Papyrus could feel his father trembling in his arms, but it wasn't in sadness. No, this was definitely something else. “EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.” He repeated, squeezing his father tighter and feeling his still somewhat pliable body give under the pressure.
Slowly the bone in Gaster's hand dissipated and his arms reached up not to hug Papyrus but to grab his shoulders. He didn't push him away or wrap his arms around him, he merely held onto him, as though his son was the only thing anchoring him down and keeping him sane.
His gaze was fixed upon the door, his pupils wired and manic. Eventually Papyrus stood upright, blocking Gaster's stare with the image of his loving face. He took hold of his father's arms and held him there tightly before noticing the blue glow of Undyne's spear beside him.
He turned to look at her. “IT'S OKAY, UNDYNE. HE'S FINE NOW.”
“Like hell it is.” Undyne spat, glaring at the doctor. “He nearly killed Frisk!” She said, choosing not to pass comment on Toriel.
“HE... HE DIDN'T MEAN IT, I'M SURE.” Papyrus said, his voice unsure and nervous.
“Sure looked like he meant it to me.” The captain narrowed her eye.
"Į ̶di̵d ͟mean̵ ̧it̡."͞ Gaster finally said, his voice calmer but still distorted. The white dots of his eyes turned to look at Undyne, crazed and emotionless. She had to stop herself from flinching away in discomfort. Skeletons were already sometimes creepy to look at when they were serious, but she had never seen one look quite so demented before.
Gaster's eyes then turned back to Papyrus, softening slightly. "I'm sor̢r̢y̴, P̸ap͜y̷r͠u̧s. I'͝ve̸ r͡u͢ined̴ ͜yo͘ur ni͏ght̢."
“N-NO YOU DIDN'T!” The skeleton lied, forcing a smile before it fell as he watched his father pull away and turn and walk towards the back door. “WAIT! WE CAN STILL FIX THIS! EVERYTHING-” He was cut off as Undyne put a hand on his shoulder, the sound of the door closing quickly ending any other thoughts in his mind. His gaze shifted to the ground and his arms hung at his sides.
“Don't mind him, Papyrus. Maybe he needs some time alone?” Undyne offered with a shrug, her spear dissipating.
“HE'S BEEN ALONE FOREVER!” Papyrus said, tears gathering in his eye sockets.
Outside wasn't a much better story.
Sans had hurried Toriel and Frisk away, quickly guiding them back to their house only a few doors down the street. Once they were inside the former Queen set Frisk down on the couch, quickly giving them a once-over with her eyes. “Are you hurt, my child? Is everything alright?”
Frisk shook their head, startled by the night's events but otherwise unscathed.
“i'm so sorry guys.” Sans frowned, stood beside them. “i'm so stupid. i should have realize that would happen.” He put a hand to his skull, the bags under his eye sockets returning.
“Speaking of which, what was that!?” Toriel said in anger, shooting to her feet to tower over the small skeleton. She gestured in the direction they had run from. “Your 'father' tried to kill my child!”
Sans put his hands up defensively and was about to speak when Frisk did so in his stead.
“It's okay, mom.” They said, frowning.
“No it is not okay!” Toriel looked back at the child, filled with a mix of anger and worry. “He-”
“No... it's okay.” Frisk repeated, hugging themselves and staring at their lap.
“I... do not understand...” The boss monster looked between Frisk and Sans, both of whom looked like they knew much more than they were letting on.
Sans gave Frisk an apologetic look and they forced a small smile back. “I'll... I'll tell her. I'll be alright.”
“you sure, kiddo?”
The skeleton sighed and hung his head. “alright. guess that's a thing you'll wanna talk about alone. i should go check to make sure everyone is still alive.”
Frisk nodded as Sans turned to leave, closing the door behind him. He could hear Toriel begin asking a thousand questions as soon as the doorknob clicked shut.
As he made his way back to the house he met up with Alphys, who explained the situation back home, but by the time they made it back it was only Papyrus and Undyne still inside.
“where's dad?” Sans asked, looking up at Undyne as she patted Papyrus on the back in an attempt to comfort him.
“HE WALKED OUT BACK. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO. UNDYNE SAYS HE NEEDS TO BE ALONE BUT HE'S BEEN ALONE ALL THIS TIME AND...” Papyrus trailed off as he fought back more tears. He hated to see his friends fight and he didn't understand why Gaster seemed to want to kill his friend Frisk after all they had done for monster-kind.
“it's okay bro.” Sans said, taking his hand to comfort him as much as he could for now. He glanced at Undyne and Alphys. “sorry guys.”
“I-it's okay.” Alphys stammered.
“Are you sure you're both going to be okay here? By yourself?” Undyne asked, not sounding at all certain that she wanted Papyrus to be alone with someone who seemed so... unstable.
Sans hid his annoyance. “we'll be fine.” He hated that his friends now probably thought Gaster was some erratic weirdo... Then again, that was kind of true.
Undyne sighed and shrugged. “Fine. If you need me just call, okay Papyrus?” She turned and left, Alphys following along behind her.
The skeleton nodded and looked down at Sans once the two were gone. “WHAT DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD DO?”
“we should go find dad.” Sans answered, having already decided. “like you said, he's been alone long enough.”
They didn't have to go very far.
Just outside the back door Gaster was sat on the stoop. He had a bone summoned in his hand, the end slowly rotating back and forth on the ground in a single spot. He was hunched over, free hand limply resting on his knee.
“dad?” Sans asked before taking a seat beside him. He glanced at the bone, then at his father's face. It was blank and unreadable. Papyrus sat on his father's other side.
Eventually Gaster sighed, his free hand reaching up to rub at his face. “I'm sorry boys, but that was... not a good idea.”
“no... i know. i'm sorry.” Sans frowned, having a better understanding than anyone about what his father had gone through.
The bone in Gaster's hand vanished, revealing that it had been smashing and grinding a bug into the dirt. His hand met its twin on his head, pressing against it as though he could block everything out. “I've forgotten how loud this world could be...”
The brothers shared a sympathetic look to one another before Papyrus held out his hand. Gaster glanced at it before taking it, letting his son hold it gently. Papyrus' hand was so big now it was almost easy to forget how small he had once been.
“I'm sorry Papyrus. Sans and I have kinda kept a lot from you because... well...” He shared a look with his eldest son. “...Because we love you. But that's not fair to you. You're and adult and you deserve to know.”
