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Nuclear Conscience

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Chapter I - Enemy Approaching

"ONE PUUUNNNNNNNNNNCHHHHHHHHHH! Three, two one, KILL SHOT! Sanjou! Hisshou! Shijou sakiyou!"

No. You groan, lifting your head up from your pillow. It feels ten-thousand times as heavier than usual as you grope blindly for your phone with half-lidded eyes. I'm not. Getting. Up. Sadly, your phone says otherwise as your alarm blares the lyrics to the One Punch Man opening that you love so dearly on full volume. Finally, you manage to grab your phone and yank it from its charger. That was probably a bad idea, but you're too tired to give a fuck right now. You slide your finger across the screen, silencing the alarm. You throw it back on the nightstand beside your bed.

Dammit. You have to get up. You have a job. Woo-fucking-hoo. You sit up with another groan and look around your room. It's only four or so in the morning, so it's still dark outside, casting your room in shadows. Come on, (L/N). You have to get up. Might as well face the day. With another moan of frustration, you try to move your legs, which have somehow managed to get tangled in the sheets. You try to wrestle them free, but you only succeed in throwing your balance off, causing you to fall off of the bed with a thud, sort of landing on your face. Well, shit, (L/N), that was freakin' smooth. Way to go. Your legs are still caught in the sheets, so you sort of do a backflip thing with your head and manage to free them. The sheets fall off of your legs midair, then proceed to fall on top of you. You flail wildly and manage to get free. With your sheets in a crumbled heap on the floor, you giggle. Sick backflip, if I do say so myself.

Now free from your bed's wraith, you stand slowly, wiping your hair out of your face. You stretch a little bit as a yawn escapes your mouth. Stumbling over to your lamp, you fiddle with the knob until the light is shining and blinding you. You squint, and pout a little. Today is, most likely, going to be one of those off days. You chuckle to yourself. You're a mess, you know. You grab your phone and turn it on, giving it a little apology pat for being so rough with it earlier. When you turn it on, you see that you have an email from your boss. You frown a bit and open it.

Miss (L/N),

Due to the weather today, we will be cancelling practice. See you tomorrow!

You...actually have today off...until your evening job. But still, this is great! You've wanted to do so many things for the past few weeks but haven't had time to. Yes! You can do something interesting today! You smile, then plop back down onto your bed, turning the lamp off. You get to sleep in for the first time in stars know how long. Happily, you close your eyes and drift back to sleep.

...

When your eyes are open again, it's lighter outside, but the sun isn't out. It's hidden behind a curtain of dark clouds. The light pitter-patter of rain on the ceiling lets you know that the boss was right about the weather today. You are an assistant coach for your neighborhood's swim team. You're a pretty fast swimmer yourself, typically landing in gold league times whenever you race. You aren't the best, but you aren't the worst, either. You've been swimming for a couple of years now with your neighborhood team, and in those years, you have gotten to know your coach pretty well. When he had asked you to be an assistant coach for the team, you had agreed almost instantly. You were more than happy to share your knowledge on swimming with the kids, and most of them were pretty nice to you. Occasionally, one or two would try to sweet-talk you out of doing a set, or would just annoy you because they felt as if they had nothing better to do, but the head coach would typically take care of that. Other than that, coaching was pretty fun for you. All of the little kids you taught would cheer for you on the sidelines at meets while you flew in the water, which you absolutely adored. You never failed to cheer them on when they swam, either.

You pull yourself out of bed much more smoothly this time. You walk into your kitchen, deciding to make yourself a much-needed cup of coffee. You gaze at your beloved collection of coffee cups, debating on which one to use. You love coffee mugs and have tons of them; from fandom cups to cats flipping the viewer off, you have a lot of them. A wide variety, too. You eventually settle for a twelve-ounce one that reads: "I run on caffeine, cuss words, and fanfiction." Truer words have never been written. You fill the cup with your favorite kind of coffee, then sit on the couch with your laptop in your lap and a bowl of cereal by your side. It's time to decide what you're going to do today. You flip the TV on to the news channel to see what's up in your world.

Of course, as per usual, the news channels were on monster rights development. Only recently had the monsters been able to move in with humans, and that had been a month ago. Your neighbor is a monster, and his name is Burgerpants. He was kind of an asshole when you first met him, but as time progressed, you two grew to be best friends. He had your back whenever you needed it and you had his. You know a few other monsters that you are friends with, but that was it. You see monsters almost every day, though. The town you live in is pretty close to Mount Ebott, and it is pretty small, too. Monsters first emerged about a year ago, and you felt that they deserved rights too. After all, they'd been here longer than humans had. Plus, with the way the monsters had been treated a few thousand years ago, you thought it was only fair. You couldn't imagine being trapped Underground for so many centuries. The thought never fails to send a shiver down your spine.

Now, you are just waiting for your magical abilities to surface. You've been waiting all of your life to get magic, and now that monsters were here, proving magic was real, it was tearing you up inside. You know you have magic, you just don't know what kind. You have to have magic. Maybe it just needs to be stirred? Awakened? But what kind of magic will it be? You groan. You really need to have some kind of magic power. You hope it'll awake soon.

Your TV brings you out of your thoughts. Okay. What do I do today? A trip to the mall was definitely in order; you were out of manga to read and needed some fandom merchandise to add to your collection. You nod to yourself, sipping on your coffee. You have enough spare money to blow, so why not? You were out of Pocky, too...that had to be fixed as soon as possible. Okay, it sounds like you have an outline of a plan for today. Good enough. You'll start once you finish your coffee and cereal.

...

People are staring at you. It's mostly the adults in the cars next to you at red lights, but there are young children who are just...confused. You're used to it by now. Most adults your age-twenty-three-don't approve of you watching anime or being in the fandoms. Younger kids stare at you because you dress like a teenager fresh out of Hot Topic. Honestly, you can count all of the fucks you give on zero hands. You know that you're a wreck, but you have your shit somewhat together, and you're relatively happy with life. That's all that matters to you right now.

Of course, you brought the staring upon yourself. You are driving your (f/c) Jeep, blaring an anime theme song remix on your radio with the windows down, you're in a fandom shirt, and you are singing. You don't care how many people are staring at you. You love this song and you'll be damned if you aren't going to enjoy it. The mall appears in your vision as you turn into the parking lot. You back up into a parking space that is relatively close to the entrance, then turn off your Jeep and hop out, walking towards the entrance. Monsters and humans are milling about, some rushing to get their cars before the rain starts falling, arms full of bags, and others are heading to the entrance. You spot one man in particular: he has blonde hair that's sort of combed over as well as a face that's a little too perfect. He's glancing at his phone, but something about him makes your gut twist in nervous knots. You decide to stay away from him. Over the years, you've learned it's best to listen to your instincts. The man looks up, and around. You keep your head high, despite your urge to look away. Your dad told you to make eye contact with strangers, to let them know you're paying attention. Sure enough, the man makes eye contact with you. He smiles a painfully fake smile that makes you want to punch him in the face. You tighten your hold on the strap to your purse and manage to smile back, even though it feels more like a grimace. He looks away and proceeds to walk into the mall. You frown, deciding that you'll keep an eye for him or any other weirdos.

You make it into the mall before the rain starts to fall. You walk past all of the shops you hate, which is every shop except the four you'll be visiting today. Your first stop is the bookstore. The smell of brand new books swarms your senses as you walk into your favorite bookstore, your eyes immediately scanning the store for anything that you might like. The scent brings a relaxed smile to your face; it has been too long since you had visited this store. Work has prohibited you from letting you indulge for a while now. Your favorite manga is practically screaming your name as you glide over to the Anime and Manga section. It's empty at the moment, much to your relief. Fairy Tail, One Punch Man, Until Death Do Us Part, Tokyo Ghoul, Blue Exorcist, Akame Ga Kill...all of it is here!

Your hands slowly drift across the spines of your favorite series; one of the new books had come out, and you need it. You gently pull it off of its place on the shelf, then study the cover carefully, examining the beautiful cover art. There's a well-drawn picture of your favorite character wielding a weapon. It's glorious. Finally, after months of waiting, you have it. It is yours. You make a plan as you check a few more series that you are following, only to find that none of them have updated just yet, which brings a disappointed sigh to your face. You would buy your manga, visit the other stores you needed to buy stuff from, then go buy food from your favorite restaurant, and then you were going to go back to your home and retreat to your fanwoman cave and read the manga. Then, when you were finished, you'd watch more anime and eat more food. Maybe after that, you'd resort to fanfiction to help soothe the pain this book was bound to cause. Then, if motivation struck you, you would write fanfiction.

Sounds perfect to you.

A little blur of yellow catches your attention. You turn to see a short, yellow, dinosaur-like monster who is standing a few feet away from you. Covered in sunflower-yellow scales, she has her snout buried in a volume of...Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, it looks like. She is wearing a shirt that has some fandom joke on it that you don't get. You assume that it is from the manga she's reading. You smile. She's shorter than you, the top of her head comes up to your waist. She doesn't seem to notice you. Even so, seeing her happy sends a little swirl of joy throughout your being.

You love it when other people are happy.

Your smile fades when the man from earlier approaches the little monster from behind. He has something sharp in his hand. He doesn't seem to notice you, and the dinosaur is too wrapped up in her manga to notice the man behind her.

You drop your manga and move before your mind can catch up. Just as the man raises the knife, your hand is already on his wrist, preventing the knife from coming down. You kick him in the crotch, causing him to yell in surprise, then turn so his arm is on your back. You flip him over your shoulder. He lands on the tile floor with an 'oof'! The knife skitters away from him. He sweeps you off of your feet with his legs before you can pin him down. You land on your back, and he straddles you. His knife is back in his hand.

"Why are you defending a monster, ya fuckin' traitor?!" he growls. You grit your teeth, then push your hips up. He loses his balance for a minute, but that doesn't keep him from swinging his knife at your face. You lose focus for a moment, and the knife slashes across your right eye. You stifle a yell as the man falls off of you. You get up, ignoring the pain in your eye. Blood is oozing from your wound. Someone behind you is screaming for something. You manage to kick the knife from his grasp, then you screech and tackle the man, hand coming off of your eye. The man gasps in shock, and you take advantage of his distraction to pin his wrists to the ground. He swings his head forward, but you dodge just in time. Some of your blood drips onto his face. You keep him like that until a few security guards come to put him under arrest. You stumble to your feet, your blood-covered hand on your eye again.

"O-oh, stars, miss! Are y-you o-okay?" You turn to see the little yellow monster facing you. She's shaking a little bit, and she looks absolutely terrified. When she sees your blood-covered hand, she gasps. Despite the pain in your eye, you manage to smile anyway.

"I'm fine. Just a little cut, is all. Are you okay?" you question back.

"I-I'm alive t-thanks to you!" she cries. "Please, come w-with me. I know someone w-who k-knows healing m-magic." She takes your free hand, and guides you through the crowds. A stupid smile grows on your face. You were about to meet another monster with healing magic!

"T-Toriel! Where are you?" the little monster cries. A crowd is starting to form around the scene near the manga section; the man is being handcuffed currently. A few mall security guards are around him, and a few people are trying unsuccessfully to push past them. You turn back to see that the little monster has stopped and is facing a...goat monster about six feet tall. She's wearing a purple dress that has a symbol that you know you've seen before embroidered in the center. Isn't that symbol of the ambassador? It was something along those lines. Her eyes are a gorgeous shade of blue, and are filled with kindness and worry.

"Y-your highness! This woman j-just saved my l-life, and I-I was wondering if you c-could maybe h-heal her eye? That man cut it, and it looks p-pretty bad." The little monster lets go of your hand, and the goat monster shifts her gaze to you. Before you know, a pair of gigantic paws are forcing you to sit down in a chair.

"Oh, stars, Alphys!" The goat monster sighs, then tugs at the hand covering your eye. You pull it off and bite your lip, a bit nervous when you see the amount of blood on your hand. You really hope that's not your blood that you taste on your lips. You can't see out of your right eye at all. It's a strange sight; you can see out of your left eye, but not your right. "Oh dear, child. He cut it deeply. I am Toriel, the Queen of the monsters. And you are?" she asks gently, covering your injured eye with her paw. Her fur is strangely soft and fluffy.

"I'm (Y/N) (L/N)," you respond as green, fire-like wisps start to surround you. You grow a little dizzy as the warmth spreads across your face, enveloping you in a cocoon of sleepiness.

"That's a pretty name. Oh, stars, dear. Your eye looks bad. I think I can take care of it, though. When you lifted your hand, could you see out of it?" Toriel's paw shifts, but doesn't come off. You stare at the green wisps in wonder.

"No," you say, hoping to death that you won't go partially blind. You want to be able to see your manga and TV screen with both of your eyes, not one! You refuse to go blind! You have too much manga and anime to read and watch, and not enough time!

"Okay, Miss (L/N). It's okay. I may be able to bring your vision back. Hold still and quit squirming. I'm not going to hurt you." The warmth makes you a little sleepy. She continues to press her paw against your eye for a few minutes, then she finally releases you. You blink a few times, a little disoriented at first. You can see again. A sigh of relief escapes your lips. You run your hand over your eye. Underneath your fingertips you can feel the unmistakable texture of dried blood that coats your skin.

"I am sorry, child, but I...cannot heal scars." You frown. A scar, huh? You wonder how badass you'll look!

"Oh, that's fine! Thank you, you brought my vision back!" You stand up, suddenly desperate to see the new addition to your face. You take out your phone from your back pocket. The screen is cracked, which you assume was from the fall, but you open it up anyway to the camera app. You stare at your face.

There's a long scar across your right eye. It starts about an inch above your eyebrow, then trails down. When you close your eyelid, you can see that the scar is continued on it, then it goes down to your cheek, about half an inch down. You're right. You look like a badass right now, with all of the dried blood covering your face and chin, along with your newly obtained scar.

"Oh man, I look awesome! Thank you, Toriel." It was in that moment you remember that she had said 'queen'.

Oh.

The...queen of monsters. Was right. In front. Of you.

Oh.

OH. SHIT.

"Um...your highness? Majesty?" You frown. Hadn't the dinosaur-Alphys-called her highness? Toriel must have seen your conflicted expression, because she giggles and smiles.

"Just Toriel is fine, Miss (L/N)," she grins again, stepping backwards a few steps. Alphys looks back at you.

"U-um...thank y-you, (F/N)...you...you s-saved my life..." she stutters, her paws fidgeting with the hem of her shirt.

"ALPHY! WHERE'S MY ALPHY AT?! ALPHYYYYYY!" Alphys' eyes widen in shock, and she turns to meet the owner of the voice.

Another monster, this one about as tall as Toriel, stampedes through the crowds. She's a fish-like monster with dark, navy blue scales and fiery scarlet hair that's been pulled into a ponytail that flows gracefully below her shoulders. She has a dark, cloth eyepatch on her right eye, and her other eye is yellow with blue pupils. She's in dark black shorts and a bright yellow tank top that contrasts beautifully with her scales and emphasizes her huge biceps. Her mouth is twisted into a snarl, which shows off the fangs in her mouth.

"U-Undyne!" Alphys turns to the fish woman and jumps into her arms. You smile. The two are practically polar opposites, you can tell that much by the color of their scales that contrast perfectly together, by how much shorter Alphys is than Undyne, and how much more shy Alphys seems to act.

Heh. You barely know these two, and yet you already ship them.

"Are you okay, Alphy? I SWEAR TO GOD IF ANYONE HURT MY ALPHY I'M GONNA KILL 'EM SO HARD THEY-" Her snarl unfurls when Alphys wraps her arms around the taller monster's neck.

"It's okay, Undyne. I'm okay." Alphys closes her eyes as Undyne's gaze shifts to you. You bite your lip, unsure of what to say.

"Who is the human?" Undyne asks, her tone a bit calmer now.

Alphys doesn't open an eye. "This is (Y/N). She saved my life."

Your smile broadens as you introduce yourself.

Undyne set Alphys down, and scans you with her eye, folding her arms across her chest. "So you saved Alphys' life?"

Thankfully, Alphys cuts in here: "Yeah! S-she blocked the m-man's attack, then kicked the knife out of his hand and then kicked him in the crotch and then she turned so his arm was backwards and flipped him over her back! It was awesome, Undyne! It was like right out of an anime!" A hint of red appears on the shorter monster's face. "He cut her eye with the knife, and that's how she got that awesome s-scar!"

To your relief, Undyne grins and steps a bit closer. "Wow, I wish I saw that! Well, anyway, punk...I owe you big time. You saved my fiancée's life." Her smile fades. "I'm serious, man. I owe you. Anything you need, just ask."

You...honestly don't know what to say to that. Should you smile and thank her? Deny her and enforce your main point? Already, you can feel the heat on your cheeks. "Oh, no, you really don't need to repay me. I'm just glad Alphys is okay and that dick is going to jail." Another grimace crosses onto your face at the memory of the man. Turns out, your gut was right about him. Okay, what you said wasn't too bad, but maybe you should watch your language around them. Toriel, especially, seems like she wouldn't approve of cursing. You mentally pat yourself on the back. Look at you, trying to make a good impression on these monsters. You're trying to make friends again. Good job, you.

Undyne's smile is small, but it reappears. Even though you just met Undyne, you feel as if she should be a monster whose smile shouldn't be that small. The attack must have spooked her more than she would like to admit. "Damn. Well, at least let us take you out for lunch." Alphys perks up at this.

"Yeah! Everyone's going to want to m-meet you a-after you saved m-me," Alphys adds, her paws fidgeting a bit.

That sounds nice...but it could also go downhill in a number of ways. But...why the hell not? Alphys seems pretty nice, and she's into anime, so there's something you guys could talk about. Undyne seems pretty cool, too. Maybe she's into anime too? And, did they say everyone? You're definitely up for meeting new monsters!

You nod. "Yeah, that sounds good!" Then, you remember your fallen book. Your eyes widen in realization. "Oh, shit! I'll be right back!" So much for watching your language. You dart off to find your beloved manga as Undyne, Alphys, and Toriel just chuckle at you.

"She seems pretty cool," Undyne states, holding Alphys a little closer.

"Yes. She's...different, that's for sure," Toriel says, chuckling when she sees you running to the checkout line.

"I h-hope we can be friends with her," Alphys agrees, clutching Undyne's hand.

You throw the correct amount of money onto the counter, and the clerk bags your book, then counts out your change, which you thrust into the bag. You walk over to where the three monsters are standing to find Alphys holding Undyne's hand, Undyne tapping her foot repeatedly, and Toriel on the phone. You approach the trio, bag in hand. Toriel walks out of the store, murmuring to the person on the other end of the line.

"Okay, here's the plan, punk. We're gonna meet our other friends that we'd like for you to meet at our favorite diner! It's pretty close by. Called Griilby's, ya ever heard of it?" Undyne asks, her free hand digging around in her back pocket.

"I've heard of it, but have never been there," you respond. You've heard Burgerpants talk about it before, when you two were letting each other fume about the all of the shitheads you both ran into on a daily basis.

"You're gonna love it, trust me. Now, here are some directions." She hands you a yellow, crumpled Post-It note with sloppy yet legible handwriting on it. You fold it up a bit neater and stuff it in your pocket. "Meet us there around noon, 'kay?"

You nod. "Cool! I'll be there." Lunch with a group of quirky monsters? This you had to see. 'Quirky' was right up your fucking alley.

Undyne smiles again. "Great! Well, we better get on going. Everyone's gonna wanna know what happened," Undyne says and sighs again, her grin disappearing and eyes sinking, "but we'll see you later, punk!"

You wave back at them as the couple races out of the bookstore, with Undyne half-dragging, half-carrying her fiancée. You chuckle when they disappear from view.

Yeah.

You like quirky shit.

The mall security guards end up pulling you aside for questioning. You explain what happened to them, and they let you go. You thank them, and with that, your retaliation is marked off as 'Self-Defense', and the dick that attacked Alphys is arrested for attempted murder. You grin smugly; as always, justice prevails. Serves that douchebag right.

A security guard points you to the bathroom, which reminds you that you have dried blood all over your face, and that it would probably be a good idea to wash it off. The crowd around the attack scene has begun to dissipate a bit, so people are now staring at you in what they must think is a discreet manner. Some ask you if you are okay, which you reply 'yes' to.

When you finally make it to the bathroom, you scrub at your face furiously until it's red-whether it was from the friction or blood, you didn't know. After most of the blood is off, you finally get a good look at the scar.

It's...weird. Your heart slightly skips a beat at the sight of it.

At first, you have a hard time recognizing yourself. It's such a defining feature, one that you won't be used to for a while. Snapping yourself out of your daze, you resume scrubbing. Hey, at least you're not blind. Or hurt. That situation could have turned out much worse.

Once most of the blood is gone, you check your phone. It's nearing eleven-thirty. You wrap up your little party in the bathroom by rinsing the sink out, then head out to your Jeep.

...

As much as you love the rain, now isn't really a great time for it to begin pouring. You jog through the parking lot, hunching over your bag so your manga doesn't get wet. Your feet slap against the pavement, rainwater splashing all around your feet and ankles. You manage to dodge a few cars that are going a little too fast in the parking lot as you make your way to your Jeep. You find your keys after a few seconds of fumbling around in your purse, then unlock it. You tug on the handle and clamber in, gently setting the soaking wet bag onto the passenger seat, then shove the key in the ignition. You pull out of the parking lot, then get onto the road that will lead you home.

Hm. Well, today has been interesting. Although, you didn't get to go visit your other stores. Not that you mind; you're excited to meet the monsters and possibly make more new friends. You decide to go shopping later on. You get home around eleven forty-five, making a few mental calculations. You have time for a super-quick shower, you decide, making your way to your apartment door.

"Stars, (Y/N)! What the fuck happened to your face?!" A small chuckle escapes you as you turn to face Burgerpants. He's in his work uniform, clamping an unlit cigarette between his teeth. There are a few grocery bags hanging from his arms.

"Oh, hey BP. I can't really talk now, but to make a long story short, I brought fists to a knife fight. I'll tell you the full story later," you reply, leaning back on your open apartment door.

"Shit. Why am I not surprised? Anyway, I'll see you later. Be a little more careful, will you?" You nod and say your goodbyes as he rolls his eyes in a playful manner, then turns back to his door. You stumble into your own apartment, shutting the door behind you.

From outside, you can hear thunder booming overhead, the drops of rain coming down even harder. You set your belongings on your couch, then hurry to your bathroom to get ready.

By the time you get to the diner, you're two or three minutes late. You slam the door to your Jeep closed, lock it up, then head inside, pulling your (f/c) hood over your head. The rain hasn't stopped yet, and shows no sign of stopping in the near future. You race to the entrance. The diner seems like it's pretty modern. The sign that reads 'Grillby's' red and a bit distorted from the amount of rain pouring down in front of it. You can't quite make out the details of the outside as you jog in.

A little bell rings above your head as you enter the little diner, causing several faces to whirl around to meet yours. There's quite a few customers: a good mix of monsters and humans. One group of monsters in particular catches your eye. They're definitely an odd bunch, consisting of Toriel, who is sitting next to another, larger goat monster wearing a Hawaiian shirt with shorts on. You think this is King Asgore; you swear you've seen him on TV before. Sitting next to him is Undyne, who is waving to you like a maniac, next to her is Alphys, who gives you a shy wave. Sitting across from Alphys is a...really tall skeleton man who seems to be dressed in some kind of costume, posture rigid and straight, eye sockets lacking light. Slouching in the chair next to him is another skeleton. This one is much shorter, skull more rounded than the other one's. He's in a blue jacket, white shirt, basketball shorts, and pink slippers with white socks. His skull turns toward you. His eye sockets aren't pitch black like the skeleton's next to him; instead, they have little white pinpricks in them. They dart over your soaking form a few times.

Huh. Definitely not what you were expecting.

Chapter Text

Chapter II – Kinesis And The Like

Undyne grins, and then stands up, her chair sliding violently across the floor. She stomps over to you, then pats you on the back. It's more of a slap, and is bound to leave a bruise later. Not that you mind; after all, you get random bruises all the time.

Undyne begins by introducing you. "She's the one who saved Alphy at the bookstore," she says, placing a hand on your back. You smile at the group, and give them a little wave. You're greeted with a chorus of "Hey!", "Howdy!", and "HELLO!"

The taller skeleton stands first, and walks up to you. He's about two feet taller than you. His skull is narrower that the other skeleton's and his jaw seems to almost become unhinged when he speaks. You think he's smiling, but you're not sure. Before you know it, you're being picked up and smooshed by the skeleton. You let out a little squeak as he squeezes you.

"HUMAN, IT IS AN HONOR TO MEET YOU! ANYONE WHO SAVES MY FRIEND'S LIFE IS BOUND TO BE ALMOST AS GREAT AS I! I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS! " He manages to squeeze you tighter, which knocks the air out of your lungs. "AND YOU ARE?"

"paps. we talked 'bout this. no squeezing humans. don't hurt her." You peer over Papyrus' shoulder to see that the shorter skeleton has come to your rescue. You shoot him a grateful glance as Papyrus sets you down. The blue-clad skeleton's toothy smile grows. You wobble on your feet for a second, trying to regain your balance and catch your breath again.

"It's nice to meet you," you respond after taking a few deep breaths. You notice that Papyrus is wearing a red scarf around his neck along with a cape that flutters in the gentle draft of air floating through the diner. You giggle; he's so...childish, it seems like. He almost reminds you of yourself, in a way. You refuse to grow up when it comes to pop-culture related things, but you are usually mature when reality needs you to be. Papyrus, on the other hand, just reeks of cinnamon.

"OF COURSE IT IS NICE TO MEET SUCH A COOL, AWESOME SKELETON SUCH AS MYSELF! NYEH. DID I HURT YOU, HUMAN? I DID NOT MEAN TO IF I DID, I WAS ONLY TRYING TO DISPLAY MY GRATITUDE FOR YOU, CONSIDERING YOU SAVED DR. ALPHYS' LIFE." He tilts his skull down to you, his empty sockets studying you. His eye sockets are curved to the point where he looks almost concerned.

"You didn't hurt me, Papyrus. You just caught me by surprise, is all," you reassure him.

He lights up again, then turns to the shorter skeleton. "SANS! INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE HUMAN PROPERLY!"

'Sans' grins, giving you a lackadaisical wave. "'sup?"

"SANS, THAT WAS AWFUL. TRY AGAIN! AND QUIT BEING SO LAZY!" Papyrus admonishes, folding his arms across his chest.

"'sup? 'm sans. sans the skeleton. nice to meet ya." Sans still doesn't move.

You smile again, waving back. "Nice to meet you, too."

"THAT WASN'T TOO BAD. AT LEAST YOU DIDN'T USE ONE OF YOUR GOD-AWFUL PUNS." Papyrus turns to you, an apologetic expression written all over his skull. "I KNOW HE'S LAZY, HAS A TERRIBLE SENSE OF HUMOR, AND REFUSES TO PICK UP HIS DIRTY SOCKS, BUT SANS IS THE BEST BIG BROTHER EVER! HE'S VERY SMART, BUT HE NEVER REALLY APPLIES HIMSELF OUTSIDE OF HIS JOB," Papyrus trails off, and shakes his head while Sans only chuckles. You want to squeal; after all, you're a sucker for brothers who love each other like this. You can tell Sans loves Papyrus by the way he looks at his little brother. Dammit, these two are fucking adorable.

"aw, bro. that was too sweet. ya shouldn't have." Sans props his feet onto the table. Papyrus immediately begins to scold him. The two brothers continue their little banter, so Undyne pushes you towards Toriel and Asgore.

"I can walk, you know," you say over your shoulder to Undyne, another smile threatening to break out on your lips. Undyne lets you go, a sheepish look on her face.

"Sorry! I'm just really pumped for you to meet the King!" she responds. "He's not as intimidating as he looks. Trust me on that."

You actually think Asgore isn't very intimidating at all. With his floral, multi-color Hawaiian shirt, fluffy fur, and his kind eyes, he looks more like a soccer dad than he does a king. You suppose he must look far more menacing when he has his armor on and his trident-like weapon out. When he spots you, he smiles. Toriel is next to him, and she greets you first.

"Hello, child. I'm glad you were able to make it. This is my husband, Asgore," she says, shifting in her seat a bit.

"Howdy, Miss (L/N)! It's a pleasure to finally meet you," he says, offering his large paw. You shake it, a bit awkwardly because of the difference in size.

"It's great to meet you, King Asgore," you say, your hand dropping to your side.

"Oh, just call me Asgore. I'm not one for formality when it comes to family and friends. Please, have a seat with us!" He gestures to the open seat next to Alphys. "Undyne, will you get Papyrus and Sans, please?"

"Yessir!" she replies, darting over to the brothers. Papyrus has Sans under his arms for some reason, and Sans is just kind of...limp. Papyrus is yelling something about god-awful puns, and Sans is not retaliating. You chuckle, then turn to Alphys.

"Are they always like this?" you ask, watching as Undyne joins the two. She starts trying to pull Sans away from Papyrus.

"P-pretty much," she replies. Man, is it just you or is it warm in here? You realize you're starting to sweat, so you pull your (f/c) hoodie off, and drape it over the chair you are assigned to.

"Oh my g-gosh. I love your sh-shirt," Alphys squeals. You look down to see that you've chosen to wear your favorite anime fandom t-shirt. Excitement begins to boil in your veins. Yes! She likes your favorite anime! Maybe it won't be so difficult to be friends with them!

"Thank you so much!" you squeal. Undyne appears by Alphys' side. The fish monster glances at your shirt.

"That anime is pretty great," she agrees, hooking an arm around the smaller monster. You hold back a victory screech; Undyne likes it too!

"Are we all ready to sit down?" Toriel asks, her question directed towards the brothers. Everyone, including you, begins to pull out their respective chair. You glance at the menu. It looks pretty impressive: there's a breakfast section, and it states underneath the header that breakfast is served all day. There's also a lunch and dinner section, both of which are served all day as well. Oh man, there's so many options! More than the typical human restaurant, at least. Ugh, what should you get?! You turn the page. There isn't any human soda listed; instead, there is a list of...monster soda. From what the description tells you, it's homemade fresh every day. Your eyes wander over the different flavors: there are the typical fruit flavors, and then there are...stranger ones, like cucumber, peanut butter, lavender...the list goes on. Who drinks peanut butter-flavored soda? You tilt your head in deep consideration. Your eyes run over the list of alcoholic beverages. The situation is similar here, too. Echo Elderflower? The description says it's made with refined sugar, elderflower, echo flower, and lemon. Echo Flower? What does that taste like?

You glance at Undyne. She appears to be finished browsing through the menu, and is now poking at the table cloth. You elbow her.

"What's up?" she asks, her gaze shifting towards you. She's twirling a fork between her webbed fingers.

"What do you recommend for drinks? There's so many options to choose from, and I've never been here before," you say, setting your menu down.

Undyne frowns for a second. "Are you talking about alcohol? Or just that boring, old monster soda?' She waggles her eye...scales...a little bit, making you laugh.

"Boring, old monster soda," you reply. As curious as you are about the alcohol, it's probably not a good idea to start drinking in front of the king and queen. Bad things happen when you get drunk.

"Aw, come on, punk! Try at least one!" she sighs, putting her elbow on the table.

"I can't drink in front of all of these important people!" you counter, trying to keep your voice hushed.

"One won't hurt, trust me. Listen, the king and queen are pretty chill when it comes to this stuff. As long as you don't overdo it, you can have a little bit of fun. C'mon, punk. Just one," she says. You sigh, then look back down at the menu. She's right, one can't hurt, can it? But then again, you don't know what's in monster alcohol, or how it affects humans. Although, if the government made it legal for monsters to open a restaurant, then the food has to be safe. Besides, what's the worst that can happen? You get a little tipsy and make a fool out of yourself. Eh, worse has happened to you before. Embarrassing yourself is something that happens to you a lot. More like on a daily basis.

"Fine. But just one, though. What do you recommend?" you ask, opening up the menu again. Undyne moves so she can peer over your shoulder.

"Hm...okay, you might want to start out with something a little gentle. Enough to get a little buzz going, but not enough to make you completely out of it. Let's see...oh! The Lady Lilac is pretty good! It's lilac extract mixed with a hint of sugar and a bit of magic to enhance the flavor, and zinfandel. It's sort of fruity and bitter-sweet, but it's pretty good. Grillby makes some kick-ass floral and herbal based alcohol."

You nod. "Okay. I'll try that." Now, you need to decide what to eat. If you're being honest with yourself, you're pretty appalled at the variety of food here. It takes you a while to decide, but you make a decision eventually, and Undyne seems pretty satisfied with your choice.

A younger monster walks by your table and stops at the head of it. You wouldn't be surprised if your eyes popped out of your head out of sheer surprise. This monster is absolutely stunning; she's literally on fire. Even better, her flames are green. Her flames are ombrè, going from a dark green at her legs to a pale green at the top of her head. She has small, shiny diamonds the color of coal that appear to serve as eyes, and she's wearing a dark black shirt, along with dark pants. She's beautiful! Dammit, why can't you be made out of fire?! Is it really too much to ask?! What the hell, this isn't fair! You want to be a monster!

"Good afternoon, friends! How may I serve you?" Her voice is light and warm, and it makes you want to float for some reason.

"Fuku! How are you?" Toriel asks, setting down her menu and folding her paws in her lap.

"Oh, I've been fine lately. And you?" the girl - Fuku - replies.

"We're doing well," the queen of monsters replies. Undyne waves at Fuku, then gestures to you.

"Fuku! This is (Y/N), she saved Alphys' life earlier today," she explains. It's so hot in here...you think. Then, you remember that you're in the presence of a living flame.

Well, that explains a lot.

"It's nice to meet you," Fuku says, giving you a small wave. She's carrying a small notepad. "I'm Grillby's daughter, and I usually help out around here."

"Nice to meet you too!" you say, straightening your posture a little bit.

"It's always great to have new customers! So, what can I get you all started with to drink?"

After you all have ordered, the small talk begins.

"So, how is progress on monster rights coming along?" you ask. You're genuinely curious; you don't have a lot of free time on your hands, so you only get to watch snippets of the news every now and then.

"From our last meeting with the president, they told us that they're beginning to write amendments for the Constitution. We've been told that we're going to receive the same rights as humans, and that the bill of rights will soon apply to us," Asgore answers happily. "We can tell that it's going to take a while, though, as they're still debating on what rights monsters should have with magic, but it's progress nonetheless."

You frown, taking a sip of your drink. Undyne was right; it's a delicious combination of fruit, bitter-sweetness, and sweetened lilac. There's an underlying citric taste, and it's ice cold. There's a little orange umbrella in the glass, too. You giggle, for some reason those umbrellas have always been your favorite part of the drink. The drink itself is a beautiful shade of burgundy. When the liquid touches your lips, you swear you can feel a faint tingle. It must be the magic, you think.

"That's good to hear," you say, "but...the only kind of magic I've seen monsters wield so far is healing magic. Are there other types, too? And, if so, is that why the government is having trouble thinking of ways that monsters can legally use magic? How far too far would be?"

Asgore nods, "There are different types of magic. For example, Undyne can summon spears, Toriel and I can summon fireballs, Sans and Papyrus can summon and manipulate bones and blasters," he sighs, shaking his head slightly. "There's an unlimited amount of different types of magic, and it varies for each SOUL. No two SOULs have the same kind of magic."

Your jaw practically becomes unhinged. "You and Toriel are pyrokinetic?! Undyne is hastakinetic?! Sans and Papyrus are osteokinetic?! And you know healing magic?!" you nearly yell. This is so unfair!

"...What the hell is has-ta-kin-e-sis?" Undyne is the first to say.

Your expression turns sheepish. "I'm sorry. I'm...really into magic. I made that name up, but hasta is 'spear' in Latin, so I just popped that with 'kinesis', and, I think it sounds pretty decent. I couldn't find anything about controlling spears online, but I did take a little bit of Latin in high school. So...yeah." You unconsciously rub the back of your neck. Ugh, why do you do this?

The group chuckles.

"THERE IS A NAME FOR OUR MAGIC? SANS, YOU DID NOT TELL ME THIS!" Papyrus says.

Sans looks mildly shocked at your little outburst. "didn't know is was called...osteokinesis. guess that makes sense. why osteo, though?" he asks you.

You bite your lip. "Osteo is a prefix that means 'relating to the bones'," you answer.

He squints, seemingly lost in thought. "interesting."

"BUT SANS CAN MOVE THINGS WITH HIS MIND! WHAT'S THAT CALLED?" Papyrus asks. You can hear the curiosity leaking from his voice, too. In Sans' voice, the curiosity wasn't nearly as evident as it is in Papyrus', but you could hear it. You chuckle gently.

But Sans can...move things with his mind? What the hell? You can't do that!

"Hm...when you move stuff, do you have to focus or can you use mental effort alone?" you ask.

"mental effort alone," he answers. You tilt your head in thought as the two skeletons study you intently.

"Then you're psychokinetic. I think telekinesis requires focus, er, at least that's my interpretation of it," you reply. "Or maybe they're the same thing. It doesn't matter; in my opinion, it's all based off of interpretation alone."

"You seem to know a lot about magic," Asgore notes. "Or, at least human interpretations of it."

"A-anime does that t-to you," Alphys cuts in, a sheepish look on her face. You give her a nod of approval, and she smiles in response.

You chuckle. "It does," you take another sip of your drink. "What...is magic, exactly? I know several TV shows, books, and video games have established different depictions or explanations of it, but...I don't think humans really know what it is."

Alphys tilts her head in thought, while Sans turns towards you again. Toriel and Asgore glance at each other, and Undyne gives you an amused look.

"It's...difficult to explain," Toriel starts, "but I think...magic itself is still an enigma to even monsters. We can use it, wield it, and master it, but we cannot truly understand it. It is a vital part of monster SOULs, and it is...powerful."

"I think it's like you said, (Y/N). It's solely based upon someone's own interpretation. Magic has no bounds or limits that we know of," Asgore says. His massive paws tap on the table for a second. "You might want to talk to Gerson. He's an old geezer like Toriel and myself, but he knows far more about magic than we do. I'll have Undyne send you his contact information later on."

Ooh, another old monster who might have a deeper understanding about magic? You're sold. "Oh, I'd love that! Thank you, Asgore!"

He smiles, a deep laugh escaping him. "You're quite welcome, Miss (Y/N)."

"I THINK MAGIC IS A WAY SOMEONE CAN EXPRESS THEMSELVES!" Papyrus adds. "IT'S A WAY FOR PEOPLE TO DISPLAY THEIR GREATNESS!"

"a way to communicate. if it's possible for humans to wield magic, then it's possible there could actually be a universal language amongst monsters and mankind. kinda mind blowin' when ya think about it," Sans says, taking the ketchup bottle and pouring an unnecessary amount of ketchup into his mouth. You think that's sort of funny, actually. He catches you staring at the absurd amount of ketchup and winks. "what? have ya mustard the courage to ketchup yet?"

You nearly choke on your sip of drink, then burst out laughing. Wordplay has always been funny to you, and you're always jealous of witty people. Toriel and Asgore are snickering, while Undyne, Papyrus, and Alphys are just groaning.

"I hope you...condimeant that," Toriel manages to force out through her giggles. Sans grins.

"just relish this moment, tori," His permanent smile grows even larger. You laugh again. Puns are so stupid, yet somehow, they're extremely clever as well, but so damn funny at the same time. That's the magic of puns, isn't it?

"STOP IT! JUST STOP IT! SANS, YOU'RE RUINING LUNCH WITH YOUR TERRIBLE JOKES! STOP NOW!" Papyrus begs.

"Aw, come on, Papyrus," Toriel says. "Aioli want to make good fun."

"NYEEEEEEHHHHH!" Papyrus buries his skull faceplate in his gloved hands. You think Sans might be dying of laughter. You're not much better, as your cheeks are starting to hurt from smiling. You must look like a complete idiot right now.

You smirk, then reply with, "With a little thyme, I can mustard up a decent response."

Yeah, Sans is definitely dying. His laughter is loud, and obnoxious, too, unlike his normal voice. It's kind of cute and definitely fits him. Is it just you or are his cheekbones turning slightly blue? How the hell is that even possible? Magic. It has to be the answer, right?

"NO! SANS, YOU'RE RUINING THE HUMAN!" Papyrus looks as if he might flip the table over.

"i'm just encurryaging her," You're sent into another fit of giggles. This is priceless.

"Papyrus, does this conversation have you in a pickle?" Toriel chimes in.

Undyne stands up suddenly. "NGAHHHH! STOP IT WITH THE DUMB JOKES OR I'M GONNA BREAK YOUR FACE, SANS!"

The shorter skeleton manages to calm himself down enough to speak. He sits up a little more, then his gaze turns to Undyne. "okay. i'll try to stop. no promises, though." Undyne seems relatively satisfied with this, then sits down again. She glares at you after you make eye contact with Sans and you both break out into another fit of giggles.

"Anyway," you start, "what anime do you guys watch?"

Alphys perks up and turns towards you. "O-oh! Let's see, we watch Mew Mew Kissy Cutie, One Punch Man..." She lists more names of anime titles, some of which are familiar to you, but you haven't watched, some you have watched, and some you've never heard of. Undyne joins in every now and then. She seems just as enthusiastic about anime as Alphys.

"Dude! You should totally come to our next Anime Night," Undyne says suddenly.

"Y-yes! She should," Alphys agrees.

"That sounds awesome," you say, growing more and more excited by the second. It's been so long since you've watched anime with a group of people who understand!

"Here! L-let me see your phone and I'll give y-you our numbers so we can k-keep in touch," Alphys says. You nod, then take out your phone from your purse. Undyne looks away for a second, then looks back at you.

Your thoughts are interrupted when Fuku brings out a tray filled with everyone's orders. Alphys hands you your phone back, and you see that she added both her number and Undyne's number. They're listed under "Undyne the Undying ┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘" and "Alphys (✿◠‿◠)". You grin, shaking your head slightly before turning your phone off and putting it away. Alphys hands you her phone, which you type your number into and put it under your name. For kicks and giggles, you add a (⊙ヮ⊙) face next to your name.

Fuku passes out all of your food, and you thank her. Her flames grow a little brighter when you compliment her pretty flames and she thanks you, telling you that you're 'too kind' before leaving with the now-empty tray under her arm.

Your dish looks gorgeous. It looks to be perfectly prepared. You dig in. It's love at first bite. Dammit, is it illegal to marry food? You'll have to google that later on. If it is, then that's bullshit, because you're in love.

"You like it?" Undyne asks. You can only nod in delight as you continue eating. Undyne chuckles at your expression. Everyone is silent as they eat. You're definitely going to come back to eat here again.

About ten or fifteen minutes later, everyone's respective plate has been cleared. Fuku comes to collect the dirty dishes, and asks about desert. Everyone's too stuffed to accept the offer, no matter how appealing the sweets look on the menu. Despite your protests, Asgore insists on paying for lunch.

"You saved Alphys' life. If you will not accept anything else, at least let me pay for lunch," he says. You groan. You hate it when people pay for your food, even though it's a kind gesture. It makes you feel dependent, and you aren't reliant on others at all.

"Thank you, Asgore," you say like a defeated child.

"You're quite welcome," he says, standing up. He checks his watch, then looks up at the group. "Well, I apologize, but Toriel and I must leave for another meeting. Miss (L/N), it was a pleasure to meet you."

You grin. Damn, you've been smiling a lot today. At least, more than usual. "It was a pleasure to meet you, too, Asgore."

"Alright. Well, goodbye, everyone," Toriel says.

"See you all later," Asgore waves.

"See ya later, King Fluffybuns!" Undyne roars, then bursts out laughing. You see Asgore slightly shaking his head. The two goat monsters link arms, then they walk out of the restaurant.

Without warning, Undyne grabs your bicep and pulls you aside from where Sans and Papyrus are still sitting and chatting with Alphys. None of them notice you or Undyne.

"Okay, punk," Undyne has The Real-Life Shipper Expression on her face, "have you noticed that Sans keeps staring at you?"

You frown, every trace of a smile gone. "What? No, I haven't." Is he secretly some perverted skeleton creep? You can't help but wonder.

She snickers again. "Just stay aware and you might catch him," she cackles. What the fuck? He's staring? At me, of all people? Will I have to kick his ass-er, tailbone? Questions litter your mind, but you're too flustered to sort through them all right now. You're tempted to go confront him, but the more rational side of you tells you to slow down and think this through. He's got to have a reason, right?

"He's not being creepy, if that's what you're thinking," Undyne says. You fiddle with the hem of your shirt. "He's a pretty nice guy, and he's just curious about humans. He won't do anything to hurt you as long as you aren't mean to any of us. 'Kay?" she asks. You nod, but still can't help but feel creeped out. Undyne glances back at the table, then turns back towards you.

"Three o' clock. He's not looking at your head," she snickers at this. Oh shit.

You turn slowly to see the accusing skeleton. Papyrus and Alphys are deep in conversation, and Sans, sure enough, is staring. More specifically, he's staring straight at your chest. You can hear Undyne's laughter from beside you, even though you can tell she's desperately trying to suppress it.

What that fuck?! You can already feel your cheeks heating up. You risk a glance down. The shirt you're wearing is covering your entire chest. So why...? Your thoughts come to a dead stop as you come to a sudden realization.

He's not staring at your chest. He's studying your Skyrim necklace. This brings a flood of relief through you; you're glad you won't have to deal with some creepy, perverted skeleton. You turn back to Undyne.

"It's not my chest he's staring at, it's my necklace," you tell her. Undyne shakes her head.

"What does it mean?" she asks, investigating the dragon-shaped charm hanging from your neck. "It looks familiar."

"It's from The Elder Scrolls Five: Skyrim. It's a video game," you respond, taking the charm between your fingers. It's made of smooth, hard steel, and is warm from your body heat. You got it in middle school when one of your friends persuaded you to trade one of your nerd pins for the necklace.

"I think he plays that, actually," Undyne states. You sneak a glance back at the table. Sans has returned his attention to the conversation there. You sigh in relief. He seems like a cool guy, and you're glad he's not a creep. You've had too many creeper incidents in your life, and you don't want to get on Sans' bad side. "He's into video games." Her smirk grows. "Looks like you two have something in common."

You roll your eyes. "I'm going to confront him. I'll be right back." You walk over to the table, and Undyne follows you.

"Hey Papyrus!" Undyne yells, waving her arms around excitedly, "I gotta show you something! C'mere!"

Papyrus nods, then says a few quick words to the other two monsters next to him. He stands up and runs to Undyne. You give her a thankful glance, and she gives you a thumbs-up. As sweet as Papyrus is, he seems like the type to get uncomfortable in these types of situations. You don't want to cause him more discomfort than he'll get in life. You slide into your seat again.

Sans starts staring again. You chuckle.

"My eyes are up here," you joke, taking your necklace into your fingers again.

You weren't aware of how quickly skeletons could change color. His face turns as blue as his jacket.

"oh...um...'m sorry. i wasn't...looking...i was lookin' at your necklace, i swear i was lookin' at that. oh stars, 'm really sorry, i didn't mean that...i wasn't...ugh!" He flips his hoodie onto his head and pulls the drawstrings closed. You laugh again.

"I know, I know. I was just kidding. It's cool. You...don't have to hide." You're on the verge of a full-blown laugh attack, but for the sake of this poor skeleton's dignity, you refrain from laughing at him. He doesn't say anything, but you know he listened to you. Maybe he just needs time? Should you reassure him again?

"S-Sans, it's okay. You can come o-out now." Alphys is faring no better than you, it seems, and she's hiding her smile behind her hands, snout lightly dusted with red. Maybe you should change the subject?

"Do you play Skyrim?" you ask him. He peeks out from under his hood.

"...yeah," he mumbles.

"I do, too. What level are you? I'm only level twenty-four. I know I'm a noob, but it's such a good series! I've just been a bit busy lately." You look over to see if Undyne and Papyrus have yet to return, but they're still in the corner of the store, chatting away. Undyne spots you, then gestures to Sans. Papyrus sees this, then comes over to check on Sans.

"one-hundred and seventy-two," Sans responds, still locked away in Hoodlovania.

"BROTHER! WHAT IS WRONG?" Papyrus asks, striding over with Undyne close in tow.

"nothin', bro," Sans replies. Papyrus yanks off the littler skeleton's hoodie and peers a little closer. Sans is still blue, but it's a paler shade than it was before. He blatantly refuses to look you in the eye.

"OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING IS WRONG! YOU'RE AS BLUE AS AN ECHO FLOWER! IT IS VERY HARD TO FLUSTER YOU, YOU KNOW, SO SOMETHING'S EVIDENTLY DISTURBING YOU!" Papyrus says, concern evident on his faceplate. You can't help but wonder how their skull can be so malleable for something made of bone. It must be their magic.

You phone begins to vibrate in your purse, so you excuse yourself, dig it out, then you slide your pointer finger across the bottom and it answer it. You stand up and go somewhere quiet.

"Hello?" you ask into the receiver, stepping away from the crowd.

"Hey, (L/N)." You recognize this voice as your coach's.

"Hey, Coach. What's up?" you ask, leaning against the wall of the restaurant.

"Nothing as of right now. But, we just got a new swimmer on the team. They're pretty important, too. They're eleven years old, and their mother wants them to get some extra coaching time in for them. This is their first season of swimming ever, and I want you to tutor them. You up for it?" he asks.

You pause. A new swimmer, huh? Eleven years old, somehow important, and, it sounds like, inexperienced. You bite your lip.

"Okay. I'll do it. When are they coming in?" you ask.

"Tomorrow morning at practice. Nine and up session," he replies. A few humans pass you, not even attempting to hide their staring. This scar is going to take some getting used to, you think.

"Okay. I'll be there. See you tomorrow," you say, ignoring the number of humans staring at you.

"Bye, (L/N)." He hangs up first. You turn your phone off, then you shove it back inside your purse. You check the time; it's nearing one-thirty. You should probably get home; after all, you have manga to read before your evening job.

You turn, then head back inside the diner. Undyne, Papyrus, Sans, and Alphys are at the table. You approach the four.

"Hey guys. I have to head home, but thank you for inviting me! It was fun." You smile, grab your hoodie from off of the chair. "It was great to meet you all!"

Undyne and Alphys smile. "Heh. No problem, punk! We're gonna invite you over for an Anime Night, so keep your eyes peeled!" Undyne commands.

"(Y-Y/N)," Alphys starts, "I wish we could h-have met under d-different circumstances, but nonetheless, it was g-great to meet you, too!"

You grin, then wave at the two skeletons. Sans makes eye contact with you, and you give him a smile. He can't seem to hold eye contact with you, but he gives you a little smile too. Papyrus gives you an enthusiastic little wave.

"See you guys!" you say. You turn around, then you take a moment to pull your hoodie over your head, flipping your hood on. You head out to your beloved Jeep, hop in, then zoom out into the rainy afternoon. When you get home, you decide to start on your manga. Burgerpants must have have left, so you decide to call him up later on to tell him what happened earlier. You chuckle; today's been one hell of a day.

You're excited to see what the future brings.

Chapter Text

Chapter III – Emanation

Well, the way your manga ended could have been worse. It could have decided to rip out your very SOUL and crush it right then and there in front of your face, but it didn't, thankfully, unlike some other series. Well, that was a nice turn of events. You get up from your couch, then stretch your arms and legs out. It only took you less than thirty minutes to finish that book, as you're a pretty fast reader. You set it down on the coffee table to check the time. It's nearing three o' clock. Burgerpants is probably going to be home soon, and he'll definitely want to know about the fight earlier today. You snort to yourself; honestly, you can't believe the dick who attacked Alphys. How could he be so stupid as to attack her in public? You don't know, but all that matters is that he's in jail and Alphys wasn't hurt by him. You wonder when his trial date will be set. Maybe Alphys will tell you later on.

You run your fingers through your tangled hair, sighing. Your eyes glance around your small apartment. Covering the walls are posters of different anime and fandoms that you've fallen in love with over the years, some of movies, others of video games. There isn't an inch of space left on your living room wall. If you buy more posters, you're probably going to have to find a way to put them on the ceiling. To the right of the front door is your small dining room. Its table is brown, and it is scuffed and scratched from the abuse you've caused it throughout its time here in your home. There are a few papers on it, some of them relating to swimming, others relate to your evening job as a magazine article author, and some of it are just pictures of stars know what. Across from your dining room is your pitiful little kitchen. It's really small, and it has bland tile on the floor. There are billions of magnets covering your fridge. The cabinets are made of mahogany wood, which adds a tiny bit of a pop of color to the kitchen besides the magnet-covered fridge. Your living room consists of a long, (f/c) dyed leather couch. The left end is longer than the other sections of the couch, creating a bed-like section, and there are a few fandom-themed pillows scattered here and there. You have a fifty-five-inch TV, and it sits atop a metal countertop stand, which also contains your Xbox One, the Wii you don't really use anymore, and your beloved Nintendo Cube that you're never selling to anyone for any reason. Your aunt gave it to you, and made you promise not to give it away for a few years.

You walk to your bedroom, your feet padding along the carpeted floor. The hallway walls aren't an exception when it comes to where you put your posters, and there are many here as well. You pass your Skyrim poster and smirk, remembering the incident from earlier. Your room is pretty big for an apartment: you have a full-sized bed that sits along the left wall, your two nightstands beside it. Your desk is in the opposite corner, and your laptop sits on top of it, hooked up to its charger. Your dresser is a little messy, so you go and collect the fallen clothes, sorting through the dirty ones and the clean ones. You toss the dirty ones in the hamper, then return the cleaner ones to their rightful places in their respective drawers. You turn to the window on the next wall. It overlooks the town you live in, and in the distance, you can see the crooked peak of Mount Ebott looming over the world. Your eyebrows furrow. It's kind of weird to think your newly-made friends and neighbor were once trapped underneath that very peak. Instantly, you were reminded of the day the Barrier was broken by the ambassador of monsters.

At first, it almost sounded like a supersonic boom that took place worldwide, and, gradually, humans began to sense a new, strange, and tingly sensation deep within their chests. No one had any explanation as to what was going on, but eventually people who lived closer to the mountain caught sight of the monsters. Word had spread like a wildfire after that; pictures of King Asgore and the other monsters, some claiming that the monsters were hostile and needed to be slaughtered, others claiming that the monsters were peaceful and only wished to remain on the Surface. There were so many rumors, so many photoshopped pictures, and so many false reports and facts that, at one point, you weren't sure which ones were real and which ones were fake. Apparently, you weren't the only one with this problem, so the government brought on their best internet gurus and began sorting through the facts, deleting the ones that weren't real or truthful. The monsters even got their own news station that was also controlled by the government's most trusted newscasters and such. You didn't like the idea that the government had so much control over what kinds of facts were rolling out through the monster's news stations. You think everything's dying down enough to the point where they can hand it over to the media now.

What scares you even more is that the quadannual presidential election is coming up in a few months, and some of the candidates are heavily anti-monster, much like a good portion of the United States, sadly. There are other candidates, too, some are pro-monster, and the others are third parties who have mixed opinions. You're hoping to the stars an anti-monster candidate doesn't win, because stars know what the person will do to the output of facts on monsters...

You sigh. Personally, you think this is all bullshit. Look how humanity treated monsters thousands of years ago: slaughtered by the thousands and forced Underground, and now, at least there are a good amount of people who like them and want them to integrate with society. You mean, how would humanity feel if monsters had forced them Underground? It's a theme you learned in preschool that a shocking number of Americans still don't know how to abide by, which is fucking sad.

You don't realize that you're nervously tapping your fingers on the windowsill, absently staring at the mountain. The entire situation is a huge mess, and so is America, but there's nothing you can do about the government and the people of the United States right now. However, there is something you can do to attempt to change people's minds on the monsters locally...

Your evening job as a writer. You were hired to write an article about anything you feel like, and you're paid pretty well for it. Plus, it's about time for you to get your head on straight and start thinking of a prompt. Hm, it may not serve you well if the boss is anti-monster, though...but that's a risk worth taking, you think. You decide to write about your lunch with the monsters, and your overall opinion on them. You nod to yourself. That's definitely a good prompt.

There's a knock at the door, which nearly makes you yell. You jump a little bit, then you turn from the window to go answer it.

You peek through the little glass hole to see a rather impatient-looking Burgerpants. You giggle, then unlock the door and pull it open.

"About time you answered," he states as you step aside for him to come in. He steps into your humble abode, then plops down on your couch. You walk over to the fridge and grab two cans of soda; one is Pepsi, which Burgerpants has taken a liking to ever since you persuaded him to try one a few months ago, and the other one is a can of your favorite drink. You close the fridge with your hip, then stride into the living room, tossing BP his soda.

"Thanks, (L/N)." He pops the little tab thingy, then takes a swig. You open your own and allow the cool liquid into your mouth.

"No problem," you respond, setting the can down onto the coffee table. He keeps his in his paw-like hands and then his eyes squint, narrowing in on you.

"Okay. Talk to me."

You tell Burgerpants about the entire day you've had so far, and don't fail to leave out a detail. He looks stunned and a little amused, occasionally jumping in with a question or taking a sip from his can of Pepsi.

"Wow. So you met the gang, huh?" he chuckles. "They're a pretty cool bunch. What do you think of them?"

You aren't surprised that BP knows the other monsters. Every monster you've met seems to know the rest of the Underground. You think it's kind of cool, and you guess it makes sense that every monster knows each other since they were all locked Underground together.

"They're great! Asgore is really nice, Toriel sort of reminds of my mom, Undyne is just badass, Alphys is so sweet. Oh, and I love how they're already engaged! They're just adorable together! And Sans and Papyrus are the sweetest brothers I've ever met." You giggle.

BP nods. "Yeah. I knew you'd like them. Um, anyway, the engagement thing has reminded me of something I need to talk to you about..." You frown. You can sense that his sarcastic aura has been depleted by something, and he's being serious. "Okay, so, there's this guy...his name's Quinn. He's the Nice Cream Vendor that works around the park sometimes. He's got blue fur and big ears...have you seen him?" he asks. You nod; you see him with his stand in the park a lot. You gesture for him to continue. "Oh yeah. Well, anyway, I've seen him Underground for as long as I remember, but I never really worked up the nerve to talk to him until yesterday." You already know where this is going, but he looks like a lost child right now, so you let him finish. "He's really nice, and he's..." He can't seem to spit the words out, so you finish his sentence.

"You like him, don't you?" you say, every hint of teasing gone from your voice. Oh, god, here comes the fangirl ramble: "Dammit, BP, I FUCKING KNEW IT!" You stop, because he looks pretty embarrassed. "Okay, look. What's holding you back from talking to him further?"

"I don't know. I feel like...maybe I'm scared he won't return the feeling. Or maybe he'll just flat-out reject me. Or I'm not good enough for him." He curls up in a little ball, his tail flicking back and forth.

You sit up, then put your elbows on your knees, folding your hands together. "BP, listen to me. It's completely normal to feel scared about this kind of thing. But, trust me, if you just be yourself, go out there and talk to him, then it'll be completely f-"

"No. I can't do it. Every time I see him, I just...I can't function, (L/N). I get speechless, too nervous to say something...it's just bad. I can't."

You frown. Hearing this from someone like BP is concerning. He's completely serious, and you know that this has to be hard for him, considering his past and all. You curl up in a ball, hugging your knees to your chest. You chew on your fingernail a bit. If BP gets speechless around someone, then it's a pretty significant situation for him. But you can't not try to hook these two up. You look back at BP. He's studying you with an intent gaze. He knows you're thinking, just from your position.

"I have an idea. Give me a few days, BP, and I'll get the two of you on a date in no time. Trust me on this." You stand, then sit next to him, taking his hand. "I refuse to let you beat yourself up over this. Look. I'll talk to Quinn tomorrow. I think his shift for today has already ended, so I'll go tomorrow." Your fangirl senses are tingling in your veins. This is your area of expertise in real life. You got this.

He looks a little...you can't really read his expression, it's inscrutable. So you continue. "Honestly, BP, if anything, Quinn isn't good enough for you." You cut him off when he tries to respond. "Listen. You work your ass off, and you've pulled yourself through some pretty tough situations, am I right?" He nods, still silent. "So why are you not good enough for Quinn? You're a hard worker, you're a tsundere." You smirk at his confused expression. You haven't known Quinn for long, but you have a feeling that he might have a thing for tsunderes. "And you're really funny. Trust me on this, BP. I'll get you on a date with him. Give me some time." You grin, and he bites his lip.

"...Okay. Thanks, (Y/N). I...I really appreciate it." Yeah, definitely a tsundere. You smile again, then his face scrunches up in confusion. "Um...what's a tsundere?"

You giggle. "Google it."

He rolls his eyes. Yup, you can feel his sarcastic aura replenishing again. There's your favorite asshole!

"You know what? I actually don't want to know. It's probably part of one of your stupid Japanimation cartoons anyway." He shakes his head. "Well, I'm done being emotional for today. I'll leave you alone for now. See you later!" He gets up, then heads for the front door. You say goodbye and watch him as he leaves. You shake your head. Burgerpants will always be one of your favorite shitheads. You decide you've messed around long enough and get started on your article.

You put your headphones on, and then you play your favorite music and get typing.

Once you've finished proofreading your article, you're about spent. You use your last bits of energy to hop in the shower, then you change into your pajamas and enter your bedroom. The bedsheets are messy and unmade, and you climb into bed and pull the sheets over you, the events of the day replaying through your mind.

"ONE PUUUNNNNNNNNNNCHHHHHHHHHH! Three, two, one, KILL SHOT! Sanjou! Hisshou! Shijou sakiyou!"

Not this again. You open your heavy eyelids, and you're met with the shadows of your room. You close your eyes again, then sigh. Today is the day of the new swimmer. You roll onto your stomach, your arms on either side of the pillow. Maybe you'll be able to get out of your bed more smoothly this time. But then again, you don't have to get up if you call in sick today...

No. You have a responsibility as a coach. Get the hell up. Now. That little voice wins the little argument with yourself, so you sit up. You hold your arms out in front of you and stretch them out, then you pull your blankets off of yourself. You double-check to make sure that your legs are not captured in the blankets before you swing them over the side. You reach over to your charger and gently pull your phone off of its charger. The coach hasn't sent any emails, it looks like, so the weather must've cleared up.

You yawn as you stand, turning your phone off. You start off your day by brewing a cup of much-needed coffee, then you find your practice bathing suit, which is hanging up in your bathroom. You pull it on, untwisting the straps when they roll up into a bunch on your skin. You pull on a pair of shorts and a shirt that displays your team's logo. You give your teeth a quick brush before jerking a brush through your tangled hair. You find your swim bag, which is residing next to the bathtub. You toss in your goggles and swim cap, and you put a piece of paper in which contains a set of swim drills and sprints. Tugging the zipper closed, you double-check that you have everything. You grab a towel and throw it in with your other stuff, then put your phone in the side pocket. Okay, looks like you're about ready to rock. You make another cup of coffee in a to-go cup, and with that, you're out of there.

The walk to the pool is only two or three minutes long. You sip from your steaming cup every now and then. It's pretty quiet this morning. The streets are empty, houses devoid of light, and shadows creeping around every corner. It's cool this morning, and you can feel a gentle breeze fluttering past and ruffling your hair. Practice doesn't start for another two hours, but you and the other coaches get your swim of the day in first. That takes about an hour and a half, and the head coach uses the extra half hour to discuss what strokes the team needs to focus on that practice.

When you get to the pool, you notice that the head coach is already here, as per usual, his silver truck parked in the corner. You walk inside the front gate. The pool is huge; there are eight lanes, and the deep end goes up to twelve feet. There are a few water slides, a diving board, and a basketball goal in the shallow end. Your coach is standing near a table, on the deck away from the pool.

You're always the first assistant coach here. You walk up to the table he's at, then you plop your stuff down on the chair.

"Mornin', (L/N)!" He greets you. He's a man entering his fifties, short hair beginning to grey. His real name is Warner, but you fell into the habit of calling him "coach" years ago, and now you find it hard to stop. He doesn't seem to mind, though.

"Good morning!" you respond. It must too dark for him to make out the new addition to your face yet.

"Did you enjoy your day off yesterday?" he asks. You can make out his silhouette as he moves to get something off of the table.

"I did! It was chaotic, but great at the same time!" you reply. Chaotic. That was one way to describe it.

"That's good to hear. Now," He stops what he's doing and turns to you. "I need to talk to you about the new swimmer I told you about yesterday."

"Go on," you encourage, leaning on the chair.

"This eleven-year-old is not the average eleven-year-old. This kid...well, they're the ambassador of monsters."

...What? But...Toriel and Asgore were at lunch yesterday...then it occurred to you that the ambassador of monsters was probably pretty busy. You mentally slap yourself for being so stupid.

"Whoa. That's...wow. Okay." You inhale deeply. You know what? There's really no use panicking over this, because you're just going to get yourself worked up for no reason at all. It's okay, you can do this!

"Are you up for it?" he asks.

"...Yeah. I think I am," you respond.

"Good. I think you'll like them, they're really sweet. At least, they were nice to me." You can see his shoulders shake, which means he must be chuckling. "Hey, would you mind turning on the pool lights?"

You nod. "Of course." You drop your goggles onto the table, and then you go inside the tent-like building that stands next to the baby pool. You walk inside, passing all the swimming supplies, then you find the light switch labelled: 'Pool'. You flick it on. When you walk back outside; you see that the underwater lights have turned on, illuminating the water. It's cast in a shade of blue from a mix of the color of the tile and the chemicals in the water. Coach thanks you.

"You're welcome," you respond, pulling off your coverup. The other coaches will be arriving soon, so, you start getting ready. You pull your swim cap over your head after you dip it into the water a few times, then you push the loose strands of hair up under the material. You pull your goggles over your eyes, pushing them with the palm of your hand so you could apply equal pressure across the goggle. You stretch your legs and arms a little bit, then you jump in the deep end. The water is cool, enveloping you in a cool embrace. You butterfly kick up to the surface, then take a shallow breath before you submerge again.

The water looks so strange: you can make out the blackness of the sky through a thick film of blue. You pop your ears as you touch the bottom of the twelve-foot end. You have enough air left to stay for a few more seconds, you think. It's so pretty; the blue is wavering from your movement, making the blackness move a little bit. You look around to see the bright lights shining around you. You wonder what it would feel like to swim in complete blackness. You desperately want to try that, even though it's really not a good idea. You push off of the bottom, then begin to kick. Sometimes you wish you could live underwater. You pull your arms down to give you an extra boost. You gulp in air.

"Be careful. There aren't any lifeguards on duty and we really don't need you drowning right now." You begin to tread water and then turn to see another person.

Oh. It's Dustin, one of the other assistant coaches. He's actually the only other assistant coach you like. For some reason, he doesn't ever wear a swim cap, and he always wears a form of motorcycle t-shirt. He's got a mop of red hair and freckles all over his face. He's pretty muscular, and he has bruises in the shape of perfect circles dotting over his back. You don't know what that's called, all you know is that it's some kind of therapy that draws blood into the user's muscles. It supposedly makes them faster. You don't really care for that kind of therapy, or whatever it is called.

You roll your eyes. He's pretty nice to you, and he's a fairly fast swimmer himself. He could probably match you if you were going at a fast pace.

"I think I'll be okay," you reply, splashing him a little bit.

"Hey!" he yelps, jumping back. You smirk. "Don't shoot the messenger! Coach wanted me to tell you that we're about to start swimming."

You nod. "Okay. I'll be over there in a second." He gives you a thumbs up, then walks away. You submerge about seven feet deep, taking a deep breath before you do so, then you start swimming over there. Your head pops up in the seventh lane a few seconds later. There are only three lane lines out, simply because there are only six coaches, including you. Warner is in the eighth lane, pulling his swim cap over his head, and Dustin has disappeared. You can see Camille, who typically goes by Cam, walking over to the seventh lane.

You and Cam never really talk much. She's a short, skinny girl who is fresh out of her junior year in high school, hair blonde, long, and tied up in a ponytail whenever she's swimming. It seems to you that she's always either looking down at her phone or sipping on a Starbucks drink of some sort. Her typical coverup consists of short shorts that barely cover her ass and a tank top with weird patterns on it. She wears too much makeup, in your opinion. She's better at teaching the little kids and the nine and ten-year-olds, while you coach the eleven through twelves. The other four teach the older kids and the adults.

She doesn't greet you, she just hops into lane seven, putting her hair up in a ponytail. You turn away from her.

You can see the final two seventeen and under coaches coming in, hand-in-hand. These two have been dating for two weeks at the most, you guess. The male one is named Dorsey, and you think he's a senior in high school. He's about as tall as you are, and he has dark black hair that's cut in a stupid way. You don't like him much, because he's a douche. His girlfriend is Aviana, a girl who is tall, but not taller than you, has long, dirty blonde hair, and, like Cam, wears too much makeup. She's nicer than Cam, though, and even goes as far as to greet you when she walks past. You greet her back. Dorsey doesn't cast you a second glance, which doesn't disappoint you in the slightest.

Although, it is sort of amusing that you and Dustin are older than all of the other assistant coaches.

Dustin appears from the men's bathroom, swim cap already on and goggles in hand. He jumps in your lane, doing a cannonball to purposely splash you. You roll your eyes again.

"I'm already wet, so joke's on you," you say when he comes up. He shakes his head. The other two coaches who just came in get in Cam's lane.

You all start your practice, with you and Dustin sometimes racing each other. You two trade spots according to the stroke; you're faster at some than he is, and vice versa.

An hour and thirty of minutes goes by in a daze of your body on autopilot as you practice the four different strokes. You do sprint sets and endurance sets, and you keep going despite how sore your muscles get towards the end. You push past the pain, and swim even faster.

The sky has gotten lighter throughout your practice. You hit the wall with your fingers, then stand up, trying to get your breathing under control, your heart racing. Dustin isn't far behind you. You pull off your swim cap and goggles.

"Good swim," he pants. You smile.

"You too," you respond, dunking your head under the water.

The adult coach comes in a few minutes later. She's an older woman, in her late-fifties. Her hair is grey, stuffed into a messy bun. If you recall correctly, then her name is Zora. She smiles at you before turning to Warner.

You pull yourself out of the pool. Your shins are bruised from getting out of the pool like this. You place your knee on the edge, then put your weight onto your arms and lift your other leg onto the side. You stand up, a little disoriented from the change of matter you're standing in right now. Head coach is already at the table, so you all work your way there. You glance at the sky; it's brighter now. You suspect after you all are finished planning the workout for today, your scar will be fully visible. Oh well, you'll explain when you have to cross that bridge.

Your coach tells you that today will be a sprint day, along with butterfly and breaststroke. You smirk; most of the kids hate butterfly.

Your prediction is correct.

"What the hell, (L/N)?!"

"Is that a scar? How did that get there?"

"Whoa, you look so much more badass with that thing!"

"What kind of trouble didja get into this time, (Y/N)?"

"Explain. Now. You youngsters, getting into fights and such these days...lord have mercy."

You laugh at all of the confused stares. Ugh, these reactions are too funny. You shake your head, then tell them about the fight yesterday. Some of them are concerned, others are just shocked, and some are curious.

"That was so heroic!"

"Eh. I've seen better."

"I'm proud of you, (L/N)."

"Why would put yourself in danger like that?"

"A better question to ask would be why the fuck you would save a monster."

The last statement is from Dorsey. He spits the word out like a poison. You turn to him, a grimace on your face. Thankfully, the head coach intervenes before you can give him a piece of your mind.

"Let's just...not talk about this if it's going to get you mad and offended and shit," the head coach says. You and the other coaches snicker at this, while Dorsey just glares at you. You turn away from the group of coaches. Now, the first few swimmers are beginning to arrive. The first session is nine and under. You have another hour until you meet the new swimmer.

Whew. Sure, the little kids are small and cute but damn are they a hard group to work with. You wave the last few goodbye. Recently, monster children began to join, too. There are quite a few of them, actually. As far as you know, all of the kids got along, regardless of species, which made you ecstatic. Now, the sun is out and shining. You took five minutes out of the nine-and-under's practice to explain what happened in a G-rated way. All of them were wide-eyed and completely intrigued the whole time.

"Excuse me?" You turn to see to a small kid behind you. Their hair is a dark brown, eyes green. They're in a t-shirt like swimsuit that's blue, and purple shorts. They're actually really cute, you think.

"Hello! Are you here for swim practice?" you ask, smiling.

They nod. "I'm Frisk. Are you Miss (L/N)? Coach Warner told me you're my tutor."

Oh. So this is the ambassador of monsters, hm? "Yep, that's me! It's nice to meet you, Frisk!"

"It's nice to meet you, too. Oh...um...aren't you the one that saved Dr. Alphys the other day? My mom told me about you."

"Yeah I...I guess I am," you admit, a little shyly. Then, you remember that you're talking to an eleven-year-old, and that you shouldn't be shy. Stars, why are you so stupid?

They smile. "I've heard a lot about you. You seem like a nice person." The child stops smiling, then averts their eyes. "Which reminds me. I know how to swim, but...I'm really not good at all. And I can't go underwater for a long time without holding my nose. Could you help me with that?"

You nod. "Oh, totally!" You kneel down to them. "Hey, look. When I was a kid, before I started swimming I had to hold my nose, too. It's really okay. We'll start small." You flash them a grin.

"Okay. Thank you." They offer you a small smile.

"Alright, we'll get started in a minute. I need to go talk to another coach really quick, but the water's a little chilly today. Why don't you go get used to the temperature while I talk to him, and then we’ll get started?" you ask, gesturing to the pool. They nod, and then scurry off to the pool. You stand, then go over to where Dustin is standing next to Cam.

"Hey," you say, "I have to tutor a kid today, so could you take over the eleven and twelve years today?"

"Of course!" he responds with a grin. You thank him, then turn to search for Frisk. They're standing in the shallow end, talking to a small, yellow monster with a long tail and no arms. You recognize him as Monster Kid, who is in your lane.

You jump into the pool, then work your way over to the trio. The two turn to you.

"Yo, Coach (L/N)!" Monster Kid greets as you stop in front of them.

"What's up, MK?" you ask, giving his tail a makeshift high-five.

"Nothin' much. Have you met Frisk yet? They're my best friend, and I convinced them to join swim!" He swishes his tail around excitedly, splashing Frisk a bit. You giggle.

"I have! I'm glad to hear that. Well, you'd better get over there. They're about to start warm-ups. Coach Dustin is replacing me today," you say. MK looks disappointed, but obeys you anyway. He swims away.

MK has had difficulty with swim due to his lack of arms, but you eventually taught him an efficient way to use his tail instead of arms. He's doing pretty well now, and his enthusiasm just brightens your day.

"Okay, Frisk. Here's the first thing we're going to do." You take a diving stick out from a bucket of toys a few kids who aren't on swim team are ignoring. "I'm going to throw this stick into the three-foot end first, and you're going to dive down to get it without holding your nose. We'll get progressively deeper after each successful dive. Cool?" They nod.

"Okay. So, first of all, I'm going to teach you a few methods of blowing water out of your nose." You bend your knees so you're closer to the surface of the water. "When I was your age, I blew-" You start blowing through your nose, and little bubbles form under the water as a result. "-while I hummed. Like this." You lift your nose out of the water, then blow while humming to demonstrate. "If you hum while you blow, it feels easier. Try it."

They dip their nose underwater and blow while humming. You nod in approval.

"Good! Does that feel easier than just blowing?" you ask.

"Yeah, it does actually."

"Good. Now, try to get the diving stick without holding your nose. Take a deep breath, and then start humming when you get under the water."

They inhale deeply, then submerge. They keep their hands planted firmly on their sides until the reach for the diving stick. They come up successfully.

"Great job!" you cheer. They grin.

"I did it!" they say.

You nod. "You did! See, it isn't as hard as it feels like. Okay, let's try five feet."

Frisk ends up nailing the rest of the activity, not holding their nose once, not even while diving down to the twelve feet section. You're impressed by how determined they are while doing it. After the diving activity is done, you take them back to the shallow end. You start teaching them the basics of swimming.

Their technique definitely needs some work, but at least they aren't holding their nose. You make a mental note of the flaws in their strokes so you can work on them next time.

The hour is over in a blur. You tell Frisk to follow you to your table. You think they deserve a little reward after all of that. You pull out a bag filled with bite-sized candy and tell them to pick five pieces for doing such a good job. They thank you, then pick their five treats.

You spot Toriel standing near the entrance. She smiles when she sees you and Frisk walking towards her, her eyes slightly widening in surprise.

"(Y/N)! I did not know you were to be my child's tutor!" Her smile grows even wider.

"Oh, well, I'm an assistant coach here." You shrug, a smile on your lips.

"Yeah! Mom, she taught me how to swim without holding my nose closed!" Frisk cries, jumping into Toriel's arms. She laughs.

"Really? That's great, my child!" She sets Frisk down, then she takes a wallet out. "Now, the website said thirty dollars per less-"

"Nope. Please, don't worry about it!" you assure her. Toriel stops in her motions.

"Please, Miss (Y/N). Allow me to at least pay you. After all you've done..."

You shake your head. "I refuse to take it! Frisk is a great kid and I had a lot of fun teaching them! And I have a firm belief that all children should know how to swim at no cost." You want to pull your hair out; this woman is too kind for her own good.

Toriel sighs, her wallet still in head. "...Are you sure? It is no problem..."

"I'm positive!" you say.

Toriel shakes her head. "You are something else."

You two talk for a few more minutes before the two leave. Toriel still asks you if you're sure about not being paid, which you respond 'yes' to. You wave goodbye, then retreat to the table to collect your belongings. You're getting really hungry now, realizing that you forgot to eat breakfast this morning in your flurry of activity. Oh well. You run out to the sidewalk, throw your bag over your shoulder, then you begin your walk home.

Chapter Text

Chapter IV - A Fairy Tail

A few lessons later, and Frisk was beginning to swim pretty well. Around the third lesson, you thought it was time for them to move up with the other eleven-and-twelve-year olds. You were curious to see how they would do swimming with the other kids, and it definitely helped that Monster Kid was in the same lane as them. The second meet of the season is coming up next Monday, so you're trying your best to get the swimmers ready. Frisk is eager to learn more, and always listens to you when you give them instructions and tips on how to improve their technique.

"Try to get on your side more when you reach out," you say, lifting your hand to demonstrate, "reach out as far as you can, close your fingers together, cup your hands, and then pull," you pull your arm down while bringing the other one up, "and rotate onto your other side. Keep your head down so that you're looking at the bottom of the pool, and keep it still. Does that make sense?" When Frisk nods, you say, "okay. Just start with the rotation and get that under control first, then we'll go from there. One thing at a time." You cough, making the other eleven-and-twelve-year olds turn to look at you. "Okay, guys, next thing we're going to do...four fifties drill-swim, freestyle. Odds are six kicks, one stroke, and evens will be..." You smile a little bit. All of the kids have been swimming pretty well today, so you decide to so something a little bit more fun. "How about...dolphin dives?"

There are a mix of cheers and groans, which makes you chuckle. "Remember to do your flip turns! I know they suck, but the only way you get better at them is to do them! Alright, first group, ready...go!" The first swimmer pushes off of the wall and goes into streamline. You wait until she's past the flags to start the next swimmer. You keep doing this until it's Frisk's turn to push off.

"Okay...ready, go!" Frisk pushes off, into...ooh, oof, okay, you'll need to work with them on that streamline. Their hands are apart, head looking up. When they come up, they start their drill. You squint to see what they're doing incorrectly when they come back from swimming; it looks to you like they're using their shoulders to rotate rather than their hips. Hmm...and they're kicking with their knees, rather than using their whole legs. They're cupping their hands, at least, and they look a little better in form than they did the other day. It's okay; this is progress. You can work with this.

The first swimmer returns. You tell her that she did a good job and she thanks you. You admonish the second swimmer for not doing his flip turn. Frisk comes in after MK. You go ahead and start the next fifty, then stop Frisk.

"Okay, I see what you're doing now. You're using your shoulders to rotate, so that sort of makes it feel like your entire body is rotating, but it's not. So..." You stand, lifting your arm above your head. "When you rotate, go like this," You pull your left arm down slowly, while gradually turning your body and raising your right arm. "watch my hips. See how they turned when I pulled down?"

They nod, so, you continue. "That's the kind of motion you want to get. And take your time on the drill and swim, it's not a race." They nod, then go into their dolphin dives. You chuckle. You'll start correcting their kick later. Frisk does better on the swim part this time, making you cheer silently. They're using their hips more. Good, good. They're getting so much better. You glance at your phone to check the time. There's going to be a good ten minutes of practice left after your group finishes their set. You cock your head a little. You count the number of swimmers in your lane. There's six, including Frisk and MK.

You decide to let the kids move to the deep end and do running dives for the rest of practice. You always enjoyed diving, but were never really good at it. The swimmers in your lane are more than happy to finish the set and move into the deep end. Frisk and MK go a little further down from the crowd to dive. You chuckle at them.

Soon, you find yourself being challenged to a diving competition. You shrug and accept. The swimmers cheer, then line up behind the diving board. Dustin has been declared the judge. First up, it's you versus MK.

You don't really do anything that amazing. MK jumps pretty high, then dives, making his tail go in first. You do a regular block-start dive. Dustin shakes his head at you in disapproval, while you splash him for the second time this week. He shrieks, then sticks his tongue out at you. He declares MK as the winner.

Okay, Dustin. Challenge accepted.

A few other swimmers go against each other, and eventually it comes down to you and Frisk. Frisk goes first, doing a squirrel dive that make you snicker a little bit. Dustin looks fairly impressed.

You hop onto the diving board, then you turn to face the other end, your heels on the edge of the board. You take a deep breath, then you jump backwards and do a backflip. You land feet first in the water, then sink underwater, the cries of the delighted swimmers cut off by your splash.

When you come up, everyone is cheering for you, making you laugh. You hop out of the pool and take a dramatic bow.

"Thank you, my good people." You decide to end practice a little early. "Good practice, everyone. Now go. Be free." You shoo them off dramatically.

Dustin comes up beside you. "I bet I can top that."

You smirk. "Oh, really?"

"I bet he can, too." You turn to see Frisk.

You can't help but feel betrayed.

"What?! Whose side are you on?!" you ask, baffled.

"Mine, obviously." Dustin smirks, folding his arms across his chest.

"Nuh-uh. I'm neutral," Frisk responds. You shake your head at them, and they just shrug apologetically.

"Betrayed by an eleven-year-old. What the heck?" You laugh a little, putting your hands on your hips.

"I can be persuaded to take your side...for a price..." they begin, waggling their eyebrows. Dustin just laughs.

"Oh, man, (L/N). Why?" He laughs again, shaking his head. You smack him in the arm, satisfied when lets out a little "Ow!"

"What's going on here?" You turn to see the head coach coming up behind you. It appears that he's ended his lane's practice early as well.

"I was betray-" You're cut off mid-sentence when head coach suddenly stoops without warning and grabs your feet, yanking them out from under you. You shriek, but you're caught by Dustin, who wraps his arms underneath yours. You yell again.

"WHAT IS THIS MADNESS?!" you demand. The two coaches just chuckle.

"Okay. We got the camera rollin'?" Dustin asks. You look to your right to see that there's a swimmer holding a video camera in her hands. She gives him a thumbs-up. You begin to squirm, but their holds only tighten on you.

"NO, NO, NO, NO!" You yell. "I REFUSE-" You try to struggle, but they have too good a hold on you.

"Okay. Three...two...one..." They start swinging your body back and forth a few times, then they throw you into the pool. You manage to grab Dustin's arm midair somehow, and you take him down with you. The both of you go crashing down into the water, and the two of you come up sputtering and coughing.

"Okay, I guess I deserved that," Dustin spits out. You splash him.

"'Course you did, jackass!" You hush your voice a bit. He only snickers. You hear laughing from all around you. Of course, the entire swim team is huddled around the pool. You groan, tilting your head back in the water.

"Damn you," you whisper. The other assistant coach only laughs, and you shove him under the water a little bit. He retaliates by dunking your head under the water. You two wrestle a little more before you spot Frisk.

You climb out of the pool and see that Frisk is standing with someone you can't quite see from your spot. You inch closer to see...oh god no.

Yep, it's Sans. His laughter is loud and obnoxious, like it was back at Grillby's. Frisk is right there beside him, laughing their head off too. You groan again. That video is definitely going to end up in the end-of-season slideshow.

"Stop it. Both of you. That was not funny!" you growl, your hands coming to fold across your chest.

"i can't. that was priceless! ugh, you shoulda seen your face!" His skull has a slight dusting of blue on it.

Frisk is no better. "Ha, jeez. The way you were flailing...oh my gosh. That was great."

You sigh, unfolding your hands, then you smile evilly.

"You'd better hope that tomorrow is a breaststroke day." You smirk, looking down at Frisk, whose eyes go wide in shock.

"Oh no," they whisper, "you're in control of the sets we swim..."

You laugh. "Yep!" You pop the p to emphasize your point.

"heh. didn't think you'd be a swim coach," Sans says. You mentally thank him for changing the subject.

"Yeah, I know I don't look like much, but..." You shrug. "I've been swimming for a while now. Just started coaching recently."

He snorts. "that's pretty cool. welp, anyway, undyne and alphys wanted me to give you this." He hands you an envelope that is sealed with a panda sticker. "i think it's about an anime night, but, 'm not sure, so..." You take it, then gaze at the blue envelope a minute longer. You think it's funny that they sent an envelope rather than shot you a text. Eh, whatever, it's something different for once. Something other than more words on your phone's screen. Honestly, you're kind of grateful for the change.

"Okay. Thanks," you respond, dropping your arm to your side.

"'s no problem." He looks down at Frisk, who has skittered away to talk to MK.

"So...water you doing today?" you ask with a smirk. He directs his attention back to you, his permanent smile growing a bit.

"nothin' currently," he replies, shoving his bony hands into his jacket pockets.

You pause for a second. Damn, he's quick. You momentarily wonder how long he's had practice for. "I'm just out here having a splash."

You can tell he's hiding his laughter. He says,"i have a sinking feeling you know a descent amount of water puns."

"Ah-huh. A skele-ton."

Oh, no here come the skeleton puns. "tibia honest i didn't take you for the skele-pun type."

You laugh. "You think I'd patella you a fibula?"

He snickers, then says, "if you are then i'll de-capitate you."

You fake a wince. "Ouch. You're harsh."

"heh. i don't sugar-coat the facts." He gives his jacket a tug.

You throw your hands up in the air in defeat. "How do you know so many puns?"

"practice." He shrugs, then grins. "you're okay. that wasn't too bad."

You smirk. "Thanks for the almost-compliment. Means a lot coming from the Pun Lord."

He snorts. "what can i say? you've almost deemed yourself worthy."

"Are you guys punning again?" Frisk walks up to the two of you.

Sans winks at them. "she's a bone-ified punner, kiddo."

Frisk giggles. "Wow. You've used that one way too many times."

Sans only shrugs. "eh. i recycle."

What the hell? You laugh anyway.

"Well, as much fun as it was seeing you get tossed in the pool," Frisk moves next to the shorter skeleton, "we gotta go. Undyne and Alphys are gonna have our heads if we're not back home soon! We have to get ready for the Anime Night!"

"'m kay. welp, see ya later." He gives you a quick wink and wave before turning with Frisk.

"Bye!" you respond. Frisk turns to give you a smile before looking ahead again.

You giggle. That is a pretty punny skeleton. You shake your head, then turn around and go to the table where you had plopped your stuff earlier. You pack up all of your belongings, then you zip your swim bag up after you throw on a coverup. You heave your bag onto the back and wave the other coaches goodbye.

When you get outside, you hear a musical, high-pitched song playing to your left. You turn to see an ice cream truck.

Or, you should say a Nice Cream truck. You see a few kids lined up in front of the window, and next to that has a sign that reads: "Free Nice Cream!". Inside the truck you can make out a familiar, blue rabbit wearing a yellow shirt with a single red stripe down the middle and red pants to match. He hands out Nice Creams with a happy smile. You remember your promise to Burgerpants.

And, you remember how it slipped your mind to go talk to Quinn a few days ago. Shit. Well, now's your chance. Dammit, you have a job to do. You march up to the truck, standing behind the last kid in line. Quinn hasn't noticed you yet, and doesn't until you're next in line.

"Hey, Quinn!" you greet.

"Oh! Fancy seeing you here, (Y/N)!" He grins, gesturing to the menu beside the window. "What'll you have?"

You turn around to check and make sure the line behind you is empty. Sure enough, it is. You turn back to the blue bunny in front of you.

"Oh...um, could I have the (f/f) please?" you ask.

"Coming right up!" He turns away to the freezers and opens one up. "So, how's your week been so far?"

You shrug, then remember he can't see you. "It's been okay. Y'know, work, swimming, the usual, Burgerpants yelling at me..." You sigh, then see if he bought it.

Quinn turns back to you, your Nice Cream in hand. He narrows his eyes.

"...You know BP?" he asks, handing you your cone, then setting his hands down on the windowsill.

"Oh yeah, he's my neighbor. You know him?" You lick your Nice Cream, savor the cold, delicious treat, then check the wrapper. It reads, 'Is this as sweet as you?' It brings a tiny smile to your face. You look back up to gauge Quinn's reaction.

He's studying you with a curious expression. "Yeah, he came to get some Nice Cream the other day near your apartment building." He takes a step back, then he places a hand on the back of his neck. "Um...do you know if...he's...oh stars, this is awkward..."

"I'm listening," you encourage.

He sighs. "Do you know if he's...single?"

You mentally fist pump. Okay, onto step two. "He is, actually. And, you know..." Hm, this might be a bad idea, but...you go with it anyway. "You know, Quinn," you prop your elbows onto the windowsill, "he asked the same question about you the other day..."

Aw, is he blushing? Yep. "R-really?!" he stutters. You nod.

"I can give you his email if you want," you offer.

"Are you sure? Wouldn't that seem a bit creepy on his end?" he questions. You shake your head.

"Just tell him I gave it to you and he'll be fine," you assure him. He nods.

"Um, but...(Y/N), I get so nervous around him!" he replies, his fingers tapping repeatedly on the windowsill. "I don't know if I can...I don't think I can."

You bite your lip. So, they both have a similar situation. They both get too nervous around each other. Hm, maybe a private date wouldn't go so well...but...

"Okay, how about this?" you start, "I'll find a day both you and BP are free, and the three of us will go somewhere public as a...platonic hangout. That way, I can help you if you get too nervous, and, if you two really hit it off, then I can skedaddle somewhere else." You smile.

He still looks unsure, but now his expression is a little hopeful. "Are you sure he...likes me back?"

Stars, you want to scream. These two are perfect for each other! "I'm positive of my positivity!" You frown. "Hey, what days are you free next week?"

"Um...Tuesdays and Thursdays."

You nod. "I'll be back." You walk over to the table you were at during practice, then you pull out your phone and call Burgerpants.

"(L/N), what's up?" he asks.

"Hey, BP!" you greet. "Guess who I just ran into!"

You can feel him tense from the other end. "...Quinn?"

"Oh yeah. As it turns out, he likes you, too!" you nearly squeal.

"W-what?! Really?!" he asks.

"Yeah! I just talked to him! He asked me if you were single!" you nearly sing.

"Oh, shit..." He sighs, "so what's the big idea?"

"Are you free on next Tuesday or Thursday?" you ask.

He pauses for a second. "I think I have Thursday off."

"Perfect. I'll call you back."

You end the call, giggling at his protests. You stand up and walk over to Quinn, who looks nerve-racked. He straightens upright when he sees you.

"Okay, BP said he's free on Thursday, but nothing's been confirmed yet. I just wanted to double-check with you. Are you up for this?" you ask.

He blinks a few times. "I...yeah. I think I am."

Another smile shoots across your face. "Perfect!"

"Um...but what exactly are we going to do?" he asks.

You shrug. "See a movie, walk around the park, go out for lunch, go to an anti-Mettaton club, hell, you could even come to one of my swim meets. You've got a ton of options here."

He tilts his head. "What do you think? I'm not really sure what he's up for..."

"Hmm...how about...lunch at Grillby's?" you suggest. You think it'd be the perfect place for them, since you felt so...comfortable there. At ease. It was hard not to, due to the warmth and the generally friendly atmosphere.

"That sounds good. Um...should we exchange numbers to stay in contact?" he asks a bit awkwardly.

"Oh, yeah! Here," You open up the contacts app in your phone, then hand it to him. He copies you and you both trade phones. When you get yours back, he's typed his number under "Quinn the Nice Cream Guy :-)".

"Okay. I'll keep you updated!" you promise. It's nearing lunch time, and you're getting hungry, despite having finished your Nice Cream already. "It was good to see you, Quinn! Have a good day!" You wave.

