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Just Cause

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As the human came wandering back to his Waterfall sentry station, still looking slightly dazed by their recent ordeal, Sans wasn’t sure whether to feel sympathetic or amused.

Probably both. He’d known that his brother had some strange ideas about how relationships worked, and a few of the child’s misconceptions had broken his attempts to eavesdrop in silence. But from what Papyrus had told him, the encounter had seemed to upset his guest more than he’d expected.

The perpetual optimist, of course, had interpreted this as romantic disappointment, born of the newcomer’s deep obsession with him, but Sans couldn’t help but suspect that their agitation had a lot more to do with a few of the lines he’d heard through the walls.

That, and the fact that being in a place where fifty percent of everyone and their dogs were trying to kill you was probably a recipe for some pretty raw nerves.

The brown-haired wanderer was moving toward him now, pausing briefly beside the echo flower before padding up to the front of his station. “Heya, kiddo,” he greeted them, and they gave him a small, relieved smile in return.

“Hi, Sans.”

Man, they look like they just crawled onto an island after almost drowning. “How’d your date with Papyrus go?”

“Uhhh…” From the look on their face, they were still trying to figure that out. “Okay? I guess? I mean, I think we’re friends now, and he was happy that I ate some of his spaghetti even though it tasted like old bananas, and we didn’t have to do the naked petting in bed thing that people do in movies-”

Holy-

“-and I don’t think he’s planning to capture me anymore, so… I guess it went all right?”

“Uhhhhhhh….” Who the heck raised this kid, and what were they thinking with their movie choices? “Yeah, that, uh… sounds like a good date. So, you’re friends now, huh?”

“I…” Their face fell, then their hesitant eyes rose to meet his. “I think so? I mean, he doesn’t like me as much as he tried to even though he tried really hard, but he still said we were friends, and he said he wanted to help me, so, I guess so? I mean…”

Fearful earnestness shone in their face, drawing a fresh wave of the pity this poor kicked puppy of a kid so often inspired. “I want to be friends with him, even though I’m still kind of scared of him, but what if he decides he wants to capture me again?

“Or, what if he wants something else, and he thinks he has to beat me up again to get it? He did it before, so maybe he’ll do it again, and I don’t think friends are supposed to do that, but I don’t know, because I’ve never really HAD friends before, so I just… I don’t… I just don’t know.”

Their short fingers twisted together, and they stared up at him with pleading, questioning eyes. “Do friends beat each other up to get what they want?”

Never had friends? That would explain a few things, but wow… this poor kid. “Uh, not generally. So, now that you’re friends, my brother’s not likely to beat you up again.”

Their shoulders slumped with relief, and Sans briefly debated adding that that rule didn’t always apply to people who made friends with Undyne.

A moment later, he decided against it. Undyne wasn’t likely to make friends with a human, especially not with the rumors he was starting to hear about monsters dying in the Ruins. There hadn’t been many casualties, but for Undyne, one would be enough, and he doubted she would care that it had probably been self-defense.

Whatever the reason for the killings, the victims were monsters she’d sworn to protect, and she couldn’t forgive their killer any more than she could forgive her own failure to prevent their deaths.

If only she knew that none of those deaths were likely to be permanent. Sans wasn’t sure whether that would make it better or worse, and he didn’t relish the thought of her reaction to her own time-looped futility.

All this passed though his mind in the space of a breath – and then, as if summoned by his thoughts, a distant, rhythmic clanking sent pins down his spine. “You’d better get going,” he warned the child. “I think I hear Undyne coming, and if she finds you here, well… you’ll have to sit through more of my hilarious jokes, and I could lose my job.”

And you could lose your life, at least temporarily. But you already look scared enough without me stating the obvious.

Sure enough, the child gave a quick nod, then stepped away from the station, only to jump with a sharp gasp as a young monster in a striped shirt appeared behind them.

“Yo!” the small yellow reptile chirped. “Are you sneaking out to see her, too?”

“Uhhh…” The human hesitated, as if wondering whether the other kid would report them if they realized what they were. “I guess… I’ll probably see her… at some point?”

