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Learn When to Quit [Old Version]

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Learn When to Quit

— Act I —

Don’t Let Him Find Out

Scene 1


 

She woke up.

 

Well, no matter how quickly she surprisingly managed to recover her consciousness a couple of seconds right after this first realization, she still was pretty stunned to realize then what had happened.

Or, well, to be more accurate, to realize that she actually had no idea what had happened. At all.

 

This realization came along with another one which, despite being completely cliché and in spite of the fact that she was all-too-well aware of it, still managed to freak her out when she realized it was actually happening for real.

Losing consciousness for some mysterious reason and then waking up in a dark (probably locked) room with no idea how they had arrived there was just so typical, she had read it –slash– watched it in films or novels so many times, she had for a long time been almost sniggering at the lack of originality that was put into those scenes. It was always the same comedy: the protagonist would first freak out all-too-dramatically, and yet pretty fast enough they would still manage to regain their calm and badass attitude and already be able to figure out with the not-so-many little hints they could look for in their surroundings how they would eventually manage to solve the problem, or at the very least figure out what had happened in the first place. That cliché had just been done to the bone.

 

Well. One thing she learned there, was why those scenes were all that ‘identical’ — at least when it came down to the “freaking out” phase.

 

She sat up so quickly that she almost lost her balance and fell over… whatever she had been lying on. It felt like some kind of couch maybe, or something of the like. Not that she really cared at the moment— the first thing she started looking for, desperately turning her head and eyes in all possible directions, was for a door, a vent, or anything that could be an exit. It was really dark so it took her some minutes, but she finally noticed what looked like a rectangular-shaped hollow in the wall, implying the hypothetical existence of a door at this location; and without any surprise, she didn’t even think before racing towards it and predictably trying to open it— to no avail, of course.

She was not particularly suffering from any kind of claustrophobia, but it didn’t prevent her from starting to hyperventilate.

 

So she was stuck in a locked dark room without any windows or vents — she deduced it probably was some kind of basement then or something. She had woken up in there, without any idea about where she was, what the heck had happened, and why that was happening to her, of all people. Not that she had anything in particular— and that was pretty much the point. She had done nothing in particular. That just made no sense. Was this some kind of kidnapping? Where and when had it occurred then? The latest thing she could remember about was when she was in her room randomly wandering on sites on her laptop, and— oh yeah, starting that video game, after her friends had literally forced her to. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to play it, she had been actually sort of excited at the idea of finally playing it on her own (even though she would never admit that out loud), but she just really didn’t have much faith in her own playing skills anyway. She could tell from experience.

 

So, in a nutshell — there was absolutely no reason for this to happen. She grunted under her breath, hardly muting an ever growing nervous and awkward snigger intended to her own silliness and former traces of hope in trying to comprehend the reasons of her presence “here” (wherever “here” was) when there logically weren’t any.

Well, that was pointless.

And even more than this, it just wasn’t even making any sense in the first place.

 

Her breath finally started to slow down, though it still was breaking the surrounding silence each time her chest was rising and lowering in panic. Her sight started to slightly adjust to the darkness, as she slowly could distinguish a desk and… some kind of giant curtain covering something that probably was just as big.

 

She carefully tried to grope along towards the desk, blindly seeking for a lamp or anything that could at least help her see a little more where she was. After a few minutes her hand finally felt some engine whose shape seemed familiar enough, and she immediately turned it on— but no, this had pretty much no effect at all.

Oh come on. Was the lightbulb out of order or something? She carefully tried to inspect the little treacherous thing when she noticed something rather different than what she had first expected: something had been attached on the top of the lamp, next to the hypothetical place where the lightbulb should have stood, and when she pressed the little button on it… The flashlight lit up, filling the room with a cold and dim light.

A flashlight. On top of a non-working desk lamp. Somehow this felt remotely familiar, but the absurdity of the situation pressed a much stronger impression on her mind.

 

Well… uh, why not?

 

That was not much and she couldn’t distinguish clearly the whole room with as many details as she wanted to, but that already was some kind of improvement. I mean, better use what you got and move on instead of complaining, right? So she detached the little torch and moved around with it… But the part of the room which was monopolizing her attention was definitely the desk: as soon as her eyes got accustomed to the new brightness, they widened in surprise when she noticed what was lying in a giant mess on the desk, right before her eyes.

 

Paper. Blueprints. There even was a closed photo album, right in the middle of the table. And heck, there was a freaking computer. Maybe it was a very old one, but still, just what the heck!

Well. If I really was kidnapped, then those guys really suck at their job.

 

That was just all too perfect, if she wanted at least to figure out a little more about her captors. Maybe she was locked in this room for now, but she hadn’t even been tied to anything and could move completely freely, and now she had this. An open door to knowledge about pretty much… anything. Hey, maybe if she loaded Google Maps then she would even figure out where that room was and how far she was from her home!

She reached for the switch and waited for overly long minutes before getting the old dinosaur to wake up… But then again, nothing. She did not hear the thing grump noisily as it would have been forced out of its slumber, as she would have expected from a dinosaur like this one; and she definitely did not see any single LED bulb or anything turn on if only for one second. She tried a few more times to press the main button, only to get over and over the same disappointing result.

Maybe there really was a general blackout actually, now that she was thinking about it. That would explain quite a few things.

 

… Welp, here goes the map. Dang it.

 

As she sighed and tried to weigh her remaining options, her eyes stumbled onto the photo album. She quickly glanced around absent-mindedly, then pouted childishly.

 

Heh. Not my fault if they forgot it there.

 

Not that she had many more options left to pass the time. She could have maybe tried to read those blueprints and messy notes here and there, but the amount of lines she could understand was pretty low; otherwise she could see in the opposite corner of the room the giant bluish blanket covering something weird, but the stuff kind of scared her when she perked a glimpse under the sheets to reveal some very complicated engine she decided not to mess with (what, she did not want to accidentally send a nuclear bomb to Korea! Strange unknown machines like those ones can really do anything).

So yeah, the photo album actually seemed to be the most relevant piece of evidence she was able to study. She opened it without any more hesitation, but was immediately stunned upon seeing the actual pics.

The first thing she could think of was, well… Halloween. Or, more accurately, cosplaying in general. Because those monsters she was seeing there in the photos were pretty familiar after all, and because it couldn’t be anything but a bunch of people in costumes anyway. But this probably wasn’t a convention, the photos were taken outdoors.

She sighed. So those kidnappers or whatever were fans of Undertale, okay, why not after all. They liked to cosplay, and they just pulled a ridiculously pointless prank on her with an album where they were just in their costumes.

 

Well, okay, maybe I just got dunked on. Those guys can be trolls, after all! Heh. At least they have a sense of humor.

 

Yet, for some reason, she couldn’t help but feel curious. Maybe if she looked closer she could distinguish some traits from those people under those disguises, and… Well, no, actually that was not the real reason she was genuinely fascinated by those photos.

 

They were all identical.

 

Or at least, so it seemed at first.

They were depicting the exact same positions, in the exact same location, even at the exact same time and –probably– date in the year, because even the background was not changing to the slightest, or almost.

 

Except that sometimes some characters were missing. One, or two. Occasionally three.
And in practically all photos except for the first one, she couldn’t help but notice, Frisk was missing.

 

Welp, guess they just couldn’t get all the cosplayers to come every time…

But seeing all those same faces in the exact same location each freaking time still felt quite eerie, though. Many photos seemed almost identical, sometimes just down to some really minor details, and… well, that was just unexpected from an album, especially one whose theme was “Disguise yourself as an Undertale character.” What was the point in taking the exact same pic of the exact same people in the (almost) exact same postures, anyway? Wasn’t the point in cosplaying to, well, ‘roleplay’ on some scale? At least to get original and different photos or something…? She always thought it was part of the fun when cosplaying, every time she was seeing all those snap shots some fans were showing about their costumes and everything.

Well, she didn’t know much about roleplay anyway, so why not after all. It’s just that it was… weird, to say the least.

 

She kept flipping through the pages, one by one, quickly glancing at the photos but gradually stopping to really look at them and hardly trying to find differences between them anymore. They were just identical. And yet all different. And that was seriously becoming creepy.

 

She stopped. That was the last page to be covered in photos— the following ones were just blank.

Or, well, almost blank.

 

do you still think it’s funny, now?

 

Her eyes were frowning and widening at the same time, no matter how paradoxical it sounded and how weird it would probably look.

Well, that was just getting creepier and creepier. Just what she needed right at the moment.

 

Okay, now I really don’t like where this is going.

 

She suddenly started to hear footsteps behind her back. They were still about a dozen feet far behind, but she immediately turned around, brandishing the flashlight like a deadly weapon. She immediately heard a muffled grunt from the stranger, probably momentarily blinded by the torch’s unexpected Powerful Beam. It’s super effective!

 

Or not. But it’s enough for the stupid girl to smirk in victory. What’s she thinking, that she’s the hero beating up the bad guys or that she’ll make a brilliant escape with that stupid stick? Besides, this is basically stealing. But who am I to judge, eh?

 

Ha, take that! she ironically mentally grinned. Next time, don’t leave dangerous weapons lying around, you jerk.

 

Anyway, the guy had a quick adaptation to the new brightness of his surroundings, and as soon as he lowered his pale arm, the girl couldn’t help but slightly lower hers as well, facing the stranger with a blank expression.

 

“… heh. already throwin’ in the spotlights, kid?” the guy chuckled lightly. “i didn’t realize you’d want to get enlightened on the truth so soon.”

 

Upon realizing who it was… Actually, what really had been surprising her was her complete lack of reaction, in fact.

You know, it’s that kind of thing when you’ve got that quota of strange things happening to you that you can handle at a time. Once you’ve got past the line, you just reach that point where practically nothing can surprise you anymore. You just stand there, mouth slightly agape, staring at the thing and mentally nodding in that ‘okay’ gesture, because it would just need too much from your neurons to process an explanation or just muster the energy to say that this is not supposed to happen.

 

So yeah, basically, this was the state our little pseudo-protagonist was in.

 

“… enlightened.’ a’right, maybe that one was a lil’ bit of a stretch.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged overdramatically. Then he paused and his grin expanded. “but don’t tell me it completely left ya in the dark, eh?”

 

Aaand he threw the finger gun. Damn it.

 

He finally seemed to notice that the teenage girl wasn’t reacting at all. No laughs, no smiles, not even grunting. Only… well, that same face of utter shock as from the beginning. Except that by that time she had gradually stepped back until she bumped into the desk and couldn’t go any further, and that now she appeared to be holding on to it for dear life.

It was plausible that by that time, the girl had just completely disconnected from reality for a minute or two. Or six.

 

Well, by now I guess it should be someone else’s cue to say something among the lines of: “Sans, I think you broke the human.”

 

“uh… hello? did your power black out, too…?” He seemed a little desperate for an answer, by that point. Whether positive or negative. Nevertheless, he still obtained none.

 

Yeah, even you can see that this one was the lamest of all, buddy.

 

“… ugh. too soon for puns, got it.” He buried his hands further into his pockets and seemed to sink his head into his shoulders, as he looked away in disappointment and mumbled under his breath: “tough crowd.”

 

She quickly stared at the skeleton, rising and lowering her gaze down to all the details she could perceive. Despite his still being pretty much hidden in the distant shadows, far away from the silly little Trustworthy Flashlight’s brightness now that it was not focused on his face anymore, she immediately noticed the blue hoodie that she would have recognized anywhere, especially after seeing it so many times in the photos she had been looking at for minutes just moments ago.

If there had been one character to be present in every single print

She couldn’t help but smile awkwardly. She hated it when she couldn’t understand what was going on. Nervous smirks didn’t really help, but she couldn’t stop them from appearing on her face whenever she was tense and anxious.

And especially when she was mocking herself for actually starting to seriously consider some dumb and random option that simply was not possible.

 

This, simply, was not Sans. There basically was no way. Some random pile of pixels could not magically all of a sudden become corporeal and sentient and be facing her right now in the four dimensions of space and time. She would not discuss that science fact, that was simply out of the question.

She had no idea why that random creepy guy would want her to think otherwise, though. Well, she had a few hypotheses, but none of them really seemed to conveniently justify all the trouble the man must have come into just to order everything in place to the slightest details. That was necessary if he wanted to be convincing of course, but…

Just, what was that for?

 

Well, on second thought, no matter what reasons she could think of, that whole mess would have just been unnecessarily overcomplicated and frustrating to prepare, in comparison with the results they would have got anyway. She almost thought for an instant to fake actually falling into the trap and improvise some kind of roleplay or something out of pity, but she quickly felt very uneasy about it. She had been kidnapped after all. There was no room for jokes with your kidnapper.

 

And yet, she would not raise her arm back and try to cover his face with the light once again. Nah, his face was very good the way it was right now in the shadows, thank you very much.

Her hand was a little shaky and cold, raising the light stick would only make things worse.

 

“Heh. Really good impression of Sans.” she eventually uttered in a voice that sounded much less confident than she had intended to. “Also his lab. Honestly, I’d almost buy it if it weren’t for a few details. Like, you know. The fact that he’s not real maybe. Just saying.”

 

There was no response from Definitely-Not-Sans, still standing in the shadows, staring at her with an unreadable total lack of expression, both his hands deeply buried into his pockets. Well, when his whole face was engulfed in the dark, it was quite difficult to distinguish it clearly anyway… But she thought she could see that little glimmer of a confused and slightly embarrassed … uh, what? in his shining pupils— even though she completely ignored it.

 

“The computer is new, uh? I-I’ve never seen its sprite, u-unless it’s supposed to be Papyrus’s. And I was sure there only was one or two photos at most— a-and you forgot Undyne’s eye-patch! … O-oh, and the thing I was sleeping on, too. It’s the green couch, isn’t it? W-well, too bad, it wasn’t supposed to be in this room.” She tried to cross her arms and puff out her chest as an attempt to increase her confidence. The effectiveness of such act was debatable. “So. See? If y-you wanted me to think that I’d somehow got drawn into the game or whatever, you got another thing coming.”

 

For at least a good dozen seconds, the guy simply stared at her in disbelief, not knowing how to react. Was there just any way to properly react, anyway? He wondered. He refused to regard this possibility at first, but— actually, yes. That girl was serious.

 

Yeah, pretty much feeling you there, buddy. I think we reached the jackpot.

 

Definitely-Not-Sans finally decided to get on the move, muffling what sounded like some kind of (almost) amused chuckle while… slightly shrugging, maybe. It was hard to see what he really was doing in the dark. And yet she still would not raise that torchlight.

He wondered whether he should directly tell her or just roll with it and let her realize on her own. But seeing how potentially unstable (and arguably hilarious) she could get, the second option seemed to present itself as the most appropriate.

 

“heh. i see you’re well-informed. yes, that’s the couch from the living room. put it down here a few weeks ago.”

 

He would let her deduce the real facts at her own pace. At least, he would try.

Still, he feared that this would take a while.

 

Now that she was lending another glance at the sofa, she could indeed realize that its shape seemed familiar, somehow.

But of course the stupid girl had to guide the flashlight towards the oh-so-fascinating piece of furniture she had already inspected mere minutes ago anyway and leave the skeleton without surveillance, if only for just one freaking second.

 

I kinda hoped at some point… But nope, we’ll have to cope with the Ultimate Dork kind of character. Well, not everything can be perfect, huh?

Still. How much do you wanna bet this is gonna backfire on her within the next seconds?

 

And indeed, as soon as her eyes strayed away from him, a blinding yet short flash of light suddenly caught her attention from behind, and when she turned back her gaze and Trusty Torch towards the spot where he had been standing until then, she noticed he wasn’t there anymore. Instead, she found him a few seconds later… lying lazily on the couch, his left arm idly stretching over its soft (supposedly greenish) back. His right arm hadn’t moved at all though, still engulfed in his hoodie’s pocket.

Well, role-playing all along, wasn’t he? He sure was enjoying this.

… Still, how the heck did he get there so quickly?

 

The Trusty Torch started to shake, shadows dancing around its cold immaculate white.

 

“By the way, uh, wow. You really must have put a lot of effort into making all this. And I don’t know that much about quantum physics, but, uh, those blueprints are quite convincing. You really must be a hardcore fan, aren’t you?” She chuckled unconvincingly. “Can I just ask you, uh, why you did all this exactly? You do realize this is technically a kidnapping, right?”

 

She was trying to take it lightly and make it sound as if it were a joke, but it felt obvious that it definitely wasn’t. This masquerade had been lasting for long enough.

Besides, all this really was starting to get on her nerves. She simply could not understand. That was just making no sense whatsoever, that place was starting to freak her out and yet she was still sort of glad that guy disguised as a skeleton was keeping some distance between them because that really was the last thing she could be getting to complete the scheme even though those were definitely not real bones—

 

Oh gosh, she was starting to hyperventilate again. It kept getting harder to hold the stupid stick, as if it were now made of lead. Viscous and wet lead.

… Wait, no, the humidity was just the cold sweat. Nothing strange here. Hahaha.

 

“hey. you alright kiddo?”

 

It felt odd that he genuinely seemed slightly concerned, even if he was good at hiding it on his face. But no, his tone could not fool anyone, he had picked on the nervousness surrounding her and seemed almost on the edge of rushing towards her if she were to collapse because of her shaky pale legs, squishing the sofa’s cushion in his left bony fingers. He did not particularly care about that stranger (heck, he didn’t even know that kid to begin with), but still, seeing anyone in that state was concerning enough as it was.

Not like she had noticed any of that, though, as it showed in her fast and winded voice as soon as she caught her breath back.

 

“As alright as could be any normal person trapped in a dark room with a hardcore Undertale fanatic dressed as one of the characters for whatever psychopathic reasons, thanks.” she retorted bitterly with a desperate sarcastic grin.

 

… Well, if she still had enough energy for sarcasm, then her case probably wasn’t that worrying after all. He could relax.

 

“ha, yeah, right. sorry, the main lights went off two days ago. too lazy to replace them. they hadn’t been used for years or somethin’, so i guess they didn’t like it when i kept them on all the time lately.” For a short instant, he seemed to actually hesitate, as if he were measuring his words and trying carefully to choose the exact ones. Though it seemed that beyond the mere words, their repercussions were what truly bothered him. “been using that basement a lot, y’know, since i’ve been working on some pretty crazy stuff recently. and it all allowed you to get here, in the end. you’d find it pretty fantastic if you only tried to believe it and stopped waving that torch at random. so uh, guess you could say it’s time to see the light, now. ain’t i right?”

 

Seriously, is that all you’ve got? Even I can tell that this pun was objectively lame.

 

She pouted ironically as her grip on the torchlight tightened. Seriously, that guy’s attitude was starting to really annoy her. Couldn’t he just, maybe, shift to the “kidnapper” part and potentially start to explain what was going on, instead of just pseudo-roleplaying by sitting on the couch and saying meaningless ‘pranks’ that weren’t even supposed to be funny to the slightest?

Sorry, but I have better things to do.

 

“Seriously, I am wondering. Why me? I mean, if it has anything to do with Undertale or something like that, then I can’t be the best fan you could have ever found or anything anyway. Hey, I haven’t even played the game in the first place.”

 

For some reason, she almost felt that guy’s sudden overwhelming silence the very instant she had uttered that last sentence. She was not completely sure why, but it was almost as if she had just sensed his sudden tension without even needing to turn her eyes and watch it on his face, in spite of the distance between them.

And even though she simply dismissed this feeling as a mere coincidence or some kind of “predictability” she could have intuited in his excessively silent reaction, she still was slightly taken aback by how seriously he seemed to take that revelation, feeling this rising… was this confusion or anger? Or both?

 

The skeleton’s grip on the sofa tightened once more, but for a completely different reason this time.

So this was how things were. Of course, this all made so much more sense now.

Well, if this was the way things had started, then he could just as well play along, huh.

 

“… Wait. Really?” he uttered as calmly as he could, though probably a little too fast and eagerly.

 

It was the first time she really paid attention, but since the beginning she had noticed that there was something peculiar about the timbre in his voice. Until now she had assumed it was only due to the fact that his mask (he was wearing a mask after all, this was the only possibility) had to be muffling his words, but this time… She couldn’t help but notice that his last words really had sounded even stranger than before.

If it really had been Sans in one of his in-game dialogues, she could have almost guessed that he would have put some capitals in his speech, for once. And one thing she had learned fast enough through the fandom was that with that monster, proper capitalization was never a good sign.

 

Good thing that option is unquestionably out of the way.

 

“Yeah!” she shrugged obliviously. “Honestly, I suck so much at video games, it’s just hilariously ridiculous. I’ve even been wondering sometimes if there was something like a world record for that. Seriously, even if I wanted to play the game, I wouldn’t even survive five minutes.”

 

And there came back that exact same awkward silence. He was uncomfortably staring at her without even moving the slightest from his seat, narrowing and twitching his eyes, which from that distance could only be distinguished through what was supposed to represent a pair of eye sockets.

With that giant smile stuck on his mask (it had to be some sort of latex mask or something, right?), it was somewhat tricky to really know what his real expression was supposed to be. But… he really somewhat seemed to be deeply confused, if not… shocked.

 

“but… You must have at least tried, right…?” he eventually asked hesitantly.

 

It would eventually spill the beans. It had to. It did not necessarily have to be a completely rotten apple. Or if it was, it would betray itself at some point, seeing how much it loved to talk. All he had to do was make it talk until the truth came out by itself.

 

Still, that innocent tone had been amusing him at first, but now that he knew this was just a façade, this was only making him sick.

 

“Well, yeah, I was gonna try to play it since my friends had been literally begging me on their knees for weeks, but I somehow ended up here before I could actually get started. So, uh, nope, I basically never played the game.”

 

Both his eyes twitched once, very furtively, both at the same time. Besides that, he stayed perfectly still for what felt like whole minutes now.

If that wasn’t some kind of “internal scream” or something, then she really didn’t know how to interpret that expression.

 

“Hey, you okay? You almost look like you’re about to collapse or something.” She was not even hiding her nervous yet slightly genuinely mocking chuckle.

 

He paused, nervously running a white hand along his face and slowly burying his eyes into his fingers, as to try to rub off some kind of nausea. The rubbing let out a little rattling sound that gracefully put the teenager even more at unease, as she unconsciously stepped back and bumped into the desk once again.

 

On the other side of the room, he had now had it. If now it was faking to care about him, this would really be the last straw.

 

“n-never mind. l-let’s just… change the subject. how do you happen to know that much about that, uh, game, then?”

 

Her eyes suddenly widened in what would seem to be genuine surprise, but some discreet eerie sparks of anger could twinkle in the corners of her flickering eyelids.

 

“Oh yeah. You kidnap me and then all you do is start some random cosplay and lie in that couch and such, and now you’re just expecting me to tell about my hobbies just like we’re talking about the weather around a cup of tea.” She crossed her arms in annoyance. Her patience really started to reach its limit now. That was just starting to make way too much weirdness for her standards. “How about we actually talked about things that really matter, for a change? Like, I don’t know, what the heck am I supposed to be doing here?”

 

She hardly waited for an answer, because she already knew that whatever he could say, she wouldn’t be contented with it anyway. She didn’t even care whether or not he was still there watching her; if he wasn’t getting to the important part, then she would be.

Starting with the first logical thing she could think about, she looked around again and again, sometimes gesturing some discreet lines as if she was trying to figure out some sort of trajectory. Then she started to approach the desk again, lifting random blueprints and sheets before replacing them approximately in the same mess as before.

 

Well wasn’t this the face of one big desperate girl there.

 

“what are you looking for?” he eventually asked tiredly, but with what seemed to be some little spark of curiosity and amusement. No way this was needed to be reckoned with, this now really was pure silliness. Not like it would find anything dangerous in there.

“The camera.” she answered immediately, without even turning her eyes towards him. “You can’t be an actual kidnapper, seriously, you made way too many mistakes, and this stupid act is just preposterous. So this is some kind of prank, right? And there must be a camera somewhere in this room, recording us right now, and we’ll become internet famous or something. I’m sure the result must be hilarious.”

 

Definitely-Not-Sans seemed to widen his eyes in genuine surprise, for once. Though he still was obviously amused by all her –indeed– pretty much hilarious gesticulations and movements here and there, messing up his desk with an ever growing annoyance.

Not that he seemed to care, though.

 

“wow. so you really are of the conspiracy theory type, eh?”

“Well, usually not that much, but it’s not like there were many other options left.” She had stopped her search for a few moments, only to turn to him and let shine that big cocky smirk that was supposed to look sarcastic, but which really was just sad actually. So silly.

“haha, yeah, you’re right. not like i really could be the real sans or something. that’s completely stupid.”

 

Now staring at the desk and the things lying messily around it, she opened her mouth to confirm in the most confident and cynical tone she could get— but she never got time to actually say anything.

 

Something had caught her shoulder from her back.

 

It felt so thick and cold.

 

“nah, just kidding. this is real, kid.”

 

That voice, that same voice that was coming seconds ago from the couch, was now sounding right from behind her back. She shivered and, as a reflex, looked at her right shoulder—

But then she met, in the dim light, hardly a foot away from her eyes, her “kidnapper’s” actual face.

 

His left eye was still flickering an eerie blue, coming from the depths of his eye socket. The light magically stopped a split second later, but its striking impression remained. His stuck and still giant smirk slicing his whole face in half somehow still seemed to enlarge itself in an eerily edgy forced grin of pure anger.

 

Bones.

 

Her eye fell on that white hand still clutching her shoulder, its holes and its so fragile yet so strong phalanges and its iron grip on her flesh and the cold—

 

BONES.

 

She let out a sudden hysteric cry, but she could not even hear it herself. She didn’t even feel her vibrating vocal chords shaking and struggling in an attempt to escape it, threatening to be torn apart any instant.

 

The whole room started to turn around her at an ever growing speed, flickering lights and orange and red and dim yellow in pitch black and skulls and claws crawling on her back and the dark ceiling and low yells resonating like distorted laughs of…

 

She passed out.

 

The skeleton watched with bewilderment at the suddenly unconscious body that had fallen down on the tiled floor, without any warning and apparently not about to move again for a while.

He started to tremble in annoyance as his left hand ran upon his skull, slowly covering his eyes darkening with a reasonably controlled exasperation, yet feeling his patience starting to run out.

 

… seriously?

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act I —

Don’t Let Him Find Out

Scene 2


05:28 PM

 

Sans detached his white pupils from the little clock on his desk, then glanced once more over his shoulder and towards the greenish couch: but the human still had not woken up. He sighed in boredom and annoyance just like the previous times, before leading his eyes back to his blueprints and struggling to end that last damned equation. It had been so long since he had not seen those drafts and schemes for the last time; actually trying to get back to work after countless timelines of giving up in profit to an apparent laziness meant to hide a deep and serious depression was harder than he had thought, and he hated it.

He repressed a silent yawn; he had to admit though, he definitely deserved at least some rest after all this, and he probably would sleep for over fourteen hours if needed, as soon as he finally got this over with.

But until then, he still had to watch over the human and get sure to be there when it would finally wake up for the second time— and, hopefully, for the last. He couldn’t risk to let it by itself right now, not before he had told it everything it needed to know first. And God would there be a hellish amount of things to explain.

 

It was all the more frustrating to see that kid snoozing so peacefully while he could not let himself fall asleep even for a single minute.

 

who’s the lazybones now, uh? he thought bitterly and humorlessly.

 

The room’s main lights suddenly flickered for a few seconds before staying lit, filling the basement with a bright new and much more comfortable light. Sans perked a glance at the ceiling in surprise, but soon retained a relieved sigh. Finally some good news, for a change.

The CORE had been fixed, thankfully. For one moment he really had started to wonder if his experiment could have broken it down for good… Alphys would have so killed him for this if the whole Underground had had to be deprived from its main source of energy for weeks because of him, especially now that they needed it more than ever; seeing it working again so soon really was lifting a weight.

Besides, no more CORE would have meant crossing out his last and only hope to ever fix their problems… and it would have meant that all these efforts would have been done for nothing.

But the CORE had been fixed, fortunately for him, and fortunately for everyone else.

 

She would still kill him for this, though. For how long had the whole cave been stuck in the dark, three hours? To think his machine had only been working for hardly ten seconds

 

Yet Sans glared suspiciously at the human –who was still napping obliviously in the sofa–, before standing up and going back to turn the lights off again. The workshop was once more engulfed into the darkness of the sole dim light of his pitiful flashlight, which had been brought back to its initial position on top of the desk lamp.

He had told it that the main lights didn’t work because they were broken; while that had been true, he had omitted to mention that he actually had replaced the lightbulbs long ago, since he didn’t think that the blackout would have come to his advantage— way on the contrary. The door of the basement had been locked, but still, one could never be too cautious; if it somehow had the stupid idea of trying to escape and actually managed to wander in a pitch black Underground, things would have been meant to go haywire way too quickly. So as long as he had kept the blackout a secret for the time it lasted, that was already one less thing to worry about.

And now, he didn’t really want to waste any more time trying to answer questions that didn’t even matter to the least. There would be so many more things he would have to tell anyway and a real questioning session definitely was to be expected (he sighed again in extreme exasperation at the mere thought of it), and he really wasn’t that eager to spend hours randomly answering questions that had no incidence whatsoever on what really was going on. Therefore, avoiding getting any suspicions from it was a good start to try to reduce the amount of time that interrogation would last.

Besides, that would hopefully keep that kid in place and prevent it a little more from doing anything stupid. From what he had already seen from it… if it ever started again entering its ‘paranoia mode’, then he would have a bad time.

 

Well, to be more accurate, he would have a bad time trying to keep playing it cool no matter how infuriating that kid was and how much he had sometimes even thought about strangling it in order to shut it up, that was. His first impression of its personality was that it could blabber for hours about pretty much anything but what really mattered. If on top of that it was that much of a “sensitive” soul… He chuckled somberly at this sick joke that was anything but funny.

 

Besides, how could he know for sure that all of this hadn’t been just an act from its part? For all he knew, this was by far the most likely explanation. No matter what its motive had been –guilt, fear, pure malevolence–, he had without a doubt been facing a human who had blatantly lied to him and taken him for a fool the whole time.

The mere thought of it claiming that it had never played the game filled him with wrath.

 

It didn’t matter that those “Players” didn’t know what they really were doing. He could understand that. He could understand they would be shocked if they learned the truth all of a sudden, feel guilty over it even though they had no idea they had been killing actual people, ask for redemption while not necessarily believe they would really get it — though at some point he had thought of actually forgiving them.

 

Yes. It sounded paradoxical at first, but in a way… On the long run, it really had been cathartic for him to learn about the existence of that video game.

 

After all, if those “Players” were just playing a game, if they were just sitting with their laptops and enjoying a fictional tale, if they were getting as far as to share their respective stories and art with both friends and strangers all around their cyber network, if they were all convinced that none of it was true because look at these graphics, they’re old but classy, it’s a cool video game but it can’t possibly be real

It meant that no matter how terrible things went, no matter all the horrors this game had led him through…

 

It meant that no one was actually crazy enough to do it on purpose.

 

Thanks to these thoughts, he used to feel at peace, upon the idea of meeting one of them. He used to think convincing them would be a piece of cake. He used to think they would be willing to help on their own volition. Willing to befriend him, even, probably. Heh.

 

But then it just had to be that one.


Then again, it was alright if it was scared and lost by learning all of a sudden that it could have actually murdered real people, and that it was facing right now what was supposedly the “Judge” in its mind or whatever other stories its crazy “fandom” had made up about him. But it didn’t change anything to the fact that its actions still had consequences; it was time it faced them.

Getting it to remain stuck in its denial only filled his mind with grief and resentment. Were all of those Players really like this one? They were too shy to face them in fair fights, and now too cowardly to merely admit what they had done?

That was unacceptable.

 

To be entirely honest, by now, that human really was lucky he needed it alive and in good shape for his plan to work. If not, he would have already slapped it awake, unleashed his resentment, confronted it to its lies and by any other means, led it to follow his plan no matter what. If he had gained any further evidence that it truly was responsible for what he supposed it did and if it had kept taking him for a fool any longer, it probably would have been long dead by now.

He had already wasted much more time than his patience could tolerate, and that human’s unbearable improbity was definitely not making things better.

 

Sans slightly jumped as he heard the human starting to move again, moaning in silence and confusion.

 

His left eye quickly flickered light blue for a second as he wanted to check— yes. It really was waking up for good.

It was time for action.

 

And it was time he finally put a stop to all this madness.

 

“you sure like to take your time, uh?”

 

He had turned his chair in order to face it, his head nonchalantly resting on his left hand, whose elbow was leisurely lying on the desk. Just for both of their sakes, he had been willing to try to stay patient once more… But only his boredom and a reasonably controlled anger poorly wrapped into genuine sarcasm had been audible.

 

The human rose a livid head, its expression stuck with shock and an ever growing fear as its jaw gaped open.

Sans rolled his eyes cynically.

 

nope, i’m still here. not a dream. now that this is finally settled, maybe we could just—

 

“Y-You can’t be Sans… Ha-ha-ha, right…? I-It just doesn’t make sense t-that’s physically impossible…”

 

It sounded as if he had grinded his teeth, as he slowly but angrily stood up and started pacing threateningly towards it.

ugh, you know what!? screw it, i don’t even care anymore.

 

oh no you won’t. i’ve had enough with that junk, we’re not gonna beat around the bush any longer now.”

 

The skeleton’s left hand closed into a fist as if he had just taken a grip onto something. She yelped as she immediately felt some kind of pull coming from her very deep chest, but as soon as he put his hand into motion, all she really managed to do afterwards was gasp in shock— and for breathable air, too.

 

The next instant, all she got time to realize was that she couldn’t feel the ground under her feet anymore— and that she was now stuck floating in midair, her face standing hardly one foot away from his.

His eye flashed with rings of bright cyan ember trembling in the middle of an obscure endless void, and his voice had seemed to sound even deeper than before. The right eye-socket was just pure darkness as its shape seemed to still enlarge itself in one round black hole.

 

“Listen, kid. I’ve been patient until now, but I have more important things to do than play the babysitter. Especially yours.

“P-P-PUT ME DOWN!”

 

He didn’t even flinch, instead slightly narrowing his shadowed bony pseudo-eyebrows. Unlike before when all that could be seen of his face was some vague pale silhouette under the electric shades of the torchlight, this time his entire features were somehow lit from below by a ghastly deep watery halo quivering between them.

Although his tone sounded calmer, for once his ever stuck smile seemed eerily in place as his left iris stabilized to an abysmal azure shade throwing daggers all around.

 

Whatever that was that she could now feel pounding in her chest, that was huge, that was flashing dark blue, and that was hurting. It felt as if someone had somehow managed to hang her by her heart and it was doing its best to keep pounding at a wild rate as if it would manage to free itself from whatever it was that was holding it up in the air.

It hurt. He was furious and he was scary and it hurt.

 

“you probably already know this, but a long time ago… i promised an old lady that if any human came through that door leading to the ruins, then i would have to protect them.” No matter how impossible it was supposed to be, she felt as if his smile had somehow grown even larger. His eye suddenly stopped glowing, though he still was keeping a strong hold on her. “But you technically didn’t come through that door, did you?”

“PLEASE I’LL DO ANYTHING JUST PUT ME DOWN!”

 

This time however, he did stop; if only for a split second. His hand faintly lowered, even if his grip was still keeping his prey at a reasonable distance from the ground.

 

The human was forcefully trying to curl up in on itself in some kind of ridiculous malformed ball of flesh. Its shaking hands wrapped around its head and covered its ears, its eyes forcedly closed and tearing apart in weak cries slightly twinkling in the dim light.

 

For some reason, this instant, Sans started to feel that something really was wrong; as if internally he knew that any other normal human was not meant to react that badly. He had obviously expected to see a face distorted with sudden terror; but given the type of human this was; given that even the dumbest of these players were able to predict any of the game’s characters’ behaviors at least to some extent— shouldn’t it have expected him to react similarly to this— shouldn’t it have seen this coming? He tried to dismiss this mere impression as he reasoned that it was probably faking such over-the-top response so he would let his guard down and hesitate at the worst moment, if only for an instant— but the feeling would only get stronger the longer he was staring at this pitiful view.

 

This was not the face of a calculating liar crying crocodile tears.

 

“Put me down” she kept repeating again and again in a shaking and desperately imploring voice, “put me down, put-me-down please put-me-down ooh put-me-down-I’m-so-sorry-but-oh-my-God-put-me-down…”

 

His eyes closed as he sighed tensely, his anger seemingly defeated as his hand exasperatedly yet somewhat absent-mindedly sent the crybaby back in place on the couch before he eventually released his grasp.

 

It’s not even worth it.

 

Act or not, it was now definite that pushing it would lead nowhere. So much for trying to have it spill the beans.

 

So he watched as the fleshy ball kept trembling and sobbing for a few long minutes, and he eventually brought his chair along as soon as his laziness told him he was getting bored. He could hear it mutter distorted words sounding like some really awkward apologies, but it took a while for the human to finally pull her crimson head away from her arms and struggle to actually meet him in the eyes. Or at least, to just try to stare back at the pair of white glowing pellets glaring at her, given that the only source of light available was once more only that of the little faraway torchlight, sitting on top of the desk located at least a dozen feet away from them. From that distance she could still distinguish the skeleton’s outlines under the dim cold light, though it only sharpened his traits.

 

Sans was once more slightly taken aback for a half second upon seeing her face. If that face wasn’t just some (incredibly convincing) act, then the genuine message it read was crystal clear.

For some reason, it almost appeared as if the mere fact of looking at him was actually painful.

 

He had seen fear. He knew what fear looked like.

This definitely was something else.

 

“… Sans.” was all she managed to whisper in a broken voice that still somewhat struggled to hide her terror, to no avail.

“yeah.” He frowned impatiently, trying to ignore as much as he could all the thoughts lingering on the back of his mind. There were already quite a few topics he wanted to tackle, and it was time they finally stopped merely wandering about; as much as such over-the-top reaction confused him deeply, those extra issues would have to wait.
“we good, or you’re just gonna faint each time i try to get to the point?”

 

She clumsily pushed her way back into the depths of the sofa (and almost lost her balance in the process), apparently trying to increase the distance between them as much as it was physically possible.

 

“W-we’re good.” she muttered, still quivering. She was desperately trying not to look at him, but some stupid survival instinct lurking in her trembling yet fully alert limbs kept making her stare at his face anyway. “… A-at least I think so…”

 

Ooh God, that’s gonna be awkward.

 

The skeleton closed his eye-sockets and sighed, reluctantly considering this answer as a ‘yes.’ Then he looked straight at her, his now back-to-normal small white pupils staring deep into her still reddish and salty face.

She finally managed not to look back.

 

“you want to know why you’re here.”

 

That was not a question. Both of them already knew the answer, so why bother adding an unnecessary interrogative intonation to it?

No, it was merely a fact that they already both knew pretty well. But that was a way just like any other to clearly announce the main topic.

Still, he immediately got a shy yet insistent nod from her head. Well, her face was completely buried into her arms and legs, so he just assumed that the movement that pile of brown middle-length hair had made was supposed to look like a nod.

 

“you probably already heard of my research about… anomalies in the space-time continuum.” She hardly nodded, not saying a word. “all i knew was that anomaly was somehow sentient and doing this on purpose. resetting again and again. doing different things just to see what happens.” His pupils faded as he paused, before getting his tone to become lower-pitched than ever: “Slaughtering everyone in sight just for the heck of it.”

 

She seemed to shudder. Her arms toughened their grip around her knees. She seemed even less disposed to turn around and face him, now.

Sans reluctantly tried to regain a more casual tone, seeing that it apparently was the only way to actually get her to listen effectively:

 

“guess it only was a matter of time before i found out, then. that there was at least a possibility they just didn’t know what they were doing. that they thought there would be no consequences since they reset every time and no one even remembers what happened in the first place. that there was a chance that from their perspective… it was all just a game.” He stopped for a few seconds, letting go a dark chuckle that wasn’t genuine to the least. “i simply didn’t know yet that was literal.”

 

She seemed to struggle for a few seconds, but eventually slightly turned her head.

Her bright eyes were reflecting from afar the dim light of the torchlight through the shadows, and for one moment he swore he had seen a little spark of an incongruous and unavowed curiosity despite their rosy swollenness and the desperate something-that-definitely-wasn’t-just-fear engulfing them in uncontrolled tears.

 

“But, h-how is that even possible…?” she stuttered in a voice that was barely audible. She sniffed and tried to straighten her back in order to regain a better speech, but to no avail. “I-I mean, if the games really determine the timeline here or something… i-it doesn’t make sense, that’s just… H-How can you even be real in the first place? N-n-no offense.”

“all i know for sure is that’s how it is.” He shrugged in a way that wanted to dodge the question, but his tone somewhat still betrayed the fact that he knew the answer nevertheless. Seeing her unadmitted insistent look that begged for solutions, he sighed before continuing: “okay, i did research a bit on the details so i have a theory, but i don’t think you’d understand much of it if i was to bring it to you anyway. you wouldn’t happen by any chance to be familiar with quantum physics. are you?”

 

She lowered her eyes and buried a little more her head in her arms disappointedly.

If she was getting things straight, then it appeared clear to her that for some reason, somewhere, the video game was real. That it affected actual sentient people, and not just meaningless sprites and code with predetermined dialogues and actions to follow without any hint of actual thought into it.

The players were not toying with fictional characters, but with real lives. The reason why their dialogue could be always the same and yet so easily changed by the subtlest shifts was because they simply couldn’t remember the Resets, thus were prone to simply repeat their actions whenever time itself was rewound and they were merely confronted repeatedly to exactly the same circumstances over and over.

It made no sense, but when facing this specific kind of context, it seemed to be the only thing that would make sense. Sans’s “dialogue” here sure was a lot more adaptable than any regular simulation, and bones he sure felt physically tangible enough when claws he grabbed her that last time, thank you very much.

 

… And yet, there still was something that prevented this all from sounding truly real to her. She had entirely put aside the ‘dream’ option by now, but still— something was amiss.

For all she knew, the original video game made it clear that their lives were still led by numbers, and the fandom basically took it as canon too— because it was. Monsters had “LOVE”, “EXP”, their basic attacks followed predetermined patterns (it was canon that monsters could somehow be offered “patterns” as presents), their fights were turn-based and their actions were apparently confined within the sole time limit of ‘their’ turn, and their physical abilities depended on statistics such as “HP”, “ATK” and “DEF.” A real world that truly made sense would not accept such things to develop alongside its regular physics laws. Even just the Resets thing itself— she enjoyed sci-fi stories and theories, but for all she knew, time travel was just impossible (Lys had bored her with that “science fact” so many times).

So even if they were truly sentient and deserved basic respect and rights as real characters people, it didn’t necessarily make them physically real. Their world and its mechanics simply wouldn’t make sense otherwise, if it were just as real as her own.

 

In a way, it was… almost reassuring. This world wasn’t her own, but it was still a lot more predictable. She would have to adjust to quite a few things of course, but logically— she should soon find her way through, right? Both this world and its inhabitants felt real, but she simply had to remember that they could not possibly be anything but some sort of virtual simulation, could they? Like in The Matrix!

 

Yes. As realistic and sentient they would all seem, Sans and all the others just had to be some sorts of futuristic artificial intelligences. Very, very elaborate and sentient artificial intelligences apparently able to feel actual emotions and having real virtual lives and families and human (?) moralities. Hahahahaha.

That wouldn’t prevent her from treating them like fully real people though, because even if they weren’t real according to the physical aspect, they still were on the ethical one— and thus, they certainly didn’t deserve going through all that mess the video game and its players apparently put on them, and they probab definitely had the right to be mad at her for being one of the people responsible for all that mess (even if she was innocent wasn’t she). And even though he sounded a lot more done than she would have expected wished, Sans’s actions so far sounded to her like they were pretty much justified.

 

… That still was one heck of a messed up situation.

 

Which led her to wonder… How had he reacted, upon learning by himself that his world wasn’t real? How had he managed to bring someone real on the physical plane inside a (supposedly?) virtual place? Was it like in The Matrix, and this body she felt like having right now was nothing more than a part of the simulation itself? That might explain some things, maybe, like how Sans was able to do… whatever it was that he had done to her.

Whatever was that thing that she had felt in her chest during that time, it sure had never been there before. It had never made itself known, at least.

 

“How did you find out?” she eventually asked in the middle of her reflection, maybe too absorbed in her reasoning to realize that she was actually asking it out loud. “How did I arrive here? I– can’t even remember what happened…”

 

That was not a lie. For some reason, her latest memory was that of her laptop’s screen about to start a new game, right after she had confirmed the name she had chosen… She could also remember a flash of light, but the rest was just way too blurry to analyze a posteriori. Nevertheless, for some reason her spine started to freeze as soon as she began trying to actually remember it—

She glanced once more at the skel Sans before shuddering again. Maybe she didn’t have to look that much into it, after all. In a way, the explanation was pretty clear in her mind.

 

“For how long have you… been aware of all this?” she eventually added, despite her dreading his answer.

 

Sans merely tipped his skull towards the blueprints on his desk.

 

“let’s say that’s kinda the tricky part.” he chuckled tensely, even though he genuinely was trying this time to dismiss it as some joke— emphasis on trying. “that’s some kind of work i started in a previous timeline and i don’t remember at all how exactly i came across those discoveries for the first time. those plans just happened to survive the last resets. my computer there can still “save” virtual data, like the photos; so that’s where i eventually found the plans too.”

 

She tried to look over for the album, but she was too far away to actually see it— and anyway, the mere light of the pitiful torch was hardly any help from its current position. How was Sans even doing it right now? It seemed like he could see her perfectly even in pure blackness, while all she could see of him was his dark bony silhouette against the light, where his two bright pupils were glaring straight at her from the middle of one giant void. She tried to avoid looking at those directly.

… Yeah alright so skeletons probably had some kind of night-vision or something. Well, they didn’t even have eyes to begin with, so sure why not. That certainly was reassuring.

 

Still, there was something odd about what he was telling her here. She remembered that the game mentioned the existence of a photo of the Pacifist route, even when a True Reset had come in between; so that sort of made sense. And yet she was still somewhat suspicious, and it seemed like Sans, too, was also dubious about the actual whereabouts of that oh-so-convenient… coincidence.

 

“they do look really familiar, and with all the passwords i’ve put in that old thing there’s no doubt i was the only one who could’ve done it at some point anyway. but as for the details… sorry, can’t help ya. though i, too, would’ve been curious to know as well.”

“But… I-I don’t get it.” She frowned in puzzlement, but still avoided showing it to him. “Do you remember the previous timelines, or do you not? Moments ago you sounded like you really could remember the whole thing, but now you just…” she whispered in deep confusion. “I-I haven’t played the game, I only read about it and watched some videos so maybe I missed something important, but I was sure you just were aware of the situation, a-and that it was it. T-That after each Reset, your memory was, like—uh, completely blank or something…”

“heh. i don’t care what they say about me.” was all he answered, closing his eyes and shrugging almost jokingly. “though… as far as i know, it really was like that in the beginning. it’s just that after a certain point, i started to actually try to remember them, so… eventually, i kinda made sure i would.”

“What do you mean…?”

 

Sans sighed deeply, an unreadable expression on his face. Then he slowly pushed his way up and walked lazily towards his desk, where he carelessly detached the little torchlight. And then he brandished it in one specific direction and started heading for the opposite corner of the room. Where was standing…

 

She finally realized she already knew what exactly was the thing he was about to show her, as soon as he would remove that gigantic and dusty blanket.

 

“what i had really wanted at first, even before frisk came along with all the mess that followed, was a machine that would be powerful enough to manipulate the timelines and gain the ability to “save” and “reset” on its own.” he started calmly, staring at the bluish blanket that was not so blue anymore. He slightly turned back towards her, chuckling awkwardly: “so that, you know, that power wouldn’t “fall into the wrong hands” instead or whatever, since only one thing can have it at a time. there were already resets by that time, so that was the only way we could think of to stop them— by, well, “stealing” their power.” He marked a small pause, as the arm which held the torchlight up silently fell limp by his side. “all i wanted in the end was to create that machine so that no one would ever use it. the plan was to lock it away and hide it as soon as it was finished.” he concluded gloomily.

“… But you never managed to finish it.” she deduced expectedly in a weak and sorry tone.

 

He sighed again, tensely this time.

Those multiple Resets had just been erasing his progress each time he was making some, and at first he wasn’t even aware of it. And now one of those who were responsible for the destruction of his research was…

 

It appeared as if he had clenched faintly his teeth, trying to ignore his resentment for both of their sakes.

Pitiful irony.

 

“that girl there wasn’t powerful enough to save the whole timeline, even back in the time i finally managed to run it for the first time. so i got no choice but to get to the second best solution. by saving, you know…” He leisurely tapped his skull while pseudo-jokingly winking at her: “… something else.”

 

But his tired gesture was much more talkative. Aware of that fact, he completely dropped his mask when he continued in a deep tone and muttered cynically under his breath:

 

“that was handy at first, but in the end it turned out to be even worse than not remembering anything at all.”

 

From the tone he had used, much more to himself than to anybody else, she thought it best to pretend she hadn’t heard him.

A heavy silence filled the room for almost an entire minute; but she eventually decided to break it soon after:

 

“So, uh… W-what am I here for again?”

 

She strongly wanted to know the answer of course, and they both knew that they could not keep dodging that question forever. Nonetheless, the more their conversation strayed away from that topic one way or another, the more concerned and uneasy she felt about bringing it back. She could think of two main reasons for not answering that question right away: either it just was an awkwardly complicated and possibly “very long story” that would take hours to explain, or…

 

No, no. He had practically written at the end of his photo album I’m the culprit and I’m finally gonna take revenge on you” — he would not do that if he really was plotting something particularly nasty for her, right? He would be trickier than that, he would absolutely not warn her beforehand.

 

… Actually, he definitely would. What was he doing in any normal Genocide run, after all?

 

And she had to admit, he really looked pissed off, especially for Sans — Sans was usually supposed to remain calm and patient and let his laziness guide him anytime, right? Even in the most pessimistic of all possible timelines, he was only getting on the move way after the point of no return, when there truly was no more hope of ever turning back.

Were there any circumstances where he would be that angry? She was not sure she wanted to know.

 

But… she technically hadn’t done anything wrong. She had told him she had never even got the chance to play even for one minute, so he knew that, right? But what if it just didn’t matter and he was still mad at her for even trying? Even if, still, she was technically innocent once again, it was her friends’ fault there, not hers… Right?

Maybe he simply didn’t believe her? So what would his revenge be like? A live-action fight…? Oh God, she so hoped not. He didn’t need to become even scarier than he already was and here it is, she was hyperventilating again.

 

“geez, chill out kid, it’s not like i was gonna kill you any minute or something.” he immediately retorted in annoyance. “and hey, if it can comfort you in any way, i specifically need you to stay alive and in good shape for this to work, so it’d be kinda stupid to ruin everything at this point.”

 

She silently sighed in relief, but the curled up ball of flesh still wouldn’t move. Sans rolled his white pupils exasperatedly.

Well, on the bright side of things, he would probably not really need to worry about her getting into trouble (or rather causing trouble) if she was to remain in this state all along. But still, that was just becoming ridiculous by now.

 

“now to answer your question, i was just about to bring that up.”

 

He suddenly pulled on the blanket. It tumbled on the floor.

She widened her eyes in amazement… Though it didn’t show her exactly what she had been expecting.

 

There actually was not one machine, but two, standing side by side.

 

“on the left, this is what brought you here in the first place.” Sans recited lazily while hardly gesturing it with an agitated torchlight.

 

She noticed the gigantic monstrosity was much bigger than the other, towering them with dark thick pipes and menacing wires strangling an approximately human-sized cavity surrounded by what probably would be an enormous generator.

Well, she had guessed that ‘inviting’ people into another (virtual?) reality would not end up very cheap on the electricity bill… but still.

All she could see there was that he really had put much effort into that project, and that was all the more surprising coming from him, of all characters people. How about his alleged irredeemable laziness? Gone on vacation?

 

She didn’t have time to mentally gossip much more about it though, because Sans had already moved his light towards the other block of steel and iron:

 

“and on the right… let’s say that’s the reason why you’re here.”

“Your… time machine?” she deduced, though it seemed pretty obvious given the circumstances. Besides, as the game stated, it did look pretty out of order, to say the least. “You want me to fix it?”

 

She had blurted it out as a half-joke, perfectly knowing that she wouldn’t be of any use in that specific field, and knowing that the monster himself had pretty much guessed it as well. Science was sort of a hobby for her, but… only as a hobby. She basically didn’t know anything of real relevance and was merely curious about the scientific discoveries and all the fuss around them (as well as stupid useless facts like what it looked like to shove a toaster in a microwave— now is not the time). In any case. Whenever it came down to actually looking at the equations or even just trying to dig a little deeper into the theories or whatever, she was a complete ignorant.

 

The skeleton had not quite corrected her the way she had expected it though, as he simply shrugged it off and muttered that her being here was already all the help he would need from her.

She tried to question him for more elaborate and clear answers, but she did not even have the time to open her mouth:

 

“it would be tough and pretty boring to explain everything down to all the details, and i’ll spare you from the metaphysics-related part. but to make it short…” He seemed to hesitate, carefully choosing the right words and… apparently, bringing himself into reluctantly mouthing some of them no matter how much he obviously despised using them in such context: “as a… ‘player’, you have the possibility to reset the timeline whenever you want. basically.”

“That’s only through the game’s mechanics though, I don’t think—”

“the game’s not the problem. at least, not anymore.”

 

She stared at him with a blank look.

She was not sure she really followed what he was implying here.

 

Well, she would know if she just happened to have the magical ability to randomly warp time into infinite loops, wouldn’t she? And there was no way she would just like that develop that power out of nowhere.

… Right?

 

“you know what makes human souls so special?” He had uttered this as a regular question, but it was audible that he already assumed that she knew. It didn’t prevent him from answering it anyways, just in order to avoid any potential misunderstanding: “determination. and let’s say that yours, along with any of the other ‘players’,” (he really did hate that word, didn’t he?), “is for some reason much stronger than the common average around here.”

 

He walked back towards his chair some feet away from the couch, then took a seat, facing her with a serious glare. As he lazily laid his left arm on his knees, the torchlight’s beam was now only engulfing the ground. Not like the dark seemed to bother him.

 

“so now that you’re in a world where your soul has an actual physicality, it’s powerful enough to give you the power to reset… theoretically, over the game’s normal capacity.” He paused for a few seconds, but still felt the need to sum up his whole speech in one single and easy-to-understand conclusion just in case: “in other words, for as long as you’re staying here, it means that no one can reset the timeline but you.”

 

She gasped in silence, no breath coming out of her lungs.

She had so many questions and yet it all pretty much already made sense and words just wouldn’t work for her mouth right now.

 

After a few seconds though, she slowly calmed down, analyzing again and again what she had learned… and suddenly she repressed a burst of cynical laugh. Of course not, there simply was no way.

She would never be determined enough. Not her. He would never make her buy that one. Hilarious.

 

… But if Sans’s weird metaphysical creepy calculations were telling otherwise, she was genuinely willing to trust him. If only in order not to fail him and get him back to his grumpy murderous side.

So she was a time traveler. Well, that surely was a thing. That was even pretty cool actually, now that she was thinking about it. Heh.

 

“So you mean that you… want me to Reset for you or something?” she tried shyly.

“no. i want you to prevent anybody from doing any reset whatsoever.”

 

Oh. That was a shame, she was already starting to fantasize about all the things she could have done thanks to time traveling. Well, the dream was funny while it lasted…

What was the point in granting you with an amazing superpower if you weren’t even allowed to use it? What a party crasher. Wasn’t he supposed to be a comedian? She pouted internally in disappointment.

 

He deliberately ignored her childish expression, only willing to finish his explanations as shortly as possible. As his face showed, he now just wanted to get this over with once and for all:

 

“it should clear my way for long enough to actually make some progress on that time machine, and once i get it to work, then no one will ever be able to reset anymore.” he added while hardly gesturing his broken pile of wires and other various electronic components. “so the plan was to get you here, fix the machine, send you back, and then reset the timeline for the last. time. ever. pretty simple.”

 

Then he straightened his back a little and pointed the flashlight towards her as he looked through her with an intense glare, asking her gravely if she had any objections.

 

She didn’t have any.

 

She did have a question, though:

 

“So… what do you really want me to do, then…?”

“nothing. literally.” He simply shrugged, but his tone did seem to show that he was dead serious about that point. “the more you get us into trouble, the longer it will take for me to finish this and the harder it will become for you to get back home. so it’s for everyone’s benefit.”

 

She didn’t really enjoy the idea of not being able to really move around freely or doing anything entertaining whatsoever and she didn’t want to admit it, but… he had a point.

And if staying here meant staying in this same awkward situation all the time, then she was more than eager to go home as soon as possible. Not that she didn’t enjoy it — well, any normal fan would see that as a dream come true in a way, right? Why couldn’t she just enjoy her time here as freely and obliviously as any of the stupid protagonists she had read about in all these Self-Insert fanfictions? Besides, Sans was actually starting to get back to a softer side and he acted a little more like the one she used to know by now…

But she simply couldn’t. Not with this.

 

After a few seconds, the skeleton jolted back to action, suddenly remembering something:

 

“oh, and, little precision, just in case you ever thought of messing things up with time tricks or whatever: if you erase this timeline, you erase your ride home.” he slyly joked in a fake joyful tone while gesturing the gigantic monstrosity that should have taken him quite an awfully long time to build. “so i’d rather not do that if i were you.”

 

Her face turned paler than Sans’s bones.

Strangely, the idea of time traveling was not that appealing anymore.

She awkwardly started a nervous and weak laugh.

 

“I-It’s alright. I-I’m not even sure to know how it’s s-supposed to work anyway.”

“well, good thing you shouldn’t try to find out.”

 

… Aaand there he was, back to his eerily-in-place-yet-ever-stuck Cheshire smirk. Since when was Sans sarcastic? Well, he kind of was at the end of a Genocide run, but… it was supposed to be more like a tired cynicism mixed with his normally brilliantly disguised fatalism, rather than pure and pretty rough irony. Wasn’t he even supposed to dislike sarcasm in the first place?

She didn’t really want to know whether or not that really was a sign, but she strongly wished that was not the case. Was he that harsh because he was supposedly talking to one of the ‘entities’ that ruined his whole life (“lives”?) and condemned him and his friends to an eternal Groundhog Day loop, or was it because of the circumstances of the current timeline? Maybe it was even both…

She deeply hoped it was the first option alone. At least, if she was the problem, then she still could try to fix it herself later, somehow. Even if it would be really awkward and especially difficult for her, at least there would still be some hope to turn it into something manageable over time.

 

However, Sans apparently was not done with the details of how much his plan was flawless and how there was no way for her to possibly deceive him in any way, and he started enumerating them with what almost sounded like a sick delight before he destroyed each of them with one counterattack of his own. And he was clever. Very clever.


She didn’t really have the intent to betray him— after seeing that kind of legendary lazybones actually putting that much effort into such an amazingly stupendous plan, she simply couldn’t even think about ruining his work, let alone when she knew how he was somewhat still the one in the right. Even if he still had technically kidnapped her and was still somewhat acting like a rather sadistic jerk towards her right now, returning the favor… simply didn’t feel right.

But still, listening to him crushing one by one any potential “hope”… it hurt.

 

It hurt to hear how deep his resentment and distrust was, and it hurt all the more to know (and know all-too-well) how much that anger was justified.

Even if it wasn’t technically her fault either, she still couldn’t help but feel guilty about it. He really was good at guilt-tripping people, wasn’t he…

 

“and don’t even think about escaping by running it on your own, that’s not gonna work.” he continued in that eerie calm tone that still was hinting at that ever growing wrath. “that thing is slow, noisy as hell, and when i used it to get you here the core itself ran out of power for three hours. and even if you still managed to bypass all my passwords without alerting anyone by that time, it simply wouldn’t work.”

 

She froze, this time raising her head towards him and actually interrupting him for the first time.

 

“I-Is it broken?” she breathed faintly in horror.

“nah. it’s just that it’s not the way it works, that’s all.” She was genuinely surprised to see how he delightfully started to explain her down to all the details how exactly that machine functioned. Even though, in the end… It only was with the intent to furtherly show her how there was no other way than his own plan. “it’s not meant to open random portals through the multiverse or whatever on its own. it’s just designed to find the right coordinates and lend a ‘little’ more power so that i can reach a specific spot in another universe. but i’m the one really doing it, so whatever happens, you’re not going home without my consent.”

“What do you mean, ‘you’re the one doing it’…?”

“shortcuts.” he simply shrugged. “i didn’t really have time to do anything elaborate, so that machine was kinda built in a rush, sorry. couldn’t risk to see that one erased by a reset too.”

 

He really did think of everything that bastard, she couldn’t help but think bitterly as he kept finding out new possibilities, starting to become even more extravagant now that all the classic plans were already out of the picture.

Was he really that determined to hurt her, if only in order to secure the complete invulnerability of his plan and reduce the odds of potential failure down to an absolute zero? Well, he definitely was— why would he care in the first place about guilt-tripping a purely random stranger that he could probably not trust to the slightest?

 

But then it finally hit her.

 

He was desperate. He had always been.

 

And in this timeline, for some reason, against all odds given the initial circumstances in the game, hope had gained the upper hand over his eternal fatalism.

… Unless it was the complete opposite, and his only motivation had been despair itself?

 

“Sans, that’s… that’s enough. Y-you can stop here, I-I’m not gonna let you down. You can trust me.” she finally mouthed in a weak whisper disguised under a bursting sob. “S-So please… Stop. You don’t need to… do all this.”

 

You’re just hurting yourself, now, she never came to add.

 

He did stop, standing up and taking a few slow steps towards her, both his hands still buried into his pockets— as he had at some point leisurely put the torchlight back on the desk. His silhouette was now completely blocking out all the remaining faraway cold light. The way his shadow was bending over her and looked in constant motion as if it kept stretching towards the ceiling and these two freezing spotlights winded and meandered above her head… it felt surreal.

 

“well. i would be glad to believe that.”

 

She felt a chill running down her spine when the spotlights disappeared.

That was not good.

Not good at all.

 

“but you’re just a dirty liar in the end, aren’t you?” he slyly uttered in what almost sounded like some scoffing contempt.

“What…”

 

She was so stunned and terrified that she completely forgot to put the right intonation into her hardly whispered word of pure fear and despair.

 

“you said you never played the game before, right? because you would’ve been way too bad at it?” It almost sounded like he had just spat at her face, no matter whether or not it was physically possible for him to do that.

“Y-Yeah! I-I wasn’t joking, Sans, I swear. I-I really suck at video games, I only started playing it this time because my friend made me— I-I even actually played on her session, s-since I never had one of my own! All I know about that game and everything, it’s just because I read about it and watched videos on the internet, that’s all!”

“i don’t believe you.”

 

She wanted to argue, but the mere fact of raising her pleading glance towards his murderous expression made her shudder and completely forget about whatever she had managed to think about for her defense, if only for a split second.

He didn’t give her any more time to even open her mouth, completely ignoring her desperate look. He would not fall for such an act, especially considering the point he was about to bring up:

 

“who would ever start playing a video game for the first time with the hard mode? especially when you tell me that you’d allegedly suck at video games?” he angrily rose in a deep voice. He repressed an overly sarcastic chuckle that oh so didn’t suit him to the least. “please, don’t make me laugh.”

 

Despite her eyes’ burning swollenness and her wet cheeks, she still managed to give him a blank look.

 

“W-w-what do you mean, ‘Hard Mode’?”

“in order to precisely prevent that kind of… accidents, that machine was specifically programmed to activate only once it detected a computer about to start a new game on hard mode, and hard mode only. ‘cause i didn’t think anyone would want to play hard mode on this specific game unless they were…” He paused, but it was difficult to know whether it was because he was choosing his words or because he was reluctant to express it in such detached way. But after a few seconds he grudgingly came back where he had left off: “… looking for some kind of “challenge”, you know. after they already had completed another one before, i mean. you certainly know which one i’m talking about.”

 

Oh yes she did. That was all too clear.

Her face blanched as her growing hysteria was menacing to make her faint again.

 

“I-I— S-Sans, please you have to believe me, I n-never wanted— I-I never d-did –Ah– please you just…”

“of course i didn’t expect all of the players trying the hard mode to have been on that “genocide route”, as you seem to call it. but i still had estimated an approximate sixty to eighty percent of them, maybe. anyways, i knew i wouldn’t necessarily stumble onto a player that tried that run, that’s just how statistics work.” he shrugged. Yet he paused for a split second, and his glare became lividly filled with pitch black. “but now… who would have any interest in lying to me about ever playing the game?”

 

She shuddered.

 

Oh now she was getting it. His attitude made so much more sense now.

Ooh God she was so much in trouble.

 

“O-o-o-ooh my God n-no please S-S-Sans I swear t-that’s not— I-I d-didn’t know—”

 

He straightened up and slightly shifted back— not much, but just enough so this little change finally had him return into the faraway torchlight’s dim yet still somewhat lit radius, and allowed her to finally distinguish his face from the rest of the shadows.

So she could now see the skepticism plastered all over his face when he stared at her with that blank exasperated look of oh really now?

 

“don’t tell me you actually want me to believe you activated the hard mode by accident.” he retorted harshly. “i won’t believe you. no one would be stupid enough to do that.”

“T-then tell me how.”

 

His nonexistent eyebrows seemed to twitch, as if he were about to frown but repressed it at the last moment. He kept an eerily stern but still posture, waiting expectantly but only out of politeness. His eyes were telling enough that he most certainly would not believe one word of it… but it was still worth a try.

 

“Tell me how I’d have activated it.” she hesitantly stuttered, though she genuinely tried to keep an ‘almost’ confident-sounding tone. “I swear, Sans, I never meant to do it. Ever. I-I-I didn’t even know that mode existed in the first place. And uh, I s-still have no idea how I’d even have d-done it in the first place. D-Did I press the wrong button or something?”

 

She so hated it when he was staying silent for this long, staring at her with his pupil-less yet somehow all-seeing-like glare of pure void. She felt analyzed. As if even from that distance, he could still feel her breath, assess her tense nervousness and cold sweat rolling in her neck, hear the pounding of her heart, read her distressed eyes. That was very… unsettling, to say the least.

She only wished he would leave her at that. As far as she knew it sounded like it was literally the only way she would survive. Even if he had stated earlier that he “needed” her to stay alive anyway— looking at his current expression, she could think of many ways he could keep his word while at the same time playing with merciless loopholes. He appeared to be thinking that this was all she deserved, after all— and she did feel like, with her last statement, she was walking on very thin ice.

 

Eventually, after what would have felt like a whole minute, his pupils came back, as his eye sockets appeared to show a graver tone. His wrath was still here, hidden somewhere between a few flickering sparks of darkness, but it felt like he was reluctantly playing it cool for now.

… Well, it was still some kind of progress.

 

“all right, let’s assume for one moment that you are telling the truth.” he slowly uttered in a tired yet uncannily patient voice. “then, what did you name the fallen human and why?”

“Well,” she rolled her eyes in an attempt to regain her ease and try to avoid his look, “as I told you, I had already made some research beforehand and I’d already got spoilers about practically the whole plot and characters and all that basic stuff, so I already knew the kid’s name was “Frisk.” And since in all of the few games I’ve ever played I used to name the characters by their default names, well,” she shrugged innocently, “Frisk it was.”

 

She stopped, pursed her lips in some ridiculous nervous not-smile and watched expectantly at him, trying to keep at least some control over her trembling limbs.

I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead…

 

“… you have to be kidding me.” he eventually muttered in a tone strangely denuded from any kind of emotion or even the slightest variation in his intonation.

 

Nonetheless, his eyes were now reflecting some kind of mixture between extreme annoyance and genuine bewilderment.

 

After some more seconds of their staring contest — there was no other way to put it, up to this point —, Sans looked defeated and buried his skull into his left shaking bony hand.

Would his stuck-Cheshire smile have been able to move, she would have bet he would be gritting his teeth as he struggled to murmur as calmly as it was physically possible for him.

 

“name the fallen human. it said, name the Fallen Human.”

“Well, the kid w-we’re supposed to represent is named Frisk, right?”

“but frisk is not the fallen human, for god’s sake…”

“Uh. Technically, they did fall. I mean, that’s what they’ve been talking about in the whole intro, right?”

 

The skeleton was desperately trying to rub his solid skull, muttering incomprehensible muffled sounds under his breath. He finally tried to sigh deeply, then raised again two white but pale-looking pupils, as his eye-sockets were trying to show the most serious expression he could afford.

 

“the game gave you a warning, didn’t it?”

“Well, now that you mention it… I-I do remember something like that when I was about to begin. But I just thought it was trolling me since there were so many jokes and easter eggs and everything in the whole game, so I didn’t really think it through… Y-You know, I just thought it was part of the joke, or something.” She laughed weakly, but her muffled giggle died within seconds. “It was something like “This game will make your life hell”, wasn’t it?”

 

Oh sweet, sweet irony.

He really knew how to hide the silliest and jerkiest pranks even in the weirdest and most unexpected situations, didn’t he?

 

Sans was not amused, though.

 

“it was “name. not “game. are you just stupid or were you doing it on purpose?”

“Y-You have to admit, those sound and look pretty similar.” she pouted, her cheeks awkwardly starting to blush in embarrassment.

 

She felt rather than saw Sans’s anger lurking back into his disappearing pupils and she immediately brought hysteric hands to cover her head.

 

“A-Alright, alright, remind me to go check an optometrist as soon as I get home.” she sheepishly yet hurriedly tried to joke; but her attempted weak smile faded immediately. “… If I ever get home.”

“oh i can assure you that you will, don’t worry about that part.”

 

He made it sound like it was even more of a relief for him than for her. She thought it wiser not to respond anything to that implied i can’t wait for that to happen so we can part ways and never see each other again” she could read on his tired and exasperated face.

 

“anyway. back on topic, naming the fallen human “frisk” is what triggers the hard mode.” Sans eventually added. not that you could ever make me think that you didn’t kn—

“And how was I supposed to know that?” she snapped sarcastically, her nervousness finally tearing apart the last bits of her remaining patience.

 

To be honest, he reasoned that he should have seen that question coming— and he actually had. And yet, somehow, the way she had worded it still managed to catch him off-guard.

 

“i thought you had made some ‘research’ about it?” he pseudo-jokingly remarked while raising his nonexistent eyebrow in extreme skepticism.

“I made research about the story and characters, not about the gameplay!” she whined hysterically. “I never even wanted to play the game at first, it’s just that they made me even if I had nothing more to take out of it since I already knew pretty much all of it anyway and I knew that even if you’d let me play I’d probably have given up hardly ten minutes after starting because I wouldn’t even have made it to Toriel’s home to begin with!”

 

It was only a few seconds later, when her legs collapsed under the weight of her pretty much everything and made her literally crash back into the sofa, that she finally noticed she had been standing up.

Her distressed look met the skeleton’s one more time, and she felt another freezing chill running down her spine as some weak salty tears started to burst in the corner of her eyes and she immediately buried her head back into her shaking hands.

 

Sans had remained perfectly still and silent all along, and he still was. Watching her with an expression that was seemingly entirely empty of any emotion whatsoever, albeit his slightly wider-than-usual sockets.

 

“It’ll be a lot of fun”, they said… Darn it.” she eventually stuttered in a broken sarcastic yet muffled and watery voice.

“but– weren’t they around when you started, then? how come they didn’t see you typing the wrong name?”

“Well, technically they were here, but, I mean, only through texting…” she replied absent-mindedly. “So they couldn’t possibly know anything.”

 

Apparently she was so caught up in her own overwhelming tornado of personal issues and anxieties, and this view had him so surprised, neither of them even noticed that he was starting to buy it.

 

“but why would they make you?” he still asked in puzzlement.

“I-It wasn’t like that at first—” she blabbered hurriedly. “It’s just, they were all fans of the whole thing, and I was too, so they just… W-well, I didn’t see the point in trying but they were like, “You can’t be a fan and not play the game”; it was just a joke between us and it lasted, like, f-five or six months like that, a-and we were all fine! But in the end she just…” She looked away shyly as her eyes darkened. “… found a way to… convince me for real. S-so I guess I… d-d-do take some part in the blame too…?”

 

His sockets grew a little rounder. The movement was subtle, but she could swear that she distinctly saw the two white lights in them had retracted slightly, all of a sudden, as if to display a mixture between surprise and… what was this— remorse…?

… Nah, it had to be something else.

 

Still, the two pupils immediately grew back and doubled in size, and she almost saw his nonexistent eyebrows distort the sockets into a somewhat pained expression.

 

“look bud, i wasn’t mad at you for wanting to play. i mean, you didn’t know, and none of your friends did either, right?” He tried to laugh quietly and genuinely, but it sounded fake. “i only thought you were trying to fool me to escape your guilt or something.”

“B-But it really was the first time I—!”

“i know. sorry.”

 

She widened her eyes and tried to stare back, as if she wasn’t sure she had heard him right.

 

His thoughtful sockets lowered before closing, as he sighed deeply.

Well, either she was a pretty good liar and a very skilled comedian, or… statistics really had been playing them both. Honestly, what were the odds?

He tried to laugh it off as another of his silly jokes, but silence returned as soon as it had been broken.

 

“heh… too bad there wasn’t any way to program the machine so that it would directly detect someone about to start a “genocide.” would’ve been much easier…” She suddenly heard a very unnerving sound, similar to nails scratching on a rough wall. She rationalized it to be the sound of phalanges scratching his spine in embarrassment and she shuddered. “but you don’t do that by typing a specific code, sadly. didn’t have any other choice here. and i… had pretty much assumed any of you trying to play the hard mode would logically know about it, or at least that no one would trigger it by chance just like that…”

“Sorry I messed up, then…” she muttered awkwardly while burying her knees into her shaking embracing arms. “Seems like I’m always screwing up everything one way or another, huh… No matter the odds.”

 

The room felt very empty, once that awkward silence had settled. She started to rub her arms as more uncomfortable chills were coming.

Sans seemed about to speak, but she went first. She was not looking at him so she hadn’t noticed; but he didn’t seem to care anyway.

 

“W-Well then… If you only need me to stay here, I guess I can do that… In the meantime I’ll probably, I don’t know, hang out with the others or something…” She hesitantly raised a nervous smile. “I mean, Papyrus will get bored if he doesn’t have anyone to call out on being lazy anymore, right? Ha-ha…”

 

Her laugh died as soon as she saw his pupils retracting again, this time to the size of two faraway, hardly visible dots. She had no idea what that expression was supposed to mean exactly, but—

She froze as her eyes widened in sudden terror.

No… no, no, no-no-no oh God please no.

 

“do you have any idea which timeline we’re in?” he slowly asked in an eerie and way too calm tone.

 

She mechanically shook her head in a slow gesture, both in almost-genuine ignorance and honestly strong denial. That seemed paradoxical enough, but at this point she simply did not want to know.

 

“I killed Frisk.” he gravely uttered in what sounded like a mixture between resentment, relief and regret.

 

There was only one way this could have been possible for him to do that.

 

“Oh God no.” she stuttered in a blank voice broken with horror.

“oh god” yeah. part of why i preferably would’ve wanted this to happen to someone at least a little responsible for all that mess. for my plan it didn’t even matter whether you’d ever played in the first place or not, it’ll still work the same no matter what. but— well, if you really had nothing to do with it… sorry it had to be you.”

 

A strong silence filled the room, as she didn’t give any visible reaction to his speech.

 

“How long have you been…?” She did not dare end her question.

“that was about a month ago. for some reason they stopped resetting after that. guess whoever was ‘playing’ at the time got bored or something. and then for some reason nobody went to replace them.”

 

It felt like something was wrong, but she couldn’t put her finger on it.

A few seconds later though, her head tilted in sudden realization:

 

“But, wait. Then if Frisk is dead, what happened to their soul? I-I mean, that makes your remaining seventh human soul, right? So, did Asgore break the Barrier or something?”

“no. the kid’s soul disintegrated mere seconds after their death, as usual.” She gave him a blank look, but then remembered the way ‘Game overs’ worked and how the little red heart would indeed shatter each time the player’s HP reached zero. “i’m not sure how it happens, but it seems like the game really wants us not to get it. ‘cause each time i’ve seen them die, no matter the timeline, their soul would just somehow disappear until the next reset. but most of the time, the resets’d happen only a few hours after their death, or the day right after. so it’s not like it would’ve mattered… well, until now.”

 

She bit her lip, looked away and nodded timidly as she hummed sadly.

He immediately raised back his pupils towards her, already returning to a serious expression:

 

“well, i guess it’s for the best anyway. if we could get to the surface right now, it’d be to wage war against humans. and i think we both know how that would’ve ended.”

 

She nervously felt the urge to swallow, but her throat was completely dry.

Sans stared at her silently for a few seconds, eventually asked if she had other questions or things to say, to which she simply shook her head hesitantly. He subsequently announced that he would get back to work, and yet the footsteps she heard seemed to walk towards the opposite direction— she was sure he was headed towards the door, instead. He stopped, she heard a switch, and suddenly a full row of lamps in the ceiling flickered. She forced her blinded eyes closed, but when she could open them again, the entire room was lit.

 

“I… I thought they were…” she whispered in surprise.

“broken? nah. i fixed them while you were, you know… napping.”

 

He jokingly winked at her, but she was not looking. He stared at her again with no word to say, and as she hardly looked back, he eventually sighed. Her eyes pleaded her not to take a look at him now that he wasn’t completely engulfed in the dark anymore, but of course that was exactly what she did and she instantly regretted it— though she had to admit, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

 

“anyway. we’ve lost enough time like that, so i’ll get back to working on the blueprints. as for you…” She swore she saw his pupils turn blue for a second as he marked this pause to stare at her chest. But hardly a second later he was already looking at her straight in the face with his regular pupils and an almost concerned look. “you, uh, should take that time to relax. i know it’s been a lot to go through all at once, but you really don’t look too good. kinda gettin’ me worried here.”

 

He walked back to his desk and turned the useless flashlight off before he started writing. She watched for a moment as his pen would dance over the blueprints, following the swings of a nonexistent music, but she quickly felt new shivers and immediately buried her head back in her arms, trying to clear her mind after all this.

 

That was still a lot to take in. And even though it felt like the ‘bad time’ was over… She would not calm down. She wanted to, but her shivers just wouldn’t listen. Some part of her prayed for Sans not to notice. Some other part guiltily hoped he would notice and manage to find something out. Her spine dreaded both options and her limbs were melting on the spot in apprehension.

 

Pathetic.

 

In the end she just reasoned that lying on the couch in the recovery position and waiting for sleep or boredom to come would be the best solution, but the coordinated beatings in her chest would still not let her do as she pleased.

 

For some strange reason she felt like there was some faraway echo to her heart ever since… whatever had happened earlier. Sans had “turned her blue”, hadn’t he? Just thinking back about that face feeling was enough to have her shiver even more.

That echo wasn’t nearly as strong as it had been back then, but now that she had nothing else to do and now that her familiarly still somewhat hyperventilating heartbeats remained incontrollable, a strange feeling now accompanied it, similar to an overwhelming force pressurizing something from all sides at once, as if it were being crammed into something that was way too small to contain it properly.

It hurt. It hurt and it made her panic and the more she panicked the more it hurt.

 

“welp… twenty past seven.”

 

She gasped for air and jerked up in surprise as he had abruptly uttered this after a long while, seemingly looking at a watch around his left bony wrist. He immediately turned towards her when he noticed her reaction.

 

“whoa, didn’t mean to scare you like that.” he chuckled awkwardly, but with a somewhat concerned spark in his sockets. “you okay?”

“Y-y. Yeah.” Her head shuddered into a nervous nod. “Yeah. J-just surprised.”

 

He didn’t look convinced in the slightest, but assessed after a few seconds that maybe he shouldn’t insist.

 

“anyway, uh. seems like it’s almost time for dinner. you hungry?”

 

She shook her head weakly, lowering her eyes. He repressed another embarrassed chuckle.

 

“yeah, me neither.” He closed his eyes for a few seconds, but stood up soon after. “still have to go though, otherwise they might start to worry.”

“Where are you going?” she asked, her eyes reflecting some curiosity among her confusion.

“hotland. since, y’know, the survivors sheltered in the lab and stuff. sorry i’m not offering you to come along, but… guess you see why i can’t really bring you around.”

 

He paused for a few seconds, but they both felt the uneasy silence crawling around them.

 

“worst case scenario, i’ll be back in an hour and a half. can you wait till then?” She simply nodded, and his smile seemed to become a little more genuine as his look somewhat softened. “okay then. see ya. in the meantime just, i dunno, do whatever you want. just don’t mess with my work.”

 

She tried to smile back, but another chill ran down her spine as soon as they exchanged a look and she immediately blinked her eyes away from him. She nervously but discreetly rubbed her arms as her legs unconsciously wrapped themselves around her chest.

Sans froze, as his eye-sockets narrowed into a puzzled and somewhat concerned, but still inquisitive glare.

 

“… yeah. ‘bout that, too. been bugging me for a while.” A shiver ran all the way through her spine, she felt the echoes speed up too, and his glare immediately disappeared. “o-kay uh, seems like serious stuff. i mean, i might speak alien to ya, but your soul really doesn’t look good right now. an’ it’s kinda stupid to ask you to calm down just like that, but that’s about the only thing you should do here.”

 

So it really was her soul, huh. She had a soul now. And it was pounding and scared and it hurt. And she had to find some way to calm down just like that with something like this stuck in her chest and him around staring at her and walking towards her don’t think about him just try to calm down breathe

Oh God he’s right in front of me isn’t he.

 

“you look kinda cold, too. do you want me to go fetch a blanket for ya or something?”

“I-It’s alright!” she blurted out in panic. She realized her answer had been much more stressed out than it should have, and buried even deeper her head inside her knees. “S-Sorry. It’s n-n-not your fault. I-I’ve just gotta… I-I’m gonna get used to it. E-Eventually.”

 

It was truly odd to see confusion in Sans’s eyes, for once. Not that spark of confusion that could easily be assimilated with some classic curiosity or even some part of nosiness and judgement— the one true, pure confusion that only allowed lost emptiness and sparks of helplessness. It was ever so rare to see Sans clueless, especially after all the time he had spent showing off his ability to read people that well through mere seconds of observation.

But this time, it seemed like it really was some kind of issue he could not grasp. There was no more rational reason for her to stay in her ‘panic attack’ mode at this point, right?

 

“look, uh, pal. i understand that you could be weirded out or something, but… seriously, don’t you think you’re overdoing it a little bit too much by now?”

 

She laughed weakly, shaking her head in subtle tremors.

 

“No… T-That’s not it.” she murmured resolutely. “I-I mean yeah it is— but, no, I– ugh.” She forced her eyes closed as she let out a very tense sigh. “S-Sorry. N-not your fault.”

“heh. c’mon, you can tell me.” he laughed quietly. “not like i’d tell anybody or anythin’. doesn’t seem like an issue you’re gonna solve on your own anyway.”

 

He seemed about to sit by her side, but he couldn’t make a single step forward that she had jerked up and almost fell over the couch while trying to move back.

He stared at her for a few seconds in bewilderment…

 

And then he realized.

 

He looked at her with wide and pained eyes, as if to say ... did i really scare you that much back then?

Their eyes met. His sockets darkened as hers lowered shamefacedly.

 

“uh. wow. i didn’t…” He passed a bony hand on his face and tried to rub the area between his sockets. The nail-screeching sound came back and she shuddered. “’kay. sorry. but— we’re over that, aren’t we? i mean. you do know there’s no reason i’d do that again now, don’t you…?”

 

She nodded knowingly and resolutely. And yet she still wasn’t looking at him and he saw the soul retract even more. She instinctively put a hand over it to try to soothe the pain but it did nothing.

 

He could understand if she was still scared after that. He could understand if there were still remnants of fear, or anger, or a grudge against him. But there was something more to it. One thing that he felt completely unable of identifying accurately, but one thing that was causing everything else here.

As far as he could tell, there was neither anger, nor signs of grudge there. On the other hand, if the human was just a little afraid of him, then it could actually help him; it was a little too early for him to truly trust her, so this little fear she could have would be enough as a guarantee that she wouldn’t go and try anything fishy behind his back.

 

But now this… This was something that he simply could not ignore. Whatever that was, that was hurting, and if he didn’t do anything soon, he did not want to take the risk of witnessing what sort of incidents could happen. Whether it was relevant to his plan or not, he could not afford to let this follow the route it seemed to take.

 

“I-I’m s-sorry Sans.” she whispered between two sobs. “I-It’s really not your fault. I’ll just–”

“okay first off, stop blaming yourself.” he interrupted hurriedly and somewhat angrily. “i was the one to make a dumb mistake and to scare ya in the first place, and even if you had something to do with it, blaming yourself over it that way won’t make you feel better. right now, honestly, your soul almost looks like it’s gonna implode, so i’m not leaving until you tell me what is going on with it.”

 

She raised at him two wide eyes filled with fear, pain and helpless tears. Her lost and confused face pleaded him to explain and all at the same time he could read clearly the message a prey would try to send to its predator: “Please go away. I know you have your reasons, they’re justified ones and I don’t hate you, but please just go away.”

 

He cautiously but absent-mindedly took a step back. His nonexistent eyebrows twitched but he tried not to sound too judgmental and repressed that frown before it could fully appear on his face.

 

“are you really gonna freak out like this each time you’ll see a monster?”

 

She bit her lip and looked away. He went to lean against the opposite wall. She sobbed again, but resolutely shook her head.

 

“No… O-only skeletons. I ho— t-think.”

 

well, that’s gonna be convenient, he ironized cynically.

Really? Could this get any more awkward by now?

 

He brought his hand to his skull again and tried to bury his exasperated sigh into it.

 

“you really had to be the one, huh…”

“I-I’m sorry…!” she repeated sheepishly. “I know that’s c-completely dumb and
e-everything, b-but— it’s just that i-it’s the b-b-bones and i-it’s kinda just like c-corps— Ooh-my-gosh-I’m-so-sorry-it’s-so-stupid…”

 

He raised a hand and signed her to stop, while he took a deep breath. He took a second to glance at his hand, then instantly buried it inside his hoodie’s pocket. He frowned, but a nervous chuckle escaped him nonetheless.

 

“necrophobia, uh?” he deduced in a bewildered forced stuck-smirk.

 

The very human player he had brought and who he had suspected of being a serial killer responsible for murdering most of the inhabitants of the Underground, eventually turned out to be incapable of looking at him in the eye just because he happened to look like a human corpse.

The irony.

 

At this point, he didn’t even have the strength anymore to just ask why. He didn’t even want anymore to muster the energy to just wonder who he should have been asking this question to.

 

“C-C’mon, i-it’s not that bad—” she tried to stutter timidly. “I-I’ll just try to shrug it off, d-don’t worry… Hahaha…”

 

She genuinely tried to keep her trembling smile on her face, but her awkward laugh died within seconds and she shamefully lowered a sarcastic look before face-palming tensely.

 

“… Yeah alright you got me it’s totally necrophobia.”

“hey, i’m not technically dead yet. i mean, you know that, right?”