"Catch you later, (Y/N)! And thank you for all of your help!" You flash him a thumbs-up, then scurry to your Jeep. When you get inside, you toss your bag in the back, then pull out the blue envelope. You tear it open, then take out the piece of paper inside. It reads-

Dear (Y/N),
You are FANCILY invited to an EPIC Anime Night. OwO. It's to be on Wednesday night at 6:00 PM sharp! Bring your nighttime shit, cause we don't know when it's gonna end (LOL). Dinner will consist of pizza and spaghetti (BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE GREAT PAPYRUS! ((NYEH HEH HEH~)) SPAGHETTI EXTRAORDINAIRE! ; ) NYEH.) (*^U^)人(≧V≦*)/ We hope you can make it! (Punk u better make it or im gunna kick ur ass myself >: ( -Undyne)
~Undyne, Alphys, Papyrus, and Frisk ヽ(゚ー゚*ヽ)ヽ(*゚ー゚*)ノ(ノ*゚ー゚)ノ

There's an address listed below the note. You laugh at both the Kawaii Faces and the mixture of monsters and humans who wrote this. Even better, the anime night is tonight. You fist pump; this is going to be epic. You check the time. It's currently eleven o' clock. You make a game plan: you're going to go home and eat, write your article and submit it early, and then you're going to pack up and head out. Sounds good. You start the Jeep, then roll out.

Hm. What to write about for your article? Your boss hasn't commented on your pro-monster article yet, and you're not sure whether that's a good or bad sign. You tap your fingers on the desk impatiently. Well, sitting here beating yourself up about it won't help. You stand, shutting your laptop.

It's only been an hour or so since you've ate lunch, and you've been wracking your brain for an idea for a while now. You decide to watch some of the news; maybe there'll be a report that will give you a good idea. Clicking the TV on, you begin watching.

"Breaking news! King Asgore has just announced that the scientists behind the CORE would like to begin construction in towns near Mount Ebott to test the CORE's compatibility with human homes. Asgore announced on last Monday's conference that the scientists have been testing and experimenting with human's electricity, and they've come to a conclusion that the CORE should be able to deliver power to towns and cities if construction goes smoothly, and begins soon."

The scene changes to a video clip of Asgore and Toriel on stage, faces serious. Asgore says, "Our best scientists have calculated that if construction of the CORE's expansion goes well, then humans may not have to pay for electricity at all. We would like to begin this test with the following towns..." He begins to list a few towns, one of which is yours. "We hope to achieve this feat within a few months' time, and, if we get the town's permission, we will begin to build right away."

The screen flickers back to the news lady. "The monsters still need the approval of the towns. There will be a vote held in a few days' time to declare which towns will be participating in this expansion. Queen Toriel also said the following-"

The screen changes back to Asgore and Toriel. Toriel steps up this time. "If, by accident, any property is damaged or people are injured, we will do our best to compensate for it."

The news lady appears again. "Some towns within CORE range have asked: how does the CORE work, exactly? And what will be done to their homes? Any answers for this, Danny?" The screen shifts to a middle-aged man.

"Hello, there, Michelle! Yes, I actually interviewed the King, Queen, and the Royal Scientist the other day, and, I quote: 'To put it simply, the CORE is a huge, magically and scientifically-powered generator and converter. It's located in the hottest part of the Underground, Hotland, and it takes lava as input and transforms it into various types of energy. It's similar to how humans take geothermal energy and convert it to electricity.' That was answered by Dr. Alphys, the Royal Scientist. She also answered: 'All we need to do to the townspeople's homes is alter the wiring a little bit, then connect it to the CORE, which means we'll have to build generators around the towns that make the flowing of output a lot easier. We'll have our scientists check the generators every two weeks to make sure everything's working.' Also, here's something interesting that Dr. Alphys mentioned, too.

"'If we're to build the generators and connectors around the towns, then we'll need the town's permission not only for building. The CORE is heavily dependent on magic, and we're still not sure if humans are capable of it yet, but, humans have stronger SOULs than monsters do. We would need a fair number of humans in each town to donate a bit of their magic, harnessed or unharnessed, to help keep the CORE up and running. That's why we need more than permission.'" Danny bites his lip. "Wow! That sure sounds amazing! Back to you, Michelle!"

Michelle appears on screen yet again. "The government approved this plan, as long as the towns give the monsters permission. That's all we've uncovered so far, but stay tuned for more, folks! We'll see you in a few minutes for a commercial break." The screen transitions to a commercial about one of Mettaton's performances. You shut it off.

Well, that's definitely food for thought. You frown. The CORE sounds pretty...amazing. You'll definitely vote for this expansion to happen when the time comes. You get up, then walk over to your computer. It may not sound fun, but it looks like you've got to research a little bit before you write your article.

Ouch. You made the mistake of checking comments on your pro-monster article on the magazine website after you finished writing. There are some nice comments, and some not nice. Most of the nice ones just tell you that your article is good, and the not-so-nice ones just yell at you in all caps. They use bad no-no words.

Oh well. You will heed them no attention, and your boss will delete them later. Besides, it is about time for you to get ready. You send your piece of work to your editor, then you head to the kitchen to grab a quick snack. It looks like the house you're going to go to is about fifteen minutes away or so. You still have about ten minutes before you need to get ready. Sitting down for so long has made you a bit antsy, and you still smell like chlorine from the pool. You don't mind the smell; in fact, it's become so familiar over the years that you've come to like it. Although, just because you like it doesn't mean other people like it. You decide to spend the ten minutes in the shower.

As the water is heating up, you catch sight of yourself in the mirror. You can't help but stare. It's still strange to see your scar on your face. You trace your fingers over it to make sure it's still there. You can feel it underneath the tips of your fingers. It's...weird.

You are jerked out of your thoughts when you catch steam rising from out of your shower. You turn away from the mirror and hop in, allowing the hot water to drip down your back. It wets your hair, and you run your fingers through it. You relax underneath the water. For some reason, the simple combination of two hydrogen atoms and an oxygen atom has just worked for you. Gravity hates you, and the feeling is mutual between the two of you. You're pretty clumsy, tripping up the stairs, your own two feet, and on nothing at all. But, when you jumped in the water for the first time, it just felt right.

You scrunch your face up when you allow a lot of the hot water on your face. You step back quickly. Shower time was your thinking time. The time when you came up with all kinds of ridiculous questions. You reflect on life. A lot.

And that's exactly what you do as you scrub your chlorine-infested skin, and shampoo your hair. If the CORE expansion goes through, then the future's going to be all kinds of twisted, isn't it? You have no idea what it'll bring, but it'll be all sorts of strange, won't it?

Undyne knows it.

You're exactly forty-three seconds late.

"Ugh, come on, we've been waiting!" she scolds. You only shake your head.

"I apologize." you say, trying to hide a smile.

"Apologizing ain't gonna do shit to rewind time. Let's go!" Undyne stomps away, leaving Alphys by her side.

"Oh d-dear. Sorry a-about her, she t-takes this pretty seriously." She gives her fiancée an affectionate glance. You only laugh, shifting your heavy-as-hell bag to the other shoulder.

"It's fine. It was actually kind of funny." You snort a little.

Alphys chuckles. "Well, um...c-come on in. Everyone else is here, too." You nod, then follow Alphys into the house.

"This is the h-house Undyne and I sh-share. It's not m-much, but it's home." she informs you. You glance around. It's a two-story house, to the left is a staircase, and to your right is the living room. There's a long, black, cloth couch that contains Frisk, Papyrus, and Sans. To the right of that is another couch, a loveseat that is empty. To the left of the longer couch is a recliner which Undyne is in.

"HELLO, HUMAN!" Papyrus yells, waving frantically at you.

"Hey, Papyrus!" you respond. You see a pile of shoes on a mat next to the door, so you kick yours off and set them next to the other ones.

"Hey, coach!" Frisk says. You chuckle; it's weird to have some kids call you coach out of practice. You love it, though.

"Hey!" you say.

"Okay, punk, sit over there and make yourself comfortable. We're gonna binge Fairy Tail tonight! Pizza's in a few minutes." She gestures to the loveseat, so you go over there.

"I've only watched, like, the first few episodes of Fairy Tail." you admit.

"It's so good!" Alphys says. "We needed something not as bloody because Frisk is here..."

For some reason, you feel some kind of...tension, maybe? You look around, sitting down on the couch, suddenly feeling a bit awkward. When you sneak a glance around, you see that Sans' eye pinpoints have vanished. Frisk is silent. But, just like that, his pinpoints return, Frisk moves on, and the tension is gone in an instant.

What was that about?

You shrug it off when Alphys curls up in Undyne's lap. Stars, can they get more adorable? Frisk puts their feet on the coffee table in front of them, and Sans curls up next to Papyrus. You pull your knees up in front of you and hug them, then Undyne sets up Fairy Tail on Netflix. Under Papyrus' protests, Frisk turns off all of the lights. There's only the first season, but it's about forty episodes long. You chuckle.

You all get through three episodes before pizza arrives. Alphys and Papyrus pass out napkins and plates while Undyne sets the pizza out on the coffee table. You all help yourselves before returning to the anime.

A few hours later, and you're about to pass out. Erza is fighting Jellal, and you know you can't fall asleep until you've finished the first season, at least. You fight your tired eyelids.

Undyne has already declared that her favorite character is Erza -"SHE'S SO STRONG AND HEROIC AND BADASS!"- and Alphys quietly mumbles her agreement. Frisk says that she likes too many to have a favorite, Sans has already fallen asleep, so has Papyrus, and you're barely awake. No, you have to see how this ends. Erza has to beat Jellal! And, stars, there are a few ships you ship so hard you feel like hitting yourself in the face with a brick.

Alphys falls asleep around midnight, Frisk is soon after her, and you're fighting to stay awake. Undyne looks like she's about to go asleep herself, but she turns to look at you.

"I'm not sleeping until this is over!" Undyne declares, her voice quiet.

"Neither am I," you respond.

So you two stay up to finish the last few episodes. You can't believe you're still kicking when the season ends.

Undyne smirks, then turns to you. "We made it."

You chuckle, then stand. You aren't quite comfortable staying the night, with you barely knowing these monsters and all, so you decide to shoot Undyne a text tomorrow. You pack up your stuff, then head out to your car. You try to be extra careful on the drive home, and when you get there, you collapse on your bed, out in seconds.

Chapter Text

Chapter V – Another Medium

"Was that one better?" Frisk asks you. They asked you for a little bit of extra practice today since the second meet of the season is tomorrow. You two are currently in the seventh lane. Practice had been released about a half hour ago.

"Hmm...okay. Come here." You swim over to the wall, then hit the water to your right with your right hand. They swim over to you, then glance up at you.

"So, when you go into your flip turn, it's important to not breath between the flags and the wall. I know it's hard to hold your breath for that long, but it will make a difference with practice. I would recommend that you start small; start by taking one breath right after you enter the flags, then hold it and flip. With me so far?" you ask, checking for their response.

"Yeah," they say.

"Okay, so, next thing I want you to focus on is pushing off in a tight streamline. We won't worry about the tinier details of a flip turn right now. Try it again, and focus on your breathing and your streamline." They nod, then you step back for them to start. Their strokes are a little neater thanks to your coaching, but their flip is still crooked. They push off in a good streamline, though. You nod; they're making progress.

"Yes! That was good!" you say.

A big smile forms on their face. "Thanks!"

"Okay. Now, let's go over some basic rules for the meet tomorrow. First of all: it's not as bad as it seems like it is. When I swam in my first meet, I was really nervous. But, over time I learned-and you'll learn this too throughout the season-is that the only people who are watching you are your family and the timers. Most of the people who are around the pool are watching their own kid. Another thing; it's a learning experience for everyone. It doesn't matter whether you're last or fast as long as you swim your fastest and try your hardest to improve. And, of course..." You tilt your head, then do the jazz hands, "it's imperative that you have fun."

Frisk giggles a little bit. "Okay. I guess it doesn't sound too bad."

You bop them in the shoulder a little bit, then say, "It's just the first meet nerves, trust me. Once you knock this meet out, you'll get the hang of it in no time."

You two finish up your practice, then you both hop out.

"The meet starts at six tomorrow, warm-ups are at five-fifteen sharp. Warm-up sessions are fifteen minutes long," you inform.

"Okay. Sounds good." They flash you a thumbs-up, then walk over Toriel, who is standing near the entrance. You give her a quick wave before heading over to your table. You check your phone to see that Burgerpants has sent you a few texts.

BP: hey did u see that a few monsters are gonna offer our apartment building a tour of the underground for that vote comin up
BP: im not going cuz its for humans plus i aint goin back to that shithole but are you able to go? i think they said it was gonna be at one or something. tomorrow
You: I guess I can make it. Do you know how long it takes?
BP: idk for sure but im guessin around two hours or so
You: OK, I can make it. Thanks man.
BP: np

You shut off your phone. A tour of the Undergrond around one o' clock, and that'll run until three o' clock. Meet at five or so...morning practice as well. Dang, you have a loaded day tomorrow. You'll have to bring your car to practice if you're to make it to the tour in time. You swing your bag onto your shoulder, giving your stomach a pat when it starts to rumble. You'll be home soon, you think as you continue down the sidewalk.

Burgerpants stops by your apartment a few minutes after you're out of the shower.

"Hey, (Y/N). How's it going?" he asks.

"Eh. The usual. How about you?" you respond.

"Not much, honestly." He raises his hand to the back of his neck. "I uh, wanted to talk to you about Thursday. Is it...really happening?" he asks.

You nod. "Yeah. Lunch at Grillby's. Quinn wasn't really sure about a private date, so I'll go with you guys in order to make sure that neither of you freeze up or something. And, if you two really hit it off, then I can leave," you explain, intertwining your fingers together.

"Oh...okay. I guess that's fine." He sighs. "Anyway, do you have everything you need for the tour?"

You nod again. "Yeah. I'm kind of excited, actually."

Burgerpants shakes his head. "Don't get your hopes up. It's not as impressive as it sounds, trust me."

You snort. "I'm still curious. And you're still salty from your old job, aren'tcha?" you ask, folding your arms.

He scoffs, straightening up. "You know what? You're absolutely fucking right." He bobs his head a little, which makes you laugh a bit. You lean against the doorframe, your head hitting the side.

"Heh. I'm never wrong," you exaggerate, folding your arms.

"Neveeer," BP says. He checks the screen of his phone, which he pulls out from his pocket. He squints for a second, "well, I gotta go. Um...thanks, though, seriously, (L/N). What you're doing means a lot to me, and I won't forget what you've done." He gives you a sheepish smile.

You smirk. "Anything for my favorite asshole." You think you can hear him snicker a little bit as he stomps down the steps.

You to Quinn the Nice Cream Guy :-) : Hey man the *platonic* hangout has been confirmed. *thumbs up emoji*

Quinn the Nice Cream Guy :-) : Ok, thanks for all of your help, (Y/N)!

(Later The Next Day)

The group that you're taking the tour with is smaller than you had anticipated. There are only about a dozen or so people here, and there are quite a bit of people who live in your apartment building, excluding the monsters, of course.

You don't really know a lot of other people in the building. Burgerpants is the only monster on your floor, and the apartment to the left of yours is empty. To the one on your right is a single man who never seems to be home.

Before you left for the tour, you packed a bag with water bottles, a first aid kit, and some snacks. Your phone has been tucked away safely in one of the bag's many pockets.

All of the participants are standing at the base to Mount Ebott. There are a few monsters standing near the entrance to the Underground, the newer one that was created when the Barrier was broken. You fold your arms across your chest, then bounce on the balls of your feet a little bit, impatient for the tour to start. It begins a few minutes later.

"Um, ladies and gentlemen! Down here!" You move to the front so you can get a better view of the tiny voice.

He's a tiny monster, possibly the tiniest you've seen so far. He's about a foot tall, and he sort of resembles a mole. The tip of his nose is the same shade of red as his feet are.

"Hi, everyone! I'm Charles, and I worked at the CORE before the Barrier fell! My job was really fun, and I continue working there to help keep it up and running daily! I'll be your tour guide for today. Now, shall we get started?"

You and the other humans follow him on the wide staircase that leads up to the entrance. When you all get up there, you look around. You haven't been Underground yet! You are standing on a flattened part of the mountain; it's a little bumpy here and there, but it's actually kind of cool. There's a beautiful view of the town, forest, and a distant mountain. You think the sunset and sunrise would look gorgeous up here.

"This is the spot where King Asgore, Queen Toriel, the ambassador, and their friends saw the sun for the first time in forever." He continues over to the massive hole in the side of the mountain. The group follows him. There's a long walkway on which the group has to spread out single-file. There's...you're actually not sure what's below you. It's about ten feet deep, it's dull, and white, but you swear there's some kind of rainbow sheen on it. What the fuck?

"The white stuff you see below us is the remnants of the seven original wizards' magic, or, in other words, what's left of the Barrier. They were the seven who locked us away and put the Barrier up. The wizards were very powerful, and magic can last for a very long time after its purpose has been reached, especially human magic. If you look closely, you can see a rainbow-like polishing on it. That reflects on the seven traits of human SOULs."

There is a shout from the rear of the crowd. "Seven traits? What's that mean?"

Charles smiles, then replies, "A human SOUL can only be one of seven traits: determination, kindness, bravery, justice, perseverance, integrity, and patience. Each of these are represented by a color: determination is red, kindness is green, bravery is orange, justice is yellow, perseverance is purple, integrity is dark blue, and patience is light blue."

"Is there any way we can see our SOUL?" Another person asks.

"You can. If you know a monster, you can ask them to pull it out for you. It's a pretty private thing, though, so I'd only recommend doing that with a monster close to you."

You're curious about your SOUL. The group heads into the door located on the other side, and you exit the hallway. You're in a large room. You catch sight of a huge chair in the middle of the room. You realize that it's a throne room. The floor is covering in golden flowers and grass, and there are cracks in the ceiling that are spilling patches of sunlight into the room. A calming aroma drifts in the air. You look over your left shoulder to see another chair, similar to the throne, except it's been covered with a white sheet.

"This is King Asgore's throne room. The first part of the Underground we'll be touring is Asgore's Castle." Charles leads you all to the exit across the room. You're met with a long, grey, and bland hallway. But what appalls you is the view.

You can see the ceiling of the Underground, and what looks to be a city beneath it. Holy shit, it's so much bigger than you had originally imagined. How long did it take for the monsters to build this? How much magic did they use? You're not the only one who's admiring the view; you can tell by the number of gasps and comments around you. People look awestruck at the sheer size of it. You didn't think the Underground would be this big. Come to think of it, the map only had a few sections on it. Huh. You guess you should have known.

"If you guys are impressed by this, just wait until we get to Waterfall." You swear you can hear the little monster smirking. "In any case, we must get going; we've a lot of ground to cover." Charles leads the group back to the path. You study the city once more before jogging to catch up.

The next room is...not a room.

And...you don't like the general vibe of the place. Not one bit.

It's a hallway with a theme of red and gold, columns supporting the ceiling. On the stained glass windows is a pattern that consists of circles and triangles.

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riiiiiiiiiiing
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riiiiiiiiiiing
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riiiiiiiiiiing
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A chill skitters down your spine as the bell chimes. You rub the newly-formed goosebumps that have appeared on your arms. There's something about this hall-be it the vibe, the general atmosphere, the bell, or just its design-that makes you want to get away.

Only one other person looks as chilled as you feel. This person is a small child who looks to be about ten or eleven, his hair brown and eyes a silvery hazel. He has a Lego Ninjago shirt on, along with a pair of faded jeans and dark sneakers. He catches your eye, and you examine his expression. He looks a little scared, eyes wide and lip nearly quivering. You feel bad as you watch him run to who you assume is his mother, who hugs him and asks him what's wrong.

The people who weren't affected are looking at the intricate carves of the columns and at the structure of the ceiling. That makes you a bit curious. Did they not...feel that? Were you and that kid the only ones who felt it? If not, then...does it have anything to do with the monsters' magic? You decide to ask Charles after the tour if you remember to.

"This is the Judgment Hall," Charles explains. "There's a legend that every human who falls into the Underground will be Judged for every decision that they made whilst in the Underground. Depending on much EXP they earned, or how much LOVE they gained." Charles pauses, seeming conflicted before continuing: "The legend states that each human is Judged by the same monster. We're not sure who it is, but we have a suspicion that this monster is possibly the strongest in the Underground."

There are a few murmurs. You frown. The strongest? Was that Judge not the King? No, Asgore couldn't be the Judge. He is way too kind. Or maybe he is kind to humans now, but wasn't back in the old days. But, the King has to be strong. Just how strong would the most powerful monster have to be? After all, a kingdom or nation can't function with a leader stronger than them in terms of power, right? At least in this case. You guess that would fully depend on the nation and what kind of government is involved.

"The human's fate was ultimately decided here. Based on their Stats and their previous actions...no one was sure about the ones who weren't as merciful to monsters as the others had been. No one was sure of the fate that befell each one. It's tradition for us monsters to leave the Castle, all except the King and the Judge. It's a sign of respect."

He doesn't need to explain any further.

Did Asgore actually...kill those children? Or whoever this Judge was? Did...did they do that? You decide to shake the thought off for now.

Charles is eager to move on. The next room you all enter is a house. You look around to see that it's well-taken care of. Although, the doors are huge. This must be New Home, Asgore's house. There are various golden flowers potted here and there. You're tempted to poke around, but that would be disrespectful to Asgore.

Charles confirms your suspicions. "This is New Home. We won't be spending much time here, as the King still needs to move some of his personal belongings to the Surface." You all follow him out into another hallway with an elevator. It's small, so you all go in in groups of six or so. Charles leads the first group down. You're in the second to last group. No one speaks as someone pushes a button, and the elevator begins descending. You fold your hands together nervously. You notice a few people staring at your scar, most looking baffled, others worried, others curious. Other people are blatantly not looking in your general direction.

You begin to feel awkward, eventually deciding your shoes are the most interesting thing to look at in the world. The little boy clings to his mother's leg, his curious eyes darting over your marked eye.

"How did you get that scar, miss?" He asks. A few people try to be discreet about looking to you.

"Xander, don't be rude." The mother shoots you an apologetic glance.

"It's okay," you assure her, then look down at Xander, "someone tried to hurt one of my friends because she looks different, so I helped her fight back and I got this as a result." You trace your finger along the length of the scar.

"Is your friend a monster?" he asks. His mother firmly taps his shoulder, but he doesn't budge and keeps staring at you.

"Yes. She's one of the nicest I've met," you respond, smiling at the memory of a grateful, scared, blushing, and stuttering Alphys.

The kid nods. "I have monsters that are friends, too. Monsters are really nice."

You smile. "Monsters are really nice." You remember that day, going silent again as the elevator opens up to the lower floor. Everyone steps out, and his mother pulls him away. You hear more people muttering as others notice your scar for the first time.

"Okay, ladies and gentlemen, our next stop is the CORE. Please stay away from the edges of the platform, and at this time I would recommend that you take off any heavy clothing such as jackets or sweatshirts. It's very hot."

You all are led by Charles through another doorway, which leads the group into a blue hallway. You peek around the crows to see a walkway with no platform. When you look down, you see a white or pale yellow...cloud? At least that's what it looks like. Charles leads your group through the CORE. You look around. Fascinating as it, you kind of want to leave; after all, it's getting ridiculously hot in here.

It feels like hours until you all reach the end of the CORE. You sigh in relief as all of you walk into a tall, hotel-like building that is air-conditioned. You smile lazily as the cool breeze hits your sweaty skin.

"Now, here we are at MTT Resort. It was owned by Mettaton, but closed down when the Barrier was destroyed. You can see how that affected business. The power is on for the tourists. He had his own MTT Brand Burger Emporium, and this entire building used to be an apartment..." he babbles on about the history of the hotel. You tune out, deciding to inspect the fountain. It looks like nobody really put in the effort to make it a decent fountain, as the water spout is spilling onto the floor. You giggle at that, going to look at it from the front.

You're not surprised to see that it's shaped like Mettaton in what you call his Nintendo cartridge form. He's posing dramatically. You can't help but stick your hands under the water. It's cool and feels nice when you splash a little on your face.

After you're all done with touring the resort, you all go out into Hotland. You're appalled at the sheer size of the CORE; it didn't feel so big, what with its narrow, cramped, and stuffy hallways. You peer cautiously over the edge of the cliff, and you feel steam radiating from the lava below you. Xander's mother pulls him to her, glancing nervously at the edges. Everyone is staying towards the middle of the walkway. You're venturing further out than anyone else. You can't help it; you like to live on the edge. Heh.

After walking a while more, Charles leads your group to the pathway in front of the Lab.

"This is the Royal Scientist's Lab, as you can see, and it's closed to the public since she still uses it. Now, if you'll follow me down this path, we'll take a ferry to Waterfall. Like the elevator, we'll have to go in trips with such a large group. We're also taking the ferry for a quick break, as the ride to Waterfall is about ten minutes. Follow me, please." He leads the group down the southern path, and you all are met with a river, a boat, and a hooded figure.

"Tra la la. I am the riverman. Or am I the riverwoman...? It doesn't really matter. I love to ride in my boat. Would you all care to join me?" the hooded figure says. You can't really get a good look from the back of the crowd. Groups of five are boarded at a time. The ferry returns about fifteen minutes later, and the next group goes. You sit down against the wall to rest your already sore feet.

The Underground is pretty impressive so far. Hotland was pretty cool, but it was just too hot. You're excited to see Waterfall and what the rest of the Underground has to offer. You take a sip of water from one of the water bottles you packed, then twist the cap back on and set it beside you. You wonder what Waterfall will be like. Not many of the monsters you know have talked about the Underground very much. Burgerpants mentioned his job at the MTT Brand Burger Emporium, and you've heard things about the Underground here and there, but you don't have a clear image of what it's really like. You're not sure what to expect from Waterfall, but you're excited to find out.

The ferry arrives again, and boards the next party. You stay seated, and sigh. As beautiful as the Underground is, you're not used to walking this much. You chose swimming for a reason, after all. Speaking of swimming...you check the time on your phone. You still have an hour or so until you need to be there, but then again, you haven't missed a meet in...a long time. Even though this is the second meet of the season, you haven't missed one in the years of coaching you've had. Coach probably won't mind if you miss this one. But, you have to be at this meet for Frisk. It's their first one, and you're not sure how it would go if you weren't there to cheer them on. They've seemed pretty excited, for the most part, but you've also caught them fidgeting, being quiet, and, of course, the usual hints of nervousness in their eyes. You get how it feels, and you want to show Frisk that you're there for them, and that they can rely on you to a certain extent when it comes to swimming.

The ferry comes back again. You watch as the second-to-last group boards, and is off. Who is the riverperson? They seem pretty enigmatic. You'll have to ask Burgerpants about that later. There's just something that's...you can't really put your finger on what the riverperson is to you. You admit, you're a bit curious about them.

You glance around to see that you're to be in the next group. There's a couple, a tall man and a shorter woman, a man leaning on the wall with his eyes closed, and then there's a young woman who can't be older than twenty. And then there's you: that one weirdo who's wearing an anime themed t-shirt with a weird as hell scar on her face that refuses to group up. You chuckle slightly. You catch a few of them staring at your scar a few times, some of them sneaking glances at you when they think you aren't looking.

The ferry finally arrives to pick up your group. The riverperson is silent as the group gets on the boat. It's a little crowded, but you all make do. When everyone is settled, the boat begins to move, and gradually speeds up. You're standing awkwardly at the back. You turn to see that the river is pretty narrow, and you can't tell how deep the water is based on your position. You look a little closer. You don't see any signs of sand or sediments being messed up from the boat, so you guess it's at least ten feet. Then again, the water doesn't look very clear.

Everyone is quiet for the first half of the ride, which is when the riverperson speaks up.

"Tra la la. Hmmm... I should have worn a few million more pairs of pants today," they say, remaining facing the water ahead of you. You snicker slightly while the other people just glance at each other, confused. You try to stifle your laughter, but aren't doing a very good job. You can't help it, the riverperson sounded so serious when they said it. Who says shit like that nowadays? Apparently the riverperson. You don't know why, but you love it. No one else is laughing for some reason. Your hand comes up to cover your mouth as your quiet giggles escape your lips. The ride goes on for a while longer. You find yourself hoping that the riverperson will say something else, but they don't, which disappoints you.

Once your giggles subside, you end up wondering what kind of monster the riverperson is. Are they even a monster? You don't know, but you're really curious about it. What if they're a human disguised as a monster? No, wouldn't the monsters have been able to pick up on that with their magic? Or...maybe the riverperson is just...the riverperson. You sigh softly. Will any of your questions ever get answered?!

Your legs start to get tired, so you sit cross-legged on the boat. You stick your hand in the water, feeling the waves pass by with your fingertips. The water feels pretty damn cold. It can't be warmer than sixty degrees, you decide. That temperature might actually soothe your sore muscles. Hm, are there any spots where you can swim in the Underground? You hope so. The water is a dark shade of blue, and as the journey continues, it lightens up gradually until it's nearly neon and glowing. Even with its translucency, you can't make out the depth of the river.

The ride is over before you know it. People get off in a rush, but you take your time in standing up and hopping off.

"Thank you, Riverperson!" you say, jumping off the boat with your bag in tow.

The riverperson only nods in response, but you feel something a little...how do you describe it? It's sort of like you can feel something...you know it's not the right word, but you're really not sure what the right word is, but it felt...glittery. Radiating. What the fuck was that about? Did anyone else feel that?

"Come again some time. Tra la la..." The riverperson's boat continues forward. You look back at the riverperson, and so do they. You think you two are making eye contact, but you can't tell due to their hood and the black abyss inside it. You give them an awkward smile, and it takes a moment for them to look away. Okay, then.

For a moment, you wonder how the boat is moving. Is there a strong current in the water? Or is pushed by the riverperson's magic? You're not sure.

Charles and the others are waiting through the door. Once your group joins them, Charles moves on.

"Here we are in Waterfall, easily one of the most beautiful parts of the Underground. Come. If you look north here, which is just up ahead, you'll see the entrance to Gerson's trading post. It's no longer in use, but there's nothing of interest in there. Gerson is one of the few monsters who fought in the War of Monsters and Humans, making him one of the oldest monsters in the Underground, aside from Queen Toriel and King Asgore," Charles explains. Gerson...wasn't that the monster Asgore was talking about at Grillby's? You make a mental note to ask Undyne for his contact information, as you're kind of curious to meet him.

You look around; the floor is dark, and it's smooth. The walls are a dark blue-or is it violet? You can't tell in the light-, and the ceiling is...something else. You're not sure how high the ceiling is, but in the distance you can see bright, blue lights embedded in the ceiling. They are all kinds of shades, from light, pale blues to the shade of Undyne's scales. They're almost like stars. Almost. Not quite. The ceiling isn't dark enough, and beautiful as they may be, they could never surpass the beauty of the night sky, in your opinion.

A few people can't seem to rip their gaze from the ceiling. You look around the hall, but you don't really see anything else of interest. You listen to Charles.

"Not many people lived here in Waterfall, since there aren't many suitable places for homes due to the mud, water, and the fields of Echo Flowers, but there are a few." He keeps walking, and the group shuffles along, the occasional murmur crossing the crowd. You continue in silence, listening to Charles.

You all are lead to a clearing. The only light illuminating the room are the glowing blue flowers and the pools of water everywhere. The flowers are all over the place, and the ceiling is decorated with the same gems in the hallway. They shimmer faintly in the dark lighting. You can't help but stare at the different shades of blue. The air is filled with the splashes of a waterfall that's towards the back of the cavern. And what are those golden little things in the air? They're just kind of floating around, and they don't glow like the flowers and water. They're more sparkly than they are glowing. What are those things?

"Here we are, in one of the valleys. Those flowers you see? Those are the Echo Flowers that I've been talking about. Go explore for about five minutes or so, and bend down to the Echo Flowers and touch their petals. They're called Echo Flowers for a reason. Whisper a message of your own to one of them. I'll call you guys back when it's time to go."

You don't need to be told twice. You walk away from the crowd, then you find a patch of Echo Flowers next to a pool of water. You bend down, then touch one of its petals. It glows a little brighter, then says, "I wish my sister and I will see the real stars someday..." The voice is young, and it's filled with hope. You sigh. Shit, how much of an asshole had humanity been when they locked the monsters Underground?! It really pisses you off.

You listen to a few more. Most of them are wishing to see the Surface, others are just passing conversations, and some are silent. You whisper a message to one of the silent ones. When you're in the middle of whispering, it glows even brighter, then when you're finished, it dulls down. You continue on and decide it's time to head back.

Charles is waiting patiently at what you assume is the exit to Waterfall. You feel a little disappointed, but you think it's a good time to get as many answers as you can.

"Excuse me?" you ask the mole-like monster.

"Hello! How may I help you?" Charles asks, straightening up.

"Oh, well, I just had a few questions about the Underground, I guess," you respond.

"Ask away!" he says, looking up at you intently.

You start with the Judgment Hall one. "So, back in Jugement Hall, what...what was that bell that rang?" you begin.

"It doesn't ring that often," he admits, "I'm not sure if it was an accident, on purpose, or if.." He trails off, his happy expression changing to something darker. He's about to say something completely different, but you stop him.

"Or if what?" you prod.

"Or if...someone in this tour group...has been Judged. Has met the Judge, " he says quietly. "The Legend states that if the bell has rung, then the human has been Judged and the Judge's decision has already been made. Of course, there is always the possibilty that the Legend could be off, but...well, you never know." He shrugs.

"Okay. So, next question...who is the Riverperson? Is there some kind of legend or backstory behind them?" you ask.

"Hmm..." He narrows his tiny eyes. "honestly, you and the other humans probably know as much about the riverperson as we do. I can't really answer that, but I can tell you a few things I've heard around the CORE that may or may not be true. For one thing, a lot of monsters think that they're older than the King and Queen themselves. Maybe even Gerson. We're still not sure. And, some monsters say they have some form of magic, which wouldn't be unexpected, it's just..." He sighs, "if they do have magic, none of the monsters know what kind it is just because we've never seen it before. If you're really curious, you might have to ask them yourself. I'm not sure how much they'll reveal to you, but, you never know." Charles shrugs.

So the Riverperson might be better off left as an unsolved enigma. Might. You're still curious, and when you're curious, you're ornery.

"Huh. So, third one: is the Underground open for touring regularly, and not just for groups like this?" you ask.

Charles nods. "It's open every day to tourists except on weekends. You're more than welcome to swing down here and learn as much as you like."

You nod. You've been left with more than enough information to ponder, and more people have wandered over to where you and Charles are standing.

"Okay. Well, thank you, Charles!" you say.

"No problem! Let me know if you have any more questions, and I'll do my best to answer them!" he replies happily.

You walk towards the back of the roof to get one last look at Waterfall before you have to move to...what was it, Snowdin Town? Yeah, you think that's what the map said.

"Okay, folks, our next stop is Snowdin! At this time, if you have a jacket or sweatshirt, I would recommend putting that on, because it's pretty cold out there, " he advises.

You pull on one of your favorite fandom sweatshirts, and ready yourself as much as you can for the freezing cold that you're about to meet.

Snowdin Town is pretty small, but it's cute. There's a relatively large Christmas tree in the center of the town, but it's devoid of gifts or decorations. There's an inn named the Snowed Inn, Grillby's, and there are various houses and Christmas decorations around the town. There's one house that's a little bigger than the rest that catches your eye. Charles babbles on about the town while you study the rest of the town. You don't really see much of interest here, and you're getting cold, so your group moves on pretty quickly.

For a few minutes, you all are quietly walking on a long pathway surrounded by a forest. You've all just crossed a bridge with too-wide bars, and you're approaching the Ruins.

The door to the Ruins is made of stone, and has the Delta Rune engraved in it. The run was the one you saw in Jugdment Hall. Charles explained that it was supposed to symbolize the Angel, the fallen child, the ambassador of monsters. Frisk.

With a bit of help from the tourists, Charles managed to push the door open. You all stumble inside, gaping at the Ruins.

The walls are crumbling stone the color of magenta, which strikes you as odd, and there are the occasional vines growing from out of the cracks in the walls. You see various disabled or already solved puzzles, and there are a few rogue leaf piles here and there. Charles instructs you all not to step on certain parts of the floor, because they aren't stable, apparently. You all work your way through the twisted halls, Home, which was Toriel's home, and finally, the room where Frisk fell. A large, wide, metal staircase has been placed for the tourists' convenience. People start to wander up it.

"This is it!" Charles announces. "We hope you enjoyed the tour, and that you'll vote in favor of the CORE's expansion! Have a great day, everyone!"

You check your phone. It's nearing five o' clock. You've got to go before you're potentially late!

"Thank you, Charles!" you say as you walk past him, then you climb up the stairs. You run to your Jeep, following the signs that direct you to the parking lot, hop in, throw your bag into the passenger seat, then you roll out, ready for whatever tonight's swim meet has to bring.

Chapter Text

Chapter VI - Quiet Water

There aren't many cars parked in the parking lot yet. You hop out of your Jeep, grabbing your heavy swim bag and drag it out, too. You somehow managed to still be early, even after the tour.

Head coach and a few lifeguards are putting out the rest of the lane lines. You set your bag at the table assigned to the coaches, then you pull off your coverup and shove it into your bag after you unzip it. You walk over to the other side of the pool and hop in, drifting over to attach the lane lines.

"Afternoon, (L/N)!" Coach greets you when he sees you bobbing over. You smile up at him.

"Good afternoon!" you respond, taking a lane line in your hand. "How are you today?"

"Doing pretty good, how about you?" he replies, kneeling and reaching down into the water to tighten a lane line.

"I'm well." You begin bobbing back to the other side. You dunk your head underwater, and the cool water sloshes over you and envelopes you. You reach the other side and hook the lane line through the metal loop. Eventually Dustin jumps in purposely close to you and splashes you. You cover your face, then start splashing him as soon as he comes up.

After you and the others have finished setting the lane lines up, you start your fifteen-minute warm-up session for the coaches. You don't swim hard, just enough to warm up your muscles and get them going. After the main sets, you all do two sprints off of the block, then your coach announces that you all are finished with warm-ups.

Families and swimmers from either team are coming in and settling in. On meet nights, you're pretty much on your feet until ten o' clock. The head coach is pretty busy, helping the meet run smoothly, so he leaves it up to you and the other coaches to get the relay teams together and to help get the little kids where they need to go.

Dustin, Dorsey, and Cam bring out twenty-four plastic chairs in stacks, and you start unstacking them. You place three behind each lane, spacing them out. They go back to retrieve forty more, and you move behind the water slides to unstack and place eight chairs in five rows. The head coach is helping put the tent that will serve as headquarters for Clerk Of Course up to your right. You and Cam help get all of the stopwatches and clipboards out and put them on the base of the diving board, where all of the people who are volunteering to be timers will meet in a few minutes. After all that is finished, you look around to get a good idea of how many swimmers are showing up tonight.

"PUNK!" You're slammed into a blur of blue, making you jump a little. Undyne hasn't seemed to notice the impact, just that you're in front of her.

"Oh. Hey, Undyne!" you greet, backing up a little. You see Alphys waddle up behind her fiancée.

"H-hi, (Y/N)!" Alphys says, giving you a wave.

"Hey, Alphys! How are you guys doing?" you ask, smiling a bit.

"We're good, but no one cares about us. What about you?!" Undyne demands.

"I'm fine. Oh, um, by the way, thanks for inviting me over for anime night. I thought it was really fun, and it's been a while since I've binged anime with a group of friends," you admit, dropping your hands to your sides.

"You could've spent the night!" Undyne says, putting her webbed hands on her hips. "We were bummed that you didn't stay for breakfast at least!"

You bite your lip and rub your right arm. "I'm sorry, I had to rest up a little before practice this morning," you apologize.

Undyne nods understandingly. "Okay, punk. That's cool. We didn't know if you got home safe or not."

You sigh, mentally smacking yourself for not remembering to shoot them a text. "I'm sorry, I meant to send you a text this morning but I forgot."

You're about to say something else when a little flash of blue and purple slams into your leg, making you stumble a little.

"Hi Coach (Y/N)!" An eager Frisk says, arms wrapped around your leg. When you manage to regain your balance, you hug them back as well as you can from your position, chuckling slightly.

"Hey, Frisk! What's up?" you ask.

"Nothing! I'm nervous and excited!" they inform you. You chuckle.

"That's good. Being nervous is perfectly natural." You lean down to their level, then lower your voice. "Do you know that I still get nervous at meets?"

"Really?" Frisk asks, looking a little confused for a second. You nod.

"You GOT THIS, PUNK!" Undyne yells, picking the ambassador up from under their arms and lifting them up. Frisk squeals in delight, and Alphys reminds Undyne to be careful.

"Undyne!" Frisk yelps, laughing their head off.

"HUMAN! WORRY NOT, BECAUSE I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HAVE ARRIVED, AND WILL SAVE YOU FROM UNDYNE!" The taller skeleton seems to have popped out from nowhere as he strides over to Frisk and tries to pry them from Undyne's death grip.

"how's it hangin', kiddo?" Sans shuffles over to where Alphys is standing, eyeing the struggling trio suspiciously.

"Undyne, Papyrus, please put Frisk down. We do not need them to get sick before they swim." You turn to see Toriel and Asgore coming over, both of them dressed casually for the occasion, Toriel in a lavender sundress, and Asgore in another floral shirt with shorts.

The two accusing monsters reluctantly set the human down. Frisk wobbles a bit before steadying themselves again. Papyrus glances at you, then immediately scoops you up in a loose hug, your feet dangling. You can breathe this time, and you feel comfortable enough to hug him back. He smells of soap and pure happiness. Damn, you love that smell.

"paps." You hear Sans warn. You can't help but giggle.

"DO NOT FEAR, BROTHER! I HAVE MASTERED THE ART OF HUGGING THE FRAGILE HUMAN!" When you look over Papyrus' armored shoulder, you realize just how short Sans is. Aw, the brothers are polar opposites. You love it.

"knew you would, bro." The shorter skeleton stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets.

"WAS THERE EVER ANY DOUBT?!" Papyrus sets you back down on your feet. You smile up at the skeleton, and he returns it.

"'course not," Sans replies, giving his brother an affectionate glance as Papyrus turns to Frisk.

"FRISK, WITH SUCH AN AWESOME HUMAN TEACHING YOU HOW TO SWIM, AND WITH SUCH AWESOME AND GREAT FRIENDS CHEERING YOU ON, I'M SURE YOU'LL DO WELL IN YOUR COMPETITION!" Papyrus yells, picking up Frisk in a hug.

"yeah, kid, you're gonna blow this outta the water," Sans snickers.

"NYEH! SANS, DO NOT EVEN START WITH THE PUNS! PLEASE! YOU'RE GOING TO RUIN THE COMPETITION FOR FRISK!" he groans. Toriel isn't even bothering to hide her laughter, much like Frisk. And, of course, you. "DO NOT LAUGH! YOU'LL ONLY ENCOURAGE HIM TO TELL MORE!" Papyrus shoots you all a pleading expression.

"c'mon, paps," Sans says, looking up at his younger brother.

"NO! NO MORE PUNS, SANS! OR KNOCK KNOCK JOKES!" Papyrus roars, his gloved hands over his eye sockets. He looks like he's actually in physical pain.

"'m 'kay, but no promises," Sans says, taking out his hands and holding them up in the air.

"(L/N)!" You turn to see Dustin near the starting block. He's holding up all five of his fingers on his right hand, and you get the gesture right away. You give him a thumbs ups, then turn back to the group. You kneel down to Frisk.

"Warm-ups start at five-fifteen sharp. We're gonna be in the same lane as usual, but we're starting at the block end today." You narrow your eyes a bit. You can pick apart the nervousness from the excitement in their eyes. "Hey. Listen. You're gonna be fine. Trust me. I remember my first swim, and I was a nervous wreck. But, it's not as bad as it seems. Okay, I'll see you in a few." You stand back up again, but Undyne catches your arm. She looks a little bit more serious this time.

"Hey punk, that reminds me. Me, Alphy, Papyrus, and Sans are timing. Uh, how does that work?"

You instantly perk up. "Okay, so there will be a meeting over here in a few minutes. They'll call you up when the time comes, and they'll explain everything to you. Cool?" you ask. Undyne nods. "And thank you for volunteering, guys! Our meets are heavily dependent on volunteers, so we appreciate it!" you add. "See you guys!"

"No problem! Later, punk!" Undyne yells as you jog away.

The coaches are already at their lanes. You walk over to yours as the coach discusses what sets are needed for each lane. When he walks over to yours, you beat him to it.

"One-hundred choice warm-up, four fifties kick-swim, two fifties swim, one free, one back, and three off the block sprints choice." you say. He nods, smiling.

"You got it," he says, then walks away to check everyone else, then announce the warm-up session.

"Attention Dragons, warm-ups will begin in five minutes. I repeat, warm-ups will begin in five minutes. Thank you."

Kids begin teeming from the crowds over to the pool. Your lane begins to get crowded, with eleven or so eleven and twelve-year-olds lined up behind the pool. Frisk is at the back, tugging nervously on their swim cap, which is blue, their suit a plain purple. Their goggles are blue and purple.

"Alright! Eleven and twelves, one hundred choice warm up! Let's go!" you yell. The first kid in line dives in headfirst. You frown. "Feet-first entries, guys!" You remind them. You step back as the next kid jumps in, but you're still splashed.

Some kids do their flip turns. Most of the ones in your lane don't. It's mostly just the faster kids who are in front who are doing them. The kids behind them don't even bother with it. You shake your head; they aren't doing themselves any good by not doing their flip turns.

But Frisk is doing their flip turns. Even though they are sloppy and crooked, they're still trying. And that's all you need to know that they really are determined to get better. That's a great trait to have nowadays, you think. It's hard to find those kinds of swimmers. You find yourself nodding absent-mindedly in approval.

Soon, everyone in your lane has finished their warm up. You give them their next set, and they're off. You give Frisk a few pointers here and there, but you don't really correct them. You don't want overwhelm them right now. There's plenty of time for correction in the future, and you don't want them to be more nervous than they should. The first meet is hard enough without having a bunch of new things to remember.

After the warm-ups are finally over, you pull Frisk aside. They aren't smiling and talking to Monster Kid. You'll take that as a bad sign. So, the typical spiel about how being nervous is normal isn't going to do much for them. Hmmm...

"Hey Frisk!" you yell, catching up them on the way back to their table. You can see Undyne, Alphys, Sans, and Papyrus all crowded around the diving board with a few other humans who are listening to the head coach's wife talk about timing and how it works. You turn back to Frisk.

"Hey," they say, turning to you, their arms folded across their chest.

"Hi! Okay. So, you look really nervous," you state. Then, an idea pops into your head. "I have an idea. Come on." You lead them to a little table with an umbrella over it. The table is crowded with plastic boxes filled with various things, like team-themed swim caps, team-themed towels, big and small, and temporary tattoos. There is a blonde, bored-looking woman sitting there behind the table. She looks up at you.

"Hi! How can I help you?" she asks, smiling. Frisk peeks out from behind you, holding your legs.

"Hi! Could I have a handful of tattoos, please?" you ask.

"Sure!" she replies.

You and Frisk spend about ten minutes applying them near the pool. You brought out a washcloth from your swim bag-hey, you do this a lot-and you two apply them. Before you know it, you have little, purple, cartoony dragons on your arms. Frisk has one smack-dab in the middle of their forehead, one on each cheek, and a few on their arms. Eventually, Undyne, Alphys, Sans, and Papyrus all wander over to see what you two are doing. Each monster has a stopwatch hanging from their neck-or spine.

"What are you guys doing?" Undyne asks, staring at the temporary pictures printed onto your skin.

"ain'tcha a little young for that, kiddo? thought tori wanted ya to wait until you were twenty." Sans asks, his tone teasing. Frisk giggles.

"IT IS FINE, BROTHER, FOR THEY ARE ONLY TEMPORARY!" Papyrus adds, helpfully. "AND HYPOALLERGENIC, TOO!"

"where would i be without ya, bro?" he asks.

"NOWHERE GOOD, SANS. NOWHERE GOOD. NYEH!" Papyrus adds pridefully. You chuckle.

"I want a temporary, hypoallergenic tattoo!" Undyne says. You pat the spot to your right, and she sits down beside you.

"I'm not sure how well it'll show up due to the color of your scales, but we can try," you say. "Where do you want it?"

Soon, all four monsters have a tattoo somewhere on their person. Undyne and Alphys each have one on the back of their scaly hands. Alphys' showed up pretty well, but Undyne's didn't, to her dismay. Sans and Papyrus each requested one on the back of their skulls, which made Frisk laugh pretty hard. Monster Kid comes by, too, and gets one on his tail. By then, you're out of tattoos.

Once they're all tatted up, Dustin comes over and tells you that the team's about to meet on the grassy part for a quick meeting, and that coach wants you to lead the cheer. You nod and stand from your cross-legged position, waving to all of the monsters.

Head coach makes an announcement, "Attention Dragons, we will meet on the grass near the baby pool in three minutes. Please make your way over there. Thank you."

You and the other coaches are standing in something that resembles a circle. The entire team trickles over, and when mostly everyone's here your coach starts.

"Hey, everyone. Who's ready for tonight?!" he yells.

There comes a soft chorus of "me"s from the crowd. You chuckle; this volume is going to be unacceptable for coach.

"I can't hear you!" Coach yells a little louder.

"ME!" the crowd yells. You still think Papyrus and Undyne together could do better, but oh well.

"There we go! Now, tonight we're all swimming freestyle and backstroke. Seven and unders are swimming...." he talks about the little kids for a little while, so you tune out and look for Frisk. They're near the back with MK. Both of them are looking at the head coach.

"Now, remember, when they call your age group, you need to report to Clerk Of Course. That's the big tent over there," he points at the tent, "and while you're there the ladies there are going to give you a card that has your heat number, the lane you'll be swimming in, your name, and your seed time. The clerk will sit you down according to heat and lane, and you'll move up rows until you're at the block. Does that make some kind of sense? Good. Remember, don't get out of the pool after your swim until the heat behind you has started." He continues on with rules and regulations that you've heard before. "And our relay tonight is the thirteen and up two-hundred freestyle relay. Assistant coaches will let you know if you're on it. Now, everyone swim fast! Be legal in all of your strokes. And, I think that's it. Coach (L/N) is going to lead the cheer tonight."

You step up. "Okay! Today we're going to do the 'We are the Dragons, couldn't be prouder! If you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!' one five times, and each time we say it, we're gonna get louder. Okay, Dustin is going to count us off. On three."

"One...two...three..."

"We are the Dragons, couldn't be prouder! If you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!" You go along with it, and hold up a one on your finger high in the air. Your voice is a little louder than the other ones, which is good. Some of them need a little encouragement.

"We are the Dragons, couldn't be prouder! If you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!" You hold up another finger, and keep going.

"We are the Dragons, couldn't be prouder! If you can't hear us, we'll yell a little louder!" Adding another finger to make three, you can see parents, people from the other team, and small children staring in your peripheral vision. Good, that's what you all want to get.

"WE ARE THE DRAGONS, COULDN'T BE PROUDER! IF YOU CAN'T HEAR US, WE'LL YELL A LITTLE LOUDER!" Four fingers, scream louder. You see Dustin and Dorsey are cupping their mouths with their hands. As much as a douche as Dorsey is, he's a good team leader.

"WE ARE THE DRAGONS, COULDN'T BE PROUDER! IF YOU CAN'T HEAR US, WE'LL YELL A LITTLE LOUDER!"  You bring your hand down and start clapping along with the rest of the coaches and some of the swimmers. The crowd begins to dissipate after that.

Soon after that, the timers have lined up at the other end of the pool for the little kids' session. You run around, making sure all of the little kids are at Clerk Of Course, then you swipe the relay cards from Coach. You and Dustin start filling them out, putting four names per cards. Dorsey comes over to help you and Dustin decide on which teenagers and adults will be in what lane, since he's the older kids coach. He leaves a while after that, taking a third of the cards with him to tell the people who are on the relay the news. You and Dustin split up, too.

You secretly like the look of terror on the teenager's faces when they've been told that they're on a relay. Is that a little cruel? No. No it isn't. Being on a relay is a good thing, but you get why the teens can be reluctant to swim in one. Relays are at the end of the meet, and the manage to screw up everyone who's swimming in it's dinner schedule. Plus, it's one of the main parts of the meet with the fastest of swimmers competing.

After that's all said and done, you drop your pile of cards off at Clerk Of Course, where they'll call the relay over at the end of the meet and get the teams together. You run around to do one more check with the little kids. The majority of them are where they need to be, and you guide the few stragglers towards Clerk Of Course.

There. You decide to check on Frisk, so you run around to the other side of the pool where the tables and the Snack Shack are. You spot Toriel and Asgore seated at a table towards the middle, with Monster Kid and Frisk next to them. Frisk has taken off their swim cap and goggles.

"Hey!" you greet.

"Hello, (F/N)!" Toriel says.

"Howdy!" Asgore replies. "How've you been, Miss (L/N)?" he asks, his gaze shifting towards you.

"I've been well! And you all?" you ask.

"We've been just fine, thank you." Toriel responds. Frisk looks up at you.

"Coach (L/N), are you swimming tonight?" they ask.

"Yeah I am!" you say, feeling a little jittery all of the sudden.

"Cool!" they respond.

Toriel sighs. "I suspect you're the one that helped them put all of those tattoos on their face?"

You chuckle sheepishly. "Yeah...I am..."

Toriel shakes her head. "I guess there is no harm in showing a little team spirit."

"It's okay mom. These tattoos are hypoallergenic!" Frisk says, patting the one of their forehead.

Toriel chuckles, then turns back to you. "So when are they to swim? We've never been to one of these meets before."

"Oh, um...so after the eight and unders get started, it typically goes pretty quickly since that age group is only swimming one lap. After that is the nine through tens, and then the eleven and twelves. So if I were you, I'd start getting ready when they call the nine and tens for the second time. It goes pretty fast, so just listen and be aware, and you'll be fine." You give them a quick thumbs up.

"Um...(Y/N)? I need to talk to you for a second." You turn to face you conflicted-looking head coach.

"Oh. Okay." You turn back to Asgore, Toriel, Frisk, and MK. "Excuse me for a minute." They all nod and you follow head coach.

"What is it?" you ask when you two are out of earshot of other people.

"It's about Frisk." he says. "Um...so, the people at Clerk Of Course aren't sure of what...gender group to put them in." You pause.

You hadn't even thought about that.

"What do you think?" he asks.

You bite your lip. "I say that we should talk to them and their parents first. I feel like this is a personal issue that should be left up to them. I mean, I know we have a few monsters on the team that are gender neutral, so they choose whichever one they're more comfortable with and which one will be fairest to them. Do you think we should go about it like that? I feel like Frisk is pretty small for their age...so maybe racing against the boys wouldn't be as fair to them...?" It's more of a question than it is a statement.

Coach still looks unsure. "I think you should talk to them about it. You know them better than any of the other coaches do, so..."

"Yeah. Okay." You frown. Should you address it to Toriel and Asgore first and then to Frisk? Or vice versa?

Hm...Frisk is probably going to be really uncomfortable with this topic, but then again, they're still a person too, and they deserve to have a say in this. Maybe Toriel and Asgore can help with getting their input on this. This probably isn't as big of a deal as it seems, because you've swam with a heat of boys before. You got second place, too. So, it's just a matter of which Frisk is more comfortable with.

"Okay. I'll do it. I'll tell you what's gonna happen as soon as I find out which they're more comfortable swimming with."

He nods. "Gotcha."

You walk back over to Toriel and Asgore's table. Frisk and MK seemed to have run off somewhere. You lean down on the table.

"What it is?" Toriel asks.

"Would either of you know which gender Frisk would feel more comfortable swimming with? I'm not really sure, and it didn't cross my mind to ask them before. I want them to be as comfortable as possible when swimming," you say slowly.

The two goat monsters glance at each other. "You'll have to ask them about it, I'm afraid. They get incredibly shy when it comes to gender."

You nod. "Okay. Do you know where they went?"

"They're over at the little playground back there," Asgore points to the area to the left of the baby pool.

"Okay. Thank you!" you say.

"One more thing, Miss (L/N)." Asgore says. You turn, afraid you said something wrong.

"Thank you for taking their personal feelings into account. A lot of people we know don't even bother, it's just a matter of getting them where they should be." Toriel shakes her head. "We appreciate it."

You nod. "Of course. Frisk is a person too, and they should be able to have a say in this. I think not taking their opinion into account is just wrong." You sigh. "I'll see you guys later."

"Goodbye, child." Toriel says. "And, if they freeze up on you, then you might have better luck with us trying to figure it out. Although, it seems as if they have a good relationship with you, so..." Toriel shrugs.

You nod. "Okay. I'll do that if they lock up."

Frisk is hanging upside down on the monkey bars. They get down after righting themselves, then they walk up to you.

"Hi!" they say. You bend down to their level.

"Hello, Frisk. How are you feeling?" You hope this conversation won't make them even more nervous than they already are.

"I'm feeling pretty good!" they say. You nod.

"That's good. I...um...have something to talk to you about." You inhale. You can't stutter or hesitate, as it might send the wrong message to them. If there's one thing you've noticed in the time you've been coaching them, it's that they're a pretty observant child for their age.

Their face immediately falls. "What's wrong?"

You guide them to the deep end of pool, and you two sit down. You're sitting down where you were at the tattoo session.

"Nothing's wrong, I just need your input on something. I want you to answer honestly and to know that there is no wrong answer." you say, lowering your voice.

They nod. "Okay."

You inhale. "Which gender would you be more comfortable swimming with?"

They freeze up immediately, eyes going blank. You don't hesitate when you pull them into your stomach in an embrace.

"Hey, it's okay. You don't need to be embarrassed or shy about it. I want you to be as comfortable as possible when you swim. You're a person too, and you deserve to have your opinion heard, and I'm here to hear it."

You feel your shirt become a little wet. You lift them up, stand, and then you pick them up and walk into the lifeguard break room. It's currently empty, much to your relief. You shut the door, then set them on the table. They look up at you with red eyes. You get a tissue from a box residing on the counter, then you wipe away the tears dripping down their cheeks. You have a feeling that gently pushing them for an answer isn't the best idea right now, so you decide to wait for them to answer. They cry for at least another five minutes before they answer.

"I...I don't know. I don't really..." They cover their face with their hands. You hop up on the table next to them, then pull them into your lap. They bury their face into the crook of your neck.

"I'm listening," you whisper.

"I don't know. I don't feel like either," they admit. "I just don't like that it causes so many issues..."

You run your fingers through their hair. "Listen. You're not causing any issues. I want you to feel as comfortable as possible, and for that to happen I need your opinion. Whatever you're most comfortable with, I'll make it happen. I promise you," you whisper, intending to keep that promise.

"Really?" They hiccup.

"Really," you respond.

They're silent for a while longer. You hear the faint noise of the microphone outside, but you keep your hold on them. It must be time for the nine and tens to head to Clerk Of Course.

"Can you just...put me with the girls? I feel like the boys are too big and that would be a little unfair. Plus, most of the girls are nicer to me."

You nod, then frown. "Is someone not being nice to you?" you ask.

"There are a few boys who make fun of me. Some of them make fun of me because my parents are monsters," they say.

"Give me their names, and I'll put a stop to it," you say.

They shake their heads. "It's really okay. I'm used to it."

You pull away from them, then study their face. Used to it?!

"No, it's not okay. You don't deserve to be bullied because of what you're more comfortable with, and you sure as hel-heck don't deserve to be harassed because of Toriel and Asgore!" you cry. "You're a kid, and you deserve to be one, for the love of the stars!"

Their face falls for a second. "Really?"

"Yes, really!" you exclaim, then sigh. "Hey, if you don't want to talk about it now, I understand. Just give me their names before practice tomorrow, or have Toriel email a list to me, and I'll take care of it. Okay?"

They nod, then wrap their arms around your neck, once again hiding in your neck. "Thank you."

You return the hug. "Don’t mention it."

They pull back after a few seconds, gazing at your face. "You know, you look really pretty, even with that scar."

You feel your cheeks heat up. "Oh...um...thanks..." you say, looking away. They only giggle.

"Is it about time for me to get ready?" they ask as you hold the door open for them.

"Yeah, about. I have to go check on a few things, but I'll be at Clerk Of Course before your swim, too. 'Kay?"

"Okay. See you later!" They say, waving as they go back to Toriel and Asgore. They shoot you a glance and you give them a thumbs up.

Head coach is waiting by Clerk Of Course. He sets down the stack of cards he's holding and looks up at you.

"Girls," you say, approaching him.

He nods. "Okay, (Y/N). Thank you."

"No problem. Oh, and I've been informed that Frisk might have a potential bullying problem. Could you keep an eye out for them? They told me that they were gonna give me some names later, but still..." you trail off, frowning.

Head coach nods. "Absolutely. I'm not willing to stand for that kinda crap." His expression turns to one he usually saves for the troublemakers. "I'll keep my eye on 'em. Thank you, (F/N). I appreciate it."

"You're welcome," you respond, then you turn around, and go back over to where Frisk is. The speaker suddenly blares, and heads turn to its direction.

"Now calling eleven and twelve-year-olds to Clerk Of Course. Eleven and twelves to Clerk Of Course." You turn to where Asgore and Toriel are sitting. When you peek around the crowds of people, you see that Frisk already has their swim cap on and ready to go, goggles tucked away under the strap of their suit. Toriel and Asgore are speaking to them, putting their paws on Frisk's shoulder. The other eleven and twelves begin trickling over from the crowd, Frisk and MK together. You make your way over to your lane.

"Dragons! Over here!" you yell. The kids you coach turn towards you and begin smiling.

"Hey, Coach (Y/N)!"

"Coach! Are you gonna watch me?!"

"So, for the flip turn, do you take one stroke or can you take two?"

"I'm so nervous!"

You get them to quiet down before you bend down to their level. They all stare at you intently.

"Okay, guys. Second meet of the season. Tonight, we're swimming freestyle and backstroke. Remember what we talked about in practice! And, do your dang flip turns! It'll make you better! You all have been swimming pretty well, so let's keep this up! It doesn't matter if you're first or last, as long as you give every swim your all, you'll be fine! I'm going to watch each and every one of you swim, and I'll be over there-" you point to the designated coach's area along the side of the pool, where Dustin, Dorsey, and Cam are standing, then continue, "and I'll be cheering for you guys! Now, WHO'S READY TO KICK YOUR SEED TIME'S BUTT?!" you yell a bit too obnoxiously, earning a few more stares.

"I AM!"

"I WILL!"

"YEEAAAAHHH!"

"JUST DO IT!"

You shake your head. "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

"I AM!"

"I WILL!"

"YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!"

"JUST DO IIIIIIIIIIT!"

You clap your hands along with the kids, who are now yelling. You see a few of the Clerk Of Course ladies glaring at you, while head coach is just shaking his head, smiling.

"Alright! Let's go, guys!" The group disperses, except for MK and Frisk, whom you kneel down to.

"Frisk is getting nervous again!" MK says.

You turn to Frisk, who, indeed, looks nervous. You've tried nearly everything, except for one, so you go with your last resort: "Okay. What is it that you're nervous about?"

They shrug. "It could be first meet nerves, but I feel like I'm going to mess up!"

You grin. "Hey. Let me tell you guys an embarrassing story of mine." You drape your arms around their backs, then begin. "One time, I was on a two-hundred individual medley relay, and I had to swim backstroke, the first event. Our relay was in lane two, lane one was empty, and lane three had another team in it. So, I go in, took my mark, and then I started swimming my first lap. I felt like I was swimming really fast, but I was actually swimming diagonally, so when I went into my flip turn, I got really discombobulated, and I couldn't tell which lane was which! I was underwater so long that I was running out of air, so I just pushed off and went into streamline, then I swam back. Little did I know, I finished in the wrong lane. Lane one."

They begin laughing. You giggle at your own stupid mistake, wanting to slap yourself for it.

"But you know what happened afterwards? The only other people who saw my mistake were my dad, the timer, and my relay team!"

They laugh a little more. "Really?!" Frisk asks.

You nod. "We all make mistakes, it's just a matter of whether or not we learn from them. It's okay to mess up! Just give it your all! That's all that matters to me, okay? I don't care if you get last or first as long as you do your best!"

Frisk nods, looking a bit happier from your story. MK's laughter finally dies down.

"But you're so good at swimming! How did you..?"

You grin. "It happens to everyone. Trust me. Now, get out there and swim!"

Frisk's heat is called up, and seated. You wish your lane luck before heading over to the coach's area, where Dustin and Dorsey are. You sit down next to them, the meet manager in front of you all, holding the starting beeper and a microphone. He sneaks a glance at your scar before returning to the next heat.

"Next heat...take your mark.....BEEP!" He presses the beeper button, and the swimmers are off. The first heat of eleven-twelve boys is up next, followed by two more heats, then the girls. Frisk is in the first heat of the girls, while MK is in the second of the boys. There's a good mix of monsters in each gender group.

You see Asgore, Toriel, and several other monsters lined up at the end of Frisk's lane, cheering for them. Undyne is yelling obnoxiously from the other side of the pool, where she's timing, and Alphys is giving them a thumbs up from the lane beside Undyne. Papyrus and Sans are in lanes seven and eight, the former of the two in Frisk's lane. Papyrus yells encouragement, while Sans presumably makes a pun you can't make out, causing the younger brother to scream in frustration while Frisk only giggles.

The boys' heats go by quickly, then, it's heat one of the girls. Frisk shoots you a nervous glance through their goggles, and you smile and give them a thumbs up. The meet manager tells the heat to step up...take their mark...BEEP!

And they're off! You stand for your chair while Frisk takes off in a sloppy dive. Their arms aren't straight, and they dive a little too shallow, their streamline tight. They only take two dolphin kicks before coming up to the surface and breaking out into freestyle. You yell and scream like a madwoman as they kick, not caring about the stares. Frisk takes a breath every three strokes like you instructed them to. They go into a crooked flip turn, then push off into another messy streamline. They're falling behind the other swimmers, but you could care less. They're still swimming. That's good.

You scream again their hand touches the wall, and they come up. You begin jumping, smiling, and clapping loudly. They give you a sheepish glance before giving the other swimmers a high-five. It's good that they have good sportsmanship.

They get out, thank Papyrus, then walk over to you. Instantly, you're giving them high-fives.

"Great swim! Your strokes look better, and your kick was good, too..." You give them a bit of praise before they interrupted you.

"I did awful!" they complain. 

"NO YOU DIDN'T! I could tell that you were doing your best! You swam that in fifty-five, that's good! Remember when we practiced sprints and you were at a minute and five? You shaved ten seconds off! That's awesome!" you yell, before hugging them. They giggle.

"Thank you, Coach. It's because of you that I'm better!" they say, hugging you back.

"No problem!" you say. "I think your parents are waiting for you. I have to get ready for my swim, too."

They nod, then scamper away with MK. You chuckle slightly before going back to your table.

Before you know it, you're standing behind the blocks, swim cap on, goggles sucking your eyes out, with your heat card in hand. None of your friends are timing you, much to your dismay, so you hand your card over to the man timing you. You hear Undyne and Papyrus yelling at you, Asgore, Toriel, Frisk, MK, and a lot of other swimmers at the end of your lane, chanting your last name. It makes you smile.

But you're in the zone right now.

"Heat five, women nineteen and over fifty freestyle. Take your mark."

You inhale, then bend over, your hands gripping the edge of the blocks, your dominant foot's toes over the edge, entire body ready to explode, like a spring ready to bounce.

...BEEP!

You explode off of the blocks, sucking in air while you still have it, arms automatically going into streamline. You hit the water, beginning your dolphin kicks, which originate from your hips, down to your feet in a wave-like motion. You kick eight times before reaching the surface and breaking out.

Left arm out, pinky entering first, entire body except your head rotating onto your side, head looking straight down. Your entire body is on autopilot as you tear through the water, your kick sending white water spraying through the air. You come into your flip turn strong, taking a breath before the flags and holding it the last five meters into the wall. You flip straight over, pushing off on your back into your eight dolphin kicks, your lungs beginning to burn.

I can breathe later.

With that, you come out of your streamline and into your strokes again. Your thighs are burning, but you press on, kicking even harder, arms going even faster than you thought you could manage. You change your breathing pattern to eight strokes, one breath. You're halfway before you know it. You kick even harder than before, your entire body screaming for air, but you push yourself.

Your hand hits the wall hard. You gasp, then slow your breathing.

"What...was...my time?" You ask between breaths.

"Twenty-seven seconds, miss. Good swim," he responds, writing your time down on a clipboard.

The heat above you is started, then you get out, using your bruised calf to clamber out. You thank your timer before facing an assault from Undyne.

"THAT WAS GREAT, PUNK! YOU WERE SO FAST!" she yells, slapping you on the back.

"Y-yeah, your str-strokes were pretty. A-and, you look r-really intimidating with your c-cap and scar combo," Alphys adds.

"HUMAN! YOU DID A GREAT JOB SWIMMING! I APPLAUD YOU!" Papyrus says.

"Thanks...guys..." you say, taking your swim cap off.

"You earned it, punk!" Undyne says.

You nod. "Thanks. I...have to go...do coach stuff...now...so....see ya!" you respond, waving to everyone.

They wave back, and you go back to your table, pulling your coverup over your head after you dry off a bit, your body numb. You receive all kinds of praise and "good swim"s, but you thank everyone, and go meet Frisk.

"You're so good at swimming!" Frisk says. "How long did it take you to get this fast?! I wanna be able to swim like you!"

You frown. "Hmm...I think it took me around..." you trail off, using your fingers to count off seasons, "ten seasons? I don't know. I hit gold times in my sixth season, four of those summer, one year round, and the other high school exhibition. That's how long it took me!" You chuckle. "Practice makes perfect!"

The meet runs on. Frisk isn't as nervous for backstroke, and they do well. You swim your second event, too, getting the same comments as before. With that, you eat dinner, then you help manage the rest of the meet.

Around nine o' clock or so, the meet ends, and the visiting team leaves. The majority of the home team stays for the after party. It begins to get dark, so you and the other coaches go into the break room to open the boxes of non-toxic glow sticks. You all crack them, lighting them up, and, when the sun sets, finally, you all go outside to see all of the team in the pool, waiting for what comes next.

You and the coaches toss all of the glow sticks out in the pool, watching the silhouettes of kids as they catch them, and wrap them around their wrists, necks, and arms. Head coach hooks his phone up to a speaker, and soon loud music is pounding through the pool. The party runs until around ten o' clock, when you and the other coaches are permitted to leave. You grab your shit, get into your Jeep after you say your goodbyes, then you drive home, shower, and crash onto your bed.

Chapter Text

Chapter VII – Spider Dance

Frisk ended up doing pretty well for their first meet. Even though they got disqualified in backstroke for doing something wrong in their flip turn, they didn't get disqualified for their freestyle, and placed sixth in bronze league. You congratulated them; after all, it is hard to place in bronze at a first meet. They're one place away from earning a ribbon.

The day after the meet, your editor commented on your article. She's actually pro-monster too, much to your relief. You're happy about that; after all, if her opinion on the monsters had been more negative, then there'd have been a good chance that you would have lost your job. Now, you're sitting on your couch. You had finished coaching practice a few hours earlier, and you were bored now. Your daily article has already been written and submitted to your editor. You wrote about your experience in the Underground, since there were a lot of questions about it on your last article. People seemed satisfied with your description of it.

Not only that, but Alphys had sent you a text earlier saying that a trial date had been set for the douche who attacked Alphys, and that she wanted you to come testify. It was currently June, and his trial was set to be in November, quite a few months away. You had it written down, and you had requested that the bookstore-the one where you met Alphys-give you copies of the security feed to back up your case. You're pretty sure that Alphys will win, but then again, justice doesn't always prevail like it should. In any case, you're ready to go when the time comes.

Speaking of November, which is six months away, that's the month of the presidential election. You've decided to start researching candidates soon, if you have the time. It seems like this election is going to be pretty...heated. You're curious as to which will win. From what you've seen on the news, the democratic candidate had been pro-monster, with monsters having the same rights as humans, republican pro-monster as well, some with extremely limited rights, others with the same rights as humans. Then there was a third-party candidate who was getting extremely popular now, and he believed that war should be declared on the monsters, and that all should be slaughtered. You shiver, hoping that won't be the case.

You decide to change you train of thoughts. Your phone buzzes, and you see that Quinn has shot you a text.

The "platonic" date between Burgerpants and Quinn is tomorrow, and you've been helping Burgerpants out. He's pretty nervous, but you've been encouraging him and helping him get his mind off of it. Quinn hasn't been any better; he keeps sending you texts saying he's having second thoughts, which you know are just a result of him being nervous. You keep reassuring him over text, but you don't think it's helping him very much. You know everything will work out, these two just have to get over their fear, and then they'll more than likely hit it off.

Quinn the Nice Cream Guy :-): I don't think I can do this!
You: Yes you can! Don't worry, he's nervous too! You guys will be fine!

You sigh, glancing at the paused screen of Skyrim to type your response. You had just finished off a dragon, and you were in the midst of receiving another dragon soul. Yay you. Honestly, you hated killing dragons in Skyrim. They were so pretty, and strong, and you didn't like the fact that you could only Shout by obtaining their Souls.

That makes you wonder how monsters cope with humans, and their sick interpretations of monsters before the monsters emerged. How were the wizards able to sway humanity's point of view on the monsters and their culture after they had locked monsterkind away? They must have told their children stories about monsters and how they were evil, written the wrong facts down in the books, and wiped away every hint of monsters being kind and peaceful off of the face of the earth. You're kind of mad that the wizards were able to do it.

And that no one else stood up for the monsters at the time. Were there rebel groups who were against the wizard's intentions back then? Or were all humans just that shitty?
You sigh, biting your lip. You're not even sure if you want to know, honestly. But that was in the past, and you have today and the future to think about. Your phone pings, letting you know that you have a new email. You swipe the screen to see that Toriel has emailed you:


Dear (Y/N),

Good afternoon! This is Toriel, and Frisk brought up the bullying issue. They have informed me that you told them you would handle the issue, and they have given me a list of names-

The message lists a few names, and you recognize a few. You frown; you had expected better from these kids.

Thank you for offering to take care of this issue; Frisk has not brought it up with us before. Frisk loves you as their coach!

One more thing: we'd like to invite you over to dinner on Thursday night at five o' clock. Everyone will be there, and Alphys and Undyne wanted you to come for dinner as well as the anime marathon that will follow afterwards. I hope you will be able to join us!

 Thank you again, Miss (L/N). You are truly a phenomenal woman!

Sincerely,
Toriel

That last sentence made your cheek the tiniest bit warm. You don't hear that every day. You copy the list of names, then send an email to your coach:

Hey, coach! Toriel sent me an email with the list of names of kids who are picking on Frisk. I'll take care of them next practice, I just wanted to touch base with you in order to make sure these kids learn their lesson. : ) Thank you!

You hit send, and then you turned off your phone. Another anime marathon? You're definitely down. Your phone buzzes yet again.

Message from Undyne the Undying ┌( ಠ_ಠ)┘: Yo punk, we're having another anime night. Toriel should have sent you a message earlier, but idk if you got it or not so heres another one
You: Toriel sent me the info. I'll be there. : )
Undyne: AW FUCK YES ╰(◡‿◡✿╰)

You chuckle, setting you phone aside. That means you'll have to get your article ready for tomorrow and submit it earlier. You sigh, then turn back to your paused game of Skyrim.

Hm. Looks like you have a Dragon Soul to absorb and an article to write.

After a few more minutes of slaying bandits, and defeating enemies on Skyrim, you decide you should start tomorrow's article.

But, you're at a loss on what to write for your article.

You think about doing something pro-monster. But what? You've written about your journey Underground, the lunch with monsters, and the CORE and its expansion. What else could you do?

You're stuck in a bubble of writer's block as you try to come up with something. You surf through the internet trying to get a general idea of what the United States, as a whole, thinks about monsterkind. You mostly see articles on monster magic, and their Souls, why monsters aren't dangerous, why they should be forced back Underground...you sigh.

Wait...what if you took the anti-monster activists' point of view on things and...twist it to make it pro-monster? Maybe you could write it, let Burgerpants read it, then ask his opinion of it. You nodded, there weren't a whole lot of articles on that.

So, you dig into why anti-monster activists don't want monsters to have rights, be above ground, or be alive, and then you write it down. After that's finished, and you've cited all of the sources, you begin reasoning with the main points you found, explaining why it's wrong in an opinionated, rational manner. You might be able to sway some people's mind. But first, you'll get Burgerpants' opinion, then ask your editor what she thinks.

A few more minutes, and you have your article ready. You call up BP.

"What's up?" he asks when he picks up.

"Nothing much. I was wondering if you could read an article that I wrote and give me your opinion on them," you say, printing out a copy of your article, then walking over to your printer.

"Yeah. I'll be over in a second," he says.

"I'll be waiting," you respond, taking out the finished copy and reading over it. You hang up, then set your phone down onto the desk. Burgerpants barges in a few seconds later.

"What's this one about?" he asks, immediately going over to your couch. You hand him your article.

"I'm trying to sway some people's minds about monsters, so I decided to try my hand at persuasive writing," you respond, sitting on the longer part of your leather couch, curling up in a ball as you wait for him to finish reading.

"It's good. I like how you backed up your reasons," he nods, handing it back to you. "I mean, you're bound to offend someone, but it's still good."

You shrug, throwing it back on your desk. "Thank you. I'm glad to here that. If people get offended, then that's their problem, not mine," you say. Burgerpants nods.

"Good point." He goes silent for a minute, and his tail absent-mindedly swooshes back and forth. You know he's thinking about the date.

"You're going to be fine tomorrow, BP," you say, turning back towards him.

"I don't know. What if I freeze up? Or royally fuck up? I don't know if-"

You're seriously getting sick of him and Quinn thinking they can't do this. It's beginning to piss you off. "Burgerpants. Listen. I know you're worried about this, but there's really no need to psyche yourself up like this. You have nothing to worry about! Quinn is nervous too, and he keeps telling me that he's having second thoughts. You're going to be fine. You both will. I'll be there to help reconcile if necessary, and I'm about ninety-nine-point nine repeating percent sure you two will hit it off. I feel it in my bones, BP, tomorrow is going to be great! And, if you don't think so, then go on a-fucking-head and be a downer. You'll see tomorrow! I'm telling you!" You're on the verge of yelling, so you stand, then walk to your fridge. You grab you and BP something to drink, then toss him his can.

"Thanks," he mutters.

"YOU'RE FUCKING WELCOME!" you yell, feeling the need to release some of your emotions.

He pops open the tab thing, then takes a swig. You sit down next to him, then drink yours too. You two sit in companionable silence for a while.

"Guess I should get going," he says, getting up.

"Quit being so hard on yourself! You really deserve a chance like this, BP!" you say, setting your drink aside and standing up.

"Okay, okay," he says with a roll of his eyes. You snort. "I'm all sunshine and rainbows now."

"You'd better be," you murmur.

He walks over to your door. "Your article was good though."

"Thank you. Thank you for coming over to read my bullshit," you say.

He chuckles, stepping outside. "Anytime, (L/N). Thanks again." He says, waving his tail as he turns to walk back to his apartment.

"Yeah. See you!" you say as he shuts his door. Gently closing the door, you press your back against it.

Burgerpants really was too hard on himself, you think as you continue to send your article to your editor, adding a blurb explaining why it was early underneath the attachment. After you hit send, you lay your head down on the desk in front of your laptop.

You've been consumed with boredom for a while. Normally, when you had time to kill like this, you'd play video games or go for another swim. You'd already done both, and you were getting more restless by the minute. You stood, walking into your room.

Boredom gnawed on your brain and consumed you. You groaned, flopping onto your bed, burying your head into your pillow. You strained your brain to come up with something to do of relative interest. The silence in your apartment was deafening, and you were beginning to miss BP's company, shitty as it could be at times.

With no other options seeming appealing, you decide to take a walk. It would help clear your head, and it was something to do!

You pulled on a shirt of your choosing, along with a pair of shorts, and then you shoved your feet into your shoes, and then you were off after you grabbed your purse. You would walk down to the park, maybe to the pool, and then go-

Your thoughts were rudely interrupted when you accidentally missed a step, and you shrieked as gravity betrayed you once again and you tumbled forward, your arms splayed out in front of you. Gravity was merciless as it pulled you to the earth.

You groaned when your hands made contact with the ground, and your entire body smashed into the floor.

"Fucking hell!" you curse, trying to sit up. Pain shoots up through your wrists as you shifted your weight to them. When you were on your knees, you examined the damage.

Nothing was broken, thank the stars above. Your forearms and knees would definitely bruise, though. Another groan escaped you as you picked yourself back up. You hear someone's door opening from above.

"Wha-(L/N)? Did you just...fall down the stairs?" Burgerpants asks.

"Yes!" you say, leaning on the handrail for support.

"Are you okay?" he asks, but you can tell from the way his voice is cracking that he's about to have a full-blown laugh attack.

"Yep, just frigging peachy!" you respond, crossing your arms.

He can't hold it back anymore and busts, his laughter echoing off the ceiling of the building. You scowl, then flip him off, which only makes him laugh harder. You stomp away as his stupid laughter continues, your feet guiding you to the pool. Eh, you'll just stop by for a minute, then you'll walk back home. You rub your arms where they collided with the floor. Just what you need. More bruises. Another sigh escapes you as you continue along the sidewalk, hands folding across your chest.

Stars, you hate gravity with all of your SOUL. Apparently, the feeling's mutual.

The pool is pretty crowded when you arrive; there are children and teenagers milling about the deck, shallow, and deep end. You're glad you opted not to bring your swim gear, since the pool's so crowded. As good as swimming was at helping clear your mind, it was hard to do it when twelve-year-olds were crossing your lane, and you had to jerk your mind out of the zone much too forcefully, then you had to come to a complete stop in order not to hit the little shit.

You sighed, then you turn back, deciding to head back home. How the other coaches deal with their kids will be always remain a mystery to you. The eleven-and-twelves were a handful, but in a good way. At least they were nice to you and did what you asked.

Random thoughts fill your mind as you continue down the sidewalk. You pass by the park, and you arrive at a small café called Muffet's. The walls are painted a light shade of lavender, and about two-thirds of the wall are made of glass, which slopes into a gentle arch that runs into the ceiling. The word "Muffet's" is printed in a neon-pink light-up letter at the top of the building, and there's a little walkway with columns supporting a mini-roof. The columns themselves are decorated with intricate carves of spiders. You stop at the front, studying the unique architecture of the building.

You're beginning craving a cup of coffee, even though it's noon. Eh, whatever, coffee is coffee, and it doesn't matter when you drink it as long as you have some. Plus, those signs advertising Muffet's signature donuts were helping sway your mind, with the rich texture that was heavily emphasized by the enlargement of the donut.

Your mind intent on buying a coffee and a spider donut, you push the doors open. A little bell rings above your head, announcing your presence to the café. Some heads swivel to meet your gaze, some of which...are not heads, but monster equivalents of one. There are a few humans in here, and some of them aren't even bothered by your scar, which is mainly due to the fact that there's an entire network of spider webs that interconnect within each other, dozens of monster spiders climbing from web to web, occasionally dropping down on a thin string of delicate spider silk shining with magic to serve a customer. You end up joining the people who are staring at the web. How long did it take for them to create that?! It's amazing!

Eventually, you are able to tear your eyes away when an anthropomorphic spider woman walks out from the back. Her hair is pitch black, and is tied up into two buns, her skin a dark lavender, all five of her eyes dark. She has six arms, two of which are holding what you assume are the customer's orders. She's outfitted in a cute, red dress that matches her purple skin. Amazed, you approach the counter, looking down at the various sweets and treats inside.

"Good afternoon, dearie. Welcome! I am Muffet, the owner of this establishment. And you are?"

"I'm (Y/N) (L/N)!" you reply, examining the menu.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, dear. I've not seen you here before. What can I help you with?" she asked.

You ordered your favorite kind of coffee along with a (f/f) spider donut. Muffet brews your coffee while a small team of spiders bag your donut. You giggle; they're so small! And they don't look like regular spiders, either. These are too cute! The team places your bagged donut onto the counter, and one waves its legs at you. You laugh a little, waving back at it, and the team turns to meet Muffet, who has your cup of coffee in a to-go cup. You thank her, then pay for your Items.

"Thank you, (Y/N)! Do come back!" Muffet says as her team of spiders wave at you with their legs. You wave back with a smile on your face.

"This looks great! Count on it!" you reply, turning towards the table filled with half-and-half, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, honey, and other extras. You prepare your beverage to your liking, then you turn towards the exit and pull open a door.

You sip your drink throughout your walk home. It's hot, but not too hot, and it's crafted perfectly. Why is monster food so much better than human food?! It must be magic. Shit, magic makes everything better. The café is only a six-minute walk or so away from your apartment. You'll definitely remember that for future reference. The rest of the walk home is quiet, filled only with your occasional rambling thought.

When you approach your apartment, you climb up the stairs a bit more carefully this time, only for your toes to hit the edge of the first step, causing you to stumble. You catch yourself before you fall this time. Well, you were closer that time. Oh well. You find your keys in your purse, and dig them out before jamming them in the lock, twisting them until you hear a click. You kick the door open, the shut it closed with your foot after yanking the keys out from the lock.

You drop your cup and the unopened bag onto the dining room table, then set your purse strap on the hook beside the door.

The donut is no worse than the coffee; it's sweet, but not too sweet as to factor out the delicious flavor of (f/f) mixed with magic. You don't think you'll ever get over the fact that you're eating magic. That's insane! Magic can be digested?! Wait, does that mean you absorb it?! Or does your SOUL absorb it?! If so, then does that mean it would contribute to you own supply of magic?

You silenced your growing onslaught of questions; after all, you were meeting the monsters for dinner tomorrow. You could indulge your curiosity then. You glanced at the clock. It was still only around two or so. You walked over to your couch, sitting down and eyeing your Xbox controller. You'd forgotten to put it on its charger before you left. Well, then again, it hadn't been sitting out for long, so the batteries couldn't have been too drained. You press the Xbox icon that's on the top center of the controller, and it lights up. You hear your Xbox beep in turn, its icon lighting up as well. You turn your TV on, bending over at an awkward angle to reach it. When you click it on, though, it displays the Xbox home screen. You restart Skyrim and get back to exploring Solitude.

After a few hours of Skyrim, you eventually make good progress when your phone rings. You rub your sore eyes, pausing the game and setting the controller aside, stumbling past the heap of pillows you had kicked onto the floor earlier, and eventually making your way to the phone. You look at the caller ID. It's a random number. You groan and declined it, pissed that you had to get up for that. You bring your phone back with you when you go to sit down.

You go to the System category, and then select Quicksave before you turn your TV off, walking over to the control's charging station and setting yours down on the free slot. You only have two controllers, and the one you had just been using had been a gift from a friend. It had your favorite skin pattern on it, and you loved it to death and all the way back.

Good, you killed about four hours. You make a small dinner for yourself, sitting cross-legged on your couch with your dish in hand. You watch a little bit of the news, but nothing has really changed other than the fact that people are still debating on whether or not they want the CORE to expand. After dinner, you click it off, then you wash your dishes and load them into the dishwasher.

You shower, then you curl up in your favorite pajamas watching an anime you haven't started yet until you decide you should probably sleep.

...But one more episode can't hurt, right?

You were wrong. One more episode turned into another season, which led to you thinking you could handle another one, that you could just double up on caffeine tomorrow.

But tomorrow was practice, the lunch with Burgerpants and Quinn, and dinner with the monsters. You hum in thought, torn between sleep and bad decisions. Sleep. More anime.

You didn't get to finish your thought as the warm embrace of drowsiness took over your form, beckoning you to a dreamless slumber.

Buzz


Buzz


Hm? What was that? Eh, probably just someone texting you. You shrug it off, burying your face in your precious pillow.


Buzz


They need to stop texting you. You want sleep. Not your social life. Sleep. Stars, you're so warm!


Buzz


NO.


Buzz


You groan, opening one eye. Sunlight is spilling through your window, causing you to hiss. Stupid light, thinking it can intrude your pleasant dark world-


Buzz


It...sounds like your phone. You sit up, your hair in a tangled mess. You brush it aside, and then you open your heavy eyelids reluctantly. Turning to your nightstand, you see the screen of your phone lighting up, a few notifications on there. Picking it up, you see what the big deal is.


Text from Head Coach: Are you going to be here today? It's fine if you need a day off, just unusual for you. You feeling okay?
Dustin: where r uuuu
Toriel: Frisk told me you were not at their practice session today. They wanted me to ask you if you were alright.
Dustin: i dont wanna coach 2 lanes 2day
Head Coach: …(Y/N)?
Dustin: anser me (l/n) or im gonna break into ur apartment after practice

You half slap your forehead, half facepalm, the former from not remembering to set your alarm last night, and the other at Dustin's atrocious spelling.

You quickly shoot a reply to them:

You to Head Coach: Hey! I'm okay, and I'm really sorry I missed practice! : ( I went to bed late and forgot to set my alarm! Sorry again : /
You to Dustin: You're not allowed to break into my apartment if you can't spell preschool and third grade words right.
You to Toriel: I'm okay, I just forgot to set my alarm last night. Tell them I'm sorry : (

You know Coach wouldn't be mad at you. He understood that shit happened sometimes. You're pretty sure Dustin will get over it, and Frisk and Toriel probably won't mind. Although, Frisk might be a little disappointed.

You shake your head, checking the time. It's almost noon.

...oh no.

You jump out of bed, scrambling to your bathroom. No, you already missed practice, you can't miss the lunch thing too! You don't have time to shower, so you change your outfit to a fresher one, then try your best to tame your stupid (h/c) hair. It's not working very well, but eh, you've been seen in worse condition. You grab all of your belongings needed for this trip before you're off.

Thankfully, neither monster is there when you arrive at Grillby's. You glance around, trying to think of a good spot for the three of you. Hm, you could grab a booth for the three of you, if you could sit on the outside, or maybe a table would work better...?

Eventually, you decide to sit at the booth. You could sit next to BP, and still see and gesture to Quinn if he froze up. Plus, if everything went according to plan, you'd be able to leave quickly and quietly.

You slide into seat, thinking BP might be more comfortable if he could sit next to you.. You shoot Burgerpants and Quinn a text, and then you're left in silence.

After a while, another living flame walks out from the back room, then he spots you and walks over. You're immediately entranced; another one?! Oh, this must be Grillby, Fuku's father.

"Good afternoon, miss. What may I start you with?" he asks, his voice quiet and serious. His eyes are just like Fuku's, little black diamonds. His flames are a bright orange.

You decide to try a new drink this time. "Good afternoon! May I try the Elder Echoflower, please?" you ask, leafing through the menu.

"Of course." He turns away and walks behind the bar, beginning to collect a glass, and a few ingredients, one of which is glowing blue. Like an Echoflower. You grin, remembering the pretty, blue flower you whispered to in Waterfall. You watch as his flaming hands go to work, mixing, stirring, and pouring with practiced ease. While he's making your drink, you decide on what you want.

"(Y/N)?" You turn to see Quinn standing there, dressed in a green shirt and black shorts. You smile, then gesture to the seat in front of you. His ears are straight and completely rigid.

"Hey, Quinn!" you greet as he settles in across from you.

"H-hey, (Y/N)." he responds, his paws tapping away nervously at the tabletop. He props his chin up with his other paw.

"You're going to be fine," you whisper, crossing your arms and resting them on the table.

He only sighs in response, and you think he's fidgeting with the hem of your shirt under the table. You two wait in silence for a while longer when Grillby sets your drink down in front of you.

It reminds you of an Echoflower, as it should. It's radiating a soft blue color, and there are extremely thin layers of white in between some of the blue. It's a pretty drink. You don't want to mess it up now. Aw...

"This looks great, Grillby! Thank you!" You giggle when he pops a little blue umbrella in it, then blurt, "You just made it better!" His flames crackle and grow a little bit lighter as he bows his head, then turns to Quinn.

"Good afternoon, Quinn. What could I get you started with?" the flame asks, intertwining his hands together.

"I'm...waiting for someone," he says, and on cue, Burgerpants stomps in, door shutting behind him. You try not to giggle as you watch him stomp over to you. Grillby steps to the side, and you get up, the gesture for your irritated and nervous friend to go in before you. He obeys without question, and you slide in next to your neighbor.

"Hey, BP!" you greet, taking hold of your drink by its curved handle and pulling it towards you. "What's up?"

You can tell he's about to freeze up. "N-nothing much."

