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Like Sugar in Dark Chocolate

Chapter Text

Papyrus found himself in a Snowdin that was much like his but with big differences. For one, the air around him felt oppressive and dirty. Not dirty in the sense of uncleanliness, which Papyrus couldn’t stand, but of dust. The atmosphere was very dusty. It confused Papyrus greatly.

Second, when he walked into the living area of his house, he discovered a blood red couch instead of the lumpy green one he was familiar with. Many aspects of the house did not match the one he was used to. It still was the same size and structure but the decoration was far more dark. Papyrus noticed lots of red and black. He thought it looked pretty cool, though not nearly as cool as him.

He found most of cabinets in the kitchen completely empty. He frowned at the lack of food. What would he and his brother eat? At the thought of his brother, Papyrus bounded up the stairs and wrenched the door to his brother’s room open. He found it empty much to his surprise.

The room was still the same messy state he remembered. It even had a trash tornado whirling in the corner. A worn mattress substituted as the bed. No short skeleton in sight.

The tall skeleton brought his gloved hand to his chin, stroking it as he pondered where his brother had gone. His brother was rarely, from Papyrus’s recent memory, awake before he was.

Did he go out again to Grillby’s and never came back?

Papyrus was well aware of Sans’s numerous nights spent at the greasy bar. He didn’t approve but he wasn’t going to take away one of his brother’s few forms of comfort. Or maybe his brother had gone to his sentry station? Papyrus decided to look for him. Maybe he’d even recalibrate his puzzles along the way. He would make a quick stop at Grillby’s to see if he’s there and then head over to the forest.

The dusty atmosphere was even more pronounced once Papyrus stepped outside. Even the style of Snowdin appeared entirely different. There was no Gyftmas tree in the center of town and his house lacked the jovial light decorations.

Grillby’s fell dead silent as soon as he stepped inside. The bar had less people that he was used to seeing from what he remembered in the few times he’d gone to Grillby’s to pick up Sans. All the monsters stared at him in fear, which confused Papyrus. The other odd thing that the tall skeleton noticed was that Grillby was purple. Papyrus was positive that Grillby was normally orange.

Did he decide to change the color of his flame today? Or is this someone related to Grillby?

He also noticed the absence of Sans. His brother’s usual spot on the bar counter was empty.

“C-c-captain P-papyrus! W-what brings you here?” stuttered a rabbit head monster sitting at the table closest to the door. His eyes were wide with panic.

Papyrus frowned deeply at the monster’s behavior and words. Captain Papyrus? As in Royal Guard Captain? That was not correct, he wasn’t even part of the Royal Guard yet. And why was the monster scared of him? He’d always wanted to be part of the Royal Guard; he may as well play the part and have some fun!

“YES, I AM THE GREAT CAPTAIN PAPYRUS!” the skeleton announced enthusiastically. “I’M LOOKING FOR MY BROTHER!”

The other monster flinched back. Others looked amongst themselves in bewilderment.

“He’s… not here,” Grillby answered back hesitantly.

“DO YOU KNOW WHERE HE WENT?”

The other monsters shook their heads.

“OH OKAY. THANKS FOR ALL YOUR HELP!”

Without another word, the tall skeleton stepped outside. He caught someone mutter, “What’s up with that get-up? Is that really the Captain?”

Discomfort flooded Papyrus from the looks the monsters gave him and what he’d just heard. Why do all the monsters seem to be afraid of him? Even as he marched through town, monsters gave him frightened glances. He tried to greet several of them back but only received bewilderment, which only further confused Papyrus. This clearly wasn’t the Snowdin he was familiar with. What had happened to change everyone so suddenly?

As the tall skeleton walked through Snowdin he noticed how empty it was. It lacked any form of energy and happiness. Even the ‘Welcome to Snowdin’ sign was worn out. It also didn’t even have the word ‘Welcome’ and simply had ‘Snowdin’. All of this was very bizarre. It was like he woke up in an alternate dimension. But surely that stuff his brother used to study wasn’t true?

Papyrus stepped into Snowdin Forest. His mind reeled when he almost stepped on a pile of dust. The skeleton felt his soul mourn for the anonymous, fallen monster. He couldn’t even give the monster a proper funeral. Did this monster have any family? The thought caused his soul to clench in fear. He hoped his brother was safe.

Papyrus shook himself out of the depressing thoughts and continued onward. Maybe he’ll even find his brother by his sentry station. Clearly this wasn’t his home world, given all the differences he’s noticing. He was determined to find his brother and figure out where he was.

The tall skeleton eventually stopped in front of Doggo’s sentry station. The dog monster was huge, with two rows of sharp teeth. He wore a black pants and a red short-sleeved shirt with a giant X across a dog’s face.

“Captain!” Doggo called out.

“HI! HAVE YOU SEEN SANS?”

Doggo’s beady eyes stared at Papyrus before he responded coolly, “No idea. You usually keep a tighter leash on him.” The dog monster pulled out a cigarette and took a smoke which Papyrus greatly disapproved.

“SMOKING IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU!” the skeletal monster pronounced.

Doggo’s eyes widened in shock before they narrowed in suspicion. He took another deep breath of the cigarette, as if to purposely annoy Papyrus.

“So… Papyrus… what’s with the change in wardrobe?”

The way Doggo asked the question sent warning signals to go off in Papyrus’s head. Had he been caught?

“I SIMPLY DECIDED TO WEAR SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I LIKE IT!” Papyrus had no idea if this was how he was supposed to act as Captain. He could feel himself beginning to sweat in nervousness.

Doggo took another drag and slowly let out a puff of smoke right in Papyrus’s face. “Is that so?”

Without warning, the dog tossed two daggers straight at Papyrus. The skeleton promptly dodge them with ease.

“You ain’t fooling me! Where’s the real Captain?” Doggo growled.

Doggo jumped out from behind his sentry station. Dagger-shaped bullets surrounded him. Papyrus noticed some of them were blue, similar to his own attack. Papyrus summoned his own bone staff to parry the attacks.

“N-NOW SURELY WE CAN SETTLE THIS WITHOUT DOING A VIOLENCE!” Papyrus froze as a blue attack phased past him.

“I don’t know where you’re from, but we don’t show any mercy here! We settle everything with battle!”

Papyrus sent out a column of white and blue bones of varying height. Doggo missed dodging two of them. Papyrus checked the monster.

Doggo the Destroyer
Lv 9
HP 58/70
AT 33
DF 10

Loyal Member of the Royal Guard. Hobbies include eliminating all enemies.

Knife-shaped bullets scattered into the air and rained down towards Papyrus like stone snowflakes. Papyrus dodged when he could and spun his staff in a circle to block the remaining bullets. Several still ended up grazing him. His own HP slowly dropped to 100/680.

W-WOWIE, HIS ATTACKS SURE DO A LOT OF DAMAGE!

“GET READY FOR MY FAMOUS BLUE ATTACK!”

Ting!

Papyrus took ahold of Doggo’s soul and turned it blue. The dog monster promptly fell onto the ground. Papyrus steadied his control of the blue magic, making sure not to further harm the monster. His HP had already fallen to 9/70.

“I DO NOT WANT TO HARM YOU ANY FURTHER! PLEASE GIVE UP AND I’LL SPARE YOU!” Papyrus proposed.

Doggo stopped struggling and stared at Papyrus as if he’d grown several heads. It would be quite the jape if Papyrus had the ability to do that.

Doggo guffawed mockingly.

“You really aren’t from around here, are ya? Sparing an enemy? Don’t make me laugh! Dontcha know it’s kill or be killed?”

Papyrus suddenly felt a sharp burst of pain from his left shoulder. He looked and saw a knife sticking out from the space between his clavicle and scapula. Thankfully the attack was weak but he couldn’t afford to take any more hits. Papyrus released his hold on the dog monster from his moment of distraction.

Doggo got up and an arc of knife-shaped bullets rose above his head. Papyrus tried his best to ignore the stabbing pain as he shakily brought out his bone staff to deflect the next round of attacks.

Vines suddenly exploded from the ground beneath Doggo and flung him into a nearby tree. Papyrus heard a sickening crack followed by a yelp of pain as the dog monster fell face-first into the snow-covered ground.

Papyrus stood in his place for several minutes before slowly making his way over to the fallen monster. He let out a sigh of relief when he found the monster unconscious. Alive, but unconscious. At least he was not a pile of dust.

“Don’t worry. I made sure that attack was only strong enough to knock him out. It would be pointless to kill him.”

Papyrus peered towards the vines and found a yellow smiling flower staring at him. The tall skeleton felt a rush of excitement.

“FLOWERY! IT’S NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN!”

“It’s Flowey!” the plant grumbled. “And where’re you from? You’re not the Papyrus I’m familiar with.”

“I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS! MANY OF THE MONSTERS HERE ARE DIFFERENT FROM THE ONES I REMEMBER.” Papyrus’s face morphed into a sad expression. “EVERYONE SEEMS TO BE SCARED OF ME FOR SOME REASON.”

Flowey’s eyes bulged out in astonishment. “What universe are you from?”

“UNIVERSE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY WHAT UNIVERSE I’M FROM?” Papyrus asked in confusion.

Papyrus wondered if this was another one of his brother’s weird pranks across space-time.

“What was the last thing you remember?” Flowey asked.

Papyrus thought for a moment before answering, “Hmm… Sans reading me a bedtime story and then taking a short nap. Definitely not as long as my brother’s eight-hour naps.”

The tall skeleton noticed an odd expression grow on the flower’s features. An expression of hopeful interest.

“This may be my chance to fix everything,” Flowey mumbled to himself, stroking his face with his left leaf. He then looked up at Papyrus. “If you help me, we can change this Underground! We can fix this universe!”

Questions whirled around in Papyrus’s head. Before he had a chance to ask, he heard a rustling coming from behind him.

Papyrus spun around and came face-to-face with a short skeleton wearing a black, fur-lined leather jacket with a red shirt underneath. He wore black track shorts and worn sneakers. Scars etched on his skull, a particularly long one traveling down from his left eye socket. His two rows of teeth were sharpened and a gold, sharp tooth replaced his normal left canine. Red eye lights peered at Papyrus with suspicion.

“who the hell are you? ya ain’t boss.”

Papyrus stared at the skeleton that looked so similar to his brother.

“SANS?”

Chapter Text

Sans stared at the tall skeleton monster standing in front of him. He saw the similarities between this monster and Boss but he was definitely not his brother. His face lacked the familiar scar that lined the side of Boss’s skull, as well as the sharp teeth. Instead of the black armor, this skeleton wore white armor with a gold star sigil as well as blue shorts along with red gloves, boots and a scarf. The shade of red was much lighter than the dark red that Boss usually wore.

“yep, that’s me. i’m sans, sans the skeleton. and you’re…?”

“I’M THE GREAT PAPYRUS!” the tall skeleton announced.

Sans raised a bone brow skeptically. The tall skeleton may look like a softer version of Boss but his disposition was completely different. He was much too happy and his voice lacked the rough quality he normally expected to hear. The monster could be simply lying to try and trick him. People here were always liars.

“yea, ok. i don’t believe you.”

Papyrus looked offended and perplexed. “BUT YOU’RE SANS! NOT MY SANS BUT SURELY YOU SHOULD RECOGNIZE YOUR BROTHER!”

“whoa, there pal. i have no idea where ya came from but i ain’t your bro. now fuck off or else!”

Sans pointedly ignored the sad and hurt look on Papyrus’s face. Something about this whole situation wasn’t right. He’d woken up this morning feeling off and decided to do his sentry rounds before Boss started yelling at him. He even went before stopping by Grillby’s. Everything seemed fairly normal, monsters trying to kill each other, spots of dust in places, the usual here in the Underground. Of course that was until he came to this scene.

The short red and black wearing skeleton immediately went on alert after spotting the flower nearby. That scheming flower was never good news when he showed up. Everything went to shit whenever he would pop out spouting off about changing the Underground and everyone becoming a better monster. All naïvely foolish thoughts that Sans never believed.

“you goin’ around preachin’ your motivation bullshit?” Sans growled towards Flowey.

Sans heard a loud gasp and saw a look of appalled shock on not-Papyrus’s face.

“LANGUAGE! YOU SHOULD NOT TALK SO RUDELY TO MY FRIEND!” Papyrus scolded.

Sans snorted in distaste, glaring at the yellow flower. “don’t let that pansy trick ya into believin’ his bullshit. it ain’t true. nothing’s gonna change in this shitty underground.”

That didn’t help the offended look on the false-Papyrus’s face. In fact, he looked even more upset by Sans’s words.

“anyways, if you two are gonna continue chattin’, then i’m outta here. i have no interest in your business.”

Sans turned to leave but he felt someone grab his arm. Conditioned from years of living in this violent world, Sans’s left socket flared out in a mix of red and gold. His magic sputtered out of control and sent out a ring of bones. The short skeleton heard a yelp of pain and quickly spun around, noticing that one of his bones had smacked the Papyrus in his arm. He also noticed the dagger still sticking out the back of the tall skeleton’s shoulder. Sans briefly checked the monster.

Papyrus

Lv 1
HP 9/680
AT 20
DF 20

He likes to say: “Nyeh heh heh!”

Sans stared at the not-Papyrus in disbelief. How the hell did this guy knock out Doggo when he was this weak?

“Are you just going to stand there looking like an idiot?” Flowey asked in an exasperated tone. Sans glared at the flower in return. “Can’t you heal him?”

“what? you think i can? you’re even more of a dumbass than i thought,” Sans retorted.

“PLEASE STOP ARGUING! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL NOT BE FALTERED BY A MINOR FLESH WOUND!” the tall skeleton exclaimed.

“You don’t have any flesh,” Flowey chimed in confusion.

“I KNOW, IT’S AN EXPRESSION I LEARNED FROM ONE OF THOSE OLD MOVIES THAT MY BROTHER AND I FOUND AT THE GARBAGE DUMP!”

Sans ignored the two’s inane conversation and surveyed not-Papyrus critically. Sans could tell the monster was in pain despite how hard he tried to hide it. The short skeleton had to give the false-Papyrus some credit where it’s due. At least he had good pain tolerance. That was always good to have here. Sans crossed his arms across his chest and stared at Flowey.

“well what d’ya expect me t’do?”

Flowey gave Sans an incredulous look. “Are you really that stupid? Don’t you have any healing items?”

“what d’ya think i am? a dispensin’ machine for healing items? go git it yourself!” Sans was starting to get really pissed off at this flower’s bossy tone; he did not appreciate talking down upon. The only monster that was allowed to do that was Boss. If only his brother were—

Sans’s mind completely drew to a blank. He’d just realized that he hadn’t seen or heard Boss all morning. He figured his brother was out making rounds with the Royal Guard but he should’ve definitely been in the forest by now. He leveled the false-Papyrus with a suspicious and furious glare.

“where’s boss?”

Not-Papyrus looked confused. “WHO’S BOSS?”

“ya don’t know who boss is? y’know, captain papyrus of the royal guard. my brother!” Sans ground out. His red eye lights disappeared. “W h e r e i s h e?”

Sans could feel his magic beginning to get out of control again as his anger flared. Not-Papyrus put up his arms in a pacifying gesture. His injured arm struggled to remain in its upright position.

“I DO NOT KNOW WHERE YOUR BROTHER IS. IN FACT, I’M ALSO LOOKING FOR MINE!” the tall skeleton explained loudly. Sans really wished the monster could be quieter. It wouldn’t be good if anyone overheard this conversation. “HE LOOKS A BIT LIKE YOU BUT WITHOUT ALL THE SHARP TEETH AND DARK CLOTHING. HAVE YOU SEEN HIM?”

Sans stared at not-Papyrus blankly before answering shortly, “nope. never seen or heard of ‘im.”

The answer was clearly not what the Papyrus had expected, or hoped for, as Sans watched the tall skeleton deflate. The pitiful look not-Papyrus gave almost made Sans feel bad. Almost.

“This is why we should all go somewhere safe, and I’ll try to explain everything,” Flowey said.

Sans’s magic suddenly flared and flung the flower away from where they were standing, who let out a wail as he sailed through the air and crashed into a large snowpuff. The short skeleton grabbed not-Papyrus’s uninjured arm, and the two of them took a shortcut back into their house. Not-Papyrus looked disoriented and flopped onto the red couch.

“stay ‘ere while i get something. afterwards, i expect ya t’be outta here.”

Sans never gave the Papyrus a chance to respond as he quickly disappeared from the living room. Before stopping by the Snowdin Shop, he took a quick detour to his secret room to check if somehow the machine was working by itself. Although the Papyrus was injured, Sans figured the tall skeleton had enough sense to stay in the house until he was healed.

The short skeleton immediately went towards the worn down machine. Rust covered almost every inch of the surface and wires peeked out from behind the control panel. The round door hung ajar and had a huge dent in it. Finding nothing suspicious or different, Sans locked the door to his secret room and finally began his trek to the shop.

“heya, ya got any monster food, hot stuff?” Sans asked the shopkeeper in a deeper voice, giving the rabbit a suggestive look. The monster glared at the short skeleton in return.

“What happened now? Broke your femur again?” the Shopkeeper asked with disproval evident in her eyes.

“nah, just need t’keep some in case, y’know, stuff happens,” Sans answered, going back to a more casual tone. The Shopkeeper was clearly not in a mood for his flirty attitudes, though he only used it to get under her hare, heh.

She was the only monsters in Snowdin who still helped him out without asking for any form of payment or compensation.

“Yes, I understand. Life must be so difficult for you now that your brother’s Captain of the Royal Guard,” the rabbit responded sarcastically. Sans glared at the floor. “Speaking of which, where is he? Haven’t heard him all morning.”

“he’s makin’ his rounds. ‘sides, it’s none of yer business, missy,” Sans growled out a lie. “if ya don’t got any then i’m leavin’.”

The Shopkeeper gave a soft tsk before going into her back room. Moments later, she came back with a small package in her hand and gave it to Sans. The skeleton gave a nod of thanks and turned to leave.

“You take care of yourself now! Don’t let me find you as a pile of dust!”

“yeah, yeah. you say that every time,” Sans mumbled as he gave a wave of acknowledgment.

Although Sans rarely showed it, he really did appreciate the Shopkeeper’s help. He guessed she still tolerated him and Boss’s antics because she’d essentially raised them when they first moved to Snowdin. Even when the town broke out into gang wars, with him and Boss being active participants, she still kept a watch on them despite her disapproval.

Sans sighed as he trudged back home, trying to ignore the growing anxiety brewing within him due to his missing brother. The short skeleton took a few deep breaths, suddenly wishing that he hadn’t tossed Flowey out like a rag doll. He could’ve provided some answers but he simply felt too angry to care at that time. Now he could only guess where his brother’s gone. Knowing his shitty luck, the cause is probably timeline related. It would explain the current Papyrus taking Boss’s place.

When Sans stepped back into his living room, he found not-Papyrus absent. Only Doggo’s dagger remained on the small coffee table next to the couch. A spike of anxiety shot out from within Sans’s soul. Thankfully he heard a crash of pots and pans before he had a full blown panic attack.

Sans walked into the kitchen and found not-Papyrus trying to cook. He furiously pounded a tomato with his uninjured hand, sending red juice spattering everywhere.

“what the hell are ya doin’?!” Sans roared, watching as bits of tomato splatted right in front of his sneakers.

“I’M MAKING FRIENDSHIP SPAGHETTI! IT’S THE LEAST I CAN DO TO SHOW MY APPRECIATION FOR YOUR HELP!” not-Papyrus answered enthusiastically. He raised his arm to crush another tomato.

Sans quickly disappeared and reappeared right next to Papyrus, who let out a shocked cry, and swiped the tomato out of the tall skeleton’s reach. The short monster placed the tomato carefully on the counter away from not-Papyrus and glared up at the monster.

“i don’t need you cookin’ anything. here,” Sans took out a snail pie out of the bag and pushed it into not-Papyrus’s hand. “once yer healed ya can get out.”

Not-Papyrus gave Sans a look similar to a kicked puppy.

“BUT SURELY YOU MUST BE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR MISSING BROTHER LIKE I AM! WE CAN WORK TOGETHER AND FIGURE OUT WHAT’S—“

“whoa there buddy, don’t go assumin’ things on your own. you may miss your bro but i can manage on my own.”

It wasn’t fully a lie; no matter how much he tried to deny it, and no matter how dysfunctional their relationship had become, Sans was worried about Boss and hoped that he was safe. Though if he had ended up in the world where this not-Papyrus came from, all soft and happy, then maybe he didn’t have much to worry. Now his only issue was figuring out what to do with not-Papyrus and when everyone starts questioning about Boss’s whereabouts. No doubt the monsters would target not-Papyrus, especially once word got out. Sans felt a fleeting sense of regret for not dusting Doggo; that mangy mutt had always been a pain in the ass. Sans didn’t understand why or how Boss had put up with him for all those years.

The short skeleton watched as not-Papyrus ate the snail pie, arms and shoulder joints finally healed. The Shopkeeper must’ve given him some really powerful food as Sans watched not-Papyrus’s HP rise to more than half his normal health.

Sans sat down in a chair and mulled over his next course of action. He was starting to believe that kicking not-Papyrus out wasn’t the best course of action, especially since he’s clearly not from around here. Although his conscience had long since fallen to the bare minimum necessary to only give a shit about a selected few monsters, one of whom was Boss, Sans knew he would regret it if he caused this monster’s death. Even if this monster wasn’t his brother.

Crash!

Sans shot up from his seat, eyes flaring out in red magic. He ran into his living area and found a fist-shaped rock lying below a broken window. The short skeleton let out a growl before wrenching the door open. He saw the retreating form of Ice Wolf from North Snowdin. Sans immediately blinked out of sight and reappeared in the northern part of town, right before the river. Sans shot out a column of sharp bones as Ice Wolf ran towards him. One of the projectiles hit its legs and it tumbled into the snow-covered ground.

“think you can get away with attackin’ my house unscathed, ya piece of shit?” Sans summoned a ring of red bones around himself.

Ice Wolf let out a barking laugh.

“Didn’t you hear? From this morning at Grillby’s, some of us already know your brother’s missing. Without him, you’re nothing but worthless trash we have to take out.”

Ice Wolf got up and charged towards the short skeleton, who fired his attacks. The wolf monster dodged them all and leapt towards Sans. Sans felt his magic sputter out as he tried to summon another wave of attacks. Ice Wolf gave him a triumphant grin, raising his sharp claws to strike at the skeleton monster.

Ting!

Blue engulfed Ice Wolf’s soul and the monster flattened against the snowy ground.

“THE GREAT PAPYRUS HAS ARRIVED TO ASSIST YOU!” a loud, fervent voice called out behind Ice Wolf.

Not-Papyrus stood at a distance, his red scarf fluttering behind him like a cape. Sans had to admit that the tall skeleton looked kind of cool in that moment. A deep growl interrupted his thoughts as Ice Wolf struggled against the blue magic.

Sans took that time to muster just enough control to call forth spikes of bones to erupt from the ground. A pained whined escaped from the four-legged monster as the sharp ossified material speared through Ice Wolf. Not giving the monster any chance to recover, Sans let his magic take over and summoned a gaster blaster in front of Ice Wolf. The draconic head opened is giant maw and a crimson beam began to charge. The short skeleton felt no hesitation in ending this monster’s pathetic life.

“STOP! YOU’VE ALREADY HURT THIS MONSTER! THERE’S NO REASON TO GO ANY FURTHER!” Not-Papyrus resolutely stood in front of the fallen monster, who gave the tall skeleton a dumbstruck expression.

“are ya insane or that stupid? this piece of shit deserves it after what he did and plans to do!” Sans retorted.

Not-Papyrus shook his head and answered, “NO! KILLING THIS MONSTER WILL NOT SOLVE ANYTHING! IT IS NOT WORTH IT!” Not-Papyrus turned to Ice Wolf, still keeping a hold on his soul. “IF YOU PROMISE NOT TO ATTACK US ANY FURTHER, WE WILL LET YOU GO! UNDERSTOOD?”

Sans stared at Boss’s look-a-like in disbelief, causing his gaster blaster to dissipate, as Papyrus release his grip on Ice Wolf’s soul. The wolf monster staggered up, appearing to be still in a state of shock, and made his escape with a heavy limp. Sans glared at Papyrus, his left eye flaring out again.

“what the hell ya think you’re doin’ letting ‘im go?! now he’s gonna tell everyone! do ya want to get killed?!”

Not-Papyrus turned back to Sans with a smile and held out an arm, “NO, I WILL NOT GET KILLED. HOWEVER, EVERYONE CAN BE A GREAT PERSON IF THEY TRY! I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL GLADLY BE YOUR FRIEND AND TUTOR!”

“w-what are ya sayin’?” Sans sputtered in shock.

“NOT ONLY CAN I HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER PERSON BUT ALSO YOUR MAGIC CONTROL! YOU SEEM TO HAVE A HARD TIME CONTROLLING ITS POWER!”

Sans’s red eye lights blinked out and felt a multitude of emotions flood within him. No one, not even his own brother, had ever noticed the flimsy control he had on his magic. For this monster to notice this quickly, when they’d barely just met, utterly blew the short skeleton’s mind. He was disappointed and embarrassed at his greatest weakness being discovered. At the same time, a sense of resentment that which he’s never felt before erupted within him, filling every crevice of his mind like rushing water. Sans glowered at the hand still offered to him as if it were something poisonous and smacked it away without hesitating.

“fuck you! you can’t just come ‘ere and tell me what t’do!” Sans pointed an angry finger at the other skeleton monster. “since yer all healed up, you leave me alone and stay outta my life!”

Sans gave not-Papyrus one final glance, ignoring the utterly dejected look on his face, and took a shortcut home. He immediately boarded up the broken window and locked himself in his room, curling up in his mattress of a bed and seethed with rage. After what felt like hours later, and his resentment faded, he finally let sleep overtake him.

Chapter Text

Papyrus dodged another round of spears that shot out into the air and descended towards him like darts. He swiftly stepped out of an incoming spear attack from Greater Dog, his dark gray and red armor flashing with every heavy movement. Papyrus swung his long bone staff to parry a follow-up attack.

“SURELY WE CAN TALK THROUGH THIS NICELY!” Papyrus tried to reason.

Greater Dog stood up at his full height and barked out with mocking laughter. “Don’t you see? With the Captain missing in Snowdin, there’s now free reign for the next strongest monster to take over. Whether you are his successor or not, the rest of us will not stop until you or Sans are dead!”

A stab of fear burst forth within Papyrus’s soul at the thought of the red Sans being outnumbered by numerous Snowdin monsters. Although the red skeleton’s words and complete rejection of Papyrus had hurt him greatly, he would not give up on the short skeleton. Not only because he reminded Papyrus of his brother but because he knew the other monster couldn’t face all this alone. Loneliness was a feeling the tall skeleton was more familiar with than he was willing to admit, especially before he became good friends with Undyne, and he would not wish it on even his worst of enemies.

“You spared Ice Wolf. Did you expect him to not tattle on ya? Hah! Don’t you know, down here, it’s kill or be killed!”

Those words were beginning to annoy Papyrus greatly.

“YOU ALL LACK CREATIVITY. SURELY EVERYONE HERE HAS BETTER THINGS TO SAY THAN THAT SAME ‘KILL OR BE KILLED’ PHRASE! AND I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, CAN COME UP WITH SOMETHING FAR GREATER!”

“We’ll see how great you’ll be once you’re a pile of dust!”

“IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU LIKE TO DO BESIDES BATTLE? COOKING? PUZZLING?”

Greater Dog halted his incoming attack in confusion and gave Papyrus a bemused expression. With a spark of inspiration, Papyrus summoned an orange-colored bone about a foot in length and held it out in front of Greater Dog, who got into a defensive stance. The tall skeleton remembered that the Greater Dog he knew loved playing fetch. Maybe this one did as well.

“THIS IS PART OF MY SPECIAL ATTACK! THE GREAT PAPYRUS BETS YOU CANNOT CATCH IT!”

Papyrus pulled his arm back and threw the piece of bone as far as he could with all his strength. The orange structure arched into the air and went sailing over the vast expanse of trees within Snowdin Forest. Greater Dog’s eyes trailed along the direction of the bone. Papyrus noticed a determined yet excited look break out on the dog’s face.

“You doubt my fetching skills? I’ll show you!”

The large dog suddenly crouched down and, much to Papyrus’s amazement, crawled out from his huge armor to reveal a large, fluffy white canine. Greater Dog sprung off in the direction of the thrown bone and soon disappeared into the trees.

“NYEH HEH HEH! JAPED BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”

Papyrus heard rustling coming from behind him and spun around, his bone staff at the ready. Flowey popped out beneath the snow-covered ground and drew up to Papyrus’s height, a wide grin on his face.

“I finally found you again! And what you just did was amazing!”

The tall skeleton proudly puffed out his chest as a warm, fuzzy feeling burst within his soul from the praise.

“WHY OF COURSE! MY JAPES WOULD NOT BE ANYTHING LESS THAN AMAZING!”

Flowey nodded his petaled head in agreement.

“I’ve been looking for someone like you,” the yellow flower began. “Work together with me to help change this place! Together, we can fix everything.”

Papyrus frowned in confusion. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN FIX? THIS PLACE IS DIFFERENT FROM WHERE I AM FROM BUT I DO NOT SEE ANYTHING BROKEN HERE.”

“The kill or be killed nature of this place needs to go! I want to make it better here!” Flowey suddenly shrunk within himself. “It’s the least I can do after… after everything else I’ve done.”

Papyrus barely heard the last part and was about to ask but stopped when he noticed the droop in Flowey’s petals. The sense of regret emanating from the flower was so great that Papyrus gently patted Flowey on his “head” and offered a gloved hand.

“I WILL GLADLY HELP YOU IN YOUR NOBLE ENDEAVOR!”

The yellow flower perked up with hope. “Really?”

“OF COURSE!” the tall skeleton exclaimed. “WE ONLY HAVE TO PLAN OUT OUR STRATEGY! IT’LL BE JUST LIKE SETTING UP AN ELABORATE PUZZLE!”

Flowey nodded his head in agreement, slowly wound himself around Papyrus’s offered hand and settled upon his right shoulder.

“First step is to find others willing to help,” Flowey muttered as he frowned in thought.

Papyrus immediately thought of the red Sans before sadly remembering the monster’s harsh rejection. If only his brother, who Papyrus had still yet to find, were here. His search thus far only resulted in getting attacked by Doggo and Greater Dog.

“SPEAKING OF HELP, HAVE YOU SEEN MY BROTHER? HE LOOKS SIMILAR TO THE RED SANS EXCEPT WITHOUT ALL THE SHARP TEETH, DARK CLOTHING AND SCARS!” Scars which had Papyrus wondering how the short skeleton had gotten them.

Much to Papyrus’s disappointment, Flowey sadly shook his head. “Did you end up here by yourself?”

“I AM NOT SURE. I AWOKE TO THIS PLACE AND FOUND EVERYTHING DIFFERENT.”

Flowey squinted his eyes in thought, mumbling to himself with words too soft for Papyrus to hear. The tall skeleton dearly hoped that his brother was simply not here and not the alternative. He took comfort in the fact that at least his brother was stronger than his lazy demeanor suggested.

“Hey, Papyrus, remember last time when I asked you about alternative universes?”

“YES, WHAT ABOUT IT?”

“Would you believe me if I told you that this underground is an alternative universe from your own? Possibly a branching of the original universe.”

“ORIGINAL UNIVERSE? ARE YOU SAYING THIS PLACE IS NOT REAL?”

“No, of course not! It’s just a world with differences from yours.” Flowey explained frantically. “It’s very likely your brother is still back in your home universe. I don’t really understand too much about it myself, to be honest. This is just from the bits of notes I’ve read.”

“THIS IS MOST SIMILAR TO THOSE SCIENCY NOVELS MY BROTHER USED TO READ ALL THE TIME,” Papyrus commented.

Relief flooded him knowing that Sans was at least safe back home. Once Papyrus helped out Flowey with fixing this world, he would find a way back home, no matter how difficult it was.

“And this is just my theory but it’s possible that this world’s Papyrus is back in yours, given that he’s missing and you’re here.”

Papyrus felt a bit disappointed at missing the opportunity to meet his worldly counterpart. He imagined this world’s him was as great as he was. Surely his brother would make the other him feel welcomed in their world!

“I just hope he doesn’t cause too much trouble.”

Papyrus froze as his mind tried to process what Flowey had just said.

“IS THERE A PROBLEM WITH OTHER ME?” Papyrus inquired with a bit of nervousness.

Flowey frowned and answered, “Uh… let’s just say he’s not the friendliest of monsters. After all, there’s a reason why everyone acts the way they do around him.”

Slowly, Papyrus felt as if pieces of a puzzle fitted into place. How all the monsters at Snowdin acted towards him with fear and respect. The fact that other him was already captain of the Royal Guards. Was this other him really that bad?

Was his brother in danger with other him?

Papyrus quickly shoved that thought away. No, his brother was strong enough to hold his own. Papyrus believed in him and his abilities.

Red Sans’s actions toward Papyrus and his disregard towards his brother’s whereabouts also began to make sense. Did he and his brother’s counterparts in this world not care for one another? The thought filled Papyrus with profound sadness. If he were to somehow help this world’s Sans, maybe their relationship could improve.

“I’LL GET OUR FIRST ALLY! COME FLOWEY, WE CANNOT STAND HERE DILLY DADDLING!”

The tall skeleton suddenly sprinted off in the direction of Snowdin, causing Flowey to let out a surprised yell. The flower quickly wound its vines tightly around Papyrus’s shoulder.

“Who is it?”

“RED!”

Flowey stared at Papyrus in confusion. “Who’s Red?”

“SANS OF COURSE! WELL, THIS WORLD’S SANS!” Papyrus stated, running past Doggo’s sentry station. It seemed the dog still wasn’t back since their last encounter.

“What?! Are you crazy? He’s never gonna agree to this. I’ve tried reset after reset to convince him! He’s a lost cause I tell ya, Papyrus!”

Papyrus didn’t understand what Flowey meant by reset but he chose to worry about it later. There were far more pressing issues to address.

“DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE GREAT PAPYRUS! I WILL CONVINCE HIM EVENTUALLY! NYEH HEH HEH!”

Papyrus’s fast running led to him missing the snow-covered X and O puzzle. With no way to stop his momentum, the tall skeleton slid down a southern path. Papyrus braced himself as he crashed into the tall cliffside. Thankfully the snow cushioned his impact. Papyrus looked to his right shoulder and found Flowey dunked under a pile of snow, his green stem sticking out askew.

“FLOWEY! ARE YOU HURT?!” Papyrus called out as he dug through the snow pile and pulled out an irritated looking flower.

“I’m fine. But slow down next time, geez,” the plant monster grumbled, shaking off the last bits of snow on him.

Papyrus held out his arm and allowed Flowey to get back onto his shoulder. The tall skeleton stood up and was ready to take off back to Snowdin when something peculiar caught his periphery.

Back at home Papyrus remembered this area had a mysterious blue door at the far right end of the cliffside. Instead, a dark, hazy looking opening stood in its place. The coloring looked off and something odd surrounded the opening. It almost looked like a string of indecipherable text.

Papyrus took a step towards it and felt a strong, almost painful tug against his right shoulder.

“Get away from that!” Flowey shouted, causing Papyrus to jump due to the flower’s proximity to his non-existent ears.

Papyrus peered down at Flowey and saw an expression of complete fear on his face.

“WHAT IS THAT?”

“Let’s just get out of here! This place is unstable!”

Papyrus felt Flowey’s vines trembling on his shoulder. Curiosity almost drew Papyrus to ignore the flower’s warning, feeling an inexplicable urge to go closer towards the strange opening, but he knew better. Papyrus turned back around and made his way into Snowdin.

Once they finally made it to the long bridge into town, and Flowey calmed down, Papyrus asked, ”SO WHAT WAS THAT?”

For a long time, Flowey didn’t answer. He eventually admitted softly, “I’m not sure. But it’s been cropping up in random places for a while now.”

Flowey drooped heavily, his entire stem nearly bent along Papyrus’s shoulder. The skeleton monster decided to drop the subject and continued his way across the wooden bridge.

Snowdin was the same as it was when Papyrus first got here. The streets were empty; it looked like a ghost town. The sight had Papyrus yearning for the familiarity of his own Snowdin. He hadn’t taken more than a few steps when he felt something painfully hit his back.

“There he is!” a low voice growled out.

“Run! Get inside the shop!” Flowey warned agitatedly.

Papyrus allowed himself to act cowardly for once and run away from the incoming encounter. He already had three since he woke up this morning! Fatigue was beginning to settle within his bones.

He swung open the door and stepped inside, immediately catching the sight of a purple bunny monster wearing a frayed white tang top with a red headband. He heard the door open behind him to reveal a towering bear monster. Papyrus readied himself for a battle encounter.

“STOP! I will not have fighting in my shop! If you wanna fight, then get outta here and take it outside!” the Snowdin Shopkeeper roared with fury.

To Papyrus’s surprise, the bear monster immediately backed off, muttering apologies before making a hasty exit. The Shopkeeper directed her glare at him.

“Papyrus? You look different.”

“IT IS I, PAPYRUS! BUT PERHAPS NOT THE ONE YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH.”

The rabbit’s face morphed into confusion, eyes surveying the tall skeleton’s appearance.

“How can you be Papyrus but not be Papyrus? Is this another one of you and your brother’s stupid pranks?”

“OF COURSE NOT! I AM STAT—”

“He’s Papyrus’s long lost cousin,” Flowey suddenly interrupted.

The Shopkeeper stared at the flower skeptically.

“I’ve known him and Sans since they first move here, and they’ve never mentioned any other family.”

“Well duh, lady, that’s why he’s a long lost cousin. Sans and Papyrus don’t remember him but he definitely remembers them, right?” Flowey gave Papyrus a suggestive look.

“YES! I AM SO HAPPY TO BE REUNITED WITH MY COUSINS! I’VE SEARCHED LONG AND HARD FOR THEM!” Papyrus even had a few fake tears leak out of his sockets.

The Shopkeeper raised an eyebrow and commented dryly, “And you both happen to be named Papyrus?”

“I AM PAPYRUS THE FIRST AND THE ONE YOU’VE KNOWN IS PAPYRUS THE SECOND!” the royal guard trainee explained matter-of-factly.

The rabbit monster still regarded them with suspicion.

“Hm, if you say so. I’ve heard weirder things around here.” The Shopkeeper’s expression softened. “So what do ya need?”

Flowey asked for a few healing item, with Papyrus paying for it with the small amount of gold he had with him. Thankfully it was enough to cover for everything.

“HOW HAVE MY TWO COUSINS BEEN DOING HERE?” Papyrus blurted out just as Flowey directed him out the shop.

“They’re getting by. I’m sure you already know that Papyrus is Royal Guard Captain now. Things haven’t been so well between him and Sans. Then again, their relationship had problems even before that,” the rabbit monster explained. “Shame really, they got along well when they were young'uns.”

“WAS THERE SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED TO CAUSE THIS?”

The Shopkeeper gave a sad shrug, “It probably started when they entered into those stupid Snowdin gangs. But who knows.”

“THANK YOU FOR THE INFORMATION!”

The rabbit’s eyes widened ever so slightly before giving a soft chuckle.

“You’re different from the other monsters here. A lot nicer. We could use more of that around here.”

Hope blossomed within Papyrus as Flowey asked the Shopkeeper if they could use her shop as a hideout for the time being. It was not safe to stay outside with no place to hide.

“Sure. And call me Hariet,” the Shopkeeper introduced.

She had some spare space in the backroom, which Papyrus and Flowey used to brainstorm possible plans of action. The cogs in Papyrus’s head were already going through various methods of convincing Red. He thought back to the Dating Manual sitting in his room back home and decided to use the tips in there.

After much discussion, and many incredulous looks from Flowey, Papyrus convinced Flowey to let him leave the shop and walk over to Red’s house. Papyrus noticed the planks of wood covering the broken window. He tried to open the door but found it locked. He pounded against the door and waited. And waited. But nobody came.

Papyrus made his way back to the shop, pondering how he could get the stubborn skeleton to open the door. He could always write a letter and slip it under the door. Maybe he’ll even write multiple letters. The tall skeleton found sheets of paper and a pen within minutes and began to write.

