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You Monster

Chapter Text

Light. A shaft of amber sunshine illuminates the bed of golden flowers where you lay in an otherwise completely dark room. Pollen drifts and dances in the sunbeam, catching and reflecting it like glitter, and settling on your skin and clothes, giving you a faint yellow tinge.

Why you are laying in a patch of flowers, you can’t remember. You also can’t remember where you are, how you got here, or what you had been doing prior. Normally a realization like this would have alarmed you, or at the very least caused you a great deal of concern if it were not for the fact that you were in a tremendous amount of pain.

Your head hurts. A lot. Why and how are a mystery to you, but you do know one thing- your arm is also twisted funny to make your hand snag in your hair, and you are laying on that too and it also hurt a considerable deal. At least you didn’t think it was broken.

You try to get up, or at least roll over to relieve your shoulder from bearing all of your weight, but it might as well have been impossible. Each of your limbs feels like they are encased in cement and your brain can’t get more than one to move at a time, much less in tandem. After what feels like hours of straining in quicksand, you manage to roll from your side to your stomach and pull your hand free from your tangled hair. You let gravity drop it in front of your face and spend several minutes struggling to comprehend why it was coated with warm, red fluid.

That… that's blood, right? Your blood. Why are you bleeding? Did you fall? Were you attacked?

“Golly, that was some fall you had!” A chipper voice says somewhere in front of you. You try to pinpoint the source, but your eyes refuse to go into focus and leave you seeing double.

“And of all the ways you could have landed, you had to land directly on your head, didn’t you?” You detect motion about a foot from your face, but you can’t see anything apart from petals. You try in vain to imagine who is speaking to you, but it's too much of an effort. Lucky for you, the voice reveals themselves a moment later. It's... a flower?

“Boy that is one nasty crack you got in your skull. You’re probably going to bleed to death, arench’ya?” You watch the flower with vacant eyes, your tongue and lips flopping as you try, and fail, to form words. Something about the combination of his morbid words and cheery grin didn’t make sense to you, but you couldn’t figure out why.

“Gee, what a shame,” the flower goes on as your vision starts to go fuzzy and the very act of breathing becomes more of a chore. “Not like it matters much. You are exactly what I've been waiting for, for months. Don’t worry, I’ll put you out of your misery.”

The air above you is suddenly punctuated by a dozen popping noises as large bullet-shaped seeds circle overhead. You roll your eyes and strain your neck the best you can, desperately trying to make sense of what's going on. Whatever it is, it doesn’t look good.

Die,” The flower cackles as the seeds close in-

-but they never hit you.

“W-what?” The flower sputters, but never finishes his thought as a jet of fire roasts away the projectiles and nearly incinerates his petals. With a shriek of terror, the weed retreats into the earth before your very eyes.

“What a miserable creature, torturing such a poor innocent youth,” a new voice, calm and kind, says from the murky edges of the room, and you watch as a tall, elderly woman emerges from the shadows. “Hello, my name is Toriel, and I- Oh my goodness! You are seriously injured!”

You are fighting to stay conscious now, but getting a clear look at your savior shocks you awake a bit more. This woman was unlike anything you have ever seen- with long ears, horns and… fur?

That isn’t right, you think on reflex, but the more you think about it in the thickening haze that was your mind, the less sense it makes. If she was something you considered “not right” then… then what was?

You… you can’t remember.

“There, there, my child. Do not fear. I will heal you.” The furry lady (or was she a goat? A floppy eared rabbit?) crouches low, and with extremely delicate hands, lifts you from the flowers. She is larger than you realize for she cradles you with ease in the crook of one arm while she strokes your head with the opposite hand. Her touch is gentle and warm, and surprisingly soothing. With each pass of her hand, the pain ebbs just a little more, and takes away a bit of your fear with it. Your eyelids begin to droop without you noticing.

“No, no, my child,” the woman warns with a firm squeeze on your bad arm, shooting needles of pain through your shoulder and forcing you awake against your will. “You must not fall asleep with a head injury, whatever you do. I will take you someplace safe, but talk to me so I know you are still awake.”

You twitch your lips in an attempt to say “okay”, but you can’t even mouth the words.

“Where did you come from, my child?” Toriel asks. You think about it and… you… you realize don’t know.

“Dn’no…” you mumble incoherently.

“You do not know?” Toriel’s face turns concerned. “Well, then tell me your name.”

You try to recall and notice with growing horror that you don’t remember.

“Dunno…” Your voice wavers in distress, and Toriel’s expression shifts to alarmed.

“Do you at least remember your age, my child?”

You try, you really, really do try to remember, to find the answer for her, but for some reason you just can’t. Your throat catches and you can’t help but whine on the verge of tears. Why is she asking you so many questions? Why can’t you remember?

Your eyes dart, desperately looking for an answer when they catch sight of your own hand, sticky and scarlet. You squeeze your fist instinctively, a blurry memory of some nursery rhyme triggered by the sight of your fingers.

’Five fingers, five toes, for hand and foot, that’s how it goes,’

“F-five?” you say at last, hoping that the answer would please the goat-lady enough to let you rest. Toriel gasps.

“My child…” the look she gives you is so sad and heartbroken. Oh no, did you answer it wrong? “You are barely more than a babe. You poor thing. Do not fear. I will take care of you. Everything will be alright.”

It’s all too much for you. You heard her words, but they no longer had meaning. The expression on her face combined with your pain and confusion is enough to overload your scatted mind and cause you to weep uncontrollably.

Why did everything hurt? What did you say wrong that made her so upset? And why couldn’t you remember?

It was unbearable, and despite her request, you unintentionally cry yourself to sleep.


You dream.

Images of people and strangers flash in your mind’s eye too quickly for you to make out, and dissolve too fast for you to catch.

Some part of your brain screams at you to grab them, hold on to them with every ounce of your strength, unless you want to lose them forever. You try to obey, to seize the memories that were slipping through your fingers like grains of sand, but you might as well have been trying to lasso the wind. The visions are fast and fleeting, and another even more overwhelming force in your head was beginning to press down on you, silently urging you to just let it all go and sleep.

It was no contest. The heavy weight of desire won you over with ease. Tired of fighting for reasons you aren’t even sure of any more, you simply give up and let yourself slip deeper into blissful unconsciousness.


You come back around to a throbbing ache at the back of your skull and the itchy sensation of thick gauze wrapped around the crown of your head. How long you had been asleep, you do not know, but regaining consciousness when each beat of your heart could be felt like a hammer smashing against an anvil in every cell in your body was borderline unbearable. You were alive and breathing and in a world of pain. How dare your own body betray you like this.

The first thing you realize is you’ve regained a considerable amount of motor control. Your eyes see clearly, your arms and legs move the way you tell them to, and your mouth works again, although it feels uncomfortably dry, like you recently tried to swallow a dish rag.

The next thing you notice is the room you’re in. It's considerately dim lit for your aching head and tired eyes, but apart from that everything in it is unfamiliar. This isn’t your room.

Your pulse spikes in a panic and you instantly regret it when it only causes the pounding in your skull to increase tenfold. You squeeze your eyes shut and squeeze out some tears as you force yourself to take several deep breaths to slow down your heart.

You try to think to distract yourself. ‘This isn’t your room,’ you had thought, but if it wasn’t, then whose was it, and more importantly what was yours?

Your room had-… your room was-… you… you don’t know.

Fear begins to creep back into your chest, chilling you to your very core. You still can’t remember. Frantically, you trace back your mental steps. There had been Toriel the goat woman, a talking flower, and you lying on a bed of flowers coated in your own blood, but before that… nothing.

It was like trying to put together a jigsaw with only half of the pieces. Desperately you search the flashbacks for clues, for anything that might help you remember what happened.

You start with Toriel. She said she would heal you and take you some place safe, and she had. She had also called you her child, and-

Child. “My child.”

The word alone was enough to help you recall fragments of some linguistic tree. Child. Children were a part of a family. Families had brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, fathers… and mothers. Mothers had children. And Toriel had called you her child.

Did that mean… did that mean she was your mother?

If that were true, then why did she bother to introduce herself to you? Did she realize you had lost your memory? You try to recall the conversation she had with you, but can’t remember anything more than impressions and feelings from the exchange, only a lot of sadness and pain. But mothers care for and protect their children, didn’t they? And she had kept you safe and made you better. It only seemed logical…

Carefully, very carefully, you sit up and slide your legs over the edge of the bed. The effort is enough to make you see spots and it takes you a couple of minutes to stand up for fear of fainting. The room spins when you finally push yourself to your feet, and you stagger to the door, gripping to the frame like a life line.

After a handful ragged breaths, you slowly shuffle down the unfamiliar hallway and stop in the entrance of the den.

There she is, sitting in the firelight, pouring over a dozen medical books all opened to pictures of heads and skulls belonging to creatures of various shapes and sizes.

You try to say something, but your tongue feels thick in your mouth, and you end up clearing your throat instead. Toriel hears and looks up.

“My child,” she inhales, her face a mixture of worry and relief. “You are awake. Tell me, can you remember what happened?”

You shake your head a fraction. The miniscule movement is enough to give you a migraine. Toriel’s eyes widen and her lips go taunt.

“What about where you are from?” You shake your head.

“Your name?” You shake your head again.

“That is not a good sign,” she whispers. You swallow and take a hesitant breath, nervous for what you were about to do next.

“M-mom?” you say experimentally, voice trembling. Toriel looks at you in surprise. Oh no, was that bad? Were you wrong? Before you can think too much about it, her face softens.

“Yes, my child?” She didn’t correct you. So were you right? Was she just surprised you remembered?

“Can… Can’t you just tell me what happened?” you plead. “I… I don’t remember anything, but if you just tell me, i-it… might help.”

“My child, I…” Toriel falters, trying to find the right words. “I really cannot. My books say this is something you must do on your own if you wish to get better.”

“Please, Mom!” your voice cracks and your legs shake, threatening to give out from under you at any second. “I don’t even remember who I am! At least just tell me my name!”

“Y-your name?” Toriel stutters. Her eyes dart, looking everywhere but at you. “Your name is… your name is…” It’s several agonizing seconds before she finally gives in and answers.

“My Child… your name… is Chara.”

Chapter Text

“Your name is Chara.”

It was the first human name that popped into her head. It was the only human name she still knew. And the child looked so desperate and lost, could anybody really blame her for giving them the first name that came to mind so they wouldn’t panic?

The child seems a bit crestfallen.

“That’s my name?” They ask meekly.

“Y-yes,” Toriel lies, but instantly regrets it. All of her books had warned her that those who suffered memory loss were at risk for being easily impressionable afterwards. If they believed the first things they heard, she risked them becoming content with a life built on falsehoods, which was why it was vital the child had to remember on their own, or else they would give up even trying. Had giving them a false name already doomed them to permanently forget their true identity? Maybe it was not too late. Maybe if she urges the child to question it and think it through, they can remember on their own. “Do… Do you think it is something else?”

The child shakes their head, and then grabs it with one hand, bracing the other against the wall before they lose balance. “No, I was… I was just hoping it would help me remember… It didn’t…”

“I am sorry my child,” she says, getting up from the floor. “Come and I will take you back to bed. Perhaps a bit more rest and another healing session will help. It is time for me to change the bandages, anyhow.”

The child sniffs, and raises their arms to be lifted into her embrace. Toriel picks them up with ease, and her breath catches when they burry their face in her neck. The action is new yet oddly familiar to her. It was just like…

No. Toriel clenches her jaw and forces the memory down. It was bad enough she named this human after her first, but to compare the two and say they were the same? It was unfair and unforgivable.

'You cannot bring back the dead, Toriel,' she thinks to herself as she carries the child to their room. 'Spare this child of your grief. Do not try to shape them into what you have lost.'

Back in the bedroom she places the child in bed and begins to cast healing magic, humming a soothing lullaby while she works, and watches as the child’s eyelids grow heavy. Within minutes they’re asleep once more, snoring peacefully.

Toriel lingers for a while, watching over them like a guardian angel and thinking to herself. Humans were such fascinating creatures. Any monster would have surely died from such a fall, but this human (and a child no less!) not only lived, but had stood up and spoken to her after only a day of rest. Granted, she should have given herself some credit with her advanced healing spells, but humans were remarkably resilient none the less.

And this one had called her “Mother”.

The six previous humans had never dared to call her anything but her name, if they bothered to speak to her at all before fleeing the Ruins and towards their own demise. It had even taken the original Chara several weeks to warm up to calling Toriel and Asgore “Mom” and “Dad”. But this child who had known her for less than a day…

Were they really just that comfortable with her, or did their head injury seriously make them think they were of kin?

Before she could think too much about it, the grandfather clock in the den chimes the hour, drawing Toriel out of her trance. Was it really that late already? She had lost track of the time studying so many medical books. Her joke telling friend would be waiting for her on the other side of the door.

Quietly shutting the door behind her as she left the room, Toriel descends the stairwell, picking up her pace once she reaches the bottom. She took her faceless friend to be an easy going guy; he’d undoubtedly forgive her for being late once she told him about the events that had transpired…

Toriel pauses at the end of the corridor, her hand raised, but hesitates to rap on the large wooden doors before her.

…Or would she? Her friend might have been laid back, but beyond his affinity for corny jokes she knew absolutely nothing about him. Not his face or even his name.

Humans are the enemy of every monster in the Underground. Were they his too? If he knew she was sheltering one, what would he think of them? What would he think of her?

“Knock, knock,” a faint voice says, beating her to the punch.

Toriel doesn’t answer, too busy weighing the pros and cons of telling her mystery friend about her newest charge. The elderly woman was painfully aware that this human was the seventh to have fallen since her own children’s deaths, and there would be plenty of monsters eager to take their soul to break the barrier without a second thought. But Toriel also knew that these doors were nigh impenetrable from the outside without the aid of strong magic, and her pun buddy did not strike her as very powerful.

But who was to say he wouldn’t bring back up to break the door down and take her child by force?

“Knock, knock?” The voice asks again, this time a bit more concerned.

“Who is there?” Toriel replies at last, remembering to keep her voice cheerful.

“Good ear,”

“Good ear, who?”

“Good, ear still there. I thought you didn’t hear me.”

Toriel couldn’t help but smirk at the sneaky double pun.

Later, she decides. She would casually ask her friend about his opinions on humans first then tell him the truth eventually, but not right now. For now she would keep her child secret and safe, and in the mean time she would tell her friend a joke about a skeleton’s roof tiles.

Chapter Text

There is a mirror at the end of the hallway. You learned it was there about two weeks after your accident, around the time when you could tolerate staying awake for a few hours at a stretch and it didn’t hurt so much just to be alive.

Your mother forbids you from leaving the house as well as navigating stairs, and honestly you don’t argue. Why bother leaving when there is so much to discover -er, rediscover- about your own home? For the first few days you get reacquainted with your room. There are quite a few toys and stuffed animals that seem to have been left untouched for months. Not surprising as they hardly interest you now, so you simply assume they didn’t interest you in the past. Your dressers are filled with plenty of striped shirts, which you guess makes sense since that’s what you are currently wearing, though all the clothes hanging in the closet were in shades of green and yellow while the sweater you don seems to be the only one in purple and blue. You guess it’s a little odd, but not totally unbelievable. It still has the theme of horizontal lines after all. There are a few drawings on the wall, a couple of picture books on the shelf and basic stationary on the desk, but by far the weirdest thing in your room is the box full of shoes. Over half of the shoes don’t even fit; they’re all too big, and it will take years for you to grow into them. How did you come to own so many in such a disparity of sizes and why?

After a week of bed rest, you begin to explore the remainder of the house. You start with the den where you spend several hours recuperating in the large recliner next to a comforting fire while sweet and savory smells tease you from the kitchen and where your mother is always just a breath away. There are a lot more books around the hearth than in your room. You recognize all the letters on their spines, but many of the words are alien to you. Did you forget how to read? Did you just not know how to read in the first place?

Sound out the letters, a toneless voice says in your head. That’s how reading works.

You pick a word that pops up frequently on the bookshelf and test out your reading ability. It starts with M-O-N-

“Mmmmon… Monsssst… Monsteeer? Monstair?” For some reason you had the feeling that words that ended with the letter you knew to be “R” also changed the sound of the vowel before it, but you didn’t know why. Not like you need to give it much thought, because a second more and the word clicked.

“Monster.”

You blink. You know this word, and in your mind’s eye flash hazy images of what you take a monster to be; creatures that could be almost anything, sometimes with claws or scales or fur or fangs or horns or who knows what else. For reasons you cannot piece together, your brain wants to associate the word “monster” with “legends”. There is the distinct impression you have heard tales about monsters, perhaps in bedtime stories or Aesop’s fables where they are both heroes and villains, both meant to teach you some moral you can no longer recall. Regardless, the gears in your mind spin and churn, busy rebuilding your world with nothing but observation as your foundation and child logic as your building blocks.

The connection was made without much fanfare. Monsters could have claws, or fur, or horns, and your mother had all three. She was a monster. The revelation is followed up by a plain, unspoken “Oh, that makes sense,” while on a much deeper level, your subconscious makes a critically defining assumption you don’t even realize.

Your mother is a monster, and you are her child. Therefore, you are a monster too.

It’s a conclusion that doesn’t need to be spoken aloud or even outright acknowledged. You simply store it away as an undeniable truth. There is no reason for you to assume you are anything otherwise, especially when you aren’t even aware there are other things to possibly be. Besides, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, right? Heck, for all you currently know, it is the only explanation.

You don’t even bother telling your mother this insight of yours. It was obviously common knowledge anyway.

After almost two weeks of round-the-clock care, you finally work up the bravery to leave your mother’s watchful eye and explore the last of your home. The kitchen is clean and full of objects you recognize and could name, like the fridge, the sink, the oven and the silverware. Your mother’s room is like yours with a bed and desk and dressers full of clothes, but everything is bigger and felt distinctly more mature. The room after that is nothing more than an oversized hall-closet to you, full of boxes and packaged things. The sign on the door says “room under renovations,” but being as young as you are, you do not recognize the word “renovations”.

And past that room is the mirror on the wall.

The thought of seeing your own face- you don’t know what to make of it. Exploration of your hands has told you that there are two eyes and ears and a mouth and nose and a scar on the crown of your head that is cleverly hidden by your shock of brown hair, but that’s all. At first you’re almost excited to see yourself, your intuition betting that seeing your own face will jolt your memories back, but when you take that first step towards the glass, inquisitiveness crumbles away only to be replaced by a strange sense of apprehension.

You initially write it off as not wanting to see yourself bandaged and bruised, but deep in your heart you know the real reason you hesitate is because you are afraid you will not recognize the person in that reflection.

It takes you another week to muster up the courage to finally go look. After seven extra days of tiptoeing around the idea, absently going through everything else in the house once, twice, three times over, curiosity at last trumps trepidation and you dare to look in the mirror. The results are pretty underwhelming.

Taking a breath, you firmly march up to the mirror and force yourself to take in the sight. There is no remarkable epiphany, no sudden clarity, not even a little recognition. At first you really do feel like you’re looking at a stranger- someone you don’t know, someone else. But the person in the mirror mimics all your movements, frowning when you frown, squinting when you squint, and the longer you inspect the copy-cat face the less awkward it becomes.

It’s just you, after all.

With a sigh, you touch your forehead to the mirror, relishing the sensation of cold, smooth glass, and stare deeply into your own pupils. Your eyes, at the start filled with determination to see (har har) this simple challenge through, are now only full of disappointment at how anticlimactic the whole thing turned out to be.

Still, in the back of your mind there is a slight feeling of “wrongness” about it all, as if two facts are contradicting each other, but you don’t even know which facts are at war, so you can’t even begin to work them out. The monster in the mirror is you, and that is your face. What’s so wrong about that?

“This is me,” you murmur to confirm it to yourself, and then again to drive the point home. “It’s me… Chara.”

Chapter Text

Head pressing is a common symptom of illness in goats and goat-monsters alike, but Toriel doesn’t know what to make of it in human children, so she assumes the worst when she finds her child doing so to the mirror.

“My child? Are you all right?” She asks in concern. The child makes a motion half between a shrug and a head shake. Motherly instinct taking over, Toriel swoops in to comfort them, giving their shoulders a gentle squeeze of reassurance. “Tell me what is troubling you. Are you in pain?”

“No,” they say just loud enough to hear. Toriel had quickly learned that her child was rather reserved, preferring to be observant rather than talkative, but even this response seems more withdrawn than what she reasons to be normal.

“Then why do you look so down, my child?”

The child is silent for a moment, brow furrowed and lips twitching as they try to put their thoughts into words.

“Why don’t I look like you?” They ask suddenly, taking her off guard.

“Everyone is unique, my child,” Toriel says softly, rubbing their back in soothing circles.

“Yeah, but I thought kids were s’pose to look like their mom and dad at least little bit.” They pull back from the mirror and look at her through the reflection. “We look like two totally different monsters.”

Toriel blinks in bewilderment. “You think you-“ she starts, before abruptly cutting herself off. Her child stops looking at her in the mirror and turns to face her directly, confusion clearly written in their eyes. They’ve notice her falter and wait for her to explain.

“My child,” Toriel begins again, thinking quickly and carefully trying to hide her surprise. “That is what makes us monsters so special. We are all so different from one another. No two are alike.”

This answer doesn’t seem to satisfy, and they glance down in resignation. Unable to bear the sight, Toriel lifts her child up into a hug.

“But… you and I are not as different as you think,” she continues. “We both have two bright and shining eyes,” she points out as she smooches each of their cheeks, and relaxes a bit when a small grin pokes at the corners of their mouth. “Two big, round ears,” she pushes the brown hair behind them with one hand and tickles the line of their jaw in the process. The child can barely suppress the giggles as they squirm under her hand. “A cute, button nose,” She nuzzles her nose against theirs in an extra furry Eskimo kiss, and the laughter escapes her child freely. “And a beautiful smile.”

Embarrassed by all the affection, but unable to stop smiling, her child has no choice but to hide their face in her neck, throwing their arms into the mix and squeezing gently in a silent ‘thank you.’

Toriel cannot stop smiling either. She stands there, cherishing the moment, but mindful of the culpable thoughts marching through her conscience.

The child had called themself a monster. She had almost corrected them, syllables away from tearing down the illusion and setting the record straight when a sudden desperate, hopeful, selfish idea occurred to her;

'They do not know they are human,' She realizes. 'And maybe if they never know they are human, then maybe they will never try to leave.'


“But do you really believe it’s okay to let the kid grow up living a lie?” her pun pal asks through the door.

Six months after her child falls into the Ruins, Toriel finally feels it’s time to let her mystery friend know her secret. She suspects he’s been on to her from the very first question, but how subtle can one monster be when asking another where they stand on the subject of humans? They were universally known as the cause for their unjust exile to this inescapable prison beneath rock and stone, and the shared attitude about them was not viewed in the most positive light.

For every vague question she asked him, he responded with an equally vague answer. Toriel found it frustrating, and at times unfair, but could she really call him out for not being honest when she wasn’t being honest herself?

“My friend, I am afraid I have not been completely honest with you,” Toriel decides to tell him flat out one day after their usual session of jokes. “The reason I have been so curious on your opinion of humans is because… because one has fallen into the Ruins and I have been raising them for this past half-year.”

“Really?” her friend replies in a light-hearted tone that is completely unsurprised. “Huh. You don’t say.” And that was his only thought on the matter.

“But there is more to it than that,” Toriel elaborates, relieved he takes the news so well, and feeling bold enough to go further. It felt good to finally come clean with her secret. With someone to share it with, she could express the concerns and fears she had concealed for so long and finally let the weight be lifted from her shoulders. “When they fell, they… they lost their memories. I have been trying my best to not influence them, and give them a chance to remember on their own, but I must admit I may have accidentally hindered them anyhow.”

“How so?”

“My friend, they looked so scared and confused when they first got out of bed, as if they were not sure they could trust the mountain above their head to stay up,” Toriel’s throat squeezes at the memory of such wary, frightened eyes and she hopes she never has to see them on her child’s face again. “They could not even remember their own name. How could I tell them I did not know either? That they, this child who woke up hurt and lost and afraid, were now trapped Underground for the rest of their life without even the comfort of memories of their time above ground, and no idea who they are.

She pauses to breathe and calm herself. Airing out the confessions is cathartic, but guilt clings to her nonetheless. “So I gave them a name. I had to give them something to anchor to so that they could begin their life anew. If I had only known how clean their slate was, I would have been more tactful in my approach.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because… It is because they now think they are a monster.”

The stranger beyond the door lets out a laugh so strong that Toriel can feel it vibrate through the heavy wood. Frankly, she is offended by such a reaction.

“The kid forgot they’re human? Man, that’s rich!”

“Despite our little daily routine, this is no joke my friend,” Toriel huffs in indignation.

“Sorry, sorry," He chortles. "It's just- How is that even possible?"

"I did not think knowing what you are was a thing you could possibly forget."

"Why don’t you just tell ‘em the truth, then?”

“And completely shatter their already fractured understanding of themselves? I do not think I can.”

“Aw, come on. They can’t possibly flip out over it that bad. Just tell ‘em they made a little mistake. Honestly, you’ll only make it worse if you wait.”

'But they called me mother,' Toriel thinks but does not say. 'If I told them the truth, would they look at me in a different light? Would they think I have been deceiving them? Would they no longer trust me?'

“If I tell them,” Toriel picks her words carefully. “They might believe they must leave to return to the surface where the other humans are. But if they leave the Ruins, I have no doubt in my mind they will die before they even get to the barrier.”

“But do you really believe it’s okay to let the kid grow up living a lie?”

It's the question Toriel has danced around for months- one she wishes someone else would answer for her, even though she feels she’d ignore their answer all the same. In the end it was just a question of what she considered more important; being honest and risk letting them go, or continuing the charade to keep them with her? She could make up a hundred reasons on why lying was worth it, and how it was keeping her child safe, but she knew in her soul they were all nothing but excuses, no matter how good her intentions.

“Yes,” She replies at last, admitting her own greed, and instantly tries to deny it with rationalization. “Letting them believe they are a monster will protect them. It will keep them from ever wanting to leave.”

“If you say so, lady,” the mystery monster sighs, and if a voice could somehow translate the visual of a shrug into sound, Toriel would swear she heard one in there. “You know the kid better than I do.”

That Toriel did. She also knew the pain of what it was like to have lost two children already, and would do everything in her power to keep this one safe, to keep this one alive, and, most importantly, to keep this one here.

Chapter Text

Two months after your accident, and your mother deems you fit enough to leave the house with her supervision. After four, she lets you wonder on your own. At six, you’ve met every monster in the Ruins and know them all by name, and at eight you’ve memorized every crack and crevice the weathered architecture has to offer.

The Ruins may be small, but so are you! You can squeeze into some of the tightest spaces and use the smallest of footholds when climbing over the decaying buildings and lichen-covered homes of the abandoned city, and with friends accompanying you on every adventure you never feel at risk of getting lost or hurt or stuck when exploring even the most run down and crumbling structures.

Getting reacquainted with all the other monster residents in the Ruins was an adventure in itself. While most seem to know you and are willing to address you by name, you would often catch several whispering to each other behind your back, or watch in dismay as a few would run from or avoid you all together. You’d be lying if you say you don’t find it the least bit hurtful.

Why some are afraid of you, you can’t fathom. Had you hurt them in the past? Were they scared of you because you were an intimidating Boss Monster like your mom? You’ve seen the looks she’s given them on your first couple of outings, and you wouldn’t be surprised if she had told them to stay away from you for your own safety, but whatever the reason, you strive to make friends with them all now. It only seems like the right thing to do.

And oh how many friends you made! Froggits were always up for a romp through the leaves, Loox were unbeatable at hide-and-seek, Migosps were marvelous dancers, and even shy little Whimsuns became brave enough to talk to you. You became pen pals with a spider pastry chef after her subordinates told her you were their number one customer at the spider bake sale, and the two of you happily swapped pie recipes. You share with a training dummy all your hopes, dreams, and deepest, darkest secrets, knowing they’d never tell another soul. Sometimes a friendly ghost named Napstablook would visit and let you be the first to listen of his own original tunes. With so many great monsters to keep you company, every day is something different and you are never lonely.

You realize your mom was wrong on one thing, though. Monsters do look like other monsters. All Moldsmals look like Moldsmals, all Vegetoids look like Vegetoids, and so on, and so forth. You guess you understand the sentiment she was getting at when she said ‘everyone is different’ to try and cheer you up, but it doesn’t hide the fact that you don’t look like her. (Granted, there's no other monsters that look like her as well, but still.) None of the other monsters are helpful either. When you ask them what kind of monster you are, each one says in a perfectly practiced voice “you are your mother’s child”, and leaves it at that. It’s aggravating, to say the least, but you try your hardest to not let it bother you. Still no matter how ‘unique’ or ‘special’ you are, that subtle, nagging feeling that you are the one thing out of place in all of the Ruins is always there, and you silently swear to one day find a way to fix it and fit in.

You don’t know exactly when you stop, but sometime after you began remaking friends and exploring the Ruins, you give up trying to remember your past. How much was anybody really expected to remember about their life before the age of five anyway? There were far more important and fun things to discover in the world, and you wanted to find them all. And while each expedition may have started out as a journey to uncover your forgotten life, they all inevitably end up as games of treasure hunters traversing ancient temples, or spelunkers descending into unknown caves. Your capacity to focus may have been in short supply, but your imagination was bottomless, and with it you play long and hard each day until sheer exhaustion itself is the only thing to stop you.


You dream. And sometimes when you dream, it turns into a nightmare.

A muffled voice, a blurred face, is talking to you in questioning tones. You do not understand the words so you do not answer. Frustrated, the voice gets harsher and the questions turn into demands.

You do not understand but you are scared. The voice sounds dull and echo-y, like it’s underwater, and even though you can’t make out what they’re saying, you still feel threatened.

You try to turn away, but wherever you look the figure is there. It is reaching for you now, grabbing at you. A dozen hands with fingers as sharp as knives are clawing at your skin, desperately trying to take something from you, and telling you to give, give, GIVE IT TO THEM.

You don’t understand. You have nothing to give and nothing to take, but the hands keep reaching for something. Something inside you-

You suddenly remember the time your mother explained that bad dreams can happen if you sleep in a spot where untamed magic is in high concentrations, and the time Napstablook said that some ghost don’t like to share their final resting place.

You’re not quite sure how either of these statements are related, but it won’t take you long to learn never to nap on the bed of golden flowers.


You awake with a small gasp, your chest pounding. After a second of panic, you recognize where you are- lying in the only spot of sunshine in the Ruins you’ve ever been able to find. As your dream fades, you remember why you were here; to feel the setting sun on your face and have some time to yourself. As much as you love all your friends, sometimes you just need some space, and as much as all your friends love you, none of them were brave enough to go to the flower patch. You don’t know why, but it was fine by you. It meant there was always a place you could go to for some peace and quiet to think or just to be alone.

But today you discover you aren’t alone.

“Oh, so you lived?” The flower asks you, appearing out of nowhere.

If you were older, you might have been put on alert from the tone of his voice and his particular choice of first words, but you had just woken up and honestly you were more distracted that you recognized his face in the first place when all your memories from that first day were nothing more than a jumbled mess of fog and pain.

“Oh, I remember you,” you say evenly, not paying attention to his words. “Nice to meet you again. I’m Chara, but you probably already knew that, didn’t you?”

“C-Chara?” The flower stutters and shrinks back shock. “But… How…”

“Hey, sorry this is rude, but what is your name again?” You ask. “I can’t remember.”

“You don’t remember me?” The flower’s face goes from stunned to legitimately hurt. “But I’m your best friend! We had so many plans in store! We were going to get six souls to break the barrier and set all the monsters free! How could you possibly forget that?”

“I got hurt,” you stammer. “And it made me forget. Your name, my name, what monsters were, everything! What did you say about souls and a barrier? I don’t know what any of those things are.”

The flower’s leaves droop and his eyes go narrow. “Wait, you forgot everything? Even who you were?”

You nod sadly. “I don’t even remember how I got hurt. But you were there, weren’t you? Can you tell me what I was doing?”

The flower is studying you quizzically. His eyes bug out as if he just understood the punchline to a joke but doesn’t want to laugh.

“Oh, I see what’s going on here,” he says quietly.

“What?”

“Nothing! But like I said, Chara, I’m your very best friend, Flowey the flower! And I can tell you everything that happened. How did you get hurt? Why, you were… climbing, of course!” Flowey explains. “You wanted to see if you could get through that hole in the roof and out of the Underground. You managed to get pretty high up before you slipped and fell. I was so worried you weren’t going to make it.”

“Climbing…” you repeat, studying the hole in the ceiling. The small bit of sky you could see was a fiery orange color. It made perfect sense. There was nothing else in this room aside from the flowers, so the only way you could have hurt yourself so bad had to have been from some sort of fall. You look back to Flowey hungrily. For weeks you had tried asking your mother more about your past, but she always refused, saying remembering it was something you had to do on your own, but here was Flowey, your very best friend. He probably knew you better than anyone.

You open your mouth, eager to ask more about the things he said- about souls, the barrier, the Underground, but just as you take a breath, your cell phone rings.

“That’s my mom,” you sigh. You know it’s her without even needing to check the caller ID. She gave you this cell phone and she’s the only other monster in the Ruins with a number to call. “Sorry, if I don’t answer her, I’ll get in trouble. Hello?”

“Hello, my child! Dinner is ready! It is time to come home now!”

“Okay. What are we having?”

“Escargot served in a vegetable broth courtesy of Vegetoid!”

You groan inwardly. You know by now not to let your mother’s flowery tongue deceive you. Ugh. Snail soup again?

“Yay! My… favorite… I’m on my way.”

You hang up and turn back to the flower. “Sorry, Flowey. I have to go home now. But let’s play together again soon! I want you to tell me everything about who I was before I fell!”

“Of course, Chara!” Flowey says most saccharine. “That’s what best friends are for! And we have a lot to talk about.”

You wave goodbye and skip home. Just as you turn down the tunnel that leads away from the flower patch, you thought you hear a faint voice echo-

“Lady, you play a dangerous game.”

-or maybe it was just your imagination.

Chapter Text

Sometimes you think Flowey is a better source of information than your mom, and that’s saying something because your mom knows practically everything. Still, there are things the flower reveals to you that your mom never dares to share, and more often than not you find yourself seeking his knowledge when your mom is no help.

It’s difficult to find time to talk with Flowey, though. Your encounters are few and far between, and he only shows up when you’re alone, which is hard to do when your friends follow you virtually everywhere you go. You figure he’s just shy, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking. You might be his best friend, but you didn’t think that meant you had to be his only one. The fact that your mother doesn't particularly like Flowey also doesn't help. She won't tell you why she doesn't trust the flower, but she tells you to stay away from him which you think is unfair. He's been nothing but helpful and kind to you and honestly her hostility seems unjustified.

When you do run into each other, you make sure to make the most of it, asking him every question your mother refuses or can’t answer to your satisfaction. As a result, you end up learning more about the Underground’s major regions, and Flowey’s words fill you with the unbearable desire to experience them all. You wanted to play in Snowdin’s uncomfortable cold and make forts and sculptress from ice, you wanted to feel Waterfall’s raindrops on your skin and listen to the echo flowers’ secrets, you wanted to see the bubbling magma of Hotland’s CORE. You hadn’t even known these places existed without the flower’s help, and all of it was lying just beyond the mysterious doors at the end of your basement; the one place in all of the Ruins you were forbidden from exploring.

Aside from the Underground, Flowey also teaches you about magic and souls and the barrier, and probably most important of all- humans.

“Humans,” you test the word on your tongue while chatting with him in the flowerbed. Your head buzzes in a frenzy, signaling to you that this was a word you should know, and you pinch the bridge of your nose in concentration. “What’s important about humans again?”

“Humans,” the flower spits out the word, “are the whole reason monsters are trapped in the Underground. You hate humanity, remember Chara?”

The flower intensely searches your eyes for something, but all you do is shake your head. You? Hating humans? But you don’t hate anybody… or at least you thought you didn’t.

“All monsters hate humans,” Flowey sighs, looking away. “Humans were afraid of monsters, even though everyone knows not even a horde of monsters stands a chance against a single human. We used to live side by side until they preemptively attacked us and sealed us in the Underground. Monsters have been trapped here ever since.”

“Why were they afraid of us?”

“Because monsters have the ability to absorb human souls and use them to make us stronger, but all monsters understood never to abuse that power. The humans didn’t care though. As long the possibility was there, they didn’t trust us, and inevitably war broke out, and well… You know how it ends.”

“That’s not fair…” you say quietly.

“No,” Flowey agrees. “No it’s not.”

“And now there’s no way out of the Underground?”

“There is one way,” the flower informs you. “The barrier, sealed by seven human sorcerers. Anything can come in through it, but nothing can go out until seven souls as strong as the wizards' who sealed it are gathered to break it down. We’ve got six so far, but it’s taken a long time.”

'That must have been why I was trying to climb out,' you think to yourself. 'Just to see if I could, and to get the last soul.'

You lay back and study your small bit sky with Flowey at your side. It’s a deep, impossible shade of blue today. Funnily enough, of all the things you’ve found and seen, only this piece of open air feels familiar to you. You wish you could see more of it, but then again there were a lot of things you wish you could see...

“Flowey,” you say to your friend. “One day I’m gonna visit the rest of the Underground. And then I’ll find a human and break the barrier and set all monsters free. I just know it.”

It was an impossible dream, you knew it in your heart, but such is the beauty of childhood optimism. Just the thought of seeing the setting sun in all its glory with the ones you love fills you with the determination that makes one believe they can do almost anything.

“You know what, Chara?” Flowey hums, looking skyward with you. “I bet you will too.”


Toriel had always wanted to be a teacher, and she couldn’t have asked for a better student than her child. They are diligent, eager to learn, quick to grasp new concepts and always full of questions, but while she admires their curiosity, sometimes she fears it.

Toriel teaches her child the essentials of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as a few sciences like the geology of the mountain and the biology of snails. History is a touchy subject which she treads carefully, never sure how much she should tell about humans or the rest of the Underground, always worried she might tempt their adventurous spirit. Yet despite how strict she is with what she says, the child still manages to pick up bits and pieces of things she wish they wouldn’t hear.

“Mom, how come monster souls can’t break the barrier?” They ask her one day out the blue while she prepares that week’s lesson plan.

“Where did you learn about the barrier, my child?” she asks in response. In that first month of her child’s recovery, Toriel had made certain every monster in the Ruins knew they were not to be harmed, and after the child revealed they believed themselves a monster, Toriel had completely forbidden talk of anything human or human related in their presence. The barrier was certainly one of those things.

“I, uh, heard a friend say something about it,” they say, fidgeting where they sit and unable to look her in the eye. Toriel has a feeling she knows which friend her child was talking about. That meddlesome flower constantly threatened to reveal too much. Despite Toriel’s best efforts to keep her child escorted no matter where they were in the Ruins that weed still managed to find small windows of time when they were unattended and whisper in their ear.

The flower had been the one to tell her child about humans and the war and being trapped in the Underground. The flower had outright tried to kill her child the day they fell, and worst of all he had convinced her child that they were best friends. He was without a doubt the biggest threat to her child’s safety in more ways than one, and Toriel had no idea how to get rid of him.

“Monster souls… just are not as strong as human souls, is all,” She explains as simply as she can. “It would take nearly every monster soul in the Underground to match the strength of one human soul, and we would need seven times that many to break the barrier.”

Of course this answer only raises more questions for the inquisitive youth, and Toriel struggles to evade them. Eventually they give up and let the subject drop, but she can tell it’s always a reluctant decision.

Although she is willing to teach her child almost everything she knew, their need to know and discover can never be satiated. As weeks turned into months, and months into years, she could sense her child’s desire to explore ever growing as they did, and she did not know if she could over contain it.

Her one saving grace is the artisan crafts. When the child’s clothes inevitably begin to wear and tear from countless hours of play, she sews and knits them new again. Her child has seen her mend rips and holes before, but when they watch her make clothes from scratch, they become utterly fascinated with it.

“You can make a sweater out of string?” They ask her in awe while they watch her knit.

“Oh, yes, my child! You can make many things by knitting, not just sweaters. You can make hats, mittens, blankets, toys-”

“Teach me!” They beg earnestly, a devious sparkle in their eye telling Toriel that they were already imagining a dozen things they wanted to make. “I wanna knit!”

So teach them she does. She teaches them how to spin yarn and to weave, how to stitch and crochet, and everything in between. Before long they’re experimenting with any thread they can find, unraveling the clothes they have grown out of and fashioning them into something new with their own unique patterns and designs.

It takes them weeks of practice and countless failed products and do-overs, but her child is nothing if not dedicated when learning a new skill. Agile fingers and clever hands allow them to master the art quickly, and before long they’re making their own clothes and sewing accessories for every monster in the Ruins.

Although cotton does grow in a few places in the Ruins, and spiders always have a ready supply of silk to trade for baking ingredients, the child longed to work with… a different textile. Toriel only begins to notice it when they insist on brushing her fur far more than necessary.

“My child, if you keep brushing me so, I will go bald,” She says as they relentlessly comb her ears. “Why do you persist in grooming me?”

Her child looks away in embarrassment, almost ashamed to answer.

“I… need your fur,” They explain. “To spin yarn. I’ve run out of old wool to reuse.”

Amused and relieved, Toriel gladly donates any fur she sheds to their cause. If it kept her child’s hands occupied and their feet from wanting to wander, she would give them the skin off her back without hesitation. Yet despite an endless supply of cashmere, the child ends up only making two things from her fur; a hand-knit hat and pair of gloves. The hat, she notices, has excessively long flaps that cover the ears on the sides as well as two points crocheted into the top. The gloves have pieces of flint sewn into the finger tips and fragments of steel in the thumb.

“Mom! I’ve got horns and ears like you now!” They boast the evening they finally show off the end product of their work. “And look!” Holding a stick, they snap their fingers next to one withered end. Sparks fly from the flint and ignite the brittle branch. “Fire magic!”

“That is nice, Chara!” Toriel says in that forced, pleasant tone mothers use when they discover a snake, ready to strike, coiled next to their oblivious offspring. “But please, absolutely no fire in the house. Or outside of the house. Or at all!” Her fur that made up their gloves may have been fire-proof, but the rest of her child sure wasn’t. Grabbing the stick, she snuffs out the flame with thumb and forefinger. “In fact, put the gloves away. I do not want you playing with fire, period.”

“But Mooooom, how am I supposed to get better at magic if you won’t let me practice?”

“Not all monsters can use magic, my child. You just happen to be one of them.”

“It’s not fair,” they pout and whine, crossing their arms and slumping in the recliner next to the fire place. They study the flames with envy. “I do I have magic. I just haven’t figured out how to use it yet.”

“Perhaps one day you will,” she assures them, and gives them a kiss on their forehead. “But not today. Now go clean up for bedtime.”

And so it went on like this for a while. The small family of two went through their ups and downs, shared smiles and strife, had good times and bad as most families do. For nearly eight years they lived and loved and laughed together. It was everything Toriel could ever ask for, and it was good.

Too bad it couldn’t last forever.

Chapter Text

It’s your birthday! But it’s not just any birthday- today is a very special birthday because it’s your thirteenth birthday.

From this day forward no longer will you be confined to the title of “kid”. No sir, as of today you will say goodbye to the restraints of childhood and hello to the brand new world of teenagerdom.

Wait, is teenagerdom even a word? …Yes. Yes, you are absolutely certain of this.

“Okay, Chara,” you give yourself a pep talk in the hallway mirror. “Remember the plan; be extra polite, be extra patient. Remind her how responsible you’ve been all year and ask her after you’ve thanked everyone for the presents. She can’t say no. There’s no way she can say no.”

“Howdy, Chara!” a chipper voice greets you from the floor. “Who are you talking to?”

You look down to find a yellow flower poking up through the floorboards.

“Flowey what are you doing in the house?” you hiss. “If Mom sees you here she’ll fry your roots so fast-“

“Relax! I’ll be gone before you know it. So did you ask her yet?”

“Not yet,” you shake your head. “I’m waiting for the right moment. The timing’s got to be perfect.”

“Alright,” Flowey sighs. “But don’t keep me waiting! I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time!”

“Don’t worry!” You reassure your friend. “I’ve been planning this for months. There will be no way she can refuse! Mom will have to let me go!”

With that, Flowey retreats back between the floorboards. A second later and you hear your mother calling you from the kitchen.

“Chara, the cake is done! Are you ready to start the party?”

“Yeah! Coming!” you shout back, your pulse racing in excitement. It’s almost time. Straightening your hat, you skip to the den. Today was going to be the day. Today you were finally going to see the rest of the Underground.

Your heart flutters at the thought and your soul itches to explore. For a whole year you have prepared for this, being extra courteous and kind to stay in her good graces. You asked for nothing all year, being helpful and doing chores and tasks without having to be prompted, and now today on your birthday you were finally going to cash in. She would have to let you go. There’s no way she can’t after how good you’ve been.

There are presents on the dining table and friends in every seat. There are a couple of Froggits, several spiders, and- oh! Napstablook was able to make it after all! He’s dressed in a ghostly top hat and bowtie. You have to remember to complement him on how dapper he looks.

Ah, and there’s your mother, emerging from the kitchen now with a freshly baked two-tiered chocolate cake, slathered with thick, purple icing. Your friends ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. Even the spiders look impressed, and rightly so. Sugar and eggs aren’t as easy to come by as snails are in the Ruins, and a confection so masterfully made is only reserved for the most special of occasions.

“So what would you like to do first, my child?” You mother asks. “Shall we open the presents now, or cut the cake first?”

“Cake,” you decide. “Let’s not keep everyone waiting!”

Good natured laughter rolls across the table as your mother inserts thirteen candles into the frosting, and with a snap of your gloved fingers, you light them yourself. A risky move on your part. You know how she disapproves of fire indoors, but with so many guests in the house, your mother is willing to turn a blind eye for once rather than call you out at your own party.

The song is sung, the cake is cut, and you struggle to remain patient. Take your time, you think. Don’t rush this. Only after everyone finishes eating do you move on to the presents.

The spiders give you a fifty-percent-off coupon valid at any spider bake sale, the Froggits award you a whole bag of monster candy, your mother gifts you a new pair of knitting needles, and Napstablook presents you with a CD of all his best hits.

“Wow, thanks Blook!” you say earnestly, unable to break it to him that you have no device that could play a compact disc. Honestly it was the thought that counted, but you make a mental note to ask for a CD player next year. Setting the disc down, you straighten up and clear your throat. It’s time.

“Thank you everybody for such thoughtful gifts and celebrating my birthday with me today,” you say perfectly rehearsed. “But most of all, thank you, Mom, for throwing the party.”

“Of course, my child,” your mother beams from across the table. “It is your special day. I hope it is everything you wish for.”

Okay. This was it. You buttered her up and put her in the spotlight. Now go in for the kill.

“Actually,” you begin. “There is one last thing I was hoping I could do today.”

“And what is that, my child?”

“I was hoping… that maybe… you’d let me leave the Ruins and let me see the rest of the Underground?”

You put on your biggest, most hopeful grin. Your mother doesn’t break eye contact with you, but just for a moment you think you see her smile falter and her eyebrow twitch. The length of the silence goes on a second too long to be comfortable before she speaks again.

“Do not be silly, my child,” your mother chuckles. “The rest of the Underground is no place for children to be.”

Ah-ha! It was her classic default excuse, and you were prepared with a response.

“Yes, but I’m not a child anymore!” you refute, keeping your voice pleasant. “I’m officially a teenager now!”

“You’ll always be a child in my eyes,” your mother says calmly, trying to divert the conversation away, but you weren’t falling for it.

“I-I know, but I’ve always wanted to see for myself what it was like! You know, try new foods, experience new things,” you continue. Both of you are aware that your tones are charades, but you have come so far, waited so long for this moment.

“There is no reason for you to leave the Ruins. You have everything you need here.”

“But I’ve always wanted to meet my pen pal, Muffet, in person!” you fight on, struggling to wear her down with words. “A-and Napstablook has always wanted me to visit Waterfall and do vocals for some of his songs-“

“Chara,” your mother’s voice warns, suggesting you drop the topic before it’s too late. You ignore her and press harder. She can’t say no. You won’t let her say no.

“-And the Whimsuns that have cousins in Hotland say the cuisine at the MTT resort is to die for-“

“Chara.” Your mother says firmly, but you do not yield.

“I hear Snowdin is beautiful this time of year, and that’s literally just outside the door! Can’t I at least just see Snowdin, Mom? Please-"

Chara!” Your mother raises her voice and you snap your mouth shut. She’s not smiling now. The eyes of your guests dart between you like they’re watching the most intense game of tennis ever played. “You know the rules, Chara. You are forbidden from leaving the Ruins and that is final.”

At your mother’s declaration, all bets are off and you quickly break down.

But why not?” you plead.

“Because it is dangerous, Chara!” Your mother states flatly. “I do not want you to get hurt!”

“But I’ll be extra careful!” your arguments are desperate and reaching now, and you throw any excuse you’ve got at her. “Haven’t I proven how responsible and mature I am all year? Don’t you trust me?”

“It is not you that I do not trust,” your mother’s voice drops and she looks away. “It is everyone else out there I fear.”

“Napstablook is from the other side,” you hotly point out. “You trust him! In fact, Blook, tell my mom what the other monsters are like. They’re not dangerous, right?”

“Oh, awkward,” Napstablook squeaks when you drag him into the argument off guard, and before you can stop him, the ghost fades away. What!? Your own friend wasn’t even going to back you up?!

“Spiders!” you look at them desperately. “Muffet’s nice, right? Tell Mom how she wouldn’t hurt a fly!”

Too late you bite your tongue when you realize what you've said. The spiders were simple but literal folk, and unwilling to make a statement, they scurry off as fast as they can.

“Froggits?” you ask hopefully, but already know it would be in vain. “You’ve got family in Hotland too, right? They wouldn’t harm me, right?”

The Froggits, unfortunately, don’t understand what you’re saying, but could sense the rising tension and take the first chance they can to hop out of the room.

It was just you and your mother now.

“Well, I think that just about says it for me, does it not?” she murmurs.

Hurt and betrayed, you slump in your seat. All your careful planning, your hopes, your dreams, dashed right before your eyes and now you find yourself fighting back tears.

“I’m sorry, Chara,” She whispers, gently grabbing one of your shoulders. “But staying in the Ruins is for your own good. I am only trying to protect you.”

You don’t bother to comment.

“Now go start putting your gifts away. Since your friends left early, you will have to deliver their party favors in person. You might be able to catch a few of them if you are fast, and maybe you should consider giving them an apology for scaring them off while you are at it.” She leaves you then, gathering up the plates and taking them into the kitchen to wash while you stew in your sour mood.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all. In fact, no, you refuse to let this be how it ends.

As quietly as you can, you slip out of the den and head to the stairs. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. She couldn’t keep you locked up here forever! The Underground can’t possibly be as bad as she says it is! You just won’t accept that.

You hesitate at the first step, aware of what you are about to do is impulsive and rash, and definitely not what a responisble teenager would do, but it's clear now your mother is never going to grant you this one request no matter how mature and reasonable you were, so you might as well throw all caution out the window.

You are going to see for yourself what the Underground was really like or die trying. You are going to escape this tiny world you knew even if it's the last thing you ever do.

Taking a deep breath, you brace yourself and begin to descend.

Chapter Text

No sooner than you reach the bottom step do you begin to lose your nerve. So much for bold statements and epic speeches. Your words were about as solid as a Moldsmal. It’s dark and musty and there’s a noticeable drop in temperature down here. The atmosphere feels foreboding and suddenly this doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.

Mom comes down here every day, you remind yourself. There can’t be anything that dangerous down here.

You take a cautious step forward. Guilt and anxiety weigh you down like lead shackles. For the most part, you were a good kid. Everything your mother asked of you was reasonable, and you’ve never disobeyed her in the past. But this- this was on a whole 'nother level. This wasn’t like refusing to pick up your socks or brush your teeth. This was blatant rebellion and you’ve never defied her like this before.

What if she comes down here every day to fight of invaders? your brain suddenly asks, already imagining a hundred worst-case-scenarios. It could be true. After all, your mother never tells you why she comes down here daily, but knowing her fear of the Underground, it had to be for something important, right? Why else would she bother? What if it was to make sure the doors still held from wave after wave of relentless attacks? What if it was to make sure no trespassers broke through or burrowed under?

No. No, that’s ludicrous. If it was really that dangerous, why would your mother even tolerate living on top of such a place? Besides, your best friend, Flowey, says he spends a lot of time just outside the door and you know how he doesn’t like to show up anywhere where there’s a crowd. You shove the thoughts out of your mind and keep going.

The tunnel is longer than you realize. With each step you take, another horrible “what if” pops into your mind and you have to fight it down before you completely chicken out and turn back. So far it’s been an uphill struggle and your courage is wavering. You’re not sure how much further you can force yourself to go.

The corridor gradually turns left and right, rises and falls, and after a few minutes you’ve completely lost all sense of direction. Are you headed north? East? How far have you walked? A half mile? A whole mile? You can’t tell. There’s only forward and backward down here.

Suddenly the tunnel takes a sharp left turn, and you stop short in awe.

There they are- the doors to the rest of the Underground.

They’re even bigger than you imagined, and for a while you just stand there trying to take it all in. They’re massive, imposing, and radiating with ancient magic. You approach them as slowly as a sleepwalker, feeling like you’re in a dream yourself. Holding your breath, you dare to touch the colossal wood. Even through your gloves they feel smooth and cool, and just for a split second you think you sense the faintest of breezes seeping through the crack where the two halves meet.

Hypnotized by their majesty, a sudden wave of dread takes you off guard.

What if swarms of monsters are waiting to storm in as soon as you open the doors? What if once you open them, they won’t close again? What if robbers or kidnappers come? What if your mom catches you down here? She’ll be so mad at you especially since you just had an argument with her. This is your last chance to turn back and pretend this never happened.

You waffle, petrified by your uncertainties to go forward, yet too agitated to go back. You’ve come so far. You don’t want to give up, but your constitution is quickly crumbling.

But then you recall what your friend Flowey said about how the snow in Snowdin sparkles like diamonds, and how the rain in Waterfall sounds like music, and how the steam vents in Hotland were strong enough to make you fly. You so desperately wanted to see and hear and experience it all for yourself that your hunger to explore almost outweighed your fear. Almost.

Gently, you press your palms against the door.

I’ll just take a peek, you compromise. I won’t leave. Not yet.

Your mind made up, you brace yourself for the first push.


Doing mindless housework allows Toriel plenty of time to think. Muscle memory alone lets her absently scrub and dry dishes while her mind is elsewhere, but she does not like what she sees.

It was getting worse. Every time her child asked about seeing the rest of the Underground, it got harder and harder to hold them back. Today was their longest argument on the subject to date, and Toriel couldn’t remember the last time she had raised her voice at her child, if ever.

Although she’s proud that her child is growing up sure-footed and independent, Toriel knows it is a double-edged sword. It’s only a matter of time before her child will once again try to leave the Ruins, and next time they might not even ask.

Maybe I should just go with them on supervised outings, she muses. That way I could protect them and they would finally get to see the rest of this small world.

Toriel finishes scrubbing the last plate and sets it on the counter. She drains the sink and fishes around the soapy water, removing any clots of fur she finds.

No, if I give them an inch, they will try to take a foot, and they will never be satisfied with staying in the Ruins, she reasons. Besides, what will the people think if they realize their queen has been in hiding here these past dozen centuries, only to resurface with the last human they need to break the barrier? It would not matter how hard I try to protect them. Those monsters would come for both of us. It is better if neither of us ever leave.

Toriel dries her hands on a dish rag and heads back into the den. Her eyes catch sight of all the birthday presents and party favors still on the table, but her child is nowhere in sight. She shakes her head. Thirteen years old, and they still couldn’t pick up after themselves. Well, they were thirteen more or less. The actual date was arbitrary; she let them pick their own birthday years ago and just stuck with it ever since. With a sigh she heads down the hall.

“My child, I thought I asked you to please put your gifts away,” Toriel taps on their bedroom door and it swings open to reveal a vacant room. “Chara?”

Confused, Toriel checks her room, the bathroom and the spare room, but her child is nowhere to be found. She would have heard them if they left through the front door, so where did they go?

“Oh no,” Toriel breathes when she realizes it can only mean one thing, and she races for the stairs. She should have seen this coming. After seeing how high their hopes were, after how much they begged her today she should have known they wouldn’t give up so easily.

Toriel recollects some close calls she had had in the past, where she had just managed to catch them at the bottom of the stairs and brought them back before they could go very far, but who knows how much of a head start they had on her this time? Terrible visions of a million ways her child could die out in the Underground flash in her mind and she runs faster.

Please do not let me be too late, she prays when her feet exchange worn, carpeted wood for cold, compact earth, and she sprints down the corridor. Please do not let them be out the door!

Rounding the last corner, she spies them studying those two damn slabs of wood and her emotions ricochet from panicked to relieved to livid. She got lucky today, but after this she would make sure there would be no more such close shaves.

“Chara, what did I just tell you about leaving the Ruins?” Toriel seethes.

Her child whips around in terror then tries to shrink into themselves having being caught in the act red handed.

“I-I wasn’t going to leave, honest!” they stutter, but her judgement is still clouded by trepidation, and Toriel doesn’t believe them. It was a lie, how could it not be a lie when it was so painfully obvious they were trying to run away?

Caught up in her own fears, Toriel can’t sort out her thoughts rationally. Her eyes narrow as she inspects the accursed doors. This tantalizing exit has taken six lives already. She was not going to let it take another.

“I do not care, Chara. Now be a good child and move away from the doors.”

“W-what are you going to do?” her child asks when they see the look in her eyes.

“The rest of the Underground is not where you belong. But as long as these doors stand, there will always be temptation. I cannot bear the thought of knowing you will die if you set foot beyond them, so I am going to destroy this tunnel so you will never try to leave again.”

“What? No!” her child screams in defiance, spreading their arms out to defend what little they could of the massive doors. “You- you can’t do this!”

“Of course I can, Chara,” Toriel says unnaturally calm. “I know what is best for you and only want to keep you safe. Now come away from the doors.”

“No!” her child shouts again. “J-Just because you’re scared of the rest of the Underground doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to make me trapped here!”

Anger bubbles in Toriel, growing dangerously hot and threatening to spill over. Why did they so badly want to walk into their own death? Why couldn’t they just be content here with her where it was safe?

“Are you really that determined to leave? You foolish child.” She hisses, becoming blind to her fury. Twin flames ignite in her hands and bathe the two in a menacing firelight.

“Mom, w-what are you doing?” her child asks, cornered and trembling against the wood.

“If you refuse to heed my words,” Toriel rumbles, “Then I shall just have to demonstrate what those monsters outside will to do you!”

Toriel turns her palms outward and fire rains from above. Her child gasps at the oncoming flames, frozen in horror. At the last possible second they find their feet and dive to the side.

“Mom! Please stop! I-I’m not going to fight you!”

But Toriel might as well gone blind and deaf. All she can see are all the possible ways they could die out there, all she can hear are six desperate words of life or death; Get them away from the door. Do whatever it takes, but get them way from the door.

“Mom, stop doing this!” her child begs as they narrowly evade another blazing inferno in the limited space they have to run. “Please stop doing this!”

Toriel had already suffered through losing two children. She refuses to lose another. She conjures a flurry of embers, twisting in miniature tornadoes.

Get them away from the door.

“Mom, please listen to me!” they plead to no avail, and struggle to duck more flames.

Toriel should never have had to touch her child’s dust.

Get them away from the door.

“Mom, I’ll listen to you! I promise! Just please, please stop!”

Toriel should never have had to put her child in the ground.

Get them away from the door.

“Mom! I’m sorry!”

No mother should ever have to outlive their children.

Get. Them. Away. From. The. Door.

Unaware of her child’s endurance flagging, Toriel relentlessly continues her assault. Drawing on the last of their stamina, the child manages to dodge one fire ball, only to jump directly into the path of another. Their scream is cut short as it punches the air out of their lungs and knocks them backwards. They land hard on their spine and for several seconds they are completely motionless.

The sight snaps Toriel out of her trance instantly, and her hands fly to her mouth. Her flames immediately vanish and for several heartbeats she dares not move or even to breathe.

What had she done?

Finally her child coughs, choking on smoke and cinders. Slowly, they push themselves up on their elbows and carefully touch their singed sweater, their eyes wide in bewilderment.

“You… hurt me…” They say more in stunned disbelief than actual pain.

“Chara, I am so sorry,” Toriel whispers. “Here, let me heal you.”

“N-no,” her child stammers, meeting their eyes with hers, and the emotion she sees in them nearly shatters Toriel’s soul.

They are afraid. But what’s more, they are afraid of her.

“My child, I did not mean to scare you,” Toriel says softly, her own fear shaking her voice. No, that was a lie. She had intended to scare them, but she had wanted to make them scared of the door, of the outside monsters, of wanting to leave, but she didn’t mean to make them scared of her.

What had she done?

“Please, allow me to heal the burn,” Toriel steps closer and crouches down.

“No!” her child cries louder this time, and scrambles to their feet. “S-stay away from me!” Tears streaming down their face, her child flees the room before she can get up.

“Chara, wait!” Toriel calls after them, but it’s all in vain. Hanging her head, she stays where she kneels for several minutes.

What had she done?

It an effort for Toriel to get back on her feet. She has succeeded in chasing her child away from the door, but the remorse feels heavier than the entire mountain above her head. The thought of collapsing the tunnel tentatively pops into her mind, but she throws it to the side. Right now she knew it was more vital that she make amends before anything else, even if it meant having to beg for her child’s forgiveness.

With a guilty conscience and heavy heart, Toriel begins the long walk back of the tunnel.

Chapter Text

Only once you are safe back in your room behind a closed door, do you truly have a break down. Bawling face down in your pillow, you cry out all your tears of panic, confusion and fear.

Your mother had attacked you. She hurt you. Never in your life had you two ever truly fought. Petty arguments, sure, but an actual battle with actual blows actually intending to injure you? Until today you wouldn’t have believed your mother capable of such a thing if you hadn’t seen it firsthand. And you did far more than just see it- you had been literally caught in the middle of it.

Thoughts running in circles, you continue to sob and shutter, unable to do more until you got it all out.

Did going against her orders really make her hate you that much? Or was she really just that scared of the Underground, she would risk your own safety in order to bring the roof down and prevent you from ever leaving? You don’t know which is worse; losing your mother’s love or losing your only promise of freedom from this monotonous life.

Minutes later, the water works have stopped at last, but only because you’ve depleted your reserves. You continue to hiccup and heave, still badly shaken from the whole ordeal, but now added with puffy, red eyes and a dehydration headache.

Both sleeves of your sweater are uncomfortably damp, so you use the ears of your hat to rub your eyes, even though there aren’t any more tears to dry. With ragged breaths, you lean over the edge of your mattress and reach under your bed for your secret stash of monster candy (that the Froggits gave you last year for your birthday) and pick out a cherry flavored one.

Finally all cried out, you roll on your back and stare at the ceiling. The hard candy is sweet and soothing and makes you feel better almost instantly. You let out a sigh as all the little stings and scrapes on your body magically fade away, thanks to the monster candy fullfilling its purpose as a painkiller, while ironically being a cavity in a ball.

In truth, you hadn’t been hurt all that bad. The fireball may have hit you dead center, but the flames had dissipated too fast to give you anything more than a slight sunburn. Even your hard fall backwards had done little more than scratch up your elbow, which you easily fix with a band-aid.

As your shock finally subsides, a new feeling begins to crawl around your insides, bitter and cold. Slowly your confusion is replaced with contempt, and your fear with resentment.

It isn’t fair. Why should you be trapped in the Ruins your whole life just because she was scared of the rest of the Underground?

She probably speaks from experience, a little part of your brain betrays you by acting more mature than you want to be right now. She’s seen and done more things than you ever will, and everything she’s ever done has always been for your sake.

“She still shouldn’t have fought me, though,” You say out loud.

*Knock, knock, knock*

“Chara? May I come in?” A deflated voice asks from the other side of your door.

Ah, speak of the devil.

“No,” you say flatly, completely aware of how callow it is.

“…I… I wanted to apologize for what happened,” your mother says, still respecting you enough to not come in anyway.

“Apology not accepted,” you retort. It’s childish. You know it’s childish. But if she was never going to treat you as anything more, you might as well act like one.

There’s a long silence before she speaks again.

“Chara, I know it is hard growing up here, and a lot of rules do not seem fair, but know that all I do is only to protect you.” There is no anger or bitterness in her words. Only sadness. “One day you will understand. I love you.”

“Go away,” you spit, hoping the words sting.

A brat. You were being a brat, plain and simple, but acting this juvenile is nothing new to you. There were plenty of occasions when you were younger where you had gotten too frustrated or upset and lashed out at your friends. Sometimes you would pick on Loox, or terrorize Whimsuns, or threaten Froggits, but never once did you ever raise a hand against them. You know words could hurt a lot more than a weapon, and for far longer, and you hope they hurt now. She deserves to feel bad after what she did to you.

When you don’t receive a reply, you figure your mother’s given up and left. You roll over and face the wall, closing your eyes and trying to ignore that annoying part of your brain that’s still telling you to be reasonable. It’s brought a hefty helping of guilt with it, and it makes the sweet candy in your mouth taste sour.

Your crunch what’s left of the hard sugar and swallow the pieces, making a mental note to restock your stash. You still had enough in this bag to last you a week, but you wanted more so you could hole yourself up and never have to leave your room or face your mother again. Well, at least until you needed to go to the bathroom or got hungry for real food.

Breathing finally steady once more, you force yourself into an uneasy nap.

“Chara? Dinner is ready,” your mother’s voice rouses you some hours later.

“Leave me alone,” you wine, still too stubborn to quit this act and make up with her.

Infantile. That’s how you are behaving.

“I will just put it in the fridge, then,” your mother says softly after a pause, still not a hint of irritation in her voice. “Heat it up when you are ready to eat.” She was so patient with you, even like this. You feel bad, but ignore it.

You don’t leave your room. Instead you roll over again and start counting floorboards. You eat more candy to shut up your stomach, and your week’s worth stash vanishes in an hour.

“Chara, it is time for bed. Do you want me to tuck you in?” Your mother tentatively asks an hour later.

“No. Stop talking to me.”

Immature. Ungrateful. Spoiled rotten. There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe how rude you are being.

But never one to push, your mother complies and leaves you be. Despite doing nothing but lying in bed, keeping up your act of indignation is rather tiring, and before long you’re too sleepy to care anymore.

As you slowly drift off, the mental walls of pride you put up start to collapse, and guilt seeps into your thoughts unrestrained.

Your behavior today was inexcusable. It will be a miracle if your mother ever forgives you for this. She deserves a better kid than you.


Toriel didn’t expect her child to welcome her back with open arms. She was sorry. She had never done something she regretted so much in her entire life. To think she had harmed the one thing that she would give her life to protect was deplorable. Their grudge was well justified, and the only thing she can do is give them the time and space they needed before they would accept her atonement.

That night was the first night in years where she ate dinner alone.

The grandfather clock chimes, and Toriel groans. She still has to go meet her pun buddy for their daily rounds, but she’s definitely not in the mood to laugh.

But at least she’d get to talk to someone who did want to be with her, she rationalizes, trying to stay positive. It was all well and good she didn’t collapse the tunnel today after all. Her sudden disappearance would have probably hurt her friend’s feelings.

Filled with lament, Toriel straightens her posture, and descends the stairs for the second time that day.


“Did I tell you the time I was supposed to get an award with a feline’s face on it?” her mystery friend asks, preparing a joke.

“No…” Toriel says glumly.

“Well, the manufacturer screwed up and gave me an award with a feline’s butt on it instead. It was a catastrophe.”

“Ha, ha…”

“Hm. That’s not the reaction I was going for. Too wordy? How about this one then; Did you know I used to work at a calendar factory?”

“No…”

“Yeah, well I got fired for taking too many days off.”

“…Ha…”

“Okay, that joke was hilarious and you’re not laughing.” The mystery monster says seriously. “What’s eating you?”

Toriel didn’t see the sense in hiding the truth, and honestly she wanted someone to confide in so she could at last receive her sentence, or hopefully some solace.

“Chara and I… got in a fight today.”

“Pfft. Over what? Who got the last slice of pie?”

“No, my friend. We got in an actual fight. I… I tried to harm my child.” Her throat constricts as she chokes out the words.

“Oh…” is all the voice can say, and goes quiet for a moment. “Are you… okay? Did they…?”

“They did not try to attack me once,” Toriel cuts him off. “In fact, they tried so hard to talk me out of my fit, but I would not listen. I, on the other hand…”

Toriel can’t bring herself to finish. Scorch marks crisscrossed the walls all around her- a harsh reminder of what she had done only hours prior, yet here she was again, trying to tell jokes like they didn’t exist.

“Why… why were you fighting?” her friend asks, getting to the heart of the matter.

“They… I caught the trying to leave the Ruins and I panicked.” ‘Panicked’ was putting it lightly. Toriel knows she had more than just panicked. It was more along the lines of ‘totally lost it’, or ‘gone ballistic’.

“I almost did not stop them in time, but now… I fear I have made them hate me.”

“Oh, come on,” the mystery monster tries his best to comfort her. “After hearing all those stories you tell me about the kid and all the good times you two had? I don’t think they’re gonna hate you over a little squabble.”

Toriel wished she could believe it had just been a squabble. No, she had gone all out and assailed her child with everything she had. They have every right never to trust her again, now.

In that moment, Toriel wondered if she should even try stopping them the next time her child inevitably tried to leave. What if she serious hurt them, or worse, what if they-

“My friend, I have… something to ask of you,” Toriel starts.

“O-okay? Shoot.”

“I… I love my child and only want to protect them, but even though they are young, the fact that they are human still makes them remarkably strong. If they- If, for some reason… I am no longer able to prevent them from leaving, please, would you watch over them and make sure they stay safe?”

“Lady, if you think there’s a chance this kid might hurt you-“

“That is not what I am insinuating.” Toriel quickly interjects, but she had considered the possibility. “They have a good heart, my friend. They are innocent and ignorant and do not deserve the same fate as the previous six. If… if they ever leave, could you please promise me you will not let the royal guard find them?”

“Lady, I hate making promises…”

Please, my friend. I have never asked anything of you, not even your name. If they exit the Ruins, I do not want them to learn they are human and die because of it. Hide them, or convince the others they are a monster too.”

It was a huge request, a tall order Toriel doesn’t feel she has the right to ask, but she needed to try. If one day she could not stop her child from leaving, then at least she would prepare another shield for them on the other side.

There’s a long period of quiet, and Toriel worries that she’s over stepped her limits, but at long last her pun buddy answers.

“We’ll see.”

“Oh, thank you, my friend. I knew I could trust you-"

”Lady do not misunderstand me.”

The voice drops dangerously low, each word laced with venom, and Toriel snaps her mouth shut in alarm.

“I did not say ’yes’, I said ’we’ll see’. Just like you’ve got those you want to protect, I’ve got mine. And if your kid turns out to be a threat to those I care about…” He let the statement hang, but Toriel’s imagination was good enough to fill in the blanks. She had done it a hundred times already today.

Her soul hammers in her chest and she dares not speak. She has never heard her friend talk this way before.

After more silence, the mystery monster lets out an exaggerated sigh.

“Hell, what am I even getting myself so worked up for? If all you’ve said about them is true, then they’ll probably just stay with you to make you happy. They’ll probably live their whole life in there without me ever meeting them.”

“I can only hope so,” Toriel prays.

Neither of them can think of another joke to tell.

Chapter Text

Flowey waits outside the door for hours, but Chara doesn’t show. He expected as much. This yellow-bellied identity thief was nothing like his Chara, but while he’s glad of it, it’s also infuriating. For eight long years he told them wondrous stories about the rest of the Underground. Their undying need to just know what else is out there was like a flame that he fed kindling and fanned until it became so hot they couldn’t keep it contained or it would burn them alive. For eight long years he kept up the charade of all their “friends” nonsense and being “nice” to them. It shouldn’t have taken him eight years to get them to work up the courage to leave on their own, but that’s just what he gets for playing "nice".

Concentrating, he sends out hundreds of lateral roots, spreading all throughout the house’s foundation, growing thin as hairs and close to the surface. With them he can feel the vibrations of feet and track movement. It isn’t a crystal clear image by far, but it is a handy little way to spy on where people have been and where they were going.

At one point he feels Chara’s trembling footsteps through the cold floor of the tunnel and he almost remembered what it was like to experience excitement. He couldn’t believe it! Little goody two-shoes Chara actually trying to sneak out? He was almost proud. But no sooner had Chara reached the door did he feel her thundering close behind. And then his roots sense the most peculiar patterns of heat and Chara’s erratic jumping. Oh, they’re fighting with fists and fire. That’s a first. He wishes he could have seen it.

Unsurprisingly, he feels the wimp run off with their tail between their legs and her not far after. He could trace Chara all the way to their room, but they go off his radar the moment the get into bed. No matter. He’d know the moment they got out of bed again, but for the rest of the afternoon and evening, they do not move- not even when she goes to their door several times. Interesting. Very interesting.

He buries himself deep in the earth when that trash bag of a skeleton comes to the doors, but stays close enough to eavesdrop on their conversation. For the most part it's just their usual round of terrible puns and knock-knock jokes, but when she spills the beans to him, his reaction is one he hadn't expected.

But he likes what he hears.

It is only after he is certain that she retires to bed for the night that he decides to pay his “very best friend” a little visit.

Back in his old room, Flowey studies them for a bit.

It’s like the best inside joke ever. Here, sleeping in his old bed, was the greatest known threat to all of monster-kind. A child who had the potential to strike down even the most powerful of Boss Monsters and they did not even know it. Certainly this qualified as “hysterical”.

It occurs to him that he could just slay them here and now and steal their soul in their sleep.

They’d be dead before they realized they were dying.

It would be so easy.

But why settle for one soul when he could use them to get six more? There had been tales- legends- about creatures with the power of seven souls and acquiring the abilities of a god. With that kind of power, he could-

Well... it’s better to not count your chickens before they hatch.

He thought about telling them who they really were once or twice, just to see what they would do. They believed every word he ever told them, after all. But why ruin the fun when he could mold them to his liking regardless of what they thought of themselves? Ultimately, he held back because he just can’t predict how they might react upon hearing the truth. Worst case scenario would be they completely shut down, cower like the chicken they are, and decide to stay in the Ruins forever, making themselves utterly useless to him. It was just too risky.

With one leafy tendril, Flowey reaches towards their face. He has waited long enough, and it’s clear now Chara isn’t going to get anywhere on their own. It’s time to take matters into his own hands and get this show on the road.


Something is tickling your ear.

At first you think you’re dreaming it, and your dream-self continuously tries to brush the irritation away, but with no success. The longer it goes on, the more lucid you become and you realize whatever is itching you is happening to your sleeping body.

You wake up just enough to scratch your ear against your shoulder. The tickling stops and you slip back into deeper sleep.

But then it starts up again, pulling you out of slumber against your will. Peeved, you brush your whole hand across the side of your face, hoping to dislodge whatever blanket string or pillow feather that’s offending you. The tickling stops.

And then it starts up again, almost methodically.

This time your eyes flutter open as you put the pieces together, and you buck the covers off as knee-jerk instinct tells you to fight or flee whatever is attacking you while you sleep.

You prop yourself up on your elbows and blink several times, completely blind in the darkness,

“Who’s there?” you whisper in fright.

“Howdy, Chara,” a friendly voice whispers back. “It’s just little old me, Flowey the flower.”

Your eyes finally begin to adjust and you can just make out the flower’s form in the gloom. You exhale in relief.

“Say, you said today was the day you’d finally leave the Ruins,” Flowey says. “I waited outside the door for you all day and you didn’t show. What gives?”

Oh yeah, you had promised Flowey you’d meet him outside, hadn’t you? Just one more thing to add to your list of “things you broke today”, right next to the rules and your mother’s heart.

You roll over so you don’t have to face him. “Mom said I couldn’t go,” you mumble.

“What? But I thought you said there was no way she could say ‘no’!”

“Yeah, well, I was wrong. I don’t really even want to leave anymore anyway.”

“Oh, come now, Chara! You and I both know that’s not true! You’ve been planning this for months! You can’t give up just because of one minor setback.”

“Yeah, but I made her really mad and we ended up fighting. She said ‘no’ when I asked the first time, but now I don’t think she’s ever going to say ‘yes’ after what I did today.”

“Well, then don’t waste your time asking,” says Flowey.

“What?” you look over your shoulder.

“Questions you already know the answer to, don’t need to be asked, right?” Before you can think about it, the flower pops closer to your bed. “Instead of waiting for her to give you permission, why don’t you just show her you can handle yourself?”

“Flowey, it’s not that she doesn’t think I’m incapable of looking out for myself,” you explain. “She’s just trying to keep me safe. You don’t understand.”

“You’re right! I don’t! Someone says they’re protecting you by attacking you? That makes a whole lot of sense!” The flower sneers sarcastically.

You avert your eyes, unable to argue against that logic.

“Chara, I can tell you feel bad about fighting with your mom, but you’re a teenager now, and teens are supposed to rebel against their parents! And as a teenager, all you have to do is prove it to her that you’ll be alright outside the Ruins, and then she’ll have no valid reason to keep you locked up here!”

“Flowey, it’s not going to work. She always stops me from getting down the stairs.”

“Well, then let’s go right now while she’s asleep!” Sneak out again? You had already tried that today, and look how well it turned out. But Flowey continues before you can tell him this; “Just think, we can pop out real quick, have a walk around, and come back and show her nothing bad happened!”

“It doesn’t matter if nothing bad happens. She’ll collapse the tunnel as soon as I tell her I snuck out.”

“Well, then don’t tell her!” Flowey flaps a leaf in a carefree gesture. “Your little outing can be a secret. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

You hesitate. Flowey certainly isn’t giving up easy. You wonder if this is how you made your mom feel at the party. You have to admit, it feels really awful to be pushed like this.

“Listen, if you’ve still got doubts, I’ll be right there with you so nothing can go wrong.”

You don’t answer, still a little unsure. You hate to disappoint a friend, but are you really willing to disobey your mother twice in one day? You still haven’t even made up with her yet. And if she didn’t already think you were the worst behaved child on the planet after today, what would she think of you if she found out you went through with this?

“If you leave right now, you’ll get to see it snowing,” Flowey says softly when you stay quiet. “Believe it or not, snowfall doesn’t happen that often in Snowdin. You know, part of the whole, ‘no weather’ thing down here in the Underground. It’s practically a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event. You may never get a chance to see it happen.”

You sigh with longing. Flowey certainly has a way with words and you don’t see the point in arguing when it’s clear he isn’t going to let you say “no”. And you still deeply, truly wanted to go, no matter how you tried to deny it, so why keep refusing? Today you had asked to go out, and you had tried to sneak out, but maybe the third time’s a charm?

“As long as we get back before Mom wakes up?” you clarify.

“Of course! I wouldn’t dream of getting you into any more trouble!” Flowey smiles enthusiastically. “I’ll be waiting outside the door! Oh, and you might want to wear an extra sweater. It’s cold out there!”

With that, the flower vanishes under your rug, and you get out of bed, more rested than you thought you should be at this hour. Perhaps it was your nap earlier or the thrill of sneaking out that helped you feel more alert. You open your dresser full of green and yellow striped sweaters, pull out the warmest one you have, and put it on over the one you fell asleep in. After some consideration, you take them both off and switch the order. You had been wearing your only blue and purple one today for your birthday because it’s your favorite, and you like to show it off.

Countless times you’ve unraveled and re-knit this sweater as you grew, adding more purple stripes to it with yarn donated from some of your mom’s old robes. In fact, it was more purple than blue now, but you don’t mind. You think these colors look better on you than green and yellow any day.

Digging through your shoe box, you put on your thickest winter boots with giddy. They were still a little big, but just knowing you’d get to use them at last was reason enough not to complain. You equip your hat and gloves out of force of habit, but take nothing else. You aren’t going to be gone that long, after all.

Tiptoeing out of your room, you steal a glance at the clock near the front door. It’s just past eleven. Your mom won’t be awake until six at the absolute earliest. There would be plenty of time to play and explore if you wanted to.

Closing your door without a sound, you once again nip down the stairs, this time with no fear in your step.

The corridor feels shorter this time around, and you only pause a second when you see the doors again. This time you don’t dither, and march towards them with purpose. Just like before, you place your hands on the cool wood and for the briefest of moments you hesitate, knowing clear well you were going to break your mother’s rules for the second time that day, but you shake it off, reminding yourself she can’t punish you if she never finds out.

You give a firm push. Unsurprisingly, the doors don’t budge. You push harder. Nothing happens. Turning sideways, you lean into the door with your shoulder. Not an inch gives. Geez, did your mom cast a spell on it so it wouldn’t open? You huff in exasperation and study the door with scrutiny. There was no way you were going to be thwarted by two hunks of wood.

With a deep breath, you rock back on your feet for extra momentum and throw yourself at the doors with all your might. Something rumbles. Digging in your heels, you splay your fingers and keep pushing. Something shutters. Teeth grinding, legs shaking, you strain with every fiber in your being. Something moves. You feel yourself tipping and take a step closer to compensate, and then another, and then another.

The door groans and the two halves slowly widen until they swing apart with their own inertia. A blast of frigid air slaps you in the face and you gasp at what you see.

Before you is a meadow, illuminated by that strange unearthly light that permeates all the Ruins. Pristine white snow blankets every bush and rock and gives the field a gentle rolling look, softening the edges of all you can see.

Flowey was right- it’s snowing. Hundreds of fat flakes rain in silence, and you can’t help but feel that the lack of sound doesn’t match up to the sight. Curious, you look up at the ceiling, but the top of the cave is lost behind dense grey fog, hundreds of yards up. If you squint, you think you can just make out the teeth of a stalactite here and there, nothing more than remote islands in a misty, swirling, inverted ocean made of clouds.

“Wow,” you breathe, and startle yourself with your own breath. You can see it- hot steam curling from your nostrils and lips. With fascinated delight, you blow more, experimenting how big a cloud you can make. For a few wonderful seconds, you pretend yourself a full-grown Boss Monster breathing fire for show, but it’s hard to blow a jet of smoke and laugh at the same time.

Feeling self-assured, you brave a few steps away from the door, high-stepping through the drifts. The snow is so thick it comes up to your knees, and you’re a bit disconcerted to discover that something so soft and fluffy looking instead crunches underfoot.

A couple more paces and you suddenly freeze when the doors let out a long, drawn out whine on their arthritic hinges behind you, growing louder and louder. You grit your teeth, screw your eyes closed and internally scream at them to stop making so much noise.

With a resonating BOOM the doors slip shut behind you, rattling the trees in the distance and sending down thin trickles of dirt and sleet from the roof above.

You don’t move. You don’t breathe. Instead, you stand stock-still like you’re playing the most deadly game of Grandmother’s Footsteps, and just wait.

Waiting for what, exactly? You don’t know. For a horde of vicious monsters to erupt from the trees? For the mountain over head to come crashing down on you? Or, worst of all, for the wrath of your mother, come to drag you back home by your ears? That sound was probably loud enough to wake up everyone in the Underground for crying out loud.

You wait.

And then you wait some more.

And then you wait a little bit extra for good measure, but all remains peaceful and still.

When nothing happens, you finally exhale. See? Everything’s fine. Nothing had attacked you, and you were okay. You dare to keep going.

More confident than ever, you meander, exploring this new playground. Bushes and shrubs grow so thick on the edges of the field that they create an impenetrable wall. Skinny tree trunks so tall compete for space with the clouds overhead, and looking back at the door you find a waterfall of broken boulders and logs bordering the entrance back to the Ruins. From what you can see, there’s only one other path out of the meadow, but you leave it for now. You can’t possibly venture off yet without first discovering all the things you can do with all this snow.

But before you even get a chance to dip your hands in the nearest snow poff, your best friend’s voice calls out; “Howdy, Chara!” and you turn to find Flowey beaming at you with the happiest smile you’ve ever seen him wear. His next words take you completely off guard.

“Welcome to the rest of the Underground! Now get ready to die!”

Chapter Text

“Die?” Speaking turns out to be the worst decision you make in response to a statement like that. The second you open your mouth, Flowey pelts you with a snowball to the face.

His howls of laughter echo off the trees while you spit out slush.

“Hey! No fair!” you can’t help but laugh as well. He tricked you good. “I didn’t have a chance to prepare!”

“Sorry, Chara,” Flowey says completely unapologetically. “But in this world, it’s snowball or be snowballed!”

Vines at the ready, Flowey launches another volley of snowballs without warning. You dive to the nearest snowbank for cover, fighting down your giggles so he can’t zero in on you. Wasting no time, you rake up as much snow as you can reach and begin packing them into spheres. If it was war he wanted, then war he would get!

Once you have a dozen projectiles prepared to fly, you spring from your hiding spot, arm raised to fire.

But Flowey isn’t there any more.

“Behind you,” his voice trills, and you make the mistake of turning around only to get bombarded again.

“Cheater!” You chortle, and throw your one snowball in his direction before running for your life. You tear up the snow as you dodge his assault, attempting to make snowballs on the move but with little success. You both evade each other’s attacks easily and end up in a stalemate that goes on for nearly half an hour until you’re both exhausted from the game.

Breathless, you flop down in the snow beside your friend.

“Truce?” you pant, tired from running.

“Truce,” he gasps back, equally tired from throwing snowballs more than twice his weight. You nod in relief and let out a yawn. “Hey, hey! Don’t tell me you’re tired already!” Flowey prods you with his tendrils. “There’s still so much to do!”

“I’m not tired,” you assure him. “It’s just the cold.”

“What, all that running around didn’t warm you up? Well, I know what will fix that. Come on! Let’s build a snow fort! And then the world’s biggest snowman!”

Giving you no chance to rest, Flowey pushes you to your feet with his vines and puts you to work. Having no hands or fingers, he can’t do much more than shovel snow where it needed to be, leaving it up to you to do all the hard stuff. You willingly go along, rolling up snow and denying any sleepiness you felt. You just got out! You weren’t ready to go back home. Not yet!

Fighting off fatigue, you throw your all into your snow fort, making it as big as the den of your house. But why stop there? After you etch out the teeth of your fort’s ramparts, you get to work on constructing a snow castle, and by the time you shape the last tower, you have planned out the layout for a whole snow village.

Flowey, as always, was right. As you toil away, digging a trench for the moat around your snow fort, you warm up almost instantly. The snow had stopped falling, and the more you thought about it, the more you realize it isn’t even all that cold to begin with. Maybe magic mixed with the snow had something to do with it, but you dare to say you were overdressed for this weather.

When the walls of your fort are finished, you pause only for a moment to take off your top sweater, placing it to the side before moving on to building the snow citizens and subjects of their soon-to-be snow king giant. You could see it now- looking over the meadow, where the farms would be and the neighborhoods and town square. Flowey had already gotten started making half a dozen snow people for the royal court, but you don’t see him now.

With other things on your mind, you don’t let his absence worry you. He’s probably just off building his own secret snow fort at the other edge of the field or something. With little else he could do here, you wouldn’t be surprised if he was already planning another snowball war on your kingdom.

You make a mental note to draft a snow militia.

Vision in place, you hop back to it, and begin rolling up the biggest ball of snow that would soon be the base of the great snow poff monarch.


The flower waited.

Life as a fragile plant had taught him well to learn when to bide his time, but now that he has gotten them out, time was of the essence.

He practically has to force himself to relax and play it safe. There was no turning back now, but he still has all night. No need to rush things.

He watches them work and wipe the sweat from their brow, smiling when they finally take a breather.

Silently, he congratulates himself as his roots coil around the discarded sweater, pulling it into the earth as he slips under the permafrost as well.

Patience was his greatest virtue.


Noble Knight Snowpoff was crowned king of Snowpoff Castle in front of thirty-six loyal subjects an hour later. He is a strict but fair ruler and his kingdom thrives under his reign.

You stand back and admire your work. The castle looks great, and all the snow farms in the kingdom are bustling with a healthy snow crop this season. Per capita is high and the economy has a bright future instore.

Flowey still is off somewhere, but you aren’t too concerned. He could awe at your craftsmanship later… right after you finish building the barracks for your snow army that would be ready and waiting to assail him with snow cannon balls.

With a devilish grin, you dive back in and get building.


Somewhere else entirely, the flower got to work.

Inside the house, thorny tendrils coil around the hands of the grandfather clock. Days never grew longer or shorter in the Underground, but that didn’t deter him from starting daylight saving’s time early this year.

It felt good to see a plan finally come to fruition after weeks, no- months, no- years of precision calculating.

And this one was an hour ahead.


After your military is made, you take the time to add a few extra touches to your snow kingdom. You improve the infrastructure and decorate all the houses with bits of twigs and leaves you collect from the bushes. Every square inch of your half of the meadow had been utilized to maximum snow efficiency, and like it or not, you have completed your snow village. There is simply nothing left to add or build.

It’s only now that you feel Flowey’s been unusually quiet for a long time. You half expected him to launch a sneak attack while you were busy with construction, but now he seems to have completely vanished.

“Hey, Flowey! Come check out my snow kingdom!” You shout across the field where you suspect he’s hiding. When he doesn’t show, you roll your eyes and go looking, picking up a snowball along the way. Maybe he’s in the middle of building something and won’t hear you sneaking up.

You duck behind a snowdrift when you reach the other end, and wait for a sign that he’s there. You bite back snickers when you hear a twig snap. He’d never see this coming.

“Surprise!” you yell, and launch your snowball over the snow bank. “The kingdom of Snowpoff declares war on y-! Huh?” You spring from your hiding spot but stop short when you find nothing behind the snowdrift. No fort, no snowball, not even your best friend. “Flowey?” you call, looking all around, but you can’t spot a single speck of his familiar yellow petals anywhere on the white. If he wasn’t on your half of the meadow, and he’s not over here, well, then where is he?

For the first time that night, you start to feel a little uneasy.

He could just be in the soil, you reason, but why would he stay under that long? “Flowey, if you’re playing some kind of joke, knock it off. This isn’t funny.” You say to the earth, trying not to feel self-conscious about talking to the dirt. When you get no reply, you assume he’s not there. Your eyes scan the perimeter of the field and fix on the one narrow gap in the trees leading away from the doors. Surely he wouldn’t go off exploring without telling you… would he?

Trepidation begins to creep into your veins, making your hands and feet prickle with apprehension. Or maybe they were just getting numb and falling asleep from the cold. Either way, you start to feel exposed standing around in the open, and decide to move on.

You study the trail anxiously. The narrow footpath winds left and right, making it impossible to see very far down from where you stand.

“Flowey?” you call down the path.

You get no answer. Maybe he didn’t hear you. Or maybe nothing’s down there. You certainly don’t hear anything, so that means it’s safe, right?

You nervously set off down the path, not knowing what else to do. The trees grow so thick here, too, it’s impossible for you to wander off the trail and get lost, but that also means that wherever this road leads, it’s a one way trip.


Meanwhile, stealthy roots hunt through all the little cracks and crevices for tiny rodents asleep in their burrows.

They are the last thing he needs keep this ball rolling, to put all his pieces in play, but despite breeding like the vermin they were, they are surprisingly hard to pin down. Still, it was all he had to work with, and he did his job diligently.

Perhaps monsters only turn to dust, but humans aren’t the only things that could bleed.


A few minutes in, you nearly trip over a tree branch fallen across the path. You try to move the hazard out of the way, but it’s too heavy to lift, and you give up after one attempt. You abandon the branch and resume looking for your friend.

CRACK.

You freeze and whip back around. The branch you had been trying to lift only seconds before has been crushed in two, with no evidence left behind to tell you what snapped it. Your heart feels like it turns to ice at the sight as you dare to assume what this means.

You walk a little faster, keeping your eyes forward and your ears turned back, but all you can hear is the crunching of your own footsteps.

Crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch, crunch-crunch

Wait a minute- do your footsteps have an echo? You stop quick and listen, mindful to drag your feet so they wouldn’t make a sound.

A distinct pair of footsteps go crunch, crunch.

That was no echo.

Someone, or something is following you.

Despite your better judgement, you look back. There’s no one there, but you still feel like you’re being watched. “Flowey?” you ask nervously, and remember a heartbeat later that Flowey can’t make the sound of footsteps when he moves.

You swallow hard and force yourself to start walking again. You can’t go back now, or you’ll run right into whatever is following you.

Hugging your arms, you cast weary glances to the branches arching overhead like withered fingers. They feel more like a cage now, and your skin crawls with paranoia.

You round a corner and halt before a bridge spanning a seemingly bottomless gap. It looks old and unstable, and you don’t want to risk crossing it.

The sound of footsteps grows louder and undeniable behind you, but you’re frozen in terror, unable to run even if your life depends on it.

”Hey kid,” a deep voice drawls, sending your heart into your throat and your stomach to your bowls.

”It’s way past ten ‘o clock. Do your parents know where you are?”

Chapter Text

Any and all bystanders who happened to take a look at the checkpoint as they pass by would have unanimously agreed that the sentry on duty had fallen asleep at his post.

Sans preferred to call it “working overtime.”

Could anybody blame him? Being a sentry was the most insipid occupation in all of the Underground, and this was coming from a guy who was so indolent, he liked to joke he almost had a deadly sin named after him but was so lazy, he couldn’t be bothered to accept the title.

But this job- woo boy, this job is something else. It is just so dull, uneventful and mind-numbingly boring that even he, the infamous Slothful Sans, can barely stand it. All he does day in and day out is just sit there- and look to the right.

Riveting.

Sometimes he likes to mix it up a little and looks to the left for a change. It’s just as enthralling as looking to the right, but it sure gives his neck bones a real work out. And on days he’s REALLY daring, he does the unthinkable and looks both left AND right.

Woah, somebody call the authorities, this man is out of control.

