and began to shuffle through clothes that had been mashed inside. He started tossing junk onto his mattress and Frisk watched with confusion.

“Sorry I’ve been kind of garbage at being the adult here,” he said. “Uhh… Some of this stuff might fit you if you want to change.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Y… Yeah. I must stink.”

Sans laughed. “Huh. I’m not sure if I have another coat, ‘specially one in your size, but… Hmm.” He shuffled through a few more layers of junk.

Frisk leaned over to look. It seemed like he had never thrown away anything in his life. “How do you find anything?” she joked.

“Determination,” he said with a wink.

 

She smiled, but then poked his arm. “Hey, so… You okay?” she asked.

“Weird that you’re askin’ me that, you’re the one who got wrecked,” he said. “But yeah. Is it messed up that I feel kinda better, actually? Maybe I’m just a freak, I dunno. Not about the, uh, laser in the face bit. I mean the part after that.”

“Yeah? I’m glad,” she said. “That… That one’s rough as heck.”

“So you’ve done it before,” he said.

“Y-Yeah,” she said. “Um… A couple times.”

“Welp. That’s messed up,” he said. “Thanks for remindin’ me it was a dream, though. I needed that. Sometimes my mind just doesn’t clue in.”

“It, um… It gets better. A little bit,” Frisk said gently. “And um… I… I know I’m just a kid, but I kinda go through the s-same thing, so… if you ever wanna talk about it, or whatever… um… So, yeah.”

“Cool.” He ruffled her hair and she couldn’t help but grin.

 

He dragged a squished, heavy black hoodie out of the bottom drawer and showed it to her with a brow raised questioningly. “Uh… This okay?”

She took it and unrolled it, then pulled it on. It was only a little bigger than her size, and quite cozy. “Oh! Yeah, that works, thank you,” she said brightly. “Ooh. What’s this?” She pointed to a patch on the front, where there was an oval with four symbols in it. A hand making a victory symbol and a skull and crossbones, framed by a water droplet on each side.

“Oh. That’s just my name. Thing’s mine from when I was around your age.” He shrugged.

Frisk stared at it, and then shrugged as well before shooting him a smile. “Thanks so much, I really appreciate it,” she said. “I, um… I’m really grateful. For everything.”

“Hey, it’s just like Papyrus said,” Sans said. “We’re family. That’s what we do. Right?”

Her eyes lit up. She nodded, but then looked embarrassed.

 

“I was really worried you guys wouldn’t feel the same again,” she said. “E-Especially you.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I, um…” She tented her fingers nervously. “I was scared you’d be mad about the reset.”

“That’s hilarious,” he said. “Nah. Not after what you told me, no way. C’mon, kid, after what we been through? You think I’d ditch you so fast?”

“I was just super worried,” Frisk said bashfully.

He frowned; looked thoughtful for a few seconds. He rubbed the back of his skull. “Honestly? When I, uh, first noticed we were back, I couldn’t stop thinkin’ that we were screwed,” he said. “I thought maybe you were gone. Like the timeline was messed up again, it was some other anomaly or somethin’. If we had lost you, well… I don’t know.” He looked troubled for a second.

Frisk edged closer worriedly. He quickly smiled nonetheless.

“When I realized it really was just you again, you wouldn’t believe how relieved I was,” he said. “Can I be straight with you for a second?”

“I’ve always thought you were kinda more round though,” she said with a smile.

“Heh. Nice,” he said. “But, uh, I want to apologize. For yesterday.”

“Huh?” She tilted her head. “Why?”

 

He went quiet to gather his thoughts and he looked kind of tense. “When I saw you, I couldn’t believe it was really you,” he said. “I was so freaked out that I let it mess with my judgement. You needed me and I screwed it up.”

“But, Sans,” she said quickly, “I… I don’t feel like you screwed up.”

“Kinda did, though. Never shouldda been like that. That wasn’t fair of me,” he said. “Kiddo, you… Heh. You’re real important to me, y’know? You never let me down. I kinda don’t wanna let you down, either.”

Frisk tilted her head. He shrugged and rubbed the back of his skull, suddenly looking bashful. The kid smiled and grabbed him into a tight hug.

“Never have!” she said brightly. “I’m sorry for scaring you so bad, though.”

“You can’t seriously be apologizin’ to me,” he said.

“Mmhm!”

“Kid, c’mon, that’s nuts, I… Sheesh.” He hugged her, too. “The hell am I gonna do with you?”

Frisk cozied into his arms and smiled. “This is good.”

 

- - -

 

Some of Sans’s childhood clothes mostly fit her, so Frisk picked out a faded blue-striped shirt, and some shorts that were basically long enough to be pants. She quickly bundled up in her borrowed hoodie before heading out with Papyrus.

 

It was early and so, outside, there weren’t very many monsters at all— so far, only a bear-like monster outside Grillby’s, but he looked like he was asleep anyway.

“Are you excited, human?” Papyrus asked. “You get to be my puzzle assistant today! It must be very thrilling to have someone as great and cool as me as your mentor!”

Frisk grinned and nodded. She paused as they strolled by the inn and her eyes fixed on the tear in time again, shining like a star. “Just one second.”

 

Papyrus watched curiously as she scampered over to it and held on tightly, then returned to him.

“Okay, we’re good!” she said.

“What did you do? Was that saving?” he asked.

“Yup!”

He offered his hand and she took it as they kept going. “Oooh, so that’s what those are for,” he said. “Interesting!”

“You can see them?” she asked.

“Well, yes, of course!” Papyrus said with a laugh. “Hold tight to me on this bridge, it’s actually made of rock but it’s still a bit daunting, and I know Sans likes a piggy-back across it most of the time.”

 

Frisk snickered and, as they came up to that long “bridge” over a huge canyon, she stopped to look. The distant walls were dark, but as far as the eye could see, there were snow-covered pines stretching out straight to the edges.

“Wow,” she breathed.

“Hmm?” Papyrus asked. “What are you looking at?”

“This place is huge,” she said. “I never really looked out this way before.”

“Well, yes, it is fairly large,” he said, “but I’m sure the surface must be much, much more impressive! Do you have forests like this up there, too?”

Frisk stepped out onto the bridge with him and they walked across. She tried to be as confident as he was. “Yeah, a ton. With different kinds of trees, too.”

“That already sounds amazing,” Papyrus said brightly. “I read that you don’t even have to travel for different temperatures, is that true?”

“Sort of? I mean, you can if you want,” she said. “There’s weather on the surface. And seasons. So for a couple months, it’ll be like this, but then the snow will melt and plants will grow. But different places have different weather and seasons, if they’re far enough away.”

“Hah! Wow! That sounds like total fantasy to me,” he admitted, “but that’s exciting, too. What was it like when you left?”

“Um… Like, when I fell, or when I left?” she said.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” he said. “If you don’t want to talk about before the time travel, I understand.”

 

They left the bridge and stood on solid ground again. Frisk hadn’t realized how much her legs were shaking until she settled back into the snow.

“No, that’s okay,” she said. “Before I fell, it was spring. No snow. A lot of rain, actually, but some warm stuff and sun, too. Before I went backwards, it was kind of like this, but colder and the snow was like, up to your knees in places.”

He looked down at her and smiled, and then took her hand again as they continued onward. “Well, that’s not so bad.”

“No, not my knees, your knees,” she said with a laugh.

“Oh! Wow, okay, that is way too much snow,” he agreed. “I guess I had to carry you around quite a bit, since you are much shorter than I am. You are in fact a teeny tiny human.”

“True,” she said. “I was a little taller than now, though. Not that it helped much. Still shorter than Sans.”

“What?! Oh no, you shrunk, too!?” he demanded. “Oh my god, human, you have definitely  not had a good time this last little while, have you?”

“It’s getting a bit better,” she said.

“That’s good to hear,” he said.

 

They passed by the greatest of the dog guards, Greater Dog’s, post and piles upon piles of snow poffs, but no one was around yet. It must still have been too early. The path narrowed up ahead and Papyrus paused.

“Hmmmm…” he mused.

Frisk shot him a confused look.

He grinned and lifted her up. “Hang on tight, human! Nyeh heh heh heh heh!” He sprinted down the path that quickly gave way to ice and slid straight across, dodging the switch patterns he had left there as easily as if he were wearing skates.

Frisk squealed and laughed. He slid to a casual stop in the snow at the end and Frisk’s eyes were all but sparkling.

“So cool!” she said.

Papyrus’s cheekbones flushed warm orange-amber and he grinned. “Obviously!”

 

Together, they ran through the snow and slid across more ice fields until they came upon an empty plateau where the snow had been worn down in a square shape across the whole top.

“Okay, this one really confounded me!” he said. “How the heck did you get through the invisible electricity maze?!”

Frisk snickered. “Well, uh… Okay! Let me show you!” She grabbed his hand and put him at the far end of the maze, and then she ran around to the other side. “Okay! So, you gotta give me the electric orb thingy, right?”

“Ah, yes! You are quite correct!” He pulled it out of his pocket and then, without even thinking about it, he crossed the maze to give it to her. “There you are!”

Frisk tried not to laugh and he backtracked exactly the same way.

“Okay! Be careful, though, human!” he said. “This is a hard puzzle, I would not want you to get hurt!”

She stuck her thumb up and then, quite confidently, crossed the maze the same way he had. He gawked.

 

“YOU DID IT AGAIN!? How how how!?” he said.

Frisk turned around and pointed at the tracks.

“Yes, I see them, but how does that…?” Papyrus’s eyes went wide. “You followed my footprints?!”

“Yeah! See, bro, you’re so nice that you were guiding me the whole way, and you didn’t even know it,” she said, and she winked. “Shocking, right?”

Papyrus laughed and rubbed the top of his skull. “Very perceptive! Frisk!! You are very clever.”

She stuck her thumbs up again and grinned.

 

- - -

 

Alphys was fixated on the monitor, cross-legged in her chair, clutching a notepad tight in her claws and balancing a cup of ramen on her knee, in the lab’s main room when Sans arrived to check in on her. She didn’t notice him at first and he moved in to stand behind her. She was watching the cliffs around Snowdin where Papyrus and the kid were still out in the snow. They were sliding around on the ice. Frisk kept falling over, but she looked like she was having a good time, and Papyrus was doing his best to look continuously cool. He never lost his footing at all.

 

“Hey, Doc,” Sans said.

Alphys yelped and nearly fell off her chair, and she turned to face him as she tried, hurriedly, to shove her notebook under her keyboard and the scales of her cheeks turned red. “S-S-Sans! Oh my g-god you scared me.”

“Yeah. I do that,” he said. “Whatcha watchin’ there?”

“Um… Uhhh…” She awkwardly pointed at the screen. “You mean th-there? Just the… um… well… Just, um… The h-human, and…”

Sans was clearly trying not to laugh. She rubbed her forehead.

“S-Sans, I, uh… Y-You know I’ve been watching…?” she said. “A-All yesterday s-since you left. A-And all night and—”

“Sheesh, Alphys.”

“I-I’m not dumb, Sans! Th-That doesn’t look like a captured human to m-me!”

“Whoops. Guess you caught us,” Sans said. “Turns out it’s not a human. It’s just a skeleton with skin.”

“That is a human, Sans!” Alphys said.

“I know. It was a joke,” he said.

 

She sighed and rubbed her brow. “What are you g-guys doing?” she said. “D-Don’t get me wrong, it’s… It’s very sweet. And… And your b-brother, he looks so happy. B-But that’s still a human, and we—”

“Yeeeeeah, about that,” Sans said, grinning awkwardly. “I think we’re keepin’ her?”

“Wh-What?!” Alphys squeaked. “Sans, you can’t. You can’t, they’re…! Th-They’re d-dangerous! I m-mean… Usually. B-But…! Asgore, he’s gonna find out!”

“Why?” Sans asked. “You gonna tell him?”

“N-No! No…” She flinched and looked down. “I haven’t even t-told Undyne yet.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it,” he said.

Alphys sighed and slurped some noodles. She gulped heavily. “Y-You’re welcome. I think,” she said. “Sans, what the heck are y-you thinking?”

“It’s complicated,” he said.

“I mean, yeah, the human’s super c-cute, and it… she hasn’t hurt a-anyone, and your brother really likes her, and it’s really cool when she d-does that dodging magic thing, but… O-Okay, I g-guess I see the appeal?” Alphys sighed. “But what is she doing? What are you doing?”

“Listen. I’m just tryin’ to let her be a kid for a bit,” Sans said. “It’s… Heh. This is why I never get involved in this stuff, it’s way too much work.”

Alphys bit her lip. “I… I trust you. B-But I can’t get out of telling Undyne a-another day! I h-have to meet with her t-tonight about…! W-Well…! She’s already s-suspicious about it! She already heard there’s a human, she just doesn’t know where.”

“It’s okay, I’ll take the heat. If she asks, just say I took your cat girl thing and wouldn’t give it back. She’ll understand.”

“Th-This is a terrible idea,” Alphys grumbled.

“Yeah, probably,” he said.

 

Alphys was about to say more when a strange sort of beeping noise sounded from upstairs.

“ALPHIE? WHO’S THERE WITH YOU? SHOULD I COVER UUUUUP?!”

Alphys’s face went pale and she started to sweat. Sans grinned.

“ALPHIIEEE? I’m coming DOOOWWN THEEERREE!”

“It’s Sans! It’s j-just Sans,” she said.

 

Down the escalator on their left came the long-legged, humanoid form of Mettaton, unpolished and monochrome, but definitely stylish, posing dramatically on the stairs.

“Lookin’ good there, Number 5,” Sans joked.

“Thanks, darling, Alphys has done a really bang up job, hasn’t she?” he said as he strutted over. “The new look still isn’t quite ready for public consumption, but we’re getting there!”

“Balances look good,” he said. “How are the new actuators?”

“Feel like they’re a part of me already!” Mettaton said brightly. “Ah, I can’t wait until this is the new normal! We’ve got another session tomorrow, right Alphie?”

“Um… U-Uh… R-Right,” Alphys stammered. “M-Mettaton, maybe could you—?”

“Wait a tick, what is THAT?!” He grabbed the back of her chair and leaned forward, balancing on the tip of one of his toes as he stared at the monitor. “Oooh my.” He bent over Alphys and grinned.

She looked like she wanted to melt.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “Would you look at that. Doctor Alphys, hero of the underground.”

“N-No, w-w-wait,” she said quickly. “Y-You can’t tell anyone!!”

“What, no one?” he gasped.

“N-Not one p-p-person!” she said. “W-We’re not r-ready yet. And…! A-And besides…! S-Sans, is… Uh… Sans has dibs…?” She shot him a look with a brow raised.

He grinned and shrugged. Mettaton groaned.

“Now that’s hardly fair!” he exclaimed.

“Uh, finders keepers?” he suggested.

Mettaton pouted. “I can’t even see the human up close?!” he demanded. “B-But! I must! Human media is why I am who I am today! All those movies about robots and humans getting along! Metropolis! Short Circuit! Terminator! The dramas! The comedies! The decades worth of crime serials! You won’t even let me thank it before you rend the soul from that cute little thing?!”

“Dude, do I look like I’m into rendin’?” Sans said. “Look. I’m sure she’s headed for the barrier eventually, alright? So if she gets past Undyne, you’ll meet her”

“Well, thanks for nothing,” Mettaton said, rolling his eyes. “Ugh, you’re not even taking her soul? Honestly?”

Sans shrugged. Mettaton scoffed and folded his arms.

“You are a strange, strange little skele-man,” he said.

Alphys groaned and put her face in her hands for a moment before she looked at Mettaton with pleading eyes. “C-Can we get a little teeny bit of p-privacy for a sec?” she asked quietly.

Mettaton sighed and rolled his eyes again, but he walked off to go up the escalator on the other side of the lab, waving flippantly over his shoulder, leaving Sans and Alphys alone again.

 

“S-So you’re… not… taking her soul?” Alphys asked quietly, her expression hopeful.

“Nope,” he said.

“And P-Papyrus isn’t—”

“Definitely not,” Sans said.

Alphys let out a long, deep sigh. Sans raised his brows.

“Wasn’t expectin’ that reaction,” he said.

“I-I just… O-Okay. Okay. Breathe, Alphys.” She took a few deep breaths. “I… Don’t get me wrong, I w-want to s-see the surface as much as the n-next monster, and… and believe me, I understand the c-consequences of being stuck h-here, but… I-I don’t want t-to see that little h-human get killed e-either, not if she’s not hurting anyone.”

“Cool,” he said. “She appreciated the noodles, by the way.”

“Oh!” Alphys blushed. “Sh-She did? That’s g-great.” She rubbed her head and took off her glasses to brush her fingers over her eyes. “Y-You know Undyne’s gonna… She’s g-gonna… Sh-She’s not gonna stop hunting her. Sh-She’s… Well, you know h-how she gets.”

“Oh yeah, I know,” Sans said.

 

Chapter Text

As morning drifted in, Snowdin town was slowly filling up with bustling monsters, but none gave Frisk even a second look — Papyrus drew almost all the attention as he barrelled into town with her on his shoulders. She tapped his head and he slipped to stop right near the inn and let her down. She saved and then took his hand as they continued down the road.

 

“Huma— I mean, Frisk! That was really quite fun,” Papyrus said. “I’m so thrilled you like puzzles as much as I do!”

“I’m not sure anyone can like puzzles quite as much as you do,” she said with a grin, “but I’ll sure as heck try.”

“That’s the spirit,” he said brightly. “Obviously you will not be quite as great at puzzles as I am, but you can absolutely be a close second, and together, our puzzles will be the most fantastic ones anyone has ever seen!”

“Awesome!” Frisk said.

 

As they got home, Frisk hung back to check behind the mailboxes for any trace of Asriel. Instead, she found the mug broken against the side of the house. She grimaced and bent down to pick up the pieces, cold against her fingertips.

 

“In my defence, I didn’t do it on purpose.”

Frisk looked up quickly to see Asriel giving her a weird half-smile where he sat towards the back of the house.

“I got surprised. Kind of smacked it,” he said. “Hot chocolate wasn’t bad though.”

“Oh. Good,” Frisk said, unable to keep the relief from her voice. “It’s okay. As long as you didn’t do it on purpose, no big deal.” She held up two of the larger pieces of the heart design that had been on the mug and smiled. “You kinda broke my heart though!”

Asriel tilted his head. “Huh. Thought you’d be pissed… Chara would have been pissed.”

“You know I’m not really much like her, right?” she said gently.

Asriel frowned. He seemed to have something on his mind, but before he could say anything, Papyrus peeked over Frisk’s head curiously. Asriel stared with surprise.

 

“Frisk! Are you talking to some…? Oh!” He squatted down beside her and grinned. “Hello there! I haven’t seen you hanging around in a while! Was that you I saw at the window last night?”

“Wh-What? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Asriel said quickly. “But… Hi?”

“You guys know each other, huh?” Frisk asked.

“Yes!” Papyrus said. “Flowey, right? It’s good to see you again!”

Asriel forced a smile— it looked a little awkward. “Y-Yeah. Um… G-Gotta go!” He ducked back underground in the blink of an eye.

 

“Oh! Guess he must’ve been busy,” Papyrus said. “I was about to invite him in. I guess you know him, too, right, Frisk?”

“Yeah,” Frisk said as she stood back up with the mug pieces and they headed for the door. “That was Asriel.”

“What? Oh, no no, Frisk, you must be mistaken, he told me his name was Flowey, so there’s no way that he could be…” His eyes went wide and he put his hands to his mouth for a moment. “HE’S Asriel?! That’s the monster that—!?”

“Yup,” Frisk said.

He gasped. “No!”

Frisk nodded.

“Wow! That’s awful!” Papyrus said. “We need to help him!”

 

Inside, they found Sans dozed off on the sofa. No surprise, really, it was barely 6:30 in the morning. They were especially quiet as they went back to Papyrus’s room. He pulled out a piece of paper from near his computer and took off his mitts to write on it for just a moment. Frisk took a peek once he put it down. It was a list of puzzles and symbols, with checks and notes on it.

“You keep records?” she asked.

“Of course! I, the great Papyrus, am a master of organization,” he said. “I have binders and binders full! Though I guess I won’t need them so much any more. But, that’s just fine! I can start new puzzle binders for when we’re on the surface!”

Frisk smiled. “Yeah, that’ll be good.”

“Oh, also, hum… Nyeh, sorry! Frisk! Feel free to put those mug pieces here, I’ll fix them up,” he said.

She put them on desk and gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry about that, I didn’t think he’d break it.”

“Don’t you worry about that at all.”

 

Papyrus went into his desk drawer and pulled out a tube of glue and sat down. Frisk watched with interest as he carefully aligned the pieces again and began to stick them together, his finger bones making gentle tinking sounds against the ceramic.

“See? Just another puzzle,” he said. “I am quite good at these! But! You actually have much smaller fingers than I do, would you like to help out?”

“Sure, I’ll give it a try,” she said.

 

She traded spots with him and carefully began placing some of the smaller shards back into place.

“See? Not bad at all!” he said. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we have a few mugs like that already. I mean, some of them even come like that! So don’t worry, alright?” He squatted down to help with the glue and a few of the bigger pieces. “Down here, we’re not really big on throwing things away, no matter how small. Most things can be fixed. It just takes a little work and some determination, right?” He winked.

 

They finished up and Papyrus offered her his hand, and she grinned and gave him a high five. They left the mug to dry and went back downstairs.

 

“Sans!” Papyrus lifted the sleeping skeleton up off the sofa under his arms. “Sans, wake up, it’s time for breakfast!”

Sans stared at him through groggy eyes for a moment and grinned. “Hey, you’re back,” he said. “Cool. Had an ice time out there?”

Papyrus groaned and dropped his brother back onto the cushions. Sans laughed and rubbed his eyes, and his brother went into the kitchen.

“Either of you want me to get you anything?” he asked.

“I’ll look once you’re done,” Frisk said.

 

The kid lazily sat down with Sans. She yawned and stretched. “Good nap?”

“Yeah,” he said

“Jealous,” she joked. “I guess I should be planning for Waterfall.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. About that,” he said, “I went to see Alphys again. She’s kinda freakin’ out. She’ll probably have to let Undyne know about you by the end of today.”

“Oh.” Frisk’s face flushed. “R-Right. G-Gotta deal with that. I’m sort of worried. This is gonna be a lot of running.”

“Why? You just doin’ the same as last time?” Sans asked.

“Well, yeah, that’s the only way we ever became friends,” Frisk said.

“You really think she needs to chase you around Waterfall to be friends with you?” Sans asked with a laugh. “That’s frickin’ weird.”

“Thing is,” she said, “she wouldn’t even talk to me until I escaped from her in Hotland. If you can call it that.”

“Welp. That’s annoying,” he said.

Frisk pouted and nodded.

 

“To be honest, though,” he said, “I’m curious to see if this magic whatever on your face works again.”

“Y-You think it will, right?” she asked nervously.

He shrugged. “Sure hope so. Did it work on Tori?”

“I… I didn’t even know I had it with her,” Frisk admitted.

He looked thoughtful and then put his hand near her face, his magic flaring. It lit up in lines again across her skin, bright blue, until he let his own magic fizzle out.

“We should definitely try it on Undyne before anyone else,” he said. “Dunno if this junk has a limit, right?”

“Right…?” Frisk agreed hesitantly. “What, you think it might?”

“Just in case,” he said. “Since, you know, Alphys is definitely not going to try to stab you if she doesn’t remember you right.”

“R-Right,” Frisk agreed a little reluctantly.

 

Sans patted her on the shoulder reassuringly nonetheless. “Hey, by the way, Paps, turns out we’re no-good traitors to the realm and whatever,” he said.

“What?! We aren’t traitors!!” he yelped. “We’re just helping a human get through the underground safely and… Oh. Whoops.”

“Oh, jeez, guys, I’m sorry,” Frisk said. “A-Are you in trouble?”

“Not yet,” Sans said.

“Should… Should I go?” Frisk said. “Like, should I go try to meet Undyne, now, then?”

“That’s crazy, Frisk!” Papyrus said. “No way, you haven’t even eaten today yet! And it’s probably a long trip! You weren’t planning on going on your own, were you?”

“I, uh… I guess I didn’t really think about it,” she admitted. “I always have, I guess?”

“Well, fear not, because I, the great Papyrus, will absolutely come along this time!” Papyrus announced.

“R… Really?” she stammered.

 

Papyrus walked out of the kitchen with his breakfast spaghetti and he patted her on the head affectionately. “Of course!” he said. “Now, if I’m really going to be a traitor, I will be the best traitor ever! I’ll tell Undyne that I did capture you, but you made a daring escape. I may have to come up with something rather spectacular.”

“And you’ll have to explain why you didn’t call her right away when you actually got the human,” Sans pointed out.

Papyrus looked like he was about to protest, but he couldn’t find the words. He put a hand to his forehead. “Ugh, this is why I hate lying, it always comes crashing down like a… a crashing down type thing. I don’t know, I can’t even simile!” He paused, took a deep breath and stood up straight with a determined look on his face. “No! It’s okay! It’ll be fine! I, the great Papyrus, will figure this out for us! It’s just a new kind of puzzle.”

 

“W-Well, to be fair, we’re still gonna get the barrier broken,” Frisk said. “Just… you know, not through killing me.”

“Wait, killing you?!” Papyrus yelped. “Who said anything about that?! I mean, other than Undyne.”

“Uh… Bro,” Sans said. “That’s… That’s what happens. Human gets captured; their soul gets taken. That’s how it works.”

“WHAT?!” Papyrus shrieked. “I want no part in that! I’M GOING TRAITOR, HARD CORE! The Royal Guard can wait until it is one hundred percent less murdery!”

 

Frisk leaned her chin on her fist and looked thoughtful. “What if we invite her over again?”

“WHAT?!” Papyrus yelped. “But the amount of stabbing that happened last time was way over the top!”

“But maybe if you just, like… I dunno, call her and explain that I just wanna talk?” Frisk said. “It was a surprise last time so I wasn’t ready, but… I mean, jeez, I love Undyne. I hope we can be friends again.”

“To be a bit more practical,” Sans said, “we, uh, are also gonna have a lot more trouble gettin’ the soul stuff anywhere with Undyne trying to hunt you down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a terrible idea, but I don’t have a better one.”

“Well… alright,” Papyrus said cautiously, pulling out his phone. “Her patrol route should take her near here around now anyway, so…”

“Oh! Oh wait, sorry, I need to save first,” Frisk said. “Because if she stabs me like right now, I’d rather only have to redo a few minutes.”

“Don’t get lax with those things,” Sans said.

“Sorry, I got out of the habit,” she said bashfully. She got up to put her shoes on. “Don’t even call until I get back, okay?”

“I won’t,” Papyrus assured her.

Sans offered her his hand. “I’ll take you,” he said. “It’s faster.”

She grabbed him, and before she could even thank him, she was standing out in the snow near the inn.

 

Frisk shot him a startled look. He grinned and shrugged.

“Can everyone see them?” she asked.

He shrugged again. She reached into the tear with both hands and gently felt it stick. When she pulled back, she felt Sans’s hand on her shoulder and they were in the house before she could even blink.

 

“Wowie, that really was quick,” Papyrus said. “Okay, so, call now? What do I say?”

Sans shrugged, and so did Frisk. Papyrus frowned a little and pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Oh, one more thing,” Frisk said. “If she attacks me, whatever you do, don’t stop her.”

 

- - -

 

When Undyne burst through the front door only a few minutes later, Frisk didn’t even manage to get a word out before she was standing in the snow outside again. She looked at Sans; he looked a little shellshocked.

“Pffft oh my god.” Frisk started snickering and couldn’t stop.

Sans put a hand to his face and laughed tiredly. “That was so stupid.”

“Yup,” Frisk agreed. “One more time?”

 

No one was looking, so it was just a matter of Sans grabbing the kid’s shoulder to take her through one of his “shortcuts.” They arrived back in the house and Papyrus yelped in alarm.

“Holy wow I was not expecting that to be so sudden,” he said loudly. “Just… It just goes back? Just like that? Are you okay, human? I guess she got you?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “That was your first one, huh?”

“Yes! Wow! Freaking weird!” he exclaimed. “Sans, you feel every one of those?!”

“Yup,” he said.

“No wonder you’re consistently a wreck!”

“Dude.”

“O-Okay, how about we try this,” Frisk said. “Papyrus, you meet her outside and try to talk her down first before she sees me?”

“Well, okay, I’ll do my very best!” he said.

 

He went outside to call. Sans shot Frisk an amused look. She took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves, and he folded his arms and leaned back against the wall.

“Breakfast after?” he asked.

“Y-You don’t think this’ll work, huh?” she said.

“Nope, not for a second,” he said. “But hey, I’ve been wrong before. Pretty recently. Kinda dig it. Maybe it’ll happen again, who knows?”

“I’m glad you’re so confident,” she joked.

He grinned. “But seriously. What d’you want?”

“Um… I dunno, that sandwich you made me yesterday was pretty good,” she said.

He laughed. “Seriously?”

“Yeah! You could show me how to make it, maybe?” she asked.

“Sure. It’s not like it’s hard, though,” he said.

“Think Papyrus will eat it?” she said.

“Probably not, but he’s got enough spaghetti in the fridge to last him at least a month,” Sans said. “Not that that’ll stop him from makin’ more.”

 

Voices grumbled outside. Sans raised his brows. Frisk braced herself.

“Wait, wait, Undyne, hear me out!” Papyrus shouted. “Listen! The human is really nice and not at all dangerous and—”

“Papyrus, I understand. Really. You’re just too nice for this. You could never take a human’s soul,” Undyne said. “I’ll do it.”

“No no no Undyne wait, that’s not all, the human knows us! She knows you! She wants to be friends again, and I think if you gave her a chance you’d really like her and—”

“Enough!” Undyne slammed the front door open and her eye settled on Frisk almost instantly. “Well, well, well…” Her spear generated in her hand and her eye flashed brightly through her helmet.

Frisk didn’t know what to say.

“No no no no no Undyne wait!” Papyrus yelled.

Undyne didn’t wait.

 

A flicker in time, and they were out by the inn again. Frisk sighed and rubbed her head, and shot Sans an apologetic look.

“Sorry, I froze up,” she said.

“We done with the terrible plan now?” he asked.

“Y-Yeah,” she said.

He put his hand on her head and brought them home.

 

“You’re back!” Papyrus said brightly, but he instantly tossed his phone over his shoulder. “Nope, not happening again. I, the great Papyrus, have decided that this plan is too dangerous for you, human. Frisk. I’ll get it eventually.”

“Sorry,” Frisk said. “You’re right. It was a bad idea. I just hoped she wouldn’t be so… so…”

“Murdery?” Papyrus suggested. “Angry? Hot headed? Spear-attack-oriented? Insistent on killing all humans with a violent passion?”

“All of those,” Frisk said. “Maybe if she would just talk to me…”

“Guess we can’t just take a stab in the dark like that,” Sans said, plopping back onto the sofa.

“Sans!” Papyrus chided.

 

Sans grinned. “Breakfast?”

“Yeah!” Frisk said.

“What?! Just like that?” Papyrus asked.

“Look, we got until tonight before Undyne is supposed to know the kid is here,” Sans said, and then shrugged. “So we’ll deal with it then.”

Papyrus pouted. He frowned. He paced. “I want to say just do it now, it’ll be fine. You know. Get it done and over with and everything will work out,” he said. “But this seems to call for a little more preparation than I expected due to Captain Undyne’s very stabby nature! Frisk, you became friends with her the first time, when? After I brought you to her house?”

“Yeah, but she was only at her house because I outran her and she almost passed out in Hotland and I gave her some water,” Frisk said. “Ugh, never mind, I’ll just try to meet her in Waterfall again.”

“Don’t worry,” Papyrus said quickly. “Your very cool big brother Papyrus will figure out how to help you! In the meanwhile, I’ll go make up a report. You get something to eat!”

 

He grabbed his plate of spaghetti and headed back upstairs to his room and, lazily, Sans got to his feet.

“Welp. Guess I could try that whole bein’ an adult thing again for a second,” he said. “Sandwich, right?”

She grinned and scampered after him into the kitchen— it smelled like tomato sauce. Sans, still fairly lethargic in his movements, got out hotdogs and shoved them in the microwave. He pointed to the cabinet under the sink, and though Frisk didn’t know why at first, she found the bread tossed under there amongst extra bones. As she put it on the countertop, Sans was pulling a bottle of ketchup out of his coat. The kid grabbed the counter and bounced up and down on her toes.

“Okay, show me, show me,” Frisk said enthusiastically.

“You know me, it’s not complicated,” he said. He took the hotdogs out of the microwave and pushed them in front of her. “Just chop the hotdogs, I guess? I’ll find some chips or whatever.” He handed her a short knife with a chipped handle from one of the cabinets.

Frisk nodded and started to chop as he turned to check the fridge.

 

Frisk started to yawn again, lost concentration; felt the knife slip in her hand. She yelped and flailed. Knocked the ketchup onto herself and the floor as she scrambled to catch it and dropped the blade as she realized she had cut her thumb. She stood, frozen, wondering what the heck had just happened. Sans turned to look at her with wide eyes.

 

“Kid, what the heck—?”

“Oh dang,” Frisk said. “Well. Great.” She stuck her thumb in her mouth.

Sans looked like he was trying really hard not to laugh. “What did you do?”

“Oh, nothin’, just…” She showed him her finger. “Can dodge magic going nuts, can’t cut hotdogs and not cut myself. Fantastic.”

“Pfffft, you are just havin’ no luck today, huh? Go show Paps, he’ll fix you up,” he said.

“It’s not that bad,” she said. “Sorry about your shirt.”

“No worries, just swap it,” he said.

“Oh! Thanks. Okay. I’ll… uh… Be right back!”

 

She dashed off and Sans picked up the ketchup bottle from the floor. He stared at the splatter for a while, then tossed down a paper towel and slowly mopped it up with his foot.

 

“Hey, Sans?” Frisk called.

“What?” he said.

“Sans?!”

“What?”

Frisk ran back into the room in a slightly too-large, very faded “Lazy Bones” t-shirt and she gave him an apologetic smile. “Thanks,” she said.

“Oh. No problem.” He tilted his head. “Dude, what’s up with your arms?”

 

Now that she had bare arms, it was pretty obvious right away that they were bruised and cut up. They looked like she’d gotten on the wrong side of several dogs and flying branches. Probably had, now that he thought about it.

“Oh. Uh…” Frisk looked embarrassed. “It’s no big deal.”

He grabbed her arm and peered at it closely before she could protest. Some of them were old. He recognized as he’d done with the one on the side of her hand. Many of them, however, were still fresh. Sans rubbed his forehead and wandered out of the kitchen towards the stairs.

“Hey, uh, Papyrus?”

“No, no, it’s okay,” Frisk insisted.

 

Papyrus stuck his head out of his bedroom. “What is it, brother?”

“Hey, you, uh, wanna come take a look at the kid’s arms?” Sans said.

“What a strange request!” Papyrus bounded down the stairs and over to Frisk very quickly. He looked at her, squatted down, then lifted her hand curiously. “Oh my god, you really are hurt, aren’t you? Why didn’t you say something?! And what’s your finger doing? Oh! Dripping. Oh no, human, are you leaking?!”

“Um… Kind of?” She looked at Sans for help. “I-It’s not a big deal.”

Sans shrugged. “That’s blood, bro.”

“What?! That’s blood?!” Papyrus yelped. “Oh no, Frisk, you’re—!”

“It’s fine!” she protested. “It’s just a little cut, it’ll stop on it’s own soo—!” Frisk yelped as Papyrus lifted her up off her feet and plopped her onto the couch.

He cupped his chin and paced quickly in front of her, brow furrowed.

“I was thinkin’ you could try to heal her,” Sans said.

“Oh! Yes! Does that work on humans?” he asked.

“Dunno, you gotta try it.”

“Guys,” Frisk said. “I’m okay.”

“Nonsense, Frisk, you can’t be leaking your blood or whatever goo and you must be so achey!” Papyrus hopped onto the sofa to sit cross-legged with her and took her hand in his. His magic glowed bright against her thumb and, though it itched a little, the skin began to close as if being zipped up. “Wowie!” he said brightly. “Brother! It does work on humans! What a relief…”

 

He reached for the TV remote and flicked on the screen before tossing it away. He took one of her arms in both hands as the magic began to ebb out through his fingers.

“This may take a little while,” he said, “so feel free to watch some TV in the meantime. I’ve never done this to a human, obviously, but I’ve patched up a few of Sans’s cracks.”

“Yeah, I guess Sans must always be crackin’ up,” Frisk said.

“Pffft.” Sans grinned and leaned over the side of the couch. “Got me there. Glad that works.”

“Well yeah, I couldda told you that,” Frisk said.

 

Both skeletons looked at her with surprise.

“Seriously?” Sans asked.

“Sure,” she said. “Back home, one of you guys or mom would usually patch me up if I did something dumb.”

Sans’s eyes went wide and he stared at her blankly.

“Wait, one of…? One of us?” Papyrus repeated. “Am I right in assuming that includes Sans?”

Frisk was confused, but she nodded. Papyrus looked at his brother with shocked eyes, but he started to grin wide.

“Sans! You hear that?! Oh, wow, that is really fantastic news!” His eye sockets had actually started to water and he looked back at Frisk. “Oh my god, I can’t wait for this future.”

 

A worried frown crossed Frisk’s brow and Papyrus quickly wiped his face on the back of his hand. She looked at Sans. He smiled bashfully.

“I, uh… Wow. Okay. That’s interestin’,” he said.

“You gonna fill me in?” she asked.

“Kiddo, I, uh… I haven’t actually been able to use healing magic for about… what is it, ten years, now?”

“Wh… What?! Really?” she said. “But you could do it just fine at home. You fix my headaches all the time.”

Papyrus gave him a huge grin and Sans’s face brightened considerably.

“Thanks for the good news,” he said.

“You’re welcome?” Frisk smiled sympathetically. “Sheesh, you are kind of a mess, huh?”

“Absolutely,” he said

 

He left and came back with sandwiches a few minutes later. He gave one to Frisk and sat on the arm of the couch to eat his.

“How is that feeling?” Papyrus poked the arm he was working on, gently pressing his cool, pointy fingertips into the skin as if to test it.

“Fine,” she assured him. “Thanks a bunch!”

He seemed satisfied and then switched to her other arm. The one he was done with looked like there had never been anything wrong with it.

 

- - -

 

Sans fell asleep again, so Papyrus put him on the couch properly and put a blanket over him once he and Frisk were done patching up her cuts and bruises.

 

As he went back to his room to check some things on his computer and fabricate his daily report, Frisk slumped over the table in the living room. She turned back to her embarrassingly short list of steps to get Asriel a soul. She was happy to be able to check off step two, but she still wasn’t much closer to any answers. She doodled more hearts on the page. She started listing her friend’s names. It was overwhelming, looking at it again, but she tried to keep what Sans told her in mind. As long as she loved them, that was what was important.

 

Frisk sighed. She half considered asking Sans to just bring her straight to Alphys, but with what happened with Undyne, she was worried about doing things out of order. Who knows what sort of things she might miss, or what had happened in the hours before they met that might change how her friends would react? And what if the magic on her face really did have limits? The thought of having to pick between Undyne and Alphys like that made her sick to her stomach, but really, Sans was right. Even so, it wasn’t a responsibility she wanted. Those two, they were a couple. They needed to at least remember each other, right? Or Frisk would have to play matchmaker big time— there was no way she’d ever forgive herself if she didn’t. She sighed.

“Don’t rush,” she whispered to herself. “Get it right. C’mon, Frisk, get it together.”

 

She tapped her pen on the paper, and then noticed her other note, the one about monster parents. She had almost forgotten. She went over to Sans and gently poked him. “Sans? Hey, Sans?” she asked.

“Hmm?” He didn’t even open his eyes.

“Where do baby monsters come from?” she asked.

He sunk back into the cushions. “Go ask Papyrus.”

Frisk pouted. She poked his shoulder. He didn’t move. She blew a raspberry at him and then went upstairs to knock on Papyrus’s door.

 

“Papyrus! Where do baby monsters come from?” she asked.

“What?! Um… Uh…” He opened the door. “Did you just ask about baby monsters?”

“Yeah. How does that work?”

“Urm… Well… When two monsters love each other very much, and they want to have a baby monster, poof! They get one!” he said.

“What?” Frisk stared back at him blankly. “Just like that?”

“Yes!” Papyrus said. “I used to think Santa brought them, but then it turned out it was more like… spontaneous combustion! But instead of intense burning, replace the fire with a little monster! I mean, sometimes. Sometimes there is growing, or eggs involved, it sort of depends on the monster, I think.”

Frisk stared at him. That answered nothing. “Huh. Okay. Thanks.”

He stuck his thumb up and grinned. “Anything else, human? Pfft, sorry,” he corrected himself, “anything else, FRISK?”

She shook her head and he ducked back into his room quickly. She sighed to herself and then went downstairs to grab her hoodie, phone, and shoes. “I’m going to the library!” she called.

