The eclectic party of two monsters, a human, and a talking flower made their way through Waterfall. Frisk and Flowey took the lead while Papyrus and Sans trailed a few paces behind them. The journey was mostly silent, except for occasional words from Flowey. Red echo flowers littered the wet, marshy earth. Sans mentally swore at Flowey and Frisk for getting him involved in this mess; this had been the most physical activity he’s had in ages. Of course, one glance at Paypyrus’s radiant smiles had his soul fluttering within his ribcage.
His brother’s counterpart had been causing all sorts of unexpected and even unknown emotions within him. He knew when he found another monster attractive, given his experience with Grillby, and he definitely enjoyed Papyrus’s company. But were his feelings for the tall skeleton strong enough to go beyond ‘like’? Sans had been trying to ignore the fuzzy, comfortable warmth he’d felt from Papyrus’s hug.
Did he actually love Papyrus?
It was a question he was afraid to answer.
Sans was brought out of his musing by a sudden pause in their hike. The kid had stopped to touch one of the gold stars hovering near the garbage dump.
Wait… gold star?
He had never seen those things before. Why only now.
“whatcha doin’ kid? what’s that thing yer touchin’?”
Frisk gasped and Flowey’s eyes grew as wide as saucers.
“You can see that?!” the flower monster gawked.
“I CAN SEE IT AS WELL. IT IS QUITE BRILLIANT! NYEH HEH!” Papyrus chimed.
Frisk and Flowey both glanced at each other; then the flower nodded, his petals flapping against his face.
“It’s a SAVE. It allows me to RELOAD if something were to go wrong.”
Red recognize the implication behind the kid’s words. ‘Go wrong’ as in someone died. Papyrus appeared perplexed.
“that the same as a reset?”
Frisk shook their head and explained, “It doesn’t start everything from the beginning, only from this point onwards.” Their eyes furrowed and their mouth frowned with sadness. “I promised I wouldn’t RESET from the beginning if all goes well.”
Sans had more he wanted to say on the matter, like how much the concept had him cringing in disdain; however, he kept his mouth shut. He peered at Papyrus and saw a contemplative expression on the taller monster’s face.
“don’t worry, papyrus, i’ll explain it t’ya some time later. not now though.”
“I UNDERSTAND, RED. AS LONG AS YOU TELL ME EVENTUALLY. I THANK YOU FOR BEING OPENED WITH ME.” Papyrus wrung his gloved fingers together. “IT IS NICE TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE SANS KEEPING ME IN THE LOOP OF THINGS.”
Sans caught the slight dip in Papyrus’s broad shoulders and the flicker of sadness across his face. Maybe things between Papyrus and his own brother weren’t as great as he thought they were.
“The only question I have,” Flowey suddenly interjected, pulling Sans out of his musings, “is how and why you guys can now see these. You shouldn’t.”
“beats me. but who cares. let’s just get on with this.”
Flowey frowned but agreed, and the four of them continued onwards to Undyne’s house. It didn’t take long for them to reach it. The second-in-command stood in front of her house in a full suit of armor with only her head and flaming red hair remained uncovered. Her one eye narrowed and her shark-teeth curled into a disgruntled scowl at the sight of them.
“SANS! WHY DIDN’T YOU REPORT TO ME THAT YOU HAD CUSTODY OF THE HUMAN?!” the fish monster roared as she dashed in front of them. “AND YOU, FAKE PAPYRUS, YOU’RE NOT HIM!” Papyrus just barely guarded against a spear thrust from Undyne with his own bone staff. “So the command of the Royal Guards goes to me! And before I deliver the human to King Asgore, I will defeat you!”
Sharp arrow heads flew towards Papyrus from all directions--up, right, down, left. Papyrus twirled his bone staff to parry the bullets.
“Wait, Undyne!” The kid shouted, waving Alphys’s letter to get the fish monster’s attention. It went unnoticed.
“sorry, kid, but when she gets into one of these battle frenzies, nothin’ll get her outta it.”
Sans wished there was someway he could assist the other skeleton, but he would probably cause Papyrus more harm than good. Frisk’s brows were furrowed with worry while Flowey’s bud darted back and forth at the surroundings. Papyrus gave a painful gasp as one of the arrows from the most recent round got through Papyrus’s defense and grazed his left shoulder. Not able to stand it any longer, Sans charged into the Encounter when—
The surrounding environment around him suddenly distorted and broke apart into tiny, blocks of discolored fragments, everything becoming gray and drab. Then, for a split second, everything went dark.