Bringing crosswords and word finds helps pass the time, but even the most dimwitted of monsters can only put up with the same Junior Jumbles for so long. His old science colleague, Alphys, would sometimes gift Sans with math puzzles on occasion, but even sudoku and kakuro, the integer equivalents of jumbles and crosswords respectively, grew repetitive over time. There are only so many ways you can arrange or add the numbers one through nine, after all.

Needless to say it’s a constant struggle to maintain sanity in this tedious career. Thank God he doesn’t have any muscles to atrophy, or he would have really been in trouble.

Despite that fact, Sans took up walking to keep himself from going stir-crazy. Patrolling was part of being a sentry after all, right? So technically he was still doing his job. Overachieving, even. Long scenic walks through the woods are one of the few high points of his day, but even those get mundane before long. Sans doesn’t think he has a photographic memory, but if someone had asked him to sketch every square foot of the trail through the forest, he could have done it with ninety-nine percent accuracy.

But if it hadn’t been for walking, Sans would have never discovered the mysterious doors deep in the forest, and by extension, the best joke teller he’s ever met. He didn’t even know the name of the lady on the other side, but she and her wit made going to work every day feel worth it.

Sans had been “working overtime” when he heard the noise, or rather, felt it. In a haze of half-awareness, his mind stumbles through a lightning-quick game of word analogies, his self-preservation subconsciously kicking into overdrive.

shaking. Noise. Danger? Cold. Snow. Avalanche? Underground. Cave in? Danger. Move. Move. Move!

His body jerks- more from instinct than intent, and Sans finds himself submerged under two feet of whiteness. For a split second he truly thinks there has been an avalanche when he can’t recognize any of his familiar checkpoint décor.

The flash of panic subsides when he realizes it’s just snowing, but that doesn’t explain the loud noise he thought he had heard. Had he just dreamed it? Was it like that unnerving falling sensation one sometimes gets right as they start drifting off? He doubted it. He had been aslee- er, “working overtime”, for a few hours now. Something had had to wake him up.

Seeing as his shift had ended quite a while ago, he guesses it won’t hurt to do a quick walk around just to make sure all is well.

But first he needs to clear away all this snow. Sans isn’t extremely short- he just looks that way next to his taller brother, but trudging through slush that came up to his femurs is still not his idea of a good time. Besides, a slob at home he may be, but unkempt in the workplace he is not, no matter how much he hates the job.

Drawing on his magic, Sans summons three demonic-looking skulls out of thin air. The weapons hover, waiting for orders.

“Okay, guys. I’m gonna need you to help me remove all this snow and clear the roads again,” Sans tells them. “Think you can do that?”

Without giving confirmation, the skulls separate and observe the area. Once in position, they open their mouths, raw energy pooling in their jaws.

“No, no no! No blasting!” Sans quickly arrests the skulls with his magic, freezing them in place before they can fire. “We might’ve just had an avalanche or landslide or something. The whole place could be unstable, you know?”

The weapons did not know, nor did they particularly care.

“You can’t be shooting energy beams everywhere. Just sort of… scoop up the snow and put it somewhere else, okay?”

Gaster Blasters are not entirely sentient, nor are they completely devoid of thought. They are more a mixture between an extension of Sans’ magic and an automated contrivance for collateral damage. While they cannot comprehend this, they DO know they are not snow plows and shoveling the walk way is not their intended purpose. But being incapable of complex thought, none of them complain. They also could never truly express “resentment” or know how to “hold a grudge” for being used in such a manner, but they still succeed in getting revenge with Sans by being completely inept at the task given.

Disbelief and annoyance mounting by the second, Sans watches as each head scoops up snow in its area, and deposit it into its neighbor’s, thus effectively making an endless loop of negative feedback.

“Really,” Sans says completely deadpan as each head tirelessly excavates the snow its neighbor replaces in a never-ending cycle of stupidity.

He sighs.

“I guess if you want a job done right…”


Nearly an hour later and all the snow is cleared from his post, save for what’s on the roof, but he can’t be bothered anymore. Shoveling snow with bones is about as effective as it sounds, but his station is once again presentable enough. Finally he can do a quick round and get home.

He takes his time walking through the forest, keeping an eye socket out for any signs of fallen stalactites or a cave in. The mountain is stable enough, and these caverns have been the home of monsters for generations, but it was still their prison as well, and one could never be too careful, and so every monster is taught from a young age to always be wary of the very roof over their heads just in case.

Sans half expects to find the mysterious doors to be buried under the snow when he reaches the clearing at the end of the path, and mentally braces himself for the agonizing task of more digging. He almost can’t comprehend what he finds instead.

It’s a kid in a green and yellow sweater building castles in the snow. Their back is turned to him, and all he can make out about them are their long ears and horns.

Why was a child playing in the snow in the middle of the night all the way out here when a cave in might’ve just happened? Sans is just about to tell the off and send them home, when suddenly they turn, and he catches their profile.

Then it all makes sense.

This kid isn’t a monster- they’re human.

The human.

The kid pauses and takes a second to look around, probably sensing they are being watched, and Sans retreats into the trees to observe them from afar.

Of all the things Sans thought he would do today, seeing the human he’s heard so much about is not one of them. At a loss of what to do, he simply studies them from the tree line, trying to work out a plan of action, but questions keep getting in the way.

The sound that had awoken Sans must have been the doors closing. Did the kid open them on their own? Why did they have fake horns, ears and fur covered hands? And most important of all, did his pun pal know her child was loose in the middle of the night or did the kid-

Sans forces himself to drop the thought as soon as it enters his mind. There’s not enough evidence to jump to a conclusion like that, no matter how suspicious it all was. It was still one hell of a coincidence, though. Not even a day after his joke partner confesses her fears about being unable to prevent this kid from leaving, and suddenly here they are, beyond the doors. The timing seemed a little too convenient, if you asked him.

Wait and see, he reminds himself. You said you would wait and see.

On any other day in any other life, Sans would not have been so indecisive. But so far the kid isn’t doing anything. They just pack snow together, building snowmen and snow houses, completely absorbed in their play, but he knows sooner or later they would have to move on, and with those doors closed behind them, forward was their only way to go.

The kid finally seems satisfied after an entire community of snow people are built, and it’s only now they look to the path towards Snowdin. Sans hasn’t taken his eye off of them since he realized who they were, but is no closer to figuring out their intentions now that they are out of the Ruins.

The kid starts speaking, but they’re too far away for Sans to make out the words. Were they looking for someone? This entire time he watched them, the kid had been alone, so it’s beyond him as to whom they were possibly calling to.

The kid scans the clearing a final time, and seems to come to the same conclusion. When it sinks in that they’re alone, they turn to the forest trail, and after a heartbeat of hesitation, they venture forth. Without missing a step, Sans begins to follow.

Sans is a master at reading faces and body language. As a skeleton, he had much more subtle facial expressions than most monsters, and he was innately good at interpreting them as any skeleton would need to be when interacting with their own kind. Needless to say, Sans can read the kid like an open book from the way they walked alone.

He stays far enough behind them to stay out of their range of hearing, but close enough not to let them out of his sight. Their gait was stiff and defensive, clearly moving as though they knew they are somewhere that they shouldn’t be. Sans finds it almost laughable. All his life he had been taught humans were the most dangerous thing he could ever encounter, and here was one cowering at their own shadow. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to him this kid probably wasn’t out on a rampage of destruction, but instead had snuck out for a night of fun without realizing what they were getting into.

So he decides it's warranted to mess with them.

A quarter of the way down the path, the kid stumbles over a branch that Sans never bothered to clear away. They try to shift it aside, but aren’t strong enough, and quickly move on.

With a snap of his fingers, Sans summons a single bone, slicing through the air and snapping the branch like a tooth pick. The weapon dematerializes faster than the kid can turn around, but Sans catches the look of absolute dread on their face as they practically go white as a sheet.

He follows them closer, stepping loud enough to just barely be heard and always winking away before they can spot him when they look back. After a few more minutes of this, they look ready to faint on the spot.

The kid comes to a stop when they reach his brother’s gate at the bridge right before his post, and Sans decides it’s time to end the game before they can go any further.

“Hey kid, it’s way past ten o’ clock,” he says in his most serious voice. “Do your parents know where you are?”

The kid freezes and ever so slowly turns to face him. The expression on their face is one of someone who has preemptively accepted death and now waits for the killing blow. Sans probably would have felt bad if he just didn’t find it all so funny.

“Well?” He goes on, waiting for an answer. The kid shakes their head.

“M-my mom says I shouldn’t talk to strangers,” they struggle, looking like they’re going to be sick. Sans rolls his nonexistent eyes.

“Normally that’s good advice,” he tells them. “But not really helpful for either of us right now.”

The kid doesn’t respond. Their eyes dart like they’re searching for an opening to bolt.

“Say, I have an idea,” the skeleton goes on. “Let’s introduce ourselves so we’re not strangers anymore. You’ll talk to me then, yeah? I’m Sans. Sans the skeleton.”

They dither, the internal conflict whether or not to go along with it or refuse is written clearly in their eyes. Not like it mattered if they told him their name or not. He already knew.

“Chara,” they quietly say at last, but they still look like they might pass out any second. Sans decides to lighten the mood.

“Nice to meet you, kid,” he extends one hand from his pocket. “Put ‘er there.”

Shaking hands looks like the last thing the kid wants to do, but they reach for it anyway, doing everything they can to stay on his good side.

The sound of flatulence fills the air in one long, dramatically overdrawn raspberry. The kid’s eyes practically bug out of their skull. Good God, their face! Who knew humans could be so expressive in their face alone? It was completely comical.

Unable to hold it in, Sans bursts out laughing. “Old whoopee cushion in the hand trick,” he explains, showing off the rubber air sack in is palm. “It’s always funny.”

The kid is still flabbergasted, but ever so slightly, the corners of their mouth turn up and some of the tension eases from their shoulders. While it’s not much better, at least it’s a start.

“So, back to my previous question. It’s past midnight, kid. Did your mom seriously say it was okay for you to be playing out this late?”

“Yes,” they answer quickly, but Sans notices they can’t look him in the eye socket.

“Really? Wow. I wish my mom was that cool. Anyway, I’m a sentry here, and it’s my job to make sure no one’s running around at this unholy hour, mom’s permission or not. So I gotta send you home.”

The kid almost seems relieved to be provided with an excuse to escape and nods without arguing.

“Tell me where you live and I’ll walk you home,” Sans offers, positioning himself to expose their lie.

“The Ruins,” the kid says, nodding back down the path.

“The Ruins you say? Well I just came from there and the door was closed. How do you expect to get back in?”

“What do you mean?”

“Surely your mom told you those doors only open one way when she gave you the ‘all clear’ to leave, didn’t she?” They shake their head slowly, no. “Oh. That’s unfortunate, because only a Boss Monster’s magic is strong enough to override the enchanted seal on that door.”

“I’m a Boss Monster,” they say like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. And then a little more defensively; “And I can do magic.”

They clap their hands to demonstrate, and an impressive shower of sparks jump from their gloves.

“Sorry kid. Those little sparks ain’t gonna cut it,” Sans clarifies. “Only an adult Boss Monster with fully developed magic abilities can open that door, and unfortunately we don’t have any of those ‘round these parts.”

The kid’s eyes grow wide as the penny drops.

“Are you saying I’m locked out?”

“Only if you’re going to admit you snuck out.”

“Oh no,” They grip the sides of their head as their knees begin to buckle. “Oh no, oh no, oh no. I need to get back inside before she wakes up! She’s going to kill me if she discovers I left if she doesn’t have a heart attack first! Oh no, what am I going to do?”

They look to the skeleton in desperation, but he can only shrug.

“Sorry kid. There’s literally nothing I can do. Guess you’re just gonna have to face the music.”

They stare at Sans a long time, expression shifting from pleading to hopelessness. They hang their head in defeat and shiver against the cold. “I’m going to be in so much trouble,” they sniff.

“Yeah, I guess you are," the skeleton says without a drop of sympathy. "Welp. I don’t know about you, but I’m chilled to the bone standing around out here. I’m heading back to Snowdin.”

Sans crosses the bridge and starts walking, but pauses and turns back. “You comin’?”

“What?”

“Back to Snowdin with me,” Sans jerks his head in the town’s general direction.

“But I told you I live in the Ruins.”

“And I told you it’s my job to make sure no one’s out in the cold at this time of night.”

“But I need to wait for my mom at the door when she comes looking for me.”

“I’m pretty sure your mom would prefer to find you warm and safe in Snowdin rather than as an ice sculpture out here.” Sans goes on when they still seem unsure. “Come on, you’ll only be staying for one night. I know the lady who runs our local inn. I can get you a room for free.”

The kid still looks like they want to resist, but an icy wind chooses to blow through at that exact moment, making them shutter. Deciding it’s not worth the frostbite, the kid sets their fear aside and obediently follows after Sans.

Sans’ perma-grin grows a little wider as the two fall in step. He decided he would take the scenic route back home instead of short cutting there. As much as he’d rather have the kid in quarantine until they could be collected, he’d be kind enough to at least let them get a good look at the scenery (and let them sweat a little more while they regret what they’ve done) before they get sent back behind the doors.

Heading home at last, Sans leads the way on the long road back to Snowdin.

Chapter Text

Flowey pushes his way through the permafrost. Rodent round-up took him longer than he expected. Hopefully Chara hadn’t noticed his absence.

“Chara, I’m bored of building snowmen! Let’s make snow angels!” he exclaims, breaking through the frozen earth.

But Chara isn’t there.

“Chara?” Flowey scans the entire field, but Chara’s nowhere in sight. Crud, they didn’t wonder off without him, did they? Why couldn’t this idiot learn to stay put?

Unaware of the hypocrisy, the flower withdraws back into the earth and heads off in the only direction they could have gone, stretching his roots ahead of him and sensing for any movement. He detects faint vibrations near the end of the trail.

Ah! Footsteps! Someone is walking up ahead. Flowey picks up his pace, worming through the soil as fast as he can. The closer he got, the stronger vibrations he felt. Chara was walking pretty fast. The earth tremored almost double-time.

Wait. No. The foot falls weren’t speeding up- there were two sets of feet trampling through the snow. Someone was trailing Chara.

Not good. If Flowey wanted this plan to work, he needed to get Chara through the Underground alone. Unwanted interference could screw up everything.

The flower catches up to them when the tremors of their footsteps stop near the bridge, and he makes sure to surface between the thickest trees, out of sight and out of range of any potential attack. He hisses low under his breath at what he sees.

Of all the monsters in the Underground, idiot Chara just had to run into this one first, didn’t they? The monster in question was a skeleton that Flowey was uncomfortably familiar with. This jerk had come close to killing him too many times to count, and he held the number one spot on the flower’s extensive mental list of “people to avoid at all costs”. (Geez, threaten this guy’s dumb brother ONE time and you’re on his shit list for life.)

Flowey does not dare get any closer to Chara with him around. He just cannot take the risk.

Patience, he reminds himself. His plans could tolerate an unseen even like this, but he’ll have to play it extra careful from here on out. Besides, it was more important now that all the pieces were in place. Chara was out and the only direction they could go now was forward. He would just need to wait until they were alone so he could push them on their way, and judging from what he overheard, his next opportunity wouldn’t be far off.

The flower waited.


The skeleton and kid walk side by side, neither completely comfortable with the other behind them. For the most part they’re both silent, lost in their own thoughts. The pair are just about to pass Sans’ station when the kid suddenly speaks up.

“Someone’s coming,” the mumble.

“Hm?”

“Down the road,” they point. “There’s someone there.”

Sans looks and sees a shadow heading their way. Oh, great. Is it one of the royal guards on night patrol? It would be just his luck if it is. The kid exits the Ruins and fate wastes no time putting his word to the test.

Aside from the highest ranking guards, the royal scientists and a few living war veterans, not very many monsters actually knew what a human looked like. Humans that fell were few and far between, so countless generations lived and died without ever seeing one. Any surviving images of them were often vandalized out of contempt or were just thrown away out of illiteracy for what they were looking at. Regardless, if this guard had a particularly keen sense of smell as many of the royal guards did, the strange, alien scent of a human would raise questions whether they knew what they were seeing or not.

Before Sans can say anything, the shadow spots them and bounds over. And as it turns out, it isn’t a royal guard on patrol- it’s something far worse.

“SANS! There you are, brother! I have been looking for you all night!”

Ah, crap. How could Sans possibly forget about seeing to his brother before getting involved with all this human kid nonsense? Of all the human-hunting fanatics, Papyrus is easily the most dedicated, no matter what time of day it was. If Sans wasn’t careful, the kid’s ignorance and his brother’s safety could both be compromised in a matter of seconds.

“Oh, hey Papyrus,” Sans says nonchalantly. “What are you doing up so late?”

“I have been waiting for you to come home to tell me my bedtime story, of course!” Papyrus stomps. “I figured you were probably running a little late, but six hours is! A bit! Excessive! What could you possibly be doing that’s keeping you out so late, and- OH MY GOD! SANS! IS THAT A HUMAN?!”

Sans tenses, but follows his brother’s line of sight.

The kid does too, and they both look over their shoulders to see what papyrus is wildly pointing at. It’s… a lamp?

“Nah, bro,” Sans chuckles and relaxes a bit. “That’s just a conveniently placed lamp. You know, for visual gags.” The shorter skeleton keeps an orbital fixed on the kid to gauge their reaction. They’re rigid with confusion and fear, looking between the two monsters and uncertain what to do, but Papyrus’ outburst doesn’t seem to have triggered anything in them. If the choice came up where he had to pick between protecting the kid’s identity or his brother, it would be no question, but for the time being he would do his best to shield the two from each other.

“Sans, please! How can a lamp possibly be funny?” Papyrus slaps his hands over his mouth as soon as the words come out, but it’s too late. A sly grin, invisible to anyone but another skeleton, spreads across the shorter brother’s face and Sans seizes the chance to divert the conversation and rattle off a few puns.

“I’m glad you asked! Allow me to enlighten you,”

The kid snorts. Papyrus groans.

“This lamp really helps give me bright ideas for my future jokes,”

The kid giggles. Papyrus fumes.

“Good thing this isn’t some story, or else I’d have to lampshade how silly this whole conversation is,”

The kid laughs, but Papyrus has had enough.

“I! HAVE HAD! ENOUGH!” he shouts. “Sans, those jokes were terrible! I am bringing you home even if I have to drag you there! Now let’s go!”

“Alright, alright, you win,” Sans puts his hands up in defeat. “I’ll be home in a few, but first I gotta walk this kid here to the inn. Will you let me do that?”

Papyrus looks to Sans’ left and blinks like he’s just noticed there’s someone else there for the first time.

“Oh, hello!” He greets the kid, completely switching his demeanor from exasperated to ebullient at the drop of a hat. “Hm. I’ve never seen your face before, and I have excellent facial recognition. Therefore, I think it is safe to assume that you are not from Snowdin, meaning you and I have never met! What is your name, stranger?”

The kid looks at Papyrus quizzically, but noticeably less stiff than earlier. Sans can’t blame them for being a little overwhelmed. Papyrus is a lot to take in when you first meet him. On the outside, he’s everything Sans isn’t; loud, expressive and passionate. Always vocal, always animated, Papyrus often appeared to be seconds away from firing an attack, and on more than one occasion his enthusiastic nature has scared away civilians out of misunderstanding. Anyone who could keep their nerve near him long enough to look past that outer layer would have easily been able to tell Papyrus was really just a gentle giant who couldn’t hurt a fly, but most people never stuck around that long to see it.

Sadly, the counterproductive effects of his disposition resulted in making it hard for Papyrus to make friends, so he often jumped at every opportunity to do so, much to Sans’ displeasure. Papyrus, opposite him in every way, was overly trusting in his efforts to make pals, and to compensate Sans was suspicious of everyone out of fear they could potentially abuse this fatal flaw of his brother, or worse, abuse him.

So Sans openly and unapologetically watches the kid to see how they respond. Although they’ve done nothing so far to make him question their integrity, one wrong move around his brother and they were as good as dead.

“Hi, I’m Chara,” The kid smiles, and tentatively extends a hand. Papyrus grips it with earnest and shakes their arm so hard, Sans half-worries he’s going to pop it out of their socket.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you! I am the Great Papyrus! Future member of the Royal Guard! But no doubt you already know who I am and of all my great deeds!”

The kid shakes their head no. Papyrus gives the loudest and most pointless gasp of any lungless monster to ever live, one-hundred percent shocked at such a notion.

“Well, then I must tell you of all my heroism while we escort you to Snowdin! Sans! Quit dawdling and shake a leg! Can’t you see this child is cold? We must get them to shelter as fast as we can! And then you can finally read me my bed time story!”

“You got it, bro,” Sans smiles, easing up a little. The immediate danger has passed and both brother and human are none the wiser as the trio resumes their march in the night.


You don’t really remember the walk to Snowdin. The adrenaline from meeting your first two monsters outside the Ruins is finally waning, and cold and exhaustion are taking over in its place. You try to focus on the skeletons to keep your mind off your freezing toes to pass the time.

You know what bones and skeletons are; you’ve broken a limb once or twice in the past and you know many monsters have them inside their bodies as well, but to see a monster that is nothing BUT bones is a shock you won’t soon forget. Are all other monsters in the Underground like this? You guess you’ll get used to it, but you’d have to get use to these two first.

Sans is… intimidating. You guess that’s a good enough word for it. His ever-present smile and glowing eyes are unsettling enough, but the fact that he doesn’t move when he speaks (or hardly at all for that matter) just pushes the whole interaction from uncanny to unnerving. He’s just so still when he idles, and when he does move, the fluid grace of each head turn and arm movement seems so calculated and precise, it makes him look more like a machine than a monster. It was almost unnatural. Unreal.

Papyrus, on the other hand, is… enthusiastic to say the least. His height and volume alone is enough to leave you dumbfounded, but unlike Sans, Papyrus moves nonstop, and for some reason that’s just as disturbing as Sans’ static nature.

Papyrus rattles on about all his valiant deeds, from helping old monsters cross the icy streets, to rescuing cats stuck in trees (and placing small white dogs into them?) while you nod along, doing your best to listen attentively and not fall over from your violent shivering. Man, you wish you remembered to grab your other sweater before you ventured away from the doors. It was probably going to be stuck in a block of ice tomorrow. You hope freezing clothes didn’t ruin them. You like that sweater, darn it.

“Whoops! Watch your step!”

You gasp when a pair of hands hook themselves under your armpits and lift you in the air. In your drowsiness, you had closed your eyes while following the skeleton brothers by ear, and failed to notice the massive, extremely pointy spikes coming up out of the ground that you almost impaled yourself on. Thankfully Papyrus was looking out for you and hoisted you out of harm’s way in the nick of time.

“Woah. Thank, Papyrus,” you breathe; the sight of the spikes snaps some sense into you. “You saved my skin.”

“It was nothing!” Papyrus says, trying to walk it off and play it cool, but he relishes in the praise far too much to be anywhere near convincing. “It’s just one more great deed to add to my list!”

“Why are there sharp, deadly spikes coming out of the ground anyway?” You ask.

“Puzzles of course! To thwart humans!” he explains as he continues forward.

“That’s the second time you’ve mentioned humans. Do they come through Snowdin a lot?”

“As a matter of fact…! No. No they don’t.”

“Oh,” you look at Papyrus over your shoulder. “You can, um, put me down now.”

“Yes, that is a good idea,” Papyrus agrees. “But! There are more puzzles up ahead with more dangerous spikes involved, and I think it would be safer for you to stay up here, where the spikes cannot harm you.”

“Wow, that’s really thoughtful of you,” you crack a nervous grin. You honestly wouldn’t mind this if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s awkwardly holding you in his outstretched arms the same way you carry your most rancid socks to the wash room, but you guess he’s just doing what came naturally to him, so you don’t fight it. “Thanks for being a friend.”

Papyrus dramatically gasps for the second time that evening and spins you around.

“Friends?” he whispers, as if the word was too delicate to say any louder. His eye sockets are practically sparkling (how does that even work?), and his smile stretches farther than solid bone should be able to do. “You consider us friends?”

“Um, yeah, sure,” You’ll agree to be friends if it means he’ll put you down faster.

Unfortunately, it does the exact opposite.

Papyrus pulls you into a bear hug so tight that it practically collapses your lungs.

“Sans! Did you hear that? My valiant endeavors have finally paid off! All I had to do was rescue this child from injury, and now I’m friends with a-! With, an, um…” Papyrus holds you at arm’s length again, and studies you. “Sorry if this is uncouth, but in addition to never having seen your face before, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a monster like you at all. What are you?”

“Whaaaat, you sayin’ you can’t tell, Papyrus?” Sans interjects. “They’re obviously a Boss Monster.”

“Like Asgore?” Papyrus looks down on his brother.

“The very same,” Sans nods. “Don’t you see the resemblance?”

Papyrus squints and observes you close, turning you left and right like he’s inspecting produce for damage. His expression is almost desperate, as if he can’t see what Sans sees, but if that’s the case then he refuses to admit it.

“Oh! I see! It’s all so obvious now!” he exclaims, lifting you higher above his head. “Wowie! I was just being my regular, old, dashing and heroic self, and I ended up befriending a Boss Monster! I should put this on my résumé.”

Papyrus does something then that nobody expected, and puts you on his shoulders. The intimacy of the action takes you by surprise. You’ve just met the guy and he’s already carrying you around like he’s done it every day of his life. Sans seems taken off guard by the gesture too. His sockets are fixed squarely on you and his expression is unreadable. You shrug and smile helplessly, hoping to convey you were just as thrown off as he is.

“There you go, pal!” Papyrus stresses the last word proudly, standing tall with his chest out. “Now you are safe from spikes and we’re joined at the neck like true friends!”

“I-I think the expression is ‘joined at the hip’,” you correct, but Papyrus either doesn’t hear or doesn’t care. It seems that agreeing to be friends with him has ignited something life changing in him. You won’t complain, though. At least now you don’t have to walk anymore, much to your numb legs’ relief.

The three of you pass a dozen more puzzles on your walk back, some dealing with ice, some with stepping stones, some with switches, and almost all of them with spikes. Papyrus solves the puzzles simply by stepping over them all together. You don’t know how Sans got by. One moment he was beside the two of you, the next he’d duck into the trees and reappear further down the road. You try not to think about it too hard. It’s been a wild night, and obviously you’re starting to see things from lack of sleep.

In fact, at some point you actually manage to nod off atop your skeleton chauffeur, despite him not being the most comfortable, or quiet, pillow in the world, but the next thing you know, he’s gently waking you up in front of a lavish building with a sign reading ‘INN’ above the doorway.

“We’re here!” he announces, carefully placing you on your unsteady feet. Sans courteously holds the door open for you and for the first time in hours you remember what warm air feels like.

“Oh! Hello Sans! Papyrus!” A rabbit monster behind the counter welcomes when the bell above the door chimes upon your entry. “What brings you two here so late?”

“We found a stray in the woods,” Sans says, pointing at you with his thumb. You eye him, cross at his word choice, but too meek to argue when what he was doing was still a favor for you. “They got locked out of their house after sneaking out past curfew, and need a place to stay for the night so their parent doesn’t have to punish a popsicle. Is it alright if they rent a room?”

“Oh you poor thing,” the rabbit monster looks at you with concern, but whether she feels sorry for your frost bite or impending sentence with your mother, you can’t tell. “Of course you can stay the night. Free of charge too. As a mother myself, I can’t bear the thought of anybody’s child stuck out in the cold. Here, take this room key,” She reaches over the counter and drops a bronze key into your hand. “It’ll be the first room on the left upstairs.”

“Thank you,” you look over your shoulder at the skeleton brothers. “I guess this is goodbye, then?”

“Not goodbye! Just goodnight!” Papyrus gives you a thumbs-up.

“Yeah, I’ll see you home tomorrow at a more reasonable hour,” Sans winks by extinguishing the light in one of his eyes. “Besides, you made the mistake of befriending my brother, so now you can’t get rid of him even if you tried.”

“HEY! Being friends is never a mistake!” Papyrus argues. “Alphys’ weird cartoons taught me that!” The taller skeleton begins to list a hundred examples as he follows his laughing brother back out the door. You watch them go, and linger until you can’t hear their voices anymore before heading upstairs to your room.

You waste no time collapsing on the bed as soon as you get inside, but fight off sleep just a little bit longer. There’s a digital clock on the night stand next to the bed reading 2:36am.

Wow, your first trip into the Underground and you discovered the wonders of snow, got the worst scare of your life, and ended up making friends with two monsters, and Sans said he and Papyrus would walk you home tomorrow. It was an incredibly kind thing for them to offer after only knowing you for an hour or so. You feel bad that you’re probably never going to see them again once you go back to the Ruins.

They were so nice. Perhaps, when your mom met them tomorrow, she’d see it too, and maybe, just maybe, she’d let you visit them again?

If anything else, at least it’s a nice thought to drift off to sleep to, and within minutes you’re lost deep in your dreams.

Chapter Text

The flower strains to stretch his main stem up to the second floor of the inn. While Flowey can willfully grow at an impressive rate, even he has his limits to how far he can ultimately reach, and growing vertically without support is a challenge. Lateral vines erupt from his main stalk, creeping across the outer walls of the building like ivy, inspecting for any knotholes or cracks in the wood that he can squeeze into. The inn may be old, but it’s kept in good condition, and routinely maintained and weather proofed to keep out the cold. One of his tendrils finds an old, overlooked bit of caulking and manages to pull it away. As swift as shadow, he slips into the walls.

Finding a way into Chara’s room ends up being another challenge all together, but he manages in the end by forcing his way through a loose floor board, earning himself a few splinters to the face in the process. A mental map of his own body tells him he’s stretched out a good ten yards and his stem is extremely bent in no less than four different ways just to get in here. He won’t be surprised if this maneuver left him sporting some nasty kinks in his stalk for weeks to come. Double insulated buildings be damned.

Flowey gives himself a quick shake to clear his mind and focus on the task at hand. Chara’s dead asleep on the bed, oblivious as ever and he watches them for a moment, debating how to go about this next step.

If he’s quick and clever then maybe he could get Chara on the defensive. If he presses them with enough questions and (eugh) concern, then perhaps he can guilt trip them into apologizing for wandering off and worrying him instead of pointing out who’s really in the wrong for disappearing first. It’s worth a shot and pretty much all he has to work with right now, anyway.

He mulls over which emotion to use first. Relief? Fear? Which one will most likely get Chara to blame themselves and lead the real accusations away from him for this whole fiasco? Flowey decides to start with anger. Little suck-up Chara couldn’t stand it when friends were mad at them and would practically throw themself at his feet to make amends.

Creeping closer, Flowey silently rehearses his opening lines in his head as he snakes his vines around the sleeping human’s arms and legs. It occurs to him that this will be the second time he’d be waking Chara up at an ungodly hour in one night. Oh well. If he had his way all the time, this kid would be getting no sleep on his watch until they reached Asgore.

“Chara! Chara, wake up!” Flowey hisses, shaking them hard with his thorny tendrils. Chara awakes with a start, eyes bloodshot and head reeling at the unfamiliar surroundings.

“Chara, why did you wonder off from the doors?” Flowey demands before they can recover from their disorientation. “Do you know how scared I got when I couldn’t find you? I thought you had been kidnapped!”

“Wha- Flowey?” Chara blinks, rubbing their bleary eyes.

“Yes! That’s me, Flowey the flower. You should never agree to go somewhere with a stranger, Chara. Now come on! We have to get you back home before your mom wakes up, remember?”

To his surprise, Chara actually stumbles out of bed, muttering half-formed apologies for scaring them and meandering off. They manage to take three steps towards the door before memory catches up to them and clears their head.

“I can’t,” they say, turning to him.

Flowey drops his anger and feigns confusion. “What?” he asks softly. If he could pretend to be just as ignorant as Chara, they’d never suspect he had a hand to play in these events. He’d get away scot-free.

“A monster I met told me only an adult Boss Monster can open the doors from this side. So until Mom realizes I’m gone, I have to wait here until she comes to get me.”

“Oh no,” Flowey says sympathetically. “Surely there must be some way to get you home so you don’t get in trouble. Did you at least try to open the doors on your own?”

Chara shakes their head, already having accepted their fate without a fight.

“Really? Then how do you know that monster wasn’t lying to you just to make you get in trouble?”

Chara looks at Flowey in a combination of confusion and fear.

“Why would he lie? He said he was a sentry. A-and he’s really funny and kind. He got me this room and promised to walk me home tomorrow.”

“A sentry? Wait a minute, he isn’t a skeleton, is he?”

“Yeah. His name is Sans and he’s got a brother named Papyrus. Do you know them?”

Flowey sucks air between his fangs and recoils, all part of his act.

“I’ve run into them once or twice. Do me a favor and don’t mention me to them. And if I were you Chara, I wouldn’t trust either of them as far as I could throw them.”

“Why?” Chara kneels down to Flowey’s level, gently cupping their best friend’s face in their hands and looking at him in concern. “Did they do something to hurt you?”

Flowey shakes himself free of their fingers, resisting the urge to bite them. All this touchy-feely stuff never sat right with him and it made his petals crawl. “I’ll spare you the details, but believe me when I say they’re a lot stronger than they look. Oh, and don’t do anything to piss the short one off, okay? He may seem like a lazy, smiley trash bag, but he’s definitely the more dangerous of the two.”

Sensing his tension and remembering how intimidating Sans had been when they first met, Chara can only nod in understanding. Flowey could see all of their mother’s fears and warnings dance across their mind’s eye, and they spend a few seconds trying to swallow a lump in their throat. Some monsters could be dangerous. He smiled to himself. It was nice having someone who believes every word he says.

“Good. At least you won’t have to deal with them after you get home. Now your mom’s gonna be a different story,” Flowey rolls his eyes and Chara looks down in resignation. “Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. See you back at home, Chara.”

The flower carefully contracts himself, squeezing back through the floor and unwinding every twist and turn he had to take until he was back outside. His leaves and stalk are scored with numerous abrasions, scratches and cuts from rubbing against the rough wood, but thankfully this plant body is immune to feeling all but the most extreme abuse. If he was able to, he would have felt grateful for being unable to experience small pain, but he couldn’t, so he wasn’t.

Instead Flowey pretended to be proud of himself. Not only had he successfully covered his own tracks from Chara’s eyes, but he made them wary of those bone heads as well. With any luck, they’d try to avoid them now and he could once again get them on their way through the Underground without further interruptions or setbacks.

One trail thrown off, one more to go. She would be waking up any minute now and he had to be ready and in position. Time to lie and wait in the Ruins for phase two.


“BROTHER WAKE UP! WE’VE OVERSLEPT!” Papyrus hollers, practically kicking Sans’ bedroom door down.

Sans groans, face down into his pillow and forces himself to look at the time. His watch read ‘5:17am’.

“Papyrus we just went to bed two hours ago,” Sans mumbles into the pillow.

“I know!” Papyrus flicks on the lights and pulls the covers off his brother’s bed. “Since we were late going to bed at a reasonable hour, we BOTH ended up ruining our sleep schedules! It’s unacceptable! Now get up and get dressed! I need your help thinking up activities for me and my new friend to do today!”

“New friend?” Sans reluctantly sits up and shakes the sleep from his skull. “You mean that hu-, uh, I mean, that Boss Monster kid?” Whoa, that was a close one. He probably shouldn’t be conversing with Papyrus when he was only half-awake.

“Yes! They’re the first friend I’ve managed to make all on my own!” Papyrus helps his brother by reaching into his closet and throwing his usual get-up at him; white shirt, blue jacket and black shorts. Sans doesn’t so much as twitch when the clothes pile up on his head. In fact, he starts nodding off again. “Well, aside from Undyne, but she was my boss before my friend, so that doesn’t really count. And maybe, once everyone around town hanging out with a cool Boss Monster, they might want to be my friend too?”

“Hey, whoa, hold on there, bro. Don’t get too attached to them,” Sans interrupts. “They’re only staying in town for one day, if even that.”

Papyrus looks at Sans sharply. “What do you mean?”

“Well, you know those big doors in the woods?”

“The ones you’re always skipping work to go slack off around?”

“Yeah, those ones. They live on the other side, and once they go back through, they’re probably not going to come back out again.”

“Why?”

Sans shrugs, playing dumb. “Safety reasons, I guess. They’ve got a pretty strict mom.”

“That’s ridiculous! Snowdin is a perfectly safe place! I should know because the guards and I keep it that way! Nothing would ever hurt them here!” Sans busies himself with getting dressed so he doesn’t have to reply, but Papyrus doesn’t need another’s input to carry on a conversation. “Well, as backwards as that is, I’ll respect it. Mothers know best, right? If this is the only day my new friend gets to experience Snowdin, then I’ll make it the best day of their life! Starting with homemade cooking!”

Papyrus races out of the room, leaving Sans to finish dressing while a cacophony of noise fills the kitchen. Not even five minutes later and Sans can smell something on fire. Sighing, he digs through his closet and pulls out one of the many fire extinguishers he has tucked away in the back for such occasions, and heads down stairs.

Sans knows it’s pointless to argue with his brother once he has his heart set on something. Joining the royal guard, making Sans find a job, and now trying to be the greatest friend in the history of friendship in just one day with someone he’d only just met. Words like ‘impossible’ or ‘impractical’ just weren’t in his vocabulary. Sometimes he envies Papyrus for the endless optimism. Other times it just feels like more trouble than it was worth.

As much as Sans didn’t want his brother interacting with something so potentially dangerous as a human, he guessed it was inevitable. From what he has gathered, the kid isn’t aggressive in any way, but the sooner they were back behind those doors the better for everyone involved.

He’s kind of looking forward to it, actually. Returning the kid home meant he would finally get to see the face of his mystery pun buddy he’s known for so many years, and he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t at least a little excited to meet her in person. Maybe he’d even get to learn her name. Wouldn’t that be a game changer.

Sans makes a quick assessment of the kitchen when he catches up to his brother downstairs. Papyrus is vigorously making spaghetti sauce, pounding tomatoes and onions with the blunt end of a whisk, while a plate of freshly pummeled noodles cry out in agony, wondering why God has forsaken them, and a pot of water burns on the stove. Not boils. Burns.

“Really going all out, aren’t ya, bro?” Sans asks, extinguishing the flaming pot of water before making a mug of coffee and crashing on the couch.

“Only the best for a super special occasion like this! Do you think they’ll like it?”

“I think they’ll be surprised no matter what you make them.”

“Good! Because it’s done!” Combining the sauce and the noodles on the plate, Papyrus spoons as much as he can into a tupperware container before racing to the front door. “Come on, brother! We’ve only got one day to spend with them and we’re burning metaphorical daylight!”

“Papyrus, it’s barely five thirty. They’re not going to be awake yet.”

“Well, then we should be there to be the first ones to greet them! That’s what friends do, right?”

“Not… particularly.”

“Well then we’ll be the first! Let’s make it a tradition!”

Groaning, Sans gets to his feet and tails Papyrus out the door. Babysitting one kid was exhausting enough, but he could already tell that throwing a human child into the mix was going to be hell. Between keeping an eye on them and his brother, and protecting their secret from anybody with a bit of skepticism… well, he could only hope the kid’s mother came looking for them quickly.

The inn is nothing more than a short jog from their house, and just like Sans predicted, the kid isn’t awake.

“Back so soon?” The inn keeper grins at them, looking up from her magazine. “Or did you just want to keep me company on the night shift?”

“We’re here to pick up our friend, but I, the Great Papyrus, will gladly fend off loneliness for you!” said Papyrus.

“How chivalrous,” the rabbit monster giggles. “They’re still asleep and I can’t let you upstairs for the sake their privacy, but feel free to wait in the lobby for them.”

“Thanks, we’ll do just that!” Papyrus nods, keeping his eyes fixed on the stairs. After a few minutes he whispers to his brother, “Honestly, I don’t get it, Sans. What is it with people and their desire to sleep their life away? Who could ever want to sleep when there’s so much to do? Sans? Sans?”

Sans doesn’t respond, and when Papyrus turns to look at him, he finds that he’s fallen asleep where he stands.


Three hours later and Papyrus nudges Sans awake as the kid makes their grand entrance. They still seem pretty exhausted; they’ve got dark circles under their eyes and they walk down the stairs like a prisoner on their way to the gallows.

“Heh. Rough night, buddy?” Sans jokes.

For a split second he thinks he sees fearful suspicion flash in their eyes, before the give a small grin and nod. As soon as their feet hit the last step, Papyrus bombards them with questions.

“Good morning, friend! Did you sleep well? Are you ready for a day full of friendship activities? Have you eaten breakfast yet?”

“Uh, no I haven’t eaten yet,” The kid says rather reserved, but Sans brushes their behavior off. Maybe they’re just still a little too tired to handle Papyrus so early in the morning. He knows it takes him a few hours to be fully able to deal with his brother.

“Excellent! Because I, the Great Papyrus, expert friend and master chef, have made you the perfect culinary dish to start of your day! Behold!”

Papyrus whips out his tupperware container and shoves it into their chest. Gingerly the kid peels of the lid and studies the pasta like one would a petri dish filled with a colony of bacteria.

“What… is this?” They ask, looking slightly alarmed.

“It’s breakfast spaghetti, made from scratch by yours truly!” Papyrus beams. “Here, you’ll need a fork.”

Papyrus passes them the utensil and the kid takes a cautious bite as if they think it might be poisoned. Their eyes instantly go wide.

“Well, what do you think?” Papyrus asks. Sans must admit, for someone who constantly craved approval, his brother was a master at always sounding confident.

“Papyrus…” The kid’s voice is barely above a whisper as they look up from the pasta and into his eyes. “This is amazing.”

It’s a wonder how Papyrus managed not to explode on the spot. Sans can practically see him radiating pride.

“Really?” he gasps, eyes sockets shining and his smile a mile wide as he watched the kid down the rest of his cooking. “I-I mean, of course! Only the best for my dear friend! And don’t you worry, there’s more where that came from! Excuse me, and I’ll come back with all the breakfast spaghetti you could ever eat!”

Like a bullet fired from a gun, Papyrus swipes the empty container and fork and shoots out the door of the inn, back towards home. Sans chuckles and shakes his head as he watches the flurry of snow his brother kicked up resettle.

“You don’t have to lie to appease my brother, you know,” The skeleton informs them. “His feelings literally cannot be hurt.”

“I wasn’t lying, Sans,” They say darkly, and he turns to look at their face. Their eyes are wet. Wait- are they crying? Oh God, they didn’t get food poisoning, did they?

“Uh, buddy, are you okay?”

“I have eaten snails every day of my life for as long as I can remember, Sans,” They say, their voice growing hard like a battle scarred veteran. “I don’t care if your brother’s cooking is considered worse than the dirt stuck to the bottom of your shoes. Anything is better than snails, Sans,” They turn away from him, staring off into the distance, eyes glazing over like they’re viewing a warzone only they can see. Their voice drops to a whisper. “Anything is better than snails.”

Papyrus returns faster than what should have been physically possible, with more spaghetti and serves a plate for each of the three of them. He and the kid take a seat on the sofa near the front door, happily digging into the food. Sans joins them only after he discretely dumps his dish into a nearby potted plant. Its leaves droop almost instantly.

“So, here’s the plan,” He speaks up, shoving his way between the two of them on the couch. “This may sound a little strange, but I know your mom, Kiddo. We meet up and talk to each other every day, so I figure I can just drop you off at our usual get-together time.”

“Wait, you’re the reason my mom goes to the doors every day?” The kid asks skeptically.

“Yeah, why?”

They don’t answer. Instead they eye him up and down, inspecting him. They almost seem… disappointed?

“What’s that look s’posed to mean?” Sans says in mock offense.

“Nothing. What if my mom goes down to the doors earlier than that? What if we miss her?”

“Relax, kid. Your mom is as consistent as our horoscope. She’s never missed a single one of our get-togethers since the day I met her. Hey, since you’re a Boss Monster, she’s a Boss Monster too, right?” The kid nods, shoveling another fork-full of spaghetti into their mouth. “That’s what I thought. She doesn’t have to worry about the door locking behind her. If anything, waiting until our usual meet up is just a backup plan. I suspect she’ll leave the Ruins well before then to come get you herself, so you might as well hang out here where she can find you easily instead of trampling around through the woods.”

“But never worry!” Papyrus reaches one arm over their heads to pull his brother and new friend into a vicious side hug. “I, the Great Papyrus, have prepared an exciting itinerary for us today! I won’t make you sit and wait around for something to do, unlike my brother! If I can't find adventure, I can make it come to me!”

“What? Come on, bro. Sitting around and doing nothing is the best,” Sans argues, but he knows it’s a debate he can’t win. He never expected to be able to keep the kid in one place when is brother had other ideas, but no one can say he didn’t try.

“Nonsense, Sans,” Papyrus scoffs. “If this is the only day our new friend gets to spend in Snowdin, then I’m going to make sure they have the best day of their life!”

“That sounds fun,” the kid forces a smile, but Sans can tell the thought of their impending punishment from Mom is making it hard for them to relax. They’re trying though, not wanting to be a wet blanket and dampen the mood. “What do you have planned?”

“I plan to start with a tour of Snowdin,” Papyrus begins, “You’ve only seen our scenic forests, but I’m going to introduce you to all our local art and culture! And if we’ve still got time after that, then maybe I’ll try to squeeze in a demonstration on how to construct puzzles, and after that we can go to the library, or visit Ice Wolf, or maybe just hang out? We’ve got the whole day ahead of us. We’ll manage something!”

“Thank you,” the kid sets their empty plate aside and carefully untangles themself from the hug. “For doing all this, I mean. Keeping me company, making me breakfast. You didn’t have to, but I appreciate that you did.”

“That’s what friends are for!” Papyrus says, getting to his feet. “Now up and at ‘em, you two! You’ve both wasted enough of the day already with all your excess napping! Let’s shake a leg and hop to it!”

“Napping? I was asleep,” the kid tries to explain. Sans has to bite back chuckles, knowing how futile that argument was against his brother.

“No excuses!” Papyrus laughs devilishly, grabbing the kid’s hand and practically yanking them out the door. “There’s so much to do and so little time! Come on, brother! Let’s give our new friend a Snowdin Experience that they’ll never forget!”

“Right behind you, bro,” Sans expends a little magic transporting their dishes home. A pigsty his own room can be, but leaving a mess in someone else’s place he would not. It was only common curtesy after all. After taking a second to stretch out his joints, he hops of the couch with a sigh and follows the pair out into the brisk morning air. This day was going to be a long one. He could feel it.

Chapter Text

The air is weighed down with melancholy and it smothers Toriel like a thick fog; clinging to her wherever she goes, impossible to swat away and dampening the mood of the house in general.

A morning routine she’s kept up for decades is the only thing that gets her out of bed. She straightens the sheets, puts on fresh clothes, and heads to the kitchen for breakfast. Her child’s door is still closed when she passes, but she doesn’t dare knock to check on them in case they are still sleeping.

Toriel makes herself a breakfast of tea and toast topped with snails. She discovers her child’s plate of dinner still in the fridge when she opens it to fetch the mollusks, looking virtually untouched, and closes the fridge again. Toriel isn’t the kind of person to get mad or insulted if someone didn’t want to eat her cooking, but she sure hoped her child isn’t trying to starve themselves to prove a point or hold a grudge.

To keep her hands busy and mind distracted, Toriel starts her day by creating the week’s lesson plan. There are no weekends or holidays when one is homeschooled. The birthday party yesterday was an exception because it was a special occasion, but her child would have to resume their studies whether they were still upset with her or not. She wouldn’t jeopardize their education all because of a fight, and perhaps getting back into the swing of thing would help mend their rocky relationship.

Books and worksheets spread across the dining room table, Toriel is so occupied with her work that the clock chiming twelve took her by surprise. Noon already and her child still isn’t up? This was going too far for her liking. As much as she wanted to give them the time and space they needed, sleeping all day and refusing to eat just wasn’t healthy.

“Chara, are you awake?” Toriel asks, knocking on the bedroom door.

There’s no answer.

“My child, I know you are still upset with me, but please do not force yourself to stay locked in your room. It is not good for you.”

There’s no answer. Toriel sighs, shoulders drooping.

“Chara, I respect your privacy, but I will not allow you to shut yourself off like this. I am coming in. Please forgive me for this, my child.”

She opens the door slowly, doing her best not to come off as overbearing or forceful for encroaching on their personal space. Her eyes sweep across the dark room and fall on the bed- but it’s empty.

Puzzled, she retreats, closing the door behind her. Did they get up and she just not notice? No, the rest of the house was still empty. Had they woken up and left the house before she got out of bed? But her child was always good about leaving a note to her when they left to go play. Maybe they didn’t leave one because they were still mad at her?

Toriel prays for that to be the case, but an icy sliver of trepidation was already spreading in her soul.

She forces her feet to march out the front door while simultaneously trying to ignore her anxious intuition. She couldn’t panic- she wouldn’t panic. Not yet. She would not over react like she had yesterday.

Toriel tries to flag down the first monster she finds- a whimsun, and she’s about as successful as one would think.

“Excuse me!” she calls, “May I speak with you a minute?”

The whimsun breaks down in tears and flees the second it sees her, forcing Toriel to keep looking. Other monsters are no more helpful. The Moldsmals can’t form coherent words, the Vegetoids claimed plants couldn’t talk, and the Froggits (rather conveniently, if someone asked her) couldn’t understand her questions.

Toriel makes it nearly all the way to the bed of golden flowers before she manages to corner a loox.

“Has Chara come out into the Ruins today?” She demands, skipping the formalities and her voice only held together with only the thinnest threads of hope.

“N-no ma’am,” the loox stutters, doing its best to maintain eye contact with her. “I-I-I didn’t see them anywhere during my morning walk, but I’ll keep an eye out for them. Oops, n-no pun intended.”

Toriel doesn’t take it as a pun. In fact she hardly hears the statement. As soon as they say 'no' her worst fears are practically confirmed. If her child isn’t in the Ruins and not at home, then there’s only one place they could have gone. Her heart filling with dread, Toriel runs back to the house.

Sickening déjà vu washes over her as she passes the threshold and down the stairs. Her fear, her pleads, every horrible vision of what could happen to them beyond those doors replay again and again in her mind.

She silently begs to any deity listening to let her find her child waiting at the doors again, but she knows in the deepest part of her soul it was a slim chance. Yesterday she had caught them mere minutes after they crept down the stairs, but because of her forlorn negligence this morning, for all she knows, her child has been missing for hours.

The tunnel is empty when Toriel reaches the doors, and distress seizes her soul upon noticing fresh scratches and clods of earth collected at their base, undeniable indicators that they had scraped along the ground from being opened and closed again.

Without a moment’s pause she strides up to the doors, ready to push them open.

“I wouldn’t bother if I were you.”

Taken off guard, Toriel almost jumps out of her skin at the sound of the voice, and she snaps her head to look at its owner.

“You,” she practically hisses, her eyes narrowing at the single golden flower behind her. He’s smiling at her, but it’s a hollow, empty grin that has secrets behind it, yet gives nothing away.

“Flower, you dare to trespass in my home?” Toriel summons blinding white fire in her hands as hot as her anger, but she keeps her tone calm. “Give me one good reason why I should not incinerate you where you stand.”

“Now, now, don’t be hasty,” the flower pushes his roots up through the ground, breaking up the hard-packed dirt to unearth… something. Whatever he has, he’s concealed it well within his vines and leaves, making it impossible to tell what it is. “If you cremate me, you burn this as well, and I know you don’t want that.”

Gingerly, he stretches whatever he has towards her, stopping halfway between them before dropping the bundle and quickly retracting his vines like the world’s thorniest tape measure.

Toriel tries to gasp but she’s forgotten how to breathe. Her flames fizzle out as she staggers forward and is brought to her knees more so from gravity than will, hot tears welling in her eyes as she reaches for the item before her with trembling hands.

It’s a sweater. Her child’s favorite sweater that they had been wearing only a day before.

She already knows something’s terribly wrong with it before she can untangle its twisted sleeves. There’s a stain on it so dark red that it’s almost black against the purple and blue, and it faintly smells of rust. Toriel’s throat constricts and she chokes when she unfolds the rest to reveal a jagged hole in the middle of stain going clean through the front and back.

It was just left of center. Right where their heart would be.

“What… How…” Toriel tries to say between ragged breaths, salty droplets rolling off the end of her muzzle and onto the had-knit clothing.

“They wanted so badly to prove to you they could handle themselves outside of the Ruins, but it seems that friend of yours had other ideas,” the weed sighs, practically bored. “He struck them down no more than ten steps from the door. They never had a chance.”

Toriel looks up at him slowly. “You’re lying,” she whispers. “He promised.

“Did he, now?” The flower cocks his head, that vacant grin becoming taunting, insulting. “Did he really promise you?”

Toriel opens her mouth to retort, but no words come. The flower had a point. Her fri-… her pun pa-… the stranger on the other side of the door hadn’t promised. But surely her child wouldn’t have done anything to make him see them as a threat… did they?

“That monster knew humans only entered the Underground through the Ruins,” the flower goes on. “All these years, he was just saying what you wanted to hear. He didn’t even bother to take their soul either. Just crushed it like a worthless little insect and went on his merry way. Oh, and don’t worry about the body. I already took care of it for you. Cadavers make great fertilizer, you know.”

Toriel violently shakes her head, desperate to block out his words, desperate to hold back her sobs, desperate to deny. He was wrong. Her acquaintance would never have slain them so quickly. She had trusted him.

“What, still don’t believe me?” The flower mockingly coos. “Whatever. Doesn’t change the facts. If you really want to see the face of your child’s killer, go ahead and search him out. Or try asking him about it when it’s time for you two to do your stupid comedy routine. If he even bothers to show up, that is. Won’t be surprised if he doesn’t. He got what he wanted. Don’t see why he’d still talk with a filthy human lover like you.”

Toriel wishes she could fight back. She so desperately wanted to silence that weed, to inflict him with all the pain she was feeling, but it felt as if her very will to live was slipping through her fingers. Instead Toriel did the only thing she could; she wept.

“Save those useless tears,” the flower snorts in disgust. “Chara ran away because they hated you, and they died hating you. Crying won't change that.”

With that, the flower sinks into the earth and disappears to Lord knows where, leaving Toriel to wallow in her grief.

“It is not true. He’s lying. It is not true. He’s lying,” she repeats the mantra as she drags herself up the stairs and into the den. She looks at the clock in agony. It’s barely past one in the afternoon. Her mystery monster wouldn’t come for hours yet.

If he comes at all.

Toriel exterminates the thought as soon as it enters her mind. No, there was still a chance. The flower was lying and if- when her joke partner came to the door, it would prove that. She couldn’t lose hope. She couldn’t lose another child.

Waiting for the hours to pass was pure torture. Toriel felt like she forced each second to pass with sheer willpower alone. With every compounding minute her mind created another extreme rationalization to block out her fear. She ordered herself to believe that this has all been a huge mistake and everything was going to be alright.

She almost did leave once or twice, too agitated to wait, but the flower’s words made her stop time and time again.

Do you really want to see the face of her child’s killer? The face of the monster you had so foolishly trusted?

She didn’t want to believe him. She wouldn’t believe him until she heard from her pun pal herself. That weed was lying and he was wrong. He had to be wrong.

But what if he wasn’t?

Toriel commanded herself to stay put in the den and watch the clock. They were the most painful hours of her life.

Five minutes before their regular meet up time, Toriel goes down the stairs, moving like she’s in limbo. She wants to walk slowly to delay the worst. She wants to sprint to the doors and hear the truth. She wants to cry in defeat. She wants to scream in defiance. But most of all she wants her child to be alive. Please just let them be alive.

She hesitates at the doors, waiting for a sound, a sign, anything to tell her that her joke partner is there. With a deep breath, Toriel steadies her voice the best she can and raps on the wood.

“Knock, knock,” her voice cracks.

There’s no reply.

“Knock, knock,” she taps again, louder, more desperate.

There’s no answer. He didn’t come.

The flower was right.

Toriel bites on her tongue to stop herself from wailing. Tears begin to run down her cheeks once more as she crumples to the floor, some silly shred of hair-thin hope still forcing her to not give up. Unable and unwilling to move, she sits by the door and listens, her anguish growing by the minute.

She waits five minutes… ten… a half hour… forty-five, for something, someone, anyone to knock on the door.

But nobody came.

Was she simply destined to never succeed in keeping her children safe? Was fate so cruel to always make her lose what she loved? Was this divine punishment for some crime she had done? These were questions she had without answers. Questions she didn’t want the answers to for she feared them to be true.

Swallowed by despair, Toriel labors to get to her feet and returns upstairs, clutching her child’s sweater to her chest, unable to let go if she tried. Like a ghost on autopilot, she dolefully treks through the Ruins all the way back to the bed of golden flowers, and begins to dig a second grave.

Chapter Text

Papyrus is a lot of things; openly optimistic, excitedly extroverted, and endlessly empathetic, just to name a few. While some say these traits make him too soft hearted, he likes to think they are his best qualities. Being sharply tuned in to other people’s feelings allows him to connect and understand them, but just because he understands doesn’t mean he always knows how to properly respond.

Case and point with his new friend, here. Papyrus can tell they’re trying their best to be attentive and polite as he gives them the history of the town and all its main attractions like Grillby’s, the Gyftmas Tree, the ferry, and his own house, but agitation radiates off of his little pal like heat from a stove top and their constant backwards glances do not escape his eye. He understands why they are nervous, he knows they expect their parent to show up at any given moment to take them away, and he knows they know they expect retribution for being in a place where they were not allowed, so it makes sense to him why they would not relax. He understands that his friend will have to leave and that it will be inevitable, but since there is nothing either of them can do to avoid it, he simply accepts the situation and instead puts all is energy and focus into the moment at hand. What he doesn’t get is why his friend can’t do the same and just enjoy the little time they do have together instead of constantly worrying when it will end.

Despite how earnestly he tries, making things “better” is where Papyrus falls short. His solution to this particular friendship dilemma? Well, he simply needs to be the most engaging he has ever been, of course. Maybe if he could distract his friend from their own distractions, then they would lighten up a little. Doing more things in a shorter period of time never fails to cheer him up, so it will work the same for them, right?

Papyrus introduces his friend to everyone in Snowdin. From the family of slimes, to Ice Wolf, to the bears and bunnies, all of whom would only give a nod or a wave as they continued on about their business. It saddens Papyrus that no one seems to have the spare time to stop and catch up, always rushing from one place to another, busy with their own lives, but he finally has a bit more luck with Monster Kid after literally bumping into him coming around a street corner.

“Oh, hello Kid! What are you up to today?” Papyrus asks as he helps the armless monster off the ground.

“Nothin' much!” Kid shakes himself off, no worse for wear. A lifetime of trips and spills had made him physically thick skinned and immune to bruising (accept for a permanent black eye, it seems). “I was thinking of practicing my kickboxing today to show off to Undyne! Check out what I can do so far!”

The small reptilian made a show of jumping and flailing his legs, vocalizing each kick as he attacked an imaginary target. Unfortunately, one of his jumps brought him down on a slick patch of slush, causing him to tumble and fall into the snow and knocking the wind out of himself.

“What do you think of that?” Kid asks with a breathless grin as Papyrus helps him up a second time.

“I think I have some competition for a spot on the royal guard!” Papyrus praises, and Kid’s eyes sparkle like stars.

“Oh man! I can’t wait to tell my sister you said that!” Monster Kid practically vibrates with excitement before running on his way. At the end of the street he manages to look back and shout, “Later dudes!” before disappearing out of sight.

The trio spends the rest of the morning like that; talking to everyone they meet around town. When lunchtime rolls around, Papyrus is more than willing to make his new friend homemade pasta, but Sans insists the kid should experience the variety of cuisine Snowdin has to offer before they go. After a brief argument (and too many terrible food puns) Papyrus comes to a compromise with his brother. He would allow his new friend to try Snowdin’s other delicacies, but Grillby’s was off limits. Papyrus would not stand by and let his new friend destroy their arteries if he had anything to say about it. Sans reluctantly agrees, and they go to the next best place in town; the local shop adjacent to the inn.

The scent of hot pastries right out of the oven greets them when they enter and warm air envelops them like a blanket. Papyrus has to admit, while it was nothing like his spaghetti, the smell of fresh bread was just as mouthwatering.

“Well hello, sugar,” the shop keeper greets them, as she puts the sweets into the display case. “What can I do for you today?”

“Two cinnamon bunnies please!” Papyrus orders, handing the necessary payment to the purple rabbit.

“Throw in a couple of bisicles too,” Sans adds, placing his own change on the counter.

“Sans! You can’t eat ice cream for lunch!” Papyrus scolds his brother.

“Hey, I suggested Grillby’s, remember? Besides, cinnamon bunnies aren’t any healthier, bro.”

“Touché.” Papyrus reluctantly admits through gritted teeth. “You win this round, brother.”

The shop keeper hands Papyrus the two cinnamon rolls in paper sleeves, and Sans his packets of ice cream. Hanging around in the store and out of the cold, Papyrus passes one roll to his friend who eats it slowly, lost in thought. They still seem despondent and it cuts him deep knowing all his best efforts have done little to cheer them up.

“You okay, friend?” Papyrus asks after they finish their cinnamon bun, genuinely concerned about their gloominess.

“I don’t understand,” they say quietly, looking to the door. “It’s been all morning and my mom hasn’t come for me yet. I’m getting worried. What if she’s not coming?”

“Don’t fret!” Papyrus reassures. “Snowdin’s forests are really big after all! She’s probably on her way right now! Say, I’ve got an idea! How about I show you how I recalibrate my human traps? They’re right on the edge of town, and if we hang around there, we’ll be sure to run into your mother when she arrives!”

“Okay,” his little friend sniffs, and smiles hopefully.

That grin is the first honest smile Papyrus has seen on his friend’s face all day and he takes this as a good sign. He finally found something to cheer his little buddy up and would cling to it the way his spaghetti noodles did to the pot. With the proposition accepted, Papyrus wastes no time setting the plan into motion, and bounds out the door without waiting to see if the others were following.

“Papyrus is certainly the eager beaver, isn’t he?” the kid comments when they’re alone.

“Kid, beavers can only wish they were as tireless as my brother,” Sans winks. “Come on, let’s see how far we can get before he realizes we didn’t sprint after him and he comes running back for us.”

--

Papyrus prides himself in a lot of things; his masterful cooking skills, his super awesome special attack, his ability to be a great friend, and of course his natural gift of being totally cool, flawlessly awesome, and unbelievably good-looking. But if there is one thing Papyrus relishes more than anything else, it’s his self-taught puzzle-making skills.

“As you can see, Snowdin takes great pride in its security systems,” Papyrus boasts after his brother and friend finally catch up to him on the outskirts of Snowdin. “All of these traps are top of the line and state of the art! They are sure to confound and catch any human that comes through! Take a look!”

Papyrus sweeps his arm in a grand arc, and stands aside to reveal…

An empty patch of snow.

“Um, I don’t see anything?” His little friend ventures.

“Exactly! That is because this puzzle! Is! Invisible!”

“Why?”

“To make it more exciting!” Papyrus explains. “This is the invisible electricity maze! Cleverly conceived and constructed by yours truly!”

“Neat! So the electricity paralyzes humans, right? So they can’t fight back when you catch them?”

“Oh, heavens no!” Papyrus places a hand on his chest. “The voltage is no stronger than a static shock from dragging your socks on the carpet then touching a door knob!”

“Oh. Wait, if it’s invisible then won’t this trap also hurt other monsters?” his friend points out.

“Nope! In order for you to get shocked, you have to be holding the electricity orb!” Papyrus explains.

“Electricity orb? Where?”

“Over there on the table.”

Papyrus points to a conveniently placed night stand on the edge of the road. On top of it sat a metallic sphere with a little note beside it reading; ‘If you are reading this and you are human, then please take this orb before you proceed!

“But what if the human doesn’t even try the puzzle?” his pal asks. “What if they leave the orb or just walk around the maze?”

“Well that would be rude, wouldn’t it?” Papyrus huffs. “A lot of time and effort goes into these obstacles! The least the human could do is attempt them so they don’t go to waste!”

“Papyrus, do any of your traps actually trap humans?”

“You ask a lot of questions you know that?” Papyrus hums. The effectiveness of his puzzles was secretly a sore spot for him. Most couldn’t even slow an Icecap who was busy admiring themselves in a mirror, so who could say how a human would fare them?

“Sorry,” his friend looks down in embarrassment.

“No, no! It’s good!” Papyrus quickly apologizes. “All great puzzle designers need a critical eye like yours if they ever want to thwart humans! Say, would you like to help me create some new puzzles? I try to have mine in rotation to keep humans on their toes!”

“You want my help? Really?”

“Yeah! It’ll be a great team building exercise as well as productive puzzle implementation! We’ll be accomplishing two things at once!”

“Sure, okay. That sounds fun.”

Yes, fun. Papyrus aimed to entertain and threw his whole being into the task. His new friend was quite the clever little monster, observing each of his puzzles in new ways the skeleton had never even considered, imagining so many new ideas and combining his resources in ways he never thought of.

“What about a puzzle where they have to push the buttons in a certain order and within a certain time limit before the switch will work?” They suggest. “Or how about an invisible spike puzzle? Oh, oh! What about a maze that has electricity AND ice? No human would get past that!”

They build puzzles with passion and it warms Papyrus’ metaphorical heart to see his friend come out of their figurative shell after being so reserved all day. The only thing to spoil the moment is Sans. That lazy excuse of a brother follows the two puzzle engineers everywhere they go, watching every move they make but not once lifts a finger to assist with their building. What’s worse, he’s setting such a bad example for Papyrus’ friend by skipping work AND being a smart mouth in the face of puzzle preparation with his endless stream of puns.

“Levers instead of buttons for this one? Nice to see you switch it up a little, bro.” “Remember there’s no friction in ice puzzles. Don’t let it slip your mind.” “That’s certainly a handsome set up you got there with the spike puzzle. I guess you can say it’s looking sharp.”

Normally Papyrus would groan at such lowbrow humor, but he can’t deny how it makes his small friend laugh, which is a good thing, so he allows it for now without complaint.

The two friends work for hours, and the more they build, the more complex each puzzle gets. Papyrus won’t lie- their ideas are certainly creative and challenging, and he chides himself for not being able to think of them first, but all of his buddy’s designs seem a little… hazardous.

“Um, pal, I do not mean to crush your innovative spirit, but many of these puzzles seem a little dangerous, don’t you think?”

“But aren’t humans dangerous?”

“Well, yes, from what I’ve been told, but we don’t want to hurt them do we? Traps should be equal and fair so they stand a chance.”

“But Papyrus, how are we supposed to catch a human if they’re given the chance to escape? In fact, none of your traps seem like they could stop a human; only slow them down. How are we going to get their soul if the puzzles will let them get away?”

“Well, I…” Papyrus stutters. He has no answer for this question. It was the biggest flaw in all his puzzles that he overlooked by choice rather than accident, no matter how he denies it.

Papyrus is not ignorant. While it's true he’s very picky about the reality accepts, he always tries to handle each situation he finds himself in in an optimistic light and is determined to look for the best in people, but he also knows that the Underground has a dark relationship with humans past, even if he isn’t clear on all the details. All his life goals- joining the royal guard, earning prestige, freeing monsterkind form the Underground- all revolved around capturing a human. He never really, or intentionally, gave much thought as to what would happen to them once he actually delivered a human to the capital, or how soul extraction worked, but intuition told him it would not be painless.

If a human who was vicious and cruel fell into the Underground, then maybe it would be justifiable to capture them right away, but even then that's a pretty big "maybe". Everybody could be a good person if they just tried, and if the next human fall was innocent and kind, then didn’t they deserve a chance for acceptance too? And what better way to test their integrity than with puzzles designed to frustrate and confuse, but not to harm? It didn’t seem right to sentence someone without first judging their character, no matter who or what they were. This Papyrus believes, but cannot explain or put into words. Still, he stands by his morals and would defend them to his death if need be.

An awkward silence forms between them while they stand back to admire their work. Papyrus shifts from foot to foot before his friend speaks again as a revelation strikes them.

“Papyrus? What does a human even look like? How will we know when we catch one?”

“Those are excellent questions! And the answer is…! I don’t know.”

“You don’t?”

“No, and it pains me to say that I, the Great Papyrus, lack the knowledge for a subject that I am so passionate about. But fear not, friend! For I know a place that can give us all these answers and more!”

“What place is that?”

“The library! It is a treasure trove of knowledge free for the taking! Come with me and we will find the answers we seek!”

Then, without asking permission, Papyrus swiftly lifts up his pal and tucks them under his arm like a football with their arms pinned to their sides. If he had seen the look of pure shock on his small buddy’s face for violating their personal space so, he would have dropped them at once and apologized immediately, but unfortunately he has them faced the wrong way and the faux pas goes undetected.

“O-okay, seeing as I don’t think I have much of a choice,” his friend wheezes in his death grip. Sans laughs at the hilarious scene before him, which is a mistake on his part, for while he’s busy brushing away his tears, Papyrus takes the opportunity to heft his brother up under his other arm in the same manner before racing back to town.

“Hey buddy,” Sans asks the kid on their bumpy ride back to Snowdin. “What are you in for?”

“Is he like this to everyone?” they ask under their breath.

“Nah. Normally just me. It started one day when I stayed late at Grillby’s and told him the only way I would leave was if I was carried out feet first, and well,” Sans sighs fondly at the memory. “As you can see my bro one-upped me that day and every day since with this maneuver.”

“Out-joked by your own brother?” they smile.

“I couldn’t be more proud.”


The library, in your humble opinion, is the coolest thing to ever exist out of everything ever, and that’s saying something after all you’ve seen today.

Papyrus did not exaggerate- this place IS a treasure trove of knowledge. Heck, he probably undersold it. With books lining every wall from floor to ceiling, this place is a wonderland of wisdom, neatly stored away in hundreds upon hundreds of titles and tomes on the shelves.

You have never seen so many books in your life! And to think what stories and secrets they all held, just waiting to be discovered and made real by your imagination! You could spend eternity in here. It was so overwhelming, it made you dizzy at the thought.

The monster behind the counter spares you a glance of mild interest, but goes stiff at the sight of Papyrus and Sans.

“You!” He shouts and points to the taller skeleton in accusation. “Book thief! Come back to steal again, eh? Or are you just returning to the scene of the crime?”

“Thief?” Papyrus repeats, aghast. “The Great and Noble Papyrus? Preposterous! The books of the library are public domain! You cannot steal what belongs to all!”

“You do when you don’t use a library card!”

“Hey, hey, guys. We’re in a library, remember?” Sans mediates between the two. “Let’s try and keep it down and talk this out. Kid, you go on ahead and we’ll, uh, catch up to you. Book a spot for us at the bean bag chairs, alright?”

You nod and slip away while Sans tries to settle the dispute between his brother and the librarian. Neither of them seems to be able to quiet down, much less come to a compromise. You’ll probably be here for a while.

You begin scanning the shelves jam packed with books, all arranged by color rather than subject matter. While it was beautiful to look at, the hues of the spines all blending into an impressive rainbow, you quickly realize this means the books you were after were likely to be scattered all over the place. It won’t be much of a problem as long as all the bindings were honest and legible so you wouldn’t have to pull each book from the shelf to read its title, and Papyrus and Sans probably knew the selection of books better to begin with. They could probably help narrow down your search once they finished their, um, discussion with the librarian.

Your biggest fear is your mom will show up before you have a chance to really get a good look at all the stories this place has to offer. Papyrus had alluded that people are allowed to take the books home free of charge, but in the two minutes you’ve been here, you’ve pieced together that the option is not indefinite, nor entirely “free”. Hm, maybe if you legally check out some books to take back to the Ruins, then your mom would have to let you come back here to return them. A loophole that would let you leave again, perhaps?

Reminding yourself of your impending perma-grounding depresses you, so you push the thought from your mind and start looking for books on humans instead. You pull several from the shelves and set them in a pile near the bean bags tucked away in a cozy corner of the library like Sans had asked.

“Late fee?! What a ridiculous notion!” Papyrus says to his brother, joining up with you just as you’re getting comfy in your seat. You think he’s trying to whisper, but his voice is just as harsh and loud as his normal volume. “Making me pay a fine like some kind of law breaker! The Great Papyrus is no criminal!”

“Hey, be happy I was able to talk him out of banning you from the library all together,” Sans drawls, his deep voice resonating even deeper in what you guess he thinks is “quiet”. “Did you learn anything yet, buddy?” Sans asks, eyeing you as he flops down in a bean bag across from you.

“Not yet. I just sat down but I think I’ve got a pretty good variety here.”

“Ah, yes! I can tell you’ve already picked out all the best ones!” Papyrus commends you. “I want to research the books with illustrations in them! Sans, you can take all the boring wordy ones.”

“Sure thing, bro. Those books make better blankets anyway. They’ve got soft covers.”

You’re pretty sure if you weren’t in the library, Papyrus would have screamed. You barely contain your laughter at Sans’ joke, and the expression on Papyrus’ face has you threatening to burst. Eventually the giggles subside and you burry your nose into the nearest book, Papyrus calms down with a book of his own, and Sans snuggles in his chair using a paperback for a pillow. When all is peaceful once more, you begin to read.

’…While monsters are mostly made of magic, human beings are mostly made of water. Humans, with their physical forms, are far stronger than us, but they’ll never know the joy of expressing themselves through magic…’

Hm. Nothing useful in this one. You already knew humans lost the art of magic after they had made the barrier. The bit about them being made of water is new to you, but you don’t see how that can be helpful. It certainly didn’t help you envision what a human looked like. Water had no shape except for the container you put it in if you froze it. Did that mean humans didn’t have a defined shape either? You flip through the rest of the book, skimming the pages, but nothing pops out to you. Setting the orange book aside, you move on to your next one, a book blue in color.

’…Because they are made of magic, monsters’ bodies are attuned to their soul. If a monster does not wish to fight, its defenses will waken, and the crueler the intentions of our enemies, the more their attacks will hurt us. Therefore, if a being with a powerful soul struck with the desire to kill-‘

You close the book in a hurry, shutting it with a dull clap. You already knew humans are lethal and nearly indestructible against monsters. No need to be reminded.

You move on to your next book, and then the next, and the next, working your way through the rainbow of colors, but none of them are any more informative. You already knew humans don’t turn to dust when they die, and that their souls were strong enough to persist after death. Your friend Flowey had already taught you this. None of these books are helpful and you’ve yet to find one with pictures either. The last book you selected from the shelf was a dull green tome, simply titled “The Nature of Souls”. Would this one even be about humans? You weren’t sure, but since you knew souls were needed to break the barrier, you figured it was worth a shot.

Skipping through the preface, you flip to the middle of the first chapter and begin to skim the page. You get lucky; the word ‘human’ pops up a few times in this book and you slow, reading the passage a little closer.

’…Love, hope, compassion. This is what people say monster souls are made of. But the absolute nature of the soul is unknown. After all, humans have proven their souls don’t need these things to exist.’

How tragic. But you guess it makes sense. Flowey once told you humans had an affinity for destruction. They’d even destroy each other if given the means necessary. How someone could bring themselves to destroy their own kind- friends and family included, is beyond you. You can barely imagine what it would be like to never feel love or care. The book doesn’t say human souls are devoid of other emotions, though, so could it be their souls could still experience hate and violence? What a miserable existence it must be if that is the case for humans. To constantly feel despair and rage? To only feel fear and anger? You’re glad you aren’t one of them.

‘…Monster bodies (left) are a physical representation of their souls, and as such, their bodies can take on an infinite number of forms, shapes and appearances. Humans, too, can come in a variety of sizes, heights, and colors, but since their souls are kept internal, human bodies (right), maintain a similar body plan throughout their race as the illustration compares.’

You raise your brow in excited curiosity, and thumb the paper, carefully turning the page to reveal-

A jagged rip. A page has been torn out.

You grunt in frustration. On the back of the page you hold is a silhouette of a monster that looks strikingly like your mom, but the adjacent one is missing.

“Is something wrong, friend?” Papyrus asks when he hears you snort.

“Someone vandalized this book,” you moan. “And just when I thought I found the answer.”

Papyrus smiles sadly. “I understand the struggle.” He places one gloved hand on your shoulder with remarkable tenderness. “All these books are very old and we don’t get many new ones our way so we must do our best to protect the ones we have, but accidents still happen.”

“Says the guy who borrowed library books without a card,” Sans teases without opening his eyes.

Papyrus shoots him a death glare, but doesn’t retort. It’s nether the time nor place for that, and you can tell he wants console you more than he wants to argue with his brother.

“I’m sure the royal library in the capital would have better books on the subject, but it would take far too long to travel there.”

You nod in understanding, but can’t hide the defeat in your eyes. Papyrus looks practically heartbroken for disappointing you.

“Hey! I know! We can ask my boss, Undyne, about humans!” He suggests, wanting to cheer you up in any way he can. “She’s the captain of the Royal Guard! She’s been trained to fight humans so she’s sure to know what one looks like!”

“Really?” you say, hope blooming in your chest.

“Absolutely! In fact, we can go right now! It’s almost time for me to meet up with her for my daily report anyway!”

“Yeah! Okay!” you eagerly agree.

“Papyrus, that’s an awesome idea,” Sans agrees, jerking up straight and his permanent smile looking a little more strained than usual. For someone so stoic and still, the sudden movement is jarring to you. “But unfortunately, it’s also almost time for my daily meet up with my pun pal at the doors, and since she didn’t come pick up our friend, I guess I have to see them home personally.”

“Aw really?” Papyrus’ face falls and your heart races a bit. The time had really flown by while you were reading, and it seems the final hour has come at last.

“’Fraid so,” the shorter skeleton stretches his limbs, popping a dozen joints in the process. “Better say your goodbyes now so neither of us are late to our appointments.”

You and Papyrus exchange glances, neither of you wanting to say the first farewell.

“Well, pal, it was great hanging out with you,” Papyrus starts. “You are the best, first, Boss Monster friend I’ve ever made.”

You place a hand gently on Papyrus’ shoulder. “And you two are the best, first, skeleton monster friends I’ve ever made,” you say looking between the two brothers. “Sans, thanks for getting me a room at the inn, and Papyrus, thanks for cooking me spaghetti and letting me make puzzles with you. I’ll make sure to think of you two every day if I never get to leave the Ruins again.”

Your sentiment is too much for Papyrus. Moved by your gratitude, he engulfs you into a boney hug that’s all elbows and hard edges. You don’t care, though, and you hug him back with all your might. A hug’s a hug and you’ll cherish this one forever.

“I’ll think of you every day too!” he cries. “And I’ll start by thinking of you right now while I plan what to say to Undyne! She’s going to be so excited to hear I made friends with a Boss Monster! Oh, I wish you could have met her! I bet you would have been great buddies!”

“Hey, it’s not the end of the world, Pap,” Sans says, subtly trying to get you two on your way. “Maybe we can keep in touch through phone calls and telegrams, but right now we gotta go. Don’t want to be late!”

“Yes! Punctuality is important!” Papyrus straightens his posture as you all make your way out the door. The librarian behind the desk gives you the side-eye as you exit, but it goes unnoticed as you go your separate ways, waving goodbye until the other is out of sight.

With a dismal sigh, you turn and face the road ahead, reluctant to reach the end, but ready to face the consequences notwithstanding. Following in Sans footsteps, you already feel nostalgia tickle the back of your mind as you pass by the puzzles you helped improve and create with your new friends whom you barely got to know. The further you go, the harder you try to commit the sound of crunching snow and the scent of pine trees to memory, knowing you’d probably never get to come here again. You try extra hard to burn the images of your friends’ faces in your mind, not wanting to forget them most of all. It had only been a day, but it was nice while it lasted.

You were going to miss this place.

Chapter Text

Okay, so maaaybe Sans had been exaggerating when he said it was time for him to head to the doors. He still had a little more than a half hour to kill, but if there was another excuse to separate his brother and the kid before Papyrus accidentally took them to their death, he couldn’t think of it.

“So, you excited about getting home?” Sans asks, eyeing the child over his shoulder. They shrug, not bothering to look up.

Switching back to shy and mopey, huh? That’s fine with him, though it is a little sad seeing how fast the kid could go from extroverted to introverted in a matter of minutes, especially after how hard his brother had tried to make them feel comfortable in Snowdin.

“My brother’s really gonna miss you, kid,” Sans talks to fill the silence. “So be prepared for letters written to you every day, if not every hour.”

“I kind of wish you’d quit calling me that,” the kid mumbles under their breath.

“Hm? Calling you what?”

“’Kid.’ I’m not a kid. I’m a teenager.”

Sans looks them up and down. “Pfft. You? Yeah right.”

“It’s true!” they say hotly. Oh, stand-offish now, were they? That’s new.

“Oh really? Since when?”

“Since yesterday,” they scoff. “I’m thirteen- officially a teenager.”

“Thirteen’s still a kid, kid,” Sans smirks.

“Is not.”

“Is too.”

“Is not!”

“It totally is.”

“Is not, is not, is not!” To back up their flawless argument, the totally-is-a-kid kicks snow on Sans’ slippers.

“Throwing a temper tantrum is pretty childish, don’t ya think?” Sans points out. “Kicking snow is definitely not something a teenager would do.”

Trapped by the irrefutable logic of Sans’ case, the still-is-a-kid goes red in the face before crossing their arms and turning away in embarrassment.

“Glad to see we’re in agreement,” Sans chuckles. “Now let’s get goi-“

Enraged screaming followed by a crescendo of snapping branches and crunching underbrush interrupts Sans’ sentence. The skeleton stops short and instinctively sticks out his arm to block the kid from going further.

“What’s that?” the kid asks, and gets the answer a heartbeat later when a deer-like monster erupts from the trees.

“AAAHH! GET OFF, YOU STUPID GOGGLES! GET OFF! GET OFF! GET OFF!” it shouts as hard plastic ornaments jangle from its antlers and sparkling garland twists around its legs. Head flailing and limbs thrashing, the creature runs in blind circles before colliding headlong into a nearby tree with a resonating THWAK!

The kid gasps and winces. Sans flinches and draws in a hissing breath between clenched teeth. Looks like the local teens were up to their “pranks” again on poor Gyftrot, but there was no way he’d be the first to approach those massive antlers or pointed hooves.

“Come on, Kid. Let’s keep moving,” Sans says, but when he looks back to check if they’re following, the kid is nowhere to be seen. “Kid?”

“Oh my gosh, are you okay?” the child’s familiar voice asks off to his right, and Sans turns to find them kneeling next to Gyftrot in the snow.

“W-who said that?” The deer monster demands, struggling back to his feet.

“I’m Chara. Here, let me help you.” The kid starts reaching towards some garland wrapped around one of Gyftrot’s legs and Sans realizes their intentions a moment too late.

“Kid, don’t! Look out!”

“Wha-! AARGH! DON’T TOUCH ME!” Gyftrot bellows and bucks, catching the child square in the arm with one cloven hoof. The blow knocks them to the ground, where they lay for several seconds, grimacing in pain as they squeeze their stinging forelimb.

Sans appears at their side in an instant and helps them to their feet. Crud, the lady behind the doors was going to freak if he brought her kid back damaged.

“Come on, Kid. Don’t waste your time here.”

“But it needs help,” they argue, and shake off his hand.

“If you’re one of those stinking teenagers, then I don’t want your help!” Gyftrot interjects, swinging its head from side to side, listening for their location.

The kid mulls the thought over, before daring to approach again. “I’m… not a teenager. I’m just a kid. You can trust me.”

“Ha! That’s the biggest lie if I’ve ever heard one!”

“Then let me take those goggles off your head so you can see for yourself,” the kid bargains. Gyftrot stiffens for several heartbeats, considering their offer, before ultimately complying and turning its head toward the voice in nervous expectation. The kid pulls the swimwear off with one quick tug, hands not sticking around those wickedly sharp teeth so close to their fingers.

Gyftrot blinks in relief having its sight restored once more.

Thank you,” it sighs, and the kid nods, slowly working their way around to Gyftrot’s side.

“Mind if I remove the garland?” They ask first, waiting for the all-clear before proceeding.

“Please do!” Gyftrot huffs. “That itchy stuff has been rubbing me the wrong way for hours!”

The kid works deftly, untangling the decoration and coiling it in a neat loop around their hand before stuffing it in their pocket.

“That feels so much better!” Gyftrot breathes. “Say, could you, um, can I bother you to take these ornaments out of my antlers?” It asks. “They’ve been knocking against my skull for weeks! It’s driving me crazy!”

“Bend down,” the kid smiles, and Gyftrot obliges, lowering its head so the child can remove the trinkets with ease.

“Young one, you have lifted a great weight from my mind,” Gyftrot says when the kid teases the last ornament out from its antlers. “I cannot express my gratitude enough.”

“It was nothing,” the kid waves a hand. “You needed help, and I knew I could help, so I did. Anybody would have done the same.”

“Child, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t,” Gyftrot says. “But I’m glad you did. I won’t forget the favor you’ve done for me today. Sorry for kicking you!”

With that, Gyftrot bounds into the forest once more, avoiding all the other tree trunks with grace.

“That was nice of you,” Sans comments when they continue walking once more. “Most people wouldn’t dare stick their hands that close to Gyftrot’s mouth or hooves out of fear of getting hurt. Heck you did get hurt and helped it anyway. Why?”

The kid looks at Sans like he’s grown an extra head.

“Why? Well, why not?” They challenge. “It’s the right thing to do. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you if you were in trouble?”

“Of course, but I’d still hesitate to help someone who might hurt me in the process. Speaking of which, you got kicked pretty hard. You alright?”

The kid pulls up the sleeve of their sweater to reveal a nasty hoof-shaped bruise.

“It’ll get better,” they brush it off, but Sans can tell by the way they keep their arm stiff that the injury had to be at least a tiny bit uncomfortable.

“Hey, I thought you said you were a teenager,” Sans says to change the subject.

“I am.”

“That’s not what you told Gyftrot,” he smirks.

“Th-that was different!” they blush. “You know that!”

“Sure it was… Kid,” and Sans can’t help but laugh as the kid pelts him with snowballs from behind.

--

Doing a good deed seemed to help the kid lighten up a bit. They walk a bit taller, or maybe they’re just trying to ignore the smarting pain in their arm. Either way, they seem less subdued for the confrontation ahead, if not still a bit antsy.

Sans could relate. He’s a little antsy himself. All day he had been looking over his shoulder for… something. Someone new, someone different, someone he had never met to come get this kid, but as the hours ticked away the more concerned he became. He had given her the benefit of the doubt for the early half of the morning. Maybe she didn’t realize her kid was gone yet, or maybe they were busy thoroughly searching the Ruins first. And Snowdin’s forests are pretty big. Maybe she had left and was just taking her time combing through the woods before heading to the main town. What if she was on this road right now, and they were about to walk into each other?

Stranger things could happen.

As much as he wanted to intercept her as soon as she left the doors, Sans knew keeping his brother in one spot for so long would have been impossible, and there was no way in Hell Sans would leave Papyrus and the kid alone unsupervised to wait by the doors himself, no matter how docile they were.

It had been fun watching the two build puzzles and human traps, though. If he had any doubts about the kid’s perceived identity before, they had been debunked time and time again every time they created a new obstacle. The kid’s ideas were good, no argument there, but some of them were down-right diabolical. They claimed they had a lot of experience with puzzles back in the Ruins, and Sans chooses to believe it. If they hadn’t designed each trap themself, the kid probably wouldn’t have made it through half of the traps if they had been on the receiving end of the puzzles they created. The irony of it all was nauseating.

Sans hears more trouble before he sees it. A long, drawn out bay echoing off the cavern walls, low and monotone enough to be mistaken for the howling of the wind if it had not been for the fact that the air was still. The skeleton knows what that sound means immediately- dogs on a scent trail, and he had a good guess what smell they were following. The royal guard was closing in.

The direction the howl came from, Sans can’t tell. Bouncing off the ceiling and trees, it sounded like it came from everywhere at once.

Thinking fast is not one of the sentry’s strong points. Sans prefers to thoroughly plan each step before proceeding with an action to ensure the best results, as any scientists would, but he tries his best anyway. He quickly rules out a short cut. It wouldn’t throw their trail off for long and for all he knows he’d be jumping right into them since he didn’t know their position. Instead Sans does the next thing that comes to mind.

With a flare of magic in his left eye and a flick of the wrist, the kid goes sprawling into the snow on the far side of the road. They don’t even have the chance to realize they’re falling before they’ve face-planted into the slush.

Sans is not a moment too soon. Just as the kid begins to push themselves up, two canines in black robes come charging up the path, and the dogi assault him.

“Halt!” barks one.

“Identify your smells!” growls the other.

“Whoa, down boy, or, er, girl,” Sans chuckles, sweat beading on his skull. “It’s just me, Sans the skeleton.”

The dogs sniff him from head to foot, apparently not convinced.

“Sans. Sentry of Snowdin Forest-“

“-State your business here!”

“I’m… a sentry of Snowdin Forest?” Sans ventures. “I’m supposed to be here?” The dogs exchange a glance. Whether they could see each other through the robes, Sans can’t tell.

“He checks out.” One says to the other.

“But he’s still got a strange smell on him-“ the other says to the first.

“-Yes, and strange smells can be dangerous smells.”

“True. Sans of Snowdin Forest! Explain your smelf!”

“It’s a new cologne I’m trying out,” Sans fibs. “What do you think?”

“Smells like lies and deceit.”

“Come on, guys,” Sans groans. “I’ll throw you a bone if you just forget all this. For real this time! No pun intended.”

“Can’t! Lesser dog reported a strange smell in the forest-“

“-and we’ve been tracking it all day.”

“It’s unlike anything we’ve ever smelled-“

“-And we think it could be a human smell.”

“So all the dogs are on patrol-“

“-To capture the smell and bring it in for questioning.”

“And you’ve got the strange smell on you-“

“-so explain yourself by order of the Royal Guard!”

“Sans, something pushed me,” the kid shudders, brushing excess snow out of their hair as they rejoin him at last. “It was really weird too, because when I looked there was no one there. It kind of hurt.”

The dogs snap their muzzles towards the kid immediately, noses twitching in a frenzy and begin circling their feet.

“What smell is this?”

“It smells… strange.”

“Like weird-strange?”

“No… more like unsuspicious-strange, like a-“

The dogs pause to swap another hooded glance before slowly wagging their tails in delight.

“Sans, we didn’t know you were a father!”

”What.”

“Your puppy! That’s why you smell so weird, yes?”

“My puppy?” Sans repeats, blush creeping up his skull. He places his face into his hand. “Um, yeah. S-sure. Let’s go with that.”

“Who’s the lucky lady-dog?-”

“-And why haven’t we met her?”

“Um, guys, as much as I’d love to sit and chat with you, I kind of have a place to be so-“ Sans tries to step around the dogs, but they follow his ankles, badgering him with more questions that only a married couple forever stuck in the honeymoon mindset would deem appropriate to ask.

“How long have you been married?-”

“-Or have you yet to elope?”

“Scandalous! Is your puppy out of wedlock?-”

“-It happens to the best of us, Sans.”

“Though you must learn to control yourself to prevent unwanted litters-“

“-I hear being altered isn’t all that bad once you recover.”

Oh. My. God. This cannot seriously be a conversation that is happening right now. Even the kid seems a little uncomfortable by the guard’s presence. They made the mistake of petting one, and now both are glued to their legs, searching for more attention.

“This is ridiculous,” the kid mumbles, and makes a break for the nearest tree where they proceed to snap off a low-hanging branch. The raise the stick above their head and for one terrifying second Sans fears they’re going to strike at the dogs, but instead they shout “FETCH!” and launch the stick as hard as they can down the trail.

The dogi watch the stick fly, exchange one last glance, and take off sprinting, all questions about smells and puppies forgotten as they race to beat the other to the prize. As soon as the dogs’ backs are turned, the kid grabs Sans’ hand with a satisfied smile and starts running in the other direction. With any luck, the dogs would be too busy fighting over the stick to come follow them.

“How did you know that would work?” Sans asks once they’re a safe distance away.

“Well, there’s this small white dog that sometimes shows up in the Ruins,” the kid starts sheepishly. “When I was younger I really wanted to keep him as a pet, but no matter what I tried, I could never catch him. I did discover he’s a fan of Fetch, so I figured it might work on them as well.”

“So you’re saying that was a lucky guess back there?”

“Yeah,” the kid grins, turning their eyes to the path ahead. “I should have figured the dog from the Ruins was a monster dog. He was wicked smart, after all. Once he stole my mom’s cell phone and we couldn’t find it for days. We later discovered it buried in her sock drawer along with a bunch of random bones. The next time I crossed paths with him, he seemed so upset that we found his secret stash!”

The skeleton and human share a laugh at that. Sans laughs a bit harder, because he has a feeling he knows which dog this kid is talking about, as well as what stolen bones were uncovered. Boy, what would Papyrus say if he knew this kid had found all of his missing attacks?

The kid shares a few more dog anecdotes as they continue down the path, each one funnier than the last, before coming upon a massive snowdrift blocking the road.

“This wasn’t here yesterday,” they comment.

“That statement is true.” Sans agrees.

“I don’t see a way around,” they add.

“That is also true.”

“I guess we can climb over.”

“That we can,” Sans says, already knowing what was about to happen, but letting it unfold anyway. After all, the dogi had warned him that all the guards were on patrol.

The kid puts one foot into the snowbank, but stops short when the snowbank shudders and starts to move. Then, very slowly, it begins to sit up.

The armor-clad monster that unearths itself gives a vigorous shake from nose tip to toe tips, and sizes up the two pedestrians. With an inquisitive tilt of its head and a friendly wag of its tail, the Greater Dog pounces.

Sans side-steps in time. Dodging playful greetings from over-enthusiastic dogs that wanted to chew on him like a rawhide is second nature to him, and he has had plenty of experience avoiding their “attacks”. The kid, on the other hand, isn’t as prepared, and gets pinned down by massive paws as the Greater Dog “arrests” this new stranger and “questions” them with canine kisses.

“D-down, boy!” they say, spitting out dog slobber. The dog obeys, and collapses its entire weight on the child. Sans roars with laughter as he watches them try to struggle out with no success.