“KNOW WHAT?” Papyrus asked, his hand holding onto Gaster's. It brought him as much comfort as it did his father.
The doctor sighed and rubbed his head again with his other hand. “Your whole life, the whole life you remember, I've been stuck in a place I call 'the void'. It's an area between space and time. While I was there I fought an anomaly that loved to possess your friend, the human.” He looked at his son, some of the emotion coming back into his eye sockets.
“I fought them a lot. I fought them thousands of times.” He scrunched his eyes closed. “Thousands... and thousands of times. Do you know why?”
He didn't give Papyrus time to reply. “Because it was killing you.” Gaster's expression turned sad. “I watched it kill you a lot, Papyrus. It killed you and then it killed Sans in many, many different timelines. All I could ever hope to do was intercept it and get it to jump to another timeline, slowing it down so it didn't reach yours. Sometimes I made it in time to save you both, sometimes I didn't. But it was always the same human it possessed.”
He let go of Papyrus' hand and rubbed his skull furiously for a moment, as if to brush away bad thoughts. “I can't look at that kid without thinking of it all again. But that isn't even all of the problem. Papyrus, do you want to know what war is really like?”
Sans' eyes went dim and he hung his head, staying silent through the whole exchange. Papyrus was quiet too, not wanting to interrupt.
“It's hell. Not as bad as the void, but... hell.” His gaze turned downward to stare at the bug he had been crushing earlier. “It isn't about capturing humans, Papyrus. It's about killing them.”
Neither of them wanted to look as a sudden realization hit Papyrus' face. “SO... THAT'S WHAT YOU MEANT WHEN YOU SAID YOU CAPTURED A LOT OF HUMANS?”
Gaster nodded solemnly.
The three of them sat in uncomfortable silence until Gaster finally couldn't take it anymore. He turned and looked at Papyrus, eyes begging that he didn't hate him. Was this going to be like their previous life, but backwards? Now that Sans loved him Papyrus would hate him?
“I'm sorry, Pap. I've done some pretty terrible things in my life and you deserve to know who you're living with, who you're made from. I should have told you sooner.”
Papyrus stared at the ground pensively before turning and looking at the doctor. “IT'S ALRIGHT.”
Gaster looked surprised. “You don't hate me?”
“NO! OF COURSE NOT.” The skeleton looked appalled at the mere idea, his brow furrowing. “BUT...” He began, looking away again. “THIS... ISN'T SOMETHING I EXPECTED TO HEAR. I GUESS IT JUST HURTS THAT YOU DIDN'T WANT TO TELL ME THIS SOONER. WHY?”
Gaster looked at Sans, then back to Papyrus. “Because I was scared.” He laughed in spite of himself.
“SCARED OF WHAT?”
“Scared you would hate me.”
The skeleton smiled warmly. “I WOULD NEVER HATE YOU. YOU'RE MY FATHER. I MIGHT NOT... AGREE WITH SOME OF THE THINGS YOU'VE DONE, BUT I DON'T SEE WHY THAT WOULD MAKE ME HATE YOU. SANS DOES PLENTY OF THINGS I HATE AND I LOVE HIM ALL THE SAME.”
“what do I do?” Sans asked, leaning forward to look at his brother.
Papyrus narrowed his eye sockets. “YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DO.”
Sans narrowed his eyes back, running through a list of the things he knew he did that Papyrus hated. The puns, the filth, the secrets, the diet, the list was almost endless if he thought about it enough. Eventually he smiled and shrugged. “fair enough.”
Gaster's shoulders relaxed and what could only be considered a sigh passed through his toothless mouth. “I'm just happy to know you don't hate me. That's all I care about.”
“I THINK I SPEAK FOR BOTH OF US WHEN I SAY WE BOTH LOVE YOU AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU COULD DO FOR US TO HATE YOU.” Papyrus said, leaning forward to give Sans a look. Gaster followed his gaze, both of them staring at the much shorter skeleton.
The white dots of Sans' eyes bounced between the two before he smiled. “pretty much.”
Gaster grinned and the three settled into comfortable silence. Papyrus gazed up at the stars as they began to appear while his father stared down at the bug again. Sans meanwhile had leaned back, closing his eyes.
“I guess I need to start adjusting to modern life on the surface, don't I? Can't go around trying to kill every human that steps in front of me anymore.” The doctor chuckled.
“YES... WE'LL WORK ON THAT.” Papyrus smiled.
Needless to say things were... interesting after that night. Everyone then knew that Gaster wasn't just having to adjust to the surface world after hundreds of years underground, but also the living world. He had been away for so long things were still very new to him despite how much he had tried to keep updated with human technology via the dump in his previous life.
Alphys was a big help. She knew a lot about modern social interaction and was awkward enough herself that she could relate to how hard things might be on Gaster. She would often come over to give him more books on robotics and the more modern sciences, as well as set him up to get online. The internet was the fastest, easiest, and biggest wealth of knowledge he could have ever hoped for. Needless to say he picked it up very fast, using it like an infinite library that he could take anywhere.
Months passed, the boys moving into a slightly larger house once they had both landed decent enough jobs to pay the rent. Gaster still remained home even though he was fully formed, the times going out into the real world being rather jarring for him and only a safe idea when he was accompanied by one of his sons. The doctor was very aware of his own xenophobia and knew he would have to conquer it at least enough to function in the new world if he was going to live in it with his boys.
For the most part he looked like your normal monster now. He lacked a nose and teeth like your average skeleton and his body looked more like clothes than anything else. Being made up of nothing but void goo made him appear slightly shiny and the 'fabric' didn't quite fold where normal clothes would, but for all intents and purposes he looked like a monster wearing a black lab coat and trousers. Even his form had gotten more firm, although he still felt pliable to the touch like flesh.
It was a calm summer night and the family happily sat around the table eating takeout just like old-times. Papyrus sat talking about his job, somehow able to even make being a janitor sound interesting. During a small lull in the conversation Sans finally spoke up as he poked his noodles with a fork.
“so i, uh, got something interesting to tell ya dad.” He began, looking up at his father who was mostly glued to the screen of his tablet as he slurped down lo mein.
“Hm?” The doctor mumbled through a mouthful.
“i can't teleport anymore.”
The white dots of Gaster's eyes shot over to his son and even Papyrus stopped eating to stare at him. “What?”