Oblivious to the stranger’s fear, the monster child perked up. “Awesome! She’s the coolest, right!? I wanna be just like her when I grow up! Hey, don’t tell my parents I’m here. Haha.”

Concern flared across the human’s face, and they held up their hands in a reassuring gesture. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell them. Nobody’s gonna die because I saw you here.”

HOLY-

As the yellow-scaled youth laughed off the idea that anyone would die if they were discovered, and assured their new companion that they’d merely be grounded, Sans stared at the confused newcomer in masked horror.

Who the heck raised this kid, and what were they thinking with their child discipline choices? 

No wonder the poor squirt’s so skittish and pessimistic. And no freaking wonder they were willing to go to a place where humans are known for disappearing. If I were raised in a place like that, I’d want to take Papyrus and disappear, too.


The sound of distant footsteps caught his attention, and he waved to get the children’s attention. “Hey, kids?”

“Yeah?” they asked in tandem, and Sans gestured toward the source of the sound. “Sounds like my bro’s about to have his meeting with Undyne. If you want to see her” - or sneak past her - “now’s probably the time.”

“All right!” The armless child did a small hop of joy, then sprang forward. “Yo! Let’s go-OOOH!”

A lunge from the human came just too late to catch the falling reptile, but the clumsy youth was quick to pry their face off the ground and scramble down the path. “Come on, we don’t want to miss her.”

“Okay. Go ahead. I’ll catch up.”

As the young monster sprinted down the path at face-endangering speeds, the brown-haired child cast a nervous, questioning glance at Sans, as if seeking permission, reassurance or advice.

Why do I get the feeling I’m halfway down the path to being adopted as a replacement for the worst parents ever? “You should get going,” he suggested. “My bro will keep her busy for at least a few minutes – this is probably your best chance to get avoid a warm, welcoming suplex.”

His suggestion was answered with a quick, trembling nod, then the child darted down the path, moving with the quick, quiet footsteps of a person who was accustomed to trying to pass through the world unnoticed.

He wondered how long they would succeed. And if, in the grand time-looping scheme of things, it mattered if they did.


~*~*~*~


As the forest of tall grass closed around them, wrapping them in a hidden embrace of deep shadows and swaying pillars of green, Frisk wasn’t sure whether to feel reassuringly protected, or exposed beyond all hope of hiding.

As long as they stayed perfectly still, they were invisible to cruel, merciless world. But the slightest movement would send ripples of treachery through the loose foliage, betraying them to every eye and ear that wanted them dead.

And those eyes and ears were coming.

With every harsh, metallic footstep, their heart raced faster, as if begging their feet to match its desperate speed. Their hands trembled, and they wished they dared move enough to let one set of fingers twist around the other.

The awful rhythm rang on the ledge above them, so close they were sure their thundering heart would draw the monster’s wrath down on them.

The footsteps clanked to a halt.

The child’s chest clenched into a lung-crushing fist, screaming for the air it refused to inhale. Their brain turned into humming fog, swirling in their skull and threatening to topple them in a roar of displaced grass that would surely bring the world’s jaws crushing down on them.

A new set of footsteps tapped the edge of the haze, and they tried to cling to it. The sound was familiar, but the rhythm was more timid than they’d ever heard it before. Papyrus, they realized with a rush of fresh adrenaline, and he’s scared.

Do I need to protect him? Should I? He isn’t fragile like Dash – he’s probably tougher than I am, and the tougher one is the one who distracts angry people, right? But if he’s in trouble because he let me go… then I need to save him.


The thought made their hands shake harder, but the constricting knot in their chest unwound, and something in them swelled and rose to meet the challenge. No longer terrified prey too helpless to avoid getting hurt, but a warrior who accepted their wounds while nobly defending another.

The fog in their mind cleared, and Papyrus’ stammering voice, which had been muted by their panic’s roar, was suddenly sharp and loud.

“W-WHAT?!”