GREETINGS RED SANS (OR CAN I ADDRESS YOU AS RED?),

IT IS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS! FIRST, I WANT TO LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU DID NOT OFFEND ME BY REJECTING MY HELP. I UNDERSTAND IF I CAME OFF A BIT TOO STRONGLY. MY BROTHER DID SAY I CAN BE A BIT OVERLY ENTHUSIASTIC.

ANYWAY, MY GREAT FRIEND FLOWEY BELIEVES WE CAN ALL WORK TOGETHER TO HELP IMPROVE LIFE IN THIS WORLD OF YOURS AND HIS. I COOK THE FINEST SPAGHETTI IN ALL OF THE UNDERGROUND AND FILL IT WITH WONDERFUL PUZZLES (THEY CAN ALSO HELP CAPTURE A HUMAN!).

FLOWEY ALSO BELIEVES THAT YOUR BROTHER MAY BE BACK IN MY “UNIVERSE” SO YOU NEED NOT WORRY ABOUT HIS WHEREABOUTS!

Papyrus paused in his writing at the possibility of this world’s Papyrus meeting his brother. He wanted to believe that everything would be okay. He continued his letter.

PLEASE LET ME KNOW YOUR RESPONSE! HARIET THE SHOPKEEPER HAS BEEN MOST KIND TO LEND US HER SHOP FOR HIDING!

SINCERELY,

THE GREAT PAPYRUS

Papyrus reread it one last time before giving a confident huff. He ran back out, ignoring the bemused expressions on Shopkeeper and Flowey’s faces, and stuck the paper under the doorway of Red’s house.

Sometime later, Papyrus scrambled back to the house, hoping Red would open the door. He found a thin, folded sheet of notebook paper stuck partly out underneath the door. Bursting with excitement, Papyrus quickly read it.

you’re annoying. go bother your flower buddy.

also, i don’t give a shit what ya call me since i’ll never see ya again.

Papyrus replied back,

DEAR RED,

YOUR LANGUAGE IS MOST INAPPROPRIATE BUT I WILL ALLOW IT FOR NOW!

THINK OF ALL THE GRAND PLANS AND FUN ACTIVITIES WE CAN DO TOGETHER! WE CAN EVEN BATTLE TOGETHER! I STILL HOLD MY OFFER TO HELP YOU.

SINCERELY,

THE GREAT PAPYRUS

Papyrus stuck his reply back under the doorway. A few hours later, he found another reply.

go away.

Papyrus scribbled back,

WITH YOU, ME, FLOWEY AND THE NICE SHOP LADY, SURELY WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE! JOIN OUR NOBLE CAUSE!

SINCERELY,

PAPYRUS

The tall skeleton went back and forth between the shop and Red’s house but was disappointed to find no response. He took one last glance after both Flowey and Hariet had to convince Papyrus the dangers of wandering out at night and implored him to stay in.

Without his usual routine of hearing a bedtime story from his brother, Papyrus stayed awake and wrote out his next letter. He eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, his reply came back as,

it won’t work

Papyrus frowned deeply, reminded of the hopeless words that occasionally slipped out of his brother’s mouth. It only spurred Papyrus more, determined to help Red out in any way possible just as he did with his brother.

GOOD MORNING RED,

OF COURSE IT WON’T WORK IF YOU DON’T EVEN TRY.

DO YOU NOT WANT TO BE THE GREATEST YOU CAN BE? I BELIEVE YOU CAN! YOU WOULD NOT NEED TO HIDE IN FEAR OF THE OTHER MONSTERS! I DO HOPE THEY AREN’T GIVING YOU TOO MUCH TROUBLE.

SINCERELY,

PAPYRUS

No reply came after waiting several hours.

RED,

HAVE YOU BEEN EATING? DO YOU SLEEP MORE THAN 8 HOURS A DAY? IF YOU LET ME IN, I CAN COOK MY WONDERFUL SPAGHETTI FOR YOU!

TAKE CARE.

BEST REGARDS,

PAPYRUS

The tall skeleton couldn’t help the disappointment that flooded his soul when he still found the doorway empty halfway through the day.

“I told you he wouldn’t help,” Flowey gloated. “I can’t believe—”

Flowey immediately stopped when he saw the despondent expression on Papyrus’s face and appeared apologetic. Papyrus shook himself out of his stupor and decided to write one last letter.

DEAR RED,

I UNDERSTAND IF I’M COMING OFF TOO STRONGLY BUT I TRULY MEAN WHAT I’VE WRITTEN IN THE LAST 5 LETTERS. YOU MAY THINK IT’S A WASTE OF TIME AND EFFORT BUT I DO NOT REGRET IT AT ALL! I JUST WANT YOU TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF MORE!

I WILL NOT BOTHER YOU ANY FURTHER.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.

SINCERELY,

PAPYRUS

With a sigh, Papyrus turned around to head back into the Snowdin Shop. Before he had taken a step forward, he heard the door open behind him. The tall skeleton spun around and saw Red standing in the doorway in the same attire as yesterday. His red eye lights stared at him briefly before darting to the ground.

"look. i, uh,” Red began. Papyrus noticed beads of sweat dotting his forehead. “i’ll help you with this stupid idea.”

Excitement and hope burst forth within Papyrus.

“REALLY? I KNEW I COULD COUNT ON YOU!”

“look buddy, don’t you go actin’ all proud and shit!” Sans retorted hotly. Papyrus chose to, once again, ignore this Sans’s vulgar language. “b-besides, if i help ya, then you gotta hold your bargain and… and help me… help me control my magic better!”

The royal guard trainee grasp Red’s hands in his own gloved one and beamed at him with a starry look in his sockets. A dusting of pink lined Red’s cheekbones from the intense look of happiness on Papyrus’s face.

“BUT OF COURSE! WE WILL BEGIN RIGHT AWAY!”

“w-what? now?” the red skeleton gawked.

“YES NOW! LET’S GO!”

Papyrus dashed towards the shop, nearly dragging Red with him. Deep in his mind, Papyrus ‘nyeh heh heh’d’ endlessly. He knew his reverse psychology skills in the last letter would tip it over in his favor. Now he only had to continue to follow his Dating Manual to become great friends with Red!

Chapter Text

Sans cursed at his life choices for the upteenth time as he led not-Papyrus through Snowdin Forest, trying to find a good training ground. He remembered a clearing up in the far north, away from the town and hopefully the watchful eyes of the Royal Guards. His fists clenched tightly in his jacket pocket, surveying the clearing. This looked like a good spot.

“WOWIE! THIS PLACE IS PERFECT FOR TRAINING!” not-Papyrus exclaimed, running into the clearing.

Sans shuffled over towards the tall skeleton, doubt surfacing quickly. He still wondered what in the stars had him agreeing to all this. Was he that pathetic and desperate that he allowed himself to get wooed over by a couple of letters?

He glared at the smiling skeleton in front of him. How could someone be that trusting? Even though it boggled his mind, he couldn’t help but feel himself, like a moth to light, becoming drawn to not-Papyrus’s bright disposition. He would never admit it to the tall skeleton, though, and try as hard as he could to deny his feelings.

Sans let out a huff before facing not-Papyrus, “so how’s this gonna work? you gonna allow me to attack ya?”

Not-Papyrus stroked his chin thoughtfully with his gloved hands. Sans noticed that the gloves were more rounded than the ones Boss typically wore.

“CAN YOU SHOW ME A BIT OF YOUR MAGIC?”

The short skeleton narrowed his sockets at not-Papyrus from the suggestion, suddenly wishing he’d never agreed to this and was back sleeping in his room.

“how? what d’ya want me to do?”

“ANYTHING IS FINE! PUT YOUR SOUL INTO IT AND SUMMON YOUR BEST BONE ATTACK, NYEH!”

Sans concentrated and grasped at his magic. He felt a burst of power, way more than necessary, and summoned a red-colored bone hovering behind his left shoulder. Without warning, Sans felt a huge surge, and before he could control it, the bone went flying towards not-Papyrus. The tall skeleton summoned a bone of his own and intercepted Sans’s attack.

The short skeleton’s face flushed light pink in embarrassment. He couldn’t even control a simple bone!

Not-Papyrus stared at the destroyed red construct thoughtfully before beaming at Sans. His flushed cheekbones deepened in response.

“THAT WAS GOOD! ARE YOU UP FOR A SHORT SPARRING MATCH?”

Sans bristled. “of course!”

Not-Papyrus charged towards Sans with a long bone staff in his hand. Sans focused and a row of white bones erupted from the ground in front of him as a barrier. Not-Papyrus swung his weapon and Sans blocked. Once again, he felt a gush of uncontrollable magic. He tried to suppressing it. Like putting a lid on top of a shaken can of soda, the power was too much and backfired, sending Sans crashing into a pile of snow.

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!” Not-Papyrus’s loud and concerned voice flooded his hearing.

A burst of anger and indignation flooded him as he got up. “’m fine. what kinda stupid monster are ya askin’ that type of questions?” he retorted. He’ll prove to the tall skeleton that he was not weak. “i’ll make sure ya regret underestimatin’ me.”

Crimson magic burst forth from him and jagged bones erupted from the ground. Sans’s magic sputtered out and a gaster blaster suddenly materialized in front of Papyrus, who appeared shocked. A red beam of light began to charge.

Shit.

The beam of concentrated magic shot out of the blaster.

Sans stared at not-Papyrus, his sockets completely black, and ordered, “G e t o u t o f t h e w a y!”

Not-Papyrus ducked into the snow just as the attack shot over his head. The line of trees behind him disintegrated completely.

Sans shuddered painfully as he forced the blaster away. Sweat dotted his forehead. Not-Papyrus picked himself off the snow-covered ground and ran towards him, distress etched on his features.

“RED? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHY YOUR MAGIC IS SO… unstable?” not-Papyrus at least had the decency to say the last word quietly, though it felt like a slap in the face to Sans nevertheless.

“nope,” Sans growled shortly, hoping to drop the topic. Like hell he was gonna tell this skeleton his life story.

Not-Papyrus frowned at the response. “BUT SURELY YOU HAVE AN IDEA? I CAN HELP YOU GET BETTER THE MORE INFORMATION THERE IS ON YOUR CONDITION!”

Irritation and indignant anger flooded him once again. Sans found not-Papyrus’s concern belittling.

“it’s not a condition! this is stupid and pointless! you don’t know anything! i’m leaving!”

“WAIT! NO! I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT! DON—!”

“forget this!”

Before not-Papyrus could get another word in, Sans ran back into the forest as fast as he could to get away from not-Papyrus. The truth of the matter was, he knew why his magic was unstable— getting forced into summoning gaster blasters before he could even summon normal bone attacks, not to mention all the Determination that’s circulating within him. The worst part of all this was the gradual loss of his magic control; it didn’t happen overnight. He also partly blamed this as the cause of the broken relationship he had with Boss.

Sans sighed as he trudged through the snow. He could really use some mustard right now. Grillby’s sounded like a best bet. The canine unit shouldn’t be there at this time, given that they were on rounds. Though without Boss here, who knows what they’re up to. He could hopefully at least extract some information from the fire elemental.

The short skeleton took several deep breaths before he walked into the bar. The chatter of noise went completely silent as all eyes fell on him. Sans clenched his fists in nervousness within his jacket pocket before shuffling over to the bar counter, ignoring the looks as best as he could, and slumped onto his usual seat.

“order of the usual, gillbz.”

The fire monster’s purple flames flickered with acknowledgment. He disappeared into his backroom and came back with a burger and bottle of mustard. Sans nursed the yellow condiment as he picked up the whispers of conversation. Lots of them were rumors about Boss’s disappearance and talks of gang fights beginning to break out in town. Sans shook with fury at the snide comments made about him. The assholes weren’t even discrete about it, talking loud enough so he could hear. He was about to get up and leave but felt a warm hand on his left shoulder.

“Ignore them. Come to my backroom.”

Sans barely gave a nod before he was hoisted up from his seat and over the counter. Grillby’s flames changed to white with anger at the stares the patrons gave him. They knew not to get on Grillby’s bad side and went back to their conversations. Sans gave him a look of appreciation and followed him into the back room. As soon as the door closed, Grillby leaned down close to Sans’s non-existent ears.

“I’ve missed you, Sans.” His voice was low and sensual. Grillby’s flaming hand trailed up Sans’s chest suggestively, forcing a moan out of the short skeleton. “You’re stressed. I can provide you with some relief. Besides, your brother’s not here to get in our way.”

“grillbz,” Sans gasped, pulling away from the warm touches.

This wasn’t right. He wasn’t going to make this mistake again.

“stop. boss had nothing t’do with me breakin’ up with you.”

The fire monster froze. His flames crackled and turned a shade of cyan. That last comment made his fire sizzle with restrained anger.

“You lie! He had everything to do with what happened to us. What we had together.”

Sans narrowed his sockets furiously and snarled back, “you keep boss outta this!”

Grillby’s flames turned white. “Are you blind?! That spoiled brat was clearly jealous that you were spending more time with me instead of him. And then once he became Captain of the Royal Guard, he abandoned you like trash!”

“y’know what, fuck you grillbz! you don’t know anything! we’re not getting back together and that’s final! i’m leavin’!”

Sans took a hold of his volatile magic, preparing to shortcut back home.

“Don’t leave! You’ll regret this, Sans! I’ll make sure of it!” the bartender roared.

Sans ignored the flame monster’s threats and disappeared. He landed in his bedroom, taking deep breaths to calm his seething. Never before had he gotten this angry at Grillby. He couldn’t believe the selfish bastard had enough gall as to assume his brother had anything to do with their breakup. Their short time together had been just a fling and nothing more; the two of them even discussed and agreed to it.

The scarred skeleton threw himself into his worn mattress. He needed to nap all this away. This whole day had been shit except for getting those letters from not-Papyrus. Even then, thinking about not-Papyrus and their “training session” did nothing to curb his anger. Then he felt bad for abandoning not-Papyrus without even saying a word, especially since the tall skeleton was only trying to help him.

Red let out a sigh. He forced himself to sleep.

Sans found himself staring at a strange scene. Boss stood in front of an angry fish woman, Undyne, with a blue spear pointed at Boss.

“NGAAAAAHHHH! WHAT DID YOU DO TO PAPYRUS, YOU IMPOSTER?!” Undyne roared. She thrusted several spear attacks at Boss, who parried them with his bone staff.

“NOTHING! I AM PAPYRUS, YOU FOOL!”

Questions whirled in Sans’s head as he observed the scene. This Undyne looked different from the one he knew. Why was she attacking Boss?

Snow flew through the air as the two monsters thrusted their weapons at each other in close melee combat. Bone and spear pattern bullets flew out from Boss and Undyne, respectively. Boss blocked each of Undyne’s spear attacks without much trouble.

Sans watched as Undyne finally landed two damaging on his brother, causing his HP to drop. Boss suddenly froze in place, trapped in a barrier of green magic. Undyne stood before him, spear pointed directly at his chest.

“You’re not the Papyrus I know! A teenager comedian, that snowdrake, is dead because of you! To believe a monster would harm its own kind!” Undyne spat. “You’re just a coward who’s hiding behind that lazy, no good brother of the real Papyrus!”

Sans’s big brother instincts told him to move and help defend Boss. What was he doing just standing there and watching?

He heard a roar as huge spikes of bone to sprout from the ground.

Sans blinked awake, staring at his crack-filled ceiling. Was that some strange dream of the world that his brother was currently in, the one that not-Papyrus came from? Undyne was attacking his brother!

The short skeleton shot up and scrambled out of his room. He opened the door to Boss’s room, finding in unoccupied. Everything was neatly laid out in place. The four-poster bed stood in the far back corner, his miniature map of the Underground with the carved pieces of all the major monsters stood in the back wall opposite of the bed, and the desk and computer was placed on the left of the door entrance.

Finding nothing unusual, Sans went through his house to look for not-Papyrus before realizing that he’d never invited the tall skeleton back into his home. A loud curse escaped his mouth before he wrenched open the door and went outside. Night, or at least the pretense of night in the Underground, settled upon Snowdin.

Sans ran towards the Shop, hoping that he would find not-Papyrus there. He had to figure out if his brother was ok.

He slammed the door open. Three pairs of eyes stared at him in shock. He was too frantic to acknowledge Flowey as one of the pair.

“RED! IT’S NICE TO FINALLY SEE YOU AGAIN! I APOLOGIZE IF MY EARLIER COMMENT MADE YOU UPSET,” not-Papyrus addressed.

“boss! he got attacked by undyne! i gotta get to him!”

“HOW DO YOU KNOW UNDYNE IS ATTACKING YOUR BROTHER?”

“a dream, i saw him gettin’ attacked in my dream!”

The foreign Papyrus frowned at Sans’s outburst. He walked towards Sans and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“WORRY NOT RED! UNDYNE WILL NOT HURT YOUR BROTHER!”

Sans distrusted the claim as he had clearly seen Boss getting attacked.

“i saw her attack boss!”

“Maybe you saw wrong?” Flowey interjected. “Dreams are rarely true. It could be that you’re simply worried about your brother.”

Sans summoned a bone and shot it in Flowey’s direction. The flower quickly ducked out of the attack, causing the construct to embed itself into the wall. The Shopkeeper let out a disgruntled scream at Sans.

“shut your mouth, you stupid flower. you expect me to believe she won’t kill boss? undyne always had a bone to pick with him.”

“YOU’RE WRONG RED!” the short monster was surprised to hear a tinge of anger in not-Papyrus’s voice. “UNDYNE WOULD NEVER KILL SOMEONE WITHOUT REASON! MONSTERS ARE KNOWN TO SHOW MERCY AND FORGIVENESS IN MY UNIVERSE!”

Sans scoffed at the claim.

“BESIDES, I’M SURE MY BROTHER WILL HELP MEDIATE ANY DISAGREEMENTS. IT’S ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT HE DOESN’T TREAT AS A JOKE!”

Sans was still skeptical as he didn’t see his double do anything. He wasn’t even in the scene. Panic began to seep into him.

“If you’d agreed to work with us, we can figure out what’s going on with your brother. Why else did you think I suggested we work together! “ Flowey shouted at him.

Flowey was propped on not-Papyrus’s right shoulder and gazed intently at Sans, causing him to ready another attack.

“You will stop attacking this instant!” the bunny shopkeeper roared.

Sans’s magic sputtered out before he could even summon anything. With not-Papyrus, Flowey and the Shopkeeper all glaring at him, Sans suddenly felt like he was suffocating. Panic flooded his soul and his breaths came out as heaving gasps.

Didn’t they see how Boss was in danger? What’s gonna happen to him if he never sees his brother again?

Black spots appeared in his vision as he found it difficult to breath. He felt as if he were dying.

“Re...d!”

Was someone calling his name?

“SANS!”

Was that his brother’s voice? It sounded like him.

Sans felt a pair of long, bony arms wrapped around him. A white chest plate heaved in and out against the side of his skull.

“Breath with me. You are safe, you’re brother will be safe. In and out like I am doing.”

Sans listened to the monster’s instructions and took in deep breaths following the rise and fall of his brother’s chest—wait no, this wasn’t his brother. It was the other Papyrus, the one that was kind and full of mercy. Boss was safe. His brother was safe.

His panic finally settled and his breathing went back to normal.

“I’m sorry, Red, we did not mean to frighten you,” not-Papyrus apologize. A hand soothingly stroked his back. “I, the Great Papyrus, promise that I will give my best effort to help you and your brother. Please trust me when I say that Undyne will not kill your brother. She is a great friend of mine, after all.”

“ok... i believe you,” Sans whispered. He would allow himself to trust this monster. This Papyrus had proven himself enough already.

Exhaustion washed over him. He collapsed limply in the arms embracing him. He was about ready for another nap.

---

For the next few days, Sans finally put more effort into his training. He had to admit that Papyrus was a good, maybe even great, instructor. Although his enthusiasm was still a bit much for the short skeleton, he always offered unconditional help.

“HAVE YOU EVER TRIED IMAGINING SOMETHING TO HELP CHANNEL YOUR MAGIC?” Papyrus questioned during day two of their training session. “IT MAY HELP YOUR CONTROL.”

Sans blinked out his eye lights and visualized a long tube with two lenses at the end. A device that allowed one to see far distances. A telescope. Using his imagined telescope, he pushed his magic through the tube and summoned a column of bones. He then dismissed them without issue. He even attempted to summon a blaster in the same manner. He did feel a huge burst of magic but then forced it through the tube of his imaginary telescope. With this method, he felt his control improve.

The two skeletons sparred in the early mornings, trading rounds of bone attacks. The more Sans trained, the more control he felt like he gained. There were, of course, still instances where his magic would become too unstable; however, they were fewer than it had been in years. Finally grasping some semblance of control over his magic had also made him happier than he had felt in a long time.

He also began to begrudgingly help Flowey, Papyrus, and Hariet in coming up with a plan to change the Underground. Both Flowey and Hariet had apologized earlier for setting him off into that panic attack, which he brushed off with a pun. Truthfully, he hadn’t even expected them to apologize at all so it’s no skin off his bones, heh. He’d thanked Papyrus for helping him come down from it, wondering how the tall skeleton know what to do.

On the third day after training, Sans went back to his house to find it completely trashed. All the windows were smashed and two words were repeatedly written all over his front walls.

Inferno. Hunters.

Papyrus, ever being the expressive and emotional monster, cried at the sight. The short skeleton appreciated the concern on his behalf but eventually convinced the tall skeleton that it was fine. He’d simply have to clean up and fix the mess before Boss came back. He was much more concerned about the note he found stuck on his front door.

I warned you that you will regret this!

Even without a name, Sans knew who wrote it. Papyrus insisted that Sans live with him in the Shop instead of his house, claiming it to be too dangerous. He agreed, finding that he immensely enjoyed spending time with Papyrus, even if it had to include Flowey.

“RED, I WANT TO ASK YOU,” Papyrus said later that evening. The tall skeleton wrung his gloved hands nervously together.

Oh boy, this was probably gonna be a loaded question.

“shoot.”

“What did those two words mean?”

Sans still found it surprising that Papyrus could talk in a softer voice; he simply chose not to do it most of the time. His mind then processed the question and sighed. He definitely should’ve expected something like this.

“they’re names of two gangs me and boss were a part of when we were younger.”

“I see.” Papyrus kept silent but by the way he was fidgeting, Sans could tell he was going to get a follow up question. Sans decided to save him from the trouble of asking.

“since it’s almost bedtime, you wanna hear a bedtime story?”

The tall skeleton’s excited sockets practically glittered like stars. Sans chuckled lightly before he began his story.

Chapter Text

[Age 10]

Sans trudged through the ankle deep snow, gingerly carrying a ragged bundle in his thin arms. It was fortunate that his six-year-old brother weighed so little, only made of bones, but nevertheless, the effort was taking a toll on him. He let out a huff as he peered around his surroundings. He spotted the opening of an igloo several feet ahead and quickly waddled over. The movement caused his brother to wake up, who let out a shrill scream.

“shhh, it’s ok bro. we’re safe,” the older brother whispered as he settled the two of them inside.

Papyrus flailed his way out of Sans’s arms and walked around the area.

“IS THIS A HOUSE?”

Sans shook his head, his mouth in a wide grin, “nope. it’s called an igloo. we’ll be hiding out here for a bit.”

“IGLOO!” Papyrus shouted excitedly. He ran around the area, phalanges scraping across the icy walls. The inside of the igloo was hollow and had a path. The two brothers followed along the path until they came up to another opening. Sans quickly pulled his brother back.

“whoa there, bro. we’ve gotta be careful.”

Papyrus frowned at him, “I’M HUNGRY SANS!”

Welp, Sans had nothing to respond to that. Food was hard to come by since they’d escaped from the labs. The two had already finished the rotten apples Sans had stolen from that old turtle, almost losing an arm in the process of stealing it. He was not looking forward to experiencing something like that again. However, he knew that both him and his brother wouldn’t survive much longer without food. Their last meal had been almost two days ago.

Sans sighed and faced his brother. “listen paps, i’m gonna try to get us some food. wait in here and stay hidden.”

“BUT I WANTS TO HELP!” Papyrus stomped on the ground several times in anger.

The older brother shook his head, “nope. an awesome royal guard has to watch over our hideout, and what better person than the great papyrus.”

Papyrus’s sockets widened in excitement and affirmed, face filled with determination, “YES! DO NOT WORRY SANS! I WILL PROTECT THIS PLACE!”

Sans gave his brother a thumbs up before he stepped outside. Much to his surprise, he found the shop about a block away. He had almost made his way over when something small and hard hit his back. He spun around and saw three monsters wearing dark hoodies, inscribed with purple flames on the front, making their way over to him. One of them was tossing small rocks in his hand.

Sans turned around and ran as fast as his weary legs would allow towards the shop. He hadn’t taken more than a few steps before he felt a stone hit the back of his leg, causing him to trip and stumble into the ground. Two heavy footsteps came from behind him and one in front of him.

“Well what do we have here?” a rough looking hamster monster asked. A half-lit cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth. He seized Sans roughly by the back of his ragged shirt. “You new to town kid?” A wide smirk appeared across his face.

“lemme go you asshole!”

A wide smirk appeared across the monster’s face, “So rude. Maybe we of the Inferno gang should teach this kid a lesson, boys. Show ‘im how things are run in Snowdin.”

Sans took a deep breath and focused, concentrating his magic. He was about to summon a few bones when he heard a familiar, loud voice.

“LET MY BROTHER GO!”

A small figure charged past the other two monster and tackled into the hamster. Sans was unceremoniously dropped onto the ground from the force of Papyrus’s attack.

“Why you!”

Jagged bones came up from the ground before the hamster and other two monsters could lay a single fur on his brother. All three monsters jumped back. A bright, warm light suddenly flooded the area and a tall, muscular rabbit monster stood in the doorway, her arms crossed tightly across her chest. She glared at the three assailants.

“What did I tell you idiots about fighting near my establishment?!” the Shopkeeper snapped.

Much to Sans’s surprise, the three monsters immediately backed away with apologetic expressions on their faces. Once they were gone, the rabbit monster turned towards Sans and his brother.

“You poor dears, come in.”

Sans stared at the monster, not trusting her one bit. She seemed to have understood their suspicions, told them to wait and went back into her shop. Moments later, she came back out holding a large brown paper bag. She handed the bag to Sans. He looked inside and saw it was filled with healing food.

“Take care of you and your brother now. And stay away from any gang fights!”

The older brother gave the Shopkeeper a nod of thanks before he led his brother back to the igloo.

Sans found out about a week later that he and his brother had their first encounter with one of the two large gangs that vied for control over Snowdin.

 

[Age 12]

Sans ran through Snowdin Forest, peering around for any signs of his brother. He’d just passed Doggo’s sentry station when he heard a scream of pain. A scream that filled his soul with dread as he recognized the voice as Papyrus’s. He sprinted up ahead until he came upon Dogamy holding his brother up in the air by his left leg.

“Dogaressa, I’ve finally caught him!” Dogamy growled out.

A towering dog dressed in black armor stepped besides Dogamy. Sans recognized her as Dogaressa. Each of them carried a large battle axe in the hand.

“Ready to say good night, pup?” Dogaressa taunted as she raised her weapon.

“No hard feelings. You either join the Hunters or are left to dust.”

Sans immediately took ahold of his magic and shot out a sharp bone to pierce into the arm holding the battle axe.

“let go of my bro you shitty mutts!”

Sans dashed towards Papyrus, a ring of bones floating behind him. He swiftly directed them towards Dogamy, who dropped his brother. Sans took ahold of Dogamy’s soul, lifted him into the air and sent him crashing into Dogaressa. Immediately after, Sans felt a tremendous surge in his magic and sharp femurs erupted from the ground to strike at the two canine monsters.

“We’ll be back and you’ll be sorry!” Dogamy threatened as he and Dogaressa turned to retreat.

Sans briefly wondered how he’d suddenly summon those bones from the ground without meaning to but dismissed the thought upon seeing Papyrus. Sans ran to his brother, who had just gotten up from the ground. He noticed a minor fracture in his brother’s right clavicle.

“paps, did they hurt—”

Papyrus beamed back at Sans with admiration.

“SANS! THAT WAS AMAZING! YOU’RE THE COOLEST!”

“heh, of course i am paps. anyone that hurts ya will get double the hurt back from me,” he answered, inspecting the wound. It didn’t seem that bad. Nothing a spicy bun wouldn’t be able to heal.

“JUST YOU WAIT, BROTHER! I’LL TRAIN TWICE AS HARD TO BECOME STRONG!” Papyrus exclaimed, injury seemingly forgotten.

“i’m sure you will, bro. after all, you’re just as great as me.”

“I’LL BECOME CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL GUARD! I’LL BE ABLE TO PROTECT MYSELF AND YOU! NYEH HEH HEH!”

“yep, you sure will, bro. c'mon, let’s head back and get that shoulder fixed up.”

The two skeletons made their way back to the Shop, which had almost become their second home. They had made the igloo their main place of housing, though the Shopkeeper often supported them by providing them with healing food and items. They spent most of their days training in Snowdin Forest, making sure to avoid the gang wars between the Inferno and the Hunters.

As the two brothers trekked their way back to the igloo, several monsters wearing hoodies, with a purple flame design on them, trailed after them. Sans looked at his brother and gave a brief nod. The two immediately broke into a run. Three more monsters popped out in front of some trees, one of them constructing a green shield in front of them. They spun around but found themselves trapped.

“Sorry we got to do this. Orders from our director.”

Before Sans even had a chance to do anything, something hard struck the back of his head and everything went black.

Sans woke up lying on a dirty wooden floor. When he moved to get up, he realized his wrist were secured tightly behind his back. Panic flooded his soul as he peered around and didn’t see any signs of his brother. His brother was still injured and could be hurt even more or even dead!

Panic quickly morphed into an unrelenting anger as he called to his magic. These monsters were fools if they thought they could stop him from escaping when he’d been able to break the magic suppressing collars on his own back when he and Papyrus had escaped from the Labs.

He felt a jolt before a sharp bone appeared in front of him. He carefully moved it to cut through his bonds. Just as he got free, the door to the room swung open, and he sent a row of white and red bones toward the incoming monster. The unfortunate monster gave a yelp of pain. Another wave hovered inches from him, sharp ends pointed at the monster’s fleshy torso.

“W H E R E I S M Y B R O T H E R ?” the older skeleton growled, eyes appearing as black pits

“H-h-he’s in the other room!”

Feeling suddenly overwhelmed by the magic feeding into his rage, Sans dispersed the bones, grabbed the monster's soul and swung him outward. The monster crashed into several others who were running towards the room.

Sans quickly scrambled to the next room, using the sudden chaos as a distraction. He forced open the door. A muscular bird monster kicked Papyrus in his right shoulder, causing his brother to cry out in pain. Sans saw red as everything seemed to fade away except for that scene. A loud buzzing sound filled his ear. Three gaster blasters appeared in the room without him even realizing it. Screams rang out which Sans ignored. His focus was solely trained on the monster who had hurt his bro.

“i’m gonna fucking end you!”

The three blasters began to charge as Sans seized the monster’s soul and threw him into the wall. Before the bird could even make a single move, a red beam of light shot out from each blaster’s jaw and collided into the bird. When the blasts ended, only a pile of dust remained.

The entire area went dead silent. Even his own brother stared at him with wide sockets. Sans took deep, heaving breaths as his anger and magic subsided. He heard a slow clap coming from behind him and turned around. A well-dressed fire monster stood in the center of the back room.

“That was most wonderful. I could use someone of your capabilities in this place,” the flame elemental praised. He took wide, confident steps towards Sans. “As the leader of the Inferno, Grillby, I extend an invitation for you to join us. We will promise you protection against the Hunters, provide you with housing and give you unimaginable power in Snowdin. What do you say?”

Sans peered at Papyrus, who looked frightened. Probably at the thought of Sans abandoning him for the gang. Well there was no way Sans was gonna leave his brother all by himself.

“i’ll join only on the condition that my bro can join as well,” Sans demanded, giving Grillby a hard, unrelenting glare. “He’s just as proficient in magic as me, minus the blasters.”

Sans watched as Grillby studied his brother. A ring of sharp bones suddenly came out of the ground.

“I CAN FIGHT! LET ME JOIN!” the younger brother proclaimed.

Grillby gave one final look at the two of them before giving a nod, “Fine.” He extended a fiery hand. “Welcome to the Inferno, our two newest members!”

Joining the Infernos changed everything. Using the money he’d earned from completing missions for Grillby, Sans purchased a two-story house for him and his brother. The missions weren’t even that bad, most of them involving smuggling of goods—rare healing items, food, as it was hard to come by in the Underground, and resources. Occasionally, he was ordered to dust a fellow monster, typically one from the opposing gang. He was initially hesitant but as his LOVE increased with every elimination mission, he cared less and less.

Papyrus also became an active member of the Inferno, though not nearly as much as Sans. His brother had initially been uncertain about the whole thing but eventually grew into his role. He stayed away from most elimination mission, finding it unfitting for a future royal guard member.

The one monster who disapproved of their joining was the Shopkeeper, who limited her support for them. It didn’t matter much to Sans as he and his brother were well off on their own already, though he did feel a tinge of regret from her disappointment. That quickly disappeared once he gained more respect and power from doing so much for the gang. Around this time, Sans began to notice changes in Papyrus’s behavior.

His younger brother had somehow met Undyne, Captain of the Royal Guards at that time, and had begun training under her. His time spent participating in mission for the Inferno lessened considerably, stating that he had better use of his time spent training. Sans was initially upset and felt betrayed by the change but eventually accepted, and even supported, Papyrus’s endeavours.

Three years since joining the Inferno, Papyrus had become a member of the Royal Guard and Sans had become second commander of the Inferno, just below Grillby in rank. He felt on top of the world, or at least, on top of Snowdin with all that power. He also started seeing Grillby more and more, spending tons of time together. Everything was going so well for him and his brother.

 

[Age 17]

“i’m heading out. i’ll be back for dinner,” Sans. now the shorter brother, said. He swung open the door.

“SANS WAIT!” Papyrus called out. Sans noticed him fidgeting.

“what’s wrong bro?”

“I’M LEAVING THE INFERNO,” Papyrus stated. Sans stared back at his brother in shock. “IT IS NOT A CAREER PATH FOR SOMEONE PART OF THE ROYAL GUARD.”

“b-but paps, being a royal guard doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a gang. hell, even some royal guards, like doggo, are part of the hunters.”

“THEY ARE BUT THEY’RE TASKED WITH SENTRY DUTY AND ELIMINATING CRIME, NOT LIKE THE INFERNO WHO SIMPLY ELIMINATE ANYONE THAT STANDS IN THEIR WAY.”

For some inexplicable reason, Sans felt a surge of anger fill his soul. He couldn’t believe his brother, who had spent five years in the gang, would badmouth it so readily just because he’s now part of the Royal Guard.

“that’s not right, bro. the hunters do stuff just as bad as us. don’t tell me becoming a royal guard has made ya blind to this. it’s still kill or be killed ‘round here.”

Papyrus’s sockets narrowed at the accusation. “NO THEY AREN’T! AND SANS, I WANT YOU TO LEAVE THEM AS WELL!”

Sans couldn’t believe the words coming out of his brother’s mouth. The nerve of him thinking he could tell Sans what and what not to do.

“nope, sorry bro. i like bein’ part of the inferno, and if you got a problem with it, then too bad.”

Papyrus opened his mouth for a retort but Sans was already out the door before he heard a word. What did his brother know? Besides, he had a mission to complete!

His anger and indignation persisted even as Sans made his way to the designated area of attack. He let out an angry huff. He saw Skylar, a small dragon monster and his partner, waiting for him. They got along pretty well together, and Sans appreciated the monster’s sense of humor.

“Whoa, what’s got your bones all rattled?” the dragon asked upon seeing the expression on Sans’s face.

“nothin’. let’s get this over with,” the short skeleton responded shortly.

Skylar gave a shrug before joining Sans. The two of them went to the north side of Snowdin and came upon a small, round house adjacent to the ice-manufacturing plant Their mission was to eliminate a high ranked Hunter dubbed Strong Wolf.

Sans grasped Skylar’s arm and shortcutted into the house. Darkness enveloped the entire area. The floors and walls were dirty and covered in dust. A fresh pile lay on the right corner from the doorway. Skylar suppressed a shudder, and Sans didn’t blame him. That must’ve been the last monster that had been assigned to this mission.

The two Infernos crept their way through the house, trying to be as discreet as possible. Just as they stepped upstairs, yellow lightning-shaped bullets surrounded them. Sans immediately summoned a wall of bones to block the bullets as they shot towards them. A dark figure appeared in front of them and sent another wave of bullets towards them. Fireballs shot out of Skylar’s mouth towards Strong Wolf. A few lightning bullets made it past Skylar’s attack and rained down on the dragon monster.

Sans grabbed Skylar’s soul and moved his partner away from the assault of bullets.

“Thanks buddy,” the draconic monster said. He blew out another round of fireballs.

“The Hunters will not be stopped. Soon, we’ll even have the support from the royal guards,” Strong Wolf growled.

Sans felt a ripple in his soul, reminded of the conversation he had with his brother just before coming here. His anger came back in full force and an uncontrollable, but familiar force surged within him. It was the same rush of power when that bird monster had hurt his brother five years ago. And just like before, he found it to be too much; several blasters floated in the air. Sharp bones also exploded from the ground and the walls.

The blasters let out a roar and began charging. Concentrated magic issued from each one of them. The whole upstairs area lit up in the same shade of red as his magic. As they attacked, Sans was knocked off his feet and crashed head first into the wall, knocking him out cold.

“What? Skylar’s been killed? By who?”

“Sans!”

“What? Sans?!”

“PLEASE QUIET DOWN!”

Voices fluttered into his nonexistent ears. When he opened his eyes, Sans saw Grillby, a bear monster and Papyrus peering down at him. Concern etched on his brother’s face. Sans sat up and saw that he had been lying on the floor of Strong Wolf’s house. Two large piles of dust sat several feet away from him. He assumed one of them was Strong Wolf. The other couldn’t be who he thought it was.

“w-what happened? where’s skylar?”

Papyrus and the bear monster stared at Sans with a sad expression while Grillby’s flame dimmed.

“HE WAS A PILE OF DUST WHEN WE GOT HERE. WHAT HAPPENED?”

A chill went up Sans’s spine and a ringing sound flooded his hearing. It wasn’t possible. There was no way. How had he lost control of his magic like that? Did he accidently kill his partner?

The short skeleton flinched as Papyrus laid a hand on his shoulder. Papyrus was saying something but the ringing persisted and blocked out his brother’s words. It wasn’t until he saw Papyrus stomping on the ground that the ringing finally stopped.

“THIS IS WHY I TOLD YOU TO LEAVE THE GANG!”

Grillby’s fire brightened and flared blue but that was nothing compared to Sans’s reaction who shook furiously. Bones floated in the air, one of them shooting towards Papyrus.

CLACK!

A scream of pain came from Papyrus and he clutched at his left socket.

“paps! are you—?” Sans shouted as he ran towards his brother. He couldn’t believe he’d accidently attacked his brother! Sure, he was feeling annoyed but he never meant to hurt him.

Sans heard a soft sniff as his brother backed away and ran off. Sans was about to follow after Papyrus when a warm hand stop him.

“Let him go. If he wants to leave, I won’t stop him. Give him some space. What happened was unfortunate and terrible, but I do not blame you, Sans,” Grillby comforted. “Hey, how about a drink? It’ll be on me.”

Sans felt numb, still struggling with the fact that he’d not only killed his partner but also hurt his brother. He nodded weakly and followed Grillby to his bar. As the fire elemental had promised, Sans had a drink. And then another. And another.

By the time he’d stopped, he could barely think and stumbled home. Guilt gnarled at his soul when he saw the crack running down the left side of his brother’s face, from forehead to cheekbone. He didn’t say a word to Papyrus, not even an apology, as he shuffled into his room.

Months went by and Sans felt his control of his magic slip more and more, until even trying to summon simple bone attacks resulted in an unwanted burst in power. At least he could still use his shortcuts with no problems. He tried to train himself but it only caused anxiety and panic every time he used his magic. He blamed it on all the experiments that had been done to him by the previous Royal Scientist.

He maintained his distance with Papyrus, not wanting to accidentally hurt him again. Even when Papyrus said he’d forgiven him and asked to train together, Sans curtly declined and stayed away. He’d also left the Inferno soon after that last mission.