"What can I get you two gentlebeauties to drink?" Grillby asks, stepping back in front of the table.

"I'll get whatever she got," Burgerpants mutters, gesturing to you.

"I'll take an ice water, with lemon, please," Quinn says. Grillby nods.

"Very well. I will back momentarily," Grillby replies, turning and striding away.

You focus back on the two monsters, both awkwardly fidgeting.

"Alright, you two," you begin, "I think you both know why I've invited you here." Your response is two quick nods. "And I know you're both way too nervous about this. So, allow me to start you two off. I've been told you both hate Mettaton."

More nods. "Hm...why is that?" you prompt, folding your hands together and leaning your chin in them.

"He's a narcissistic, self-obsessed robot who puts himself before others!" Quinn is the first to say. For a second, he looks a little embarrassed at his little outburst, Burgerpants looks up at him with a surprised, and admiring gaze. You chuckle.

"How about you, BP?" Quinn asks, nervousness evident on his face.

He bites his lip for a minute, his fingers tapping on the table nervously. He's quiet for a few seconds, and you're about to nudge him when he speaks up. You think the alcohol is giving him a little confidence boost.

"I agree. You know, you're the only other person beside (L/N) here who I know that hasn't fallen under Mettaton's pile of shit yet." You chuckle. Your job here is finished.

Quinn perks up, and the two end up chatting away, awkwardness set aside for the moment. You only jump in when you're asked a question, but other than that, you keep quiet. Burgerpants seems to be relaxing with every word Quinn says, and vice versa. You listen to their conversation, and you leave early after you request a box for your food, and pay for you and the other two's meals in secret.

You knew BP would call you and bitch about it later after he thanked you profusely.

You bid them farewell, then walk out to your Jeep. That went well, as you had anticipated.

Your thoughts are scattered all over the place as you drive home, and you're getting more and more excited about having dinner with the monsters, and the anime marathon. You'll have to apologize to Frisk and Toriel, but you're sure they won't mind. It still doesn't excuse your absence.

With thoughts weighing your shoulders, you arrive at your apartment building and go inside, about to prepare for whatever tonight will bring.

Chapter Text

Chapter VIII – New New Home

Undyne sends you Toriel's address after you ask her. You type it into your phone's GPS systems, then listen to the Australian-accented man's voice guide you towards their home. While driving, you made sure to remind yourself that you couldn't fall asleep tonight. You can't miss practice tomorrow after doing so this morning.

Eventually, your thoughts begin buzzing with the questions that you've had over the past few days. Where does magical energy obtained from food go when you eat it? What do the monsters know behind the legend of the Judge that Charles didn't explain? How much do the monsters know about the Riverperson? How do humans obtain their magic abilities? You make a mental note to satisfy your ever-growing curiosity. These questions have been gnawing on your brain for days, and you think that if you don't get answers soon, then you might die.

Not really.

The Australian voice instructs you to turn right in five-hundred feet. You do so, then you find yourself in an extremely fancy neighborhood with big houses and nicely trimmed lawns. You're directed to a cul-de-sac which contains four relatively big houses, one of which has an...interesting scene playing out.

The house is pretty big, with beige-colored brick building up the walls, a path of slate flanked by golden flowers leads the way to the front set of dark, oak wood double-doors. The front yard is pretty big, the grass is lush and green. Undyne, Papyrus, Frisk, and even Asgore are outside, each with their own can of what you think is...silly string...? You nearly facepalm, but you can't help the giggles that escape you. Undyne spots your (f/c) Jeep, then yells something, a huge smile on her face, then begins waving at you. You stifle your laughter, then pull into the driveway. The four of them stop what they're doing, all covered in various colors of string, then they turn to approach, mischief lingering in the air.

You shake your head wildly. You're not even armed! Through the cloth top of your Jeep, you can hear Papyrus yell: "NYEH HEH HEH! YOU HAVE NO ESCAPE NOW, HUMAN!"

You frown, then shoot a text to Alphys:

You to Alphys: Help! I'm about to be assaulted with Silly String!
Alphys: Ok...I have a plan. Can you make a break for it to the back porch? I've got an extra can for you, but you'll have to be quick. Once you're done with that, Frisk said that they would ally with you if you manage to catch them alone.
You: Gotcha. I'll make a break for it.
Alphys: I'll be waiting. Good luck.

You can't believe you're about to do this. You hope that the windows to your Jeep are too tinted for them to see through.

You inhale, putting your hand on the handle, readying yourself.

On the count of three.

One...

Your grip tightens on the handle.

...two...

You move your legs so that they're on the edge of the floor, right next to the door.

...you aren't going down without a fight.

...three!

You move in an instant, opening the door, jumping out, landing a little bit roughly, but still upright, then you slam the door behind you, not even daring to look back. You break out into a sprint, spotting a flash of yellow which you recognize as Alphys, who is beckoning you over. Undyne is yelling something, and Papyrus is screeching, but you keep running despite the noises behind you.

"H-heads up, (Y/N)!" You hear Alphys shout, before you risk a glance behind you and see Undyne approaching. It almost seems like everything is in slow motion as you wind up your arms, almost like you would in a relay start, then you jump, throwing all of your weight forward, eventually landing onto the wooden deck and seeing Alphys throw you a can. Your left side collides with the wood of the deck, and a little pain shoots through your body, but it's not enough pain to stop you from attempting to win this war. You still manage to catch the can. Undyne is spraying you with blue string, and it lands all over your face and hair. You retaliate with spraying your own can at her head, yellow string shooting out of the tip. Undyne roars, but you're on your feet and darting around her, only to be met with Papyrus, Frisk, and Asgore. You're confronted with an onslaught of red, blue, and orange string. You shriek before firing back, then you run around Frisk.

"NYEH! YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE, HUMAN!" Papyrus yells, and you run around your Jeep and out to the front yard. You hear some yelling from the back, and you think that Undyne and Asgore are fighting against Alphys. Papyrus and Frisk, however, follow you, so you slowly back up.

"YOU ARE CORNERED, HUMAN! SURRENDER OR FACE THE WRATH OF THE GREAT PAPYRUS!" the taller skeleton yells. He lifts his can up to you, then presses a phalange down onto the top-

-only to have nothing but a pathetic pssshhhh noise to come out.

"NO! THE GREAT PAPYRUS APPEARS TO BE OUT OF SILLY STRING!" he yells, his faceplate twisting into an expression of agony.

No.

The cinnamon roll is upset.

"It's okay, Papyrus. You can have mine!" you say, offering him your can.

"AH, DO NOT WORRY ABOUT IT, HUMAN!" he says.

"Aw, come on, Papyrus. I'm better on defense anyway," you push, walking over to him.

"...ARE YOU SURE, HUMAN?"

You nod as he takes the can a bit reluctantly. "Of course, I'm sure! After all," you smile, "this battle wouldn't be nearly as fun without such a great skeleton!"

Papyrus' eye sockets turn upward, his smile reappearing. "YOU'RE RIGHT, HUMAN!" He strikes a goofy pose that resembles something heroic. "THE GREAT PAPYRUS WOULD LIKE TO BECOME YOUR ALLY SINCE YOU PERFORMED SUCH A NOBLE ACT!"

You giggle. "Let's do this, then, ally."

"Can I be in the alliance, too?!" Frisk pipes up excitedly.

"OF COURSE!" Papyrus answers. "LET US GO WIN THIS BATTLE!"

With that, your trio rushes around the right side of the house, where Alphys is struggling against a rampaging Undyne and a laughing Asgore. You gesture for your group to walk back behind the wall.

"Okay, guys. We've got to win this, but in order to do so, we'll need a plan. Any suggestions?" you start.

Papyrus begins: "I Suggest That One Of Us Serves As A Distraction And Then We Can Find A Way To Attack Them With The Element Of Surprise!"

You nod. "Okay, I like it. What about you, Frisk?"

"I agree with Papyrus, but what if the other two are taken out?" Frisk asks.

You tilt your head. "Then we'll flank 'em. I volunteer to be the distraction!"

"Okay. Then It Is Settled. We Should Have A Code In Case One Of Us Needs Backup!" Papyrus adds, the excitement clear in the younger skeleton's eye sockets. You can tell that he's barely holding back giggles of "NYEH HEH HEH"s.

"Our code could be to yell the word meep really loud!" Frisk suggests.

You nod. "Sounds good. Okay, let's split on the count of three."

They nod.

"Three...two...one...go!" You run out to the front, Papyrus stays behind, then Frisk runs around to the other side. Undyne sees you, then she lets go of Alphys and runs towards you.

"NGAHHHHHHHHH!" she yells. You laugh, then run back around where Papyrus is waiting. He begins spraying Undyne with your can of string, and then Undyne retaliates with her own can.

You don't know what's driving you to do it, but you let out a shriek, then you launch yourself towards Undyne, effectively tackling her. She grunts, trying to pry you off of her, but you hold on.

"NGAHHH!" she yells again as you two land on the ground. Undyne growls, a playful smile growing on her face. You try to wrench the can from her hand, but she flips you over easily, and then you use her distraction to your advantage. You rip the can out of her hand. You toss it to Papyrus, who yells too, then begins assaulting Asgore, who had just run over. Undyne pins you to the ground, scowling, then you two wrestle a bit more before she eventually gets you into a position where you can't get up.

"Not bad, punk," she comments. "You're the only human I've met who has lasted this long against me! I'm impressed."

You're too out of breath to respond. Then, you remember the code word.

And something magical happened.

"MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP MEEP!" you yell. The sound reminds you of a car alarm. Undyne glances down at you, confusion evident on her scales.

"What are you..." she trails off as she realizes what it could mean. "SHE'S CALLING FOR BACKUP!"

It's too late; Frisk is already charging towards the blue fish monster, then launches themselves towards her in an attempt to tackle her. Undyne only grunts, then lifts the smaller human up under her arm. Frisk squeals, then tries to struggle.

"Fuhuhuhuhuhu! You can't beat me, punk!" Undyne says, giving them a noogie. You're nearly crying from laughter, clutching your ribs while you're on the ground.

"I'm out of string!" Frisk yells, tossing their can onto the ground. "Same here, punk," Undyne says, setting the smaller human down. She has multicolored string in her scarlet hair, and she begins running her fingers through her hair in an attempt to get it out.

"AS AM I," Papyrus agreed, pulling off some string from his skull.

"I-I think Toriel w-wants you all inside after you c-clean up a bit," Alphys says. She's helping Asgore get some of the string off from his furry legs. "Don't w-worry about the string o-on the ground though, it's b-biodegradable."

"Cool!" Undyne says, offering you her webbed hand. You take it and pull yourself up.

"That was great," you say. Your pants and shirt are now stained with grass and dirt, but you couldn't care less.

"I know!" Frisk yells.

"OUR TEAM WON!" Papyrus shouts, striking another heroic pose, making you giggle.

"NO WAY! OUR TEAM WON!" Undyne counters, turning away from you.

"I did not know there were teams..." Asgore admits, pulling some pink string from his horns.

"Come on, U-Undyne," Alphys pleads, grabbing the fish monster's hand and pulling her towards the back door. Frisk catches your hand, then guides you inside.

"Come on! I wanna show you around!" they yell as they stomp towards the entrance.

"Okay, Frisk. Slow down a bit," you respond, smiling at their enthusiasm. You two walk on the deck. Now that you aren't being pursued by Undyne, you see a pool with a deep end of twelve feet, and a shallow end of three feet. There are purple and blue colored chairs scattered about the deck, some of which are Asgore-sized.

Frisk guides you into a set of glass double doors, one of which they pull open. You follow them inside, and they kick off their shoes onto a mat in the corner right to the glass door. You do the same.

"Mom! (Y/N)'s here!" they yell. You look around, a bit dumbfounded at how big these doorways are.

You're standing on a wooden floor, and Toriel comes out of what you assume is the kitchen, which is in the left corridor to you. On the right is a staircase; it's a spiral, and it goes further down, into a lower floor. It gently loops into the upper floor, and is made of a smooth, black metal.

"Hello, (Y/N)! I see you've already participated in the Silly String War..." she trails off, shaking her head affectionately.

You chuckle a bit. "Yeah. I sort of got dragged in."

She laughs. "Well, who won?"

"Our team," you reply, a smirk crossing your lips.

"NUH-UH!" you hear Undyne yell from somewhere else, making Toriel snicker.

You lower you voice. "We totally won. We made a plan, had a call for backup, and I even tackled Undyne."

Frisk nods. "Yep. We totally won."

Suddenly, there's a pop-like noise, and then, Sans is standing next to Toriel. You jump in surprise, then stare at him What the hell?!

"What the f-" you start, but Sans cuts you off before anything colorful escapes your lips.

"there are children here," His smile is nearly shit-eating.

You snort. "How did you do that?"

"magic."

"No sh-er, that's kinda obvious," you respond, folding your arms.

"you got me there. i used the force," he shrugs, but then Toriel hits his humerus. "ow! c'mon, tori."

"He can teleport!" Frisk answers, bouncing up and down excitedly.

"You're way too overpowered for a dam-dang skeleton," you mutter.

He winked at you. "what can i say? i-"

"NO SANS! I REFUSE TO LET YOUR GODAWFUL JOKES RUIN DINNER!" Papyrus stomps in, Undyne, Alphys, and Asgore following him.

"c'mon bro. that one was gonna be a real rib-tickler, too."

"NOOOO! STOP IT, SANS, I'M DONE WITH THE JOKING!"

"sounds like someone's funny bone's broken," Sans replies, a cool smile on his face.

"NOOOO! NYEH!" Papyrus picks Sans up.

"not again, bro," Sans says, only the slightest hints of annoyance crossing his faceplate.

"YES AGAIN! SANS, I WARNED YOU!"

"Where, exactly, are you taking your brother, Papyrus?" Toriel asks.

"TO THE NO-PUN ZONE!" he responds.

"Would you consider giving him a second chance?" she asks, wiping her paws on her apron.

"...FINE." Papyrus sets his big brother down, then stomps away.

"thanks tori," Sans snickers, shoving his bony hands into his jacket pockets.

The goat mom chuckles. "It is no problem. Besides," she pulls something that smells like heaven from the oven, "it's almost time for dinner."

"Finally!" Frisk and Undyne say together.

"It's nice enough to sit outside, so I'll get the tables ready!" Asgore says, walking over to where Toriel is standing.

"I'LL HELP!" Undyne declares, stomping away and dragging Alphys with her.

"I wanna show you my room!" Frisk says, tugging your arm.

"Okay, okay, I'll come!" you say. They nod, then you follow them up the spiral staircase.

"Be back in five minutes!" Toriel calls.

"Okay, mom!" Frisk responds. Upstairs, Frisk guides you into a room with carpeted floor, and a normal-sized door. You doubt Asgore would be able to fit through there. The room itself looks like it's a mix between a bedroom and a playroom; there's a bed to the right side, which is located right under the window, and that is covered by a dark, purple curtain. There are boxes scattered along the walls of the room, most of which contain different types of toys and craft supplies. The walls are painted blue, and there are purple polka dots on one wall.

"Cool room," you compliment, even if it's not exactly your style.

"Thanks!" they reply, walking over to the bed. "What does your room look like?"

"Mine? Well, I have a lot of posters on my wall. I mean, I have a ton of posters," you say, a bit too proudly.

"I'm not surprised to hear that," Frisk responds, turning to go back to the spiral staircase. Instead of descending, however, they turn right and the hallway leading further into the second floor.

"This is the guest room. It was actually meant to be the master, but mom and dad don't really like it up here. They took the room down-downstairs," they inform you. You nod.

The guest room is pretty huge; there is a queen-sized bed decorated with fluffy purple sheets and pillows, the Delta rune embroidered on the center of each in white. The room's walls are painted a dark shade of blue, and the floor, like the playroom, is carpet. There's a TV across from the bed, and a dresser to the left, its top decorated with pictures of the family. On the other wall is a seemingly empty, wooden desk. The wall space above it also has pictures of the family, some with Frisk, and others with...two other children you don't recognize. One is human, and the other is a monster, and looks like Toriel and Asgore's biological child.

You wonder what the story is behind that.

Speaking of wondering...

"Oh! I'm sorry I missed your practice this morning," you apologize, giving Frisk a sheepish smile. "I fell asleep last night and forgot to set my alarm."

"It's okay. No one's perfect," they respond, taking your hand and leading you back downstairs. Toriel announces that she and Asgore are almost finished with dinner, so Frisk shows you the living room. It's pretty big, with two loveseat couches flanking a longer couch that are all facing a TV that is mounted atop a display stand, which contains various movies and anime disk cases. There's a big coffee table in front of the longest couch, and it is sitting on top of a purple carpet. The dining room is pretty big as well, tables and chairs once again Asgore-sized. The table looks handcrafted, and it looks pretty intricate, judging from the tiny designs carved into the sides of it.

By the time you've seen these two rooms, Toriel instructs you two to come join them at the table outside. Asgore has placed one of those red and white plaid tablecloths across the top, and there's a stack of paper plates, varying silverware, and napkins towards the head of the table.

Everyone begins towards the line, and you wait patiently for your turn. Asgore has prepared hot dogs and hot cats (?) on the grill, and Toriel has made homemade macaroni and cheese that might actually be a gift from the gods, cole slaw, and popato salad, and, by the smells of it, she's whipped up a butterscotch cinnamon pie. Papyrus has also donated a tub of spaghetti that smell pretty damn good, too.

This is another reason why you love swimming. It means you can eat a lot of food.

A lot of food.

Soon enough, everyone has helped themselves and have settled down. You're sitting between Undyne, who is on your right with Alphys on the other side of her, and Frisk, who is to your left. On the other side sits Sans and Papyrus. Toriel and Asgore are sitting at the heads of the table. You bite into your food, enjoying the taste of magic tingling on your tongue.

"So, what brings a King and Queen to a town like this?" you ask between bites.

"It's a small town and is relatively close to Mount Ebott, so we don't have to travel as far to get to the CORE if we need to. Plus, the small size lets us get around without being harassed as often," Asgore replies.

 You nod. "I guess that makes sense."

"Yeah. None of us are really ones for cities, we get too much...affection from our supporters."

"the haters, too," Sans replies coolly, taking a bite out of a ketchup-drowned hot cat. "they give us the most loving affection."

...Wait a second.

Wait one second.

"Wait a second!" You nearly rip yourself up from your chair in your sudden epiphany, but you think better of it. Heads fly to face you.

"comic sans and Papyrus! You two are named after fonts?!" You say, not even caring about the stares you're getting.

"WHY YES, HUMAN (Y/N)!" Papyrus confirms your epiphany.

"yup," Sans replies.

"It took you that long, punk?" Undyne asks, smirking at you.

You continue to stare, taking a moment to process everything. "That's so cool!"

"WHY, THANK YOU, HUMAN! IT IS NOT EVERY DAY THAT WE COME ACROSS A SUPPORTER OF THE FONTS WE WERE NAMED AFTER..."

"But, you guys know what's even cooler? Your names suit your personalities. That's so awesome!" you say.

"...that's a new one," Sans mutters, looking down at his plate.

"WOWIE! HUMAN, I THINK YOUR NAME SUITS YOUR PERSONALITY AS WELL!" Papyrus announces, a big skeleton smile on his face.

You chuckle. "Thank you, Papyrus." He only grins in response. All of this talk about names has reminded you about another question you had. "Oh! Speaking of names...I went on a tour of the Underground the other day."

"How did you like the tour?" Toriel asks.

"Oh, it was great!" You respond. "But I noticed the names were a little...generic. But fitting at the same time!"

Undyne jerks her head towards Asgore. "That'd be King Fluffybuns over here."

The King chuckles. "I was never good at coming up with creative names for anything."

"W-what section was y-your favorite, (Y-Y/N)?" Alphys asks.

You tilt your head in thought. "Good question. The CORE and Hotland were interesting, but way too hot. Waterfall was beautiful, and I loved the Echo Flowers! Snowdin was a cute town, but too cold for my liking. The Ruins were really cool, too!" You say, thinking about your little quest down there.

"I'm glad you liked it, dear," Toriel responds, giving you a smile that's almost as warm as the whole butterscotch-cinnamon pie she's set aside for later.

"Oh...that reminds me," you say, playing with your food. "What do you guys know about the riverperson?"

"Not much, I'm afraid. They kept to themselves before the Barrier was destroyed, and they didn't show an interest in coming to the Surface with us, either," Asgore says.

"Why do you ask?" Toriel pushes.

You shrug. "Our tour group took the ferry to Waterfall, and they said that they should've worn a few million more pairs of pants that day. Or something like that. And then I thanked them after they gave us the ride, and they almost seemed...surprised."

"Interesting," Asgore says, taking a sip of his drink.

"The riverperson gave me a few rides when I fell," Frisk replies, setting their half-eaten hot dog down, "and they gave me weird warnings and hints. Like, one time they gave me a hint about an alternate way to SPARE Muffet. They said something like: 'Spiders have a favorite food. Spiders' Or something like that. But one of the weird things about them I could never figure out was...they were always there when I needed a ride to Hotland, Waterfall, or Snowdin. I thought that if I wanted a ride, then I'd have to wait for them to come back, because monsters worked in the Underground, all across it, too. So, wouldn't they need rides, too? It takes a long time to get from Waterfall to Hotland, Hotland to Snowdin...I don't know. It's a mystery."

"Huh," you say. "Maybe it has something to do with their magic."

"That's what I was thinking," Frisk responds, taking another bite of their hot dog.

It's silent for a few more minutes as you all finish your food. You're stuck in a realm of thought as you eat. You want to bring up Judgment Hall, but it seems like an uncomfortable topic after what Charles explained to you. Maybe you'll ask Undyne later. Or Alphys.

Once everyone has finished their dinner, Toriel cuts up the pie and hands out slices to everyone. It looks like it has been perfectly crafted: the crust a perfect golden brown, and the inside of it is the color of caramel, with a poof of whipped cream that's lightly dusted with cinnamon on the top.

"I hope you do not mind cinnamon or butterscotch, child." Toriel comments, but you've already shoved a spoonful in your mouth. It's warm, and is filled with the delicious sugary taste of butterscotch blending in with the sharp taste of cinnamon. It's perfect, and your eyes close in bliss.

"How are you capable of creating such an amazing pie?" You groan, taking another bite.

Toriel chuckles. "I've had many years of practice to perfect my skills."

"Mom! This is so good! Can I have two pieces?!" Frisk asks, apparently faring no better than you are.

The goat mom shakes her head, picking up the now empty pie tray. "One slice has enough sugar in it..."

"But mooooom!" Frisk whines, making you chuckle.

"Besides, there is no more pie," Toriel snickers, walking inside with the tray.

"I wish I could bake like this," you comment, using your spoon to cut a piece of the crust off.

"Me t-too," Alphys agrees.

"Alphy, you should totally learn how to bake!" Undyne says suddenly.

"NYEH! THEN WE COULD COOK AND BAKE TOGETHER!" Papyrus adds cheerfully.

"SHE COULD BAKE BETTER THAN YOU!" Undyne roars, standing up all of the sudden.

Papyrus only smirks, the right part of his jawline twisting up. "THE GREAT PAPYRUS HIGHLY DOUBTS THAT!"

"OH YEAH?!" Undyne challenges, slamming her fists together.

"OH YES!" Papyrus boasts, taking yet another heroic stance. You chuckle at their banter.

"FINE! WE'LL HAVE A BAKING COMPETITION TO SEE WHO'S BETTER AT BAKING!" Undyne roars, lifting Alphys onto her shoulders.

"Undyne...w-we really s-shouldn't." Alphys says, her snout flushing red again. "We haven't had time to prepare."

"C'mon, Alphy, how hard can following a recipe be?" Undyne replies as the three of them run into the house.

"Oh dear," Asgore comments, smiling at the trio.

"should i stop 'em? paps' spaghetti just started tasting decent..." Sans trails off.

"I don't think they can be stopped," Frisk points out as you all listen to their yells from inside.

"At least they aren't using the stove this time," Asgore sighs.

"But they're probably going to use the oven," Frisk says.

"hopefully tori'll keep 'em under control this time," Sans sighs, absent-mindedly twisting the cap of his ketchup bottle between his distal phalanges.

A few more minutes of small talk pass by, with you occasionally glancing down at your plate to scrape some pie crumbs onto your thumb. There are shouts and groans coming from inside, and Toriel still hasn't come out yet. She must be inside policing them. Or begging them to stop. Either way, a few minutes later, two defeated and two relieved monsters come outside.

"We're gonna have a competition later. BUT I'M TOTALLY GUNNA WIN, PUNK!" Undyne proceeds to give Papyrus a noogie.

"I WILL WIN, UNDYNE!" They keep up their banter until Alphys softly speaks up.

"S-so, are we going t-to go inside and watch a-anime or what?"

Undyne releases the struggling skeleton. "OH YEAH!" She saunters over to you, yanking you up and dragging you inside. "LET'S GO, PUNKS!"

A few minutes of small arguments, banter, and teasing later, and you're all settled, with you and Frisk sitting on the left-est couch, Toriel and Asgore on the couch next to you, Sans and Papyrus next to them, and finally, Undyne and Alphys on the last one. You're amazed they could fit two loveseats and a long couch in here, and be able to have each one face the TV comfortably.

"What are we watching today?" you ask as Frisk clambers up on the couch beside you and hugs your stomach. You don’t think you've ever met a more affectionate child in your life. Not that you mind.

"I was thinking Blue Exorcist," Alphys suggests as she leans over to grab the remote.

"Oooh!" you say, clapping for some reason. "Good pick!"

"Th-thanks! We haven't seen it yet." Alphys admits, putting Netflix on the TV and proceeding to the login screen.

"What's it about?" Frisk asks.

"So, there're these two twin brothers named Rin and Yukio Okumura. They're actually the sons of Satan, but..." you start babbling about the summary, as Undyne, Frisk, and Papyrus listen to you intently.

"Satan? That sounds a little...bad," Toriel comments after you finish.

"He's a good guy, though. He was raised by a nice preacher guy named Shiro Fujimoto..."

"Okay, okay, here we go!" Alphys cuts you off, and she leans back so Undyne can hold her close. Frisk tilts their head so they can see the screen.

Everyone is quiet for the first few episodes, everyone intently watching the people onscreen do their thing. It gets later and later faster than you expect, but the only thing on your mind are the twins in front of you as they proceed with their quest.

From their steady breathing and lack of movement, you can tell Frisk is already asleep. It must be nearing midnight. Asgore, Toriel, Sans, and Papyrus have fallen asleep, too.

Your eyelids are growing heavy, but you don't feel like sleeping for some reason. Maybe you really need to see how this ends. Alphys looks happy, but she's barely holding on. Undyne doesn't appear to be tired yet, eye still glued onto the TV. You focus your attention back onto the TV.

A few more hours pass by, and more episodes go by. You're still not tired. Or maybe you are, and your body and mind are just too hyped on anime to fall asleep.

Yeah.

That sounds about right.

Another hour or two goes by, and you two still aren't asleep. Or nearing sleep, for that matter. The last season is over.

Undyne stares at the TV screen, then looks towards you. She gestures to the sleeping monsters around her, then to the little human clinging onto you, then she holds her phone up. You nod, shifting as little as possible to avoid waking Frisk. You dig your phone out from your back pocket, then you turn it on, the light from the screen blinding you. You're quick to turn the damn brightness down before you read the text Undyne has shot you.

Undyne: cant sleep yet?
You: Nope
Undyne: lol i dont think i can get up
You: same [laughing emoji] frisk wont let go
Undyne: we totally beat you guys in the string thing today
You: fight us peasant

You two make eye contact, then laugh.

Undyne: idk what to do lol
You: I don't either
Undyne: wait wait i have an idea but well have to be quiet
You: I don't know. Can you do it?
Undyne: Shut up punk. just get up w out waking the punk

You nod, then you shut off your phone, gently curling your fingers around Frisk's tiny wrists. Gently, you pull them off of you, and they slightly whine. You manage to pull them out to your left without waking them.

Undyne gently places Alphys on the couch, then she stood. You do, too, checking to make sure Frisk is mostly on the couch. When you're done, Undyne beckons for you to follow her. You two go outside.

"Okay punk," Undyne whispers, "here's what we're going to do."

...

Chapter Text

Chapter IX – Unnecessary Tension

You and Undyne begin to walk along the sidewalk that will lead you two to Mount Ebott. You're still not exactly sure what Undyne's up to, but you can't help but feel excited.

"Your little ramble about the riverperson got me thinking," Undyne starts. The only light illuminating your path are the streetlights and the moonlight. You're not that worried about being attacked or assaulted since Undyne is with you, and the fish monster can be pretty damn intimidating if she needs to be. "I wanted to show you something."

"What is it?" you can't help but pry.

You see Undyne smirk as you two proceed down the sidewalk together. "You'll see."

Neither of you say anything after that; the silence between you two is companionable. Mount Ebott is growing closer with every step you take, and so far, everything is going smoothly.

"I've wondered about the riverperson myself, to be honest," Undyne starts again, "but I was always too busy to look into their history. But now...I've found another person who seems to be as curious as I am," Undyne grins. "And is just as brave, too."

A laugh escapes you. "I dunno about that, but I am curious. Wait, is what we're going to see about the riverperson?"

Undyne tilts her head a bit. For some reason you find that funny, because you do the same thing sometimes, too. "Sort of?"

"That sounded more like a question," you say, folding your arms across your chest.

"It kind of was."

"Because that makes sense," you snort.

She pushes you, making you stumble out into the side of the road a little. You laugh, then you jump back onto the sidewalk. I'll get her back later, you think.

"Seriously, though," Undyne says, getting serious again, "I think you'll like it."

You two fall into a pit of silence again until you reach Mount Ebott. You glance at Undyne, expecting her to say something, but she remains quiet as you two keep walking. You notice her fins that must serve as ears are slightly twitching, and her yellow eye is distant. She notices your questioning glances, because she looks down at you and shakes her head. You nod and stay quiet. She must hear something.

Without warning, Undyne grabs your bicep and pulls you down, hard. You grunt as she nearly forces you to crouch behind a bush that's behind the wire fence that guards the mountain. Still, she is quiet, but she gestures towards something out to the right from where you two are hidden.

You follow her finger to see a group of hooded humans. One of them is holding a small block, and is raising it to the entrance of Mount Ebott. It must be a camera. The other one is holding another electronic device, neck bent down to see it. There's a black car behind them, its headlights illuminating their path. You can't see where the other humans are.

"They must be here illegally," Undyne starts, "I need to confront them."

"You're not going alone. Come on, Undyne, think this through. They have video cameras and electronics. If we just go out and attack them, and they catch the whole thing on camera, then how will that make us look?"

Undyne pauses, then nods. "You're right." She goes silent for a moment, watching the group, but is also deep in thought at the same time. "Do you have your phone on you?"

You nod, taking out your phone. "What's the plan?"

"Let's tail them and record them. They look like they're about to head into the Underground, which means there's a high chance they're not on our side. I need to figure out what they're after. How much battery you got left?"

"Around fifty percent," you respond, getting even more excited. Shit, you're about to go on a spy mission! What the hell have you dragged yourself into?! You can't help the smile on your face. You should be scared. Running away.

Like hell you are.

Undyne chuckles. "I like your enthusiasm. It looks like they're gonna leave a man outside to keep watch," she turns to you. "Let's take him out."

You burst into a silent fit of giggles. A fucking spy mission!

Undyne is barely containing her excitement too, and you can feel her electric magic tingle in the air between you two. "Let's do this, punk!"

The small group of men head inside the Underground, and you can see the guy Undyne was talking about. He's patrolling across the entrance, and towards the gate.

"If we're patient, we can take him by surprise when he comes to the gate," you say.

"But that group's getting ahead us," Undyne points out, "let's do this quickly and quietly."

You nod, and you two are off, both running Naruto style. You know this is a serious situation, but you can't help but not be serious. The man is still quite far away, but he sees your motion, whipping around to face where you two were moments ago. You two stop behind the car as the man shines his flashlight to where you had just run.

"Who's there?!" The man asks, his flashlight beam whipping across the area. Undyne looks at you, then whispers, "Take him out." You give her a thumbs up, wondering if she can see you in the dark. You crouch again, watching the man with an intense gaze. You get ready to administer a choke hold that will knock the guard out long enough for you and Undyne to restrain him, but will not hurt him too badly. You manage to creep behind the car, readying your blow. The man still can't quite see you, but suddenly, the car lights go off, and his flashlight is the only light illuminating the area. It sweeps around the area to your right, and you walk around to the left side of the car. An idea strikes you.

You get on your belly, facing the front of the car, then you roll under the car, making sure to stay quiet. The man keeps walking around the front of the car, to the spot where you were, and you roll out on the other side, lifting yourself up on your knee, crouching. Then, with a deep breath on your end, you jog around to the other side, and the man turns around, his eyes widening when he sees you running up to him. He drops his flashlight and slightly jumps, the beam of light skittering away from the two of you.

You go back around from the car to let your eyes adjust, but the man grabs the flashlight again, and then he approaches you, swinging the flashlight towards your head. You bob and weave, then you swing at his face. The man seems shocked from your dodge, and you take advantage of his surprise to swing your fist into his face. Maybe if you sidestep around him, then get him from behind, you can get him into a decent headlock.

You quickly dart around his surprisingly well-aimed punch at your face, effectively sidestepping him. Momentarily, he loses his balance, but he recovers quickly. Your hands are up in front of your face, fingers curled into a fist, your stance ready for action. The man receives a punch delivered from you, the hit going to his nose. Your arms snap back into their original position.

"Bitch," he snaps after he recovers, "you shouldn't be here."

You don't respond, only smirk as you sidestep his next swing, and lift your shin to deflect his kick, flashlight beam swinging everywhere. When his foot collides with your shin, it hits the already sensitive bruises on your shin, making you wince a little. Your vision is pretty spotty from the feral flashlight, so you back up a bit and see if you can get a better view of him. Your vision clears up enough to the point where you can catch him charging at you, so sidestep him yet again, then you step forward to his stumbling figure, then you force his chin into the crook of your elbow, squeezing your arm so that it's around his neck. He struggles, but stills a few moments later. Letting him collapse on the ground, you turn to see Undyne striding towards you, a figure trapped in a mass of electric, blue spears, the tips embedded in the dirt in the distance.

"Sorry, punk. That guy took me by surprise." She lifts her hands, summoning a few blue spears. You drag the man to a fence, somewhat propping him upright. Undyne sends the spears towards him so that they're crisscrossing his figure in a manner that he cannot escape.

"You okay?" you ask as the two of you proceed to the entrance. You see the now still flashlight beam on the ground, so you pick it up to let it guide you to the entrance.

"I'm fine. What about you? He didn't look like a pushover," Undyne comments, following you.

"I'm good. He hit my bruised shin a little bit, but I'm okay," you respond.

The two of you proceed into Asgore's castle, past the remnants of the Barrier, and past his throne. You spot the group on some of the lower levels of the CORE's pathways. You pull out your phone and swipe up, beginning to record the intruders.

They're talking amongst themselves. Maybe if you can get closer, you can get some of their conversation, too. You and Undyne scoot closer towards the lower level, approaching a staircase that leads to the level the group is on. Last time you came, on the tour, the metal had been rickety and squeaky, so there's a good chance that you two are going to blow your cover if you go down the stairs. You frown. It wouldn't be the best idea to get into a fight on these platforms, what with the lack of rails and the dangerous things below you. You two are going to have to be smart about this. Maybe you can climb down from the side if Undyne summons more of her spears...

Undyne gestures for you to wait. You think she's thinking the same thing, too. It'd essentially be suicide. Who knows what these guys are up to?

The group stays and chats for a while longer. You still can't quite make out what they're saying, but they seem to have reached a decision, as they continue on. You're beginning to feel your eyelids grow heavy, but you shake it off and remember why you're here.

You still can't believe you're doing this.

The group continues down the platform, their noisy, clomping steps echoing throughout the CORE.

"Summon some of your spears so we can climb down on those instead of blowing our cover," you say. She nods.

"Good idea." Three of her pretty spears are summoned, then she makes them float down over the side in a makeshift spear ladder. It'll work as long as it can support your weight.

"Go ahead, punk. Just...ah, don't look down if you're afraid heights." Undyne says. You turn around, then step onto the first spear, which holds your weight. You grab onto the platform edge as you lower yourself down, then you lower your left foot down to the second spear, grabbing the first spear above you. You step down to the third one, grasping the second spear with your hand. Once you're secured, Undyne sends the first spear under you so you can step on it. When you do, you shift your hands again before hopping onto the platform.

"You good?" You hear Undyne's voice from above you.

"Yeah. Come on," you respond, then you kneel, looking over the edge to see if they had descended any further. The group of intruders aren't on the platform under you, but they seem to have made their way to the catwalk that overlooks the CORE.

...Wait.

How did they get there so fast? You think. They couldn't have used the stairs since they're so noisy! We would have heard them. You wipe some of the sweat gathering at your forehead off with your shirt.

"You ready to roll, punk?" Undyne asks, her voice low. She doesn't look like she's faring too well in this heat; even with her lack of thick clothing or armor, she looks like the heat is taking a lot out of her.

"Are you okay?" you ask. "This heat can't be good for you."

She gives you a tired smile. "I'll survive, punk. Come on."

"How do you think they got over there so fast?" you ask, following her to a room that leads inside the CORE that will take you two to the catwalk where the group is.

"We might have been up there longer than we thought. Or maybe they're just fast. Or both," Undyne suggests. You suspect that she's holding something back, but decide not to pry. You two creep through the hall, the floor a dark blue and its walls nearly black. There are little blue lights here and there, and you remember seeing them on your tour.

Once you two approach the end, Undyne gestures for you to stop, then she turns and faces you. "Stay behind me. The only reason I let you come was because I know you can handle yourself from what Alphys told me. Got it?" she asks.

You nod reluctantly, but you can still see her point.. "I'll stay behind you as long as you be careful."

"Sure," Undyne snorts, and then risks a glance back towards the catwalk. "We're gonna have to be quick about this, though. The security system probably already sent a message to Asgore, but the alarm hasn't gone off for some reason. Maybe they found a way to disarm it?" Undyne shakes her head. "Whatever the case, it still doesn't change the fact that we're wasting time."

"So, quick recap. We're going to follow them, confront them once we've found out what they want, handle them if things get ugly, and try to disarm them and get someone else here," you frown. "How many of them are there?"

She peeks back out. "Around five. We may be outnumbered, but..." Undyne snorts.

You can't shake the smile that plants itself on your face. "I almost feel bad for them. Not quite."

Undyne chuckles. "We can't fight them just yet. Getting into a fight up here would be suicide." Undyne's eyes flicker down to the pit below you two. "Let's wait until they move forward a little bit." Suddenly, her face turns serious again.

"Okay. Let me see if I can..." You lean it, listening. Wisps of their conversations are audible, and you can only pick up bits and pieces of their conversation, things like 'monster', 'get', 'proof'. It's not loud enough for your phone to pick up.

"They must be anti-monster," you scowl, clicking your phone off to save battery.

Undyne shakes her head. "Well, if that's true, then it'll be more fun for us, am I right?"

You snicker. "Fuck yeah." Your eyes dart back to the group of men, who are scurrying down the stairs now. "Let's move!"

The next few minutes go quietly, with you and Undyne following the intruders. Undyne suggests that you two should take the ferry, which excites you. The intruders don't use the ferry, so there's a chance you two could get ahead and still not be seen. Plus, Undyne looks like she could use both the water and the break.

The riverperson is still there, on their ferry. Their head turns to face you and Undyne.

"Tra la la...would you two fancy a ride?" comes their grave voice.

"Please, if you don't mind," you respond. The riverperson nods, and shuffles aside. You're not sure you could call it shuffling, since their cloak makes no sound and they seem to float rather than shuffle. You and Undyne climb aboard, and the riverperson is off.

Undyne sits down on the edge and dips her hands in the water, splashing some onto her face.

"That's better." You hear her say. Neither of you say much.

You want to ask the riverperson so many questions, but you know now is not the time for that. A few minutes later, the riverperson speaks up.

"Tra la la. Uh-oh. Suddenly, feeling suspicious..." they trail off, not even turning to face either of you. You and Undyne glance at each other. You think the riverperson is finished when they add: "...be too careful, those on the side of the real monsters."

Hm. You think that could mean one of two things. Are they talking about you and Undyne or the intruders, too? Maybe they meant it as a warning to you. Although, it could also be interpreted as a warning to the anti-monster intruders, too. Does the riverperson even know that there are intruders?

You can't help yourself. "You know about the other group that's intruding?" you ask, turning to face the riverperson.

The riverperson is unaffected, although they turn to you, the dark abyss in their hood gazing at you curiously. They stare at you, emotions unclear. You think you might have...sparked some kind of emotion there. Which one, though, you're not sure. They only nod.

What kind of magic do they have?

You fall silent as the boat ride continues on. Undyne gently splashes the water with her webbed hands, making the water ripple unevenly as the boat drifts through the water.

Tra la la. Uh-oh. Suddenly, feeling suspicious...be too careful, those on the side of the real monsters.

It all falls down onto what their magic is, and who the riverperson depicts as the real monsters.

"Who are the real monsters?" you ask, your voice quiet. Undyne's head snaps towards you, but still, she stays quiet. Did they even hear you?

No one says anything for about two minutes. You risk a glance at the riverperson, who is still staring ahead.

"That’s up to you, (Y/N)," the riverperson finally answers.

...They know your name.

How?

"...Up to me," you repeat, slightly tilting your head. "Hmmm..."

Undyne is still quiet when you three arrive at Waterfall, the same place the riverperson dropped your tour group off last time.

"Riverperson? One more question," you say, twirling around, wondering if they're annoyed by your relentless antics. They only turn to you in response, that trademark black abyss seeming to stare straight into your SOUL. Who knows, maybe they are?

"How do you know my name?" you ask, intertwining your hands in front of you. The amount of silence radiating from Undyne is beginning to disturb you.

"...Magic. Be too careful," the riverperson stares ahead again.

"Okay. Well, thank you for the ride!" It doesn't hit you that they told you and Undyne to 'be too careful' until you two have spotted the group of men about to enter Waterfall. Perfect timing, you think.

"Tha hell is this place?!" one of the intruders ask you and Undyne crouch behind a big rock, and you pull out your phone, zooming the camera in on them and pressing record. The timer begins marking off the seconds as the video goes on.

"Dunno," the second one responds. They're all wearing various types and brands of jeans and blank hoodies, all of which are different shades of grey. "but I wanna get out of here."

"Relax, man, we'll have the shit soon. Just be patient," a third replies.

"How can I be patient?!" the fourth snaps. "We're so close to finding something that will be useful against the monsters!"

You sigh, zooming out when they walk a bit closer, but not so close as to see your hiding spot.

"Maybe they have secret rooms, or deadly magical artifacts," the fifth one suggests.

"Who knows what their magic can do!" the second one replies. "Jesus, I hope these monsters burn in hell! They don't belong in our world."

"Come on, let's just get what we need and get outta here," the third one urges as they proceed through Waterfall. You and Undyne have a hard time keeping quiet and out of sight, due to the squishy mud and the flat ground. You two rely on the fields of Echo Flowers to help you stay hidden. The group continues onward, talking about banishing monsters and how they want to leave. The mud keeps squishing under your footsteps step after step after step. Thankfully, you two are out of earshot from them. The hoods concealing their heads and shading their faces must be limiting their peripheral vision.

Soon, they exit Waterfall, and they keep on walking through the snow. Now, you and Undyne have more cover at least, but you're beginning to get cold in your outfit. Hopefully, if you and Undyne keep walking, then you'll stay a little bit warmer. The group picks up pace when they see Snowdin Town, then they stop in front of the Gyftmas tree.

"There's gotta be something here," the second one says, "what d'you guys think?"

"Let's look," the fourth says. They spread out, which makes it difficult for you to record them. You take snippets of videos of them all, focusing on the ones who're doing the most damage. They're breaking into the empty homes, scouring them.

You hear Undyne curse under her breath.

"What is it?" you ask, making sure to keep your voice low.

"They found Sans' lab," she responds, tensing. "He's gonna lose his shit if any of his stuff is broken or missing."

You sigh. "I guess this is our cue to confront them."

"But if they're videoing it, then won't it make us look guilty if we're trying to stop them from entering?" Undyne points out.

"But they violated the monster's privacy first," you counter, shifting onto your left knee.

"True. Okay, punk. Stay behind me," you two sneak around the outskirts, until you come to the back of the Serif's old residence.

Undyne takes the lead, and you stay a few feet behind her. You can already hear one of the men shuffling around and muttering to himself. Undyne narrows her eyes, then proceeds on. You follow, making sure to keep a certain distance behind her. Your phone is at about thirty-eight percent of battery now.

"Mmmfff...'s locked," came a muttered voice. Undyne gestures for you to stop, so you do, your thumb lingering over the record button, camera trained on the wall. You two are crouching behind the wall of the Serif residence. Undyne points to the corner, to her, then to you, then gestures to the area where's she currently crouching at. Then, she points to your phone, then mimics leaning around and holding a phone. She gives you a thumbs up, then raises a scale-brow. You nod, then she nods too and turns around, standing up and going inside. You turn, and press record.

Undyne says nothing, she just wraps her scaly hand around the guy's mouth and presses him against her. He struggles and yells, but his screams are muffled. Undyne drags him back around the counter, and you watch as his face is revealed.

...holy shit.

It's...Dorsey. You snort lightly, but are not surprised. His eyes widen in recognition, and he fights Undyne even harder. Undyne traps him with spears, and then produces a white cloth, which she ties around his mouth. None of his buddies can hear him scream.

"Well, shit, Dorsey," you start, your little party away from Snowdin, "fancy meeting you down here." You fold your arms. Undyne jogs back to you from whatever she was doing.

"You know this fucker?" she asks, taking a glance at the piece of shit trapped in between the spears.

"Yup. He was one of the assistant coaches," you respond, shifting your weight a little. "And, honestly, I'm not surprised."

Undyne shakes her head, red hair bouncing everywhere. "I'm gonna go get the rest of them, then we'll interrogate them. I swear, Asgore should be here if he isn't already..." she trails off. "Watch him. I'll be back in a minute." You nod, then slump down against a tree, tucking your phone away. You're beginning to feel sleep on your eyelids, but you're too pumped full of adrenaline to sleep.

Dorsey's eyes run over you, and you stare right back. He seems to want to say something, but can't. Maybe he wants you to take the rag out? Like hell you're doing that.

You keep your arms folding, rubbing the goose bumps forming on your arms. You can hear men shouting in the distance. Does Undyne need help...? Probably not, with the amount of stupidity she's facing.

She returns a few minutes later, with several of her spears trapping the rest of the men separately. They all hover over her with defeated, terrified, or pissed off expressions.

You stand, walking over to Undyne. She meets your gaze with a twisted smile on her face.

"Mind if I borrow your phone, punk?" she asks, the trapped men settling on the ground. You nod, unlocking it and handing it to her.

"I'm gonna send Asgore and Alphys the footage, then let them know what happened. Cool?" she asks. You nod again. She glances back down and begins tapping away at the screen. After a while, she lifts the phone to her ear.

"Huh?...Yeah...I'm at Snowdin with (Y/N)...Yeah...I'm okay..." she glances at you. "Are you okay, punk?"

"Yup," you respond after a quick check. She nods and returns to the phone.

"She's good...Uh-huh...okay...five...(Y/N) knows one of them...they were breaking into the houses of Snowdin, one of them was trying to break into Sans' lab...okay...when?...sure...we couldn't sleep...sorry, we won't do it again...we'll be waiting...see ya, fluffybuns!" she finishes with a smile, then clicks your phone off, handing it to you.

Soon enough, you hear a whooshing sound that originates at the front of the Serif house. A few seconds later, Asgore, a pissed off Toriel, Alphys, and a nearly asleep Sans all appear from the front, either trudging, trekking, or stomping towards you two.

"Child. Undyne. What were you two thinking?! Going out on the streets at night, pursuing strangers..." she sighs, rubbing her forehead with her paw.

"Yes, the security system sent us a message that activated the alarm and woke us all up. We didn't know where you two went," Asgore agrees, a stern expression settles on his face.

"Undyne, p-please don't p-pull that again. I w-was worried!" Alphys says as Undyne picks her up, hugging and nuzzling her.

"Ah! Get away from me, you ugly-ass bastard!" one of the men yells as Sans treks by, his half-lidded eye sockets rising a bit. His eye sockets are hollow, void of light as he glares at the man, who tries to press himself against the back of his makeshift cage.

"aw. those aren't nice words," he replies, deep tone riddled with sleep.

Undyne removes the gag from Dorsey, sadly.

"Fuck you, (Y/N)! I can't believe you actually like these damn bastards!" he spits, glaring at you.

You frown, crossing your eyes as you stand up. "I can't believe how you can be so biased and racist! You haven't even given them a chance, have you?! They're too damn nice for their own good, and how do they get repaid? With shits like you trying to force them back into their prison and making their lives a living hell! I mean, how would you feel if you were forced to move Underground for centuries, huh?! How would you feel if you were forced to leave all of your belongings and the only life you'd ever know behind?! To never see the sun or sky again?! How would you feel if most of your species was slaughtered?!" you finish, now a little worked up.

"That's enough, child," Toriel murmurs quietly. You take a quick survey of the group to see that everyone is looking at you, some of the gazes admiring and others full of hatred and disbelief. You hadn't even realized that you'd raised your voice.

Undyne then groans, stumbling a bit. Alphys jumps out of her arms, looking at the fish-like monster.

"What is it?"

"My magic...I'm...running...out..." your eyes widen; the trip out of Hotland must've taken way more out of her than you originally thought. Her knees buckle, and the spears vanish.

You turn to see Dorsey sprinting away from you, but you easily catch up to him. You grab onto his shoulders, then you slam your knee into the back of his, causing his left leg to collapse out from under him and a cry of pain to escape him. You forcefully jerk down on his shoulder, hard, and he falls. You manage to knock him out with a chokehold, then you turn to see Asgore, Toriel, and Sans taking care of the rest. Asgore and Toriel seemed to have taken care of two, while Sans has the other two trapped in a cage of bones, his left eye light glowing a pretty circle of blue.

You drag Dorsey over to them, an Sans traps him in a bone of cages.

"We should move them to a place with a more substantial cage," Asgore says. "will you, Toriel, and Sans take care of that? And Alphys, will you move Undyne to her bed so she can recover?" Alphys nods. "Very well. I will contact the authorities and explain what happened." You nod, too, then you walk over to where Toriel and Sans are. Sans walks away to teleport Undyne and Alphys back to the house, then he comes back a few minutes later. He still looks half-asleep.

"'m kay, i'm gonna need you two to each grab two. i'll hold the other one. just skin contact'll be enough," Sans instructs. You two nod. Toriel is carrying both bodies, and you're dragging the bodies halfheartedly. It's really too late for this shit...or is it too early? You honestly don't know anymore. All you know is that your eyelids are getting heavier by the minute.

You grunt as you finally get over to where Sans and Toriel are. Neither are really talking, and you don't blame them.

"tori, you're up first," she nods and adjusts the bodies on her shoulders so they're on more securely. Shit, how can she carry all of that weight? Sans takes her by the arm, then closes his eye sockets. He concentrates for a moment before he disappears with that familiar whoosh.

You stand there, holding the hands of two unconscious men awkwardly. Sans pops back a moment later.

He frowns. "hm...not sure how much different a human'll react," he mumbles, then thinks for a second. "alright, kiddo, don't let go of me or struggle. take a deep breath, and when i say to, exhale. cool?"

"Cool," you respond. He wraps his arms around you, pulling you close. You catch a whiff of his ketchup-y scent, still clutching the hands of the unconscious men.

"inhale," he instructs. You follow his directions and breathe in from your nose, like you do when you line up at the blocks before a swim. You breathe in air until you can take in no more, then you hold it.

Suddenly, like a jar being smashed from above with a hammer, the world falls away in glass-like pieces, each one that makes up everything coming apart and dissolving into thin air. You grunt, and Sans' hold tightens on you.

"don't exhale yet, kid. almost there." You two land on a smooth, grey surface. There's large, black hole in the middle of the room, and Sans guides you along.

"don't let go," he murmurs. "stay with me."

You feel like floating. Maybe it's because you need to exhale? Or maybe it's this place? You begin to feel some kind of pressure build up in your chest, and it starts to hurt. Sans is pulling you, but the rest of your body is numb. Are you still holding onto the men? Is this even real? Where the hell are you two right now? Where did Sans go? Wasn't he just holding you? Did he leave you? Are you alone? Did he forget about you, and leave you to drift and wipe your existence from that very-

"shit, kid, hold on," he grunts, and suddenly, you're jerked out of your thoughts.

...Huh?

"i know, just a second. damn wormhole won't...got it." He sighs, you think, and his arm tightens and pulls you through.

The pressure on your chest instatly releases, and you no longer feel like floating.

"exhale," he says, still holding you. There's some kind of bending light in the distance...are you in space? You gladly blow whatever air you have left out of your nose. You can't seem to find your voice, though.

"don't try to speak. i can only speak through magic," he says, then he steps through another...wormhole, as he called it. You grunt as you fall onto something, able to breathe correctly again.

"What the fuck?" you say, groaning. You've landed on the floor face-down, and Sans landed on top of you, with the two bodies on the floor.

"oh...uh...sorry. a bit of a rougher landin' than usual, but you still did pretty well." He grunts as he slides off of your back, placing a hand on his skull.

"What was that place?! What were those thoughts?! What was that pressure?! WAS THAT AN ACTUAL FUCKING WORMHOLE?!" you ask, everything crashing down at you all at once.

Sans stands, extending a bony hand out to you, "sorry 'bout that. we were just in the void, a place de-void of magic. 's hard, but 's worth it. those thoughts crossin' your mind? parta the void. it needs magic, which means it needs souls, monsters or humans, thus making it reach out to any living being with a soul and tryna tempt 'em to join the void and add to its magical energy. as for the pressure...that must be a human thing. and, yes, that was a wormhole." He takes a deep breath after you take his hand and he pulls you up.

...Skeletons breathe?

"...Oh my god," you inhale. "I went through a wormhole! That's fucking insane! I teleported!"

"technically i teleported-" he interrupts, the shit-eating grin back. You're having none of it.

"DON'T RUIN IT! I teleported, and I went through a wormhole!" You grasp a little bit of your hair, feeling how wild it was underneath your fingers. "Oh my god!"

"heh." He shrugs. "whatever floats your boat, pal."

"There you two are! I was beginning to think you'd be late!" Toriel swoops in. Now that you have your mind back together, you look around. You're in some kind of prison, so you stand up, slowly. You're a bit dizzy a first, but you recover quickly. Toriel picks up the unconscious men and places them in a nearby cell. The ones Toriel brought have already been locked up.

"welp, i'm gonna go grab the other one. see ya later." He gives you two one of his winks, then he teleports out.

"Dear, you look exhausted. Perhaps we should take you back to the house so you can rest up a bit..." She looks at you with a worried gaze, "I will not have you teleport again either. It exhausts humans."

"But, Toriel!" you say, throwing your hands up in the air.

"No buts, child. It will not help your current state. Come, you will stay the rest of the night with us."

"I appreciate the offer, but I can't. I've got to coach tomorrow, and I really shouldn't miss another day." You sigh. Yup, you're going to have to keep a constant flow of caffeine in your system tomorrow.

Toriel's face turns into a determined one. "You are going to rest tomorrow, child. I will contact the head coach and let him know what happened." You sigh yet again. Nope, she's not backing down...

"Sans can take care of the last one. Come, child. I will let Frisk take the day off tomorrow as well. It's been an exhaustive night for all of us."

With that, you and Toriel begin making your way to their home. You mentally apologize to your coach.



...

Tra la la. Uh-oh. Suddenly, feeling suspicious...be too careful, those on the side of the real monsters.

Be too careful.

Too careful.

...careful.

Chapter Text

Chapter X - One Punch

When you and Toriel get back to the Dreemurr home, your eyes are even droopier than before. You stumble inside, your foot forgetting to lift itself as you trip over your other foot. You're too tired to admonish yourself for it.

"Child, you're a mess," Toriel mumbles, wrapping her paws around your biceps.

You only giggle in response as she helps you stand upright. You're beginning to see the start of dawn as the very tip of the sun is peeking over the horizon. Toriel makes you sit on the couch, where Frisk is still asleep, curled up in a tight ball, arms tucked under their stomach.

You flop back, sighing. Well, that was one hell of a night. Toriel shuffles away, and comes back with a first aid kit.

"I'm okay, Toriel," you murmur, surprised at how soft your voice is.

"You shouldn't do this to yourself," she says sternly, taking your left arm into her paws and examining it. She treats a few scratches you managed to obtain, and a relatively small cut whose origins you're not sure of. She treats your arms and legs the same way.

"Do you mind if I roll your shirt up a bit? I only want to make sure you have no injuries there, either." Her eyes are patiently waiting for an answer, scanning you promptly.

You shake your head, and Toriel gingerly rolls up your shirt into a bundle, which you hold in your hands, making the tips of your fingers slip inside the crevices of your shirt, enjoying the soft texture of the cloth.

She finds a bruise there. "How did you get this?" Toriel asks. "It looks like it hurts."

You smack the bruise a little bit. "Nah, it doesn't hurt."

"Child, do not..." Toriel groans, glaring at you.

You shrug. "And I have no idea," you reply honestly. "Actually, I don't remember where I got most of those cuts and scratches."

She shakes her head again. "You really need to take better care of yourself, child." She rolls your shirt back over your stomach.

You sit up, but you're tugged back down with a little bit of force. You look down to see that Frisk has captured you in an embrace, their eyes half-lidded.

"Noooo..." they mumble. You hear Toriel chuckle.

"Stay here and rest for a while, child. You've been through a lot."

"I need to coach..." you complain, but sleep is already plaguing your vision. The last thing you see is a blur of white in front of you, then that white fades to black.…

...

*Ebott Jail*

"You don't have to do this alone, you know."

Sans turns to face the King, who is looking back at the skeleton with hazy, tired eyes. Sans nearly snarls.

"like hell i'm bringing someone else with me," he snaps, then he closes his eyes sockets. "'m sorry, i didn't mean to snap. i'll be quick."

"Don't overdo this, Sans," Asgore warns, "we have to videotape this. Remember that when you're in there.

"yeah, i won't," Sans states, then he turns to the police officer-he thinks this one's name is Jamie-and she glances up at the short, angry skeleton.

"Are you ready, sir?" she asks, her hands intertwined and behind her back.

"yup," he responds, eye pinpoints going dark.

The two go in the interrogation room. It's really dim for some reason Sans can't understand, and there's a mirrored window through which he knows more officers and King Asgore are watching, but can't see. There's a small, rectangular, smooth, black table with a handcuffed man attached to it.

"what's your name?" Sans starts.

"Why should I tell you?!" the man spits.

"Sir, we want to do this quickly," Jamie says. "Please. What is your name?"

"Dorsey."

"well, dorsey. i'm pretty sure you know what you're locked up in here for. correct?"

"Yeah," the pitiful excuse for a man replies.

"cool. saves me some talkin'," the skeleton sighs. "a'ight. now, according to the president, us monsters don't really have rights. yet. but you do."

"Are you aware of your Miranda Rights?" Jamie asks, folding her arms.

"What are they, like, right to remain silent, right to a lawyer, you need a warrant in order to search my place, shit like that?" he responds.

"you got the gist of it, at least." At least this guy and one of the other crooks aren't as ignorant as the other three, who all weren't even sure what the Miranda Rights were. Fucking pathetic. 

"Okay. Well, I'm not gonna lie to you, Dorsey. You're in deep shit, to say the least. I don't know what you were thinking, but even though monster don't have rights yet, you still broke into royal property, and damaged it as well. Not only that, but you and your buddies attacked two other people as well."

"What were they even doing down there at midnight?!" he asks. "That's suspicious, if you ask me."

"well, i'd say that it's even more suspicious when shits like you break and enter the underground in order to prove that we 'don't belong on the surface'. undyne's allowed to enter the underground any time she wants since she's the head of the royal guard."

"What about the human that was with her, (Y/N)?" Dorsey asks.

"those two are friends. undyne probably wanted to show her something in alphys' lab. or maybe they were gonna check out alphys' anime collection. but that doesn't matter. 's all due to the fact that undyne has the right to visit the underground anytime she wants. you, on the other hand, do not. neither did your pals."

Dorsey grits his teeth.

"Not only that, but you destroyed monster property. And, we have it all on video."

"Ugh! I want a lawyer!"

Sans smirks, crossing his arms. "you're gonna need one, buddy." He leans up close. "you know what will help knock time off of your sentence?"

Dorsey says nothing.

"...tellin' your lawyer you're gonna plead guilty. prior to the trial. instead of causing us more trouble, since we've already a trial on our hands," Sans' eyelights disappear, and he puts his hand on the table edge and leans forward, "be a pal and save us some time by pleading guilty."

The man shifts uncomfortably, averting eye contact with the skeleton.

"Sans," Jamie warns.

"i know," he replies. "but hey, we wouldn't wantcha to have a bad time now, would we?"

Jamie smirks as Sans turns around and exits the room, the officer hot on his heels.

...

Your eyes flutter open a while later. You're not sure how much time has passed by, but it feels like a lot. A moan escapes your lips as your eyes flutter open halfway. Light invades your vision, so you squeeze your eyelids shut and groans. There are murmurs around you, distorted voices that you can't quite make out. Words are not processing through your mind, and you roll over.

There's another familiar voice. This one is younger, and is originating from right above you.

"...awake...okay..." Is all you can make out. Another voice responds, this one is familiar, too.

"…(Y/N)?" The sleepiness drifts to the back of your mind. It's set aside so that you can still focus, but it's still there, reminding you.

Your eyelids flutter open to meet a white ceiling and two pairs of eyes. Groggily, you lift your jello-like arms to try and help you sit up, but they're numb, so you give up.

"(Y/N)?" comes Toriel's voice.

"Mmffksd?" you respond.

"She's alive!" You can see Frisk more clearly now; their hair is tousled, twisted into tangled knots, their sweater wrinkled. Toriel is next to them, gazing down at you with an amused expression written on her face.

"Was I dead?" you ask, turning your neck. It's very stiff, and it hurt when you move. Ugh, what position did you fall asleep in?

"No, no, child. You just fell asleep very suddenly. Your head fell onto the armrest of the couch, and it didn't look very comfortable, so I moved you here."

"You look dead," Frisk states, climbing onto your stomach.

"I bet I do," you reply, moving your hand to the back of their head.

"Frisk, that wasn't very nice," Toriel replies, folding her eyes over her chest and frowning at Frisk after shooting you an apologetic glance.

"I appreciate an honest child," you admit, poking Frisk in the stomach. They recoil, moving their hands to protect their stomach.

"See mom? I'm honest," they repeat.

"There's a difference between being honest and mean," Toriel counters.

Suddenly, like a tidal wave, the events from last night come crashing down again.

"Wait?! What happened after I fell asleep?!" you demand, your crusty eyes widening in shock.

"I moved you, then I went out to check on everyone." She sighs, an expression that's a mixture of relief and disappointment covering her features, "Sans had somehow managed to get the men to plead guilty. Before they were interrogated, they seemed really stubborn..." She sighed. "I don't know."

"Huh," you scoot up so your head can rest against the headboard, Frisk still clinging to your stomach, "weird. Does that mean there won't be a court case?"

"The men confessed, pleaded guilty, and Asgore showed the police the tapes. Undyne testified to the police, and all that's left to further enforce their guilt is for you to testify."

"You guys are waiting on me?! Where do I need to go?" You ask, trying to sit up, but Toriel pushes you back down, her sharp, purple pupils glaring at you in a motherly way. You remember seeing this expression on your mom's face when you were in trouble.

You're going nowhere under Toriel's watch.

"They're still observing the damage done to the Underground, meaning that we have spare time. In that time, I will cook you breakfast, you will stay in bed and rest, and then the officers will come here and question you. After that, you will stay until this matter has been resolved." It's more of a command than it is a statement.

You groan. "But Toriel! I have to get home!"

She shushes you, causing Frisk to giggle. "We have notified the head coach. He understands, and your absence has been taken care of. Burgerpants also called, and we explained to him what happened." Another groan escapes you. You're trapped!

"Fine...if you insist..." you say.

Toriel visibly relaxes, then says, "Thank you, child. You've done so much for us, and it'd be wrong for us to leave you alone after an event like this. You don't know how much we appreciate your help."

You shrug. "It's really no problem. I like helping you guys, especially since you're nice to me."

Toriel frowns. "Are people not nice to you?"

You shrug. "Eh, it's kinda like high school. People tease you because you like different things that they can't understand. I'm not exactly like most adults my age, and they don't like me because of it." You shrug again. "I honestly don't care what others think. And if they have a problem with me, then they can say it to my face, and we'll take it from there."

Toriel grins. "If you say so. But if you need anything at all, child, please do not hesitate to call me."

"Thank you, Toriel. I really appreciate it."

She nods, then glances down at Frisk. "I should go cook breakfast for everyone. Is there anything in particular you like, (Y/N)?"

You shrug. "I'm not picky."

Toriel frowns, her expression turning into that of a true queen, "Pick something you like. The least I can do is make something you like."

You groan. Honestly, why does Toriel have to do this?! Can't she just thank you and move on?!

From her posture and the way she's glaring at you, you can tell that she's not going to back down easily. So, reluctantly, you tell her what you like. She nods, her boss mode switch turned off for the time being. "Alright, dear, I'll have that out soon."

"Thank you, Toriel," you say, exasperated.

"Can I stay up here, mom?" Frisk asks. You can feel their chest rising and falling on your stomach. Placing your hand on their head, you slightly scratch their scalp.

"Of course, child," Toriel replies, walking out of the room.

Frisk nuzzles their face into your shirt once more.

"You're cool," they say, not looking up at you.

You grin, then say, "Thanks. You're kinda cool yourself."

You two giggle, then are silent for a while. You run a quick mental check, feeling that the bruises on your arm have been irritated once again, along with the various cuts and scrapes, which you're not worried about. Oh well, you've had worse.

A few minutes go by without you or Frisk saying anything. The silence is interrupted by a pop, and suddenly, two skeletons are standing in the room.

"HUMAN! ARE YOU OKAY?! UNDYNE TOLD ME ABOUT YOUR EPIC QUEST!" Papyrus begins, coming over to your side. Sans follows, his fuzzy, pink slippers sliding along the floor.

"I'm fine, Papyrus," you respond. "How's Undyne doing?"

"SHE USED TOO MUCH MAGIC AT ONCE, AND IT EXHAUSTED HER, BUT SHE IS RECOVERING WELL!" Papyrus replies happily.

"i need to talk to you, kid," Sans mutters, his eye socket lids lidded at about twenty-five percent of the way.

"OH YES! SANS HAS QUESTIONS FOR YOU, (Y/N)! COME, FRISK, AS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HAVE ERRANDS TO RUN AND COULD USE A HELPER!" Papyrus grins, lifting Frisk off of your stomach. You pout at the now missing warmth, your stomach now feeling exposed.

Frisk perks up as Papyrus raises them over his head and places them on his armored scapulas.

"Yeah! Let's go!" Frisk announces, and with that, the younger skeleton bursts through the door and runs down the stairs.

You chuckle, trying to sit up more. You find your arms aren't as numb now, so you slide up against the headboard. "I'm impressed."

The older skeleton frowns. "why?"

"Papyrus is still so innocent. Despite all of the evil in this world, the weirdness and the darker parts, you've managed to keep his innocence preserved. That means you must be a great brother," you explain.
His nasal septum and cheekbones turn a light shade of blue, and the white pinpricks in his eye sockets dart away from you. "oh...uh...thanks." He chuckles. "he's the greatest, isn't he?"

"The best. It's hard to find optimists these days," you note, tilting your head back. "Papyrus is just a ray of sunshine." You smile, "Anyway. What did you want to talk about?"

His smile flattens out a bit. "oh, um...i wanted to thank you. for stopping those men from going into my lab. i've got a lot of important models, equipment, prototypes, research..." He sighs. "and it's not exactly rainbows and sunshine kinda research."

You nod. "Sure thing, but Undyne did most of the work."

"but you still helped. who knows how it woulda played out with just undyne there. and...i appreciate the smaller things you do. like the other day when you gave your can of silly string to pap. little things like that just make his day."

You chuckle. "Anything to keep his precious smile on his skull."

"you're a nice human," he states.

"I try. The world isn't very forgiving, so there isn't any point in being rude now, is there?" You aren't sure whether or not it was a compliment or not, so you're just going to roll with it. It's quiet for a little longer, when you ask, "What kind of science are you into?"

"astronomy, mostly. physics, too. but i love the stars." He shrugs. "nothing too interesting. "

"Astronomy? That's really cool. I wanted to be an astronaut growing up."

"what stopped you?"

"Math. My mortal enemy," you respond, scrunching your nose.

He chuckles. "eh, math is a lot of work...but i like it."

"Why? How?" You press, tilting your head a bit. Who could like math?

The skeleton shrugs, stuffing his hands into his jacket. "you can't cheat math. there're steps, equations, numbers, formulas, and you always have an answer. it's constant, something that never changes. you can set up an equation, and do anything you want to it as long as you do it to both sides. what can i say? to me, math is the only subject that really counts." He doesn't laugh at his own joke, instead, his pinpoints dark up and to his right, and you think he's having a flashback of some sort. You decide not to pry.

You nod, chuckling at the pun. "That...I've never thought about that way."

"but then again, it's a lot of work." His pinpoints glance down. It seems like he's concentrating on something. 'i'd like to go up to space one day."

"Then do it! You're smart enough, actually enjoy math, and you love space! Why not?" you ask. If there's one thing you hate other than anti-monster people, then it's wasted potential, especially when it comes to friends.

He's silent for a while more. "i don't know."

"Then at least consider it. You have potential to do something you love, and you deserve that chance," you finish, leaning back on the headboard, folding your hands together in your lap.

Neither of you say anything for a while, and Sans looks like he's deeply contemplating something. It's more of a companionable silence than it is awkward, the both of you trapped in your thoughts.

"i should probably get back," he says after a few minutes, then smiles. "see ya around, squints."

"...Squints?" you question, attempting to raise a single eyebrow but failing miserably and just raising both your eyebrows, making your forehead wrinkle up. You narrow your eyes instead. There, much better.

The blue on his nasal septum has returned in a paler form. "uh...um...i...think it...suits you?" He tests the words on his jaw. Or teeth...? Close enough. Monsters are weird.

"May I ask why?" you ask, slightly amused at the blushing skeleton.

"...you squint. when you're confused. you tilt your head, too."

"Really?" you ask, then you realize that's he's right. You just squinted and tilted your head. Holy shit. A short laugh escapes you as you realize what he's talking about.

"You're really observant!" you praise, a smile gracing your lips.

"...heh, i guess you could say that. see ya around, squints," he winks at you before vanishing.

...Of all nicknames, too.

Toriel's back in the room you're staying in a few minutes later, this time carrying a large, shiny, silver tray filled with white dishes sporting the food you'd requested.

"Here you are, child," Toriel sets the tray down in front of you, and you can only stare at the oasis of food in front of you. Various scents are wafted towards you, and it smells like perfection in food form.

Another one of your stupid giggles escapes you. "I've never had breakfast in bed before! Thank you!"

Toriel smiles one of her warm ones, and pulls up a lone chair that had been residing next to a dresser on the wall to your left up to the side of the bed you're lying in.

"I'm glad I surprised you pleasantly. I hope you like it. Please eat, child, the officers will be here soon."

So, you dig in. Once again, you are not left disappointed as some of your favorite flavors throw a party in your mouth, flavors vivid and delicious. You close your eyes, shoulders instantly relaxing and slumping forward, almost heaving in a contented sigh, mouth instantly consumed in pure bliss.

"Is everything alright?" she asks you.

You make a contented noise and nod. Toriel laughs, and watches your expression change from shock, to bliss, back to shock, and then bliss again.

"So good..." you murmur in between bites. "How?"

"Well, it's quite hard not to perfect cooking skills in the years I've had. It's almost become second-nature to me, and it's something I can lean on when I need to get my mind off something particularly nasty."

"Wow. This is so good. Stars, I wish I could cook like this!" you groan. "Why can't I cook like you?! Well, then again...I'm probably not as passionate about it as you are."

"Maybe. All it takes is a recipe, practice, heart, fresh ingredients..." she chuckles. "Just ask Undyne. Or Papyrus."

"Speaking of them, how's Undyne? Papyrus told me she's getting better, but was she hurt?"

"No, child, just exhausted," she assures you.

You sigh. "Okay. Good. She captured one of the men, then asked me to watch him while she took care of the others. She didn't go into detail about what happened." You groan, hitting your head against the headboard.

"She asked about you, too, dear." Another one of her admonishing sighs escapes her. "That was very reckless. But...we appreciate the fact that you care."

You shrug. "You guys have been so nice to me. I only want to help!" You reply, shoving more food into your cakehole.

"We understand that, child, but you need to consider your own safety too." Toriel responds with a frustrated groan. You don't think it's directed towards you.

You think Toriel threw some healing magic into your food, because your bruises and cuts are slightly tingling, and you feel warm and sleepy.

"Did you put magic into this?" you question, eyeing your food.

"I did, just a little bit of healing magic for your bruises. I hope you don't mind," Toriel says.

You shake your head. "I was just wondering."

Soon, there's a knock at the front door, which causes Toriel to excuse herself and go answer it. You continue chewing until voices approach, and Toriel reappears with two officers, one female, the other male.

"Here are the officers, Miss (L/N). I will be back momentarily," you nod.

"How may I help you?" you ask with a smile.

"Good morning, miss. I'm Officer Tom, and this is Officer Jamie. We're here to get your input on what happened last night and early this morning." Begins the male.

"Alright," you say, setting down the glass of water Toriel brought up.

"Could we get your side of the story?" Officer Jamie asks.

So you tell them everything, about how you and Undyne were originally going to look at whatever she wanted to show you to what actually happened, and how everything eventually played out. They listen to you, occasionally asking for clarification or jotting down notes. After you're finished, they ask you a few more questions, some of which are about Dorsey, and you answer as well as you can. Some of the questions, you can tell, are trying to see if the monsters had anything to do with your injuries, or if they've done anything to harm you. That last part makes you sour, but it won't help anyone if you start ranting.

"They've been nothing but nice to me," you respond, voice confident and firm.

They nod. "We believe you, miss. You think that's all we need to get those shits arrested?" Jamie asks Tom. At least it seems like they're on the monster's side.

"Ah-huh. Alright, thank you Miss (L/N), we appreciate your cooperation." Officer Tom concludes. "Thank you for your input."

"No problem," you respond. Toriel comes back in, grabbing the tray filled with now empty dishes.

"Is there anything else we can do to help?" Toriel asks, stacking some of the dishes together.

"We might need you and King Asgore to come down to the station, but things are looking pretty good for now. Thank you again, miss."

"You're welcome. Have a good day!" you pipe up, giving them a smile.

"You too, ma'am," Tom responds. They exit the room, and Toriel escorts them out of the house. After you hear a door shut, followed by her soft footsteps padding up the stairs, she comes back a moment later.

"Undyne and Alphys are on their way over, and Sans, Papyrus, Frisk, and Asgore are coming, too," she smiles. "You're stuck with us for the rest of the day, I'm afraid."

You chuckle. "I'm okay with that."

She laughs, then pats your head affectionately. "You may want to get some sleep before they come."

You shrug. "Guess I could use another nap."

"Do you need anything? I will be out for a bit, but everyone should start piling in within the next forty-five minutes or so. Undyne and Alphys will be here about fifteen minutes before that."

"I'm good right now," you say. "Thank you, though."

The goat mom gives you a smile, then nods. "You're quite welcome. Well, I must go, but if you need anything, just give Alphys or I a call. Your phone is hooked up right there, it was quite close dying when you fell asleep."

"I will. I really appreciate this, Toriel," you say, smiling at her as you get comfy under the warm covers.

"We like to help our friends. Now, get some sleep," she says, walking out and gently closing the door.

This is a very fluffy bed, you notice.

So fluffy.

So warm.

You're interrupted from your peaceful nap by a door slamming, and footsteps rushing up. You groan, sitting up. Black dots surround your vision as you move so suddenly. You take a few seconds to let the black spots fade away, and for the dizzy spell to pass when Undyne is suddenly inside the room with you.

"PUNK!" Undyne yells.

"Yo, you okay, Undyne?" you ask.

"ME?! I'm fine, just tired. What about you?!" she demands. She's wearing a loose, yellow tank top and dark, blue running shorts, her red hair untied and very, very wild.

"I'm fine. I mean, you're the one who passed out! Come on, Undyne, I didn't think that the trip out of Hotlands took as much as it did out of you!"

"It didn't!" Undyne replies. "I was just...overwhelmed!"

"Undyne..." Alphys mutters, coming in behind her. "(Y-Y/N), are you okay?"

"I'm good. Just a little tired," you reply.

Undyne sighs. "Come on, we're going to watch some anime together. But I'm going to sleep at nine or ten tonight."

"Th-that's okay, sweetie. You d-did a lot last night." Alphys turns to you. "W-Wanna watch some anime with us?"

You and Undyne support each other as Alphys frantically tries to make sure both of you stay upright. Undyne's got her arms slung under your arm, and you're supporting Undyne's shoulders, both of you leaning against each other.

"We got this, Alphy!" Undyne comments as you two approach the bottom. Undyne seems to be recovering well, but you can tell she's still pretty weak. You know that she's hiding her exhaustion behind her toothy grin. Yeah, today is definitely a good day for anime.

"Okay, o-okay, just take it e-easy," Alphys says, scampering into the living room. You and Undyne follow her.

"What are we going to watch today?" you question as Alphys does something you can't quite see with the remote.

"We're still debating. Gah, I don't think Netflix is working on the TV right now, though," Alphys mutters, annoyance written all over her face.

"Doesn't she have internet on this TV?" Undyne asks, crossing her arms as she leans on the doorframe.

"No, I don't think so," Alphys sighs, shutting the TV off.

"Dude," you start.

Their heads swivel towards you. "What?" Undyne asks.

"Do either of you have a laptop?" you ask, beginning to get excited.

"I do!" Alphys says.

"...Do you think Toriel would mind if we made a fort?" you ask.

Undyne grins, "YES! We are doing this!"

"Y-yeah! Frisk and Papyrus make them all the time! Let's do it in the basement! There's m-more space down there, and more blankets!" Alphys adds, the yellow scales on her cheeks turning pink.

"YES! LET'S DO THIS!" Undyne roars.

So, the three of you stomp down to the basement, where you find a dark coffee table, and another couch that has removable cushions. The room lacks a TV, though. But it has a good layout, and it will work perfectly. The three of you start collecting all kinds of things: you and Undyne collect sheets and pillows, and Alphys goes to the store to grab some snacks. Soon, you and Undyne have made the basic shape of the fort: attached over the coffee table is a large, baby blue sheet that stretches over the main 'room', the carpeted floor big enough to fit you, Alphys, Undyne, and a few more monsters. Next to this 'room' is a smaller room, which has a bucket filled to the brim with bags of chisps (which are all different flavors), candy, Pocky, and soda. Near the entrance to your fort is a line of rope, courtesy of Undyne, that stretches across the top and has a blanket draped over it to create a makeshift entrance. All sorts of mismatched and mixed sheets have been used to create this legendary fort, and you can't help but feel proud of your accomplishment.

You crawl out of the fort a while later, then stand, stretching your back, legs, and arms out. You blink a few times to get your eyes adjusted to the light, which is a bit darker than the multicolored rays inside the fort. There are two windows in the room, which are both covered by a curtain, and there's a sliding door which leads out onto a patio.

Out of curiosity, you move towards the window. Where does this patio lead to? You jerk the curtain away, and find...

...something...er, someone, that's not a window.

"What the hell?!" a shrill voice yells. You yelp a bit, jumping back to see a yellow...flower. In a pot. With a face.

"HOLY SHIT!" you yell.

"Who are you?" he asks, folding his...petal arms...together.

"Um...I'm (Y/N) (L/N)," you respond.

"Wow. Another human. Just what they need."

You're not really sure what he's implying, from the way his voice is dripping with verbal irony.

"...Excuse me?" you ask.

"Yeah. You heard me." Flowey smirks.

"PUNK!" Undyne yells.

"Yo!" you respond, turning around to face Undyne, who is helping Alphys carry tons of grocery bags into the room.

"What's...oh. You met Flowey," Undyne sighs.

"B-be nice, Flowey," Alphys warns, "You know how Frisk would take this."

The flower sighs, rolling his...eyes. "Yeah, yeah. The problem is, I don't care."

"Just i-ignore him, (Y/N). He's not e-exactly a happy camper," Alphys says. Undyne steps in front of you and grabs the flower's pot.

"HEY!" Flowey barks, "PUT ME DOWN, PEASANT!"

"We really don't need him to ruin this," Undyne comments before opening the door to the patio and setting him on the table that resides out there.

"Now," Undyne starts, shutting the door to silence Flowey's irritated screeches of insults, "let's get set up."

So, the three of you crawl into your fort, and Alphys starts up Netflix on her laptop.

"Here we are..." she says, selecting One Punch Man.

"This show is the best," you say.

"I know, right?! Alphys and I haven't watched it in forever!" Undyne cheers.

"Th-there's no way we're skipping the theme song," Alphys comments.

"Of course not! We're singing it. Every time. Even if it means we mess up the lyrics. I mean, that's, like, sixty percent of the fun right there," you say. "Hell, I have it as my alarm when I wake up every morning!"
Undyne grins, her eyes glittering with excitement. "I didn't know humans could be so awesome!"

So, this why when Sans and Papyrus come in when you all are on the fourth episode, they hear frantic "ONE PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCHHHHHHHHHHHHH! THREE, TWO, ONE, KILLSHOT!"

"UNDYNE! WHAT...EXACTLY ARE YOU THREE DOING?"

"ONE PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNCHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Undyne yells in a high-pitched voice.

"I can do it better," you smirk. Undyne glares at you.

"OH YEAH?! SHOW ME WHAT YOU'VE GOT, PUNK!"

From then until Papyrus steps in, you and Undyne take turns singing the very beginning, starting off by seeing who could get the tone right, then seeing who could hold it the longest. The two of you are pretty evenly matched.

You must look like a complete idiot.

Oh well.

"I-I think you both were pretty great, but Undyne h-held it longer..."

You throw your hands up in the air. "It's not about who held it longer. It's about who completely destroyed the mood! You gotta go like: ONE PUUUUUUUUUNCH, not like, one puuunch."

"I did!" Undyne yells.

"ladies, please." Sans crawls in under the fort, sitting next to Papyrus, who is a hunched over a little bit from the ceiling blanket's close proximity to the floor. Still, he looked cute curled up in a ball, silently "NYEH HEH HEH"ing. Sans, on the other hand, laid down and faced the laptop. Papyrus curls up next to his older brother, and Sans does not reject. Undyne and Alphys cuddle up, and you get into a comfortable position. Frisk comes in a while later, so you fire up the anime and devour all the snacks. You scoop an armful of snacks up, then you dump them in front of the four of you. Undyne and Alphys grab a box of Pocky, Papyrus accepts some popato chisps, and Sans breaks out a few dozen miniature packs of ketchup. You take your pick of snacks, and stow some away for later. You, Undyne, Alphys, and Frisk compromise that they can have the candy as long as you, Undyne, and Alphys get the Pocky.

After another episode or so, Frisk gets up to check on Flowey. You sigh; you've ate a lot, and you still aren't feeling it...yet. You have a hunch that Toriel is going to make you stay for dinner, and if that's the case, then you're probably going to face a lecture from her. Well, at least you're not in it alone, you think, glancing at Frisk as they come back in with Flowey tucked under their arm. They shove away their pile of open and ripped-up candy wrappers, then lay down again. Flowey is quiet for the rest of the marathon.

Everyone is quiet, save for the quiet chewing and occasional whisper. You, Undyne, and Alphys have a fangirl attack when the Mumen Rider stands up to the Deep Sea King and says his little speech about doing what is right. Shit, he's too much of a cinnamon roll! C-Class hero, S-class heart, you think.

You all are smooshed together, with you in between Frisk and Undyne, Alphys next to her, Papyrus next to her, and then Sans next to him. The fort is barely big enough to hold all of you at once, but it works.

"I don't wanna tear this down. It's so cool!" Frisk says when season one is over, and there is no more Saitama-sensei and Genos-kun to watch.

"Hey, punk! We can just build a better one next time!" Undyne points out.

"ESPECIALLY IF THE GREAT PAPYRUS IS PRESENT TO HELP!" Papyrus adds, crawling out of the fort.

"What is going on down here?" You all turn to face Toriel. Frisk races to cover up the pile of empty wrappers, but it's too late.

"What is the meaning of this?! You've spoiled your appetites for dinner. All of you have, haven't you?"

"I just had a few," Frisk mumbles, now on a sugar crash.

"Me too..." you say, patting your stomach.

You can tell Toriel is surpressing a smile, because she turns around, and brings her paw up to her mouth.

"No more sweets for you, Frisk," is all she says, and when she leaves, you can hear her silent giggles.

Chapter Text

Chapter XI – Soul Crusher

After the entire incident has cooled down, and both you and Undyne have recovered from that night, Toriel reluctantly lets you go home the next day. In fact, the timing is nearly perfect, since tomorrow is the third meet.

You've received an email from your editor asking about whether or not you were okay. You shot her a quick response, then you felt a sudden surge of motivation and whipped up three brand-fucking-new articles for her.

Now? You're trying to get back into swimming. Typically, if you miss one or two days, then it's pretty much like not exercising for an entire month, which is one of the cons of swimming. At least you can get back into it fairly quickly. You're standing at the side of the pool, squinting in the dark, trying to find the head coach.

"(Y/N)? Are you okay?" he asks when he sees you.

You grin even though he probably can't see you. "Yeah, I'm fine. Did you hear about Dorsey?"

You sense his mood shift. "Yup. I'm...disappointed in him, to say the least. He had great potential, but I guess we should have saw it coming sooner or later," he sighs.

"Yeah, I'm kind of glad he's gone. He was a dick."

The coach snickers. "Well, I hope you like his...replacement."

You perk. Maybe this one is nicer!

"I hope I do, too!"

"She's a...handful, but she's nice. I think you know her. Undyne?" he questions.

And, suddenly, you're laughing hysterically.

"Seriously? She's coaching?!" you ask, doubling over to clutch at your stomach. So many surprises!

"Yeah," he says, folding his arms.

"Oh my god. I can't wait. Is she starting today?" you ask.

"Ah-huh. I think she'll be an even better coach than Dorsey," he admits, turning to unload his bag.

"She will. God, I promise you she will!" you say, the smile fading a bit. "Shit. I can't wait."

"I'm glad. Anyway...will you help me set up for practice?" he asks.

After the lane lines have been pulled out, the pool lights turned on, you flip into the deep end off of the diving board. The cool water splashes over you, and once again, you enjoy the distorted colors and light that jump throughout the water. It's so relaxing!

You swim underwater to your lane, and by the time you pop up, your lungs are burning for air. Stars, you are out of shape.

"Punk, is that you?" you turn, your swim cap and goggles in hand. You see a tall, muscled shadow looming over the edge of the pool.

"Undyne! Why didn't you tell me you were applying for coach?" you ask.

She jumps in, splashing you. You scrunch your face up, then wait for her to surface.

"I dunno. I wanted to surprise you. So, you gonna tell me how this shit works?"

You frown. "Don't tell me you don't know the basics."

She sends a wave of water towards your face. "'Course I know the basics! I've never coached before, that's what I meant!"

"Oh." Suddenly, you feel extremely stupid. "Sorry. Um, yeah, I'll show you. So, the coaches show up around two hours early for our daily swim and to discuss what we'll be working on during practice."

"Okay. What about these rubber cap things?" she asks.

"Silicon," you correct, "and they're so you can get faster by reducing drag and getting your hair out of your face. Like this." You stretch it out by putting your hands inside the cap and stretching it apart, then pulling it over your head while sliding your hands out. You then tuck in the stray strands of hair under the cap, then you adjust it until it fits your head snugly.

"Just like that," you say.

"How's all my hair going to fit in that?!" she asks.

"Tie it up in a really tight bun," you respond.

"Oh...let me go get my hair tie, then," she replies, hopping out and jogging over to the table where you all have placed your belongings. You patiently wait for her to come back.

"Alright, so...like this? I don't wear buns a lot," she comments as she ties her hair up with a bit of difficulty from it being wet.

"Yeah...there you go!" you say. "Now, I'll cap you." Taking the swim cap into your hands and dunking it under the water, you dump it out, then put your hands inside and expanding it.

"Bend over a little bit," you instruct. She obeys, tilting her head towards you. You gently tug the cap on, adjusting it so that it fits her, too. She raises her head.

She looks so different without all of her flowing, scarlet hair. "That feels really weird!"

You giggle, moving your goggles to your wrist. "I know, but you get used to it eventually. I've come to find it comforting, and I can't swim without it now, even if it's just swimming for fun."

"Really?" she asks.

"Yup," you grin, "Oh, and we're going to race one day. Not today, but after City-County, the big meet. And the entire team is gonna watch."

Her evil, confident grin is back. "Hell yes, punk. And I'm totally gonna win."

Dustin hops in your lane after you finish explaining how things roll up in this joint a few minutes later.

"Dustin, Undyne. Undyne, Dustin," you say.

"Shit, you look fast as hell," Dustin comments, shaking Undyne's hand. You can't help but agree; with her blue scales, neon yellow suit, dark cap with her name printed on the side, she looks like she could take on anyone.

"Heh, I hope. I haven't swum competitively before," she admits, withdrawing her hand.

"You're gonna be fine, 'specially with her helping you," he gestures to you.

"And, suddenly, he's on my side," you joke.

"That was, like, a week ago," he complains, groaning.

"Okay, then," Undyne mutters.

"Anyway, I'm glad Dorsey is gone," Dustin says, crossing his arms as head coach jumps into the lane next to you, Cam and Aviana following his lead. The adult coach gets her own lane this time around.

"Aren't we all?" head coach jokes, pulling his swim cap on. There are a few snickers.

"I thought he wouldn't actually...do anything, though," Aviana admits, her voice sounding a little sad.

"I didn't, either," Cam agrees.

"Well, it's over and done with now. Shall we begin with a two-hundred choice?" coach asks.

"What's a two-hundred?" Undyne whispers.

"Eight laps," you whisper back. "A twenty-five is one, a fifty is two, seventy-five three, and a hundred is four. You get the idea."

"Ah, okay," Undyne says.

Undyne actually does have nearly perfect technique for freestyle; she has all of the rotating, breathing, kick, and head position down. It's the same case for backstroke, too. But, you discover, she has a harder time with breaststroke, and isn't sure how to do butterfly just yet.

"Butterfly is my favorite, but it's freaking exhausting," you comment.

"How in the hell do you like butterfly?" Dustin asks.

You shrug. "It pushes my limits physically, plus it just looks badass."

He shakes his head. "I call it drowning with style."

"And you're not exactly wrong, either," you admit, smiling.

"You're insane," he says, shaking his head and readjusting his mirrored goggles.

"So? Are you gonna teach me or what?" Undyne asks impatiently.

So then, you teach her how to do butterfly, from the basic body position, to the kick, to the arm movements and how you're supposed to move your head when you breathe. She picks it up pretty fast, though, so there's no reason for you to keep correcting her. Soon, she's swimming like a professional.

It's really not fair how fast she can perfect her technique. But then again, she is a sea monster.

"Okay, I think that's enough for today. Let's head inside!" coach announces. You all hop out, then walk over to the little building, all taking a seat around the table.

"I think you've already met her, but this our new coach, Undyne," Warner says, gesturing to Undyne.

"Hey," she comments, waving a bit.

"We're glad to have you on the team, Undyne," Warner says, smiling, then he holds up two sheets of paper.

"Now, as you all know, tonight's meet is butterfly and breaststroke. So, I was thinking we could do these drills for the eleven and ups..." he continues discussing each drill, Undyne occasionally whispering a question to you. You try to answer her as well as you can.

"Since you're new, Undyne," Warner starts, "you'll be sharing a lane with Miss (Y/N) here."

You two fist bump, causing head coach to chuckle.

"Alright. The little kids'll be here soon, so, let's get ready," he says, then dismisses the meeting.