The shrill exclamation jerked Frisk’s face toward the meeting, and they flinched at the slight rustle of grass. To their relief, the grownups didn’t notice, and the child craned their neck in an effort to see over the stone ledge that partly blocked their view of the encounter.

Through the curtain of greenery, Papyrus’ head was barely visible. His face was drenched in shadow, but his strained tone was a heart-twisting echo of their own many failed attempts to talk cruel adults down.

“You’re going to take the human’s soul yourself?!”

Oh, NO. The child shrank, desperate to sink lower into the grass, but afraid to send the slightest ripple through the treacherous blades. There’s already a person here who can do that? Is that… Asgore?

“But Undyne, you don’t h-have to destroy them!”

He’s trying to protect me? Their heart’s sodden rhythm quickened into something high and hopeful. He really… is a grownup who wants to protect me? Even from someone as scary as her?

“You see…” Papyrus’ gaze flicked away from Undyne, then returned to her stern, armored face, his voice faltering with embarrassed uncertainty as he awkwardly echoed, “You see…”

The metal-clad figure turned sharply toward him, and the skeleton backed away. Energy sang through Frisk’s limbs in preparation for battle, and their legs bent slightly, old habits driving them to the verge of springing into the open to divert the coming attack.

Undyne was speaking quietly now, her voice too low for Frisk to catch the words. Papyrus sagged, his eyes and shoulders slumping toward the floor, and his voice wilted along with his stance. “I understand.”

The human’s heart sank along with his tone. Did I really think he could talk her out of it?

At least he tried. And at least he isn’t helping her to-


“I’ll help you in any way I can.”

Frisk’s train of thought plunged into an abyss, thoughts colliding and crumbling into pieces as the words sank in. Their breath froze, and even their pulse seemed to slow, as if their heart had seen the futility of its job and given up on beating.

He’s going to help her kill me. No, worse than that – he’ll help her take my soul.

The tense readiness drained from their legs, threatening to let them fall and reveal their presence to their enemy and could-have-been friend. Their breath shuddered back into motion, trembling as their overwrought body shook, and tears stung the backs of their eyes as they bit the inside of their cheek to try to keep from crying.

He’s going to… I thought we were friends, but now he’s going to help her kill me.

I’m so stupid. I keep on thinking people aren’t going to hurt me, even though… even though…

Dash…

You were right… you were always right, and I didn’t want to admit it – I really do believe in people too much.

But you believed in monsters, too… you thought if we could just get here, we’d be okay, but now…


A sob shook their body, and the grass around them rustled. A second sob lurched through their chest, and they nearly raised a hand to wipe their eyes.

A quick, harsh clanking stabbed through their senses, and a sharp gasp jolted through them as armored footsteps pounded toward the edge of the wall.

A vicious flare of teal seared through the darkness, and Frisk found themselves staring, transfixed, at a baleful yellow eye as the monster formed a glowing spear in her clenched hand.

She sees me. She knows where I am, I’m going to die… Their spinning thoughts blurred into a silent scream, almost drowning out the knowledge that their death would steal only a few minutes of progress, not their entire future.

I don’t know how to get past this part. Will I end up listening to Papyrus betray me, over and over and over?

Their heartbeat was so loud. Undyne could surely hear it. And even if she couldn’t, she knew they were there. She knew they were there.

Don’t breathe. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t let the sobs make noise. Their hands clenched into fists and pressed tight against their body, trying to keep their trembling silent. If she throws the spear or moves forward, RUN.

The spear blazed. Their vision darkened. The world held its breath.

Undyne glanced to her left, then her right, as if there were any chance Frisk had somehow managed to slip away.

Then with a sharp, harsh flick of her wrist, the spear shattered into shards of swiftly fading light, and Undyne backed away, melting into the impenetrable shadows before fading into the darkness. As her body vanished, that one horrible eye seemed to gleam by itself for a few eerie seconds, and then it, too, vanished with the rest of her.

For a few long, breathless seconds, Frisk stood frozen in the grass, waiting for the flare of a baleful eye, or the clank of armored footsteps announcing their doom.

A few inches behind them, someone breathed.