Sans watched as his brother grew stronger, controlling his magic with increased finesse. Jealously initially filled Sans’s soul until it eventually transformed into an unrelenting guilt as Papyrus gained more and more LV. His brother had changed so much from the passionate and loving monster from before, becoming cruel and unrelenting in his goals. The worst part of it all was that Sans hadn’t lifted a single finger to help prevent this change from occurring. That was why when Papyrus began to treat him coldly and with no respect, he never complained and accepted everything. It was all his fault anyway.

 

[Age 21]

Sans decided to finally do something special for his brother. He stayed away from Grillby’s for the day and prepared dinner, hoping to apologize for everything and to make up for how shitty of a brother he’d been.

A loud crash came through his front door just as he had finished setting up the table. Doggo stood in his living room, directing his dagger-shaped bullets at him. Sans narrowly dodged them.

“what the fuck are you attackin’ my house for?!”

“Didn’t you hear? Your brother just became Captain of the Royal Guard. He doesn’t need you anymore so I’ll do him a favor and put you out of your misery!” Doggo growled.

A massive ring of bullets surrounded the short skeleton. Sans stood rooted in his spot, overwhelmed by the anxiety of having to use his magic. This was it; he was gonna die before ever getting to apologize to Papyrus.

“STOP RUINING MY HOUSE!” Papyrus suddenly snarled from the door.

He raised a glove-covered hand and bones appeared in midair to block the dagger-shaped bullets. Sans slowly backed away until his back hit the wall. One of Papyrus’s bone attacks missed Doggo’s bullets and flew towards Sans’s face.

CLACK!

Pain exploded on the right side of Sans’s face like a firecracker, and he let out a yelp, hands flying to where the attack had hit him. He felt a crack running from his forehead to his cheekbone.

“AS NEWLY ASSIGNED CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL GUARD, YOU WILL LEAVE MY HOUSE IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL NOT HESITATE TO ELIMINATE YOU!” Papyrus’s voice rang out coldly. Sans heard the sound of something sharp piercing flesh and a whining howl. “TAKE THIS AS A WARNING!”

The pain subsided enough for Sans to allow his eye lights to reappear. He flinched back upon seeing Papyrus standing only inches from him, staring intently at him.

“h-h-hey bro. thanks for savin’ me. i… uh… made ya spaghetti. congrats on becomin’ captain,” Sans mumbled. Since when had his brother gotten so tall?

A fleeting look of concern flashed within Papyrus’s face before quickly turning into a glare.

“YOU GET MORE PATHETIC BY THE DAY, SANS! JUST STANDING THERE DOING NOTHING WHEN DOGGO ATTACKED YOU?! YOU USED TO BE SO MUCH BETTER! YOU USED TO BE SO STRONG!”

Sans slumped heavily.

“EITHER WAY, I WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO EMBARRASS ME ANY FURTHER. THE OTHERS REFER TO ME AS CAPTAIN OR BOSS!” Papyrus declared, arms folded across his chest. “I EXPECT THE SAME FROM YOU. UNDERSTOOD?”

The older brother gave a weak nod. Papyrus turned around and walked towards the broken door.

“aren’t you hungry?”

Papyrus paused for several seconds. Sans heard a soft sigh.

“It’s too late for that now. I have a report to finish. You can have it.” Without another word, his brother stepped outside and disappeared into town.

The pain from Papyrus’s rejection hurt more than any injury he’d ever received, including the one that had caused the crack on the right side of his face. Though he guessed he deserved it, considering his brother probably felt the same way that night he’d ignored Papyrus.

Welp, the damage had been dealt, and Sans didn’t see any way that he could fix this with his brother. He walked into the kitchen, stared at the spaghetti and dumped it into the trash. He shambled over to Grillby’s.

Five years later, Boss disappeared, and Sans met his much nicer counterpart.

Chapter Text

Papyrus spent the last few days staying in Hariet’s shop alongside Red. Although he itched to do something other than sit around and waste time, the other two monsters, as well as Flowey, all suggested that it was much too dangerous to be wandering alone outside. Snowdin has essentially become a battleground with the resurgence of the two gangs. It seemed without this world’s Papyrus’s iron fist to suppress the gangs, they’ve sprouted back out like weeds in spring. Papyrus was glad Red had filled in on the story between the two groups but wished he could do more than hide inside a shop. It was not what the Great Papyrus did!

At least Flowey was unknown enough among the residents and small enough to slip away occasionally to scout for any changes. He only reported increasing dust piles, which he’d try to disclose out of Papyrus’s hearing. Papyrus still found out eventually, and it upset him greatly that he wasn’t initially informed like the others. He disliked it when monsters didn’t tell him things because they thought he was too innocent or naïve to understand. Sans did that all the time, and it was the one, and only, aspect of his brother that truly annoyed him.

He had worded his displeasure at being left out of the news, even if it was bad news. Flowey had apologized with a hint of regret in his voice, while Red refused to say anything and still continued to hide things from him. In many ways, Papyrus found him similar to Sans, such as their love of bad jokes and overprotectiveness of him (and his innocence) but he was also different in many ways. Red was far more rude, had quite a coarse vocabulary and tended to be more emotive, even though it was usually anger. Nevertheless, Papyrus found himself becoming drawn more and more to him each day they’d spent together. They talked mostly about each other’s worlds. Red was still hesitant on divulging more information about his brother, becoming angry or upset each time Papyrus tried to bring up the topic.

Three days after being cooped up in the Snowdin Shop, Papyrus had enough and needed to get outside. He could create so many puzzles with only pencil and paper. He needed more room and space! Plus, it was getting extremely dull sitting in the same few rooms every day. He didn’t understand how his brother and Red did it. Papyrus was a skeleton on a mission, a mission to do something productive! He couldn’t become a Royal Guard if he sat around every day doing nothing while there were monsters in danger!

“RED!” Papyrus addressed to the skeleton napping on a makeshift bed made from sheets. The short skeleton jolted from Papyrus’s loud voice. “WE NEED TO MOVE ABOUT! I KNOW IT IS DANGEROUS OUT THERE BUT WITH BOTH OF US TOGETHER, WE CAN DO SOMETHING MORE!”

Red blinked up at him in dazed confusion before comprehension finally dawn on him, “what? are you crazy or stupid? it’s still dangerous out there!”

Papyrus was not deterred as he clambered on, “THINK OF IT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE OUR STEALTHINESS! IT WILL GIVE US SOMETHING TO DO!”

“yeah, and get us killed!” Red huffed.

“STOP BEING SUCH A LAZYBONES, RED! THERE’S SO MUCH MORE WE COULD BE DOING OUT THERE! WHAT IF A HUMAN COMES THROUGH?”

Red scoffed dismissively, “as if a human would be any better. in fact, they best not be showin’ up or they’d be d e a d w h e r e t h e y s t a n d.”

“NO VIOLENCE! NOT EVEN AGAINST A HUMAN!” Papyrus yelled, his eyes bulging out. “MAYBE THEY CAN HELP US!”

Red gave another frustrated huff and crossed his arms in front of him, glaring at the blank wall. Papyrus didn’t see what was so fascinating with it and had a feeling Red was simply ignoring him.

“FINE! IF YOU WON’T COME, THEN I’LL GO ALONE! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL HANDLE HIMSELF!” The tall skeleton sprang up from his seat and took three quick strides towards the door. He heard a blip and Red appeared in front of him, blocking the door. Beads of sweat lined the side of his skull.

“fine, fine, i’ll go with you. it’s dangerous to go alone.”

Papyrus beamed at the short skeleton in appreciation, “THANK YOU RED! I KNEW I COULD COUNT ON YOU!”

“d-don’t get the wrong idea! i just don’t wanna f-f-find you as a pile of dust.” Pink dusted Red’s cheekbones as his red eye lights darted to the side. He looked adorable, and Papyrus couldn’t help himself but give Red a warm hug. When he pulled away, the short skeleton’s face was red as a tomato.

The Shopkeeper disapproved of their idea but didn’t stop them from going. She handed them some healing items before they left, which Papyrus appreciated. The two skeleton snuck out of Snowdin with fairly little issue though they were almost spotted by one of Grillby’s monsters.

“can’t believe how much inferno’s grown since i left,” Red mumbled. His eyes darted around their surroundings for any surprise attacks. “then again, all his patrons are part of it, except for the canine unit.”

Papyrus found the whole gang war ridiculous and wondered what the Royal Guard was like in this world for them to not do a thing about it. To even be a part of a gang! Then again, no monster in his world would ever dust another monster; it simply wasn’t in their nature. How did Red’s world end up like this despite having many similarities to his own, if you discounted the kill or be killed nature of this place?

Deep in his own thoughts, Papyrus crashed into Red, who had stopped walking. The two of them had gotten out of the main town and stood in front of a fork in the road. One led to the XOXO puzzle and the southern path led to the cliffside with the mysterious door. Except about a third of cliff was currently covered in gray colored blocks and undecipherable text. It was similar to when Papyrus had first seen the door with Flowey.

“WHAT IS THAT?”

“it’s a glitch.” Red stared at the sight with eyeless sockets. “don’t know what’s causing ‘em but they’ve been sprouting up all over the underground.”

“I’VE NEVER SEEN THESE ‘GLITCHES’ UNTIL NOW,” Papyrus informed. He still didn’t understand what these things were.

“anyways, it’s best if we don’t go near it,” Red said. Apprehension dripped from his voice. “figured we could stop by my sentry station.”

Papyrus nodded and followed Red. They had just gotten past the XOXO puzzle when they found themselves surrounded by the five canines of the Royal Guard: Doggo, Dogamy, Dogaressa, Lesser Dog and Greater Dog. Each of them stood with their weapons bared and stance ready for battle.

“The Captain ain’t here, so we’ll take this opportunity to eliminate you two,” Doggo growled. “Get ‘em!”

White, dagger-shaped bullets appeared in the air like twinkling stars and rained down on the two skeletons. Blue bones met them halfway to negate the attack. Dogamy and Dogaressa both sprinted towards Papyrus, swinging their battle axes while Lessar Dog and Greater Dog attacked Red with their spears.

Papyrus deflected wave after wave of bullets and axe swings with his bone staff and flung alternating bone patterns towards the dog monsters. As the seemingly endless assault continued, his arms began to tire. Papyrus took a quick glance at Red, who was holding himself off fairly well. He still seemed hesitant on going all out with his magic, spending most of his time dodging, though he still used it more than before they had began training. Red bones erupted from the ground, which seemed to cause major damage given the yelp of pain that escaped from Lesser Dog’s mouth. Doggo stayed where he was, flinging more daggers at them.

“Don’t think you can underestimate us!” Dogaressa snapped as she charged towards the tall skeleton.

Dogamy followed through with heart-shaped bullet patterns. The coordinated attack between the two caught Papyrus by surprise, causing the axe to graze the side of his ribs. Sharp pain burst from his chest, and Papyrus watched as his HP dropped by fifty points.

A loud distressed whine sounded in the area as Greater Dog crashed through several trees. Red must have flung the monster through the forest with his magic. Lessar Dog was lying on the ground, unconscious with smoke singeing from his gray fur. Sweat poured down Red’s scarred skull and his left eye flickered between red and yellow. Gaster blasters hovered around them all, their giant maws opening to fire.

Without warning, Red disappeared from his spot and reappeared next to Papyrus.

“we… gotta get… outta here… now,” Red panted heavily. He was shaking violently, pain etched his features.

Papyrus suddenly felt his whole body lurch as everything went pitch black for a split second. He blinked and found himself standing within a grove. He searched for Red and let out a loud gasp as he caught sight of the short skeleton’s broken left arm— it had snapped cleanly off just above his elbow. A red substance dripped from the injury. Papyrus’s soul clenched at the sight.

“RED! YOU’RE ARM!”

“i’ll be… fine… just gonna take a… short nap.” Red swayed dangerously on his feet and lurched forward.

Papyrus caught the short skeleton before he hit the snow. He inspected the injury, wincing at how uneven the break was and the glopping red liquid dripping from it. What even was that? At least he wasn’t dusting. Papyrus still checked Red as a precaution.

Sans
Lv 8
HP 1/5
AT 10
DF 4

Is in pain.

In the back of his mind, he hadn’t realized Red had killed that much to have a LV of 8. He wasn’t about to judge Red harshly for it, given the type of world this was, but it had still sent a shiver up his spine.

The tall skeleton took a deep breath and carefully coaxed the other half of the arm out of Red’s grasp. After matching the break as evenly as he could, Papyrus brought his gloved hand to it and sent a continuous pulse of healing magic until it reattached and became a noticeable, jagged scar. The red substance had stopped flowing out of his arm.

A wave of dizziness hit Papyrus as he stopped the flow of healing magic. He waited a few seconds for it to subside before letting out a sigh of relief.

Snap!

Someone was coming, and it wasn’t safe to be this out in the open. Papyrus swiftly surveyed his surroundings before he scooped the unconscious skeleton up into his arms and took off in the opposite direction of the sound.

He had to get back to the Shop and allow Red to heal. Guilt gnarled at his soul as he peered down at Red’s grimacing face. At least the shaking had stopped. If only he hadn’t suggested to come out here, then Red wouldn’t be in this state. If only he hadn’t been so selfish and heeded the others’ warnings.

Papyrus suddenly halted in his tracks as a loud snarl came from one of the trees in front of him. A grey wolf stood in his path. White, circular bullets surrounded him.

“You’re not going anywhere!” Ice Wolf growled.

“PLEASE LET US GO!”

“You’re both injured. Why should I not use this opportunity to dust you?”

“I SPARED YOU! WHY NOT RETURN THE FAVOR?” Papyrus implored.

The wolf monster looked hesitant for a split second before he resolutely shook his head, “There’s no benefit in letting you two leave. Once I get rid of you two, I’ll no longer be looked down upon in the Hunters.” A sneer crept up in his face. “Besides, there’s no way for you to back in Snowdin. Those shitty Infernos have blocked off the bridge into town. Guess you have no choice but to accept death!”

Papyrus glared fiercely at Ice Wolf as he clutched Red closer to his chest, not wanting the bullets to hit him. White bullets encircled him.

“I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO TO DIE HERE!”

“Heh, guess you’ll just have to kill me this time to get through me!”

Papyrus twirled his bone staff to block the incoming bullets, though one of them still ended up grazing his left shoulder.

Ting!

Ice Wolf’s soul turned blue, and he fell onto the ground. Papyrus took this time to heal back some health with a spicy bunny. A few white bones collided into Ice Wolf from his inability to time his jumps properly.

“HAVEN’T YOU EVER WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING ELSE? HAVE ANY OTHER GOALS BESIDES FOLLOWING SOMEONE ELSE’S ORDERS?” the tall skeleton asked. Confusion flickered on Ice Wolf’s features. “YOU CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER! YOU ONLY NEED TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND HAVE THE DETERMINATION TO CHANGE! IT CAN BE AS SIMPLE AS SHOWING MERCY TO ANOTHER MONSTER!”

“You, uh, really believe that?” the monstered asked.

“OF COURSE! I BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN CHANGE FOR THE BETTER!”

Silence reigned in the forest as the two monsters stared at each other. Indecision racked Ice Wolf’s face. Papyrus thought he had finally gotten through to the monster when, all of a sudden, shouts filtered their way into the forest. Ice Wolf glanced in the direction they were coming from, and his eyes hardened.

“It’s too late to change,” he muttered, sadness tinged in his voice. He charged.

Papyrus shook his head, slowly backing away and subtly controlled his bones underneath the snow-covered ground.. “IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE. BUT I WILL NOT BE CAUGHT THIS EASILY!”

Ice Wolf sprang forward towards Papyrus and immediately collapsed into a hole on the ground. The solid ground had be cut into a wide enough hole to allow the wolf monster to fall in completely.

“AH HA! YOU FELL RIGHT INTO A TRAP BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS! NYEH HEH HEH!!”

 

Hearing the voices drawing closer, the tall skeleton sprang off in the opposite direction. He ran as fast and as far as his long legs could carry him and Red. He cut through trees and jumped over rocks. The best spot would have to be Red’s sentry station, since that had been their initial plan. He hoped there would be no more conflicts with other monsters.

Regret and guilt filled his soul as he gazed down at the unconscious skeleton in his arms. He promised to himself that he’d protect and help Red but now look what he’d done! Why had he thought this was a good idea? He should have stayed in the Shop. And Flowey was probably worried sick about them.

In the distance, he finally spotted the lone sentry station standing in proximity to the door to the Ruins. As soon as he made it to the station, his legs finally gave out.

Papyrus rummaged through his inventory and brought out another spicy bunny. He ate half of it and saved the rest for Red, who rested against his arms, still unconscious. He inspected the broken arm, making sure he hadn’t jostled the injury during his escape. The crack from where he’d healed the break was still visible. He took his scarf and gingerly wrapped the cloth around Red’s broken arm, hoping that it would heal better that way.

“There you two are! I was so worried I’d find you as piles of dust,” a familiar voice said.

Flowey popped out from the ground and inspected the two skeletons.

“What happened to him?” the flower asked, pointing his right leaf at Red.

“I’m not entirely sure but he broke his arm. I healed it the best I could but he’s still not waking up,” younger skeleton answered, voice soft. He was racked with guilt.

Flowey drew himself to Papyrus’s sitting height and patted him on the shoulder in comfort.

“He’ll be fine. Sans’s tougher than he looks. And I doubt he’ll hold it against you.”

Papyrus knew the short skeleton wouldn’t and that only made him feel worse. He gave Flowey a false, bright smile, not wanting to worry the flower.

“Anyway, we’ll have to camp here for a while. The entrance to Snowdin is blocked off,” Flowey announced. “We have to come up with a plan to sneak back in somehow.”

Papyrus gave the flower monster a weak nod, still berating himself for causing all this unnecessary trouble. He carefully set Red down on the station and stood up.

“I’M GOING TO LOOK FOR SUPPLIES!” he shouted with false enthusiasm. He had to do something to occupy his distressing thoughts.

Flowey sprang up near Red. “I’ll watch over him.”

Papyrus explored the surrounding forest, making sure to survey his surroundings thoroughly before making any sudden movements. He picked out some large sticks and logs that could be used to construct some sort of shelter. Some of the broader pine trees made for a passable makeshift roof as long as the snow was shaken off.

After about an hour of searching, he walked back with his findings. Flowey sat perched on the front part of the station, watching over their surroundings and occasionally glancing down at Red.

“IS HE GETTING BETTER?” Papyrus asked anxiously as he dropped the pile of wooden logs.

“He’s been muttering stuff in his sleep but nothing else.”

Papyrus wrung his hands together, wondering if Red also got nightmares like his brother did. He was about to ask another question when Flowey unexpectedly held up his leaf hands.

“Go hide behind the trees!” the flower hissed.

Taking a final glance at Red’s prone figure hidden behind his sentry station, Papyrus took cover behind a wide tree. He heard the sound of something heavy scraping against an icy surface. He peaked around the tree and saw the door to the Ruins opening slightly. Flowey’s eyes narrowed as the crack grew wider and wider.

“Who is that?” Papyrus had the sense to keep his voice low.

Flowey didn’t answer. When the door fully opened, the figure of a two-legged monster stepped out. They had dark brown hair and wore a black sweater with two red stripes and black pants.

“That is a human,” Flowey finally whispered after a long bout of silence, “A human child.”

Chapter Text

Sans found himself walking into a dark room with a giant skull contraception, causing his soul to freeze at the sight. He would recognized that accursed machine anywhere, the machine that caused so many of his problems. His soul constricted in fear at the sight of a dark, tall skeleton holding a vial of red liquid within his gloved hands; it was his brother holding—was that Determination?

Sans scrambled to grab the vial but only heard a low timbered voice, sounding vaguely similar to his own, come out of his mouth, “edge, buddy, pal, you shouldn’t touch that.”

Edge? Was that… referring to his brother? If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Sans would have chuckled at the name.

“What is this?”

“ya don’t wanna know. just put it down and we can leave.”

He walked forward a few steps and snatched the Determination out of Boss’s hands into his own. Except this wasn’t his red magical signature but blue.

“HEY! GIVE THAT BACK TO ME! I FOUND IT!”

“you don’t know how dangerous this stuff is. it can—”

Static and dial-up noises suddenly filled the air. A warped, white monstrosity that looked like a gigantic grinning face with several pairs of eyes lumbered towards them.

[Lorem ipsum docet]

“oh shit.” Sans heard himself say.

“WHAT IS THAT?!”

The many-eyed monster reared its amorphous head towards the vial and let out a static filled roar. It immediately charged towards them at a surprisingly fast pace. The Determination was plucked out of Sans’s reach and into Boss’s hands.

"no, don't!"

Sans bolted up, calling out his brother’s name and finding himself staring into a smiling white, familiar skeletal face.

“B—!”

He realized he wasn’t staring into the face of his brother but the other Papyrus that had taken his place. He shook slightly.

What was going on in his dream? Was it even real? This was the second time he’d seen his brother in that other universe. And was that Determination that he’d taken? The thought of his brother given Determination caused his breath to shorten and panic quickly settled in.

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT?” A comforting hand was placed on his back. Papyrus stared at him with concern marring his features.

“...yeah... i’ll be fine,” Sans gave a nonchalant shrug. He felt the panic recede. Soft fabric brush against his elbow, and he noticed that his arm wasn’t broken like how he’d remembered.

“AH, YES, I HEALED YOUR ARM THOUGH YOU CAN STILL SEE A CRACK IN IT. JUST BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU USE IT!” the tall skeleton explained brightly.

Sans’s soul gave a strange flutter. He turned his head to the side as he felt heat rise to his face. His eyes fell upon Flowey speaking quietly to—

“Y o u!”

Jagged red bones surrounded the human child wearing the red and black sweater. It was the same kid that went around killing everyone in the Underground during the last timeline. Or at least, that was the vague recollection he got as soon as he saw the kid. Either way, this kid was dangerous and not to be trusted.

CLACK! CLACK! CLACK!

His red bones were parried away by a flurry of blue bones and white seed-shaped bullets before the kid was skewered into a bloody pincushion.

“NO VIOLENCE AGAINST THE HUMAN! THEY ARE OUR FRIEND!” Papyrus scolded, standing protectively in front of the kid.

“You can’t go around attacking everyone who you think is an enemy,” Flowey added. He perched himself on the human’s right shoulder.

Sans couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This kid, a friend? The same kid that almost killed him last time? How are they not an enemy?

“you should know what this kid did last time!” Sans snarled at the flower monster.

“I’m sorry,” a soft, timid voice suddenly interrupted.

Sans glared at the human, not at all believing a word they’d said. He would have attacked them again if both Papyrus and Flowey weren’t looking at him as if he were a misbehaving child.

“While you were out,” Flowey began, “we spoke with Frisk—”

“frisk? that the kid’s name?” the short skeleton interrupted.

Flowey’s center face scrunched into a look of annoyance before answering with a sigh, “Yeah, that’s their name. Anyway, as I was saying before you rudely cut me off, we spoke with Frisk, and they regret what they’ve done last time.”

“AND EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE TO BETTER THEMSELVES OR ELSE NOBODY WOULD EVER MATCH TO MY GREATNESS!” Papyrus boomed.

Sans glanced over at the kid and was surprised to see tears dripping down their face. It almost made him feel bad for attacking them. A sigh escaped from his sharp-teeth mouth, and he shuffled over to the kid. They flinched back slightly as he neared.

“fine, i’ll believe ya for now. any funny business, though, and you’re g o n n a h a v e a b a d t i m e.” He blinked out his eye lights.

A gloved hand suddenly smacked his back. His red eye lights blinked back on in shock.

“STOP FRIGHTENING MY FRIEND!” Papyrus chided.

Sans glared at the tall skeleton and snapped out, “don’t tell me what to do! and i’m still injured!”

“Not enough to attack someone, apparently,” Flowey said dryly.

“fuck you, you stupid flower.”

“LANGUAGE!”

Sans huffed and grumpily sat against his sentry station, crossing his arms in front of his chest in irritation. He couldn’t help the tinge of resentment from budding within his soul as he watched the kid and Papyrus interact. What did he care if they were friends?

The four of them traded plans back and forth on how to stop all the gang wars in Snowdin. The kid suggested they try talking it out with all the monsters, which Flowey declined as it wouldn’t work with everyone out for dust and violence. Sans didn’t understand why his plan of kicking everyone’s ass until they’re unconscious got immediately shot down.

“WHAT IF I PRETENDED TO BE YOUR BROTHER?” Papyrus suggested. “THEN I CAN ORDER THEM TO STOP!”

Sans stared back at Papyrus like he’d grown two heads.

“are you fuckin—”

“LANGUAGE!”

“are you outta your mind?! that’s stupid! there’s no way you can act like boss. you’ll be found out immediately! tell him i’m right, flower.”

Much to Sans’s surprise and horror, Flowey squinted his eyes in thought. The kid remained silent and watched. How useless.

“I think it may work,” Flowey said. “It’s the best option we’ve got.”

“best we’ve got? are ya kiddin’ me?!”

There was no way this monster-hugging skeleton could pull off acting as Boss. And things would go horribly wrong if anyone found out it wasn’t Boss. It could put this Papyrus in danger. And what would that mean to his brother if something were to happen to his counterpart? It could break some universal law and cause a paradox.

“i’m not takin’ any part of this! it won’t work!” the short skeleton growled.

He fell silent when he saw the hurt and discouraged expression on Papyrus’s face, guilt flooding his soul. Sans didn’t like seeing that expression on him.

“can you really act like my bro?”

Papyrus perked up and answered in a confident voice, “WHY, OF COURSE! HE IS ME AFTER ALL!”

After a long period of silence, Sans reluctantly agreed. The plan was for him to take them through a shortcut back to their house, change Papyrus’s appearance to match that of Boss’s, and teach him how to act enough like Boss to stop all the gang fighting. There was a lot that could go wrong and very little that could go right.

“ya really think this will work with just the kid and flower’s help?” Sans asked just after they landed in Boss’s bedroom.

Papyrus stared at the room with childlike awe, especially when his eyes fell upon the miniature wood carvings of all the monsters. It was kinda cute. Sans quickly shook that thought out of his mind, cursing at his own stupid thoughts.

“DO NOT WORRY! WITH HELP FROM THE GREAT PAPYRUS, I’M SURE EVERYTHING WILL WORK OUT AS PLANNED, ESPECIALLY IF WE ALL WORK TOGETHER!” The tall skeleton offered his right hand.

“alright, guess i’ll give it a shot.”

Sans reached out his leatherjacket-covered arm and slowly shook hands with Papyrus, hoping that this plan doesn’t blow up in their faces. After Papyrus changed, he had to admit that he did pull of Boss’s look fairly well, besides the lack of scars and sharp teeth. He didn’t know how he would get those two aspects onto Papyrus. The easily excitable skeleton suggested to draw in the scars.

Once Sans got everyone back to the Shopkeeper’s hideout, he immediately collapsed onto the makeshift bed in exhaustion. Not only had the presence of the kid cause Hariet to nearly attack them like he’d done, but using his shortcuts three times in rapid succession, and with a passenger each time, took a lot out of him. It didn’t help that his recently-mended arm throbbed dully with pain. He drifted off to sleep watching Papyrus prance around the shop trying to act like Boss.

The blurry figure of the kid came into view as Sans shook himself awake hours after he’d fallen asleep. He immediately sprang back, left eye flickering red and gold. The kid flinched back in response. The two stared at each other in silence with the short skeleton wondering if he was going to get dusted.

“I reset because of what you asked last time,” the kid’s voice spoke softly. They kept their eyes glued to the hands they were nervously wringing in their lap.

Sans stared at the human in bewilderment, racking his brain to come up with something intelligent to say. Maybe a pun.

“I know this may not mean much to you, but I promise I’ll do it right this time. I’ll save everyone this time, even if I have to die a hundred times,” the human gave him a look filled with determination. “Because I do believe even the worst person can change. That everyone deserves a second chance.”

Familiar words he’s heard himself say in his dreams, from another Sans, filtered into his mind. It was quickly drowned out by the loud, boisterous clamoring.

YOU CAN ALWAYS DO BETTER! YOU ONLY NEED TO BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND HAVE THE DETERMINATION TO CHANGE

Where has he heard that? Sans shook himself out of his trance and gazed at the look of determination in the kid’s eyes.

“alright kid... i believe ya.”

As Sans walked back to the main room, his soul nearly froze at the sight of Papyrus, who really did pull off Boss’s appearance convincingly. From his distance, the cracks expertly drawn on by the Shopkeeper in the left side of his skull almost looked real. The only thing missing was the sharp teeth.

“DO I LOOK LIKE THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS!” There was a rough, harsh quality to the voice. If he hadn’t known this was actually Papyrus, he would have thought it was Boss speaking.

“wow, uh, you look… good,” Sans mumbled, still feeling shellshocked.

“WHY THANK YOU, YOU LAZY PILE OF BONES!”

Dead silence filled the room as everyone stared at Papyrus, taken aback by his words, until Sans gave a huff of amusement. A low chuckle followed afterwards, and soon, everyone was laughing. Sans explained to Papyrus how his brother would act in front of the guards with Flowey, the kid and Hariet chiming in every now and then.

After several hours of play acting, they all decided to call it a day and take it easy. Sans watched with suppressed envy as Papyrus chatted enthusiastically with the kid. He didn’t know how they ended up getting along so well together in such a short amount of time. Must be from their similar monster-hugging natures.

Sans was woken up in the middle of the night by a loud crash, sounding suspiciously like breaking glass, coming from the front of the store. He looked around the dark room, easily spotting the kid and flower, who had wound himself loosely around the kid’s right arm.

“YOU WILL STOP THIS INSTANCE!” a gruff voice sounding like Boss came from the storefront followed by the clack of bones.

By the time Sans had gotten to the front of the store, all he found was three pairs of footsteps leading away from the Shop and a bunch of bones sticking out of the ground. Hariet and the human, with Flowey in tow, came up shortly behind him.

“Those bastards dare to attack my shop!” the rabbit monster ranted, as she spotted the fallen glass from the broken window. “I’m going to give them a beating the next time they step forth in my shop!”

“Where’s Papyrus?” Flowey asked.

Sans didn’t answer as he sprinted after the trail of footsteps. They abruptly disappeared once it reached the puzzle with the colored tiles. The rectangular machine that usually stood at the end of the tiles was gone. Fear and rage flooded Sans’s soul.

He heard a whimper in the distance behind a tree, took a shortcut to the sound and trapped the monster within a tight circle of bones. He glared at Ice Wolf with empty, black sockets.

“W h e r e ‘ s P a p y r u s ?”

“I-it was Doggo! H-he betrayed us and worked as a double agent for Grillby!” Ice Wolf stuttered, shaking violently.

Sans let out a stream of obscenities and appeared outside Grillby’s. He stormed into the bar, rage coursing through him. The purple fire monster stood behind his bar counter with a wide smirk plastered across his face. Sans summoned three blasters behind him.

“tell me where papyrus is, you piece of shit, or i’m blastin’ this place!”

Despite the concentrated magic charging in each of the blaster’s jaws, Grillby didn’t even move an inch, which only infuriated Sans more.

“If you kill me now, you’ll never find out,” the fire elemental sneered. “Besides, he would make quite an interesting experiment, wouldn’t you say?”

The short skeleton felt as if the air was suddenly knocked out of him. His blasters disappeared in an instant.

“w-wha-what did you say?” His soul clenched violently in dread. It couldn’t be! There was no way she could’ve found out about him!

Footsteps came up from behind him but he barely registered them in his current state of disbelief.

“The Royal Scientist was offering a large sum for delivering him to her. Of course I couldn’t let that offer slide out of my hands.”

“i’m gonna kick your fuckin’ ass when i get back. don’t you forget it!”

Before the patrons could lay a hand on him, Sans disappeared and reappeared in the back room of the Shop. The others had just gotten back, if the worn, grim expressions on their faces were any indication. His magic flared at the sight of Ice Wolf laying in the corner.

“He’s here to help,” the kid chimed in, standing protectively in front of him. “We heard what happened.”

“I know you don’t trust me but he… he believed in me… believed that I could change,” Ice Wolf choked out. He then stared resolutely at Sans. “So please, let me help!”

Sans took several deep breaths, feeling his anger ebbing. He had to stay calm and come up with a plan. A plan to save Papyrus. He wasn’t going to sit here and do nothing. He had done that for far too long.

He slowly looked to the kid, to Flowey, to Hariet and finally to Ice Wolf before giving a nod. He was willing to work with these four, in any method possible, to get Papyrus back.

END OF ARC 1

Chapter Text

Sans trudged through the wet, dusty grounds of Waterfall. The red echo flowers, glowing mushrooms and blue water casted the cavern walls in an eerie purple hue. The kid, Frisk was their name, trailed behind him with Flowey coiled around their right upper arm. Ice Wolf was several feet ahead of them, nose pointed into the air to scout for any enemies.

The strange party of three monsters and a human remained silent throughout most of the journey through Waterfall. Normally Sans would simply take a shortcut to Hotland and break into Alphys’s lab. But with the kid, Flowey and Ice Wolf tagging along, his magic would not withstand that many passengers. An oppressive, awkward silence pervaded the air around them. If not for their singular goal of saving Papyrus, Sans was sure they would be throwing attacks at each other. Well, maybe not the kid or the flower. But Ice Wolf would definitely be groveling pathetically from the ground. The short skeleton still didn’t trust either him or the human. He only marginally tolerated Flowey.

Their trek through the first few sections of Waterfall was relatively uneventful except when they passed a three-direction split. A familiar ache ran through Sans's soul at the left-most corridor. He couldn't explain where the sensation had come from and why. When he stared hard enough down it, strange text caught his eyes and a static sound filter into his nonexistent ears.

The kid refused to fight any of the monsters on their encounter, trying to talk their way into Redeeming them. Sans had to admit that they had a lot of determination. The Woshuas took very little convincing since they were always considered to be the most pacifistic monsters in the Underground. The kid did need assistance from Flowey with the Moldsmal and Moldbygg. The Moldbygg were a stubborn bunch, unwilling to go along with the kid’s words without reassurance by the Moldsmal. Sans didn’t know exactly how the kid was Redeeming these monsters since he stayed out of most encounters, much like Ice Wolf. Probably a lot of sunshines and rainbows. Overall, it seemed to him like a bunch of talking and dodging of monster attacks. He was surprised that the kid survived for this long without retaliating back.

The traveling party stopped once they reached the Wishing Room after Flowey suggested that Frisk needed a break. Ice Wolf volunteered to scout ahead for Undyne since the Waterfall area was under her rule, just as Snowdin was considered Boss’s domain. Sans found Flowey and the kid sitting in the far end of the room, chatting quietly about something. He could barely make out of the words “save” and “reset” which immediately had him on alert.

“what the fuck are you two goin’ on about? better not be somethin’ you’ll regret,” the short skeleton growled with a threatening tone.

The kid regarded him with apprehension in their eyes, as if they had been caught stealing cookies from a cookie jar. Very briefly, Sans noticed a hard grimace on their features before reverting back to their apologetic expression. They then glanced at Flowey, who nodded.

“I’m planning to Save in a few rooms down… in case something happens when we encounter Undyne,” the kid explained.

Sans’s left socket flared briefly.

“Don’t worry, there won’t be a Reset,” Flowey interjected. “I know this may sound strange but the Save will allow Frisk to reload to that same spot if they die.”

Sans’s sockets narrowed at Flowey and the human, his scientific mind already making connections to the information he already knew about the Anomaly and disruptions in the timeline. It certainly cleared up the issue of how they were able to survive some difficult-to-dodge attacks from the monsters they’ve encountered thus far.

“so you’re gonna just run, tryna make friends with everyone?” Sans questioned, voice dripping with skepticism and derision. This was never gonna work.

“I can do it!” the kid stared at him, an expression filled with determination. Sans saw a flash of gleaming red eyes. “I only need to Redeem the bosses of each area. Undyne for Waterfall, Mettaton for Hotland, and finally Asgore.”

A chill ran up the short skeleton’s spine at the mention of Asgore before he noted that they had purposely skipped Snowdin. With Boss currently gone, that place’ll be a shitshow with all the gang stuff going on. Maybe it was a good thing that they were out here and not back in Snowdin.

“and how are you gonna do that?”

“I convince the monsters to change, somehow, like Ice Wolf,” they answered.

Flowey suddenly perked up, his normally beady eyes widening and exclaimed, “That’s it! Based on my interactions with everyone when I still had control over the Resets--” a spark of magic flew from Sans’s left socket from that revelation. “Maybe if we Redeemed the bosses in a certain order, it’ll convince the subsequent monster!”

Sans’s magic dissipated as questions flooded him, “redeeming everyone in this shithole?”

“Watch your language, mister!” Flowey interrupted.

The short skeleton ignored him and continued, “you really think monsters like undyne and asgore are gonna change? that’s some impressive dreams you’ve got there, kid.”

“It’ll work! I know it will!” the kid argued. “Last time when I fought you, Sans, you asked if I thought even the worst person can change. I believe they can!”

Sans fell silent as they gazed at him piercingly. Another flash of red eyes met his sockets.

“If you and Ice Wolf can change, then I’m sure the leader monsters of each region can do it as well. And I promised… someone… that I would bring everyone to the Surface.”

This was the first time the kid had brought up the idea of freeing them from the Underground. It sounded great but Sans knew better than to get his hopes up.

“that’s all fine and dandy but once papyrus is safe, i’m ditchin’.” Both human and flower gave him an expectant look. “don’t look at me like that! i ain’t helpin’ ya monster huggers in this crazy idea.”

Flowey opened his mouth, ready to argue, when Ice Wolf suddenly bounded towards them, panting like a dog (heh).

“We hafta move! Undyne’s been alerted to our presence and she is not happy!”

All three of them sprang up and went through the next few sections, quickly traveling passed the wilted bloom flowers and tall, thorny grass stalks. Right before the rainy passage into the marshlands, the kid paused and touched a spot in midair before continuing onwards. Sans stared at the spot as he strolled by but noticed nothing in particular. Had something been there? He would have to see what happens next to confirm his suspicions.

Immediately after the group stepped onto the wooden boardwalk, a red light shimmered below them. Everyone dispersed as glowing red spears shot out from the ground.

“NNNARGH! You have finally showed yourself, human?!” an angry, female voice rang out around them.

Undyne stood at a height, several feet in front of them. She was entirely covered from head to toe in dark shining armor. An upside-down broken red heart adorned her chestplate, and she carried a glowing red spear in her right hand. With an outwards sweep of her arm, more spears erupted from the ground. Sans easily dodged them. He was glad that the fish monster hadn’t caught sight of him yet. No doubt she would ask for the whereabouts of his brother, which he was unwilling to give.

A high-pitched howl rang through the air. All eyes darted towards the sound. Sans winced as he saw a red spear pierce into Ice Wolf’s torso, and the monster collapsed into a pile of dust. A distressed cry escaped from the kid’s mouth. They charged towards the armor-clad fish monster. Sans stretched out an arm to stop them when—

Sans stared at a spot before the rainy passage into the marshlands. He blinked several times, feeling disoriented. Seeing the other members of his group up further ahead, the dark skeleton followed after. Immediately after the group stepped onto the wooden boardwalk, a red light shimmered below them. Everyone dispersed as glowing red spears shot out from the ground.

“NNNARGH! You have finally showed yourself, human?!” an angry, female voice rang out around them.

Undyne stood several feet in front of them, entirely covered from head to toe in dark shining armor. Anupside-down broken red heart adorned her chestplate, and she carried a glowing red spear in her right hand. With an outward sweep of her arm outwards, more spears erupted from the ground. Sans easily dodged a few more spears that sprouted from the ground, and a sensation of deja vu took over him. Undyne let out a heated roar and, before Sans realized what was happening, the kid got pulled into an Encounter.

“I will kill you human! And take your soul to our king! I will earn back my position as Captain of the Royal Guards with your help!”

The royal guardswoman thrusted the pointed end of her spear at the human, who blocked with the stick in their hands. After two rounds, they pulled themselves and the flower out from the battle and sprinted northbound. Sans glanced quickly at Ice Wolf. He had his head in acknowledgement before they followed after them. A triumphant shout reached his nonexistent ears no more than a few steps later. Unfortunately, it came from Undyne and not the human.

Sans stared at a spot before the rainy passage into the marshlands. He blinked several times, feeling disoriented. Seeing the other members of his group up further ahead, the dark skeleton was about to followed when a familiar sensation fell upon him. This confirmed his suspicions. The kid had Saved in this room, and this had already occurred.