"A'ight, punks, I want three fifties alternating butterfly and flutter kick! You hear me?!" Undyne yells. You were right; Undyne is definitely good with this job. She's encouraging all of the little ones, giving them great advice, and best of all, you two are making a great team together. With you coaching the eleven and twelves and Undyne coaching the thirteen and fourteens, you two are coming up with sets, and how to add a little bit of kick to them. The last part is mostly Undyne, though.

Frisk is having a hard time with butterfly, you notice, and so are a few other kids. So, you take off your coverup and hop in, then you give each kid a bit of constructive criticism as needed.

"I don't like butterfly," Frisk complains. "It's so hard!"

"Nuh-uh! C'mer," you instruct the other kids to line up towards the right side of the lane.

"So, what I'm seeing from you guys as a majority is your kick and breathing. So when you kick..."

Yeah, you still think it's funny to see coaches demonstrating dolphin kick, so you're not surprised when some of the more immature swimmers giggle at you.

"You originate your kick at your chest, then you press down, and from there, that motion helps move your hips up, your legs forward, and then you repeat, and you get that smooth, wave motion," you explain, holding your hands up above your hands in streamline. "Practice that, 'mkay? We'll do a few drills kick, twenty-fives. We cool?" You check to see if there're any hands raising. "Cool." You step towards the back of the line. "Alright. First group, ready...go!"

Frisk and MK are quietly talking amongst themselves when they're at the walls, both of them still towards the back of the line. Frisk will start getting the hang of it after this meet, but as for MK, who actually has a disadvantage...you're not sure, but he's doing pretty well for someone with no arms.

"I can't believe Undyne the Undying is coaching!" MK chatters excitedly, "She's so awesome!"

"That she is," you respond, "ready...go! Get ready, Frisk!" You say. They step up towards the wall. "Ready...go!" They push off, their streamline already looking a lot better than it had been a few days ago.

"You good, MK?" you ask, wondering if he has a way to swim 'butterfly' with no arms.

"I have an idea, so I'm gonna try it!" he says, his tail splashing water around.

"Go for it!" you encourage, "Ready...go!"

He takes off, and uses his tail to alternate sides as he lifts himself. God, he must have some powerful legs if he's going that fast...

"This is actually a lot more fun than I expected! I didn't know how much I was missing out on!" Undyne says. You nod.

"I'm glad you like it so far!" you say honestly.

"I'm glad I got the position!" she says, "You know, a lot of people don't like to have monsters work for them."

"Coach Warner is one of the few employers who is actually pretty chill about that. He's pro-monster," you respond.

"He seems pretty laid-back," Undyne comments. You nod in agreement.

"He really is," you respond. "He treats you more like a person than he does an employee, or, in this case, a coach."

"I like that in employers. Not that I've had a human one before now," she says, sitting down on a stack of kickboards. She's pulled a bright, green tank top and a pair of dark, blue running shorts trimmed with a line of light blue over her suit. Her scarlet hair is damp and up in its typical ponytail.

"Are you excited for the meet tonight?" you ask.

"Hell yes, nerd! I'm so pumped for tonight!" she responds, her toothy smile reappearing again.

"Good, I think you'll like it!" you reply as the first heat of swimmers come back to the wall, Dustin having started them on the other end.

The rest of the practice goes like this, with you and Undyne chatting and making sets while instructing the kids on what they could be doing better. Around lunch time, Warner dismisses you all, you and Undyne walk side by side to Undyne's turquoise truck.

"So, I need to be here at five?" she confirms.

"Yup. Bring all your shit, too," you say.

"Gotcha," she responds, opening the door to the back of the truck and throwing her swim bag in. "That reminds me. I have a...warning for you."

You narrow your eyes at her. "What is it?"

She sighs, bringing her webbed hand up to her forehead. "...Mettaton's coming to the meet tonight."

"Hm...I haven't really met him in person, but...I've heard tons of shit about him," you reply.

"He's heard tons of shit about you, too!" Undyne responds, placing her hands on your shoulders. "Which means he's gonna be curious about you."

"Oh shit," you groan, "that means he's gonna try to put on his goddamned quiz show, doesn't it?"

She nods. "Yeah. Just...be careful. And, one more thing. I'm sorry," she says, appearing to be sincerely apologetic.

"Thank you," you inhale deeply. "I'll get through this."

Nodding again, Undyne states, "We'll be right behind you."

You and Undyne parted ways a while after you two chattered about Mettaton and his stupid antics for another ten or so minutes, and now, you're climbing the steps to your apartment, dropping your swim bag at the front of the door so you can find your keys. After a few seconds of searching your bag, you find them on their key-ring. Shoving what you think is the correct key into the keyhole, you twist it until you hear it click, and then-

"(Y/N)."

Ah, it's about time. You pivot around to see Burgerpants standing at his door with his arms folded, tail swooshing around angrily.

"Oh, hey BP," you greet.

"You paid for lunch."

"Yup," you respond, stooping to heave your ginormous bag onto your back, kicking your door open with your foot.

"I hate it when people do that!" he growls.

"Aw, c'mon, BP. Consider it like a gift. Anyways, how did your lunch go with Quinn?" you ask.

Suddenly, he drops his arms, and he takes hold of his tail. "It was...great," he mutters. "He invited me to another..." he scowls, "date."

"Yay!" you squeal, going to hug him, "I knew you two would get along perfectly!"

"Yeah, yeah, shut up," he whispers, his little ears slightly folding up. After a few seconds, you two separate. "Thanks, (Y/N). I wasn't brave enough to take initiative. Seriously, I appreciate it." He sighs, turning to open the door to his apartment.

You nod. "Sometimes we just need a little push in the right direction from someone else."

"You're right. I just didn't want to be pushed until you fucking shoved me and I face-planted in reality," He shakes his head.

You laugh, throwing your swim bag inside. "Well, I've got a swim meet tonight, so I've gotta get ready for that, but I'll talk to you later."

"Okay, (Y/N), but we're not finished with this conversation. I'll see you later," he says.

"See you then," you reply, turning around and shutting your door. You pick up your swim bag and take it to the bathroom, where you unload it and rinse out your practice suit, cap, and goggles, then you hang them over the side of the tub.

Your meet suit has been draped over the edge of the sink. You go ahead and put it in your bag, along with a fresh towel. When your goggles dry, you'll put those in, too.

For now, though, you intend to get a nap in before the meet. Tonight's going to be an exhausting one, and there won't be much down time at all, you figure. After a little bit of debate, you jump in the tub for a quick shower, then you change into your pajamas and crash onto your bed.

"ONE PUUUNNNNNNNNNNCHHHHHHHHHH! Three, two one, KILL SHOT! Sanjou! Hisshou! Shijo sakiyou! Nan dattenda? FURASUTOREESHON! Ore wa tomaranai!"

Aw, you remembered to set your alarm. With a hefty groan, you slide the alarm off, then you press your face into the pillow, hoping it would just drown your problems and life away. It's fluffy and warm from your body heat.

But it's not enough. You pull your blankets up even farther, right under your chin. Squeezing your eyes shut, you sigh heavily.

After a few more minutes of waiting for your entire whelm of problems to dissolve into nothing, you roll out of bed, your feet hitting the floor as soon as you go over the edge, mumbling to yourself about why you even agreed to be coach and why swimming is so tiring. Why do you do it?

You don't really know. Maybe it's the awesome tan lines you get, or the burn of your lungs that you feel when you're so close yet so far from drowning, or maybe it's the people.

No.

Definitely not the people. Well, with the exception of your new monster friends, Frisk, head coach...

So, once again, you're drawn to the conclusion of why you swim: no conclusion. The conclusion that you always question and are pulled back to once you think about it. As of your recent years as a swimmer, you always ask yourself that question, but with the extremely flawed logic, the 'why do I do this to myself's, the pain, suffering...and it's like an endless cycle of questions of the like that do nothing to enforce either side of the argument.

But you don't stop. Why? Because there's something about swimming-be it the bond you get with the team and coaches, the connections you get with people you'd never think about talking to beforehand, whatever the hell it is-that won't let you go.

Ugh, the whole thing is just a big ball of confusion. Just like my life! you think, chuckling at the thought as you tuck your goggles into your swim bag. Yanking a towel off of the rack and folding it back up, you stuff it into the bag, too.

Swinging it over your shoulder, you walk into the living room and plop it on the couch.

You grab your phone to see that you spent about around two hours sleeping. Your stomach rumbles a little bit, which is what reminds you that you still haven't had lunch. So, going into your kitchen, you rummage around in the pantry and fridge to throw together something that vaguely resembles a meal. Eh, it'll work for today. You journey over to your couch, then sit down, plate of food in hand.

Turning on the news, you discover that the news people are talking about how the monsters plan on transitioning the CORE into your little town. It's been a while since you've heard anything on the CORE, so you turn the volume up and listen in.

"If the vote turns up in favor of the CORE, then we plan on building power lines that start from Mount Ebott throughout the towns. We're still working out a solution in terms of long-distance powering, though, but that's quite a long way down the road from now. For now, we just need to see how well our technology cooperates with the human's. We urge people living in that town to vote in our favor on this upcoming Thursday! Thank you for your time!"

Today is Monday, you remind yourself. You guess you'll swing by and drop your vote in after practice on Thursday.

"Many questions have been directed towards the Royal Scientist about how the monsters intend to collect the Soul magic needed to help operate the CORE. Did you find out anything about that, Michelle?"

There is a brief pause as the screen flickers to a picture of Michelle standing in front of the entrance to Mount Ebott. "Why, yes I have, Danny! Dr. Alphys informed us that she and the other scientists will be hosting appointments after the vote. They're only taking volunteers, so it's imperative that many people from the towns volunteer! They'll be extracting magic from the SOULs using a type of magical technique. Dr. Alphys also stated that, if the volunteers give them permission to, then they'll be collecting data on human SOULs as well, specifically with primary traits. She told me that this would help give them an idea on what kinds of magic humans are really capable of, since the idea of humans having magic has been established, but not yet proven. That's all from me! Back to you, Danny!"

"Wow! Thanks, Michelle! That certainly seems like something, doesn't it, folks? Well, we're about to take a quick break, but we'll be back soon! Stay tuned for more!"

Aw, man, they're starting to investigate the possibility of humans having magical potential! You can't help the stupid, little smile that creeps over your lips.

You could be a mage soon!

You know you really shouldn't get your hopes up...but fuck it! This is magic! Your hopes are really high, considering your SOUL could have potential for wielding magic, the very thing humankind has dreamed and fantasized about for centuries, but has never been able to summon. It's amazing to think about.

And what about your SOUL trait? Which one do you have? You could see yourself being DETERMINATION, because you refuse to let anything stop you from where you want to go or what you want to do. But you could also see yourself being BRAVERY too, since you aren't changing who you are just so society will look at you normally. Not to mention the way you fight, too. PERSEVERANCE is a possibility too, since you're a swimmer and you press on, no matter how much it hurts or strains. You could see PATIENCE, but then again, it does get tested a lot with humanity. You could see JUSTICE, too, if you're being honest: you consider yourself to be a very just person, for the most part. You think KINDNESS is perfectly eligible too, since you're pretty nice to everyone you meet, humans and monsters both included, but you aren't necessarily nice when push comes to shove, though. You think that INTEGRITY could be it, too, since you think you have strong, just morals.

But who knows? You're a special snowflake, or you like to think so. You guess you'll find after the vote.

If the monsters win.

And, you have to admit, you're curious on the townspeoples' general overlook on the monsters as a whole. So far, Dorsey and his posse along with the douche that attacked Alphys have been the only monster haters you've encountered thus far. Sure, you hear about it all the time, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's true now, does it? You set your now-empty plate on the coffee table, then lean your head back onto the couch's backrest. Ugh, tonight's going to be a long one. You'll be looking forward to coming home, showering, and crashing onto your bed again.

For now, though, you have time to kill. In that time, you fire up Skyrim again and begin destroying your enemies with Shouts, magic, and weapons.

I love this fucking game.

So, for another hour, you become enveloped in the land of Skyrim, where you are the Dovahkiin and the fate of slaying the dreaded Alduin falls upon your shoulders. You must cleanse the world of all consternations, including dragons. It is up to you, the fate that we befall the land of Skyrim. What you do is up to you.

It's a world in your hands. Which sides you join, which dragon's soul you'll absorb next. Nearly no one can stop you, because you've more power than they can ever wish to have. Using the Voice of the mighty Thu'um, you can use it to defeat your enemies. The fate of the world befalls you.

And your stupid phone just has to ring in the middle of a battle. You pause it reluctantly, then you scramble for your phone, wherever it went.

"Yello?" you ask, setting your controller down on the coffee table. Cradling your phone between your left cheek and shoulder, you pick up your empty plate and stand, making your way toward the kitchen.

"'Sup, punk?" you hear Undyne say.

"Oh, hey. What's up?" you ask, setting your plate in the sink and turning on the sink.

"Nothing much. What about you?" she responds.

"Just playing some Skyrim. You nervous for tonight?" Shifting the phone to your other side, you begin rinsing your plate off.

"A little," she admits, "will we be swimming in the same heat?"

"Age group, most likely. Heat, no. That's only because you're new to the team and you don't have a seed time yet," you answer, turning off the sink and placing your plate in the dishwasher.

"Okay." You think she's sighing. "It's not bad, is it?"

"It isn't. Just long, is all," you respond, "not to mention you'll be on your feet the whole five hours you're there."

"Five hours?" she asks.

"Yeah. Remember the after-party we have? Coaches are encouraged to stay for that, too." Closing the dishwasher, you take your phone in your hand.

"Oh yeah." There's a bit of rustling on her end. "Forgot about that."

"The whole thing runs pretty quickly, especially if you're running around helping the kids. If you want, you can just stay with me until we swim, and we'll take it from there."

"Yeah, that sounds good. Warner sent me an email about the stuff we need to do, but it's kind of confusing."

You nod, then remember that she can't see you. "It is at first, but you get the hang of it eventually."

"Okay. Okay."

"Hey, it's okay to be a little nervous, but remember that the kids in your lane love you already. You were great at practice."

"Thanks, nerd. I appreciate it."

"No problem. Now," you quickly take the phone away from your ear to check the time, then you return it to its original position, "it's three-thirty. If you want, the two of us could get there a little earlier so I can show you the ropes."

"Sounds like a plan, punk. I'll see you in a minute."

You know tonight is going to wear you out, so you drive to the pool instead. When you arrive, the only people here are the lifeguards and pool management.

Slamming the door shut, you heave your bag over your shoulders, then adjust the straps until they aren't twisted. A dry-erase board has been attached to the wall at the entrance, and, largely written in blue and red are the words: Pool closed for Home meet @ 5 PM Monday. Go Dragons!

When you pass that, you walk past the empty check-in desk, and you enter the pool area. The sun is raining down hard, and there isn't a single cloud to be seen in the baby blue sky. Lifeguards are milling about, putting up umbrellas, tents, and setting up Clerk of Course. You drop your stuff on the coaches' table.

"Yo, punk!"

Undyne is striding toward you, in a pair of dark, blue running shorts and a neon green tank top, her bag slung over her shoulder, hair in its typical ponytail.

"Hey, Undyne. What's up?" you ask, gesturing for her to set her bag down next to yours.

"Nothing much. Hey...um, I realize I should've asked earlier, but is it okay if everyone else comes in, too? They just kind of...came along." Her expression is sheepish.

You chuckle, "Yeah, I think so. Just make sure none of them jump in the pool, though."

She gives a nervous laugh. "That shouldn't be a problem. So, when do the other coaches get here?"

"Warner gets here pretty early, so he should be here any second. The others should get here around four-thirty or so. I typically get here first."

Undyne smirks. "We'll see about that, punk!"

Your balance is thrown into a jumbled mess as a small force collides with your hips. You grunt, then stumble on your feet a little until you've regained your balance. Looking down, you see that Frisk has effortlessly attached themselves to you.

"Hello!" they cry. At least it looks like their energy is back to normal.

"Hey, Frisk, what's going on?" you ask, patting their head.

"Nothing much. I don't want to swim butterfly!" they whine, looking up at you and detaching themselves.

"I don't want to swim breaststroke, but we have to," you reply.

"Aw. You're such a weirdo!" they tell you.

"WHY IS THE HUMAN A WEIRDO?" Papyrus asks, sauntering in with Sans at his side and the two goat monsters following them. Alphys brings up the back, holding a cooler.

"She likes swimming butterfly!" Frisk responds, pointing an accusing finger at you.

"What can I say? I feel really fly  when I swim it," you shrug.

"OH GOD N-" Papyrus is cut off by Sans.

"sounds like someone's feeling like they're gonna have a stroke of luck in the water," the shorter skeleton comments, giving one of the cheesiest grins you've ever seen to Papyrus.

"Nah, I'm just feeling pretty free tonight," you respond coolly. If the puns are about swimming, then you could probably do this all day.

"you could say you're gonna dive right into the fun, aren'tcha?" the skeleton replies, ignoring the increasing amounts of agitation radiating from his younger brother.

"SANS," Papyrus starts, arms folded.

"You know what? I think we could all pool all of our current-cy together to create one splash of a time."

"W-water we talking about?" Alphys jumps in, her snout dusted with red and a smile on her face.

"NYEH! EVERYTHING IS RUINED!" Papyrus wails, his gloved hands on top of his head.

"not everything, bro," Sans replies, "i mean, you're still awesome. that's still somethin', right?"

Papyrus can only nod, but then says, "PLEASE. NO MORE PUNS TONIGHT."

Toriel and Asgore walk over, their stuff right next to the coaches' table.

"For the love of the stars, I agree with Papyrus!" Undyne roars. "No more!" She directs her glare towards you again, and you only shrug and stick your tongue out at her.

Suddenly, you hear oncoming music. It's very loud, but as it comes closer...it seems like it's a pretty catchy, glamorous beat. It seems like it'd be the type of music fitting for-

"Mettaton." Undyne growls. The mood instantly drops, the air shifting into something considerably darker.

And then there's Papyrus.

"WOWIE! SANS, THE GREAT AND AWESOME METTATON IS COMING! ISN'T THAT AWESOME?! I'LL GET TO MEET HIM AND SHOW HIM HOW GREAT I AM!" Papyrus beams, instantly forgetting the entire pun war.

"...that's...great, papy." Sans' smile is very strained, and his white pinpoints have vanished completely.

The music comes closer, and in comes a shiny, black limousine that's unnecessarily long. It stops in front of the entrance, and the doors open, only to have a bright, red carpet roll out dramatically.

You've got to be kidding me.

And, out pops a long, shiny, black leg wearing a pink go-go boot. That's all you can see until it drops, and the second one pops out, identical to the first. This leg drops, and then the rest of the body comes out. Along his robotic waist is a large, pink, belt that sports an even larger pink heart against a white square. The upper part of his torso is covered in black, but the pads on his shoulders are pink, like his go-go boots. His metallic skin is silver, with black lines circling his arms. A pink dial resides on his chest. You can see one of his eyes, which is purple, but the other one is covered by his silky, black hair.

How do robots even have hair?

"Hellooooooooo dahlings~!" he says. You can practically feel the tilde at the end of his sentence, which, for some reason, irritates the living hell out of you. The robot steps out of the limousine, which zooms away to god knows where. He saunters over to where you and the others are standing, one of his hands placed on his hips and the other waving to you all. With every stride he takes, he points his robotic...toes...out and shows off his legs.

"METTATON!" Papyrus gasps.

"Ah, hello, dearest Papyrus. How've you been, love?" Something flickers blue out of your peripheral vision as Mettaton takes Papyrus' gloved hands into his. Before you know it, Papyrus is ranting about how he's Mettaton's biggest fan, Sans has moved behind Papyrus and seems to be glaring at Mettaton, Undyne and Alphys have started whispering to each other, and Asgore and Toriel have tensed.

"Oh! Are you the (Y/N) I've heard so much about?" he asks, striding over to you. In a somewhat defensive manner, you stand up straight and fold your arms across your chest.

"Yes," you answer. His eyes glance at your assertive stance, then back up to your eyes.

"Well, Miss (Y/N), it's come to my attention that you were the one who saved my creator from being turned to dust a while ago? I assume that is the case, judging from your scar," He stands up straight, too, and you find that you're both around the same height. Placing his hands on his hips, he patiently waits for an answer.

"Yeah, that was me. What's it to you?" you ask.

"I wanted to thank you in person for your most noble act. I love Alphys like family, and I would truly be devastated if she were to..." he sighs. (Do robots breathe?!) Another uncomfortable silence hangs in the air.

"It was the right thing to do," you respond. "I'm glad I was able to help."

"I am glad that you were there," He brushes his hair back. "Allow me to present you with a gift to express my gratitude!"

"...That's really unnecessary," you reply, backing up a bit. "The fact that Alphys is okay is reward enough..."

"I insist, dahling. After all, it is the right thing to do," He gives you a sly grin, and over his shoulder, you can see Undyne waving her hand at her throat frantically.

"No thank you."

"Lights!"

"Oh god no-" you start, but a bright light has already blinded you.

"Camera!"

"Honestly, I don't-"

"Action!"

You open your eyes.

"Mettaton, she said no," Undyne is standing in front of you.

But it's not just her.

Standing alongside her are Toriel, Alphys, and Sans.

"Only a few questions! Please, Alphys?" With the hulking, blue giant in front of you, you can't see Mettaton.

"Sh-she doesn't want t-to, Mettaton," you hear Alphys respond.

Peeking around Undyne, you see that cameras, huge light bulbs, a desk, and a microphone have been mysteriously places amongst the patio.

How...you know what? You're not even going to ask.

"Besides," you begin, "we've got a meet to prepare for."

Mettaton pouts. "Fine. Be that way."

"DO NOT WORRY, METTATON! YOU CAN INTERVIEW ME AND THE LITTLER HUMAN!" Papyrus announces.

This seems to get Mettaton to come out of his pouty stage. "Oh, yes, we could do a cover of the swim meet!"

"Just remember that you have to get people's permission if you want to put pictures or videos of them in your...uh, broadcast. And if you want to interview a kid, ask their parents if it's okay with them, too," you pipe up, a bit fearful for the fate of the other swimmers.

"Don't worry your pretty, little mind, dahling. I've this under control!" he announces, then blows you a kiss, which you all too eagerly dodge. Mettaton chuckles at you.

"I will see you all later, dahlings!" he says, pivoting and following Papyrus and Frisk.

You breathe out a sigh of relief.

"Thank you,"  you say, walking around to the front of the wall of monsters.

"Y-you're welcome. I l-love Mettaton, b-but he's definitely a handful," Alphys sighs, fiddling with her paws.

"No problem, punk. He can really be an ass sometimes," Undyne groans, shakes her head.

"He r-really means well," Alphys defends, looking up at Undyne.

"i'm gonna go follow them. didn't like the way he was lookin' at papy," Sans vanishes, and you, Undyne, and Alphys are left with Toriel and Asgore.

You snicker. "Anyway, Undyne, I should show you the ropes now, since coach is here," you point to the silver truck that slides into the parking lot, "shall we?"

"Let's go."

The meet runs smoothly other than that little incident. Frisk swims well in their events, and Undyne wins her first heat. You win yours, too, and when you go to compare times with Undyne, you find that she's only a millisecond or so off your time.

"That was fun!" Undyne announces after her swim. "I like butterfly!"

"I do too. A lot of people think it's weird that we like butterfly," you muse.

"Why is that? I think it's fun." Undyne says as you two walk back towards your table.

"Great swim, ladies!" head coach says.

"Thanks, coach!" you say. Undyne thanks him too.

"Both of you earned it. I'm impressed, Undyne," he admits before returning his attention back to the swim.

"Thanks again!" Undyne cheers. "Man, was that our last swim? We train for two hours every day just to shave milliseconds off of our times?"

"Yup. It gets harder the faster you are. Milliseconds are everything," you say, shaking your head.

"Huh. Anyway, why do you like butterfly?" she asks, seeming to be genuinely curious.

"It's physically challenging for me. You have to get the majority of the technique just right, and it's exhausting. But I love it. A lot of people don't like it because it's, in a sense, drowning with style. Like Dustin said," you snort, taking off your swim cap and folding it up.

"Huh. Anyway, I'm starving! Let's grab some food!" Undyne yells before grabbing your wrist and dragging you towards the buffet line that the country club always serves at home meets. They have a variety of foods to choose from: large, greasy, hot pizza, fresh, never-frozen burgers, to hot dogs, and baked popatos with a wide range of toppings. One of the good things about this country club is that the food isn't pure shit, and it's actually pretty good. Although, you don't know if the same thing applies to monsters and their need for magic...

But Undyne doesn't seem to notice the lack of magic (if there is one). So, you and her walk back to your table, where the others are sitting. Tonight, Toriel and Asgore are timing, which leaves Sans, Alphys, and Frisk at the table. You see Papyrus over at Clerk of Course with Mettaton.

You pull out a chair at the coaches' table, then you plop your bag on the ground, making space for your plate.

"You're so good at swimming!" Frisk says, wandering over to you. Then, that trademark DETERMINATION crosses their face yet again, "I'm going to swim faster than you one day!"

And, you know it's going to happen. "I bet you will. I hope you will," you say, feeling that sense of everlasting coach pride settle within your chest.

"Are you and Undyne going to race?!" they ask excitedly.

"Hell yes!" Undyne yells, pumping her fist. "And I'm going to win!"

"Hey, now, don't go getting all cocky now. I'm the one with experience."

"BUT I'M THE FISH MONSTER!"

"True. But experience is better," you joke. In reality, you've actually no idea.

"either way, you two are still fast as hell," Sans cuts in, setting down the bottle of ketchup he was holding.

"I'm faster," you say, pulling a t-shirt over your head and leaving your legs bare. You sit down, propping your legs on the arm of the chair to your right.

Undyne snickers.

"What is it?" you ask.

She gestures towards your legs. "Mettaton's gonna flip when he sees your long legs."

"What? Really?" you ask.

"he will. just wait 'till he comes back," Sans grins, letting Frisk climb onto his la,. "he'll come back, and then he'll see who the real leg-acy is."

You laugh. "Um...but in all seriousness, my legs aren't really...uh...that great."

"Well, they're great enough for Mettaton to be jealous of," Undyne points out.

"Jealous?!" you ask.

"mm-hmm. rust bucket has a thing for human legs. don't know or wanna know why," Sans says.

"...Oh god," you groan, but you feel some sort of...weird anticipation. Like you want Mettaton to be jealous.

After a few minutes of you and Undyne finishing up your respective dinners, said robot comes back with Papyrus.

"SANS! METTATON GAVE ME HIS AUTOGRAPH!" Papyrus yells, practically vibrating.

"'s great, bro," Sans responds.

 

Undyne nearly breaks. "Fuhuhuhuhuhuhu! Hey, MTT, look at these legs!" She stands up, then points at your shaved, bruised, and un-lotioned legs. Absolutely stunning.

Mettaton's mechanical eyebrows furrow as he walks over to you, then grabs your ankle.

"Um..." you start, but no words come out. Undyne starts giggling like an idiot.

"My, my..." he examines your shins, calves, thighs, knees, ankles, feet. "you do have beautiful legs, dear."

"Uh...could you maybe...I don't know, put my leg down? This is getting really awkward," you ask.

Reluctantly, he sets your leg down and stares at your legs for a while more.

"You should show off those beauties, dahling!" he says after you indulge in your sudden need to put pants on.

"Uh...yeah, not now," you respond.

"Why not?" he asks.

"...Did you see the way you were staring at my legs? Do you realize how weird it is?" you start, slipping your shorts back on.

"Ah, yes, my apologies. I do not have flesh, so...anyway. Ahem. Please. Continue." He stands up straight. "I must be going now, as my battery is running low, but I will see you later, dahlings! Goodbye!"

All you can do is stare at the weird as fuck robot sauntering out to the exit.

And then three voices burst out laughing.

Chapter Text

Chapter XII - geeetttttt dunked on!!!

"Hey, Coach (Y/N)!" Frisk yells three days later, bobbing up and down in the water. You turn from your spot on the side of the pool. Practice had just finished up for the day, so you were getting ready to head over to the library to drop your vote in.

"What's up?" you respond, dipping your toe in the water. It's especially cold today, which is nice since it's so hot out. With the sun beating down upon the deck, the concrete of it burning your feet. You might jump in in a minute. After all, you're in no rush. The polls don't close for a while.

"Are you going to go vote today?" they ask, swimming over to the edge. You sit down, putting your legs in the water and splashing a little on your thighs.

"You know it," you tell them, "I'm actually going to swing in a few minutes."

"Yay! I hope the monsters get to build the CORE here! It'll be so much cooler!" they say, their eyes lighting up.

"I bet it will!" you reply, kicking your feet a bit and watching the water swirl in on itself, then settle back down.

They giggle, then splash some water on your legs. You don't mind, since it feels nice. You watch them as something catches their eye, then they turn to you.

"What is it?" you ask.

"My mom's here," they reply.

"Oh, okay. Well, I'll see you later!" you say, pulling them out of the pool.

"See you tomorrow!" They yell as they run towards the white car pulling up along the side of the curb. After waving at both Toriel and Frisk, you grab your stuff off of the table, zipping it up as you walk away.

There are a few people milling about the streets of the library when you pull up. Some are handing out flyers or pins, others are sitting at tables talking to others. You walk past them, into the entrance of the library.
When you get inside, you make your way over to the issuing table, where a blonde lady is sitting.

"Hi! Here to vote?" she asks.

"Yup!" you respond.

She asks you for your full name and address before typing away at the keyboard. She hands you a slip of paper, then points you towards the polling machine and instructs you to give the slip to the man standing near the front of the room.
You approach him, then hand him your slip. He thanks you, then tells you to go the machine on the end.

Once you finally make it over there, you look at the screen. It displays the question of whether or not you want the CORE to expand to the neighborhood, and then has a 'yes' and 'no' button. Underneath that are some minor questions about community service, and other little things.

You hit 'yes', then select your desired answers for the other questions. After you're finished, you step out, then receive an 'I Voted!' sticker, which you slap on your shirt. You don't leave the library immediately, though.

You explore the manga section, ignoring the surprised expression teenagers are giving you. You pick out some manga, then you derp around in the adult section, looking to see if there are any that catch your eye. You run the tips of your fingers across the spines of the books, inhaling the scent of books, old and new. There's something so comforting of being surrounded by bookshelves overflowing with books, not being to see over the tops.

"Wa ha ha! Haven't seen such a happy face 'round books in forever!" You jump, then turn around.

There's a turtle-like monster standing there. He seems to be one of the oldest monsters you've met thus far, with his saggy, wrinkled, faded-green skin and his long, chipped claws that curl around a wooden staff. His teeth are slightly yellow, jagged and crooked, twisted into a smile of sorts. His right eye seems forced shut, and his left eye is glistening with mirth and amusement.

...He reminds you of that old, wise turtle from Kung Fu Panda...? Wait, what...what was his name?!

"Oh...um...hi!" You say, confused by your thoughts.

"Hi yourself, miss! Say, that scar reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me a few days ago. You know Undyne? Or, maybe King Fluffybuns? Wa ha ha!"

Oh, this must be Gerson! "Yeah, I know Undyne! We're both coaches for the neighborhood swim team!"

"She's told me about you! The human that saved Alphys. Yes." He nods to himself. "Ah, where are my manners? I'm Gerson, and I was a vendor in Waterfall, but since the Barrier was shattered, I had to relocate. Anyways, it's a pleasure to finally meet you, dear."

"It's been a pleasure to meet you, too." You suddenly feel like a little kid. "Um...King Asgore told me that you...know a lot about magic?"

His good eye lights up. "Yup! Little old me knows more 'bout magic than any other monster here! Er, not to brag 'er anything."

"Really?!" you ask, trying to not vibrate.

"Sure do! Tell you what, miss. Stop by my shop sometime, and I'll answer any questions you have about magic."

Aaaaand you're vibrating. Oh well... "Yes! Thank you so much, Gerson!"

"Sure thing! I enjoy talking about history and magic! Studying history sure is easy when you've lived through so much of it yourself! Wa ha ha!"

You shift your books in your arms. You could probably ask Undyne to give you directions later on.

"Thanks again, Gerson. I really appreciate it," you say. Ugh, you're so weird...

"I don't mind one bit, dear. Do stop by any day between seven o' clock in the mornin' and eight o' clock at night! Although, we're closed on Sundays."

"I'll keep that in mind!" you announce. "Thanks again!"

...

"Take it."

"No."

"Take. It."

"No."

"Take it before I throw it at you."

"No."

"(Y/N). I swear to the stars, just take the damn money!" Burgerpants yells, chucking the twenty-dollar bill at your face. You sidestep the oncoming flurry of cash coming your way.

"No," you respond, bending over to pick it up, then throwing it down the stairs.

"Quit being difficult! You've done so much...just...TAKE THE FUCKING TWENTY!"

"NO!" you yell back as Burgerpants stomps down the stairs to get the fallen money. You chuckle; you've had to do this many times throughout your life. You aren't going to lose this.

"...Why? Why can't you just take the damn money? I'm trying to be nice, but you're making it awfully hard," Burgerpants growls, coming back up the stairs while you defiantly cross your arms and guard the entrance to your apartment.

"Why can't you just accept the fact that I just bought lunch and move on with life?" you shoot back.

He sighs, his head dropping. You know what he's doing; you've seen this tactic many times in your life. It won't work on you.

"Fine. You win. For now." He tucks the bill away in his pocket.

The stalemate, in reality, isn't a thing, and it won't be for a while. Which is fine by you, since you know for a fucking fact that you will not lose. "Good."

"Ugh, I hate you." He shakes his head. "Anyway, I wanted to tell you th-" His phone begins to ring, playing some classical tune you've never heard before. He snatches it out of his pocket and holds it up to his ear. "What is it?"

You go silent and patiently wait for his conversation to end. After a few minutes, he becomes a bit more agitated for some reason. Knowing him, it could be anything. After a while, he bids the other person goodbye, then hangs up, stuffing his phone back in his pocket.

"Um...I have to go, but...wait, what I was I talking about again? Lost my train of thought there."

"You were about to tell me something," you respond, leaning up against your door frame and crossing your arms, the back of your head colliding with the door frame.

"...Oh yeah." His irritation only seems to grow as he focuses, nearly snarling. "I heard Mettaton dropped by yesterday at your meet."

You sigh, rubbing your forehead. "He...um...yeah. He did."

"What happened?" he demands, crossing his arms and tilting his head a little.

"He...uh...grabbed my ankle when I was sitting down after my swim, and then he just...stared at my legs."

He growls, pinching the bridge of his nose. "...Such an ass. I'm sorry you had to meet him."

You shrug. "It's not your fault."

"Just...be careful around him. He's just...strang,." He shakes his head, copying your position on his door frame.

"Yeah, he's a bit of an oddity for sure. Did you hear that he tried to drag me onto his damned quiz show?"

"Seriously? But, from the way you said 'try', I feel like he did not succeed," he responds.

"He didn't. After I said 'no', Undyne and Alphys managed to get him to step down," you recall, your fingers tapping the side of your elbow.

"Well, if you ever need me to scrap him, you know where to find me," he says, a smirk sneaking onto his lips.

You chuckle. "That means I have my own MSA- Mettaton Scrapping Agency. As of right now, you and Undyne are the only ones on board."

His smirk grows wider. "I'll see if I can get Quinn on board, too."

"Who made you president of the MSA?" you assert.

"I'm the self-proclaimed president of the Mettaton Scrapping Agency. Hell yeah, man. When in need of scrapping a certain perverted robot, just give us a call," he offers.

"Well, I'll leave you up to your antics. For now," you say, giving him a thumbs-up. "But I want to write the constitution!"

"You do that, (L/N). Hey, have you voted yet?" he asks.

"I just came back from the library," you respond.

"Oh, cool. Welp, I better get going, then. See you later." He waves the twenty in your face, but doesn't make an attempt to give it to you by force.

"See you!" you say, then turn back to your apartment.

Hm. Your apartment is a bit messy; you'll have to tidy it up sometime this oncoming weekend. You place the stack of books that you checked out over on the dining room table. Maybe you'll just curl up in your pajamas and read for a few

hours...

The screen of your phone lights up, indicating that you've a new text from an unknown number. You slide it open.

Unknown: HELLO, HUMAN! IT IS I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS! UNDYNE GAVE ME YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION, I HOPE YOU DO NOT MIND :P

You laugh, already typing up a reply and adding 'THE GREAT PAPYRUS' to your contact information.

You to THE GREAT PAPYRUS: Hey Papyrus! I don't mind at all :3 What're you up to?

THE GREAT PAPYRUS: I'M CURRENTLY TRYING TO COOK SOME OF MY FAMOUS SPAGHETTI, BUT UNDYNE HAS TAKEN OVER

IT HAS BECOME VERY UGLY

AND MESSY

OH

NOW THE STOVE IS ON FIRE

THAT HAPPENS A LOT

BUT MY BROTHER AND TORIEL HAVE TOLD ME IT IS NOT THE PROPER COOKING METHOD...

I SHOULD ATTEND TO THEM NOW. I SHALL TALK TO YOU LATER, HUMAN! NYEH HEH!

You get a feeling stoves catching on fire is pretty normal for that crowd.

You: I'll talk to you later, Papyrus!

Before clicking your phone off, you type a quick message to Undyne:

You to Undyne the Undying: Hey, do you happen to know where Gerson's shop is? I met him today at the library.

Undyne: Yeah, punk! You know where Muffet's store is?

You: Yeah

Undyne: so when you go there, turn left at that intersection...She lists more directions.

You: Alright, thank you!

Undyne: np! You gonna go visit him sometime

You: yeah, he invited me to come over soon

Undyne: he's a good old geezer

He helped train me yknow

You: really? He did talk about you

And he called Asgore King Fluffybuns

Seriously, what's up with that though

Undyne: heh heh ask gerson later on he'll tell you bout it.

im sure he will be more than happy to tell you that story lol :D

You: Yeah I'm curious now haha

After a few more minutes of random chat, Undyne announces that she has to go, so you say goodbye and leave the fish monster be.

You sigh, then you shut your phone off. You'll curl up after you check the articles that you've posted. Opening your laptop, you go to the magazine's website, then hit your name, a small sense of pride flooding through you as you see your articles pop up under your name. Clicking on the latest article, you scroll all the way to the bottom.

-omg ur writing is great!
-Why are u supporting the monsters?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!
-Thank you very much for supporting us, dear! Your articles are very well written! : )
-Yeah, I'm hoping the core gets approved too. Thanks for this

There are a few more similar to those four, along with a few oddities. You click out of the tab, then you shut your laptop, setting it aside to stand and walk into your room.

Changing into your pajamas, you come back out with your stack of books, which you set on the table. After making a cup of your favorite hot beverage, then grabbing a large, fluffy, (f/c) blanket, you sit down and curl up into a comfortable position. Thinking of today's events, you open up the first book on the stack.

Coffee makes me gangsta

That's what today's coffee cup says. Pulling it off the shelf and pouring yourself a cup of coffee, you let out a hefty sigh. There's nothing like a cup of joe to wake you up in the morning...

You dump your half-heartedly packed swim bag on the table, sipping on your drink and sliding into one of the seats.

What's today? Friday? Your phone confirms it. Cool, that means you only have to coach a few times tomorrow and then you have Sunday off. Although, you have this nagging feeling something significant is happening today...

Whatever it is, it'll come to you in a few minutes, you think. The world around you is foreign as you try to get your eyes to stay open for more than five seconds. Tapping your fingers on the sides of the cup, you try to remember what happened...

Oh yes, the vote! You get up after you've finished sipping your coffee, making your way towards the TV, snatching the remote off the couch and clicking it on. On the news channel appears a tired Danny and Michelle.

"Goooooood morning!" Michelle is as chipper as ever.

"This fine morning, we bring you the results of yesterday's election!" Danny pipes up, lining up the edges of the stack of papers he's holding, "Here we are!"

"The CORE's construction was approved by the town! Fantastic!" Michelle says. "Although the results were close, the monsters have announced that they plan to begin construction of the CORE's expansion in a few weeks!"

You're happy for the monsters as they rant on about details you've already heard before. Clicking off the TV, the caffeine now having kicked in, you jump off the sofa, put your cup in the sink, grab your bag, and head out the door.

"Alright, punks, give me a broken one-hundred! I want the first fifty fast, the second twenty-five faster, and your last twenty-five all out! Push yourself! Don't slack off! YOU HEAR ME?!" Undyne roars over the splashes of the pool.

You chuckle at the groans emitted from her lane. "GOOD! NOW, FIRST HEAT, GO!"

Undyne has been getting better over the past few days, even though she can be a bit intense at times, like yesterday, for example. You had to explain to her that, no, thirteen and fourteen-year olds cannot swim a three-hundred butterfly sprint. You love butterfly, but still shudder at the thought of swimming twelve laps of butterfly.

You shiver. Two laps are enough for you, thanks. You've swum a one-hundred before, and you survived, but twelve laps?

"Can you check my form for breaststroke?" Frisk asks you, up to swim next. They disqualified for butterfly last meet, but you saw why and have been working with them to improve their stroke. They know how to swim the strokes, now it's just a matter of tweaking their technique.

"Yeah!" you respond. "Go on ahead."

They push off into a streamline, but don't do a pullout. Hm...breaststroke is the only stroke which you can do a pullout into the stroke itself. You wonder if Toriel requested extra practice for them today. You watch as they go into their stroke.

The kick needs some work; their left foot isn't staying in the L shape like it needs to when they kick out. Their arms could use some work too, as could their chest position. You couldn't see their turn very well, but it looks like they're just pushing off the wall and going rather than touching with two hands, bringing their feet to the wall, bringing their left hand up to the side of their face while making their other hand come above their hand, having both arms meet in a tight streamline, and doing all that while gradually rotating and sucking in air.

Well, no one can get perfect overnight. You certainly didn't. Dustin waves at you from the other end, gesturing to you by mimicking the turn, as you'd suspected. You give him a thumbs-up, and he returns to watching the other kids' turn.

Frisk touches the wall, stands up, sucks in a breath, then looks up at you expectantly.

"Hmmm...hold on, I'll get back to you in a second," they nod. You raise your voice a bit. "Okay, let's do three fifties of two butterfly, two breast.."

When practice is over, Frisk doesn't go out to front to wait for their mom like they usually do.

"Coach (Y/N)?" They ask when they approach the table. Monster Kid is with them, too, but he's talking to Undyne, who is giving him a noogie.

"What's up?" you ask.

"I'm going to be staying for extra lessons, but everyone is coming up just to relax for a few hours," they say.

"That's fine," you respond. "Do you want to go ahead and start so we can get done faster?" you ask.

They nod, then Undyne releases Monster Kid and walks over to you. Monster Kid walks over to Frisk, and they chat amongst themselves.

"Heya, nerd. Are you gonna help the punk?" she asks.

"Yeah," you respond, turning to her.

"We all good over here?" head coach walks up to you two.

"Yup, just got a lesson for Frisk," you reply, smiling at him.

"Alright. And you?" he glances at Undyne.

"Just finished up," she answers.

"Sounds good. Thank you, ladies. Have a good day!"

"You too, coach!" you and Undyne say in unison. He walks away with his swim bag slung over his shoulder.

"I heard that everyone else is coming up, too," you say.

"Oh, yeah! It's gonna be epic!" Undyne replies, her smiling lighting up her face again.

"Cool! I'll go ahead and start Frisk's lesson. Uh, don't tell Toriel, but I might accidentally end their lesson early. Because I might loose track of time."

She chuckles. "Secret's safe with me, nerd. Oh, there they are..." she says. "I'll get 'em! Go start the nerd's lesson!"

You walk over to where Frisk is standing in lane seven. You pull off your shirt, revealing your swimsuit-covered stomach and chest. Throwing the shirt on the ground, you jump in next to Frisk.

"Alright. Let's start with your pullout. So, when you push off in streamline, you'll need to have a tight streamline, but you only get one dolphin kick. When you feel like you're slowing down after you push off, bring your arms down and place them at your side firmly. When that slows down, bring your arms up. For me, I usually use my one kick here. After that, wait until you break the surface to start your stroke. Okay?"

They look mildly horrified.

"Hey, it isn't bad as it sounds. Let's practice pushing off in a tight streamline first, okay? Then we'll build up from there until you can do a pullout. Cool?"

They nod. You say, "Alright. Tight streamline for as far as you can. Ready, go!"

Pushing off, you nod at their good, tight streamline. They'll get the hang of it in no time at all.

"(Y-Y/N)?" You turn around to see a blushing Alphys dressed in a dark, blue sundress.

"Hey, Alphys!" you greet her.

"H-hi!" she says.

"Hey, congratulations on winning the vote! I saw that you were interviewed a lot on TV!"

Her blush darkens. "O-oh, it w-wasn't me. It's m-more of the k-king and queen's a-accomplishment."

"Yeah, but still! You're the Royal Scientist!" you respond.

"Well, th-thank you anyway! I a-appreciate the thought," she says. "W-well, I'll let y-you get back to it now! I sh-should check on them..." she trails off as Undyne tackles an unsuspecting Papyrus from behind.

"Alright, well, I'll see you in a minute!" you say, turning back to Frisk as she scampers off.

"Okay, good streamline! Now, let's just add the pull down, 'kay?"

Soon, Frisk has the pullout down completely. Papyrus, Undyne, Asgore, and Toriel have hopped in the water, and Alphys has curled up on a chair, staring intently at her laptop, and Sans seems to be asleep on another chair, still wearing his jacket.

Does he not get hot in that? You suppose not, since he's a skeleton.

After you give Frisk a few tips on how to improve their kick, you let them get out of lessons a little early.

"Do you have to leave now, punk?! We're about to play an intense game!" Undyne yells.

You pause. You don't have anything to do today...

"I guess not. What're you guys gonna play?" you ask.

Undyne snickers, then Papyrus answers you. "WE'RE ABOUT TO PLAY THE...THE GAME WITH THE HOOP. AND THE BALL. AND THE DRIBBLING. IT IS USUALLY PLAYED ON LAND, BUT WE ARE PLAYING IN THE WATER. WHAT WAS IT CALLED AGAIN? I CANNOT RECALL..."

"Basketball?" you ask.

"Yeah, that's it!" Undyne says.

Ooh, now here's a game you haven't played in a while...you smirk.

"You down, punk?! You'd better be!"

"I AM!" you yell. "AND MY TEAM'S GOING TO WIN!"

"NO, YOU AREN'T! ALPHYS, SANS, GET YOUR ASSES OVER HERE, WE'RE PLAYING US SOME BASKETBALL!"

"Language, please," Toriel sighs. She's wearing a purple one-piece that goes nicely with her white fur and eyes.

"ALRIGHT, NERDS, LET'S GET INTO TEAMS!" Undyne yells.

"HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ON EACH TEAM, MISS (Y/N)?" Papyrus asks.

"You can just call me (Y/N), Papyrus," you say. "Uh...how many do we have?"

Let's see, Undyne, Papyrus, you, Frisk, Asgore, Toriel, Sans, and Alphys. An even number of eight.

Perfect.

"There's eight of us, so we need to split into two groups of four," you say.

"Alright! Let's do this!" Undyne says.

Of course, Undyne and Papyrus are the self-proclaimed team captains.

"You pick first, Papyrus," you say.

"SANS! GET YOUR LAZY TAILBONE OVER HERE!" Papyrus yells.

"...do i have to?" Sans asks, shuffling up to the side of the pool.

"YES, YOU DO! COME!" Papyrus yells.

"Okay, so Sans is on Papyrus' team!" Undyne yells. "PUNK! GET OVER HERE!" She points at you, so you trudge over to where she's standing.

Eventually, teams have been sorted out: it's you, Undyne, Asgore, and Alphys against Frisk, Papyrus, Sans, and Toriel.

"What's going on here?" You turn to see Dustin, who has changed into his lifeguard uniform.

"We're about to have an epic game of basketball," you respond.

He snorts. "Can I keep score? I'll be up there, anyway, and it's not that crowded today." He points to the lifeguard station near the basketball hoop.

"If you want to! Alright, guys, pick the tallest person from your team so we can tip off. Yo, Dustin, could you throw it in the air before you get up there?"

"Sure!" he says, jumping in.

For tip off, you all elect Asgore to jump for your team. Toriel's taller than Papyrus by a few inches, but is still a little shorter than Asgore.

"Uh...where do I go?" Undyne asks.

"Do you want to be point guard?" you ask.

"Uh...sure. Whatever that is," she responds.

"Cool. You get to go in the front, then. You get to..." You pause, thinking of the words. It's been forever since you've played basketball. "...start the offense off?"

"YOU DON'T SOUND SURE, HUMAN," Papyrus says.

You shrug. "It's been a while since I've played basketball!"

"Okay, I'll stay here. I think we all have the basic rules down; we sometimes watch games on TV," Undyne says.

"You guys should be good, then," you reply.

Alphys takes the middle, and Asgore will have the right side of the goal when he gets back from tip off. As for the other team, Papyrus has been elected point guard, Toriel will be in the back guarding Asgore, Frisk in the middle, and Sans will also be in the back.

"So, what, exactly, do we do?" Asgore asks.

"When Dustin here throws the ball up in the air, you two both jump and try to tip it towards your team. If someone from your team catches it, then the game commences. Since we don't have two goals, I guess we could just go sideways...yeah, that'll work. Does that make sense?" you clarify.

"Yes. Get ready, my team, for I will surely win this," Toriel smirks up at Asgore.

"I doubt that, dear," Asgore replies.

"Oooh, the royal people are trash talkiiiiin'," you joke.

"You two ready?" Dustin asks.

"Yes."

"Yes."

Dustin tosses the ball up in the air, then Toriel and Asgore both jump, but Toriel gets it first. It's caught by Papyrus, who passes it to Frisk, who had backed up a bit. Asgore returns to his position in the back and starts guarding Toriel. Frisk looks around, waiting for someone to get open. They see Papyrus slip out of Undyne's guard, so they throw it to him, but Undyne jumps in the way and catches it.

Sans immediately steps in front of you, but he doesn't move much unless you make a significant movement. Maybe you can use that your advantage later on.

"Here!" Asgore cries, having sidestepped Toriel. Undyne chucks the ball at him, and, despite Toriel's attempted interference, she does not succeed in intercepting it. Asgore catches it, then tosses it to the basket. You manage to step in front of Sans in case you needed to rebound, but the ball swooshed through the net.

"Two-zero!" Dustin yells from above.

You pick up the ball and throw it to Papyrus, who bounces it to Undyne, who then bounces it back to him. What's that called? Checking? Yeah, you think that's it.

Papyrus passes it to Toriel this time, who shoots, but misses. You rebound, then pass it back up to Undyne. Undyne shoots from where she is, having a clear shot and swishing it.

"Yeah, Undyne!" you yell.

"Four-zero!"

Papyrus checks it with Undyne again. This time around, you step in front of Sans. Papyrus glances at Sans, but sees he's not open, then turns to Frisk. He passes it to them, and they catch it, then, they pass it back to Papyrus, who backs up, then throws it to Toriel.. The pass is intercepted by Asgore, who turns and tries to pass it to you, but Papyrus runs back up and snatches it out of the air, throwing it into the hoop.

After a few more rounds, the score has increased to twelve-ten. Sans still isn't really defending you, or trying at all, which makes your job a whole lot easier. Everyone keeps playing until....

"I believe we have time for one more round, and then we must go," Toriel says, stepping in front of Agore yet again.

"Awww!" Frisk whines, brushing the air out of their eyes, "But this is really fun!"

"I know, child, but we have a meeting to go to," Toriel responds, her voice a little sad.

"Hey, it's good timing," you respond. "Yo, Dustin, give us the score, please."

"Twenty-four-twenty-four," he replies from his station.

"Whoever makes the next shot wins," you say. "Is that cool?"

"Yeah! C'mon, guys, we're going to win."

This time, it's the other team's ball, so Papyrus gets it, checks it with Undyne, then moves around, looking for someone open.

Suddenly, something flashes in front of you.

It's Sans. Papyrus throws it to Sans, who catches it, then turns around to go in for a layup...

… but then you're there.

And you raise your left arm right as Sans jumps.

"geeettttttt-"

And you stuff his bony ass.

He drops the ball, then you pick it up and shoot, the ball bouncing off the side of the board and going in.

"OOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!" Frisk yells.

"SHE STUFFED THE DUNKER!" Undyne yells.

Nearly everyone except for Toriel, Asgore, Alphys, and Sans starts to scream.

"OOOOHHHHHH!" Undyne shouts. Toriel and Asgore burst out laughing, while Sans just stands there, shock written all over his face.

"what..." Sans sounds disbelieving.

"SANS! I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY YOUR SIGNATURE MOTTO THING AFTER YOU DUNKED ON THE HUMAN!" Papyrus yells after he calms down.

"i-i was, but then she...what..."

You burst out laughing. "What? You think I'm just going to stand there and let you win?"

He's silent for a few more seconds before he starts laughing.

"heh...that's the first time i've ever been stuffed."

"Do you play basketball?" you ask him.

He shakes his head. "no, not really. but i do dunk a lot."

You wonder what that could mean, but decide not to question it for now.

"In all seriousness, though, we really must be going," Asgore says.

After everyone has recovered, they start packing up. You do, too.

Dusting comes over to you. "Dude, you actually devastated him."

You laugh. "He looked pretty shocked."

He chuckles. "It was pretty great, though. See you at practice tomorrow?"

"See you!" you yell.

Chapter Text

Chapter XIII – Sworn To Carry Your Burdens

"Undyne?" you ask one day after practice.

"Wassup, punk?" she responds, shifting her bag to her other shoulder as she turns to face you.

"Can you use your gills while you swim?" you ask, genuinely curious.

"Only in lakes and oceans. Natural bodies of water free of chemicals. Pools typically have chemicals that mess with my body if I inhale too much of it at once," she answers, "plus, I don't think it'd be fair to other swimmers if I could breathe underwater,"

You nod, then respond, "I guess that makes sense. Cool. So, what're you up to today?"

She shakes her head, red, damp hair flying everywhere. "Eh, not much. How about you?

"I dunno yet," you admit., stopping out front of the entrance to the pool.

"HUMAN!" You flinch at the familiar voice, turning to meet him.

"Hey, Papyrus!" you yell back, giving the taller skeleton a slight wave. Sans is next to him, typical lazy grin on his skullplate.

"HELLO, (Y/N)! WE ARE HERE TO INVITE TO THE EPIC BAKING COMPETITION THAT WAS...DELAYED. WILL YOU JOIN US?!"

"OH YEAH! I almost forgot since Coach told us about ribbons, but..." Undyne snickers, "FUHUHUHUHU!"

"Oh, dang. That sounds interesting," you comment, "when is it?"

"IT WILL TAKE PLACE AS SOON AS WE GET HOME!" Papyrus announces, placing a gloved hand over his chest, scarf fluttering in the summer breeze.

"'s gonna be supervised by tori, too," Sans says, shoulders hunching forward in relief.

Undyne and Papyrus begin chattering away, leaving you with the shorter skeleton. You're about to fire up some small talk when an angry-looking woman nearly shoves Papyrus over in an attempt to get past him, two young, crestfallen kids trek behind her. Papyrus turns to apologize, but Sans holds up a hand.

Sans' eye sockets narrow at the woman, and he looks like he's about to scold her, but the lifeguard stationed at the check-in table beats him to it.

"Um...hi. May I get your names?" the lifeguard asks, picking up a pen.

"Lydia Smith," the woman replies.

It takes you and Sans a minute before you both erupt into laughter.

"WHAT IS SO FUNNY?" Papyrus asks.

You clutch your stomach, nearly falling over; the situation is just too perfect.

"What?!" the woman snaps, turning to you two.

Sans wipes a translucent, blue tear from his eye sockets, which are crinkled with laughter. "oh, stars. lydia."

You can't hold back your obnoxious bouts of laughter. "Dang, I should've guessed."

"get out of the doorway!" Sans says, grasping on the corner of the wall for support.

"'I am sworn to carry your burdens,'" you quote.

"gets through difficult dungeon, realizes lydia is dead," Sans continues as you sit down, covering your mouth.

"What is the meaning of this?!" the woman yells.

"alduin-ything to get you out of the way," Sans cracks, squeezing his eyelids shuts.

"Pshht...I wish I could get some Solitude from Lydia," you respond, out of breath from laughter.

"Quit laughing! What did I do?" Lydia yells.

"You used to be an adventurer like me. Then you took an arrow to knee," you say without missing a beat. Sans laughs even harder.

"hey, squints. what did alduin do when he lost his wife?"

"Dragonmourn! Dude, what was the baker's most in-demand commodity?"

"i dunno, what?"

"Elder Rolls!"

"what family is a skeever classified under?"

"What?"

"fus-ro-dent!"

"Why did the bird watcher quit his job?"

"because he used to be an adventurer like you then took a sparrow in the knee!"

At the last joke, you two burst out in obnoxious laughter. Sans falls down, and you wipe the tears forming at the corner of your eyes.

"Excuse me! I don't know who you two think you're talking to, but it," she points at Sans, "and its friends don't belong here in the human world!"

One more, then you need to get serious again. In a perfect Skyrim guard accent, you say, "I need to ask you to stop. That...shouting...is making people nervous,"

You two crack up again.

Lydia stalks up to Sans, who has managed to regain a standing position. "I'd slap you, but that'd be animal abuse,"

Oh, she wants to play this game, huh?

"maybe if you ate some of that makeup on your face, then you'd be pretty on the inside," Sans replies, seeming unfazed by her insults.

"There are more calories in your stomach than there are at the supermarket!" you snap.

"Who pissed in your breakfast?!" the woman remarks, glaring at you.

"bitch, please move away from the sunlight. i hate the smell of burning plastic," Sans asserts.

"I hope one day, you choke on the shit you talk!" you say.

"And who're you, dear? Quite rude, if you ask me,"

"Oh, I'm rude? Says the one calling another sentient being an animal!" you respond, your voice quieter than hers.

She's not done yet. "Not only are you rude, but you must also be a failure. I mean, who would spend time with these things?"

"I'm not a failure," you say, an evil, sudden grin creeping across your lips, "but your dad's condom was,"

"OOOHHHH!" you hear Undyne yell.

"And, finally," alright, you allow yourself one last insult, "if I wanted to kill myself, I'd jump off of your ego down to your IQ,"

"geeettttttt dunked on!!!" Sans says.

"Fuhuhuhuhuhuhuh!" Undyne laughs.

"Sans. I Think It Is Time To Stop. You Are Being Mean Now," Papyrus says, touching Sans on his elbow. Sans' eye sockets widen, remembering his little, precious cinnamon roll of a brother heard all of those insults.

You feel your sins crawling on your back.

At this point, Lydia has stomped away to join her children at a table. The lifeguard is quietly laughing, and he gives you and Sans a thumbs-up.

"'m sorry you had to hear all that, bro," Sans apologizes, genuinely sounding sorry.

"It's Alright, Sans. I've Heard Worse Words. Please, Just Do Not Overdo Yourself Next Time,"

"I'm sorry, too, Papyrus," you admit, picking up your swim bag from where it fell to the floor, "I think I went a little overboard, too. I didn't mean to...um...curse. I just get really mad when people call you...monsters in general...it..." you squeeze your eyes shut. It's just not right.

"DO NOT FRET, HUMAN. WE UNDERSTAND THAT NOT EVERYONE WILL ACCEPT OUR RETURN RIGHT AWAY. THE GREAT PAPYRUS, HOWEVER, KNOWS THAT HUMANS WILL COME AROUND EVENTUALLY!" he announces.

"Fuhuhuhu!" Undyne chuckles. "Well, let's get back, nerds. We're already going to be late as it is." She frowns, then asks, "Hey, what were those jokes earlier?"

You snort. "Oh, you mean the Skyrim puns?"

Sans smiles again. "dam-dang. you weren't half bad, squints,"

"Ha, thanks. That was hysterical, though," you say, another smile gracing your features.

"Explain to us in the car!" Undyne says. You sigh, then smile. You guess it was a good thing you walked here.

Once all of you have piled into the car, Undyne at the wheel, Papyrus in the passenger, you smooshed between Frisk-who had been packing up during your little roast session, thank the stars-and Sans.

"What's the deal with those jokes?" Undyne starts.

"So, in Skyrim, there's a follower NPC named Lydia,"

"she's, like, a meme in the fandom," Sans adds.

"Yeah, she is. It's freaking hilarious. She always gets in the Dovahkiin's way. She's pretty much the worst companion there is. Er, at least so far," you said.

"an' then, there are these guards that always say, 'i used to be an adventurer like you. then i took an arrow in the knee,'"

"Don't forget 'no lollygagging,'" you respond.

Sans laughs again. "you do the accent perfectly,"

"Ah, thank you. I'm glad all of my hard work in Skyrim has paid off thus far," you respond, hugging your swim bag and pressing your face into it. It smells good, like chlorine.

"What happened?" Frisk asks, poking your arm as Undyne pulls out onto the main road.

"someone was being mean to us," Sans said.

"And her name was Lydia, too, which made the whole situation even better," you say.

"Oh!" Undyne says.

"BROTHER?" Papyrus asks, turning in his seat to face Sans.

"yeah, bro?"

"WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS...'SKYRIM' GAME ABOUT?"

"Papyrus!" Undyne says. You turn your head towards Sans.

"Well, he did it now. It's story time," you joke before helping Sans recite the legendary story of the Dovahkiin.

"SO YOU COLLECT SOULS FROM DRAGONS?"

"'s not like, uh...in real life. 's a different concept,"

"...THAT'S TERRIFYING," Papyrus comments as he opens the door to Undyne's car.

You get out after Sans, Frisk hopping out on the other side.

"I'm sorry for cussing in front of Papyrus," you say sincerely.

"you already apologized,"

"I know, but I feel bad!" you respond.

"i know the feeling. he kinda has that effect on everyone, y'know?" he sighs. "can't protect him forever, though. he's gotta learn. but, he's strong like that. if a culture doesn't work for him, he won't buy it,"

"...Dude, did you just...somewhat quote Morrie Schwartz?" you question, slinging your bag on your bag while looking at him.

He shrugs. "guilty. what can i say? he was a good guy, an' he had some life-changing advice, too. shame he died, world coulda used more of his influence,"

You nod silently. "I agree. Dang, the world's really gone to shit, hasn't it?"

"it has," he sighs, looking down at his fuzzy, pink slippers.

"I don't get it," you sigh, "I wish there was more I could do. You guys are so nice,"

"hey, don't do that," he says, nudging your shoulder, "you make papy smile, help the kiddo out with their swimming, saved alphys' life, helped me roast dumb ladies who push papy around...you're a good person. 's not your fault monsters are being treated the way we are. an' you're not askin' for anything in return. like i said before," he looks up at you, his pinpricks scanning your face, "you're really one hell of a human. i feel like you're going to be a powerful mage,"

You gasp. "Mage?! You can sense that?! Do you know what kind of magic do I have?!"

He chuckles, gesturing for you to enter the Dreemurr household first. You thank him, then walk inside.

"dunno, that's something you'll have to find out for yourself. you probably wanna figure out what your soul trait is first, though,"

"How do I find out what my SOUL trait is?" you ask.

"remember how we're gonna be hostin' appointments for the volunteer thing?" he asks, shuffling towards the coach.

"Oh, yeah. I saw something about that on TV the other day," you recall, taking your shoes off by the door.

"you'll be able to find out then. i think that we're gonna start construction in...'bout...what, two, three weeks from now? so, i'm guessing in 'bout a week, they'll announce it. you plannin' on volunteering, by chance?"

"Yep," you answer, "thank you, that's helpful,"

"no problem," he says.

"Ah, hello, Miss (Y/N)!" You turn to see Asgore holding a teacup in his large paws.

"Hi, Asgore!" you greet.

"PUNK! Get in here, we're about to start!" Undyne yells. Frisk runs around the corner, then grabs your hand, leading you into the kitchen.

"Jeez, I'm coming, I'm coming!" you say, following the child.

Undyne and Alphys are there, and Papyrus is on the opposite side, stretching his non-existent muscles.

"H-hey, (Y/N)," Alphys says, the little lizard-like monster seated on top of the counter, with her fiancée in front of her.

"Hey, Alphys!" you greet, waving at her. "How's it going?"

"Uh-um, w-we wanted t-to give you something," Alphys says, holding out a white envelope.

"Can I open it now, or is it one of those things where I have to wait?" you ask, suddenly getting curious.

"You c-can open it n-now if you want," Alphys answers.

You tear open the seal, then take out the card inside:

Heya, punk! You're invited to me & Alphys' wedding! It's on August 16th ! Not only that, but Alphys and I want you to be one of her bridesmaids! Fuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhuhu!

Your heart skips a beat. Alphys wants you to be one of her bridesmaids?

"Alphys, Undyne...are....are you sure? I'm not...I mean...I haven't known you guys for that long..."

Alphys gestures for you to go over to where she's sitting, so you do. She takes one of your hands in her scaly ones.

"(Y-Y/N), I know it h-hasn't been long. But...I really d-don't think you know how much y-you've done for us, how m-much it means. I'm p-positive on this, tr-trust me."

You...honestly don't know what to say.

So, you just scoop Alphys up in your arms and give her a hug. She squeaks in surprise.

"I don't know what to say," you mutter, "thank you,"

"Y-you're welcome," she replies.

"HEY! That's my fiancée!" Undyne says, pulling Alphys out of your grasp. You hold up your hands in surrender.

"U-Undyne," Alphys says with a smile, hugging the blue fish monster back.

"I’m so happy for you two!" you squeal.

"WE ALL ARE!" Papyrus says.

"Alright, now that that's cleared up," Undyne grins, "LET'S GET BAKING!"

The next two hours or so are spent with Undyne and Papyrus racing to finish baking a batch of cupcakes. Toriel and Sans are both keeping an eye on things, and you and Frisk, with your "HUMANLY CUISUINE EXPERIENCES", are proclaimed judge somewhere in the midst of the entire mess. Thankfully, nothing catches on fire. Yet.

By the time the two teams are done, you and Frisk are both sitting down in front of two batches of hastily-created cupcakes. Undyne's look a little burnt, but the icing looks okay. You wonder if chocolate cupcakes can even look burnt...

Papyrus, on the other, did an excellent job with the cake itself, although the icing looks a bit runny. You inspect both thoroughly before taking a bite out of Undyne's first.

Hm, the burnt part gives it a more...unique taste. Yeah. That's the word. The blue food-colored enhanced icing is sweet and creamy, though, and it counters the more severely burnt part of the treat.

"Mmm...okay. Okay. The icing is just the right sweetness, so it counters the burnt part of the cake," you say honestly. After you finish the cupcake, you move onto Papyrus'.

The icing is, as you predicted, runny, but the cake is just right. It's fluffy, moist, and sweet.

"Mmm, the icing's a little runny, but the cake's perfect, Papyrus!" you say.

"THANK YOU, HUMAN! THE ICING IS A BIT TRICKY, BUT I AM SURE I WILL HAVE THE RECIPE PERFECTED IN NO TIME AT ALL!"

"I'm sure you will," you say, "hm...I don't know. What about you, Frisk?"

They have crumbs sticking to their chin, cheeks, lips, and nose. "I like both of them! Can I have more?"

"No, child," Toriel says, sighing exasperatedly. She's been a...bit more stressed today. You think it's because she's had a lot to do as Queen. Despite everything that's still going on, she stills masks her exhaustion with a warm smile.

You even manage to load the dishes into the dishwasher while Alphys and Undyne are setting up the TV for anime.

"Child, no! You are a guest!" Toriel cries when she sees you.

"It's too late; I already finished," you smirk, turning off the sink and wiping your hands on a dish towel residing on the counter.

Toriel groans. "You're a difficult one,"

"You probably have enough going on as it is," you point out, "and I, for one, like coming home to a clean load of dishes,"

She smiles again. "You are too sweet. Thank you very much; we appreciate the help,"

"It's really no problem," you respond, "I don't mind one bit,"

"I will take over from here, (Y/N). Please, go with them," she says.

"Fine," you say, although a small smile crosses your face.

After a while of watching anime and finishing up another show, it's around three o' clock. The group has already announced that they're going to eat dinner at Grillby's tonight, and Undyne proclaimed for you that you were to be going as well.

Undyne also told you that they'd be holding two separate bachelorette parties, with different people. You'll be going with Undyne, Fuku, Toriel, Papyrus, Sans, Burgerpants, Quinn, and some of the former members of the Royal Guard. Alphys is taking Mettaton, Asgore, Muffet, the Snowdin Shopkeeper, whom you've yet to meet, and someone named Napstablook. The name sounds vaguely familiar; you know you've seen it somewhere.

You all decide to play a game.

"Dungeons and dragons. This is happening!" you yell.

"What's that?" Frisk asks, looking up at you.

"Well..." you trail off, "it takes a long time, and we don't have a while to play, so maybe another time? But, it's basically like one of the first RPG games ever created,"

"seriously?" Sans asks.

"Ah-huh. It's really fun; one person creates a storyline, and everyone else creates a character. There's pretty much no limit to what you can do, as long as the Dungeon Master-the person who created the storyline-approves. You can play it pretty much anywhere. One time, when I was in middle school, we had jacked-up schedules, which meant most of our grade level waited in the gym for hours until other people were finished with testing or review. So, we found a penny, improvised with a character, whipped up a storyline, and bam-we were able to play. It was really fun!"

"That sounds interesting," Alphys comments.

"Yeah, we'll totally have to play that sometime!" Undyne agrees.

"You know what? I'll whip up a storyline, print out you guys some character sheets, get some equipment, and we'll play together one day," you say, growing excited. You have a storyline in mind!

"Sounds good!" Frisk says.

"I CANNOT WAIT TO ENGAGE IN THIS CAPTIVATING ADVENTURE!" Papyrus adds.

"I'M GONNA WIN!" Undyne yells, pointing at the taller skeleton.

Just like that, the two get into an argument about who will win. Frisk tugs the hem of your shirt.

"What's up?" you ask.

"Can I have a hug?" they ask, holding their arms out.

"Of course, you can," you respond, bending down to their level and scooping them into your arms. They tighten their hold around your neck.

"Hugs are nice," they reply after a good thirty seconds or so.

"They are," you say, setting them down, "feel free to have one anytime,"

"ALRIGHT, PUNKS! Let's go grab some GRUB!" Undyne announces, fist pumping next to Papyrus.

"I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CHOICE OF CUISINE," Papyrus admits, "BUT I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL ACCOMPANY YOU ALL ANYWAY! NYEH HEH HEH!"

"Please, slow down, everyone," Toriel says, coming into the room with a lavendar-colored purse at her side, "we are in no rush,"

Her words go unheeded as Undyne and Papyrus race out the door to Undyne's truck. You have no idea how all of you are going to fit inside Undyne's truck, though.

Your concerns are put to rest when the whir of another car catches your attention.

Holy shit-

It's a red Lamborghini.

With Papyrus at the driver's seat.

Wait, so...what? Aren't those kinds of cars expensive these days? You aren't really into cars, but damn does that car look expensive. Not only that, but it does fit Papyrus, when you think about it. It's totally his style.

You think your Jeep is sexier, though.

Sans, Frisk, and Asgore pile in with Papyrus, while you, Undyne, Toriel, and Alphys climb into the turquoise truck, you and Alphys in the back with Toriel in the front.

"I'm so happy for you and Undyne!" you say as Undyne and Toriel become immersed in conversation. Alphys squeaks at the little nudge you give her.

"O-oh, um...thank you! W-we're really excited, t-too!"

"We're still working out the details, but it's going to be epic!" Undyne yells.

"W-we were thinking about hosting it on the beach, wh-where we had our first k-kiss," Alphys adds, her scales turning a bit red.

"Awww!" you say, grinning, "That's so cute! Which beach is it?"

"It's n-not an ocean b-beach, more of a...a lake beach?" Alphys says, sounding a little confused.

"I get what you mean. Are you talking about the lake that's a little ways past Mount Ebott?" you ask.

"Yeah, not the one at the mountain, but the one surrounded by 'em!" Undyne says.

"Oh!" you say. "You must be talking about Lake Slykuth!"

"What kinda name is that?" Undyne asks.

"I don't know," you reply, "but it's a name, am I right?"

"Eh, sure," Undyne says, "but anyway! We're going to get married on the pontoon or whatever those things are called!"

"That's cool," you say, "it's actually a pretty place for a lake, too," you respond.

"I know! A lot of lakes are usually dark and murky, but this one's cool! You'll see, PUNK!" Undyne says, nearly yelling.

"Undyne, there's no need to shout," Toriel admonishes, placing a white paw on the fish monster's shoulder.

"I'm sorry, I'm just so pumped to be married to the love of my life!" Undyne apologizes, turning into the parking lot of Grillby's. Well, at least there isn't a meet tonight, thank the stars for that.

You haven't been back to Grillby's since your visit with Burgerpants and Quinn, so you're pretty hyped for this. Not to mention you're back with the monsters, too, which is even better. The only issue on your mind right now is figuring out what you're going to eat with

Grillby's obnoxiously extensive menu.

Not that you're complaining or anything.

Undyne whoops when she gets out of the truck, nearly ripping the handles of the door to the backseat off when she opens it. Releasing the door, she grabs Alphys and carries her over her shoulders, leaving you and Toriel.

"Undyne's great," you say, chuckling and unbuckling the seatbelt.

"She's quite the handful, but she has her moments, doesn't she?" Toriel says, following your lead. You open the door and hop out, landing on your feet a bit unsteadily since the truck is elevated a little higher than your Jeep. By habit, you slam the door shut. You can't help it; you can't close the doors to your Jeep unless you slam them shut.

The usual chatter of Grillby's fills the air as the group walks inside. The table you all sat at last time is empty again, so Asgore and Toriel takes the heads of it while everyone else fills up in the other seats. Fuku comes by to collect all your orders, then goes away to take your orders to Grillby.

"I have an idea!" Frisk announces.

"WHAT IS IT, HUMAN?" Papyrus asks.

"So! Since Coach (Y/N)'s going to be thee Dungeon Master for the next game, I came up with one we can play right now!"

"Spit it out, nerd!" Undyne yells from beside you.

"So, we all go around the table once, then we say our name, and then three facts about us! After we've all gone around once, we can ask questions about each other!"

"THAT SOUNDS FUN, HUMAN FRISK!" Papyrus says.

"Okay! You start, Papyrus, and then we'll go around!"

"I AM THE GREAT PAPYRUS. I AM A MASTER SPAGHETTOR, I AM VERY GREAT, AND I SOMETIMES HELP HUMANS WITH THEIR PUZZLES!"

"'m sans. sans the skeleton. i like ketchup. i like naps. i like doing nothing,"

Papyrus gives a huff, which makes the other brother chuckle.

"I-I'm Alphys. I l-like tinkering and inventing new things, I'm engaged to Undyne, I love watching anime,"

"I'm Undyne! I like anime, I'm engaged to the hottest monster in the entire world, and I like BEATING THINGS TO PULP!"

"I'm (Y/N) (L/N). I like swimming, video games, and writing," you say.

"I am Toriel. I like cooking, reading, and teaching,"

"I'm Frisk! I like candy, family, and food!"

"I am Asgore. I like tea, gardening, and helping out my people,"

"Awesome!" Frisk says, "now! Papyrus, ask a question to anyone!"

"I HAVE A QUESTION FOR...QUEEN TORIEL! WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO TEACH?"

"I enjoy teaching children world languages and English, mostly," she replies.

"um...paps. why are you so cool?"

Papyrus puffs out his rib cage, posture somehow straightening up even more than it already was. "THAT IS A QUESTION NO ONE CAN ANSWER, DEAR BROTHER. I'M AFRAID YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT,"

"A-Asgore, what's your favorite kind of tea?" Alphys asks.

"Hm...I am not sure I can answer that question," he answers.

"PUNK! What do you write?!" Undyne asks, pointing at you.

"Uh...I write for a magazine as a job, but I write fanfiction way more often," you admit.

"OOH! For what fandoms?! And what ships?!" Undyne grills you.

"You can only ask her one question!' Frisk reminds her.

You relax for a minute. You do write some...interesting stuff.

Undyne catches your expression, then waggles her scale brows. "You got something to hide, nerd?"

You decide to ignore her.

Wait.

...The incident with Lydia did bring up an important topic, though.

"Sans. Did you kill Paarthurnax?"

He tenses, obviously startled by the question. "heck no! dude's awesome! he helped me with the first encounter with alduin!"

"I know, right! I was so mad when that was actually a quest option. I hate killing dragons, they're so cool! I mean, why can't we just work with dragons instead of stealing their Souls?! It's so wrong! I feel like the protagonist could've made a lot more progress if they could have sided with the dragons while still keeping the people safe...I mean, I guess with Odahviing there's the one exception...but, I mean, it's so wrong. Like, why would anyone kill Paarthurnax? I, for one, think the Greybeards are actually pretty awesome! Without them and Paarthurnax, there's a high chance the protagonist would never had got the Elder Scroll if it hadn't been for the Greybeards and Paarthurnax! And what would've happened if Paarthurnax wasn't there to help the Dovahkiin during the first fight with Alduin?! How many more people would have died?!"

Oopsie, you went off on a rant again.

"yeah, i don't get it either. what you said pretty much sums up my opinion on that whole situation, too," he responds.

"I'm glad you didn't. Because...if you did kill him, I don't if we could be friends,"

With the exception of Sans, everyone else looks completely baffled.

"Sorry. Please. Continue," you say, gesturing to Toriel.

"Hm...Alphys. How long did it take you to complete Mettaton?" She asks.

"I still can't believe you made Mettaton! That's so cool!" you jump in.

"Th-thanks. I can't r-remember the exact amount of time, b-but, I think he took about...t-two or three years?"

"Coach (Y/N)! How long have you been swimming?" Frisk asks.

"Pssshhh...hm...I don't know the exact number. I was on my high school swim team, and I did about three or five years' worts of swimming before that. Plus exhibition in eighth grade...so...a while," you conclude.

"I...cannot think of any questions for anyone," Asgore says.

A few minutes after that, Fuku comes out with the food. Other than the small talk, nothing else interesting happens. Undyne drives you home under your protests, and you bid everyone your goodbyes.

"This your apartment?" Undyne asks, hopping out of her truck. You jump out along with Toriel and Alphys.

"Yeah. Wanna come in for a minute?" you ask, yanking the keys off their little hook you attach them to.

"Sure!" Undyne says. "I've heard you have a lot of posters in your place!"

"Hey, (L/N)!" You turn to see Burgerpants up on his balcony, reading a book. You can't make out the title from here.

"Hey, BP! How's it going?"

"Pretty crappy, but I see you have some guests," he replies, closing the book.

"Yup," you confirm, then turn to the group of monsters, "that's my neighbor,"

"I didn't know Burgerpants was your neighbor!" Undyne says.

"Well, you do now. Come on!"

After giving Toriel, Undyne, and Alphys a tour of your humble abode, you lead them back into the living room.

"I love y-your collection of posters!" Alphys compliments.

"Thanks! It took me a while to get all of them up," you say, "do you guys want some hot chocolate?"

Before you know it, you four are huddled around the TV holding cups of steaming hot cocoa.

"I'm really excited for your wedding!" you state, taking a sip of your cocoa.

"We are, too. We're planning on going to shop for bridesmaid dresses together soon," Undyne says, "but I still haven't figured out if I want to wear a dress or suit!"

"Wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in. Your wedding day is yours, no one else's. Do what you want. Go wild. You don't have to follow the traditional custom!" you say.

"J-just something to think about, s-sweetie," Alphys adds.

"We're all looking forward to that day," Toriel says, smiling.

"The bachelorette party's gonna be kick-ass," Undyne comments, setting her cup down.

"Oh d-dear," Alphys mutters, making you chuckle.

Undyne's phone pings, and she turns it on.

"The others are wondering where we are. Thanks for having us, punk!" Undyne says, standing up.

"Thanks for coming! See you guys later!" You announce.

"Goodbye, child. Thanks you for letting us stay for a short while," Toriel says.

"No problem! Thanks for the ride, Undyne!" you shout.

The group shuffles out, and you wave once more. From here, you can faintly hear Burgerpants gently humming a classical tune you've never heard before form his balcony. It is a nice night out tonight; it's cool, but not freezing, and there's a gentle breeze flowing from somewhere. You take a deep breath of fresh air before you close the door.

Well, today certainly has been eventful. You pat your now-full stomach, stretching afterwards. You're spent, and today's been...interesting. You think that every day you spend with the monsters will end with 'interesting'.

With all of your work finished, you decide it's time for a shower. And bed. And chocolate.

More chocolate sounds perfect right now.

Chapter Text

Chapter XIV -  Salt 'n' Burn

Muffet's isn't very crowded this morning, you think as the four of you waltz inside the spider bakery, the typical patrons lazing around. You would, too, if you weren't a swim coach and it was this early in the morning. The beginnings of dawn creep through the glass windows as barely-awake customers sit in chairs, humans and monsters alike, sipping cups of coffee and biting into assorted treats that make your mouth water. 

Thousands of small, adorable, itty-bitty spiders are crawling around the place. You're not sure how a spider could be so cute! Muffet is so lucky! 

There are so many of them, skittering around the countertop to collect the considerably large order you, Undyne, head coach, and Dustin have requested. Giggles escape you as one crawls on your finger, waving at you like a madspider. 

"Muffet, they're so cute!" you gush, bringing the little guy up to eye level. 

"That's Mr. Foodles," Muffet replies, smiling at your exchange with Mr. Foodles, "he loves interacting with nice humans!" 

"Mr. Foodles! That is the cutest nickname ever!" you say, on the verge of shouting. 

"Dude, chill out," Undyne scolds as Mr. Foodles skedaddles up your arm and onto your shoulder. Your giggles intensify when you feel his little legs brush against your dry skin. He's not...gross, like other spiders. Instead, he's soft and freaking adorable! 

"But he's so cute!" you squeal, making a little bridge with your fingers and arm so he can crawl onto your other arm. 

"Could we get two mochas, one latte, four gallons of spider cider, a large, plain coffee, and an iced coffee to-go as well?" head coach asks. 

"Coming right up!" Muffet announces as another team of spiders brings in the several boxes of donuts your group is ordering.  

Today is Donut Day for the swim team, where the sponsors of the swim team band together with the supporting families to buy donuts for the whole team. It's pretty amazing, actually, and everyone gets a donut after practice. You think it's nearing six o' clock now, which means the coaches' practice will, more than likely, be cut short. The sponsors were also kind enough to scrape together money to buy all of the coaches coffee, too, bless them. All the coaches have to do is pick up the order and take it to the pool, which is what you, coach, Undyne, and Dustin are doing now. The other three are at the pool, setting up the tables. Coach brought his huge, silver truck, and the rest of you walked since you three don't live that far away. You're all going to carpool. 

Good one.  

The many boxes of donuts are placed in large bag, which you and Undyne load up in the truck while Dustin and head coach wait inside to make sure everything's running smoothly. Mr. Foodles chills out on your shoulder while you help Undyne load the donuts. 

"Nice morning, huh?" Undyne asks, carrying two boxes of donuts per hand. 

"Yeah, nice and cool. A little breezy, but not too bad," you respond, slinging the two bags you're carrying into the back of the truck. Warner managed to buy a cover for the bed of the truck, too, so hopefully the donuts will stay somewhat warm until the sun rises. 

"Muffet's donuts are the best," Undyne comments as you two turn and go back inside, where another small army of spiders have placed four more bags. Seriously, why can't you have your own army of cute, little spiders?! You cannot wait to find out what kind of magic you have! It's tearing you up inside! 

"They are," you respond, taking two of the bags while Undyne snatches the other two up into her grasp. Your mind flickers back to the conversation about souls and magic that you had with Sans the other day; can Undyne sense that, too?  

"Undyne?" you start, swinging the second load onto the tailgate and pushing it back, then placing your right hand on your hip while leaning against the tailgate. 

"What's up?" she responds, copying your movements. 

"So, I was talking to Sans the other day," you begin, "and he told me he could sense the SOUL trait of a person? Can all monsters do that?" 

Her face falls suddenly, smile flattening out into a thin line, eyes wide, expression inscrutable. You don't think you've seen this expression on her before. She looks partly confused, shocked, and...worried?  

"He told you that?" she finally responds, turning towards you. 

You squint. Ah, there you go again! Oh well. "Uh, yeah?"  

She's silent for a few more seconds. Were you not supposed to say anything? Or, was it one of those weird monster things? Did you just screw up big time? Of course you did, SOULs are a private thing amongst monsters, right?  

"Is that a bad thing?" you pry after a few more seconds. 

"N-no, I just...didn't expect him to open up to someone like that," she says. Did she just stutter? Undyne the Undying? Stuttering? It's simply wrong in every way possible. What alternate universe are you living in today? 

"Why?" you ask, frowning. Mr. Foodles squeaks on your shoulder for some reason, so you pat his head with your pinky. 

She's finally shaken out of her sudden stupor. "I don't know. It's...not like him. I don't know," she repeats, "um...but certain monsters can see your SOUL trait, not all of them." She still looks confused as hell, and she seems to be debating on whether or not to tell you something. 

She, apparently, decides against doing so, which, you admit, kind of stings. 

"What is it?" you ask, putting your hands behind your neck and rubbing it. You're good. 

"Um...nothing. It's not important," Undyne dismisses. 

...you decide not to pry, but you're curious as hell about what this is about. 

"Okay, I won't pry," you respond. For now, at least, you won't. 

"Sorry, (Y/N). Sans is just...weird like that," she says, reaching her scaly arm back to fix her ponytail. Damn, is that her way of fidgeting?! Just what is going on here? You have an inkling or two that she's hiding something. Or, maybe she's lying?  

"Uh...it's cool," you respond. You don't think he's weird...just...closed-off. Probably for a reason, too. 

But it's none of your business, and you know that.  

"So what kind of monsters can see SOUL traits?" you ask, leaning against the tailgate. 

"Boss Monsters," she replies. 

"Cool. How many Bosses are there?" you ask. 

"Not a whole lot, actually," Undyne admits, "wanna hear a secret?" 

"Sure?" It's more of a question rather than a statement. 

"I'm a Boss Monster," she says. 

"I'm not surprised. You look like one, I mean, former captain of the Royal Guard? You've gotta be strong," you reply. "You know, you remind me of Erza Scarlet." 

"Seriously?" she asks, grinning. 

"You've got the hair. You throw spears, which are kinda like swords, in a way. I bet when you're in your armor, you look like the fish monster version of Erza," you tell her, following her back inside. 

"You have to leave him here," Dustin says, pointing at Mr. Foodles. 

"No!"  

"Yes." 

"…" 

Mr. Foodles squeaks, and crawls down your arm. You reluctantly set him on the countertop, where he skitters off your hand, then waves at your looming figure. You give him a sad pat on his little spider head, and then he wraps a few of his legs around your finger. 

Your heart might actually explode. 

After all the donuts and drinks have been loaded, farewells said, and the spider hugs are over, Coach secures the cover to the bed and then closes and locks the tailgate. You all pile inside and then head to the pool. 

 

Undyne is quieter than normal throughout practice. You're getting a little worried about her. Did you do something wrong? You can't help but wonder. If you did, you want to fix whatever it is. Maybe talking about SOULs if off limits in public places? Or, just in general? Ugh, you probably should have asked. Or would that have just made things weirder? And, what was she going to tell you, but decided against it at the last second? 

Does she even trust you? 

"Can we have seconds?" Frisk asks after practice, gesturing to the table filled with donuts of varying flavors. Their sudden question shakes you out of your haze. 

You laugh. "Wait 'till the older kids and adults are finished, and after lessons, too. We don't need you puking, 'kay?" 

"Alright!" they respond. "Hey, can you teach me how to do a decent breaststroke turn? I tried it during the meet, but I got DQd," the reply, frowning. 

"Sure thing!" you answer. Breaststroke and its turns are very technique-driven, and it takes a lot of practice to get it down. You remember when you learned how to do it; one of the assistant coaches helped you back when you were in middle school. She made you practice so much that it's seared into your mind forever. You're pretty sure you could do it in your sleep now, thanks to her. 

Oh, how things have changed. It brings a nostalgic little smile to your face. 

You and Frisk hop in a lane. Today, Toriel and Asgore are hanging out at a table, talking to the head coach. Focusing your attention back on the matter at hand, you fix the twisted straps on your bathing suit so that they're flat.  

"Okay," you begin, "face the wall, and grip it with both hands. Make your body flat, and pretend like you're about to go into a turn," 

Frisk nods, then gets into position. You mimic them, and then turn towards them, still gripping the wall with the rest of your body floating. 

"Okay," you start, "so! When you go into the turn, bring your legs in like this. I'm going to go left since I'm left-handed," 

"Really?" Frisk asks. "How do you write like that?!" 

The universal response of right-handers finding out someone's left-handed. "I just do. Bring your feet in like this once you stop kicking," you begin to slide your left hand off of the wall while bringing your knees up to your chest, eventually hitting your feet against the wall. "You see how I brought my hand out here while I brought my knees up? That will help you go into streamline faster and much more efficiently than just pushing off onto your stomach. With me so far?" you ask. 

"Uh-huh," Frisk says. "So you go like this," they start copying your motions.  

"Yes! Like that!" you respond, nodding. "So, now that you have a taste of that, this is what you do next," you go back to floating, then repeat the first two motions again. "So, with my right hand, but with your left, you're going to bring that hand back, hand up to your ear, arm bent, and then you shoot out into streamline!"  

"Okay. So, like this?"  

 

You let Frisk have another leftover donut for mastering the breaststroke turn. They happily take a chocolate coated one, then they thank you, bid you farewell, then scamper away to Toriel. You sigh heavily, then grab your swim bag, which is packed to the brim with various items. 

"See you, Undyne," you say, giving her a small wave as you walk out. 

"Later, punk," she replies, smiling at you. Well, she seems to be back to normal, which is a good sign. 

You're really not in the mood to make your own lunch today, you think as you climb up into your sexy Jeep. You drop your bag into the back, then hit your head on the steering wheel. Why must you mess things up all the time? You sigh; well, it's over and done with now. Yeah, you think you'll eat out for lunch, then you'll curl up in your bed, order pizza for dinner, then you'll check to see if any of your favorite fanfictions have updated. Sounds perfect right about now. Nothing like a good, one-hundred plus chapter fanfiction to drown your sorrows away. 

Of course, you decide to eat at Grillby's because, hot damn do you want something good and unhealthy. Hopefully this whole thing was just a misunderstanding or something. Shake it off, (Y/N). You're good. 

 

Grillby's, as usual, is packed with monsters and humans alike, casual chatter filling the atmosphere as the warmth of the living flames flickers. 

You hop up on a barstool, snatching up a menu as you settle. This is actually a nice spot to sit; it's away from the crowd, close the origin of the warmth, and it's a bit quieter over here. You close your eyes; this warmth is making you sleepy. 

Suddenly, a chill runs down your spine. You open your eyes, looking around. Wait, what's that weird, light-bending shimmer in the air?  

"Uh, (Y/N), you might want to-" you think that's Grillby, but you're not sure, because the rippling shimmer suddenly expands, and something drops out of it. You're on the floor before you know it, wind knocked from your lungs, something on top of you. You're slammed into an empty, glass table, the legs collapsed and glass shattering. By instinct, your hands reach out to break your fall. 

You groan when the commotion has subsided; your entire backside hurts, and it feels like you're bleeding everywhere. Your legs are wobbly, and your hands are cut, but you get up anyway. 

"What. The. Fuck!" you start, expecting for some asshole to have just pushed you over for no reason. But, how does that explain that weird shimmering you saw? Damn, you're going to have to kick someone's ass again, aren't you- 

"oh, stars....uh...mmf...sorry! sorry! no one usually sits here!"  

You groan again, a sudden wave of dizziness washing over you, making you fall back down, right onto the glass. Everything hurts.  

"(Y/N). Sans. What happened?" comes another voice. 

"uh...i teleported an' accidentally knocked her over,"  

You recognize the flickering green flames of Fuku at your side. "Come on, sit up slowly,"  

"Are you okay, Sans?" Grillby asks. 

"'m fine, she's the one who's bleedin'!" 

Fuku holds your shoulders while you sit up.  

"Ugh...did you teleport on me?" you ask. 

Sans' faceplate is twisted in distress and worry. "uh...not...exactly," 

"Let us heal you first, then he can explain," Fuku says gently, taking your hands in hers. Grillby sighs at Sans, then crouches behind you. 

"You have a few shards stuck in your back; I do not wish to get in your space," Grillby says, voice quiet, but oddly comforting. You find yourself surrounded by a green aura yet again. You're no longer angry. 

Now, you want to eat food and sleep at the same time. 

"Hmmm..." you murmur, closing your eyes. Healing magic is soooo cool. The warmth from the two living flames is enough to make you sleepy.  