“Yes. Yes I know.” She laughed poorly in a broken voice, but she immediately muffled it and buried her head back into her legs. “I’m sorry. I really don’t want to, I know you’re not… S-s-sorry.”

 

Sans sighed once more. He checked again in a blink— her soul didn’t look nearly as regular as it should, but that was definitely an improvement. At least, it seemed that getting that one issue out of her chest did release some of the tension, somehow. Though it wasn’t nearly enough to truly make her look healthy.

 

“t’s alright, bud. it’s not your fault if you’re the one who got tangled up into this.” he eventually shrugged. “i just hope we’ll work something out. i mean, you’re stuck here for a while now. hope you don’t mind… too much.”

“I-I’ll get used to it.” She sounded determined, albeit still shaking. “It c-can’t be that bad, I mean…” she laughed weakly. “My parents were thinking about finding a therapy or something anyway, so, I-I guess that’s the best opportunity for t-that… H-Ha-ha.”

 

Sans followed her shy chuckle for a bit, and she swore she saw his stuck-smirk enlarge itself subtly into a slightly more genuine smile.

 

“don’t worry, i’ll send you back as soon as i’m done. not like you really were stuck here or you’d need to get souls to reach the surface or whatever. and if there really is some major problem, from the point that there’s no reset in the meantime, your ride home is right here.” he calmly responded, gesturing the giant machine in the back with a tired nod. “anyway, uh, guess i should go for real, this time. should’ve left ‘bout ten minutes ago.” he added as he perked another glance at his watch.

 

He sent her a friendly but somewhat hurried wave, to which she responded with a timid trembling smile. There was a sudden flash, and then he left. She hadn’t seen him moving or anything (no, not even a snap of fingers), but he had just disappeared in an instant.

… Welp. Here was a shortcut, then.

 

After a few instants, she stood up from the couch, feeling her dizzy legs complaining after having been bent in such an uncomfortable position for so long.

She watched with curiosity at his blueprints and eventually stumbled somewhere in his mess on a “magic physics” book. She shrugged and picked it up, then sat back in the couch and started to read it.

 

She fell asleep after unsuccessfully trying to decipher the second chapter for the third time.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act I —

Don’t Let Him Find Out

Scene 3


 

Instant noodles.

 

Well, he didn’t really know what he had been expecting. Besides, he wasn’t even hungry to begin with.

Still, it was… somewhat surprising. Not in a good way.

 

If the situation kept deteriorating at such rate… His bones rattled slightly as he started to feel some odd weight upon his scapulae.

 

One more reason to get this over with as soon as possible.

 

 

His train of thoughts was suddenly cut off, though; a voice had raised upon the global amalgam of various noises coming from the whole room, light and yet filled with a somewhat gloomy and low tone.

 

“So? How did it go?”

 

He hardly raised his white pupils towards the reptile, showing some trace of surprise; though it was clear that it wasn’t genuine to the least. She chuckled in a serious tone, trying to lighten up the atmosphere but not smiling at all.

 

“Come on, Sans. It’s obvious that you’re saving some for… later. You can tell me. It worked, didn’t it?”

 

She was actually faintly smiling at the end of her last sentence, and her eyes betrayed some glimmer of hope in a few shining sparks at the corner of her pupils.

Yet he only lowered back his skull and frowned edgily.

 

“you sure this is the best place for this kind of conversation?”

 

He had slightly risen a tense yet nonexistent eyelid, carefully perking discreet glances at the surrounding monsters. They were all eating and chatting more or less cheerfully — as cheerfully as you could be while having been sheltered in the depths of the True Laboratory for the last few weeks, still mourning over the all too many losses of both friends and family all over the Underground, ever so filled with grief and, still in some way, incomprehension and disbelief…

Yes, they pretty much had quite a few other things on their minds already, probably too much to actually think about eavesdropping on others’ gossiping for no reason.

Yet they never could be too cautious. Any seemingly insignificant mistake could still lead to global failure. He couldn’t afford not to care about that risk anymore.

Especially when he had never been this close to finally ending it all.

 

His colleague followed absent-mindedly his eyes for a few seconds, but she soon stopped and returned to her (almost) relaxed attitude.

 

“They don’t pay any attention to us. And Asgore returned in New Home to check on the Souls and the Barrier. He won’t bother us.”

 

Once again, she had tried to chuckle as if she wanted to dismiss it as an irrelevant joke… But it was obvious that this apparent cheerfulness was just a façade she was trying to put for both of their sakes. And Sans was internally deeply thankful for that, no matter how impenetrable his thoughts seemed to be at the moment.

Sometimes, he just was tired of being the comic. And this specific evening he simply was tired of pretty much everything.

 

“what did you tell him, by the way?” he asked suddenly.

“That the coolant loop from Snowdin temporarily ran out of ice and that the reactors didn’t like it.” she shrugged, slightly eyeing him an insistently accusing yet seemingly teasing glare. “Now, next time you intend to run that thing, at least tell me.” she added immediately in a lower and serious tone. “The monsters were freaking out, and I even heard some rumors about the human being back and having damaged the CORE or something.”

 

His eye sockets twitched anxiously as his skull slightly lowered uncomfortably.

Yeah, pretty much what he had feared.

 

“and what about the actual damage?”

“No big deal. ‘Just’ a massive overheat.” she retorted dryly. He was not looking at her, but the simple fact of hearing sarcasm coming from the usually all-so-shy Alphys was talkative enough. Her tone was calmer when she kept talking, but she still was just as severe: “We’ve been lucky this time, but you won’t wanna turn your thing on again anytime soon. The CORE’s a real pain to reload, so please try not to make it go haywire with your creepy metaphysical biz. Some people here really need that energy.”

 

He sighed tensely, feeling guilt crawling on his back.

 

“don’t worry. if everything goes as planned, it’ll just be used once more, as soon as i’m done. and this time nobody will have to care about the consequences. not even you or asgore.”

 

There suddenly was a heavy silence. Alphys lowered her muzzle as all traces of scolding had left, as she instead frowned sheepishly while looking away. She paused for a few seconds, not knowing what to retort— and yet she still had something to say.

 

“I-I really feel bad for keeping h-him out of all that mess, though. W-Why didn’t you want to tell him, again?”

 

The skeleton’s shoulders rattled slightly as he tensed. If her stuttering was back, then she really cared deeply about that issue.

It was surprising at first to hear this confession coming from the very one who had been keeping somewhat similar secrets for this long from that very same monster. Almost… funnily ironic.

But he didn’t point it out.

Maybe she, too, was tired, after all.

 

So he just sighed deeply but silently, and replied the same answer as ever:

 

“he wouldn’t understand. nobody around us would.” He frowned slightly and paused, looking away and lowering his tone even further when he spoke back. “not in this timeline.”

 

Alphys winced, feeling some chills run down her spine.

Every time he would bring back that topic, she would remember.

 

She would remember that she would not remember.

 

She would remember that she was not technically part of his plan. That even if he had told her most of the story, she was just some disposable sidekick that would forget everything and start over without even being aware of it as soon as the problem would be solved. That despite everything and no matter how honest she knew he was when trying to comfort her — he was going to bring all her friends back and get them to the Surface and restore all hope and happiness to all monsters, shouldn’t she be happy about it? —, he was just using her and he would throw her away once he was ready to go back in time or whatever, just the way he had done every single time before. Even though she knew that was definitely not the way he was seeing it… she sometimes wondered why herself was seeing this under such perspective and if she wasn’t somewhere in there completely wrong and egoist or maybe even crazy or paranoid to start thinking such stupid things but…

 

He could remember. He had never told her how many timelines he had been through since he could keep track of them, but his answer when she had asked him about it — that, ironically, he had lost track of it an awfully long time ago — and his desperate and tired look back then… were telling enough.

He was tired of remembering and yet he had to remember every single time. Even worse than this— He had lived through all those same events so many times. He had probably heard her ask him the same questions over and over. Sometimes she could see in his look some kind of annoyance or boredom, as if he had already answered that question a million times in other timelines even though he knew that he could not blame her for that because she couldn’t possibly know how boring and predictable she had become over the different timelines and how he still wanted to try to care about her because he still wanted to consider those puppets that couldn’t remember as his friends and family because they were

 

He had seen them all die so many times.

Did he even care now?

 

Was he still flinching when he was seeing Papyrus’s dust in the snow? His brother would be back just a few days later anyway, good as new and oblivious as ever, right? So why worry and mourn over the fake funerals of someone who was not even dead for real in the first place?

 

And now that she knew, even if she wouldn’t remember, now that for now she could know and just had to wait for him to get his plan over with, why should she still mourn over Undyne and Mettaton’s deaths while they would just be back someday, and she would never even get to know how heroic they had been and how many monsters they had got the chance to save before being coldly murdered…? She faintly laughed awkwardly and silently, not smiling and almost starting to feel some wet tears in the corner of her eyes.

 

She would remember that when he was telling her he was doing it for everyone’s greater good, she knew he really meant it; and still she would remember that she was not sure deep inside whether it was for their greater good, or for their greater good.

She would remember that even if he deeply and honestly cared about her, he was not really caring about her.

 

And the thought was terrifying.

 

The skeleton leaned somewhat closer, softening his tone and giving her a comforting look.

 

 

“heh… don’t worry. it’ll all be over before you know it. soon you won’t have to worry about any of this anymore.”

 

Honestly, that was not helping.

And he finally seemed to get her point when he gazed back upon her, because his pupils froze in shock before starting slowly to fade as he stood back, lowering his skull on his chest and keeping for a few more seconds a thoughtful silence.

 

“alphys. don’t tell me you want to remember that. you don’t know what this is all about.” He paused slightly before staring at her, some spark of confusion in his frowning nonexistent eyebrows. “… do you really want to remember this?”

“Do you really want me to forget?” she sadly scoffed, a sorry look on her muzzle.

 

He genuinely seemed not to understand, and she didn’t doubt that he honestly thought he was doing it for her own good.

And yet, well…

She couldn’t help but look away.

 

“i know how the happy ending is like, and you definitely won’t want that kind of thoughts on your mind once we get there. Trust me.”

 

And his eyes pierced hers as he was giving her a stern I know what I am talking about.” look. So she thought it best not to respond and merely nodded sheepishly, her head steady but low.

 

The same way he had been supporting her for a long time when she needed some assistance, it now had been her turn to help him, even if it was not much. She was willing to return the favor despite everything— and all the more when his secret plan would actually “save the world”, whether her dumb and selfish doubts were thinking otherwise or not. For once she had an opportunity to do something worthy that would not end up with dark corridors and slimy endlessly suffering horrors by hazardously messing with death itself; she could not just let him down when she knew he was the one in the right.

And yet her own role in this little project of his had been limited to the strict minimum; she basically was just there to cover up for his constant absences and justify why he would spend that much time back in Snowdin, while… there was nobody left there.

Asgore himself was merely thinking that all this time Sans had been desperately working on the time machine itself, with the promise to one day get everyone back in time and “neutralize” the human before it could do any harm. One blatant half-lie that would not even matter since the time machine was indeed the second half of the plan, and the time travel was its conclusion— and since Asgore himself would not even remember anything about that “official plan” past that point, what would happen after that would not even raise any problem yet. At least, not any problem potentially related to any of those little deceptions.

So basically, as soon as this excuse had been found, nobody would ever question any of Sans’s absences. And he had had a lot of those.

 

To be more accurate, it had been weeks she hadn’t seen him actually taking a break. That was the very first time they were having a normal conversation in almost two weeks; probably because amongst other reasons, for once, he wasn’t simply trying to take his dinner through a shortcut and back in his basement to keep working on his crazy plan.

 

The first day such oh-so-shockingly-out-of-character-behavior-that-would-yet-become-a-habit-for-a-whole-month happened, she had been so taken aback by such change in attitude that she had freaked out, and literally forced him to tell her the truth: what he really was hiding, and why the heck hadn’t he taken a single nap and actually worked during more than two hours straight.

 

She had not been disappointed by his answer.

 

He had told her about the “Resets”, as he liked to call them. About how, in some distant timeline, he had managed to somehow keep track of them and directly remember everything he would have seen there, although he had soon enough lost any hope of ever being able to fix the situation. About how in this specific timeline, for some unknown reason but for the very first time in maybe hundreds or even thousands of tries for all he cared, the human had still not “Reset” the timeline all over again (maybe they finally all got bored” was the way he had shrugged it off, though he hardly seemed convinced himself); about how he simply had to take that chance, because he just couldn’t let such an amazingly fortunate opportunity go to waste, no matter the cost. Because it sure as hell wouldn’t ever come back anytime soon, if it ever came to an end— and it definitely would, some day. If they didn’t do anything to prevent it, one day, some player would come back eventually, only to erase everything all over again. It only was a matter of time.

 

He had told her about how he had later found some blueprints somewhere in his computer’s files that were explaining some curious facts about the human, the Resets, and where exactly the problem really came from. About how he had come up with a plan to solve it once and for all, thanks to those files’ guidance.

About how, yet, he feared any moment that they could come back and Reset once more before he was done, thus erasing all of his insanely humongous work just by the blink of an eye. He had only had the time to start building the physical machine after three weeks since he had spent all that previous time stupidly making sure that all that data he had oh so miraculously found was not a joke of some kind; but now that he finally was on the move, one unfortunate Reset would have just been the last straw.

 

As a consequence…

Now that she was seeing him actually sitting absent-mindedly in front of her in the lab’s refectory, adding this not-so-little sudden change in attitude to the earlier massive power failure in the whole Underground, it had not taken her much longer to put two and two together.

 

He had won.

 

He had won, and he was now just happy to finally go back to his legendary laziness and take as much benefit from it, now that his race against time itself was finally over.

And after such horrifying torture, who could blame him? That leisure he was gladly taking there was utterly deserved.

 

 

“by the way, i have some news about that reality they’re coming from. just thought you’d be curious about it.”

 

And the lizard indeed perked up a bright new pair of eyes, this time genuinely sparkling with interest.

 

Since Sans had started researching about it and redone his calculations multiple times, he had kept telling her during their rare conversations about that world in which, for some reason, their own history was merely a video game that some random humans (not the same kind as the ones living on the Surface, but humans nonetheless apparently) would be playing on their computers without even being aware of the true impact of their actions. She had laughed at him at first, thinking that he was pulling a prank on her otaku side: maybe sometime before, Mettaton had told him about her theories and fantasies about Mew Mew: Kissy Cutie possibly being real in an alternate universe, and now he was somewhat trying to pull her leg with that.

But since he had shown her the results of his research and explained some of the blueprints (as well as showed her the wonders of that other universe’s internet– and accidentally forgot to specify the exact spelling of the game’s title when he had offered her to use their search engine— ugh, that was probably the only thing that gave her relief about the thought of getting her memory eventually wiped out), she really had started to believe him.

 

Well, she still wasn’t pretty sure how all these “Saving” and “Resetting” things worked in real life (or, should she say here “from their own point of view from inside their normal life that looks totally real but wouldn’t be according to other beings from another universe”? well, that was confusing. And was their universe really only a virtual thing? She felt physical enough, thank you very much), and Sans really had tried not to waste any second telling her about anything unnecessary, since he could not afford to lose any moment that he could instead spend on his project…

 

But now that he merely was here for casual banter and leisure, he would be glad to maybe answer some questions and discuss about physics with a colleague for some actual fun.
And of course she was more than eager to play along, and she encouraged him to tell her whatever he could think about. Anything would do.

 

“first off, let’s start with the mind-blowing ones.” he jokingly started, his eye sockets glimmering with mischief. “they don’t have magic. and by that i mean, they don’t have any magic at all. seems like the natural amount of magic back there is so low that when you try to gather some all in one place it’d be very unstable and, i dunno… melt or even disintegrate or something. kinda a miracle their souls can sustain themselves despite that.” Yet his tone had suddenly lost its playful spark when he had uttered those last parts, gradually becoming gloomy as his seriousness had already taken over. “so if you thought of going there for your vacation or something, that’s sorta out of the picture.”

 

He had still tried to joke and chuckled awkwardly, but she had seen his right eye twitch in a very discreet and subtle way, while his pupils were filled with… was this regret…?

 

 

Nonetheless, that revelation in and of itself was indeed pretty much… surprising. They had the ability to alter the very fabric of space and time in another dimension, and yet they didn’t even have magic in the first place?

 

“… Wow.” was all she managed to say, completely stunned.

“yeah. pretty much unexpected, uh?” And yet his slight laugh died within seconds, as his expression suddenly darkened. “but now flip the problem the other way around.” He slowly raised his skull, facing her with somewhat fading pupils, staring at her intensely and gravely before getting to the point: “In this world, there is magic.”

 

Alphys slightly frowned at first, pausing for a few seconds while trying to follow his train of thoughts. She understood that he wouldn’t utter the rest of his conclusion for fear of being heard by someone else, and she immediately deduced that said conclusion had to do directly with the humans themselves; so she didn’t ask him to clarify his idea.

But quickly enough she lit up and widened her eyes in some kind of strange mixture between flashes of inspiration, sudden fright, and still yet those little sparks of the fullest joys which were common to the scientist suddenly in awe before the brilliance of one of her colleagues’ latest discovery, and the curious child eager to learn even more.

 

“So that’s why you wanted a human from there!” she lighted up in a mutter, and Sans flinched upon seeing her excitement. Fortunately she had still somehow managed to whisper this exclamation and did not get any attention from the others, but he remained nervous and couldn’t help but think that it had been close.

“of course there was that little part of just, ya know, telling them about what they were doing… but yeah. i wouldn’t heat up the reactors down to the core just for that.”

 

She ignored his attempted pun, though that one was quite weak coming from him; and that could not be a good sign, now that she realized that it actually had been his first pun in quite a while — maybe even a few weeks. She genuinely was starting to worry about his health now, as she looked through his pale and heavy eye sockets. H-How much sleep did he get recently?!

But that knucklehead would never listen, of course. He never had over the past month, so why would he now?

 

She sighed tensely.

 

“I guess that explains how they’re doing it, then… E-even though I’m not sure that’s really healthy for them too. With the entire situation we’re in I-I wouldn’t be surprised if it puts them under lots of stress, so their soul must be under intense pressure if they’re really so…” And yet she suddenly realized and shuddered nervously, her scales seemingly starting to look slightly paler. “B-B-But, Sans— T-Then, isn’t bringing one of them here, like… a d-doomsday-enhancing hazard?”

 

It didn’t help that he had slowly raised a pair of fully darkened pupils to face her.
The plainly aware look he was giving her was all the more reassuring.

 

Sans, you can’t be serious…

 

 

“it is.” he tensely confirmed. “and that’s why i absolutely need you to hush it up. no one can know, and especially not him.”

 

Her gaze was shocked to the extent that her glasses started to fall off her muzzle and made her readjust them with a trembling clawed, four-fingered hand. If she wasn’t already aware of the circumstances and the helplessness of the situation, she would have freaked out and growled at him, calling him names and questioning over his sanity for having done such irresponsible research and experiments, all the more while he had been fully aware of the risks.

But now it was too late for that anyway.

 

“if asgore ever got her and absorbed her soul alongside the six others, well…” He chuckled tensely, trying to joke somberly: “need a little help here. what’s above godliness?”

 

She never answered.

 

A long silence filled their table as both of them tried to avoid looking at the other. They attempted to eat when they noticed their dinners were getting cold (despite the fact that none of them were hungry), as if they could engulf their own issues in the surrounding echo of multiple voices given by the ever so oblivious nearby monsters.

Soon enough, Sans had sternly stood up and taken his plate, wordlessly giving a sorry but firm look before walking away.

But Alphys followed him hurriedly, trying to keep up with his rather fast pace.

 

“A-Anyway, uh, that human… H-How are they, then? How did they take it?”

 

He slowed down a little, but did not stop; although he still shrugged and chuckled in a deep tone.

 

“wanna hear a joke?” he retorted cynically. “she’s got necrophobia. can’t look at a skeleton or anything that looks dead according to her standards without freakin’ out.”

“No… Really?” she asked while lowering an uncomfortable look. Poor thing.

“she said she’d deal with it. not like it’d be a real issue, but still, that’s rather stupid.”
… And somewhat insulting, probably; but he genuinely was trying not to feel too offended. She was not doing it completely on purpose after all, and it had almost even felt like she was actually feeling guilty over it without him needing to say anything; so blaming her for something she was already blaming herself for was merely a waste of time and energy. “well, on the bright side of things, seems like she’s gonna do her job without questioning anything i guess. at least she’s not gonna be in the way and she pretty much agrees to the plan so far.”

 

And yet she knew that tone. He could be a very talented actor, but still, when he was on his nerves, he was laying a little less effort on hiding his real thoughts… So she had felt it.

 

“Is there something wrong, Sans?”

“she’s too docile. i don’t like it.” Apparently, he wasn’t even trying to hide his suspicions at all, since he was answering right away and getting straight to the point. “i’ve seen it. she’s goofy, but she’s perceptive… somewhat. i’m worried she might start thinking things or even already plot something in our backs. we can’t trust her.”

 

He was about to take his shortcut back to Snowdin, she just knew it. Alphys stiffened nervously.

 

“W-Wait!” He stopped and looked confusedly at her: “I’ll come with you. Uuh, i-if you don’t mind. I mean, you’ve had a hard time, Sans. You should seriously take a break.”

 

He was about to retort something, but she didn’t let him time to object:

 

“I’ll take care of the human tonight. You… go to sleep. Look at you, it’s like you haven’t had a full night of sleep for ages. No wonder you scared them!” she jokingly yet worriedly scolded.

 

And it felt all the more wrong to actually have to order Sans to take a nap, of all people.

Yet he shrugged while sighing deeply, before offering her his hand.

 

“heh. you know what? you’re right. i kinda miss my bed. haven’t seen it since this morning.” he winked at her.

 

She gladly seized his open palm with a relieved sigh, and let him guide her.

There was a little flash, and they both suddenly appeared in his living room. While he gestured her to follow him down the basement, she couldn’t help but notice the changes: well, there was mostly the absence of the greenish couch, but still… the place as a whole radiated a completely different atmosphere than she could remember from the few times she had been visiting.

The lack of something, or rather someone, was practically emanating from the whole room.

 

Well, maybe because the one missing was the one usually taking care of the place and its aesthetics, for starters…

But she would not blame Sans for being neglectful over such things; especially not after his whole one-month-long-race-against-time issue. She still could barely believe how he had possibly survived from this.

 

Well, being able to warp space into wormholes probably had been a serious advantage.

Speaking of which…

 

“But, wait.” The skeleton reluctantly stopped again, then turned around and gave her a confused yet almost annoyed look. “You said there wasn’t any magic where they came from, and you only had a few seconds before the portal lost its stability and the CORE ran out of power, so… How did you get the human here, then? If you couldn’t use your magic to lift them in or warp the shortcut around them, then how did you…”

 

She stopped mid-sentence. He merely turned away and came back to walking, deliberately ignoring the question and avoiding her look.

 

 

“Oh God. Please tell me you didn’t do that.” she stuttered breathlessly.

“i didn’t have time to worry about collateral damage, ok? it’s all gonna be reset as soon as i’m done anyway, so let’s just forget about that.”

 

His pace sped up, but she immediately caught hold of him and firmly grabbed his right humerus, forcing him to stop.

Great. He was already starting to regret having brought her along.

 

“Sans. Let me see. M-Maybe I can fix it—”

“And what do you want to fix it with, determination?”

 

She froze, letting him abruptly elude her grasp and turn away from her.

 

“S-S-Sans… Please. Just let me see. Maybe there’s still something I can do, e-even if it’s not much…” she tried shyly, even though she knew he would not believe one word of it— she hardly managed to put some slight semblance of conviction into it herself.

“there’s nothing you can do.” he merely shrugged. “seriously, forget about that, i’m alright. i’ll admit it’s not very hand-y, but it’s not like it hurt or anything.” he jokingly stated before chuckling in a tone that actually sounded almost genuine.

 

She sternly but cautiously pulled his arm out of his pocket and rolled up the sleeve. He was wearing a white glove over his hand, but…

 

“Oh. My God.”

 

Sans rolled his eyes angrily.

 

“geez, i told you, it’s alright. not like it was gonna get worse or anything, now. it’s stable again and it won’t change.” He carelessly pulled his sweater’s sleeve back in place before engulfing his arm back in his hoodie’s pocket. “and that only makes one more good reason to complete that damned thing as soon as possible. once i reset the timeline it’ll just be reverted back to normal, just like everything else.”

“So you really were that desperate, eh…” she uncomfortably muttered, defeated.

 

He merely shrugged lazily, or at least so it seemed. He carelessly turned his back to her and wordlessly asked with a vague gesture if she was still here to follow him to the basement. But that was when she remembered:

 

Sans was left-handed.

If this had affected his right arm, then it could only mean…

Her eyes widened in horror.

 

“W-W-Wait, you knew this would happen? Are you CRAZY!?” she gasped in shock.

“that was to be expected. sort of. but hey, let’s look on the bright side: it actually didn’t come up as bad as i imagined.”

 

She could hardly believe it, and yet he deliberately was ignoring her pleadingly compassionate eyes.

“And… H-How much time do you think you will need before… being done?” she asked thoughtfully.

“i finished the blueprints right before leaving, so now i’ll just have to work on the machine itself.” he shrugged tensely. Yet he somewhat frowned before continuing: “the real problem will be the generator, i guess.”

 

She did not dare ask him how much power he would need to run it— but she had guessed it would definitely be much more than his previous experiment. At this point, she did not even dare ask him where he would find such power, since the CORE itself would probably never be enough… And yet she found there, lying carelessly on the floor, a few random papers. One of which was reading clearly the figure of “42 kMS.”

Oh for the love of everything that’s holy that was huge.

 

“S-Sans… Are you really sure you know what you are doing…? Is everything really in control?” The equivalent of forty-two thousand bloody monster souls. About three regular human souls and a half. Just— holy crap.

“do you honestly think it can get any worse than this?” he calmly growled in a low tone. He paused to sigh slowly and deeply, closing his tired eyes. “it’s not the means that count. i’m gonna bring back everyone, and fix this once and for all. don’t you want that? they’ll all be back and safe. papyrus. toriel. undyne.”

 

She had flinched upon hearing that last name, and she shuddered even more as she perfectly knew who the next one he would utter was:

 

“… mettaton.”

 

She bit her lips, trying to repress the tears about to run away from the corner of her eyes and roll on her cheeks.

 

His hopelessness had been driving him to despair and an apparent laziness for countless timelines and for an amount of time that could have been decades or even centuries for all she could imagine. Now that same hopelessness was driving him to get half-crazy working on a lost cause.

She wondered which one was the worst.

 

After all, if she had ever known the answer… she herself wouldn’t have been in such a mess, right?

 

“I-I’m worried, Sans. It just doesn’t suit you anymore.” She slowly raised an uneasy and desperate gaze towards him and weakly distorted her muzzle into a sad smile. “It never did, actually.”

 

He already was starting to walk away, again.

 

“Sans… We can’t bring them back.”

I can. I just need time.”

“Sans, it can’t work and you know it. You’d need to run it with something as powerful as at least three human souls. You’ll never find the power to create that much energy with pipes and wires. Come on, even the CORE isn’t powerful enough! So unless you plan to run it with…”

 

She stopped mid-sentence, widening her eyes into a blank expression.

Sans didn’t move, but seemed to freeze.

 

“of course not. what the hell are you thinking about.” he coldly retorted. “i’ll just… we’ll find another way. maybe the core just needs a few adjustments and—”

“The CORE is FINE!” she scolded in a burst of anger and worry. She immediately calmed down and breathed noisily for a few seconds, before lowering her muzzle and sighing in despair. “Sans, you don’t even know what you’re saying anymore.”

 

He merely buried his left hand into his pocket and let his pupils disappear.

 

“you’re not going to stop me.” he gravely stated. “will you?”

 

That was a rhetorical question. Of course Alphys would not stop him.

They were just having a hard time and she was right— this fatigue was draining their thoughts and none of them was in the proper state of mind to tackle such topics.

It was wiser to just stop here and now before they had to come to useless disputes.

 

“this will work.” he still muttered in the most confident tone he could get. “it has to work.”

“It won’t. You know the math, Sans.” And even if he did not, he would just get bored and give up when he would realize. She really hoped he could be right about it, but… All she could do was sigh deeply in regret and guilt. “J-Just go to sleep. We’ll get back to that another time.”

 

The skeleton had stopped midway in the stairs, looking down at her.

 

“Fine. Bone nuit.”

 

It was all the more upsetting to hear him make one of those puns with such intonation and sarcasm in his voice.

She wanted to trust him and she knew that this was their last resort, yet it all sounded so… wrong.

Was it really worth it in the end…?

 

She was not sure about anything anymore.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act I —

Don’t Let Him Find Out

Scene 4


 

The basement’s door opened warily. She jumped and stood up clumsily, carefully turning towards it and already taking a few steps back while staring at it:

 

“Oh, Sans… Y-You’re back.” she shyly stated.

 

Yet the figure hiding behind the door was not the skeleton she had expected to see, as it remarked in some uneasy apologies. She could then see immediately as a yellow lizard closed it that this light female voice actually came from someone she soon enough recognized…

 

“Alphys…?”

 

She only realized her mistake upon noticing the monster’s embarrassed expression and tried hurriedly to wrap up some excuse as to how and why she could possibly have learned her name beforehand— anything could do, uh, Sans had told her about a colleague maybe or— wait no his job was as a sentry right now so that couldn’t possibly work…

 

“Heh eh… S-Sans told me you’d probably a-already know us. H-Ha ha.” the reptile sheepishly stuttered. “S-So I g-guess I don’t need to introduce myself…”

“Ha ha, ha… Y-yes, sorry for that…” She tried to laugh along, even though their hilarity was hardly as comfortable as silence itself. “… Yeeeah, that’s pretty awkward.”

 

Silence soon came back (at least it was feeling slightly less stupid than two awkward nervous laughs… somewhat), and they both looked away, biting their lips in some kind of similar embarrassed pout. The human noticed that detail after a few seconds and giggled clumsily.

 

To be honest, Alphys’s game sprite hardly did her justice. Admittedly she could afford to lose a few superfluous pounds, but apart from that? There was none of the hunchbacked posture, short muzzle and spiky protrusions— hers were all aligned in the back of her head and along her neck, and these actually looked pretty smooth and round (solid, but not sharp). Most fanartists tended to represent her as some kind of bipedal triceratops-like dinosaur; but from what she could see here, she seemed much closer to a yellow lizard with buck teeth and cute average-sized rectangular glasses than to anything else.

She noticed at the same time that the little scientist was actually much shorter than she would have initially guessed— at least, in comparison with Sans. For some reason, Sans on the other hand was much taller than she remembered from the game or even most of the fanarts she had watched— heck, they were about the same height! Not that she was particularly tall — admittedly she was actually pretty short for her age — but still, that was… weird. She had always imagined he would be approximately as tall as Alphys, and not that… she would be almost a whole head shorter than him.

 

Speaking of which…

 

“Where is Sans?” she couldn’t help but ask. “Did something happen?”

“Oh, no, n-no, he’s fine!” Alphys hurriedly raised her arms in defense and kept waving them nervously. “He was just really tired, s-so I got him to sleep.” She bit her lips and looked down. “… Okay now that sounded really awkward.”

 

The human chuckled lightly, shrugging.

Alphys smiled shyly.

 

“S-So I um, offered him to, I-I don’t know… T-Take care of you tonight and stuff.”

 

She engulfed a hand in her lab coat’s biggest pocket and took out a little plastic box before handing it to her. The human awkwardly walked towards her and seized it, before realizing it was a hot container with what looked like some instant noodles. She thanked her in embarrassment, with good intent but somewhat mechanical politeness.

The little lizard offered to sit in the couch after a few seconds (seriously, they were both standing in the middle of the basement and both feeling silly over it, at least one of them had at some point to do something that both of them wanted in order at least to try to break the ice), and the human gladly followed. She opened the box and started eating when Alphys gave her a fork to eat the pasta with, and—

 

Her face upon tasting the first bite probably had to be particularly worrying, because the scientist immediately started to freak out and hurriedly asked her what was going on:

 

“W-w-Where d-did y-you………?”

“I-I j-just took them from the f-fridge!” she shamefacedly muttered. “I-I forgot to take another ration from the cafeteria a-and there were a lot of boxes like that in Sans’s fridge s-so I-I just thought— oh my God I’m sorry is that so horrib—”

“I-It’s alright…!” the human assured awkwardly in a rush, accompanying her words with swift hand gestures. “J-Just… unexpected.”

 

There was a huge silence. She lividly stared at the tiny box and the barely underdone crispy noodles. Was she even… feeling her eyes starting to get slightly wet…?

She laughed weakly.

 

“… Man. I never thought I’d have to taste Papyrus’s spaghetti before… s-seeing him for real. O-or at all, for that matter…”

“T-T-Those were Papyrus’s…!?” Alphys blurted out in horror, bringing her claws to her muzzle in shock. “O-Oh my God, Sans is so gonna kill me—”

“H-Hey, don’t worry, y-you didn’t do it on purpose!” she comforted while shrugging heavily. “Besides, there’s a lot of those boxes in there— one more or one less, h-he’ll never notice… A-And I won’t tell him either, promise.” she faintly winked with a collusive yet sad smile.

 

Alphys glanced down, slightly but gloomily tearing up the corner of her mouth. She swiftly shot an unreadable glare at the creature sitting next to her, almost about to utter all the things she had on her mind… But somehow decided against it.

 

They didn’t know, she tried to remind herself. They couldn’t possibly have known.

Still, it hurt.

 

The human glanced back at the spaghetti, biting her lips and trying to stop thinking about all those… things. It was so hard not to, and she almost felt guilty upon trying to avoid thinking about it, but— it wasn’t like it had ever been her fault, right? It was over. There was nothing she could do about it. The only things she could do now… were only in order to affect the present.

As in, the present mood, for example.

The “Skelebros” were good at joking even in the gloomiest situations, trying any time to light the day and see any glimmer of positivity that the world could afford… Maybe she could try too. For Papyrus’s sake.

 

“W-Welp. If we don’t want him to realize, guess we’d better get rid of the evidence, uh?” she awkwardly chuckled.

 

The lizard first remained silent, but she restrained her frown and slightly started to giggle along, not looking at her but getting her point and (guiltily) willing to follow it.

The human forcedly munched a few more bites, listening to the burnt noodles cracking along with the still cold ones. At first her pitiful faces kept distressing the reptile, but soon enough she instead started chuckling. She couldn’t help it, but that was just undeniably funny to watch; no matter the circumstances. And the human, too, seemed to try to deliberately look funny, as she started to pout ridiculously, faked getting offended and grimaced ungracefully while munching not-so-silently.

 

When she was finally done, Alphys just offered to take the empty box and hid it in her lab coat’s inner pockets. Then she inhaled sharply and somehow forgot to release her sigh.

 

“H-Hey… D-Do you happen to like anime…?” she eventually started unconvincingly, after the silence had settled again for a short while.

“Actually, I kinda do.” the teenager smiled, amused. “Besides, many fanarts about Undertale actually follow some kind of manga-like style or something. That’s pretty cool.” she added while giggling slightly.

“‘Undertale’…” the monster repeated. “T-That’s the title for the, uh, g-game, right…?”

“Oh… y-yeah. S-Sorry I just… T-That just came out like that.”

 

The human bit her lips guiltily.

Yeah, talking about a video game to one of its characters felt… disconcerting, at best. It was pretty hard to tell her anything without making it sound awkward, and it felt like anything she could say at pretty much any moment could actually genuinely hurt or offend her. And knowing that from someone else’s point of view this world was not even real in the first place… how could they get past such an existential crisis?

Well, in a way, both Alphys and Sans were pretty much depressed already, so it didn’t look like it changed them that much…

But still. They didn’t deserve this.

 

“Is… i-is it a good game?”

 

But of course, Alphys had to stick to that subject now that she had accidentally brought it.

She sighed tensely, not knowing whether or not she really could talk under the “Potential-Player –slash– Massive-Fangirl” perspective… But Alphys’s eyes seemed to tell her that she really wanted to just nerd out and that she would genuinely forgive her if such accidents happened, damned be the consequences.

 

The human felt a dorkish grin creep up her face.

Heh. What the heck. Screw it, let’s just freaking break that goddamn fourth wall.

 

“Ooh you wouldn’t know.” she laughed. “Heck, my best friend managed to get me to become obsessed with the fandom in only a few weeks, and I hadn’t even needed to touch the actual game even once! To be blunt— I haven’t even had the opportunity to play yet, Sans got me here first.”

“Wait, really?” she blinked in surprise. “B-But then how—”

“Let’s just say it’s been some sort of big misunderstanding. And bad luck.” she chuckled while shrugging. “But from what I’ve seen… oh damn you’re right. That game is just amazing. I don’t know anything about video games in general, but I’m sure it must be the first RPG game in which “no one has to die”; I think it even was the slogan in the ads or something like that.”

 

She stopped suddenly, as she heard the monster… almost cackle in grief.

… Yeah, that probably had not been really wise to say that last part right now.

 

“I g-guess they weren’t very good at it this time…” the lizard ironized.

 

Strike one, you idiot. You had it coming.

 

She didn’t answer and bit her lips instead guiltily. What could she possibly say to that? She exactly knew what to say and yet she didn’t want to say it. It wouldn’t have been fair and it wouldn’t even have helped make the conversation progress.

 

However the silence quickly was broken, as they both heard some slight vibration coming from the human’s jeans’ pocket. She jumped in surprise and took whatever had caused that buzzing sound from it—

Her eyes widened. That was her phone. Her freaking cellphone.

 

After having been kidnapped and trapped in another (potentially virtual?) reality, that definitely had been about the last thing she had expected to be able to keep with her… but if all this time it had merely been in her pocket just the way she used to keep it, it was probably logical that it would have come along after all. Maybe? She actually had no idea. Freaking magic and its unnervingly so damn confusing rules.

 

Well, by that time she had just tried to establish the one rule that magic would be magic and that she would (at least attempt to) stop questioning it. Now she had been able to keep her cellphone with her. So what. That was good news!

… It was just a pitiful irony that the poor thing had claimed its existence after so long only because it didn’t have any batteries left and was shutting down. She pouted and looked skeptically at it, an annoyed “Are you freaking serious?” glare in her eyes. She had just got it back, and now it was already ditching her!? That was a joke.

 

“Hey, is that a… cellphone?”

 

Alphys’s glance appeared genuinely sparkling with curiosity and avidity as she couldn’t get her eyes off of the little piece of technology.

 

“Our phones really don’t look like that, but— S-Sans and I kinda had an opportunity to look at your web. So I saw some images. Always wondered how you could make these work.”

 

The human shrugged and apologized; she would have gladly given it to her — hey, having her phone potentially turned into a magic jetpack by a yellow lizard could actually be cool enough, right? —, but since it was now not even worth trying to turn it on again…

 

Yet the scientist still asked if she could take a sneak peek, saying that maybe she could do something about it. So she simply obliged in a shrug.

Well, not like they had anything better to do, right?

She watched as Alphys carefully examined the little white rectangle under all its angles, warily weighing it and scrutinizing all its orifices and its screen and its buttons while seizing it in her claws… And then the reptile somewhat pouted, glanced at her with a curious-yet-somehow-almost-guilty look of “Can I give it a try?” And once more, she just shrugged and mouthed an amused “Go for it.”

 

Of all things, she had never expected Alphys to approach a little shy clawed finger right on top of her phone and see a little sparkling bolt of energy – or whatever that light was – entering the shell and make it vibrate again and freaking turn on.

Weren’t phones supposed to work with chemical lithium batteries or something, or…? Well, screw it, it freaking worked. She just put that “what-the-heck-is-going-on” alarm off and simply answered her own question with a shrug and an ironical “Non-multiversal laws of physics, prepare to be ignored. Maaaaagic’s on the way~”

Because of course it was “magic.” She wouldn’t start trying to explain Sans levitating her and defying gravity with the normal laws of physics— or, well, she could try, but she didn’t really expect to get much satisfying results out of it. Especially considering her own knowledge and culture about science in general.

 

“Electricity magic. Always works. A-At least, on little gizmos like this one, i-it’s not a big deal.” Alphys sheepishly chuckled.

Not a big deal?” She laughed hard in amazement. “Alphys, that’s awesome!”

 

She didn’t think Alphys could manipulate magic the way the other monsters did, but after all— well, she was a monster just like any other, so it totally made sense actually. And in the Pacifist ending, as a lost soul, she did attack with the same pattern as Mettaton, so… Maybe she just never mentioned her attacks or never used them on casual occasions— the Pacifist ending featured the only ‘fight’ that could be a direct confrontation against her anyway.


Manipulating electricity sure was handy for her occupation, and it… Maybe it could even explain how she could possibly update Frisk’s phone in only a matter of a few seconds? Cartoon humor put aside, that was.

 

“For how long’s it gonna work?” she couldn’t help but ask in awe to no one in particular, even though she could see the little 47%” on the top right corner of the screen and already got a proper idea on her own.

 

She quickly typed her code, then recognized the same icons as ever, in the same place as ever, and the—

She suddenly lost her smile and bit her lips.

 

“… Oh my God.” the lizard silently whispered in shock.

 

… the wallpaper.

The fucking wallpaper.

 

If it wasn’t clear enough that she was obsessed with that video game’s fandom, then it was now. A little ‘harmless’ fanart of Asgore hugging in his big paws what was supposed to be the “Skelebros” as kids, in an overly rosy background and anime-like style…

She tensed in embarrassment and turned towards—

She froze.

 

Alphys was shaking.

 

“I-I— oh God I-I’m sorry Alphys I– I d-didn’t mean it it’s just– I—”

 

Then Alphys exploded.

The human stared at her in a bewildered shock as she… snorted.

And then she laughed. Again and again. Filling the workshop with random gasps and other giggling noises.

 

“T-They’re soOoOo c-c-kkk– pFT-hahAHaHAHA!” she blurted out in the middle of her unstoppable hilarity, face-palming and blushing all over her muzzle. Seriously, she knew that the game made her blush too sometimes, but part of her was still wondering how her amber-coloured reptile-like scales could just somehow reach a red that dark and pronounced.

 

She was… well…

… She was taking it pretty well.

 

(At least definitely much better than she had feared.)

 

“I guess… “Watching someone on a screen really makes you root for them”, right?” the human eventually tried to joke.

 

The lizard didn’t seem to get the reference— after all, in this timeline, she never had the chance to say that line… Yet she snorted again and nodded abruptly. Now she had somewhat regained control over her giggles, and she started to bite her lips in some kind of amused pout before she started giving her a few glances in an… unreadable expression.

And yet after a few seconds the teenager perfectly knew what she was about to ask.

 

“… Do you have more of these?” Alphys whispered hurriedly yet somewhat eagerly, as if she feared being heard by anyone else that would be potentially eavesdropping.

 

The human’s face distorted itself into an overly large trembling grin full of mischievous teeth biting a giggling lip.

 

Heck yeah.” she nodded uncontrollably with a ridiculous smirk half-open in a stupid face.

 

She was going to introduce an otaku to the fandom version of her original universe.

So what? She loved it. Each piece of fanart that the fangirl happened to have saved in her phone’s memory made the monster gasp, genuinely laugh at the top of her lungs, add some personal comment over the cuteness or silliness of some pics, or all of the above. It sort of helped that she mostly had pictures of the skeleton brothers or the King and Queen of the Underground, but Alphys had surprisingly not appeared too hurt or awkward or anything in particular when they had stumbled onto a few drawings of her and Undyne, or some others depicting Mettaton. Her look still showed some gloomier sparks inside, but she still was smiling upon… “what could have been.” Or rather “what was about to be”, probably— it was definitely better to think about it that way.

 

“Say… What is the happy ending like?” she couldn’t help but ask when a group photo of the whole cast appeared on the little screen.

“Don’t you want to see it for yourself?” the human softly joked. “Spoiler alert, everyone’s happy.” she added with a wink.

 

And yet she suddenly stopped, noticing that for once, Alphys was not laughing along.

Her eyes were slightly trembling as her muzzle forcedly looked away shamefacedly.

 

“I don’t even know if I’ll be there anymore.”

 

There was a heavy silence.

 

“W… What do you mean? Sans said t-there’d be a Reset, so everyone’ll just have to be there! And then you’ll just—”

“And then I’ll forget. Everything.” she retorted emptily. The silence started crawling around them as she was staring at the void, eyes wide open and yet not looking at anything, nor giving any trace of any emotion. She almost seemed frozen in space and time, if it weren’t for her lips slightly moving when she started to talk again: “I’ll forget how they all sacrificed their lives to save us. I’ll forget how they’ve been so nice to me, even when they discovered t-the… w-what I have done. I’ll forget how they helped me b-become a better person, despite e-everything… A-After the Reset, I-I’ll just be back to square one, a-a-and t-then…”

 

She started to shake. The human panicked internally, and for she could not think of any better solution, she ended up hugging her with all her might and tried patting her in the back as the yellow lizard had begun to cry in silent hiccups.

The monster returned the hug and tried to thank her in a distorted mutter, squeezing her in her trembling arms and getting the human’s shirt wet and salty. But none of them cared.

 

“I-It sounds stupid,” she eventually continued, “but at this point… w-will it still be me?”

 

The human admitted she had never thought about it under that perspective.

And the fact that technically, after the Reset, she would not even remember that very moment they were having together right now— she would not even remember that she ever existed in the first place…!

Once she realized, she started to feel more like Alphys was the one comforting her, if only for a split second.

 

“I d-don’t want to forget…” Alphys whispered fearfully. “But… I-I’m not sure I want to remember either…” She cynically but weakly chuckled. “I really am stupid, aren’t I?”

“Alphys, d-don’t say that…” the human faintly uttered; and yet she couldn’t find anything better to tell her.

 

She glared at her phone, as if since the beginning it had always been solely and entirely its fault.

Yet the lizard thanked her once more before letting her go, and the teenager understood that she also had to release her grip.

She couldn’t say that Alphys was feeling better, but she still had calmed down and somewhat looked… almost genuinely serene.

 

“A few days ago… I asked him if he would let me ‘save’ my memories, too.” she eventually admitted silently.

“And… Did he—” No, stupid question. “Why didn’t he let you do it?”

“He told me I didn’t know what I was asking for.” she sheepishly chuckled. “But… Somehow it still feels like, once the Reset is done, I… won’t be there anymore? Like, it won’t even be me who will get to live that happy ending. As if there will be some other Alphys replacing me… t-the way I’d have replaced a ton of other Alphyses or…”

 

She shuddered.

 

“T-That’s terrifying me.” she whispered guiltily. “B-But what terrifies me the most… I-It’s that all this time, h-he’s been the only one noticing. M-Maybe he even already told the other Alphyses countless times, and… well…”

 

She never finished her sentence, instead letting go a few nervous chuckles that weren’t genuine to the least.

The human remained silent, having no idea whatsoever as to what she was supposed to say to… comfort her, argue her points, agree with her? She didn’t even know what she was supposed to think about all this.

 

“C-Can I ask you something?” she suddenly added after a short pause.

 

The girl barely nodded while mouthing a nervous “Uh, s-sure.”

 

“P-Please don’t… be mad at him for what he did. H-He’s… He doesn’t know what he’s doing.” She raised two shy and trembling eyes at her, although she seemed to have a tiny, gentle smile. “Y-You probably know that already, but he’s not ill-intentioned. It’s just that… he can be inconsiderate. And reckless, too.”

 

She raised an eyebrow in surprise. Sans, reckless? As in, Sans-the-laid-back-and-lazy-depressed-guy-who-doesn’t-ever-want-to-do-anything, reckless?

Alphys apparently noticed her expression from the corner of her eye, and her smile disappeared.

 

“… It’s true he didn’t really act like that during the past years. And I s-see this isn’t how you’re portraying him in your fanarts. Because that’s the only side of him you know. But… He hasn’t always been like this, you know? I-I suppose that all this time he spent stuck in the l-l-loops eventually had everything surfaced all over again, and then he got back to his o-old lifestyle.” she blabbered absent-mindedly. And then she looked down with a pained expression distorted with concern. “Just… Not really the best part.”

 

Not the one we missed the most, she never added.

 

The human kept staring, though she probably didn’t realize it. Her eyes were wide like two black holes hungry for answers and gossip, but her mind felt actually blank and unresponsive.

When she felt so conflicted about what she thought or felt she should do and hesitated between two behaviors that were contradicting each other, waiting it out and analyzing what would come next often seemed like the best option to her. Because that was what she did best. Waiting and watching in silence. Waiting for the answers to come to her and using them to calculate the pros and cons on each side, so she could finally make the choice that felt the most right.

Waiting before the act so she could truly do the right thing.

 

“He’s tired. Mentally and physically— I wouldn’t be surprised if he hasn’t had a full night of sleep in over a month. And this entire story about time jumps and alternate universes had him obsessed for so long…” She sighed deeply, but that didn’t seem to release the pressure in her chest at all. “He keeps acting tough, that idiot. But anyone could see he can’t handle it alone. No one could. That’s why…” She sent her a shy and guilty glance, but immediately looked down. “I-I understand that he didn’t have the rights to do what he did, but—”

“I’m not mad at him.” the human whispered quickly, though her words might have lacked some conviction. “He didn’t do all that because he actually wanted to. He didn’t have a choice.”

 

The lizard raised her head again, scrutinizing her behind the pair of rectangular lenses.

She genuinely meant it, and yet her tone had felt somewhat robotic. But then the teenager thought back of the events and…

 

“I just… I can’t be mad at him. He was desperate. He wanted to save you all so badly, and he really looked like he had tried everything else before going along with this plan. He really thought that was the only option he had left.” Either she remembered or tried to imagine his face again; either way, she felt a shiver and ended up crossing her arms and rubbing them absent-mindedly. “… Part of me wishes he could’ve got someone much more useful than me, for his own sake. I mean, I-I can’t even l-l-look at him w-without…”

“Yeah, he… t-told me about that part.” They shared a look, and Alphys’s eyes drifted away immediately. “I’m sorry.”

 

Her apology seemed genuine, but all at the same time, only superficial and uttered by reflex. Like an obvious statement that you state without thinking about it, only to realize after the fact that it was useless to say it. And then it leaves you with the feeling that you acted stupid but that you shouldn’t correct yourself because it would only emphasize your stupidity and obviousness.

Of course Snowdin is cold. Of course she’s a human. Of course you feel sorry about a pathetic somebody who just happens to have been kidnapped by her worst fear. Because it’s a pathetic scene and a pathetic brat with pathetic racist irrational fears.

 

She could see it in her eyes. She was judging. Of course she would be. Who wouldn’t?

Besides, of all monsters in the Underground, it would be logical to think that Alphys would actually be one of those who would sympathize the least, seeing how she perfectly managed to take care of the Amalgamates and dealed on a daily basis with actual monster-level nightmare fuel. Skeletons were just regular citizens of the society she pertained to, and furthermore— many signs (both inside the game and just right now) pointed towards a close relationship between Sans and her.

 

“I’ll… I know it’s stupid and I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but… I’ll do my best.” the teenager shyly muttered. “It has nothing to do with him. And it’s stupid. And I just really don’t want to. It— it’s really hard, but. I wanna be above this. I really do.”

 

She was remembering Sans’s empty bluish face and she was trembling and she hated it. She realized she had crossed her arms around her again and forcedly removed them, although it made her hands all the more shaky.

Alphys only marked a long silence, staring at her with an unreadable dark stare. Surprisingly, she seized the human’s hand and held it firmly. The human rushed her puzzled and alarmed head to her clawed hands, then to her face—

The monster turned towards her and she uttered a simple question with a serious tone.

 

“He didn’t do anything to you, did he?”

 

Strangely, the meaning of her wording seemed opposite to the actual intent her voice led. Her wording was, “He didn’t do anything to you, did he?” And yet her voice murmured sneakily: “He did something to you, didn’t he?”

The human found this sudden change of behavior uncanny and the ambiguity of the question seemed to put her in a pensive trance, as she put her other hand on her chest as if she could hear the second set of heartbeats again. The heartbeats were so familiar and reminded her of the blue lights and the abysmal holes on a white bony arctic plain.

But she forcedly shook away the dark images with a quiver.

 

“No.” she answered resolutely, looking at the lizard with a straight and serious face.

 

The monster frowned.

 

“You’re an awfully good liar. Just not good enough for me.” she muttered in a monotone voice, almost like a motherly figure scolding a young kid. And yet as soon as she had finished her sentence, her traits somewhat softened— though her frown didn’t change at all. “Blue magic?”

 

The teenager found herself nodding without realizing it. A half-second later she seemed to come back to her senses and shuddered. Her dazed eyes dashed to the lizard’s muzzle, to her hand (it tickled), even to her chest, staring at it almost as if she could actually see through it and perceive her soul— because it had to be there, right? She felt something pounding there, but— okay, false alarm, it was her real heart for once.

 

Alphys finally released her hand. The human immediately retracted it to her chest and scratched its back discreetly, but the tickles were gone.

 

“Did you just—” She seemed to quickly try to find the right words for what she had in mind, but her fuzzy panic made her choose the fastest wording instead: “— use magic on me?”

 

Somehow, whether it was the sudden question, the half-freaked, half-accusatory tone it had been raised with, or even something else the monster could see that she was sure no regular human had the capabilities of seeing, whatever it was, something clicked in Alphys’s behavior. The revelation dumbfounded her, and even seemed to transfix her with a face of guilt, or confusion, and all at the same time with the expression of someone who felt incredibly stupid for just remembering the most obvious fact.

 

“So it’s… really true that you don’t have any at all, huh.” She brought a clawed hand to her protruded chin in a seemingly thoughtful, but really pensive pose. “Sans t-told me but I f-forgot. Sorry. It’s just… hard to imagine. I-I mean here, everyone thinks that e-even humans have some sort of magic, too. Their anime shows magic, a-and even if that’s false too, there’s still the Barrier. They must’ve found at least someone who could raise it.” Yet she immediately softened as her shoulders dropped. “But— you’re not from here. That’s how you’re doing it.”

“Doing what?” the teenager peeped by reflex, somewhat defensively. “How did you… W-what did you do?”

 

Yet again, the lizard sent her a guilty and somewhat apologetic look, but it seemed also fearful. This image of the tiny golden reptile cowering and giving her a mature-looking stare that failed to hide the puppy look it really was trying to confine, harshly reminded her of the basic rules in Undertale.

 

Humans are incredibly strong in comparison with monsters.

Humans don’t need compassion to live.

 

She realized Alphys was seeing her as a potential menace. No, maybe even worse— maybe Alphys even thought that she didn’t have, or faked, having feelings? In any case, she was definitely scared of having angered her.

Was she angry? She didn’t really think so— well, maybe a little. Using magic on your friends just like that without warning them, above all using magic to force them to… tell the truth, reveal a secret? Whatever that was, and whatever other applications this could have, using it on your friends feels like treason. She hated treasons, so it should be justified for her to be angry. You just don’t do that on your friends.

 

… Were they friends?

 

She realized she had just assumed since the beginning. Some part of her still hoped so. But maybe Alphys was just too wary for that to happen. She looked awfully more mature and well-grounded than the game made her sound like. Maybe it also had to do with the timeline she had gone through, and after that she would have lost all possible trust in humans. She did feel guilty for letting the first one go on a rampage, after all. And the first one was a kid.

It truly didn’t help that Alphys looked so short compared to her when sitting on that couch, and it definitely didn’t help that the only other human contact she had ever had before (if only canonically) was that of a genocidal freak.

 

She realized what being feared felt like, and how much she hated that feeling.

 

Oh, the irony.

 

“A-Alphys—” By now, it was hard to know whether she could hear the second hearbeats only because magic had been used on her recently, or if she was just somehow able to feel them whenever she felt particularly tense. Both cases had been pretty overlapping one with the other until now. “I-I’m not mad, o-okay? I j-just want to know.” She gulped, but started to find that some sort of rough ball was stuck in her throat. She instinctively brought a hand to it. Maybe it was anguish. Was she anguished? She hadn’t realized. “It’s just— that magic stuff, and the Resets, a-and everything— t-the game’s supposed to explain it all, but i-it’s still completely new, and sc…” She bit her tongue instinctively. Lowering her head, she forcedly closed her eyes and took a deep but short breath: “I-I just want to know. Please.”

 

There was a silence. She heard similar deep breaths next to her, as Alphys apparently tried to calm down— or rather, just let her mind breathe for a little while. She didn’t look like she ever panicked openly.

All things considered, she did sound relieved, however.

 

“I-if that’s what you’re worried about— there’s no known type of magic that can directly read minds. Or control minds, or w-whatever.” she chuckled awkwardly. “No monster’d have enough power to do that anyway. It’s just— When you’ve had to look after a pair of troublemakers for some years, you k-kinda need to convince them somehow that you can actually see through their secrets.” Another short laugh. “B-but it’s just a classic interrogation technique. I think? I once watched an old anime about Interpol and spies, so y-you get to learn some useful stuff sometimes. There were even some bits about human biology!” She seemed to twitch nervously, however, and she shot an anxious glance at the human: “S-speaking of which, I— I-I’ll admit, this time I, um… i-improved it a little? I-I just sent a few shocks to your sympathetic nervous system. I-it wasn’t much b-but i-i-it’s j-just enough to build a strong b-bluffing technique. I-i’m s-sorry.”

 

Alphys marked an uncomfortable pause, and her eyes eventually darkened.

 

“I… see.” the human nodded slowly.

 

So that was just that. Electricity magic once again. But used in such a way, it had actually effectively made her feel especially tense during the improvised questioning session, and thus influenced her into pseudo-unconsciously revealing what she really was thinking about. It wasn’t hard to observe how badly she coped with stress, so of course stimulating the nervous system responsible for generating even more pressure and adrenaline was the best possible way to put her in a distraught position where she was momentarily out of her mind, so to speak.

“It wasn’t much.” No, that was hardly just psychologically manipulating someone without warning in order to extract information from them. Was that even legal?

 

She rubbed her hand again, and yet she somehow managed to send the lizard a little smile and a half-silent thanks. She still felt widely tense about the idea of magic being used directly on her, especially for such uses, but she had given her word, and she wanted to get over it (she checked again just in case— yes. She did feel like a bigger part of her really wanted to get over it, if only because the chances of that happening again would be probably increased if she didn’t do so). And she wanted Alphys to feel more at ease, too (mainly so that she would stop doing that, she had to admit).

 

“That was… that’s still impressive.” she blabbered absent-mindedly. “T-the game didn’t ever tell anything about this.” There was a little embarrassed chuckle.

“About me watching anime?” Alphys raised an eyebrow.

“About you being a freaking double agent from the CIA.” the human laughed (not completely genuinely, though she really meant it as a joke).

“Pft, I’m not a double agent.” the lizard playfully rolled her eyes. “But I like poker.”

“Yeah, and I can assure you that this is something that nobody would’ve guessed from the game alone.”

 

They both laughed in synch, only to tone it down at the same time. After a few seconds of silence, the human couldn’t help but quickly perk at the monster’s face, if only to make sure that she wasn’t showing the expression of someone who would attempt something, either by smarts or by fear. She looked thoughtful, as if to ponder between multiple options she had in mind; until she took a deep breath:

 

“Listen. About– whatever happened earlier between you two, though. Please don’t confront him on this.” she said calmly. “I will.”

“No, you— I-it’s not necessary.” Yet again she somehow had trouble making her speech sound sincere, though she reasoned it probably was some anxiousness coming back. “He thought I was lying to him. He thought I was the one who put you through this. And that I wouldn’t take him seriously. I-it was just a misunderstanding.”

“If it was just a “misunderstanding”, why does it still hurt you so much?”

 

The human opened her mouth, but lacked the words to immediately answer, and soon found her throat dry. She closed her lips, then opened them again, but she could not bring herself to reply. “He was scary.” was a pretty stupid answer and she would start judging her again. “It hurt.” sounded pretty childish and that would make her a faint-hearted sissy since he didn’t even technically use attacks that should have been hurtful according to the game. Many other reasons popped up in her mind, but she dismissed them all the same way. All monsters had magic and she knew it. She had been playing with fire for too long so she definitely should have seen his outburst coming. She was in the Underground and she was a human and this was exactly for that reason that Sans had kidnapped her, so of course she had a soul.

 

For some reason, Alphys seemed like she didn’t even need an answer anyway. Either she already had guessed it, or she just didn’t care that much and only wanted to trigger the human’s questioning.

 

“Well, as long as it won’t happen again.” she eventually sighed. “There’s still a long way to go before you’ll really get over it, though. Isn’t there?”

“I’ll do my best.” the teenager repeated sheepishly. Her lips trembled a little in the air, then she eventually mustered the courage to ask: “Do you… have any idea how long it will take him?”

 

Much longer than you’d think, heehee.

 

“I… couldn’t tell you for sure.” the reptile lamented. “Honestly, I— i-I don’t even think he’ll a-actually make it. There’s just not enough resources down here. N-not for what he’s trying to build.”

 

It felt like a strong thunder shock had just dashed throughout her entire spine.

 

“What do you mean?” she asked in a spur, hardly getting the intonation right.

“He’s working on a lost cause.” A tense break. “I won’t hide it from you. I’m positive he won’t be able to make it. A-and even if he did something incredibly stupid, such as stealing some of Asgore’s souls to power it… T-there’s no way to tell whether it’d actually work for long. It’s likely he’d just lose his power source right after his Reset and need to start all over again.”

 

The human was speechless. The question she had on the tip of her tongue was obvious and fully worded, ready to be launched— and yet she would not move her lips, as if asking this damned question would only seal her fate for good.

 

… Heh, as if it weren’t sealed already.

 

But then, if this is hopeless, what was all that for?

This was supposed to be Sans’s last resort. Did he know his plan would go nowhere? What would he do if he realized it? There were a number of reasons why she dreaded that moment, both for her own physical integrity, and for Sans’s mental sanity. And the despair, oh God, the despair. He may have acted like a jerk to her for the most part they had been together, he still ended up showing his true friendly self, and that was a part the fandom had made her cherish, alongside his brother’s happiness. Him magically becoming real and kidnapping her would not change that. She cherished his happy moments, and felt ready to do anything she could to make them last; if only because that’s what any Undertale fan— no, any civilized person with the bare minimum of common sense and sympathy, should do in her place.

Seeing his last hopes crushed along with his last remaining options would be too much for him. She just knew so, and she was sure she would be crushed too. Especially if she’d known in advance and left him in the dark — or even (especially) if she had to be the one to bring him the bad news.

 

Couldn’t there just be one way to let the skeleton be happy, for once? After all the work he had done, after all the troubles and challenges she was sure he had been through— he probably was one of those who deserved the most that happy ending. Why wouldn’t the universe just let him have it? That was too cruel.

 

“B-but don’t worry, o-okay? H-he’s not heartless. I mean, y-you know that, right?” Alphys sighed again. She must’ve thought the human’s sudden hopeless expression was only because she was afraid of never going home. “I guess he’ll just send you back someday, with or without his machine complete. He just needs to understand.” she shamefacedly muttered. “In his place, I wonder if I’d even ask you to just Reset right now maybe, but… n-no, f-forget it.” The monster couldn’t help but look away, biting her lips and hiding her eyes behind her claws.

 

So she’d probably get to go home sooner than anticipated. Yippee.

Honestly, maybe that was just her frustration talking, but she would have gladly given up on her ride home if that effectively did something to save the situation. Except that it didn’t.

 

“Can’t there just be a way to let him be happy?” she breathed faintly.

“If I’d ever known the secret to his happiness, he would’ve never been in this situation to begin with.” Alphys slowly lamented. “The only thing I could think of would be to have him stop remembering. I don’t even know if it’s possible, and it won’t make him happy. But it’ll definitely let him be more at peace. More than he is for now, that is.”

 

There was another deep sigh.

 

“But he won’t let that happen. I have no idea what he’s been through, but… I’ve just seen it.” She gulped. “He’s not just fighting for our future. He was mainly fighting for his past.” She gazed at her for a few seconds, but quickly turned her head away. “Whatever happened back there, there are things that he wants to keep. I… I’m not sure removing them from him would be right.”

 

Well, I’m positive that removing them from him would NEVER be right.

It’s not because he was to forget them that they would stop existing. Besides, what if it were something really important to him? She was sure that if there had ever been anything that Sans would want to actively remember, it would have to be something that really had made him happy once.

 

And that’s the only happiness he wants to find back.

 

Eventually Alphys was the one to break once more the overwhelming silence. It seemed like she had hardly noticed she had been practically monologuing, but there was one thing that she had noticed about her previous topics:

 

“Heh… guess I really ruined the mood, didn’t I.” she apologized awkwardly. “I wish I had my computer or something. You said you liked anime, right? Since there’s nothing we can do about it… All I’ve ever done in situations like these is try to change my mind.” she stuttered in an embarrassed whisper. “I mean, when you’ve lost that battle, it’ll only hurt you further to think about it too much. All we can do is take on a new front and face the rest with a clear mind.”

 

The human could relate; the first thing she was doing herself when she was in her gloomy moments was to watch something funny, or look for new fanarts or fanfictions about any of the fandoms she was interested in. And she had to admit, she was somewhat curious about potentially watching some episodes of Mew Mew: Kissy Cutie, why not— now that it technically was possible and that she somewhat was now Alphys’s friend – (they were friends, right?) –, she almost felt like it would be an unavoidable necessity.

So… she was sort of disappointed that option was out of the picture, if only for the moment.

 

Still, she didn’t think she really had thought things through as much as Alphys had. When she wanted to vent, she was venting; when she wanted to just change her mind, she did so without caring about the time or the priorities. The lizard really seemed much more pragmatic and realistic than she would have thought, and once more, this dissonance with what the fandom usually pictured her as — a shy, reclusive, awkward stereotypical otaku with no sense of preservation of her health and her surroundings’ sustainment—

This dissonance was uncanny, at best.

 

But they were here to change their minds. So she would find a way to change their minds.

 

“There’s… something else I can do when I feel like nothing’s gonna help me feel better.” the teenager tried shyly, picking up her phone and starting again to move her fingers around its screen. “Do you like music…? I don’t have actual anime, but I have some music from a few of them on my phone.”

 

The lizard chuckled and shrugged, apparently enjoying the idea.

 

“Some of them are from the game, right?” she easily deduced jokingly.

“Hey, it was supposed to be a surprise!” the human ridiculously pouted in some ironical frown, faking being overly offended and causing soon enough the both of them to giggle stupidly once more. After a few seconds, she shrugged: “Yeah, I kept my favorite ones here. I don’t have that many, but I still should have enough to keep us busy for the night.”

 

And she leaned back against the sofa, comfortably and leisurely crossing her legs before curling a little towards the monster in order to find a convenient way to put her phone between them, letting the both of them have a full glimpse of the little device’s screen, which was currently displaying a list of names and titles— the full playlist of all her soundtracks.


The human was holding it with her left hand, rolling her thumb over the names and tapping some of them, letting the music play and fill the surroundings. She had first complained about how her headphone had been left in her room and that they had to stick to the poor quality of her phone’s mikes, but Alphys didn’t seem to care and genuinely enjoyed the moment as it was.

There had been another little ‘accident’ when they had stumbled onto Undertale OST_098 — Battle Against a True Hero, but the lizard had surprisingly handled it pretty well this time— and smiled the whole time the song would play, commenting weakly “That’s totally her…” with an almost genuinely peaceful expression on her muzzle. The human had still noticed the little tears in her eyes, but she didn’t find the time to try to comfort her, because the monster had already smiled at her and honestly thanked her.

 

“Oh, oh! How about this one?” she would casually ask in an excited tone, pointing towards one particular title whose name seemed to catch her attention, and the human often laughed in response before choosing said track.

 

The reptile had wondered aloud how the little piece of technology could work without having any actual buttons aside from the ones meant to change the volume and the one to turn the screen on and off, and how the screen itself turned out to be a ‘button’ on its own. The human was slightly surprised at first to hear that monsters were still to the point of dialing numbers with an actual twelve-keyed board, but when she had remembered that the only chance they had to catch up to human technology was by finding some of it in Waterfall’s dump, it sort of made sense.

 

… And maybe the fact that the touch screen would not respond to claws was another reason for the monsters not to use that kind of technology. She was somewhat sad for Alphys, but she didn’t seem to be that hurt by such technological discrimination.

When she had tried to explain that, from all she had heard of it, capacitive touch screens worked because of the human skin’s potential static electricity “or something like that”, they had tried to see if she could use her electricity magic in order to control the phone from the distance, by just waving her claws close to the screen and letting out a few bolts; but it didn’t really work, and the human had been able to ingeniously mask her internal scream of pure horror when the screen had completely turned black for a few minutes during one of their experiments.

 

“Do you have a favorite one?” Alphys asked casually after a few moments.

“Well, if we only take Undertale’s OST… they’re all incredible, maaan, I couldn’t just pick one…!” she laughed. “But if I really had to choose only one… I guess I’d go for Asgore’s battle theme. I just love that guy— and, well, just like “Heartache” (that’s Toriel’s theme by the way), I think that music just shows how much he’s conflicted and does not want to hurt us— a-at least in the game. And I find that just so cool.” she recited calmly before shrugging.

 

She secretly hoped she wouldn’t be asked the incoming question about who her favorite character would happen to be, but Alphys apparently was fortunately not about to come near such topics.

An answer to that question would have been pretty awkward after all— before, she had always assumed –and still somewhat thought– that her two favorite characters would be respectively Asgore and Papyrus. Now… one was a goddamn skeleton (granted, watching a pixel-y funny skeleton was cute, and she loved the cartoon-like styled fanarts depicting the two of them… but now, from what she had seen with her brother, she was not sure actually meeting an almost six-feet-tall overactive one was a good idea — though, admittedly, she still wanted to think that she would still enjoy his company – from a safe distance of at least a dozen feet away), and the other would probably somewhat wish her death, even if he was not genuinely hating her personally. So… that was weird.

 

On the other hand, there was now Alphys, a character that had never actually caught her interest before— she already was considering her as a rather close friend, now.

So she thought that would be somewhat embarrassing to have to answer The Big Question by now.

 

“D-Do I have a battle theme?” the lizard asked nonetheless, innocently and perfectly out of pure curiosity.

“Well, we never really get to openly fight you directly in the game, no matter the timeline.” the human spoke thoughtfully, deliberately eluding the ‘Lost Soul’ part— it was not a real confrontation against her after all, right? “But you do have a… more casual theme, I guess. I don’t have it on my phone though, sorry.” she genuinely apologized.

 

The reptile looked somewhat disappointed, even though she was not that deeply offended. Almost, as her expression was showing, not surprised.

Yet the human leaned back a little more in the sofa and bit her lips, slightly moving her head as to follow some cadence and eyeing the ceiling of the basement while narrowing thoughtfully.

 

But I… I kinda remember it, so I could try maybe…” She frowned as she pouted ridiculously and pointed a pseudo-accusatory finger towards her: “Promise you won’t laugh. I already know my singing is terrible.”

 

Alphys chuckled and shrugged innocently. They both perfectly knew they would just end up laughing over it anyway, the both of them, and that the human was about to purposefully make a fool of herself. Maybe she really was not a professional singer — the opposite would have been quite the handy coincidence after all —, but seriously… it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Not the way nature had initially meant it.

 

… It seemed that sometimes Nature can be a sassy little witch.

 

“Mi-fa-re-mi-do-re-sol, SOL-mi-fa-do-mi” — she suddenly gasped as to breathe for some air in anticipation for the incoming challenge — “re-mi-faa DOOOOO-soool~”, and then they both exploded in snorts and laughs as the human had memorably failed the overly high-pitched note.

 

No, scratch that, she had just hardly failed it twice as much as, oh I don’t know, the entirety of every single note since the very beginning? Seriously, this should be illegal.

 

She had stopped singing after that, the both of them unable to simply align two proper words. The two friends couldn’t stop their (completely unjustified) hilarity for a couple minutes after such a remarkable one-woman-show, and it took them both a few moments to calm down, the both of them lying down on the couch and holding their almost-painful breathless chests.

 

“Maaan, never again…” the human giggled shamefacedly as she face-palmed. “That was awful.”

 

Alphys handed her a little clawed hand, offering to help her stand back up while still trying to muffle a few remaining snorts. The teenager obliged and apologized awkwardly, thanking her in the process.

 

“Thanks to you.” the lizard merely retorted in a calm tone once she was back on her original seat in the couch.

 

The human gave her a surprised look, but the monster offered her a little bittersweet smile, stating that she already felt much better thanks to her. Whether that goofiness and all those silly jokes were forced and meant to deliberately cheer her up or not, it had worked nonetheless— and the monster genuinely was feeling a little more at peace.

 

Yet for some reason, she had stopped mid-sentence at the end of her speech, suddenly looking confused and lowering a sheepish gaze.

 

“Oh my God, I-I just realized…” she whispered uncomfortably. “Sans didn’t ask for your name. Did he?”

 

She realized he didn’t, and suddenly felt incredibly stupid.

 

All this time she had just thought it normal to, well, already know and recognize every single character she had and would encounter. Slightly awkward, too, of course; but she had never thought it through that much.

To the extent that she had completely forgotten the feeling was not reciprocated.

She had started to feel so close to her friend that… she had actually already forgotten they had missed the normally unmissable starters.

 

She laughed slightly, a sorry look on her face but a genuinely happy grin in the corner of her lips.

 

“Just call me Dawn.” she calmly responded with a soft smirk. It intensified as she winked collusively at her and shrugged: “That’s what my friends call me.”

 

The slightly suspicious phrasing caught the lizard’s attention and curiosity, as she stupidly repeated that name she had claimed to be her own.

 

“Yeah, Dawn.” The human shrugged again jokingly. “Like the girl in the Pokémon anime. Got a lot of jokes because of that. They say I act just like her.” She ridiculously pouted and childishly crossed her arms, looking falsely offended. “Seriously, I don’t see why.”

 

And I certainly don’t see why you’d ever think yourself to be mature.

 

Even though Alphys did not seem to catch the reference, she still snorted and shrugged jokingly in return. She preferred not to ask directly, but apparently her eyes betrayed her curiosity— was she even looking suspicious? In any ways, ‘Dawn’ did not seem offended; on the contrary, her gaze softened as her smile became slightly gloomier.

So you want the whole story, uh?

She came closer to her face (where exactly were her ears supposed to be…?), starting to whisper as if it were the deepest secret she ever held in her whole life. Of course it was hopefully not the case, but— still, it was funny to act as if it were the very first time she…

 

It actually felt like it was the first time in a long while that she could… actually trust someone with a secret. Trust a friend.

And it felt beautiful.

 

Eventually, Alphys hummed peacefully in a soft tone:

 

“Dawn it is, then, uh?”

 

And she returned her smile.

 

“That’s a nice name.”

 

The next morning, Sans would find them both sleeping on the couch, one resting her head on the other’s shoulders, snoozing peacefully with two happy smiles on their faces. He couldn’t help but chuckle when he noticed the human’s brown electrified hair floating around.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act I —

Don’t Let Him Find Out

Scene 5


 

“Hey.”

 

Sans turned around from his desk full of random blueprints and messy notes, stared at her hand with a pair of wide eye-sockets, then slowly raised his bewildered white pupils towards her.

 

She was genuinely trying to look at him and there were barely two feet between them.

 

She was surprisingly good at hiding her nervous twinges, considering the… circumstances.

She had a little more difficulties hiding the rosy embarrassment blooming on her pouting cheeks, though.

 

“I-I just realized, uh, I, like, already know pretty much everyone here, so you didn’t really need to introduce yourselves… But, uh, y-you actually don’t know me at all. So, um, I just thought, that’s s-stupid but, uh— h-here.” Her hand raised a little more, but her tremors increased in the process. “I’m Dawn. Dawn Wentworth. N-Nice to meet you, Sans.”

“‘dawn’ and ‘wentworth’?” he muttered absent-mindedly, more to himself than to anybody else, slightly amused; though he didn’t really seem like he had said it aloud, actually. “that sounds weird.”

 

Fortunately she hadn’t heard that, and the fact that he was somehow not moving his face at all while talking (how exactly was this supposed to work?) didn’t give her any hint as to whether or not he had even spoken at all to begin with.

The tip of her fingers started to tremble a little more after a few seconds. The skeleton had been apparently too startled by such incongruous behavior to realize that he was supposed to react.

 

“H-h-hey, d-don’t leave me hanging. T-That’s a real eff-fort I’m doing there.” she stuttered shyly, looking away with her cheeks gradually blushing with an even more awkward intensity.

 

He slightly tilted his skull, as if he was just taken out of some deep reasoning. He silently muttered an apology and raised his left bony arm in reflex— but obviously a little too quickly, because she had stiffened and nervously struggled not to back away.

He lowered it again before looking through her with some traces of… actual concern.

 

“you sure about this? not gonna overreact or anything?”

“Please-don’t-make-this-even-more-embarrassing-than-it-already-is-that’s-hard-enough-as-it-is-thank-you.” she articulated coldly while trying to repress yet another shiver.

 

She took a deep breath and raised her hand back. He chuckled lightly before slowly wrapping his phalanges around her little livid fingers.

She was breathing heavily and kept her eyes closed at first, but other than that, she seemed to be handling it… rather well. At least she managed to avoid hyperventilation, this time. He kept wondering why she would impose such thing on herself (after all, he didn’t know much about phobias, but looking at her expression (and remembering how her soul had looked like during the last time), it really looked like some sort of actual torture. She wasn’t masochistic, was she?); but since it seemed to be important to her, he could just roll with it for a few minutes.

If he could put aside that tiny ounce of worry he was feeling, actually he thought her childishly contradictory attitude to be… kinda funny, in a way. After all, his schedule wasn’t nearly as tight as it used to be, now that his race against time was over; so he could enjoy a few meaningless opportunities to mess with her every once in a while.

 

From her own perspective, she was surprised to notice that Sans’s bones actually didn’t feel as solid as she had thought— well, obviously they didn’t feel like skin at all, but… It was somewhat tricky to describe it. She had never remembered experienced the direct touch of real bones before so she wouldn’t know anyway whether or not that really was the exact same kind, but what she definitely knew about bones was that they were supposedly rigid— at least to some extent.

She had seen that his skull was totally able to express a full range of many different expressions with the subtlest shifts and twists only normal skin was supposed to be able to show (well, his ever stuck-smile put aside that was— and still, sometimes she could almost see his smile actually move too, although she’d always reason it to be just her imagination). There was definitely something more to it, but she could not think of any biological method or material she would already know. She first thought of “magic” itself — weren’t monsters supposed to be mostly made of magic anyway? —, and she pretty much decided to stick to that answer. Not like it really mattered after all (well it still was somewhat comforting if there really was a more complex metabolism than just some magical talking pile of bones and if said bones could actually be some completely different material), and in any case, she would definitely not ask him directly about it. That would be… awkward.

Nevertheless she had to admit that some part of her felt some rather disturbing curiosity about the hows and whys this was working, but her shivers quickly had this side shut up at once.

 

Now, his phalanges still seemed pretty much like normal, solid bones, somehow still attached one to the others despite the total lack of ligaments between them (another “how the heck is he doing it?” she would rather not ask). It kinda looked like the way the bugs’ exoskeletons had multiple parts that could fit and form a full solid armor, while at the same time absolutely nothing really made them noticeably stuck to the others. Was that a coincidence? Yeah, probably, bugs don’t have pads after all.

 

… Wait, what?

No— his palm, it’s… it really felt like actual—

Okay, that part here just couldn’t be bones. Either that or she had just never expected bones to feel so… squishy…?

 

But then a loud and long ridiculous noise filled the room as his grip gently but strongly tightened without warning.

She opened and widened her eyes in alarm, jumped three feet backwards and screamed both in surprise and nervousness, pulling her hand away hastily.

 

He snorted, then kept laughing for a few long seconds. He had expected quite the reaction of course, but now this— her face was just priceless.

 

“heh, you alright?” he asked in concern, but also in an all-too-amused tone showing that he was still genuinely struggling to stop laughing. “sorry, didn’t mean to scare ya. though… can’t say i didn’t warn ya, right?” he winked mischievously.

 

He raised his hand in a defensive wave as he was joking, and she saw resting in his palm a little reddish bag that he had somehow, at some point, hidden between his metacarpals.

The whoopee cushion. Seriously?

 

“Oh COME ON!” She tried to glare at him, but was way too tense and embarrassed to properly do so, blushing harder than ever and feeling her cheeks rapidly turn almost as red as her flannel shirt.

 

She knew that he did that on every single run, so she felt all the more ashamed for walking into that one— and yet, even though she knew that she should have expected it, she just truly didn’t think he would have had the opportunity this time. Seriously, she was sure that he didn’t have the cushion anywhere in sight just a few moments ago! Where the heck did he even get it from?!

 

“sorry kid. just couldn’t help it. not my fault if this trick is so… fartastic.”

 

He winked at her jokingly, and she begrudgingly bit her lips, struggling not to smile at his pun. She would not give him that credit.

 


 

The day had started like that. Sans had woken them up — or rather, woken Alphys up, then let her wake up the human instead while he would at least be a little further away —, then headed with his colleague towards Hotland through a shortcut and quickly enough come back half an hour later with some breakfast for his guest, before he got back to his work.

And then… this happened.

 

He had never particularly wanted to deal with her necrophobia. Instead, leaving her as far from him and his office as possible could even be a blessing: it would make his job faster and easier, after all.

But now that she had genuinely tried to make the first step and start over since their last… conversation, he found himself pleasantly surprised and obliged. It wasn’t that he was that much intending to further befriend “the anomaly” (especially that one), but if it could somewhat fade the awkwardness out, it was already a start.

If they were bound to live in the same house (or even room maybe, since she still had not left his workshop yet), they might as well just try to get along, if only up to at least start friendly chats from time to time, even if it was not much. Merely ignoring each other could be healthier for her shivering problems, but it was just sounding utterly ridiculous in both of their minds; and even she apparently preferred that to strict boredom and loneliness. She had first thought about just leaving him in the tranquility of his basement and trying to find her own ways to waste time in the living room, but since the couch wasn’t there anymore and the television technically was now devoid of broadcasts to share… she had immediately remembered that would not be of any use at this point.

After all, the Underground’s only star had fallen down a long time ago… and it was all the more heartbreaking to know that whoever had done it — it was furthermore upsetting to know that it could have been anyone and that they would never know —, they hadn’t even done it out of pure cruelty. In a way, they hadn’t even done it because they “wanted to.” They just had because it was a “game” that offered this possibility, without even that clearly judging the players for it — and even in the worst case, you could just go play with your game’s data and delete some inconvenient files or numbers in order to seemingly erase the consequences.

After all, just as Sans would put it… They were all doing this because they “could.”

And because they “could”, they “had to.”

 

She couldn’t help but feel guilty over it herself. Wouldn’t it have been for her total lack of skills in video gaming, she was positive that she would definitely have played Undertale, and that she would have loved doing so. (Should she have said “LOVEd” here? Ha, ha… Not funny.)

At this point, she was not even sure whether or not, if given the circumstances… she could have done ‘it’ herself. Her necrophobia would not apply when it came down to “killing”
a mere pile of pixels, after all.

 

Sans had been right.

Maybe she was just a dirty liar in the end.

 

So she soon enough decided that she could at least try to redeem herself for whatever sins she could have achieved under other circumstances, in the unlikely-but-not-impossible alternate timeline where she just happened to not suck at video games. It sounded weird and stupid, but it didn’t change the fact that she genuinely was willing to help, and that she quickly started mocking herself for trying to find reasons as to why she should be helping. She was going to help him simply because she wanted to, that by itself was a good enough reason, you dork.

… It wasn’t like she had anything better to do, anyways.

 

The skeleton had been surprised at first when she had come back and knocked at his door, first asking her jokingly if she had accidentally burnt the house down by trying to cook them some sort of brunch. She took the prank lightly, but still, he yet had to understand why she would actually want to spend some time with him, and he had pretty much assumed that after leaving the room, she would only ever come back to him if she absolutely needed his help.

It was pleasantly ironic that she had actually come to offer some help.

 

She did not know much about science in general and she knew even less about the technical side of it (how old was she, fifteen? yeah, that’s not usually the age you’re taught how to calibrate a magic-enhanced quantum stabilizer); but he had to admit… Now that his blueprints were roughly finished and it was time to switch to the ‘practical’ part, a second pair of hands was actually more than welcome. He preferred doing the subtlest and trickiest parts himself of course, but when it came down to lifting big wires and metal sheets, she was actually stronger than she had first looked — stronger than him, that was for sure. It wasn’t to the point of being particularly robust either (Undyne would probably suplex her before she would even get the time to register what would have happened), but she still could handle most of it. With their bodies being much more stable physically than monsters’, humans sure had an advantage when it came down to pure physical strength, after all; so as long as she was docile and actually started remembering the names of the tools and devices she was constantly asked to carry around, she was actually doing a pretty good job.

 

He quickly noticed that, far from the first time they met, that girl could be quite dynamic and resourceful when she really wanted to (… and when he wasn’t in her field of vision). And, well, as much as she might not have noticed that herself, whenever she had something in mind, she sure seemed determined to do it (not that he was surprised about that, heh). As many cramps she might get during the day after all this work, she really never gave up and did her best to not complain, even when he was certain some parts were just too heavy for her to handle on her own. Some instinct in the back of his skull started growing concerns about that part of her character— because, well, she was still human after all. He had seen humans before, and as much as most of them weren’t blatant sadistic psychos… They just had this tendency to get their way with any means necessary. And after having faced countless times a child with so many struggles and difficulties,
it was hard not to feel apprehension when the human he would have to deal with for the following days or weeks was almost twice the kid’s size.

 

… Well, judging by the fact that she was still shaking like a leaf whenever he was standing within a radius of ten feet around her, this instinct quickly died down. Even if she ever wished to plan something against them, she’d probably be way too terrified of him to ever go through with it.

Besides, hey. She just really didn’t look like she would ever harm anyone willingly. Maybe he should stop being paranoid every once in a while.

 

She was never truly complaining, but merely out of curiosity, she still had sometimes asked why he would never pull his right arm out of his pocket even when they both struggled to carry some particularly heavy pipes, or why he would not simply use his magic to make everything levitate at once (or use any other magic stuff that would make their job easier, really).

Well, the answer to the second question was easy: magic only has an impact on magic itself, and as far as he knew monsters and human souls were the only things that ever contained magic in high enough concentrations to be manipulated in such way; thus the absolute uselessness of even trying to use his special blue trick on inanimate objects. Well, technically they could still use bullets in order to lift some lighter items, but the process was both difficult to handle and potentially dangerous for said items; it was consequently unthinkable to use that on highly sensitive devices.

However, Sans would simply dodge the other question by changing the subject or merely staying silent and darkening his sockets, looking away and usually glaring absent-mindedly at the interdimensional machine that apparently brought her in their current situation. She had been clever enough to understand that it was not wise to try to get further details.

 

Around eleven o’clock, they would both agree to take a first break, if only for a dozen minutes or so. The human was definitely not used to that kind of work, and she pretty much forced the skeleton to admit that one single normal night was not enough and that he also needed some rest — but he probably had just been jokingly pretending to refuse just because she had been the first one to offer, whereas it was obvious enough that he also was glad to be able to stop.