The child exploded into motion, bursting out of the concealing foliage and into the horrible exposure of the open air. Behind them, footsteps matched their pace – not the deep, harsh clank of Undyne’s armor, but a small, light pattering.

Frisk glanced back, then stumbled to a halt, watching as a familiar yellow figure jogged excitedly in a circle before stopping abruptly to stare at them.

“Yo,” the reptilian child exclaimed, “did you see the way she was staring at you? That…” their chest puffed, and their eyes shone even brighter… “was AWESOME! I’m SOOOO jealous! What’d you do to get her attention?”

What did I do?! If I’d ever had an answer to that, I would’ve stopped years ago! Frisk’s fingers tried to crush their thumbs, and it was all they could do to keep their tone neutral as they forced an “I don’t know” through gritted teeth.

All this stuff people keep putting me through… is it just because I’m human? No, that wouldn’t explain how my life was before I came here.

Was it just for being 
me?

Unaware of their thinly veiled pain, the young monster gave a quick, excited chuckle. “C’mon! Let’s go watch her beat up some bad guys!”

That’s easy for you to say.

As the other child lurched into motion, faceplanting painfully and then stumbling upright and racing ahead, Frisk tried in vain to stop their hands from shaking.

You don’t have to worry about getting hurt by anyone but yourself. You think Undyne beating people up is fun, because you aren’t the one getting beaten. And you didn’t just find out that one of the only friends you thought you had is going to help her kill you.

You said you were jealous of me, but I’d give both of my arms for my life to be like yours. At least I wouldn’t need them to fight anymore.

Dash…


A soft, whimpering moan trickled into the cold, damp air, and at last, the tears began to spill freely from their burning eyes.

I wish you were here. I mean, I don’t. You thought if we could get here, we’d be okay, but you… you believed in monsters too much. You thought there was a place where people weren’t as horrible, where we would be safe, but now… now…

A shudder ran through them, shaking their small body like a pair of violent hands. Maybe you’re the lucky one? You only had to die once. So maybe you’re better off where you are, but… I still wish you were here.

I don’t know how to feel.


A sob shook their tired body, and Frisk leaned against the cold cave wall, clutching their sides in a desperate, comfortless hug. Even if this place is awful, and I wouldn’t want you to go through this… you didn’t want to die. You shouldn’t have died. You deserved better. And I don’t want other people to die like you did, so I guess…

A deep, reluctant breath dragged into their quivering chest, and their entire body shuddered as the air made its escape.

No matter how hopeless everything feels, I have to keep going.


~*~*~*~


Frisk had never thought the sound of a phone ringing could be so infuriating. In the past, it had merely made them curious about a device they weren’t allowed to use, but now, it made them want to throw the tiny machine into the water beside the flower bridge they’d just finished assembling.

But throwing tantrums had only ever made things worse, so with gritted teeth, they brought the phone to their ear. “Hello?”

“Hello! This is Papyrus!!!”

“Oh. You.” Their fingers clenched, and torrent of angry, pained betrayal lodged in the back of their throat, demanding to spill from their mouth.

I should yell at him. I WANT to yell at him. But that might make him try harder to kill me, so now I have to be POLITE, and… UGH. I shouldn’t have given him my… wait… “How did you get this phone number?”

I bet it was some kind of magic.

“How did I get this number? It was easy!!! I just dialed every number sequentially until I got yours!!! Nyeh heh heh heh!!”

…Oh. That makes sense. I think. I wonder how many numbers are there.

“So,” the skeleton’s voice interrupted their musing, “what are you wearing? I’m asking for a friend. She thought she saw you wearing a faded ribbon.”

The words stabbed through their chest like a serrated magic spear, and Frisk’s fingers tightened around the phone so hard that a corner of their mind began to fear that they might break it.

Of course. He’s helping her. Because that’s what you do when you’re actually friends with someone.

“Is it true? Are you wearing a faded ribbon?”

As if I’d tell you. I have no idea whether this will help, but at least I can try. “No. I’m not.”

“So you aren’t wearing a faded ribbon… got it! You’re my friend, so I trust you one hundred percent! Have a nice day!”