Papyrus shielded his eye sockets at the strange distortions occurring around him, his battle with Undyne momentarily forgotten. A shrill sound echoed throughout the area, as if the fabric of reality was tearing itself apart. The moment of pitch blackness forced him two steps back, and then everything blinked back into existence. Papyrus opened his eyes and his breath caught in his throat.
Standing several feet ahead of him in place of Red, with his back turned, was a short, stout skeleton dressed in a familiar blue hoodie, pink slippers and black track shorts.
Undyne froze mid-attack, her one eye widened, while Frisk and Flowey gawked similarly.
Like a wound up elastic band, Papyrus sprang from his position and pulled his brother into his arms, exclaiming, “SANS! OH MY GOD, IT’S YOU!”
His brother stiffened. “pap…?” Disbelief and uncertainty lined his tone. “it’s really you?”
“OF COURSE! IT IS YOUR COOLEST BROTHER!” Globs of liquid orange magic gushed from his sockets as he hugged Sans tighter to his chest.
His brother returned the gesture and croaked, “you’re alive. you hurt anywhere, bro?”
“I-I’VE BEEN FINE.”
Papyrus hoped his brother hadn’t caught the stuttered; he had always been a terrible liar, but he wasn’t willing to worry Sans with what Alphys had done. Besides, Sans always hid his well-being from him as well.
“NGAAH!! What the hell just happened?! Why’s Sans different?!” Undyne demanded, raising her spear.
“HE IS SANS, MY BROTHER! YOU MAY NOT BE AWARE, UNDYNE, BUT BOTH OF US ARE FROM A DIFFERENT UNIVERSE.”
Undyne’s eye narrowed, and she swept her spear in front of her. Papyrus jumped back to where Frisk was, his brother still clutched in his arms.
“PLEASE, CAN WE NOT MAKE PEACE UNDYNE? THIS SITUATION IS QUITE UNUSUAL, AND IT WOULD BE BEST IF WE TALKED IT OUT.”
“You expect me to believe that science mumbo jumbo?! For all I know, this could be another one of your brother’s shitty, unfunny pranks.”
“WE ARE TELLING THE TRUTH! WHY ELSE WOULD MY BROTHER BE HERE INSTEAD OF RED?”
White and gray blocky discolorations flickered in the air, emitting a static sound. Seeing the unusual sight, Undyne finally lowered her spear, her mouth set in a firm line. A relieved sigh escaped from Papyrus teeth, and he took this opportunity to let his brother back down.
“so this is the other universe where edge’s from?” Sans questioned, white eye lights peering around him, stopping at Frisk. “heh, even the human wears black and red. must be popular here.”
His pupils disappeared when Flowey came into view. A single short bone construct materialized in front of the flower monster.
“what are you up to this time, buddy.” There was a foreign viciousness in Sans’s voice that Papyrus had only ever heard once, years ago, when he’d been bullied by a group of older monsters at school.
“What? Why are you attacking me when I’m on your side?!” Flowey retorted. “At least give me a moment to make sense of what’s going on!”
“as if you’ve given me any reason to—”
Papyrus settled a hand on Sans’s shoulder, “PLEASE, BROTHER, FLOWEY IS MY FRIEND AND HAS BEEN HELPING ME SINCE I GOT HERE!”
The sound of something sharp scraping against the earth reached Papyrus’s ears. Undyne had pierced her spear into the ground in warning, causing more distorted flickers to appear.
“If you’re all gonna fight, then I’ll be glad to join! If not, explain what the hell is going on NOW!” The fish ex-captain roared.
Everyone fell silent. Static noise buzzed in Papyrus’s nonexistent ears. It was getting louder. Was he the only one that heard it?
His brother cleared his throat, though it was completely unnecessary. “don’t know the exact cause of this, but it seems that other me and i got displaced. same probably happened to my bro and edge.”
“Edge? Who’s Edge?” Frisk asked.
“oh, right… uh… i meant the papyrus from this world.” Sans scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. Flowey and Frisk gaped in response.