“Sans,” they wheeze, looking to him for help while they reward the dog with pats for technically obeying the command. “Get me another stick.”

--

With Sans’ “help” (it took him five excruciatingly long minutes to find the perfect stick,) the kid triumphs over Greater Dog the same way they did the dogi and escape the guard before it even realizes it’s been duped.

The kid “defeats” the remaining guards with ease. Lesser Dog was so overstimulated just at the sight of a potential new friend, that he practically thwarts himself before the kid even throws their next stick, stretching his neck to a ridiculous length to catch it in midair, and with a bit of advice from Sans, they manage to tiptoe past Doggo without ever being spotted. The kid even throws in a gentle head pat for good measure, leaving Doggo simultaneously confused and excited to the point where he ran off to smoke some dog treats to work out this conundrum.

All the Guard Dogs were elite, yet this child had found a fatal flaw to trump them in a matter of seconds, instantly turning foe into friend without so much as laying a finger on them unless it was for pets. Sans wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he was actually kind of impressed. Sometimes, not even other monsters were this patient with the dogs, yet this kid had befriended all of them in a mere matter of minutes. If they could do this to the Underground’s most respected warriors, then Sans couldn’t fathom why their mother was so worried about them out here. They fit right in even better than most monsters already.

Half an hour of these shenanigans later, and now it’s really time to get to the doors if they don’t want to be late. Thankfully there are no more dogs to left to pet or play fetch with now that the royal guard have been mercilessly defeated by a tiny child in a striped sweater who would readily throw sticks for fun.

They make it to the Ruins entrance with a couple minutes to spare. The meadow before the doors looks like it has seen better days; All the snowmen and the snow village that the kid had constructed the night prior have been leveled- trampled flat by excited dog paws as they familiarized themselves with the kid’s scent.

Sans marches up to the doors without hesitation while the kid nervously sticks beside him. This is it. After a painfully long day, he’d finally see this kid home and get to meet his mystery friend behind the door.

“Showtime,” the skeleton winks at them, and raps on the wood. “Knock, knock!”

It’s dead quiet while they wait. After about ten seconds or so, Sans starts to feel like something is off. His pun pal usually never took this long to reply.

Come on, lady. This is the part where you’re supposed to say ‘Who is there’. Sans thinks. He tries again, knocking a little harder.

“Special delivery! One child, fresh out of Snowdin! Normally I’d charge ya’ five, ninety-nine for the home delivery, but it took longer than thirty minutes, so your order is free!” Sans quips, but there’s no response from the other side. “Uh, is anybody home? Come on, don’t be shy.”

Utter silence is all that answers, and it’s at this point Sans is beginning to suspect something is seriously wrong. Beside him, the kid’s breathing gets a little faster and they start to shake.

“A-are we late? Did we miss her?” They ask desperately.

“Shouldn’t be,” Sans says, checking is watch. “It’s right on the hour, like usual.”

“Then she didn’t come,” they conclude. “Why… why didn’t she?”

“Hey, hey, relax,” Sans tries to reassure them. “Maybe she’s, uh, still looking for you in the Ruins?”

They shake their head without looking at him, eyes fixed on their feet. “The Ruins aren’t that big. It wouldn’t take her more than an hour to look through all of it.” They inhale sharply, and look at Sans in horror, immediately drawing to the worst possible conclusion. “What if- What if she blocked off the tunnel? What if- she- doesn’t- want me to- come back?” They ask between panicked gasps.

“Kid, I am one hundred percent certain that I not the case,” Sans says firmly as the kid begins to hyperventilate. “Hey, didn’t you say your mom had a cell phone?” Sans asks, recalling something the kid mentioned while they talked about the antics of annoying dogs. They nod, seeming to follow his train of thought. Sans pulls out his cell and passes it to them. “Here, try calling her to see what the deal is.”

The kid takes the phone with trembling hands, finger poised to push the first button before their face falls in despair. “I… I-I don’t remember her number,” they sob.

“You don’t? Why?”

“S-she set up my phone to have her on speed dial. I-I’ve never needed to remember it,” they cry. “B-but she still didn’t come the doors, and you said- you said she’s never missed a day, so- so that means- that means she doesn’t- she doesn’t want me to-“

Sans watches helplessly as the kid has a meltdown before his eyes. Apparently being grounded for life was one thing, but total abandonment was something they had never considered and it was clearly too much for them to handle.

Geez, lady, Sans thinks to himself. If this is some weird way of punishing your kid… well, it’s working.

“Mom! Mom, it’s me! I’m sorry I snuck out! Please open the doors! I’m so sorry for not listening! Please let me come back home!” They beg and pound desperately with their tiny fists, fingers searching for any grip to pry them open, but their efforts are in vain, and after a few minutes of futile pleading, they crumple to their knees, whimpering, “Please… please…”

Sans looks away, his face completely dark. He’ll admit he doesn’t know his joke telling buddy all that well, but this didn’t seem like something she would do, especially to someone she claimed she loved. What’s worse, he didn’t have very many clues to deduct a plausible explanation for her absence. Anger could be a factor, but why would she hold a grudge this severe to teach her child a lesson and refuse to let them come home if she constantly feared for their safety? Miscommunication could have happened, but she was as regular to the doors as he was to Grillby’s, so why would she choose today of all days to be late? Reasons ticked away, leaving him with fewer and fewer choices, and the ones that remained were not pretty.

Was it possible foul play was involved?

God, he hoped not.

But how could he be sure?

“Hey. Buddy, hey. Don’t cry. We’ll figure this out,” Sans says, gently placing one boney hand on their shoulder. “Listen, I have a favor to ask. You remember the way to the inn, yeah? I want you to go back there and wait for me to come get you. I’m going to stick around in case your mom shows up, but I don’t want you catching a cold out here. Can you do that?”

After a few deep breaths, the kid swallows and nods. “O- Okay,” they reply at last, and slowly get to their feet. Then with sniffling gasps, they start walking on their own back to Snowdin.

Sans waits a until they’re out of sight, and then a few minutes more to be sure they’ve gone a safe distance away before sizing up the doors. Placing his skull against the wood, he knocks a final time and listens close. The echoes still sounded hollow, so he didn’t think the tunnel was blocked off like they feared, so that was a plus. Certainly any bit of good news would help the kid at this point.

He hadn’t been lying when he said the doors only open one way, or that only a Boss Monster’s magic was strong enough to override the enchantment placed on them to keep it sealed, but maybe he didn’t need to be a Boss Monster. Maybe just one powerful blast could be enough.

Drawing on his magic, Sans summons the biggest, toughest, strongest blaster he can conjure. It materializes overhead, its sinister eyes and massive fangs fixated on the doors before them.

“Okay, buddy,” he commands. “Give those doors everything you’ve got. Don’t hold back.”

The blaster obeys, opening its jaws filled with hundreds of serrated teeth as it takes a pseudo breath before unleashing a beam of pure, supernova-hot magic on its target. A phantom pain twists and pulls at Sans’ imaginary gut as the blaster depletes all his magic almost instantaneously, leaving him with tunnel vision and lightheadedness. All around, the cavern shakes and rumbles. More boulders fall around the doors, those closest to the beams disintegrating to ash. Stalactites overhead tremble threateningly, their creaking wines the only warning they would give before plunging down like oversized bullets.

The attack is over within seconds and, unable to sustain the blaster’s presence, the demonic skull dematerializes as Sans falls to his knees, clutching his sides and gasping for air. He takes a moment to catch his breath while the fog clears, and is astonished to find the doors still intact when it does.

Even after his strongest blow, they were still standing? Man, arcane magic does not fuck around. Well, as much as he hated to admit it, if that blast couldn’t open the doors, then nothing he could do would.

Rubble and stone continue to shift and settle around the door, giving it a new border of weathered stones to frame it. From somewhere above, a rock that got the avalanche memo late finally comes bouncing down to join the party. Unfortunately it over shoots its mark and lands in a nearby bush, crushing twigs and leaves and-

Something mechanical?

Sans zeroes in on the sound of fizzing wires and popping circuitry, and cautiously parts the branches of the bush to find the demolished remains of a very familiar looking camera. The sight gives him an idea, and he frantically digs around his pockets for his cell phone. He might not have been able to open the doors, but maybe he could get some more clues after all.

He had a phone call to make.

Chapter Text

She didn’t come get you.

She blocked off the tunnels.

You can’t go home.

The walk back to Snowdin is a long one, and your panicking mind certainly isn’t helping pass the time.

Why didn’t she come?

Is she mad at you?

Does she hate you now?

Does she not want you to come back?

Does she not want you?

No, that’s ridiculous. There must have been a mistake.

But Mom never makes mistakes.

Then why didn’t she come to the door?

Your thoughts war with each other, fighting an endless fight on a mental mine field. You weakly try to reassure yourself that things were going to be okay, that somehow you could fix this, but for each frantic thought you shoot down, five more spring up in its place. You had expected scolding. You had anticipated punishment, to be reprimanded, or at the very least your mother to be upset with you, but nothing? This is worse than being grounded by miles.

You broke the biggest rule and now you’re paying for it. You can’t go home. She doesn’t want you to come home.

You wish there was a way to just stop thinking, to turn off your brain and forget it all, but no matter how hard you try to distract yourself, your mind keeps wandering back to the same two hard facts;

She didn’t come get you.

You can’t go home.

You try to focus on your feet, putting one in front of the other, keeping a look out for ice, all the while a tiny voice repeats at the back of your head; ’You’re stuck here. You can’t go home. You’re stuck here. You can’t go home.

You concentrate on breathing, trying to make them as deep as possible before you’d go into a coughing fit. On your way back you pass a few of the royal guards. They bound over; bringing the sticks you had so carelessly thrown away, before catching the sight of your face and cautiously hold back. They whimper and wine. Out of confusion or empathy, you can’t tell, but they can clearly see you are in no mood to play.

You make a bee-line to the inn once you’ve returned to the main town and sullenly head for the stairs.

“Excuse me! Where do you think you’re going?” A squeaky voice pipes up.

You look to the counter, but the woman running it before isn’t there. Instead sits a tiny white rabbit so small and fluffy, his stubby feet can barely be seen from the rest of his fur.

“I’m- I was going to my room,” you explain to the bunny.

“Oh, no you’re not!” The bunny declares, hopping up and down in a… threatening?... manner. “If you want a room, then you’ll have to fork over eighty gold pieces!”

“But the other rabbit let me stay here for free last night.”

“Pssh! My mom my own this inn, but she doesn’t know how to run it! If she keeps letting charity cases like you stay here without paying, then we’d be out of business in a business day! Now my aunt who owns the market next door? She knows how to run a shop! I'm going to be more like her when I inherit this place, but until then, when I’m on shift, it’s ‘Provide the dough or out you go!’ That’s my motto!”

“But I don’t have any money.”

“Not my problem!”

“Please-“

“If you want the key, then pay the fee!”

“I can’t-”

“Then find another place to stay!”

Not wanting to argue, you give in and head back out into the cold to escape the bunny’s suspicious glare. Great, now you REALLY have no place to go. You sneak around to the east side of the building, where you can at least be out of the wind. Hopefully Sans can still find you here.

Back to the wall, you slump into the snow and hug your knees in defeat. You’ve been doing pretty well so far holding back tears, but now, lost and alone, you bury your head in your arms and let them fall freely as hopelessness consumes you.


Papyrus’ daily report with Undyne had gone great, just like it always did. No signs of humans, puzzles were recalibrated, annoying dog activity was low, same old, same old.

Undyne had seemed happy for him when he told her he made a new friend, but not overly interested as he had hoped. Papyrus doesn’t let it bother him, though. The captain of the royal guard was probably a bit too busy to bother learning every minute interaction between every monster in Waterfall, much less Snowdin. He understands she probably had more pressing responsibilities to tackle. She had no time for gossip of the day-to-day going-ons of every monster in the Underground. She had bigger fish to fry.

Heh. Fish to fry. Sans would get a kick out of that.

Back in Snowdin, Papyrus wastes no time writing letters to his now pen pal, detailing all the events that have happened since they left. If they couldn’t be here in person to experience Snowdin themselves, then Papyrus would transcribe each day in excruciating detail until they believed they actually were. Despite writing as fast as he could, recounting the day down to the minute took him over an hour, (and over a dozen sheets of paper) but penmanship and legibility was a small price to pay in the name of friendship.

As he finishes his first letter, it dawns on him that he has no idea what his friend’s mailing address is, or if any mail career actually delivered to the Ruins.

No matter! He could deliver it himself and just slide it under the door. He’d save so much on postage too! How he would actually fit a letter as thick as a manuscript under the door, he doesn't know, but he'll cross that bridge when he gets there.

Excited, Papyrus practically flies out of his house and down the main street towards the forest, only to come to a skidding halt at the edge of town.

Was it his imagination, or had his magnificently sharp ears heard the telltale sound of muffled sobbing?

Crying? In his town? Not if he could help it!

Pinpointing the source of the sound, Papyrus backtracks to the inn to have a closer look. Surprise quickly trumps concern the second he rounds the building and spies a familiar set of horns and ears sitting in the snow.

“Oh! It’s you!” he says in delight. “Back so soon? Does this mean you’ve been granted permission to visit? That’s great! I was just on my way to mail my first letter to you, but now I can deliver it in person and even get to watch you read it! Isn’t that great?”

Papyrus’ small friend slowly lifts their head and look at him with one tear filled eye. Aside from a few wracked heaves, they don’t say anything and it’s only now that Papyrus puts two and two together. The crying he heard and the friend he found are one in the same.

“What’s wrong, pal?” Papyrus whispers, instantly worried. His friend’s faces twists and they look away, reluctant as they try to form syllables.

“I… I don’t have e-eighty gold,” they start, but as soon as they begin speaking, the words start to poor out in a stuttering rush. “A-and now I have nowhere to go be-because my mom didn’t- she didn’t a-answer the doors, and- and I can’t- can’t remember her phone number, b-but she probably blocked off the tunnels so I can’t go- go back,” their voice jumps a few octaves as they choke out their last few words. “I-I don’t- don’t think she wants me to come back. I d-don’t think she wants me anymore.”

Papyrus does his best to follow, but without context he has no idea what cell phone numbers or eighty gold has to do with the situation. He does piece together that something unfortunate has happened that has prevented his friend from going home. Their final words are most troubling for they seem to be the root cause of his tiny friend’s distress. Their mother did not wish for them to return? How could any parent abandon their child for making such an innocent mistake?

Brain working overtime, Papyrus puts together what he knows in a frantic search to provide solace. Their mother had estranged them and they now have no home and no one to care for them.

But maybe a substitute would suffice?

“Never fear. I have the solution,” Papyrus comforts his pal. Grabbing their shoulders, he firmly turns them to look into his eye sockets, and says with absolute seriousness; “I will be your mother now.”

The crying stops instantly. Dumbstruck, his little friend searches his face. If they were looking for any hint of sarcasm, they would be out of luck because there is only complete sincerity in his eyes.

They lower their head, and when their body starts shaking, Papyrus fears they’ve began crying again.

“There, there! Do not cry! The Great Mom, Papyrus, is here!”

“I’m not crying,” they say, and look up again with the most grateful smile plastered on their face. “I’m laughing. Thanks, Papyrus. That really makes me feel better.” They embrace the skeleton in a hug, which Papyrus happily reciprocates. Whether he was aware of it or not, Papyrus’ methods of consoling people were truly absurd, but no one could argue they weren’t heartfelt and genuine, and for that his tiny pal is truly thankful.

“That’s a relief,” Papyrus sighs. “Though I must admit, this puts our friendship in a whole new light. Can I still be your friend if I am also your mom?”

“I don’t see why not,” they sniff, wiping away the last of their tears. But, as if wishing to make the whole moment more ludicrous than I already was, the small monster’s stomach chooses that moment to snarl at the two friends, expressing its displeasure at such a saccharine show.

“Sorry,” Papyrus’ friend says, pulling away in embarrassment. “I haven’t eaten since I had lunch with you.”

“No need to apologize!” Papyrus tells them. “As your new mother, this is the perfect opportunity to test my ability at providing you with parental care! While were here out on the town, we can buy the groceries necessary to make spaghetti and together we can make the perfect pasta! What do you say?”

“Sure,” they grin before their face falls. “Wait, but Sans asked me to wait at the inn for him.”

“Pthbtbtht! As your self-appointed legal guardian, I decree that the inn is no place for a child to live! You deserve a proper home, and if Sans has a problem with it, he can talk to me!”

Papyrus extends a hand and, trusting his words, his little pal takes it, and together they walk to the market.


You didn’t really get a good look at the convenience store on your first visit here due to how anxious you had been, but when Papyrus goes on a treasure hunt for supplies, he gives you free reign wander the isles, and you get to fully appreciate what this store had to offer. Items of every kind were sold here, from canned food, to roof tiles, to clothes, to gift shop snow globes. Granted, everything seemed in limited quantity with hardly more than one or two of each thing available on the shelves, but the sheer diversity of it all was overwhelming. From books, to magnets, to boxes, of pomarasins, to toiletries, to-

You stop short at the end of an isle that’s been designated for Arts and Crafts, hardly believing what you see. What lies before you something you could only fantasize about back in the Ruins.

Yarn. A whole basket full of yarn in every color imaginable rolled into balls the size of grapefruits. Some are even two-toned, the colors blending from one into another before fading back again.

Holding your breath, you slip one hand out of your glove and reach for a ball deep crimson in hue. You’ve never even dreamed of seeing yarn this color. It's so absolutely beautiful and plush that you have a hard time accepting that it’s real.

“Um, how much is the yarn?” you ask the shopkeeper while Papyrus searches for vegetables and herbs somewhere nearby.

“For one ball?" She clarifies, and you nod. "A hundred gold. Dyes aren’t cheap, you know.”

You almost physically wince. A single ball of yarn was more than a night at the inn! You’d never be able to afford this. But… maybe she’d be willing to trade?

You pat your pockets, remembering the garland you acquired from Gyftrot. That was kind of like yarn, right?

“Are you willing to barter?” you ask, displaying the golden decoration.

The shopkeeper looks at it and then to you, unimpressed.

“Kid, does this look like a swap meet to you? If I traded goods for garbage, I’d lose my reputation and my business would collapse. I only accept cash.”

Well, it had been worth a shot. Reluctantly, you take your garland back and return the yarn to the basket.

One day, you vow. Silently, you promise to come back when you had the money to buy the whole basket then head to the register to join Papyrus at the checkout.

--

Papyrus bought more groceries than you could ever imagine were necessary for any single dish, but you don’t know how spaghetti is made, so who are you to judge? Still, you offer to shoulder one the many paper bags he carries, but your host claims he can carry them fine. It’s a different story when it comes time to unlock the front door of his house, and carrying the bags looks more like a juggling act, but somehow he manages without spilling a single one. You can only chalk it up to years of practice.

The interior of Papyrus’ house is cozy and warm and feels well-lived in. It’s got the basics, like a table, couch, clock, and lamp, as well as a few things you’ve never seen before, like the the weird giant screen against the far wall.

“What’s this?” you ask inspecting the big, flat rectangle in front of the couch.

“That’s the TV!” Papyrus explains, sticking his head out from the kitchen as he puts away the groceries.

“Tee-vee? What does it do?”

“You don’t know what a TV is?” the skeleton asks, completely ignoring your question.

“Not at all. We don’t have one of these back in the Ruins.”

“Blasphemous!” Papyrus exclaims. “What kind of home these days doesn’t have a television? Have you been living under a rock?”

“Well…” you look up, not at the ceiling, but more so the mountain overhead.

“Right. Point taken. But I guess this means I should give you the grand tour of the house and get you caught up with modern technology. Who knows what else you’ve been missing out on!”

Literally dropping everything, Papyrus jumps to your side and into tour guide mode.

“This!” he announces, sweeping his hands around the big open space. “Is the living room! The major attractions include the couch and Sans’ sock that he refuses to pick up. What? Why don’t I just pick it up? Because Sans needs to learn some responsibility is why! I’m his brother, not his maid! And over there is the kitchen! We’ll be cooking in there shortly, but feel free to help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge at any time!”

Scooping you up with one arm, Papyrus takes the stairs three at a time.

“And this is my room!” he boasts in front of a heavily decorated door. “The room at the end of the hall is Sans’, but he keeps it locked when he’s not in it. Not like anybody would want to go in there. Even toxic waste treatment plants would dare touch his filth! Check out my room!”

You follow Papyrus into his bedroom and look around, impressed. He’s got a huge book shelf and a neat flag on the wall. There's something he calls a "computer" on a desk by the window, his closet is full of neatly arranged clothes, and action figures line the table. His rug has cool flames, and there’s a box of bones against the wall, and his bed-

His bed is…

It’s clearly been used for sleeping in, from the state of the covers, but the shape is all wrong, and... and- familiar. Something is itching in the back of your mind at the sight of his bed, a surreal feeling of half-hearted recollection, like impending déjà vu without payoff, and you can’t figure out why.

“I see you like my racecar bed!” Papyrus notes. “One day I’d like to drive down a long, open highway with the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair, but until we get that seventh soul, I can only cruise while I snooze.”

You hardly hear a word he says, spacing out after the phrase “racecar”. Car. Cars. Why did it sound so familiar? You’ve never seen a car. You’ve never been in a car. But then why did you have this notion that cars weren’t for sleeping in? If only you could just think-

The itching feeling gets worse, but the sensation is not a new one to you. You’ve experienced it before, rarely, but the times were few and far between. You were never sure what would trigger it; sometimes certain words or sights, and it would make you react in the strangest ways. Out of nowhere you would suddenly find yourself humming a tune you don’t ever remember hearing, or find yourself trying to draw animals you’ve never seen, but for some reason you were sure existed somewhere. Whenever this sensation happened, ghosting impressions would caress your consciousness, telling you that there was something close that you should recognize, that you should know, and now you find yourself feeling it again at the sight of this bed. If only you could remember...

Your concentration is broken by a pair of fingers snapping in front of your face.

“You okay there, pal? You were staring pretty hard at my bed.”

You blink and try to recall your train of thought, but the spell is broken. The itching has faded and the moment has passed. Whatever you were trying to recall was lost now.

“It’s… nothing,” you assure him.

“Alrighty then! Now that you’ve seen the whole house, would you like to help me make some homemade spaghetti?”

“Of course,” you nod, and follow your friend out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.

--

If you were being honest, the first time you saw Papyrus’ spaghetti, you thought he had handed you a tub of earthworms.

It had weirded you out, sure, but not disgusted you. You ate snails on a daily basis for crying out loud. How different could worms be? As it turns out pasta is not worms, but is, in fact, amazing, and you were eager to learn how it’s made and eat more of it.

Papyrus changes garments quickly, swapping his gloves for oven mitts, his scarf for an apron, and donning a chef hat purely for show.

“Alright! To make spaghetti, we will need to prepare the noodles and the sauce! If you do one, I’ll do the other and we will finish in half the time, which will allow us to make double the pasta! Which would you like to tackle?”

“I’ve never made either, so I don’t have a preference,” you tell him, rolling up your sleeves so you can wash your hands (wait- why is the sink so ridiculously tall?) “Show me the recipes and I’ll pick from there.”

“Recipes? We don’t use recipes here! In this kitchen we cook from our souls and let passion guide the way!” Papyrus sees you trying to scale the sink, and generously gives you a lift.

“Oh, but I’ve never done any baking without instructions before. How know which ingredients to start with?” you ask, making sure to scrub the soap well between your fingers.

“I guess we shall have no choice but to work together!” Papyrus concludes, setting you back down after you’ve dried your hands. “We’ll start with the noodles first and get the hard part out of the way. Let’s see, we’ll need eggs, flour, salt, oil, water, glitter for garnish, maybe an old shoe to give it a little kick…”

Papyrus piles the kitchen table with all the necessary supplies and then some. Mixing bowls and measuring cups paired off with the perishables as they circled around the cutting board like partners ready to start a line dance.

“Let’s see, we’ve got the spatula, the whisk, the socket wrench- Oh! We’ll need this later to cut the pasta into strips!” Papyrus says, pulling out a knife from the silverware drawer and handing it to you handle first.

“Um, I’m not allowed to use knives without supervision,” you warn him when he hands it to you.

“Well then you’re in luck, because I have the best vision which is indeed super!” Papyrus brags. “While most monsters have a twenty-twenty vision, I, the Great Papyrus, have vision that is a hundred out of a hundred! Now let’s get started!”

Things get hectic almost immediately. Papyrus rattled off the steps while doing five other things at once, and you were barely fast enough to keep up.

“Combine two cups of flour with a teaspoon of salt, and the eggs- no, no! Don’t break them! We don’t want to use broken ingredients! Put them in whole! The shells are a good source of calcium for strong bones! Now add a dash of glitter, a splash of water and a shot of oil- oh, where did that shoe go? I guess we’ll have to substitute it with some fire magic to give it a bit of flare instead. You can do fire magic? Perfect! I’ll leave that step up to you. Once the pasta dough is ready, set it aside and we'll start working on the sauce!”

The two of you dance around the kitchen like a well-oiled machine. The counter tops become chaos as pots and pans jostle for space, and you swear Papyrus keeps pulling out more and more items to add to the mix the longer you go.

“Hm, should our sauce be sweet and sour, or honey mustard? OH! I wonder what kind of seasonings we have? If we add them all, that would really spice things up, don’t you think? Here, find a place for this,”

He passes you a heavy bowl filled with a concoction you can’t even begin to identify so he can dig through the spice cabinet. You have half a suspicion that most of the “ingredients” in this mixture aren’t even edible, but with Papyrus so in the zone with the project, you don’t have the heart to question him.

There’s no space around the stove or even in the chairs, but maybe there’s still room at the table. You do your best to make space for yet another bowl, carefully trying to squeeze it between a stack of plates and jam jars. Your addition sets of a chain reaction- the bowl bumps the plates, the plates push the spoons, the spoons shift the cutting board, and the cutting board kicks the bag of flour off of the table top, which decides to take the knife down with it.

You start reaching for the falling items out of reflex before lightning-quick hands pull you away.

“STOP!” Papyrus screams as he hoists you in the air, and the bag of flour hits the ground, creating a mushroom cloud of white with the knife landing on top of it. “No matter if you’ve got scales as tough as steel or bones as hard as iron, NEVER try to catch a falling knife,” he scolds, putting you back down. “It’s basically kitchen safely rule number one!”

“Sorry,” you tremble, startled by the outburst. “Thanks for stopping me in time.”

“All in a day’s work for a good parent! But we really should clean this mess up before proceeding. We don’t want to track flour everywhere.”

“Well, I spilled it, so it’s only fair I clean it up. Where do you keep your mop?”

“Mopping isn’t the solution for this particular dilemma,” Papyrus says. “Mixing flour and water will just create glue! Trust me, I learned the hard way when I was in a similar situation. Wait here while I retrieve our broom from the garage. I’ll be back faster than you can say ‘The Great Papyrus is Awesome and Cool and the Most Amazing Friend, Master Chef, and Parent to Ever Exist!’”

You barely catch the last of his words as he leaps out the front door, leaving you alone in a sea of powder. You survey the floor while you wait. Well, the least you could do was start cleaning up.

Kneeling down, you begin picking by up the crumpled bag of flour. Half of its contents had been spilled out and would need to be trashed. So much flour wasted because of you. You make a mental note to get it replaced.

Removing your gloves, you sweep as much as the powder as you can into a pile, and only after you’ve contained the mess to the best of your abilities do you pick up the knife. It had landed in the flour but not touched the floor. Maybe it could still be used?

The sound of the front door opening catches your ears. Wow, Papyrus really was quick.

“That was fast,” you say, carefully wiping of the blade in a fold of your sweater. You look up when you get no reply, but instead of Papyrus like you expected, you’re surprised to find Sans standing in the doorway.

“Oh, hi Sans,” you smile, before catching the expression on his motionless face. The emotion you see is not a pleasant one. Sans looks to the floor and then to you- abject terror in his eyes. “Is something wr-“

Sans moves almost faster than your eyes can follow. A flash of blinding blue, a swing of his arm, and the next thing you know, you’re flying backwards.

Your head hits the wall. A searing hot pain blooms at the base of your skull, and everything goes black.

Chapter Text

Alphys sits in her computer chair, her knees drawn up to her chest, one arm wrapped around a dakimakura and the other carefully guiding ramen noodles from its cup to her mouth with a pair of chop sticks. Her eyes are fixed on her computer screen, completely absorbed in some obscure anime DVD she had found in the dump earlier that week, and has been subsequently binge watching for days. A whole ten season box set in mint condition. What a find!

♫Spooky, scary skeletons send shivers down your spine♪

Alphys turns down the volume of her computer, but doesn’t pause the show. She feels around for her ringing cell phone. Thanks to the power of custom ring tones, she knows it’s Sans calling her, and knowing Sans, he only called if something important was happening. (But really, what could possibly be more important than watching a group of preteen friends with magical destinies discover their superpowers while on a search for the ultimate ring of prophecy in a world where evil has already triumphed and they are the only hope left for the resistance?)

“Hello?” The dinosaur answers her cell without taking her eyes off her monitor.

”Hey, Alphys. What are you wearing?”

After half a minute of hacking up noodles that went down the wrong pipe, Alphys composes herself enough to properly respond.

“W-w-what kind of question is that, Sans?!” she asks back, fumbling with her mouse to pause the show and give her caller her full attention.

“I’m asking because I’m coming over,” Sans replies simply. “And I think we’d both prefer I see you if you're decent. So, are you?”

Alphys looks down at herself. Aside from potato chip crumbs on her pants and what she hopes is an ice cream stain on her lab coat she is… well, she’s dressed.

“Y-yeah, I’m good. Um. W-when are you planning to come over?”

“Oh, in about one or two…”

“Hours?”

“Nah,” his voice echoes, speaking in the phone and behind her at the same time. “A unit of measure a little shorter than that.”

The yellow lizard screams, practically leaping out of her chair.

“Christ! Sans! Don’t DO that!”

“Sorry, did I make you jump out of your skin?”

“Almost! I’m not due to shed for another week!” Her old lab partner gets a good chuckle out of that and the tension eases between them. “So what happened that you had to come over on such short notice?” Alphys asks.

“Your cameras still record all the activity around the Underground, right?”

“O-of course, but you know that footage isn’t available for public viewing. It has restricted access.”

“Yeah, access you have. I need you to check something for me.” When Alphys gives him a dubious look, he goes on. “Come on, Alphys. You owe me more favors than you can count for all the times I’ve covered your tail when Asgore asked how progress was going. It’ll only be this one time, I swear.”

“Sans, I can’t do that. Even if we’re friends. If anyone finds out I let you see private footage, I could lose my job.”

“Alphys, listen. It’s very important I get a look at that footage. It could be a matter of national security.”

“O-okay,” Alphys caves, never one to have been able to withstand peer pressure for long. “Just let me close a few programs…”

Alphys minimizes her cartoon’s player window before opening a database of all her security cameras. She clicks on the one right at the top of the list.

“H-hey, what gives? It’s saying the signals been disconnected.”

“Oh no, I wonder what happened,” Sans says completely uncaring. He scoots close to Alphys’ side to look at the computer. “But we can’t worry about that right now. Can you show me the archive?”

“Yeah, but I should warn you- the cameras are motion activated when I’m not controlling them directly. I’ll only have footage saved if something tipped them off.”

“That’s perfect. Is there anything recorded from around seven or eight this morning?”

Alphys scrolls through the time stamps, searching for any that match.

“Yeah, there’s quite a few, actually. That’s strange…” Each video on the list has been automatically cut into neat, ten minute segments. She starts with the first of that day, stamped at 8:04:13am. The video comes to life with Lesser Dog circling the meadow full of snow sculptures, sniffing their bases curiously, lifting a leg, and-

“Oh, good grief,” Alphys mumbles before skipping ahead to the next clip. In this video, more dogs are on the screen, pacing back and forth with noses to the ground and barking silently at each other.

“Sorry. Forgot to mention my cameras are video feed only. No audio.”

“That’s fine,” Sans says absently. “What other videos do you have between that time and now?”

Alphys plays the next video while Sans diligently searches for… something. When he doesn’t find what he’s looking for, he asks her to play the next one… then the next one… then the next one, but all the videos don’t seem to hold what he’s looking for. Finally, she gets to the last video, time stamped ten minutes ago. The clip starts with Sans walking up to the doors, followed by a-

“Oh. My. God.” Alphys gapes. “Sans? Is that a-?”

“A human?” Sans says, pausing the video. “Seems so.”

“Oh my God. Oh my God! I’ve only seen a real human through some old home movies the king had, but never alive or up close! This is big! We need to tell Asgore about this! Or Undyne, so she can mobilize the royal guard-“

"No.”

Sans snaps his head away from the screen to look Alphys full on, his eyes serious. “We don’t tell anybody yet. Not Asgore, and definitely not Undyne. Not until I find some answers first.”

“W-what? W-why?” Alphys hesitates, kneading her hands.

“Because I’m trying to send them back.”

“Back? To the surface?”

“No. Just back to the Ruins where they came from. They live there.”

“Live there?! Sans, how long have you known this?”

“Let’s see… about seven… eight…”

“Days?”

“Years.”

Alphys stifles a gasp and looks away. There’s a long moment of silence between them before she speaks again.

“Sans… if anyone finds out you’ve been withholding this information, you could be charged with treason.”

Sans doesn’t reply. He doesn’t even show any indication he heard her. Instead, he starts the first video over, playing it at half the speed to get a closer look.

“Sans, this is the seventh human to fall into the Underground since the king’s children died. It’s the last soul we need to break the barrier! Why do you want to send them back?”

“Because someone out there really cares about them,” Sans sighs. “Plus, it kind of wouldn’t feel right taking this soul. The kid thinks they’re a monster, you see.”

“Get out of town,” Alphys snorts.

“I had the same reaction when I first heard it too, but it’s true. I’ve been hanging out with them all day and they really don’t know.”

“How is that even possible?”

“As I understand it, they took a pretty hard bump on the head when they fell into this place,” Sans knocks on his own skull for emphasis. “Restored everything to the default factory settings, if you will. Wiped their memory clean, and reprogramed themself to think they’re a monster like everyone else.”

“And nobody’s told them? After all this time?”

“They don’t need to know,” Sans says. “They’re happy believing what they are. If anything, it’s keeping them safe as well as us. If they figure it out, they may decide to turn on us. But if they keep assuming they’re a monster, everyone else will too. It’s kind of uncouth to go around asking strangers ‘hey, are you a human?’ just because they look different after all.”

“How sad,” Alphys says, truly sympathetic. She has dealt with quite a few monsters that had… “fallen down”, herself, but it would have been a blessing if the worst thing her patients came away with was amnesia instead of…

“H-hey… How did they do it?” Alphys asks.

“How did they do what?” Sans says, replaying another video and not bothering to look at her.

“Recover. I-I mean, I know human bodies are strong and all, b-but my research has led me to believe that the mind and the soul are complexly intertwined. It’s impossible- u-uh, um, almost impossible, to, uh, separate the two, so if you damage one, you risk damaging the other. That’s how tightly they are tied.

“So, what, because they lost their memory, you think it could have affected their soul?”

“That’s what I want to know. If their mind’s been damaged, maybe their soul’s been corrupted too- or if their soul is just fine, then maybe all their memories haven’t truly been lost. I can’t say, b-but I’d love to study them. I-it may not help us break the barrier, but it could help us in medical research. They have the potential to help me save the lives of other monsters who suffer head injuries in the future!”

Sans pauses his video to look at Alphys with an expression of horror and disgust.

“Would you really do experiments on a child?”

“Nothing dangerous! Mostly questionnaires!” Alphys jumps to her defense.

A small pause.

“But even if they were dangerous, would it really matter? They’re not one of us.” She adds quietly.

“But they think they are.”

“So? That doesn’t change the fact that they’re human, Sans. You know, the very creatures that locked us down here under this mountain? There are no laws against it, and it’s my job as the royal scientist to study them and find a way past the barrier by any means necessary.”

Sans finishes reviewing the footage for a second time and slouches over the keyboard.

“Those doors didn’t open, so she didn’t come out of the Ruins…” he sighs in defeat, pinching his nasal bone. “So that rules out missing her on the road by accident…”

“Missing who?”

“The kid’s, uh, mom,” Sans explains.

“Another human?”

“No, a Boss Monster that took care of them in the Ruins. I’ve known her even longer than the kid’s lived here and we tell jokes every day.” (Somewhere at the back of her mind, Alphys suddenly understood why the Ruin doors camera would always go off at the same time each day, and why all the recordings were always of Sans. Well that was one mystery solved that she never saw coming.) “She was supposed to come to the door to pick them up, but she never showed, and now the kid’s stuck in Snowdin. I was really hoping she left and we just failed to cross paths, but now I don’t know what to think. Her not coming to the door at our regular meet up time isn’t like her.”

“Why don’t you just do your shortcut thing and find out yourself?”

“It doesn’t work like that, Alphys,” Sans says, giving her a sideways look. “You know that.”

She did, or rather, she thought she did. Sans had tried explaining it to her once. His weird, space-hopping ability made it seem like Sans could be everywhere at once, like some omnipotent being, when in truth he was actually very confined.

He could shortcut to practically anywhere in the Underground, but the further the distance, or the more people he took with him, the more magic it consumed. He had the ability to teleport things away, but not to him, unless he knew exactly where they were, and it was nigh impossible to teleport people unless he went with them. Speaking of people, he couldn’t jump to them unless he knew exactly where they were, and then again, he wouldn’t be teleporting to them, but rather the place they also happened to be. Lastly, and probably most restricting of all, no matter how hard he Sans tried, he couldn’t shortcut to places he had never physically been prior. The last time he said he attempted it, the magic exploded in his face like a knife jammed into a toaster. (And he never did find out what the girl’s high school locker room looked like.) But it’s just as the old saying goes, after all; “with great power comes bullshit rules and limitations.”

“Hmm, m-maybe the human has an idea why she wouldn’t answer?”

Sans shakes his head. “I asked, but they’re just as clueless as I am. I’m afraid something happened to her that none of us saw.”

“You don’t think the human… did anything, do you?”

“Nah. This kid wears their heart on their sleeves.”

“But maybe humans are good actors?” Alphys suggests. “This is the first live one you’ve personally met too, right?”

“I don’t doubt my intuition, Alphys,” Sans says, fixing her with a long, hard glare. “Besides, I’ve seen them try to lie and they’re terrible at it.”

“Well, what if humans ARE good liars?” Alphys scoots Sans over to pull up the camera feeds. “It wouldn’t hurt to check, would it? Look, there’re a lot of files saved from last night. Pull up another chair.”

She selects a video time stamped at 10:25:51pm. A new window pops up and plays a silent film of snowfall.

“Oh, it’s just snowing. Sorry, my cameras are really sensitive to even the tiniest movements.”

She fast forwards, speeding up the film to double, triple, quadruple time, burning through one video after the next, and seeing nothing more than a slowly growing wall of snow covering the bottom half of the lens.

When the doors finally do fling open at high speed, the two scientist jerk, taken off guard, and Alphys quickly clicks away with her mouse to slow the footage back down.

“Now,” Alphys full-screens the video to get a closer look, “Do any of their clothes look dusty to you?”

It’s hard to tell. Their lower half is obscured by snow blocking the camera, and the video’s resolution isn’t that great to begin with.

While Sans keeps an eye out for any clues, Alphys subconsciously slips into her scientist mindset, studying the human like a natural phenomenon. The way they move, the way they behave, the way they interact with their environment was all intriguing. Only five minutes in, and she’s already got more unique footage than what all those dusty old tapes in her basement had combined. Not to mention this human was alive and within her reach in the Underground! If she could study them hands-on, oh, the discoveries would be groundbreaking!

“Say, you said you hung out with them in Snowdin?” Alphys asks, pulling out her laptop.

“Yeah,” Sans answers automatically, not taking his eyes off the screen. “They built puzzles with Papyrus all day.”

Oh! Logic puzzles were a great way to assess their cognitive and analytical abilities! She couldn’t wait to see that in action!

Barely contain her squeals of excitement, Alphys hooks up her laptop as a second monitor to check her other cameras around Snowdin. Ah-ha! There were dozens of recordings of them around town, capturing all their social interactions and problem solving skills. God, she wished she had had the alarm set up so she could have started tracking them since they exited the Ruins. Maybe it wasn’t too late to adjust the camera settings to lock onto their genetic signature. This was like striking gold! No, better than gold- oil! Platinum!

Scrabbling around for a spare notebook, Alphys hastily begins jotting down her observations. She could watch this for hours!

And she did.

While Alphys madly scribbled notes on the footage of the human around Snowdin, Sans kept reviewing the early videos of the door; specifically the ones where the kid ran around throwing snowballs at themselves. It had been entertaining for a while, but when Sans refused to watch anything else, it got old quick, and they went to watching their respective screens in silence.

Now the footage of the kid exploring the town was a scientific playground! Alphys had almost burned through two notebooks full of observations when Sans finally breaks the quiet.

Oh no.

“Hm? Did you find something?” Alphys asks, looking to her colleague. Sans was tapping the arrow keys, scrolling through the video frame by frame.

“No, no, no, no, this isn’t good.”

“What? What is it?” the yellow dinosaur’s eyes dart around his monitor, but can’t see what the problem is on the blurry stills.

“No time to explain,” Sans says pushing himself up from his chair and briskly walking away. “Sorry Alphys, I gotta go.”

“Wait! What did you see?” Alphys swivels her seat around, but it’s too late. By the time she turns, Sans is already gone.

She looks back to the screen, squinting hard and trying to take in every pixel, but the frame Sans paused on was a distorted mess. Her eyes scan the still, but, too strained from her own video watching, she notices nothing unusual and goes back to her laptop, all the while unaware of a faint, but familiar, yellow smudge barely visible in the snow.


The sudden chill of Snowdin’s air after leaving the comfort and warmth of the Hotland lab was a shock, but it was a shock Sans could appreciate. It made him feel awake. It made him feel sharp.

After hours of meticulously scanning and dissecting footage, Sans hadn’t learned much. He still didn’t know why his pun pal hadn’t come to the door, or where she was now, or if she was even okay, but he did walk away knowing one new thing-

That kid knew a certain yellow flower.

Alphys’ idea to review the clips after the kid had just exited the Ruins had been a good one in hindsight. At first Sans hadn’t expected to find anything but the kid building snowmen and snow castles, but what he got instead was a lot more suspicious.

No sooner had they left the doors did they start running around, apparently throwing snowballs at themselves. Alphys had written it off as weird human behavior.

Sans hadn’t been so sure.

The way they ran and the angle the snowballs hit them didn’t seem naturally self-inflicted. At one point Sans could swear the kid was talking down at someone, but whoever it was, they had been hidden by the snowdrift that blocked the bottom half of the camera.

Determined to find more, Sans replayed the clip over a dozen times, slower and slower, searching every square inch for clues.

Then, just for one frame, there was a break in the snow fall, a gap in the snowbank, and Sans saw it- an undeniable hue of yellow that he would destroy on sight at all costs if he ever saw it anywhere else.

And the kid was playing with it.

Sans skips home, appearing just before the bridge that connected the forest to the town. As he crosses it, he forces himself to calm down and think rationally.

Okay, so the kid knew the flower. That didn’t automatically prove innocence or guilt. Sans knew the flower too. He knew that sniveling weed could be conniving and manipulative, but maybe the kid didn’t. For all he knew, that kid could just as easily be a victim of that flower’s scheming like his brother had been. He couldn’t jump to conclusions. Not yet.

Sans enters the inn and reaches the front desk before the bell above the door even stops ringing.

“Hey,” he says breathlessly to the inn keeper’s son. “I know I’m not allowed upstairs, but do you think you could call down my friend for me?”

The white bunny eyes him with displeasure.

“You talking about the kid with the hat and the striped sweater?”

“Yeah.”

“Tough luck, pal. They ain’t here.”

“What?”

“I kicked that chump to the curb hours ago. My mom might allow freeloaders, but that stuff doesn’t fly with me when I’m on shift.”

“Where did they go?”

“Don’t know, don’t care. Now are you going to rent a room, or just waste more of my time?”

Biting back curses, Sans exits the inn and begins searching the street. The kid could be anywhere by now. It would take him hours to comb through Snowdin by himself. He needed help.

Papyrus would help. If anybody he knew was even in the slightest bit of trouble, Papyrus would come running, and with his speed, he could cover all of Snowdin in a matter of minutes. Even if he couldn’t find them, he’d raise enough Hell in the process that everyone in town would join in just to make him stop.

Sans sees the kitchen light on ten steps from the front door and doesn’t waste a second entering the house.

What he finds waiting stops him dead in his tracks and makes time stand still.

The kid is here in his house.

Papyrus is not.

There’s a knife in their hand.

And there’s dust on the floor.

“Oh, hi Sans,” they greet him, smiling at him, like this whole scene isn’t wrong in every possible way. And then Alphys’ words come rushing back to him.

Maybe humans ARE good actors.

They see the look on his face and furrow their brow. “Is something wr-“

Fear whiplashes into fury as Sans seizes their soul and slams them into the far wall. The impact makes their eyes roll back and head loll, and they instantly go limp like a rag doll.

Breathing hard through anger and anguish, Sans conjures a femur with one epiphysis sharpened into a wicked point. He aims it at their head, it’s business end focused right between their eyes-

But he can’t fire.

But they had been kind to Gyftrot.

So how could they-?

But they had befriended all the dogs.

So WHY would they-?

They had eaten Papyrus’ spaghetti, and laughed at Sans’ jokes, and built puzzles with his brother, and hugged him goodbye.

But then the ONE time he dares to leave them alone?

Maybe humans ARE good liars

Sans tenses, but manages restraint at the last second. No. He would not kill them. Not yet. Not until they told him why they did it.

”Wake up.” Sans orders, and like magic they obey, eyes fluttering open and looking at him drunkenly.

“S-Sans?”

“Don’t talk,” he commands through gritted teeth, squeezing his fist a bit tighter, and along with it, his grip on their soul.

Still pinned to the wall, the human seizes and grabs at their shirt, desperately trying to claw away at the invisible force constricting their lungs.

“I’m going to ask you a few questions,” Sans growls. “And you’re going to answer them immediately and honestly. Got it?”

The human nods, barely able to make eye contact with him with that bone hovering overhead, ready to fire.

“Why did you do it?”

“W-why did I d-do what?” They wheeze.

Sans pulls his hand back a fraction before thrusting it forward again, ramming them against the wall one more.

“YOU KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!” he screams then points to the dust with his free hand. “THAT!”

It takes them several seconds to focus on what he’s pointing at before they can answer.

“It was… an… accident…” their voice is barely a whisper as they struggle to breathe in Sans’ choking hold. Tears well in their eyes, but Sans ignores their act.

“An accident?! How the Hell is something like this an accident!?”

“The knife… slipped…” They try to explain, fighting off going unconscious for a second time from lack of air. “Was... gonna catch... Pa… Papyrus told me… to stop…”

Sans’ own soul twists in agony at the mental image they provide. The thought of Papyrus pleading for his attacker to stop is borderline unbearable. He tips his head in such away that would make it look like his brow was furrowed. He hoped his ever-present grin was looking absolutely murderous.

“Where did you hit him?” Sans hisses.

“Wha… what?” The human attempts to lift their head but only makes it about half way. “I... didn’t…”

WHERE. DID. YOU. HIT. HIM?” Sans repeats, bringing his femur attack closer to his side. His voice drops, dangerous and low. “Tell me how you struck him down,” he demands, left eye burning blue. “So I can do you the same.”

“I found the broom!” A new voice exclaims, kicking the front door in, and Sans whips his head around to find his brother in the doorway. “Sorry my absence was longer than I thought. I could not locate the pan for the longest time!” Taking in the sight of his brother and friend at odds in the kitchen, the taller skeleton’s smile flips, and his voice instantly grows serious. “Sans, what is going on here?”

Sans is not relieved to see his Papyrus alive and unharmed.

Sans is horrified.

“P-Papyrus?” Sans stutters, looking between him, the kid and the mess on the floor. “B-but if you’re here, then who’s that?”

“Who’s what, Sans?”

“That!” Sans wails in distress, pointing to the powder on the floor. Papyrus’ shoulders un-tense just a bit, piecing together the situation.

“That’s not dust, Sans. It’s flour. We were making pasta dough and the bag fell!”

Behind them, the kid squeaks out a chocked gurgle in a desperate attempt to call for help.

“What the- SANS! PUT THEM DOWN NOW!”

As if realizing he's holding a hot coal, Sans cuts off his magic immediately. The kid falls to their hands and knees, going into a guttural coughing fit as they gulp down air. Papyrus rushes to their side. The look he gives Sans is enough to make him flinch. Guilt and regret wash over Sans under his brother's glare. He had almost-! But he had thought-! Anybody would have made the same mistake! He didn't know. Desperately, he tries to explain what had happened, to smooth things over and apologize, but his brother wasn't hearing it.

“Papyrus, I-“

“Save it, Sans,” Papyrus fixes his brother with a stern frown, as he lifts up his friend and holds them close while they whimper in shock and confusion. Trembling, they bury their head in his shoulder, trying, and failing, to muffle their sobs. “You and I will talk momentarily, but first I must see to it that you did not seriously harm this child beyond repair. Do me a favor,” he asks, brushing past Sans on his way up the stairs to his room. “Take the broom and pan and sweep up the floor. I’ll be back shortly.”

And with that, Papyrus leaves his brother to the task, shell shocked and shamefaced, without looking back.

Chapter Text

Papyrus’ friend is quick to calm themselves once in the safety of his room. Their eyes dry and tears subside into nothing more than the odd sniffle that escapes them now and then. He sits them on the bed and spends the next few minutes checking his friend over for any obvious injuries, but find none. All the while, his pal avoids making eye contact, keeping their line of sight fixed firmly on either the walls or the floor.

“Are you hurt?” He asks them outright, kneeling down so his face is level with theirs. His friend gives a half-hearted shrug, still not meeting his eyes.

“You’re not in trouble, you know,” Papyrus says gently, placing one of his hands over theirs. “Whatever happened, you can tell me. I promise I won’t be mad.”

His little pal shakes their head again, and Papyrus lets the subject drop. If whatever happened had shaken them enough that they felt the need to shut themself off for a while, then he wouldn’t force them open again by prying for answers. At least they didn’t seem to be in any pain, which was a relief after what Papyrus had seen. His magic was more specialized for combat rather than healing, and if his brother had seriously hurt them, he wasn’t sure he could have even been able to help.

Speaking of his brother…

“Hey, how about you stay up here until dinner is ready?” Papyrus suggests. “And don’t you worry about Sans. He’s not allowed in my room unless I say so. He won’t bother you up here.”

His friend gives him an absent-minded nod, apparently lost in their own thoughts. Papyrus gives their hand one last reassuring squeeze before leaving them in his room to recuperate.

Back in the kitchen he finds Sans where he left him, still standing over the flour on the floor, not having made the slightest indication he would clean it up like Papyrus had asked.

Sans quickly looks up and away again when his brother stops in the doorway, his permanent smile looking rather sheepish at the moment. Without saying a word, Papyrus crosses his arms, and waits.

The silence between them turns from awkward to uncomfortable in a matter of seconds, and just like Papyrus suspected, Sans starts to fidget. It was like an unspoken rule between them- a law of their universe; when both brothers were in the same room, one of them always had to be moving. Both of them standing still was just unnatural and weird.

Papyrus was not stupid. Guileless? Sure. Sanguine? Absolutely. But like it or not, he knew conflict when he saw it and what he caught Sans in the middle of was every definition of unadulterated violence, and he was not going to let it be swept under the rug so easily.

The silence between them goes on for what feels like an eternity before one of them finally speaks.

“So… uh… Is the kid… are they… alright?” Sans fumbles over the words.

“Nothing time and patience can’t fix,” Papyrus says.

“Good,” Sans breathes out the word as if Papyrus’ reassurance has freed him from death-row. “Good.”

“Will you care to explain what happened?” Papyrus asks.

“What… What did they tell you?”

“That’s just it- they won’t speak. Either you scared the voice right out of them, or they’re staying quiet to keep you out of hot water. Why they would want to cover for you, though, I cannot fathom. Sans, what happened?”

“It was… an accident,” Sans tries to explain. “I thought… I thought they hurt you.”

“Yes, knowing what you walked in on, I can see how you would come to that conclusion.” Papyrus pinches the bridge of his nose, mentally piecing together the clues to reveal the bigger picture, but it still wasn’t enough to make sense of it.

“But why though? They’re just a child, Sans!”

“I know, I know… I jumped to conclusions and made a mistake, okay?”

“Sans, you’re my brother, and as your brother I know you. Or at least I like to think I do. And the Sans I know is laid back and book smart and has an unhealthy addiction to puns. But most of all, the Sans I know is kind. He would never attack a kid no matter what they did! But the Sans I saw a few minutes ago…” Papyrus shakes his head, not even wanting to give that Sans a description. “Whatever that Sans was doing… Well, it was no mistake.”

It didn’t seem possible, but somehow Sans managed to hang his head even lower than before. Papyrus took notice and went on, careful to sound less accusing.

“You should have seen them when I found them by the inn. They were crying in the snow and practically letting themselves freeze in the cold thinking that their mother had disowned them. What did this child possibly do to make you think they had hurt me when they’re already hurting so much themselves?”

“I…” Sans turns away, hiding his face from his brother. “I can’t tell you… For your sake and theirs.”

“Sans you never tell anybody anything.”

“I know. Sorry.”

Papyrus huffs in frustration. It was difficult enough to get a straight answer when one side wouldn’t talk to him, but he wasn’t about to allow both parties give him the silent treatment. It was time to switch to a different angle.

“Sans, tell me, do you trust me?” Papyrus asks.

“With my life,” Sans answers indignantly, whipping around to look Papyrus in the eye.

“Let me rephrase- Sans, do you trust my judgement?”

Sans inhales but doesn’t speak. He looks at Papyrus blankly. The fact that his brother can’t respond immediately like the first time is all he answer that Papyrus needs.

Confronted with Sans’ hesitation, Papyrus’ emotions flash from disappointment and hurt before he quickly dons a mask of grim acceptance. In response, Sans’ face bounces from shock to despair before finally settling on shame and looking away again.

“If you don’t want to tell me what happened, then fine,” Papyrus sighs. “But at least have some faith in me, brother! I’m just as capable a judge of character as you. We both spent a whole day getting to know them, and you know what I learned about them? I learned that they are polite and patient and they just honestly want to go home. My new friend has done nothing so far to make me suspect otherwise, so neither should you.”

“You really think you can say that knowing them for only one day?” Sans says darkly.

“I don’t think so- I know so,” Papyrus nods, firm and resolute. “I don’t know what you see in them, Sans, but all I see when I look at them is someone good. I feel it in my soul.”

“Alright, alright. You win. I get the point,” Sans mumbles. “I do trust you, and I want you to know that, so I’ll try harder to trust them. I’m sorry.”

“Thank you, but it’s not me you need to apologize to,” Papyrus says, stepping into the kitchen at last to tend to the smoldering sauce spot screaming steam and smoke on the stove. “You can apologize to our friend after we’ve all had dinner. We were almost finished cooking, too. Now, will you please sweep up the floor like I asked?”

“Yeah…” Sans’ voice is barely a whisper as he reaches for the broom and pan.


Flowey huddles in the darkest corner of the flower patch’s cavern, watching intently as she shovels earth from the bed of golden flowers, digging a hole with her bare hands.

At first he almost thinks he’s worried. Would she notice that the angle of the sun was different at this supposed time? Would she run into someone who would tip her off and shatter the smoke and mirrors he so carefully constructed? Would she change her mind last minute and go back to the doors and ruin everything?

He had been lucky. At one point Flowey thought he came close to feeling fear when she wouldn’t leave the tunnel to the rest of the Underground, but she had given up just in time before his bluff had been exposed. It had been a close call. Far too close for his liking. It made him want to secure every loose thread and leave nothing to chance, but with limited options, he was uncertain how he would make sure that she would stay in her place.

He thought about fighting her.

If she dared to threaten his plans he would have erased her out of the picture before she could undo everything he’s worked so hard for, so long for. Heck, he ponders doing it right now in her emotionally crippled state, but for reasons beyond his understanding, he holds back.

Flowey reflects on himself, tossing up ideas to possibly explain this illogical confliction in his mind. He doesn’t believe he spared her because she was still useful to him. The best thing she did was fix up this replacement Chara so they could be functional for him. She had served her purpose and was now nothing more than collateral in his eyes.

He doubts he let her go because he liked to see her suffer. He will admit it was intriguing to watch; a fascinating reminder that pain came in many forms. How could she cry so much for something as despicable as a human- the very same thing that had trapped them beneath the mountain, slain thousands of their kind, and murdered him in cold blood? How could she cry so much for a child that wasn’t even hers? He tried to pull his best face of disgust, but found himself getting side tracked.

She had known them for eight years. It was not nearly as long as he had lived, but it was close, and this Chara did have a five year head start before falling down here, so they were both roughly equal in age at the time of their “deaths”. It made him wonder… had she cried this much for his Chara? Had she cried this much for him?

He outright refuses to believe he let her live because of sentimentality.

In the end, Flowey writes it off as being overly cautious. Despite being dealt a painful blow to her heart and soul, the old lady is frighteningly resilient, and Flowey knows a fight with her would always be risky, no matter how despairing she was. And after using up so much luck in one day, that is simply not a risk he is willing to take.

Finally the hole is deep enough to her liking, and she places the mangled sweater into it like it’s more delicate than porcelain, slowly lowering it down inch by painful inch. When the deed is done at last, she begins the agonizingly slow process of refilling the unmarked grave.

She had been careful not to harm the roots of the golden flowers in the top most layer of soil, and Flowey watches transfixed, as she methodically plants them back in place.

Something in the way the flowers catch the dwindling light on their honey-colored petals, or how they sway in her hands hypnotizes him. The shifting of the soil, the scent of their pollen hold him captive as a strange sensation begins to spread up through his stem.

And then, suddenly and without warning, he’s thrust into memory.


Digging, digging, digging.

His squirming roots are uncoordinated and his flimsy leaves make useless shovels as he excavates.

He wants to be angry at this stupid excuse for a body that lizard had given him, but there’s no time for that now. He has to hurry. He has to find Chara as soon as possible. It couldn’t have been more than a few days since they both died, and if that so-called scientist could bring him back from nothing but memories, then she could bring Chara back too. She had to be able to.

Not once had he rested since leaving New Home, since interrogating his fa- Asgore, and then running for his life. Through scalding heat and oppressive damp and freezing cold he had trudged and crawled until he finally found his way back here.

Digging, digging, digging.

The top soil was gone now; dozens of golden flowers he doesn’t remember growing here lay shredded around the ever-expanding pit he was creating.

The journey back had been a long one and a hard one and a dangerous one. Hundreds of monsters he did not recognize kept getting in his way. Hundreds of new faces he did not know kept slowing him down.

He fought them. Not because he hated them, but because they obstructed his path and would not listen when he told them to move. Could they not see that his mission was urgent? Could they not understand how dire it was for him to find Chara as soon as possible?

He made sure that they knew not to block is way in the future after he left them stunned and spinning with the bruises of bullet seeds in his wake.

Digging, digging digging.

The earth was getting tightly packed now.

He hated going underground. He would not hesitate to retreat into the earth where magical assaults could not touch him, but it made him feel detached from the world; nowhere and nonexistent. It was an unpleasant out-of-body experience when all he had was a body to cling to, no matter how unfitting for him it was. So he dug instead of burrowed as he searched for Chara. He would need to dig them up anyhow if he wanted to take them to that sorry example of a royal scientist, but he could not bring himself to sink into the earth and find his best friend in that strange world between worlds. Besides, he could use the practice to fine tune his new motor skills.

Digging, digging, digging.

The earth was turning to clay now.

How long had he been gone? A few days? A week or two? He couldn’t tell. He didn’t care. All that mattered was he had come back. It couldn’t have been that long… right?

At first he thought his reincarnation was punishment. A cruel way for him to relive his failure for doubting Chara and betraying them when they need him most, now left to suffer the consequences in this demoted form as a reminder of where he went wrong. But then it dawned on him that maybe this was his second chance instead- a chance to redeem himself, to make it up to Chara and apologize for failing them at the most critical moment.

But first he needed to bring Chara back.

That lizard had brought him back from practically nothing- no body, no soul, no emotions, nothing. If she could do that, then there was no doubt in his mind she could do the same for Chara. She’d have so much more to work with, even. Human bodies were so much more complicated than monster bodies. Just like their souls, human bodies persisted after death. But although they did not turn to dust when they died, a human body still didn’t last forever. He needed to help Chara as soon as possible.

Digging, digging, digging.

Rocks and stone begin to hinder his progress, but he was getting close. So close now, he knew he could feel it. So he couldn’t give up. He wouldn’t give up! He’d bring Chara back, apologize for losing their souls, and things would go back to the way they should have been. They’d find another way to cross the barrier. They could still free everyone together!

He stretches his roots as far as they’ll go, breaking up the soil for his leaves to remove, all the while search for the familiar smoothness of his best friends’ furless skin, their fine, thin hair and their knobby elbows and knees. But no matter where his roots searched he found nothing to match.

But the earth was cold and hard packed, and at least a few days had surely passed. Perhaps their skin was clammy now, and their limbs stiff with death or course from dirt. He searched for these things too, but found nothing of the like.

Instead, all he uncovered were rocks, rocks and more rocks. Though most were small, removing them were a pain as they were lodged firmly in the thick mud.

But then he hit the biggest rock yet, smooth on one end, lumpy on the other, and positively, impossibly stuck. Frenzied, he focused on the rock, determined to rip it from the earth through sheer hatred alone for getting in his way when he was almost there!

Dirt was flying as he attacked the ground, until his roots scrapped against the stone and uncovered its surface. Little by little he exposed the worn rock and discovered it had a perfect circular depression- no- two, on it’s top, as well as a line of smaller stones beneath… them…

Recoiling so fast, he nearly uprooted himself as he crawled back screaming in denial and horror-

-and away from the long-since decayed and fossilized skull of his best friend.


Flowey takes a shuttering breath when the memory ends.

God, despite only having memories left, he hated reliving them. Sometimes he wishes he could envy the new Chara. They didn’t have to remember their old life and whatever horrible things that happened to them to cause them to runaway to this forsaken mountain.

He blinks several times and frantically looks around to regain his bearings. He’s, unsurprisingly, still in the cavern, and so is she, but the sun as long since moved on from their narrow window to the outside world, leaving them stuck in the darkness.

Crud, how long had he been here spacing out?

The old lady is silent and motionless, her head bowed in vigil over the unmarked tomb, but he spares her no more than a last glance before slipping into the earth and off towards Snowdin.

There was work to do.

Swearing silent curses, he punishes himself for getting distracted for so long. He should have never bothered to stick around to make sure she stayed out of the way. Getting this Chara to move on was more important than ever now, but he’d been an idiot and left them alone. He had no idea where they even were anymore.

Guess it was time to start looking.

Flowey begins with the obvious places to check; the shop, the inn, the restaurant, and library, but all turn up negative.

It’s only when he’s near the outskirts of Snowdin’s neighborhood when screams from one of the houses catch his ear. And of all the homes on the street -surprise, surprise- it just so happens to be the one belonging to the skeleton brothers. A cold sensation seeps into his stem, and he’s not sure if it’s from the snow. Shouting from that particular house is not uncommon, but it sounds angrier than usual which instantly raises his suspicions. Knowing it’s at least worth a look, the flower alters his course towards their home.

The front door is wide open and the telltale glow of magic in use flickers within, but Flowey would never be caught dead entering their home knowing how dangerous these magic users could be. Instead, he pops up under the window sill and dares to pear in.

He instantly doesn’t like what he sees.

The taller skeleton is yelling, but then again he’s always yelling, the short one is staring at his brother like he’s looking up at a stalactite that’s doing a surprise trust fall on him, the kitchen looks like chaos, there’s a suspicious pile of white powder on the floor, and against the far wall is Chara cringing on their hands and knees.

The flower hisses in distain. He knew he shouldn’t have taken his eyes off of them for longer than necessary. If he finds out one of those bone bags broke his one ticket to fix everything… Well, he wouldn’t be able to do much, but he’d make sure those two would always step on a few extra thorns for the rest of their natural born lives.

Stuck on the sidelines, he watches the scene play out; Chara starts crying like the baby they are, the tall skeleton tries to comfort them, and the small skeleton is trying to shrink into his coat so hard that he looks like he’s going to implode. Flowey can’t make out any words, but based on their volume and body language alone, it’s easy for him to put the story together.

The shorter skeleton doesn’t follow when his brother takes Chara upstairs, and it’s several minutes before he comes back down alone to interrogate him.

Alone. That meant Chara was alone too.

Flowey pulls away from the window when the realization clicks, and retreats to the back of the house. He twines around one of the beams that supports the balcony, his green stem perfectly blending in with the strings of colored lights decorating the trim.

Peeking into the first window he can reach, he spies Chara lying down on the bed, facing the wall. The flower taps on the glass with one thorny vine three times. When he gets no response, he knocks a bit more forcefully, and when Chara still doesn’t answer he pounds on the glass so hard it threatens to break. Only then does Chara finally turn over to look at the commotion, and they practically jump to their feet when they see him.

A nervous smile is spread across their face as they open the window, and they open their mouth to speak, but Flowey wastes no time taking the reins, ready to steer this conversation where he wanted.

“Flowey-”

“Chara, what are you still doing in Snowdin?” He cuts them off the second they greet him. “You were supposed to come home hours ago!”

“I-I was-” They stumble, trying to explain, but Flowey doesn’t give them the chance.

“And what are you doing in a stranger’s house? Are you trying to be the worst kid a parent could ask for? Do you want your mom to be more furious than she already is?”

“N-no! I-!”

“Wait a minute,” Flowey pauses, noticing something strange about the way they sound. “Chara, what’s wrong with your voice?”

Chara clamps their mouth shut at the question and tries to look away. “Nothing,” they say hoarsely.

“Oh my God. One of those skeletons did something to you, didn’t they?”

“No!” Chara’s rasping voice hastily responds. “I-I mean, it was an accident! I don’t think Sans really-”

“Oh! It was the shorter skeleton, was it?” Flowey bristles, coiling his tendrils in aggravation. That sorry sack of dog chews DID damage his only ticket out of this mess. “Chara, didn’t I tell you they were dangerous? Didn’t I specifically warn you about HIM? Why didn’t you listen to me?”

“I did listen to you!” Chara pleads. “But! They didn’t seem that bad… they both wanted to help me get home!”

“And yet you’re still hanging around them even after one of them tried to hurt you?”

“It’s not like I have much choice!” Chara bites back, standing up to him at last. “Mom-! Mom didn’t answer the door so I can’t go back home. I don’t even think Mom wants me to come home…” Chara’s harsh throat deflates with the statement and their shoulders sag is defeat.

“Oh, Chara…” Flowey coos, switching to his best imitation of “sympathetic”. “I don’t think that’s true. Your mom loves you more than life itself!”

“Then why didn’t she open the door,” Chara grumbles.

“That… I don’t know,” Flowey says completely innocent. He was best at that one and prided himself in it. “But once you go home you’ll see that I’m right like always.”

“But how though?” Chara whines. “Only a grown-up Boss Monster can open the doors and Mom’s the only one, and she won’t do it!”

“Not exactly!” Flowey smiles excitedly. Things were finally going to be put in motion again. “Aren’t you forgetting, Chara? There’s one more person we can ask; one more person who can open the doors for us!”

Chara watches him expectantly, desperately, waiting for on the edge of their seat for him to tell them their only other chance to get them home. Oh, how Flowey wishes he could savor their oblivious expression, but he won’t keep them waiting. Time was of the essence after all.

“It’s simple, Chara. We’ve got to get you to King Asgore.”

Chapter Text

Dinner is tense and deafeningly quiet.

The kid makes an effort not to catch Sans’ eye, keeping their hands firmly by their side and making no sudden movements.

Sans reciprocates in kind, keeping his darkened eye sockets focused on some fascinating, but invisible wonder somewhere off to the left wall. Papyrus does his best to act like nothing is wrong at all, politely asking his brother and friend to set the table while he portions out the servings.

They eat in relative silence. Well, Papyrus and the kid anyway. Sans twirls his fork in the noodles, but doesn’t try to bring it to him mouth. Papyrus eats with perfect manners and etiquette, taking small bites and being mindful not to smack or slurp, not that he could without lips. With their eyes slightly unfocused, the kid appears to be chewing on something more than just pasta, and they do their best not to grimace when swallowing seems to cause them discomfort.

Papyrus does his best to spark a conversation when his plate is cleared, but is quickly met with resistance.

“Sans would you like some parmesan?”

Sans shrugs.

“Pal, do you need an extra napkin?”

The kid shakes their head.

“Well. It sure is nice to have a calm, peaceful dinner together, isn’t it?”

Non-commital grunts are the only response.

“Glad to hear it!” The taller skeleton says with forced optimism. “Well, I’m done with dinner, and if you will pardon me, I have a very important episode of Mettaton’s quiz show to catch up on, so I request not to be disturbed! If either of you enter the living room, I will be very upset about it! So stay here in the kitchen until it’s over!” Papyrus looks at his brother knowingly. “But! If either one of you two have something you’d like to discuss, now would be the optimal time to share those thoughts and feelings, for I would not be able to hear them over the TV! So feel free to talk about whatever is on your mind!”

With that, Papyrus skips out of the kitchen. From the living room, the television turns on and displays a test pattern along with an MTT chiptune playing over it, and ever so slowly Sans catches sight of Papyrus peeking over the arm of the sofa at them.

Sans cycles through his options in his head. It was apparent Papyrus wasn’t about to let him leave the kitchen anytime soon, not until he made good on that apology, but how could he do it without spilling the beans? No matter what he said, they were bound to question his actions like Papyrus had, and they had every right too. Even if he hadn’t outright said the truth to their face when he had attacked them, he had still said too much. Surely they would catch wise to any lie he tried to feed them now.

“Sans?” Their voice, barely louder than a whisper, cracks from across the table. Welp. Out of time to think of a convincing lie. Ready to wing it, Sans braces himself for whatever accusation is about to be thrown his way.

“Yeah?” For the first time since the evening, he meets their face.

“You thought I dusted your brother, didn’t you?”

“Yeah…” Sans flinches at their blatancy and steels himself for the next inevitable question. Here it comes- the big ‘why’.

“Sans? I’m sorry.”

Wait, what.

“If I had just stayed at the inn like you said, none of this would have happened.”

“Wait, no, kid, stop,” Sans stutters. This wasn’t the response he was expecting at all. “You didn’t… you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But I made you think-!”

You didn’t make me think anything,” Sans says firmly, and with a bit of quick thinking he turns the conversation away from the question he feared most. “If anything, it’s my fault for what happened. I’m the one who acted without getting all the facts. I shouldn’t have even left you alone for so long, so if there’s anyone who should be apologizing, it should be me. Think you could… ever forgive me?”

“Of course.”

For the second time within two minutes Sans is caught off guard.

“Wait, really? You really forgive me? Just like that?”

The kid nods without missing a beat. “When I was up in Papyrus’ room, I got to thinking, ‘If I had just forgiven my mom yesterday instead of being too immature to apologize, I probably wouldn’t be stuck out here right now.’ She said she was sorry and I didn’t forgive her. Now she’s not forgiving me and I’m locked out. I won’t make the same mistake twice.”

“Buddy,” Sans shakes his head in disbelief. “I almost killed you.” There was no point in using softer terms when both sides knew how close the situation had come. “And you’re really going to brush it off like that?”

The human’s face twists, betraying the fears that their common sense was undoubtedly throwing at them, but they bite their lip and nod anyway.

“You were only doing it because you thought your brother was…” They trail off without finishing their sentence. They didn’t need to. “Anybody in your shoes would have done the same. But-!” They look him intensely in the eye. “I want you to know that I would never hurt Papyrus! Or you! Or any monster in Snowdin! I-I’ve been warned that monsters outside the Ruins were dangerous, a-and I guess that’s true, but you’ve all been nothing but nice to me, and I would never take that for granted. Please, please believe me on that.”

Oh, if only it were that easy. But how could he possibly tell them that it wasn’t what they had or hadn’t done that made him afraid, but what they could do that terrified him so? How could he ever explain that as long as they had the potential to harm, that their relationship would always be tainted with suspicion and mistrust? If he just had a failsafe way to prove their sincerity, instead of being forced to only take their word at face value…

Sans eyes the kid as they shift their weight in the seat, waiting for him to reply.

Hm. Maybe there was.

“Bucko,” Sans starts slowly, and the kid blinks in anticipation. “I don’t trust easy… for many reasons. Most of which have nothing to do with you personally.”

Their brow furrow in disappointment, losing hope already.

“But,” Sans continues, and they jerk to attention. “I promised Papyrus I would try, and I will… but first you have to answer two questions for me, and you have to answer honestly.

They nod, eager and anxious.

“Okay, question number one; do you have any idea, and reason at all that would explain why your mom wouldn’t come to the door?”

They shake their head vigorously, desperate to please. They seem genuine enough, but now it’s time for the moment of truth (pun intended), the one question he had been planning to ask them before everything went wrong in the first place.

“Alright, then. Question number two; do you know anything about a talking yellow flower?”

They hesitate ever so slightly before replying.

“No.”

The skeleton sighs.

Sans will give credit where credit I due- at least this time they manage not to look away when they lie to his face.

“Kid, you are really lousy at lying, you know that?”

They drop their head in shame and apology, their once chance blown.

“But… I guess that’s not technically a bad thing.”

Confused, they dare to look up, their eyes asking him to explain.

“If I can always tell when you’re fibbing, then by extension I should always be able to tell when you’re telling the truth too, right?”

The kid is silent for a moment before it clicks. “Does that mean you believe me then? About what I said earlier?”

“It’d be hypocritical of me not to,” Sans shrugs.

The kid exhales like the weight of the world has been lifted from their shoulders, and they dare to crack a weary grin.

“Thank you, Sans,” they smile. “That means a lot to me.”

Sans flashes his smile in turn, knowing it wouldn’t betray his true thoughts.

The fact was the kid had still denied that they knew the talking flower. For what reason, he couldn’t fathom, but clearly that weed had gotten to them first. Fine then, so be it. The kid could have their secrets. As long as Sans stuck to his word and the kid stuck to theirs, that flower would never get the chance to show his sniveling stem around them again.

“Are those a couple of smiles I spy with my little eye?” Papyrus interrupts from the door way.

“Hey, bro. I thought you were busy watching your program?”

“It’s a commercial break!” Papyrus explains away with a flip of his hand. “But that’s not important! Are we all friends again?”

“Yeah, we’re cool,” Sans’ pupils glance to the kid and back. “We talked it out and made amends. It’s all coming up roses.”

“Glad to hear it! Because now it just so happens to be time for bed! And because I am your self-appointed guardian,” Papyrus says, turning to his tiny friend. “It’s only right that you will be living with us from now on!”

“What? Pap you can’t just offer anybody a space in our home like this!” As much as Sans wanted to trust the human and for his brother to trust him, this was still rushing things. “Where will they sleep?”

“In my room of course!”

“Then where will you sleep?”

“On the couch, obviously!”

“Bro, you can’t sleep on that ratty old thing! It’ll mess up your back! Believe me, I speak from experience.”

“Well I certainly can’t share a room with you! Knowing that pigsty you call a bedroom-!”

“Guys!” The kid interrupts, clearing their throat so it doesn’t croak as much. “I really appreciate the offer, but it won’t be necessary. I won’t be staying another night in Snowdin.”

The two brothers exchange a glance.

“What do you mean?” “Where will you go?” they say simultaneously.

“I’m going to the capital,” they explain. “To see King Asgore. He’s an adult Boss Monster, right? I’m going to ask him to open the doors so I can go home.”

Papyrus swells with excitement while Sans goes rigid as a stone beside him. The kid didn’t like to make things easy, did they? God dammit, this is a horrible idea.

“That’s a brilliant idea!” Papyrus shouts. “I can walk you there myself! Oh! Or better yet, I can ask Undyne to take you! Can you imagine being escorted to the king by one of his very own royal guards?”

“That would be pretty cool.”

No. Not cool. Bad. Very, very bad.

“How exciting! I’m going to call her up right now!”

“Okay. Tell her I’ll meet her in Waterfall.”

“Wait, wait!” Sans bursts out, grabbing his brother and the kid by their collars before they can split up. “That sounds like a good plan and all, but isn’t it kind of late in the day to hiking all the way across the underground? I know it’s not that far of a walk for us, but the kid’s legs aren’t as long as ours. They’d be finished before they reached the ferry. I think we should all sleep on it first.”

“Sans! Stop trying to influence my friend with your laziness!”

“I’m not, bro! It’s just that, we’ve all had a long and busy day, and I really think it would be better to tackle this, uh, adventure well rested? Besides, if you went to Asgore now, you’d be waking him up in the middle of the night! Nobody wants that now, do we?”

“Hmm. You may have a point, brother.” Papyrus considers then turns to his friend. “On second thought, Sans is right! You should wait until tomorrow. I know it will delay you, but think of it this way; now you can have a sleepover with us!”

“Papyrus, nobody ever sleeps at a sleepover,” Sans argues. “You two would stay up all night watching scary movies and laughing at silly stories, and then nobody would get any rest. I say they just stick to the inn.”

“Sans, I must disagree! I am a responsible chaperone!”

“Papyrus, I can’t kick you out of your room,” The kid adds. “Plus you’ve both been so helpful already. I shouldn’t impose any more than I have.”

“But you don’t have any money for the inn!”

Sans fishes around in his pocket and pulls out some spare change. “… Fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty.” He counts, dumps the gold coins into the kid’s hands and then guides them towards the front door. “That’s enough for one night. That bunny shouldn’t give you grief this time. You remember the way there, right buddy? Think you can make it on your own?”

“Sans! Don’t be rude!” Papyrus objects when his brother practically shoves the kid out onto the street. “If you’re so against having a sleepover, fine! But at least walk them to the inn to make sure they get there safely!”

“Actually, Papyrus, I kind of need to talk to you about something important. In private.” Sans begs.

“Nonsense! Whatever it is, it can wait!”

Sans casts a sidelong look at the child stumbling in the snow out front who would be heading straight into their execution tomorrow if he didn’t act now. “I’m pretty sure it can’t.”

“That’s okay. I know the way,” the kid speaks up, brushing snow off their pants. “You’ve both been more than enough help already. See you tomorrow!”

Leaving no room for argument, they head off, waving goodbye. Papyrus waves until they’re out of sight then turns back to Sans.

“Okay! You got your wish! We’re alone now! What did you have to say that is so vitally important?”

Sans sighs to buy time, knowing full well time wasn’t what he needed. What he really needed was an excuse believable to convince his brother and the kid not to leave the town, but that kid’s determination to get home and his brother’s obliviousness to the gravity of the situation were proving to be more than just inconveniences. Realizing there’d be no way he stick to his promise unless he came clean with someone, Sans decides to choose the lesser of the two evils.

“Papyrus, you can’t let the kid see the king. If you really care about their safety, don’t even let them leave Snowdin.”

Papyrus shakes his head in bafflement. “Sans, I don’t understand you. Just this morning you wanted them gone, and now you want to keep them stuck here in Snowdin? What’s gotten in to you?”

Sans looks everywhere one last time, as if expecting to magically find the perfect lie to smooth everything over for his brother, but no solution could be found on the ceilings or walls. He had no choice but to tell him the truth.

“Papyrus, remember how I said I would trust you?”

Papyrus nods picking up on his brother’s agitation.

“Well, I’m trying. Believe me, I’m trying. And to prove it, I’m about to entrust you with a secret you that you can’t tell anyone. Not Alphys, not Undyne, not even the king, okay?”

Papyrus nods again, slower this time, unsure if he should be excited or on guard.

“You can’t let the kid meet Undyne or the king. If you do, they’ll be walking right into their death.”

“What?! Why!?”

Sans takes a steadying breath and looks his brother in the eye, completely exposed and vulnerable. It was now or never.

“Because they’re human.”

A second of silence passes before Papyrus clicks is nonexistent tongue in annoyance, all the tension and suspense sloughing off his shoulders.

“Sans, of all the times to pull a joke-”

“I’m not joking, Papyrus,” Sans says, an edge of desperation on his voice, and maybe it’s the way his eyes plead, or how he squeezes the taller skeleton’s arm, but it shocks Papyrus to find that Sans is being one-hundred percent genuinely serious; a state of being he’s so rarely seen on his brother, it felt like an omen of bad things to come.

“But… then… Why would they lie about who they are?”

“They didn’t,” Sans says quickly. “They don’t know. They got amnesia when the fell here.”

“No. No, they can’t be human,” Papyrus rubs his temporal bones with one hand. “Humans are supposed to be ruthless and cruel. They’re too nice and kind! They liked my spaghetti, and helped me make traps! Human traps, Sans!”

“I know. And I told you, they don’t realize it. So you know what would happen if they went to the king?”

Papyrus gasps when he makes the connection. “Sans, this means they’re the seventh…”

“Yeah.”

“And if Asgore finds them- Or Undyne…”

Yeah.

“Sans…” Papyrus says meekly looking to his brother for help. “I don’t… I don’t want that to happen to them.”

“I know. That’s why we gotta keep them here in Snowdin. Everybody else just thinks they’re another monster, but people from the other regions won’t be so easily fooled. If they leave… They’re as good as dead.”


The small white rabbit monster eyes you suspiciously when you return to the inn, but doesn’t say anything when you place the eighty gold pieces on the counter. He begrudgingly hands you a room key before returning to some handheld videogame he was playing.

The room isn’t the same one as before, and it’s hard to drift off to sleep. Your body buzzes with the desire to move, to explore, to just go already. After hours of worrying, your friend Flowey came up with the perfect solution to fix everything, and the sooner you got to Asgore, the sooner you’d get home.

Sans was probably right, though. If the Underground is as extensive as he says, then it would probably be best to rest up before you leave. Either way, you don’t plan on stopping once you head out, and with any luck, you’ll be seeing your mom again by tomorrow evening.

Your mom…

If nerves alone weren’t enough to keep you awake, thinking about her sure did. A concoction of complicated emotions swirls within you from anticipation to dread. You have no idea how she’s going to react to seeing you again, or even if she wants to see you. The uncertainty of it all is keeping your anxious mind on high alert, no matter what you do to ignore it. Curse the night time and its lack of distractions.

Finally, after tossing and turning and fretting for what feels like hours, your body has had enough of your mind’s antics, and drags you off to sleep from sheer exhaustion alone.


You dream.

And sometimes when you dream you-

Wait a minute.

You’re not dreaming. You’re not even asleep. How can anyone dream, let alone sleep, when there’s so much NOISE?

You crack open your eyes the tiniest sliver. Is it just you, or are the pictures on the wall trembling? Or maybe it’s your eyeballs being rattled in your skull. You sit up and take stock of your surroundings. Yep, the room is definitely shaking.

It doesn’t take you long to put together that the deafening roar that roused you is tied to the periodic quaking of your room, and it’s origin seems to be coming from the one adjacent to yours. Geez, as if it wasn’t hard enough getting your own thoughts to let you rest. And it’s so loud. It’s like gravel being puréed in a blender, or yodeling tubas with laryngitis. How under Mt. Ebott could any monster snore. So. Much?

In a feeble attempt to block out the noise, you fold your pillow over your head, though little good it does, and when it’s clear you aren’t falling asleep anytime soon, you give up and ditch the room all together, dragging the blanket and pillow with you.

The original rabbit lady is back behind the check-in desk when you stumble into the lobby. She gives you a sympathetic smile as you lumber over to the couch by the front door and flop down. It’s too bright to sleep in the lobby, but at least it’s quiet. Well, quieter.

“Can’t sleep, huh?” The receptionist asks, pulling out an earbud.

You nod, letting gravity do most of the work for you.

“Sorry about that. A trio of hi-bear-neighbors checked in about an hour ago. And unfortunately, once they fall asleep, they can stay asleep for weeks.”

You give her a look of horror. How does she put up with this racket?

The rabbit monster laughs at your expression. “I know it’s hard on all the other guests, but in truth I’ve been serving them for years. They’re even my best patrons. They’ve been regulars for so long, they practically own that particular room by now. I wish I could have warned you sooner. Most everyone else in the Underground knows to skip holidaying in Snowdin when they’re checked in.”

“I don’t mind,” you murmur, laying horizontal on the couch as the ringing leaves your ears. “ ‘m leavin’ today.”

“Well then I can at least give you a refund,” The lady goes on. “Looking at the ledger my son kept, you’ve only been up there for a couple of hours. Certainly not long enough to be worth eighty gold.”

“Thank you,” you say when she hands you back the money, and you stagger over to pick it up.

You return to the couch, but don’t fall asleep. Instead, you stare out the window and people-watch at folk making their way home from the late shift, or meandering about for a night on the town. You realize then that in just one short day you’ve seen many monsters. More than you could have ever imagined, and in all shapes and sizes and species. From skeletons to slimes, to a surprising number of rabbits and dogs. Tomorrow you would see even more, and even the king. You wonder what kind of Boss Monster he was.

You wonder if he looked like you.

There’s no clock in the lobby, but you have a feeling it’s still ridiculously early for either Papyrus or Sans to pick you up yet. But despite not having slept, you don’t really feel all that tired any more. You wish you could just go, but, well, the last two times you went somewhere without telling someone, things didn’t really end up that great did they?

Your stomach growls in protest. Guess you shouldn’t leave without eating first, anyway.

“Ma’am, do you know if the convenience store is open yet?” You ask the innkeeper. She checks her watch.

“Hm. The store is open twenty-four seven, but I bet if you hop on over right now my sister should be just pulling todays first batch of cinnabunnies out of the oven! Oh, and if you’re still feeling sleepy, ask her for a cup of her famous hot chocolate! It’ll warm your soul right up!”

You nod in consideration. You should probably return the money to Sans since he lent it to you to cover your room, but if he wasn’t expecting it back anyway you might as well put it to good use. You’ll need to be as awake as possible for your trip to Asgore, after all.

With one last word of thanks, you slip out side and head next door.

The smell of hot, fresh pastries meets you when you enter the shop, and the rich aroma alone is almost enough to make you feel rejuvenated. Behind the counter, the shopkeeper is busy arranging the rabbit-shaped cinnamon rolls under a clear glass display to keep them fresh and warm.

“Why, hello there, young’un,” She smiles when you catch her eye. “It’s mighty early for you to be up and about, though I must admit you still look half asleep. What can I do for you?”

“The innkeeper said you make hot chocolate?” you ask, placing all your gold on the counter. “Can I get a cup?”

“Sure thing, sugar. Coming right up.” The purple rabbit subtracts the necessary amount then hands you a piping hot cup and pushes the change back to you. You take a long, slow sip, letting the sweet liquid warm every inch of your body. It was good, but not very filling.

“Can I also get a cinnamon roll?” you ask.

“Sorry hun, but you don’t have enough gold. I had to raise the price. A cinnabun is two-fifty a piece now.”

Hot chocolate nearly comes up your nose when you spit in shock. Two-hundred and fifty gold? That’s ten times as much as it was yesterday!

“Why did you have to raise the price so high?” You ask.

“I’ve run out of yeast to make the dough,” the shopkeeper sighs. “I was supposed to get a new order in two days ago, but my supplier has been hit hard this year from the weather and his yield was unusually low. He can’t afford to sell too much, or he won’t have any to regrow his stock, so he drove up the price, which made me have to drive up mine. Nobody blames ‘em. These things always happen in the Underground, you know?

“I tried to ration what I had, but you can only cut corners so much, and the cinnabunnies are kind of my staple. The people here love home-baked goods like nobody’s business. I guess my sales will suffer for a while, but we’ll pull through. Everyone understands that.” She shakes her head and smiles apologetically. “Sorry. You probably didn’t want to hear all that. No sense in burdening a child with the problems of adults.”

“No, it’s okay,” you console her. “I don’t mind listening. Also, I’m a teenager. I wish I could help.” You drain the last of the hot chocolate. Its warmth seeps into you, making you feel awake and alive and clear headed. Hearing her problems makes you temporarily forget yours, and before you know what you’re doing, you’re trying to think of a solution.

“Is there anything else you could make with the ingredients? Something that doesn’t require yeast?” You suggest.

“Wish I could, but my options are pretty limited with what I got.”

“Why? What goes into cinnamon rolls?”

“Well, there’s milk, butter, salt, flour, eggs, and of course the yeast which is the most important part, powdered sugar for the glaze, oh, and of course cinnamon. Wouldn’t be a cinnamon roll without it, would it?”

An idea forms in your head while the shopkeeper lists off the ingredients. They’re nearly identical to another recipe you know- one you’ve made so frequently with your mom that you know all the steps by heart.

“Do you happen to have brown sugar and corn starch as well?” You ask eagerly.

“I should,” the shopkeeper chuckles, seeing your enthusiasm. “Why? You got an idea of something else I could make?”

“Yeah! It’s a home-cooked confection that’s just as warm and sweet at your cinnabunnies! People will love it!” You’re already pushing up your sleeves in preparation to get dirty. “But first we need a pie tin.”

--

An hour of mixing, stirring, pouring, baking, and cooling later, and one of your mother’s homemade butterscotch cinnamon pies stands before you. Its sweet scent is even stronger than that of the cinnamon rolls and it fills the tiny store to the brim. You close your eyes and breathe deep, and just for a moment you almost you believe you’re back home in the kitchen, your mother just about to cut the first piece of pie for you.

It doesn’t take long for a couple of customers to show up, the earliest risers and morning regulars both lured in by the delicious new odor. Almost everyone is curious to taste the new desert, happy enough just to try something new. The storekeeper, who by now you’ve learned is named Miss Harrison, sells each slice for twenty-five gold each to make up for the cinnamon rolls. You’re not at all surprised to see it sell faster than the cinnamon rolls do. In fact, you’re rather proud.

Word spreads fast in the little town of Snowdin- alarmingly so, and it’s not long at all before friends who were recommended by friends who over heard a passing conversation were told to come try the new desert in the small shop. You realize early on that one pie wouldn’t be enough to satisfy a whole town, but lucky enough for you the shop keeper has a dozen extra mixing bowls, at least four pie tins, and plenty of counter space. And without even being asked, you dive right back in to make a second desert.

“Hun, this pie of yours is selling like hot cakes!” Miss Harrison tells you as she passes another slice to an eager customer who’s come back for seconds. After seeing how much people preferred the thrill some something new, the purple rabbit had to double the price of each piece just to prevent some buyers from purchasing a whole pie to hoard to themselves. Nobody seemed to mind the sudden inflation, though. In fact, you dare say you spotted a line forming out the door.

Miss Harrison stays at the register, handling the steady stream of customers while you stay busy in the back, dancing between the oven and the counters and the sink, juggling the mixing bowls of multiple pies all in different stages of preparation.

By the time the current pie in the oven has cooked, two more will be ready to go in, then after that the butterscotch on the stove should be hot enough to mix in with the egg batter, and after that you should have a chance to wash the three empty tins in the sink and line them with the next crust and pour the filling, and by the time you’re done with that, the first pie should be cool enough to cut, and once that’s done, the two pies up front will have sold out, allowing you to start the process all over again.

It’s hectic but fun, and you enjoy the feeling of helping so much that the thought of going to the king doesn’t even enter your mind.

You have to call it quits once the sixth pie is finished. You’ve run out of eggs, but you’re secretly thankful. You’ve been whisking and blending ingredients for nearly three hours now, and you’ve lost feeling in your arms.

After Miss Harrison sells the last slice of pie she comes into the back to help you with the dishes.

“I’ve got this, hun. Go ahead and take a break. You’ve earned it six times over.”

You drop your dish rag with relief and go flop down on a sack of flour. You’re tired, but it’s a good kind of tired- one that makes you feel relaxed instead of sleepy. Despite this, you close your eyes anyway and let yourself unwind.

A shadow falls over you a few minutes later and the sound of clinking metal draws your attention. When you open your eyes, Miss Harrison is standing before you with an envelope in an outstretched hand.

“Here you go, hun. Your share.”

“Share of what?” you ask.

“Pie sales, of course. A fifty-fifty split.”

“But all the supplies and ingredients were yours. Plus don’t you need the money to hold you over until the price of yeast comes back down?”

“All that may be true, but I can’t ignore that you did most of the real grunt work. You were sweating back here while I just handled the sales. Besides, the recipe was yours in the first place. It’s only fair I give you half the credit, if not more.”

The store owner places the envelope in your lap and goes back to cleaning the counters before you can refuse. It’s heavy, but that hardly comes as a surprise to you, seeing that it’s packed full of coins. Tipping the contents into your lap, you count it, stacking them into groups of ten, and then into ten groups of ten until you have a total of-

“One-thousand, one-hundred gold?!”

This… This is an obscene amount of money.

You can’t possibly accept this much! You’ll just have to return it to-

Something at the end of one of the shop isles catches your eye as you exit the back of the shop; It’s the balls of yarn you saw yesterday, bright and colorful and just waiting to be woven into something amazing.

You suddenly realize you could buy the whole basket now.

Inhibitions thrown into the wind, you grab the entire basket and bring it to the register.

“I’d like to buy these, please,” you tell Miss Harrison.

“All of them?” The rabbit asks back, her tone awed and amused.

You nod. “And a pair of knitting needles, or a crochet hook if you have any.”

Miss Harrison doesn’t comment, but her eyes are laughing as she puts ten balls of yarn into a plastic bag and throws a hook in there as well.

“Your total is one thousand gold even. The crochet hook is on me.”

You smile with gratitude as you pick up your change and sling the bag of yarn over your shoulder. A hundred gold was a lot more tolerable in your pocket rather than a thousand. You could even pay Sans back too.

Content with your purchase and proud of a job well done, you bid farewell to Miss Harrison and head out into the cold.