As the line went dead, a sharp-legged spider of guilt crawled through Frisk’s gut, but they quickly stomped it down.

No. He’s probably lying about trusting me. And even if he isn’t, I can’t trust him.

I don’t know if I can trust anyone down here. Or anywhere else.


~*~*~*~


So that’s why they all hate me.

The further Frisk walked through Waterfall, the more their soul twisted into a knot of tangled emotions.

The wishing room had left them conflicted, guilt haunting the corners of their mind as they listened to the whispered hopes of a monster who longed to see the stars. A prisoner whose wish could be granted by their death.

And now, the room after it was giving them a clarity that part of them wished they didn’t have.

Toriel said not to let them take my soul. Now I know why. Monsters are already scary and strong – it still seems weird that I’m supposedly stronger than them, but if I am, then how much scarier could a monster be if it had my soul?

And yet, to them… humans are even scarier, aren’t we?


Images flickered on the edge of their mind, glaring eyes and big, rough hands that moved at frightening speeds. Their own hand rose to their face to rub a phantom bruise, and a shudder shook their small body. I guess I can see why. Some humans are terrifying.

And I’m just a kid – a kid with a soul that’s probably really weak for a human’s. But I still killed all three Vegetoids, even though they were teaming up. If I can do that, then what could a bunch of human grownups do to monsters?


A soft, furry face flickered through their mind, followed closely by a smiling skull.

I wonder if Toriel and Sans were afraid of me. They didn’t seem like it. But Sans was always watching closely – I wonder if he was scared I’d kill his brother.

The larger skeleton’s face flashed through their mind in a surge of bitter pain, and their fingernails bit into their palms.

I don’t want to think about him right now. I’m still mad at him.

But maybe…


Their face fell, and their shoulders slumped beneath the weight of their thoughts. Maybe I don’t have the right to be. I am a human, after all. To monsters, I’m the enemy. I’ve already killed people. And Papyrus already gave up his chance to catch me and get into the Royal Guard.

I guess I don’t have the right to expect any more of him. Still, I… I just…


Tears stung their eyes again, and their next breath shuddered violently as it passed through their chest. Their mind groped for the words to make sense of the vice of feelings that was crushing their heart, but nothing in their weary head could truly describe it.

What was there to say, in a world where the best they could hope for was for people to stop attacking them directly, and merely help others to attack them instead?

The ground lurched softly under them, and Frisk spread their arms for balance as the watercraft they hadn’t realized they’d stepped onto slid into motion, gliding inexorably across the inky stretch of water that broke the path in two.

It bumped gently against the opposite shore, and they stepped onto land, then glanced at the small vessel.

It was drifting away. Leaving them alone in the dark, dangerous world, with nowhere to go but forward, into a place where people like them should not exist.

As they forced their hesitant feet to move, an invisible tide of fear pushed against them, instinct gripping them with urgent hands and struggling to hold them in place.

Don’t go.

I have to.

It’s dangerous.

Everywhere is.


With an act of sheer determination, the child forced themselves to keep walking, their heart pounding harder as a row of old, crumbling pillars appeared on their left side.

Their mind’s warning whispers rose to a scream, and a flicker of blue light above and ahead of them made them jolt to a halt, just in time to avoid the blaze of violent energy that slammed into the ground at their feet.

Light exploded in their face, and their own panicked cry sliced across their ears as their eyes darted frantically in search of the attacker.

There, on the left – a familiar, dreaded suit of armor was emerging from the shadows, all cold gleams and jagged metal teeth, lit by a single golden eye that shone with unreserved hate.

Frisk’s feet flew in a desperate rush, a small scream ringing across the stone as a trio of spears lunged toward them. One of the attacks grazed their back, but instead of the expected flash of pain, the weapon burst into the familiar white flare of the battle box, confining them in the path of a sudden hail of magic blades.

One of the attacks sliced across their arm, and this time it hurt as much as they’d feared it would.