"Feel better?" Fuku asks, releasing your hands. 

"Yeaaaaah," you reply, feeling a little woozy. 

Fuku giggles. "Good. Can you stand?" 

"Fire elemental's healing magic tends to have a different effect on humans, since we're made purely of fire and magic, which is...an odd combination," Grillby informs. 

"Wuz that?" you ask. 

"It makes humans a little...loopy," Fuku replies. 

Once you're standing, you don't seem that dizzy anymore. You turn to face Sans: he's so short! His eye sockets are wide, pinpricks small and staring up at you. 

He kind of looks like a lost puppy. 

Which you think is hilarious. 

Which makes you burst out laughing. 

Sans is, once again, befuddled by your strange behavior. Fuku struggles to keep you upright, so she and Grillby guide you to a stool, helping you sit down.  

"I'll get you something to drink," Grillby says, then walks away. 

Fuku stays by your side, keeping you from falling over again. The world is blurry.  

"Hopefully whatever my father brings will help with her...condition..." 

Sans hops up on the stool next to you. His eyelights disappear, only for a ring of mixed blue and yellow to appear in his left eye socket. He turns towards the destroyed table and snaps, causing it to disappear in an instant. 

"Whaaaaaaat?" you grumble, setting your head on top of the bar. 

"magic," Sans replies. 

"Drink this, miss (Y/N)." Grillby comes back with a glass of white and orange liquid. 

"Okayyyyyy," you reply, taking the drink in your hands and sucking it down. 

It's like some kind of fog has been lifting, causing you to sigh. Hey, look, you're coherent again! 

"What the fuck happened? What was that shimmering? Was that you?" you ask.  

"okay, hold on. i teleported here 'cause no one's usually over here, and then you were sitting there, and i wasn't expectin' you to be there, so i panicked, then i..." he sighs. 

"Wait, so then how did I get knocked back so far?" you ask. 

"'m not sure, actually," one of his hands goes up to his skeletal forehead, "but 'm sorry. didn't see ya in time," 

"It's okay," you reply. "Do you think it could have been the force of magic?" 

"maybe," he says, "there's no tellin', honestly. coulda been the void tryna suck magic in. 's probably most likely," 

"Huh," you reply. 

"you okay?" he asks. "you were bleedin' pretty hard back there," 

"I'm fine. The healing magic worked wonders," you answer, glancing at your palms. So, Grillby and Fuku can heal scars, but it makes the recipient a bit loopy. Toriel can't heal scars, but the recipient is coherent afterwards. You guess it's true when the monsters say that each one of their magic is different. That's pretty damn interesting when you think about it. 

"good," he pauses when Grillby sets a glass bottle of ketchup on the bar. 

"thanks, grilbz," the skeleton says, gripping the bottle. The fire elemental nods, then turns to you. 

"What can I get for you, Miss (Y/N)?" he asks, voice quiet. 

You order your food, then you take your phone out. The screen is cracked even more. You forgot to replace it after you saved Alphys, come to think of it...you should probably do that soon. You stuff it back in your back pocket. 

You remember you're sitting with a ketchup-drinking, pun-obssessed skeleton. 

"Oh...do you want to be alone?" you ask suddenly, remembering that he'd originally, most likely, would have come here alone. 

"nah," he replies, "not really. just been a long day, y'know?"  

"Yeah," you're still not sure what to think about the whole incident with Undyne earlier. Would it be weird to bring it up now? Yeah, probably, since it'd be weird for you to have been asking about Sans in the first place- 

"what's on your mind, squints?" Sans questions, bringing you out of your thoughts. 

"Um...well..." Here goes nothing, "it's just...today, when Undyne and I were helping head couch and Dustin load the donuts, I...asked her about what you told me the other day? That you could see someone's SOUL trait? I asked her if there were other monsters like that," he's maintaining eye contact, so, so far, so good, "and she just...froze? I mean, she was confused. She double-checked to see if you actually said that, and then she just...her face was inscrutable. She looked like she wanted to say something, then decided against it. Hell, she started stuttering! And fidgeting! Like...why, though? I mean, I get that everyone has to have secrets, and I respect that. But I'm just curious," you admit. 

"'s okay to be curious 'bout souls, y'know? it isn't weird for human men to walk around half-naked 'mong humans, but there're times when it needs t'be...y'know, controlled. mature," he returns his gaze on the bottle of ketchup he's holding, "that's kind of how monsters view souls, 'cept you shouldn't have it out in the open. make sense?" 

You nod. Okay, so you didn't necessarily mess up.  

There's something else they aren't telling you. 

"Okay," you say slowly, "um...thanks," 

"no problem," he sets the ketchup bottle down, tapping his phalanges on the counter, "hey. i wouldn't normally ask this of a human, but...could i your opinion on some research 'm doin'?" 

"What kind?" you ask. 

"i have a theory," he starts, "in my opinion, seven soul traits aren't nearly enough to cover the base of the-what, seven billion human beings on earth-so, i tested a theory out," he says. 

"Okay," you say, getting interested. 

"so, instead of having seven main soul traits...how about nineteen?" 

"Nineteen different SOUL traits?" you question. "Well, I guess it'd make sense, since both humanity and monsterkind's situations have both changed so significantly throughout time," you muse. 

"exactly. see, when we start getting a look at how human's souls have changed over the centuries, then i can prove it!" he gushes, his eye sockets lighting up, pinpricks wide and happy. 

"That sounds awesome!" you admit. "So, where do I come in?" 

"if you don't mind, i can take you to the lab sometime and show you the different traits. i can't remember 'em all off the top of my skull, but i have a list somewhere. i'd like a second opinion on the traits, see if they make sense for humans, since i'm not one myself," 

"Of course!" you respond.  

"although, if i were you, i'd find out your own trait first," he advises. 

"Sure! The appointments aren't that far away," you say, "okay. So, that's...wow, that's amazing!" 

Suddenly, a baby blue blush creeps onto his round, bony cheeks. "oh...uh...thanks. i appreciate it," he says. 

Grillby comes back with your order and a plate full of fries, which he sets in front of the older skeleton.  

"Thanks, Grillby!" you say, then dig in. Holy shit, how?! How can something taste so damn good?! It should be illegal, but you're glad it's not. 

You two are silent while you eat. You savor every bite, not wasting anything. 

"Grillby," you start when the fire elemental comes back. 

"Yes, Miss?"  

"You are a god." 

"Thank you," he replies, taking your empty plate. 

"put 'em on my tab, grillbz," Sans chimes in with a cheesy-ass grin. 

"What?! No!" you yell. "I got this!" 

"consider it both an apology and a thank you," he says, winking at you. Ugh, you want to slap off his dumb smile! 

You groan; the monsters can't just buy shit for you like that! Although, judging from the vaguely distressed fire-elemental standing behind the counter, you have a feeling that Sans procrastinates when it comes to paying. Especially when it comes to the tab system... 

You have an idea. 

"Thanks, Sans," you groan.  

"don't worry 'bout it, squints," he replies. 

"Hey! One more question," you say. 

"wassup?" 

"Every time I get hurt, the other monsters freak out like it's the end of the world. You only apologized, like, three times, which I appreciate. Why is that?" 

He smiles a little bit. "welp, i can tell you're tough as hell. you're one of those people who doesn't need sympathy from others. when you stumbled to your feet after you fell, i could tell you were ready to fight someone," he shrugs, "on the other hand, i'm just too lazy." 

Wow. 

Classic Sans. 

"anyway, i'll see you later, squints," he says, giving you a lazy wave. 

"See you," you reply. 

 

So, there's a possibility of having more than seven SOUL traits in a person? What could they be? Would they be as powerful as the main seven, or are they just different shades of the main traits? What kinds of magic would be associated with each one?  

You're more than happy to walk into your apartment, locking the door behind you. Ugh, you feel like disgusting. You'll go take a shower and wash the public off of you. Ew. 

So. 

You're tough, huh? 

That makes you smirk a little bit, for some reason, but you shake it off. It also makes you wonder if Sans was hiding something about the teleportation incident. After all, he kind of...evaded the question, not to mention that he got a little flustered when you mentioned it. 

You'll ask him at the lab. 

For now, though, you'll just stay inside your apartment. You're going to order a pizza after you write your article for today, and then you'll just eat an entire pizza. 

Sounds amazing. 

So, first things first: you need to make sure that your bathing suit somewhat survived the glass shard assault. Pulling your shirt over your head, and then your shorts off, tossing them inside a (f/c) hamper, you pull off the bathing suit and analyze its state. 

Part of the back is ripped, and there's a hole near the bottom. Damn, that means you'll have to get a new practice suit. You might be able to get one with Undyne, though, since she has yet to get her scaly hands on a team suit. You'll ask her about it later. Mourning the loss of your practice suit, you also make a mental note to see what you can do about your cracked phone screen. 

Throwing away the suit, and hopping into the steamy shower, you start washing away. Despite the hot water raining down on your bare body, you can't help but shiver.  

When you finish, you turn off the water and dry off, feeling the goosebumps that have risen from your skin, causing you to shiver again. You pad into your room with your towel wrapped around your figure. When you make it inside your room, you change into a pair of comfy clothes. Then you turn, open the door- 

-and you stop dead in your tracks, your heart nearly stopping, blood running cold. 

Right there. 

Standing right outside the door. 

A...monster? 

He's about three feet shorter than you, but his skin is a dull grey, entire body monochrome. His eyes are white, pupils completely black. Both of his eyes are crossed in an X shape, very faintly. His body is skinny, and his arms seems a bit too short. Cross cover his chest. 

You're chilled to the bone. 

What an act to follow!  

….then he's gone. 

You freeze for a second until... 

HELL NO FUCK THIS SHIT I'M OUT   

You waste no time in running to the kitchen, shoveling through the cabinets, pushing aside cups and plates and assorted dishes, until you come across what you need: a huge bag of salt. Ripping it open, you adjust it in your hands until you have it tilted downwards. You begin to pour a circle, with yourself inside it the whole time. 

Salt. 

Salt. 

Salt. 

Yeah, no, you know for a fucking fact that that was not a monster. There was something so...off. Wrong. You can't put your finger on the word, but you don't worry about it just yet. 

You've seen way too many horror movies, not to mention you watched Supernatural as a middle and high schooler. You know your shit when it comes to the supernatural realm. 

The monster thing appears again, this time in the living room, right across from you. He says nothing, but stays there for what seems like a long time. You curl up in a ball, one of your hands gripping the bag of salt. Will it even work? 

Another ten minutes go by. 

"Who are you?" you ask. 

He remains silent. 

"...I'm (Y/N)," you say quietly. 

"…" 

"What happened to you?" 

"…" 

"Who are you?" 

Suddenly, something fills your head. It's like white noise, expect it's much louder, and much more...screechier. You lift your hands to cover your ears, but that seems to only worsen the problem. You groan, leaning over and pressing your forehead to the floor. 

Guilt.  

Despair.  

Hopelessness.  

Existential crisis  

ERROR_ ERROR_ ERROR_ ERROR  _E RROR_ ERROR_ ERRORRRRRR  

Sad.  

Lost.  

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Where...? 

No matter  

W here the  

H uman falls  

T here will   

A lways be  

A  monster  

T here to  

H elp them  

Humans Fall  

Monsters Help  

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This isn't your fault.  

Whose, then?  

It's no one fault.  

I'm sorry.  

I'm sorry.  

Make it stop.  

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Blue.  

Yellow.  

D  

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               T  

.  

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"I'M SORRY!"  

"There is no more we can do,"  

"There has to be something! People miss us!"  

"Have patience, -x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-."  

"I just...I want to go home,"  

"Please, help us,"  

"I don't know how much more of this I can take! I want my family back!"  

"Please."  

"We won't last much longer."  

 

BANG  

BANG  

BANG  

Your head shoots up at the sound of someone knocking, but you only come face-to-face with the...monster. You scream, then fall back, shaking all over. 

Your brain hurts, everything hurts. You're vaguely aware of someone calling your name. 

"(Y/N)!" 

You suck in air, everything hitting at once. What in the fucking hell just happened?! 

You're shivering uncontrollably, and someone is hugging you. You hold their arms, now aware of the tears falling down your cheeks. Who were those people?! 

"(Y/N)? (Y/N)? Can you hear me?" you recognize the voice as Burgerpants'. 

"B....Burgerpants?" you ask through your tears. 

His face softens. Is Quinn here, too? You try to wipe away your tears, but it's useless. Try as you might, you cannot stop shivering.  

"Will you get her some ice water?" you hear Burgerpants ask. 

"Out..." you murmur. 

"Out? Out where?" Burgerpants asks. 

"Can you get me out of here?" you ask, your voice quiet. 

"Yeah, yeah," he answers, helping you up. Your legs are like jelly, threatening to collapse. You brain feels like it's on fire. 

"Drink this," Burgerpants instructs you once you're settled on his couch. 

You cannot stop shivering, and Quinn notices, retrieving you a thick blanket, which he wraps around your shoulders. 

You don't want to think. 

You don't want to move. 

You don't want to talk. 

... 

You 

Don't 

Want 

To 

Exist- 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter XV – Home Sweet Home

You cannot warm up. Even with the two or three blankets Quinn and Burgerpants have draped over your shoulders, you can't stop shivering. Eventually, the two monsters make you lay down on the coach, then they cover you with even more blankets. Bringing your knees up to your chest, you try to warm up your quaking muscles.

"Stars, (Y/N), what the hell happened to spook you this bad?" Burgerpants asks, tucking the corners in around you.

"I don't know..." at this point, your tears have yet to stop. "I...there was something in the hallway, and it...it looked like a monster, but there was something just...off about it. I panicked and surrounded myself with a circle of salt," you admit, running your arm across your eyes.

"You're going to fight weird monsters with raised blood pressure?" Burgerpants asks, confusion evident in his eyes.

"No...salt is a defense against demons," you whisper. "I always have salt,"

"O-kay, then," Quinn starts, his tone cautious, "what did the monster thing look like?"

You open to your mouth to describe what he looked like, searching for adjectives.

No image comes to mind. You remember what he looked like, the Xs over his eyes, that sad, sad, stare, the strange scars...

"I...I forgot what he looked like," you say honestly.

Burgerpants frowns. "Are you shitting me right now?"

"N-no, I swear!" you reply. "But that wasn't the only thing. There were voices...two of them, and they...they were so, so sad, Burgerpants! They were asking for help and-and I had no idea what was going on and I wasn't sure what to do or if I panicked or if they were actually in
danger but I knew that I need to help them but I'm not sure who they are or what's going on-"

"Hush, (Y/N)," Quinn says as you sit up again. He gingerly wraps his furry arms around you, while Burgerpants plops on the other end. You sniff, and Quinn wipes your tears away. His fur is soft, and it helps to warm you up a little bit.

"Maybe you're going through one of those pre-magic things? I heard a few humans go through some weird shit before they master magic? But it's only been, like, five people. At most," Burgerpants muses. "Not a lot of people have unlocked their magic,"

"That might be it," Quinn replies, then goes silent for a second, tightening his hold around you.

"We should call Alphys," Burgerpants finally says, "she knows more about human SOULs and magic than we do,"

You're too shaken to complain, sinking into Quinn's warm embrace. Gradually, you stop quivering.

"It's going to be okay," Burgerpants says. You don't usually get to see his softer side a lot, but it's awfully comforting at a time like this.

"I hope so," you murmur, wiping away your tears again. Hopefully your friends won't see you like this...

"You're not one to get shaken up so easily," Quinn replies, "I'm worried. Here, (Y/N), lay back down. Do you want anything?"

You curl up in a ball. "C-could I please have some toast? With lots of butter?"

"Of course," Quinn asks, walking away.

You hear Burgerpants sigh from the other end of the couch. "What've you gotten yourself into now, (Y/N)?"

You don't answer; instead, you opt to snuggle further underneath the blankets. Silently, you listen to him as he dials a number on his cell phone, then talks to someone, presumably Alphys. After he explains what happened and discusses what courses of action they'll talk,
Quinn comes back with two pieces of perfectly-toasted toast, which are slathered in butter. Just how you like it.

"Thank you," you say quietly, accepting the plate and sitting up, adjusting the blankets around your shoulders.

"You're welcome," he replies, taking a seat next to Burgerpants.

"Alphys'll be here soon," Burgerpants says, glancing at you. "She'll take a look at your SOUL and see if anything's going on there,"

"Okay," you reply, munching on the toast. Your tears seemed to have stopped, for now. The toast is helping. Maybe your eyes will clear up, too.

Butter and toast always help.

The three of you are quiet, with you curling up beside Quinn and Burgerpants after you finish your toast. Quinn wraps one of his arms around Burgerpants, which makes your grumpy neighbor relax a little bit.

"What did you guys see when you came into my apartment?" you ask.

"We heard you scream, and when we went to check on you, you were curled up in a ball, crying and muttering to yourself," Quinn says.

"I'm sorry," you mumble.

"For the love of the stars, quit it! Stop apologizing!" Burgerpants says.

There's a knock on the door a few minutes later, signaling Alphys' arrival. You set the now-empty plate on the coffee table, curling up into a ball again. Your neighbor gets up and answers the door.

"H-h-hey, Burgerpants." You look over to see Alphys, a serious-faced Undyne, Toriel, and a stoic Sans.

"Hey, guys. Something weird happened...but she's pretty shaken, and we're worried about her," you hear him mutter, "come in. She's right here,"

You don't look at any of the monsters as they pile in. Alphys scurries over to you, then places one her hands on top of yours.

"(Y/N)," Alphys says, her voice quiet, "what happened?"

You explain what you saw, what you heard, but once again leave out the whole thing of not wanting to exist, which freaks you out more than anything. The monsters are oddly quiet.

"Hm..." Alphys says. "May I draw your SOUL out?"

...your SOUL?

For a moment, you don't want to feel any more vulnerable than you already are; having your SOUL out would only multiply that by a landslide. You want to be alone, but at the same time, you don’t. You were curious about your trait, but now? You're kind of scared of what you'll
see.

Scared of what your SOUL has become.

How it and the –X_XX_X_XXX_X_X_X_X_ER__ROR_X_X_X_XX_X_----- have affected it.

What this place has done to you.

HOW LONG THIS PLACE HAS BEEN DRIVING YOU MAD.

You lay your palm on your forehead, suddenly feeling too hot. Quickly, you throw the blankets off, not even caring about the fact you're in your camisole and your bra straps are fully visible.

And then, images are there, pictures floating around in your mind, burning a fierce white against your eyelids...

WE NEED YOUR HELP, (Y/N).

BUT YOU NEED TO HELP YOURSELF FIRST.

ASK THEM. THEY CARE FOR YOU AND WILL HELP YOU.

YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ME, DO YOU?

It's too much; whatever this is...you close your eyes, retreating back to the couch, grabbing your head in your hands and wishing it all to stop-
.
.
.

There it is again.

You don't want to exist. You don't know why, you're not sure why you think that, since you have a good life here, but...why?

YOU'RE OKAY.

THESE EMOTIONS ARE NOT YOUR OWN.

THIS IS COMPLETELY NATURAL FOR A WOMAN LIKE YOU.

DO NOT FEAR.

...YOU STILL DO NOT KNOW WHAT AM I SAYING. I DOUBT I AM OF ANY HELP.

"Just...stop...please..." you whisper.

"The hell is happening?!" Burgerpants yells.

"(Y/N), I need to see your SOUL!" Alphys exclaims, grabbing your shoulders.

"I don't want to exist," you mumble.

Alphys' face goes completely blank.

You're scared.

Did you do something?

Of course you did, it's always you, you're always messing everything up, why does anything even matter since you're just going to die anyway, might as well end it all now...

"(y/n)."

You pause, realizing that Sans is kneeling in front of you, hands on your shoulders, eye pinpoints extinguished. Snapped out of your trance, you look up at him.

"what did you just say?"

"...nothing," you mutter, even though it's pointless to lie to him.

"cut the bullshit," he says, his hold tightening on you, "what did you say?"

"Sans, please cut her a break!" Undyne yells.

"Please," you repeat, your voice hoarse and thick with tears and fear.

He releases you after a second, still staring at you.

….....

Then...something happens that completely catches you off guard.

…....

He hugs you.

Your mind is running a mile a minute, his head buried in the crook of your neck, arms wrapped around your torso. His cheekbones are blushing a fierce, dark blue.

"'m sorry," he says into your neck as you awkwardly return the embrace. "just...reminded me of somethin,"

"Uh...it's okay..." You respond, your mind still at a blank.

He's...actually pretty warm for a skeleton. Soft, too. You smile softly, relaxing a little.

"i know you're scared," he whispers, "it's okay. we'll help you figure it out,"

He's right.

You have a reason to be scared, but these monsters are here to help. They're seeing you at your worst, right now, and they're not running. Relief floods through you; you're not sure why you were so nervous.

Hugs are magic. Or maybe it's that weird tingly sensation on Sans' bones? Either way, you like it. It's calming you down.

"'m awkward," he says when he pulls away from you, cheeks darkening in shade as he brings a hand up to the back of his skull. "sorry,"

You smile softly, rubbing your fingers over your cheeks. "It's okay. That helped,"

He smiles, too, his skull's shade fading a little bit. "could we see your soul to see if anything's wrong?"

You nod slowly, crossing your legs on the couch. His blush remains, though, and you're not sure why.

"Alright," Alphys says when Sans moves out of the way, "let's see your SOUL," she places her clawed hand right over where your heart would be, her palm facing down. Then, she turns her hand back over while pulling her arm back. You're nearly jerked forward, but Quinn catches you.

… …. … … …

You're right in between two fiery, fierce colors. A beautiful shade of sunset orange suddenly glows right in front of you, its light bouncing off the walls, emitting what you feel is raw power, radiating out of its center, silently demanding attention. Your eyes are immediately
drawn to its core, watching the cartoony heart bob up and down gently. You're calmed by its very presence, its bright glow.

"W-wow," Alphys starts, "some form of BRAVERY?"

"looks like audacity," Sans states, staring at your SOUL, "the trait between determination and bravery. the willingness to take bold risks. you're determined and brave,"

"I guess y-you were right a-all along, Sans. Times have changed, and so have human SOULs,"

"it didn't make sense for there to only be seven traits among seven-billion diverse people," Sans agrees.

"Can you guys science later and see what's up?" Burgerpants asks, going to stand next to Quinn.

"O-oh, y-yeah," Alphys says, "so, there was a..." she babbles on about SOUL stuff, but you can't bring yourself to focus.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

Why, though? You've been happy with yourself, for the most part. You have a great job, good friends, a roof over your head...why?

You don't want to exist.

The words are so foreign to you, yet, at the same time, though, you believe them. Why are your own emotions feeling so foreign? It's so weird.

You hate it. You want to know who you are, to unravel the mystery behind your magic, to see what else your SOUL is capable...
...and you know, you can't give up. Not yet. Too much is on the line. This whole situation is frightening, having your SOUL out is scaring you because you're so vulnerable and anyone could touch it or hurt you or worse and then nothing else would matter because you'd already be dead-

"squints?" You feel a bony hand on your shoulder, recognizing it as Sans'.

"I'm sorry," you mutter.

"quit apologizin', jeez. you keep spacin' out, i've noticed," he says, gazing down at you. You twiddle your fingers together, unsure of what to say in response. You don't like the expression he's wearing right now, especially since your SOUL is right there. Alphys has you covered, though.

You take a shaky breath.

"I'm n-not seeing anything weird," Alphys reports, "except that you're very close t-to unlocking your magic,"

"Really?" you ask, pulling the blankets tighter around you, not feeling as hot any more.

"Really," Alphys responds, "do you see those little swirls of lighter orange that are centimeters away from the edges? That's your magic. Once it r-reaches the ex-exterior, you'll be able to summon your magic. What kind it is, I'm not sure. There's no telling. Audacity, though, will probably be pretty powerful combination together. Let's see if I can find out your secondary trait,"

"not yet," Sans interrupts, "scanner's not modded to recognize the other traits at a secondary level yet,"

"O-oh, okay. Maybe we could just g-get a general idea, then?" she tries it despite the glare the older skeleton is shooting her. She takes out a machine that looks like one of those scanners clerks use in stores to scan the QR codes on products, then she hooks it up to the
laptop she brought. Aiming the gun at your SOUL, she pulls the trigger. A beep sounds on the computer, and an image pops up.

It's your SOUL, but it looks a lot grainier. You see outer edges of oranges, and in the middle is a deep shade of blue that's almost purple, and almost blue, but not quite either.

"A f-form of PERSEVERANCE," Alphys observes, "interesting. Hm, well I don't think there's enough evidence to actually tell what happened. From me, an educated guess would be what most humans go through before their magic permanently manifests. Most that I've heard of kind of hallucinate? It's the human body's way of responding to the unknown force of magic, but it gets better overtime. You're close to manifesting, too, so maybe that's it? What do you think, Sans?" It makes you smile when you realize Alphys' stutter is completely gone when she nerds out. That's awesome.

"agreed, for now," he replies.

"Okay, cool," Burgerpants responds.

"Thank you, Alphys," you say. You've been excited about finding out your SOUL trait and all, but after everything that's happened, you're just...done. You don't want to sleep, but you feel like lying down. Maybe you'll watch some YouTube videos...

This isn't like you. You don't think you were hallucinating, and you know for a damned fact you don't get spooked very easily. Something is wrong here, you know it, but it looks like no one else can see it.

Those voices were scared, sad, and longing. Who were they? And, what about that monster you saw?

...you decide to go back to your apartment. You're not scared of...whatever it was that was there.

Then, something hits you: you remember from Supernatural that demons typically leave something behind, like sulfur. Your situation is a bit different, but you wonder if the monster thing left a mineral or element behind, too?

You'll have to check when you get back.

"Can I go home?" you mutter, suddenly wanting to be in your bed.

"Are you sure?" Burgerpants asks, raising an eyebrow at you.

"I want my room," you respond. And pizza. You'll be damned if that demon thing is taking over your apartment. "And, besides, you guys can come in. I don't exactly want to be alone, though, either."

"You sure, punk?" Undyne asks. You remember that she's here, too; she's been oddly quiet throughout this whole incident.

"Yeah," you reply, standing up. You feel a bit shaky, but you feel a whole lot better than you did a few minutes ago.

"Just...uh, give me a minute to clean up, though, would you?" you ask. You're pretty sure you left some of your laundry on the couch, plus, you don't want the monsters to see the remains, if there are any.

The monsters nod, then you hug Quinn and Burgerpants, surprising the latter of the two.

"Thank you," you say.

"You're welcome," Quinn responds, returning the hug as best he can.

"Don't scream like that again," Burgerpants orders, "I thought you were being murdered or something."

You chuckle darkly. "Well, in that case, I wouldn't be the one screaming."

Your apartment looks the same. You thought it might be completely trashed, but nope. You turn to look at your hastily-made circle of salt; it looks like it hasn't been touched, but there's another substance in front of it: a black, fine powder. Right where the
monster/demon/creature thing was standing. Looks like your suspicion was correct.

Damn, you're awesome.

You put some of the black powder between you fingers; it's very fine. It doesn't smell like rotten eggs, so it can't be sulfur. It...doesn't even feel like powder? Maybe it's a monster thing?

….Or monster dust?

Either way, you have an overwhelming urge to keep it and put it somewhere safe. Once again, this feels...foreign to you, making you shiver again. Stepping over the salt ring, you grab a mason jar from the cabinet, doing your best to pick out the bits of powdered stuff from off the floor and transferring it into the jar. There's around a quarter of a mason jar's worth. You set it away in one of the cabinets, pushing it back. Next, you move your laundry and vacuum up the salt, or at least most of it. After that, your home feels a little less...demony.

Yeah, that's better.

Finally, you let the monsters come in, with the exception of Quinn and Burgerpants, who elect to stay at Burgerpants' apartment.

"W-wow, I love your collection of posters!" Alphys compliments, looking around.

Undyne looks impressed, too. "It's like you get lost in a sea of posters."

"Heh, thanks," you say, feeling proud again.

"'s cool," Sans points at the Skyrim poster.

"Thanks," you respond, deciding to order pizza. You grab your laptop and go onto your preferred pizza place website.

"What kind of pizza do you guys like?" you ask, looking at the group wandering around your apartment.

"Supreme!" Undyne yells. At least she seems like she's back to normal.

"Pepperoni," Alphys replies.

"cheese,"

"I'm fine with supreme," Toriel says, placing a paw on your shoulder. "Are you sure you will able to handle such heavy food?"

"Pizza makes me feel better in times of distress. So do cheesy horror movies," you admit, grinning tiredly up at her, "you guys down with that?"

They nod.

"Awesome," you respond, placing the order along with your preferred choice.

After you give the monsters a tour of your place, you start feeling relaxed again. Whatever was here is gone now, you know that.

"Your home is interesting," Toriel comments afterwards.

"Thank you," you say, leading the group into the living room.

"I love your walls!" Undyne agrees.

"that a nintendo cube?" Sans asks, bending down to examine the consoles and games you own.

"Yup," you respond, "it's got a lot of older games on it. My aunt gave it to me a while ago," you answer.

"'s awesome," he says. "fallout series...haven't played those yet,"

You forget your previous dilemma and focus on the new one.

"You haven't?!"

"nope."

"Fine. You're going to come over to play them sometime, though," you respond. That's absolutely unacceptable. You shake your head disapprovingly.

"bethesda made this series, too?" Sans asks, examining the case.

"Hell yeah!" you respond. "And it's freaking legendary!"

"What's freaking legendary?" Undyne asks.

"The Fallout games!" you yell.

Everyone hangs around for a few more minutes, chatting and asking you questions about your humble abode until pizza finally arrives. You set the pizza on the table, open all the boxes, then set out some paper plates.

After everyone has served themselves, you pick out a cheesy horror movie, despite the earlier incident. Toriel eventually announces that she has to leave around a quarter of the way into the movie, but Undyne and Alphys stay throughout the whole movie.

You still don't want to be alone, though, and it looks like Sans can see it.

"what's up, squints? other than the ceiling. and the sky,"

"Uh...do you like horror games?" you ask Sans.

"yeah," he responds, narrowing his eyes, "why?"

You grin. "Have you played Home Sweet Home?"

"never heard of it," he responds.

You sigh. "It's an Asian horror game based off of Thai myths, and it's freaky as hell," you respond, "if you don't have anywhere to be, we could watch the playthrough. Oh, that's...that's weird, isn't it? Sorry, I just don't want to be alone after all that and horror games usually help me and I know how ironic that is, but it's true for me-"

"under one condition," he interrupts, smiling a little.

"What?” you respond.

“it has to be the kubz scouts playthrough,” he replies.

Your grin turns evil. “Did we just become best friends?”

“holy shit, that was a step brothers reference!” he says, his grin getting even wider. “hell fucking yes!”

“Hey, I'm Jay from the Kubz Scouts! Welcome back to another episode of Home Sweet Home. The first episode had a shitload of scares, the second episode had even more scares, the third episode, I bet you my asshole that it's going to have more scares. So, no more talking, we're just gonna jump right into it and if you guys are cool with that, you're down with that, everyone sit down, buckle the FUCK up, ‘cause here we go!”

You and Sans are huddled around your laptop, the both of you covered in blankets and staring intently at the screen.

“this storyline isn't makin’ much sense yet,” Sans comments.

“It probably won’t until the next part comes out,” you agree.

“that box cutter noise is freaky!” Sans admits as the character on screen hides in a locker to avoid the killer lady who throws up blood and nails and will stab you repeatedly with a box cutter until you're dead.

“Yeah, just you wait,” you smirk.

You two are silent for a while until the YouTuber approaches a bathroom.

“We gucci,” Jay says, “we gucci!” He proceeds to open a bathroom stall, where a ghost demon is apparently taking a shit. You bust out laughing at the situation, the scream of the YouTuber and the sudden jerk of the skeleton beside you.

“…that was cheap,” Sans responds, laughing.

“I know,” you chuckle.

As the playthrough goes on, you become even more submersed in the enigmatic storyline. Nothing is really falling into place except for the occasional newspaper clipping or letter. Eventually, the events from earlier are slowly fading, and you feel safer and safer with each
passing minute. Whatever was here is gone, you know that for a fact. Nothing like a good horror game to suck your worries out of you.

You two make it through the entire playthrough, but it's around eleven o’ clock. Alphys and Undyne have fallen asleep on the couch, wrapped in each other's embrace. You snort at the two before taking a picture.

Sans is already asleep on the floor, which you find hilarious for some reason. Eh, you trust him not to steal any of your stuff, so you don't bother waking him. How is sleeping on the floor comfortable, though?

You end up picking up the passed out skeleton to the couch; he's not very heavy, especially since he's so short and you've been working on swimming your butterfly faster lately. Setting him on the couch, you grab a few blankets and drape them over him and the two other monsters who are cuddling together.

You retreat to your own room, shutting your laptop and crawling under the covers, falling asleep fairly quickly.

Everything is a little fuzzy at first, but clears up after a few seconds. You're curled up, tangled up in your favorite blankets, your body heat warming you and the blankets.

"Mmm..." you hum, glad today is Sunday and you don't have anything to do today. Awesome. You cuddle your blankets for another ten minutes or so, when the events from yesterday crash down.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

You don't want to exist.

A frustrated groan escapes you. What the hell is wrong with you? A part of you says it's your magic's manifestation. Another part of you says it's just the after effects of the incident yesterday.

What is your magic?

You're so curious, confused, scared...all of these emotions.

Rubbing at your eyes, you decide to mull it over a cup of coffee and some breakfast. Besides, you have guests!

Swinging yourself out of bed reluctantly, your feet hit the floor.

You realize you're still in your camisole from yesterday (the monsters saw you in your tank top?!), and for a moment, you're mildly panicked.

Then you remember that they've also seen you in a bathing suit, so this shouldn't be a big deal.

...Right?

You shrug it off, then throw a hoodie over your head, eager to grab some coffee. When you make your way out to the living room, you see that the three monsters are still dozing peacefully on the couch, all wearing contented expressions. You smirk.

Dorks.

You decide to make biscuits and bacon for breakfast; after all, it's been a while since you've had company. Plus, you've haven't cooked a meal for anyone else in...forever.

You get to work, following your family's recipe for homemade biscuits, kneading the dough, cutting the biscuits into circles, flattening the dough...you place all of the biscuits inside the preheated oven, nearly burning the top of your hand in the process.

After a while, everything is finished. You lay everything out, and make more coffee.

"Mmph..." you hear from the living room. You smile, then turn into the living room, where Undyne and Alphys are sitting up groggily.

You grin. "Good morning. You guys hungry?"

It takes a lot of effort on the three of you all's part, but you manage to wake Sans up eventually.

"nuuuumjfk..." he mumbles, turning onto his other side.

"Yes!" Undyne replies, slapping his on his skull, hard.

"ow," he replies, eye sockets open.

"Get up! (Y/N) made breakfast for us! And you've got to work today!" Undyne yells, Alphys holding one of your mugs, which has a picture of a shark on it.

Sans drags himself off of the couch around ten minutes later. You hand him a mug of coffee, and he wearily thanks you. You take your own cup and sit down at the table. The other three follow your lead.

"We didn't mean to crash at your place, punk," Undyne comments, "sorry about that."

"It's cool. I didn't want to be alone after that whole ordeal anyway," you reply, sipping your coffee. Sans squints, trying to read the purposefully small text on your mug. You grin, setting it down.

It reads:

Nosy little fucker, aren't you?

He laughs, looking at his own, which reads: Punch today in the dick.

"Nice mugs," Undyne comments, chuckling.

"Thanks," you reply, snickering.

"Th-these biscuits are the best I-I've ever had," Alphys says.

"Yeah, you'd give Toriel a run for her money!" Undyne responds.

You shrug. "I don't think they're that good, but thanks anyway. It's a family recipe."

"cool," Sans mutters. He's still not fully coherent yet.

Undyne taps her fingers on the table.

"What's wrong?" you ask, noticing her sudden shift in behavior.

"...Do you want to talk about yesterday?" she asks, her gaze shifting to you.

You shiver, not wanting to recall what's been going through your head for the past few hours. When you don't answer, Undyne speaks up again:

"I feel like you're not telling us the whole story," she says, "and...you're my friend. I want to help you. You don't deserve to be sad or scared. You can tell us, we won't judge you for it."

Just like that, you feel the same tension you felt back at Undyne's house when Frisk was there; you're greatly unsettled again. Sans clutches his mug tighter, pinpoints faint.

"You're a g-good p-person," Alphys adds.

"somethin' is off," Sans adds.

...Should you tell them?

You feel tears well up in your eyes.

Can't you just forget about all this and move on with your life?

"It's awful," you say, voice cracking and coffee temporarily forgotten.

"What is it?" Undyne presses, leaning towards you. You have all three monsters' attention now.

It's much too quiet for your taste.

"I..."

They're quiet.

Still quiet.

"I've been...feeling weird," you say tentatively, resting your head in your chin, "like...I keep thinking that I...I don’t..." you trail off, regretting giving in.

"You don’t...?"

"I don’t...I don't want to," ugh, just spit it out!

"...I don't want to exist," you say, not sure they heard you. Before they can respond, though, you pipe up again, this time, your voice louder.

Angrier.

"And it doesn't feel like I'm the one feeling that, either! Some of my emotions don't feel like mine, y'know? And it's seriously starting to piss me off. Like, why I am feeling this? Is it part of the whole hallucination that didn't feel like a hallucination thing? Or the manifestation?

Because I don't like this. Not one bit. I'm starting to creep myself the hell out, because I like my dumb life! I like anime and I love my friends and family and I want to exist, but at the same time I don’t, and it's confusing as fuck and I want this over! I have a life to live, but I don't feel like myself. Not with this bullshit happening," you finish, covering your eyes.

Alphys and Sans are quiet, but Undyne, on the other hand, is not.

"(Y/N)," she starts, her voice serious, "I think we might have an idea of what your magic is now."

Chapter Text

Chapter XVI – Spear of Justice! 

"Really?" you question, dropping the piece of bacon you were about to bite into. The sound of the bacon hitting your plate is suddenly the only noise in the room. 

Undyne nods. "I feel like yours has something to do with emotion, especially since you keep experiencing feelings that aren't yours." 

"If that's true, then this means that your magic will fall under the patho- kinesis category, I'm sure," Alphys adds. 

"we can take you to the lab to try an' get it figured out, if ya want," Sans offers. 

Your magic?  

This seems like a significant decision...it was so close to manifesting when you first saw it nearly bordering your SOUL. Somewhere underneath your skin, you can feel the audacity pumping strong. 

You really want to. 

"M-maybe she should finish up breakfast first?" Alphys suggests. 

"Yeah, there's no rush," Undyne replies. 

"Are you guys sure?" you ask. 

"yup," Sans states. 

Why are you so nervous?! This is the moment you've been waiting for! Ever since you were little, you've been dreaming for this. Your magic, (Y/N)! It's here! You're going to find out! 

It seems to take an eternity, but you eventually finish the food on your plate. Forcing your legs not to shake, you stand and put your dishes in the sink. The other three stand as well. 

"a'ight, squints. are you sure you wanna go through with this?" 

"Yes," you respond, voice soft and fists clenched so you won't fidget. 

"'kay. don't let go of me. inhale, don't exhale 'till I tell you to," Sans replies, stepping behind you and hugging you from behind. 

"Okay," you respond before sucking in a breath like you're about to go into streamline for butterfly. 

The world falls apart in shards again; everything is smashed into jagged pieces that float up into nothingness. You're on the grey floor again, and the black wormhole is a few feet away. 

You feel Sans' hand guide you towards the wormhole, but for some reason, you can't bring yourself to follow him. 

------E_RR_OR____E_R_RoR------ 

------E_RR_OR____E_R_RoR------ 

------E_RR_OR____E_R_RoR------ 

You fall to your knees, hand hovering over your sternum. No, you can't leave, not like this with these voices begging you to help them! You feel like crying, but you can't, and everything is fading away and you're not sure where the hell Sans went or if either of you made it to the wormhole or if one of you is stuck here forever... 

...you can't hold your breath anymore. 

You attempt to exhale, but it's no use; there's no kind of atmosphere down here. You need to stop; panicking won't do you any good, now will it?  

Again, even though you know it's no use, you inhale. Ha, this is like swimming butterfly...it reminds you of that one time you were swimming during practice and someone kicked water into your mouth and you started choking on it... 

Heh. 

Good times. 

Black splotches begin to dot your vision. Oh right, there's no air here. Patches of blue and yellow begin taking over the darkness, and you...feel like...you're floating. Maybe you are? Hell, you don't know. You're probably dying. 

… 

There it is again. 

You don't want to exist.  

The blue and yellow light starts to mix, and grows brighter. You're in no shape to fight it, that's for sure. So, you let it take you to wherever it's going. 

… 

A voice. This one is different than the ones that have been driving you to the brink of insanity these past few hours. Everything is numb, but gradually, feeling starts to return to your arms...then your legs...neck...shoulders...chest...feet...fingers. 

Slowly, your eyelids flutter open. You blink a few times, trying to focus in on what the hell's going on. Your neck is sore, but you manage to lift yourself up, using your elbows for support. Once you're halfway up, you use your left hand to rub the back of your neck. 

"shit, kid. you okay?" Sans asks. 

"I'm a little sore, but okay. But...what the fuck just happened?"  

"'s gotta be your magic," he mumbles, "so no more shortcuts until we find out what's up with you," he sighs, rubbing his fore-skull, "you kinda...spaced out in the void? 's never a good thing there. you looked kinda scared, 'n i wasn't sure so i tried to grab you, but you were too far gone. picked you up with my magic, came back here. you were out for around five minutes or so," he answers. 

"Damn," you say. 

"yeah. 'mkay, hold on while I try to call undyne and alphs," he takes out his cell phone, punches in a number, then holds it up to the side of his skull, where there is no hole or ear. 

Monsters are so weird. 

Sitting up so you face the side of the bed, you plop your legs over the side and start to swing them back and forth while you take in the room. It's some kind of office. You're sitting on a tall, faded yellow sofa. It's got to be around two or three feet off the ground, you think. Maybe there was a tall monster who worked here? There is an abandoned desk next to a door, which is made of metal and is tied up with red string. The desk is completely empty, save for a terminal.  

"hello? hey...uh...void incident. not sure if it's stable or not, but 'm not takin' any risks...just come over...won't take long...a'ight. bye," he hangs up, then looks up at you. 

"Why is this couch so high?" you ask, still swinging your legs. 

"some monsters are tall as hell. hence the ceiling," Sans replies, looking up. 

"Damn, that's high," you mutter, following his gaze. The ceiling extends pretty far up. You could probably put five or six Asgores on top of each other and still have room to spare. 

That's pretty damn tall. 

"um...are you ready?" he asks, gaze returning to you. 

"Oh, yeah, sorry," you mumble, jumping down. If you had landed to wrong way, you'd probably had twisted an ankle. 

"a'ight. c'mon," he says, heading to the threaded door. You watch carefully as he touches one of the threads. At the very tips of his phalanges emit a blue, smoke-like substance that cause the red string to glow vividly and disintegrate. 

"Woah," you breathe. 

He chuckles before shuffling over to the terminal.  

"That terminal reminds me of the one in Fallout 4," you comment as you watch him type a mass of foreign symbols. 

"really?" he asks as a box with strange symbols appear on the screen. A click echoes from within the door, and the older skeleton stands up straight and turns towards the door. "i really need to consider that franchise," he remarks, opening the metal door. 

"That you do," you reaffirm, following him inside. It's dark for a minute, but then he hits a switch on the wall, which illuminates the hallway. The walls are covered in white wallpaper, and a few pictures frames or paintings have been placed in what you think is a failed attempt to make this place less...sinister. The two of you are silent, your footsteps the only noise in the eerie silence. This place would make a perfect location for a horror movie, you decide. 

"undyne an' alphys'll be here soon," he says, somehow managing to navigate through the twisting and winding hallways, "for now, 'm just going to check a few things 'fore we get started." 

"Okay," you reply. He leads you to a larger room. "Hey, are we in the Underground?" 

"yeah. hotland, at alphys' lab. used to be pretty dark an' gloomy, since she didn't use it a whole lot, but now that monsters are on the surface, she needed a place to settle down temporarily, so she reopened shop here, made it a bit...cheerier." You two stop in the center of the room. In the middle and towards the back is a large machine that is shaped like a skull, its eyes hollowed out and pitch black. Suspended about four or so feet in the air, attached to the ceiling by thick, dark cords that snake into the ceiling and disappear. Underneath the machine is a carpeted, black platform that rises up about two feet. Against the opposite side is a large desk that's been snugly pushed up against the wall and another table that's covered in papers, anime figures, and food wrappers. The computer is illuminated with the same symbols on the terminal.  

"i know it looks menacing, but it won't hurt you. Uh..." he shuffles around in the drawers of the desk, then takes something out. It's a lump of cloth, but when he unfolds it, it turns out to be an article of clothing similar to a hospital gown. The area around the chest seems to have been re-enforced with some kind of black material. Sans must see your skeptical glance, because he immediately clarifies: 

"gonna need you to change into this. the black portion is made with a certain magic that will protect your physical body from the overload of magic," he explains, "there's a bathroom down the hall an' to the right. you can leave your clothes on the shelf in there. 'm gonna get the machine ready," 

"Okay...um, what does the machine do?" you ask. 

"'s gonna scan your soul, see exactly how close to manifestation you are. from there, we'll be able to tell your secondary trait, and use different methods to spike your magic," he answers. 

"Oh, um, okay," you reply, taking the gown and turning to the hallway he pointed at.  

The fabric is freezing to the touch, and it's a little dusty. You shiver; this is it. You're going to find out what exactly you're capable of.  

How much the Barrier the original wizards has been holding back from what is rightfully yours. 

You walk into the bathroom, groping the wall to find a light switch. Pushing it up, the lights hesitantly flicker on. There are two stalls with loose doors. You're standing on a blue and white-tiled floor that has faded over time. The mirrors on the opposite walls are cracked slightly, the sinks are a little dirty, but it'll work. You strip, debating on whether to leave your bra and panties on. You decide to keep them on for now. 

You walk up to the mirror, holding the gown in front of your chest. You focus on your scar. How you've changed over these past few weeks. The tip of your left pointer fingers trails along the length of the scar. 

Whatever this is...you'll be ready. 

The hospital gown ends up being a little small, falling around halfway your thigh. You brush it off, set your clothes on the rack, then walk out, your feet bare. 

Sans is rustling around the desk and table, picking up certain papers and setting them in another stack. He doesn't notice you until you step beside him. 

"So, what do I do?" you ask. 

"Just hop up in there," he points to the little opening of the machine. 

"Okay," you reply, turning and walking over to the machine. The opening appears to be pitch black, and there are two metal handles on either side of the opening. You grasp each of them with both of your hands, then pull yourself up, accidentally hitting your head on the top.  

"Ow," you mutter, worming your way in there. As it turns out, there's a leather seat in the middle of the machine, its arms and legs attached with straps. 

You really don't like this. 

Crouching so you don't hit your head again, you climb onto the chair. It's dark as hell, but you manage to settle down relatively easy. Another knot is coiling in your stomach. You inhale deeply; it's okay. You're just going to find out what your magic is. That's all. 

That's all. 

If you squint, you can make out all the tiny lights and buttons on the top of the machine. Your right leg bounces repeatedly nervously as you examine as much of the machine as you can. 

You hear Sans' footsteps shuffling over as he hoists himself up into the machine too. 

"you okay?" he asks, coming to your side. 

"I think so," you comment. 

"alright. so, after you lay down, everything's going to light up, then there'll be a loud noise. it'll subside, then repeat about five more times. from there, your soul'll be pulled out. we won't hafta use the restrains unless you're really antsy," he says, "it won't hurt you, trust me on that." He walks to the other side of the small room, then looks up, pressing a few of the buttons. "you'll be okay. it'll only take a second." He turns back towards you, white pinpoints the only thing you can make out in the darkness. "'m gonna be right outside. say something if something starts to hurt, 'mkay?" 

"I will," you assure. He nods, turns around, then walks out. 

You shift a little before lying still again.  

Suddenly, all of the lights turn on. You close your eyes, desperate to get away from the light. You remind yourself that you need to stay still. Suddenly, the lights fade away, and there's a strange, mechanical sound. Everything goes dark. 

Lights up. 

Noise. 

Dark again. 

Lights up. 

Noise. 

Dark again. 

Lights up. 

Noise. 

Dark again. 

Lights up again. 

Noise. 

Dark again. 

You focus on that mantra as the process continues once more. Then, you're jerked upwards, nearly falling off the seat. 

Then, the room is no longer dark. It's filled with the fiery orange of your SOUL, hovering straight in front of you. Your magic is so very close to manifesting. So close! All you'll have to do is let the monsters do their thing. Then, you'll finally know. 

You focus on your bouncy SOUL. It keeps on bobbing up and down, up and down, and it seems to feel safe. You feel safe. You're okay. 

When the last flash of light fades away and the room is only illuminated by the brilliance of your own SOUL. It bobs warily in front of you, demanding attention. You sigh. 

You like your SOUL. It's very relaxing to look at. Your shoulders finally relax against the leather. 

"you good, squints?" Sans asks when he comes back in. 

"I think so," you respond, swinging your legs over the edge. Sans averts his gaze, pinpoints directed to the floor. 

"okay. let's see the results, shall we?” Sans asks, directing you towards the table. You nod and follow him over there. He bends over to type away on the computer. Soon, an image of your SOUL pops up. 

"yeah, audacity. hm...looks like rectitude, the trait between integrity an' perseverance, if memory serves right," he answers. 

"Rectitude? Cool," you respond, looking over the top of his skull. 

The sliding door opens suddenly, and two monsters hobble out.  

"Hey, nerds!" Undyne yells, coming over to you. 

"'ey. just finsihed up the scan," Sans says, still focused on the screen. 

"Wh-what happened with the Void?" Alphys asks. 

"Something really, really weird," you respond, "I felt kind of..." Hm, what's the word? "Glitchy." 

"Glitchy?" Undyne asks. 

"Yeah," you reply, a little confused by your answer yourself. 

"glitchy…” Sans repeats, still focused on the computer, “hm...secondary trait's rectitude," Sans informs Alphys, then turns back to you. "you can change back to your normal clothes if you want." Aw, his little blush is back. Why, though? 

"Okay," you respond, turning back to the direction of the bathroom. 

You suddenly start wondering how the hell you're going to get your magic summoned. Maybe it'll be like how the characters in anime do it? Or, will it be a completely different way? You sigh, taking off the hospital gown and pulling on your outfit. Guess you'll find out in a few minutes, huh? 

Walking out to the room, you keep quiet as the monsters talk among themselves. Instead of joining in, you opt to observe some of the papers scattered around on the desk. 

Most of them are very dusty, you observe as you pick one up. It looks like some scientific document. Parts of it are in English, and others are in those funky symbols you keep seeing everywhere. You trail your finger over the symbol. 

It’s so…familiar. 

 WELL, THAT'S A RELIEF.

What is with these voices?! You sigh, focusing back on the papers. It’s just your magic, since it’s really close to manifesting. Your body is going haywire at the thought of magic, and it’s just trying to adjust. 

The parts you can read talk about someone who disappeared one day. There doesn’t seem to be a name listed anywhere, but it looks like whomever this paper is about was important to monsterkind. You squint, then try to bring back every single conversation with every monster you’ve had; have they ever mentioned someone who went missing? 

There’s one memory that strikes you as odd, but you can’t quite grasp onto it. It slips through your fingers just like that. Huffing, you give up. Even though you know the monsters have a right to privacy, you fold the article up and stuff it discreetly in your pocket. You’re getting freaked out with this whole ordeal with the Void, and you’ll be damned if you aren’t getting your hands on some answers. Peeking at the monsters, you see that they are still wrapped up in their conversation. One more shouldn’t hurt. 

You spy another paper residing under a quantum physics book. Wiggling it out, you uncrumple it. 

It’s blank. 

Flipping it over, you find the same results. Hm…empty. Another one of those odd feelings clenches your gut; your instincts are screaming at you again. You sweep the room with your gaze once more, then stuff it in your pocket too. You’ll come back to this later. 

“look inside.” 

You squeak, jumping a little at the deep voice. Swiveling around, you come face-to-skull with Sans. 

“Fuck! Sans, jeez…please don’t sneak up on me like that! You almost gave me a frigging heart attack!” you plead, raising a hand to your forehead and releasing a sigh. 

“sorry…” he says, but you know he’s holding something back. Did he see you take the paper? Is he testing you? 

“What were you saying?” you start slowly. 

“the quantum physics book. open it.” 

You feel like he’s going to prank you or something with the way he’s looking at you. 

“Um, sure,” you say, turning back to the table as he comes around to your side. You pick the book up, then open it. 

Inside it is a joke book. You’re not even surprised. You open that book, and, whoop-dee-doo, there’s another quantum physics book…and inside that there’s another joke book…and inside that there’s another quantum physics book… 

“Hilarious,” you comment, setting it down. 

“i know,” he replies, not sharing your smile, “you were staring pretty intently at it.” 

You shrug. “I’m just nervous,” you admit. Okay, that’s not a lie! 

“don’t be,” he responds, “which reminds me…we got your scan results.” 

“Let’s see it,” you say, following him where Undyne and Alphys are waiting.  

“So, it looks like you could start learning how to control your magic if you think you’re up for it,” Alphys starts, “the manifestation is so close! I think if your magic was to be called on, then it would react. I say that you and Undyne start trying to work it out. Uh, Sans and I have to go into the lab today, but we’ll check in. Does that sound alright! Oh! I didn’t even ask you i-if you have p-p-plans today…” 

You chuckle. “That’s cool with me if Undyne’s down.” 

“Totally! Let’s get started right away!” Undyne yelps, grabbing you by the wrist and, quite literally, drags you away. 

“U-Undyne! Be careful!” Alphys yells. 

“Don’t worry, babe! I got this!” the eager fish monster yells in response. 

You choose to ignore the hard stare Sans is giving you. 

… 

“Alright, punk! Guess I’ll teach you about the basics, first!” Undyne says. The two of you are at an abandoned park. You discovered it one day when you were desperately trying to find the pool your swim team was visiting for a meet one year. The park was abandoned since nobody cared enough to mow the grass or replace the rusted metal. It was deserted.  

Undyne began to shoot her electric spears through the longer parts of the grass, effectively cutting it and making it a little field. Now the grass only reaches your ankles rather than your knees. 

“OKAY! So!” Undyne barks. “Stay there, nerd! I’m going to start an ENCOUNTER here in a second! Basically, an ENCOUNTER is how monsters battle! The world will turn black and white, and then you won’t be able to escape…unless you choose to,” she remarks. “BUT IF YOU DO, THEN I’LL JUST DRAG YOU BACK IN! Anyway. Sit tight for a second,” she instructs. Summoning a spear, she holds it out in front of her, her competitive smile returning. Suddenly, her uncovered eye turns black, her iris flaring a bright yellow. 

Then, you feel like you’re being sucked into something while being jerked forward at the same time. 

Undyne is still across from you, but she’s all black and white, too. You look down; hey, you’re black and white, too! You see your pretty SOUL hovering in front of you. 

 * Undyne attacks! 

You see a big, floating dialogue box in front of you. Wow, that’s pretty damn cool. Underneath the box are four littler ones: FIGHT, ACT, ITEM, MERCY. 

“Try ACTing first!” Undyne says, raising her spear.  

You hesitantly reach out for the ACT button. Its surface is vitreous and smooth. You press down on it. 

* Undyne 

You press that. 

* Check  * Plead 

* Challenge 

You decide to Check. 

* UNDYNE 7 ATK 0 DEF 

* The heroine that NEVER gives up! 

“En guarde!” she roars. “I’m going to send an attack towards you, just make sure you don’t get hurt…too badly,” she snickers. 

You roll your eyes, but smile anyway. Your SOUL keep hovering in the box. 

“Before I do, though, focus on moving your SOUL,” she instructs. 

You focus on the tiny heart in front of you. You can feel it somewhere inside you. Directing your thoughts towards that, you try to see if you can move it. 

It darts left. 

“Nice!” Undyne applauds. “Now, dodge THIS!” 

A few little bullets fly your SOUL’s way, but they’re going at a slow pace. You manage to dodge them easily. 

“There you go!” she says. 

Undyne suplexes a huge boulder, just because she can. 

* Undyne 

“Try attacking me! Show me what you’ve got, PUNK!” Undyne roars. You snort, then hit FIGHT. A big scale thing pops up, and there’s a long, narrow bar sliding across it. The scale is colored according to intensity, you assume. You try stopping it when it’s between the red and yellow bars. 

Something flies at Undyne and hits her. 

“Undyne!” you yell. “I’m sorry! I didn’t think anything would actually happen!” 

“Don’t worry about me! I’m fine, it didn’t hit me that hard,” she says. A green bar pops up above her head, but some of the green is replaced by grey. A number appears above the bar, outlined in red. It reads: 7. 

“Did I hurt you?” you ask. “Wait, was that even me?!” 

“You reduced my HP a little, but otherwise, I’m fine! Ha, I think we did it, punk!”  

“Wait, Undyne? What hit you?! UNDYNE!” you shriek as she attacks again, but this time around, your SOUL turns green, and she tosses you a spear before launching several more at you. You do you your best to deflect the spears, each time you succeed, a shrill ‘ping’ sounding. Despite your efforts, you get hit by a few. 

“I’m impressed, nerd,” Undyne admits, holding her fist in front of her while shaking her head. 

“What do I do?” you ask, gazing at the options. 

“Use an ITEM! If you have one, that it,” she responds. 

You press ITEM. 

*Blank Paper    *Note 

*Mysterious Article 

A note? From who? Or, did you just leave something in your pocket? Has anyone given you a note in the past few days? 

You don’t think so? 

“What’ve you got, punk?!” Undyne yells. 

“Uh, nothing useful. I did leave the apartment in a rush,” you remember, deciding to look into that later. 

“Try using one and see what happens!” she yells. 

You tap ‘Blank Paper’. 

*A piece of blank paper that SEEMS to serve no purpose. Except for writing. 

Seems…?  

“Okay, um…that didn’t do anything,” you say hesitantly, 

“’Kay. Then just skip your turn,” she says. 

“How do I do that?” you ask. 

“Say it.” 

“I skip my turn.” 

“Okay. Now, let’s see if we can stimulate your magic again!” Undyne yells, swiping her spear forward, but this time, they go faster. Willing the spear you have, you try to move it to deflect the spears. You do better this time, and only get hit once. 

 *Undyne flashes a menacing smile. 

“You’re probably wondering why I dragged you into this with little explanation,” Undyne starts, “when Gerson was training me, he told me that I’d learn better by just screwing around, seeing how the ENCOUNTER system works! Turns out, he was right. I figured I’d try the same method with you!”  

“Oh,” you say. 

“It looks like you’re getting the hang of it,” Undyne continues, “so let’s kick it up a notch!” 

“What does the green do?” you ask when Undyne flicks her spear and makes your SOUL return to its normal shade of orange. 

“The green means you’re in Shield Mode, and you can’t move! As long as you’re GREEN, you CAN’T ESCAPE!” she cackles. 

You smirk, deciding to mess with her a little bit. 

“Fine!” you retort, pressing MERCY. 

*Spare 

*Flee 

You decide on Flee. 

Your surroundings come back to you, everything now colored again. You feel the grass, realizing you didn’t even put shoes on. 

No matter. 

You run anyway. 

“HEY, PUNK! I WASN’T DONE YET!” 

You hear her heavy footsteps pounding onward, getting closer and closer until she grabs your arm, effectively yanking you back into the ENCOUNTER. 

“Oh, ho, ho! You shouldn’t have done that, punk!” Undyne yells. You can tell she’s trying to be serious, but the twitching of her lips proves otherwise. 

“Sorry,” you say. 

* Undyne attacks! 

For a while, you two fight back and forth. You mess with different options, gradually becoming familiar with the ENCOUNTER system. You start to loosen up, and it eventually, it becomes fun. You and Undyne both lose some more HP, but not enough to kill or (significantly) hurt either of you. 

After a few more hours, Undyne decides it’s time to go. She makes your SOUL go back to its orange color. 

* Undyne is sparing you.  

Her name is highlighted in yellow, which Undyne told you about earlier. You recall that it means the other person no longer wants to fight. You spare her, too, and the ENCOUNTER ends, your surroundings colored in again. 

“That was fun!” you comment. 

“Yeah, especially with the right person!” Undyne agrees. “Y’know, (Y/N)…ever since Alphys told me about the fight you had when you saved her, I’ve been curious to see how good you actually are.” 

“Guess I’ll have to prove it to you one day,” you smirk. 

“Then it’s settled,” she says, clapping you on the shoulder, “we’ll fight one day.” 

“Of course,” you reply, suddenly growing curious about how long you could hold off Undyne. 

Or, if you could at all. 

“I’m kind of hungry. Do you want to go grab some lunch at Muffet’s? I think her shop is closer than Grillby’s,” Undyne offers. 

“What about my magic?” you ask. 

“We got it to spark in the ENCOUNTER, didn’t we? You might need a little…refresher. We can try again after lunch! Besides, you can’t use magic on an empty stomach!” 

You sigh. 

“Plus, the magic in the food might help give your magic a push!” Undyne yells, turning away. 

“Alright, alright, I’m coming!” you reply, following her. 

You remember the note, then frown. You rummage around in your pockets, finding the blank paper and the article. You do, however, find a folded sheet of notepad paper in your left pocket, though, which you unfold and start to read as you walk. 

say: “ alphys is the worst monster in the world.” 

Below is a number. O-kay, then… 

…you might die… 

…but here goes nothing. 

“Alphys is the worst monster in the world?” you repeat. 

Undyne freezes. 

Aaaand you fucked up. Who the hell wrote this note? Judging from the font and grammar, it was…Sans? When did he give this to you, though? 

What?” she asks. 

“…Alphys is the worst monster in the world?” 

Undyne’s eyes narrow into slits. “What’d you say, punk?!” She raises her fist, stepping towards you. 

You step back, raising your hands, but before anything could slip out of your mouth, a large, orange-y circle with pretty designs in its center, vein-like lines snaking out to the edge of the circle. You gasp as something seems to pop inside you. 

And then… 

…it’s gone. 

Undyne snarls. “What the hell?!” 

“Wait!” you yell. “That’s it!” 

“What?” Undyne asks, now confused. 

You can feel it! Her confusion is not…yours, but you can feel it! It’s like pressing your face against glass that’s guarding a fire; you can feel the heat of its flames, but it’s not touching you directly. 

“I can feel it!” you gasp, bouncing wildly, “I can feel it! Ohhhhh my starrrrrs I can feel it, Undyne!” 

“What? What can you feel?!” Undyne asks. 

“Your confusion! I can feel your confusion!” you yelp. 

Undyne’s face twists into one of understanding. “Oh! Other people’s strong emotions are what triggers your magic to form! That makes sense…kind of!” 

You glance at the note, suddenly confused. 

“What’s that?” Undyne asks, leaning over your shoulder. 

“A note from someone,” you reply, frowning and letting her read it. 

“Sans,” she replies, her eye narrowing, “the font. He’s the only one I know who writes like that. He must’ve known what would trigger it,” 

“But how?” you ask. "And why didn't he just tell us instead?" 

She rolls her eyes and shakes her head, ponytail bouncing everywhere. "Who knows? He's a weird guy." 

Chapter Text

Chapter XVII - FOOB

"Wait, so, you can make magical, uh...shapes from other people's emotions? Is that what you can do?" Undyne clarifies, placing her hands on her hips.

"I think so!" you reply, bouncing up and down from excitement.

"Dude...that's awesome! Okay, okay, so..." she trails off, seemingly lost in thought for a second, then, "the first time, it was triggered at my anger, right?”

"Yeah," you reply, still bouncing.

"So, now we have to figure out the specific circumstances in which your magic is triggered. Things like: are there certain emotions that will trigger it? Do the emotions have to be directed to you in order for it to be stimulated?"

She nods, her webbed thumb rubbing the side of her spear thoughtfully. "Here's how we'll start. See if you can feel what I'm feeling, but remember to pay attention to how you feel what I'm feeling while you’re trying. You feel me?" she asks, smirking.

"I feel you," you reply, then step back.

Okay, so, what did you do last time? You said something that would anger Undyne. But, shouldn't there be a way for you to just reach out and feel what she's feeling, without doing something to agitate her? Hm...this will be tricky.

"Hey, nerd," Undyne says, "you know I can summon spears. I pull out magic from wherever the hell it comes from, then I reshape it into the only thing I can: spears. I feel like you'll be able to reshape yours to a wider selection.
So, try to picture pulling something from...wherever you think magic comes from. Space, time, the ocean...anywhere."

You go silent as you think of somewhere that magic would come from. For some reason, the Void comes to mind. You remember the wormhole you saw, then imagine reaching inside and pulling out...

...there's a shift in the air.

"Yeah, there you go, dork!" Undyne cheers as you open your eyes cautiously. In the air around you is a little wave of orange magic, sizzling with your energy. You stare at it in wonder. "Now, try to shape it into something! Try making something simple, like...a square!"

You imagine an orange square, a solid one.

"Are you imagining it?" Undyne asks after a few seconds.

"Yeah...um, did it work?" you ask tentatively.

"No, it's still lingering," Undyne states. "Hm...the first time you did it, you probably weren't thinking about it. It caught you by surprise and you just did it, so I doubt you remember how. Here, try this, punk..."

For the next half hour or so, Undyne gives you techniques to try out, but to no avail. You're able to summon the magic with no problem, but you can't quite shape it. You and Undyne tried several techniques, but nothing seemed to work. Eventually, Undyne picks up on your increasing frustration.

"Alright, punk, let's go grab some lunch. We aren't getting anywhere, so a break will do us well. Like I said earlier, a bit of Muffet's magical food might help kickstart your magic. C'mon."

With that, you follow Undyne to her truck, somehow able to match her quick stride with your long legs. Sauntering over to the passenger side, you stop when you hear a faint rustling noise in the long blades of grass beside the truck. Letting go of the passenger handle, you turn towards the source.

The rich, green blades start quivering again.

Then, a blue blur lands on your stomach, effectively tackling you onto the ground. A grunt escapes you as you land on your butt, hard.

"hOI!!!!!!" Comes an unfamiliar voice.

You glance down to see a cat-like monster hugging your stomach.

"Uh...hi," you reply.

"i'm tEMMIE!!" says the cat. She appears to have black hair, white skin, and is wearing a blue shirt, her mouth twisted into the sideways 3, like how a lot of people type :3 in text.

"Hi, Temmie," you reply, finding the little monster cute, and shifting her to your arms.

"It's a Temmie!" Undyne yells, jumping across the hood of her truck and plopping down beside you. "Hey, Temmie!"

"hOI!!!!!!" replies the little monster.

"What are you doing out here?" you ask, enjoying the feel of her soft fur on your skin.

"tEMMIE iS hUnGRy!" exclaims Temmie as she pats her tummy.

"Why don't you come to Muffet's with us?" Undyne offers. "We'll give you a lift!"

You glance up at Undyne. Heh, you can see why Asgore chose her to be head of the Royal Guard. She really does have a passion for helping people and monsters, which is one of the many traits you love about her. She really is the fish monster version of Erza Scarlet.

"FOOB!!!" Temmie yells. You snort, trying to refrain from laughing. The monsters, man...

"Well, let's get going, then!" Undyne says, turning to the driver's side. You hold Temmie in your arms all the way to Muffet's.

"OMG!! human TOO CUTE (dies)," Temmie states as she nuzzles her head against your arm, making you laugh. She's so soft!

In a few minutes, your trio is striding through Muffet's, with your newfound monster friend still cuddled in your arms.

"Ahuhuhuhuhuhu. Well, what do we have here?" Muffet asks when the three of you approach the counter.

After you and Undyne order, Temmie adds: "tEMMIE WaNT tEM fLAkEs!"

"Of course, darling," Muffet says, typing something into the register. You look around for Mr. Foodles, but are disappointed when you don't see him.

You manage to pay Muffet before Undyne can get out her wallet, thankfully. She scolds you, but you just shrug it off and go sit down.

"Thanks, nerd," Undyne mutters. It appears she's like you when it comes to buying things for others.

"yayA!!! thanks PURCHASE!" Tem adds, pawing the box of Tem Flakes on the counter. You look a little closer, examining the box. It's black with white text with a picture of another Tem on it.

"You're welcome," you respond, eyeing a group of spiders on the counter who are putting together you and Undyne's order.

Temmie starts munching on the shredded pieces of paper (?) in the box. You remain quiet as you wait for your food, wondering why you can’t shape your magic. It seems like an easy concept, you just need to find out what clicks for you.

“Nerd, don’t psyche yourself out. You’ll get it in time, alright? It took me forever to finally master mine. I don’t know how it is for humans, so it’ll be different for you for sure, but uh….I don’t know.”

You shake your head. “I understand. I guess we were lucky I even got it to form, right?”

She nods. “I think you should go home and rest. Take a nap, think on it some. Oh, you know…you should visit Gerson. He’ll definitely have some advice for you. Just take it easy today. Come to practice tomorrow if you feel like it. I admit, I, uh, probably shouldn’t’ve dragged you into training after what happened. I’m sorry for that,”

“It’s okay. I could use some downtime now, anyway,” you muse, sipping on the cup of coffee you ordered.

“It’s pretty tiring. Once you get the hang of it, we can start your endurance training. But for now, let’s just worry about today,” Undyne says.

After you three finish your food, another small team of spiders come by to clean up the mess. After the spiders tidy everything up, Temmie hops up on the table, then skips over to you. You grin tiredly at her, once again placing her in your arms.

"tEMMIE loIKs HUMAN!" the Tem states, curling up in your chest. You chuckle, thinking that you wouldn't mind curling up with Temmie every now and then. She's warm and sweet!

"Temmie, do you live with the other Tems?" Undyne asks, standing.

"nO..." Temmie replies, her face a little downcast now, "tEMMIE hAS no MuNS. OThEr TeMs goNE..."

"You lost your group? Hey, no worries! I'll track 'em down for ya!" Undyne declares, suspending her clenched fist in front of her with a toothy grin on her face.

"You can stay with me while she's looking!" you add, hugging Temmie even tighter.

"yAYA!" Temmie exclaims, her face lighting up.

"Perfect!" Undyne roars. "Well, since that's covered, I guess I'll see you around, nerd! Oh, do you need a ride?"

"Nah, I'll walk from here. My place isn't that far anyway," you reply, standing with Temmie.

"Later," you respond. You can feel the magic of Muffet's food re-empowering your worn-out SOUL, but you're still exhausted. With a half-asleep Tem in your arms, you start your walk home.

….......

Temmie is snoozing softly by the time you make it back to your apartment, her furry cheek squished against your arm. Chuckling, you gently set her down on the couch, placing her on top of a pillow. She's so tiny! You're not sure how long she'll be here, so you make a little bed for her next to your nightstand. Wiping a little bit of sweat off of your forehead, you place a little pillow and a blanket on top of the palette. After that, you pad into the living room, where Temmie is. Picking her up and moving her to the makeshift bed, you gently set her on the pillow, covering her small body with the blanket.

After Temmie is settled, you hop in the shower quickly, change into your comfy clothes, then you splay yourself out on your bed, hastily covering yourself up with your blankets.

Closing your eyes, your thoughts drift to the events of today. A sudden question presents itself: if you can summon your magic by imagining yourself pulling it out somewhere, then can you summon it by simply picturing it in your mind? If so, could you reshape it like that? You imagine your pretty magic in the air, like it did at the park. You peek out of one eye, and there it is! Still hovering, unshaped. For some reason, you stand on your bed. You're tall enough to reach it, your hand brushing against your own magic.

And then?

You fall down to your knees.

What are...what is this?! What are you feeling? A moment of panic overwhelms you; you can feel it all. From sadness to fury, disgust to acceptance...it's all there. All at once.

And it's too much. Far, far too much.

Your fingers fumble around, trying to grasp onto something, anything. In your panicked haste, you find the nightstand at the expense of toppling over your bed and nearly knocking the lamp over.

You manage to find something slim and smooth. Yes, your phone! Its light, for some reason, snaps you out of your trance. Sighing, you make a mental note to never do that again.

Ever.

Shaking your head, you manage to calm your rising anxiety. Hm, the magic seems to have dissipated back to stars know where. You sigh, trying to get yourself under control.

You stop when you hear a soft sigh to your left. Turning your head, you see that you had woken Temmie up during your...crisis.

"HUMan r u OKs???" Temmie asks sleepily.

"Oh, uh, yea. I didn't mean to wake you," you reply.

"Is OKs!!!" She shivers as she says that.

"Are you cold?" you ask, managing to stand up.

"yaYA," Temmie replies, curling up into a ball. You pick her up, then bring her to your bed. The two of you curl up under the covers. Temmie pokes her head out from under.

"WARm!" she states approvingly.

"Good," you say. Your phone suddenly lights up with a new text. Glancing at it, you see that it's just Undyne asking if you and Temmie got home alright. You text her back, then remember the mysterious note Sans gave you.

You have questions.

Crawling over to the edge of the bed, you find your discarded pants that you'd worn earlier on. Digging out the few papers, you set the Blank Paper aside, along with the article, then uncrumpling the note.

There, written in Comic Sans, is a number, which you type into your phone.

You to XXX-XXX-XXXX: Hey jackass

Aw, you shouldn't be so rude. Meh.

XXX-XXX-XXXX to you: sup

You chuckle.

What's with the note
did it work tho
Yeah. But why didn't you just tell me in person?
wanted 2 c how ez u r 2 pickpocket. turns out it was pretty ez u just kept looking @ the book. u space out 2 much

Next, he sends you a picture of the Skyrim skill, which you laugh at.

P I C K P O C K E T 1 0 0
Whatever
how far did u & undyne get
I was able to summon my magic, but not reshape it. It was weird
that is weird. heard ur gonna c gerson l8r
I was thinking about it, but I'm kind of tired now.
oh ok.

You sigh, thinking that you'll visit Gerson later on in the week.

i'll leave u alone then. cya

Later.

Shutting your phone off, you place it on the nightstand, hooking it up to its charger, careful not to crush Temmie. You lie down, then Temmie eagarly scoots into your arms.

A few minutes later, you drift away in an eventful slumber...

--------

You're floating in a pit of neon blue, unable to feel anything. Should you be scared, or comforted?

"I don't believe we've had the pleasure of meeting properly, dear. I know we will meet soon enough, though. Keep on learning the secrets of your magic...although, I might be able to help you." the voice says. You sigh, then turn around, trying to find the source of the voice.

"Who are you?" you ask, groaning, "I need a name! I want to help you, I really do, but I have no idea what to do! Just give me a name!"

"Not yet. It is not time. You will find out soon enough. I will tell you this much: translate the article," the mysterious voice replies, "but, on another topic, if I recall correctly, you were having difficultly reshaping your magic, correct?"

"I...I am," you admit, still twirling like an idiot in the endless, vast space of neon blue.

"You've tried many different techniques, although I think this one will help you the most. When you imagine your magic shaping, try visualizing the shape, but think of yourself touching it. How does it feel? If you're creating a circle, how do you intend to use it? For battle? Helping someone? Let's say you're in a situation where you'll need to defend yourself. Imagine the circle with a serrated circumference. Imagine cutting yourself on it when you touch
it. Little things like that. Does that make sense, dear?"

"I think so," you respond as another sudden realization dawns on you, "are you, in any way, related to that vision I had?"

"I am. Your friends were wrong; that vision was not just a pre-manifestation phase. There are more hints in the Underground, dear. You just have to find them. I will not be able to show myself to you until..." he trails off, and it seems his attention has been diverted.

"Until what?!" you yell, nearly pulling your hair out.

"I have to go. Don't give up, (Y/N)," his voice echoes inside your head as the neon blue starts brightening around you. You cry out in frustration, then-

Your eyes open.

Pressing a hand to your forehead, you sit up, glancing around again. Damn, was that a dream? Quickly, you turn on your lap, reach over a snoring Temmie, then you pull out a composition notebook.

You always have weird-ass dreams that make interesting storylines, which is why you have this on you. Opening to the most recent entry, then flipping the page, you manage to find a pen. Your sleep-induced handwriting is sloppy and erratic, but you manage to jot down the conversation you had with the voice. When you finish, you scan it over.

So, this voice...he was related to that monster? Quickly, you draw a sketch of the monster you saw in your apartment. For some odd reason, sketching the monster seems much easier than describing him. You let your hand do its thing, wondering what you've gotten yourself into now.

When you're finished, you have a surprisingly decent picture of him. You lean back, rubbing your face.

You have a hunch that those two documents that you snatched from Alphys and Sans' lab have something to do with this whole situation, even if it doesn't seem like it. You close the notebook, set the pen on the nightstand, then you stand up. Grabbing the two documents, then switching the light off, you re-tuck Temmie back in, then go to the living room.

The light of your computer blinds you, but you unlock it anyways. The clock informs you that it's nearly three o' clock in the morning. Jeez, what time did you fall asleep yesterday? You don't think you ate dinner, which means you went to sleep pretty early. The magic must've took more out of you than you thought. Turning on the lamp beside your desk, you shuffle through the papers you brought, finding the Mysterious Article. You'll start with that.

You trace the strange symbols with your fingertips; they're familiar, somehow.

You doubt you'll find anything; after all, this is the human internet. You think you remember Asgore or Toriel saying something about working on integrating the human and monster internets, but it's not their top priority just yet.

After a few minutes of research, you give up. Glancing at the Mysterious Article, you look at the strange font.

An idea hits you.

If Sans and Papyrus speak and write in their respective fonts, then maybe it's possible some other monster can. You know for a fact Comic Sans MS and Papyrus are both in Microsoft Word, so maybe this font is, too?

You open up Microsoft Word, then you scroll through the dropdown menu of fonts, eventually finding three of interest: Wingdings, Wingdings 2, and Wingdings 3. You try the first one.

You might be able to translate the text. You type the letters of the alphabet in the first line, then copy and paste that to the second line. Then, you highlight the copied version of the text, then you change the font to Wingdings.

Glancing down at the document, you make sure the symbols match the one on the screen.

Bingo.

From there on, you go on a translation spree. It takes you a while, but it's fairly easy. Whoever wrote this must've forgot to disable Caps Lock, though.

Your final product is:

I HAVE OPENED THE CORE TO ONLY THOSE WHO CAN READ OR TRANSLATE THIS PASSAGE. THERE IS A REASON FOR THIS. PLEASE ATTEND ON X/XX/XXXX AT 4:00 IN THE MORNING SHARP. THANK YOU, AND KEEP THIS MATTER TO YOURSELVES.

OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES.

SINCERELY,

You're having trouble translating the name. You don't know what it is, but it's getting to you! You're getting that same glitchy feeling you got when you nearly got stuck in the Void. Frowning, you put your damn pen on your paper. Every time your focus tries to shift, you jerk it back to your paper.

A thumbs down.

A sun.

A mailbox.

A hand pointing up.

A hand throwing a peace sign.

A drop of liquid.

A snowflake.

A hand pointing left.

Another sun.

That spells...

DR. GASTER

You feel the beginning of a migraine creeping in your forehead. There's something off here, you know it. You're going to get to the bottom of it.

Dr. Gaster.

Your head starts to hurt ever worse. So, he must have been the former Royal Scientist. Gaster is the voice.

But, where is he? What happened to him? You groan, setting the document down, rubbing your sore forehead. Ugh, what is going on here? What are the monsters hiding?

Then, you're reminded of the second element of your dream.

Is it true that the voice in your dream can help you get your magic under control? You guess there's only one way to find out.

So, with that, you close your eyes. The air shifts, alerting you that your magic is now suspended in the air, waiting for your command.

You imagine a simple circle out in a field. You walk up to it, running your hands over its smooth perimeter. It is orange, like your magic, and vitreous.

Beautiful.

You open your eyes. And, sure enough, an orange circle is floating about three feet off of the ground.

"I...I did it!" you say, trying not to get your voice too loud.

So, this voice was right. Maybe he is trying to help you? You play around with forming new shapes. Soon, you're able to make all kinds of shapes. Triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, pentagons, stars, ovals, diamonds, parallelograms. After you get that part down, you try to summon multiple at once. You're able to get quite a few shapes before you lose count, and your vision starts to go red and black.

That's probably enough for tonight, you decide. Undyne ordered you to practice shapes before any kind of weapon or object, just so she could see how your magic interacts with its surroundings before you two tried anything dangerous.

Making the shapes disappear, you sit down for a second, now tired.

While resting for a few seconds, you remember all the stupid questions. You decide that you're too tired to investigate further, so you leave it alone for now. Standing up, you swallow two Ibuprofen pills (thank the stars for Ibuprofen) and go back to bed. Temmie is still snoozing carelessly. You smile softly, climbing back into bed and falling asleep instantly.

You awake to something vibrating.

Did you leave your phone on your bed or something?

Oh, no. You look right and see that Temmie is standing on her little feet next to you, vibrating intensely.

"hOI!!!!!" the monster greets. "gUD MORninG!"

"Morning, Temmie!" you say, sitting up, "how are you?"

"yaYA! tEMMIE is HaPPY!!!!"

Before you know it, you're seated at the table, munching on cereal. Temmie is on the table, too, nibbling of some of your "Homemade Tem Flakes". (Temmie explained to you that the secret to Tem Flakes was: "PApER & LOvE!", so all you did was tear up a sheet of paper with all the love you could muster, put it in a bowl, and then give it to her. Turns out, Temmie isn't very picky when it comes to wide-ruled, college-ruled, or printer paper.)

"Do you have anything you need to do today, Temmie?" you ask. It's stormy today, so, practice was cancelled. You hadn't realized it was raining until Temmie informed you that she was scared of the thunder. You're kind of relieved; especially since you're not sure you could face the amount of people at practice today after everything that's happened in the past few days. You're cool just chilling with Temmie today.

That's what you do for a few hours. Tem curls up in your lap, and the two of you watch moveis, play video games, watch anime, eat food, and take naps. You're instantly feeling better afterwards.

You're still not in the mood to visit Gerson. Or anyone.

But something's got you thinking.

You pull out your notebooks again while Temmie is taking another nap.

And you write. What you felt last night, when you touched your magic. The perfect combination of words flows from your mind to your hand as you mold the ink into your adaptation of handwriting.

You keep at it for a few minutes, your hand gently swooping across the paper. You write until Temmie slightly yells at the thunder clapping through the sky.

"Temmie, are you okay?!" you demand, lifting up the blanket you saw her disappear under.

"tEMMIE...iS...OKs," she states, quivering helplessly. Writing forgotten, you lift Temmie into your arms and hug her.

"It's alright. The thunder won't hurt you, okay? I'm here," you soothe. Temmie's quivering subsides gradually, and she relaxes.

A few minutes later, you phones starts ringing.

"Yello?" you ask, Temmie perched on your shoulder.

"H-h-h-hi, (Y/N). S-sorry I didn't check in y-yesterday. How was it?" Alphys asks.

"It's okay," you respond, "it went well. I had trouble reshaping my magic, not summoning it. But..." You really don't want to lie to Alphys, but at the same time, you don't want her to find out about Gaster. "I was playing around
with it last night, and I got it to reshape. So that was cool," you respond.

"G-good. Undyne, ah, ran into a problem today, so that's why she d-d-didn't call today," Alphys explains.

"Oh, it's okay," you say, "I was really tired today, so I guess it worked out."

"I-I guess so," Alphys replies, "how are you feeling?"

"Tired, mostly. That's about it," you reply as Temmie tilts her head for some reason.

"Alright. L-let me know if you feel s-s-ick or anything," Alphys comments.

"I will," you respond.

There's a moment of awkward silence.

"I-uh, I guess I'll see you soon!" Alphys squeaks.

"Okay, see you then!" you say. Alphys is quick to hang up.

Lifting Temmie off of your shoulder, you two retreat back to your couch.

"huMAN! WaS thAT?!" Temmie exclaims, sticking her paw at the notebook you were writing in.

"Oh, I was just writing something," you respond.

Something shifts in Temmie's face. She looks sadder now.

"tEMMIE WOuLD LIKes tO rEAd," she states, "BUt tEMMIE cAN't."

"You don't know how to read?" you ask, shocked.

"nO," she responds.

You honestly can't imagine going through life not knowing how to read and write. Did the Temmies not go to school...? No wonder why she got lost, you think, sympathy suddenly swelling through you.

"Oh, well, I'll teach you, then!" you state.

"yaYA!" Temmie yells.

You collect paper, pencils, and then sit down with Temmie at the table. You decide to start with the letters of the alphabet.

You draw an uppercase and lowercase A. "This is the letter A. It has two sounds..."

A while later, Temmie is able to recognize the letters of the alphabet. You two take a break when you get a text.

look what i got

You receive a picture of a certain skeletal hand holding Fallout 4 for PS4. Your heart pounds at the glorious sight.

But, ew.

PS4.

Oh yes
gonna play it after work. got it at 1 of those human stores for $30
Nice. You won't regret it.
looks pretty awesome tho. maybe i should just play it now
Didn't you say you're at work?
my break is coming up in a few

Then, another banner shows up at the top of the screen, letting you know that you got another text.

This one is from Papyrus.

HUMAN! SANS HAS TOLD ME HE HAS BOUGHT ANOTHER VIDEO GAME...
YOU SHAN'T ENCOURAGE HIM! HE PROCRASTINATES ENOUGH AS IT IS
I'll try, Papyrus.
THANK YOU! THAT'S ALL I ASK : D

Sans texts again.

papy is yellin at u 2 'not encourage me', isnt he
Yes. No matter what I say, you're still going to procrastinate, I'm sure. So I'll save us both some time. Don't procrastinate.
glad 2 c someone understands

You really want to start a group chat with these two. They're just hilarious.

OH! HUMAN!
UNDYNE TOLD ME DURING OUR COOKING LESSONS WITH THE HUMAN THAT YOU UNLOCKED YOUR MAGIC!
CONGRATULATIONS! WE WILL HAVE TO COOK SPAGHETTI TO CELEBRATE! NYEH!
Thank you Papyrus :D
WAIT
HUMAN
A GENIUS IDEA HAS OCCURRED TO ME (AS PER USUAL WITH THE GREAT PAPYRUS)
YOU SHOULD COME OVER TO DINNER SOMETIME WITH US!
OH! WE COULD INVITE FRISK, TOO!
Oh, that sounds fun!
YES! I WILL GET A DATE SOON, HUMAN! FEAR NOT, FOR I, THE GREAT PAPYRUS, WILL MAKE THIS THE FUNNEST NIGHT EVER
IN THE HISTORY OF FUN
I believe it
GOOD
NOW I MUST START PREPARING. IT WAS NICE TEXTING YOU! ; P
I'm always happy while texting the Great Papyrus.
NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH~
HEH

Giggling, you see what other texts Sans sent.

oh is my waifu bout 2 die
yep
bai bai
fucker's gonna get it, bald headed freak
waiiiiiit they took our son
now im freezin again
It only gets better from there. Keep playing lol. Keep me updated.
will do squints

You chuckle. This ought to be interesting.

Temmie flops onto her stomach. She's got to be tired after all she learned today. You're tired from everything, too.

You make Temmie and yourself a snack, then-

HUMAN! I HAVE ACQUIRED A DATE FOR OUR MOST FUNNEST DINNER EVER! ARE YOU FREE NEXT SATURDAY AT FIVE O' CLOCK?
I think so!
YES! FRISK IS ALSO ABLE TO ATTEND! PERFECT!
Should I bring anything?
I HAVE ALL THE COOKING HANDLED, ALTHOUGH...HUMAN! DO YOU KNOW ANY GOOD HUMAN MOVIES? I DO NOT, I FEAR. SANS LIKES COMEDY AND SCIENCY STUFF, I LIKE ACTION AND ADVENTURE, FRISK IS NOT PICKY, AND...I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU LIKE.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE?

You giggle as you text your preferred movie genre to Papyrus.

AH, YES! THAT IS FITTING FOR YOU!
NEITHER FRISK NOR I ARE ALLOWED TO WATCH HORROR MOVIES.
I WATCHED ONE WITH SANS ONCE AND HE SLEPT IN MY BED FOR WEEKS AFTERWARD.
BUT THE GREAT PAPYRUS HAS OVERCOME THAT!

You put your hand on your mouth, giggling. These two are so cute.

I knew you would
OF COURSE
SO
NO HORROR
JUST PICK SOMETHING GOOD THAT WE'LL ALL ENJOY!
Will do! Thanks for inviting me! : 3
NYEH! NO PROBLEM, MISSES (Y/N)!!!!!!!!
NOW
I HAVE A FEELING SANS IS PROCRASTINATING
I tried to stop him
I KNOW.
I'M GOING TO HAVE TO WHIP HIS TAILBONE INTO SHAPE ONE OF THESE DAYS.
BUT FOR NOW, I MUST CONTINUE PLANNING! GOODBYE, HUMAN!
Later, Papyrus!

You have a movie in mind.

"hUMAN! WhO waS tHAT?" Temmie asks.

"Papyrus," you respond, "do you know him?"

"HMMmm," Temmie thinks for a second, "yaYA!"

You chuckle, and then you continue to teach Temmie how to read.

Chapter Text

Chapter XVIII – (aggressive tooting)

A gentle, cool breeze lightly rustles your (h/c) hair as you thoughtfully walk down a dirt road, a to-go cup of Muffet's signature coffee in your hand. You're grateful for the silence; it gives you time to process the last few days.

After a few days’ worth of training with Undyne, she decided that you would benefit from speaking with Gerson now more than ever. You’re now able to reshape your magic without thinking about it. It’s kind of like muscle memory when you’re playing a new video game; for a while, you had to take it slow and figure out which button did what. Now, the button pattern has been burned into your muscle’s memory for all of eternity. That's how it is when you move your hand a certain way and think about magic. You don't even have to picture pulling it out now, so that's one step down. Undyne agreed to start teaching you the basics of using magic to fight next week.

It was strange, almost like your magic had specific patterns only visible to you. You
had been messing around with how different hand gestures affect the shapes you could create when the question dawned on you. The odd thing was, when you asked Undyne about it, she hadn’t been able to see the patterns. When you think about it, it reminds you of the threads used to sew together two separate masses of fabric. Undyne just couldn’t see the threads used with your magic. It’s an interesting concept, one of the many you’d decided that you would ask about today.

It’s been a drizzly week, too. The rain has stopped for now, but you decided that you’d wear a hoodie, just in case. Not to mention the threatening stratus cloud lingering in the sky.

The rain, however, wasn’t the only factor playing into your decision of wearing a hoodie; it also serves as a convenient little pouch for Temmie, who decided to tag along too. You didn't it'd be a good idea to leave her at home alone while it was so stormy out. She's curled up against your neck, and her warmth is comforting. The last few days of teaching her how to read have gone well; she can now recognize letters and piece together words. She's being oddly quiet now, and you're not exactly sure why. You have a hunch she'll talk to you about whatever's going on with her soon.

You come across a cute, wooden bridge crossing over a small stream that trickles to the left, where it curves out of sight. You pause for a second, enjoying the relaxing sound of rushing water. Looking slightly ahead, you can see a small shop.

This must be it.

It's like someone re-made a little 1940s colonial cottage house into a store. Above the door, there's a sign that reads: 'Gerson's Shop'. Behind the glass door is a sign that reads: 'Open! Come on in!' The style of the house does remind you of Gerson, in a way. It makes sense that he'd re-use an old house and turn it into a store rather than just building a new building. You smile, then open the door.
A small bell chimes above you as you gently close the glass door. Gerson’s shop hadn’t been too hard to find; the hardest part had been trying to decipher Undyne’s sporadic handwriting.

The first thing you notice about the shop is the trademark scent of old books. If you had to list one of your (many) quirks, it’d be your eccentric habit of sniffing books. You don’t know what it is about books and their smell, but you love it. Every time you smell this particular scent, you just want to yell ‘wisdom’ to the sky. It’s a very powerful scent, in your opinion.

Wisdom, after all, can be a very powerful thing.

The store is very cozy. The staircase is blocked off with a few loops of duct tape tied to the banister and the handrail, but to the right is a warm, cheery living room. In the center of it is a fireplace with a circle of comfy chairs surrounding it. There's a dark, grassy-green rug covering the majority of the floor. The room on your left is filled with bookshelves, so many bookshelves! They reach the ceiling, and they go on for as far as you can see in that room.

It's quiet in here, you notice. You'd think that Gerson would've picked a busier spot for more business opportunities, but then again, a lot of humans are not too keen on the idea of monsters in general. It's awful, the amount of shit Grillby and Muffet get just for doing something they love.