Although Papyrus felt a stab of jealousy at his brother’s apparent closeness with the other Papyrus, it was subdued compared to his relief. He had been afraid, based off how everyone here acted, that his counterpart would hurt his brother. If his brother gave the other him a nickname, then surely the two of them have become great friends. It was just like him and Red.
A hearty guffaw came from Undyne. “Can’t believe the so-called “Great and Terrible Papyrus” would accept such stupid name! I’ll hafta start calling him that when he gets back, ha!”
“How’s he getting back?” Flowey signaled at Papyrus. “I’ve never encountered this sort of phenomena previously before.”
Sans leveled Flowey with a particularly vicious glare, causing Papyrus to wonder if Flowey had experience with space-time shenanigans.
“ARE YOU BY CHANCE TALKING ABOUT PREVIOUS TIMELINES BEFORE THIS ONE?”
Both his brother and Flowey gaped at him. Papyrus sighed, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.
“DID YOU THINK I WAS CLUELESS TO ALL THE TIMELINE STUFF? I MAY NOT UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING, BUT I DO KNOW THAT IT BOTHERS YOU, SANS, AND I ONLY WISHED YOU WERE MORE HONEST WITH ME ABOUT THEM.”
His brother hung his head, shoulders drooping pitifully. Papyrus hadn’t meant to make Sans feel bad!
“sorry, bro… i—”
Before his brother had the chance to finish, a jagged, fuzzy gray line cut across their surroundings, and the colors around them altered to a mass of blue, red and gray for a split second. The dark earth, Undyne’s house and walls of Waterfall expanded in a way that shouldn’t be possible. An amorphous, black figure with a split, white skull appeared in the center of all the distortions, floating white hands with holes in their center signaling furiously. It was accompanied by clicks and static.
A distinct sense of familiarity shook Papyrus’s core at the sight of the mysterious monster. Shock etched on everyone’s faces, though his brother’s sockets narrowed.
“WHO IS THAT?” “WHAT IS THAT?” Both Papyrus and Undyne yelled simultaneously.
Thick, black tendrils whipped out from behind the goopy creature, forcing Papyrus to summon his bone weapon. He noticed Undyne do the same from the corner of his sockets, and Frisk took three steps back. His brother’s left eye flashed cyan and yellow, though no attack came.
Instead, he uttered, “here to create trouble again, doc?”
More scratchy, indecipherable sounds came from the strange monster. Papyrus stared at the hand signals, and to his bewilderment, he recognized the meaning behind them.
[I must stop this. The timelines are unstable. You two need to leave, go back to your timeline. I will fix this].
Dark tendrils rose from the monster and lashed out at him and his brother. A slew of flickering gray symbols and blocks scattered into the air. Sans dodged out of the way while Papyrus twirled his bone staff to dispel them. From the corner of his vision, he saw Undyne to the same as well.
Their surroundings twisted to an appearance reminiscent of a fold picture. During Papyrus’s moment of distraction, a black tentacle wrapped around his ankle and dragged him through the tear in space. A high-pitched whining filled the area, and a white beam of concentrated magic disintegrated the appendage.
“leave pap alone, gaster. you’re better than this. just explain what’s goin’ on and maybe we don’t hafta fight.” Sans offered a hand to help him up.
The monster named Gaster screeched and five more tendrils materialized. His brother’s blaster began to recharge. Papyrus attempted to turn their assailant's soul blue, only to discover that there was no soul!
Swifter than ever before, the tendrils darted towards him. He was suddenly shove to the side. He looked up just in time to see the black mass swallow up his brother at the same time Sans’s blaster went off. An ear-shattering noise reverberated through the entire area, and Papyrus actually felt the space around him warp.
A split second later, everything went back to normal. Instead of his brother, however, Red stood before them. He glanced around, looking confused. Papyrus felt ashamed to admit that he wanted to spend some more time with his brother. That quickly disappeared when he noticed the tears clinging to the corners of Red’s eye sockets.
“RED, WHAT’S WRONG?” Papyrus asked, alarmed. He hovered in front of the other, wanting to comfort Red.
“‘m such a dumbass.” The smaller skeleton blinked and slammed a clenched fist into the earth. “i should’nt’ve said those things to boss. now he’ll hate me even more.”