--

You half expect to find Papyrus or Sans waiting for you when you peak into the inn. It’s a lot later than it was yesterday, but neither is there to walk you to the boarder of Waterfall. It’s no big deal, you guess. The way should be pretty straight. You could find it yourself and would probably run into them on the way.

Walking down the street, you slow to admire the Gyftmas tree. You think Papyrus mentioned something about the holiday being a bi-weekly tradition or something? Did that mean it happened twice a week, or every two? Whichever was the correct answer, the next date must be coming up pretty soon judging by all the presents under the tree. Several are addressed to Gyftrot, though many look like they’ve been sitting there untouched for months, judging by the thick layer of ice that encased the ones in the very back. A few are for other residents of the town. You even spy a couple for Papyrus and Sans.

The sight of the gifts gives you pause; your heart warming at the thought of your friends receiving thoughtful presents from one another, yet at the same time sinking knowing you’d never be able to join in on the fun. You try not to mope on it too much. You couldn’t give both of them a good enough gift anyway. Or anybody in this town for that matter. Their hospitality was more than you deserved to ask for. How could you possibly repay that?

You pull your eyes up to the tree to distract yourself. The branches are so overloaded with ornaments and lights that it’s dizzying to look at. You think there was order to it at some point, and maybe deep within the needles a bit of organization still remains, but if there is, it’s been completely buried by haphazardly added trinkets and doodads now. You try to take it all in, but the task proves to be almost impossible.

There are at least three different strings of lights on there, from a calm, simple yellow, to flashing blue icicles and even a bit of rainbow twinklers. The melted stubs of candles cling to the tips of branches, frozen for centuries and now used as anchors for even more dangling decorations. Ornaments of all shapes, sizes and function hang from every twig, from ones that light up and spin, to delicate hand blown glass, to tiny picture frames, and even popsicle stick creations that look like they were school projects. Candy canes and wrapped chocolates cower at the top of the tree where little arms can’t reach, and every remaining gap is stuffed with tinsel and ribbon.

The tree is an absolute train wreck of holiday cheer and it’s beautiful.

Despite every limb being embellished to the brim, you still spy a bare spot at the base of the branches where frequently shuffled presents constantly dislodged the lowest hanging décor.

Hmm. Maybe you couldn’t give a nice gift to anybody here who’d shown you kindness, but perhaps you could make a contribution to the tree.

Reaching into your pocket, you pull out the roll of garland and weave it into the bottom-most branches. It’s just long enough to reach all the way around and fits in surprisingly well with the patch work of pre-existing knickknacks. Stepping back, you smile at your addition with chest out and head high.

“Woah, nice touch with the garland! It’s exactly what the tree was missing!” A voice pipes up beside you, and you turn your head to find an armless, yellow lizard standing nearly at your shoulder. He looks at you, his big eyes (though one slightly swollen from a bruise) shining.

“Yo! Didn’t I see you yesterday with Papyrus? I don’t think I introduced myself! I’m Kid!”

“Chara,” you nod with a polite smile, deciding last-second not to extend your arm for a handshake.

“Nice to meet you! Man, it’s been a while since another kid’s moved in to this town. I’m finally not the new guy anymore! Ha ha!”

“Actually,” you draw out the word, voice growing smug. “I’m a teenager as of two days ago.”

“Really? That is… SO COOL!” Kid’s impossibly large eyes somehow seem to grow even larger, sparkling like diamonds. “I’m only twelve and five-eighths! I’ve still got a ways to go before I’m a teen, but once I am, people will have to stop calling me ‘Kid’! Ha ha! I’m thinking of giving myself a new name, like ‘Dude’ or ‘Bro’. And I’ll pick out a whole new wardrobe for myself with rad shirts and no more striped sweaters! Only kids wear stripes, after all. Guess that’s why I mistook you for one! Ha ha!”

Was that true? Did only kids wear striped shirts and sweaters? You guess you never noticed, not knowing any other kids or teens. Oh, and the fact that almost all the monsters in the Ruins preferred not to wear clothes at all.

You shift your bag of yarn from one shoulder to the other, its weight noticeably on your back.

“So, where’re you from, dude?” Kid asks breathlessly, hopping from foot to foot. “Waterfall? New Home? I’m originally from Hotland, but the rent of our apartment got too expensive once Mettaton moved in, so my family had to move. My sister still lives there, though! She works for the king, and gets to live there for free, I guess, though Mom and Dad say she’s kind of the reason we ended up having to move in the first place. I still talk with her every night on UnderNet, though!”

“I’m from the Ruins,” you say quickly when Kid pauses to inhale. “I’m trying to get back there, actually, but I can’t open the doors. I’m going to the capital to ask King Asgore for help.”

“That sounds totally epic! King Asgore’s the best, and he’s super friendly. I bet he’ll help you, no questions asked!”

“That’s good to know,” you grin and look down the street. Papyrus still hadn’t appeared yet, but you couldn’t stand around waiting for him any longer. You had to get going if you wanted to reach Asgore before the day was done.

“Hey, Kid,” you say turning back to him. “It was nice to meet you, but I need to get going now. I have to meet Undyne at the Waterfall boarder so she can escort me to the capital.”

“You’re going to be personally escorted by Captain Undyne to the king???” Kid stops bouncing, and his jaw hangs slack. It only lasts a moment before he’s grinning wide and his feet are pattering in the snow triple-time. “That! Is! So! AWESOME! Captain Undyne is the absolute coolest! She’s the roughest, toughest, badass-est royal guard to ever live! And you’re gonna get to meet her! Man, you’re so lucky! I wish I could go with you, but I’m not allowed to leave town without permission, ha ha.”

“Well, I am meeting her at the boarder of Snowdin and Waterfall. I bet you can meet her there too, so long as you don’t cross the boundary. That wouldn’t be breaking the rules, right?”

“Hey, yeah! You’re totally right! I wouldn’t be breaking my parents’ rules as long as I stay on the Snowdin side! Let’s go right n-OOMPH!

Kid jumps around the tree in two steps before tripping over a root and landing face first in the snow. You reflexively finch out of empathy and hurry over to help him up. You keep him steady on his feet while he shakes the loose slush and grit of his scales like a wet dog, but other than that he doesn’t look hurt.

“As I was saying, let’s go right now!” Kid resumes, completely unfazed, and skips off with reckless abandon. “Ha ha! Hurry up, slowpoke!” He teases, even daring so much as to prance backwards while he taunts you, but karma is swift and sweet, and you watch him creating another unplanned snow angel seconds later.

Suppressing laughter, you dare to run after him, despite knowing how slippery some of this ice could be. Something about his lack of concern for the dangers ahead makes you want to be a bit more carefree too.

You think he’s already beginning to grow on you.

Chapter Text

Papyrus paces across the living room, his mind deep in worry and his feet circling him around the couch on autopilot. He casts his gaze to the wall clock for the umpteenth time, subconsciously noting that he should have picked up his friend hours ago, but the thought of facing them now with what he knew was too much to bear, and it kept derailing his train of thought.

In an effort to trade one distraction for another, Papyrus switches from looking at the clock to his brother. Sans sat on the sofa, his sockets dark and his body unmoving. The two had been up since what was considered ‘dawn’, after a restless night brought on by the weight secrets and responsibility, and both had been trying to think of a course of action ever since. If Papyrus didn’t know his brother has well as he did, he could have mistaken him for being asleep instead of deep in concentration, no mind that in either state Sans didn’t appear to breathe.

“Okay, here’s the plan,” Sans says, his pupils lighting up as he ‘opened’ his eyes. “We can’t let the kid leave Snowdin. We gotta keep them here.”

“That’s already a given,” Papyrus huffs, though not unkindly. “The real question is how?”

“That I dunno,” Sans stands up, popping nearly every joint as he stretches. Papyrus shutters at the sound. “But I know you can figure something out. You’re clever like that.”

“Me? What about you? Aren’t you going to help?”

I’m going to run an errand,” Sans explains as he turns towards the front door. “I still want to know why the kid’s guardian didn’t come to the door, and if there’s still a chance we can send them back home safely, but first I need to make a stop in New Home.”

“New Home? I thought we weren’t getting Asgore involved!”

“I’m not,” Sans says as he steps outside. “But I think I have a lead, and need to pick something up from his garden. I’ll be back this evening. Keep them distracted until then.”

“With what?” Papyrus calls, following after his brother, but by the time he steps out on the porch Sans is already gone. Instead two children are running down the street in his direction, and the skeleton’s non-existent stomach sinks.

“Yo, Papyrus!” Kid shouts upon seeing him with his human-friend in tow. “Who’re you talking to?”

“Myself.” Well, it wasn’t a total lie.

“I’m glad we ran into you,” his human-pal says. “Kid wants to meet Undyne. Is it okay that he comes with us to the boarder of Waterfall?”

“Yes! That is… fine!” Papyrus stammers, but the children don’t take notice as they swap excited smiles. “Or, that is what I would usually say if it weren’t for a sudden and unavoidable change in plans! Friends, I am sorry to say this to you, but! We will not be meeting Undyne today!”

Their little faces fall when his words sink in.

“Aw, what? Why?” asks Kid.

“Because! Undyne! Is…! Sick!” While thinking fast may not have been his forte, Papyrus nodded in approval at his own excuse. Sickness was good, sickness was plausible. Having something to work with, he went on; “Undyne called me up this morning telling me that she caught a terrible illness that’s highly contagious, and she told me to tell everyone to stay away so you don’t catch it!”

“That’s sounds awful. We should make her a ‘Get Well Soon’ card,” his human-friend says sympathetically, but the monster kid looks skeptical.

“Hm, I can’t believe it! Undyne is the greatest warrior in the Underground! She never gets sick, and even if she did, she’d just punch the illness right out of her! What did she catch that could keep her down?”

“Uh, um… the, uh… the flu! And pneumonia! And hay fever! And a very, very serious tummy ache!” Papyrus rambles off every sickness he knew off the top of his head, hoping the list sounded horrible enough to make the kids want to stay away as far as possible. “Yes, sir-ee! Undyne is too miserable right now to escort anybody anywhere!”

“That’s too bad. I guess I’ll just have to go to Asgore by myself,” Papyrus’ pal says completely undeterred by the terrors he’s painted for them, and boldly walks on.

“NO! YOU CAN’T!”

The human stops short at his outburst. “Why?”

“Because! I, uh, I also got a call from Asgore too! And he, uh, he said that he is very busy today with kingly duties and does not wish to be disturbed!”

“Papyrus, what are you talking about?” Kid asks in annoyance. “Mister Dreemurr’s NEVER busy! He stops in town all the time to visit! In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he came by today!”

“Y-yes, exactly!” Papyrus flounders to keep his lie afloat. “Which is why it would be better just to wait here for him to come to us! We wouldn’t want to walk in on him at a bad time, after all, would we?”

His human-friend says nothing as they think it over, their eyes lidded as they weigh the options. “I wish I could, but I can’t,” they say at last. “I have to get home as soon as possible, so I have to see Asgore as soon as possible, even if that means interrupting his important king business.”

“He’ll be very upset with you!”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

Papyrus bites his fingers through his gloves. Would nothing discourage this kid from meeting their dinner date with death? He had to act quickly before they walked away.

“WAIT!” Papyrus sprints ahead to block their path. “Look, I admire your perseverance, but the fact of the matter is, as your legal guardian, I cannot let you proceed through the Underground without some sort of chaperone.”

“Okay. Then you lead the way.” His friend suggests.

“M-me?”

“Yeah. Didn’t you originally offer to be the guide?”

“Oh. Yes. I did, didn’t I? W-well, I would love to, but you see I have to do uh, um…” Papyrus’ eye sockets darted around the street, searching for any excuse. They fall on his front door, and the memory of Sans pops in his head, and a long with it an escape rope. “Errands! I have to do a lot of errands today!”

Yes. It’s the perfect crime.

“Errands?”

“Yes, errands!” Papyrus nods sharply to remove all traces of doubt from his voice. “Errands and chores! So many that it will take me all day to finish them all before we can even think about leaving Snowdin!”

The human’s eyes waver and their shoulders slump as their resolve finally crumbles, but Papyrus can only exhale in relief. Finally, they were giving up.

“I guess it can’t be avoided,” they sigh.

“Yes, it seems so!”

“I’ll just have to help you with your chores.”

“That’s right, you- what?!”

“I’ll do half of your chores,” they repeat, putting on a brave smile. “This way you finish twice as fast, and then we can go to the king together!”

“Oh! Oh! And I can help too!” Kid says, bouncing on the tips of his toes. “So maybe I won’t get to see Undyne today, but if I pitch in too then you’ll finish in a third of the time!”

“Yeah!” The human says, perking up. “What do you say, Papyrus?”

Papyrus drags his palm down his face, groaning into the glove. The odds weren’t favorable, but there was no one to blame but himself for building this deck of cards made of lies. He might as well deal with it and play along until he found a chance to reshuffle.

“You’re too kind,” he says flatly, accepting his hand. “Let’s get started.”


Patchy sunlight filtered in through the cracked ceiling down onto the garden of New Home, but Sans doesn’t have time to stop and appreciate the natural light as he catches his breath. Jumping here all the way from Snowdin was just about the maximum limit his magic could take. Being able to travel a couple miles near instantaneously was convenient, but the drain always left him weak-kneed and light-headed.

As soon as his wits return to him, he takes stock of his surroundings. Gardening tools lay strewn about a strip of freshly upturned soil. One half of the patch looked dark and damp, and the other half pale and dry. A bag of flower seeds sat nestled between a trowel and a pair of gloves, but no watering can was in sight. There was also no gardener present, but a rather conspicuous trail of muddy footprints that looked quite recent, was leading back into the house. Asgore must be fetching more water.

The garden of New Home was free for the public to visit whenever they wished, but not wanting to run in to the owner, Sans set to work collecting what he came for. He picked flowers from different corners of the room from unobtrusive bunches.

Five would be enough.

Then, just as quickly as he had arrived, he was gone, leaving virtually no trace that anyone else had been there by the time the king returned.


Papyrus’ chores were… weird, to say the least.

A few of them made sense, like patrolling the forest, checking to see if any of the human traps were sprung, and then making sure they were calibrated correctly, but you weren’t really sure if consulting Ice Cap for fashion advice, or being a test audience for Snowdrake’s comedy routine counted as chores. Heck, even the monsters in question seem just as confused as you are about these supposed ‘errands’, but they didn’t protest to the attention. Ice Cap didn’t care for Papyrus’ ‘battle body’ or Kid’s striped poncho, but it complimented your hat, and Snowdrake appreciated the group participation, even if the three of you only pity-laughed at his jokes. After spending eight years enduring the bon mots of your mother and simply being in the presence of Sans’ quick wit for twenty-four hours, you weren’t going to tell the young teen his humor was sub-par and crush his dreams with harsh critique.

Instead, you gave him advice on how to improve some of his punchlines, suggesting as far as branching out from snow based puns into other areas, like knock-knock jokes and slapstick. Kid and Papyrus eagerly joined in on the challenge, helping the budding comedian improve his wordplay and delivery, while throwing in advice of their own, like including props for visual gags. You didn’t mean to get invested, but by the time you and he finished the outlines for his new-and-improved stand up sketch, it was lunch time.

“Well, we didn’t finish as fast as I thought we would, but we still got through all the errands pretty quick,” you say, stretching your limbs and shaking out the cold. “Let’s head out so we can get to the king before bedtime.”

“We can’t possibly travel to the capital on an empty stomach!” Papyrus complains. “You’ll go faint from hunger! Let me cook lunch for you!”

“I’ll be fine,” you try to reassure him, even though your stomach was saying otherwise. It’s only then do you realize you never truly had breakfast. “I’d love to eat more of your spaghetti, Papyrus, but I don’t have the time to wait around while you make it, so I just won’t eat at all.”

“I cannot allow that! Growing monsters need their nutrition! What kind of parent would I be if I let you skip lunch?”

“Oh! We should get Grillby’s!” Kid suggests. “He’s the fastest fast food server in Snowdin!”

“Ugh! I forbid it!” Papyrus objects. “Grillby’s burgers may have the pinnacle of seasonings and spices, and those cheese fries of his may be the perfect balance between crispy and soft, but I will not allow you to poison your insides with so much grease!”

You weren’t listening. The description of the food Papyrus gave was enough to make your stomach voice their own opinion and your cheeks flush in embarrassment.

Kid smiles at you knowingly. “All for going to Grillby’s, raise an appendage!” Kid stands on one leg and raises a foot. You raise your hand. “Sorry, Papyrus. Looks like you’re outvoted for this one.”

“Curse the democratic process! This is why we live in a monarchy!” The skeleton pouts, crossing his arms. “Fine! We’ll all go to Grillby’s, but don’t come complaining to me when intestines turn against you from such mistreatment!”

You laugh, good and true, and agree to his terms before the three of you head off to the restaurant.

You won’t admit it, but you’re secretly glad you get to try Grillby’s at least once before leaving Snowdin. It’s not that you HATE snails, per se, but knowing you’d get to live the rest of your life with the comfort you got to eat something other and those slimy mollusks every single day is an achievement in your eyes. Papyrus was right, though. Grillby’s burgers and fries were delicious but coated in so much grease that the food very well could have been made from snails. You weren’t going to complain though, because it tasted amazing and was very un-snail flavored and that was good enough for you.

You scarf down lunch in record time. Papyrus pays for all three of you, but refuses to accept any gold you give him when you try to pay him back, telling you to keep it for a rainy day.

“Rainy day… Like in Waterfall?” You prompt him. “Are you saying we can finally go now?”

“W-w-what?! I didn’t say that!” Papyrus stutters. “I-I mean, we did finish all my errands, b-but we can’t leave yet, because…!” The skeleton looks around frantically before his eye sockets fall on a group of guards playing a game of Red Dog and betting on stacks of bone shaped dog treats. “Because I have to buff by bones!”

Your jaw goes slack and you feel your eyes practically pop out of your skull. You… you don’t have a response to that statement.

“Wh-what?” Kid asks, equally confused and horrified.

“My bone attacks!” Papyrus clarifies. “I’ve been so behind on my chores, that I’ve neglected my combat equipment for weeks! All my attacks are well overdue for a good polishing and inspection! How can I ever prove myself to be royal guard material if I can’t keep my weapons up to snuff?”

You exhale, half out of relief and half out of exasperation.

“How long will it take you to, uh, buff all your bones?” You ask, already fearing the answer.

“Oh, all day I would assume.”

You stifle a groan. You were afraid of that.

“If I help you clean all your attacks, do you think we’ll finish fast enough to leave for New Home today?”

“Oh, you don’t want to help me!” Papyrus insists. “Bone polishing is boring and dull! You and Kid should just go play in the snow while I work.”

“I want to help,” you insist right back. “I’ll do whatever helps us leave faster.”

“Are you sure? I have a lot of bones in my arsenal that need attention.”

“Don’t phrase it like that,” you tell him quickly. “But yes, I’m sure.”

“If you say so! Let’s get to it!”

With that, Papyrus bounds out of the restaurant and back into the snow, and with a sigh, you reluctantly follow.


“You want us to do what?” Doggo asks as he twirls a golden flower between his fingers to get a good look at it.

“I want you guys to use those noes of yours and track down a golden flower for me,” Sans explains.

“No, you see, that’s what I heard you say the first time,” Doggo says. “But that’s obviously so inane that it HAS to be a mistake. Now I’m gonna ask one more time; You want us to do what?

“Humor me,” Sans says tersely. After taking the scenic route back to Snowdin, Sans arrived just in time to see his brother and two kids leaving Grillby’s before ducking inside himself to visit the guards. They were always playing poker at this time of day and it was nice to have them all in one place to deliver his request. All five guard dogs had only given him skeptical looks when he passed out the flowers, but he had expected as much.

“Listen, I know it sounds stupid, but I have reason to believe there’s a talking flower with ill-intentions in the area, and I need to hunt him down. Honestly, I would love you guys to prove me wrong, so can you just do this for me just this once?”

“Hmm, what’s in it for us?” Ask one of the Dogi.

“Well, what do you want? Bones? Tummy rubs? A walk?”

At the mention of the word “walk”, all the dogs reflexively prick their ears and cock their heads. Sans found that he had to suppress a snort when he heard tails thumping under the table, and Lesser Dog’s neck was already starting to stretch skyward.

“Huh?” Sans repeated the question, unable to resist the urge. “Would that be a good enough reward? A walk for whoever finds the flower first? Huh? Is it?”

“ARGH! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! YOU KNOW WE CAN’T HELP REACTING LIKE THIS!” Doggo growls while the other dogs pant furiously around him in excitement, but he doesn’t look the least bit threatening when his pink tongue is lolling out the side of his mouth. “Fine! We’ll do it, but give us twenty-four hours! Oh, and if it turns out this is all a prank, I’m coming after your tailbone, Sans!” Swiftly collecting up their earnings, the dogs pack up their cards and rush out of the building, each wanting to be the first to find the scent trail.

“Duly noted,” Sans grins, and checks his watch before exiting the restaurant. Papyrus seemed to have the kid still under control, and it was getting close to the usual time again when he went to the doors. So the kid’s mom hadn’t shown up yesterday. Maybe she would today?

Unless, of course, a certain flower had got involved, and-

No. Sans refused to even entertain the idea. Maybe today would be different. Maybe today she would answer and this whole mess would be sorted out once and for all. You never knew until you tried.

Turning west, Sans heads into the forest.


“You see, the key to proper bone polishing is to go in clockwise circles!”

“Mmhm.”

“And you must ALWAYS go against the grain!”

“Right.”

“And NEVER use whole milk! Only fat free, or two percent if you have no other options!”

“Whatever you say, Papyrus.”

Sitting in a small, quiet clearing, as far away from the border of Waterfall as they could get, Papyrus jabbers on while he rubs down the same spot on the same bone he’s been holding for the last thirty minutes. His friend and Kid look utterly bored, nodding along and agreeing with everything he said while they wipe down bone after bone with rags soaked in milk. (Papyrus could not be persuaded to use anything else, claiming that milk was the only dairy product suitable to promote strong and durable weapons.)

They’ve all been cleaning for hours, already shining over a hundred bones to perfection, but whenever they got close to finishing, Papyrus would just conjure up another set of femurs and ribs from his infinite supply and urged them to keep going. He hated the look of soul-crushing despair he brought to their faces in sight of the never ending amount of work to be done, but Papyrus was not about to give up. Not until his friend threw in the towel and completely called it quits on trying to leave Snowdin all together.

His plan did not go has he hoped, though, when Kid began to get wise to his game.

“Papyrus, do you really need to clean all these bones?” He asks.

“Absolutely! Every one of my attacks should be in tip top shape at all times!”

“Yeah, but, you’re pretty strong. How often do you even use all your attacks?”

“W-well, I will admit a scenario has yet to come up where I’ve had to call on all I have, buy you never know!”

“We’ve already cleaned a lot,” his human-friend speaks up. “At least enough for you to use for the next time you have to fight. Don’t you think that’s good enough for now?”

“Oh, come on team! We can’t leave a job half finished!”

“Yeah, but this is taking forever! I think we’ve done enough for one day. Let’s go to Waterfall now. Please, Papyrus?”

Papyrus can tell from the look in their pleading smile that they’ve reached the end of their patience, but not their persistence. Ready or not, they were going to leave, and he was going to lose them.

“Wait, wait, wait!” He flails his arms when his human-pal starts inching towards Waterfall's direction. “I have one more attack I need to clean before we can go, and it’s absolutely important I take care of it before we do anything else!”

His human-friend makes no sign of annoyance; no complaint, no slouch, no groan or sigh. They simply close their eyes for a very long minute before speaking again.

“Okay. One more. Then we have to go.”

“Don’t worry! I know it’s taken longer than planned, but it’ll all be worth it when I show you my last attack, because this! Is my special attack!

In all honesty, Papyrus had no idea what he was doing. He could only hope that if he kept talking, then by some miracle everything would work out in his favor. What ended up happening next no one saw coming.

But it certainly answered his prayers.

Papyrus turns to the mountain of unpolished bones he had summoned and begins to concentrate. If he focused hard enough, he could make his special attack extra flashy, having it explode from the heap of ulnas and fibulas in a spectacular show. Any extra second of time he could buy would be magic well spent in his book.

“Alright! Everyone! I hope your shoes are tied, because this is going to blow your socks off!” Papyrus raises his arm and felt the familiar draw of magic pull at his fingertips. Everyone turned their attention to the bone pile expectantly. “I present to you, My Special Attack!”

Papyrus flexes his hand… And nothing happens.

“I said, My Special Attack!” Papyrus says again, mentally commanding the bones to rise. The trio waited, but again nothing happens.

“Um, is that it?” Kid asks. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s cool and all, but I don’t really see a difference.”

“No! That’s not it!” Papyrus says. “I know it’s there! I can feel it! But something’s getting in the way!”

Papyrus angrily stomps over to the bone pile, wondering how under the Earth his own weapon could possibly get stuck. When he rounds the corner, the sight before him is enough to make his bone marrow boil.

It’s that infernal small white dog, and he’s chewing on his special attack.

The accursed canine is just lying there, happily munching on his bone attacks without a care in the world! It was beyond rude to have such complete disregard for other people’s possessions! And worst of all, this dog ruined the perfect opportunity to look cool in front of his friends!

Insulted beyond measure, Papyrus instantly forgets his mission to keep his human-friend occupied. This was no longer about keeping his friend distracted. This was personal.

“YOU!” Papyrus shouts with such force that it echoes throughout the clearing. The dog, its breed indeterminate other than it was most-likely in the toy group, looks up unperturbed. He wags his tail innocently, despite the incriminating evidence still between his jaws. “DROP THAT BONE RIGHT NOW YOU MEDDLESOME MUTT!”

Papyrus lunges for the bone, but the small dog is frustratingly fast and easily darts out of the way. He stops a few feet off, rump in the air and bushy tail waving tauntingly, goading the skeleton to play chase. Blinded by anger, Papyrus takes the bait and sprints after the dog.

“I MEAN IT YOU PESTERING POOCH! GET BACK HERE!”

“Papyrus, don’t run after him!” the human shouts. “He thinks it’s a game!”

“Watch out dude!” Kid warns. “The ground is slippery!”

Their words fall on deaf ears as the excessively tall skeleton bounds in erratic circles after the comically small canine. Ducking and weaving, darting and feinting, the white dog teases the bigger monster as he runs around him, having the time of his life. Then, either by accident or intention, the annoying dog makes a break for it and bolts towards the clearing’s exit, deftly leaping over a patch of slick ice, and out of the woods.

Papyrus isn’t so lucky. So focused on the chase, the skeleton doesn’t catch sight of the danger, and the next thing he knows, his feet are slipping out from under him.

Arms wheeling, Papyrus lets out an undignified shriek before toppling over and landing hard on his back.

“Papyrus! Are you okay?” Kid gasps, running up to him.

“Mngh. I’m fine.” The skeleton mumbles, rubbing his throbbing skull.

“Thank goodness,” his human-friend breathes in relief. “The last thing we need to happen is you getting hurt.”

Wait. Getting hurt? Hmmm.

Papyrus sits up carefully, an idea forming in his mind. “Yes, well it takes a lot more than a little ice to stop this skel- OH! OW! OW! OW!”

“What happened?” the kids beside him frantically ask. “What’s wrong?!”

“My ankle!” Papyrus wails, making a show of grabbing his right foot. “I think I have twisted my ankle and cannot walk!”

“Oh no,” his human-pal panics. “What do we do?”

Kid begins to pace, his feet itching to move to keep up with his racing mind.

“I got it! You help Papyrus get home! I’ll call my sister and see if she can help! She’s a doctor!”

“Papyrus, can you get up?”

“I think so, but I do not think we will be able to leave Snowdin after all today.”

“That’s not important now,” his human-friend says, though their face betrays their true feelings. “Let’s just focus on getting you home and fixed up.”

With an over-the-top display, Papyrus delicately gets up and balances on one foot. While his human-friend is nowhere near tall enough to act as a crutch, they do their best to support him at the hip while they all hobble back to the main town.

Kid races off to the library as fast as he can to video chat with his sister over UnderNet as the human and monster slowly hop back home. Once inside, the duo stumbles over to the couch and collapse on the cushions, both breathless from the effort. Papyrus stretches out, taking up the entire length of the sofa and then some, while his friend removes his boots as gently as they can. No sooner does he get comfortable does his ribcage start to ring.

Digging into his battle body, Papyrus pulls out a cellphone and answers.

“Hello? This is the phone of the Great Papyrus! Great Papyrus speaking!”

“Oh my God! Papyrus? My brother just called and told me you were hurt! Are you okay?” A nasally voice trembles.

“Oh! Hello Doctor Alphys! Y-yes, I believe I may have twisted my ankle on some ice today.”

“O-oh dear. Is it serious? Sh-should I come over and examine you? I know I’m not THAT kind of doctor, b-but I could still help-”

“Thank you for the kind offer, Alphys, but that won’t be necessary!” Papyrus cuts her off. While he admired the royal scientist deeply, if Alphys came over she might expose him for lying about his injury, which was a risk he couldn’t afford. “I believe it is a minor sprain that will heal on its own in a few days!”

“A-are you sure? ‘Cause it won’t be any trouble for me at all, a-and I heard you had a special guest staying with you who I kind of wanted to meet-“

“I’m one-hundred percent positive! Thanks for your concern! Talk to you later Alphys!”

Papyrus hangs up in a rush, his fingers fumbling over the buttons. That last part scared him more than the thought of her finding out he was faking. ‘Special guest?’ How did she learn about that?

“Was that Kid’s sister?” Papyrus’ human-friend asks. If he had any skin, Papyrus would have jumped out of it. He nearly forgot they were there.

“Yes. Alphys is a doctor and the king’s royal scientist. She, uh, advised me to keep my foot elevated and put ice on it,” Papyrus fibs.

Without hesitation, his pal runs upstairs to fetch the necessary supplies from his room, but Papyrus only gets a second of peace before his cellphone rings again.

“Hello! This is-”

“NNYGHH! PAPYRUS! ARE YOU OKAY?!” a new voice screams so loud into the receiver that Papyrus has to hold the phone out at arm’s length. “Alphys just sent me a text that you were hurt!”

“H-hi, Undyne! Yes it’s true! The Great Papyrus has been wounded while in the line of duty, fending off delinquent dogs! But fear not! It is only a sprain! I should be back on the job in a matter of days!”

“Days? Maaan, that sucks! I can’t have my best sentry incapacitated at home, bored and alone while he recovers! Hey! I know! Why don’t I stop by later with a pot of my special cure-all soup? It’ll make you better in no time!”

“N-n-no thanks, Undyne! I, uh, I already ate!”

“No thanks?! WHATDOYA MEAN ‘NO THANKS’?!” The phone shutters so violently, Papyrus fears it will break. “Don’tcha wanna get better?!”

Out of the corner of his eye, Papyrus spies his human-friend carefully picking their way back down the stairs, their arms loaded with a variety of soft things from pillows to towels.

“I do! I do!” Papyrus sweats despite knowing Undyne couldn’t even see him. “But y-you know what they say! Time heals all twisted ankles, and what not! Besides, your soups can be rather… explosion-y.”

“That’s not how the expression goes, and my soups are not!” There’s a tense pause and Papyrus waits, uncertain if his boss would call him out while his friend props his foot up on a stack of blankets. “Well, okay, maybe they are, but that’s beside the point! Papyrus! You take it easy, alright? I bet that lazy brother of yours is gonna wait on you hand and foot, so milk it for all it’s worth while you can! And don’t forget to call me! I’m still expecting those daily reports!”

“Understood, Undyne! Talk to you later!” And with that, Papyrus hangs up the phone.

“That was Undyne?” Papyrus’ human-pal asks, placing an ice pack they retrieved from the fridge onto his ankle.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Papyrus rubs his forehead. All this care and compassion from his friends was beginning to give him a headache.

“She didn’t sound sick,” his friend says absently.

“Don’t be fooled. She’s even louder when she’s at the top of her game.”

There’s the sound of the front door opening and closing before the kid can respond, and both heads turn to find Sans kicking the snow off his shoes.

“Got a text… from Alphys,” he says between breaths. “She said… you got hurt. What happened?”

“Ah! It was a terrible thing, brother!” the taller skeleton pantomimes. “I was defending my pride against a stray mongrel when a dastardly patch of frictionless, solidified water appeared out of nowhere to do me in! It failed of course, but not before taking out my ankle! Alas, I am now bedridden and unfit for travel for several days!”

Sans hurries to his side to inspect the supposed injury. Upon finding none, he looks at his brother’s face in confusion. “What?”

“Papyrus slipped on some ice chasing a dog and twisted his ankle,” his human-friend translates, misunderstanding the question. “Kid and I helped him get home.”

Sans stares at his brother for a long time, trying to understand. Papyrus could do nothing more than to silently beg with his eyes for Sans to play along, shifting nervous glances between him and the human hovering nearby.

“Oooh, I see,” Sans says at last, getting the message. He turns back to his brother’s foot and whistles through his teeth. “Yikes, bro. That looks like a pretty bad sprain. You’re gonna have to say off that foot for a week at least.”

“Oh, it’s worse than I feared!” The taller skeleton dramatically throws an arm over his face, but steals a glance at his human-friend. Their face looked grim.

“C’mon, bro. Let’s get you upstairs to bed. The last thing you need is to mess up your back on that couch. Buddy, you wait here. I’ll be right back.” Sans coaxes his brother to his feet and helps him up the stairs. Once behind the safety of a closed door, Papyrus drops the act, sits on the edge of his bed and lets out a heavy sigh.

“So why exactly are you pretending you’re hurt?” Sans asks.

“That kid,” Papyrus shakes his head and rubs his neck. “They’re nearly impossible to keep distracted. They’re really…”

“Determined?” Sans supplies.

“-Persistent. Look at me, Sans. I could barely keep them busy for one day, and I had to fake getting hurt to do it! How am I going to keep them in Snowdin forever?”

“We’ll figure something out,” Sans says, but he sounds doubtful himself. “At least you managed to buy us some time with that hurt ankle story.”

“Yeah, but I hate having to lie like this. I wish we could just tell them the truth.”

“Hey, me too, but what if they don’t believe us? Or worse, what if they do? What if they want to leave the Underground to go back to all the other humans, or turn on us for lying to them?”

“They wouldn’t do that!” Papyrus jumps to their defense before looking away in uncertainty. “Would they?”

“Who can say?” Sans shrugs. “I’ve never dealt with any humans who know that they’re human. Who knows what they’re truly like?”

“Maybe they’d understand!” Papyrus suggests hopefully, falling back into his usual optimistic patterns. “Maybe they’ll be thankful for looking out for them, and they won’t want to leave!”

“Maybe. But do you really want to take that chance?”

“I’m not scared of them, if that’s what you’re asking,” Papyrus says. “They may be human, but I don’t believe they could hurt anyone if they tried.”

“One can only hope,” Sans says darkly, and leaves Papyrus to rest.


“Hey, bucko. Thanks for helping my brother before I got home,” Sans tells you as he crosses the hall to his room. “He’s resting now, so please don’t bother him."

“It’s no problem,” you say nervously from the couch. An urgent question dances on the tip of your tongue. Might as well ask it now.

“Hey, Sans? I know you just got home, but do you think you could walk me through Waterfall? I should have left hours ago, but we kept getting held up.”

“And leave my brother in his time of need?” Sans scoffs. “Sorry, kid. No can do.”

“Okay. What about tomorrow?”

“Depends on if Papyrus feels any better. Even if he does, I still gotta go to work, so I wouldn’t bet on it.”

You figured something like this would happen. You try not to let your disappointment show.

“Say, it’s getting late. Want me walk the inn?”

A memory of the quaking bed in the inn flashes in your mind and you suppress a shiver. You don’t think you could sleep there even if you wanted to.

“If… if it’s alright with you, can I stay here tonight?”

“What? Really? You want to stay here?”

“Yeah.”

“Uh, sure I guess. As long as you don’t mind the couch.”

“I don’t mind. Trust me, I have a feeling I’d get more sleep on this than the inn at the moment.”

“Heh, if you say so. I guess help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge. We should have leftover spaghetti, I think. Bathroom’s upstairs, and knock on my door if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Sans.”

“Good night, buddy.” And with that, Sans retreats to his room for the night, leaving you alone in the silence.

You take a few minutes to arrange all the pillows and blankets you’ve collected into a softer mattress to pad out the couch springs, but unsurprisingly sleep does not come easy to you. Maybe you’re just not tired enough yet. You did a lot of things today, but none of which were particularly energy draining. Perhaps if you busied yourself with something to do, you’d wind down faster.

You reach over one arm of the couch and feel around for your bag of yarn that’s miraculously stuck with you through today’s events. Fishing through the bag, you snag the crochet hook and ball of bright blue. It takes you a few seconds to find its end in the gloom, but once you do, you tie a slip knot, wrap the trailing string around your pointer finger, and make a long single chain of loops.

You weave without a particular pattern in mind. It can be easily undone if it doesn’t come out to your liking, but the stitching does little to distract your thoughts. With years of practice under your belt, you can keep count of your chains without even thinking about it, and once again your thoughts begin to wander.

For an hour or so you stare out the window, watching as that strange ethereal light fades and the street lamps turn on. You wonder if the presence of light without a source was tied to the monsters who lived here, and if it brightened and dimmed with their own waking and sleeping. The difference wasn’t drastic; it was still pretty dark even at the liveliest time of morning, and it was still pretty light in the evening, but it would certainly explain when it shifted from ‘day’ to ‘night’.

Speaking of night, it has been two days, two days, now since you’ve left home. Again, your mother didn’t come to get you, and you can only assume it’s because her anger has surpassed all quantifiable levels. Could you blame her? You said you wanted to get home, but here you still were, wasting time and dilly-dallying. And although many of the delays were arguably out of your control, you guiltily admit that most of your time here in Snowdin you spent… well, enjoying it.

You notice your stitches start to get tight, and you slow down and work them loose again.

As you give your weaving more shape, other questions bubble in your mind, many repeats from last night along with a few new ones. Did you even deserve to go home after all you’ve been through? You OBVIOUSLY like it so much better here than in the Ruins, you might as well just stay here and avoid her wrath. No, you still want to apologize for breaking your mother’s rules, so you have to go back, at least for that. But what if when you did go home, your mom just turned around and kick you out again? Did you even deserve to see her again after all you’ve done? Probably not, you decide.

You realize you’ve started to thread your hook the wrong way by accident, and pull on your yarn to undo the last few loops. It’s hard to see which way it needs to go in the dim light. Frustrated, you stare at the dark corners of the living room, as if trying to place the blame for all your problems on the blackness without much success.

You weren’t scared of the dark, but you hated how it conveniently covered up all the distractions from your real fears.

The click of a doorknob draws your attention to the second floor, and you watch, suddenly petrified, as Sans emerges from his room. His movements are jerky and uncoordinated as he shambles over to the stairs, and without the light in his eyes, he looks positively possessed.

Gripping the handrail, he begins to descend. Half way down, he stops, his vacant skull turns towards you.

“Hey kiddo,” he whispers, and his eyes come to life with that familiar faint, white light. “You still awake?”

You nod, and begin breathing again. “Were you… sleepwalking?”

“Me? Nah. It’s just time for one of my hourly midnight snacks.”

Hourly midni- wait, what?

Sans reaches the bottom of the stairs and crosses the living room into the kitchen, rubbing an eye socket with one hand, and scratching his sacrum through his boxers with the other. You’re temporarily blinded when he opens the fridge and light floods your vision. Then just as quickly, you’re left seeing spots when the door closes again.

Inserting the tip of a ketchup bottle between a gap in his teeth, Sans takes a swig of the condiment and shuffles over to the couch to watch you work.

“What’cha making, there?”

“Dunno yet,” you shrug.

“Cool. But don’t you think you should be getting some rest? Growin’ kids need their sleep, and you’ll have plenty of time to work on that tomorrow.”

“Can’t sleep,” you admit, keeping your eyes on your crocheting.

“Oh. Something bothering you, or something?”

You nod then add; “But it’s not the couch.”

“Ah. You wanna talk about it?”

Your lips quiver as you try to put your fears into words. How could you tell him that you wanted to go home, and yet you didn’t want to go home at the same time? How could you explain that you were desperate to apologize, but afraid to even see your mom again? Would she accept you? Would she reject you? Would she ever trust you again?

“Sans…” you begin, carefully wording your question. “Do you think people are good because they want to be? Or are they only good because they fear being punished?”

Sans draws in a breath, hissing as he does so.

“Hoo boy, forget I asked if you wanted to talk. It’s way too late at night to be asking philosophical questions like those, kid.”

“I’m serious,” you plead. “The only reason I snuck out two days ago was because I thought I could get away with it. If I had known I would get locked out, I wouldn’t have done it. Does that mean I’m not good? Does that make me a bad person?”

“I don’t think it’s that black and white, kid,” Sans says, rubbing the back of his neck. “We all make mistakes. Big ones, small ones, irreversible ones... I think as long as your intent isn’t bad, then neither are you.”

“Yeah, but I still knew what I was doing was wrong,” you let your hands drop, no longer feeling up to crocheting. “I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the Ruins, but I did anyway. Breaking the rules is bad, so aren’t I bad?”

“Well, yeah, breaking the rules is usually considered bad, but then again, not all rules are good rules, and maybe some need to be broken? No wait, what I’m trying to say is as long as you understand you did something bad, but take responsibility for it, then you’re still good. I think. Ah, sorry. I’m not good at explaining it.”

You blink several times and rub your eyes, half out of stress tears and half to stay awake.

“Listen,” Sans says, placing a boney hand on your shoulder. “What I’m basically getting at is, good and bad, it’s complicated and there’re a lot of exceptions to the rules. If you try to be good, then you’re already more than half way there.”

“I do try to be good. I want to be. But I don’t think just wanting to be good is enough to make up for all the bad I’ve done.”

“Kid, you’re being too hard on yourself,” Sans sighs. “We all do bad things, either intentional or by accident. It’s how you own up to them that really determines if you’re good or bad. Understand?”

Honestly? You don’t understand, but you guess you appreciate the sentiment, so you’re grateful and you nod anyway.

“Heh. Good.” Sans gives your shoulder a squeeze, and heads back upstairs. “Oh, hey, and kid?” Sans says before entering his room. Despite starting the conversation, he looks unsure as to what to say next. You wait patiently as he puts his thoughts together. “I know you want to go home, but… Don’t think you have to leave as soon as you can, okay? You got a place to stay here in Snowdin if you need one. We’ll all look after you here. Alright?”

“A-alright.” You say perplexed. You can’t figure why he’d say something so specific like that, but you’re thankful nonetheless. “Goodnight, Sans.”

“Night, kid.” Sans whispers before closing his door and you roll over on the couch. This time rest receives you and you sleep without dreaming.


The next morning Papyrus puts on one heck of an act to show he isn’t any better. He moans and complains far more than necessary as his brother helps him downstairs to the couch, and Papyrus’ friend is forced to scoot so far over to accommodate him that they’re practically sitting on the arm rest.

For most of the morning he has his brother and friend tend to his every whim and ridiculous request, from fetching water, to adjusting the cushions, to finding the remote, to reading to him, and while his human-pal seems concerned about his comfort, Papyrus can tell deep down they’d rather be anywhere else.

“You’ve got this handled, right Sans?” They ask nonchalantly when Papyrus seems momentarily placated. “I mean, doting on Papyrus isn’t really a two person job, and I’m not doing much to help. You don’t need me getting under foot, so I’ll be getting on my way now.”

“Slow down there, buddy,” Sans stops them. “It’s true Pap doesn’t need two people slaving over him, but I gotta go to work now, and I can’t just leave my brother alone when he’s injured. What if he needs something? I can’t be running back and forth between my post and here all day. Can I trust you to look after him while I’m gone?”

Papyrus’ friend nods, be he can tell they’re reluctant.

“Great. I’ve got three back to back shifts today, and I won’t be back until late tonight. Call me if there’s anything you can’t handle, got it?”

They mutter an okay, and with that Sans leaves for the day, forcing the human into a corner where they had to stay put.

Papyrus’ metaphorical heart pangs for them. They look absolutely miserable and Papyrus agrees that it is far from fair, but what other choice did they have? He certainly hopes every day won’t be like this, towers of excuses built on top of lies, bolted together with nails made out of deceit all just to keep one child protected from themself. He can’t do this forever. Sooner or later the kid would catch wise. How long would either he or Sans be able to keep this up?

“Hey, pal, don’t look so blue,” Papyrus tries to cheer them up. “Come sit with me and we can watch TV together.” His friend does as asked without resistance, worming their way under his legs, and turning around so that the limbs lay across their lap when they sit on the couch.

“As I recall, you don’t have a TV, so you’ve never seen any of Mettaton’s shows before, correct?”

They shake their head. No, they have not.

“Well, then you’re in for a treat!” Papyrus flipped through the channels until he found one broadcasting reruns of Mettaton’s programs on the public access station. Oh, it was an episode on oil painting! This was one of the better series in Papyrus’ opinion. The show had a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere about it, and gave off positive vibes, even if the giant afro wig did absolutely nothing to complement his favorite robot. “Behold! The Underground’s most beloved hexahedron heart-throb!”

“That’s Mettaton?” Papyrus’ friend asks flatly.

“The one and only!”

“But he’s just a box.”

“He’s not just a box! He’s a box with charisma! And a wheel!”

“And people fall head over heels for this guy?”

“Kind of hard not to! He owns all the TV stations, so he’s pretty much the only celebrity we’ve got!”

“You know, for all the hype around tee-vee, this is pretty underwhelming.”

“That’s what they all say, but give it a chance! You’ll be sucked into his charms soon enough!”

“Right…”

The pair watch the screen in silence for a while, then, deciding that television just wasn’t their cup of tea, Papyrus’ human-friend pulls out a ball of yarn and hook and resumes working on a half-finished project.

It drags on like this for a couple of hours, Papyrus absently absorbing the robot’s antics as he paints portrait after portrait of himself while his friend waits at his beck and call, weaving their string to pass the time. When the kid began running out of light blue yarn, they started using a darker blue, and when they came near the end of that, they switched to a rich purple, adding it into their creation with seamless effort. By noon, they finish their project and hold it up for inspection.

It’s a sweater; a pastel periwinkle at the collar, blending into navy before smoothly transitioning into a deep mulberry at the end of the sleeves and waist. Papyrus is more than impressed; he’s enraptured.

“You made that by yourself?” he asks in awe.

“Yep.” Rubbing their thumb and pointer finger over the trailing end with their glove, they cut the yarn with friction and seal the string from unraveling. They slip the new sweater on then pull in their arms. After some wiggling, they pop their arms out again, and pull the old sweater off, and out through the collar.

“That’s better,” they sigh in relief, flexing their arms in the soft, fresh fabric. “It feels good to put on a clean shirt. Now if only I could do the same for my pants.”

“That’s incredible!” Papyrus praises. “Do you think you could teach me how to do… whatever it is you just did?”

“Crocheting?” They smile, actually looking happy for the first time that day. “Yeah, it’s not too hard.”

“Neato! How do you start?”

“Well first things first, you’re going to need a hook...”

Papyrus pays close attention as his friend shows him how to make a slip knot by making a loop and drawing the hook through and catching the tail, then how to make a chain and how to count them, and then how to turn around to start a second row, how to slip stitch, how to back loop, and how to do a dozen other things Papyrus didn’t even know was possible to do with nothing more than a slightly bent knitting needle. He tries his best to focus and remember, but there’s just so much to learn, he fears he simply won’t be able fit it all in his cranium.

His friend lets him practice the basics with a color of yarn of their choice. Picking the vibrant red, they walk him through the beginner steps over and over until he gets a feel for the motion. There’s plenty of stumbles and false starts, but after a few tries he surprises himself when he actually begins to get the hang of it.

“There you go!” They encourage. “You’re doing it! If you keep it up until you’ve run out of yarn, you’ll have a decent sized scarf!”

Thrilled by his newfound talent, Papyrus weaves on while his human-pal ducks into the kitchen, coming back seconds later with a pair of chopsticks from the flatware drawer. The skeleton pauses a moment and watches as his friend returns to the couch, pulls out a pink ball of yarn, and begins to knit with their substitute tools.

“You can knit, too???” Papyrus asks flabbergasted. They nod, trying to be humble, but that smile on their face is full of pride. “You’ll have to show me how to do that next! After I finish my super awesome scarf!”

His human friend chuckles as they begin to cast on, wrapping yarn around their thumb, over and under their improvised needle and back again until they’re ready to begin.

Papyrus works diligently, repeating a mantra in his head to help him remember the steps. ’Under, over, catch, pull through, under, over, catch, pull through. Chain one and skip the first loop when turning around, under, over, catch, pull though…’ Every so often he steals a glance at his companion to see what they’re working on. They’re remarkably fast at the craft, and Papyrus finds that they’ve got the beginnings of a hat already finished thirty minutes in. The circular pattern even has ridges and groves for extra detail. Meanwhile, he’s only finished about ten rows of single crochets, not all of them even, and several too loose or too tight.

Envy flares within him, and Papyrus throws himself back into his work, all other thoughts pushed out of his mind. So what if he hadn’t yet learned how to make fancy circles or wavy patterns? He was going to make the best scarf ever! Papyrus gets about half way through the ball of red yarn when his friend decides the hat is done. They cut the string, then several shorter pieces and tie a pink pompom to its top, before starting a new project. Several minutes later, they pause, look up, and ask him;

“Do you have any safety pins?”

Papyrus looks at their knitting, but can’t make heads or tails of what it’s supposed to be. “What do you need safety pins for?”

“I’m making mittens to match the hat. I want to give them to Sans. I think they’d match his slippers. I need safety pins to hold the place for the thumbs.”

“You’re making these for my brother?” Papyrus’ eye sockets tear up. “How thoughtful!”

“It’s nothing,” They shrug nonchalantly. “I figured I should make him something so he doesn’t feel left out when he sees your awesome new scarf.”

Papyrus lets them know that there should be safety pins in the medicine cabinet upstairs, and in a matter of minutes his friend has retrieved a couple of pins to continue on. The misplaced jealousy Papyrus felt in sight of their superior skill level washes away when he imagines Sans in his new pink hat and mittens. And with him by his side in his hand-knit scarf, they were going to look fantastic!

Papyrus’ human-friend finishes one mitten and is half way through the other when Papyrus runs out of red yarn. With his pal’s permission, he adds a personal touch of his own by embroidering a large capital letter ‘P’ on both ends with their bright yellow yarn, before finally calling his masterpiece complete.

“DONE!” He exclaims proudly, holding up the scarf to show it off. It’s fat in some spots, and skinny in others, a few stitches have been skipped here and there, and one of the ‘P’s was crooked, but Papyrus had made it all on his own, and therefore it was perfect.

“That looks great for your first try at crocheting!” Papyrus’ human-friend commends him. “Put it on!”

Eager to please, Papyrus tosses his old tattered scarf aside and wraps the new one loosely around his neck. He looks down in admiration at his work, but frowns upon realizing he can’t see it very well.

“Ugh, I’ve got to get to a mirror!” he decides, and without thinking, he leaps to his feet.

“Papyrus, don’t-!” his friend starts, then cuts themself off with a sharp gasp.

The harsh inhale is enough to stop Papyrus in his tracks before he races up the stairs to the bathroom, and he looks back to see their horrified expression.

“What?” he asks. His friend doesn’t respond. Speechless, their eyes drift down to his feet. Papyrus follows their gaze and looks down, but sees nothing out of the ordinary. “I don’t get it? What’s wrong? Why- oh.

Realizing his mistake, Papyrus immediately pretends to go lame.

“Oh! Oh, my ankle!” Grabbing his left foot, he hops around in mock pain. “It felt better just then, but I think I’ve injured it again!”

“Papyrus… your ankle…” the human speaks slowly, evenly. The skeleton dares to meet their eyes, only to find they’ve gone narrow as the gears in their head churn furiously. “You aren’t hurt… you were never hurt, were you?”

The statement is worded like a question, but it sounds more like an accusation.

“You’ve been pretending?”

“No! No! Of course not!” Papyrus says desperately. “My ankle really is twisted, see? Ow!”

“That’s the wrong ankle, Papyrus! It was the right one you said you twisted!” Their voice cracks and they clench their makeshift needles so hard, that they threaten to snap.

Papyrus’ mouth hangs open, but no words come out. On the couch, his friend’s breath becomes quick and shallow and the squeeze their eyes tight.

“You were lying… even though you KNEW I had to go, so why?” They speak in quivering fragments, half to him and half to themself as they try to work it out. “Did you lie about anything else? All those errands? Undyne? The King? Have you been wasting my time on purpose?

“No! It’s not like that! Just let me explain-!”

“You’ve been trying to keep me from leaving!” They declare at last, hitting the nail on the head. “From going to the king! From going home!”

“No! Well, yes! But you have to understand-!”

“I don’t want to hear it!” they scream, throwing their knitting on the ground, angrily jumping off the couch, and stomping out the front door.

“Wait! Come back!” Dropping the act, Papyrus leaps after them as they march down the street. “Friend, please-!”

“Don’t call me that!” They shout back at him, their face hot with tears. “I’ve been trying to go home for days- I need to go home! But you’ve been keeping me trapped here! A real friend wouldn’t do that!”

Their words hit Papyrus like a slap in the face and he flinches. Not waiting for his response, the human turns on their heels, and sprints off towards Waterfall. Dumbstruck, Papyrus watches them go before snapping to his senses and giving chase.


You run.

As fast as your feet can carry you, as fast as your heart can beat, until your lungs quit taking in air and your legs turn to jelly, and you’re forced to stop to catch your breath.

You hurt, but not physically; it’s a soul-crushing sensation, knowing you’ve been tricked, deceived.

He hadlied to you. Papyrus had lied to prevent you from going forward, from leaving. Did this mean Sans had lied too? Were they both in on it?

But they had given you food and a place to sleep and a feeling of safety, like you could belong there if you wanted. You had trusted them, believed they wanted to help you, and these were their true colors?

You don’t know whether to feel sick or violated. Mostly you just feel betrayed.

You march on when you can breathe easily again, setting a swift pace down the path should have traveled two days ago. Your eyes sting with tears, but you force yourself not to wipe them away, knowing that rubbing your eyes would only make them itch worse.

All around you houses become more scarce and trees more dense. In the distance, you hear the sound of cascading water, and a thick, impenetrable wall of fog formed by the ever-condensing humidity of Waterfall’s air clashing with Snowdin’s chill looms ahead. You advance into the cloud of mist, aware of the ground beneath you turn to slush and mud and feel the temperature start to rise.

Advancing footsteps grow louder behind you. You ignore them.

“Pal, please! I-I know this is hard for you to comprehend, but you have to believe me that we were only doing this because we care about you and don’t want to see you get hurt!”

“Go away, Papyrus,” you grimace, your stomach churning at his words. You look over your shoulder but see nothing more than a smudgy silhouette a few feet down the road. “I’m going to Waterfall and to the king with or without your help.”

“Friend, I admire your tenacity, but I’m afraid I simply cannot allow you to do that.”

Papyrus spoke tonelessly, as if trying to sound intimidating, but you weren’t falling for it. “Ha! Try and stop me!” You yell, throwing your own empty threat at him.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to this,” Papyrus says in defeat. “Please forgive me.”

You ignore his cryptic statement and walk on, but only manage to take a few more steps before you feel the ground beneath your feet start to rumble. The hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and you barely stop in time when a wall of bones erupts from the earth, blocking your path.

Snow crunches behind you and you wheel around as Papyrus emerges from the fog, closing in with slow, deliberate steps. All the anger that was burning inside you is extinguished as ice-cold fear courses through your veins.

“I am sorry it had to come to this,” he says forlornly, his hand raised and glowing with magic ready to summon. “But, I think it will be in everyone’s best interest, if I do not let you proceed any further.”

Chapter Text

A barricade of bones as thick as young trees and as tall as you blocks your path. You stare dumbly at them, mouth agape. A tiny unhelpful part of your brain tells you that not even twenty-four hours ago you had probably been polishing these very same bones, and now they were being used against you.

You look back at Papyrus and try to talk, but it seems as if you and your tongue are, quite literally, no longer on speaking terms as your jaw refuses to let you make letters and sound.

Papyrus takes a hesitant step forward and you can practically feel your kidneys kick into overdrive as adrenaline courses through your veins. Instinct screams at you to abscond or attack, but with nowhere to run to, you can’t chose the former, and the last bit of self-control you have flat out refuses to do the latter. Unable to flee or fight, you’re forced to take a third option; you freeze.

The decision proves no better than your other choices. Completely cornered, you begin to panic, questioning how much you truly know about this skeleton you had called a friend. Your head starts to swim and your throat goes tight, making breathing difficult. You blink, and for a split second, instead of a fence of femurs, it’s a door in front of you, and the cold chill creeping up your spine is replaced with the heat of your mother’s flames on your back. The similarity of the situation is enough to shock you back to your senses and you finally recover your voice.

“Don’t,” you choke out, barely louder than a whisper.

“I have to,” Papyrus says remorsefully.

“Please.”

“I’m sorry.”

By some unspoken command, Papyrus’ magic begins to shift, and slowly but steadily the wall of bones starts to advance, gently urging you towards the skeleton’s open hand.

“Come on, friend. Let’s just go home and forget any of this ever happened.” Papyrus speaks gently, as if trying to soothe a frightened dog, or maybe console a rabid one. “I’ll make us some spaghetti, and you can show me how to knit! Doesn’t that sound more fun than going to see some stuffy, old king?”

Your heart races as the force at your back begins to increase, and every nerve in your body stands on edge. No, you can’t go back. You won’t go back. They can’t keep you here! You need to go home!

The barrier of bones practically makes you stumble as they push you through the slush, but you manage to find your footing and finally act. Steeling every muscle in your body, you dig in your heels and forcibly push back. Your resistance is enough to make the bones behind you stop in their tracks, but the pressure is starting to build. You won’t be able to hold it back for long.

“Please, pal. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.” Papyrus begs you. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

’It’s too late for that,’ you think to yourself, but then a risky idea begins to form in your mind. It might not work, but you have no other options. You’ll have to take the chance if you want any hope of escaping to Waterfall.

“I-if I come willingly, will you make the bones go away?” you bargain, the weight pushing against your spine becoming painful.

“Of course,” Papyrus brightens just a little bit and the pressing force behind you eases up, but when you look behind you, the wall is still there.

You take an experimental step forward and the bones keep their distance. Tentatively, you take another, and this time the blockade moves; not closing in, but instead going down. You carefully make your way towards Papyrus before he can get suspicious of your motive, all the while keeping one eye on the obstacle behind you. You’d only have one shot at this.

“I’m sorry it had to come to this,” Papyrus apologizes again when you’re only about an arm’s length away. Behind you the bones have lowered to about knee-height. Still not low enough for your liking, but it would have to do.

“I’m sorry too, Papyrus,” you say, stopping just out of his reach. “But I’m not going back to Snowdin.”

Before he can reply, you sharply turn on your toes, bolt towards the boney hurdles at a dead sprint, and just as Papyrus processes your true intent, you jump with all your might.


Papyrus’ knee-jerk reaction is to command his magic to block the path again, but he’s not fast enough to cage them in.

His bones shoot upward just as they leap, but instead of corralling the little runaway, he only manages to catch them in the shin. The impact is enough to throw the off balance, and they crash down ungracefully onto their hands and knees. Hissing, they draw up their smarting leg and cradle it for a few moments.

Papyrus lets out a shaky breath. They had almost gotten away again. They could still get away again, but right now they were momentarily hindered, and he decides to take no chances and pull out all the stops so they couldn’t escape a second time.

Reaching within himself, Papyrus taps into his magic reserved for his special attacks, and orders; “Don’t move!”

Whether they took his advice or weren’t planning on budging anyway, the kid doesn’t shift an inch at the tidal wave of blue bones rushing up to meet them. They suppress their shivers as the attacks harmlessly phase through their motionless form. Papyrus, on the other hand, is deep in concentration. Each blue attack that passes through them subtly assesses them, gauging their power and strength. The impression he gets is alarmingly more than he would have ever imagined. It would take nearly all of his magic to restrain them, and he could already tell he would not be able to keep them down for very long once he did, but a few minutes was all he would need.

Calmly focusing his magic, Papyrus envisions a tendril of it directed at his friend, imagining them completely surrounded, engulfed in blue… His human-friend watches him with eyebrows knit, lost as to what just happened, before their eyes go wide as their personal gravity increases ten-fold.

They hit the ground with a gasp; whether it’s from surprise or the air being forced out of their lungs, Papyrus can’t tell, but now that they’ve been subdued by his blue magic he could easily take them back home, even if he had to drag them there. Papyrus quickens his step, urgency in the air. He could already feel his magic rapidly draining just holding them down.

“You have… the same magic… as Sans…” His pal says between breaths when Papyrus gets within hearing range. Their face is blank and they don’t even sound all that surprised.

“Yes. I apologize for using it on you without warning. I know it can be uncomfortable, but I’ll call it off when we’re back home.”

“No!” The cough and start to struggle. “I’m not going back!” Papyrus could feel them thrashing against his magic like a lassoed stallion. Then, grunting with effort, his human-pal plants their hands at their sides, pushes against the weight of the world on their back, and gets to their feet.

The skeleton stops mid-step, unable to believe what he’s seeing. Even with an injured leg, even with the mass of an entire mountain bearing down on them, how were they still standing?

Gritting their teeth, his human-friend eyes him up and down, and Papyrus tenses. He recognizes that calculating look in their eye- it was the same one all monsters had when judging their opponent, looking for an opening. He deserves such a look. It was only fair, after all. He had cornered them, attacked them, and pinned them down. He had pushed them too far and now they were directly pushing back. The human shifts their stance, and Papyrus braces.

But no counterattack comes. Instead of striking, the human turns tail and takes of running once more.

“How!?” Papyrus gawks. They shouldn’t have been able to move, much less run under the force of his magic. Quickly looking within himself, he could still feel his magic steadily being sapped away from his spell over them. He had not let them go, had not made them un-blue, but somehow they still kept going.

Already Papyrus could tell that chasing after them would exert more energy than he could afford to spend if he wanted to keep them tethered to him, so he stays where he stands and conjures more walls of ribs and radiuses, sweeping left and rolling right in an attempt to cut off his friend’s escape. He tries to be gentle, though it may have looked like the exact opposite to any on-looker. Most of the walls are short, ankle height, and half hidden in the snow in hopes that they would trip his pal up again and cause their own altered weight to take care of the rest, but the human has a sharp eye and skillfully skirts and skips his traps, easily avoiding them all.

They do start to slow, however, from the invisible cinderblocks chaining them down. Sometimes they barely manage to scrape by a bone, other times a bone scrapes them. The weapons may have disintegrated on contact, but it does nothing to soften their blows. The length of their jumps starts to shrink and their feet tangle on the end of one of Papyrus’ hurdles, but they still refuse to fall, no matter how much the stagger. They start to take hits more frequently as a result, and Papyrus feels it each time his magic connects with their person, and every time it does he pauses and frets, silently pleading for them to fold. They never do. Instead they keep pushing forward, all the while their will struggling against his.

“Why don’t you fight back?” Papyrus asks aloud in one of those pauses. Again and again they had the perfect opportunity to retaliate, to break his hold over them quick and simple, and each time they wouldn’t, always choosing to run even when it was directly into harm’s way.

“Because… I promised… I wouldn’t,” they pant. “And… and it’s more than that… I don’t… fight back… because… I don’t want to. So I won’t.” And just like that, they’re struggling onward again as bones close in on all sides.

Papyrus could feel himself speedily reaching the end of his limit. Soon his magic would fail him, and his friend would be released from his grasp whether he wanted to or not. As a last-ditch effort, he summons three barriers, each taller than the last. Bruised and breathless, his human-friend stumbles forward to meet them, refusing to give up. They jump the first wall easy, and tumble over the second. The third hurdle is more than twice as tall as they are, taller than Papyrus, even. Undaunted, the human takes a running start.

“No. There’s no way they can clear that,” Papyrus says under his breath. “That’s too tall for anyone to jump over!” But the human gave no indication that they planned to jump, and Papyrus gasps in horror when he realizes they were instead going to try to run right through.

Turning sideways at the last second, Papyrus’ friend rams the wall of bone with their shoulder at full force. They hit with enough impact that Papyrus could feel the dip in his magic as if getting slapped by a sound wave. It was painless on his end, but he couldn’t say the same for his friend. Eyes screwed tight and mouth open in a silent scream, they crumple to the ground and do not move.

Faint and afraid, Papyrus releases his blue magic on his friend at once as the bones before them crumble away. On legs like jelly, he wobbles over to their small body in the snow and falls to his knees. His friend is still breathing, but it’s obvious that they are no longer in any condition to resist or fight back, and the relief that floods him is almost enough to make Papyrus pass out.

“As you can see… you are no match… for the Great Papyrus,” Papyrus puffs. “And to think… this could have… all been avoided… if you just came quietly. I will be escorting you back to our residence now, but unfortunately I will be placing you under house arrest.”

The human cracks open one eye, clear and incisive as ever, and they roll it until it finds his.

“Don’t… bother…” they murmur, rolling over. “I’ll just… run away… again.” Although it was clear they couldn’t even stand, Papyrus knew deep down that they would stick to their word.

“Why are you so stubborn?” he whines in exasperation.

“Can’t help it... ‘S just the way I am.”

They try to sit up, but end up falling forward into Papyrus’ lap. He holds them there, too weak to stand up himself, much less carry them home, so the two unanimously call a truce and take a much needed rest.

“You wanted to help me at first,” Papyrus’ tiny pal says after a minute or two of nothing but their ragged breathing. “You said you’d take me through Waterfall. What changed?”

Gruesome visions of the thousand and one ways his friend could lose their soul flicker through Papyrus’ mind, but the right words to express them were lost to him.

“I got… scared.” It wasn’t a lie, but it certainly wasn’t the whole truth either. “I’m afraid if you go, you’ll never come back.”

“Papyrus, I know you don’t want me to leave. I don’t really want to leave either.”

“Then stay here!” Papyrus pleads. “I can still be your mother and Sans can be your father! Wait, no. Sans is nowhere mature enough for even simple father things like shaving or wearing a tie, much less raising a child. He’d make a better un-hip uncle. But that’s beside the point! What I’m trying to say is that we’ll gladly take care of you! You don’t have to leave! You could be happy here.”

To his surprise, Papyrus’ pal actually lets out a tiny chuckle. “I probably would be happy, Papyrus. But that’s just part of the problem. I have to go home so I can apologize to my other mom. Even if she doesn’t want me anymore, I have to try to make amends. You can’t even begin to understand how much I’ve been wondering and worrying and asking ‘why didn’t she come for me?’ I haven’t slept well in days, all this stress and not knowing… It’s killing me.”

’There are worse things out there that can kill you. That will kill you,’ Papyrus thinks to himself.

“That’s why I have to go, so I can accept my punishment and stop hating myself since my mom isn’t here to do it and get it over with.”

“There’s nothing I can say that’s going to change your mind, is there?”

“’Fraid not.”

Papyrus sighs and hangs his head in defeat. This was just one fight he could not win.

“But don’t be sad, Papyrus,” the kid brushes his forearm lightly. “You’ll see me again at least one more time. When I come back with the king.”

“I really hope I do,” Papyrus mumbles, hoping his friend doesn’t catch on to his deeper meaning.

“I promise.” With tremendous effort, they manage to stand. They sway a bit, but stay upright, and Papyrus helplessly watches them test their balance and take a few careful steps. Within moments they’re walking easily enough, if not with a slight limp from their battered shins. With no magic left to spare, there was nothing he could do to stop them now.

“I’m sorry,” Papyrus says hastily, before they can leave him and walk away. “For deceiving you… and fighting you,” ’and not being able to protect you,’ he thinks. “Can you ever forgive me?”

The human draws their lips into a tight line and stares at him for several seconds. “I’m still mad that you lied to me. I might be for a long time. But… I don’t want to go home having made a friend, only to lose them because I got upset they were worried for me. So… yes. I will forgive you.”

They look towards Waterfall and straighten, their eyes seeing nothing but the end goal and their posture filled with determination.

“Hey, can I ask you a favor?” the human child asks without looking at him. “Can you keep my yarn safe for me? I don’t want it to get lost or damaged in Waterfall and Hotland.”

Despite everything, Papyrus can’t help but grin. “Absolutely. As a future Royal Guard, I will watch over it with my life.”

His friend chortles and helps Papyrus to his feet. “You can practice crocheting with it, if you want.”

Papyrus firmly shakes his head. “No, just putting your trust in me is more than I deserve after what I’ve done to you. I just wish I had a parting gift that could help you on your journey to the king. Oh wait! Perhaps I do!” Fishing into his battle body, Papyrus pulls out his cell phone and pushes it into their chest. “Please, take my cell phone. If you ever need help, call the home line or Sans at any time and we’ll come running.”

His friend cradles the phone in their hands like they’ve been given a diamond. “Papyrus, I can’t possibly take your phone. It’s too important.”

They try to return it, but the skeleton crosses his arms and fervently shakes his head. “Nope! No take backs! You’re more important than a silly old cell phone. Please, keep it in case you’re in trouble. Hold on to it until you come back to Snowdin. You can trade it back when you come collect your yarn!”

“It’s a deal,” Papyrus’ pal nods, then without warning, they throw their arms around his waist and gives them a hug. “Thank you. I’ll see you again real soon, okay?”

Not giving Papyrus time to respond, they break away and cross the border into Waterfall without looking back.

Papyrus watches them go until they’re out of sight, a bittersweet taste in his mouth. He waits a few moments, half expecting them to magically come running back, but when the cold air starts to creep into his marrow, the skeleton reluctantly heads home, accepting that they weren’t coming back, and probably never would.


Sans walks home for his lunch break, carrying two plastic bags of Grillby’s takeout on one arm and whistling a meandering tune between his teeth. He makes a show of entering the house, loudly kicking the snow off his shoes and noisily shutting the door behind him.

“Hey bro! I brought lunch so you wouldn’t have to stand on that bad ankle of yours. Hope you’re in the mood for Grillby’s grub. He’s the only one who still lets me keep a tab in this town.”

“Thank you, Sans. That’s very thoughtful of you.”

Immediately Sans senses something is wrong. Papyrus is sitting on the couch, fingering a hand-knit scarf absentmindedly. It’s then that Sans realizes that the kid is not in the room.

“Hey, where’s our little friend?” he asks.

“Gone.”

No more details are needed than that. Sans could deduce everything he needed from his brother’s tone alone. Setting the bags down, he leans in close. “What happened?” he demands with absolute seriousness.

“They found out I lied about my ankle being hurt and ran away.”

“Did they… learn anything else?”

“No, just my lies. They’re still safe from themselves, but unfortunately I couldn’t keep them safe from the rest of the Underground.”

“How did they react?”

“Hm?”

“Learning that you lied to them. How did they take it aside from running away?”

“Not well,” Papyrus admits, rubbing his hand on his skull. “They got very upset. Angry even. I… I tried to stop them, but they’re stronger than they look.”

“Did they fight back?” Sans asks quietly. As much as he did not want to say the words, he still needed to know. Papyrus shakes his head as if trying to shoo away a fly.

“Not a bit. No matter what I threw at them, they refused to reciprocate. They’d rather take a hit than deal one out. I couldn’t stand watching them get hurt, I couldn’t keep them incapacitated with my blue magic, and I couldn’t persuade them to stay with words either, so I had to let them go.”

“You tried your best, Pap. No one can say ya’ didn’t,” Sans clasps his brother on the shoulder. “I’m just sorry I wasn’t there to help. I bet the both of us could have kept them on lock down.”

Papyrus dismisses the thought with a sad head shake. “No, they would have resented us for that, even if what we were trying to do was for their own good. They would have just run away again eventually, or worse. If we forced them to stay, then they might have actually decided to fight back for real.”

“Can’t argue with that logic,” Sans sighs. “Sounds like you made the best decision you could without losing their trust.”

“But I failed, Sans. I did all I could and still couldn’t stop them.”

“Bro, knowing you, if you did all you could, then I also know you did the best you could. Since they still got away, then that means it was out of your control from the start.”

“Then why do I still feel like I personally gave them permission to die?”

Sans looks away, unable to answer.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” he says after a pause. “I’ll go to Waterfall and see if I can convince them to come back with my charm and good looks. If not, I’m sure Undyne will manage to give them such a headache stalling them that they’ll be begging to come back to Snowdin before long. How’d you convince her to delay them anyway?”

Sharply inhaling, Papyrus jerks to his feet and snaps his skull to his brother, eye sockets wide.

“Oh no,” Sans moans, recognizing that look of alarm in an instant. “Papyrus, you did warn Undyne to not let the get to the king and not to kill them on sight, didn’t you?”

“OF COURSE I DID, SANS!” Papyrus laughs uneasily, avoiding his brother’s gaze. “BUT IF YOU EXCUSE ME, I NEED TO MAKE A VERY IMPORTANT, DEFINITELY UNRELATED PHONE CALL! I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!”

Stealing the home phone, Papyrus scampers off up the stairs into his bedroom, slamming his door behind him.

Welp. No progress would be made by standing around in the house. Leaving his brother to deal with the preemptive damage control, Sans makes for the door, already envisioning the Waterfall sentry station in his mind in preparation to jump.

Turning the knob, he opens the door, steps out onto the porch, and runs face first into a wall of fur.

“I knew it,” says Doggo off to the side. “I knew this whole ‘find the flower trail’ business was bull. We all follow our noses and where does it lead us? Right up to the jokester’s front door!”

Sans lifts his head enough to find the big, unamused brown eyes of Greater Dog staring down at him, the rest of the canine guard unit flanked on either side.

“Oh. Hey guys. What’s new?” Sans asks innocently.

“Cut the crap, Sans,” Doggo growls, the other dogs following suit. “We did what you asked and tracked the flower smell right up to your house. We all wanted to personally thank you for wasting our time with stupid games and cash in on our prize.”

“Oh, yeah. The walk thing.” Sans grumbles, his eyes studying a particularly interesting bulb in the string of lights trimming their roof. “Listen, I’ve kinda got somewhere to be, so I can’t take the winner for a stroll right this very minute, but I’ll get back to you later today, alright? Who got here first anyhow?”

“After some deliberation we have concluded that we all got here first.” Dogamy says.

“You will take each one of us on a walk.” Dogaressa adds.

Sans rubs the corners of his eye sockets with his thumb and pointer finger. He did not have time for this nonsense.

“We each played along and completed your silly game, Sans. It’s only fair to give us all the reward.”

“Yeah, yeah. Okay, you’re right.” Sans says, agreeing so they’d go away faster. “Go home and pick out your favorite collars and leashes or whatever. I’ll be back before dinner time and walk you all then.”

Satisfied with this response, Doggo, Lesser Dog, Greater Dog and Dogamy turn to go home. Only Dogaressa hangs back.

“If you wanted to give us a fun break from the monotony of guard duty, you could have just said so.” She says in disappointment. “No need to make up wild stories about talking flowers to mess with us. And to drag your puppy into this too? Honestly, Sans, I’m surprised with you.”

“My puppy? What do you mean?”

“Did you not give them some flowers to carry around to try to throw us off the trail? The two smells were often intertwined. In fact, I can smell the two scents leading into Waterfall right now. I expect you to pull such pranks, Sans, but teaching your pup to do the same? I’m not sure I approve of such parenting.”

With that, Dogaressa leaves him to catch up to her husband, and Sans winks off to Waterfall, suddenly a little more in a hurry.

Chapter Text

Waterfall is dark.

That weird, inexplicable light given off in Snowdin and the Ruins seems to not reach this far and the caves practically appear to shrink in on themselves, with low ceilings and narrow corridors, making it twice as claustrophobic. The cold air of Snowdin is quickly replaced with a muggy, oppressive humidity. It’s uncomfortably quiet; even the sound of the many gushing rivers and babbling streams have faded behind you, as if the tunnels are nervously holding their breath to avoid disturbing some enormous sleeping beast. Every accidental noise you make, every pebble kicked or twig snapped, echoes like bullet fire in the silence, and you find yourself apologizing each time to no one in particular, be it force of habit or on the off chance that someone, or something out there is actually listening.

You follow the widest, flattest trail, figuring (and praying) it’s the main road and thus the most direct route to the capital and king. The going is slow thanks to your battered shins, making each step ache as you hobble along using the wall as a crutch. Your hands trace over tiny glowing stones that sparkle from the walls worn smooth from countless generations of other monster hands and bodies doing the same. Each little gemstone emits their own light just barely bright enough to illuminate your path and you follow it like a compass.

The tunnel widens a bit, and in the gloom you find yourself in a field of overgrown grass with stalks taller than you, shining silver in the dim light. With nothing in your way, you boldly forge ahead. The vegetation is thicker than you thought, growing together in such a tight tangle that it feels more like you’re trying to push through a wall instead of through weeds. You try to find thin patches that part easily, turning left and right for the path of least resistance, but end up getting completely disorientated. Twice you exit onto a bare bluff bordered by hourglass shaped columns, and once you even stumble out back where you started. You turn around and dive back in to try again, though tired and short tempered you are. This time through, you attempt to jump to see over the undergrowth and keep track of your location, but are immediately punished for it after the first try, your legs scolding you for such abuse in their tender state so you scrap the idea. Instead you do your best to stick to the south wall, though clumps of roots and knots trip you up as you push on. All is silent around you, except your own footsteps.

shff, shff, shff, oomph!

Hold on a second. Footsteps didn’t go “oomph”.

Ssssss. Stupid grass cuts. That’s gonna sting.”

Hey, you know that voice. It’s-

“Kid?” You part the grass beside you to reveal the yellow lizard monster picking himself up from his latest spill. He’s got grass stains on his chin and knees but otherwise seems unharmed. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh! Hey dude! I was, uh, you know, just passing through.” He fidgets, trying to look casual but his antsy feet betray him.

“I through you weren’t allowed to leave Snowdin without permission.”

“I did get permission!” Kid says hastily. “I’m going to visit my sister in Hotland! And on my way I thought maybe I’d visit Undyne’s house and drop off a get-well card I made her. Oh shoot, where’d it go? Must’ve dropped it when I fell…” Kid pats himself down with one clawed toe before searching through the grass.

“Sorry you lost your card Kid, but I don’t think you really need it,” you break the news to save him the trouble. “I have good reason to believe that Undyne was never sick.”

“Really?” Kid perks up at once, forgetting the card entirely. “That’s great! That means there’s still a chance I get to see her! Oh, uh, on my way to my sister, of course.”

You can’t help but smile. This kid is just as bad a liar as you, but his intentions are pure and he wears his heart on his sleeve. Or, err, his poncho.

“So what are you doing in Waterfall?” Kid asks. “I thought you wouldn’t go without an escort.”

“That was the plan,” you tell him, face darkening. “But Papyrus... I couldn’t wait anymore and decided to go alone. I don’t care if it’s dangerous. I have to get to the king one way or another.”

“I hear that!” Kid prances around. “When will grown-ups see that we’re responsible? We can handle going out on our own! And look! You’re not alone! You’ve got me! We’ve got each other! And if we get cornered by bad guys, Undyne will swoop in and come to the rescue! C’mon! I know the fastest way through Waterfall. Follow me!”

With that, Kid leaps ahead with no regard to his surroundings, and immediately trips and tangles in the tall grass. You help him free without hesitation, and in seconds he’s back on his feet like nothing ever happened.

“Ha ha! Thanks! This way!” He says, leading the way out of the sea of grass and deeper into the labyrinth of Waterfall.

You spend most of your journey in quiet, taking in the view while Kid fills the air with his endless chatter and fawning over his favorite heroine.

“Undyne is suuuper awesome! I hope we run into her! I hope we get to watch her punch a bad guy in the face! I was camping out in that grass for ages waiting for her to show up on her patrol route. Knowing Undyne, nothing would stop her from doing her duty! Not even terminal illness! That’s just how hardcore she is! Oh, hold up.”

You blink back to reality when Kid comes to a halt. Before you, a river sluggishly chugs along a massive gap much too wide to jump and much too deep to wade.

“Hm. The old bridge seeds must’ve washed away. Here, help me gather some more.”

“Bridge seeds?” You inquire, when Kid scampers off to the left. You tag along, rounding a corner to reveal a small grove with giant seed pods. The plants are huge. They grow on thin stalks that give them the shape of oversized playing jacks, with their four tightly coiled leaves, one tall blossom on the edge of bursting growing from its center, and one point embedded in the ground.

Kid hops up to the nearest seed and grabs the stalk in his teeth. With one yank, he unearths the plant, its bulbous taproot coming up whole.

“Eph mm nmph afph un cmn mnph,” Kid mumbles around a mouthful of plant.

“I’m sorry?”

Kid spits out the bridge seed and tries again. “I said, get as many as you can carry. It usually takes four plants to bridge this gap.”

Following Kid’s lead, you pull up two sprouts, carrying one in each hand, and you save yourself a trip by balancing a third atop your head. Back at the river, Kid sets his pod out to sea, gently nudging it into the water so it drifts across to the other bank.

“What good will these do?” You ask him, sending off your own seeds into the stream.

“Bridge seeds go nuts when they hit the water,” Kid explains. “They grow like crazy when their roots are totally soaked, and we found out that they’re strong enough to walk across when they’re leaves are fully uncurled, so we use them as organic bridges! Look! Watch what happens when they touch.”

You focus on the seeds with your undivided attention. Not even a minute passes before the tuberous roots spontaneously explode, growing several feet a second and branching out, weaving and tangling together as they searched for soil to anchor in. Unfortunately the water still seemed too deep for that, so the tendrils coil with each other and to the banks, the only solid things to latch on to. Once secure, the leaves unfurl and the flowers bloom, creating a giant lily pad crosswalk.

“Wow.” You gawk, impressed.

“Neat, right?” Kid beams, bouncing on the first pad to demonstrate its strength. “And this isn’t the only spot where we use bridge seeds! There are other rivers up ahead loaded with them! It’s like jumping on one huge waterbed! C’mon, I’ll race you there!”

Kid takes off before you even have a chance to argue. Sighing fondly at his enthusiasm, you skip across the lily pads to catch up.

Kid guides you across more rivers and flowering bridges then down the twisting tunnels, waiting just long enough at each fork for you to spy him and not lose your way. Bubbling streams and babbling brooks crisscross through each cavern and the persistent, deep rumble of larger waterfalls murmur all around.

The road Kid takes is definitely the one less traveled. The ground is uneven and the walls are rough, suggesting this route is infrequently used. Kid stumbles a lot, constantly tripping over stones and tiny stalagmites jutting out from the floor, and he decides to quit running fairly quickly. You pick up your pace to walk by his side so you can catch him when he will inevitably fall again. Unconsciously you tune in to his gait while scanning the ground ahead for any potential hazards, and after a while you begin to predict when a blunder will happen. Like a sixth sense, the hairs on your neck will stand on end, and you reflexively shoot out your left hand to grab his collar before he face-plants. Each time you catch him he tells you he owes you one, and you’re pretty sure he’s indebted to you for life before you even go a full mile.

The colorful shining geodes are more plentiful in these unattended parts of the tunnel. They’re captivatingly pretty and practically strewn all over the ground, and you have to resist the urge to grab up every one you see. Unfortunately you fail miserably and start picking out the shiniest, sparkliest ones you can find, only stopping when your pockets get uncomfortably full with four in each.

Kid snorts at your antics as you intently study each stone you find, casting aside one for another.

“Planning on starting a rock collection?”

“Ha ha, nah. I just want a keepsake to remind me what Waterfall was like when I’m back home.” You tell him. “These gemstones are really pretty. I bet people pay a lot to own some.”

Kid laughs out loud at that, and you eye him, startled and slightly hurt.

“Dude! Have you been looking around this whole time? These rocks are a gold piece, a googolplex! They’re worthless!”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. Anybody who wants a sparkly rock can just come here and get one. I heard from my sister, that when they were excavating Waterfall for more housing space, the king would pay people to take the rocks off his hands. You’d have to be pretty empty-headed to buy a useless rock in Waterfall.”

“Oh,” your shoulders droop, feeling foolish.

“Hey, I’m sorry. I was a little harsh there,” Kid softens when he notices your embarrassment. “Don’t take it personally. I forgot you’ve never seen any of the Underground. Of course a newbie like you would think these things are, like, super valuable or something. But look on the bright side! Now that you know the truth, you can’t get ripped off if someone tries to sell you some!” Kid chuckles then stops short with a sharp inhale.

“Oh! Wait! There is one thing everybody loves these rocks for! The Wishing Room! And you’ve never seen it! Oh, you’ve gotta check it out while you’re in Waterfall! It’s the most epic thing in all of the Underground!”

Oh, how you want to. Flowey has told you countless stories about it and how words alone could not do justice to detail its beauty, except you don’t have the time. You’ve got places to go and kings to meet and doors to open. But then again… if this is your only chance to see it…

You study Kid’s face for reasons to resist, but his gleeful expression tells you it would be pointless to argue.

“It’s not too far out of our way, is it?” you ask reluctantly.

“Not at all! It’s just up ahead! Oh, you’re gonna so totally freak when you see! C’mon! This way!”

“Alright, but we can’t stay too long.”

Once again you find yourself chasing after the little yellow reptile, surprisingly agile for someone who constantly finds himself dining on dirt, but you manage to keep up as he practically swivels, changing direction in what feels like at random through the narrow hallways.

“There it is! I can see the glow up ahead!” Kid announces. There’s a sharp turn to the right- then all at once the corridor opens into a massive atrium.

The sight before you takes your breath away. The room is huge; the ground below you, carved out by an ancient lake you bet, gently slopes down to create a valley so big that the entire town of Snowdin could probably fit in here. Scattered across the basin, phosphorescent mushrooms faintly glow in the dark and a few echo flowers gossip, whispering the wishes they have overheard from passersby to one another. Short, black grass carpets the floor, but above you-

The ceiling is so high you can’t make out how far it goes, but that’s not the impressive bit; every crack and crevice and stalactite is loaded with gemstones reflecting the faint purple, blue and white glow they absorb from the plant life below, and the black space between them tricks your eyes into thinking you’re seeing into infinity. Their multifaceted surfaces scatter the light in a million different directions and it makes the entire roof absolutely glitter. It’s like… It’s like looking at-

“Stars,” you breathe, as if afraid your voice will shatter the dream and bring it all crashing down. “It’s like looking at the stars.”

You knew what to expect, yet the sheer majesty of it all still takes you off guard. You’re completely lost for words. Kid sprints to the center of the field and falls on his back. (Intentionally, you think.) You follow in his footsteps like a sleepwalker, not wanting to take your eyes off the awe-inspiring view above you. Flowey had tried his best to describe this room to you, using every big word for “beautiful” he knew, from “dazzling” to “radiant”, but words could barely capture this beauty. It was mesmerizing, it was… it was resplendent, unparalleled in pulchritude, and so much more. There wasn’t a metaphor or simile accurate or clever enough to describe the pure magic you see.

Every step you take changes your view of the ceiling, causing your eye to catch each crystal at a new angle and light, making the pseudo-sky shimmer like a meteor shower. Even the slightest turn of your head is like rotating a kaleidoscope, bringing fourth new constellations from the irregular shaped stones up above.

“This is one of the only rooms where people appreciate these sparkly rocks,” Kid whispers when you lay down to join him on the grass to stargaze. “The oldest monsters say this is kind of what the real stars look like, except the real ones are ten times better.”

What? How could anything be more beautiful than this? Then again, you’ve never seen real stars before. Your tiny window to the outside world back in the Ruins was too small to barely let any moonlight shine in, much less any stars, so how could you compare? The gemstones above you were simply breathtaking, shimmering and dancing and twinkling as silently as the night. It was entrancing, hypnotizing, and… and achingly familiar, stirring something buried deep inside you…

“Did you know on the surface they have a thing called ‘Shooting Stars’, where the stars will literally fall right out of the sky!” Kid says excitedly, but you’re only half-listening, lost in the hypnotic sparkle of the sight above as you try to place this feeling you swear you’ve experienced before...

“My dad told me there’s this legend from the surface saying people used to make wishes on them!” Kid goes on, but his voice sounds distant and muffled while you’re busy trying to recall why this view felt like… like this isn’t the first time you’ve seen it. “He said, if you make your wish on the brightest star, your wish will come true!”

“That’s not how it works,” you reply automatically without thinking. From out of nowhere, the back of your mind begins to itch, like it had two days ago in Papyrus’ room, but this time worse by tenfold.

Kid looks at you, almost insulted. “What do you mean ‘that’s not how it works?’ Thousands of people wishing for the same thing can’t be wrong!” His voice is swimming and echo-y. You can barely understand him.

“No… about wishing on the brightest star…” you vacantly clarify, not really sure why you felt the need to argue with him. Surely Kid knows more about Waterfall than you, but something is just… just wrong with his statement and you know it, but you don’t know why. You place one palm to your forehead. It’s beginning to throb. “You’re… you’re supposed to wish on the first star you see at night, not the brightest.”

“Oh yeah? Why do you say that?”

“I-“

Before you can answer, the itching suddenly flares until it practically starts to burn, like an irritation embedded deep within muscle that can’t be relieved through scratching at it on the skin. It pinches and bites and stings at your nerves and you bolt upright, grabbing your temples and gasping for air as dozens of words suddenly flood through your mind with no rhyme or reason.

Starlight, star bright, the first star I see tonight, stars, millions of stars like spilled milk, the milky way, cows make milk and the cow jumped over the moon, man in the moon, moon, spoon, fork and a spoon, the dipper’s a spoon and the dipper’s a bear, big and small, connect the dots to see their tails, bears don’t have tails, bears, bears and belts and scorpions and lions, aND AAAAURGH YOUR HEAD IS ON FIRE AND WHAT DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH STARS?!?

There’s a pounding behind your eyes so agonizing that you’re seeing a whole different set of stars and you can’t stop from crying out as your brain tries to bust free of your skull. Then there’s pressure on your shoulder and the pain subsides just enough for you to find Monster Kid desperately shaking your arm. His outline is fuzzy and his colors are off to your unfocused eyes, but looking at anything else makes you feel dizzy.

“Dude! Dude! Snap out of it!” He still sounds far away, oh so far away, but his voice is like a rock in your thoughts’ raging storm and you latch onto it.

“Dude! Can you hear me? Are you okay?”

You try to shake your head, but that only makes you nauseous and the world spin. “N-no,” you manage to stutter, but even forming the two letter word is a challenge. It hurts to speak. It hurts to even think. Kid’s voice, though… it’s like a lifeline, slowly pulling you back. The more he talks, the more your head clears.

“P-please… t-talk to me ab-bout s-something else… s-something that i-isn’t s-stars,” you plead.

“Oh, okay, um,” Kid chews his lower lip as he tries to think of a different topic that isn’t astronomy or Undyne. He frantically looks around the room for inspiration until his eyes land on one of the few glowing flowers in the cave, and an idea finds him.

“Hey, you’re from the Ruins, so you’ve probably never seen a golden flower before, have you?”

You are quite familiar with golden flowers, but you’re in no condition to argue, so you don’t. Kid doesn’t wait for your answer anyway before he continues.

“The king’s garden is full of them, and everyone’s allowed to visit whenever they like. They’re really beautiful, and they make a great tea, but can you believe that they’re not native to the Underground? They were brought here from the surface by the prince.”

Prince?

“P-Prince?” Your voice echoes your thoughts, grating and labored, but you’re relieved to find that words are starting to come easy to you again. “We h-have a prince?”

“Not anymore.” Kid says matter-of-factly. “You didn’t know that?”

You shake your head and this time you don’t get sick. “I didn’t e-even know King Asgore was married.”

“Well, he’s not that anymore either. Do you not know the story of the royal family? It explains all that and the golden flowers.”

“No. T-tell me.” You ask.

“Oh, okay. But, um, I should warn you it’s not a happy story.”

“Please?” You beg. “It’s helping my head ache g-go away.”

“A-alright,” Kid resigns, then takes a breath before launching into his tale. “It starts like this…

“A long time ago the Underground had not only a king, but a queen and a prince as well. The prince was a kind and gentle soul with more compassion within him than any monster had ever seen. He loved all his people and was loved by everyone in return. For many years the royal family lived in peace and ruled justly…”

You close your eyes and listen with your head between your knees, shutting out all in the world but Kid’s words and your own breathing. Kid goes on, saying his story in perfectly rehearsed words like he’s heard them a hundred times before.

“Then, one day as if by fate, a human- the first human, fell into the Underground. The human, about the prince’s age, was injured by their fall. They called out for help and the prince had been the first one to discover them. Ever caring, he guided the wounded human back to the king and queen where they were then healed.

“Many monsters were furious when they found out a human had fallen into the Underground, and wanted it dead. The war was still fresh in everyone’s memory and quite a few monsters that had fought in it were still around. They wanted to take the human’s soul and get back the freedom that was stolen from them. The king and queen were under pressure to decide the human’s fate, but the prince had beaten them to it- he befriended them.”

“No way,” you blurt out. Your migraine has dulled into a minor annoyance now. With the pain subsided, you can think clearly once again, but you still find Kid’s statement hard to believe.

“It’s true,” Kid smiles, but it’s a weak one, and he doesn’t wear it for long before resuming the story.

“In only a few short days while the human recovered, they and the gentle prince had become close as siblings. Their fidelity for each other was undeniable. Everyone with eyes could see it, and the king and queen realized that to break them apart was something unthinkable, so instead they took the human in as one of their own.

“The royal children were inseparable. Everywhere the human went, the prince tagged along like a second shadow. Every friend of the prince soon became a friend of the human. The king used the prince and the human’s friendship as a symbol of proof that the humans above were changing, and that one day monsters would once again coexist beside them on the surface in peace. Soon the entire Underground was full of hope.

“Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. The human and the young prince began to grow, as did everyone’s wishes and dreams.”

Kid trails off, his eyes downcast.

“And then… one day… the human fell very ill…” Kid speaks slowly, his sight glazed over as he recites the tale, still unchanging. He takes a deep breath before he goes on, and you realize that you’re holding yours.