“i can't teleport.” Sans repeated with a shrug. “i've been walking everywhere this whole time. i realized it months ago but didn't say anything because i knew you were still recovering and you would jump at the chance to test it out once i told you.”
“DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WHAT HAPPENED IN ALPHYS' LAB?” Papyrus asked and Sans nodded.
“yeah. i gave dad my dt. i figured it would have some sort of effect like this.”
“Huh.” Gaster said, setting down his tablet. “I wonder what else you lost. Have you tested the blaster?”
“yeah, still got that.”
“Interesting... I wonder if I have it now.” The doctor pondered and stood up from the table. “How do you usually do it?”
“uh...” Sans thought for a moment and then shrugged.
“Helpful.” Gaster narrowed his eyes and then tried it, stepping back and zapping from one point to the next just as Sans had been able to so many times before. A second later and his head poked around the kitchen doorway from the living room.
“Oh that's easy.”
“yeah it is. why did you think i used it so much? i'm really gonna miss that.” The skeleton sighed.
“MAYBE NOW YOU'LL ACTUALLY BE FORCED TO GET INTO SHAPE.” Papyrus grinned.
“now wouldn't that be terrible.” Sans grinned.
“So everything else is the same?” Gaster asked as he walked back into the kitchen and sat down.
“as far as i can tell.” Sans shrugged again.
“Interesting.” He picked up his takeout box to continue eating.
Papyrus looked at him, “YOU DON'T SEEM VERY SURPRISED.”
“Eh.” The doctor shrugged, “I've had an eventful life. I know what it does already. I'm not lazy like Sans. Knowing me I'll just use it to scare the shit out of you guys.” He smirked and the two brothers groaned in unison.
“NOW LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE.” Papyrus said to his brother, gesturing with one hand towards Gaster.
“This does make me think of something I've been meaning to talk to you boys about though.” He said, scraping the bottom of his food container and eating the last of the noodles before putting his attention completely on his sons.
“Sans, how much of the resets have you told Papyrus?”
“everything.” Sans answered honestly. “i told him everything after Frisk broke the barrier.”
“Okay, and you understand what that means Papyrus?” The white dots of Gaster's eyes looked over to him.
“I THINK SO. IT'S CONFUSING WHEN SUPPOSEDLY THIS STUFF HAPPENS AND YOU DON'T EVEN REMEMBER, BUT... WHAT REASON WOULD I HAVE TO THINK SANS WOULD MAKE ALL OF THAT UP?” Papyrus said with a shrug.
“Alright.” Gaster said, then inhaled deeply as he prepared to say things he knew he didn't want to. “I want you boys to be aware that... there is still the possibility that this will all reset. Everything could vanish in an instant.” He paused, gauging the looks of sadness and anxiety over the faces of his sons. “It's been nearly half a year now and everything has stayed the same, but there is always the chance that it can be ripped away. It's a reality we have to face.”
Sans' head lowered and his pupils faded. Papyrus looked over at him sadly, an arm reaching out to rest on his brother's shoulder. It was hard for him to quite understand the magnitude of what they were talking about, unable to experience it for himself.
“There are at least three beings I know of that can reset, one of them being your human friend.”
Both of the boys looked up at him suddenly, causing the doctor to flinch.
“What the hell is that about? I'm not going to kill them.”
Sans and Papyrus shared a glance, but they did appear a bit relieved. Gaster sighed, “Look, I would be lying if I said I didn't want to, but it wouldn't help anything. They would just reset. Anyway-” He flailed his arms, as though clearing that train of thought from his mind.
“I plan on dealing with one of them tomorrow. It shouldn't be a problem. I just wanted you to know before I went off and maybe didn't come back for a few days.”
Sans shifted uncomfortably in his seat, knowing exactly who, or what, Gaster was talking about. Papyrus frowned and stared down at his food, no longer hungry.
“DO YOU HAVE TO?” He had a slight idea of who his father was talking about from what bits and pieces Sans had told him.
The hurt look on his son's face was nearly enough to make him lose his nerve, but Gaster held firm. “I have to. I'm sorry, Papyrus.”
“BUT... SURELY THERE'S A WAY TO-”
“Papyrus.” Gaster said, cutting his son off. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out. Instead he ended up rubbing his head with his hands and groaning, having not the slightest clue what to say.
“s-... some things don't work out like you want them to, pap.” Sans finally said, trying to help his father along despite how much he wanted to avoid the conversation entirely. “he might have told you he was your friend, but... was he? he tried to kill us. hell, he did kill you plenty of times.”
“BUT... THERE HAS TO BE A REASON FOR THAT, RIGHT?” Papyrus looked between his family members, begging them to reconsider or think of the situation in a different light like he did.
“Yeah, it's called boredom.” Gaster said bitterly, his hands folding on the table. “I know you don't agree with this, but I want you to trust me when I say that I don't think there's another option here. I just got you boys back and I'm not going to risk losing you again.”
It was nice being able to use teleportation to get somewhere far away, but as Gaster drew nearer to the old ruins he decided to walk the rest. He hovered outside of Grillby's, the lights dim and the blinds closed. The doctor hadn't made any attempt to get back in touch with his old friend, knowing that he wouldn't know who he was.
It was a painful thing to live with, knowing that all of your old friends and colleagues didn't know you had ever existed. But at least he had his kids.
Gaster trekked through the snow and then through the partially opened doors of the ruins. All of the monsters had long since vacated this portion of the underground. Those that remained were all in the capitol. Thankfully that would mean that this would go unseen and unknown, which was how he liked things to be.
He paused halfway and flicked his wrist, a command prompt opening in front of him. It was the only ability he still had from the void, possibly carried over simply from the fact that he was entirely made up of the stuff now. Unlike in the void though he couldn't mess with the code, it was all set in stone and unable to be changed.
Of course getting information from it was still very useful.
Eventually he stopped in a bed of golden flowers. He looked up at the hole above it, sun beaming down from on high and providing the plants with enough light to flourish when they otherwise wouldn't.
“Howdy!” A familiar voice chirped from behind him. Gaster slowly turned around, a happy little flower smiling up at him.
“I'm Flowey! Flowey the flower!” The little plant bent on it's stem and looked at the monster in front of him up and down. “Hmmm, I've never seen a monster like you before. Strange, I thought I knew every face here. Are you from the capitol? Moving around all that concrete is always such a pain I might have missed a few faces since the last time I was there!”