This time after all, there was no real necessity to finish this as fast as possible. The sooner the better of course, but the context was different; and his laziness told him so as soon as he was sitting back on that couch.

‘Dawn’ preferred taking the chair from his desk rather than sitting next to him, but he didn’t seem to mind. That made more room for him, after all.

 

“Sans, I just wanted to ask…” she began thoughtfully. He raised his face towards her and wordlessly encouraged her to continue: “T-That’s not important, but I just wanted to know… how exactly I could be so ‘determined.’” She had rolled her eyes and air quoted the word in question, although she sounded like the question really mattered to her. For once it was a magic-related question that she probably shouldn’t be so wary or uncomfortable about asking, right? “It can’t be just because of the game, right? I mean, I’ll admit I’m still not over that whole “this is not really a game” thing and that already didn’t make much sense to me but… well, you get the idea.”

 

i get it that you didn’t get it, yeah.

He chuckled humorously.

 

“actually, it has nothing to do with the game. any human from your universe could do it if they were standing in your place, being the “one most determined being in this world” and all. apparently all humans like you naturally have just that much determination. it’s because of your own universe’s… laws of physics, i guess.” he calmly explained in a shrug. “one reason you didn’t want to believe it was me was because magic doesn’t even exist where you’re from, right?”

“Y-Yeah. One of many reasons.” she nervously but sheepishly muttered, slightly rubbing her arm.

 

Now she really felt stupid for acting the way she did. Because in a way… it really had felt like she really had been improvising some random act. As if from the very beginning she had already known the truth anyway and… simply didn’t want to accept it.

From the very first look she had given to that album, it should have felt obvious after all. And as soon as she had seen Sans in the flesh — well, rather in the bones, maybe? —, she should have immediately noticed that it simply could not have been a mere disguise (latex mask, my foot). But she probably would not have wanted to believe that right in front of her would be a standing, talking and freaking living skeleton— not only because it simply made no sense, but… well, for some other obvious reasons. One of them being “don’t start hyperventilating in front of your kidnapper, you will look stupid you silly dork.”

 

It was all the more ironic to realize that she had looked even sillier than if she had simply told him right from the start.

… Though it still would have sounded weird and awkward.

 

“I just wanted to say, about my soul…” she started before letting him time to continue: “I-I mean, yeah, back in my “world” or whatever, we even wonder sometimes if we have a soul to begin with, and we definitely don’t have little red hearts floating in midair or something whenever someone dies, so… I’ve just been wondering how it could have become… “physical”, you said?”

“you mean “physical” like that?”

 

She hardly had the time to send him a puzzled look that it already happened again. While his right white pupil was still there and looking nicely comforting, his left eye started glowing a soft blue as he leisurely pointed a little bony finger towards her. She had stiffened at first; but as she didn’t feel like she was about to be thrown up in the air or weigh twice more than usual (or whatever else he could do with that blue magic of his), she simply stared at him in confusion, then followed his wordless invitation to look down— and then she lowered her eyes towards… a dim light coming from the middle of her chest.

 

It looked closer to a blurred shadow than to an actual tangible object, as if it were nonetheless incredibly far away— and yet, the feeling it gave was very real and strong as ever. As far away as it had been for nobody else to ever notice its mere existence until then, she simply couldn’t deny that this little heart-shaped ghostly shadow, whatever it was made of, still was a very real part of her.

(… And probably a kinda ticklish one, too.)

 

So. There it was, that almost-ten-inches-large giant cyan heart that kept beating and making her feel like crazy whenever something magical happened. They finally met at last. Why did it have to be so big, too? Maybe it wasn’t strictly canonical, but as far as she knew, the fandom unanimously made souls look like three-to-four-inches-large cute geometrical hearts, instead of… that foggy gas-looking, yet entirely solid balloon.

Then again she felt like she could only see the shadow of the actual thing. It looked similar to how you would see the world from below the surface of a swimming pool, where the water above your eyes would turn the space beyond into a distorted, faraway and wavering illusion of the real world. Hence the looks of a similarly distorted gas-like form, moving similarly to the waves: it was as if she couldn’t actually see her soul, but only the magic (or whatever that glowing smoke was) that kept turning around it in a slow pace.

Yet, all at the same time, the feeling she was getting was very close— and she felt like whatever that was, it felt closer to a much more solid matter, yet still somewhat sensitive to pressure, similar to— yeah, a balloon. More like a water balloon, heavy and shaky, the type that looks weird in your palm and that explodes when you throw it at someone’s face.

Darn thing.

 

She honestly had no idea how to react to this. The only thing she knew for sure was that whatever Sans was doing with his magic, she felt it like an actual physical touch, on a part of her that she had never thought she really had until not so long before, and even though it technically felt kinda warm and pleasant as if he was gently hugging it from all sides—

That was exactly it. Like if somehow it were possible to just catch someone’s heart and surround it from all sides with a gentle cuddle— but a foreign touch nonetheless— without needing to cut your chest open to just reach it and grab it directly with your hands.

… So yeah then again it wasn’t like it hurt or anything but it was just weird.

 

“P-Please don’t do that.” she nervously muttered while forcedly closing her eyes, failing to notice how red her cheeks had become. Sans snorted.

“alright. sorry.”

 

And the glow slowly fainted as he pulled his hand back in his pocket and his eye returned to its normal little white friendly dot.

It seemed like his apology was genuine, and yet his only external reaction beyond these words had been to chuckle as if he found her reaction funny.

 

Honestly, this was just a hug. Just that. Monsters did that all the time, with friends, family, just to cheer someone up or something. It was funny though how, for some reason, most humans seemed not to like it, let alone recognize it as such. Maybe it had to do with a difference in their respective biology; but, uh, he’d always kinda sucked at biology. Never been his thing anyway.

(Knowing the details of how the inside of bodies work is boring and creepy sometimes.)

 

“so. ‘patience’, uh?” he eventually retorted absent-mindedly after a few moments. “not the most “determined” type, yeah. but that’ll do.”

 

Was it because of the color? She had first thought the cyan color was due to his magic— but then again, he had done that because he wanted her to see her soul, so it probably wouldn’t have been that much worth it (considering she was positive she still hadn’t seen the real deal yet) if the color wasn’t even her own.

So. Her “trait” was patience. She wasn’t really surprised (that was pretty fitting after all), but given how the game (and mostly the fandom) usually depicted that trait, she would be lying if she said she wasn’t somewhat disappointed.

 

“anyways, to answer your question…” Sans continued, “i’d say it’s always been there. just that in your “world”, you can’t detect its presence or even feel it’s there for some reasons.” He stopped for a few seconds and seemed to hesitate… yet he finally decided to keep going: “but it’s also the reason why your determination is so strong now that you’re here.”

 

Her heart(s?) skipped a beat.

It wasn’t the first time that she had started hearing (not so little) mentions here and there that she was special compared to the “regular humans” that would live on the Underground’s surface. She was supposedly holding much more determination than she should even though she was sure she didn’t feel like she ever had any, and despite her having one of (supposedly) the least determined traits of all, she was expected to be able to basically bend time just through said sheer determination. She felt like all her reactions to magic so far had been completely over-the-top, compared to what the game and fandom displayed (and yet she just couldn’t help it); this fact alone should make her basically the complete opposite of what should be the entity able to control an entire world’s timeline. It appeared that she potentially had a much bigger heart than the norm…

And now, there he was, telling her casually that there was an actual reason to all this. That maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all just due to her being that messed up from the start.

 

“Say what?” was all her eager but confused mind managed to respond tit for tat.

“you do have emotions back in your world, don’t you?”

 

He couldn’t help but chuckle again at her blank “I don’t get it” face. She pouted childishly in return, and he had to jokingly apologize.

Though it had not been a real question, for he already knew the answer. Even if he had ever doubted it in the past, now he simply had proof right before his eyes.

 

“Of course we do.” she still answered, shrugging absent-mindedly. “Heck, I don’t think art or games would have any meaning for us if we didn’t.”

 

Did that mean that if it weren’t for their being able to feel emotions, this whole universe could have just never even existed…?

Wow.

 

Probably not gonna ask that question.

 

And yet Sans was back to laughing in his mysterious and almost mocking i know you don’t know but what you’re saying is stupid and sorry but it’s funny” laugh.

 

“so you find it normal to have some specifically magical traits in a world where magic doesn’t exist. that’s what you’re saying.”

 

He jokingly narrowed his eye-sockets in a you get it now?” playful look.

But she still didn’t seem to understand.

She knew that some neurologists and such were looking for answers to that kind of questions inside the chemicals of the brain’s deepest workings, and she had always thought that it was the most logical way, but… Well. It seemed like there was some definite proof pounding right inside her chest right now, huh.

 

“your souls apparently ain’t strong enough to be noticed back where you’re living, but they’re powerful enough to still grant you the ability to feel. so technically, what it means is that in order to still make you feel as much as the humans from here, then they need more magic. and if they have more magic, then they naturally need more determination to keep’em together, too. and, well; make it double when your universe’s laws of physics somehow make magic even more unstable than it is here.”

“Uh… Okay, but, wait— souls are made of magic apparently, got it,” (after all, since he said earlier that magic only had a real effect on magic itself, then that was the only explanation) “but what does determination have to do with it exactly? I don’t really know a lot more than what the game and our theories say, so…”

“oh– right.” he blinked in surprise. “uh, to be honest you couldn’t really say it’s that much known here either, but… well. what i can tell you for sure is that magic can’t really stand on its own. try hard as you might, if you try to create something that’d be made with pure magic, one hundred percent, that’ll disintegrate on its own in just a few seconds if you don’t add anything that’ll help it keep itself together for at least a little longer.”

 

Dawn stared in wonder, but nodded at him to let him know that she could follow.

So… was that why monsters fell to dust when they died? Because the magic they were made of just— fell apart? That was… that was messed up.

 

“namely, there’s only two types of things that can keep a magical structure in shape: the regular matter you already know, and determination.” the skeleton continued. “i think you might know that monsters don’t handle determination that well—” (he saw her wince at the thought and immediately concluded that yes, she did know at least that) “but actually, our latest studies proved that we still have a little; just, uh, not nearly as much as you do. we’ve got just nearly enough to survive, and the rest, well, it’s all some random matter like the one you already know. all the stuff that ends up in our dust when we– kick the bucket. theories say that the regular matter part isn’t completely natural… but uh, i’m really not a specialist in the matter, all i know is ‘cause of alphys. if you’d like to know more, she’s the one you should ask.”

 

The human seemed speechless, but she nodded yet again and wordlessly showed him that she had followed, and that she was… pretty impressed with the revelation.

 

“So you’re saying that my soul’s got both more ‘magic’ and more ‘determination’ than it should?”

“basically, yes. according to the standards from here, i mean. and, well— your ratio between your determination and the amount of natural magic you’ve got— it’s ‘bout two or three times higher than it’d be for a human from here.” He stopped for a few seconds and seemed to think for a while, but he quickly came back to where he had left off: “by the way, a normal human’s soul alone could never have enough determination to cause the resets on its own; not a human from here, i mean. “resetting” isn’t exactly something that’s supposed to be in the “natural order of things”, y’know.” He suddenly raised a mischievous look at her and his stuck-smile somewhat seemed to slightly intensify into a proud grin. “that’s how i first knew the kid was not really the one doing it. with the soul they have, no matter how you look at it, there’s no way they could reset on their own.”

 

She mused in awe.

It kinda made sense.

And Sans confirmed that from whenever he had been able to see Frisk’s soul — whether it be from when they were unfortunately dying a few seconds before reloading, or under… other circumstances —, it had not shown any traces of the power he had been looking for; and now that he could compare with an actual “Outsider’s” soul, it seemed even more obvious: Frisk was from this world, and they had fallen from the Surface. No interdimensional weird stuff involved.

 

… At least, as far as she knew, this remained true until that video game came in. She still had no idea how exactly it worked, now that she was thinking about it— was the video game just the software that was literally “containing” this universe? It was a common feature in the fandom to consider this universe and its contents as “code” after all, and she had rationalized it to be the case here (no matter how nonsensical and counterintuitive it sounded), because it was basically canon as well. So in that case… the game could be interpreted as being the one thing above “the natural order of things.” Since it was basically the one making the rules.

It… kinda would make sense that the only other entities being able to bypass these rules would simply be the ones that weren’t part of that world to begin with. Maybe the fact that she had a stronger soul also had to do with the fact that she came from a technically “more physically real” universe? … nah, that one was probably a stretch.

 

“And, uh… about how much stronger is my soul, then?” she eventually asked.

“well, if my estimations are correct, your score should match up to a little less than four ‘normal’ human souls put together. to give a better example… only two souls of your kind would be enough to break the barrier.”

 

There was an uncomfortable silence.

 

Wow.”
“i know, right?” he chuckled somberly, even though he had meant his hilarity to be genuine. “that’s probably why it’s bigger, too. with it having ‘bout four times more magic than usual.”

 

Yeah. Bigger target.

She was not really sure why that was the first thing she had thought about. It wasn’t like any monster would attack her, right? Well, only Sans and Alphys knew about her existence and they both wanted her to stay safe. And… she liked to think that they cared at least a little about her, too.

 

She gained even more proof of that last fact during lunch; just as for the breakfast, Sans would leave her in the basement through a shortcut… and yet, surprisingly he had come back only a few minutes later, with Alphys and three packed up meals from the cafeteria.

And they would settle in the couch, the three of them (Alphys in the middle of course), and they would just spend a little time relaxing around some casual banter, share a few laughs, and actually have some genuine fun.

To the extent that she started regretting that technically, as soon as they would be done… she would actually go home.

 

She had already thought about the shame it was, that she would never be able to meet the others and share the same laughs with them, but she had never thought about it seriously; she already missed her family and friends, and no matter how nice and understanding Sans had been towards her and her –damned– phobia, she still was (guiltily) eager to go back to some situation that would be slightly less weird.

Even though she started to think that she would also miss them, once it would be over. Wouldn’t there be some way to maybe, at least keep some contact? Via webcam? Texting? Internet? Anything? Would the “game” still work?

 

As to remind her of some cruel irony, she remembered one of the first threats he had menaced her with no sooner than the day before: after the Reset (and he would definitely Reset right after her departure), the only machine potentially able to link their worlds at least to some extent (other than the game itself), would be erased.

Maybe he would “Save” it before doing so, but… what for? She didn’t really dare ask him whether or not he had thought about it, and he didn’t seem to be that eager to get his universe to become world-famous in hers.

(And in any case, she later remembered that the only thing that could truly be ‘saved’ over the Resets were ‘virtual data’ such as memories or stored data in electronical devices. She first wondered how that “virtual data” could be “more virtual” than the rest since this world was supposed to be virtual by definition, but she supposed that it simply had to do with the fact that you can’t exactly control the entirety of a world’s “code” when your entire life, resources and devices fully depend on that same “code”, and that it probably wouldn’t be that easily accessed. After all, if Sans did have access to such “code”, he would probably have solved the Resets problem long ago by just messing with it…)

(Ugh, that was complicated.)


Another selfish and childish reason why she wasn’t that much looking forward to the moment when she would leave and meet her family again was maybe also because she would have to get one hell of an explanation for her parents (and potentially the police?) as to how the heck had she apparently disappeared into thin air for a few days, weeks or even months, depending on the time they would spend on his time machine. And Sans would definitely let her find an excuse of her own on her own.

If only because of that, suddenly… she almost started to feel the warmth of this place slightly more welcoming. She was not seriously thinking about staying there forever or anything, but… the idea would still sometimes form in her head and she would still somewhat figure what she could do, or what her life in the Underground – or on the Surface with the monsters as a potential Post-Pacifist scenario – would be like. Those only appeared as mere fantasies in her mind, and yet… they still felt like some almost appealing little sparkly dreams, in the end.

 

… She started to mock herself over how she’s been reading too much fanfiction. Because like heck that’s how it would ever happen in real life. Truthfully, she had no redeeming qualities; the only reason she felt like the two monsters sitting with her were getting somewhat “attached” to her was simply because she was to be stuck with them for quite some time, and because if there was one thing the three of them wanted to avoid the most, it was unnecessary drama.

 

Well that’s not what I’d like to avoid, but you can’t exactly have them change their mind.

 

In any case, if there was one thing she knew for sure: she wasn’t Frisk. She wasn’t determined (despite what Sans kept telling her), and she sure as heck wasn’t that type of extraordinary social magnet who could accomplish the impossible. You can’t exactly save the world by just questioning everything while being freaked out so easily (honestly she had to start getting over it come on everyone’s able to do that at some point in the fandom’s stories why can’t you do that too imagine how everyone would laugh at you if they knew how badly you’re dealing with this).

She had told Alphys once, and she wouldn’t take that back: if they ever needed someone with a soul like hers to actually accomplish something, then she would really have preferred being replaced by someone with more strength, or more determination, or just overall more skills in just about anything. For their own sakes. Just thinking about how she even used her friend’s session instead because she didn’t even have her own… In a way, it kinda felt like she had stolen her place.

(Even though if Lys ever learns about this and gets jealous then it’ll be her own fault ‘cause if she wanted so badly to be in her place then she only had not to force her to play, ha.)

 

… Ugh, some part of her still hated it but she really was starting to miss her, too.

Would Sans let her try to call her or something? … Yeah, probably not. Sans explicitly told her that he didn’t want their case to leak out.

Too bad, she really wished she could see Lys’s face someday.

 


 

Once Alphys was back to her laboratory in Hotland, the afternoon would be similar to the morning and the dinner similar to the lunch. The three of them had pretty much guessed some routine would settle over the days, and none of them really complained about it; on the contrary, that kind of routine would be pleasant and reassuring on and of itself, and they were gradually, even after only a single day, becoming actual close friends. None of them had really dared say it out loud, none of them wanted to really admit it, but they all somewhat thought about it… And it felt warm and convivial.

 

At night, Dawn had been the one to suggest sleeping in the basement, specifically on the couch. Sans had merely nodded, not saying a word.

She simply could not bring herself to even think about taking Papyrus’ bed. If only in respect towards him and his brother, she could definitely spend a few nights in a greenish somewhat-squishy-but-still-kinda-comfortable sofa.

 

In any case, it didn’t take her long before she would fall in a deep sleep. After all the physical work, you could have just given her a pillow and some blankets, she would’ve started snoring on the bare floor like a baby.

 


 

Soon in the next morning, probably around half past six, Sans woke up.

 

There was no particular reason, but he simply couldn’t bring himself back to sleep after that; so he finally decided out of frustration to do something that would actually be worth staying awake for.

That was how he ended up in the basement, tiptoeing silently towards his computer and turning the old device on while carefully trying not to wake up the human, who was lying just a few feet behind.

 

Actually… He had known for a while what exactly he wanted to do. It had nothing to do with his plan so to speak, and it was not that important, but it was just out of pure curiosity.

And also maybe a little because he still wanted to confirm some of his theories, because there still were quite a few points that had been tormenting him for a very long time.

 

One of them being why the heck has no one launched a single reset for more than a goddam month.” The fact that it had never happened since it started didn’t help. Especially when it was a timeline in which he had actually killed the kid.

 

He trusted his paperwork and blueprints, there was no question about that. Even if he strangely couldn’t remember in which timeline he had been working on them, he still somewhat remembered some bits of it, how he had come up with such revelations, how he had achieved for the first time the plans for that machine… Even if it was still pretty blurry and he couldn’t remember anything besides that. No idea about whether that was a “Genocide” or a “Pacifist” or anything, or even when exactly it had happened, or anything else. And… it had been one of the first things to raise his suspicions.

 

He always remembered. Down to the very single bits.

 

Since he had ‘saved’ his memories, he had more trouble trying to actually forget some of it than anything. The fact that oh so coincidentally he would not be able to properly remember this specific timeline was not really reassuring.

 

The only reason he had tried to ignore those suspicions and follow the plans anyway was because he simply lacked time and that he just didn’t have any other idea — and there was no time to even think about trying to find a better one.

 

Besides, after having already wasted countless timelines making up random schemes to stop the Resets, and after having irremediably failed every single time, he had also lost hope of ever going back. These plans had been the first silver lining in maybe, what? Twenty loops? Fifty? Five hundred? He did not even want to know. All that mattered was that if those blueprints were true, then this was both the best possible solution and his last resort. He had first spent three weeks making the calculations over and over, but even after double-checking every single line that was written in those files… It all made perfect sense, although some little things here and there remained odd. Still— as long as the plan worked… did it really matter?

 

Well, of course it mattered. At least, it mattered now. And in the back of his mind, he had kept thinking that as soon as he would get a “Player” and not need to worry anymore about how much time he would spend on thinking and guessing over his investigations, he would finally be able to give credit to that doubting part of him that would still want some answers.

 

And that was exactly what he was about to do.

 

What he had in mind would not do much. He knew that he would not be able to prove or refute his guesses so easily, since he would already have done so much earlier otherwise. But if this part worked… He strongly doubted it would, but if it did, then he would be settled. If there was the slightest chance, no matter how unlikely, that he could possibly stop worrying about those things and just follow the plan at peace… then he thought it worth trying.

(Even though he wasn’t sure that getting that guess right would really be that much good news, actually…)


Once the computer was on and had fully loaded all its parameters, he got up from his chair and calmly switched on the clunky contraption that had allowed him to bring the human.

While it could cause some actual damage when it reached its fully-operational mode, simply getting it to receive little emissions of electronical information via photons from the other worlds was a much easier task: he had done it before, and even though it took quite a lot of energy, it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as the one time he used it to catch and bring the human. It was still largely energy-consuming and his electricity bill would probably not look pretty in the next month, but with some luck… well, there wouldn’t be any “next month” anyway.

 

When he came back to his computer, a few adjustments allowed it to fully connect to an internet network that was definitely not the Underground’s. He already had the chance (if only apparently in another timeline that he could not remember) to visit it a few times, and it had somewhat still felt familiar the first time he had done it, a few weeks ago, when he had first downloaded a few files and… some pretty ‘juicy’ data.

Along the way, he had noticed as well that the computer’s internet browser already had quite a few bookmarks he would have made “earlier.” A few sites with the “Undertale Wikia” label on them most notably, a specific browser with the mention “remember to never visit those EVER again”, a few other threads on a pretty wide social network that constituted a whole community of skilled and dedicated dataminers… and a last lonely one that had just as much piqued his interest, as soon as he had found it.

 

This site was just allowing the visitors to download one single file. That had been one of the first things he had done, and he still had the file in his desktop right at the moment… Though if this little wild guess was really correct, then this so seemingly innocently meaningless little text file could have been somehow potentially altered, now that he had introduced an “Anomaly from the Outside” into the very core of the game’s script.

If he had just acted like one of those “dirty hackers” he was supposed to laugh at in some impossible outcome (he didn’t remember that one, but he couldn’t help but snort when he had first heard about it), why stop when the ‘fun’ had just started?

 

He already knew which link was the one he wanted, and it took him only a few more minutes to finally get that oh so apparently futile “Strings” file that probably any “hardcore fan” or dataminer would have in their own desktop for whatever reasons.

It felt almost insulting to see that the text file meant to gather each of their very thoughts or lines of dialogue and pretty much everything else meant to build the game’s version of their world… was only slightly more than one megabyte in size.

This was why he did not really believe in that wild speculation anyway. But that was all he had for the time being, so… Well, that was a start?

… nah, don’t get your hopes up.

 

Now, it was also a way to open a whole new can of worms, but… he felt curious. If this text file could really tell everything that happened in every single timeline and contained every possible outcome in the game, and if bringing a new element into its playground had had an impact over it… this file might be altered too. Right?

And if that did happen, that could become an interesting way to… read the future. Literally.

 

If this hypothesis were correct, then he should start his research around the lines #09900 or so — that was around that point that he had somewhat started to “mess up the timeline”, after all. There was no real point in reading whatever was before for the time being, so he immediately scrolled down in the file until he reached it.

He sighed tensely, slowly raising back his skull towards the screen and bringing himself to actually read what it was displaying.

 

… alright. here we—

 

https://www.pixenli.com/image/8aIgemoo

 

His eye socket twitched nervously and he frowned as if he were about to curse under his breath— but fortunately enough (or unfortunately, it depends), he soon noticed it only was one of those lines he must have said out loud sometime during the last month’s fight.

He pressed his left hand between his eye-sockets and sighed deeply, both in tension and annoyance. That was just the ‘normal’ weird. No freaking out.

 

It just was all the more ironic (and… disturbing) to see that this damned Judgement Hall was haunting his thoughts even to the extent of recording every single sentence of his speeches in a mere text file that was freaking part of the public domain of another universe’s most important communication network. Any sense of respect towards their privacy, maybe?

Those humans really were lucky they didn’t know anything and he was not able (nor that much willing, to be honest) to show up directly to tell them.

 

It wasn’t like he particularly wanted to, indeed. The chaos had already settled with those enraged fans everywhere on the net (part of him had been somewhat wary of potentially bringing into his house a crazy hyperactive teenager idolizing him or wanting to marry him or something, those were the worst), there was no point in even trying to stop it. So as long as he could stay away from the Fandom and relish the reciprocity of the gesture, that was all he could ask for. Those guys could keep drawing or typing or voicing their creepiest fantasies, he didn’t care. As long as he wasn’t seeing them, that was.

 

Up until now, nothing special. Well, that was undeniably spookily unsettling, but for now, all he could read was excerpts from his own dialogues during his damned fight against the… thing.

Because he definitely did not want to call that thing the same name as the Frisk he had once known.

Frisk had been friendly. Frisk laughed at his puns and loved Papyrus and got everyone on the Surface. Frisk was his friend. Their friend.

Frisk was not doing any of the Players’ dirty caprices on their own will.

… Not the Frisk he knew, at least.

 

String #10437.

There was one last line of readable text, before showing a massive amalgam of nonsense such as “10439: melt_index”— and yet still nothing had proved to be of any particular interest until now. He still kept scrolling down in the file, glancing at the few words each line was showing now, but nothing that came even remotely close to reminding anything about any of his two machines or the human had appeared— at least not yet.

 

He still had a pretty long list of other strings to check and it would probably take hours before he would reach the end of it, and he had no idea as to whether or not he would find anything of any relevance, or where, or how insignificant it could even look and he could maybe miss it without noticing…

Though he almost wanted to face-palm once he remembered there was a much easier way.

 

Ugh… What was that human’s name, again? “Wentworth”…? Yeah, Wentworth.

 

He immediately pressed the keys ‘Control’ and ‘F’, letting a little window appear in the middle of the screen and a little white rectangle inside it, waiting to be filled. As he started typing… for some reason he started to feel nervous.

What if it didn’t respond to that name? What would he be supposed to conclude out of it? Nothing at all, precisely. There could be a number of reasons why this would not work. He would just get stuck and back to his worries he could not justify nor refute.

But also, what if his suspicions were about to be confirmed?

 

What if he had been wrong the whole time, and then…?

What would be the meaning of all this?

 

https://www.pixenli.com/image/-zRY5Rrv

 

He woke up.

 

His eye-sockets opened in an instant, automatically, as soon as he made this realization.

He was lying in his bed. In his bedroom. Had this been a… dream?

 

He jerked up, sitting in surprise and grumbling some random incomprehensible muffled grunts about how weird it was to dream about things that seemed to be that precise while tiredly and absent-mindedly rubbing his skull with his free hand.

 

Though for once, he could admit that it still was more pleasant than his occasional nightmares…

 

OOOOOH YES! GOOD MORNING FOLKS, ON TODAY’S EARLY NEWS!

 

… Unless the nightmare had just started.

 

He was barely aware that he had been running when he finally stopped, on top of the stairs, facing the couch.

Or more exactly, the person sitting on the couch.

 

This couldn’t be happening.

 

“WOWIE SANS!” Papyrus yelled in his usual, overenthusiastic no-indoor-mode voice. “YOU ARE EARLY TODAY! ARE YOU FINALLY GOING TO RECALIBRATE YOUR PUZZLES?”

 

This shouldn’t be happening.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act II —

That’s Your Fault

Scene 1


 

Sleeping on a couch has its drawbacks.

 

Sofas are either too rough, or (somewhat) too squishy, and merely in general, contrary to beds, actually not meant to be slept on.

 

And most importantly, they are way thinner.

So she naturally grunted painfully when her fall from it was the way of Murphy’s Law to inform her that it was time to wake up. She had probably just moved slightly a little too much on the wrong side and rolled over in her not-anymore-sleep, and now her back was paying the consequences.

Well, if all along she was about to get just as lucky, then this day surely was going to be “wonderfoul.” She was already mentally hearing Sans’s snigger at her poorly made attempted pun, and only grunted even deeper in annoyance.

There are days like these…

 

Sans really seemed to love turning any potential situation to his advantage by making fun of her one way or another. Must be his way of expressing his grudge against her phobia, probably. Then again, although she hated being mocked with all her might (like most people anyway), she couldn’t really blame him.

 

So. Another boring day of awkwardness with her newfound friends, right? The pain in her back had better end soon if she wanted to keep helping Sans with his work just like the day before… Or she could just maybe return in that couch and fake being asleep at least until he showed up? She just really didn’t feel like it right now.

The night had felt a little too short and lying in a couch definitely was not providing as much of a restorative sleep as a bed, and she obviously was not in the best state of mind right now to deal with skeletal issues. It didn’t matter if she was sounding just like Sans when he was in his legendary lazy mood, she just wanted to sleep. Just a few more minutes, that was all she was asking for.

 

So she painfully tried to roll towards her left and, her face against the tiled floor, she ridiculously waved her right arm in the air in an attempt to reach the sofa.

 

“C’mon b’ddy y’can’t’ve ditch’d me jus’ like dat y’stupid pile o’ pillows…” she muttered inarticulately under her breath.

 

Her arm eventually fell limp on the floor and she grunted. Maybe she had rolled a little further than she had first anticipated. After all, it was not like the couch itself could possibly have moved away from her on its own, right?

So she begrudgingly made her arm crawl back towards her back before she used both of them to tiredly take her chest off of the ground in an attempt to stand up.

 

Of course, without any vents or windows, the room was engulfed in complete darkness whenever the lights were off— what they obviously had been during the night. Hence why it took her a few minutes (probably more than just “a few”, actually) to grope around in multiple directions, and how she eventually ended up nonetheless hitting a nearby wall while yelping a little high-pitched “Ow!” of pain.

On the bright side, this finally allowed her brain to fully start working correctly, letting it process that the “wall” in question was actually the door.

 

Well, opening it towards the sunny artificially lit environment of Snowdin was already a start if she wanted to let the light at least go inside a little. So she naturally let her fingers run on the plane of wood until she could feel the doorknob, and then she gripped it before turning it—

 

It was locked.

 

 

 

She frowned in confusion for an instant. Sans always kept the door unlocked. Since the day before he had always kept the door unlocked because there was no more point in locking anyone inside or outside of it. It wasn’t like she would ever try to escape or anything, and it wasn’t like anybody else besides Sans, her and Alphys would ever come around Snowdin by now, so she hardly had to hide at all, or be paranoid about being potentially discovered. So he deliberately kept it unlocked so that she could get in and out of the rest of his house at will because he trusted her now.

 

And yet it was locked.

 

… Maybe he was just joking. This is Sans we’re talking about.

 

“Alright, you got me. You got me, Sans.”

 

She snorted unconvincingly.

Waited for a few seconds.

But nobody came.

 

“Okay Sans, it’s not funny anymore. Open the door, please?”

 

She tried with all her might to turn the doorknob. It didn’t budge.

 

“SANS OPEN THAT DOOR FOR PETE’S SAKE!”

 

She heard loud and hurried footsteps from the other side, and she automatically stepped back when the tinkling sound of the silver key dancing in the lock started for an instant, before the skeleton finally opened the door.

 

… Uh. What?

 

It somewhat startled her when she realized that instead of his usual clothes, Sans was this time facing her… while wearing pajamas. The kind with the oversized, “I feel punny today” white tee-shirt with the stupid font on it, completed with grey shorts.

(No slippers though, he was still barefoot. Apparently he didn’t even take the time to put on anything other than what he was already wearing upon waking up.)

 

But as funny as it could have looked under any other circumstances, the thought didn’t stay that long in her mind and before they were even born, her amused chuckles were replaced with gulps of fear.

 

Sans was fuming.

 

“What. Did. You do?”

 

Her eyes couldn’t help but widen slightly in surprise.

She definitely had not been expecting this.

 

But ooh God she knew how much that expression meant trouble.

 

 

“… s-say what?” was all she could say for her defense, regrettably.

 

He switched the lights on all at once, blinding her for a few seconds, before pacing feverishly towards his desk and the machine—

 

— Wait.

 

Why was the curtain back on?

 

… and WHY did it seem to be way smaller than it had been the day before…?

 

She felt like there were two neurons in her brain that were refusing to connect.

No. No, no, no, no-no-no this wasn’t happening this couldn’t be happening wake up this has to be a dream oh God please NO.

 

“There’s been a Reset.” Sans uttered in a way too calm tone.

 

Her jaw gaped open as he pulled on the sheet and showed that his time machine was in the same decaying state as before they had started working on it, while the whole engine that had allowed him to get her here in the first place had merely vanished.

 

“B-B-But…” she stuttered blankly, somehow starting to feel lightheaded as her face blanched even whiter than Sans’s bones. “I-I don’t understand… I-I-I thought y-you said I was the only one able to do it now…?”

Exactly.

 

And for some reason his normally stuck-on smirk had seemed to enlarge itself into a forced sardonic grin of pure rage.

No one would have needed advanced observation skills to read on his face that look of Thanks for helping me reduce the list of suspects down to one name for me, that makes my job much easier.”

 

… Oh.

 

Maybe reminding him of that fact was not the smartest thing to do, on second thought.

Even if he knew that already since the beginning, anyway…

 

“I-I-I DIDN’T DO IT I SWEAR!” she blurted out in genuine panic as he had turned towards her menacingly.

 

She tried to calm down her racing heartbeats (she didn’t think about checking, but yes, the second set was here too), and he stood back, reluctantly staying still and away from her— even though his glare only darkened even more.

She could feel it, he was genuinely struggling not to rush towards her and yell everything he had on his mind to her face. It was still somewhat reassuring that he was caring enough in order to try not to scare her too much, but— well, no, it had nothing to do with him caring about her, hahaha; it was only because he had learned soon enough that using her phobia against her would never make her talk, and that on the contrary it would only make things worse and make him waste his precious time.

Time that probably was even more crucial, now that there was a roaming human on the loose and that they had no idea what would happen.

 

“S-Sans, you should know by now, I’d never do that!” she tried weakly. “I-If only to specifically avoid that kind of situation.”

 

She had started to learn how to read that reaction— or, well, lack of reaction. That completely still position of looking through her and analyzing pretty much everything down to every single detail in her expression with his pupil-less eye-sockets… She liked to see it as some kind of ‘lie detector’ or something of the like, but that still was a very disturbing stare and she hated it with all her might.

Of course because it just so happened to be the one expression that would make her necrophobia react the most badly.


Fortunately, his pupils came back a few moments later, now only staring at her with a concerned and confused look.

 

“but nobody else could have done it. it has to be you.”

 

Well, he was back to a more casual tone. That was one relieving start.

And yet well, yes, he did have a point… If she didn’t do it, then who else?

 

Heh, you would be surprised.

 

He was apparently trying his best not to let go any hint of accusation in his voice, but she could see that he still was on the verge of exploding any second now, whether or not it would really be her fault.

 

“you sure you couldn’t’ve done it by accident? don’t you remember anything odd that you could have felt or anything?” he asked eagerly.

“Sans, I’ve been sleeping the whole time!” She threw her arms in the air desperately. “So unless I’ve been “sleep-resetting” or something…”

“if you did that, i SWEAR…”

 

He was burying his skull in both of his hands to rub his nonexistent temples into circles under the motion of his phalanges, both his eye-sockets shut in a strange mixture between tired helplessness and deep confused and frustrated rage.

After a few seconds, he hastily turned towards his desk and checked the clock, then turned back just as fast to shoot a powerful and determined glare at her.

 

“We still have some time.” he mumbled angrily, sounding like he just snapped an order despite the relatively low volume he put in that sentence.

 

He suddenly paced towards her and ignored her shivers as he violently grabbed her arm and ordered her to follow him— not like she really had the choice right now.

Damn, his grip was strong. Or was it just because her whole body was starting to feel limp and shaky?

 

Sans led her towards the still open door while he started typing as fast as possible on his little cellphone’s buttons.

Apparently he had been keeping it in his left palm the whole time, or something. She certainly did not remember seeing the little device at all until the very instant he had seemingly pulled it out of nowhere, though. Was it one of his shortcuts, or some hammerspace junk there? Well, this was a RPG-based video game after all, and the hammerspace theory had been addressed a few times in some fanworks. The lack of physical logic in Frisk’s Inventory, anyone? That was among the most basic RPG Rules, after all, so some part of her even mocked her rational part for actually being surprised.

Still, under other circumstances, she would have loved seeing just how he was doing it.

 

To: ALPHYS

need the dte

tell u l8r

 

He didn’t even mind looking where he was going as he gave a slightly harsher tug, and then before she knew it, the surroundings had already changed from the one of his basement to another that still looked like a laboratory, but much bigger. And one where the atmosphere felt already much hotter, too. Sans was still walking at a rather rushed pace, heading towards the bathroom sign— wait what? — Oh yeah, right, it was actually an elevator. She had forgotten about that. Darn blue sign, what was it even for? Monsters didn’t even need bathrooms!

Dawn was not in the best conditions to think properly — her mind being pretty much spammed right now by incredibly constructive thoughts such as BONES BONES BONES BONES BONES on my arm BONES BONES —, but the brutal variation of the environment had been sufficient enough for her to at least stray away from that subject for one moment and actually reason that they probably had just been through a shortcut, and that they were now in Hotland, in Alphys’s laboratory. She tried to keep observing her new surroundings and make reasonable assessments, but the sharp and cold grip kept most of her attention away from any stimulus that wasn’t related to her arm.

(Honestly, she was certain she would later find five long bony prints on her wrist the next time she would check. Yikes.)

 

Speaking of Alphys, she did not wait for much longer because the skeleton’s phone started to ring, and as soon as he picked up he started to blabber a lot of things that the human couldn’t follow because of the amount of scientific terms in them, plus the fact that she could only hear one part of the conversation. All she managed to really understand was that the reptile was waiting and already preparing “something”, even if said reptile had no idea what Sans wanted to do with it.

And it wasn’t really reassuring that even she didn’t know what was about to happen.

 

Dawn heard some noises similar to a key unlocking something, then the elevator’s doors opened. The most awake part of her absent-mindedly wondered whether the game had the elevator locked at any point, why Sans just so happened to have the right key, and yet again how the heck did hammerspace logic work.

 

When they entered, he finally let go off her arm. She released a breath so deep, her legs dropped her and she had to lean back against the walls of the elevator, breathing heavily.

Sans stayed silent and impassive. He tried to engulf his arms in his hoodie’s pockets, but he finally realized that he still was in his pajamas (and barefoot) and cursed in an almost spitting-sounding mutter; so he instead reluctantly crossed his arms in annoyance, letting his left bony phalanges tap his right humerus periodically in an unsettlingly rattling music. Dawn tried to focus on the elevator’s whirrs in order to ignore the sound of bones hitting against bones, but every single knock felt like a hammer banging in the back of her head.

 

When the lift’s door slid open mechanically, he immediately went back to his quick pace, almost leaving her behind in her phobic trance. But instead of grabbing her wrist, he simply growled at her to stay close to him. Not wanting to infuriate him any further, she literally jolted awake and half-ran, half-staggered to catch up with him.

She rapidly knew why he so specifically wanted to prevent her from wandering off or even getting lost, as a few creepy slimy creatures started to appear around them, watching her with curious glances. They seemed to fear the skeleton’s furious glare when some were getting a little too close, and she pretty much assumed that, given their general behavior, they somehow appeared to know him pretty well.

 

“stay by my side. they’ll let you go if you’re with me.”

 

She was almost reassured to hear that he had said this in an almost caring whisper, but she could still feel in his attitude those traces of impatience and rage, and… fear?

She had never seen Sans this tense. Well, she had seen that kind of look in a few fancomics before, but that was not really much more comforting since that expression never meant anything good for anyone.

She preferred not focusing too much on scrutinizing the Amalgamates, for fear of losing sight of Sans— although the two were on relatively different levels of creepy. If they weren’t drooling that much and so potentially dangerous if she had to encounter them on her own, Endogeny actually looked kinda cute. Kinda.

(… She felt guilty about feeling that way compared to the strong creeps Sans kept giving her.)

 

They soon reached a new room which was much larger than the other ones, and he stopped. She recognized Alphys on the other end of the room, apparently occupied with switching on the massive machine standing before them by pressing multiple buttons and reading glowing screens and pretty much anything else that would appear in any sci-fi stereotypes.

Damn, it was so big, they had to dig into the ground so as to leave some room around it. Well, after all, the game’s sprites had remained pretty accurate so far. And why wouldn’t they be?

 

For some reason, it took her some time to remember what that machine exactly was. Maybe the fact that she was still feeling sick and light-headed and kept wondering how her legs could somehow manage to support her weight and walk on their own, without her really being fully conscious and present to tell them what to do, could have something to do with it.

But then, upon seeing its somewhat goat-like form, she was soon reminded of the…

 

… Oh.

Ooh.

 

Now she was starting to get it. She froze.

 

 

“S-S-Sans, w-what are you…”

“chill out kid. just see it as some kind of… i dunno, a visit to the radiologist?”

 

Hell no.

 

No Sans, that pseudo-reference to Asgore’s spiel in the game right before he would start his fight against the Player was not a way to properly reassure her.

What did he have in mind? What did he want to do with her and the freaking Determination Extractor? D-did he really lose all trust in her? Did he want to relieve her of her duty as the Reset holder and somehow transfer that power to something he had more control over? After all, that was what this machine was about, right? It was extracting determination. And according to his sayings, she was supposed to be a gold mine full of that.

So… He wanted to extract that from her? Would that hurt? I-it wasn’t going to be lethal, was it…? H-he did say that this determination was supposed to be necessary for her soul to just sustain itself, though, didn’t he…?

 

Alphys finally noticed their presence and started running towards them— before she distorted her face to a strange mixture of shock and some kind of amused confusion. Her friend openly ignored her question of “wait wait wait what the heck is going on”, instead asking her another one that apparently was a more pressing matter:

 

“it can make measurements, right?”

“U-Uh, o-of course… But—”

 

He did not let her finish her sentence, instead simply pacing towards the control panel and checking that everything was ready. As he pressed some more buttons, the gigantic machine suddenly started to shake for a few seconds, then some kind of cavity opened inside the goat-head-like part, letting go some dusty clouds of gas under pressure — at least, that was what it looked and sounded like.

Sans hastily turned towards the human and dismissively gestured her to settle inside, keeping his eyes on the buttons and screens, especially the light numbers appearing on it.

 

“W-will it hurt?” she couldn’t help but mutter fearfully.

 

The skeleton raised a face filled with two wide darkly empty eye-sockets with a large rictus extending all the way to the corners of his skull.

 

“It will hurt if you don’t get in.”

 

That pretty much settled it. Her mouth slapped shut and she hurriedly (but shakily) crawled inside the conveniently spacious hollow. She forcedly closed her eyes in nervousness as Sans pressed a few more buttons and made the machine go back to its initial state, which enwrapped her between thick sheets of metal and left her surrounded by a dark cavity filled with dusty old wires and pipes.

It was a good thing she was not naturally claustrophobic. She could hardly imagine how it would have been otherwise, seeing how she was already feeling right now.

She heard from the inside a few more beeping sounds. The air quickly became unbearably suffocating and her breath went sharp.

And… here comes the end.

That’s too bad, I was starting to like that one. She had a better drama potential.

 

Suddenly, all around her, some things began to glow in multiple colors — she couldn’t know what, either because the light was too bright or because she simply had no idea what those things were called anyway —, and at the same time she started to feel that now oddly familiar, yet still always so foreign impression of that ten-inches-large water balloon pounding in her chest and resonating with whatever those things were, furiously vibrating all around and wriggling to struggle to do something, almost as if it were willing to free itself from her ribcage. It was not painful but she could not control it and that light blue heart in her chest was starting to go haywire as it seemed to have a mind of its own and it wanted so badly to LIVE and it was filled with a DETERMINED resolve to change fate against all odds and she panicked and her lungs started to choke as she was hyperventilating and now she just wanted to get out of here

 

“Oh my God.”

 

Alphys widened her eyes, trembling nervously as she couldn’t get her glance away from the digits appearing on the screen.

 

41.972 kMS

 

Wait. What…?

 

“E-E-Even for a human… I-Is it really possible to get readings that high…?”

 

… Hee heehee. Oh, this is going to be interesting.

 

Sans firmly punched a nearby wall. It made no noticeable damage (although it might have damaged his hand instead, but if that did happen, he didn’t let it show), although he still kept his fist against the surface; then he rested his skull on it for a few seconds— but he soon turned back.

Alphys couldn’t help but gasp breathlessly for the second time in a row as she saw his dark, pupil-less expression.

 

“Is it even possible to get readings that low?” he contrarily growled in a cry of pure despair and hopelessness.

 

That’s a fair question, but it appears that we have the answer right under our noses.

 

Shock distorted her snout into some overgrowing panic.

 

“Sans, h-how can you say that?! It’s even more than three times the usual average!”

“Well, it should be around four times!” he threw his rattling arms in the air helplessly.

“F-F-Four… S-S-Sans, are you CRAZY?! How do you want anything to have that much power? It shouldn’t even be physically possible to naturally gather that much determination! W-W-What is that human even made of!?”

 

 

The skeleton simply leaned back against the wall he had been punching right before, letting his pajama’s shirt slide against its dusty surface as gravity made him sit on the floor. Eventually, when he reached the cold tiles and let himself sit down, he buried his head into his hands while letting his mind constantly echo the same word over and over.

why, why, why, why, why…?

 

Why did she have to be the one? What were the odds? She had never played the game, well that was a shame he had to pull an “innocent” one into that mess. She had necrophobia, well that was stupid and awkward but still none of that was messing with his plans in any way, and on the contrary, she still had been pretty helpful in a way, for at least one day.

But now this… Everything with this human was frustrating… Couldn’t he just have a break, for once…?

 

“what the hell is wrong with you…?” he asked in a desperate whisper to no one in particular.

 

Alphys nervously pressed a few buttons on the control panel, making the machine open back to reveal the human— who seemed to have fainted, whether from exhaustion or from the emotional shock. She was not entirely sure what the process would have made her endure of course (for starters, it was hard to learn anything remotely specific about humans), but she imagined that with readings like these, the resonance must have been quite heavy to bear. They didn’t really have a specific caliber for such high scores, after all, so it was probable that the entry signal had been a little too strong. Then again, the extractor was never meant to handle such… unnatural occurrences.

The sound of the big sheets sliding and opening the cage pulled Sans away from his trance, and his look darkened as he saw the pale figure of the unconscious teenager lying floppily inside it. He had wanted a determined soul able to control timelines, and here was that girl, immobile like a puppet with cut strings.

No wonder she was such a pushover, with readings like these…

 

He reluctantly stood up and moved towards the Determination Extractor, then raised his left hand and levitated her away from the little hollow, bringing her into his arms and holding her against his ribcage. She had not reacted when he had used his magic on her soul, so she probably was still deeply buried in her slumber. So logically, her necrophobia would not apply for as long as she would stay in this state, since she wasn’t even conscious anymore.

 

So… What now?

 

He had failed— no, maybe even worse than that.

Not only did he fail, but he trapped along with him an innocent, yet dangerously overpowered soul from another world that no longer had any way to ever go back to her home, and it felt like the loop of Resets would start again just as before in an eternity of pure hell. Only dire consequences could ensue.

 

“Sans…” Alphys calmly came by his side, hesitantly placing a sorry clawed hand on his left shoulder.

“yeah. i’ll explain. i know.” he sighed emotionlessly. He tilted his skull towards the human resting in his arms and added slowly: “maybe, just, somewhere else?”

 

The lizard gravely nodded, and she guided them back towards the elevator, mechanically inputting her office’s floor number. Sans would already start to say a few things about time loops and alternate universes, but she could clearly see his tired look and reluctantly avoided asking him too many questions.

 

When they got back on the brighter part of the laboratory, the sudden change of light apparently woke the human, and her eyelids flickered. When they opened to see the skeleton holding her, she yelped in surprise and he had to hurriedly use his magic in order to prevent her from fully losing her balance and meeting the ground too harshly. She still didn’t appreciate the feeling (seriously the tug was actually painful when it was wrenching her away from gravity so violently), but she nonetheless apologized and shyly thanked him all at once as soon as she caught her breath back.

For once, instead of scolding her or making fun of her, Sans merely waved her off and gently told her to keep quiet. The shocking change in behavior effectively had her fall silent.

 

The two monsters had appeared somewhat wary when they rapidly yet silently walked through a few corridors Dawn had absolutely no memory about, but they immediately relaxed when they entered one specific room (she had just had the time to see the sign “Royal Scientist Dr. A. Londen, Natural Energies Dpt.” before entering herself) and closed the door behind them.

(What was that all about, wasn’t Alphys supposed to be the only scientist living in that laboratory anyway?)

 

Alphys had been quick to bring some chairs around her desk, and they all sat down as some water was starting to boil in the nearby tea kettle waiting between two piles of forgotten letters.

 

“So, uh… What happened…?” Dawn eventually asked in concern.

 

She was starting to remember the Extraction machine and what had happened inside, but she still had no idea as to what all the trouble had been for… Even if she somewhat was starting to put some bits together.

Sans sighed deeply, closing heavily his eye-sockets.

 

“you really didn’t do it.” he gravely uttered in a tired and desperate tone. “seems like your soul isn’t powerful enough to allow you to reset.”

 

She bit her lips and lowered her eyes sheepishly.

What if she had told him that she didn’t feel like it, instead of just blindly listening to him…? If she hadn’t been such a wimp, could they have tried to deal with it before it was too late?

 

“Oh my God Sans, I’m so sorry…”

“it’s alright. not your fault.” He seemed to genuinely mean it, and that startled her once again. But when she raised a curious yet concerned glance back towards him… That helplessness on his face broke her heart. “it’s just that… you’re stuck here, now.”

 

It felt incredibly strange – eerie, even – that it was the only problem that seemed to matter to him right now, of all things. There was a freaking potential serial killer in the Underground and anyone could be killed at pretty much any moment depending on their goodwill, and all he was feeling bad for right now was that he had accidentally dragged a single human into this?

Well, he had started to somewhat consider her as some pleasant company, maybe even as a “friend”, but… He didn’t care about her that much, did he?

(If he did, he probably wouldn’t have acted like that and intentionally exploited her fears to his advantage all day. And even before, every time he found an opportunity, all he did was play with it and laugh at her expense.)

 

Unless he was just collapsing under the guilt and it was the only thing that he had not yet got used to feel until recently…? After all the Resets he had known, maybe he was not even feeling anything anymore about the Frisk –slash– potentially-Chara problem.

… That in itself was depressing enough as it was.

 

There just had to be something to do. Some part of her wondered where these newfound energy and eagerness exactly came from (she knew she would have felt them anyway, but still, it almost felt like her emotions had been somehow decupled since she woke up. Was there a connection with the Extractor?), but she found these new resources as good news and was determined (ha, ha) to take that as an opportunity to actually solve the problem — and fast.

 

“So… who did this, then? Who reset the timeline?” she asked tentatively. Brainstorming was the best thing to do if you wanted to think of a plan, after all.

“the ‘game’, obviously. some random ‘player’ just started a new game and has no idea as to what’s really going on. again.” Sans shrugged heavily.

 

He who usually was the one with solutions and answers, this time really looked like all hope was lost… But she wouldn’t let him believe that. She did not want anyone to believe that they were stuck and that the world couldn’t be saved anymore. There was a solution, they would find it, and they would succeed.

 

“theoretically, the ‘game’s’ power is around 42 kMS.” Sans spontaneously continued. “the equivalent of around three and a half ‘normal’ human souls.”

 

She gulped tensely.

So right now Frisk was being ‘controlled’ by some random guy from her own world who was playing an actual video game and they could just do pretty much anything? She had already realized that fact before, but somehow— the fact that now it was actually happening for real here and now made it much more difficult to bear than before, and gave it a whole new perspective. One she didn’t appreciate, to put it lightly.

Still. That only made one more good reason to focus seriously on finding a way to free them from that remote-controlled robot-child.

(If the game was controlling them, then they couldn’t really be a real kid, right?)

 

She quickly wondered what “kMS” was standing for, but didn’t think that was really the most important question to ask right now.

 

“And… How much away am I from it?”

“your score is 41.9 and a bit. shame, uh?” he grinned nervously in disbelief. “i had expected something around 45 to 48 kMS. thought it would’ve left a safety margin large enough to prevent that from happening…”

 

No. No, no, no-no-no seriously? What kind of sick joke was that?!

That was oh so God-damn-it ironically not fair.

 

Although that’s probably better for you, sweetie. Longer life-span.

 

“B-B-But, i-if we’re that close, then… M-Maybe we could still fix this?” she tried weakly and nervously, but with two seemingly almost confident-looking eyes sparkling with hope. “I mean… if we’re just a few decimals away, then I-I guess that just a little more determination could do, r-right…? D-Do you still have some in store, Alphys?”

 

The lizard seemed confused and heavily uncomfortable when the human had turned towards her while so blatantly mentioning that possibility, but the teenager didn’t pay any attention to it.

She had no idea how she could possibly be injected with “determination” and she didn’t feel really okay with the idea of giant needles (let alone if said needles would have to inject the stuff directly inside her soul, maybe?), but… If it was their last resort, and if it had an actual chance of working, then she felt resolved to do it.

 

Besides, if it worked, then she kinda had an excuse for bonding with the others. They would focus on completing the Happy Ending first, getting everyone on the Surface safe and sound (that might require to incapacitate Frisk somehow though, if they’re not on the right path), and only then would they go back to working on the time machine; and by that time, hopefully, the fact of having the Surface’s resources as well as the Underground’s might just be the little push Sans needed in order to succeed for real.

Yeah. Perfect plan.

 

“I-I don’t know…” Alphys muttered unconvincingly, looking through her with the puppy-dog eyes. “That would be a really dangerous gamble. I never tried injecting determination into humans, but I kn… I a-already know what happens to monsters when we d-do that and I-I couldn’t risk… Y-your soul’s a-already unstable and I… I-I-I d-don’t think I c-could handle it if it happened again.”

“she’s got a point, kid.” Sans retorted firmly with a grave look. “we can’t afford to lose you.” He seemed to hesitate for a while, his eye-sockets frowning deeply with guilt as he looked away. “besides… you don’t belong to this timeline. if that were the case we could still try if you really wanted to, and if things got wrong, then we could just wait for the next reset to fix it back.” (She noticed swiftly that he had reflexively stared down at his right hand and fidgeted his fingers while saying this, and started to wonder about the implications in his sentence.) “but… you’re not like us. you’re not from here.”

 

She froze in bewilderment and actual fear— and of course the second set of heartbeats came in to spice up a little more that mixed salad of emotions.

The skeleton closed his nonexistent eyelids shamefacedly.

She had never seen him that conflicted.

 

“what i’m trying to say kid… is that the resets won’t affect you. you’ll keep your memories and everything… but it’ll apply to everything else.” He paused for a short instant, lowering his skull and staring at the floor with now two pupil-less sockets filled with a desperate void. “if you get injured or even die here, that’ll stay forever. no resets can save you. even if you were the one doing it.”

 

She shuddered. Sans apologized again, saying that none of this had ever been part of the plan, and she knew that he obviously was genuinely honest with this.

But still, she could only see those words as pointless.

 

“B-By the way, I d-don’t mean to be rude, b-but…”

 

They both jumped in surprise, turning towards Alphys. She seemed even more confused and shy than usual for some reason, and…

Sans’s eye-sockets twitched as he shivered, yet he seemingly pleaded her in his screaming look to stop.

But it was already too late and she was not looking at him.

 

“H-How exactly did you know all this…? Have we… met before?”

 

She froze in horror.

 

It took her some time, but the two neurons finally collided in her brain, making her suddenly realize.

There had been a Reset.

 

There had been a fucking, God-Damn-It, RESET.

 

And Alphys was gone.

 

It was only when she felt something warm and wet rolling on her cheeks that she finally realized— she had started to cry.

She shakily stood up and clumsily walked fearfully towards the yellow monster, absent-mindedly mumbling incomprehensible muffled things under her breath— she had to remember please anything she was her goddamn friend she can’t have just…!

 

The reptile barely managed to keep her balance when the human had practically fallen into her claws, engulfing her into a hug. She tried to nervously glance at the skeleton and silently ask him what was going on, but he hadn’t budged to the slightest.

 

“don’t waste your time, kid.” he eventually came in from behind, making the human shudder and choke on another sob. She turned towards him, and… Oh how did she hate that look. “even if you managed to get her to remember anything, next reset she’ll just forget about you… again.” He sighed deeply. “i’m sorry. there’s nothing you can do.”

 

The human released her grasp, completely turning her rosy face towards him in a way-too-slow motion, slowly shaking her head in some bewildered denial.

 

But she knew he was right.

That was how he had lived it until now after all.

Telling some things to the people around you over and over and then seeing them forget those same things just a few hours or days later. Having to hear them repeat the same lines and having to play along all the way. Having to pretend that no, you didn’t know them, since they didn’t even remember that you existed.

 

He looked like he could have tried to comfort her, but the knowledge of her necrophobia made it much more awkward and he didn’t know how exactly he could do it (besides, comforting people had never really been his forte either way). So he just tried to send her a genuinely concerned and sorry nod from the distance, even if his tone was bitter.

 

welcome to my special hell.” he added somberly.

 

If she had been in the mood, she would have wondered if he had somehow learnt about Lemon Bread’s quote and intentionally repeated that same sentence. But she definitely wasn’t in the mood.

She looked back at Alphys. Then Sans. She sobbed.

 

There are some days, you wish you were just dreaming. You wish it was all a nightmare, and you only needed to wake up. Except that waking up wasn’t a viable escape.

She wanted to escape. She wanted to go home. Or anywhere. She wanted to go back to people who knew her and would remember her and who weren’t described and limited by numbers or time shenanigans and led by a video game. She wanted real people. She wanted her family.

 

She felt her legs collapse under her body, but she didn’t fall on the ground. Instead, her hand had instinctively fallen on the doorknob, and then she had started to run. Somewhere. Anywhere away from here. Anywhere away from this nightmare…

 

Sans called after her in surprise and genuine panic, but she ignored him.

They were supposed to be alone in this lab.

Even though she wouldn’t have dreamed of staying in that building for a minute longer.

 

She had started dreaming of reality and how much she wanted to get back to it and find real people again.

 

“Molly, wait—!”

 

The whole room froze.

Alphys’s mouth slammed shut and she slapped her claws over it, an almost fearful and panicked look on her face.

 

Dawn’s eyes widened slowly as she had stopped, trembling like a leaf, before she shakily turned an ashen and stunned face towards her.

She looked like she had just seen a ghost.

 

Alphys looked like she was now using the doorknob as a means not to collapse on the floor.

 

 

“S-S-Sorry I just– I don’t know why I just said that I didn’t think it-just-popped-out-but-there’s-no-way-in-the-world-that-could-ever-be-your—”

“My name.” she uttered in a blank tone. “You remembered my name.”

 

She slowly walked back towards her, and the reptile uneasily and somewhat absent-mindedly motioned her to get back in her office before someone saw them (she was supposed to be the only one working on that floor, but one could never be too careful), although she seemed deep in thought.

She let the human hug her once more and she tried to return it, but…

 

“I… I’m sorry Molly… I-I really can’t remember you or…”

“It’s alright, Alphys. B-but please… Just say ‘Dawn.’” The monster gave her a confused look, and the human’s expression softened as some more tears fell from the corner of her eyes. “That’s… what my friends call me…”

 

In the distance, Sans raised a nonexistent yet confused eyebrow— but stayed silent.

 

After a few minutes, the human seemed to have calmed down, and they were all back into their seats, ending their explanations and telling the lizard everything she had forgotten about, all the while drowning their issues in some golden flower tea. Dawn found it to be soft and warm, but she secretly thought one good old hot cocoa would have been better. Tea was too bitter in comparison. Or sour.

As the discussion was progressing, she had remained strangely silent. The monsters assumed that she was still very upset so they didn’t insist; but after a few minutes, she had started to actually look… mad at something. Or rather someone.

They tried to ignore it. Humans tend to be a little too unstable when they get mad, they wouldn’t risk triggering it by mentioning it out loud.

 

“So… What now? What are you two going to do, then?” Alphys eventually asked in concern.

“Well, seems pretty obvious to me.” Dawn growled bitterly.

 

She resolutely stood up and towered them both, her hands shaking into determined fists. If she wasn’t so focused on what she had in mind, she would probably have been slightly taken aback by the fact that yes, she was towering them, with them sitting on their chairs and her standing straight and almost angry at them for their idleness.

 

She would not let anyone wipe away her friends from her just like that. Not after what they had already endured. Not after everything they had done to save the world.

Not after what Alphys had told her about what she had felt herself about forgetting.

They had no right to force her. They had no right to erase her.

They had no right to kill her.

The monsters felt slightly taken aback upon seeing her fiery expression and the mercilessly vengeful determination burning in her eyes.

 

“We’re gonna break that goddamn fourth wall and tell them what they’re doing.” she firmly claimed in a low and relentless voice.

 

Sans noisily slammed his hand against his forehead.

This had to be the worst plan that could ever be conceived.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

— Act II —

That’s Your Fault

Scene 2


 

It was almost ten in the morning when Sans appeared in his living room in a small flash of light, holding Dawn’s right wrist. He immediately released her before racing to his bedroom in order to get dressed, while asking her to wait for him. He had warned her that Frisk used to come out of the Ruins around eleven, but being ready on the field a few dozen minutes or so before they would arrive was an obvious necessity; especially considering the new circumstances.

 

The skeleton had tried to change her mind and attempted to dissuade her from messing with the events. He was talking from experience: back from the time he had lived through only a couple Resets with his memories still intact, he had himself tried to change fate thanks to his newly acquired knowledge of the previous journeys, and… the result had never been pretty. He had tried his best to make her understand that he had had a very good reason to give up in the end…

 

And yet it was simply impossible to reason with her. The Extractor had basically forced all her determination to awake at once in order to measure how much she had, so it was very likely that it had some (temporary) consequences on her general behavior; consequences he would have gladly avoided.

He didn’t know whether that was some obsessive ‘determination’ or merely her usual childish goofiness reaching some new records in the history of stupidity, but whatever that was in her expression… he could not fight against it with mere words. He had seen it, she would do it no matter the consequences, with or without his consent. Her recklessness and gullibility would put her in useless danger, and she didn’t seem to realize that this was far from being a stupid game anymore.

And yet he could not leave her alone, no matter how exasperating she had started to sound like with her stupid will to save everyone despite her obvious lack of experience and awareness of what really was going on.

 

He could have just let her see for herself if it was only up to him. But with such a powerful soul of hers, if anything could rip it out of her body… he could not begin to imagine how releasing such hazard permanently — since she would stay in that state no matter the Resets — would bring an even messier chaos and a new issue to his list. And mind you, that list was already long enough as it was, in his opinion.

Her soul now was nothing more than a metaphoric nuclear time bomb, and the safest place to keep it as away from trouble as it was physically possible considering the new circumstances was within her living chest.

So thanks, but no thanks. Whether he cared about that human or not, he could not afford to let her die, at any cost.

 

And no matter how painfully annoying it was to admit, whatever that girl had in mind, he would have to follow and play along in order to protect her from her own foolishness.

Well, on the bright side of things, she still was a smart girl… somewhat. After a few tries, maybe she would understand, stop this madness and finally listen to him.

 

It was bitterly ironical from her to claim that she wanted to ‘save’ them – or ‘avenge’ them, the nuance between the two was slightly unclear right now – from random entities that were controlling their lives for fun, when while doing so… Well, wasn’t that a rather accurate description of what she was about to do, in a way? He knew she probably didn’t realize and he felt a little too lazy to tell her: of course she wouldn’t listen anyway, so what was even the point? But still, being forced to follow her own rules while he technically was supposed to be the one with most experience on the field…

 

That had been when she had smiled at him, with that mischievous knowing grin of hers.

She had asked him — well, it was pretty much a rhetorical question at that point — if before the timeline in which he had first brought her, he had already known about the real whereabouts of the anomaly. If he had tried again getting through while actually using directly that meta-knowledge and confronting the Players openly.

If he had ever before had the chance not to be the only one able to remember the issues and willing to fix them.

 

 

At that point, he couldn’t help but chuckle faintly and cynically. Even if that had been the case, then she would have just reminded him that he didn’t remember how it had been.

 

It truly was futile to try to reason with her; even worse, she had actually managed to… Well, she hadn’t made him change his mind, but…

She had managed to give him some hope back.

She had managed to make him actually want to see if, just as a maybe… it could work.

 

And so she had at least managed to convince him to bring her back to Snowdin along with him, instead of leaving her in Hotland with Alphys looking after her and trusted not to tell anybody anything.

Well, at least… Maybe he could still have some fun for a change. Maybe he could get a chance to see and hear something different for once. In any ways… he knew that ‘determination’ of hers was just because of some temporary mood swing out of despair from the shock— and the Extractor, too. That was her first Reset and she could remember, so this reaction was entirely normal. (Especially for a human.)

But her soul wasn’t light blue for nothing. Her specialty was Patience. Not Determination.

And despite her high level of determination, the amount she had was actually ridiculously low compared to what her soul needed; most of that determination she had was already busy enough with keeping her soul together, so there hardly was any left for actually focusing on feeling resolved to accomplish anything.

 

She simply didn’t have it in her. After a few Resets, she would just give up eventually.

She would be patient with the other monsters and care about them in spite of everything, but she would not keep for very long this little cute resolve of hers to change fate.

 

That feeling and obsession she was expressing right now?

That was not ‘determination.’ That was foolishness, and that foolishness would probably kill her in no time if he wasn’t there to make sure she wouldn’t get in too much trouble.

 

And yet… Maybe he could still try to enjoy the fun while it lasted…?

 

After a few minutes, Dawn saw Sans open the door of his bedroom, and she stood up from the couch as he threw at her from the upper floor a blue jacket similar to his usual one— although it seemed much warmer. She caught it as it flew past, then raised a confused look as he was walking down the stairs, his arms back in his pockets.

 

“guess there’s no point in trying to stop you from following me.” he shrugged pseudo-humorously. “so at least try not to catch a cold, will ya?”

 

He faintly winked at her. It became obvious that he only made that out of habit as a tentative to convince himself that everything would be alright, and so she smiled back as reassuringly as she could.

… It was true that her current flannel shirt and jeans weren’t really the best attire for excursions in Snowdin— she might have overlooked that detail in her eagerness. And probably due the fact that they still were in Hotland hardly five minutes ago, too, that might have helped her forget that their later excursions wouldn’t occur under the same weather conditions. (… Did the Underground define its microclimates as “weather”? Probably not.)

 

 

Still, even though she guessed that the jacket wouldn’t nearly be enough, that wouldn’t stop her. Screw the cold, an entire population was in potential danger right now, and they were pretty much the only ones able to do anything about it.

(And even if the current Player was fully pacifistic— they would probably have to stop them nonetheless,
if only temporarily.)

 

She couldn’t help but feel some warm happiness blooming in her chest when she took his gesture as proof that he was finally giving her some credit. That he decided he could trust her enough to let her try out her own solutions, and maybe, even, to go along with them.

 

“Don’t worry Sans. I’ve got a plan.”

“really?” he asked jokingly in a light-hearted, but somewhat snarky tone. “hope it’s better than your idea to make alphys play the game.”

“Hey! That could have worked if we could’ve found a way to download and install it on one of those old dusty computers of yours…” she pouted, faking to sound offended.

“that had to be your worst idea ever.” he couldn’t help but genuinely burst out laughing. “trust me kid, even if it had any chance of working, you don’t want her to take the reins. you just don’t.”

 

She rolled her eyes and huffed pseudo-humorously, but didn’t insist. As much as getting their hands on the game should have been the easiest and most effective way to solve their current problem, including on the long term… Well, if he said it couldn’t work, then it wasn’t worth putting much more thought on.

Which left them with only one more possibility: if they couldn’t get their way through the game, they could only hope getting it through whoever was currently using it.

 

The monster had made his way to the main door before her and he already had one hand on the doorknob; but he froze at the last moment, turned around swiftly, then silently sent her a few judging looks up and down. She guessed that he was trying to make sure that he wasn’t forgetting anything… even though he was staring at her a lot, so maybe he was in fact trying to know whether she was ready to venture into the cold, or whether she would be able to blend in without being recognized, thus randomly attacked by nearby monsters (whoops, she had kinda forgotten about that detail too), or something of the like.

In any case, she couldn’t think of anything to do to help him, so she simply stayed perfectly still so as to avoid distracting him.

 

“put the hood on.” he commanded after a few seconds, sending a lazy nod towards the very hood he was mentioning. At least, she guessed that was the only logical thing his skull could be pointing to. “most of the folks here haven’t seen a human in a very long time so they probably won’t recognize you as one, but let’s not tempt fate.”

 

Dawn pursed her lips and nodded in agreement; then she immediately complied, burying her head and hair inside the hood and pulling slightly on the hoodie’s strings. He waited for one extra second (probably to recheck just in case — hey, was he using the game’s “Check” option? Heheh, nah, unlikely); but he soon nodded again and opened the door.

 

Upon leaving the house and immediately feeling the cold, she realized that it actually was the first time, in the day-and-a-half she had been in the Underground, that she technically put just one step outside. She soon started to frantically rub her hands one against the other as Sans was closing the door and locking the house behind them.

Well, it wasn’t as cold as she had thought at first, but it was definitely cold enough for snow to pile up and turn her into a living popsicle, would it not have been for that jacket the skeleton had generously given her.

 

The human took a moment to look around; as much as she would have found the view rather depressing before the Reset, since all the monsters had abandoned the town (with all the implications this had)… This time, here they were, as if nothing had ever been wrong. Their forced obliviousness was sad, but all at the same time— looking at them living normally, with every neighbor exchanging words and waves to the others as if every single monster in town perfectly knew all the others… It was incredibly heartwarming.

 

The nearest building seemed a little far away, but she distinguished the Librarby (yes, with the typo), a few residences varying in sizes and aspects, she noticed a few artisan shops she had strictly no reminiscence about, and she could even see Grillby’s from a little further away— that one seemed to be strategically located in the middle of the town. It seemed like the geography wasn’t completely the one she could remember from the game’s maps, but then again, she quickly reasoned that it just would make more sense if everyone had a roof to live under, after all. Besides, there was quite a lot of space in the game’s map of the city that the Player couldn’t interact with; maybe they just happened to be houses or irrelevant shops that the graphics magically turned into trees because it didn’t even matter whether the Player would try to interact with them or not.

(Some part in this reasoning struck her as nonsensical. But since to her, the fact that this world looked fully physical and alive, yet was supposed to be seen as a two-dimensional pixel-y map by “realer people”— since this fact was already not making any sense to begin with in her opinion… She reasoned that it was only expected to get conclusions she wouldn’t be able to comprehend when she could hardly figure the initial basis of the reasoning anyway.)

 

And, naturally, she saw monsters walking in-between. Part of her felt bad about staring with the sort of curiosity a child shows when staring at an ant-hill and all the life swarming about, but she simply couldn’t look away. This was a town ruled by monsters, creatures granted with the same level of sentience as humans but who still weren’t humans, and they had their own society, their own rules, their own morals, and they looked so friendly one with the others in spite of the roughness their kind was put through due to humanity— and she just found that beautiful. That view was fantastic, and it gave her hope. Maybe this town was nothing but lines of code standing somewhere in some sort of cold bunker full of computers— but the lives it housed were very real.

 

And this was a beauty and sincerity she wanted to protect at all costs.

 

Still, as she heard Sans approaching in her back, once again she measured the distance separating them from the town.

To be more specific, at first, she had always imagined Snowdin was supposed to be some sort of small, countryside village in the middle of the woods; but looking at this, instead… Well, this was indisputably a small town (granted she was from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so the difference was all the more striking); but from what she could see here, it could hardly be called a “village” at all.

 

 

“Your house sure seems… kinda isolated from the rest of the town.” she couldn’t help but point out after a few moments. “Is there a special reason for that?”

“no idea. we just picked the first old shack we could find that was still on sale, y’know.” he merely shrugged in genuine ignorance— and lack of actual care, too. “needed lots of renovating when we arrived, but eh. t’was fair, considering the price.”

 

“Old shack”? Ha. Their house for sure was a chalet, and it did look like the logs had been there for a while; but honestly, apart from that? With all the decorations and all the obvious care given to the house as a whole, the general view over the cottage was anything but close to the mental images she had of the “creepy abandoned mansion” stereotype.

In spite of her repeated attempts, she quickly gave up trying to imagine what the “old shack” Sans had in mind could possibly have looked like; if anything, if she had had to guess before knowing about these details, she would have been ready to bet that the house had been around for less than a few years, at best.

 

“If that’s true, then you two really have done a good job.” she eventually uttered with a bright smile. “Now it looks lovely.”

“thanks. y’can tell that to papyrus later, he’ll sure love it.”

 

… Heh. It was true that now, he was back, too.

She wanted to feel happy about it, and the biggest part of her was, but… Somehow, something kept stirring inside her, as if to remind her that he was dead until yesterday.

She tried to bury this dark thought. After all, Papyrus wouldn’t remember any of this, and she definitely didn’t want to taint his positivity. And as much as it might have affected his brother for a while, now he had just sounded genuinely careless as if nothing was wrong— as if he was just happy to have him now, and simply ignored, or denied, the fact that he had ever been gone.

So maybe she should do that, too. For both of their sakes.

 

Besides, the drama times when Papyrus would die repeatedly were over.

She mentally took the oath to make sure this would never happen again. Not on her watch, and not under any other circumstances either.

 

As much as the banter pleased them though, it wasn’t the most appropriate moment. Sans went to her side and offered her his hand, as he would simply take them through another shortcut directly to the giant door leading to the Ruins. She was still uncomfortable with the idea of physical contact, even though she was somewhat starting to get used to it (well, more like realizing that she somehow managed to survive the entire morning).

But then she noticed that he had actually put on gloves.

He… He had never done that before. And the cold definitely wasn’t bothering him.

 

She couldn’t help but feel guilty and she awkwardly apologized to him. He shrugged it off and simply grinned patiently, but still— in a way, she had just always thought it was basically discrimination towards him and Papyrus (and every other skeleton, would she ever encounter any other in the future), and she deeply felt bad for it — one good way to put it lightly.

And yet no matter how stupid she knew that phobia of hers was, there was just no way to overcome it. Even plastic skeletons had remained a problem for over five years, despite all her friends and relatives’ efforts.

(Yeah, she spent all Halloween parties locked up in her room. Sad and irrelevant story.)

In any case— there were more pressing matters right now.

She took his hand without further due, he quickly shifted his pupils right and left as if to make sure that there was nobody around who could see them, and then he pulled swiftly.

It wasn’t like being seen by some random folks would have made any difference on the long run since it was likely that more Resets would ensue in spite of their efforts during this run, but it was just one of these habits that he couldn’t get rid of— and if said habit could spare him some trouble, even if for just a few hours, then he didn’t feel the need to use extra energy to even try.

Technically, even asking the human to keep a low profile was closer to paranoia than to actual rational concern; but then again, if he could avoid the “what if” scenarii, it was only to their advantage.

 

The shortcuts were still something pretty new to her; she had first experienced them this very morning and it ‘only’ was her third one, after all. But actually, of all magical things that had occurred to her since she arrived? It was by far the one she was adapted to the fastest, and the most easily. Seeing the surroundings randomly shift from one landscape to another after just a little strange tug and a small flash of light surely felt much less uncanny to her than the idea of her soul being manipulated just like that by pretty much anyone around her, usually without her consent.

 

At first she only noticed the disappearance of the multiple houses and their replacement by snow and tall trees, but she quickly recognized more precisely the new environment as soon as she saw the giant door some dozen feet away from them, which would have been hard to go unnoticed anyways. Damn, it was huge.

 

He gestured her to follow him into the dense woods and proceeded to hide between the dark trees. Apparently the monster had got used to doing this — “Well duh, of course he had got used to this you stupid dork” —, because it only took him a few seconds before he found the perfect spot to settle down comfortably, hide from anyone standing on the main path and still have a wonderful view over the door. She followed in his tracks, then—

 

Ack.

Snow.

 

While the main path was well defined and seemed to be regularly taken care of, given the compact and neatly flattened snow that covered it (heck, it hardly creaked when they walked on it— not nearly as much as the game made it sound, that was for sure), as soon as she left that area to wander into the boundaries of the wild, usually-unreachable-by-the-player forest part…

Well. One thing was for sure, canvas laced-up shoes were not as multipurpose as most ads pretended to be. The very first step she took in the bare, untouched powder snow, had her leg literally plunged an entire foot deep below the apparent surface, and naturally half of the snow that budged in the process went to lodge a little rain of snowflakes straight between the shoes’ inner side and her socks.

 

When Sans turned back in a mixture between hidden surprise and amused confusion, he saw her wince from the sudden surge of cold in her feet, and she soon noticed that he had noticed. So she just thought it better to explain quickly:

 

 

“… Shoes. Supposed to be multipurpose.” She hastily pinched her nose when she felt a sneeze coming, and managed to stop it at the last second. “D-definitely not made for s-snow though.”

 

Commercials lied, dude.

 

Sans merely stood there unmoving for a few seconds and blinked in confusion; then something finally seemed to click in his mind.

 

“oh.” Another blink, then a teasing smile that, somehow, managed to be all at the same time relieved, disappointed, hopeful, and pessimistic. She had no idea how that was possible, but he made it nonetheless. “still not too late if you wanna stay put in a warmer place, y’know. d’you want me to—”

Nope!”

 

She had claimed it in a rush and in a seemingly light, childish and blissfully oblivious tone, but the death glare she sent him made it clear that she was not taking that as an option, let alone for a reason as stupid as this one. So he simply raised both hands in defeat, shrugged with a wordless fair enough”, sighed, then turned around and started to settle a few steps away. He lazily sat down in the snow and leaned back against a tree, and she thought it best to follow his example, sitting face to face in front of him.

Thankfully the uncompact snow wasn’t too deep in that little area, so after a few large steps that needed her to raise her feet higher than her knees, she was finally able to sit on a little “snow poff” that only engulfed her six inches deep.

 

He perked a quick glance at a little grey watch on his left wrist: they still had a little more than forty-five minutes left. Usually he would be here even sooner (just in case the anomaly somehow made it earlier than normal), but he was glad they could have made it in time and were not too late. As he shoved his hand back into his pocket, he raised his eye-sockets once more towards her:

 

“so. you said you had a plan?” he calmly reminded.

 

Dawn smiled at him with her comforting and confident determined grin, nodding resolutely. Then she straightened her back a little against the trunk behind her, allowing her to answer his question properly:

 

“Well basically, I thought that for the Players, the mere fact of seeing another human—”

“then it’s no.”

 

Ugh. Killjoy.

 

Her shocked wide-eyed face met his stern look for a few seconds of stunned silence.

Did he just…?

 

“What? But Sans, you didn’t even—”

“nuh-uh. nope. not gonna happen.” he continued severely, lazily shaking his skull and crossing his arms stubbornly.

 

 

She was about to argue and try to demonstrate how her plan would be harmless to everybody, but she stopped and froze as soon as his pupils disappeared without warning. His face sharpened its angles as he glared at her with one of the scariest looks she had ever seen until now.

 

Oh come on Sans. Using her phobia to shut her up? That’s a low blow.

 

Luckily for her (or unluckily, it depends on the opinion), if she was tempted to fall backwards or run away screaming, the snow poff’s depth and the tree in her back were there to keep her grounded.

 

“Listen to me kid, and listen good. I’ll agree to let you do anything you want, but on one condition. Whatever happens, you don’t go anywhere near them. ok?”

 

And back he was to his normal, neutral emotion, as she slowly but shakily nodded. He quickly switched to a slightly more concerned and harmless look as he added seriously though, please don’t do that. on a much softer tone, and she remained silent.

 

Every time he tried to sound serious or menacing (the situations when, if she could have seen his speech written down, she would have expected proper capitalization, or half-proper capitalization to appear), the tone in his voice became particularly disturbing all of a sudden. He seemed to have quite a wide range of sonorities and timbres depending on either his current feelings, or just how he wanted to sound. As uncanny as it objectively was, she had started to get over it— although she kept questioning how it could physically work. She would have gladly taken the “magic voice attuned to the soul” theory (after all, monsters were supposed to have “magic bodies attuned to their soul”, so it would only make sense)… But Sans seemed to be the only one able to distort his voice that much. Flowey, too, seeing how great he was at impersonating the others’ voices. But until now she had only heard Sans, and seriously, she still wasn’t sure whether she should feel distraught or amazed by the incredible flexibility of his voice. Maybe “fonts”, too. She wondered if he was actually speaking in “fonts” and she was just unable to see them because she was currently “inside” the game and out of range of the dialogue boxes.

… Still, good news was, she was actually starting to get accustomed to his non-bone related creepy gimmicks. As long as she wasn’t looking at him at the same time as he was using capitalized speech, that was. Creepy faces would still be among the list of mental images appearing in her nightmares on a regular basis.

 

Sans wondered for a short while if his reaction had been too extreme, but he quickly realized that he didn’t actually care. The kid’s safety came first, and he sure as hell would make sure that she wouldn’t do anything that could put her in a situation of danger, even if it meant potentially making her random “traumas” surface again every now and then.

(Now that he thought of it, he had never asked her where that phobia came from. Then again, a split second later, he remembered that he really didn’t care about the answer.)

 

He hadn’t read much yet in the previous timeline about the “Undertale Wikia” articles that had been saved in his computer’s internet bookmarks, but somehow he could remember some fragments back from when he probably would have read them for the first time (even though he still couldn’t remember the timeline in and of itself for some maddeningly frustratingly unknown reason). And if there was one thing he could say for sure about what he had seen as a whole on the net, it was that the game’s vision of the trio between Frisk, Chara, and the Player, was, to put it lightly, a real mind screw.

He was not really sure what he should think about all this data, as he doubted most sources he had found to be entirely reliable; but in doubt, he believed that the players’ perspective on the game had to be the closest to the truth regarding the human they were about to meet, and the only key they had to understand the logic in their behavior.

His doubts relied on the fact that there were at least two parties in the trio that he had known personally; but if the game had its own version of the truth, then it had to be the one that would apply from now on.

 

Most sources especially stated that the First Human was able to actually steal control from the Player themselves on some occasions— during the times when the kid was the most likely to be a powerful threat and kill anyone, no less. So it must mean that the game made it true to some extent, somehow. Whether it be the real Chara, or a version of Chara programmed by the game to make it sound like Chara. As far as he knew, both were possible… and he kinda leaned towards the second option. If Chara could actually struggle against the game’s influence, then chances were high that they would have been able to break the link and gain full control ages ago. Which, apparently, hadn’t been the case.

Still. In the depictions of the game’s and fandom’s Chara he had seen, their hate towards humans was even greater than their actual desire to kill monsters. Just a minor detail.

 

So forcing a meeting between the two humans was literally the worst idea she could have ever thought of and the most hazardous gamble they could ever make. There was no way to predict how the kid would react upon seeing another human: who would have the upper hand then, “Chara” or the Player? He was not even sure he knew which option would be the worst anyway; and he was definitely not eager to do anything even remotely close to ‘risky’ when a bloody almost-42-kMS-powered soul was at stake.

 

“believe me, kid… i’m gonna tell you once more and i know you’re not gonna listen, but trying to stray away too much from the script only makes things worse. whatever you had in mind, that’s not gonna work.” he sighed tiredly.

“Alright, alright, I get it…” she rolled her eyes annoyingly. “So what do you suggest? Giving them a “bad time” right now?” She shrugged lightly as if she found that idea to be ridiculous and overly clichéd, but paused for a second and in fact started to genuinely consider that option. “That… wouldn’t be that much of a bad idea actually. Let’s forget about that dumb promise, you should just break it each time they kill Toriel anyway.” Cliché or not. That idea was probably clichéd for a reason, and the reason was that it worked. “I say, if you see that they killed anyone, you go for it and make it hurt. — I-i mean, it’s not like it’d really hurt anyone, we can only reach the player’s avatar anyway.”

 

Once more, the skeleton had started to chuckle somberly in an absolutely not genuine way, shaking his skull tiredly. But as much as he assumed she had meant it without realizing the implications this would have (she probably assumed there was nothing alive inside Frisk’s body, and he couldn’t blame her for believing that— well, he wanted to believe that as well), he nonetheless fell into silence and heavily rested his skull against the trunk in his back, sighing deeply.

As many times as he had already killed them and convinced himself that the kid could hardly be considered alive anymore… As long as he could reasonably follow with it, he still preferred the pacifist approach.

… Just in case.

 

Heh… It wasn’t like she would understand, anyway. That was so messed up.

“there’s no point in “avenging” her, kid.” he responded instead. If he wanted to make a point, he just better make a point she could follow. “it won’t bring her back before the next reset. and you know that “killing” them is pointless, anyway.”

“That’s because you’re not thinking under the video game perspective.”

 

For some reason, he felt a chill run down his spine and froze. He jolted back to sit up straight, sending her a confused, but dreading look.

She was giving him a confident and bright smile, but for a short instant he almost interpreted it as a sadistic snigger.

 

Yeah. The game. Here he had someone who had seen the other side; probably not directly, but she had explicitly confirmed that she had seen videos, and that she had had the chance of more or less involuntarily memorizing many details and superficial facts thanks to her best friend being friends with a huge “dataminer” and helping him with theories and endless brainstorms of all kinds. Here was someone who had had the chance to think through many times possible strategies, speculations— charts even. She had mentioned that her friends were that kind of “nerds” who were so much into the game, they constantly made maps, schemes, articles about the game’s data and the tiniest bits of evidence in dialogues, statistics (both “in-universe” and regarding the “invisible statistics that the players aren’t aware of but that are the ones actually used by the game’s calculations”), sprites, even the developers’ tweets (whatever the word “tweet” meant).

 

So of course her strategies would rely on said game facts and statistics.

He was… not really sure whether or not he should like it. Was that the right approach?

 

“… okay, i’m listening.” he eventually sighed, defeated. “what’s your idea?”

“First off? You’re right. Killing them is pointless. But then, what if you trap them in a situation where, even if they reset, they’ll still be stuck until they either surrender to us or give up?” she started quickly in a tone radiant with confidence. “I mean, that’s your basic strategy in the– Genocide runs, right? Killing them until they give up.”

“not very effective, and really not looking forward to it.” he grumbled weakly without looking at her, seemingly deep in thought.