You can hear people murmuring somewhere in that maze of seemingly infinite bookshelves. Temmie shifts in your makeshift pouch, then you can hear her whisper:

"tURN RoIGht!" she instructs, her tiny paw appearing in your peripheral vision.

"Thanks," you mutter, the urge to whisper overwhelming you.

"nU pROBlem!" Temmie replies, plopping back down.

You enter the small reading room. There's a fish monster in the shape of an actual fish in the corner that you didn't notice before; she's facing the wall. From what you can see, her scales are a pretty, light turquoise, her baby-blue hair coming down to frame her face. She's sitting atop another monster, which you can't really compare to anything you've seen before...they're like some kind of worm, except it's about a foot thick and comes up to your waist.

The fish nervously peeks around at you but whips her head back. Oh, she must be shy...

You feel Temmie perk up, then look at the shy monster.

"hOI!!!!" Temmie says, climbing onto your shoulder.

The monster turns back around, looking a little uplifted.

"sING!!!!!" Temmie yelps eagerly.

The monster turns her attention back to you, then quickly shakes her head.

"You can probably sing better than I can," you admit.

She shakes her head again, but you can tell she does want to. You'll have to push her somehow.

"PlS!" Temmie asks.

She turns her head and doesn't look back. You and Temmie ask her a few more times, then leave her alone.

"I hope I can hear you sing one day," you admit before walking away. Temmie slumps in the hoodie pouch.

You turn back to the fire, where it's faintly crackling. Hm, a fire in the summer?

Hey, you aren't judging.

"hUMAN! CaN wE gET somE BOOks?!" Temmie asks excitedly.

Now, how could you say no to that? "Of course!"

You circle back around to the room with all the bookshelves. Turns out, this isn't the only room with books in it; what was once a guest room is now lined with shelves and display cases. Some of them have what seem like ancient, fragile artifacts. You gaze at each one, greeting the other monsters you meet. There are a few other humans here, most of which have curious expressions, but only a few greet you.

You decide you could browse for a few minutes. You grab a few books on magic, then you let Temmie pick one that will be challenging, but not too difficult for her. You heave the armful of books to the kitchen counter, where you spot Gerson shuffling around.

"Ah, well, if it isn't the young lady I met at the library!" he says once you set the books down.

"Hey, Gerson," you greet, "how've you been?"

"I've been doin' well these past few days. Business's been kinda slow, but tricklin' in steady. Eh, who am I to complain, though? Least I'm open. Wa ha ha!"

"You've got a nice little place here," you say, "I love it."

"That's nice of you, dear. Thank you. Now....ah, yes! You were the whippersnapper who wanted to learn more about magic, yes?"

You nod your whippersnapper-ly head.

"hUMAN! tEMMIE WoUlD loIK tO WaLk!” Temmie requests. You reach over your head, then set her down on the floor.

“tHANK yOUs!” she says, trotting away.

You chuckle, then glance back at Gerson.

“My shop used to be close to the Temmie Village,” he comments, seemingly lost in thought. “say. Where’s ‘er group?”

“She said she got lost. Undyne’s trying to hunt down the other Temmies, so for now, she’s with me,” you answer.

Gerson nods. “Alright. I had a feelin’ the Temmies would be fond’a humans,” he chuckles, then goes silent for a moment. “How far have you got with your magic?”

“I’m able to reshape it quickly,” you say. Undyne made you practice over and over and over again until you were able to react properly to her fast-as-hell reflexes.

“That’s excellent! Show me!” he asks.

You summon a serrated circle next to yourself.

“Wow,” he breathes, “patho-ergokinesis. Haven’t seen that one in centuries! Wa ha ha! It always was a beautiful kind of magic only the bravest, kindest of SOULs could wield. The magic itself speaks volumes about its wielder,” he states.

You frown.

“I’m sensin’ doubt, dear,” he guesses.

“Why brave?” you ask.

He nods, as if he suddenly came to understand something. “Patho-ergokinesis. The magic of manipulating the emotional spectrum. Also called empathetic emotional manipulation. Any type of mind or emotional manipulation is feared by most people, even if it isn’t very common. Wasn’t back in my day. Not rare, just uncommon. Why does a magic like this demand traits like BRAVERY, KINDNESS, and PERSEVERANCE?” He nods again. “A lot of wizards hated the idea of manipulating other’s emotion. They described it as inhumane, cruel. But you’re not like that.”

He taps his clawed, scaly fingers on the counter. “I’ve always believed that manipulating had more of a negative connotation to it. There were good-hearted wizards with your kind of magic back then, both monster and human. A lot of the crueler, evil wizards tried to manipulate people into feeling a certain way towards an object. It was faster, more efficient for them, but not for others. The good ones accepted how people felt and used it to fight, to protect others. Toying with other people’s emotions is just awful. People will hate you if you do that. Acceptance and understanding is hard for a lot of people. Some people are just born like you: empathetic, kind, just, and sweet. That’s something you don’t see a lot these days, an’ I have a feelin’ that’s part of why Undyne likes you. You’re like her, without sharing her SOUL trait-er, the one she’d have if she were human.”

You stand there, taking everything in.

“What does that have to do with your trait? I’m assuming you’re some form of BRAVERY.”

You nod, then he continues, “many mages weren’t brave enough to use other people’s emotions like that. In fact, patho-ergokinesis was so frowned upon in the old days that people started fearing wizards who attempted to wield it. It was not a power to be taken lightly, and still is not. Many wizards who were born with patho-ergokinesis even went as far as learning an elemental magic to use instead of their natural magic, which takes years of practice. It was not an easy time for them.”

“Wow,” you respond.

“Indeed. It takes practice and heart, but I have a feeling you will be able to pull this magic off. Y’know…” he trails off, murmuring to himself, “hm, I have a book for you. The question is, where did I put it? Why don’t you go hang out with everyone in the reading room, and I’ll see if I can find it. Then, we’ll get you and your friend settled.”

You nod. “Thank you, Gerson!”

“Anytime, dear,” he replies, waddling out of the room.

You creep towards the reading room, where an…interesting scene awaits you.

The monster who was previously turned to the corner is now standing near the fireplace, singing. Temmie is vibrating on the couch, and there are a few other monsters and humans scattered around. A man is standing near the doorway, and you think your magic is picking up on the tension emanating from him. And there, a few feet in front of you…

“heya, squints.”

You look down to see Sans seated on the same couch as Temmie, except he has a cashbox on his lap, a roll of toilet paper, and a black Sharpie next to him.

Like you said, you don’t judge.

“Uh…” you start, “hi.”

“wanna ticket to shyren’s show?” he gestures to the monster on the makeshift stage. “only one buck. all proceeds go to a good cause.”

“What kind of good cause?” you inquire, fighting a smile.

“the msa,” he answers.

“What’s the MSA?” you ask dumbly.

“shame you don’t know, kid. thought you were the one who made it,” he asks.

Oh! The Mettaton Scrapping Agency.

“that look tells me you remember,” he chuckles.

“Oh yeah!” you remember, “wait, who...?”

“bp did,” he states, “was a good idea. declared myself ‘n official member and fundraiser,”

You laugh, then shuffle around for a random dollar you’d left in your bag. You handed it to Sans, who popped it in the lockbox. He then tore off a piece of toilet paper and wrote on it with the Sharpie, then handed it to you.

You took it, reading what he wrote. In perfect Comic Sans, he wrote:

squints
$1 to see shyren & agent
thx for your support

You laugh. “Resourceful, aren’t you?”

“improvise. adapt. overcome.” He shrugs, his grin widening a little bit. You take a seat between him and Temmie, who crawls onto your lap.

“Si Fa Si Fa So Fa So Mi Re Re…” Shyren sings. Her voice is light and gentle, but it’s powerful all the same. She sings a sad song, then a happy one. You listen for a while with Temmie content on your lap and Sans occasionally attempting to sell a ticket to a few strangers beside you. Shyren seems to be a lot happier now, with a smile embedded on her face.

You feel her happiness lingering in the air. Little does everyone else know, it’s actually plaguing them, too. That man in the corner? He seems to be much more relaxed now.

About ten minutes pass before you decide to go check on Gerson. Setting Temmie aside, you get up as quietly as possible, before walking back into the other room.

Gerson is shuffling around, but he’s carrying a book.

“Ah, right on time!” he announces when he sees you, “here we are! This is a journal of a patho-ergokinetic that I found way back when. I’m trusting you to take good care of it, a’ight? ‘Mkay, let’s check out your stuff.” You follow Gerson to the counter, where the other books you pick out lie.

“I will! Thank you for taking the time to do this for me,” you reply.

Gerson checks you out, and when you’re finished, you bid him farewell. Temmie is waiting for you on the couch. You set the freakishly heavy stack of books down, then lift Temmie back into your hood pouch. You can only fit the journal in your bag, which means you’re stuck carrying the other four. Shit, you should’ve thought this through…

Sans is handing the cashbox to Shyren, who seems surprised. He looks kind of sheepish. Aw, that was sweet of him!

He turns to you when he’s done.

“uh, need a hand, squints?” he asks, actually pulling off one of his hands and waving it at you.

“JESUS!” you yell, earning a few stares, then bite your lip. “Oh, uh, sorry. Jeez, doesn’t that hurt?!”

“nah,” he replies, chuckling as he re-attaches it. You feel your cheeks burning a little as the other customers stare at you. He takes two books and you sigh in relief, grateful for the help.

“Thank you,” you say, shifting the books in your arms.

“i’d offer to ‘port ya, but ‘m not sure how you’d react to the void,” he says apologetically.

“It’s alright. I need to walk anyway,” you wave it off.

You two fall silent as you exit the store. You fell the cool breeze rustle your hair as the sky seems to have become even darker than before. Damn, why didn’t you bring your car?!
The two of you fall into an awkward silence. What happens if it starts to rain? You might be able to stuff your books under your shirt, if it starts raining before you can get home.

You’ll deal with that when it happens.

For now, though, you keep walking alongside the vaguely-distressed skeleton beside you, wondering what you should talk about.

Um.

Fortunately, Temmie’s got your back.

“sNAS!” yells Temmie.

His eye sockets widen for a second. “hey, tem.”

“hOI!” she shouts in response.

“paps told me you’re gonna come over for dinner one night,” Sans starts after he waves at Temmie.

“O-oh, yeah, he, um, sounded pretty excited when he was texting me about it. Wait! I hope that’s um…okay. With you,” you finish, mentally smacking yourself.

“’s fine,” he replies smoothly. You wish you could be blessed with his level of chill.

“That reminds me,” you continue, “you said you got Fallout 4 the other day. How far did you get?”

“’m about to kick his bald ass,” he answers, smirking.

“Good. Tell me when you finish the quest. I, uh, have some pretty great memes to show you,” you state.

“cool,” he replies as you glance over at him. His cheekbones are a teensy bit blue, and he’s staring at his slippers. You quickly look away before it gets weird.

“do you…have a steam account, by chance?” he asks.

“I do,” you reply.

He’s silent for a while more before he speaks up again. “what’s your username?”

You blink, then tell him your username. He takes his phone out, then taps the screen a few times.

“hm,” he frowns, “what’s the deal with doki doki literature club?”

You nearly drop your books.

“You haven’t played it yet?” you ask, stopping dead in your tracks.

“no.”

You sigh. “It’s…well. It takes a…uh…dark turn at one point. It’s a little slow at first, but it gets good. I thought it was a good game, even if the music drove me more insane than the actual game itself.”

“i’ll have to play it later,” he mumbles.

You chuckle. “You’re in for one hell of a ride.”

You two fall silent again, but it’s more of a companionable one this time. You remind yourself to remember where you’re headed.

You two have arrived at Muffet’s soon enough, but it’s already starting to sprinkle a little bit.

“Shit,” you groan. “I should’ve driven there in my car!” Normally, you wouldn’t mind getting stuck out in the rain, but you have books you wouldn’t be able to bear see ruined.

“hopefully it won’t last long,” Sans says.

You’re considering making a break for it, since your apartment isn’t that far away, but it starts raining even harder in a matter of seconds.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuck,” you groan.

There’s a dainty chime, which you two hear.

Muffet steps out of her bakery, scowling. “You two get in here and wait this storm out. I won’t have either of you get sick from this weather.”

Monsters get sick…?

The two of you obey the anthropomorphic spider, ducking inside.

“You can go on, if you want. I don’t live that far away from here.”

“’s no problem, squints,” he replies. It looks like you two got here just in time; the rain is really starting to come down now.

You groan. “Sorry I dragged you away from whatever you were going to do,” you mutter.

“like i said,” Sans says again, “’s no problem. don’t have anything else to do today.”

You’re still not entirely convinced, but you let it go for now.

“Can I get anything for either of you?” Muffet asks. You and Sans are the only people in here.

“ketchup.”

“I don’t think I have any on me. I apologize,” Muffet replies.

“shit. howzabout a ‘dog?”

“This is a bakery, Sans,” Muffet responds. You giggle.

“welp, in that case, i’ll just take a cup of coffee.” You tell Muffet what you want, along with a box of Tem Flakes, and thankfully, you manage to give her a twenty before Sans can reach into his pocket.

“squints…” he mutters.

“No! Just let me do this!” you groan.

“…fine,” he mumbles, stepping back dejectedly. “thanks.”

Muffet chuckles. “I’ll have your orders out in a minute. Go, have a seat.”

Honestly, all of your life, you’ve always hated small talk.

You like talking about dreams, fears, memories, music, love, insecurities, what keeps people up at night. For some reason, deep, thoughtful, and emotional conversations really appeal to you. You still feel like you don’t know Sans well enough to get him to open up that easily, though.

Thankfully, you’re an author, which means you do a lot of research on these types of situations. Hey, your characters are in these kinds of situations all the time.

Sans is a bit harder for you to read. You think it’s part of who he is; he must’ve gone through some tough times. You can’t quite grasp onto his emotions like most people.

It’s kind of frustrating.

“do you write anything other than articles?” he asks suddenly. You look up; he’s looking at you with slightly wide eye sockets, and Temmie is on the side of the table munching away on her Tem Flakes.

You’re somewhat surprised by the question. Not a lot of people have taken an interest in your writing in your lifetime.

The question is: what is his stance on fanfiction? You write it all the time! You’ve been writing it ever since fifth grade! Hell, you even got teased during school for it.

This is the perfect chance.

“I do. Fanfiction, um…I know that’s weird. But…I can’t write fiction. Like, original fiction. I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t. I love writing it, just bending a world that already exists to how I want it. There’s something amazing about that,” you sigh, smiling a little bit.

Sans is quiet, and from the look on his skull, he seems conflicted about something, then he says, “i don’t think it’s weird at all. wish i could write like some of these people.”

“You could,” you reply, “it just takes practice. I didn’t get good at it until something in my mind clicked one day-right after I published a one-shot online. Someone online gave me constructive criticism, and from then on, it’s like something snapped into place. I finally understood writing, how certain people like certain styles.”

“you publish your work online?” he asks.

You feel your face heating up. “Yeah...”

“what are the websites called?” he questions.

“There are a lot of them,” you say, “I think a lot of new writers start out with Wattpad. I feel like it’s a ladder: a lot of people start at Wattpad, then work their way up to sites like FanFiction or Quotev, which are sites that have pretty damn good stories. Archive of Our Own is, like, the god of fanfiction. There are many stories on there that are flawlessly written. You could take a good story on there, change a few names, and boom, you got an original novel. There’s this one story I’m following, and it’s got half a million words in it. It’s amazing what fans can create. Oh…and then there’s Tumblr, which I’m sure you’ve heard about. There are also smaller sites, like Fiction Pad, FicWad, MediaMiner…”

“that is pretty awesome,” he agrees, “so what sites do you use?”

You awkwardly list your favorite fanfiction websites.

“cool,” he said, “so that means you’re writing some top-notch shit.”

Your cheeks are on fire! “Uh…I wouldn’t say that!”

Suddenly, you get a wave of curiosity from him. Hm, that must’ve slipped out of his grasp.

He’s one of the few people who you can’t quite decipher.

“why?” he presses, raising a skullbrow.

“I…I’m…I don’t…” you’re at a loss for an answer here.

His light blush is back, but he pays no heed to your stutter-y attempt at denial.

“i…have a weird question,” he mumbles, averting his gaze.

“Shoot,” you respond.

“doesn’t have to be today,” he starts, “but one day…could you read some of your fanfiction to me?”

You freeze.

Never, in your entire life, has anyone ever asked you to read your stories to them. Never.

You didn’t think anyone cared enough to take the time to read what you’ve created. Not only that, but you haven’t felt comfortable enough around anyone to read your stories to them.

You guess it’s more than reading a story to people. Maybe it’s kind of…intimate for you?

But…you…kind of want to.

For the longest time, ever since middle school, you’ve dreamt of having someone who would listen, who wouldn’t mind having deep conversations with you at two in the morning, or someone who wouldn’t mind breaking the rules every once in a while. Someone who would do something completely unexpected for you. Who’d listen to you, put up with your shenanigans.

If there’s one thing you’ve always wanted…

“you good?” Sans asks, snapping you out of your daydream. He looks a little…worried.

“Oh, uh, yeah,” you say quickly, “but…to answer your question…yeah. I’d love to, one day,” you say, your voice quiet.

It might require you to build up a bit of courage, but you know you can do this.

Sans briefly looks surprised, eye sockets wide, and smile loose. It’s almost like he’s in disbelief.

But, why does he want you to read your stories to him?

“really?” he asks, the surprise evident on his face.

“…Yeah,” you say. “I think…I think it’d be nice.” You nod absentmindedly.

He sits there, permanent smile in a straight line, his cheeks even darker in color. He seems to be at a loss for words, which you think is unusual for someone like him.

Eventually, things get awkward again. You look around and find that the rain has finally let up.

How long did that take…?

“Oh, uh…looks like the rain has let up,” you say suddenly, nearly knocking over the damn table as you get up. Once you regain your balance, you gently pick up Temmie, who fell asleep a while ago. Placing her in your pouch, you grab your bag, then heave the books in your arms.

Sans stands up, too, following you out the door. You wave at Muffet, then you exit.

The sky is cloudy, but the rain has completely stopped. You chuckle a little bit, then you and Sans start towards your apartment. You’re getting close to your apartment.

Fat droplets of water fall from the tree limbs as you two walk farther in silence. You do your best to shield your precious books from the water, even going as far to hunch over them. It doesn’t always work, though.

When you two finally make it to your apartment, you unlock your door.

“So…this is it,” you start, “oh, uh, thank you for your help. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make it home,” you chuckle. “I can take it from here.”

“no problem,” he replies, “thanks for hanging out with this old bag o’ bones.”

You smile, taking the other books from him. You have to admit; his company is nice. No one really listens to you like he does, and you do love having someone to nerd out with.

“Uh, seriously though. Thanks, I appreciate the help, and,” You offer a small smile. “Today was fun.”

“you’re welcome. today was nice. i’ll see you later, kid,” he replies before teleporting away.

You stand in the doorway for a second before you step inside, closing the door with your foot. Setting the books down on your couch, you move Temmie to your arms and place her on the makeshift bed.

You set your bag down, then pull out the journal. You open it to the first page:

Journal

Desmund Ethel

Patho-ergokinetic

You trace your fingers over the ancient pages, astounded that it’s lasted all of these years. You turn to the next page.

Entry I

I am Desmund Ethel, a patho-ergokinetic. I’ve decided to start a journal for several reasons: first of all, I believe this will help future wielders of this type of magic. Times are tough now, and I want to help as much as I can. Secondly, I feel it will help me with…all of this.

Dear Reader, if you are reading this, then it most likely means you wield my magic. I am one of the first humans to have cast this power, but it is imperative that you attempt to understand how your magic works. It is impossible to fully
understand your magic, but you can get close. I want to help you, but you will have to let me. You will need to try to understand. This should not be a problem if you are born with this magic.

It will not be an easy ride, but we will master our magic. Past, present, and future mages, hear me out. I will inform you of what I am able to accomplish each and every day.

Bear with me, Reader. You, most likely, have not mastered this beautiful, dangerous magic.

People fear empathy because they cannot understand it. It is a difficult concept, but a necessary one for both humanity and monsterkind to thrive. You, dear Reader, are more than a mage; you are an Empath. I, myself, do not understand this yet. But I will. And I will teach you. Lesson by lesson, the Empaths will rise again. Read one entry per night, young one.

You frown. Empaths? This will definitely be interesting.

But, as of right now, you’re tired. You think you’ll shower, take a nap, and then you’ll fall asleep.

And, you’ll find out what tomorrow will bring when it gets here.

Chapter Text

Chapter XIX - Uninvited

You exhale as you stomp up the marble-encrusted stairs, your footsteps soundless against the white stone. As you reach the top, you meet a large, steel door with a small window. The small building you are standing in is shaking in the middle of the strong wind, its sound assaulting your ears like rough hail splattering against a glass window. Before you reach for the knob, you place your fingers on the edge of the little window, standing on your tiptoes to peer through it. You can't really see anything anymore due to the blood spatters on it.

That...wasn't there before. You brush your hands against the glass, the red staining your skin.

You bring your hands back down to the knob's level, twist it, then you push open the all-too-cold door with your bare hands. It gives without much effort, swinging outward with no sound whatsoever. Slowly, you bring your arms back down to your sides.
Immediately, you're hit with a burst of chilly wind throwing itself against you. You shiver somehow, bringing your hands up to your arms in a weak attempt to warm yourself up. The gusts are relentless, and they keep up their onslaught of freezing fury. Looking up, you see an unnaturally fiery sky of a pure mishmash of gorgeous yet horrifyingly gruesome colors. When you take a step, you find that your bare feet are shielding by neon-blue Echo Flowers crowding at your feet. Parts are stained in both Dust and blood, while others are completely spotless. In the middle of the field, however, you spy an outlier flower.

A Buttercup.

You bend down to its level, cupping your hands. Its stem and roots are nowhere to be found, petals on the verge of wilting.

"P...pl...ease...hel..p..."

You feel tears pool in your eyes. "I'm trying my best. Just hold on, I'll get to you soon," you reply, gently stroking its pale, yellow petals with your thumb.

"Th...ank...yo..u..."

You take the Buttercup with you, shielding it from the wind as best as you can. You look around for anything else of interest.
"it's the weirdest thing...you remind me of her."

You fight the wind in order to face the source of the voice. There's a tall, blurry figure, his stature rising over you by a foot or so. The colors of his outfit are blurred together: whites, greys, blacks. All swirling together into one giant mess.

Blinking, you try to see if you can focus in on him better. But, no matter what, you can't see him clearly. You take a hesitant step closer.

"G-Gaster...?" you ask, eyes widening when your voice resonates within this place.

He hums. "haven't heard that one in a while. kinda like hearin' it from you, though," the man chuckles. From the way his outfit's colors are blending, you can tell he's not facing you. "you don't belong here. isn't your time."

"I don’t...?" You're at a complete loss, trying to wipe some of your windblown hair out of your face.

"later, hun. now. do you trust me?"

The scene falls away like a cloth being ripped to shreds, revealing you standing on the very edge of the rooftop, still clutching the golden flower in your hands. The wind has stopped completely. It's an eccentric out-of-body experience, with your conscious hovering over the roof, your physical body on the edge of the roof. The enigmatic man is standing right behind your seemingly soulless body. You're one step away from tumbling to your death, falling into nothing.

The man steps up on the rooftop as well, gently grasping your hips and leaning towards your ear. From somewhere, you feel him brush a small strand of hair out of your eyes. "you're both so different, yet i see the...the mercy. the hope. a lot of things in both of your eyes. 's really pretty. wish i could keep you here, but 's not right."

What's not right?! You want to scream, but the man dissolves away, his Dust rising into the strange sky. Before you can question where he went, though, your vessel takes a step forward, plummeting down and down and down and down...

When your eyes open, it's daytime out. You're glad, because that means you didn't sleep through your alarm. You'd thought you could get a short nap in after swim practice this morning, but alas, your strange-ass dreams have gotten in the way. Oh well, you'll just be tired for the rest of the day. You sit up slowly, rubbing your eyes.

You sigh, placing your pen down on the nightstand beside you. You shove your notebook back where it belongs before you lie down again, welcoming the fluffiness of your pillow.

Weird, weird dreams.

You plop onto your back, squeezing your eyes closed. Temmie curls up beside you, ears twitching a little bit. You run a hand through her hair before you check the time on your phone. It's around one o' clock in the afternoon.

Careful not to wake Temmie, you walk to your small kitchen, where you shuffle through food that doesn't appeal to your appetite right now. With a frustrated groan, you slam the fridge door closed.

You find your trusty laptop residing on the tabletop. Snatching it up and making your way to the couch, you start typing up a draft that has been weighing you down a lot recently. It might help to get it out somewhere.

...

You're steadily typing away at your computer when the laptop gives a shrill ding, the notification popping up on the righthand side of the screen. You happily tear your eyes away from your document to click on it. The email starts off by addressing you formally, then-

Good afternoon! Undyne, Alphys, the brothers, Frisk and I are going to meet up at Muffet's around two o' clock. We were wondering if you could meet us? I also have a question for you that should be asked in person.

You type back-

Sure! I'll be there. Thanks for inviting me!

You hit send, then save the document you were previously working on. It's just a random draft you came up with last night while pondering life. You'd been thinking about your magic, summoning it and watching it worm around everywhere. Temmie had been asleep, snoozing
by your side as you gazed at the energy floating through the air.

It's all very fuzzy, and you still can't believe it's actually happening.

Toriel emails you back a few minutes later, but you decide to let the notification slide during your fit of typing. You have around half an hour to kill before you get going. Looking back over the draft, you continue typing. Your fingers are moving on their own, your mind simply dancing around different words and phrases, wondering how you could string them together to create a specific image in your reader's minds. The distant applause of Mettaton's cooking show playing out on your TV is drowned out by the clicking of the keyboard; his words are now a gentle hum, just another background noise in a blended chorus of faded sounds.

Temmie wobbles up to the table after a while; you spot her in your peripheral vision.

"hUMAN!" Temmie calls.

You look up at her, but don't stop typing. Your fingers know exactly what you want to say.

"What's up?" you question, then glance at the clock. Oh, would you look at the time...you need to get ready!

Even though Temmie was getting better at reading and writing, you can tell that her way of speech is pretty much irreparable after years of repetition. Not that you're complaining; you think it's adorable for her.

"aRE yOUs GoiNG OUt?" she asks, eyes widening.

"Yeah," you respond, "are you sure you're alright staying here?"

"tEMMIE iS OKs! hUMAN hAs FUnS!" she responds, smiling. You grin back, then you set up a little place for her on the floor. She has snacks and water for whenever she's feeling hungry, and you decide to leave the TV on in case she wants to watch something.

"If you need anything, call BP. He's right across the hall, alright? I'll see you later," you respond.

"bOI!" she yells as you give her a quick hug before grabbing your belongings and heading out.

Undyne and Papyrus are standing at her truck’s opened tailgate. Frisk is clinging to Papyrus' vertebrae and sitting atop his clavicles while Alphys is sitting on the tailgate, swinging her legs daintily. Sans is leaning against the metal next to Papyrus, while Toriel is speaking to the shorter skeleton. You jump out your Jeep, slamming the door shut before you head over to the group.

"HELLO HUMAN!"

"NERD! You made it!"

"Hello, dear!"

"Coach!"

"heya."

"H-hi!"

"Hey guys," you greet, smiling at the group and giving a small wave.

"WE'RE SO GLAD YOU COULD MAKE IT, HUMAN! AREN'T WE, SANS?" Papyrus announces, nudging the shorter skeleton.

"yes. we are delighted," Sans responds, smiling a little. You offer a small smile in return.

"Thanks for inviting me," you respond. Hm, you should really have the monsters over sometime, shouldn't you?

"INTO THE CAFÉ!" Papyrus yelps, running inside with Frisk clutching onto his skull for dear life.

You chuckle before following the group inside.

You all have trouble finding a table big enough for all of you, so you and Undyne end up pushing a few tables together while Papyrus collects the chairs, Frisk still clinging to his narrow skull. They stick their tongue out at you playfully when they find that they are temporarily taller than you. You stick your tongue out at them in retaliation, trying to stand on your tiptoes to match the combined height of Papyrus and Frisk.

It doesn’t work.

Frisk giggles while Papyrus’ eyesockets flicker over to you questioningly.

“HUMAN. YOU LOOK VERY SILLY! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH?”

“You’re too tall, Papyrus!” you say, grinning when Papyrus smiles smugly.

“AH, YES, TINY HUMAN. YET ANOTHER ONE OF MY AWESOME TRAITS,” he boasts as his cape begins to flutter in a non-existent breeze.

You almost laugh when he calls you ‘TINY HUMAN’. You’re actually pretty tall for a woman your age, so you’ve never been called ‘short’ or ‘small’.

You have a seat next to Toriel, Frisk claims the seat in front of you. Papyrus settles in next to them, and his brother across from him. Undyne and Alphys sit on the opposite side of Toriel.

"Child, about the question..." Toriel starts.

"Yeah, what's up?" you ask, leaning back in your chair. For some reason, you're not feeling all that talkative today. You lean your head into hand, propping your elbow on the table. Something's just...off today. With a sigh, you tune back in on the conversation.

"As you know, Sans and Papyrus are hosting a dinner at their apartment...I believe it is tonight? Yes. I heard you were invited as well. Asgore and I have a meeting to attend in...oh, about two hours or so. We will be gone until Monday, and I was wondering if you'd take Frisk to the dinner tonight?” she asks.

“Oh, yeah, no problem,” you reply.

“Are you sure? I’m sorry this is on such short notice, but we were only informed yesterday,” she responds.

“Don’t worry about it,” you wave it off, “you can just drop them off at my place whenever.”

Toriel smiles, her shoulders relaxing a bit. “Thank you, child. You are one of the few humans we actually trust with our dear Frisk.”

“You’re welcome,” you say.

“I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT MEW MEW KISSY CUTIE 2,” Papyrus is saying, one of his skullbrows raised.

"Y-yeah, I agree. Mew Mew Kissy Cutie was the b-best, but everything after th-that one was complete trash," Alphys states, biting into a blueberry bagel.

"I KNOW! I MEAN, THAT ONE PART WHERE THEY JUST COMPLETELY-" Undyne lowers her voice after she receives a glare from Toriel, then continues on with her rant.

A small spider takes all of your orders before slinking away. For some odd reason, you aren't feeling up for another cup of coffee. It must be because you're already jittery enough. Instead, you decide on a water bottle. A bottle of ice-cold water sounds great right now, you
think, licking your dry lips.

You glance around to the counter, where people are placing their orders. It's pretty swamped today, and you can see Muffet scurrying here and there along with several spiders darting across the counter. You sneak a glimpse at the door, where a couple has just entered, laughing and smiling at each other. Turning back around, you try to force your focus back to the conversations at hand. Undyne, Papyrus, and Alphys seem to be enveloped in their own little conversation, while Sans, Toriel, and Frisk are engrossed in their discussion. You cut your gaze down to your lap.

You find your gaze darting around the room, your thumb absent-mindedly rubbing against your other nails. Jeez, when did your hands get so sweaty? You rub your palm on the cloth covering your thigh, hoping it'd somewhat reduce the perspiration. It doesn't do much. A small sense of foreboding puddles in the pit of your stomach, goosebumps now evident on your skin. Your chest feels tight and heavy, heart beating faster against your ribcage. You rub your face, hoping to calm yourself down.

You’re thankful when your water bottle finally arrives. You twist it open and take a few much-needed gulps. The chilliness is refreshing and helps ground your swelling senses.

The couple that had walked in glances at you, faces melting in sympathy. They don't say anything, though. You're suddenly hyper-aware of every little detail in the room. Already, you can feel magic swirling underneath your fingertips. Oh stars, you need to get out of here.

People are staring. Your control is starting to slip as you fall deeper into this unusual state of...whatever this is.

The air seemingly gets heavier as you try to wrestle with your magic, which is growing even more agitated by the second. You have to gain the upper hand before it-

A loud shatter comes from somewhere in the room, letting you know that you'd already lost your internal battle.

You stand up suddenly, nearly knocking your chair over. Your hands immediately seek the balance of the table in order to steady your shaking figure.

"E-excuse me," you mumble, ignoring the concerned glances your friends are giving you before turning around towards the door. Pushing it open, you welcome the cool breeze and fresh air.

Taking a deep breath of the refreshing air, you stumble around to the side of the building. Placing your hand on your forehead and attempting to wipe off the sweat gathering at the base, you lean against the wall before sliding down, holding your face in your hands. Your magic is swelling beneath your skin, attempting to claw its way out. This feeling is entirely different from when you wield it by yourself. This is much more…forceful than it is cooperative.

It makes you want to cry.

Is this what happens when your emotions get out of control?

Your neck suddenly stiffens, and an uncanny tingling creeps across your shoulders, down your spine, causing you to whip your head up. Your vision starts crawling with black blobs that swarm over your eyes.

Closing your eyes, you let your head fall back to the wall. You're beginning to lose track of everything going on around you.

Everything real, at least.

In the center of your spotty vision, you see a figure.

His legs and arms are narrowly cut, with dark, black skin, his face hidden by shadows. He seems to be in a state of panic, one of his arms on his head, the other one holding some sort of black fragment.

Alphys might work faster. But the old Royal Scientist, Dr. W.D. Gaster?

You can't open your eyelids, but you sense something ghost over your arm. You can't bring yourself to care just yet.

One day, he vanished without a trace.

The strange sensation on your arms increases until it starts to hurt. You whimper slightly in your state of mixed consciousness.

They say he shattered across time and space.

Someone is pulling your still body, and something new coils in your stomach.

Ha Ha...how can I say so without fear?

There's a shout. Someone is pissed. There are more yells before the pain in your arm finally dies down and is replaced with a familiar voice calling your name. You hear him, but you can’t bring yourself to respond.

I'm holding a piece of him right here.

The Follower holds out the black fragment for you. Weakly, you reach out and take the fragment, your fingers feeling a bit tingly when your fingers accidentally brush over his.

Someone from your mind calls your name. The voice is familiar, but distorted.

YOU NEED TO RETURN TO FULL CONSCIOUSNESS. I...APOLOGIZE.

"F...for what?" you whisper.

Gaster doesn't answer. Instead of giving you another cryptic message, your vision clears up gradually. You open your eyes fully as your senses gradually slip back to you.

"she’s defenseless!"

"What are you going to do about it, huh?" a voice from up ahead asks. You look up, seeing that you’re in a different position. Lying on your stomach, you push yourself up. Someone is in front of you. Looking up, you see that it’s none other than Sans the Skeleton himself.

You’re now aware of the soreness stinging your bicep. Wrapping your hand around it, you wince.

It’s going to bruise.

You and Sans are at the entrance to the alleyway. You can already see bits of smoke trailing from his eyesocket.

You blink.

The short skeleton steps farther away from you. You try sitting up slowly, but grunt as a wave of dizziness gushes over you. You’re not sure if you can stand up just yet, so you scoot over to the wall, where you can get a better view of what’s going on.

There are five men, all adorned in casual clothing, looking to be middle-aged. One of them notices you but doesn’t say anything. Sans whips his gaze to you momentarily.

“stay back,” he warns, returning his attention to the problem at hand.

You shift your eyes down to the rest of the alleyway, where there are five other men.

Damn.

Your magic feels a little wonky, but still, you know you can…

Something pops up within your peripheral vision, which causes you to shift your gaze to its source.

Gaster has popped up, parts of him glitching out.

“G…Gaster,” you mumble.

He shakes his head. What happened to him? His body is all melty and goopy, eyesockets dripping with cracks from either side of it.

“LET SANS TAKE CARE OF THIS,” he says. “YOU AREN’T TRAINED TO MANIFEST YOUR MAGIC WHILE IT’S SO UNSTABLE.” With that, he starts glitching out again and then disappears. Then, you remember the shard the Follower gave you.

It’s still in your hand. You clutch it tighter.

You don't know what it is, but something screams at you to just keep it.

"She knows what she wants. Just…crawl back to me, doll,” the leader of the group says.

The pet name resonates through your ear, and then...you feel raw fury boiling in the pit of your stomach.

No one has a right to treat you like that.

I’m not your doll,” you growl, clenching your fist.

Then, the leader of the group steps forward. Sans jerks his left arm up, other behind his back. Several bones are summoned, then shot down. They miss the men by millimeters, you notice.

…That was just a warning.

Sans steps up next to you, his left eye alight with a gorgeous blue and yellow fire, smoke billowing out of his socket.

When the men don’t retreat, he swings his left hand up, causing a wave of bones to fly up from under the ground. The hits are only enough to cost them a few HP, but they scream anyway.

The leader groans, sidestepping a bone and this time lunging towards Sans. A shorter, leaner man manages to dart around Sans while he’s busy with taking care of the leader, then another man joins those two.

The other two spot you.

Scrambling to your feet, you ignore the pain and dizziness. The first man comes up in front of you, holding his hands up in front of his face.

“Easy, sweetheart-“

You cut him off with a kick to the balls.

“You bitch,” he snaps, face contorted in pain, knees close to buckling. The second man rushes at you, so you dodge him, but the first guy grabs your wrists, slamming you against the wall, your legs pinned by his.

“This one’s feisty,” he comments.

You respond by spitting in his face.

“Just how we like ‘em, ey?” the other one responds, grinning wickedly.

“Let go of me!” you yell, your mind racing to see what you could do in this situation.

You notice that with the way he’s pinning your arms you could probably bite his bicep and get him to release you.

So that’s what you do. You scrunch your face up as you sink your teeth into his arm and bite him as hard as your jaws will let you.

With a yell, he stumbles back. You take this chance to sock his friend right in the nose, satisfied when you hear a good crack and a shout.

The first one snaps his attention back to you, then stomps towards you. The other man has his nose cupped in his hand and is also coming your way. The first man swings a punch to your face, which you dodge, but the other guy manages to catch you off guard. He knees you in the stomach, causing you to recoil. He takes this opportunity to smack you across the face, hard, making you fall. You grunt, sitting up and crawling towards the wall.

You’re able to stand back up with the help of the brick wall. Focusing back in on the man, you swing at his face, hitting him square in the cheek. You hear another man scream, and then a shrill ding as a crushing sound follows soon after.

Sans appears in front of you, his eye still ablaze. You quickly stuff the shard in your pocket.

"Thanks," you breathe.

"don’t mention it," he mumbles, closing his eyesockets before extinguishing the flame. When his eyesockets are open again, his pinpoints are fuzzy.

Sans turns around, then thrusts his left arm up, effectively trapping the men in a cage of bones.

"You'll pay for this!" one yells, making you roll your eyes.

"What are we going to do with them?" you ask, turning to Sans.

"i'll take care of 'em. are you okay? you looked like you were...havin' a panic attack in there," Sans replies, his gaze softening a little bit.

"Yeah, I got a little light-headed," you answer, pressing a hand against the cheek where the man slapped you. It's kind of sore, but it hurt less than you had originally anticipated. You're more dazed than anything.

"did he hit you?" Sans questions.

"Yeah, but it didn't really hurt," you reply, placing your hands on your stomach. Stars, you're a little dizzy again...

"ya good, squints?" Sans asks, raising an eyebrow. You walk back to the wall, sliding down it again.

"Just a little dizzy..." you state. Your head rolls over to him. "What...what happened? Like, before I was...uh...conscious. I passed out for a second when you came out."

He sighs. "i came out to check on you because you looked pretty rough 'n it was pretty obvious your control on your magic was slippin'. when i got out here, i saw that guy tryna drag you to stars know where. you were pretty out of it. then...well. you saw what happened." He
sighs.

"Thanks. For that," you respond, looking down.

"no problem."

Sans kneels down next to you, allowing you to get a better view of his skull. His eyesockets are wide, pinpoints fuzzy, permanent smile slack. He's not looking directly at you, but he seems to be debating something heavily.

After a moment, he finally takes a seat down next to you.

"did you have a panic attack?" he questions after a while.

"Yeah. I think I did," you respond, voice quiet.

He sighs, then he slides his hand over yours. The gesture takes you by surprise since Sans doesn't seem like the type to do this kind of thing. You don't even have to look at him to know he's slightly blushing blue.

You appreciate the thought nonetheless. Fixing your grip on his bony hand so you can intertwine your fingers between his, you notice he doesn't react. You don't get panic attacks a lot, honestly. This was the first one that happened in a while.

You sigh, appreciating the thought and wondering what happened. Did you see another Follower?

"i know what it's like to have a panic attack 'n public," he says, voice soft, "it's scary." You close your eyes, feeling the strong waves of empathy emanating from him.

Smiling softly, you run your thumb over his knuckles. "Yeah. It is."

"do you need anythin'?" he asks, making you smile.

"I just need a minute. Away from people," you reply, turning to look up at him.

"'mkay." He seems alright with that. The skeleton stays by your side until you remember that the Follower must have left those weird ashes behind somewhere. Or, are they just compacted into that shard the Follower gave you?

"Could I try something? With my magic?" you ask.

"sure," he says after a while, cracking open an eye socket to study you warily.

With a deep breath, you close your eyes, entering a world of black. You see the skeleton's aura is a pretty mix of blue and yellow, which you associate with PATIENCE and JUSTICE. Underneath Sans' main traits, though, you sense a strong feeling of rage and empathy bubbling.

You take his ghostly hand, absorbing some of the energy. You know now you can use it as source of-

Your eyes are jerked open. Sans is on his feet now, and he looks almost...hostile.

"what did you do?!" he snaps angrily.

"Nothing! I didn't do anything!" you respond. Jeez, now you know why Desmund was saying path-ergokinesis was so feared

"I just...sensed your...uh...aura." You know it's dumb, but it's the first word you manage to slip out.

"...aura?" he asks, calming down a bit.

"Yeah, um, I guess that's...a way to describe it."

"mind specifying?"

You groan. You wished there was a way to establish these connections without making your intentions seem hostile. "So, I can enter this reality where every living thing has a specially-colored aura. Yours, in this case, was blue and yellow, which I associate with PATIENCE and
JUSTICE. That's it. I was also able to sense your underlying emotions," you explain, "I'm sorry if-"

"no. 'm sorry. i didn't mean to snap, i just...don't have a good experience with that kind of stuff," he admits.

"Oh, um...I didn't know. Sorry."

An awkward silence ensues until, thankfully, Sans' phone starts ringing. He slips the phone out of his pocket.

"talk to me...yeah...sorry...a small problem...we got it...yeah...i know, i know..." The older brother winces as Papyrus' voice gets louder, "sorry...in a minute...yeah...bye."

"Is he pissed?" you ask, smiling a little bit.

"yeah. we should probably get back." He stands up, then tentatively offers his hand to you. You accept, and he pulls you up.

"Thanks. Let's...skele-daddle," you joke

"nice one, squints," he compliments as he follows you.

"HUMAN! ARE YOU ALRIGHT?" Papyrus asks, picking you up in a tight hug.

You gasp for breath when the skeleton puts you down on your feet. "Y-yeah, I'm fine, Papyrus. Thanks for asking."

"Coach!" Frisk yells, hugging you. "Are you hurt?"

After everyone confirms you're not hurt, you catch Sans talking to Toriel in the back. She nods understandingly. You turn and refocus your attention to another spot in the store, where an army of spiders are cleaning up a table you had accidentally destroyed earlier during your
magical meltdown.

"Muffet...please let me reimburse you for that. I'm really sorry!" you plead.

"Do not worry about it, dearie. These kinds of accidents happen all the time. I have extra tables in the back," the anthropomorphic spider replies sweetly.

"Muffet...you're so sweet..." you groan, "could I do something? Anything?!"

"If you're really that worried about it..." Muffet tilts her head, her gaze studying you. "Hm. After your swim season is over, then you could come work for me. I expect to be busy this fall so an extra pair of hands would help."

That...actually sounds fair.

You always have trouble finding a good job after swim season ends, so...this could actually work out. You might have to get another job, though...

"Sure!" you respond, smiling. "That's fair."

"Perfect. Now, it looks like your friends are waiting for you. I'll see you later." She gives you a few waves with some of her hands.

"Thanks, Muffet!" you yell, waving back at her.

You join Undyne and Papyrus at her truck.

"HUMAN! I'M EXCITED FOR TONIGHT! UNDYNE WOULD COME, BUT UNFORTUNATELY, SHE HAS ROYAL-GUARDLY MATTERS TO ATTEND TO," Papyrus informs you.

"Ah. That's a shame," you say, although judging from Undyne's suggestive wink to Alphys, these 'matters' aren't at all related to the Royal Guard. You chuckle, shaking your head.

Undyne smirks at you. "Yeah. We'll do it again sometime, though," Undyne replies with a toothy grin.

"Sounds good," you reply with a sly grin.

"HUMAN! DO YOU HAVE A MOVIE SELECTED FOR TONIGHT?" Papyrus questions.

"Oh yeah. I think you guys will like it!" you answer.

"NYEH HEH HEH! THEN EVERYTHING IS SETTLED FOR THE DINNER TONIGHT!" The taller skeleton rushes over to his brother. "SANS! WE MUST PREPARE FOR DINNER!"

"we must." Sans replies, simply accepting his fate as Papyrus picks the smaller skeleton up and dashes away to stars know where.

Chapter Text

Chapter XX – Chill

Your hands are still slightly shaking when you return to your apartment. Stepping through the door, you push it close, taking a deep breath. Your chest seems to have loosened up a bit on the drive home, but still you feel as if today could have gone much, much worse.

The events of earlier relapse in your mind as you take another deep breath. Sliding your hand over the arm where the man had grabbed you, you shiver to think of what might have happened if Sans hadn’t shown up.

You shudder again.

Well, on the bright side, you got another one of those shard thingies. It's more compact than the last one, and you're planning on prying some answers out of Gaster later. Where, exactly, is he trapped at? How will your magic come into play? Are there certain objects you'll need?

As if on cue, the familiar goopy mess of intermingled black and grey pops up next to you, making you jump a little bit.

This is the first time you’ve actually gotten a good look at him.

The lower half of his body seems to be made of an ink-like substance that droop and drip in all directions, kind of like Bendy from Bendy and the Ink Machine. Ivory white hands float beside him, a perfect hole centered in each palm, the hands themselves disconnected from the rest of Gaster’s body. The top part of his body seems to have been melted, with two cracks going in opposite directions on each eye, and a goopy chin.

He’s actually kind of adorable. You bet he's squishy!

"Goddammit, Gaster, don't do that!" you scold, frowning.

"I apologize," he says, his voice slightly distorted but somewhat comprehensible. "I tend to appear at random and it's difficult to direct my flow of magic evenly."

You smile. "It's okay. So. You ever gonna tell me what these things are?" You ask, waving the shard around in the air.

He nods. "Those are the remnants of my SOUL."

You nearly drop it. "Your SOUL. You're telling me that you're existing without a SOUL. Right here, right now."

His head bobs up and down again. "Yes. I know it is a difficult concept to grasp, but it's true. There are five pieces. You are currently in possession of two of them. One is still in its condensed state while the other is not. I assume you have noticed how each shard is associated with a Follower, as you call them."

Another frown crosses your face. You don't think you've ever admitted that to him in a dream, or outright have said it.

"How'd you know that?" you question, flipping the shard over in your hands. It shimmers duly in the light.

"The place I am stuck in, the Void. It creates magical connection with entities that cross its path, especially those with a strong sense of magic. You are one of the few, along with Sans, Papyrus, and their friends as well. You might even say that
unknown/.:ERROR:.unknown-&(%$*}*&**&&Y^????.chr has as well."

Your head begins pounding as he says the name.

"I figured such a thing would happen if I mentioned unknown/.:ERROR:.unknown-&(%$*}*&**&&Y^????.chr. Do not focus on it too much. As I was saying, my magic created a connection with yours the moment you sensed ou-my presence in the
Void. It reached out, and you unconsciously accepted the offer."

"Was that when I passed out and Sans helped me through the wormhole?" you ask, trying to remember the moment when you blanked out.

He nods. "Yes. You felt my presence, but at the time you were not trained to process the level of magic you used without knowing."

"So I did use magic," you say, sitting down on your couch.

"Indeed. An unhealthy exportation of your magic caused a reaction from your physical form that spiked another reaction from the Void."

"Weird," you mumble, "so. First of all, how in the hell did you fall into the Void?"

"I was the Royal Scientist before Alphys," he begins, his form beginning to glitch a little bit. "I designed the CORE and implemented it under Asgore's command. Of course, he doesn't remember me now...anyway. I am the father of Sans and
Papyrus, but my youngest does not remember me."

"Why don't they remember you? Why can I see you?" you grill.

"I'm getting to that," he states. "As Royal Scientist, Asgore tasked me with the issue of the Barrier. He desperately wanted to find a way out in order to restore HOPE, because, without HOPE, an entity dies."

You nod.

"It was not an easy task. I tried several different procedures, experiments, trials, and all of them lead to dead ends. At the time, I...became extremely intrigued with my work. Eventually, I found something of interest. DETERMINATION. The very substance that drives a human life force. What drove the Queen and King's children."

"Like, their actual children?" you ask, frowning. You haven't heard much about the biological children.

Gaster seems oddly uncomfortable with the question. "Yes, but we shan't worry about that for now. I found a spare sample of DETERMINATION one day..."

You lean forward. "What happened?"

"I had run out of test subjects at the time, and I was the only person at the lab. I was so desperate for answers I ended up injecting myself with it."

You blink.

"Hardcore much?" you comment, shifting your position a little bit.

He rolls his eyes. "My SOUL could not take the oncoming wave of raw DETERMINATION. But...I stumbled outside, in Hotlands. I was in so much pain that I couldn't see anything, and I tripped. Before my SOUL shattered, I fell into the CORE. The mix of magics and material shattered my physical form across time and space, but the pieces of my SOUL are still in this universe."

"Damn," you reply.

Gaster nods. "So, how can I see you? How can you see me? How are we able to converse through two different dimensions, one of which does not, in a sense, exist? You are one of the many types of ergokinetics, which means you can manipulate a sort of energy, something the Void lacks. You've travelled with Sans through his shortcuts before, I know. Like I said, the Void reached out and latched onto both your magic and mine. The patho- part of your magic's name plays a significant part as well. Emotion is one of the defining factors among all sentient beings, one of the few things that connects both humans and monsters. That part of your magic is the one that can sense and converge my physical form together. In a way, the two different parts of your magic work together to create something that is logical for your brain to comprehend. Do you remember when I mentioned unknown/.:ERROR:.unknown-&(%$*}*&**&&Y^????.chr?"
"Kinda hard to forget," you state as static-y noise rages through your mind.

"Your magic works to separate those types of…entities from ones like mine," he explains.

"So, in order for my brain to get an idea of the fuck's going on, it sort of unknowingly demands my magic to work in order to separate what exists from what doesn't?"

"That's the idea, yes," he replies.

"So how do I fix this?" you ask.

"Do you remember when I stated that my SOUL still exists in pieces?"

You nod.

"Each piece drifted across the Underground, looking for another host or entity to be one with. Of course, such an activity cannot occur with just a single piece, thus when it found a living monster, it mutated into the shape of the monster's body."

"And formed the Followers," you finish, now understanding. "I see."

His head bobs up and down. "Yes. There are five, two of whom you've met and received the fragment. One piece still resides with me; that is why I still have this...remnant of a physical form. Two more linger. The issue is, they tend to appear at random. The sudden overload of magic confuses your body, which is why you feel so dizzy during the episode. They will not harm you, but the overload can be dangerous. You'll need to find a way to release the pent-up magic and physical
energy when the time comes."

"Hm. Okay. What happens when I find all of the pieces?" You lean forward, placing your elbows on your knees.

"I'm still working on that part," Gaster admits with what you think is a sly grin, "but I feel I will have answer for you soon."

"Okay. I'll keep an eye out for those shards. Is there anything else?"

"Just a few things. First of all, pay attention to the dreams you have. I have a hunch they are foreshadowing something important."

He turns his head to stare at the real you for a second before he whips his gaze back to (Y/N).

"Another thing you should be aware of...Sans is able to feel my presence but cannot see me. He remembers me, while Papyrus is oblivious to all of it. Please do not let Sans find out you are investigating this until further down the case."

You narrow your eyes. "Why?"

"He will blame himself," Gaster responds, something sad lingering in his tone. "and he becomes..." He can't continue his statement.

"I understand. I won't tell him," you promise, hoping he's telling the truth.

You think he is. Sans seems like the kind of person to beat himself up over something he can’t control.

The thought makes your heart ache for the poor skeleton.

“Lastly…if I am ever to appear when you’re in public, just listen to me. You can ask questions later. I might be able to approach you while you’re sleeping, but that will take a bit more practice…” he frowns. “But, thank you. I sincerely do appreciate what you're doing for me," he comments.

"You don't deserve to be trapped there all alone," you reply, nodding up at him.

"I will make it up to you when I'm free. For now, I must return to the Void. Thank you for your time."

"Good to talk to you," you reply, standing up and waving.

He chuckles, which sounds like white noise. “You have no idea.” Then, he disappears from view.

Now, things are starting to fall in place. Gaster is stuck in the Void and is able to talk to you through your magic. Sans can feel his presence, but Papyrus can't. The Followers are actually the remains of Gaster's shattered SOUL.
Interesting. You hope you'll be able to help Gaster with this whole situation.

But how will you be able to get Gaster out? It all seems very complex and out of your range of knowledge. You shake your head. At least now you have a few answers. You might be able to work with these.

Just in time, you hear a knock on your front door. Stepping over to it, you pull it open.

Frisk is sitting atop Asgore's broad shoulders.

"Hello there!" you greet.

"Hey Coach!" Frisk yells. You can't see Asgore's face due to his height, so he kneels down.

"Hello," he says your name, "how are you?"

"I'm well, and you? Uh...I'd offer for you to step inside, but..."

A deep chuckle emanates from his chest. "I appreciate the thought, dear. Frisk is here," he sets down the eleven-year-old.

"Hey, Frisk. What's up?" you ask.

"Nothing. Are you excited? I'm excited!" they respond, smiling.

"I am. Is there a certain time I should get them back by?" you ask.

"They are to spend the night with the skeletons, actually," Asgore says.

"Ah, okay. Sounds good. We'll hang here for a while, then get ready to skedaddle in...mmm, roughly fifteen minutes. Cool?"

"Yes!" Frisk responds, running over to hug your leg. You bend over and lift them up, causing them to giggle.

"We thank you again," Asgore repeats. “I must be on my way now. If you need anything, please contact Toriel.”

“Okay. I’ll see you later, Asgore. Have a good evening!”

“You too!” He waves, then you close the door after he’s out of view.

“Alright, Frisk,” you start, "are you ready for this?"

One drive and a few hushed cuss words later, you and Frisk are standing at the doorstep of the skelebro's apartment. You had offered Frisk a piggyback ride on the way up, which they gladly accepted. Leaning forward, you prompt them to knock, their little arms strung loosely around your neck.

"ONE MOMENT!" comes the voice of none other than Papyrus. The muffled thumps of Papyrus's familiar footsteps clump around behind the door as Frisk lowers their chin down onto your neck.

A second later, the door swings open to reveal Papyrus, whose eye sockets are crinkled with mirth, his grin unable to get bigger.

"HUMANS! YOU'RE HERE! AH, COME IN!" He steps aside to let you in, but to your surprise two blurs leap out the door and tackle you. Frisk is knocked off your back but isn't hit as hard as you. You're met with a doglike yip.

Except it's not a dog at all.

Hovering in front of you is a dragon-like skull, seemingly made of ivory white bone, like the brothers, with bright, white pinpricks settled in its eye socket. It's about as big as a husky, and its bone structure is extremely sinuous, forming cheekbones underneath the eye sockets. The bone juts out slightly on each 'cheek', and close to the bottom is a hollowed-out curve that serves as a smile; sharp, pointy teeth stick out from the top.

It also appears to be smiling at you. You two stare at each other for a little while.

"AH, I APOLOGIZE. SANS MUST HAVE FORGOT TO PUT THEM BACK," Papyrus states, tone apologetic.

The skull nuzzles your stomach while the other one flies around you to meet Frisk.

"Hee hee! Who are these guys?" you ask, stroking the skull's snout...or...whatever...

"This is...Gemini!" Frisk cries, hugging the skull as it yips excitedly.

"SANS CALLS THAT ONE SAGITTARIUS," Papyrus responds, pointing at the skull on your stomach. He smiles. "HM, THEY NEVER GET AFFECTIONATE WITH HUMANS EXCEPT FOR FRISK. INTERESTING. SANS! OUR GUESTS ARE HERE!"

You stand up, the small skull nudging your back to help you up. It floats beside you as you regain your balance.

"They're so cute!" you squeal, continuing to pet the skull.

"SANS ADORES HIS BLASTERS!" Papyrus comments, smiling. "COME IN, COME IN!"

As Papyrus ushers all of you inside, you catch a glimpse around the apartment. It's a small but cozy and very tidy apartment, with a cute little kitchen looking over a lowered living room. The opposite wall is made entirely of glass that overlooks the town. On the wall to the left is an opening that fans out into a hallway.

"Nice place you've got," you compliment, the blaster bouncing up and down beside you.

"THANK YOU, HUMAN! WE'RE VERY HAPPY HERE!" Papyrus announces.

"I'm glad," you say with a grin. These two deserve all the happiness in the world.

"sag, gem, get back!" Sans calls from the hallway. Sagittarius pouts and Gemini hides behind Frisk.

"No! I want to play with them some more!" Frisk cries.

"Me too!" you can't help but whine, shielding the Blaster with your body. Sans' eye sockets drift over to you, considering it for a minute.

"fine, but after dinner it's time to go back to the void. understood?" Sans instructs, strutting up to his brother.

Sagittarius bobs up and down once more before ducking beside you.

"You named them after the zodiac signs?" you question, smiling.

"yeah. i got twelve of 'em, so it just seemed fitting, y'know?" Sans chuckles.

"Where are the other ones at?"

Instead of answering, Sans thrusts his left arm out, left eye socket flaring yellow and blue. A hole in reality opens, and you catch a glimpse of several other Blasters in the hole. Only one more Blaster pops out.

"this one is aquarius," he says, gesturing to the Blaster. It perks up upon seeing you and Frisk.

"SANS HAS SCHEDULES FOR A CERTAIN GROUP OF BLASTERS. ONLY THREE OR FOUR ARE ALLOWED OUTSIDE THE VOID AT ONCE. WE ONLY MAKE EXCEPTIONS FOR BLASTERS WHEN IT'S AN EMERGENCY. YOU KNOW, THEY'RE ACTUALLY QUITE USEFUL FOR DEFENSE, OFFENSE, OR JUST HELPING OUT. TRUST ME, HAVING TO HANDLE TWELVE LIVELY GASTER BLASTERS TAKES A LOT OUT OF YOU."

...and that's coming from Papyrus.

"Gaster Blaster...?" you mumble too quietly for anyone else to hear.

Sans gently pushes Aquarius on its snout thingy as it floats up to Sans' skull. "you'll get dinner in a few minutes!"

You chuckle. "Looks like they all have their own personalities."

He nods. "oh yeah. gem, for example, likes to sit with me while 'm playin' skyrim. sometimes they'll help me set up pranks, too."

"That's so cute," you reply, "how about this one?" You tap Sagittarius on the bone nose.

"sag is probably the bravest out of all of 'em. most adventurous. eats the most, though," he answers. Sagittarius flutters up to you, bumping your shoulder with its snout. When you turn to look at it, it flutters its eye sockets.

You're not sure what that's supposed to mean.

"Papyrus, do you have Blasters like these?" you ask, turning to him.

"I HAVE ONE THAT IS MUCH BIGGER AND HARDER TO SUMMON, SO I ONLY SUMMON IT WHEN NECESSARY. HER NAME IS PAPPARDELLE!"

"I have a feeling that pappardelle is a kind of pasta," you drone.

"YES INDEEDY!" Papyrus yells, swelling with pride. "AH, SPEAKING OF PASTA...I HAVE COOKED MY FAMOUS SPAGHETTI FOR YOU AND THE TINY HUMAN TONIGHT!"

"Ooh, I'm excited to try it," you say with a giggle.

"YOU WON'T REGRET IT! NOW, SANS, PLEASE GIVE THE HUMANS A TOUR WHILE I PUT THE FINISHING TOUCHES ON OUR DINNER!" Papyrus instructs before turning back to the task at hand.

"right this way," Sans says, grinning a bit before gesturing into the hallway.

"ACTUALLY, LET ME SHOW THEM MY ROOM!" Papyrus yells from the kitchen.

"a'ight, bro," Sans responds, sighing. "'s not much to show 'round here. we have pictures, donated by undyne and several other monsters." He motions to the pictures around you. One is a painting of a bone, and others range from pretty paintings of the ocean to starry landscapes.

"these are our rooms. not much to show there," he says, pointing to two doors on the right. "we got a little office, bathroom, closet. 's 'bout it."

"Cool," you reply. Sagittarius (who you forgot about for just a second) nudges your back, but you manage to catch yourself before you fall. It gives you an innocent look when you glare at it. Frisk casts you a questioning glance before they shrug it off, petting Gemini. Aquarius lazily floats behind Sans as he turns around.

"DINNER IS JUST ABOUT READY! COME GET SEATED!"

You, Frisk, and the Blasters follow Sans as he obeys his brother. When your party has made it to the dining room, Papyrus grins.

"THE SPAGHETTI IS READY! HUMANS, WOULD YOU MIND SETTING THE TABLE?"

"Not at all!" you respond. Frisk nods as well.

"Come on, I know where all the stuff is!" Frisk announces before jogging to a cabinet. You follow them; they open the cabinet.

"So, Papyrus usually likes to use the red tablecloth when they've got guests," Frisk explains, taking out a neatly-folded cloth and tucking it under their arm. They reach back in to pull out a stack of glass plates. You take the plates from Frisk, and they close the door to the cabinet.

The glass plates seem like they're old; the perimeter of the one residing on the top of the stack you're carrying has a light orange wavy trim, which blossoms into a beautifully eccentric flower, its petals ranging from a warm orange to a cool blue. You don't question the odd color scheme and instead set the plates down one by one after Frisk puts the table cloth down on the circular table.

Papyrus comes in carrying a dish of spaghetti that looks and smells pretty damn good. He seems to be proud of himself; he has one of his legs propped up on his chair, arms poised in a heroic manner.

"THANK YOU, HUMANS," he acknowledges, setting the dish down in the middle of the table.

"No problem. Papyrus, this looks amazing!"

"Yeah!" Frisk agrees. "Your cooking has really come a long way."

"NYEH! ONLY THE BEST FOR SUCH COOL FRIENDS!" Papyrus states with a grin.

Sans pops out of thin air again, making you jump slightly. You don't think he saw you, but the little chuckle he emits proves you wrong. You shoot him a playful glare.

Frisk sits to your right, Sans to your left, and Papyrus on his other side. The younger skeleton commences the dinner by hoisting the tray of spaghetti up and passing it to Frisk, who begins scooping the noodles up. Papyrus gets up when he remembers that he almost forgot to take the garlic bread out of the oven. Jolting up from his seat, he rushes to attend to the forgotten loaf of bread.

Sans twirls a mess of noodles onto the tines of his fork, lazily spinning it around a few times. "back when we were underground, you couldn't smell this stuff without wantin' to throw up. he's worked so hard just to improve it."

"Yeah, he always strived to make each dish better than the last," Frisk agrees, watching Sans's fork as it curls up the noodles.

"That's so endearing," you respond, smiling fondly.

Sans flashes a cute, cheeky grin at you and sets the fork down. You feel your cheeks heat up a bit.

"you got no idea, squints," he replies as you grin back at the littler skeleton.

"HERE WE ARE!" Papyrus gently sets a tray of neatly-sliced garlic bread next to the spaghetti. The bread looks absolutely amazing; you can smell the melted butter and garlic. "I HOPE YOU ALL ENJOY!" Papyrus begins eating, so you take that as your cue to begin as well. Stabbing some of the noodles onto your fork, you begin twirling it up.

It's actually really good; Papyrus has included the perfect mix of garlic and onion to blend in with the basil and pepper. You haven't had spaghetti in...a while, actually.

"Papyrus...this is amazing," you compliment, grinning.

He puffs out his skeletal chest proudly. "THANK YOU, HUMAN. IT TOOK ME QUITE A LONG TIME TO FIND THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF INGREDIENTS."

Sans winks at the younger brother. "'s good enough to eat now."

Papyrus rolls the pinpoints in his eye sockets. "HUSH, BROTHER."

The older skeleton chuckles lightly. The rest of dinner is filled with light conversation, most of it led by Papyrus and Frisk. You and Sans just kind of sit there and jump in when necessary. When Papyrus and Frisk go deeper into conversation about Mettaton, Sans turns to you.

"so, i survived the hell known as doki doki literature club." He starts with a shit-eating grin.
You chuckle. "Oh, so you finished Doki, huh? What do think?"

"i was surprised," he begins, "during the first hour, i was confused as to how the developers would be able to twist such a cute game into good psychological horror, because that's really, really hard to pull off these days. and i thought the characterization was on point."

"Oh yeah," you agree, "and I love how they tied literature into the entire thing. They used all of the right techniques for each character." You still remember the feeling of satisfaction you felt when you listened to Yuri talk about how newer writers try form-fitting two completely different styles of writing together, and how that doesn't usually work. Team Salvato really did an excellent job with that.

"it definitely introduced me to the side of literature that i never experienced. that's the other thing i loved about it; it didn't just...ugh, how to phrase this...it didn't necessarily skim across the concept of poetry. it took the time to explain it in a way that wasn't...wasn't-"

"Overused. Like, how you learn in school," you finish, understanding the feeling completely.

"yeah. overused." He repeats, pinpoints fuzzy.

"Isn't it amazing how video games accomplish that?" you ask, chuckling when you feel Sagittarius bonking its head against your feet repeatedly.

"hell yeah! that game even got me wanting to write more often now, heh," he says with a chuckle.

"So, which girl did you go with?" you ask.

He sighs. "i went with yuri. something about natsuki kinda rubbed me the wrong way, and sayori, was...i guess too much of an airhead for my taste? and something about monika completely freaked me out, er, in the beginning at least."

"Her design." You nod. "Team Salvato designed her to be unsettling, which was very clever."

"yeah, i noticed that too," he replies, "yuri, natsuki, sayori...monika. one of these is not like the other."

"Heh, yeah," you grin. "So, what's your opinion on Monika now that you've finished the game?"

His expression falls for a second, and he takes a few moments before speaking again. "well...after i learned more about her situation..." He sighs, pinpoints shrinking. "uh...she's my favorite."

"Really?" you inquire. "Why's that?"

He studies you for a second before explaining. "i...i don't know. i mean...she's trapped in this...this endless cycle of...loops. the same thing every day. everything revolves around one decision of a player outside of her reality." At this point, his pinpoints have disappeared completely.

...He sounds as if he's speaking from experience...?

"OH, HUMANS! I HAVE TO SHOW YOU MY ROOM...BUT FRISK HAS ALREADY SEEN IT."

"Can I see it again?! I wanna see your racecar bed again!" Frisk yelps.

Papyrus's room is actually pretty cool. Laid across the center of the hardwood floor is a purple carpet with patterns of fire trimming its border. On the wall of the door lines a cool little orange racecar bed with purple blankets and a fluffy pillow.
Above the bed hangs a black and white pirate flag with a few sticky notes stuck to the right. Across from the bed is a cardboard box that seems to serve as a recycling bin. On the wall across from that is a desk with a computer, papers neatly stacked into different folders that are lined up in a storage container. The background of the desktop is a picture of Papyrus and Sans posing in front of two snow figures, one an exact replica of the younger skeleton. The other is just a lump of snow with Sans's name written on it what appears to be ketchup.

You feel like that sums up the brothers perfectly.

Next to the desk is a window with a few pictures taped onto the sides of it. To the left is a tall bookshelf lined with an extremely wide variety of books. Some of the titles appear to have faded with time, others are in poor conditions, and a few look brand new. You notice an abundance of children's books.

Finally, on a table next to the bed are a bunch of little figurines. Most - no, scratch that - all of them are shaped like Mettaton.

"THANKS TO MY BROTHER, WE WERE ABLE TO MODEL IT VERY CLOSELY AFTER OUR HOME IN SNOWDIN!"

"That's awesome. Where did you get all of these books?" you ask, stepping closer to the shelf. Hm, there's a book of Shel Silverstein that belongs in the poorer condition category.

"Do you like to read?" you inquire.

"THE GREAT PAPYRUS HAS NO TIME FOR READING. SANS, HOWEVER, READS ME A BEDTIME STORY EVERY NIGHT. HE WILL RECITE TO ME THE TALE OF BRAVE FLUFFY BUNNY AND HIS CORAGEOUS ACCOMPLICES!"

...Sans reads Papyrus bedtime stories...

...you don't think you can handle the amount of cuteness here...

Frisk hops onto Papyrus's bed. "Isn't his bed cool?!"

"I wish I had one like that!" you reply with a chuckle.

"SANS SAYS THAT OUR PARENTS MADE IT FOR ME WHEN I WAS BUT A BABYBONES! I...DON'T REMEMBER OUR PARENTS, BUT..."

You frown at the mention of the skeleton brothers' parents. Namely Gaster. You avert your eyes, unable to make eye contact with the younger skeleton. Frisk gives you a half-concerned, half-knowing look.

"THAT'S ALL OF MY ROOM. SANS'S ROOM IS TOO MESSY TO GO INTO RIGHT NOW." Papyrus groans exasperatedly.

"Thanks for the tour, Papyrus. Your room is really cool!" you compliment.

"THANK YOU, HUMAN!" yells the taller skeleton. "OH! DO YOU LIKE POPCORN? SANS BOUGHT SOME TODAY. I HEAR MANY HUMANS CONSUME THE TINY PUFF BALLS OF BUTTER WHILST WATCHING A MOVIE!"

"I do, actually," you respond, chuckling lightly. Papyrus marches out of his room, leaving you and Frisk to follow him. The three Blasters float up beside you and Frisk.

As you listen to Papyrus babble on about movies and the differences between monster and human culture, you notice a framed picture on one of the tables. It appears to have crinkled with time, but it's still in decent shape. In the picture are Sans, Gaster, and some other monsters you don't recognize. They're all wearing lab coats, and are standing inside the place that you had your SOUL scan in.

Gaster actually looks better than when you last saw him; his skull is much more compact and clean than it is now. He wears a dark sweater underneath his lab coat along with a pair of pants of a similar shade. He's looking down at Sans, who seems to be beaming with pride.

The picture reminds you of your current mission. You're not exactly sure how everything will go down, but you're sure as hell up for it. With another sigh, you return your attention back to the babbling skeleton.
_____________________________________________________________________
"Hey, dummy! Where're you going?"

"not sure. i was gonna follow you."

A chuckle. "That's fine, too. Although...I don't really know where I'm going just yet."

"'s alright. you'll figure it out eventually, won'tcha? you always do."

"You have me on a pedestal."

A shake of the head. "nah. got you right here, 'n 's all that matters now."

Chapter Text

Chapter XXI – Always Keep Fighting

You wake up with tears in your eyes and a desperate urge to visit the Underground again.

You don’t think you had a nightmare, or any conversations with otherworldly spirits or whatever. You haven’t talked to Gaster in a while, either. Rolling over on your bed, you rest your head on your arms as you try to think about why you’re so sad.

Looking at your clock, you see that it’s only one in the morning. You have to coach practice tomorrow, and the events from the day you and Sans had to fight off those perverts have been temporarily pushed to the back of your mind. There’s no way in hell that you’re going to be able to go back to sleep any time soon, so you just lay there for a few minutes, fearing you’ll wake up Temmie if you make any sudden movements.

These last few days haven’t been all that great.

For some reason, you’ve had trouble dragging yourself out of bed whenever you wake up. It’s like your drive to do anything anymore just kind of vanished. At first you wondered if it was just those feelings that hadn’t belonged to you.

Now you’re not so sure.

Everything you do is beginning to blur together now, and it’s driving you insane. You silently sniff as tears run down your cheeks as you try to think about why the hell you’re feeling like this. You’re hoping that these feelings don’t belong to you and that this is all part of the downside to your magic.

On your nightstand, you spy Desmund’s journal lying there. It probably has some answers, but you’re simply not in the mood to read. With a frustrated sigh, your head lolls back over to face the ceiling. You had tried calling Gaster, but nothing seems to work. You wonder if he can just pop out of the Void whenever he wants or if he has just appeared at all the convenient moments.

This sucks.

Hell, you weren’t even in the mood for video games, which was even weirder. Video games are your outlet, your escape, your safe haven.

Minutes pass as you continue to lie there and think. It scares you that everything you loved just doesn’t have that same appeal as it did. The fact that your opinions on everything shifted as quickly as it did unnerves you too. What if this isn’t you?

…What if it is?

You stare at the mountain visible through your window as another tear trickles down your cheek. Something’s pulling you to that goddamned mountain and you don’t know what it is. You study it, mind sifting through everything you know so far.

It’s not adding up.

Sitting up slowly so you don’t interrupt Temmie’s slumber, you quickly change into outside clothes and pull your shoes on, grabbing your phone. With that, you slip outside.

The walk to Mt. Ebott isn’t long, but it’s somewhat soothing. You sigh, slightly relieved at the feeling of a positive emotion for once. The night is cool and cloudy, with no cars drifting about. The world has yet to awaken and you like to believe you have it all to yourself for the moment.

When you approach the base of the mountain, your eyes travel up its curved figure. It’s got to be an old mountain, judging by its sinuous rather than jagged exterior. You wonder what’s pulling you here, and why. Maybe it’s your magic? All of your thoughts are pushed aside, your eyes glance around. You can’t enter the Underground since you don’t have a monster with you, but you might be able to work your way up the side if you make your way through the forest. You turn around, ready to test your theory when –

“(Y/N).”

The voice…you’ve never heard it before in real life, yet you…you’ve heard it. Somewhere. Maybe not in this universe, but you have.

In front of you is a boy who seems to be around Frisk’s age. His eyes are blood red, hair a light brown and slightly ruffled. Dressed in a green and yellow sweatshirt with lightly colored shirts, he stares at you.

You’re immediately unsettled when you remember that this is one of the kids you saw in that picture at Toriel’s house.

He starts walking towards you, making you take a step back. Your fist curls as warning bells flare through your mind. Something about this kid isn’t right. Now, as he steps under the moonlight, you can make out dark stains covering his shirt.

Blood.

You can’t bring yourself to say anything. He just walks toward you. Your heartbeat picks up as you back up.

Then your Supernatural fangirl kicks in.

Fumbling around in the pocket of your jeans, you find a small salt packet you must’ve taken from Grillby’s. You rip off the top of the packet. It’s not much, but it’ll buy you some time.

Assuming he’s a spirit of some sort.

You wait until he’s just a few feet away from you before you release the salt on him. He screeches when the white material collides with his ghostly figure. He dissipates midair.

But you don’t get to see that because you’re already running.

It doesn’t work for long, because he rematerializes in front of you again, glaring you down while he slowly suspends his arm in the air. You’re sent flying back into the fence guarding the mountain’s entrance. You hiss as a sharp pain shoots through your spine and the wind is momentarily knocked from your lungs.

Then you remember that you’re a mage, too.

He made it difficult for you to move, but with a little focus you manage to shoot a bit of magic at him, making him stumble back. It doesn’t appear to do much damage, but you’re free. He growls, breaking into a full-on sprint at you. You turn and try to sprint as well, but you see he’s frozen you yet again.

With every ounce of your will, you fight to free yourself from his magic. He approaches you again.

“Very good,” he states, whisking his hand in another motion. Fuck, what kind of magic is he using?! You know you can’t beat him because he obviously a shit ton more experience than you do. Plus, you don’t have any solid established connections with anyone’s emotion yet.

In other words, you’re probably capital-F Fucked.

Closing your eyes, you try to search for anyone familiar in the Void of Auras, as you have come to call it. There’s one that you know, but it’s distant. With one last push, you reach out to him.

The boy grips your bicep and the world falls away. In the few moments you’re travelling through the Void, your magic unconsciously calls for Gaster in a last-ditch attempt at calling for help.

Before you know it, you’re dumped onto the ground. With a grunt, you force yourself up.

You’re standing alone in the middle of the woods.

Looking around, you spot a path leading upwards. You wonder if the hole to the Underground is up there; after all, this looks pretty close to the place where you left after the tour.

That boy…there was no way in hell he’d let you escape this easily, right? Or maybe he wants you to visit the Underground’s entrance? Briefly checking over yourself for injuries (surprisingly finding none at the moment aside from the soreness lingering in your back), you try walking to the left.

…Except, when you approach within three feet of the invisible border, a red, magic rune appears midair. It’s a symbol of sorts.

Heh. Of course it’s not that easy. Always worth a shot, though.

Rolling your eyes, you make your way up the path, staying wary the whole time. You listen for any other sounds besides the crunching of twigs underneath your feet and the occasional rustle of leaves.

When you finally make it to the top of the hill, you notice the gaping hole towards the back.

You decide not to get too close with an angry spirit on your ass.

“Closer.”

“Hell no!” you mumble, crossing your arms.

You’re jerked forward by something, falling onto your hands and knees as you try to pull yourself away from the edge. Whatever you try to do, it’s not enough.

This is what you get for going out alone at one o’ clock in the morning, dumbass.

Thus, you fall and fall and fall and fall…

Sans’ eye sockets open wearily, cautiously darting around to make sure he was still in the same timeline as yesterday.

Whew. Still good.

So if it wasn’t a RESET or LOAD that had awakened him, then what did? He checks the time as he sits up groggily.

5:41 AM

Moaning, he shifts, setting his legs on the floor and standing up slowly. He felt some kind of peculiar nagging at his SOUL.

Almost like someone was calling him.

The same thing had happened four – now, almost five – hours ago. Something was tugging at his SOUL.

And he had a feeling it had something to do with you.

He’d texted you a while back asking if you were okay, but you still hadn’t responded, which he had totally expected. Honestly, you were probably asleep. It might’ve been nothing; it might’ve been something.

His SOUL was telling him it was the latter.

He really didn’t want to teleport to your apartment this early for a number of evident reasons. It wasn’t his goal to come across as creepy or anything, and he sure as hell didn’t want to wake you up.

…But wouldn’t you be at the pool with Undyne by now? Or something along those lines?

Not only that, but he hadn’t talked to you lately. Your responses to his texts about Fallout 4 had lost their enthusiasm, which he admitted concerned him a bit. Undyne said she’d seen you at practice yesterday, but the fish monster had overheard her conversation with Papyrus.

She said you looked sadder than usual. More distant. Sans wouldn’t be surprised, after everything you’ve been through, especially with what happened the other day.

But maybe you don’t need to be alone if that’s the case. Sleepily dragging himself out of his room, he treks into the kitchen.

He debates on what to do before realizing that if you weren’t at home, then Undyne would know, so he starts by giving Undyne a call.

“Hello?” she asks, voice quieter than usual. Understandably, she sounds sleepy.

“hey. (y/n) there?”

“No, she must be running late or something. And she didn’t pick up my call. Why?” she asks. Sans ignores the way the curiosity piques in her voice.

“i think something weird’s goin’ on,” he states, “i’m gonna check on her.”

“I agree. Something’s wrong with her, Sans. I…I can’t figure out what exactly. Did something happen?” Undyne confesses.

“yeah, something’s definitely going on. her magic…i felt it earlier ‘n ‘m not sure what exactly it meant.”

“What do you mean, ‘felt it’? Are you guys…like…?” Undyne trails off.

“no, shut up! ‘s not like that,” he mumbles into the receiver, teleporting out of his apartment and into yours.

Everything looks normal so far. He’s standing in the living room, surveying the area around him.

“Anything?” she asks.

“lemme check, hold on.” He walks to where you had pointed your room out earlier that month. Pushing the door open, he finds that your room is empty, save for Temmie and some of your…discarded undergarments strewn across the floor. He blushes at a lacy pair of panties strung over the foot of your bed and forces his gaze towards the sleeping Temmie.

“don’t think she’s here. phone’s gone.”

“What about her car? Can you see it from the window?” Undyne asks.

Sans makes his way to another window. “yeah. still there.”

“Where the fuck did she go?!” Undyne curses.

“you said she wasn’t looking too good when she was with you yesterday,” Sans states, “did she mention anything odd?”

“Not really. She was a lot quieter than usual,” Undyne comments.

“okay. i might be able to trace back the origin of her call if i can focus.”

“Call me if you find something,” Undyne says.

“will do.” He hangs up before stuffing the phone into his hoodie’s pocket and closing his eyesockets.

Your eyes open once more. Blinking a few times, it takes you a few moments to register the amount of soreness tingling through your entire being. Groaning, you shift over to your side, trying to piece together what happened.

You remember being pushed, then tumbling through the hole. With grunt, you manage to push yourself up, ignoring the sharp pains shooting through your arms.

When you finally get yourself into a sitting position, you assess the damage done to your body. Your ribs hurt like hell, to the point where you think you might’ve broken one or two, you left ankle isn’t functioning the way it should, much like your right arm. Your vision isn’t too stable, either.

This isn’t good.

With your right leg and good arm, you manage to scoot yourself up against the wall of the cavern, which you recognize as the entrance to the Ruins. The shadows cast by the moon lurking overhead create an eerie type of scenery mixed with the blaring silence of it all. How in the hell did Frisk survive this fall?!

You chuckle at yourself. Like you thought earlier.

Capital-F Fucked.

“Good.”

You roll your eyes.

“Who the hell are you, anyways?” you ask, trying to see if you can remember any of the exorcisms the Winchesters always used.

…but those were for demons…

The boy walks towards you again. “You’re trying to destroy me.”

“What?” you ask, furrowing your eyebrows. Is he talking about the whole deal with Gaster?

Could this be another Follower? You doubt it, since he doesn’t match the usual monochromatic color scheme.

“The old Royal Scientists. Your little power that can help him.” He shakes his head, walking over to you. “Don’t you realize that, in helping him escape, you’ll be destroying my SOUL, too? Or what’s left of it?”

You frown. “What do you mean?”

“I’m trapped in the Void with that old fuck!” he yells, stomping towards the flower patch you woke up on. “No one ever realized that he wasn’t the only one suffering from it. I am too!”

“How…how did you get trapped?” you ask, wondering if he’s just another lost spirit that could use a hand.

“Doesn’t matter,” he sighs, and you notice that his eyes aren’t red anymore.

They’re brown. And his sweatshirt isn’t bloodied anymore.

“I’m sorry I hurt you. I can’t stand this,” he whispers, looking back to you. You stare back up at him, confused as fuck.

“What? So you aren’t murder-y anymore?” you question, holding your bad arm in your good one.

“I…I never meant to…to…” he forces a sigh, turning away from you for a moment. “Someone’s coming to get you. Here.” He turns back to you, then places a finger on your forehead. A shiver runs through your body, and before you know it, you’re completely healed.

“You…you can…?” you can’t spit your words out, but he seems to understand what you’re trying to get across.

He smiles sadly. “I’ve learned a lot of magic in my years.”

“hey!”

You flick your gaze to meet the newcomer, Sans, who bursts through the door.

“y-you!” Sans exclaims, pinpoints going dark as his glare studies the boy. “what…how…?”

The boy doesn’t answer, instead, he vanishes.

fuck!” he exclaims, then whips his steely gaze to you, pinpoints still absent. “what in the hell are you doing?! how’d you get down here?!”

You stand slowly, hand trailing up against the wall. You start explaining the details of what happened, obviously leaving out why you came out and what exactly the boy said to you. Through your hasty explanation, your mind flickers to Gaster.

Why didn’t he tell you about this boy? Does he have some ulterior motive you’re not aware of? You hope to the stars Gaster’s not trying to manipulate you into doing something bad.

“stars, (y/n)…” he mumbles, eye lights back but fuzzy and unfocused. “four hours, goin’ on five now. you were out for a helluva long time, ‘f what you said was true.”

“I’m sorry,” you whisper, looking down.

“why were you out here at one in the morning, anyways?” he presses, gaze narrowing.

“I…I couldn’t sleep,” you confess, “I woke up, and I just…felt the need to come out to the mountain. Just to look, not to, like, pry or anything, I swear! Then, that guy appeared, and just…attacked.”

He shakes his head. “c’mon.”

You knew the older skeleton was pissed at you when he took hold of you by your bicep and practically pushed you into your apartment. He teleported away without so much as a goodbye. You didn’t like it, but that was the case. You also suspected that he knew you were hiding something.

Which just makes everything harder.

You close the door to your room so Temmie won’t hear anything and make your way to your living room.

“Gaster, get your goopy ass down here before I find a way to summon you,” you grunt, a freshly brewed cup of coffee in your hands.

Gaster glitches in moments later.

You smirk at him. “I know you know what happened. Start talking.”

He sighs. “I didn’t tell you about him for a number of reasons.”

“Enlighten me.”

“He has a rather…special story. One that is not mine to tell. And his requirements to escape are fewer than mine.”

“Why not just let him tell me?!” you demand.

“He can’t speak with you properly until you yourself find out what happened!” he says.

“Then why were we able to talk in the Underground?!”

“Because he glitched out of the Void for a few minutes. He tried to talk to you, but his other form came out...” he sighs.

“Fucking hell, Gaster, what do you mean other form?”

“I told you my story. He deserves a chance to explain his.”

You shake your head, sipping on your coffee. “Okay. But let me tell you this, Gaster,” you spit, “I want to help you. I do. But I swear to the stars, if you keep hiding shit from me, then I won’t hesitate to stop. Understood?”

He nods, clearly taken aback. “My apologies.”

“Thank you. And why the hell have I been so sad lately?! I don’t think I’ve ever been so…depressed before. I know those aren’t my feelings!”

Gaster noticeably grimaces. “I know those emotions do not belong to you. I honestly don’t know why you’re feeling this way. If I find out anything, you’ll be the first to know.”

“Thank you. Now, is there anything else I should know?” you ask.

“Not now. If you want to talk to him, I suggest you find out more about the Dreemurr’s former children.”

“Fine. I will. If you don’t mind, I want to be alone now.”

He’s gone before you even finish your sentence. Rubbing your forehead, you sit down, the events of the morning running through your mind.

You can’t believe Gaster thought that wasn’t an important detail. Doesn’t he see how fucking shady that is?! Taking another sip of your coffee, you lean your head back onto the couch, hoping to the stars you didn’t fuck up too badly.

The fact that you missed practice again is the matter furthest from your mind as you debate on your next move. When you finish your coffee and place the mug in the sink, you go to the bathroom to try to freshen yourself up a bit.
In the mirror, you catch sight of yourself. The scar remains, and you touch it.

You can’t forget who you are, you remind yourself as you gaze at the mark.

You’ve been really mean to everyone around you lately, you can’t help but notice. You shouldn’t take out your despair on them.

“I don’t deserve them,” you whisper, “I don’t deserve any of this.”

Where did your happiness go?

“I thought I was stronger than this,” you say, tears in your eyes.

Why are you being like this?

“What’s happening to me?”

Everything’s your fault. Everyone hates you for being like this.

“I did this.”

You deserve to die.

“I…deserve to…” Tears pile up in your eyes as you find yourself unable to say it. You don’t want to die, no matter how much you deserve it.

…Is that selfish of you? Living when you think you should die?

“I…deserve to die,” you whisper, tightening your grip on the edge of the counter.

“what kinda crazy talk is that?”

You jump, before turning around to see Sans standing there, an apologetic expression on his skull. Your face pales at the thought of him hearing what you said.

“…i think i get it now,” he starts. You’re a lot taller than he is, but that doesn’t stop him. “this isn’t you. you aren’t the sweet, nerdy woman i met at grillbz’ that day. it wasn’t that you couldn’t sleep. you were too busy thinking about all this, right?”

You say nothing.

“something’s doing this to you. it’s gotta be linked to your magic somehow.” He steps closer to you, hesitantly taking your hand. “c’mere. we’ll find out what’s doing this, alright?”

He leads you to your bedroom, where you lay down. He sits next to you, giving you a sad smile.

“you aren’t dying on my watch, squints. you’re too cool.” He chuckles, smiling sadly down at you. You just avert your eyes.

“I don’t mean to be so…so…mean,” you mumble.

“you aren’t mean, just distant, y’know? undyne’s worried about you, too, but we’ll get to the bottom of this.” He pauses for a moment. “i promise. and i’m sorry i got mad at you.”

“It’s alright. Who…who was that, anyway?” you ask.

“someone from my past who i never want to see again.” He shakes his head. “whatever’s doing this to you must be powerful if it’s reachin’ you through your magic.”

You notice the quick change in subject but decide not to pry since you aren’t in the mood. “What could it be?”

Is it related to Gaster, somehow? You’re going to have to ask him what this could be.

“my best guess is that it’s something nasty from the void,” he states, piquing your interest. “not sure what kind of creature could live under those circumstances, but hell…with everything else happening, i wouldn’t doubt it.” He shakes his head, then moves to stand. “get some sleep. i’ll tell undyne what happened. we’ll talk some more in the mornin’. ‘n seriously…if you need to talk, just call,” he mentions, smiling. You give him a tired grin before you close your eyes, the whoosh of his teleportation lulling you to sleep.

“The hell’s going on with you?!” Undyne rages through the phone, making you grimace at the volume of her voice. You hear Sans (who had popped in earlier that morning to check on you) chuckle from across the table.

“Magic bullshit,” you respond, fingers wrapped around your coffee cup. “Sans is helping me figure it out. I’m sorry, Undyne.”

“Quit apologizing, nerd! This isn’t your fault. We’ll do our best to figure out what’s wrong, alright?” You hear her sigh. “Rest up. Come back when you’re ready.”

“Oki doki. Talk to you later.”

“Later, punk.” She hangs up.

“here,” Sans speaks up after you set your phone down. He slides over Desmund’s journal, an entry facing up.

Entry 7

I’ve been experiencing an odd problem with emotion lately. Whenever I find myself in a crowd, I grow stressed and nervous. Never am I in imminent danger, but it’s still peculiar. I suspect this has something to do with the energy of a mass of people.

This is all a very new concept for me, but with my past experiences cast together with this sudden revelation, I think that every being on the Earth has energy. Both magical and physical. A human or monster with a normal set of magic – well, at this point I’m not entirely sure it’s magic, but as of now it’s the only guess I have – is not able to sense the distinct types of energies. The beings who are susceptible to these energies are the Empaths.

“He was pretty damn close,” you note.

“yeah,” Sans says. “when humans are sensitive to others’ energies, it’s because something in their brain – not sure if it’s, like, a nerve or what – is wired to pick up on that.” You smile at the look of fascination on his skull as he rambles on about the human brain and possible explanation. His eye sockets are fuzzy and darting all over the place. Science gets him so excited!

“…and that must be why you’re feeling so down!” Sans finishes, his eye sockets landing on your expectantly.

You blink, trying to remember what he said.

He chuckles at your expression. “void fuckery. the fact that your magic has been inside it before makes it want to trap your energy, so it pushes those negative types of energy to you. kinda like how the thoughts worked, remember that?”

“Oh,” you nod. “That makes sense.”

“so no more shortcuts from now on. the risk of you fallin’ in is much greater for you than for a regular human.”

That causes you to pout a little bit, but you nod anyway. “Alright. Oh, uh…you didn’t have to do all this, by the way.”

He shrugs. “’s interestin’, and ‘sides. we owe it to you to help you out whenever we can.”

You wish the monsters would just drop that already. “Really. I could have done all this.”

“i know you could’ve. but you’re tired ‘n you need to recover.”

“I can’t recover forever! Recovering seems like it’s the only thing I’ve been doing lately!”

He slides Desmund’s journal back over to him. “maybe so, but better safe than sorry, right?”

You nod, paying no mind to the slight itch in your arm. Your fingernails gingerly scrape across the skin as you listen to the skeleton’s words.

“Hm, I guess…” you frown when you realize that the original itch you’d felt begins to tingle slightly.

Sans falters in his reply. “you good?”

“I…think so,” you answer, glancing at your arm. You notice it’s slightly bruised now.

From what, though?

Sans gets up, walking over to you and leaning over your shoulder.

“the hell…?”

!!!!!!!!!!

It starts hurting again, this time worse. You groan in pain, tucking your arm into your stomach. It feels like something is trying to claw itself out of your skin, but this time around, you feel the overwhelming urge to rip your skin open. You stand abruptly before rushing into the kitchen.

“(y/n)…what are you…?” You bite back a scream as the pain turns from clawing to shredding. Your eyes land on one of the kitchen knives. Your hand shoots out to grab one of the handles.

“what?! no, you aren’t…” you tank the blade away from him as he tries to reach for it.