“So...” Flowey said, looking up at the doctor with a coy smile. “What brings you to the-”
He stopped abruptly as Gaster marched forward with surprising quickness and roughly grabbed under his petals. Flowey gagged, summoning vines around him but not quick enough to stop the doctor from ripping him up by his roots.
“Ss... saay friend, wh-what are you-” Flowey began, but was once again stopped as Gaster pulled out a cellphone from somewhere inside his chest and dialed a number. He put it to where his ear would be.
“Hi Alphys. You don't plan to use the lab within the next few days, do you?”
There was a pause.
“Good. I'll be working on something and will need some privacy. Thanks.” Gaster hung up and stored the phone back within himself.
“Wh-who are you...?” Flowey asked timidly, his confidence and cockiness gone now that he knew he could no longer reset.
The doctor's toothless smile stretched wide and his pupils vanished. He brought the flower uncomfortably close to his face.
"͞H͘ o ͟w d͘ y̧.̡ ͏I̴ ̶'m ̧G a̷ s̛ t̴ e ̕r͟.̵ ̧ G͘ a̛ ͜s t̨ ͞e̛ ̢r ͏ ̶t h e s c̕ i͡ e͟ n ͏t͘ i ̷s͟ ̕t̡.͢"
Flowey's petals drooped and, had he had a face, it would have run pale.
Gaster took a step forward, teleporting them both back to the lab after a few quick jumps. The way they vanished and appeared, as well as the electrical sound, was more than enough to clue the flower in on what it was. He had seen that stupid smiley trash bag use it plenty of times. Dread filled him from leaf to stem.
"Re̷co̷g͞nize th͠at͟, d͏on't̛ y̨o̧u?͢"̵ The doctor asked as they walked through the halls of the dimly lit laboratory.
“Wh-... wait!” Flowey protested as he began to put pieces together. “I-... You're related to that skeleton, aren't you?”
Gaster didn't reply.
“G-gee, I thought I knew everyone in the underground! You must have been hiding really well!” Flowey said, trying to hide his panic. Being confident and cocky had been easy when he could reset or have hope of devouring the souls, but now that both of those options were gone he found himself lacking. Whatever happened to him couldn't be undone. He had to play his cards right the first time. There was no resetting to try again.
“So friend, wh-what are we up to? Why did you bring me here?”
Once again, the doctor didn't reply. He had grabbed a piece of wood and a few nails from storage before setting them all down on a table. Flowey looked at it and felt his leaves tremble slightly.
Gaster unceremoniously slapped the flower down and poised one of the nails over his stem.
“W-wait!” Flowey pleaded, the doctor taking no notice as he drove it into the plant's midsection. The flower yelled, a nail being driven into both of his leaves, and one in the top of his head as well. It was painful, but he had definitely experienced worse.
“Why? Why are you doing this?” Flowey pleaded, trying to ring some sort of reaction from the doctor by faking emotion.
"Sciencę."̢ Gaster said as he pulled up a prompt and began to read the code displayed on it. "͟A̸nd p̢ayb̵ack,̡ of ̢co͠u͝rse."
Flowey's petals twitched, “Payback? For what?”
"̧Fo͝r ͏kįll͏i̴ng ̵m͜y boys.͏" Gaster looked at him, his pupils nowhere to be seen.
A look of realization came across the flower's face. “Your boys? You're their dad?”
When Gaster didn't reply Flowey gave a smug grin. “What a good father. Where were you when I was killing 'your boys' all that time? Watching from the sidelines? Too scared to come and help them? Or maybe you didn't love-”
He was cut off as Gaster stepped forward, abruptly ripping out the nail in Flowey's head before jamming it into one of his eyes. The flower screamed and flailed as much as he could while being nailed down.
"I͏ s͢a̛w͞ ev͘e҉ry҉th͞ing a̢n̡d͞ ͡mor̸e͠. ̡D̕on't͜ think̢ ͏tha̧t j͞u̸st bec҉au͠s͢e Pap̕yr̢u͞s h͏a͝s ̵ą ͜goo͡d he͜a͏r͢t and͞ ͞Sa̶ns̷ i̛s idl͠e ̢thaţ Į ̶am͢ t͜oo.̕ Yo̶u͟ ͝would͜ ͢d̸o ̕wi͢se̸ to ̢K͞ E̕ E ̧P. ͟ Y O̕ Ư Ŗ ̸ M O U͝ ͡T̵ ͢H̴. S H ͞U T."̷
Flowey went quiet, not too keen on losing his other eye. Healing magic only went so far, after all.
Gaster hovered uncomfortably close before backing off again to continue reading his prompt. After awhile he finished and moved on to shifting through the papers Alphys had supplied him with her research on the plant ages ago.
After what felt like forever he finally spoke, "̸So,͜ ͠yoų'r͠e̕ the҉ Ki̢nģ'͡s ͞bo̴y̨. ͢Oŗ w̸hat̷'s lef̡t̷ of ͠him, I͏ supp̷osę."
Flowey did his best to hide his surprise and irritation, mouth tightly shut to keep himself from making some dumb remark. It was a bad habit he had to stop now if he wanted to try and get out of this alive.
"̷I ̢m̷e̡t y̨ou͞r si̧b̴li̕n̕g͠ ͡y͜o̴u kno͏w͞. Th͡e ҉h͞u̧ma҉n chi͢l̶d̷.͢"
He couldn't hide his expression any longer, for a moment his face shifting to look slightly more goat-like. “Chara?”
"҉Y͠ęs͏. T̢hęy're͜ as̴ d͠em̡e̴nt͢ed as͞ you ͜ar̵e.͡ ̴Possi̷b͢l͞y̧ ev̵e͠n̴ ͞mor̕e̕ ̶s͏o͘.̷ ̛I ̵gųes̷s t͞hįs̶ ̨is wḩat ͟hap̧pe҉n͝s͠ w̧hen̛ a ͝mons͞t̷er͠ la͢c̨ks͏ ą s̨oul ̢toǫ.̛..҉" He inhaled deeply before letting out a sigh. "͠I̴t's ̢alm͟o̴s̢t̴ ̷s͏ad.̸"
His expression then turned stern. "Al̷m͠o̶s҉t̛."