“waitaminute,” he called out. “you idiots just gonna continue charging into undyne again?”

Three heads turned to blink at him in confusion.

“don’t give me that look! i know ya saved ‘ere kid. and probably died a coupla times. we need some sorta plan moving forward.”

The bemused expression on Ice Wolf’s face remained but Sans ignored it, not finding any point in explaining it to the canine monster if this’ll simply reload again.

“We have to keep Undyne occupied for some time until we reach Hotland,” Flowey suggested.

“I can distract her!” Ice Wolf volunteered.

The kid shook their head fiercely from the suggestion, “No, that’s too dangerous. There’s no point to this if Ice Wolf gets dusted.”

A growl of frustration escapes from behind Sans’s sharp teeth, “if ice wolf wants to act as a decoy, let ‘im. our goal is to get back papyrus, not take a hippie stroll through the underground!”

“We can’t risk Ice Wolf getting killed to escape from Undyne. Papyrus wouldn’t want that!” Flowey retorted. “Maybe we can convince her that we've captured the human first.”

The short skeleton remained unconvinced but decided to give it a shot. Immediately after the group stepped onto the wooden boardwalk, a red light shimmered below them. This time they ran forward in the same direction.

“NNNARGH! You have finally showed yourself, human?!” an angry, female voice rang out around them. Undyne’s one eye widened as she fell upon Sans but then narrowed. “WHERE’S YOUR BROTHER GONE, SANS?! I heard he's disappeared fuhuhu!”

“it ain’t your business where boss is! now let us pass! we've got matters t’settle with asgore.”

“You will address him as King Asgore, you pathetic worm!” The fish monster spat as she twirled her spear. “And you three will not get passed my area without a fight! After all, if I kill the human and take their soul for the king, I will earn back my position as Captain of the Royal Guards that your cheating brother stole from me!”

Fury consumed him and magic sparked it the air, “boss didn't steal anything ya bitch, he earned it!”

“Like hell he did, that traitorous bastard using Alphys to force me to give up my position like that!” Undyne glowered murderously at the short skeleton and advance towards them.

Sans summoned a column of bones to block the assault as the other sped off. With him blocking Undyne’s raining spear attacks, the group almost made it through the area. Until they suddenly crashed into a translucent greenish red barrier. The walls surrounded them before they could escape.

“Hah! You think I’ll let you worms get away? I, Undyne of the Royal Guards, will take you all down!”

Sans allowed his magic to consume him as he readied his blasters. Searing pain suddenly flooded his entire being, and a panicked scream sounded behind him. Widen, blank sockets traveled down to the glowing red spear protruding from his chest. And everything went black.

Sans stared at a spot before the rainy passage into the marshlands. He blinked several times, feeling disoriented. Flowey and the kid stared at him as if he’d just risen from the dead. The thought was strangely ironic considering that may have been what had occurred.

“guess it’s ‘nother redo?”

And seemingly, the reloads continued since every time he found himself back in this room, the expression on both the kid and Flowey’s faces became less hopeful and more disheartened. The skeleton peered across the expanse of mushroom and glowing red echo flowers. They simply needed to distract Undyne until they could get into Hotland, get her away from Waterfall. An idea suddenly popped into his head.

“hey, ice wolf,” Sans called out. Multiple “heads” turned to him but at least he got the attention of the monster he wanted. “could ya create some kinda diverse with the canine unit back in snowdin? Have ‘em distract undyne until we get outta here.”

The wolf monster looked perplexed, “I could. But you know how much Undyne hates the cold.”

The kid’s face suddenly brightened, and Flowey gesticulated frantically with his leafy arms.

“It doesn’t have to be in Snowdin. It just has to be away from this area of Waterfall. We just have to make it into Hotland,” Flowey added.

Ice Wolf agreed to the plan and sprinted off in the direction of Snowdin. Flowey suggested that they walk back to an area with the tall grass to hide in when Undyne comes back in this direction. Soon enough, the clacking of armor rushed passed the skeleton, human and flower. Sans had to admit that Ice Wolf did end up having some use in this whole saving matter. They made their way passed the marshland and dump. The kid had somehow even managed to become acquaintances with Napstablook (without even fighting) by promising to tell Mettaton about him when they met.

The mention of that name sent a wave of revulsion within Sans. When the three of them finally made it to Hotland, he couldn’t help but feel like they stepped out of a frying pan into the fire. Having to deal with either Mettaton, Alphys or both was not high on his list of life priorities. But for Papyrus, he would do it.

Chapter Text

Papyrus woke up finding himself lying in a worn cot with only a thin blanket for cover. He appeared to be locked in some sort of cell, if the vertical metal bars was any indication. There was a heavy steel-plated door blocking the exit. He also noticed two thick metal bracelets wrapped around both of his wrists. They were heavy, as if he had stones tied around his arms, and gave no slack for him to slip them off. There was also something oppressive emanating from them, some sort of pressure on his entire being.

He soon discovered their function when he tried to summon a bone attack. A sudden, painful jolt, as if he’d been electrified by a current, ran through him. His magic sputtered out before the bone could be even formed.

Some sort of magic suppressing device. Why did he have them and where was he?

He remembered running out of Hariet’s shop after seeing Doggo break into the shop. He ran after the dog monster until he reached the forest with the differently colored floor tile. It was one of his favorite puzzles. But as soon as he arrived there, Doggo was nowhere to be seen and a strange bipedal robot with four eyes and multiple arms attacked him with yellow electric attacks. The rest was a blur.

Had he somehow gotten captured by the enemy? Then where was this place? He didn’t recognize it as anywhere in Snowdin. And who was that robot? The only robot back in his Underground was Mettaton but he always appeared as a sexy rectangle.

A buzzing sound suddenly filled the area, and the door suddenly slid opened. A short dark yellow lizard wearing a white lab coat stood in the doorway. Her round glasses each had spirals in them, completely obscuring her actual eyes. She wore a red-and-black striped sweater under her lab coat and had a clipboard in her hand. A crazed, face-splitting grin crept into her face as she fell upon Papyrus.

“You’re finally awake!” Her voice was high-pitched and scratchy, as if from disuse. “G-g-good! I was getting IMPATIENT waiting!”

Papyrus nearly cringed at the loud fluctuation in this monster’s voice. He did not recognize her at all.

“WHO ARE YOU?”

The lizard monster tilted her head up and down to survey him much like when he was at the Shop deciding on the best package of spaghetti. It made him feel uncomfortable and exposed. He tried to give her his best smile.

“Yes, yes, good body structure despite the low LOVE. Excellent HP and Defense otherwise,” she muttered.

Now this was simply rude, being utterly ignored. Papyrus decided to use a different approach.

“EXCUSE ME MISS, I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS! IT IS NICE TO MEET YOU!” He puffed out his chest.

The lizard continued her muttering and scribbled something on a clipboard, ignoring him. The tall skeleton was about to shout another introduction when she cut him off.

“Where do you come from? Y-you SAY you’re Papyrus but I’ve never seen you until NOW.”

“I AM NOT FROM AROUND HERE.”

“I KNOW that!” the lizard monster screeched, her cheeks flushing red in irritation. She took several deep breaths to calm herself down. “Anyway, you asked who I am? I’m Alphys, the ROYAL Scientist for the KING.”

Papyrus couldn’t figure out why Alphys’s voice volume fluctuated so much. At certain points it would get almost as loud as his exuberant voice but with far more raspiness.

“IT IS NICE TO MEET YOU, ALPHYS,” the tall skeleton said. “IT WOULD BE REALLY NICE OF YOU TO LET ME LEAVE.”

A shrill shriek ripped from Alphys’s throat followed by an urgent, “I will NOT! I have told the KING of your presence, and he has granted me the PERMISSION to do anything I wish with you! To think you’re possibly from another UNIVERSE?! I c-can’t give up this OPPORTUNITY!”

Immediately after those words were said, lizard scientist took out a hand-sized black device that looked a lot like a cell phone. “Mettaton? I NEED you in here STAT!”

Mettaton? He works for Alphys in this world?

Papyrus eyed the opened door but was disappointed when Alphys began pacing in front of it, seemingly yelling at whoever she was calling. He heard something that sounded like a sigh coming from the phone. A second later, with a click of the device, the call ended. Alphys directed her attention back on him. He still couldn’t see her expression that well with her eyes obscured but her mouth was set in a firm line.

“C-come FOLLOW me.” When the skeleton didn’t move to follow, the scientist rummaged through the pocket of her lab coat and pulled out a small, square device with several buttons in it. “If you don’t FOLLOW me, I-I’ll be FORCED to use this!”

She pushed one of the buttons and a pained “OWIE!” tore from Papyrus’s throat as a painful shock ran through his entire body.

“Now FOLLOW me!”

Papyrus was not normally one to get scared, since a would-be Royal Guardsman never lets fear get the better of him, but that shock and Alphys’s strange behavior had him following after her without further protests. They passed through several rooms before stepping into one with a large machine resembling a skeletal goat head. Various tubes and wires hung out of it. Standing in the room was the robot Papyrus had seen earlier in Snowdin forest. He wore red and black, had two pairs of arms and eyes. The robot’s bottom-most set of arms were placed akimbo while the top pair were folded across his chest.

“This better be worth it! You’re making my audience wait and you know how impatient the citizens of the Underground are with their breaks!” the robot hissed.

“You’ll just h-have to DEAL with it!” Alphys answered back, gesturing Papyrus over to the bare examination table. “Prepare the machine, Mettaton.”

The robot gave an angry huff, then got behind the machine and pushed it towards the examination table.

“Get on!” Alphys ordered.

Papyrus didn’t move from his spot, still shocked at Mettaton’s appearance. “PERHAPS WE CAN TALK THIS OUT NICELY WITHOUT USE OF THAT. I AM GREAT WITH PUZZLES AND WOULD BE HONORED TO GIVE YOU MY HELP!”

“No! GET on!” the scientist reiterated with a scowl. “I need to do this for the KING. And maybe then, U-Undyne will finally NOTICE me!”

Another painful jolt had the tall skeleton climbing onto the table and lying down. Leather straps were quickly fastened around each of his wrists, ankles and neck, keeping him from moving. A bright, blinding light shined down on him. Nervousness bubbled worth within Papyrus as he watched Alphys and Mettaton loom over him. The robot appeared almost contemplative while the scientist scribbled away at her clipboard. Papyrus fidgeted with discomfort in his bindings, feeling his back beginning to cramp from the hard surface.

“Alright Mettaton, let’s BEGIN,” Alphys muttered, as she turned towards the machine and took out a thin tube with a needle-like end. “Draw out his soul.”

Mettaton hesitated for just a second. Then Papyrus suddenly felt an insistent tug at his soul. He twitched and resisted. Mettaton narrowed his four eyes. With a forceful jerk of his arms and a grunt of discomfort from Papyrus, a white inverted heart hovered above the skeleton’s chest. It pulsed in an orange light.

Papyrus gaped at his exposed soul in a mix of awe and horror. This wasn’t right! It was wrong to display his soul like this when it’s not a battle Encounter. There was a sharp, stabbing pain as the thin tube and various other wires were pushed into his soul.

“Injecting zero point five milliliters,” Alphys muttered. Her mouth cracked to a wide, almost crazed, grin as she glanced down at him. “Let’s see if you can TAKE this.”

Before he could even make sense of what was happening, excruciating pain that which he’d never felt before traveled through his soul and to the rest of his entire being.

An agonized scream ripped out of him. Fire ran through his bones and engulfed his soul. It was unbearable. He just wanted all this pain to end! Black spots lined his vision, and he gladly accepted the darkness.

 

The next time Papyrus blinked open his eyes, he found himself back in the cell, lying on the flimsy cot. He tried to sit up but gave up after searing pain ran through his bones. As his hazy memory of what had happened came back to him, he checked over himself and found nothing unusually different besides his ache. Even his soul appeared normal, though it pulsed a deep orange every now and then.

The tall skeleton sighed as he fell back in the cot. He normally would be out and about, trying to puzzle his way out, but found it simply too tiring. He was so distracted that he barely even noticed Mettaton staring at him through the bars.

“NYEH!” he yelped in alarm. The robot jumped up from his loud outburst as well. The two stared at each other for several minutes before Papyrus finally calmed down. He took in several deep breaths, and replied, “GREETINGS, I’VE ALWAYS BEEN A FAN, METTATON!”

The robot’s four yellow eyes squinted in suspicion but didn’t respond. Instead, he turned around and left. Papyrus frowned, feeling disheartened at the rejection. A few minutes later, the lizard monster came scurrying back in, a clipboard in her hand.

“How are you feeling?” she asked with barely any care evident in her tone. She withdrew a pen from her pocket and gazed at him clinically.

A rebellious spark ignited within the tall skeleton, and he almost thought about keeping silent. With how he was being treated, why should he answer this monster’s questions?

The scientist’s lips were set in a firm line, “Well? I’m WAITING for an answer!”

“YOU ARE VERY RUDE!” Papyrus answered back. “WHY SHOULD I GIVE YOU A RESPONSE?”

“L-look HERE, I’m only trying to do my WORK!” Alphys looked offended. “If you do not ANSWER me, I’ll assume you’ll be FINE for a second dose.”

Papyrus shuddered as he remember the unbearable pain and quickly shook his head. “MY BONES ACHE, AND I’M TIRED.” He couldn’t keep discontent from trickling into his voice.

“I see.” The sound of her scribbling reached Papyrus, who decided to lie back on the bed. “And you don’t feel… UNSTABLE anywhere? You look to be completely solid.”

The sentry responded with a, “NO,” not really understanding why he should.

“All right. T-that’s it for now. Keep watch of him, Mettaton.”

Papyrus heard the metal door open and close, not bothering to look up from his place in the cot, a strange sense of melancholy took over him. He wondered what Red and the human were doing. He hoped they were doing well without him. He wanted to see them again, to make sure nothing bad happened to them.

Most of all, he missed his brother. He even had to admit that he missed his terrible jokes, his bedtime stories. It’s been so long since he’s seen Sans. Was his brother taking care of himself? Papyrus knew how much Sans depended on him. Though the older sibling never admitted it to him, Papyrus knew. It didn’t take long for sleep to eventually overtake him.

He stood in pitch darkness. There was a certain stillness in the air, almost stifling. Lancing pain shot out from his right leg.

A strange, indecipherable sound reached him. Standing in front of him was a formless black blob with a white, cracked, grinning face. Glowing white hands with a circle in their center floated next to the goop monster and were signing to him. They were familiar. In the back of his mind, Papyrus was sure he should’ve been able to recognize the hand signals. But stuck where he was, it was all a mystery to him.

“I CANNOT UNDERSTAND YOU,” a voice rougher and sharper than his own came out of his mouth. He also dressed in a black and red attire; it was very similar to the one skeleton that he’d been pretending to be. Red’s brother.

Was he somehow in the other Papyrus’s mind?

When he tried to vocalize a question, only more static filtered around. Without warning, thick black tendrils lashed out at him. Papyrus just barely jumped out of the way of the attack. A rush a white half-faded bone attacks shot out towards him. They appeared uneven and looked almost like the “glitch” that had been appearing around in this Underground.

Papyrus jumped to avoid the attack but found it impossible. With a gasp, his soul turned heavy with the same blue attack he was so familiar with. Stuck as he was, the sentry barely jumped in time before a tendril came hurtling towards him. He held up his arm to block the attack but it simply smashed right into his right forearm.

Crack!

He let out a scream of agony as he felt his arm break.

The formless monster turned his attention away from him, eliciting more static noise. The white hands hovering around him signed something else. Papyrus heard the hum of magic in the air and turned around. His breath caught in his throat.

There, standing a few feet away, was his brother. Still in his blue hoodie, track shorts and slippers. Blue and white bones hovered around him. Papyrus wanted to run over but—

”Wake up.” A voice suddenly called to him.

What? Who was that?

”WAKE UP!”

Papyrus shot up from his prone position and found himself back in the familiar cot. Passed the bars, with four yellow eyes directed pointedly at him, the skeleton saw Mettaton staring back at him. The robot had both pairs of arms crossed in front of him.

“Finally you’re awake,” Mettaton huffed. “You were making a racket with all your screaming. As wonderful as that sounded, it was getting annoying. At least with you now awake, you can provide me with some other form of entertainment.”

The sentry found nothing in his situation entertaining. But he couldn’t be upset. In fact, he should be proud to finally catch the attention of the robot. Maybe he could convince the multi-limbed metal monster to help him escape.

“WHY THANK YOU, OF COURSE THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS AMAZED BY YOUR EXCELLENT SENSE OF TASTE AND HIGH STANDARDS!”

Mettaton responded with a puff of his chest and a barely suppressed smirk. “I do not know about your so-called greatness, but yes, I do have high standards. I have to in my line of work.”

“AND WHAT DO YOU DO? FROM WHERE I COME FROM, YOU ARE FAMOUS FOR YOUR VARIOUS SHOWS, COOKING WITH METTATON, GAME SHOWS WITH METTATON AND—”

The robot suddenly gasped in mocking horror and disgust, “Cooking? Yuck! I would never put such vapid things in my performances. No, I need excitement, adventure, violence, death! Preferably of the violent kind! I only offer the best entertainment for the whole Underground! Me, Mettaton!” He swept his hands out in a flourish.

“The only problem, the audience is fickle and impatient. Because of YOU being here, taking up my precious time, I cannot be where I want to be. The stage!” The robot kicked out a long leg in frustration.

The descriptions of the shows in this world had sweat forming on the back of Papyrus’s skull but he was not one to be easily deterred. “THEN HOW ABOUT LETTING ME, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, ON YOUR GRAND SHOW?”

Mettaton gaped at him with wide eyes, and then burst into condescending laughter.

You, being a part of my show? Not a chance! What can you possibly do?”

“THE GREAT PAPYRUS HAS MANY TALENTS!”

“Hah, as if!” Though this was said vehemently, Papyrus caught the uncertainty tinged in the response.

The sentry then turned his skull away to the side and said in a disappointed done, “IT IS ONLY TOO BAD THE UNDERGROUND WILL NEVER KNOW OF WHAT GREATNESS I CAN BRING. WHO KNOWS, THINK OF ALL THE WONDERFUL VIEWERS YOU’RE MISSING! BUT IF YOU ARE HAPPY WITH THE CURRENT STATUS OF YOUR SHOW, THEN I’LL JUST STAY HERE AND WASTE MORE OF YOUR TIME.”

Mettaton’s many eyes narrowed briefly. He took a single large stride until his face was only an inch from the bars. “And you will guarantee that l will gain more viewers by allowing you onto my show?”

“BUT OF COURSE! I AM A SKELETON OF MY WORDS!”

The show robot surveyed him for several minutes. Papyrus really hoped his masterful convincing techniques would turn this monster around. It’s already worked for Red after all.

“I am all about providing entertainment, so if you can, then I will accept. HOWEVER, if my viewership does not change, then I will bring you back here and ensure your stay be as painful of an experience as possible!”

Papyrus was banking a lot on his ability to entertain people but he believed in himself, just as how Sans had always believed in him. Perhaps he could provide a change of taste within the citizens in this kill or be killed universe. The thought filled him with Determination.

Mettaton gave a quick sweeping glance outside to make sure Alphys wasn’t near, and then opened the door to the cell. He was even nice enough to remove one of the magic suppressing bracelets, though he kept the right one on for insurance that Papyrus won’t try to escape.

The two monsters made their way up to the first floor of the labs. The robot had told him that Alphys would be currently spending her off time either watching violent anime or fantasizing about Undyne. Sure enough, the Royal Scientist did not show up at all in the first floor of the lab. Papyrus was about to reach the door when he sockets fell upon a huge console screen.

What was this? Is this—?

Each individual square block displayed a different area of the Underground.

Somehow, Alphys had set up cameras all over the place. That must’ve been how she knew where to find him. That was one puzzle solved.

“Oh? Would you look at that, I guess this timing is simply perfect!” Mettaton stated with excitement evident in his tone. “It looks like your little friends have arrived just in time for them to join you as well!”

Sure enough, in one of the bottom-most screens, Papyrus spotted Red and the human, with Flowey in tow.

A firm hand suddenly rested on his shoulder. He turned and saw Mettaton standing behind him, leering at him with such intensity that it almost had him wanting to shrink back.

“I do hope you and your friends will provide the Underground with enough entertainment to make me a star!”

Chapter Text

Sans, Flowey and the kid’s arrival into Hotland receive little fanfare, setting Sans on alert. Either all the Hotland inhabitants left or they cleared out their way for something bigger. And that usually meant some crazy scheme from Alphys or Mettaton. When they reached Alphys’s lab and broke in (they never received a response despite knocking several times), they found the place blanketed in darkness. They heard footsteps approaching them. Sans soon spotted a familiar frame of a tall skeleton.

“RED!” Papyrus exclaimed and sprinted towards them.

Relief flooded through Sans, and without even realizing it, he quickened his pace towards Papyrus.

“Wait, Sans, don’t!”

But it was too late. As soon as he had reached Papyrus, something sprang out from the ground and enclosed around them, trapping them together. Sans found himself pressed dangerously close to the other skeleton. Immediately afterwards, he felt the two of them get lifted off the floor as it disappeared to reveal boiling red lava. Bright lights blinked on, replacing the darkness with several bright spotlights.

Sans realized he and Papyrus were trapped together inside a net that hung from a thick chain from the ceiling, dangling only a few feet from the lava pit. Four cameras pointed at them and the human. At a center spotlight stood—

“WELCOME, my wonderful viewers, to the Mettaton Show!”

Well, fuck. This was bad news. How could he have been so stupid to get caught in such an obvious trap?

“HELLO, RED, I’M GLAD YOU SEE YOU UNHARMED,” Papyrus’s exuberant voice rang beside Sans’s skull.

The tall skeleton squirmed against the net, only to get themselves further tangled. Sans’s cheeks burning as hot as the lava below them from the way Papyrus’s femurs pressed against his pelvis.

“s-s-stop fidgeting!”

Thankfully, Papyrus did as he was told, while Sans tried to shortcut the two of them to the ground next to the kid. His magic sputtered out immediately.

Was his magic being suppressed somehow?

“OOOH YESSS! Welcome to today’s quiz show!! I can already tell it’s going to be marvelous! Everyone give a big hand for our wonderful contestant!” Mettaton gave a wide sweep of his right arms at the human. “And our two volunteer victims.” The robot then gestured with his left arms at the two trapped skeletons hanging in the air.

“you better let us outta here, ya shitty piece of metal or i’ll blow ya to dust!” Sans roared and stuck out his middle finger.

“WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE, RED! THERE MAY BE CHILDREN WATCHING!” Papyrus scolded.

Mettaton ignored both of them and turned his attention back to the kid.

“Never played before? It’s so simple even a measly human like you could understand! There’s only one rule, don’t get any answers wrong or else you and your friends will die!”

The robot held out a device with a blue, red and black button. He pressed the red one, and not only did Frisk jumped as if they got electrocuted, but Sans felt the net drop until they were only a foot away from the lava. Sweltering heat wrapped around him. A wave of dizziness left him dazed and his mind clouded. The kid held out an arm in protest despite the grimace of pain on their face.

“Let’s start with an easy one! Now remember, my contestant, this first question is free response! What is the king’s full name?”

“Asgore Dreemurr,” the human asked softly.

“THAT IS… correct,” Mettaton spoke the second part with half the enthusiasm in his tone.

He pressed the blue button, and the net rose half a foot more into the air. It still wasn’t enough to get away from the heat. It didn’t help that Sans was basically entwined with Papyrus, his battle body and black underarmor rubbing uncomfortably against his bare bones. By this time, he didn’t even know if the heat in his cheeks was from the lava or their compromised positions.

“hah... we’ve gotta find a way outta this,” Sans huffed to the other skeleton. Ruby eye lights drifted listlessly to the kid’s shoulders.

Where had that flower gone? Probably ran away to save his own skin.

The human must’ve answered the following question correctly, as he felt the trap move up another notch.

“CORRECT! But let’s see if our contestant can answer the next one! Two trains, Train A, and Train B, simultaneously depart Station A and Station B. Station A and Station B are 252.5 miles apart from each other. Train A is moving at 124.7 mph towards Station B, and Train B is moving at 253.5 mph towards Station A. If both trains departed at 10:00AM and it is now 10:08, how much longer until both train crash into one another? Here are your options.”

A blackboard blinked on with:
A) 31.054 minutes
B) 16.232 minutes
C) 32.049 minutes
D) 32.058 minutes.

A look of confusion flickered on Frisk’s face, followed by fear. Sans cursed at the tin can for giving this sort of question. There was no doubt in his mind that the kid wouldn’t be able to get the correct answer. They selected D, which to his surprise, was the right one.

Each answer the human got correct seemed to grind Mettaton’s gears, heh. Papyrus cheered loudly for them each time. Two more questions later, Sans and Papyrus found themselves hanging several feet from the lava pit. The cooler air cleared his murky thoughts to plan a possible escape. He peered up and noticed the net was hanging from a hook chain. Maybe if they swung far enough, they could miss landing in the lava pit. It wasn’t that wide, only about the size of a regular bathtub.

“hey, can ya try shiftin’ a little? maybe we can find a way to break outta this,” Sans whispered to Papyrus.

This only resulted in Papyrus kneeling him in the ribs. Sans grunted in pain and tried to maneuver backwards, only for the taller skeleton to sprawl on top of him. His face pressed against the white, sturdy material of the other’s battle body. Sweat formed on the top of his skull, and he was sure it wasn’t from the lava this time.

“OH, THE HUMAN IS ON THE FINAL QUESTION! THEY’RE DOING SO WELL, RED! MAYBE THEY CAN ASSIST US IN OUR ESCAPE!” Papyrus said.

Sans could feel the vibration of Papyrus’s magic and voice from being so close to his chest.

It was almost nice.

Sans immediately purged that thought from his mind. He shoved the lanky monster out of his face.

There was no way he was actually enjoying the closeness of the other. No way at all. He focused his attention back to Mettaton.

“Our contestant is doing so well, we’ll move on to the final question,” Mettaton’s booming voice announced. “Who does Dr. Alphy have a crush on? Remember that you can only choose out of these choices!”

The blackboard blinked on with:
A) Asgore
B) Mettaton
C) The human
D) No one

Frisk didn’t answer for several seconds. They frowned at the choices. Even Sans, who usually minimize his interactions with the Royal Scientist, knew this question was rigged.

“The correct answer isn’t there,” they replied.

Mettaton crossed his four arms, shaking his head in disappointment, and tsked, “I’m afraid that is the wrong answer!”

“ya cheatin’ bastard! none of those are correct!” Sans spat.

“I WOULD’VE THOUGHT THE HUMAN, PERSONALLY,” the tall skeleton next to him chimed in.

“AHEM, BE SILENT!” Mettaton leveled them with a venomous glare. He turned his head back to the cameras, “Well, my lovely viewers, this may be the end of our lovely contestants and volunteers. PREPARE FOR DEATH!”

The robot held out the remote. Just as he was about to press the button, green vines shot out from behind him and snatched the device out of his hand.

“Catch, Frisk!”

Flowey tossed the remote to the kid, who caught it. They pressed the black button, and the tiled floor of the lab closed back up. The net lowered to the ground and sprang open to let the two skeletons free.

“OH? IS THIS EXCITEMENT? OUR VICTIMS ARE PLANNING AN ESCAPE? WELL WE CAN’T HAVE THEM GET AWAY THIS EASILY!”

Despite saying this, Mettaton didn’t move to go after them, allowing the group to escape from the lab. The four of them ran through the heat of Hotland, rushing to the first vent puzzles that spewed out hot lava. The kid got through it with practiced easy. They must’ve done it before, those cheaters with their abilities to “reset”. Sans had one advantage over them, though, which was his ability to shortcut past most of them. He grabbed Papyrus’s gloved hand and shortcutted the two of the past the puzzle. He threw them a smug grin when they glared effortless escape while sweat and sap poured down each of their faces, respectively.

“THESE VENT PUZZLES ARE THE WORST! THE ONES I’VE CREATED IN SNOWDIN WERE MUCH BETTER!” Papyrus huffed.

“i’m sure they are. anything’s better than these needlessly time-wasting things.”

“You shouldn’t be talking since you skipped the whole thing!” Flowey argued with annoyance.

Sans threw the flower another cheeky look.

They all continued onwards. They hadn’t taken more than three steps before a resounding boom shook the earth below them. They all stared at each other in confusion.

“WHAT WAS THAT?”

“No idea. Let’s keep going,” Flowey suggested.

“waitaminute, we’ve got papyrus back. why should i continue? i’m takin’ no more in the shitty tin can’s stupid show.”

“LANGUAGE, RED!” Papyrus interrupted.

Sans ignored him. He turned around to leave, only for a hand to settle on his shoulder.

“WAIT, WE CANNOT LEAVE YET RED, I PROMISED METTATON THAT I WOULD HELP INCREASE HIS VIEWERSHIP FOR HIS SHOW! AND I AM A SKELETON OF MY WORDS!”

A strange emotion bubbled forth within him, his soul twisting in discomfort. Who cares if Papyrus had made a promise to that stupid robot. He was having no part in it.

“That’s actually not a bad idea, Papyrus,” Flowey replied. “If we get on Mettaton’s good side, maybe he can convince Alphys to help us get through to Undyne.”

Frisk nodded and beamed at the tall skeleton with appreciation. The constriction in Sans’s soul only worsened. He startled when Papyrus gazed openly at him.

“ALTHOUGH I AM GREAT ON MY OWN, IT WOULD NOT HURT IF WE RECEIVED HELP FROM YOU, RED. SO PLEASE, COME WITH US!”

Almost every part of Sans’s mind screamed at him to decline, but seeing such an honest and imploring expression on the other’s face had him agreeing before he could stop himself. A pair of lanky, bony arms suddenly wrapped tightly around him. Sans tensed. Warmth spread within him, and he soon returned the gesture.

BOOM!

Something round and black object dropped into the lava next to him, blasting spurts of lava and earth at them. They narrowly missed getting burned and getting pelted by large rocks. They kept running as more blasts came from around them. They eventually came into a section with three forks in the road and a golden star twinkling at the center.

Huh, never saw one of those before.

Sans watched as Frisk hover their hands briefly over the peculiar object. He was about to ask what that was when--

BOOM!

Another explosion occurred near them, this time narrowly missing the human. Sans quickly grabbed them and Papyrus and shortcutted to the east path, making sure to reappear in a spot after the second vent puzzle. He lurch forward as a fatigue crashed into him. Papyrus stopped his fall before he could smash his face on the ground.

They were on another movie-type set with flaming cars in the background, a table similar to a news broadcast, and a gigantic ticking bomb in the middle of the path leading to the elevators. A chainsaw, glass containing powder, and dog adorned the set. A familiar figure stood in front of them, two cameras flanking on either side of him.

“OOHHH YES, my lovely viewers, our contestants enter the second act of the show!” Mettaton’s contralto voice announced. “For this next part, you must find and disarm all the bombs before they go off! Four has already exploded. There are five left! Diffuse the remaining five, and this one.” He pointed at the large bomb in the middle of their path. “And you’ll be free to leave!”

Sans, Frisk and Papyrus all gaped at the performer robot like he’d just grown a second head (Flowey went back into hiding in the kid’s clothes).

“You best start now! After all, you only have TWO MINUTES! Depending on where the bombs go off, your path through Hotland may be limited!” Mettaton’s red painted lips curled into a wide, cruel smirk.

Frisk and Papyrus immediately sprang into action, while Sans swayed at the spot he stood. He did not have the energy or patience for this. It didn’t help that Mettaton didn’t seem inclined to inform them of how exactly to disarm these stupid bombs.

With an angry growl, he stumbled his way to the white dog, who had a strange sparkling ball in his mouth. A bomb to be exact. Sans huffed and approached the canine, who snarled at him with a mouth full of sharp teeth. He was about to attack the dog when an idea popped into his head, remembering the one time he’d seen Papyrus escape from Greater Dog.

Sans summoned a short bone and waved it in front of the canine. Beady eyes tracked the movement of the bone.

“i’ll give ya this if ya hand over that ball.”

He made a motion to toss the bone. The dog immediately opened his mouth to drop the bomb. Sans drew back his arm and threw the bone as hard as he could, watching with satisfaction when the white animal chased after it. He sliced off the sparking fuse with a serrated bone just as it reached the bottom. A sigh of relief escaped his parted teeth when the explosive object remained inert. Peering around, Sans noticed that both Frisk and Papyrus must’ve also figured out how to deactivate the two other small ones. Only the large one remained.

“Well done, my lovely contestants! You’ve deactivated all the bombs. However, you still didn’t deactivate the big bomb, which is programmed to explode in two minutes. Now, instead of two minutes, it’ll explode in two seconds!”

“what?!” Sans spat. Red eye lights darted to the bomb exactly the moment the counter hit 0.

“Goodbye, darlings, sleep well!”

The expletive trapped within his mouth never got the chance to escape as white, blinding light engulfed the area. An unyielding force smashed into Sans, and everything went dark.

 

Sans woke up to find himself staring at a steel gray ceiling. It was definitely not the ceiling in his room, but it was still oddly nostalgic, though not in a pleasant way. An involuntary shiver ran through him, causing him to jolt up. He was lying on a flimsy cot, covered by a thin, soiled blanket. Something cold and hard was wrapped around his neck. Brushing alongside his neck, it was some sort of steel band. He tried to fiddle with it, even giving it a sharp tug, and immediately felt a shock of electricity lance through him, temporarily paralyzing him.

A soft tapping sound came from a cell in front of his. He could barely see the outline of Frisk.

“Are you okay?” they asked him softly.

“could be better, could be worse.” He shrugged.

The two fell into an awkward silence.

“SANS!” came out from the wall he was leaning against, jolting him up.

“papyrus? you ok?” Concern tinged in his voice. “i’m here.”

“HUH?” More shuffling echoed in the area.”OH, WHERE ARE WE?”

“dunno, some sort of dungeon?”

The thought of getting imprisoned by Asgore filled Sans with a certain amount of dread. Sure, he worked as the King’s judge but that didn’t mean he actually liked the guy. The King was nearly mad with power and paranoia.

He tried summoning a bone attack and received another shock for his effort. He sighed and lounged back in the cot.

“so you gave up callin’ me, red?”

“NO, I WAS DREAMING OF MY BROTHER. SPEAKING OF WHICH, RED, YOUR BROTHER SEEMS TO BE DOING WELL BACK IN MY UNIVERSE.”

Sans’s soul clenched painfully at the mention of Boss. Equal amounts of relief and worry filled him. It was good that Boss was alive, as last time, he’d dreamt of Undyne attacking him. His mind suddenly faltered.

Wait. How did Papyrus know?

“How do you know, Papyrus?” the kid asked.

“HE WAS EATING WITH MY BROTHER! I’M GLAD SANS IS MAKING THE EFFORT TO BE HOSPITABLE.”

“You can do it too then?!”

“do what? see stuff in your dreams? so can i.”

Another bout of silence fell upon the room. Sans mulled over this information. What could it mean?

“I can see into events of the other universe too.” Excitement filled their voice. “In fact, I communicating with the other me when I can.”

“then what we’re seein’ is all true?”

“I would guess so.”

“ISN’T THAT GREAT, RED? I TOLD YOU YOUR BROTHER WOULD BE FINE!”

“Yeah.” Sans felt himself smile for the first time in months.

“IS FLOWEY WITH YOU, SMALL HUMAN?”

“No. He probably slipped out. Hopefully he’ll help get us out.”

“it’s a good thing he’s such a weed that he’ll easily escape, isn’t it.” Sans couldn’t stop the bitterness from showing.

The comment must’ve upset the kid since they remained quiet. An electric buzzing suddenly echoed from each of the door of the cells. Sans’s swung open. The other two’s also followed suit.

“As you were saying?” The smug attitude dripping from Flowey’s voice only seemed to further irritate him.

They made their way through the gloomy hallways, passing by multiple steel doors, all of which were locked. One of the doors was ajar, giving Sans the opportunity to peek inside. Sans’s insides grew cold as he caught sight of the two examination tables standing within the center of the room. Shelves full of empty bottles lined along the walls. The pale tiles, colored in a sickly yellow hue, only brought flashes of memories within him.

Needles. Vials. Red. Pain.

Sans felt his breathing quicken and his chest constricted painfully. It was getting difficult to breath, to think. All he saw were flashes of lab equipment and pain.

Two hands suddenly settled on either side of his shoulders, rubbing them soothingly.

“BREATH WITH ME, RED,” Papyrus advised.

Sans stared at the rise and fall of the white battle armor, and slowly felt himself calm down. Exhaustion settled within him. The only thing keeping him upright was Papyrus’s support.

“thanks.”

Said skeleton beamed back at him. “A GREAT FRIEND LIKE ME WILL ALWAYS BE THERE TO HELP YOU!”

The kid nodded vigorously in agreement. Even the flower grumbled alongside them. The gestures brought about a fuzzy, pleasant sensation within him.

Papyrus carried him the rest of their trek through the winding hallways of, presumably, the True Laboratories. They seemed to be going upwards. They eventually came upon an open enclosure completely dissimilar to the rest of the lab. A distorted wail suddenly echoed all around them. Light illuminated the area. Cameras stood within each corner of the enclosure. A bipedal robot with four arms sauntered towards them.

“oh fuck no.”

Mettaton twirled around to face one of the cameras hanging from the ceiling and addressed, “Monsters of the Underground, what kind of show would this be without DRAMA, VIOLENCE, DEATH, AND BETRAYAL! For this final act, our contestants are to fight to the death until ONLY ONE OF YOU ARE STANDING! We also have a guest appearance, who’s making its way over.” More cries were heard, closer this time. “If any one of you are still left after the one hour time limit, the device around your neck will explode!”

To demonstrate, Mettaton withdrew the same metal band that sat around each of their necks and tossed it into the air. A barely noticeable red light flickered before the band exploded in a puff of smoke. Sans, Papyrus and Frisk all stared at the spot in open shock and horror.

“Well, my wonderful contestants, do give the whole underground a show they won’t forget! LET THE BATTLE ROYALE BEGIN!”

Chapter Text

A piercing wail resonated throughout the laboratory-arena. At least, that was what Papyrus thought the place looked liked. Three heads turned in the direction of the vicious cry. A gigantic, grotesque mass of white and black lumbered towards them, its “head” staring down at them like a predator does to its prey. The body closely resembled Shyren’s, looking a bit more melted than usual, and the dark head had a mouth with two rows of sharp teeth. Spots flickered in the head, growing into two bright yellow eyes. Papyrus had never seen anything like it.

“WHAT IS THAT?”

Frisk shook their head in confusion while Flowey stared at the strange creature with bulging eyes. Red’s normally shark-teeth grin dipped slightly downwards in a grimace.

“amalgamates. somebody’s been messin’ with too much determination,” he grumbled.

The stricken expression on Flowey worsened.

Papyrus never got the chance to ask what Determination or the amalgamate was, as it charged at them with its gaping jaw and pulled them into an Encounter. Sharp spikes came at them from above and below, while flashing orbs shimmered in the air around them. Frisk and Red weaved through the bullet pattern while Papyrus swept them away with his bone staff.

”Welcome to my.. hell”

”Stay with me…”

”Do... think I’m pretty?”

”...nobody came”

”...’ve never... before”

”...what they all say”

As if twelve different entities spoke at them simultaneously, everything came out as a jumbled mess of distorted voices and noises. Papyrus felt a tap on his right leg, turned, and saw Frisk standing straight, staring at him with their head held high.

“Let me and Flowey handle this,” they stated. “You and Sans figure out a way to break out of these.” They pointed at the strange devices around their neck.

The human directed the amalgamate’s attention to them, releasing him and Red from the encounter. Watching from the sidelines, Papyrus saw Frisk humming and flexing, trying their best to appease the beast.

While the melted monster was distracted, Papyrus swept around his surroundings. All traps had a way out; he only needed to find the one for this bizarre underground lab arena. The walls and tiled floor were a dreary green, littered with dark stains. An off-colored section of the floor, near the edge of the room, behind where Mettaton stood caught his attention. He also spotted another one on the opposite end of the circular room.

Could that be some sort of trapdoor? Given his expertise in trap designs, he was sure it was.

“Well, well, well, my wonderful audience, it appears the human is choosing to fight that monster on their own. That leaves our two skeleton monsters to duel against each other!” Mettaton announced with a flourish of his two right sided arms.