“Please…I…I can’t…” Repositioning the knife, you point it so that the blade is facing your skin. You aren’t looking at him, but you know that Sans isn’t too happy with the idea.

Finally, you bring the knife down onto your skin, cutting it open. You hiss underneath your breath as you see the blood trickle out of your skin. Sans goes quiet before taking the knife out of your grasp, setting it in the sink. Then, he holds the back of your hand in his boney ones. You run your fingers through the blood, your mind spinning. Something feels like it’s wiggling underneath your skin.

“hey…breathe for me, alright? breathe.” You hear Sans, but something feels like it’s trying to break free.

You start trying to get whatever it is out by applying some pressure an inch or so underneath the incision. You’re able to push it up a little bit, but it’s not enough.

“Jesus,” you mumble, the tip of the object peeks out from underneath you skin. Inhaling, you slip two of your fingers between the cut, trying to grasp the object. Soon, you have a decent grip on it.

You pull it out, making you yell a little bit as it finally wiggles free from the confines of your skin.

“What the fuck?!”

“how did that even…?!”

Cupped in your hand is a buttercup now stained with your blood. You and Sans stare at it in wonder, your heart racing as your eyes dart from bloodstain to bloodstain.

You say nothing, your hand shaking as you set it on the counter. Blood gushes out of your cut, but you pay it no mind as your mind tries to process how in the hell that flower got underneath your skin.

You look up to Sans, who is staring in horror at the scene.

“Sans…” you say, “is this part of the pre-manifestation phase?”

He tears his gaze away from the bloody scene and turns to face you, eyesockets wide.

“it can’t be. pre-manifestation phases are just-“ he looks down to the sink, where the stained buttercup was resting.

Keyword: ‘was’.

It’s nowhere to be found now; the only other thing decorating your sink are the smudges of your own blood. You glance at the floor, wondering if it had fallen while it was out of your sight. It’s gone.

“Did you…?” you trail off, looking up to Sans.

He shakes his head. “the hell? i’ve never seen anything like this before!”

“You…you did see the flower, right? I’m not insane?” you ask, just to be sure.

“i saw it. the question is…where did it go?”

You frown, looking back down at your cut. Without further hesitation, Sans is quick to grab a dark-colored towel hanging from your shower. The skeleton wraps it around your injury.

!!!!!!!!!!

“i’ll go find some bandages,” he states before whooshing into thin air. You grunt as you press the towel on a little harder.

Something pops up out of the corner of your eye as you wait for Sans to come back. You’re sitting on the edge of the bathtub when you recognize Gaster on the opposite side of the room. He only watches as Sans (who is unable to see him at the time) pops back in and helps clean up your cut.

You can’t stop gazing at the blood in the sink, though. It’s kind of like something in your mind is trying to remember something…

…a distant memory…

…one that is not yours…

…of a time far past…

……….
………
……..
…….
……
…..
….

..
.
.
..

….
…..
……
…….
……..
………
……….

A red scarf fluttering in the wind, the other half buried underneath a pile of Dust.

A very pissed off skeleton.

And a lot of blood.

Chapter Text

Chapter XXII - Your Reality

Over the next few days, you drag yourself back into training. It helps you feel better, with the exercise along with getting to know the mechanics of your magic. After the whole flower incident, Sans had decided to research causes of it as long as you tried to get more adept at wielding, which you thought was more than fair.

"Better," Gaster states after he watches you summon an attack spell. The two of you are standing out in the field you had originally trained with Undyne at. Gaster recommended that you learn how to cast magic circles. With the help of Gerson, Gaster, and Undyne, you were starting to learn different spells that were cast with these circles.

You loved magic circles. They looked like the ones the mages of Fairy Tail use, and it feels epic, too. Your magic circle is a bright orange with dark purple runes embedded in it. According to what spell you're casting, the runes change.

As for the spells you learned, well...they were the generic, basic level of magic that all monsters, no matter the magic, could learn. For example, right now you’re practicing a defense spell that treats the circle as a barrier against attacks. The spells are the same, but the way the user's magic works is the way the magic itself is actually casted, meaning that they were all treated differently.

You began to understand what this meant when you actually tried it. The book you found said that in order to cast this specific spell, you would need to wield the spell the way you imagined it would work. When you imagined the defense spell, you pictured it more of wave of security swelling to protect you. Gaster said he was able to use the same spell in the Void, except he pictured it as a shield rather than a wave. It just varied from entity to entity.

Not only that, but your circles make cool noises when they're summoned. It almost reminds you of Mirajane's Satan Soul magic circle. You had a ton of fun casting the spells and learning new attacks.

As for your sources, you learned that your magic would most likely have to feed off of other's emotions. In further investigating this, you found that it simply did it by itself; there wasn't a specific way to do it, which was what had originally confused you. Yes, you can still enter the Void of AurasTM but now you know that that is more for personal connections since it's a little more...intimate than you had originally thought.

"So that's why Sans freaked when I reached out to him," you mumble to yourself. "Weird."

Your job was to feel for others, to experience the emotion for yourself, like Desmund had. Some of it still confused the hell out of you, but that's what's supposed to happen. As you had established earlier, no one would ever come to fully understand the depth behind magic.

Gaster praises your progress. For some reason, his help has been more useful than Undyne's – not that she wasn't helping at all! She gave you useful tips and tricks which made it a lot easier to wield, but Gaster always informed you of significant battle techniques which gave your magic-powers a huge boost. When Undyne asked about it, you simply replied that it was a method Desmund had discovered in his journal. She didn’t question it further.

Gaster says your name suddenly, his expression somewhat distracted. You turn your attention back to him. "What's up?"

He sighs, expression taut and seemingly stressed. "I think there's something we should discuss the next time I pop up."

You frown. "Why not now?"

Goopster shakes his head. "I feel I don't have a lot of time left until I appear back to the Void. I'll explain to you whenever we get the chance."

You nod. "Sounds good. Guess that's my cue to wrap up, then," you say, grabbing your swim bag. You've got an afternoon practice to coach today after you and Undyne go shopping for suits.

"Yes, take a break, get plenty of rest, and prepare for a mind-boggling explanation," Gaster sighs. "Have a good day."

"You too, thanks," you reply before Gaster zaps out of there. Adjusting the straps on your bag, you make your way back to your Jeep.

"Heya, nerd," Undyne says as she climbs into your Jeep, slamming the door closed.

"What's up?" you ask. The two of you had agreed that you'd pick her up after you were finished with training.

"Nothin' much. How'd training go?" she questions, throwing her drawstring bag in the back.

"Pretty well. I can cast magic circles pretty easily now."

"That's good to hear. I might be able to teach you some more advanced spells when you're ready," Undyne muses.

"Hells yeah. I'd love that," you agree.

"Cool. Where we headed, again?"

"One of my favorite stores, The Swim Shop."

"Awesome. You feeling better after...whatever the hell happened?"

You nod. "Training really has been helping me lately. Sans has been helping, too. I think I'll be back on track tomorrow."

"You don't have to get a team suit. You can just get a plain one, so long as it doesn't have another team's name on it. But I think Coach would prefer it if you went with a team suit," you note, stepping into the shop with your fish monster friend. A small smile drifts across your lips as the familiar scent of brand new swimwear hits your nose.

"Hello, ladies!" comes the voice of the sweet, elderly woman you've come to know over the years. She and her sister have been running this shop for years, and you remember them from way back when you started swimming. Both have come to recognize you pretty well, now.

The older one, Ms. Margaret Addington, is the one you see the most often. When you walk in, her head looks up to meet the two of you. Her grey hair is cut into a short bob, her eyes a chocolate brown. She's dressed in a plain, baby blue shirt with soft pants to match. A smile breaks out on her wrinkled face as joy lights up her eyes, whose color has darkened with time.

"Good morning, Ms. Addington!" you greet, smiling as she waddles towards the two of you from her desk in the back.

"It's been a while! Ah, and who's this lovely woman?" she asks, gesturing to Undyne.

"Undyne the Undying, Captain of the Royal Guard. It's a pleasure to meet you," Undyne introduces with a toothy smile, sticking her hand out.

Ms. Addington shakes the fish monster's larger hand. "My, your hair is beautiful! And you," she turns to you, "How've you been, dear? I haven't seen you since last summer!"

You chuckle. "I've been doing alright, and you?"

"Well, we're just fine, thank you. Now!" she saunters over to the shelf towards the front that contains team suits. "I assume you're here for a team suit?"

"Yes ma'am!" you respond. "A team one for Undyne, and a practice one for me, please."

"Perfect! Now," she says your name, "since you and Undyne are about the same height, I'm going to start with your size and adjust from there. Is that fine?" she asks.

"Of course. While you're doing that, I'm going to look at practice suits." You pat her on the shoulder. "Have fun."

When the two go to the back to start the fitting process, you go to the aisle where your size is located. A wide variety of swimsuits are hanging. There's a huge selection of colors and patterns, so you start swiping through them.

When you find one that you like, you snatch it off the rack and make your way towards the caps and goggles section. Eh, why the hell not? You're going to need new ones sooner or later.

Your mind tunes out the noise of Undyne and the lady talking as you sift through the different types of goggles. Your eyes soften as you view the different types, wondering which you should go for this time around.

Finding suitable gear, you nod to yourself, satisfied with your selection.

"Found one!" you hear Undyne boom from the changing rooms. You chuckle.

"Now that's a perfect fit!" Ms. Addington agrees, leading Undyne to the checkout desk.

"I'll have to send this in to get embroidered, but I'm sure it will be back before the big meet rolls around," she explains. Undyne nods.

"And did you find everything you needed, dear?" the other woman asks, glancing at you.

"I did, thank you," you reply, setting your spoils down onto the counter.

"Excellent. What-" She's cut off by a familiar noise.

"Sans," Undyne says without even looking at the skeleton. You turn around, and there he is.

He blinks. "figured i'd find you here."

"Oh, weren't you the lovely gentleman who took that precious child shopping for swimming gear?!" Ms. Addington asks, smiling.

Another cute blush creeps onto Sans's cheeks as he rubs the back of his vertebrae. "uh...yeah. i did."

"What's up?" you ask.

"well...i found somethin'. when you get a minute, of course," he adds, gesturing to the counter.

You nod. "We'll be finished in a minute."

"cool. i'll be outside," he informs before walking out.

The old lady gives a short squeal when he exits before grabbing your hand. "Oh, he's too precious!" She gives you a wink. "Keep him, dear. You don't find many men like him anymore!"

You're too flustered to answer as Undyne just bursts out laughing. "Yeah, punk! Keep him!" she teases, instantly making you redder.

"Shut up," you mumble, fumbling for your wallet as the woman continues ringing your stuff up like nothing happened.

You swear you hear Undyne mumble “I ship it” but you opt to ignore that part.

Once the two of you have finished up checking out, you two wave goodbye to Ms. Addington before stepping out outside. Sans is leaning against one of the columns, hands stuffed into his pockets, causing Undyne to elbow you in the ribs, hard.

"Ow!" you growl before punching her shoulder.

Before Undyne can retaliate, Sans straightens. "cut it out before you two kill each other, please."

The both of you ignore that. "What'd you find?"

"something's goin' on in the void. 's the only logical conclusion after all that happened. i dunno what the hell's goin' on, though."

Heh, you might have an idea, you think as your mind flickers to Gaster and the boy. "Any theories?"

Sans's pinpoints disappear for a moment. "a few."

Undyne frowns. "What do we do, then? If there's something in the Void we need to take care of..." Her frown deepens as her face completely blanks.

"Take care of...?" you pry. Sans just sighs, but you feel him gazing at you.

Undyne blinks a few times. "What?"

"jus' drop it," Sans mumbles, stepping towards you.

You're utterly confused; Undyne looks completely lost while Sans seems like this has happened before.

"What was I saying?" Undyne asks, facing you.

"Oh...uh, nothing?" you say more as a question.

Sans grabs your hand and tugs you away from Undyne. "you were ranting about anime. give us a minute, will ya?"

He turns to you once Undyne's out of earshot. "what do you know about the void? i need to know."

You think for a moment. You can't give too much away, since Sans is already beginning to suspect things. "Place where magic is drawn from. It wants to suck up all SOULs and is literally nothing. Bad place."

Sans narrows his eyesockets for a moment. "then how are you...?"

"How am I...?"

"nevermind. must be your magic." He frowns, seemingly deep in thought. "unless..." He trails off again, pinpoints disappearing again.

"Wh-what do you mean?'

"…'s nothing," he murmurs. He seems a little bit perplexed, and you're wondering what in the hell you missed. "um...guess i'll talk to you later." He doesn't give you a chance to reply because he zaps himself away in a hurry.

Rolling your eyes, you go back to meet Undyne.

"The hell was that about?"

"I have no idea. He seemed confused." You shrug. "I'm sure it's nothing. C'mon, we're going to be late!"

You wonder if this has anything to do with whatever Gaster was talking about earlier...

...

You and Undyne are wrapping up another practice, the one before the last regular swim meet until the big one, City-County.

"Alright, everyone! Next meet is the last one before we have to practice for City-County!" you inform. "I want everyone to swim hard! Don’t disqualify!"

You hear Undyne booming from her lane as well, making you chuckle.

"And remember to sign up for the big meet if you know for a fact you're going!" You add. "You can drop an event if you qualify for enough, so let us know which one you're dropping!"

Frisk is with MK in your lane with the other kids, who are all muttering amongst themselves.

"Alright. Good job tonight. I'll see you guys Monday!" you say, and the group disperses. Frisk and MK remain in the water. They'd wanted to do their lessons together today, which you were completely fine with.

"Next meet is butterfly! Which I suck at!" Frisk declares.

"You don't suck," you respond with a chuckle. "Alright. Swim to the middle, and we'll go from there."

"Their arm positioning already looks better, and we also worked on keeping their head down when they came up," you explain to Toriel when she comes to pick up Frisk.

"Excellent. They've been improving rapidly with your help. Thank you for your time! Have a good day!" she exclaims, taking Frisk’s hand. They smile up at you before waving briskly.

“You too, thank you,” you reply and wave back, then sigh heavily as the two trekked out. You turn and travel back to your swim bag, where you begin packing everything up into your bag.

“Have a good afternoon, (L/N)!” Head Coach yells from where he’s standing near the deep end.

“You too!” you respond, raising your voice a little. Then, you start making your way out to your Jeep, where you throw everything in the back and hop in the front.

A few seconds after you turn the engine on, Gaster pops up unexpectedly, making you jump.

“Fuck! Please don’t do that while I’m driving!” you groan.

“Apologies. Do you have an hour or so free?” he asks.

“Yeah. Should we wait until we get back or what?”

“This will do for now. The earlier we start, the better.”

“A’ight, I’m all ears,” you encourage.

He commences the explanation with a heavy sigh. “I debated on whether or not I should explain or if the other boy should, but in the end, I concluded that it would be best for me to. Hm, where to start…” he trails off for a moment, then remembers. “Ah, yes. I saw the little incident you had with Sans earlier.”

“I had a feeling that had something to do with whatever you’re about to say,” you mention.

“Indeed. Alright. So, I know you’re curious as to why Undyne was so confused when Sans mentioned the Void.”

“Mmm-hmm.”
“I thought so. When certain topics about the Void are discussed – in this case what Sans is investigating, the two Lost Souls – people and monsters who don’t have magic relating to extremely specific types of energy cannot discuss it without the Void unconsciously picked at their memory. It’s simply not programmed into their magic. Undyne is a perfect example: her magic exists simply so she can protect. As you might have guessed beforehand, she does not read into the distinct types of energy as tediously as people like you do. Does that make sense so far?”

“Yeah,” you frown, gears turning in your mind.

“What is it?” Gaster asks.

“Then why was Sans so…confused? Frustrated?”

Gaster heaves a heavy sigh. “Because there are few people who can freely discuss matters of the Void without its interference. You are one of them. Sans is as well. And while we’re at it…Frisk is, too. But I don’t have the liberty to tell you why, for that is something you’ll find out yourself.”

“Frisk can?” you ask, purposely missing the turn to your apartment complex’s driveway. You want to drive some more.

“Yes. Anyways, Sans has not had the best of experiences with these types of matters. That’s why he’s so closed off.” Glancing over at him, you find that his expression is embedded with sadness.

You blink for a minute as something Sans said back at his apartment dawns on you:

"Heh, yeah," you grin. "So, what's your opinion on Monika now that you've finished the game?"

His expression falls for a second, and he takes a few moments before speaking again. "well...after i learned more about her situation..." He sighs, pinpoints shrinking. "uh...she's my favorite."

"Really?" you inquire. "Why's that?"

He studies you for a second before explaining. "i...i don't know. i mean...she's trapped in this...this endless cycle of...loops. the same thing every day. everything revolves around one decision of a player outside of her reality." At this point, his pinpoints have disappeared completely.

“That reminds me of something he said to me beforehand, when he was explaining why he loved his favorite character of a game we like. And I wouldn’t have thought much of it if weren’t for the way he worded it,” you muse. But, Sans sounded so…so very distant. You knew for a motherfucking fact that the poor skeleton was speaking from memory.

But how was that possible?

“Would you explain this character to me? If so, I might be able to explain why,” Gaster asks.

“Her name is Monika. The game’s called Doki Doki Literature Club. She’s the president of said Literature Club, but throughout the entire game, the player just…gets a weird vibe from her, y’know? The creators designed her to be unsettling compared to the other characters. She even went so far as to break the fourth wall in one of the earlier acts, which was odd. As it turns out, she’s self-aware that she’s in a video game, and even called the player by their actual computer or Steam account’s name rather than the one the player gave to their protagonist. She could tell if YouTubers were recording her for their playthroughs. She had to watch a protagonist that would never love her crush and hit on the other three girls that were in the game, the ones that were programmed to fall in love with the main character, the player, no matter what. Monika didn't have her own path and it killed her to watch them fall for him over and over.

“After watching it over and over, she grew sick of it and tried breaking the script of the game in order to make her own ending. And Sans worded it like ‘an endless cycle of loops’, which I kind of found unsettling, which makes me think whatever happened to him has something to do with the Void. He said something about doing the same thing every day, and something about one person calling the shots.” You shake your head. “Does that ring a bell?”

“As a matter of fact, it does. That explanation ties in perfectly with what I’m about to explain. I think you’ll be able to understand it faster than expected due to the experience you’ve had with video games. So…in the Underground, when Frisk fell and made their first run through…well, the first time was perfect. Everyone got out, was happy. Free.” Gaster sighs again.

“What do you mean first time?” you ask.

“I’m getting to that. Then, Frisk realized that they were missing someone. The boy in the Void. His name is Chara. So, they realized that…with enough DETERMINATION, they could force the entire timeline they’d just finished establishing to RESET. To eradicate itself whilst being replaced with a brand new one.”

You feel like you’re going to start getting distracted, so you pull into the parking lot of a grocery store for the time being. “Frisk? How could…but wouldn’t that mean…?”

“Yes. That’s part of their magic.” Gaster confirms. “Along with RESETs, Frisk can LOAD from what they call a Save Point.”

“Reminds me of the saving file system in a video game,” you mutter, rubbing your eyes as a migraine begins to form.

"Precisely. As I was saying, Frisk kept RESETting, hoping that its twisted logistics would somehow bring Chara back. It happened over, and over..."

"And Sans was able to realize what was happening because of his magic," you conclude, everything falling into place.

"Precisely. There were other events that happened...but those are not my stories to tell."

You frown. "Has Frisk reloaded or whatever since I've known them?"

"Not yet. They made a deal with Sans simply because he couldn't take the RESETs anymore." He shakes his head. "I also saw that Sans is beginning to get suspicious of activity in the Void."

"Oh, yeah..." you respond.

"I might be able to throw him off track for a while. I do not want him to get involved after all of the RESETs."

"Guy deserves a break," you note.

Gaster sighs heavily. "He knows he can trust you, but he's not exactly sure how to go about it. Please take care of my sons," he pleads, "someone needs to be there for them and it can't be me. Sans, especially. Papyrus was the only reason why he was able to drag himself out of bed every morning during the RESETs."

You feel kind of guilty, even though it's not your fault. You think you should've waited to hear about something so traumatic. But then again, it might've triggered a panic attack for him and you don't want that.

"I'll try. Dammit, I'm going to get you out of that Void, Gaster," you swear.

"Thank you so much for everything you're doing. I promise I'll make it up to you when I'm out. And I always repay my debts."

"You really don't have to worry about it," you assure.

"Yes, I do. You're going through all of this just to help two lonely SOULs. That should not go ignored." He sighs once more. "I'm about to be sent back. We'll be in touch."

With that, he disappears, and you're left alone in your Jeep.

You sit there for a good ten minutes, just trying to process everything you just heard. It all makes sense, in some weird way, but you have a feeling the only reason to get the two out of the Void is to find out more about Chara. You feel so very bad for getting mixed up in all this personal information, but hopefully it'll be worth it in the end.

After your headache subsides a little bit, you start the engine and begin the thoughtful drive back to your apartment.

How could Chara be saved by RESETting? What did Frisk think that would do? Was it actually possible, or were you the only one who could pull it off? Did Sans know about Chara? His situation with Gaster? Was anyone else aware of these issues? Rubbing your head, you sink down onto your bed.

You feel something furry rub against your feet as Temmie crawls out from under the bed. Bending over, you scoop her up and into your arms before laying down.

"Hey, Tem," you mumble.

"hELLOs, hUMan!" Temmie greets, snuggling into your chest. You gently stroke her soft fur.

"Are you okay?" you question.

"YAyA! R Us OKs?"

"Yeah. Just tired," you mumble sleepily.

"gO tO SLEePs! TeMmiE wILL deFENDs U!" Temmie declares, causing a tired grin to appear on your face.

"Thanks, Tem," you whisper before closing your eyes and drifting into an eventful slumber...

You're in the Void. You recognize it from Sans's shortcuts. It'd odd because you can't quite figure out how to move, yet you seem to be doing it without thinking.

Then, something considerably darker from the surrounding blackness emerges from the shadows. It appears to be several feet taller than you, and has no face, no permanent structure or appearance. You know it has spotted you, but somehow it has managed to hold you in your place.

Are you actually in the Void? You're not sure, but the thing starts moving towards you. It's eerie how a creature so big can move so silently. You try to struggle, but you can't.

Suddenly, Chara comes out of nowhere. He growls before summoning a red knife into his hands. Your eyes go wide as he begins battling the entity. He moves gracefully yet aggressively, slashing when he gets the chance and blocking when he needs to. The creature continues to land a hit on Chara, but the boy is much more agile than he seems. He darts back and forth, jumps up and down, slicing at the thing. A few more minutes later, the creature just dissolves.

"You're here. I can finally talk to you," Chara says, his brown eyes lingering on you.

"Your name is Chara," you say.

"Yes. That's my name." He says it like he's trying to assure himself. "Chara. I'm glad you're here; it gives you a glimpse of what we're up against down here."

"What was that?" you question.

"Void demon. There are tons of them here. Gaster and I were barely able to fight them off once they started attacking, but now we're stronger. Even so, we can't keep this up forever."

"Why are they attacking?" you wonder aloud.

"They want access to our timeline, since it's the one that has lasted the longest so far."

"Let me guess. If they get access, then they're going to attempt to destroy human and monsterkind alike," you estimate.

"Evidently, yes. Once you get us out of here, we'll be able to stop their leader once for all, although it'll take more people than just you, me, and Gaster. We'll have to get more people on board, people who know about the timelines. But we'll cross the bridge when the time comes."

"What should I do?"

"As for now, nothing, although if I were you, then I'd indirectly get Sans on board."

"Really? I thought Gaster wanted him out of this?" you question.

"Maybe so, but you don't have to involve him in getting us out. Just the oncoming battle. Once you master your magic a little better, you'll be a strong ally. Paired with Sans, the two of you will make an unstoppable team. Trust me, I know how strong Sans is. You'd be surprised."

"But how would I break the news to him?" you wonder.

"You're going to have to make him listen. I won't lie, it's not gonna be easy. But if you get to know him a little better, then you can do it. This is not a fight the three of us will be able to battle. We need Sans."

"But this isn't for a long time, right?"

"Right. Just focus on getting us out, please. You know enough about me for me to talk to you in your dreams, as we are doing now, but not enough for me to appear to you in the real world."

"Okay. How would I do that?"

"Ask Frisk about the picture you saw in the guest room of their house, and they might explain it to you. I wouldn't ask Toriel or Asgore. The story is a hard one to recite. Even for me."

"I'm...sorry."

"Thank you, but it's not your fault. Oh, and I wanted to tell you one more thing."

"What's up?"

"If you ever wake up in the morning feeling a strong, overwhelming sense of deja vu, then the odds are that Frisk has reloaded. They only reload in emergencies, so be aware."

"Okay, then," you reply. "I'll keep that in mind."

"Thank you. I know Gaster already told you this, but when we're freed, we'll do everything we can to make it up to you. We won't ever be able to repay you, but we'll do whatever we can."

"You really don't have to worry about it. It's the right thing to do."

Chara smiles sadly. "A lot of people don't know what that is anymore."

Suddenly, you feel a hand on your bicep. This time around, it's not harsh. The grip is gentle, but firm as it pulls you through a portal. Chara's eyes widen.

He yells your name.

The scene falls away, and the fragments of the previous one reorder themselves into a new structure. You're on the top of Mount Ebott, a grave at your feet. You're dressed in a white dress that reaches right above your knees.

"Huh...?" you mumble.

"heya, sweetheart." You turn around to meet the voice. The figure is blurred once again, but you know that this is the same guy from your other dream.

"You again?" you ask.

"yup. flattered you remember," he replies, chuckling.

"Why can't you tell me who you are?"

"'m not from your timeline. 's just wrong to tell people who you are that aren't in your timeline."

"Then why are you showing yourself to me?"

"'cause you and i? we're gonna meet one day. not sure how, not sure when, not sure why. but we will."

"How is it possible to jump from one timeline to another?"

"let's just say that, with the right kind of magic, you can do anything," he answers.

"Damn, that sounds intense. What timeline are you in?"

"you'll see. i, for one, can't wait to meet you, sweetheart."

"Whenever that is."

"whenever that is," he reiterates. "anyway, gaster and chara are tryna pull you back. you should go."

Once more, the scene falls away, but this time around, the dream fades into black and your slumber goes interrupted for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Chapter XXIII – OPA!

Sans wonders what in the hell he’s going to do.

He has absolutely no idea why the Void’s been so messed up lately. It wasn’t clear as to where he should start with his research, either.

The shorter skeleton can feel the sun shining down onto his bones, but the temperature itself doesn’t affect him since he doesn’t have skin. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket, he releases a sigh, closing his heavy eyesockets for a moment.

He’s so tired.

Sometimes he wishes that he could have remained Dusted with everyone else alive in a previous timeline. He wishes he could have stayed dead. That way, it’d end all this. Expecting to wake up back in his old house with Papyrus yelling at him get up, theorizing how in the hell Chara got back into this world...

And he had been too exhausted to realize it.

The thought of Chara being able to find a route back into the timeline – especially after what Sans and the kid had done to permanently expel Chara from the timelines...it’s absolutely terrifying, knowing that there might not be a way to stop it this time...

There was something bigger at work here. Sans knew he couldn’t tell Asgore or Tori just yet. Not after they’d finally gotten everyone to the Surface. No, this was on him and him alone. He vowed that he wouldn’t drag anyone else into it. Whatever was going on in the Void...he knew he could face it. He was the Judge for stars’ sake! He should be able to take on anything!

He watches his slipper-enveloped feet trudge against the dirt road, Gerson’s relocated shop appearing in the distance. The older skeleton hopes that the elderly turtle will have an answer for him. At least one. The other questions were going to have to wait for now. He wasn’t in the mood to teleport and the quietness of the outdoors is giving him much-needed time to think. The elder skeleton loved his brother with all of his non-existent heart, but he seriously needed a break from Paps’ insistent, loud shouting every now and then.

Finally, he reaches his destination. Taking his hands out of his pockets, he approaches.

As per usual, the little shop is empty. He steps inside, gently shutting the door behind him.

“gerson?”

“Hello?! I’m back here!” calls the voice.

“’s just me, sans.”

“Ah, well hello again! What brings you back? More science fiction? Or, perhaps you’re looking for another book about space or science?”

“not today. just had a question,” he admits.

“I see. Well, you have a seat on the sofa and I’ll be with you momentarily, kumquat!”

Sans had absolutely no idea as to why Gerson chose kumquat of all nicknames, but decided it was better just to go with it. He settles down in the spot where he’d sold a ‘concert ticket’ to you. Closing his eye sockets, he allows himself to lean his head back and enjoy the silence.

“You look horrible, Sans. Open your eyes.”

After he reluctantly accepts the request, Gerson hands him a cup of tea.

“thought tea was asgore’s thing,” he notes with a chuckle in an attempt to lighten the mood.

“That’s what everyone seems to think, although I adore a hot cup o’ tea anytime! Wa ha ha!” he sighs happily.

“heh. thanks,” Sans replies, gripping the warm cup tightly.

“Don’t mention it! Now. What’s going on with you?”

Sans takes a sip of tea. It tastes of peppermint and soothes him instantly.

“so...i was wondering...you know how magic isn’t s’pposed to have anything to do with other souls? of course, with the exceptions of the colored attacks. the ones associated with humans and monsters.”

“Go on.”

“well...is it possible for magic to...to have contact with souls without being in an encounter?” Sans wonders.

Gerson frowns, silence consuming the room.

“I believe it’s possible. But, I’m not sure if what you’re talking about can be wielded by a monster since our SOULs are so fragile.”

“so it’s possible?”

“Of course. All it takes is the right heart, mindset, and a specific type of energy magic.”

In other words, a form of ergokinesis.

Gerson observes Sans’ reaction before smiling cheekily. “This doesn’t have anything to do with that cute lil’ girlfriend of yours, does it?”

Thoughts temporarily discarded, he feels himself heat up, straightening his posture a bit.

“sh-she’s not my girlfriend!”

Gerson smirks. “Who?!” he asks, playing dumb.

Sans blinks before forcing himself to get back on track, slightly skullpalming. “ugh...”

The elderly turtle laughs. “Wa ha ha! Ah, too funny. I’m just teasing, kumquat. In all seriousness, yes, it is entirely feasible.” Gerson trails off, looking at Sans with a distant gaze.

“what is it?” the skeleton asks, taking another sip of tea.

“Sans...you need to take better care of yourself.”

Sans frowns. “i am!”

The other monster shakes his head. “You know better than to try and lie to me, kumquat. Listen to me. Go home. Get some sleep.”

The idea of sleeping while he could be working sounded absurd to him. “i can’t.” Too much was at stake here. He wouldn’t sit back and watch while his timeline was torn from him again. It was at risk, and something was coming, something big. He couldn’t bear for the world to be RESET one more time. If everything he had now was ripped away from him again...

It wouldn’t end well. At all.

“Why not? Sans...look. I know you have nightmares. About what, I’ve no clue, and I understand if you want to keep it to yourself. But please...talk to someone. You can’t keep this up forever, Sans. You have to get help.”

He shakes his head. No way. There was no way in hell he’d talk to someone about what he’d experience. No one would believe him. Even if they did, he wouldn’t subject them to that horror. Because W.D. Gaster had had a theory, one that Sans took seriously now. If a mortal found out how RESETs worked, and who was capable of doing it, then they would be able to remember. He refused to put someone through that.

“you don’t understand. ‘s not as simple as it may seem.”

“Then help me understand, Sans. You know Papyrus is beginning to become suspicious of your panic attacks. You know that you can’t keep him out of the loop forever.”

The mention of his younger brother hurts him. Papyrus...

“Listen. Take a day off from work and sleep. Eat full meals, not just a snack every now and then. Relax a little bit.”

Yeah right. There’s too much on the line for Sans to rest now. He knew he wouldn’t rest until this was sorted out.

But, just to appease the poor turtle, Sans nods. “alright.”

Gerson seems skeptical, but at the same time, Sans knows that Gerson knows that’s the best he’s going to get out of the skeleton.

“Thank you. Now. Shall we return to the original topic?”

“i guess.”

“So, what brought all of this up?” Gerson questions, shifting his cane to the other hand.

Sans sighs and starts talking.

...

You love volunteering.

It’s not just because it will look good on a resume, or that it’s just something to do. You’ve been doing this ever since high school. Festivals, swim meets, events like that...the only reason why these occasions are possible? The volunteers. It makes you inexplicably happy to see just how many people are willing to sacrifice part of their day just to help out with something for everyone. In a world full of negativity, corruption, war, violence, cruelty (you get the idea), it’s extremely heartwarming to see that the entire world isn’t like that. There are people who care.

And you’re one of them.

The general positive atmosphere makes you very happy; you can feel it swimming around in your magic

“Could I make one?” a voice asks, snapping you out of your thoughts.

You blink, returning to the present. A small child is staring up at you expectantly, holding a five-dollar bill.

You and some of the monsters are helping out with the annual Festival of Ebott; one that you’d been working for a while now. You, Alphys, and Papyrus are manning the Kids’ Center, where they can create a number of cute little crafts for a cheap price. The child in front of the table you’re behind point to a mason jar filled with sand art.

“Of course! That’ll be four dollars,” you state. As he starts handing you the money, you pause.

You’ve seen him before.

He's the kid you saw back on the tour of the Underground, the one who was just as spooked as you did when the bell in Judgement Hall rang. What was his name? Xander?

“Here you go!”

He hands you the money, and you quickly exchange the five for a one in the cash box. Handing him back his change, you bend down to grab a mason jar. Then, you unscrew the top and hand it to him.

“Do you know how to do it?” you ask.

“No.”

“Alright. So, you see those jars?” you point to the ones you and Alphys had made earlier. One of them had a mixture of yellow, blue, and red sand, which was the one Alphys made. You aren’t the craftiest person, but you made yours with your two favorite colors.

He nods. “All you do is fill it up to the top with any colors you want. Once you fill it up all the way, I’ll make those little designs. Cool?”

“Yeah!”

While everyone was setting up the festival, you and Papyrus had resorted to hunting down plastic squirt bottles that had enough room to spew out sand. That way, it’d be easier for the little kids to use. You began topping off each bottle by unscrewing the cap and using a funnel to pour in sand.

While he’s filling up his jar, you snag a fry from the little container Undyne had brought you all earlier. She was a runner for all of the volunteers stationed all over the place. Plus, you haven’t been able to have lunch yet.

“HELLO SMALL HUMAN! WOULD YOU CARE FOR A TURN IN THE LEGENDARY BOUNCY HOUSE FOR THE LOW COST OF ONE DOLLAR?”

The voice belongs to none other than Papyrus, who is working with Dustin at the bouncy house. They work incredibly well together, taking turns between watching the kids jump and admitting more. They’re located next to your tent in a small field next to another tent, which offers face painting. Alphys is currently behind you, working to help people make ‘windchimes’ out of sticks, ribbon, and beads.

As for the other monsters, you haven’t seen Asgore or Toriel yet. You wonder if they’re even here; you know you saw Frisk earlier, but so far there hasn’t been a sign of either.

“I’m finished!” the boy announces, holding up the jar. Some of the tightly-packed sand spills, but it looks good. He layered blue, red, purple, and orange into patterns.

Hm. You’d recognize that specific color scheme anywhere.

“You a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan?” you question, grinning slightly. You love it when little kids have the same interests as you.

“Yeah! Wait...do you like them?!” he demands, eyes widening.

“YES! Who’s your favorite?!” you ask.

“Mikey! He’s so chill and funny!” he replies. You pick up a thin stick and press it down the side of the jar, creating a little dip in the sand.

“Nice,” you tell him your favorite turtle.

“I didn’t know adults liked cartoons!” he chirps. You continue making the pattern.

“Well, I’m weird like that!” you answer with a grin.

“I don’t think it’s weird! I’ve never met anyone who likes the shows I watch,” he admits. “Oh, and you look really familiar. Were you on the tour of the Underground?”

“Yeah, I was. That’s where I saw you!” you say. Setting down the stick you were using, you grab the lid to the mason jar and screw it on tightly. “Here you are!”

“Thank you! It looks so cool!” Xander yells with a grin, holding up the jar. You chuckle.

“It does, huh?” You’re about to ask him something else when you notice Sans walking up with Frisk next to him. Frisk smiles and waves upon seeing you and Alphys.

“Hey, guys!” you greet, clapping your hands together to get off the loose pieces of sand.

“Hi, Coach!” Frisk greets, grinning up at you.

“heya. everything goin’ well?” Sans asks. He’s smiling, but you can tell he’s not really feeling it.

“Yeah. Just finished up another one,” you smile at Xander, who proudly shows his jar to Sans.

“Hey, Mr. Nice Cream Skeleton! Look what this nice lady helped me make!”

Nice Cream Skeleton? Has he been helping Quinn out? But, as far as you know, Quinn wasn’t able to volunteer today...

“’s awesome. better than something i could make,” he praises, smiling at the kid.

“Thanks!” he chirps before his eyes widen. He turns back to you.

“Hey! Is he one of your cool monster friends that you told me about back in the Underground?”

You catch Sans raising a skullbrow at you out of the corner of your eye, though you choose to ignore that. “Yeah, one of the many.”

“Hm. He is cool,” Xander replies.

“but you wanna know who’s cooler?” he gestures to Papyrus, who’s helping a little kid climb into the bouncy house. “that skeleton right over there.”

Those two are going to be the death of you. You sigh.

“HELLO SANS!” the taller skeleton calls when he spies the four of you. “AND TINY HUMANS! COME, JOIN US IN THE BOUNCY HOUSE!”

Frisk and Xander eagerly dash off before Sans turns to you.

“cool monster friends, huh?”

You chuckle. “He asked me about my scar, and I told him I got it saving a friend of mine.”

“i see.”

“Yeah.” The two of you fall silent for a minute.

“’s alphys been helping you out?” he questions.

You nod. “Yep. We’ve been doing pretty well so far.”

“good to hear.” He looks like he’s about to say something again, but he’s cut off by Undyne yelling for him.

“Guess that’s your cue,” you state with a chuckle.

“yeah. see ya around,”

“Later.” He zaps away with a wave. With no kids around, you take a seat and face Alphys.

Her eyes are wide, mouth slightly ajar.

“...You good?” you ask, frowning a little. She looks a little...crazy.

She blinks, then begins blushing madly upon realizing she’d spaced out. “Oh, y-yeah, sorry, I just...” she trails off, eyes flickering between where you are and where Sans had been previously standing.

“You just...?”

“I spaced out. S-sorry.”

“That’s alright. Hey, I’m going to go grab a water bottle. You want one?”

“Please,” Alphys breathes.

“Okay. I’ll be right back!” you chirp before jogging off into the crowd of people.

Alphys sighs, watching you run and waiting until you’re out of earshot.

“OhmystarsIshipthemsohard!”

...

[The Next Day]

“I wish I could live in a Twinkie! How sick would that be?!” you groan, clutching a pillow to your chest with your knees pulled up.

“What’s a Twinkie? Is it that thing that little cockroach lives in?” Burgerpants asks. He’s sitting on the other couch with Quinn, the two of them cuddled up together.

You gasp. “I’m going to have to give you a Twinkie. They’re little poofs of happiness!”

Since it’s that time of the month, you’ve been craving so many foods it’s not even funny. Part of you wasn’t sure why you thought it was a good idea to invite BP and Quinn over to watch WALL-E with you.

“GAH! I ship them so. Freaking. Hard,” you growl, pulling the pillow tighter as WALL-E and EVE have another moment.

“Calm down. It’s a Disney movie for fuck’s sake!” BP reminds you exasperatedly.

“I don’t care. They’re precious. And I want a big WALL-E. What are they? The WALL-As?” you mumble, rubbing your eyes. The three of you have been on a Disney movie binge for the past few hours. You decided to take it easy this week since City-County’s coming up next weekend. It’ll be extremely tiring to work it, but hopefully everyone will swim hard and the Dragons will go undefeated. Again.

“I think so,” Quinn replies.

You whimper slightly as another cramp hits you. “Fuhuhuck…”

Earlier, you had explained to the two what a period was since both were asking why you ‘weren’t feeling well’. To your surprise, they’d been more fascinated and sympathetic than grossed out.

“So you’re telling me girls bleed for a week straight and don’t die?! That’s amazing!”

After that, it had become a full-on sex-ed talk after BP had asked:

“What happens if a woman actually gets pregnant? Didn’t you say a woman’s period was their way of practicing? Wait, how the hell do women get pregnant?!”

After you’d cleared that up, they had explained to you how it worked with monsters. Apparently, they used their SOULs and a ton of magic to create a baby. You found it amazing.

Then, you three had debated on how a hybrid baby would be conceived. Quinn said it would probably have to be a mix of both methods while BP was still convinced using SOULs would be all that it took. You weren’t sure.

Anyways, after that, the three of you settled onto the couch and began binging away. It’s approaching dawn now, almost five o’clock in the morning. How you love staying up late.

“Damn, we pulled an all-nighter,” Quinn notes. “I guess we’d better get going. Thanks for having us over!”

“No problem,” you say with a yawn. Maybe you’ll take a little power nap later on. “See you guys later.”

“Later,” they reply before exiting.

You fall sideways onto your couch. Undyne had been training you a lot harder lately, and even though you were able to keep up, it still took a lot out of you.

Temmie trots out from underneath the table, where you and BP had piled a bunch of blankets before draping one on top and making the sides of the cover fall down to cover the table’s openings. It made a cute little fort for Temmie so she could hang out as well.

She doesn’t say anything, just lightly bumps her head against the base of the couch, signaling she wanted your help to get on the sofa. You bend over and pull her up to your stomach.

“How are you doing?” you mumble. Temmie shifts on your stomach.

“gUd!”

“Glad to hear it. You hungry?”

“nU. TOo...sTUffY.”

You had recently learned that Temmie used the word ‘stuffy’ for saying she was full. Pretty damn cute if you say so yourself.

“Alright, then. I’m probably going to take a quick nap,” you state.

“tEMMIE wIlL slEEp wiTH yOUS!”

“Awesome.” You sigh before snuggling up with Temmie and closing your eyes.

You wake up only mildly surprised you didn’t have a dream.

Although, there is one thing that is kind of off: the nudging on your arm that does not feel like Temmie. Opening your eyes, you turn your head to find-

“Sagittarius?” you mutter, frowning at the Gaster Blaster.

The blaster bobs up and down excitedly. Sitting up, you wonder how Sag got into your home.

“How’d you get in here?” you mumble, petting his head. His eyes widen before he zips around to your other side. “Is Sans nearby?”

The blaster shakes his head.

“Then why are you here?” you ask even though the blaster won’t answer. With a sigh, you reach for your phone on the coffee table before calling Sans.

“’sup,” comes his voice.

“Hey. I found one of your blasters in my apartment,” you reply, grinning down at Sag.

“that’s where that damn blaster went!” he says angrily. “’m sorry about him. he's been actin’ kinda weird lately.”

You giggle. “It’s okay. It was just kind of sudden.”

“he must’ve escaped through the void when i released taurus earlier...” he sighs. “i’ll pick him up real quick...oh, uh...unless you’re busy, that is.”

“Nah. Sag is cool to hang out whenever.”

“don’t let him hear that, ‘cause he’ll know you’re cool with it and won’t stop trying.”

Sagittarius and Temmie (who had been woken by all of the commotion) are staring at each other curiously. Temmie is sitting up on the couch and Sagittarius is gazing at her intently. It’s almost like they’re having a silent conversation.

“Alright. Just drop by whenever you’re free-”

You’re interrupted by the sound of Sans teleporting into the living room, phone still in hand next to where his...theoretical ear should be.

“heya.”

“Hello.”

“...why do we still have our phones out?”

“Good question.” You smile before hanging up and throwing the phone onto the couch. You see Sagittarius dart behind you before Sans throws him a stern gaze.

“i swear to the stars, sag. get back here,” Sans begins, eyesockets narrowed. The blaster remains in his position, but then Temmie perks up. The two hop off the couch and scamper away.

“Is it just me, or does it feel like they can speak without talking?” you mutter.

“they probably can,” he notes before glimpsing at your coffee table. All of your notes for writing are scattered all over the place, with your trusty laptop at the front of it all, a fresh Word document on its screen. It displays roughly two pages’ worth of writing on it. “what are you up to?”

“BP and Quinn left a while ago. We were discussing ideas from movies that could be incorporated into a fic,” you explain. “It...uh...got pretty heated.”

“heh, i could see that with you three.” He comes to meet you over at the table. You feel your face warming up a bit.

That’s my fanfiction he’s looking at. Heh...well, he’s one of the people who doesn’t think it’s...weird. Hopefully.

“...not gonna comment on some of these crossover ideas,” he states with a snicker.

“Oh, shut up. I have a way I can make it work.” That’s not the first time you’ve heard something along those lines.

“if you say so,” he replies with a chuckle.

You scoff, but he continues glancing over. Temmie and the blaster wander back into the room, causing the shorter skeleton’s gaze to drift back over to them. You glance back down at your notes before turning your head to look at the TV.

You notice Sans has fallen quiet again, causing you to shift your gaze back over to him.

This time, he sees a piece of paper. You remember scribbling down a paragraph about some scene that had popped into your mind earlier.

“...i love your handwriting,” he states out of the blue.

“W-what?” you ask.

He blinks, realizing what he just said. “oh...uh, s-sorry...that was...really random.”

You giggle. “Just a little bit. But thanks, anyway. I kind of missed out on the cutesy handwriting all the other girls had.”

“i love messy handwriting,” he admits, “’s more natural.”

“What’s your handwriting look like, then?” you question with a sly grin. “Write something on the back.”

“not gonna lie, it’s literally comic sans, the font everyone hates.”

You laugh. “Not surprised. I never really hated Comic Sans, honestly. Whenever I saw it, it made me...” you trail off, trying to define the feeling. “Nostalgic, I guess. It was never a hatred. And I assume Papyrus writes in Papyrus?”

“yup.”

Would that mean Gaster writes in Wing Dings? You chuckle at the thought.

“what’s this about, anyway?” he asks, flipping the paper back over and tapping on the paragraph.

“I...well, it’s not part of a specific story, or anything like that. Sometimes I get stuck on scenes from movies or anime.”

“this one’s from fairy tail. it's the point of view of mirajane.”

“I wrote another one from Freed’s point of view.”

“i don’t see how you do this.”

“Do what?” you question.

“you...know these characters. not just from what the show gives you, but from what you make of it. and, in some crazy way, i can imagine it being...being...”

“Canon?” you ask.

“yeah.”

You chuckle. “Those are called headcanons.”

“and you wrote the same scene in two point of views and still made it seem like they were two separate battles. that's incredible.”

“Thanks,” you say awkwardly.

“wish i could write like that. creative thinking was always more of paps’ thing, heh.”

Another silence falls between you two. Then, you bring up something that’s been on your mind for a while.

“I haven’t seen Asgore or Toriel lately,” you notice. “Mainly it’s just been either you, Papyrus, Undyne, or Alphys picking Frisk up and dropping them off. Where’d they go?”

“they’re at washington dc, i think,” he answers, “remember that meeting they went to a while ago? the united states government ‘s starting to vote on the constitutional amendments for monsters. they wanted to be there when it happened.”

“Oh! I think I saw something on that yesterday,” you state. If both houses approve, then this is going to be huge for the monsters. “I think you guys are going to be fine.”

“i dunno...a lot of people were complainin’ to their senators...and i feel like i've been seein’ a lot on anti-monsters,” he admits, looking down.

“Don’t be so negative. There’re always the humans that love monsters. Like me,” you grin.

“we’ll always appreciate you.”

“And I, you all.”

“heh. ‘s nice to know.” He goes quiet for a moment, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “could i ask you something?”

Your smile fades. “Is something wrong?”

“no, no. Just...something that’s been on my mind lately,” he sighs.

You have a feeling this is about the incident where you fell down to the Underground.

“...what happened? night when you fell? that ghost?”

Releasing a sigh, you plop down onto your couch. “Like I said...I just...felt an urge to go and visit the Underground that night...so I did. And then, I saw-” you stop yourself when you realize you almost said Chara’s name. “-that guy. He started attacking me.”

He nods. “did you do anything with your magic?”

You frown, taking a moment to think. You’d been so scared that night, and it wasn’t clear in what order the events went down. You remember the major parts in much more vivid detail, obviously, but...

...did you? And, if so, then what did you do? Had your magic done whatever it was unconsciously?

“Why do you ask?” you say eventually.

“well, that night, something woke me up in the middle of the night. ‘n i don’t sleep lightly. at first, i didn’t think it was anything so i just sent you a text and went back asleep. it happened again about four or five hours later. it was more...defined that time. that was around the time i called undyne and asked if she had seen you.”

“Oh!” You nod, remembering the incident. “Yeah, I remember now.”

“how’d you do that?”

“He had me trapped in his magic, and I knew I wasn’t experienced enough to win. I still don’t have many friends, and since you helped me with the connection back at Muffet’s, I was able to call you, in a sense. Ask for help.”

Sans blinks for a moment. “that makes sense.”

“Why do you ask?” you question.

“honestly, at first i wasn’t sure what to make of it,” he admits, the bone underneath his eyesockets turning a light shade of blue. “but that clears up a lot, heh.”

You frown wondering why it was such a big deal. Wouldn’t that feel a little bit...distinctive?

Then, your mind pops back to the conversation you had with Burgerpants and Quinn earlier:

“SOULs are a big deal to monsters. That’s why we don’t just wear ‘em out on our sleeves, why we get so confused and flustered when humans start talking about their version of SOULs ”

“Oh,” you mumble, realization dawning on you. “Oh!” You try to refrain from snickering for his sake.

“...yeah.”

“Well, is that all? ‘Cause I could really use some help with Skyrim,” you admit, gesturing towards the TV.

“yeah, that was it. what're you having trouble on?”

“This one quest. I don’t remember what it was called, but there was some complicated situation and I feel like it’s one of those quests where if you make one wrong choice, then you unknowingly manage to screw up another quest. I’ve been consulting the wiki, but it’s confusing.”

“there’s a skyrim wiki?”

“There’s a wiki for everything,” you state, unhooking the controller from the charger and powering up the console.

“the human internet sounds amazing.”

“It is. It really is,” you respond, scraping together all of the papers on the coffee table and setting them onto the kitchen table. You close your laptop.

“Alright,” you say, signing in.

The two of you fall silent as the unmistakable sound of the theme song begins playing.

At first, it starts off slow, and gradually increases with instruments and epic vocals that send an awe-inspiring feeling through you every time you hear it.

“Damn I love this theme song,” you murmur, staying on the menu screen just to hear the first part.

“Dovahkiin! Dovahkiin! Naal ok zin los vahriin!” the song plays.

“i know right? i first started playing when i found a pc version in the dump at waterfall. asked alphys to make a console that would accept it. the very first time i heard that damn theme song was unforgettable.”

“Oh yeah.” You press Continue and the menu transitions to the loading screen. Once the world of Skyrim appears, you hand the controller to Sans.

“controls are weird...gimme a sec.”

“Okay. I’m going to go grab something, so just do your thing and tell me when you’re ready.”

A few minutes later, Sans had mastered the controls, so you explained the situation to him.

“it seems tricky at first, but really all you have to do is...”

For the rest of the morning (or...whatever time it was), you and Sans take turns playing Skyrim. You get a lot done, but after that, you two just start messing around.

“Hm…what’s over there?” you wonder, directing your Dovahkiin towards a cave.

“‘s really nothing in there. just a frost troll and probably some junk.”

At the mention of the frost troll, you decide just discovering the location will do for now. You aren’t quite leveled up enough to take on another frost troll just yet.

“Alright. North we go.”

A few minutes of wandering later, you come across a wide field. Sans shifts beside you.

“What is it?” you ask.

“…dragon. i can feel it. there’s gonna be one here.”

You pause, tensing a little bit. The dragons were so cool in this game, but you weren’t very strong yet and hated killing them. Sans sits up.

“I can’t take another one. We’re low on supplies.”

You hear the dragon roar. “Dammit! Maybe I can just sneak on out of here if – no! He saw me!”

After a few seconds of panicked running, frustrated shouting (“jUST EAT THE FUCKING CHEESE WHEEL!”) and the occasional shot of the bow onscreen, the skeleton takes over.

A few Shouts, cuss words, and hits later, Sans takes it out. You sigh, slumping back as the soul transferring process begins.

“and we obtained another soul,” Sans announces. “awesome.”

“Yeah. Wait, where did Lydia go?”

Sans moves your Dovahkiin around, looking for said companion. She doesn’t seem to be with your avatar.

“Oh stars...she’s dead isn’t she?” you state.

“of course. ‘n ‘m pretty sure the last time we saved was an hour ago.”

“GODDAMMIT!” you groan, finding her corpse on the ground. “I can’t carry all of this! I gave her all of my decent stuff!”

“but we can’t exactly load, either...” he states.

You groan. “Fine, I’ll just...leave it all here. What the hell, Lydia?!”

Noticing your phone beginning to vibrate, you stand and sigh.

“Someone’s calling me. Hold on.”

“k.”

Walking into your room, you shut the door before answering the call.

“Hello?” you ask, placing a hand on your hip.

“Hey,” Alphys says your name, “how a-are you?”

“I’m well. And you?”

“A-alright. Could I a-ask what you’re doing on Saturday?”

“Well, I’ve got City-County this weekend...”

“Oh. Um – well, maybe next week?”

“I’ll be off from coaching next week, although we will have to make preparations for the banquet and such. But that’s all in the afternoon.”

“Okay. Undyne and I had an idea, so I j-just thought I’d see if you’re free.”

“What’s up?”

“Undyne and I noticed that everyone within the royal family’s been really stressed lately, y’know, Asgore, Toriel, even S-Sans...so we were thinking we’d throw a secret party for them once Toriel gets home. Would you be i-interested? If not, that’s okay...”

“Totally! Just let me knoe what we’re going to do and I’ll help however I can!”

“Awesome! Undyne and I will get in touch later. Uh...” An awkward silence ensues.

“So what are you up to?” you question.

“I’m watching Undyne and Papyrus cook while hoping they won’t set fire to anything. How about you?”

You chuckle. “I was just playing Skyrim with Sans-”

“Sans is there?!” Alphys exclaims from the other end, every ounce of nervousness completely gone.

“Uh...yeah?”

She pauses. “Oh, sorry I-I didn’t mean t-t-to interrupt a-anything!”

“You’re not interr-”

She hangs up.

You’re stuck staring at your phone for a few seconds. “What in the goddamn...?”

Once you shake off the incident and return to the living room, you find that the screen has been paused.

“Sorry, Alphys called...what’s up?” you question.

He turns to look at you. “i was just waiting ‘cause paps texted.”

“Ah.” You can’t put your finger on it, but he looks a little...

...guilty.

“What did you do?” you question, frowning.

He raises his hands, chuckling. “i didn’t do anything!”

“I don’t believe you. Hand over the controller.” You extend your hand.

He obliges, and you unpause it.

Your avatar is looking at the corpse of a chicken, blood surrounding its dismantled figure.

Sans finally starts laughing as you’re left to fend off the angry townspeople.

“Goddammit Sans!”

Chapter Text

Chapter XXIV – Here We Are

1 New Email – determineddreemurr@ebottmail.com

-Hey Coach! It’s me, Frisk. I found your email off my mom’s computer if you were wondering. Anyway, I just wanted to see if you wanted to come over to my house before we have to go to the big meet. Would you mind dropping me off? My parents just got back from DC and are busy, and I’m pretty sure Sans and Papyrus are asleep. I guarantee Undyne’s already there. They said they could come watch me swim but they’ve got stuff to take care of lol...sorry this is so sudden!

-Reply: Of course! I’ll be there in a few minutes.

You blink a few times, your eyes darting around the lines of the message you’d received. It’s not even five o’ clock in the morning yet, but you still have to be there early. Frisk won’t have to swim until later on, but there’s still something off about the message; you know there is.

They want to talk to you about something.

Is it the bullying issue? Or something else? You have no idea. Frowning, you pack snacks and drinks into your swim bag before zipping it up. Today’s the day of City-County, so you’re excited. Kind of. It’s going to be tiring, yeah, but worth it. Hopefully.

With the last of your needed supplies in your swim bag, you heave it onto your shoulders before grabbing your keys and heading out, locking the door.

The door is open before you can knock twice. Frisk puts their finger over their lips and tugs you inside, guiding you up to their room.

“Okay, we should be free to talk now. Just keep your voice down. My parents aren’t home from D.C. yet...sorry for lying. But Flowey’s here,” they begin, keeping their voice low and releasing your hand.

“Is everything alright?” you question, dropping your bag and furrowing your brows in concern.

“Oh yeah...I just realized something. So, remember when we had dinner and Sans and Papyrus’ house?”

“Yes,” you answer.

“Well....when Papyrus was talking about their parents...you had this expression on your face. Like you know something,” they press. “About Gaster.”

Your eyes widen. That’s right; their magic enabled them to speak freely about the Void.

When you don’t answer, they continue: “And you were looking at the picture of Gaster afterwards, too.”

You sigh. “We probably shouldn’t be talking about this.”

“It’s okay. I won’t tell Sans if that’s what you’re worried about,” they explain, sitting on the carpeted floor with you following their lead. “But I know that you know. Somehow, you know. About timelines and RESETs.”

You smile sadly. “Yeah, you’re right. I do. Just found out, like a week ago...but damn.”

Frisk curls up into a ball. “I thought so. Just...how did you figure it all out?”

“Gaster. When Sans teleported me through the Void for the first time, my magic unconsciously created a connection with Gaster. We’ve been able to talk ever since.”

“That makes sense. And I suppose you’re trying to help him get out?” they press.

“Yeah. Seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it?” you state, sitting down in front of them.

“It is. And, I guess I’m glad you found out. It’s been hard having Sans as the only one I can go to about this...especially when...” they trail off, shaking their head.

You ignore that part for the time being. “Gaster told me you had something to do with this whole thing. What, exactly, happened?”

They suddenly grow anxious. “You have to promise not to tell anyone. Last time I told a human, they took me away. You can’t do that! I can’t be separated from my family, not again...”

“Hey, calm down. I won’t tell anyone, okay?” you promise, scooting closer to them and pulling them into your lap. They clutch onto your shirt and bury their face into your stomach.

“Okay. Okay,” they release a shaky sigh. “Alright. So...I fell down. Went through the first route, freed everyone...I assume you also know about Chara?”

“Yes,” you reply.

“Good. So, we went to the surface. I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn’t. After I fought Asriel, I learned about Chara. I knew I could save him if I could just tweak the timeline! So...I RESET. And at first, it didn’t work, so I went through the run again.

“At this point, Sans confronted me on the matter. I told him what happened. He was really confused but managed to work out a science-y explanation. But no one else remembered, so I kept going. I kept RESETting with each time it didn’t work.

“But there was this one timeline...I think it was the seventeenth one?...where something weird happened. There were these monsters, all monochrome and creepy, and they each had unsettling stuff to say.”

“Let me guess, the Followers,” you state.

“...yeah. How’d you know?” they ask, shifting in your lap.

“Remember in Muffet’s when I freaked out for no reason and went outside? Well, lately I’ve been having visions of the Followers. They give me pieces of Gaster’s SOULs.”

“Seriously?! You have pieces of Gaster’s SOUL?! How is that possible?”

“I don’t know. But we do have a chance of pulling them out.”

“You’ll have to tell me about that later. Now, where was I? Oh yeah. That timeline, when the Followers were there. Something about that timeline was different, and it was the reason I found out about Gaster. I met him in a...an odd room in Waterfall. I don’t know how its magic worked, but basically I couldn’t leave until I’d visited Gaster. And he didn’t say anything, just poofed away!

“But, in retrospect, now I see that there is something both this timeline and timeline seventeen have in common.”

You frown. What could that be? Wouldn’t that have to occur in extremely specific situation? If that was true, then was it...randomly generated?

...Was it even real?

“We escaped the Underground, got to the surface, all that...but there was one difference.” They turn to look at you. “You were there. Sans met you in that timeline. You never discovered your magic, but you were there.”

You frown, tilting your head. “Seriously?”

They nod. “Yeah. It was weird...because in that timeline, I never met you. You never coached me. You didn’t even swim, as a matter of fact...you were working in science. That’s how you two had met.”

“No shit?” you wonder, chuckling.

“Yeah. Things change with every timeline. It was interesting...we were never able to meet you but from the way he talked about you...we wanted to. We really did. But, in this timeline, when I went to the pool for the first time and saw you standing there...I knew it was you.

“But then, the timeline was RESET because something happened and I wasn’t successful. Again. I didn’t want to, but it had to be done.” They look down, climbing off your lap, giving you a strange look. “And Sans was even more upset that time around.”

“But if he knew me like you’re saying, then how hasn’t he let anything on? I feel like I would’ve caught on to something like that,” you point out. If Sans knew you in a past life, then how was he so good at hiding it?

“He’s had a lot of practice,” Frisk states. “Ugh...I don’t know if I can finish...”

“Come on, I won’t bite,” you encourage.

“This is where it starts getting messy. So...timeline eighteen. I was getting frustrated, and I kept on RESETting...running out of options. About twenty or so timelines later, I...oh my stars. You know Chara’s evil side, right?”

“Yeah,” you answer, wondering where this was heading.

“Well, he had an idea. Not the good Chara.”

Oh no. Deals with demons are a big no-no.

“Since I had been RESETting so much, I used up a lot of DETERMINATION. I was exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was getting weaker and weaker with every RESET, every LOAD. It got to the point where I almost gave up. And that’s when the evil side took over.

“I couldn’t control my body, my mind, my voice, nothing. The evil side started....started k-killing everyone. All of the monsters that were just scared, the monsters who wanted MERCY, everyone. And Sans could tell something was horribly wrong. He always greeted me when I exited the RUINS. I could tell by the look on his skull that he knew something was off. I couldn’t do anything about it. I tried to fight the evil out, but he was too strong. I couldn’t do it.

“Evil Chara made me kill Toriel, Papyrus, Undyne, Muffet, Mettaton...” Frisk is in tears at this point, causing you to embrace them again. “I couldn’t do anything but watch. It was awful. Papyrus...he kept believing in me. Thinking I could still do good, even when my hand detached his skull from his vertebrae. Toriel thought I genuinely hated her. Undyne refused to Dust until she had fought as much as she could. Mettaton kept fighting, and not just for the ratings.” They sniffle. “It got so bad that, when I got to the Judgement Hall, Sans was ready to FIGHT. To kill me. To end it all. He was wearing Papyrus’ scarf around his neck.

“I was never able to beat him. Chara kept going and going, but Sans was able to keep killing him until he grew weak. One day after Chara had LOADed again, I found an opportunity of his weakness and used it to gain control just for a second. Then, I stabbed myself in the chest. Sans was shocked and didn’t know what to say. All I could manage to say was that Chara had gotten to me, and that was all he needed to know.

“Chara didn’t LOAD after that. He RESET, because he was scared of Sans. He thought RESETting would make Sans quit fighting. It didn’t. Sans wasn’t there to greet me that time. Snowdin Town was evacuated. There was no one. Papyrus wasn’t even there, thankfully. Chara couldn’t find Sans.

“And...Chara was forced out of my body by something. It was some kind of magic, one that I think could have belonged to Gaster. I was never able to ask him. I fell onto the ground, but Sans rushed to my side, his eye flaring blue. He looked murderous. I was hysterical, thankful to have my body back but overwhelmed by everything.

“Chara’s evil side couldn’t get into an Encounter without me, so he fled. Sans teleported me to his lab and told me to RESET, so I did. By leaving evil Chara without a vessel, we were able to temporarily lock him in that timeline.”

You nod. “But he’s not gone yet, is he? He could find a way back here.” He already has, if your previous journey to Ebott meant anything.

“Yea. That’s right,” Frisk mutters.

You sigh. “Look, I know you’re torn up about that. But listen to me...that wasn’t you. You fought him off and were able to get help before it was too late.”

“I murdered everyone I love. That can’t be forgiven. I don’t...I still have a hard time talking to Sans about it.”

Frisk needs help, you can tell. You’re going to do all you can, but it’s still...how could life put an eleven-year-old through all of that?!

“I’m sorry you had to go through all of that,” you whisper, lying down on the floor while holding them. “That’s awful. I can’t imagine having to see something like that.”

They shake their head, wiping their tears away with their sleeve. “It’s over. The past is in the past. We need to move on and focus on what’s next.”

You nod. “Look, if you ever need to -”

“Frisk?”

You both turn to see Chara (the good one) standing near the doorway.

“Chara?!” Frisk exclaims, eyes widening. “W-what? How are you here?” They try to give him a hug, but they only fall through him, causing you to catch them.

“Sorry, I’m just an apparition from the Void. But I’m here! Still kind of alive,” he admits with a sheepish grin.

“So, guess I learned enough about you?” you state with a grin.

“It seems so, yes,” he answers, turning to Frisk. “I’m glad this finally happened.”

“So...that was your evil side? The one I encountered on Ebott?” you question.

“Yes. That’s proof he was able to get to us through the Void. He’s here, somehow,” Chara says.

Frisk sighs. “We could really use Sans’ help...”

“No. We’re not going to drag him into this unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Chara retorts.

“But our timeline is depending on us stopping him! So far, there’s only five of us who know about the Void: two of which are trapped in it, two of us who are real, one of which doesn’t know what we’re doing! He would want to help!”

You’re not sure what stance to take on it. On one hand, Sans probably knows a lot about this entire thing. His knowledge would be valuable in seeing what could be done about Evil Chara. But...after all of those RESETs?

“How many times did you RESET?” you ask, frowning.

“Oh, I didn’t finish my story,” Frisk realizes. “I think I was able to experience all one hundred possible timelines in the Underground, but that’s not including the number of possible timelines you could get when we reached the Surface.”

“Probably around two hundred RESETs total. We lost count after a while,” Chara answers.

“Wait, so you two were able to converse through this whole thing?” you wonder.

“Yes. Since there was so much DETERMINATION being used, I was able to awaken and help Frisk out when they needed it. During the one genocide route, I was overpowered by Evil Chara.”

“Damn. I’m sorry you guys had to go through that. But we really need to do something about this,” you muse. “Okay. Frisk, you got paper and something to write with?”

“I have a big sheet of paper! But just crayons. The pens and pencils are downstairs, but I don’t wanna go down yet...”

“Works for me. Alright, let’s see what we know so far.”

You three end up coming up with a big picture drawn with crayon. Frisk and Chara have a seat in front of you.

“Okay! Here’s what we know!” You stand up and take out one of those pointy-finger sticks you were always able to buy at those elementary school bookfairs from one of the bins. You extend your arm and point to stick-figure drawings of you, Gaster, Chara, and Frisk standing together.

“This is us, obviously. Sans is down here,” you point to Sans, who is just a crudely-drawn blob of blue with a head and smiley face. “He doesn’t know what we’re up to yet! If we tell him, then he can help us. If not, he’ll probably get mad at us if he finds out on his own. Over here, we have Evil Chara and the Void Monsters. We need to find out what they’re planning. Now!

“But we also have questions. First of all: how in the hell is Chara able to get back?” You write that down. “Does he have any weaknesses? Are we going to get Sans onboard? If so, what will Gaster have to say about that? How will we be able to take them down? Where are the last two pieces of Gaster’s SOUL?” You finish writing down your list. “Any ideas?”

“We should focus on trying to pull Gaster out, first of all,” Chara states.

Frisk is silent, but by the look on their face you know they’re thinking really hard.

“What’re you thinking about, Frisk?” you question.

“I have an idea. It’s unrelated, but it would help if we could find out a way to do it,” they say.

“What is it?”

“Okay. So...you know how Chara was one of Asgore and Toriel’s original children?” Frisk asks.

“I didn’t know that, but it makes sense,” you note.

“We’ll have to tell you the story first,” Frisk says, turning to glance at Chara.

“Damn...alright then. She deserves to know.” Chara inhales sharply, closing his eyes for a moment. “So, I was the first human to fall into the Underground. Long story short, Asgore and Toriel adopted me, and I fit in so much to the point where I considered them my true family. Asriel, their biological son, was my best friend and my brother. We did everything together.

“But then, one day, I got sick from accidentally eating a buttercup. I wouldn’t get better, no matter what my parents tried. I couldn’t get over the sickness. I asked Asriel to see if I could see the golden flowers of my hometown one more time. Then...I died. Asriel absorbed my SOUL and from that point on, we shared a body.

“At the time, I hated humanity. I wanted to see them burn for what they’d done to me, what they’d done to my family. Once our SOULs were merged, we carried my body to the Surface. Since we shared a body, we were able to cross the Barrier. We set my body in the Buttercups at first, but then humans caught sight of Asriel and thought he had killed me. You can guess the rest.

“Once we returned to the Underground, Asriel collapsed on a patch of buttercups. From there, our shared SOUL was split in half: one part was expelled to the Void with me, the other was sent to what was left of Asriel.”

“So you have a half a SOUL? And, what happened to Asriel if he wasn’t pulled to the Void?”

“...that’s why we didn’t want Flowey up here when we discussed it,” Chara mutters quietly.

Then, what they’re hinting at falls into place.

Asriel isn’t here. Flowey was a buttercup, which was the type of flower making up the patch where Asriel died.

“Flowey...is Asriel?” you question, a headache growing.

“Yeah. But since he technically doesn’t have a complete SOUL, he can’t feel love. Just hate and spite,” Frisk answers.

You blink for a second. This entire session has been so much to take in...

“It would help if we could get him back, so we could have him in the battle with his Final Absolute God of Hyperdeath form,” Chara notes with a sad smile.

“But, how could we recover both halves of your SOUL?” you wonder.

“We would have to split a new one in half and find a way to expel it through the Void and attach with mine while simultaneously finding the half of Asriel’s, if it’s even still there. There’s no telling whether or not it survived the transport of vessels.”

You groan, covering your eyes and checking the time. It’s almost time for you all to get going. “Okay, here’s the deal. I’ll see what we can do with Sans when I get the chance. I say for now we should just focus on getting you two out and grouping together a team,” you state.

“Sounds good. I’ll talk to Gaster. If we can come up with anything, we’ll let you know as soon as possible,” Chara says. “Until next time.” He dissipates into thin air.

“I might talk to Flowey later...but you should go,” Frisk says.

“I thought I was taking you?” you wonder.

“Oh no...sorry, that was part of the lie. I couldn’t outright state why I needed you here, for obvious reasons. But Papyrus, Undyne, Sans, and Alphys were coming to pick me up.”

You nod. “Okay. We’ll have to make some kind of code. What time will they be here?”

“In about fifteen minutes,” they respond.

“Alright. I’ll catch you in a minute, then,” you say, waving them goodbye.

“Oh, hey,” Frisk calls your name, “you know you don’t have to take on so much for us, right?”

“Yeah. But you and Chara have been the adult too long. I’m taking the brunt of this issue this time around. You two need to have a childhood while you’re still young.”

Frisk smiles sadly. “Thank you so much.”

You inhale, stepping into your car. At first, when you had met Gaster, you didn’t realize how dangerous this could really get. Not only that, but...

...there was a genocide run?

At the moment, it was too much to comprehend. Frisk can force RESETs to eradicate entire timelines? And, when they do, it releases a mass of DETERMINATION that both the good Chara and the evil Chara could use to reawaken themselves?

You’re grateful for the silence of the relatively-long drive to the YMCA that’s hosting your meet. As much as you love the monsters, you still need alone time.

Frisk was possessed by a...a demon, essentially. And it forced them to go on a genocide route.

And what about Sans? How powerful was he that he could stop the demon from proceeding, not to mention lock it in a past timeline? What kind of magic would that take?

And, you were in a previous timeline?

You can’t help but wonder what that was like. What did you do differently in that timeline? What field of science was it if you were able to meet Sans?

Then, a sudden realization dawns on you.

That kid you saw at the festival the other day, Xander...he said he knew Sans. He was also the only other person who knew what the bell in the Judgement Hall meant.

That was one of the things you two had in common. You both knew Sans.

Does that mean...Sans is the Judge?

“That must be why he’s so powerful!” you say to yourself. It makes sense: he was observant and quiet, but spoke up if the situation required it, not to mention he could remember past timelines. Obviously, that would have some kind of say in how he handled different situations. Placing a hand on your head, you inhale slowly.

You have absolutely no idea how you’re going to break the news to him.

You sigh, continuing on the route. You’re almost to the YMCA; it’s not a very far drive.

Despite all that, you know your team’s going to have a good meet today.

The only person there when you arrive is your coach, who you beat by roughly two minutes.

“Here before me, as always. Not that I’m complaining. How’re you this morning?” he smiles, rustling around in his pocket for a moment after setting down a cooler.

“I’m alright, and yourself?” you respond, returning the smile.

“Tired but good. Have you heard from Undyne yet?” he questions, pulling out a pair of keys and unlocking the door.

“She’s carpooling with the others, I think,” you reply, holding the door open for him as he grabs the cooler. He thanks you and walks in first.

“Awesome. I have a good feeling for today,” he states. From past experience, you know he’s usually right with those kinds of things.

“I do too. Now, which room are we in...?”

After you and coaches from other teams (all of whom began trickling in later on) get the rooms sorted out, you hear the familiar screeching of Papyrus, who sashays down the hallway with Frisk on his clavicles.

“HERE IS OUR CHAMPION WITH THE GREAT PAPYRUS AND HIS AWESOME FRIENDS!” he announces before he spots you and gasps dramatically. “IS THAT MY OTHER FAVORITE HUMAN?!”

You giggle as Undyne, Alphys, and Sans come around the corner carrying supplies. Frisk smiles hesitantly upon eye contact. You give them a thumbs up.

“HEY NERD!” Undyne barks, running over to you and slapping you on the back. “What’s up?!”

“Nothing much. We’re about to start setting everything up. Undyne, Frisk, want me to show you where you’ll have to get in line at?”

“Yeah!”

“Please!”

“Alright, follow me. As for the rest of you, our team is in that room over there,” you point to the yoga studio (or whatever it was called) and they nod, shuffling into the room.

You lead Undyne and Frisk to a hallway: its floors are composed of multi-colored tile while the wall bordering the large indoor pool is made of glass. There are a few officials and lifeguards getting set up. To the left is a coffee shop and what you think is a breakroom. Volunteers are already setting up tables to sell swimming items along the side. To the right, the hallway extends to a dead end. Lining the left wall are locker rooms and another hall. This one loops to the right and cuts into the kiddie pool, where the volunteers will set the heat chairs. From there, the swimmers will be escorted into the main pool.

“This place is so big!” Frisk states, looking around.

“I know,” you reply. “You’ll be called around here. Undyne, back there is where the heat chairs are going to be set up. Then, you’ll be directed into the big pool. I like this one because you can see your name and time on the big screen!” You excitedly gesture to it.

“That’s cool!” Frisk comments.

“I know! Alright, let’s get back and let the volunteers finish up.”

As you, Frisk, and Undyne meet back up with the others, you find Papyrus and Sans laying down a large quilt while Alphys is digging through a bag. At this point, other team members are beginning to arrive.

“i think tori and asgore’ll be here when the kid’s ready to go,” Sans states.

“Yeah. You guys technically didn’t have to be here until the afternoon,” you point out, grinning slightly.

“we know, we just wanted to help you ‘n undyne if you need it. ‘sides, someone wouldn’t shut up about it.” He discretely gestures to Papyrus, making you chuckle.

“Well, we appreciate it. Coach’ll like seeing you all here early,” you say in a knowing tone.

The conversation reignites the question of what you’re going to do about Sans.

If you initiate him, you’d have a lot more help, but it might piss Gaster off. If you don’t, that would likely lead to more problems, which is the last thing you all need right now.

That’s it. You’ll find a way to break it to him and explain to Gaster why you did. Since Sans went through all of that, he deserves to know, right?

You think so.

“you good?”

Blinking, you transfer your mind back into reality. “Ah, yeah. Just thinking, sorry. What were you saying?”

“i’ve collected all of the soul types. y'know, audacity, rectitude, courage? the ones that aren’t the seven?”

“Oh, yeah! Those. What about them?” you question.

“um...could i just get your opinion on them, like, tomorrow or something? after the meet, of course, um, just...there’re too many for me to list, ‘n ‘m not sure if i got ‘em all right. for a human, at least. it's kinda tricky...heh...”

His little ramble confirms the wave of emotion you’re receiving: nervousness. You don’t know why, but he’s nervous for something.

“Yeah, of course!” you answer. That works out well: you’ll have an opportunity to tell him about what happened and help him out a little too. Hopefully it’ll go smoothly. Hopefully.

“okay. i gu-”

“HUMAN! THE GREAT PAPYRUS KEEPS GETTING LOST IN THIS TRICK MAZE OF EXERCISING ROOMS AND TOOLS...FRISK IS, UNFORTUNATELY, OF NO HELP EITHER. PLEASE SEND HELP!” the taller skeleton bellows as the duo come back into the room.

You chuckle, turning back to Sans for a moment. “That sounds good. Just text me a time and address and I’ll be there.”

The atmosphere of the pool is excited, anxious, and hopeful – the way you like it. It’s the perfect balance of emotion for an event like this. The magic inside you is running smoothly today, much to your delight. After guiding Papyrus around, you announce to the group that it’s time for you to get going with the other coaches. You and Undyne head out to grab the heat sheets from the clerk.

“If people want heat sheets, then they’re ten dollars,” you inform her. “Once more people get here, we’ll make a few announcements. For now, we just have to wait and help the volunteers set up.”

“Cool. Guess I’d better grab one for the others while we’re here.” Undyne reaches into her pocket, pulling out a wallet and slipping out a twenty-dollar bill. She hands it to the clerk, who exchanges it for a ten and a packet of stapled paper. Thanking the clerk, Undyne flips through the packet with you peeking over her shoulder.

She flips to your age group.

“What does all this mean?”

“So, it’s formatted like: Lane, name, team, seed time, age, all that,” you say before trailing off at the two names towards the middle.

You and Undyne are in the same heat.

“Looks like we finally get to race,” Undyne comments.

You smirk. “About time, huh?”

“Definitely. I’m totally going to win, nerd!” Undyne boasts.

“But I’ve been swimming longer,” you state.

Hello! I’m literally a fish monster!” she states as you two walk down the hallway, bickering as per usual.

Frisk and Monster Kid are both standing in front of the vending machine when you run into them again.

“Hey guys,” you start, approaching them. “How’re we feeling?”

“Really excited!” Monster Kid announces.

Frisk doesn’t look as happy. You know they’ve got to be stressed out about Chara, too.

Hmmm...

“That’s good to hear,” you note. MK picks up the bottle of soda he drops with his tail.

“Yo! I gotta go give this to my parents! But I’ll be back!” MK announces before rushing out of the hallway.

You turn to Frisk.

“Look. I know you’re stressed about everything going with Gaster,” you say before kneeling down and grinning. “But you know what else is great about swimming? When you’re in the water, there’s no one and nothing but you. You can’t hear anything else but the water. The only thing you’re thinking about is breathing. You can channel all of your frustration, all of your rage, all of your anxiety into your strokes. And, believe it or not, it actually gives you a push. Try it this time.”

Frisk nods. “I will.”

This was going to be one hell of a meet.

Chapter Text

Chapter XXV – City-County 

A few hours creep by before it’s Frisk turn to swim. Even so, Papyrus, Sans, and Alphys still volunteer to time and help out. The meet has been going fine so far; you’ve had a bit of time to watch the little kids swim. They’re so cute: the six and unders typically can’t dive very well so they end up either bellyflopping or going in completely wrong. It’s the cutest thing ever. 

After a few hours, you had abandoned your pants in your swim bag so that you were dressed in your swimsuit covered by your hoodie. That’s another thing you love about swimming; it’s normal to walk around like this. 

Soon, they announce for the eleven-twelves to start lining up in the hallway. You take that as your cue to start migrating over there as well. You start talking to them and encouraging them. 

“Coach! You’re gonna watch us, right?!” 

“I’m so nervous!” 

“I’m going to get last!” 

“NO YOU WON’T!” you bark, feeling your coach-y side surface. “NONE OF YOU WILL!” Your voice echoes through the hallway. “You all were trained by the BEST COACHES  EVER !” 

“YEAH NERDS!” Undyne yells behind you. She places a hand on your shoulder before stepping next to you. “THERE’S NO  WAY  YOU’LL LOSE!” 

“And we don’t care what you place in!” you add, grinning and crossing your arms. “As long as you do your best and swim hard, we’ll be proud!” 

“YEAH! LET’S DO THIS, PUNKS! NGAHHHHHHHH!” 

You and the kids join in on her infamous battle cry, earning a few glares from the ladies who take ‘attendance’ along with the swimmers from the other team. 

“NGGGGGGGGGGGGGGAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!”  

Dustin passes by and chuckles, sending you an amused glance. The other coaches just shake their heads, unfazed. 

“ALRIGHT! Now GO SWIM  HARD !” 

You and Undyne exit once your lanes start cheering again, both of you laughing. 

“Ugh, nerd. I love this job so much!” Undyne cackles. 

“I know,” you agree as the two of you turn to follow the other coaches to the volunteer area. “It’s so much fun. I can’t wait to cheer them on.” 

“Neither can I!” Undyne responds. Since the both of you are pretty tall and have long legs, you manage to catch up to the rest of the coaches quickly. 

You can see Papyrus from his red scarf, standing next to Sans and Alphys. Undyne tugs you over to where they’re standing.  

“There you guys are,” you state. 

“we heard you guys screaming from out here,” Sans states, a knowing grin on his skull. 

“YES INDEEDY! YOU TWO ARE VERY GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO!” Papyrus adds, grinning as well. 

“I d-don't think the o-other volunteers liked i-it though,” Alphys comments with a sly smile. 

“Eh, whatever. What matters is that we did the best job of hyping them the hell up!” Undyneboasts, grinning. 

Sans looks like he’s about to say something before his expression falls and his gaze shifts to something behind you. You turn to see Dustin standing next to you. 

“Hey. Um...Warner wants to see us all,” he states, rubbing the back of his neck. You nod. 

“Cool. Give us a second, if you don’t mind,” you reply, smiling at him before he nods and walks away. 

Undyne’s quiet for a second. Alphys seems frozen. 

“You guys okay?” you ask, swearing you heard Papyrus quietly ‘Nyeh’ beside you. 

The yellow dinosaur scowls for a moment before nodding; Undyne nods too. 

What the hell was that about?  

Uh...anyways. Undyne we should...Undyne?” The sea monster and her fiancée seem to be having a silent conversation. “Undyne!” 

“NGAH! Sorry, nerd. Let’s go,” she pushes you on the shoulder and leads you over to the semi-circle of coaches. 

“What’s wrong?” you ask, utterly confused. 

“Nothing, nothing. Come on!” 

… 

Coach Warner had just checked in with you all to see how everything was running so far. He informed you all of the layout even though you’ve worked and swam this very meet for years. After he was finished, you and Undyne start rounding up the first event before you watch them swim. Once they’ve completed their event, the cycle continues. Your day is caught in a blur of repetitive actions as you progress through the meet. 

After the morning session is complete, you and Undyne begin looking for the older kids. 

“HEY! EVERYONE IN OUR LANE NEEDS TO GET PUMPED UP RIGHT NOW, ‘CAUSE YOU’RE ABOUT TO SWIM!” Undyne shrieks upon entering the room where your team is camping out. There are a few giggles and frowns before the kids you coach stand and start pulling on swim caps and goggles. Frisk and MK are among the group as well. 

Toriel and Asgore also arrived partway through the morning session, it seems as you approach them. 

“You guys are back! How’d it go?” you question, smiling. 

Toriel smiles upon seeing you; she looks exhausted but happy. “It’s good to see you, dear. The meeting went better than we thought it would, thank the stars.” 

“Indeed. We were able to write an amendment for the Constitution. Now it must be voted on by both houses before the states vote on it,” Asgore answers, also relieved.  

“Wow, that’s huge! I know it’ll be ratified before we know it!” you respond confidently. Everything will turn out alright, even if it gets a little challenging along the way. 

“We appreciate your unwavering faith and hope, dear,” Toriel says. “It really means a lot to know there are people like you who support us.” 

“I’m glad to hear that,” you say, putting a hand on one of your warm cheeks. “I’m honored to support you guys.” 

… 

Frisk steps up on the blocks with you and Undyne on the sidelines. They look around, their goggles and swim cap snug on their head. You see that Sans and Papyrus, and Alphys are still timing along the front of the pool trying to watch too. Asgore and Toriel are both at the end of Frisk’s lane, cheering them on while Asgore seems to be recording them. 

“Swimmers, take your mark...” the announcer states. All of the swimmers bend over to grasp the edge of the block. 

BEEP! The strip of the light attached to the edge of all the blocks flashes green, and everyone is off. 

You and Undyne are screaming like madwomen as they propel themselves as fast as they can through the water. They reach the other end and flip turn off the wall, effectively splashing their parents. The two monsters only laugh and continue cheering as Frisk keeps swimming. 

Once they touch the wall, you and your sea monster of a friend give one final cheer before clapping and laughing. 

… 

“Undyne, we’re up next, just so you know,” you say. Now, you and the other coaches have huddled up and gathered your needed items from the team’s room.  

“Yeah, I’m ready,” she replies. Snatching up your cap and goggles as well, you shrug off your sweatshirt before tucking it away in your bag and re-joining the others. 

“Let’s do this!” Dustin shouts as you all jog to clerk-of-course. 

Coach Warner is already there, also in his suit with goggles in hand. 

“They haven’t even called us yet,” he remarks as your group piles into the hallway. 

“I know. We just wanted to get here early,” states one of the other coaches. 

“Well, I’m not complaining. Anyway, looks like they’re about to take attendance for the guys. Good luck, everyone! 

… 

After a little bit of playful trash talk, you and Undyne fell silent once you two were behind the blocks. You weren’t particularly paying attention to anything around you at the moment. Absent-mindedly tugging on your cap, you tilt your head slightly. 

The water is alive.  

Shoulders tense, you roll them around a bit. A light hum escapes your lips as you stretch out a bit. Somewhere in the distance, you can hear the current heat kicking away. 

 Once you dive in, it will immediately bare its fangs and attack.  

An exaggerated breath escapes your lips once more as you pull your goggles over your head, pressing them to your eyes. 

But there’s nothing to fear.  

Inhaling, you distantly watch as the heat before you finishes. After realizing that they’re about done with their event, you walk up, placing your hands on the back of the block. The robotic, fuzzy voice of the announcer sounds, likely announcing the heat and next event. 

Then, there are two shrill whistles. You get ready, and then another whistle blows, this one longer and signaling for you to climb onto the blocks. After clambering on top, you give your goggles one last push before leaning over. 

Don’t resist the water.  

“Take your mark...” 

Curling your toe over the edge, you bend down and grip the block, muscles tensing and frozen in place for the time being. 

… 

… 

… 

BEEP! 

Launching yourself off of the block, you immediately fling your arms forward into a tight streamline. 

Thrust your fingers into the surface and carve an opening.  

Your heartbeat speeds up as your senses by overwhelmed by the element you’ve come to love. The cool water invades your mouth as you turn your head above the water, its clear horizon the only defining feature between air and water. It swirls against the material of your swim cap which is covering your ears, swishing and sloshing as you tear through the water. 

Then slide your body through that opening.  

The tile T on the bottom draws to its end as you flip over, arms going into streamline by habit as you push off on your back, making sure to extend your streamline for as long as possible. A burning pressure accumulates in your lungs and muscles as your already-depleted oxygen supply becomes exhausted and you’re forced to breathe once more. 

Moving your arms, your head, your chest...  

You can physically feel the seconds passing by as you barrel towards your final destination. Time is mocking you and it’s seriously pissing you off.  You pour your last ounce of strength into slamming your hand onto the wall, head surfacing and you gasping for air. 

With your heart racing, you dare to sneak a look at the other lanes. You see Undyne beside you, also finished and breathing heavily. From the other side of the pool, you can hear your lane cheering for you along with your friends. You swivel your head in order to look at the big board. 

You scan the list of times.  

30.17  

32.34  

30.13  

29.43  

29.47  

Two people got under thirty seconds?! That’s pretty damn fast. Who could’ve done that? You huff a laugh, looking over to the fastest time’s belonging name. 

… 

… 

… 

It’s you. That’s your time. 

“Dammit, you beat me!” Undyne whisper-yells, slamming her swim cap onto the water. 

Blinking, you double check it just to make sure. Did you really win that heat?! 

“What...” you trail off, shaking your head and trying to catch your breath. You notice that the next event is already on the blocks, so you huddle close to the wall while they start. After they’re started, you climb out. 

“Nice job, nerd,” Undyne states, smiling tiredly and sounding a bit out of breath. 

“Thanks. You too,” you reply as you two high-five and continue walking out of the area. 

… 

“THAT WAS AWESOME!” Frisk yells once you two arrive. 

“You two were neck and neck the entire race!” Toriel states, smiling. 

Undyne growls. “If I hadn’t messed up on my flip turn, I would’ve won.” 

“Yeah, whatever. Maybe next year,” you say with a snicker, dropping your cap and goggles onto your bag and running your hands through your hair. 

“HUMAN! UNDYNE!” 

Your fishy friend sniggers. 

“THE INTENSITY OF YOUR RACE ABOUT KILLED ME! BUT, FEAR NOT, AS I WAS TOO GREAT TO SUCCOMB TO SUCH AN END. NEVERTHELESS, EXCELLENT WORK – BOTH OF YOU!” 

“Thanks Papyrus,” you say, sitting down for a moment and opening a bottle of water. 

“Where’s your brother?” Undyne asks. 

“SANS? HE WAS HERE A MOMENT AGO. I SWEAR, HE WAS JUST BEHIND ME...” Papyrus looks around before shrugging with an exasperated expression. “YOU JUST NEVER KNOW WITH HIM.” 

“Eh, he’ll turn up. Now, let’s go grab something to eat!” Undyne shouts, dragging the younger skeleton away. You sigh, chuckling a bit while Toriel and Frisk copy your response. 

“You were right, coach,” Frisk says suddenly. 

“How so?” you question. 

“For a moment, I completely forgot about everything I was nervous about while I was swimming,” they confess, smiling a little bit. 

Nodding, you chuckle. “I told you. It’s weird how that kind of gives you a boost, huh?” 

“You both did very well. But what were you worried about, my child?” Toriel asks, frowning slightly. 

“That I’d slip up, or mess my turn up, something dumb,” Frisk replies.  You’re kind of surprised that they didn’t hesitate there. But then again, they’ve probably had a lot of practice, too. 

A few minutes later, the Dreemurrs bid you farewell for the time being considering that Toriel had to go time. 

The rest of the day goes in a similar fashion: you would gather the kids, swim when you needed to, and talk to your friends. 

You do notice something odd, though. 

Sans has yet to appear once more. 

Frowning, you walk over to where Papyrus is still timing. 

“Hey, Papyrus. Were you able to find your brother yet?” you question. 

“HE TEXTED ME A FEW MINUTES AGO AND SAID THERE WAS AN EMERGENCY AT THE LAB THAT HE HAD TO TEND TO. WE ALREADY FOUND SOMEONE TO TAKE HIS PLACE FOR TIMING, THOUGH,” replies the taller skeleton. 

“Ah, that explains it,” you muse. What could have happened? Did it involve the void? 

“HE SAID EVERYTHING WAS UNDER CONTROL, SO I SUPPOSE IT WASN’T TOO MUCH OF AN ISSUE. I HOPE,” he adds at your inquisitive expression. 

“Well, I hope everything’s alright. Did Alphys have to leave too?” 

“NOT THAT I’M AWARE OF. DO NOT FEAR, HUMAN! THESE KINDS OF MATTERS OCCUR ALL OF THE TIME WITH THOSE MAD SCIENTISTS! THEY ALWAYS FIGURE IT OUT RATHER QUICKLY!” 

Giggling, you nod in agreement. “I would think so.” 

After that, the relays start and then the first day of the meet draws to a close. 

… 

With an obnoxious groan, you throw yourself onto your bed, swim bag falling beside you. 

“I’m hungry...” you whine, turning over onto your back. You forgot to grab a snack before coming into your room...and now you  really  don’t want to get up... 

Then, your phone beeps. It’s from Sans. 

ru  free  rn  4 a few hours.  papy   told me the meet’s over.  

-Maybe  

welp if u r then u can come over to the lab 4 a while.  

i   think  paps  told u but we  kinda  had an emergency here  

Is everything alright?  

ya  we just had a scare w the void  

but if ur  gonna  come then u should come now  cuz  we’re probably going 2b closed for the next few days if everything goes 2  plan  

Okay where should I meet you then  

i   can come pick u up whenever ur ready  

Okay give me about ten minutes or so  

k  

Sitting up, you start getting changed and ready. You begin by throwing on a comfy outfit and snagging a quick snack. A few minutes later, you hear a knock on your front door. 