Gaster spun his chair around, leaning on the back of it and staring at the piece of wood Flowey was nailed onto. "T͞his ̵is͜ the en̕d͝ of̨ ͢ţh͏e ̨line̷. ̡I҉'̸m g̵oi͟n̷g t̡o͢ ̢d̴ra̡in҉ you of̵ ̶the ̸DT͡ t̵ḩat ̕Ąl͜p̡h͜ys͠ ̶p͡umpe͠d i̸n͘to you ̕u̢n҉ti̶ļ yo͞u͞'̷re no҉t͡h͠in͘g b͘u̸t̕ a̶ ͟nor̴ma͏l, ҉o͘r͝d̨inary ̵f̢l͡owe͞r.̛"͢
Flowey twitched, “What!? No!” He began to struggle. “No! Don't do this! Look, I can't even reset anymore! What's the point of killing me if I can't do anymore harm?”
"͝I̧f ąnyth̴ing̶ ͢w͠ere to̵ ha̧p̷pe̴n t̨o Fris͜k, yơu ͜w͡o͠u͘ld rega҉in co҉ntro͢ļ.̷ ̡Bot͡h of us kn̴o͡w̨ ̛wha͡t yo͜u͟ do ͢w̢ith̡ t͜hat co̕n̶t͏rol. To͟ kee҉p̡ y͢ou̷rse̛lf ͝f͞rom go̸i̢ng̷ ͠insa͞ne wi͡tḩ ͘bored҉om̧ y͘ou ki̛l̕l̴. Y̛ou ͞ki͞ll aņd̷ m͘ani̛p͏ulat̕e.͡" He paused, standing up from his chair to loom over the little plant. "͞Ha͠d͏ y͠o̷u ͝n͡ot kille͝d ̧an̵d t̵orturȩd͠ ̡m̕y̨ ̵b͢o͡ys I c͏o͢u̶l̡d ̷ŗe͝l͞ate t̛ơ ͞you on͟ ͏so͠m͝e lev̷el.͘ ̨I k͝no҉w wha҉t b҉eing ̶ştuc͞k̡ ̢in̵ ͢a҉ ͝w̡o̶rld̢ ͠wit̸h̵out ti͡me ͘i̵s̵ ̧l͞i͜k̸e.̵ B̸ut ͏i͢nste̡a҉d͝ o͘f̛ ̕le̸a̷rning abou̕t ͞y̸oųr̷ situ͡at̢ion̴,͢ a͡d̷ąpţi̡ng̵, a̶nd ̴con͟q͘u̢e̢ri̵ng it,̡ ̴y̡ou͝ d̛ecide̕d to to͝y͡ w҉i͜th įt.͠ ̷L i ̷k̕ e͠ ͝a̸ ͠c h̨ i l͝ d͏.̛"
"Yo̡u͜'r̕e͠ pathet͡ic.͞ ͡Y͢o̧u͢ wer͞e ͘given̴ i͏nf̨i̸n̢ite̛ ti̸me a̧nd ̴yet̨ ͠you h̨av̵en't̛ ͢grown up at ͠all. ̨Y̷ou̷'̸r͟e s͞till ̴t͜h͘e ͟s͏amę ͢sn̶ivelin̢g ͢li҉t̴t̶le ͝cr̷y̨b͢aby ̴fr͜o͢m͝ all ͏thos͞e̷ y̴ear͘s ago̸."͟
Flowey was shocked into silence. He had never encountered someone quite like Gaster in the underground before, at least not one he talked to for more than a few seconds. The amount that he knew and pieced together was different and startling.
Gaster reached for the piece of wood Flowey was nailed to, the plant instantly snapping out of his daze in order to struggle. “No no no!”
The doctor carried him all the way to where the DT extractor sat, the flower pleading and yelling the whole way there. Nothing he said seemed to get through to the monster carrying him. No amount of pleading, no amount of trash-talking, nothing.
It was like screaming at a brick wall.
Once they got to the machine Gaster began to work. At least a day passed, the doctor unsure of just how long without the sun to tell him. He didn't sleep much already, so any fatigue he felt was short-lived. Only small breaks were taken to eat and each time he made sure to keep the flower by his side.
During one of the times the doctor was waist-deep in the machine, Flowey used it as an opportunity to slowly rip a tear in one of his leaves to get out from one of the nails. He then began to work on the one in the center of his stem quietly.
He managed to only move it a few inches before Gaster noticed.
"Ni̛ce t̴r̕y."͞ The doctor said, standing up from his position on the table underneath the DT extractor. He walked over, grasping the leaf Flowey had freed with his thumb and forefinger.
“Wait!” Flowey yelled before Gaster ripped it clean off and tossed it on the floor. The plant yelled and looked down at the tiny bit of plant matter left that remained of his 'arm' while the doctor quietly went back to work.
There was no sneaking away after that.
A few more days passed before Gaster finally finished his work. Modifying the DT extractor to pull from organic matter rather than a soul hadn't been too difficult. Now it was time.
He lifted the board up, Flowey still nailed in place, and put it underneath the extractor before sitting down at the control panel.
“Please...” The flower pleaded, desperately trying to find some emotional weakness somewhere in Gaster. When the monster didn't even flinch, Flowey tried something else.
The voice was shockingly similar to Sans', his face distorting to take on as much of a resemblance to Gaster's eldest son as he could manage with a nail driven into one of his eyes. This finally caused him to turn and look over.
"̵So͜rry̴ b̧u͠ddy,҉ ̸bu͡t̷ if ̕y͝o͢u'͏r̶e ͘l̡ookiņg ͟f͢o҉r ͡s̵ymp҉a͜th̨y̵, ̛y҉ou͏'͝r͞e̛ ba͘rk̶ing up͏ t͘he w̵ron͡g̕ ̶tr̸ee." He grinned and reached for the lever to start the machine. "Th͘a̛t'͜s̶ ̕a good t̕ri҉c͡k t͡h҉o͏ug̸h.͢ Yơu kno҉w ҉wh͡at̸'s ̢als҉o ̴a ͠p͝ret̷t̨y cǫo̡l̷ t҉rick̢?"̷ Gaster asked, not waiting for the flower to respond before pulling down the lever. The machine began to whirr to life.
Flowey looked up at the needles as they closed in on him, struggling this way and that. His face swapped from Sans' to his own, to one that looked surprisingly like Asriel once had. “No! No! Don't do this! I swear I'll never do anything bad again!”