“For weeks the doctors tried to heal them. For weeks the Underground held their breath and spoke in hushed whispers, praying for their hope of the future to get well again. For weeks the king and queen and loving prince stood vigil by the human’s side as they struggled to stay in this realm, determined to hang on, but it seemed it was all for naught.

“Nobody wanted the human to die. Not now after they got to know them, after the human befriended them all, but people began to lose faith that the human would ever recover. No one dare spoke of it out loud, to confirm their worst fears, to make the nightmare real, but perhaps the human knew that they were a lost cause, too, because they began to give up, too tired to keep living, to keep fighting a war they couldn’t win. As their end drew near, it was their final request to see the golden flowers from their village on the surface, but there was nothing we could do with the barrier in place.

“And then… one day… after weeks of deteriorating and wasting away… the human passed away.

“The entire Underground mourned, the king and queen grieved, but the tender prince was hit the hardest. His best friend was gone, his sibling was gone, and in his bereavement the prince absorbed the human’s soul then took their body and crossed the barrier.”

Kid pauses to worry his lip and knit his brow as he tries to remember the rest.

“The end of the story is a little fuzzy,” he admits. “Nobody but the prince saw what happened on the surface, and few saw what happened when he returned, so most of what comes next is based on speculation and guesswork.

“They say that the prince carried the human’s body down the mountain to the village and laid them on a bed of golden flowers to fulfill their last wish. Other humans must have seen him, for the prince was attacked, struck with blow after blow of bullets, blades, and fire. Maybe they thought he had killed the child, or maybe they simply still hated any and all monsters. The truth is unclear. The only thing we know for certain was that the benevolent prince did not fight back, even though he could have easily destroyed them all.

“Hours later, the prince returned to the Underground, covered in the seeds of the golden flower, and carrying the human’s body, but not with more souls to bring down the barrier. Fatally wounded, the martyr prince only made it as far as the garden before collapsing and turning into dust, spreading the seeds and his ash across the flower beds.

“The entire kingdom fell into despair. The king and queen had lost both of their children in one night and their hope of the future and promise of peace on the surface had once again been taken by humans.

“Consumed by fury, King Asgore vowed to eradicate humanity. He and his wife became estranged, and one day the queen left, never to be seen or heard from again. So now the king has been frozen in time, cursed to never age as Boss Monsters don’t when they have no progeny to pass on their soul power to. Yet despite his grief and anger towards all that exists above, King Asgore still tends to the flowers his son brought back from the surface, a reminder so we may never forget what we once had, and what we may one day have again.”

Kid goes silent for a long time, and you blink, surprised to find tears have pooled in your eyes. What? Why were you crying for people you have never met, people long gone before you were even alive? Who does that? You wipe them away before Kid can see.

“That’s so tragic,” you say. “What… what were their names?”

“People try not to speak about them too much anymore,” Kid warns, knowing what you’re asking. “There have been rumors and theories going around lately that there may have been foul play in the events that happened, and that the death of the human and prince were no accident. It upsets the king to hear this. He doesn’t like to be reminded of what he has lost. It’s impossible to forget the prince’s name, though. It’s so similar to Asgore’s you’d think he just switched some of the letters of his own name.”

“What was it?”

“Prince Asriel,” Kid sighs. “Kind, caring, killed unjustly.”

“And the human?”

“You know… I don’t remember,” Kid confesses after pondering it a while. “The death of the royal children isn’t something actively taught in our history class, after all. Most kids learn it through the grapevine on the playground. Some details are bound to get lost or mixed up. It’s probably how all those rumors got started in the first place. I mean, if the royal children were really as close as everyone says they were, why would the human willingly throw away their life just to trick Asriel into getting killed? It doesn’t add up.”

“Yeah,” you say solemnly, studying your feet and lost in your own thoughts. It’s still hard enough for you to wrap your head around the idea that a human was capable of befriending monsters, much less the king adopting one as their own. Humans are ruthless, destructive and unforgiving. The ones on the surface that killed Prince Asriel, a mere child, proved that. How under the earth did the first one that fell here learn to be kind?

Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe that story HAD grown soft and flowery over the years with each new telling, because you just find it too hard to accept.

“You feeling better now?” Kid asks, and you nod the affirmative. “That’s good. I don’t get to see the wishing stars often, but I hope I get to see the real ones someday. It’s gotta happen any day now. All we need is one more soul, and then you and I can both stargaze under the real sky.”

Kid gets to his feet and shakes out his legs.

“But for now we’ve got a king to meet.” He offers you a foot to pull yourself up and you take it. “Let’s keep going, shall we?”

“Yeah,” you nod and get up after him, a warm smile on your face thanking him for his help and patience, happy to know the kindness of your fellow monsters is one thing you will never have to doubt. “You lead the way.”

Chapter Text

*Ring… Ring…*

“Hello, Undyne! This is the Great Papyrus calling! I know it’s a bit early for my daily report, but something’s come up. You know that new friend I made I told you about? Well, they may have accidentally run away from Snowdin to go meet the king, b-but they really shouldn’t do that because of… reasons! Sans is coming to Waterfall to find them and bring them home, so please do not feel the need to take it upon yourself to seek out my new friend, even though they’re probably lost and scared right now, and guarding them would be a really noble thing of you to do. Don’t worry! My brother’s got it covered! Also! My ankle has healed and I will be back on the job tomorrow! See you then!”

*Click*

*Ring… Ring…*

“OH! UNDYNE! THERE’S ONE LAST THING I FORGOT TO MENTION! If you do just so happen to cross paths with my friend -and please don’t go out of your way to try!- I would greatly appreciate it if you refrained from impaling them through the chest with your spears. Could you please consider it? At least for me, your number one, soon-to-be official Royal Guard, Papyrus? Thanks Undyne. I owe you one. See you around!”

*Click*


An outsider might have said Flowey was jealous. Flowey couldn’t get jealous. But he could get annoyed.

In Flowey’s opinion, annoyance was not an emotion, but a state of being. Flowey was annoyed when substitute Chara went back to the inn instead of Waterfall, Flowey was annoyed when they fooled around making pies with the shopkeeper instead of progressing, Flowey was annoyed when they wasted time goofing off with the lizard kid and taller skeleton, and Flowey was annoyed when the taller skeleton slipped and fell, and instead of ditching him right then and there, Chara decided to help him home and even spend the night. But what currently annoyed Flowey the most were those bumbling dogs who decided to pick today of all days to run around Snowdin and chase each other’s tails.

Flowey hides beneath the porch of the skeleton household, watching in irritation as the five Royal Guard Dogs romp back and forth through the snow, noses to the ground and bumping into each other. The dogs had been on a scent trail all night, running in erratic patterns all across the forest. Their constant ruckus had peeved him to no end until he realized what scent they were tracking.

That scent had been him.

At first he thought it had just been a series of unfortunate coincidences when the snuffling noses repeatedly honed in on him, until he noticed that they just so happened to keep sniffing out his safest hiding spaces and the golden flower each one carried to reference his smell. Flowey’s annoyance instantaneously vanished and was replaced by something cold and sharp that made his leaves prickle and roots stand on edge.

He dared to label this sensation as “panic”.

The Royal Guards were good at their job, but overall not that smart, and he knew for a fact that none of them had ever seen his face, so to find all five of them following his trail set off alarm bells of someone more malicious at work. And there was only one monster out there who would think to use the dogs to hunt him down. Garbage McTrashHeap was on to him.

One of the dogs passes dangerously close to the porch steps, and Flowey bolts, burrowing into the earth and racing off to the tree line in a desperate attempt to flee. He resurfaces in a small clump of snowdrops close to the boarder of Waterfall. His bright yellow color stick out between them like a mustard stain on a white shirt, and he knows their smell would barely cover his own.

As if on cue, the black-robed canine that was sniffing around the porch swivels in his direction, nose twitching as she tries to work out where his trace had gone. Flowey freezes, fearing the worst when she begins to trot his way, but the guard quickly turns back when her husband began to wine from separation anxiety. Lucky for the flower, the dog had her hood pulled over her eyes and had failed to see him.

Flowey exhales in relief. It would be futile to hide from the dogs, not even in the ground. As natural born diggers, they’d unearth him as soon as they cornered him. Shaking them would be near impossible, but maybe there was another way to get them to lose his trail…

Risking everything, Flowey waits until the dogs were all looking in the wrong direction before boldly setting off towards New Home.

He took the most direct route; dropping petals and pollen along the way, he made his traces so obvious that even a dog with no nose could still sniff him out. Across bridge seeds, through the wishing room, through the lantern paths, over the gorge, into Hotland, straight up the elevator to the capital, down the golden corridor and right into the king’s garden where he nestled down amongst his own kind.

Let the dogs find him now. If they wanted his stem, they’d have to search through an entire sea of golden flowers to do it.

Figuring he’d be here for a while, Flowey settles in. The sun would be overhead soon, and then a few stray streaks of sunlight would filter down through the fractured roof over head. Flowey sought out where the biggest patch of sun would hit and turns his leaves toward it. If he stayed absolutely still with his eyes closed, he was virtually identical to all the other flowers around him, and so he waited.

Soil, water and a bit of real sunlight now and again seemed to be all the things he truly needed to stay alive… if he considered this state as living. It had been years since he sunned himself in the king’s garden, memories of his last visit still fresh in his mind like an open wound.

Time ticks by, and the sun leisurely makes its way over head. Flowey feels its warmth.

“It’s a really nice day today, isn’t it?”

Flowey almost jumps out of the ground at the sound of an all too familiar voice. Startled, he whips his head around and finds that the speaker is not even ten feet away from him, having moved so silently Flowey didn’t hear him enter the room.

Crouched on his hands and knees, King Asgore diligently inspects his flower beds, pulling up the earliest signs of weeds before they had a chance to spread. He pauses, looking away from the only sentient flower in the room toward the real audience he had been addressing; six glass jars pulled along in a wagon behind him.

The human souls.

“The air must be very peaceful up top today.” The lonely monarch continues, talking to the captive hearts who had no way to replay or even indicate they had heard. “You can hear the birdsong echo exceptionally well this morning.”

Flowey cranes his head to listen. Indeed, the carefree twittering of birds could be heard if one concentrated heard enough, but their chipper calls are almost insulting in his opinion. The promise of sunlight, of fresh air, of freedom, always so tantalizingly close, but just out of reach, taunting monsters with these unsatisfying scraps and patches of sky that they could never use to truly appreciate the real deal overhead.

The king had made it a point that his garden was for all to enjoy if one wished to feel the warmth of the sun or get a glimpse of the blue sky, but people rarely ever came to visit. The constant reminder that monsters were so close to the surface, yet still denied it, was more depressing than inspiring to most.

“Here, let me move you into the sunlight to get warm,” the king adds, pulling his wagon of souls further into the garden. “It’s the least I can do for you.”

With gingerly hands, the king shifts each container from the cart to a patch of sunshine so that each heart could soak up a few rays.

Flowey watches with contempt. It wasn’t unlike Asgore to do such an act, talking to disembodied souls or letting them feel the light. What really bothered Flowey was just how sincere Asgore was about it.

Dozens of times he had watched the king and former father parade through the Underground, toting around the souls to inspire his subjects and give them hope. And people would crowd around to see them, monsters young and old would press their face up against the glass jars to ogle and stare and wish with dreams and longing.

Flowey had seen such processions too many times before. The way the people would always act disgusted him, falling into an emotional mess at such pathetic excuses for souls. The six souls that floated in their glass prisons were nothing to get worked up about. They were listless and dull and pitiful, completely unlike Chara’s. Flowey almost sighs at the memory. Chara’s soul had been vibrant, a brilliant crimson red that beat with purpose. Chara’s soul had been on a mission. Chara’s soul had a goal, an objective that they were so determined to achieve that not even death could stop them from reaching it. These souls had nothing, stuck waiting for eons with no reason or understanding why they had to continue to exist when their physical forms had perished long ago.

It seemed whereever Asgore went he took the souls with him, never leaving them unguarded or unattended to for more than a few seconds at a time. It aggravated Flowey that there was never a big enough window of time for him to just swoop in and take them, but what really got under his skin was how he talked to them like they were still people.

Flowey guesses that there is some truth to it. He knew from his memories that souls could still think and reason outside of the body. The soul of his Chara had been extremely vocal and opinionated when they were one, after all. The soul was what housed the essence of a person; it contained the thing that made someone, someone. Flowey hated listening to Asgore talk to the souls because above all else it was a painful reminder that he didn’t have one.

Life without a soul was unpleasant, when you knew what feelings were, but could no longer experience them. But a soul without a host had to be unbearable. If a soul was anything, it was only autonomous with a puppet to control. With no body, a soul could not see, could not speak, or hear-

But they could still think.

How torturous must it be, to be completely deprived of all senses, blind and deaf and mute, unable to scream or call for help. Being trapped in a void with nothing but your own thoughts for eternity…

Bodies, souls, minds... Vessels, spirits, consciousness... Minds belonged in bodies. A soul without a body could still think and feel, but they were practically at the mercy to their surroundings, whereas a mind with just a body and no soul should not technically be able to exist, yet here he was. It was a crime against nature. An abomination of life.

It was also a quandary Flowey had dwelled on for countless hours, never finding an answer. If he had no soul, then was he really a consciousness in the body of a flower? Or was he just a collection of leftover memories that got trapped in this form by mistake? Were these memories truly his own, or given to a blank slate on accident? Who was to say he was really the martyr prince? Who had the power or the authority to know for certain if he was really a soulless being or a freak accident? If it WAS all an accident, then was he really someone, anyone, at all? He lacked a soul, so did he also lack that thing that made somebody, somebody?

And not all living things had souls. Grass and trees were living, but they did not have souls. Other flowers did not have souls. The echo flowers were the only thing that came close, able to repeat what they have heard. But then again they could not reason. They could not think. Flowey could, so did that simple awareness make him something more than just another plant?

Did animals have souls? Did those singing birds in the upper world have enough sentience to deserve a soul? Did the breeding mice and commercialized snails that were farmed for food and eaten have souls? Surely they could emote and feel, if even on a far simpler level than humans and monsters, but was that enough to say they had a spirit? If it was, then how come he, who could decide and act and reason in far more complicated ways than those animals ever could, was forced to feel so hollow?

Flowey shakes the thoughts from his mind. Pondering over questions without concrete answers for hours on end was a great way to go a little crazy. The questions circled around his mind, much like those royal guards out there, chasing their own tails, tirelessly running but getting nowhere fast. He couldn't afford to think like this. Whether or not the memories were truly his, they were all he had to hang on to, and so he would with every ounce of his being. Besides- as soon as he got Chara to the king, he wouldn't have to worry about these existential crises anymore. When the seven human souls were under his command, he would change back to how it should be. How it should have always been.

The king moves on to a different part of the garden to weed, and Flowey goes back to sunning.

Emptying his mind, Flowy concentrates on absorbing the sun. He would only get about an hour or two of light before the world turned and the angle of sunlight would no longer hit the cracked ceiling overhead just right enough to shine through, but for now he would stay here until he was certain the dogs had given up the chase. Sure, he should get back to Chara as soon as possible, but he doubted they would go anywhere with those skeletons in the way. So for now it was peaceful, quiet and warm, and Flowey rested.


The wishing room tunnel exits into a massive underground lake, with water so inky black you can’t determine its depth. The ceiling is low again, but the room is so wide, you can’t see the shoreline on the other end. A single boardwalk paves the way, framed by cat tails and sawgrass. Your shoes and Kid’s toes tap loudly against the wood as you take the only way forward ahead of you. A lonely frog calls out for attention, but other than that, all is quiet, calm.

The boardwalk doesn’t immediately take you across the water. First it runs along the bank, against a wall covered in glyphs before turning out over the lake. Kid trots by without a second thought, but the writing on the plaques catches your eye and gives you pause;

”The War of Humans and Monsters.”

Curious, you do not stop, but slow down just enough to read.

”Why did the humans attack? Indeed it seemed that they had nothing to fear. Humans are incredibly strong. It would take the soul of nearly every monster just to equal the power of one human soul.

“But humans have one weakness; Ironically it is the strength of their soul. Its power allows it to persist after death. If a monster defeats a human, they can take its soul.

“A monster with a human soul… a horrible beast with unfathomable power…”

Kid doubles back to join you just as you reach the last plaque. There are no words on this one, only an illustration, old and archaic and eroded, but you can still make out a creature with two massive arms and no legs. It’s got wings a mile wide, curling horns, razor sharp teeth, talons for fingers, and two black, bottomless eyes that seem to pierce right through you.

You… you don’t know what it is about the monster in this picture, but you find it highly disturbing.

“Some people think that’s a picture of Prince Asriel after he absorbed the human’s soul,” Kid says as you study the carving. “They say when he absorbed the soul, he obtained the power of a god.”

You stare owlishly at Kid then back to the illustration, but stay quiet.

“But on the other hand, there are plenty of people who say these records were put here long before Prince Asriel was born, so there’s no way it can be him,” Kid adds. “I personally think it just looks cool. Can you imagine what it would be like, though? To have the power of a god? You could raise mountains or part seas on a whim, you could command the sun and all the stars in the heavens, you could smite your foes with a blink of any eye! And that’s just physical power. Imagine how strong your magic would become with a human soul!”

“I thought humans couldn’t do magic,” you remind him.

“They can’t!” Kid assures you as the two of you start walking again. “Or at least we don’t think they can. Not anymore, anyway. None of the records about humans who fell down here said they were able to do it. My sister theorizes that humans are becoming more dependent on technology and science, causing them to phase out the art of magic, but there’s no denying they knew it at one point. You just gotta look at the barrier to prove that. But, man, the humans who DID know magic, really knew magic. In fact-”

Kid drops his voice to a whisper and inches close to you before continuing. “Some ancient books say human magic was once so strong, they could turn back time!

“Get out,” you say, unsettled.

“It’s true! I was watching this conspiracy theory on UnderTube the other day explaining how it might have been possible for humans to time travel! Don’t you just think that’s the coolest? If you could undo time, you could live forever! You could… you could win every argument! Ace every test! Never lose a bet! Never make a mistake! Wouldn’t that be awesome?”

“No, Kid, that’s terrifying,” you frown. “If someone around you was messing with the timeline, how would you even know? What if they did something to mess with you? What if they hurt you on purpose then undid it so you would forget? I don’t think anybody should have that power.”

"Hm, true, but you could also use it for good things, too!" Kid argues. "You could prevent accidents from ever happening and stop people before they got hurt. You could be a hero!"

"I don't know, Kid. Time travel... just sounds so easy to misuse."

“Aww, you’re no fun,” Kid teases, but you don’t feel like laughing along with him.

A commotion up head saves you from having to respond. Two monsters block the path, apparently stuck in a dispute. One is short and quadrupedal with green skin and blue cylindrical body. The other has the head of a horse, the tail of a fish, and two huge muscly arms.

“Come on, Woshua,” the horse-headed monster begs the smaller one. “I need someone to practice my flirting on. How am I ever going to woo Shyren without a good pick-up line?”

“No!” Woshua screeches, trying to inch around the seahorse monster without success. “All of your pick-up lines are dirty, Aaron!”

“Should we do something?” you whisper to Kid as you watch the argument unfold.

“What? No way, Dude!” Kid giggles anxiously. “Aaron can punch a hole through solid steel and Woshua’s water cannons are strong enough to melt your face off. I’m not getting between that. I bet if we just wait a while Undyne will show up and solve the problem the only way a hero can; with her fists!”

You stifle a groan. You don’t have time to wait around for someone else to stop this squabbling, and you certainly don’t want to watch someone get beat up. You decide to take a chance and intervene.

“Pardon me,” you interrupt. “Is it possible for you two to stop fighting for a minute and let me and my friend through?” Both monsters turn towards you.

“Dude! What are you doing?” Kid hisses at you. “You’re gonna get pulverized! Get outta there!”

“Why hello there,” Aaron leans over you, waggling his eyebrows and curling his biceps. “I’m too flexy for my shirt, and I think you are too. So how about you take it off, doll?”

You blink in shock, unable to respond. Is… is he hitting on you?

“Well, that’s what I would say if you were Shyren, anyway. What do you think?” Aaron says, apparently oblivious to his creepy behavior. “Do you think it will impress the ladies?”

“It’s… certainly bold,” you suggest. “But not very… appropriate?”

“Dirty! Flithly! Disgusting!” Woshua mutters in agreement behind him.

“I don’t think you should say that to people you want to impress," you advise him. "Or anyone, really.”

Aaron’s arms sag. “Really? Dang. That was my best material too! Shyren will never go out with me at this rate.”

You swallow in disgust. If that was his best material, you don’t want to know what his other pick-up lines were.

Aaron flops down, blocking the entire boardwalk with his body as he mopes in self-pity. “This romance stuff is too hard! Why do I even bother.”

“I’m sorry,” you sympathize. “But do you think you could maybe just make some room for us to get by?”

“What’s the point?” Aaron whimpers. Woshua paces beside him in exasperation. “I’ll never be good at this 'flirting' business. I should just lay here for the rest of my life.”

“Oh, come on, don’t be like that,” you say, patting one of his oversized triceps. “What if we help you think of some better pick-up lines? Some clean and funny ones?”

“Would you really?” Aaron’s eyes light up at you. “You’d do that for me?”

“Sure, if it will make you move faster,” Woshua mumbles.

“Okay! Let’s do it!” Aaron says, sitting up. “But the pick-up lines have to fit my style, okay? They’ve got to reflect my fantastic physique, if you know what I mean.”

Aaron winks. Woshua grunts in detest. You suppress a shiver.

You chew the skin between your thumb and finger as you inspect Aaron up and down. The guy clearly works out, that much is clear from his rippling muscles. Hmm. Rippling…

“Okay, how about this one? ‘Hey, can you lend me a bandage? Because my muscles are seriously ripped!'

Behind you Kid giggles. Aaron “oohs” in appreciation then turns to Woshua.

“What do you think Wosh? Is that clean enough?”

The green and blue monster closes his eyes as it assesses the pun.

“Hm. Band-Aids are good for keeping ouchies clean. It’s a bit self-absorbed and not really a pick-up line, but still PG. Yes. It’s a good one.”

“Great!” You nod. “So now that that’s settled, you can let us through!”

“Wait, wait, wait, champ!” Aaron sticks out his arm to stop you from going forward. “That’s just one line! I need a few to really woo a lady over! We can’t stop yet!”

You sigh and go back to thinking of exercise puns.

“Okay, okay, here’s another one; ‘I love to lift. Will you let me pick you up?’

“Brilliant!” Aaron claps, then turns again to Woshua. The stout monster narrows its eyes then shrugs.

“I sense no innuendo. It’s good.”

“Oh! Oh! I got TWO!” Kid joins in, no longer afraid of getting hit in the crossfire now that you’ve defused the situation. “How about ‘I should add another leg day, because you’re making me weak in the knees!’ and ‘Are your legs tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all day!’”

“Those are wonderful, and I don’t even have legs!!” Aaron swoons.

“’Girl, are you a boxer?” You start, “Because you’re a real knock-out!’”

“Fantastic! Perfect! These will all do great!”

“Glad we could help. Now can we get through?”

“Not yet!” Aaron puts his hands on his hips. “I need to practice them first! Here I go… Hey, babe, do you like… boxes? Because you knocked me out- wait, no… Uh. I don’t have legs, but you’ve been running in my mind- hold on, that’s not how it goes… Um, Do you have Band-Aids for my jacked muscles? Shoot. Wait, wait, I almost got it. Can I lift you up? Darn, how did it go again?”

Flustered, Aaron looks at you sheepishly. You take a long breath and begin helping him rehearse the lines.

Half an hour passes before Aaron finally memorizes his pick-up lines. As a reward, he shows off his best flexes for you, flexing his bulging muscles so hard that he begins to levitate until he floats up and out of the room. Woshua huffs “it’s about time” and trudges past you and Kid without a second thought, but pauses to look back.

“Thank you for keeping it clean,” it nods then continues on its way. You nod in turn and wave goodbye, glad to be underway again.

“Hey, I can see the other side of the lake now!” Kid says a few minutes later. “When we reach the next cavern, we’ll be about half way through Waterfall.”

“That’s good,” you exhale in relief when the other bank comes into view and the end of the bridge gets lost in more tall grass and reeds. You’re glad your progress hadn’t been hindered too much by the delay, and you’re still making good time. But just as you step foot off the dock, a booming voice shouts “HEY!” and “YOU!” halting you mid-step.

“FREEZE WHERE YOU ARE!”

You and Kid obey, the sound of stomping metal growing louder and faster, echoing all around you until a figure erupts from the gloom further down the shore. It’s a giant iron soldier, sprinting your way at full speed with a glowing blue spear in hand.

And it’s aimed directly at you.


It certainly wasn’t the weirdest phone call Undyne had ever received from Papyrus. That honor went to a series of voice mails she collectively called “The Goulash Incident”, where, after assigning Papyrus cooking homework using a pasta he had never tried before, she later received thirty-five messages of nothing but skeletal screams, shrieking smoke alarms, clashing cookware, mini explosions, a sound she could only describe as a slide whistle wrestling with a kazoo, and various dubious canine yips and pants. To this day, she still didn’t know the full story. Papyrus refused to talk about it, and Sans would break out into uncontrollable laughter at the merest mention of macaroni.

Undyne closes her voice mail and puts her phone away. So there was a little punk sneaking around Waterfall, was there? Catching the squirt would be no biggie for her, but why Papyrus didn’t want her to interfere or let his friend meet the king, she couldn’t understand. It certainly wasn’t in Papyrus’ nature to get jealous or possessive over new friends. Well, whatever! Papyrus was also a goofy guy who did wacky things sometimes. She didn’t waste her time trying to follow his logic because most of the time the base explanation was a cheesy pun or a figure of speech taken too literally. Seriously, Papyrus was worse than his brother sometimes. She’d let them do their thing.

Then again, if Sans was coming to fetch the little hooligan, maybe she should go looking for them anyway. Knowing Sans, he would fall asleep at his station as soon as he entered Waterfall and their little rugrat would get away!

The part about the spears was an enigma to her, though. Why would she ever want to stab a kid through the guts? That part of Papyrus’ request was the only thing that seemed a little too out there, even for him.

Bah, she wouldn’t stress the small details. She’d keep an eye out for any suspicious activity just to keep him happy, though.

Wait. Shit, fuck. No, she wouldn’t keep an eye out! That would make her the butt of a fucking joke. No, if she ran into the kid, she’d just try to stall them long enough for Sans to catch up.

Tucking her phone into her armor, Undyne takes in one last sweep from her vantage point up in her favorite training arena; a precarious cliff right on the edge between Waterfall and Hotland, where she had a good view of both regions as well as a glimpse of the castle of New Home. The heat here was just bearable enough in her thousand pounds of metal armor, but most of all, standing here made her look epic as all hell. Up here, she was dramatically backlit from the glow of Hotland’s lava, which made her ten times as intimidating to all her potential opponents. If that wasn’t anime as fuck, she didn’t know what was.

She leaps from the peak; her perch is so high that it takes a good ten seconds for her to hit the ground, and when she does, it’s with so much force that the bluff beneath her feet shutters as she takes off running on her daily rounds.

With eyesight perfectly adapted to the darkness of Waterfall, and memory of every path from a countless number of patrols, Undyne makes quick work of the pitch black forests between her arena and home without even having to use the lanterns or mushrooms to show her the way. The road through her neighborhood is flat and straight, giving her the perfect runway to build up enough speed and jump the gap that separated her house from the marshes with plenty of room to spare upon landing. Take that, lack of depth perception!

She marches on towards Snowdin without even breaking a sweat, and the local Waterfall residents scurry to get out of her way. So far it’s just the usual monsters she encounters in Waterfall and no one new. Everyone and everything she runs into is in order -just the way she likes it- all the way up until she reaches the lake, where a conflict on the bridge catches her attention.

Four monsters are gathered, but they don’t appear to be fighting. Three she recognizes as Aaron, Woshua, and Alphys’ younger brother. The fourth is a mystery to her, which immediately catches her interest. From her distance away, she can’t make out many features through her helmet, aside from their short height and long, fluffy ears. She thinks their face is bare, though, like a monkey or something similar, and their head fur appears to be two colors, white and brown. What an odd combination. Could this be Papyrus’ missing friend?

She watches, impressed, as they talk to both Aaron and Woshua, and gets them to deescalate the confrontation and even come to some sort of a compromise with just words, allowing them and Kid to pass without ever raising their voice. Normally it would take her brute force to get those two to stop arguing. She’d have to remember to ask them later what they said to make them calm down.

The four monsters part ways, Woshua to the west, Aaron straight up, and the two younger ones advance east in her direction. They get closer and she still can’t figure out what kind of monster the new comer is, but she catches snippets of their conversation discussing the king, and that’s all she needs to know to confirm who they are.

Before the two can step off the dock and out of sight into the tall grass, Undyne makes her move and makes her presence known with flair.

“HEY YOU!” She shouts, bull rushing them at full speed. “FREEZE WHERE YOU ARE!”

The two hooligans stop dead in their tracks, eyes locked in her direction. Undyne takes the opportunity to use their attention to make an even grander entrance. Boots clanking, she summons her longest spear, and uses it as a vaulting pole to clear the hedge of grass in one clean leap. Her vault carries her high enough to go clear over their heads, and she lands on the pier with near earth-shattering force.

She hits the boardwalk with such weight, that the wood cracks and splinters go flying. The two kids are knocked off their feet from the ricochet, and Undyne seizes the height advantage to tower over them threateningly.

“I got reports of two convicts who escaped from jail in the capital and were now hitchhiking through Waterfall,” she hisses at them, her hot breath practically steaming from the serrated jaw of her helmet. “They wouldn’t happen to be you two, would they?”

Too terrified to speak, the pair of trouble makers shake their heads like wet dogs. They’re so scared out of their wits she can practically hear their knees knocking.

“So it isn’t you…” she says, straightening up. She tries to stare them down a bit longer, but their petrified expressions are too hilarious to maintain a straight face and she bursts out laughing.

“Fuhuhuhu! That’s a relief!” she says, removing her helmet and swishing her long red hair to the side. “’Cause you two look WAY too tough for me to take on without backup!”

Alphys’ brother instantly rebounds from afraid to awestruck.

“Dude!” he gasps, nudging his friend to their feet. “It’s her! It’s Undyne! We did it! Pinch me, I must be dreaming! We got to meet Undyne!”

“Kid, I‘ll never understand why you get so excited so see me,” Undyne chortles at the starry-eyed lizard. “I hang out with your sister all the time! This isn’t the first time we’ve met! Although you,” Undyne turns to the second scamp and finally gets a good look at their peculiar flat, furless face. Was it the trick of the light, or did their ears and horns not quite meld with their head just right? But hey, who was she to judge? Monsters could be any shape and having one eye made picking up details difficult. “I’ve never seen a monster like you ‘round these parts before. What’s your name?”

“I’m Chara,” they say, extending a furry paw for a hand shake. “It’s nice to meet you! I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“I bet you have!” Undyne winks knowingly, and shakes the hand with gusto. She flashes her obscenely large grin at her biggest fan, who is bouncing on his toes off to the side. “So what are you two punks doing in Waterfall?”

“We’re going to the king!” Kid brags, speaking almost too fast to be understood. “My friend here lives in the Ruins and they got locked out and only Boss Monster magic is strong enough to open the doors, so we need to get Mister Dreemurr to open them so they can go home. Papyrus was originally going to walk us there, but then he twisted his ankle, so we decided to go alone, but we were also really hoping to see you on the way, and we did! And now we can all go meet the king together!”

“Woah, there! Remember to breathe, Kid!” Undyne snickers. Welp. If she had any doubts before, Kid’s ramblings certainly confirmed her suspicions now. A new face going to the king who just so happens to be a kid who knows Papyrus? This had to be his new friend who had gone missing.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” They pipe up nervously. “Come with us to the capital, that is. But, if you’re not too busy, do you think you could join us through Waterfall, at least?”

Undyne pretends to mull it over, dramatically rolling her one eye and tapping her chin as if trying to decide. On one hand, Papyrus had asked her to stall the kid so Sans could catch up. On the other hand, what was the big deal about preventing them from meeting King Asgore? Asgore was great! Why shouldn’t his subjects go see him? Surely one little visit wouldn’t hurt, and she could get them back to waterfall before Sans even stepped foot on the marsh.

“Hmm, well I dunno…” Undyne deliberates to chew up time. “I’ve got to finish my rounds, and fill out a bunch of paper work, and- ah what the heck! Why not?”

“Really? You will?” Kid beams.

“Sure! Patrolling is booooring! And I haven’t seen Asgore in a while! It'll be nice to drop by to say hi!”

“Dude! Sweet! We’re gonna get escorted to the king by Undyne after all!” Kid cheers. “How rad is that!”

“I’m more relieved than anything,” the little rascal tells him. “I’ve been trying to get home for days, and now I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. Thank you, Miss Undyne.”

“Don’t mention it, Squirt! C’mon! The fastest way to the king is this way!”

Undyne sets off at a break-neck speed. Kid can match her pace when he’s watching his step and not just her, but the other tyke has trouble keeping up, unused to the terrain and just slower in general. Undyne makes no allowances as they struggle to keep her in their sight. Rounding a corner, she spots Sans’ telescope, a landmark she uses to remind her that the small gap that separated her neighborhood from the swampy wetland was just up ahead. As soon as she passes it, she breaks into a sprint, building up as much momentum as she can in her armor-clad form.

The river feeding the marsh rushes up to meet her. Summoning another spear, Undyne uses it again to gracefully fling herself across the ravine, letting her inertia easily carry her across. She overshoots her landing by a good three yards, but turns back with her chest puffed out.

“Think you punks can beat that?”

Kid squares his stance and accepts the challenge. He rushes the gap at full speed, jumping it easily with his strong legs. His landing is nowhere near the same distance as Undyne’s but it’s an impressive leap none the less.

The other scamp comes to a halt at the edge of the gap and looks across despairingly.

“I can’t jump that far.”

“Seriously?” Undyne clicks her tongue in disappointment. “It’s only, like, five feet! You can’t do the jimpity jumpity joodle? The limpity loppity leap?”

“My legs are too sore to try. Even running after you was pushing it.” They confess.

“Hey, that’s alright dude,” Kid says, hopping back over. “We can find another way across. I always do! Undyne, do you think you could carry them?”

“In this armor?” Undyne says, springing back across the river as well. “Only if you don’t mind getting tossed around like a sack of potatoes! I could probably chuck you over, though!”

“No thanks,” the rugrat shakes their head, hands up in refusal. “Is there another way around that doesn’t involve jumping?”

“Well, we could always run back and get more bridge seeds, but that would take a while.” Kid suggests.

“Yeah, but the water here moves too fast for them to take root anyway,” Undyne reminds him.

“Oh! What if we weave a bridge, using the grass in the last room?” the tyke proposes.

“Not on my watch!” Undyne warns. “That grass is federally protected! I shouldn’t have even let you two prance through it back there, but I turned a blind eye because I was feeling generous after how I saw you break up that argument between Aaron and Woshua. How about instead you do a hundred squats and build up enough muscle mass to jump across?”

“I don’t think that’s how exercise works, Undyne,” they rub their arm apologetically.

“Well, I guess we can just take the lower tunnels,” Kid shrugs. “It’s a pretty big detour, but the other bridges will get us around.”

“Yeah, seems like our best bet,” Undyne agrees. “Except that route takes FOREVER!”

The three monsters study the gap apathetically, still searching for solutions when the jingling of a bell cuts through the air.

“Hey! That’s the nice cream vendor!” Undyne perks up. “How about we get us something sweet to fuel our minds while we brainstorm?”

The mention of ice cream immediately lifts their spirits and the trio detours into a hidden cavern to buy some dessert. They take a break to snack and clear their heads before continuing.

Undyne stares out at the marsh absentmindedly while biting into her ice cream bar, casting periodic glances down at the two friends eating their sweets together.

The foreign monster seems absolutely enchanted at the view before them, and for good reason; the cavern was probably the most geographically unique in all of Waterfall, and the room that gave the region its name. Shaped like an inverted amphitheater, the main river that flowed into this chamber repeatedly split and forked as it cascaded down the naturally steep stair-shaped shelves, along with several dozen small springs bubbling up to create small ponds and tide pools on each step. Unlike any other room in Waterfall, though, the water here glows a beautiful bright blue thanks to the tiny bioluminescent organisms that made the stagnant puddles their home and flourished among the cat tails and lily pads, illuminating the cave in a soft shade of cyan.

The rugrat seems completely mystified at the glowing streams, and even peels off the fur on one of their hands to dip their fingers in the water, watching the tiny eddies sparkle and shimmer in their wake.

Wait, they did WHAT?!

Undyne does a double take, unable to believe what her eye is seeing. Did the kid just fucking pull their own skin off?! No, upon closer examination, the thing she thought was a fuzzy paw was actually… a glove?

Undyne watches in disbelief as the kid pulls their hand out of the water. It comes up glittering, twinkling blue like the stars in the wishing room. Suddenly, as if struck by an idea, they begin removing their shoes and socks and roll up their pants. The sight makes Undyne go stiff with horror.

Their shins are scored with scratches and scrapes and blue-black patches, but it isn’t the initial sign of injuries that turn her legs to stone and make her nearly bite her ice cream stick in half- it’s the tiny red dots of liquid that bead up on the cuts and flow away when they dip their legs into the numbingly cool water.

They’re bleeding. And monsters. Don’t. Bleed.

She takes another look at their face and suddenly their bare skin and mismatched fur and ears make sense.

This monster is-

This kid is-

This thing in front of her is human.

Magic instinctively begins to coil around her fingertips, eager to form into her sharpest weapon, but one thing holds her back; Alphys’ brother. Kid.

The human sits too close to him for her to get a good shot, and she won’t let him witness murder, even if his friend deserves to be slain on sight. How diabolical. This human must have intentionally befriended him to use him as a shield.

“Hey Kid,” Undyne speaks low and even, calling him over with a jerk of her head. “Do me a favor and get us another round of nice cream, will ya? We should get one of them free from the punch cards in the box.”

“Anything for you, Undyne,” Kid sighs, before tumbling down the tunnel. Knowing Kid’s persistent demeanor, his lack of arms would barely slow him down in buying three more treats. He would probably be back in less than two minutes, but two minutes would be all the time Undyne would need. At least now he was out of harm’s way.

Crumping her wrapper and stick, Undyne tosses the trash aside and creeps around behind her target’s back. They don’t hear or notice the glow from the spear she conjures, still too focused on scrubbing their legs clean.

She can’t believe it. A human in the Underground. Monsterkind’s public enemy number one was just waltzing around under everyone’s noses. The most dangerous being to monsters running freely through Waterfall, headed straight for their king. This is what Papyrus didn’t want her to attack? This is what he and Sans welcomed under their roof? The clever little beast had disguised themselves to blend in with monsters and she had fallen for it. Had Papyrus and Sans? Wait- is this why Papyrus had asked her not to attack? Had he known?

Well, it didn’t matter now. In a few short seconds the threat would be dead and she could continue on and visit Asgore and gift him with a human soul as a welcoming present.

Undyne raises her spear over her head, pulls back, and-

”Hey, Undyne. What are you up to?”

Mother of SHIT.

Startled, Undyne fires her spear too early. Instead of piercing through the human’s back, it goes flying straight up and punctures the ceiling, where it reverberates like the world’s most ridiculously oversized doorstop, comedic twang and all.

Undyne turns, but the voice she heard right beside her ear is not behind her. Instead, she spots a certain skeleton leaning against a telescope a few feet away.

God dammit, Sans and his freaky space-hopping abilities.

He’s waving her over with that shit-eating grin plastered on his face. Well, he always has that grin plastered on his face, but today it looks extra shit-eating. Darting one last look at the clueless human who’s still soaking their legs, Undyne sneaks away out of earshot to talk to her sentry.

“Sans, why did you throw me off? That’s a-“

“-kid who I’m here to retrieve? Yep. Thanks for looking out for them Undyne. I really appreciate it.”

“No, Sans! That’s a-!”

“-friend of my brother, whom specifically asked you not to shish kebab? Right-o, that’s the one.”

“Sans, have you lost your mind?!” Undyne hisses in a not-so-subtle whisper. “That kid is human! The arch enemy of all monsters! And you and your brother have been keeping it in your home like a pet?!

“What? No, Undyne, listen. This kid… they don’t know they’re human. They just want to go home but they can’t anymore, so Papyrus and I have taken them in. They’re not dangerous.”

“A human that doesn’t know it’s human? What the fuck kind of bullshit cover story is that? Has this kid really deceived you and your brother into thinking that? You two are way more perceptive than that! Unless-!”

Undyne gasps, suddenly completely focused on Sans. She grabs the skeleton’s shoulders, kneels down, and stares deep into his eyes.

“Sans. Have you, your brother, and the human had any intimate physical contact? Specifically kissing or hugging?”

What?! Sure, the kid’s a big hugger, but what does that have to do with-“

“Mind control.” Undyne cuts him off with a sharp inhale through her fangs. “I knew it. Alphys’ human history tapes warned me about this.”

Sans stares at her blankly before slapping his palm to his face.

“Undyne. Please tell me you’re not serious.”

“No, it all makes sense, Sans! That’s why Papyrus asked me not to attack them! Because the human’s got him under a spell! Hugging must be a pretty weak one, though. Papyrus still had enough wits to fight it and warn me not to let them get to the king. Good on him.”

“Undyne. Please stop.”

“Sans, listen to me,” Undyne says seriously, squeezing his shoulders tight. “I know this may be hard for you to comprehend, but you are being mind controlled by human right now.”

“I can assure you with one hundred percent certainty that I am not, Undyne.”

“And that’s exactly what someone under mind control would say!”

Sans groans and rolls his eyes.

“Don’t worry, Sans. I can save you and your brother. I’ll slay the human and the spell will be broken!”

“Undyne, enough!” Sans snaps, shaking Undyne’s hands off of him. “I’m not possessed, because they can’t possess people! The kid's never even hugged me!”

“They never-? Then why are you defending them Sans!?”

“Because I-! I kind of made a promise to someone…”

“You??? You HATE making promises! That alone should prove you've been duped!”

“Yeah, I know it sounds far-fetched and hard to believe, but please try to understand, Undyne.” Sans pleads. “They’re not dangerous, okay? They just want to get home and they mean no harm, and as long as they think they’re a monster like the rest of us they’re perfectly benign, alright? They won’t hurt you, so please don’t hurt them.”

“I can’t believe you've fallen for their schlock, Sans!” Undyne throws her arms up in the air. “You’ve known the human for like, what? TWO days tops, and you declare them pure of heart? You don’t even put this much trust in your fellow monsters! And you call yourself a judge of character.”

At last it seems Undyne’s commotion is enough to alert the human’s attention. They look over their shoulder and spy the two adults together.

“Hi Sans!” The human smiles, before suddenly going stiff and defensive. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ve a part time job running a telescoping business,” Sans winks, pulling his eyes away from Undyne and tapping this telescope with one knuckle. “Gives us a little money on the side outside of sentry duty. But hey, Pap’s is really sad that you left. He misses you terribly and so do I. D’you think you could come back to cheer him up?”

“I’m sorry, Sans. I can’t,” they shake their head and stand firm. “I’m still a little upset he lied to me, and I’ve got to go home.”

“Hey dudes! I’m back!” Kid announces, balancing three wrapped ice cream bars on his head as he tiptoes back into the room. “Oh, hey Sans! What’s up? Uh… please don’t tell my parents I’m out here, alright? I’ve got Undyne watching over me after all, so it’s cool. Ha ha. Here’s your nice cream, Undyne.”

“Thanks, Kid.” Undyne grumbles, realizing her opportunity to slaughter the human has passed now that Sans and Alphys’ brother were both in the room. Undyne takes one of the wrapped sweets and turns back to Sans only to find that he’s picked up her old trash. He inspects it nonchalantly in his hand.

“Undyne… you weren’t littering, were you?” He asks dangerously low.

“What? Of course not, Sans!” Undyne forces a smile and snatches the trash out of the skeleton’s hands before shoving it into her breast plate. “What would ever give you that idea?”

“Just checking,” Sans hums, happily playing along in their little game. “After all, we want to be good role models to these kids, right? Space is limited here in the Underground. We don’t want to be trashing up our home, right?”

Oh, what a fucking hypocrite. Sans’ room was rumored to have more garbage than the dumps in Waterfall, and he had the gall to tell her not to litter? Sure, he could go around telling other people not to trash up the place, but clean is own room? He would not!

Undyne blinks several times to get back on track. Sneaky of Sans to try and distract her from the real problem at hand, but she wouldn’t fall for it.

“Hey, Kid. How about you and your friend over there give us grown-ups a little space? We need to discuss some things in private.”

“Aw man, is it like, super-secret sentry-guard stuff?”

“Yeah, top secret national security junk that you two can’t over hear for your own safety.”

“Gotcha,” Kid nods with the utmost seriousness on his face. “I didn’t hear anything.”

He runs back to the human and Undyne hates to watch him go, but if that human brat befriended him to use him as a shield, then she knows they wouldn’t harm their only bit of leverage. Besides, she could easily get kid away from them if she needed to. Kid would be safe for now.

“Undyne, I’m begging you, please just give the kid a chance, okay?” Sans says when the children are far enough away.

“Humans don’t deserve chances, Sans!” Undyne retorts. “They deserve to be wiped out after what they did to us!”

“I know, I know, but even you have enough honor to be the better person, right? Unless they actually do something like attempt to hurt another monster, you’ve got no reason to attack them. Or do you really admit to being the kind of person who would murder an innocent child in cold blood?”

“I don’t know why you keep trying to convince me not to do the right thing, Sans. They’re not innocent, they’re human. Their very existence makes them guilty by default.”

Sans studies her for a long moment before shaking his head. “You know what? I give up. Obviously you’re not going to listen to reason. Why did I ever think I could sway you? I don’t think you would be able to give them the benefit of the doubt if you tried.”

What?” Undyne sneers, her pupil growing dangerously thin.

“You heard me. I bet you can’t restrain yourself from keeping your mouth shut or from killing them until they actually do something murder-worthy. In fact, I know you can’t do it.”

“Is that a challenge?” Undyne growls.

“It’s not a challenge. It’s the truth.”

“How dare-! I’LL SHOW YOU, SANS! I CAN RESIST MY IMPALING IMPULSES!”

“Oh yeah? Then prove it! Don’t lay a finger on them unless they actually hurt someone! And don’t you dare intentionally push them over the edge by blowing their secret! If they get all the way through Waterfall without harming a single soul, then you have to back off!”

“Ohohoho! It’s on, bone boy!” Undyne gives him an ugly smirk. “I’ll show you! I agree to your terms! I won’t put a scratch on them unless they shoot first, but I’ll prove to you that their ‘I’m a monster too!’ shtick is nothing but an act! I’ll get them to expose themselves and once I do, I’ll have all the justification in the world to strike them down!”

Undyne turns and marches away from the skeleton, not caring if he had anything else to say. “Get up, punks! We’re going to Hotland.”

“So it’s decided, then?” the human asks. “We’ll take the bridges through the lower part of Waterfall since I can’t jump the gap?”

“Sounds like a plan to me!” Kid chirps, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Let’s roll out!”

“Are you really sure you want to do this, bucko?” Sans asks nervously one last time in desperation, stealing glances between the human and Undyne. “Our doors are always open. You don’t have to leave.”

“Sans, I know you and Papyrus are just worried for me, but don’t be!” The human reassures him. “Look, I have Undyne taking us to New Home! I’ll be fine!

“You should go home, Sans,” the human advises when Sans doesn’t look convinced, though it sounds more like an order than a suggestion. “I’ll be back real soon, okay? I’ve got Undyne looking out for me.”

“Yeah, Sans! Go back to your brother,” Undyne grins, almost frighteningly big. “Don’t be such a spoilsport! The kid wants to meet the king, and I’m gonna get them there and we’ll be just fine. Don’t you worry about a thing.”

The trio rolls out, and Sans reluctantly watches them go. Undyne pauses right before they set out over the marsh to whisper one last promise;

“A human can’t possibly know that they’re not human, Sans. You’ll see. I’ll make them slip up well before we reach Hotland, and when I do, Asgore is going to get his seventh soul, humanity will finally get its payback, and you? Well, we can discuss the terms of your punishment for this treason once we reclaim the surface. Now go home and don’t let me catch sight of you in Waterfall again. If you interfere, I might just break our deal, get it?”

“Got it.” Sans mutters.

“Good.”

With that, the warrior leaves the skeleton standing there on the edge, watching helplessly as they spiral down the ramps, deeper into Waterfall’s depths.

Chapter Text

The upside to having powers that allowed Sans to bypass most laws of physical space was that they granted him the ability to hop through Waterfall fairly quickly. The downside was Waterfall was a god damn labyrinth with hundreds of rooms and corridors, and combing through all of them, even with small successive jumps, was still time consuming and quite draining on his magic.

Unlike Snowdin, where he could have simply followed a trail of footprints in the snow, Waterfall did not lend itself so easily with signs as to where his quarry had gone. He had been lucky- there was no other way of saying it- it had been pure, dumb luck for him to find the kid just in the nick of time and stop Undyne from filleting them alive, but it seemed that that was as far as his luck would take him.

The human’s cool expression and stiff words towards him were more than enough to let him know they were still sore about being deceived. What else could he have done but back off or risk having them retaliate against him if he had forced them to come back, or worse, pushed them further onto Undyne’s side?

He may have just save their skin this time, but they’d be living on borrowed time as long as Undyne stood between them. This was one pickle he certainly did not relish.

Heh. Relish. Even in these trying times he still had it in him to make a pun. He really should have eaten some lunch before trying to solve this particular problem.

But there was no time for that now. Undyne may be true to her word, but if she found even the smallest reason to doubt the kid’s innocence all bets would be off, and he wouldn’t be able to interfere. There was only one other person Sans knew who could keep the warrior on the straight and narrow.

Thinking quickly, Sans pulls out his cellphone and rapidly types a text message.

*hey alphys. can you do me a favor?

Alphys replies faster than Sans expects.

*Um, I guess? Depends on what it is and as long as it’s within legal standards, lol.

*great. i need you to keep an eye on undyne for me. i’ve been compromised and she’s taking our human friend to the capital. i need you to make sure your girlfriend doesn’t kill them before they reach hotland where i’ll try to intervene again.

*OMG SANS!!! She’s not my girlfriend!! >:I

*And I don’t know if I should. I did what you asked and kept the human secret from her, but if Undyne’s found out about them on her own, then there’s not much else I can do.

*If I tried to prevent her from taking the human to the king, she could have me court martialed.

*I’m sorry, Sans. We tried, but maybe we should just let this run its course. It was going to happen eventually.

Sans pinches his nasal bone. He should have expected as much from Alphys, always wanting to take the path of least resistance. He was hoping he didn’t have to play this card, but she’s left him with no other choice. Sans types another message then regretfully hits send.

*but alphys, wouldn’t the human be more valuable to you alive?

It’s several seconds before Alphys replies.

*I… didn’t think about that. I really would like to study them up close before Undyne or Asgore take their soul.

*But then again, I’ll have plenty of humans to study on the surface once Asgore breaks the barrier.

*Unless he kills them all first…

Sans stares at the phone screen, not quite ready to get his hopes up just yet. A few more heartbeats and Alphys replies again.

*You know what? You’re right. I’ll do it. I may not get another chance to study a live human this closely. I’ll keep my cameras locked onto them while they’re in Waterfall and I’ll make sure Undyne doesn’t do anything fishy.

*good one.

*OHMYGOD I WASN’T TRYING TO MAKE A PUN!

*._.

*Please don’t tell Undyne about this.

*about what, the pun or going behind her back to help a human?

*Both!

*God, you’re impossible sometimes, you know that? XC

*heh, i know. but thanks a ton, alphys. i’ll be hanging around at the border between waterfall and hotland if you need me. in the meantime, try to see if you can get a visual on the kid in the lower caves of waterfall. they just left the glow water room and are on their way to the rain tunnels.

*Np! I won’t let them out of my sight!

With that, Sans shoves his phone back into his coat pocket, gives one last look where Undyne lead the kid away then skips off, taking one final short cut to lie in wait at the end of Waterfall.


Of all the new places in all of the Underground you’ve seen so far, the glowing water room probably takes the cake. In fact, the room is kind of shaped like a cake, one with twelve telescoping tiers, and you’re standing on the very top looking down towards the vast drop off at the bottom.

Your small party takes a break to eat ice cream and plan your next move since you can’t jump the gap that would have been the fastest path through the region. While you steal a much needed respite, you decide to rinse off your stinging legs in the bright blue river and clean off all the dirt and muck you’ve acquired so far. The water is refreshingly cold and numbing, and you zone out for a bit, letting the river draw out all the little aches and pains until you feel rejuvenated again.

A commotion behind you draws your attention and you look over your shoulder to find Sans speaking with Undyne. At first you’re pleasantly surprised to see him, until you remember how he had played along with Papyrus’ injury which meant he knew Papyrus had been faking, which meant he lied to you too. Yet despite your bitterness, you kept your words with him even and short. Knowing how he could fling you across the room with a wave of his hand, there would be no point fighting him if he tried to drag you back to Snowdin, but you would do everything you could to make your resistance painfully clear.

Against all odds, Sans seemed to get the message. Maybe it was Undyne vouching for you that helped, but in the end he let you go, watching you head out on the detour route once all three of your posse have had a little rest. You feel his eye sockets on you as you descend, but you refuse to look back.

The gangplanks of the glowing water room zig-zag down the stair-like ledges of the cliff face, and the many tiny streams that trickle and pour over the rocks fizzle like a soft drink and splash like music to your ears. Dragonflies and lightning bugs chase each other in spritely games of tag, and the air is thick with the scent of honeysuckle and morning glories. You can barely take it all in as you head down the winding boardwalk to the lower tunnels of Waterfall.

There’s a guard rail along the bottom of the bridge, overlooking the sheer drop off where the water spills away, and any of the tiny glowing life forms unlucky enough to get swept over the edge get carried off with the flow, making the bottomless waterfall look like a fountain of falling stars. You smartly look away from the spectacle, lest it trigger another migraine, and follow Kid and Undyne into a hidden tunnel at the base of the cliff previously unseen from your former vantage point above, and disappear out of Sans’ line of sight.

With Undyne around, Kid’s attitude has completely changed. Excitable he still is, but for the most part he’s dead quiet, his eyes solely focused on his metal-clad heroine. You stay by his side and resume your duty of catching him when he trips (which has increased in frequency since he won’t watch where he’s going) but you don’t mind the silence. Seeing Sans again had reminded you of something, and you pull out your borrowed cell phone and begin to fiddle with it.

Papyrus’ phone is a hundred times more high tech than yours. For starters, it’s a sleek, flip phone with not one, but two screens, a small square one on the front, and a larger rectangular one on the inside. All the buttons are on the bottom, and it seems to have done away with any need for an antenna, unlike the brick of a phone you have to lug around in the Ruins.

You start pressing buttons, trying to figure out what does what through trial and error. You think there’s something called text messaging? It sounds different than a regular old phone call, anyway. You manage to open the address book and idly scroll through the list of contacts. There are… a lot of people in here. Did Papyrus know everyone in the Underground? You wonder if he has the king’s number in here. Would it be under 'Asgore'? Or was that too casual? Maybe 'king'? It might be 'Dreemurr'. You're half-tempted to try and call ahead to let him know you’re coming, but after almost fifteen minutes of scrolling, you’re still in the names that start with double ‘a’s and decide to quit while you’re ahead.

Undyne periodically looks back at you over her shoulder, but she’s no longer smiling like she had been before. If anything, her expression has become more of a glare when she checks to see if you’re still keeping up.

“Hey! Where the heck did you get THAT, punk?” she demands when she notices the phone in your hand. “You didn’t STEAL it, did you?”

“What? No, I would never steal!” You panic and hastily explain to defend yourself. “Papyrus lent it to me if I needed help on my way to the king. I probably won’t need it now that you’re leading the way, but I wanted to learn how it worked just in case. I’m going to return it to him on my way back through Snowdin.”

“Likely story, brat.” Undyne hisses. “But don’t think you can fool me. I’m on to you.

Flabbergasted, you slow to a stop. Kid pauses when he notices you halt, his eyes switching between you and the warrior who continues forward.

“What did she mean by that?” you ask him, exchanging a look.

“I dunno.” Kid shrugs, putting on a weak smile. “But don’t let it get to you. C’mon! We’re falling behind!”

You resume walking, following the curving tunnel that seems to primarily head north, but always heading down. Behind you, the deep rumbling of the waterfalls fades away only to be replaced with a gentle whisper that gradually grows until you can make out the soft sound of steady rain. The volume increases until there’s an almost complete about-face turn to the right and a shower of water greets you.

You stop and stare. Above you, raindrops swell and fall from microscopic fissures in the roof over head. They trickle into puddles that never seem to grow or shrink, before flowing away through even more tiny cracks below your feet, unseen by the naked eye. The ground before you is dotted with puddles of water smooth and glass-like. Even the inexplicable rain that drips from the ceiling barely disturbs their mirror-like reflections.

“This is the rain tunnel!” Kid tells you. “Our geologists say this tunnel is underneath an aquifer of water, and the roof leaks, which is why it always looks like it’s raining.”

“You aren’t worried about it flooding?” you ask, imagining a thousand gallon pool of water crashing down on you at any second and washing you away. Kid shakes his head.

“There are magic spells in place to make sure the amount of… of… per-sip-i-tay-shun, never changes,” Kid explains, carefully sounding out the rather large vocabulary word. “They also theorize there might be another reservoir below us, where the water drains away, but because not everyone likes getting soaked in the rain, the king left this bucket of umbrellas for the travelers.” He nods to an umbrella stand right at the edge of the corridor. It’s just far enough away from the rain where it won’t fill up with water. Kid wiggles his shoulders. “I never really use one, though.”

“I can carry an umbrella for you,” you offer, walking over and pulling one from the bin then pause before fetching another. “Do you need an umbrella, Undyne?”

“Does it look like I need one, punk?” The warrior spits. “A little rain doesn’t bother me.”

“Oh, s-sorry,” you apologize and elect to stick close to Kid’s side. Either Undyne didn’t hear your apology or didn’t care, for she turns away and marches forward, leaving you behind with the little yellow lizard.

“Did I say something wrong?” you ask him quietly, confused by Undyne’s sudden cold shoulder.

“Nah, I doubt it.” Kid reassures you and starts walking again, encouraging you to follow. “That’s just the way Undyne is sometimes. She likes to stay dark and mysterious.”

“But she was happy and smiling before. Now she just looks… angry.”

“Hm. Maybe she’s just bummed we have to go the long way around Waterfall. But it’s not your fault!” Well, technically it was your fault, but you wouldn’t argue that when Kid was trying to cheer you up. “Don’t let it drag you down!”

“I won’t, it’s just… I don’t want someone to be mad at me, especially when I don’t know what I did wrong.”

“Dude, you worry too much! She’s not mad at you! Maybe you two just got off on the wrong foot or something.”

You give Kid a piteous look.

“Hey! It’s not the end of the world! We can still make her warm up to you!”

“How?” You ask doubtfully.

“Hm. Let’s try finding something you two have in common. Now what does Undyne like…” Kid rolls his eyes in thought. “Let’s see… she loves being the strongest monster in the Underground! Well, maybe only after Asgore and Gerson, probably. She likes delivering justice to crooks and villains, and she likes being intimidating. Are you any of those things?”

“No.”

“Hm. So no similar interests. Maybe you have similar disinterests, though?”

“That sounds like a stretch.”

“Well, it won’t hurt to try! Now what does Undyne not like? Well, there’s criminals and humans, obviously. And showing fear or weakness. Do you hate those things too?”

You shake your head. “I’m not afraid to admit when I’m not strong enough to do something on my own. And I really do try not to hate anyone even if they’ve wronged me. Sometimes it’s hard, but holding a grudge solves nothing, and remembering that helps.”

Kid chews his lower lip. “Man, you’re making this really challenging. You and Undyne are, like, total opposites then. Wait! That’s it!” Kid hops in front of you and blocks your path. “Challenge her!”

“What?!” You hiss, hoping Undyne didn’t hear Kid’s words. “I’m not going to fight her!”

“No, no! Challenge her to a competition! Undyne can’t resist proving she’s number one at absolutely everything. Think of a friendly game and make a bet that she can’t win! Then you let her beat you, and ta-da! She’ll instantly like you!”

A game, huh? Well, it was worth a shot since you had no better options. Your eyes roam around the room, but there isn’t much around here to make a game out of, especially on the move. You could try making a competition out of Who Can Kick The Rock The Farthest, but the only rocks around are the ones in your pockets and you don’t really want to lose those. For a hot second you consider starting up a round of I Spy but ultimately decide against it. You don’t know Undyne well enough yet to know if it’s okay to bring that sort of stuff up, and the absolute last thing you want to do is offend her and make the situation even worse.

You pass through a particularly thick patch of falling rain, the raindrops splattering on your umbrella like a dozen drumming fingernails, impatiently tapping, waiting for you to find an answer. You circumvent a rather large looking puddle, and your reflection catches our eye. In that moment the perfect idea hits you.

“Hey Kid,” you say slyly, a devilish grin spreading on your face. “Wanna see who can jump in more puddles?”

Kid’s face breaks out into a ridiculous smile. “You’re on!” Ditching the shelter of the umbrella, Kid leaps into the first puddle he can find, splashing up a tidal wave of water. “Race you to the statue!” He says without looking back.

You have no clue what ‘the statue’ is, but you figure you’ll know it when you see it, especially if Kid gets there first. Quickly following suit, you begin to stomp in every tiny pool you see until you surpass Undyne.

“Pfft, you brats are going to exhaust yourselves before we get to Hotland!” She scolds you.

You look up slowly, making no effort to hide your smile. “Maybe,” you smirk, your tone teasing. “But I bet I could jump in more puddles than you.”

“Oh ho ho, you think you can beat me at a puddle jumping contest?” Undyne brags. “Maybe you haven’t noticed, imp, but I’m a fish. Water is my element!”

“Oh yeah? Prove it!”

Undyne’s gills practically flare.

“You asked for it, punk!”

Light as a feather and quick as a viper, Undyne blazes down the corridor, displacing every ounce of water from every puddle she stomps into. She rockets past you and past Kid, kicking up a spray of mist in her wake. Other monsters in the hallway throw themselves to the walls when Undyne comes barreling through, and you and Kid drop trying to hop in puddles all together and just try to keep up with her.

The tunnel is pretty much a straight runway, and Undyne undisputedly makes it to the statue first.

“Nine hundred and ninety-eight, nine hundred and ninety-nine, one thousand!” Undyne exclaims at the stone checkmark. “HA! Quadruple digits! I beat you brats by a mile!”

“Ha ha, you sure did,” Kid pants, and shakes as much rain from his scales as he can.

“Yeah, you won,” you congratulate the warrior between breaths then stick out your hand. “Good race.”

Undyne reaches out to shake hands, but stops short and recoils halfway through. Her oversized smile simmers down into a sneer, as she runs her hand through her fire-red hair.

“Psyche,” she snorts, then turns and saunters off.

Your face falls and shoulders slump as Kid comes closer to your side. “Well that didn’t work.”

“Hey, don’t give up yet!” Kid tries to motivate you. “We’re only about halfway through this rainy bit now. We’ve still got a ways to go before we reach Hotland. We’ll figure something out! Let’s keep moving.”

Without checking to see if you’re following, Kid sets out after Undyne. You don’t move right away, still trying to catch your breath and wring out all the excess water from your sleeves.

You study the stone statue while you continuously try to dry off in vain. It sits in an alcove across from a body of water that is definitely too big to just be another puddle. The monument is old and covered in lichen and algae, turning the grey stone several shades of green, and it’s so eroded from the eternal rain that all the features of its face have been worn smooth and the horns have lost their points.

You squint and tilt your head, trying to puzzle what the statue once was. It’s a monster at least, you know that for sure, but exactly what kind, you can’t say. It looks like a hunched over body and the rocks at its feet are dry. The hands, balled almost into fists, look like they once held something. A flag pole, maybe? A blade? A bouquet of flowers?

Undyne and Kid have started to move on without you and are almost out of sight at the end of the tunnel. Thoroughly soaked from all your puddle hopping, you regard the umbrella in your hand. It won’t do you any good anymore with how wet you are. A thought comes to you, and you stick the umbrella in the statue’s curled palms then watch as the water gets diverted way from the figure’s back and onto the floor around it.

With the rain finally draining away from the stone creature’s back, something inside the statue begins to click and turn…

Is it… is it just your imagination or is there the faint sound of music playing?

You listen closely, even going so far as to lean your ear onto the statue. Yes… there it is. It’s quiet but there, and getting steadily stronger- the distinct sound of steel comb teeth being plucked by tiny metal pins in a looping pattern, a signature music box sound. It’s a very soothing melody, and it fills you with a serene sense of calm. You decide to listen for a while.

Something moves in your peripherals and you turn, half expecting to find Kid or Undyne shouting at you to catch up, but instead you spy a blue-green monster shyly peering out form around the bend.

“Oh, hello,” you blink in surprise. How long had she been there?

Much like Undyne, she’s fish-like in appearance, only with blue hair instead of red, and with a softly glowing lure sprouting from her… um… head? Back? She floats over another monster, vaguely slug-like in shape with conical eyes and a very large mouth.

The fish monster is staring at the statue in utter fascination, completely enraptured by the music. Looking down, she blows a series of whistles and pops to the monster beneath her. The slug-like monster… responds? By blowing a string of bubbles of their own, but to you it all sounds like gibberish.

Moving in sync, the pair slides over to your side to get a closer listen of the little melody.

After it loops two or three times, the fish monster begins to whistle along.

“You have a very nice voice,” you compliment. The fish monster startles and shrinks away, apparently failing to notice you as you had for her. “Oh, no! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you.”

The monster looks away, abashed, and retreats further from your approach. You stop, uncertain how to amend the situation, before turning back to the statue. She had been attracted to the music. Maybe music would encourage her to come back again.

“Want to sing with me?” you ask. The fish monster watches you intently, and very softly you start to hum.

You copy the tune of the music box, humming the same twenty-four notes over and over. The fish monster perks up, swaying along in time, and after one or two rounds she begins to harmonize with your melody, whistling to her heart’s content.

Her performance is something to behold; the fish monster uses her magic to conjure musical notes that swirl and pop in every conceivable color like a rainbow of tiny fireworks. You find yourself having to side step left and right to avoid being hit by the sparks, but you don’t stop humming for a second.

The music echoes down the corridors, and your duet begins to draw attention as pedestrians who come to investigate start point and whisper. The two of you must certainly look like a pair of street performers doing a rehearsed song and dance. Word spreads like wildfire as friends run off to tell friends to come see, and more people gather until pretty soon you’ve pulled in a crowd. With a decently sized audience listening along, some begin to clap, some take pictures, and some even throw coins. A few begin to sing along after finding the pattern, and without even realizing it, you’re leading an impromptu concert in front of a cheering crowd. You have to fight down your giggles so you can keep humming. How does something like this happen so quickly?

The hallway gets so packed that there’s no room to move. Your singing partner looks exceptionally proud of the positive attention when the crowd demands an encore, but all your humming and dancing and previous running have left you tuckered out. The both of you take a bow and the crowd gives you a standing ovation.

It doesn’t last long, though, for someone in the back screams and flees when two massive, yellow tentacles sprout up from the pond behind you that you had previously ignored. From the center of the lake, a giant horn breaches the surface, followed by a huge round head and two enormous eyes. The mob dissipates at once, scattering down both ends of the tunnel, leaving you and your singing partner frozen to the spot.

“Hey… there…” the new monster says, its voice surprisingly high pitched for something so large.

It’s… it’s… you don’t know what it is. Your first instinct is to say “octopus”, but it’s got the horn of a narwhal, and the arms of a squid, and it’s just so big you’re amazed it fits in the pond at all.

“Hi…” It greets you again when neither of you respond, making sure all of its words are enunciated correctly with its sing-song voice. “I’m Onionsan, ya’ hear?”

“H-hello. I’m Chara.” you swallow, petrified, but not wanting to be rude. The fish and slug monsters beside you do the same.

“I heard you singing with Shyren,” Onionsan says, nodding at the monster beside you and fixing you with its large unblinking eyes. “It’s been so long since I’ve heard the statue play that tune. It’s my big favorite.”

Seeing that the new monster means you no harm, you begin to relax. You smile up at her.

Onionsan smiles overzealously back down at you. “I’ve been petitioning for months to get it fixed. Second only to finding a way to refill my lake here… It’s been draining for weeks now, and it’s so shallow, it's barely more than a puddle. I can’t really swim around anymore and I have to sit down all the time… But hey! It beats moving to the crowded aquarium in the capital! Like all my friends did…”

The octopus monster’s smile becomes tight and their face looks pinched as they force themselves to stay cheery.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” you console them, not sure what else you can do. “I wish I could help.”

“No worries! That’s a problem for the people with the money, as it usually is. Your music has made me happier than I’ve ever been in months, so you have helped me in a way! Besides, I’m not going to stay here forever! Once we get one more soul to break the barrier, I’m going to go out and live in the ocean! King Asgore will come through for us! I just know he will. It’s gonna happen any day now!”

You nod and try to turn away. You should really get going. Undyne and Kid are probably waiting.

“You know… your singing reminded me,” Onionsan adds before you have the chance to politely dismiss yourself. “My friends and I wanted to start a band. Before they all left for the city, that is. Have you ever wanted to be in a band?”

Shyren whistles a few notes, and you shrug your shoulders.

“I’ve never really given it much thought.”

“Neither did we!” Onionsan giggles. “None of us knew how to play any instruments. We only thought of our band name. It was going to be ‘Red Hot Chibipeppers’. What do you think of it?”

You and Shyren exchange a look.

“It’s… interesting!” you say, and Onionsan’s face lights up.

“Oh, I just know we’ll go big! Of course… first I should learn to play an instrument… and find some other band members…” Onionsan’s voice trails off before they excitedly turn back to you. “Hey! Would you like to join my band?”

“Oh! Uh, that sounds fun, but I don’t know how to play any instruments either. And I can’t really stay in Waterfall. You should ask Shyren, here.”

The fish monster beside you jumps and hides her face behind her hair. She shakes her head in protest at your suggestion, and blows a few shy notes.

“Don’t be afraid, Shyren,” you say supportively. “You’re an excellent singer! And all those people we just performed for thought so too! Monsters from all over the Underground would love to hear you sing!”

Below Shyren, the slug monster rapidly blows a series of bubbles, which you can only hope are also words of encouragement. Shyren whistles back and the two converse for a minute, before Shyren looks up and nods to Onionsan with a confident smile.

“Shyren’s agent said that this could be her big break!” Onionsan graciously translates for your clueless ears. “And she’s agreed to try it out! Oh! We’re going to be famous!”

You congratulate them both and fondly listen to them make their big plans, but your celebration is short lived when a familiar figure enters the scene from further down the road.

“Alright! Break it up over here!” Undyne shouts, snaking towards you with Kid right behind.

Onionsan, Shyren and her agent instantly turn tail and flee, leaving you alone, cowering as if you’ve been caught red handed doing something you should not.

“Kid and I have been waiting for ages! It’s not polite to keep others waiting, especially since you said you were in a hurry.” The warrior reprimands you.

“I-I’m sorry,” you stutter. “I just met some other monsters, and we started talking, and I guess I lost track of time. I was just on my way, honest-“

“Runt, does it look like I care?” Undyne growls. “C’mon. Let’s keep going.”

Undyne leads the way and you obediently follow after, head hanging in shame.

“You okay?” Kid asks as you trail behind.

“I didn’t mean to get sidetracked. It just happened.” You whisper. “Now Undyne really hates me.”

“I’m sure that’s not true! She was probably just worried you got lost!” Kid says with a watery smile, but it’s forced like he’s having a tough time convincing himself that that’s the case too. “Listen, I thought of another idea to make you two friends.”

“What’s that?”

“We’ll get her to talk about her interests! It always works for my sister! Once she starts talking, she NEVER shuts up! And if you just play along, you’ll be come friends in no time!” He laughs in good nature then predictably slips on a wet rock. You catch his collar and hoist him up. “Thanks a trillion,” Kid says when he’s steady on his feet again. “C’mon! We’re almost to the end of the rain tunnel. Let’s get out of this downpour!”


Undyne trudges through the rain with her quarry in tow. She makes no effort to converse with them, and they wisely say quiet, but continue to stick close to their living shield. The coward.

The little imp was smarter than she realized, tricking her and Kid to run off so they were left unattended to do their own crooked deeds, and all without laying a finger on her! This kid’s mind control was stronger than she thought.

She was relieved she managed to scare Shyren and Onionsan away from them in time. Who know what cruel spells and twisted words they almost whispered in their ears to make those two do their nefarious bidding? She wouldn’t let herself be so easily fooled again.

The rain ends as the tunnel gradually begins slopping upwards once more, and Undyne squints in detest. It would all be up hill from here until they reached the overpass; a network of bridges that spanned across the ravine above the junk yard and acted as a highway of sorts, connecting all the different levels of Waterfall in one easy to access place. They were almost back around to her neighborhood, and she’d yet to expose them for the lying fake that they are. She needed to think of a way to make them slip up before they got to Hotland where she wouldn’t be able to follow in the portable-oven she called her armor.

Without a pause, the trio resumes moving forward, hiking up the ever increasing incline. Kid has the most trouble, hopping from rock to rock, and constantly slipping on the algae covered stones. Like a loyal dog, the human is always there to prevent him from falling too far behind, and readily gives him a boost whenever needed, but they can’t fool her. Undyne knows the punk really just doesn’t want to lose their precious hostage. She’d expose them yet.

Undyne reaches the top of the highest hill long before they do, and they’re both breathless and filthy by the time they catch up.

“Whoo! I haven’t climbed up that way in a long time,” Kid gasps. “It’s totally worth it, though. Check out this view!”

Kid stumbles over to the ledge with the brat not far behind. If they weren’t already breathless, the sight before them just might have taken it away.

Off in the distance, King Asgore’s castle glows from the reflected light emitted by the CORE. The view may be narrow, but it can see far, exposing the remaining half of Waterfall and all of Hotland. More gemstones speckle the ceiling, creating a bridge of stars straight to the capital.

“It’s still so far away…” the punk says absently.

“Well, standing around gawking isn’t gonna get us any closer,” Undyne huffs. “Let’s pick up the pace, slowpokes.”

The road turns away from the lookout spot and back into narrow corridors. Once again it’s dark and cramped, but at least the ground is level again. The hallway twists and turns and curves, and when all sense of direction is almost lost, it abruptly ends right where a network of bridges begin.

“Woah,” the punk breathes, looking up and down at the dizzying blackness that surrounds them. All around them, above, below and beside, wooden boardwalks branch and fork and crisscross, rising and falling, and vanishing into the gloom in every direction.

“Alright, we’re almost back around,” Kid says, stepping out onto the platforms with no fear. “Once we get across the ravine, the hardest part will be over.”

This time Kid leads the way, turning left and right at all the correct intersections on the unmarked board walks, knowing the way by heart. The old wood is smooth and there’s nothing to trip on up here, so he proceeds without hesitation.

The human gulps and nervously steps onto the plank, doing their best to stay in the middle of the road. There are no safety rails up here, and Undyne knew why. This super highway of bridges had been a large scale employment project initiated by the king years ago to improve infrastructure and create jobs. For a while all had gone well until a particularly bad flooding season hit, destroying a good chunk of progress. Many monsters had been washed away in the tragedy, and after that construction on bridge completion had come to a grinding halt. With their morale destroyed, any attempts to revitalize the project had failed beyond finishing the main line across the ravine, but most of the tunnels never got connected to the hub. Heck, not even all the bridges had been finished.

“A-after, you,” the punk offers, stepping to the side to allow Undyne to pass.

“I don’t think so,” Undyne sneers. “I’ll pick up the rear to make sure you don’t fall behind again.”

“Oh, g-good idea,” they say, nervously looking over the edge of the bridge.

“What’s the problem, brat?” Undyne jibes. “You scared of heights?”

“N-no, I was just going!” they say before finally stepping out on to the boardwalk suspended over empty air.

Man, this kid is a terrible liar.

The first few minutes are relatively quiet, but with nothing around to look at, the punk caves and tries to strike up a conversation to fill the awkward silence.

“So, uh, what’s down below us?” the human asks, trying to keep their voice from wavering and giving away their true uneasiness.

“Crap, mostly.” Undyne snorts. “At the very bottom of this ravine is our garbage dump. Humans are fond of polluting, you know. Any trash of theirs that gets caught in the rivers on the surface eventually finds its way down here. Out of sight, out of mind, right?”

“Oh, that’s horrible.”

“Our history books say it used to be a lot worse. Apparently, right after the war ended, humans intentionally put poison in the water hoping it would make its way down here and finish us off. They eventually stopped, either because they figured they succeeded, or they finally realized that they were fouling up their own water as well, but Gerson tells me that it was a gamble living in Waterfall in the early days.”

“Yeah, I heard the first few years for monsters in the Underground were really tough,” says Kid. “No housing, no technology, crime and chaos and fighting over every last resource. Man, how did monsters live like that? Good thing we’ve come a long way since then, right, Undyne?”

“Sure is, Kid. Things weren’t always orderly and safe. And trouble still stirs up today and threatens to take it all back.” Undyne watches the punk out of the corner of her eye. “But it’s my job to make sure it never does.”

“Wow, Undyne,” the imp says appreciatively. “What’s it like being captain of the Royal Guard?”

“Why do you care, brat?” The warrior grimaces, flashing her fangs their way.

They startle and stutter. “Oh, I, uh, um, I was just curious. Y-you must have a lot of interesting stories from your work, r-right?”

“Yeah, but those are all classified, which means it’s none of your business.”

“Oh, uh, sorry.” They draw up their shoulders and try to fold in on themselves to become as small as possible.

Ha. That will teach them to try and pry government secrets out of her. But since they were feeling so chatty, she might as well use it to her advantage and trick them into giving her secrets about themself.

“Hey, enough about me!” Undyne says. “I’m way more interested to hear about you. So what’s your life’s story, punk?”

“Me? Well, there’s not much to say,” they shrug to be modest. “Um… I’m a Boss Monster, and I live in the Ruins, and this is my first time seeing the rest of the Underground. It’s better than I ever imagined, but I need to get back home.”

“You say you’re a Boss Monster who lives in the Ruins…” Undyne inquires. “So are there other Boss Monsters in the Ruins as well?”

“Just my mom.” They sigh, their face going troubled. “She’s going to ground me for eternity when I get back home.”

Well, well. So there are more “Boss Monsters” in the Underground, are there? Ha. Yeah, right. Asgore’s been the only Boss Monster in the Underground for centuries. Maybe after she delivers this kid to him, Asgore can open the Ruins to meet this other “Boss Monster” before moving on to the surface. An extra soul sure wouldn’t hurt.

This brat was good at playing dumb, but they sure weren’t aware of how obviously fabricated their story sounded. And that would make it all the more easy for her to expose the urchin in their web of lies.

“Undyne, have you ever actually fought a human?” Kid asks out of the blue.

“Not yet,” Undyne replies darkly. “But I have a feeling I might get my chance any day now.”

“Yeah! Humans think they’re invincible! You’ll show ‘em just how strong monsters can be! Boy, if I ever ran into a human, I’d give them some of this! And this!”

Kid leaps into the air and does some karate kicks, attacking an imaginary enemy. Like clockwork, throws himself off balance and he goes flying forward. The brat catches his shoulders before he can face-plant and helps him right himself again.

“Wow, thanks dude. I probably owe you infinity by now. Say, what would you do if you ever encountered a human?”

“Me?” the punk wonders about it for a second, and Undyne leans in close to hear their answer. “I’d probably ask them to surrender, and if they didn’t then I’d subdue them with my magic and contain them until the king could pick them up and take them away.”

“So are you saying you wouldn’t fight them?” Kid asks.

“Not unless I had to,” the brat says. “Sure, humans are awful, but I’d rather avoid confrontation if possible. I think Papyrus’ idea with the traps is a good start. We shouldn’t have to hurt them if we don’t need to.”

“You better watch your tongue, runt.” Undyne warns. “Words like that make you sound like you actually care about humans.”

“What? I don’t!” The punk defends themselves. “I don’t like humans any more than the next monster, but I don’t have to hate them either.”

“Well you should.” Undyne says, cutting in front of them to glare down at their sniveling face. “Don’t you ever forget it was humanity that sentenced us to rot underground for the rest of all time. For every generation of monsters forced to live under this mountain, each new generation of humans on the surface must bear the blame and any and all who find their way here are automatically guilty for their ancestors actions. A human’s very existence is an inexcusable crime, and I will personally be their judge and jury if they ever run into me.

The so-obviously-is-a-human before her doesn’t so much as blink as she finishes her threat.

“Well it’s a good thing we’re not humans then, isn’t it?” they smile to Kid.

“Ha ha! Yeah! I’d wet the bed every night if I was a human unlucky enough to wind up into the Underground!”

Undyne stops short and watches the two friends keep going before her.

No. It was impossible. There was no way anyone, human or monster could stare her down unflinching in the face of such a blatant threat!

Undyne pulls out her cell phone and punches in a number so hard, the keys threated to break. A lazy voice picks up on the other end two rings later.

“Yell-ow,” Sans’ deep voice answers.

“IS THIS KID FOR REAL?!”

"Undyne, not a day goes by where I don’t thank God for not having eardrums.” Sans says, his voice sounding faint, like he’s holding the receiver an arm’s length from his face. “Anyway, what’s the problem?”

“I don’t know how much more obvious I can make it to let this brat know I’m onto their little secret, but they don’t even react! I’ve dropped hints, I made threats, but this punk acts like… like-!”

”Like they don’t see the connection? I know. Baffling isn’t it?”

“Yes! I mean, no! They have to be lying, Sans!”

“I still don’t see why it’s so hard for you to believe that they’re not,” Sans says. ”But remember your promise, Undyne. They’ve done nothing so far to make you doubt them, so you’d better not lay a scratch on them.”

Undyne hangs up without saying goodbye and scowls. She grinds her teeth so hard that she nearly chips one. So what if they hadn’t done anything yet! Their very existence was enough to warrant them dead, so to heck with Sans’ bet! They were human, therefore they were dangerous! They were an accident just waiting to happen!

Hmmmm… An accident waiting to happen…

This whole room was technically an accident waiting to happen, with a dozen unfinished bridges leading to nowhere, and this punk certainly didn’t know which path to take. What if they accidentally took a wrong turn? What if Undyne couldn’t stop them in time and they accidentally walked off an unfinished bridge? Undyne wouldn’t be breaking her word to Sans then, and he couldn’t justifiably blame her if the kid just so happened to die from the fall.

“Say, Kid. Do you think you can do me one last favor?” Undyne says to the little lizard monster, a cruel idea blossoming in her mind. “Will you run up ahead and retrieve my helmet? I believe I left it on the other side of the gorge of the glowing water room, and I can’t show up at Asgore’s out of uniform.”

“Sure thing!” Kid beams. “I’ll be back in a flash!” And with that, he sprints off into the darkness ahead, out of sight in seconds.

“H-hurry back!” the human nervously calls after them, realizing that they’ve lost their living shield. “But watch your step!”

Alone with Undyne, the human tries to make small talk which Undyne bluntly ignores, only speaking to give them directions when to take a left or right at each intersection they come across. Except… it’s been quite a while since Undyne used the highways in this part of Waterfall. Maybe her sense of direction was a little off. Were they really supposed to go left here instead of right? There was the chance they might have taken the wrong turn with the bridge forked a while back.

The further they go the more agitated the punk gets, fidgeting under the Royal Guard’s cold hard stare. After a while, the end of their bridge comes into sight.

“Wait, I think I see the end!” the punk says in relief, moving closer to the edge. Undyne hangs back and summons a row of spears lined up vertically between them. “Wait, that’s strange,” they announce, peering over the end of the boardwalk. “The bridge just stops. Undyne, I think we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

Before they can even turn around, Undyne’s hand accidentally slips, and the spears rain down, severing the bridge between them, and everything seems to go in slow motion.

The punk’s already falling before they realize what’s happening, and she only catches a glimpse of their horrified eyes as they plummet. Too shocked to speak, they don’t even scream as they’re swallowed by the blackness below.

Undyne stands at the splintered edge of the bridge, waiting until she hears the crash echo back up to her. Guess there’s no need to rush to Asgore’s now. Turning away from the edge, she strolls off to take the easy route down the junk yard below and collect a human soul.

“Oops.” She snickers, a wicked smile spread across her face. “Accidents happen.”

Chapter Text

Your hat nearly gets blown off your head as air rushes past your ears. The stomach-twisting, gut-wrenching sensation of free fall overwhelms you until it suddenly doesn’t even feel like you’re plummeting anymore, only floating. Your mind is racing at a hundred thoughts a second, self-preservation kicking in and doing its best to save you as you plunge into blackness with no sense of up or down.

Flip over, feet first! No, your knees will never survive the impact, catch yourself with your arms. Whatever you do, don’t land on your head. Twist! TWIST!

But somehow through the madhouse of thoughts, one oddly calm bit of introspection surfaces from beneath the rest;

You’ve felt this before

It’s the last thought that crosses your mind befo-

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You’re dreaming. You don’t remember falling asleep.

“҉̴̶̕ך̶ּ̨̕͟͜¡̨͘͘͠͠ģ̵̂͞͞͠Ħ͏̶̷̡͏‡̷͞ ̵̷̨̕฿̕͠@̢҉ς̕͠͝қ҉̧͡,͏͏͢ ̶̧@̨͏§̵̡͞я͏̧̡͝͠¡͡͠Ξ̛͡ĺ̢͢!̷̴͘ ̢͘צ̶ּ̛͘͠θ̵̨͢͡͠ט̡͝ ̨͢͢͝͝Ħ͏̴@̶͢ע̨̨͘͝҉Ξ ͝‡͜͡θ̨ ̸̡ךּ̢͏¡̡ĝ̵̡̡҉͟Ħ͝҉‡̵̢͡ ͞͏͝฿̵͏@̡̧͢҉ς̸̡қ̧͝͡!̸̵̸̢”̴҉̛͞

Confused, you struggle to look around, but all you see are shadows, greys upon greys, shifting blurs bleeding into one another with no definitive shape. You think voices are shouting at you, but everything sounds like static, metal being dragged across dinner plates, and nails on chalkboards. One voice screams at you above the rest. You can’t make out the words.

“‡̷̧Ħ̵̛͡Ξ̧̧͜͠צּ̡͝͝'̴͡я̶͞Ξ̷̡͢ ͏̛қ̴͜¡̧͢҉ĺ͝ĺ̸̢͠¡̵̢͜͠מ͢͜ģ̡̂̕͝ ̴̛͡ט̷͞§͏͏,͝ ̧̧͜͠@͏̢͘͝§̸̢͘͡я͘͝¡̶̕͠͞Ξ̛͜͠ĺ̡̛!̴̡͠͡ ̵͜͜͞Ð҉̧θ̸͢מ̷̨̢͞'̨‡̨͟ ͝͏̢ĺ̸̡̨͞Ξ͝‡̢̢͢ ̵̴m̴̸̕҉Ξ̡͝͏̸̕ ̵̡͢͠҉Ð͟͞¡̴̵͘̕͠Ξ͏̧̕ ̡̨̕͟͝@҉̡͢ĝ҉͟͞͡@̸̧͝¡̸͜͏̸͢מ͢͏!͏̛͏̛ ͢͝Þ̷̕͝͡͡ĺ͏̛͢Ξ͏̸̡̢̛@̛͢͢§̸͠Ξ̸̸̸̧ ̧̕͡͞ך̶ּ͢͞¡̴͝ĝ̡͞҉Ħ̷̷͝‡̵͏͏͏ ̡͘͏̕฿̷@̵̵̴̢͡ς̡̨қ̵͜͝͝!̵̵̨̕”̵̴̛

Everything is spinning. You try to right yourself, get up on your feet, but whenever you finally figure out which way is up, it feels like the floor is yanked out from beneath you, sending you head over heels again, caught in the riptide and being dragged out to sea. Water thick as mud and black as ink is pulling you down. You’re drowning. You’re drowning.

“̧̛͜͢צ̵ּ͞θ҉ט̴̵̕͢ ̧̡§̨͞@͏̧͜͠¡͞Ð̶͟͝͠ ͏̕͢צּ̡҉θ̧͘͟͢͞ט̢͝’̸Ð̷͜ ̡̛͢͞מ̴̨̢Ξ̢ע̴̸̕͘͟Ξ̷̛я̶̨ ̸͏͜Ð͢͏̸̛θ̴̵̡͞͞ט̷̷̢̛̕฿͞‡̵̶̢҉̷ ̡̛͞m͘͟Ξ̴͟͏̴̡!̶̢̧͠ ̶̷̡͢͠צּ̛̕θ̕ט̶͜͞ ̷§̵͟͝@̧͏҉̸̧¡̵Ð̵̵͜͝ ͏̢̕͢צ̶ּ̡̕θ̨̕͢͜͞ט̵͠ ҉̴͢͟͟‡͟͝҉я͜͢͏͏̢ט͘͟͞§̸͟͝͡‡̴͘͠͡Ξ̛̕͘͞Ð͜ ͜͠m͠Ξ̨̨̛!̷̵̧͡ ̷̡̡ש̷ּׂ̕Ξ̨̛͘͜͢ ̶̢̛ש̸ּׂ̨̡Ξ̷̢я̸̸Ξ̴͏̸̶ ̵̸̸̨ĝ̕͢͞θ̡̡͜¡̸͞҉͜͏מ̵͘ĝ̸̵̨͝͠ ̛͘‡̢̨͜͞θ̵̶̷̨ ̸̡ך̴ּ͏̵̡͠я̷͘͟Ξ̕͟͝͡Ξ̷̕ ̨͘͜‡̨͠Ħ͏͢Ξ̸͢͝m̶̶҉ ̢͘͞@̡̕ĺ̢͠ĺ͠͞ ҉͏‡̢̕̕͢θ҉̷͢͡ĝ̶͟Ξ̶̴̵͝‡͘͞͠͝Ħ̴̶͜Ξ̵̨͟͏̡я̡͡!̨̛”̢̧͘͠҉

The voice is still shouting at you. You think it’s demanding you to do something, but you don’t know what. They sound so angry, so enraged, so betrayed.

“͠‡͜Ħ̡͝Ξ̨צּ̛͏ ͏̸̕שּׂ̡͟Ξ̷я̧Ξ̷҉ §̷͘ט̢ÞÞ̴͜͠θ̢§͡͝Ξ̛Ð̧͞ ͡‡̢͠θ̴͜͞ ͡ģ̂͠͝θ͢ ̨͝ךּ̡я͜Ξ̧̢Ξ͘͢.̢͘͠ ͏͘͝צ̶ּ͜θ̕ט̧͘̕ ͜͡͡שּׂΞ̡͢͟я̶Ξ̶ ̵̧§͏̶ט̴̕ÞÞ͜͠θ͏͞§̵͢ΞÐ ̡‡̷͘͏θ ̵̕͢ĝ̴̨θ ͟ך̶ּяΞ͠Ξ.̨͟ ̸̨צ̷̵ּ͜θט ͟@̶̡я̢̕Ξ͝מ’̡‡̸͜ §̵טÞ̧͘Þ͜͢θ̸§̶Ξ͢Ð̧͟ ̨‡̨͝θ ͠Ð͏¡Ξ̷.͘͟”̴

Yet underneath that fury you feel an undercurrent of guilt, regret and shame. The water that surrounds you turns into liquid fire. You cannot speak. You cannot breathe. Your throat and lungs are burning with black flames.

“צּθט שּׂΞяΞמ’‡ §טÞÞθ§ΞÐ ‡θ СΞ.”

The static is getting louder until it’s a thundering cacophony of indistinguishable sound. Every bit of you is in agony and the world is still spinning. You search for anything to hold on to, to cling to until something tears apart, either you or reality. You can’t move. You can’t think.

“You ͠a͘re҉n’t̴ d̷y̵ing̶ ̧he͏r̷e.”

You wake up with tears on your face and you don’t know why.

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You’re pretty sure you feel your heart restart.

Thump after painful thump, life courses through your body and you find you have to re-teach your lungs how to take in air. It’s an agonizing labor that radiates out from your chest and into your fingers, toes and ears.

The next thing you feel is something licking your face. It’s warm and wet and smooth and disgustingly gross, but it brings you back around.

Your eyes flutter open and for a second your brain can’t comprehend what it sees. Four tiny snow-white paws and gold flower petals fill your view. The sound of water gushes in the background. The air smells of pollen and rotting things. Your clothes are drenched.

Seeing you’re awake, the owner of the four white paws retreats a few paces until you can make out a small fluffy dog, but that only confuses you more. You know this dog. You know these flowers, but the two together don’t make sense. There’s entirely too much water all around you. This isn’t where flowers and dogs should be. This isn’t where you should be. Where are you?

After a bit of a struggle, you manage to push yourself to your hands and knees, your limbs uncoordinated and slow. The entire left half of your body is painfully numb and your eye is swollen shut. Feeling starts to creep back into your hands and feet and with it the stinging sensation of pain. You look down at your trembling hands to find your gloves soaked red from a dozen tiny puncture wounds in your palms from flower thorns. The cuts are still open and flowing freely. The blood hasn’t had time to clot yet. You couldn’t have been here long. What happened? How did you get hurt?

Tentatively, you dip your hands into the water flowing around you and let the current wash away the blood before it can stain. Off to the side, the small canine begins snuffling through the flowers, searching for something. You study him and the flowers for a long time, trying to piece together what happened. You feel like there’s something important about the flowers you should remember, a rule or warning. Your friend Flowey is a flower. Did he grow these here for you? Possibly, but then why did you feel like the flowers meant something bad-

Don’t ever sleep in the golden flowers. Get out of the flowers!