 

Frisk’s fingers were instantly cold and she put her hands in her pockets as she walked down the road. The library was only a little ways away— next door, basically—  but she took off down main street and passed it to head for the tear in time near the Snowed Inn. She pulled her hood up, just in case. She latched onto the light and then doubled back.

 

She was almost there when she heard a familiar voice call out to her. She turned to see Kid coming at her with a big smile on his face.

“Oh! Hi!” Frisk said.

“Hey! You got a coat,” Kid said. “Awesome! How’re you liking town?”

“It’s nice,” Frisk said.

“Do you like it better than the city?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Frisk said.

“What’re you up to?” Kid asked.

“Going to the library,” she said.

He grinned. “Do you mind if I tag along?”

“Oh! No, I don’t mind at all,” Frisk said brightly, and they continued on their way. “I’m Frisk, by the way.”

“I’m Kid,” he replied. “There aren’t a lot of other kids our age in town, I’m glad to meet you.”

Frisk smiled. “Yeah, same.”

 

She held the door open for him when they got to the library. It was pleasantly orange and warm inside, and was empty other than a mostly asleep green lizard-like monster in a turtleneck behind the main counter. Frisk and Kid slipped by him and went to the back of the room, which was lined with shelves of books that seemed to be colour coordinated.

 

Frisk quickly began to browse the shelves she could reach. Kid peeked around her, then dashed down the shelves, looking around quickly. He came to a stumbling stop at the line of gold-coloured books.

“Oh hey, look, they got the next Trident of Vengeance book!” Kid said brightly. “You ever read them?”

“No,” Frisk pulled it out for him and held it out. “Don’t think so.”

He grabbed it in his mouth and ran it over to the table to their right, and then ran back to her. “Ooh! You should! Start at the first one, though. This one is number four. It’s about a cool bird monster hero named Sylph who has the powers of a hurricane! And she beats up all the bad dudes with her magic trident of vengeance!”

“Sounds kind of like Undyne,” Frisk joked.

Kid’s eyes all but sparkled as he grinned wide. “Yeah! Oh man, you like Undyne, too?! She’s so cool, right?! I want to be just like her when I grow up!”

“She is really cool,” Frisk said.

“Sometimes,” Kid said, lowering his voice, “I sneak over to Waterfall to watch her patrol. Don’t tell my parents.”

“I won’t,” Frisk assured him. “Wanna hear something cool? She’s training my big brother.”

“What?! Seriously?!” Kid squealed. “Oh wow, that’s awesome!! So have you actually met her?”

“Not yet,” Frisk fibbed, “but I’m really proud of my brother. He’s super tough. But I don’t really think she’ll ever let him be a guard.”

“What? Why wouldn’t she?” Kid asked, eyes wide.

“My big brother is like, the nicest guy ever,” Frisk said. “I don’t think he’d ever actually be able to hurt a bad guy for real. He doesn’t really believe in bad guys.”

“Huh. But what about, like… a really bad guy?” Kid asked.

“I think he’d try to make them change their mind about being bad,” Frisk said with a laugh.

 

She finally saw a book that might be helpful, one about monster souls, aptly titled About Monster Souls. She stood on her tip-toes and stretched, but still couldn’t reach. Kid looked at her, looked up, and then quickly ducked under her to lift her up on his little shoulders.

“Whoa!” she yelped. “Hah, thanks!”

“No problem!” he said.

She grabbed her book and he let her down and peeked at it.

“A bit boring, huh?” he asked. “School?”

“Kinda,” she said.

 

They went over to the table to sit down and Frisk opened the book. Page one already had over a dozen words she couldn’t read. She pouted. Beside her, Kid rolled his face over his book to open it and curled up in his seat excitedly to read. Frisk cautiously looked over. There were just as many words there she didn’t understand, but Kid seemed to be doing just fine.

 

“Hey, Kid?” she asked. “S… Sorry. Um… Can I ask you something?”

“Sure!” he said.

“Okay, this is weird,” she said, “but where do monster babies come from?”

“Monster parents?” Kid replied with a shrug.

“I know, but, like… how?” she asked. “How do they make a new soul?”

Kid shrugged again. “Sorry. I never really thought to ask my parents. Doesn’t the book say?”

Frisk stared at the first page again. “Maybe…?”

“Do you want me to read with you?” Kid asked.

“No, no, it’s okay, I’ll… I’ll get through it,” she said. “Read your cool book! Tell me about it after.”

“Hah, oh man, you won’t be able to stop me!” he said. “Err, unless you really really don’t want spoilers. Then definitely stop me.”

 

He went back to it and Frisk could only stare. She heard footsteps and looked up, expecting to see the drowsy lizard, but instead saw a drowsy skeleton.

“Oh! Hey, Sans,” she said. “What’s up?”

“Paps kicked me out. Said I should keep an eye socket on you.” He pulled up a chair and sat down beside her.

Kid looked over at him and smiled. “Hi! I’m Kid!”

Sans stuck his thumb up, but then looked at Frisk, and then back at Kid. “Crap.”

“What?” she asked.

“His name is literally Kid. This could get confusing,” he said.

“Pffft.” Frisk laughed. “Oh dang, what’re you gonna do now? Use my actual name?”

“I’ll figure it out, buddy,” he said with a wink as he slumped forward and rested his chin on his hand. “Don’t mind me.” He closed his eyes.

 

“This is my other big brother, Sans,” Frisk said. “He’s a sentry. When he’s not asleep.”

“I’m still a sentry when I’m asleep,” he said. “Just not a very good one.”

Frisk snickered.

“So, you’re, like, a skeleton, then?” Kid asked her.

She nodded. “Yup. Skeleton with skin,” she said. She could see Sans trying not to laugh out of the corner of her eye.

“Ooh, cool,” he said. “Hey, can you do bone magic?”

“N-Not yet,” Frisk said quickly.

“Yeah. I’m not old enough for much magic yet, either,” he said. “My parents kind of do bubbles, though, so hopefully I can do something cool with that.”

“Nice! I’m sure you will,” Frisk assured him.

“Do… Do you think someone with bubble magic could ever be as cool as Undyne?” he asked. “Or, I mean, maybe not as cool, because she’s pretty frickin’ cool, but like… I dunno. Maybe Royal Guard cool?”

“Yeah, absolutely!” Frisk said. “Magic is just, like, an expression of your soul, right? And I’m sure you have a super cool soul, so you can totally be cool like that.”

Kid beamed.

 

Beside her, Sans slumped a little farther onto the table. She nudged him gently with her elbow.

“Sans, you can go home and sleep if you want,” she assured him. “I don’t mind.”

“Nah, I’m good.” He shot her an amused look. “I’m honestly surprised you’re as awake as you are.”

She smiled and shrugged. Kid looked puzzled and Frisk grinned shyly.

“We, uh… We stayed up too late playing humans and monsters,” she said.

“Oh yeah, that game can be fun,” Kid said. “Let me guess, though, you have to be the human, right? Because you’re the youngest? My sister always does that to me.”

Frisk snickered and nodded. “I don’t mind. I’m pretty good at it. Right, Sans?”

He didn’t answer. He was asleep. She stifled a laugh.

“Lazybones,” she said quietly.

 

She went back to her book, sighed, and pointed to a word on the page before kid went back to his own story. “Sorry, what word is this?” she asked.

“Uh… calculation,” he said.

“And this one?”

“Exacerbated.”

She stared at him blankly. He smiled.

“It means to make something worse, usually,” he said.

“Ooh. Okay. Thanks,” she said.

He nodded, but then leaned around her to look at something. She turned her head and noticed his eyes were on the clock.

“Actually,” he said, “it’s probably around lunchtime, huh? I should check back in at home or my folks’ll worry. See you around?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Frisk said.

Kid grinned. “I like you, Frisk, you’re so easy to talk to, it’s like I’ve known you forever!” He picked up his book in his mouth. “Shee you latersh!”

Frisk waved at him as he left. She couldn’t help but grin before turning back to her book and looking somewhat dismal.

 

Frisk started to skip chapters, still uncertain. Regeneration, Composition, The Magic Basics; Advanced Magic. She was lost. Her cheeks flushed with frustration. She found a chapter called Genesis, and though she had no idea what that meant, it started with a flowery passage about children, so she figured she might be on the right track.

 

Beside her, Sans straightened up and looked at her with groggy eyes, then looked at the book as she she struggled to read through a paragraph that looked promising. All she could gather was that new souls appeared somehow. She put her face in her hands and groaned. Sans didn’t say anything, but he closed the book and took it with him as he got up. She turned to watch as he stood on his toes to put it back on the top shelf, and then he returned, patting her on the shoulder.

“Grillby’s. Come on,” he said.

 

The bar wasn’t even a full minute away. Sans took them to their regular seats up at the counter, but Frisk couldn’t help but mope, even as Grillby brought her a burger and milkshake. She ate tentatively.

 

“Problems readin’, huh?” Sans asked casually.

Her eyes went wide with surprise and she nearly choked on her food. “Wh-What?” she yelped.

“Your expression was kind of an open book,” he joked. “Chill.”

She pouted. “Y-Yeah, I’m not super good at it,” she said quietly.

He shrugged. “So, what you really wanted to know about was souls, not baby monsters,” he said. “Okay. Ask Alphys.”

“Sans!” she whined. “C’mon, you gotta know something!”

“All I got is that, usually, monster kid gets a soul that’s part of whoever the parents are,” he said. “It’s a complicated magical thing that just kind of happens, uh, spontaneously.”

“So the parents, do they give up a piece of their soul?” she asked.

He shrugged and nodded. Frisk’s eyes went wide.

“And they’re okay?”

“Seems like it, right?” Sans said with a laugh. “Look, kid, you wanna know the technicals, sorry, it’s just not my area. That’s all magic soul stuff. Monster biology. You wanna know about harmonic oscillators or relativity or wave function, I got you covered, though.”

“What’s…? What’s wave function?” Frisk asked.

“Oh. Easy. It’s when you do this.” He waved at her. “It functions as a greeting or a goodbye, usually.”

Frisk couldn’t help but laugh and he grinned.

 

She felt a little better. She sipped her milkshake as Sans drank from a bottle of ketchup. “Sorry for, um… For bringing you into my fibs and stuff back there,” she said quietly. “I didn’t know what else to say to Kid.”

“What fibs? All of that sounded kinda true to me,” he said.

“Wh… What?” She stared back at him blankly. “S-Seriously?”

“Sure. We were definitely playing monsters and humans last night. Game’s trash,” he said with a wink. “Skeleton with skin, also technically true. And that I’m your brother, true. Though, big, that might have been not true, exactly, but I guess compared to you, technically it’s fine. But only as long as you don’t grow up too fast, huh?”

 

Frisk gawked. Tears welled up in her eyes. His grin turned sympathetic. He put his hand on her head and gently ruffled her hair.

“Sorry, kiddo, was that not clear?” he asked. “C’mon, I gotta spell it out? Feelings stick. And you know how I feel, don’t ya?”

She wiped her eyes, sniffed, and laughed quietly. She felt like she could cry from relief. Instead, she took a large sip of her milkshake to try to steady herself. “S… So, it’s not weird if I call you bro again?”

“I was kinda startin’ to miss it, to be honest,” he said.

Frisk’s eyes went wide. He chuckled. She looked down, but her smile was relieved and her cheeks flushed.

“Oh man, I’m such a mess,” she said softly.

“That just proves it, doesn’t it?” he joked, taking the final swig of his ketchup. “Too bad you take more after me than Paps or Tori, huh?”

She scoffed, snickered, and wiped her eyes again.

 

“SANS!!”

Frisk turned in her seat. Papyrus was stomping towards them. Sans merely puddled on the counter in reply.

“You said you’d be in the library,” he said sternly.

Sans shrugged. Papyrus rolled his eyes and slung him over his shoulder and scooped Frisk up under his other arm. She held tight to her milkshake and Sans waved to Grillby as they were carried away.

“Come on, come on, happenings are afoot!” Papyrus said.

 

“Sup, bro?” Sans asked as they got outside.

“We are going home right now and doing the planning parts!” Papyrus announced. “Undyne called. She knows. Someone reported a human. I told her I’d handle it.”

“Oh dang,” Frisk said.

“Oh dang is right!” Papyrus said.

 

Inside the house, Papyrus dumped Sans and Frisk on the sofa and pulled over the table, which had a hand drawn map of Waterfall laid out across it.

“I’ve taken some time and drawn out the most popular routes to travel through Waterfall,” Papyrus said. “Frisk! Where does Undyne usually find you?” He handed her a bright red marker.

“Uhh…” Frisk stared at the map and began to mark some spots. “Here, near this grass. And this grass. And… this boardwalk, and then this one, and then also at this flower, and on this cliff, and—”

“WHAT?! That many times?” Papyrus demanded. “Oh boy…”

“No wonder you were puttin’ this off,” Sans said. “Kinda want to pass out just lookin’ at it.”

“Don’t do it, brother, we need you!!” Papyrus said.

“Oh! And here, too, we did the big fight here,” Frisk said as she circled a huge, rough drawing of a mountainous outcropping of stone that arched over the road, right near the end. “Oh, and back here, she cut the bridge and I fell into garbage town. ”

Sans leaned over the table and raised a brow at her. She sighed and moped.

“Wow, now that I really think about it, that’s kind of a lot, huh? What should we do?” she asked.

“Don’t let it get you down in the dumps, kiddo,” Sans said with a wink. “Paps, why don’t you go? We’ll catch up.”

We?” Frisk repeated with surprise.

“If you don’t want me to come, that’s fine too, I love doin’ absolutely nothing,” Sans said with a shrug.

“I… I really want you to come!” she said.

“Okay. You go save, I’ll meet you over there somewhere,” he said. “Paps, you good?”

“Yes! I think so!” he said. “Family hug!” He grabbed them both in a tight embrace.

Frisk hoped no one would notice she was shaking.

 

Chapter Text

Following the river out of town lead straight towards a massive cave opening where grey stone turned black and the telltale pricks of blue sparkled like glitter in the cracks and crevasses. Tunnels in Waterfall were lit with protruding crystals and blue, bioluminescent mushrooms, giving them a calm light, sort of like a permanent state of relaxing nighttime. The sounds of Waterfall’s namesakes bounced around the huge cavern— through tunnels and down deep, black drops, and there were so many that direction was often impossible to tell, but even so, it was never overwhelming. The air was cool and refreshing; much more palatable than the lands opening on either end of it. Even now, Frisk loved it here.

 

She took a long moment to stare up at the ceiling of the first Wishing Room— a place where the cavern’s ceiling was high enough to be invisible, and yet crystals twinkled above like stars glimmering in the darkness. Many generations of monsters’ wishes must have echoed across these walls. Wishes for happiness, for freedom— Frisk shared those wishes, now. Some of them even still lingered in the glowing, blue Echo Flowers that grew nearby, and if one made the effort to listen, they could be easily heard. It made her smile that, soon, they’d be able to wish on real stars, but she hoped the beauty of a place like this wouldn’t be lost on them.

 

Sans was taking his time, as usual. He told her he needed to do a few things, so she had gone on ahead, but he still hadn’t caught up. She wouldn’t be surprised if he was actually asleep somewhere. She didn’t mind, much, though. He always turned up eventually. And she’d had some fun talking with blobs and whistling with a little fish monster deep in the caves on the way in.

 

Her ears pricked to the sound something just beyond the door. She sunk back into the corner of the room, wondering if it was Undyne. The noise soon changed, though, into of a sort of dragging along the stone. She relaxed turned her head and saw a large, burly hippocampus peek in. He didn’t notice her, probably because of her hoodie and the telescope beside her. She watched him look up at those little shining lights and smile. She leaned up off the wall and walked over to join him, looking up.

“Got a cool wish?” she asked.

He jumped with surprise and reared back onto his tail fins. “Whoa, short stuff, where’d you come from?”

She jerked her thumb at the telescope.

“Hah. Same wish as always for me,” he said, flexing his biceps. “More days in the week for arm day!”

Frisk smiled and nodded. “Nice.”

“What about you, pipsqueak? Kids don’t usually stop here without a wish,” he said.

“I figure I have the same wish as a lot of people,” she said. “I’d like for the barrier to break. And for all my friends to be happy.”

“Hah! You’re cheesy,” he said.

“Actually, I’m Frisk,” she said, offering her hand.

He snorted and gave her his hoof to shake. “Aaron. You mightta heard of me.” He flexed.

Frisk snickered. “Good to meet you! But I should get going,” she said. “I gotta meet up with my brothers. Good luck with arm day!”

Aaron flexed dramatically. “Hah! I don’t need luck! See you later, short stuff!” He stopped flexing rather abruptly and a worried look crossed his brow as she approached the hidden door. “Hey! Wait one sec!”

She turned to look back at him and he put on a tough frown.

“I heard some rumours,” he said. “Nothin’ much to me, but a little kid like you should be careful. There might be a human out here.”

Frisk smiled and nodded. “Thanks, Aaron.”

 

Outside the wishing room opened up into a giant underground lake only passable by a boardwalk that extended over its shallow, inky waters. It was hard to see much but bristly whiskers of cattails poking out alongside the planks. Frisk squinted through the dark and then pulled out her phone for light to look more closely at where the boardwalk ended. Her heart dropped. The black water got very deep, very quickly— no plants peeked out and she couldn’t make out the opposite shore in such low light. All that gave her any way forward was a tiny raft that had barely enough room to stand on.

 

She gulped; felt her heart speed up. Tried not to think about how she couldn’t swim. Pleading with herself not to simply slip straight into the water, she put her phone away, braced herself and stepped quickly onto the small raft. It wobbled with her weight and, probably by magic, began to drift forward. Frisk’s stomach plummeted and she tried to stay as still as possible, as much as every instinct told her to grab onto something. She held her breath and tried not to imagine how deep the water was just beneath her feet. Whoops. Too late.

 

Just as the breeze in her hair began to feel a little exciting, the raft clunked into the boardwalk on the other side of the lake. Frisk yelped and tumbled onto the wood.

“Dang,” she grumbled. She slowly got to her feet and brushed herself off, and then took a look around.

 

There were plaques on the wall right in front of her and a path that carried on to the east. She could also see that the wall cut off into a ledge just above, so there was probably another path up there, too. A sudden sense of dread weighed heavily on her. Hesitantly, she snuck down the planks, keeping close to the wall until it gave way, the area opening up to an ancient overlook of paths and columns that loomed above her. She caught a sliver of movement in the corner of her eye. She gulped. She rolled up her sleeves and tapped her toes into her shoes to make sure they were on right.

 

She walked out past the wall, her heart starting to beat too fast, but she tried to keep her pace steady. She had expected to see Undyne earlier than now, honestly, but the chances she hadn’t been spotted were miniscule. She heard a weird sound, like a low buzzing. Energy tingled in the air and the hair on her neck stood on end.

 

She felt the first spear before she saw it— preluded by wind, it came right at her and she started to run. The strikes of magic lit up around her, blue and vibrant, striking the boardwalk just behind her heels. She tried to keep Undyne in the corner of her eye as she pursued her through the columns, but it soon became impossible. The changing light and the fast magic attacks made it dizzying and disorienting.

 

As the path twisted, Undyne’s aim adjusted— spears sailing above Frisk’s head. She yelped and had to dodge backwards; her stomach dropped when there was less than a solid footing behind her. Another strike and she rolled to the side, but it caught her shoulder. It hurt, a lot, and in her moment of hesitation, a hailstorm of spears came down from above. She yelped and scrambled to get out of the way, but more and more kept coming. She slipped and fell, and her heart sank.

 

“Undyne?! Excuse me, Captain Undyne?!” Papyrus’s voice called out. “I think I have an idea for re-capturing the human!”

Undyne stalled for just a moment, and, out of the corner of her eye, Frisk saw her turn and Papyrus run up to her. She scrambled to her feet.

“So I was thinking, Captain, that maybe, with the human you could—”

“PAPYRUS, I’M BUSY!”

“Oh! Wow, is that the human?! Looks like she’s running away!”

“PAPYRUS!!!”

 

Undyne roared and the spears came again. Frisk sprinted; thought she saw something ahead— a dark, amorphous shape on the path much taller than she was. She begged herself to keep going. A spear clipped her leg and she cried out and tumbled forward, rolling, dazed into a patch of long grass.

 

It took her a few precious seconds to orient herself and as soon as she did, she crouched and curled herself into a ball. She covered her head and tried not to breathe too hard. Heavy, armoured footsteps clunked down onto the boards and she felt the rumble through her whole body. Her heart began to pound. She closed her eyes tightly. Those boots stomped closer and closer. Frisk didn’t dare to look.

 

It felt like an eternity later that she thought she heard Undyne walk off. Frisk grimaced. She had to know, didn’t she? Could she see her soul shining? She hurried out of the grass, panting to catch her breath, trying hard to ignore the pain. She heard a rustling and she felt like her heart would stop. She braced to blink her eyes and see snow but, to her surprise, instead she saw Kid scamper out of the long grass, beaming.

“Oh my god, did you SEE that?!” he said.

“Kid?!” she demanded.

“Frisk! Oh man, that was the coolest!” He puffed out his chest proudly. “Undyne actually TOUCHED me, did you see that?”

“What the heck are you doing here?!” she said.

“Oh dang, I snuck out after lunch to see if I could see her, but I never expected…!” He shut his mouth and his cheeks flushed. “D-Don’t tell my parents, huh?”

She shook her head. He grinned wide.

“Did you sneak out to see her, too?” he asked.

She nodded. His smile only grew. He looked like there were stars in his eyes.

“I’m going on ahead! Maybe we can see her again!” he said. “See ya soon!”

Frisk awkwardly waved as he shot off down the path, now on solid ground. She took a deep breath. The hair on her neck stood on end, and she could have sworn she heard more footsteps on the other side of the grass. She took off running without even thinking.

 

It wasn’t until she caught a glimpse of blue and white out of the corner of her eye that she slowed at all. It didn’t occur to her until a second later that Sans was hanging out against one of the walls beside a telescope. Frisk skidded to a halt, doubled back, and immediately hugged him tightly.

“Whoa, kiddo,” he said.

He hugged her back and she let out a sigh of relief, before it struck her quickly that Undyne might still be after her. She squeaked and darted around behind him and clung to his coat.

“Don’t move don’t move,” she said in a hushed voice.

“Pfft, okay,” he said.

 

Frisk listened close, but she didn’t hear any energy rushing or the stomping of heavy, metal boots. Just water, falling ever downwards; flowing ever onwards. She stayed still for a few extra moments before the tension left her and she let out a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding.

“Th-Thanks,” she said.

“Sure, I literally did nothing,” he said.

 

She tried to calm down, though she was panting, and and Sans looked like he was trying not to laugh.

“Dude, you’re a mess,” he said. He picked a long piece of grass out from behind her ear and flicked it away. She hurriedly tried to smooth her hair and brush anything more out of it. He snickered.

“Welp. You survived Undyne so far, not too bad. Whatcha been up to?”

“Oh, you know, crossing lakes on nightmare rafts and running for my life, normal stuff,” she said. “You?”

He shrugged. “Been checkin’ out this telescope. It’s pretty cool, wanna look?”

“Uh…” He moved and she peeked through it, but saw nothing but red. “Oh. Is it broken?” She looked at him with confusion.

His wide grin was unnerving. She suddenly remembered why.

“Oh my god, Sans!” she said.

“What? No good?” he asked. “Not seein’ red, are you?”

She groaned but, at the same time, she started laughing and rubbed at the ink on her face with her sleeve. “You’re a butt.”

“Absolutely,” he said. “Hang on, I got a thing.”

 

He lifted his t-shirt a little and pulled a folded bag out of his ribcage, and from inside, took a roll of bandages and a weird tube shaped like toothpaste.

“What’s this?” she asked as he handed them to her.

“Welp, figured since I can’t heal you,” he said, “I could at least find somethin’ helpful?”

The tube was some sort of MTT brand magic soothing goo. Frisk’s eyes lit up. She popped the cap and squirted out a blob of the sparkling turquoise goo onto her fingers.

“I take it back, you’re not a butt,” she said.

He shrugged and grinned. “So the saves aren’t quite doin’ it for you this time?” he asked.

“Huh?” she said as she smeared the stuff onto one of her cuts.

“I thought they used to heal you up a bit better,” he said.

“They’re good for energy and that last big hit, but smaller things, sometimes they seem to miss unless I just straight up go backwards,” she said. “Feels like the rules are always different. Oh, um… Sorry about your sweatshirt. I got caught a bit.”

“I noticed,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Our clothes are kind of magic, too. It’ll fix itself eventually. Or I can just take it to someone.”

“Wow. How does that work?” Frisk asked with surprise. “Aren’t they from human places, though?”

Sans shrugged. “Magic.”

“But—”

“Magic. Don’t think too hard about it.”

 

Frisk took a couple minutes to patch up her cuts before they were on their way, deeper into the cavern. There was a type of grass underfoot where the path wasn’t just boardwalks, and it had a bioluminescent sheen, especially when it was touched. The water had taken on an ethereal blue shine here and it flowed much more slowly as little, glowing bubbles raised from its surface and took to the air, drifting gently like snow in reverse.

 

Frisk paused at one of the pools to splash some water on her face. She didn’t notice she was shaking like a leaf again until she rubbed her hands together to warm them from the cool water.

“Ah jeez,” she grumbled. She went to straighten up, but she jumped with surprise as her phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket and fumbled, slipping with her wet fingers. A magic grip seized on her soul for just a moment.

 

Sans pulled her away from the edge of the water and caught her phone before she dropped it. He answered it. “Sup? Oh. Hey, Papyrus. Yeah, she’s here. She’s fine. Yup. Uh-huh. No, don’t worry. No, she didn’t get stabbed. Bro, pretty sure you’d feel the time travel at this point. Yeah, of course. Yup. Uh-huh. I will. Yeah, yeah, love you too. Here she is.” He passed her the phone.

 

“Hello…?” she asked.

“FRISK! Oh thank god,” Papyrus said. “How are you? Did I provide an effective distraction?”

“Y-Yeah! Thank you. You saved me,” she said.

“Oh! I did! Okay, good, that’s a relief!” he said. “I called because Undyne is tracking you. She won’t come at you around any normal citizens, though! Probably. Most likely. So I believe your next meeting will probably be across those high bridges! Are you ready?”

“N-No, but—”

“Never fear! I, your coolest and tallest brother, Papyrus, will meet you there!” he assured her. “I have a secret clever plan for if you can’t quite put your magic face in her face. Just keep being your usual nice self who is good at running for your life and everything will be fine! I promise!”

“Um, okay, but—”

“Oops! Here she comes, talk to you later, love you, bye!” The line went dead.

 

Frisk stared at the phone for a moment, and then offered it to Sans.

“That’s yours,” he said.

“Yeah, but I’m kinda thinking I’m gonna be falling into some water soon.”

“Ah.” He seemed thoughtful but he took it anyway and put it in his pocket. “Gotcha.”

Frisk took a deep breath and tried to steady herself.

“Jeez kid,” he said, “still got snow in your boots or somethin’?”

“I just… I don’t feel ready. Especially if… if she doesn’t… Oh man. I really miss her, you know?”

“You’ll be fine. You always are,” he assured her. “C’mon. Let’s get this over with so we can get some lunch.” He began to walk on lazily and Frisk hurried to walk with him.

“We already had lunch,” she laughed.

“Second lunch,” he suggested.

She snickered. “Thanks again for this.”

“Hmm?”

“For coming with. I know you’d rather be at home,” she said.

“Hey, so would you,” he said. “No big deal. Just don’t ask me to do any runnin’ for you.”

 

The path lead north into a cave, carved into a contained path and room, that opened again into an expanse of dark water, but it didn’t look so dauntingly deep as before. It was quiet, the walls blocking much sound of rushing water that was common elsewhere, instead replacing it with a gentle rippling sound. Frisk paused to look around. Didn’t seem to be anybody there.

“Um, hey, Sans?” she said.

“Sup?” he said.

“Can I ask you a strange favour?”

He turned to her with a brow raised.

“I… I’m scared of what’s coming up,” she said. “And I was wondering if… if you’d practice with me!”

“Dude, what?” he asked.

“I’m out of practice,” she insisted, “and I’m kind of freaking out! Do you think you could just, like, throw some stuff at me?”

“Shouldda asked Papyrus,” he said.

“Y-Yeah, but…”

“I’m not promisin’ it’ll help at all. I can’t do green, but…” He shrugged.

Frisk’s face lit up. “Thank you!”

“Don’t thank me yet.” His eye brightened blue with magic and he held out his hand to generate a long bone, trying to mimic one of Undyne’s spears. “See if you can even hold it, first.”

 

It flipped sideways on its own and floated towards her. Hesitantly, she reached out to grab it. It felt weird against her skin— not painful, but definitely not normal either, almost like pins and needles— but she found she could hold it. Sans’s eyes went wide.

“Would you look at that,” he said.

“What?” she asked.

 

He came closer and turned her to look into the water. It took her brain a moment to process, through the ripples and shimmering, the fact that there were five lines lit up blue on her face, and her iris, too, was bright with magic. She yelped and drew back in a hurry, pointing at herself.

“That’s the glow!?” she said.

Sans shrugged and nodded.

“Why the heck am I doing that?!” she said.

Sans shrugged again and took the bone spear from her. The magic died down. He tilted his head and passed it back. Her eye lit up bright.

“Welp. Reacts to magic sometimes. Good to know.” He paced backwards to give her some room. “Ready to go?”

“Can I just… get a minute?” she asked.

“Undyne’s still waitin’, kiddo.”

 

Frisk took a deep breath. She straightened up and she gulped and held the makeshift spear like she would have done with Undyne. “Okay. If I move, yell at me,” she said. “Let’s do it.”

Sans shrugged. “Straight on all sides, right?”

She nodded. She expected her soul to light up again, but for some reason, it didn’t.

 

Sans didn’t even have to move and more spear-like bones appeared over his shoulders and shot at her. Compared to Undyne’s, though, they were lethargic. She blocked them with ease, each one dissolving into sparkling blue dust as it came into contact with the one she held.

“Cool. Good to go?” Sans asked.

“J… Just a few more times?” she said. “Maybe a little faster?”

 

His magic sped and he changed it up a bit. Frisk was starting to feel pretty good until one from the right bumped her a little, sending her off balance before she could block. Blue magic caught on her soul and pulled her back towards the centre of the path before she toppled into the water, and the rest of the attacks froze and disintegrated, as did the fake spear in her hands.

“Heh, sorry, kiddo, thought you would catch that,” he said. “My bad. Maybe quit almost fallin’ into the lake though.”

“Oh jeez, I’m super not ready,” she said.

“Hey,” he said, grinning, “don’t say that, you gotta keep your spear-its up.”

 

- - -

 

Just beyond the strange, contained lake, waterfalls poured from the ceiling, giving the place a cool, damp feeling. Roads and paths had been built specifically around them, but there was a small section of ceiling that seemed to have caved in more recently than the origin of the pathways. From there, water dripped steadily and solemnly onto an old, stone statue. Worn smooth, pieces had crumbled away and detail was missing, but Frisk knew exactly who that hunched, horned figure was.

 

She stared and looked for a while and Sans waited, seeming glad to not be moving, but he watched her with concern. Her eyes welled up again. Of course they had. She hadn’t been prepared for this.

 

She sniffed and wiped her face on her sleeve. She cast her eyes down the path and took note of a tall can filled with umbrellas for the watery road ahead. She scampered over to it, pulled up a green one, and brought it back to place it, very carefully, in the statue’s hand and opened it. As the water droplets began to roll off it, a music box inside the statue clinked to life, its familiar song echoing off the walls gently. The same one Toriel’s music box played. Frisk grimaced.

 

“That’s him, huh?” Sans asked.

Frisk nodded. She had to wipe her eyes again. “This broken bit… it was probably Chara. Do you know about that?”

“Who doesn’t? Sad story. But…” He ruffled her hair.  “Maybe not forever, huh?”

She nodded and smiled weakly. She took a deep breath. “Sorry,” she said. “Jeez. Crybaby.”

“True. But don’t worry about it,” he assured her. “Oh. Hey. Forgot somethin’. You okay on your own for a few minutes?”

She nodded. He vanished.

 

Frisk carefully pulled another umbrella from the holder and opened it to continue on her way through the downpour, water leaking through the ceiling and splattering spray from the consistent waterfalls. She kept her eye out for Kid, just in case, and sure enough, she spotted him, huddled in a little alcove just out of the cave’s rain.

“Yo!” he said brightly. “Frisk! You got an umbrella? Mind if I sneak under there?”

She smiled. “Of course not, come on.”

He grinned as she held it out enough for him to come under, too, and they kept going through the puddles and east down the path.

“Seen Undyne yet?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“Oooh, man!” he said. “I hope you get to! She’s so cool! She beats up all the bad guys and she never loses! I’ve never seen anyone else as cool as her. She seems really on guard today, huh?”

“Y… Yeah,” Frisk said.

“I heard some people talking,” he said, lowering his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “and they said there might be a human out here!”

“Really?” Her heart thumped. “Aren’t you worried?”

“Nah! Not with Undyne around!” he said. “It’s the human who should be worried! Dude, if I were a human, I’d be freaking out so bad! I’d be super scared thinking about how she would beat me up. I’d even go hide in the deep trash holes! Right? Dang.”

 

Up ahead, the drips slowed and the cavern opened up again with a fraction more light as the crags of the tunnel gave way to a massive place that gave a phenomenal view, all the way to the castle of New Home. Frisk had to pause, and she turned her gaze upwards to the black, invisible ceiling coated in sparkling gems that mimicked stars so closely she was tricked for just a second.

“Wow,” she breathed.

“Yo, what’s up?” Kid asked.

She pointed. He snickered.

“I didn’t mean literally,” he said.

“That was just a coincidence,” she said. “I was looking at… that. It’s so pretty.”

“Oh, sure, but I bet, when we finally get to the surface, the real sky there will be like, a million times better,” Kid said.

“Even if it is,” Frisk said, “this place is still great.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Kid said with a shrug. “Hey. That’s New Home all the way over there, huh? You homesick at all? Homesick for New Home, sounds kinda funny.”

Frisk smiled and shook her head, closing up the umbrella as they continued. The water droplets were slow now, barely enough to wet the ground.

“No. I was actually homesick for Snowdin, a bit,” she said. “I miss my brothers too much when I’m away. I’m actually a huge crybaby without them, it’s kind of embarrassing. Well, actually, I’m a huge crybaby with them, too, but I feel a lot less horrible about it.”

Kid laughed. “Nah, that’s okay, family’s important and junk. I got a sister, Daisy, and I mean, she kinda drives me nuts sometimes but I’d miss her a ton if I went to some other town for a long time,” he said. “Huh. Look at that.” He scampered up ahead, but then stumbled and landed hard on his face.

Frisk winced, but he was up in an instant before she could even offer help, speeding to a ledge in the dark that lay before them. He stood on his toes to get a look as Frisk lowered the umbrella and gently shook it off.

“Hmm… This is pretty high, right?” he asked.

“Looks like it,” Frisk said.

 

There was another bucket filled with borrowed umbrellas, and she gladly returned hers before joining him. She looked thoughtful.

“Aw, man, guess we’re kinda stuck, huh?” he said.

“I dunno, How about you get on my shoulders?”

“Me?! But, you haven’t even seen Undyne yet!” he said. “You got a much better chance if you go up there.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “You’re like, her biggest fan, right?” She bent down enough that he could put a foot up on her shoulder.

He hesitated for a second. “You sure?”

“Yeah, c’mon, it’ll be fine,” she insisted.

“Th-Thanks, Frisk!”

 

He stood on her shoulders and she helped lift him high enough that he could squirm over the ledge.

“Yo, you’re stronger than you look,” he said as he looked down at her.

She grinned. “Maybe I’m just really determined,” she said. “See you up ahead!”

“Maybe you could grab my feet?” he suggested.

“Don’t worry about it! See if you can catch Undyne and then tell me all about it!” she said. “I need to wait up for my brother anyway.” She would also prefer for him to be out of the way if the bridge fell, but she kept that bit to herself.

Kid smiled and nodded. “Thanks again, Frisk! See you soon!”

 

He ran off and Frisk let out a breath of relief. Maybe that would make it easier for him in the long run. Though, now, she wasn’t entirely sure how to climb that ledge. She jumped. Couldn’t make it. She doubled back to the umbrella stand— maybe she could use the handle?— and was about to take one when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Before she could even turn, she was up on the ledge.

“Whoa jeez!” she said.

Sans laughed. “Sorry. Ready to go?”

“Nope. Let’s get outta here. Where were you?” she asked.

“Laundry.”

“Laundry?” she repeated.

He shrugged and nodded.

 

Frisk could see the bridge up ahead— knew that it twisted into complex, branching paths across a deep chasm. She gulped and reflexively grabbed onto Sans’s sleeve as they moved towards it.

“Nervous?” he asked.

“Oh, uh… s-sorry,” she said, quickly shoving her hands into her pockets.

He bumped her with his elbow and then took her hand. “It’s fine.”

She was surprised, but her heart swelled and she grinned. She clung to him tight until they were just a few paces away.

 

Frisk took a deep breath and peeked over the edge of the cliff. There was another bridge far below, but beneath that seemed to be nothing but a void. She felt a sudden grasp on her soul and saw it had lit up blue. She cast a confused look at Sans.

“I know you’re used to fallin’ down places,” he said, “but maybe right now isn’t the best time?”

“Oh. R-Right.” She backed up and the light dimmed. “Sorry. Thanks.” She straightened up and took a deep breath. “I’m gonna go. Wait a minute, okay? If this anything like last time, Undyne’s gonna throw a bunch of spears at me.”

“Welp. Alright. Whatever you want,” he said. “I’ll keep an eye socket out.”

She nodded and hugged him tight. “Thanks a ton, bro. You’re great.”

 

She cautiously started out on the bridge. It felt solid enough, though there were no railings. She didn’t understand monsters and their constant insistence on high falls with no safeguards. Things were quiet, though. Her ears burned. Her heart started to beat, hard. Where was Undyne? Maybe Papyrus had delayed her? She expected spears to shoot up from below her at any second.

 

She squinted ahead through the darkness and faint crystal’s glow. Through the bleakness, though, she started to see a shape, large and ominous, balled up in her path. She slowed down a little, her heart pounding in her ears, and the shape grew and loomed as, before her, Undyne stood up straight and glared right at her. Frisk stopped. Kid was with her.

 

He looked at Frisk, eyes wide, and then looked up at Undyne.

“Get behind me,” she said.

Kid froze. Undyne lit up a spear in her hand and Frisk flinched. Kid’s eyes turned on her again, and, to her surprise, he ran towards her.

“KID, WAIT!” Undyne barked.

His toe caught on a plank and he face-planted, then lay still. Heart in her throat, Frisk ran to him without even thinking. She grabbed him and helped to lift the stunned kid up off his face.

 

“You okay?” she asked.

He looked at her with shock, and then back at Undyne. She was holding position, a gargoyle, her spear raised, a faint growl making the metal hum.

“F… Frisk? I need to know, is it true?” he asked, wide eyed. “Are… Are you the human?”

Frisk bit her lip. She nodded. “S… Sorry.”

“Oh my god, seriously?!” he said shrilly. “But you’re…! But you’re so nice and…! And you’re not scary at all!”

“HEY!” Undyne stepped forward once, the impact shaking the planks beneath them. “Get away from that thing.”

Kid whirled on Undyne, eyes wide with fear. Frisk put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“It’s okay,” she said quietly. “Get out of here, okay? Get onto solid ground. Everything will be fine.”

He locked eyes with her, but then frowned and looked at the Guard Captain defiantly. “H-Hey! Undyne, you… you can’t! You can’t beat her up! I… I won’t let you! She m-might be a human, but she’s s-super nice!”

 

Undyne growled.“Come back towards me,” she ordered. “Now.”

Kid flinched, but he stood firm and shook his head. “N-No! She’s… She’s my friend!”

“It’s okay,” Frisk assured him.

“But what about you!?” he asked. “She’s gonna beat you up!”

“I’ve been beaten up before,” Frisk said with a smile. “Don’t worry. Trust me.”

He stared at her, wide-eyed, for a few long seconds. He gulped and his mouth hung open for a few seconds more.

“Please. It would really mean a lot to me,” she said, lowering her voice. “…Just don’t want you to fall, y’know? I mean, like, into the dump or something.”

His brow furrowed. “…A-Alright, dude, but you better meet up with me later!”

She grinned and nodded. He scampered by Undyne in a hurry, casting a worried look over his shoulder. Frisk waved at him.

 

The towering monster in stiff, metal plating— one of her best friends in the world— took a step towards her. She scoffed. “So. Got the courage to drop your living shield, did you? Ready to fight me for real, you little brat?”

Frisk didn’t know what to say. She took a cautious step backwards and braced herself.

“Yeah. You know. You’re not so tough. Gettin’ real sick of chasing you down, honestly.” Undyne took off her helmet and dropped it onto the planks with a heavy, hollow thunk, then started to grin. “There’s supposed to be a big speech, you know. Tell you why we need your soul. Blah blah blah. Forget it. I just want to get a good look before I take you out. Ready to die?”