Gaster said nothing as he watched the needles drive into different areas of the flower's body and begin sucking him free of determination.
“Stop! Please!” The flower cried, sounding more and more like Asriel as time went on. Slowly though, his speech became slower.
“Don't... I don't... want... to... die...”
The flower's face slowly melted back into the disc, anything strange or alien about it slowly changing to appear as little more than a normal flower. Eventually the machine shut down, needles retracting.
Gaster stood and went to the front of the extractor, pulling a vial filled with determination out from the strange nose-like shape in the front. He twirled the dark liquid around in his fingers before putting it into his chest, his goo-like body changing consistency to hide it away inside of him for safe keeping.
His attention then turned to the ordinary flower underneath the DT extractor. A hand reached underneath, ripping the plant from the nails before turning and leaving the lab. He walked outside where he would have plenty of room and tossed the flower on the ground before summoning a blaster and obliterating it into nothing but ash.
Better safe than sorry.
Gaster stood there for a few moments, able to feel something he hadn't before in a very long time. He had been no stranger to experiments with rather questionable morals, especially before Asgore came into power, but they had never bothered him.
This time... this had been different.
He didn't feel remorse for what he had done to the flower, that much he was certain. It had deserved what he did and more in his opinion. If anything he had relieved him from a painfully boring, immortal existence. Not even his last pleas for help had moved him.
But he did feel something.
Was it guilt? Perhaps regret?
Gaster wasn't sure.
The doctor sat down in the rocky gravel that made up Hotland's landscape and thought. He wasn't sure what he was feeling, but he knew what he wasn't looking forward to; going back home. Already in his mind's eye he could see Papyrus' look of grief and Sans' look of defeated acceptance. He inhaled deeply and squeezed at the point between his eyes with his thumbs before standing up.
No. There was no reason to feel sorry for himself. There was no reason to pity the flower or Asriel, either. They had dug their grave. They had chosen their path. So had he a long time ago. Gaster knew what kind of monster he was. He had accepted that.
The doctor turned on his heel and began to make his way back home. His boys would be waiting.
Gaster arrived home late, light from the television flickering softly out from the front windows. He took a deep breath and unlocked the door before stepping inside. Both of his boys were sat on the couch and they turned to look at him in unison.
It was just as he thought.
Papyrus gave him a sad, grief-stricken look and Sans just looked defeated and apathetic. Gaster still didn't regret what he did or feel guilty, but those expressions...
The doctor closed the door behind him and cast his gaze downward before walking through the living room and into the kitchen. He helped himself to a beer before heading straight to his room and closing the door.
They didn't speak until the following morning.
Everyone tried to pretend like it hadn't happened, but it still lingered on the forefront of everyone's mind. Either way the deed was now done and they no longer had to worry about Flowey regaining the power to reset should anything happen to Frisk. Sans waited until Papyrus had left for his morning jog before speaking about it in private with Gaster.
The two sat at the kitchen table, Sans nursing a cup of coffee while his father scribbled down notes beside him.
“i'm gonna tell frisk.”
Gaster's head shot up. “What!?”
“frisk deserves to know, dad. they're a part of this too.”
“Sans, no! They'll reset! They can never know!” The doctor said in a panic.
“i don't think they will.” Sans said before taking another drink of coffee. “i think you give them too little credit and i think we need to really sit down and talk to them about all of this reset business.”
The doctor stared at him, eye sockets wide. “I think you're making a mistake, Sans. What if they reset? I'll be thrown back into the void and this will have all been for nothing.”
“they won't.” Sans said with confidence before finishing his coffee. “tori asked me to watch 'em today anyway. i'll talk about it a little bit with them before giving you a call. we can talk through the computer if you're more comfortable with that.”
Gaster set down his pen and sighed, rubbing at his face. “Fine. Okay. You've made your mind up already anyway.”
Sans offered him an apologetic smile. “the kid isn't too bad once you get to know them. they freed us, remember?”
The scientist gave his son a dead look and Sans held up his hands in defeat.
After a few hours he headed over to Toriel's house to start his babysitting duty. Despite the fact that Frisk was nearly 11 now the boss monster was still pretty hesitant to leave them unattended.
They spent the morning hanging out playing videogames and talking, even Papyrus dropped by to spend time with them before he had to head to work. Once things settled down and everything was quiet, the skeleton finally decided to drop the bomb.
“so, uh, i got somethin' i need to tell you kid.” He began, looking over at Frisk as they sat side-by-side on the couch. “you, uh, remember all that happened between us and my dad and everything before you reset for the last time, right?”
Frisk looked at him, their face going slightly pale. After a moment they nodded.
“and... well... you know everything that the flower did, right?” Sans asked.
The child was quiet for a moment before they pulled their knees up against their chest and nodded again. “Asriel.”
“Flowey was Asriel. The King's son.” Frisk looked over at their friend.
“... oh.” Sans suddenly found himself with a lack of words. Gaster hadn't told him that, he hadn't told either of them anything. Of course it had all only happened the night before. Maybe he should have talked about it in more length with him before coming over here to discuss it with Frisk.
“well...” He rubbed at the back of his head, Frisk looking at him oddly.
“Why? What happened?”
“gaster... uh... my dad... kinda...” Sans mumbled uncomfortably.
He looked away as a look of sad realization came across the kid's face, but they didn't cry or look angry. Instead they sighed, “I see.”
“y'know, we need to all sit down and talk about this. go get your laptop.”
Frisk stood up after a few moments and fetched it, bringing the computer over and handing it to Sans. He opened it up and started a voicecall with Gaster's tablet, making sure to keep the camera off on both ends. Not being able to see Frisk's face would help. After a few moments the doctor picked up on the other end.
“Well I'm not in the void again so I guess it's gone well enough.” Gaster said through the speakers.
“yeah about that. i kinda... actually haven't told them anything yet.” Sans grimaced.
He looked at Frisk, “they just told me that apparently the flower was the king's kid?”
“That's correct. I didn't get the chance to tell you before you left. The flower was about as much the King's child as the anomaly is. Neither monsters nor humans remain themselves when they lack a soul.”
Frisk finally spoke up, “What happened to him?”
The voice on the other end paused for a few moments. It was easier to talk to them without having to see them, that was for sure. Frisk sounded very little like they had while possessed.
“I killed him. I drained the DT from him that gave him life.”