You lurch, trying to push yourself up only to gasp so hard in pain that you almost retch. Lightning races up your left arm and bites into your shoulder like a bear trap. You try to scream, but end up choking instead, and flop over on your right side, clutching your left arm in anguish and not caring about lying in the flowers anymore.

The tiny canine pauses a few feet off, watching you shudder and heave as you tentatively flex your arm and fight back tears.

Something is wrong with your arm but you don’t know what. You carefully prod and squeeze, fully expecting to find broken bones, but to your amazement, there aren’t any. You attempt to make a fist, and your fingers curl, but they feel sluggish and numb, tingling at a fraction of the intensity in your shoulder where the majority of the pain blooms. God, you hope it’s just a sprain. Nothing feels broken, but it certainly doesn’t feel right. Maybe if you keep weight off of it, it will heal on its own.

You manage to sit up, using only your right side, and dare to test your left arm further. You can’t lift or bend it without it feeling like your nerves are being set on fire, so it hangs limply by your side, useless and throbbing. You bite your lip and wait for the pain to pass and it slowly does, reducing to a persistent ache with every minute movement making it hurt fresh all over again.

Only when the pain lessens enough for you to think straight do you take a closer inspection of your surroundings. You look all around, but your little island of wooden boards and flowers is surrounded by water on all sides. Off in the distance, you think you see heaps of refuse and litter. You couldn’t have walked here and collapsed, could you? You look up, but can’t see anything above you, not even the tops of the waterfalls spilling on nearly every side. You don’t recognize this place.

And realizing you don’t recognize where you are instantly makes you panic. Your good arm flies to your head, feeling around underneath your hat and in your hair for any signs of bruises or bumps. You pull your fingers out and they come up clean. There’s no blood, no breaks, no injuries. You’re not hurt again. You’re still you.

You’re still you.

The assurance that you’re head’s not hurt floods you with relief and you exhale slowly. But you still can’t remember how you got here. Why, though? You didn’t break your skull this time, so why can’t you recall what happened? Drenched, lost, alone and in pain, it’s all too much to bear, and you draw up your knees to weep into your sleeves.

No. You weren’t going to forget again! Clutching your aching head, you squeeze your eyes shut and desperately try to retrace your steps.

You… you had been walking through Waterfall. There was… there was the wishing room, and the glowing water room, and the bridges right after the rain tunnels where you jumped in puddles with Kid and Undyne-

Wait! Kid and Undyne!

The concern about your own wellbeing is instantly forgotten when you remember your friends. Where were they? Oh god, were they alright? Didn’t Kid run ahead on the bridge? Did you chase after him and fall off? It would make sense. How else could you have hurt your arm so bad? Oh no, what if he fell too? Undyne’s armor looked strong enough to protect her from such a fall, unless this this drop was high enough to turn normal monsters into-

No, Undyne knows every nook and cranny of Waterfall. She wouldn’t have fallen. Maybe she’s looking for you right now.

“Undyyyyne! Kiiiiiid! Can you hear meeeee?” You yell up to the ceiling. Your voice doesn’t echo well over the falling water all around you. But you can’t give up. “Somebodyyyyy! Anybodyyyy! Heeelp! Please help!...”

For minutes on end you call and call, pacing back and forth in the flowers until your voice gets raw and raspy, but nobody answers and nobody comes. You begin to think that nobody will. Your nose starts to get hot and your eyes are welling with tears against your will.

No. No, you refuse to cry. That would solve nothing. Taking several deep breaths, you just stand there and force yourself calm until your breathing goes from ragged to relaxed. Think. Find a way forward. But what could you possibly do now?

Wait- Papyrus’ phone! If you needed help he said he’d come running, so all you had to do was call him-

You pat yourself down and go cold. The phone isn’t in your sleeves anymore and all you find in your pockets are useless rocks. Oh no. Don’t let it be that you lost it!

Frantically, you search through the flowers on your knees, brushing aside their petals and stems with your good hand. It can’t have fallen far! Right? It couldn’t have washed away!

Play growls and the sound of teeth on plastic catch your attention. You look up. Time all around you seems to slow as your eyes lock on to the small white dog. There he is. There it is.

He’s chewing on Papyrus’ phone.

“Hey… buddy…” You coo softly, putting on your best smile and forcing yourself to sound as happy as possible. “C’mere, boy. Fetch me the phone.”

The dog looks up with the phone in his mouth. His bushy tail begins to sway, his beady black eyes gleam with mischief. He knows he has something you want.

“C’mon, pal! Bring it here!”

The dog rises to his feet.

Yes.

“That’s it, boy!” you kiss. The dog takes a few steps in your direction.

Yes.

The dog goes into a play bow… and bolts.

NO!

You force yourself to your feet and dash after him, every muscle cramping as you strain to catch up. The canine springs from your small island of flowers and into the rushing water. The water comes up to your ankles, and almost up to the small dog’s chest, which slows him down considerably. Still, he practically skips like a flat stone over the surface, darting back and forth, always just out of reach, taunting you to keep trying. If he gets to higher ground, you know you’ll never be able to catch him, so with one desperate surge, you lunge forward with both arms. Your hands only manage to close around his tail as you fall forward in the swill, getting soaked all over again. The dog yelps, and so do you, forgetting about your messed up shoulder, but it’s enough to make him drop the phone before he wiggles away to freedom and scampers off into the unknown.

Bedraggled, you fish the phone out the water as fast as you can. You hope it hasn’t been damaged from being chewed on and submerged. Flipping the phone open, you try to access the contact list… but nothing happens. Heart filling with dread, you push the power button, but the phone refuses to light up, and it’s then you notice that the glass covering the inner screen is cracked all the way across. You push harder and harder on the keys but the phone doesn’t respond. Your blood turns to ice as you frantically hit all the buttons, refusing to face what this means.

Papyrus’ phone is busted. You broke Papyrus’ phone after he trusted you with it, and what’s worse, now you’re probably permanently alone and lost forever.

This time when the tears come, you don’t hold back.

“Great. This is just great.” You whimper sarcastically. “This is exactly what I needed.” Hugging your legs, you cry into your knees until you’re sure the water around you is as salty as your tears.

With your face buried in your sleeve, you don’t notice a shadow pass over you. It’s only a stinging, hot rain dripping on your neck that makes you look up and into the large eyes of a very concerned, very familiar, ghostly face that takes the air out of your lungs.

“Oh… hey. It’s you…”

“N-Napstablook?” your voice cracks, hardly able to believe your own eyes.

“Yeah, that’s me…” your ghostly friend braves a little smile, and you break out into a full grin. Semi-hysterical laughter escapes your lips, tangled up with a few extra sobs.

Someone found you. Someone did come and it's even you know! You’d throw your arms around your spectral friend and never let go if it weren’t for the fact you’d phase right through him, but you’re just so overjoyed that someone actually came that you almost feel like you could pass out from sheer relief alone.

You try to wipe your face with your left arm, quickly get a reminder that you can’t, and get the job done with your right.

“Wh-what are you doing here?” you sniffle, unwilling to take your eyes off of him.

“Oh, I like to hang out in the dump and feel like garbage sometimes,” he drawls in his monotone voice. “Normally I do it at home. It’s tradition… But it’s good to reconnect and draw inspiration from the actual source every now and again. It makes you feel more authentic…” His eyes go unfocused for a second before he turns back to you. “I heard someone crying and drifted over to see if I could join in, but I wasn’t expecting to find you.”

“I wasn’t expecting to find you either,” you chortle, exhausted. “But I’m so glad you’re here. Can… can you help me get out of here?”

“Oh, okay… This way…” Napstablook slowly turns and begins to float away without checking to see if you follow. You hastily trudge after him.

It’s a good thing Napstablook isn’t the fastest flyer. He leads you on the most direct route, phasing straight through mountains of trash while you have to clamor over them or skirt and scamper around to keep up. You’re not going to complain, though, not when you’ve been rescued at last.

Gradually, the piles of trash begin to thin and the water level lowers and the ground beneath your feet inclines. Napstablook pauses at the foot of a well-trodden path that might have once been stairs, but now was as smooth as a small hill.

“Well… This marks the end of the dump. Up this way is my neighborhood, if you want to see it… or not…”

“I can’t thank you enough, Napstablook,” you snuffle, getting all choked up and weak-kneed again at the thought of reaching safety at last. “And- and, please don’t leave me just yet. I-I’m lost, and I want to stick with someone I know until I find out where I am again.”

“Oh, okay…” Napstablook says, avoiding eye contact. “I’m probably not the most useful help there is, but I know someone who can help you better than I can. Follow me.”

You do so without question, following your friend into a quiet neighborhood. Napstablook makes a beeline up one of the many tunnels that led to homes hidden further within the cave walls, and you stick close behind. At the end of this particular hallway, the tunnel opens up into a cave with a dome-shaped house decorated with extra trim to make it look like a giant fish.

Your ghostly friend sails right up to the door and rings the bell, and the two of you wait… but there’s no response.

“Oh, uh… it seems like she’s not home right now…” Napstablook apologizes. “I’m sorry. You can come over to my place… if you want…”

“Okay,” you sigh in defeat. What’s one more minor setback to you at this point?

“Sorry…” Napstablook says again, sensing your disappointment, and leads the way back out. Mindlessly you follow after, head down and trying to ignore the persistent stinging in your shoulder. Not watching where you are going, you almost run right into someone as soon as you’re back on the main street. Hastily you begin to apologize until you catch the stranger’s face.

It’s Undyne. And she looks anything but pleased to see you.


After a nice scenic stroll over the bridges, Undyne steps off the last plank and back onto solid ground. In no rush at all, she takes her time moving through the neighborhood, and is just in time to catch Kid bumbling along with her helmet on. It’s far too large on him. The head piece is so big it covers past his shoulders and most of his chest.

Still, the dogged little lizard pushes forward, stopping frequently to find his direction through the thinly cut eye holes.

“Thanks, Kid. I’ll take that from here.” Undyne reaches down to remove the helmet off the tiny monster and tucks it under her arm.

“Woah! Thanks, Undyne. Man, it’s really hard to see out of that thing. I don’t know how you do it! Ha, ha.” Kid leans to the side and squints as if looking for something. “Yo, where’s my friend?”

Undyne sighs. She knew she’d eventually have to explain to Kid what happened, but she prided herself in having enough foresight to prepare an excuse while still on the bridge.

“Kid, we need to talk. Walk with me.”

He does so unquestioningly, following right at her heels. Undyne can feel him watching her, unblinking with his big, innocent eyes.

“Kid, I hate to say this to you, but your “friend” had an accident.”

Kid stops dead in his tracks. “What? What happened!?”

“They weren’t watching their step and slipped on the bridge,” Undyne fibs. It was a perfect little lie. “They fell before I could catch them. The drop was too high for me to jump after them safely.”

“Wha-What?! Wait, the bridge goes over the dump right? Oh man, we gotta go down there and find them!”

“Kid, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. Nobody could have survived a fall like that, and besides, they weren’t really your friend. I know this may be hard for you to understand, but they were just manipulating you to take them through Waterfall.”

“What are you talking about?” Kid shouts. “They weren’t manlipl-, manulpil-, They weren’t using me! I offered to guide them! Oh man, we gotta find them! They could be hurt or lost or, or-!”

Kid starts to run ahead in the direction of the dump and Undyne quickens her step.

“Kid, slow down! I’m not finished! That punk was just mind controlling you somehow! They weren’t your friend, because they were-” Just before she passes her front walk, someone rounds the corner and cuts her off and Undyne’s soul nearly stops beating at the sight. Like a zombie back from the dead, covered in scratches and bruises but still intact and kicking, human has appeared right in front of her. “They’re... standing... right in front of me.”

“Kid? Undyne?” The brat is smiling at her, like she’s the greatest thing they’ve seen in a hundred years. “Oh thank goodness you’re both alright.”

They’re… happy to see her? And right after she- But- How- Didn’t they realize what she’d done??

Involuntarily, Undyne’s eye begins to twitch.

“Dude!” Kid skids to a stop, does and about-face and runs up to them. “You’re okay! Man I was so worried when Undyne said you had an accident. What happened?”

“I don’t… I don’t remember exactly,” they say, rubbing their head. “I think I fell. Undyne, did you see it?”

What. The hell. This punk. This goddamn runt saw her cut the bridge clear as crystal, and is asking her to fill in the blanks? Why??

“You ran after Kid,” Undyne says carefully, trying to stop her grin from becoming borderline psychotic. “You didn’t see one of the unfinished bridges and ran right off the edge faster than I could catch you.”

The human sighs and nods in relief. “I figured something like that happened.” They smile, like they’re glad Undyne lied to them. “I couldn’t remember what happened when I woke up. I’m sorry I ran off. I know you probably tried your best to stop me.”

Undyne’s smile is bitter and forced. “Yeah, right. That’s my job! I’m… glad to see you in one piece! You Boss Monsters really are tough.”

“Oh, you found her,” A ghost interrupts, and Undyne recognizes him as her reclusive neighbor she rarely ever saw. “This is the person who I said could help you more than I could with whatever problem you have. But, um… if you don’t mind me asking,” Napstablook bravely ventures. “What exactly are you doing? Here, that is… Out of the Ruins?”

“I… I got locked out,” the human confesses. “I snuck out the night of my birthday party and couldn’t get back in. I’ve been trying to go home ever since, but everything just keeps going wrong.” Their voice pitches and they start to cry, not caring that Napstablook, Kid or Undyne see.

“Oh… oh no……” Napstablook is crying now too, quick to sympathize but unsure how to help. “I never knew the doors didn’t open from the outside. I always just phased through them.”

“I never knew either. I wish I could phase through them as easy as you could-” Realization hits and their head snaps up so fast that Undyne is surprised that don’t give themselves whiplash. “Wait a minute! You can phase through the door, Napstablook!” The brat says excitedly. “You can help me!”

“I… I can?”

“Yes! Oh, please, will you fly back home and ask my mom to come get me? Tell her I’m really, really sorry and I’ll never disobey her again for as long as I live, and I just want to go back home,” Their voice starts squeaking as their throat tightens up, making it harder and harder to even pronounce sound. “I just want to go home, Napstablook. I just want to go home…”

They start weeping, ugly hacking sobs and burning tears. Napstablook circles around the kid once in concern.

“I… I will do it, but I am not fast…” he cautions. “It will take me at least an hour both ways to fly there and back.”

“That’s okay,” the human sighs, fatigue collapsing on them as all the day’s events catch up to them at once. “That’s okay. I’ll wait here. With Undyne and Kid.” The human looks to the warrior and their friend. “Is that alright with you?”

“Woah, hold up!” Undyne starts. “I don’t have time for-“

“Sure, we’ll wait with you.” Kid cuts her off. “We’ll wait as long as it takes!”

Oh great.

“Okay…” Napstablook says, settling the matter. “You can go to my house if you want. Listen to my tunes… help yourself to what’s in the fridge… You can even race some of my snails if you get bored. Or not. No pressure… I’ll be back… eventually.”

With that, the specter begins to drift off towards Snowdin. Kid and the human decide to hunker down against a cave wall where Napstablook’s snails crawl out of their pens and all over them in curiosity. Reluctantly, Undyne takes a risk to leave them unattended and hurriedly chases after the ghost before he’s too far away.

“Napstablook, wait up,” Undyne whispers before the ghost can float too far off. The spirit pauses as Undyne moves in close to talk in quiet. “Do you really know this kid?”

“Uh, yeah,” Napstablook nods. “They live in the Ruins. They’re really nice.”

“Yeah, yeah, so everyone keeps telling me. But who are they really?

“Umm, I actually don’t know,” The ghost admits. “They told me their name a long time ago, but I sort of forgot, and now it would be awkward if I asked for it again. I mostly just say ‘hey’ or ‘you’… they respond to pretty much anything.”

Undyne drags her hand down her face. “That’s not what I meant, Napstablook. This kid seriously can’t believe they’re a monster, can they?”

Napstablook blinks slowly, clearly puzzled. “But they are a monster.” He says quietly at last.

“Oh, don’t tell me you’ve fallen for their lies too! This kid is human clear as day! Just look at them!”

“What do looks have to do with anything?” Napstablook asks, and for a moment Undyne can’t tell if he’s honestly unsure or trying to goad her into an argument.

“I really think… you should give them a chance.” Napstablook says, so faint it really must be taking everything he’s got to stand up to her like this. “Or at least the benefit of the doubt. They’re a good kid.”

He fades out, stealing the chance for Undyne to have the last word. Grumbling, Undyne turns back to the two children conversing a ways off. Goddammit. she was right back at square one with this punk. Ugh. There was no use breaking teeth over unforeseen complications, so she forces herself to look on the brightside. Well, if Napstablook was successful in bringing the kid’s mother all the way to Waterfall, then at least Undyne could take pride in knowing she could bring Asgore two new souls.

The minutes drag on for what seems like eternity. Kid and the punk chit-chat aimlessly to each other and to the snails as they mill about. The brat seems especially vocal to them, commenting on how pretty and round their shells are, as if they expect the slimy things to understand. And maybe it was just Undyne’s imagination, but three of the snails in primary colors actually seem to especially get attached to the little headache and happily inch across their fingers, making them giggle and smile and forget their worries, if only for a moment.

After forty-five minutes of pure torture, the human and kid finally seem to exhaust all their options for small talk.

“So, uh, what do we do now?” Kid asks when he can think of nothing else to say.

“Napstablook said we could race with his snails while we wait,” the brat says, pointing their thumb in the direction of the race track. “Wanna play a round?”

“Sure!” Kid nods vigorously, hopping up to the fence. “You in, Undyne?”

“UGH, I’ll do ANYTHING to make the time pass faster,” Undyne gripes, but joins in none the less.

“I’ve got the snails,” the punk says, letting their three new companions climb up their right arm and transporting them to the race track. There’s a sign above the track reading “THUNDERSNAIL” in faded letters. The “S” is completely missing from the word “Snail”. As gently as they can, the brat crouches at the fence and sticks their arm through to let the snails climb off and onto the starting track. The three mollusks look around in excitement at their new location and eagerly line up in anticipation, knowing what was about to come.

“I wanna be the red snail!” Kid shouts.

The human nods. “Okay, I’ll be blue-“

“No way, punk,” Undyne interrupts. “I’m the blue snail. Everyone knows yellow never wins.”

“Oh, I’m sure it could with just a little encouragement,” the punk rebuttals.

“Ha. Right. OKAY, SNAILS, LISTEN UP!” Undyne shouts at the mollusks. “When I say “go”, you three better crawl towards that finish line like your lives depended on it! BECAUSE THEY DO! I WILL PERSONALLY EAT WHOEVER LOSES!”

Very slowly, the three snails swallow the lumps in their throats as their eagerness turns to nervousness.

“How’s that for motivation?” Undyne snickers at the kids. Kid is smiling nervously, but the sweat on his brow betrays his real feelings. The human is looking at her aghast.

“Undyne, I don’t think threatening them is very nice-“

“It’s not a threat, it’s a promise!” Undyne cuts them off. The brat visibly bites their tongue, and for a second it looks like they might start crying. “Oh relax, punk!”

The punk doesn’t relax, and Undyne turns away so she doesn’t have to look at them. “Whatever. On your marks! Ready..! Steady..! GO!!”

The snails rocket out the starting line at a break neck speed of half a centimeter per hour. They creep along with incredible prowess, their faces set on the goal ahead with laser focus, not allowing for a single distraction to enter their psyche. The three bystanders cheer from the sidelines, their voices deafened under the sound of the sonic boom each gastropod leaves behind in their imaginations. The crowd cheers louder and some of their words start to get through.

“GO BLUE SNAIL! SHOW THESE PUNKS HOW IT’S DONE! MAKE THEM EAT YOUR DIRT!”

Under pressure, the blue snail pushes itself harder than it ever thought possible, straining its engines to the max. Motors roar in warning.

“YOU’RE ALMOST HALF WAY THERE! GO! GO! GO!

The air smells of gasoline. Out of the corner of its eyes, the blue snail spies hints of red and yellow.

“LOOK OUT! THEY’RE CATCHING UP! SNAIL, YOU’D BETTER GET YOUR REAR MOVING IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU!”

The blue snail throws everything it’s got into its gears, the “promise” Undyne made looping on repeat as their sole motivation. Somewhere inside, gears pop.

“MOVE! MOVE! MOVE LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT! BECAUSE IT DOES! IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE, THEN THE NEXT CIRCLE YOU’RE GONNA SEE IS MY DINNER PLATE!”

Pistons crack and splinter. The check engine light comes on. The windshield wipers are stuck on the fastest setting.

“COME OOOOON!!!! YOU’RE ALMOST TO THE FINISH LINE! RED’S ABOUT TO PASS YOU UP! MOVE! YOUR! TAIL!”

The blue snail’s heart pounds so hard, it threatens to burst. Suddenly a tire explodes and rubber goes flying. Losing control, the blue snail swerves until it flips on its side and spins off the track. Unaware of what’s happening it floors the gas, but to no avail. Metal grinds against metal. Sparks fly. The blue snail’s shell goes up in flames, and yellow and red overtake it.

“WHAT!?! NO! NOO!! NOOO!!!”

A whistle blows, signaling the end of the race. Yellow snail came in first.

“Wow, I didn’t even know a snail’s shell could catch fire like that.” Kid says. “And I can’t believe the yellow snail actually won, either!” An unseen smoke detector sniffs the smell of burning things and extinguishes the blue snail’s shell. A simple cleaning magic spell resets the track and puts the racers back at the starting line, fresh and ready for another go. Blue snail trembles, but magically shows no sign of injury.

“It just needed the right amount of encouragement like I said.” the brat says. “See, Undyne?”

“Yeah, right! I think you cheated!”

“What?” the punk says indignantly. “How could I have possibly cheated?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll find out! Let’s have a do-over!”

“If you want. Ready to show them how it’s done, Yellow Snail?”

“Oh no, you don’t punk! This time I’M the yellow snail.”

The human backs off and settles for blue. Undyne once again starts the race, and once again shouts commands at the top of her lungs. Unlike the blue snail, the yellow snail crashes and burns under the pressure before even leaving the starting block, and to Undyne’s shock, the blue snail takes first place.

“Ah-ha! Cheating! See! I knew you were cheating!”

“How is encouraging my snail cheating!?” the punk demands.

“You must’ve done some special kind of magic mind control or something on the snails to always make yours win and mine lose! Another redo!”

So again they race, and again Undyne loses, and again she demands another round. She keeps it up for a full half hour, but the results rarely differ. The human doesn’t always win, Kid’s snail crosses first plenty of times, but no matter the racer, Red, Blue, or Yellow, Undyne’s snail unfalteringly crashes and burns each go. After the fiftieth do-over or so, all the snails are completely exhausted. Undyne’s splitting hairs and the fence posts, still too fueled by repeated failures to admit defeat. The brat notices and calls for a time out.

“Undyne have you stopped to consider that maybe you’re pushing your snail to succeed too hard?” they ask her.

“Oh, please. That’s not a thing! You made that up! How is pushing someone too hard a bad thing?”

“Well, yelling at them so angrily certainly isn’t helping. It’s probably stressing them out.”

“Eh, whatever. I can still go back to my original plan.” She turns to the track and zeros in on the punk’s preferred racer who they won more times with than any other. “Yellow snail? How’d you like to be my next main dish?”

The punk gasps at her, their eyes going wide. She expects them to yell or shout, but they don’t. “Wait. You’re not serious, are you? You aren’t really going to eat it, right?”

“A promise is a promise!” Undyne sneers. “Besides, it’s way past dinner time!”

“Undyne. Please don’t eat them.” They say very quietly. “They did their best.”

“Kid, mind fetching me some salt?”

“Undyne, don’t.” The brat whimpers, their breath quickening. “Yellow snail tried their hardest when they raced with you. Don’t eat them because they lost.”

“Oh, come on, punk! They’re just snails! Napstablook breeds these things by the dozen. They’re meant to be eaten!”

Her words have no effect on them as they repeatedly plead with her to spare the snail’s life. “Undyne, please, don’t do it. They can’t all have won! It’s not fair.” Somewhere along the line they start to cry, and Undyne squirms. Pushing the punk to retaliate is one thing, but watching them bawl over the fate of one stupid snail is beginning to make her uncomfortable. She tries to look anywhere but at them, but that turns out to be an equal mistake. All around her are enclosures of even more snails who had been watching on in earnest, but now they just stare at the royal guard with judgement in their tiny little eyes.

“Ugh, never mind,” Undyne mutters. “I’m not that hungry anyway.” The human lets out a shuttering sigh of relief and wipes their face. “Tch. I’ve had enough with snails for one day. I need to get out of this place.”

“We shouldn’t go far,” the brat reminds her, as if they think she’s already forgotten. “I have to stay where my mom and Napstablook can find me.”

“Hey, let’s go over to your house, Undyne!” Kid suggests to ease the tension. “You live right next door, right? We could watch you train, or something! That would be pretty epic!”

“Yeah, whatever,” Undyne agrees as she walks through the snail farm, feeling hundreds of beady pupils slowly following her every move. “Anything to get away from this place. Let’s go.”


Napstablook sails through Waterfall, a gust of wind in his wake no stronger than the air disturbed by a falling leaf. He floats along silently, left and right and sometimes even straight through a wall or two if he felt daring. And today Napstablook was feeling extra daring. Someone was counting on him. Despite having a track record of never doing anything successful in his afterlife, he wasn’t going to let his friend down. They believed in him, were counting on him. Besides, the old lady in the Ruins was usually agreeable. He could do this.

His journey through Waterfall is uneventful. Most monsters either don’t notice or just ignore his presence all together, and Napstablook simply goes invisible to anyone who does so happen to look his way. Snowdin town is also a breeze. The small specter drifts through the midst of a snowball war, not hit once thanks to his intangibility, and right into the forest. Barking guards, rambunctious teens, stagnant snowmen, not a thing fazes him as he silently hovers through the woods, dutifully approaching the giant doors to the Ruins.

Phasing through these would be no challenge for him; it never was, though the seal of magic he had to pass through did make him feel tingly for a bit afterwards.

Straight faced as ever, Napstablook approaches the doors, only to get interrupted before he can go through.

“Woah there, pal. Where do you think you’re going?”

Napstablook glances down, silent and unblinking, to find a flower that wasn’t there before.

“Oh, uh, to talk to the old lady who lives in the Ruins,” Napstablook says. “It’s for a friend.”

“Ah, I get’cha. Unfortunately I can’t let you pass. The old lady is occupied at the moment, and trust me, you do not want to interrupt. If you do, she’ll,” The flower drags a leaf across his stalk coupled with a horrendous hacking sound. “Get the picture?”

“Oh…” Napstablook could feel himself reflexively fading out to hide, but musters up his courage and solidifies. “I think I’ll be alright. I’m kind of incorporeal, so I can’t get hurt. It’s a ghost thing.”

He starts to float around the flower, but the plant moves to cut him off.

“No! Don’t! The old lady is, uh, taking a shower! You don’t want to walk in on her, do you?”

“Oh no... I wouldn’t want to do that…” Napstablook can practically feel his resolve starting to waver, but the memory of his friend’s hopeful face helps him steel his nerves. No, he couldn’t turn back now. He came so far and they were counting on him.

“That’s alright. I can wait.”

The flower’s petals droop, his expression unreadable. If Napstablook had to guess, he’d say the flower didn’t know what face to make in response to his decision. Frustrated? Annoyed? Disbelieving? Maybe he didn’t know how to feel about it at all.

“Are you sure? She takes long showers.”

“I wasn’t doing anything important today.”

“Reeeeaaaally long showers. I could take a message for you.”

“No thanks,” Napstablook shakes his head ever so slightly. It was the most defiant display of refusal he could recall making in eons. “I’m a ghost. I can wait for eternity.”

The flower narrows its eyes, but says nothing, and for a moment the two have a staring contest. Unbeknownst to the flower, though, ghosts don’t need to blink. Either way, Napstablook feels himself tearing up, more out of habit than anything else.

“Fine.” The flower caves at last. “If that’s the way you want it, wait here. I’ll go get her then.

“Okay…”

The flower pulls back into the snow, and Napstablook waits patiently on the colder side of the double doors. Maybe he’s just bad at keeping time- it’s meaningless when you have an eternity of it to spend- but the old lady seemed to come to the door a lot faster than he expected.

“What?! Who’s there? What do you want!?” Shouts her angry voice from behind the doors.

“Oh, uh, hi, uh… it’s me…” Napstablook says sheepishly. “I have a message from, uh, your child. They-“

“What!? My Child?!” Her voice screams. “You mean that ungrateful, spoiled rotten imp? Don’t talk about them in my presence! They’re dead to me!”

Frightened, Napstablook unknowingly begins to retreat away from the doors, suddenly afraid that they would burst open from her wrath.

“But… they...”

“DEAD TO ME!” The voice shrieks. “And you can tell them personally that I don’t ever want to see hide nor hair of them again! Now get out of my sight!”

“okaysorrybye,” Napstablook says repeatedly as he fast tracks it away from the doors and back to Waterfall as quick as he can fly, disgrace and guilt weighing him down.

His friend had trusted him and he had failed. But at least he tried. He wouldn’t tell his friend what their mother had said, though. He couldn’t. Oh, what was he supposed to do now?


Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, a solitary golden flower clears his scratchy throat. It had been a long time since he had tried imitating her. Beating the phantom to the door had been hard enough when he realized what Chara had done after he had tracked them down again after his visit to the capital. It was only after the fact that he remembered that she didn’t use contractions that much in her speech patterns, but at least his mimicry had gotten the job done.

How Chara managed to escape the skeleton brothers, Flowey would never know, but that didn’t matter now that they were being shielded by the captain of the royal guard instead, which was, arguably, ten times worse.

Welp. No sense in waiting around here when Chara was making progress through the Underground. A plan in motion waits for no one.


“Is that all you got?!” an angry training dummy rants as it jumps from side to side, absorbing every blow it takes without so much as flinching. “My grandmother throws a harder punch! And she doesn’t even have arms! None of us do!”

Undyne swings her spear like a javelin, feinting and parrying with excessive force. The brat and Kid sit cross-legged a ways off to the side. Kid watches her train, absolutely ecstatic, but the punk looks more sullen, still recovering from their episode with the snails.

“Dude, isn’t this awesome? The teachers never let Undyne show off her stuff at school when she visits, but we get to see a royal guard practice with front row seats!”

“I don’t know,” the brat hums. “I was always taught that fighting isn’t the answer to your arguments. Plus I never knew training dummies could speak or move. There’s one that lives in the Ruins that I talk to sometimes. I’m going to watch what I say in front of it after this.”

They watch on in silence for a while, until Kid gets the bright idea in his head to say; “Oh! Undyne! Can I spar with you? I’ve been practicing!”

Undyne pauses for a second to wipe the sweat from her brow. “Sorry, bud. I’m not gonna put up my dukes against a kid.” Undyne tells him.

“Aw man… Oh! Dude! You should totally go up against Undyne!” Kid says, gently nudging his friend.

“What?” Undyne and the brat say in unison.

“Yeah!” Kid says looking to Undyne. “They’re a teenager AND a Boss Monster! They can take you!”

“Ha ha ha! Me, a teenager? Where’d you get that idea, Kid?” The human awkwardly laughs, doing a terrible job of hiding their unease.

“What do you mean, where’d I get the idea? You told me yourself in Sno-omph!” Kid’s sentence gets cut off when the brat tries to muffle his mouth with one hand and immediately shushes him. Undyne watches the exchange with interest, another idea slowly forming in her mind. “Training” was certainly a good substitute for “fighting”, and Undyne liked to train hard. And if she could get the brat to “train” with her…

“Hey… That actually sounds like a pretty fun idea,” she says, her smile practically predatory. “What do you say, punk?”

“I-I’d rather not,” the runt tries to refuse. “My mom doesn’t really condone violence.”

“Well, your mommy isn’t here, is she?” the warrior points out. “C’mon, it’s just a friendly sparring session. Show me what you “Boss Monsters” are made of.”

“I don’t think I should. I kind of messed up my shoulder and it really hurts. I don’t want to make it worse.”

“Go for it, dude!” Kid whispers. “This could be your chance to really impress Undyne! Train with her and she’ll instantly like you!”

They try to resist, but Kid is headbutting them to their feet, pressuring them forward.

“I-I-I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

“Oh, I doubt you can hurt me, brat,” Undyne scoffs, but the human still looks unsure. “Relax, runt.” Undyne conjures a glowing blue spear, solidified with her magic and tosses it to them. They fumble a bit, but manage to catch it with their good arm. They look to her, frightened and unready, but it’s too late to retreat now.

Drawing on a special reserve of combat magic, Undyne summons a spear of green and thrusts it into the ground. Like a mini earthquake, the floor rumbles and cracks, splintering its way towards the human, before forking and encircling them until they’re on a small fractured island of earth. Magical green light shines up from the fissures, reflecting off the underside of Undyne’s chin in an eerie glow.

Confused, the brat steps forward only to bump into an invisible force field that keeps them trapped in the center.

“What-?”

“As long as you’re in that green ring of light, there’s no escape!” Undyne explains. “A true warrior will always face danger head on! A true monster will always face me!”

“U-Undyne, wait-“

“On guard!” She shouts. “Give me all you’ve got and don’t hold back!”

Undyne makes the first move, calling forth simple arrows that fly slow and straight to make it look like a “fair” fight. She allows the brat plenty of time to interrupt them, and they do so with ease, knocking aside three in a row with the spear she’s given them.

They watch her- nervously, she’d admit, but their expression only riled Undyne up further. If humans were anything like monsters, then hopefully that meant their reluctance to fight would make them easier to take down.

“You’re move, punk!” She steps back a bit after her first wave ends to see what they would do next. From her tiny front lawn, the brat could easily take a swing at her with the long spear she’d given them. Not that she’d let them land a hit. But they make no move to attack. Instead they look her in the eye.

“Undyne, please. I’m not going to fight you.”

And for the briefest moment, Undyne pauses, their words striking a chord too close to home for her, reminding her someone who once told her the very same thing... She shakes her head to snap out of it. The brat was playing mind games on her, hijacking her memories to get under her skin! She wouldn’t be tricked so easily!

“Not gonna take your shot?” She rhetorically asks, gearing up again. “Your loss!”

Ramping up the difficulty, Undyne summons arrows of yellow, flying backward at her target, and swinging around to attack on the opposite side of their approach. The switch-up is enough to throw the kid off guard, and they flail, trying to block left when the arrows hit right, and struggling to cover their front when the bullets sneak up on them from the back.

One bullet slips past their defenses and nails them in their right side.

“Ow, ha ha, okay you win. I give up,” the punk folds, throwing up the white flag, and off to the side, Kid’s voice calls out; “Oh! Oh! Tag me in! Tag me in!” Undyne ignores them both and keeps attacking. Another arrow finds its mark on the back of one of their knees, forcing them to the ground.

“Ouch! Undyne! I said I give up! You win!”

A third arrow finds its mark on their left shoulder, which makes the kid double over and bite down on a scream of pain. Desperately, the human looks around for a way out, but as long as they’re in the green circle of light, there is no escape. After a few ragged gasps, the punk’s eyes slowly find hers again, comprehension dawning on their face mixed with fear and dread.

Undyne wasn’t stopping. And she wasn’t going to stop.

Sensing her magic was almost used up, Undyne cuts the theatrics and summons a long spear, ready to end this once and for all. Looming over them, she raises her spear, pulls her arm back, and-

♪Kiss me, kiss me, mew mew kissy cutie♫

Son. Of. A. FUCK.

With a deft twirl of her fingers, Undyne thrusts the spear down into the ground so hard that half of the shaft gets planted.

Furious, she looks from her spear to the punk’s horrified face, and forces her scowl into a smile.

Excuse me for a minute.

Practically tearing of her breast plate, Undyne finds her cell phone and reads the caller ID.

Alphys. Of course. She’d known as soon as she’s heard the ringtone. The fact that it’s Alphys calling is enough to take out most of the edge in Undyne’s voice, and she hastily hits “accept” as she walks to the side of her house out of earshot of the two children watching her.

“Oh, h-h-hi Undyne!” a stuttering voice answers on the other end of the line. “H-hey, uhh, w-w-what’s up?”

“Alphys!” Undyne replies without a greeting. “What’s the matter? Is there an emergency? What’s wrong?”

“W-what? Th-there’s nothing wrong. Why would you think that?”

“Because you never call me first unless you need help with something!”

“Oh, c-can’t a girl j-j-just call her friends every once in a while to see how they’re doing?”

Undyne rubs her temple and swallows a groan. “On any other day, of course, but I was kind of in the middle of something.”

“Oh! S-s-sorry. W-what were you up to?”

“It’s nothing…” Undyne sighs. I’m just babysitting a brat who’s really testing my patience.”

“Oh no, my brother’s not causing you too much trouble, is he?”

“No he’s alright, it’s- wait, how did you know my brother was with me?”

“Uuuh… Umm, l-l-l-lucky guess?” Alphys’ voice squeaks, but as familiar with the royal scientist as she is, Undyne can hear the lie in her voice.

“Wait a minute- Alphys, are you watching me right now on your cameras?”

“U-um. No? Maybe? I d-d-don’t know?”

“Alphys, did you interrupt me on purpose!?”

“Undyne i-i-it’s not what you think! Sans asked me to-!”

Sans.” Undyne hisses. She should have fucking guessed. “Alphys, I’ll call you back.”

“No, wait, Undyne-!”

But Undyne hangs up before the royal scientist can finish. She chucks the phone across her yard. No more interruptions.

Whirling around, Undyne calls fourth a new spear, ready to finish where she left off, but stops short in light of her opponent. Her green circle of magic is gone, and the human no longer stands in the center of the magical cage. Instead, Kid excitedly hops from foot to foot, ready to fight in their place.

“Alright, Undyne! My turn! Gimme all you’ve got!”

Undyne ignores him and looks around. There’s the punk, a ways off leaning heavy on the cave wall as they catch their breath. Her shoulders droop. Damn it. She couldn’t drag them back into the match now without looking like violence-hungry psychopath in front of Kid.

“Actually Kid, I’m done sparring for today.” She mumbles and dismisses her spear before Kid can complain.

Kid pouts but quickly gets over it when he catches sight of his friend. “Dude! You were amazing against Undyne! I don’t think anybody has lasted that long against her in a match! Hey, you okay?”

The human nods, but doesn’t look in his direction. “Hey, l-let’s head back over to Napstablook’s place. Maybe he’s back by now.” They start leaving before Kid or Undyne can say otherwise, keeping as much distance between her and them as possible.

“A-alright. Good idea!” Kid says, skipping after them. He pauses to look back. “You coming, Undyne?”

“Guess I don’t have much of a choice,” She grumbles under her breath, dutifully following after. She’d lost her chance again to get rid of this nuisance. No matter, though. Sans had broken his end of the bargain. Next time she had an opening, she wouldn’t need an excuse to strike.

The next sixty minutes spent in a tense silence as the trio wait on Napstablook’s porch. Kid tries to make conversation, but neither of his companions are in the mood to talk. The human is a tight ball of nerves, still shaking from their latest near-death experience while Undyne is lost in her own thoughts.

Sans had interfered after he agreed not to. She didn’t need to keep up this charade anymore, but as long as Kid still hung around, she decided she’d still play along. Truth be told, Undyne wanted the punk to slip up first and admit they were human. But if she couldn’t get this one to confess first, that was fine. Napstablook was busy bringing another one to her, and when she got here, Undyne decided she would hold the brat hostage until someone outed the truth, making her the winner of this little game.

Then after she was done bragging, she’d take both their souls.

What feels like an eternity passes before Napstablook finally reappears an hour later, and both the human and Undyne eagerly come to attention when they catch sight of him floating up his front walk. “Oh, hey… there you are…” He says neutrally.

“Napstablook, you’re back,” the human says, practically faint with relief. They look around expectantly, their face quickly going from hopeful to nervous. “Where’s my mom?”

Undyne looks around too, and is just as eager and confused to find that her neighbor has come back alone. She can see the ghost hesitating; his eternally sad eyes seem to get even sadder as he swallows a lump in his non-existent throat, chewing up as much time as he can before he actually has to reply.

“She said… that she wasn’t coming…” he says quietly, barely audible. “I’m sorry,” Napstablook whispers. “I tried…”

The human’s face goes blank, unreadable. They’re quiet for a long time, their head slowly tilting down as their face becomes obscured by their hair as they stare vacantly at the ground.

“That’s okay,” they look up quickly, a strained smile on their face, but their voice quivers as if on the verge of tears. They massage their bad arm. “I know you did your best. I… I half expected this to happen. It’s not your fault.” And then their voice cracks actual tears do come. “I already knew she hated me. I don’t even know why I bothered to try.”

The sob and turn away, looking for an angle where eyes full of pity can’t watch them and they repeatedly rub their face in the hem of their sweater, trying to stop their runny nose in vain. Even though she’s behind them, Undyne looks away, not sure herself if it’s out of disgust or second-hand shame. She covers it all up with anger instead so she won’t have to think about it, intentionally looking for something to make herself mad.

What the fucking hell?! After all the trouble they’ve gone through, and after all this waiting, the punk’s mom wasn’t even gonna show?! What kind of parent just ignores their kid like this?! Okay, so maybe this meant the brat’s mother was smart enough to stay out of her way, but good parents are supposed to risk their neck for their kids! And theirs was just gonna leave them out here to fend for themselves?? What kind of self-respecting guardian does that!?! The injustice of it all ignites a righteous fury in her soul.

Realizing she was feeling sorry for her mortal enemy, Undyne tries to shake herself out of it. No, it was all just… just some sort of human trickery or something! Uh, smoke and mirrors and… and mind games, and… Oh, who was she trying to fool. Try as she might to stay suspicious of them, her spirits just weren’t up to it when they were standing beside her having an emotional break down.

Kid tries to comfort his friend. “Hey, dude. It’s… it’s gonna be alright! You’ll see! So what, your mom didn’t show up with Napstablook. We’ll just go to her like you originally planned! She can’t give you the cold shoulder then!”

The punk does nothing more than nod at the appropriate times, not really listening to his words. When it’s apparent that they’re inconsolable, the younger monster turns to Undyne in distress. “Uh, Undyne? A little help?”

Undyne wavers. Emotional support isn’t her strong suit, especially when her only solution was a sympathy suplex, but not even she was soulless enough to just leave a child crying.

“Let’s… uh… go to Gerson’s place,” She decides at last. “It is way past dinner time, after all. We can crash at his place and figure out what to do next after we’ve all had a good rest.”

Kid nods with great seriousness then gently bumps his head against his friend’s good shoulder. “C’mon, you’ll love meeting Gerson! He’s really old and wise. He’ll know what to do.”

The human nods, putting up no resistance as Kid moves close to their side to guide them, and, animosity temporarily forgotten, Undyne takes the lead and escorts them out of the neighborhood.


Everything after Napstablook’s return is a blur. Defeated and drained, you stop actively participating in all that happens around you and allow yourself to be shepherded around. You remember meeting Gerson, a friendly old turtle with a squint eye and nasally voice, but you can’t recall any words exchanged. You recall someone speaking, though everything sounded distant and muffled. Undyne was talking quick as soon as you entered the shop, not allowing Gerson to get a word in edgewise, and then being coaxed into the back room where you’re suddenly sitting at a table with a bowl of crab apple soup in front of you with a side of hot tea. You force yourself to eat and drink to be polite, but everything is tasteless.

On the outside, you’ve all but shut down, but internally your thoughts are a torrent, so harsh and critical you’re having a hard time accepting them as your own.

Why do you keep trying? Isn’t this proof enough that you can’t go back? That she doesn’t want you anymore? That it’s pointless to keep attempting to make amends? Why bother? Why subject yourself to this?

You can’t think of a good reason. You only know that making things right is something you should at least try to do, even if you know there’s little chance of success.

But when you get to the king and then back to the Ruins and she inevitably rejects you a third time in front of everyone, what will you do then?

You… you don’t know, and the uncertainty of it all brings on another round of sobbing.

Your crying causes a stir and the next thing you’re aware of is Gerson and Undyne crouched by your side. They’re looking at your shoulder; probably assuming it’s causing you pain and making you weep. You think you hear the word “dislocated” thrown about, and “doctors” and “Alphys”, but you’re too numb to care. Right now, your hurt arm is the least of your concern.

The dishes are picked up after you manage to get yourself back under control, and you’re guided to a couch in a tiny living room where you sit, once again as lifeless and limp as a ragdoll, passive to all around you. Phone calls are made. Kid must be calling his parents to let them know where he is, and Undyne’s talking about scheduling an appointment with Kid’s sister.

At some point, Kid joins you on the couch. Gerson takes a seat in a rocker, and Undyne takes up the arm chair. A fire is lit in the fireplace and a blanket is put over you. The old turtle starts talking, rambling on about the days of old, and sharing a plethora of yarns and anecdotes acquired in his long life to fill the evening air.

Kid and Undyne occasionally throw in a remark or prompt to keep him talking, but as the evening drags on Gerson’s creaky voice begins to sound soothing, and the warmth of the fire starts seeping into your bones. Kid is first to nod off, falling asleep on your good shoulder, while you continue to listen, your heart still too heavy with grief to surrender to unconsciousness quiet yet. The old turtle doesn’t seem to mind as he continue to share tales well into the night to keep you company. And yet, without you even realizing, your eyelids slowly get heavy and your head starts to loll against Kid’s, then without any warning, you slip into sleep, letting all your worries drain away at last.


“Ugh, finally they’re asleep,” Undyne whispers to her old mentor when the kid starts snoring at last.

“Wa ha! I knew telling them about the nose-nuzzling competition of fifty-nine would knock ‘em out,” Gerson chuckles softly. “The contest that year was so boring even the challengers were falling asleep throughout it. Glad to see the story’s aged just as well.”

“Well, I’m not gonna try to move them now that they’ve finally passed out.” Undyne stands and stretches out her limbs. “Mind if I take your guest room upstairs?”

“Not at all, young’un. It’s nice havin’ company.” The old turtle smiles and stretches himself, all his joints popping like a rolling pin over bubble wrap. “But, uh, do my old eyes deceive me, or is one of my house guests this evening a human?”

Undyne’s lips go taut but she nods the affirmative. Gerson’s eyes twinkle with mischief. “I thought so. Never expected you of all monsters to take so kindly to one, much less come to me asking me if I could bed them up for the night. You goin’ soft on me, Undyne?”

Undyne feels her fins flush and she looks down in embarrassment.

“I haven’t! I was taking them to Asgore, but then some things came up,” she explains, staying as vague as possible.

“Is that so?” Gerson smiles knowingly. “They seem to have made quite an impression on you and the young lizard fella over there.”

“Humans are our enemy, Gerson,” Undyne states flatly. “We need this last soul to break the barrier if monsters want to be free, and I’m going to get it to Asgore one way or another. But just because they’re our enemy doesn’t mean I can’t show them some empathy. I’m a monster, not a barbarian.”

“Well, if you really want their soul that bad, why not take it now, while they’re asleep and defenseless?”

“Because…! That would be unsportsmanlike!” Undyne stutters. “If we’re going to take their soul, we should at least give them the decency of being upfront about it!”

The old turtle nods, but doesn’t say anything.

“Anyway, what do you think of them?” the warrior asks, changing the subject. “Sans claims the kid doesn’t even know they’re human. Do you believe it? Or do you think they’re just pretending? All throughout Waterfall I couldn’t accept it. I thought they were just trying to lure me into a false sense of security, but now… now I don’t even know anymore…”

“Eh, I don’t think it matters much in the grand scheme of things,” Gerson shrugs. “I’ve lived far too long to be suspicious or afraid of humans, and if the kid honestly thinks or only wants to think that they’re a monster… well, it doesn’t affect my life none. Besides, I think who they are as a person is more important than what kind of person they are. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Undyne’s fins fold back but she doesn’t reply, unsure herself how she should answer. Her morals and sense of duty couldn’t seem to find a compromise between letting them live because they had done no wrong so far, or condemning them simply because of what their kind had already done to her people in the past.

“Well, I guess it’s not my or your problem anyway,” Gerson sighs. “It might be Asgore’s problem, though. You sure you want to still take them to the king?”

“I already told them I would,” Undyne says gravely.

“Hm. Well, if that’s what you’re going to do then no one can scold you for keeping your word,” Gerson says as he hobbles out of the room. He pauses in the doorway and looks back. “But there is still plenty of time left to change your mind. G’night, kiddo.”

“’Night.” Undyne waits until she can’t hear his footsteps anymore then, with one last glace at the sleeping kids on the couch, she puts out the fire and heads off to bed.

Chapter Text

Somewhere else entirely, several hours ago…

Alphys sat at her computer screen with her chin on her claws as she watched the curious little creature on the monitor before her. She had put down her pen and paper ages ago, no longer frantic to scribble down notes and observations every time they blinked or sneezed. After a couple hours of simply following the human through her screen she no longer felt like she was making brilliant scientific breakthroughs for all of monsterkind, but rather… keeping an eye on a small companion, checking up on an old friend.

Funny how just watching someone struggle through all sorts of obstacles could make root for them, or feel like a guardian angel.

Alphys blinks a couple of times. Huh, where was this protective feeling coming from all of the sudden? She shakes herself out of it and tries to refocus. They were a human and she was a scientist who needed to study them to help her people. She didn’t need to guard them. She wasn’t supposed to feel attached to them. She had only promised to make sure they didn’t get hurt in Waterfall was all, nothing more than that.

Her eyes drift up to the screen where the human jumps in puddles alongside her brother like every other monster child had done at their age.

And yet… she couldn’t help but think.

An alarm on her wristwatch chimes a reminder- it’s twelve o’clock. Lunchtime.

The royal scientist sighs and reluctantly leaves her computer. She knows she promised Sans to keep tabs on the human, but now they were busy conducting music with Shyren by the old statue in front of a gathering crowd. Surely they’d be fine a few minutes alone without her eyes on them when there were so many others there to do it for her.

Roughly an hour later, Alphys hefts the half-empty bag of dog chow over her shoulder as the elevator ascends. She realizes she’d have to go to the local pet store either today or tomorrow to get more. Oh, why did that amalgamutt- pardon, -amalgamate- have to eat so much? Well, if she could call it eating. The conglomerate of canines more or less inhaled its food through the sole orifice on its head, bowl and all. She’s glad the employees at the pet store don’t question how much kibble she buys on a weekly basis, but she’d rather not have to go to the store every other day and risk suspicion when she never once showed evidence that she owned a dog.

The elevator dings! and the royal scientist steps out onto the main floor of her laboratory, in a hurry to get back to her computer screen. She hadn’t been gone long, but she didn’t want Sans to think her indolent for having left them unattended longer than she had planned.

Her lab is dim, the lights usually turn off on their own when she’s not there to save on electricity, but when something goes bump in the gloom her scales instantly stand on end.

She’s not alone.

“H-hello?” She tentatively calls out in the murky hallway, but no one responds. Gingerly, the scientist tiptoes to her computer and waves a hand in front of a motion sensor to get the lights to come back on. None of her papers look disturbed and all her dirty dishes are in the exact place she’d left them. Nothing had changed.

‘Scaredy scales,’ Alphys chastises herself. ‘Jumping at shadows and getting worked up over nothing. Nobody’s here. The lights would have come on if there were, remember?’

And then, creeping into her field of vision, just out of the corner of her eye, something long and slithering coils around her sides, and-

“ALPHYS! DARLING!”

Alphys screams so loud, she’s pretty sure the king could have heard her. She jumps a mile in the air, choking the bag of dog food so tight that kibble goes flying out its open end.

“M-M-Mettaton?! W-w-what are you doing in here?!” the yellow lizard stutters as the rectangular robot embraces her in his long, slinky arms.

“Oh, just the usual, darling! I just wanted to drop by and get a quick status update on how my new body is doing! I know my fans are just dying for a little more pizazz in my show! (Not to mention I already promised my producers a new look for the new season to pull in the ratings!) So has any progress been made since my last visit?”

“Oh, uh, y-yes! Lots,” Alphys lies, wriggling free of Mettaton’s stranglehold to go back to her computer screen. “But, uh, I-I-I’ve had to put it on hold for the moment. Something more urgent h-has come up, regrettably.” Her monitor shows the same live feed in Waterfall of the statue in the rain tunnel, but now the scene is completely bare, no human or Undyne in sight.

Frowning, she begins to rotate through her other cameras. They couldn’t have gone far.

“Wonderful news! So do you think you can give me an ETA on that, or…?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure Mettaton…” Alphys mumbles as she changes through the channels. She finds her brother back in the glowing water room struggling to carry something, and then Undyne on the bridges, but the human isn’t with her.

Alphys’ soul feels like it’s doing frantic backflips. Undyne without the human… That was disconcerting to say the least. She’d promised Sans she’d keep an eye on her! But Undyne didn’t seem to be carrying anything soul shaped, so maybe everything was alright? Oh, who was she kidding. She shouldn’t have let her eyes off them for a second! Fine guardian angel- er, some vigilant scientist she turned out to be!

Just as she starts going through all the absolute worst case scenarios in her head, Alphys flips to her cameras in the landfill sector and she finally gets lucky.

Ah! There they are! Walking through the junkyard (and following a ghost? Whatever it is, it’s making the live feed fuzzy, so it’s hard to tell). How did they get down there? Well, no time to worry about that now. They look a bit dazed for some reason, but at least they’re alive and unhurt.

Just then the human turns a bit, angling their body a bit more towards the camera, and now she can see that they’ve got one arm drawn up funny, which they hold close with their other hand. They’re doing their best not to bump into anything, but still their face goes tense when they accidentally jar their side against some obstructing pile of trash.

Uh-oh. Maybe they weren’t unhurt after all.

“My my, darling! What new show of yours is this?” Mettaton asks rolling up to her side. “Hm, that little human doesn’t look animated. Is this a movie, or an episode of some obscure reality TV series the humans watch? It has no audio. Is silent film finally making a comeback?”

“No, it’s live,” Alphys admits, too concentrated on the monitor to watch her tongue.

“LLLIIIVVVEEE?” Mettaton gasps overdramatically, drawing out the word with exaggerated phonation. “Good gracious, Alphys! But then that would mean there is a human in the Underground right this very moment! Stars above, somebody pinch me! I must be dreaming! This is exactly the kind of show stopping news my network has been looking for! I must call my producer immediately-!”

“WHAT?NO!DON’T!YOUCAN’T!” Alphys says without pause between the words. “I-I mean, they’re not coming to Hotland! Wait, no, I mean, uhh wh-what human? Pssh, that’s n-not a human, Mettaton! Don’t be silly!”

“Alphys. Darling.” Mettaton says frankly. “Do you think my robotic eyes were installed yesterday?”

“Um, yes? It says so right here in your hardware updates?”

“Irrelevant!” Mettaton wheels up beside the scientist to drape one arm around her and pull her in close. “Alphys, for the first time in decades there is a human in the Underground and I simply must meet them and have them on my show! Think of the masses we could be informing! Think of the history we could be making! The people we could be inspiring! The demographics we could be exploiting! Oh, where is the phone number for my entourage? I must get them escorted to my hotel this minute!”

“No, Mettaton! You can’t!” Alphys argues, pushing herself free. “It’s vital that the human doesn’t come to Hotland! For their safety and ours!”

Mettaton beeps displeasingly and crosses his arms. “My, my, Alphys. You seem rather protective of this human and keeping them a secret. Are they a friend of yours?”

“What?” Alphys replies, taken aback. She wasn’t trying to cover for them! Was she? “N-no, of course not!” She answers her own question. “I-in fact, I wanted to study them, but-”

“Then why are we even arguing, darling? I’ll call my valet and have them dropped off here, and then when you’re done with them, I can bring them on my show for all of monsterkind to meet!”

“Mettaton! For once in your life will you just listen to me and trust when I say it would be a very bad idea to show the human to the entire Underground?”

“And why ever not, darling?”

“Because-! Because the human doesn’t know that they’re human, Mettaton!”

“A human… who does not know they are human.” Mettaton repeats skeptically. “Alphys, as someone who is rather intimate with the realm of entertainment, I must inform you that your take on comedy leaves a lot to be desired.”

“My take on-? I’m not joking, Mettaton.” Groaning, Alphys drags her claws down her cheeks, snagging some flaking scales in the process. Oh, great. Now she’s stress shedding. If Mettaton kept this up she’d start developing bald spots. “They think they’re a Boss Monster like Asgore, and Sans and I agree that telling them the truth has the slightest chance of being a VERY catastrophic idea if they found out!”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound so bad! Our audience could use a little more excitement of the calamitous variety in their life, don’t you think?”

Alphys stares at him blankly. This robot sometimes, she swears. When it’s clear to her that there’s no changing Mettaton’s mind, she decides to switch angles. “Then how about this for thought; You show the human to the Underground and Asgore catches wind of it, then he demands you hand the human over? What will your show do then?”

“I-!” Mettaton starts, raising a finger in defiance before tapping his chassis thoughtfully the way one would tap their chin. Alphys could hear his hard drive whirring as he simulated the scenario in his processer.

“Oh. I do see how that could lead to a premature cancelation. I guess I’ll just have to brainstorm a work around...”

The screens on Mettaton’s front flash red and yellow in a checkerboard pattern before lighting up in the shape of an exclamation mark. A sound clip of a desk bell dings! from his speaker ports.

“I’ve got it! We’ll make it a candid camera reality sitcom!”

“What… are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about make a show in the format of one of those double-blind science-y things you do! We’ll play along with this little Boss Monster and introduce them to the life as a celebrity! But only those of us who are in the know will really see what’s going on! It will be the greatest inside joke of all history! Now that’s comedy!”

“I… d-don’t think that’s very wise, Mettaton-“

“But Alphys! Imagine the possibilities! While I interview them about their life as a Boss Monster, you could be gaining valuable research! You could disguise your questionnaires as quizzes, and your experiments as challenges on my game show! The audience at home won’t dare say a word. That would be cheating! And the human would be none the wiser!”

Alphys dares to exhale. It did sound plausible, and as long as she could keep Mettaton quiet with the secret, things would work out fine. Everything would be okay. She wouldn’t be messing up again.

“And who knows? Maybe once we’ve exhausted our ideas, we could have a special identity reveal at the end of the season!”

“Mettaton…” Alphys says lowly, her tone warning.

“Temper, darling! Watch your temper!” Mettaton teases, and begins rolling backwards towards the exit. “Anyway, I must be off now! I just had the most brilliant idea for the pilot and need to get the directors on board post haste! Do keep me posted on the progress of my new form, and call me when our little Boss Monster decides to visit Hotland, will you? Toodles!”

With that, the rectangular robot disappears through the automatic doors. Alphys feels like her knees have turned to jelly and she barely reaches her computer chair before she collapses into it.

Oh boy. It seemed like the human was destined to come to Hotland now whether they wanted to or not. Mettaton would make sure of that. Why did ensuring the safety of one living being have to be so hard?

Grabbing the edge of her desk, Alphys swivels back around to face her monitor. Her claws brush one of her earlier notebooks on her human observations in the process. Idly, she flips through it, rereading all her potential experiments and questions she wanted to ask them on the off chance they ever got to meet, which now she realized, was about to become reality. She felt a bit differently on some of the experiments now. Reading them again, they did sound the tiniest bit unethical, even if they were performed on a human.

Her eyes flick up to the screen. The human and Undyne and Kid have all rejoined now, and it looks like they’re racing snails at the local snail farm, like any other three friends would.

It’s a struggle, but Alphys forces herself to look away. She’s already too attached to them as it is, and that would only make it harder for her to study them when they finally met in person and harder to let go before she would inevitably send them to Asgore.

“Do your job as the royal scientist first, Alphys,” she sighs, opening up a fresh note book and turning to a clean page to resume taking notes like she should have been doing from the start. “Then we’ll talk about part time jobs as a guardian angel.”


You sleep, and the vision unfolds and you find yourself back on the highway of bridges over the dump. Premonition tickles the back of your mind. The scenery around you feels too clear, too real. That’s when you realize this is isn’t a dream.

It’s a memory.

The memory plays out against your will and your heart thumps in trepidation as your body begins to walk on autopilot. You need to get off these bridges. Something bad is about to happen. You know something bad is about to happen, but you can’t stop yourself from moving forward. The sense of already having lived this disorients you as the future overlays the present, not giving you enough space for warning as it plays out. The end of the bridge is coming up. You’re going to walk right off of it. You need to stop, but you can’t control your feet. They move on their own volition.

You try to yell, to shout, or order your body to obey with a voice that’s not there, but nothing works. The edge is inches away and you’re steadily getting closer. You strain, you flail, you fight with the tangibility you don’t have, knowing it’s futile but trying anyway because you must. But nothing happens, and the bottomless drop off yawns wider, ready to receive you. You brace for the worst.

But… then you come to a stop. You’re puzzled, relieved, heart filling with dread. You managed to not walk right off the edge, but that can only mean something even worse is going to happen. You can feel it. Something is warning you not to turn around.

You have to. You can’t help it. This is a memory and it’s already happened.

You turn, only just enough time to recognize the silhouette of the warrior and her wicked smile before her spears rain down and sever the wooden boards between you. Everything moves in slow motion as the world tilts and the ground rushes to the sky, leaving you behind. A stray spear hits your left shoulder which quickly brings you back to normal speed, and for a second you don’t know which feeling is stronger- the pain or the sensation of falling.

And you’re falling, falling, falling into something deeper than dreams.

You have to wake up! Wake up before you hit the ground! Wake up, your arm is being torn to shreds!

You jerk awake, and the feeling of falling quickly leaves you, but the pain in your shoulder screams louder than ever. You’ve fallen over in your sleep, right onto your bad arm. You thrash, blinded by pain as you roll over as fast as you can to get off your shoulder and end up spilling onto the floor.

The worst of the stinging goes away when your own weight is no longer pressing down on your arm. Hissing, you sit up and pull your collar to the side and try to look at it, only to find that even that’s now a challenge. The soreness of it all has started to spread up your neck and around your ribs. It hurts to move your whole left side but you manage to get a peek. The skin is angry and red and swollen. It’s hot to the touch, but your finger tips are cold and pale.

It hurts like hell, but you take small comfort in the fact that there is no puncture wound. At least that part of the memory was wrong.

Wait-

You freeze when you realize your own thoughts, and a bit of frenzied laughter escapes your lips, startling yourself when you put two and two together.

Ha ha, that’s right. That wasn’t a dream, it was a memory. Your eyes water, but you can’t tell if it’s from elation or shock. Ha ha, you can’t believe it. You remembered something. Ha, ha! This meant that you hadn’t forgotten again! This meant that-

Undyne cut the bridge.

The brief flame of joy in your heart is extinguished at once and your blood goes cold.

Why would she…? No. No, that had to be a mistake. You had to be misremembering, like with the spear-

You can’t help but recall your “sparring” session with Undyne yesterday, and how she wouldn’t stop attacking no matter how much you pleaded. Your stomach churns and you try to swallow a lump in your throat but it’s gone dry.

Oh God, she had wanted to- she was trying to-!

Geez, when did it get so stuffy in this room? Was it always this hot, or is it just you? It’s borderline suffocating. You… you need to get out of here, get some air, clear your head. Just… just for a minute. Just to think.

You cast one last glance over your shoulder at Kid still asleep on the couch. You won’t be long, you delude yourself.

As quietly as you can, you find your way to Gerson’s store front and slip outside to take a few deep breaths on the street. The air here is no cooler than the house. God, it feels so hard to breathe.

But why? The unanswerable question keeps jumping to the forefront of your mind as you try to calm yourself down. What did you do that would make Undyne want to… Was it something you said? Something you did? You thought you two were getting along at first. Where did it go so wrong?

You loiter outside the store awhile, massaging your sore arm and coming up with no good explanation. Still not ready to head back inside, you take stock of your surroundings since you didn’t have a good chance yesterday. The caves here are large and smooth and the floor is well-trodden. This must be a major road. Glowing runes catch your eye to the east. There are more plaques on the wall just further down the street. They look just like the ones you saw yesterday over the lake.

Maybe going for a short walk will help calm your nerves and get you tired again, you decide. You won’t go far, just to the plaques and back. Just to stretch your legs and take your mind off things.

“The power to take their souls,” the first plaque reads when you got close enough to make out the words. “This is the power the humans feared.”

You walk as slowly as possible to give yourself a chance to read each word and to chew up time, following the line of inscriptions on the wall.

“This power has no counter. Indeed a human cannot take a monster’s soul. When a monster dies, its soul disappears. An incredible power would be needed to take the soul of a living monster.

“There is only one exception. The soul of a special species of monster called a “Boss Monster”. A Boss Monster’s soul is strong enough to persist after death, if only for a few moments. A human could absorb this soul, in theory, but this has never happened, and now it never will.

“The humans, afraid of our power, declared war on us. They attacked suddenly and without mercy.

“In the end, it could hardly be called a war. United, the humans were too powerful, and us monsters, too weak. Not a single soul was taken, and countless monsters were turned to dust.”

The road begins to grow unruly underfoot as weeds and grass crop up and snake into your path. You glance up and take in the entrance to a forest with trees twice as tall and twice as thick as the marble pillars that you have back in the Ruins. The lowest branches of even the shortest tree are still far out of reach for even the tallest monster. They glow a weak bioluminescent blue on their undersides, and they’re so high you can’t see their tops. You wonder if they’re holding up the ceiling. After a moment of staring you turn back to the plaques.

“Hurt, beaten, and fearful for our lives, we surrendered to the humans. Seven of their greatest magicians sealed us underground with a magic spell. Anything can enter through the seal, but only beings with a powerful soul can leave.

“There is only one way to reverse this spell; if a huge power, equivalent to seven human souls, attacks the barrier, it will be destroyed.

“But this cursed place has no entrances or exits. There is no way a human could come here. We will remain trapped down here forever.

“However… there is a prophecy; The Angel, The One Who Has Seen The Surface, they will return and the Underground will go empty.”

The story ends here as far as you can tell, but your thoughts are still buzzing and impossible to order, and you can’t help but fidget and pace as you try to set them straight. The perpetual darkness of Waterfall gives you no way to tell the time like you could in the Ruins or in Snowdin, but the streets are noticeably empty and quiet, so you guess it’s a pretty safe bet it’s still the middle of the “night”.

What were supposed to do now? You can’t keep staying here; not out in the open or back there with Kid. Not if Undyne would keep trying to…

Perhaps you can just find the rest of the way on your own? That had been your plan from the start, after all. But it would be rude to just leave Kid behind and run off without thanking Gerson for his hospitality. Maybe you can just get Kid to just take you the rest of the way. The two of you made it so far together. But he looks up to Undyne so much… You doubt you’ll be able to convince him that she wants your dust.

Hm, maybe you could just keep standing outside in the middle of the street doing nothing. You’ve already got a great head start. You groan and shake your head. No, that wouldn’t work. Someone would find you here eventually. You have to make a choice here and now, despite all your bad options.

You guess you could go back to Snowdin. You know without a doubt Papyrus would welcome you back with open arms and you could stay with him and Sans for as long as you wanted. But you couldn’t stay with them forever, waiting each day by the door for someone who wasn’t going to answer. Heck, you don’t even know if you can find the way back to Snowdin at this point. You have to get to the capital one way or another. It’s your best choice. It’s your only choice.

You sigh and about-face, not looking forward to the walk back, but you only take two steps when you catch movement out of the corner of your eye.

A familiar gelatinous form inches past like a carefree accordion. You don’t believe your eyes. Is… is that who you think it is?

“Moldsmal?” you ask out loud. The gummy-like monster does not falter or stop and keeps squelching on its way. In a spilt second decision, you choose to pad after it, keenly aware that you are straying from the main road and into the forest.

“Moldsmal, wait! How did you get out of the Ruins?”

The smaller monster pays you no heed as it slips over rocks and roots and fallen logs, around crystal outgrowths and mushroom clusters, deeper into the forest filled with the phosphorescent trees.

“Moldsmal, please! Is there a way to get back in past the doors?” You put on a burst of energy and sprint to close the distance between you and the other monster.

“Why are you running away? It’s me! I just need your help-” At last you catch up and reach out to it. It shutters and stiffens at the touch of your fingers- then rears back until it is twice your height and utters a deep, guttural sound. Spores of magic burst out like a halo around its body and it fixes you with a piercing stare from the one eye in the center of its jelly-like face.

And of all the things to think, your brain comes up with a brilliant deduction as you’re stumbling back in shock; This isn’t Moldsmal.

You trip over a rock and land hard on your bad arm. White spots flash across your eyes as you let out one short bark of pain.

The monster towers over you, its spores of magic closing in.

“I-I’m sorry,” you whisper between terrified huffs. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I-I thought you were someone else.”

The monster-who-is-not-Moldsmal leans in, its thistle-like magic creeping dangerously close as it studies you, apparently at a loss to what to do now that you’ve frozen in horror. It gurgles deep in its throat.

“P-please,” you beg, mouth dry, though you’re sweating. “I mean you no harm.” You still haven’t moved from your horizontal position on the ground, afraid the slightest movement might upset your adversary and wanting to appear as least-threatening as possible. For the second time since passing through the doors, all the warnings your mother had given you rush through your mind. All the dangers, all the threats, and here was one cornering you now, wearing the face of someone you thought you knew.

The monster’s eye is dangerously close to yours. It’s so close you could push it away if you really tried, if you fought back, defended yourself. Maybe stun it long enough to get away. You could. You could, but you can’t move. Terror locks you in place. This is how you’re going to die, scared stiff because of your stupid mistake.

Moldbygg inspects you for a long time, gurgling deep in its throat as it decides whether or not you are friend or foe. After a minute of motionlessness, it seems to understand you are no threat. The spores of magic dissipate, and Moldbygg slowly retracts, collapsing back into its jelly-like form.

You swear you hear it let out an annoyed snort as it inch-worms away. It’s only after you can’t hear its squelching sounds anymore, do you sit up and wipe the tears of panic from your eyes. It was foolish to come out this far at all. How could you possibly make it to the king all on your own when you can’t even walk down the street without screwing up? That’s it, you’re going to head back and try your hardest to sway Kid to show you the rest of the way through Waterfall.

You push yourself up on trembling knees, turn around, and start trudging north, back the way you came… or was it west? Wait, are you even facing north? You can’t tell in this extreme darkness.

You walk blindly, bumping into tree trunks and tripping over roots every other step. You nearly jump out of your skin when your foot snaps a twig, but the noise gives you an idea.

Shuffling your feet, you kick up the dead pine needles until your foot catches on something stiff and you reach down for it, hopeful.

Ah, yes! You’ve found a branch, just like you were hoping. Holding the stick in your right hand, you attempt to snap your fingers with your left, but the sharp movement feels like bee-stings up your arm. You do a bit of juggling and pass the stick off to the other hand. Squeezing it tight hurts your left shoulder, and you snap your right fingers as quick as you can with heated urgency.

Sparks fly and hit the leafless twigs, but the bark refuses to ignite. You snap frantically, feeling your grip tremble as your shoulder muscles cry out in torture.

Finally, a twig catches and you release your hold like you’re dropping a venomous snake, letting the branch fall into your hand on your good arm.

Carefully, you bring the smoldering end up to your face and breathe a bit of life onto it. The kindling brightens and dims with each puff until at last a tiny flame appears. It isn’t much, and it certainly doesn’t light up the whole forest, but the little light does help to chase away the immediate darkness and allows you to watch where you’re walking.

You hold the stick high, that way the flames have to work against gravity, eating their way down the branch and giving you more time to take advantage of the light before it burns at your fingertips. Not that you could get burned with your gloves on, anyway, but the slower the branch burns, the easier the fire will be to manage and the longer you could go without finding a new one.

You try to retrace your steps by searching for the Moldbygg’s slime trail, but all the grass here is naturally glossy, making it impossible for you to be able to tell what is a monster’s residue and what isn’t.

You debate calling for help, but decide against it, not wanting to be caught somewhere you shouldn’t be. Again.

Refusing to admit you’re lost, you march on, hoping with all your heart that you’ll somehow find the way back out and not end up walking in circles, but after passing a rather familiar crystal growth for what you think is the twentieth time, you have to admit you’re hopelessly turned around. Your stick has burned down to embers in your palm and you’re feet are sore from walking. Leaning back against the tree, you slump down and sigh.

Well… at least you managed to make yourself tired again. You might as well wait here until someone finds you and suffer the consequences that come.

Hugging your knees, you place your forehead on your arm and take a moment to reflect on your situation. Your throat starts getting tight and your eyes start to well as you think about the mess you’re in. You can feel another round of tears coming on and you don’t try very hard to hold them back.

You’re right in the middle of feeling sorry for yourself when you hear a rustling in the grass. Your sniffing is stopped at once; the fear of danger is enough to silence your crying as you hold your breath and wait for whatever aid or enemy to emerge from the shadows. The grass rustles again, and from it pops out the most curious monster you’ve seen yet.

At first you think it’s the small white dog again. The creature is the same height and color, but upon closer inspection its face is too flat and more cat-like than canine. It’s got dark grey hair on its head in addition to the white fur, and… four ears? You can’t tell if those are floppy ears on the side of its head or just growths of skin. Two more pointed ears peak out from the top of her head. She’s wearing a blue shirt.

“hOi!” she yips. “I’m Temmie!”

The tiny monster extends one foot and it stretches toward you, kinking at sharp right angles, giving the leg more joints than any limb should legally be allowed to have. Magical, extending legs? Maybe this thing is a dog after all.

It dawns on you that she’s expecting a handshake, and tentatively you reach your own arm out to grasp it. She seems friendly enough and you don’t get any threatening vibes from her. You open your mouth to greet her in turn, but your nose starts to tickle half way through the first word.

“Heh-aa-AA-ACHOO!” you sneeze, barely covering your mouth on time. “Hello. I-I’m Chara. Sorry for sneezing.”

Snuffling, you wipe your nose on your sleeve, then wipe your eyes, and then your eyes some more. (Why are they suddenly so itchy?)

“Is k.” Temmie says, brushing off your faux paus. “Temmie herd nother Tem crying and came as fast as she could! Tem always help other Tem in need!”

“Other tem- I’m not a, uh, Temmie,” you guess. It’s not unusual for groups of similar monsters to go by an all-encompassing name, like Froggit or Vegetoid do, and this one did speak in the third person… you think.

Temmie tips her head, bemused.

“Not a Tem? But you ware blue shirt!” she says poking you in the stomach.

“Well, yeah, but-”

“You hav white furr!” She says pointing at your gloves.

“Well, technically, but-”

“You have four ears!” she says lifting up one of the sides of your hat.

“Th-that’s true in a way, but-”

“You are a Tem!” Temmie nods triumphantly. Case closed.

You open your mouth to say something, but get seized by another sneeze.

Ugh. Now your nose is all blocked up and your ears feel like they’re being stuffed with cotton. Head spinning, you decide not to argue anymore.

“Okay, okay, I am a Tem,” you forfeit when an idea suddenly strikes you. “And if Temmies always help other Temmies in need, then can you show me the way back to the main road?”

“Yeah, Yah!! Follow Temmie!” the small dog… cat… thing skips off and you obediently follow, trekking deeper into the pitch black forest.

Keeping Temmie in your sight is hard when it’s so dark you can barely see your own hand an arm’s length from your face, and you don’t think you’d be able to keep track of her if her fur wasn’t so startlingly white. Not to mention that your eyes are watering, and you find yourself constantly stumbling over hidden rocks and roots in your path. Temmie expertly jumps over each invisible obstacle as she prances through the trees. Her pace is not slow, but you still can’t help but wonder why it’s taking so long to get back to the main road. Surely you hadn’t deviated that far from it?

“Hear!” Temmie announces when the trees suddenly break away to a bare rock face. You stop short. This is definitely not the main road. Have you been heading the wrong way the whole time?

“Where are we?” You ask, stupefied. “This isn’t the main street.”

“This is TEM VILLAGE, duh!” Temmie snorts. “It’s a home for all tems!” And with a sharp turn to the right, she disappears from sight. You gasp in astonishment when Temmie vanishes into thin air and hurry over to where she winked away only to find a crack in the wall well hidden from your previous point of view.

Not wanting to be alone in the open, you squeeze through the fissure after her. The walls get uncomfortably tight pressing against your bad shoulder as the corridor gets narrower and narrower. Just when you begin to panic that you’re permanently stuck, the crack widens and you pop out into a large hollow cave.

You trip and stagger, but manage not to fall, and you can’t believe what you see when you look up.

The cavern is fairly large. Dozens of identical Temmies stroll about, chatting with friends or lounging on the floor. The air is filled with joyous greetings of “hOis!” whenever two Temmies happen to collide, and cheerful “bOis!” when they part ways again. A giant stone statue of a Temmie stands proudly in the center of town, and smaller tunnels branch off in the walls leading off to hidden homes and hideaways. The air is happy and peaceful and it brings a tear to your eye.

Wait. No, your eyes and nose are running like the rivers in the glowing water room but you don’t think it’s because you’re being overwhelmed with emotion. Now that you think about it, this is exactly what happens when it’s pollen season in the Ruins, or when you go too long with not sweeping the dander build up out of your room; you’re having an allergic reaction.

Oh no.

You need to get out of here. Oh geez, you can already feel a migraine coming on. You spin on your heels, ready to crawl back through the crack when you suddenly remember- you still don't know the way back to Gerson’s shop.

For a minute you just stand there, head hanging in defeat as you reflect on all your life’s choices that have led you to this moment, sneezing and suffering. Of all the decisions you make, how is it that you keep picking the wrong ones?

You’re stuck at an impasse; Dare you chance finding the way back on your own, completely blind and lost and risk running into more monsters like Moldbygg (or worse, Undyne), or will you suck up your allergies and endure the Temmies who are helpful and nice since they think you are one of their own? Sure, your Temmie had led you astray, but maybe it was a mistake?

Groaning, you turn back around. The Temmie that brought you here has vanished into the sea of other Temmies, but you don’t think she would have been much help anyway. Picking a Temmie at random, you start asking around.

“Um, excuse me.”

“hOi! I’m Temmie!” Greets the Temmie nearest you.

“Uh, hello. Do you know the way to Gerson or Hotland by any chance?”

“Hmmmm… Nop! Try asking my friend!”

“hOi!” Says the Temmie next to Temmie. “I’m Temmie! And this is my friend Temmie!”

“Hi there,” you nod patiently although your sinuses are pounding. “Do you know who Gerson is, and how to get to him?”

“Nu…” Temmie frowns, her ears sagging. Then she perks up again. “But my friend mite! Ask her!”

“hOi!” Says the first Temmie, apparently having already forgotten the two of you have met. “I’m Temmie!”

“And I’m leaving!” you say sarcastically before breaking away from the madness.

None of the other Temmies are any more help as you work your way through the entire town, and only stop when you reach the back of the cavern. You’ve got a throbbing headache and you’re not sure if it’s solely because of your allergies.

Rubbing your temples, you lean against a sign and try to clear your head. When the pounding stops you can take in the lettering more clearly, and once you get past the grammatical errors, you find that you can actually read the words written on it;

“hOi! U shud check out… TEM SHOP!”

A shop? Hope flutters in your chest. Shops might sell maps, or at the very least be run by a capable store owner who should know some basic directions to the other stores in the Underground. It was your best bet, and really, at this point what else did you have to lose? Taking a chance, you head down the corridor.

Like most of the other establishments you’ve encountered in the Waterfall, the store has no door- just a short tunnel to the counter. The room is dimly lit and curiously decorated with odd mismatched trinkets and doodads and worthless bits of trash on the shelves around you that look less like wares for sale and more like the hoard of a packrat. The register sits in the middle of the room (or, uh, cardboard box in this case?) but no one seems to be manning it. Curious, you approach the box, only to step on something round and rubbery, and you practically jump out of your skin when it lets out a shill shriek.

Looking down, you find a squeaky dog toy taped to the floor. Several, in fact, all placed in front of the cardboard counter top, as if they were intentionally put there to be stepped on like a replacement for a desk bell.

The box in front of you rustles, and a head pops up, flinging foam peanuts into the air. It’s, unsurprisingly, another Temmie.

“Hoi! Welcom to… da TEM SHOP!” she greets you. “How kan i help u?”

“Hi, do you by any chance have a map of the Underground, or at least of Waterfall?” You ask quickly, feeling a familiar tickle in your nose that indicated you were about to sneeze.

“Yeah, yeah!!! Tem has… lots a maps! Tems R excellent cartographers!”

“Thank you so much. I’ve been walking in circles for ages. You don’t know how much I need this,” you sigh in relief, and reach into your pocket for your spare change. “Can I have one?”

“Yeah, yeha!¡!” The Temmie dives back down in the box, leaving only her little bobbed tail sticking out. You watch it circle around in the packing peanuts like a periscope for a while until the Temmie pops up again with a piece of folded paper in her mouth. “One map is... one thousand gold!!!”

Your jaw drops. A thousand gold?!

“B-but I’ve only got a hundred forty-five!” you stammer.

“Sry!” Temmie says firmly, keeping her paw on the folded piece of paper. “Tem has to save for colleg. Tuition… not cheap!” She turns up her nose.

Despair threatens to overwhelm you. You can’t tell if you’re crying or if your eyes are just watering so bad from being in close contact with all these Temmies.

“W-wait, are you willing to barter?” You ask desperately.

Temmie opens one eye a tiny sliver. You dig into your pockets, searching for anything of value you could trade, but all you come up with is rocks. You angrily pull one out and place it on the counter to get it out of your way while you look for something better.

Temmie’s eyes go wide as saucers when you present the geode.

“WOAH!” She gasps. “U hav… ROCKS? Tem’s always wanted rocks, but tem has to save for col leg. Hnng! But Tem really gotta have dat rock! Temmie will pay u… a hundred g!”

You pause.

“Really? But Kid told me these things were-” you cut yourself off, a realization dawning on you as something about Temmie behavior suddenly makes a lot more sense. This could be your only way to buy the map, but a hundred gold for each rock wasn’t going to cut it. You only had eight.

“Hmm, I dunno…” you play along as you tap your chin, considering the offer. “This rock wasn’t easy to come by. It has a lot of sentimental value too.”

“P… plz!!!” Temmie sweats. “One-fifty g! Final offers!!”

“Well… I guess I can bear to part with this rock for a hundred-fifty. Deal.”

You pass the rock to Temmie and she dips into the glass jar, which you guess is her till, to fishes out a handful of gold coins to match her price.

“Thanks u!” Temmie sings, proudly placing the stone on a shelf of the knick-knacks and dryer lint behind her.

“My pleasure. I sure will miss that rock, but I’m glad to see it will go to a good home.”

“Yea, Yeah! Tem will take good care of it!”

“Say Temmie…” You trail off and pull out another rock from your pocket. Temmie’s eyes bug as she shifts her pupils from the rock to you. She’s sweating profusely. “Would you like another?”

--

Six more rocks sold later and you have enough money for the map and still have one rock left over. Temmie seemed absolutely shocked when you placed the grand of gold on the counter and rejoiced that she would now be able to go to “cool leg”. You congratulated her, deciding to refrain from telling her that all the money was hers to begin with, and that you’re walking away with more gold than when you entered.

You grab the map and leave, ready to put this whole ordeal behind you.

Back in the main square, you take a moment to kneel on the ground and unfold the piece of paper. It’s harder to do than you think with only one arm, and when you finally smooth out all the edges, you behold the map to find…

Crayon scribbles.

The paper is covered in crisscrossing lines with no order or direction. There are no land marks, or compass or key, and half the paper is taken up by a huge, crudely drawn self portrait of Temmie.

You flip the paper over, thinking maybe the real map is on the other side and this is just a doodle, a mistake. The other side is blank.

“No… no, no, no, no!” You moan. Two minutes ago you thought you were being crafty in swindling a salesman. Oh how badly you have been played.

Frustrated, you crumple up the map and throw the ball as far as you can. It goes an unsatisfying distance of a couple of feet, but you don’t care as you storm off towards the entrance. Guess you’ll just have to wing it after all.

“Pardon me,” A voice, deep and eloquent, interrupts before you can leave. “I do believe you’ve dropped this.”

You spin around in alarm at the authority of the tone, only to look down in surprise. It’s… another Temmie?

“This belongs to you, does it not?” The Tem holds up the paper ball of your crumpled “map” in one limb that’s thrice as long as the others to reach your height. You swallow and nod, taking the trash from its paw. The leg contracts like a tape measure.

“Ah, good. It is nice to see children taking responsibility for their items. We do not approve of littering here in Temmie Village, but seeing as you are clearly a visitor, I will let you off with a gentle reminder. No sense in punishing those who never learned the rules.”

You stare at the Temmie completely dumbfounded. It smiles up at you, humming mirthfully with a twinkle in its eye.

“Cat got your tongue, young one?”

“You talk… really good,” you say stupidly.

The Temmie’s eyes crinkle as it tries to hide its amusement. “The correct phrasing would be ‘Talk very well’, but adverbs and adjectives can be tricky even for the most fluent speakers. Thank you, young one. I do pride myself on my, shall I say, above average linguistic achievements for my species. Though flaunting such talent is unbecoming of one’s personal image. Dignity and grace are best appreciated when expressed silently.”

Your mouth opens and closes without any sound coming out. You aren’t sure how to respond to that.

“Where are my manners?” The Temmie continues. “I have been conversing with you all this time without even introducing myself. I am Bob.”

“C-Chara,” you reply, crouching down to shake Bob’s tiny paw, despite your better judgement. You sneeze.

“Gesundheit,” Bob says. “And a pleasure to meet you. Though I must ask, what brings you to Temmie Village, young one?”

“I got… lost,” you confess. “I’ve been trying to get directions back to the main road but… no one’s been particularly… helpful.”

“Say no more, young one,” Bob nods knowingly. “I can assist you.”

“You can show me the way?” you ask, your spirits soaring.

“Oh yes. Though I as much as I wish to guide you, I assume being in my presence will just cause you physical discomfort, will it not?”

You reluctantly nod and hand your head in shame. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize, young one. We cannot control what we are allergic to. Listen close and I will describe to you the route you need.

“When you leave this place, take the first left you come across and follow it as far as you can go. The turn should be about twenty paces from our cavern entrance. Then turn right and head straight until you reach a dead end. Take one more right followed by two immediate lefts, and you’ll be back amongst civilization. Understood?”

“I think so,” you nod, your eyes burning from all the fur in the air. Left, straight, right, straight, right, left, left. It shouldn’t be too hard to memorize.

“Then you’d best be off, small one! Quick before your eyes and nose permanently turn against you!” Bob says, turning to go on his way. “I wish you luck, and may we both see the day our paths cross again!”

You wave farewell and make for the exit, ready to put this nightmare of a detour behind you. Your eyes and nostrils start to un-swell almost immediately when you squeeze back out through the fissure and you breathe deep, never more thankful in your life to have clear sinuses.

Right. Now to get back on track. You don’t see any other useful sticks on the ground that you could use as a torch. Guess you’re going in blind like the first time.

The first step in Bob’s directions was to take twenty steps and turn left. You start walking, straining your eyes as hard as you can to look for pathways in the pitch-black darkness. When you’ve mentally counted to twenty, you turn and began to feel around for the trail. With a hand sticking straight out in front of you, all you come across is more underbrush, too thick to push through, and your anxiety begins to resurface.

You didn’t mess up Bob’s directions, did you? Maybe you were supposed to turn right instead of left? You spin around a hundred and eighty degrees and poke about the other side of the road to see if you come across the correct path, but this side is just as dense a tangle of grass and bushes as the left side. You try not to double guess yourself. No, Bob had definitely said to go left first, and then straight. Right? Right. Twenty paces. Oh wait, what if those paces had been in Temmie proportions? You would have passed the turn ages ago if that were the case.

You remind yourself not to panic and start to backtrack. There was no need to get worked up. You walked in a straight line, so you could easily find your way back to Temmie Village and start over if you needed to. You could even go back in, find Bob again and have them repeat the directions to you. No need to freak out yet.

You walk blindly in the dark with your arm stretched out, waiting to hit the rock wall that marked your starting point. You mentally count back from twenty to recount your steps, but when you start getting into the negative numbers, alarm bells start to ring.

This isn’t right. You should have hit the wall by now. There were no other paths to take or accidentally turn down. How could you mess up something as simple as just walking in a straight line? Wait, did you remember to turn left or right when you started to back track? You had been facing the right side of the road instead of the left, so that meant you should have turned right one more time to make sure you had correctly lined yourself up again. Had you turned left and walked even further from Temmie Village?

Completely turned around, you keep walking in a vain attempt to stop yourself from having a break down. If you froze now, you would just completely shut down again and put yourself back at square one. Just keep walking until you hit something and you could orient yourself from there.

The path ends when you run smack dab into a tree, shaking loose a few barely-glowing pine needles that rain down on your head. Okay. A tree. You’ll use this as a starting point. The path here bends sharply right and it looks like the only way to go. You decide to follow it and stay right at every turn until you either stumble out of the forest or reach another dead end. It seemed as full-proof a plan as any.

You turn right and walk, and before long you find yourself at another bend that turns right again. That’s good. Bob’s directions said you’d have to make two right turns in a row. Maybe you accidentally found the right path after all.

You walk as far as you can, keeping an eye out for any signs of the foliage thinning or any hints of life beyond the trees, but find none. At least this path only seems one way. It would be very hard to get turned around on a road so narrow. When the path bends right for a third time, though, you start to get worried that you’re walking in a circle, or box rather. Aw geez, you weren’t going to end up back where you started at the tree, were you?

The trail is short and turns sharply left before you could find out. You keep following it as it’s the only way to go, and your hopes rise when you think you see light building around the next corner and hear a faint hum of quiet conversation. Could it be? People and magic? You pick your pace and round the curve in excitement, only to stop short in awe.

Before you lays a field of echo flowers, each as tall as you, glowing a bright cyan blue and whispering softly to one another. Standing on top of a slight ridge, you can see they all grow so tightly packed together that they look more like an ocean than a meadow. You think you’d be disappointed you’re still lost if you weren’t so captivated by the surreal beauty of it all.

It occurs to you that this is far from the correct way back to Gerson’s shop, but it’s simultaneously further into Waterfall than you’ve been yet. And from your slight vantage point you think you spy the slightest trace of a warm red glow at the other end of the field reflecting off the tiny waterfalls flowing around the cavern’s edges.

It could just be your eyes playing tricks on you, you remind yourself. Your brain desperately looking for something it wants to see. Or maybe, just maybe, it was a beacon to light the way out.

Once again you find yourself at a crossroads. Literally. Still standing on your little ridge, you debate which path to take. Turn back now and figure out the way back to Gerson’s shop? Or bumble along blindly through the echo flowers to what might be Hotland. You weigh the pros and cons of both options. Going forward you can’t get lost; you could just leave an audible trail for you to follow back through the flowers. But if that dim light at the other end of the tunnel isn’t Hotland, what would you do then? Wonder around even longer, getting even MORE off track? Your other choice was to turn back now, find your way back to the main road and have Kid guide you. It would definitely guarantee you wouldn’t get lost again, and assure you had a trusted guide to Hotland, but it would also mean having to be in close proximity to Undyne…

On reflection you don’t know why you thought this would be a hard choice.

You forge head into the flowers without even glancing back.


Undyne wakes up early out of sheer force of habit. Normally the first thing she does in the morning is go for one or two or twenty laps around Waterfall, maybe do twelve dozen pushups or perhaps a couple hundred chin up and a few thousand crunches just to get herself warmed up.

Not today, though. Today she was stuck with babysitting duty.

Sleeping in her armor was uncomfortable, but she had no other choice having worn nothing casual or appropriate to compensate for the heat she generated in her suit underneath the metal exterior.

Groaning, Undyne stretches and yawns. If she acted quickly, she could sprint back home and change into something more suitable for Hotland’s extreme temperatures before she took the punk to their doctor’s appointment. Hell, she’d pretty much have to if she didn’t want to faint from heat stroke as soon as she crossed over into the volcanic region.

Hmm, while she was at home, she might as well grab breakfast. No doubt Gerson would offer to feed her, but she couldn’t impose-

“Undyne!” Kid shouts and frantically raps on her door. “Undyne get up quick! It’s an emergency!”

Undyne is out of bed in less than a second at the sound of Kid’s panicked tone. She opens the door so fast she almost rips it off the hinges.

“What’s wrong? Where’s the danger? Did someone fall down?”

“M-my friend!” Kid hyperventilates, close to tears. “Th-they’re gone!”

“Gone?” Undyne echoes in confusion.

“I-I woke up because I h-had to go to the bathroom, a-and noticed they w-weren’t on the couch!” Kid stammers. “I ch-checked the whole house, b-but they’re not here!”

Shit. Fuck. The ONE time she lets her guard down and looks the other way, the brat goes AWOL on her. After all those crocodile tears they shed last night? She should have known it was all a ruse! She should have guessed it was all a trick!

“Undyne,” Kid says solemnly as she searches for her helmet. “They were really upset yesterday after Napstablook told them their mom wasn’t coming. They became completely detached, a-and I couldn’t help but think of my sister because she gets that way sometimes too when she’s really upset.”

He looks at her, serious, worried. Undyne’s anger drains away to actual dread.

“Wh-what if they ran away to-”

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” Undyne orders. “We’ll find them, okay? They don’t know their way around Waterfall. They can’t have gone far.”

“But they could have been gone for hours by now! A-and it’s not really hard to find a way to… disappear in Waterfall…”

Kid had a point. The punk may not know Waterfall very well but they did know how to get to the dump where bottomless drop offs could sweep you away without a trace. Kid drawing a parallel to Alphys hits too close to home for her, and for a moment she put her in their shoes. Nobody, human or monster, should ever be forced to conclude the only solution to a problem like that is to remove themselves from the equation.

“Kid, go wake Gerson,” Undyne orders as she adjusts the fit of her boots. “Tell him what you told me. I’m gonna call your sister to check if she’s seen anything then I’ll go check the dump.”

“Got it!” Kid nods and runs off down the hall.