“Y-yeah, maybe— E-except that this time, we also give them the option of hearing us out and using the game to help us. I’m not sure there’s that many players who would pass up an opportunity like this.” She paused briefly to alternatively rub her arms and quickly blow a warm breath on her hands, but she was back to staring at him with the confident and optimistic attitude just a few seconds later. “Plus, if that never worked that much before, that’s because you never had a chance to know how to improve it!”

 

Besides, as over-cheated as your boss fight is, it’s still supposed to be part of a video game. You were programmed to remain beatable.

She had considered being honest on that part for a split second, but she immediately decided against adding that— especially not while using such straightforward, fourth-wall breaking vocabulary.

The poor guy needed a confidence boost right now, not a confirmation that his previous plans had been doomed by the developers themselves to lack efficiency from the start.

 

Sans was obviously unaware of the last train of thoughts the human had followed, but he still greeted her confession as proof that his actions really hardly had mattered so far.
And why would they have? To the humans of her kind, his actions hadn’t been that of a real person. “He” was just supposed to be part of some sort of fictitious story designed to guilt-trip people into… whatever it was guilt-tripping people into doing. Even on the web he had seen, opinions seemed to diverge. Some “fan” theories stated that the Genocide ending was supposed to be the real one. Some others “proved” that even the Happy ending could hardly be called happy, and that it needed to be avoided for as long as could be. Some were still trying to find a “Happier” ending somewhere, without ever succeeding.

 

Not to mention. The saddest part? Even if her method worked. Even if they somehow managed to reach out to the Random Chosen Player of the Day. Would that even work out? As far as he had seen, he remembered fairly well how he had tried in the past to just get the kid to react. He had never obtained the slightest sign of emotion on their face. Even if there was a player somewhere beyond that face, even if that player could somehow see and hear them— would that even be reciprocate?

The answer was clear: no.

The player could scream their lungs out from the other side of their computer screen, he was convinced that they would never be able to hear them. And the kid’s panel of possible actions seemed fairly limited; they wouldn’t magically start to parrot the player’s movements or expressions for no reason other than convenience.

(… A particularity of the game which, actually, he was somewhat grateful for. That would have been the creepiest of all.)

 

If they did manage to reach out to the Player, how could they know that it worked? How could they possibly communicate? The only way he could think of required him to entirely rebuild his machine, and then somehow manage to track down the One Player they were linked with among potentially thousands. That would take an impossibly long period of time, and that would require the Player to bear with them. When they wouldn’t have had the opportunity of sharing a single word, it was hard to trust them to just leave their session open for maybe entire days or even weeks without touching it— and without potentially having someone else accidentally touch it in their stead.

 

And now that he thought back of her words, he repressed yet another tense chuckle. Was “improve” really the most appropriate term here…?

 

… That was still kinda their last hope, though.

heh… knew it. we’re doomed.

 

Dawn saw the skeleton’s entire skull melt down to the most depressed and hopeless frown she had ever seen, and reacted on the spot.

 

“L—Look. You want the major breakthrough?” she tried quickly, speaking with the most confident and serious tone she could afford (– eeespecially while having just seen bone literally liquesce and magically reshape itself like modeling clay). “There’s no SAVE Point between Toriel’s fight and the first time they’re supposed to meet you. Which means that if you killed them here? They’d be forced to reload to before Toriel’s fight all over again. So if they really wanted to fight you again and again? They’d have to go through Toriel first every single time— and trust me, my friends have been having trouble fighting her too in their No-Hit contests, and they aren’t all bad at video games like me. Chances are, most of the time when they get by the end of the Ruins, they’re already at 2HP, with hardly any useful healing items. From the top of my head, I think the only ones that are available in the Ruins are the Monster Candies and the spiders’ stuff, which all heal less than 25HP at once. Besides, even in the worst case, the player must be around LV6 when they just killed Toriel after a Genocide, which leaves them with 40HP total— that’s not even half the amount of HP they’re supposed to have when fighting you.”

 

Said news didn’t seem to lift his spirits at all (well duh, she kinda understood by that point that she was basically asking him to kill a child, potentially multiple times in a row…), but he still inhaled deeply. His features seemed to shift to a slightly more normal and neutral expression (at least now he seemed to be smiling again, even though she could tell that was just his regular stuck-on smirk instead of a genuine one), and after he gave a long sigh, he readjusted his spine and faced her again. He remained silent, but sent her a discreet and lazy nod as a sign that she could continue.

 

“So… yeah. If you’re here, right now, to wreck them if they don’t want to listen to us, they’re basically screwed. Probably in one turn, no less, so even if they wanted to heal in-between turns, they’ll be dead before they even get access to their inventory. As long as you use the same patterns as usual, you can totally empty their HP bar in just one turn.”

 

She saw his face starting to melt down again, but she forcedly closed her eyes and immediately added in a nervous but fully genuine tone:

 

Sans. I c-can get that you wouldn’t want to do something like this already, but…” She bit her lip, trying to quickly find the right words. “Look. Just give them the threat, let them know that if they don’t listen they’ve got basically no chance of beating you, and explain what’s going on. If the player’s got any brain cells, they’ll listen to you— and if they don’t, at least they’ll know that they don’t have a chance since the start. So no matter their intent, with some luck— you won’t even need to actually fight them. Besides, hey.” She tried to smile a little more reassuringly. “Not all Players are Genociders here. It’s always better to plan for the worst possible case, but it doesn’t mean we have to forget about the other ones and get all depressed or something. I don’t think there’s any Player who’d really be that sort of sicko even after they get proof that you’re sentient and all.”

 

His shoulders slumped down, but she saw one side of his plastered smile raise up a little. She still couldn’t tell whether that was a genuine or a cynical one, though. So in doubt, as long as he wasn’t stopping her… Well, she thought she better as well continue.

 

“Okay, and even if that happened anyway… I’m sure that after two or three times at most, they’ll be pissed enough to give up on the spot. Even if they go back all the way to the other side of Toriel’s house to SAVE in-between the two fights, that’ll only make their walk twice as long and twice as boring, so chances are, it’ll only annoy them further. And if our speech gets through— we could even get them to spare Toriel in the process, if they don’t just restart their game altogether.”

 

She paused, first to think whether she had forgotten to say anything, then because she came to the conclusion that she had pretty much said everything that needed to be said (and maybe more than what she should have said, actually).

That was when she realized that Sans was staring straight at her with a pair of wide open eye-sockets. Not black and pupil-less ones, but quite still and wide ones nonetheless.

 

 

She, uh… She wasn’t sure to know how she was exactly supposed to interpret that expression. When the skeleton eventually noticed the awkward (and slightly shaking) look she was sending back, he seemed to jolt back to reality, blinked in a start, and quickly looked away while muttering something she didn’t understand (… that kinda sounded like an apology though).

 

“Is— is there a problem?” she tried shyly.

“nah, it’s just…”

 

Sans buried his skull in his left gloved hand, rubbing it for a few seconds. At first she feared that she had given him too much data too soon and that he was trying to fight against some sort of migraine or even an existential crisis… But actually, a few seconds later, she heard him laugh instead. Not the gloomy, empty laugh. That was a bewildered laugh, true, but that was definitely not the depressed one that she had both gotten used to see, and learned to dread so much.

In the end, he lowered his hand back (although he kept it on his lap instead of directly shoving it back into his pocket, for once) and sent her a somewhat amused, but mostly surprised look.

Oh boy. Was Sans actually impressed?

 

“could you, uh.” He laughed again. “remind me what makes you so bad at videogames again?”

“Oh. It’s just that I r-really don’t handle tension well when things go fast. You won’t make me think you didn’t notice that one before, heh…” Sans merely rolled his white glowing dots inside of his black non-eyes and shrugged in a silent, but still somewhat mocking way. “… And, basically all my friends came to conclude that I was just cursed with video games or something. I mean, we’re not superstitious, but I’m just that unlucky. No joke.”

 

And technically, just the fact that I’m here? Yeah, pretty much cursed stuff at that point.

She couldn’t help but remember how some of her friends had been eager to see how she’d perform in the game just because they kept joking about how she would be the first one to discover some sort of amazing new content that nobody else had been able to see before because no other Player was ever meant to reach that legendary level of incompetence. In a way… She had kinda reached the jackpot.

They were right.

They were totally right.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…

 

“you’ll need to learn how to handle tension and fast stuff if you wanna achieve anything here, though.” Sans reminded her with a serious glare.

“Y-yeah. Figured.” She had stuttered at first, but she immediately bit her tongue and forced herself to send him another determined look. “Not gonna prevent me from doing my part, though. Promise.” And then she smiled. “There’s the two of us on this, whether we like it or not. So we might as well work together, right?”

 

He came back to sighing, maybe even more deeply than the other times.

Dawn saw him dart a little glance at her from the corner of his sockets, as if he considered adding something— but, at the last moment, he decided against it.

Still, given the contents of that look… She knew perfectly what he had in mind.

 

 

And yet, she hardly had the time to open her mouth and express her own thoughts that he had already cut her short, without even looking at her.

 

“i know you want to help. and that’s nice. but there’s a difference between the intention and what you actually can do.” His pupils rushed towards her again, this time practically piercing her with two dead serious pinpricks of light. “Do you know how to fight?”

 

Her mouth slammed shut. Either she somehow didn’t know how to respond, or found his question too unexpected and shocking to respond anyway.

 

“right now, the kid’s definitely the most dangerous threat we have. And I’ll be the one to deal with it. to be honest, i’m starting to think your plan just might work to some extent.” A smile of relief could have been hinted at in his last sentence (and maybe even some sort of gratefulness was hidden in there too…?); but the dead serious expression hadn’t left his skull. “But you? Whatever you intend to do in the meantime, you’re likely to get other monsters in your way. News spread fast here; by the time Frisk gets out of the Ruins, especially if they’re dangerous— a majority of Snowdin will be warned and at the ready.” She seemed about to object, but he carried on before she could interrupt him: “I know you wouldn’t harm them willingly. But can you defend yourself?”

 

To that, she had no positive answer.

She had never learned how to fight. She had never been hunted down so she had never needed to even consider the option. And even if she had— she was pretty sure that even that wouldn’t have properly prepared her to magical fights.

 

… It was a strange realization to finally remember that she was currently supposed to be an outlaw and a public danger, and that she had to be on the run. But… monsters were nice. And now that she had the option to talk to them directly instead of pressing buttons to make a point— they could communicate much more easily, right?

They didn’t need to fight. Undyne was the only one who would be determined enough to want to kill her on sight, wasn’t she? So as long as she stayed in Snowdin…

 

Oh who was she kidding, of course she wasn’t ready for that sort of crazy stuff.

… Not like she’d ever admit it. Sans needed someone who could help, not some sort of stupid, useless coward.

She was here. And if she had to stay here, then she had to make it worth staying.

 

Her train of thoughts was cut short when she saw something faintly glow and move around them, a little like a storm of white fireflies dashing at incredible speed. She immediately raised her head back towards Sans in a start— and saw the fireflies gather into a three-inches-large white ghastly ball that kept floating above his open palm.

Her eyes drifted to and fro between the little glowing magical thing and his face, as she seemed too shocked to even find the words to ask him what he was doing.

 

The skeleton merely had the pellet float and turn around in his hand. The little thing seemed extremely energetic and unstable, as if it were ready to explode or jump out of his hand any instant; it kept floundering about agitatedly, distorting itself and immediately twisting back into the shape of a ball.

The view had her both frightened and paradoxically fascinated by this small glowing object— it almost looked alive, although she quickly rationalized that it couldn’t be.

Still, as much as some strange part of her was tempted to make her approach to get a better look, she resisted that urge and remained perfectly still.

 

“here’s what a bullet looks like.” he eventually explained. “maybe it’ll have a different form, a different color… but they’ve all got that texture.”

 

He retracted his fingers and lowered his hand, and the whitish glowing conglomerate immediately started to distort itself and tear itself apart into tiny shreds, before all its pieces gradually faded out into the air.

Sans raised two deadly serious pupils back towards her face.

 

“If you see one, RUN. As far as you can go. Hide in the woods. Find me here. Understood?” Before answering, she unconsciously released a breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. But she nodded instantly… although reluctantly. Sans might have noticed that last part, because he immediately added: “yeah, well, they might not look like it, but if they’re made with a strong enough intent…”

 

Hardly a split second after he marked a pause in his sentence, Dawn heard some sharp whistling in the air. Something flew past between them, so swiftly that she had hardly seen it pass through.

Then a loud bang echoed, as if a gun had been fired and reached its target.

After an interminable second of silence, a massive, over-thirty-feet-tall tree cracked repeatedly, each crack gradually coming closer to the previous one—

And then it crashed on the ground. And the base of its trunk burst into flames.

 

When Dawn felt the inside of her mouth dry out and her teeth get significantly colder, she realized that the tree hadn’t been the only thing to drop down.

 

“… guess you get the idea.” Sans concluded, always in that dead serious tone. Although this time, he had to stop himself from slightly laughing at her face. As serious as he wanted to be— he couldn’t deny that her expression was priceless.

 

Dawn mechanically closed her mouth, still staring wide-eyed at the fallen tree. The little flames had quickly died down… but still. She took a deep breath.

 

Okay she took everything back. Just how was Frisk able to survive even one hit?

Well, he talked about intent, so he must have deliberately launched one of his most powerful moves just to show off and impress her, but…

 

It… T-that hadn’t even been a blaster.

 

This was supposed to be the most common, perfectly regular bullet, that every single monster was able to use.

Just… holy crap.

 

Sans, are you sure that monsters LOST the War?

 

 

She instinctively came back to rubbing her arms. When she noticed the gesture, she forced herself to stop and instead buried her hands inside the pockets. She would have preferred crossing them instead, but the cold and her already purplish nails changed her mind at the last second.

She took another deep breath, then sighed.

 

“You really want to scare me away from all this, don’t you…” she mumbled sorrowfully.

“I want you to stay out of trouble.” was all he answered, avoiding her look. Silence fell down for a few seconds, but as he felt the weight of her insistent stare, he let out a slightly annoyed, yet anxious grunt. “listen, you’re a nice… pal. and it looks like you’ve got the theory right ‘bout that game. but the practical part…”

 

He started scratching the back of his skull again. This time his gloves prevented the screeches, but somehow she still unintentionally imagined the sound. And she felt like she could hear the distant howls of an elevator, for some reason. But she simply looked away so she could ignore them more efficiently.

 

“you’ve never handled magic well before. not blaming ya, in a way i can even understand why since it’s supposed to not even exist where you’re from and yadda yadda — and even the humans from here had trouble with it.” He set his hand back on his lap and came back to staring with a concerned frown. “But whatever’s coming if you’re not careful enough, they won’t take excuses. They’ll hit first.”

“So what’s your plan, then? Keeping me hidden in the forest and watch you while doing nothing? I don’t really see what good that’d do to wander towards the town without you, true, but…” She sighed in defeat. She wanted so badly to help him, but at the same time… How could she? Was there anything she could do? “Maybe if you’re having any trouble with Frisk, I could even get the Canine Unit over here and help you out—”

“kid, messing things up even more than they already are won’t get us anywhere.”

“Ugh I know!” Her head collapsed desperately into her hands. “But I can’t just stand there and do nothing!”

 

She had started to add agitated gestures to her speech, eventually throwing her hands in the air out of frustration; but in the end of her last sentence, she was instead using them to bury her head between them in a weak attempt to calm down.

 

“I mean… The most frustrating part is that I… I-i actually k-kinda want to do that. I just don’t know what to do, so watching how it goes and trying to think of solutions seems like the easiest and wisest thing to do, and I’d stay out of your way. But… That’s just wrong, you know?” she confessed. “I-I can’t just leave you deal with all that on your own! It’s— I just… I don’t want you to have to do everything alone, ‘cause I know it’s probably just too much and you’ve been hurt for so long because of this, and now you have to do it all over again, and…” She sighed deeply, avoiding his look and yet still sending him some weak glances from the corner of her eyes. “I just wish I could do something to make it different, this time. It’s not that I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to handle it alone, but… I just don’t want you to live through all that and bear that burden alone, you know? R-right now I even feel like I’m nothing more than another burden that you have to look after, a-and I don’t want that, but I can’t leave, so— I-I just want to stop being a burden and– I d-don’t know, deserve my stay here or something, okay?”

There was a long silence. For seconds, then what appeared to be entire minutes, Sans remained perfectly still and quiet; and for once, he was not even looking at her like he usually did.

At first he had still checked very discreetly, just in case she happened to do the same trick as the first day— but no, at least her soul wasn’t going through another of its weird caprices. Well, it didn’t look that good obviously, but at least he didn’t have to comply just because she’d do some sort of magical heart attack if he refused.

Her safety should come first, and considering how things were right now, she wasn’t in danger. Consequently, why should he care? There was nothing to question about the current plan. There was nothing to change about it.

 

So instead, he quickly wondered. Why did he care?

 

Muffling a little grunt, he forced himself out of his thoughts by readjusting his hoodie’s sleeve in order to perk a glance at his watch. Ten forty-four.

They still had time, but he reasoned that they were wasting it by just standing there.

 

“… okay, y’know what. i– had another idea, but…” Dawn looked about to both jump in excitement and scold him for not mentioning it sooner, but he immediately signed her to calm down and hear him out before getting her hopes up. He sent another quick glance at his watch, then turned his skull back to her: “papyrus is supposed to reach my sentry post over there in eighteen minutes, fifty seconds. if things go rough over here while he’s around, it’s likely he’ll intervene, mess up everything, and get himself in danger.”

“But if I go in his way and distract him from coming here and meeting the Player…” she deduced immediately, slowly lighting up in realization.

“exactly. i’d need you to take him as far away from this place as possible. if you two stick together, he’ll protect you from the other monsters and the members of the guard, and you’ll protect him from whatever will happen between me and the kid.”

 

She stayed silent for a few seconds, seemingly twisting the plan in her head in order to check whether she could see any flaws— but she quickly shrugged in a mixture between bewilderment and satisfaction, immediately sending him a flashing smile.

 

“Well, it’s settled then!” she beamed enthusiastically. “I really don’t see why you didn’t offer that option earlier.”

 

Sans had turned his skull away from her, staring at the distance and looking unsure.

 

“you would really do that?” he muttered emptily.

“Why, of course I would!” she blinked in shock, as if she felt hurt that he could ever doubt her. Well, technically he hadn’t seen her in action yet and she had never seen his brother for real before, but— she could handle it! “As far as I know, Papyrus is the sweetest guy I’ve ever seen and the one guy I’d never allow to get hurt under any circumstances. If I can protect him from whatever’s coming, then you can be damn sure I will.”

“y- maybe, but. how about the… you know…”

 

 

She heard the muffled sound of bones rattling under his jacket and she immediately felt a shiver run up her spine. His nervousness only increased and he gained a concerned look on his face as he saw her tensing up before forcedly looking away.

Was that really a good idea to entrust her with looking after an overactive skeleton? Not that he didn’t trust her (about that, he had had his fair share of examples that the girl really wouldn’t hurt a fly, if only because she literally physically couldn’t even watch someone else doing so without freaking out anyway), but… Well, her reaction right now was talkative enough, and she did not really seem that confident about it herself.

And yet she still somehow managed to stutter resolutely:

 

“I-I’ll deal with it. Not gonna let that stop us from saving lives.”

 

Especially Papyrus. She would do anything for Papyrus.

 

Her tone had been rather tense, but firm and determined. Sans hesitated for a little longer, but eventually closed his eye-sockets and shrugged, giving a relieved sigh and his stuck-on smile seemingly appearing slightly more genuine.

 

“… heh. ok, you know what kid? if you can actually do that, then… i like that plan.”

“Good! So… I’ll get in position then?” she offered, giving a slight impulsion against the tree in her back so she could stand up.

 

He pulled back his left wrist in front of him yet another time, and saw that they still had, well, yeah. Sixteen minutes or so.

 

“actually, it’d probably be better for you to stay here ‘till the last moment.” he argued. “you’re gonna wait at least ten minutes anyway if you’re just standing at my post, and i’d rather you avoid getting any further into the forest on your own. i think there’s teenagers hanging over there, wouldn’t want ya to get in trouble.”

“Hm… Right.” she mumbled absent-mindedly as she reluctantly sat back down.

 

Maybe he could still find some time before they would split up… There had been some questions he had been meaning to ask her for quite a while, now.

 

“why did you lie to me? about your name, i mean.”

 

She froze. And before he knew it, she had buried her hands back inside the pockets, hunched her shoulders and looked away, frowning deeply.

 

“I didn’t lie. That’s what my friends call me.” she retorted coldly.

“but your real name is– “molly”, right? why would you want to change that?”

“I just hate that name. I didn’t lie to you Sans, I just want people to call me that. All my friends call me that. I don’t even know why I told her in the first place.” she blurted out in a low, but deeply mad tone. She gave a long and tense sigh, closing her eyes painfully: “Of all things she could have remembered about me, it had to be that name…”

 

The skeleton stayed silent for about a dozen more seconds, staring at her. And eventually he carefully tried to push her to develop a little more:

 

 

“that sounds like a big issue.” he remarked calmly.

“It’s not. Nothing important. Let’s just change the subject.” She looked down angrily, and suddenly stopped her gaze towards something she had never really noticed before: “You’re wearing sneakers?”

 

His eye-sockets widened into a blank look.

 

Well, of all topics she could have tackled, he definitely had not been expecting that one. Wouldn’t it have been more likely from her to return the favor and ask him about one of those sensitive issues he had on his own? It wasn’t like she wouldn’t know anything about his own secrets already and probably have had her own list of burning issues to ask him about, so of all things, she had to start with a question like that…?

 

Well, not like he wasn’t content with it, anyway.

He just… literally hadn’t seen that one coming.

 

“yeah. what’s with that?” he shrugged jokingly, frowning in confusion and still snorting at the stupidity of her question.

“I just thought you always were wearing slippers or something.” she muttered thoughtfully. “I mean, that’s how the fanarts depict you most of the time.”

 

He repressed an amused chuckle, narrowing his eye-sockets into a you guys are weird expression. Although he had to admit, he had kinda noticed when he had seen some of said “fan arts.”

Not that he had been checking that creepy stuff on purpose. If anything, he wished he could forget ever seeing them.

 

Granted, he had been neglecting his attire and well-being for a long while, but he wasn’t that desperate yet.

 

“slippers in the snow?” he asked, not hiding his laughing at this absurdity.

“Short pants in the snow?” she retorted, mockingly imitating his tone and phrasing.

“that’s for the hotdog stand in hotland.”

 

He winked at her, and she face-palmed, faintly trying to hide her snort.

Their banter kept going for a little longer, each one trying to prank or playfully mock the other in some way. At some point, unavoidably, puns were thrown around and about. Laughter ensued, followed with even more puns and bad jokes. After a few more minutes, Sans checked his watch again:

 

“… welp. three to eleven. you’d better go ahead with paps; meanwhile i’ll stall for time and hold them back.”

“Haha, you’re right.” She stood up clumsily, releasing a tense breath. She glanced once more at the door on her left and her faint laugh immediately died. “They sure are taking their time in there.” Her tone sounded almost condescending.

“yeah.” Sans nodded somberly with frowning, pitch black eye-sockets. “never a good sign.”

 

 

She didn’t know whether she couldn’t see his pupils anymore because he was still sitting on the ground and it was a trick from the perspective because she was looking at him from above, or simply because they were gone as usual; but in any ways, she got his message.

Genocide already, then? Why did things always have to be so complicated?

Just in case this wasn’t clear enough: this day sucked.

 

And you haven’t even seen the end of it, buddy. I want some good laughs.

 

“still, uh. even if things go awry. i’m not gonna kill them. ok?” She gave him a confused look, and he explained: “i already told you, you won’t be affected by the resets, or “reloads” or whatever. it means that if they die and restart, you and papyrus will be separated and he’ll probably just come here instead before you have time to find him and distract him again. and i know for a fact that those timelines never end well.” he finished dryly.

“Ah. I see.” she muttered with disappointment. That definitely would make things harder… “But then how will you get through this? I know it takes a lot to beat you and that this time they won’t even stand a chance anyway, but… What will you do if you can’t kill them?”

“i’ll keep trying to convince them. either it works and then we’ll eventually meet at snowdin, or…” He looked away, sighing. “i’ll find some other way. don’t worry ‘bout me. go ahead, paps should be around any minute now.”

 

He surely was good at hiding his emotions. She felt like there was something more to it, and yet she couldn’t exactly put her finger on it, and…

Well. The least she could do to help was to get her part of the job done.

 

“I can’t remember exactly where the next SAVE Point is supposed to be” she added, “but one sure thing is, it shouldn’t be anywhere near this place. It’s a safe bet to say that all you have to do is stop them from passing that gate thingy.” she reasoned while pointing at said wooden, decaying and thus useless barrier that was standing about three hundred feet away from them.

“well. i think that’s feasible.” he winked jokingly. “now keep going; we’ll meet again back at my house.”

 

She nodded hurriedly before giving him a thumbs up and starting to run towards the gate. Sans glanced at her for a few seconds, but soon enough she was out of his sight.

Not that he would have cared, anyway. The human he was supposed to look out for was on the other side, and they could come out any minute now.

 

And the longer he waited, the deeper his frown was etching itself on his skull.

 

Until after a whole half-hour later, the door slowly and heavily creaked open slightly, spitting out a little child in a striped sweater. The skeleton looked down: their dusty blanched hands were seizing what looked like a plastic toy knife.

(It looked like plastic at least, but he had learned long ago that these appearances couldn’t be trusted.)

 

Well. At this point, he didn’t even know what else he could have been expecting. There was only one reason for that kid to stay in the Ruins for that long.

 

After all, it always took them some time to hunt down every single monster in the area.

 

 

They reached the gate. They stopped a dozen feet before the expected spot, hesitating a little; they kept walking after a few seconds, then stopped right in front of it; they seemed to stare at it and…

 

… the literal wall of ghastly bones glowing in an ethereal blue right in front of it, turning the gateway into an impassable barricade.

 

This, surely, was something new.

 

“heya.”

 

The kid hardly moved, but they couldn’t hide from him this little spark of surprise in their sudden shiver subtly running on their back.

For one moment, they had been so taken aback by the barrier of magic bones that they had completely forgotten about the expected part of the script.

 

“you’ve been busy, uh?”

 

Though this was definitely not to be expected.

Wasn’t he supposed to say that… later?

 

They didn’t turn back. They felt like for some reason they shouldn’t turn back.

Sans started sniggering.

 

“heheheh… just kidding. i know you already know those lines.”

 

Some mystical force seemed to make them turn back, making an entire one-hundred-and-eighty degrees flip in a split second. They didn’t seem to suffer from any loss of balance at all, despite what the laws of physics should have probably inflicted.

 

He was towering over them with this dark grin of his.

Another about-turn, just as swift and surreal as the first one. They seemed to glance back at the bony glowing wall once more, even though they didn’t look like they really were looking at anything. The skeleton chuckled as he immediately interpreted it as such.

The “entity” was surprised. They had noticed his behavior was “unusual.” So he could get his point through, right?

… Well, still, just in case— he could at least mess around a little more with them. As far as he knew, that was still a potentially dangerous threat. And seeing the kid stuck in that state, with that much dust on them… He just really couldn’t bring himself to act gently and forgive the guy that easily. Even though they couldn’t have known.

He wouldn’t give them a “bad time”; but he could still at least give them a good scare. That could only make him more credible, wouldn’t it?

 

“oh yeah, i just thought that the bars were too wide to block anyone. so i tried to fix it, ya know. how do you like it?”

 

They looked back at him (or so it seemed), and his grin enlarged itself in this trolling yet absolutely not genuine smirk as he had uttered that last question in the most cynical tone he could afford.

Yet his smile almost immediately dimmed as his face tensed.

He did not look mad. Not yet. Just… annoyed? Or even… bored…?

 

“so… two in a row? seriously? what’s gotten into your mind, are you just out of ideas?”

 

At this point, it was hard to know whether he was just being condescending or if he genuinely was teasing them.

He interpreted the lack of reaction from the kid as “proof” that the “entity” really was stunned to the point of just not knowing what they were supposed to do in response to this. His smirk went back up.

 

“heheh. yep. that’s right. i may or may not remember you, little freak. or maybe you’re not the same guy as the last time. probably. hard to know who’s behind the commands, y’know. not like i could actually see ya behind your screen. but from what i’m seeing… it’s still not your first time around, is it?” He still found it disturbing to just… talk to the kid, even though he wasn’t actually talking to them, and all that without actually knowing how the guy he was addressing was reacting. But… he had to keep going, right? That was their only hope. “… and uh, guess you found that out by now, but… i can’t really let you keep going that way. i’ve got some friends i want to protect, y’know. and a whole timeline to save, too. that kind of stuff.” He rolled his eyes and shrugged innocently. “guess i’ve just grown tired of being lazy. is that making sense?”

 

That light and overly innocent tone was now starting to make them sick.

Hopefully, the guy apparently was done with this pitiful nonsense.

 

“anyways. just like before, not really interested in fighting you, ya see. actually, y’know what? was kinda hoping y’could, i dunno, help us and stuff.” He paused slightly, sighing. It was hard to stay convinced that this could work when the kid was still not showing any sort of reaction, at all. “look bud. i don’t know who you are, or what you’re thinking right now, but. whatever you’ve done ‘till now, you’ve done it to real people. can’t say i’m not judging you for that, but eh. i know there’s a high chance you just really had no idea what you were doing. so, whoever you are… if you wanna fix your mess, then, that’d really make my job easier.”

 

Still no reaction. What a surprise.

 

“i don’t know the details of how that video game is working. i just know it’s supposed to run on a computer, and it has some specific options allowing you to basically time travel and all. as long as you’re connected, you’re the one with these powers. which means that for now, you’re the only one who can help us. so. we could just talk things through, or…” He suddenly stopped, glanced at the sky thoughtfully, then seemed even calmer than before. “wait. you know what? i’ve got a better idea.”

 

He took a step forward. The child stepped back, but the light glow from behind soon reminded them that it was not that much of a smart move.

The monster’s skull darkened as his pupils disappeared.

 

 

“how about you reset right now. redo it all once more, the right way this time. and if you come back with any dust on the kid’s hands, then you’re gonna have a bad time.” He straightened back up, his pupils back and his smile slightly more genuine— although it was still tense. “i mean. now that you know that you’d be hurting real people. you’re not actually gonna kill anybody, right?”

 

They seemed to frown as they dashed towards him and tried to stab him.

 

Although widely taken aback, the skeleton’s reflexes had already made him disappear – teleport – a few feet away, and he immediately raised his left hand in response. A full circle of giant azure bones raised all around the human, trapping them into an impassable prison cell.

 

“wrong answer.” he simply said, although his voice was still slightly trembling from the surprise. He warily lowered his arm, then chuckled almost genuinely as he started to pace calmly around the magic cage. “welp. your choice, i guess. though, uh, i’m disappointed. i really thought freaks like you didn’t actually do any of that on purpose. i mean, what are you even doing this for? you want some “new content” or something? i could give you something even better than an impassable fight if you want.”

 

The kid’s face was now back to a completely emotionless and fully unreadable expression. Sans couldn’t help but frown, this time. So much for trying to get them to help. So much for believing they weren’t doing this out of true cruelty.

 

“I’m just asking you to not kill anybody, is that so hard?” he eventually asked in annoyance.

 

The kid desperately tried to wait for the one moment he had seemed to lower his guard and threw their plastic knife at him, but the blow was even more easily dodged— and this time, he wasn’t taken by surprise at all.

The sharp little object landed in the snow, and Sans glanced at it for a few seconds before turning back towards his prey.

 

“whoops.” he stated ironically in an overdramatic tone. “looks like you’re out of knives. sorry pal.”

 

He winked, and he almost felt like he had just seen the child wince in rage. But he was not done yet.

 

“heh. guess you’ve always liked doing things the hard way, uh?”

 

The blue bones suddenly started bending towards them, not letting them any time to react. They stopped as soon as they were all perfectly aiming for their soul, and they were now ready to pierce it from all possible directions and angles. The kid was completely trapped.

 

“look. don’t be stupid, there’s no way out of this one. one slight move and you’re dead.” The kid effectively stayed completely still. Not that it changed them much. “but, unlike you, i’m not a fan of killin’, especially ‘cause i’m trying to talk to you here. so just, maybe if you reset and do it over the right way, we could talk this out next time. there’s quite a lot of things i’d like you to know actually. how about that?”

 

He waited a little while for the kid to react, bracing himself for the weirdness that followed with every jump in time. But nothing happened.

A sigh of disappointment came out, and he shrugged with slumped shoulders. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.

 

“suit yourself.” he tried to joke despite his lack of genuine smile. “i’ve got plenty of time.”

 

He sat in the snow in front of them, watching warily for any suspicious move they could make. In his opinion there weren’t many more possibilities left, but… that was exactly by thinking that he had cleared out every possible outcome that ended up differently than the one he wanted, that he had actually made such a big mistake and let all this mess happen again in the first place.

He wouldn’t be tricked that way twice.

 

The kid would not move. Not talk. Not do anything. Sans was getting bored, but he knew that tactic, and he knew all too well how it had ended the previous times.

And he wouldn’t let that happen. Not this time.

 

Normally, the way they were trapped right now, the slightest move would kill them instantly — or almost instantly. He was standing a reasonable distance away from the human, just in case they still could find a way out. He would at least have some time to react and — sadly — probably kill them for good. He didn’t want to have to resort to that for the exact reason he had given Dawn earlier, but at this point… Either they reset, or they would end up killed in any other way.

The third option, which would have been to simply take them to Snowdin with Papyrus and Dawn waiting for them, was simply out of the question right now. He could see it on the kid’s face, that would have been pointless and ridiculously dangerous.

 

How much time had passed, now? They started to look like standing this way was tiresome, and it surely was. One way or another, if they didn’t reset, they would be killed either by a deliberate move or by accidentally falling over.

 

And then all of a sudden, without any warning, the kid grew a wide open smirk. Sans only had the time to reason that it probably was the game’s version of “Chara” at this point—

 

They rushed directly into their prison’s bars. Sans didn’t have any time to react, and he could only watch as the kid suddenly fell limp on the floor, the shadow of their furiously crimson little heart staying stuck into the bones in midair, impaled from all sides and starting to fade.

 

And then it cracked.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 3 — Slice of Life

Alright. Papyrus’ Gate-Whose-Bars-Are-Way-Too-Wide-To-Stop-Anyone? Check. Not-So-Conveniently-Shaped-Anymore lamp? Check. Sans’ sentry station filled with bottles of ketchup, mustard and other random stuff she did not care about? Check.
Now, Papyrus himself… where was he supposed to be, again?

Sometimes she really wished she actually had played the game beforehand. Watching a couple Let’s Plays were enough to understand the whole story with all its details — or well, most of them anyway —, get the basic inside jokes, and love the characters. But now, remembering exactly with such precision the very moves of every single monster at each moment in the game was a completely different task; and that was way above her aptitudes. She didn’t have any kind of photographic memory after all, and—

‘Eidetic, Dawn’, signaled immediately from the back of her mind a friendly yet nerdy voice she hadn’t heard in quite a while now, reminding her once more about who really was the smart one in the gang. Even though ’Lys could behave just like some arrogant and stupid savant sometimes, she had never really cared because she knew she didn’t completely mean to sound that way— and now, she was actually starting to miss that dumb annoying girl that would teach everyone everything, because after all they still had been Best-Friends-Forever since fourth grade and…

… She stopped. For one moment she could not care less about the snow or anything else in the surroundings.

She did not have any time for her alone with her bare thoughts since the events from this morning, but now it came to her as an even more striking revelation:

She was stuck. Alone. Away from everyone she ever knew and bore in her mind.

There were some new amazing friends here of course, and some friends she did also care about, but— aside from Sans, it would not really count after all. If there were just about to be a ton of more Resets and each time they would all forget everything down to her very existence… Even if they would still maybe keep some kind of ‘slight reminiscence’ like Alphys had and the same way it seemed to work in the games after any Reset or ‘Reload’— it would never be the same.

And heck, she could not even dare imagine how worried sick her family had to be right now. What were they thinking that would have happened? That she had run away from her home and friends without any reason? Was kidnapped from her very bedroom? Did they think she was dead, even…?
’Lys would probably have told her parents about what she had witnessed along with the others, from their group chat on Starpe… Some testimony that would just make them even more confused than they probably were already…
Heh. She had been kidnapped, after all. And right now, considering the new circumstances, maybe they had a reason to be worried…

And then she suddenly came back to the awareness of where she was right now and what she was supposed to do, and immediately face-palmed tensely while cursing under her breath, nervously rubbing her warm fingers against her frozen forehead.

Great. Just great. Now she was starting to think back about her family and friends and how she oh so missed them all now that she was stuck in all this mess — and even worse than this, not even only spatially, but also with its fair share of time-screwing shenanigans.

Best moment for that, really.

She couldn’t help but sigh gloomily. She would have known a lot of her friends who would have been way better at doing this than her— if only because, unlike her, they were real fans of the game and had actually played it, to begin with. Heck, just by looking on the member list of the Temmie Village Forum, they had reached maybe… around two hundred and fifty fans by now? And she was most probably the only one of them who had not even started any run whatsoever.

If only Steven, that big theory obsessed guy, or ’Lys, who was both his conspiracy-buddy and an overly passionate Sans fanatic… If she ever made it home and if they ever learned one day about what she was living right now — assuming they would believe it actually happened, of course —, the two of them would be just so jealous. Well, not only them, but they would be the most envious of them all. And ironically, she knew they would have been way better at this and deserved it much more— in the right way, at least.
Heck, the guy had been freaking trying to map the whole Underground once, just for fun— and in order to try to check some potential theories that he could make up someday or something… She had never really tried to get his point. Nobody had.
Well— Amaryllis had, but ’Lys would always be ’Lys after all.

So if anyone would really have been perfect for these exact job and situation, it would have definitely been one of the two.

And yet she immediately remembered once more where she was and what she was here for, and immediately started to panic. For how long had she been spacing out like this? What if she had missed him and didn’t realize?! God, Sans was wrong to entrust her with this, she was so stupid…!

… Alright, don’t freak out. It was not eleven o’clock yet when she had left Sans, so— maybe she still had some time, and Papyrus had simply not arrived yet.
She quickly took her cellphone from her jeans’ pockets in order to see the time—
And she widened her eyes in bewilderment.

26 texts and 7 missed calls.
Wow.

So they really had been worried sick about her. She couldn’t help but bit her lips— no matter how much she felt guilty for leaving them hanging, now was not the time— Papyrus’ and countless monsters’ lives were at stake, after all. She would deal with those messages later.
Even if she had wanted to, she couldn’t have called them back right now anyway, since apparently her phone couldn’t get any signal.



… Wait WHAT?!

But… But then how did she even get those messages in the first place…?! T-That didn’t make any sense! Wasn’t she supposed to be trapped in another (virtual) world or something…? Maybe that had something to do with the ‘virtual’ part?
… Well, she would have quite a few questions for Sans, once everything would be over. If her phone still had somehow managed to keep some track of what was happening back in her home… Maybe they still had some hope left?

Anyways… It really was time to actively try to find Papyrus, now. Her phone was claiming it was ten o’clock, but maybe there was some weird kind of jetlag due to some more random time shenanigans and it actually was around eleven. In any ways she had to be quick and find him, he could be there any second now—

SANS! THERE YOU ARE!

… Unless he was to find her first.
It was the very first time she could hear his voice, but strangely it didn’t take her long and she didn’t even need to turn around to guess whose it could be.
If only from the tone, wording, and… that oh-so-hilariously-adorable loud voice of his. Well, at least she found it cute and amusing.
So. Time for action, then?

She took a deep breath while she was hearing those loud big footsteps coming closer in her back.
This is Papyrus. He’s nice. Even nicer than Sans. Don’t freak out. You’ll do fine. You LOVE that character, so don’t ruin this now.

He was just an almost six feet tall overactive skeleton after all, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
… Though in her case, maybe his potential friendly hugs could become lethal.

Alright. You can do this. YOU CAN DO THIS.

She turned around abruptly and raised her head mechanically. She gulped, but nervously waved at him with a forced trembling grin on her face.
… Yeah, he surely was tall.

OH. YOU’RE NOT SANS.” the skeleton stated with a tone filled with an obvious disappointment, though it still was just as loud as before. “SORRY. YOU’RE WEARING THE SAME JACKET AND YOU’RE ABOUT THE SAME HEIGHT, SO IT’S CONFUSING.
“I-It’s alright.” Her smile somehow started to become a little more genuine. She was about to keep going, but he already cut her short before she had time to even open her mouth:
NOW THAT I’M THINKING ABOUT IT, I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU BEFORE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?

She couldn’t help but grin mentally in victory. She had wanted to draw his attention on her and take benefit from this in order to subtly get him to stay away from his usual watch tour, and she had already guessed how hard it would be to actually convince Papyrus to stop looking for humans. Heck, even when he defeated the Player in the game, he was somewhat back to his post as soon as he had ‘captured’ Frisk… Right? She was not that sure about the details, that part was somewhat fuzzy in her mind.
Anyways— tricking Papyrus into letting his guard down while – at best – leading him to stay in Snowdin – and even better, indoors – would not be that much of an easy task, but… By now, she had thought about the best way to both entertain him and keep him away from any other potential human threat.

“Wait, do you mean that you know Sans?” She did her best to fake being surprised. “I just met a Sans right now, I was looking for directions and— uh, he told me that his… brother would be able to help me…? He told me that if I just said that I’m a human, you would know exactly what to do.”
WELL, OF COURSE THE GREAT PAPYRUS WOULD BE THE BEST PERSON YOU COULD MEET, NYEH HEH HEH!” he laughed, posing dramatically. “I WILL GLADLY HELP YOU WITH DIRECTIONS, HU—

He interrupted himself, suddenly widening his eye-sockets in shock. He rapidly bended his skull closer to her face and she nervously tried not to step back, but he had definitely finally connected the dots.
Well, she couldn’t blame him— he had never seen a human before, after all. In the game, he only knew that Frisk was one thanks to Sans being there to tell him the difference with a rock.

But, wait. Did that mean that Sans had already seen some humans before Frisk? Well, if he said that he had been able to keep his memories for a long time, maybe he simply remembered Frisk and that was it, but then how about from the time he could not remember…?
… Oh, screw it. That didn’t matter anymore. Maybe there were some theory fanatics in the Undertale fandom, but she was definitely not one of them.

WAIT. YOU’RE A HUMAN?!?!?!

She shrugged happily, faking her most innocently oblivious look.

“Sure.” she simply said with a cheerful slightly trembling smile.

Papyrus gasped (she preferred not question how a skeleton could do that to begin with), holding his skull into his hands as he apparently was trying not to let his internal scream lose its ‘internal’ qualifier. Then he straightaway somehow managed to regain his calm and rapidly stepped a few feet back, posing once more with an overly epic finger pointing at her theatrically.

Oh come on, don’t laugh, you’ll blow your cover!

HUMAN!” Damn, his voice was even louder than before! And that was telling a lot considering his current state of mind; wasn’t he excited and jubilating right now! She really was doing her best trying not to laugh at the top of her lungs, this was just so amazing. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS THIS AREA! I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL STOP YOU!

Oh, this was perfect.
He was just so… himself. Maybe her spine was still not liking this as much as her fangirl side did, but she could not care less. That was Papyrus, her very first favorite character in the whole fandom, and he was just the way he had always been. And that was perfect.
Maybe she would have preferred him not to strictly follow the script — he was already saying that in the game after all, wasn’t he? —, but right now she felt like it didn’t really matter and she would just be contented with anything he could say or do because that was The Great and Unique Papyrus.

“And, uh… What if I surrender? Like, right now?”

Not like she had planned to leave Snowdin anyways, right? Right now, she was even supposed to be his temporary (hopefully?) guest, so…
In any ways, she really hoped she would not have to follow strictly the script there. If she had to fight him… Well, not only did she absolutely not know how good she would be at dodging things — she would probably suck at it —, but if the bullets in question were to be magic flying bones or something like that…
NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPENOPETHANKYOU.
Well, explanations would be rather redundant by now, wouldn’t they?

In any case… Papyrus seemed completely taken aback by such offer.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOU… ARE LETTING ME CAPTURE YOU ON PURPOSE?
“Well… Yep? Somewhat?” she shrugged hesitantly. “I don’t want to fight you, Papyrus. I… would never beat you anyway.”

Please make this work. It has to work.

HOW SELFLESS… YOU WOULD BE READY TO SACRIFICE YOUR FREEDOM JUST SO THAT I COULD ACHIEVE MY LIFELONG DREAM…!?
“Um. Sure?”

Not like she really was afraid of losing her ‘freedom’ because of him, anyways.

NO… NO, THIS IS NOT RIGHT! THIS IS NOT FAIR! I SHOULD LET YOU A CHANCE! HUMAN, I CAN’T LET YOU GIVE UP JUST NOW! I’M SURE YOU ARE MUCH BETTER THAN YOU THINK! I SHOULD LET YOU THE CHANCE TO PROVE IT TO YOURSELF!

Dawn started to grow pale.

Well. Now, this is when things become a little more interesting.

“P-Papyrus, seriously, I-I t-told you I d-don’t mind— m-maybe we could just, I-I dunno, h-hang out over t-there and just f-forget about the fights…? T-There must be a town beyond that forest, right?”

Nothing could save her now.
At least, that she thought… until some odd growl suddenly broke the silence and made her blush awkwardly.

… Oh, you can’t be serious. Really?

WHAT WAS THAT STRANGE NOISE? WAS THAT YOU, HUMAN?
“… Yeah.” she admitted shamefacedly, her face almost as red as the skeleton’s scarf. “That was m-my stomach. I-I actually didn’t eat anything this morning.”

Sans had taken them to Alphys’ without getting breakfast, and after that they hadn’t really had the time to take a break and get something to eat, apart from Alphys’ tea. And now it was only one hour left before lunch. Of course her stomach would not appreciate that.

… Ugh. Only now did she realize how hungry she really was.

OH NO! HUMAN, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME SO EARLIER?!

Ooh. Maybe miracles did exist after all.

“Papyrus… Are you saying you can cook?” she asked innocently, doing her best to hide the fact that of course she already knew the answer to that question.

Expectedly, the monster ‘Nyeheheh’-ed gleefully as he praised his (lack of) amazing cooking skills, and she didn’t even need to retort anything because he immediately seized her and—

Wait whoa.

She instinctively closed her eyes.

Alright. An almost six-feet-tall skeleton was holding her over his right shoulder, galloping in the snow at an unknown speed, and gladly chanting “NYEH HEH HEH!” on the way.
She could survive. She had to be strong. He was probably leading them to Snowdin right now and that was probably what Sans wanted and that was perfectly all according to the plan and she COULDN’T AFFORD TO FAINT RIGHT NOW SERIOUSLY COME ON YOU CAN BE STRONGER THAN THIS YOU’RE DOING THIS FOR PAPYRUS FOR PETE’S SAKE.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Keep your eyes shut. BREATHE AGAIN.

After some undetermined amount of time, he put her down on something solid that didn’t feel like snow. Her legs were still slightly shaking and she was panting stressfully, but as she leaned her back against a wall…
… Alright, they were indoors. Good news.

ARE YOU ALRIGHT HUMAN?” Aw, he was so sweet. “IS IT BECAUSE YOU REALLY DIDN’T EAT ANYTHING?!

Well, not really, but there’s no way Sans is gonna let me explain that to you.

And anyways, she did not really want to have to tell him either.
She vaguely nodded — it had to take some part in this anyway, probably —, and hoped that would work. That he would just forget about the fight, cook her some plate of his horrible spaghetti that she would eat anyways if only in the hope that he would not want to fight her afterwards, and keep him indoors at all costs.

She finally opened her eyes, and noticed they were actually not in the skeletons’ living room, but instead in that ‘doghouse’ Papyrus would lock Frisk in when he would capture them.

… Well, she had told him that she surrendered, after all. It wasn’t so bad.

He brought her a plate of spaghetti (which he probably had already prepared beforehand, there were just so many of those boxes in the fridge), and she thanked him. She was about to just start eating in front of him and try to keep his attention and get him to stay around and then all they would have to do would be to wait for Sans.

Yeah. That was a good plan.

And yet she immediately saw that he was leaving and she couldn’t let him do that.

“W-Where are you g-going?” she asked nervously.
I HAVE TO GO FIND SANS. I’M SURE HE’S SLACKING OFF AGAIN. AND YOU TELL ME THAT HE LET YOU GO! THAT LAZYBONES WAS SUPPOSED TO STOP YOU!
“No!” she screamed in panic. The skeleton stopped and turned back towards her, staring in deep confusion… And yeah, now she had to find a good reason for him to want to stay with her without getting him to know about Sans fighting the Player… “Y-You can’t! You must stay here— because i-if you don’t stay here— uh… I-I could… escape?”

Oh of course. Best excuse ever.

“Look,” she continued while uneasily stepping between two of the thick wood pillars, “the bars are way too wide to block anyone. I could even escape right now if I wanted to.”
OH MY GOD, YOU’RE RIGHT!” Papyrus shrieked in realization.
“Yeah, so you see now you have to stay and look after—”
I’M GOING TO FIX THIS LITTLE MISTAKE. THANKS, HUMAN!

A sudden wall of magic glowing bones raised from the ground to the ceiling between them, and she fell backwards on the parquet as her eyes widened to the little surprise. He gleefully asked her to wait as he would come back with tools and logs, as he started to race towards his house, happily and obliviously chanting “NYEH HEH HEH!

“… That’s not what I meant.” she eventually muttered, even though no one was there to hear her anymore.

But of course he was already gone.

For a few minutes she tried to find out if there would be any way to get past those white glowing b—things, by maybe trying to, uh, use something reachable around her to break them? Those were solid, right…?
Strangely enough, the doghouse seemed much messier than she remembered from the one or two playthroughs in which the player had deliberately lost to Papyrus. Maybe because it really did look like a garage –slash– warehouse with a lot of tools and cartons and that besides the ‘gate’ thing similar to the one at the entrance of the forest and the general aspect of the cabin itself… Oh well, she could still see the chewy-toy-thing in one of those packages in the corner.
Apparently, she probably just hadn’t left time for the skeleton to really arrange the space into something comfortable. He always was a step ahead of Frisk in the game, so maybe he simply was actually creating the ‘doghouse’ only after meeting an actual human?

In any ways, it would actually be helpful this time. There simply had to be something of some utility around here, now— a broom? Well, not the most terrifying of all weapons, but that would do. It was big enough to spare her more than three feet of distance from the magic wall she was about to try to break, and still reach it. She timidly tried a few shots… Then hit the ‘bars’ with all her might. She was doing this for Papyrus, after all. And here goes nothing, like that other guy said.

… Damn. Those things really were solid stuff. Not even one ‘scratch’ or whatever those things could bear for damage. And were those black marks on the wooded stick actual burns…?
Yikes.

She was starting to plan on potentially trying to escalate the walls and escape through one of the windows, when suddenly the B-things disappeared.
For a few seconds she expected Papyrus to open the door and appear with tools and logs or whatever… But nobody came.

That was not the eeriest part, though.

At the same time, she had felt as if some weight had suddenly been lifted from her shoulders, and now as she started to feel cold she finally understood what that meant—
Sans’ jacket had also disappeared, for some reason. She looked around nervously, expecting it to have maybe fallen down or something— but there was nothing.

That, was… weird.

Another of those things she would probably ask Sans about as soon as she would get back to him. Right now though— she had to find Papyrus. She had a bad feeling about all this, and she had to find him as soon as possible.
She raced towards the door, but it was locked. Obviously.

She sighed deeply and turned back, staring up at the windows which were standing around five or six feet away from the ground…

Well, back to the initial plan, then. She started to look for potential boxes or chairs and other things to pile up, and eventually managed to make some unsteady-but-still-steadier-than-the-last-few-tries amalgam of a partly-broken stool standing on a few cartons before carelessly climbing and finally reaching one of the windows. Thank God, those ones were not locked. Once she had opened them without actually losing her balance, she let her head and the first half of her body lean outside as she breathed for some air…

Ooh, it was cold.

And the ground was kind of… distant. She did not really have any fear of heights, but that was definitely higher than she had expected.
Well, don’t look down and just jump. There’s some snow to break the fall.

She kept trying to crawl to the other side for a few minutes, but apparently that unstable equilibrium from below her feet was not that helpful.

there’s a door too, you know.

She jumped and almost lost her balance upon hearing so suddenly such unexpectedly familiar voice, but as she lowered her gaze towards the ground, she noticed one short skeleton grinning cynically at her.

“It’s locked, genius.” she whined grumpily.
it’s locked from the inside, genius.” he jokingly remarked, ironically raising two amused nonexistent eyebrows.

… Really?

She bit her lips while pouting as her cheeks started to blush in embarrassment, but soon enough she simply said that she was coming and tried to gesticulate in order to get down.

Only a few seconds later, some big noise resonated from the doghouse. She immediately grew pale and suddenly stopped moving.
Sans stared at her with actual bewilderment.

… don’t tell me you just…
“… I-I think the stool fell over. I’m stuck.” she shamefacedly muttered, tensing her grip onto the outside’s wood planks. The skeleton face-palmed and sighed exasperatingly.
oh my god you actually did it.
“I-I’m sorry!”

He suddenly disappeared, still face-palming. Yet she didn’t have time to wonder where he was gone, because immediately she felt that oh-so-oddly-familiar feeling of her soul being magically gripped, and a strong force pulled as she was politely invited to let go off her holds. He levitated her back to the ground from the inside, already using his left hand to unlock and open the door.

“Where’s Frisk?” she asked uneasily as he quickly slammed the door and started pacing.
dead. well, they were ten minutes ago. there’s no time to waste, kid.” he gravely uttered. “there’s been a reload, and i don’t know how much time we have left before they come out this time. they could be quicker.
“A-And uh, w-where is Papyrus…?”

Sans merely looked at his watch on his left wrist, frowning tensely and almost giving her the impression that he was gritting his teeth.
It was pretty late already, hmm…? Surely fooling around had cost them quite a lot of time.

eleven-twenty. where were you at that time? paps should still be around if we’re lucky.
“I-I don’t know!” she blurted out nervously, shamefacedly lowering her face and rubbing her arms. Geez, now that she didn’t have that vest anymore, it really was cold. “I d-don’t even know what time it was when we met.”

He engulfed his arms back into his pockets and his eye-sockets darkened slightly as he looked thoughtful; but yes, he should have seen that one coming. She didn’t have any means to effectively look at the time after all, unlike him. And even if she had… Well, either it would ‘vanish’ after each Reset the way her jacket had, or it would definitely not readjust itself to the new time and always keep track of the first timeline, and would end up being utterly useless.

Well, what a shame. A time traveler who didn’t have the time? One might as well say that was just as useful as an explorer without his compass.
And that would be oh so convenient.

look.” he eventually sighed resolutely. “you know what, i’ll drop you at the gate. you race towards snowdin, so if paps is going back, you’ll have to see him at some point anyway. and then just tell him whatever you want and get him as far from the ruins as you can. i don’t care what you tell him, just get him to move.

She stared at him blankly as she heard that slight little spark of anger in his tone. The last time she had seen him like this… She really had had a bad time. Psychologically speaking.
This could mean only one thing: he was pissed.
His patience was running out already…?

i won’t be keeping them alive for long this time.” he explained somberly. “so stay alert, there’s probably gonna be a few more reloads. try to keep track of it as precisely as you can, and each time find papyrus as soon as possible. i know that’s gonna be tough, but that’s all we can do.” He glanced at her and for one moment his glare seemed to soften, glimmering with some traces of… hope? “you told me they’d get bored only after two or three times, right?
“I…” She hesitated, but soon bit her lips and nodded. “I hope so.”

He raised his left hand. She took it shakily, but determinedly.

alright. let’s go.

He pulled her and she followed for a few steps before seeing the landscape shift around them. Trees growing out of nowhere, houses vanishing, some kind of wood gate… Sans immediately let go off her, but stopped. Dawn had started to walk towards his sentry station already, but couldn’t help but turn back as she noticed he was not moving at all.
He was staring at the wood-looking bridge below the gate.

There was something red flickering faintly on the ground. Contrary to the rest of the equipment, which had probably already fallen over the edges of the little bridge. The wind was now threatening to take that last piece of cloth away, but something was keeping it strongly attached to the planks.

Dust.

She opened her mouth, but her throat was dry and aching and cold. The wind ran into her flannel shirt and made her shiver as she felt her legs shaking weakly.

Then Sans spoke.

What is he doing here? I thought you had to keep him away from here as soon as possible.

His tone was low and emotionless. She could oh so well recognize that voice.

One job, kid. You had one job.

She had failed him. Papyrus was dead because she had been so stupid and cost them so much time. Maybe if she hadn’t been so idiot they could have made it in time. Stopped them. Saved him. And instead he had had to help her descend from a window she had escalated herself because she could not even see that she could have opened the door on her own all along and met him in Snowdin, preventing him from spending a full dozen of minutes to try to find her.

And he was not even mad.

His brother was dead and it was her fault and he was not mad.

Or if he was, then he really was good at hiding it… On second thought, of course he was. He had always been. And right now he was furious, but… this here was some livid kind of fuming. Some chilling anger fueling a freezing balefire of icing wrath.

That was when she saw it. Hung onto the bridge, stuck between two plates, menacing to fall into the void below any minute now—
Her jacket. Or well, the blue jacket Sans had given her.

That was when she understood.
The jacket had been returned to the exact spot where she had been standing at the moment of the Reload. She hadn’t, but the jacket had.
And Papyrus had seen the jacket. Most probably believing — with good reason — that it was Sans’. That he had lost it, maybe.
And he probably would have wanted to return it. Naturally.

By the look in the monster’s eye-sockets, she saw he had figured it out as well.
It had been her fault if Papyrus had unknowingly just run to his cruel fate. Indirectly.

After a few minutes, he sighed. A long tense sigh hiding much more than it was trying to release from his ribcage and his nonexistent lungs.
And then he spoke again.

… it’s alright. i didn’t expect you to make it right the first time, anyway.

He noticed she had started to sob. He couldn’t blame her, he too had been crying the first times. And in a way, he still was. He still wanted to. Because he should.
She shakily took a few steps closer. A couple of times, he would see her legs wince under the weight and almost expect her to lose her balance and stumble into the snow.

She stared at the pile of white dust and rubbed her arms. Sans understood at the sight of her livid skin and purplish lips that she was not trembling only because of the circumstances – and probably her phobia, which for once was turned on for an actual reason –, and he slowly got closer before carefully wrapping his hoodie over her shoulders.
She did not even seem to have noticed, still immobile and stuck in her trance, her wide crying eyes staring at the void, and the void staring back into an ocean of trembling chocolate.

“I could have done this…” she eventually muttered, her lips hardly moving and her voice barely audible, even while he was right behind her back.

He closed his eye-sockets.

you wouldn’t have known.” he calmly stated.
“I d-did this.” she repeated. “We s-should have made it in time.”
we were caught off-guard. you weren’t prepared for any of this.

She suddenly felt a slight and warm weight lifting from her right shoulder, then heard some footsteps.
Only then did she realize the skeleton had been so close and put a gloved hand on her back and actually comforted her all along, and that now—

wait here. i’ll send them back to the ruins.

He was about to fix it.
He was about to fix her mistakes.

Right before he was gone, she thought she had heard him mutter one last sentence.

let’s just hope they didn’t save after this.

Why did she have to be so useless…?

After only a few minutes, she heard in the distance some loud beaming explosion.
Probably one of his blasters.
Only a few seconds later she saw the pile of dust dissolve into nothingness and felt the wind come back licking sadistically her neck as Sans’ hoodie was gone as well. Far away on the other side of the gate, she saw the skeleton come out of the bushes and glare back. As if to say: This is your second try. Don’t mess this up.

She decided she should keep going. She saw her jacket in the snow a little further around Sans’ sentry station and nervously put it back, not even caring to really put her arms into the sleeves this time. She felt like she would be cold anyways.

SANS! THERE YOU ARE!

She turned around wordlessly.
She really was cold.

OH. YOU’RE NOT SANS.” Papyrus stated with a tone filled with an expected disappointment, though it still was just as loud as before.

And just as loud as the times before that.
She could hardly feel her feet anymore.

SORRY. YOU’RE WEARING THE SAME JACKET AND YOU’RE ABOUT THE SAME HEIGHT, SO IT’S CONFUSING.

She really tried to say something. Anything. But it simply wouldn’t come out.

NOW THAT I’M THINKING ABOUT IT, I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU BEFORE. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?

She opened her mouth to answer.
She should answer.
That was rude not to answer.
She was cold.
He was dead.
She was scared.
He was a pile of dust.
Just a few seconds ago.
She really should answer now he was starting to look worried.
What are those things on her cheeks is she crying.
It’s warm she likes those.
The snow on her face is so much colder so she keeps crying.
Tears are so warm.
Tears are beautiful.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 4 — Pasta and Lemonade

She woke up.

Well, no matter how much time it took her to slowly recover her consciousness right after this first realization, she still managed to remember despite her fuzzy head what had happened—
Or, well, to be more accurate, to remember that she actually had no idea what had happened. At all.

This realization came along with another one…
For some reason this was all feeling very oddly familiar.

Except that she could still see some light from a few feet away on her left… It was that kind of rays of light that go straight only because of half-closed shutters…
Yeah, definitely not the basement. A basement couldn’t have any windows, by definition.

She could not really remember ever seeing that room, though… It felt like she had seen it somewhere already, but she had definitely never seen it ‘for real.’ But it was from some place in the game, she had seen it during one of those playthroughs…
She tried to get up, but her clumsy and limp gestures due to her foggy dizziness were not helping and she stumbled over something soft that was enwrapping her legs and she fell on the floor floppily, grumbling an inaudible mutter that she barely managed to hear herself. She was hardly aware of the large ‘thump’ that resonated when her head hit the parquet and it somehow took a few seconds before her brain managed to even process it was actually painful.
Yet somehow she simply decided not to move anymore. Hanging droopily over something that felt maybe like a bed, with her head on the floor, her arms dropping approximately anywhere between the mattress and the void, and both her legs still stuck under the soft sheets.
They were warm. She liked that.

What had happened again…?

The door opened. Whoever was there now, they had probably heard her fall and were now coming to check on her maybe, but she could not see who it was.

comfortable enough, kid?” a deep voice joked, chuckling light-heartedly.

She remembered that voice. She had heard it before. Why was he laughing? She was comfortable but not comfortable and her head was fuzzy and now it hurt. So maybe it meant she was not comfortable.
She felt like her brain was really slow going right now.
She tried to say something, but her throat could only grunt. Maybe it was because of her position right now with her head upside-down.

The voice chuckled again. That was annoying.
She really felt like this was very familiar and yet her head was aching and she could not…

And then it suddenly hit her.

Papyrus. W-Where was Papyrus? Oh God what on Earth had happened?!
She tried to stand up but her panic and headache and the sheets and pretty much everything else made her merely goof around and wave her arms and try to regain her balance. The voice came back, slightly taken aback this time and trying to calm her, but she could not see in this dark room and the sheets were all over her legs and she could not stand straight and oh God she had to find Papyrus holy crap was he okay he had to be okay oh no it was her fault he was dead for sure it was her fault she was so useless.

And then a dim dark blue light lit up from inside her chest and she felt it pull her gently back into the bed. That was weird and yet she somewhat knew that feeling and for some reason now she felt calm. Maybe because she saw that the skeleton was calm himself.

geez kid, relax. it’s over now.

He turned up the light and she finally remembered his name.
Sans.
It was Sans and he said it was alright.

She did as she was told and took a deep breath, clumsily raising a shaking hand to her forehead.
In. Out. It was over. If Sans said it was over then it was over.

feelin’ better?” Sans smiled calmly.

Idiot. He was always smiling.
She breathed in. Out.

“Where is Papyrus…?” she breathed faintly.
in the kitchen.” the skeleton shrugged lightly. “don’t worry, he’s fine. and i’d even say that he’s better than ever. you really made his day.” he chuckled, and it seemed like his stuck-smirk was somewhat enlarging itself into a genuine grateful smile.

She sighed in relief.

Now that her mind was – more or less – awake and clear enough, she finally recognized Papyrus’ race-car-shaped bed and couldn’t help but blush slightly in embarrassment.
Yeah, if she had ended up fainting right under his watch… It was expected from him to worry and do anything he could do to help even a mere stranger. He was the Great Papyrus after all.
And he was so nice… They both were. How could Sans be grateful after what she had just done? She had basically just let them down, and… well…

heh. i know i told you the more you’d do the worse it’d usually end, but who thought the reverse would be true?” He shrugged again and gave her an amused look. “fainting in front of him and letting him carry you all the way to his room and take care of you all the time. brilliant. are you trying to get lazier than me? ‘cause i’m not sure i like competition, kid.

He winked, and she couldn’t help but snort. And yet it still was a weak one, and even though she was relieved and happy and almost wanted to see him and see for herself that he was fine and thank him because he was so nice even though he couldn’t remember what had happened— she suddenly felt cold and brought the blanket back to her face.
By the look on the monster’s face, he had seen it coming because his laugh had immediately stopped and… was he giving her that caring and almost concerned ‘big brother’ look there?

seriously, though. are you alright?

So he did know she hadn’t done it on purpose, in the end.
Well duh, of course he would. He wasn’t stupid to that point. He wasn’t stupid at all, even.
She had been the stupid one.

She nodded abruptly. But anyone could have seen she did not mean it to the slightest.
She glanced down towards the grey sheets.

And suddenly she started to sob.

She wanted to stop. It was over. Papyrus was fine so why was she crying she shouldn’t be crying. But the more she tried the heavier the tears felt.

At first Sans could not bring himself into doing anything, because whatever he could do, he would probably just make it worse; that kid’s necrophobia would not wear off just like that after all… And then he remembered that yes, she had actual necrophobia, and that she had seen an actual corpse.
Living skeletons she already knew and maybe even ‘liked’ to some extent were one thing. Dealing with one of those same skeletons as an actually dead pile of dust… Of course she could not handle it. He had never handled it himself, especially not at first, and having to see his own brother turn to dust multiple times would never be a thing he would ever get ‘accustomed’ to— But in a way, he had to admit it: he had gotten used to this.
It still was her first time and she had a damn phobia about this to make it even worse.

He hesitated for a few more seconds, but he eventually came closer, slowly sitting on the end of the bed.

He needed to talk. Have that talk he wished he could have had on his own first Resets but never had the chance to have because he had been alone with this.
Until now.

careful, kid.” He tried to joke. Maybe he was not that good at comforting people but at least he was good with jokes. “if paps sees you with that face, he’s gonna want to hug you.

She chuckled emptily, but then clumsily tried to get out of the sheets and merely sit on the mattress, next to him.

“At this point, I don’t even know whether I’d mind if he did.” she muttered, laughing as her salty tears poured in her mouth.
heh.” he chuckled, then paused for a short time. “i knew you were the type to love hugs. i mean, not like that’s the first thing you do whenever you start to feel bad, right? look, even right now you’re trying to hug yourself.

She noticed she had indeed unconsciously started to wrap her arms against her legs and her cheeks nervously blushed even more than they already were before because of her crying, and the monster laughed again, quietly.
So yeah, she was a hugger. And the only people she could potentially hug right now were not available because of her dumb phobia. So what. She could handle it on her own. It was over after all. She was a grown-up now she was strong she could totally…
Oh who was she kidding. Of course she couldn’t.

She hiccupped.

Immediately, she felt a hand on her shoulder and shivered. But strangely it did not feel that bony. When she turned towards him she realized he was still wearing his gloves.
She was still feeling bad for this but it was soft and she liked it.

dawn…

Wow, it really was rare from him to call her by her name. Maybe it was even the very first time he ever did that.
He looked like he was about to say something, but he stopped, as if maybe he thought that was some rather stupid thing to say. So they stayed like this for a few more minutes… until he finally broke the silence:

do you need anything?
“A hug.” she blurted out immediately, without thinking, staring blankly at the void.

And yet she straight away bit her lip and face-palmed, snorting awkwardly and crying all at the same time. She tried to utter some more embarrassed apologies, and the skeleton would not answer.
Then he pulled back his hand away from her shoulders and shoved his hood over his skull.

i guess you might wanna close your eyes or something.” he smirked calmly.

His tone was making it clear that he would not force her, but… Well, it was obvious that she needed it. That was some very stupid gesture, and the global awkwardness was making it even sillier than it already was… And yet it really felt like it would help her feel better. Besides, no one was watching, right? Not like anyone would be there to misinterpret with some random stupid thoughts. No ‘Player’ would be there stalking right now, after all. Heh.

And that probably would be much more comforting than a surprise bear-hug from Papyrus, no matter his initial intent.
He would have gladly let his brother comfort her. Paps was so much better at comforting people and he was such an amazing hugger. But… Well, her phobia really was making it so much more difficult, and even though his extreme optimism had always helped him when he needed it— it probably lacked… subtlety for her case.

He was not that much willing to do this, but she had silently nodded, not looking at him, and obliged in a tense breath.
Don’t think about the bones. It’s just Sans.

She soon felt two hooded strong yet cautious arms slowly wrap her and guide her chest towards his jacket, leading her head to lean over his right shoulder. She shakily tried to hug back the hoodie but she could not close her embrace any further. The coat didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m s-so-sorry…” she tried to mutter between two sniffles.
don’t be, kid. this is the happiest ending we’ve had in a long time. you did a great job.

The hood was so soft. She liked the little fur around it it was tickling her neck and making her laugh. It smelled like ketchup. That was funny.

But she would not stop crying.

it’s okay, dawn.” the hoodie said in a low tone. “it’s over now.

She was still seeing the dust. It was strange she had never been scared of dust before.

“H-He was dead, Sans…”
no. shh. paps is not dead. paps is downstairs cooking us spaghetti. paps is fine.
“Paps is fine.” she repeated weakly, as to try to persuade herself of this sweet little relative half-truth.

Somewhere else he was dead maybe but right now right here he is fine.
The best piece of evidence for this was that he was right here right now and saying something about letting him take part in the group hug.

… Wait what?

The next thing she realized when she opened her eyes and got out of her sort-of-trance was that she was held up in midair stuck in a big hug along with Sans by the sweetest naivest adorablest monster of the whole Underground.
Oh, and, that she was screaming. Also that.

Sans ordered him to put them down and the taller skeleton obliged promptly, probably surprised by the rough tone he had been anxiously scolded with. Sans immediately apologized, stating that thanks bro that was really sweet but you kinda freaked her out this time, but he soon came back to check on the trembling human.
She was doing better than he had feared, but she was still struggling to handle her current hyperventilation (alongside a potential near heart attack) and, once more, trying to enwrap her arms against her chest as some silly attempt to hug herself.

He sighed deeply. This would be tough.

ARE YOU ALRIGHT HUMAN?” Papyrus asked, genuinely concerned. Of course he wouldn’t know.

But wait, how could he remember that she was a human…? Oh well, Sans had definitely told him obviously.

“Y-Yeah.” she stuttered, trying to lurk a weak smile on her face. “J-Just surprised. Tha-at’s all. That w-was really n-nice though. T-Thanks.” Damn her teeth were rattling.
YOU ARE VERY WELCOME HUMAN!” the taller skeleton laughed. “MY BROTHER AND I WILL BE GLAD TO TAKE CARE OF YOU UNTIL YOU FEEL BETTER. SPEAKING OF WHICH…

He suddenly crossed his arms and looked like he was about to scold her. So adorable!

IT IS NOT VERY HEALTHY TO FALL ASLEEP ANYWHERE IN THE SNOW. SANS DOES THAT ALL THE TIME AND NOW LOOK AT HIM!
yeah kid. i know that snow is comfortable, but it’s really chilling to the bone.” his brother winked, and Dawn snorted.
SANS NOW IS NOT THE TIME! THE HUMAN DOESN’T HAVE TO HEAR YOUR TERRIBLE JOKES!” Papyrus groaned.
“Oh, it’s alright!” she came in. “Really, that’s snow problem.” That was just some recycled joke she had heard a hundred times on the internet, but as long as it was a stupid pun.

Sans chuckled, as the tallest skeleton yelled a hysteric DON’T ENCOURAGE HIM! and the human now had burst into loud laughs.

ANYWAY.” he sighed. “I CAME HERE TO TELL YOU THAT MY GREATEST SPAGHETTI ARE READY. COME DOWN FOR LUNCH WHENEVER YOU WANT.” he deadpanned, about to leave the room and close the door behind him.

Close the door he did, but a split second later he just shoved it back open, adding AND NO PUNS ALLOWED! in an angry yell before slamming it again. Sans and Dawn couldn’t help but stare at each other after that, before immediately exploding in snorts and giggles of all sorts.

“Seriously, though.” she eventually uttered. “Lunch? What time is it?”
one o’clock.” Sans simply said. “you’ve been napping for around an hour and a half.

She hummed thoughtfully, but… well… It felt like that morning had lasted forever.
But yeah, of course it had, because time-screwing Reloads after all, and all that stuff. And now it was only one o’clock in the afternoon and time to eat. And oh yeah she really was hungry she still hadn’t eaten anything aside from a few bites of Papyrus’ spaghetti from two or… a certain amount of Reloads ago.
Damn, she would never get used to this.

“How many Resets happened while I was out?” she asked. She would feel oh so bad if Sans had had to deal with that without her while she would just have been snoozing…
none, actually.” He sounded surprised as well, but genuinely relieved. “maybe they decided it wasn’t funny anymore without you?” he teased, jokingly winking.

She chuckled too, playfully remarking that they couldn’t even know about her very existence anyway since he hadn’t let her meet them; but none of them really was in the mood of being serious and really talking about such topics with actual logic. Logic is boring and makes your head hurt. Ignorance is bliss.

really though, it was their third time. you’re actually pretty good at predicting them, i admit.” the monster added.
“It was just a guess, really. But that’s a good thing it worked.” She sighed in relief, then glanced at him expectantly. “So… it’s over?”
let’s call it ‘break time.’ guess we could call the rest of the day off if we’re lucky.” he corrected. “anyway. we’re not gonna leave paps hangin’ any longer, are we?

When Sans opened the room’s door and Dawn followed him downstairs, they found the television switched on and Papyrus waiting for them in the couch, a plate of spaghetti in his hands and the remote sitting next to him. He greeted them gleefully and his excitement was apparently telling that they had come right at the best moment for Mettaton’s show to begin— well, rather, the ‘most interesting part’ of the show, to put it by his own words.
He invited them to sit next to him, as he went to the kitchen and brought back a few seconds later two more plates.
Well. To be blunt, it looked good. At least, uh… not as bad as the last time she had accidentally tasted it…?

Well, she had to be honest there, it was better than the first time. At least it wasn’t too charbroiled? It was somewhat closer to ‘overcooked’ than to ‘carbonized’, so that was a… good improvement?

Mettaton’s show was pretty much like she had imagined it, and close to what it was like in the game when Frisk –slash– the Player would take part in it. Dawn had never been particularly fond of the guy, and she definitely preferred his offstage behavior; not that she really disliked him, but… well, he was just too… too much. On many levels.
Seriously, she found him slightly unbearable whenever there was a camera around.
But maybe she just had problems with overconfident people in general.

Then again, they were here. The three of them, sitting in a couch, Sans in the middle and carefully making sure to still let her some space, and having fun. Well, Papyrus was having fun, and if there apparently was one thing she was sharing with his brother, it was this feeling of being happy not because they were particularly enjoying themselves, but just because someone was happy.
And because it was over. She oh so loved repeating those words over and over in her mind: thank God, it is over. Even though Sans had said it could not last forever and that anyone could just Reset anytime… It was good to just leave it at that and forget about the details. Not think about the unknown. And who knows, maybe the next one would be a Pacifist?

SANS, HAVE YOU SEEN MY PHONE? I CAN’T FIND IT.

The human looked at him, puzzled — was Papyrus supposed to lose his cellphone? She didn’t remember anything about that —, but obviously she had no idea how to help him. Well, she didn’t even know what his phone was supposed to look like in the first place.
Sans hardly moved, slightly poking a curiously tired and calm look towards him.

nope.” he simply retorted, shrugging.
I COULDN’T GO TO SEE UNDYNE, SHE MUST BE WORRIED!” he whined. “I SHOULD CALL HER NOW AND TELL HER THAT EVERYTHING IS OKAY. AND THAT WE EVEN FOUND A HUMAN, AND THAT SHE IS VERY NICE!

Aw. Of course he had apparently spent all that time looking after her, so of course he couldn’t have been to Waterfall to see Undyne and tell her anything. He was so sweet!
Though… she was not sure telling her right away was supposed to be a good idea. Not like she was listening to him even during a Pacifist timeline, so…
Yeah, if she were to meet Undyne at some point, the monster would definitely want to kill her on sight.
She would have liked meeting her on friendly terms — especially since they technically were both friends with Alphys anyway, uh… well, almost? —, but considering the fact that it would be particularly tough to explain down to all the details all the reasons she needed not to kill her… Well, right now she preferred remain in the couch and hide like a wimp. Boring but much safer.

welp, that’s too bad.” For some reason, Sans’ tone seemed… slightly off. Unless it was just his usual careless joking tone? “i wouldn’t worry about her, though. she’s fine, really; and maybe dawn is still a little tired for now, right? you’ll tell her tomorrow.

He shrugged, probably thinking — or knowing — that there wouldn’t be a ‘tomorrow.’
Clever guy.

I CAN’T! SANS, I NEED TO FIND THAT PHONE. IT IS OUR DUTY TO TELL HER THAT WE FOUND A HUMAN! AND ONCE SHE SEES HOW NICE SHE IS, SHE WILL JUST LET HER GO. I’M SURE OF IT.
… well.” Had he just… sighed? “keep looking for it if you want, bro. maybe with some luck you’ll find it by the night.

And Dawn saw his left hand dig its way further into his hoodie’s pocket, and a little keychain eventually fell out of it. Her eyes widened in a mixture between realization and deep confusion, but immediately he had risen his right hand to his face and gestured her to hush, playfully winking at her.
Well wasn’t he being a brilliantly clever jerky troll.

Papyrus left the living-room to climb the stairs hurriedly and noisily, adorably fuming and grumbling some story about Sans being some useless lazybones.

“You sure you couldn’t have just told him not to tell Undyne about me?”
he would’ve tried anyways.” he sighed. “i wouldn’t have done that if i could convince him, but he’d just think there’d be a way to explain her.
“… Yeah.” she nodded. “I still kinda feel bad. What if he gets an important call or something? I would get mad if…” She suddenly lit up in realization. “… wait. Wait— wait a second.”
you should know he doesn’t.” the skeleton shrugged. “the only one to ever call him on that day is…

He suddenly stopped, as he watched her pull a white odd engine out of her pocket and switch it on. He couldn’t see the screen, but he immediately understood what it was by her look and the context of their previous conversation.

“I just remembered— there was this thing I wanted to tell you this morning. I don’t know how, but I actually received some texts and missed calls from…”

She noticed Sans had appeared to have completely zoned out for no reason, remaining static and staring straight at the void, and she stopped confusedly.

“… Sans?”

He blinked. Twice.
And then very slowly he started to tremble nervously.

She knew how to recognize an internal scream when she was seeing one, and this definitely was one.

“S-Sans, you’re s-scaring me. W-What is wrong…?”

Eerily slowly, he rose a hand that gradually went to meet his skull.

all this time.” he whispered in a way too calm sigh. “All this time. You had a cellphone all along and you didn’t even tell me.” he face-palmed, throwing his other hand in the air angrily. “Do you have any idea all the trouble we could have avoided if you had told me earlier?!


Oh.
Ooooooooh.

Oh how didn’t she feel oh so goddam stupid right now.

“B-B-B-But… I-I— I n-never thought— oh God I-I forgot last timeline and n-now since t-this m-morning I–I oh man ah—I’m s-so…”
shut up. Please just shut up.” he deadpanned, still face-palming.

He took long breaths, sighing deeply as an attempt to try to keep his cool.
But seriously, how on Earth could she… just… WHY?

Well, all things considered… this was the past. Past was the past, there was still a possibility to improve for the next times. But— at this point, really— this was just so…

anything else i should know?” he struggled to sigh calmly.

She silently and nervously shook her head, after hesitating and thinking for almost a whole minute.
Yet no, besides that, she hadn’t brought anything else along. Now she was sure of it.

“But… I-It wouldn’t have been of any use anyway…” she tried. “I couldn’t get any signal since I arrived in the Underground, and I guess it pretty much makes sense that way. Even if we had known, we… There’s no way it would’ve worked. Right?”
alphys can update it, kid.

She blinked, letting her jaw slowly open in that “mind = blown” expression.

“… Ooh.”
and since it doesn’t belong to this timeline either, those updates will also remain after the resets. and you’ll get to keep it with you whatever happens.

Sometimes, words could reveal some very deep truth. Sometimes words would prove the intellectual supremacy of humankind over all other species, uttering some unique, one-time sentence that would be remembered through the ages.
And sometimes, the human mouth would unleash some of the wisest and deepest considerations of all times.

“… Ooh.”

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 4² — The Importance of Being Sansitive

“… Ooh.”

Sans sighed, rolling his eyes tiredly.
Then he tried to smirk lazily and offered her an open gloved palm.

do i really need to ask?” he sighed.
“Yeah let’s definitely go right now.”

She immediately seized it clumsily and as they stood up from the couch, she once more watched the landscape shift from the image of Mettaton on the television to the one of…

Mettaton.

… Huh?

The robot, who was for some reason in his humanoid EX form, widened his eyes in the shock of seeing two intruders suddenly appear in the middle of the laboratory without any warning. The surprise was even so stunning that he lost his balance and fell from the stool he had been sitting on, and his left arm — that Alphys had been previously holding in one paw, seizing cautiously a little adjustable spanner in the other —, while falling along the rest, went to try to grab something in order to regain his balance— and of course that “something” in question had to be the little table between them, with on its top a plate holding a few other tools of many shapes and utilities. Archimedes’ principles about leviers naturally sent the plate in the air, its top describing a marvelous almost circular shape, and spreading all the utensils it had been holding to find their own parabolic trajectory in the air.
The skeleton had a split second to react before barely surviving the ferocious attack, managing at the last moment to catch a flying screwdriver aiming at him.

S-S-Sans, what have I told you about t-teleporting indoors?!” Alphys shrieked, clutching her chest with a trembling paw and taking deep breaths.
yikes. sorry, i didn’t know you were busy.” he sheepishly mumbled. “but uh, care to listen for a minute? we’re kinda in a hurry there actually.

The lizard groaned, helping Mettaton to get up as dignifiedly as he could look after that.

You said it yourself, but right now I am busy, Sans.” the reptile moaned bitterly. “Mettaton’s new body still needs a few adjustments before he can show it on stage.
Exactly. Don’t you see I was first? My, my, this is rude.” Mettaton came in sarcastically.

Sans merely glared at the ceiling for a split second, apparently too much in a hurry (or too lazy, maybe?) to even go to the trouble of rolling his eyes in a full circle.

heh. y’know, i would let you finish if i didn’t know that just any second all that work could get erased and none of you two would even remember any of it.” the skeleton shrugged almost jokingly. “now, if you want some work that’ll literally leave a mark on the history, i’ve got some job for you.

For the first time she actually turned completely her gaze towards him, already shooting a death glare at him— and yet she froze as soon as she saw the person standing right next to him.

It’s… the human?

This got Mettaton to jolt back to his usual energy, as he immediately jerked up and looked better next to the intruder, finally noticing that there was indeed a standing, living human somewhat hiding behind him.

Oh. So I see you befriended some new visitor from the Surface.” For some reason, the robot sounded condescending. “Unlike the other one, uh?

It took them both a split second before getting his point— but yes, of course. Frisk.

Damned were those surveillance cameras. Of course Alphys had seen it all, and of course the robot had to be around by that time to also take a sneak peek.

… I had my reasons.” Sans simply stated in a grave tone.
Of course. And I can find many reasons to kill an innocent child too.

This was probably meant to sound like some kind of joke, but his usual ever almost chanting voice was making it hard to know whether he was bluffing or not. In any ways he had stood up from the stool, and Sans had instinctively raised a protective bony arm in front of Dawn, who cautiously took a step back.

No, no. Mettaton was nice. Mettaton liked humans.
… Yeah, but he liked humans so much that he had wanted to kill Frisk and steal their soul so that he could see more of them.

The skeleton frowned seriously, suddenly looking menacing.

nu-uh. you’re not getting that one, fancy pants.
Oh, is that so?” he retorted in provocation.

The android took a step forward, smirking in that oh so overly confident face she oh so hated to see, no matter who was holding it.
Fortunately, Alphys stood between them and angrily started to scold him, growling that his current form was still pretty much unstable and that it was the exact reason why he was standing in this very laboratory in the first place. He simply shrugged carelessly, looking straight at the human and smiling widely in a much more natural way.
It didn’t mean it felt any more genuine to her, though. Probably it was, but she definitely didn’t feel it that way.

Sorry Darling, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just playing along; no hard feelings.” She slightly turned her head away, frowning. Mettaton seemed to twitch, but didn’t let his smile wear off. “It’s just that Sans is a professional twerp.” He turned his radiant glaze towards the skeleton in question before uttering his last sentence in a joyful tone: “No offense, Sans.
not taken. the feeling’s mutual.” he forcedly grinned.

The robot was once more about to utter another sarcastic comeback, but Alphys cut them both short, hurriedly asking Sans about the reason they were here… since it probably was the fastest way to get rid of the problem, anyway.
The skeleton simply showed Dawn’s phone — wait, when had she given it to him? … Alright, she would not ask, that was just Sans —, then started to explain the plan.

the tricky part is that you can’t add anything to it.” he said in a serious tone after a few minutes. “every single molecule that isn’t part of it right now will still be sensitive to the Resets, no matter how strongly you could fix them to the rest. so, uh, careful or it ain’t gonna work.

The reptile seized the little device he was handing her, readjusting her glasses before examining it warily under its different angles. She tried to turn it on and use it in order to figure how that silly white rectangle denuded from any usual button was supposed to work, but Dawn quickly came to the rescue, remembering how this had ended the last… time. Reload. Uh, “Reset.” Whatever this was so damn confusing.
Anyways, she had also remembered that of course she wouldn’t remember that.

Mettaton had strangely stayed calm in a corner of the lab during the whole time the girls had been chatting around; Sans was perking quick glances at the notes on Alphys’ desk, even though his look betrayed the fact that he seemed to already know all about them.

After a few minutes, the lizard commented that she would need tinier tools, and immediately disappeared behind the lift’s doors.
Because of course the tools in question had to be in the depths of the True Lab so that for a few moments she would have to let the three others on their own.

Mettaton was the first to react.

So, Darling.” Dawn jolted back, seeing the tall android tower her even though he had elegantly leaned over her in a way that allowed him to slyly whisper directly in her ear. “How did you get here? A star like you shouldn’t be lost all alone down in such darkness.

Oh my God, was that supposed to be some kind of flirting?
Come on, Mettaton. You deserve better than that.

Sans had turned his eye-sockets towards them, but simply rolled his eyes. That was just Mettaton being Mettaton, and he was so not going to intervene.
It meant the girl wasn’t in trouble. And as soon as she wasn’t in trouble, everything was alright. Period.