Everyone went quiet after that. Sans watched as Frisk leaned forward and put their face in their hands. He reached over to rub their back and after a moment the human sat up again, wiping tears from their eyes. “Okay.”
“... Okay?” Gaster asked in disbelief.
“Yeah.” Frisk said, sniffling. “Like you said, it wasn't really Asriel anymore. It's sad I couldn't save him too, but... he's been dead a long time. Flowey isn't him and I understand why you did it.” They looked at the computer screen, the green phone symbol pulsating slightly with each sound Gaster made.
“So...” The child smiled sadly. “What about me?”
Sans raised a ridge of his brow. “kid?”
“I can still reset. That's what you're scared of, right? Both of you.” Frisk said, wiping the last of the tears from their eyes.
Sans refrained from commenting, but Gaster was much less shy. “Of course.”
“I know my word probably doesn't mean much, but... I won't be resetting. Ever.” Frisk looked over at Sans to gauge his reaction. It was hard to tell, but there was a slight upturn in a smile at the very edges of his mouth. He had already believed in the kid to do good, but hearing them say it... it was something else. His fear wasn't gone, perhaps it never would be, but it was still a nice thing to hear.
The doctor on the other end of the computer sighed, “Well... all I can take is your word. It's not like there's anything I can do about it. But...” He began, both Frisk and Sans turning to look at the laptop's screen.
“... You know the anomaly is still out there, right?”
Once again the room went silent.
“Yeah...” Frisk finally said after a few moments, frowning.
“You're like a beacon.” Gaster explained, “From what I've read of the modern world, determination in your levels isn't something that should even be possible. The amount you can manipulate time after death is astounding. After we were sealed underground the humans even lost most of their magical ability.”
“Of course what I would love to do is run experiments on you.” The doctor said, both Sans and Frisk looking at one another nervously. “... But my boys have taken a liking to you and I do have you to thank for breaking the barrier, so you have nothing to fear from me as long as you keep your distance.”
Sans and Frisk breathed a sigh of relief.
“I have no doubts that it will come back. How did it possess you in the first place?” Gaster asked.
“I... well...” The kid began, hugging their legs tighter. They looked down, ashamed of what they had done. “After I fell down and the monsters attacked me, I attacked back. I was scared and angry and I lashed out.”
“Despite how nice mom was I... I didn't trust her. I didn't trust anybody. Before I fell, I... my old family...” Frisk trailed off and hid their face, reaching up to tug at their hair and use it as a way to hide. Sans looked over sadly and moved closer, wrapping an arm around them to hold them close.
“hey kid, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.”
After a moment Frisk nodded and inhaled, sucking back tears and continuing on with the story. “After awhile I felt something strange. Something took my fear and hatred and just... used it to twist around my soul. I started to kill the monsters who attacked me without even thinking. It was like I lost control of myself. Then after awhile I wasn't even there anymore. I was just watching as my body was used by Chara.”
“They were so angry and sad...” Frisk frowned, curling up tighter.
“Chara was the adopted human child of the King and Queen. They were the first human to fall into the underground.” Gaster explained, “From what I remember the human child got sick and Asriel absorbed their soul. They crossed the barrier together but came back injured and died. No one knew before then what happened to the souls of humans or monsters after death once they were fused like that. I guess now we do.”
Sans and Frisk were silent, the doctor behind the laptop inhaling deeply before speaking again. “So Chara possessed you after you killed a few monsters in fear. That could either mean that they need that sort of opening or that it just helps. Maybe they don't need it at all. There's still the possibility that they could come back.”
“At the very, very least, the anomaly is still out there devouring timelines.”
Frisk and Sans looked at one another before the skeleton spoke up. “what should we do? should we even do anything?”
Gaster sighed, having carried his tablet into his room to sit it on his desk. He looked out over the sea of notes across the table and then up at an incredible mass of papers pinned to one another all over the wall, some marked with a red pen and others scratched out with black.
“I don't know.”
Another year came and went.
The skeletons lived as a happy, if not a little dysfunctional family. Gaster spent a lot of time in his room, which he had turned into a workshop and Papyrus and Sans both had jobs to help pay the rent and regularly hung out with their friends. Occasionally they would take their father out somewhere close, usually something small like the grocery store just to get him more used to being around humans and noise. It was rough going for him, but eventually he was able to at least go to the store by himself.
They spent the time catching up on things that Papyrus had forgotten. Gaster tried his hand at cooking again, which ended about as horribly as one would expect. He retaught Papyrus how to understand his unique version of sign-language and they talked at length about the life they once had together. As the holidays came and went they got to experience snow again and the magic of being together around the tree giving each other gifts. Gaster even began to reteach Papyrus science, knowing that he had the knowledge in there somewhere.
He picked it up like riding a bike.
Occasionally the doctor would even sit in for Papyrus' bedtime story, often spinning some grand tale about the war or telling some silly story about him and his brother as children.
What they enjoyed the most together though was sitting and stargazing. Often they would drive up to the top of the mountain and sit, serenely watching the stars as they glimmered overhead and talking about their day or sometimes saying nothing at all. It was picture perfect.
Each one of them felt something wrong in the back of their mind, although they kept it as well hidden as they could and tried to continue on living happily as a family.
Gaster knew the anomaly was still out there running wild, destroying timelines left and right, possessing the human child filled with determination wherever they happened to exist and using it to kill and destroy. His time alone was spent hammering over data, mulling ideas around in his skull, and desperately trying to come up with some way to keep it out of his own timeline, if not defeat it entirely.
But he couldn't come up with anything.
Sans always had the lingering fear that everything would be reset again. Sometimes the thought was enough to nearly drive him mad. Every day he woke up with a small amount of panic in his soul. He would look up, waiting to see the ceiling of his bedroom in Snowdin, but it never came. It was like waiting for a car crash to happen. He constantly braced himself for what was perhaps the inevitable.
But it never came.
Papyrus tried his best to make the life of his father and brother wonderful. He filled the air with his voice and kept their minds off the dread with his stories and jovial nature. Still, that didn't stop them from occasionally getting a certain look in their eye sockets. Sometimes he would catch Sans staring off into the distance, dreading what might come. Occasionally he would catch Gaster angrily ripping apart his notes before holding his head in his hands, distraught over being unable to figure out a solution. He tried and tried to get them to forget it all and live a happy life while they could.
But it didn't always work.