Alphys almost doesn’t pick up when Undyne calls her from Gerson’s phone. It was an unholy hour in the morning to be calling someone, so she should have figured, but on her fourth redial Undyne finally gets through.

Hello?” the lizard answers groggily, her voice slurring like a drunk.

“Alphys! It’s me!”

Oh, Undyne!” Alphys perks up, suddenly sounding a lot more sober. “What a surprise! I n-never expected you to call so early.

“Yeah, I kinda figured. But that’s not important right now! The punk ran away again last night! I need your help to find them.”

W-w-what?! They’re gone!? But why? D-do you think it was a ploy? Do you think they sleep walk? Gosh, I decide to take one little nap and I miss something big! Oh why did I think resting my eyes was a good idea!

“Alphys, focus! I need you to look back through your security tapes to tell me which way they could have gone.”

C-can do, Undyne! B-but it might take me a while-

“That’s okay. I’m gonna circle the dump a couple of times then come back to Gerson’s to check again, but if you find out anything, call back here right away, got it?”

Uh, o-okay? I don’t see what good it will do calling back if you’re not here, b-but will do, Undyne! Bye!

The line goes dead and Undyne hangs up the receiver just as Kid makes his way back into the room.

“Yo! I told Gerson like you asked! He said he’d go check the neighborhood.”

“Good job, Kid. I’m heading out now. I’ll be back in a few.”

“Wait!” Kid interrupts her before she could leave. “What about me? What am I supposed to do?”

You ,” Undyne says, lightly poking him in the chest. “Are gonna wait here and listen for any phone calls. I asked your sister to look through the security footage of last night. If she finds any clues that can tell us where the punk went, she’s gonna call back here and I need someone here to answer her.”

“But-! They’re my friend, Undyne! I can’t just sit around here waiting! I should be out there searching with you! I want to help too!”

“You will be helping, Kid! When your sister calls back here, come find me and tell me immediately, okay? In the meantime, I can’t have two children getting lost on my watch. Got it?”

Frowning, Kid averts his eyes, but stays silent. It was clear to Undyne he didn’t like being left behind, but he reluctantly did what he was told.

“Kid, I’ll probably be back before your sister even gets a chance to call me. And when I do come back, we can go look for them together, alright?”

Kid nods halfheartedly and stays put. Undyne watches him for a second before turning out the door. She didn’t have time to linger. She had a human to find.


Kid watches Undyne hurry out the door. Gerson wasn’t far behind, though his pace was much less urgent. He hobbled like he had all the time in the world, wearing lazy smile on his face like he was going for an early morning stroll instead of looking for a lost person.

Kid wouldn’t deny he was the least bit annoyed. His friend was lost and maybe scared and definitely hurting in more ways than one, and yet the old tortoise was moving like a… well, like a tortoise!

Kid pouts. He couldn’t stay here tapping his tail and waiting for news to come to him! He had to be out there! Searching like the others! Not all monsters in Waterfall were as friendly as Gerson or Undyne. He had to find them before they got hurt! Or worse, before they hurt themselves.

The phone rings. Kid jumps to his feet immediately and answers before the first chime even finishes.

“Sis?”

K-kid? W-what are you doing at Gerson’s shop? Do Mom and Dad know you’re there?

“I spent the night here! But that’s not important. Did you find my friend?”

I… Yes-! Well, yes and no-, I mean- I know which way they went but I don’t know where they are n-now.

“Well tell me what you do know,” Kid asks, his tail thumping in irritation. “Undyne told me to relay any news to her so we can find them as fast as we can!”

My tapes s-say they left the shop around three a.m. this morning, and they went east into E-echo Flower Forest. They still must be in there, though. I don’t have any cameras in the forest bec-cause it’s too dark, but they didn’t come back out and I haven’t seen them cross over into Hotland yet.

Kid goes silent on the line. Echo Flower Forest was just down the road! He could catch up to them within minutes!

Kid? You still there?

“I’m still here,” Kid answers distantly. “Thanks for all your help, sis. I’m gonna go after them.”

Kid! No! Stay where you are! Let Undyne take care of it!

“I can’t, Alphys! They’re my friend and they need me! And I’m gonna be there for them!” Kid argues fervently before calming his temper. “Don’t worry, sis. I know Waterfall inside and out! I’ll be okay, and we’ll both be in Hotland before you know it! Alright?”

Kid! Don’t-!” But Kid never hears his sister finish her sentence as he puts the phone on the receiver and scampers out the door.


Two laps around the junkyard and Undyne returns to Gerson’s shop with nothing to show for it.

The fact that she didn’t have any proof that the punk had gone to the garbage dump should have been reassuring for her, but sadly it wasn’t. Just because she didn’t find anything, didn’t prove that the kid hadn’t gone that way. If anything, it only proved that they had left no trace behind.

The phone is ringing when she steps into the back room and Undyne is quick to answer.

”-pick up this time, please pick up this time, please pick up this time, please-”

“Alphys?” Undyne speaks up over the scientist’s nervous mantra.

Undyne! Oh thank God you answered! I feel like I’ve been trying to get through for ages!”

“Sorry about that,” Undyne apologizes. Where the hell was Kid? She thought he’d agree to answer the phone for her. Ugh! She knew she should have made him promise to stay put!

”Undyne, listen, I know which way the human went, but you need to catch up to them quick!”

“Why? Which way did they go?”

”East. Very deliberately it seems, but they haven’t reached your arena yet. My brother ran after them.”

East. Undyne mentally exhales in relief. That was towards Hotland, and the exact opposite direction of the dump and it’s many bottomless drop offs.

“We did tell them they have a doctor’s appointment with you today. You think they’re on their way to you?”

”I… well, I don’t know about that, but Mettaton knows there in the Underground now, and if the human does get as far as Hotland without you, things are probably going to go south real quick. I told him not to tell the rest of the Underground, but you know how he can’t keep a secret!”

“Right. I’m on it. I’ll catch up to them and keep that robotic nuisance at bay.”

The warrior hangs up the receiver, retreats from the shop, and jogs into the forest.


Echo flowers, as it turns out, do not make good trail markers.

The flowers grow so close together, that if you tried to whisper a message in one, it wasn’t long before the little plant shared its tidbit with the twenty flowers around it. How would you be able to follow your path back if every flower in the marsh said the same thing?

You tried to find a work around; whispering extra softly, speaking to only the most secluded flowers, but each blossom turned out to be a terrible gossip, swaying and bending as if weighed down by the secret spoken to it and just itching to pass it on.

You give up rather quickly when you realize this won’t work and instead try to focus on memorizing the snippets of conversation the flowers already carried. And while you’re positive that the flowers must have distorted some of the dialog over time, you can’t help but feel like some of their messages are a bit… ominous.

“Be… ware…” Whispers one flower, bowing to your ear.

Your hair stands on end. Beware of what? Pssh, no, there’s nothing to beware of here. There’s only flowers around you as far as you can see.

"Watch… out…” Another flower sighs.

A shiver runs down your spine, and your palms start to sweat. You remind yourself it’s just old, repeated words the plants are saying, nothing to be afraid of. Still, you find yourself glancing over your shoulder. You swear you saw something move out of the corner of your eye…

"It’s… coming!” A third flower warns and you think you hear a twig snap. You spin around, slapping yourself in the face with the ears of your hat in the process. The grass rustles up ahead. Your heart is pounding. Something’s out there.

“H-hello?” You call out, your voice shockingly loud compared to the muted voices of the flowers.

"Hello?”
“Hello?”
“Hello?” the flowers echo back.

The shifting grass stops. Maybe it was just a breeze. Or maybe the other person heard you and doesn’t want you to know that they’re there.

Swallowing the lump in your throat, you begin to back away… as slowly… as carefully… as you can, never taking your eyes off the last place you saw the flower stalks bend and sway. All around you, the flowers feel like they’ve gone silent.

You take a step… and then another… and then another… and then your back hits something solid.

You scream and jump. The solid thing screams and jumps. You whip around and find-!

“Kid?” you blurt out, gasping as the startled lizard picks himself up off the floor. He blinks at you a bit, his pupils wide in surprise.

“Y-yo! Hey! I found you!” His face breaks out into an enormous grin. “Dude, you’re alright! Oh, man, we were so worried!” He headbutts you on your good side. “I thought-! I thought you snuck out do go do something stupid… Why’d you run away, bro?”

“I… I didn’t mean to,” you say. “I had a… bad dream and went for a walk to take my mind off it, and ended up getting lost. Sorry for making you worry.”

“It’s alright, dude! I’m just glad to know you’re safe. C’mon, we can head back to Undyne and-"

“No!” you shout reflexively. “I… I can’t go back to Undyne, Kid. She’s dangerous.”

“Well, of course she’s dangerous. She’s the captain of the royal guard! That’s why we should stick with her through the rest of Waterfall, and-“

No, Kid,” you try to explain. “She’s dangerous to me. Yesterday on the bridges… and when we were sparring… I don’t know why, but I think she was trying to hurt me. I know she was.”

Kid’s face goes from curious to concerned.

“But… why would she want to do that? You’re a kid like me, not a criminal. In fact, she’s out looking for you right now!”

You can feel your face visibly blanch at the thought of Undyne hunting you down. Kid sees it too.

“I dunno, but… do you think you could just show me the rest of the way to Hotland? We’re already pretty far, right? We can do it without Undyne’s help, can’t we?”

“Y-yeah…” Kid says slowly. “It’s just two more rooms after this. Follow me.”

“Thank you,” you say, relieved, and fall in line with Kid as he guides you through the flowers.


Undyne summons a spear to light her way. The glowing green javelin casts long shadows in the forest and illuminates the eyes of the night creatures hidden in the thicket, watching her with care.

She combs the woods but comes up with neither the human nor the royal scientist’s little brother. After deeming the area clear, she turns towards the meadow, home to the namesake of Echo Flower Forest.

Standing on the rise, she scans over the flowers’ tops, searching for any sign of movement. Even from up here she can hear the eerie sounds of the flowers’ chatter.

Ugh. She hated this room. She always had. Detached voices talking to no one wasn’t cool, it was creepy. The flowers sounded more like wailing spirits who failed to pass on rather than recordings of people she knew. She could never understand the other kids’ fascination with them.

Cautiously, the warrior begins to pick her way down into marsh. Her feet sink into the bog, swamp water sucking at her heavy metal boots like drowning hands trying to drag her down with them. When she steps into a particularly soggy patch of bog, Undyne has to stop to yank her foot free, all the while the flowers whine and moan around her.

"Where are you? Where are you?” a flower asks on repeat when she lurches her foot free. Sweat beads on her brow. The voice sounded like a kid, but warped by time, the words sounded haunting.

"I’m over here,” another flower responds, as Undyne tries to circumvent the plants and their spooky game of telephone.

"Come find me!” a third flower teases a ways off. Undyne makes a point not head towards it, and instead approaches a quieter patch to calm her rapid pulse.

"Ssshhhhh!” several flowers hiss at her at once when she bumps into them. Startled, the warrior flinches and staggers back, right into a cluster that explodes with laughter when she stumbles.

Panting, Undyne’s one eye darted around. Throat dry and scales clammy, she finds she can’t calm her nerves. This was starting to be a bit too much. These freaky flowers needed to shut up quick before she decided to some weed whacking with her lance.

There’s a scream off in the distance and Undyne almost launches clean out of her armor. That scream wasn’t from a flower, though. It was real, it was close, and it sounded familiar.

Straining her ears, Undyne pin points the source. It’s half way across the field. Putting her feelings about the unsettling flowers aside, Undyne charges fourth towards the noise, summoning a spear at the ready. When she catches a flash of Kid’s yellow scales, she puts on a burst of speed and practically explodes from the flowers before him.

“Kid!” She shouts, her voice quaking with alarm. She quickly toughens her tone to hide her fear, not wanting to look weak in front of anybody, especially him. “I thought I told you to wait at Gerson’s for me! Don’t you know how dangerous it is to wonder off!”

“U-undyne!” Kid startles, tripping over himself as he turns around. It’s then Undyne notices the human cowering by his side, trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible. “I-I’m sorry, but I couldn’t stand waiting around doing nothing! I had to-!”

“YOU!” the royal guard interrupts and turns on the human. “What were you thinking running away last night?!”

“I-I wasn’t-“

“Damn right you weren’t!” Undyne cuts them off. “Do you know how dangerous that was? How worried you made everyone?”

“I’m sorry,” they whimper. “I didn’t mean to.”

“So why’dja do it then?!”

“I-“

Undyne catches the punk’s eyes flick from hers to her spear and she notices something that wasn’t there a before; a new sort of wariness, a new type of caution. Now why would that be there if the punk had accidentally got lost?

“I had a nightmare and accidentally wandered into the woods,” they say, not looking at her. Undyne narrows her eye suspiciously.

They’re lying.

“Well your little stunt certainly wasted most of my morning.” Undyne scoffs. “Might as well keep going to Hotland since we’re already eighty percent there.”

“Sorry,” the brat apologizes again, and starts to move to the back of the line.

“Oh, no you don’t, punk. You should walk in front. That way I can make sure you don’t get lost again.”

The human swallows, the apprehension clear on their face, but they move to the front without arguing. Kid joins them to lead the way.

The air is tense between the three of them as they march in silence, fueled by the glares Undyne sends out that bore into the back of the human’s skull. She doesn’t notice her own blatant staring, though, too lost in her thoughts trying to puzzle together the punk’s behavior.

They were lying about having a nightmare and roaming off. So did that mean she was initially right? Had they intentionally tried to sneak away? Was it all a big act? Undyne grinds her teeth together. There still wasn’t enough proof, but her misgivings were growing. She needed to expose them once and for all, and she needed to do it quick.

Kid tries to make conversation to lighten the mood.

“Oh man! I can’t wait for you to meet my sister! She’s the smartest monster in the Underground and a doctor! I bet she’ll be able to make you better in ten seconds flat!” he boasts, puffing out his chest with pride.

“Do you really think your sister can fix my shoulder?” the brat asks.

“Of course she can, squirt!” Undyne pipes up from her daze, insulted that anyone would dare doubt Alphys and ready to defend her honor. “Alphys can do anything she sets her mind to! That’s why she’s the royal scientist! She’s the best!”

Kid smirks and gives the punk a “can you believe this?” kind of look.

“Yeah, you and my sister are really close, aren’t you Undyne?” he asks. “What else is she good at?”

“Everything!” Undyne answers definitively. “Alphys is, like, the third most knowledgeable person on humans in all the Underground, plus she’s responsible for bring us the UnderNet connection and hooking up every monster with cell phones by building them out the spare parts she finds in the dump! She’s taught me everything I need to know when encountering humans.”

“Sounds like you really like her,” the brat says carefully, testing the waters for safe places to tread.

“Well, DUH! Who wouldn’t like Alphys? She’s wicked smart and passionate about her work! She has dedication and drive! I’m surprised she’s not constantly having to step over monsters who come to bask in her glory!”

“Wow, have you told her any of this?” Kid says. “Imagine how cool it would be to see the captain of the royal guard date my sister! You’d be like, my in-law! That would be SO COOL!”

At that, Undyne blushes and falters. “Ha, ha! Y-yeah, Kid. Wouldn’t that be something. Unfortunately I’m probably not what Alphys is looking for.”

“What makes you say that?” the brat asks, genuinely curious.

“Alphys is just so…! Out of my league! She probably wants to date someone who has a quadruple digit IQ like her, or someone who can reverse engineer a particle accelerator or something. She’s probably looking for someone more her speed, if she’s looking at all.”

“Well, let’s just ask her what she’s looking for when we get to Hotland.” Kid suggests, skipping ahead a few paces as the forest thins back into bare caverns. “I bet you two have some common interests.”

“Yeah, of course we do!” Undyne exclaims indignantly as the trio exit the field of flowers and onto a rickety old bridge spanning across a chasm.

“Really? Like what?”

“Like anime!” The warrior scoffs and raises her head high. “It’s the epitome of human behavior and Alphys has all the best kinds! She’s let me watch them all and everything I’ve learned about human culture I’ve learned from those documentaries!”

“Oh, that’s neat,” the punk says as Undyne’s training arena comes into view. Hotland isn’t even visible, yet she already feels like she’s being cooked alive. “I’ve never heard of anime before. Maybe you can show me one before I go back home with the king?”

“Right!”

Wait. The king? That’s right, this punk was on their way to infiltrate the king’s castle and she had almost lead them right to the front door! RAUGH! How could she have been so stupid?! Yet again this human found a way to weasel past her defenses and mess with her mind! And by getting her to go on about Alphys of all things!

This was the third time they’ve gotten into her head! There was no way she could let this thing go to Hotland where she couldn’t follow! She couldn’t let them reach Asgore!

“No.”

Kid and the brat are half way across the bridge when she utters the word, low and cold.

Kid stops first when he notices Undyne has stopped following.

“Undyne?” he cocks his head. “Is something the matter?”

Instead of a response, Undyne charges, calling forth a long spear to catapult over Kid and onto the bridge. The wooden planks buck and shudder and the human and Kid are knocked off their feet.

The punk instinctively throws out their arms to catch themselves and yelp when they hit their bad side. Tears prick the corners of their eyes.

“You’ve distracted me for the last time, punk.”

“U-Undyne?”

“Don’t move. I’m not letting you progress any farther, especially not to Asgore.”

Behind her, Kid blinks in a daze and rolls over to push himself up. Unaware of his surroundings, one foot slips off the edge of the bridge. He inhales sharply and lets out a strangled cry as his lower half slides off the edge, his feet kicking but finding no purchase.

“H-help! Dude! Undyne! I-I’m slipping!”

The brat’s head snaps down to Kid and their face goes white as snow.

“Undyne. Kid’s falling. Quick, you’re closer; you’ve got to help him!”

“Like I’d turn my back on you!” Undyne growls. “You can’t trick me anymore! We settle this here and now!”

“Undyne, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” They plead, desperate and angry.

Kid’s struggling becomes more frantic as his torso gives away, leaving him hanging on his chin.

“D-dudes! Help! I can’t hold on much longer!”

“I’ll be with you in a second, Kid! I have to deal with them first!” Undyne calls over her shoulder, without taking her eye off her target. She readies her stance. “So what’s it gonna be, punk? Fight or flee?”

“Neither!” The human shouts at her. “Undyne what are you doing!? Kid’s going to fall!”

Undyne narrows her eye, calculating her opponent. Now that she’s separated them from their living shield the brat had only two options; fight here or run away. And judging by their posture they looked ready to sprint. Undyne bites back a smile. The second they’d move, she’d let their spear fly.

“I-I’m losing my grip!” Kid cries.

The punk meets her gaze one final time, and just like she predicted, the kid bolts, and Undyne unleashes her spear.

Except, the brat didn’t run away like she hoped. They ran toward her.

The miscalculation means Undyne’s spear completely misses its mark and harmlessly sails over the human’s head as they dive between her legs like a baseball player stealing home base.

“HEEELP!”

Without thinking, they lurch their left arm forward and manage to snag Kid’s sweater just as his hold on the edge gives away.

All of his weight drops down on their bad arm at once. There’s a sickening pop! heard by all three, and the human shouts, short and sharp before biting down on their tongue and their pupils shrink to pin points.

Tears running down their cheeks, the punk grabs a fist full of Kid’s shirt with their other hand, braces their left foot against the wood, and reels themselves backwards, hauling kid back up in the process.

For several heartbeats nobody moves or says anything. Undyne stares in shock as the two kids take a moment to do nothing but breathe.

“You… saved my skin,” Kid pants, still trembling form the ordeal. “That sound your shoulder made wasn’t pretty. You okay, dude?”

The human nods, not looking up from their hands and knees. After what feels like an eternity, they manage to raise their head and look over at Undyne. Their expression makes her freeze.

Undyne is used to monsters looking upon her like she’s the sun itself. She’s also used to monsters looking at her with hatred or fear.

But she can’t recall someone ever looking at her completely disgusted.

The punk seethes and stands up to their full height, not breaking eye contact with her for a second. Was it finally happening? The battle the brat had strived to avoid? Where they now finally going to give in and fight? Finally done running away and hiding behind shields were they?

Raw magic crackled at the warrior’s finger tips, waiting to be shaped. The human inhaled.

“Undyne,” The human says clear and commanding, no longer a trace of fear in their voice. The magic thickened in Undyne’s palm. Here it comes.

“I’m sorry, alright?”

Wait- what.

“Whatever I did to make you hate me, I apologize, okay?”

What? No, this isn’t what was supposed to happen. They were supposed to charger her, lash out, and fight her with their true strength. What are they doing? Another ruse? Another scheme?

“I know I can’t make everyone like me,” the punk goes on, their fingers curling into fists. “I kept trying to get on your good side, but I can see now you’re not gonna let that happen no matter what I do. So, fine! Go ahead and hate me then! But don’t let other people get hurt because of whatever you have against me!

They stare each other down for a bit, but as hard as Undyne searches, she can’t find even the smallest hint of an ulterior motive in their gaze. The punk was exposing themselves here and now with all they had, completely honest for all to see.

Their hands are shaking when they finish their speech, and they clench and unclench their fingers in distress. Kid tiptoes up to their side and tentatively nudges their arm. The touch is enough to make the tension leave their shoulders and they exhale, bushed.

“Undyne, thank you for getting me this far to Hotland, but I think Kid and I can make it from here. C’mon, Kid. Let’s go.”

The human passes Undyne without so much as a second glance while Kid looks over his shoulder with a mixture of pity and disbelief. He turns away when he catches her staring and hangs his head.

She can’t understand. Why wouldn’t they retaliate? The punk had the perfect time to strike, but instead they’re acting like… like...!

Like how a monster would act…

And all the while she kept attacking first the way the humans had.

“Punk… wait,” Undyne calls after them, reaching out a hand to grab them by the shoulder. The human stops, eyeing her skeptically. They don’t say anything, waiting for her to speak.

“I’m… I’m sorry too,” Undyne admits. “All this time I thought you were lying about who you were… pretending to be someone else. I can see now that was never the case and I misjudged you. Can you… can you forgive me?”

The punk looks away, their lips drawn into a thin line, as their fists curl and uncurl, and Undyne realizes that they have to actually think about their answer.

“How about… a truce instead?” they offer after the silence dragged on to uncomfortable levels. “I’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of mine. I’ll go to the king and back to the Ruins and you’ll never have to see or hear from me again. Would that make you happy?”

Undyne looks down, crestfallen. They weren’t exactly forgiving her, but she guessed she deserved it.

“Deal,” she sighs halfheartedly.

“Thank you… for the apology.” They tell her. “And I’m sorry we couldn’t be better friends. Maybe we’ll get it right next time.”

“Yeah…” Undyne exhales and gets to her feet. Geez, even from here she can feel the heat from Hotland. She can’t go any farther than this without roasting alive in this tin can she calls armor. She’d better start heading back home before she became an actual fish stick.

Undyne lingers back as the two friends head off through her arena and into the next district. Sans should be waiting at his station to meet them like he said he would, but knowing him Undyne figures she'd better call ahead just in case.

Gerson is there to greet her when she returns to his shop.

“So! Any luck?” he asks, not particularly waiting on the edge of his seat.

“Yeah…” Undyne says.

“Well you could have fooled me! That’s not exactly the tone of someone who successfully found a lost person. How’d it go?”

“I… They’re on their way to Hotland.”

“What’s that?” Gerson teases, cupping his hand to his ear. “Did you say that you, the renowned Undyne, let her quarry get away?”

“No, I intentionally let them go. Sans was right.” Undyne says moving closer to the phone. She takes the receiver but hesitates to call the number. “Gerson, do you think I made the right choice?” She asks her old mentor.

“Hm, let me answer your question with another question,” Gerson says. “What makes you doubt you made a wrong one?”

“Well, for starters I watched them risk their life save another monster that they barely knew for two days, and then, even though I know they were scared, they stood up to me for not doing anything.” She gives the old tortoise a sheepish look. “They were more upset that someone else almost got hurt than they were worried about themselves getting hurt. How many other monsters do you know who are like that?”

The warrior sighs and rubs her neck. “The way they looked at me after they saved Kid… They knew I was out to get them in the end. They may not have known why, but they knew I was, and in the end when they had the choice fight they decided to speak. When they had the option to run, they chose to stay and help… When they looked at me, for a second I didn’t know who the real bad guy was.”

“Well, it sounds like to me you made the right choice then,” Gerson says sympathetically.

“But Gerson, they’re the last piece we need to set all of monsterkind free! Is it right to deny the emancipation of thousands solely because one human turns out to be good? Did I just damn us all to be trapped in the Underground even longer because I saw something that resonated with me in the eyes of one child?”

“Do you feel damned, Undyne?”

“What? No... I don’t think so.”

“Well, then neither will anyone else once they all get to know this kid, so you needn’t worry.”

“I do feel guilty, though,” Undyne confesses.

“What for?”

“For almost killing someone who’s a better monster than I am.”

The old tortoise nods knowingly and lets the conversation drop. Undyne turns towards the wall and dials her sentry’s number.


Sans almost doesn’t hear his phone ring underneath all the barking. Struggling to get out of the five leads, he frees up his hand and pulls out his cell from his coat pocket. The phone almost falls up into the snow but he manages to catch it in time. Once free of the muffling fabric, the ringtone sang loud and clear.

♫A turtle lives in water, a tortoise lives on land, a turtle's not tortoise, it’s not hard to understand♪

Oh that’s weird. Why is Gerson calling?

Bringing the phone up to his skull, Sans thumbs the screen and hits “accept call”.

“Yeah?”

"I couldn’t do it.”

Sans isn’t sure if it’s the fact that Undyne answered or if it’s her word choice that makes him say; “Come again?”

"The kid. The human. You were right. They don’t have a clue about who they are. You won.”

“That’s what Paps and I have been trying to say this whole time,” Sans says, following up with a muffled (“Hey! You! Cut it out! Leave the mail carrier alone!”) If Undyne had heard she didn’t say so.

"Anyway, Kid and the punk are headed to your station. You should see them in a couple of minutes. Make sure they get to Alphys in one piece, okay?”

“Gee, I’d love to Undyne, really, but -ngfh!- I’m not at my post right now.”

"What? What do you mean you’re not at your post?! Being a sentry is your fucking job!”

“I know, I know, but I, uh, really screwed the pooch yesterday when I forgot I made a certain promise and then got some visitors at my station. And instead of letting sleeping dogs lie, they made me hightail it back to Snowdin and now I’m a little tied up compensating with some overdue quality time with the canine guard unit.”

"SANS, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT, BUT I CAN TELL WHEN YOU’RE MAKING PUNS, SO YOU’D BETTER CUT IT OUT RIGHT NOW OR YOU’RE FIRED!” Undyne rages. “Just… when do you think you’ll be able to return to your station?”

“That depends. How long does it take to walk five dogs? That’s not a set up for a joke, by the way. I’ve been on this walk for hours. Please, send help.” Sans can practically hear Undyne rubbing her temples as she exhales into the receiver.

“I’ll be over there in a few. Just give me a minute to grab some squeaky toys.”

“Sounds good. I’ll be… hanging around.

"That better have not been a visual gag. I can’t even see you right now.”

“…”

"Oh my God, it was, wasn’t it?”

“Maybe.”

"Sans! If I arrive in Snowdin and find you LITERALLY TIED UP, I will terminate you on the spot!”

“Oh, come on, Undyne. Haven’t you barked up the wrong tree enough for one day?”

“YOU’RE THREATENING TO MAKE PAPYRUS AN ONLY CHILD, SANS!”

“I kid, I kid,” Sans chuckles. “See you in a few, Undyne.”

With that, Sans ends the call. He turns his head to focus on the five dogs intently circling the base of a tree, upside down in his field of view. Their leashes have tangled into one giant knot, with Sans hanging off one of the low branches, wrapped up tight like one of Muffet’s customers. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have any blood that could have rushed to his head, or else he would have a major headache from hanging upside down so long in this tether-cocoon the dogs have twisted him up into. The events leading up to this moment had not been quite as funny as the final outcome, but he had tried to make light of it anyway.

“Hey, guys,” Sans whistles to get their attention. “I think that squirrel you all went after is long gone. Mind helping me down now?”

Chapter Text

Alphys sprints to the front exit of her lab, squeezing through the automatic doors that can’t seem to open fast enough in her manic state.

The soles of her uncovered feet hardly register the hot stone underneath. Not that the searing floor of Hotland bothered her at all anyway; she was perfectly adapted to the boiling temperatures, thrived in it, really, but in this current moment not even the blistering swelter of the lava that surrounded her lab could chase out the cold, icy dread that sat in her stomach.

The ground floor of Hotland was nothing more than a bunch of molten sea stacks in an ocean of magma; islands of igneous rock connected by bridges and conveyor belts which made the path to Waterfall not exactly straightforward to get to. The scientist didn’t let this fact distract her, or even enter her mind to begin with. The sight of her brother about to fall off a bridge had left no room in her mind at all.

She had sprung from her chair the second she saw him lose his footing. Undyne, preoccupied with the human, either hadn’t noticed or hadn’t cared, spurring Alphys into action, hoping and praying she wouldn’t be too late, God please let her not be too late.

The main chamber of Hotland narrowed into a thin twisting tunnel that connected to Undyne’s favorite training area before the bridge that she needed to reach. Rounding the corner at top speed, she nearly collides head on with the two children in front of the watercooler near Sans’ sentry station.

“Kid!” Alphys exclaims half in shock, half in relief. “Kid are you alright? I saw you slip on the bridge and ran here as fast as I could! Oh, thank God you’re okay! Mom and Dad would have killed me if they found out I knowingly let you got hurt!”

“Oh! H-hey s-sis,” Kid coughs as she embraces him. She caught the hint of his stutter on his voice, similar to her own in how it showed up when he was nervous or shaken. And shaken he still was. Kid’s whole body still trembled with shellshock from the ordeal, but she was more than relieved to see him in one piece.

“H-hey, Alphys, let me introduce you to my friend!” Kid says, wiggling out of her grasp and slyly shifting her focus away from himself so he wouldn’t be the center of attention. “Dude! This is my sister, Alphys!”

“Hi,” the human says, extending a hand in greeting. They’re a little unsure and visibly exhausted, but still they put on a smile and do their best to sound friendly. “I’m Chara. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Oh!” Alphys stutters, turning to the human as if seeing them for the first time. A stab of anticipation and dread digs in her chest. Oh God, this is it. They’re actually here in Hotland and she’s finally meeting them face to face. Oh geez, she wasn’t ready in the slightest! Up until now she had been content watching a tiny figure on her computer screen; a detached silent character made up of colored pixels that seemed no more tangible than the fictional heroes in the anime she watched. It almost didn’t feel real to see them in the flesh and hear them talk. She can’t help but stare, trying to take it all in. They’re a lot shorter than she expected.

Alphys gives herself a mental slap. Focus! Now that they were here, she could finally study them! Now that they were here, plans would start getting pushed into action.

“S-same!” She blurts out at last. “I-it’s n-nice to finally meet you, too! I’ve been waiting so long to study- I-I-I mean, uh, examine you!” Her brother and the human give her a couple of weird looks. Reflecting on it, that was a pretty weird thing to say, so she tries to smooth it over as casually as she can. “B-because! You have a doctor’s appointment with me! Shoulder injury, c-correct?”

“Oh, right.” The human says, absently rubbing their left arm. “About that, I think it fixed itself on the bridge somehow. It actually doesn’t hurt that much anymore.”

Uh-oh, think quick. She can’t let them get away before she’s had a chance to even observe them up close!

“Oh, w-well a quick check up to make sure everything’s in order wouldn’t hurt?” Alphys suggests. “J-just to be absolutely certain there’s nothing wrong. We’d rather be s-safe than sorry, right?”

“I dunno…” they protest. “I’ve had too many delays already. I really should just head straight to the capital.”

“I-I promise it won’t take longer than f-fifteen minutes!” Alphys assures. “A-and it’s a straight shot from Hotland to the Capital. Literally! You can just take any elevator straight up there! You’ll make up your lost ground in mere minutes!”

The human stares at her, clearly skeptical of her claim.

“Trust her, dude.” Kid says. “Alphys knows all the ins and outs of Hotland. She can get you to New Home faster than you can blink.”

“That’s what you said about Undyne,” the human points out.

“Y-yeah, well, I admit I was blinded by my fangirling and didn’t listen to you,” Kid apologizes and shuffles his feet. “And I’m sorry for that. But Alphys is my sister! I’ve known her my entire life and can promise you she’s true to her word!”

The human eyes Alphys with a look that says “I don’t know if I believe you, but I haven’t go much choice, do I?” written blatantly on their face. Thankfully they don’t say the words out loud and instead settle for a very weary and defeated; “Okay.”

“G-good. Great!” Alphys fidgets. “Th-this way! My lab isn’t far from here.”

The human starts after the scientist, but pauses when they realize Kid isn’t following.

“Kid? Are you coming?”

“Nah,” Kid smiles sheepishly. “I think I’m gonna head home now. My parents must be worried sick about me.”

“Head home?” the human repeats. “But we just got here! Are you really going to walk all the way back through Waterfall after what we had to go through to get here?”

“Pssh! No way!” Kid snorts. “I’ll just take the ferry back to Snowdin. It’s way faster than walking.”

The look on the human’s face becomes inscrutable as they process Kid’s words.

“Ferry?” They say in a strained, tired voice. “There’s a ferry that goes from Snowdin to Hotland?”

“Well, yeah.” Kid says like it should have been obvious. “It stops in Waterfall too. Didn’t you see the docks along the river banks?”

The human’s shoulders sag in disbelief. “Are you saying there was a boat I could have taken to get here this entire time?”

“W-w-well you can only ride the ferry if you have a boat pass,” Alphys nervously points out before the human can have a breakdown. “A-and you can only get those in New Home, so you kind of had to walk all the way here in the first place.”

The human closes their eyes and holds their breath for several seconds. Alphys is pretty sure if it weren’t for the fact that the ground was a hundred degrees, they would have curled up on the spot right then and there, never to rise again.

“If you say so,” they respond at last after a long exhale. “Then I guess this is goodbye for now, Kid.”

“Yeah. But I’ll see you real soon when you come back to Snowdin with the king!” Kid says, resting his chin on his friend’s shoulder as they give him one last goodbye hug. “Take care, Alphys!” he calls out, trotting down a separate tunnel that leads to the docks.

Alphys and the human wave until he’s out of sight. Crisis averted, she turns to her patient.

“R-ready to move on?”

“Yeah,” they say hollowly. “Let’s go.”

They walk side by side in silence. When Alphys isn’t stealing glances of them out of the corner of her eye, her head is snapping from side to side, as if on the lookout for spies. Everything was unfolding nicely so far. Now if she could just get the human into her lab before a certain robot noticed they were here ahead of schedule, then maybe she could get a bit of her own research done before he showed up to offer his “help” with her experiments.

He had promised he wouldn’t “start the show” until they at least got to her lab, but Alphys knew better than to take his word. With him, you had to get everything in writing with witnesses (and preferably filmed so he could air it again later) for it to really count.

“Is something wrong?” The human asks when they catch her staring at them again. “You seem worried.”

“Oh! Ha, ha,” Alphys nervously grins as she debates how to answer. If she wanted to study them up close, she had to get them on her side, that much she was certain. It was a terrible revelation when she realized how suspicious of strangers they were when they were introduced, especially knowing what plans she had for them in store. Having been deceived too many times already, telling them the carefully crafted lie she had prepared might be too risky, but maybe a small warning about Mettaton was warranted in this case. It wasn’t a total fib, anyway, and it might even convince them to stick with her in the meantime.

Oh, why did Kid have to go and vouch for her honesty and trustworthiness? She had never planned to be a hundred percent open with them, but her brother’s unasked for assurances were certainly going to make it harder to keep up her act. Her initial plan to string the human along had been dashed as soon as she left her lab and met them prematurely. Now all the carefully rehearsed conversations and arguments she imagined in her head had to be improvised. Alphys didn’t trust herself to “wing it”; she liked her plans thoroughly thought through and fortified with backup plans that were also fortified with backup plans. But now that the stone was rolling it looked like she had no other choice.

“Well, I’m kind of on the lookout for someone,” Alphys admits, carefully altering the grand intro speech she had planned to deliver in her lab that would have warned this little “Boss Monster” about their dangerous quest ahead. “A-and I guess it’s only fair for you to know, because it involves you as well.” The human raises their eyebrows in interest, wordlessly urging her to go on.

“His name is Mettaton. H-he’s an entertainment robot I built years ago. You know, to perform for the masses and give people an idol and TV star to look up to? Well, lately his shows haven’t been pulling in the ratings and he’s desperately been trying to find the next ‘Big Thing’ that will make him popular again.”

“Okay?” The human nods despite not seeing how they factor into it.

“And, well, he caught wind of a new Boss Monster coming to Hotland and he has been making preparations for your arrival ever since. I fear if he finds out you’re here, h-he might try and slow you down so he can exploit your status for his own means.”

“Oh.” Their face goes hard and serious, as if already trying to find a solution for the impending problem.

“B-but don’t worry! I-I think I can sneak you p-past him without him n-noticing!” Alphys stumbled, trying to remember her script and hoping the human wouldn’t be able to pick out the misdirection in her words. Sneak as hard as they might, Mettaton would definitely notice they were here before they got to any of Hotland’s elevators. She knows he’d made certain of that. It was just a matter of “when” he decided to make his debut, now.

“Come along,” Alphys urges them. “He could show up any minute. We shouldn’t stay out here any longer than we need to.”

The human unquestioningly follows her deeper into Hotland. She had hoped for this kind of reaction. So far, so good. Time for the next scene.


Flowey sat in a hidden alcove in Waterfall. The tiny recess was so small that only two equally small children could have possibly fit comfortably. The hidden room was filled with a secret spring of luminescent water, a few gemstones on the ceiling and a lone abandoned echo flower. The room had been virtually removed from time; completely untouched and undiscovered since the last time he had been here. Or rather, the last time his memories said he had been here, before with his Chara…

His Chara had always been an explorer, and Waterfall had always had dozens of unmapped pockets of mystery, making it the perfect place to roam. The last time they had been here, though, the echo flower had been no more than a sprout. Now centuries old, it filled most of the room, feeding off the tiny spring it had all to itself. Isolation had not done it any kindness, however. The flower grew bent, its face cast downward, or maybe it was wilting under the weight of its own self-pity. Flowey did his best to ignore it. He didn’t want to admit he could relate.

Despite the time that had passed, one conversation still survived in the echo flower’s memory, which Flowey listened to on loop. He stared off into space, looking for the patterns in the gemstones on the ceiling that Chara had made up. Hidden constellations that only belonged to the two of them…

“Hey Asriel, can you promise me something?” Chara’s quiet voice poked through. They had always been soft spoken and hard to hear if you didn’t listen carefully.

“Of course, Chara,” he mouthed the words while the flower spoke them. “Anything for you.”

“I’m gonna free all the monsters someday. It’s my destiny! But I’ll need your help to do it. Promise me you won’t let me down, okay? I have a plan.”

“I promise,” He said without hesitation. His Chara had always had that effect on him, to make him feel like they could do anything if they believed hard enough, like nothing was impossible. “We’ll free them together. We’ll be heroes!”

How many times had Flowey reheard this conversation? How many lonely hours had this one flower spent in the company of the other? How many days had he spent regretting his broken promise and trying to fix it?

Fix it…

Flowey blinks and snaps himself out of his funk. That’s right; he had been given a second chance, a do-over. He could still fix it. He could-

The flower turns away from the puddle only to startle and do a double take. Just for a moment, out of the corner of his eye, he could have sworn he saw a flash of white and the texture of fur on the water’s surface. He could have sworn his reflection looked like…

Gazing into the water, a circular face with six yellow petals stares back at him.

Clicking his tongue, the flower turns away. When would he learn better? Countless times his eyes played this same trick on him whenever he passed a reflective surface, and countless times he had fallen for it. His memories constantly reminding him what he should be, and the reality showing him what he was not.

He flexes his vines and burrows off. He hated looking at his reflection anyway. Stretching his roots before him, Flowey senses activity on the main streets. It must be “morning” again. It was time to catch up with the temporary place holder Chara.

Flowey pops up at Gerson’s and carefully pokes around inside with his roots, staying low and in the shadows at the edges of the store. He had watched Chara and that annoying kid and that obnoxious guard woman go in here last night then suffered through hours of that turtle’s chatter before deciding there were better things to do with his time than listen to him prattle on about The Good Ol’ Days. But now the house felt empty and still. None of its occupants anywhere to be found.

Crap. They must’ve decided to leave the house earlier than he anticipated. He needed to catch up to them and fast.

Burrowing as quickly as he could, Flowey races away in the only logical direction- Hotland. Various monsters crisscross his path on the way there, but none are who he is looking for so he does not stop. Slowly the ground begins to dry out and the earth cracks and crumbles as he digs. When the dirt begins to feel like an oven, Flowey surfaces to check his surroundings. He was almost to the border.

The metal vibration of heavy footsteps headed his way give him pause. He cowers instinctively, knowing the familiar cadence in the march, just in time to see a defeated looking fish retreating from the border. Chara is not with her, which tempts him to fake expressing excitement. That’s right! It was too hot for the fish stick to go into Hotland in a full suit of armor! If the royal guard is no longer with them, then he could possibly get close to Chara again!

Hastily the flower takes off once more, stretching out his vines and stalk as far as they could go, sensing for any movement up ahead. Two pairs of feet catch his attention a ways off and he zeroes in on them like a honing missile. If that kid was still with them, Flowey could easily take care of it.

Digging in Hotland is a challenge with all the underground pipe work and dangerously hot metal at every turn, so the flower relies on his mental map of the region and which islands connect to which as he traces them through the earth, racing to keep up. When he realizes where they are headed, the Flower halts his burrowing right in its tracks and worms his way upward. He pushes through the crust just in time to catch the sight of the royal scientist’s and Chara’s backs disappear behind the automatic door to the Hotland laboratory.

“No… no, no, no!” Flowey groans. Of all the places in the Underground, there were very few he could not, or would not go. Alphys’ lab was one of them.

Hissing, the flower hunkered down. He’s missed his opportunity to get Chara alone again. Once more, he’d have to wait and bide his time.


You feel Hotland before you see it. It’s a choking wall of heat that sucks out every ounce of water from the air. Your eyes get dry and itchy before you even cross Undyne’s arena and your throat is parched and scratchy as the suffocating heat steals the moisture right out of your lungs.

You pass a giant marquee with scrolling letters that flash “WELCOME TO HOTLAND!” on your left, followed by a familiar looking sentry station, complete with snow on top. You manage to grab a drink of water from a conveniently placed watercooler before running into Kid’s sister (quite literally), and say your goodbyes to him. A dim glow crawls along the tunnel walls as you follow Alphys further into the region. Its red color intensifies as you walk down the hallway until the tunnel ends and you stop for a moment to squint and blink as your eyes adjust to the sea of blinding lava before you.

A burning wind blows towards you, hot enough to sear your eyebrows off and you cough at the stench it carries. The magma smells like burning plastic and wax, an aroma you’re poignantly intimate with from the countless hours you’ve practiced fire magic on your crayons back in the Ruins.

When you can finally see through the harsh glare, you look around in confusion. A dozen or so islands poke up from the lake of molten rock, connected by catwalks and swathed in steel girders, but there’s only one or two buildings in sight. It’s surprisingly… barren. But then you remember that, while the small towns of Snowdin and Waterfall pretty much have horizontal layouts, Hotland goes vertical, so you look up, and gawk in awe.

Suspended on cables and beams many feet thick are several platforms hanging in the air. Skywalks branch out from each level, leading off into the honeycomb walls where more of the region must be hidden away. Clouds of steam hiss and sigh around you as all of Hotland breathes with its mechanical lungs and the life blood of lava pulses below. You crane your head back as far as you can, but still can’t see the top.

“Th-this way, please,” says Alphys, waving at you to keep moving.

You hastily catch up and follow her into the biggest most prominent structure on the ground floor; a giant white brick of a building with the word “LABORATORY” written in big black letters over the front door.

Automatic doors smoothly part when the two of you approach, and lets out a welcoming draft of cool air. Air conditioning. You gratefully tail along when Alphys enters.

The first thing that hits you about the inside of the lab is its smell. It’s a strong, oddly metallic odor of antiseptic and soap that’s strangely alien and achingly familiar all at once. You immediately associate the scent with the word “hospitals” but can’t fathom why. You’ve never needed to go to one before, not when your mother could cure any ailment with healing magic, but the sense of having been here before, or a place alarmingly similar is so strong that it hurts and that unscratchable itch in your head starts to flare up again with each draw of breath.

You slow to a stop, swaying on your feet. Alphys looks over her shoulder at you and practically trips over her own tail to rush back to your side.

“A-are you alright? You’ve gone pale!”

“M’fine…” you mumble, closing your eyes to stop the room from spinning. Ugh, bad idea. The images of glinting needles, blue gloves, and a long sheet of paper on an uncomfortable plastic bed flash across the back of your eyelids. Fragments of forgotten questions whisper in your ears but it’s so garbled you can’t make out the words. Your brain conjures up the mental image of a chicken covered in red polka dots being denied entry to a school house, and you can’t even begin to find a correlation, making you more disoriented than ever.

“Fine? You look like you’re about to faint!” Alphys panics. “Quick, come sit over here,” Alphys grabs you by the wrist and you let her guide you to a semi-empty work bench surrounded by piles of clutter.

Fighting off a wave of nausea, you manage to push yourself up and sit on the table, vaguely aware of the doctor rushing out of the room before returning with a glass of water.

“Here, sip this while I go get my examination equipment. F-for your shoulder,” She instructs you, handing you the glass.

Numbly you take it from her claws. You take an obedient sip, fighting off the dizziness that comes when you lift your head and squint your eyes against the harsh florescent lights above. You swear you can hear them buzzing.

This is the third time now, you realize, when something seemingly arbitrary and benign has caused something in your head to snap and twist. The first time in Snowdin, it had felt like a fading dream. The second time in Waterfall, it had burned like a fire. You hadn’t expected it to happen a third time, and you especially hadn’t expected it to make you feel sick.

Was this to be your fate until you got home, then? Risk getting ill or blacking out every time you saw or heard or smelt some random new thing from here to the capital? At this rate you wouldn’t be able to walk to the elevator, much less talk to the king.

“Okay, I’m back!” Alphys says hauling a large black bag of medical supplies behind her. She unzips the top and starts laying out a plethora of tools you don’t recognize and don’t even bother trying to identify.

“Here, put this thermometer under your tongue while I get my stethoscope…”

You barely register any of Alphys’ poking or prodding while she gives you a physical. While you concentrate on not throwing up, she concentrates on taking notes, gently asking you to stand or sit or move over here so she can get your height and weight and temperature, tests your reflexes with a tiny hammer on your knees, looks in your ears and eyes and throat. You don’t get what any of this has to do with your shoulder, but you’re too nauseated to argue, so you don’t question it. Lastly Alphys asks you to stand in front of a wall so she can take an x-ray then turns to her computer to examine the photos. When your lightheadedness finally passes, you join her at the desk.

“W-well good news! Nothing’s broken as far as I can see,” Alphys smiles at you. “A-and I didn’t see any bruising so I think it’s s-safe to assume that no muscles are torn. Th-they might be sore for a while from being stretched the wrong way, but I can prescribe you a painkiller for that.”

You nod in agreement, and Alphys pulls out a clipboard and pen.

“Great! Um, if you don’t mind, though…” Her eyes dart left and right as if she’s not entirely sure she wants to go through with her next question. “W-would you mind filling out these patient information forms first? Legal stuff and record keeping and what not.”

You readily take the clipboard and begin to answer the questions. The first page seems standard enough, asking for your name, age, any allergies or current medications. The questions start to tickle your mind again with a familiarity you can’t place, but you power through it.

The next page of questions seems more arbitrary; “Are you right or left handed? Any magical talents? How many hours of sleep do you get each night? How much weight do you think you can lift? How long can you hold your breath? Preferred food of choice?” You don’t see what these questions have to do with a painkiller, but you dutifully answer them all regardless.

It feels like an hour has passed by the time you finish answering all the questions, and maybe it has from the sheer number there were. Alphys holds the clipboard like it’s the most valuable thing in the Underground when you hand it back to her, and she reads it with wide, fascinated eyes.

“Oh my…” She mumbles, flipping through the pages, unaware you can hear. “I’ll definitely have to make some adjustments to my observation notes…”

“Pardon?”

“Oh! N-nothing!” The scientist sweats and puts the clipboard under her arm. “L-let me get that medication for you!”

Alphys ducks out of the room, leaving you to stand in silence. Now that you’re alone, you take the opportunity to look around. The first thing you realize about Alphys’ lab is that it’s… well… a mess. Books and folders are stacked from floor to ceiling, papers and blue prints carpet the floor, trash bins over flow with crumpled scratch work and empty containers of cup noodle, but the thing that draws your attention most are the various work benches piled high with machinery and schematics, and all the white boards decorated with math and colorful heart shapes on the walls.

“O-okay! Here you go! Alphys says to you, returning to the room with an orange bottle with a white lid. “Take two pills with water every four to six hours until the pain goes away. Um, they may cause drowsiness so be careful about where you are after you take them.”

“Got it,” you thank her, and put the bottle in your pocket next to your borrowed cellphone. Suddenly all the gadgets and technology gets you thinking.

“My pleasure!” Alphys says. “Now, the closest elevators are actually right outside the front of my lab. Once you get into them, just hit the top button and you’ll be on your way straight up to the capital. I-i-is there anything else I could help you with before you go?”

“Um, yeah, actually… You’re good with electronics, right?”

“W-well, I don’t like to brag, but,” The scientist puts on an arrogant smile. “I am fluent in three programming languages and I do know my way around a welding shop.”

“Do you think you can fix a phone?” you ask, pulling out Papyrus’ cell from your pocket. “Papyrus let me borrow his, and I kinda broke it. I can’t give it back to him like this, after he trusted me with it.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Alphys says with a resolute look on her face, and whisks the phone out of the room for a diagnostics check.

You wait patiently, listening to the sound of whirring drills and pounding hammers and what you swear was the sound of an unlucky cat that had its tail stomped on, before nothing but silence. Alphys returns faster than you expect with a look of triumph spread across her face.

“Finished!” she declares, handing the phone back to you. You almost don’t recognize it. Not only has she replaced the cracked screen, but the entire outer casing as well with something far more sleek and slim.

“Turned out the battery was just dead, but beyond that, it wasn’t broken,” the scientist explains. “It is a nokia model after all. They’re notorious for being practically indestructible! I gave it a few upgrades anyway since the old design was rather bulky and cumbersome.”

Taking the phone back, you thank her for all her help then turn towards the front door. You walk right up to it, waiting for them to part, but the grey doors refuse to open at your advance.

“Er… Alphys?” You say. “The door won’t open.”

Alphys steps closer, a serious look on her face. “That’s strange. They were working just a minute ago…”

The scientist raises her hand to test the automatic sensor, but nothing happens. She opens her mouth to say something else, but just then the lights when out.

“W-w-what’s going on?!” she squeaks. Behind you, the lab’s exit doors part and let in a rectangular shaft of magma glow from the other end of the room. Like moths, both you and Alphys turn towards the light source in time to see a large roll of scarlet fabric bounce into the room and unfurl at your feet.

“Oh no, he’s here,” Alphys whimpers.

“Who?”

Before Alphys can speak, a giant rectangular box eclipses the doorframe, his outline glowing red from the wicked backlighting.

Mettaton.

“Alright now! Places, everyone! Places!” His synthetic voice commands as he wheels into the room, pushing right between you and Alphys. A camera crew marches into the room and gets into position.

“Sorry I’m late, darling,” The robot says to the scientist. “But all the actors are finally in their place, if you catch my drift! We’re ready to get this show on the road!”

He turns to you and makes a red and yellow smiley face with his screens. “Why hello there, beautiful! I must say, I am absolutely delighted to meet you! I have been waiting. All. Day. For your arrival, and your timing couldn’t be any more perfect! Now, here’s a quick rundown of the program; we’re setting up the interview, I’ll ask you the common stuff as the ice breaker to get the audience warmed up, then we do a little back and forth, witty banter and the like, then we’ll just play it from ear by there. Don’t worry about tripping up your words or making any mistakes; we can edit that out in post. Sound good to you?”

You stare, completely dumbfounded as his jargon goes in one ear and out the other. What was he talking about?

“Oh! Where are my manners! I didn’t introduce myself! I’m Mettaton!”

“Uh… Chara?” you say uncertainly. This robot was certainly the most… unique monster you’ve met yet, but right now he was doing nothing more threatening than talking. This was the robot Alphys had been worried about?

He extends a hand and you can’t help but take it out of habit. His grip instantly turns vicelike, and like a lasso, his arm extends and coils into loops that constrict around you, rendering you immobile.

“Mettaton! What are you doing?!” Alphys interjects and jumps to your side to pry the arms off.

“Ah-ah, darling!” Mettaton tuts, and grabs her with his other arm, wrapping her up as well. He stretches his arms far apart to keep you separated. “You can’t make your daring escape yet! We haven’t even started rolling! MAKEUP!” the box demands, and a lion monster with a giant powder poof dabs you and Alphys on the face and leaves you coughing in a cloud of chalk.

“PROPS!” a slime monster stretches out, handing the box a microphone and magnetic bowtie which he fastens to his chassis.

“AAAAAND! ACTION!” He turns to you one last time. “Get ready for your fifteen minutes of fame, darling! I wish I could allot you more, but then it would cut into my screen time!”

A monster comprised of nothing but two-dimensional geometric shapes with a clapboard crouches down in front and whispers “Take one, rolling!”

A chorus of drumrolls and trumpets rev up from hidden speakers overhead as colorful spots dance across the floor.

“BEAUTIES AND GENTLE BEAUTIES!” The robot roars. “IT’S TIME FOR AMUSEMENT AFTERNOON, WITH YOUR HOST! METTATON!!”

A spotlight comes to life right above the robot, blinding you with a flashbang. Cheering blares from all sides with no apparent origin.

“Heeelloooo my beauties and gentle beauties! I, Mettaton, the Underground’s premier actor and robotic superstar, am here on the red carpet to bring you an exclusive interview with a very special guest! Yes, lovelies! They’ve traveled a long way to get here, and I am proud to finally introduce you to the Undergrounds latest…! Greatest…! Boss Monster!” A second spotlight illuminates as his arm retracts, pulling you close to his red and yellow screens. Thunderous applause plays from his speakers.

“Welcome darling! I hope you enjoyed your trip here now that you’ve made it to the highlight of the Underground! Tell the beautiful watchers at home about yourself!”

“Let! Me! Go!” You grunt, thrashing against his noodle arms.

“Aw, camera shy, darling? Well don’t feel bad! It happens to the best of us!”

“Mettaton! What do you think you’re doing?!” Alphys demands, struggling in his grip.

“Oh my! How impertinent of me! Beauties and gentle beauties! Please give it up for the royal scientist, Doctor Alphys!”

More synthetic cheering erupts from everywhere at once.

“Th-that’s not what I meant!” Alphys shouts. “Mettaton! We don’t have time to play around with your silly TV shows! Let us go!”

“Sorry, Alphys, but no can do! I’ve been waiting AGES for this interview! It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m not going to pass it up! Now darling, give us the scoop! Tell us what a day in the life of a Boss Monster is like! My twelve viewers at home want to know ALL the details! Don’t hold back!”

“I figured something like this would happen!” Alphys grumbles. She cranes her head to look at you as best she can. “Quick! Pull out your phone! I installed anti-robotic defense mechanisms in the upgrade! Hit the blue button to jam his frequency!”

Despite being jostled about like a sack of flour, you manage fish out your phone from your pocket. You scan the front and find the key in question then give it a forceful push. The phone lets out a high pitched shriek and Mettaton instantly locks up.

“Oohh mmyy!” the robot’s voice quivers like he’s been strapped to a centrifuge. “Iitt sseeeemmss II hhaavvee bbeeeenn ttthhwwarrtteedd bbyy tthhee ggrreeaatt ddoocctteerr aallpphhyyss!!”

Mettaton’s noodle arms go slack and you and Alphys ungracefully drop to the ground as the robot shakily backpetals to the back exit.

“It seems I have no choice but to retreat for now! And we only just got started! How unfortunate! But mark my words, darling! We will meet again! I will get my interview yet, but until then, I will have to leave this episode on a to-be-continued! Ta-taaaa!”

Rolling backwards, Mettaton wheels out of sight with his camera crew close on his metaphorical heels, leaving only the echo of his voice and the red carpet behind.

“Thank God that’s over,” Alphys says picking herself up from the ground and brushing off the dirt from her lab coat.

“Yeah. Well, it looks like the exit’s open now. I guess I should get going before Mettaton comes back.”

“Um! W-wait,” Alphys stops you before you can leave. “I-I was doing some risk calculations in my head, and I was thinking… m-m-maybe I should come with you? T-to make sure Mettaton doesn’t try to get in your way?”

Alphys notices your hesitant look and goes on. “N-now that he knows you’re here, he’s going to do everything within his programming to try and slow you down so he can use you for the whole “Boss Monster” thing and force you to be in his sitcoms! B-but with two against one, we should be able to keep him at bay!”

You mull it over before nodding in agreement. Mettaton would undoubtedly be a problem if you ran into him again, and you have a rising suspicion that you would. Who better to have on your side to fend him off than his inventor? At least it seems you’ve finally found another monster who genuinely seems interested in helping you progress. “That sounds like a good plan. Okay.”

“Great! L-let me just get a few things before we leave!”

Dashing over to her computer station, Alphys grabs her doctor’s bag and stuffs it with the thickest spiral notebook she can find and a fistful of pens, along with some graph paper, a calculator, and a few other gadgets you can’t make heads or tails of. You hope all of it is more anti-robot gear.

“A-alright! Let’s do this!” She cheers, hefting the bag over her shoulder, and together you venture into Hotland.


Alphys lets her patient take the lead while she starts jotting down observations as discretely as possible. They’re jumpy at first, as if expecting Mettaton to reappear again from every corner, but the streets remain empty and after a few minutes they start to loosen up again and explore the new region.

Alphys lets her mind wonder as they walk, replaying the events in her lab. The first happenstance with Mettaton had gone more or less smoothly, right down to the front doors “mysteriously” losing power. Now all the pieces were in place; he would appear as the villain and she the hero, all while she could get footage of the human’s reaction on split second decision making. She wished Mettaton had given her a bit more foresight about what his shows were going to be, though. Alphys hadn’t expected an interview. She’d be almost as much in the dark as the human. She guessed, in a way, that that was a godsend. It would certainly make her acting seem more believable. She just hoped she could always find a new way out of each of Mettaton’s gimmicks in all their future encounters right on the spot.

Before long they come across their first conveyor belt. The moving sidewalks startle the human at first, unused to the sensation of conveyor belt transport, but they get the hang of it fast enough, and take a moment to enjoy the view as the sidewalk carries them along. They take like a fish to water when they discover the vents for the first time, and their mood does a complete one-eighty. One could have never guessed they were anticipating being assaulted by a robot only moments earlier. Eagerly, they stand on the slotted metal screen while the heat and pressure built up in the trap underneath before propelling them across the gaps with a powerful blast of steam. They land ungracefully, more or less falling flat on their face on the other side, but they’re laughing regardless, when Alphys joins them. Fascinated, she writes down their reaction as they collect themselves.

Laughter… response… to… steam… vents. There.

They jump across the rest of the platforms with ease, looking quite pleased with themselves.

“I’ve always wanted to try that,” the human sighs with satisfaction, talking to themselves. “He was right, it does feel like flying.”

“He?” Alphys says conversationally. “Who’s that?”

“Oh, uh, just a friend of mine,” they reply cryptically. Hmm, was it the heat that was making them flush or a sense of guilt? Were they keeping secrets of their own?

The sound of a skirmish in the distance distracts them before she can ask them to clarify. Up ahead, Alphys looks up to find two Hotland residents tangled together in front of a walkway lined with laser beams of blue and orange light. She groans when she recognizes the monsters, Vulkin and Pyrope. Generally the two monsters were kind and well-meaning folk, but when their forces combined, explosions of volcanic proportions were sure to follow, along with a dozen cases of second degree burns.

“Vulkin, my hotcake! This was KNOT my idea when you said you could help me with the puzzle,” the rope monster nervously laughs, struggling to uncoil itself from the tiny volcano.

“Ah, ah, sorry,” Vulkin whimpers. “Feet all stuck. Can’t carry you through the lasers. No help at all…”

“Th-they seem busy,” Alphys says. “Let’s see if we can move around them.”

“Wait,” the human hovers. “They look like they need help. Hey! Are you guys stuck?” They ask, approaching without fear.

“Ha ha, yeah!” Pyrope grins. “You could say were a little TIED up! Someone turned on these old laser puzzles which really threw me for a LOOP! All the moving lasers and stationary lasers made my mind go like, ‘whaaat!’ Vulkin here tried to help, but those beams give a really hefty zap! We ended up getting kinda tangled. Say, mind givin’ us a hand? I’d do it myself, but I don’t got any!” Pyrope laughs at his own jokes despite being a knotted up mess.

“No problem,” the human says. “Hold still…”

“Ah! W-wait! Don’t!” Alphys interjects when she sees them reaching out to touch the flaming monsters. “You’re gonna get bur-“

She trails off midsentence when they put their hand on Vulkin’s smoldering body, flabbergasted that they don’t instantly go up in flames.

Delicately, they begin to unwind Pyrope’s coils from Vulkin’s legs.

“H-how… how are you doing that?” Alphys asks.

They wave a gloved hand at her. “Oh, I can’t get burned. My hands are fire proof!”

Alphys gawks for a second then immediately writes the finding down. Remarkable ingenuity with textiles. It was just one discovery after another with this one!

“There you go,” the human says when they manage to untie the two monsters.

“Much appreciated!” Vulkin gleams.

“Yeah! Thanks a ton, hot stuff!” Pyrope adds before bouncing off. He stops when he gets to the laser bridge and turns back sheepishly. “Er, ha ha. Do you by any chance know how to get past these lasers as well? These puzzles haven’t been active in YEARS, and suddenly they’re all back on today!”

The human and Alphys exchange a serious look, a silent name shared between them. Mettaton.

“Sorry, I can’t help you there,” the human shrugs, turning back to Pyrope. “This is the first time I’ve seen laser puzzles too.”

They study at the field of lights. Each beam was like a wall, too high to jump over and too low to crawl under. Some of the lights were blue and moving, while others were orange and stationary, but all of them were buzzing like a hive of angry bees just daring you to touch them and see what happens.

“A-allow me!” Alphys chimes in, boldly stepping up to plate. “I-I figured something like this might happen. It looks like Mettaton was here, trying to slow us down. B-but don’t worry! Look!” Alphys scuffles over to a maintenance hatch on the ground and lifts it up by the handle to reveal a circuit board full of twinkling lights, switches and wires. “This is the control panel for this bridge. All I gotta do is reroute some wires, flip a couple switches, aaand- there!”

The lasers die with a depressing bwoooop, leaving the pathway clear.

“WHOO! You’re on fire, baby!” Pyrope cheers and bounds across the bridge.

“Good job!” Vulkin praises, and gallops off as well.

“That was brilliant, Alphys.” the human says.

“Oh, it was nothing,” the scientist blushes. “B-but if you ever find yourself confronted by lasers without me, just remember blue lasers won’t harm you if you stand still, and orange lasers won’t harm you if you’re moving.”

“Got it,” they nod, and march onward.

“Hm. Mettaton must be more determined to stop us than I thought,” Alphys says distractedly after a few minutes of walking. She honestly had no clue he would turn on old puzzles to hinder their progress. “If he reactivated the laser puzzle, then I wonder what other puzzles he’s turned back on.”

“Do any of them have to do with giant doors?”

“Well, y-yes, but how did you-” Alphys stops when she bumps into the human’s back. They point to two massive iron slabs sealing the way before them. Two computer monitors sit like sentries on the sides, a trail of red lights connecting them to two unwelcoming red “X”s, one emblazoned on each of the doors’ front.

“Do you think you can hack the door?”

“U-unfortunately no. B-but the unlocking mechanisms should be on either side of the door, and I can hack those!”

The human gives her a thumbs up and they head to the right. A terminal screen illuminates at their approach, white blocks appearing on a black background with two opposing ships on either side of the field, and two tiny bullets labeled “AMMO” at the bottom.

“Alright,” Alphys grunts, lacing her fingers and pushing her palms outward as she crouches below the monitor. “Let’s see what I can- w-what?!”

“What’s wrong?”

Alphys points to the bottom of the control panel, still glowing red with recently soldered metal.

“That damn robot! He welded the control panel to this puzzle shut!”

“Guess we’ll have to solve it the old fashioned way then,” the human says, their face setting with a determined look. They turn back to the screen and examine it a little closer.

“Hmm… ‘Move the boxes to shoot the opposing ship.’ Seems simple enough…”

They look down at their available controls, consisting of a joy stick that goes only in the cardinal directions and one big red button that says “FIRE.”

They experimentally toggle the stick, seeing how the boxes react. They fiddle a second more, then…

“Ah-ha!” they whoop triumphantly when their bullets break through the boxes and hit their target. The screen lets out a congratulatory jingle and one half of the door lights up green.

“That was easy! Let’s see the other one!” They say, jumping to the other screen on the left side of the door.

“Incredible!” Alphys murmurs, frantically scribbling in her note book while they study the next challenge. They solved it in record time and on their first go! Their ability to find patterns is outstanding!

The human has no problem getting the second puzzle figured out as well, and with another successful chime, the massive doors slowly part to reveal a line of one way steam vents to push them forward.

“What do ya’ say? Full steam ahead?” Alphys winks.

The human chuckles, and fearlessly leaps on the first vent to carry them across.

The island they land on is raised slightly higher than the others, just enough so neither could see what awaited on the summit. A large staircase leads to the top.

The human forges ahead, undaunted by the number of steps. Alphys follows, thoroughly breathless by the time she reaches the top. God, there was a reason why she never liked to take this elevator to get around Hotland.

“Thanks,” the scientist gasps, completely winded. “For waiting, that is.”

“Of course. I don’t want to move forward in the dark. We could fall off the edge.”

“Dark?” Alphys echoes. “It shouldn’t be dark up here…” but dark it was. Cautiously, the pair inch their way forward, when suddenly-

FLASH!

Floodlights on all sides flare to life with blinding white light. A plucky harmonica strikes up a tune that sounded a near-lawsuit level of similar to another ditty Alphys knew as hidden voices being to sing all around them.

♫Good moooorning all!
In Snowdin and-! Waaaaterfall!
Hotland and-! Neeew Home too!
We’re so glad to see you!
Won’cha come with us to play?
Here on Android Avenue! ♪

Alphys blinks the spots out of her eyes and looks around. She knew this island held one of Mettaton’s sets where he planned to help her collect data on the human’s problem solving skills, but she couldn’t recognize the set up. The only thing could see was that the set was a mess. The stage had three walls, each lined with shelves and overloaded with toys and knickknacks that spilled on to the floor.

The human leans in her direction. “Retreat?” They whisper.

“Retreat,” Alphys agrees and began to walk back. They don’t get very far. A few steps backwards and their backs hit a solid wall that wasn’t there before.

“Force fields!” Alphys gasps, feigning surprise. “We’re trapped!”
Beside them, two marionette puppets of red and blue drop from the ceiling as the theme song ends, and Alphys and her patient stand rooted to the spot as they dance around them against a colorful backdrop.

“Howdy-doodie, kiddies!” the red puppet yaps in a comically nasally voice.

“It’s that time again!” The blue one’s mouth flaps its jaw, moving it like a hinge, and then in unison-

“It’s time for-! Android Avenue!”

Stock audio of children cheering blares from all sides.

“Today’s episode is brought to you by the letter “H”!” the red doll says, its arms flailing like a windsock in a tornado.

“And the number seven!” The blue muppet adds, its googly eyes pointing in two different directions.

“Alphys… what’s happening?” The human whispers, pressed close to her side and as far away from the creepy puppets as possible.

“I don’t… know?” Alphys replies. Studying the puppets, she traces their strings upwards and finds a familiar metal box with arms perched on the girders overhead.

“And now for your host! Mettaton!” Pre-recorded cheering and clapping plays on cue as Mettaton leaps from the rafters.

“Oh no…” Alphys groans.

The giant metal box lands with a hefty crash hard enough to shake the floor and nearly knock the other two monsters off their feet, but he expertly rebounds on his one wheel.

“OH YES!” He exclaims. “Beauties and Gentle Beauties! Darlings of all ages! Thank you for once again allowing me into your homes through the underground’s public access television! Your number one choice for children edutainment! Today is a very special day here on Android Avenue. Please, put your hands together for our newest neighbors, the royal scientist, Alphys, and the Underground’s newest Boss Monster!”

Mettaton claps and synthetic clapping backs him up. The human looks more confused than concerned.

“Um? What’s going on?”

“Why! You’re on TV, darling!” Mettaton says, throwing one arm around their shoulders. Now they look really lost.

“I’m on tee-vee?” they repeat, stressing the letters like the word is unnatural to them. “Right now? How?”

“The cameras are broadcasting live, beautiful!” Mettaton explains, pointing to a camcorder barely visible in the darkness that surrounded the set. “But let’s not waste any more time, sweetheart! As our special guest, would you like to help us on our educational adventure today?”

“We can’t, Mettaton!” Alphys proclaims, stepping between him and her patient. “We’re on a mission to get to the king, and you won’t stop us!” She looks over her shoulder at human. “Use your phone!”

It takes them a second to understand, but when it clicks they scrabble to get their cell phone out and swiftly press the blue button…

…but nothing happens.

“Sorry darling!” Mettaton says. “That trick won’t work on me twice! I’ve installed frequency jamming frequency jammers in my software since we last met! Oh! And don’t even think about trying to escape! I’ve also installed my world famous MTT force fields on every wall! They only allow robots to pass through! Now, we’re all about manners here on Android Avenue, so I’ll politely ask you again; would you like to help us today?”

“Ugh, let’s just play along,” Alphys grumbles to you quietly. “You distract him and I’ll see if I can tap into the force field’s security system.”

The human nods then turns back to Mettaton. “I’ll help you.”

“Brilliant! As you already know, today’s episode is brought to you by the letter “H”! Now darling, can you find all the things in this room that start with the letter “H” in less than one minute and put them in this basket?” As he speaks, a table rises from the floor. Mettaton opens a port in his side, pulls out a blue plastic basket and places it on the tabletop. As stealthily as she can, Alphys begins to tip toe to the far wall and feel along its edges.

“Okay, but only if you let us go afterwards.”

“Ooh! Raising the stakes are we?” Mettaton teases. “Very well then! I’ll agree to your terms if you’ll agree to mine!”

The human glances at Alphys who’s apparently found another control panel. She mouths ‘keep him talking!’ to them as she furiously taps away at a small keyboard. They look Mettaton in the eye. Er- screens. “Shoot.”

“Find all the things that start with “H” before the time is up…” Mettaton says. “Or you’ll have to become a resident of Android Avenue… PERMINANTLY!”

The human swallows a lump in their throat. They nod.

“Excellent!” Above them, a giant cartoonish stop watch lowers, its second hand ready and waiting at the twelve o’clock. “Good luck darling! You’re gonna need it!”

Mettaton raises his right hand in a gun shape. “On your mark! Get set! GO!” The cap of his pointer finger pops opens to reveal a tiny flag that reads ’bang!’

Springing into action, the human frantically begins to search the shelves on the wall opposite of Alphys, keeping Mettaton’s focus away from her. They lunge for an item they saw on the top shelf -a hammer- and place it in the box. Alphys turned away from them to focus on the key pad and pretended to work. The force field wasn’t hard to hack at all; it would allow them to pass as soon as the timer was up regardless, but for now she had to make this look convincing and let the cameras get as much data as possible.

She wiped away a line of sweat beading on her brow. The situation was tense nonetheless. This isn’t what she agreed on with Mettaton at all. There wasn’t supposed to be any threats of kidnapping or being held hostage on a film set. She was beginning to regret making a deal with him to get screen time with the human. He was too much of a loose cannon.

Overhead the ticking of the stop watch grew ominous as time drew closer. The human sifted through each object on the back wall, found a plastic horse and a hair brush, and tossed them in the basket.

“Fifteen seconds left!” Mettaton warned. The human grabbed for a hat, a toy harp, and a picture of a hexagon off the floor.

“Five! Four! Three! Two…!”

One last look around, and the human scooped up a bike horn from over Alphys’ head, lobbed it towards the basket, and hit the mark.

A buzzer sounded.

“Times up!” Mettaton announced. Extending one arm, he retracted his hand down the vacuum tube he had for a limb and swapped it out for a broom head appendage then swiftly swept all the extra clutter off the edge of the set into the lava below. The backs of each shelf opened as each ledge tilted upward, clearing the walls and becoming smooth and flush. The room was clean.

“Now! Let’s see how you did!”

Dumping the contents of the basket onto the table, he laid them out straight and pointed to each one.

“Oooone! Twoooo! Threeeee!” Children’s voices counted as he pointed to each one. “Siiiix! Seven!” Cheering exploded along with confetti raining down from the ceiling.

“You found seven objects that start with the letter “H”! And seven just so happens to be the number of the day! Congratulations!”

“Does this mean I won?” The human pants.

“First let me check with our judges,” Mettaton says, putting a finger up to the side of his casing, listening to an imaginary ear piece. The screens on his front flash in a checker board pattern of red and yellow before making a frowny face.

“Oh my… it seems you found all but one of the things that start with “H!” How unfortunate!”

“W-what did I miss?” The human asks.

“Darling, don’t you see? The answer’s still in this room!”

Alphys stiffens. Was he about to? No, he wouldn’t! He promised!

“Darling, you missed… the Handsome Robot! I’m sorry, beautiful! Looks like you’re moving into an apartment on Android Avenue! Let me draw up your lease!”

Like a bush viper, Mettaton’s arms explode outward, snaking towards the human who anticipated the move and expertly dodges. Ha! Looked like old tricks wouldn’t work twice on them either!

“Quick! This way!” Alphys shouts. “I recalibrated the force field!”

The human bolts towards her, the robotic TV star zooming right behind. Together, she and the human dive through the force field before the arms can grab them. Unable to slow down fast enough, Mettaton hits the invisible wall with a reverberating clang.

“Oh my? What’s this?” Mettaton asks, gesturing in an over the top theatrical manner. “Why can’t I pass through my MTT brand force field?”

“B-because I’ve reprogrammed it to let everything pass through BUT robots!” Alphys exclaims. “You’re trapped!”

“Rats! I have been foiled again by the Great Doctor Alphys!” Mettaton pontificates. “But do not think you have seen the last of me, you two! You may have one this battle but I shall win the war! Thank you for watching and tune in next time my beautiful audience! Adieu!”

With that, Mettaton retreats once again, scrolling back across his set as the light fade out once more.

“Well that didn’t sound ominous at all,” the human says sarcastically. “How much further until the elevator?”

“Just around the next bend,” Alphys says.

“Good. The faster we get there, the faster we can put this all behind us.”

In silent agreement, the two continue on once more, eager to put as much distance between themselves and the robot as possible.

Chapter Text

The remaining trip to the elevator is made without incident, and the monster and child board without hesitation. Once inside Alphys does an about-face and pushes the top button on the level select. Beside her the human leans against the wall and exhales with relief as the lift rumbles and gently begins to rise.

The scientist nervously taps her fingers and steals a side long glance at them. Guilt itches at her scales as she watches them take a moment’s respite, knowing it wouldn’t last much longer. If her timing was right, the elevator would malfunction in three… two… one…

With an ominous buzz, the lights overhead flicker and die, followed by the elevator lurching to a complete stop. An alarm symbol flashes red among all the buttons by the side of the door and a distress signal cries out for help.

The human looks at Alphys too petrified to speak as they brace themselves against the wall. Their expression says everything their throat cannot as they give her a terrified look. Alphys does her best to feign ignorance as she pretends to inspect the controls.

“Uh-oh. I-I th-think the e-elevator’s been sabotaged!”

“Does that mean we’re stuck in here?”

“P-possibly. B-but! Before we panic, let’s see if we c-can pry the doors open!”

The human nods and bravely straightens up away from their corner. On shaking knees, they move beside the scientist, wedge their fingers into the seal, and grip one side of the door while Alphys gets the other.

“On three?”

“Yeah. Ready?”

“R-ready! One!”

“Two!”

“Three!”

With a mighty heave, the two monsters pull against the doors with all their strength. The metal resists at first, groaning and complaining until it finally gives in and opens just wide enough for both occupants to squeeze through.

“G-great job! Please, after you!”

The human slips through the crack and Alphys follows suit, wiggling through the tight squeeze. She practically pops out the other side and face plants on the ground. The human falls to their knees at her side.

“You okay?”

“I’m fine! I’m fine!” Alphys assures them, brushing red dirt off her lab coat and adjusting her glasses. She turns back to the elevator.

“Hmm. ‘R2’,” She reads the lettering overhead. “Dangit. We only went up one floor. We need to go up one more.”

“Is there any way to fix it?” the kid asks, biting their lower lip.

“Oh certainly, but from the looks of it, it would take me a couple hours to repair. Maybe even a whole day.” Alphys pushes the call lift button to experiment. The ‘up’ button buzzes disapprovingly when pressed, but the ‘down’ button readily complies with a pleasant ding.

“Hm. Looks like it will still go down from here. Just not up. But never fear! Th-there are multiple elevators around Hotland for this very reason! W-we can take the west wing elevator up to the capital instead! I-i-it’ll be a bit of a walk, but anything is faster than waiting around until this gets fixed.”

The human sighs and gives her a little nod, and together the pair head west.

They resume their walk in silence, the human in front and the scibentist slightly behind, just as before. At first the human seems sullen about having to take a detour, but before long they become absorbed with the architecture around them, aweing at the multiple platforms suspended in the air like crisscrossing hammocks, or raised up like aqueducts. A couple of times they dare to peek over the edge to get a look at the islands now far below and gawk at the volcano’s geology. From up here it’s easy to see that Hotland is not just built over one bubbling pit of lava, but several, each contained in its own valley surrounded by smaller mountain ranges of brimstone that obscure one’s view from the others. Dumbfounded by Hotland’s true size, it’s not long before the human skirts back to the center of the path. Alphys suppresses a snort at their childlike wonder and pulls out her notebook to jot down her observations while they are distracted.

“Highly… inquisitive nature… expresses strong… spatial awareness… of body and… understanding… of potential… safety… hazards." Done.

“Oh!”

Alphys looks up from her note book at the human’s sudden interjection. They’re studying something off in the distance. Following their line of sight, Alphys tries to pin point what they’re looking at. Squinting through her glasses, she thinks she can just make out the brown and white roof of a very familiar, and highly illicit, hotdog stand.

And someone appears to be working the register.

The two close in on the business without taking their eyes off of it. It seems Alphys and her examinee aren’t the only ones who noticed that the concession was open. The platform around them widens into the size of a plaza, and a sizeable crowd stands in front of the counter in a sloppy, snaking line. Quite a few individuals sit on the edge of the platform, eating their purchases with their legs dangling off the ledge.

Alphys and the human stop a ways off and just watch as the line inches forward. Sans is working behind the counter, which surprises Alphys for more than one reason. Well, okay, maybe “working” isn’t the most accurate word. He’s leaning back in his chair with his feet on the counter and sleep mask over his eye sockets. On one side of the counter is a large glass jar with “Hotdogs! 30G ea. (Max purchase limit = 30 per customer)” written on the glass in black sharpie, and on the other side of the counter is a pyramid of the tin foil-wrapped entrées.

By some sixth sense of awareness (or maybe he wasn’t really asleep at all) Sans lifts one corner of his sleep mask off his face and focuses in on the two with the soft light of his eye.

“Hey there, kiddo. Alphys.”

“Hey Sans,” the kid says neutrally. “You know Alphys?”

“Sure do, buddy,” the skeleton says, straightening up. "In Hotland, Alphys is probably just as famous as the king himself. Plus we used to work together as lab partners. But that’s not important. Nice to see you out of your lab for once, Al. What brings you around these parts?”

“I-I-I’m escorting our friend here to the capital,” Alphys says nervously, putting her notebook back in her backpack as inconspicuously as possible.

“Oh? You’re taking the long way?” Sans asks.

“We had some elevator problems,” Alphys counters.

“Yeah, that robot Mettaton keeps trying to get in our way,” the human says. “But what are you doing here in Hotland, Sans?”

“I work here,” the skeleton says bluntly.

“I thought you were a sentry in Snowdin.”

“What? Never seen a guy with two jobs before?” Sans teases. “Say. It’s getting close to noon, which means it’s getting close to lunch. You guys hungry?”

Upon hearing the word “lunch” the human’s stomach audibly rumbles. All eyes turn towards them and they blush a bright red.

“You know, now that I think about it, I didn’t have breakfast.” They laugh sheepishly. “I came straight from Waterfall to here. I am really hungry.”

“Well, that’s good ‘cause I really gotta sell these hotdogs,” Sans says. “I can’t leave until I get rid of my entire stock. So what’ll you have?”

The kid shrugs. “What do you got?”

“Well,” Sans grunts, leaning forward over the counter. “I’ve got your classic ‘dogs, and your fan favorite franks, both of which are thirty gold by the way. Oh, and I’ve got this sweet new deal if you buy the bun for fifteen gold, you get the hotdog for only fifteen gold as well. Take your pick.”

The kid snorts and tries to keep from smiling. “Well, I’ve never had a hotdog at all before. What do you recommend?”

“Never had a hotdog? Buddy, that’s a crime in some places. Here, I’ll give you your first two ‘dogs on the house. You too, Alphys. Here.” The skeleton hands the two traveling partners two wrapped packages each.

“I suggest trying this one first,” he says to the kid, tapping one of the wrappers indistinguishable from the other. “It’s my new vegan option. No monster magic used in this product.”

“Wow, thanks, Sans.” The human smiles, and opens the entrée.

The bun looks fluffy, warm and is a beautiful golden brown, while the meat smells savory with spices Alphys can’t identify. It really does look delicious, but she holds off on eating her own, wanting to see the human’s reaction first in case she wanted to write it down. Taking a deep breath, the human turns the hot dog’s narrow end towards their mouth and bites down without a second thought.

Immediately she can tell they regret all their life’s choices.

The “hotdog” filling explodes into white cotton the instant it comes in contact with their teeth and they choke, sputtering and spitting as they cough out hundreds of fluffy seeds. Beside them, the pair hears boisterous laughter and Alphys angrily glares at Sans, only to find him absolutely losing it.

“Sans! What is this?” the kid sputters, vainly trying to clean their tongue off with their sleeve.

“Oh, the middle bit? That’s a water sausage. What d’ya think?”

“Water sausage?” Alphys echoes. “Like the cattail water sausage?”

“Yup. Locally grown too.”

“Sans those aren’t edible! They’re seed pods!”

“Oh, really? And here I thought they were just jam packed with mini flavor explosions. No worries, though. I can give you a full refund if you don’t like it.”

The child narrows their eyes and gives him an exasperated glare.

“You knew that would happen, didn’t you?” They interrogate him. “Are the others booby trapped as well?”

“Ha ha, no, just the one,” Sans promises. “All the others are made of tofu.”

The kid inspects their next hotdog with scrutiny, and Alphys does too, carefully poking at the sausage for any sign of a potential explosion. When their remaining hotdog fails to detonate, they deem it safe and take a tentative bite and Alphys follows. The flavor is amazing. She can’t remember ever having something so savory in her life. No wonder so many call Sans' hotdog stand illegal. Food this good should be a crime.

The kid finishes their hotdog in four bites, then, reaching into their pocket, scoop out a handful of gold and slam it on the counter.

“Give me another!” they demand.

“Sure thing, kid.” Sans says and passes them another wrapped package. “But mind if I ask you to not eat this one in front of my stand? I gotta move this line along.”

“Okay,” The human says, swiping the hotdog off the counter. “Alphys, I’m gonna find a place to sit.”

“D-don’t go far!” Alphys calls after them as they begin to move away through the crowd. She watches them until she sees them find a spot on the edge to sit and eat amongst the other patrons before Sans makes a throat clearing noise to get her attention.

“Alphys, I thought you were gonna slow the kid down, not personally escort them to their execution.”

“I-I-I never made such an agreement,” Alphys says defensively. “I only said I wanted to study them. And you won’t believe how much I’ve already learned! Humans are nothing like the ones in anime! And they’re certainly not as one note as our history makes them out to be. Even this one is so much more complex!”

“Kind of like us monsters, huh?”

“Hm, I wouldn’t go that far. I would need more observational data before I make a claim like that.”

“Alphys, are you really going to go through with this?” Sans changes the subject.

Alphys dares to look at him, expecting to find him ready to chew her out, but his expression is neither angry nor scolding. Instead, it’s rather sad in the way his shoulders sag and how the light in his eyes blur just a bit when he tilts his head to a certain degree. It was uncanny how such a rigid face could convey so much emotion.

“I… w-w-whatever happens, happens, Sans.” Alphys stutters. “I’ve already promised them I’d see them to Asgore, a-and they trust me. I-it feels good to have someone believe in me.”

“Yeah, I bet they’ll thank you when Asgore runs a trident through their middle.” He snorts sarcastically.

“Sans, that’s not fair and you know it!” The reptilian monster scolds. “It’s my job as the royal scientist to find a way to make monsters strong enough to break the barrier, and studying a human would help me with that!”

“Alphys, you keep saying that, and yet your actions and motives don’t line up,” Sans argues. “If you just take the kid straight to Asgore, then the king would have seven souls, which is enough to break the barrier, so there’s no point in studying them when you know that research won’t be of any use. And if you really wanted to study them so meticulously, why lead them through Hotland at all? Who are you really trying to help? The kid? Monster kind? Your own ego?”

“Why I-! What do you mean by that?” Alphys says with hackles rising and sweat beading on her brow. “Of course I’m trying to help monster kind! But can’t I pretend to be helping the human too? At least I didn’t lie directly to their face like you did!”

“Oh, and what you’re now doing isn’t lying?” Sans challenges.

Alphys is about to make a retort when her companion’s voice interrupts them.

“Sans, can I get two more hotdogs? I want some in case I get hungry on the way back to the ruins.”

“No problem, buddy,” Sans happily complies, his attitude instantly shifting to hide is bitterness. “Hey, good timing. These are my last two.”

“Thanks!” The human says, slipping the hotdogs into their sleeves.

Sans gives Alphys a sour look when the kid turns away. “Just… ask yourself if you really are helping anyone, or if you’re just doing work to look busy.”

Insulted but unwilling to raise her voice with the human so close, Alphys turns away in a huff. All around them, other monsters steadily thin out as their lunch hour ends and they begin to make their way back to work or to school. Through the dissipating crowd she spies two armed figures headed her way, and immediately all her anger at her former colleague drains away.

Two of the royal guards were coming.

Oh crap.

“Sans,” Alphys gasps, absentmindedly placing one hand on the skeleton’s sleeve. The tension in her fingers is enough to relay to him her trepidation and plea for help. There’s no time for words or explanation, and any previous grudges are temporarily put on hold as both monsters scramble into action.

“Oh, hey, kid. I have a favor to ask you,” Sans says to the human to get their focus. “Now that I’m sold out of hotdogs, I should get back to my sentry station, but before I do that I, uh, need to organize all the condiment packets. Do you and Alphys mind helping me sort them out?”

“We’d be happy too!” Alphys decides for them both a little too eagerly. She grabs the kid’s arm and leads them behind the register just before the guards can spot them.

“Great, they’re all back here under the counter.” Sans says, frantically motioning to Alphys to get the kid under the counter where a mountain of ketchup, mustard and relish packets lay in a jumbled pile. “Thanks guys,” Sans exhales as they begin to sort the condiments just as the guards reach the stand.

“Sans!” the first guard says to the skeleton.

“Oh, hey guys. What can I do for you?”

“Hey Sans! We’ve been trying to get to your stand for almost an hour! All the elevators are, like, completely wonky right now though. It took us forever to find a way through! But now that we’re here, we’ll just have our usual two hotdogs!”

“Oh, geez. Sorry fellas,” sans says sincerely. “I just sold my last two.”

“What! Nooo!” the first guard wails, falling to his knees in despair. Alphys pauses her sorting and peeks her head just over the edge of the counter to keep an eye on the guard’s positions. Through his helmet, she can see two white rabbit ears sag in defeat. “Aw man, why’d the elevators have to break on today of all days? I’m sorry, 02.”

“It’s okay, 01. These things happen. It’s not your fault the elevators broke.” The second guard says, placing a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. Only his green dragon fins poke out through his helmet. “I hear the MTT emporium does take-out deliveries now. We can order that for lunch.”

“But getting a hotdog each day was our thing, dude! We can’t break tradition! Especially not today, because I was gonna-”

“Hm?” 02 hums.

“…never mind…” 01’s rabbit ears droop as his companion moves to the side and pulls out his cellphone to place his order. Alphys watches the two separate and turn away from the concession stand. She and Sans both exhale in relief. Thank God. They didn’t notice her or the human. Now would be her chance to slip away undetected.

“H-hey, w-we should get going,” She says to the kid, only to realize a moment later they’re not under the counter anymore. Looking around in a panic, she nearly faints when she catches sight of the child tiptoeing up to the first guard from behind.

So much for keeping them hidden from the guards.

Alphys screams internally, not daring to blink. If she runs up to them now, her cover will be blown and the guards will arrest her for treason for sure. Frozen in fear, she can only watch and listen.

“Um, pardon me,” the human speaks up, approaching 01 tentatively. “Do you need help?”

“Aww, I appreciate the concern little bro, but I don’t need any help. Helping others is MY job. It’s what we royal guards are trained to do!”

“I meant with your boyfriend.”

“Woah! What? Who? 02? Pssh! He’s not my boyfriend!” 01 sweats nervously. “Though… though it’s a nice thought if he wanted to be. Unfortunately he doesn’t even know how I feel.”

“He doesn’t? Why haven’t you told him?”

“I was gonna!” 01 explains. “I had it all planned out perfectly, too. I was gonna buy us each a hotdog and we were gonna sit and watch the CORE together. Then I was gonna take a bite of my hotdog and say ‘Man, this ‘dog’s amazing. But you know what’s even more amazing, bro?’ and then 02 was gonna say ‘what?’ and then I was gonna say ‘you, bro.’”

Even at a distance, Alphys can tell the human has to fight back “aww”ing at the cute mental image of such a sweet and corny confession.

“I’ve been trying to say it for days, but every time 02 asks ‘what’, I chicken out and say something stupid, like ‘this view is amazing’, or ‘this weather’s been amazing.’ We don’t even have weather here. But 02 plays along anyways because he’s a good sport. He probably thinks I’m an idiot.”

“You’ve been trying to say this for weeks?” the human asks.

“Yeah! And today it really was going to be different because today is the one year anniversary since we became royal guards. It was gonna be perfect, but now I’ve missed my chance. I don’t think I’ll have the nerve to try this again until next year.”

“I’m sorry you missed your chance at the hotdog stand,” the kid says empathetically, and pulls out their spare hotdogs. “But today still is your anniversary, and I’ve got two extra hot dogs if you want them.”

“Woah! Little bro, are you serious? I couldn’t possibly take your hotdogs from you. 02 might think I stole them from you.”

“It’s okay. I was gonna save them for later, but it looks like you need them more now than I do.” The human firmly paces the wrapped packages in the guard’s gloved hand. 01 stares at it like he’s been given a priceless diamond.

“Thanks little bro… but what if he says no? What if he doesn’t feel the same way?”

“What if he does and he’s just scared to admit it as well?”

01 seems to ponder this possibility.

“Isn’t it better to have a definite answer than to spend your whole life wondering? And even if he does say no, that doesn’t mean you have to stop being friends.”

“O-okay. I’ll try. For you, little bro.”

Gently taking the hotdogs, 01 stands and turns towards the bench where 02 is seated. The guard inhales then exhales before boldly marching over to the bench while the human stand behinds him silently rooting him on.

“H-hey bro! Great news! I got us two hotdogs!”

“Oh? Did the concession have an extra in stock after all?”

“Y-yeah! Boy did we luck ou-!” Like a scene from a bad comedy, the first royal guard stumbles on the path, falling forward and launching one of the hotdogs into the air which goes sailing over the edge of the platform down into the lava below. The child covers their eyes, unable to look. Alphys flinches at the bad luck.

“Oh no… I’m so sorry dude… I… here, you can have my hotdog instead.”

“But 01, what will you have?”

“Nah, I’m fine bro. Don’t worry about me. I’ve skipped lunch before. Besides, I’d never want to see my best buddy go hungry!”

“01, I couldn’t possibly do that. How about we split the hotdog. It may not be much, but at least we’ll both get something.”

“Stellar idea dude! Man, 02, you’re a genius. This is, like, why I love you, man!”

There’s a moments pause. 01’s ears spring straight up and turn a faint pink hue as he blushes under his fur.

“Uh… I-I mean, like, this is why I love y-you as my partner! You always come up with great ideas. Yep, you’re definitely the brains between the two of us. Ha ha! I had a brain fart for a minute there! I don’t love you like that! I-I mean, well, I do love you, but like, platonically? Ha ha, what am I even saying? Don’t listen to me bro. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say any more.”

“01…”

“Y-yeah, bro?”

“How about… after we split this hotdog, perhaps we can go get some ice cream as well? It is our one year anniversary of becoming official royal guards. You didn’t forget, did you?”

“O-of course I remember bro! How could I forget? Getting ice cream sounds great! Let’s do it!”

02 stands up from the bench and extends his hand. It takes a beat, but when 01 finally understands the invitation he readily grasps it, lacing his fingers through his companion’s before walking off to resume their rounds. Before they’re out of sight, 01 looks back over his shoulder and gives the kid a triumphant thumbs up. The human turns back smiling at Alphys and Sans.

“Wow, kid. I didn’t know you were a match maker,” Sans speaks up.