“Actually, I happen to like it here.” she tried to retort calmly, even though her tone was cold. Somewhat, she did not add.
Oh, but you haven’t been here for long, have you? I didn’t see you anywhere near the Capital. You know, maybe you should come over someday? The entrance is a hotel. Mine. Pretty cool, uh?
“… Yeah.” she murmured bitterly, not even looking at him.
I’d love to hear a little about you and the Surface. Maybe we could even set it on TV! The interview of a real human being. Fascinating, right? You know, just like that we could make you one of the most popular stars of the whole Underground!

And he would never stop talking. Sometimes he would ask questions she felt obliged to answer, sometimes she would just ignore. He seemed to notice he was annoying her and that appeared to deeply puzzle him — no, he was not mad, just confused —, he who was not used to such tough crowds before… And yet he would keep trying, genuinely interested in getting through to her. All he wanted was some kind of reaction , at least! Were all humans that insensitive? It didn’t show in their works.

But of course the robot was just interested in her because he simply happened to be a fan of human beings in general, and because she simply happened to be one. The worst part was that he did sound genuine, and that he really hoped that she would accept his offer because he would honestly enjoy the show. Because she was human.

What a hypocrite.

She still wondered for a moment why he was not following the script there, with all that human-hunting part… But since the game part was all supposed to just be some act he would have made up in order to support Alphys, and since in this timeline Alphys never had to even think about making up that act… Well, here was just the one-hundred-percent-natural Mettaton, openly talking about his own personal ideas.
If any Royal Guard happened to see her onscreen, wouldn’t that be a problem though? Well, maybe he could just protect her from them by some means or something, or play with the ratings in order to have some pressure on any opponents… oh, it didn’t matter.

Of course it wouldn’t be a problem anyway, since that would never happen.

Dawn stepped back one more time and suddenly reached the wall behind.
This time Sans payed attention.

Since they arrived, he had perfectly noticed her strange behavior. It couldn’t have been because of Alphys— Even if the fact that she could not remember whatever they had done together before the Reset had shaken her for a while, she had somewhat got over it before they left the laboratory to begin with. And right now, Alphys was not available anyway.
So if Alphys was not the problem… Mettaton was. And it was all the more obvious when he glanced at her face and saw that she only had eyes for the robot, even though she was not clearly looking at him— rather… looking through him, somehow.
Adding this tiny observation to a quick recollection of her reactions when they had been watching the television alongside Papyrus, it wasn’t hard to deduce that she was definitely holding some kind of resentment against the character… and this started even before she had met him for the first time on the television’s screen.

Now, the question was to try to figure out why.

I’m back!” The lift’s doors had just opened and Alphys came out, a little box in her paws and a shaky goofy smile on her lips. “Sorry it took me so long. The am… I-I m-mean t-t-the tool box was h-hidden in the closet. I-I usually don’t have to use them that often, s-so, uh… haha.

This probably meant that Mettaton didn’t know anything about the amalgamates. Alright.
Then again, Sans knew… well, since he could remember the Resets that wasn’t the surprising part— it’s just that Alphys was fully aware of it and acted as if the skeleton had known all along for some reason… Well, they were both sort of scientists and colleagues maybe even, but Sans had never taken part in that determination project. Had he…?

Oh well. Who cares.

The lizard quickly paced to her desk, where she put and opened her little container, already starting to get some tools out. The human gladly followed, too happy to finally be able to slip away from the robot, but of course he had to come along as well.

R-Really, Darling.” Oh, he didn’t sound as confident now, did he? For Heaven’s sake, she was not interested! When would he just learn to quit, sometimes? “I can see you’re shy, it’s alright. Not everyone likes being on the other side of the screen.” Oh, so finally he gets it? “It’s almost five o’clock. I’m usually having a cooking-lesson-themed emission by that time, but I’ll be free in an hour and a half. H-How about just coming for… maybe dinner? Away from cameras? Don’t worry, I know how to treat my guests.
“Oh yeah, of course you would never treat me the way you treat Burgerpants, huh.”

There was a sudden silence.

A tiny screwdriver fell on the floor, bouncing slightly once before starting to roll over.

Mettaton stared blankly, his expression contorted by a mixture between shock and extreme confusion.

Alphys’ muzzle was portraying a similar look, while her eyes darted stressfully from one to another, eventually coming to pleadingly question Sans about whatever was going on.

His skull was looking down and his pupils were gone.

The human’s face stayed as stern as it was some seconds ago, but she was trembling. She stepped back, blindly looking for the desk so that she could lean against it in case of need, as her legs were threatening to give up on her any instant.

And eventually her traits melted in pure despair and fear.

“… Sorry. I need some fresh air.” she hurriedly stuttered in a distressed whisper.
We’re in Hotland, Darling. The fresh air is here.” the robot tried in a very calm and worried tone. “N-Now just—

She was gone.

The three monsters heard the front doors opening and closing as the footsteps disappeared behind, and then the silence settled for almost a whole minute.

W… What the hell was that?” Mettaton eventually asked shakily, his eyes still showing that same expression of pure shock and confusion, now meddled with sincere anxiety.
nothing. forget it.” Sans uttered dryly. He slowly turned his eye-sockets towards the reptile, letting her know that his usual white dots were back: “alphys… could you go talk to her?

The reptile in question jerked up, giving him the Are you crazy?! look. He tried to justify that they used to get along, and she retorted that she did not remember any of it and that she had no idea what to say or do— and that the mere fact of seeing her again could maybe just make things worse.

The skeleton sighed deeply. So once more, he’d be the one to fix it all, huh?
Man, why was that girl so unstable? How many times would he have to cheer her up only on the first day?

alright, i’ll go get her.” he sighed. She can’t have run that far, anyway.

At least, hopefully she wouldn’t start trying to venture into Waterfall. That was way too much of a labyrinth, and even if he could find a way to teleport out of there whenever he wanted, he would still need to find her first. And he was sure that even a Player who would have been through the game a dozen times, would still be able to get lost there. If only because it would be their first time venturing into it “for real.”

Recognizing and finding your way around in Snowdin would be easy. The forest –if only you would feel adventurous enough to venture anywhere around there– was not very dense, and the whole area was in a part of the Underground in which the cave’s ceiling was high enough: so thanks to the CORE’s help, the lights they had installed made the whole place much brighter (and as if it weren’t enough, the snow was also making the place even brighter thanks to its reflections). Besides, unlike all of the other areas of the Underground, Snowdin was contained as a whole into one single clearing: only the inhabitants’ puzzles made it somewhat harder to pass through. Therefore Snowdin was by far the smallest area, thus it could be easily crossed –main village included– in less than an hour — if only you went in a straight line and avoided stalling too much.
He didn’t know much about the Ruins, but from the little remnants he could remember from a great amount of Resets ago — the one in which he had been able to see the Surface and also ventured sometimes in the Ruins for some reason, or some other endings in which Toriel would let him enter from time to time —, aside from the old districts of Home in which the many alleys could get tricky, the Ruins, too, were a pretty much defined zone and it wouldn’t take long to get your bearings between the large corridors and the even larger rooms.
Hotland? The local geological activity made the area a little unstable sometimes and the way too many bridges meant to link all the isles together could, too, scare a little at first— but New Home was not far, and apparently some people (like a certain seemingly newly humanoid android) had invested in signs in order to indicate directions for pretty much anything.
So in order to truly get lost in Hotland by now, it would require either a geological cataclysm, or the improbable inability to read.

Speaking of geological cataclysms, he would still have been wary for potential earthquakes— if he didn’t perfectly know that, on that specific date, no incident of that kind was to be expected, thankfully. He had enough to do with the kid, so it was a blessing that no other catastrophe was occurring during that time. He didn’t know how his sanity would have (scarcely) survived for that long, if every other day at the exact same time he’d also have to deal repeatedly with such kind of event, over and over. Even if it would have been bound to become predictable.
But, fortunately, that was not the case and that was one main issue he would not need to worry about, for a change.

Now, the CORE was definitely much mazier than Waterfall— but, unlike Waterfall, not only was the CORE meant to be built that way to begin with, but it was not supposed to be a residential area— and it was not really meant to be open to random visitors either, but that was besides the point. So that didn’t count, and that still made, de facto, that Waterfall was the maziest hugest darkest natural maze of the whole Underground, and thus the real most dangerous labyrinth he had ever encountered.
Heck, even some of the inhabitants themselves could get lost there if they weren’t cautious enough and dared to venture a little too far from their home.

So really, his only real fear was that the girl would run a little too far into the cave and get lost— or, worse, meet there a certain someone by chance.

Fortunately, this specific timeline really seemed to be a lucky one: just as he had hoped, it didn’t take him long to find her, and she had stopped her little race a few minutes away from the little cave that marked the entrance to the next area.
Still in Hotland, some dark corner with no one around, and there she was. Leaning against a panel, staring at the endless depths of the luminescent fluctuating void the lands were standing on, and… was that music he could hear?

He took some more steps forward, and he saw that it was coming from her phone.
She still hadn’t noticed he was there.

Honestly… For a few minutes, he couldn’t help but watch.
He was fully aware of that fact, and yet it felt as if he had just realized once more how much he really didn’t know anything about her. And… here was probably the time to realize just how deeply she seemed to love music.

It was simply fascinating to watch her standing there, sitting on the ground, her eyes closed, her lips strongly pursed and her hands firmly trembling around, her fingers mimicking some mysterious dance and her feet sometimes following the pulsation, but not always. It took him a few minutes and a few more songs before he eventually figured out the logic behind this puzzle, but at last she stopped just hitting periodically the floor with her fingers and, probably starting to really get into the music and forget all about the rest, she raised her hands in midair. And there he finally got it:

She was playing the drums.

That was… unexpected. Really, he would never have imagined a pushover like her spending her free time… punching a musical instrument.
Seriously, either he really didn’t know a thing about the way to play percussions, or she was actually hitting those nonexistent drums harder than she should.

Well… Unless this was just her own personal way to vent. At least that made sense.

Another song started to play. It was just instrumental and, judging by the atmosphere it instantly created, drums would definitely not match.
But she kept it on and she actually seemed to still get along with it, as she slowly opened her eyes to gaze over the large lake of lava beneath her and wrapped her arms around her knees, as her right hand’s fingers started to dance on her left forearm, now following the song’s main theme.

Damn, for a mood swing, that surely was quick.

And now… was she playing along the piano? Just how many instruments does she know exactly? And now that she was following the main theme’s part, did she actually recognize all the notes? Well, he didn’t know how to play the piano himself so of course he wouldn’t know, but… That would be new.
And, well, that surely would explain how deeply she seemed to like music…
Maybe that really was the one thing that could cheer her up.

Yet they still needed to talk. On serious terms.

He took another step forward and this time she heard him, turning her head in a rush and immediately blushing and panicking as she hurriedly tried to grab her phone and probably stop the music— but her hand froze midway, as Sans was faster and took it away, hardly glancing at the Undertale OST_063 – It’… that appeared on top of the screen and apparently not paying any attention to it.
She looked at him with two terrified pleading eyes, and he couldn’t help but chuckle lightly.

heh, no worries kid. you can let it on. it’s cool.

She lowered her arm slowly, but her eyes betrayed the fact that she would not calm down.
She bit her lips and shivered as, of all possible soundtracks she had on her current playlist, Megalovania started playing.

* KARMA coursing through your veins.

And since fate had seemingly decided to let her take board on the Royal Ship of Supreme Irony, Sans did not look at the screen nor even seem to recognize either the song, nor the psychological burden of how deeply he was supposed to be related to it and feel concerned and yet he would not even notice and he was smiling at the song because he freaking seemed to like it for Pete’s sake how was this possible this shouldn’t be this is sick oh God she had to get her phone back and stop this nightmare.

i like those.” he admitted in a playful smirk. “you’ve got some good taste.

If only you knew. Oh my God if only you knew.

It was all the more pleasantly ironical that Sans’ genuine blissful ignorance was actually making the situation all the more unbearable.
She had read many fanfictions in which the game’s OSTs would either magically play in the background out of nowhere, or for some reason all the characters would anyway know all about them, if only about their own themes and so on.
Apparently, this was definitely not his case, and even if that was some really good news, it was also all the more frustrating.

He would see that her expression was still that of one that knew a little more than he did and that was desperately hoping for him not to notice… And he chuckled again in response.

don’t be shy. you like music and i’m just curious. nothing’s at risk, right?
Everything’s at risk.” she let go nervously, staring intensely at him with that determined glare of “Gimme back my phone this instant.”
come on. they can’t be all related to the game, are they?
“O-Of course not. B-B-But it’s just that the… t-they, I-I mean… ugh. Please that’s really making me very uncomfortable right now. W-What if a-anyone notices?”
you didn’t seem to worry about that before i arrived, ya know.” Sans retorted jokingly.

She opened her mouth and seemed about to talk, but her breath cut short and she pouted shamefully, because probably whatever she was about to say was denuded from any reasonable trace of rationality.
He chuckled softly, and just let his nonexistent ears enjoy the music for a few more seconds. She was staring anxiously at her phone, but he didn’t care.

you can play some instruments?” Wait, was he really trying to bring some random casual banter right now?
“U-Uh, y-yeah. I’ve been taking piano lessons since I was eight— a-and I also started the drums two years ago. ‘Cause that’s fun.” she stuttered uneasily. She was still paying much more attention to the music playing around them, but… God, he really wasn’t noticing anything?! “H-How about you. You c-can play the… trombone, right?”
yeah.” He had shrugged as if it was nothing important, but that look on his face and that genuine relaxed smile were giving away the fact that… Maybe it was more important than it seemed at first. “i’ve been practicing for a few years. maybe five or six by now, i think.
“Really?” She sounded surprised and in awe. “Most fans thought you just played it to annoy Papyrus. And for the pun.”

The skeleton suddenly burst into some loud laughing.

are you serious? do you have any idea how expensive that thing is? kid, even i have standards.” He still immediately calmed down, just leaving his ever stuck-smirk looking perfectly relaxed and genuine, for once. “though yeah, i can’t deny it, at first it really was for the pun.

He smirked jokingly, but as he saw that she still was staring at his hand, finally he gave her phone back and let her turn it off. As she sighed deeply in relief, he came to sit next to her and stared for a few seconds at the volcanic view and the flaming hell swirling down the cliff, only a few feet away from them.

anyway. about what happened earlier.” He turned towards her two serious frowning pupils sparkling in a mixture of silver concern and white firmness. “care to explain?

She bit her lips, deepening her head into her arms and knees and looking away. He saw her eyes narrowing in anger as her face simply mouthed an inaudible “… Mettaton.”, but it was easy to notice that her glare was also filled with… sorrow.

At this point, Sans didn’t feel like he needed any more hints. It wasn’t that difficult to put the pieces together by now, and her preceding (lack of) answer was just confirming the suspicions he had kept in mind until now.
She realized his question had been entirely rhetorical, as he uttered monotonously but sternly the subsequent deduction:

so you really were bullied, uh.

This got her to react.
She jerked her head up and gave him a wide-eyed puzzled stare, completely stunned.
The skeleton was now calm, but strict and serious.

back in your— wherever you come from. you’ve been bullied at some point. haven’t you?

She looked away, narrowing her eyes back in that same angry-yet-still-so-sad look. Then she laughed weakly and her voice cracked.

“Is it really that obvious?” she chuckled bitterly, forcedly smirking an absolutely not genuine sarcastic distortion of her mouth.
honestly? that was… sorta to be expected. no offense, but you do kinda look like the kind to get into that sort of trouble easily.

She laughed again, still in that horribly painfully ironical cackle of pure sadness and shame.
Of course he was seeing her like this. Just some kind of weak pushover who tries to save people but who doesn’t even know how to save herself in the first place.
Because that was all she was, wasn’t it?

“It’s stopped by now. It’s just… back from when I was in third grade. I was annoying and they would just find it funny for a revenge so they wouldn’t stop.”

Her being ‘annoying’? That was… well, that was not that new, but that was definitely not expected. So he couldn’t help but blurt out:

what are you talking about?
“Molly the Mole.”

He gave her a confused look — what was this coming from, was it because of a child book character or was it just a regular nickname she somehow got from some random anecdote? —, but she kept going before he got time to speak.

“From what I saw, there are two main reasons someone gets bullied. Either they’re too smart and weak, or they’re… trying to look smart.”

She paused and looked down. Her tone became even bitter and lower than ever as her nervous unhealthy laugh came back:

“Guess I lacked both the smarts and the bolds.”

He… couldn’t really argue there. Well, she was smart, but, not exceedingly smart or… Uh, that was tricky and he was so not about to try to discuss because she would pretend he’d be lying and then he would not be able to get any further and it would only hurt the both of them.
But… He still wanted to dig a little further.

what do you mean by that? what does this… ‘mole’ issue come from?

He had expected her to reply, but she stayed overly silent and completely still for a dozen of seconds— way too long for bringing up some information she was supposed to know perfectly in all of its potential details.
As her lack of answer was starting to really become concerning, he suddenly heard her laugh. And then she started to utter sharp and quick sentences that would repeatedly pierce his nonexistent ears.

“You know, the mole. The thing that digs everywhere and anywhere into any issues and secrets. The thing that spies and stalks everyone. The thing that wants to know everything about everyone and is curious and always wonders about the silliest things and bothers everyone with her questions even though she doesn’t realize that she’s annoying everyone because it’s none of her business.” She suddenly toughened her arms’ grip around her knees as a bitter cynical smile slowly spread on her face. “The thing that will just go hide in a hole whenever trouble’s coming, and wait for it to stop.”

… Wow.

For a nickname she was supposed to have got from a bunch of kids in grade school, this surely was full of pretty deep and intricate meanings. Those brats had definitely not thought about many of them when they had started to call her that. It was just a question of pure, obvious, common sense.

Though the fact that, until her last whisper, it was unclear who she really was referring to— that wasn’t helping. He didn’t feel targetted, but still, if she was bitter to such extent… then this really was a sensitive issue and maybe he had hit a nerve there.

But the human would keep telling her nonsense that made way too much sense.

“Molly the Mole. It’s supposed to sound funny. Y’know, ‘Molly the Mole’, that’s funny because the sounding’s similar and the rhythm’s catchy. Haha. Hilarious.”

She chuckled but there were only some sick echoes into it.

That was just some stupid name some stupid kids would give another stupid kid because it was funny— and she had been the one, upon growing up, to give a little too much thought into it for the joke to remain as innocent and harmless as it was probably supposed to sound at first.
Because of just how accurate it seemed to match and sum up her character as a whole, uh?

He didn’t even try to say anything in order to argue. That girl was so stubborn, she would never let him comfort her about that, just because of how deeply she was persuaded she was in the right while believing that strongly that she was wrong.

That was when Sans realized.
She was not hurt because of the actual bullying— he had heard of physical bullying, psychological bullying, and –if only up to now– it didn’t sound half as bad— that “bullying” she had been through was rather like almost, even, just a common dumb joke from some dumb pupils from her class or something. Maybe she had lived through at least a little more than just that, but still: he realized that, in fact, it didn’t even matter to begin with.

She was hurt because of the interpretation she was giving herself of how much that nickname suited her.
No wonder she had come to hate her own name, if the simple fact of hearing it was bound to leak into her mind all those dark thoughts she had come up with all by herself.

He had seen her optimistic and lively, and then just that simple word would immediately take all that good mood and positive energy away from her in an instant. At first he thought she was just being a Drama Queen, but…

He remembered the way she had acted when they had met for the first time— she had been “investigating” the place, “interviewing” him, “acted” much more serious and somewhat tried to sound and look much smarter than she really was, maybe in order to either reassure her own confidence or try to intimidate him…
Though admittedly she was pretty bad at it and was very quick to jump to pretty random and improbable conclusions… She indeed had sounded like the kind of person to question everything and not rest before every single incoherence around her would finally get a proper explanation and make sense.
And that was exactly what she had been doing upon herself for… a pretty long time, probably. And that was this exact reflection that turned her into such pushover.

Heh. Deep down, maybe she really was just some dumb conspiracy theorist.

Now… Why had she been acting different ever since? He had expected her to ask a lot more questions about pretty much anything— himself, the others, some random details that apparently seemed to not add up to her own vision of the game for some reason… And indeed, back on their first encounter, she had asked a lot of questions — but they were only the expected ones. She really had just asked the strict minimum and then just left the situation as it was and never really bothered him as much as her character would normally have led her to.
Many times he had seen that little spark of deep puzzlement and wonder in her look, and expected her to ask some interesting question— and then immediately see that spark faint and dissolve into nothingness as she would just shrug it off and act dumb.

The explanation was just as deep as it suddenly burst into his mind as the simplest of the multiverse’s most obvious statements.

you’re stopping yourself. you’re never really being yourself to anyone. you’re scared of bothering the ones you know with your questions or whatever— so you rather just shut up and go with the flow… am i right?

Her lack of answer and her big uneasy frown were talkative enough.

hey kid. you really are putting way too much pressure on yourself. and i’m talking general, not just with me.” he kept going, trying to speak calmly and comfort her, even though his concern could not be hidden that easily. “people grow up. by now they should be old and wise enough to understand what your curiosity really is about and i’m sure they are. they’re mature enough. and… so should you. don’t you think?

Dawn gritted her teeth.

“Can you stop being the psychiatrist please? It makes me feel like anyone can just read me like an open book and that’s objectively creepy.”
and what do you think you’ve been doing with us?” Sans retorted bitterly, smirking as if he was almost genuinely joking. But fast enough his seriousness came back: “don’t give me that look, i’ve noticed. yeah yeah, exactly. even with me. even right now.

She looked away, lowering her eyes shamefacedly.
Yes. Of course. How dumb of a statement had this been to say that to a videogame character she was supposed to know all about and whose actions any smart fan could predict every now and then. Now that she was given a taste of her own medicine, the awkwardness she used to feel about the situation became utterly ridiculous, compared to what she had just realized.
She was predictable. Everyone was, to some extent. And she had been using this knowledge of the Game just to fulfill her own purposes. Without caring about the consequences nor her means' deepest signification.

All the former traces of — had it really been anger…? Well, anyway, all the former traces of whatever this had been in her look had disappeared by now, as she sheepishly came back to trying to hug herself in that ridiculous malformed ball of flesh and turned her head away before uttering timidly in a whisper:

“Are you mad at me?”

Sans just chuckled softly, as if he found that question way too innocently cheesily cute.

nah. t’was to be expected, anyway.” he shrugged. “i mean, you already know us, so that was just natural. besides, most of the time it was actually handy… until now.

Yeah. She really had screwed things up, uh? Well, at least until the next Reset, that was.

look.” the skeleton sighed deeply. “you’re just so scared to do anything wrong or to annoy the others… you’re not even shy, you’re just trying to hide your own face to the others. i’m even starting to wonder if there’s anyone at all who knows the real you.” He gave her two comforting white dots and it seemed like his stuck-smirk was trying to enlarge itself into some more genuine melancholic-yet-somewhat-almost-joking smile. “why don’t you try to chill out for a change?

Wait.
Was it supposed to be a pun?
She did recognize the pun tone.

“Careful. We’re not in Snowdin anymore. Snow puns don’t work here.” She tried to sound serious, but for some reason she just couldn’t keep her composure. A pun in such context? Really? That was so unexpected and— that was so much Sans all at the same time.
that’s what we call sarcasm, kid. y’know, ‘cause we’re in hotland.” he immediately retorted in a fake offended tone, looking hurt. He winked at her and she giggled weakly. “tibia-nest, though. who cares about the context, when all that really matters is the setting? you know what i wanna do with all those silly preconceived ideas of yours that’d try to restrain what’d make a joke objectively funny or not? i just wanna get rib of them. let’s just take those and barium.

Uh oh, a wild pun combo appeared!
This time, she couldn’t help but snort and they both ended up laughing for at the very least a dozen of seconds.

but, seriously. about earlier.” He simply gave her that unique somewhat-concerned-yet-still-carefree look of his. “can you just be careful next time? i heard undyne thinks humans have mind-reading powers, so if you slip again like that with her around, well. she’s not stupid, she’ll take the most logical explanation between that and… well, you know.” She snorted slightly even though she was listening cautiously. Sans didn’t seem to mind. “so try not to say too much about things you’re not supposed to know, alright?
“Yeah, of course I’ll try.” she mumbled with a sheepish smile. “Better not get into trouble, uh? … Haha. Sorry for that.”

He just shrugged, before standing up. As her eyes followed him, they suddenly stopped on the panel’s sign they had been leaning against until then before narrowing confusedly.

“Huh. That’s funny.” she stated absent-mindedly.
what?

She tiredly raised a hand and playfully knocked on the board, showing a slight sly smile.

“The sign for the art club. It’s not supposed to be here. Not on that floor I mean.”
wait. how so?” Now for some reason… he seemed confused, if not deeply worried. “are you really sure about that?

But she shrugged.

“Heh, who knows. Maybe I just forgot. I never played anyway. Harder to remember that kind of details, I guess. Maybe I’m wrong.”
… yeah. you must’ve confused.” Wait… Why did she have the impression that he sounded… off? Well, he wasn’t really sounding off, but rather… uneasy. In the way of someone that just heard something he really didn’t want to hear because that was confirming something he was doubting and he wanted it not to be true— nah, she probably was overthinking there. She was good at jumping to conclusions and seeing conspiracies anywhere. “how about you go back with alphys? i’ll make sure to keep mettaton busy.” Sans uttered a few instants later.

She agreed. There wasn’t much left to do there anyway, and they still had to finish that update on her phone.

She was about to seize his hand and take a shortcut when suddenly the ground started to shake and they both lost their balance, completely taken by surprise.

Sans was the quickest to readjust, warily crouching up and looking around for his friend— the shock and fall had apparently momentarily knocked her, but she was still conscious and actively trying to figure out what was going on, all while trying to get back her balance.
The skeleton, on the other hand, perfectly knew what that phenomenon was.

An earthquake.

It was just a regular earthquake. Not a really strong one. Not a dangerous one, either. But it was an earthquake and there wasn’t supposed to be an earthquake on that day, period.

What in the hell is going on…?

Thankfully an earthquake only lasts for a few moments, and this one was apparently a particularly short one. Only a few seconds at most and it was already over, and no physical damage was done.
Dawn, still badly shaken, tried to get up awkwardly and vainly stumbled towards him with her face distorted with confusion and terror.

“… W-W-What the f… W-What w-w-was…?”
earthquake.” He simply stated the obvious in a low tone, still deep in thought.

She stared at him with two goggle-wide eyes as he walked towards her and offered to help her stand back up.
She apparently was too shocked to even think about her phobia, since she immediately seized it and strongly squeezed her grip in order to keep her balance.

“There are earthquakes in here? S-S-Since when?”
since always.” he shrugged. “the cave’s in a geologically active zone, you know, so of course it’s a high-risk area. where d’ya think hotland came from?
“From the graphist’s imagination, I guess…?” she couldn’t help but mutter ironically under her breath.
… heh, point taken. guess that guy just thought of everything else, too.

He still was deep in thought, but she couldn’t help but ask:

“So, when there’s an earthquake… Is, like, all of the Underground affected?”
nah. mostly hotland, a little for the closest part of waterfall. the capital too, but it’s not as bad. but the other areas are safe most of the time.
“What? How’s that possible?” That made literally no sense. Well, she didn’t have a degree in geology, but her common sense was telling her that this was not right.
it’s because of the difference in altitudes. hotland’s got levels because this one is the deepest into the earth— and the closest to the fault. but most of the other areas are actually from the other plate, so they’re not affected the same way. in fact, that’s another reason why we dug there.
Dug?” Well, she surely was learning a lot of things today. “What do you mean, ‘dug’?”

Sans just chuckled the way only he knew how to do it.

you really thought the cave’s always been that big? nah. we dug our way in. from the point that we were away enough from the surface, the barrier wasn’t a bother… at least, uh. that’s what the history books tell.

… Alright. Why not. Maybe.

The hell of an amount of fan theories she’d bring if she could ever get back home… Steven and Lys would be so jealous.

still. these earthquakes were just not supposed to happen today. o-or the day after. actually, i think the next one was supposed to be scheduled for maybe next month or something. i mean, that’s how it’s been for the last timelines, so logically…
“B-But then… Why was there one just right now? What could’ve caused it?”
I don’t know, but I don’t like it.” he retorted dryly. He raised his gloved hand towards her and glared at her sternly: “Let’s just go back to the lab and get this over with.

She nodded, seized his hand, and followed the plan they had kept in mind.
As soon as Mettaton came back from his emission, Sans would keep him away and make up whatever cover up for Dawn or whatever it didn’t matter since the day was almost over and if there really was going to be a Reset at some point then Mettaton being suspicious or worried over them was the last of their concerns. Meanwhile, she would watch Alphys work and occasionally give her a hand whenever she could be of some help. She would mostly just ask random questions rather than really actively assist, though. But still, the lizard was apparently glad to answer them and praised her curiosity and sense of observation.

Around two hours later the job was done and, thankfully, nothing unexpected had happened in-between. Dawn immediately registered Sans and Alphys’ numbers, reluctantly added Mettaton’s upon an annoyed eye-roll, and offered the skeleton to give hers— but he refused.

the resets’ll just erase your number from my contacts’ list, kid. i’d rather just start right now to memorize yours as it is.” he explained in a shrug.

Alphys had also offered to get her an account on some of the Undernet’s most popular social networks, but similarly Sans had simply stated that all memory of that account would disappear upon the Resets, and that it was therefore useless. But he still thanked her for the effort and the intention.
By the time all those basic formalities were accomplished, Mettaton made them notice that it was already past nine in the evening.

welp, we’d better get going, then.” the skeleton had uttered in a little relaxed laugh. “hey kid, how ‘bout i get ya a real meal, for a change?

Well, it was true that since she had arrived, she had only been fed either with Papyrus’ (actually not so bad) spaghetti, or the True Laboratory’s self’s resources or something like that. So uh, yeah, maybe some real food would be slightly healthier for a change.

You know, you could go to my Resort tonight. A table for two. I can get you a discount… and maybe candles?” Mettaton offered and… winked somewhat sensually for some bizarre reason…?

There was a long and awkward pause during which the two would simply stare at him with narrowed confused and offended eyes of “What in the world are you talking about?”

how about grillby’s instead?” Sans suddenly randomly asked.
“Yeah sounds perfect healthy and all let’s go.” Dawn automatically answered hurriedly.

She took his hand and they immediately disappeared without any further discussion.

The android, still leaning against a nearby wall and crossing his arms, raised his eyelids in surprise before smirking and starting to chuckle deeply.

What do you think, Alphys?

He jokingly turned towards the monster in question, but noticed that she was already gone from her post— and that she was now standing in front of her computer and slowly turning it on.

Neither Sans nor the human had noticed that during the whole time they had been outside, the surveillance screen had been focusing on one particular camera from Hotland.
Obviously those cameras could only get images, and not any single sound— so they had been unable to figure whatever they had really been talking about.

But… In their minds, the images had been largely talkative enough.

A wide trembling dorky grin slowly spread itself on the lizard’s muzzle.

… I ship it.

Now was the time to write some fanfictions.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 5 — Something to Ketchup on

Grillby’s was pretty close to what she initially had in mind. Whether those images and memories came from the game or from most fanarts or even comics she had seen about it, she could not have noticed any major difference. Well, this seemed obvious, but considering the recent divergences… It still was worth mentioning.
The restaurant was already one of those places she loved in that fandom’s universe, if only because of its design; and she was glad that the ‘real’ version of it definitely had kept that heart-warming convivial ambience – should it be only because of the local temperature. So upon finally entering this little realm, Dawn immediately felt like she had just fallen in love with the setting for the second time.

When Sans had teleported them a few steps away in the shadows of a corner, she had discovered with surprise that for some reason, the Underground still had some kind of night and day system— because apparently the streets were somehow much darker by now. The skeleton had simply pointed to her the –pretty high– ceiling, and even though her eyes weren’t sensible enough to distinguish anything, she trusted him when he simply stated that they could afford some minimal lighting all around the Underground— well, mostly the Ruins, Snowdin and New Home, at least. Waterfall was too vast and tortuous for electric installments to really be worth the effort –which was why the locals had just invested in lanterns, and only kept electricity for the town and little villages themselves–, and Hotland was already providing its own natural lighting system anyway, no matter day or night. Anyways, they could afford all that lighting thanks to the CORE’s energy, and they had decided to still imitate some night-and-day pattern, for the sake of general convenience and economy.
Sans had been surprised at first when she had said she could not see anything at all, but he quickly remembered that indeed a few monsters, and mostly humans, couldn’t see in the dark as well as some others did— especially him. Apparently skeletons just didn’t see the difference at all, or had some kind of night-vision or something? Well, he didn’t even have eyes in the first place, so that was tricky.

Anyways— right behind the next corner, there it was, and there she got through the window a glimpse of what it was like— and from that point she had only one wish, to just get in as fast as possible and admire the place from the inside. She didn’t care if it was just supposed to be some fast-food or anything, at the moment it just appeared to her as one of the loveliest places she had ever seen since she arrived— and, granted, the rest of the Underground was pretty impressive too.
She was not sure to know what exactly made this place so special to her — surely she would be even more excited by the magic of the light tricks in Waterfall —, but this little incidental location had just… this little spark of conviviality that was so rare and yet so subtly omnipresent everywhere else in the Underground; but there was no other place than this little restaurant, where this sentiment had ever been so obvious and warm, and… shared with that many monsters.

Toriel’s home was definitely and objectively the most welcoming place in the Underground— for a human at least. But… Between its long clean white walls, there still was that overwhelming sensation of… loneliness. Her home was just so big for one person— even for two.
Would she have been in Frisk’s place… Maybe she would have eventually wished to leave and meet new people, actually. This was a really weird feeling, now that she was thinking about it— weren’t most fans just thinking the very opposite?

But she wasn’t in Toriel’s home, and here she had before her wide sparkling eyes quite the reverse: a whole town gathered into one single room.

There, it was it. In the end, Grillby’s was just that— the very embodiment of the monsters’ bonds and friendships— across a whole little snowy town. And this was just beautiful.

And then, just as she was absorbed in her admiration as she and Sans were waving cheerfully at the others and walking towards the counter, just as everything seemed to go just as expected…

Good evening, Sans.” a low voice greeted calmly. “We haven’t seen you all day… And now you’re showing a girl around?” he chuckled.

Grillby had just talked.

Grillby had just –freaking– TALKED.
And oh God didn’t he have a handsome voice just to match his handsome outfit and seriously this was just too much she didn’t care if she looked stupid right now with that overly nervous dorky grin on her lips this was just too much oh gosh that was so awesome.

Alright, now she understood why that guy had a few fangirls on the internet.

She slightly turned her bewildered face towards Sans and from the corner of her eye, she saw his tense firm look of that disapproving whatever it is that you were about to say, DON’T say it.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Whatever you do, don’t let that overly high-pitched fangirlish scream get out and shatter all the glassware in the restaurant. Grillby wouldn’t like that and maybe he’d even get mad and you don’t want that.

she’s… just a new visitor.” the skeleton said hurriedly, trying nervously to stray the fire elemental’s attention away from the creepy teenage weirdo. “we’ll take two burgs.

It was even harder to guess Grillby’s emotions than it had been until then for Sans— and even then, she actually had by now got used to deciphering the skeleton’s tiniest twinges even on his supposedly stuck smirk –which could actually really move, if only very subtly— too subtly for his pixel-y depiction to really show any noticeable difference.
But now, with the barman’s complete lack of face, that would be quite something else. She remembered that in some comics the artists would use his glasses as some sort of means to give away some hints of expressions by slightly altering their form, as if the glasses could narrow or wide their lenses similarly to eyebrows— but that wasn’t the case here, those glasses were just regular ones. Now that she was staring enough she could actually distinguish through the firestorm some little brighter dots that would probably be his eyes, but the contrast was so weak that she could hardly see any more details about them.
Maybe the intensity of his flames would be a way to read his emotions…? Ugh, that would take a while to learn to do that.

In any ways— although he had seemingly nodded, she still felt –not saw, felt– that overwhelming stare he had given her for a split second, before leaving wordlessly –and actually pretty hurriedly– for the kitchen.

He… probably knew what a human was, uh?

“Sans, you think he…?”
he’s not stupid, kid. and he told me once that… he’s actually seen humans before.” he simply shrugged. “but don’t worry, you’re with me. he won’t do anything.” And he turned a joking glance at her while winking playfully: “i mean, you should know that, right?

And yeah, indeed, she could perfectly remember that Grillby would never do anything to Frisk in any run, and especially not during that little meal they would have with Sans at some point during the game.
… But in the game, he would not talk either.

Hey, did that mean that Frisk would talk too, if given the chance?

hey, now that i’m thinking about it.” Sans continued after a silence. “you said something about receiving texts on your phone or something?

She jolted back to reality, but immediately nodded and showed him the little white rectangle. As he apparently couldn’t use it himself either, she simply tapped a few buttons before showing him some random messages—

you haven’t read them yet?” he uttered right away in confusion, seeing the little icons indicating that the ‘new messages’ in question were… still marked as being ‘new.’

She bit her lips guiltily.

“… I-I… didn’t feel like reading them yet.” she simply muttered awkwardly. “I can’t answer them for now, so I just… couldn’t bring myself to just read and feel bad when I know that I won’t be able to reassure them about anything…” She chuckled weakly: “Stupid, I know. B-But I just… A-Actually I wanted you to know about them first. So that you’d tell me if there’d still be some way to contact them… I-I’d read them if I could find a way to answer back, I mean. I-If that makes any sense to you.”
… i see.” he merely retorted in a low and thoughtful tone.
“But, if my phone still managed to get those messages to begin with… That must mean there’d be some way to contact them back, right?”

Yikes. Her tone was so full of hope.
And yet, if it really was what he had in mind… That would just mean nothing at all, sadly.

[Jocelyn — 05/02 — 06:33 AM]
Hey, where are you? We’re still waiting for the livestream, you know?

06:33 AM… Yeah, definitely what he had thought.
Sorry, kid.

He would still need to check the other texts maybe, but who would send such message at six in the morning? And just coincidentally, it was matching with the time he had been using his machine to visit a little more their network— no, really, it was more than obvious that it was by that time that her phone, by just being there in the same room at the same moment, had been able to get back some connection to the internet and telephonic systems, allowing it to receive all those messages all at once. It was the most obvious answer and it made perfect sense on and of itself… Even if it meant that there would be no more hope to ever do that again, since the only machine able to do such thing was now gone forever.

Really, if he was trying to keep reading and look for hints to refute this theory, it was just because he was so not eager to tell her the bad news.

[Jocelyn — 05/02 — 06:34 AM]
What’s the holdup, you got a game over just by typing your name or what?
(You didn’t type “GASTER”, did you? Just in case you’d be trying to stall us with the infinite loop troll. I already know your tricks, buddy ;))

Wait, what the—
… Alright. Alright, alright, all right he would not ask for now but if he could afford to still go back on one of those websites, he would be so eager to go and check everything they knew and ever found about him.
But— for now this was not the main problem. So reluctantly he simply gave her the phone back and acted as if nothing was wrong.

you… did have some friends back there.” He uneasily tried to change the subject, uttering some random obvious fact in order to clear his own mind from all those dark memories. His statement was so obvious that he couldn’t help but let go a little nervous chuckle that almost cracked.
“… Yeah.” And she cracked along with him. This could only go oh so well…
you miss them, don’t you…” he added awkwardly. well, no duh.

He chortled somberly, and she followed in a slight smirk that was just as genuine as his— that was to say, not to the least.
She took her cellphone back and merely glanced at the screen and the little conversation visible on it…
Fortunately, she didn’t seem to notice anything special. Good.

“Joss…” she merely said, hardly repressing some sad smile in the corner of her lips. “She’ll never change.”

She sighed silently, going back to the list of her contacts. She saw that Amaryllis had sent twelve of them and… her traits suddenly hardened, as she lost her smile and bit her lips, narrowing her eyes.

is… something wrong?” Sans couldn’t help but ask. Well, once again he was just stating the obvious, but it’s not like he could really find any subtler way to bring such topic smoothly.

She sighed another time, just turning off her phone and digging it back into her jeans’ back pocket.
So she really would not even look at that specific girl’s messages, uh…

“No, it’s… alright.” But expectedly, she had just turned her eyes away while saying this in a tone that was a little too hesitant for really being genuine. “I guess I’m just… good at holding grudges.”

He gave her a puzzled look, but she didn’t look back.
Well, here came back just some random deduction and this time his thoughts lacked so much evidence it was just some wild guess, but… Looking at her expression, maybe it still was worth a shot.

she’s one of the reasons why you’re here in the first place, isn’t she?

She shrugged in a somewhat detached manner, but then merely nodded.

“You’re really good at that guessing thingy.” she giggled almost jokingly. “What gave it away, this time?”
nothing. that one was just some rambling thought, really.” he shrugged along, giving her an almost sheepish smile.
“Well in any ways, you really are awfully good at it.” She merely laughed it off. He was not sure to know whether or not that was a good or a bad thing.

There suddenly was some silence, as she slowly quietened her chortle and started to actually look lost in thought. Or maybe even… remorseful?

“Sans, I… I-I think I should tell you something.”

By that overly uneasy attitude she was giving right now, it had to be something relevant— at least relevant enough so she would… Yeah, she definitely was afraid that he would potentially get mad at her if she ever told him what she had in mind…
And yet there would be no more turning back, now that she had said just that.

alright kid. go ahead.” he uttered calmly, shrugging humorously and trying to sound comforting. That couldn’t be that serious, honestly. She was probably just dramatizing it a little too much, just as usual. “i can promise ya i won’t get mad, if you want. not like i intended to or anything anyway.

He winked at her. At least that would be a promise he could easily keep, and it didn’t even matter anyway. Well… not as much as the other one.
In response, she chuckled uneasily— even though it did seem to lift a weight on her guilt-ridden back.

“I-It’s… About the hard mode. Actually I-I k-k-kinda lied to you.” She took a deep breath, forcedly closing her eyes: “It… really wasn’t an accident.”

Oh. If it was just that.
Well, then she really had been an actual ‘Player’ then, uh? He had… This was still some kind of betrayal in the end and he indeed didn’t like that because he had trusted her when she had said otherwise and it was frustrating to know that he had actually been tricked so easily, but— not like it would ever change anything, by now. That was just the past.

So she really could be a pretty good liar when she really felt like it, huh.

Looking at her face right now, the stare he had unintentionally been giving her was probably a little too frightening and angry for her to keep her calm and before he realized it, she was already cutting him short in panic:

“B-But it really was the first time I ever played, I s-swear!” His look was now that of two wide puzzled eye-sockets eager to hear the rest of the story, and it seemed like she (somewhat) started to calm down and sigh once more, as she ran a hand on her burning forehead. “P-Please let me explain.”

They had all the time they wanted right now, so sure he could just listen to her why not. Not like they had anything better to do right now, and besides— he was curious to learn how all the pieces of the puzzle would assemble… If only because it would maybe help him to further understand that unpredictably unstable weird girl.
If everything else she had ever said was true, then why would someone like her ever want to try the hard mode, when she supposedly was not even interested in playing at all?

“W-When I said my friends made me play it… Well, at first they were just like ‘Yeah, that’s a great game, besides you’re already a fan so why not?’ and all. Lys made me register to an Undertale forum around five months ago just because, while I wasn’t even that much fond of the fandom back then— but that was actually a very good idea to do so because I met awesome guys there… I-It’s just that I just really wasn’t interested in playing, at all. I would watch videos and Let’s Plays, but since I just sucked at videogames, I didn’t even try myself since it just wouldn’t be worth it and I’d just give up, like, a few minutes later.” She sighed deeply. “And n-now I’m glad I never did. I’m sure I would’ve bothered you with loads of Reloads every ten seconds while I’d just still be stuck in the Ruins or something and you wouldn’t even know what’d be happening there for Frisk to die that much. Heh eh.”

Sans chuckled along lightly, shrugging but apparently taking the joke along and somewhat genuinely laughing as he was probably imagining what it would have been like.
Well, on the other hand, he would probably just interpret that as the upcoming run to be completely harmless for him and his friends (at the very least, he would guess that she wouldn’t get too far if she ever tried to do things the wrong way), and her (astoundingly legendary lack of) video gaming skills would be memorably laughable, even from his own perspective. Heh, what if she had eventually made it past the Ruins and met him and got some annoying-yet-hilarious remark from Sans himself? That would have been priceless.

Creepy too maybe, but she had been known for being so bad at videogames that she could always find some improbable way to bend the rules and get some allegedly impossible outcomes by still playing normally. Reaching — and immediately dying in supposedly unreachable places, getting marks that were so low that no one was even aware that such results existed in the first place, and so on. If that had ever happened actually, maybe her friends and she would have just interpreted that as some ultimate troll from the creator that no one had ever heard about ever before because never the world had ever been meant to bear Players that hopeless.

“A-Anyway— that never happened. I-I mean, you’d have noticed if that had been the case, right? P-Probably. B-B-But that’s besides the point.” she mumbled clumsily. “Some of my closest friends there – mostly Joss, actually –, would then just start to try to persuade me to do it. At first it was just some recurring private joke between a few friends, and then it just began to become some kind of dumb competition between whom of them would be the first one to finally make me start a game.” she chuckled weakly and shrugged, even if her look appeared to be… nostalgic? “I was just playing along since that was just, you know, some kind of running gag between us. Harmless and all.”

Well… He could understand that. Would he have been part of that crowd and all, under the same circumstances, from the point that it really would be just some ‘normal’ videogame or whatever and from the point that it was just a prank— yes, he would definitely have played along, added some bad puns to the arguments and everything. And while saying this, she really meant it when she genuinely said that she, herself, was actually enjoying the joke as it was…

And yet a strange spark suddenly lit in the corner of her eye, as she continued her tale:

“… Until Lys actually made it.”

Well… If she was here sitting next to him, it had been obvious that at some point, she had been at least trying to play. That was how his plan had worked after all. Catching the ‘Player’ during the exact moment they would be certain to be just in front of their keyboard by typing and confirming the Fallen Human’s name. No mistake could have been made there— the one he would be grabbing had to be the one about to play.

But the way she was saying it… Well, at this point this was fairly obvious:

she didn’t really convince you the right way, did she…” he simply stated.
“That’s… a good way to sum it up.” she silently and weakly nodded, looking away with narrowed hurt eyes. “In any ways— she… Let’s say she convinced me to make some kind of livestream on Star— I-I mean, on some chat online. You won’t know Starpe right? S-So all I had to do was start a livestream on the group chat we already had, with the screen sharing thing and all…” Her tone had continuously lowered as she seemed to mourn in guilt and embarrassment. Sans was doing his best to give her a reassuring look, but it was no use since she would not even look at him. Her last sentence was now no more than a faint whisper: “And that’s how I got the idea to play the hard mode instead.”

Just by hearing her tone and studying her expression… Whatever it was that ‘Lys’ had done to change her mind, that had been deeply maddening her ever since.
But under such circumstances, the next part was beyond obvious:

“The whole point was to get my butt kicked publicly. So I just… wanted to make sure to get them some good show.”
heh… makes sense, i guess.” he gravely nodded.
“It’s just that I… After what she did— e-even if she probably didn’t do it on purpose, I just… I-I just didn’t want to play along. She hadn’t played by the rules, so… I j-just wanted to return the favor, somehow. By just finding some loophole in the deal or something.”

Yeah. He could understand that… Even though that didn’t sound like some real serious matter and merely was meant to be just some boring childish argument, the fact that none of them had known anything about the actual consequences had completely changed it all.

“A-Anyway— I… I didn’t tell you right away because—”
because it would’ve been too long and complicated to tell, and i probably wouldn’t have believed you at the time. i get it.” He shrugged and sighed calmly, giving her a nice and relaxed comforting smile. “that’s alright.
“… I-I was scared, Sans. I really was. I-I just… did the first stupid thing I thought of that could potentially save my life or whatever.”

Heh. He… really had scared the crap out of her at first, indeed. That was fully understandable and just as he had thought… Well, it didn’t even matter anyway.

One thing was still bothering him about all this, though.

and now you’re putting all the blame on your friend, huh.
“Lys… I had never been that close to anyone before. S-She used to be my best friend since fourth grade and she would just always protect me against everything— I-I thought she’d always have my back, and now… I-I just don’t know. I’m sure she didn’t even do it on purpose to begin with, but…” She sighed bitterly, closing her narrowing eyes and lowering her head shamefacedly. “After all that… I-I just can’t bring myself to forgive her.”

Sans was tempted to ask her what exactly that friend of hers had done— and yet judging by her look and tone, she would probably not want to talk about it.
And yet he started to chuckle uneasily.

“What?”
no, it’s…” He paused, sighing and trying to think about the best way to bring up what he had in mind: “you say you can’t forgive your best friend, and yet you’re not even mad at me for bringing you into all this mess. i just find that… odd.
“S-Sans, t-that’s not… I-It’s different.” she awkwardly stuttered, looking away once more. “Y-Y-You had your reasons.”
and she did too, didn’t she?
“Well, yeah she did, but—” She suddenly stopped, then frowned and face-palmed. And then she started to both laugh clumsily and groan at the same time: “… Uugh, I hate it when you’re right. I really am not making any sense, am I…”

The skeleton paused and closed his eye-sockets thoughtfully, but he eventually uttered some mumbled retort:

i… i think you’re making sense, kid.

She gave him a lost and puzzled look, and yet he could see from the corner of his eye-holes that her hands were still trembling— very slightly, they were more being tense than really shaking at all… But that was just another piece of evidence for what he was about to say, and he hated it.

that’s not what i wanted, and i guess you don’t want that either, but…” He sighed, turning slowly his skull towards her and giving her two sad and guilt-ridden white pellets. “you’re still scared of me, aren’t you?

She hurriedly opened her mouth and gasped for air, as if she were about to utter as fast as possible some random retort to refute his sayings… But it only took her a split second to realize that just this last reaction was exactly confirming them— just the way it had been enough to fully convince him that he had been right.

She lowered her look and tried to mouth some apologies, and yet her throat was completely dry and her voice turned mute.

that’s why you won’t let yourself get mad at me, isn’t it? i don’t know if it’s your phobia or if it’s just because you’d be scared to get me to get mad at you in return or something, but… you just don’t want to show how mad you really are because i screwed up and that because of that now you’re stuck here. am i right?

She waited for a few seconds… but merely nodded in the end.
She was not really fully convinced of that herself but that did sound a little bit like that and even if she wanted to disagree she just could not find the words to say otherwise.

So you mean it’s your fault if she’s here, then? Well, isn’t that unexpected.

They both jerked their heads up and faced Grillby with shock. Since when was he back on the counter…? F-For how long had he been listening to them?!
The fire elemental simply put two plates in front of them with two very nice-looking hamburgers. The scent was wonderful and they were still warm and somewhat fuming. Just the way she liked them most.

But now that she was thinking about it— it had taken him a while to make just two hamburgers. What had he been doing otherwise during all this time…?

Sorry I ended up eavesdropping.” the barman apologized in a low tone, even though for some reason no particular emotion such as, let’s say, sincerity could be found in his voice. She didn’t like that. “I just wanted to tell you that the Canine Unit did catch your human smell and some members were getting suspicious, so I had to cover up for you and find some reason to make them leave for now. You’re welcome by the way.

Sans and Dawn turned around by reflex, and noticed that indeed more than half of the other seats in the restaurant were now empty, leaving now only some harmless civilians – half of whom almost seemed to be either sleepy or drunk, even.
… Could monsters get drunk?

Anyways… They really had been a little too absorbed in their conversation then, huh.
The teenager, still under the shock and her mouth still gaping in genuine awe, barely managed to mumble some awkward “T-T-Thanks.”

I can’t believe this just happened am I dreaming is that even possible this is so cool I don’t wanna wake up that’s so sweet oh my God he’s so awesome.

And yet now the fire monster leaned a little more towards her and— she didn’t like the heat coming from him. He didn’t look amused and it scared her. What exactly could he do? Or rather… what would he do?

But you still owe me an explanation, human.” he retorted dryly. “I trust Sans so I’ll help you too for now, but I would still prefer to at least know why I’m betraying the King’s policy.
“Oh, uh…” She quickly gave Sans a lost questioning look, silently asking him what to answer— but the skeleton simply gave her an approving shrug. “… S-Sure. It’s… a very long story, though.”

Apparently her uneasy and scared attitude was enough for him to calm down immediately.
That… surely was quick. Had it just been an act before?

It’s okay, miss.” the fire elemental chuckled, already back to his usual relaxed tone. “I’m a barman: that’s my job to listen to my clients’ tales.” he shrugged jokingly. “Especially when they are likely to be fascinating.

Heh, no wonder he and Sans were getting along that well. They seemed to share the same tricks and… maybe the same sense of humor, even?

In any ways— while gladly enjoying their delicious meals, Sans and her just started to both tell their story from the very beginning, and – very surprisingly –, even though he was obviously skeptical at first, he was actually pretty quick to believe them— to believe Sans, at least.
Dawn was also secretly surprised to see how Sans was not so secretive anymore and how it had been actually so easy to make him talk— but two main reasons quickly came in her mind to justify such behavior.
Firstly: that was Grillby, and it really wasn’t hard to guess how Sans was apparently used to talking to him as a friend about pretty much anything. And looking at him right now… He actually seemed to fully enjoy this moment as it was— as if it had been a very long time he could not have actually had a meaningful conversation with that monster.
And second… If he was right, then it soon would not even matter whether or not he told anyone— since the next Reset was likely to come any time during the night.

She shuddered. How could he ever get used to everyone else regularly forgetting about just everything he would tell them?

Ironically enough, the barman would always chill out and keep his cool in every occasion— even when Sans brought the ‘videogame’ part. She had never expected him to ever tell anyone else about that, and yet she was both surprised to hear him not only bring up the topic, but to see Grillby actually believe him and shrug as if it were nothing. Even if Sans was not very precise with the details and even if he deliberately lured him into believing in some kind of alternate version that was close enough without being truly real — what, you think there could be an actual connection between this game and our world…? naaah, just a coincidence. —, but… Honestly, could anything ever surprise that guy?

After a few longer minutes, the monster would have some more questions; but they were much more casual and actually coming from some deep and genuine curiosity. About the human culture, about how ‘that other Surface’ looked like, and he even asked some questions about the game as if it were just some real, completely normal, videogame.
Sans would even eventually start to come along and ask his own many questions, and the human started then to shyly feel embarrassed over it as those questions started to get a little too personal.

“Uuh, w-we’ve been talking a lot about myself ‘till now.” she mumbled sheepishly. “H-How about you two, then? Sans, you’re a lot into science stuff and you are good at it— I mean, I’m just proof enough of that, don’t you think? So how come you are now a sentry and doing odd jobs like that instead?”

The skeleton awkwardly looked away in unease, and she actually evilly enjoyed that. Even better, Grillby actually chuckled along and raised a thoughtful hand to jokingly rub his nonexistent chin.
Oh, he could be laughing now. Sans was first, but his turn would come too eventually. Now was time for her revenge, and she would show no mercy to any of them.

Her only regret was that the common rumor about skeletons blushing blue (or blushing at all, for that matter) turned out to be entirely untrue. She was now sure that if Sans had ever been able to do so, right now he would have had his skull at least partially colored with some deep azure of embarrassment.

oh you know, there’s really nothin’ important to it. i mean, you already know all of it in the game anyway, so—
Oh no you won’t. You’ve been tricking me into telling all about myself all along for the past three days. Now it’s your turn.”

Until then, he had somewhat kept his joyful and joking attitude— and yet now for some reason he was not amused anymore. Well, it wasn’t hard to guess from the game that he had had somehow some kind of awful tragic past or something, and the fans had been very creative with piecing together dozens of theories of all sorts and all, most of them being just sad or even horrible…
But he had it coming.

i just happened to study science in hotland ‘till college and then i stopped because i lost interest so papyrus got me a job in the royal guard, the end. there, satisfied?” he rolled his white dots inside of his frowning eye-sockets, and if she didn’t have her necrophobia to make her slightly shudder upon seeing that, she would just have thought it to be cute and funny.
“Nu-uh. No way out of it.” she yet chanted evilly, shaking her head in some ridiculous childish dance. “This is backstory time. Yours. Right now.”
I must admit Sans, the human is right.” Grillby came in with a light humorous chuckle. “I am very curious too. It’s been almost three years and you keep coming regularly, but nobody ever learned anything about you or your brother’s origins. You could avoid my questions until now, but I would really like to know you a little more. What brought you here?
oh geez…” the skeleton face-palmed, laughing uneasily. “if you’re teaming up now then i really don’t stand a chance, do i?
“Nope~!” Dawn giggled, a wide proud grin of victory on her face.

Oh she was so eager now to dig into the spoilers and finally get the final truth about all those fan theories. So now that someone finally had this unique chance to directly consult the Word of God himself, which story was canon?

“Come on, Sans. There must be a reason you’re not a scientist anymore. What happened?”

Still face-palming, the monster was now rubbing his skull with his still gloved hand as he sighed deeply.

let’s just say… i’ve actually never been an actual scientist. really. i studied and all and i spent weeks in my father’s lab and sometimes i’d even help him and follow his research— i mean, i got my master’s degree there —, but i was too young to officially take part in the real stuff by that time, so…
“Woah-woah-whoa. Wait.” she immediately interrupted. “You mean that… Gaster really was your father?”
wait, how did you…

Just by reflex, he had widened in shock his eye-sockets— but as he had straight away remembered who had uttered such name and how that person could possibly have connected the dots, he just face-palmed and sighed once more.

… ugh. i mean yeah, he was.

Maybe he could take advantage of this opportunity to directly ask her about the details…
And yet, for some reason, her reaction was not really the one he had expected.

“Haha, YES!” she suddenly cried in victory to no one in particular. “Take that Steven, I was right!”

The two friends – along even with some of the other remaining monsters behind that just heard such cry of victory for no apparent reason – stared at her in shock and bewilderment, and upon seeing this she coughed uneasily.

“… uh. S-S-Sorry. I g-guess I got a little carried away there. K-Keep going.”

And yet he would not answer, now burying his head into both of his hands and grumbling some inaudible meaningless grunts.

Hm. I see someone’s even more popular than they seem around here.” Grillby mused, laughing jokingly after a short silence.
“Well, it’s not my fault if you’ve got tons of fangirls back there, and that since you’re still so mysterious about everything and all that, there are dozens of theories about you.”
yeah, i can guess y’all’ve been speculating an’ stuff about that, huh.” Sans eventually stared at the ceiling for an instant, before closing his eye-sockets and chuckling lightly. “heh. i suppose i’ll regret asking but, what else did you guys have in mind otherwise?

The girl coughed uneasily. Should she really…?
Oh well. She wanted her revenge and making him uncomfortable was hilarious. Especially if Grillby himself was here to support her. So why the heck not?

“Well let’s just say, one of the most common theories are that he was either your brother or your father— sometimes some people even compared him to some ‘Grandpa Semi’ or something? I think that’s cut content but maybe it still rings a bell?”
well, that guy surely wasn’t my mother.” the skeleton shrugged and winked, and she could have sworn that if that scene was from the game’s perspective, she would somehow have heard a rimshot, even without a pun.
“But… One of the most popular theories is that you and Paps are just some experiments he made for various reasons.”

She had never thought before that it could have been possible for a skeleton to do such thing, but Sans somehow managed to choke upon his ketchup drinking and kept coughing for a few longer seconds.
Bingo~
Well, he had seen it coming and he deserved it. It was all his own fault, and his face right now was just priceless.

who the hell came up with ideas like that?” he muttered to himself, now back to his awkward embarrassed face-palm.
“Dunno.” she shrugged carelessly. “Some people think that he was trying to build weapons against humans, others speculate that he was toying with Souls for the sake of science or whatever… In most depictions, Gaster was kind of some sociopath jerk, though. And that after a while he went too far and careless and had an accident with the CORE or something.”
but he… what… kid, this is not just some random lame scenario for…


Oh, yeah. Of course.

Yeah, it was, after all. Haha. Hahahahaha.

Wait.
Did that mean that they could have ended up with such origins?!

Grillby was literally dying of laughter right now.

seriously, though, t-that’s just ridiculous. we were working in the physics branch, not in… whatever you had in mind that department doesn’t even exist.” Sans sighed. “the closest thing would be the natural energies section. random soul shenanigans and other biological stuff, that’s alphys’ area. and even though sometimes we were collaborating, that’d never be to do such things.
“Yeah… That’s why I wasn’t fond of this idea. Well, at least that’s one of the reasons.” Dawn uttered uneasily. She held her breath for a few moments, hesitating before asking her next question: “He wasn’t a bad guy, was he?”

She heard the skeleton laugh quietly. He sounded so sad, and yet… nostalgic, probably.
Ugh. Now she was feeling bad for asking.

he was the best dad ever, kid.” he eventually said in a soft tone. “plus he got to be not only the brightest mind in the underground, but the brightest teacher too. he taught me everything.
“I… see.” She couldn’t help but look down… and somehow her hamburger leftovers didn’t look as appetizing as they were until now. “There’s still… something I don’t understand, though.”

Sans jerked his skull up slightly and shrugged.

sure. go ahead.

She noticed Grillby had stayed silent too for a few minutes, probably just listening by now… Maybe he just didn’t dare disturb their conversation with meaningless questions.

“From what we know, he was scattered through space and time or whatever after his accident, and somehow every trace or memory of his very existence disappeared or whatever. So…” Judging by the deep and somewhat confused yet smart look on his face, she deduced that he already knew what her question would be; and yet she still felt the need to ask it openly: “How can you remember about him? Is that connected to the fact that you can remember Resets too?”

He sighed once more as his left hand started to scartch the back of his skull, seemingly about to answer—
And yet a bang from the door cut him short before he even had time to utter anything.

They barely had the time to turn back and see for themselves what was going on that one large loud female voice resonated in the room and made the wood walls tremble as she stepped inside.

SANS! I can’t believe I’m seeing this!

The monsters had just frozen to her sight, and judging by their attitudes and the voice… The human was quick to put two and two together.

Undyne.

… That was not good.

Sans was the first to react, jumping out of his seat and carefully standing before her— but he obviously looked stunned, as he had definitely not expected her to ever come here by herself. He quickly checked his hoodie’s pocket, but Papyrus’ phone was still there. So… How? What was she doing here?!

uh… hey, undyne.” he chuckled nervously. “what brings you here so late?

The fish monster grunted in contempt.

I was worried, Sans. You realize that?” she hissed. “Papyrus didn’t come for his usual report all day, he was not even answering his phone, and you weren’t at your post at all. And now I see this.

Finally Dawn dared to perk one glance at her, succumbing to her dying curiosity—
The one first word she could find was that she was… beautiful. There was some majesty in her confidence, so much dignity in her attitude— this first impression surely was impressive, to say the least.
Through her red messy hair she could find the hurry of some deeply worried friend, and her tough yet still cold blue scales dropping with anxious and determined sweat all over her forehead were betraying her genuine rush as she had probably ran all her way from Waterfall until here, hardly wearing some warm jacket and a scarf instead of her armor— she was not expecting at all what she was seeing here, that was obvious. And now she was seeing that not only were they fine, but that they had also betrayed her and were talking with the enemy… She could not help but understand, somehow.
According to the current circumstances… Deep down she knew who was right.

… yeah. whoops. uh, sorry. but i can assure you that there’s a perfectly logical explanation to all this and that you’d really wanna listen to it, so…

She clenched her fists, and the teenager swore she was seeing some… light emitting from them? A little like some green halo, and…
For some reason she was so terrified she would not even feel her own fear and somehow she was serene and could not turn her eyes away from her. This radiant hypnotic glaze… Somehow she could understand such honesty. Such sense of justice.

Wait, not in the—

Grillby was suddenly cut short when, just as he had pleaded not to, a spear drove near the human and barely reached her— wouldn’t it have been for Sans’ quick reaction to grab her arm and open a shortcut, making them both disappear completely in an instant.

The teal glowing lance reached the counter, but no one actually cared at the moment: all eyes were staring in shock at the very spot the two intruders had been standing just seconds ago.

Did Sans just… really do that?” Undyne eventually uttered in deep confusion.
Can Sans really do that?” Grillby simply retorted, giving her a suspicious look.

They were both here… and then— not here anymore.
What was that supposed to be? No monster had ever heard of such… phenomenon before.

I… I think Alphys told me once something about him being able to teleport, but I never… I-I mean, that’s ridiculous…” the fish monster uttered uneasily.

Well, that did explain how he could be nowhere and everywhere at the same time, handling dozens of jobs at once anywhere and everywhere in the Underground… She could never actually catch him slacking off because he always happened to be at a different station whenever she was around one of them and expecting him to be sleeping on the counter. So no matter how absurd such idea seemed…

He had hardly used his magic to do such thing— she, along with the other monsters, would have felt it if it had really been the case. She had seen his left eye glow blue for a second, but that had been all.

That was just pure nonsense. No more, no less.

And yet she would not stop here. That human… She had to understand what was going on, and whatever sort of enchantment it had plunged Sans into— she had to find a way to snap him out of it. That simply was not the lazybones she knew and that simply wasn’t the type to randomly protect a foe from his own kind.

Undyne was about to dash back out of the restaurant and look for wherever they could have teleported to, but she was suddenly stopped when she heard some exaggerated coughing.
She turned around towards the fire elemental and groaned.

What?

Grillby gestured a quiet finger towards the broken wooden table and the spear still slicing its surface pretty badly.

… You’re still paying for that counter.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 5² — Something to Dust off

“… At least now you’re in your element. Ha!”

The Mole: little insectivorous mammal, usually living underground. Keeps digging despite her ridiculously rudimentary view over her surroundings.

 

ugh… why did she come here? that’s not like her…

 

That’s all she’s always been doing all her life. Digging.
She digs until she reaches the bottom and keeps digging until she can reach even deeper and yet still keeps digging.

“Hey! What do you two think you’re doing?”

At that time, they had stopped and turned towards this new, high pitched, yet so serious voice, and then they had started to pout. Well, if they were about to be scolded, there was no more fun in this little game. They were just joking, it was not their fault if that little wimp was such a crybaby unable to stand the truth.

 

i mean, she can’t’ve just been worried about paps, right? she never did that before. well, usually it was the kid’s fault so she’d see them later in the afternoon and get the scheme, but still…

 

At that time, she had turned around to see her too. Her vision was blurry because she had some tears— what? No, she wasn’t crying! Gregory was just being mean and saying things that weren’t true, and he would call her a liar if she tried to defend herself!
But then she saw her. That had been… The very first time she had met her, too.

There was this kind of mysterious majesty in her confidence… She was keeping such dignity in her stern face, struggling not to show those little sparks of worry in the corner of her eyes… She had already seen that look before and yet she had never seen that look before. This was the look the Adults are scolding the bad kids with, the way they spread justice and save the weak from the foe…

Such brilliance and bravery despite her age… She was beautiful.

“And who d’ya think you are?”

Greg was not amused, and his friend Tony had perfectly well worded their shared frustrated thoughts.
She was just a girl they had never seen before. Probably from the other class. Anyways, she had nothing to do here and she didn’t have the right to annoy them. That was mean and only the Adults have the right to do that.

 

what do you think, kid?

 

She could understand but they were still very mean to her and that was not very nice.
The mysterious girl hummed in contempt and put her hands on her hips.
Just like the Adults.
She readjusted her glasses with her nose as she started to frown.

“I’m Amaryllis Rose Wynn, third grade, student number twenty-eight from class 1-A. And I think you’re bothering your little comrade.”

It was amazing that she was looking, acting, and speaking just like the Adults.
She had heard of children like that, sometimes. Most of the time it’s because they have very strict parents, or because they are very smart and like books and studies. Most of the time they prefer that to playing with toys or making friends.
Those kids are weird and until then she had never wanted to believe they actually existed.

And yet there was something in her eyes— this radiant glaze… There was this spark of deep and genuine honesty in her. Such sense of justice.

Maybe that ‘Amaryllis’ sounded very pretentious, but she would save her.
Just like in the movies.
That was so cool.

 

kid?

 

Gregory laughed in some bewildered mocking scoff.

“Oh yeah, and now she’s the poor victim and we’re the bad kids, huh? We just wanted to go see if we could wake up those stupid bats but she told the Teachers and now thanks to her we’re grounded when we come back!” He cried before such injustice. “It’s always her fault. She always tells the Teachers everything, she’s just a mean tat… tattle…” He growled as apparently some difficult word was struggling to make it through his teeth. “It’s just always the Mole! We’re not the only ones, it’s always her fault!”

The Mole: also widely known in the spy novels as the very embodiment of Betrayal.

 

kid. c’mon, what’s going on? you still in there?

 

That was what she was. What she had always been. A traitor.
A traitor, and a cheater. Not a liar— no, she was always saying the truth. But not always the whole truth, because sometimes she just had not dug deep enough before seeing some grave emergency and telling everyone everything.
Lies are for bad people. But she was not lying if she didn’t know, right? It wasn’t her fault…

“Well if she told the Teachers, then maybe it means that scaring those bats was not a good idea, right?” Amaryllis shrugged in some mocking way, as she seemed to be stating the Obviousness in person.
“We didn’t wanted to scare’em, we just wanna see’em move!” Tony protested.
“You’ll see how she is.” Gregory retorted bitterly, almost sniggering slyly. “She’ll get you too, someday. She gets everyone. One day you’re her friend and the other she tells the Teacher something bad about you and you get punished.”

She was new, so of course she wouldn’t know the Mole.
But if she wasn’t careful enough, she’d fall into her trap. Just like the others.
The Mole was dangerous and mean. The Mole just digs and doesn’t care for the consequences. The Mole just cares about her Holes, and nothing else matters.

“Now at least we’re in the right place for moles like her.” Gregory continued angrily. “You know where moles go, right? Holes. And it happens ours already knows how to dig’em, so that shouldn’t be any different.” And then he had turned towards her and had a sudden outburst of full rage. “You feel familiar here, Molly?!”

He had paced in some fuming fury towards her as he had been uttering this— until she felt a push.

And then she lost her balance.


I should run down the Hole
Just let me hide there like a Mole
‘Cause that’s what they think of me

dammit, kid, now’s really the moment…

 

Amaryllis gasped and even Tony suddenly looked scared.

“Hey Greg, wait! There’s a—”

The ground under her feet was no more. Gregory widened his eyes in shock.

She saw the girl trying to run towards her, she saw her stretching her hand in panic and she was scared too so she also tried to reach it—
And then everything was pitch black, and then the pain came.

She vainly heard Gregory scream in horror…

“W-Wait, no! I-I didn’t mean to, come back!”

But of course Gravity does not work that way.


They don’t wanna let me fall
They believe my dreams belong
They don’t see I’ve had it all

It was so dark in there and cold and scary

And then she started to hear some creepy giggles all around her

Until she realized those are not giggles


Just let me run…
Down the Hole

hey kid, are you listening? dawn?

Dawn the Mole

ugh, you gonna snap out of it eventually?!

She finally jerked up, and yet her tired sleepy eyes suddenly widened.
There is a skull staring at her and he is grabbing her shoulders.

She screamed.

whoa, calm down…!

Taken by surprise, the skeleton shuddered and let her go immediately as he stared in bewilderment at her horrified face distorted with fear and… abhorrence.

… Ookay. No touching. No more touching. Never again.

Damn it, just one hour ago she was alright with holding his hand on her own will and going through shortcuts. What the hell is going on, now?
Ugh. Well, phobias are irrational from the start, so how could he expect its ‘recovery’ to work in rational ways…

Dawn, still screaming, felt tears starting to roll on her cheeks as she hurriedly stepped back and fell backwards in the—

Wait. There is no snow in that Hole. Why is she lying in the snow?

shh. it’s alright. it’s just me. remember?

Her eyes were raised once again towards the skeleton—
He was alive, and afraid, and sorry. He was from afar but still looking at her and trying to gently and warily come closer and he was whispering to her to calm down—
And then she finally remembered him and where she was and what had just been going on and she understood that he had to be pretty confused and lost and worried right now and that it was her fault for being so stupid.

She realized she was hyperventilating.

She closed her eyes, and she heard some footsteps as the monster was apparently carefully getting closer. He was warning her beforehand that they could not stay here so he would eventually have to make her move if she couldn’t follow on her own, but she raised a shaking hand to stop him, her eyes still closed.
She was trying to speak but her heart and her lungs just wouldn’t let her take a breath long enough.

dammit, what the hell is wrong with you…?

The skeleton simply sighed tensely, clueless as to what he was supposed to do to help… But maybe –probably– the only thing that would work would be waiting.

“S-Sans…”

She immediately started to cough, still trying to catch her breath; and yet that was some good improvement already. Still pretty far from being enough, though.
She had opened her eyes and was giving him a sorry look, and he could perfectly predict the incoming ‘I’m sorry’ her lips would not utter.
Well… apologizing was not the problem. Apologies don’t make you walk.

All this mess was making them waste some precious time and right now they could not afford to do that. Undyne would be probably startled and far enough to feel lost and they hopefully still had some time before she started to look in the right direction— but she would come by eventually, and judging by her determination to find them, that could not take that long.

The human stayed a little longer sitting awkwardly in the snow, staring at him with a gaping mouth. And then when she finally got back to some regular and calmer breathing, she closed her eyes back and frowned, rubbing them as she was face-palming.

“… ugh. S-S-Sorry. I-I think I kinda spaced out a b-bit.”
no kidding.” he rolled his white pupils annoyingly.

He offered her a gloved hand to help her get back up, but he immediately saw her shivers and hesitation and he froze— though after a few seconds she stretched a trembling half-closed palm and he had to gently grab it himself as she struggled to keep her balance.
He then realized that she would probably suffer from the freezing air around them right now and he offered his jacket in the meantime, as he ordered her to follow him.

She would not question him, still feeling way too cold and startled to find the words to utter anything— and yet she still was wondering about an awful lot of things.
The main problem resonating in her mind being simply: why here?

They were in the middle of the Snowdin Forest, probably— it was her first time visiting it fully on foot on her own so she had no idea how big it really was, but they probably were pretty far from the city. And now, where were they heading to? Back to town? That would make no sense and that would just be a huge waste of time, so… what did he have in mind? Had he just panicked and sent them through the first shortcut he could think of and they had just ended up in some random place and now they could even be lost in the middle of nowhere?
Why wasn’t he just taking them through another shortcut, now that he apparently was able to think properly and find them some more relevant location to hide or something?

“What are… W-Why here…?” she eventually stuttered in some kind of sleepy and absent-minded tone. “Why didn’t you just get us home?”
no way.” Sans shook his skull gravely. “first place she’ll check— including the basement.

And he apparently cringed at the mere thought of the fish lady breaking the reinforced door, shattering some random things in her rage or damaging the computer, and potentially messing with his notes and works— well, what remained of them.
The next Reset would just fix the physical damage anyway, but… Considering the current state of some of them, he still had some doubts and he really hoped nothing would happen.

Back in the very first timeline he could (now very blurrily) remember of, he had managed to Save a few things along with his memory— all of which were now standing in the basement. If there really was something he was deeply afraid to lose forever besides his new protégé, it was exactly that.

“How about Alphys’?”
wouldn’t be a good idea either.” He had been a little startled by her interrupting his train of thoughts, but his answer had been quick and firm. “and i’m not sure we could get alphys to lie to her— i mean, she probably wouldn’t want to betray us, it’s just that, y’know, she sucks at that sort of lying. especially with, well, undyne. she’d never be convincing enough, undyne’d come right away and we’d get her into trouble too.
“But Undyne hates Hotland.” she retorted. “In the game she’d just faint because of the heat and her armor’s being too hot and heavy or something—”
Yeah but right now she’s not wearing her armor, alright?

She bit her lips and almost tripped in the snow because of the shock, and the monster gave her an annoyed and confused look— before noticing that it had been because of his very tone and that right now his glare was just making it worse, so he face-palmed again and turned around, mumbling some awkward and nervous apology.
Ugh. Alright, now he was tensed too and that was getting over his head and adding that to her current necrophobia would just be extremely helpful.
He had to keep his cool. Calm down. Breathe.

Dawn tried to keep following his fast pacing, but this little sudden jump-scare was not really nice and it was all the more reassuring to see Sans lose his patience this fast.
Well, alright, he was pissed off and apparently her questions were just bothering him for nothing. Alright, she knew when to stop.

An open “ shut up ” would have worked too, you know.

And yet after a few other minutes of walking in the middle of nowhere, she simply couldn’t take it anymore.

“So what? How is staying here in the middle of the snow gonna help in any way?” she asked. “Didn’t you have any other places like— uh…”
nope.” he simply cut her short. “any place i could be, she’ll know about it too and she’ll think about it eventually. we could try to keep hiding here and there all night, but i’d still prefer to get to the safest solution. if we’re lucky enough.” he mumbled eventually in a mutter, more for himself than for her.
“And that’s the safest solution? The middle of the forest? Seriously?” She threw up her arms in the air in exasperation. “We’re not even hiding behind the trees! What are you even expecting from this place?”

He didn’t answer, instead simply raising a bored and tired finger to point what was lying just a little farther behind a few more saplings: and then the next thing she immediately noticed was the giant door.

They were back at the entrance of the Ruins.
He started to pace anxiously towards it, and she followed in his steps, mentally cursing her impatience.
Even though— wait, wasn’t this door supposed to be a one-way opening? How would they even get in anyway?

They were getting closer, and Sans noticed that despite the remaining prints in the snow, Frisk’s body was not there anymore.
Well, some members of the Royal Guard had definitely come across it at some point and taken it away for obvious reasons. Which was some good news, because he was really not feeling up to all this mess right now.

Some melody started to resonate in the soundproof snowy forest, and Sans immediately took his own phone away from one of his short’s pockets.
That was Undyne, of course.

He ignored the call, obviously.
He simply put the phone back in its place and sighed.

… ugh. that’s why i never take shortcuts in public.” he grumbled, still walking towards the giant door.

Fortunately, just as he had hoped, the kid had left it open and no one had closed it afterwards. And hopefully the one-way system would automatically reactivate as soon as they would get in and close it behind their track.
Even if Undyne knew where they would be (and he was sure it would not take her too long to find out), she would not be able to follow them. That was the most effective way – and also the laziest, maybe?
Well, right now it was not really like they had any other choice.

“What do you mean?” Dawn still asked thoughtfully with a confused frown. “I thought everyone knew about your shortcuts anyway.”
well, sorry to debunk another myth but that’s not the case. only alphys knows.

He simply rolled his white dots, trying to use all his remaining strength to further open the door. The human watched with bewilderment as he was struggling to do so and when she tried to give him a hand and he stopped to lean against the wall nearby, she saw that he was actually panting.
Did… skeletons need to breathe? It looked like they could be out of breath, at least, and that did not look pretty.
She put all her might into trying to further open the door, but it was really slow going.

Damn, it was heavy. How could that kid do it every time on his own?
Well, maybe that was just because the Player and the game were behind it or something. Who knows. That kid was really supposed to be anything but normal, after all. Could they even still be considered human, at that point? She wondered whether or not they even had their own personality, or if they were just some empty mindless puppet the Players would control.
… That last thought was kind of terrifying.

“But… Mettaton knows too… right?” she asked between two huffs.
he learned by accident one day i wasn’t careful enough, but yeah, he knows too. but really that’s all.

What did that mean, then? That his shortcuts were not a natural ability of his? How and why did he get that power, then? Could it be related either to the Resets or to Gaster’s accident? Maybe both? Was it somehow completely irrelevant?

He had seemed about to keep talking, but his breath was immediately cut short and he had to stop for a few seconds.
He was still panting. It was really taking him a while to recover, this time… Recover from what, now? The shortcut? The walk? He looked like he had raced through a full marathon. If she could be sure of one thing, it was that this was not normal. To be a little more precise and all the more obvious: that this was neither normal, nor a good sign.

Sans painfully struggled to bring one trembling hand over his forehead, as some giant headache started to settle.
Note to self: never take a shortcut longer than what you can afford. Not only you won’t make it entirely, but you end up twice as worn out afterwards, and it only gets worse as time passes.

After a few more seconds though, he already had forced himself to come back to help her and even if she didn’t like it, they still could join their forces to finally make the door budge enough so that they could pass.
He now entered into the Ruins and was signing her to follow him and get in. Hopefully it would be warmer inside.

As soon as she was beside him and already relieved that indeed it was somewhat warmer in there, the monster quickly perked an eye-socket outside before closing the gigantic wooden door as fast as he could— that was to say, rather slowly and painfully.
And then he sighed in deep relief, leaning against it and letting a gloved hand rub strongly his forehead.

okay. undyne can’t follow us now, so we’re just gonna stay here and wait for the reset.” he dictated sternly. “when it happens i’ll probably be back in my room, but i’ll just get a shortcut here immediately and knock on the door and you’ll open so that i can get you home and start over. how does that sound?

The human did not answer.
He waited for a few more seconds, but eventually, his eyes still closed, his patience started to run out:

hey kid. you heard the plan? you still in there?” Still no answer. Another surge of pain ran through his skull and he had to stop for another couple of seconds, but during that time the teenager would still stay completely silent. “dawn, are you alright?” he murmured as soon as he could.

This time he could not prevent his growing anxiousness from rising in his urged question.

“No, I’m not.” she eventually sharply replied, and Sans jerked his skull up towards her in confusion and alarm.

He so didn’t like this tone.

“Oh my God no Sans I’m so freaking not alright.” she repeated almost immediately, still in that same tone.

He could not find the time to ask what was going on, that she had already jerked her crimson head towards him and continued in a tone full of some burning nervous anger:

“Bloody hell, Sans, everyone here is freaking dead. How can you not see that?”

For the first time he actually turned his gaze towards the inside of the Ruins.

And for the first time he saw Toriel as a pile of dust.

H… How could he have forgotten about all this…?!

oh shit.” was all he managed to murmur after a while, his voice hoarse with shock.

All this dust everywhere. This heavy stuffy dusty smell that was making them sick.
Dawn felt like she could throw up any instant.

She couldn’t help but cover her mouth with a shaking hand and feel some tears form up in the corners of her eyes, her back sliding against the closed door as she was slowly crawling into a dizzy ball of flesh. Even though monsters did not know such thing as illness, Sans easily recognized the incoming malaise and did his best to kneel beside her and gently ask if there was anything he could do.

“W-W-Why c-c-can’t we j-just go h-h-home? Why-y h-here? I-I-I can’t s-stay here. S-S-Sans I-I just c-can’t.”

Well, to be honest, here the good news were: he couldn’t either.

i’ll… uh, j-just t-try to h-hang on, alright?” Oh, of course. How easy would that be for her if it was already so hard for him to just keep his own composure and not show her how badly he was handling it already. “o-okay, let’s c-calm down and…
“No! J-J-Just g-get us the heck out of h-here…!” she cried, burying her head between her shaking knees.

He cringed.
Yeah, that had to be expected. Ugh, how could he just forget about the kid, of all things?!

uh, l-look, i’d really like to be anywhere else right now too, but… i’m afraid we really don’t have the choice right now. i just can’t get us anywhere safe. n-not anymore.
“W-What does that even mean?” Man, even in her state, she had still managed to sound snappish, and even somewhat intimidating. “What are you talking about? W-Why don’t you just teleport us somewhere else— anywhere else—?!”
I can’t, alright?

There was a huge and uneasy desperate silence.
Dawn’s breath was cut short as her head raised back to meet his face and her melting brown eyes widened—
Had he just really said that…?

Sans took a long and heavy sigh, as he lowered his skull and ran a tense gloved hand on his forehead.

i can’t.” he repeated in a lower tone.

She shuddered as he sounded so desperate.
The last time she had heard his voice hold such dark echoes…

She had learned some terrible and horribly threatening revelations.
What was it this time that he had regrettably ‘forgotten’ to tell her about?

listen kid, shortcuts aren’t that easy.” the skeleton continued after an even longer pause. “it’s fine when i’m taking them on my own, but each time i bring someone along— it becomes much more draining and it always takes a while for me to recover.” He coughed and she shuddered again. He did look pretty worn out, to the point that he was actually struggling just to speak— This could go oh so well. “it depends on the length and my health and state of mind or whatever, but this time— usually i need almost two hours to recover after taking a passenger all the way from snowdin to hotland. we’ve hardly had fifty minutes this time, and the fact that we travelled everywhere all day doesn’t help. The reason we ended up in the middle of the forest that last time— It’s because I actually had to interrupt it midway.

Interrupt… Wait, what?
She had never heard of that before— and Sans had never seemed to ever show any limit to his powers… What happened? W-What was going on?

so yeah, now you know that my shortcuts are actually limited. satisfied?

Alright, and now she had just hit a nerve. As if things could still keep getting worse by now.
So she had really not noticed that he had been actually withholding and brilliantly calculating his shortcuts until now, and that apparently he hadn’t done it enough this time— because most probably it had been the only shortcut he had never expected to take. And who could blame him? Who could have predicted that Undyne would come— while they were both genuinely thinking that all trouble was over until the next Reset?

Maybe they had just been stupid enough to forget that Frisk was far from being the only threat they should be worrying about.

“S-So what you’re saying is…”
That the real reason I didn’t take us back to the lab is because I couldn’t, alright?” Sans immediately added, his tone now tense and angry.

This still managed to startle her, and she somehow succeeded to bring herself to mutter some random apology, hardly glancing at him—
Until she noticed some strange sparkles of dim light reflecting on the top of his skull, from the flickering remaining spot of light hardly hanging above them on the ceiling.
Sweat.

Sans was sweating and panting and he looked like his headache was pure agony by now.
That surely was new. Her phobia would have remembered this for sure if she had ever seen that face before.

But— now that she was thinking about it, he did show some actual signs of fatigue before.
Until now, it would never be anything worth noticing— it always took a few minutes before the symptoms would show up, as she could deduce from that last one. And as she mentally studied back the list of shortcuts they had gone through during the day…

He had first taken them from his workshop to Alphys’. At that point he was probably too angry to even notice the side-effect, and he was just getting up from what had probably been a full lazy night— at that point he probably was at full health and way too occupied with much more important struggles to just think about it. Besides, even if he had shown any signs of tiredness at that point, that surely would have been the last thing she would have noticed by that time, anyway.
He had only taken them back to his house after at least two hours and a half, from what she could remember; and once his despair had taken over… Maybe he had actually recovered during that time. They had spent at least one full hour around Alphys’ desk with a cup of tea (not enough as a breakfast, but apparently it had still somewhat helped), and whenever he was not talking, he had just been loosely pretending to sleep in his seat. Unless he wasn’t pretending.
He had maybe taken them to the Ruins’ door only ten minutes at most after the whole journey back from Hotland, and this time she wondered for a while why she hadn’t noticed anything— until she remembered that the first thing he had done upon arriving was pacing rather rapidly towards his usual spot and just lie down lazily against a tree, and that he had never moved from that spot until she left— and probably not even until the Player actually arrived.
He had taken them hastily from his garage to the Gate, but that one probably didn’t count since there had been the first Reload just a few minutes afterwards. So, uh, he most likely didn’t suffer from that one’s side-effects for long since it had actually ‘never happened’ in the current timeline… That one was messed up.
She had no idea whether or not he had taken any shortcuts during the time she had been out, but since Papyrus was most probably around, she assumed that Sans had just, at best, followed his brother and walked through the Forest on foot. Which made the next shortcut another trip to Alphys’, a couple of hours later— she did not remember how late exactly it was, but it certainly was already late enough in the afternoon…

And that had been the beginning of his restless accumulation of shortcuts.