Before Frisk could even protest, the bridge bounced with quick steps.

 

“CAPTAIN UNDYNE! HEY, CAPTAIN UNDYNE!?” Papyrus bounded up behind her and took her by the shoulder. “Phew! There you are! So glad I caught you!”

“Uh, dude, a little busy, here?” she snapped, gesturing to Frisk.

“Oh, yes, of course! With the human,” he said. “So are you best friends yet?”

“What?! Are you nuts?!” she demanded.

“Oh, uh… Am I a bit early?” Papyrus asked Frisk.

She shrugged nervously. Undyne frowned deeply and rubbed her brow.

“Papyrus, oh my god…” She took a deep breath, but then raised her head and grinned. “You know what? Whatever. Doesn’t matter.” Her eye flashed.

The area around Frisk’s feet began to glow and she nervously stepped back.

“Um… Undyne, wait, I—!” Frisk’s words fell into a yelp as magic severed the bridge.

 

Her stomach twisted and she plummeted— she thought she heard Papyrus call her name. The drop stopped suddenly and midair as blue magic grabbed her. Her body was pulled sideways and she plopped with a gasp onto the lower bridge.

“Damn, kid.” Sans grinned down at her sympathetically. “No luck with this today, huh?”

“Oh my god, thanks,” she said.

He offered her his hand and helped her to her feet. She hugged him gratefully.

 

Clunking down onto the boards from above, Papyrus rushed to them and bent down, cupping Frisk’s face in both hands. “That was too close!” he exclaimed. “Are you okay?!”

 

“PAPYRUS!!” Undyne glared down from the bridge above and Papyrus jumped back up to stand in front of Frisk and Sans protectively. “What the hell are you—?!” Her eye narrowed. She pointed accusingly.

Frisk wanted to melt.

“Oh for god’s sake, you didn’t…?! YOU DIDN’T MAKE FRIENDS WITH IT, DID YOU?!”

Papyrus sighed. “I guess I have no choice,” he said. “Yes, Captain! The human is my friend! And the human wants to be your friend, too!”

“Oh my god, Papyrus,” Undyne grumbled. “Sans, is that you down there?! Talk some sense into him, will ya?! That thing is dangerous!!”

“Nah, I’m good,” Sans said with a shrug.

“NGAAAAAH!! WHAT IS WITH YOU TWO?! DON’T YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO?!” The confusion and anger was plain as day on her face. “DON’T YOU REALIZE THAT WE NEED THAT SOUL TO BE FREE?!”

“Undyne, w-wait!” Frisk said quickly. “P-Please! I want to break the barrier, too! I just want to—”

“THEN DIE AND GIVE ME YOUR SOUL, BRAT! I can’t believe you tricked Papyrus into—!”

“No no no no no, Captain, that’s not right!” Papyrus insisted, wide-eyed. “There was no tricking! This human is really, really nice! I promise! You’ll really like her!”

“THAT’S CRAZY!”

 

Papyrus frowned. “CAPTAIN UNDYNE, YOU COME DOWN HERE AND GIVE THIS HUMAN A HUG RIGHT NOW!”

“ARE YOU NUTS? JUST GIVE IT TO ME AND THIS’LL ALL BE DONE WITH!!” she yelled back.

“NO, CAPTAIN, THERE IS ANOTHER WAY! FRISK KNOWS THE FUTURE, SHE CAN HELP US GET TO THE SURFACE AND EVERYONE WILL BE FINE!”

Undyne froze. She stared down at them for a few moments in silence, squinting indignantly at them from her perch.

“Frisk?” she repeated.

Papyrus’s face lit up and Frisk and Sans looked hopeful.

“WHO THE HELL IS FRISK?!” she demanded.

Frisk pouted. Papyrus frowned. Sans sighed and shrugged.

“Welp. We tried,” he said. “I’m goin’ home. Come on, kiddo.”

“But…! But we need her on our side!” Frisk said worriedly. “A-And I want Undyne to remember me! I gotta at least try, right?”

 

“Never fear, Frisk, I, the great Papyrus, will settle this,” he assured her.  He turned his gaze up on Undyne defiantly.

She simply scowled in return.

“CAPTAIN UNDYNE! PLEASE, THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT, I NEED YOU TO TRUST ME! LOOK!” He scooped up Frisk rather quickly and held her against his chest snugly. “FRISK IS A NICE HUMAN, SHE HASN’T HURT ANYBODY! SHE EVEN LIKES MY SPAGHETTI! AND MY PUZZLES! WE ARE, IN FACT, PUZZLE PARTNERS! HOW COULD SHE BE A HORRIBLE HARBINGER OF DEATH WHEN SHE IS SO SMALL AND NICE AND FRIENDLY?”

Undyne huffed out a frustrated sigh. She rubbed a hand through her hair and paced for a minute. Frisk felt a spark of hope and looked up at Papyrus.

“If she comes down,” he whispered, “I have a plan. Just go with it, alright?”

She nodded.

 

After what seemed like a very long time and much grumbling, Undyne jumped down from the top bridge, landing heavily and then straightening up as if it were nothing.

“She’s so cool,” Frisk breathed.

Undyne eyed her suspiciously. Frisk waved, and Undyne scoffed.

“Okay, Papyrus, what’s so—”

“CATCH! NYEH HEH HEH HEH!” To the shock of everyone, he whipped Frisk at her and then two tumbled together off the bridge and into the void

“CRAP!” Frisk yelped.

“PAPYRUSSSSSS!” Undyne roared.

 

“Dude. Holy shit,” Sans said, eyes wide, hands on his head. He looked over the edge where the two had fallen, and they were both still yelling and spinning until they disappeared into shadows.

A splash and a blurble echoed up to them from the depths below.

“Never fear, brother!” Papyrus said, thumping him on the shoulder. “I did not regain any of my memories of Frisk until I was up close. This should do the job nicely.”

“Hey, Frisk?” Sans called. No answer, but, after a few long seconds, no reset either.

Papyrus leaned over beside him. He put his face in his hands.

“Oh, no, kid…” he muttered.

“Don’t worry, brother, I have her phone number!” Papyrus said brightly.

“I have her phone…” Sans grumbled.

 

Chapter Text

Frisk had landed mostly on top of Undyne’s chest in a shallow pool deep below the two bridges, where stacks of trash were piled like hills around the walls of a deep, dark cavern. Undyne looked a little dazed. Frisk felt the same. She looked up, but it was too dark to see anything much above. She cautiously peered down at Undyne.

“You okay?” Frisk asked.

“You’re asking me if I’m okay?” Undyne growled.

“Yeeess…?” the kid said hesitantly.

 

Undyne frowned deeply and Frisk made to get off her, but she grabbed her tightly, claws digging into her shoulder. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” she said.

Frisk grimaced but, rather suddenly, something seemed to distract Undyne. She frowned deeply. Frisk’s heart thumped. She thought she saw a blue light brightening in the shimmers of the water. At least, she certainly hoped so. Undyne stared at her, quiet for a long while. Frisk tried not to squirm; didn’t want to start crying, but her shoulder was really starting to hurt.

 

Rather suddenly, Undyne grabbed the girl’s face in both hands and then sat up quickly. Frisk yelped and tumbled away, landing back-first into the water. She groaned.

“Ow.” Undyne took a moment to rub her head and then pointed an accusing finger at her. “Wait a damn second, I know you!” She hefted her up out of the water under her arms and then, to Frisk’s utter relief, began to grin widely. “Yeah! That human kid who saves everyone!” She looked suddenly confused. “Wait, why the hell am I—? Was it just a dream or something? I thought we were…? Oh, whatever, good to see you!”

 

Frisk could hardly believe it. Her heart began to pound. “So you…? You really remember me?”

“Duh. Yeah. Of course I do, squirt,” Undyne said. “Oh. Well, I mean, I do now. Huh. Weird.”

“W-We’ll explain everything soon,” Frisk said, her voice coming out more choked than she had anticipated.

Undyne’s grin fell and she frowned a little and gently put her down. “Kid, why the hell are you crying? You’re fine, right?”

Frisk nodded, but she couldn’t stop herself from grabbing her and hugging as tightly as she could manage. Undyne barked out a loud laugh and squished the kid close.

“Okay, okay, sheesh!” she said. “Why’re you so emotional and junk? How many times did I stab you?”

“Oh I dunno, only like a hundred,” Frisk laughed.

“A hundred! That’s my kid, gets stabbed a hundred times and comes back swinging,” Undyne said proudly. “This is really weird but I’m happy to know you and stuff! How come I didn’t like just a few minutes ago? Why the hell didn’t I recognize you?”

Frisk pulled back just a little to wipe her eyes. “Sans can explain best.”

“Sans? Really? Him?” Undyne asked.

“He’s super smart, and he knows all about a lot of weird stuff,” Frisk said.

“Fair enough,” Undyne said.

 

She stood up out of the water and lifted Frisk with her to put her on her feet.  “Oh. Crap. We fell a long way, right? You okay?”

“Y-Yeah. I’m okay,” Frisk said.

“You’re shivering like crazy,” she pointed out.

“I-I’m covered in trash w-water, Undyne!”

The big monster laughed. “Hah, sorry, it’s not funny,” she said. “It’s just… Wow. What a switch. My mind’s kind of all over the place right now, but I feel pretty good!”

Frisk let out a relieved sigh. “You wouldn’t believe how happy I am to hear that.”

Undyne grinned. She tussled the kid’s hair roughly. “Alright, let’s get the hell out of here.”

 

Undyne took her hand and helped her over a pile of garbage that had come down to the watery dump from the surface, carried by rivers and waterfalls to rest in this dark place. The water wasn’t deep at all on her, but Frisk, on the other hand, had to wade. It was freezing. She kept feeling like something was pulling at her legs.

 

As they came to the end of the path, however, it seemed like it was a dead end. There was a huge pile of trash stuck up against a wall and Undyne leaned in close to it, her ear-fins raising.

“Hear that?” she asked.

Frisk shook her head. Undyne pointed at the trash.

“Water through it. Must’ve blocked this path off. Hang on.” She grabbed Frisk quickly and walked her back a few meters and stood her on a small trash hill of sopping clothes and what had once been a television. She charged the junk and, with a roar and one kick, burst through it, sending any hard pieces forward like torpedoes into another cavern.

 

Peeking through, the first thing that stood out was a spattering of glittering, golden flowers. Frisk tried to contain her surprise.

“Oh! Hey, I know where we are,” Undyne said. “Almost home.” She helped Frisk over what was left of the rubble and they made their way out into the tunnel.  “Just follow me.” She kicked large pieces of rubble and trash out of their way, clearing the path as she guided the kid through the dark water. “So, back there… Sorry about all that murder stuff.”

“It’s okay,” Frisk said. “I’m used to it.”

“Sorry about that, too,” she laughed. “Man, you are a resilient little dork, aren’t you? I’m kinda jealous.”

“Determination,” Frisk joked, smiling.

Undyne grinned.

 

She stopped midstride and bent into the water to lift up what looked like a DVD case. She turned it over, then tried to open it. Couldn’t. Frowned deeply, then tried again, only succeeding in crunching in the plastic. She huffed out a sigh and passed it to Frisk. “Stupid gauntlet,” she grumbled.

Frisk tried to pry it open. It was stuck, but she got it after a moment and handed it back.

“Thanks, squirt.” She looked at the contents curiously. “Huh. Doesn’t look broken. Nice.”

“For Alphys?” Frisk asked.

Undyne’s cheeks flushed and she laughed. “Yeah, maybe.” She tucked it into the front of her armour and jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “C’mon, exit’s this way,” she said.

 

Frisk nodded and followed her, taking her time, trying not to slip. She thought she noticed movement from the corner of her eye. She paused to look, but saw nothing.

“Kid?”

She turned quickly and saw Undyne frowning at her.

“You okay?” the monster asked.

“O-Oh. Yeah, s-sorry,” Frisk said.

Undyne grinned and waved her along. She turned and kicked a large plastic tub out of the way, and it slammed into the wall and stuck. Frisk watched her with a sense of relief growing in her.

 

“So, um, Undyne?” she asked. “You’re just… okay with this?”

“Okay with what?” she asked.

“Um… S-Suddenly knowing who I am and stuff?”

Undyne shrugged. “Sure. Instant friend. I’m into it,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird as hell, but… that stuff’s real, right?”

Frisk nodded, and Undyne grinned.

“Well, I don’t totally get it, but I’m okay with this,” she said. “And you really can break the barrier without dying, can’t you? So that’s a bonus.”

Frisk sighed with relief. “Th-Thanks, Undyne. I, um… I really missed you and stuff.”

“Pffft, hah, don’t get all sappy on me,” she said, but her cheeks flushed a little. “I’m not sure how it all works, but I missed you, too.”

 

She took her hand again and helped her out of the water and onto dry land as they got to the end of the dump. Frisk shivered. Undyne snickered.

“Let’s get you a towel or something, sheesh. We’re almost at my place. Remember that?”

“Y-Yeah.”

 

Undyne’s house was in a little cove just off the main path, a little to the north of where they came out of the watery trash heap. It, too, looked like a fish monster. The doorway opened sliding up and down, like the teeth of a beast.

 

It was sort of surreal to see Undyne in full armour stomping around the rather pastel, modern interior of her home. She wiped her boots on one of her purple rugs and then went to her bedroom at the back of the house. She carried out a sofa over her shoulder and tossed Frisk a towel.

 

The kid fumbled with it and dried her face and hair, but it didn’t help much. The rest of her was still soaking. Undyne slammed the sofa down on an empty purple carpet in front of her piano, and then shot Frisk a concerned frown.

“Need something to change into?” she asked. “I might have some junk somewhere. Might take me some time to find, though. Might be a bit big.”

“I’d, uh… I’d r-really appreciate it, actually,” Frisk said, but something pinged in her mind— laundry. “Oh. Oh, crap.”

“What?” Undyne said.

Frisk hurried for the door again. “I… I gotta go find Sans and Papyrus.”

“Oh. Sure,” she said. “Just lemme get outta my armour and I’ll join you soon, alright?”

“Th-Thanks,” Frisk said gratefully.

 

She rushed back outside, but didn’t have a clue where to look. She headed back out onto the main road. She walked west, but realized rather quickly that that was a dead end, and much closer to the way out of Waterfall than she wanted to be. A quick walk in the other direction and she realized that it was too far away. She sighed. There was a tear in time here, glittering, so she supposed it was probably a good idea to use it. The warmth in the light made pain in her cuts and shoulder begin to subside. She bit her lip and folded her arms, and pressed up against a wall.

 

Her ears soon pricked to a distant sound. A voice, maybe? Kind of low. Familiar. She hopped off the wall quickly and listened more closely. It was far, and she couldn’t pinpoint it, but it sounded a bit like Sans. She thought she heard her name. Frisk gulped and hurried to try to get a little closer to the voice. She could soon make out words, despite the distance.

“Kid? …Hey, kiddo? Answer me, huh? You’re, uh, startin’ to freak me out.” He actually sounded pretty worried.

“Sans?” she called.

“Kiddo?”

She looked around, but didn’t see him. He still sounded like he was far away.

“Bro, where the heck are you?” she said.

“Forget that, where are you?” he asked.

He was right, that made a lot more sense.

“I’m just on the path near Undyne’s house!” she said. “Just a bit south!”

 

She heard footsteps approaching and turned to look, and was quickly squished into a hug.

“There you are,” Sans said. “Damn, kid, you had me worried.”

“I’m sorry!” she said. “I’m okay.”

He pulled back, holding her by the shoulders, and looked her up and down. “Heh. Welp. You look pretty alive. Did you get away, or—?”

“No way, Undyne actually totally remembered me!” Frisk said brightly.

Sans grinned. “You are one lucky kid. And… a super damp kid. You didn’t cry that much, did you?”

“Wh-What? No!” she protested. “Sans!”

He grinned even wider and shoved his hands into his pockets. “So, where is she?”

“She’s ditching her armour, I think,” she said. “Where’s Papyrus?”

“Dunno, actually.” He pulled out her phone, then stared at it blankly for a moment and handed it to her.

She dialled quickly.

 

“Hello! You’ve reached the great Papyrus!” he answered a ring away from immediately. “Who is speaking?”

“Hey, Papyrus, it’s me,” Frisk said.

“FRISK! Oh thank god, are you alright?! You didn’t get stabbed, did you? Is Sans with you? Where are you?”

“I’m fine! Sans’s with me, and we’re at Undyne’s place,” she said.

“Oh. OH! Okay! Did it work?” he asked.

“Yeah,” she said.

“Fantastic! I knew it would, of course! Thank you for trusting me! Though I’m sorry you fell down that ridiculous drop into wherever you ended up.”

“It’s fine,” she assured him. “See you soon?”

“Yes, of course! I’ll be right there! Okay love you bye!!!”

 

“I should probably find my phone,” Sans said as Frisk hung up.

“Yes please!” she said.

“Do it, dork!” Undyne said loudly. She walked up to meet them. Out of her armour, Undyne barely looked any smaller. She wore a black sleeveless tee and jeans, her huge arms showing off a plethora of old scars. She was smiling wide with those big, pointed teeth of hers. “Every time I’m up too late and start thinking dumb stuff is funny and I want to text you a bad joke, I have to send it to Papyrus and he just replies with screaming. How’s it going?”

“Good,” Sans said, grinning. “Thanks for not stabbin’ my frickin’ kid on sight this time, ‘preciate it.”

Frisk couldn’t contain a smile and she hugged onto his arm as Undyne laughed.

“Right, sorry about…” Undyne’s eye went wide and she pointed at Sans. “DUDE! HOLY CRAP!”

 

He raised his brows and and she grinned brightly.

 

“DUDE! That fight, though?!” she said. “I didn’t know you could—! I mean, you blocked, like, everything, that was fantastic! We should totally train together!!”

“Uhh…” He smiled awkwardly. “Not sure it’s really my thing.”

“Come on!” Undyne insisted. “You need to at least show me your stuff sometime. Oh, man, that’s confusing, because I…” She suddenly looked shocked. Her gaze turned on the shivering girl. “Oh, crap, squirt, I’m sorry. Jeez, I didn’t even give you a chance.”

“H-Hey, that’s okay,” Frisk assured her quickly. She sniffled.

Sans laughed. “Guess I don’t need to tell you to chill out this time, huh?” he said. “Yo, Undyne. Got anything to dry the kid with? She’s pretty cool in all the wrong ways,”

“Oh! Right, yeah!” She scooped Frisk up and dashed back towards the house.

 

Before she knew it, Frisk was plopped into Undyne’s bathroom in the back of the house, through the bedroom, with a pile of clothes she had set out for her. Monsters had no need for toilets, making the clean, cool room with miscellaneous, mismatched fish tiles in the walls a very literal bath room. In fact, the tub and shower a took up about half of it and was ringed by a big, colourful curtain. She took a quick shower and changed shorts and into one of Undyne’s old sleeveless tees, which was all she really seemed to have, and hung her own stuff up to dry. She felt bad about the tears in Sans’s clothes, and the bit of blood that shone through the t-shirt pretty clearly.

 

Finally somewhat warm and only a little damp, she headed out, cautiously covering the worst shoulder wound with her hand and trying hard not to look conspicuous. Almost instantly, Undyne grabbed her and dumped her on a sofa near her piano and dropped a huge, shark-patterned duvet over her.

“YEAH! Okay! Stay cozy, you dork!” she said. “Tea? Tea. Alright. Sans, tea?”

“Sure,” he said.

“Okay! Dry that nerd!” She tossed a towel that smacked Sans in the face and bounded over to the stove to boil some water in a kettle.

Sans put the towel on Frisk’s head, and she tried to dry her hair a little more.

“Dude, this is nuts, right?!” Undyne said. “I’m actually getting kind of hyped! Oh man, I can’t wait to tell Alphys!”

 

There was a sudden banging on the door.

“CAPTAIN UNDYNE? HELLO?” Papyrus called.“YOU IN THERE? IT IS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”

“YEAH, GET IN HERE, PUNK!” Undyne shouted back.

Papyrus burst in; as soon as he got a glimpse of the room, he relaxed and his face brightened. “Oh! Everyone’s here! Hello, brother! Frisk! Undyne!”

Frisk waved.

“Yo!” Undyne said. “Tea, right?!”

“I’d love some!” he said brightly, and he hurried to the sofa and squished Frisk and Sans into a hug. “Good work, everyone! Even you, Sans, look at you, getting the job done!”

“Job?” Sans said, plopping onto the sofa beside Frisk.“If I’d known it was work, I wouldda asked for more breaks.”

Papyrus scoffed. “As if you need them. Frisk, you’re all shaky again!”

“I’m okay,” she assured him.

Sans grinned and pulled more of the blanket up to drop over her head. She laughed.

“Just wait for the tea, it fixes everything,” Undyne announced proudly. “Trust me! I’m the Captain of the Royal Guard, after all, I know what I’m talking about.”

 

“Oh! Oh, Undyne, that, um… That reminds me,” Papyrus said, walking up to her and tenting his fingers. “I… I think I may have to renege on this whole Royal Guard business until killing Frisk isn’t on the agenda anymore. I would still really love to train with you, though!”

“Hey. That’s okay,” she said. “No problem. We probably won’t even need a Royal Guard for much longer.”

“Huh?! What, why?!”

Undyne turned to him and grinned. “Because, we’re getting out! That barrier’s comin’ down, baby, and we are gonna be FREE!”

“You remember that?!” Papyrus asked.

“Well, not the actually out part, but I know it’s gonna happen!” she said.

“Yes!” Papyrus said. “Frisk’s going to help everyone!”

Undyne beamed and grabbed him into a hug and lifted him straight off his feet. Papyrus’s face flushed.

“We’ll get to see the sun! And the ocean!” she said.

“And fast cars!” he added. “And a real night sky!”

“And all the anime humans have ever made!”

They laughed and Undyne spun Papyrus around the room before throwing him onto the sofa and punching the air.

“I’M PUMPED!” she said.

“I’m r-really glad,” Frisk said.

 

Undyne beamed. She turned back to check on the kettle. She cranked up the heat on the stovetop, scowling at the steam coming from the spout.

“Almost done,” she said. “I’m actually kind of surprised to see you three all hanging around out here, though. Seems different. What gives?”

“We wanted to help, of course!” Papyrus said. “You probably noticed that weird glow on Frisk, right? And then you remembered you were friends.”

“Oh. Actually, yeah, now that you mention it,” Undyne said.

“Weelllll, Sans and I, we know all about that! It’s some weird magic that breaks weird timeline barriers or something. And it’s always much better to be friends than not, so we wanted to help Frisk get to you. Plus how is she going to help save the world if you are constantly trying to—”

“Make Friskabobs!” Frisk said.

Sans started laughing. Undyne tried not to and Papyrus covered his grin with a scowl.

“Pfffft, nice reuse,” Sans said.

“She didn’t hear it before,” Frisk protested.

“No, no, it’s fine. It’s good.”

“Frisk, are you sure you should be so flippant about your own death?” Papyrus asked.

“Bro, I gotta, or I’ll go totally nuts,” she said. “Do you know how many times I’ve died? Too frickin’ many, that’s how many.”

“I hear that,” Sans said, nodding.

 

“So, wait, you guys, you were all just… conspiring so the kid and I would be friends again?” Undyne said.

“Yes, absolutely,” Papyrus. “Pretty clever, right?”

“Oooh, so that’s why you were acting way weirder than usual,” she laughed. She dumped the water into mugs with teabags quickly. “Sugar. Sugar. A lot of sugar. No sugar.” She tossed the bags and passed out the teas accordingly. “There we go.”

“Th-Thanks, Undyne.” Frisk sipped the hot, mildly sweet, floral tea quickly— it did help. “It’s great.”

 

“Nice,” Sans said. “Now maybe we can take care of that shoulder?”

“What?!” Frisk yelped. “How did you—?”

“You flinched when I grabbed you,” he said. “And your stuff was ripped. And I got your blood on me. And I saw it when you came out.”

“Aw sheesh.”

“Let me see, let me—” Papyrus moved her blanket and his eyes went wide. “OH WOW THAT’S WAY MORE BLOOD THAN I EXPECTED.”

“WHAT?!” Undyne barked. She was crouched on the arm of the sofa in an instant, glaring as Papyrus lifted the kid straight out of the blankets and held her aloft. “Holy crap, kid! Why didn’t you tell me I—?! Jeez, I’m sorry!!!”

“It’s okay, it’s okay!” Frisk protested. “It doesn’t hurt, it—”

 

Papyrus ignored her, sat cross-legged to plop her in his lap, and tossed his mitts aside. “Never fear, human, I’m more than happy to heal you again!”

“I’m sorry, I just don’t want to be trouble,” she said.

“What a silly thing to say,” he said. He gently pressed the tips of his finger bones against the wound and his eyes and hand lit up with magic.

“Dude, she’s a human, does that even work?” Undyne asked.

“Of course it does, why wouldn’t it?” Papyrus asked. “It is a tiny bit slow because I’m new to this, but I’m sure with a bit more practice I’ll be able to patch up any human in no time at all! Now just sit tight, your awesome big brother Papyrus has this handled!”

Undyne’s brow furrowed. She looked at Sans with confusion. He shrugged. Frisk yawned as that familiar, relaxing feeling started to settle in.

“Thanks, Paps,” she said quietly.

Papyrus grinned brightly.

 

“Hey, since you guys are here, you wanna chill and watch a movie or whatever?” Undyne asked. “I can drag the TV out or something.”

Sans stuck his thumb up, but he looked half asleep just thinking about it.

“Great idea, Undyne!” Papyrus said. “That reminds me, actually!” He pulled— from somewhere— the movie he had borrowed and handed it to her. “Thank you for lending this to me.”

“Oh, uh… No problem?” She gave him an awkward smile. “Did… Did you like it?”

“Ah, um… well, we actually didn’t get through very much because… Uh… Because—”

“I got scared,” Frisk said. “I made him turn it off.”

“Pffft, of what part?!” Undyne scoffed.

“The murderer man,” she said. “And I didn’t like seeing the skeleton get all smacked around.”

“It was so fake though.”

“I’m a little kid!” she protested.

Undyne laughed. “Okay, okay, nothing even a little scary for you. I’ll go see what else I got. Um… Hey, Sans, maybe you can veto?”

“Uh…” He looked a little confused, but she glared and he got to his feet. “Sure.”

 

She smiled hopped off the arm of the sofa and went back to her bedroom. Papyrus looked at her with surprise.

“F-Frisk…!” he squeaked.

“Shh, it’s a secret,” she laughed.

 

- - -

 

Undyne was clearly on edge when she closed the door, and she whirled on Sans with a frown on her face.

“Guess this isn’t about movies?” he said.

“No. What the hell is going on?” she asked. “The squirt said you could explain best.”

Sans laughed. “Dang it, kid. Probably true? I’ll definitely use the least words.”

“SANS!” Undyne took a deep breath. “Sorry. Okay, short version?”

“It’s going to sound crazy at first,” he warned.

“I don’t care,” she said.

 

“Okay. Frisk time travels. What you remember are Frisk’s first times trying to break the barrier and save everyone. The extra feelings and everything, that’s new. Frisk’s last time, we got out,” he said. “We lived on the surface for a year or somethin’ before things went bad and she had to try to fix them. We don’t remember the year, but we still feel it. There’s more but that should, uh, make things a little less confusin’? I’d rather not get into the details until we get Alphys on board because I hate explainin’ things.” He shrugged.

Undyne gawked. “Time travel,” she repeated.

“Yup,” Sans said.

“So… So, all those times with the déjà vu, where I felt like we’d fought before, we really had and—?”

“Yeah. You should remember it all pretty clear now, though, right?” he asked.

“I do! Like, dozens of times, and… Oh, jeez.” She rubbed her head. “I… I stabbed the shit outta her, dude.”

“Don’t worry. She doesn’t care,” Sans said.

“And you’re telling me that we’re all missing a WHOLE YEAR?!” she demanded. “And she had to undo it because something screwed up?!”

Sans nodded. Undyne pointed at the door.

“But she still has the year,” she said. “She remembers everything.”

He nodded again. She put her hand to her head.

“Holy shit,” she said.

“Yup,” Sans said.

 

Undyne rubbed her brow, frowned into the carpet, and then let out a sigh. “Okay. Okay, I’ll deal,” she said. “It’s fine. This is fine. For that kid’s sake, I’ll be fine.”

“Thanks,” Sans said. “She, uh… She’s still kind of a wreck about it. Paps and I have been doin’ our best, but I know it’s not quite the same.”

“Oh. So… So Papyrus, he knows, then?” Undyne said.

Sans nodded. She sighed again, and then chuckled.

“I grabbed you in here because I thought this would freak him out!” she said.

“Heh. Good job on the pointless subterfuge,” Sans said with a wink.

Undyne laughed again and lightly bonked him on the head. “Yo, you gonna help me find a movie or not?!”

 

- - -

 

Sans slept through the barely PG-rated action flick, as expected, even as Undyne and Papyrus shrieked and cheered and laughed along with it. Frisk was getting groggy, especially with that healing magic knitting her skin back together, but she was really happy, too. The noise made her feel so much closer to home. She started to relax and fell asleep before she knew it.

 

Papyrus didn’t actually notice he was done until the movie had finished and long after the kid had fallen asleep. “Oh! Hey, human, you’re okay now! Uh… F… Frisk? Oh.” He laughed. “No wonder Sans likes you.”

Undyne snickered and leaned a little closer over her to look at her curiously. “Sheesh,” she said, “for something so dangerous, she’s pretty cute, huh?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think she’s all that dangerous,” Papyrus said.

Undyne got up, stretching her arms high above her head, and then cracked her neck. She watched him absently petting the girl’s head. “You, um… You really like her, huh?”

“Oh, yes, very much so,” Papyrus said. “We’re family. S… Sister. Yes. Yes, that sounds right.” He grinned brightly. “It might seem strange, but it feels like she’s been here forever already.”

  Undyne nodded. She grabbed a couple things from around the room and sat down to scribble on a piece of paper.

 

“Yo, Papyrus,” she said. “Can you do me a solid?”

“Of course, anything you need!” he assured her.

She came back over and held out a letter in a neat, clean envelope. “There’s two guards in Hotland, usually patrolling just a little northwest of the Lab. Can you give them this for me? New orders. It’s very important.”

“Sure thing, Captain, no problem!” He got up, took the envelope, and saluted. “Thank you for entrusting me with something like this! You will not regret it! Nyeh heh heh heh!” He gently propped Frisk up against Sans before marching quickly out the front door.

 

Undyne stood, thoughtful, for a moment, watching Frisk snooze. There was that soul— that final soul— humming so close. It felt surreal. She huffed out a sigh. She knelt down and shook the kid’s shoulders. She opened her eyes groggily, blinked, and then looked surprised.

“Oh no, did I fall asleep? I’m sorry!” she said.

“Nah, no problem,” Undyne said. “I was wondering, you wanna come with me for a second?”

Frisk nodded and slipped off the couch, and followed her out to the front of the house.

 

Undyne folded her arms. She looked thoughtful. “You know,” she said, “I sent Papyrus off for a bit. It wouldn’t be hard at all to take your soul right this second. But you came out here anyway.”

“Uh…” Frisk stared at her blankly. “Yeah. We’re friends. Right?”

Undyne smiled. “Yeah. Weird, huh? Thanks for trustin’ me after what I did,” she said. “Oh. Shit. That was a really sinister way of saying that, wasn’t it? Hah. Sorry.”

Frisk snickered. “That’s okay.”

“I guess, the reason I really wanted to talk to you out here is because I can never tell if Sans is actually asleep or not? And… And this is kind of embarrassing, but—”

“Hey, it’s okay, you got to see me being a gross crying trash mess, I’m sure it’s not nearly as embarrassing as that,” Frisk assured her.

“Hah. Okay,” Undyne said. “I, um… I want to know… I mean. Okay. So since your magic, or whatever the hell that is, got me, I, like, remember how I feel about you, right? But also about some other stuff, too. And I was wondering, uh… does… does Alphys…?”

Frisk tilted her head as Undyne struggled to find the words.

“Okay. Shit. I’m just gonna have to come out and say it,” she said. “I frickin’ love Alphys. Right? Okay. So… does…? Does she feel the same? Are we together? Like, it’s kinda driving me nuts.”

“Oh jeez,” Frisk said. “W-Well… I haven’t seen her yet. So if… if that’s how the magic stuff worked on you, I’m sure that’s how it’ll be for her, too! And anyways, she totally loves you no matter what. So… So I hope you don’t worry.”

“Oh. Good.” Undyne sighed and laughed. “Thanks, squirt, that helps. Sans sort of told me just the basics of what’s going on, and… So. I mean. You… time travel, then?”

“Y… Yeah,” she said.

“Is that a human thing or—?”

“No. No, just… Just a Frisk thing,” she said bashfully.

“But I’m remembering all your time travel stuff,” Undyne insisted.

Frisk nodded.

“Okay. Okay. Cool. Weird. But cool,” she said. “Hey, thanks for not doing anything weird and screwy with it around me, huh?”

“Yeah! Of course,” Frisk assured her quickly. “That’s… I mean. I just wanted it to be okay for everyone.”

“Oh. Well. That’s good,” Undyne said. “One more thing?”

“Yeah, of course,” Frisk assured her.

“Could I, uh…?” She looked just a hair away from embarrassed. “Can I, like, stick my hand on your face again?”

Frisk shrugged. “Sure?”

 

Undyne grinned and then knelt down to her level. Cautiously, she cupped this kid’s face, and that blue glow started up again, brighter than before. Undyne stared for a while, her eye seeming to glaze, and then she winced.

“Crap. Does that hurt you?” she asked.

“No,” Frisk said.

“Frickin’ stings.” Undyne laughed to herself and pulled away. “I think I saw something. It was kind of like a dream.”

“You did? What was it?” Frisk asked quickly.

Undyne grinned. “I think it was a beach,” she said. She started to laugh and she scooped Frisk up, giving her a noogy.

“No no no no, aaaah, my brains!” Frisk wailed.

Undyne guffawed and she hugged her tight. Frisk grabbed her around the shoulders and laughed, too.

“Thanks for this,” Undyne said.

 

When they went back inside, both of them were surprised to find Sans gone, but a note left in his place.

“What the heck?! How did he…?! How the hell did he sneak past us?!” Undyne barked.

Frisk was a little surprised she didn’t know, but she guessed it wasn’t something he just told everyone. He hated explaining things. She smiled and shrugged, but went for the note.

 

brb gone 2 snowdin i 4got somethin

kid i took ur phone sry call if u need stuff

l8r

ps undyne thx 4 babysitting plz dont sit on my kid tho its just an xpression

 

Sans’s handwriting was terrible. Undyne leaned over Frisk and squinted at the note, frowning.

“What the hell does that even…?” She took the note and looked at it closer. “Oh for god’s sake, Sans.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Frisk said quickly, “I can find my way home if you—”

“Not that,” Undyne laughed. “Dude, his handwriting, honestly.” She shook her head, but she smiled. “Don’t worry, squirt, I wouldn’t kick you out. Hey! I’m kinda in the mood for more tea, you want some? I’ll show you how to make mine.”  She grinned proudly and put her thumb to her chest. “I’m second only to Asgore when it comes to this stuff. What d’you say?”

Frisk’s face lit up. “I’d love to.”

“Alright! I’ll get you a chair!” Undyne grinned, big and bright. “LET’S DO THIS!”

 

- - -

 

Things were kind of quiet back in town. It felt a little strange, now, to have any sort of silence. It wasn’t an uncomfortable quiet, though, not like days Sans had seen in other times. It was just that, all of a sudden, he wasn’t used to it. Strange how one weird, sweet little kid could shift things around so much, and so quickly.

 

At a lazy pace, Sans strolled the main street, heading towards the inn from Grillby’s when he heard hurried feet crunching through the snow in his direction.

“Hey! Hey, wait up!”

He knew the voice. Sans turned to see Kid running at him with wide eyes. He was sort of surprised. Must’ve come straight back from Waterfall. He looked a little flushed; panicked.

“You’re… You’re… Frisk’s, um…” He looked confused. “She called you her brother…?”

“Yup,” he said.

“A-Are you really her—?”

“Yup,” he said again.

“B-But, she really is a…?” He lowered his voice. “She really is a human, though, isn’t she?”

Sans shrugged and nodded. Kid bit his lip.

“D-Do you happen to know, is…? Is she okay? Undyne didn’t beat her up, did she?”

“Chill out,” Sans told him, but his smile was sympathetic. “She’s fine.”

“Y-Yeah?!” Kid demanded.

Sans nodded.

“S-So… So she won’t go to the capital, then?” he asked. “She’s gonna come back, right?”

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said. “She lives here.”

“Y… Yeah.” Kid started to smile. “Th… Thank you! Thank you so much!”

“Uh, sure, pal, no problem,” Sans said.

Kid ran off in a hurry. He tripped. Sans winced, but the little monster was up again in seconds, racing off with a bounce in his step.

 

Sans continued on to the inn, where he picked up a bag of laundry from the rabbit woman behind the counter.  Hadn’t done it in a couple weeks, but with Frisk consistently getting covered in weird gunk, he figured it was about time.

 

Back in the house, he tossed the bag on Papyrus’s bed. He usually complained, but he knew he loved organizing that stuff.

 

He grabbed some stuff from the kitchen, ramen mostly, and put it in a bag to stash in his ribcage. He checked the time. Mid afternoon, around four, probably. Maybe the timing would work out.

 

He shifted himself in space and looked up at the huge, solid door to the Ruins. It was strange how normal it looked. It seemed like it had never even opened at all. He knocked on the stone. He waited for a little, and then knocked again.

“Knock knock,” he said.

“…Who is there?” asked a familiar voice.

Sans grinned. “Etch.”

“Etch who?” Toriel said.

“Gesundheit.”

She started to laugh. “Oh! Oh goodness. I hadn’t expected that. I have one for you as well!”

“Oh yeah?” He leaned his back against the door. “Hit me.”

“Why did the skeleton want a friend?” she asked.

“I dunno, why?” he said.

“Because he was feeling bonely.”

“Heh. Good one,” Sans said.

“I’m glad you liked it. I’m also very glad you showed up,” she said. “I actually have a question for you. It may be a little strange, perhaps, but…”

“No worries,” he said. “Shoot.”

“Have… Have you seen a young human out there, by any chance?” she asked. “She would be small. W-With brown hair, and… wearing blue and pink?” Her voice was quiet, trembling a little.

 

Sans felt a sting of sympathy, but he was actually glad she asked. “Yeah.”

“Ah. And… And… do you happen to know, if she is—”

“She’s fine. Don’t worry,” he said. “She’s stayin’ with my brother and me.”

“Oh…! She is, is she?” Her tone lifted instantly. “And you, may I ask? Are you a skeleton?”

“Yup,” he said.

“Oh thank goodness,” she said. “She… She called me, told me she was with a skeleton who told jokes, and I could only hope that—”

“Hey. Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re who she calls mom, huh? She’s a sweet kid. Paps is basically her big brother already. No one’s gonna hurt her with him around.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much,” she said softly. “I… I still wish she had not decided to leave, but… I’m glad she’s with someone like you.”

He smiled. “Yeah, well… I’ll do my best. Promised I would, right? Hey. Got another joke.”

“Alright?”

“Okay,” he said, “it’s a knock knock joke. But you gotta start it.”

“Knock knock,” she said.

“Who’s there?” he asked.

There was silence for a little while and Sans grinned wide. She started snickering, louder and louder, until she was howling with laughter. He beamed. He wished he could have seen the look on her face.

 

Chapter Text

“CRANK THAT HEAT, KID!”

Frisk stared at the stove. She had flashbacks of fire. She hesitantly turned up the heat under the kettle, just a bit higher than she thought was safe, until it started to rattle. Beside her, Undyne smacked their mugs back onto the counter, but she was delicate with the teabags; little pouches filled with dried flower petals and some light green leaves. They looked handmade, despite coming out of a generic-looking box.

 

“Do humans drink a lot of tea?” Undyne asked.

“I think so,” Frisk said.

“You?”

“Actually,” Frisk said, “yours was the first I ever tried.”

Undyne’s eye went wide. “SERIOUSLY?!” she barked.

Frisk nodded. Undyne’s scales flushed a little darker on her face.

“Wow. I made your first cup of tea.” She sounded kind of awed. “That’s… That’s a lot of responsibility. And you like it, though, right?”

“Mhm!” Frisk smiled. “Yeah, it’s great. It’s my favourite one.”

Undyne beamed. “Damn, squirt, you kinda just made my day. Okay! Bit more on that water!”

Frisk bit her lip but turned it up until it sounded like it was bubbling almost out of the kettle. Undyne whooped and whisked it from the burner, and quickly poured the water into both mugs. Just as quickly, Frisk turned the stove off

 

“Now,” she said, “this is the secret. Timing. You can only leave the flowers in the water jussst until it settles, and then…” She yanked the teabags out.