After opening it, you find your skeletal friend hanging at the entrance. 

“hiya.” 

“Hey,” you say. 

“i...uh...kinda forgot that you can’t exactly go into the void just yet...heh,” he states with a chuckle. 

“That’s alright. Just tell me where to go and I’ll drive.” 

“k, then,” he states. “just head towards the underground ‘n i'll take it from there.” 

“Alright.” You snag your keys from where you had dropped them. After you’re ready, Sans follows you outside. Once you lock your door, you begin descending the stairs. 

“So, how many SOUL types have you discovered? Sorry if you already told me, I’m kind of forgetful,” you ask, chuckling nervously. 

“’s cool. in all honesty, ‘m the same way. there are about nineteen souls total, i think. they all stem from the seven main ones.” 

“Ah. That’s going to be cool to look at,” you note, unlocking your Jeep and climbing in. Sans hops in the passenger side. 

“this is a cool car,” he notes. 

“I know. Cornelius is a sexy beast.” 

“you named your car  cornelius ?” 

“Hells yeah,” you say, patting your Jeep. “He has a Scottish accent too.” 

“nice. does cornelius like me?” 

“No. He hates everyone but me.” 

“that’s unfortunate.” 

“Yep.” 

He chuckles, strapping on the seat belt. You turn on the car and begin heading towards the Underground.  

“Okay, so I have a question. Is there a way that monsters organize their system of magic?” you question. 

“not officially, but alphys ‘n i came up with a relatively-simple chart that has all the basics down. it doesn’t go into the higher-level spells, but it organizes the four main types. we actually have it in the lab if you wanna see it.” 

“Awesome!” you say, grinning. “How complex does that get?” 

“the basic magic isn’t that bad – ‘s when you go into your types of energy that it all goes to hell,” he admits, laughing. 

“What categories are there?” 

“the main four are creation, healing or change, elements, and energy. from there, the specific types of magic can be categorized under those four.” 

“Interesting,” you murmur. “What about monster magic?” 

“that one falls under healing and change, ‘n i'll show you why once we’re down there,” he says. 

“Cool!” 

The few minutes of the drive are silent as your skeletal friend lets you concentrate on driving for the time being. Once you’ve pulled in next to the the mountain, you both get out. 

“alright,” he says, “let’s skele-daddle.” 

… 

Their lab is as dreary as you remember. Upon entering, you spot the desk, which reminds you of when you took the article. 

Heh.  

“okay. do you want to start with the souls or the chart?” 

“Souls, I guess.” 

“nice. so, here’s what i have.” He walks over to a messy desk before pulling out one sheet of paper. On it is a neatly-printed picture showing multiple hearts and traits. 

[SOUL chart]

“so, not counting the seven main ones, there are fourteen. including the ones that are a little duller along with the hate soul, in the last two lines, there are twenty-two.” He sighs. “but here’s the thing. i don’t think spite, the bad part of audacity, vengeance, compliance, idleness, conceit, and inflexibility count.” 

“Why not?” 

He shrugs. “well, in my opinion, one of the common denominators is that we all have motives, even if they’re considered different traits. like, say you had a serial killer. he starts killing because he thinks certain people don’t belong in society. he's acting on his own sense of justice, even if many people don’t think it’s right. does that make sense?” 

“So what you’re saying is that as long as someone follows their SOUL trait, then opinions of others don’t matter?” 

“exactly. and in all honesty, i think that those seven don’t exist unless someone had a...disorder, of sorts,” he admits. “it’s rare, but’s it has happened in humans.” 

“How do you know?” 

“chara’s a perfect example.” He pauses for a moment and you feel yourself tense. 

I have to tell him.  

This is your chance. Taking a deep breath, you nod. 

“That would make sense.” 

He hesitates, frowning. “ok, ‘m curious. how do you think so?” 

You sigh, hoping you’ll be able to ease him in to the explanation. 

“He’s split,” you start, deciding to go with what you’ve gathered from their story. “Part of him’s stuck in the void. The other part of him is locked out of our world. That would mean-” 

You observe as his eyesockets widen before he thrusts him arm out, pinpoints disappearing. The light in his left socket is replaced by a light blue. Before you know it, a shrill ding is heard before you’re slammed into the wall, an invisible force holding you back. The impact forces the breath inside you out, causing your vision to go wobbly for a second. Your head pounds, pain searing through your mind for a moment before Sans walks up to you, getting up in your face. 

“how in the  hell  do you know about that?!” 

Once you regain your breath, you chuckle bitterly. “Let me go and I’ll tell you.” 

He pauses, the fire extinguishing temporarily as he snaps his distal phalanges. The pressure binding you to the wall dissipates instantly. He steps back, friendly expression gone. 

“Thank you. Alright, so...remember when I got trapped in the void? Well, my magic unconsciously reached out to Gaster – yes, I know who he is, and I’ll get to that - and Chara. From then on, I met Gaster in a dream. He helped me manifest my magic in a physical form. After that, I’ve been able to talk to him for brief periods of time when he randomly glitches through the void. I agreed to help him get out of the void. You know those so-called hallucinations I’ve been having? Well, they were actually monsters who gave me pieces of Gaster’s shattered SOUL. They reached out to me through the void and managed to give me the shard. I still have them at my apartment. Frisk also noticed that I was acting weird and they told me about their history, along with the timelines and all of that. I’ve met the good side of Chara, too.” You inhale. “I think that’s about it other than the plan.” 

The skeleton stands there, his jaw slack and pinpoints still absent. He’s completely speechless. 

“I waited to tell you because they wanted to keep you out of this if possible. But something tells me that we’re going to need you on our side.” 

“i...” he begins before stopping himself. “and you didn’t tell me about the connection at least?!” 

“At first, I didn’t realize that there were actually people stuck,” you admit. “I thought it was just the void trying to trap me.” 

“that’s what it should have been!” he says. “what the hell? that goes against...” Cutting himself off, he shakes his head, turning. 

“I’m sorry,” you mumble. 

Stepping away, the skeleton brings a hand up to his foreskull. 

“i can’t believe this...but at the same time, it makes sense,” he finally articulates. “i shoulda  known  chara would try to bust out. but i feel like my magic would have been perfectly able to pick up on a disturbance like lost souls...” 

“I might know why.” 

He turns, glancing at you. “why?” 

“Well...it’s kind of an empath thing,” you note. “I’ve read that our magic will do that: unconsciously reaching out to people. Even in places where magic shouldn’t logically exist. It’s what we do.” 

Once again, his expression screams bewilderedness. “that’s...that actually sounds logical. shit, i thought  i   was the one with a phd in this field.” He sighs, a defeated expression crossing his skull before he turns to you. “you said something about a plan?” 

“Ah, right,” you mumble. “Well, I’m assuming the void disturbances you were dealing with earlier had something to do with what we’re up against. You see, Chara and Gaster have been fighting off these weird demon things that are super powerful and are trying to break into our timeline. We don’t know what they are, or they’re planning to bust out, or why they’re there. We’re devising a plan to bring Gaster, Chara, and Asriel back while we prepare to find a way to get rid of the demons,” you explain. 

“wow...” he breathes. “everything you’re telling me is making everything fall into place.” 

You nod. “That’s the basis of everything. I can fill you in better with the others later on, but for now I think it’s best if we let you process it. Hell, I'm still trying to take it all in.” 

“yeah,” Sans agrees, rubbing his skull before looking down. It’s almost like he’s in a trance of sorts – his now-visible white pinpoints are hazy and dull. They drift across your figure before he moves to take your hands in his – an action that comes unexpectedly. He gently lays his skull on your shoulder, causing you to feel him exhale. 

His bones are warm, and you can feel the magic that binds himself together buzzing in his bones. 

“did i hurt you? should i get tori to heal you?” 

“No. I’m alright,” you answer, tensing at his touch but not necessarily rejecting it. 

“’m sorry,” he mumbles. “i was scared ‘n i lashed out. i have a bad habit of doin’ that.” 

“Thank you. Why were you scared?” 

“you don’t deserve to be caught up in this mess,” he replies. “i’ve been fightin’ it for so long...i’ve given up so many times...but you’re not like that. stars, why won’t you think about yourself and give up? i don’t want anyone else getting hurt because of this. that would be better for you. you deserve kind people, not a tangled mess of timelines and histories. why are you so damn nice?” 

“I care about you guys. You don’t have to go through this alone, Sans. I’m here to help however I can.” 

He sighs, causing his warm breath to puff out on your neck, slightly tickling your skin. “i know i won’t be able to talk you out of it. look...be careful, okay? this isn’t something to take lightly.” 

“I know, and I will.” 

“and please talk to me about stuff like this from now on,” he murmurs. You can’t see him, but from his tone you can tell his eyesockets are lidded. “’f there’s anything i learned from the past few timelines, then it’s that communication is key.” 

“I will.” 

“thank you.” Pulling himself away from you, you watch as his hands leave yours and he turns around. 

“...So...are we cool?” you ask hesitantly. 

“yeah,” he responds with a shaky sigh. “yeah. i understand why you were hidin’ it now.” He’s quiet for a moment before he snorts at something. 

“What is it?” you question, the previous mood seemingly having been lightened. 

“i’m just gonna pray the alternate universes don’t get thrown into the mix.” 

“Alternate universes?” 

“long story that’s better suited for another time.” 

“Ah.” 

That actually went a lot better than I thought it would,  you think, relieved. 

Then, he turns back to face the SOUL chart. “uh...we obviously got a little sidetracked. where did i leave off?” 

“You were using evil Chara’s SOUL as an example.” 

“oh, yeah. so basically, evil traits stem from...” 

The discussion over all of the different SOULs takes about an hour or so. You find yourself listening more often than talking as Sans lectures about the various traits and characteristics. The previous tension has dissipated into nothing by the time he finishes up his rant. 

“so what do you think?” 

“They’re perfect, in my opinion. You gave each trait a fitting name based off its description, and I think that’s amazing.” 

The scientist sighs heavily in relief. “that’s good to hear. it took forever to pick out those damned names.” 

A laugh escapes you. “I would guess so.” 

“alright, now that that’s over...” he walks over to a whiteboard, picking up a black marker and uncapping it. “are you still in interested in the chart?” 

“Yeah,” you respond, but before you can continue, your stomach decided to growl. 

Well that’s embarrassing.  

The shorter skeleton pauses. “what the hell was that?” 

“Uh...that was my stomach,” you reply. 

“is...is that normal?” 

“Yeah, that’s just its way of telling me that I’m hungry.” 

“oh!” He chuckles. “why, though?” 

“Well, when we’re hungry, that means our stomachs are empty. When we’re digesting food, they still make that sound, but when we have food in our systems, it gets muffled so it’s not as loud.” 

“so, when it’s empty, there’s nothing to muffle so that it’s audible,” he nods. “that’s hilarious. human anatomy is insanely awesome. anyway, ‘m actually kinda hungry myself. in that case...” He recaps the marker before walking over to his desk and grabbing a notebook and a few different writing utensils. “grillbz’ isn’t that far from here. come on, ‘s on me.” 

“No.” 

“yes.” 

“No.” 

“yes.” 

“No.” 

“yes. i can do this all day. ‘m that petty.” 

“No. I’m even pettier.” 

“yes. we'll see about that.” 

… 

You’re grateful for the chance to escape their eerie lab. You’re instantly refreshed by the cool night breeze and the fiery colors of the sky as the sun begins lowering. The walk to Grillby’s isn’t that far. It’s nice to live somewhere where you could just walk everywhere.  

Since it’s a Saturday night, the restaurant is fairly crowded – you're glad you didn’t drive because there’s not a lot of parking left. Even so, Sans’ usual seat is still free. You can see the vacant spot from the window. 

Upon entering the diner, loud chattering greets your ears as the bell above you dings. Sans follows you to the bar. 

“Hello, miss,” Grillby says your name, “a pleasure to see you again.” 

“Hey, Grillby! Likewise.” 

“heya grillbz. this is goin’ on my tab.” 

The fire elemental shoots the skeleton an odd glance, but shakes it off.  

You groan. “Let’s just split the bill then-” 

“Trust me,” Grillby interrupts. “Just put it on his tab. It’s beyond saving at this point. An extra few dollars won’t matter.” 

“It can’t be  that  bad.” 

“it is. i'm so proud of it.” 

“Just trust me on this one,” Grillby replies, leaving no room for argument. You huff in annoyance as the two of you hop onto the barstools. 

After your orders have been placed, Grillby walks away briskly. Sans then plops the notebook out. 

“We can just save that for later if you don’t feel up to explaining it as of yet,” you note. 

“yeah. i might just take you up on that,” he replies, pushing it away and leaning his chin on his hand. “man, it’s been forever since i've been openly able to talk about void stuff.” 

You nod. “I didn’t mean to get up in your business.” 

“look, it’s alright. i can talk to someone about it now. that'll be nice.” 

“I bet.” 

From then on, the two of you are suspended in a pregnant silence. It wasn’t necessarily awkward, but you knew you had matters to mull over and that was true for him as well. Neither one of you say another world until your food has been handed out and consumed. 

“Thanks again, Sans,” you finally state before nods and grins a little. 

“no problem. thanks for helpin’ us out with everything.” He pauses momentarily before looking outside. By now, the sky is completely black. 

“hm...” 

“What is it?” you question. 

“i have an idea. do you still want to learn about the different types of magic?” 

“Of course.” 

“i could show you how it works, how it’s all connected,” he begins. “do you...wanna see?” 

“Really?! Well, if you’re up to it, then I’m down.” 

“cool. the only thing is...we need somewhere kinda secluded and dark.” 

You frown as his skull morphs from seriousness to worry. Secluded and dark? 

“oh, damn, that sounded weird, sorry!” he chuckles nervously, taking a step back. “i-uh, i meant that...well, you know, magic’s kinda...” 

Laughing, you shush him. “You’re really gonna show me how it’s all intertwined? Well then, I know just the place so long as you’re willing to break the rules a little bit.” 

Chapter Text

XXVI – From Past to Present 

“this is either gonna turn out really good or really bad.” 

“Let’s hope it’s the former,” you reply after the two of you finish up your late dinner. 

After the price has been settled onto Sans’ tab (much to your dismay), you both stand. After taking a moment to stretch, you follow Sans out of the diner, not forgetting to wave at Grillby before you leave. 

It’s a chilly night, you note as you commence your journey. You gently cross your arms and rub them with your hands in an attempt to warm up. 

Then, your absence of heat is fixed once a soft cloth is draped over your shoulders. 

Sans...gave me his jacket?  

You scramble to take it off before he shakes his head at you. 

“i can’t feel the cold. take it,” he says softly as his cheekbones flush slightly blue. 

Still a bit hesitant, you pull it closer to your freezing body, slipping your arms in. “Oh, well...thank you!” 

“no problem. where did you have in mind?” he questions, falling into stride beside you as you begin heading in the general direction of the pool. 

“Well, when I was younger, I used to explore the forest surrounding the pool and parking lot,” you begin. “I would just run out and about for a while until my family came looking for me.” You dryly chuckle at the memory. “But one day, I found a cool little hideout!” 

“how far out is it?” he wonders. 

“It’s not too far from the pool,” you reply, smiling a little bit. “But there’s also a cool little thing I accidentally stumbled upon while cleaning it up a bit.” 

“what was it?” 

“When I first found it, I wasn’t sure,” you admit. “But, when I got older, I realized it could only be one of two things, or possibly a mixture of both, depending on the situation. Most likely, it’s an old bomb shelter made during the Cold War.” 

“cold war? sorry, ‘m still tryna catch up on human history.” 

“In the late 1940s, Russia and the United States had a period of mutual hostility and suspicion that lasted until the early ‘90s. There was no actual fighting, but both sides were really suspicious of each other. Each side was extremely close to snapping – it was a very tense period of time. I won’t bore you with a detailed explanation, but at more than one point there were concerns for nuclear warfare and communism coming to our country. As a result, bomb shelters were built.” 

“n-nuclear warfare?!” he asks. “how...?” 

“It’s crazy. Our scientists figured out how to split atoms and cause a shit ton of damage doing it.” 

“that’s incredible,” he mumbles. “’m gonna have to do research on those later.” 

“It is interesting to learn about. Anyway, I know it has to be a bomb shelter because, if you look around the area where I based the hideout, you can see very old debris lying around. It just looks like there was a building there at one point.” You sigh, closing your eyes. “But I managed to find proof in an odd way.” 

He frowns, looking up at you. “how?” 

“I’m going to sound crazy.” 

“trust me. after living through multiple timelines, i don’t find much crazy anymore.” 

“Every time I go there, I see a man. He’s  always  there Every time, he’s dressed in an old suit and tie along with a hat. He just  screamed  the old 1940s style,” you state. 

Sans’ eyesockets widen. “a man?” 

You shake your head, turning to look him in the eye to show him how serious you are. “A ghost.” 

Frowning, Sans stops. “a ghost?” 

“Think about it. The way he was dressed, the fact that a house used to be there... He has to be,” you mumble. 

“how are you able to see him? i know that, with monsters, it takes a very specific magic to be able to see the dead. but humans?” Sans says. 

“Easy. Did you know that there are actually multiple kinds of empaths?” 

“no, actually, but ‘m not surprised.” 

You chuckle. “Not only am I clairsentient, but I’m also a medium empath. That means I can see ghosts and feel what they’re feeling.” 

“how often do you see them?” 

“Every now and then. I think most are able to move on fairly quickly. The ones who don’t linger in specific spots, many of which I don’t visit. I never said anything about them after I realized other people couldn’t see them.” 

“oh. is that why you watch that weird ghost, demon-hunting show?” 

“Ah-huh! But anyway, when I did see him...he’d just stand there. He never tried to hurt me. Sometimes, I’d only be able to catch a glimpse of him when he walked through tree.” You sigh, frowning. “I was never able to find out who he was in my research, but...every time I see him, I feel this overwhelming sense of...of... despair . Anguish. It just...just washes over me, like I’m diving into a pool filled with horrible emotions.” You take a moment to close your eyes, biting your lip before you continue. “That’s what left me to think he was murdered.” 

“were you ever able to find proof?” 

“I’m still looking,” you note. “I’m thinking that, if that was the case, then I should be able to find some trace of it back in newspapers. Or, if it was a cold case, then I might be able to find an old police report somewhere. I probably haven’t looked into it hard enough.” 

He nods in understanding. “well then, were you ever able to get the shelter open?” 

“I tried to, and for being so young I got pretty far,” you note. “I borrowed a crowbar from my dad and ended up prying off the wood they’d nailed to it. But, I found that there was actually a lock on it,” you stop for a moment, grinning. “A lock that required a key. A lock I was never able to get open.” 

Sans releases a nerdy little gasp, making you giggle at his excitement. “are you saying that we get to...?” 

“Yep!” you reply, digging a pack of bobby pins out of your pocket. You’d bought them a while ago in hopes you would come across a lock that needed opening, and now your preparedness is paying off. 

Damn, you’re weird.  

“oh my stars,” he cackles. 

“Yup! We’re gonna put our lockpicking skills to the test!”  

“alright! lead the way!” 

… 

Once the two of you arrive at the pool, you find that the parking lot is empty. Not that that comes as a surprise, since it’s nearing ten o’clock at night. To the right of the main entrance of the pool lies an untrekked path – the one you explored so many years ago. 

“Come on!” you say, grabbing his hand and dragging him along with you. You can’t help the excited smile that grows on your face. 

While your surroundings are not necessarily well-lit, the moon provides just enough light for you to guide yourself through. Sans remains quiet as you continue guiding him, neither of you realizing that your hands are still interlaced. 

Alas, with you being the clumsy weirdo you are, an undetected tree root manages to snag your poor balance by the neck and hold it hostage as you succumb to gravity. With a squeak of surprise, you fall and unintentionally take Sans with you. 

You groan as the ground smacks you in the back of the head and another weight falls on top of you. 

Cursing, you look up to see Sans on top of you. The reality of the situation dawns on you once you realize the position you two landed in. 

Even though the both of you are blushing, you still bust out laughing. 

This is so cliché! It’s like something right out of a fanfiction... UwU ...  

The poor skeleton scrambles and falls beside you as you continue to laugh hysterically. 

“I-I’m so sorry!” you cackle, trying not to release an unladylike snort. “I’m so stupid...hah!” 

“no...ah... ‘s not your fault,” Sans mumbles, looking away. “’n you’re not stupid.” 

“Mm. Maybe not in an academic way, but in a real-life way? Definitely,” you say. “Anyways. Are you alright? Sorry I kinda brought you down with me.” 

“’m okay. are you?” 

“Yep,” you reply, standing up. Once you both have recovered, you continue onwards. 

“Oh! So, I think that, at one point, this shelter might have been used as a storage unit for the pool a long time ago.” 

“kinda far out for storage,” he notes. 

“Maybe so, but it could be useful to them. Who knows,” you shrug, eyeing the ground more carefully now. “But, I have a hunch that, if that’s the case, then we may be able to get into the pool.” 

“you mean a secret passage or some shit?!” 

“Yup.” 

There’s a moment of silence as you smirk silently while you feel Sans revel in shock. 

“squints?” 

“Yes?” 

“you’re awesome.” 

“Oh...uh, thanks,” you reply, not expecting that. 

“seriously. this is like something right out of a video game, isn’t it?” 

“Yeah. That’s kind of why I’m so attached to this place,” you mumble, sadly smiling. 

A pregnant silence ensues as you continue walking. 

… 

Your hideout looks exactly like it did the last time you came here. 

How long ago was that?  

When you were younger, you’d formed a crooked circle of sorts – on the left side was a large tree, which was where you had based the little fort you built. It’s composed of long, detached tree branches propped up against the tree, forming a right, triangular teepee of sorts. Covering the top of this little fort is a dirty (f/c) blanket, its color having faded with time. Inside your fort lie two stumps of wood, which you’d found lying around the perimeter. They serve well as temporary seats. Scattered around the cleared forest floor lie several random knickknacks you discovered over the years, ranging from old soda bottles to detached railroad spikes. You also had some animal bones, too. 

“this is nice,” Sans speaks up suddenly. “where’d you find all of this?” 

“All of it came from the woods,” you reply, walking to an area that you had purposely covered with brush. 

“all of it?” 

“Mm-hm.” 

“damn. you've got quite the collection.” 

“I know, right? Anyway.” You stop speaking as you commence wiping the brush away, revealing a trapdoor. 

The square piece of metal seems to have been a pretty shade of silver at one point, but has turned the signature reddish-brown of rust with time. The handles are bound together by a thick lock along with some chains. 

“if we do manage to get the lock undone, then i can take care of the chains,” Sans notes, walking up beside you. 

“Sounds good,” you answer, digging the bobby pins out again. “Would you like the honor of the first attempt, good sir?” 

“it would be my pleasure.” Sans accepts the pack of bobby pins before pulling one out. 

“Don’t worry. I have a wikiHow article on how to do this pulled up if we can’t figure it out,” you reply, half-serious and half-hysterical. 

Sans glances at you with a smile. “seriously?” 

“Yep.” 

“nice. alright, bethesda. don’t fail us now.” 

It takes you two a few tries, but you two eventually manage to open the lock. 

“That actually worked!” you cheer. 

“i knew it would. alright, let’s get these chains off.” He closes his eyes before opening his left eyesocket, which is glowing blue and yellow. “ capricorn .”  

One of Sans’ Gaster Blasters emerges from nowhere. 

“Oh my stars! Another one!” you squeal, petting this one on the snout. 

“yup. i've got twelve of ‘em, remember?” he states. 

“Yes. I’m glad to see them again!” 

He chuckles. “caps, blast those chains off, would ya?” 

The Gaster Blaster momentarily stops hugging you before turning to face the trapdoor. For a moment you wondering if the blaster will destroy the door. 

Your concerns are easily put to rest once the blaster rises and closes its eyesockets before opening them again and opening its mouth. You notice that its right eye is completely black while the left eye is just one white circle. 

Kind of like Sans.  

A beam of light blue shoots out of its mouth, an odd noise accompanying it. 

RRRRR-BYYSHOOOOOOOMMMM!  

You start laughing after the shot subsides and the chains have been incinerated. The doors, however, remain intact. 

“That was AWESOME!” 

“heh. thanks." 

“How did you not incinerate the door?! That beam looked powerful as hell!” 

“took a lotta practice, but i ended up being able to control what the blast can actually affect,” he explains. 

“That’s amazing,” you breathe, waving to Capricorn as Sans makes him vanish. 

“thanks.” 

After that, you end up kneeling down to the door before grasping both of the rusty handles. 

“I hope it hasn’t rusted shut.” 

“’f it has, then we’ll just blow it up.” 

“Gucci.” 

Four tugs later, you’re able to pull the door open. 

“Yes! After so long, we’re finally in!” you shout in victory, letting the trapdoor flop onto its front on the ground. 

From what you can see in the dimly-lit hole, there’s a ladder that’s rusty but still relatively sturdy. What’s at the bottom? You have no idea because it’s far too dark to tell. 

“Alright, I’ll go in first,” you say nonchalantly. 

“wait...are you sure?” 

“I’ll be fine,” you reassure before stepping on the ladder and beginning to descend. 

You hear Sans sigh. “okay...just holler if you need anything.” 

“Alright.” 

With that, you begin climbing down towards the bottom. A light draft drifts up from the bottom, slightly ruffling your hair. You see Sans’ silhouette as he begins climbing, too. 

“you good, squints?” 

“Yeah.” 

Once you get a feel for the ladder, you’re able to establish a steady pace after learning how far the rungs are spaced apart. 

A few rungs later, your carefully-establish rhythm is interrupted when your foot fails to notice that the next rung simply  isn’t  there. The unplanned shift of your own weight causes you to lose your grip on the rung above you. Gravity does its job and sends you tumbling into the seemingly endless tunnel. 

“OH FUCK ME!” 

Sans yells your name before you lose sight of him. As your heart rate speeds up, you flail in an attempt to grab anything that might break your fall. The wind whips through your hair as you wait for your seemingly inevitable demise... 

...and then it all halts. 

You’re jerked midair by some unknown force that quickly makes itself known. 

A wisp of warmth caresses the skin guarding your heart. Your SOUL. Your breath hitches in your throat as you stare at the darkness below you, the walls now illuminated by a familiar blue-yellow glow. The sensation tingles something that lies beyond your heart. It beckons your being to rise, cooing your SOUL into safety. Blue-yellow fire is radiating from your chest in pulsing waves. 

And you rise. Against all laws of physics,  you rise.  

A gasp lingers in your lungs, yet to be exhaled. Captivated by the force lifting you, you continue staring at the cyan light. 

You haven’t even noticed that you’ve been lifted up to Sans’ level yet. Judging from how Sans is positioned to your eyes, you know you have to be upside down. 

Even so, you can still see the worry seeping through his eyesockets. 

How can a skeleton show so much emotion? It’s incredible...  

His left eye is emanating that pretty neon cyanish color again. You smile softly, reaching out to place a hand on the left side of his skull. 

“are you okay?! i tried to catch you as fast as i could, but for some reason, i had a hard time figurin’ out where you were...” 

“I’m fine,” you murmur, closing your eyes as you smile. “Thank you.” 

He sighs in relief as you (discreetly) trace your thumb over his skull before reluctantly removing your hand. 

His magic feels...safe.  

“stars,” he says your name, “why are you like this? you could have died!” 

“Oh well.” 

“i’m serious,” he mutters, eyes narrowing. “what happened?” 

“A rung was missing.” 

“oh. well then, where was it?” 

“I don’t know. I wasn’t able to see very well.” 

“hm, okay. guess i'll have to be careful. if i get taken out, then we’re both screwed.” 

“Hey! I still have magic, you know.” 

“true, but can you safely use it to get us both to safety?” 

“Probably not.” 

“there.” 

He starts climbing down again while you float down as well. 

“Hey, bring me lower so that I can see where I fell!” 

“okay.” 

He continues to send you downwards as you keep an eye out for the responsible rung. 

“There,” you say. You see him look down. 

“alright, thanks.” 

Then, as he continues climbing down, you keep looking for any more troublesome rungs or obstacles. Thankfully, there are none, and Sans is able to safely make it to the ground. 

Once he’s hit the bottom, he looks up at you. You’re still floating. 

“here,” he says, holding his boney arms up towards you. You feel his fingertips gently grazing your skin as he takes your elbows into his arms and guides you back down. 

Neither of you notice for a moment, but as your feet hit the ground, his arms linger for a little longer than necessary as he watches his magic dissipate from your SOUL. 

“Your magic is so pretty,” you say. “It made me kind of sleepy, too!” 

“ah...thanks,” he chuckles awkwardly, removing his hands and taking a step back. 

“Thanks for saving me,” you mumble, giving him a side hug. 

“oh...yeah, don’t mention it,” he mutters, looking away as you quickly latch onto his arm. 

“Now! Let’s see what we’ve got here!” you announce, stepping backwards and unknowingly leaving a flustered skeleton in your wake. 

The two of you are standing in a tiny room with a metal door embedded in one of the walls. 

“Aw, I hope we can get it open...” you mumble before you begin pulling on the handle. You think it might have rusted in between the cracks in certain places. 

“Come on...” you whisper, pulling a little harder. A few tries later, you’re able to finally tug it open. 

“What if there are adversaries we must purify?” you wonder. 

“adversaries hidden deep within these catacombs,” he plays along, grinning a dorky smile. 

“We’ll crush ‘em!” 

“hell yeah!” 

Chuckling, you turn on your phone’s flashlight, shining it around the musty room. From what you can see, there are tall shelves forming walkways throughout the room. Their shelves are lined with canned food, mainly vegetables. There are other items lining the shelves as well, such as ammunition boxes (which look like they actually came from the military) and other miscellaneous items. 

“what the hell are  those ?” Sans questions, pointing to something behind a shelf. Moving, you get a better view. 

Lining the corner of the room are four gas masks, all hanging on pegs from the wall. A shudder runs down your spine. 

“Gas masks,” you reply. “During World War I, the Germans began using chemical warfare. I guess we were afraid that we’d be fighting against that here, too,” you answer. 

“what kind of gas?” 

“Uh...probably chlorine?” 

“oh. that's...terrifying. why did they design them like that?” 

“I don’t know. They are creepy, though,” you admit. “Uh...let’s keep moving.” 

“yeah.” 

An eerie silence overcomes the two of you as you continue walking. Sans remains close as you continue walking towards the end of the hall. 

The walkway curves right, leading to another door. This one, however, is made of wood which has obviously rotten over the decades. You can tell because there are small holes on the bottom. 

“Hold up,” you mutter. “Step back. I’ve always wanted to do this.” 

Once Sans is back, you kick the door. The wood splinters and buckles inwards in retaliation. 

“Yeah!” 

“we could have just  gently  pushed it open.” 

“I could have. But I didn’t. And I don’t regret it at all.” 

He laughs before you push open what’s left of the door. Tentatively shining your light around the corner, you find that the next room is actually a bedroom. 

There are four bunkbeds in the room – two attached to each wall. Boxes line the wall of the room and a small, raggedy carpet covers part of the floor. 

“damn,” Sans mutters. 

“I bet this is all there is to this shelter. Unless there’s a bathroom somewhere. Hey, do you feel a lightbulb string or something anywhere?” 

Shining your light on the ceiling, you end up finding a string. 

One that Sans is trying to reach. He’s not quite tall enough though. 

“Here you go,” you say, easily reaching up to grasp the string and pull it. The lightbulb shakily flickers on before steadily illuminating the room. Turning your flashlight off, you put it back in your pocket before looking around. 

“you coulda let me retain a little bit of my dignity.” 

Releasing a laugh, you look down at the skeleton. “Sorry. I’m going to take a look in these chests.” 

“careful. i'll look in the ones over here.” 

Sighing, you eye a box in front of the bunkbeds on the right.  

This really is like something right out of a video game.  

Reality is just so... bland , at points. Ever since you were younger, you craved to join your favorite characters on their quests. Why can’t life be filled with such adventure? That’s what you were (and still are) thinking about when you found the trapdoor. 

An adventure waiting to unfold itself. Just for me.  

Shaking your thoughts off, you kneel down and unlatch the chest before slowly opening the lid. 

A white blanket rests on top of whatever else is underneath it. You cautiously remove the article before quickly inspecting it and tossing it onto the lower bunkbed. Looking back down, you find that there are several toys and children’s books neatly packed into the chest. They vary anywhere from metal cars to creepy little dolls. 

“Toys,” you state. 

“ah. just some junk over here.” 

“Ooh, junk, you say?” 

I bet some of this could be worth a fair amount of money.  

Closing the chest, you shift your focus to a small box underneath the bed. Curiosity piqued, you slide it out and take the lid off. 

Several photographs lie on top of a dusty, sealed envelope. Frowning, you take the pictures in your hands and flip through them. 

They’re mainly of two young woman and two children. In one picture, you see a man hugging one of the woman. 

The man is the ghost that’s around here.  

A chill skitters daintily throughout your being as something foreign grips the rear end of your mind. The world around fades to a blur as you stare at the picture. 

A flash of something zips before you eyes. You don’t know what it could have been, for it had ran far too fast for you to tell. 

He’s here.  

This feeling – the familiar clawing of...of...of sheer  anguish  and hurt tears your insides apart, causing you to drop the pictures. 

What happened to you?  

A shaky sigh escapes your lips as your eyes remains on the photographs. You’ve felt this sensation every time he came to visit you. 

Tears brim on your eyelids as you turn slowly, hands covering your mouth. 

There he is.  

Mr. Ghost stands there, eyes as vacant as always. Even so, he’s still staring at you. 

What is preventing him from going to whatever follows death?  

A hand grips your shoulder –  it must be Sans –  but you can’t bring yourself to answer his worried calls. You continue watching as the phantom mouths an unspoken word that your conscious can hear clearly. 

L – E – T – T – E – R  

Eyes widening, you snap out of your trance before turning back to the box. The envelope lies there, undisturbed. 

To Margaret Addington  

“Wait... Margaret Addington?” the familiar name rests on your tongue as you pick the box open. 

“the lady who runs the swim shop?” Sans questions, clearly confused. 

“Ms. Addington!” you yell, turning back to the ghost. “You...you knew her?” 

He only nods before smiling weakly. 

“We have to give this to her!” you cry, turning to Sans. 

“no, no. slow down, you look like you’ve seen...” He trails off as he comes to a sudden realization. 

“A ghost?” 

“...did you? is he here?” 

“Look through your phone’s camera if you can’t see him.” 

While he’s getting his phone out, you place the letter back inside the box before closing it up again. “Don’t worry, sir! I’ll get this back to her!” 

“what the hell...” Sans mumbles. 

The man smiles again, and before you know it, the anguish you’re feeling is replaced by...something much more positive... 

...a feeling that, once again, bring tears to your eyes and forces you to sit down... 

... peace ... 

... long-awaited peace ... 

And then he’s gone. 

The ambience you felt before is gone. The feeling lingers within your chest as you smile through your daze. 

Before you know it, your name is being called and something firm is wrapped around your torso and pressed against your shoulder blade. 

“come on, snap out of it!” 

Gasping, you jerk your head up and he backs away. 

“hey, it’s okay. calm down. you're okay.” 

“I know. I’ve been through this before.” 

He frowns, eyes asking you for clarification. 

“Like I said earlier – it's an empath thing. It allows me to experience how others are feeling, or sense it.” You sigh. “And ever since I got my magic, the emotions of others...it’s so much more intense now.” 

“you mean...you experienced this alone? when you were younger?” 

“Yeah.” 

“how?” 

“It just happens.” 

He pauses for a moment. “energy magic is amazing.” 

“And isn’t that the weird part? I had these kinds of reactions before I got my magic.” 

“i know...but still,” he sighs. “let’s get out of here and talk, yeah?” 

“Sounds good,” you reply, taking the box and following him out.  

… 

“that really was something video game-esque, huh? we encountered a ghost and everything.” 

“I know!” you giggle lightly. “It was pretty awesome, huh?” 

“yeah.” He pauses, his permanent grin widening for a moment. 

“What kind of magic do you have? I mean, according to how you made the chart thingy.” 

“uh...the general category is healing and alteration, narrowed to soul alteration, then narrowed to control and enhance, then classified as a magic related to the human trait of patience.” 

“Okay, here’s my question. If monsters can’t have human SOULs, then why do you have magic based off of our SOULs?” 

“it’s because of our ancestors. heh, i heard this story from gerson a long time ago. as it turns out that the human’s hatred for our kind was mutual. our ancestors – and ‘m talking before tori and asgore came along – wanting the future generations of their kingdom to have some kind of defense against humans.” 

“So, at one point, monsters hated humans?” 

“yeah.” 

“Huh,” you mumble. It’s no wonder a war brewed in such a short period of time. 

Because, from everything you had previously heard, the humans were to blame. Not once did you hear an account of the monsters having hated the humans. 

But wouldn’t it be hard for monsters to hate people if their SOULs were made of all the fluffy stuff, like love and compassion? 

“I thought monsters were incapable of hating?” you mumble. 

“that’s not necessarily true. we are loving at first impression, wouldn’t you agree?” 

“Yes.” 

“i don’t know exactly why, but at one point, our relationship with the humans started going downhill. you know, pre-war indicators that weren’t noticeable at the time. so, our predecessors created a type of magic that would have a chance against fighting a human. it's like creatin’ an antibiotic. in order to make yourself immune to the virus, you have to expose yourself to it.” 

“So they modeled monster magic after human SOULs,” you say, nodding. “Wait...if that’s the case, then how did they do that?” 

He sighs as you two continue walking over the brush-covered trail. “to make a long story short, the humans weren’t the only ones to blame for the war.” He exhales, closing his eyesockets and forcing a breath. “the old scientists...they would kidnap humans and...and...” 

“...Oh,” you mumble, looking away.  

Human experimentation.  

“it was awful,” he whispers. “i mean, i never saw any of it myself, obviously, but from what gerson told me. but stealing magic from a soul – any soul, not just human – that's just...” 

“Like a war crime. Something so terrible that even  conflicting sides  agree that it’s not right.” 

He nods. “so yeah. don't think humans were completely at fault.” 

The rest of the walk out of the forest is silent until you reach the edge of the forest. 

“well, on a happier note, your magic is classified under energy.” 

“That’s it?” 

“yeah. as of right now, at least. i really don’t wanna sort out the energies. there are so many...” 

“Heh, I could see that.” 

“anyways. under the elements category, there are the basic ones, like earth, fire, wind, water, lightning, ice, et cetera. then, once you got all of the basic ones, you can start combining them in different ways to make more elements. ‘n then, like the other kinds of magic – like creation magic-” 

“Like make magic?” you pause before grinning and doing an impression of a certain pervy popsicle from a certain anime... 

“Ice Make: Lance!” 

“yeah,” he says, chuckling. “stuff like that.” 

“Wait! What about switching armors and stuff? You know, like ones that enhance your physical ability.” 

“alteration of physical form: body.” 

“What about Heavenly Body Magic?! Using spells that involve the sky?!” 

“uh...creation, then manifesting? probably." 

“What if someone can let something take over their SOUL temporarily? Like...” you grin wickedly. “A she-devil! A REAL MAN! Or an animal soul...?” 

“i should add another category for that, huh?” 

“Hm...then what about...being Dovahkiin? What would that fall under?” 

“uh...” he frowns, falling into thought. “i think that would fall underneath a different system.” 

“Why?” 

“i don’t know. alphys ‘n i have a weird theory that magic has a...language, of sorts, that comes from the area it’s wielded in.” 

“But all of the magics I just threw at you are from Fairy Tail,” you note. “With the exception of Dovahkiin.” 

“we can use magic circles here, too. i didn’t know that ‘till you came along, though.” 

“Why?” 

“’cus you’re crazy like i am. nerds like us have our own kinds of magic lore.” 

Laughing, you stop walking and look up to the sky. 

“Magic lore is the best.” 

“i know.” 

Another silence follows before you speak up again. 

“Ugh...it’s like midnight...” you groan. 

“come on, i'll walk you back to your apartment.” 

… 

“Look...tonight was pretty awesome,” you say, shifting the box to your other arm. 

“it was.” He nods. “we probably shouldn’t have been out so late. don't you have the second day of the meet tomorrow?” 

“Yeah, but that’s why coffee exists,” you reply. “Thanks for walking me home, by the way.” 

“no problem. see you tomorrow.” 

“Later!” 

And with that, he poofs away, leaving you with a smile. 

After you enter your bedroom, you heave a delighted sigh and flop onto your bed after setting the box down. You spy Temmie in her bed, sound asleep. 

Leaving your phone to charge, you begin dozing off... 

… 

… 

...

...

...

...

still  wearing his jacket, too...  

Chapter Text

XXVII – Logic & Trick 

[The day after the second part of City-County] 

“Yo, Frisk and MK! You guys want to take a picture in front of the trophy?!” you yell from the side of the pool, waving the two over to you. 

The two nod quickly and swim over from the middle of the pool. Frisk clambers out and you bend down to give MK a hand.  

“Thanks, miss!” 

“I can’t believe we won City-County!” Frisk says as the three of you make your way over to the trophy. “There were so many people there!” 

“I know! It always seems like there’s a ton of people, but in reality we’re just a huge team,” you reply. The kids walk over to the trophy (which is a bit taller than Frisk – yeah, one of those trophies) and pose while you snap a quick picture. 

“Nice! I’ll send it to both your parents,” you state, smiling. 

“Okay. Thanks, coach!” MK yells before fast-walking to the shallow end. 

“I’ll be with you in a second!” Frisk calls before turning to you. “Hey, can I talk to you?” 

“What’s up?” 

Frisk’s expression turns serious. “Have you talked to Sans yet?” 

“Yeah. It went way better than I thought it would,” you say. “But basically, he’s on board.” 

“That’s great! Did he panic or anything?” 

“Uh…kind of. But I was able to diffuse the situation pretty quickly, though.” 

“That’s good. I knew you out of all of us would have the easiest time explaining it to him and getting him to actually listen.” 

“Why?” 

“He likes you,” Frisk states nonchalantly. “He knows you wouldn’t try to do anything that would hurt us...even if he is a little jumpy about it.” 

“I hope so, at this point,” you respond, chuckling. 

“Yeah. I’ll talk to him later and we’ll meet up again sometime this weekend,” Frisk says. “Anyways, when’s the banquet?” 

“Tomorrow afternoon, actually.” That reminds you of the party Alphys was planning for Toriel and Asgore. She said that they would start planning the day after the banquet and host it on Friday, when the Dreemurrs would get back from yet another meeting. 

“Okay. Sounds good,” they reply. “Are you going to stay for a while?” 

You chuckle, shaking your head and remembering what had happened on your little adventure with Sans. “I actually have some errands to run. But, I’ll be at the banquet, obviously.” 

“Okay! Guess I’ll see you tomorrow!” 

… 

Waking up yesterday morning had been rough, but you somehow dragged yourself out of bed in order to get ready for the last day of City-County. You totally weren’t a blushing mess when you realized that you’d forgotten to give Sans his jacket back. Nope. Nuh-uh.  

But, the meet went about as expected – everyone seemed to swim hard. The monsters timed again which was nice since a lot of human families didn’t even bother to volunteer. 

Sighing, you walk over to where your Jeep is located and hop inside, eyeing the box you had found in the bunker in the passenger’s seat. You were planning on bringing that back to Ms. Addington today, and it turned out to be the perfect day to do so. The City-County celebration was in full swing, but all of the other coaches were there and you had just told head coach that you needed to do something. They had no problem letting you do what you need to do. 

Upon arriving at the swim shop, you snag the box and hop out before slamming your door shut and entering. 

“Ms. Addington!” you say, smiling upon seeing the elderly lady. 

“Ah, good evening, dear! What brings you here? Have your goggles or swim cap broken again?” she questions, teetering out of her ‘office’ (which is actually just a relatively closed-off part of the corner in the back).

“Actually,, I found this while exploring with my friend! I thought you’d like to have it,” you reply, setting the box on the counter. “I did some research and figured out that you were related to these people.” 

She doesn’t reply, and instead elects to pull out a pair of reading glasses from her breast pocket before you gently pull the lid off, allowing her to shuffle through all of the pictures and grip the envelope. 

“My, my…” she states, face inscrutable as she carefully views each one. “How?” 

“Well, it might seem a little crazy, but we stumbled upon an old bunker near the pool. We were able to open its doors and explore. I thought you might like to have these back.” 

“I can’t believe he kept these…” she mumbles, chuckling before looking up at you and clutching the letter to her chest. 

She explains to you how these are pictures of her sister and her husband (who was the ghost) while they were on vacation. According to her, it was one of the best trips they had ever taken. 

“Oh, my dear…you don’t know how much this means to me. I truly appreciate this. Thank you so much,” she sighs, smiling at the stack of photos. 

“You’re so very welcome! I’m glad we could be of help!” 

She trails off before thinking for a moment. 

“Dear, why don’t you pick out a practice suit for free, as a thank-you gift?” 

“Oh, that’s not necessary-“ 

“I insist!” she replies, pushing you to the section. 

“Are you sure? They get pretty expensive…” 

“I’m positive. You gave me something priceless; this is the least I can do.” 

You sigh. 

“Whichever one you want, it’s yours,” she states. 

With that, you start sifting through the suits before finding one that catches your eye. 

It’s a galaxy-themed suit with (f/c) stars dotting it along with a silver trim. It’s a tie-back swimsuit, too. Something about it makes you pick it up. 

“Is this one alright?” you question, still not entirely comfortable with getting one for free. 

“Of course, of course! Isn’t that one pretty? I think it will entice a certain friend of yours…” she mumbles, chuckling. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Oh, you’ll see, my dear. You’ll see.” 

… 

“hOI, hUMan!” Temmie yelps as you enter your apartment. 

“Hey, Temmie!” you reply, smiling and picking her up. “How are you doing?” 

“gUd! yoUs sEEms HAppIer!” 

You carry her to your room, happily hugging her to your chest. 

“I guess I am happy. We won the big meet, y’know?” 

“gUd! TeM kNEw yoU coULd DoS it!!” she cheers. 

“Hm...” you trail off, observing her. “Hey, you look kind of tired. You okay?” 

“YeS!” 

“Maybe you should take a nap?” you mutter. “Does that sound good?” 

Temmie yawns and nods, so you tuck her into her little bed. “I’ll wake you up once dinner’s ready, alright?” 

“OKs!” 

After adjusting the blankets around her, you giggle and step out, gently closing the door before stepping into the living room. 

Sans’ jacket is slung over the back of your couch. You’re instantly reminded of how you had forgotten to give it back to him, but if you’re being honest...you don’t really want to give it back. It’s so comfy and it smells nice. He wouldn’t notice, would he...? 

… 

No. You’re going to give it back. That’s dumb and creepy and selfish of you. 

“It’s good to see you’re getting along with my sons.” 

Not even fazed, you turn to see Gaster and Chara standing in your living room. 

“Hey guys,” you greet, smiling lightly. 

“Hey,” Chara responds, saying your name. “We just noticed Sans didn’t look angry when he walked you home that night.” 

“You guys saw that, huh?” you question, smiling a bit. 

“We didn’t get a chance to hear the conversation, but we did manage to pop out while you guys were walking home.” 

“I’m glad to see Sans developed some kind of respect for women,” Gaster notes. “Their mother died when Papyrus was born, so I feared they would not come to learn how to treat a lady. I did the best I could, but it was still challenging.” 

You smile sadly. “I’m sorry to hear that. But, for the record, your sons are the most precious two people I’ve ever met in my life. Sans was so sweet. He gave me his jacket when we were walking out of Grillby’s that night and even walked me home.” 

Gaster grins longingly. “I’m glad to hear it. And thank you. God, I just want to squeeze my baby boys,” he replies, sighing. 

“Awww, I know, man. We’ll get you guys out of there. Anyways, I’m guessing you want to hear about the conversation?” 

They nod. 

“Alright. It actually went a lot better then I thought it would. Yeah, he did freak out a little but I was able to diffuse the situation fairly quick, though. But basically, he’s on board.” 

“Awesome!” Chara responds. 

The former royal scientist sighs. “I suppose it will be beneficial if my son helps us.” 

You nod. “He’s willing to fight for this timeline, like the rest of us. This is a fight to end all RESETs. And, to free the two of you, obviously.” 

They nod again.  

“Speaking of which, we wanted to ask you something,” Chara states. 

“What’s up?” 

“You’ve encountered two of my followers, no? Which means you should have two of the five shards of my SOUL.” 

“I do.” 

“So, we need to find the other three,” Chara states. 

“Two,” Gaster corrects. “The fifth piece of my SOUL was destroyed by the CORE. There’s no way we’d be able to bring it back.” 

“Then, how are we going to get it stabilized?” you wonder. 

“Here’s what we’ve been thinking,” Chara begins. “In order to whisk us out of the void, we’re going to need three things. First, two external vessels that will hold our consciousness until our physical forms are good to go. Next, we’ll need a way to get out of the void, like a path.” 

“I think my magic can do that,” you note. 

“Indeed. The issue is finding two vessels,” Gaster says. 

“Mettaton,” you say suddenly. 

“Huh?!” 

“It’s simple. Mettaton is actually a ghost, right? So why can’t we just have him leave his robot body in order to manifest Gaster? It’ll be easy to have your conscience possess a robot temporarily. It happens all the time. And, as for you, Chara, is your physical body still around?” 

“Buried in the Underground, but it was exhumed in order to be re-buried into a graveyard on the Surface,” Chara answers before his eyes widen. “Are you saying...?” 

“That we dig up your corpse and have you possess it? Yeah.” 

“Damn. I guess that’ll work. What do you think?” Chara questions to Gaster. 

“I believe that will suffice. It is only temporary, anyway,” Gaster smiles. “You’re good at this. I’m impressed.” 

“Hey,“ you say, “magic demon stuff mixed with real life crap? Right up my alley.” 

“No wonder why Sans likes her,” Chara mumbles underneath his breath so that you can’t quite catch it. 

“So what’s the third part?” you ask. 

“A SOUL. Each of us need a half of a SOUL. But how are we going to get one? And, if we can get one, how are we going to split it?” Chara proposes, frowning. 

“...Okay. Depends. How flexible are your morals?” you ask seriously. Hey, you’re really going to go all-out with this if it means saving the timeline. 

“(Y/N), we’re not killing anyone.” 

“Damn. Okay, onto Plan B. What if we break into a morgue and steal a human SOUL?” 

“That...” Gaster trails off. “That could actually work.” 

“Yeah,” Chara agrees. “We could have Sans teleport her in there while it’s closed or something.” 

“YES!” you screech. “Breaking and entering! I can’t wait!” 

“Are we sure she isn’t evil?” Chara whispers to Gaster while you ramble about breaking the law for a second. 

“Mostly.” 

“Good enough for me. If your son likes her, she should be fine, right?” 

“I think so.” 

Once you calm down from your initial excitement, the conversation at hand continues. 

“Oh! Frisk said that we’re going to be meeting up this weekend. All of us. With Sans. That way, we’ll be able to decide our next course of action. Will you guys be able to meet us?” 

“I think so.” Gaster pauses, thinking about something. “Hm...” 

“What are you thinking?” 

“Ask Sans to bring the condensed machine. He’ll know what that means. Also, do you think you’d be able to perform a...a ritual, of sorts in order to summon us if we can’t do it ourselves?” 

You giggle. This is just getting more awesome by the minute. 

“Sure. What kind?” 

“Well, remember the Blank Paper you stole from the True Lab?” Chara asks. 

“Yeah?” 

“That sheet contains a ritual on it written with a homemade version of an...invisible ink, of sorts,’ Gaster explains. “I’m not sure who created it, or why they wrote it that way, but if you use a blacklight or a UV light, then it should show up.” 

You nod. “I’ll order one online, then.” 

“Alright. We’ve got a good start, then,” Chara says once everyone falls silent. “We can do this.” 

“Yes we can,” you say in response. “It’s going to be hard, but we’ve got this.” 

“Indeed.” 

Your phone suddenly beeps, signaling a new text message. Picking it up, you see that it reads: 

Frisk  

Message to you and sans  

Frisk: Hi guys...I think we all know what this is about. We’re having a meeting at my place  on  Saturday at two o’clock. My parents will be at a conference or something for a few hours, so we should be okay. Does that work for everyone?  

sans: works 4 me  

You:  same  here  

“Hey, Frisk just texted me,” you speak up. “The meeting’s set up for Saturday at two.” 

“Excellent,” Gaster comments before smiling slightly. “This will be the first time I’ve seen my son in years...” 

sans: who all’s gonna b there other than us  

You: Hopefully Gaster and the good Chara. Your father told me to ask you to bring some ‘condensed machine’. You know what that means?  

- sans: got it.  its  just a machine 4 directing wavelengths & stuff. will  explain more in person.  

Frisk: Flowey might come too  

Alright, we’ll leave you to your bidding for now. Take care, dear,” Gaster says before the two of them fade away. 

“Bye!” 

Frisk: Can either of you think of anything we should bring  

You: not atm  

sans: ^^  

Frisk: Ok, then. If no one has any questions or comments, then I think we’re good for now?  

You: No questions here, but I did just talk to G & C. We were able to come up with some ideas as to how we’re going to get them out.  

Frisk: Oh awesome.   

- sans:  i  find it  kinda  w eird that ur able 2 talk 2 my dad while  hes  trapped lol  

Frisk: yeah... Chara  too  tbh . I’ve spent so much time trying to find a way to contact him and BOOM, you show up in all of your  empathical  glory, able to do the impossible  

- sans: yep leave it 2 the fangirl  

You chuckle lightly. You guess it is kind of weird. 

You: lol sorry guys  

With that, the chat kind of dies down and you’re left to your thoughts for the time being. 

Then, your phone beeps. 

Alphys : Hey!! I’m just texting to say that the prosecutor for our case is probably going to drop by your place soon. I, uh, kind of gave him your address...I hope that’s ok? He’s not a bad guy, trust me. He just wants to talk to you.  

You: Ok. I trust you, so don’t worry. Thanks for the heads-up.  

With that, you begin to clean yourself up a bit. So, you were going to meet the prosecutor, huh? 

After getting yourself ready and straightening up your living room, you hear a knock. 

You gently open the door. 

There stands a tall, dark-haired man. Dressed in a maroon-colored dress jacket and a matching pair of pants along with a white shirt and dark vest underneath his coat, he dons a poofy, white scarf around his neck. His dark hair frames the sides of his face, and his eyes are a lovely smoky-gray color. The man towers over you, radiating an aura of authority and formality. 

“Good evening, ma’am,” he states. “Might you be miss...” he states your name. 

“Yep.” 

“Excellent. I’m Miles Edgeworth, the attorney prosecuting the man who attempted to murder the Royal Scientist of the Underground. I need to speak to you about this ordeal. Alphys gave me this address.” 

“Alright. Nice to meet you. What do you need to talk about?” 

“It’s a pleasure making your acquaintance,” he states, smiling a bit and holding out his hand. You shake it, hoping you were able to match his firm grip. This dude doesn’t play. 

“Oh, uh...wanna come in?” 

“Actually, if you don’t mind, I was thinking we could go out for lunch,” he replies. “I don’t want to intrude on you like that.” 

“That sounds good.” 

“I’ve been wondering about the new monster restaurant – Grillby's, I presume? Is that all right with you?” 

“Yeah, that place is awesome.” 

“If you’d like, I could drive you? If you’re comfortable with that, of course,” he adds quickly. 

“Sounds good. Thanks, man.” 

Ah, now look – the unmagical you would not have accepted a ride with this dude. But, since you have such an epic magic, you’re able to sense his intentions. You’ve got a feeling this guy is a JUSTICE SOUL so you think he’s okay. Plus, Alphys says he’s not bad and you trust her. 

And let’s be honest...worst comes to worst you could just kick his ass. You’re just  that  good. 

“Of course. Please, follow me.” 

… 

Miles’ car instantly reminds you of Papyrus’. It’s a deep red sports car that looks way too expensive for your taste. 

“Have you met Papyrus?” you question, looking over to him as you walk over to the passenger side. 

“I have,” he replies. “Did my car remind you of his?” 

“Yup,” you say, laughing. 

With that, he unlocks the door and the two of you climb in. 

… 

The ride has been comfortably silent so far. A soft tune is playing from his radio as he focuses on driving. 

“Where are you from?” you ask suddenly. You’ve lived here for years, and you think you would’ve seen him by now had he been around here. 

“Los Angeles,” he replies. 

Your eyes widen. That was basically on the other side of the country. “Seriously? What brought you all the way out here?” 

“Well...it’s a long story, but my friends all wanted to help defend the monsters. We were all kind of sick after being there for a few years, so we all moved out.” 

“Wow! I guess you guys live near the city, then?” 

“Yes. Near the courthouse, since we spend a lot of our time there. Well, I do, at least.” 

“Nice. You like it here?” 

“I do. It’s much more. I quite enjoy the company of the monsters, so it’s a good change.” 

“I agree.” 

Then, Grillby’s comes into view and he pulls into the parking lot. 

… 

After the two of you are seated and Fuku takes your orders, you two confront the business that needs to be handled. 

He sits across from you while reaching into his coat to pull out a tan folder, dropping it on the table. 

“It has come to my attention while speaking to my client that you were a witness to the attempt, no?” 

“That’s true.” 

He nods. “Would you mind coming to testify in court on behalf on Alphys? I’ll need to gather the facts here, evidently, but it would be beneficial if I could get someone who was involved in the fight firsthand.” 

“Of course,” you respond. “Oh, could I ask why you’re preparing so early? Isn’t it a few months away?” 

His expression falls to something far darker. ”Normally, I would have interviewed you about two or three weeks beforehand. But...something’s been happening. There has been an increase in homicides lately. Not just around this area, but more in the city. I don’t know what it is. I think it’s affecting the entire world. I believe that it is entirely feasible for Alphys’ trial to be rescheduled, so I thought it’d be wiser to go ahead and gather the facts while I have the chance.” 

An increase in homicides?!  you wonder. Now that you think about it, it makes sense – ever since Sans said something strange was going on in the void, it seems like crime has escalated. Could it be that the void was, in a sense, leaking into this world? Or was evil Chara’s influence just spreading? 

You’d have to ask Sans about that later. 

“Well, on a brighter note, you’ll be cross-examined by the defense, who is an old...friend, of sorts,” he sighs, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Anyway. May I hear your account of what happened?” 

“Sure. I was reading a book in the same aisle as Alphys. We were standing next to each other, a few feet apart. She didn’t seem to notice me, but I saw the guy creeping up behind her with a knife raised. I ran over, grabbed his wrist, then I kicked him in the groin. While I was still holding his arm, I turned and flipped him over. He dropped the knife and fell, but then he swept me off of my feet with his legs. He then straddled me, with the knife back in his hand. He yelled at me, and then I managed to get him off balance by pushing him off with my hips. He slashed at my eye, and that’s how I got this,” you say, pointing to your scar. “I then kicked the knife out of his hand and just tackled him. I held him there until security came.” 

Nodding again, he opens the folder and pulls out a pen from his inside jacket pocket.  

“Alright. That aligns with the story Alphys told me. I assume after that happened, Alphys took you to the Queen of Monsters in order to heal your cut?” 

“Yes.” 

He goes silent once more, finishing writing out his notes. “Perfect.” Pulling that sheet to the side, he finds a new one and slides it to you. It’s a form sheet, detailing what you would have to do as a witness and all that. 

“I’ll need you to fill this out and mail it to me by the date I’m about to write down here,” he says, jotting down some key points on another blank sheet of paper. “I’m also including my contact information, should any problem arise. I’m only in my office at certain times, but for the most part I usually have my phone on me. If I don’t answer, it’s on silent, so I’ll likely be in court. Or with the police department,” he sighs, handing the sheet to you. 

“Okay, thank you.” 

“I should be the one thanking you. I’ve had a hard time gathering witnesses for this case, but since you actually saw it firsthand, it should make everything run much more smoothly.” 

“Yeah...oh! Do you need any type of...evidence, I guess? Because I can probably get a videotape from the store. I think Alphys might have one, but I know they’ll let us have a copy.” 

“I might take you up on that, actually,” he replies. “Oh, and if a spiky-haired defense attorney in a blue suit asks you to tell him what happened, then just tell him to come find me. If he points at you and yells ‘objection’, then just call me. The same thing goes for a tall detective in an olive-green trench coat.” 

“Okay.” Sounds like he has some wacky friends, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

“Excellent,” he nods. Fuku comes by and picks up your empty dishes. 

“Thanks, Fuku.” 

“Yes, thank you. That was delectable,” he adds, smiling. 

“Of course! We’re glad you think so!” 

You and Miles end up splitting the bill (after you objected a bit). 

“May I give you a ride back to your apartment?” 

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m actually going to stay here for a bit. One of my friends just popped in,” you explain, grinning when you see an unmistakable shade of blue in your peripheral vision. 

“Alright then. It was a pleasure to meet you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have. If anything comes up, I’ll notify you as soon as possible.” 

“Got it. Thanks again!” 

He gives a small wave before exiting. With that, you turn your attention to the little blue skeleton, who’s sitting in his usual spot. 

“Hey!” you say as you sit next to him. 

Surprised, he turns to face you. “oh, hey squints. i was gonna talk to ya but didn't wanna interrupt your date.” 

You roll your eyes. “It wasn’t a date. Haven’t you met him? He’s the prosecutor for Alphys’ case.” 

He blinks before his cheeks blush a tiny bit blue. “oh, that makes sense. heh. no, i haven’t met him yet. heard paps talk about him a few times, but never actually talked to him.” 

You chuckle a bit, deciding to tease him. “Jealous?” 

The blue on his cheekbones deepens before he turns away. “uh, no, uh...i meant...” 

Laughing, you pat his arm. “Just messing with you, man.” 

A small silence ensues before Grillby sets a hot dog down in front of Sans, who drowns it in ketchup. You give in and order some dessert, because...why not? 

“I think it’s both fascinating and disgusting how you eat all of that ketchup,” you say. 

“it’s so good. i don’t know how you don’t love it.” 

“I mean, I can stand a little, but...ew.” 

“yeah, i get that a lot.” He chuckles. “so...you can actually see my dad, right?” 

“Yeah, but just whenever he pops out.” 

You can tells he’s nervous. “is he...” 

“He seems fine, considering his situation,” you reply. “He misses you and Papyrus so much. He said he’s proud of how much the two of you have grown, and how you’ve endured for so long. He can’t wait to see you, and, I quote, ’squeeze his baby boys’.” 

“ugh,” he groans. “i mean, i miss him too, but does he have to be so sappy about it?!” 

Giggling, you avert your eyes to your dessert before speaking again. “We came up with a plan, too. To get them out.” 

“really?” 

“Yeah. I’ll explain this weekend, when Frisk is here.” 

He nods. “k.” 

“Also, the prosecutor brought something of interest up during our conversation. He said homicide rates have been increasing on a wider basis. Could that have anything to do with the stuff messing with the void?” 

“interesting. it's possible, yeah. guess i'll look into it later on.” 

“Okay.” 

After the two of you finish your respective foods, you remember something. 

“Oh!” you speak up suddenly. “I keep forgetting to give you back your jacket. I still have it, but it keeps slipping my mind.” 

“you can have it. i got plenty.” 

You hate that you’re super relieved about that. “Are you sure?” 

“yeah. don't worry about it.” 

“Thanks!” 

“no problem. also, i had an idea. can you summon a shield for short amount of time?” 

“Well, what do you mean by shield?” 

“somethin’ that’ll let me hold you but also cover you so that you’re not exposed to the void.” 

You trail off, thinking. “I think I could manage that. Would you need to be covered by it?” 

“nope.” 

“Okay. You gonna try teleporting somewhere?” 

“yes. i think that, as long as you’re not directly making contact with the void, then you should be okay. but, you have to let me know if anything feels off, or if you see anything, got it? this could really be dangerous, ‘n like i said – communication is key.” 

“I understand.” You stand and follow him outside. 

“okay. form the shield.” 

You concentrate on gaining an energy source within Sans’ protectiveness. Typically, you couldn’t really use just one person for a source, but Sans seems to have a lot of feelings that could be considered defensive in more ways than one. His should suffice for now. 

With that, three lines of (f/c) runes line the outside of your body. You notice that they’re mixed with the colors associated with Sans’ magic, too. 

“perfect. let's try it. ‘f you need anythin’, just tap the side of my skull or somethin’.” 

“Got it.” 

“alright. take a deep breath, don’t exhale ‘til i say to.” He gingerly brings you into his side, careful not to bump the runes. 

Following his instructions, you feel reality zipping away for a moment before being replaced by your living room. 

“Hey, it worked! A lot faster this time, too. I didn’t even get to open my eyes, damn it,” you mumble. 

He chuckles before releasing you from his grasp. You’re left smiling while his gaze lingers with yours for a moment. 

“guess i'll be going, then. thanks for lettin’ me try that.” 

“Thanks for bringing me home.” 

“you’re welcome. catch you later.” 

“Bye!” 

… 

Before settling in for the night, you end up reading one of Desmund’s entries for the hell of it. You open to a random page and begin, with Temmie curled up in your lap. 

Desmund Ethel  

Entry ???  

I did it. I was able to cast the Decadence of Mortality. It was the most difficult and powerful spell I had ever cast before. I’m not sure how I managed to stay conscious throughout its wielding process.  

Whatever it did...it worked. In a moment of desperation, an ally was summoned. From where, I have no idea. People have been calling the ally an angel, for the most part. In any case, our savior descended from an alluring mix of colors. Their overall structure was phantomlike and surreal. Their gender could not have been identified accurately because there was so much light surrounding the force.  

The ally certainly looked like an angel.  

The ally released a cry – I couldn’t tell you whether it was a scream of agony or a cry for help – but a magnificent and fearsome beast appeared out of nowhere. Monsters and humans alike were trembling.  

After completing their moment of transcendence, the ally seemed to hesitate. The time period of silence could have ranged anywhere from a minute to an hour. There was no way to tell.   

I could feel the fear on both sides. The curiosity. The ally’s conflict. What were they conflicted about? I couldn’t possibly know.  

A while later, the angel took the snout of the beast into their grasp and gently stroked its scaly skin.  

But, then, something terrible happened.  

About five minutes later, their light began flickering. I felt a pang of urgency flood within me. I pled for them to aid us somehow. In any way they saw fit. I think the angel heard me, but they did not reply. They drifted off and eventually disappeared before anything else could happen.  

Both sides of the battle were confused. I was hurt. Devastated. We need help. How could the angel have left us like that?  

However, the Empath in me is nagging my impatience. Telling me that the angel had a reason that they did not interfere.  

To this day, I wonder what that reason could be.  

The battle ended up resuming, despite a few pleas from unheard voices on both sides.  

You suddenly feel very sleepy. Deciding you’ll reflect on the meaning of the entry, tomorrow, you turn off the light and lay down, listening as a gentle but familiar voice lulls you to sleep... 

… 

… 

… 

“princess, you’re too much.”  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

XXVIII – The Banquet

“NGAHHH! TAKE THIS, NERD!”

The raging fish monster releases a shrill battle cry as she summons a single spear and grips it with both hands before swinging it towards you. Raising your arms protectively, you rely on her kindness to create a shield of magic in front of you. She freezes, but still pushes in an attempt to break it. You take the opportunity to duck down and swing your leg out, sweeping Undyne off of one foot. She loses her balance and stumbles, so you take advantage of this in order to cast another attack.

Raising your hands, you take a second to gather the required energy before snapping your fingers and forming a (f/c) magic circle. Several swords are conjured throughout the air, and you send them flying towards her.

Undyne ends up countering the attack with spears of her own. The spears meet the swords, and they all end up in mini-explosions. You summon a plain circle that is a color of your choosing before hauling it at her. To your surprise, it actually hits her. A little harder than you meant.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to hit that har-”

She doesn’t respond, and instead takes advantage of your hesitation in order to shove you to the ground roughly. She only smirks, holding another spear. She swings it towards you once, causing you to bob your head back as you scoot away from her, trying to find an opportunity to get yourself back up. Undyne swings again, but this time, you quickly form a smaller shield that only encompasses your wrist to deflect the blow. After she recovers, she yells out once more and brings it down again. Without using a hand gesture, you’re able to make another shield that protects you.

“Good,” she says. “You’re getting so much better, punk! You just have to stop hesitating. That’ll get you in trouble.”

“Thanks,” you reply. “I’ll work on it.” You know the fight isn’t over yet, though.

“On your feet,” she instructs, conjuring another spear. She holds it like one would a sword. “Let’s see how you are with two-handed weapons.”

Grinning, you imagine your two-handed sword. In your opinion, swords are often associated with the trait of justice. As a result, the design of the sword turns out to be a silver hilt with a yellow gem implanted in the middle. The blade has gorgeous runes engraved in its middle from the top to its bottom.

You’d found that, if certain objects symbolized one of the seven main traits of a SOUL, then you could actually summon realistic weapons. You’d messed around with it the first time you found out, but it was actually really cool. You now have your own array of various weapons at your disposal.

The grip you use is simple but effective. Your dominant hand clutches the top half of the pommel while your other hand grips the bottom.

With that, Undyne races towards you and your weapons collide. Immediately, you spin backwards while simultaneously attempting to elbow her shoulder. She dodges and brings her spear back down. You parry vertically.

You have an idea on how to get her disarmed, just as long as you can get her to hold the spear in one hand. You’d only get one shot at this, so if the chance arises then you’ll have no choice but to take the risk and hope for the best.

While the two of you are still holding each other off, you end up finding the opportunity to kick her in stomach. She recoils before nodding in approval.

“Again. Mind giving me another sword like that?” she questions.

Nodding, you summon a similar one and throw it at her.

The two of you go at it once more before she calls it off.

“Alright, I think that’s good for today. You did well!” she compliments with a laugh.

“Thanks,” you reply, letting both of your swords dissipate into thin air.

The two of you are standing back in the field of where you first started learning about Encounters. She had suggested training a bit earlier today since the swim banquet was at noon.

“We’ll do endurance stuff next time,” Undyne says, patting you on the shoulder.

You nod in reply, lifting your discarded shirt on the ground. The two of you were only in sports bras and shorts because it’s so damn hot out today. Sweat drips down your stomach and arms. You cringe and attempt to wipe off some of the sweat with your long-forgotten shirt. Ugh. You know training is necessary, but you hate feeling so icky. This is why swimming is better.

“Hey, c’mere, nerd!” Undyne shouts. Turning to her, you find that she’s wearing a toothy grin and is holding her phone.

“What’s up?” you ask. She hooks an arm around your neck and lifts her phone up sideways, taking a selfie of the two of you.

“Let’s get some pictures. I wanna have something to remember the occasion,” she answers. Once she finishes taking that picture, she shows you a few other she’d taken earlier.

One of them is of you (in your bra) holding your sword, a tired grin on your face. You’re not looking at the camera, but something to the side seems to hold your gaze.

“You took that while I wasn’t looking?!”

“Yeah. Is that a problem?”

“No,” you reply. “Just as long as it doesn’t end up on the internet or anything.”

“It won’t...but do you mind if I post the one of us on Undernet?” she assures, flipping through a few more.

“I don’t. Do you want some of you?”

“Nah, thanks though. Trust me when I say that I have plenty.”

Laughing, you nod before gathering all of your belongings and hauling them into your Jeep. Undyne packs up too.

“Okay, so what should I wear to the banquet?” Undyne speaks up from where she’s standing at her truck.

“Uh...I’m just going to wear a little summer dress. I think the other coaches are going to be dressed like that too. Just make it looked like you tried to go a little above casual and you’ll be okay.”

Undyne’s smile returns. “You’re wearing a dress?”

“Yes. Is that a problem?” you repeat, grinning and throwing on your shirt.

“Seems unlike you.”

You shrug, a fond smile creeping onto your lips. “Well, this particular team holds a special place in my heart, so I always like dressing up a little.”

“Makes sense. I probably have an old one I can wear...” she trails off. “Yeah. Anyways, see you soon, punk!”

“See you!”

Once you arrive, you find that your package has arrived. Smirking, you pick it up and bring in with you.

It’s the blacklight you had ordered online yesterday. Thanks to the power of overnight shipping, it was able to get here quickly. After unboxing it, you test it a few times before leaving it on the counter and moving to jump in the shower. You’d uncover the ritual later on.

After that’s finished, you end up blow-drying your hair and fixing it into a style that fits. Then, you put on your summer dress.

It’s a cute, modest (f/c) dress that fits your figure perfectly. You smile and do a little twirl, watching the skirt part spin around you. Your smile slightly fades when you see your scar. Does...does that look weird?

You hope not. Oh well.

Next, you load your purse and get your choice of shoes on. Temmie waddles out eventually and smiles upon seeing you.

“hOI!”

“Hey! Want to come to our banquet?” you ask, kneeling in front of her.

She nods excitedly. You’d noticed that she didn’t get to go outside a lot, so you were doing your best to let her tag along with some of your daily routines whenever she wanted some fresh air. You’d also set up a little station on the balcony for her to sit outside if she liked.

Scooping her up, you grab your bag and head outside.

As soon as you arrive at the country club, you work your way into the actual building part that’s close to the pool but not attached.

The building is a cute little two-story one; its basement was accessible with a pretty, metal spiral staircase that lead to walkway in between two little ponds filled with fat goldfish. This path lead to a bar and a kids’ room. The main floor spread across two different areas; to the left lead to the banquet room and dining hall as well as an outdoor patio with brick floors and walls. To the right is a series of other minor rooms similar to the main banquet rooms. There’s also another bar near the front, too, although they don’t use this one as often.

As you enter the building, you immediately take a left and walk into the main room. You can see the projector screen already on as well as several rows of chairs in front of it. Along the front of the room is a table filled with all of the City-County and participation awards for the younger kids. At the end of the table rests the City-County, shining in all of its glory. There’s a wooden podium next to the projector screen. The ceiling is composed of pale, white, wood crisscrossing in a lovely pattern. Adding to its aesthetic is a set of white Christmas lights, all hanging in half-circles on the top. They blink on and off, giving the impression of glitter.

You notice that Toriel and Asgore are already here. You walk towards them, Temmie still in your arms.

“Hey, guys!” you say. “Do you mind if Temmie sits here?”

“Of course, not, dear!” Toriel replies. “Temmie! I haven’t seen you in a while! How’ve you been?”

“hOI! tEMMie bEEn...gUd!”

“That’s great to hear...” Toriel and Asgore continue to talking to Temmie, so you walk up to the podium and flip through the pack of stapled papers on it. These papers include the coaches’ speeches as well as lists of rewards.

“Hey, good to see you here early,” comes a new voice. You look up to find Warner as well as Dustin enter the room.

“Hey guys,” you reply, looking up and smiling.

“NERD!” you hear Undyne screech and watch as she runs over to you, the other monsters in tow. She’s wearing a gorgeous blood-red dress that stops right above her knees. It’s kind of loose around her legs, but flows gracefully. The top dons a one-shoulder strap and is asymmetrical. Her hair is tied up in a neat ponytail.

“Undyne!” you yell, rushing over to her. “You look so pretty!”

She laughs loudly and slightly punches your shoulder. “Thanks! You look awesome, too!”

“Thanks,” you reply.

“Coach (Y/N)!” Frisk shouts, latching onto your leg. You bend down and pick them up.

“Hey!” you respond as they hug you. They’re dressed in a cute, blue dress shirt with dark shorts on.

“You look so pretty in that dress!” they compliment.

“You do. It compliments your figure nicely,” Toriel adds, walking up behind Undyne.

“Th-that color really s-suits you.”

“YES INDEEDY! IT REALLY BRINGS OUT YOUR EYES!”

Laughing nervously, you feel your cheeks beginning to heat up. “Ah...thanks, guys.”

“Of course. C’mon, guys, let’s go find a seat!” Frisk says.

You notice that Papyrus is slightly pushing Sans towards you. The younger skeleton is saying something to Sans, but the shorter skeleton is shaking his head. Papyrus simply sighs before pushing Sans over.

“HELLO AGAIN, HUMAN,” he says. “MY BROTHER HAS SOMETHING TO SAY. I WILL LEAVE HIM TO IT.” With that, Papyrus waltzes away.

A moment of relatively-awkward silence fills the air before Sans blinks and looks towards the ground.

“uh...you...i think you look really nice...” he says somewhat bashfully.

You feel your heart rate speed up for a moment before you smile. “Thank you.”

Another silence ensues before you find a decent question to ask. “Does Papyrus know that they’re serving spaghetti for lunch?”

“not yet. decided to keep quiet until we got here, heh. he woulda gone insane.”

“I could see that.”

“yep. ‘sides, the surprise on his skull’s gonna be hysterical.”

“Definitely,” you say.

“Hey!” Dustin greets, walking up beside you and placing a hand on your shoulder.

“Hi,” you respond, turning to him. “Is coach about ready to start?”

“Yeah, I think so,” he answers. “Hey, you look super gorgeous!”

The smile on your lips widens as you thank him and begin to babble happily about swimmer things, not even noticing the way the skeleton is discreetly glaring daggers at the man in front of you.

“Are all of your speeches ready?” you ask.

“Yep. Yours?”

“Ah-huh. I only had to write two.”

You’re smiling again. Something’s got you all happy today.

“It looks like we’re about to start!” you say suddenly, eyeing the other coaches heading towards the podium. “I guess I’ll talk to you later, Sans!”

“see ya,” he replies before heading to where Papyrus and the others have gathered.

The head coach then taps the microphone gently. “Hello. Can everyone hear me? Yes? Good. Well, good evening everyone! I’d like to start out by commemorating everyone on our win at City-County the other day...” he continues to talk about how everyone did well in meets and how a lot of the family participated.

“That’ll be all for me at the moment. I’m handing this over to my assistant coaches in order to present the first awards. Thank you!”

Warner steps aside in order to let another coach speak. They hand out the younger kid awards, like swimmer of the meet and all that. She does top time drops too.

Next up are you and Undyne.

“Good evening, all,” you begin, your heart slightly elevated from all of the stares directed towards you. Thankfully, you and Undyne will be splitting the speech.

You introduce yourself. “As most of you know, Undyne and I are two of the eleven-and-up coaches.”

Undyne steps up, not even needing to look at the paper. “Throughout the season, we’ve been watching two specific swimmers who have demonstrated certain traits we deem as essential to the practice of self-discipline – one of the many characteristics committing yourself to a sport will instill upon you.” Her voice is loud and clear.

Now it’s your turn. “Our group of swimmers are eligible for one of two awards: Most Improved, and Most Dedicated. We’ll start with presenting the Most Dedicated, because, in order to improve, you must be dedicated.” You flip the paper to the next page. “The swimmer receiving the Most Dedicated award demonstrates a will to overcome any type of challenge. The swimmer shows an immense amount of passion and heart as well as courage and sacrifice.”

You smile before beginning your next monologue. “The swimmer I’ve chosen once looked me in the eye and told me they’d be faster than me one day, despite only beginning to swim. I could practically feel their palpable amount of determination radiating from their being. In their eyes held a sense of knowingness – that it would indeed happen one day. And you know what? I believe it. Never in my life have I met someone as fierce yet loyal as this kid. With every practice, with every minute I fed them advice or helped them correct their technique, they took it to heart in order to make themselves better. The swimmer receiving the Most Dedicated award is none other than...” you trail off, giving a moment for the anticipation to build up.

“Frisk Dreemurr.”

Okay, now there are two types of families in here – the typical, sweet families that consist of both monsters and humans who smile and clap calmly.

And then there’s Frisk’s friends and families.

“NYEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!” Papyrus yells, clapping at a speed that should be impossible.

“GO, NERD! I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!” Undyne shouts from beside you. Yeah, you’re probably going deaf afterwards.

Asgore and Toriel are laughing and happily cheering while Sans and Alphys simply clap. Frisk walks up to the podium and immediately jumps on you for a hug. You grunt, but pat them on the back.

“Thanks, coach!” Frisk says into your ear as they take the small trophy from you.

“You earned it,” you reply, winking to them as they scamper to their family to show off their new trophy.

“The next award is Most Improved, which I’ll be presenting!” Undyne says.

Since she joined later, you’d written the speech but decided to let her present it to the kid for a single reason.

“This award should speak for itself. NOW! This kid had lots of trouble, but that never stopped him! He kept going at it until he was able to find a solution that worked for him! With his awesome amount of strength, he was able to swim just like the rest of us! Every day before practice, he’d be here, helping us set up the lane lines! So, the Most Improved award goes to...” she trails off, too.

“...Monster Kid!”

There’s more applause as said monster dashes up to the podium, practically vibrating as much as Temmie is.

“YO, COACH UNDYNE!” MK yells, accepting the trophy with his tail. You’d remembered that Undyne was one of MK’s top role models, so you had let her present his award. Watching the two interact is so sweet.

After the commotion dies down, the last of the assistant coaches present their awards before Warner takes the mic again.

“Alright. Now, as a tradition, we have a swimmer create an end-of-season slideshow. Enjoy,” he announces. The projector shows the beginning of the video, and it starts.

They’re mostly pictures of the swimmers swimming, but someone had inserted the video of Warner and Dustin throwing you into the pool. You shake your head and laugh. There are pictures of the team eating Muffet’s donuts as well as Nice Cream.

Once it’s over, everyone claps before coach announces that it’s time to eat.

The entire group has elected to move outside to the patio, where two sides are surrounded by the attached building and the other two are open to the forest that begins to span the field.

A buffet station is set up underneath the floor of the second-floor balcony. Dark, round tables dot the brick floors.

You decide to wait until the line clears out in order to get your dinner. While you’re waiting, you elect to idly watch squirrels chase each other up trees. It’s pretty entertaining.

“whatcha lookin’ at?” comes Sans’ voice next to you. You turn to greet the shorter skeleton.

“Those squirrels,” you reply, pointing to the base of a thick tree. The two animals are intently staring at each other.

“heh. looks like they’re driving each other nuts.”

Fur real.”

“i bet they’ll tell tall tails of each other.”

“They’ll probably be pretty a-corny stories.”

“i guess they’re nut messin’ around.”

“They walnut take part in this.”

You two stop and giggle for a second before the squirrels apparently get spooked and scamper away.

“Aw,” you mumble, feeling disappointed that your furry friends are gone.

“you waiting out the line too?”

“Yes. I get kind of panicked in large crowds – especially when everyone’s off doing their own thing,” you admit.

“why’s that?”

“Conflicting energies, mostly. It always gets overwhelming and I usually end up panicking or something.”

“i’m the same way. i mean, i obviously can’t relate with the energy stuff, but it’s just a lot.”

“I get it.”

You trail off for a moment, taking a moment to gaze into the forest as the wind rustles your hair.

“you’re pretty happy today,” Sans notes, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “not that that’s bad or anything.”

You nod and smile a bit. “This team is really special to me. I’ve been here ever since middle school and it’s really changed my life. It makes me happy to know that I get to influence kids the way I do.”

“that’s nice. the kiddo was really happy about gettin' that award. didn't really expect it, either.”

“They earned it,” you reply, glancing over at where they’re standing with Papyrus, who is currently ranting about pasta while holding Temmie.

“yeah. kid's stubborn as hell, i'll give ‘em that.”

Another silence follows, but you end up asking a question that’s been on your mind for a while.

“Hey, could I ask you something about the timelines while we’re alone?”

“shoot.”

“Did...did you really meet me in another timeline?”

You carefully watch his expression. Obviously, from the way his eye sockets have widened and the way his smile has slackened, he’s surprised. You note that a flash of...of longing crosses his face before fading.

“yeah. once."

“What was I like?”

He sighs. “well...in that timeline, paps ‘n i moved to a small town. not like this one. we moved because i got a job transfer. i was originally working as a quantum physicist slash astronomer, but i was requested to work with another team because of something that was happening.” He pauses and closes his eyes. “a serial killer case that targeted monsters as well as their supporters. i was supposed to work with a team of human scientists so we could combine our knowledge to catch the bastard. you were on the team as the state’s lead board-certified forensic pathologist.”

“Whoa! Isn’t that someone who works autopsies and stuff?!” you question. How could you have ever done something like that?!

“essentially. you were brilliant and confident. you had such an empowering enthusiasm for anatomy and physiology. you could list every single bone in the human skeletal system and name any type of muscle or function. you loved teaching people about it even though they couldn’t care less,” he chuckles dryly. “you and i...we worked pretty closely together. you were completely fascinated by the biology of monsters even though we’re just magic. you kept stringing together explanations in order to tie together both biology and magic in a way i never thought was possible. it was incredible.

“we hit a lot of roadblocks, obviously, but that never stopped you, despite how frustrated we were getting. there were dire situations but we pushed through. somehow, you got accused of being the killer but, in court, you didn’t even want a defense attorney. you represented yourself and kicked ass in court and proved them all wrong with your immense amount of knowledge. you even got to prove who the real killer was through a series of evidence presentations.”

“Wow,” you reply. “That’s...”

You trail off upon seeing his facial expression. Something longing and hurt resides there. Something that tells you he’s being completely honest but hiding a piece of the truth at the same time.

You wonder what it could be, but decide to let it go.

“That me sounds way different. Way smarter, too.”

“that’s not true. y'know, you’re awesome too. that other you...she wasn’t as receptive to emotions are you are. you've got an invaluable talent. you're funny and you’re laid-back but also stubborn as shit if needed. you're brilliant in that, you can create universes within universes and still find more to write about.”

“Aaah! Okay, thank you!” you squeal, suddenly feeling very embarrassed.

He chuckles, pinpoints flicking over your figure. “hey, looks like the line’s cleared out. wanna go grab somethin’?”

“Sure!”

After the banquet is over, you end up at the door of your apartment with a sleeping Temmie in you arms. You go to unlock the door only to be stopped by the sound of the door behind you opening.

“Hey,” Burgerpants says your name. “How’ve you been?”

“Hey, man,” you reply, smiling as you turn. “I’ve been well. And you?”

“Pretty good. Hey, why’re you all dressed up? Swim banquet, I’m guessing?”

“Yes.”

He grins wickedly. “Who all was there?”

You don’t like that grin. You haven’t seen it on him before and it concerns you greatly. “Uh...the Dreemurrs, Undyne Alphys, skelebros, and other families...?”

“The skelebros, huh?” he continues.

“What are you on about?” you ask, tilting your head.

“Oh, nothing much. Just curious.”

“Oh, alright th-”

“What do you think about Sans?”

The question catches you severely off guard.

“What?”

“What. Do. You think. About Sans?”

“Um...he’s cool? A good guy and friend.”

“That’s all?”

“Yeah...?”

He ‘hmph’s before nodding his head slightly. “Very well then.” With that, he re-enters his apartment.

You blink before shaking the encounter off and going inside.

[Meanwhile, at Burgerpants]

“So, how’d it go?!” Quinn asks excitedly.

“Okay, I guess,” BP replies, frowning. “There’s only so much we can do. We’re probably better off leaving the rest to Undyne and Alphys and helping out when we can.”

“I agree. Let’s let them know.”

“Of course,” BP replies, pulling out his phone.

Quinn chuckles darkly, an anime-like shadow crossing his face. “This ship will sail.”

After placing Temmie in her bed, you pick up the Blank Paper from your desk and head into the dining room, where you set it down. A notebook lies next to the paper. Grabbing the blacklight, you turn it on and shine it over the paper.

It’s faint, but you can still make out some words:

Entity Summoning

- used for calling entities not associated with the dead

Needed:

!) ½ water from Waterfall

2) ½ water from a surface storm

3) 3 stones from Waterfall

4) Whichever surface plants represent compassion, hope, and kindness. Probably a plant per trait.

5) a source of combined magic energy from 2 sources at minimum

6) a source of an element (preferably fire)

7) a wooden bowl

That sounds doable for the most part, aside from the stuff you’d need from the Underground. You’d figure it out later.

The rest of the document simply lists instructions on what to do.

- You: Hey I’m going to need some help getting the ingredients for the ritual I’m going to perform in order to summon G & C...some of them are from the Underground. Would you mind helping out?

- Sans: sure what do u need

- You: water from Waterfall and some Waterfall stones (idk what those are)

- Sans: ok. when do u wanna get em

Tomorrow you are going to help Alphys and Papyrus set up the surprise party, so that’s not really an option. Hm, you could probably do it Friday or so. That’d give you time to figure out the other ingredients as well.

- You: Are you free Friday? I’m busy tomorrow :/

- Sans: yup so long as it’s before 5

- You: Okay. How about at 1 or so

- Sans: sounds good

- You: thanks

- Sans: np

You turn your phone off and begin gathering what materials you can.

You start off by grabbing a bowl from one of your cabinets and stepping outside on the balcony. You remember the forecast saying that thunderstorms were possible all this week, conveniently. You stoop to place the bowl on the floor before heading back inside.

You decide to gather the herbs later. You’re not really in the mood for research at the moment.

With a heavy sigh, you take your phone and head into your bed, ready for snacks and a nap before you do other stuff and then go back to bed.

Yeah.

Stuff.

After you change, you flop onto your bed and groan.

[A Few Hours Later]

[Underground - True Lab]

Sans sighs, leaning back in his work chair and eyeing the computers on his desk. He sees the results of a random human SOUL scan on the screen, but he had already analyzed the ones he needed. Literally everything he had to do was done for once.

He decided to take (much-deserved) break and hops onto his phone.

Hm...he hasn’t checked Undernet in a while...

He pretty much never uses it. But, he’s got nothing left to do and a lot of time to kill, so...why not?

Taking a bite out of his hot dog, he starts scrolling through all of the meaningless posts.

Until...one catches his eyes.

And it makes his entire skull turn blue.

You and Undyne were there, but...but..

...you were...

...you were...

...fuck.

You weren’t wearing a shirt, but a...he doesn’t exactly knows what that is. Except that human females wear them and that they...support...uh...

...y’know...

...the...those things...heh, yeah.

You were sweaty but grinning and damn you looked strong as hell, standing there with Undyne.

The caption reads:

Out training with this awesome nerd today!! Making awesome progress!

That...that’s okay, right? Normal? For human females to wear stuff like that while exercising?

Yeah.

Yeah. At least, he thinks so.

He can’t help but stare.

The sweat dripping down your skin makes the color almost glow in the morning sunlight. The light radiating off of Undyne’s spear seems to reflect off of your stomach. It reminds him of his magic, the color.

He can’t help but wonder what his magic would actually look like on your skin – like the time he caught you in the bunker entrance.

And, stars, your smile – so bright. So gorgeous. Your eyes, twinkling with mirth and impish intention.

He likes that smile.

He can almost feel it now – your soft, warm skin underneath his phalanges as he guided you down from the air. The faint beating of your pulse. The subtle hints of magic tingling with his own. Your warm breath on his vertebrae when you’d hugged him. The cute rambles you’d go on about something you were especially interested in. How you looked in-

“S-Sans?”

He jumps slightly, immediately turning his phone off as he looks at the newcomer.

“al-alphys,” he states, cursing himself as he realizes how blue his face must be.

“Oh, I d-didn't mean to, uh...s-startle you!” she replies.

“’s...’s fine. what did you want?” Maybe she can distract him for a second.

“Uh...th-there’s another r-report from the v-void that I think y-you should see,” she replies. “Are...are you okay?”

“yeah. just need some air, heh.”

“Alright, th-then.”

“i’ll check that report when i get back, sorry.”

He shakes himself out of his daze.

Okay. No more Undernet for today. or forever.

she's just a friend. nothing more.

[Group Chat Message – Burgerpants, Undyne, Alphys, Papyrus and Quinn]

Burgerpants: guys did it work

Alphys: I think so. Sans got REALLY flustered.

Undyne: HA!

Papyrus: EXCELLENT WORK, UNDYNE. IT’S VERY HARD TO FLUSTER MY BROTHER.

Undyne: lol ikr thanks

Alphys: Did you check your viewing stats yet, Undyne?

Undyne: Yep. My most recent post got twenty likes with the most recent view from punny_dragonborn17. FUHUHUHUHUHUHUHUHUHUHUHU.it worked!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quinn: OMG LOL THAT CONFIRMS IT

Undyne: hey BP why do u and quinn wanna help anyways

Burgerpants: lol well she kinda got me and quinn together so now it’s time for payback

Alphys: excellent

Undyne: Papyrus, you HAVE to ask Sans about it later!!!!!!!!! This is too good!!!!!!!!!!

Papyrus: VERY WELL UNDYNE. IT DOES SEEM RATHER LAUGHABLE, DOESN’T IT?

Burgerpants: more like pathetic tbh [laughing emoji]