Then suddenly they were free again, and a wave of fresh panic carried them into a headlong charge, interspersed by sudden, skidding stops whenever a wave of spears looked like it was aimed for the path ahead of them.

She’s going to kill me, I’m going to die! Why is she attacking me? I’m not even wearing the ribbon! Did she see the rest of my outfit?

Now she knows what I look like. I can’t escape, she’ll just find me ag-AAAH!


Another glancing blow, another brief imprisonment amid a rain of pointed bullets. Frisk’s heart seemed bent on escaping their chest, and its attempts to break through their rib cage grew faster and heavier as they took another blow and continued their stumbling, frantic dash down the zigzagging path.

I have to get away, there has to be something I can hide in- ah!

A patch of tall grass came into view, and a glimmer of hope pierced the panicked haze that had clouded the injured child’s mind.

If I can just get in there, maybe I can find a corner of it she won’t look in.

No, that’s stupid – the grass will move when I do, so she’ll still find me, but…

It’s the only thing left to try.


The grass whipped their hands and face as they rushed into it, and their eyelids snapped down to protect their eyes from the lashing blades.

Behind them, Undyne’s cold, metallic footsteps drew closer, clanking in a sharp, inexorable rhythm as the warrior closed in. Frisk crouched lower in the thick greenery, struggling to quell their breathless panting and fearing that the thundering of their heart would guide her spears straight to it.

Those ominous footfalls stopped, and Frisk pressed their lips together tightly, crushing a whimper as something plunged into the grass just a few feet to their left. Their hands clenched into fists, and they held their breath as something beside them rose above the obscuring veil of greenery.

No. Not something. Someone. Someone small, yellow, and beaming with ignorant glee as an armored hand suspended them in midair.

Monster kid?! OH NO. The pounding of their heart intensified until it threatened to drown out everything, and in the blurring haze of their vision, the other child was the only thing that stayed clear. Their fists tightened, and their legs tensed with the familiar readiness to dart between an adult and another child.

She saw them here, and now she’s gonna be mad. She’s gonna hurt them, or tell their parents, and who knows what their parents will do to them!

Should I distract her? If I do, can we both get away? Should I… hold on, she’s … putting them down, and… leaving?


The footsteps were slower and heavier this time, as if the frustrated monster was stomping slightly with every step. Frisk waited until the sound had completely faded into the distance, then slowly, tentatively crept out of the relative safety of the grass.

A rustle behind them sent a bolt of cold electricity down their spine and through their heart, and they whipped around, their arms shrinking protectively against their body as the monster child skittered into view. The reptile’s legs scrambled wildly in an ecstatic little jig, spinning them in an exuberant circle before turning to the human.

“Yo… did you see that!? Undyne just… TOUCHED ME! I’m never washing my face ever again! Man, are you unlucky. If you were standing just a LITTLE bit to the left…”

Then I’d be dead. Again. Because I’m not lucky like you.

At least I was lucky enough not to die. Now that I’ve gotten past Undyne-


“Yo, don’t worry! I’m sure we’ll see her again!”

And with that, the child ran away in a blur of cheerful oblivion, blessedly ignorant of the wave of sick, heavy dread their words had left behind.


~*~*~*~


There were many things Dash had always said he liked about Frisk. One of those things was the ability to find a hint of light no matter how dark things got.

Even in this terrible place, where hostility and death lurked around every corner, and mocking hopes of friendship dissolved into betrayal, there was still a chance that the mouse might get the ancient cheese out of the magic crystal, and there was still a small, familiar shape standing by a telescope.

The sight of Sans brought a wave of relief Frisk had never thought they’d feel in the presence of an adult, and their tired, stumbling legs all but ran across the distance between the ominous events behind them and the oasis of peace ahead.

The skeleton greeted them with his usual smile, and as they mirrored his expression, the tension drained from their body so fast that they almost collapsed.

Can I stay here?

The inner voice was a toddler’s pleading whimper, and their eyes burned with rising tears. Can I hug you and hide my face in your shoulder, and spend just a few minutes pretending almost everyone else I spend time with doesn’t want to kill me?