Frisk ducked and they flew across the room.

“Hah! There were go. It gets strong really quick, so that should be just enough.” She grabbed the sugar and put one spoon in each mug and stirred. “To tell you the truth, my mix is still a bit off. One day I’ll make one just like Asgore’s. It’s been my goal for a long time!”

Frisk smiled as Undyne passed her a mug. She blew on the tea and took a small sip. Undyne stared at her expectantly

“It’s really good, though,” she said.

 

Undyne laughed and grabbed both Frisk and the chair, and then put them back at the dining table. She sat across from them with her tea and took a small sip.

“You know,” she said, “Asgore basically, uh… Well, he took me in, when I was around your age. I trained to fight with him, right? Some days, after we were done, he would take me with him to show me his flowers. At first I thought it was boring, and I just went, you know, because he was already taking time out for me and letting me bum around in his house. It was the least I could do. But, soon, I really wanted to make tea just like he did. Funny, huh?”

“No, I think it’s nice,” Frisk assured her.

“Hah. Of course you would,” she said. “You’re a sap, like him. He’s really kind of like a dad, you know? A big, fuzzy, dopey dad.”

Frisk nodded. “Lucky,” she said brightly.

Undyne’s smile was a little sad. She sipped her tea. Frisk’s face fell.

“It must’ve been nice to have that,” she said.

“Heh. Yeah,” Undyne said. “I was an angry kid back then. I needed a huge dork like him. I’m really grateful to him, you know?” She smirked and sipped from her cup. “Look at me, gettin’ all sentimental over tea.”

“H-Hey, don’t worry,” she said. “I’m way worse, I’ve been crying over leftover spaghetti and pie since I got here!”

Undyne snickered, then gave her a sympathetic smile. She drummed her claws on the table and then got up.

 

Frisk watched her as she rummaged around through a drawer on the kitchen counter. She returned with her cellphone and sat down again.

“What do you think?” she said. “Call Alphys?”

“R-Really?” Frisk asked.

Undyne shrugged and nodded. “Well, I need to talk to her, and I figure you do, too, right? Maybe we could invite her over? What d’you say? I mean, I’m supposed to meet her in a few hours anyway.”

“Th… That’d be great, actually,” she said. “Oh man, I hope this works.”

“What, you think it might not?” she said.

“I guess it depends if I start glowing or not,” Frisk said. “B-But… I think I will.”

“Let’s find out,” Undyne said.

 

She quickly dialled Alphys’s number, put her phone on speaker, and then put it in the middle of the table. They listened eagerly as the phone rang a few times. Then, there was a quiet click and a strange breathing noise.

“H-Hello?” Alphys stammered.

“Hey Alphys, how’s it going?” Undyne said, her ear-fins perking.

“Undyne?! Oh th-thank god, where are you?” she asked. “I… I couldn’t s-see your fight with the human and I… I didn’t s-see anyone in Waterfall for a l-long time! I was worried.”

“Oh. No, no, it’s all cool,” Undyne said. “I’m at home. I actually have the human with me right now.”

“Wh-What!?” Alphys squawked. “I-Is she, um… I mean… The f-fight, how did it—?”

“It wasn’t really a fight,” Undyne said. “Fell off a thing. Ended up hugging. Don’t worry, the squirt’s not like the others, she’s not dangerous.”

“Hi, Alphys!” Frisk said brightly.

“O-Oh my g-god, is that h-her?!” Alphys asked shrilly. “Um! Um, hello! Hi! W-Wow, I’ve n-never… Um… Undyne, is everything o-okay?”

“Oh, yeah, don’t worry,” she said. “Stuff is weird but we’re all fine over here. The human wants to meet you.”

“Wh… Wh-What?” Alphys stammered.

“Yeah! So, come over and stuff. You got time today?”

“Y-Yeah! Um… Okay! S-Sure! Oh w-wow. Okay, I’ll…! I’ll come now! Okay! S-See you soon!”

 

Alphys hung up and Undyne grinned.

“And there we go,” she said as she pocketed her phone. “Not so hard. Sheesh, I feel kind of bad, though, she was so worried.”

“Other humans have come down here, right?” Frisk asked. “Was that really bad? Is that why?”

“Yeah. Some of the time it was really bad,” Undyne admitted. “You gotta understand, kid, humans souls are way stronger than ours. It can be pretty easy for any human, especially a determined one, or a really hateful one, to kill a monster. Doesn’t seem fair, but that’s just the way it goes. There’ve been some humans that came here that weren’t bad, kind of like you, but that’s from before my time. The most recent one actually killed some monsters before we stopped them. That’s, uh… That’s how I lost my eye.”

“That’s awful,” Frisk said. “I’m sorry.”

Undyne shrugged. She pointed at her face. “I dunno, I think it looks pretty cool!” she said with a big grin.

Frisk couldn’t help a smile. “That’s true. But you’re always cool.”

Undyne grinned even wider. She took a moment to sip her tea. Her expression softened.

 

“You know, kid,” she said, “this is a heck of a lot easier.”

Frisk nodded enthusiastically.

“So, I heard this right, right?” Undyne said. “Frisk? That’s your name?”

Frisk nodded again. Undyne smiled.

“It’s weird. When I remembered you, I remembered… a lot. Of how we were friends. Like, real close, huh? But not your name. Hope that doesn’t bum you out.”

“Dude, no way, Papyrus is my brother and even he didn’t remember it either,” Frisk said, and she smiled bashfully. “It’s my fault, I was never used to meeting people, so it always slipped my mind to tell people my name.”

Undyne chuckled and grinned. She held her cup and stared at the table thoughtfully.

“Your brother, huh?” she said.

Frisk’s cheeks flushed a little and she nodded. Undyne laughed.

“That explains a lot,” she said. “That’s nice. Paps probably really digs the opportunity to be someone’s big brother. You’re happy with ‘em, huh?”

“Super happy,” Frisk said.

 

- - -

 

“You’re SURE this is from Undyne?” One of two guards in huge, dark, metal armour, with long rabbit ears peeking out of the top, stared at Papyrus intently while the other quietly reread the note.

The tall skeleton rolled his eyes and tapped his boot impatiently on the red stone beneath. “As I’ve told you, YES, Captain Undyne gave it to me herself!” he said. “She said to give it to you two. She said it was very important!”

“But, like, it says to call off the search?” the guard said, and he turned to the other guard beside him. “Yo, bro, this seem legit to you?”

The other guard remained silent, but he folded the note gently and passed it to his counterpart. He shrugged.

“Un. Be. Lievable,” Papyrus said. “Why would Undyne personally ask me to deliver fake orders to you?! Look. Just look at it. She wrote it, she signed it, it’s on her paper and everything!”

“Huh, that’s true, it is totally on the fish paper,” the guard muttered.

 

“Hey. Sup?”

Papyrus turned as Sans wandered up casually, hands in his pockets.

“Oh, hi, Sans,” the guard said; the other one waved shyly. “What do you, like, make of this?” He showed him the note.

“Oh come ON!!!” Papyrus cawed.

“Uhh, yup, that sure is a letter,” Sans said.

“Legit?” the guard asked.

“Yeah, totally. Look, she called you chowderheads and everything, sounds just like her,” Sans said.

The guard nodded. He gave Papyrus a thumbs-up. “Alright, thanks, dude, we’re gonna go on break.” He nudged the other guard with his elbow and they marched off along a cliffside path, towards one of the steam puzzles that lead back onto the main trackways of Hotland.

 

Papyrus sighed with relief and then looked at Sans. “What are you doing here?”

His brother grinned and shrugged. “Dunno, thought I heard you were here. Goin’ back yet?”

“Yes! Definitely, let’s go,” Papyrus said.

 

There were disconnected pillars back the way they had to go, patterned with steam tiles that would bounce one safely between them— a strange, old combination of transport and puzzle. Papyrus scoffed.

“Oh my god, I’m glad we don’t live in Hotland,” he said.

“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” Sans agreed.

Papyrus scooped Sans up over his shoulder and bounced around the panels. When he landed back on the path and went to put Sans down, the short skeleton was half-asleep already.

“Sans!” he said. “Come on, you can’t fall asleep now!”

“Heh, sorry, bro,” he said, rubbing his groggy eyes. “Alright. Goin’?”

“Yes! Okay!” Papyrus lead the way confidently. “Ugh, I do sort of still wish I could be a Royal Guard, though, if only for a few days! Did you hear those two?”

“Chill,” Sans said with a laugh. “They just don’t know you, that’s all. If they did, they’d see how cool you are.”

“I know, right?!” he said.

 

He looked thoughtful for a few moments. He rubbed the back of his skull. “Hey, Sans?” he asked. “There was some part of time somewhere where I was a Royal Guard, wasn’t there?”

“Yup.”

“But Asgore was gone. That was bad. But we had a queen. Toriel, right?” he said.

“Yup,” Sans said again.

“That’s who Frisk called mom,” Papyrus continued, “but Frisk wasn’t there. Why wasn’t she there? I really missed her.”

“Oh. She got stuck outside,” he said. “She told me that flower guy stole the human souls and tried to fight her, but she beat him. She woke up out on the surface and had no idea where she was. She couldn’t find the way back.”

“Oh! Is that why she set time back again?” Papyrus asked.

“One of the reasons, yeah,” Sans said.

“She didn’t want to be on the surface?” he asked with surprise.

Sans shook his head. “Nah. She told me she only ever left Toriel’s to begin with because of some dreams and a ghost, or somethin’? And then she decided she’d try to break the barrier after just sort of gettin’ to know people and seein’ how much everyone wanted it, I guess.”

“Really?! That all sounds rather dramatic,” Papyrus said. “Strange that we all want very much to go to the surface but she did not actually want that even though she came from there.”

“Surface didn’t matter to her. You mattered. She’d never want to be there without you,” Sans said.

“I would not want to be there without me either. That is very sweet. Huh. I wonder why she never told me about this.” His eyes went wide. “You don’t think she didn’t trust me, do you?!”

“Dude, no,” Sans laughed. “That kid loves the heck outta you. But when she came back, I knew about her time travel junk, and she found out about mine, so it ended up bein’ me that she talked about that stuff with.”

“Ooooh, okay. I guess that’s fair,” he admitted. “Ugh, I wish I had known. Can you imagine?! If Frisk and I had worked together earlier?! That barrier would have been down in a day!”

“Heh. Welp. Good thing she has you now, right?” Sans said with a wink.

“Yes! Definitely!”

 

As they came upon the bridge that lead back to Waterfall, there was a sound of a hurried set of footsteps behind them, and a sort of wheezing noise.

“H-Hey, wait up! S-Sans, is that you?” Alphys, in a somewhat clean lab coat and clutching a blue shoulder bag covered in button pins with various cartoon characters and symbols on them, stumbled to catch up with them. Her cheek scales were flushed.

“What’s up, Doc?” Sans said.

“O-Oh! It’s, uh…” She froze and then looked Papyrus up and down. “O-Oh, my god, you g-got really tall!”

“Oh-ho! Doctor Alphys!” he said brightly. “It’s good to finally meet you! Again. I think?” He looked at Sans with confusion.

Alphys laughed awkwardly and she waved a hand dismissively. “Th-That’s okay if you don’t remember, I h-haven’t seen you since you were a little k-kid. U-Um, wh-what are you two doing out here?”

“Ah! I, the great Papyrus, was sent on a very important delivery run by Captain Undyne herself!” he said. “We’re heading back to see her right now!”

“O-Oh! Y-You are, huh?” She smiled awkwardly. “M-Me too! U-Um…” She shuffled in place.

Sans grinned. “She invited you over?”

She nodded.

“Did you talk to the human, too?” he asked.

“Y-YES! Yes, sh-she said h-hello, and…! And…! And I should’ve had a shower, oh my g-god, I—”

“Don’t worry, Doctor, Frisk is used to all sorts of weird smells! She hangs out with Sans almost constantly, after all,” Papyrus said. “He smells consistently of melancholy and ketchup.”

“Kinda do,” Sans said. He tilted his head towards the bridge and they started to walk together.

 

“F… Frisk?” Alphys stammered. “Is that the human's name? Frisk?”

“Oh! Does it sound familiar?” Papyrus asked.

“N… No, not really,” Alphys said, frowning just a little. “It’s, uh… it’s kind of cute, though.”

“Oh…” Papyrus was trying hard not to look disappointed. He puffed out his chest to compensate. “Well, yes! The human is very cute! You’ll like her, I’m sure. That’s why you’re coming over, right?”

“Yeah,” Alphys said. “She w-wanted to meet me, I g-guess? Oh man…” She took a deep breath and then looked up at Papyrus with a smile. “S-So, um… Wh-What have you been up to? Oh! Oh, I’m s-sorry, that’s not a tall joke. I, uh… I j-just wouldn’t mind catching up? OH!! That’s not one either! I m-m-mean, uh, how are you doing, P-Papyrus?”

 

“You… You want to know about me?” Papyrus asked, eyes wide. “I mean, of course! Of course you do! I am, after all, the great Papyrus! Undyne’s most notable protégé!”

“Her only protégé,” Sans added with a grin.

“SANS!! Yes. That is technically true!” Papyrus said. “But that does not lessen the fact!”

“Y-Yeah! H-Honestly, I’ve heard a l-lot about you,” Alphys said.

Papyrus’s face lit up. Sans smiled and hung back.

“Yo, guys, I just realized I forgot somethin’ at home,” he said. “I’ll leave you to it, alright? Meet you at Undyne’s.”

“Of course! See you there, brother!” Papyrus said.

Alphys looked over her shoulder, confused, but he was already gone. “H-Hey, wait, isn’t your house back in Snowdin? Did he j-just…? Where’d he go?”

“Oh, don’t worry, he probably just took a shortcut,” Papyrus said dismissively. “I’ll tell you all about my training! And then you tell me all about those button things.”

 

- - -

 

Loud, harsh piano notes were bouncing energetically around the cave walls around Undyne’s home by the time Sans got back. It was incoherent and if it were any louder, he was sure it would be making his bones rattle. He knocked on the door.

“COME IN, PUNK!” Undyne shouted over the noise.

 

Inside, the big blue monster was standing behind the piano, one foot up on the bench, her face alight. The banging on the keys stopped and Frisk leaned around the lid and instantly started grinning.

“Sans!” She hopped off the bench scampered over to hug him. “Undyne’s teaching me piano!”

“Oh yeah?” he said. “Couldda fooled me.”

“Pfft, why you gotta give me treble?” she asked.

Undyne smacked her brow with her hand, but Sans had to try hard to keep a relatively straight face.

“You know, piano can be a little tough, but I heard there’s a key to figurin’ it out,” he said, “but it’d take more than a minuet to explain, and you know me, so…”

“Oh my god Sans,” Undyne grumbled.

Frisk, on the other hand, started grinning. “C… Couldn’t you write it out for me on a note?

Sans started to beam and he lifted the kid up— she yelped with surprise, but quickly hugged him around the shoulders— and he started laughing. “Dang, kid, that was terrible. Good job. I’m proud.”

“Y-Yeah?!” she said.

 

“You guys are literally the biggest dorks I’ve ever seen,” Undyne said. She was still frowning a little, but she couldn’t stop the smile that was growing on her face.

“Really? I’d think literally we’d be the shortest dorks,” Sans said, letting Frisk down gently and mussing up her hair. “Or, alternatively, when’s the last time you saw Alphys?”

Now, Undyne laughed. She rubbed head. “Alright, alright, you got me,” she said. “Where the hell did you guys get all those music puns?”

“Sans loves music puns,” Frisk said, pointing at him. “Almost as much as skeleton puns! I learned them from him. Bonus points if they’re both. Have…? Have you not seen his trombone?”

“Oh, come on.” Undyne looked flabbergasted and she looked at Sans. “You don’t really have a—”

“Yup. Sure do.” He winked. “You should have seen Papyrus’s face when I picked it up. I thought his head’d catch on fire.”

“Oh. My. God. Sans.” Undyne rubbed her temples. “You two, holy crap. You are a bad influence on her, dude.”

“Tell me somethin’ I don’t know,” Sans joked.

Undyne snickered as Frisk grabbed his arm and clung tightly to it.

“Nooo, I need him, who else is gonna put up with me?” she whined.

 

Undyne shook her head and went for the counter again. “Tea, Sans? We just boiled the kettle a little while ago.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

“Undyne showed me how she makes tea, too,” Frisk said proudly, “and we didn’t even burn the house down!”

“Huh. Congrats,” he said.

 

The fish monster brought him another cup of tea, and then scooped Frisk up and brought her back to the piano bench before sitting on it beside her. “I got another thing. I just remembered. You ever do my piano puzzle?”

Frisk nodded.

 

Undyne put her fingers on the keys, but was much more gentle with them as she played the first couple notes. She looked at Frisk. She copied her as best she could, poking each key gently. Sans wandered over to watch curiously as Undyne repeated it and added a few more notes. Again, Frisk copied her. Undyne smiled and used both hands, playing out the melody and adding a few more notes with her other hand. There was that song; the same one from the music box.

 

“Hey, that doesn’t sound like you’re trying to smash anyone with it,” Sans said.

“I know, right?!” Undyne said. “Asgore showed me this one. He had an old music box that plays it. It’s in that statue on the rainy path, have you seen it?”

Sans cast a worried look at Frisk. She gulped, but she nodded.

“Y-Yeah,” she said. “Can I try?

 

Undyne nodded and shuffled over a little. Frisk tried to remember where to put her fingers, and poked the keys slowly for the melody. She missed the mark a few times, but soon she could peck out that song she had come to know so well. Undyne’s face lit up and she carefully; slowly, she played the accompanying notes, until the song almost sounded like something.

“Hey, lookit you, not too shabby for your first try!” Undyne said.

Frisk smiled. Undyne roughly tussled hair and then slammed onto the keys enthusiastically. The girl snickered and scooted to the side and out of the way.

 

When she cast a look back at Sans, she was surprised to see that the magic in his left eye was glowing, but was mostly gold, rather than blue. She frowned with confusion. Nevertheless, he sipped his tea casually. Frisk leaned around the piano to follow his gaze— he was looking towards the window, but she couldn’t see anything. When she looked back at him, his eyes looked totally normal again.

“Kid, I think there may be someone outside who wants a word with you,” he said. “And tell him Papyrus is busy, huh?”

It took Frisk a moment to catch on, but as soon as she did, she hurriedly slid off the bench. “Be right back,” she said quickly.

 

Undyne’s piano still boomed around the cavern, but Frisk kind of liked it. She looked around, trying to see any signs of Asriel at all. She almost never could, though, she wasn’t sure why she bothered.

“Hey, Asriel?” she said. “It’s okay to come out. Truce?”

After a few seconds of silence, Asriel poked his flower face out of the ground before her. “You think I’d actually care about a truce?”

“Well, not really, but I thought I’d offer,” Frisk said. “Good to see you.”

“Oh, gee, Frisk, didn’t know you were a dirty liar,” he said.

Frisk couldn’t help but laugh and she knelt down and poked him in the forehead. He recoiled instantly.

 

“That wasn’t very nice,” she said. “So, what’s up, why’d you come here?”

“You think I’d tell you?” he sneered.

“Well, yeah, you showed up,” she said. She took a seat on the ground and he let out a sigh.

“I was just trying to figure out what you losers are doing in there,” he said. “It’s different. I don’t get how the heck you’ve changed things this much, but you won’t tell me, I’m sure, so does it really matter?”

“Guess not,” Frisk said. “Hey, just so you know, Sans knows you’re talking with Papyrus again, so, you know, if you don’t wanna get wrecked, you might want to stay away.”

Asriel rolled his eyes. “Ugh, of course he knows.” He didn’t sound surprised in the least. “Doesn’t miss a thing, does he? So paranoid. He watches you, you know. All the time. Every step you make. Creepy.”

“No, not at all, I appreciate it,” Frisk said with a smile.

“Why? It’s not because he cares, it’s because he’s scared you’ll turn into me,” he said. “Or one of those other whatevers. A psycho. You think he trusts you? No way.”

“I think you’re pro… what’s the word?” she said. “Projecting?”

“What?” Asriel asked.

“Projecting. That’s when you say a thing about someone else that’s really not true, but it’s true about yourself. Papyrus does it a lot, but in a weird kind of friendly way? You’re just trying to hurt my feelings,” she said. “But they’re not hurt. So, you know. Sorry.”

Asriel opened his mouth to protest, but then frowned and pouted. “Shut up,” he grunted.

“Hey, you’re the one who’s been following me,” Frisk laughed. “So, what did you want, again?”

“Kind of still want to kill you,” he said.

“Yeah, besides that, though,” Frisk said. “You heard the song, huh? I’m sorry I’m terrible at playing it.”

 

Asriel went quiet, frowning for a moment, and then turned to her with a grin on his face. “I’ve killed them all, you know. Every one of them. Doesn’t that make you mad?”

“Yeah, sure,” Frisk said.

“I turned those skeletons to dust, one at a time. I watched the fish girl melt in front of the dorky scientist, and then I killed her, too. I killed the King and Queen the moment after they thought I wouldn’t. Doesn’t that piss you off? Don’t you want to scream at me?”

“Sometimes,” she said.

“Punch me right in the face?” he said. “Rip me to little pieces?”

Frisk smiled a little. “That’s a bit crazy, isn’t it?”

“For what I’ve done?! You’re an idiot,” he said. “I don’t care. I can’t care. Don’t you get it? I’d do it all again if I could—”

“What, if you could go back?” she asked. “But you won’t hurt them since you can’t undo it. Gee, Asriel, sounds like you’re not totally committed to being a huge jerk.”

“You’re stupid. Shut up.”

She started laughing and his face became a snarl.

 

“You think you can get through this without resetting again?! I’ll make you do it,” he said. “I’ll make you do it or I’ll take your soul myself!”

“So you don’t know what comes after all this, do you?” she said.

“I know I’m gonna take all the souls and you can’t stop me,” he said. “All the humans, and all the monsters. You’ll have to reset again and again. You’re never getting out of here. Promise.”

Frisk cut her eyes at him. She tried not to look overly smug, but his face fell as he looked at her skeptically.

“What? What’s that face for?” he demanded.

“Oh. Nothing,” she said. “I think things are gonna go a bit different than that, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see, right?”

His face turned sour again and he scoffed and turned himself away. Frisk smiled sympathetically. She noticed, amongst his petals, some weird little pointy bits that glimmered in the light from Undyne’s window. She scooted a bit closer.

 

“What is that?” she asked. “Is that glass?”

“What?! N-No!”

“It…” She squinted. “It looks like you have glass stuck in you, what happened?”

“N-Nothing happened, shut up!” he said.

“Want me to get it out?” She scooted closer and crossed her legs. She patted her knee.

“What?” he asked blankly.

“If you can get up on a windowsill, you can get on my lap,” she said. “Oh? Did you fall through a window or something?”

Asriel looked at her, looked down at the ground, and then back up at her. He frowned. “If you try anything, I’ll—!”

“Who do you think you’re talking to?” Frisk said with a laugh. “C’mon. It’ll be fine.”

 

Tentatively, he raised up just a little, vines creeping up onto her leg, and he slid onto her knee, looking almost ashamed.

“Hey, there we go,” she said. “Don’t worry. I’ll be careful.”

He grimaced, but he nodded. Very gently, Frisk checked through his petals and found the little shards and carefully pulled them out. He winced every time.

“How’d you even do this, anyway? You’re so light,” she said quietly.

“Who cares?!” he growled. “You’re really weird and I don’t get it.”

“What don’t you get?” she asked.

“Why the hell you’re being so nice to me. You know what I am. You know what I do. You know what I’m going to do. It’s inevitable.”

“Like I said before, we’re friends,” she said. “And if mom and Asgore can’t look after you, and Chara’s gone too, I guess I’ll do my best.”

“Don’t talk about her.”

“I’m sorry,” she said sympathetically. “It must be hard.”

He groaned and rolled his eyes. His vines squeezed, but just a little. “I could kill you right now.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes, I could! What makes you say—?”

“Because Sans will rip you apart,” she said. “He’s always watching, remember? And no matter how many times you say it, I don’t think you want to die like that. And I don’t want you to, either, I’d undo it.”

“You’re an idiot,” he said. “You think you’re being nice? You’re just making everything worse.”

“Really? I think not having glass stuck in your head is just, like, straight up better,” she said with a smile. “I’m done, by the way, I can’t see any more.”

He let out a frustrated groan and then disappeared back underground. Frisk rubbed her forehead.

“Sheesh,” she muttered.

 

As she expected, Sans was leaning up against the wall near the doorframe by the time she got back inside. He shot her a questioning look. She stuck her thumbs up and he straightened up, tapping his toes into his slippers.

“You’re probably wastin’ your time, kiddo,” he said.

“Probably,” she agreed, “but… I dunno, at the same time, I feel like it’s kind of important? It’s weird.”

“How many times did he threaten to kill you this time?” he asked.

“Ummm…” Frisk counted on her fingers. “Three, I think? Not too bad.”

Sans laughed. “Kid’s got issues.”

“Hopefully not for much longer,” Frisk said brightly, but then she moped. “He really doesn’t like you.”

“Oh no,” he said flatly.

 

“He, um… He had the timeline before I did, right? Was he ever strong enough to get by you?” she asked.

“What do you think?” he said.

She emphatically shook her head. “No way, you’re the toughest.”

Sans looked surprised, his face flushing. He shrugged.

“I uh… I yelled at him earlier. For calling you a smiley trash bag, ” Frisk said.

The skeleton grinned wide; started laughing. “What?! Dude, seriously? That’s hilarious. That’s the best he could come up with? Man, I got like a thousand better ones. Smiley trash bag…”

He laughed so hard that Frisk laughed too. She couldn’t help it.

“Let’s hope givin’ him a soul gets him a better sense of humour,” he said. “But I’m not sure which is funnier, that or you yellin’.”

“Hey, what’re you nerds doing over there?” Undyne shouted over the piano.

“Nothing!” Frisk said brightly. “Hey, how long until Alphys gets here, d’you think?”

 

Undyne finally stopped banging on the piano keys and she leaned around the lid, ear-fins perking. “What?”

“When do you think Alphys will be here?” she repeated.

“Uhh…” Undyne shrugged. “Soon?”

Frisk looked thoughtful. Sans tapped her shoulder, and then jerked his thumb at the door. Frisk frowned with confusion, but it clicked after a second.

“Oh! Oh right, okay, hang on,” she said.

 

Frisk ran right back out. There was a patch of starlight she could cling to up the path, and she did so gladly. She really had to get back in the habit. Now, that light warmed her like that hot cup of tea did.

 

Her ears pricked to footsteps bouncing off the cave walls and she turned to look east. She saw Papyrus still a little ways away, but she waved nonetheless.

“Hey, Papyrus!”

“Frisk!” he called back. He jogged to close the distance and she beamed and hugged his legs. “Nyeh heh heh, so short!” he said. He bent down to give her a hug, too. “Did you have a nice rest?”

“Yeah! Thanks for fixing me up again,” she said brightly. “Where were you?”

“Ugh, Hotland, unfortunately,” he said as he straightened up. “You’ve seen their puzzles, yes? Conveyor belts and steam vents?! What were they thinking?”

Frisk could only shrug.

“You’d be hard pressed to beat ice and spikes, obviously,” he said. “Oh! Also! I need to reintroduce you, don’t I?!”

Frisk raised her eyebrows and he whirled around. He looked surprised and then peered around.

“Doctor?” he called. “Doctor Alphys? Where did she…? Oh, not again.” He held up one finger under his mitt. “Hang on just one second.” He bounded back down the hallway, calling, “DOCTOR ALPHYS!”

 

Frisk’s heart started to pound, but she couldn’t help the giddy, butterfly feeling in her gut. She hoped, very hard, that this would all work out and rushed to think of what the heck to say. Her desperate hope wasn’t just for herself anymore.

 

A speck of a yellow tail and the sound of heavy breathing clued Papyrus in to where the Doctor had hidden, off behind a small outcropping of rock that jutted from a wall. Grinning, he walked over to her.

“Doctor! There you are!”

The little buck-toothed lizard yelped and jumped, turning to look at him with wide eyes. “O-Oh um, h-hi. I w-was just, umm…”

“Wow, you sound really nervous!” Papyrus said.

“I… I, um… I k-kind of am?” she said.

“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “Let’s go, the human’s just up ahead!”

“M-Maybe I should… m-maybe I should just g-go home?” Alphys suggested.

Papyrus laughed. “Nonsense, Doctor Alphys, this is really important. I, the great Papyrus, promise you that you will definitely not regret this at all.” He offered her his hand and she took it hesitantly and straightened up. He stuck his other thumb up. He lead her back out to the path, but as soon as they got there, she froze with shock.

 

Frisk had caught up and stood before them, a bashful smile on her face. Alphys’s jaw dropped and she started to stammer. Papyrus, on the other hand, grinned.

“Doctor Alphys!” he said. “This is the human! How about I leave you two to get acquainted?”

“W-Wait, but—” Alphys protested quickly.

“Trust me, Doctor,” Papyrus assured her. He patted her on the head, gave Frisk two thumbs up, and marched off down the road towards Undyne’s with a bounce in his step.

 

Alphys stared at Frisk, shaking a little. The kid instantly felt bad; wanted to hug her, but she smiled and stuck her hand out.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m Frisk.”

“H… Hi…?” Alphys’s smile was twisted and pained with fright. “I… I-I… u-um… I’m… U-U-Uh…”

“You’re Alphys,” Frisk said.

She nodded. She hesitantly shook Frisk’s hand.

 

The fear started to melt away, replaced quickly with curiosity. She tilted her head. Frisk mirrored her, and Alphys let out a warbling, nervous laugh and pulled her hand back to rub her headspines.

“I’ve, uh… Wow, I’ve n-never s-seen a… a r-real human close up b-before. I’m sorry, th-this is weird,” she said, “b-but now that I see you, you… um… y-you look a l-little familiar to me…?”

Frisk’s face lit up. “I’m really happy to hear that b-because, um… I know you don’t remember this, but we, um… we know each other.”

“Wh… What?” Alphys said blankly.

“We’re actually friends!” Frisk insisted. “I dunno if you’re gonna believe me, but… but I mean, you worked with Sans, right? S-So… maybe you know a little? A-About the, um… time anomaly stuff?”

Alphys’s eyes went wide. She started to shake. “Oh my god,” she said quietly. “He t-told you about that?”

Frisk nodded. Alphys drew in a shaky breath.

“W-Wow, he must… h-he must really t-trust you,” she said. “But… Oh my g-god, does that mean you’re…? Y-You’re a t-time traveller? N-No, that’s… That can’t be, can it?”

“No, no, that’s actually exactly right,” Frisk said. “I… I’m here to break the barrier and save a friend of mine. I really need your help!”

 

Alphys stared at her quietly. She smiled slightly and she rubbed her brow. “Oh… D-Did Undyne put you up to this?” she asked. “Or m-maybe Sans?”

Frisk frowned with confusion. “What?”

“Aw, hey, h-human, someone told you I… I wasn’t feeling so great, right?” she said. “Thanks for trying, but—”

“No, Alphys, no no no, that’s not it,” Frisk insisted quickly. “It’s really true! I know it sounds weird and crazy and—”

“A k-kid time traveller asking for h-help from a scientist? S-Sounds a lot like a h-human movie,” Alphys said. “A-And besides, if… if you really knew about me, you w-wouldn’t be coming to m-me for help.”

Frisk sighed. She couldn’t help a quiet, tired laugh. “Oh man, Alphys, c’mon, don’t be like that.” She held out her hand. “You were surprised that Sans trusted me, right? That has to mean something to you. Maybe you’ll trust me, too?”

 

Alphys hesitated for a moment. She looked Frisk in the eye with a hint of suspicion, but she let out a wobbly sigh. She reached out to her, but her fingers were shaking. Nevertheless, she took her hand.

“Okay,” Frisk said quietly, “hopefully I can… If you could just use a little magic…?”

“Wh… What? Uh… U-Um, okay?” Alphys’s scales prickled with a shimmering, yellow light. “I-Is that… okay?”

Frisk could feel it like a static tingle through her skin and hoped desperately for that glow to start up again. When she saw the blue reflection in her friend’s glasses, her heart began to pound.

 

Alphys let out a small gasp. “Wh… What? Oh my god, what is that? Oh!” She winced and pulled back for just a moment, but her curiosity got the better of her and she moved in close again. She cautiously matched the lines on the kid’s face with her fingers.  “Oh my god. I… Why do I…?” She cringed, but the corners of her mouth twitched upwards. “W-Wait. Waaaait. Oh. Oh my god. I d-do know you… don’t I?”

Frisk started to grin, but her throat tightened. She couldn’t stop herself from hugging her tightly.

“Okay. O-Okay,” Alphys said. “Oookay. That’s… Oh… Oh my god.” She started to shake.

Frisk was about to pull back and apologize, but Alphys hugged her tighter. She sniffed deeply and gently moved back to grab the kid by the shoulders and bent down just a little. Her eyes were full of tears and Frisk was sure she didn’t look much better.

“I can’t believe it,” she said softly. “Oh my god, h-here you are!”

“You too!” Frisk said.

“M-Me too?” Alphys asked.

“Yeah! I really missed you.” Frisk’s voice was strained and high. “Like, a lot!”

“Y-You did? Oh…O-Oh… I…” Alphys’s lip quivered, and she hugged her close again and heaved out a sigh. “W-We really a-are friends, huh?”

“Of course,” Frisk said quickly. “Of course we are!”

“G… Good. Thank god.” She started to laugh quietly. “I… I r-really should have showered.”

“Pfft, I don’t care,” Frisk assured her; she pulled back to wipe her eyes on her sleeve. “You could smell like total garbage. I’d still be happy to see you.”

 

Alphys snickered quietly. She sniffled and took off her glasses to dab at her eyes with her coat. “This, uh… Th-This isn’t what I was expecting at all,” she said. “I’m s-sorry I didn’t believe you at first. But… wh-what are these memories? Have we r-really met three times?”

“It’s okay,” Frisk assured her. “I dunno if I’d believe me either. And yeah. I… I was trying to help as many monsters as I could, so I time travelled backwards a few times. I’m really sorry, it’s confusing and weird.”

“But how can you even—?”

“Determination.” Frisk put a hand against her chest. “My, um… My soul is basically just that, so…”

Alphys’s eyes went wide. She put a hand to her forehead. “The… The anomalies… Of course…” she said. “O-Oh my god.”

“We can explain everything soon,” she said. “It’s just a big complicated mess. B-But, Sans, Papyrus, and Undyne, they have memories from the same times and everything.”

 

Alphys’s eyes went wide. Her jaw hung open for a second, but she smiled a little awkwardly and wrung her hands. “Um… Th-This might be a little w-weird to ask, b-but, about Undyne…? Um… D-Does she, um…?”

“Don’t worry about that,” Frisk assured her quickly. “You wanna go back to her place?”

“O-Oh, um… w-well… Y-Yeah, actually,” she said.

Frisk grinned. She held her hand on the way up the road.

 

Chapter Text

Outside Undyne’s house, the cave abounded with the sound of a piano’s tune. This one was slow, a bit more controlled, kind of jazzy— Frisk recognized it. Alphys froze at the door.

“M-Maybe I shouldn’t…” she muttered. “M-Maybe I could, um… j-just text h-her? O-Or… send her an i-invite on UnderNet…?”

Frisk laughed and rolled her eyes, held tight to Alphys’s hand, and dragged her into the house.

 

Papyrus was waiting directly in front of the door, beaming, and he scooped them both up into his arms. “Good job, Frisk!” he said. “And welcome back into the know, Doctor Alphys!”

“Wh-What?!” Alphys squeaked. “Oh. O-Okay.” She slumped, puffed out a sigh, and Papyrus gently put her down.

“Oh, Frisk, were you crying?” he asked.

“Yup, again,” Frisk laughed. “It’s okay.”

“You sure do that a lot, huh?” he said.

“Tell me about it!” she agreed.

 

He snickered and put her down, too, and then cooed and gently wiped under her eyes with his thumbs. She laughed and rubbed her face with the heels of her hands. Alphys looked nervous, and she cast a look around. She gulped, peeked around the piano, and her eyes went wide.

“S… Sans?!” she squeaked. “Oh! H-Hi!”

“Hey, Doc, hope that wasn’t too rough on you,” he said.

“N-No! No, it’s… um… It’s actually kind of a relief?” she said. “Oh my god, d-did you know th-this whole time?”

“Yup, ever since I crossed that bridge. I mean, literally, the one near the Ruins,” he said.

“Wh-Why didn’t you just tell me?” she asked.

“Didn’t know how the kid’s magic worked for sure until Undyne, honestly,” he said. “And that was just a few hours ago? Figured she should probably talk to you first, anyway.”

“Um… Wh-Where’s…? Where is Undyne?” Alphys asked worriedly.

“Oh. As soon as Paps said you were basically here, she said she needed to, uh… do something in her room? With her hair? I dunno.”

 

Alphys looked surprised. Frisk scooted up beside them and watched curiously, her face lighting up.

“You play, too?” she asked.

He shrugged. She hopped up onto the bench with him to watch.

“I didn’t know that, either,” Alphys said.

He shrugged again.

“I thought you’d be asleep by now,” Frisk joked.

“You know, Paps came back in, and he was like, SANS! Don’t you fall asleep again or by spaghetti, I’ll—”

“I don’t sound like that!” Papyrus protested shrilly.

Sans snickered. “Anyway, thought I’d waste my time here.”

Alphys smiled, but she looked like she was sweating. Frisk patted her shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” she said.

“R… Right.” Alphys rubbed her brow. “I feel kinda like I’m g-gonna throw up.”

 

Sans looked thoughtful and handed off the piano to Frisk; she began to softly poke the keys to the one song she knew. He took a bag out of his ribcage and put it on the table, and pulled out a few packages of the monster-brand ramen from inside.

“O-Oh!” Alphys said, her eyes lighting up.

“I had a feelin’ the kid’s plan would get you here today,” he said. “So I figured, you know. Noodles?”

“Ah… W-Well, I wouldn’t m-mind,” she said.

“Saaannnss, did you say noodles?” Papyrus was leaning over him to look in an instant. “What are those? Are they good?”

“Oh! O-Oh! You’ve never had them, P-Papyrus?” Alphys asked. “Th-They’re, uh… They’re r-really good! Th-They come in, like, b-blocks, and you boil them, and then y-you add the b-broth packet and—”

“Noodles with broth? Isn’t that just soup?” Papyrus asked skeptically.

“L-Let me show you!” Alphys said with a determined frown. “I-I’ll make it for everyone! Maybe you can help me out? S-Since you’re so, uh, t-tall.”

“Absolutely, Doctor, I, the great and master chef Papyrus, would be more than happy to help you make your strange soup noodles. You’re talking to a noodle expert, you know!”

 

As the noodles cooked, Sans plunked down with Frisk again and occasionally started hitting seemingly random keys as she tried to play.

“Bro, no!” she said.

“Bro, yes.”

“It’s so distracting, though!” she whined.

He grinned. “No, look. Try again.”

Frisk rolled her eyes, but she did as he asked. He hit a key an octave lower, then waited for her to play a few more notes before doing it again.

“Get it?” he asked.

“Oh. Um… Oh, yeah, I think so!” she said.

“It’s just math,” he said. “You’re good at that, right?”

“Y-Yeah! How’d you know that?” she asked.

“Dunno. Guess you just kinda look like a huge nerd.”

“Saaannsss.” She elbowed him lightly and he laughed.

 

“Don’t you worry, Frisk, you may be a complete nerd, but I currently posses enough cool factor for the both of us,” he said. “In fact, I may be surrounded by the absolute dorkiest three people in the whole underground currently and I feel confident I carry enough coolness within me to sustain all of us!”

“Good job, bro,” Sans said. “What would we do without you?”

“I-I dunno P-Papyrus, my n-nerd levels might be o-over capacity,” Alphys joked. “Ah! N-Noodles are good! Broth time!”

 

With Papyrus’s help, Alphys served the ramen to everyone, and set out an extra bowl for Undyne. She had some extra chopsticks in her handbag, and passed them out to everyone. Nevertheless, Papyrus picked at his with a fork suspiciously.

“Are you sure this is how it works?” he asked.

“You also do this,” Frisk said; she sipped the broth straight from the bowl.

“Ah! Y-Yeah! Just like that,” Alphys said. “Ooh, n-next time, I’ll m-make some hardboiled eggs to put in! And maybe some vegetables?”

Papyrus hmmmed and stared at his bowl. Frisk snickered, put her bowl on the counter, and hopped onto the sofa to sit with him. She stole his fork and grabbed the chopsticks and put them in his hand.

“What the heck am I supposed to do with these?”

“Look, like this.” Frisk helped position his fingers right. “Then you can use them to stir, or grab, or whatever? See?”

“I don’t get it. What’s wrong with the fork?” he asked.

“Nothing! Just try it though.”

Almost instantly, he was holding them wrong. Frisk snickered and grabbed his hand again.