The band around each of their neck beeped in warning. Red glowered murderously at the robot, beads of red sweat trickling down his skull as his hands clenched tightly into fists at his side. Papyrus wanted reassure the other but knew that was not what Mettaton wanted. He had to appeal to his audience.

How fortunate he was a jape master!

Papyrus drew himself to his full height and allowed several femur bones to shimmer into existence.

“RED! I, THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE PAPYRUS, SHALL END THIS!” Papyrus placed as much exaggerated anger and power into his voice as he could. “DO NOT HOLD BACK WHEN I FORCE YOU TO THE OPPOSITE END OF THIS ROOM!”

Shock initially flitted across Red’s features; then the realization of Papyrus’s words dawned on him. Red’s crimson eye lights flickered rapidly behind him and then he gave a discrete, knowing wink at Papyrus. Without missing a beat, Papyrus hurled the femurs towards Red, who stepped several paces behind him. The short skeleton pulled his expression into a look of betrayal.

“what?! after all we’ve been through, it’s gonna end up like this?! you gonna just leave me t’ dust fer a piece of scrap metal?!” Red’s gasped, clutching at his chest in mock pain.

Papyrus released another round of bones, throwing in some blue ones as well. Red stepped further back.

Thinking hard on something his counterpart would say, Papyrus came up with, “IF YOU HAD BEEN STRONGER THAN I WOULD HAVE ACCEPTED YOU!”

Hurt surfaced on Red’s face unexpectedly, almost causing Papyrus to retract his words. But with a defiant glared, and a throaty, “oh yeah?!” Red summoned a blaster.

“Oh my, what's this? It seems that Sans has quite a few secrets up his sleeves!” Mettaton chorused.

Papyrus and Red continued to throw volleys of attacks at each other, him with alternating patterns of bone constructs and Red with beams from the blaster, until the native skeleton finally stepped onto the off-colored tiles. Now Papyrus only had to trust his intuition that the tiles were what he thought they were.

A distorted cry filled the room, drawing both of their attentions to Frisk and the amalgamate. It backed away from Frisk and faded out of existence.

“Will you look at that,”Mettaton intoned blandly. “Our guest monster refused to continue. What a surprised.” He glared at the human in annoyance.

During Mettaton’s diverted attention, Papyrus turned to Red, who stared back with a nervousness, red pupils moving back and forth between Papyrus and the off-colored floor..

”RED, DO YOU TRUST ME?”

Uncertainty marred the other’s countenance, causing Papyrus’s soul to clench unexpectedly. He ignored it.

”i… i do.”

Relief flooded into him, and a wide smile broke outon his face. He brought down his arm, and the bones shot towards Red at a blinding speed, Papyrus turned his brother’s counterpart’s soul blue. Using his adept control of blue magic, Papyrus pressed Red against the ground until he heard a faint crack, and the tile gave way. Red disappeared below the floor without a trace.

There was a loud gasp, followed by a click of heels. Rich, deep laughter came from Mettaton. Papyrus saw Frisk standing in front of the robot with one hand pointed at Mettaton, followed by themselves and finally at the camera.

“Your views has increased to over five thousand. There's no more need for this to continue!”

The metallic monster brought a finger to his chin in contemplation. “Hmm, that is true. My views are at an all time high… but it can go even higher!” He paused, steel fingers brushing against his neck. “Perhaps... yes! Of course this means that we have to continue until the end!”

“Wait!” the small human called out. “The best way to end this is through… A dance off!”

“Oh, ho? Dancing?” A frown graced Mettaton’s lips and scrutinized the small child. “If I am able to show off my stupendous dancing skills and retrieve your soul for our king! Imagine the fame I’ll receive!”

“And if I win, you will let all of us go without harming us!”

“Of course! And what better way to settle this dance off than by polling our lovely audience!” The dark-haired monster spoke at the cameras. “Text 1 for yours truly and 2 for the human. Let us begin!”

Two spotlights circled around the arena until one landed on Frisk while the other stopped on Mettaton. The robot tilted his hips to the right, his left arm raised straight above him with his left hand on his hips. Frisk stood in the illumination with no pose.

“DO YOUR BEST FRISK, FOR I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, SHALL GIVE ALL MY SUPPORT TO YOU!”

Papyrus wondered what was taking Red so long to reach the second trapdoor. Had he somehow hurt the other? No, he couldn’t have; his control over blue magic had been perfect!

Mettaton’s theme song suddenly blared throughout the room, signaling the two competing dancers to begin. Sharp, high-heeled boots flipped into the air as Mettaton kicked out his right leg. Bolts of yellow electricity sprang out of his leg kick and darted towards Frisk. They leapt into the air and landed in a perfect split, then rose back up to tap their right feet once on the ground with the tip of their toes. Mettaton responded with a leapt and twirl in the air, landing elegantly. Back and forth the two of them performed.

While singing his support to the human, Papyrus strategically crept out of the two dancers’ way, eventually making his way over to the trapdoor that had been behind Mettaton. A green vine peaked out of it, no doubt belonging to Flowey. A wave of relief washed over him as his eye socket caught two ruby eye lights staring at the dance off taking place between Frisk and Mettaton. Their pupils met briefly.

CRASH!

Both their attention snapped back to the two competitors. An audible gasp escaped Papyrus’s mouth as he saw Mettaton’s leg and the top left arm suddenly breaking off and collapsing onto the floor.

“WOWIE! I NEVER KNEW METTATON HAD DETACHABLE LIMBS!”

Though he was sure that wasn’t on purpose. Perhaps this was their chance to win and escape this ghastly show?

Frisk somersaulted into a 360-degrees twirl, and then posed with the arms outstretched to the ceiling, their chests heaving from the activity. Mettaton crumpled onto the ground as his other legs gave way, sparks flying out of them. The results of the poll appeared on the camera screen, and they all gaped at the result.

The human actually had a marginal lead. And the viewership was over ten thousand.

“This cannot be! I will not allow to be beat by a human! This will be the end for all of you!”

Red and Flowey finally jumped out from their hiding spot, both looking ready to tear off Mettaton’s remaining limbs. Everyone froze when a ring echoed through the area, bouncing of the walls. It rang two more times before Mettaton finally answered the call, putting it on speaker.

“hey mettaton. it’s me, napstabook. just wanted you to know… that your show was awesome… sorry for ever doubting you could get into showbiz… maybe we can collaborate in the future… sometimes… well… bye...”

Mettaton’s four widened at the speaker’s words. A multitude of other callers also chimed in.

“Man, Mettaton, that was your best episode yet! It was actually watchable!”

“That was exciting! Hope the contestants stay the same! It’s hilarious seeing the Captain of the Royal Guard flopping around, haha!”

Papyrus preened at the praise, so very proud that he was improving his counterpart’s image.

“What was that wicked monster, Mettaton? You should have more of them! So cool!”

Said monster shifted his torso excited across the floor. “Of course, my wonderful audience, the show will always go on! Toon in tomorrow for more!”

The line ended.

“great, now get these shitty things off of us!” Red snarled, pointing at the collars.

Mettaton glanced at the furious skeleton in surprise and burst into a series of low giggles.

“I must congratulate your acting! I was completely fooled! But I have also fooled you all, hahaha!” Four pairs of eyes, each expressing various degrees of annoyance, stared at the robot monster. “I completely lied about the collars exploding. Press the tiny button on the back and it’ll release. Anyway, thank you, my wonderful contestants, for helping me break record!”

“what the fuck?! i outta--”

“RED, CALM DOWN!” Papyrus pressed a gloved finger against the back of the neck band, Red jolting up from the unexpected gesture.

With a beep, the metal band sprang opened and fell off. Papyrus did the same to his own while Flowey helped Frisk with theirs.

A shrill shriek of rage suddenly reached Papyrus’s ears and all the bright spotlights blinked out, enveloping them all in the dim lighting of the labs. Standing in the doorway of the room, face red with rage and glasses shining ominously, was Alphys. An involuntary shudder ran through Papyrus’s entire being.

“M-M-METTATON! You TRAITOR! I created that body for you and this is how you R-R-REPAY ME?! By airing IT to the WHOLE UNDERGROUND?!” The Royal Scientist scurried over to her android creation, glasses flashing dangerously. “I should KEEP you like THIS for what you DID! Exposing my greatest SECRET!”

To Papyrus’s surprise, instead of fear, Mettaton flashed another one of his knowing smirks. “My dear Alphys, I was only helping you. By exposing those creatures, you no longer need to hide behind your walls! Did you not see the status updates? Many find them fascinating! You should be thanking me!”

Right on cue, a cheery tune went off with lyrics that were not in English. Probably from one of those “animes” that Undyne would always gush to Papyrus about.

“Omigosh! It’s Undyne!” Alphys squealed, her cheeks flushing pink. She answered with trembling hands. Boisterous yelling could be heard from the communication device.

It caught Papyrus completely off-guard, seeing the scientist that had injected him with the strange red substance act with so much nervousness.

“R-r-really? Y-you thought they were COOL? So y-you don’t… hate… nevermind...” the lizard scientist stuttered. She scurried back and forth. “W-what? Y-y-yes, they are h-here RIGHT n-n-now… You w-what to what? O-o-oh o-okay. I-I-I’l let t-them know…” the Royal Scientist paused, and her flush deepening in color. She clicked off her phone and sighed blissfully; then she directed her attention to Frisk. “A-ahem. Undyne CHALLENGES you to a BATTLE in Waterfall! And the rest of you,” Alphys pointed at Papyrus and Red, “are to be THERE as well.”

Excitement and worry bubbled forth within Papyrus. Although he looked forwards to meeting this world’s Undyne, he wondered what Undyne was like in this world and how hard it would be to convince her to spare the human.

“I’ll go,” Frisk answered with determination.

“Wait! I do believe Alphys has a letter she’s been meaning to send to her,” Mettaton interjected.

“M-M-Mettaton!” the lizard monster sputtered, covering her face in her hand in embarrassment.

“WE CAN DELIVER IT TO HER FOR YOU,” Papyrus suggested.

Alphys blinked twice at him in disbelief and then flinched back, lowering her gaze to the floor.

“H-h-how CAN you after what I DID to you?” Her tone was soft and tinged with regret.

It was true that this Alphys had caused him pain, but he was willing to forgive her if she could be redeem like Red and the others. He responded with that answer, only to have Alphys’s shoulder sink further within herself.

“IF YOU HELP US CONVINCE UNDYNE TO NOT HARM THE HUMAN AND US, THEN WE WILL DELIVER YOUR LETTER.”

Papyrus peered back at Red. Tension eluted from him in waves, and he shook slightly. Papyrus couldn't identify if it were from nerves, fear or something else. The urge to reassure him rose within Papyrus but he didn't, not wanting his gesture to be misinterpreted or used against them.

“Nothing would change if we didn't forgive. Please forgive us,” came Frisk’s soft voice.

Silence reigned for several tense minutes. Eventually, Alphys sighed.

“A-a-alright. Come BACK up, and I’ll get it to you.” She reared on Mettaton. “And you will REMAIN quiet until I am ready to FIX you.”

Their journey out of the labs remained quiet with Alphys dragging Mettaton along with her. Scrap scrap scrap went the sound as the metallic monster dragged along the ground. His complaints went unheard by the Royal Scientist. After a particularly nasty bump, Papyrus offered to carry the broken robot, since he matched Mettaton’s height and was likely the strongest of them all. The MTT Show host looked appreciative of the offer, Alphys gawked at him as if he’d grown two heads, Frisk was perplexed and Red pupils shrank into pinpricks.

Next thing he knew, Mettaton’s upper body rested in his lanky arms. It definitely cut down on the time of their trek through the laboratory. It only worsened the angry mutterings coming from Red.

“stupid robot. taking advantage of him.”

Papyrus was about to deny the claim when a muffled giggle caught his hearing. Alphys was hunched over, attempting to cover her mouth, pink tinging her cheeks again.

Did she just… laugh? The idea brought hope that deep down Alphys was still a monster, and all monsters were capable of love and compassion.

Alphys handed a white envelope to Frisk after they made it back to her lab. She then let them go. As Papyrus, Frisk, Red and Flowey made their way back out to Hotland, Papyrus caught the suggestive wink, leading to a growl from Red.

“keep ya metal hands off of papyrus!” Red threatened the robot in a low voice.

A fluttering sensation rose within Papyrus’s nonexistent stomach.

‘IT IS FINE, RED. I UNDERSTAND MY GREATNESS KNOWS NO BOUND AND METTATON SIMPLY COULDN’T HELP HIMSELF! REST ASSURED THAT I HAVE NO PLANS OF RETURNING HIS FLIRTATIONS!”

Red flushed and stormed out of the lab, alarming Papyrus. Had he misinterpreted Red’s actions?

He dashed off after the smaller skeleton, leaving Flowey and Frisk behind. They eventually stopped in front of the “Hotland” sign. Red panted heavily and beads of sweat trailed down his skull. His shoulders were rigid, phalanges curled tightly into fists at his side. Papyrus held out an arm to comfort the other when Red suddenly spun around.

“what did she do ta ya?”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, RED?”

“ya know what i mean. did she hurt ya in any way?” Red’s sockets were black pits. The realization that Red’s shaking from earlier had been due to rage and not fear caused a warm pulse within his soul.

“WHATEVER SHE DID TO ME IS NOT WORTH YOU GETTING ANGRY OVER. WHAT’S DONE IS DONE, AND NOTHING WOULD BE ABLE TO CHANGE IT.”

“yeah, except… reset,” Red muttered.

“A WHAT? RESET?” The word was oddly familiar to Papyrus. He was sure he’d heard his brother rambling about it before during one of his post-nightmare hazes.

The black-clad monster blinked twice before his eye lights blinked back into existence. A weary sigh escaped between his teeth.

“don’t worry ‘bout it. anyways, alphys’s been messin’ with determination, that red stuff. it’s what made that monster you saw earlier.” The skeleton slumped slightly. “‘m sorry fer not protectin’ ya better.”

Without a word, Papyrus scooped up Red into a tight embrace, a glove hand tenderly petting the back of his skull. The short monster tensed initially, and soon sagged against his arms.

“NOT AT ALL, RED. YOU CAME BACK FOR ME, AND FOR THAT, I GIVE YOU MY UTMOST GRATITUDE. THANK YOU!”

Clack!

He bumped his teeth softly against Red’s forehead, causing the other to turn the color of his namesake. It was much to cute, and he hoped to see more of it.

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

Sans could hear a frustrated Undyne mouthing off endless stream of questions, but Sans didn’t even look up at her from his slumped position on the ground, skull bowed. Unfortunately, Papyrus provided no answers for her, though he kept glancing over to Sans. Sans appreciated the tall skeleton’s concern, but it didn’t help lift his mood.

How could he have said those things to his brother after they’d been apart for so long-- a month or more maybe?

“Hmph! You guys are useless on this matter! I should just ask Alphys!” Undyne snarled.

At the mention of the Royal Scientist’s name, Sans noticed Papyrus flinch backs slightly and Frisk’s expression brightened like an illuminating light bulb. They reached into their pockets and withdrew the letter that Alphys had given them.

“Here,” they held up a white envelope for Undyne to take. “Alphys wrote this for you.”

Undyne snatched the letter from them, tore it opened and scanned its contents. Her one eye widened in shock and, to Sans’s utter disbelief, noticed a pink blush invading her blue face.

“W-well! Since I’m not getting any information out of you there, I’m gonna visit Alphys!” The fish monster straightened her posture and swept a hand through her flaming hair. “You should all come with me so we can figure out why Sans vanished for a period and had been replaced by another one.”

“THAT IS AN EXCELLENT IDEA, UNDYNE! MAYBE I’LL BE ABLE TO FIGURE A WAY BACK HOME AS WELL!”

A sharp pang rang out from Sans’s soul, which only further dampened his mood. Although he sometimes found this Papyrus’s beliefs overly naive and needlessly soft-hearted, he couldn’t deny the fact that he would dearly miss the other. Besides, this Papyrus had his own Sans to take care of, and was probably not a terrible brother like he was.

“Yeah, but not before we spar for a final time! You have potential, punk!” Undyne gave a grin full of teeth. “NARGH! And you, kid, are definitely coming with me. I still don’t trust ya yet!”

They nodded, and soon all of them were off. Sans didn’t want to go see that bitch scientist but he had nowhere else to go given how Snowdin was most likely in midst of gang fights. He trailed after them, and every time he tagged behind, Papyrus would turn around and wait for him to catch up. Eventually, the two of them ended up keeping a section behind Undyne and Frisk.

“DID YOUR MEETING WITH YOUR BROTHER NOT GO SO WELL?” Papyrus suddenly asked.

Sans faltered and stared up at the foreign skeleton, his features etched with concern.

“it’s nothin’ ya should be worryin’ ‘bout,” Sans replied with a weak wave of his left arm.

“BUT IT’S CLEARLY UPSETTING YOU, RED.” Papyrus turned his attention to the ground, eye sockets drooping and gloved hands clenched into tight fists. “I WISH YOU AND SANS WOULD STOP HIDING THINGS FROM ME! I KNOW YOU MAY THINK I’M NAIVE OR STUPIDLY IDEAL—”

“wha—pap, i’d never think—”

“PLEASE LET ME FINISH!” Papyrus huffed, paused briefly and continued, “I CAN SEE THAT YOU ARE UPSET, AND I KNOW YOU’LL NEVER TELL ME. IN THAT ASPECT, YOU AND MY BROTHER ARE VERY SIMILAR. BUT HOW CAN I HELP EITHER OF YOU IF YOU DON’T EVEN GIVE ME THE CHANCE TO DO IT! DO YOU THINK I’M BLIND TO YOUR OR MY BROTHER’S UNHAPPINESS? DO YOU THINK I’M THAT INCAPABLE OF SEEING WHEN YOU OR SANS ARE HURTING?”

Papyrus’s shoulders were hunched and his eye sockets closed briefly. Guilt racked Sans’s entire being at the sight. He raised a hesitant hand and placed it gently on one of Papyrus’s shoulder.

“alright, pap, i’ll tell ya.”

So Sans confessed to Papyrus about the less than stellar meeting he had with his brother, how he’d gotten angry at Boss and brushed away his brother’s attempts to apologize. He should’ve kept his anger in check. Papyrus, in turn, revealed the meeting with his brother as well, which also got interrupted before they could speak their words.

“looks like we both needa find a way to see our bros again.”

“INDEED! PERHAPS SPEAKING WITH… ALPHYS… MAY HELP.”

There was a beat, before Sans finally dropped the question, “what did she do t’ya?”

Papyrus looked away and answered in a subdued tone, “NOTHING.”

“it ain’t nothin’! if we’re gonna be honest with each other, it’s gotta be both ways!”

The tall skeleton didn’t answer for several seconds. Eventually, he gave in.

“SHE GAVE ME A RED SUBSTANCE.”

Unbridled rage consumed Sans, and he had to suppress the urge to take a shortcut directly into Alphys’s lab to kick her bitch ass. However, guilt soon overtook the previous feeling, and Sans wished he hadn’t been so careless to have gotten Papyrus captured in the first place.

“IT DOESN’T BOTHER ME, RED. THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS TOO COOL TO LET IT CONTROL ME! THOUGH I DO WONDER WHAT IT IS.”

“determination.”

“WHAT?”

“that’s what the red liquid was. i got some in me too, since ages ago.” Sans shivered, trying to ignore the flashes of when he’d been a test subject. He shook his head vigorously and continued, “it’s isolated from human souls, since they got a lotta it. monsters have considerably less or none at all. too much of it will destroy us. not entirely sure what it does, but some of my research shows that it may be what’s causin’ the time jumps.”

Papyrus’s eye sockets widened from his explanation but didn’t respond. Instead, he turned to the damp earth and the red echo flowers lighting up the dark cavern walls. The wails of the dying monsters seemed to have caught Papyrus’s attention, and the foreign skeleton frowned in distress.

“hey, ya don’t gotta feel bad for ‘em.” He signaled at the wailing echo flowers with his shoulders. “most probably deserved it.”

“THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT ANY LESS SAD,” Papyrus sniffled.

Sans didn’t reply, because he didn’t know how. Rather, he carefully grasped Papyrus’s gloved hand within his own and the two of them made their way out of Waterfall and into Hotland, still following behind Frisk, the hidden Flowey, and Undyne.

As soon as Sans saw Alphys at the doorwayof her lab, his bony first went flying towards her face before he could stop himself. The Royal Scientist slumped several paces back, her glasses askewed. Undyne immediately rounded on Sans with her spear pointed threateningly close to the location of his soul.

“What the hell are ya doing, punk?!” Undyne bellowed. “You want a death sentence?!”

“she had it comin’ fer injectin’, papyrus with determination!” Sans’s

“WAIT, NO FIGHTING! WE SHOULD ALL—”

Undyne spun around to face Papyrus. “Is that true?”

Caught off guard by the question, Papyrus hesitated long enough for Alphys to declare, “It’s TRUE, I d-did it.”

The lizard scientist shrank into herself in shame, which Sans thought was well deserved. Undyne strolled up to Alphys, who flinched as if expecting an admonishment; the former royal guard captain settled a hand on her shoulders.

“I’m not angry, Alph. I just thought you’d given up your experiments with the human souls.”

“I did… for a little while.” Alphys’s eyes trailed to the ground. “But when he… threatened to… to REPLACE me, I had to do something.”

Undyne clicked her teeth together in displeasure.

“Don’t worry, Alphys, I’ll speak to him and change his mind. But no more experimenting!”

Alphys smiled weakly and nodded at Undyne words. Sans snapped his phalanges to get their attention.

“that’s really nice of ya, but ya still needa apologize t’papyrus.”

“Since when do you ever care?” Undyne gave Sans an incredulous look.

“THAT IS NOT NECESSARY!”

“No, he’s right. I should… apologize.” Alphys turned to face the tall skeleton. “I’m sorry.”

“that’s it?!” Sans spat. “that’s yer apology?!”

He didn’t know why he was so offended on Papyrus’s behave, especially since he would never be this adamant about an apology with any other monster.

“I ACCEPT YOUR APOLOGY, ALPHYS,” Papyrus offered a gloved hand, and after staring for a period of time, Alphys held out her own. They shook on it. “AND THANK YOU, RED.”

Without warning, Papyrus bent down and gave Sans a tight embrace, causing heat to rise into his cheekbones. The two female monsters stared at them in shock while the kid grinned widely. Sans squirmed in Papyrus’s grasp with a growl.

“leggo!”

Papyrus did, and Sans felt strangely disappointed. He ignored it and diverted his pupils to Frisk, who still had that infuriating grin.

“whatcha lookin’ at, kid? don’t we got some things to discuss?”

Alphys just suddenly noticed their human guest and gasped, “You’re… the HUMAN? I’ve seen you…” she trailed off.

Frisk nodded their head and smiled. It was at this time that Flowey finally decided to show himself. Alphys paled considerably at the sight of the yellow flower.

“W-what? H-h-how?” Her beady eyes were wide behind her spectacles and sweat dotted her forehead.

Everyone there stared curiously at the scene, and Sans immediately realized that Flowey and Alphys, interestingly enough, knew each other. Flowey slapped his leaves in front of his mouth, as if signaling her to be quiet. Sans filed away the suspicious gesture into his memory.

“Yo! Let’s get this started already!” Undyne interrupted brashly. “Alphys, you wouldn’t believe what’d just happened. We were in Waterfall, and everything started acting all weird. Sans here even disappeared and got replaced by a different one! And then this weird goopy monster showed up!”

Sans felt his magic run cold at the description, his mind recognizing the mysterious monster, the one that had plagued dreams since he could remember. The one that had built the Core and started experimenting with time travel and Determination.

What was his name?

For the life of him, Sans couldn’t recall. He peered over and spotted the recognition in Alphys’s expression.

“The previous Royal Scientist,” she said.

“You knew him?!” Undyne blurted.

Alphys shook her head and readjusted her glasses. Then she led them all inside. They followed her through the lab into a back room hidden behind an elevator door. Inside were shelves lined with binders and notebooks of old notes.

“I don’t KNOW him personally, but these are HIS notes.”

“SO HE USED TO BE A MONSTER HERE?” Papyrus inquired as Undyne stalked over and grabbed a notebook.

She flipped through it and then huffed in irritation, “It’s written in strange symbols! How can ya even read this crap?!”

Sans walked over and snatched the notes out of Undyne’s hand.

“Hey!”

Sans gaped. He recognized them. They were written in wing dings. Wing dings…

“gaster.” His voice was barely above a whisper.

“What? You recognize that?!” Undyne bellowed.

“the name of the previous scientist. pretty sure ‘twas w. d. Gaster.”

Undyne narrowed her one eye. “And how did you just suddenly know that?”

Sans shrugged, not sure how to answer in a way that didn’t sound lame. Because ‘he suddenly remembered’ wasn’t probably gonna cut it for the aquatic monster.

“the symbols are wing ding. the notes here are theories on time travel, multiple universes and time anomalies.”

From Sans’s peripheral vision, he saw the way Frisk and Flowey both tensed at the mention of ‘anomaly’. He’d always suspected them to be cause of the time shifts, the Reloads and Resets, and it now he had confirmation of it.

“O-oh!” Alphys squealed without warning and rushed out of the room.

Papyrus gazed at the bookcase with narrowed eye sockets and with a hand stroking his chin. He grabbed a random folder and flipped through it. The pitter patter of shoes signaled the Royal Scientist’s return. She carried a worn “Theoretical Physics” textbook in her hands. There were sheets of paper sticking out from within the pages.

“I found THIS awhile back looking through the notes.” Alphys held out several pieces of loose-leaf paper. “There’s stuff on this PHENOMENON called universal displacements.”

“Universal what?” Undyne interjected.

“Displacement. Basically when EVENTS in two parallel universes happen together and they INTERSECT.”

Silence blanketed the area for a brief period.

“COULD THAT BE WHY I AM HERE IN RED’S BROTHER’S PLACE?” Papyrus offered.

“Then we need to figure out what caused it,” Flowey noted with Frisk nodding along. “We should look around to find anything else.”

Sans remembered the broken machine sitting in his secret workshop. He wondered if he could take a crack at fixing it again. Alphys and Undyne stepped out of the room for a bit to do something. Sans and Papyrus took one side of the shelf, while Frisk and Flowey took the other side.

The sound of clicking boots echoed down the hallway, and eventually, Mettaton loomed in the doorway of the room. His four eyes swept across the room until they fell upon Papyrus. His lips curled into a grin as he strutted over to the tall skeleton.

“Why, Papyrus, have you come back to attend another one of my live shows?” His grin turned sultry. “I always have openings available for you. My viewership was at an all-time high! The human should join as well!” Mettaton gave both Papyrus and the kid a wink.

Magic boiled underneath Sans’s bones, and he had half a mind to not skewer a bone through the robot’s metal torso.

“OH, HELLO, METTATON! OF COURSE YOUR SHOW WOULD HAVE HIGH VIEWS WITH MY GREAT PRESENCE!” Papyrus puffed out his chest and beamed.

Mettaton slowly wound his slender fingers around Papyrus’s shoulders and slid them across them. Papyrus giggled at the touch.

“’m gonna check somethin’ back in snowdin,” Sans huffed, his soul twisting with pain, anger and disappointment.

He stepped back out into the smoldering heat and sighed dejectedly. He hadn’t take more than three steps when he heard a loud voice call out to him.

“WAIT! LET ME COME WITH YOU! IT MAY BE DANGEROUS FOR YOU TO GO ALONE!”

Papyrus quickly caught up to Sans with his long legs.

“y-you’re not stayin?”

“ALTHOUGH MY SERVICES WOULD BE TREMENDOUS FOR THEM, I AM SURE I’LL BE OF BETTER USE WITH YOU,” the foreign monster replied with a wide smile.

Sans felt a fluttering within his chest and nodded. He offered a hand, and when Papyrus took it, they disappeared from Hotland. They appeared in a pitch darkness. Sans stumbled around until his knees hit his desk. With a grunt, he pulled over the drawer and felt around for the key he knew was hidden there.

“IS THIS YOUR ROOM?”

“yeah.”

“I CAN HEAR THE TRASH TORNADO.” Papyrus sounded less than impressed.

Heh, guess something things don’t change between universes.

“it’s pretty handy. follow me and keep quiet.”

Sans halted at the door and pressed his skull against it. Stillness greeted him, and he slowly opened the door and crept down the stairs, keeping one hand still clasped within Papyrus’s. The trek out of his house remained uneventful.

But once they stepped out into the main town, everything went wrong.

A purple stream of fire shot out towards him. Before he even thought of dodging it, excruciating agony shot out from his soul to the rest of his body. And then everything went black.

Chapter Text

As soon as Papyrus saw the attack hit Sans and heard the other’s scream of agony, bones surrounded them. The fire elemental, who resembled Grillby save for the color and style of dress, loomed ahead of him. Various monsters surrounded him - a tall red bird, a hamster donned in leather clothing, an ugly fish and a large bear. Papyrus didn’t know who they were, but all of them had a violet flame adorning some part of their attire or body.

Papyrus glanced over to Red, and his soul froze at the damage that had been done; the same crimson liquid that Papyrus had seen once before seeped into the white snow. The fireball that had hit Red scorched a part of his shirt, revealing the broken ribs below it. A yellow glow flickered feebly from the wound.

“You must be the other Papyrus I’ve been hearing about,” Purple-Grillby said in a nonchalant tone. “The King has requested that I bring you to him, with whatever means necessary. But he never gave any indication that that broken pile of bones is necessary. You seem like a reasonable monster, so if you come without a fight, then I’ll spare you any additional pain.”

Anger that which Papyrus had never felt consumed his being, and the hum of magic buzzed in the air. Three enormous skulls, each having a canine appearance, materialized above Papyrus.

Ping!

Catching Purple-Grillby's monster gang by surprise at the gaster blasters, Papyrus took the opportunity to turn their souls blue. With a swish of his arms, he tossed Red Bird into the rest of the monsters, knocking them down like action figures. The blasters charged and shot concentrated beams of magic at the ground, blowing the snow into the air and generating enough heat to give rise to steam. Mist blanketed the area, providing a temporary smokescreen. Papyrus bent down to where Red laid, scooped him up into his arms, and ran.

Papyrus made a turn around Red’s house and spotted a door. He tried to open it but found it locked. Then the memory of Red digging through his drawers flashed within his mind. Papyrus gingerly shifted the smaller skeleton within his arms enough to access his black coat pocket. Sure enough, he found a thin silver key, placed it into the keyhole and turned the lock to open the door.

Stale air blew into Papyrus’s face, and pitch darkness greeted him. Lights flickered on as he stepped in and relocked the door behind him. Affirming that the room was empty save for the two of them, Papyrus crouched down onto his knees to lay Red carefully on the dusty floor — this place will definitely need a thorough cleaning after Red is healed — and lifted his ruined shirt. Papyrus’s soul stuttered as a chill ran through him.

Faint, hairline cracks lined the surface of Red’s pale soul. It gave off a dim yellow glow. Papyrus Checked him.

Sans
Lv 8
HP 0.5/5
AT 10
DF 4

Is hanging on by Determination.

Papyrus would’ve found the description odd if not for how close Red was to dusting. A red gloved hand settled over the other’s broken ribs, and Papyrus tried to send a pulse of healing magic into the area. It quickly sputtered out. He tried again with the same effect. Panic consumed him.

Had he expended that much magic during the earlier fight against Grillby and the Infernos?

Each second wasted, Red’s HP ticked a decimal point lower. His inventory was empty and nothing in this storage room — or lab perhaps? — could be used for healing. The only other option would be soul healing via magic transfer. But that was such an intimate method that it had Papyrus blushing. And it should only be done with consent from both partners, which Red obviously had no way of communicating given his current state.

Papyrus huffed, feeling tears of frustration beading in the corner of his eye sockets. He Checked Red again and saw that his HP had dropped to 0.2. Ice cold fear swept through Papyrus. He didn’t want to imagine Red dusting before him. It would be the same as watching his brother die in front of him, and he couldn’t allow that to happen.

“FORGIVE ME, RED.”

Papyrus lowered himself over Red’s diminutive form until their ribs were nearly flush against each other and drew out his own soul, the inverted white organ casting a bright orange glow in the room. The culmination of his entire being floated towards the cracked soul. Papyrus poured as much healing intent as he could. Resistance impeded him; he kept pushing.

Please, accept this, Red. I don’t know what I would do if you’d… I can’t lose you!

His soul inched towards Red’s until they touched. Papyrus gasped as a wave of guilt and regret crashed into him. But underneath it all was unconditional affection and care for Red’s brother. Papyrus shuddered violently as he uncovered a different type of affection directed at him, one that was different from the familial love Red felt towards his brother. It was light as air and warmth permeated throughout the rest of Papyrus’s body. His magic sought out that distinct feeling, the invisible walls softening and disappearing to allow Papyrus’s intent to penetrate through to Red’s core.

The two souls fluttered and seemed to meld together as Papyrus fed his magic into Red. Slowly, the cracks littering the native skeleton’s ribs mended together and disappeared. Soon, after the initial worry for Red’s well-being had melted away, another sensation arose within Papyrus, one that forced a moan from his clenched teeth.

It felt amazing! And Papyrus chased after it, letting go the last vestiges of control. Love and appreciation poured into Red. A pressure built up with Papyrus’s soul until it reached a boiling point.

Papyrus cried out. The room lit up in brilliant hues of orange and gold.

After the state of utter bliss had passed, Papyrus leaned back, and the two inverted heart-shaped organs separated. Flickers of yellow caught Papyrus’s eyes as his soul returned to its rightful place within his ribs. Red’s soul flash orange and then disappeared.

With Red back to near full HP, Papyrus sighed with relief. Dizziness rushed through him. He shifted to lean heavily against the wall and allowed his weariness to take over.

Papyrus woke up to buzzing and vibrations. It took a few seconds for him to realize that it was coming from his phone. He took it out of his inventory, saw Frisk’s name and answered it.

“HELLO, FRISK! THIS IS THE GREAT PAPYRUS SPEAKING.”

“Are both of you ok? We haven’t heard from you two in a while.”

“REALLY? HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE WE LEFT?”

“Um… around 5 hours. I even slept a bit.”

“I APOLOGIZE FOR THE DELAY. WE WERE ATTACKED BY PURPLE-GRILLBY AND RED WAS SEVERELY INJURED. BUT HE’S FINE NOW!” Papyrus quickly added in the last part.

The other line remained silent for a beat.

“Oh… uh, I’m glad to hear he’s fine—”

“NARGH! What?! Attacked by Grillby? What did he want?”

Undyne must’ve taken the communication device from Frisk.

“THE KING WANTED TO MEET MY COOL SELF!” Papyrus chimed.

Whispers broke out on the other line. Papyrus couldn’t understand what they were saying. The only words he made out were, “meet”, “Asgore”, “plan” and “dream”.

“WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?”

Undyne ordered the others to shut up and then spoke, “Look, I’ll speak to King Asgore. Maybe then Grillby will back down. But you should meet us up at the MTT Resort in an hour. Apparently the kid had a dream and met with the kid from your universe. They suggested we synchronize what we’re doing to force another — what’s it called again? oh, right — displacement to occur.”

Papyrus nodded along even though he knew they wouldn’t see the action. The puzzle pieces began to fit together. Last time, his other self must’ve also been in a fight with Undyne so both of the same events triggered a ‘displacement’. Just like how it was described in the former royal scientist’s notes. A vague sense of familiarity prodded the back of his mind.

Did he somehow know the scientist, even if he couldn’t remember?

“Ya got that?” Undyne’s harsh voice interrupted.

“YES.”

“Bring Sans too!”

“HE IS STILL UNCONSCIOUS.”

“As long as he’s in one piece, drag him over if you have to.”

There was a click and the call ended. Papyrus turned his attention to where Red laid and thought about picking him up to leave when said skeleton bolted straight up. His cheeks flushed scarlet.

“AH, YOU ARE FINALLY AWAKE!”

Red’s eye lights darted to him.

“wh-what h-happened?”

It was then Papyrus suddenly remembered how he’d done a magic transfer with Red’s soul without permission. He bowed his skull and apologized profusely, feeling pressure behind his eye sockets.

“I AM SO SORRY, RED. I...I--” Tears trickled from his sockets.

A light touch on his right shoulder had Papyrus snapping his neck up, discovering Red’s face mere centimeters from his own. Red’s cheekbones deepened in color.

“it’s ok, papyrus, i forgive ya.” He smiled genuinely.

“BUT I TOUCHED SOULS WITH YOU WITHOUT ASKING FIRST!” Papyrus sobbed.

His brother had always stressed to him the importance of consent when it came to anything soul related, as any ill intent could cause irreparable psychological damage to the monster.

“no, papyrus! if i had a problem with it i, uh, wouldn't have allowed ya through.” Ruby pupils trailed to the side wall. “ya saved me, papyrus.”

Despite Red’s reassurances, guilt fluttered within Papyrus’s chest. He heard a light huff from the other.

“let me, um, p-prove it to ya.”

Red leaned in and, with a clack, pressed his jagged teeth against Papyrus’s. Papyrus tensed initially, and then pressed further in, closing his sockets with a hum. They shot open as he felt something soft swiped against his teeth. A red appendage prodded at his mouth. Papyrus parted his jaw to allow access, the tongue meeting his own. They wrestled against each other, and Red groaned as his tongue wrapped around the others. Red ground his clothed pelvis against Papyrus’s peeking hipbones.

The same arousal that had built up within Papyrus from before (when he’d been soul healing Red) arose within his chest, and Papyrus enthusiastically returned the smaller monster’s gesture. Heat rushed into Papyrus’s skull. They broke apart after a minute, both panting heavily. Red’s eye lights were blown out and hazy.

“that was… huff…”

“AMAZING! I’D LOVE TO…” Hesitation adorned Papyrus’s face. “CONTINUE?”

Red nodded, still a bit dazed. The two kissed again. Papyrus shivered as phalanges trailed inside his borrowed black armor, eliciting moans from him.

“RED!!”

Papyrus felt the smirk forming on the smaller skeleton’s mouth. Not one to be outdone, and with a burst of boldness, Papyrus sensually caressed the inside of Red’s left femur.

“ahhh, papyrus!”

“NYEH HEH HEH, THE GREAT PAPYRUS SHALL ASSAULT YOUR BONES WITH MY LOVING TOUCHES!”

Using Red’s momentary shock, Papyrus continued to stroke up his femur and brushed against his pelvis through the fabric of his track shorts. Red jolted against his torso, breathing increased and uneven. Papyrus slowed his ministrations, and yelped loudly when he felt Red’s tongue twirl against his exposed lower spine.

Curse his counterpart’s lack of under armor with his red and black attire!

After swiping off his gloves, Papyrus fondled the back of Red’s ribs with one hand while still pawing at his ilium with the other. The scraping of bone against bone magnified the pleasure by several notches, and Red cried out. The two rutted against each other, their hands and tongue leaving no exposed bone untouched, until both came simultaneously, screaming each other’s names. A burst of orange and yellow flooded the area for the second time.

Papyrus slid down to sit on the ground, cradling Red in his lap. The two of them stayed like that for several minutes, basking in the pleasant afterglow. Sudden frightened shrieks brought the two skeletons out of their blissful high. It was coming from outside the secret workshop and sounded like another fight was occurring.

“that’s probably grillby causin’ more trouble? imma get that asshole for what he did!”

“LANGUAGE!” Papyrus chided. “HE SAID IT WAS UNDER THE KING’S ORDERS.” Papyrus pulled away from the other and slipped his gloves back on.

“what would asgore want with ya?” Red blinked his eye sockets in confusion.

“HE MUST’VE HEARD OF MY GREATNESS AND OF COURSE WANTED TO MEET WITH ME!” Papyrus struck a heroic pose. “ALSO MOST LIKELY BECAUSE HE FOUND OUT THAT I’M FROM ANOTHER UNIVERSE.”

Red chuckled darkly.

“betcha alphys told him. i knew we shouldn’t’ve trusted her.”

“EVEN IF SHE DID, RED, I PLAN TO MEET THE KING!”

Red gazed at Papyrus as if he’d grown two heads.

“are ya crazy?! asgore’s tryna figure a way outta here. even if it means invadin’ another universe. yer be crazy to meet him face to face!”

“I KNOW YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT, BUT FRISK, UNDYNE AND I DISCUSSED IT OVER THE PHONE EARLIER. IT’S ALL PART OF OUR PLAN TO CAUSE ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE ‘DISPLACEMENTS’ SO YOUR BROTHER WILL RETURN!”