For just a moment, they almost did it. They took a final step toward their friend, their hands lifting slightly in search of the longed-for embrace.

But what if he doesn’t like it?

The thought froze their arms in place, fear and uncertainty dissolving their smile as their feet faltered to a halt. What if he gets mad at me for hugging him when he’s busy? I should at least find out if he’s already doing something first.

“A-are you looking through the telescope?” they asked, and he gestured toward the device.

“Nah. But I’m thinking of getting into the telescope business,” he explained. “It’s normally fifty thousand gold to use this premium telescope, but…” His grin widened, finally reaching his eyes. “Since I know you, you can use it for free. Howzabout it?”

“Um… okay.” I don’t think I’ll be able to see the stars any better with it, since they aren’t really stars and they’re just a few feet away, but I’m not going to say no to one of the few people who’s nice to me being nice. “Thanks.”

As they bent over to look through the telescope, a silent scream thundered through their instincts and jabbed a wave of icy needles down their back. Sans had been benign so far, but for all the relief they’d felt in his presence, turning their back on any living being still felt painfully unsafe.

It’s okay, the child tried to reassure themselves. If he kills me, I’ll come back to life in the crystal cheese room, and I’ll know not to turn my back to him again.

Or to trust him.
 The thought dropped a sad, sinking weight into the pit of their stomach, and for a moment, as their face approached the telescope’s eyepiece, they blamed the dull redness of the view on their burning, nearly-closed eyes.

Then they blinked back the tears, and the redness didn’t go away. They pressed their face harder against the device, trying to see better, only to jerk back as something sticky touched their skin. “Aah!”

“Something wrong?” Sans asked, sounding almost genuinely concerned, and Frisk pawed at their face, trying to remove the colored stickiness that clung to their cheek and eyebrow.

“I couldn’t see the stars, and then it grabbed my face.”

The skeleton made a small jolting sound, as if the beginnings of a laugh had collided with the backs of his teeth and been denied an exit. “Well, if you aren’t satisfied, don’t worry.” He winked. “I’ll give you a full refund.”

A refund? I’ve never gotten one of those before. How do I…?

“Okay. Um… thanks. Though, I didn’t pay anything… so is this kind of like a game where I pretend to go to the store? Should I pretend to put the refund in my pocket?”

The monster’s eyes sparked with amusement, and he held out his hand. “Sure, why not?”

The child reached to take the imaginary money, then slid it into their pocket, trembling inside as their hand passed through the nearly empty space. Nothing but a Nice Cream. If Undyne corners me into a real fight, I’ll die so many times.

I wish I hadn’t wasted so many healing items on Papyrus. I should’ve just killed myself and gone back to before I did that. It would’ve meant fewer deaths in the long run.


“Hey, why the long face? Was some of the refund missing?”

“Huh? N-no, I…”

The distant sound of metal footsteps sent a cold rush of horror through them, and their spine stiffened and their shoulders hunched as if, by making themselves small and still, they could escape from the coming torture. “I’m sorry. I have to go.”

The whisper of their quick, soft footsteps on the stone seemed to resound through the entire mountain, and dread hovered in their chest as they slipped into the next hall, silently praying that nobody would follow them. 


~*~*~*~


If it weren’t for the ominous darkness, and the even more ominous knowledge of Undyne’s existence lurking in the corners of Frisk’s mind, Waterfall might have been peaceful and beautiful.

As it was, the slick, lustrous black cavern seemed full of prowling shadows, and the luminous blue of the water reminded them all too much of the spear that had accompanied their tormentor’s burning glare.

The handful of nice creams they’d bought in the side cave brought a glimmer of reassurance, but the comforting presence of the healing items didn’t stop them from flinching when the ring of their phone threatened to draw the attention of everything in range of its high, melodic shriek.

Fumbling frantically, Frisk brought the device to their ear, cringing as it rang a second time before they remembered to press the “talk” button.

“Hello?” they said quietly, silently begging whoever was on the other end of the line not to speak loudly enough to help Undyne find them.