“No no, like this,” she said.

 

Alphys watched them as she very slowly slurped her noodles, the scales on her face turning red. Sans took note and leaned from the piano bench to look at her, then followed her gaze

“Sup?” Sans asked. “Oh. Oh, no no no, don’t.“

“Wh-What? But…” She hid her face behind her bowl. “B-But they’re so cute…”

“Nope. Do not make them your OTP.”

Alphys pouted. “But what if—”

“No.”

“It’s an AU?” she suggested.

“Definitely nope,” he said.

“But, I mean, maybe if she were—”

“I cannot nope any harder than I am currently nopeing, dude,” Sans said. “Currently in Nopesville, population: Sans.”

Alphys pouted.

 

“There you go, bro, got it!” Frisk cheered.

“Sans, look, I’ve managed the food sticks!” Papyrus said proudly.

“Good job,” Sans said.

Alphys slumped sheepishly, but her eyes went wide and she pointed and edged closer to Sans. “D-Did she just call him bro?” she asked quietly.

Sans quickly downed the rest of his soup and cut his eyes at her. “I told you. We’re keepin’ her.”

 

Before Alphys could say another word, Frisk scampered back over to grab her ramen and scooted back onto the piano bench to eat her noodles. She shoved a bunch into her face all at once.

“D-Do you like it?” Alphys asked.

Frisk nodded. She swallowed a little too fast and started coughing.

“Pfft, dude,” Sans said.

“I’m okay. I’m okay,” she choked.

He snickered and she took a deep breath, one more mouthful of noodles, and then she offered the rest to him.

“You sure?” he asked.

She smiled and nodded. He shrugged and took it, and she turned in her seat to look at Alphys.

 

“You doing okay with the memories and everything?” she asked.

“Ah… Y-Yeah, it’s… It’s actually not too bad, it’s… like I always knew, but I just forgot,” she admitted.

“That’s a very accurate way of putting it,” Papyrus agreed. “Hey. This pasta soup is not too bad actually!”

Alphys smiled. Her cheeks flushed a little. “So… So how did this happen?”

“Let’s all just chill for a bit first,” Sans suggested. “No rush. Right, kiddo?”

Frisk nodded. “The explaining bit is long and makes me cry a bunch. But I’m super happy you remembered.”

Alphys’s brow furrowed with worry, but she nodded.

 

Frisk got up again and went to Undyne’s bedroom door. She knocked gently. “Undyne?” she asked. “Um… Hey, Undyne? Alphys is here. And there’s ramen, so… um… You coming out?”

Beyond the door, there was a thump and a sort of scuffling sound.

“Hang on! Just a sec!” There was more thumping. Some muffled cursing. Undyne stepped out, brushing a hand through her loose, damp hair to get it out of her face. “Hah. Sorry. I…” Her eye caught on Alphys, who was midway through a very large slurp of noodles, and her ear-fins perked. “O-Oh. Man, uh… Hi. Alphys.”

 

Alphys’s scales started to go red again. Awkwardly, she swallowed the ramen and gulped, hard. “U-U-Undyne, um… Um… I-It’s… It’s good to, uh… umm…”

“Y… Yeah.” Undyne started to grin. “Sorry, I was just, uh… covered in trash water, so… uh…”

They both suddenly seemed lost and stared at each other blankly. Frisk gently elbowed Undyne’s leg. She jumped; seemed to snap out of it.

 

“Dude, do you…? Ah, hell.” She was over to Alphys in just a few strides and bent down to look her in the face. “So do you like me or what?”

“O-O-Of course I d-do!” Alphys squeaked.

Undyne beamed and lifted her up into her arms, spilling the ramen without care. Alphys looked about ready to boil over and she wrapped her arms around Undyne’s shoulders.

“Ohmygodohmygodohmygod.” She began to quake. “U-U-Undyne, I… Oh my god.”

Undyne began to laugh and bumped her brow gently against the hers, the scales on her cheeks darkening blue. “Missed you, you dweeb.”

Alphys looked like she could have simply melted away.

 

Sans slipped off the piano bench and looked at his wrist as if to check a non-existent watch.

“Welp. Gettin’ a bit late,” he said.“Think it’s about time we head home.”

“Wait, what?!” Undyne snapped, whirling on them with surprise. “But you barely explained anything! And Alphys just got here!”

“Tomorrow,” he assured her. “We’ll come back. We’ll hang out, have some laughs, explain this weird garbage, Frisk’ll cry a lot, it’ll be a blast.”

“Really?” Papyrus asked. “What about Frisk’s quest?!”

“Kiddo, there a time limit?” Sans asked. When Frisk shook her head, Sans smiled and raised his hand as a goodbye. “See you tomorrow.”

 

Frisk grabbed her now-dry hoodie and the red-stained t-shirt, and they all headed out to give Alphys and Undyne some space, though Papyrus was moping a little.

“It’s not that late,” he said as they walked away.

“Dude, I know,” he said.

“Then whhhyyyy did you say it was late, now they’re going to think we are dorks who go to bed at seven,” Papyrus said. “Incredibly uncool, Sans.”

Sans laughed. “But I totally do that though.”

“I don’t get it,” Papyrus grumbled.

“Um, Papyrus, you know how, when you got your memories of me back,” Frisk said, “that you said you felt like you really missed me?”

“Yes, why?” he said.

“Well, like… Undyne and Alphys probably feel like that about each other, too,” she said. “Except they love each other, like with dating and smooching and stuff.”

“What? WHAT? Really?” he asked, eyes wide. “OH WOW. Okay. I didn’t see that coming. And I am incredibly perceptive.”

Sans grinned. “So, we’ll let them be alone to catch up for a bit. No problem. Right?”

“Right!” Frisk agreed.

“Got it!” Papyrus stuck his thumb up. “Hey, Sans, there aren’t any more secret dating people that I didn’t notice, are there?”

“Nope, don’t think so,” he said, but he looked at Frisk for confirmation.

She shrugged and shook her head. He stuck his thumb up, stretched, and yawned.

“Ah, crap. Gotta walk home, don’t we?”

“Feel free to take a shortcut,” Papyrus assured him. “It won’t take me long to walk back.”

“Yeah?” Sans asked. “…Actually, I did forget somethin’. Meet you guys back at the house?”

“Wait,” Frisk said. “Still have my phone?”

He nodded. She stuck her thumb up and then stood on her toes to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. His face flushed blue instantly.

“Okay, that’s all,” she said.

“Jeez, kid,” he said. “Alright. See you guys.”

 

He doubled back and they went on without him through the glittering cave.

“I’m always amazed by how good he is at that,” Papyrus commented. “Figures someone so lazy would have a power that lets him get places without walking. Right, Frisk?”

She snickered. “I dunno, he works hard in his own way.”

“Yes, at not working hard,” Papyrus agreed, but he smiled. “Did he ever tell you how he does that?”

“Determination, I think?” she said.

“What, like you?” he asked. “Can you do that, too?”

“Nope, I don’t think so,” Frisk said.

 

She put her hands in her pockets, but her fingers bumped into something hard that she hadn’t expected. She grabbed it and pulled it out curiously. It was a Rubik’s cube, totally scrambled, and the paint on a few of the tiles was a little faded. She stared at it with surprise. She didn’t remember picking up something like that at all. Maybe she’d gotten it accidentally in the dump? It was just a little damp.

 

As they came to one of the glowing rivers, it cut through the path and Papyrus picked her up and easily hopped across. Frisk was a bit jealous.

“There we go!” He put her down again. “Imagine how long this would take you without me here! Sheesh!”

“I don’t have to imagine,” Frisk said with a laugh. “I did that all before. I’m glad you’re here, now, though.”

Papyrus grinned brightly. She grabbed his hand.

“Hey,” she said. “Here. I think you should have this.” She put the Rubik’s cube in his mitt.

“Oh, cool, what is it exactly?” he asked, lifting it up to peer at it curiously.

“It’s called a Rubik’s cube,” she said. “It’s a puzzle game from the surface.”

“A puzzle game?!” he repeated excitedly. He turned the cube over in his hands a few times, inspecting it curiously. “How does it work?”

“I think what you do is you turn all the pieces until every side is one colour,” she said, “but I guess you could make up some other stuff to do with it, too.”

“Frisk, that’s so thoughtful!” he exclaimed. “Thank you!”

 

- - -

 

Papyrus was still playing around with the cube when they got home. Sans was out like a light on the sofa in a way that suggested he had basically collapsed over the arm of it.

“Oh, of course, he forgot a nap,” Papyrus said, rolling his eyes. His irritation was mostly feigned, though, because, as soon as he got close to Sans, he gently put one of the pillows nearby under his head and patted his back affectionately.

Sans, somehow, slumped even lower than he already was.

 

“Actually,” Papyrus said quietly, “I guess he did have quite the adventure, didn’t he? He usually doesn’t do much in a day at all.” He shot Frisk a smile and patted her head. “I’m glad you two are already such good friends. I think you’re very good for him, honestly.”

“Y… You do?” she asked.

“Oh, yes! Definitely,” Papyrus said. “Somehow you can convince him to actually do things. I almost want to give you a medal. But, can I ask? He knows you more than I do, doesn’t he?”

“Um… I think he just remembers a bit more,” she said, “because just normally without the weird glowing thing, he remembers me.”

“Ah. Right. He does, doesn’t he? And all those others he dreams about,” Papyrus said with a faint frown, but he quickly smiled again. “You know, that’s another reason I’m glad you’re here! Since you’re real, that means the other ones aren’t real, and maybe he’ll stop almost Gaster Blasting through the walls in his sleep.”

“Gets that bad, huh?” Frisk asked worriedly.

“Not often,” Papyrus assured her. “Hey. Maybe he told you? What’s a gaster?”

“I dunno,” she said. “I always just thought it was called that because it rhymed.”

He snickered and shook his head. “Our brother is definitely full of mysteries, isn’t he? Hey, side note, you probably need to save, don’t you? How about we go together and I can have the nice lady at the inn fix up your clothes?”

“Oh. Right. Good idea,” she said.

“I know!” he said.

 

She scampered up to Sans’s room. It looked like a bomb of trash and socks had hit it, which wasn’t unusual. Unless he was in there sleeping, somehow he managed to shove his blankets into a baffling, orbish wad that stood out like a strange, patchwork moon in the middle of the room.

 

Frisk dug through the stuff he had left out for her and changed into the only long sleeved shirt that she could find. She put all the things that she had bled on or otherwise messed up together, and she tugged on the blanket mess until she could wrench one of them free and dragged it downstairs with her.

 

Papyrus was waiting near the door, ready to go, still focussed intently on the cube. She scampered up to Sans and covered him snugly, and turned off the light before they went back out.

 

By the time they reached the tear in time, Papyrus twisted the last row of colours into place. “Nyeh heh heh heh! I, the great Papyrus, am victorious again! Look!” he said, showing off the cube to Frisk proudly. “That was fun.”

“You’re really good at that!” Frisk said.

“Would you like to try?” he said.

“I think it’d take me all day,” she admitted.

“Nonsense, Frisk, just stay determined and you can accomplish anything.” He held out his hand. “Now, you save, I’ll meet you inside?”

She nodded and gave him her things, and he quickly bounded into the inn.

 

Frisk took a few seconds to secure them all in time. It made her feel a little steadier; a little nostalgic. Something about the quiet of the snow around her gave her the shivers, though.  When she closed her eyes, it was like she could see it all again, like it was all dust. She gulped and took a deep breath.

“I’m home where I am,” she said quietly. “…Everyone’s alive. It’s… It’s okay.” It didn’t help much. She folded her arms.  “Hey, Asriel? If you’re listening,” she whispered, “please try to be good, okay? I’m… I’m gonna find a way to solve all this.” Her thoughts shot across the faces of her friends and family nonetheless. They lingered on Kid. Frisk felt a sudden sting of guilt. “Oh crap.”

 

Frisk rushed to the inn and stuck her head in. Inside the pleasantly warm, cozy building, Papyrus was leaning against the wall, fiddling with the Rubik’s cube again as a small bunny boy hopped up and down behind the counter to watch.

“Papyrus?” Frisk said. “I’m just gonna go meet a friend real quick, okay? Meet you back here?”

“No worries, Frisk, just go home afterwards, this shouldn’t take long,” he assured her.

She stuck her thumb up and rushed out.

 

It wasn’t until she was already at Grillby’s, turning towards the houses off the main street that she realized she had no idea where Kid actually lived. She froze, worried for a moment, but she reassured herself that maybe there would be another monster around to ask. Worst case scenario, she could just knock on a random door and ask for directions. It was a small town, after all.

 

The street was silent save for the sound of her own footsteps crunching through the snow, and she looked at the houses as she went, hoping to maybe get a glimpse of a face she recognized through the windows. There weren’t many streets between the main one and the river, anyway, she was bound to find it soon. That is, unless he lived across the river? Frisk sighed to herself.

 

Turning the first corner, she caught a glimpse of the tail end of someone else wandering. Her face lit up. “Excuse me!” she called. She jogged to catch up.

Moving as if he were floating, a tall someone in all black drifted just a little ways up the street.

“Excuse me!” she called again. “Sorry, could you maybe help me out?”

 

The figure turned to look at her with surprise in his dark eyes. He had a white, smiling face without many features to it, save for some black lines near his eyes. He flowed back over to her and looked her up and down. He seemed pleased.

“Sorry to bother you,” she said. “I was wondering, do you… uh…?”

The monster moved downwards, mimicking a squat. He extended a thin, white hand towards her and said something that she couldn’t quite understand, but she smiled and shook his hand anyway.

“Sorry, mister, I don’t quite speak that,” she said. “But I’m Frisk, good to meet you.”

He nodded slowly.

“Sorry to bug you, but do you happen to live around here?” she asked. “I’m looking for my friend’s place. He’s a little kinda yellow lizard kid? And his name is Kid.”

The monster tilted his head slightly and pointed up the road, but just as she was about to thank him, he held up one finger as if to tell her to wait. He took her hand in one of his and put something in it with the other, giving her a serious nod as he pushed her fingers closed around a thin, rectangular object.

“Oh, um… Thank you?” she said.

He straightened up and offered her his hand. She didn’t hesitate to take it and he drifted up the street a little until they came to a house that looked much like the others, except it had an extra door handle that could be reached by a clawed foot.

 

The monster released her hand and pointed at the door.

“Oh! This is it? Thank you so much!” she said brightly.

He nodded again, gently patted her head, and flowed away down the road, back the way Frisk had come, and disappeared.

 

Frisk blinked and looked around. She felt like she had zoned out for a second. Must’ve lost track of where she was walking. She did notice that there was a strangely low knob on the door to the house in front of her. Could it be to open the door with feet? She sure hoped so.

 

Nothing to lose— she knocked on the door. She waited in silence for a few seconds, then heard a muffled voice inside calling elsewhere. When it swung open, Frisk couldn’t help a grin. Kid gawked back at her, silent for a moment before his clenched his teeth and ran out to meet her. She grabbed him into a hug and he slumped against her shoulder.

 

“Oh my god, dude, I was so worried!” he said.

“I’m sorry!” she said. “I’m okay. Are you? Did you have trouble getting home?”

“No, no, it was okay. You…” He pulled back and she let him go. “Your brother was right. You don’t look like you got beaten up too bad.”

“I didn’t,” she said. “I mean, I fell off a thing, but then it was all okay.”

Kid blew out a relieved sigh. “Man, Undyne was kind of mean to you, huh? I didn’t think she’d wanna beat you up so bad if you were nice! Even if you are a… a…” He bit his lip.

Frisk laughed. “Don’t worry, it was just a big misunderstanding,” she said. “Undyne’s actually super nice. Don’t tell her I told you.”

 

Kid snickered. He tilted his head. “So, I guess… you’re not really from New Home, are you?” he asked. “You’re… You’re from the surface, huh?”

Frisk nodded. His eyes lit up.

“Dude, what’s it like?” he asked.

“Big. And… bright,” she said. “And things change up there a lot. And there’s a whole world full of totally different weird non-magic stuff.”

“Aw man, it must be such a bummer to come down here after being up there!” he said.

Frisk shook her head. “Actually, I love it here.”

“Hah, c’mon, Frisk, no way,” Kid said with a laugh.

“But it really is nice down here, honestly. But I guess, it’s more about the people, you know?” she explained. “Down here, I met so many great monsters. I guess that’s more important to me than where I am. Anyway, I’m really sorry for lying to you about what I was.”

“Yo, that’s fine, I get it,” he said. “I mean, I was thinkin’, you know, if it were me, and I was suddenly dropped in around a bunch of humans? I’d probably try to pretend I was one, too.”

“Thanks for not being mad,” she said. “And thanks for sticking up for me. I mean, against Undyne! That was really brave.”

He smiled, his cheeks flushing. “Aw, nah.”

Frisk grinned and squished him into a hug, lifting him off his feet. He laughed and flopped into her. She snickered and let him down again, but they both started to the sound of something else landing in the snow.

“Whoops! Think you dropped something, there,” Kid said.

 

Frisk looked around and saw something grey in the snow— she reached for it, thinking for a moment that it was her phone before she remembered that Sans still had it. Instead, what she pulled up from the snow was an old calculator. She stared at it with surprise.

“That yours?” he asked.

“Guess so,” she said. She put it in her pocket.

Kid opened his mouth to say more, but abruptly stopped when a woman from inside called his name. “Oh! That’s my mom. You, uh…? You wanna come inside? Dude, sorry, I probably should’ve invited you in sooner.”

“Hah, no, that’s okay,” she said. “I should probably get home anyway.”

“Still in the skeleton house?” Kid asked.

“Yup, that’s where I live,” she said. “See you later, have a good night!”

“You too!”

 

Home looked untouched when she got back. Quiet, though. Frisk’s ears felt like they were burning and her heart hurt a little. She had hoped that magic would have brought Kid’s memories back, too.

“Frisk?!” Frisk jumped at the sound of Papyrus’s voice. “Frisk, is that you?!”

“Y-Yeah!” she answered.

“Okay! I’m in my room if you need me!”

 

Frisk took a deep breath and rubbed her arms to warm them. She scooted onto the sofa and curled up against the arm opposite Sans. Alone with her thoughts for the first time in a little while, Frisk began to feel the weight of everything again. What she wouldn’t give to have to wake up and go to class with Toriel tomorrow. Instead, she’d have to explain how she had watched everyone disappear into the snow. How she had seen Undyne crumble in a battle against a monster as big as an apartment building. How Sans and Papyrus had sent her off and had tried so hard to keep smiling while doing it. She grimaced. Even if she didn’t say it out loud, her eyes started to water.

 

She wanted to go home. She wanted her mom. She wanted everything to go back to the way it was. She hugged her knees, sniffling. She tried hard to keep in mind that she wasn’t really alone, but no matter how relieved she was, in this moment, it didn’t help. She hid her face against her knees. “I’m home where I am,” she whispered, but her voice was choked. “I… I am home. It’s okay… It’s… It’s all okay.”

 

When she raised her head to catch some air, she was surprised to see the groggy-eyed skeleton beside her, staring at her. “O-Oh, I’m so sorry,” she squeaked. “W-Was I too loud?”

“Nah.” He sat up slowly, losing his slippers, and looked around, rubbing his skull. “You look like crap, dude.”

She grimaced and huffed out a sigh.

 

Sans gently tossed his blanket over her. The warmth of it helped a little.

“Havin’ an episode, huh?” he asked.

She pouted and nodded again. “I… I… I miss my mom,” she said quietly. “I-It’s so weird, I went forever without having a mom or anything and then now that I do, I just… Ugh.”

“Makes total sense,” Sans assured her.

She let out a weak laugh and pulled the blankets in around her like a cloak. “T-To be honest, I… I never even started to feel like I belonged anywhere until I met everyone down here. You know, when I met mom, I was so happy that I st-stayed with her almost two weeks before I even went out of the Ruins. B-But it’s… It’s still one of the only things I’m really grateful to Chara for, because I… I needed to meet you and Paps and everyone. Really, really needed you, you know? I never r-really wanted to leave the underground at all. I… I just wanted to help.”

“Dude, I know,” he said.

She sniffled again. “Hey. D… Did I ever thank you, for back then?”

“Sure you did. Didn’t need to, though,” he said. “You’re, uh, pretty weird, huh?”

She snickered, then took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, it’s just… sometimes my brain just goes right back to what happened and I—”

“Hey,” he said, raising his hand as if to stop her, “kid, I’m right there with ya. Know what you should do?”

“What?”

He offered her her phone. “Call your mom.”

 

She cautiously took the phone from him. She held it in both hands. Her fingers were shaking. “You’re right,” she said. “It’s just… I wish things were like they were, you know?”

“They are,” Sans said.

She tilted her head, confused. He lazily got up to look along the floor on other end of the sofa.

“You love her, right? And she loves you,” he said. “So, you’re good. Go with it.” He bent over and then straightened up with his fuzzy slippers in hand. He wandered off towards the kitchen, his boney feet clicking on the tile floor.

 

Frisk took a moment to steady herself, trying to calm her thumping heart. She dialled Toriel’s number, put the phone on speaker, and waited, hoping she’d pick up as she bundled herself in a blanket cocoon. Her face lit up when she heard a click.

“Hello?” Toriel asked.

The sound of her voice lifted Frisk’s spirits right away.

 

“Mom! H-Hi!” Frisk said. “Me again!”

“Oh! Little one! What a relief,” she said. “How are you faring out there? Where are you?”

“Snowdin! But I went to Waterfall today!” she said. “Do you remember the wishing rooms? It’s so pretty in there.”

“Hah. Yes, my child, I remember,” she said fondly. “Are you…? Are you still with your new friends?”

“Yup! When this is all over, you gotta meet them, you’ll love them,” Frisk assured her.

“Oh, honey, I’m not sure if—”

“Don’t worry,” Frisk assured her as, beside her, Sans lazily slid over the arm of the sofa to sit with her.“They’ll love you, too. And things are gonna be okay. Today, I made friends with the Captain of the Royal Guard, and the Royal Scientist, too. We’re all gonna figure out how to deal with the barrier, together.”

“Are you sure you can trust them?” Toriel asked quickly. “They… They will not turn you in, will they?”

“No, they wouldn’t,” Frisk said, pausing for just a second as Sans passed her a tall cup from Grillby’s. “Like I said, we’re all really on the same side, right? We all want the same thing.”

“Just be careful,” she insisted.

“I will, promise,” Frisk said. “And besides, if anything goes wrong, these guys, they’re the best ever. They wouldn’t let anything happen to me.”

Toriel laughed softly. “What a peculiar child you are,” she said fondly. “But, I am happy for you. I am glad you are safe.”

 

“Yup! So, what have you been up to?” Frisk asked.

“Watering the flowers every day,” Toriel chuckled, “and taking some nice walks, I suppose. I did have a strange occurrence where one of my windows was broken when I came home today. I suppose someone must’ve had an accident.”

“Oh no! Was everything okay?” Frisk asked.

“Oh, yes, just fine, not to worry,” Toriel assured her.

“Sounds like a pane in the glass to me,” Sans said.

“What?! Oh. Oh, my goodness.” She started to laugh. “Hello there! I did not expect to hear your voice.”

“Yeah, I turn up in weird places, it’s sort of my thing,” he replied.

“Mom, this is Sans,” Frisk said brightly. “He’s been taking care of me. You kinda know him, right?”

“Ah! Yes!” she said. “Yes, we’ve spoken quite a few times, actually. Sans, you said? Thank you for watching over her.”

“Hey, no problem. She’s a bit of a crybaby, but it’s been pretty fun.” He had to hold in a laugh when Frisk elbowed him. “So, uh, don’t worry about her, alright?”

“I admit, I am a little surprised,” Toriel said. “My child, I’m sorry, might I have a word with your friend privately for a moment?”

Frisk and Sans shared a confused look.

“Sure, no problem,” she said.

 

The kid excused herself to check the kitchen for a snack and Sans and Toriel continued to chat. She sipped from the cup Sans gave her and was pleased to find it was another milkshake— Grillby’s only did one flavour, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was, but she liked it. As she scrounged in the fridge, she could hear them start laughing. It made her smile. She thought about trying to make that sandwich again, but she could never find the chips. There was an empty bag in the fridge, but other than that, it was a mystery. There seemed to be quite a few extra milkshakes in there, too. She found bread and hotdogs, though, and she could manage that. It also meant she didn’t have to go anywhere near a knife again. She put them in the microwave.

 

“Little one?” she heard Toriel call.

Frisk poked her head back out into the living room. “Yeah?”

“I must be going now. It was so good to hear from you. Sleep well!” she said.

“Thanks, mom, you too, good night!” she said.

Sans hung up and Frisk brought him a hotdog too when she came back. He was looking at the phone with a weird expression.

 

“What’s up?” she asked.

“We were close, huh?” he asked.

“Who? You and mom?” Frisk asked, starting to eat. “Yup. She’s… mom. You know. For you, too, kind of. Or she tried to be. Without getting too in your way, since you’re a grown-up and stuff.”

“Huh. That’s cool. Always liked her,” he said as he smiled and returned the phone to her. “So that’s what that feeling was. Kinda nice, actually. How’d Paps take it?”

“He’s so funny,” Frisk said through a mouthful, “he, like, would still keep trying to call her your majesty and stuff to her face, but as soon as she was out of the room, he’d start calling her mom all the time. I think maybe he was worried about being polite since she used to be the Queen and all, but… really, she would really love if he called her mom.”

“Sounds hilarious,” he said. “Heh. Poor Papyrus.”

“Why?” Frisk asked.

“Welp. I do puns. You do puns. Tori does puns,” he said. “He’s doomed.”

Frisk snickered, but she abruptly caught on and she looked at Sans with shock. “Oh. Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I-It didn’t even occur to m-me that… oh man, I’m s-sorry!”

“Dude, what?” he asked.

“Mom. I d-didn’t… I didn’t… O-Of course you’d miss her, too. Ugh, oh my god, I’m a dumb idiot.”

“Jeez, kid. Don’t bother,” he assured her. “Tori’s pretty predictable. I’m not even worried about it.”

“Really?” she asked quickly.

Sans nodded. “Sure. Soon as this is over, we’ll all be a family in no time.”

“R… Right,” she said. She sighed.

He ate his hotdog. “Hey.” He patted her head. “Seriously. Don’t worry.”

She nodded, but sunk back into the cushions, pouting.

 

“So, like… what did she want?” she wondered. “Oh. I mean, if you can say.”

“She asked why I didn’t want to take your soul,” he said. “Guess she thought implied child murder was too much for you?”

“Dude, I’ve died a ton, though,” Frisk said, unable to help a laugh. “I died two times just today!”

“Well, yeah; can’t tell her that, though, she’d never let me hear the end of it,” he said with a wink. “I kinda told her, you know, it started to get late, I took a nap, you followed my brother home, next thing I know you’re livin’ in our house, eatin’ our spaghetti and I accidentally really like you. Go figure.”

She smiled a little and curled up again against the arm of the sofa. Something jabbed her in the leg when she moved, and, curiously, she pulled something out of her pocket. The calculator— she had almost forgotten.

 

She looked at it absently. The back was a bit scratched up. It took her a moment to realize that some of those scratches were her brother’s name. His handwriting really was really terrible. She offered it to him. He looked puzzled, but took it anyway.

“What’s…?” He flipped it over. “Oh. Where’d you get this?”

“Dunno, think it was in the pocket of the shorts I borrowed?” she said.

“Huh.” His brow furrowed slightly for a moment. “Oh. Weird. This is pretty old, actually, I haven’t seen it in years. I mean… not that I was lookin’ for it. Thanks though.”

Frisk stuck her thumb up and he put it in his pocket, then got up.

“Papyrus? Yo, Papyrus?” he called.

“What is it? I’m very busy!” Papyrus shouted back.

“Just get down here when you get a minute, then,” he said.

“Ugh, fine!”

 

Sans grinned, and then bent to Frisk’s eye level and put a hand on her shoulder. “Remember,” he said. “You’re home. Okay?”

She nodded. He patted her approvingly and straightened up.

“I’ll probably, uh, turn in,” he said. “Get some sleep, huh? Hope I don’t see ya.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Same. G’night.”

 

Frisk was starting to get a bit sleepy, too. She found the TV remote in its usual spot, between the sofa cushions, and turned it on. Mettaton was on, live, doing some sort of gameshow. Frisk couldn’t really follow it, but she watched anyway as her eyelids got heavier. It was nice to see him, anyway, even if he was still mostly a metal box on a wheel. She guessed, by now, his final body must’ve almost been done. She hoped he wouldn’t try to blow her up.

 

When Papyrus finally came downstairs in his pyjamas, Frisk was half-asleep, watching the bars on the television to Mettaton’s show’s theme without really realizing it.

“Sans? SANS?” Papyrus said. “Where did that lazybones get to?”

“Bed, I think?” she said.

“Bed?! Why did he call me down here if he was just going to go to bed?” he demanded.

Frisk shrugged. Papyrus sighed and rolled his eyes. He whirled on Frisk, but his expression immediately softened and he squatted down to look at her.

“Frisk, were you crying again?” he asked.

“That obvious?” she asked.

“And you look pretty tired,” he said.

She nodded. He grinned.

“I have a surprise for you,” he said. “Wait one second?”

She nodded again despite her sudden confusion. He bounded up the stairs again and vanished into his room. Frisk turned off the TV and saw him come back out and start doing something to the door. Frisk wandered up to look curiously.

 

He was taping something to the outside of his door.

“What’re you doing?” Frisk asked.

“Well, I figured, since you’re staying and all.” He pointed to a new, small, neat scrap of construction paper taped on his door sign. “I thought it would make you feel more at home.”

Under the sign that declared only Papyrus allowed in the room, he had added a note that said “ALSO FRISK”. She stared at it blankly for a moment before looking up at him with shock.

Y-You sure?” she asked.

“Well, yes, obviously,” he said. “You’re sleeping in here anyway. And I do have the largest room. It’s really not a problem. I certainly don’t mind. You can just pay me back in puzzle solving!”

Frisk grinned. “Bro, you get the heck down here.”

When he squatted down, she hugged him tight and smooched his cheek. “Ooh!” His face flushed. “I’m glad you’re happy! This means I’m being a good big brother, right?!”

She nodded.

“You know, I never expected to be a big brother except in a literal sense,” he said, “but now I can be both! I’m actually really enjoying this.”

Frisk snickered. “Thank you.”

“Nyeh heh! You don’t need to thank me for something like this,” he said. “That implies I might have been inconvenienced in some way! Which I haven’t, if that wasn’t obvious.” He lifted her and affectionately touched his brow to hers.

She giggled.

 

“Now,” he said, “I’ve got a couple things I still want to do on the UnderNet, but—”

“Can I hang out?” she asked.

“Oh! Absolutely, what would you like to do?” he said.

“Oh no, I mean, you do your stuff, I’d just kinda like to sit around,” she said. “I’m really tired so I’ll probably fall asleep, but, if it’s okay…”

Papyrus looked at her with confusion. “Wait. Just… sitting? Not doing anything? No activities? No plan?”

She nodded. The way he looked back at her was like it had never occurred to him.

“Is that… normal? Is that a thing you do with friends?” he asked.

Frisk nodded again.

“Right! I mean, of course, I absolutely knew that already!” he said quickly. “I was just making sure that was what you wanted!”

 

He spirited her into the room and she sat, quite contented, in his lap, half-asleep as he spent his time on the underground’s only social network. She wasn’t really following what he was doing, but she was glad to just sit with him.

“Hey, look, Undyne just updated,” he said. “Taken? What does that mean? Taken where? Oh no, FRISK!”

Frisk tried to force her eyes open. “Hmm?”

“Undyne is—!”

“Means she’s dating,” Frisk mumbled.

“Huh?!”

“Taken. Like, not single,” the girl said with a tired smile.

“Oh. OH! Jeez. Sorry,” Papyrus said. “How did I miss that?”

She laughed sleepily and looked at the screen through bleary eyes. There were quite a few comments popping up under Undyne’s, including one from a familiar face.

 

“Is…? Hey, is that Asgore?” she asked.

“Oh, yes! King Asgore has everyone on UnderNet, you know. He mostly just posts pictures of flowers, though. And teacups. Hey, do you have an account?” he asked.

“I used to,” she said.

“Oh. You should get one!” he said. “Don’t use your real name, though, I learned that the hard way.”

Frisk didn’t know exactly what that meant, but she nodded. She felt herself slumping but she wasn’t very inclined to stop.

 

- - -

 

When Frisk’s eyes blinked open and saw golden light. Her heart sunk as that hallway, the columns, and the stained glass came into focus. Her stomach turned and she started to shake. Sans was there. His eyes were dark and his grin was almost taunting.

“Oh no no no no, not again,” she pleaded. She took a step back. Felt a sting of shock.

His expression changed— eyes were still lightless, but his brow furrowed. She looked at her hands, her heart thumping. She could move. She clenched and unclenched her fists. She gawked, started shaking so hard she couldn’t stay on her feet. She dropped to her knees and stared at her hands, trying not to hyperventilate.

“Hey. Wait a sec,” she heard Sans say. “K… Kiddo?”

She nodded numbly.

 

His slippers slapped gently on the tile to break the silence as he walked closer, and he went down on one knee in front of her. He lifted her face and tilted his head. “Hey. Would you look at you. And not even cryin’, huh?”

She whimpered and hugged him tightly, and he grunted and plopped back onto the floor. She might not have been crying, but she couldn’t stop shaking. He patted her head gently.

“Deep breaths,” he said. “You’re okay.”

“Y… Yeah…” She did as he said. “Oh my god. Oh my god.” She started laughing and hid her face against his shirt.  “I’m me, I’m actually me! I… I can’t believe it! I’ve… I’ve never been me here!”

“Happy for you,” he said. “You hurt?”

“N-No.” She pulled back and took another deep breath. “No. I’m okay. I’m… okay. A-Are you okay?”

“Yeah. Was expectin’ a fight,” he said. “This is fine by me, though, that crap is pretty tiring.”

 

He started to get up and helped her to her feet, too. “So, if I’m not having a flashback, what the hell are we doing here?”

Frisk could only shrug. She looked around, then felt a weight around her neck. When she looked, she saw a heart-shaped locket, and she lifted it curiously.

 

It wasn’t hers. She had found one just like it in Asgore’s home, a long time ago. It belonged to Chara. Before they had left the underground for the last time and after Chara had passed on, she buried it under Toriel’s old, leafless tree. She took it off and rubbed her thumb over the rounded metal.

 

“Do… Do I look like me?” she asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Sans said.

“Do I always?”

“Yeah.”

Frisk grimaced. “So, all those others, they—”

“Oh. Them? That’s not you.” Sans shrugged. “No. They’re always a bit different.”

Frisk could have melted from relief. She rubbed a hand through her hair and blew out a long sigh. Sans grinned sympathetically.

“Kid, just because you’re along for the ride doesn’t make that crap your fault, alright?” he said. “If anything, it’s mine. They’re my memories.”

 

Curiously, he slowly began to walk to hall, looking at the windows with interest. Frisk followed. She still couldn’t stop shaking.

“I don’t get it,” she said quietly. “Am I…? Like, what am I? What are these anomaly things?”

“We never talked about this?” he asked.

“No, not really, whenever I’d ask, you’d be all like,” she did her best impression of him, “who cares? Bunch of trash. Good thing they aren’t real.

“Oh.” He laughed. “Welp. Yeah. Pretty much true.”

Frisk pouted. He sighed.

“Honestly, I dunno,” Sans said. “I guess it’s anyone with high enough determination to control the timeline. If we’re talkin’ just your time, before you, it was Asriel, but I have a feelin’ you know all about that. But those other humans, I dunno. I don’t know why so many of them look a little like you, though, or how you’re connected. Probably won’t ever know, now, and I’m perfectly comfortable with that.”

“It’s just so confusing,” Frisk grumbled.

 

Sans stopped in front of one of the windows and looked thoughtful for a moment. “Look, this thing with the other anomalies, it’s… sideways,” he said. “I know that doesn’t make much sense. But time isn’t… It’s not a straight line. Think branches, I guess. So what happened with them, it’s… not happenin’ right now, but maybe somewhere else it is. Or it happened a long time ago.”

She gave him a confused look.

“I know. Convoluted, right?” He smiled knowingly. “Honestly, it’s hard to remember them, sometimes. I remember more of what happened than who did it at this point. Think that’s just due to, uh, overexposure. But sometimes I get their faces. Some of them never get a hold of the reset right before they vanish and I still have almost everything. Some other ones did, and my memories of them are broken up a bit. But I still know what happened, in a way. I still get these echoes. It’s hard to explain. Even though, at this point, all of it technically never happened. Weird shit. Guess it’s just a case of hubris on my part, maybe?”

“Hu… briss?” she repeated.

Sans grinned and shrugged. “Time travellers remember time travel. Not always a good thing,” he said. “It’s my own fault. Welp. At least it’s helpful to somebody, so it’s not all bad.”

 

“Wow,” Frisk said quietly. “How did…? Never mind. Are you okay?”

“Mostly. Like I told you, I just kinda go with it. Hard to be invested in much when everything’s just gonna be reset. Or… I guess that’s how it used to be.” He cut his eyes at her. “But, you know, then somethin’ really weird happened. You showed up. Go figure. Pretty lucky, honestly, because you wouldn’t believe how sick of watchin’ everyone die I am”

“I think I have a bit of an idea,” she admitted. “That must’ve been so awful.”

“Pretty much,” he said. “If I can be a huge whiner for a second…?”

“Of course!” Frisk assured him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Actually, I’ve, uh, never been able to talk about this before. Couldn’t tell Paps this part, didn’t want to freak him out. I think the worst part about all that was I couldn’t do anything. When it started, I used to try to stop them. But they’d just keep going backwards. Eventually I just couldn’t keep up. Had to just wait for the reset. The worst were the ones that seemed nice at first, and then they stomp through my town and kill my brother. Seriously, what kind of freak does that?”

Frisk bit her lip. She could hardly imagine how betrayed he must’ve felt— to think things might finally be going well, and then that… She shuddered and hurriedly wiped her eyes.

 

“What did they want, though?” she asked shrilly. “Who were they? Why were they killing people?”

Sans shrugged. “Other than that crap with the ghost in their heads? I have no idea,” he said. “Don’t care, honestly. Learned a long time ago that no answer was enough, you know? All that matters is that they’re gone. Thanks to you.”

“B… But you still see them,” she said quietly.

“Like I said, it’s only memories. Echoes, I guess,” he said. “I can deal with that. Wish you didn’t have to deal with it, though. Kinda complicates things. Also, it just sort of hit me that we’re talkin’ in a dream. That is some weird crap, kid.”

“Oh, about that, also,” she said, “um… in the future, we had this deal that if you see the, um… the anomaly or whatever, and they’re doing bad stuff, you just smash them right away.”

“…Really? Doesn’t that hurt?” he asked.

“Yeah, but it usually wakes me up,” she said. “And then I go wake you up.”

“Oh. Okay. That’s fair,” he said. “Do you ever get to be yourself in dreams, by the way?”

“Oh! Yeah, sometimes,” she said. “Not in any of these memory ones, though. I mean, until like right now, anyway. I guess it’s just a thing where the worst one make the most impressions, you know? But, actually, we can do a thing. We can make a thing.”

Sans stared back at her blankly. She smiled and grabbed his hand.

“Grillby’s?” she asked.

“Uh… Okay?”

“Just picture it!”

 

The energy in her soul flared and, around them, the golden hall melted and rebuilt into the red-brick bar— a near-perfect replica. Still smelled like the cooking of greasy comfort food. It was uncharacteristically quiet, but otherwise, it felt pretty close. Sans looked around with surprise.

“Damn,” he said.

“I know, right?” Frisk said brightly. “Oh! And watch this!”  She held out her hands in front of her and concentrated for just a moment. Red, sparkling dust floated together and, with a pop, a bottle of ketchup formed and she caught it, and then handed it to him.

He took it cautiously and tapped on it curiously. “Damn,” he said again.

Frisk smiled proudly. “It took some practice, but I’m pretty good at this now. Try it!”

“I… can actually drink this?” he asked.

Frisk nodded. He took a sip, and then looked surprised again.

“Okay, yeah, that’s really weird,” he said. “Not bad, actually. How are you doin’ this, exactly?”

“We’re both doing it,” she said. “Weird magic lucid dreaming. I mean, since we gotta be mind-linked anyway, might as well do something fun with it, right? And it blocks the other ones. It just… I mean, you don’t get a very good sleep out of it. But like, sometimes you can tell when a bad one’s coming, you know? So, better to get ahead of it, I guess.”

 

Sans strolled around the building curiously. He tapped the bar and poked the stools. “How’d you figure this out?”

“You did,” she said brightly.

“Oh. ”

“Sorry, is that weird?” she asked.

“No, it’s cool,” he said. “Oh, uh… Kid? What’s happenin’ to you?”

Frisk tilted her head, confused, and then looked at her hands. They were starting to sparkle with red dust. “Oh! No worries, I guess I’m just waking up. I’ll come get you!”