Just as Papyrus had uttered those words, the realization that he may never seen Red again, if this all worked out, sent a pang through his soul.

After they’ve become great friends — and possibly something more — he would never see the other skeleton again. Was there no way for all of them to live in one world? Papyrus was sure his Sans would be sad to never see the other Papyrus again, since they seemed to have become great friends as well.

“i can see the reasoning behind the idea, but i still don’t like this.” Red raised a bone brow. “it could go horribly wrong.”

“WORRY NOT, RED, I HAVE GREAT CONFIDENCE IN THIS PLAN!”

Papyrus explained what Undyne had told him over the phone. It didn’t make Red any more open to the idea, though he did begin muttering multiverse theories that flew over Papyrus’s head. A few additional prompts later, along with an update text from Frisk that read: Flowey and I will be meeting up with Asgore soon, and Red finally agreed with the plan.

Unfortunately, Red didn’t have enough magic to use a shortcut to bring the two of them to New Home, which meant that they had to walk. This entailed trekking through Snowdin and getting passed Grillby and his gang.

After the screams died down, and Red jotted some notes down in a notebook that he always kept in the room, they opened the door to head out. The coast was clear. Papyrus stayed slightly ahead of Red in case an ambush were to occur. This time, Papyrus would be ready.

Much to their surprise, as they marched passed towards Red’s house, they saw Grillby waiting for them. He was leaning against the door of the house, and his irregularly flaming head grew in size at the sight of them. Red immediately got into battle stance, but Grillby raised both of his arms in surrender.

“I’m not looking to start another fight.” Despite his words, a smug smirk still etched his fiery head.

“ya think i’m gonna believe that?” Red growled as bones erupted from the ground.

Grillby easily dodged them. Papyrus settled a hand on Red’s shoulder.

“WE WILL LISTEN TO WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.” His eye sockets narrowed at Grillby. “BUT IF YOU MAKE ANY MOVE TO ATTACK US, I WILL NOT HOLD BACK!”

A light crackle, mostly likely a chuckle, erupted from the fire monster.

“Fair enough. The king has asked that I escort both of you safely out of Snowdin.” Grillby transfixed his gaze to Red. “Perhaps the King has use for you after all.”

“you don’t even know it all, buddy,” Red sneered harshly.

Grillby’s flames expanded greatly and flared green for a split second before settling back to its violet color. He about faced and began walking towards the north area of Snowdin.

“Follow me. I will lead you to the fastest way to Hotland, where you may walk the rest of the way to New Home.”

The bartender led them through the snow-covered, deserted streets of North Snowdin until they reached the flowing river. A boat waited against the riverbank, with a dark hooded figure standing at the back. Grillby then left without saying a word to them, though he leered at Red as they passed each other. The short skeleton ignored it. Red gave the Riverperson their destination, and the two were speeding off to Hotland. They disembarked a section away from the MTT Resort, where they were scheduled to meet with Frisk and the others.

An uncharacteristic nervousness fell upon Papyrus as the two walked side by side. Every so often when he glanced over at Red, his soul fluttered within his ribcage. Even if they were to depart, Papyrus was determined to never forget the time he’d spent with the Sans of this universe.

Chapter Text

“hey, papyrus, i just wanted to, uh, thank ya fer everything you did,” Sans muttered, keeping his eye sockets directed at the purple-colored tiles of the Core.

Sans and Papyrus had met up with Frisk and Flowey at the MTT Resort. Initially, Undyne volunteered to escort them through New Home to Asgore, but something had occurred down in Alphys’s laboratory. This left Sans, Papyrus, Frisk and Flowey to meet Asgore. Sans was thankful Mettaton had allowed them passage out of the MTT Resort into the Core without a fight, mainly thanks to Papyrus.

“BUT OF COURSE, RED, THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS ALWAYS HAPPY TO OFFER HIS ASSISTANCE! WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT ME?” the foreign skeleton beamed

“heh, yeah.”

Dread flooded Sans’s soul at the idea of never seeing Papyrus again. If this all worked according to plan, and Papyrus returns home, how will they ever see each other?

Sans had grown to like - no, love - the other.

But there was no point in confessing now when it’s likely they would part ways. It would only end in heartbreak and unrequited feelings, neither of which Sans was willing to deal with.

“I HOPE YOU AND YOUR BROTHER MAKE UP WITH EACH OTHER!” Papyrus said.

“yeah.”

At least there was good if this displacement plan worked.

The four of them continued their way through the Core. Frisk continued their pacifism throughout the Core, whispering “magic words” - abracadabra - to the Majicks and dueled against the knights.

Sans had to admit he was impressed by their bravery, though it unnerved him how quickly Frisk had done all this. It was as if they’d done it already, which given what he already knew about them being the anomaly, didn’t surprise him. What did catch him off guard was the words coming out of their mouth while he stood facing them in the gold-bathed Judgment Hall. Papyrus and Flowey had moved on ahead of them, as per Sans’s recommendation. The other skeleton didn’t need to know his other job as Asgore’s judge (and executioner).

“There’s something that I have not told you and the others. I think Flowey has an idea of it, but he never brought it up with me,” they stopped, expression serious and took a deep breath. “Sometimes, I feel another presence inside me, urging me to do things.

Sans blinked three times, mind already rushing with questions and possibilities.

“a presence? like yer conscience type of thing?”

The kid shook their head, brown hair bouncing off their cheeks.

“No. It’s more like a driving force within me, urging me to do this or that. It doesn’t verbally tell me what to do or anything.”

Sans’s magic flared into existence from their words, and they took a step back in response, raising their arms in a placating manner.

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt anyone. Not like last time. I’ll make sure to do it right this time and get all of you out of here.”

Only after a good minute did Sans allow his magic to dissipate. He Checked them.

-Ḟ̶̙̳̇r̴͛ͬ̔͛i̳͕͚͓ͨ̋̄̈́͗͞ͅs͉͓̘̣͋́̏́̿̉̿kͧ
Lv 1
HP 20/20
AT 0
DF 0
EXP 0

 

Why was their flavor text coming out like that? And why their red soul look blurry? As if there were actually two that were misaligned.

“kid? why’s yer soul like that?”

Their eyes widened in confusion.

“Like what?”

Sans pulled them into an Encounter and exposed their soul out into the open. This time, it appeared entirely normal. He glared at the offending organ, assessing for any abnormalities.

“Sans?” A frightened voice cut through him, snapping his attention to the kid. “Am I going to have to fight you?”

Sans roughly shoved the soul back where it belonged and slipped his hands into his jacket pockets. He felt sweat trickle down his skull, sensing something -i-off.

“it’s nothing. c’mon, kid, we better catch up to the others.”

Even if he did end up killing the kid, they would simply Reset again. Not to mention, Asgore would have his head if he’d killed them without getting their soul.

Their tapping footsteps echoed throughout the stone corridors as Sans and Frisk made their way down the gray halls. At the end, there stood an archway leading to the Throne Room. A golden star glinted in front of it. Sans eyed Frisk like a hawk as their hands touched the twinkling object and disappeared. His eye sockets narrowed in suspicion.

Upon seeing the expression on Sans’s face, Frisk reassured, “I Saved so if anything horrible were to happen, I’ll be able to Reload to this spot.”

Sans nodded and noticed that Flowey and Papyrus were nowhere to be seen, immediately leading to him assuming the worst - Asgore had done something to the tall skeleton. He charged into the Throne Room to find Papyrus alone, standing in front of Asgore.

The boss monster towered twice over the foreign skeleton, his onyx armor seemingly to absorb all light into itself, and the tip of the spiked shoulder pauldrons glinted almost in warning. A scarlet cape hung majestically down the King’s back, it long enough to touch the ground.

“You will tell me how you’d arrived here and where the real Royal Guards captain went!” Asgore’s growled, his thundering voice causing the window panes to shudder.

“AS I MENTIONED EARLIER, YOUR MAJESTY, IT’S BEEN THEORIZED THAT I’VE REPLACED THE ME OF THIS WORLD, AND HE IS MOST LIKELY WHERE I COME FROM.” Papyrus stood straight and stared back at Asgore without fear, which only seemed to enrage the King.

In a flash, Asgore lifted his crimson trident and swung it across at Papyrus.

“papyrus!”

Magic sparked in the air as Sans prepared to retaliate, but Papyrus summoned a barrier of bones in the nick of time to block Asgore’s attack. He then took several steps back, allowing Sans’s blue magic to grip Papyrus’s soul and pull him back towards the entrance to the Throne Room. Asgore sent a vicious glare at Sans.

“To think my own Judge would betray me. I expected better of you, Sans,” the goat monarch sneered, and swung his weapon in a arch, scattering fireballs into the air like falling stars.

Bones sprung up in front of Sans and Papyrus, dissipating the fireballs upon impact. Sans turned his attention to the kid to see them dodging the fiery bullets, though the edges of their shorts were singed by the embers. Once they dodged all the fireballs, they gazed at Asgore with a look filled with determination.

“There’s no need to fight. You already have six souls.” Frisk took two steps towards Asgore with their hands folded against their chest. “I would be the seventh one.”

“WHAT? THAT WAS NOT PART OF OUR PLAN, HUMAN FRISK!” Papyrus declared.

Papyrus sprinted off to where Frisk stood, but was halted in his tracks when three glowing prongs hovered inches from Papyrus’s battle armor. Asgore kept his gaze locked onto the human.

“You would voluntarily offer your soul, child, without a fight?”

“Yes.” They paused and inhaled deeply. “But not before Flowey brings the other six here first.”

As if he’d been summoned, said yellow plant spouted out from the ground with six differently colored souls hovering around him. And that’s when they appeared.

The glitches.

White, blocky specks filled their room, and the environment itself seemed to warp with certain areas becoming discolored. Asgore froze completely in his place, his beady eyes wide with anger and mouth open in an attempted roar.

“FRISK, WHAT IS GOING ON? WHY IS OUR SURROUNDINGS SO FUZZY AND WHITE?” Papyrus asked, skull turning back and forth to survey everything.

“Something’s not right,” Flowey added. “Something is wrong. Frisk? What’s with that look?”

Sans’s sockets widened in horrified shock as the kid gazed blankly at the six hovering souls and drew out their own. Something black caught his eye. It was latched onto part of the kid’s soul. Without thinking and with his left eye socket flashing red and yellow, Sans swung his arms outward to separate the black substance from the red soul.

The most bizarre, otherworldly sound Sans had ever heard, a mix of shattering glass, static and robotic bellows, emitted from the human. Then all of a sudden, their surroundings became dead silent, and Sans found himself in never-ending blackness. There was no floor, ceiling, or walls.

“papyrus? kid?” he called out, peering around himself.

“RED, YOU ARE SAFE! THIS IS A MOST PUZZLING PLACE!” Papyrus exclaimed from behind him.

Sans spun around. Papyrus stood behind him, his head turning left and right and eye sockets wide with open curiosity. He even waved his gloved hands in front of his face.

“AT LEAST WE ARE NOT IN PIECES, NYEH HEH!”

Despite Papyrus’s jest, Sans felt sweat beading his forehead as anxiety grew within him. Wherever this was, there was an off-kilter aura around it - something unknown.

“WHERE IS OUR FRIEND, FRISK AND FLOWEY?”

Taking three cautious steps forward, Sans saw no outline of the human child nor the flower. Instead, he heard a pair of footsteps belong to two silhouettes. One was short and stout like him and the other was lanky like Papyrus. His soul jolted at the sound of a familiar, sharp voice.

“WHO’S THERE? REVEAL YOURSELF!” they called out in warning.

Immediately after, a tibia-length bone hurdled towards them. Sans waited a second too long to repel the attack, but Papyrus reacted in time, intercepting the bone attack at the halfway point between him and the two shadows.

Clack!

Sans froze as his brother came into view, his dark armor, red heeled boots and ragged scarf the same as he’d last seen the other. Beside him stood a skeleton similar to himself, save for the blue hoodie, white undershirt, black track shorts and -- was that a pair of slippers?

It had to be Papyrus’s brother..

His bones were unmarred with no shark teeth and a softer disposition.

“bro?”

“SANS?!”

He heard his counterpart and Papyrus both utter simultaneously. Papyrus rushed passed him and scooped his brother up into his arms. A sharp pang rang out from Sans’s soul at the sight of this other Sans returning the embrace.

Why wasn’t his relationship with his own brother like that?

While the two chatted, Sans turned his attention to Boss, who awkwardly traced his right hand up and down his left arm, eye lights darting from Sans to the darkness around them. Sans shuffled a step forward and slipped his hands into his pockets.

He knew what he had — and wanted — to say. Would Boss accept it though?

“‘m sorry.”

“I AM SORRY.”

Sans snapped his face up to his brother, who stared back at him with open regret.

“i, uh, shoulda listened t’ya last time, boss. ‘m sorry,” the other Sans mumbled. Sweat poured down the sides of his skull.

“AND I SHOULD NOT HAVE YELLED AT YOU!” Edge had his gloved hands clenched tightly at his side.

Papyrus let go of his brother.

“SANS, ALLOW ME TO INTRODUCE MY NEW BEST FRIEND, RED.” When Papyrus saw Boss, his pupils twinkled into stars. “WOWIE, YOU MUST BE THE OTHER PAPYRUS! IT IS TRULY AMAZING TO MEET MYSELF!

Papyrus ran over to Boss, leaving Sans to study his double. Although the other appeared calm, Sans could tell from the way his hands clenched and unclenched in his pockets that he wanted to do something more invasive. Sans was glad the other didn’t.

Much to his surprise, his counterpart offered a hand. Sans was at the very least grateful for his taking care of Boss.

He grasped the offered hand and a fart noise went off.

Sans gaped in silence. Then, both Papyruses cried out in exaggerated rage, while his alternate self chuckled. A smirk crept onto Sans’s face, and before long, he joined in on the laughter.

“nice one.”

“THAT PRANK OF YOURS HAS GOT TO BE THE MOST CHILDISH!” his brother huffed.

“INDEED, OTHER ME. MY BROTHER IS ALWAYS PLAGUING OTHERS WITH HIS ENDLESS PRANKS. IMAGINE ALL THE YEARS I HAD TO LIVE WITH THIS!”

“TRULY HORRIFYING.”

“hey, don’t rib at the ol’ whoopee cushion prank.”

Maybe his doppleganger wasn’t that bad of a guy to get to know. Anyone who enjoyed a good prank or two was someone Sans could get along with, even if the pranks weren’t as… cruel as some of his own. He preferred the hand buzzer that sent a shock of electricity rather than a whoopee cushion, though it wasn’t bad.

“yeah, it’s quite humerus,” Sans added.

After all the good laughs died down, he turned to the others and asked, “what’s this place?”

“AND WHERE DID OUR HUMAN FRIEND GO?” Papyrus added, sockets sweeping across the dark expanse.

Without warning, two yellow flowers sprouted out in front of them. One of them had slightly larger eyes while the other had an angry scowl. Sans notice a brief flash of cyan and yellow from his double’s left socket flashed blue and yellow as soon as he saw the scowling Flowey.

Was he dangerous? It was hard to believe.

“We’re in the Save Screen,” the scowling Flowey uttered.

“FLOWEY! WOWIE, THERE’S TWO OF YOU!” Papyrus exclaimed.

“There’s no time to explain. We have something else to worry about,” his universe’s Flowey said, turning his petal-face straight ahead

Sans did the same and spotted two human bodies lying unconscious on the ground. One was the brown-haired child wearing the blue and purple striped shirt. The other wore a black and red striped shirt. Standing in the midst of the two fallen bodies was an indistinct, gray outline of a human, their face completely obscured by white glitches.

The strange sound Sans had heard earlier resonated around them, catching the attention of the other pair. A chill ran down his spine as white text appeared above the human shadow.

[Who knew it would end up like this just from a few changes of code.] The glitchy head shifted slightly but did not disappear.

“who the fuck are ya?” Sans growled, red magic flaring.

Much to his shock, Boss stepped in front of him and summoned a ring of bones around the figure, trapping them within it. Despite this, fear transfixed both flowers’ expressions. Sans narrowed his sockets in suspicion.

“you know ‘em?” He took a step forward and his brother followed suit.

“You finally deciding to show yourself? You’re not Chara! You can’t fool me!” other-Flowey hissed.

More text appeared in midair. [You are correct, I am not Chara. I am above even them; I am the one with full control over the human’s actions and more.]

What the fuck was that supposed to mean?

With a rumble, sharp bones erupted from the ground to pierce the shadow. They dissipated before even reaching their body.

“THAT DOESN’T ANSWER THE QUESTION. WHO ARE YOU?” Boss bellowed.

[Flowey clearly recognizes me, though I guess the rest of you aren’t coded to know of my presence and your true purpose.] The glitches covering their face dwindled until it only showed a gray blur of a human head. [I am the Player. You could say I’m the driving force behind Frisk’s actions. I also have a few other powers up my sleeve.]

The cluster of white spots expanded into a U formation. It almost looked like a grin.

“Look at what you’ve done!” other-Flowey waved his leafy appendages around the dark expanse. “This is all your fault! Do you think you are above consequences for all this damage? For overriding the script?! See what your curiosity has led to?!”

[Why shouldn’t I do whatever I wish to ease my curiosity? After all, none of you are even real! You’re from a game; all of you are just a bunch of pixels and code.] A shadowy arm pointed at him and his brother. [Both of them and their universe are even fake, not being part of the original canon.]

Indignant rage burst forth within Sans like a dam. Who was this asshole to say he, his bro and his world were fake?

“the hell’s that mean?”

“HOW DARE YOU!” Boss roared.

Was this the ‘other presence’ that the kid was referring to? The one controlling Frisk? Were they the ones messing up the timeline, always resetting them?

If they were, Sans couldn’t wait to kick their ass back to wherever they came from.

[Everything that’s happened this playthrough has been truly amazing! I wonder what else will change if I restart from the beginning?]

A black box filled with lines of white code materialized into existence. More lines appeared, followed by two brightly colored text emerging in the black space.

[CONTINUE]   [RESET]

“no, stop!” Sans roared as he allowed his magic to hum in the air. A static-filled noise abruptly filled the area. An amorphous form materializing in front of the Player. It was the same one that appeared when the previous displacement occurred, someone who Sans vaguely remembered as the previous Royal Scientist before Alphys.

“YOU AGAIN?!” Rage transfixed his brother’s expression.

The goop monster’s attention was entirely drawn to the Player.His mouth gaped open, worsening the appearance of the two ghastly cracks running lengthwise down his deformed skull. Distorted cries flew out of his mouth while his glowing white hands signed furiously.

I̸ W҉҉̧I̶L̛̕͟L͘ N̢O͏T͢ AL̶L͘O͜W̕ A͟ W̸͘͢RE͞͏T͟C̵H̡͏E̡D͞ EX͢͜I҉̢S̢͡TENCE L̸IK̡͝͏E̵̢ YO̕U͝ TƠ̢͞ C̨̕O̧͠N̛͠T҉IN̴̨͘U̧̡͝E̶ THI̢S͘.̵͘
Error messages flooded his surroundings. YO̢͜͡U̷ MA̧͝Y Ơ͜͠N͢͝L̷͜Y͟ S͡EE U͢͠S̛ A͡Ş̵ B҉L̴O̷͜͡C͢K̶҉S OF C͡O̷͜DE,̵͠ B̸͢U̡͠T̕͠ W̧E̡͝ D̷O͏ EXI̧ST. I͘ W̶̕I͠Ļ̵L҉ N̷O̕͜T͜ A̛LĻO͜͠W YO͢U̷̵ T̛̕͞O EŖA̴̧̛S̨͘E͡ E̡͠VĘ͞R̢YT̛H͢I͏NG̨͡ T̶H͏A̕͜҉T͘ H͢A͡͏̶S̢̡ H̷Ą͠P͘P̨̡E̛N̡͢ED.̶̕͜

The glitches around the human silhouette exploded into strings of odd letters and numbers. [I will do whatever I want. You do not control my actions!]

A gray and white box that read “Windows Task Manager” appeared in the darkness around them. The Player’s disappeared, and everything froze

A bright flash later, they reappeared with the command box. Lines of code appeared in the box.

[I will Reset everything and start anew, and I’m not letting anyone stop me!]

A chill shot down Sans’s spine. Nothing made much sense to him, though he knew was he couldn’t allow this to occur. He grasped at his magic and summoned a blaster. Five others, likely from the other Sans, joined alongside his. They all fired at the Player, but it was not fast enough.

The [R͍̞̼̻̲͓̼̆̀͊̑ͬ̚Eͦͬ͊̆҉̮S̓̈́ͧE͎͉͉̗̘͋ͭ̇̿̍ͤT̡̞̠̘̞ͥ̓̓ͯ̄ͪ̋ͅ] flashed gold, and blinding whiteness blanketed the entire area.

 

Sans blinked awake, staring at the familiar ceiling in his room. He could make out the swishing of the trash tornado. After laying on his lumpy mattress for a few long minutes, Sans finally pulled himself up.

That’s when he realized there were far too many socks lying about the room. Not to mention the white shirts strewn in the half-opened closest. The walls were painted a color much lighter than his own.

This wasn’t… his room.

Suddenly, there was a loud knock on his door, ripping Sans out of his confused haze.

“SANS, YOU LAZYBONES! IT’S TIME TO GET UP!” his brother’s boisterous—

Wait… although the tone was similar, whoever knocked on his door was definitely not Boss. His brother stopped waking him up in the morning years ago.

Sans lightly crept towards the door and clutched the handle. He readied five sharp bones behind him and swung the door opened. A tall skeleton looking alike his brother but wearing white body “armor” that barely offered any protection, with a neat read scarf wrapped around his neck, stood in the threshold. His teeth were blunt and no scar adorned the left side of his skull.

“RED?! HOW DID YOU GET HERE?!”

Sans could only gawk like a fish until he finally found his voice.

“who the hell are ya? you ain’t boss!”

End of Arc II

Chapter Text

Papyrus

Papyrus felt odd when he leapt out of bed in the morning. Disoriented, Papyrus gazed around his room, searching for anything out of place. There was the computer back against the window, a maroon carpet, his bookshelf, table with action figures, and his red race-car bed—

Wait, what?

His race-car bed?

He noticed then that this was –i-his room, not the other Papyrus’s. Was he back home?

Without warning, memories flooded into his mind. Ones of him in that other Underground, the one where the monsters believed in “kill or be killed” instead of mercy. He remembered first meeting the other Sans. Red was his name. And then his friend, Flowey, and then the human child. The last of these memories was the four of them standing before the Agore donned in black armor.

Was he finally back home? But how?

Papyrus ripped open his door and descended the stairs, taking two steps at a time. Sure enough, this was his house-- the blue carpet, red wallpaper, and bone portrait.

So he was home, but how? And if he was home, then he could finally see his brother again!

Papyrus bounded back up the stairs and pounded against the door to his brother’s room.

“SANS, YOU LAZYBONES! IT’S TIME TO GET UP!”

Papyrus waited to hear Sans’s routine groan, tapping his foot against the carpet as he did so. After five seconds went by with no answer, he knocked again. And then again.

Maybe he had been wrong and his brother wasn’t there? Worry flooded him at the thought. He knocked again with more force. Still no answer.

Just as he was about to use his magic to pry open the door, it swung open. The rhythmic swish of the trash tornado echoed within it. The silhouette of a familiar short, stout skeleton came into view. When he looked closer, however, he noticed the jagged scar running down the left side of the skeleton’s skull, as well as the golden tooth glinting in the light from the hallway.

“who the hell are ya? you ain’t boss!” a deep, throaty voice growled.

It took a moment for Papyrus to recognize it but when he did, he exclaimed, “RED?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY BROTHER’S ROOM?”

Papyrus heard a crackle of magic. Sharp bones erupted from the dark space between the door and the wall. Reacting on instinct, Papyrus summoned a long bone to intercept the attack. He then backed away from the door.

“THIS IS NOT THE PROPER WAY TO GREET A FRIEND, RED!”

“a friend? you? that's a good joke. Not!

Did Red not remember what happened?

Despite the pang that rang out from his soul, Papyrus attempted to approach Red. He let out a surprised gasp as blue magic encased his soul and forced him to kneel on the ground. Red’s red eye lights blinked out of existence.

“Now let’s try again. Who are you and where's boss?”

Papyrus could easily break through Red’s blue magic if he wanted to, but he didn’t for fear of hurting the other. Instead, he stared Red with consideration.

“I AM PAPYRUS. PERHAPS YOU DO NOT REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED, BUT WE MET WHEN I HAD SOMEHOW APPEARED IN YOUR UNIVERSE.”

“is that so? then how come i can’t remember ya?’

“THAT IS A QUESTION EVEN THE GREAT PAPYRUS DOES NOT KNOW BUT REST ASSURE THAT I AM TELLING THE TRUTH!”

“You think I’m just gonna believe ya?”

"DO YOU NOT REMEMBER US FIGHTING ASGORE?”

The pressure on Papyrus lessened slightly as Red’s pupils reappeared. A dazed expression appeared on his face for a minute before he bared his serrated teeth at Papyrus.

“i don’t believe you!” Red’s breath hitched.

“PLEASE, RED, DO YOU NOT REMEMBER ALL THAT WE DID IN YOUR UNIVERSE? HOW WE WORKED TOGETHER WITH FLOWEY AND THE HUMAN?”

Red gaped at him, his sternum rising and falling more heavily.

What could he say to convince the shorter skeleton? Surely reminding Red of his brother, or ‘boss’ as Red liked to call him, would help?

“YOU EVEN MET YOUR BROTHER BRIEFLY IN THAT DARK SPACE.”

The blue magic holding Papyrus suddenly dissipated. Tremors wracked Red’s frame, his breaths were now coming out as heaving gasps and pants.

Recognizing the oncoming panic attack, Papyrus drew closer in an attempt to calm the other. That only led to Red taking a step back into the room with his magic flaring out.

“WAIT, RED! DON’T—!”

But it was too late. With a faint crack, Red vanished.

Papyrus frowned at the other’s disappearance, apprehension filling his soul. He had to find Red; nothing good would come out of another monster finding Red while he was in midst of one of his panic attacks. Someone could get seriously hurt. Papyrus dashed outside in record time, peering around his house for any possible signs of where Red had gone.

Curse his and his brother’s ability to use these so-called ‘short-cuts’.

Papyrus checked his shed, the shop, the Librarby, the Shop, the Snowdin Inn, and even the northern portion of town. As he wandered through the streets, he noticed only a few monsters. When he greeted them, they ignored him and continued their way. The cold reception hurt but Papyrus didn’t have the time to dwell on the reasoning behind the residents’ rude behavior.

Everywhere in Snowdin he looked, Papyrus found no signs of Red. The only place he hadn’t checked was Grillby’s. Papyrus shuddered at the thought of entering that grease pit, but to find Red, he would endure. When he entered, the warm air and scent of fries and burgers hit him. If he had a nose, he would have wrinkled them in distaste.

The patrons stared at him with the swirly-eyed bunny calling out, “Hey, it’s Sans’s brother!”

Papyrus puffed out his chest and proclaimed, “INDEED IT IS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS! HAVE YOU SEEN MY BROTHER?”

A series of murmured no’s echoed within the bar. Grillby shook his head and crackled, flames flickering orange and yellow.

“Grillby says he hasn’t seen Sans in the last two days,” a red bird translated.

Papyrus frowned. "WHAT HAPPENED TWO DAYS AGO? DID SOMETHING HAPPEN?"

Grillby's embers transitioned into a red.

"He says his memories of the past two days are unclear. Though he can't figure out why.

Papyrus found that peculiar and filed the information away for later.

“WHAT ABOUT A SHORT SKELETON WEARING RED AND BLACK? HE LOOKS A BIT LIKE MY BROTHER.”

A few of the patrons gave him puzzled looks, which Papyrus took as another ‘no’. Grillby shook his head again. Papyrus then noted that the canine unit was absent. He hoped that none of them had encountered Red yet while on their sentry rounds.

“WELL I’LL BE ON MY WAY. I AM A BUSY MONSTER, AFTER ALL. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP!”

Papyrus deflated at the lack of progress in finding Red and his brother. If Red was not in Grillby, the next step would be to scout Snowdin Forest. It seemed as though his brother was missing.

He was nearly out of town, having just marched passed the gyftmas tree, when he forgot to ask about his counterpart. He didn’t notice any indication of the edgy Papyrus being here..

Was it possible that he and Red swapped places with Sans and the other Papyrus? Was there another displacement that caused this? He hoped that his brother was safe with Red’s brother.

Papyrus continued on his way, calling out to Red (and his brother) every now and then. He also recalibrated his puzzle along the way since it only took about five minutes to do. He was just an area away from his second puzzle when he heard a loud rustling.

Thinking it was either Red hiding in the bushes or a tiny monster stuck within it, Papyrus crept towards the shaking bramble. Just as he was about to reach down, five green vines erupted from the ground and wrapped themselves around each of his limbs and his spine. Before he could process what had happened, he was hoisted into the air, each vine yanking his arms and legs outwards.

“Isn’t this an interesting change of events? Looks like this run I’ll have my fun with you instead of your trashbag brother,” a smug, high-pitched voice called out.

“OWIE!” Papyrus cried as the vine around his spine tightened considerably, rubbing its sharp thorns against his clothed vertebrae.

He craned his neck towards the location of the voice. A recognizable yellow flower sprouted from the snow.

“Howdy, Papyrus, do you remember your good friend Flowey?”

-----

Red

As soon as the imposter Papyrus began alluding to alternative timelines and universes, flickering memories flooded into Sans’s mind. They were disjointed, only pieces similar to a missing puzzle.

He saw himself first meeting that weak Papyrus and rejecting him, then him fighting Mettaton, his encounter with the human, and Asgore's dark, bulky form towering over him, trident in hand.

Pain shot out from underneath his sternum, and his breath quickened.

“YOU EVEN MET YOUR BROTHER BRIEFLY IN THAT DARK SPACE.”

Another flash --this time of boss’s tall, dark form stalking towards him. The surroundings closed in on Red, whose chest rose rapidly. His magic flared out of control.

“WAIT, RED! DON’T—!”

Everything became black for a split second before Sans fell face first into something cold and wet. He gasped as flashback after flashback flitted across his vision, all of them over events that happened when he and boss were younger. The last one was him fighting the human in a familiar hallway bathed in golden light..

Sans remained in his position, using the icy substance —was that snow?— to ground himself during the ongoing panic attack.

Deep breathes. There’s no human here. Deep breathes. He’s alive. There’s no human here. Deep breaths.

Slowly, feeling like hours had gone by, his anxiety subsided and his breathing returned to normal.

After shaking the snow from his jacket and shorts, Sans surveyed his surroundings. He had somehow shortcutted into Snowdin Forest. It lacked the chilly silence and dusty air. He would’ve probably appreciated the change just a little if he wasn’t so worried about finding boss.

He walked around a bit, making sure to stick close to the foliage. Even if the atmosphere in this Snowdin was different, he knew it was best to stay on guard.

Sans crept passed an easy sliding ice puzzle. He scoffed at the harmless nature of it. Who was this supposed to stop? Surely not most monsters from his universe or the human.

The appearance of a sentry station interrupted his trek. Not recognizing it immediately, Sans got close enough to notice that the inhabitant was none other than Doggo.

“Who goes there? I see you MOVING!” Doggo leaned out of his station and swept his head around.

Sans’s soul sped up and on instinct, he pulled Doggo into an Encounter and let loose a row of pointed bones. Caught by surprise, Doggo met the full brunt of the bone attacks. Howls of agony filled the forest. Sans cringed at the sound. That might as well have been a signal for the rest of the Royal Guard to show up.

“shut up, ya mangy mutt! yer makin’ too much noise,” Sans snarled

A sudden series of white and cyan dagger bullets hurtled towards him. Dodge, dodge, freeze.

“heh, is tha’ the best yer can do?” Sans stood with his legs apart, left arm raised and sharp teeth curled into a wide grin. “yer ain’t the only one that can use blue attacks.”

“Is that you, Sans?” Doggo asked, panting.

Sans ignored the question and responded with another barrage of alternating white and blue bones, this time in varying lengths. White-white-blue-white-blue-blue.

Doggo jumped over the first one, sidestepped the second, froze at the next, attempted to leap over the third. He mistimed it, and the white constructs crashed into him. His flinch from the damage was not enough to stop the blue ones. He crumpled into the snow, whimpering pitifully.

Sans Checked the monster.

Doggo
LV 1
HP 7/70
AT 13
DF 7

Currently not excited by movement. Would much rather be with squirrels.

Sans blinked in shock.

Was this some kind of joke? This Doggo had no LV? No wonder the mutt took so much damage from his bullets. His Negative Intent— the lower the LV, the more the damage his attacks did— no doubt played a role.

He may as well put this pitiful imitation of Doggo out of his misery.

Sans raised his left arm, just about to summon more bones. He was promptly pulled out of the Encounter.

“what the hell?!”

Standing in front of Doggo was none other than the human kid in their red and black striped sweater and dark shorts. A pair of glowing red eyes bore into his own. One that was filled with Determination.

Chapter Text

Red

Sans’s magic sparked in the air at the sight of the human, especially with their current expression. Pointed bones erupted from the earth. The human weaved through the pattern with practiced expertise. During their turn, they pulled out a piece of monster candy and gave it to Doggo.

With a roar of rage, Sans incorporated some platforms in his next move. The kid evaded every hit with a series of jumps.

For their next turn, they pet Doggo on the head, and Sans could just hear them whisper, “Good dog!”

“Yes, Doggo is a GOOD DOG!” the canine sentry panted, wagging his tail.

Sans scoffed as the Encounter ended and Doggo left with his HP restored. Typical. He should’ve expected the kid to Spare the weak mutt. At least this freed up his attention to focus solely on the one enemy. The kid faced him. As soon as they did, he pulled them back into a new Encounter.

“still a pacifists brat i see, though given how weak every’ne seems tibia here, this’ll be a nice place for yer end.” Sans taunted.

With a forceful swing of his left arm, he turned the kid’s soul blue and threw a zig-zag of bones. Despite the gravity limiting their movements, only one of the attacks landed. Sans took this opportunity to Check them.

Frisk
HP 20/20
AT 0
DF 0

*They are Determined. Be careful.

Instead of attacking, they said, “We don’t have to fight, Sans. I am not your enemy.”

“is that so?” More bones and some moving platforms appeared in the air. “sorry, but i don’t believe the words of anomalies like ya.”

The bullets and platforms hurtled towards the human, this ‘Frisk’ as they were called. They jumped and weaved through the attack. A single one landed, hitting the kid in their right shoulder. Their HP dropped by three more points.

“Please, Sans! I’m not the anomaly you should be fighting!”

“oh, so you’re not the one causing all the timelines shifts?” he answered in a tone dripping with sarcasm. “yer jokes need some work.”

Sans attacked again. This time, the kid evaded every one of his hits. He would’ve found it impressive if it weren’t for the fact that he was aware that the two of them have done this song and dance before.

It also meant he was at a disadvantage.

With how volatile his magic was, he had to finish this soon. And that would require his blasters. Spikes of anxiety coursed through him at the last memory of his summoning them. It had resulted in him hurting boss.

Frisk interrupted his thoughts with another plea, “Don’t you remember? In the last timeline? The true anomaly is the Player! Everything that’s going off-script is because of them!”

Sans blinked and furrowed his brows, seeing unclear, static-filled images flicker through his mind. Was it true? Then why couldn’t he remember everything this kid was saying?

“We’ve got to work together with Flowey and Papyrus to fix this!” they pleaded.

At the mention of Papyrus, his eye lights narrowed to slits. “where’s boss? where’s my bro?”

Frisk’s fingers threaded through the hem of their black sweater, shrugging their shoulders with a grimace on their face.

“whaddya mean y’don’t know?!” Sans snarled.

His magic grew restless in his anger, causing stray bone attacks to erupt from the ground. The sharp tip of one tore through the kid’s striped shirt. They gasped sharply, clutching their wounded side in pain as their HP dropped to one.

“Wait, please!” they cried. “If you kill me, I won’t be able to come back! I can’t Reset or Reload!”

Sans’s sharp teeth curled into a smirk, the kid’s words sending a rush of excitement within him.

“really, now? well ain’t that gonna be a bad time fer ya?”

One more hit, and these shifts in timelines, these Resets, will finally end.

“It also means if I die, you’ll be stuck in this universe, with no way to see your brother. Still under the Player’s control.”

Sans froze, gaping at Frisk in open horror. While his relationship with his brother hasn’t been on the best term for years, Papyrus was still his brother. Even if he could get used to living in this weak universe, there was no way he could just abandon his brother back in their shitty one. Not to mention this other anomaly, this Player that could control them.

He surveyed the human as they slumped towards the ground. Despite their torn clothes and injuries, they still looked determined. A loud, boisterous voice suddenly called in Sans’s head, “EVERYONE CAN BE A GREAT PERSON IF THEY TRY!”

He ended the encounter and sighed, “alright, kid. ya win.”

Frisk smiled in relief and pulled out another piece of monster candy, popping it into their mouth. Sans wondered why they didn’t use it earlier while in the Encounter. Unless they were trying to prove a point. The damn brat.

“now who’s this player again?”

They picked themselves back up, dusted the snow off their clothes, and pointed straight ahead.

“We have to find this world’s Papyrus and Flowey first and I’ll explain what I can. We can work together again to fix this. You two were a great team last time.”

A familiar, warm pulse erupt within Sans’s soul.

“were we now?” he murmured, more to himself than to the human.

They nodded, lips pursing into a frown. “You don’t remember any of it.” It wasn’t a question.

For an inexplicable reason, he felt guilty. And yet, when he thought of the Papyrus he’d encountered earlier, familiar visions of their spar together would flit across his eyes like a moving photograph, followed by feelings of safety and warmth.

“a’right, let’s look for him.”

The two walked through the forest in silence. Eventually, they reached the main path and hiked along it until they reached another ridiculously easy and non-fatal puzzle and a poorly made sentry station. Its dilapidated form was supported by cardboard and adorning the side was a recognizable, lower-case font.

So this was the relationship this universe’s Sans had with his Papyrus? A regretful pang rang out from his soul.

If only he’d been a better brother, then maybe his relationship with Boss wouldn’t be what it was.

“You can still fix it, you know,” Frisk chimed in softly. “I’m sure your brother would want to as well.”

Sans was ripped out of his musing, glaring at the kid, who regarded him without ill-intent.

“mind yer own damn business!”

Embarrassed by being comforted and lectured by a human kid, Sans stomped off the road. He heard a soft sign and resounding footsteps trailing after him. A section later, high-pitched giggles and cracking sounds reached his nonexistent ears. As soon as Sans heard Papyrus’s pained yelp, he sprang off, magic rippling within him.

He burst past a bramble into a grove to see Papyrus suspended in midair by twisting, green vines. Two of them had tugged hard enough on Papyrus’s right radius and ulna to cause them to snap. Sans spotted, far below Papyrus and almost hidden in the snow, yellow flower petals belonging to Flowey. Wordlessly and with fury consuming his soul, ten needled bones materialized in the air and struck various areas of Flowey’s vines like a pincushion.

The flower howled in pain, releasing his hold on Papyrus, who plummeted towards the ground. –i-Ping! Sans turned Papyrus’s soul blue to slow his descent. Despite the broken wrist, when Papyrus reached the ground, he wrapped his unbroken arm around Sans in a half-hug.

“RED! NO DOUBT THE GREAT PAPYRUS WOULD HAVE HANDLED THAT TIGHT SITUATION, BUT I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE!”

As soon as the taller skeleton had touched him, a strange, fluttering sensation filled Sans, causing heat to bloom across his cheekbones. Orange flooded his vision for a split second. A moment later, he got ahold of himself and pushed out of Papyrus’s embrace

“it’s yer fault for bein’ so weak and trustin’!” Sans retorted.

What the hell is up with the warm, fuzzy sensations just now? It’d spread from deep within his soul. And the orange?

“REST ASSURED, RED, THAT FLOWEY IS MY GOOD FRIEND, AND I WOULD NOT USE MY FULL POTENTIAL IN THAT MANNER. I WAS MERELY DISTRACTED BY OUR CONVERSATION.”

Sans was shocked that Flowey even attacked Papyrus to begin with. Weren’t they friends? Unless this universe’s Flowey was an asshole.