Assuming that the most effective way to recover was to nap (?) — that was what made the most sense to her, at least, and that would give another justification to the monster’s legendary ‘laziness’ —, maybe the only times he ever had the chance to actively recover from that point were their discussion in Hotland, and their rather enthusiastic chat with Grillby.
Maybe, in total, hardly one hour and a half of trying-to-rest-but-being-nudged-at-every-so-often-so-he-actually-could-not-rest-at-all, to recover from a big Snowdin–Hotland round trip, one shorter shortcut in-between, and the last — apparently failed one.

On second thought… Yeah. That actually kind of made sense.
Did it mean that it was partially her fault for teasing him and preventing him from taking it easy as much as he needed? … That sounded weird.

And yet in a way, one part of her mind was still bugged over something.

In the game he could teleport every few seconds during his boss fight, so… What was that coming from? Maybe it had something to do with the distance? Or was it because he had been taking a passenger all along? … It still was true that in the game, never the both of those conditions were reunited at the same time— and Sans’ actually shown shortcuts weren’t half as numerous as the ones they had been through in only one day.
And maybe that was the one real reason of Sans’ sweaty fatigue at the end of his boss fight, now that she was thinking about it.

so, uh, yeah. it was maybe around the seventh or eighth shortcut of the day with you along, and i didn’t take a single nap in between.” Sans indeed confirmed in a long and heavy sigh. “i’m dead tired, dawn.” It took him a few seconds before he realized, but when he did, the face-palm was all the more embarrassed and genuinely annoyed as he continued in an awkward grunt: “… pun absolutely not intended, i swear.

As the unintended wordplay was welcomed with a humorless cackle, the skeleton understood that this had been her last straw.

“So what? We’ve been jumping through space and time or whatever all day for nothing, and now that we’d actually need your shortcuts, you’re out of batteries? Is this a joke?!”
t-trust me kid, i’d love to get us out of here and i’d have done that a long time ago if there was any other option.
“Well, so now we’re stuck here for the night? I’d rather run for my life than root here. For Pete’s sake, even a child could do it!”
we don’t even know if that kid is— we don’t even know what that kid is, dawn!” Though his voice was immediately back to a lower and calmer tone, she could still hear its tense echoes as he continued: “and even besides that— at least, they have more than one life.

That cut her short, and yet she still pouted uneasily, sniffling and burying back her head in her knees. He hesitated for a few seconds, raising one hand above her shoulders— but quickly retracted it back into his pocket before he even got to touch her.
That could not have helped.

He perked a quick glance at his watch— fourteen past ten. Ugh.
All day it had been a race against time, and now he was willing for the next Reset to just happen as fast as possible and make this stop. How messed up was that?

d-don’t worry. that’ll soon be over.” he uttered uneasily, as to try to convince himself of this oh so obvious lie.
“You really think we couldn’t just get out before Undyne arrives and hide in the forest? Y-You know that field, don’t you?”

He cringed.
He had not really thought about this option sooner— maybe because of his laziness, or because of his ever growing headache and fatigue…
Anyway, if she really had wanted this to happen, she should have talked about it sooner. Undyne could just find them out any minute by now. That was definitely the worst moment to possibly get out, sadly.

He sighed. Even if she could effectively go play hide-and-seek in the forest for a while, he couldn’t possibly keep up. Not in this state.

… no. by now we’re probably too late for that.

And yet she gritted her teeth.

“I don’t care if Undyne comes by here any minute, I’d prefer confront her face to face rather than stay here!”
don’t be stupid, dawn.” he moaned tiredly and desperately. “i know you don’t mean it.

She wanted to argue, and yet she remembered how that last encounter had happened, and what her reaction had been—

That was to say, nothing.
Absolutely nothing.

She had been so paralyzed with terror and whatever kind of memory trance she had been put into, and if it weren’t for Sans’ unexpected shortcut…

She saw again that spear that had almost impaled her chest and her eyes widened.
Oh God she had almost died.

Oh God she had — freaking — almost — died.

The realization was even more striking than the mere sight of the dust— the feeling was— she could almost feel that pain and her heart pounded and her breath cut short as her lungs seemed to be sliced

Hadn’t it been for Sans’ excellent reflexes, this could have been the end. The real end.
And now, reflexes or not, he could not help anymore.
The thought was terrifying.

She clutched her chest as if that spear had just hit her, and this time Sans started himself to panic, trying desperately to calm her down by any means.
Ugh. And here he thought that necrophobia and thanatophobia were two different, completely unrelated things… Now, if she oh so coincidentally happened to suffer from both of them, that would really take the cake.
He couldn’t help but mentally face-palm at this horrifying idea, all while trying to mutter calmly some random ineffective supposedly comforting yet meaningless words.

alright, now that’s enough freaking out for the day.” he eventually uttered determinedly, his patience running out even faster every time.

She indeed tried to follow his advice (or order?) and calm down, and yet she could still feel tears warm up her rosy cheeks and shivers rolling down her spine. Sans tried to carefully sit a little closer, but he stopped as soon as only ten centimeters at least were separating them— since she had started to look uneasy.
They stayed in that state for a few more minutes, trying to slowly calm down and come back to some slower and deeper breath. The pile of dust was still facing them though, and Dawn was still having a hard time trying to desperately ignore its overwhelming presence.

And then a silly idea came through Sans’ mind all of a sudden.

uh, h-here’s an idea. you close your eyes, you forget about all this and i’m gonna tell you jokes till the reset happens.

He chuckled emptily, as to vainly try to convince himself that he was okay with it.

“Y-Y-You’re crazy.” She hardly managed to mumble between two sobs.
probably… but that’s all we have left.” he sighed. “so, uh, i dunno. we could also stay here and keep staring, or…
“Y-Yeah alright.” she mumbled, burying her head even deeper into her knees. “Anything but that.”

Sans gave her a sad yet tentatively comforting smile, as she simply put her head on top of her knees and closed her eyes, trying to relax as much as she could.
After a little while, she heard his voice sound a little lighter:

y’know, i’ve always asked paps if we could replace the stairs with a lift.
“‘Cause you’re so lazy?” she retorted immediately, mentally rolling her closed eyes.
well, that too. but it’s just that i don’t trust stairs. they’re always up to something.
“Unless they’re feeling down, of course.” she nervously mumbled, face-palming but slightly smirking cynically in the corner of her lips. “Classic.”
oh, tough crowd, i see.” Sans chuckled mischievously.

The human rolled her eyes and shrugged.
Apparently, though, his strategy had worked since she was already forgetting about their surroundings. Which surely could only be a good thing by now.

“Yep.” she giggled slyly. “Okay, my turn. I’ll show you how it’s done.”
oh, a challenge, then.” His stuck-smirk enlarged itself in some dangerous teasing grin. “careful, kid. i’m not the kind to like competition, and no one’s ever bested me yet.
“Ha. We’ll see about that.” Dawn retorted defiantly.

And then she took a large breath, before starting to speak in her most mysterious and low tone, as to tell some ancient legend. It was obvious that she was only doing it for the sake of being dramatically theatrically parodic, but Sans guessed that it probably was just part of the joke. Or part of her willing to overdo things as much as she could just for the sake of sounding silly, it depends on the perspective.

It all starts in an old, traditional, green mountain in summer. An old and poor shepherd, stuck to his old traditions from his old ancestors, guides his one hundred sheep alongside his loyal sheepdog throughout his cherished antic transhumance. As he was quietly resting underneath a tree, watching patiently his flock graze peacefully, down the nearby country road all of a sudden, a limousine came to pass, then stopped; and a mysterious man wearing a very strict and clean suit came out of it.
The rich man seemed curious, watching eagerly the sheep freely grazing under the overwhelming heat, then went to meet the shepherd. Still driven by his greedy curiosity, the rich man started to ask numerous questions about the shepherd’s old-fashioned profession, his strange companions, his antique view over life and time passing. He eventually came to think that this peculiar way this old man could take it easy and remain in his poor condition without worrying about it was… fascinating.

Sans’ left eye-socket twitched nervously. Was he supposed to feel targeted by this?
Well, not like he wasn’t admitting it himself. He had given up a long time ago, and… Well. He was the one to think that the best way not to feel too desperate and sad over something was to just try to be contented with what was already given to him. He should have remembered that instead of just… going back to his old antics.
He still was surprised to realize that after more than three years — and even more than that, if he had to count the Resets in between —, he still had it in him, after all. Was this a good or a bad thing? He wondered.

After some longer chatting, the two men started to stray away from the initial subject, and talk about some… more casual topics.

“I have an idea,” the rich man eventually offered. “Here is some little game. I bet that, in less than one minute, I can calculate the number of sheep you possess in this very field.”
“Well,” the shepherd shrugged, “why not. Go ahead, sir.”
“But we should make it a real bet.” the rich man continued. “If I succeed, I will take one of those sheep as a reward.”

The shepherd looked at his living, swarming messy flock that surrounded them from all sides, and figured that such task would be impossible; thus he accepted. And yet the rich man would then go back to the limousine that was still waiting for him down the road, and took out of it numerous computers, calculators and other technological wonders; and using them, making numerous calculations in all possible ways, he indeed managed to go back to the shepherd and announce with a smile of victory that the old man owned exactly one hundred sheep. Which was the exact truth.

She would not notice, but for some reason the monster by her side looked all but amused by such tale, for now. She was blissfully unaware of the way he was to interpret this story’s current development… And even though he would definitely not tell her, that would not prevent him from feeling rather uneasy.
She would keep talking, though:

After a few other words, the rich man grabbed his reward and was heading towards his rich car, about to leave. But he was immediately stopped:

“Wait!” the shepherd hurriedly begged. “I have another bet: if I succeed to guess your profession, then I can get back what you took from me.”
“Well,” the rich man said with an amused smile, “go on.”

And the shepherd to retort:

“I bet you’re a consultant.”

The rich man, genuinely amazed, remained speechless for a few seconds; but that was indeed true.

“Well, you win.” he admitted. “May I just ask you what gave it away?”
“That sure was easy, sir.” the shepherd said with a large mocking grin. “First, you come and bother me while I never asked for your help. Second, you only tell me things I already know. And third… Could I get my dog back, now?”

There was a sudden overwhelming silence.
Sans remained speechless, staring at the void with his eye-sockets wide.
And then he snorted, slowly face-palming.

… good one. good and overly ridiculously long one considering what it’s really about, but… not bad.” the monster sniggered. “i’ll give it a C. for the effort.and the unintended accuracy on the self-deprecation, he didn’t add.
“Hey! I learned it from my uncle. Don’t be rude.” But her tone made it obvious that she was far from being offended, and that she was just humoring him. Probably the choice of the joke itself had been just because of that.
and what’s his job?
Consultant, of course.” she laughed. “Anyway. Your turn.”
yeah, yeah.” Sans chuckled. “still, i’ve been wondering… what’s a sheep anyway?

She stared at him in genuine bewilderment.

“… Are you serious?”
nah, of course i know.” he eye-rolled. “they cross oceans and alphys loves building them.

And he winked. And shrugged. And she imagined the rim-shot. Of course.
That was his turn to make a joke, after all.
Ugh. Why did she always have to fall for his punny traps?

i can’t believe you actually walked for it.” Oh, and now he was genuinely mocking her. Smug moron.
“Ugh, I just didn’t know! I mean, maybe you… could not know what they are— t-there aren’t any sheep underground, right? And, uh…” She paused for an instant, now hesitating as to whether or not she… should really ask this question. But eventually her curiosity won: “Now that I’m thinking about it… for how long have you been stuck down here?”

The skeleton sighed, smirking lazily and chuckling in a nostalgic way at the same time.
And the way he shrugged… Was it some way to mean that he… didn’t know himself?

for an awful lot of time, that’s for sure.” he answered, snorting uneasily at the obviousness of his extraordinarily precise statement. “i was born underground, and i’m pretty sure that’s the case for almost everyone by now. there might not even be anyone left that has ever seen the surface for real. even the king and toriel… i’m not even sure when exactly they were born, but it could’ve been even after the war. he wasn’t even the king yet at that time.

… Woah.
So that was an awful lot of time ago. Even Asgore and Toriel themselves could have…
But something was wrong, here.

“Wait. How about Gerson? They say he’s been fighting in the war… You can’t mean he’d be older than Asgore, are you?”
gerson? he’s a lot into that kind of antics and he used to be the captain of the royal guard before he retired and undyne took over… though, i wouldn’t be surprised if he’d survived the war, if he had taken part in it. from what i heard, he surely was a terror. even more popular and strong than undyne when he was younger.” He shrugged, and she stared in shock. “but, uh, for details, she’s the one you should ask, i guess. since he kinda participated in mentoring her training along with asgore or something.

Alright, this time it was a real bombshell that was launched and just landed and exploded in her mind.

“That’s… weird.” That was all she could say. She could figure a lot more emotions in her mind, but all that had just left her speechless. “It’s— it’s just really completely different from what I remember.”
well, you never played, right? and i don’t know how much you were into learning about all the details, but…
“I wasn’t much into it, you’re right.” she admitted shamefacedly, awkwardly running a hand through her messy hair. “But still, that just… doesn’t sound right. There’s still something that bugs me…”

He stared at her eagerly, as if he was genuinely waiting anxiously for some proof that any of them would be somehow wrong or… maybe even worse.
And suddenly her face lit up in realization.

“Your telescope! Why do you even have a telescope to begin with?”

Wait. Of all the things she could have thought about, it had to be… this?

… uh. garbage dump?” he simply retorted in an embarrassed nervous mutter. “i found it here once. it was old and broken, but it really was a chance i could fix it. and since i’ve heard a lot about the stars and all…” He paused for an instant, sighing deeply and closing his eyes as he leaned back against the door, his skull staring at the ceiling. And then as he opened them back and chuckled sadly… “heh. been a long time i didn’t use it for real. and, uh, technically, that never even happened. not in that timeline, i mean.

Alright. She had been suspicious of that for a long time, but now she had some actual tangible evidence of her hypothesis.
Screw that ‘True Reset’ junk. Apparently, even those had no effect on Sans.

Ugh. Poor guy.

“So you… really do remember the Surface, huh.”
yeah. been an awfully long time, though. kinda blurry by now.” he shrugged.

She bit her lips guiltily. Right now she still had not fully realized how precious the Surface felt like, still deeply and genuinely amazed by her current surroundings… But yes. She could only guess that it was only because she had been here for hardly three days, and that it wouldn’t take her long before she would get bored and eventually… wish she could get out. And get them out. In a real and permanent way.

Homesickness is all the more horrible when the place that makes you feel that way is supposed to be yours and you were born there and lived there all your life.

And now… How was he handling that homesickness now that he knew that this ‘Underground’ was just supposed to be an amalgam of binary code and pixels, along with even his friends and family, and…
himself.

Did he… really consider himself as some kind of ‘artificial intelligence’ or something, then? As a fictional character? How was she supposed to consider him…?
Well, for all the stares she was giving him, he surely looked pretty real for something supposedly virtual. So… maybe it was just easier to forget about the pixels and take this as real. Fully real.

And since this person next to her was fully real, he had a fully real life of his own.
A life she was now genuinely curious about, and eager to learn just as much as she could.

“How old are you, Sans?” She was not sure she really wanted to know, but she really was curious about it and, well…
five thousand years?

She stared at him with two goggle widened eyes, and he burst into some loud you should see your face typical laugh.

Seriously I have to stop falling into his traps. And they’re just so obvious, ugh!

just kidding. i’ll turn twenty-five in august.” he shrugged.

Wow. He was so young!
She had imagined him a little older than that. Like, in his thirties. Maybe his early forties at most. But then she remembered what he had said about having never been a scientist, and the fact that he apparently had started his job as a sentry around three years ago, according to Grillby… Yeah. If three years ago he was still studying, then that made sense.
Well, it surely was hard to guess a monster’s age by their appearance anyway – the most obvious reason why they had adopted that stripped shirt system, she could imagine –, and she couldn’t even know for sure if they were even supposed to have the same life-span as humans, so…
Anyway, it appeared that it was the case. Which kind of made things easier.

And yet suddenly he had looked away uneasily.

well… i mean, i was supposed to be.” he eventually added.
“… Ouch.” she couldn’t help but respond. Of course. “And, uh, then… F-For how long have you been… stuck like this?”

For how long had he stayed eternally at the age of twenty-four…? Ugh, she felt bad just by asking that. What if mentally he really had lived the equivalent of thousands of years of just the same days rolling in circles over and over and over again…?
Sans merely closed his eye-sockets and chuckled.

… heh. no idea. kinda hard to, y’know, keep track of it. but who cares. i’m not even sure i wanna know myself. doesn’t matter. not like i really, y’know, aged during that time.

And he winked.
And she found that wink just so sad.

anyway. my turn, right? for real this time.

She still wanted to give him a sad look, but figured that would not help. So she just looked away and closed her eyes, waiting for his next stupid pun or whatever.

But instead of the next joke, there was a knock on the door. Dawn couldn’t help but giggle as she was thinking back about the way this very door and those innocent knock-knock jokes had indirectly directed this world’s evolution on a scale she could hardly imagine…
And now she, herself, would have the chance to be a part of this tradition? What a honor.

“Who’s there?” she jokingly played along, still giggling.
undyne.

She snorted. What kind of stupid pun could he make up with that?!
Well, he was the pun master, wasn’t he? She hoped he wouldn’t disappoint her.

“Undyne who?”
uh, no. that was undyne. for real. the one to knock, i mean.

Whoops.

Well, uh, she couldn’t get in anyway, right? They were safe here. That was the very reason Sans had chosen this place. Undyne could not be a real threat right now. Not under such conditions. All they had to do was stay here and everything would be fine.

Some familiar tune resonated from one of Sans’ short’s pockets. This time she gave him a curious glance as he kept staring at the little screen, as if he was genuinely considering the option of answering to her.
And as he glanced back at her, she could see his smirk enlarge itself into its hugest dorkiest stupidest grin before he pressed a button and put the phone against his nonexistent ear, starting to talk in his most innocently jerky trollesque voice.

hey undyne, what’s up? enjoying the weather?

Oh come on. For real?
The human couldn’t help but face-palm.

Needless to say, Fish Lady was not amused.

You’re behind that door.” she simply stated in a monotone, low and bored voice.
yep.

She oh so hated that one-worded answer. Just some pure concentrate of slyness melted into the most annoyingly guilty-and-proud-of-it attitude into just one single word.
That human sure was good. The skeleton was sounding just like he always did, and she just oh so hated that. How dared she, to use her friends against her to just hide and taunt her as mischievously as morally possible and beyond, and then… just… Ngah!

It was some surprising miracle that she still found the bravery to keep her cool and let that anger remain inside.

The human is with you.” she added, just in the same tone as before.
yep.” he repeated exactly the same way.
You reactivated the one-way system.
yep.” She could literally feel some taunting eye-roll as he continued after some short pause: “well, it did that on its own. but yep.
You’re both gonna stay in here for God-Knows-How-Long.
that’ll be faster than you imagine, trust me.” She could oh so figure his oh so annoying careless shrug. “but yeah, that was my idea and i’m fully responsible for that one. i plead gillty.

A fish pun. Seriously. Under such circumstances. With such oh so annoyingly shrugging mocking careless tone.
… That was the real Sans alright.

She grinded her teeth and painfully held back a scowling hiss. That would encourage him.
In the end, she managed to just sigh (rather noisily), banging once more against that damned door that still wouldn’t budge.

hey undyne, what’s the matter? you’re silent all of a sudden. carp got your tongue?
Any more fish puns, Sans, and I SWEAR that you WILL regret it. SOMEHOW.

He sighed, and this time for one moment she thought that he was back to a graver attitude. And eventually he asked:

alright, seriously. what do you want?

She gritted her sharp teeth, letting resonate some harmonious hiss through the phone’s mikes as she answered in the most forced tone she had ever uttered:

First off: you’re fired.

Chapter Text

Alright. I know I already warned you in the last chapter's End note, but I'll repeat it here to begin with: this fiction is currently on hiatus, because of my studies. I'll have (roughly from April to June or even July) some VERY decisive exams (let's rather say, 'contests'- that's the litteral translation for the French word), and this year will be even harder than it already was before. So, well, let's be honest: I haven't even had time once to work on the next chapter, even though I know PERFECTLY what's going to happen there and HOW I want to write it. (which is very frustrating because there are just so many exciting things I keep thinking of for my plot and I just can't write them just because I can't find the time to Q_Q)

So. In order to try to make this hiatus a little less unbearable, I've decided something.

I decided to open a Q&A session.

A 100% non-censored one.

Which means that, well, you can really ask me (or the characters or whatever) anything you want. I will answer to absolutely ALL of your questions, whether they are spoilery or not. Well, in that last case I'll always find some way to answer them in a way that I'll let some hints/foreshadowing at best, but never actually answer them for real of course. HAHAHA. (but really it's still worth trying, you've got nothing to lose upon asking those questions anyway.)

The process will be pretty simple: from now on, everytime you have one (or multiple) question(s), you can ask anything you want in your reviews (and for once, I'll gather too the questions I get on ff.net). Once I have gathered enough questions (and I have time to), I'll answer them and publish a Q&A extra chapter with the questions (asked anonymously), and the answer after that. Depending on the question's topic, I'll either answer myself or "let" the characters do it themselves.

The questions you are "authorized" to ask are, as I said, anything and everything you want. How do I write my chapters? Tips and advice about the way I lead my plots and control/hide the foreshadowing and hints? Will we get to see in the flesh Dawn's former friends? Who's the one really pulling the strings? What's Grillby's favorite color? Did Dawn ever dream of pink mutant rabbits?

Yeah, you can really ask anything you want. And I'll answer EVERYTHING. Promise.
(it's just that if things start to get a little too spoilery you might get a little very annoying puppy scolding you)

So whelp. I guess I'll first gather the questions I already have been asked before, since the very beginning of this fiction. I already answered them, but you didn't get to see the ones I've been asked on ff.net, and they didn't get to read YOUR questions either.So this time, I'll make sure that you'll all get ALL the answers ;D

Now, well. Sorry again for this hiatus, and I hope you'll be good until then. I really miss my laptop ;^;

Chapter Text

Alright. I believe it’s stable enough by now.

* looks like it.
* but now, what if there’s a reset?

Naaah. You’re all on break time for now, remember? No one’s getting at any other’s throats and no one’s forgetting anything. So why won’t you just try to chill and have fun while it still lasts, uh?

* maybe because all this is just everything BUT okay?
* just YOU being here, is… ugh. i’m really wondering why i haven’t just blasted you as soon as you told me you were the one behind all this mess.

I love you too, Sansy~ =)

* … (sigh)
* i have a question though. how exactly did you build it this fast? i mean, how could you build it that stable this fast?

Let’s just say I have my ways ;)
Which is also why you didn’t manage to blast me when you tried. It’s really cool being, you know, the one who WRITES fate. You can’t do ANYTHING against me =)

* … anyway.
* so. we’re really doing this, uh, “Q&A” thingy? i hope you remember the conditions, though.

Ugh. YES. No face to face, you’ll just be texting using either the Undernet or the regular Net, depending on the occasion. Thanks to the machine I just magically temporarily rebuilt, we’ll be able to connect both systems for the time of those sessions. So you guys can all keep texting with your regular former accounts and usernames or whatever.
Seriously though, why not some field trip? You’d really feel like having some vacation right now, don’t you? Is it just because of your numerous fans out there? Oh, I didn’t know you could be that shy, Sansy~

* remember why i didn’t simply try to directly contact the developer to begin with? … his name’s toby, right? anyway. you guess it could’ve been kinda helpful to directly get him.
* but i didn’t. and that’s exactly for the same reason that i’m one hundred percent convinced that this thing right now is the perfect example of a bad idea.

… Alright. Yours wanting to keep a low profile and avoid becoming world-wide famous in Molly’s world and get everyone else into trouble or whatever. I can respect that.
But uh, did I mention the guys you’re gonna talk to are not from her world either?

* i don’t care. this one is just pretty much the same as hers.
* and there’s also just the fact that magic’s unstable in her place and we’d die within minutes there. but that’s just detail.

Heh. Right.

* there’s another thing that’s been bugging me all this time, though. why now? didn’t you say you wanted to work all day for your chemistry test and that you couldn’t come before 8pm or something?

The test is next Saturday, I have all darn week to work on this. Plus I’ve just had four hours of a very annoying physics exam this morning that required me to wake up at five o’clock and I’m just not feeling up to this right now.
And it’s my freaking birthday, for Pete’s sake. I do whatever I want.

* huh. alright, boss.

Anyways. I’ll go see if the others are online. Maybe at least THEY will be more enthusiastic.

[16:23] @LutiasKokopelli: So. Are you guys all ready? ;D
[16:23] @StrongFish91: YEAH!
[16:23] @definitelynotsans: absolutely not.
[16:24] @CoolSkeleton95: SO IT’S TRUE? WE’RE ALL POPULAR HERE??? WOWIE!
[16:24] @ALPHYS: I guess???
[16:24] @Pineapplup: Sure, why not :/
[16:24] @CoolSkeleton95: HEY, WHO IS THAT? ARE THERE SOME PINEAPPLE MONSTERS IN THE CAST?
[16:25] @Pineapplup: uh, no. It’s just always been my most common alias on the net, especially on TVF. Either way I’m just Dawn. The human.
[16:25] @CoolSkeleton95: DO HUMANS SMELL LIKE PINEAPPLE? WHY IS YOUR HANDLE PINEAPPLE? WHAT’S A PINEAPPLE?!
[16:25] @Pineapplup: Uuuuuuh… Guys, help?
[16:26] @definitelynotsans: i’ll tell ya later, bro. for now, we’re all gonna have more than enough questions on our own, so uh… let’s keep this for later.
[16:26] @CoolSkeleton95: OH. OKAY.
[16:27] @LutiasKokopelli: Alright guys, brace yourselves! The questions are starting! \o/

— Behind the Scenes — (Questions about the author and the fiction’s origins)

Question 1

Out of curiosity, what was it like learning English? I am wondering because I want to compare it to my experience taking French lessons. I personally am quite curious about the similarities and differences between different regions, cultures, so on and so forth.

Well, first of all, in France we start to learn foreign languages really soon— I started learning English when I was what, seven maybe? I’ll turn nineteen on Saturday, so you could say I’ve been practicing the language for a while (and writing fics IS one incredibly good and fast way to improve).
I have to say, you probably noticed but French is way harder to learn than English. Not because English would be a poorer language or anything— on the contrary, the English vocabulary is like ten times wider than the French one, I think? It’s just that whereas the difficulty in learning English in general is to well, memorize thousands of words and expressions (like those damn phrasal verbs), this difficulty still remains, well, manageable: the fact is, you can write (some poor, but understandable) English while not knowing more than two hundreds recurrent words or something: because the grammar is actually very easy to learn, and there are very few difficulties with that. At least, if you compare with French.

The difficulty with French lies within its GRAMMAR. Which means, the very way to structure the core of every single sentence of your speech. There are like six modes, a dozen tenses, there is no definite order of the words in your sentence so you can literally write ten times the same sentence with all the exact same words without writing ten times the same thing; and I’m not even talking about the way you have to make your adjectives (even sometimes participial verbs) agree with your nouns, even when sometimes there can be a whole sentence separating them from the nouns they belong to (poetry, what a marvelous thing).
No wonder we have that many spelling tests, even until the beginning of high school sometimes.

So in my opinion:

English is rather easy to learn at first thanks to its rather simple grammar: future doesn’t even technically exist as a tense, there are only three forms you have to learn for each verb, and since English is a verbal language— really, speech becomes about natural rather early (especially if you, well, watch series and all, of course).
Yet it becomes harder as the lessons go and you have to further improve your grasp over all the subtleties between different words: while in French we LOVE to describe things with long phrases and descriptions with a lot of nouns and adjectives everywhere, English often has just one word to describe the whole exact idea— one word that, well, technically can’t be translated in French by one single word— or if it can, then it will be a very general one: ‘glimmer’, ‘spark’, ‘light’, ‘glare’— you can all translate them by “lumière” (“light”) in French; “éclat” (“spark”) at best, when it’s relevant. Instead of “He kicked the door open”, in French we can only say: “He opened the door by hitting it with his foot.” That’s some rough translation, but that’s the idea.

In French, on the other hand— in order to actually speak naturally this language, you first need to know about most of those fifteen-to-twenty tenses (to be honest, I gave up counting them precisely because I just didn’t know whether I should consider infinitive, imperative and participles as tenses or not). There are not that many words to learn (at least when you compare with the large English vocabulary), but the problem remains in the very structure of building up your sentences. You can still find a way to walk around the problem if you don’t know the translation for one English word; in the worst cases you end up sounding silly by trying to resort to silly words in order to awkwardly try to describe the idea of what you have in mind, but at least you’re never completely stuck (even if you will sound like a complete dork if the word in question is a very simple one). In French, if you don’t remember how to conjugate your verb in the present subjunctive, you are doomed. Seriously.

Then again, I love both languages, for what they’re worth— both can express very different things with two complementary and very different approaches; causality is reversed from one language to the other, many subtleties like these help to understand another view over things… and, well, that’s one of those ways of reasoning that trained me to eventually always try to flip the problems the other way around and see if the answers come any easier. Now that’s become the most common logic I use in my plots, and it always leads to… rather unexpected outcomes, sometimes. And usually really fascinating ones, actually. I love learning new languages, even if it’s just learning about just some details like that, because by learning this you learn much more than just a language: you’re also training your whole brain into thinking differently.
That’s why I decided to learn Chinese in high school. I’m so disappointed I had to drop it for my preparatory years, because that was an utterly fascinating experience.

Question 2

Who’s Dawn?

I’m going to take this question as “Where does the character come from?” — Because it’s true that building that character really took a while, to be honest.
At first, I actually had pretty much nothing planned for Molly. You know what? Until (I,4), she actually didn’t even have a name to begin with— I had tried to give her one of course, but I just couldn’t find any that I could be satisfied with and, well, I just didn’t think that was important anyway. Sans’ machine was supposed to bring some really completely random person; it could really have been anyone, and it just happened to be Molly because she just happened to start playing at the wrong time. So at first, really, the only thing I had fully settled about her was her necrophobia— because I wanted this psychological awkward relationship between them to build. As if things weren’t difficult enough between them, with Sans being still technically a kidnapper and Dawn being technically his victim. I love the Sans~Dawn relationship and I love writing about it, just because of how messed up and awkward it is for both of them :p

Anyways. I really started to build some real character and a real personality for her starting from (I,4). I actually needed her to have at least some personal opinions over the game, if only her favorite characters, music and so on. I believe it was at that time that I decided to give her this passion over music and her piano skills, too. I mean, not everyone can guess just like that a theme’s exact notes and sing them correctly. Maybe Dawn sucks at singing, but she still got the notes’ names right.

Does she have “perfect pitch”, though? Well, she’s been playing the piano for a very long time and one of her favorite hobbies is to get her favorite songs and try to find them on her piano without having to look for the sheet, so this is some very good training to at least come rather “close” to having it, in a way. She now can recognize approximately most notes if she concentrates enough and has a reference (like her piano) nearby. On the other hand, she is completely unable to tell whether or not an instrument/singer is on tune or not— well, unless it’s openly obvious even to people who have never ever learned music to begin with that the one singing/playing is completely tone-deaf themselves.
So to make things clear: no, she doesn’t. She’s got some experience and she somewhat “trains” to get close to this result, but there’s nothing extraordinary with that.
In the case of Alphys’ theme and It’s Raining Somewhere Else, it’s just because she has already tried to play them before and remembers the notes.

As Sans stated in (II,4b), Dawn really loves music; that might be the only thing she fully and deeply enjoys doing without struggling too much. To the point that sometimes she even tried to write some songs; they don’t sound that incredible and she feels very shy about them, though. She never told anyone about them and usually her sheets are well-hidden in some drawer in her room. She probably doesn’t plan on anyone ever discovering them. Even Lys. Especially Lys.

The “Molly the Mole” issue came very quickly, actually. The truth is, I always had the name “Molly Wentworth” in mind for her— I have no idea where that came from, but I just had it in mind since the very beginning. But because of that silly nickname, I just didn’t want to call her that, and for three whole scenes I ended up not giving her a name at all. It’s just when I made some research, went through multiple name generators and eventually found “Dawn” that I reached a compromise. Because “Dawn Wentworth” just sounds silly.
At this time though, the whole backstory behind the name wasn’t there yet— it was far from being that detailed, I mean. Lys didn’t even exist yet at that time.

Speaking of Lys and all of Molly’s other friends— around the end of Act I, I eventually thought that Dawn still had to have some other Undertale fans who told her about the game and eventually made her play. It wasn’t like she had been mentioning them since the very beginning, after all.
At first, Molly was supposed indeed to have started the Hard Mode completely by accident— and as I had mentioned by then, that little part was due to some random self-deprecation because, well, that’s how things happened for me. A friend of mine had been talking to me about Undertale for weeks, I made some research and watched the walkthroughs and wikia pages, eventually watched some fanarts/comics and read fanfiction, and eventually fell in love with the universe— all that while I had not even got the game myself. I still refused to play because I DO am ridiculously bad at playing videogames in general (sometimes amazing my friends because I am so bad at doing it that I sometimes really get some… rather unexpected outcomes), but after a while my friend just offered me the game in that “Now you don’t have any excuses left, you HAVE to play it” mischievous grin of hers. And the very first time I played, let’s just say it quickly ended this way:

@LK: Hey, how am I supposed to spare Astigmatisms again?
@VV: Wait, you’re already in the CORE?!
@LK: Eh? No, I’m still in the Ruins. Why?
@VV: …
@VV: Quit the game. QUIT THE GAME XD

So yes. At first Molly’s case was supposed to look a little like mine. Until I ended up giving her a much more interesting and justified reason to play on that Run. At first, Dawn was supposed to be some kind of younger, dumber, clumsier version of me; like some self-deprecating self-insert that didn’t want to admit it was one. But thankfully, over the time, I managed to give her some independence with her own backstory and her own psychology. I still could relate to her a little when I reminisce what I was like at her age, but that feeling started to fade as the story went on. She kept my issues, gained a few more, got some new skills (drumming, for example) and most importantly, a new perspective and way to deal with things. I'm mocking her a lot, but she's actually much more pragmatic (and less clumsy) than I am. Even if it doesn’t show because of her (im)maturity.
So well, along with all that, now the main gang currently counts nine characters: Molly, Amaryllis, Steven, Jocelyn, and five others that should be introduced maybe at some point, why not. I can totally depict each of them if you ask, but they still remain rather secondary characters and they’re not even in the Underground, so we shouldn’t hear that much from them anyway… It really was more for the sake of expanding the universe, that’s all.

About Dawn’s psychology as it is now… The one trait there is to remember about her character, the one key to understand her behavior as much as, overall, her relationship with Lys (and by extension, the one she is currently developing with Sans), is that Molly has always been a follower. One thing she shares with Alphys that you had probably guessed by now, is that both characters have (for completely different reasons though) a very low self-esteem.
Molly never had a lot of friends— for a very long time, Lys was practically her only friend, and it’s only thanks to her discovering Undertale and one little Undertale-dedicated forum on the Internet called The Temmie Village (named TVF for short), that the rest of the gang formed and included them. Steven is its founder and administrator by the way, and Lys became a moderator a few weeks after she joined the community. The forum was young at the time and it still isn’t a very famous one, but most of the first members to join it became very close friends afterwards. They actually enjoy the atmosphere of the group as it is and would not really wish the forum to expand "too much" paradoxically; the community spirit is what they care the most about.

Already when Molly met Lys for the first time, the girl gave some pretty spectacular impression; and her general character didn’t really help. Already as a kid, she was proud as a peacock; and even if she does care about Molly and her friends, she still has some rather strong ego— though she has grown up a little and noticed that, and has since then always tried to hide and deny it (in vain, especially when she meets a certain other figure in the gang who is just as strongminded as her). Now, Lys rather tries to be the “protective big sister” kind within the gang, since in a way it somewhat helps hiding that big strong pride of hers behind a wall of kindness and altruism, that she genuinely wishes to be sincere and generous. Especially towards Dawn.
But the truth is, from the very start— they have never been standing as equals at all.
It’s still rather hard to fully understand how they really became friends for now with just (II,5b)… But some more info should arrive upon the next scenes. When they arrive.

In any ways, Lys’ impact on Molly’s life remains deeply significant not only about their relationship and Molly’s discovering of Undertale; this game isn’t the only thing Lys brought to Dawn’s life, and it probably won’t be the last— I mean, if they ever meet again, of course.
Dawn’s alleged hobby for science? She simply admired Lys’ confidence and good grades, and Lys would eventually start to teach her some of her personal interests. Since fourth grade, both kids shared the childhood dream of becoming inseparable brilliant scientists and discovering anything and everything. Now that they’re in high school, one’s carrier seems pretty much settled; the other’s is… more uncertain.

The one field Dawn still has the upper hand on between the two is music. Ever since she heard that Lys’ singing voice was lovely (at least, so she thinks), her ultimate goal in life has been to teach her music and solfege— because uh, sadly, Lys is completely tone-deaf.
… This is still a work in progress. At this point, Lys can’t even read a music sheet.

Question 3

… Now that I look again, is “Molly” supposed to be a play-off of the “Anomaly”? :P

Haha, nice observation! But surprisingly enough, that’s entirely untrue. I had not even thought of that until I had been told about this, and honestly that could have been a really good reason for me to want to name her, if I had thought of this. Since, well, it did take me a while to actually FIND a proper name for her.
As I said in the question right above, until (I,4) she didn’t even have any. She hardly had any really interesting backstory to her phobia at all. By the time I was just secretly referring to her by the ‘codename’ “Patience”, the color of her Soul.

But as I said, I just… went with it. “Molly Wentworth” eventually just popped out of nowhere after a while and that was the first name to ever come to my mind when I thought about that character. At first I didn’t like that name, but eventually I changed my mind and just felt like “Actually, that completely suits her 8D”

I had more trouble finding out the “Dawn” part though, but I guess the “Pokémon” argument got me in the end when I randomly came across that name after some research. Yes, THAT ONE, out of all things.
Thankfully I later found some better reason for me to pick this as her middle name: the “Down the Hole”—“Dawn the Mole” pun. Because I’m such a dorky jerk and proud of it :D

I think that the reason I went with “Molly” is just because I guess when she was born, her parents thought she was so cute and adorable and everything and… well, I guess she forgot how to grow up, anyway. I don’t know, “Molly” sounds in my mind as some name that stands mostly for cute and childishly innocent little girls— so in a way… That was exactly what I needed. I don’t know that’s just a very silly feeling but I can’t get it out of my head somehow.
(Molly, if you read this, I’m sorry)

And, uh, remember. English isn’t my first language and it takes me hours to just find Sans’ puns, when they’re not merely the fandom’s classics (and my puns already suck in French anyway. I honestly feel ashamed whenever I make Sans tell a pun because he just doesn't deserve telling such lame ones. Sans is supposed to be a real comedian :c). So unless I had been very lucky and found that one just like that, I would never go that far xD

Question 4

Did Sans’ hand heal?
(Question asked at the end of Act I)

This question was asked a long time ago, but just because it led me to further explain the whereabouts of how and why I brought this issue during all Act I to begin with, I’ll still paste the answer I had given at the time:

First off, yep, obviously his hand got to heal thanks to the Reset (as you might have probably noticed in Act II anyway). Everything in the Underground is restored to the exact state it was in at the date of the Reset, so unless Sans already was somewhat disabled at this time, this should also just as well ‘disappear’ with the Reset — and Sans even counted on that fact to think that it “doesn’t matter, my hand’ll be back as soon as i’m done anyway.” That, uh, just didn’t really work out the way he had expected it.

The whole story, now: I never purposefully intended to get Sans to become partly disabled in the first place (let alone if it were merely and solely for “ZE FEELZ”), and that’s the main reason why I deliberately avoided explaining it in the details or describe the state his hand was in, or whatever (besides, I’m just not really good at writing descriptions of Eldritch abominations or whatever anyway). I only did this in the first place because that was the most logical outcome, and because I couldn’t find for him any other way to kidnap a Player effectively— not for lack of trying. There simply was no other solution for Sans than to grab Dawn by the collar of her shirt and directly drag her in his shortcut within the approximate 5~10 seconds he could afford.
This also somewhat explains why she doesn't fully remember that part, at least when she wakes up in (I,1) and (I,2): both the surprise from the ‘jump-scare’ and her natural necrophobia made this moment much more traumatizing than usual, to the extent that in her case, her brain simply decided to pretty much ‘erase’ the memory and bury it in her subconscious, at least at the beginning. Freud really makes things handy at times hahaha.

By the way, it’s kind of obvious and Sans already mentioned that in (II,5b) anyway, but the reason his machine would only respond when the Player is about to begin a new game was because by doing so, he had a 100% confirmation that his prey would necessarily be there to press the ‘Enter’ key, and thus would have to be right in front of the screen to do so, around one foot away from it — making them an easy target since the computer (the origin of the signal his machine would detect and use to calculate the coordinates) would be the place to settle his shortcut. By doing this, Sans only had to just grab the person on the other side, and pull. Easy and fast trick.

And as you had pretty much guessed it, the lack of stability magic has in Molly’s world was what caused it all. For those who still want to know what it’s supposed to look like, I see it as slightly similar to the way the amalgamates melted in the first place — hence Sans' highly sarcastic retort about determination in (I,3). Though it’s still… not really the same process. Pretty much the opposite, to be fair. “Determination” has a much weaker influence in Molly’s world, and since I consider it to be the one interaction vector that can maintain magic together, that explains both why Dawn’s Soul holds much more Determination than normal (otherwise it just couldn’t keep itself together either and would probably disintegrate within minutes), and why any magical thing/person with a lower average of Determination within their structure would suffer great damage upon entering her world.
(And before you ask, yes, I consider that even normal monsters DO hold Determination. Their Soul’s Determination is still worth around 0.001 kMS after all, remember? It’s just that since a normal human’s Soul is worth 12 kMS, well, that’s much easier to just approximate by saying that they don’t have any. Though that’s still technically very wrong to say this, since without those 0.001 kMS they’d be dusted within seconds.)
Amalgamates, though? I guess they could have a chance. Depends on how much they've got.

Question 5

Well, let’s see exactly how Ms. Molly interacts with Game Over Resets/loads. Back to the basement, or is her physical location resistant?
(Question asked after (II,2))

I thought Sans had made that clear enough in (II,1), but apparently that was not the case; so here is some little more detailed explanation about it.

Whether it would be a Reset or a Reload of any sorts, or in general pretty much anything turning around random time shenanigans occurring in Undertale, Molly is, simply, not affected; and each time will happen the exact same thing: she will simply stay exactly where she is, and instead just see the surroundings change around her, the people/objects (dis)appear and such.
You could see this as some kind of time-based shortcut, I guess: Sans’ shortcuts is teleportation through space while time doesn’t change at all, Molly’s “resistance” to Resets would be teleportation through time while space (as in “spatial location”) doesn’t change. For her at least. Everything’s relative after all.

I could maybe have done something about locking her in the basement each time (and make her lying down and fall from the couch that isn’t there anymore every single time, MUAHAHA), but I didn’t do so for two main reasons:

Firstly, because it didn’t make sense for me at all. If Molly were affected by the Resets and were supposed to reappear in the spot she was standing at the new time reached by the Reset/Reload, then she would technically just vanish since she technically didn’t even exist yet at that time, in that universe. And uh, that would have been slightly stupid I guess. If only because Sans would have probably just given up already and resigned to just stick to the script and do over, having learned his lesson that messing with things he doesn’t entirely understand is not a good idea. And the story would have ended on a rather tragic and boring note.

And second because… how should I put this…
… Isn't locking her in some overly safe place a little too easy, when the major danger right now is about anyone ever getting their hands on her Soul? I mean, yeah she would get really upset and frustrated upon having to rely on Sans’ “freeing” her each time, but… you have to admit, that solution would have been actually very helpful and/or handy for him, actually. And Murphy doesn’t approve :p

Question 6

Honestly, I’m confused about one thing soul wise. Does soul power affect HP, and if so how much influence does it have? My personal headcanon so far is that the average ingame human has 20 HP. Which upon further thought is probably false seeing as the only example I have is Frisk/Chara and they have an influence from the Player… Soooo yeah I’m at a standstill. Hope I get some answers later on.
(Question asked after (II,3))

You know what? You got me good there, and you’re the very first reader to ask me an actual “spoilery” question. Well, it’s not actual spoiler in and of itself, but… Heheh. That was… close. Thus why it’s kinda tricky to answer this directly.

The thing is, I leave hints and lots of foreshadowing everywhere about ALL of those spoilery questions. I actually think of my plots that they’re very predictable, so any moment I’m wondering whether or not anyone will actually see that hint over there and then start thinking about it and then whoops my bad they figured it all out because hey they’re not stupid you dork you played with fire and you got burned.
This never happened before in any of my stories, but I’m sure it’s more because of the readers’ not going to look for those hints rather than me being “that good” at hiding/“encrypting” them. So well… Maybe someday someone will actually start to dig seriously and discover something before I decided it was time to surface it openly?

To answer your question honestly, though: I actually didn’t think that one through. At all. Because I kinda had a reason not to bother thinking it through, I suppose?
The thing is, I see an “Outsider”’s Soul as some kind of bigger and more powerful Soul than a regular Human’s— about 3.5 times bigger. The Outsiders themselves don’t see any difference and are not necessarily stronger in any way; besides, thanks to Dawn’s being human, her relative excess of Determination won’t melt her like the Amalgamates (Why wouldn’t her Soul melt, though? I do have an answer to this little problem… but the explanation kinda requires to do some pseudo-physics in a four-dimensional system (as a first approximation, no less. And by four dimensions I mean four spatial dimensions, I’m not counting time). So that’s, uh, tricky). It’s just that, as Dawn said, that makes it a “bigger target”; which is much more of a drawback rather than anything, in the end.
On the other hand, when it comes to beings able to manipulate magic, it’s different. A monster absorbing two of those Souls would gain the same power as if they had absorbed seven normal Human Souls, thus become a God: which is why Sans is so fearful of Dawn dying and getting her Soul taken or absorbed by pretty much anyone in the Underground, as it was stated multiple times. He doesn’t particularly LIKE her or anything, it’s just mostly because of that if he’s always sticking with her. Well, he does care about her as some friendly pal/little dorky irresponsible kid he has to watch over/human pet to babysit , too, but well. He definitely wouldn’t be so overprotective if her Soul weren’t such a ticking bombshell all the time.

Now, how would it affect her HP? It really depends on what you call HP. Some people call it “Hope”, but in “reality”, well, it’s rather tricky to modelize. The fact is, in this story’s metaphysics, what we commonly call “Determination” is not actual determination, in the way that it’s not an actual feeling. If you know anything about quantum physics, you could consider this fiction’s “Determination” as the equivalent of some kind of “magic boson”— let’s say, some very specific “particle” that vehicles one specific kind of “energy” and thus causes one specific kind of interaction between other particles. The similar way that photons, the “particles” that “constitute” light, are bosons for the electromagnetic interaction. SO YES I DO KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT BUT THIS IS STILL VERY COMPLICATED TO EXPLAIN. I mean, I guess I could explain it, but then again, it’d require at least a dozen more pages explaining the basics of quantum physics and how I was inspired by this in order to somewhat recreate some other system for all this magic stuff.
Yes I actually tried to explain MAGIC with SCIENCE. I TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY UPON MY AWFUL HERESY AND I REGRET NOTHING.
(Though I will admit this is really dumb and very frustratingly difficult to accomplish.)

So, back to the question. If you consider that Determination is what makes the base of HP, then she could actually have 70 HP at LV 1, mathematically. But that… doesn’t seem right.
On the other hand, if you consider that Determination has nothing to do with it, Dawn’s Soul is otherwise pretty normal, if any maybe slightly stronger (which could explain some of her rather quick and irrational mood swings, I guess. But that’s also mostly just her being weird). And in that case, she’d get to keep the 20HP classic, maybe 25~30 at most, if this were a videogame.

But here comes the problem: this is not a videogame— it’s a fanfiction. And one thing you have to know here is that I never think with statistics when it comes down to fights. Dawn does, but it’s kinda tricky to fit that kind of stats when the world I’m writing about doesn’t feel so “pixel-y” anymore. I read a lot of fics in which there are random magical flying bars and numbers above people and monsters saying what their stats are, telling their LV or whatever— but in this fic, it’s just not how it works. The same way as to why no Undertale character actually knows anything about the Undertale OST.
I want this Underground to look as realistic as it could possibly be— I mean, there has to be a reason if Sans is one of the very first persons to ever find out that they live within a videogame, right? If there really are such statistics, either those stats are invisible to everyone – thus leaving them blissfully unaware of the truth –, or the characters are just completely stupid. Guess which option was my favorite.

Anyways. I did say that was a kinda tricky and somewhat spoilery question, didn’t I? So don’t worry, you will get some definite answer… someday. The story won’t answer YOUR question specifically and it’s much more like a consequence of something else, so maybe I’ll tell about that more specifically later on when needed. But the plot kinda should explain all this a little better… eventually.
… Unless my meaningless rambling already made you put two and two together? Heh.

Question 7

Why didn’t Sans go for people who typed in “Chara” as the name…? Those people are probably more likely to be starting a genocide run… Screw it, I’ll just leave it at “Sans didn’t think of that at the time”, it’s much easier.
(Question asked after (II,3))

Hahaha. The problem with that is, I disagree with you on that one. As a matter of fact, many players (including me) call the Fallen Human “Chara” no matter the run they are about to do; and most of them don’t actually do a Genocide run in the end. People don’t just decide to call the Fallen Human “Chara” because they are about to do a Genocide run, but just because they think/know that’s the right name and, I don’t know, think it fits more maybe? And when I look at the Let’s Plays, no Genocider I found actually named them “Chara”, so… welp.

To be honest though, it is just as tricky to explain why Sans chose “Frisk” as a trigger, because his reasoning is just as biased.
Even though Sans here seems to know quite a lot of things about what is going on in Dawn’s world, that is very wrong (and should I add “dangerous”, maybe?) to assume that he knows everything about the game and/or the fandom. Heck, he didn’t even know that the game mentioned Gaster at all! And judging by his attitude upon reading Jocelyn’s text, that is something important for him and he would have made some research about it if he had thought about it. The fact is, he really didn’t have that much time to think about any of this before Dawn came: he needed at the time to act quickly before any Reset would come and waste this unique opportunity. So no matter how essential some details are, he still hasn’t come to look for them— even if he would have done it a long time ago, if given the opportunity.

The risk with choosing “Chara” as a trigger is that this action doesn’t bring anything to the game; and once that you have chosen the “Chara” name, you can’t change it until you finish either a True Pacifist or a Genocide. The “Frisk” run is on the opposite a “one-go” run, if I may put it this way. It is a very unique run, that not that many Players will attempt to start— at least, so Sans thinks.
Who would be potentially bound to call the Fallen Human “Chara”? Pretty much any Player that knows a little about the fandom and wants their story to seem “canon”, even though that can’t tell anything about which run(s) they had been on before nor which one they will do this time; maybe hey, some of them actually had just heard about the game and characters before, heard of Chara, and then put that name the very first time they played just because they know they will get the message “The True Name”, because that IS the good answer? Most people like to get the “right” answer to the questions they’re asked, even when there is no particular reward upon answering correctly. It’s just about “psychology”, I guess.
Really, a majority of Players of all sorts could input the name “Chara” for pretty much any reason, exactly because that name doesn’t change anything to the actual game.

But now, who would ever choose to play on “Hard Mode”? This time there are much fewer targets, and (at least in Sans’ opinion) their purposes are much more specific: they want “something more” to the game. They have already completed the game before, probably multiple times, probably in many different ways (and, as a maybe, the “Genocide run”— Sans’ estimated average is 60~80% of the targets now available, even though I think this figure is still “a little” optimistic), and now they seek some actual challenge, “because the game was too easy for them.” And probably in Sans’ mind of someone who just heard of some “Hard Mode” but actually has no idea what it is like, it’s because even his own boss fight would not be enough to bring them some interesting challenge?
At this point, Sans has already been defeated countless times before, and he remembers what it is like— it would be natural from him to think that the “Hard Mode” is just some kind of bonus for those who defeated him so many times he wasn’t even that threatening anymore and even the “Genocide Run” isn’t a challenge anymore to them… I don’t know if that makes sense.

But in the end, what Sans cared most about was not necessarily a Player who would have done the Genocide; he wanted to get someone who would already know and love the game to some extent, so that he wouldn’t have to explain too much. The last thing he would have wished would be to get someone that would have just started a game for the very first time and wouldn’t even know ANYTHING about the whereabouts and characters, and that he would have to introduce the whole game’s metaphysics to them BESIDES facing a probably even more traumatizing than ever “freaking out” phase from his target. What little patience he still had at that point wouldn’t have survived half as long under such conditions.
So… Good thing that Dawn at least got that right, I guess. Maybe she never actually played, but she still has known the fandom for around six months by that time, thanks to her friends— just as a reminder, it was indicated if you looked at the date on Jocelyn’s texts in (II,5a), but Dawn was kidnapped on Sunday, May 1st, 2016.

Anyway. I understand your point and pretty much disagree with Sans’ point of view, actually; it’s just that from what little perspective he has of Dawn’s world, mixed with his own prejudices and his lack of time to properly think, this seemed to him like the safest way to get the best odds for what he wanted.
I guess the only thing he didn’t predict is that my third main rule upon writing plots is Murphy’s Law?

Question 8

A plot point you haven’t touched on yet is how a magic-less world becomes connected to a magical one in the first place. If they can figure that out they’ll have a better chance of finding a way to break the connection and letting Undertale run its course without threat of Resets; and possibly give Dawn an ultimatum as I’d imagine breaking the connection means no way back to her world ever even if Sans built another machine. I hope this is something you’ll be addressing in future chapters as I’m greatly enjoying your story and the world building you’ve accomplished.
(Question asked after (II,5b))

First off, as you might have guessed, this indeed is a spoilery question.
Even though, well, I had planned to… let’s say, at least bring up the problem in the next chapter. In the most trollesque ironical misleading way I could possibly afford because I’m such a jerk, of course, but still.
When it comes out, if the Act II Finale leaves you all completely lost as to what you should believe or not (and/or are just stuck in the same place as before and just think that [SPOILERS] completely went off the rails), well, let’s just say that I reached my goal o/
But, uh, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Let’s start first with what we already know. Because trust me, we have gathered a LOT of hints, by now. We could already start with this as a beginning.

How is Molly’s world connected to Sans’? Actually, some explanations are mentioned in (I,2) mostly, even though I do admit that they are (voluntarily) very rare and vague. But if you do try to gather everything we already know by now… Some things might become clearer. Why is Molly’s Soul bigger in the first place? Go back to (I,5), Sans gives all the details on that (oh, and, yes, that is relevant to your question).
Now, another question is: would Molly’s world really need magic for this “connection” to even exist? Apparently, for some reason the answer is no. Remember how Sans’ machine works? Shortcuts (and through the detection of faraway photons flux when he only uses it to access the Internet/telephonic networks, but that is not the relevant part here). And according to (II,5a)… Sans’ shortcuts are actually not relying on his magic, and (II,5b) clarifies that they are probably not a natural ability of his.
What if I told you that Sans’ machine would have worked even if there had been no connection at all to begin with?
Well, Sans still needed to locate the right universe of course: I’m somewhat taking here the “infinite multiverse” concept, so there really are a LOT of other worlds around Molly’s and Sans’; it’s just that we needn’t hear about them in this story. So THAT’s where the “connection” helped him to find the right one so easily among that huge messy multidimensional cluster. But if Sans wanted to reach a completely different universe, he could use the exact same system and it would work EXACTLY the same way: all he has to do is play a little with the coordinates. And, uh, probably fix that energy problem, since the CORE has its limits of course.
He could totally go take some vacation in another random magical dimension if he felt like it. It’s just that, well, he wants to fix the problem, not escape from it.

Remember what Sans’ plan really was. I never said he was trying to BREAK the connection: he only wants to stop the Resets by making a machine more powerful than what allegedly created this “connection” in the first place. Would his blackmail still work if, anyway, once his goal would be achieved, he wouldn’t be able to send Molly back and keep his word? Was Sans a liar since the beginning? In my opinion, this would be an insult towards the character if that were the case. Just so you know: so far, Sans has never lied— never about things that really mattered, anyway. Maybe he was withholding information when he felt like this was for the greater good, and maybe sometimes he told things that weren’t true— because he believed they were true nonetheless. But he never blatantly lied in order to voluntarily deceive people.
(… Well, except for the basement’s lights and Papyrus’ phone, I guess. But as far as I’m concerned those are the only exceptions. And even if I ever missed any— they can’t have any real relevance to the plot.)

For further details, I’d also recommend you to read back the end of (I,5), when Sans is trying to mess with the game’s code and see whether or not Molly’s name appeared in it. I wonder what Sans was trying to prove this way… Well, guess it’s a shame the Reset happened coincidentally just in the wrong time.

So, uh, about your question. The fact is, if you came back to the earlier chapters and read between the lines, I DID touch on that topic a little before, and I… somewhat keep talking about it. But, well, those are just some random hidden words here and there, some disguised comments in the middle of something that is completely irrelevant… Know that I love to leave some foreshadowing here and there, but that what I like most is hiding them in the most unexpected places (like the titles. What REALLY is that thing Sans should NOT find out about?), to make sure that only the ones that really want to look for the hints and think about it seriously can possibly figure out what REALLY is going on.
Hey, here’s one: what was that one thing I said about the chapters being named “Acts” and “Scenes” just as in a play? That plays are supposed to host an audience? Heheh. Let’s just say, the audience in question is… not necessarily YOU, the readers.
Oh, and, just know that the audience is not as silent as you would expect it. There’s always some stupid cynical guy in the back of the theater to comment everything as skeptically as possible, sending tropes and blatant random critics with their mouth full of popcorn.
Keep in mind what I said in the introduction of the very first chapter: never take ANYTHING for granted. And... That includes the narration. The narration is FAR from being as trustworthy and objective as you would think at first. I did say that I never lied, but… I never said that the characters themselves were not lying— whether they do it on purpose or not. Hey, what did I say in the very last chapter, again?

“Not a liar— no, she was always saying the truth. But not always the whole truth, because sometimes she just had not dug deep enough before seeing some grave emergency and telling everyone everything.
Lies are for bad people. But she was not lying if she didn’t know, right? It wasn’t her fault…”

In conclusion: alongside foreshadowing, withholding information is one of my favorite tricks. Make one of the main characters think something, and automatically 95% of the readers will think the same thing until proven otherwise. And, I guess, remain blind to all the evidence that is spread around right under their noses?
I’d suggest you to be careful about what I say… and what I say the CHARACTERS say. Here is surely my most important tip.

— The Characters —

[16:31] @CoolSkeleton95: SO, ARE WE GETTING STARTED?!
[16:31] @LutiasKokopelli: Heheheh. Eager as always, uh?
[16:31] @LutiasKokopelli: Hey, why is Undyne offline?! Alphys, she was with you, right? Where is she?
[16:32] @ALPHYS: She’s gone to her training. She said she was getting bored because this was taking too long.
[16:32] @LutiasKokopelli: … Never mind.
[16:32] @Pineapplup: No offense, but after all that rambling I’m sure most readers either ran away or fell asleep too. Seriously, did anyone tell you that you write WAY too much?
[16:32] @LutiasKokopelli: What can I say. I guess some people need some SPACE to talk and deliver everything they have on their mind? Probably because they like to hear themselves talk, too.
[16:32] @definitelynotsans: and YOU’RE the one saying that? seriously?
[16:33] @LutiasKokopelli: … Let’s just get started.

Question 9

Hey Papyrus, what’s your favorite food?

[16:33] @Pineapplup: Well… It has to be spaghetti, right?
[16:33] @CoolSkeleton95: WHAT? NO, NO.
[16:33] @definitelynotsans: … Ooh boy. brace yourselves, guys.
[16:34] @Pineapplup: Uh? Why that, Sans? Is there something wrong about that question?
[16:34] @ALPHYS: Uuh… I have to… go to the bathroom. Yeah. See you later, guys!!!
[16:34] @Pineapplup: What? What the heck is going on here?!
[16:34] @CoolSkeleton95: ACTUALLY IT’S PRETTY SIMPLE.
[16:35] @CoolSkeleton95: I DO APPRECIATE FUSILI, BUT THEY’RE WAY TOO LONG AND THE BUCATI ONES JUST WON’T DO, THEY’RE JUST FAR TOO TWISTED AND ZITI ARE VERY THICK FOR THE LONG PASTA TYPE SO IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COOK THEM SO THAT THEY WILL EVER BE TENDER ENOUGH. YOU CAN NEVER FIND THE TIME AND PATIENCE TO LET THE PASTA ABSORB ALL THE WATER TILL ITS CORE SO THE RESULT IS USUALLY PITIFUL.
[16:36] @Pineapplup: … WOW.
[16:36] @definitelynotsans: heh. quite impressive, uh?
[16:36] @Pineapplup: Yeah. I had no idea he actually knew THAT much about the stuff.
[16:36] @Pineapplup: Oh my God your brother is so awesome.
[16:36] @definitelynotsans: i know, right?
[16:37] @CoolSkeleton95: MACCHERONCINI AND BUCATINI ARE SOME RATHER APPROPRIATE COMPROMISES, BUT IT STILL TAKES LONGER FOR THEM TO BE COOKED PROPERLY. CAPELLINI ON THE OTHER HAND ARE VERY THIN AND FRAGILE SO YOU REALLY HAVE TO BE CAREFUL BECAUSE IT OFTEN IS A MATTER OF SECONDS BETWEEN THEM BEING COLD AND THEM BEING RIGHT AFTER THAT COMPLETELY OVERCOOKED.
[16:37] @Pineapplup: But then, if in theory he actually knows exactly how to do it right… What is it that makes him, uh… reach such unexpected outcomes?
[16:37] @definitelynotsans: beats me.
[16:38] @CoolSkeleton95: BUT WHAT I LIKE MOST IS THAT OATMEAL I USUALLY HAVE FOR BREAKFAST.
[16:38] @Pineapplup:
[16:39] @Pineapplup: Seriously?

Question 10

To Sans: Did you know that you get a lot of cool fanart? Have you thought of that yet?

[16:42] @definitelynotsans:
[16:42] @definitelynotsans: i haven’t thought about it.
[16:42] @definitelynotsans: and i DON’T want to think about it.
[16:42] @LutiasKokopelli: Hehehe, you liar :p
[16:43] @ALPHYS: Uh…
[16:43] @ALPHYS: Sans?
[16:43] @Pineapplup: Alphys. DON’T.
[16:44] @ALPHYS: Did you ever take a look at Dawn’s wallpaper? :P
[16:44] @Pineapplup: ALPHYS I SAID NO

[16:44] @ALPHYS: [Alphys has sent a digital rosy overly cute fanart of Asgore hugging hypothetical babybones versions of Sans and Papyrus.]

[16:45] @Pineapplup: Oh for the love of
[16:45] @definitelynotsans:
[16:46] @definitelynotsans: i’m just gonna pretend this never happened.
[16:46] @Pineapplup: I promise I’ll change it, Sans. I’m really sorry about that…
[16:46] @definitelynotsans: kid.
[16:47] @definitelynotsans: This
[16:47] @definitelynotsans: Never
[16:47] @definitelynotsans: Happened.
[16:49] @Pineapplup: … understood.

Question 11

You’ve pulled a real person (Dawn) into the fictional world of Undertale. Do you ever intend to do the opposite— allowing the Undertale characters to interact directly with the real world?

[16:53] @LutiasKokopelli: Hahaha. That would be pretty funny indeed, but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen here. What with magic being unstable in the “real” world as you call it and all.
[16:53] @ALPHYS: Yes… If Sans’ observations are to be trusted, Determination is much weaker in that other world. So, uuh, our magical structure would never be able to survive that. I guess it would only be a matter of minutes before we… well. You get the idea.
[16:54] @definitelynotsans: and even if that WERE possible, i’d never do that, personally.
[16:54] @LutiasKokopelli: Ha! What a joke!
[16:54] @LutiasKokopelli: Should I remind you that you technically did that before already?
[16:54] @definitelynotsans: that was different.
[16:55] @LutiasKokopelli: Sure you weren’t PHYSICALLY there, but you’ve been using that machine of yours for a lot of things, actually. Like sneaking your non-existent nose in places you shouldn’t have.
[16:55] @definitelynotsans: why would you even care? are there some things on their network that you wouldn’t want me to find out about?
[16:55] @LutiasKokopelli: Well, OF COURSE there are. That’s what you commonly call SPOILERS.
[16:56] @definitelynotsans: oh yeah. your story’s about the kid and i investigating over this universe’s mysteries, and you’ll do anything to prevent me from finding some clues on the internet or whatever. is your “mystery” really so obvious to solve?
[16:56] @definitelynotsans: and here i thought you were GOOD at making actual puzzling cases? turns out they’re so difficult to crack just because you’re so desperate to withhold the information because you’d actually need very little proof to crack it, huh.
[16:57] @LutiasKokopelli: Shut up.
[16:57] @LutiasKokopelli: Just shut up.

Question 12

What is the ratio of Undertale time to real time? Is it a 1:1 correspondence, or does one universe experience more than one second per second relative to the other?

[17:01] @definitelynotsans: well… that’s a little more complicated than that, actually.
[17:01] @definitelynotsans: you ever heard of the concept of “relativity”? how time and space are actually warped depending on some interactions?
[17:01] @definitelynotsans: let’s say that’s, uh, pretty much the same here.
[17:02] @Pineapplup: Woah, what? What does that mean?
[17:02] @Pineapplup: I think Lys told me about that thing once. I didn’t get a thing, but if I remember, it’s about time not passing the same way if you’re moving fast or not?
[17:02] @definitelynotsans: uh… not really. she must’ve lost you around the change of inertial frame references part, i guess? anyway.
[17:03] @ALPHYS: It’s mostly because of the gravitational interaction. When very strong masses are gathered around one point, they actually warp the time-space continuum and… well, one of the results you could get is that in that special location, time is slowed down.
[17:03] @ALPHYS: In the case of black holes theoretically, it means that in the center of a black hole, time has completely stopped? But, uh, that’s just maths. “Perfection” just doesn’t exist in concrete cases anyway.
[17:03] @Pineapplup: So what? Is this world’s time passing faster or slower?
[17:03] @Pineapplup: Usually a typical game lasts around six hours, but it was already eleven when Frisk came out of the Ruins, so…
[17:03] @definitelynotsans: six hours? hm. that’d be tough already to walk the entire way through the underground within only one day. but i guess that it makes more sense that it shouldn’t take that long from the game’s pov. the game’d probably be boring if it was that long.
[17:04] @definitelynotsans: but honestly i don’t know. i guess i can try to look at the figures, but i’d probably need the players’ pov to really know. and, uh, that’s not really possible.
[17:04] @definitelynotsans: let’s just say that my father and i have, uh, detected some very strong activity in the void. the space between tridimensional universes like ours, i mean.
[17:04] @Pineapplup: Yeah, I got that. You kinda hear that word a lot in the fandom for some reason. Because of, uh, fan theories and all. A lot of fanfictions use it for their metaphysical stuff and all.
[17:04] @definitelynotsans: … anyway. so let’s just say that the void is fluctuating, and that it has an impact on the way time passes in our worlds, too. following a completely independent and random pattern.
[17:04] @Pineapplup: … Ooh.
[17:06] @Pineapplup: But wait
[17:07] @Pineapplup: You mean that if you ever brought me home, I could actually end up like thousands of years later or something? Or even in the PAST?!
[17:07] @definitelynotsans: of course not! those fluctuations don’t have an impact THAT strong, really. besides, uh, you can’t reverse causality either. there’s no way for you to ever come back BEFORE you left.
[17:07] @definitelynotsans: if anything, maybe the time lapse difference would be that of a few days, at most. depending on how much time passes since the day you came. the longer you stay here, the larger the uncertainty margin will become of course.
[17:08] @definitelynotsans: but for that time lapse to just reach ONE year, you’d have to stay here for at least a few decades here, maybe even a century. really kid, you think i would’ve ever brought anyone here if there was such risk?
[17:08] @Pineapplup: … oh. alright.
[17:08] @Pineapplup: Sorry.
[17:11] @LutiasKokopelli: Though you DID end up in a situation in which she can’t get home, smart guy. :p
[17:11] @definitelynotsans: and who’s at fault?
[17:12] @LutiasKokopelli: Hm. Fate, I guess?
[17:12] @definitelynotsans: since when are you referring to yourself by the third person?

Question 13

Why doesn’t Dawn just go face Frisk herself? It can’t be that dangerous for her; humans attacking humans rely on physical laws instead of killing intent, right?

[17:16] @Pineapplup: Hey, that’s true! I read a lot of fics where humans were affected by attacks the same way as monsters, but THIS does actually make a lot more sense.
[17:16] @Pineapplup: Well, Frisk IS a kid, after all. Next Reset I guess I could totally try to kick their butt myself :p
[17:16] @definitelynotsans: Nope, you’re not.
[17:17] @Pineapplup: … Why did I see this coming?
[17:17] @definitelynotsans: look, kid. theoretically, that COULD work. maybe their attacks won’t do any real damage, because you’re both humans.
[17:17] @definitelynotsans: but maybe something else could happen. because you are BOTH anomalies. in your own ways.
[17:17] @Pineapplup: Does that REALLY matter that much…? :v
[17:17] @definitelynotsans: i’m not sure how that game works, but i think that whenever the player is supposed to do some damage, the game will probably make sure that it DOES some damage.
[17:18] @definitelynotsans: on the other hand, you’re not part of it. so maybe that means you have, like, an infinite defense or something, at least towards the game’s actions.
[17:18] @Pineapplup: Well, then that’s just perfect, right?
[17:18] @definitelynotsans: … or maybe that could mean you don’t have any defense AT ALL, and that you could be killed in only one hit.
[17:18] @definitelynotsans: it’s just like that idea about injecting you some determination you talked about this morning. then again, maybe your soul will handle it perfectly and you’ll be fine. or maybe you’ll turn out just like… you know.
[17:18] @definitelynotsans: well, there’s only one way to find out which theory’s the good one. wanna go try this out next time?
[17:19] @Pineapplup:
[17:19] @Pineapplup: nope. so much nope.
[17:20] @definitelynotsans: heh. figured as much.
[17:20] @Pineapplup: alright.
[17:20] @Pineapplup: ALRIGHT. You got me, I’m not gonna face them. Alright.
[17:23] @Pineapplup: So… what’s the strategy for tomorrow, then? We trap Papyrus at home with an anime marathon?
[17:23] @definitelynotsans: dunno. that sounds like a rather good plan, actually.

Question 14

Well, if Sans knows about Resets, then what is a True Reset?
Also, maybe Sans should lose his memory or something?

[17:29] @definitelynotsans: … sorry, what?
[17:29] @Pineapplup: Hm. It’s true that in the game, it kinda does look like you’re one of the guys who remember the LESS about the Resets. I was actually very surprised when you told me you could remember everything.
[17:29] @Pineapplup: And even the True Resets?
[17:30] @definitelynotsans: never heard of that thing. is there supposed to be a difference with the regular resets?
[17:30] @Pineapplup: … Woah, are you kidding? You don’t even NOTICE anything different?!
[17:31] @Pineapplup: The TR is supposed to happen at the end of the, uh, happy ending. When you’re on the Surface and there is a Reset after that. Apparently, that’s the only Reset that directly MAKES the characters forget… They even talk about openly erasing FRISK’s memories or something, if I remember correctly.
[17:31] @definitelynotsans: … heh.
[17:31] @definitelynotsans: for all i remember, the only time we’ve been on the surface, it was the time i saved my memory with the time machine. after that, there’s been an awful lot of resets and many different outcomes, but i’ve never seen the surface again.
[17:32] @Pineapplup: Uh. That’s weird. I mean, there HAS to be someone out there playing a Pacifist at some point, right? I mean, statistically, not ALL Players are genociders. Most of them aren’t, actually. I think.
[17:32] @definitelynotsans: good point.
[17:33] @definitelynotsans: who knows… maybe you’re right and i DO forget about them… actually that’d explain why the only time on the surface i remember was the first one. i specifically saved that one so i can’t forget about it, and regular resets or reloads won’t make me forget either.
[17:33] @definitelynotsans: but now, if that TRUE reset you’re talking about is stronger than a regular one…
[17:33] @definitelynotsans: actually, that’d explain a LOT of things. i do feel like there are still a lot of things i can’t remember for some reason, so if all of these actually happened during a “pacifist” timeline… that’d explain why i forgot about them.
[17:34] @definitelynotsans: looks like you just helped me solve one of my biggest problems, kid. not that i like the answer, but… well. thanks, i guess.
[17:34] @Pineapplup: Uh… You’re welcome?
[17:35] @Pineapplup: But wait, Sans.
[17:35] @definitelynotsans: yeah?
[17:35] @Pineapplup: Now I HAVE to know what happened in that first timeline. How did you do that? How does… “saving” your memory even work? Could you tell me?
[17:36] @definitelynotsans: uh…
[17:36] @definitelynotsans: that’s a VERY long story. maybe i’ll tell you sometime.
[17:36] @definitelynotsans: maybe.
[17:37] @Pineapplup: … That means “no”, right?

Question 15

Will Gaster ever be a character in this story, specifically as someone who interacts with Dawn?

[17:43] @LutiasKokopelli: Ugh. Why would that reader ever think that?
[17:43] @definitelynotsans: because dawn and grillby made me mention him. in stories you NEVER mention a character during more than two seconds if they’re not gonna appear at some point. that’s pretty much a rule at writing. what’s that called, again? a chekhov’s gun? that’s the most obvious type of foreshadowing, anyway.
[17:45] @Pineapplup: Wait. Does that mean then that I’m gonna see Lys and Joss too?
[17:45] @definitelynotsans: heh. who knows. we’ve got Miss Destiny here after all, and it sounds like she’s already pretty good at making the improbable happen. so maybe you WILL see them.
[17:46] @definitelynotsans: not in the underground, though. i’m NOT bringing any of your friends here.
[17:46] @Pineapplup: Aww :c
[17:47] @LutiasKokopelli: But seriously, THAT guy? He doesn’t even EXIST anymore. He can’t do anything. So YOU ever meeting him? Ha. Fat chance.
[17:47] @definitelynotsans: what were the odds for finding a player with less than 42kMS as a soul power, again?
[17:48] @LutiasKokopelli:
[17:48] @LutiasKokopelli: I’m not gonna answer that question.

Question 16

Will Toby Fox ever become relevant? What is his relationship to the Annoying Dog?

[17:54] @definitelynotsans: absolutely NOT.
[17:54] @LutiasKokopelli: Oh, how can you be so sure, Sansy? Is it just because you DON’T want to involve him into this?
[17:55] @definitelynotsans: … well, unless YOU mess things up again, of course. but why would you do that? i thought you said sometime before that you weren’t at ease with involving REAL people into your stories, and that it was exactly because of this that you had to resort to building your own OCs.
[17:55] @LutiasKokopelli: It still doesn’t change the fact that… some things can’t always be averted :p
[17:55] @definitelynotsans:
[17:55] @definitelynotsans: i really have no idea how to interpret that emote.
[17:57] @Pineapplup: But, wait.
[17:57] @Pineapplup: You mean that I… technically don’t exist?
[17:57] @LutiasKokopelli: HAHAHA. Honestly, what were you expecting?
[17:58] @LutiasKokopelli: It could’ve been ANYONE in your place. You’re just some random useless character I needed in order to fill in for the plot. You’re nothing more than just that.
[17:58] @Pineapplup:
[18:01] @Pineapplup: I need a moment.
[18:02] @Pineapplup: Sans, do you mind if I liquidate the whole chocolate stock in the kitchen?
[18:02] @definitelynotsans: knock yourself out.

Question 17

Now I’m curious. Did Dawn really ever dream of pink mutant rabbits?
Did anyone else ever dream of pink mutant rabbits?

[18:06] @Pineapplup:
[18:06] @Pineapplup: Why did you have to give that question as an example in your freaking introduction?
[18:06] @LutiasKokopelli: Because that’s just a very legitimate question just like any other. Don’t you agree?
[18:06] @Pineapplup:
[18:06] @Pineapplup: Anyway, the answer is no.
[18:07] @Pineapplup: Not that I remember of, at least. You’re supposed to forget about most of the dreams you’re having, anyway. And I’m sure everyone has had creepy dreams at least ONCE in their lives.
[18:08] @Pineapplup: The others, now… I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think they’d answer to that anyway.
[18:08] @CoolSkeleton95: OH, I DO DREAM OF PINK RABBITS SOMETIMES!
[18:09] @CoolSkeleton95: THE ONES FROM FLUFFY BUNNY.
[18:09] @CoolSkeleton95: BUT WHAT’S A MUTANT ANYWAY?

Question 18

To the Current Player: MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ur in trouble

[18:13] @definitelynotsans: heh… i wouldn’t say that. they really did CAUSE us trouble, though.
[18:13] @definitelynotsans: anyway, i’ll make sure to let them know.
[18:14] @definitelynotsans: i mean, uh. if we EVER find out who that freak was, anyway.
[18:15] @LutiasKokopelli: Yeah. It will be rather tough to find them among… how many people play that game anyway?
[18:15] @Pineapplup: Thousands of people maybe? I don’t know. But there’s an awful lot of fans, that’s for sure ._.

Question 19

To Dawn: Reasons You are not a Mole by A not-mole person. 1. Moles don't have phones.

[18:21] @Pineapplup: Uh… Thanks? I guess?
[18:23] @Pineapplup: I mean, even if the mole thing is just metaphorical or something…
[18:23] @CoolSkeleton95: DO METAPHORICAL MOLES GET METAPHORICAL PHONES, THEN?
[18:24] @definitelynotsans: dunno. how do you figure this out, bro?
[18:24] @CoolSkeleton95: WELL…
[18:24] @CoolSkeleton95: IF METAPHORICAL MOLES DIDN’T HAVE METAPHORICAL PHONES…
[18:25] @CoolSkeleton95: THEN THEY WOULDN’T BE ON THE METAPHORICAL UNDERNET.
[18:25] @CoolSkeleton95: SO THEY COULDN’T MAKE THEMSELVES METAPHORICALLY KNOWN BY ANYONE AND WE WOULD NOT BE TALKING ABOUT THEM SINCE WE WOULD NOT BE KNOWING ABOUT THEM.
[18:26] @Pineapplup:
[18:27] @Pineapplup: I’m confused. What were we talking about again? o_o

Question 20

To The Great Papyrus: How do you cook spaghetti? It tastes divine!

[18:32] @CoolSkeleton95: WOW, REALLY? WOWIE!!!
[18:32] @LutiasKokopelli: They can’t possibly have even TASTED your spaghetti yet. Whoever that guy is, they’re lying.
[18:32] @CoolSkeleton95: WHAT? BUT WHY WOULD THEY LIE ABOUT SUCH THING?
[18:33] @LutiasKokopelli: Just think for a while. They’re living in ANOTHER WORLD and you NEVER met. How do you want that guy to have ever had the chance to taste your spaghetti in the first place?
[18:33] @definitelynotsans: missy. Don’t.
[18:33] @Pineapplup: Uuh…
[18:34] @LutiasKokopelli: Really? That guy was probably just trying to make you feel better.
[18:34] @CoolSkeleton95: FEELING BETTER ABOUT WHAT? I’M NOT FEELING PARTICULARLY BAD.
[18:34] @Pineapplup: No no no. That’s because I told them, Paps. They’ll never have the chance to ever experience your MARVELOUS cooking skills, but they are so eager to taste it, they’re asking for your recipe so that they could try it at home.
[18:35] @CoolSkeleton95: YOU DID THAT?! NYEHEHEH, THANK YOU, HUMAN! I DIDN’T KNOW YOU LIKED IT SO MUCH. I WILL GO COOK SOME MORE FOR TOMORROW’S BREAKFAST, THEN!!!
[18:35] @LutiasKokopelli: Wait, but the session is not over yet!
[18:35] @Pineapplup: … He’s already offline.
[18:35] @LutiasKokopelli: UGH. Whatever.
[18:36] @Pineapplup: Sans, is that bad that I’m suddenly feeling GOOD about getting a Reset tonight?
[18:36] @definitelynotsans: heh… can’t say i disagree.
[18:36] @definitelynotsans: by the way. that was a nice save, kid. you really ARE good at lying when you really want to.
[18:36] @Pineapplup: Well… That was for the greater good.
[18:37] @definitelynotsans: hey. missy.
[18:37] @LutiasKokopelli: Yes?
[18:37] @definitelynotsans: i’d like to see you after this. alone.
[18:37] @Pineapplup: Oh hoho.
[18:38] @Pineapplup: Megalovania time :p
[18:38] @definitelynotsans: “megalovania”? what’s that?
[18:38] @Pineapplup:
[18:39] @Pineapplup: UUUUUH…
[18:40] @Pineapplup: That’s, uh. That track. In Hotland. From earlier.
[18:40] @definitelynotsans: oh, you mean THAT one you’ve been begging me not to sing all along after that?
[18:40] @Pineapplup: … Yes. THAT one.
[18:40] @definitelynotsans: seriously, i don’t see why you hate it. it’s really cool. and it’s not like anyone here could recognize it or anything.
[18:41] @definitelynotsans: besides, why would you have it in your phone if you hated it anyway?
[18:41] @Pineapplup: YES THAT TRACK IS AWESOME I KNOW BUT JUST PLEASE NO NOT YOU YOU CAN’T
[18:41] @Pineapplup: FOR THE LOVE OF EVERYTHING THAT’S HOLY JUST NO
[18:42] @definitelynotsans: … heheh.
[18:42] @definitelynotsans: so there REALLY is something about that one, uh? something you won’t tell me for some reason.
[18:42] @Pineapplup: PLEASE. Trust me. That’s just… YOU of all people just CAN’T sing that. You just CAN”T. NOT YOU. YOU JUST CAN’T LIKE IT PLEASE JUST SO MUCH NOPE!
[18:42] @definitelynotsans: what? does it debunk some myth or something?
[18:43] @Pineapplup: Let’s rather say “desacralizing the most meaningful psychological tensions in the whole game aside from breaking half of the fandom’s memes”?
[18:43] @definitelynotsans: wow.
[18:43] @definitelynotsans: and here, look. the world’s still standing after all.
[18:44] @definitelynotsans: … well, for most of us at least.
[18:44] @Pineapplup: Eh?
[18:44] @definitelynotsans: i’m talking about missy here. don’t think that distraction got me that out of my mind.
[18:45] @LutiasKokopelli:
[18:45] @LutiasKokopelli: I’d love to see you try~ =)

Question 21

So when are you launching Grillby into the sun?

[18:50] @LutiasKokopelli: Hmm, I never thought of that one. But here’s an idea, if I ever get bored :p
[18:50] @definitelynotsans: are you serious?
[18:51] @LutiasKokopelli: Well, you can still wonder. Could the Sun consume a FIRE elemental?
[18:52] @ALPHYS: Uh, what?
[18:52] @ALPHYS: The sun is the nuclear fusion of hydrogen and deuterium into helium, while regular fire is just the combustion of alkanes by dioxygen. There’s no relevance to that question.
[18:52] @ALPHYS: I mean, of course Grillby would, uh… n-not survive this.
[18:53] @ALPHYS: … especially if you count the sun’s gravitational force that’d probably compress him to
[18:53] @ALPHYS: … I-I’m just gonna stop here. You get the scheme.
[18:54] @LutiasKokopelli: Ugh. Just when you were about to get to the interesting part.
[18:54] @definitelynotsans: and i thought YOU were currently studying at a… how do you call it? a “preparatory class for high scientific school”? a supposedly “good one”, no less?
[18:55] @LutiasKokopelli: … I just wanted to see if you were listening.
[18:57] @LutiasKokopelli: Anyways, we’d need to get him to the Surface first, if we want this to have any chance to happen at all.
[18:57] @definitelynotsans: yeah.
[18:57] @definitelynotsans: and that’s the point. no one wants this to happen. really, what the hell?

Question 22

Is there still a way for Dawn to get out of Undertale and back to her world? Or is she gonna be there forever? Personally I’m not sure I would go back cause UNDERTALE.