 

She let go and felt like she was falling. Her feet alit gently on the ground, and she saw darkness before her, prickled with little dots like distant stars. She frowned. No, this wasn’t quite right. She should be waking up, shouldn’t she?

 

She thought she saw something move— some dark shape obscuring the lights. She felt a hand on her shoulder, bony fingers clutching her. She turned to look, but there was nothing there. Something brushed her hand, and when she lifted it to look, she noticed that she held a simple, silver key. There was a little bit of copper-coloured stain around the hole for a keychain and it was a little grimy otherwise, too.

 

Her brow furrowed a little, and when she looked up from it, she was startled by the outline of a door in the dark. Light shone through the cracks and a keyhole blazed like a lamp. Cautiously, Frisk approached it and reached up to try the handle. She was surprised when the door moved, but for some reason, that light gave her such a stomach-turning feeling that she pushed it back closed tightly. Cautiously, she put the key in the keyhole and locked it. The key wouldn’t come out again, but it blocked that light, so that was fine by her.

 

It took Frisk’s eyes a moment to adjust to the dark when they opened. She could see a strange glow. She blinked hard and sat up. She was tucked into Papyrus’s bed again. He, however, was at his computer desk, but the way his shoulders were slumped and how his head was leaning on his fist made her realize that he was definitely asleep. She dragged the comforter off the bed and tossed it over his shoulders, then stood on her tiptoes to turn off the bright screen before she snuck out.

 

Sans was still out when she slipped into his room.

“Hey, Sans,” she whispered.

He didn’t budge. She sat on the floor next to his mattress.

“Sans,” she said, forcing her voice louder. Still nothing. She grabbed his shoulder and shook him gently. “Bro,” she said. “Bro, c’mon, up up up!”

He flinched a little. His eyes opened a bit and pushed himself up on his elbow, rubbing his skull groggily. “Sorry, thought I was at Grillby’s. Sup, kiddo?”

“Sans, c’mon, I just told you I was coming to get you,” she said.

He stared at her blankly for a moment and then rubbed his eye socket with the heel of his hand and started to grin. “You sure did,” he said. “So that was totally legit.”

She nodded. He laughed sleepily.

“Huh. Okay. Cool,” he said. “That is messed up.”

“You okay?” Frisk asked.

“Shouldn’t I be askin’ you that?” he wondered. “I mean, hell, half the time I don’t even want to be in my own head, I definitely never wanted anyone else to have to deal with it. Are you okay?”

Frisk pouted, but she nodded. She scooted up onto his mattress and hugged him.

“Oh. Hello. Okay.” His shoulders sagged a little and he held her close despite his surprise. “Ah, c’mon, kid, it’s fine.”

“Lame,” she said with a snicker. “Hey. Could you help me with something?”

“Hm?”

“Papyrus fell asleep at his desk,” she said.

“Ah.”

 

He put on a sweatshirt as they left the room. Both of them were surprised to find Papyrus running frantically around the downstairs, looking under cushions and behind the TV. Sans looked over the banister with a groggy smile.

“Hey, Paps. You, uh, lose something?”

“B-Brother, I…!” He whirled and his eyes lit up. “Oh! F-Frisk, there you are!”

“You were looking for me in the sofa?” she asked.

“You never know!” he said shrilly.

“Okay, okay,” Sans said. “C’mon, you two, back to bed.”

“Story time?” Papyrus asked.

Sans smiled. “Yeah, sure, let’s go.”

 

Papyrus was back in bed within seconds, whisking Frisk along with him. Sans wandered to the bookshelf.

“What d’you guys want?” he asked.

“Frisk, you can pick, since it’s your first story time, this time around, at least,” Papyrus said.

“Um… Oh, okay,” she said. “Do you…? Do you have the first Trident of Vengeance?”

“Ooh, good choice!” Papyrus said brightly.

Sans pulled it from the shelf and sat in the bed with them, but to Frisk’s surprise, he used his magic to pull her up to sit under his arm so she could see the pages when he opened it.

“Just try followin’ along,” he suggested. “I mean, until you pass out."

Frisk tried very hard, but she was so cozy she fell asleep again after a barely chapter and a half.

 

Chapter Text

A warm, sluggish heat permeated the air and made Sans want to fall straight back to sleep as his eyes opened. The muffled ringing of a phone registered in his mind, but there was no way he was going to try to find it. Would have been difficult, anyway, because he could barely move. The kid had passed out on him, cozied up under his arm and clinging to him lightly, and Papyrus was holding both of them close. Strange, he thought, that he had never felt so safe in his life.

 

The phone stopped ringing and he was left in a relaxing silence, listening instead to the soft breathing of the kid and his brother’s gentle, sporadic snores. The faint light of his brother’s golden amber soul shone through his shirt, and he was sure that, under the kid, he was doing the same. He would be okay not getting up for a long time. Even with the weird dream crap, he felt like he hadn’t slept this well in ages.

 

He settled back farther into the covers and felt Frisk snuggle closer. He had no problems with that. The kid was warm. Still surprised him how okay with hugging skeletons she was. Strange to think about— kind of surreal for him, too— but skeletons must’ve been a morbid prospect for humans, right? But it was like it was the most natural thing in the world. He kind of felt that way, too. But it couldn’t be that comfortable, though, could it? Either way, she never seemed to mind.

 

He closed his eyes again and had almost fallen asleep when he heard the muffled ringing of the phone again. He rubbed his brow and tried to feel his pockets. Nothing. He thought about it for a moment before he gently nudged Frisk.

“Kid?” he asked.

“…Hmm?” She was barely awake at all. “…Yeaaaah?”

“You got the phone?”

She didn’t even open her eyes, fidgeted with her pockets, and then passed it to him in mostly limp fingers. Through bleary eyes, he looked at the number and recognized it as Alphys’s. Reluctantly, he shifted out of the bed, though with the kid so close, she was an accidental tagalong. He looked down at her as she plopped, sleep-dazed, to the floor, then back at the phone. He sighed to himself and used his magic to gently float her back to Papyrus. He clung to her right away.

 

He slipped out of the bedroom and closed the door to avoid more noise, then answered the phone. Mostly just to stop it from ringing, if he were honest. “Yo,” he said.

“H… Hello?” Alphys said.

“Sup?” he asked.

“…U-Um… Who is th-this?” she asked.

Sans rubbed his brow. “Dude, it’s Sans.”

“Oh! O-Oh, I’m sorry, y-your voice was all… Oh. You just woke up. S-Sorry! A-And I expected F-Frisk, this is her n-number, right?” she said.

“She’s asleep,” he said.

“Her too?! C’mon, S-Sans, it’s already…! Oh…” She started to laugh nervously. “Oh man, it’s… I-It’s actually kind of early, huh?”

“Mhm.”

“I’m s-so sorry!” Alphys said quickly. “I didn’t realize…! Sorry, Undyne and I, we just stayed up and talked and watched m-movies and stuff, and I’m not even t-tired, and—”

“So it all worked out,” Sans said. “Good. I’m happy for you guys.”

“Y-Yeah! Yes! I… I’m happy, too. Oh! Oh, right, I was calling to invite y-you guys back over!”

“Yeah sure, when it’s not, like…” He checked the clock on the phone. “4:30? Huh. Haven’t seen this hour in years.”

“I-I’m sorry! I thought it was later. It’s a little hard to tell in Waterfall,” she said. “A-Actually. I wanted to talk to you, too.”

 

Sans held in a sigh and he shifted downstairs to the sofa and plopped onto the cushions, putting up his feet. “Sup?”

“Um… W-Well… about all this memory stuff,” she said quietly, “The, um… the time stuff. I… I mean… You seem k-kinda… weirdly comfortable with it?”

“How do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean, is it j-just ‘cause you were k-kinda studying this? Y-You expected it?” she asked. “A-And you and Frisk s-seem so close, and… Oh my god.”

“What?” he asked.

“H-How old is she?” she squeaked.

“I dunno, ten? Eleven?” he said.

“D-Did you make her, is th-that why you quit? Are you her dad?!”

 

Sans was floored. He started to laugh.

“Wh-What?” Alphys demanded.

“Dude, I’m headin’ back to Nopesville,” he said.

“Aw, c-come on!” she said shrilly. “It’s not that bad of a theory! Think about it! An experiment t-to make a human soul, g-gone wrong, that y-you take in and raise as your own and—”

“Doc, that’s gotta be like, at least seven levels of crazy.” He frowned. “That’s not even what I was… You already wrote the fanfic, didn’t you?”

“Wh-What?! N-N-No, that’s crazy, I… I only did the outline…?”

“How do you even…?” Sans sighed and smiled to himself. “You know what? Actually, that’s fine. Write the heck out of that. Just as long as you’re not shippin’ the kid and Paps, do what you want.”

“Not even if—?”

“Nooooope.”

“Okay okay okay, sheesh,” Alphys said, but she laughed. “U-Um, anyway! Sidetracked! So maybe you could tell me—?”

“Later,” he said. “I told Undyne the same thing yesterday: don’t really want to explain more than I have to, so once we get there.”

“B-But…! But… Okay. Is that soon?”

“I’ll get back to you when everyone wakes up.”

 

- - -

 

“Shhh, shh, Papyrus! No, it’s okay, we’ll just wait.”

“But I don’t know where it is and you don’t know where it is, so it’s only logical that—”

“But he looks so cozy. I don’t wanna move him.”

Nonetheless, Sans rather abruptly found himself lifted up into the air and, when he groggily opened his eyes, he was looking into the face of his brother. “Oh. Hey, Paps, sup?” he asked.

“Good morning, brother!” he said. “Frisk needs fire!”

“Aw, Papyrus, you didn’t need to wake him up,” Frisk said.

 

She was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, looking bashful, but she smiled. “Good morning, anyway!” she said.

He waved lazily. “What’s this about fire?”

Frisk grinned. Papyrus put Sans down, and he rubbed his eye sockets and wandered after the kid into the kitchen.

 

The counters and walls were covered in a dusting of white flour, and pots and pans were scattered all over, and there was a bowl with leftover, fluffy white something inside and a bone sticking out of it. There was a sort of warm, sweet smell in the air, too.

“Hey, Sans, Frisk had the same weird idea you did,” Papyrus announced. “She made a quiche! But with sugar and some other sweet nonsense in it.”

Sans shot Frisk a surprised look, and she grinned.

“I figured, since you guys have been so cool to me and stuff, I could pay you back a little,” she said. “So I tried mom’s pie recipe!”

 

As she went into the fridge, Sans took note that one of the girl’s hands was wrapped in bandages. She took out a pie topped in fluffy meringue and show him proudly.

“It’s not as big as mom’s, and I probably forgot a bit, but I think it’s probably pretty good!” she said. “I just wanna toast the top! Mom can breathe fire so she usually does it.”

“Wow. You’ve been busy,” he said.

Frisk put the pie carefully up on the counter. “So, do you have a lighter or something?” she asked. “Do monsters use lighters?”

“I think you can just put it back in the oven,” he said.

“What? Really? It won’t get runny again?” Frisk asked, eyes wide.

“I don’t think it works like that,” he said.

“Oh! Jeez, you’re so smart. Okay, I’ll give it a try,” she said.

 

Frisk put the pie back in the oven and squatted down. Sans looked with her and put the broiler on. He pointed to her hand.

“Oh! I’m just a moron,” she said.

“She burned herself,” Papyrus said. “Can I please take a look at that now?!”

“Soon, soon,” Frisk said. “Just let me finish.”

“Jeez, kid, how?” Sans asked.

“Oh! So, part of this recipe is, like, you gotta cook some sugar and stuff?” she said. “So I finished that and I forgot to turn off the burner, I guess? But then I saw Papyrus leaning on it and I forgot that I forgot because you guys totally don’t burn or anything, and then I touched it, and yeah.”

“I like that you just brush that sort of thing off, but someone says something nice and you just start cryin’,” he joked.

Frisk snickered and shrugged. Papyrus sighed and lifted her up off her feet.

“Sans can take out your weird quiche,” he said.

“It’s a pie!” she protested.

“Whatever. He can manage it!” Papyrus said. “Come on. I’m fixing you.”

“Okay okay, sheesh.”

 

He ferried her away to the living room and Sans lazily watched the pie brown on top. He had to actually try quite hard not to nod off again. He could hear Frisk quietly ow-ing in the other room and the sound of the MTT channel.

“Hold still, hold still,” he said.

“Ew, ew ew, the bandage stuck! Ewww it’s peeling!!! Ow…” she whined.

“Oh, Frisk. Wow, that is gross. You are ridiculous, next time I heal you right away! No complaining!”

“Okay, okay, okay.”

 

When Sans took out the pie, he was kind of surprised: it didn’t look too bad at all. “Did you, uh, want this now?”

“Yes! Hope it’s okay!” Frisk said. “And I figure we can bring the rest to Undyne’s, right? Paps, your phone has a dimension box thing, right?”

“Absolutely!” he said. “Ooh, wait, don’t move yet.”

 

When Sans wandered out of the kitchen with pie, he could see strange raw skin on Frisk’s hand clearing up and the amber glow of Papyrus’s magic dying down.

“Hey, that didn’t take long,” Sans said approvingly.

“Yes! I’m getting quite proficient at this,” Papyrus asserted. “Unfortunately at Frisk’s expense, but still. Sheesh, human skin does a lot of weird stuff, doesn’t it? What do you call that?”

Frisk snickered and he let her hand go. She looked at it curiously and grinned. “Blisters. They suck. But, Paps, seriously, you’re great. You’re gonna try some pie, right?”

“Welllll…”

“Dude, you better,” Sans said, handing him a plate. He gave one to Frisk, too.

She hurriedly tried it, and then let out a sigh of relief. “It’s not terrible!” she said proudly.

 

Sans snickered and sat on the arm of the sofa, but quickly reconsidered and slid down to rest comfortably against Papyrus. The tall skeleton stared at the pie somewhat suspiciously.

“Well, it was fun to make, but so sugary…” he said. “I’m not sure.”

“Bro, you can’t just eat spaghetti forever, try the stuff.” Sans tried some himself and his face lit up. “Dude. This is good. Really good, actually.”

“Y-Yeah?” Frisk asked excitedly.

“This is Tori’s recipe?” he asked.

“Basically,” Frisk said with a nod. “B-But I couldn’t find any vanilla beans. And I forgot how much sugar and stuff, and I couldn’t roll the crust, Papyrus was cool and did that part, and—”

“Kid, you did good,” he said. “Tori told me these were her speciality, and I tried to make one, too, but it kind of just turned into goo.”

“What, you mean that other sloppy quiche?” Papyrus asked.

“Ooh! Corn starch,” Frisk said.

Sans stared at her and then smacked himself in the forehead. “Of course.”

The kid snickered. “It’s okay, when I did it the first time I forgot it, too. Mom had to save it,” she said; she smiled fondly. “It’s… not as good as hers, but… still kinda makes me feel better, y’know?”

Sans nodded. Papyrus stared at his plate. He took a deep breath and then tried the pie.

“Oh. Oh!” he said. “Hey, I kind of like that. Maybe a bit sweet for me, but it’s actually pretty pleasant.”

Frisk beamed and she and Sans high-fived.

 

- - -

 

Papyrus all but relished the cleaning portion of cooking, happy to return order to the flour coated kitchen. Frisk tried to help, but he kept putting her back on the sofa instead. She could barely reach anyway.

 

The MTT channel was playing reruns. Really old stuff. Seemed a little off— usually daytime programming was live, but then again, Mettaton ran his own work schedule and was a bit of a diva, so if he decided not to work on a day, there wasn’t much anyone could really do about it.

 

Sans was half-asleep, staring at the screen, and Frisk lay lengthwise on the sofa, using his side as a pillow as she looked over the hand that had been previously red and blistered.

“Look at this,” she said. She held up her hand and he sleepily cut his eyes at her.

“Somethin’ wrong?” he asked.

“No! It’s perfect,” she said. “I didn’t realize how quick he picked that up. Even from the future stuff, this is the first time for burn blisters.”

“Yup. Paps is pretty great,” he agreed.

“But, like… I’m always so impressed because you guys don’t even have skin,” she said, “but he just kind of gets it. But… I guess that’s just kind of perfect for him, right?”

“Heh. Yeah. True,” Sans agreed.

“I, um… I know you don’t remember this, but you know what you were really good at?” she said.

“Uh… Nope,” he said. “No clue.”

“Headaches,” she said. “Actually, any sort of inside thing. Stomach aches, too. I wonder what changed.”

He shrugged. She frowned and looked at her hands, then rubbed them together gently. She tilted her head back to look at him. She felt a strike of shock when she noticed tears at the corner of his eyes. She hurriedly sat up.

“Bro?” she squeaked.

He didn’t reply; stared vacantly at the television. She grabbed his arm but he didn’t respond.

“Papyrus!” Frisk called shrilly.

 

Papyrus stuck his head back into the room, but didn’t even need to ask what was wrong. He bounded over and immediately scooped Sans up into his arms and gently touched their brows together.

“Brother. Come on, now, back with us,” he said gently. He cupped his face and his magic shone amber.

 

After a moment, Sans’s eye lit up as if mirroring his brother’s.

“There you are,” Papyrus said, smiling and squeezing him affectionately.

“Oh. Jeez. Sorry, guess I spaced out there for a sec,” he said. “I’m okay.”

“Are you absolutely sure?” Papyrus demanded.

Sans nodded and wiped his eyes. He laughed quietly and hugged Papyrus in return. “Thanks, Paps.” He leaned over his brother’s arm to give Frisk an embarrassed grin. “Sorry, kid, was hopin’ not to do that in front of you.”

Frisk shook her head hurriedly and grabbed them both and hugged them as tight as she could.

 

“D-Do you want to stay home?” she said. “I-If you’re not feeling good, still, th-then—”

Sans scoffed. “Kid, c’mon, what’s the top rule of skeleton family?” he said.

“Um… Uh…”

“That’s easy, Frisk,” Papyrus assured her. “We stick together! No matter what.”

She was surprised when Sans took her hands in his.

“Right,” he said. “And we always give each other a hand, huh?”

She nodded. His hand detached. She shrieked. He started laughing so hard he fell backwards.

“SANS!!” Papyrus cawed.

 

- - -

 

Afternoon rolled in and Sans decided it was finally a proper time to head back to Undyne’s. Frisk’s nerves were building and and she busied herself with a new list as Papyrus sorted through his clothes. He stumbled through his closet, nyehing to himself. Frisk scribbled out things she knew she needed to talk about. It wasn’t that she was worried she would forget, but it helped settle her mind a little.

 

“Hey, Frisk!” Papyrus held out two shirts: one a tattered, faded, grey sweatshirt, from a human sports team with a with the word “PIRATES” on it and the other a green, sleeveless tee that had been roughly torn in half at some point, making whatever graphic was on it a mystery. Looked like it might have been pizza. “Which is cooler?”

“Bro, anything you wear is cool,” she assured him. “You aren’t gonna wear your battle body?”

“I’m off duty!” he said. “But… I guess I still do want to make a good impression. What do you think?”

She pointed to the sweatshirt.

“Really?” he asked.

“It’ll look good with your scarf,” she said.

“Ah! Yes! True,” he said, tossing the green shirt over his shoulder haphazardly. “Good call.”

 

Frisk turned back to her terrible list as Papyrus changed in the closet. He burst out again very quickly and leaned over the back of her chair.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Just trying to get ready, I guess,” she said.

He frowned a little and put a hand on her shoulder. “You… You’re scared, aren’t you?” he asked. “Why are you scared?”

“Well…” She pouted and rested her cheek on her fist. “It’s… It’s hard to talk about, you know? And I’m definitely gonna cry a bunch. And… And then what if there’s no way to get Asriel a soul at all? What if it ends up just being better to not give him the chance to steal any souls at all and we all end up stuck down here? I mean, I love it here, but everyone deserves to be free, right? B-But then I bet the same thing will just happen again, and… and…”

 

She sighed. Papyrus knelt to match her eye level and cupped her cheek, giving her an affectionate tingle of magic— reassuring and warm, it helped her let her shoulders down. His eyes brightened, too.

“Hey. Listen, Frisk. I know I don’t totally get it,” he said, “But I want to help you. It’s true, what Sans said before he so rudely detached his hand, you know.”

She nodded and Papyrus touched his brow to hers gently. She had to grit her teeth to keep back a sudden, painful shock of heartache. She hugged him tightly.

 

They jumped when there was a loud, slow knock on the door.

“C’mon, let’s get the heck out of here,” Sans said.

Papyrus pulled back. He patted her head. “Remember,” he said. “if you need anything at all, you can count on me! The great Papyrus! Also your great big brother! Okay? I’ve always got your back. And your front. And whatever else you need.”

Frisk couldn’t help but snicker. “You’re the coolest, bro.”

“I know! Thank you!” he replied brightly.

 

- - -

 

The darkness of Waterfall was always jarring coming straight out of Snowdin, where the white snow could almost trick the eye into thinking there might be sunlight. Goings were smooth. No monsters paid any mind at all to Frisk while she walked with two skeletons. In fact, there weren’t many other monsters around at all. 

 

Before they could get close to Undyne’s, they still had to cross that wide, black lake on the tiny raft. When they reached the open, void-like expanse of darkness, however, not a single raft was to be found— not even a scrap of wood. Frisk felt her heart sink and she grabbed Sans’s arm nervously.

“What?” he asked.

“I can’t swim,” she said.

“I can!” Papyrus assured her.

“Nope. We are not goin’ through the everyone gets soaked thing again,” Sans said. He squinted across to the other side of the lake. He paced the dock.

Frisk hung back, a little nervous. “I guess you can’t just put us all over there, huh?”

“Only works on you,” he said.

Frisk blinked with surprise. “Oh.”

He looked thoughtful and, without another word, he vanished.

 

“S… Sans?” Frisk called.

“Well that was jarring!” Papyrus said. “Where the heck did he go?!”

“I crossed the thing!” Sans’s voice echoed distantly out of the darkness.

Frisk peered across and, squinting, could see just the faintest lightening of a shape that must’ve been him.

“I’m gonna try somethin’,” he said loudly. “Paps, pick the kid up.”

“ALIRGHT?!” He lifted Frisk up under her arms. “NOW WHAT?”

“You have her tight, right?” he asked.

Papyrus hurried to clutch her tight to his chest. “Too tight?” he asked.

“No…?” Frisk said.

“YES! NOW WHAT?” Papyrus shouted.

“Okay. Don’t move.”

 

In an instant, Papyrus’s soul lit up blue, shining through him much like Frisk’s would. His eyes went wide. “SANS?!” he called.

“Hang on. One sec,” he answered.

Across, through the dark, they saw a bright blue dot of light. Slowly, Papyrus lifted up off the ground. He yelped.

“ARE YOU MAGICKING ME?!” Papyrus shouted.

“Uh, yeah, dude, just chill,” he said.

“BUT SANS—!”

“I’m actually not bad at this. Trust me?” Sans called.

“It’s true, he is good at this, if that helps,” Frisk said.

“OKAY, OKAY!” Papyrus said.

 

He braced himself as he lifted a little higher and he clutched Frisk close. He was gently pulled forward, hovering just enough so the toes of his boots wouldn’t graze the water.

“Oh my god,” he muttered. “If he drops us, so help me I’ll—“

“Don’t worry,” Frisk assured him, though her heart was going a little faster than what was comfortable just from watching the water, like polished obsidian, pass beneath them. She clung a little tighter, and he did, too.

 

When they finally reached the next boardwalk, Sans grinned at them as he put them down. He was sweating a little, but didn’t look any worse for wear. Papyrus let out a sigh and Frisk, with her feet on the ground, staggered for a moment and tried to steady herself. Papyrus looked at his brother with wide eyes and then, hurriedly hugged him close. Sans snickered.

“Told you,” he said.

Papyrus lifted him right off his feet and squeezed him. “I’m so proud of you!”

“No big deal,” Sans said.

“Yes big deal!” Papyrus retorted shrilly.

Sans laughed and hugged him back. Their eyes lit up in sync; their glow brightened the dark.

 

- - -

 

Waterfall was quiet today. Not many monsters out at all. Felt a little strange, and Frisk was starting to worry that it was her fault. Rumours of humans had been circulating yesterday, and she wouldn’t be at all surprised if it had just gotten worse.

 

The trip to Undyne’s was proving to be pretty quick, however. At some point, Papyrus had picked up Sans to ferry him over a flowing river that divided the road, and the shorter skeleton promptly fell asleep over his brother’s shoulder. Frisk was a little jealous. She wished she could be so relaxed. Even so, Papyrus still held her hand as they went, and it definitely helped her nerves.

 

Just beyond Undyne’s house lay that tear in time, and Frisk took a moment to attach to it. Before they could continue on, she caught a glimpse of pale shimmering over out of the corner of her eye. When she turned, she saw Napstablook drifting. His home was just a rocky wall away from Undyne’s. The ghost paused with surprise and froze when he noticed them. Papyrus waved. Napstablook’s eyes welled up. He tilted sideways a little and floated closer, sinking down to look Frisk in the face.

 

“H… Hey. Oh. I know you,” he said. “Oh… I’m sorry… Were you busy…?”

“We’re going to see a friend,” she said brightly. “It’s good to see you again! Ooh! I’m Frisk, by the way. This is my big brother, Papyrus. The sleeping guy is my other big brother, Sans.”

“Oh… Nice to meet you,” he said. “Oh… I mean… we’ve already met, but… Are… Are you guys sure you should, um…? Oh… M-Maybe I should just… go…?”

“Is something wrong?” Papyrus asked. “Do you need some help!?”

“Um… W-Well…” He looked reluctant and worried. “Everyone is sort of freaking out, you know? S-Someone said… they saw a human? A-And now, where is the Guard Captain…? But… maybe she just slept in…? I don’t know…”

Frisk’s eyes went wide. Papyrus’s, too, but when the girl shot him a worried look, he started to laugh, much to her surprise.

 

“Nyeh heh heh! Oh, no no no, my new spooky friend,” Papyrus said quickly. “You’ve got it all wrong!”

“…Oh…?” Napstablook said, wide-eyed.

“Undyne’s totally fine,” he said. “We’re going to see her now! Don’t you worry, I, the great Papyrus, assure you that if there was a real danger from a human, Undyne would be out chasing them down to keep everyone safe.”

“B… But… Oh… Okay,” Napstablook agreed cautiously.

Frisk gulped. She had just saved. She decided to take a chance. “Um… And, uh… the truth is,” she said, “I’m the human.”

Papyrus looked surprised, as did the ghost. Napstablook’s eyes watered and he got even closer.

“…I… I thought, maybe…” he said quietly. “I didn’t want to ask… in case I was wrong, didn’t want to be rude, but… you’re not, um… You’re not hurting anyone.”

“N-No! Of course not, I… um… I just really would like to be friends. If… If that’s okay?” she said quickly.

Napstablook looked thoughtful. After a moment of deathly silence, he started to smile, just a little. “Oh… You’re actually kind of nice, huh?”

“W-Well, I hope so,” Frisk said. “I’m sorry for scaring everyone.”

Napstablook nodded, and though a few stray tears dribbled down his face, he smiled. “Well… that’s good,” he said. “I’ve, um… I’ve seen humans be… mean? You know? But you… and your, um, brothers, too? You can, um… If you want. You can come over sometime. Um… no pressure or anything.”

Frisk grinned. “Thank you!” she said. “I definitely will!”

 

They waved him off when he drifted towards home and Frisk let out a breath of relief. Papyrus gave her a sideways grin.

“That could have gone poorly,” he said. “Good job, Frisk!”

“I’m so glad,” she said.

“Didn’t think someone so spooky would get so easily spooked,” Sans commented.

“Oh! Brother! How long have you been up?” Papyrus asked.

“Was I supposed to be keeping track?” he asked.

Frisk snickered and Papyrus scoffed and gently put Sans down. He rubbed his eye sockets and laughed tiredly.

“Oh. Hey. We’re here,” he said.

 

Just outside the house, Frisk borrowed Papyrus’s phone and used the in-built dimensional box to pull out one of the many slices of pie and a plate, and left it on the ground near the window. She began to break it into small pieces. Papyrus knocked on Undyne’s door.

“COME IN, NERDS!” they heard.

 

“It is I, the great Papyrus! And Sans and Frisk also!” Papyrus announced as he burst in. “We come with pie!”

“Pie?! I’m into it! ALPHYS THEY BROUGHT PIE!”

Sans followed lethargically, but paused just before open doorway to wait as Frisk finished up. “You’re spoilin’ him,” he joked.

“Nah,” she said. “I dunno, I think he might almost kind of trust me! Maybe. We really are friends. I don’t mind being nice even if he can’t.”

“Ah. Yeah. I tried being nice once,” he said. “It was awful.”

She smiled sympathetically. “Yeah?”

“Sure. Back when he was still in charge, I kinda did like I did with you, you know? Told him I understood. True. He stops screwin’ around and comes to find me in the next timeline and I’d take care of him,” he said. “Guess how that turned out?”

Frisk sighed and nodded. “He’s just not thinking right.”

 

Inside, the room was askew with blankets and pillows all around the area where Undyne had shoved the sofa and TV. The piano was pushed back for more room, but even so, Alphys was nowhere to be seen. Papyrus finished unloading the already sliced pie onto the table as Undyne watched, face alight.

“Wow, you guys! This looks great!” Undyne said brightly. “Can I put this in my face?!”

“Yes, of course!” Papyrus said.

Undyne grabbed a slice in her hand and all but inhaled it. Her eye went wide. “Dang, this is great!!! Where’d you get it?!”

“Frisk and I made it ourselves,” Papyrus said proudly.

“No WAY!! ALPHYS! PIE! PUT IT IN YOUR FACE!”

“It’s my mom’s recipe, sort of,” Frisk said. “I’m glad you like it! Papyrus did the crust and Sans helped toast the top!”

“Barely,” Sans said.

“Awesome! We definitely need to cook together!!” Undyne said. “Again. And not burn my house down, I guess! Hah! I didn’t know you could actually cook well, though!”

Frisk nodded emphatically.

 

Near the piano, Alphys slowly and awkwardly edged out of bedroom, cleaning her glasses on the collar of her black t-shirt with a text face like a cat’s on it in white. Sans patted Frisk on the shoulder.

“Yup. My kid’s pretty multipurpose. Saves the world and makes a killer dessert,” he said.

Frisk giggled. Alphys leaned around the piano to look and she grinned.

“Oh! H-Hi you guys!”

“Hello, Doctor! Hope you’re doing well,” Papyrus said.

Alphys nodded, smiled bashfully, and then hurried to Sans. “S-Sans! I’m gonna hug you, is that o-okay?!”

Sans shrugged and she grabbed him and squealed out something in what they could only assume was Japanese.

“S-So,” she said as she pulled back to hold him by the shoulders, “I was doing s-some writing and—”

“Oh shit, Alphys, you’re not gonna tell him about it to his face, are you?!” Undyne barked.

“I-It’s not e-even dirty, though!! I don’t even ship anyone!” Alphys insisted. “Okay, so what if— just hear m-me out—  you made h-her in the l-lab by accident, right? And th-then that’s wh-why you—!”

“Wait, how far are you on this thing?” he asked, eyes wide. “When did you have time for this?”

“It doesn’t m-matter, just—!”

“Hey, whatchu guys talkin’ about?” Frisk said, leaning in with a curious expression.

Alphys’s face flushed and she pulled away from Sans and held her hands in close to her body like a t-rex. “Uuuhhh… n-nothing, I—!”

Sans grinned and shrugged. “Alphys here was just tellin’ me about the AU fanfic she’s writing about me where I’m your dad and I made you by accident in a weird experiment or something and that’s why I stopped workin’ at the lab mysteriously ten years ago.”

 

Alphys looked like she could faint. Frisk looked confused, but she held onto his arm almost nervously.

“Oh. Okay. Can we still be best friends in the story? Can you be best friends with your dad, is that a thing? I never had a dad, I dunno how this works.”

“Uuuhhhhmmm…” Alphys’s scales just turned brighter red.

Undyne was trying really hard not to laugh and Sans’s grin only widened.

“I’m sure that’s a thing,” Sans assured her before looking at Alphys and his expression turned serious. “But I’m not gonna tell her to eat her greens, you can’t put that in there. That would be too OOC.”

“And if you were my dad, you wouldn’t ground me for staying up too late, would you?” she asked.

“Heck no,” he said.

“And you’d make hotdogs all the time!”

“I do that anyway,” he said.

“Oh. I guess it wouldn’t be too different, then, except I’d call you dad?” Frisk frowned and laughed. “That sounds weird! But that’s actually pretty close to real life, Alphys, you gotta make it weirder or else what’s the point of writing it?”

“U-Um, w-w-well…” Alphys stammered.

 

“Well, she came from the lab, give her super powers like in those animes,” Papyrus suggested. “Or like the comic book heroes!”

“Yeah!” Frisk said. “Oh man, give me like, cool, dramatic super powers that I need to train super hard to control, or else I could blow everything up, and it’d be super awful!” She gasped. Her eyes brightened and she grabbed Alphys’s hands. “No no no, wait, gimme a Gaster Blaster!”

“A-A-A Gaster Blaster?” Alphys squeaked.

“Yeah! If Sans is my dad in your weird story then I should get a Gaster Blaster! But it’s red, though! I mean the eyes, they’re red. And… And it’s called… umm…”

“Disaster Blaster,” Sans said. “It has to rhyme, that’s the rules.”

“Or it could be a Faster Blaster, if it was quite quick,” Papyrus said with a grin, “or a Master Blaster, if it’s very smart!”

“Right, right, because the secret is I was a skeleton the whole time,” Frisk said.

“Nooo, really?!” Papyrus demanded.

“Yes, really! That’s the big twist,” Frisk said, and she winked. “It’ll be a big shock!”

 

Alphys looked like she could faint. She gulped. She pointed both index fingers and Undyne’s room and seemed flop towards it. “I’m j-just gonna… go… s-sit in the t-trash now, BRB.” She slunk away and closed the door.

 

Sans grinned. Frisk snickered and Undyne was still trying not to laugh.

“Dudes, you trolled her super hard,” she said.

“Hey, look, to be honest, if in her AU, Frisk’s literally my kid for some reason, well, I can think of a hell of a lot worse,” Sans said with a shrug. “At least she’s not shippin’ me with Asgore again.”

Frisk burst out laughing and Sans grinned even wider. Papyrus snickered.

“I’m not sure where she’d ship you two to, that box would need to be huge!” he said. “And think of the provisions you’d need to pack!”

Undyne smacked her face into her palm and Sans beamed.

“Dude, never change,” he said.

Papyrus stuck both thumbs up.

“Guess that means I don’t get a Disaster Blaster,” Frisk said with a dramatic sigh.

 

Undyne finally gave in to a snicker and she walked back to the bedroom to fish Alphys out. “C’mon, you nerd, let’s go.”

“Nooo, I’m t-total trash,” Alphys whined.

“No you’re not, we love you!” Frisk called.

 

Undyne returned, carrying the lizard over her shoulder, and then plopped down on the sofa with her. Alphys covered her face. Frisk snickered and scooted up to give her a hug.

“We’re just joking, Alphys, you do what you want,” she said.

“W-Well, I mean…” She looked at Sans with a bashful smile. “Y-You did call her your kid…”

“She is my kid,” Sans said with a shrug. “And Papyrus’s. And Undyne’s, and yours. And Toriel’s. Just turns out, mostly mine because I’m home the most.”

“And I’m very grateful!” Frisk said with a smile.

“R-R-Really? B-But… y-you’d be okay if… I said that, too?” Alphys demanded. “I-If I called you m-my kid? E-Even m-m-me?”

Frisk laughed. “Of course. I’m… I’m just so happy you guys all still like me that much that you’d even think to call me that.”

Alphys cooed and hugged Frisk tightly.

“Nyeh heh heh, oh Frisk, so insecure,” Papyrus chided.

She was just happy to get more hugs.

 

“Um,” she said, “I think I’m okay to tell you guys about stuff now. If you want.”

“Alph, keep a hold on her, she is gonna cry like a baby,” Sans said.

“Oh, c’mon!” Frisk protested. “I… I might cry a little, but—“

“D-Don’t worry, Frisk, if you cry, I’ll p-probably cry with you,” Alphys said.

“Maybe Papyrus should take her,” Undyne suggested. “We are gonna be in a never-ending crying loop if you do, Alph, no offence.”

 

“Oh-ho! Time to activate the pre-emptive Hug The Human Before She Cries Instead of After Plan!” Papyrus announced. He hopped onto the sofa and scooped up Frisk, draping a blanket around her and sitting her in his lap. “There we go! Perfect execution. How do you feel, Frisk, like crying?” he asked.

“N… Not yet?” Frisk said.

“Nyeh heh! Saved again by the great Papyrus!” He put his arms around her. “Just let me know if you need anything, alright?”

“Okay,” she said. She took a deep breath to steady herself.

Sans wandered over to sit on the arm of the couch and stuck his thumb up. Frisk nodded.

“Okay, s-so, here’s the stuff,” Frisk said. “Um, you guys all probably figured I can time travel, and—”

 

There was a crash outside. She yelped and covered her ears, and Papyrus held her tight. Her heart began to pound and she clung to his arms.

“HUMAN!” a voice boomed, rattling the windows. “I HAVE TRACKED YOU HERE TO YOUR STOLEN STRONGHOLD! WHAT HAVE YOU ALREADY DONE TO ITS OCCUPANTS, I WONDER?”

“W-Wait, a second, is that—?!” Alphys stammered.

“The hell is this?!” Undyne growled.

 

There was another crash. The house shook. Frisk huddled and, quickly, Undyne snatched her up and jumped over the piano to put her in front of the bedroom door.

“Hide,” she ordered.

Frisk was about to, but, with a burst of energy and a sound like a cannon going off, the front door blasted inwards. Undyne ducked; Sans appeared at the stunned kid’s side and got her into the back room. Papyrus yelped and shielded Alphys as the pieces of door rocketed inwards and slammed into the kitchen walls.

 

“WHAT THE HELL?!” Undyne roared. She stood tall and summoned a crackling spear in her hand.

Through dust and inexplicable fog, a weird, rectangular shape began to appear, until Mettaton stood in the doorway. The room settled into an uncomfortable, shocked silence.

 

“A… Alphie?” he asked. “You…? You were here?” Mettaton seemed to stare blankly around the room.

Alphys stood up on the sofa. “M-M-Mettaton, what the hell is wrong with you?!” she barked.

“Well, excuuuuuse me, Doctor! You tell me there’s a human around, you vanish, I can’t get in contact, you MISS our MEETING?!” he shouted back. “Pardon me for being concerned!”

Alphys wilted, bit her lip, and tented her fingers. “O-Oh… Our meeting, that was…” She grimaced. “Oh… I’m s-sorry, M-Mettaton, I—”

“Ugh. Whatever. At least you aren’t dust,” he said. “Now where is that little—?”

“Um… Mister Mettaton, uh…” Papyrus said. “Um. Love your work, but I’m sorry to tell you that you’re quite mistaken about the human. Really, she’s completely safe and—”

“Oh. You must be Papyrus,” he said.

Papyrus’s eyes went wide. “Y-You know my name?!”

“Oh, yes, darling,” Mettaton said. “I feel like we’re already best friends, with the amount your brother talks about you. Now, how about you be a good boy and hand over that little cutie, hmm?”

“M-M-Mettaton!” Alphys snapped.

 

Undyne leapt over the sofa and stopped before him, crossing her arms and frowning. “Look, pal, you’re in my place,” she growled. “You break in my door and you wanna hurt one of my guests? I don’t think so.”

Mettaton put a hand to his front as if completely offended. “Moi? I… I don’t want to HURT her! Or… well… I do want that soul, I admit. But I LOVE humans! And if everyone is unharmed, I…”

Papyrus got up, too, and stood beside Undyne and mimicked her posture. He almost looked intimidating. Mettaton rolled backwards just a fraction.

“Well then. This is certainly a pickle,” he said, and he balled his fists. “Because I still don’t intend on going anywhere without—”

“Hey, T-800, chill out.” Sans tapped him on the shoulder as if appearing from nowhere. “No one’s gonna fight anyone. Right, guys?”

 

Undyne tried to mask her surprise, and her gaze settled for just a moment on Frisk, slinking up behind the metal monster. It looked like she was trying to use that magic on her face. She grinned her big, pointed teeth and furrowed her brow.

“Oh, I dunno, dude.” Undyne cracked her knuckles. “I never beat up a pop star before.”

“I believe you’ll find I’m more known for my game shows,” Mettaton protested. “And television dramas. And my attractive physique.”

“Heh, whatever,” she said. “You might be metal, but I bet you aren’t so tough.”

“You really think so? I’ll have you know Alphys built this very frame. I am, primarily, designed for combat,” he asserted.

“Oh yeah?!” Undyne growled.

“Yes!”

“OH YEAH?!”

“VERY MUCH SO!”