The kid puffs out their chest a bit and stands a little taller. “Oh, that? That’s nothing. I’ve hooked up more Loox and Froggits than I can count back home. I’ve even found dates for every shy Whimsun and antisocial Migosp.”

“Impressive,” Alphys says finally coming out from behind the counter. She’s genuinely surprised at how well they handled the situation, but that’s enough close calls for her for one day. “But it’s about time we get going, d-don’t you think?”

“Yeah. Let’s get moving before Mettaton shows up again. See you around, Sans!” The kid says waving goodbye.

“Take care, bucko,” Sans sighs. “And Alphys? Don’t do anything you think you’ll regret later.”

Alphys opens her mouth, but no words come out. Instead she clicks her teeth shut and swallows before turning away without looking back.


The human forges ahead with renewed vigor after a good lunch and a good deed, but Alphys is lagging behind.

Despite how hard she tries to shake them, Sans’ words keep buzzing in her head.

”Who are you really trying to help? The kid? Monster kind? Your own ego?”

“Both,” She tells herself under her breath. “It’s both. Even if it’s small, even if it’s temporary, it’s going to make up for all the terrible mistakes I’ve made in the past.”

She repeats the words until they sound true in her ears, but underneath it all, she can’t ignore the fact that the roots of these statements come from lies.

The scientist grinds her teeth and squeezes her eyes shut in frustration. So what if they came from lies? She’s lied before in the past. No doubt she’ll be lying about something again in the future. What was one more lie on the pile now?

But then she sees the child’s face in her mind’s eye, smiling at her, trusting her, relying, depending and believing in her, and the weight of that pile feels like it will crush her-

She doesn’t realize the human has stopped in front of her until she nearly runs into them, and blinks until her mind is back in the present.

“You stopped.” She says, pointing out the obvious. “What’s up?”

“There’re a lot of vents up ahead,” The human says, pointing to the field of steam and metal plates before them. “There’s also a lot of buttons. It could just be another one of Mettaton’s puzzles, but it might also be a trap.”

“Oh, this is definitely just another one of his road blocks to slow us down,” Alphys says, studying the tiles. “I-I’ve seen it before. All the buttons and vents are connected, so when you land on one, it closes one set of vents and opens another.”

“If you’ve seen it before, then does that mean you know how to solve it?” the child asks hopefully.

“I-I’m not sure,” Alphys stutters. “He’s always switching the vents around so the solution’s always changing.”

“Hm. I bet we can figure it out together,” the human says, punching one of their hands into the palm of the other. They give her a confident smile.

“S-sure!” Alphys says without thinking. As much as she’d love to just sit on the sidelines and just watch the human try to figure out the correct answer themselves, that trusting smile of theirs wins her over as soon as she sees it and all her previous plans are thrown out the window. Forget what Sans said. It felt good to be the benevolent guide. It felt good to be helping.

Self-assured once more, the human eagerly steps on the first vent and gets launched into the air. They land with grace perfectly on target. There’s a loud clicking noise as opened vents close, and closed vents open.

Studying the vents ahead, they pick a path, keeping track of when a vent will open or close, and trying to plan their route accordingly. A few more hops and the human lands on a bare island without any unavoidable, vent altering buttons.

“I think this is as far as I can go without messing up the last vent!” they yell through cupped hands at her. “Now you try triggering a button!”

“On it! St-stand by!” Stepping on the vent, Alphys squats, ready to take a leap of faith. Below her the pressure of the trapped steam builds until it threatens to burst.

Three… two… one…

With an explosive push, Alphys springs into the air and lands square on the nearest switch. The click echoes through the room.

“Okay! Now I’m gonna go!” her patient alerts her, and jumps on the next vent. They jump again, and then Alphys jumps, and they jump one more time, and-

“It worked!” The human whoops, landing on the other side. They turn around just in time to catch Alphys making it to the other side as well.

Feeling like they could take on anything, the human blazes ahead into the next room where a circular conveyor belt spans a gap and three buttons lay in wait along its side.

“I know this puzzle, too,” Alphys says. “All three switches have to be pressed within a few seconds of one another, but they’re way too spaced out for one monster to hit all at once.”

“Good thing there’s more than one monster, huh?” The kid winks at her. “I think I can hit the last two. Do you think you can hit the first one?”

“Certainly!” The scientist enthuses. “Go on three?”

It takes the pair two tries to get their timing down, but they get it right on their third go. The human roars in triumph and Alphys can’t help but give a little cheer herself. Their confidence is contagious. Together, she felt like they could do anything.

Puzzles conquered, they steadily continue forward. The platforms wind and twist into an incline, up further and further towards the next shadowy ceiling, until another stage set shrouded in darkness lays before them.

“This has ‘trap’ written all over it,” Alphys says.

“If you know it’s there…” the kid says sagely. “Is it still a trap? Or is it a dare?” They rub their hands together in anticipation, bright sparks leaping from their fingertips. “I say we make a break for it. Maybe if we’re fast enough, he won’t catch us.”

“A-alright,” Alphys gulps. “Go on three?”

“Yeah! Just like before!”

Alphys can’t help but smile. It was startling how quickly she and the human learned to work together and how cooperative they were. She’d have to remember to write that down after they escaped Mettaton’s next “trap.”

“Okay. O-on Three,” the doctor says, bracing themselves to sprint. “One!”

“Two!”

“Three!”

Putting on a burst of speed, the scientist and human make a run for it in the total dark, trusting the other to stay by their side.

The hum of the laser is all the warning she gets, and she puts on the breaks, grabbing the human’s sleeve in the pitch black to make them do the same.

“Stop!” She warns, just as a dozen vertical blue lasers cut through the darkness, inches from the kid’s face.

“Quick! Retreat!” The human shouts, and tries to make a break to the left, but either the lasers sense their movement, or they were too slow, because blue lasers come to life on their sides and behind them, cutting off any route of escape. Then, from within the box of lasers itself another row of beams slice the air between the monster and human, separating them into their own cells.

“Alphys!” The human cries, trying to reach out to her. The lasers snap at them with a scolding pop of electricity when they try to touch the beams, and the human pulls back, shaking their hand furiously to rid their fingers of the biting sting.

“D-don’t move!” Alphys tells them. “As long as you stay still, the lasers can’t hurt you!”

There’s a familiar booming sound of stage lights turning on, and suddenly the endless darkness is replaced with blinding light.

“Grab your sledgehammers and sawhorses, because it’s time for D.I.Y. Darling!” A voice says over a musical track. “Here’s your host and computer-slash-carpenter! Mettaton!”

Alphys blinks repeatedly until the spots vanish from her vision and she takes in her surroundings. Once again three walls boarder the stage, but instead of being filled with children’s toys, the walls are lined with carpenter tools and crafting supplies. Circle saws, blow torches, wrenches, screw drivers and hammers hang on the walls in neat organized rows from biggest to smallest. Rows of drawers labeled with construction paper, googly eyes, safety scissors and glue sticks line the back wall. A giant pile of saw dust sits between a dangerous looking wood chipper and an industrial sized vat of glitter. Cans of paint are stacked in a pyramid next to a giant bin filled with a hodgepodge of nails, washers, nuts and bolts. Good god, it was like an unholy hybrid of a woodshop and a child’s craft corner in here.

Polite, organic applause plays from the sidelines. Alphys blinks in surprise. Did Mettaton really have a live studio audience this time? And for a D.I.Y show?? Who did he bribe?

“Welcome back, beauties and gentle beauties,” Mettaton says, rolling onto the set. “Today on D.I.Y. Darling we have two very special guests; my dear friend, the brilliant, Doctor Alphys and the underground’s newest celebrity boss monster!” There’s more applause, this time a little more excited than the first. “Today’s episode’s sponsored product is the MTT-brand home security system, guaranteed to catch any crook attempting to break in, or house guest trying to break out without saying goodbye first! As my dear friend Doctor Alphys and her companion have demonstrated, this product works on all monsters, even boss monsters!”

A neon sign out of sight of the camera directs the audience to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’.

“That’s right, beauties and gentle beauties! Call in right now and you can get the MTT-brand home security system today for the low price of two ninety-nine gold, or find it in any retail store near you for three ninety-nine!”

“Okay, okay, you proved your point and caught us,” the human grumbles. “Now let us go!”

“Not so fast, sweetheart!” Mettaton scolds. “Those were just the sponsors! The real show hasn’t even begun!”

Pushing a button on his chassis, the lasers of their cages switch from blue to white and begin to shift, separating the pair and forcing them to move forward or be zapped by the electricity. Alphys can see their prisons are moving towards two ominous red “X”s, and swallows. Sure, the Xs could simply be used for stage directing, but her hopes weren’t high.

As if on cue, shackles spring from trap doors on the floor once they’re over their targets, and clamp around their ankles, chaining them in place. Once secured, the lasers switch off.

“What-?”

Distracted by the ankle cuff, Alphys doesn’t notice Mettaton swoop in behind her until he’s confiscated her backpack from right off her shoulders.

“Hey!”

“Sorry, darling!” Mettaton says completely unapologetically as he wheels out of reach. “We can’t have any unauthorized equipment in this workshop! You can get it back after the show ends, which is to say, never!”

Beside her, the human grunts and growls as they struggle to get the shackle off their leg. Mettaton watches for a second before pressing a button in his chassis to play a laugh track on his speakers.

“An admirable attempt, darling, but save your energy for the show! Without Alphys’ little gadgets, there’s no way you can hack your way out of this trap. Not that you could even if she did have her little gadgets! There’s no substitute for good ol’ reliable steel chains!”

With their feet shackled, a new trap door opens in front of them, and a carpenter’s work bench rises from its depths. Across its top, hammers, nails and pieces of wood in various sizes and shapes are strewn before them. Mettaton turns back to the camera.

“This week on D.I.Y. Darling, we will be continuing our series on functional décor by building a classic; a bird house! It’s fun for family and friends of all ages!”

“Let us go, Mettaton,” Alphys warns him. “You can’t keep us here forever!”

“Oh, but darling, I can!” The robot says sweetly. “You two are going to help me build the most extravagant things! Vanity mirrors that only reflect images of my face! Coffee tables in my likeness with matching coaster set! Bureaus in my form! Wood! Marble! Metal! We’ll D.I.Y. it all!”

“And if we refuse?”

Mettaton picks up a handsaw and studies his reflection in it. “Oh, I know you won’t,” he says menacingly. “Trust me.”

“If we build your dumb bird house, will you let us go?” the human asks.

“Why, of course not!” Mettaton says cheerfully. “I’ve learned my lesson last time! Never make deals with royal scientists or their little boss monster friends. They’ll just find a loophole to get out of it, or worse, they’ll trap you inside a force field while they break their end of the bargain!”

“But Mettaton! This isn’t fair!”

“Where in the law is it written that it has to be fair, Alphys? Hm?”

“Well, what about being a good sport?”

“Alphys, darling, this is my D.I.Y. show. Sports are on channel seventy-two and I won’t be filming that block for at least another month when sports come back into season again. Now, if you’re done with your interruptions, I must make sure that the watchers at home have all the necessary supplies if they wish to build along with us. Darlings at home, before you begin, make sure you have all the following items…”

While Mettaton is busy listing off all the materials, Alphys takes the moment’s distraction to talk to the human.

“D-don’t panic. I’ve got a plan. I-I’m going to pick the locks on our ankle cuffs while he’s not looking and get us out of here. You just by me some time like you did before.”

The human nods once, short and quick.

“Ready folks?” Mettaton asks the crowd. They cheer obediently.

“And are my lovely assistants ready as well?”

“I guess it looks like we don’t have much of a choice!” the human over exaggerates, flinging their arms wide in despair. “It looks like you’ve truly out witted us this time Mettaton. I will build a bird house with you.”

“Excellent! Let us get started!” Mettaton rolls up to the table, taking his place at the end, with the human between him and Alphys. His case buzzes and chirps as it begins to print out a mile long blue print and instruction sheet that nearly covers the entire work table.

“First step lovelies, find the two pentagon pieces and set them aside…”

The human scratchers their head. Watching Mettaton, they try to copy his steps. Alphys pretends to do the same, waiting for an opportunity to make her next move.

As discretely as she can, Alphys pockets a nail and picks up her hammer. The human looks at her out of the corner of their eye, and Alphys nods at them ever so slightly. Then she “accidentally” drops the hammer. A second later and she yowls in legitimate pain while hopping on one foot.

“Alphys! Sweetheart! Are you alright?” Mettaton cuts off his speech to address her directly.

“O-oh! Y-yes, I’m fine! I’ve j-just got butter fingers is all! Don’t mind me, I just dropped my hammer. I’ll just… I’ll just pick that up now.”

Flushing with embarrassment, Alphys sinks to the floor and rubs her smarting foot. While she had intentionally knocked the hammer off the table top to give her an excuse to duck beneath the counter, she certainly hadn’t meant for it to hit her. Oh well. Better to just roll with it. Maybe if everyone thought she was too embarrassed now to show her face, she’d get away with a little extra time under the counter.

Taking a deep breath, Alphys takes out the nail from her pocket and inspects the lock on her ankle. Mettaton hadn’t been lying; these cuffs weren’t any fancy computer controlled digital locks, just the plain old tumbler and bolt kind.

Actually, it was even simpler than that- it was really just a simple hook and latch covered in metal so it looked more complicated, but if one knew where the secret button was hidden, that when pressed, lifted the hook from the latch causing the shackle to fall apart, someone could escape in a matter of seconds.

Still, Alphys pretended to pick the decoy lock on the outside of her cuff while the human continued to build with Mettaton, and the camera crews filmed.

“Alright beauties at home, our next step is to assemble the roof. You will find two asymmetrical rectangular pieces labeled “roof”. Make sure the slightly wider piece overlaps the smaller, and nail them together at each corner…”

While the cameras roll, Alphys' thoughts drift back to what Sans had said. What was she going to do after the kid conquered all her and Mettaton’s silly tests? The kid has been incredibly nice to everyone, especially her. Could she really just… betray them like that at the end of the day? Oh, what would it matter? She’s already lied so much to so many, she’d disappointed and let down and angered so many people. What would the human hating her as well change? Not like it mattered. After the human went to the king, all monsters would be free. Who would have time to worry about hating her then?

“Alright lovelies at home, we have now finished the bird house! But we can’t give these plain barren homes to potential birds! Let’s add some artistic detail to give it a little flair!” Mettaton says.

Alphys glances at her watch. Okay, they were about half way done, so it was time to stop pretending to mess with her lock and switch over to the human’s.

“And what better way than to add a little flare than with some actual fire!”

Above her head, a jet of fire magic roasts the air and a chorus of gasps and “aaahs” echo from the crowd. Alphys pauses for a moment to get a peek of the commotion.

Beside the human, Mettaton has his bird house raised high above his head in one hand while his other hand conjures fire magic to burn intricate designs into the wood. Tongues of flame gently graze over the surface, delicately scorching their pattern with precision and intent as the magic fire bends to the robot’s will. When the flames die down, Mettaton lowers his arm to reveal the finished product. The live studio audience erupts into cheers. Even Alphys has to admit she’s impressed. While every face of the bird house has a picture of Mettaton in some ridiculous pose, each one is incredibly detailed, right down to his rivets. The use of shades and tones is impeccable, and the edges are bordered with rose patterns, complete with tiny thorns.

“Thank you! Thank you!” Mettaton bows. “But don’t use up all your applause just yet! That was just a little show of a common monster’s fire magic. I’ve heard boss monster magic is something truly to behold! What do you say, gorgeous? Care to show us your skill?”

Under the table, Alphys’ breath quickens. What luck! This test was originally just to observe the human’s logical puzzle solving skills. She hadn’t anticipated capturing their magical aptitude as well. Was she truly going to see the human’s magical prowess up close? They had reported being able to do fire magic on her questionnaire, but she could hardly believe the claim. All her research on humans had said otherwise. Now she’d really know for certain.

“Y-you want me to show you my fire magic?” the human blinks, taken off guard.

“Indubitably!” Mettaton says. “Surely your talent far surpasses anything we normal monsters could ever hope to achieve! We would love to get a glimpse of such splendor! Please darling! Dazzle us!”

Apprehensively, the human looks at their bird house. They visibly swallow.

“I like my bird house how it is.” They say. “I don’t really want to decorate it.”

“Ah, yes. Minimalistic is very in style right now,” Mettaton agrees. “How trite of me to ask you to embellish a simple bird house. But we have to give the people what they want, darling! A full grandiose display of your magic power!”

“I-I don’t want to seem like a show off,” the human resists.

“Nonsense, darling! No need to be modest and hide something as simple as fire magic! That is… unless you can’t DO fire magic…”

“I can do fire magic,” the human says hotly. “It’s just that… I’m not that practiced and I’ve never tried to light anything thicker than a branch before…”

“Then now’s the perfect time to try, darling! Give it your all!”

“O-okay,” The human stutters, stalling for time. Glancing at Alphys, they beg her to hurry up with their eyes, but Alphys pretends not to see.

Pushed into a corner with no way out, they swallow and face the live audience. They raise their arms wide apart and squeeze their eyes shut.

“H-here I go! Ready! One…! Two…! Three!”

With a massive clap, sparks fly like a blown fuse and rain down on their bird house, but not one ember even discolors the wood. The human, already grimacing in despair, opens one eye. The crowd stares at them, some in confusion, some in disappointment, and several in pity.

“Hm! That didn’t seem to work,” Mettaton notes. “Ah! I see the problem! These gloves are blocking your power! Here, let me take care of those,” Mettaton says taking the mittens off the human’s hands.

“H-hey! Stop! I need those!”

“Whatever for, darling? Boss monsters don’t need silly clothing for magic. Though I must say white gloves are all the rage!” Mettaton points finger guns at them to show off his own gloved hands.

The human tries to jump up and grab their gloves back, but the chain on their ankle holds them fast as Mettaton dangles them tauntingly out of reach, and Alphys has to jerk her hands back to avoid her fingers being stamped on.

“What’s the holdup darling? Stage fright? Performance anxiety? Or perhaps… is boss monster magic not all it’s cracked up to be? Or! What’s this? Have we just exposed a boss monster who can’t cast magic? Oh, it is isn’t it! That’s a title for the papers tomorrow!”

“Alright, you caught me,” the human’s voice hitches as their face grows red and their eyes well with tears. They manage to swipe their gloves back, and pull them on before hiding their hands in their crossed arms. “So I can’t do fire magic, or any kind of magic on my own. Happy now?”

“It’s alright, darling! We understand! Not every monster can perform magic tricks. In fact…” Mettaton leans in close. “You know who else can’t perform magic?”

Alphys sharply looks up. Where was Mettaton going with this?

“Uhh…” the human eyes him wearily, also lost with where this was headed.

“Why, our dear acquaintance Doctor Alphys!”

Mettaton pushes a button on his chassis and the work table Alphys had been hiding behind lowers back into the ground, exposing her and her lock picking. The crowd gasps in shock.

Uh-oh. The jig was up.

“What’s this?!” Mettaton gasps, dramatically throwing an arm across the top row of his screens where his forehead would be. “Alphys?! Are you trying to escape!?”

“N-not trying! Succeeding!” Alphys says, stalling no longer and unlocking the human’s cuff. “Run for it!”

The human springs, not needing to be told twice. Mettaton spins around, revving up his wheel ready to give chase, but before he can floor it, Alphys clamps the shackle on his exposed axel. Mettaton lurches forward, only to fall flat on his face.

Alphys hops over him, but turns back in concern when she hears him crash.

“Oh, geez, Mettaton are you okay?” She whispers.

“I’m fine, darling! I’m fine! It’s all part of the act! Now go! Go! The camera’s still rolling and I have to make this look convincing!”

“Alphys hurry! He’s probably got the key!” the human reminds her when they get to the other end of the stage. “We gotta get out of here before he breaks loose!”

“O-on it!” Alphys says catching up to them.

“Blast! Foiled again by the great Doctor Alphys! You have bested me this time, darling! But like star crossed lovers, our paths will meet again! Until next time beautiful!”

The human doesn’t wait around to hear the end of Mettaton’s speech. As soon as Alphys catches up to them, they take off running without looking back.

Chapter Text

The path after Mettaton’s stage continues to slope upward in a gentle counterclockwise spiral. You only slow down when you can’t see Mettaton’s set anymore, and stop completely when you realize doctor Alphys has fallen behind. Coming to a halt, you wait for her to catch up.

You hear her before you see her, panting and gasping as she jogs up the incline.

“There… there you are…” she wheezes. “Can we take… a five minute break? I can’t… I can’t catch my breath.”

You nod and find a spot close to the edge to sit for a moment. Alphys all but collapses next to you in a puddle of sweat.

“Thank you!” she moans.

You keep look out while Alphys struggles to get her breathing back under control. You don’t doubt Mettaton could be chasing you. Remembering the items around the work shop, including the blow torches and fully functioning circle saws, you doubt the ankle cuff wouldn’t hold him back for very long. His promise of crossing paths again didn’t feel like an empty threat either. Looking at your track record so far, with one more floor to go you had a feeling that as soon as your back was turned, Mettaton would be preparing another trap and lying in wait up ahead once more.

You can’t see the stage any more, and you haven’t spotted a single bolt or screw of the robot, but for all you know he could have taken off on some other hidden path you don’t know about, or one that was only accessible to rectangular shaped robots, or heck, he could have just blasted off on that rocket booster of his. As far as you know, he could be ten steps ahead of you already.

You sigh, trying to take your mind of the meddlesome robot, and take in your surroundings instead. You’re insanely high off the ground now. The vast magma lake below you looks like nothing more than a puddle. Most of it is obscured by the shadowy levels beneath you, though its intense heat still wafts up and envelops you like a heavy blanket you can’t shake off.

Being so up high does have its perks though. Up here you can see more of Hotland that’s been carved into the volcanoes’ walls, and there are several gaping holes on the west side of the mountain where you can catch glimpses of the starry ceilings of Waterfall. You still can’t see the castle of New Home yet. That’s still somewhere above you, but to remember you caught a glimpse of it only yesterday through the opposite end of one of these very tunnels reinvigorates you with newfound courage to keep pushing on when you realize how much ground you have truly covered.

While Waterfall can be gleamed from the southwest, a new structure comes into view to the northeast and you squint your eyes to try and make sense of it. In the distance a giant metal behemoth sits in a lake of lava with massive twisting pipes and cylinders ominously lit by the magma from below. The longer you watch it the more mesmerizing it becomes as pistons and pumps expand and contract with the pulse of the glowing lava. Even from where you stand you can hear the machine’s steady intake of air as it whistles and hisses as if it were alive. Whatever that thing is, it’s absolutely huge, and that’s saying something seeing as you’re still well away from it. You never knew monsters could construct something so gigantic.

“Y-you alright?” Alphys asks you after her breathing is regulated again. “You got really quiet and were just staring off into the distance.”

“Hey Alphys? What’s that machine in the distance?” You ask without taking your eyes off of it.

“Oh that? Th-that’s the CORE. It provides power to all of the Underground by transforming geothermal energy into magical electricity. It sits right under New Home.”

“So we have to go through that to get to the capital?”

“Y-yeah! B-but only the upper level so don’t be afraid. It’s very stable. The last elevator is in there.”

“Speaking of elevators, looks like we’ve reached the west one.” You point out, nodding at the lift waiting for you at the end of the path.

“Great! This one will take us to the third level which is where we need to go to get to the CORE. We’ll still need to cross most of that floor to get there. Hopefully we can before Mettaton notices.”

You board the elevator and push the button for the third floor. It raises you up with a delighted ping and lets you out on the west wing with no troubles this time. Already you can feel a noticeable difference in the air. The ceiling is lower, and everything around you is covered in... Cobwebs?

“Well, I’m glad that elevator is still in working order,” Alphys says. “Come on, we need to keep heading northeast to get to the CORE.”

You follow along after Alphys, down the corridor. The entire level is made of steel girders and crossbeams with no natural rock reaching this high. Further down the road a picnic table with a red and white checkerboard table cloth is stationed in the middle of the path; a sign is taped to the front with the words “Spider Bake Sale” written in magic marker on the front.

“Uh oh,” Alphys mumbles when she spies the booth up ahead. “W-word of warning; keep your head down and whatever you do, don’t make eye contact with the spiders,” she tells you, grabbing your wrist. “Quick, t-try to get past the table before they notice us.”

“Spiders?” You echo hopefully, your memories of your eight-legged friends in the Ruins lifting your heart. You hadn’t seen a spider in ages, and the thought of finding something to remind you of home fills you with longing. Resisting Alphys’ hand, you turn to get a closer look at the stand. Just one little peek at the bake sale wouldn’t take too long. Just for memory’s sake.

Hearing your voice, a spider no bigger than your pinky finger’s nail pops up over the edge of the table, skitters to the center and waves you over.

“Hello dearies!” it squeaks at the top of its tiny voice. “Can I interest you in a spider pastry? It’s made by spiders, for spiders, and of spiders! All proceeds to towards helping real spiders in need!”

“Of course!” you smile.

“Oh, n-now you’ve done it,” Alphys whines apprehensively, but you ignore her. You’ve deduced by now that Alphys is the nervous type, but even this seems a little extreme. They’re just harmless little spiders. Why was she so antsy?

You look over their inventory, and fond memories of your arachnid friends back in the Ruins come to your mind when you spot the familiar spider donuts and spider cider. This bake sale is far more impressive and has a wider variety of food, including spider croissants, spider coffee, spider tea, spider cookies and spider cupcakes. You’re half way to reaching for your money when you catch sight of the prices of all the items and nearly have a heart attack. Each item is priced insanely high, at over nine thousand gold for just one pastry.

“Oh no, I can’t afford any of this,” You tell the spider.

“No worries, dearie!” The little spider sings. “Most monsters can’t afford our delicacies, but they still do their part by leaving a tip! Would you care to make a donation instead? Even a single gold piece helps our cause! Though we much prefer your donation be all the contents of your wallet! Hehehe!”

“Sure, it’s the least I can do,” you smile, fishing for your loose change. “I really wanted to try some of the snacks I’ve never seen before. If only I had my coupon I got on my birthday.”

“What!? Coupon!?” the tiny spider shrieks at the top of its little lungs, its mood instantly flipping from friendly to furious. “Blasphemy! None of our locations would dare stoop to such low marketing tactics! You! Wait here! I need to fetch my manager to interrogate you!” With that, the tiny arachnid scurries off in a puff of rage.

“C’mon, we need to get out of here before the spider comes back, or we’ll become the secret ingredient in her next batch of brownies!” Alphys tells you.

“But I wanted to talk to more of the spiders!” you protest.

“The sooner you get home, the sooner you can talk to all the spiders you want, right?” Alphys argues. She had a point, you hate to admit. Pulling on your arm insistently, you have no choice but to follow her away from the stand and further into the third floor.

Before long the maroon floors fade away back to the rusty iron red of Hotland. The air gets damp and humid again. Following Alphys over a rise in the platforms, you’re greeted with a field of pipes crisscrossing the canyon in front of you like a giant grid. Vents pop up in odd angles, facing nearly every which way, as if someone decided to just place one in a segment of the pipe when they needed it in the moment. There’s no clear direction across and if you’re not careful, you could easily fall through the gap in the pipes down to the level below, through there’s no guarantee you’d land in one piece.

“Um... ah… I don’t see a clear way across,” Alphys says, standing on the tips of her claws and squinting through the steaming mists. “B-but if we work together I know we’ll find a way over!”

You nod in agreement and boldly make the first leap then head to the north, following the only path available. You pause on the third block; this tiny islet has two paths to choose form.

“Which way do you think we should go?” you ask Alphys when she joins you.

“Hmm. W-well the north vent looks like a dead end,” she says, studying the block to your left. “That island only has one vent pointing straight back here. L-let's go south.”

You turn to the south and hop across two vents, where the path splits again.

“East or west?”

“West looks like it’ll take us back to the beginning. Let’s try east.”

You head east, and you keep heading east, and by some dumb luck you make it all the way across. The path that follows curves up, taking you directly into the wall of the mountain, but the road is blocked by a pair of very familiar looking steel doors.

You study the barricade, their flashing red Xs mocking you. But just like with the first doors on the first floor, two trails of lights lead from the insignias and back to the vent room, where they then branch off with one string of red lights going north, and the other heading south.

“I bet the keys to unlock these doors are whereever these lights go,” you say, pointing to the clue. You turn to the royal scientist. “Looks like we’ve got more puzzles to solve. Ready?”

“R-right! Let’s do this!”

Another puzzle, another detour. You try as hard as you can to not let the roadblock dampen your spirits, but you can’t help but wonder how much time you are wasting as you are forced to backtrack to unlock these doors. There’s no doubt in your mind Mettaton was the one who sealed them, just another obstacle to slow you down and give him a chance to get the jump on you. Whatever he had planned in store for you, you wouldn’t let him take you by surprise this time.

It looks like you’re not the only one who’d successfully made it across the vents only to be thwarted by the barriers of iron. Following the trail of lights, you find yourself in a room north of the vents with two other monsters in front of a puzzle console.

“What mystery is this?” an orange toad with spiked skin that resembled flames remarks to his companion. “I cannot recall the doors ever being closed before. Have you, Whimsalot?”

“I have not,” A smaller insect-like monster comments. “Courage, Final Froggit! We will find a way through! We just have to solve this puzzle to unlock them!”

Wait, Whimsalot? Final Froggit? You know these guys! They’re Whimsun’s and Froggit’s cousins! Excitedly you run up to them with Alphys close behind.

“Hey! Hi there!” you greet them. “Did I hear your names were Whimsalot and final Froggit?”

“Oh, a newcomer,” the frog monster says curiously. “Yes, that is us. And you are?”

“I’m Chara!” you introduce yourself. “I’m friends with your family in the Ruins!”

“Oh! We’ve heard of you!” Whimsalot says. “A special child with a kind soul and puzzle solver, too. Do you think you can find the solution to open the doors in the other room? We think it must have something to do with these box puzzles.”

“Ah, these sliding box puzzles,” Final Froggit croaks in annoyance. “I was never good at these.”

“Have faith!” Whimsalot tells him. “With four heads we can surely solve this!”

The four of you gather around the screen and study the block puzzle. There is only one bullet to shoot the opposing ship. You stare at the screen for a long time without touching the controller, mapping out the boxes in your head and where they will move. All the while your party tries to offer you advice.

“My family has said there is an ancient code that can be used to solve any puzzle. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, start.” Final Froggit says.

“But this controller doesn’t have half those buttons!” Whimsalot points out.

“That is my point exactly! How can this ultimate code solve every puzzle if you can’t even input the entire thing? Feel free to try newcomer, but if the ultimate code can’t solve it, then I doubt it can be solved at all.”

“Shoosh!” you hush them so they stop their bickering. “I think I got it.”

Everyone watches you as you place your hand on the controller and make your first move.

You push the joystick once to the left… then once to the right, and the pathway is clear. You fire and hit the opposite ship.

You look back at your crew in triumph. Final Froggit looks mystified, Whimsalot looks impressed, Alphys looks stunned. The trail of red lights switches to green, and an audible clicking noise can be heard in the distance of a heavy dead bolt sliding out of place.

“It only takes two moves to solve this puzzle?” the Froggit asks. “I have… a lot to learn from this world still.” With that, he hops off without saying goodbye.

“Excuse us,” Whimsalot says. “I will console him. He does not mean to be rude; he is just… easily amazed. Go on without us. We will see you again on the other side of the door.”

You part ways as Final Froggit and Whimsalot head back to the door and you and Alphys head south to the one remaining puzzle.

The path curves downward and ends before a moving sidewalk lined with lasers. A grumpy looking one-eyed monster stands before the conveyor belt, frowning in annoyance.

“Uh oh,” Alphys whispers to you. “That’s Astigmatism.”

“Are they aggressive?” you ask.

“No, they’re just really mean bullies. But we’d better watch out. With Astigmatisms it’s always ‘my way or the highway!’”

“Got it. Pardon us,” you clear your throat to get the monster’s attention. Astigmatism turns your way and narrows its singular eye. “Sorry to bother you, but may we pass? We need to get to the terminal to unlock the door in the other room.”

“If you can figure out how to turn off the lasers, be my guest.” The monster grumbles. “I’ve been stuck on this side of the lasers all day. My house is in the cavern that branches off on the next road, but I can’t go home until these things are deactivated.”

“Deactivated? But aren’t these lasers safe if you just stop and go at the right time? Why don’t you just walk through them?”

“Bud, do you know how damaging lasers are to your retinas? You might be fine with your measly eyeballs, but I would be ASKING for eye damage if I tried to cross this, and there’s absolutely NO WAY I’m gonna try to cross it with my eyes closed.”

You hum, seeing their point and consider your options. “Hm. Alphys, do you think you can deactivate these lasers like you did with the first ones?”

“Sure thing! Let me just get my tools from my- my backpack!!” Alphys reaches behind her only to grab empty air. “Oh no! I must’ve left it behind on Mettaton’s last stage set. Oh, I’m so sorry!”

“Hey, it’s okay,” you pat her on the shoulder. “We can still do this the old-fashioned way.”

“But you were counting on me, a-and I’ve let you down!”

“Alphys, accidents happen. Besides, didn’t you say there’s another way to get past the lasers?”

“Y-yeah, move through the orange lasers, and stand still for the blue ones.”

“Okay, we’ll just do that, then.” You decide and turn back to Astigmatism. “So it looks like we can’t turn the lasers off, but what if we help you through them?”

“Oh yeah? And how do you propose we do that?” Astigmatism asks suspiciously.

“You’ll hold our hands and close your eye. When we say ‘go’, you walk with us, and when we say ‘stop’, you hold still. We can guide you through the lasers and you won’t risk eye damage.”

“Okay, I see where you’re going with this, no pun intended, but how can I trust you won’t tell me the wrong direction on purpose?”

“Because then we could get hit too,” Alphys points out. “A-all three of us will go together at the same time, th-that way you know we’re all taking the same risk.”

“Hmm,” Astigmatism mulls it over. “Well, four eyes looking out for me sure does sound a lot better than one. Okay. I’ll go with you. But you better not let me be hit!”

“We’ll do our best,” you assure Astigmatism. You offer your hand and Astigmatism takes it. Alphys slips hers into Astigmatism’s other hand and the one-eyed monster takes a deep breath before closing their lid. “I’m ready.”

“Okay, first up is an orange laser. We have to walk through it. Let’s go.”

A tense minute of stopping, starting and even a little back pedaling later, the three of you successfully make it across the laser field without a single scratch.

“Heh heh, thanks kid.” Astigmatism grins with a wide unsettling smile. “You’re alright. And I’ll be sure to carry an extra pair of sunglasses on me the next time I leave the house. SEE you around.”


“Take care!” The human says, waving farewell to the Astigmatism. Alphys watches them and smiles with affection. For once she doesn’t feel bad about losing her notes. This human, no this child, this friend of hers is just so genuinely kind to everyone they meet, and the thought of writing it down on a lab report never even crosses her mind.

The last remaining block puzzle turns out to be no challenge for them as well. She didn’t doubt it would be. Her new young friend was far smarter than she gave them credit for. It was time she stopped underestimating them.

--

When the pair passes through the unlocked doors, there’s a noticeable change in the air temperature as the surrounding air goes from absolutely sweltering to only mildly unbearable. The road ahead curves away from the volcanoes’ main conduit and into a vent shaft. Immediately the walls close back in to their claustrophobic shape, and the ever present fear of accidentally falling off the many suspended bridges down to one’s death vanishes with nice solid ground firmly reinforced under their feet.

It’s noticeably darker here too, with no soft warm glow of magma surrounding them on all sides to give them at least a little light. The air is also still and musty and it smells like cobwebs.

In the dim light it’s hard to make out any details clearly, so it’s no surprise when the child runs face-first in to a spider web.

“Ugh, there are a lot of spider webs in here,” they complain.

“Yeah, this is the spider parlor. Watch your step, or you’ll never hear the end of it from their leader.”

Sputtering, the kid swipes their sleeve over their face to wipe the offending tendrils off, only to swing their arm into a thicker, stronger spider web on their left.

“What the…?” The human peels their arm out of the sticky silk with some effort and stumbles back, only to trip over into a pile of spider silk carpeting the floor.

“Uh, Alphys? C-can I have some help?” they ask, straining to get their feet unstuck from the floor.

“H-here! Grab my hand!” Alphys says reaching out. They grab her wrist and pull against her. While the two of them struggle to get unstuck, Alphys could have sworn she heard a girlish giggle faintly from above. Scales standing on end, Alphys pulls harder.

With a massive heave, the human finally gets their foot unstuck. Brushing off the last of the silken threads, the two come to a halt. It may be hard to see, but even in the dim light Alphys can make out the path in front of them is completely obscured by spider webs.

“Oh man. Is there any other way around?”

“Unfortunately not unless we go back all the way to the other elevator,” Alphys says. “This is strange. I’ve never seen the spiders completely cover the tunnel like this before. It’s gonna be impossible to go through this without disturbing at least a few webs W-we’ll just have to do our best and minimize the damage. K-keep your eyes out for the spiders, though! I-if we step on one, their leader will never forgive us.”

Keeping her head low, Alphys forges ahead, trying to touch as few spider webs as possible. The corridor is so clogged with them that sometimes she has no choice but to rip right through the middle of one. Each cobweb the two pass through drapes over them like a blanket, clinging to them with its microscopic fingers, dragging them down and tangling their legs bit by bit while it reaches out with its sticky gossamer threads to grab on to even more webs in close proximity. Alphys and the human walk in single file, trying to keep the destruction to a minimum, but it is a futile effort.

In the distance, something laughs. A shadow crosses the ceiling.

“Did you hear that?” The child whispers to the scientist.

“Oh god. I-I think that’s the spider matriarch. W-we gotta hurry!”

Alphys tries to put on a burst of speed, but the spider silk has built up so much on her that it trails behind her tail as thick as a rope. The human trips and falls, their feet thoroughly ensnared.

“Ahuhuhu~” a spritely voice hisses. “Did you hear what they said?”

“Come on! Come on!” Alphys urges as they try to yank their foot free.

“I’m trying! I’m trying!” they grunt back, but they may as well been trying to get out of quicksand.

“Huhuhuhu~ I heard a new Boss Monster was in the Underground.”

Without warning, the human’s foot snaps free of the spider webs, sending them barreling into Alphys knocking them both forward into another pitfall of cobwebs.

“I heard they were trying to cheat us out of a sale.”

Managing to right herself, Alphys reaches her hand out and the human does the same.

“I hear they’re super stuck-up and think they’re too good to help a little spider in need.”

Their fingers grab at the air, too far apart to reach her, and she vainly tries to reach for them, but before she can move an inch, hundreds of spiders descend on them both and begin to cocoon the two in silk. Wolf spiders, orb weavers, tarantulas, huntsmen, black widows, birdeaters, recluses and dozens more race over them, spinning silk faster than the eye could see. Alphys tries to scream for help, but the spiders quickly gag her with a mouth full of silk.

Alph-!” The kid tries to shout her name before being gagged themselves.

“I heard they wanted to use a coupon for a discount.”

With a yank from an invisible hand, her arms are pinned to her sides, and her legs are pulled out from beneath her.

“I heard…” swaddled so tight, there’s barely room to breathe. The spiders work swiftly, encasing her whole body up to her neck. Just when she thinks they’re going to swarm them both alive, they suddenly retreat as she’s hoisted into the air by her ankles alongside the child.

“… that they tried to run off without making a donation.”

Swinging, upside down, Alphys bumps into the human like a pendulum and rotates slowly in the air. When they make one complete rotation, Alphys finds herself eye to eye with the biggest spider she’s ever seen in her life.

The human yelps out of pure surprise, but the sound is muffled by the mouthpiece. They were not expecting her to be only millimeters from their face, and what’s more, she appears to be upside down like them. Her skin is a pale purple, her five eyes are black as onyx and her fangs glisten with what Alphys can only hope is tea and not venom.

The spider giggles at their fright and retracts a bit to give the two some space.

“My subordinates informed me you’ve been spreading rumors about fictitious promotional stunts to slander my company’s name, and then you left after directly being ordered to wait so a manager could investigate these claims.”

Alphys tunes the spider matriarch out. From far below a more horrible noise has seized her attention; a gurgling hiss and the sharp tapping of eight very large legs echoes up to her. Twisting her head back as far as she can, she pales as a giant half-spider, half-muffin abomination creeps into sight beneath her, its maw gaping wide and salivating in anticipation.

The human doesn’t seem to notice their doom below at all. They’re staring wide-eyed at the spider before them and trying to say something through their mouthpiece.

“Well, what do you have to say to your defense before I feed you to my pet for such atrocious lies?”

They to mumble through their gag, but it only comes out as muffled grunts.

“Oops! Let me get that for you dearie~”

The spider swings forward on her tether and rips the webs covering their mouths off like a band-aid.

Alphys lets out a blood-curdling scream. The kid, on the other hand, lets out shout of joy.

“Muffet!”

“Oh? So you’ve heard of me, dearie? Strange that you know my name but would still try to swindle us. C'est la vie. I will just have to show you how we deal with cheapskates. Allow me to introduce you to my pet. He just loves meeting stingy customers.”

With a lurch, their tethers begin to lower at an alarming speed.

“Muffet, it’s me! Chara!” The human blurts out, as the gaping mouth of the horrific abominable muffin below comes into sharp focus. “Your pen pal from the Ruins!”

The line lowering them jerks to a halt and the muffin monster below snaps his jaws closed over empty air.

Like reeling in a fishing line, Muffet pulls them back up, and looks at the human, her five eyes wide as saucers.

“Say that again?”

“It’s me, Chara! You know the one you trade recipes with?”

“Chara?” she gasps, disbelieving. They nod vigorously. Muffet’s face breaks out into an enormous grin.

“Chara! Mon chéri! My best and most loyal customer! I have been waiting years to meet you face to face!”

Her many arms grab and flip them right side up as she delicately untangles them from their cocoon. Letting out a girly squeak of delight, she kisses them on both cheeks and begins to speak rapidly. Alphys is all but ignored, still hanging in the air.

“Chara, mon ami! I have dreamed of this day for years, though I never thought we’d ever meet! The recipes you’ve given me have been some of the most successful one I’ve ever sold! (Though I did modify them to include extra spiders, huhuhu!) What happened to you dearie? You stopped writing me! I haven’t heard from you in almost a week!” The question must have been rhetorical because she doesn’t give the human time to answer before launching into another monologue of her own. “Dearie, I must apologize on behalf of my employees if they gave you any trouble! I know you would never try to skimp on us! Though I will have a talk to the bake sale operation in the Ruins about running the usage of coupons by me before they go passing them out.”

“It’s okay! Really! I would have bought a donut if I could, but I wasn’t expecting the price to be so high here. I can still make a donation if you want.”

“Chara, mon ami, you have already helped our cause more than you know with all your patronage over the years. I can’t possibly demand that from you! Here, I’ll grant you passage through my parlor instead. This has been a giant mix-up.”

“Thank you so much, Muffet. Um… Can you let Alphys go too?”

“Oh? Is she with you? Then but of course, dearie! Any friend of yours is a friend of mine, for the right price, that is. Ahuhuhu!” Muffet giggles.

“You know their leader?” Alphys whispers harshly, rubbing her shoulders after the spiders unbind her from her cocoon.

“Yeah! We pretty much write each other every other day!”

“Oh, well I’m glad you decided to share this important information that could have spared us of this torment!”

“Sorry! I didn’t know she’d try to feed us to her pet!” The human smiles nervously, hands thrown up in defense. “She’s a lot nicer in her letters. I didn’t know how ruthless she really was.”

“Chara! Before you go, please join me for a cup of tea, won’t you? I never expected to meet you until I came to the Ruins myself! There’s a story there and you simply must tell me!”

Clapping her hands, spiders drop and part a curtain of spider webs to reveal another pathway further into the parlor. Muffet gracefully saunters down the corridor, waving for them to follow.

“Well, at least she’s being friendly now?” The child shrugs, and pads after the spider matriarch.

Chagrined, Alphys sighs and dutifully follows after them.

--

The parlor is quaint and lavishly furnished, and Alphys quickly discovers everything is in sets of eight. A low coffee table sits in the middle of the room surrounded by seven plush cushions and one short legged chair at the head. Eight sets of tea cups and saucers are arranged on the table.

The walls are decorated with intricate doilies and silks, and glittering baubles and fanciful ornaments hang from the ceiling. Everything is coated in spider thread, but even the silk is carefully woven into delicate patterns if one looked closely. It was such a fascinating balance between meticulous and macabre with all the spider webbing. Alphys blinks in sudden indignant realization. Wait- if the spiders needed so much help rescuing their family in the Ruins, then how could Muffet afford to have such luxuries here?

“Please sit!” Muffet instructs, and pours a cup of tea. “Help yourself to the tea and crumpets!”

The human politely pours themselves a cup of tea, and doesn’t even flinch when a couple of live spiders hastily climb out. Alphys does the same, but neither of them takes a sip.

“So, dearie! Please! Tell me how you have been and what you have been up to!”

The human retells their tale from the very beginning, from the birthday party, to sneaking out at night to play in the snow, getting locked out, exploring Snowdin with Sans and Papyrus, escaping to Waterfall and then from Undyne, then to Hotland and avoiding Mettaton, and finally up to where they are now.

They elaborate their worries and their fears about facing their mother’s wrath and rejection, all of which Alphys had no clue of. The hopefulness in their voice when they predict their conversation with the king slingshots to frustration and hurt when they finally purge their pent-up emotions as they recount the lies and betrayals of those they thought were friends, and that makes Alphys squirm in her seat more so than the occasional spider that runs across her tail where she sits.

Alphys can hardly believe it when they finish. Heck, she even watched a good chunk of their journey on her computer screen, yet hearing the tale retold, all the desperation and exhaustion in their voice makes a world of difference. She couldn’t believe they had gone through so much when any normal monster would have quit long ago. And yet they still decided to keep going.

“Chara, mon ami…” Muffet grasps one of their hands in four of hers. “I am so sorry to hear all of that. Your journey has sounded so hard! But please rest assured you are welcome in my parlor at any time!”

“Thank you, Muffet.” The child sighs, feeling cleansed from their catharsis. From there the conversations ease and the mood lifts. Alphys politely nibbles on cookies while the two old friends chat and catch up. Muffet tells them all about the spiders in Hotland, and the kid reports how the spiders in the Ruins are doing. For once the human doesn’t seem to mind wasting a little time instead of constantly pushing forward to their demise, but before long the platter of snacks is picked clean and the tea kettle is empty and cold.

“Is there anything I can do for you before you go on your way?” Muffet asks when all their stories are told.

“Yeah, actually…” the human says solemnly. “Do you think I could send a telegram to the Ruins? I… I want to tell my mom I’m sorry and that I am coming back home.”

“Of course, mon ami,” Muffet says sympathetically, and signals to her spiders. Dozens drop from the ceiling, awaiting orders.

“I need a pen and stationary.” Several spiders skitter away at once, and return shortly with a plethora of writing utensils and an assortment of fanciful paper for them to choose from. The human picks the two closest to them and thanks them for the offer.

They squat down on the floor to write, their face lined with seriousness.

Alphys notices how their hand trembles when they put their pen to the paper, the first words coming out rather shaky, before their penmanship levels out the more they write.

The message they write isn’t long, but they stare at it, reading it over and over again before finally giving it over to Muffet.

“Thank you dearie,” Muffet says and waves over one of her subordinates. “Transmit this telegram to our friends in the Ruins immediately,” she orders. The spider gives her a four legged salute, and scampers off.

“How long will it take for the message to go through?” The human asks.

“Oh, probably an hour or two,” Muffet says. “And that’s just on our end. The transmission equipment is located in the capital, away from any heat, cold, or dampness that might ruin it, but it’s still a lengthy trek for a tiny spider. Never fear, mon ami, your letter is in eight very capable hands.”

“Thank you, Muffet.”

“The pleasure’s all mine, dearie!” Muffet embraces them in a six-armed hug and kisses them on both cheeks once again for good measure. “I do hope we get to meet more frequently! This has been the most wonderful surprise! Good luck with the king, dearie! Adieu!

Pleasantries and farewells exchanged, Muffet sends them on their way.

Alphys notices the hallway is significantly clearer than before with not a single strand of spider silk in sight. They walk on in silence.

“Wow…” Alphys speaks up after a minute of quiet. “I… um… I had no idea all that stuff happened to you.”

“Yeah… I’m trying to make it right, now.” Her friend shrugs. “It hasn’t been easy going but… I still gotta try, you know?”

“I-I think so,” Alphys says. “I have some mistakes like that too, b-but I’m nowhere near as brave as you to try and fix them.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Like, wh-what if I try to fix them and it doesn’t change anything or only makes things worse? People would hate me. More than they already do.”

The human gives her a funny look. “What could you do that could possibly make anyone hate you? You’re the royal scientist, and you’ve done nothing but help me so far. That’s more than I can say about some other monsters.”

It’s a physical effort for Alphys not to cringe at their words as she goes on to explain.

“M-m-monsters have been waiting for me to find a way to help break down the barrier and set us free for years now. I-I-I keep telling them we’re getting closer every day, but the truth is I haven’t made any progress in months. I feel awful for lying, but telling the t-truth would crush the hopes of so many.”

“If you’re trying to fix a mistake you made, people won’t hate you.” Her friend says, resolute. “Isn’t it better to say I’m sorry and do your best to correct it, instead of ignoring the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist?”

Alphys doesn’t have an answer, but the human doesn’t wait as if they expect one. Left with their words, Alphys unconsciously follows their steps, lost in thought.

--

“We’re a-almost to the CORE,” Alphys announces after several more minutes of hiking. “We just gotta pass through o-one more room, and then we’ll be at the MTT Hotel where the last elevator to New Home is.”

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The human stops short when they reach the tunnel’s mouth. Alphys joins them at their side, perplexed, before seeing what they see.

In front of them is not a dark room, but one that is extremely well lit, and almost completely barren save for two long lounge chairs that are situated side by side. Mettaton is seductively laying on one, with a fake mustache taped to his lower row of screens. He’s clearly waiting for them.

“Ah! There you are, darlings!” He says, uncharacteristically soft and quiet. “Come in, come in.”

“Yeah, like we’d ever do that after you’ve tried to trap us and hold us hostage twice!” The kid says. “What’s your angle Mettaton? We’re not playing this game anymore.”

“Angle? Game?” Mettaton repeats. “Why darling, as you can see, I’ve no tricks up my sleeves this time. In fact, if you answer a few questions for my self-help show, I’ll let you go on your merry way.”

“Really?”

“Really, really. There’s so much needless violence and drama on TV today. This program has room for none of that drivel. Please, have a seat.”

“Do you have any idea what he’s up to?” The human whispers to Alphys.

“N-not a clue,” the doctor fibs. “Maybe we should we trust him? I mean, he is being s-super transparent. We aren’t going in blind this time, so either he’s b-being more subtle in this trap than I ever thought he was capable of being, or he’s actually t-telling the truth. And even if it IS a trap, I say we go for it. We’ve escaped him twice before, w-we can do it again.”

The human nods, and together, they cautiously enter the room. The child eyes the empty chair suspiciously and does not sit.

“So what’s this? A torture device? A machine that paralyzes you when you touch it?”

“It’s a lounge chair, darling.” Mettaton says patiently. “Perfect for reclining on, as I demonstrate before you.”

Narrowing their eyes, the human shakes their head. “I’d rather stand, thank you.”

“Suit yourself, darling! Stand by camera seven! Live in five…! Four…! Three..!”

From somewhere behind them, speakers play a simple four note jingle on an electric guitar. A camera zooms in on their faces and a stage director points a thumbs up to signal that they were rolling.

“Welcome back, beauties and gentle beauties, to the Dr. Drill show. I’m your host, Dr. Drill. Today we have on our show two very special guests, the revered royal scientist and fellow doctor, Dr. Alphys, and her young Boss Monster protégé, of which we have recently learned, is magically inept.”

He presses a button on his casing, and canned laughter bursts from his speakers. Alphys and the human both flinch.

“Sorry about that,” Mettaton says, not sounding sorry in the slightest. “I suffered a nasty spill earlier today and it seems to have damaged some of my circuitry. Ah! Here we are!”

Cycling through his buttons, Mettaton pushes them all to find the right sound effect. Hollow applause echoes through his speakers, but the moment has passed and the result feels insincere. Undeterred by the awkwardness, Mettaton turns to face the human.

“So darling. You are magically inept. A Boss Monster without magic. How did this make you feel the day you realized you couldn’t express yourself magically like all the other monsters could?”

“I… um…” the human uncomfortably shuffles from foot to foot and they keep their eyes down cast. “I felt… I felt like a stranger. An outcast,” they say, picking at one of the ears of their hat. “I mean… I always knew I was different, but not being able to use magic made me feel… broken. My mom would always tell me I’m not alone, and plenty of other monsters can’t express magic either, but no one but maybe some rocks were like me.”

Mettaton pushes another button on his front and again laughter spills out. The human grimaces and Alphys winces.

“I do apologize,” the robot says, fiddling with his dials until he manages to get the “aww” sound effect he originally wanted. “Darling, I can only imagine how hard it was for you growing up. But your mother is right. You are not alone. Plenty of monsters in the Underground may not have the ability to express their magic as tangibly as they would like, but that does not mean you are any less of a monster than the next! Why, just take our dear friend Doctor Alphys, here!”

“M-me?” Alphys squeaks as all eyes turned to her. Oh god, why did she have to be dragged into this?

Springing up from the lounge chair, Mettaton wheels over to Alphys until every camera was pointed in her direction, and loops one of his arms around her shoulders.

“Yes my beautiful watchers at home. Many years ago, Alphys had confided in me with a deep, dark, personal secret that she, too, lacked the magical prowess that many of her peers seemed to have, which caused her to pursue a career in the sciences, where she could synthesize magic which ultimately lead to my creation! This goes to show that anyone can achieve their goals no matter what their abilities or lack thereof! Look at her now, beautiful watchers! She is the king’s royal scientist! See darling? Alphys is proof that anything is possible!”

The human scratches their scalp, unconvinced, while Alphys nervously wrings her hands.

“Ah, you still have doubts, I see.” Mettaton points out. Letting go of Alphys, he spins around to the human. “Listen, darling, this is a self-help talk show and you’re not leaving until you’ve helped yourself by talking to me. Repeat after me; No magic? No problem!”

“No magic, no problem,” the human mimics, though with no enthusiasm.

“Fantastic, sweetheart! That’s the self-motivation I like to hear! Now tell me, now that you know there are no limits on you, magic or not, how are you going to live your life? What are you going to achieve in your life?”

“Oh, uh… I don’t think I’m going to do much after I get back home.”

“Ah-ah, darling!” Mettaton interrupts. “There’s that negativity again! Remember, anything possible! Let’s hear some real life goals!”

“Uh, maybe… maybe I’ll convince my mom I’ll be fine in the Underground? And maybe she’ll let me visit or even explore here?”

“Hmmm, good start, sweetheart! But you’re a Boss Monster! Think bigger! How are you going to leave your mark on the Underground?”

“I’m gonna… uh, I will…” the human stalls as they try to think of something worthy enough to make their life goal. Their eyes light up as something comes to them. They stand up straight and face Mettaton head on.

“I’m going to break the barrier and set all monsters free.”

Mettaton gasps. “Really darling? How do you propose that?”

“I may not have magic, but that won’t stop me from catching the next human that falls into the Underground and taking their soul to set all monsters free!”

“Darling, that is a very big goal… And it’s just the kind of goal I was talking about! I love it! Give them a big round of applause, everyone!”

Mettaton pushes a button on his chassis, but instead of cheering, his loudest laughter track on file plays. The human’s shoulders slouch and their expression cracks as if they’ve been struck.

“Drat these blasted wires of mine!” Mettaton sighs. He turns one of his nobs, but the volume of the laughter only increases. “Do keep in mind, we are not laughing at you, darling, even if what you say can be interpreted as humorous for… other… reasons.”

The laughter goes on for over a minute as he fusses with his buttons and Alphys watches helplessly as her friend tries to shrink in on themselves. At last Mettaton gets the right audio track to play overwhelming applause, but the human might as well be wearing ear plugs.

From behind one of the cameras, a monster waves a signal to wrap things up.

“Ah, unfortunately it seems that’s all the time we have for today!” Mettaton says. “But we’ve had another successful breakthrough here on Dr. Drill! Today we helped a young Boss Monster confront their inner demons and find their purpose in life! Thank you so much for your time darling, and keep your head high!”

“Aaand, that’s a wrap!” the director says. A fire bell rings, and the recording sign switches off. “Great work team. Let’s get this to editing post-haste so we can have it up by the prime time hour!”

“Well! Wasn’t that exhilarating! Thank you for your help darling. You’re free to go now.”

“Really? That’s it? You’re just letting me go?”

“A promise is a promise, sweetheart! Good luck with the king!” And with that, Mettaton scurries off to parts unknown, leaving Alphys alone with the human on the darkened set.

“Well… at least there weren’t any traps or tricks this time?” Alphys says, looking at the human.

“Yeah, I know but…” The child absently rubs their arm and avoids Alphys’ eye. “I still feel like I was the butt of some joke? I can’t help but feel like he was still… trying to deceive me? I know there wasn’t a fight or obstacle, but how come I still feel like I lost?” They let out a pitiful sigh.

“For a self-help show, this didn’t feel very helpful…”

Scraping together what dignity they had left, Alphys and the human took their leave, heading to the CORE, leaving the echoes of laughter behind.


A world away running the most vital marathon of its career, a pebble-sized jumping spider traversed the craggy walls of the volcano with its precious cargo in tow. Leaping from ledge to ledge, finding footholds even too small for a spider’s standard, the brave arachnid scales its way up.

It was the mission of a life time, a chance to prove itself, to make a difference, to change a life. The urgency of the task had not been made light. Many far better, faster and stronger spiders were not up to the task for they knew the perils ahead. The trip to New Home from their parlor was not without its dangers. A cocky spider could easily misjudge its jump and fall to its death in the lava below where it would be incinerated without remorse or even a eulogy. A careless spider could easily fall victim to an unaware foot- just another casualty in their ongoing cause. The little jumping spider found the tunnel it was looking for and slipped inside, its precious package securely glued to its back.

The spider does not dally, ever on the lookout for the occasional errant gecko that could manage to find its way into tight niches such as these. The cramped passageway twists and turns, sometimes getting so narrow that it threatens to trap the spider altogether before letting out onto a sheer drop off above the tangled metal colossus that is the CORE.

With a running start, the bold little spider takes a leap of faith, trailing a line of silk behind it. Its horizontal inertia quickly becomes overpowered by gravity, but moments before impact, the balloon of silk behind it catches the wind and unfurls as a wave of hot air rushes up beneath it and it rides the breeze over the gap, wafting along at the mercy of the air currents circulated by the breathing metal beast. Steering is borderline impossible and the added weight of the letter provides no lift as it glides through the air. A hot gust of wind pushes the voyager off-course and the brave little spider lands rough, its two front legs barely making contact on the edge of a platform. A harsh breeze pulls at its silken balloon and threatens to drag it back from the safety of its perch until it cuts its ties and lets the parachute fall away. With a quick shake and a second to get its bearings, the tiny arachnid is off once more. The MTT Hotel is an imposing skyscraper even to the average-sized monsters, but the tiny spider forges ahead undaunted. Weaving through the ocean of feet that pass through its doors and slipping in through the elevator shaft, it bypasses the lines for the lift and begins its ascent on the elevator cords itself.

It finds its stop stories up on a ledge marked by small twigs and bits of paper fashioned by spiders prior to guide the way. But despite being a jumping spider, the gap is too wide to be made in a single bound, especially when being weighed down with a load ten times its mass, and there is no helpful breeze to give a little push in the stagnant air of the elevator shaft.

Securing an anchor, the jumping spider releases a long thread of silk and leaps, but only ends up dangling in the air. Using its tiny body, the arachnid begins to sway with all its might building up momentum until it manages to swing across the gap. No time to celebrate, it skitters on its way into New Home.

The end in sight, the little spider puts on a burst of speed as it closes in on its target; a transmission office to New Home. It’s inches away from the front steps when the brambles erupt from the ground, cutting off its path.

Startled, the spider skids to a halt in front of the briar, searching for a way past the impenetrable thorns. Running up and down the length of tendrils in a panic, it doesn’t notice one vine creeping up from behind until its crushing force comes down on the arachnid like a hammer with deadly precision.

There’s no sound other than the small crinkle of paper. Two or three legs twitch as if surprised before curling inward where they lay still. The brambles retreat back into the earth as the murderous vine peels the urgent letter off the scene of the crime. It flicks off the few stubborn legs that still cling to the envelope, before shredding it to pieces, and tossing it to the wind. The last of the vines sink back into the ground, leaving no trace they were ever there, except for a small divot of disturbed earth next to a tiny, quickly drying puddle of hemolymph and silk.

Chapter Text

“Excellent work today, team! You were all beautiful, darlings!” Mettaton says, rolling into his trailer. “I’m going to take a quick one hour power nap to recharge! Everyone take a break yourselves! You’ve earned it! Please do not disturb me while I’m in sleep mode darlings!”

Once behind closed doors, the robot wastes no time getting ready to recharge. He opens a port and pulls out a USB on a long chord, attaches it to an adaptor and plugs into an outlet. Once situated, he retracts his arms and wheel and settles in his docking station.

As a robot, he had sleep mode, but didn’t exactly dream. Shutting down more or less was a lapse in consciousness--an instantaneous jump between being awake from one moment to the next without that pesky drowsiness or grogginess that organic beings had to suffer with. A highly preferable option in his opinion. Why waste time living out your dreams unconscious, when you could dream while being awake and make them come true while you were at it?

‘System updating. Please do not unplug your device or force shut down.’ Computer code says in the ones and zeroes on the inner side of his monitor screens. ‘Installing 1 out of 3105 updates…’

“Oh, for the love of…” Mettaton whispers. By the time the new updates finished installing his hour power nap would be over. Well, maybe sleep mode wouldn’t be as instantaneous as he thought…

There was a knock at the door. Normally Mettaton would have turned the intruder away for blatantly bothering him when he had made his demands clear not to, but since he was feeling generous (and since he knew he wouldn’t be getting any good rest for at least forty more minutes) he decides to let it pass just this once.

“Yes darling?” the robot says answering the door.

The monster that stands before him is stork like, yellow with legs as thin as twigs and skinny feathery arms. On its back was a huge postal bag overflowing with letters. “Special delivery for Mettaton!” the monster says, hefting the huge mail sack over its shoulders as it tries to keep its knees from buckling under the weight.

The robot’s speakers squeal with delight. “Fan mail? For me? Hand it over!”

Snatching the bag of mail away from the carrier and slamming the door in their face, Mettaton wheels back into his docking station, pulls out the first letter, tears it open and begins to read.

“Dear Mettaton; I love your shows!” it begins. “I am a HUGE fan of the Boss Monster kid who keeps showing up on your newest programs.” Ha ha, well of cour- what. “Please tell me you plan to keep them around! Your shows haven’t been this interesting since the controversial robot zombie survival show of yours!”

They like his shows... For the human? But… But he was supposed to be the main attraction! Well! No matter! That was just one letter! Tossing it aside, Mettaton reaches back in the bag and grabs another;

“Dear Mettaton, I love your new Boss Monster cohost!”

COHOST?! Why the insult! Mettaton, the number one star of the Underground would never share the spotlight with some… some underling! Dropping the letter on the floor, he pulls out another, and another after that, but all the fan mail says the same dreadful thing; ”The Boss Monster kid is adorable!” “Can you give this letter to them to let them know how much I love them?” “It’s nice to see you mix it up and bring in some fresh talent. The old programs were beginning to get stale.”

Oh, of all the insolent-! Mettaton was always top billing! He wasn’t going to let some child take away HIS adoring fans! The brilliant red giant wasn’t about to be upstaged by some little white dwarf! By some… some human!

“No… no! This will not stand!” Mettaton mutters angrily to himself. Worked into a tizzy, he paces his room, rolling over all the discarded letters and leaving tracks in the rug. “I have to do something about this. I have to!” Rolling over to the phone, Mettaton picks up the receiver and hits the speed dial. “Hello, yes! There has been a change of plans! I need you to do an overhaul for the final showdown. I’ve made a last minute executive decision, and we’re going to end this finale a bit differently than anticipated. It’s time to break out the big guns…”


The massive hotel dawns on the horizon long before the royal scientist and Boss Monster child reach it.

“What’s that?” the human asks Alphys when the multistory skyscraper comes into view.

“Oh, that? That’s the MTT Resort.” Alphys explains. “I-it used to be an apartment complex years back before Mettaton’s rise to fame, and… W-well, anyway, there’s a couple elevators in there th-that should t-take us straight up to New Home.”

New Home. Just saying the two words sends a sharp pang in Alphys’ chest. Only now was the actual gravity of her situation starting to sink in, acutely reminding her what she’s doing to this child who relied on her, trusted her now. They’re both only one elevator ride away from the end, and yet here she is, passively letting it happen, not even attempting to dissuade her new friend from their inevitable fate.

But… but she’s doing no more than what she’s promised, hasn’t she? She agreed to help them get to New Home and nothing more, right? And delivering them straight to Asgore was what they wanted, yes? S-so, by that logic, trying to stall them, to keep them from the king would be hindering them, which was the opposite of helping, correct?

But… but does knowing they would be hurt and allowing it to happen considered helpful? If… if she continued to just let them go, fully aware of the consequences…

Alphys shakes her head in frustration. Slowing them down would hurt them and possibly ruin their trust in her… but letting them go would also hurt them in a way far worse. She didn’t want either but felt she had come too far to turn back now… but she would also never forgive herself if she didn’t at least try to deter them before their inescapable end. Now if only she could think of something clever enough to buy them some extra time.

The child gasps in awe when they breach the rise and they can truly take in the resort’s immense size. The building is built directly into the volcano’s wall; a stark contrast of a smooth perfectly geometric shape against the rough uneven mountainside, like someone had shoved a toy model into a mound of dirt. The hill they had climbed had only made it look closer than it was, but now at the top of the arc, the pathway winds back down before stopping off at a large flight of stairs.

The rest of the way is clear. With no more road blocks in sight, the kid can’t help but quicken their step. Alphys hastily speeds up her pace to keep up, keeping an eye out for any distraction to help chew up time and delay the worst. There’s a pair of monsters loitering outside the building. One is tall and green with a distinct reptilian form about her, while the other is short and round and purple with prominent cat features. They chat idly to one another, giggling in unison over some inside joke only they know, when the cat monster glances your way, does a double take, and then frantically waves at the traveling pair.

“Bratty! Bratty look! They’re like, totally here! I told you they would come this way!” The cat monster says.

“Like, you’re totally right, Catty,” Bratty giggles, before casually joining Catty in waving the pair to come closer. “Heeey Alphys! Like, long time no see!”

“Oh my,” Alphys hesitates, her social awkwardness telling her to fight or flee. She blinks her panic aside and considers. This could be just the diversion she was looking for.

“Oh, do you know those guys?” the human asks.

“Y-yeah. B-Bratty and C-Catty. Th-they used to be my old neighbors.” Alphys states, trotting closer to them, and waving at the child to follow. “Uh, H-hey girls! H-how have you been?”

“Oh, same old, same old,” Catty giggles. “The economy still, like, totally sucks, and the Hotland populous vastly outnumbers the amount of available jobs, so finding employment is, like, near impossible.”

“Pursuing higher education is now more of a risk than a necessity,” Bratty adds. “With no guarantee of job placement after graduation, you’re more likely to wind up in more debt than you would have just trying to apply without a degree.”

Alphys gives a little gasp. “Does that mean you two dropped out? Oh I’m so sorry to hear that guys.”

The gator and cat monsters exchange a look and bust out laughing.

“L-O-L, Alphys!” Catty snorts. “You are, like, so hilarious!”

“W-what?”

“Yeah, girl,” Bratty explains. “You can’t, like, drop out of something you never joined.”

“Bratty and I skipped the whole school thing and just, like, started our own business!”

“R-really? That’s… great?” Alphys congratulates them with a bit of uncertainty.

“Yeah, it’s, like, greater than great,” Bratty says.

“It’s literally the BEST!” Catty adds.

“We’re like, actually doing pretty well for ourselves and we can actually afford rent for the MTT Hotel!”

“Like, thank God for the free market economy or making a living here would be impossible unless you know someone already on the corporate ladder.”

“You don’t say!” Alphys smiles, genuinely happy for them. Crossing her arms, she settles back while the human reluctantly joins her at her side, doing their best to hide their impatience at the sudden detour. “What’s your secret?”

“Oh my God, Alphys!” Catty chuckles. “We can’t just, like, give away our business model!”

“Yeah, girl. We gotta, like, keep that trade secret close to the vest.” Bratty adds.

“Oh, I understand,” Alphys says. Bratty and Catty trade looks, their grins growing wider and threatening to burst.

“We just take all the junk we find in Waterfall and sell it!” Catty exclaims.

“We make a one hundred percent profit on everything we sell,” Bratty chuckles. “Mostly because we didn’t have to pay a single cent to get this stuff in the first place.”

“Yeah! And since, like, all the food and stuff is totally wicked expensive inside the resort, people constantly come to us for snacks instead!”

“It’s, like, the perfect set up.”

“It’s LITERAL junk food!”

Beside her, the child clears their throat and inconspicuously tries to signal for her to move on with a pleading smile. Not wanting to get on their bad side, Alphys caves at once. They’re both so close to their end goal, she can’t refuse them now.

“Well! I’m proud of you two!” Alphys says, politely trying to leave the conversation. “It looks like you’re both doing pretty well for yourselves. See you around!”

“Woah, woah, woah, Alphys! You can’t leave just yet!” Bratty says, sticking out an arm to cut off your retreat.

“Yeah, like, where are our manners!” Catty says. “We were, like, totally camping out here waiting for you to show up!”

“Y-you were?” Alphys asks nervously. “Why?”

“Because we haven’t heard from you in forever, girl! And suddenly you’re all over TV with Mettaton and this adorable little one.” Batty coos, bending down to pinch the human’s cheek. Reluctantly, they let her, not wanting to be rude.

“So, Alphys, are you gonna introduce your new friend to us?” Catty says.

“Oh, uh, um.” The royal scientist turns to them. “Bratty, Catty, th-this is-”

“I’m Chara,” The human cuts with practiced politeness to speed things along. They offer a hand to shake.

“Heeey there, you little cutie!” Bratty says, ignoring the hand completely and kneeling down on their level to ruffle their hair. “You were so great on TV! You’re like, the Underground’s newest superstar!”

“Oh! Oh! Tell us! What’s it like working with Mettaton? What’s he smell like? Is it true his glove hands are as soft as angora?” Catty asks, her eyes lighting up like stars.

Alphys can practically see the internal debate in the human's mind as they try to decide whether or not they should let these girls know their true feelings on Mettaton, and how they thought he was a time waster and an annoyance above anything else, but even they couldn’t find it in their heart to crush the vision of their idol in their heads.

“He certainly is… A hindrance,” the child says at last.

“Oh, yeah, totally.” Catty agrees. “His game shows are known to be, like, wicked tough with all the physical challenges.”

“So tell us all the details, girl!” Bratty demands, straightening back up to look at Alphys.

“Yeah! What’s it like working with Mettaton? Does he give you any discounts on his merch, since you, like, created him?” Catty asks, crowding closer.

“Do you think you can get us an autograph from him?”

“Do you think you can get him to sign my face?”

“Do you think you can get us tickets to his next show?”

“I-it’s really not that glamorous,” Alphys shrugs, trying to put some space between her and the inquisitive monsters. Mettaton and I hardly hang out, s-since I’m always so busy working for the king. Soul research a-and what not.” She does her best not to look at the human, but thankfully they don’t seem to notice.

“Oooooh!” Bratty and Catty sing in unison.

“No wonder we haven’t seen you around!”

“Spending all your time with Asgore, I see!”

“How’ve you been working with the king?”

“Have you two gotten any closer?”

“W-w-what? N-n-no, it’s nothing like that!” Alphys says defensively, her stutter noticeably getting worse in front of the accusations. “H-h-he’s my boss!”

“Um, am I missing something here?” The human asks.

“Alphys here has the BIGGEST crush on King Asgore!” Catty says. “She used to tell us how she was going to date him when we were younger!”

“But, like, who can blame her?” Bratty says. “The king’s a total hottie.”

“A big, fuzzy, bara hottie!” Cattie adds.

“Alphys always wanted to work close to the king, so she like, totally made Mettaton to impress him-“

“And it totally worked. Now she gets to see lord fuzzy buns whenever she wants!”

“GAH! Will you guys stop?!” Alphys shouts, her scales turning a lovely shade of Embarrassment Pink. “A-a-after working with Asgore closely for the past few years, I was able to learn more about him and re-evaluate my feelings towards him!” she exclaims. “A-Asgore is a great guy, but he’s also my boss, and since I started working for him I realized my feelings towards him were only based on infatuation. I’ve since learned that he’s a great friend and coworker but not someone I’d want to be in a romantic relationship with. Besides, he’s not my type.”

“Is that so?” Bratty asks, teasing. “Well then what IS your type now, Alphys?”

“Th-that’s none of your concern!” Alphys says blushing.

“Wait, are you no longer into muscular guys?” Catty asks.

“Like, get real, Catty. Everyone knows that’s old news. Alphys is, like, totally into buff fish chicks now.”

“W-w-what? Who told you that?!” Alphys demands, her face growing from pink to bright red.

“From RG 02. He was here yesterday.”

“Impossible! That guard never reveals his secrets!”

“Aww, please don’t be mad, Alphys,” Bratty says apologetically. “You know we’re just messing with you. But if you got a crush on someone, you gotta tell them before life slips you by.”

“Yeah! That’s why I tell Bratty I love her every day!” Catty cheers.

“Aw, I love you too, girlfriend,” Bratty blushes.

“Th-that may be easy for you to do, but it would be pretty pointless for me,” Alphys murmurs. “Undyne’s great and all, but I know for a fact I’m not the kind of person she’s looking for either. Undyne probably wants someone who can keep up with her. You know, someone who can run twenty miles in two minutes or bench press ten times her own weight like she can.”

“But don’t you two, like, always have movie nights together?” Bratty asks.

“Y-yeah but that’s different! We have a common interest in anime, but not much else.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Alphys can see the human studying her strangely. They’re no longer hopping from foot to foot, anxiously waiting for her to wrap it up so they can keep going forward. Instead they’re looking at her quizzically, as if trying to decipher a riddle. They graciously don’t say anything, but now it’s Alphys who feels the desperate need to move on away from these two.

“W-well, we should really be on our way,” Alphys says, trying to side step the gator and cat monsters. “It was n-nice catching up with you! You two take care!”

“Same to you, Alphys!” Catty says, waving farewell.

“And if you need any snacks you know where to find us!”

Alphys gently pushes the child along until they’re close enough that the hotel’s automatic doors let them both in. The royal scientist blinks several times as her eyes adjust to the blinding fluorescents that reflected off of nearly every surface in the foyer. The interior of the MTT Hotel is bright with brilliant golds and dazzling amber fixtures and gilded trim, and everything her eyes laid on sparkled. Ugh, this place always gave her a headache.

Gentle xylophone and acoustic music floats on the air. The lobby is filled with lively chatter and in the center of the room is a giant fountain with a statue of Mettaton, gracefully spewing an arc of water. Perhaps the spray is a little too strong, or maybe the centerpiece is off balanced, but either way the arc of water is making a giant puddle on the floor. A dozen yellow wet floor signs mark the perimeter of the puddle, warning civilians of the slipping hazard. The smell of hot cooked food wafts from a café near the back.

“Oh man, look at the line for the elevator,” Alphys says in fake regret, pointing to the right at queue that snaked halfway around the hall. “Ah, figures. It’s rush hour right now. Everyone is leaving work from New Home and heading to the other regions and vice versa. We could be here a while.”

“So what do we do?” The child asks her.

“W-well, nothing to do but get in line and wait our turn.” The royal scientist shrugs. “It would be rude to cut to the front, wouldn’t it?”

The human reluctantly nods and joins her at the end of the line. They sigh in mild annoyance at this new hurdle, while Alphys secretly sighs in relief. This was perfect. The line could take hours to go down, and maybe by the time they reached the front it would be too late to visit the king, granting her at least one more day to figure out how to keep them from getting to New Home all together.

Maybe she could convince them to come back to her lab with her? No, this was a hotel; they’d probably just want to stay here. Perhaps she could get Mettaton to intervene again somehow? Unlikely. That robot was far too self-obsessed to help anyone unless it directly benefited him in the process. What if she went ahead of them and talked to Asgore first? Possibly… But what if things went wrong, and he decided to come out and look for them?

Minutes tick by and the line slowly inches its way forward, but they don’t move very far when Alphys hears a stomach rumble.

“W-was that you?” the yellow lizard asks, casting a glance back at her companion.

The human blushes. “Y-yeah, guess it’s close to dinner time, and those smells from the restaurant certainly aren’t helping.”

“Do… do you want to go get something to eat? It’ll b-be a while before we get to New Home.” Alphys asks, jerking her thumb towards the little burger shop. The human opens their mouth to argue, but the royal scientist interrupts, already knowing what they were going to say. “D-don’t worry about losing your place in line. I’ll st-stay here and hold it for you.”

The child hesitates for a moment, before flashing her a grateful smile, and darting off towards the burger emporium. Once out they’re out of her sight, Alphys lets out a quiet moan.

Oh, what was she to do?


You take up Alphys’ advice and head into the tiny restaurant. Inside there are a couple of plastic booths with a few patrons. The air smells like grease and salt, and behind the register is an orange… cat… hamster… bear monster. His smile is wide but his eyes look dead. You approach the counter cautiously.

“Welcome to the MTT-brand burger emporium, home of the glamburger. We’ve proudly sold over a hundred thousand burgers across the Underground! What can I do for you, o’ customer?”

You blink hard at the little speech. Although there is clearly pitch and timbre in his tone, the words sound rehearsed and lifeless, as if it was a recording that had been replayed on a loop too many times to count. His vacant stare and stressed expression concerns you more than your quest for food.

“Are… are you okay?” you ask him gently.

“I’m sorry, (ha ha) it’s against company policy for me to talk to customers who haven’t bought anything.” The cashier tells you.

Your eyes scan the menu items. Everything is exorbitantly priced. Scooping out your money from your pocket, you count your change. Two fifty pieces and two ten pieces. Just enough for one burger off the menu.

“I’ll take one glamburger please.”

You place all the money you have on the counter. The cashier swipes it away and hands you a small cardboard box festooned with purple plastic rhinestones. You take the box and hold it close to your chest, and look at the cashier again.

“Thanksy! Eight gold pieces is your change! Here you are! ” He says with false, but practiced enthusiasm. “Have a FABU-FUL day!”

“You can keep it,” you tell him. There wasn’t much, if anything, that you could get in the ruins for only eight gold. You push the change back over to the cashier. He looks at it wide eyes, and then to you.

“This is for me?” he says dreamily. “A… a tip?”

“Yeah. I don’t think I’ll need it anymore.”

The employee gently cradles the coins in his paws; still staring at it, disbelieving it was real. Suddenly his whole being begins to shake.

“Hey, are you alright?” you ask.

“No one’s ever given me a tip before… This is… this is the nicest thing anybody’s done for me all year!” He says. Looking up, you see his eyes are glossy with tears and his nose is running.

You look around the room. There’s no one else in line, so you dare to strike up a conversation.

“Seriously, are you okay?” you ask him again. This time the cashier blinks at you, and a spark of panic and confusion ignites behind his eyes when he realizes you’re still there.

“What? Why do you keep trying to talk to me?” he says in a harsh whisper behind clenched teeth, desperate to maintain his smile. His whole body begins to simultaneously shiver and sweat. “Why are you being so nice? I’ll get in trouble if I get chummy with the customers! I’ll probably get in trouble just for accepting this tip! Mettaton will fire me! Is that your aim? Is that your goal? Is that what you want?!”

“I’m sorry. You just… look a little stressed out.”

A little?” The cashier repeats sardonically. “Little buddy, this place is anxiety incarnate, and all those unlucky enough to get a job here are destined to spend the rest of their natural born lives attending to a grease trap and having patrons yelling in their face, demanding I make changes to our business practices that are out of my control, and blaming ME as the problem and not the corporate tycoons! So I think it’s fair to say, I am more than just a little stressed out here!”

“I’m sorry,” you apologize again because you’re not sure what else to do. “I just… I wish I could do something to help.”

“There is something you can do, little buddy,” the cat monster says. “Run. Run away before they get you too. You don’t want to end up like me. Just look at me; I’m getting on in years. Nineteen good ones behind me. Wasted! I don’t know how much time I got left, but I just know the heads up top are already hunting for a replacement for me when I inevitably bite the dust.”

“I’m sorry, uh,” On the right pocket of his shirt, a name tag sticker reading ‘Hello! My name is:’ proudly adorns his right breast. The original name seems to have been crossed out with sharpie, and has been replaced with the title “Burgerpants” in thick black letters instead.

“Sorry… Burgerpants?” you say. “That’s a… unique name.”

“Don’t patronize me, kid,” Burgerpants says hollowly. He slumps over, depressed. “You and I both know that no loving parent would ever name their child something so degrading. Burgerpants is just a cruel nickname I’ve been blessed with.”

“Wow, that’s mean. How’d you get a nickname like that?”

“Well,” Burgerpants chuckles, straightening up. His whiplashing mood swings are starting to make your head spin. He smiles, pulling out a cigarette and lighter, and takes a long drag. “That’s actually a pretty good story with a good lesson at the end, but it’s kind of long. You don’t want to hear it.”

You turn around and spy Alphys through the café windows, still waiting in the line for the elevator. “I’ve got time to kill,” you tell Burgerpants.

“In that case little buddy, I’ve got a bit of life advice for you…”

You chat with Burgerpants on a myriad of topics, from never dating attractive people, to his aspirations on being a method actor, even to Mettaton’s business practices.

“It’s strange,” you tell Burgerpants. “I’ve had a couple of run-ins with Mettaton now, and he never struck me as the kind of guy to run a fast food restaurant.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve been a minimum wage slave to him for months, and let me tell you, that robot will try his hand at anything to spread his image as far as he can. But! The good news is, little buddy, we just need to get one more human soul then I’ll be free from this actual cage of brimstone and hellfire. The only way to go is up! Literally!”

You chat a bit more, relieved to see the tension and stress slowly melt away from Burgerpants’ face, and only when you see an actual, genuine smile on his mouth do you consider your work done and decide to take your leave.

“Bye, Burgerpants! Take care!” you wave heading out the door.

“Take care, little buddy,” Burgerpants grins after you, taking another drag. “Come back anytime.”

Once you’re a good deal away from the little burger shop, you open the box to find a sandwich with a neon purple bun and vibrant purple patty. The whole thing sparkles like a geode from waterfall. Well. It certainly is pretty, you’ll say that. You dare to take a test bite, and force yourself to resist the urge to gag.

You have no idea what hamburgers are made of, but you are certain they’re not made out of plastic and paste. The patty is cold and bitter, with a thick consistency of congealed glue. You spit, spewing glitter, though half of it stays firmly coated on your tongue.

Sneering in disgust, you toss the burger in the trash, magically not hungry anymore, and return to Alphys' side. As far as you can tell, the line has moved a whole three inches since you left it.

“Oh! Y-you’re back!” Alphys perks up nervously upon your return.

“Did the line stop moving?” You ask in concern. “It hardly looks like you’ve moved at all.”

“W-w-well, that’s because I’ve got some terrible news,” Alphys says, her forehead running with sweat. “While y-you were gone an employee came by to say that the elevators have t-temporarily gone down for some unknown reason a-and they say it could take hours to fix.”

“Can you fix it?” You ask hopefully. “We’ve fixed the other elevators in Hotland.”

“I w-wish,” Alphys shakes her head. “B-but these elevators run on a different operating system out of my jurisdiction. I c-can’t interfere.”

“Well, there has to be another way, right?” You plead in desperation. You are so close to getting home, you can’t give up now, you flat out refuse to give up now. “A dumbwaiter? An emergency stair case? I’ll even climb a ladder if there is one!”

“I… I d-don’t…”

You gently take Alphys’ claws in your hands and look into her eyes. “Alphys, please tell me there’s another way. I’m so close to the king. I can’t turn back now.”

Alphys winces, but sighs in defeat.

“There is… one other elevator,” she admits. “I-it’s in the CORE and off limits to everyone except royal personnel, b-but I can get you to it…”

Hugging her tight, you whisper in her ear. “You’re a life saver, Alphys.”

Alphys flinches, but steps out of line and guides you to a nondescript door against one of the back walls. Thick red letters read “AUTHORISED MONSTERS ONLY” on smoky glass.

Alphys pulls out an identification card and swipes it through a reader on the side of the door. There’s a single beep! and a red light turns green. The handle clicks as it unlocks, Alphys opens the door, and you’re greeted with a vacant corridor and a strange, chilling breeze. Warm light from the hotel lobby spills in from behind, mixing with the cold blue light that waits for you up ahead.

“W-well. Nothing left but for us to tackle the CORE now, huh?” Alphys says with a smile, though her voice sounds unenthusiastic.

You march forward, unafraid. Alphys dutifully follows you.

The hallway leads up to a single elevator that seems to be waiting for you, its door already open and beckoning you inside. The second you and the royal scientist board the lift the doors close behind you, trapping you in darkness. There’s a quick feeling of vertigo as the elevator starts to move on its own, and you feel yourself moving horizontally instead of vertically. The trip is so smooth, you can’t tell how fast you’re going, or even what direction after a while, but before the blackness that surrounds you begins to feel oppressive, the elevator comes to an air-cushioned stop and the doors part. The air around you smells so thick with ozone, that you can taste it on your tongue, and it crackles across your skin, making your arms tingle and hair stand on edge. The room smells sharp, like electricity.

All your senses are on high alert; all your nerves feel tense with energy. You shudder.

“You okay?” Alphys asks.

“Sorry. This room. It makes me feel… full of energy, but also on edge. Like something bad is about to happen.”

“Ah, th-that could be the effect of stray residual magic,” Alphys explains. “We’re right above the epicenter of the CORE. Almost all of the m-magical energy the Underground uses is being processed right now beneath our feet. Th-this way. The last elevator to the capital is just through here…”

You follow Alphys through two imposing metal doors into a vacant room with a platform suspended over a pit in the middle. It’s uncomfortably dark in here, even more so than the elevator, and when you peer over the edge, you can’t see the bottom. You make your way forward, and only place one foot on the platform when you hear the doors slam behind you.

“W-what?” Alphys jumps, spinning around. “Why did that happen?”

There’s a loud ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk! as six spot lights illuminate the platform, with one every familiar looking rectangle sitting in the middle.

“Well, well, well, darlings. I see you’ve finally made it to the CORE.”

“M-M-Mettaton?!” Alphys stammers. “What’s the meaning of this!?”

“Yeah! I thought you said our previous encounter would be the last!” you add, that extra adrenaline in your veins making you itching to move.

“It was supposed to be, darling,” Mettaton explains. “But then the reviews come in and you know what they said?”

“They still didn’t do well?”

“On the contrary! They’re through the roof! They’re higher than they’ve ever been in my entire career!”

“But… but that’s a good thing?” Alphys points out. “If your shows are doing so well, why are you still trying to get in our way?”

“Yeah! You should be thanking us for improving your ratings! What’s your problem?” You shout.

“You’re right, darling. You are the one to thank. But!” Mettaton stretches up on his wheel, and extends one arm upward, his pointer finger high. With no words, he lets his arm fall forward in a half arc, until he’s pointing it right at you. “You’re also the problem.”

“That doesn’t make any sense! I participated in all your dumb shows! Against my will, even! Why are you blaming me?”

“It’s true! My shows are more popular than ever because of you! And when I asked my focus groups what their favorite parts were, the reports came back that YOUR popularity has far surpassed mine. And that’s why you are to blame! No one’s popularity will outshine my own. I will be second rate to no one, and that is why I must now eliminate you!”

“D-d-don’t worry, we’ve beat him thrice before, can beat him one more time!” Alphys said, squaring up.

“Ah! Ah! Darling!” Mettaton says and snaps his fingers. “I’ve realized why all my other attempts at stopping you failed, and it’s because you had Alphys here to help you escape! But not anymore!” Without warning, lasers of blue magic shoot up from the floor around Alphys, trapping her in an inescapable cage. “Two against one isn’t fair! Besides, you’re not the one trying to outshine me!”

“Alphys!” you shout, and jump towards her cell.

“N-no! Don’t! I-if you touch the lasers, you’ll get zapped!” Alphys warns. “I’m fine! D-don’t worry about me! I won’t get hurt if I just stay still. B-but you’re gonna have to beat him on your own!”

“Well, darling! Looks like it’s time for your last curtain call! Prepare to be cancelled!” Mettaton raises his arms. His hands retract into his sleeves, and get replaced by circular saws that whine at a shrill, threatening pitch.

Without hesitation, the robot lunges forward towards you, and you barely have the reflexes to jump back in time. The spinning blades hit the ground with a shower of sparks as they slice two deep gouges into the floor. Oh God, this wasn’t some campy hoax for a TV show anymore, he really was trying to kill you this time!

“Mettaton! What are you doing?!” Alphys screams also recognizing the spike in the danger.

“There’s only room for one of us on the top of the chart, darling!" He sings, swapping out one hand with a flamethrower as he continues his assault. "Ta-ta!”

“A-Alphys! What do I do?” You desperately beg her, evading Mettaton for dear life.

“Uh! Uuuh!” Alphys panics, chewing her claws down to the beds. She suddenly straightens as if struck with an idea. “H-hey! Get behind him!” Alphys commands as you narrowly avoid another razor blade to the head. “There’s a switch on his back side! Get to it and flip it!”

Whirling blade in one hand, flamethrower for the other, you can’t afford to stay in once place for long. The flamethrower’s range forces you to keep moving while the circle saw doesn’t allow you to get close. Mettaton keeps their front to you at all times, giving you no opening to sneak around to his back side.

Taking a risk, you dash towards Alphys’ laser prison, the whirling blade hot on your heels. At the last moment, you feint to the left and run behind it, while Mettaton’s arm hits the cage at full force.

Detecting movement, the lasers react instantaneously, sending a paralyzing zap up the robot’s body, making him short-circuit. You waste no time getting behind him where you find the alleged switch and forcefully slam it down.

For a moment, Mettaton freezes, then his screens go dark and his limbs flop to the ground as if they were made of cooked pasta.

“Man, thank God that’s over,” you pant. “Now let’s see if we can get you out of that cage.”

“N-no! Don’t turn your back on him!” Alphys warns. “This isn’t over yet!”

“What do you mean? I turned him off, didn’t I?”

“Um, technically, no you didn’t.” Alphys says.

“Oh, foolish child,” A ghostly voice echoes in the still husk of the robot. “Do you think I could be defeated so easily?”

Terror creeping up your spine, you slowly turn back around and watch in petrified horror as Mettaton’s body rises up and begins to shake. His rivets rattle, steam hisses as it escapes between his plates, his screens flash white and red, and suddenly he’s transforming, his metal plates bending and folding back into itself like origami. His screens flip over as his top half widens and his wheel contracts only to be replaced with legs. His casing straightens, and on his black screen you see lines of white ones and zeros scrolling past and you get the sinking feeling that the switch you just flipped is now executing a code you wish you hadn’t. The top of his chassis opens and from it sprouts a head. His arms brace himself on the floor, and then, with jerky movements, he stands up.

“That was just a warm up,” The newly transformed automaton says, tossing his head back and fixing you with a cold, robotic eye. “Now that you’ve flipped my switch, the real showdown will begin!


“Alphys, what’s going on? I thought you said that switch turned him off!” the human hisses in her ear.

“I-In my defense, I never claimed it would do that!” Alphys says. “B-but this form of his is still a prototype! It’s a lot weaker than his other one, so you might have a chance at beating him!”

All around them, the air begins to thrum with a deep pulsing beat as if the bass had been amplified to the max, hijacking their heart and setting the tempo of their pulse. Spotlights flash in time with the beat, yellow, blue and green.

A fog machine sets the ambiance, carpeting the stage with a dramatic layer of mist. Over the sound of the music, Alphys hears an excited murmur of many voices, and as more spot lights come to life, it’s then she notices the grandstands bordering the arena, packed to the brim with spectators.

Cameramen sit on all corners of the stage to get every angle of the action, and the human cranes their head up and spot a giant flat screen broadcasting every one of their movements, a hundred times bigger than life for the audience to see.

“This is it, darling!” Mettaton says, running one hand through his newly formed synthetic hair and striking a dramatic pose. “The ultimate show to once and for all decide who deserves the title of the Underground’s top superstar!”

“I- I don’t want to fight for the title! You can just have it!” The human declares, though their voice shaky and uncertain.

“Fight? Heaven forbid!” Mettaton says. “That’s no way to settle an argument! We’re going to duke this out my way! With a charity dance-off!”

“Charity… dance-off?

“Yes! A charity is for the promotion of underprivileged robots! Right now we are being broadcasted live across the Underground! Thousands are tuning in and are making pledges to the dancer they think is better! The first one to reach the goal of one hundred thousand gold in donations will be declared the victor! And the other shall be shunned from the limelight indefinitely! There’s only one rule in this competition!”

“What?” The human dares to ask.

“Dance… or DIE!”

“Y-you can do it!” Alphys urges. “I believe in you! Plus, you don’t really h-have any other choice!”

“I-I can’t!” The human argues. “I don’t know how to dance!”

“Th-that doesn’t matter! Mettaton’s not as energy efficient in this form! If you can just hold out long enough, his batteries will wear down enough for you to escape!”

“But what do I do?”

“A-anything! Copy him, do a twirl, strike a pose! J-just fake it long enough until he shuts down!”

The human looks unsure, but they nod, trusting her, then step up to the plate.

“Excellent, darling!” Mettaton says when he sees them ready to face him. As if on cue, the music begins to pick up in a snappish beat, reverberating in their bones. “Let