“I WAS WORRIED THAT YOU HAD GOTTEN LOST OR HURT. I AM GLAD YOU ARE WELL, RED,” Papyrus’s words filtered through to Sans, who looked up into Papyrus’s beaming expression.

“’m fine. don’t worry ‘bout me,” Sans mumbled back, his soul feeling light as air though it pounded furiously against his sternum. His eye lights trailing towards the ground. He caught sight of the broken bones. “yer arm’s hurt.”

“NOT TO WORRY!” With Papyrus’s gloved left hand placed against his broken wrist, Sans watched as the taller skeleton healed the cracked bones. He must’ve had a surprised look on his skull, as Papyrus commented, “AREN’T I A MASTER AT SURPRISES? NYEH HEH HEH!”

“Aagh! Leggo of me!” A shrill voice suddenly called out.

Both Sans and Papyrus turned their skulls to see Frisk grappling with Flowey, whose thorny vines attempted to swat at them. Feeling particularly vindictive, Sans pierced a blue bone into Flowey’s main stem to keep him trapped against the ground. The flower hissed expletives at him. Sans ignored them and sat down on a rock.

“now that everyone’s here, y’better get explainin’, kid.”

Frisk nodded after giving Flowey another puzzling glance.

“You must remember, Flowey, what happened at the end of the last timeline.”

“Yeah, I do but so what? Why should I care that everything Reset?” Flowey attempted to sneer, but it only came out as a grimace of pain.

“We have to work together to stop the Player.”

“WHO IS THIS PLAYER?” Papyrus interrupted, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Sans found it so reminiscent of something his brother always did when he was in deep thought. To see it done by this Papyrus, he couldn’t help but find endearing.

Sans immediately squashed that notion and added, “yeah, perhaps you should explain the deal with this player.”

“The Player is the one that normally controls the actions of me, and in turn, changes the actions of everyone else’s actions.”

Silence pervaded the air as Papyrus blinked three times in quick succession and then tilted his head in confusion. Sans was internally processing the information.

He already knew this kid was the anomaly, but to think that they were only a piece of the true anomaly, just a character like him and everyone else.

“HOW IS THAT SUPPOSED TO WORK? ARE YOU SAYING WE ARE ONLY REACTING TO YOUR ACTIONS?” Papyrus asked.

Frisk winced and responded hesitantly, as though afraid, “Kinda.”

“Ugh, this is pointless so let me explain it to you boneheads,” Flowey mocked. “Think of it like a video game. Some higher being, which you,” beady eyes glanced over at Sans, “refer to as the anomaly, but really, is the Player of the game, is controlling Frisk, their character.” Flowey suddenly frowned, muttering quietly to himself, “There’s usually someone else involved as well, but they’re not in this run or even this universe. I was hoping to meet them but—”

“SO IS THIS PLAYER THE ONE BEHIND ALL THESE… DISPLACEMENTS?”

“Probably,” Frisk answered.

“THEN IF WE TALK TO THEM, THEN PERHAPS WE CAN CONVINCE THEM TO FIX THE MESS THAT THEY CREATED.”

Sans snorted at the naïve idea, digging his clenched fists into his jacket pocket.

Likewise, Flowey scoffed, “Talk to the Player to fix things? Hihihi, that’s a good joke, Papyrus! Hahaha!” The flower’s eyes became dark slits as his grin became toothy and vicious. “You are such an idiot—Ahh!”

Sans jerked the bone ever-so-slightly to the left at the insult, and received two disapproving frowns, which he ignored.

Yep, this Flowey was definitely an asshole, being very similar to how his world’s Flowey was before he had a change of heart.

“AND WHY NOT? DID THEY NOT PLAY AROUND WITH OUR WORLD TO INTERACT WITH US? TO BECOME FRIENDS?”

Frisk gave a concomitant shrug, then fiddled around with a loose thread in their sweater.

Flowey opened his mouth to speak, but Sans cut him off, “that ain’t the mindset of the player, papyrus. they do what they do, not because it’s right or wrong, but because they could. and if they could alter the timelines any way they can, to sate their curiosity, then they would. simple as that.”

“Exactly! With no way to get out of this, why not just enjoy the ride or do whatever I can to get some fun out of this?” Flowey said gleefully.

Frisk’s eyebrows furrowed in disapproval as they shook their head. “There has to be a way. That entity called Gaster—”

“that old bastard’s apart of this as well?!” Sans growled, a spike of anxiety shooting straight to his core.

His whole frame shuddered as dread and fear flooded him. He would’ve been fine with never seeing that old doctor ever again.

“He was able to partially stop and rewrite the last Reset the Player wanted to have. That means there has to be a way to end this properly!” Frisk straightened their form and held out there arms. “I believe if we work together, we will be able to overcome the Player’s actions and reach a happy ending. Please, I can only do this with all your help.”

Without even a pause, Papyrus crouched over and took both of their smaller hands into his own gloved ones.

“OF COURSE, HUMAN, THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL NOT PASS ON THIS OPPORTUNITY TO OFFER MY ABILITIES AND HEROICS! I WILL, OF COURSE, STILL OFFER THEM THE CHANCE TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON.”

Flowey burst into cackles and mocked, “You’re seriously thinking about doing this? What a laugh!”

Papyrus frowned and propped his hands on his hips, countering with, “ARE YOU NOT JOINING OUR RANKS, FLOWEY?”

“Me? Haha, of course not! IDIOTS! What makes you think I would do something so STUPID!”

No one spoke for several minutes. Sans was still mulling over the revelations regarding the Player.

“WELL THAT IS SIMPLY TOO BAD.” Papyrus turned his attention to Frisk. “THE HUMAN AND I WILL SIMPLY HAVE OUR OWN FUN ALTERING THIS TIMELINE, RIGHT FRISK? WINK.”

The kid blinked once before they gave a knowing smile, “Yep. All the differences in this run compared to even the last one. We jumped worlds! It’ll be so interesting! And only the two of us to see it, unless you want to join, Sans?”

Sans glanced between Papyrus and Frisk, catching the intent behind their words. He couldn’t help but be impressed. Remembering the discussion he had with the kid during their encounter, he knew his answer; he might as well make himself useful while he was stuck here.

“sure, i might as well.”

Papyrus beamed so brightly at Sans that he found it almost blinding. “YES, WITH THE THREE OF US WORKING TOGETHER, WE WILL CHANGE OUR FATES! COME, WE SHALL PLAN EVERYTHING AT MY HOUSE. IT’S ONLY WHAT A HOSPITABLE SKELETON WOULD DO!”

Frisk gave Sans a conspiring look; the two of them turned to follow after Papyrus.

“Wh-wait! Don’t just leave me here!” Flowey hollered. “All right! I’ll help! Just let me go and I’ll join you idiots!”

“no funny business from ya if i let ya free? ‘cause if ya try t’kill us, i’ll turn ya into a pincushion!” Sans threatened with a show of his sharp teeth.

“Promise! I won’t attack you! Just let me go! Besides, I have my own curiosity.”

The blue bone shattered into pieces, freeing Flowey from the snowy ground. He stretched out his vines, and true to his words, he kept them to himself. Papyrus offered to heal Flowey’s injuries, which he reluctantly accepted. Frisk offered to carry him, which he refused. That was how their ragtag group of two skeletons, a flower and a human made their way through Snowdin Forest back to Papyrus’s house.

Overall, Sans found it kind of nice, if he were honest enough to admit. But all that came to an end when they approached Papyrus’s last puzzle in the forest. Standing in front of the section before the puzzle was none other than Dogaressa and Dogamy, each donned with a solemn expression. Sans stiffened at the sight of them.

“HELLO, DOGAMY AND DOGARESSA!” Papyrus greeted with a wave of his right arm.

As soon as they saw Papyrus, the two canines bounded over, axes drawn and directed at him. His jaws and eye sockets widened in shock. Sans removed his hands from his pockets, magic at the ready.

“Papyrus, we cannot let you progress any further!” Dogaressa decreed. “You are under arrest for the dusting of Snowdrake!”

Chapter Text

Papyrus

Whispers broke out all around them as citizens of Snowdin heard the accusation. The bunny monster walking her brother hastily heaved him up into her arms and scampered away.

“What? He killed Snowdrake?”

“I can’t believe it.”

“Snowdrake was dusted? The poor boy.”

“How could this have happened. Those skeleton brothers were always a bit odd.”

Papyrus’s posture deflated at the chattering surrounding him. He himself was just as confused as the monsters.

He had… killed Snowdrake? Snowdrake had died? When? What exactly happened here while he was away in Red’s universe? This had to be a mistake. Was this the result of… the other him? No, his counterpart couldn’t be that different than him, could he? After all, he would never dust another monster.

“hey! y’all stinkin’ monsters needa mind ya own business!” Red suddenly growled at the crowd of monsters, his red pinpricks of light glowing menacingly.

Papyrus appreciated the gesture, though he worried it would only worsen the town folks’ opinion of them. He lifted a foot to approach the other but froze with his sockets as wide as dinner plates as he stared at the weapon directed at him.

“I’M AFRAID THERE’S BEEN A MISUNDERSTANDING!” Papyrus tried to reason. “ARE YOU SURE IT WAS SNOWDRAKE’S DUST?”

Both Dogamy and Dogaressa nodded their heads sadly.

“There is no mistake it was Snowdrake, Papyrus. His father witnessed his dusting,” Dogamy answered solemnly.

Papyrus felt his soul constrict within his chest. He looked over to Red, who backed off from the Snowdin residents and had his red pinpricks glued to the snow with his teeth curled into a deep frown and his brows furrowed. Even the dark Frisk had a disheartened expression. Flowey seemed to have disappeared again. None of them seemed surprised by the fact that this had occurred.

Had the other Papyrus, Red’s brother, actually killed Snowdrake?

“I’m sorry, Papyrus, but we have to arrest you,” Dogamy said.

Papyrus backed away as the two sentries lumbered towards him. He raised his arm in front of him.

“Wait!” Frisk shouted. “It wasn’t him!” The two canines stopped in their track and turned to them. “I know it sounds impossible but it was a different Papyrus who killed Snowdrake.”

Dogaressa and Dogamy sniffed the air around them.

“Who are you? You are new to Snowdin? Your scent is not familiar to us,” Dogaressa asked.

“THEY ARE A HUMAN NAMED FRISK.”

Papyrus realized his mistake too late to reverse what he’d just said. Dogamy’s eyes bulged and Red slapped a palm against his temple with a soft clack!

“A human!” Dogaressa cried, raising her ax once again. “They must be captured and brought to King Asgore!”

“WHAT ABOUT UNDYNE? SINCE SHE IS THE CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL GUARDS, WHY IS SHE NOT CONTACTED?”

The dog couple froze in their tracks and eyed each other, a frown spreading over their snouts. They lowered their weapons, most likely had having thought of contacting her, and Dogaressa pulled out her phone. Red kicked the snow around them, shuffling slightly on his sneakers. He stuffed his claws in his pockets and huffed.

“what a buncha idiots, wastin’ time,” he grumbled.

Papyrus was about to chide him when he saw Dogaressa end the call, his face twisted with concern.

“Captain is not picking up,” she informed.

But how could that be. Sure, Undyne doesn’t pick up on the third ring like he does, but she’s usually reliable on picking up her cell phone. Especially when it came from someone like the Dogi. Papyrus hoped nothing happened to her.

Dogamy declared, “We will have to bring both you and the human to King Asgore since the Captain cannot be reached.”

A stray bone attack flew at Dogamy. Dogaressa swung her ax to intercept the hit. It dispersed into nothing. Her snout flared in anger as she glared at the attacker. Papyrus stepped in between herself and Red before a full-on Encounter occurred.

“THERE WILL BE NO VIOLENCE!” Papyrus held his gaze with Red, daring him to attack again. The short skeleton had his sockets narrowed in anger. “PLEASE!”

Papyrus tried to reach out to Red with his magic. Red only flinched and then turned away, scoffing as he shuffled away towards the direction of the house. Papyrus didn’t let it bother him despite the ache in his soul. Instead, he turned to Dogamy and Dogaressa.

“I WILL ALLOW YOU TO TAKE ME. HOWEVER, PLEASE LEAVE THE HUMAN AND RED UNHARMED.”

Dogamy nodded, placing a paw on Dogaressa’s shoulder. His wife conceded and lowered her ax. Papyrus remained still when Dogamy cuffed his carpels together in front of him. Dogaressa did the same to Frisk. At least they didn’t suppress his magic.

“The Riverperson should be at Waterfall at this time, so we’ll use that to get to New Home,” Dogamy explained.

The trek there was silent. Papyrus glanced down at Frisk a few times along the way, but they had their head bowed. He clenched his gloved hands, wondering the whereabouts of his brother. Had Sans been there when Snowdrake was dusted? He had to have been if it was caused by Red’s brother.

Would the other him hurt his brother?

Papyrus steeled himself and shook his head. There was no way. He refused to believe it. The last time he had met Red’s brother, the darker skeleton seemed reasonable. The other Papyrus was still him in a way and he would never hurt Sans; therefore, his worldly counterpart should be the same!

A loud crack ripped Papyrus away from his musings. A loud thump had him craning his head to a familiar line of trees cover in dense snow and mist.

Flash!

“I BELIEVE IN YOU!”

The swift impact of a toy knife aimed at his neck, filled with killing intent. The burst of pain as his head fell from his torso.

Papyrus halted in his track and shook his skull back and forth to clear the vision away. Dogamy and Dogaressa were on guard, ax poised to attack. They both stared at the left side of trees when, without warning, a serpentine vine came lashing out at them. A serrated bone pierced into Dogamy’s right hind leg. He yelped in pain.

Seeing Red’s bone attack lifted Papyrus’s spirits, though it was short lived; another vine as thick as a budding tree trunk came whipping out. Papyrus had the sense to duck into the ground, while Frisk was too short for it too reach. The creeper slammed into Dogaressa, ripping a high-pitched bray from her. Her body went flying into the air and smashed into a thick tree in the distance. Dogamy was beside her in a split second to catch her fall. Shaky paws reached up to him.

They crumbled into dust along with the rest of Dogaressa.

Papyrus’s pupils widened in shock while Dogamy wailed in despair. He crumpled alongside his fallen mate, sobbing without abandon. Papyrus felt his magic freeze, gazing at the pile of dust in utter horror.

“c’mon let’s go! flowey gave us a chance to escape!” Red’s voice came from behind a bush.

A second later, Papyrus’s wrists were free. He took a step towards Dogamy, to try to comfort the other, but was stopped when someone tugged at his left arm. He stumbled along after whoever was pulling on his arm, his eyes never leaving the sight of Dogamy’s weeping over his mate. When Papyrus finally snapped out of his stunned daze, he wrenched himself out of Frisk’s grasp and planted his red boots into the ground.

Spinning around so he faced the direction they came from, Papyrus hollered, “FLOWEY! I AM VERY UPSET AT YOU! WHAT YOU--WHAT YOU DID WAS ENTIRELY UNNECESSARY!”

The leaves rustled and there was a slide of vines in the snow. Moments later, Flowey popped out of the snowy ground.

“Unnecessary? Well excuse me for trying to help you like a good friend, Papyrus!”

Papyrus shook his skull vehemently, his phalanges digging into his gloves from how tightly they were clench.

“NO! YOU’RE WRONG!”

“Wrong?” Drawing himself upwards, Flowey’s face contorted into an angry sneer. “How? Now those two won’t be bothering us with those baseless accusations.”

“BUT THEY WERE NICE MONSTERS THAT WOULD NEVER HURT ANYONE YET, YET… YOU DUSTED THEM! WE COULD HAVE EXPLAINED TO THEM!”

“They’ll never understand if you try to explain to them. You think those mutts and the rest of Snowdin understands anything about alternative worlds, timelines or game runs? Puh-lease. Even you don’t understand how our world truly words,” Flowey scoffed and crossed his two leaf arms.

Papyrus stomp his feet against the snow, never before feeling such intense horror, anger and shock. He couldn’t believe what his best friend just did. For the first time, he questioned his judgment on the other. Flowey had to have used lethal intent behind that attack for Dogaressa to dust so soon after she’d hit the tree.

“hey, the weed did what he had ta do,” Red mumbled.

“NO! YOU’RE BOTH WRONG! THERE’S NO NEED TO DO A VIOLENCE!”

Red’s sockets widened at the ferocity in Papyrus’s tone.

“Geez, Papyrus, you’re acting as if we can’t just Reset the timeline and Dogaressa will be alive again.” Flowey bunched up his stem in the gesture of a strug.

“But I can’t Reset, Flowey,” Frisk stated with a frown, eyebrows furrowed in disapproval.

“Of course not now, but there’s always other ways to mess around to regain control over the Resets.” A dangerous glint appeared in Flowey’s beady eyes.

“THAT IS NO GUARANTEE AND SHOULD NOT BE USED AS AN EXCUSE!”

“Tch, there’s other ways to “fix”-- Flowey waved his leaf arms, “dead monsters.”

“THAT STILL DOESN’T GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO DUST ONE OF OUR FRIENDS!”

Flowey scoffed again, his lips curling into a vicious scowl, “Friends? You call those stupid Snowdin residents your friends? When they judge you for something you didn’t even do? They’re all a bunch of cowards!”

“Still, Flowey, it was uncalled for,” Frisk declared.

Flowey snapped a vine at the snow, sending the white substance into the air, before snapping, “You shouldn’t be saying anything, you hypocrite! You may not be the Frisk from here, but you still probably Reset the timeline dozens of times, went around killing all the monsters until you eventually regret your actions!” The human blanched at the tirade. “Just as I thought. Hmph!

“AT LEAST FRISK IS TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF AND CHOOSING TO BECOME A BETTER PERSON! I LIKED THE OTHER FLOWEY MUCH BETTER!”

Flowey hissed with rage as he sprouted as tall as Papyrus. “Is that how it is then? You lecture me about killing one monster yet you’re fine with being buddy-buddy with Mr. Lv-8 here!”

“shut ya mouth, ya overgrow weed!” Red snarled.

Flowey ignored him and continued, “Well I am clearly unwanted here so if my assistance is not needed, then I’m leaving!”

“WAIT, FLO--”

The plant monster disappeared into the ground. Papyrus stood there staring at the place where Flowey had been. A lump formed in his throat --which shouldn’t even be possible because he didn’t even have a throat!-- and felt his sockets burn. He brought a palm to his face and scrubbed away at the tears. His soul gave off painful spasms as Flowey’s words and Dogaressa’s death replayed in his mind on loop.

He couldn’t believe how how heartless Flowey’s attack had been. Was this what Flowey was like? Had he been misjudging the kindness of his best friend? Sure, the strange flower monster would offhandedly say mean or spiteful things, but Flowey had always been nice to him.

Papyrus was jolted out of his troubling thoughts by someone touching his arm. Red had settled a claw against his right ulna. His red eye lights darted to the side as he spoke, “hey, that was probably hard fer ya, and i ain’t faultin’ ya fer it, but we gotta keep movin’.”

Papyrus sniffled and rubbed at his sockets. “THANK YOU, RED. YOUR WORDS HAVE LIFTED MY SPIRITS, IF ONLY A LITTLE.”

“yeah, uh, no probs,” Red muttered, his cheeks coloring a soft pink.

Red was right. He was the Great Papyrus! He would just have to continue forward and communicate his feelings to Flowey the next time they meet! Furiously shaking his skull to clear his mind, Papyrus spun around to face Waterfall. He pointed at the entrance.

“WELL, FRISK, RED, SHALL WE CONTINUE FORWARD!”

Frisk nodded while Red gave a flippant shrug. The three of them set off into Waterfall. They froze as soon as they stepped into the area. Papyrus’s jaw fell open as his magical eyes bulged out of his sockets.

A red hue surrounded the dark, marshy land instead of the usual blue, creating a foreboding and depressing ambiance. Crimson echo flowers lined the riverbanks. White particles, indiscernible symbols and repeating numbers drifted in the air.

“how da hell did this happen?” Red asked in disbelief.

Frisk took a step into the new setting. Their surroundings shook for a split second before stabilizing. They turned and peered back at Papyrus and Red.

“It’s glitched.” They pointed at the numbers and white dots floating in odd intervals around them. “These are glitches.”

“that i coulda told ya,” Red grumbled. “i’m askin’ why this happened.”

“Maybe whatever happened in the last Reset messed up the two universes?”

A realization reached Papyrus as he overheard Red and Frisk’s conversation. He tilted as skull and brought a hand to his chin as he looked at the surroundings. He fleetingly wondered if Flowey would be able to give a better explanation, since he seemed to be most knowledgeable in this sort of area, but the thought of the flower monster caused his soul to drop. His shoulders drooped.

Had he been wrong to judge Flowey so harshly for what he did? He never gave much thought to Red’s level, true, but he’d also never seen Red dust another monster in front of his sockets. It was more likely due to the fact that Papyrus felt betrayed by the image Flowey gave to him.

“hey, ya ok there?” Red’s baritone, gravelly voice interrupted.

Papyrus perked up and forced a radiant smile. “I’M PERFECTLY GREAT! THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS NOT FEELING UPSET OR ANYTHING OF THE SORT!”

Red clearly didn’t believe his words, but he also didn’t probe any further. It didn't bother Papyrus. After all, he was a master at thinking positively.

“THIS WILL GIVE US AN OPPORTUNITY TO FURTHER EXPLORE YOUR WATERFALL, RED AND FRISK! COME, LET US NOT DILLY DALLY!”

Papyrus straightened his posture to strike a pose, and then marched along the visible path. Red and Frisk soon followed after him. It wasn’t until they reached the board area that Papyrus voiced his realization.

“I DO WONDER IF THIS IS THE REASON UNDYNE CAN’T BE REACHED.”

A sharp, startled curse from Red had Papyrus spinning around to see a fluorescent red spear erupting from the wooden boards. Frisk leapt just in time to evade the hit. A slew of other spears followed.

“we gotta get outta here!” Red growled as he dodged one that would’ve pierced through his torso and dashed past them.

Frisk did the same. Papyrus leapt into the air, twirled to side step an incoming arrow, and followed after the other two. Loud cackles and clanking armor surrounded them. Papyrus heard a loud thump as a dark silhouette stood in front of them. Papyrus knew who it was before they even walked out into the dim light of Waterfall.

“SANS!” the darker Undyne snarled, leveling Red with a hateful glare. She swung her spear out in front of her. “Why isn’t your brother picking up his damn phone?!” Her eye caught sight of Papyrus. “Papyrus! You slacker! I’ve been trying to get in contact with you for days!”

Papyrus scrambled to come up with a response that wouldn’t give himself away. “I HAVE BEEN BUSY.”

“Busy? Busy with wha--”

Undyne cut off as she approached them, her armor clanging with every step she took. She took one look at Papyrus and then she caught sight of Frisk. She twirled her spear and pointed it at Papyrus. She ripped off her helmet to reveal her bared sharp teeth and vicious glare.

“You are not the Captain and you have a human with you!” Undyne’s one eye glowed yellow. Papyrus suddenly found himself unable to move. “It is my duty as lieutenant to stop all of you from advancing and to bring the human to the King! Prepare yourself!”

With no other choice, Papyrus was forced into an Encounter with his best friend’s counterpart.

Chapter Text

Red

Sans could only watch as Undyne pulled them into an Encounter. Directional arrows assaulted them on all sides. Left, right, roll, jump, forward. The first volley was over. He glanced over at Frisk and Papyrus. The kid evaded the bullets with two clumsy jumps while Papyrus was using a body-length bone attack to block the attacks.

In less than five seconds, the second wave came. Thrusting spear attacks interspersed the slew of directional arrows. Beads of sweat formed and began to trickle down Sans’s skull. He didn’t know how much longer he could keep this up. Curse his crappy stamina. He should’ve trained more like his brother had suggested multiple times. The thought of boss brought along a sharp pang from his soul.

“WOWIE, DARK-UNDYNE! YOUR ARROWS FIRE FASTER THAN MY FRIEND’S,” Papyrus complimented.

“NGAAGH! It’s from all my expert training!” the fishface answered.

Sans scoffed and then snarled, “calm the hell down, will ya let us explain.”

Undyne paused and glowered at him, her one eye seeming to flare a bright yellow.

“Hand over the human, and I will back off!”

Before Sans could answer, Papyrus shook his head and proclaimed, “WE ARE ON THE WAY TO HIS MAJESTY’S PLACE. IF YOU COME WITH US, THEN THERE IS NO REASON TO CONTINUE FIGHTING!”

“The King has ordered the human to be brought to him. You are HELPING them, thus you are all traitors to the crown! Traitors must be eliminated!”

Of course his Undyne would still be loyal to Asgore despite how much the king of monsters had wronged his fellow citizens. And Undyne probably didn’t even realize she’s not in her (and Sans’s) own universe.

“believe it or not, this ain’t our home.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Don’t try to weasel way out of this, Sans!” Undyne roared. She charged forward with a swipe of her arm.

Sans grunted as he sidestepped and ducked below five more arrow shots. One of them grazed the kid’s arms, causing them to stagger. Another volley followed after. Sans shut his sockets for a brief second to grasp at his magic. Like opening a shaken can of soda, it burst from his left eye. A wall bones jagged bones erupted from the ground before the spear arrows could hit Frisk.

“AHH!”

Sans spun around in the direction of the cry. His pupils widened in shock. Standing between him and Undyne’s crimson spear thrust was none other than Papyrus. The sharp blade had pierced through Papyrus’s right shoulder. His puffy shoulder pads seemed to have blunted the hit, though a quick Check revealed Papyrus’s HP to be at 450/680. Sans’s soul shook and thrummed at the sight.

“papyrus!” Sans blurted out.

With his expression grimaced in pain, Papyrus gave a wobbly grin and reassured, “NOT TO WORRY, MY FRIEND. A SHALLOW WOUND LIKE THIS WILL NOT STOP THE GREAT PAPYRUS!”

“I hafta say, punk, you have some decent skill and can take a few hits unlike that useless pile of bones behind you,” Undyne sneered. She twirled her weapon and directional arrows surround all three of them. “I’m afraid this will be the end of you three!”

Papyrus straightened his posture despite clutching at his injured shoulder. The kid took a desperate glance at Sans. It took less than a second for Sans to make a decision.

“grab my hand.” He offered both to each of them. They took it.

Sans sucked in a deep breath and pictured the final stretch of Waterfall. A split second of darkness, static buzzing and the sudden jerking of their surroundings later, Sans found himself and the other two sitting in a pool of cool water.

“THAT WAS QUITE A TRIP,” Papyrus exclaimed with a pained grimace.

“at least i got us outta there.”

“WHERE’S THE HUMAN?”

Sans peered around. Glitches still hovered in the air around them, at even higher quantities compared to before. He found the kid still unconscious on the water. Sans stumbled over and roughly shoved them.

“hey, wake up kid!”

Frisk suddenly spasmed and twitched, causing Sans to take a step back.

“WHAT DID YOU DO?” Papyrus roared in panic.

“i didn’t do nothin’! just tapped ‘em.”

Without warning, Frisk bolted up. When they opened their eyes, their iris flickered in color before reverting to its normal reddish-brown.

“ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, SMALL HUMAN?” Papyrus asked, checking them over.

“I’m fine.”

Sans quirked a bone brow at the abrupt dullness of their tone.

“We should probably get to Hotland before Undyne reaches us, if she even can.” Frisk peered around them. “The place is even more glitchy than before.”

A string of floating 1s and 0s fell in front of them all. Sans raised a hand to touch it, but was simply met with more static and white blocks.

“yeah, let’s get a move on.”

As the three of them started their trek onto the bridge into Hotland, Sans stared at Papyrus’s scratched-up shoulder pad. He should’ve been more aware of his surroundings. Or if he had better control of his magic. Then Papyrus wouldn’t’ve gotten hurt-- wait, since when did he care about Papyrus?

“how’s yer shoulder?” he asked, voice laden with guilt.

“NOT TO WORRY, RED, IT’S NOTHING A HEALING ITEM CAN’T HANDLE. THOUGH I DO NOT HAVE ANY ON HAND WITH ME RIGHT NOW.”

Sans glanced at Frisk, who raised their arms in a gesture of a shrug, expression neutral. A shiver shot down his spine.

“I used my last healing item against Undyne,” they answered. “I think we should head to Alphys.”

Sans caught a slight wince coming from Papyrus, which he filed away in the back of his mind for later.

“why’s that, kid?” He couldn’t help the growl from slipping into his voice. They’ve been acting suspicious since they’d gained consciousness.

Frisk shrank back a bit and answered quietly, “She can help us. Befriending her may help us win Undyne’s trust and get her to stop attacking us. They may have a connection even with the universe difference.”

Sans opened his mouth to disagree but never got a word in before Papyrus interrupted, “IT DOES NOT HURT TO TRY YOUR PLAN, FRISK.”

Sans sighed and grumbled, “fine.”

The three of them made their way across the bridge and into the smoldering heat of Hotland. The Hotland in this universe was not much different from the one back home. Alphys’s laboratory, however, stood in the distance, its walls glinting silvery white. It was definitely more presentable compared to the faded, grimy gray of the Royal Scientist that Sans knew. Hopefully she wasn’t as crazy, though Sans doubted it. He trailed behind as the three of them approach the lab.

“this plan of yers better work.”

Frisk simply shrugged and knocked on the door.

“HAVE FAITH, RED. I’VE NEVER MET THIS ALPHYS BUT I BELIEVE MY BROTHER’S A FRIEND OF HERS.”

Well that wasn’t too different. Sans used to be friends with his world’s Alphys too. It didn’t stop her from experimenting on him with an order from Asgore though. Hopefully this one had more of a spine, heh.

When no one answered, Frisk knocked again. Sans heard the faint scrambling of clawed or heeled footsteps, but the door remained shut. The pitter-patter trailed away.

“she ain’t comin’.”

“PERHAPS SHE IS BUSY,” Papyrus provided.

Sans was ready to turn around and leave when the door slid open. The cool AC air blew out into their faces. Frisk gave him and Papyrus glance and indicated at the white, linoleum-tiled laboratory.

“SHOULD WE GO IN STEALTHILY OR MAKE OUR PRESENCE KNOWN?”

Sans snorted. “stealthily.”

Frisk nodded. With no further discussion, the three of them entered the laboratory and tiptoed in. A large screen computer console stood on their right. The monitor displayed multiple split screens of camera footage throughout the Underground. One was of an ancient ruin door, Snowdin Forest, and Hotland. There were a series of two indecipherable static screens in between the footage of Snowdin and Hotland.

Sans let out a snarling curse and tensed his back and shoulders. Alphys had been monitoring them this whole time. All of a sudden, the entrance door slid shut and a robotic voice reverberated throughout the entire first floor.

“HELLO, INTRUDERS! STATE YOUR PURPOSE BEFORE YOU TAKE ANOTHER STEP FORWARD!”

Papyrus perked up. “METTATON? IS THAT METTATON?”

The robot voice paused for a brief second. “WHY, YES, IT IS I! YOUR LOVELY HOST OF MTT NEWS, THE METTATON QUIZ SHOW, COOKING WITH A KILLER ROBOT AND MANY OTHERS!”

“WOWIE!” Papyrus exclaimed as he ran about and turned his skull around the first floor. “I’M THE GREAT PAPYRUS AND I’M A HUGE FAN! TO BE ABLE TO MEET YOU IN PERSON WOULD BE SUCH AN HONOR!”

“A FAN?” there was a pleased uplift in the robot’s tone.

“YES! I LOVE YOUR SHOWS! THEY ARE FULL OF ACTION, EXCITEMENT AND DRAMA!”

“OHHHH YES, OF COURSE MY SHOWS ARE THE BEST!”

Sans raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms tightly in front of him. He had a bad feeling about this. Sure enough, a rectangular calculator rolled out on his one wheel from the other end of the hallway. Papyrus practically jumped out of his boots as he dashed over to introduce himself.

Sans’s soul gave a sharp spasm in response, and he narrowed his eyes. Frisk hesitantly made their way over as well, though they stayed several feet away. Sans stayed where he stood, glaring dangers at the dumb piece of scrap metal.

“WELL, IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO MEET A FAN SUCH AS YOURSELF. HOWEVER…” Mettaton threw up his arms, and all of a sudden, the linoleum floor shifted to allow for twin stage lights, two cameras and a blank blackboard to appear. Mettaton turned to the cameras. “OHHH YES! WELCOME, BEAUTIES... ... TO TODAY'S QUIZ SHOW!!! OH BOY! I CAN ALREADY TELL IT'S GONNA BE A GREAT SHOW!”

Papyrus clutched as his cheeks, eye lights shining like stars. “OH OH! I WOULD LOVE TO PARTICIPATE! TO BE ON NATIONAL TELEVISION! HOW EXCITING! ISN’T THAT RIGHT MY FRIENDS?” Papyrus turned to Frisk and then beamed at Sans.

Sans ignored the heat rising into his face from Papyrus’s bright smile and grumbled, “is a waste of time.”

“WELL EXCUUUUSE ME!” Mettaton tsked. “IF YOU DO NOT PARTICIPATE, THEN YOU CAN STAY HERE WHILE PAPYRUS AND I CONTINUE FORTH.”

“what?!”

“Uh, did he forget about me?” Frisk intoned to no one in particular, tilting their head.

“maybe fer the better.”

“EVERYONE GIVE A BIG HAND FOR OUR WONDERFUL CONTESTANT, THE HUMAN!” Mettaton rolled over and gestured with his arm to introduce Frisk to the left camera. They quirked a confused eyebrow but waved at the camera. “NEVER PLAYED BEFORE, GORGEOUS? NO PROBLEM! IT'S SIMPLE! THERE'S ONLY ONE RULE. ANSWER CORRECTLY... OR YOU DIE!!!”

“and what if we refuse?” Sans interrupted.

Mettaton spun around and his square panels lit up brightly. “THEN YOU DIE ANYWAY!” He turned his attention back to Papyrus and Frisk. “NOW, LET US BEGIN! BE PREPARED MY LOVELY CONTESTANTS! THESE QUESTIONS WILL STUMP EVEN THE SMARTEST MONSTERS! GOOD LUCK, PAPYRUS.” Mettaton winked at the tall skeleton.

Sans found himself shaking and cursing Mettaton in a million different ways.

The first question appeared on the blackboard in white text.

”What is the king’s full name?
A) Lord Fluffybuns
B) Fuzzy pushover
C) Asgore Dreemurr
D) Dr. Friendship

Sans snorted with derision and answered without hesitation, “asgore dreemurr, duh. what kinda lame question is that.”

Mettaton turned bodily to Sans and his screen flashed orange and red before settling back to its normal yellow. “YOUR RUDENESS COST YOU THE ANSWER, OTHER-SANS!”

A blinking red “INCORRECT” flashed on the blackboard.

“what a load of bull!” Sans snarled.

He wondered how the hell Mettaton knew he was not this universe’s Sans. Then again, they must’ve had physical differences. Had he met the other Sans before? A flicker of a short skeleton in blue appeared in Sans’s mind, before Mettaton’s announcement cut through the vision.

“UNFORTUNATELY SINCE OUR CONTESTANTS GOT THE ANSWER WRONG… YOU WILL ALL DIE!”

“WAIT, METTATON! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS! I SHALL CORRECT THIS ERROR WITH THE NEXT QUESTION!” Papyrus pronounced as he stood with his back and shoulders squared, chest puffed out and skull held high. Even his red scarf seemed to flutter behind him.

Sans’s red pupils widened at Papyrus’s confident demeanor. A pulse of heat shot from his soul, which he ignored.

“FAIR ENOUGH! ANOTHER CHANCE TO REDEEM YOURSELF AND OTHER-SANS. ALL THANKS TO PAPYRUS HERE, OUR NUMBER 1 CONTESTANT?”

“shut yer metal trap, tin can,” Sans muttered. Mettaton either didn’t hear it or chose to ignore it.

What is the prize for answering correctly?
A) Money
B) Mercy
C) New Car
D) More questions

Papyrus gazed at the question, stroking his chin in concentration. He soon perked up and answered, “MORE QUESTIONS OF COURSE! THIS IS NO DIFFERENT THAN MY SERIES OF PUZZLES IN SNOWDIN!”

“AND THAT IS CORRECT! WHAT A TERRIFIC ANSWER” Mettaton clapped his hand and waved in front of the cameras. He then slide to Frisk. “ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR QUESTION, CONTESTANT NUMBER THREE?”

Frisk nodded. The question blinked on.

“What are robots made out of?
A) Hope & Dreams
B) Metal & Magic
C) Snips & Snails
D) Sugar & Spice

“The answer is D,” Frisk answered blankly.

“WONDERFUL! I’M ASTOUNDED FOLKS! NOW WE MOVE ON TO OUR NEXT RUDE CONTESTANT!”

“Two trains, Train A, and Train B, simultaneously depart Station A and Station B. Station A, and Station B are 252.5 miles apart from each other. Train A is moving at 124.7mph towards Station B, and Train B is moving at 253.5mph towards Station A. If both trains departed at 10:00 AM and it is now 10:08, how much longer until both trains pass each other?
A) 31.054
B) 16.232
C) 32.049
D) 32.058

Sans’s pupils dilated. He recognized this question. He only needed to...

“TIME IS UP, DARLING!”

“what the hell?! that wasn’t even five seconds!”

“TOO BAD. YOUR ANSWER?”

“yer bias is disgusting.”

“WRONG ANSWER!” Mettaton looked at the camera. “DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS, MY LOVELY VIEWERS?”

A drumroll from nowhere echoed within the lab. The calculator snapped his fingers. Fog rolled onto the set, shrouding Mettaton within it. Mettaton’s laughter filled the air. It transformed from its robotic sound to a smoother one. There was a loud “Oooohhh yesss~”! When the fog cleared a way, a bipedal robot in pink arm, pink high heeled boots and silver armor-esque clothing stood proudly within the spotlights.

“HM, I PREFER THE SEXY RECTANGLE LOOK MYSELF,” Papyrus commented.

“i don’t prefer any of him at all,” Sans ground out.

“Shouldn’t Alphys be here by now?” Frisk asked.

“It matters not!” Mettaton flourished his arms in front of him. “Prepare for action!”

Yellow lightning bolts rained down at Sans, who retaliated with a burst of jagged bones.

“WAIT! STOP!”

But it was too late. Clouds of smoke exploded as the two attacks clashed. An overload of magic filled Sans. He jumped back. With a swish of his left arms a series of different length bones erupted from the tiled ground. Mettaton gave a shout as the ossified constructs hit him. A deep grunt left Sans’s mouth when another volley of bones appeared without his command.

CLASH!

A wall of cyan-covered bones protected Mettaton from Sans’s unbound bone bullets.

“I SAID STOP!”

Sans gasped, suddenly wrenched out of the encounter with Mettaton. Papyrus’s arms were wrapped around his torso. It was pleasant and familiar. Heat rose to Sans’s cheekbones.

“wh-what the hell?” he stammered.

“My, my, perhaps I might’ve underestimated you, darling,” Mettaton said.

“ya don’t say.”

The pitter-patter of running footsteps echoed within the lab. Moments later, the locked door where everyone stood in front of slid open to reveal Alphys in her white lab coat. As soon as her beady eyes fell upon Mettaton, whose chest armor was dented, and then Frisk, followed by Sans and Papyrus, she blanched. She clutched at her cheeks while sweat beaded her forehead.

“W-wh-what is the meaning of th-this?” she shrieked.

Everyone froze. Sans’s magic fizzled out as his sockets fell upon Alphys. The short yellow dinosaur had her mouth opened. She pointed a finger at Sans.

“Wh-who are you? You’re, you’re not Sans. At-at least, n-not the one I knew.”

“cause i’m not.” Then Sans mumbled, “some scientist you are.”

“DON’T BE RUDE, RED!” Papyrus scolded. He turned to Alphys. “HE’S A DIFFERENT SANS. NICE TO MEET YOU BY THE WAY, ALPHYS. I’M PAPYRUS!”

“You’re Sans’s brother.”

“INDEED I AM! JUST NOT THIS SANS’S.”

Alphys turned to Frisk and exclaimed, “And y-you’re the hu-human!”

Without even a smile, the kid nodded. Alphys clutched her cheeks tighter that nail indents were visible.

“I w-watched all of you from, um, my camera feeds.” The lizard glanced at her console near the entrance of the lab.

“Alphys, darling, you interrupted my show! My rating’s would’ve been off the charts!”