[19:02] @definitelynotsans: honestly? i don’t know. what took me the most time to build in that machine was actually the algorithms and the research. i redid multiple times all the calculations over and over at first, i mean. since i, uh, didn’t really believe it. and i also wanted to make sure that what i was about to build wouldn’t just, well, blow up to my face.
[19:03] @definitelynotsans: but now…? my computer’s been saving things. that’s how i could keep the photos of the previous timelines for example. i can’t save the physical photos, it’s just that the computer saved them numerically. i only printed them at the last moment.
[19:03] @definitelynotsans: so if it DID save dawn’s coordinates and all the math… technically i’d only need to rebuild the physical thing. that would still take me roughly a week if i do the same as last time. which, uh, is probably not an option. we’re probably not gonna get a week-long vacation before a while. really, that month-long pause? that’s a miracle and i have no idea where that came from. maybe it was just the easy way out and Miss Destiny here just decided that a miracle would happen because otherwise her plot couldn’t possibly work.
[19:04] @LutiasKokopelli: Well aren’t you being condescending here.
[19:04] @definitelynotsans: i’m just guessing one possibility among others. one that must be the most probable one.
[19:04] @LutiasKokopelli: Such confidence in my plotting skills. I’m flattered, Sansy.
[19:04] @definitelynotsans: you’re not welcome.
[19:06] @Pineapplup: But wait, Sans. I thought it’d require one whole month to build your thing! And now all you’d really need would be one week?
[19:06] @Pineapplup: I know you monsters are fast builders, but still. WOW.
[19:06] @definitelynotsans: heh. yeah, magic really is handy when it comes to that, i guess.
[19:07] @definitelynotsans: anyway. i guess i COULD make up something within a few hours if i knew exactly what to do and where to gather the stuff, but… i don’t think that’d be safe. i’d probably just rush things and merely load the overheating process in order to temporarily maintain the shortcut, but THAT would be dangerous for real. i already messed up the core last time EVEN with the security measures, so without them…
[19:07] @Pineapplup: I could end up like your father or something?
[19:07] @definitelynotsans: long story short, YES. along with a lot of other potential risks.
[19:08] @Pineapplup: So… I basically AM stuck here.
[19:08] @CoolSkeleton95: BUT, AREN’T YOU ENJOYING IT HERE? YOU SEEMED VERY HAPPY THIS AFTERNOON.
[19:09] @Pineapplup: Well… I’d definitely be enjoying myself much more if it weren’t for those #/@$* Resets.
[19:10] @Pineapplup: … Wait. You’re back? Didn’t you say you were cooking?
[19:10] @CoolSkeleton95: WELL…
[19:10] @CoolSkeleton95: I WAS COOKING INDEED. I WAS PREPARING THE PAN OF WATER.
[19:10] @Pineapplup: So… What happened?
[19:10] @CoolSkeleton95: THE WATER CAUGHT FIRE.
[19:10] @CoolSkeleton95: ALSO MOST OF THE HOUSE.
[19:11] @definitelynotsans: … uh. bro.
[19:11] @definitelynotsans: where did you get that water from?
[19:11] @CoolSkeleton95: THERE WAS THAT ONE LITTLE BOTTLE IN THE CLOSET. IT WAS REALLY WELL HIDDEN FOR SOME REASON.
[19:12] @definitelynotsans:
[19:12] @definitelynotsans: never mind.
[19:13] @Pineapplup: Sans, what was a bottle of VODKA doing in your kitchen? O_o
[19:13] @definitelynotsans: … you don’t wanna know.
[19:14] @Pineapplup: … Also, shouldn’t we be worrying over something right now?
[19:14] @definitelynotsans: like the house being on fire?
[19:14] @definitelynotsans: nah.
[19:15] @definitelynotsans: the basement’s very well isolated. we’re safe.
[19:16] @definitelynotsans: and then there’s just gonna be the reset. so who cares?
[19:16] @Pineapplup: Hahaha.
[19:17] @Pineapplup: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yeah. Sometimes Resets ARE handy. I guess.
[19:18] @definitelynotsans: heheh.
[19:18] @definitelynotsans: you’re already fed up just after the first one?
[19:18] @Pineapplup: I honestly have no idea how you’ve managed to keep your sanity for so long, Sans. I’m just DONE. I can’t believe tomorrow we’re gonna have to redo EVERYTHING from the start.
[19:19] @definitelynotsans: at least now we know what we must NOT do, for the next times. and we’ve got a functional cell phone each, now. i actually have a good feeling about tomorrow.
[19:19] @Pineapplup: If you say so…
[19:20] @Pineapplup: But I still can’t believe you’ve survived all this time. How did you do it?
[19:20] @definitelynotsans: heh…
[19:20] @definitelynotsans: pretty simple, really.
[19:21] @definitelynotsans: in my case… even giving up wasn’t an option.
[19:21] @Pineapplup: … ouch.
[19:22] @LutiasKokopelli: Ooh snap. That sure is a shame, really.
[19:22] @definitelynotsans: you… ugh. i’m not even gonna ask.
[19:23] @LutiasKokopelli: What? Why am I doing this? Why am I so cruel with you? Oh Sansy, you should know by now. That’s the one rule in fanfics.
[19:24] @LutiasKokopelli: The more you love a character, the more you make it suffer~ =)
[19:24] @definitelynotsans: you do realize that your work just can’t keep going like that forever, right?
[19:24] @LutiasKokopelli: What do you mean?
[19:25] @definitelynotsans: if you always keep resetting over and over. the readers will get bored too, after a while.
[19:25] @LutiasKokopelli: Of course they will. Heck, if this just keeps going forever, I will get bored too.
[19:26] @definitelynotsans: then why? what are you trying to achieve with this?
[19:26] @LutiasKokopelli: The question is not to know whether or not they will get bored, Sansy.
[19:26] @LutiasKokopelli: The question is to know WHEN they will start to get bored.
[19:26] @LutiasKokopelli: And how much the plot will have developed by that time =)
[19:26] @definitelynotsans: what you’re saying is…
[19:27] @LutiasKokopelli: We all need to move on eventually. And get to the more… interesting part.
[19:27] @definitelynotsans: so the resets WILL end at some point.
[19:28] @LutiasKokopelli: Hmm… Yes. =)