“HELLO!” The explosion of noise made their chest clench with an electric shock of fear, and they glanced around hastily while the voice continued, “This is Papyrus!!! Remember when I asked you about clothes?”

Of course I remember. Their fingernails dug into their palm, and their knuckles turned white. I remember you pretending I finally had a friend in this horrible place. I remember being stupid enough to believe you.

I remember you betraying me.


For a moment, they considered hanging up on him, and possibly throwing their phone into the water for good measure.

But that would leave the words that were coiling like snakes in their chest unsaid, writhing and thrashing until they devoured Frisk from the inside. Papyrus was big and could be scary, but he wasn’t here. Maybe, for once, they could tell a grownup what they really thought without fear of paying the price.

“Yeah,” they responded sourly, letting their bitter resentment show in their voice. “I-”

“Well, the friend who wanted to know… her opinion of you is very… murdery.”

Yes, and you were going to help her. Why are you even telling me this?! Again they gathered their thoughts into words, and again, Papyrus started talking before they could give those words a voice.

“Well, worry not dear human! Papyrus would never betray you!”

But-

“You said you were NOT wearing a faded ribbon. So of course I actually told her you were indeed wearing a faded ribbon.”

With that, the angry words disappeared, leaving stunned silence in their wake. He… wasn’t trying to help her kill me?

The skeleton’s downcast voice continued to drift through the phone, this time muted with guilt. “It pained me to tell such a boldfaced lie. But…” His mercurial spirits instantly brightened, along with his tone. “Since you aren’t wearing a ribbon, she surely won’t attack you! Now you are safe and sound.”

Burning tears swelled and stabbed at the backs of Frisk’s eyes, and a small, wavering smile made its way onto their face. “Thanks,” they managed, forcing the word out through a throat gone thick. “I… I didn’t think anybody was going to help me like that. I thought…”

No… maybe he doesn’t need to know.

I hope he doesn’t get in trouble for this.
 “Will you be okay? I mean, is she going to hurt you when she finds out?”

“Of course not! The great Papyrus is far too likable and beloved for Undyne to do such a thing. Wowie… now I feel even worse for lying to her. This is hard. I just want to be everybody’s friend.”

This is such a different world from the one I’m used to. I would’ve thought he’d be unconscious after she was done with him.

Still, he sounds really upset. I hope I can fix that.
 “It’s okay, though, isn’t it? I mean, you said Undyne isn’t going to hurt you, so that means she still likes you, right? And I like you too, so you’re still being friends with both of us.”

“Wowie, you’re right! No wonder we’re friends – you’ve very good at this!”

Frisk’s reassuring smile, which they’d pasted on their face despite the fact that Papyrus couldn’t see it, faltered. “I don’t think I’m really that good at it. At least, not as good as you. Most of the people you meet don’t try to kill you, so you’re better at making friends than I am.”

“That’s true! I mean, of course it is – I am the great Papyrus, after all. It’s only natural that I should be the best at everything. But don’t worry! I’m sure you’ll get better at making friends. After all, you have Papyrus to teach you! Nyeh heh heh!”

“Yeah, I guess so. So, um… do you think there’s a way to make friends with Undyne?”

“Hm…” Papyrus paused, as if the gears in his mind were spinning. “That’s a tough question. Well, Undyne loves battles, so maybe you should engage her in combat! That’s the best way to get people to open up to you!”

“It is?” Is that why they keep attacking me? “Uh… maybe monsters are different from humans that way? When people attack me, it makes me not want to talk to them.”

“Really? Wowie! You must be in a state of complete culture shock, then! But don’t worry! Just call me anytime, and I’ll be happy to give you guidance.”

“OK. Thanks.”

“No problem! Anytime!”

As the line went dead, the silence left a pool of relief and resignation rippling in Frisk’s soul.

It sounded like a clash with Undyne was probably inevitable, and they didn’t relish the thought. Even if it did end well, they weren’t sure how they felt about the idea of making friends with a person who had tried to kill them on purpose.

But maybe, if they could engage her in combat properly and bring this hunt to a conclusion, this horrible, lurking fear and dread could finally come to an end.