It was an evening like any other. The boys were still at work and so Gaster had decided to take care of the shopping. The streets were rather deserted at this time of day and he was the only one walking down the road along the row of townhouses mostly occupied by monsters. He could have teleported back home, but he didn't tend to use it that much. Walking was nice now that he had legs again.
“Tra-la-la. It's good to see you again, Doctor.”
Gaster stopped in his footsteps and slowly turned around, the river person stood mere feet behind him. He blinked and stared at them deep in the black void where their face would be. Slowly he turned to face them completely.
“Seer. I didn't expect to see you again.”
“I appear where needed and where least expected. You should know this by now.” The river person spoke.
He rolled the white dots around in his eye sockets. “Right, how could I forget.”
The river person was silent for a moment, head tilting to look Gaster up and down. “Tra-la-la, you've been through quite a lot.”
“You can say that again.” The doctor huffed.
“It's nice to see you with your boys. Happy.”
Gaster said nothing, the robbed figure in front of him turning their head slightly askew. “Tra-la-la. Yes, 'happy'. There is no pleasing you unless everything is perfect, is there Doctor?”
“You should know that by now.” He said with a smirk, repeating the river person's own words back at them. Had they had a face, it would surely be smiling.
“You aren't the only one concerned about the anomaly.” The figure said just as a tiny white dog walked around from behind them seemingly out of nowhere and stood at their side. Gaster stared at it, a brow raised.
“Tra-la-la. Nothing like it should exist. It poses a threat to everyone and everything. We agree that something needs to be done about it.”
“'We'?” The doctor asked, the white dots of his eyes going back to the river person. The dog beside them barked, forcing his attention back onto it instead. As soon as he looked it was wagging its tail and holding an envelope between its jaws.
“Since when did you become a dog lover?” Gaster asked, the river person giggling from beneath their robe. It sounded like tiny birds chirping.
“Take it.” They finally said, the doctor giving them an odd look before bending down to take the envelope from the dog. He turned it over in his hands, but it was completely unmarked and ordinary.
“Tra-la-la. Good luck.”
Once Gaster looked up again they were both gone.
He didn't bother to look around, already well-acquainted with the river person's habit of coming and going without a trace. Looking down at the envelope he started to make his way back home.
Once he was inside he set his bag down and tore it open; inside was a letter. Slowly he unfolded it and began to read the writing, his eye sockets growing larger and larger the more he read. As he finished he let his arms fall to his sides and he stared blankly at the wall in front of him. His hands shook before he stored the letter inside of his body. After a few deep breaths he went back to his daily tasks and the night went on as usual.
He mentioned nothing of what had happened to either of his sons.
The years passed.
Their family continued to thrive, the three skeletons going about their new lives on the surface. It hadn't been shortly after his little surprise visit that Gaster started to go back up to the lab again. Alphys had long since left it in his care after moving in with Undyne, happy to get away from a part of her life that hadn't been the most pleasant and start something fun and new. The doctor was all too eager to take the burden off her hands.
While Sans and Papyrus worked or slept, Gaster would go up to his lab and work. No one knew of what exactly he was doing or why, not even Sans or Papyrus. Some days he would come home excited over something and other days less so, but whenever he was asked about it he would just comment on it being boring or nothing worth talking about.
It was five years before Gaster finished his project.
Asgore, the King of monsters, had since gotten a simple job as a gardener. Toriel, once Queen, was a school teacher. Undyne and Alphys lived together in the city, the old captain hired as a security guard and the second royal scientist having achieved fame after her robot with a soul achieved fame of its own in show business.
Frisk, now a young adult, was just beginning to step out and into the world on their own with help from all their friends. They had taken being the ambassador for monster-kind to heart and now that they were old enough to do it, planned to make sure their new friends had a human voice speaking for them whenever no one would.
The three skeletons didn't change much. Both Sans and Papyrus kept rather simple jobs and spent their off time just being with each other and hanging out with their father. It wasn't until early one morning that things began to shift, whether it be for better or worse.
Papyrus cooked them all a healthy breakfast, having gotten at least slightly better at it over the years since he was the only one in the family to ever even attempt it. As they all began to finish up, Gaster finally spoke.
“Boys... I have something I want to show you.”
Sans and Papyrus looked at one another before their gaze went to Gaster.
“IS IT ABOUT THE THING YOU'VE BEEN WORKING ON?” Papyrus asked.
The doctor nodded.
“DO WE FINALLY GET TO SEE IT?”
Gaster smiled, although a little nervously. “Yeah.”
“OH I'M EXCITED!” Papyrus grinned and began to clean up, eager to finally see what his father had been working on for the past five years. Sans gave his father an uncertain look, but said nothing.
The three of them drove up the mountain and made their way through the underground to the lab. Gaster lead his boys through the long corridors, most of the power turned off and diverted elsewhere. Eventually they turned into a lit hallway and stopped at a door.
“Boys, this is what I've been working on all this time.” He took hold of the doorknob and held his breath before slowly opening it for the two to step inside.
The room was massive and filled with an equally massive machine. Giant pillars stood on the sides sucking in energy from the core all diverging into large devices reading off information displayed on screens. Those in turn lead to an apparatus in the center that looked similar to a diving bell with seats and controls inside of it.
Sans and Papyrus both stood and stared.
“It's a time machine, but not like the one we built before.” Gaster smiled and looked to his sons. “With modern technology's help I've been able to create something better.” He looked at his sons, both of them looking none too happy.
“I want to assure our happy ending, boys. I'm not going to let that child ruin it for us. I want to find it and deal with it once and for all. But-”
“dad you have to be kidding.” Sans pleaded, his brother not looking much better.
“WHAT IF WE LOSE YOU AGAIN?” Papyrus said, for once losing his never-ending optimism.
“BUT-” Gaster began and reached over to grab two lab coats from a hook nearby. He handed both of them over.
Sans and Papyrus studied them oddly, the inner linings coated with integrated circuitry and a patch on the shoulder similar to the face of the blasters he had created all those years ago.
“-I can't...” The doctor paused and changed his wording, “I won't do it alone. I won't leave you kids again, but I don't want to sit idle and wait to see if the anomaly comes back.” He tried to gauge the reactions on their faces.
“So... what do you say?”
Sans looked at Papyrus, who smiled down at him. His older brother sighed, looking down at the coat in his hands.
“you're insane, dad.” He smiled and began to pull one of the sleeves over his hoodie.