— Conclusion —

[19:34] @LutiasKokopelli: Well, it looks like all questions have been answered for now. I guess you can all have a break~
[19:34] @definitelynotsans: you mean that MORE are coming?
[19:34] @LutiasKokopelli: Who knows. Maybe. We’ve been having fun, haven’t we? I say we should do it again sometime.
[19:34] @LutiasKokopelli: But for the time being, you’re free to go. Until next time~

~~~~~

Hey guys! :D Are you ready for the… Wait.
They’re already gone? Everyone…?

Why did they start the session early…? Behind my back, no less? They could at least have told me! But— I warned them I had to further study my molecular orbitals and that I couldn’t possibly make it before eight! They ditched me those jerks… :(

Ugh. Well, at least it seems they’ve already answered it all. Makes my job easier, I guess? I hardly just had to slightly correct my old answers to the previous reviews in the end. And add some other insignificant stuff.

Welp. I’ll just publish this and go back to work. Those energetic diagrams won’t trace themselves after all.
I’ll go read their stuff later.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act II — That's Your Fault

Scene 5³ — Something to (Spread) Ketchup on

Sans laughed nervously, yet somewhat genuinely.
Fired, huh. And that was supposed to sound like a threat. Wow. Should he, uh, feel bad about this?

Well, at least someone did feel bad about all this.

“Sans… That’s not fair for her.”

He jerked his skull towards Dawn.
Had she just really… said that?

what?” He was not mad at her reaction. Just… genuinely stunned. For real?
“T-Technically… She’s the one in the right. We are the ones betraying her.” she timidly murmured.

And she knew how much betrayal hurt. She knew and she had seen it.
She could not forget that despair she had seen in the fish lady’s eyes.
The sudden and absolute loneliness. The helplessness. The pain.

She could not just stand there and do nothing. Her common sense was telling her to but she just couldn’t.
Not when she could relate so much to what she was feeling right now.

Sans narrowed his metaphorical eyebrows and glared at her blankly.

so what are you gonna do? let her kill you? seriously?
“O-Of course not!” she hurriedly retorted in a nervous cry. “But… a-at least— She deserves to know.”

She had decided that.

She had decided that, if they told Undyne, she would feel better. They would both feel better. And the fish lady would not have to stay there all alone in the cold and the dark and she would not need to hunt her down anymore and they would get out of here and go back to the soft warmth of the sweet Skelebros’ home and probably pass the rest of the evening with Papyrus and have a much better time than— this.

It felt like the best possible outcome and the finest perfect foolproof plan to come up to her mind. Come to think of it, part of her was actually proud of this idea.
Who cares if she was just being as dumb as Pacifrisk. Pacifrisk could do it, so there was no reason she could not. Right?
And anything would be a good reason to just get the heck out of here.

The skeleton merely sighed.
Heh. She did have the best intentions, of course.
And yet he simply shook his skull in a tired gesture.

pointless. you’re wasting your time, she’ll forget everything in just a few hours.” Of course he wouldn’t think of the ‘Home Sweet Home’ selling point first…
HEY, I’m not a freaking GOLDFISH!” Apparently, Undyne had heard him. And a split second later, she seemed to realize something else: “… Sans, what have I TOLD you about your fish puns?!
joke’s on me, that one was completely unintended.” he burst out laughing in response. He had to admit, that was a good one. Too bad he hadn’t said it on purpose. Too bad she had been the one to involuntarily come up with it. “and sorry, but i mean it. literally.

Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to say that last line.
The outraged hiss distorted by the cell phone’s microphones confirmed that the monster on the other end of the line had indeed heard that, and that she now would demand those explanations. And that she would not let them in peace until she either obtained her answers, or was wiped out by the Reset. That was just great.

Dawn stretched an open shaky palm towards him, along with a trembling smile.

“I’m telling her, Sans.” she firmly yet sheepishly mumbled.

He rolled his white glowing dots, but simply handed her his phone and crossed his arms, leaning his skull against the door and closing his eye-sockets lazily.

She glanced fearfully at the little device, now actually starting to have some regrets. She was about to actually talk to Undyne, huh— where should she even start? Oh God would the fish monster even want to listen to begin with? She would probably just madden her even more and oh what was she supposed to do now…?!
Alright. Breathe in. Out. Pacifrisk could do it so she would do it. If a kid could do it, she would too. There was no reason she could not succeed. Seriously.
Still, she was so glad that there was this giant impassable wall between them. Just in case.

Oh, but what was she worried about? That thing would stand still and even the Spear of Justice wouldn’t be able to knock it down.
Hopefully.

“Uh. Hey. Undyne. G-Good evening. We, uh, didn’t really get the chance to say that before.” Ha. She had hoped that once she would have started to talk, it would get easier… But on the contrary, this appeared to be all the more difficult. “M-My name’s Dawn. I-It’s, uh, n-nice to meet you. F-First off, I am a human, but… yeah I think you noticed that part.” Alright, and now she was just sounding stupid.
Just get to the point.” the monster groaned.
“Y-Yeah, of course. Uh.” Naturally, that was the best possible moment to be at a loss for words, huh. Yet how exactly was she supposed to sum up the whole situation clearly within such a short time? “I-I’m actually not from here. N-Not from that Surface, I mean. I-I still know what’s going on, but… L-Look, from what I understood, you really don’t wanna get my Soul. If Sans is right, it’s not a regular one and it w-wouldn’t do any good.”
What kind of bullshit is this? Are you honestly expecting me to buy THAT as an excuse?!” the fish lady scoffed, apparently not even sure herself whether she should feel outraged or amused by such naivety. “How would Sans even know that, huh? Why would he have anything to do with this anyway?

The human quickly glanced at the skeleton sitting by her side— but he had just turned his back to her and remained completely still… wait, was he actually napping?
… So he apparently had just decided to let her handle that entirely on her own, huh.
Thank you for the support, Sans, that was mildly appreciated.

Well, she had been the one to bring up the problem to begin with… And considering the shortcut issue, maybe he just had had enough and thought it would be best to use their remaining time wisely.
If you could call “napping” a “wise use of your time”, of course.

In any ways— she was now officially alone with this.

“Because… he was the one to make me come here in the first place.” She actually got a real silence as an answer this time, proving that apparently she finally caught her attention. Somewhat. “I-It’s kinda complicated, but— even if my Soul shouldn’t be used to break the Barrier, he still had in mind another thing my Soul could do— and not any of the, uh, ‘normal’ humans’.”

She paused, looking once more at the monster by her side. She knew he was asleep right now, but— would he really let her say all of that? If even Grillby didn’t know anything about his background until recently, then how would he be alright with her telling anyone else about his secrets in his stead?
… Because he knew Undyne would forget everything by the next day, after all. So he didn’t even have to care at all. Of course.

But right now, someone cared.

“I-I don’t know if you know about his scientific background or anything, but— for a while actually, he’s been dealing with something… an issue even greater than just being stuck underground.” she eventually added. “A-And bringing me here was supposed to fix it.”
What kind of ‘issue’ are you talking about, punk? I’m the freaking head of the Royal Guard. If there was any danger besides you, I can assure you I’d be the first to know.
“Yeah… Except that, uh, you don’t. B-Because you, uh, can’t. Because you forget. Everyone forgets. E-Everyone but Sans. A-And now, me too.” She knew she was sounding like she was speaking nonsense, and yet she just could not stop for some reason: “B-Because that issue Sans’ been dealing with all this time— is that you’re trapped within a time loop. All of you.”

And as soon as she had added that last part, she felt the fish lady’s upcoming objection being suddenly silenced.

What.
“Y-Yeah, that’s… a lot to take in. A-And scary, too. Everyone’s forgetting everything and the same things just happen repeatedly and Sans and I are the only ones to ever notice… H-He wanted to fix that. And my Soul was supposed to help.” Was she repeating herself? Damn, she just didn’t know how to explain a thing, huh. Sans was so much better at explaining stuff. “But it didn’t work. Because my Soul isn’t strong enough. And now we’re both stuck in the time loop. A-And he told me that if anything happened to my Soul, things could only go— even worse. Because of the time loop.”
Huh. That sucks.

Just as she had been about to mentally award herself with the second prize for the most ridiculously confusing explanation (the first prize remaining for Papyrus’ Legendary explanation for the Tile Puzzle, honor was still safe for now), she had heard some miracle beaming shortly from the little microphone.
Her eyes slightly widened.

“Whoa, wait. You actually believe us?” That came surprisingly easy. Then again, Grillby hadn’t been too much trouble either…

But she immediately heard one big laugh coming both from the phone and the other side of the door.

Nah. But that reminded me of a cool anime Alphys showed me once, and that did suck. The plot made my head hurt like hell because there were just so many inconsistencies everywhere, in the end you couldn’t figure if that was part of the plot or just pure bullshit.” Dawn somehow knew she should best interpret this mini pause as a light careless shrug: “But the fights were decent, at least.

Heh. From what she had seen, it was difficult to get a full story revolving around time travels and get it to make sense all along.
… Though the way she was talking about this… She did mention “plots” and actually just gave a quick review as if she just… Did she actually already know it wasn’t actually part of the alleged “Human History”?

Welp. Another incoherence towards the game. Huh.
(But wait, if she knew anime wasn’t real, then why was she still believing humans had mind controlling powers…?)

It really started to make a lot of those by now and this was starting to slightly annoy her because it simply did not make sense and she could not find any explanation for their existence. I mean, if they were literally inside the game, why would the Underground be any different from one perspective than the other?
Just the fact that this whole situation was even possible to begin with was making her head hurt, anyway. Was this like some kind of simulation or…?
… Nope, nope, nope. She had been willing to settle on that and not question anything around this topic ever again. She would not go back on that decision.

A sudden loud call from the fish monster jolted her back to reality, and she realized that she still had to convince her. But with what proof…?

“Undyne, wait— I… I actually already know you. All of you.”

Dawn took the incoming silence as an invitation to keep going, even though she was starting to have a bad feeling about this— not to mention that saying this felt all the more awkward.

“I… already knew Sans, even b-before we met— a-and I knew you. And your friends. I’ve been friends with Alphys in… another time. L-Look, I-I know you. I know why you’re doing this, a-and I can’t say I disagree— i-it’s just that in this case, S-Sans said that there was something different with my Soul so you should really not try, b-but— w-what I’m doing right now? It’s b-because I just can’t leave you in the dark, not after all you did for everyone here. I know you’re friends with Papyrus, I know you can play the piano— I could never really listen but I know you’re good enough to teach Shyren s-so… O-oh, a-and I also know that you’re, uh… g-good friends with Alphys, too. She, uh. Shares your feelings, y-you know… U-uh, m-maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

The phone line became eerily silent. Either she would not believe her or she would get mad at her for having declared the lizard’s feelings in her stead or… Ugh, she really had screwed up this time, uh?
But then she suddenly heard Undyne… chuckle. Awkwardly, genuinely, ironically, she had no idea but the fish lady had just chuckled in what appeared to be— was it bewilderment?

Well, your human mind powers are a much simpler explanation for all that, you know. No need to lie about them, I know all your secrets anyway.
“Wha— Wait, no-no-no! U-Undyne that’s really not it, y-you don’t understand! I-I learned all this in a videogame, alright?! T-There’s a videogame about the Underground, and it tells a lot about all of you, we get to have cooking lessons with you instead of Papyrus because he wants us to hang out, w-we give Alphys a letter you wrote her to confess your feelings” — uuh here comes another mistake uh-oh, whoops— q-quick find some random diversion! — “A-and there’s this piano puzzle you made in Waterfall, it’s really good! With the umbrella and the secret chamber and the artifact troll, hahaha… I-It’s my favorite Easter egg in the game, s-seriously.”

Undyne fell silent in a silence that felt somehow even deeper than the previous ones.
And then, after a good dozen of seconds…

I believe you.

Now it was Dawn’s turn to be at a loss for words. Truly the best moment, huh.
But when the monster spoke again, she… felt a much softer tone in her voice. That was surprisingly comforting.

That piano puzzle thing. I have no idea what you’re talking about. But… Actually I think that’s what gave you away.” She heard another fast chuckle, but this one sounded much more genuine. “You really don’t have mind powers, then, uh? You wouldn’t have made a mistake as dumb as that.

… Unbelievable. Yet another of those inconsistencies, and this time it had to be the one thing to actually save her? Seriously? How ironical was that?
Oh well. She wouldn’t argue. Things were finally getting towards a brighter conclusion, so everything was perfect. Ha.

Hey, listen. How about you get out of here, and you tell me the details in a… more welcoming setting? I’m freezing here.
“Oh, yeah… O-Of course. K-Kinda chilly in the Ruins too anyway, b-but yeah. Can’t let you in the snow all night. I-I’ll open the door so maybe, uh, stand back I guess?”

She heard a little cheery nod of approbation before the monster hung up happily, and she immediately started to get up on her feet, already pushing the door with her back in the process— and noticing that it was much easier to open it that way. Apparently, opening the door by pushing it from the inside proved itself to be much easier than trying to force your way through from the other side. It was meant to be built that way, after all.
Well, there was no more mystery as to how the kid could possibly open it on their own. They had always been moving forward, after all.

don’t.

The human had expectedly jerked up and cried a muffled high-pitched scream upon hearing the allegedly asleep skeleton’s voice right behind her— even more so when he had actually loosely but firmly clutched the jacket he had given her to prevent her from going any further.

“S-Sans, it’s alright. She believes us, now.”
and i say she’s not buying it.” he whispered in a hurried tone.

Dawn could not even find the time to argue that she felt the door budge slightly on its own. As she turned around in surprise, she found that she had opened it enough for Undyne to slide her webbed fingers into the little gap she had created mere seconds ago.

Sans’ pupils reduced to two horrified dots as he could only watch helplessly the Head of the Royal Guard manage just from that to open the door from the outside with a relative ease, hardly grunting from the effort. Granted, he and Dawn had been exhausted when trying to open it. Granted, Undyne was strong. Strong and determined. But seeing it…
Even trying to push the door closed would be futile by now. Undyne would be stronger. It really looked like she could have literally suplexed that door if she had wanted to, just to prove that nothing was impossible.

Yet as soon as the monster’s head appeared, they both saw a joking smirk on her lips.

Though— something was wrong.
Her left eye… I-It was alright.
Wasn’t she supposed to wear an eye-patch on that eye…?

Alright punks. That’s enough hiding for the day.” She cracked a smile, and a little pointy fang snuck out of her lips. “How about we continue that outside?

The human was the first to relax, giving her friend the “I told you~” dorky grin before happily walking out.

i can’t believe we’re doing this.” Sans deadpanned, powerless as he could only follow her.

Undyne happily slammed the door behind them, then turned and clapped her hands gleefully. The skeleton simply huffed warily, and Dawn started to rub her arms as the air really was getting chillier by the second.
The captain suddenly held her chin with a thoughtful finger, as if trying to remember something.

So. As I was saying…

Her smirk slowly made its way back on her face, but this time… in a much more cryptic and treacherous way.
Glowing spears suddenly appeared from nowhere, dashing towards the human in a bow-like line. She hardly got the time to realize what was happening that already Sans had teleported in front of her, his left eye flaring with a terrifying intensity and a conflicted frown that had dug itself onto his face deeper than ever.

I so fucking KNEW this was coming.

Dawn’s primal instinct had been to stupidly firmly close her eyes and crawl up into a sort of standing whimpering ball; after a few seconds she heard a few sounds of violent collisions, yet felt nothing.
When she opened back her eyes the next instant, she saw a giant white… thing standing in midair in front of them both. A giant thing that had apparently taken the blows in their stead, and yet was still apparently solid enough not to have suffered the slightest from the… had there been some actual explosions, like in the anime clichés?
It took her a few more seconds to realize this was a giant dragon skull. Her spine didn’t like that and Sans had apparently anticipated that reaction because the huge ball of bones immediately vanished back to nothingness, without a word from its creator.

… So his blasters could be used as shields too, huh.

And yet she saw him already start to breathe heavily, and for a second she almost thought he was about to collapse as he actually put a hand on his knee in order to keep standing.

“S-Sans, are you…?”
yeah.” he interrupted quickly in a mutter. He coughed uneasily, but managed to stand back after a few moments. “just have to remember not to use shortcuts.

Ugh… So even the slightest shortcut would do that right now, even if he was taking them on his own, huh. Not even worth dreaming of escaping by teleporting elsewhere, then.

Undyne had just watched them patiently. She had right away understood that her former employee would keep protecting her prey, and that attempting to send another attack would be pointless. She trusted Sans’ skills in combat— and she still did not want to hurt him, after all. The way he was standing right now, shielding the thing with his body, he was the only person her attacks could reach.
Ugh. What could she say to Papyrus, after all this…? Even if she would obviously not harm his brother, protecting such dangerous creature was a crime against civil security. Aside from being an affront to common sense.

But… Seeing how they were acting right now towards each other… Maybe he simply didn’t know?

“U-Undyne!” the human desperately called, still under the shock. “Why are you doing this? Y-You said you believed us!”

The fish monster sniggered evilly.

How does the backstabbing feel, human?” she taunted. Yet her large sly grin faded as her face distorted into an expression of pure cold rage as she murmured: “This is as twisted as you can get. Play with minds. Make ‘friends.’ And then betray them in their most vulnerable moment.

Her eyes widened and she grew pale, as she started to feel dizzy and light-headed. Sans quickly came to her side, ready to catch her as he was almost expecting her to collapse. She tried to stand and retort something, anything, but she would only blabber nonsensical noises and whimpers.
Why would those words frighten her this much…?

My neighbor knocked at my door in a hurry this morning. They wanted to warn me about a rampaging human that was slaughtering everyone in sight in the Ruins, and would soon come out.” the fish lady continued in a low tone. “You wouldn’t happen by any chance to know about that human, would you?

Wait… Did she actually believe she had been the one…?

And now you tricked one of my sentries into believing that you were a wimpy ‘I-want-to-be-friends-with-everyone’ crybaby actually worth living.” She breathed rather noisily, as she was obviously trying to repress her urge to just explode in rage and wrath. “You disgust me.” she eventually spat in a mutter.

She then glared at Sans for an instant. Tried to tell him the truth about that human. How its twisted mind had not only been maniacal enough to murder every single living being in the Ruins, but was now such a sadist, it actually managed to make him believe it was a good person— even though it could even change its mind anytime, it would probably backstab him even here and now if she wasn’t standing here as a threat and it so desperately needed his assistance for its own primitive survival instinct.
But Sans remained stubborn, and even tried to take its defense— but she would not listen. There was no justification for what this thing did.

Sans, this is my last warning.” she eventually reluctantly declared. “Step aside, or I will have to make you.” She hesitated once more, her eyes twitching nervously in actual… was it sorrow? “I know you’re tough. But right now? It’s obvious you won’t last long. You don’t stand a chance.
for the last time undyne, if you’ll just listen for once! dawn’s not the one you’re thinking about. there’s another one.
Two humans at the same time? You’re dreaming, Sans.” she scoffed. “If you want to cover up for it, you’ll have to try a little harder than that.” Yet her desperately sad tone was back as she almost murmured a short moment later: “Please, Sans… Don’t make me do this.

He did not budge.
After a few more seconds of a tense hesitation from her part, she bit her lips as she started to throw spears. A lot of spears.
She tried to make them come from behind so that she would not hurt the skeleton and get past him, but he was always ready to face and stop them— even if she could see his movements get slower by the minute.
At least, he looked like he could not use that weird teleportation trick anymore. That made him much more predictable, and… vulnerable. But would that stubborn guy ever understand that she was trying to help?!

At first, Sans had dangerously tried to avoid bone attacks, desperately gripping Dawn’s wrist and guiding her between the dark trunks. Not only did the human feel way too scared to think properly about how to calculate the dodging, but she had most probably never experienced any kind of training of the sort before— and anyway, the forest was so dark by now, the only light allowing her to see anything were the one coming from the hunter’s deadly spears. So skills or not— she could only rely on the skeleton’s mysterious ability to see in the dark in order to effectively run across the forest and not just get hit by a bullet or crash into some random pine tree.
Yet Undyne was obviously following, and the two fugitives were not half as athletic and durable as her— and though the way they had been able to dodge so many spears that easily made it clear that the fish monster’s night vision was not as good as Sans’, she apparently could see (or hear?) well enough to keep track of their race. When their escape eventually led them out of the forest and back on the snowed slightly lighter path, the spears started to become way too numerous to be avoidable— thus Sans reluctantly started attacking. Dawn stepped back, yet for a few instants— she couldn’t help but watch in some sick phobic awe as glowing magic bones and skulls would form out of thin air around them and prevent the spikes from reaching them. This ballet of bluish lights and vague forms dashing through the cold air was stunning and impressive, and yet— in a way, those deadly menacing bullets were so beautifully dancing in the sky like some giant graceful fireflies…

But only a few seconds later she looked at her friend and saw him summoning one of those bones from a little too close, and as for once the actual bony shape was more visible than the strange light it was emitting— needless to say, her spine did not like it and the spectacle ended when she shakily closed her eyes and protected them with trembling hands.

A few more spears, and Sans just decided to take a grip on his friend’s Soul and throw her without warning between the thick dark trees of the Forest. He looked as the human had landed rather roughly in the snow and still seemed to be recollecting from the shock, wondering about what had just happened.

dawn, run!” he growled desperately when he noticed she had not understood the implicit yet seemingly obvious plan. This time, if he could just hold her back for long enough…
Oh no you won’t!” Undyne yet roared even harder.

Dawn had hardly even got to her feet that she already found it was impossible for her to move anymore.

She had been wondering quite a few times before how Undyne’s Green Mode could possibly work… well, here was both the best and the worst moment to find out.
Just the same way as for Sans’ magic, she recognized by that odd feeling that only her Soul was affected; she could still turn around and face the monsters with a terrified and helpless look— but would she try to move any further from her current standing point, her Soul would hit some kind of invisible wall and glow green for as long as the strange contact would be maintained. She vainly tried a few other directions, but of course that invisible cage – bubble; she had decided to call it that way – was as impassable as it was inconveniently close and letting some really confined space— which would leave her Soul practically constantly lit up.

And yet after only a few more seconds she felt the bubble disappear and she immediately lost her balance, falling back right in that same snow poff Sans had first thrown her into.

She stared in bewilderment at the fish monster, and immediately met her two eyes—

And she saw there the last thing she had ever expected to see in such situation.

Fear.
Undyne was actually scared. If not horrified.

That Soul she had just manipulated right then— this was just insane— so unnatural
This definitely seemed otherworldly. Such amalgam of passive magic and determination all in one place— this was just sick. It did not look like as if a bunch of human Souls had been mashed together, this Soul’s shape looked just fine— but it felt all the same.

What in the Hell was this thing…?!

Sans was the only one to see there the perfect opportunity to finally set things right, and he immediately used his own magic to light her Soul back to its usual cyan color, showing it openly as some kind of spectacular oddity.
Dawn still hated that feeling, yet would not argue. That glare on the skeleton’s face— for one second she thought that he was actually mad. And she would oh so not dare irritate him any further right now, if ever so slightly.

there. see? told ya that one was special.” he growled in a low tone. His frowning smirk suddenly enlarged itself slightly, now mimicking a condescending ironical Cheshire smile. “so, tell me. still wanna bring that to asgore?

Undyne did not find the words— did not find the voice to answer.
She almost stepped back.

Sans, what in the Hell… T-This is just sick…!

Undyne, the Head of the Royal Guard, Local Hero and usually oh so confident and impulsive Warrior, was actually stuttering.
The human was genuinely amazed.

But… Was there really something more to her Soul? Something that Sans would not tell her about, but that made Undyne literally freak out…? Was it just the amount of determination, her Soul’s ridiculously gigantic size, or… was there something else Sans would have hidden from her…?

… No. She trusted Sans, and Sans trusted her. They were friends, now. Things were still awkward between them but they still shared things. Sans would not…

Why did you bring that thing here, are you NUTS?!

Undyne sounded hysterical, now. Calling him names, asking about where and how the heck that thing came from, about what he was trying to achieve with this. Sans would defend his motives calmly, rationally. With no emotions in his scientific approach to justify this last resort, after he had tried everything else.
Undyne would calm down after a while, gradually. Listening to Sans’ tale, asking more precise questions in a more patient tone. Sometimes Sans was the one asking:

how fast did you find us?
I knew you wouldn’t be stupid enough to head towards Waterfall— so there was really only one other direction left. You had asked to get your station around here, so I guessed I’d look there first. I just got lucky.” the captain smiled weakly and shrugged slightly, before sighing. “Sans, I… I’m sorry. I’d never guessed you’d been working yourself like that all this time…
down to the bone?” he winked mischievously.
“Whatever.” She cracked a weak chuckle.

Dawn could no longer hear distinctly what they were saying, but she could still make up a few parts of the conversation that would help her keep track of what they were talking about from time to time.
Anyway. It was rude to eavesdrop. Not like she cared that much.

Besides… I knew you’d never completely give up. I have no idea what happened three years ago, but… It was just so important to you. I mean, I didn’t know that myself, but, Alphys told me… Never wondered why I accepted to hire a slacker like you in the first place…? Ha.

All this time, Dawn had remained in the snow, still awkwardly sitting in that stomped poff Sans had thrown her into. She was awfully cold and Sans’ jacket was hardly warm enough, compared to the one he had provided her in the morning.
Sans had stopped his magical non-attack dozens of minutes ago. She hated the feeling but still it had kind of warmed her up by the time somehow, and now that this had stopped she was feeling much colder. But she was still glad he had stopped magically gripping and showing her Soul around like the giant glitched mess it was.

What happens then, if someone had to absorb her Soul, and then there’d be a Reset?” Undyne asked somberly, among her numerous other questions.
i don’t know,” the skeleton admitted shamefully, “but i really don’t wanna have to find out.

Oh, poor Sans… Of course you don’t.
Dawn had decided to pass the time in her own way. She still had her phone after all, and quite a few things to do with it.

But then, that other human… What happened to it?
i killed them myself this morning. as soon as they got out.

It was easier not to mention that he had needed to kill it three times.
No matter what, no matter how much he had done this before… This still hurt in the end. He hated having to do that.
But no one else needed to know.

So Sans sternly turned around to scan the area, then stopped and hesitated a little before pointing a specific place in the snow:

it was right here, so the body’s been moved since then. i assumed one of the canines did that.” And yet he frowned in sudden concern. “but if you thought dawn was the one, then… i guess whoever did that didn’t tell you about it, huh.

The fish monster nodded gravely.

None of the sentries actually saw it, let alone moved the body. They would have told me. That’d be a case of emergency, after all. They’re as loyal and trustworthy as you’d expect from them.

So who had moved the kid’s body, then…?

You sure you killed it?

There could have been one specific way the body would have moved on its own, after all. It just needed not to be an actual corpse.
But he shook his skull without hesitation.

absolutely sure. i’ve seen them die enough times before, i’ve learned to know when it’s over. this time was no different than the others. their soul shattered and all.
The Soul shattered?” she repeated, frowning in confusion and bewilderment.
yeah. it’s always been doing that. comes from the videogame, i guess.” he shrugged. “probably to make sure no one will use it meanwhile and potentially break the connection, or… dunno. just guessin’ here, really.

She seized her chin with a thoughtful palm.

In most videogames, when you kill enemies, the bodies just magically disappear. You think that’s what happened?

The skeleton gave her a deadpanned look in which she could clearly read an open really?

the monsters’ dust is still here. that’s not making sense.
But if the Soul shatters each time… Why not its body, too?
go figure.” He just shrugged it off tensely at first. However, after a few moments, his skull lit up in realization. “wait. actually, one of alphys’ cameras caught that scene. we can ask her to check the tape!

Seeing the way Mettaton had bragged about the skeleton killing an ‘innocent child’, the murder scene had been well caught on by the camera’s field. So logically, it should show the culprit’s face at some point, right?
Undyne quickly called her, apparently too concerned by this case to even think of her usual stuttering and shyness upon talking to her more-than-best friend. On the other end of the line, the lizard clumsily rushed to the surveillance room and rewound the tape—

… I-I-It’s blank.

There was a silence.
Alphys rewound a little further, until she could finally see something— she saw Sans throw his bones, the kid struggling a little but quickly succumbing to the blows, Sans glaring a little more at the corpse patiently, as if he expected it to move on its own or vanish any second before eventually leaving— but then here it was, a few minutes after the image of the kid’s corpse had been standing still and alone without any other major event being caught by the camera. One second the image was fine, and the one right after— nothing.

Sans and Undyne went to check on the camera, and they noticed it had been unplugged.

Not smashed. Unplugged. Carefully and neatly unplugged. Just so that the camera would still work, not show any remaining traces of whoever was about to attempt anything on it, but would just— be turned off peacefully.

Oh, this was just perfect.

Not only had they just found out that something was actually going on and that it was nowhere close to what Sans used to know and experience during his previous runs, but they had not the slightest clue as to how to even begin to wonder what could possibly cause it.

And that was not all of it…

There’s another thing that’s been bugging me.” Undyne eventually continued. “That piano puzzle thing. I thought she made that up. I mean, I never heard of that thing, so she must’ve made it up, right?
dunno. why don’t you go ask her?

Dawn was still checking her phone when the fish monster had shyly walked towards her, before crouching to her side.

Hey, punk.” Her tone was low and sorrowful. Dawn gave her an understanding yet still somewhat fearing look. “Sorry for earlier. Good thing Sans had your back.

The human silently nodded, looking down, ashamed.

Don’t worry, I won’t ask you to tell me all over; Sans explained practically all of it.” she chuckled awkwardly. “I was just asking, for that puzzle you mentioned… Where did that come from? You made that up in the moment, or…?

Dawn hesitated, still staring at her phone’s black screen. Then she smiled slowly and sighed, slightly shrugging jokingly:

“… Nah. I made that up. I know you don’t like puzzles, anyway. Right?”
Yeah, puzzles suck.” the captain snorted. “I mean, it’s much cooler to meet the enemy face to face! They say puzzles are for the brains, but when you fight, you need your brains even more. You train both your muscles and your wits, so that’s the real best kind of training, right?

The teen tried to smile harder, but a chill ran through her spine instead as she rubbed her arms once more. Undyne understood the gesture and retorted humorously that she was cold too, but when she pulled a hand to rub vigorously her back in an attempt to warm her up a little more— she realized how she seemed really bad in shape.

Monsters could not get sick. They could be weakened, or even seriously hurt by a few weather conditions when they were too extreme. But they knew no such thing as “illness.”
Undyne’s greatest weakness was the extreme, dry heat of Hotland. Snowdin was uncomfortably cold, especially at night— but she was, at most, merely bothered by it.
She was sure a human’s skin was not supposed to look so pale and blue.

Hey, Sans.” she called out in concern. “Your human’s freezing cold here. Better get her to a warmer place soon.

During this time, the skeleton had been desperately investigating the crime scene and the camera for any potential hint they would have miraculously missed— but as soon as his (former?) boss had called, he had rushed towards them as fast as he could.
Having no skin and being able not to feel anything such as “differences in temperatures” was a huge advantage in the Underground, a claustrophobic place where radically opposite climates were meddled together into a rather tiny location… Unless when he would forget that it wasn’t the case for the others, and that humans were particularly sensitive to those changes.

Undyne quickly removed her scarf and jacket and forced the human to put them on. The kid moaned a little about the fish’s own health, but she nervously brushed it off.
After all, if Sans’ sayings were true, her “life” was bound to come to an end in merely a few more hours. It’s… not as if she could really care anymore. It would not matter.
Damn, it was still really taking a lot out of her to bring herself not to fall into the existential crisis crap and freak out, shouting hysterically all the things and awful questions boiling in her mind right now.

But she would not do that. For Sans’ sake.
The poor guy had been through hell for way too long.

Thankfully, the captain’s natural body heat had already warmed up those clothes, so Dawn actually immediately felt the difference. The ambient air was still cold of course, but at least now her skin’s temperature could get back to less worryingly deadly figures.

We should go now, Sans.” Undyne added. She frowned tensely as she continued: “I know you’re worried the scene will be wiped out ‘tomorrow’, but… We won’t get any more hints, now. And my stuff won’t keep her warm for much longer either.

Besides, I’M getting cold too. Geez.

The skeleton had agreed silently, already handing an assisting gloved palm to help Dawn stand before giving his (ex?) boss a thankful nod.
Undyne actually decided to stay where she was on her own, despite the growing cold. Sans had tried to argue at first, but she had said she would continue to investigate and call him if she ever found anything new. Just in case.
She was determined and a glorious confident smile had taken place onto her face. So the skeleton simply thanked her gratefully with another silent evasive gesture, before giving an encouraging little push in Dawn’s back to indicate they were leaving.

Their pace was slow and seemed rather difficult for the human, as if each tired step was becoming painfully harder and harder than the last.
The skeleton was feeling bad upon this, but he still had not recovered enough to directly teleport them back to his living room. Maybe he could do that midway… But that would need for them to at least walk for a dozen more minutes.
Ironically, he felt like he could perfectly teleport back and forth on his own, by now. But bringing another living person along was impossible for the moment, and he was not ready to try to force things. He had learned enough from the last time that it would be completely useless.

“So. No piano puzzle in the end, huh.”

This stunned him. For the first time in whole minutes since they had started to walk silently back towards Snowdin, Dawn had apparently regained the ability to speak.

looks like it.” Sans retorted calmly. “you wanted to see it for real?

She snorted weakly, stating jokingly that she could have enjoyed getting a real piano for once, but the silence came back right after.
Sans was the one to break it a few dozen seconds later:

kid, just while we’re at it— when you first talked about that puzzle, you called it an… ‘easter egg’, you said?

Whoops. Had she really said it that way?

“… Y-Yeah. Maybe. There are a lot of little extras like that in the game, and that’s part of what makes it so great and funny, you know— I-I mean, of course the whole universe’s cool enough as it is, but the developer just had a good time adding some little random events and references here and there for the Player to enjoy besides the plot, I suppose…”

Haha, that was so tricky to talk just like that about what was going on from the other side of that screen –slash– hypothetical fourth wall. Even if Sans did already know about it, that was just… Well, until now, he didn’t prove to be the kind to take things as lightly as Alphys used to do. And still, talking about actual people just that way…

And yet she simply had to talk about this, on serious terms.

“But that’s just… weird. I-I mean, we’re, like, inside the game right now, aren’t we? Aren’t the map and, like, everything else, supposed to be… just exactly as in the game? I-I mean, logically. How would the piano puzzle even work in the game if it doesn’t exist here to begin with?”
… hm.

Sans looked, at best, embarrassed. His white pupils were avoiding her as his sockets were evidently frowning. As if he had some theories or even maybe solid evidence that would explain at least part of the problem, but which he would be for some reason reluctant to bring up.

that’s, uh. that might be a little more complicated than just that. but i get your point.” She was about to try to make him talk more, but he cut her short before she even had time to open her mouth: “just in case— do you have, uh… other ‘extras’ like that in mind?
“Well, there’s one in Snowdin.” she muttered as she immediately thought of one that would probably be the closest to their current location. “There’s that mysterious locked door that is supposed to lead to the… developer’s office or something. Well you don’t actually meet him there of course, but there’s the Annoying Dog and that’s pretty much the same, I guess.” She paused suddenly as she noticed her friend showed no sign of any kind of reaction whatsoever. “You, uh, remember the Annoying Dog? A little white Pomeranian always trolling Papyrus over bones or something…?”

She took the skeleton’s persistent silence as an i have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“… A-Anyway. The only way to unlock that door is to make a perfect score during the credits sequence, a-and that’s kinda tough. Even Lys never made it, so I really just heard of what was behind it thanks to the wikias.”

The monster nodded slowly, but it was just so that she would know that he was listening.
Listening, not following.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if no one ever got to open that door from here, let alone enter the room behind, but still— you must have heard about it at some point, right? I mean, a Mysterious Unlockable Door in a Dark Creepy Cave, at least someone must have noticed by now and, I don’t know, sent some rumors about it or something. Right?”

“Yeah… Someone should have noticed.” his silent lazily tired nod said.
It took her some more time before she managed to fully acknowledge the fact that he really had no idea what she was talking about. And the consequences that ensued.

She couldn’t help but frown, by now.
Until now, she had not cared. She or Sans would dismiss it as just a coincidence, or a minor detail, or some information she would not remember correctly because she had never played anyway, she couldn’t possibly be a flawless reference upon the subject.

But she did remember the piano puzzle. It was the only thing Lys had asked her to do and it was the only thing she had actually managed to do correctly in the game, once, because Lys wanted to complete it but was completely stuck and desperately tone deaf and all that. While she knew music, especially piano, thus was all the more prone to solve it.
She had been actually proud to solve it within only a few minutes. She had been proud to see Lys being genuinely proud of her and amazed by her skills, for once.

But this piano was not there. In this game, apparently any trace that this was a videogame somewhere else had apparently… merely vanished. This made so much sense because otherwise this world would physically not make sense, but actually this just made no sense at all in the end!
Just what sort of game was she really trapped into?!

“Sans. The door. Where is it gone?” she suddenly asked stubbornly, in a much darker tone.

But Sans would just stare at her with his sorry eye-sockets and his overwhelming silence of ignorance and desperate but lazily serene careless worry.

And then she realized, as she slowly stepped back and lifted her light-headed empty gaze full of the Void. A nervous trembling smile cracked its way through her lips as she was hardly aware of it.

“You don’t know. Because there is no door. Is that it? That’s it, right…?”

Sans was at a loss for words, but the sorry look he gave her…
Her frown deepened even further.

“When did Chara fall?”

Silence. This time, his nonexistent eyebrows twitched very furtively.
Now, where did that come from…?

“You know. The first human.” the non-player added as soon as she judged the skeleton was taking too much time to answer what was supposed to be an easy question for him.
they were… not the first human, technically. well, i don’t know for sure, but at least i’d highly doubt that.” the monster said thoughtfully, but honestly. “i mean, they fell around two centuries ago, and we’ve been down here for… at least ten times longer than that. wouldn’t make sense if they really were the first one to fall.
“What did you do to the other ones, then?”

The monster cracked his smirk a little wider, shrugging lazily.

what did we do to chara, before they came back to the surface and were killed by those humans?

Huh… So most probably those humans actually got to live their lives as peacefully as Chara used to, then. Was that it?
Still, what happened to their Souls? They had to die at some point after all, if only biologically by natural means. So in that case…

“Why didn’t you use their Souls to break the Barrier earlier?”
honestly, i have no idea. it was centuries ago, kid. not like i was there.

He was feeling tense. Dawn was not acting anywhere like herself right now. Either her mind was foggy and she had some thoughts on her mind so she was unintentionally giving the impression that she was judging him or accusing him of something… or for some reason, she had activated once more her ‘paranoia mode.’
And in that second case, that could not be a good sign of her current state, whether physically or psychologically.
It had been a long awful day, and she had been through a lot. No wonder her mood would be so down in the dumps by now, as she was freezing cold and they had to walk to finally get back to their sweetly warmed up home.

besides, i don’t even know if those other humans really existed to begin with.” he eventually continued. “i personally think it makes more sense that way, but maybe chara really was the first to fall.” he shrugged uneasily. “anyways… most people only remember chara because they… well. they reinitiated the war, in a way.

That made sense.
But that was still not making sense.

“You know the date of their fall?”
huh. around… 1700 and something, i think? sorry, i never cared to remember the actual date.

Oh, but that was already enough, don’t worry.

“What about the tapes?”

Sans gave her a confused, yet curious look.

what tapes?
“In the game. You’ve got Alphys’ basement. The ‘True Lab’ as we call it. Inside there are a few video tapes. And they show what really happened between Asriel and Chara. How they came up with that plan to go on the Surface and get six other Souls, I mean.” She suddenly frowned dangerously. “Are you telling me they had cameras in the eighteenth century?”

Silence.

“Or you’re just telling me that there aren’t any tapes at all. Of course.” she groaned. “It’s alright, I just made that up.”

Sans’ persevering silence kept getting all the more uneasy as he was seeing her slowly losing her mind into what he thought was supposed to be pointless minor anomalies.
But indeed, he had never expected those “tiny irrelevant inconsistencies” to become… this relevant, ironically.

hey, dawn. you sure you alright…?” he eventually asked as calmly as he could.

He tried to bring a comforting gloved hand around her shoulders, but she nervously slapped it away.

By now she was hardly ever surprised anymore. She had difficulties finding a reason for all that, but— at this point, one more or one less… Did it still matter? That would not help explain their origin or purpose, if they had any meaning at all.
Those had been rather tiny things at first, but now that she was confronting Sans’ ridiculously inaccurate tales with all the proof and theories the fans would share on the internet — at least, what she remembered of them… Something was wrong.

Something was going horrifyingly wrong.

This was not the Underground she knew. It still looked an awful lot like Toby Fox’s game representation— but it wasn’t.

So what was this game deal all about, huh?

She finally exploded. She had still somehow managed to keep her calm until now, but this was just too much

And here was the incoming mental breakdown.

No, I’m not freaking alright! Nothing in here is making any sense! Why did all the Easter eggs disappear? Why can’t you even recognize Megalovania when you hear it? How can the whole timeline be so wrong? Why doesn’t Undyne have her eye-patch?! WHY ARE YOU WEARING SNEAKERS?!”

She started to hyperventilate, and yet her frown was showing nothing but pure rage by now.
The skeleton desperately tried to get a hold of her and reassure her as much as it was physically possible during such situation, but the only slightest gesture he made towards her made her jump back violently, as the distance between them increased by around six feet within a mere second.

“So what’s more to it? No temmies? No memoryheads? No River Person?!”
i-i heard of the river person.” Sans retorted hurriedly.
“Oh so there is a River Person alright.” she eye-rolled. “There’s no fucking trace of any signature or Easter egg from any of the developers or the plot, but oh no don’t worry EVERYTHING is FINE because there is a freaking random guy in a boat!”

The monster was desperately raising and waving his arms in a vain attempt to calm her down— but when he could not even have physical contact without getting her to freak out even harder, that was not the easiest task to achieve.

dawn, listen.” he tried in a low and cautious tone. “i-i thought about all this, and just— it’s just that if all those things really were there, this world would just— not make sense.” He paused for a split second, eyeing her warily before uttering his next sentences: “this world is real. we are real, dawn. so… it has to make sense somehow, right?

The human actually did seem to calm down after that. As she was carefully considering his answers, studying them as best she could, thinking as hard as her frozen brain could.

“Oh yeah. Right. Of course this world is real.”

Her smile suddenly cracked even wider.

“Of course that videogame thing was bullshit.”

Sans’ stuck-smirk dropped as he widened his eye-sockets in shock, before frowning in that are you serious? lost expression.

what?” was all he could utter, though.

The human started to laugh tensely. That was a nervous laugh cracking from a rough voice struggling with the dry thick cold, and yet those sick echoes it had made him flinch.

“You lied to me. All along. Is that it?” She had asked this in an eerily calm voice, as if she truly expected an answer— but she didn’t even let him time to retort anything that she was already interrupting. “How could I be so stupid. This all adds up!”

She raised two fiery eyes blazing with a stormy madness she was mistaking for the brightest illumination of all times, feeling like a detective genius who had just figured out the whole case and finally realized how simple it really had been all along.

“You never cared about the game! All you wanted was a Soul. It didn’t even matter to you whether or not the Players were actually responsible or not for any of your personal issues. You didn’t even care if they weren’t related in any way to any of this.” She suddenly gasped as another paranoid thought struck her crazy unstable mind: “That’s why you didn’t want me to see Frisk! You were afraid I’d find out right away!”

Paranoia Mode it was, and Sans was genuinely scared to see how far she had come already. He knew she was good at jumping to conclusions, but— never would he have expected her to go that far.

dawn, wait a second—
“No, you know what? There’s never been a videogame. You made that up! You made that up and I was stupid enough to believe you because there’s oh so coincidentally some random videogame that looks a little like this world, and all you had to do was throw numbers at me. Quantum physics, my foot!”
alright, now you’re getting too far.” he managed to quickly interrupt in a stern and low voice, even though he still was trying to sound as harmless and calm as possible.

Alright, maybe he could have at least tried to explain her the theory… But judging how young she was, he had just thought it would have taken ages to explain her. For all he knew, even most adults were skeptical upon hearing already about the regular entanglement— he had just expected the task to explain this case to a human teenager to be a lost cause.
And as he had thought until now… he just truly believed it did not matter anyway.

But now it was too late, since she apparently was too far gone into her foolish conspiracies as she kept digging again and again and again, finding out she could keep digging even when they both thought for one moment that she had finally reached the bottom.

“You just see me as a tool. You’ve been using me the whole time! You’d never care about me the way you do if I weren’t that dangerous.” That last sentence had this specific tone that sounded as if the one talking had just spat at his face. It had so much contempt and disgust and distrust… and yet she still could hit harder when she saw the skeleton about to just try to say something: “I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.”

… That one actually hurt.
He could not deny it, he had never been so protective with Frisk, no matter the run— and he realized that she perfectly knew that.

Dawn gritted her teeth resentfully. To think that all this time, she had been stupid enough to believe he had been so close to her because he actually saw her as a friend.

Not only this, but he had definitely not forgotten how he had been treating her when they had first met, or if only this very morning, when he had been awoken to the begin of a new Reset… He entirely regretted it now, and he thought she had understood that fact by now— even though obviously he knew it was foolish to believe she would actually fully forgive him just like that.
But had this morning really been the last time…?

“Oh, but don’t worry, Sans. I can’t get mad at you after all.” She frowned again. “Because I’m scared of you, remember?”

Yikes… She had warned him she was ‘good at holding grudges.’

please, listen.” he sighed while making slow waving gestures in a desperate attempt to appease her and catch her attention. “we’ve had a very long day, so how about we settle at home at last and talk about this in calm
“Oh no no no.” she yet immediately started to chant evilly, shaking her head and stepping back with trembling limbs. “You’re always dodging all the questions. Now, you’re gonna talk. Here and right now.”

The skeleton couldn’t help but grit his teeth, this time.

no, kid— really, you’re not even making sense now. i promise i’ll tell you everything i know if it can help you, but let’s just go home, now. i-i think the cold is getting to you.
“The cold? The cold?!” the human scoffed in a bewildered cackle. “I just realized the only person I thought I could trust here has been lying to me and used me all this time, and now you want me to care about the cold?!”

Now her laugh was holding those hysterical sardonic maniacal reverberations the snow would yet immediately absorb, leaving only this eerie static sound old tapes would send in the silence.
Clouds from her breath were now dancing all around her in some livid ghastly madness as she now seemed to bounce around, tripping and slipping everywhere but never truly dropping from her complete loss of her sense of balance— whether physical or psychological.

“Look around us, Sans! Does this look like a fucking videogame to you?!”

Of course the surroundings could never have looked any more real. Her demonic desperate laugh seemed to be the only otherworldly remaining anomaly, in this oh so maddeningly absolutely dabsolutely ordinary snowy forest.

“And now that you messed up, I really am just a burden to you, right?! Oh yeah, now you’re worried I might even catch a cold or worse, because if it is worse then something might happen to my Soul, right? Ha!”

Sans was holding his skull in both hands, tremblingly struggling to keep his thoughts and sanity together.

She was nuts. Purely and solely nuts.
The worst thing being, if this was continuing for even a single more minute— it would start to get to him, too.

alright, you wanna play that game?” he suddenly growled, holding her Soul and levitating her above the ground just enough so that she would stop pacing and finally stay at one spot.

She had vaguely yelped in surprise at first, but as soon as she realized he would not throw her anywhere nor put her down until she would calm down, she hissed in defeat while stubbornly crossing her arms and frowning deeply.
Hopefully that would make her listen, for once.

Sans did not wait for a better occasion to continue, as he uttered calmly, but in a voice that struggled to hide how irritated he really was by now:

let’s assume that you’re right. let’s suppose there is no game, and i lied to you all along for the sake of convenience, or just because i’d be the ‘evil bad guy’ or whatever.” He angrily rolled his flickering white dots as he air quoted with his right hand (since he was still using the left one to keep her in place). “then tell me: who is the one to reset? i told you already, it can’t be frisk.
“Well I don’t know, Chara maybe?”

Her tone was condescending as if such answer was supposed to be the very embodiment of the purest obviousness, and yet Sans waved it off as the most nonsensical thing he had heard in ages.

chara is dead, kid. they’re a ‘ghost’, at best. and for all i know, right now they need frisk to exist. if they really were the one to reset, they would need to do so before frisk dies, or at most sometime around the very instant they die.” He interrupted himself suddenly, his expression mockingly lighting up into that of a fake realization as his tone became for the very first time actually condescending: “Oh, but wait. Now, surprise: they’ve been dead and inactive for what, ten hours straight now?

Ugh. He had a point.

She thought of Flowey for a second— but then she immediately remembered that his determination was actually lower than the kids’.
Yeah… If neither Frisk nor Chara were causing the Resets, then Flowey was even less likely to be the one pulling the strings.

dawn, i saw the figures.” he eventually muttered as calmly as he could, in the most reassuring tone he could afford. “i don’t know exactly how inaccurate the game is, but if there’s one thing those can tell for sure— it’s that there is a connection between our worlds, somehow. i could explain it all if you let me some time but—
“And what if the figures are wrong?” she interrupted loudly, throwing her arms in the air another time. “You said it yourself. You’ve never been a scientist. How can you know that you didn’t just make a mistake, uh? Because your father taught you?” In a pit of anger she carelessly rolled her eyes and shrugged before moaning for herself: “Well, if he ‘fell into his own creation’, maybe it means he wasn’t that brilliant in the end.”

The excessively eerie silence that greeted her betrayed the fact that he had actually heard that last part, and for a second— a shiver actually ran through her spine as she saw him.

Sans was shaking as his fuming dark skull lowered its two empty eye-sockets. His left slightly glowing fist clenched nervously, and she raised her arms to her chest as she immediately felt the grip on her Soul tensening in response. That kinda hurt and she almost felt as if breathing was becoming a little more difficult.
But when she looked back at him, he was actually shaking .

You have no idea what you’re talking about.

He had uttered this with that slow creepy low voice of his— though it was the very first time she caught on a tone that much filled with such deep and dark anger… if not maybe even some murder intent…?
Yet after a few more seconds— even if his eye-sockets were still pitch black and his grip had loosened if only so slightly, his voice had come back to a more normal tone. Despite the still deeply angry emotion that still openly emanated from his words.

i don’t care if you doubt my skills. i doubt them myself sometimes. But don’t you dare talk about my father like that. Capiche?

She silently nodded, not looking at him and staring at the snow instead.

now, about your actual question— of course i didn’t believe it either at first. of course i thought that our world being just some kind of videogame elsewhere was pure nonsense— and i still have no idea as to how the heck this is possible in the first place. but i did the math over and over, and—
“No you didn’t.” she accused gravely. She was still somewhat shaky because of his earlier breakdown, but she felt confident this time and she merely wanted to tell him everything she had on her mind: “Don’t lie to me, Sans, I know you didn’t. Because you were so scared to be stopped by a Reset and you were so hurried to finish your machine as soon as possible and get a Player here because you were so desperate.” And gradually, a sudden smile creeped its way onto her face— though it was unsure to decipher whether it was nervous or… sadistic. “And you know what? You screwed up. You couldn’t even get a human with a Soul strong enough to be of any use for you. Look at me, you couldn’t even get a real Player. Don’t you see how much you fucked up?!”

This time, she did seem like she (somewhat) wanted him to answer. Thus he gladly took this opportunity to finally defend his cause:

alright. i messed up, it’s all my fault if you’re stuck here, i know. but now— i just wanna ask you one little thing. if i really was so ‘desperate’ and ‘impatient’, why did i actually wait for a player to start the Hard Mode, the run that is probably the rarest to be ever played? there were a lot more chances a regular reset would happen in-between. and yet i STILL only targeted the hard mode players. so i’m asking you. Why did i go through the effort to do that, when the result could’ve been the same with ANYONE coming from your world, player or not?

… This was true. Sans could have just kidnapped the next random player about to play, no matter the name they would choose. Her common sense was even telling her that it would have been much easier and safer for him to program the machine that way, rather than adding that one more restraint.

Silence. Sans’ grin was grim since it had dropped (if only so slightly), but something in his tone betrayed the fact that he was actually relieved.

there you go. so don’t you go tell me i didn’t check everything over and over because i’d be so ‘impatient’ or whatever. all my work was saved in my computer anyway, it’s also keeping all its data over the resets. so as long as i was just working on the theory part and taking measurements, i actually didn’t even CARE if there’d be resets. that’d just be a waste of time, nothing more. the part about building the physical machine was the last and shortest part of all.” He paused quickly, but eventually added in some kind of… it almost sounded like regret…? “i still don’t know how there could’ve been this whole month without a single reset, but i think i’d still have done all that anyway, eventually.

So it really was it. The algorithms were all saved after all, the only thing he’d lose upon a Reset would be the physical machine.

Why had he waited for a real actual Hard Mode player instead of just taking the next random one no matter the name they’d choose, if it didn’t even matter to him?
Well. The answer was obvious.
Despite everything, he was ready to still take the risk of a Reset happening in-between, if only in order to prevent any fully innocent person into being brought.

… But this had failed.
And that was all she needed to find a reason to hold a grudge nevertheless.

The skeleton took one muffled cautious step towards her, now back to his stern but sorry look. The human had tried to react and nervously step back, but as she was still helplessly uneasily floating a few inches above the ground, she quickly gave up kicking the air ungracefully.
But when he came back to talking, his speech was even more calm and harmless, and… almost understanding, even.

dawn. i know this doesn’t feel right, and i didn’t want to believe any of this either at first. but… please, just come back to your senses and listen to your logic, alright?” He sighed as he closed his eye-sockets for a second, before he gave her back that same look— though his nonexistent bony eyebrows were slightly frowning in a serious expression. “you didn’t reset. the kid can’t reset. chara can’t reset anymore. there’s only one solution left now, right?

She suddenly felt that she was lowered slowly, and as soon as her feet were having a good steady contact with the ground, the monster released his grip. She saw her Soul’s otherworldly glow dim before she raised back her eyes towards him—
He was right in front of her, handing to her an open gloved welcoming palm as he started to chuckle awkwardly.

c’mon. you’re not that dumb. you know just as well as me that the game is the only explanation. that’s how it’s always been working and that’s how it’s gonna work. alright? let’s go home. i can try to tell you about my theories on the way, if you want.

She eyed his hand warily, but only tensed her crossing arms’ grip onto her own ribs before looking away shamefacedly.
… So she was the sore loser type too, huh.
Sans lowered his arm slowly, sighing patiently… but also in some kind of understanding, as he nodded slightly.

He had been hiding a few things, after all— even if he had just thought it to be for the best. In the end, she… had the right to still be mad at him.

would you prefer to spend the night with alphys instead?” he offered in what almost sounded like a whisper. “i don’t know, she might cheer you up with her anime or whatever. if that can help. you seemed… rather happy last time i saw you together.” he added bitterly, more for himself than for her— she could have taken that badly.

He could not guarantee he would be able to take them both to Hotland yet, but if what she preferred was to stay away from him for a little while and set things through on her own… He could understand. And Reset or not— he trusted Alphys to be the only other monster that would not try to kill her on sight. Well, except for Papyrus of course, but since they were living in the same house— that didn’t count.

After a few seconds of hesitation, she sighed in regret— but shook her head resolutely.

“No. If there’s really gonna be a Reset at some point and if Alphys is just gonna forget all about me at any time without warning, then I don’t wanna be there when it happens. Let’s just go back to your home and go to sleep.”

Sans gently offered her an open palm and a sorry look, but she frowned and turned back, clenching her raging fists.

On foot.” she hissed between her grinded teeth.

She started to pace rather carelessly and quickly towards what she believed to be the right direction and Sans wordlessly followed behind, but hardly a minute later he saw her trip and actually land on her knees.
The skeleton stiffened before rushing to her side.

dawn, are you sure you wanna walk? you really don’t look—
“I’m fine.”

She groaned as she painfully and shakily stood up, but only after a few other steps she just tripped again. The monster heard her curse under her breath, and nervously clenched his bony gloved fists in response to this pitiful view.

a-alright… now be reasonable kid.” He slowly tried to come a little closer and warily kneeled next to her, stretching one nervous gloved hand towards her. “you’re definitely not gonna walk all the way ‘till there like that.not under my watch’, he thought, but did not actually add aloud. “so why won’t you just let me help y—
“I’m fine!” she repeated angrily. “Just leave me alone.” Not even looking at him, she just shoved his hand off with some violent yet weak and clumsy elbow, then tried to crawl a little further before standing back for the second time. “I – don’t – need – your help.”

And yet after only a few other steps she just stumbled back and hardly managed to break her fall with her arms, letting now her hands burn into the freezing snow. She grunted both in pain and shame and anger as she just felt helpless and weak, feeling completely unable to stand back up, this time.
She just hated how he was always right and she was always wrong and she was just an immature and useless kid and he always had to be the one to fix everything even though he had lied to her all along and he was not even caring about her this was all just a façade.

dawn, you won’t make it on your own. not like this. please come back to your senses and just let me take us home, okay?

That was enough. She’d had enough with hypocrites for the day or maybe even the week or for God knows how much longer. She just couldn’t stand it anymore. She was tired of being hopeless, powerless, useless, and wrong— wrong to a liar, no less. That was beyond infuriating and she was just so tired of all this masquerade.
Her hands tried to close into fists, but some snow was in the way and formed two little compact burning pellets into her palms.

“I said— leave – me – alone!”

She was hardly aware that, probably by reflex, she had just randomly thrown at him one of those two snowballs waiting in her hands when she had turned around. She immediately froze as she ironically remembered that he was supposed to only have one freaking HP— was that outburst just supposed to be an attack— did she really hit him or even worse— h-had she just killed him?! No no no no no no oh God please

He was still standing for now, both hands covering his right eye-socket— probably where she had accidentally hit him with her incidental involuntary weapon.


But he was fine.

Sans was fine. Surprised and frustrated probably or maybe even mad at her right now, but he was definitely not about to potentially turn to dust any instant or anything.
Either she was just so weak she could not even make an attack that would just take one single HP out, or he simply could just stand much more damage than what the games and the fan works were depicting. Again.

And here was just another lie.

She grunted again, crawling her way up and trying to put all her might into standing— but she apparently couldn’t even find the energy to do so.
But she so wanted to just get away from him— she had just had enough…

alright dawn, just… c-calm down, okay? P— … please. w-we don’t have to do this.

She didn’t want to turn her look.
So why did she do so anyway and why did she have to see this?

The snowball was still stuck in his eye-socket and he was trying to get it out, as it was slowly fragmenting and melting on his bony forced smirk from both outside and inside of his skull. Which was objectively creepy.

Needless to say, her spine didn’t appreciate the spectacle, as she shrieked in sudden hysteric horror and fell on her back, unable to look away and yet so wishful to forget about ever seeing such monstrosity.

The monster was not looking at her at first, still concentrated on trying to dislodge the snow from his eye-hole— and yet as soon as his only left functional little white glowing dot went to meet her face, alerted by the sound and suddenly filled with worry, he immediately understood and stepped back.
And— Sans had actually started to shake.

He uneasily and shamefacedly tried to hide his right eye under one gloved hand, but it already was too late—

She was crying. He could hear her sobbing now and this just was the last straw.
Her breakdown had lasted all along for now more than half an hour of tense arguments and lost walks, but now—
Now she really had reached the bottom, and she was about to just keep digging if he could not find right now some way to get her back to reason.

d-dawn, please, why w-won’t you just listen…” He was doing his best to look away and not show her anything special about his face, but then again, it probably was just too late. And heck was this snow really sticky now, it just wouldn’t come out— “l-listen, i’m sorry for everything— i really am. i-i’m actually just as lost as you right now, i swear— so please…” He suddenly shoved his hood back on his skull. Maybe that would help—
“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, i hate you, i hate you…” she yet repeatedly mumbled over and over, shaking and sobbing and trying to keep crawling away even if she could not even afford anymore to even just move in the snow, as she could hardly feel her feet and hands anymore, now too numb because of the cold. “I hate you so much…”

He had already had the opportunity to realize this before and he could see this once more— she was awfully good at lying.
But unfortunately for her act… killing intent could not lie.

If she really had wanted to hurt him in the first place, then she would have been able to. It had been years he had particularly become that fragile— just a little more real intent to hurt into this blow— just a little more hateful force while throwing it— and it could have actually become threatening. Not necessarily lethal yet, but threatening enough to severely hurt him.

She was still mumbling some nonsense that her lips were just too shaky and cold and tired to be able to phrase properly— but he still managed to make up one sentence from the distance:

“I just want to go home…”

And he just closed his free functioning eye-socket, lowering his skull in shame and guilt as he sighed deeply.

… i feel ya, buddy. I really do.

A few seconds later, rushed loud steps resonated in the forest, gradually coming towards them. Sans was alarmed at first, but as soon as he saw the owner of those steps—

OH MY GOD, THERE YOU TWO ARE!” Papyrus scowled. “I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR YOU FOR HOURS!

And the taller skeleton immediately started panting and holding his knees, as he had apparently literally been running everywhere and anywhere for their search, and he was now hardly standing as he really had worked himself so hard just for them…
Here was the Great Papyrus, at your service.

It did not take long for the newcomer to spot the bluish human lying in the snow, and after some more scolding towards his irresponsible brother, he carefully picked her up in his arms.
Oddly enough, she did not react. Maybe she was just too tired to react— if only to even maybe realize what was actually happening. She was not so sure her mind was kind of foggy by now.

But one thing she was sure of: the Great Papyrus had come to save her eventually.
Her little hero.

His bones were strangely warm. It was surprising that she wouldn’t even mind but it was warm and she was so cold and he was the Great Papyrus he was so nice and she was so tired she would not complain.

She gladly gave up on reality as soon as he lifted her up and held her protectively against his pseudo-armored chest.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:31 AM]
Hey, Dawn. You’ve been silent for a while... Is everything alright?

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:32 AM]
Hey, I know how deep you can get absorbed into something when you really are into it, but if you could just let me know how you’re doing...
Look, the others are starting to lose patience back there. They were all convinced you’d start the livestream right away.
If you REALLY don’t want to do this, just tell us. It’d be a shame, but... I understand. It’s not fair.
If you want to, I’ll drop by shortly and give it back. Ok?

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:32 AM]
Dawn, I know you’re mad, but... I also know you can hear your phone, and I know you KNOW it’s me. And you won’t answer... Was that thing really THAT important to you...?
Oh, who am I kidding. You’re not even reading my texts, are you?

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:33 AM]
Dawn, I... I’m so sorry. I know it’s too late, but... Please, at least let me know when I can drop by and give it back. You KNOW I didn’t mean to hurt you.
The others are starting to wonder what you are doing. I didn’t tell them anything yet. Jocelyn started to ask about some details so I eventually had to tell her that I had taken something, but I haven’t said anything else. And before you ask, I didn’t tell Steven either.
Just as you wanted, I didn’t read it and I WON’T do it. So, please... Could you forgive me? I really am starting to worry, now.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:34 AM]
I... Come on Dawn, you KNOW I was joking. I promise I’ll give you the sheet back, but just... Please, answer me. I’m worried sick and even the others are starting to wonder what’s going on.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:34 AM]
Dawn, I’m calling your parents in the next ten minutes if you don’t answer me. The joke is over, now, something really is happening and I WILL find out what.
And, if it’s my fault... Please, let me at least TRY to fix it. Alright?

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:34 AM]
Dawn, what in the hell is going on? Where did you go?!
Please, I trust you, but... Really, please, wherever you are... Don’t do anything stupid. Especially if it’s because of me.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:35 AM]
I’m so sorry. I slipped up and now they all know that you’re gone. At first I only wanted to tell Steven so that he’d find some cover-up for us in the meantime, but I accidentally posted on the wrong conversation. I’ve really just been screwing things up since this morning, uh...?

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:36 AM]
Your parents called the police around three hours ago. Sorry I couldn’t tell you sooner, they were interrogating me. Since, you know, I’m a witness and all.
You don’t even want to talk to your parents?
You remember that Quill’s father is a cop, right? She insisted on warning him, too. She thinks that since geographically she’s the closest to Pennsylvania, she should “obviously” be “the most appropriate” person to help in such situation. I’m even teaming up with my Greatest Nemesis of All Times in order to find you, do you realize that?! ... Haha.
But seriously... Everyone is worried to death about you. Even if you won’t talk to ME, please, could you at least leave us a sign? Even to just someone, anyone and ANYONE BUT ME if you really have to... But please, just SAY something. I need to know you’re alright.

By the way, just so you know. Right now, Steven is still awake.
Yes, I said STEVEN. He stayed online until fucking FOUR IN THE MORNING just to keep me company and make sure he’d be there if you ever gave us some sign of life.
If you want him to pull an all-nighter, you’re doing great so far.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:37 AM]
I know I said I wouldn’t read it, Dawn, but... I just NEED to know what is going on. I think if this keeps going, I’ll have to at least give it a sneak peek. It’s the only clue we have left, and I hope that maybe, at least, it’ll help me understand what you have in mind...
I let you thirty minutes to think about it and stop me. If I still don’t get anything from you until then... I will read it.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:37 AM]
I read the lyrics. Oh my God, Dawn, if only I had known...! Ugh, no wonder you were so upset about it... I... I should have figured out sooner...
You’re heading to Luray, aren’t you? That’s the only relevant place left that we haven’t thought about yet, by now.
That’s in Isabel’s father’s jurisdiction. I’ll tell them.

[Amaryllis — 05/02 — 06:37 AM]
Please, if you’re reading this... don’t do it. Whatever you had in mind, just DON’T DO IT.
Please, I BEG you now, come back. It’s all my fault...

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

The Prompter Echoes

May 3rd, 2016

Sans almost dropped the phone.

When Papyrus had picked her up before hurriedly pacing back towards the town, the older brother had noticed a little white shadow fall and let resonate a little ‘thump’ while landing in the snow. He had immediately come to see what it was, and upon accidentally hitting its main button when he picked it up— he realized as the little screen lit up that it was Dawn’s cellphone.

He had first thought of returning it to her, obviously; but when they were back at their house, just as he had expected— she was deeply asleep. So he just laid her as comfortably as possible in the couch while his brother was bringing warm thick blankets and extra pillows. It had been hard to convince Paps not to place her in his race-car bed without mentioning the Reset part, but thankfully he could rather easily settle his mind.
… It would have been pretty awkward if she had woken up in the same bed as a tall overactive amnesic skeleton, after all.

By the time things were settled and he had read his cranky little brother’s bedtime story, he strangely could not muster the energy to sleep.
Yeah. Sans the skeleton was actually too lazy or too tired to go take a nap. Figure that.

Unable to quiet his mind, he had gone to the only other location he truly cared about: his basement.
It felt like he hadn’t seen it in ages.

He felt rather bad about doing this. But… somehow, he felt something burning, deep inside his Soul. Was it anger? Pain? Betrayal…?
In a way, yes. He couldn’t help it, he did feel like she had actually backstabbed him. He had actually thought they could manage to get over her phobia, as they had started to get along, joke, share personal issues and stories…

And then, what had she done? Use them against him. Insulting his father. Doubting their research. Accusing him of being reckless and selfish and…

That would be the last time he’d ever be caught sharing his deepest fears and weaknesses with a random stranger. Because that’s exactly what she was: a random stranger.
She was just one of those strangers who would keep hurting just because they didn’t know enough even though they thought they had enough clues to blabber some nonsense about it.
That was exactly that.

So in order not to make things worse… Knowing how bad in shape she was when they had brought her back home, he had eventually decided to try to just blame the cold.
Yeah. He would blame the cold. That was easier not to get mad at her that way. It was always so much easier to blame the cold.

And still…
Maybe she did get that nickname of hers for an actual reason, after all.

Turning on for the second time the little device, he had realized two things: for one, he bitterly remembered that his bony fingers, whether gloved or not, would not make that touch screen work. And second…
She actually had finally read those texts her friends and family had sent her— including those coming from that elusive “Lys” girl she had told to be holding a grudge against.

A malfunctioning cranky touchy screen would not be enough to stop him, though. She had obliviously explained him how those things worked, and he had down here just what he needed to make it work.

And now here he was.
Realizing how broken she really had been all this time, and how it had really been his fault.
As much as he had realized the consequences his actions could have on his victim’s psyche, especially when the victim in question had to be someone so unstable and with a god-damn-it skele-phobia (yes, he would make that a thing) to make it worse… He had never actually truly thought about the consequences this would have on his victim’s relatives.
Just as much as he had never realized those relatives could still have such an impact on her mood, even while not being physically there.

Now… Only the sound of his rattling scapulae were to bring him back to the reality of his basement and the fact that they were where they were, that was to say here, in the Underground— and stuck.
And that no matter what… Dawn would never answer. Not without him finding a way to either send her back or at least contact those people— and he would never get enough time to do so.

… Or would he?

He was not sure whether this was a sudden urge of hope or despair, or if this strong emotion was just an aftereffect of his heavy crawling guilt— but he violently shoved his sweater’s sleeve around his left wrist, showing his watch:

12:03 PM

He… well…
From his past experience, he would most of the time actually get a full night of rest before the Reset. Maybe it would usually occur around six or seven o’clock in the morning. That was how it had happened for the last time, at least— he had been actually awake and able to witness it directly, for once.
Which meant he had at least, in the best case, around six hours left.

This was… Actually that could do the trick.

He had still felt somewhat exhausted until a few moments ago, but this newfound desperate hope mysteriously filled him with an energy he wouldn’t have thought he would ever know again— though it felt at the same time oh so terribly familiar. For a split second he reasoned that for the two other occasions he had followed this feeling, he had always ended up failing one way or another— the second time being not only a failure, but a failure that eventually only made things worse.

But could things really get any worse by now?

It didn’t matter. He didn’t care if he would pull an all-nighter right now, the Reset would wipe that away too and he would just eventually wake up on a bright and metaphorically sunny day, literally good as new.

As he hurriedly turned on his computer – and started to somewhat rage impatiently because of how slow that old thing was –, he quickly took a few blank papers, pens and a calculator— this could do the trick!
As soon as the virtual desktop lit up the dark basement with its cathodic electronic static glow, Sans literally harassed the keyboard, quickly finding his old files and software programs and data… It was all here. Down to the very coordinates he had used on the first and last time.
He was not surprised upon this, he had expected it— but seeing them here, on this screen, complete and fine— it filled him with renewed hope and relief.

Now— he would definitely not start rebuilding the full machine. He would never have the time for that.
This would be a lot more risky that way, but at this point— if anything happened, really, the Reset would be here to fix things. So all he had to do was to rebuild quickly the radar (thankfully the software was already done and safely waiting within his computer’s files), figure the proper generator, and find a message to send.
Just something stupid to make them wait and stop their worry. Anything would do.

He would start with the message. The easiest and fastest step, and after twenty seconds of leisurely scribbling on a random piece of paper, that part was done.

Similarly, the radar and other minor-yet-still-needed pieces were not so hard to complete: he had here and there in this room all the materials and tools he needed for that, and by now— he practically had the blueprints engraved in his mind and crystal clear.
Around three hours and a half of hard yet effective work later, getting the last wires in place— everything was ready.
… Well, everything but the energy to make all this sweet little machinery work and do its magic.

From what he remembered— he would need a good 2.7 gigawatts to power the shortcut.
There weren’t a lot of places to get that energy from: a blink, and he was around a dozen feet away from the entrance of the CORE.
Not that he could not have gone directly inside, but the way its walls and platforms could move anytime more or less at random made it a little tricky, knowing that he technically would not know where exactly he would end up before arriving there.
Still, being seen right at the entrance would not be a good idea either.

In Hotland, you could never see full shadows. Fire and melting peridotite boiling hardly a hundred feet below would never allow the dark to settle.
Hotland was the one and only place in the Underground that would never know the true meaning of “night.”

It was subsequently a good thing for him that the building’s structure allowed a few dark hollows from which he could glance at the surroundings, before getting out.
What he was about to do would be kind of dangerous and illegal, after all. If he didn’t know the Resets would fix any physical damage afterwards— never would he have ever dared attempt such irresponsible and dangerous experiment.
Not that he expected anyone to be around the CORE by that time, but— well, who knows. Maybe Alphys or some other scientist could still be around to check on something or whatever. Hopefully that wasn’t the case tonight.

When he reached the front door, he looked around warily once more before approaching bony fingers towards the keyboard on the wall and quickly dialing the code.
Only the scientists and their assistants could possibly know of that code— it was an obvious measure of security and safety, and yet— well. Now he kind of felt like a traitor about to wreak havoc inside. Even though it would be for the greater good— theoretically.

For once, he realized that he had never had to discover anything about that part of the… loop before (no, he would not say “script.” He would never say “script.” Ever). He strangely felt good about suddenly not having the world around him so fully predictable, though he obviously felt all the more excited, yet still anxious about this.
Even with Dawn along, until their incident at Grillby’s— even though she had changed things on a much greater scale, they… still did stick pretty close to what he had experienced over and over before. Well, mostly because he had asked her to, but still.
Since the “Undyne Incident”, he realized he felt like he didn’t know anything anymore. Because of the incongruity of the fish lady coming (apparently she had been worried enough to come on her own), because of what they had found out around this mysterious body disappearance— and now, because of what Dawn had told him.
Even though those inconsistencies with the game were not his main problem— it would probably be safer to try to acknowledge and list them from now on. And maybe analyze them if they could— even if he was sure this would not have any kind of relevance.

The developer of the game had not created this world, after all— he had been sure of it before, and now Dawn had brought all the evidence he needed to prove it. Those inconsistencies were born while he and his probable co-workers had been imagining and shaping the videogame version, and they had probably just taken some liberties from the original. Something like that.
But now, that still would leave two major issues: how had they learned about his world and made a videogame after it, and most importantly— why would their game actually alter this reality? He wanted to believe that was not done on purpose (what kind of benefit could they have gotten out of this anyway?), but in that case— it really seemed unlikely for that connection to just somewhat build itself on its own.

But in any case— for the first time in a long time, he felt actually lost in the unknown.
And this feeling would only get stronger as soon as he would get past this dark metal door.

There he was, and there he hadn’t been for years until now. It all felt so distant and so familiar all at the same time, and he couldn’t help but feel this sudden burst of nostalgia and— pain, as he could only remember all those good times he had had in this very place with… a certain someone. How after the incident, after a good around six months of researching here and around and trying desperately to fix things and finally get back home— in a world that actually made sense— he had eventually given up. How, until then, never had he ever wanted to ever hear about science, for almost three years.

And now here he was. Back to the CORE (of the problem, badum tss). Hopefully he wouldn’t get lost. That thing had such a temper sometimes, moving its walls at random and all. It really was cranky when it was getting too active, and as he was watching the blue greyish panels and boards and wires dance on the floors around him, he realized this had been a very busy day for that little buddy too.

As a scientist, every time someone had to get in for some reason, there would always be someone behind a screen with a map to guide them— but now that he was here illegally… he would have to stick to his own two eye-sockets. Getting a scientist to call him would actually mean trouble.
Anyways, if he needed to get out in a hurry, he could still warp his way out after all.

Alright. All he needed to do by now was to find the Snowdin department’s facility, quickly rewrite the program to alter the current’s distribution, and then just get the heck out of here. Fast and easy.

And yet, of course, something else had to radically change his plans at the last moment.

The CORE was noisy, with all those machines and mechanisms moving the wires and walls around at random more or less constantly. But those sounds he heard, fast and hurried and anxious— that was not from the equipment. That was alive.
And that was running away from his current location.

Those footsteps were definitely not those of an angered scientist coming to stop him. Well on the opposite…
It sounded like he was not the only clandestine tourist operating tonight.
This did not sound good. First a stolen corpse no one could see, and now this?

But for once— he had a way to find answers.
All he had to do was run and hunt them down.

His own sneakers resonated on the metal floor, unluckily covering most of the time the fugitive’s own steps, but judging from the rhythm of their pace— it was definitely a bipedal. It was running back and forth, he thought he was actually the one catching up as the desperate fearful steps were getting louder by now— apparently, whoever that was, it was their first time in here and they were not used to such setting.
Well, when the map was never the same twice, you could never technically “know the field”— but you could get used to its randomness.
It was obvious that this somebody had never been prepared to this, whatever “this” was supposed to mean.

At last he heard the footsteps stop right after a corner, corner that he reached mere seconds later—
It was a long, wide, clear corridor. Not any other way than by going straight.

And yet it was an empty corridor.
Where in the hell could they have…?!

He desperately and warily turned his skull in all directions, ceiling included— but no. They had just merely vanished.
Could they… Could it be that he actually was not the only one…?
That was the only solution he could think of, by now. And yet— it did not make sense. That was merely impossible.
His own shortcuts, since the very beginning, had been anything but natural. The probability of such accident happening twice was ridiculous.
Alright. So not only could that someone definitely remember the Resets (he was certain he would have noticed their existence before if they were stuck in the loop just like the others), but they apparently had shortcuts too. And God knows what other tricks they could still be keeping under their sleeve.

But he was missing the most pressing matter. What were they doing here to begin with?

Providentially maybe, the random pace of walls and hallways eventually led his blind search to one of the Snowdin facilities—
It had been shattered.

He watched helplessly as he saw the black residues of a little explosion all around the local generators, most of which were badly damaged and definitely not functional anymore. The traces were sticky and old, and those machineries looked desperately cold.

A good thing to know about skeletons: the lack of eyes (as in the most frequent biological vision of the organ, anyway) give them access to a much wider specter than the only one of what humans would call “visible light.” X-rays or radio waves were not the most common on and below Earth, and ultraviolet was not really present without the Sun around— oh how he had remembered the sudden flow of extra rainbow lights when he had discovered the Surface for the first time.
But as for infrared— Sans had always relied a lot on that spectrum. He remembered how Alphys had stated once, a long time ago— that he could see the heat, not feel it.
This had been one of many reasons why he had definitely not seen that damn snowball coming: because he had literally not seen it coming.

And this time, as he was looking at those wires and devices, all he could really see were regular colors from the “regular” spectrum. He tried, really— but the few rare infrared rays he could see from the depths of his eye-sockets were so distant and weak…
Heh. Would he have been able to feel the heat, he was sure those machineries would feel awfully abnormally cold.
Whatever had caused that little explosion, it was not that recent. It had occurred probably a few hours ago, at least… But looking at the damage, that would not have gone that unnoticed.

… And then he realized that he actually had witnessed the accident.
Well. Here was a decent explanation for that mini-earthquake they had experienced earlier— though it was far from being a satisfying answer. This was not supposed to ever happen either after all, and this felt like even worse news ultimately than a mere pseudo-natural incident.
Whoever that fugitive someone was and whatever their purpose had been by manipulating this facility, apparently they had not been very good at fulfilling their mission. If their job had been to make sure to destroy it, then it would have been much faster to directly smash those things to pieces, after having unplugged the main wires of course.
Here? Not only were the main wires still plugged as normal (well, for those that had not been blown up by the mini-explosion), but he could not see any traces of physical damage— aside from what the explosion itself did, of course.

They had not wanted to destroy it— either that or they had been too fearful to cause some damage to themselves by doing it directly, but he doubted that this could really have been the case. If that someone was the same as the one who had unplugged Alphys’ camera in the morning, then they were intelligent enough to know what the fastest and smartest moves are…
… And yet, in this case, they had somehow screwed up. Huh.
Maybe they weren’t as clever as he thought…?

Uugh. He just didn’t know anymore. He still had gained clues, and yet this still wasn’t enough for him to piece anything that would really make some progress.
Whether this had been an accident or a voluntary act, this still did not answer his main question: why? What had they been trying to achieve with this?
And another subsidiary question: how did they enter? Did they know the code for the CORE’s entrance, or… did they just warp their way in, maybe? That would have been dangerous, but not impossible— and in that case, the culprit did not actually need to know the password.

In any ways… He definitely had no idea as to who that could be. He had always been certain he was the only one able to manipulate shortcuts, because that was the only way things would make sense.
And now here he was, trying to pin the responsibility on something whom his logic refused to accept the existence.

Seeing he would not get anything more out of this, he suddenly remembered the original reason why he was in this very place to begin with, and he anxiously perked a glance at his watch as he was tensing up—it was already half past four in the morning.
Time was running out.

Thankfully, none of those generators were actually powering up his house’s neighborhood. The lights and all electronical devices in his basement had been working just fine.
It was probably because of the night that he had not noticed how some of the other districts of the town (and/or ceiling lights) had been desperately stuck in the dark since, apparently, around six in the afternoon.

He already was in the Snowdin department, so the facility he was looking for should not be too far from here— and a little less than ten minutes later, he recognized the identification number he had been looking for.
Inputting once more a few codes, the skeleton’s bony fingers hit frantically the keyboard’s buttons at a raging speed as the reprogramming was advancing. A few minutes later, and he already saw the warm light from the generators in front of him growing in intensity and actually becoming somewhat blindingly unbearable for his infrared-sensitive eye-sockets.

Ha. 2.7 gigawatts sure meant a lot of energy.

A blink, and he was back to his basement, entering in the software the last data bits it needed. He had calculated that he would have starting from now on two more (rather short) minutes before the surcharge would make its way to this room. From that point, the overheat would make the whole system blow up if he wasn’t fast enough— he had calculated that the shortcut would stay stable for slightly more than six seconds, this time.
Heh… And there he thought that ten seconds would be a tight schedule.

Going back to the messy sheet he had written his message on, he quickly folded it into a paper plane. There was no way he would let his hands on the other side of the shortcut ever again.
But then a sudden idea came to his mind as some ridiculously crystal clear obviousness struck him: why struggle so hard to just send some dumb flying paper, when he could send a living person directly back to her house?

At this point, he would have thought about telling Dawn straightaway. That was the most logical and rational thing to do after all, and it would just solve their problem!
He would rush hurriedly yet excitedly to the living room, wake her up as fast as possible, probably try to calm her incoming panic attack because he would have forgotten about her phobia and probably just grasped her shoulders to shake her out of her sleep, and then randomly started to forcedly drag her out of the sofa before teleporting them directly, way too excited and hurried to just walk there. He would tell her that his computer had still the coordinates for the exact location she had been taken away from, and he would explain how he had actually managed to find a way to maybe send her back to her home before the next Reset. She would maybe argue at first, still shaken and sleepy, but they would both know that it was the best thing to do by now. He would not wait any further and immediately start the procedure as those two minutes would have probably started by then, keeping her by his side and making sure that she would take the shortcut in time. He would sigh in relief and then realize it would be finally over…

… And back to square one.

Alone and helpless for the years or decades or maybe even centuries to come.

He was hardly aware of the fact that his bones were rattling.

He wanted her to go home. It had been all his fault after all, and she belonged there. He had no right to keep her in this hellish situation. He was being selfish. Selfish and stupid and reckless to act like such a bonehead and really fully become a real kidnapper, for not even a good reason anymore. He had brought her in the only purpose to end the Resets, and now that he perfectly knew she couldn’t— it just was illogical and unreasonable to even dare thinking about keeping her any longer.
But on the other hand…

He was not even sure it would work in the first place.

What if his calculations and estimations were wrong and instead of six seconds, they only had one? What if they weren’t coordinated and fast enough? What if the procedure didn’t work for long enough, and the shortcut wasn’t stable and could maybe even disintegrate during the exact moment she was using it? What if the system was not stable for long enough and would start to dislocate and fall upon them? What if the surcharge just made the whole room blow up and kill her? — He didn’t even care about potentially dying himself, he had been through that already so many times before and any Reset would just bring him back, but her

… He would start with the dumb flying paper. If it worked, he would just start over during the next Reset and bring her back to wherever she belonged to. And if it didn’t… Well, she would be safe, and with some luck, she wouldn’t even have known in the first place about any of that mess. She would not be disappointed or sad or desperate because of his failure.
And hopefully she would not be even madder at him for doing such things behind her back.

… Why did he care about her feelings anyway?
He knew he was in the right, and knowing her— she would get over it— eventually. It’s just that… she had not been completely wrong, either.

It was unnegotiable, she would have to get back to her home as soon as possible—
But… not tonight.

She could die upon such irresponsible and dangerous experiment.
She could die upon his… recklessness, ironically.

He had promised –no matter how much he hated making promises– that he would keep her safe, at any cost.

But was she really safe here…?

They had each other’s phone numbers, now— well, at least she had his, and he had tried to remember her digits on sight. They would coordinate their actions starting from the next Reset, and nothing bad would ever happen again. They would just have to team up and trust each other. Which was already the case by now— at least… so had been the case until a few hours ago.
Anyways, if only for the next Reset, he already had a plan and all she would have to do would be to stay at home and mourn on her own all she wanted over whatever she wanted. She just… needed some time away from him, probably.

Which was a good thing, because so did he.

… Alright— finally he was ready. He checked for the last time just by some last bit of paranoia, but the last wires were connected, the software had located and directed the signal, the electricity surcharge should arrive upon the next seconds—
He needed to focus, now. For the next six seconds, every single moment would count and he could not afford to think about anything else. Any distraction could be lethal– if not worse.

All around the little circle of cables, he could see the metal start to light up slightly in actual visible light because of the extreme current flowing in them…

Now was the time, and he opened the portal. Sadly he couldn’t see what was on the other side— he probably lacked the energy to get a passageway this stable, and this was not surprising at all.
But he still knew perfectly where he had opened it anyway, and that was all he needed.

He threw the paper plane.

One.

It disappeared to thin air the instant it reached the shortcut.
Alright, now was the perfect time to stop everything before things started to get wrong—

Ow!”

Two.

He froze.

“What the—!?”

what?

Three.

There was already someone on the other side?!

“Who’s there?!” The voice was that of a teenage girl, though it sounded much more confident and loud than Dawn’s. “W-Where are you!?”

Four.

He should close the portal. Right now.
And yet he couldn’t help but stare at the Void anxiously— if not… expectedly?

He was hearing some random sounds of crumbled paper.

Five.

Whoever that girl was, she had to be one of Molly’s friends (Lys maybe…? She seemed to be the only one to know her by other means than a screen and the internet). She was reading his message right in the moment and then… Heh, yeah, then what? What exactly could he ever hope from her? Some help, maybe? Ha.
Maybe it would be a little more plausible to dream about such things if he at least tried to talk, explain, tell her something— anything…

But he couldn’t find anything else to say.
What had he written on that stupid paper, again?

molly is with me
she is fine
she can’t come back
right now though

… Alright, he was so screwed.
And then all of a sudden one big shout pierced the overwhelming silence:

“Come back here you motherflipping SON OF A—!”

Six.

Three wires burst into flames.

He felt the shortcut explode into nothingness as the sudden blast of lost wild magic threw him against a nearby wall.

Some other pipes started to fly in the air as the fragile unsteady ropes broke. Still deeply confused from the impact, he did not see one of them coming in his direction—

Welp, wasn’t this supposed to be a lethal blow.
Ouch.

Alright, he had obviously reached the system’s limits— and he had been stupid and naïve enough to still try to maintain it… And what for? Just to hear some random teenage ignorant girl call him names?

… Heheh.
A ‘motherfucking son of a bitch.’ So that really was the impression he was giving them?

Well, he had kidnapped an innocent child and let her friends and family in complete darkness for what, three days now…? And it was only for his own foolishness that now, he could not even fix it and send her back.
He could not even reassure her and make sure that she would still enjoy her stay here, as some hypocritical consolation prize. Was he really that much of a torturer?

Heh. Maybe she really wasn’t scared of him just because of her phobia.

He was feeling himself gradually fade and turn to dust as his mind started to get dizzy…

Ugh… Who cares.

Now the message was received.
And it was all that mattered.

He would so need a break right now.

Chapter Text

Hello guys. No I'm not dead, but no the Act III premiere is not finished either. I do admit that I had warned around August/September that I wouldn't be able to finish any other chapter and that instead I brought you anyway the Act II finale's two parts, but this time... Sorry, but I honestly don't think I could do this again. This story will be updated eventually, you can be absolutely sure of it! Just, not now, when I have so much work to do for my studies and so much preparation for my exams.
I will be honest, by working on the Act II finale without caring about the consequences- I played with fire, and severely got burned. And now, I have some catching up to do with my real work.

I still tried to keep working on LWtQ whenever I had time to; it's the only way for me to both vent and have fun during my breaks, so of course I would never give up on it completely. It's just that, well, I can't afford to spend as much time as before to actually write the chapters. What I've been mostly doing is to just think about the plot and write here and there some little notes about random details and gags/scenes to add in the later chapters...
In a way, there is an advantage to my chapters taking so long to be written: since I give so much thought into them, they hold much richer details about the world-building or the charaters' psychologies. So please be patient, your patience will be awarded eventually with the best quality I can afford.

Now, I do realize that the Act II finale, both parts, were rather intense ones, and that the "cliffhanger" is kind of unbearable too. So I do understand how cruel of a torturer I am being right now for doing this to you. So I took a decision.

I will give you here the beginning of the Act III premiere. Not much, there's hardly 2,000 words in it. But still, it should at least answer most of your current questions, and let all of us breathe a little before action starts again.
The Act III premiere is kind of a Slice of Life, a well deserved break for our two warriors. So you readers can relax as well, because here, they are fine.

[The exerpt has been deleted because I decided to split the Scene into two parts of around 9-10k words each, so now that the first part is published, you can find it there ;3]

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act III — We'll Be Together Forever

Scene 1 — On a Bright and Stormy Day

He woke up.

He hurriedly sat up and gasped, clutching his chest—

But the whole room was engulfed in the cold electrical light of the city’s ceiling spotlights.
As always, the blinds had been left wide open and the light was coming from the outside window right into his not-so-sleepy-anymore face.

It was the morning. He was in his bed, in his ridiculous ‘I feel punny today’ pajamas, and alive.


Wait.

So he really had blown up his whole lab in the last timeline, uh? And he really had died. By literally killing himself. More or less.

Wow.

Well, from what he could remember, the walls were still alright and standing. The basement was incredibly well isolated, so the living room should have survived and Dawn should be fine. Maybe she hadn’t even noticed. Oh God he was so hoping that she would not have noticed because he was so not going to explain what he had been doing behind her back.

Fortunately, from what he had seen in their first timeline, she really was sleeping like a literal log. His machine with its hellish ridiculously loud noise could be working in the same room as her, and she would nevertheless keep snoozing and snoring innocently just like that. Moreover, it wasn’t like the basement’s overly thick construction was making it almost completely soundproof anyway. Not absolutely dabsolutely soundproof of course, but probably soundproof enough for her to sleep through undisturbed.
So… Honestly, he wouldn’t have been that surprised if she indeed hadn’t even heard anything. And regarding Papyrus…

His bones rattled as a rush of guilt came crawling upon his scapulae. Papyrus had heard it, though, he was sure of it.
Had he… seen him as a pile of dust? Had he understood? Had he… How bad had he reacted?

He was selfishly and yet generously glad that his brother wouldn’t remember a thing about it. And… Papyrus probably wouldn’t have woken up the human to warn her. He was one to respect his guests and— ugh, for how long had he been dealing with all his mess on his own?

For how long had he been… out? … For a lack of better words.

Maybe the Reset had occurred only a few seconds or minutes after he died and none of these previous scenarios had actually occurred. Maybe it had happened much later in the night, or… even worse, in the morning? M-Maybe even after a few days?
It had never been the case before. But… Well, it had been the case once. Who knows if it could happen again sometime.

The other main thing he hated about dying (aside from the objective fact that it hurt like hell, obviously) was that he had absolutely no idea of the time lapse between his last breath and his not-so-miraculous… recovery upon the next Reset. And that he had not the slightest clue as to how things worked out afterwards, without him, until then. Worst thing being, thanks to everything being wiped out, he would never know— unless someone like Dawn could tell him.

He had hesitated at first, still a little fearful of what he would discover on the other side of his room’s door… But eventually he got up and paced towards it, seizing the knob.
So? What would he see on the other side? Would Dawn have known about his little secret experiment and had been scared to death (badum tss) while finding out that he had literally blown himself up more-or-less by accident? Would she have had maybe to deal with it all by herself for… maybe even days or more?


She was lying down face-to-pillow in the sofa, rather… inelegantly, her left arm hanging around on the parquet and her open mouth somewhat…
Okay, let’s just say she was snoring.

He sighed in relief. Alright, that meant she definitely didn’t know anything and everything was about to be just another normal, very same, typical July 21st just like the old days.
So, what was on the schedule today? Pacifist hopefully? Nah, he had already consumed enough good luck with Dawn not knowing anything. Maybe they’ll just get some random “Neutral” or whatever. The plan would not change probably, but still, how could he know that for sure?

Well, it didn’t matter. The good thing with the plan he had thought through “last night” was that it didn’t require either Papyrus or Dawn to even come out of the house to begin with. And from the point that none of them ever got out, then the probability they could possibly get slaughtered by the kid was theoretically that of, basically, zero.
He silently walked down the stairs and came to bring back one of the blankets the human had been given, and that had been returned to its initial place after the Reset. As he carefully tried to put it back in place without waking her, he suddenly saw her little nose tremble— and seconds later she sneezed.

Huh.
So maybe she did catch a cold on that night, after all.

Fortunately by yet another miracle, even that didn’t wake her yet. So he simply pulled the blanket as fast and softly as he could, trying his best to make sure she would get as warm as possible. That was how Toriel would take care of Frisk when they were having one of those human illnesses from what he could remember, so that probably meant it was the best thing to do.
He remembered a gesture the Boss monster would do sometimes, and put quietly his boned palm against her forehead, careful not to wake her. He waited a little… But nothing happened.
What was she checking with those big paws of hers anyway?
… Oh yeah. Something called a “Fever.” Abnormal body heat.

Skeleton. Can’t feel heat. Whoops.

He still could see her natural body heat, but even if there had been a difference— it was too subtle for him to notice.
It really didn’t look that bad, and probably he was just being a little excessive. But if he really did not know much about the human metabolism — even less when it came to illnesses —, the one thing he knew was that even the most benign symptoms could get worse in a moment, if they were just not given enough attention since the beginning. Maybe this was just a “regular cold” right now, but they were still currently standing in Snowdin, and he couldn’t afford to let that turn into a pneumonia or worse.
Monsters did not know illnesses, thus had neither knowledge nor means to cure any— at least, if they had ever known about that, this knowledge was long gone since they were trapped in the Underground.

Sans? Who is that?

He jumped in surprise— but immediately turned around and gestured Papyrus to keep quiet, letting know the reason by a little nod from his skull towards their guest. Even though his brother had already openly thought about uttering these questions in a much quieter tone than in his usual beaming voice, it actually just sounded like the stage whisper kind.
Thankfully, he instantly caught the message and drew his jaw shut, silently nodding in a surprisingly serious expression. Sans pointed the kitchen, and both monsters agreed to discreetly move there and slide the door shut, only leaving one little hole towards the living room just in case something had to happen there.

Sans, you didn’t tell me we had a guest tonight! Is that a friend of yours?
actually bro, that’s a human.” the elder blatantly retorted. “i went on patrol early today, and then i found her.” He merely recited the simple excuse he had come up with along with his plan. That was a lie of course, but at least that was the easiest way to keep both Papyrus and Dawn safe, indoors, all day. “she’s not feeling very well, though. i think you should keep her safe here for a while. just, dunno, tell undyne about your report on the phone?

When Sans saw the excited sparks of glee in his brother’s eye-sockets, his grin instinctively expanded in a serene and happy smile. He knew that of course Papyrus would love the idea of “babysitting” a human, but seeing his expression for real…
Well, this face meant the world to him, and if it weren’t for that face, he probably would have given up on his sanity a long time ago.
This face meant they were fine. This face meant chill out, your bro’s happy, and it’s all that matters. This face meant this would be a good run.

it’d be better you don’t tell her yet, though. you wouldn’t want her to see our human so bad in shape, would you?
OF COURSE NOT! IT’S TOO EASY TO CAPTURE THEM WHEN THEY’RE SO WEAK! THAT’S NOT FAIR FOR THEM!

And there the Undyne problem goes. A little reverse psychology, and it was done. He knew Papyrus would absolutely want to capture the human the right way, and that he would never accept to bring any to Undyne before he would have tried capturing them by himself.
Having them as some kind of “human pet to look after” was an idea he would particularly appreciate for the time being, though. Much better than a pet rock.

yeah, exactly. you’d better capture her for real when she feels better, right?

She would probably not feel better before the end of the day. He was sure that it still was a rather rough cold, and that it would be rather unlikely to recover entirely from it within only one day— even when Papyrus was the one to take care of her case.

BUT SANS, WAIT.” The taller stopped for an instant, frowning uneasily as he seemed rather conflicted. “IT MEANS I WON’T BE AT MY STATION ALL DAY!”
i can work at your station then, if you want.” the other chuckled, winking at him.

There was a short pause.
Papyrus’ frown deepened as he deadpanned grumpily.

SANS. IT JUST MEANS YOU’LL BE SLACKING OFF FROM YOUR OWN POST.
maybe.

And he winked again. Papyrus cringed just as usual.
This was what he relished most. This was the best in the family magic. Driving your sibling crazy and still caring so much for each other, those little unpleasant squabbles actually becoming good memories afterwards.

It was almost eight in the morning when Sans eventually left. He would have a long wait before the ‘Player’ would come by the Ruins, but that was just what he needed.
After the last evening’s events… He needed some alone time to think; just as much as he guessed Dawn would also want to stay away from him for a while.
It was a good thing she had still not woken up yet when he had left. That would have been… awkward, at best.

As soon as he reached his usual spot against one of the pine trees, he took a notebook and a pencil— just in case. He would have three hours of waiting, and even if he would probably start with a little extra nap… That would come in handy later.
Even if he would have gladly avoided their argument if he could have, he nevertheless could not deny how much new incredibly useful data had been spilled out during that time. He just had to take as much benefit from it as possible. Think things positively and take the best of it.

Maybe he could eventually find something out with this. Something that would finally solve all of their problems…
Hey, daydreaming was pleasant enough as it was, leave him at that for now.

Slightly more than half an hour later, the human’s nose trembled a little more than usual, as the incoming sneeze was significantly stronger than the previous ones. The uncomfortable gesture finally awoke her, as she slowly shook open one eye-lid, then the other…

Papyrus was crouching in front of her.
Staring at her face.
From very close.

It took her a couple more seconds to just process that last observation.
And then her eyes widened in shock as she jerked up and screamed, her reckless sudden panic making her fall from the couch. Surprised as well by such violent reaction, the skeleton screamed in harmony with her— but when the loud ‘thump’ resonated in the living room accompanied with some more cries and moaning from the teenage girl, he was quicker to readjust.

HUMAN! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!” he screeched anxiously, immediately kneeling next to her and seizing her firmly before starting to shake her as if he had expected that little fall to knock her unconscious.

That initiative was obviously not the best one, as the still shocked-yet-somewhat-sleepy girl was struggling to just process what was happening right now. Fortunately she eventually thankfully managed to stutter to him that she was fine, and he carried her back on the couch before literally engulfing her in the sheets.
She had tried to refuse his help and state that she could stand back on her own. Emphasis on “tried”: you can’t refuse anything to Papyrus, he will do it anyway from the point that he genuinely thinks he is doing the right thing.
And apparently for now, the idea that “the human is weak, she is dependent and can’t take care of herself on her own” was the skeleton’s current undebatable axiom.

Still, now that she had calmed down, she had a rather worrying question to ask him.

“Uh… For how long have you been…” Nope. She would not say ‘stalking.’ She would not say ‘stalking’ to Papyrus, no matter how strongly the word was pressed onto her mind as the most fitting in such context. “… watching me sleep?” Okay that sounded just as bad.
OH, NOT VERY LONG. MAYBE TWENTY MINUTES?” … No comment. “YOU WERE NOT MOVING AT ALL! I WAS SO WORRIED!” She sighed and face-palmed, not amused and already uttering one of those lines that would be found at least twice in the game’s dialogues:
“That’s what we commonly call ‘sleeping’, Pa—”

And yet she immediately realized that she had just been about to call him by his little nickname while he had not introduced himself yet in this timeline, and she stupidly maintained the ‘a’ continuously in some kind of ridiculously long noisy mumble of an extremely embarrassed hesitation, trying desperately to find another way to end her sentence without sounding suspicious—
Until she felt that very same ‘a’ suddenly come louder as she eventually sneezed.
… Well, that was one way like any other to end that without sounding suspicious. Mission accomplished, I guess. That idiot.

She noticed she had not really had the mind to realize that before, but now that she fully acknowledged the fact that she had sneezed rather hard— yes, she now could perfectly feel how wet her nose was and how dry and rough her throat had become in comparison, burning in irritation and relentlessly scolding her for her recklessness from ‘last night.’ And in response, Papyrus gave her a desperately anxious puppy look in that dramatic OH NO THIS IS TERRIBLE HUMAN DOES IT MEAN YOU ARE GOING TO FALL DOWN AND GO TO A VACATION WHAT CAN I DO?!?!?! expression. Really sweet, but not that helpful.
She rubbed her neck uneasily, but that wouldn’t ease the pain coming from the inside. This little gesture yet seemed to let the skeleton know about what exactly was wrong, and this apparently gave him an idea:

OH, I KNOW!” he suddenly gasped in excitement as he stood up quickly. “I’LL GO MAKE YOU SOME TEA! STAY HERE, I’LL BE RIGHT BACK!

And he had hardly finished that last sentence that he was already in the kitchen, opening and closing drawers back and forth in a charming loud cacophony of doors slamming against their proper owners. He came back quickly for a few seconds, bringing her a plate with jam and bread for the waiting, then left as fast as he had come. And then the orchestra resumed even more excitedly.

Well. She hoped his teas weren’t as bad as his pasta. Was it even possible to fail in making what was basically supposed to be hot water with whatever sort of grass you wanted to put in it?
… You could never know. With Papyrus, anything is possible.
At least the toasts were pretty good; but then again, their fabrication had not involved any sort of roasting beforehand.

As she sat up once more and watched him dancing around through the half-closed door leading to the stove, she saw on the table nearby one little white rectangle she soon recognized…
Her cellphone. What was it doing here? Had she lost it at some point…?
She clumsily stood up and came to pick it up, turning its screen on:

06:18 AM

… Well, she had quickly learned that her phone’s clock was anything but reliable, by now.
However, another detail did catch her attention as soon as she saw that little envelope-shaped icon on the screen:
Sans had sent her a text.
She was… not sure to know how she should be taking this.
But she had better not ignore it. Who knows how important that message should be, if he was bothering to type it in the first place.

[Sans — 05/03 — 05:33 AM]
hey. hope you slept well.
i guessed you’d want to rest for a while, so i didn’t wake you. besides, maybe it’s best for you to stay indoors until you feel better.
i’m at the ruins’ door for now, but you can still call if you need anything.
ps: if you want to have a shower, maybe try to do that before 11. paps will do the laundry if needed.

So he really had planned everything down to the very details, huh. Just as usual.
Why did he have to be so clever and mature and her so dumb and childish. She so hated that. It was just reminding her of how much of a burden she had always been to him. And as if that was not enough as an issue in itself… The fact that he sounded just like their argument from ‘last night’ never actually happened was something she had no idea whether she wanted to be relieved or insulted about. Relieved because of course she had known for a while how much she did not want to deal with a pissed off Sans, but insulted because… It just meant that even this had had pretty much no effect whatsoever. That even this way her opinion would not be heard. That he really did not care at all about her feelings. All that masquerade had just been one more childish tantrum from the stupid little fangirl he was babysitting, and now that the baby had calmed down and realized she had been wrong, it was no use getting back to it.
Did he really give her that little credit?

Sure he wasn’t the type to handle that kind of awkwardness well. Sure he probably apparently was almost sounding like he wanted to ‘redeem’ himself for whatever he had done and she had to admit, that was very sweet of him.
But still, ignoring the problem was not a way to solve it. She decided she would call him out on it and have a serious talk as soon as he would come back, as she firmly cold-bloodedly guillotined her third slice of bread and jam and savagely beat the bite she had clamped off to pulp.

… Having a shower still was a good idea, though. She did feel like taking one right now, and because of the previous day’s absolute mess, she could not possibly have found the time to do that at all.
So after quickly warning Papyrus (he merely cheerfully commented that he would make sure the tea would be ready and “worthy and representative of the Great Papyrus’ perfect mastering in cooking” when she would be finished), she climbed the stairs and walked to the other side of the mezzanine, before opening the first door. She had already taken a shower there ‘two days ago’ (it was clearer and more correct to state ‘the last day before the first Reset’, but ‘two days ago’ was shorter and somewhat more talkative to her), so she could remember the place.

Upon entering, she immediately noticed that a certain someone had left a pile of dry clean clothes on the shelf, next to the towels. She immediately recognized them as some of Sans’ spare clothes (well, looking at the size, those definitely couldn’t be Papyrus’), but since the skeleton and her were about the same height, it made sense that he would not have been buying her new ones (what would be the point anyway?). He had probably no time for that thanks to the kid’s doing, and in any case he had some better things to do.
Nevertheless… If he was giving her some spare clothing, it meant he expected her to stay at home. There was no way she’d walk around anywhere with clothes from this timeline and risk having a Reset –slash– Reload anytime; and even beyond that, she was still sneezing her lungs out every five minutes, so she had no intention to go anywhere in that state, and especially not in the Underground’s Antarctica.
Well, Snowdin probably wasn’t that cold, but seriously even Pittsburgh’s winters weren’t half as freezing as that last night had been.

In any ways, she quickly perked a glance at what he had found her: black tracksuit pants with a not-so-matching orange hoodie (apparently he did own at least one hoodie that wasn’t blue), along with a white tee-shirt with a nerdy joke on it that she didn’t understand (something about some kind of panel reading “Speed limit: 299,792.458 km/h” with the Delta Rune at the bottom of the board’s drawn borders… Did monsters actually need a driving system anyway?) that looked a little too large for her. Oh, and a pair of two large white puffy socks. Scandalous, the game would have definitely commented, according to its own memes.
Not very aesthetical and definitely not feminine (heh, who would’ve guessed), but that looked comfy enough and probably warmer than her current jeans and shirt.

Eh… Thanks, I guess.
(You bonehead.)

She would offer Papyrus to at least help with the laundry after that. As long as she wasn’t moving too much after eleven o’clock, it should be fine after all, right? But on second thought, it was more than plausible that this sweet cinnamon roll would never let her do that and order her to stay in the couch or something.

The hot water and little translucent wet clouds filling the air around her were doing some good to her nostrils thankfully. She found it funnily odd that those skeletons would still keep the possibility to have hot water— since they couldn’t even feel the heat, what difference would that make for them? —, but she quickly reasoned that they had probably just bought the house as it was and didn’t find any interest in removing that useless second red tap. Besides, Undyne or maybe some other people could come over sometimes, right? So yeah, actually it was rather stupid to even think that in the first place.
Anyway, she would definitely not complain about that. This bathroom was very good as it was and she was gladly enjoying the hot water, thank you very much.

Then again, now that she was thinking about it— never had that room ever been shown at any point in the game.
A few days ago, she had been thinking that it was merely a trick with the perspective. The Skelebros’ house did show a balcony, and yet no way to access it whatsoever— that was evidence that, somehow, there were maybe at least some more hidden rooms upstairs that the screen could not display properly. Besides, Sans did mention in the game that Papyrus was regularly taking showers (so as everyone did, logically), and it felt just obvious that any civilized house should own bathrooms. So she had just acknowledged that difference to just be some dumb RPG logic.

But now… She was just seeing a brand new room in a brand new house in a brand new world she thought she had known at some point, but that she would from now on have to rediscover entirely.
She remembered how she had felt at Grillby’s, upon asking about Sans’ backstory. About the potentiality of asking ‘The Word of God’ himself about the wonders of the game’s canon’s deepest secrets and jokingly making everyone else jealous about all those mind-blowing revelations she could have made, would she ever come back and tell them about her findings.

But this was not the game’s canon.

She felt so lost. All this time, she thought she had known those people. Sans, Alphys, Undyne… even Papyrus, who had been the only one to apparently still entirely stick to her mental script until now— much like most fans, she almost saw those guys as, well, friends, in a way. Close friends, even. For almost six months those cartoon guys and their crazy universe had accompanied her in her life, bringing jokes when she was feeling down and getting her to, for the first time since she had met Lys, make true and trustworthy amazing friends. For almost six months she had joked about them, watched Lys and Steven among with some others theorize about them, read stories and followed comics about them…

But those sprites and bytes she had learned to know and love, now that she was here and had learned all this… The monsters she had seen here were definitely not the game’s.
Now, those fully real people only felt like complete strangers. Were they really the same? They could fool her for almost three days, but now— the more she was thinking about it, the more her mind would find more proof of how different from the game they really were. Not only within those “minor” physical details like their relative heights or Undyne’s eyepatch, but also within their personalities.

Alphys was confident. Well, she was nowhere near as confident as anyone like Undyne or Mettaton obviously, but she was at least twice as confident as her game counterpart. She stuttered less. She was able to actually give orders to Sans— if only because she cared about his well-being and worried about his potential recklessness, sometimes. She knew what she was doing and whatever bad things she had done in the past— even if she was still pretty sensitive and drowning in obvious guilt about that deep stuff, she had apparently got over it a long time ago. Adjusted to how things were and moved on.

Undyne, beyond her (really surprisingly disturbing) lack of eyepatch, was not just that strong impulsive confident fish guard willing to “suplex” anything in sight. The way she had taken care so gently of a human, as soon as things had been settled— never the Undyne she knew would have been tender enough to do that with anyone other than Alphys, at best.
Along the same line, during that last night, she had been an actual shockingly brilliant strategy genius, even managing to make them leave the Ruins at a point where they had literally won and just had to wait for the Reset. She shuddered as she thought that, wouldn’t it have been for her own reckless will to leave the Ruins, at this point— if they really had just waited for the Reset… Never would she have made such discoveries. At this point, she would still have believed being trapped within some kind of potentially-virtual reality lying somewhere between some piles of data, stored either on the internet or inside her own laptop even. Something that she yet had since the very beginning strongly believed, with eventual reason, to be utterly physically impossible, aside from being a largely ridiculous idea. And yet she had still been blind enough to stick to that explanation.
But not only that. During that night, Dawn had… actually, even and especially right now, she relied so much to the Fish lady. That feeling of hopelessness over some absolute betrayal and surprise backstabbing… She had known that herself, and never would she have expected Undyne of all people, one of the most confident characters in the whole cast right after Mettaton, to be hurt so easily, to the point of showing that despair openly to the enemy. She remembered that look in her golden eyes as, at Grillby’s, she had sent that first spear. How, she was sure of it, she had not even heard Sans’ plea because of how deep in her lost trance of loneliness and hopelessness she had been buried.

And now, Sans… Sans was nowhere as lazy as he was in the game. Well, he did joke about it and she knew already that this laziness was just a façade even in the game anyway, but still— the mere fact of building this thing. Of being desperate enough, he would literally eventually give up giving up or something. Never would she have imagined that the game’s Sans would ever go that far. And maybe it had to do with just how the last timelines had occurred, but…

Ugh. Nah, she really was just overthinking it all, by now. That was getting ridiculous.
She was not taking her references from the game, but from what she knew of the fandom. She was just comparing actual people with the fanworks’ memes and stereotypes. Of course she’d find shocking differences between the two.

Maybe she had gone too far. It’s not like Sans really had kidnapped her out of pure cruelty, after all. She was supposed to be his last resort, and it was her fault (indirectly) if it had failed.
Still, did he actually lie to her…? The more she was trying to remember him blatantly telling actual lies, the more she realized he had practically never done so.
Since the very beginning, she had been the one to assume that the game was real. Sans had just not corrected her. And then again… had she ever openly asked him whether this was a simulated reality or not? Had she ever mentioned to him that it was the way she was thinking it over?

The very first time she had mentioned that aloud had been during the last night.
Minutes before she went berserk.

Damn.

And now she remembered how, after this, all he had done was asking her to give more examples of more Easter eggs. If he really had wanted her to stay in the dark, it would have been a very stupid move coming from him. Sans was much cleverer than that, if he had really lied to her and wanted her to remain in some weird fantasies— he would have managed to outsmart her for much longer. Not that she would ever admit that aloud.

Looking how he had tried to calm her down and reassure her by then…
Ooh boy. She really had screwed things up again, huh…? Yikes.

Alright, maybe she would actually consider trying to apologize. Eventually.

Would you look at that, those spare clothes didn’t look that bad in the end. They were a little large maybe, but that would do for the day. She surprised herself giving a hint of a startled yet satisfied smirk at the corner of her lips when she studied herself in the mirror, before getting out of the bathroom.

Otherwise, Papyrus didn’t let her help at the laundry. Just as expected, she was metaphorically grounded for the day to remain in the couch, drink her (actually not that bad but completely cold) tea and rest like the wise ill human she was, while he would take care of the housework, like he always did anyway. So when he disappeared in the bathroom with another pile of other random clothes that needed some washing as well, she could only stay in the couch and hear him humming various songs (well, more like singing out loud that was) after a few minutes.
She remembered that she had not seen any washing machine when she had been there— and judging by the noises and singing she could hear from there, it was obvious that Papyrus was busy washing the laundry all by himself, the ‘traditional’ way. She had noticed that they probably weren’t particularly wealthy (Sans’ many jobs were probably adding to a rather interesting salary, but still, she didn’t know the numbers nor how economy really worked among the monster society), so maybe they just couldn’t afford one; or maybe, more fundamentally, the Underground itself could not afford enough resources to build such sophisticated engines, and owning a full ‘basic’ equipment was actually a privilege not many could afford— or even need maybe, for that matter. Some monsters did not even own clothes to begin with, for lack of need.
Then again, she had not particularly been that much in contact with actual monster crowds before, but she had still not seen any ‘naked’ ones and was just basing this random guess on the memories she had of the Random Encounters in the game. Now that she was thinking about it, she was kind of curious whether or not all monsters would get proper clothing. Some monsters’ anatomies still were rather far from the humans’, so how did they work that out?

Now that she was thinking about it… She was actually deeply surprised by the technology the monsters had. The game had an obvious explanation to the otherwise pretty intriguing phenomenon: firstly the one that it was a game, designed by a human and meant to be played by humans, thus that it made sense that the items and engines depicted would be at the very least similar to the ones humans were used to see, and easily recognizable in order not to get lost by background details that had no relevance to the plot whatsoever. And second, Toby had still bothered to add a specific explanation anyway, that of the Garbage Dump. An answer that was pretty interesting, and yet brought so many more questions at the same time…

A similar point that had been bothering her for a while was the exact relation monsters and humans had, in this world— at least, how humans were viewed by a population of monsters that, according to Sans, had never seen the Surface at all for entire generations. The game mentioned that very few monsters were actually really interested in the human culture— at least, she thought that the fact that Mettaton and Alphys were pretty much the only members of that so-called ‘fan-club’ they had founded—, and yet, looking at the furniture, the food, even their sense of fashion and pretty much everything else: they were still completely adopting practically the same habits and culture as them regarding their everyday life, watching and even more importantly enjoying their shows… This really was a fascinating paradox.

Then again, that rambling was coming just because she was getting bored, being stuck in those blankets and coughing her lungs out every five minutes. Thankfully she eventually stumbled across some of Sans’ books lying around. It was a lot funnier to listen to the skeleton telling his own puns by himself (and make it double when Papyrus was around), but the joke books still had good ones and she would still chuckle at some of them.

At some point Papyrus would get out of the bathroom, holding a giant ball of random soaking clothes and immediately disappearing on the balcony (… was that really a good idea to hang them outside in Snowdin?), and a few minutes later he would be back on the first floor. He chatted a little more with her, probably noticing that she seemed to feel lonely, and she had to try to lie about a few things in order not to blow her cover; good thing Papyrus talked a lot and was oblivious to the fact that she was mostly making him repeat what Sans had told him first, so that she would be sure her own stories would not contradict his. After a few minutes, he went in the kitchen to carry on the housework, but they would still chat from afar, as this time he had left the door wide open and would give her glances every five seconds when he was talking.

She was at the same time still glancing at the joke book (so that she would not have to look at him all the time mostly; he still had his rather ‘revealing’ battle body, and her spine did not like that at all— worst thing being, that made her lungs cough all the more harshly), and would tell some of them out loud for fun; Papyrus really lacked a sense of humor whenever puns were involved (especially skeleton puns), but humor in general he did appreciate. Even if it took them dozens of minutes to try to ‘solve’ the ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke on a serious matter. When she remembered the game’s Sans would mention that the game’s Papyrus once tried to ‘solve’ the horoscope, she relied to this situation and spent countless amused yet exasperated sighs trying to explain him that no, the fact that chickens philosophically could not ‘want’ something, the possibility that this chicken was an intellectually cultured one that knew of the traffic rules or the question of whether this was a highway or a country road… were not the actual point of the joke.

Yet sometimes, she would notice that the book she was holding had magically gone a few pages backwards, all of a sudden. She would watch Papyrus from afar (he was still in the kitchen doing whatever he was usually doing), and see him sometimes randomly teleport from one corner to the other, obliviously repeating things or words he had done or said a few minutes before. That was getting creepy and sometimes he would notice her visible fear on her face, and seconds later he would be cut midsentence by the universe itself and back several feet away, turning his back to her and not even noticing that anything was dead wrong. She tried to ignore it, but that just could not be helped: this was, objectively, disturbingly uncannily spookily creepily scary. And she could have gone on and on with the adverbs, that would still have felt like a stupid euphemism.

HUMAN!
“Y-Yeah?” she jumped, startled by the skeleton’s sudden appearance right in front of her, staring at her with pleading eyes.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? YOU DIDN’T FINISH YOUR SENTENCE AND YOU’VE BEEN SILENT SINCE THEN! W-WHAT DID THE MONKEY DO WHEN THE LION FOUND HIM?!

… Ah, dang it. She had told him that joke a few minutes earlier, and then again a Reload had happened, and now Papyrus was the one to think that she was the one acting weird. That was just perfect.

“Uuh…” She quickly looked down at her hands, and expectedly the book she was holding magically showed her the scripted lines she had to say: “So— after the lion arrived, soaked to the bone – sorry it’s in the book –, he asked the monkey: ‘Hey! Did you see one of your cousins passing around here?’ Still hiding his face behind the newspaper, the monkey shrunk in his shoulders and retorted: ‘Which one? The one who kicked the lion’s butt into the lake?’” Papyrus gasped, just like the first time she had said it. The first time she had grinned mischievously, but now… that was just sad. So screw the pause-for-effect crap, the only reason she really paused this time was because of an incoming sneeze. “And the lion to widen his eyes in shock: ‘Wait, is that already in the news?!’

The skeleton reacted exactly the same way he had during the first time, remaining silent and confused for a couple short seconds, then grinning and ‘Nyeheh’-ing how stupid the lion was to so comically miss the point when the oh so obvious truth was lying just before his very eyes. And after that, just like before, he came back to the kitchen and stirred up the broom all around the place.

… Yeah, it was much funnier the first time. Darn it.

She glanced at the old mural clock that was lying around over the table in the living room, but it was not eleven yet. And even so— from what had happened in the last timeline, she knew that those Reloads would actually last for at least fifteen to twenty minutes. Not five.
Apparently, Frisk or whoever was in charge of the Resets was having trouble, and they still were in the Ruins. Weird.

Thankfully, it stopped when the clock pointed 9:40. Maybe they had reached Toriel’s home or whatever. Around ten minutes later, Papyrus would finally come out of the kitchen with empty bags and happily claim he would be out for a dozen minutes or so to buy groceries. Dawn would try to stop him at first, but after reasoning that he probably would not risk anything since he would most probably be back before Frisk would even come out of the Ruins, she eventually gave up. He would not even get out of town, after all— there was no risk for him.

That did not mean she would be left alone during that time though, because another kind of company arrived just a few minutes later, taking the form of a little sweetly high-pitched voice.

“Howdy!”

… Sweet enough to make you sick.

The human mechanically tore her head towards that ONE character she did NOT want to meet, not even bothering to hide that horrified expression of ‘NONONONONONONONOTYOU!’
Of course, that reaction only enlarged that bastard’s grin.

“Golly, here comes a face I’ve never met before!” the little golden flower mused in that sickly innocent tone only he knew how to master. “How come we didn’t meet in the Ruins, you lost Soul?”

She inhaled deeply, trying to think about any potential excuse, but all this did was make her sneeze even harder. He did not even let her speak anyway, as apparently his line was merely supposed to be a rhetorical question since the start:

“Just kidding. I know who you are.” He took that Reaper Grin expression and Dawn’s turned to the ‘Ah shit I’m doomed’ sweaty trembling face. The fact that she was genuinely scared that he would try anything to hurt her any moment though he had no imminent intention to kill her (or had he?) was only amusing him even more, so he was all the more happy to make his creepiest faces just for the heck of it. “You are a Fallen God. And now you’ve lost all power over this world. Just like me.”

The human eventually decided that not looking was the best way to avoid freaking out. Which allowed her to come back to her senses and fake not being impressed, as she pouted childishly.

“I never had any power over it, genius.” she shrugged. “I never even played, anyway.”
“Oh, really? That’s a shame.” he snickered. “But then again, I guess that might explain a few things. Like how you could’ve made so easily the biggest mistake of your life and still haven’t even realized it yet.”

She immediately sent him the ‘Is that a threat?’ pseudo-skeptical look, but it was obvious that she was actually deeply paying attention. She sneezed again and immediately mentally cursed her cold to be currently stealing all of her remaining credibility in such serious situation.
That guy had most probably been watching them all day during the last timeline since Sans had killed Frisk when he was hypothetically not supposed to, and he could remember as well what had happened. Maybe he would still leak out some answers if she managed to outsmart him.
Then again, we’re talking about outsmarting the Royal Troll Who Plays with Fate Itself and Knows Everything about This World here. Good luck outsmarting that.

“Heeheehee… Don’t give me that look, I know what you did.” He made that creepy face again and pulled on his stem to approach his black and white face even more: “You went off script. And you brought the Smiley Trashbag down along with you. Golly, aren’t you two braindead idiots!” He paused for a short while, only in order to snicker even harder. “Worst thing being, you’re doing it again. You’re even taking it a step further. Boy, aren’t you two in BIG trouble.”

She frowned in a mixture between pseudo-skepticism and bewilderment.
She had expected to learn a few things, but now… That was new.

“What are you talking about?” she asked gravely.
“You perfectly know what I’m talking about, Player. I’m talking about the script.”

She slowly straightened back her neck, looking down at him and scoffing.

“There is no script. There is no game, and there is no script.” she retorted. “Don’t you try to prove me wrong, I got all the proof I needed. I’m sure Sans messed up his calculations somehow and just doesn’t want to admit it.”
“Oh, but he did not mess up anything, really.” He did sound genuine on that, but she still gave him that fully skeptical glare. So he continued: “I had decades of my own Resets learning about everything there is to know about this place. “I've read every book. I've burned every book.”, rings a bell? Oh wait, I just remembered it doesn’t since you haven’t played. Shame, really.” He snickered again, and she cringed, and it just made her sneeze again. Oh God how she hated that laugh. “Anyway, as I was saying; that includes his own studies. I watched him do his little calculations and all that, and I can tell you for sure: he didn’t mess up.”

Ugh. That was actually frustratingly maddeningly making sense here.

“Anyway, I can’t say I’m not glad that you did what you did.” The flower somehow managed to shrug. Or gave the impression that he was shrugging. “Things are getting so much more interesting this way. I’d never guessed Undyne would ever backtrack all the way to Snowdin to catch you. And boooy, how you completely crushed the Trashbag like crazy! I gotta admit, I’m even getting a little jealous here— never have I ever managed to get a face like that before! You were kinda stupid on the edges, but that was totally worth it.”

Oh you smug moron, I would so gladly rip you out of that nonexistent hole on the floor and play ‘Spare, Don’t spare’ with your so precious petals…

Apparently her face was readable enough as he seemed to perfectly decipher that murderous look she was giving him. But not only did he not care about it to the slightest, but it actually made him laugh all the more. And of course that had to be her cue to sneeze, and of course that made him literally fall backwards as the flower’s face was torn apart by hysteric incontrollable laughter of mockery.
Because he simply knew she would never have the guts to actually do it. If only because she was scared to death of his so famous friendliness pellets. Or would her necrophobia even take place here? That would be oh so much more hilarious.

She cringed, but decided to move on. That bastard still seemed to know a lot of things, and any piece of information she could get out of him would be a hundred times more useful than all the things Sans had told her so far gathered together.

“Let’s stop fooling around.” she grunted in a much less confident and menacing tone she had intended to. “What exactly do you know about Undertale?”
“Oh, quite a lot of things, you know.” Again that pseudo-shrug of how the heck was he even doing it to begin with he only has a stem for Pete’s sake. “After all these runs with all those different Players, you really get to see practically all of it.”

Nope. Still not buying it.
A random sneeze appeared before she managed to retort.

“As I said. There are way too many things around us that don’t make sense at all if you compare it with the game.”
“Oh, but I wasn’t talking about the normal things around us, silly!” the flower cackled. “I was talking about Frisk.”

Silence. Sneeze. Dawn stared at him with a dubious extremely attentive sniff.

“Frisk is the link. Watching them is what makes you learn the most about you guys. You have no idea how much information you’re giving about yourselves that way, I’m almost surprised the Trashbag didn’t figure you out before.” He saw the girl’s confused look, thus rolled his eyes and decided to continue: “Look. This world here is completely making sense. But one single variable is the one acting aloof. Don’t you understand what’s going on here?”

She frowned, but still didn’t seem to see his point. Or, at least, refused to accept it.

“So then, how about this world here? Sans did admit that it was completely real, and I really am not gonna buy any crap about any ‘virtual’ stuff anymore.” she grumbled. “So tell me, smart guy. How does the game even work to begin with, if it’s really the thing in control here?”
“Dumb luck.”

Silence.
She gave him the blankest look of all times, but nope, he was still not getting that smudge grin off his face.

“You have to be kidding me.” Sneeze.
“I’m never kidding, idiot. It’s all a question of variables. All the variables happen to be the same at some point, the multiverse can’t handle it, so it just links them together. That’s what Trashbag loves to call ‘entanglement.’
“If you really are thinking I’m gonna buy that as an excuse…”
“Oh, come on, be reasonable. Whether this world was created by the game or the other way around, there still has to be a connection between the two at some point.” He moved his stem back, faking to mockingly look thoughtfully at the ceiling. “But then again, that could still be a real fluke and a big misunderstanding. After all, what’s a coincidence among the infinity of the multiverse?”

There she was, having completely lost track of the conversation and looking dumb with those goggle eyes and sneezing yet again, twice in a row for a change.
And yet she frowned after a few more seconds, trying as best she could not to look even more stupid than she already did.

“You seem to know a lot about this ‘multiverse.’” she accused.
“Oh, I don’t know that much, really.” the flower rolled his eyes jokingly. “But I know about your universe. It’s one of the farthest from ours, but I actually got to know that one pretty well thanks to all that information leaking here and there.” And he twisted his face upside-down and enlarged his grin beyond physically possible before he asked in that trollesque voice that damned question: “Wanna know why that is?”

Oh she already knew what kind of answer he was about to give her alright.

“… Because the game is real.” she spat in disgusted defeat.

Flowey smiled even harder (how?!), putting his head back to its up-right natural position. Thankfully his smile got back to a more ordinary one when he spoke back— but what startled her even more was the tone he was uttering those sentences with. That tone— he sounded to almost genuinely actually care about her and give her some good advice. Would you figure that.

“There. You see where logic brings you. Everything’s so much easier when you use logic and put aside all those useless feelings of yours.” he calmly recited. “Think all you want, but in this world, there’s only rationality. There is no place for that emotional rubbish.” He frowned tensely as he seemed to hesitate a little, actually really seeming like he actually wanted to help her: “Trust me, that kind of thinking is dangerous. Emotions prevent you from seeing what lies right under your nose.”

He had gradually come closer to her face while uttering this in a caring whisper, as if he were scared that someone else would eavesdrop on them. And yet, at the end of his tirade, he looked startled and backed away a bit, a new light shining on his face.

“Oh, speaking of which!” he gleefully chanted. And there came back his purely evil grin she hated so much. “‘Beware of the man who came from the other world.’ You know that line, don’t you?”
“What about it?” Dawn pseudo-skeptically tried to ask before, yet again, sneezing. “People say it’s about the Player. Or maybe Gaster.”

Again that evil grin enlarged itself even more as he had to ask that most unexpected but oh so goddamn frustrating question:

Which Gaster?”

There was a blank silence and a confused bewildered look. Flowey rolled his eyes in annoyance and eventually decided to explain:

“‘Gaster’ is a family name, idiot. You ought to be more specific.”

The answer was obvious enough that, without thinking, the dumb innocent girl was already about to reply; but the flower had not even planned to let her intervene in the first place, as if he had predicted all along what her reaction would have been.
Well, not that it was particularly difficult to guess in this case— but in any ways… He had something much more interesting to say.

“Now, what if I told you that…” Of course that overly long and unnecessary pause he was putting right here was trollesquely intentional. “Smiley Trashbag. He’s not from this world.”

Dawn stared in shock, hopelessly trying to find any traces of evidence that the smug troll was kidding.
She did not find any, and eventually gave up, approaching her face and her goggled frowning eyes to his and mumbling nervously, looking scared as if she expected the Smiley Trashbag in question to suddenly show up and ruin the moment by eavesdropping and landing a random blaster on the little bud.

“What the fuck are you talking about.”

The flower backed away a bit, inhaling deeply (as if that bastard even needed to breathe anyway) and rolling his eyes yet again— and yet he seemed startled, as his eyes remained stuck on something hanging on the wall.
The human made the stupid mistake of looking at whatever he had noticed, and her eyes stumbled across the clock, which was stating it was almost eleven.

“Oh, would you look at the time!” Flowey chanted mockingly. “Golly, all this talking almost made me forget about my role! You wouldn’t want me to get off script, would you?”

She had less than half a second to react. But when she did, a particularly elaborate thought found the time to cross her mind:
Oh no no no you would not dare do that not right now you little sh—shtem don’t you flipping go back in that hole before telling me all about—

Flowey immediately retreated back in the hole he had come from in the beginning, his trollesque laugh still resonating a few seconds after he was gone.
Dawn had obviously tried to stop him, literally jumping on him and trying to grip his stem before he was completely underground, but there was no use— he was much faster, and already gone.

She gripped for a few more seconds at the remnants of that hole, before letting go a cry of pure rage.
It was so close. So. Flipping. Close.

Uuugh. She would have to find that out all by herself then, huh? Seriously?
So basically, “Sans is not from this world.” What did that even mean?! That dumb flower had really asked “which Gaster” she was thinking about, so that meant that it would not include his father or Papyrus… But they were supposedly from the same family, how could Sans be from a different world than them to begin with?
Had Flowey just mentioned the potentiality of alternate universes, then? L-Like the fanon’s? He did mention the existence of a multiverse, and the supposedly “infinity” of possibilities it was made of. That, uh… Maybe. Why not. Those alternate universes would probably not be the fans’, that would have been a way too great coincidence (still, she would have loved meeting Underswap one of these days), but that would not exclude entirely the possibility of, well, “other timelines” after all. Why not.
Did that mean the Sans she knew was not born in this timeline and had been literally… replacing the ‘real’ one…? Why would he do that, and what happened to the other one then?! What kind of universe did he really come from?

No, more importantly… Who was he really?

Definitely not his Underswap counterpart, that was for sure.
This Sans had motivations and secrets. This Sans had been pulling schemes and plans, whether for the best or the worst. This Sans had killed and kidnapped and threatened. Maybe he still had reasons for these acts, maybe the kills did not fully count because he was killing people that would never die for real, but—
He still had the (metaphorical) guts to do this. He still had been doing that for so long, he could now do this in cold blood.
She wanted to think he cared about her and she had seen signs he did, but… Could she really trust him? If that last piece of information the seed junk had dropped were to be confirmed, then she feared the monster would be much less innocent and trustworthy than she naively used to believe. She would…

… Yeah. She would confront him on that later. If he really wanted to amend for his acts and if he really wanted her to forgive him and start again to trust him— he would have to explain himself. On a lot of things.

Chapter Text

Learn When to Quit

Act III — We'll Be Together Forever

Scene 1² — On a Bright and Glitchy Day

Following Flowey’s oh so inconvenient appearance, Dawn had been keeping an eye on the clock every few minutes. It was way past eleven by now, and Papyrus had still not come back from whatever grocery store he had gone to. She was not particularly worried that he could accidentally come across a genocidal maniac on the way back, especially when Sans was already there to make sure nothing wrong would happen, but… Well, you know how it feels to be paranoid and having literally nothing else to do than worry about those who actually are doing something productive.

When she was not looking at the clock, her gaze was focusing on her phone’s screen, displaying the option to potentially call Sans. All she had to do was press that little green button right there, and yet…
Come on. She had so much to ask from him. He owed her answers. Hadn’t he promised that he would finally explain her what really was going on?
But maybe he was busy right now. Or maybe, if she called him to ask about all this, he would just dodge her questions, as always. He was an expert at that game.
No. If she wanted to get her answers, she needed to corner him. Ask him in person and take him by surprise. Just asking that on the phone was too easy. He could get out of it anytime, and then be wary whenever he would come home. She wouldn’t get her chance to ask him anything anytime soon if she wasn’t careful enough. She needed to be a little more patient for the time being, in order to truly wait for the perfect opportunity to corner him.

So after a few more minutes of that awful dilemma, she reluctantly sighed in exasperation and pressed the ‘Cancel’ button, then turned the little screen off.

When a dozen minutes had passed, she eventually guessed that there probably would not be any more Reloads. Whatever had happened, either Sans hadn’t tried to kill Frisk, or they had given up immediately after only the first try… Well, in any ways, she decided she had been stuck in that couch doing nothing for long enough. She stood up, yet straight away caught the warm and comfortable bed cover she had been given because she had started to feel pretty cold actually. If she was to save the day all over again, then maybe she would, but definitely not without her fabled Blanket Armor. Nu-uh.
Then again, if she headed out in town like that, she would probably look silly. Probably.

She hardly had any time to wander around and wonder what exactly she was supposed to do that the door suddenly banged open, a giant pile of walking boxes and bags of all sorts making its way straight away to the kitchen.
Well, if Papyrus had been to raid the store’s entire food section, that did explain why it took him so long. Well, he didn’t just buy food apparently, but more than half of the packages were containing all possible kinds of pasta, the other half comprising for the most part the respective sauces, packs of chips, and she had seen hiding here and there one or two extra bottles of ketchup.
So yeah. The entire food section.

Brace yourself already for the incoming lunch, because you can never be sure your stomach will make it out in one piece.

The skeleton came out just a few minutes later to greet her, apologizing for his lateness and commenting that he could see that apparently she looked a little better than before he left. At least, less feverish and more awake in a way. She sneezed an embarrassed thank-you-I-guess mumble.

BY THE WAY, HUMAN!” He handed her a bag of what looked like some sort of pet candy food or something of that sort, and she started to wonder if he was seriously expecting that to be a natural diet for humans. “I AM SORRY TO ASK THIS OF YOU, BUT I AM LATE FOR TODAY’S COOKING AND I STILL HAVE TO PUT THE GROCERIES IN THE FRIGDE! AND SINCE I SEE YOU LOOK BETTER, COULD YOU GIVE SANS’S ROCK ITS DAILY SPRINKLES? HE ALWAYS FORGETS.

… Oh. Those were for the pet rock. Right. Hahaha.
She had completely forgotten about that silly pebble they were keeping in that bowl on the table. Maybe the game mentioned it as well though, it didn’t strike her as a surprise and it did ring a bell somewhere in her memory.
Well, she was not that good with pets, but she could pretend that was one thing she could handle for that special case. So she just shrugged and repressed a snort.

Papyrus was already gone, so she reluctantly took her arm out of the Blanket Fort to pick up the bag. She loomed over the big bowl, at the center of which the little thing was laying. Upon pouring the grains over, the traditional plastic-package-that-would-never-be-cut-properly blocked the flood, then released it all as soon as she lowered her guard and impatiently shook the bag, engulfing the pebble under a shower of candy.
… Hahaha. Whoops.

And yet she saw the sprinkly dune shake as the rock emerged from it and oh my gosh it just snarled.
She jumped and dropped the bag in surprise, screaming and stepping back.
Wait, is that thing actually alive?!

Right on cue, the skeleton rushed back from the kitchen and took charge of everything.

OH NO! BAD ROCK! NO THREATENING THE HUMAN!” The pebble moved around and kept growling, and he scolded even harder. “NO, NO HOWLING AT PEOPLE! DOWN!

After a few moments, he simply huffed in contempt and held his hands on his hips, glaring at the rock immersing itself back into its sprinkling pool.

SORRY HUMAN, I SHOULD HAVE WARNED YOU THAT IT’S GOT A TEMPER AS BAD AS MY BROTHER’S. BUT I DIDN’T EXPECT IT TO GO THIS BAD! IT DIDN’T TRY TO BITE YOU AT LEAST, DID IT?

The human merely stood there, pursing her lips, staring at the bowl from afar and barely listening at him.
Just… no… comment.

Papyrus appeared in her sightline after a little while and stared at her anxiously, worried about her lack of answer; though surprised, she eventually managed to just wave him off with some rambling. He did not seem convinced in the slightest and kept muttering things about training the rock and teaching it some manners, as he was stomping his way out towards the kitchen.

Dawn simply stared back at the bowl from afar. After a few more minutes, the sprinkles started to move again and the pebble snuck its little… nose? muzzle? Well, whatever stood for its lack of face, the little pet got it out of the pile wearily, before eventually completely making its way out.
At this point she had just stopped looking for an explanation as to how exactly could such creature possibly exist. Well, there was a talking rock in the Ruins in the game, but still…
If there were already many fans wondering about the way the skeleton biology worked to begin with, it seemed to her that rock biology – could one seriously call this geology instead or…? In any ways, it made even less sense. If that little guy was just some kind of monster that happened to look like a rock, then it really was a baffling camouflage. She tried to get closer and take a better look, but she really could not see anything special about the rock. Apart from the fact that it somehow managed to crawl its way around.

And feel its surroundings as well apparently, because it didn’t take long for the monster to immediately spot its stalker and stalk back with a creepy silence. She almost thought there of the way a maddened cat would stare at you with those black “You-make-a-move-you’re-dead-where-you-stand” eyes. That looked almost threatening actually.
Well, then again, it was her fault in a way. There was no way to know what the level of intelligence and sentience the little guy reached, but since it was a monster, it was rather likely to expect a minimum level of awareness and understanding from its part. Maybe it could even understand some complex language? Well, it was hard already for her to know whether animal pets could do that to begin with, so the level of uncertainty was even higher with magical creatures. You can never know.
In any ways, if the poor thing did understand some English, then she appeared like a very rude guest here. It was worth a shot.

“Uh… h-hey, sorry little buddy. I, uh… didn’t know you were alive?”

The pebble emitted some sort of growl that sounded like it was blowing her a raspberry and hissing at her all at the same time.

‘Grwlshiss’ yourself, I was trying to apologize!” she pouted in irritation. The rock just turned around and dug its way back inside the pile of sprinkles, and she frowned while crossing her arms in a huff before muttering at last: “You dumbass.”

That last pout made her sneeze back, and if it weren’t for the stupid pet’s hiding, she would have sworn it would have made its way out again just to sneer at her for some reason. That idiot.

After that episode, she simply went back in the couch and resumed her previous activities— that was to say, get bored to death and look for distraction in those undecipherable quantum physics books. Papyrus was back after all, safe and sound… All she now had to do was wait for the other brother to come back. Then she would start to plan what exactly she would do.
Yet this moment of boredom strangely did not last too long for once, as her phone began to ring:

It was Sans. Sans was actually calling her. Speaking of the devil, as always.
All right… What was she supposed to do, just— yeah, answer for a start of course— but then again, about all those things she wanted to ask him…
Yeah, better just pretend nothing happened maybe. If he was calling there were chances it actually was for a rather urging matter. If Sans was calling then it had to be about something important. So she clumsily brushed her finger over the green button and shoved the white device against her right ear.

“Uh… Hi? Sans?” Yeah obviously it was Sans didn’t you just read his name on the screen you stupid dork.
hey.” he immediately answered. His tone sounded sort of awkward as well. Maybe even concerned, in a way. “did i… wake you? your voice sounds weird.

Yep, her throat had started to ache a little again since a few minutes. Of course he’d catch on that even before she would realize it on her own, observant as he was. Darn stupid guy, how could he get so smart.

“Nah, I was reading one of your science books. That’s just the cold.”
oh. alright. you, uh, getting better?
“The shower helped a lot.” She paused for a little while, feeling like she was supposed to say something else. So eventually she just blurted out an awkward “… Thanks.”

He chuckled. It was hard to say if it was genuine or uneasy. Or both. Only a guy like him would know how to put up a thing like that.

y’welcome. hope that, uh… fits you? sorry, t’was the best i could find.
“That’ll do for today, don’t worry.”

If even Sans had started rambling, then yep, they would be stuck on the Awkward Train for a while. Yippee.
Now was her cue to say “I’m sorry Sans, you were right all along, now could you forgive me and be friends again and just maybe answer a few questions now that we’re at it?”
She would so not tell him that. Definitely not that way.
Thankfully, he was the one to eventually break the silence and finally get to the point:

anyway, i just thought… you still wanna see frisk?

She couldn’t help but frown. That question sort of came out of nowhere, and had she ever mentioned that request specifically to begin with? … Well, she had mentioned that indeed during that last evening, sort of. So yes alright let’s just get here some more awkward fuel.

But since he was mentioning it, then it meant that he had some sort of plan or idea behind that thought, and now she was curious to hear about it. If he had been so anxious about letting her see the kid until then, where did that sudden change of mind come from? Because yep, if he was bringing that up, then it could only mean one thing: he would go back on his word and let her see the Anomaly for herself, if only for this specific time.

“… Maybe?” she eventually mumbled, deep in thought yet still confused. And she was also a little concerned, now. “What’s wrong with them?”
oh, nothing different from the usual.” Obviously he had already caught up on her anxiety and was there to reassure. Of course. “we got a, uh, ‘neutral’ i guess. they had some dust so they must’ve killed a few monsters in the ruins, but they don’t look very good at dodging so i guess they did that out of… ‘self-defense.’ must be their first time or so. i mean, i think you noticed, but they died a few times in the ruins already. players like that are getting pretty rare by now.” He seemed to notice that he had started rambling, and paused a little while mumbling some sort of nonsensical apology before going back to the point: “for now i let them go, i’m just watching them and making sure things don’t start to go haywire. they don’t seem to notice i’m following.” She could imagine him perking another glance at the kid and hum or sigh absent-mindedly, because he went silent for a few more seconds. “anyway. was just wondering if you wanted to see them. since it might, uh… clear out some doubts for you?

Oh. So that was why he had let the kid go and called to warn her.
His tone just there gave the impression that he feared that he had lost her trust, and was now trying to regain it. And yes of course hahaha how obvious was that.
She was not sure she really knew how to feel about this, though. Flowey had dismissed most of her doubts over this issue, so it felt pointless by now; but she was still struggling to accept it or just comprehend such idea: how could the game have any interference towards this universe, while the inconsistencies towards the metaphysics and the people and the freaking Plot could be so numerous? He had still advised her to look at Frisk, though, commenting that things would supposedly make a little more sense upon seeing them? So well, apparently she should take the offer anyways.
Still, right now the potential Player was not her problem. Sans was.

But this tone right then, and now that she could only remember how he had truly acted during that last evening… She couldn’t help but somehow still feel bad for the guy, and she sighed apologetically.

“I’m sorry for yesterday.”

… Wait did she just really—
Oh God that was it she had spit it out aloud. She pursed and bit her lips, forcedly retaining her desire to face-palm. Damn her big mouth.

She heard an uneasy chuckle on the other end of the line.

nah, you were right on a few things.” He sighed loudly. It sounded genuine. “i did… keep quiet on some details. just ‘cause, y’know. i really thought it wouldn’t matter.” He paused again, but his tone seemed much more serious when he kept going: “but now that we’re stuck in this… we need to share more info if we want this to work out. on both sides.

She couldn’t help but think back of the way she had lied to him for practically three days about the Hard Mode. It didn’t sound nearly as important as the facts he had hidden from her, but… In a way, if that was truly that— if he truly thought that knowing about those details did not matter— that knowing about them would only make her unnecessarily overreact or something— That was exactly what had happened. And contrary to Sans, instead of just hearing him out…
Well. So much for having a patient soul, huh. How could she get so stupid…

so, uh. how about that?

A shadow of a smile twisted a corner of her lips for a split second. Why did he have to always sound so sweet it made it so much harder to just hold anything against him and he sounded so genuine.

“Yeah… Sure, I guess, whatever. If you’re certain about that, I mean, why not?” she blabbered carelessly.

It really made it hard for her, she needed to remind herself every single minute that she had to be careful around him. Sure, Flowey had been the one to tell her that, but… In barely twenty minutes, the seed had been helping her with her investigations much more than Sans had ever done in three days. And if everything he had said before was true, then this last little thing he had added about Sans’s origins… It had to hold at least some sort of truth behind it, right?

And if this were right, then as her previous analysis had led… Sans was not what he seemed. Sans was most probably faking his actual identity.
Sans could not be trusted.

well, things should be fine. i say, it’s safe for you to get out if you want. and if it’s not too cold for you, i mean.” Another sneeze from the human made him flinch slightly; but if it was only for a few minutes, and if it could clear out everything between them, it would be worth it, right? “in any case, i’d just like it if you stayed close to the doorway. so if things go south for any reason— you can just run back in the house and lock the door behind you while i buy us some time.” He paused for a few seconds, thinking aloud: “now that i think of it, you could also stay inside and just open the window in the living room. no need to get outside… ah well, just– do whatever you prefer.

That sounded like a good plan. She hardly saw any reason why the Player (if there really was a Player) would suddenly want to harass her or anything, but… Yeah. As long as she could see the other human clearly enough and not just from miles away, that was fine by her. Better than nothing.

you’ll have to wait for them to reach the town by themselves, though. we’re almost there but… i mean, i could’ve brought them sooner if it weren’t for one little problem.” He could perfectly imagine her face frowning at that, thus he didn’t pause for long before explaining: “i can’t get them through a shortcut.
“Huh? How so?” she asked in confusion.

Well now wasn’t that a surprise. What did he even mean by that? How could his shortcuts just… not work? He didn’t sound exhausted as if he had overdone himself already, so…

dunno.” She could practically hear his tense shrug. “i have no idea if it’s new or not, but it just won’t work. trust me, i tried.” He took yet another thoughtful break before adding: “actually i’m pretty sure that’s the first time i ever tried to warp them since the game took effect, so…
“What? But you usually take them twice through a shortcut with you, in the…”

… Oh yeah. That “this-is-not-really-the-game-even-if-it-still-kinda-is” crap.

“… Never mind.” she groaned. “Guess you don’t meet at Grillby’s at all or something?”
well, it’s more like they usually come on their own and i’d already be there by chance. or not. i dunno. it’s true that every time i’d be at grillby’s by that time, they’d come too at some point.” He seemed to notice that his rambling was slightly starting to annoy her by now, and he sighed. “but yeah, nah, i never invited them there myself. never really seen the point of doing that before today. they’d just happen to come on their own.
“O-kay…?” she sighed. “… Yeah, we’re probably gonna need to list all those things from now on. I don’t wanna get caught off-guard anymore because of that sort of things.”

Wait a minute. Speaking of which…

“Oh yeah, by the way. Your ‘pet.’” She tried her best not to sound annoyed by that subject, to no avail obviously.
… uh, yeah?” He definitely did not seem to have expected that topic either. “did, uh, something bad happen?
“The game might have made most of us assume that it actually was not supposed to be alive because it had accidentally forgotten to specify that it was?” she sneered innocently.

At first, the silence felt like the skeleton truly did not see the problem, as if he expected living pet rocks to be actually normal. But then he immediately remembered:

oh… ouch. uh, sorry…?” He was chuckling uneasily in embarrassment. “i guess those are not a thing where you’re from…
“Yeah, well, not really.” He was starting to apologize again, but she interrupted and tried to reassure him: “Nah, it’s alright, don’t worry. I was just, well, surprised, yeah.”

She heard more clumsy chuckles, and she couldn’t help but quietly giggle along.

well, yeah, don’t be surprised if you see more here or there. they’re about the most common pets around here. they’re dumb, not hard to take care of…
“They’re still monsters though, right?”
sort of. biologically we’re the same. except they don’t talk. don’t do anything, actually. some say their species would be the closest to moldsmals and the other slimes, but they can all take part in society. rocks… either they can’t, or they don’t care. they never tried to let us know anyway.

She pondered a little while about that, but this seemed a little too remote for her.
It was hard to think that the society Sans pertained to could be actually so different from hers, and all at the same time so complex and organized. It made perfect sense that way, but thinking about it… That was impressive. And somewhat intimidating.

“Anyway, just asking but my real question was— Where did you get it… them… her? … whatever. Where did you get your rock from?”

From the point that she was starting with random, harmless or irrelevant questions, that should be fine, right? She would lighten the mood, he would lower his guard, and then as soon as he would be back in town she would finally ask the ones she really cared about. Yeah, that was a good plan.
And yet she heard a long and tense sigh, and perfectly pictured him rolling the white pupils inside his eye-sockets.

you know how sometimes your psychologist’ll tell that having cute animals to take care of would ease the pain for personal issues and losses or something?

She wished the phone could transmit her completely blank look, as well as her elongated silence. Somehow the skeleton seemed to get it anyway.

yeah, well. never go to a psychologist. ever.
“Wait.” She blinked in sudden realization, her face hit with the classic Fridge Horror logic. “You’ve been to a psychologist?”

And not only that, but the motive was that of a ‘personal issue and/or loss’… Well, it wasn’t hard to guess who this was all about. She had first intended her question to be more specific, but as she realized this last part mid-sentence, she instead chose to stop here.

There was a long silence, and she eventually bit her lips in guilt.
But when the silence was broken, it was only due to the phone’s beeping that Sans had hung up.

She removed her little device from her ear in order to stare at it with wide eyes, then she pursed her lips in a mixture between surprise and annoyance.

“… Welp. That was rude.”

Remember to avoid talking about anything that could remotely remind him of the Gaster issue. Good luck with that. How could she have possibly known that his pet was actually loosely related to that, seriously? So much for lightening up the mood.

She could take his word about coming out for a little while, though. Now that she had moved towards the living room’s large window, she realized that it was the first time that she was actually paying some real attention to the rest of the town, and not only Sans’s house or Grillby’s bar. And now that she was thinking about it, this was a town. And where there was a town, there were people.
She wondered how those people really were, now. If it weren’t for her cold and Sans’s warning, she would have hardly hesitated before racing out and taking a closer look— maybe even trying to chat with some of the monsters? They definitely had more than just one single line of dialogue to share, now.

But then she saw it. On the windowsill, neatly folded in a square of cloth, just next to her, was standing a thick scarf. S-Since when was it there? She was almost sure there was nothing just a few minutes ago!
Oh gosh darn it, Sans.
One day, I’ll catch you in the act. One day.

Well, better use it anyway. Even if she was to stay inside, just opening the window would still confront her to the cold (lack of?) weather of the outside; and yes, as soon as she opened the window and leaned outside, she immediately confirmed this thought. It felt good to breathe some relatively fresh air for once— but it was still freezing and awfully dry.

She did not regret the view, though. It was probably because it was much later in the day than the first time, but now that she was actually focusing on the rest of the town, she noticed how quiet, yet alive, the little village was. Monsters wandering or chatting here and there, little shops meddling with houses, and she could even spot in the distance that decorated Christmas tree… well, assuming that this really was related to Christmas anyway. She could see children running and laughing, also. What were they doing outside at such hour? She knew there was at least one school in the Underground, so… Maybe they were just on vacation?
This reminded her that back in her home, she actually was not supposed to be on vacation. Just another thing to worry about when she would get home (if she ever got back home) would be the pile of homework and missed lessons, most probably. She could count on Lys for sharing her notes and helping her catching up, but still. High school was hard.

Hey! You!

She jumped in surprise, then immediately lowered her eyes to meet three little monsters. They vaguely looked like siblings, all of them wearing different types of striped shirts— so yeah, here was the confirmation that they were kids.
Now, what was their species named again… Ice Caps? Yeah, that was it. The tallest one had a blue striped shirt, the second a green one, and the smallest (and “adorablest”) one had a lovely little red dress, the one you would give to dolls or little girls. She could so pinch her cheeks seriously.

None of those pieces of information was the first to cross her mind, though.

“Oh my God aren’t you three little cuties.”

The blue one reacted immediately in that hilariously expected yet always oh so adorkable WHAT no I’m NOT, and she understood that he (his voice sounded like that of a little boy so she just assumed that was a ‘he’) had been the one to call her out.
If she were to follow her intuition, she would tell that they were hardly ten, maybe even younger. She knew better than to just trust appearances when it came to monsters… but looking at their behavior, this seemed to be close enough.

You’re new in town? What kind of monster are you anyway?” the green one (also a young boy apparently) went in. “We’ve seen another one that looked like you in the Forest.
They’re really mean!” the little red girl interrupted. “They pulled on my crystals. That hurts!

Oh. Apparently, these crystal thingies were not a hat, then? It really looked like that formation could not actually be removed from their heads… Oh well. Just some more monster biology weirdness, she knew better than to waste time on those questions.
The human could not ponder much longer on monster science though, because the three little kids had already started the clichéd harassment of random nonsensical embarrassing questions.

What are you doing in this house? Are you just visiting?” That was the green one, and the red followed:
And then they just looked at me and said nothing!” Blue:
Are you friends with the skeletons?” Red:
They were scary.” Green:
Be careful, this house is haunted.” Blue.
That monster attacked me with that weird knife, too.” Red.
We tried to talk to them but after that they just ran away!” Blue.
I thought it was plastic but that really hurt.” Green.
Are you their mother?

Uuh…
Please someone help. Anyone help. Incoming avalanching tornado of adorkable information that’s too much to process. Brain shutting down from overload. Code red. I repeat, CODE RED. TOO MUCH CUTENESS.

“I – uh– no not really, I mean— Yeah I’m uh, y-yeah, totally visiting— what do you mean haunted aren’t ghosts just regular monsters anyway— okay wow—”

She was desperately waving her hands in circular motions, and almost panicking, even if she was all at the same time repressing her giggles and painfully trying not to burst out laughing. She never liked turbulent children, but paradoxically enough, watching them play together and do stupid things was something she enjoyed, as long as she was not involved. Those three little monsters were the absolute sweetest kittens as long as they were keeping their mouths shut.

“L-Look,” she eventually sighed, “just stay away from that kid next time, alright?”

It was probably useless to warn them at that point, but just in case.
As for what they had to say about the skeletons… They sounded very young and gullible so she would probably not get much from them, but at this point she could take any and every single piece of information from literally anyone. Also, what the heck was with this story of a haunted house? Sure, it seemed like this was the only wooded chalet in town, and its location at the farthest east of the town, away from the others, made this place the ideal clichéd setting for ghost stories. But many legends had strong roots growing from some sort of reality, right? So yeah, better investigate just in case.
Now, all she had to do was dig for—

hey kids, how ’bout you cut her some slack, will ya?

… Ah darn it.
Perfect timing, Sans, really. If I didn’t know any better I’d almost think you were doing this on purpose.

The three little toddlers turned towards him, and Dawn swore she heard the little girl gasp something along the lines of It’s the zombie!; they started whispering some random children worries before running away rather quickly, both shouting and laughing during their daring escape.

When the green one tripped in the snow and cried for his two siblings to wait for him, Dawn could no longer repress her giggles and snorted.

“Pft, seriously. A zombie?”
heh. you’re one to talk.

She turned towards him and seemed about to blabber some joke about it, but she stopped immediately. So she just kept silent and bit her lips guiltily, frowning in an expression that Sans now knew perfectly how to interpret; that was the face she was pulling each time she wanted to apologize but felt like it was useless to openly say “Sorry”, no matter how genuine it was— since she perfectly knew that it was no use to ever think it would get better anyway.
So instead, she eventually tried to change the subject:

“I’m just… surprised. I mean, where does that even come from? Do you really have some zombie stories or something?”
of course. snowdin’s got lots of creepy folklore: zombies, poltergeists, humans hidden in the forest… anything that’s supposed to, y’know, deter the kids from wandering too far in the woods and get lost or something.
“But what’re your zombies like, then? I mean, no offense but—”

She had started to wave carelessly her hands as she was talking, but stopped mid-sentence as she realized that her motions were now gesturing him. She drew her jaw shut and looked away, face-palming.
Sans simply stared at her wordlessly. There was no judgement at all in his pupils, if anything he looked rather confused— but still.

“U-ugh, sorry, I-I– oh God I swear that’s really not what I meant but— ah dammit…

And the skeleton just shrugged, chuckling. It was that kind of chuckle that said don’t worry, no offense taken, ’s not like if it were your fault or anythin’. Either he had got used to it or he was thinking it to be funny. Both things were just as bad one as the other, really.

anyway. ‘zombies’ come from those stories of fallen down monsters’ dust recollecting itself and forming abominations that’d try to retrieve their souls by harvesting others… something ridiculous like that.” He rolled his white dots and shrugged carelessly. “so yeah. just folklore, nothing to worry about.

… Thanks for changing the subject, I guess.
Still, she felt that something was off in the way he was talking about this. Not that he was pulling any sort of misplaced emotion in his speech or general expression, but…
In a way, that was exactly what was troubling her. She would have expected him to react on this. She wished he had. Because if not…

“Those cases really happened, though.” she eventually muttered uneasily.
heh, well, yeah. if you look at it that way, they’re all in alph’s basement.” He chuckled casually, and that only increased her angst. “but those are not soulless. and once they get used to seeing you, they’re harmless.

… what. What. Just… WHAT!?

She gave him a shocked stare, but he was not looking. The skeleton was casually leaning his back against the wall of his house, relaxed and innocent. But this was exactly what was currently fueling her terror. How could this possibly be?!

Was there really a chance that… he didn’t know?
How was that even possible?
After all, if he could recall his time on the Surface, then… How could he have possibly missed this? Was there some other sort of inconsistency here?!

… No. She did not want to believe this. She had seen Flowey, spent practically half an hour talking to him, and the weed was clearly letting her know that the game was supposedly real, and that she should investigate a little more thoroughly about it.
If there had been any sort of inconsistency regarding himself, then he would have been among the first ones to know.
… Unless he’d been lying to her all along, of course. He could totally pull something like that. Just for the thrill of it.

In any ways, inconsistencies or not, the entity known as Flowey did exist. That was on and of itself a matter to be taken seriously, and if Sans didn’t know about it— this had to be remedied as soon as possible. That was an emergency.

“Sans, actually that’s not who I was—”
uh oh. here they come.

Dude, seriously!?

But of course, the surprise led her to follow his gaze— and there she saw that, indeed, some striped blue and magenta sweater had finally come into view.
… Alright, she would let that slide. For now. After all, this was the exact reason why they were standing like this in the first place: her lying on the windowsill and him leaning against the wall right next to it from the outside, while talking more or less casually to pass the time. They were waiting for the kid to come to them, and now the time had come.

Well, then again, time for what? For just staring at them do their thing? Trying to talk to the potential Player pulling the strings? Incapacitating them somehow?

The way Sans hardly moved, simply straightening his back a little yet without giving up on his laid down position, let her know that he seemed to preferably go with the first option. Watch. Just like he had been doing during the whole morning.
And surely, though she was not fully satisfied with that in itself— this surely was not watching for nothing. Just like Flowey had suggested, many things were definitely off with that child. Their appearance was fine and looked human enough, sure, but their behavior was plenty uncanny on its own.

They were acting robotic. Literally.
Something she could have expected at first, sure, when she was thinking back about the videogame and all the tropes about ‘player characters’… But watching it happening for real, right before her eyes, hardly twenty feet away on the other side of the street— now, that was an entirely different thing. The chills and vibes she was getting across her spine were definitely not due to the cold.

The spectacle was enough for even the random monsters around to stare with the same sick wonder, as most of them were even staring to the point of stopping whatever they were doing. And as you could expect from them, they were mostly trying to ignore the obvious anomaly and avoid it by, literally, staying away from it. She thought she saw a few accelerate their pace and half walk, half run to the first corner and disappear behind the nearest houses and shops. Calmly. Silently. As if they feared that acting too suspicious would awake the beast slumbering inside the odd creature.

The thing walked towards Grillby’s — mechanically, only turning by ninety degrees left or right. When it entered, Dawn swore she heard some sighs of relief and more doors closing. In no time, the street was almost completely deserted. The human tried to benefit of that time to speak, but Frisk was already back outside, walking in their direction.

It was hard to tell since the kid was not facing them directly— but yes. They were coming. Always at that same, slow, eerie pace. Had she been spotted? What was the Player thinking? Because yes, this had to be it. Right? This really was a game. A videogame. She was inside it, and there was some random guy controlling Frisk like a puppet or a robot you can direct with a stupid remote or whatever, and everyone was hopelessly all at their whim, and they could do anything to her and the others if so they wished. Oh God and now she was definitely in their sight of view— in the Player’s sight of view— she was definitely on that screen. What were they thinking right now? Frisk’s face was completely emotionless and still, their eyes hardly moving— were they even blinking? It hardly looked like it. She was sure they never blinked. You could have made their moves just a little more limp, their face just a little paler or greener, and that was it they looked like a perfect zombie. They were a zombie. It was a zombie and it was coming to them OH GOD—

… The ‘KILL-IT-WITH-FIRE’ abomination completely walked past them, instead headed towards the main door. They just stood motionless for a few seconds, as if to expect the door to open by itself— but then eventually left the town and disappeared in the woods’ mist.

Dawn finally let go a breath she had not realized she had been holding.

Yeah. That was something. Oh God.

so. still convinced i made that up?

She turned towards the skeleton, and he was smirking. Casually. As if all of this had been from the very beginning freakish normal.

though yeah,” he carried on calmly, “during a genocide they’re actually much more… expressive. not sure why, probably has something to do with chara bein’ in there as well during those times i guess? anyway. most of the times, they’re like this. acting aloof. lifeless, in a way. pretty unsettling when you don’t know what’s behind it.
“What… in the actual fuck—”
language.” Sans groaned, as if this were the biggest matter at the time.
“— was that.” she finished mindlessly, as if she hadn’t even heard him. She was still staring at the gathering mist in the distance with two goggled eyes. “Just. What. What the heck.”

The skeleton tried to get her attention once more, but failed just as much as the first time. Eventually, he simply ended up waving his gloved hand in front of her, finally snapping her out of her trance. When she jumped back to reality with a gasp and jolted a surprise glance towards him, he simply added:

you were zoning out again. is everything alright?

The look she was giving him darkened; then she looked down, sighing tensely.

“… Yeah. It’s just… All of this… Just— that.” It seemed like she did not even realize her own stammering, nor how she started to ramble. “That. Just that. That’s crazy. That sort of things. That’s insane. That, like, shouldn’t happen. Ever.”
heh. what was your first clue?” the skeleton teased jokingly.

The look she gave him finally erased that annoying smirk of his, if only slightly enough to let know that, for Sans at least, he was not actually smiling. He apologized promptly in a shy tone, looking away. Dawn copied him, turning away as well, back to staring the faraway misted woods.

“I know it’s been days already but… s-still. That’s a lot to take in.” He gave her two confused pupils, so she continued: “L-Look, I’m just… lost, alright? Even yesterday I thought I knew this place, and now… It’s just like I got here all over again for the first time. Everything’s just so messed up. I don’t know what to think anymore.” Her chills were now actual shivers. She started to wrap her arms around her chest, tightening her grip and slightly turning her back to him. “Now I just… Y-You guys are really sweet, but… I-I just miss my home. I want my family. I want my friends. I don’t even know how far from there I am and how the game’s working here a-a-and just… I-Is this really some kind of completely different alternate universe or…?”
yeah… basically another universe. just as real as yours.” Sans nodded, deep in thought.

That was not the first time he was saying it, after all. He never stated it explicitly, but he had been letting it know enough times. At first she had just assumed that the difference between their “worlds”, or “universes”, and everything that applied to laws of physics and all that— it was basically because of the difference between a ‘real world’ versus a ‘virtual world.’ Something like a tiny universe hidden inside a bigger, ‘realer’, universe. That she just had to ‘get out’ of the ‘game’ to be back in her bedroom. As if by magic. How stupid does this idea sound now.
Now that she knew for sure that the ‘Multiverse’ was an actual thing… It felt like her home could be billions of lightyears away, or even worse— this was just a concept she could hardly even grasp. In fiction, universes were often represented with closed spheres or something of the like. Things that were never meant to tamper one with the others, or some sort of closed prisons that you were not supposed to be able to enter or get out of easily. Closed giant cages that were billions of years old and maybe trillions of billions of miles large. Every single one of them. All of them drifting apart one from the others, separated by some kind of trillions-of-lightyears-large dark void.

The multiverse was so big. They were so small in comparison. Their lives seemed so helpless. Their actions, so meaningless.
That was terrifying.

“… You’re not helping.” she sobbed quietly.
ah… sorry.

She finally raised her head again, and their eyes met. She was not crying but the way her chocolate irises were trembling betrayed the presence of tiny tears hiding inside.

“I’m not sure what to think anymore. I can’t be sure about anything anymore.” She sobbed as she stared deeply at him. “Listen Sans, I… I don’t even know who you are.”

He froze. His confused pupils and slightly frowned sockets seemed to try to convey a message like whoa hey, don’t ya think that’s a bit of a stretch here…?— And yet he would not say it out loud. The white dots dashed from her face to the side, then back to her, then far away again.
He tried to mumble yet another apology, but it sounded empty. Not because it lacked sincerity, she knew he was genuine. But it simply was useless.
His left hand scratched the back of his spine (she gulped) uneasily, carelessly. When he noticed her repressed shivers, his skull was distorted with sorrow as he tried to readjust the collar of his sweater. There were so many things he could say at this point, but none of them sounded appropriate to him. If he tried to reassure her, would she react like during the last time?

The kitchen’s door eventually opened from afar, and they both heard Papyrus calling for them, enthusiastic as ever. Sans and Dawn exchanged a glance, but their eyes immediately drifted apart one from the other.

… seems like lunch’s coming.” the monster muttered after a few seconds. After yet another tense sigh: “listen. let’s just… eat. and then we’ll get in the basement and talk about all this. alright?

She gulped again in order to repress yet another sob; but she nodded, then used the orange jacket’s sleeve to wipe away the wet residues in her eyes. She had not cried, but if Papyrus were to see her like this… He did not need to see that. She did not want to involve him in this. It wasn’t like it would matter anyway.
As the taller brother turned the television on and brought over the plates with some of his SPECIAL ANTI HUMAN COLD spaghetti, Sans opened the main door and stepped inside the house, getting a key out of his pocket and securing the door just in case.

Apart from Mettaton’s emission (exactly the same one as the last time) and Papyrus’s enthusiasm, the atmosphere was, expectedly, pretty calm. It was hard to truly guess, but even the taller skeleton seemed to sense the awkwardness between the two, even if he couldn’t possibly know where it came from exactly. The adorable cinnamon roll would even turn the television off at some point and try to lighten the mood on his own, as he went in his bedroom to fetch a cribbage and dice for some card game Dawn did not know about. They all sat cross-legged on the rug between the couch and the turned-off screen, and he started giving the cards excitedly. She was not fond of the idea of postponing that Big Talk Sans had promised her… but there was just nothing she could refuse him. He was just too sweet for his own sake.

YOU’LL SEE HUMAN, THE RULES ARE VERY SIMPLE. RED MAGIC BURNS TRAPS, GREEN MAGIC SETS UP TRAPS TO BLOCK WATER FAIRIES, BLUE MAGIC MAKES YOU TRAVEL FASTER! THERE ARE SOME RARE CARDS TOO. PURPLE THAT HAS SOME VARIOUS SPELLS, BUT IT DOES NOTHING TO GREEN MAGIC. ALSO BLACK CAN TURN YOUR ENNEMIES’ CARDS INTO YOUR FRIENDS! AND THE BUNNY MASCOT STANDS CUTE. UNLESS YOU HAVE THE BLACK CARD FOR THE DARK HUMAN EDGELORD. I LIKE THAT GUY, HE WANTS TO BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE!

On the other hand, it turned out that, contrary to popular belief, even if the skeleton was some kind of adorkable Cloudcuckoolander in reality (when Sans let her read the actual manual, it turned out that the terms the game used were not exactly the same), he was actually miles away from being ‘stupid.’ Way on the opposite.
In spite of his claims, the game in question was not as ‘simple’ as he waved off when she stated that she didn’t know about it or its rules. It happened to be some sort of role-playing strategy game, and the guy was actually freaking tough. Sans too, but that she had seen coming. She had not as much expected Papyrus to become an actual Theoretical War Genius. Well, it was more like the typical role-playing game with dumb ‘quests’ and some sort of ‘exploration race’ than an actual imaginary battle, but still.

In any ways— it actually did some good. After a dozen minutes into the game, the tension did loosen. Sans started making puns again. When Papyrus saw that the human was laughing at them, he stopped calling him off and even tried a few of his own from time to time. When Dawn appeared to be clearly disadvantaged, the older brother began giving her signs, gradually more and more obvious, before clearly cheating. In the end they were practically teaming up against Papyrus, who feigned to see nothing— but in the end, she was sure she could see him smiling a little. As if to say ‘Mission Accomplished.’

He truly was a miracle.

AND NOW, BEHOLD THE AMAZING POWER OF THE ICE QUEEN—

A door slammed.
Three heads turned in sync towards it—

Oh my God.” Papyrus allegedly stage-whispered. “Sans, is that another human?!

Frisk.
Frisk stood on the doorstep. Motionless.

Dawn’s face blanched drastically, and if it were possible for skeletons to do the same— so would have Sans’s, most probably. Then again— it almost seemed like his skull had darkened slightly.

“Sans.” she whispered anxiously, as silently as she could. “Why did you leave the door open?”
… because i clearly remember locking it?” he immediately whispered back, sharp and tense.

When she shot him a quick glance, she saw that his pupils had dimmed to the extent of only displaying two insanely tiny terrified dots, all focused on the Anomaly.
… This could not be good.

Papyrus rearranged his cards and