Just then Sans noticed that the spotlights and cameras had been turned off. Alphys scurried over to perform a brief inspection on the robot. The right shoulder pad had broken off, there was a dent in the left upper chest area, but Mettaton’s soul was still intact. Alphys sighed and then glared.

“It’s your fault for-- for attacking them without me here!”

Sans drew back from Alphys’s sharp tone. It sounded a bit too similar to the Alphys he knew, and he was not planning on staying if this Alphys were to go off. He’s had one too many ill experiences with that crazy lizard.

“And your battery's at fifteen percent! Go charge yourself!”

Mettaton tsked, got up, and disappeared into a door at the end of the hallway. Once he left Alphys turned to Sans and the other two.

“So, um, uh, wh-what do you all w-want?” the Royal Scientist stuttered. She drew her claws away from her face and wrung them together in front of her labcoat.

“WE WERE WONDERING IF YOU CAN HELP US!” Papyrus paced over to Alphys. She shrank back.

“W-w-with what?”

“Helping to get Undyne to stop attacking us,” Frisk answered.

More beads of sweat appeared on Alphys’s forehead.

“Undyne?”

“the undyne from my universe that is,” Sans added.

Alphys quirked an eyebrow. Then her eyes widened, and she gasped.

“Y-your, your universe? As in… an alternate universe?” There was excitement tinged in her tone.

“yep. like papyrus said. i’m still sans. just one from ‘nother universe. he,” Sans gestures to Papyrus, “calls me red to make it less confusin’.”

Sans didn’t know when he began agreeing to Papyrus’s nickname. It was familiar to him for some reason. Sans couldn’t be bothered with it.

“so you’ll help us?”

Alphys suddenly backed away from them. “Why sh-should I help you? You could be ly-lying about Undyne and-and the multiple universes.”

“what ‘bout me physically being here?!” Sans snarled as he threw up his arms in frustration.

“Undyne would never attack innocent people!”

“she’s from my universe. everyone’s meaner.”

Alphys shook her head furiously. “I don’t believe it! Undyne is, is great! She’s so amazing and strong and--!”

The Royal Scientist cut herself off and blinked twice. A deep red blush crept onto her face. With a squeal, she buried her face in her hands.

“PLEASE BELIEVE US, ALPHYS! THE GREAT PAPYRUS WOULD NEVER LIE! EVERYTHING IS TRUE!”

Frisk tapped Alphys’s shoulder-- since when did they get there?-- and whispered something into Alphys’s left year. The Royal Scientist froze initially, but whatever they said to her made her relax. Her shoulders loosened and a hesitant grin crept onto Alphys’s face.

“Ok! Wait here. I’ll get it ready for you.”

And without another word, Alphys dashed through another set of doors that slid shut once she left. Sans immediately reared on the kid.

“whaddya say to her?” he demanded.

“I gave her some encouragement,” They waggled their eyebrows, “to get her to agree.”

“what’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’ll see.”

“WELL WHATEVER IT WAS, I BELIEVE IN YOUR PLAN, SMALL HUMAN!”

They waited for Alphys’s return. Papyrus paced around the lab while Frisk explored the first floor. Sans also explored the lab, finding the sliding door which Alphys came out of intriguing. He pushed against it. It didn’t budge. There was also no number pad or unlock mechanism.

A memory flashed within his mind. One of sickly green hallways with dirty tiles. Strange, white horrible abominations lumbered in the distance. And then it was over before Sans could make light of the vision.

Sans shook himself out of his trance and peered around. Alphys was still not back.

He growled, “what’s she up to? bet she bailed out. knew we couldn’t trust her.”

“I’M SURE SHE SIMPLY GOT CAUGHT UP!” Papyrus cheerful voice sounded particular forced. His pacing also increased in speed.

Sans found the inexplicable urge to join him. Just as he was contemplating on why, Alphys finally came out of her room.

“It’s done!” Alphys waved a wrapped package in one hand and a sealed, white envelope in the other. She handed the items to Frisk. “If you g-give these to her, she may st-stop attacking you.”

Sans gaped, mouth ajar. Frisk put away the items into their inventory. Papyrus gave an excited hoot and patted the kid on the back.

“But I, um, I have a re-request.”

“WHAT IS IT?”

“Afterwards, do you mind, um, g-giving me more information on al-alternate universes?” Alphys shifted her head downward to stare at the ground. She tapped her shoes together. “The previous Royal Scientist… I found some of his n-notes, and it had some information on it. It’s-- it’s really fascinating, and um, I--I would like to learn more about it!”

There was a beat as everyone excluding Alphys glanced at each other. Sans eyed Papyrus who didn’t hesitate any longer to answer, “OF COURSE! IT’S THE LEAST WE CAN DO FOR YOUR ASSISTANCE!”

“A-and, um, w-would you like to w-watch, um, anime with me when you get back?” The lizard scientist gripped her labcoat tightly.

“THAT SOUNDS LIKE FUN!

And with no other words, their deal was made. Sans found this suspiciously easy but he doubted the other two would listen to his opinions. He, Papyrus and Frisk left the lab to head back into Waterfall to confront Undyne.

Chapter Text

Papyrus

Undyne ambushed Papyrus, Red and Frisk as soon as they stepped back into the glitchy Waterfall. Papyrus was prepared this time, though, easily parrying her spear thrust. It had been part of their plan. Papyrus purposely initiated an Encounter with Unundyne, which he now mentally called her, to keep the other two away.

“Taking the initiative,” the fish captain growled. She gave a vicious grin. “I like that!”

“BUT OF COURSE, THE GREAT PAPYRUS WILL ALWAYS TAKE ACTION!”

Papyrus spun his bone staff to block a volley of arrow bullets. Unundyne paused, giving him the opportunity to summon a flurry of blue and white bones. Unundyne expertly evaded all of them.

“NGARH, Papyrus? Not the one I remember!”

“HOW ABOUT A CHALLENGE!”

“What sort of challenge?”

“A DUAL BETWEEN JUST THE TWO OF US.”

“A dual, huh? You’re on!” Unundyne exclaimed. “You will hand the kid over to me once I beat you into the ground!”

“AND IF I BEAT YOU, THEN WE SHALL MAKE FRIENDSHIP SPAGHETTI ALL TOGETHER!”

Red sputtered, “what the hell? are ya crazy or somethin’ papyrus?”

“NOT TO WORRY, RED, THIS IS ALL ACCORDING TO MY BRILLIANT PLAN TO GAIN UNUNDYNE’S TRUST.”

A spear hurtled towards Papyrus’s face. A thick femur bone blocked the attack before it hit its mark.

“You’ve got some nerve to talk like you know me. Enough chit-chat, let’s fight!”

Frisk gave Papyrus a thumbs up and backed away. With a ferocious roar, Unundyne charged. Glowing arrows hovered behind her in a wide arc and shot towards Papyrus. Ping! Ping! Ping! Papyrus struck them away with a twirl of his bone staff and parried the rest. The sensation of deja vu that washed over him made the fight easy.

That is not to say that Unundyne was weak. Of course not! Simply that Papyrus had an advantage from his prior knowledge of their fight. No wonder the human child fought so well against him back when he fought the blue- and purple-colored wearing Frisk in his universe.

A sharp pang jolted down Papyrus’s right arm when he swung the bone staff forward to block another volley of arrows. Beads of sweat trickled down his skull.

Even though he knew what to expect, if he drew out of the fight any longer, there was no doubt in his mind that he would lose. He had to end this soon. Three more arrows later, Unundyne drew back on the defensive. A soft ping rang out as Papyrus turned Unundyne’s soul blue.

“WAH?!” The lieutenant exclaimed.

Weighing Unundyne’s soul down with blue magic, Papyrus summoned a complicated array of white and blue bones, each of varying height. Ununydne frantically tried to jump out of the way of the incoming obstacles. White bone after blue bone crashed into her, ticking down her high HP. She didn’t even make it halfway through Papyrus’s attack before she was left panting on the damp earth.

Papyrus immediately halted the attack. He beamed down at her while Frisk cheered. He even heard Red mutter a soft, “holy shit.” Papyrus ignored the profanity for this one time.

“WELL UNUNDYNE, DO I WIN?” Papyrus kept the blue magic on Unundyne.

“Alright! Alright! You win, ya guppy!” she growled, struggling against the increase gravity into an upright position. “I’ll listen to what you guys hafta say!”

“and no tricks?” Red asked.

“No tricks. Promise!”

Papyrus gave Red a reassuring nod and finally let go of Unundyne’s soul. The fish monster sprung up.

“I gotta say, that was a work out! Not bad, guppy!” Unundyne grinned as she gave Papyrus a proud slap.

“OWIE!” Papyrus’s injured shoulder throbbed painfully.

“what did i say!” Red snarled.

“Whoa! Sorry about that earlier. Here, it’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.”

Unundyne tossed a bottle over to Papyrus, who stumbled to catch it. A dark liquid filled less than half the bottle. Never one to decline gifts, especially one from someone like Undyne, Papyrus screwed off the lid and drank the remaining amount.

“hey! it might be p--”

Papyrus scrunched up his nasal aperture in disgust at the familiar, pungent scent he wafting at him. It was the same odor that would linger on Sans after the occasional late night at Grillby’s. Papyrus took a gulp before handing it back to Unundyne, holding his nose hole. He did feel his HP rise by twenty points. The sharp pain from his right shoulder became a dull throb.

“THANK YOU, THOUGH I DO NOT PLAN TO DRINK THAT AGAIN.”

“ya kiddin’? it heals and has alcohol in it!”

“THAT IS EXACTLY WHY I WILL DRINK THIS AT A MINIMUM! YOU SHOULD TOO, RED!”

“you implyin’ i drink too much?” Red narrowed his eye sockets.

“OH, NEVER THE SORT. I SIMPLY BELIEVE IT’S MUCH HEALTHIER TO ABSTAIN FROM ALCOHOL.”

“yeah, well i don’t need yer lecturin’ me ‘bout what i should or shouldn’t do!”

Papyrus raised his arms in front of him in a placating manner, shoulders drooping slightly, “I NEVER MEANT--”

He never finished his sentence as an arrow shot between the two of them.

“Will you two stop bickering like a married couple and tell me what the hell’s going on!” Unundyne roared.

Heat rose to Papyrus’s cheeks at Unundyne’s claim.

“married couple?!” Red gasped, red dusting his cheekbones. “you really do got fish fer brains!”

The Royal Guard lieutenant rounded on Red, snarling, “Say that again to my face, punk, and I’ll skewer you!”

“I also have a letter for you, Undyne, from Alphys,” Frisk suddenly chimed in.

“Alphys?!” Undyne immediately backed off, her spear disappearing in a flash.

“It’s not the one you’re familiar with but she addressed this specifically to you.”

Frisk handed the letter than Alphys wrote for Unundyne. Her initially narrowed eye widened as she read the contents of the note. A soft pink graced her normally blue cheeks.

“Well that’s something!” the former Captain exclaimed.

To Papyrus’s surprise and pleasure, she carefully folded the note and slipped it into her Inventory. She spun around to face Papyrus and Red.

“So spill! What the hell’s up with this place?” Unundyne demanded. “What’s with all the write fuzzy stuff?”

“ya could see the glitches?” Red asked, bemused.

“Is that what this is?” To prove her point, Unundyne brushed one of the floating glitches with the tips of her fingers.

“don’t touch it ya idiot!”

For a split second, her entire form distorted. “WHOA! That felt weird!”

“I told ya not to touch it, dumbass!”

Unundyne shot a stray arrow bullet at Red, who easily dodged the attack. “Say that again Sans and I’ll make a kebab outta you!” Unundyne snarled.

“NOW, NOW, PLEASE NO VIOLENCE!” Papyrus stepped in between the two bickering monsters.

The tension between Red and Unundyne was thick enough to cut with a sharp knife. Eventually, after Red glanced at Papyrus, he backed down. Unundyne reluctantly did the same. Frisk rolled their eyes.

“Alright, keep explaining!” Unundyne demanded.

“with no interruptions from fish bitch,” Red muttered.

“WHAT WAS THAT, PUNK?!”

Papyrus gave Red an unimpressed stare, causing Red to shrink into his jacket.

“nothin’.”

Papyrus volunteered to explain everything to Unundyne, starting from finding themselves in his universe. He even told her about their encounter with the Player. Red’s frown deepened by the end, while Frisk remained unhelpfully silent during the whole explanation. By the time Papyrus finished, Unundyne had her arms across her chest, eyebrow raised in bemusement.

“That’s unbelievable and ridiculous! So you’re telling me that this is another universe that I ended up in because of some Player messing around? And I don’t even remember any of this happening!?”

Papyrus nodded his skull. “IT IS THE TRUTH AS UNBELIEVABLE AS IT SOUNDS!”

Unundyne waved at Red and Frisk. “And two believe this?”

“I saw it happen,” Frisk said.

“i don’t remember—”

Papyrus’s soul clenched painfully.

“but i believe him!”

The confident conviction in Red’s tone had Papyrus snapping his skull towards the shorter skeleton. Red gave Papyrus a firm nod. Papyrus beamed back at him in appreciation.

“Fine, fine, I’ll believe this ridiculous story for now.” Unundyne cracked her neck and swung her right arm in a wide circular pattern. “Either way, it sounds like I need to beat some sense into this Player person. Where do we find them?”

“s’not gonna be that easy. last time they found us,” Red explained, red eye lights darting around in his dark eye sockets. The glitches seemed to be getting worse. More and more white code and numbers floating around them.

“We can meet up with Alphys again,” Frisk suggested.

“THAT’S A WONDERFUL IDEA, FRISK!” Papyrus clapped his two gloved hands together in approval.

“might as well if we don’t got any other plan,” Red shrugged.

And so, without further arguments, the four of them set off back towards Hotland. At some point, Frisk began running off with Unundyne keeping up pace. Papyrus was also tempted to run but his shoulder injury from earlier stung with each step. That left him and Red trailing behind the other two.

Papyrus watched as Red’s eye lights glanced around at the field of red echo flowers whispering lost words, thick stalks of water sausage plants and the glistening, damp walls.. His frown deepened.

“IS SOMETHING THE MATTER, RED?”

“wha-? no. it’s just… a lotta stuff’s happened,” he muttered in response, shoving his hands in his jacket pocket. “trying to wrap my head around everything’s hard.”

A brilliant idea suddenly burst into Papyrus. He seized Red’s left claw in excitement, causing the other to jump back slightly at the unexpected contact. Red didn’t let go, which was a positive in Papyrus’s mind.

“I HAVE SOMEPLACE TO SHOW YOU! IT IS SIMPLY WONDERFUL!” Papyrus chattered excitedly as he began to drag Red along with him.

Even though this was Red’s Waterfall, Papyrus couldn’t help but wonder if the place he wanted to go was still available.

“whoa, whoa, slow down will ya?” the scarred skeleton huffed.

A dusting of pink ran across Red’s cheekbones. Papyrus took smaller steps as he allowed the smaller skeleton to pace alongside him.

“so where’re ya takin’ me?” Suspicion laced Red’s voice.

“IT’S A PLACE IN WATERFALL MY BROTHER USED TO TAKE ME!”

Papyrus turned his skull to peer around his surroundings, hoping to spot signs of the Wishing Room. He spotted the hallway where his brother usually had his telescope and fastened his pace. There was more bounce in each step he took.

“I’M SURE YOU’LL LIKE IT!”

“ok”. Red sounded skeptical.

It didn’t take long and two section backtracks later, Papyrus found exactly where he was looking. Despite all the red and gloom, the darkened alcove was strikingly familiar.

“MAKE SURE YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES!”

“nah. no thanks.”

“B-BUT THE SURPRISE!”

“i don’t like surprises.”

Papyrus puffed out his cheeks in a pout. But relented.

“FINE. YOU LIKELY BEEN HERE BEFORE.”

As soon as they stepped into the little alcove, Red uttered, “oh, it’s this place.”

Differently colored stones lined the walls of the alcove, glittering in the dim. The darkness in the area only highlighted them more; they all twinkled like the actual stars. At least, the ones Papyrus had seen in Sans’s space textbooks.

Papyrus couldn’t help the smile from gracing his skull when he saw Red’s crimson eye lights dilated. It was a cute look on the smaller skeleton. Papyrus blinked and shook the thoughts from his mind.

“I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT TO LOOK FOR THIS PLACE WHEN I WAS IN YOUR WORLD.” Papyrus asked after a period of silence. “IT USED TO BE MY BROTHER AND I’S SECRET SPOT. NYEH HEH!”

Red had a dazed look in his sockets.

“IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT WITH YOU, RED?”

Said skeleton shook his head furiously and answered, “i’m fine. just a deja vu moment.”

“ARE YOU REMEMBERING MORE?” Papyrus nonexistent gut twisted.

“nope, sorry. Not everything.”

Papyrus deflating, leaning back against the cool stone. He stared at the twinkling gems and sighed. It truly did look similar to the Wishing Room back home. Maybe some things between their two worlds aren’t all that different. After a beat, Red sat down next to him, their shoulders inches apart. Papyrus’s soul thudded within his ribcage as the two of them gazed at the glittering gems in a peaceful silence.

Eventually, Papyrus couldn’t help but admit, “MY BROTHER AND I DISCOVERED THIS PLACE WHEN I WAS STILL IN STRIPES. HE WOULD BRING ME HERE WHENEVER I WAS UPSET OR HAD A BAD DAY. HE WOULD TELL ME ALL ABOUT THE STARS.” Papyrus faced Red and asked, “ARE YOU INTO SPACE STUFF AS WELL, RED?”

Red gazed longingly at the sparkling stones before his pinpricks trailed to the ground. His sharp teeth curled into a bitter smile.

“yeah, i did. would ramble about it all the time to boss, he would be so excited. though that years ago when i was still in stripes.” He sighed heavily, eye lights staring blankly at his sneakers. “it was a different time. back before i ruined our relationship.”

Papyrus frowned at the longing in Red’s tone. His shoulders slouched heavily and a frown had settled on his face. Papyrus was reminded of the last time Red had become upset at the mention of his brother. Papyrus couldn’t imagine his Sans, or any Sans really, to do something so horrific that he would hate his brother.

“I’M SURE YOUR BROTHER STILL LOVES AND CARES FOR YOU, TAKE IT FROM A PAPYRUS. YOU EVEN SPOKE TO HIM WITHOUT ARGUMENTS BACK WHEN WE IN THAT BLACK SPACE.”

Red looked unconvinced, eye ridge rising in skepticism. Papyrus took this opportunity to settle a careful palm on Red’s left shoulder.

“WE’LL FIGURE OUT OF THIS MESS! YOU CAN TRUST THE GREAT PAPYRUS! AND ONCE WE DO, YOU CAN HAVE A NICE, LONG CONVERSATION WITH OTHER-ME! I’LL EVEN BE THERE FOR YOU IF YOU NEED MORAL SUPPORT!”

Staring at him, Red shook his skull and chuckled softly. He didn’t respond, but by the shorter skeleton’s grin, Papyrus knew that he had lifted Red’s spirits.

“thanks, papyrus,” Red mumbled, barely audible, leaning into Papyrus’s touch. Papyrus beamed as his soul thudded softly within his ribcage.

The two of them sat in a peaceful silence for several more minutes. They eventually decided it was time to catch up with Frisk and Unundyne. Papyrus offered a gloved hand to pull Red up. Their trek through the rest of Waterfall was uneventful. Until they arrived at the bridge into Hotland.

Red’s back grew rigid as soon as they stepped onto the bridge. His eye lights narrowed, darting from one end of his large sockets to the other in order to survey their surroundings.

“WHAT’S THE--”

“quiet!” Red hissed, barely above a whisper. He sniffed the air around them. “i smell dust.”

Papyrus started. “WHAT? HOW?”

Red quickened his pace across. Papyrus’s eyes widened as a pile of gray came into view at the end of the bridge. The water cooler that sat on the dry earth, usually filled with water for those who ventured into this harsh, arid environment, was empty. A wet patch of water could be seen below the dispenser.

“UNDYNE!” Papyrus cried out. He heard a ringing in his nonexistent ear. “WHO COULD HAVE DONE THIS?!”

Red crouched down next to the empty water dispenser and picked up a stray vine. Frowning deeply, he held it up for Papyrus to see. His eyes bulged out.

“WHAT? NO! IT COULDN’T BE FLOWEY!”

“Howdy! Did someone say my name?” A high-pitched voice came from beneath them.

Seconds later, a familiar yellow flower popped out of the ground, his expression one of masked confusion.

“out with it. did ya kill undyne?” Red growled.

A wide sneer crept on Flowey’s face. “And what if I did? Are you going to dust me in revenge?” Flowey twisted his petals to Papyrus. “What about you, Papyrus? You going to avenge your friend? Even if she’s not the original Undyne.”

Papyrus opened his mouth several times, finding himself lacking a come back. He knew Flowey was purposely trying to rile him up. It almost sounded insincere. Papyrus took a deep breath to calm himself down and to reorganize his mind.

“EVEN IF YOU HAD… DUSTED UNUNDYNE, WHAT WOULD BE THE REASON? I STILL BELIEVE YOU CAN DO BETTER!”

Flowey scoffed, causing Red to take a step closer to loom over the plant monster.

“Boredom, duh. This is so much more interesting now! Even the previous Reset with you brother and that edgy Papyrus got dull after a while.”

Without warning, Red wrapped his left phalanges around Flowey’s stem and shook him roughly.

“you shitty weed better have not hurt boss!”

“Only the human did,” Flowey sputtered out.

“THE HUMAN?” Papyrus peered around their surroundings. Only now did Papyrus realize they were not present. “WHERE ARE THEY?”

Flowey let out a pained wheeze as Red tightened his grasp.

“LET HIM GO, RED,” Papyrus chided, placing a soft hand on Red’s shoulder.

The shorter skeleton let out a growled warning and reluctantly let Flowey free.

“Better catch up to them! They’re already heading towards that scientist. Who knows if she’ll survive.”

“what’s that mean?!”

But it was too late. Flowey had already disappeared. Something about Flowey’s words set Papyrus on edge. His palms twitched.

“LET’S HURRY!”

Papyrus sprinted off with Red trailing behind him. At some point, the dark-clad skeleton fell behind. Wordlessly, Papyrus scooped Red up into his arms despite his heated protests, and carried him the remaining way to Alphys’s laboratory. It was eerily silent, even after several knocks. Pressing the side of his skull against the door, Papyrus heard nothing.

“ALPHYS IS NOT ANSWERING.”

“lemme have a go at it.”

Papyrus stepped aside. Red summoned three bone contracts and sent them crashing into the door. It slid open. Cool air waft at them. With a glance and a nod at each other, both skeletons stepped inside.

The laboratory interior was the same as they had left it. Papyrus wanted around the first floor, calling out to Alphys and Mettaton. But no one came.

“papyrus! you gotta see this,” Red called out to him, panic laced in his tone and sweat drops beaded his forehead.

Papyrus turned and saw that Red was gaping at the video feed console. Taking five wide steps, Papyrus made it over. His soul frozen. His jaw dropped.

In the recorded video of Hotland’s entrance, Frisk had emptied the water cooler without leaving a single drop to a parched and collapsed Unundyne. Frisk struck Unundyne down with a glinting, silver object in their hands, eyes glowing crimson and with a wide, manic grin on their face.

Chapter Text

Red

Sans didn’t blame Papyrus’s frozen expression; in fact, he was just as shocked. Granted, he knew his Frisk was capable of doing this given their previous run before all this displacement crap occurred. What caught him off guard was the cruel, almost ecstatic grin on Frisk’s face. It was uncharacteristic of them. Never in all the Resets that he remembered did they ever have that expression.

“WHY WOULD OUR HUMAN FRIEND DO THIS?” Papyrus cried.

The way Papyrus’s sockets drooped and the devastated frown on his normally wide smile sent a spasm of pain throughout Sans’s soul. Since when did he grow so fond of this alternative version of his brother? The slowly trickling memories definitely had something to do with it.

“don’t know. surprised me as well.” Sans laid a hesitant hand on Papyrus’s right arm. “we should check on alphys.”

“YES! WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE SHE IS UNHARMED.”

Papyrus volunteered to check upstairs while Sans stayed in the bottom floor. It didn’t take him long to discover an uncovered doorway. One that had been sealed the previous time they were here. Sans peeked inside. It was an elevator that had buttons to lead to a floor below the normal laboratory.

Sans and Papyrus looked at each other with a nod of understanding. The two of them got in, pressed the G button and slowly descended. When the door slid open, the musky scent of disinfectant and chemicals wafted into Sans’s nose hole. Dirty, green tiles and white gelatinous monsters flashed before Sans’s memories.

The True Lab.

Wait, how did he know that?

“RED, WHAT IS THIS PLACE?”

Sans jumped at Papyrus’s loud voice. He spun around and found said skeleton surveying the interior while a gloved hand stroked his chin.

“dunno. think it’s the true lab.”

“TRUE LAB? WERE WE NOT IN A TRUE LABORATORY BEFORE THIS?”

Sans frowned, “it’s complicated.”

“ALRIGHT. LET’S EXPLORE! ALPHYS MIGHT BE DOWN HERE!”

Sans’s phalanges twitched and sweat beaded on his forehead. A feeling of doom invaded his soul.

Something dangerous lurked within these walls. He didn’t get a chance to voice his concerns as Papyrus was already strolling down the hallway. Sans sighed and followed after him.

The two of them hadn’t taken more than a few steps before they heard a soft squishing sound, followed by a low, eerie hum. When they turned around, a gelatinous white glob lumbered towards them. The body of the creature resembled shyren. Two slit eyes bored at them while it’s “jaws” opened and closed.

“WHAT IS THAT?!” Papyrus shouted.

“amalgamates,” Sans answered automatically.

“HOW DO YOU KNOW OF THESE CREATURES?”

“saw ‘em in my alphys’s labs. it’s what happens to monsters when their given too much determination or can’t tolerate it,” Sans glanced down the hallway from them.

“WHAT IS--”

The humming got louder.

“we gotta skedaddle. even if we manage to beat one, it’ll just come back.”

Sans about-faced and ran. Despite the delayed start, Papyrus easily caught up to him. When Sans glanced behind his shoulders, he saw the amalgamate-- a lemonhead was what he remembered it was called-- quickly gaining speed on him.

Curse his short legs and lack of physical exercise. He vowed to become more active once he got out of this.

“uah!” He was suddenly lifted off the ground by a pair of strong, bony arms.

“IT’LL BE FASTER THIS WAY, RED,” Papyrus chimed in as he carried Sans within his arms, dashing farther and farther from the amalgamate.

Sans would’ve been offended if not for the warmth and comfort permeating through his bones. His face burned hotly.

Papyrus weaved through various rooms, one of which had numerous hospital-like beds and a ghostly figure hovering over one of them, and eventually into another hallway. Sans squirmed.

“yer can lemme go now.”

Papyrus flushed, eyes widened in surprise, and then lowered Sans to the floor. He nyeh heh heh’d, skull turned away to stare at the grimy greenish-blue walls.

Sans tried to still the frantic beating of his soul. When he finally did, he turned to watch his back. The amalgamate wasn’t following them anymore. He looked around and spotted a vending machine display Popato Crisp. Sans fished into his jacket pocket but only pulled out lint and condiment packets. Lifting his left foot behind he, he aimed a strong kick at the vending machine.

“RED!” Papyrus squalled.

A bag of Popato Crisps fell out of the slot. Sans grinned at Papyrus, who only gave an exasperated sigh but didn’t protest. As they kept moving, they came across notes plastered alongside the dank walls. They were numbered.

Entry Number 1: This is it… time to do what the King has asked me to do. I will create the power to free us all. I will unleash the power of the SOUL.

Entry Number 2: The barrier is locked by SOUL power. Unfortunately this power cannot be recreated artificially. SOUL power can only be derived from what was once living. So, to create more, we have to use what we have now… The SOULs of monsters.

Entry Number 3: But extracting a SOUL form a living monster would require incredible power.... Besides being impractical, doing so would instantly destroy the SOUL’s host. And, unlike the persistent SOULs of humans… the SOULs of most monsters disappear immediately upon death. If only I could make a monster’s SOUL last…

Entry Number 5: I’ve done it. Using the blueprints, I’ve extracted it from the human SOULs. I believe this is what gives their SOULs the strength to persist after death. The will to keep living… the resolve to change fate. Let’s call this power… Determination.

A chill shot down Sans’s spine, causing him to shiver. This notes must’ve been written by the Royal Scientist, though whether it was the current one or the previous one, he found it difficult to tell.

“DETERMINATION. ISN’T THAT RED SUBSTANCE THAT YOUR ALPHYS INJECTED ME WITH? AND WHAT FORMS THESE… AMALGAMATES?” Papyrus suddenly asked.

Sans winced as the memory of finding Papyrus with the crazed Alphys surfaced. This was followed by a rush of anger. He took a deep breath to suppress the emotion.

“yeah.”

Papyrus peered around at the entries some more.

“IT IS QUITE CONCERNING THAT THESE EXPERIMENTS WERE DONE ON… HUMAN AND MONSTER SOULS.” Papyrus frowned. “I DO NOT APPROVE OF IT.”

“well that makes two of us.”

As Sans and Papyrus made their way further down the halls and deeper into the True Lab, they found more entries. It was unfortunate that the entries were written out of order, or the direction they were heading into the lab made it seem so. The more Sans read, the more he recognized the writer.

“it’s alphys.”

“WHAT IS?”

“she’s the one that wrote these entries. at least, the one in your timeline,” Sans stated, pointing to entry 11. “she’s the one that created mettaton, isn’t she?”

Stroking his chin, Papyrus answered, “YES, I BELIEVE SO.”

The two of them continued onwards, given even more reason to find Alphys.

They encountered entries 6 and 9, which gave more details about the experiments with Determination and SOULs, in a room with operating tables and sinks. At the fourth room, Sans froze dead in his tracks. Papyrus gasped besides him.

A ghastly machine shaped vaguely like a skeletal goat head with wires and tubes coming out of the holes for eyes and nose stood in front of them. There was a broken vial smashed against the ground besides the machine. The tiles had taken a dark red hue. Sans grunted and dropped to his knee as he was suddenly assaulted with memories.

Flash! The unclear, shadow entity that called themselves the “Player”. Flash! His brother and the blue-clad version of himself along with Papyrus in a dark space. Flash! Him sparring with Papyrus in the snowy field in his Snowdin. Flash! His fight against the human in the Judgment Hall. Flash! The burning sensation shooting throughout his body that he now recognized as the Determination running within his body.

“ARE YOU ALRIGHT RED?”

When Sans came out of his trance, he saw Papyrus crouched over him, his bone brows drawn down in concern. Sans shook his skull and, with Papyrus’s help, stood back up. He wiped the beads of sweat that had collected on his forehead away with his jacket sleeve. His soul pounded within his ribcage.

“‘m fine.”

Papyrus looked unconvinced.

“guess you could say that was memorizing, heh.”

“RED, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE JOKING! PLEASE BE SERIOUS!”

“i’m not serious, i’m red.”

Papyrus howled in faux anger, stomping his feet and raising his arms. Sans noticed that upwards tilt of Papyrus’s teeth into a smile. Sans grinned, feeling his soul lighten.

“SO WHAT IS THIS MACHINE?” Papyrus grimaced. “IT LOOKS SIMILAR TO THE ONE YOUR ALPHYS USED TO INJECT THAT RED LIQUID IN ME. DETERMINATION WAS IT CALLED?”

Sans clenched his claws into fists in his jacket pocket. “yeah. it is. this must be the dt extraction machine from this world. looks exactly the same as mine. was injected with this stuff too.”

Papyrus snapped his skull to Sans so fast that it creaked. “REALLY? HOW TERRIBLE!”

“it wasn’t too bad. t’was in stripes when it happened.”

“THAT’S EVEN WORSE!”

“hey, what happened, happened.” Sans shrugged. “it’s no skin off my nose, heh.”

Papyrus remained worried but didn’t press further. The two of them explored the northernmost room. A shelf filled with old VHS tapes and an old, worn TV stood in the back.

“OH? A TELEVISION! WITH VIDEOS! I WONDER WHAT THESE ARE?”

Papyrus dashed over while Sans followed after. They flipped through the tapes, finding them labeled by sequential order. There were five of them. Papyrus inserted the first video. The video remained dark, but voices could be heard. Sans instantly recognized who they belonged to.

“the first one’s asgore,” he muttered.

The second one… a voice coming from behind a heavy, stone door. A voice that he would pass crude jokes with. A voice that he’d just realized who it truly belonged to.

“the queen.”

“WHAT?”

“the second voice. it must be the former queen’s. toriel.” Sans felt an odd twinge in his chest. All this time, he’d been conversing with the queen? Though his visits with her had become scarce before all the world shenanigans happened.

“YOU KNOW THE QUEEN?” Papyrus asked, sockets beaming and hands clutching his cheeks.

“not really.” Sans shrugged. “might’ve spoken with her once or twice.”

Sans let the subject drop by inserting the second tape.

“Okay, Chara, are you ready? Do your creepy face. AHHHHH! Hee hee hee! Oh wait. I had the lends cap on... What?! You’re not gonna do it again…? Come on, quit tricking me! Haha!

Who’s Chara? Sans tried to think of anyone he knew by that name but he was drawing a blank.

“WHO’S THAT SPEAKING?”

“not sure,” Sans replied weakly.

“THEY SOUND A BIT… FAMILIAR, DON’T YOU THINK?”

“dunno.”

Sans quickly replaced tape #2 with #3. The speaker was the same from the previous video, monologue to the same “Chara” person. The speaker also spoke to poisoning from use of buttercups. Intrigued by the contents of each video thus far, Sans inserted the fourth one.

I... I don't like this idea, Chara. Wh.. what? N-no, I'm not... ... big kids don't cry. Yeah, you're right. No! I'd never doubt you, Chara. Never! Y... yeah! We'll be strong! We'll free everyone. I'll go get the flowers.”

“FLOWERS? I WONDER IF IT’S THE SAME AS THOSE BUTTERCUPS MENTIONED EARLIER.”

“who knows. maybe we’ll find out.” He put in the last video, and the familiar voice of the former Queen came through.

”Chara… Can you hear me? We want you to wake up…

”Chara! You have to stay determined! You can't give up! You are the future of humans and monsters…

... Psst... Chara... Please... Wake up... I don't like this plan anymore. I... I... ... no, I said... I said I'd never doubt you. Six, right? We just have to get six... And we'll do it together, right?

“that’s the last of ‘em.”

Sans glanced over to Papyrus, who stood with his left hand on his hips and his right stroking his chin.

“WHO IS THIS CHARA PERSON? DID THEY DIE OR BECOME ILL AT THE END?”

“seems so. and they were adopted by the royal family?”

“AH!” Papyrus clapped his hands together. “I REMEMBER NOW! IN MY UNIVERSE, THE KING AND QUEEN ADOPTED A HUMAN CHILD AS THEIR OWN. COULD THAT BE THIS CHARA PERSON?”

Sans raised a bone brow in interest.

“we never had that. i don’t remember there ever being a human kid in our history. only the ones that fell down and were killed by asgore.”

“REALLY? MAYBE THERE ARE MORE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OUR UNIVERSES THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT!”

“maybe. anyway, we should keep goin’ and find alphys.”

Before the two could continue, a familiar squishing and hum echoed in the hallway outside. This was followed by a peculiar fluttering sound.

“oh shit. we should get outta here!”

Sans and Papyrus booked out of the room to see another amalgamate, this time of a tall bird-looking one with a long beak, joining the lemonhead from earlier. With great concentration, Sans summoned a few jagged bones and shot them at the two abominations; the bones were immediately absorbed.

“IT DOES NOT APPEAR THAT ATTACKS WORK.”

Sans cursed. He glanced over to Papyrus, who appears to be readying an encounter. He covertly Checked Papyrus and noticed that his HP was only at half his maximum despite the Spicy Cider from Undyne. Sans could always shortcut them out of there. Though he wasn’t familiar with the full layout of the lab, he could simply port them to a hallway they’ve previously been.

Taking a deep breath as the two amalgamates lumbered towards them, Sans grabbed Papyrus’s hand. The taller skeleton stared at him in confusion, expression bright despite their incoming encounter. Sans’s soul pulsed with warmth.

The space around them jerked, literally. As though the physical plane were ripping itself apart. Static and glitches filled the space around them. Not even a second later, Sans and Papyrus reappeared in front of an elevator door. Past the door was a handle switch, which Sans quickly grabbed onto to steady himself. Light flooded the room.

“PLEASE WARN ME NEXT TIME YOU USE THESE… SHORTCUTS. UGH,” Papyrus commented.

Once the dizziness abated, Sans noticed two more lab entries.

ENTRY NUMBER 8: I've chosen a candidate. I haven't told ASGORE yet, because I want to surprise him with it... In the center of his garden, there's something special. The first golden flower, that grew before all the others. The flower from the outside world. It appeared just before the queen left. I wonder... What happens when something without a SOUL gains the will to live?

ENTRY NUMBER 18: the flower's gone.

A chill shot down Sans’s spine as the implications of the entry came into light.

“what the hell? is this how flowey was created?”

“IT APPEARS SO RED. EXCELLENT OBSERVATION,” Papyrus said.

He stood with his arms crossed in front of him, bone brows furrowed in deep thought. Sans thought it made Papyrus look like his brother. He shook the image from his mind.

“IF HE WAS CREATED WITH DETERMINATION, IT WOULD EXPLAIN WHY HE REMEMBERED PREVIOUS RESETS.”

“yeah. wonder what else he knows.”

Papyrus’s teeth curled into a deep frown.

“POOR FLOWEY,” He uttered.

“what?” Sans sputtered. “after all he’s done this run?”

“BUT HE DOESN’T HAVE A SOUL! THAT MUST BE WHY HE ACTS THE WAY HE DOES. PERHAPS WITH ENOUGH LOVE, COMPASSION AND HOPE, HE CAN FORM HIS OWN!” The taller skeleton stood tall and proud.

Sans remembered the Flowey in his universe. How regretful he was when Sans finally gave a chance to listen to the weed. Seeing all the determination within Papyrus, he felt his spirits lift.

Just as Sans opened his mouth to say something, the elevator activated. Both skeletons jumped. Ding! It stopped at their level. The door opened to reveal a short yellow lizard donned in a white lab coat.

“ALPHYS!” Papyrus called.

The scientist looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead.

“Wh-what are y-you two doing he-here?! How di-did you even g-get, um, down here?” Her eyes were wide with fear.

“WE WERE LOOKING FOR YOU! WE WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOU WERE SAFE FROM THE…” Papyrus drooped.

“the kid,” Sans finished. “i’m assumin’ you saw what happened t’ undyne?”

“E-even though… even though she’s n-n-not the one I know…” Alphys trailed off, lowering her head towards the ground.

Her glasses fogged up as tears dripped down her cheeks. Papyrus slowly made his way over to Alphys, who cowered against the elevator wall. Papyrus crouched down and held out his arms.

“DO YOU NEED A HUG, ALPHYS?”

Alphys only sobbed, but eventually nodded.

Sans stood back as he watched Papyrus embrace Alphys in a bony hug. Alphys’s crying lessened. Sans’s fists shook with anger, mind reminiscing back to the times he first reset to this timeline.

Reset. Each time the kid died or they were forced into one.

“where’s the kid now?” Sans suddenly growled.

Alphys flinched at the heat in his voice, causing Sans to mumble an apology.

“there may be a way to fix this. if i can get the kid to reset the timeline.”

“OF COURSE! BUT DIDN’T HUMAN FRISK MENTION THAT THEY CAN’T RESET FOR SOME REASON?”

“then we’ll force it, one way or another.” Hot, agitated magic bubbled within Sans’s bones. “you must’ve seen the camera feed, alphys. where are they headed?”

Alphys timidly peaked up at Sans before glancing back to the ground. “Um, they’re almost at New Home, heading towards Asgore’s castle..”

“we gotta stop them. let’s get goin’ papyrus!”

“INDEED! WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE THOUGH.”

“Um, you guys can u-use this elevator. It leads back to the m-main lab.”

The three of them rode the elevator back upstairs. Papyrus gave Alphys some reassuring words before they leave. With all the vent puzzles and elevators already activated, Sans and Papyrus quickly made their way through Hotland. Sans forgoed using his shortcut due to the failed previous attempt.

When they finally arrived to New Home, a yellow flower with a wicked grin stood in their path.