 

Sans looked behind Mettaton quickly. Undyne couldn’t see Frisk, but when the skeleton’s brow bent sympathetically, she understood. He shrugged and Undyne sighed and rolled her eye, but quickly folded her arms again and became like a wall.

“Well, I think you’re definitely not getting past me. No matter what. Try it and you’ll wish Alphys never made you at all!”

“It is very nice to meet you, Mettaton, but there’s no way we are letting you anywhere near Frisk at all with an attitude like that!” Papyrus said.

“Frisk? What a strange and adorable name,” he said. “Did you give it to her? Finders keepers, gets to name the human?’”

“N-Nope, that’s just my name.” There was a harsh, heavy clunking sound and Mettaton whirled to find the kid standing behind him with a bashful smile on her face. “H-Hi there! Sorry about that!”

“Sorry about wh…?” He froze up like a block of ice. “Oh. Oh my.”

 

Mettaton’s form shook and rattled, and then began to glow and shift, and very abruptly, he was left standing in his sleek, humanoid body, wide eyed, at the girl before him. Papyrus’s jaw dropped and Undyne gawked for a moment before pointing an accusing finger at him.

“Yoooou! You’re the one who ate all my grapes!!!” she yelled.

 

Mettaton didn’t even seem to register her words. He stared at Frisk with shock. “D… Did Alphys actually tell you to—?”

“No,” she said, “I’m a time traveller from the future. We’re friends there, so I already knew about it. Sorry for surprising you like that.”

Sans smiled and put a hand on her shoulder. “So, this is my kid, Frisk. She’s the human. We’re all pals, so, maybe you can give us a bit of a break, here?”

“Your… kid?” he repeated. “Really?! You, of all monsters? You trust a human?”

He grinned. “I know, weird, right?”

“Sorry to flick your switch like that. I just kinda thought it’d prove my case?” Frisk offered him her hand. “I know you don’t remember, but I hope we can be friends again.”

Mettaton tilted his head to the side, his hair falling to obscure his right eye, and he cautiously took her hand and shook it.

 

“Oh. Oh my. I’ve just touched a human,” he said; he started to grin and, to everyone’s surprise, grabbed her under the arms and lifted her off her feet. “TELL ME! Human robot movies, what’s your favourite, quickly?!”

“Ooh. Um. That’s a hard one,” she said. “There’s a lot of good ones. I think I’ve only seen really really old ones though. I do like Terminator even though it’s kinda old and scary. I hope that doesn’t mean you’re gonna terminate me!”

“What about Short Circuit?!” he asked.

“Dude, what about Short Circuit 2?” Frisk retorted.

Mettaton’s eyes lit up. He started to laugh and nodded vigourously. “Yes, Frisk the human, I think we can definitely be good friends! Huh. Now this, I didn’t expect. I have to make some calls!”

“Oh, no, don’t start telling people sh-she’s here!” Alphys said.

Mettaton gently put Frisk down and pshawed, flicking his hair and tilting his hips. “Alphie, please. Trust me! I will be back in just a second. Ciao bella!” 

 

Mettaton slid out of the house as quickly as if he had wheels built into his boots. There was a sort of stunned silence in the room. Frisk started laughing and put her face in her hands, and Sans patted her on the shoulder.

“What the heck just happened?” Papyrus said.

“My frickin’ door, dude.” Undyne went back to the bedroom, yanked the door off its hinges, and then carried it to the front. “Holy crap, Alphys, he must’ve been worried sick about you.”

Alphys slumped back onto the sofa. “Oh no, I’m s-so sorry, if I h-hadn’t forgotten, then—”

“That’s not what I meant,” Undyne said with a laugh. She shoved the door into place awkwardly. She kicked it to try to get it to fit, then gave up when it did, but only because it cracked. “So, what now? Your magic didn’t work, huh? Should we get him to leave?”

Frisk shook her head. “I dunno, I think it’s okay if he stays. Knowing him, he’ll be way more trouble if he doesn’t.”

“What, really?” Papyrus asked. “Oh! Wait! I remember! Those last times, he was trying to take your soul on his shows, wasn’t he?”

 

Alphys looked aghast. “H-H-He wouldn’t for r-real!! Um… Uh… W-Would he…?” She started to sweat. “I’m s-sure you weren’t r-really in d-d-danger, Frisk!”

“No worries,” Frisk assured her. “Whew, that scared the heck outta me just now!”

“You did good, kid,” Sans assured her. “Hey, Doc, actuators did seem like they were workin’ well.”

“Y-You think?!” Alphys asked. “I think the, um… The w-weight distribution seemed p-pretty good, too. He m-moves r-really well. H-He just wanted a few more cosmetic touch-ups, I think, and—”

“Man, that guy owes me some grapes” Undyne joked. “How long you been building him, Alphys?”

“O-Oh. Um… A while,” she said. “It’s… It’s taken a l-long time to get the parts. A-And even now, if he u-uses any magic in th-this form, his battery l-life is definitely not optimal. I’m n-not sure what to do with that.”

Frisk stuck her hand up.

“Uh… Yes, Frisk?” Alphys said.

“Can we cheat a bit?” she said. “Can I tell you what you did in the future? I thought it was pretty smart.”

“O-Oh! Sure!” Alphys said. “I f-figured it out?”

Frisk nodded enthusiastically. “Solar panels. You changed his body to have solar panels when we got to the surface. It didn’t look much different and he almost never ran out of energy. Even when there was less sun, you can buy these, um, special lamps that make up for it.”

Alphys’s eyes lit up and she clasped her hands. She started to smiled. “W-Wow! H-Hey, that… That is good. The specs m-might be a little difficult, and getting all the parts, b-but…! Thanks, Frisk! I g-guess all I needed was to…” She shot Sans a hesitant smile. “To, uh… see things in a new light!”

Sans grinned. Papyrus and Undyne groaned.

 

Chapter Text

Setting up at the table this time, Undyne grabbed all the chairs she had and even shoved the piano bench over so there would be enough seats. Papyrus put his barely pronounceable HTHBSCIA Plan back into action right away— he took the bench so he could sit cross-legged and hug the kid as she sat in his lap. She didn’t mind in the least. Any excuse for hugs was okay with her.

 

Undyne also made and served tea, having memorized each person’s taste, though she liked to joke that Alphys liked a little tea with her sugar. She wasn’t sure why, but she knew Mettaton liked it sweet, too. They also shoved slices of pie around to everyone. Frisk was feeling too nauseous to touch hers at all.

 

The robotic monster waltzed back in quite quickly— kicking the door down in the process. Undyne glared at him and he looked a bit uncomfortable for just a moment, flipped his hair, and then picked up the wood and clunked it back into place.

 

“Well, look at you all, so serious,” he said.

“Just sit your shiny ass down,” Undyne said. “We’re doing the time travel talk.”

Alphys patted the empty seat next to her and Sans pointed, too.

“Dude, you are gonna be confused as hell,” Sans said, “but the kid says you can stay.”

“Well, we might need your help,” Frisk said. “If… If that’s okay?”

Mettaton smiled. “Of course, darling! Anything for a fan. Or a cute little human!” He glided over to the empty seat and sat quite gracefully, then leaned dramatically over the table, resting his cheek on his fist. “So what is this, what kind of game are we doing here, beautiful?”

“Um, M-Mettaton, it’s, uh… It’s not a g-game. I r-really didn’t tell her about your switch,” Alphys said quickly.

Mettaton sat back and casually slung one of his legs onto her lap as he leaned over to her. “You wouldn’t be pulling my leg, now, would you, Alphie?”

 

Undyne rolled her eye. “Listen, this is serious crap! We’re trying to help Frisk! She’s gonna get us all out of the underground! But first we all need to know what the heck happened and what’s going on.”

“Alright, alright. Just so you know, this sounds crazy,” Mettaton said with a sigh. He sipped his tea daintily, sticking his pinkie in the air. “Ooh. Lovely.”

“Thank you.” Undyne sat down heavily on the chair between Papyrus and Alphys and crossed her arms. “Enough distractions. Frisk. Let’s go, squirt, you can tell us what’s up, right?”

 

Frisk nodded. Nerves chilled her, though, and she guessed it showed because Papyrus clung to her just a little tighter. “W-Well, um… Dang, where do I start?” she said quietly. “S-Sans?”

He slumped forward onto the table. “Kid, really? C’mon, you start it this time. Basics first, then get into it.”

“Ugh, but you’re way smarter than me, but fine,” she grumbled. “Okay, so, like… I can time travel? And there’s little points I can find where time kinda got torn or something and I can stick to it and save— that’s what me and Sans called it— so I can go back there from wherever to the last one I touched. Which is what happens if someone stabs me or blows me up or anything like that. I can do it on my own, too, but I try not to.”

Most of her other friends gawked at her. She gulped and looked at Sans for help. He sighed.

“Kid, you owe me,” he said.

“You’re the best,” she said quickly.

He just barely sat up and rubbed his skull.

 

“Okay, groundwork info-dump. Frisk’s soul is basically just made of determination. Determination is really powerful stuff. Links to time travel somehow. Frisk is something we called an anomaly. It’s this weird phenomena that shifts around time and space,” Sans said. “What you gotta know is that our world is split into a crap-load of timelines. The anomaly is able to control theirs. Undoing, redoing, whatever. We get it because of some crap with the CORE, started maybe ten years ago, don’t ask. Frisk’s not the first, but as long as she sticks around, she’s the last we’ll ever meet. The others were mostly garbage, and you guys don’t remember them. Good. Don’t ask about that too much either. That also makes Frisk somethin’ we called the anchor, because she’ll hold our universe and our timeline steady. As long as she can save and reset, no one else can. The only thing that could take that from her is someone with more determination, which is actually impossible at this point.”

 

“S-Sans, w-wait!” Alphys said. “How do you…? W-Wasn’t that in the D-Dark Model?! How did you finally put that all together?!”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Point is, Frisk can time travel. It only works backwards. Usually no one remembers but me, but somethin’ new is going on with Frisk that’s helping the rest of you hold onto it. Mostly, anyway. Sorry, Number 5, doesn’t seem to work great on you.”

Mettaton shrugged. “Well, what can you do, huh?” He grinned a bit. “You know, if this wasn’t coming from you, I’d swear it was a joke.”

“Huh. I’d be more likely to think it was a joke,” Sans said.

“It’s not a joke, it’s very, very important!” Papyrus said. “Frisk’s had a really miserable time.”

 

“S-Sorry, Sans, but what do you mean n-no one remembers except you?” Alphys asked.

“Exactly what I said,” Sans said.

Alphys’s eyes went wide.

“S-Sans knew me through all the, um, timelines,” Frisk said. “A-All three. Or, four now, I guess. Without the weird magic thing on my face.”

“So, wait, you’re telling us that YOU…?! You knew all of this?!” Undyne demanded, staring at Sans incredulously.

“Yup,” Sans said.

The way the others looked at him begged for elaboration, but he merely grinned. Undyne folded her arms and frowned with confusion. Alphys began to stammer something, but Papyrus stuck up his hand high to catch their attention.

“Please just let her tell you what happened,” he said quickly. “Go ahead, Frisk. It’s alright.”

 

Frisk nodded nervously. She felt like there were stones in her stomach. She gulped. “S-So, um… what… what kind of happened, was,” Frisk said, “the barrier broke, last time I was here, like a year ago for me, I guess?  A-And we all could live outside. We had a new town and it was so cool, b-but then—”

“W-Wait a sec,” Alphys asked. “So, w-we were really outside?! Th-That… That’s what those feelings are, aren’t they? A… A year we don’t remember? S-Sans, you remember that, too?”

“No, not really,” he said.

“Yeah, that’s one thing I don’t get,” Undyne said with a frown. “What gives, Frisk? Why the backwards stuff?”

 

Frisk sighed. She rubbed her forehead and stared at the table, trying to gather her thoughts. Papyrus hugged her reassuringly.

“Don’t be angry with her, Undyne! Things must’ve been horrible,” he said. “She told us a monster called Asriel lost his soul, came back to life as a flower, and then stole human ones and started destroying everything! Sans is the one who told her to go back, so I think that must’ve been the right thing to do because normally he hates this stuff.”

A look of shock went across Alphys’s face and she grabbed for Mettaton’s arm, but before she could say anything, Undyne scoffed and punched the table.

“What, and we couldn’t fight him in the future?! We couldn’t kick his butt?” Undyne demanded.

“You died,” Frisk said quietly.

 

The others froze. The look on Sans’s face was like she was simply stating the obvious, but he grimaced anyways. Undyne’s ear-fins pinned back and she couldn’t keep the surprise off her face.

“Uh… What now?” Undyne asked. “Did you just say I died?”

“No one made it out of the city,” Frisk said, clinging tight to Papyrus, “except Papyrus and Sans. All the people… our mom, Undyne, Alphys, Mettaton, Asgore… And not just that, but most of the town, too. Humans and monsters. We lost everyone. How could I just leave it like that?”

“…Whoa.” Undyne stared at her, all the frustration fading from her face. “Dude, that’s pretty messed up.”

“Sorry,” Frisk said softly.

 

She rubbed her eyes with her knuckles. Her throat tightened, and she tried not to cry. Papyrus’s gentle magic glowed through her as he held her tighter. Alphys took a deep breath. Mettaton’s brow furrowed. He put a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Uh, dude, your eyes,” Undyne said, tapping Papyrus.

“Hmm? Oh! Yes. I’m just trying to help,” he said.

“It’s a skeleton thing,” Sans said. “Anyway. So, yeah, Frisk did the time travel thing so everything wouldn’t suck. Not usually what happens, but so far so good. Nobody’s dust yet.”

“…Staying that way,” Frisk said softly. She wiped tears away quickly on the back of her hand.

 

“So… S-So, what’s going on now, then?” Alphys asked. “You… You h-have to destroy Asriel?”

“No, no no, I need to save Asriel,” Frisk said. “He’s… He’s nice. Just not when he doesn’t have a soul. Then he can’t feel anything and he just wants to steal my soul and erase the universe, or keep us in a time loop so he doesn’t get lonely. Kind of a bummer.”

“Also, he’s Asgore’s kid,” Sans added. “Him and Tori, right? Toriel, the old queen, in case you nerds didn’t know.”

Frisk nodded.

“Wait. Wait, wait, wait,” Undyne said loudly. “Asgore. Toriel. Asriel?!”

“My god!” Papyrus said. “The King is really, really horrible at names!”

“At least he didn’t get Togore,” Sans said with a grin. “Then we’d really be in trouble.”

“It runs in the family, while he’s a flower he calls himself Flowey,” Frisk said.

“Oh my god that’s just terrible,” Papyrus said. “He should come to me for a new fake name if he wants one so bad, I bet I’d come up with a great one.”

“It wouldn’t just be Papyrus Jr. would it?” Undyne asked with a smirk.

“No, not at all, there can only be one Papyrus! But maybe some variation…”

Sans began to laugh and Frisk snickered and rubbed her eyes.

 

“Okay, okay, wait a sec!” Undyne said. “So, what’s the plan here?”

“I don’t have one,” Frisk said. “That’s why I wanted to talk to all of you. Especially you, Alphys.”

“M-Me?” she stammered.

“Ooh, yeah, that makes sense!” Undyne said. “You made a new soul for Mettaton, right? Could you do that for Asriel?”

Alphys’s face flushed a little and she stared to sweat. Everyone’s eyes were on the little reptile and she was at a complete loss for words as Mettaton seemed very interested in something on another wall. Frisk raised her eyebrows.

“Oh. Uh… Actually, I think that might take too long. I heard that kinda took years, right?” she said quickly. “I was hoping there might be another way.”

Alphys seemed relieved and she smiled sideways. “Uh… U-Um… There might be?” she said. “But m-maybe we could get more info, f-first?”

 

“Can it just be any soul? What about we just steal what Asgore’s got?” Undyne said. “Give one to Asriel. One of us takes another, goes out and steals a few more to break the barrier?”

“No, that’s no good,” Frisk said. “Asriel isn’t himself right now. He’s sort of an evil flower, I guess?”

“Yeah, he’s a real bad seed,” Sans said.

“SANS, NO,” Papyrus cawed.

“Heh. Point is, he gets a human soul like he is now, we’re back to why Frisk came back in the first place,” Sans said. “He needs somethin’ closer to his own.”

 

Undyne pouted and slumped on the table. “Ugh, this is messed up,” she said. “All these timelines are so confusing!! Sans, how the hell do you deal with it?”

“I dunno,” he said.

“Okay, so, like…” She counted on her fingers. “Number one was okay, number two was awesome, number three was more awesome, but now we’re in number four? But in number three I didn’t really remember number one and two, but now I kind of have all three before now? But like, I feel like I’ve known all of you for way longer even than that?! Ugghhh it’s so frickin’ weird!”

“Oh no, four whole timelines, what a nightmare,” Sans joked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Undyne asked.

“Nothing. I’m happy for you guys,” he said. “You only remember Frisk. That’s good.”

“What’s THAT supposed to mean?” she asked.

“I’m not sure, I thought number one was just swell,” Papyrus interjected with a smile, shooting Sans a knowing look. He rubbed the back of his skull. “But, this is getting kind of confusing.”

“I’m so sorry about all this,” Frisk said.

“Just focus on what’s going on for real,” Sans suggested, and then gave Frisk a stern look. “And kid, don’t apologize.”

 

“Listen, darlings, this is all fascinating, but to me you all just sound like a bunch of lunatics,” Mettaton said. “You mean to say that we have a girl who leapt through time here, and multiple versions of the same events, and a future that didn’t happen anymore, all because a pissy flower without a soul goes all Little Shop of Horrors on the world? Do you not see how this sounds crazy?”

“I did not get that reference,” Papyrus said.

“I… I can prove it, I think,” Frisk said, “if that would help?”

“How?” Mettaton asked suspiciously.

“Oh, c’mon, you overgrown VCR, Frisk already did the whatever thing to you to make you look like an anime, isn’t that enough?” Undyne growled.

“I still don’t believe Alphys didn’t tell her,” he asserted.

“B-But I didn’t, though! …At… At least not this time…?” Alphys said with an awkward smile.

“AH-HAH!” Mettaton barked.

 

Sans put his head down on the table. “Wake me up when you sort this out.”

“Sans,” Papyrus said with a worried frown. “Come on.”

“It’s okay,” Frisk said. “Be right back. Nobody move too much.” She slipped out of Papyrus’s hug and snuck out under the broken door.

 

The others stared for a moment. Undyne folded her arms, frowned, and then ate another slice of pie. That seemed to jog Alphys’s memory, and she tried a little bite, too.

“Oh wow that’s good,” she muttered.

“I know, right?!” Undyne said.

Mettaton rolled his eyes.

 

Frisk jogged back into the house just a few moments later and went straight to Mettaton.

“Okay,” she said. “Tell me a secret.”

“What? Why?” he asked.

“Just a little thing that I shouldn’t know. I’m gonna prove I can time travel,” she said.

He looked skeptical, but he lifted her up nonetheless. “My favourite human movie,” he whispered in her ear, “is actually Ghost. It’s very romantic.” He put her down and patted her on the head.

Frisk stuck her thumbs up. “Okay. Get ready,” she said. “Three. Two. One.”

 

There was a sort of shift in the air. Frisk wasn’t there anymore. Undyne’s pie was back.

“Hey, sweet, more pie!” she said.

She ate it, then paused and looked at Alphys, whose eyes were wide. She stared at the fork in her hand.

“Whaaaat…?” Alphys said, a tremor in her voice.

“Dude, you okay?” Undyne asked.

Alphys covered her mouth. Papyrus smiled sympathetically.

“It’s not so bad,” he said gently. “She won’t do it often.”

“Do what? What are you talking about?” Mettaton asked.

 

Frisk ran back inside and puffed to catch her breath. “Sorry everyone,” she said. “Mettaton, your favourite human movie is Ghost, you think it’s very romantic.”

“Hah! Well, yes, of course, I just told you tha…aaaaaaaaaat ohmygodwhatjusthappened?!” His eyes went wide and he recoiled in the chair. “Why did you just do that twice?!”

“…Oh. Oh!” Frisk started to grin. “Hey, I didn’t expect that! You remembered that!”

“Your favourite movie is Ghost?” Undyne cut her eyes at him. “Oh my god what a sappy dork.”

“You, shush, it’s lovely,” Mettaton snapped, before whirling on Frisk with worried eyes. “F… Frisk, darling, what on earth…?”

 

“Sheesh, we’re just breakin’ all the rules now, huh?” Sans sat up and smiled groggily. “See? Time travel. But now you remember. For some reason.”

Frisk shrugged. Papyrus grinned.

“That’s what we’ve been saying,” he said. “It’s like that for us, but with many more things. And with Frisk and Sans, a million more things. Which is how we know the barrier will break, but we need to save Asriel so we don’t all get completely murdered and such.”

 

Mettaton gawked. He put a hand to his brow. “This is heavy. So all of that was…? Okay. Okay, fine.” He sat up straight and put a hand to his chest. “I will do all in my power as the underground’s number one super star to help you. Provided I get exclusive movie rights afterwards.”

Alphys smacked her face into her hands.

“I dunno what that means,” Frisk said.

She looked at Sans. He grinned.

“Give her thirty percent and it’s a deal,” he said.

“Done!” Mettaton said. “Ooh, excellent, I’m so excited to work with a human! So! How about I just go find this stupid flower and blow him up?”

“No no no, no killing,” Frisk said quickly.

“I didn’t say kill, I said blow up,” he said.

“No, Mettaton, we can’t do th-that,” Alphys said quietly. “We n-need to be s-smart about this. He’s… I mean, he’s Asgore’s son. And he’s Frisk’s f-friend.”

“What kind of friend keeps trying to kill you, darling?” he said, throwing his hands in the air.

“You. Undyne,” Frisk said, listing them off on her fingers. “Asgore. Doggo. The married dogs. Almost all the dogs, actually. Muffet. Who you hired to kill me, by the way. Those guys waiting in the CORE building, and—”

“Fine.” Mettaton put up his hands in defeat. “Point taken.”

“W-Wait!You hired p-people to kill Frisk?!” Alphys squawked.

“Oh, don’t be such a drama queen, Alphie,” he replied, waving a hand at her dismissively. “It was your plan, I just took some creative liberties. Who do you think I was calling just now?“

The others stared at Alphys as sweat began to bead at her brow and her hands began to shake. Sans frowned. Frisk, on the other hand, started to laugh loudly.

“It was good for ratings,” she joked.

“Oh, now wouldn’t that be something, darling!” Mettaton said, “Just think of it—!”

“L-Later, later!” Alphys shouted. “We need a plan here.”

 

The lizard scooted off her seat and rummaged through one of Undyne’s drawers for a pen and paper. When she sat back down, she readjusted her glasses.

“Okay, let’s all b-brainstorm,” she suggested. “We need to make a new soul for a b-body that already exists and has a consciousness. I d-don’t think it’s ever been done before.”

“And… And I’d like to put it in his normal body, if we can,” Frisk said. “Um… After the barrier breaks, it seems like he can look like he’s supposed to for a little while.”

“Ooh, what does that mean?” Papyrus asked. “Does he get legs?!”

“He’s like a cute little goat dragon! Or dragon goat? Mostly goat. Whatever,” Frisk said with a laugh. “He’s Asgore’s kid, remember?”

“Right, right!” Papyrus said. “This is exciting, I can’t wait to see a tiny Asgore!”

“S-So, wait, r-really we need two plans, right?” Alphys said. “W-We need to, one, create Asriel’s new soul. And two, w-we need to get to him. Which seems to involve the barrier b-breaking. So that can be step one of the accessing him plan.” She wrote it down.

Undyne leaned around her to watch and started to frown.

“Huh… N-Now that I think about it, step t-two might actually be the easier one,” Alphys mumbled. “S-So… Let’s s-start there. Any ideas? At all?”

 

“This is probably going to take a few tries,” Frisk said reluctantly.

“Oh, kid, you aren’t, uh, plannin’ on going all the way back, are you?” Sans asked.

She shook her head quickly. “No, of course not. There’s a place I can stick to right after the barrier breaks. But then I have to rush. I wish I knew how long Asriel could stay himself…”

“Get a clock, duh!” Undyne said.

“Y-Yes! Good! A clock. A timer!” Alphys jotted it on the list. “Time Asriel. Th-Then what?”

 

“But before that, kid needs a soul,” Sans said, resting his head on his hand and slumping on the table. “Humans are out. So, monster, I guess.”

“But who the hell is going to do that?” Undyne said. “Monsters’ll give up a bit to make a kid, but otherwise, I’ve never even heard of—!”

“I’d love to help out!” Papyrus said. “I’m sure I, the great Papyrus, have enough soul to spare for the both of us!”

“Uh… Doesn’t quite work like that, bro,” Sans said with a smile. “Nice thought, though.”

“If only we had, like, a hundred of Papyrus,” Undyne said.

“That would be FANTASTIC!” Papyrus said. “Except there can truly only be one Papyrus!”

 

Alphys frantically followed on the list, though she scribbled a big line through the words 100 Papyrus. “B-But… I mean, wh-what if everyone thought like Papyrus?” she asked quietly. “I wonder…”

“Ooh, Alphie, I like that look,” Mettaton said. “Got an idea?”

“M… Maybe,” she said. “It’d take a lot of m-magic. And… d-determination, too. Maybe… Maybe a boss monster’s soul?”

“Oh no, no no no, there’s no way,” Frisk said quickly. “We can’t tell mom or Asgore! What if this screws up? We can’t get their hopes up like that. It… It’d be too awful.”

“You’re right. It’d be cruel. That’s out,” Undyne said, folding her arms. “Which is a pain in the butt, honestly. Alph, how’d you do it with Mettaton? C’mon, it’s gotta just take a lot of magic or something, right? Couldn’t we do a quick version?”

Alphys bit her lip. Her scales went a little red. “W-W-Well, it… Ummm…”

“Wait, um… Sorry. What about a hundred monster parents?” Frisk wondered.

 

“Say again?” Sans asked.

“N-Not… Not literal parents. But what if the one hundred Papyrus thing isn’t that far off?” she said, and Papyrus beamed. “What if we just introduce a bunch of people to Asriel? Get them to be his friend. Or at least to like him enough to want to help out. Or… Or something, I dunno, just anything that might make them help. Then maybe more monsters could give up just a tiny piece and—”

“And get j-just enough t-to…! Oh my god, that could actually work,” Alphys said, eyes alight. “I mean, it’s never been tried. But if two monsters can make a new soul, then it stands to reason an e-even sm-smaller sacrifice of magic from more people could p-potentially…!” Alphys began writing swiftly on the paper. Her handwriting was awful and no one seemed to be able to follow any of it but Sans. “I’ll n-need to find the right magic ratios and h-have some way to anchor it to him, b-but…! But, y-yeah! That c-could maybe work, actually! Even if it’s a bit small, if a s-soul can hold its sh-shape, then it can actually rebuild n-naturally. It does take a little determination, though.”

 

“Oh my god, that is awesome!” Undyne said, slamming her fists down on the table, making Sans bounce. “So we just gotta get a bunch of soul magic and shove it together so it sticks?”

“If it just takes some determination, I can make up the difference, I think,” Frisk said. “But I don’t really know how to do that. I’m sure we can figure it out.”

“This is a fantastic plan that I fully approve of!” Papyrus said loudly. “Sans? What do you think?”

Sans shrugged. “Could work. Gonna need to get there fast if you don’t want him to stay a flower, though. Can’t exactly run through the whole underground lookin’ for him.”

 

“Umm… The closest way is probably through the hole I fell in from the outside,” Frisk said, but then pouted. “Asriel usually goes back the Ruins, but that door is sealed with magic as long as mom’s inside, so we can’t really check it out right now. Keeping her outta the plan makes it harder, but… I just don’t wanna break her heart again if this screws up, you know?” She sighed and rubbed a hand through her hair in frustration.

“Sounds a bit tough,” Papyrus said.

“Yeah. Az seems to remember a lot of what went down last time,” she said, “and if he’s anything like before, he probably won’t actually want me to find him this time. So dropping down from above into the Ruins— even if he’s not where I think he is— it’ll give us enough time, maybe, to find him before he turns back into a flower. But if we’re lucky, he’ll have just woken up there and we’ll catch him by surprise because the hole is basically right on top of him. That would be the best idea, I think, but also I have no clue where it is. We’d have to find it on the outside.”

“Barrier,” Sans said. “Need two souls for that.”

“S-So we br-break the barrier like Frisk did before?” Alphys wondered. “Then scout it out, m-maybe?”

“I’m not sure, that could take days,” Frisk said. “Maybe even weeks if we have to climb. The mountain we’re under is frickin’ huge. And then I’d have to go back in time a bit, and I don’t want to drag everyone back under again after however long it takes to find the dumb thing.”

“Great, so that’s out, too,” Undyne grumbled. “Ugh, if we just had a human soul, one of us could just walk through and do it ahead of time!”

“Ooh. I have one,” Frisk said with a smile.

“That’s stayin’ inside you, kid,” Sans said.

“I guess we could just borrow one of Asgore’s,” Undyne said. “I mean, he’s got six of ‘em. And if Frisk does the time travel thing backwards after we’re done, it’ll be like it never happened, I guess.”

 

“Well, I’d love to go through the barrier,” Mettaton said. “But the way you’ve been talking, sounds like your little friend goes from a more desirable form to the less desirable one, yes? And you have no idea how long that takes. So how on earth will getting to a hole on the outside matter? That will definitely take even longer than running through the underground, for one. You’ll have to go around a mountain.”

Frisk looked thoughtful. “Well, I was thinking, actually,” she said, “that Sans could do it. He’s fast enough. I mean, if that’s okay with you, bro.”

 

Everyone’s eyes went to Sans. He smiled tiredly and slumped back in his chair.

“That’s actually not a horrible idea,” Papyrus said, “assuming that you don’t just nap on the mountainside, Sans.”

“So it has to be me? I was actually hopin’ I could sleep through most of this,” he joked.

“Wait, okay, s-someone fill me in, I’m l-lost,” Alphys said.

“Oh! Right! Everyone, my brother is also full of strange time travel powers,” Papyrus said proudly. “He can just vanish and turn up anywhere! A very impressive testament to his absolute refusal to walk more than a block!”

Sans laughed. “Good one, bro.”

“Wait, WHAT?! Since when?!” Undyne yelled.

“Dunno.” Sans shrugged. “Forever. You guys seriously didn’t notice?”

“What?! Oh, man, no, shut up, tell us all about it,” Undyne demanded.

“Uh…” Sans shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”

“You guys really didn’t know?” Frisk asked.

“N-No?” Alphys said.

Frisk looked at her brother curiously. “Can I…?”

Sans shrugged again and gestured at the others as if to give her the go-ahead. She nodded.

 

“I don’t know all of it, but it comes from being able to time travel. Like I can,” Frisk said. “I mean, I can’t do what Sans does, but he used to be able to do what I do, kind of? So he can do a weird space jump thing. But he’s gotta know the place he’s going and the bits around it so he doesn’t end up inside a wall. Like, he has to sorta have a path there, so as long as he actually has that and stuff, he can just kinda teleport there whenever. After time went wonky, he was the first one to hold the timeline. Before Asriel came around. It’s something related to that, but he could do it before that, too. Is that about right?”

Sans’s cheekbones flushed blue and he shrunk down into his jacket. “I… uh… Yeah.”

 

“Oh m-my god, S-Sans!” It was Alphys's turn to slap the table. “Your l-levels of determination m-must be…! Oh m-my god! That’s amazing! Wh-What happened?”

He shrugged. “A lot.” He was reluctant to elaborate.

Alphys opened her mouth but Papyrus eagerly jumped in overtop of her.

“Yes, it’s really very impressive since Sans is, in fact, the weakest of all monsters,” he said.

Sans rubbed the back of his skull. “I’m fine with that.”

“So what you’re saying,” Undyne said, “is that Sans is the one who has to take the human soul?!”

“Whoa. Uh… That’s not… uh…” Sans cast a look at Papyrus and Frisk for help.

 

Papyrus nodded enthusiastically, looking quite proud of his brother. The kid, on the other hand, looked a little sullen; contemplative. He suddenly felt a sting of nerves.

“Kid?” he asked.

“Huh? Oh! Yeah! That should work.” She smiled, quickly trying to mask the worry that was clear on her face as if she had said the words. “Are you okay with this?”

“Nope,” he said. “Doesn’t mean I won’t do it. Just… Never thought it’d be me.”

“I know, right?!” Undyne said loudly. “I thought for sure if it was anyone besides Asgore, it’d be me! When are we doing this? Now?!”

“No way,” Sans said. “Everyone needs rest first. Tomorrow.”

“Lazybones,” Papyrus chided.

Sans grinned and shrugged. Frisk finally succumbed to the concern that lowered her brows.

“Dude, if you’re not okay with this—”

“Welp. It’s the only way, right? Doesn’t really matter,” he said.

“There’s maybe one more way,” she said, “but it’s probably more crazy?”

 

Everyone looked at her curiously. She gulped, smiled nervously, and shrugged.

“Someone blows me up or something, takes my soul and all the others too, and breaks the barrier temporarily?”

“Hell no,” Sans said.

“Absolutely not!” Papyrus said almost at the same time.

“That’s w-way too risky,” Alphys added.

“Really? Why, doesn’t sound so bad to me as long as Frisk can still go back in time,” Undyne said.

“There’s n-no way to know that,” Alphys said, shaking her head.

“Yup. No way we’re riskin’ it,” Sans said. “I’ll do it. It’s fine. Just, kiddo, you better come too. Keep in touch. Just in case I need some backtrackin’.”

“Yeah, of course!” she said, and she grinned. “You couldn’t stop me from coming if you tried!”

Sans looked relieved. He nodded. He pointed at Undyne. “You know which soul is which, right? Asgore told you?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Then you’re definitely comin’ with,” he said. “Because if I gotta put a human soul in me, there’s a few that I don’t wanna go anywhere near.”

“Gotcha,” Undyne said.

 

“Okay, maybe I’ll go save now?” Frisk suggested. “So if something goes wrong and this is a terrible idea, we can just regroup right away and make a new plan right here.”

“Good thinking, sweetie, because this sounds like a disaster waiting to happen,” Mettaton said.

“Thank you, Captain Optimism!” Papyrus said loudly, grinning and leaning towards Mettaton. “See, I called you Captain Optimism because you, in fact, are the opposite of optimistic! Nyeh heh heh heh!”

“Oh, darling, I know, I caught the sarcasm,” he replied, rolling his eyes.

Papyrus seemed pleased and Undyne laughed and rubbed her forehead. Frisk smiled to herself and slipped from Papyrus’s lap. It was good to see them all together like this.

 

She stepped outside and walked just a little ways down the road where the glittering, star-like rip in time shone out brightly to her. She gently pressed her hand against it, determined to latch on. This one was easy.

 

“Oh… Hey again. What’re you doing?” a sleepy-sounding voice asked.

Frisk turned and was pleasantly surprised to find Napstablook hovering nearby. “Oh! Hi again!”

“Oh, um… actually, it’s none of my business,” he said quietly.

“Don’t worry about it!” Frisk laughed. “Oh, hey, actually, I was just hanging out with your cousin, want me to ask him to go see you later?”

“M… My cousin?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” she said.

The ghost’s eyes seemed to light up. They glistened with tears. “O-Oh. Y-Yeah, actually, I’d really like that. I, um… I haven’t seen him in… forever, it feels like…”

Frisk stuck her thumb up. Napstablook smiled, then vanished rather lazily. She took an extra moment to save again.

 

- - -

 

“This is so exciting!” Papyrus said. “It’s so strange! I feel like we should be doing this all the time!”

“Pfft, what, stealin’ souls and running through the barrier?” Undyne asked.

“No! All of us, hanging out like this,” Papyrus said brightly. “I think the amount of fun we could have increases exponentially! Sans, what about you?”

Sans was still slumped on the table. He looked up with an expression like he had been far away. “Yeah, bro, absolutely.”

“Sans, were you asleep?” Papyrus asked with a frown. “This is a big job ahead of you!”

Sans winked. “Why d’you think I was sleepin’?”

Undyne snorted out a laugh, then sat back and looked around. “Where’s the squirt anyway? Does this normally take this long?”

“I’m s-sure it’s fine, it hasn’t been t-too long,” Alphys said.

“Darlings, about the human souls, don’t you think maybe I could be the one to—“

“NO!” Undyne said loudly. “You can’t teleport!”

Mettaton folded his arms and pouted.

 

Frisk returned quickly, edging in around the broken door blocking the way. “Okay, we’re good,” she said. “Hey Mettaton, you wanna go next door?”

“Wh… Whatever would I do that for?” he asked. Mettaton’s expression became suddenly very nervous.

Frisk frowned with confusion for a moment before she caught on. “Oh! Uh… You know, there’s this ghost named Napstablook over there, he said he’s a big fan. I told him I’d ask for him.”

Alphys shot Mettaton a wide-eyed look and and Mettaton forced a smile.

“Y-Yes! Of course, always happy to see a fan, but I mean, I am a very busy robot and—”

“Okay, whatever, Mettaton, just get your Ghost-in-the-Shell-reference butt over there, he’d love to see you,” Frisk said with a laugh.

“O… Okay…” he stammered. He seemed somewhat shocked, but nonetheless, he slid out of his chair and slipped out of the house.

 

“Uh… What?” Papyrus asked.

Alphys stared down at Frisk and her lip twitched up into an awkward smile.“You’ve… Y-You’ve seen Ghost in the Shell…? Really? Is is as g-good as they say?! I’ve heard it’s a c-classic! You gotta tell me! No wait, don’t tell me! Oooh but I want to know, I—”

“We’ll watch it together,” Frisk said brightly. “Once we get out. Actually. I’ll make a list. There’s a lot of stuff we need to watch.”

Alphys’s eyes lit up; she almost looked like she could cry. “You’re a good kid,” she sniffled.

“Does it have fighting in it?!” Undyne demanded. “Or robots? Can I come?!”

“Well, it’s sort of more like a crime show with fighting robots,” Frisk said. “And then there’s movies too but they’re a bit different. But yeah, we can all watch it!”

“M-Maybe, uh… Would…? W-Would you guys maybe like to watch some anime now? I b-brought some,” Alphys said. “If… If we’re done with the b-big stuff, maybe we can r-relax a bit?”

She turned her eyes on Sans. He shrugged.

“I’m for it!” Papyrus said. “Hey, how about I make us all some delicious spaghetti?”

“YEAH! I’m into it! I’ll help you out!” Undyne said.

Papyrus beamed, and then hopped over to Frisk, ruffling her hair. “Good job, Frisk, you barely cried at all this time.”

“All thanks to you,” Frisk said with a wink.

He cackled proudly. “Nyeh heh heh! My plan was a great success!”

 

As everyone began to rush around and the house became abustle, Sans sat, contemplative, at the table. Frisk quietly scooted up onto the chair next to his and reached out tentatively to hold his hand.

“Hm? Sup, kiddo?” he asked. “Nervous?”

She shook her head. “Just want you to be okay,” she said quietly.

“Welp. It’s new. Gotta admit, not super hyped, but we all gotta do stuff to help out, right?”

“I, um… I’m really grateful,” she said, lowering her voice. “For some reason, it feels… I dunno, somehow it feels like I’m being selfish.”

“You’re not,” he said. “This is important for everyone. Plus, you got my back, right?”

“Always,” she said.

He patted her hand and then got up. He stretched his spine and then wandered to the sofa to see what Alphys was putting on. Looked like the disk he had found for her a few days ago.

 

Frisk stayed where she was for a little while longer. She tried hard not to grimace and folded her arms against herself. She already had a bit of a plan— something she hadn’t mentioned to them. She didn’t even know how to broach it.

 

In the past, after the barrier had been shattered, Frisk returned to the flower patch she had tumbled into; her shining path to the underground. She wasn’t sure why she had expected to find Asriel there— maybe some residual memories from Chara, or energy imprinted on her from their battle— but indeed, there he was, waiting to disappear, trying to put on a brave face. He had told her that he and Chara had merged when she poisoned herself and gave up her soul. She was in his mind, and they shared control over their new, warped form. If there was any chance at all for shared control, there was no way in a million years she would ever let some random human soul touch her brother. That left only her.

 

Frisk slumped on the table; didn’t realize she had started crying until a breath in was ragged and felt like it dragged down her throat. Almost instantly, Papyrus put his hand on her back.

“Did the plan wear off that quickly?” he asked gently.

“It’s… It’s okay. Don’t worry.” She noticed rather quickly that everyone had their eyes on her, even as the pot of hot water was starting to boil over and the TV was sounding rather loud and explosive in Japanese. She wanted to just pull up her hood and shrink down under the table, but instead she slipped out of her seat and turned down the stove.

 

Undyne laughed and smacked herself in the forehead. “Right. Right, don’t burn the house down,” she said. “Kid, need a breather?”

Frisk shook her head. Alphys came over, looking a little bashful at first, but when Frisk took a moment to wipe her eyes, the lizard came closer.

“Aw,  Frisk…” Alphys said gently, putting a hand on her shoulder. “H-Hey, I know, it’s a big thing, huh? You o-okay?”

“Y… Yeah. Yeah. Sorry,” she said quietly. “I t-try to not freak out, but it still gets to me sometimes. Th-Thanks for your help.”

Alphys smiled and gave her a gentle hug. “You’re really b-brave. I… I know it must’ve been hard, but P-Papyrus is right. Coming back in time was the right th-thing to do.”

Frisk nodded and gave Alphys a quick smooch on the cheek. The lizard immediately turned red and grabbed her own face, cooing loudly.

“K-K-Kawaii!” she squealed, so shrill it was hard to understand her.

Undyne burst out laughing. Alphys’s scales turned burgundy.

 

There was a moment where the others were distracted and Alphys was being brought in on the pasta-making, and Frisk felt her soul grasped and she was gently whisked over to the sofa. Sans was sitting with his back against the arm, and he plopped her down in front of him carefully. The look on his face was inquisitive. She knew how well he could read her expressions, so he probably knew something else was upsetting her within a few seconds. He didn’t ask, though, he simply grabbed her and pulled her back into him and held her loosely with one arm as he turned up the volume on the TV with the other.

 

“Hey. You’re doin’ good. That look says you’re pretty worried, though. About tomorrow?”

“Y… Yeah,” she said. “Not because I think it’ll go bad or anything, just…”

“I get it. I’m fine,” he said.

“Mmkay.” She didn’t really believe him. “D-Don’t worry, I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

“Heh. Thanks,” he said.

 

She was a little surprised when he moved her closer and put his face next to her ear.

“Hey.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Do me a favour? Convince Paps not to come along, alright? I, uh… Whatever happens, I don’t want him to see me like that. Just in case”

“Okay. I will, I promise,” she said.

“Thanks a million.” He pulled back and the hug was more genuine and relieved.

Frisk smiled, wiped her eyes, and relaxed into him, cozy against his cushy jacket. He pawed around for the remote— she passed it to him and he turned down the volume to normal.

 

As Papyrus, Undyne, and Alphys all scrambled, crashing around the kitchen and shouting at vegetables, Sans and Frisk watched the show Alphys had put on. It was in Japanese with no subtitles, though. Frisk was mostly zoning out, distracted by her own thoughts on one hand and a sort of warm drowsiness setting in on the other. She wasn’t really snapped out of it until the characters on the TV shot into space and began riding gigantic dragon mechs at each other, jousting with swords the size of buildings.

“Um… Sans, are you following this?” she asked.

“No, not a bit. You?”

“I have no idea.”

“Ooh! Ooh, I think I know what might b-be…” Alphys leaned over the other arm of the couch to look, but couldn’t finish her sentence as her jaw dropped. “Omigosh we need to start this over.”

 

“Everyone! Spaghetti is done!” Papyrus announced. He bounded around the room, passing out large plates of pasta and sauce.

At the same moment, the front door was shifted and Mettaton walked back in. It wasn’t clear if he had been wearing mascara before, but now his face clearly looked like some had been running down around his eyes.

“Just in time!” Papyrus said; he was about to hand over a plate when he took note and looked concerned. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Oh, yes, just had a bit of an emotional reunion,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “I will take that, thank you, darling.” He took the dish daintily.

Papyrus beamed and stuck both thumbs up before jumping back across the room. “More coming up!”

 

Mettaton looked around and then slid over to where Sans and Frisk sat, perching on the arm of the sofa and crossing one leg over the other. He tried the spaghetti, his face twisted for barely a second, but took another bite nonetheless before cutting his eyes at the lazy pair at the other end of the couch.

 

“Well, well, well, would you look at you two,” he said. “Getting a little snuggly, are we?”

“Of course. Frisk is my daughter, I made her in a lab experiment gone wrong ten years ago and that’s why I quit my job and stuff,” Sans said. “Obviously.”

Mettaton stared blankly.

“S-S-Sans!!” Alphys said shrilly.

He grinned and Frisk snickered, and then gave Papyrus a grateful smile when he passed them their plates, too, before racing away to dole out more. She tried it hesitantly, and though the pasta itself was a little sticky, he seemed to have taken her advice on the sauce to heart. In fact, it was even better this time.

 

“Sans, what on earth does that mean?” Mettaton demanded.

“It’s a joke,” Frisk said. “Sans didn’t make me, he’s my big brother, duh. I still think she should put more secret skeleton magic powers in it, but I guess that’s up to her. Alphys just likes making AUs.”

“Oh, boy, does she ever!” He was suddenly grinning. “Ooh, one time, she wrote a story where I was a human, and she shipped me with—!”

“What? Human? Really?” Frisk laughed.

“Oh yes, she’s human-swapped everyone in her stories at least once! In fact—!”

“Noo, no no no, th-that’s not interesting,” Alphys said quickly, all but throwing herself onto him and putting a hand on his head. “H-How’s the pasta?!”

Frisk snickered and stuck her thumb up, and Sans nodded in agreement.

 

“Does… um…? D-Does monster food, um… Does that work for you?” Alphys asked.

“What d’you mean?” Frisk asked.

“You’re okay eating it?” she asked.

Frisk smiled and nodded. She looked thoughtful. “You know, I don’t think I’ve actually had any human food for over a year now.”

“Whoa, kid?! You can really take that much magic?!” Undyne demanded. “Man, that’s awesome, but totally not fair!”

“Not fair? Why?” Papyrus asked worriedly.

“Well, think about it, human food would do gross stuff to us! And humans have all that determination in them, which also does gross stuff to us,” Undyne said. “But magic, they can just deal with it. I’m kinda jealous, honestly. It’s like they’re just designed to screw us over.”

 

Frisk winced and immediately, Undyne’s eye went wide and she looked apologetic

“Oh, no, kid, sorry, I’m not blaming you or anything!” she said quickly. “It’s just, we’re so lucky you’re a cool human! You know? Because if you weren’t, you could totally mess us up! It’s good you’re you, right? You’re kind of the most important human ever, anyway.”

Frisk wasn’t sure what to say, but even so, Sans hugged her a little tighter as if to let her know it was alright.

“I’ve always wondered what i-it would feel like to be the friend of the c-cool hero in an an-anime,” Alphys added. “It’s s-sort of like that to know you, you know?”

“Oh no, guys,” Frisk protested quickly, spinning some spaghetti absently on her fork. “I’m not… I’m not even close to that cool.”

“Sure you are!” Undyne said. “You control time! That shit is awesome! I… I mean, stuff. That stuff is awesome.” She gulped down all the spaghetti on her plate, tossed it into the sink, and then ran over, flopping over the back of the sofa. “So! Tell us some cool stuff about the future!” Undyne said. “How’d I die?!”

 

Frisk felt like she had been punched in the gut.

“Shit, dude, don’t ask her that,” Sans said, smacking his face into his palm.

“What?! But, okay, fine, but it was cool, right?!” she insisted.

Sans glared at her.

“Dude, I just thought, look, I’m not scared of it, okay? So if I’m not scared, Frisk, you shouldn’t be scared either, right?”

“I’m not sure it works like that,” Sans said.

Undyne flexed her muscles. “She’s gotta get STRONG!”

“Not sure it works like that, either,” he said.

“You were brave,” Frisk said quietly. “But I, um… I don’t… I don’t think I can—”

“Okay, okay, okay,” Undyne said hurriedly, mostly triggered as Sans’s brow furrowed deeper and his eyes went black. “How about something happier? Some stuff from the future? Could you tell us about that?”

“I dunno what the point would be,” Frisk admitted. “It’s… It’s never gonna be like it was, and you guys, I wouldn’t want you to do something just because I said it happened one time.”

“Well, uh, Frisk, if it’s alright,” Papyrus said, “I am a little curious, too. Just—! Just because I’d really love to know where you came from. I mean, if you’re so cool and smart, and you like us so much, we must’ve been doing something right, right?”

Frisk laughed tiredly. She rubbed her head. “Well, I mean… if you have a question, I can try to answer.”

 

“Well, I have a question!” Mettaton said. “Why do I feel like I know all you hooligans all of a sudden?”

“Because you do. Or, you did,” Frisk said. “You will?”

“Did,” Sans said.

“Right. Don’t ask me how that works, though,” Frisk said. “I mean… when my magic didn’t work right away, I thought it wouldn’t at all, but you seem to kinda know something now, right?”

“All I know is that we’re friends. I like you quite a bit, actually. And you.” He pointed at Papyrus. “You’re new. But I know you somehow, and not just from your brothers incessant storytelling.” Then, he levelled his finger at Undyne and pursed his lips, looking slightly confused. “And I like you, too, even.”

“Weird,” Undyne said. “So, what, is that from the future, too?”

Frisk nodded, and Undyne dragged the piano bench over to plop onto it, pulling Alphys to sit beside her and almost spilling her pasta.

 

“Hey! Here’s something you can tell us about without crying, maybe?!” Undyne said. “How did we all settle in? What were we doing? We still got a Royal Guard out there?”

“Oh! Um, Royal Guard was basically the same except it was more like a cop you see on TV, I think,” Frisk said. “But you also were a gym teacher at the school my mom set up.”

“Hey! I kinda like the sound of that!” Undyne said brightly. “I’m into it! We’ll see what happens, but that’s probably gonna be the same again. How about Asgore?”

“He was the King Mayor. And did landscaping, I think it’s called?” she said. “He’s great. Like always.”

Alphys stuck her hand up tentatively, and then pointed to herself. Frisk smiled.

“Alphys, you, um… You were actually helping Mettaton a lot,” she said. “You set up a lab and were still doing science stuff and working on a new CORE thingy. The, um, SCORE, I think you called it. The lab was also a TV station. Mettaton, you kept doing the MTT channel, and it was actually catching on really well with humans, too. You and Napstablook were doing a lot of cool music stuff.”

“I knew it!” Mettaton’s eyes were all but sparkling. “I knew humans would love my shows! Alphie, you hear that?!”

“O-Oh. W-Wow, I was… helping with the sh-shows and stuff?” she stammered. “Th-That sounds like a… a lot of pressure.”

“Nah, dude, you’re great at all that technical junk, I’m sure you’re perfect for that kind of thing!” Undyne assured her. “I mean, hell, just look at Mettaton.”

“Yes, I am pretty fantastic, you have to admit,” he said.

 

“Ooh, ooh, me next!” Papyrus said. He ran over and hopped onto the sofa in front of Frisk and grabbed her hands. “Tell me! Am I. Finally. In the Royal Guard?”

“Well, I mean, not exactly. You… Well, you kinda did a lot like you did in Snowdin, but less looking for humans and more general helping,” she said. “You also helped mom a lot with a ton of stuff. And… And you’re kind of like a… magic medic, too.”

“A medic?” he repeated.

Frisk nodded. “Your healing powers are super strong. So… Yeah. You helped everyone. Someone had a bad accident on the road or something, they’d call an ambulance, but also you, too. You saved some people a couple times, y’know? Especially when winter started.”

“Wowie! Yes, okay that does sound like me,” he said. “What about Sans? I assume he continues sleeping quite a bit, yes? As he is right this second, in fact.”

Frisk looked behind her and noted that, in fact, he was out like a light. She snickered. “Well, duh, but mostly, for a job and stuff, other than helping you out, he’s a teacher.”

“A… teacher?” Undyne repeated. “Him?!”

Frisk nodded and grinned. “Yeah! He’s really good, actually!” she said. “He’s super smart and stuff, and there’s a university in the next closest town, and he teaches physics there! I go with him a lot. Or, I did.”

“Weird,” Undyne said.

“N-No, actually, that… th-that sounds just like him,” Alphys said with a fond smile. “Thanks, Frisk. Th-That was all pretty nice to hear. I hope that wasn’t too hard for you.”

 

“I’m, um…” Frisk paused. She frowned to herself. She felt heartsick, true, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been. She took a deep breath. “I’m… okay.” She smiled. “As long as I’m with you guys, it’s… it’s starting to feel normal again. Though I do really miss mom, and Asgore, and Kid. I’m sorry you guys don’t have those memories, though.”

“Me too,” Papyrus said gently, taking her hands again, “but! Never fear! We can make all new memories. We all care about each other just as much, it should be totally fine! Right?”

Frisk nodded. Alphys clapped her hands together.

 

“Hey, how about let’s try that a-anime again,” she suggested. “The back s-said it had subs and dubs, but I think subs should b-be okay, right?”

“SUBS OR BUST!” Undyne said loudly. “I mean, unless the dub is really good?”

Papyrus shrugged. Mettaton rolled his eyes, and then turned to look around the room. He pouted, and then held out his hand.

“Someone, phone,” he said.

Frisk had hers out first, and passed it to him. He took it cautiously.

“My god, look at this ancient brick,” he said. “Is the time on this right?”

“Think so,” Frisk said.

 

Mettaton frowned a little. “Ugh. Alphie, I hate to be a bother on such an important day, but I would really love to have my casing done by tonight.”

“Oh! O-Oh, okay, I think I can… um… Oh!” Her eyes lit up. “I know! How about we watch m-maybe the first three or four episodes, s-see if we get into this, and then you and I can g-go to the lab and f-finish what we can. A-And Frisk! Lend me your phone?”

 

When Frisk nodded, Alphys held out her hand. Mettaton passed it over.

“W-Wow, this is really an antique,” she muttered.

“Where’d you get that hunk of junk, kid?” Undyne said. “Can you even text on that? Can you even connect to the UnderNet?”

“Nope,” Frisk said.

“O-Okay! So, first episodes, Mettaton, we’ll get your casing done, a-and Frisk, I’ll fix your phone up for you b-before this thing tomorrow. I can even get you an UnderNet account, it’ll b-be great!”

“Thanks a bunch,” Frisk said.

 

Since Frisk was sitting mostly on Sans, and Alphys was easily ferried around, everyone squeezed onto the sofa to watch the anime. Frisk felt herself drifting off almost right away, but it seemed to be about people and dragons who also happened to be robots fighting space robot dragons wars against each other for truth and justice. Undyne and Papyrus were super into it. Alphys seemed to just be happy that people were watching anime with her, even though her preference leaned a little more towards romances.

 

Didn’t really matter how rowdy everyone around her was— Frisk drifted in and out by accident. Crying, or trying really hard not to, really tired her out. So did worrying. And, at this point, she was worrying almost constantly. But, Sans would be okay, wouldn’t he? He always did what he had to. He sacrificed himself over and over to save everyone from other anomalies. This wouldn’t be nearly that bad, would it? Couldn’t be.

 

She tried to concentrate her thoughts on that, but her mind wasn’t having it. She was settling into a haze. When she sat against Sans like this, ear against his ribcage, it was interesting to never quite hear a heartbeat, but instead a similar, very soft pulsing, almost musical sound of magic from that spot where the soul could glow most brightly. Slow notes that were almost indistinguishable under normal circumstances. One would have to be listening for it to hear it at all. Monsters were weird like that, but she guessed hearing a heartbeat from her must’ve been weird to them, too. Still, she liked that magic hum. It was comforting. Sans’s song was something she’d become very accustomed to.

 

She lost track of the show. The dragons were in space again. Fighting on a purple planet, with javelins made of light. She blinked slowly. Her eyelids were heavy. Something around her looked different. She heard Papyrus say something and she focussed to look at him as he got close to her face, affectionately patting her head. She wasn’t sure, but he said something about the lab. Going there, maybe? She was barely awake, but she smiled and nodded. He grinned and touched his brow gently to hers, magic glowing with warmth. Felt nice. Reminded her of home. Papyrus never changed a bit.

 

She wasn’t sure when she fell asleep again, but when her ears started to listen again, she thought she heard Undyne talking. Took her a moment to focus, but she missed most of the words. Something about humans, maybe. She felt a sort of weird, anxious energy. Took her a moment to remember she was resting against her brother— must’ve been him. The squeeze of his arms around her was nervous, the way one might squish a stuffed animal for comfort.

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Sans was saying.

 

She heard Undyne sigh. The rest of the house was quiet. Wasn’t sure where the others were; maybe they were outside. She couldn’t tell. Wasn’t sure if she cared, yet. Her brain was still a little foggy, but she snuggled a little closer against her brother’s ribcage. Undyne laughed.

“Look, see?” she said. “Kid’s basically just usin’ you as a pillow at this point. Which… is weird. That can’t be that comfortable, can it? I mean, no offence, but you’re all bones under there.”

“Yeah, I sorta been wonderin’ that, too,” he said with a quiet laugh.

“I guess just, what I’m saying is, the way you guys trust each other, it’s… really kind of nice,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought you could trust a human, after that shit in the lab. I didn’t think I could, either. I’m actually super glad she proved me wrong.”

Sans laughed a little. “Yeah. It’s nice to be able to let my guard down. Haven’t really felt like this since… Well, I guess since before that. I try not to think about it.”

“Hah. Sorry for bringing it up. I don’t really like to, either.”

“No worries.”

“It’s just… Okay, sorry to go back a step,” she said, “but we… I mean, I didn’t know you before that. And not much until the last few years at all, really. And I guess, I… just wanted to thank you? I don’t think I ever did.”

“Thank me?” he repeated. “No one should thank me for that, dude.”

“It’s not so much that, it was just…” She sighed heavily. “Real talk? It really messed me up. And I know what you did probably messed you up too, but because of you, I didn’t go totally nuts after. I felt like I could keep going, like I wouldn’t just fall down. Like I didn’t have to be scared to go outside, if that makes sense.”

“Oh. Heh. Didn’t know you felt that strong about it.”

“Yeah. Totally. Don’t, uh… Don’t tell the others, huh?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Sans assured her.

They kept talking, and she felt Sans relax. Frisk couldn’t keep her focus, even if she wanted to.

 

Chapter Text

“Don’t move, d-don’t move.” Alphys readjusted her grip on a screwdriver tipped with a glowing spark of magic. “Papyrus, just, uh… j-just hold that bit up?”

Papyrus adjusted a portion of pink chest plate as Mettaton held as still as he could on her workbench. Alphys quickly moved in to attach it tightly.

“And… the wires are… hang on.” She opened a panel in his back and he yelped.

“You are so sweaty!” he said.

“Ugh, f-fine, Papyrus can you just attach that red wire to the amp output?” she asked.

“But he doesn’t know what he’s doing!” Mettaton protested.

“Don’t be such a stick in the mud, Mettaton! It’s just like a puzzle, and I’m amazing at those, don’t you worry,” Papyrus said.

“Yeah! P-Plus he barely sweats at all,” Alphys said.

“Ugh, fine.” Mettaton pouted. “But don’t plug anything into the wrong spot!”

 

Papyrus leaned around and carefully took a red wire in his fingers. He reached in and Mettaton squeaked.

“I should have turned off, I should have just—”

“No, n-no, this is better,” Alphys insisted. “Live t-troubleshooting!”

“Here?” Papyrus asked.

“Yes, perfect!” Alphys said proudly.

 

Papyrus hooked in the wire, there was a spark of magic and it fused tight. He pulled back and Alphys closed the panel and wiped her brow.

“T-Try it.”

Mettaton looked down at the speaker on his chest and it crackled to life. There was a sharp static sound for a moment before music blared loud— his own theme song in clear, crisp audio.

“Oh! OH! ALPHYS!” Mettaton hopped off the table and hugged her tightly as the music shut off. “Perfect! It’s just perfect!”

“Th… There’s bound to b-be a couple more issues,” she said as she wriggled free. “But w-we’ll keep an eye on you and I’m sure y-you’ll be all fine-tuned soon!”

Mettaton beamed. He grabbed Papyrus by the shoulders. “Thanks for the help, darling, bring me a poster sometime and I’ll sign it for you for sure!” He gave him a tight hug.

Papyrus gawked. “Wowie!” The skeleton hugged him back. “I’m happy you’re so happy!”

 

Mettaton snickered, patted Papyrus on the shoulders, and then twirled away. Alphys tilted her head, analyzing his movements, but she smiled.

“So, let’s, uh… let’s see, th-the built in phone should be okay, and, uhh… Come back here a s-sec?”

Mettaton strutted back over and Alphys stood on a stool to check the ports on the back of his neck, under his hair.

“Let me j-just… Papyrus, can you bring me that blue cable over there?” She pointed across the room and Papyrus nodded and bounded off.

 

“Hey,” Mettaton said quietly. “I need to talk to you. Privately.”

“O-Oh. Um… O-Okay. What is it?” she asked.

“Not this second, maybe you can just send our new friend on a quick errand in a minute, though?”

Alphys frowned with confusion, but she nodded. Papyrus returned with a length of a blue cable in his hand.

“This?” he asked.

“P-Perfect!” Alphys said. “Now let’s just see if…” She connected it to Mettaton’s neck— he shivered— and then to her own phone. “You sh-should be able to download. What do you think, a-anything?”

“Ah! Yes! Yes, absolutely,” Mettaton said.“Thanks, Alphie, you’re a doll.”

She smiled bashfully as she unplugged him.

 

She looked at Papyrus and hoped her face hadn’t turned red. “Hey, um… P-Papyrus, can you do me a little f-favour? J-Just one more thing. Sorry. Th-There’s just some kind of heavy b-bags near the computer. S-Some groceries and dog food, d-do you think you could bring it into the elevator for me?”

“Of course! No trouble at all!” he assured her. “This is why I, the great Papyrus, came with you, after all! Be right back!”

 

Papyrus dashed off and Alphys wiped her brow.

“What a sweetheart,” Mettaton said, and then whirled on Alphys with a worried expression. “So. Um. Frisk knows.”

“Huh?”

“She knows what I am. She knows who I am,” he said. “Did you tell her?”

“Wh-What?! No! No, of course I didn’t,” Alphys said. “Never! It’s… I-It’s not great for either of us if it c-comes out, right?”

“But she clearly knows,” he insisted. “I mean… She even told me to go visit Blooky. Which I did, by the way.”

“H-How was that?” Alphys asked.

“Lovely, actually, really wonderful. Wish I’d done it sooner, to be honest,” he said. “Anyway! Didn’t you notice? She covered for you at every turn.”

“Y-You think?”

“Every time anyone asked you a question about you actually creating me, little Frisky diverted right away,” he said.

“Oh. G-Good, I wasn’t imagining it,” Alphys rubbed her brow. “I… I guess I’ll ask her about it at s-some point.”

Mettaton nodded emphatically.

 

She sighed and went back to her workbench, pulling Frisk’s phone from her pocket. She looked at the old casing with the fanged chew-marks on it.

“Hah, it’s a-almost a pity to work on th-this thing, it could g-go in a museum,” she said.

“Or the dump,” Mettaton said.

“H-Hah! Don’t be like that. Add your number?” She handed it to him and he did so, and then Alphys added hers. “Only three numbers,” she mused.

“Hmm?” Mettaton leaned over her shoulder.

“O-Oh! It’s just, she only had three numbers saved before,” Alphys said.

“Snooping, are we?” Mettaton said.

“N-No! It’s just there!” she said. “Mom, and Papyrus, and she didn’t label this one… I don’t recognize it. Oh! Maybe it’s Sans!”

“You could always call it,” he suggested.

“Wh-What, no, I can’t just call random numbers in someone else’s phone! A-Anyway…” She put it down on the workbench. “This’ll just take a few seconds.”

 

Mettaton sat on the corner of the table, crossing one leg over the other and folding his arms. Alphys got her tools and sparked her magic in her hand— there was a loud commotion for maybe five seconds, and then she pulled back, wiping her brow. It was a simple process she’d done dozens of times.

“And there we go,” she said, flipping the screen cover back down over the retooled tool. “D-Dimension box, good. Touch-screen. T-Texting. Camera. UnderNet, too. G-Great. S-So, I’m thinking I’ll head, um… d-downstairs for a few minutes, th-then we can head back?”

“Oh, Alphie, actually, I’ve got a show to put on tonight, I’ve been showing the poor people reruns all day,” Mettaton laughed.

“Oh…” Alphys couldn’t contain her disappointment. “S-So… Okay.”

“Relax!” he said with a grin. “There is a human down here, after all, scheduling is going to be weird for a little while. I’ll pop in again soon.”

The lizard blushed a little and nodded.

 

Quite suddenly, the phone in her hand began to ring. She jumped, startled, and yelped, and fumbled with the it for a moment, until there was a beep.

“Hello?” a woman’s voice asked— the phone was on speaker.

Alphys froze. Mettaton looked at her with wide eyes.

“H… Hello? Is someone there?” the voice asked.

“Oh no!” Alphys squeaked. “Um… Uh… H-Hi…?”

“Hello? Who is this?” the woman asked.

“U-Um… Ummmm…” She covered the receiving end with her thumb. “What do I do?”

“Hang up!” Mettaton hissed.

“I c-can’t hang up, I—”

“Hello?” The voice was more insistent this time. “Is there someone there? Little one, can you hear me?”

 

As if on cue, Papyrus peeked at them from the escalator to their right, curiosity clear on his face. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Who’s that?”

Alphys and Mettaton froze.

“Uhhh…” Alphys said.

“There must be someone, I heard a voice,” the woman on the phone protested.

Papyrus’s face lit up. “Oh! Give it here.”

 

He rushed over and swiped the phone from Alphys before she could say a word. She froze in panic and Mettaton recoiled, eyes wide.

“Hello there! You’ve reached the phone of the little sister of the great Papyrus! She can’t come to answer right now. I am the great Papyrus, would you like to leave a message with me?”

There was silence on the other end, but the sound of room tone made it clear she had not hung up.

“Hello?” Papyrus repeated.

“Where…? Where is she?” the voice asked cooly. “The human child, where is she?”

“Oh! She’s at the house of Guard Captain Undyne, undoubtedly having a nice time with her and our brother,” Papyrus said. “We are just giving her phone a little upgrade right now, which is why I have it and she doesn’t.”

“Y-Your… brother.”

“Yes! Our older brother! Exactly,” he said.

“Oh… Oh.” The woman let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you. Papyrus, you said?”

“Exactly!” he replied.

“You must be Sans’s brother. It is good to hear you, he’s told me all about you,” she said.

“He has?!” Papyrus said. “Oh! You must be the lady behind the door! Which also means you’re… Oh! You’re mom!”

“Mom?” she repeated.

“Yes! She always calls you mom, right?” he said. “It’s so nice to hear from you! Were you calling because you were worried?”

“Well, uh… Yes, my child, but—”

“Ah! That’s so nice of you! But! Never fear, mom, for I, the great Papyrus, am becoming a fully qualified big brother! I already had many of the same responsibilities looking after Sans, so one more addition to the skeleton family is really no trouble at all!” he assured her quickly. “You don’t need to worry about her one bit.”

“Well… Hah. Thank you, my child,” she said gently. “Who were those other voices I heard?”

 

Though Alphys and Mettaton emphatically waved their arms and shook their heads, Papyrus didn’t seem to notice.

“Oh! Not to worry. That’s just Doctor Alphys, and Mettaton, the famous television personality,” he said. “Alphys seems to be quite the mechanical genius, so she’s the one who did the phone upgrade!”

“Ah.” The woman laughed. “Yes, I suppose the one I gave her was a bit out of date, wasn’t it?”

“Well, it certainly looks like it’s from a century ago,” Papyrus said with a laugh. “I’m surprised it works as well as it does! Good thing, too, or else we couldn’t even have this conversation right now!”

Alphys made a face— tried to wave at him to get him to cut it short, but he didn’t seem to catch it. He waved back at her and then strode to the other end of the room with the phone. The woman said something they didn’t quite hear and Papyrus cackled. Alphys shot Mettaton a look, raising her brows high. He shrugged.

 

- - -

 

When Frisk woke up, she was confused as to where she was until she saw a blue arm around her. She looked up and realized quickly that she was up against Undyne’s side, while she was reading what looked like a manga in one hand. Frisk looked at her for a while with a sense of worry building in her, especially as her conversation with Sans floated back into her memory. She hoped everything was okay, it had sounded pretty serious.

 

Undyne must’ve noticed her movement; she looked over and smiled. “Hey, kiddo, good nap?” she asked. “You’re a lot like Sans, huh? You just pass the heck out!”

“Y… Yeah,” she said bashfully. “Sorry about that.”

“No no, don’t be sorry,” she said. “You’re just a little kid! And you’ve really been through the ringer. I mean, damn, that stuff you told us about? That’s nuts. Do what you need to to keep going, you know? And tomorrow’s a big day.”

Frisk nodded and looked around. “Where is everyone?”

“Paps and Alph are on their way back from the lab right now, actually,” Undyne said.

Frisk stared back blankly. Undyne laughed.

“Jeez, you don’t even remember, huh?” she said. “I told Papyrus you were half asleep. They took your phone to update it. Think they finished up Mettaton’s new stuff, too. And Sans said he, uh, forgot something? Not sure when he’ll be back, though.”

Frisk nodded. Undyne tilted her head curiously, her ear-fins drooping a little.

“You okay, dude? You look like something’s bugging you?”

Frisk didn’t want to say. She shrugged and smiled weakly. “Just the usual.” She got up slowly and stretched. “I was thinking maybe I’d take a walk.”

“Oh, sure. Anyone gives you trouble out there…” Undyne punched her fist into her opposite palm and grinned. “Just tell them to take it up with me.”

 

- - -

 

Frisk wasn’t sure why, but she needed some time to think in the quiet. Something about what Undyne and Sans had talked about worried her deeply, but she couldn’t quite place it. She shoved her hands in her pockets. It was still too quiet out in the caverns, though. She hoped things would relax soon, she hated the idea that she was scaring people.

 

She also tried to brace herself— even the idea of letting her soul go was strange and ridden with anxiety. She didn’t know how to tell Sans that was what she intended. He definitely wouldn’t be keen on wrecking her, would he? It was good that Undyne would be there, though. Maybe she could convince her to do just a quick stab or something like that. Frisk sighed to herself. How weird was it to be planning her own death like that?

 

She found herself wishing, despite her better judgement, that she could still talk to Chara. Her involvement had caused a lot of this mess, but she knew exactly what giving her soul would be like. She still had some of her memories, a lot of things about Asriel, but Chara had never shared that at all. Frisk hoped she could hold herself together long enough for her soul to be taken at all— jumping back in time when she was hurt was a knee-jerk reflex for her. If she couldn’t stay steady, the whole plan was worthless.

 

As she wandered, she soon came upon a doorway cut into the wall. It took her a moment to remember, but she recalled that it was a shop. Her mind flickered over to crab-shaped apples, like she remembered an old monster sold down here. She sort of wanted one. She wondered if the owner was still hanging around— she certainly hoped so. She turned off into the dark hallway that lead deeper into a cavern until it opened up to a room glittering with crystals, pink and blue shining bright.

 

Breaking up the glitter was a heavyset form resting on a seat of stone, arms folded and head bent. Beside him was a small counter that seemed to have almost had stalagmites growing up around it, as if it had been there forever.

 

As soon as she got close, the monster in the chair raised his head, eyes shining a curious yellow back at her. She remembered him. He was an old monster, certainly the oldest-looking one she had ever met, but she suspected her mom might have been just as old, if not older. Name was Gerson, if she remembered right. A retired old warrior who had actually had a chance to live above ground all those years ago. Frisk recalled that he was once called the Hammer of Justice. In the present, though, he looked much more benign— a large turtle with the build that alluded to his past, now he dressed the part of what one would see of an archeologist on TV, and gave her a friendly smile.

 

“Whoa there! Here to buy some junk?” he asked.

Frisk checked her pockets. She nodded. “Do you still have, um… crab apples?”

“I do indeed!” He tossed her one in exchange for some of the magic coin she had in her hoodie. “Where’re you off to all alone?”

“Taking a walk,” Frisk said. “Not really going anywhere, I guess. Maybe one of the caves where you can really see all those crystals on the ceiling. I love that stuff.”

“Huh. Nice to see for a young person like yourself taking some time to slow down.” He gave her a knowing look as she bit into the apple. “Not out to cause trouble, are you?”

“Nope!” she assured him quickly.

He tilted his and rubbed his beard. “S’not quite like a surface apple, I’ll tell you that!” he said. “Should do alright, huh?”

She smiled and nodded. “Haven’t had fruit in days,” she admitted. “So much pasta.”

He guffawed and slapped his knee, then leaned closer to her with a curious stare.

 

“So. What brings you to my neck of the falls?” Gerson asked.

She smiled and pointed to the apple.

“Headin’ for our good old King?” he asked.

She shook her head. “I’d love to see him. But… not yet. Got some stuff I gotta do.”

“Very purposeful for such a little tyke!” he laughed. “If I had to guess, I’d say you’re… hmm… Maybe eight or nine, right?”

“Eleven,” she said.

He smiled. “Got plenty of time! Haven’t had another human down here since before you were born! About fifteen years ago, I’d say. Wasn’t quite so laid back as you, I’ll say that.”

“Oh… Yeah. My friend Undyne told me it was pretty bad,” Frisk said. “I figured that’s why monsters are so scared of me now, huh?”

 

When she met Gerson’s gaze, he couldn’t hide a look of shock. “You said Undyne’s friends with you?”

She nodded and, again, the old turtle burst out laughing. He grinned yellowed teeth back at her.

“That sounds like total nonsense,” he said, “but for some reason, I think you ain’t lying. That’s a nice surprise. Maybe she can finally mellow out a little, poor girl. Hope you don’t blame her for bein’ a bit on edge. Last human down here went on a rampage through Waterfall.” His tone was suddenly sullen.

Frisk gulped. “She mentioned it was bad. Wh… What happened? Did Asgore have to stop them?”

“Some kid in the lab in Hotland took it out, as far as I recall,” Gersen said. “But, you’re not like that one, are you? Nah, you haven’t hurt anybody at all, have you?” He got to his feet— he was huge. He put a leathery hand on her shoulder, but it was surprisingly reassuring. “Do me a favour? Let me feel your soul. There’s something I’d like to check.”

Frisk frowned with confusion, but she nodded.

 

His magic pricked her, and she let her soul glow bright red. The old monster’s eyes went wide. He put a hand to his mouth. He stared her down for a few moments, then nodded, and her glow died down.

“Thanks, kid,” he said. He tossed her another apple. “On the house.”

“You sure?” she asked.

“Be careful out there,” he said. “You’re a nice kid, huh? We can wait a few more years. Stick with Undyne. You’ll be alright.”

Frisk understood. She smiled a little. “Thanks a bunch. I appreciate it!”

 

The kid left with more on her mind than before, and an apple in her pocket. She continued on eastwards, where the grass and mushroom lit up at her touch in the dark. She tried to rehearse what she might say to Sans in her head, but nothing sounded anything more than crazy or dumb.

 

There was a path far beyond, the way lit by shimmering crystals and scattered lanterns, where the river ran, clear and dark, and Echo Flowers bounced wishes around the tunnel walls. The ceiling was high, giving way to what were stars to a monster’s eyes. Caught up in her own thoughts, Frisk didn’t notice Sans was there, back to a wall, until she almost ran right into him in the dark.

“Oh! Hi!” she said.

He didn’t seem surprised to see her, but he was quiet for a second long enough that she was uncertain.

“Oh. Sorry. Am I interrupting? I can go.”

“Nah. Don’t worry.” He turned his eyes up on the glittering ceiling. “Guess we, uh, had the same idea.”

Frisk nodded, then tilted her head up. “This was always one of my favourite places down here. It’s so pretty.”

“It’s nice,” Sans agreed.

“You come out here a lot?” she asked.

He shrugged. Frisk took that as a yes. He looked a little sullen. She wandered a little closer to him. Her voice caught in her throat for a moment. She gulped and tried again.

 

“Do you remember the stars?” she asked.

“Nope,” he said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But actually, I’m really excited for you guys, too. When you live up there, you kind of forget how amazing they are. I can’t wait for you to see them for the first time.”

“Huh. That’s, uh… That’s a pretty nice thought, actually,” Sans said.

“We called the new town Starhome, even,” she said, “because of the view near the mountain, and… Well, you’re gonna love it.” Her smile fell. She noticed his eyes had gone dark. “Hey. You okay? You want me to give you some space?”

 

He didn’t answer at first. Frisk couldn’t really blame him. She took a few steps back towards the path, but stayed to watch him for a moment, just in case.

“Hey.” His eyes focussed on her and they looked normal once more. “I guess, to be honest, I’m a little nervous.”

“Oh! Oh, okay. Yeah. I know. I mean, I figured.” She hurried over to stand beside him. “It’s not a normal thing. I mean, we’ve never done this before. At least, I haven’t, have you?”

“No. Never needed to,” he said. “Never even crossed my mind. Do you…? Uh… Do you know what happens? You saw the flower kid do it, right?”

“Well, you become a bit bigger and it does sorta change how you look,” she said, “and you might be able to fly. Definitely floating. And super powers.”

“But I’m not gonna stay like that, right?” he asked.

“No, of course not, I’ll pull us backwards the second we’re done. Or if anything goes weird. Which I don’t think it will, there isn’t really any reason for it to, right? I mean—”

“Kid, slow down,” Sans said with a tired laugh.

“Right. Right, yeah.” She took a deep breath. “Sorry.”

“I guess I… uh… I just wanna know I won’t hurt anybody,” he asked.

“Oh, no, of course not,” Frisk assured him. “It’s still you. The only reason Asriel went nuts was because he didn’t have a soul when he started and he wanted to hurt people. You’re not like that. You’ll be totally fine.”

“Oh. Okay,” he said.

“Don’t even worry, it’s not like a weird anime rage form or something. You’re gonna do great!” Frisk insisted. “I know it’s a big deal, but I really don’t think you have too much to worry about.”

“Still can’t really believe it has to be me,” he said. “If it could be Paps, or Undyne… Alphys, even. Any of them, really. You know, uh, an actual hero type person?”

“Well, um…” Frisk rubbed the back of her head and smiled bashfully. “I dunno, you’re kind of a hero type person.”

 

Sans grimaced. “Kid, I’m not… That’s not me. I don’t get it. I don’t get why you’re so…” He sighed and rubbed his brow. “Nothin’. Forget about it.”

“Sans…” Frisk’s heart thunked painfully.

He smiled, but his eyes had gone dark. “Heh. Sorry, kid, I guess you just confuse me sometimes. I’m nobody special. Might be hedgin’ your bets on the wrong guy, you know?” he said. “I mean… Heh. It’s kind of like a sick joke, ain’t it? You… You’re great, really. But here you are, the most powerful thing in the universe. And you’re forced to rely on a guy like me. Doesn’t seem fair, I bet.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and made to go back, but he was startled still when Frisk grabbed onto the back of his coat.

 

“S-Sans, wait. Don’t. Please don’t,” she said. “H-How can you think that? You’re the one who watched out for me when it would have been way easier not to. I was just some dumb lost kid, n-never meant a thing to anyone, you know? Y-You went so far outta your way for me. As far as you knew, I c-couldda been the worst, and still, you’ve always been nice. And you’re so smart. And your dumb jokes, I love them. I… I like everything about you.” Her grip on his coat tightened. She hiccoughed a tiny, weak laugh. “M-Maybe this sounds weird, b-but… but you were the first person in my whole life that… that I could really always c-count on, you know? Th-Through all this time travel whatever, it… it was… only you.” Her voice was breaking.

He flinched. “C’mon, kid, that’s not… That can’t be right.”

“I-It is! Without you, I’d n-never have… I’d go t-totally crazy. I… I’m just so sorry,” she said quietly. “When I thought I l-lost you, at the start of this? Like, if you didn’t ever remember me at all? I d-don’t know how I would’ve ever come back from that. Y-You’re, like, my b-best friend and…! A-And you’re my brother. I wanted you to be my brother, s-so bad. And I really love you, okay!? I th-think you’re r-really cool and I… I think you’re really brave. M-Maybe you don’t think you’re a h-hero guy, but for me you are. Isn’t that enough?”

 

He grimaced. He felt his voice catch. When he turned to look at her, she wiped her eyes on her hand, but the streaks of tears were clear on her cheeks. She stared back at him with such conviction, it was almost funny. He didn’t know what to say; she hugged him tightly without saying a word. His posture sagged a little and his hands were shaking when he put them on her shoulders. It took him a moment to regain himself, but then he knelt down to look her in the face and used his sleeve to wipe her tears.

“Kiddo?” he said. “Thanks. You know, I think we’re gonna be just fine.”

“Y-You sure?” she asked. “You’re okay?”

“Yup.”

She hugged him around the shoulders. He cautiously held her, but was startled still when she gave him a soft kiss on the cheekbone. His chest tightened, and he puffed out a sigh. He couldn’t help but hold her a little closer.

“I, uh… I didn’t know you felt like that,” he admitted.

“Pffft, of c-course I do. Sheesh…” She sniffled. “Ugh, I’m sorry for th-the trip to d-drama town, I just… I just needed you to know that.”

 

She took a deep breath and went limp in his arms for a moment. To his relief, he heard her let out a quiet, shaking laugh. She pulled back and stared at him straight in the eye with a weird sort of certainty about her.

“You’re never getting rid of me,” she said.

He ruffled her hair. “Good.” He grinned. “Gonna stop cryin’?”

She shook her head but smiled anyway, and he snickered and straightened up.

“Time to go back?” he asked.